The Lefty Directory

Monday, August 05, 2002

The Lefty Interview: Tony Adragna

With the advent of the post 9/11 "Warbloggers", one partisan liberal voice was being heard amongst the conservative din of the not-yet-christened Blogosphere. On October 8, 2001, Anthony Adragna started his blog QuasiPundit as a natural outgrowth of his participation in Slate's "The Fray". The newly minted political blogs led by Glenn Reynolds were still sorting through the rapidly breaking news, and were united by the horror of the attacks in a patriotism that crossed party lines. Left-Right divides were largely put aside, for awhile...

On October 31, Tony posted an e-mail exchange with Will Vehrs, his old friend from "The Fray", that echoed the back and forth sparring they had engaged in on Slate's forum. The next day, Verhs was posting as the conservative half of what would soon be one of the must-read "Warblogs".

QuasiPundit's dialogue format, combined with the intellect and humor of Adragna and Vehrs, made it one of the more engaging political blogs in the mix. A forum feature called "The Refuge" was created in the spirit of the Slate feature that helped spawn QP, adding the input of a colorful mix of readers to the content. Later, Tony and Will would pick up on Tim Blair's "BlogWatch" idea, a review of fellow bloggers that helped many new sites gain recognition. (Including one particularly BadDude)

Since Tony was the first liberal that I became aware of in the Blogosphere, and often the only one who backed me up when partisanship began to creep back into the debate, I asked him to be the first victim of the Lefty Interview.

Q:How would you describe your general political orientation?

A:I've always considered myself a Jerry Brown kinda Democrat -- I think he's been much maligned. Remember when he was pooh poohed over talking 'bout a flat tax during his presidential candidacy? He's also "individual rights" on the Second Amendment. At the same time, Jerry's a Left Coast Liberal who cares about social justice issues.

Philosophically and politically -- an idealist headed for the stars, but willing to get there in practical stages. That's me! I just happen to be coming from left of center, probably due to growing up in the East Bay - El Sobrante, CA (just over the hill from Berekely) -- while E. "Jerry" Brown was governor of that great state...

What is your educational/professional background?

I went to school, then I went to work...

OK, I actually had a year of schooling in Vietnam at some school run by French Nuns where all "dependent children" went. When we came back to the States I ended up in public schools until sophomore year of high school. I wasn't learning anything -- couldn't have been the teachers... coulda been I took a little too much away from Up In Smoke -- but that changed when I ended up at Salesian High School - a small (there were 75 in the class I was graduated with) all boy (at the time... they went coed several years after I left [not that I was into girls]) Catholic school. I got the attention I needed there, and the teachers were all interesting. Some real characters like the head of the math department -- an Irish priest with advanced degrees in both theoretical and applied mathematics -- or the two PhDs who taught history and social studies.

It's that experience in high school that underlies my support for vouchers -- I attended Salesian on scholarship, and without that opportunity I probably woulda ended up sleeping in a government subsidized tenement in San Francisco. [well, I ended up doing that for awhile anyway after I left exited the Naval Service, but that's another story...]

Year and a half studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood after high school -- there's another connection with Jerry Brown. I studied for the Diocese of Oakland... this is eerie...

U.S. Navy ('85 - 88) during which I spent time in Guam aboard a submarine tender -- again, another linkage, I had seminary classmates from Guam. Spent my last six months homeported in Long Beach (yuck, I hate So. Cal. -- it's a different state) but on deployment to the North Arabian Sea between the time the Stark got hit and the Vincennes shot down an Iranian airplane. Just got lucky, I guess...

10 years at Citibank in Washington, DC. Two years as a law librarian at Deloitte & Touche. Can I pick an employer, or what...

Anybody looking for an out of work law librarian…?

What inspired you to start QuasiPundit?

It's Glenn's fault! Really! I was one of those "Star Posters" on Slate's "the fray". Glenn posted there regularly, too -- as "A.G. Android". When he was beta testing Instapundit he posted some things in "the fray" as "Instapundit" -- to which I responded several times as "Instaresponse" -- so I've kinda "known" Glenn from the beginning. Became a fan, sent email regularly, and got variations on "when you gonna start your own blog" as replies.

So, I did!

I'm loving this bloggin' thingy. The "star" at Slate was such an ego boost, and I got some exposure, but over there you get alotta crackpots from both ends of the spectrum -- makes it difficult to engage in rational discourse... Besides, blogging I'm my own publisher -- don't gotta hope somebody picks my post to highlight at the end of somebody else's opinion...

