February 02, 2005

*Andrew Olmsted Interview

It's the Andrew Olmsted Interview!

In the extended...

What is your motivation to blog?

I've always been interested in politics and philosophy. I've buttonholed
many of my friends on those topics over the years, but as I've grown
older, there have been fewer opportunities for those kinds of
discussions. When I discovered blogging, it was a natural fit for me. It
gives me an opportunity to put my ideas out to a larger community and
actually get feedback on them. Blogging has allowed me to improve my
writing skills and learn how to make more persuasive and logical
arguments. It also serves as a goad for me to learn new things, as
writing about so many topics constantly reminds me how little I actually

Who did your "incredible" logo design?

Stacy from Sekimori Design. I've been using them since 2002, when Robyn
did the first redesign of my site, and I've never looked back. The level
of customer service they provide alone makes them worth the money, and
they are also superlative graphic designers. The only guidance I gave
Stacy about the new site design was that I wanted something reminiscent
of "The Incredibles." She took that and built a site that I think is as
good-looking as anything in the blogosphere.

What are your interests outside blogging?

I love baseball. Seeing the Red Sox win the World Series this past fall
was unbelievable. My only regret was that I was all alone for the games,
so I had nobody with whom I could share the joy. I also enjoy movies;
Amanda and I have a collection of 300+ DVDs ranging from "Gone With the
Wind" to "Rush Hour 2." We try to see as many movies as we can, but
that's a losing battle these days. I also play numerous role-playing and
wargames, although my pursuit is generally more like a collection these
days, as it's difficult to find the time to play or people with similar

You recently posted about women in combat...what are your opinions about
women in other male-dominated roles, such as female sports announcers
working male sports?

I think that the only prerequisite for jobs should be the ability of the
person to perform the job. I don't see any issues with women covering
men's sports, to cover your specific example; as William F. Buckley (I
think) once observed, inside every man in a jock manque; we all think we
could cover sports anyhow. I see no reason why women can't do that sort
of thing just as well as men, and better in many cases. Even when it
comes to professions like firefighters, I have no objection to women in
the role as long as the standards are maintained. If I'm in a burning
building, I want the firefighter who comes after me to be strong enough
to throw me over his or her shoulder and get me out of the building. I
realize this means that a large number of women will not qualify to be
firefighters, but that's the way of the world. I can't fly combat
aircraft; I wanted to be a pilot, but my eyesight and reflexes didn't
meet the requirements, so I was deemed ineligible. When it comes to
certain jobs, I’m a firm believer in making sure that the employees can
do the job they're hired to do. At the same time, these requirements
should be job-related and should apply to men and women: a man who can't
carry 200 lbs of dead weight should no more be a firefighter than a
woman who can't, and a woman who can do the job should be able to do so.

On the rare occasion you watch TV, what sort of things do you watch?

I'm embarassed to admit that I'm now regularly watching the new
"Battlestar Galactica" after I thoroughly panned the miniseries, but the
show has grown on me as I've been able to separate it from the original
and appreciate it for what it is. I also generally keep up with "The
Simpsons," although not religiously, and if I do catch "The Simpsons"
I'll generally watch Fox's entire Sunday lineup: "King of the Hill,"
"Malcolm in the Middle," and "Arrested Development." Other than that, I
watch any Red Sox game I can get.

Warner Brothers or Disney?

Disney. I have no interest in cartoons on TV, and Warner's theme is
locked in stone: Wile E. Coyote/Elmer Fudd tries to kill/capture
Bugs/Road Runner/Daffy, fails miserably, there is much rejoicing. While
Disney (full disclosure: I'm a stockholder) has made a lot of bad moves
over the past few years, they've still got a history of some excellent
film. I'll put "Beauty and the Beast" or "Fantasia" up against any film
ever made.

Have any phobias?

Plenty. In particular I don't like heights, which made Airborne School a
bit of a challenge.

If a tree falls in the forest, why can't one fall on Michael Moore's house?

Probably because his house isn't in a forest, but I don't know that for
sure. More seriously, my only objection to Michael Moore is his claim to
be a documentary film maker. Moore is a propagandist, and a skilled one.
I found it more than a little amusing that he won an Oscar on a night
Hollywood remembered filmmaker Leni Rehfenstahl. Such connotations
notwithstanding, being able to make effective polemics is a hard thing,
and I respect his talent if not how he chooses to employ it. I would
simply prefer we be honest about what he's producing and stop sullying
the art of making documentaries.

If you could reverse 1 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which would it be?

Tough call. Five years ago I probably would have gone after Roe, but I
now think that may have been a good decision buttressed by lousy
reasoning. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm a strong believer in what Randy
Barnett calls the presumption of liberty: that whenever the government
attempts to make something illegal, the burden is on government to prove
that the restriction of liberty is justified. I think the Tenth
Amendment makes it pretty clear the federal government has no power to
regulate abortion, and the Ninth Amendment certainly ought to protect a
right to privacy. So if we're going to leave Roe alone, I might tear
down Wickard v. Filburn. Wickard gave the government the ability to
regulate the economy to the lowest level, even if it never is involved
with interstate commerce. Such an expansive reading of the Commerce
Clause is what has allowed Congress to overreach its Constitutional
limits so regularly over the past sixty years. Of course, it's likely
the courts would have allowed Congress to abuse the Commerce Clause
sooner or later, so overturning any one court case would be unlikely to
resolve the problems I'd like to see fixed. An adoption of the
presumption of liberty in lieu of the presumption of Constitutionality
would be a far better improvement.

Are there any modern politicians you admire?

