Archive for the 'Blog Interviews' Category

Interview with Jon Swift

Jon swift
Jon Swift, who started his modest blog in December 2005, is a “reasonable conservative,” who gets all of his news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues. Preferring to blog anonymously because of some misunderstandings with creditors, Swift’s moniker is a tribute to the brave Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. His Amazon reviews proved once and for all that you don’t need to read a book to review it, his still unconfirmed story on the death of Michael Ledeen was widely reported and recently his post on “Amnesty Day,” the effort by major liberal bloggers to make their blogrolls smaller and more exclusive than they already are, helped spark an Internet-wide revolt. For more of Jon Swift, who was nominated for a 2006 Weblog Award for Best Humor Blog, see the Best of Jon Swift.

Simon Owens: When I first followed a link to your blog (I think it was from Sadly, No!) several months ago, I immediately thought of Stephen Colbert and the conservative character he portrays. This is kind of an odd coincidence since you’re the second blogger I’ve made that comparison to this week. Do you think of yourself as kind of a blogger version of Colbert?

Jon Swift: I started my blog at the end of 2005 around the same time that The Colbert Report went on the air but I had no idea who he was until the White House Correspondents Dinner. When some people compared me to Colbert on their blogs, I thought they were talking about Claudette Colbert, who is one of my favorite actresses. I must say I was a bit disappointed to discover they were not actually comparing me to her. But I was very impressed at the way Colbert took on the liberal media at the Correspondent’s Dinner and the way he defended the President. And I thought it was terrible the way liberals like Richard Cohen attacked him for his conservative views. That being said I do admire Cohen for his support of the War in Iraq and for defending the right of reporters like Judith Miller to do their jobs, which is to write down whatever their confidential sources in the White House tell them at dinner parties and report it without questioning what they say. I do occasionally watch Colbert now and I suspect he must be a reader of my blog because sometimes the things he says bear a striking resemblance to things I’ve written. Not that I’m accusing him of anything. I’m sure it must be a case of great minds thinking alike.

Simon Owens: Have there been any cases when bloggers took your posts seriously? As in they didn’t get the “joke,” that you were mocking a particular political ethos?

Jon Swift: I hope everyone takes my posts seriously since I put a lot of serious thought into them. One of the reasons I don’t post quite as often as other bloggers is that I consider every issue from all possible angles before I write what every other conservative is saying. I’m not against the occasional one-liner but I try to avoid humor whenever possible because I don’t think everyone is equipped to handle it properly. It often seems that cruelty, venality and stupidity are routinely dismissed as being “just a joke.” I think the blogosphere could do with a lot fewer of these kinds of jokes. I was very surprised when I was nominated for a Weblog Award for Best Humor Blog because nearly all of the humor in my blog is completely unintentional. Although I often get attacked by liberals, I also get attacked quite often by conservatives. I was banned from Red State for having liberal blogs on my blogroll and for being entirely too reasonable. And I have often been called a “troll” on such bastions of liberal inclusiveness as Daily Kos, Atrios and Firedoglake. I am proud to have been called a moron by people on both sides of the political spectrum.

Simon Owens: You were one of the first bloggers who commented on the “blogroll amnesty day” controversy. As someone who links liberally, how strong of a revolt do you think the blogosphere put up? Do the B-list (those who have a few thousand daily readers) bloggers have enough power to push new bloggers onto the A-list? What did you think of the A-listers’ responses to all the outrage?

Jon Swift: I think I was actually the first blogger to question the notion of Amnesty Day. All of the other posts I could find before I wrote my post talked about what a great idea it was to pare down blogrolls to a list of the blogs that are on everyone else’s blogroll. I’m afraid that if Atrios declared Shoot Yourself in the Foot Day we might have a lot of liberal bloggers limping around right now. None dared even link to my piece until skippy took up the cause and then suddenly it was as if people had permission to say the emperor was very skimpily attired. I have had a liberal blogrolling policy — which is that I will blogroll anyone who blogrolls me — for quite a while and I was surprised that it hadn’t caught on before. Conservative bloggers have already shown they can push quite a few blogs onto the A-List. They not only have larger, more inclusive blogrolls on average, they have a number of communities that are powered by Blogrolling.com that instantly give new bloggers hundreds of links. Liberals have virtually none. They also participate in Blog Carnivals and Open Trackback parties more than liberal bloggers. So far Atrios and Kos have responded quite defensively to the rumbling voices of dissent. As I pointed out in a comment to Kos’ recent post about the issue, “With great power comes great responsibility and there is always a danger that one will become aloof and out of touch, though I can’t think of any examples of that at the moment among our present political leaders.”