Why "QuasiPundit"? Because we've not yet been accepted fully into the circle of "Pundits", and I'm not sure I wanna be -- the money would be nice, but I've seen how the Blogosphere can be very cruel to liberal pundits...

What topics are you most passionate about?

History, law, religion, or anything that doesn't need a technical manual to understand. I'm a thinker; I like to think unconventionally, I try to push novel arguments (though, the arguments are often an innovation only in my own mind -- somebody else mighta already wrote along the same lines, then I come up with the same thing on my own only to discover afterward that it ain't such a novel idea). The one thing I'm most passionate about is what I call "The Disconnect". What usually prompts me to fire for effect -- doesn't matter the topic -- is when I notice the target launching into rhetoric totally disconnected from reality.

I'm much too passionate in my opinion that Mr. Bush is the wrong man for the job, so I really hafta keep myself in check lest my old radical self breaks through. One point on which I've written passionately in defense of Mr. Bush is the legitimacy of his presidency -- it may seem a semantic argument, but "legitimacy" denotes some condition in light of the law, and notwithstanding any disagreements on the decision in Bush v. Gore, Mr. Bush is legally President.

QP is an exceptional blog due (in part) to its format. How do you feel this contributes to the content?

Goading Will into joining was more serendipity than planning -- he's another "star poster" with whom I had some good debate. I really appreciate what he adds to the Quasspot -- besides giving me somebody I don't always agree with to bounce my own opinions off of, he's also got me beat in the area of politics (I really don't know politics so much as I'm perceptive and intuitive -- I'm very good at reading people and getting underneath the rhetoric).

There are other blogs with multiple users, but I only know of one other that does it the way we do -- (but I haven't seen Gena around in awhile... hmmm...)

I think the best content is when me and Will get chatty. Guy Cabot says it's "similar to an exchange of opinions between two guys who have been next door neighbors for the past 35 years." [hey, I'm only 37 this October] Others have described it as a kind of "Breakfast Table" (an old Slate regular). I like to think of our chatty sessions as belly up to the bar -- we haven't done enough of that lately.

Don't take me wrong -- I like writing the longer opinion pieces, but I hope we can get back to doing more of the other...

Do you consider yourself a "Warblogger"?

"Watch your phraseology!" Gods No! I honestly don't really know what a "warblogger" is, but I know it's a label that doesn't fit Will and me. We've actually discussed that term of art, and neither of us cares for it at all.

What role do you see for political blogging in the future?

I think we're at "the future" for political blogging. The net savvy professional media is already moving in the Blogosphere (see Tapped, Josh Marshall, NRO, Kaus, etc...). Some bloggers have been picked up by the media (see Spinsanity, FOX). The rest of us political bloggers are competing for audience in an expanding blogosphere -- more choices I like, but makes it harder for individual voices to get heard (that's not criticism -- simply reality).

Bottom line: political blogs are "value added" to the extent that they contribute to democratizing the debate -- that's the best future we can hope for...

What mainstream media serves as your primary source of information and material?

The Washington Post, The Newshour, and CSPAN (the latter also oft serves as a good sub for when the Comedy Channel is rerunning the Police Academy series...). When I have the time -- and I haven't lately -- I also read the New York Times, LA Times, and the Washington Times (I hafta read that last just to see their take on the stories).

Frequent, but not regular, reads are USN&WR, Time Magazine, BusinessWeek, etc... all the sources we kept in the library, but I can only get online now. The two I really miss are the Wall Street Journal and The Economist -- the newstand prices are ridiculous...
'Course, I'm not averse to googleing

What online sources do you most rely on?

Too many to name... one thing I don't understand is why more bloggers don't cite and link to primary source materials on line. Two sources that are quick hits for me are Cornell Law's Legal Information Institute, and The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. I've also been known to browse the electronic reading rooms at government websites -- FEC, FERC, IRS, White House, Congress: They've all got gigs of material available online.

I've even found kewl stuff like the digital collection of Thomas Jefferson's Papers at the Library of Congress website.

Some non-blog stuff: What films, music, or literature have caught your attention lately?

Lately? Sorry, I'm a bit slow on the uptake of new cultural stuff... My favorite band right now is Lifehouse (don't ask me why). I still haven't seen Lord of the Rings (that's how far behind I am). I've two book purchases planned: the latest Harry Potter book and the new Tom Clancey novel-- haven't seen either on the shelves yet...

When's that movie you worked on coming out? Guess that's gonna be my next theatre excursion...

Thanks to Tony for taking the time to participate. Check out QuasiPundit soon.

Watch for the next Lefty Interview with James M. Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review.