White, middle class, American liberal. Age 46. Born and raised in Orange County, California, best known during my childhood as ground zero for the John Birch Society. Tennis player - or was one, anyway, until a back injury a few years ago. Spent most of my career in high tech marketing, most recently as VP of Marketing for a smallish software company in my hometown of Irvine. Married, no children, two cats. Have voted for one Republican in my entire life, with prospects steadily diminishing of ever doing so again. Currently working as a blogger for the Washington Monthly magazine, at Political Animal.
Why do you blog? > I once worked as a tech writer, and during the job interview my prospective boss asked if I was the kind of person who 'simply enjoys the act of sitting down at a keyboard and making words appear'. The answer was, and is, yes. I blog because I have lots of opinions and I love to write.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Blogging the Bush National Guard story in early 2004. It's not that it was all that great a story, but it was the only time that I've ever done any substantial original reporting for the blog, and it was fun to actually advance the story. As a side effect, it provoked me to remain sceptical about Dan Rather's memos, which turned out to be a good move. Also: Friday Catblogging, which is by far my most significant permanent contribution to the blogosphere.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I haven't had any, really, unless you count technical meltdowns and spam attacks.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > No matter what the triumphalists say, there's no money in blogging and probably never will be for most people. So if you do it, do it because you enjoy mouthing off for its own sake.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > FDR. Isaac Newton. J.M. Keynes. Edward R. Murrow. Charles Darwin.
What are you reading at the moment? > At this exact moment? The His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman. I'm entranced by the armoured polar bears.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Crime and Punishment.
What is your favourite movie? > The original Star Wars trilogy. So sue me.
Who is your favourite composer? > My mother will be very unhappy if I say anything other than Mozart. So Mozart.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > The Iraq war. I supported it initially, but before the war started I switched to opposition on practical grounds (i.e., that George Bush's approach was incapable of accomplishing the goals it was meant to accomplish). Since then, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that, in fact, I should have opposed it all along on philosophical grounds: namely that it was a fundamentally flawed concept and had no chance of working even if it had been competently executed.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That it's not OK to treat people with fear and derision just because they don't happen to belong to the ethnic/religious/ gender/etc. group that you grew up with.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Belief in superstition, I suppose, with 'superstition' broadly defined. Unfortunately, I haven't seen much evidence of progress on this front lately.
Who are your political heroes? > Benjamin Franklin. He is that rarest of characters, a person who was wholly admirable in both his politics and his personal character.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Son, if you can't take their money, drink their whiskey, screw their women, and then vote against 'em, you don't deserve to be here.' I know this isn't exactly wisdom, but I've always liked it anyway.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Implementation of a decent national healthcare system.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Nuclear war, of course. Despite all the attention paid to Islamic terrorism since 9/11, it simply doesn't have the capability to destroy civilization or even come close to it. Nuclear war still does.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Oh, the best is yet to come. Assuming we avoid nuclear war - and I think we will - artificial intelligence will reach and surpass human capabilities in the next 50 years or so. When that happens, it will make all previous technological revolutions seem like minor hiccups.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Don't worry quite so much about what other people think. (There are some people, of course, for whom this advice is decidedly unnecessary.)
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Only if we didn't talk about politics much.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > A willingness to be guided - but not ruled by - empirical evidence. We all fall a bit short on this one, I'm afraid.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Loudmouthism. I just made up that word, but I imagine it's clear enough not to really need a definition.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > TV preachers and postmodern academic lefties both drive me up a tree.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Most of them, actually. Gambling, drinking, using drugs and watching TV are all on the list. If you think this must make me a fairly boring person, you're right.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My health, even though there's nothing seriously wrong with me. I always feel like I'm about one T-bone steak away from a heart attack.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Either some kind of South Pacific island or else one of the great cities of the world. New York, Paris and Rome are good candidates, assuming that this fantasy scenario includes sufficient funds to live in these places in comfort.
What is your most treasured possession? > I'd very much like to answer this question with something more profound, but the only honest answer is: my computer.
What talent would you most like to have? > That's easy: the ability to write great fiction. Or even good fiction. I've gotten so much pleasure from reading fiction during my life that I very much wish I could pay the world back by writing some of my own. Sadly, I lack the imagination to do so.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I probably would have been a pretty good economist if I had taken it up seriously.
Which football team do you support? > USC football. I didn't actually go to USC myself, but my parents both did, and I grew up with it.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > I'm not quite sure how far 'realistic' stretches here, but I suppose the answer is that I wish I could be more sociable. It would be nice for once not to feel like a semi-autistic Martian while trying to make chitchat at a cocktail party.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd travel by private jet. A big private jet. That's about it, really.
What animal would you most like to be? > A housecat, of course.
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