Simon Owens: Do you find that conservatives are open to laughing at themselves when they’re mocked? One critical article I read somewhere said that the reason liberal comics are more successful is because they’re able to turn their mockery on themselves. Do a lot of conservatives link to your individual posts?

Jon Swift: I would be very careful about saying that either conservatives or liberals are better able to laugh at themselves. I don’t think one side or the other has cornered the market on humorlessness. I don’t think anyone likes to be attacked no matter how hilariously. Calling people names and using foul language are not necessarily funny in and of themselves. Personally, I don’t use bad language because I am trying to preserve my future viability as a presidential campaign webmaster. If not cussing is the main criterion for being a campaign blogger, then I may be the only qualified candidate left in the near future. Recently, Ed Morrissey at the conservative blog Captain’s Quarters wrote very graciously about me, “I have been the target of his wit on more than one occasion. However, he’s too good of a writer to miss.” I’m not sure what he is talking about because I don’t recall ever targeting him, but I think it’s a pretty classy thing to say, nevertheless. I think we could use a lot more class like that in the blogosphere no matter what you think of his political ideology.

Simon Owens: I’ve seen a lot of conservative bloggers criticize people like Glenn Greenwald for writing extremely long posts, as if they’re convinced that Internet readers have the attention spans of a fruit fly. As a blogger who tends to write longer entries, do you think this hinders your ability to become a more popular blogger?

Jon Swift: No. What was the question?

Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?

Jon Swift: Well, I hate to limit it to just five blogs because there are so many great blogs out there. So I would ask that your readers take a look at my blogroll, go read someone they have never read before. But I will point out some blogs that have been especially supportive of me who deserve some special attention and one already very popular blog. The Moderate Voice doesn’t need any help from me but as I have said on many occasions Joe Gandelman is one of the nicest guys in the blogosphere and his blog was the first major blog to link to me. His posts often contain links to a wide variety of voices and his blogroll is perhaps the most extensive and inclusive of any blogroll on the Internet. One of his co-bloggers, Polimom, also has a great site of her own and I always enjoy her refreshing and commonsense take on the issues of the day. I have no idea why Candide’s Notebook by Pierre Tristam is not on every liberal blogroll. Although I disagree with everything he says, he’s a great writer and I always have to think twice before I dismiss what he says out of hand. Two group blogs that were early and gracious supporters of mine and always have interesting content are Bad Attitudes, run by Jerome Dolittle, and Kevin Hayden’s American Street. They have a lot of great writers and should both be on everyone’s blogroll. There are a lot of blogs on my blogroll that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve, but to give just one example of a blogger I discovered relatively recently who started around the same time I did, Zuky writes about culture, history and politics and is especially eloquent on the issue of race. He is the kind of blogger you would think would be on every major liberal blogroll, but isn’t. There are plenty of other blogs I read and enjoy — both large and small — so I hope everyone will take a look at some of the other great blogs on my blogroll as well.

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(Related posts: Interview with Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Interview with John Hawkins from Right Wing News, The nerdiest wedding proposal I’ve ever seen)

Interview with Laurence Simon from This Blog is Full of Crap

Laurence Simon is a blogger who lives and works in Houston, Texas. Aside from running his sarcastically funny This Blog is Full of Crap, he also has several catcams, and hosts a daily podcast where he reads extremely short flash fiction.

He’s one of the many bloggers who have joined Pajamas Media, which is quickly becoming one of the largest blog networks on the web.

Simon Owens: In our last interview, you spoke about some of your frustrations with Pajamas Media. Have things improved at all since then? Has the network grown at all?

Laurence Simon: No, they haven’t improved. Pajamas Media has pretty much established a core of bloggers they will link for stories, and that’s pretty much it.

At least they fired the blogger relations person, who was about as useless as tits on a bull.

The network hasn’t grown, but they’ve added a few bloggers to their main site. I tend to just follow Claudia Rosett and her United Nations beat, and that’s it.

Simon Owens: I’ve noticed what seems like a decline in cat-blogging. As someone who operates cat-cams, is this a real trend? Have other cute-animals blogs spun off from the idea of cat blogs? I think noticed a puppy blog not all that long ago.

Laurence Simon: I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think it’s growing steadily.

Carnival of the Cats remains strong in participation.

There’s cute animal blogs of all types out there, and that’s a good thing. Something for everyone.

Simon Owens: The topics on your blog are wide-ranging, much more eclectic than the bloggers I usually interview. Do you think that bloggers that don’t focus on a specific niche have a harder time gaining readerships?