Ron Paul (R-TX) probably comes as close as any. Modern politics has
devolved to such levels that the people who win elections are those who
promise to do the most for the people. Since I prefer a government that
leaves me alone to do my own thing, I have no respect for or interest in
such politicians. However, they're winning elections, so apparently
they're doing something right, and I'm the guy who's out of synch with
society (a conclusion that will come as no surprise to most of my friends).

How did you meet Virginia Postrel?

Back in October I had to go to Fort Polk, LA to serve as an augmentee to
the JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center) Observer-Controller team. The
116th Brigade Combat Team was going through their Mission Readiness
Exercise before going to Iraq, and since we'd trained them at Fort
Bliss, we were on the hook to get them through JRTC as well. A friend
and I decided to drive so we would have a car while we were there (an
excellent decision), and the quickest route to Polk went through Dallas.
So I dropped Virginia a note asking if she might be interested in coffee
while I was in town. She surprised me by accepting, actually suggesting
we go to dinner. So I got to spend about two hours chatting with
Virginia, her husband and her mother (who was in town visiting). Three
very smart, very nice people.

What was the most difficult part of Basic Training?

Good question; I went through Basic in 1989, so my memories of it are
somewhat faded. Probably the most difficult task I had to perform while
I was there was the live-fire individual movement techniques range:
Rodger Young Range at Fort Benning. You went out into the woods after
dark and walked a mile or so until you got to a trench at the far end of
a live-fire range. M60s were set up on the baseline firing downrange, so
you could see the tracers zipping by overhead. (The machineguns are
fixed well off the ground, so you'd really have to work hard to get
shot, but in the dark it sure seemed exciting enough.) When the drill
sergeants gave you the word, you went over the wall and had to high
crawl several hundred meters to the baseline. They had pits with C-4 in
them along the route, one of which blew just as I crawled past it, and
the bullets flying overhead really seemed to be very close. By the time
you were done your elbows and knees were raw. It wasn't really difficult
in the sense that it required any courage or skill, but it was certainly
painful (and memorable).

Who was a better driver and training room person, Scott or Ben?

I wouldn't put either of them over the other. For those who don't know
what the question refers to, when I commanded my company in 1999 and
2000, Scott was my first driver/training room guy (commanders don't
drive themselves). He had the job for about eight months, until he left
the Army, at which time Ben took over. Both of them did great work in
each arena, and I'm glad we've been able to maintain at least occasional
contact over the intervening years.

Why did you move to El Paso?

Well, I hope the answer will be that I haven't moved to El Paso,
although it does seem like that sometimes. When the Army selected 116th
BCT for OIF 3, we knew we would be selected to train them. We wanted to
train them in Idaho, but the Army decided we would do better training
them at Fort Bliss, so we all deployed to Bliss back in June. We were
supposed to come home in September. Once we were on the ground, the Army
decided they may as well train the 29th BCT at Bliss as well, and since
we were in the neighborhood, we could just stay here to train them as
well. But we would be home for Christmas. By the time December rolled
around, we were on tap to train some late-mobilizing elements of the
29th BCT, so we would have to stay until early February. Now we have
four maintenance companies that we have to train, but we're supposed to
go home in early April. I still maintain that I'm a Colorado resident,

How does Texas life compare to Colorado life?

I lived in Texas for three and a half years as a lieutenant when I was
stationed at Fort Hood. I didn't think much of it then, and I've seen
nothing in the last nine months to change my mind. West Texas is, if
anything, more barren than Central Texas. On the other hand, I was
single when I lived at Fort Hood, and I'm 600 miles from my wife here in
El Paso, so it would be difficult to make up for that with any
combination of culture or entertainment. Then again, we're ten hours
from the nearest major league ballpark; that just won't do.

What is the biggest goal you've yet to accomplish?

Probably getting paid to write. Much as I enjoy blogging, and I wouldn't
keep doing it if I didn't enjoy it, being paid to write would be even
better. In particular I hope to someday get my novel published (although
I suppose I should finish it first).

Of what are you most proud?

I suppose my military service. I certainly haven't done very much in the
Army, but I've done a few things to try and preserve a system of
government that, for all my complaints, is the best thing available to us.

How did you meet your wife?

I was working in the science library in college. Amanda came in there
just about every day to study when I was a freshman. I occasionally said
hello, but was studiously ignored. I persevered, however, managing to
work through some mutual friends to get her involved in my weekly
Dungeons & Dragons game by my junior year. We started dating in October
of that year, and despite the occasional separation, we've been together
ever since.

How did you propose?

I was living in Texas getting ready to go to the Armor Officer's
Advanced Course, after which I was going to spend a year in Korea.
Amanda was living at home. We'd been dating for five-plus years and we'd
spent most of that time in a long-distance relationship. I knew I wanted
to spend the rest of my life with her, and she'd accepted the fact I
might be the best she could do, so I called her and asked if she wanted
to tie the knot. Not very romantic, but it seems to have worked out very
well thus far.

If you had one thing to do over and do differently, what would it be?

I would probably not have left the Army, which is to say, I would
probably have remained on active duty rather than going into the
Reserves. Had I not jumped when I did, I would likely be either already
in a combat battalion or getting ready to join one. Instead I will be
fortunate to ever find my way back to troops.

Posted by Jennifer at February 2, 2005 11:00 AM


Interested to know what you thought of the 29th BCT's over-all ability? I have a family member who is attached to this group. Basically were they squared away before departure? Was their moral high and ready for the mission ahead? Alot since there's many soldiers just curious...

Posted by: ken at February 13, 2005 06:58 PM