Laurence Simon: Yes, they have a hard time with attracting readers because you’re not known as the go-to guy for a particular issue.

Also, people who come for one thing will leave because of another.

The people coming for cat stuff don’t want to read about the work stuff and vice versa.

Simon Owens: How many people participate in your 100-word challenge? I noticed several of the stories in the challenge don’t rely on the twist ending that a lot of flash fiction encounters. What does this form of fiction have to offer to make it inviting?

Laurence Simon: Usually between ten and fifteen participate.

I think people want to have a little fun, it’s quick and easy to do. And it’s also neat to see how other people play with a particular theme while there’s some things writers have in common.

Interview with Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

skippy the bush kangaroo
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo has been a member of blogtopia (yes, he coined that phrase!) since July of 2002. When he’s not coining phrases like “blogtopia,” he’s writing razor sharp political commentary, all without the use of capitalized letters. Recently, he has been at the center of a liberal blogosphere controversy concerning the purging of A-list blogrolls. Since the entire fiasco began, he has been diligently rounding up bloggers in his blogroll amnesty program.

Simon Owens: In our last interview, you mentioned your link policy in which you only link to political bloggers who link back to you. I’ve noticed this trend a lot in the blogosphere. Do you think that many blogs rely too much on an inner-linking buddy system? For instance, I’ve noticed that link bloggers like Instapundit and Atrios will often link to the same A-list bloggers consistently. Where’s the diversity?

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: wow, one of the reasons it took me so long to get to this interview was that this week was the week atrios and kos decided to scrub their rolls of many, many blogs, including mine. i have been trying to make my case on dkos to keep my link there but to no avail. aside from the personal slight (because i think both duncan and markos handled the event incredibly poorly and rudely, without any individual warnings or emails to anybody) i think it’s an incredibly short-sighted self-serving act that will hurt the left side of blogtopia (and yes, i coined that phrase!).

as you may or may not know, google search hierarchy ranking depends in part upon the number of links to your stories and blog(s). with the severing of the link path between the more visible, successful blogs (atrios and dkos) and the median blogs such as my own, my left wing by maryscott o’connor, the booman tribune, the sideshow by avedon carol (i could go on and on), these bloggers in the upper eschalon (rhymes with eschaton) has effectively cut off the inter-connected support system of left, or liberal thought in cyberspace.

one of the reasons you see so many conservative blogs in google search results is that most of the conservative bloggers link happily to each other, small and large alike. while some lefties have said (in dkos comments) that this leads to a parroting of ideas, or echo chamber, i maintain that one can support without automatically repeating mindlessly. jon swift wrote an excellent post on his informal study of big conservative blogrolls vs. big liberal blogrolls, and a new york magazine piece that comments on your very question. jon swift’s post is here

another problem i have is that by cutting off the link path to mid-level blogs, the big blogs in effect cut off the path to the smaller and newer blogs, and by extension, to more diverse voices. but the biggest problem that i see in this blog roll purge is the hypocrisy of the two big blogs (and also jesus’ general, who also purged many blogs, including my own, from his roll) purporting to be concerned with democratic, liberal, progressive issues and citizen journalism, while at the same time cutting themselves (and more importantly, their readers) off from other democrats, liberals, progressives, and citizen journalists.

it smacks of the very pundit class elitism that they have historically decried. why should i listen to markos or duncan point out the insular ivory tower befuddlement of david broder or chris matthews when they themselves are sitting in a self-made cyber ivory tower, insulated from the people who supported them from the beginning?

now i am lucky in that so far, knock wood (here i tap my head twice), i haven’t lost any traffic. other magnanimous big blogs still link to me, and i find traffic coming to skippy now more thru digby, crooks&liars, steve gilliard, firedoglake, eric alterman’s column at media matters and talkleft. so apparently my readers are simply finding new cyber paths to my stuff.

but aside from the rudeness of it all, i truly fear that this only shatters, rather than coalesces, the liberal side of blogs. and it truly shows that duncan and markos were never in it to help american citizens participate in government, but rather to simply find a new way to power and money for themselves, a way that nobody ever tried before: the internet.

whew! glad i got that off my chest! aren’t you sorry you asked that?

Simon Owens: After 2004, a lot of conservative bloggers mocked Kos because all the candidates he chose to fund ended up losing. Such is not the case in 2006. How much credit can we give to the netroots for winning political campaigns?

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: a lot. a lot more than the political establishment is willing to concede. you’ll notice that tammy duckworth, ken lucas and lois murphy, the candidates the dccc backed to the hilt, lost, while many other candidates that the blogs supported with the grudging acceptance of the dccc, won. jonathan singer at mydd makes the case convincingly here.

i’m not going to say that the netroots are 100% responsible for all the wins in november. and it’s especially important to remember that the dems just barely squeaked by in the senate. but the enthusiasm as well as the actual elbow grease and blood, sweat and tears from the volunteers (as well as a lot of the $$$) are direct results of netroots actions.

Simon Owens: This week we saw the annoucement that Glenn Greenwald will be transferring his blog to Salon.com, and he was quick to respond to his critics who claimed he was “selling out.” What are some of the pros and cons of these political bloggers being bought up by larger, more-mainstream publications? I mean, I know that Salon is no New York Times, but it’s definitely in the big leagues.

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: in glenn’s case, suppposedly no pros or cons (except for maybe glenn’s bank account, a big pro there!), because he says salon will have no editorial say in not only his content but also the number of posts he writes. he assures his audience the only difference will be a url change. we’ll see.

let’s remember that kevin drum of the washington monthly has been blogging on that publication’s payroll for a few years now. i believe he was the very first political blogger to actually get a job doing it. i knew his stuff from when he was calpundit, just blogging away for the hell of it. it seems to me that his stuff hasn’t changed in either approach or content or tone, either.

like any job, you gots to keep the boss happy. so, unless you are expecting a big inheritance, or have your own business (in which case people gots to make you happy) or just love to grub around for roots and nuts to survive, all of us “sell out” one way or another. liberals aren’t against capitalism, they are against oppression. capitalism, when regulated, works jes’ fine, if i may quote fremont the bug from pogo by walt kelly.

Simon Owens: There’s lots of popular bloggers, like yourself, who remain anonymous. Have you ever received heavy criticism for this?

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: i never have, thank goodness. for one thing, several people on the net know my true identity. some figured it out from excellent detective work, some i have told, most la bloggers i have met face to face. nobody’s ever said boo to me about it. i think it’s because i picked a pretty inocuous nom de blog. who wants to make trouble for skippy the bush kangaroo?

Simon Owens: Now that we see bloggers being snapped up for political campaigns, if you ever had a politician approach you asking you to be an “internet/blogger consultant,” would you do it?

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: i’d really have to believe in the candidate or the pay check. and to be truthful, i don’t think my sort of stuff is the sort of stuff any campaign serious about winning wants to have involved with their candidate. look at the dust up with amanda marcotte and melissa mcewan, both of whom i know thru blogging circles, when they were hired by the edwards campaign. tho the so-called scandal was pretty much manufactured by the same mindset that brought you the swift boat campaign against kerry, there were some dicey moments when what the ladies wrote in their past got back to them. luckily edwards stood by them, making me a

Useless Advice From Useless Men: The Interview

One useless man
Given that the blog Useless Advice From Useless Men specializes in answering questions all day, it seemed only natural for them to take a step further and answer interview questions. The blog consists of seven pseudo-anonymous bloggers who write in a Dear Abby form turned on its head with humor. Most the questions submitted to them are done so with the understanding that not the most sound–or serious–advice will be given.

Simon Owens: Tell me a little about the people behind the project. How do you guys know each other?

One Useless Man: Useless Advice from Useless Men started, in part, like many other internet friendships. I had been considering a silly online advice column when I noted a post on another blogger’s site that suggested he wanted to work on an advice column. After a few emails, One Useless Man and Another Useless Man, internet strangers, had a joint new blog. We spread the word through our own personal blogs, and blogs of friends, for readers to start sending in questions.

Along with questions, we also received application requests from new writers; other strangers from the web. I particularly liked the writing of one, and he was brought on as Just Plain Useless. To even out the workload, I invited a childhood friend to help as well, as Anymore Useless, I’d Be A Cat. (Oh, the controversy that name creates with our lady readers).

Along the way, we received an email from a woman who offered to help, and the idea was hatched to include an Occasional Useless Gal to the mix.

When the co-founder, Another Useless Man, stepped down from his blogging activities about 100 questions in, a co-worker of mine asked to participate. I asked him to submit a question to the site applying for the job. I didn’t mention who it was to any one else, but based on his request letter, the other writers quickly agreed to bringing him on staff. Thus, The Useless Wonder made us a band of 5 again (link to application)

100 questions later, Another Useless Man came back. And One Useless Brother. I received a question about my personal life that seemed silly for me to answer, and certainly no one else on the site knew me well enough to answer it, so I asked my brother to. He’s been answering questions ever since (Link to One Useless Brother)

Now we are a band of 7 writers. I know two of them. I’m related to one. I’ve spoken on the phone with 2 others. As for my co-founder, Another Useless Man? We have never met or talked, conversing only through email. I don’t know where he lives, or have I any confirmation of what his real name is. And I’m fine with that.

Simon Owens: Are all these questions submitted by real readers, or do you guys make some or all of them up yourselves?

One Useless Man: 100% of all questions are from readers. And every question submitted gets an answer. We’re unstumpable. But if we break that down a little, 96% of the questions we receive are from readers. Readers is a strong word. 60% of the questions are from occasional readers. 23% are from loyal readers. 1% we gathered from websites where people blog “This could be a question for the Useless Men,” but didn’t send them in.

If we can be honest, 4% of our questions may have been submitted by one or more of our own Useless Men. The early days of this site were lean. But no Useless Man has ever answered his own question. The exercise for the writers is in creativity, not in setting up a great punchline.

The final 12% are from Laura, but she just wanted to win a mystery tin prize we gave away in November.

Simon Owens: Like most comedy personas, you play characters in public. Stephen Colbert, for instance, doesn’t play himself in the Colbert Report, so it’s a little odd when you hear him interviewed and he sounds like a normal person. Do you ever break out of character in your blog? Are you breaking out of character for this interview? This question?

One Useless Man: Personally, I don’t think of One Useless Man as a character. Other people may say, “He’s quite a character.” But I don’t think it is in the same context.

We use pseudonyms and actively try not to be useful. But, for me, the style of writing, the beliefs and the humour shared is what I would normally come up with off the top of my head. I don’t have to get “into” character to start writing, nor am I able to get “out” of character. I can tone it down, reel it in, to keep myself from getting fired from a day job. But that inner monologue keeps running.

On the site, we exaggerate, but for the most part, if you’ve been reading for a long time, you’ll see we are pretty much who we say we are. In that regard, we are often caricatures of ourselves and we just can’t tune out the insanity.

That sometimes is the funniest part, knowing that the most useless information you just shared with the public is very closely tied with real life events. For example, my Dad is at the heart of this site, unbeknownst to him. For example, he asked me to pick him up recently:

“Get off the highway and turn towards the lake,” he advised. However, the location and directions he’d gven me to that point were miles away from any lakes. You couldn’t see a lake anywhere.

He is the most kind-hearted and generous person you could hope to meet. But let him help in home or car repairs, or in story telling, or traffic directions, and it will take twice as long as it should have taken. And twice as pricey.

Simon Owens: I see that you’ve allowed an “Occasional Useless Gal” onto your team. Doesn’t this ruin the entire blog’s philosophy?

One Useless Man: There are just some questions men shouldn’t be forced to answer. There are some things we don’t even care to answer about women. But to fulfill our mandate of answering EVERY question we receive, the Useless Gal gets a bone once in a while. Did that sound dirty? My apologies. (Useless Gal example)

Simon Owens: Some of the questions you get almost seem serious, while others are obviously in on the joke. Have there been any where you guys responded with a serious “you should seek some professional help?”

One Useless Man: There are a few questions that stand out. One longtime reader wrote to use shortly after her husband died suddenly from an accident in the home. Reading the question, I felt she was still in pain. There was sadness and hurt behind the “humour” that she was attempting. I replied to her, as I do all emails, but instead of a form letter, I asked her to reconsider her submission. Our site is meant to have fun, and poking fun at the expense of a real-life tragedy is not my taste of fun. After a cooling down period, she asked us to answer the question. She felt the laughter would help her. I hope it did. (Link)

We received another strongly worded letter just after Hurricane Katrina asking us why the government wasn’t doing anything. Again, poking fun at tragedy is not fun. I think we captured something in that answer, taking a humorous approach to helping one another in times of crises: Link.

The most often comment we receive is that our useless advice isn’t useless enough. And it’s true. While we try to come up with the most useless way to get to the answer, we do try to have an answer.

For those people that think we can actually help, and get upset when we spout off in our useless fashion, I have to question what they were thinking when they sent their problem to an email address called uselessadvice@hotmail.com. We’ve put a disclaimer of sorts on our page to remind people that if you need professional help, and we’re pretty sure they do, it’s best to get it from a professional.

Then again, we have free basic health care in Canada…

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(Related posts: More scientists debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories, Why Pajiba is the best film-review site out there)

Interview with Andrew Olmsted

Andrew Olmsted is a Major in the United States Army Reserve serving on active duty at Fort Carson, Colorado. He has served fourteen years on active duty in Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Cuba, Korea, Colorado and Kansas. He is currently deployed to Fort Riley, Kansas, where he is helping to train American forces preparing to deploy to Iraq to support the Iraqi Army and security forces. He began penning his eponymous blog in October, 2001 and includes commentary on the military, philosophy, politics, movies, major league baseball, and frequent diversions into current events.

Simon Owens: In our last interview, you predicted that the Republicans would be able to hold onto their majority. As it got closer to the election, did your prediction change? What other issues besides Iraq do you think really hurt them?

Andrew Olmsted: My Election Day prediction was pretty bad: I predicted the Democrats would take the House, but with a 219-216 majority, and that the Republicans would hold the Senate 52-48. I’m not sure how much of the Democratic landslide was due to Iraq, however. I think that a great deal more voter outrage was directed at the Republicans’ apparent cluelessness regarding the reasons they were handed the keys to Congress twelve years earlier and their arrogance in power. Which is not to say the war wasn’t a factor at all, but I think that many people, including me, voted Democratic because they believed that the Republicans were running Congress as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Presidency rather than as the first branch of government. Add in the degree of corruption and things like Mark Foley, and the end result is unsurprising.

Simon Owens: You, like most military bloggers, were angry at William Arkin’s recent outburst. His constant backstepping since the incident has reinforced my own belief that opinion columnists are completely useless. Why do major media outlets hire pundits/columnists like Arkin, Malkin etc… Can’t they just report the news and let people form their own opinions?

Andrew Olmsted: That’s a tough question, given that like most bloggers, my site is about my own opinions on things. So it’s tough for me to argue that people shouldn’t be interested in how other people interpret the news. For the most part, I think it is a business decision. I don’t have access to the Washington Post’s server stats, but I’ll wager that Arkin’s series of articles damning the military drew a lot of eyeballs to the Post’s website. That helps the bottom line, since advertisers tend to look at issues like hit counts when determining where to spend their money. And the media hasn’t reported straight news in a very long time. Opinion suffuses every aspect of most media reports, as we saw just this week with the media spinning the Republican filibuster of the Iraq War resolution as ‘shutting down debate’ rather than providing an accurate and dispassionate description of what occurred.

Simon Owens: As a Major in the Army Reserve, how do you view the new troop “surge”?

Andrew Olmsted: I should note up front that my time in the Reserve is about to come to an end. I have been accepted back into the active force and will return to active duty on the 18th of March, at which time I’ll start training to deploy to Iraq, although not as part of the surge. I am very dubious that the surge can work. Counterinsurgency warfare requires a lot of manpower and a lot of time, and this surge provides insufficient amounts of each in my opinion. If we have any hope of prevailing in Iraq, it is going to take years and a few hundred thousand troops, and I don’t think the American people are willing to go that distance at this point.

Simon Owens: In our last interview, you indicated that there wasn’t a large Libertarian voice in the blogosphere. Now that Libertarians are distancing themselves from Republicans, do you think that voice will grow?

Andrew Olmsted: Actually, I think there is a very large libertarian voice in the blogosphere, but not a very large Libertarian one. There is a vast gap between small-l libertarians and big-L Libertarians, in that the former refers to a pretty large group of people who share generally libertarian ideas and the small group of Libertarians who support the Libertarian Party. Just as liberals make up the base of the Democratic Party and conservatives make up the base of the Republican Party, libertarians comprise the base of the Libertarian Party. But unlike Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians tend to be a small-tent party, which is a major factor in their inability to influence the debate meaningfully. Much as I might like to see a lot of government programs torn down, to be effective in politics you have to be willing to make compromises, and that’s something most Libertarians don’t like.

I think that the blogosphere already has a pretty strong libertarian presence, as befits a medium based on the Internet, and the recent spate of ‘libertarian democrat’ arguments that shot around the blogosphere for a time last Fall indicated the value the major parties see in trying to co-opt libertarians to their side, and as long as we remain a closely-divided nation, we’ll see that continue, because small groups hold value disproportionate to their size in closely-divided societies. But most Americans are intellectually libertarian but functionally statist, so I doubt we’ll see any major changes in how government operates. The strength of libertarians on the Internet is very disproportionate to their strength in the electorate, and politicians understand that. Nonetheless, as the blogosphere continues to evolve, I think that the presence of libertarians in great numbers will at least help to get more libertarian arguments into the discussion, and I see that as a good thing.

Simon Owens: You’ve been a harsh critic of Al Gore and his attempt to make Global Warming a major agenda, going so far as to say that he hasn’t produced any real change. But to me, it seems that ever since his documentary came out, there’s been a lot more political and news coverage on the subject, and I’ve noticed that fewer news outlets refer to the “debate” over global warming and are starting to accept it as fact. You don’t think there’s a slight chance that he has essentially helped produce a chain reaction?

Andrew Olmsted: I think harsh overstates the case. My post in which I noted that Gore hasn’t done a great deal towards alleviating global warming was more directed at the devaluation of the Nobel Prize than a swipe at Gore. While I disagree with Gore on what needs to be done regarding global warming, I respect his passion for the issue and I concur that his efforts are probably getting the issue more attention than it might otherwise have received, although it’s difficult to tell cause and effect. Are the spate of global warming stories a result of Gore’s efforts, or do we notice Gore’s efforts more because of the spate of stories about global warming? Ten years from now, it will probably be easier to discern how effective Mr. Gore’s contributions were. I think the real balance of power with global warming remains with the Chinese and Indians, however, as I don’t know if many western nations will be willing to make truly substantive efforts to curb their carbon outputs as long as those two nations continue on their current course. If Gore can effect their actions, then he’ll deserve every bit of publicity he gets for making a major impact on the global warming debate.

***

(Relates posts: Interview with Kevin Holtsberry from Collected Miscellany, Every single doner to a Green Party Campaign fund was made by a Republican, Put on your tin-foil hats: Here come the 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists)

Interview with Donald Luskin from The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid

Don’s 25-year career as an entrepreneur, executive, investment manager and commentator has been built around his passion for the application of technology and innovation to the challenge of investing.

Prior to founding Trend Macrolytics with David Gitlitz, Don was Vice Chairman and co-Chief Investment Officer of Barclays Global Investors, where he worked with the world’s largest institutional investors to create innovative indexing and quantitative investment management strategies.

After Barclays, Don was CEO and co-founder of MetaMarkets.com, and manager of the pathbreaking OpenFund — the world’s first mutual fund to disclose all its holdings and trading activity in real-time on the Internet.

Don was the inventor of the POSIT ECN, and founder of Investment Technology Group at Jefferies & Company. He has been a hedge fund manager and an options market maker on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the Pacific Stock Exchange, and the New York Stock Exchange.

Don runs a web-log based on his forthcoming book, The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid — in which he examines the obstacles to wealth creation by ordinary people. He is the author of Index Options and Futures: The Complete Guide, and editor of Portfolio Insurance: The Guide to Dynamic Hedging, both published by Wiley & Company.

Don’s columns are published weekly on SmartMoney.com and he contributes frequently to National Review Online, where he writes the Krugman Truth Squad column. He appears regularly on CNBC’s “Kudlow & Company” and on Bloomberg TV, CNN and Fox News. He was formerly a columnist for TheStreet.com and Business 2.0. His commentaries have been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, Pensions & Investments, the American Spectator, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Detroit News.

Simon Owens: In our last interview, you indicated that the Mainstream Media rarely corrects its mistakes when they’re pointed out by bloggers. Do you think that the blogosphere has gained enough credibility over the last year that the MSM is taking it more seriously? I’ve noticed that more and more bloggers are being interviewed on cable news and writing opinion columns for major newspapers.

Donald Luskin: The MSM is certainly taking bloggers more seriously. They have to. Bloggers have become a huge force in molding public opinion. That doesn’t mean the MSM respects bloggers – after all, bloggers represent an incursion into what had formerly been an oligopoly.

Simon Owens: You’re one of many writers who have taken a book you wrote and expanded on with a blog. Another major example of this is the writers of the Freakonomics book who later turned it into a popular blog. What were you reasons for doing this?

Donald Luskin: This isn’t accurate in my case. My blog came BEFORE my book, and was intended to help me write it. It backfired. I still haven’t written the book.

Simon Owens: What do you think of the ecomony as it currently stands? Republicans claim it’s doing well but Democrats are quick to point financial disparity.

Donald Luskin: The Republicans are right. If there were a Democrat in the White House, they would be saying this economy is doing great, which it is.

Simon Owens: Is there any significant evidence that the hike in minimum wage will actually hurt small business? Previous wage hikes haven’t seemed to hurt business at all based on the statistics I’ve seen.

Donald Luskin: Forget the so-called statistics. An artificial price control on anything, including wages, distorts the market and causes the economy to operate less efficiently – thus hurting everyone, on average. It should be obvious from first principles that if you legislate a price for something higher than its value, then that thing will not trade. If you set a minimum wage, then you reduce the number of low-paying jobs. Small or large companies that depend on those jobs will go out of business. If this principle weren’t true, then why not set the minimum wage at $100,000 or $1,000,000 or infinity?

Simon Owens: Do you think the blogosphere is slowly taking away “elite” power in the media?

Donald Luskin: No. It is taking away that power quickly, not slowly.

***

(Related posts: Writing entire books attacking people who wrote books about other people, Why Google News shouldn’t include blogs in its search results, How much money is your blog really worth? A Bloggasm case study

Interview with Kevin Holtsberry from Collected Miscellany

Kevin Holtsberry has been blogging since 2001. Under various titles and domains he has written about politics, sports, theology, culture, and anything else that strikes his fancy. His site, Collected Miscellany, currently focuses on books and culture.

He has also dabbled in freelance journalism, having covered the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections in the crucial swing state of Ohio for National Review Online. He has also written book reviews and sports commentary for NRO.

Kevin has a Masters degree in History from Bowling Green State University and currently works in state government. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and 18-month-old daughter and the family’s two cats and two dogs.

Simon Owens: Your blog has focuses less and less on politics since the last time I interviewed you. Why is this?

Kevin Holtsberry: I just burned out a bit on politics and blogging the topic du jure. There is also a sense that I just don’t have that much to say on that front. With millions of blogs already out there, there are few subjects that aren’t discussed to death. I don’t see the point of throwing my two cents out there when it is unlikely to change the debate and most likely will get lost in the black hole that is the Internet. I do on occasion pontificate on political or cultural subjects, but mostly I focus on books and sports these days.

Simon Owens: Every time a really controversial book comes out, like one from, say, Ann Coulter, pundits quickly realize that they give away tons of free publicity to her by even bringing the book up. But it would seem that the new book The Enemy At Home has reached an all-time low. At what point will publishers like Doubleday and Regan Books (the recent Judith Regan/OJ Simpson scandal being the main focus of this) stop trading in their credibility for book sales?

Kevin Holtsberry: I suppose publishers are looking to make some money. I am not sure how much credibility they have to start with. As for The Enemy at Home, I don’t think it should be compared to Ann Coulter or OJ Simpson. I think it is a thoughtful book that makes a serious argument (I haven’t finished reading it, but Dinesh D’Souza is not a hack). Based on what I know so far I think it is wrong in important respects, but I don’t think it is out of bounds in some way. If it helps foster an honest debate about the role of Islam then it is probably for the good.

I am not a fan of Ann Coulter or her style because I think it distracts from the legitimate issues she sometimes raises and makes it easier for people to dismiss conservative arguments. I think talk radio and much of the blogosphere shares this over-the-top type rhetoric. It man be good for ratings, books sales, and traffic but it turns me off. Again, I don’t think Dinesh is in that camp.

Simon Owens: Obviously, book bloggers can’t read and review all the books that get sent to them. Do you ever have book-give-aways, like some book bloggers?

Kevin Holtsberry: I certainly have more books than I could possibly read! I have had book giveaways in the past. And I often try to get friends and readers to review books that I can’t get to. But it isn’t easy. Reading a book and writing a review takes commitment and time. Few people are willing to make that commitment on a regular basis. It also takes time to post a book giveaway and then mail out the books, etc. I have just been lazy about it.

Simon Owens: If you had to break down the books you read into a pie graph, what genre of books would receive the largest chunk? What books would you be interested in the least?

Kevin Holtsberry: I have very eclectic tastes, and read very widly, so it is hard to see one genre as clearly the biggest chunk. I read more fiction than non and I tend to read fiction with either an element of mystery (espionage, police procedural, historical, etc.) or the supernatural (magical realism, fantasy, etc.) or sometimes both.

Simon Owens: How does having a young daughter affect the amount of time you’re able to blog and do other hobbies?

Kevin Holtsberry: It has a big impact on blogging because it reduces both your free time and often your concentration. There are only so many hours in the day. After work I spend most of my time with the family until my daughter goes to bed. Throw in reading books and there isn’t much time left for blogging. If the choice is between spending time with my wife and daughter and blogging, guess what loses? It is also hard to concentrate on writing when you have a two-year-old running around.

That is another reason my blog is focused on book reviews, interviews, etc. It doesn’t depend on quick reactions to current events or rely on lots of web surfing or research.

***

(Related posts: Interview with Tony Pierce from LAist, Bush refuses to endorse Republican candidate in Connecticut, The Writing Life as dictated by Stephen King: Summed up with obscure metaphor


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