My background and interests
I am in the unusual position of being a native-born Virginian who grew up on the Great Plains of South Dakota. I have had a strong interest in politics and science since my early teen years, and even before that. After graduating from college, I returned to the Washington D.C.-Northern Virginia area, where I spent the 1980s working in the Federal Government. I then went back to graduate school at the University of Virginia, and in January 2002 earned a doctoral degree in Foreign Affairs. (See my Academics page.) The blog categories (some of which are updated more frequently than others) are indicative of my wide-ranging interests.
For most of my younger years I was on the left side of the political spectrum, though I always favored market-oriented economic policy, thanks in large measure to the Business School professors at the University of South Dakota. (I had a grudging, secret admiration for Ronald Reagan, you might say.) During the late 1980s I steadily lost faith in the Democrats and finally gave up in late 1990, disgusted with their leaders unwillingness to confront Saddam Hussein over his seizure of Kuwait. In the early 1990s I moved toward the political center and worked with the Concord Coalition, a public policy advocacy group devoted to balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility. The decisive turning point came in 1995 when the Republicans gained a majority in Congress and began implementing a comprehensive set of policy reforms. I was deeply impressed and became affiliated with the Grand Old Party.
In October 2002, a few months after earning my doctoral degree, I joined the Staunton Republican Committee. In early 2003 I created a joint Web site for the Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County Republican Committees: www.swacgop.org, and in the fall of 2004 I temporarily set aside my career goals in order to devote full time to helping reelect President George W. Bush. After swacgop.org terminated in March 2007, I launched a Staunton-only Republican Web site: www.stauntongop.org, at about the same time that I was elected Secretary of the Staunton Republican Committee. This was at a time of intense internal dispute, and I was removed from that post by higher party officials five months later, in a misguided (and failed) attempt to restore party unity. Meanwhile, at the request of the local Republican elected officials, I set up the augustarepublicans.com campaign Web site in September 2007. (In September 2010, control of it was transferred to the Augusta County Republican Committee, but the Web site remains inactive.) At the urging of senior local party members, I ran for chairman of the Staunton Republican Committee in March 2008, but lost to the incumbent. One month later I was replaced as Web master, after which nearly all of the local party veterans allowed our committee memberships to lapse. Nevertheless, I have continued to help out with election campaigns since then. In early 2009 I was chosen to be the chairman of the Mountain Valley Republican group, which seems to have restored a spirit of cooperation in the local Republican committees (especially Augusta County), and has therefore no longer holds separate meetings. "It's complicated."
Almost as soon as I completed my doctoral dissertation in late 2001, I began developing this Web site, followed by several other Web sites later on. I learned HTML while teaching at Virginia Tech in 2001, setting up a course Web site, and later did the same while teaching at Mary Baldwin College, James Madison University, and Sweet Briar College. (CVCC pending...) In early 2007 I created a Web site for the local chapter of the American Red Cross, www.redcrossblueridge.org, which folded when the chapter was merged in May 2008. In September of that year I did likewise for Emmanuel Episcopal Church, www.emmanuelstaunton.org, which is still going strong. In February 2008 I launched www.augustabirdclub.org on behalf of the Augusta Bird Club, which is also still quite active. (For further explanation, see my Dec. 31, 2008 blog post.) In mid-2011 I launched a Facebook group page for the Augusta Bird Club, which has proven very popular and useful. Updates to this Web site and blog vary in frequency according to the time of year, career pursuits, and other obligations.
As for religion, I was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian as a youth, strayed "like a lost sheep" from the late 1970s until the late 1980s, and then got my life back on track, thanks in no small part to Jacqueline. After our marriage, we began attending St. Paul's Memorial Church (Episcopal) in Charlottesville. I recent years I have become more active in various aspects of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Staunton, from doing gardening work to attending diocesanal meetings. In December 2011 I was elected to the vestry, sharing decision-making responsibilities for the parish. Faith in God's mercy and providence, and hope of forgiveness and eternal salvation in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, are what sustain me in times of trial. I am not a saint. Even though I am inclined toward the conservative side on most social issues, I detest the cynical exploitation of emotion-laden "wedge issues" by politicians seeking to win elections. I draw a sharp line between politics and religion, and I wish more people would do the same.
As for my personal tastes, I am stubbornly nonconformist regarding social norms (i.e., not "politically correct"), and not closely attuned to contemporary fashion or pop culture. I was a New York Yankees fan as a child, but drifted from baseball toward football when I moved to the Washington, D.C. area in the late 1970s. I became a "born-again" baseball fan in the late 1990s as hopes rose for getting a baseball team in Washington once again, a wish that was finally granted in 2005. (Oh, happy year!) My musical tastes range from rock and roll with a "country" slant, e.g., the Eagles; America; Crosby, Still, and Nash; and John Mellencamp; as well as mainstream rock (e.g., Fleetwood Mac or The Police) and some bluegrass and classical music. I have been playing (acoustic) guitar since my early teen years, which is when I began taking music seriously. I also dabble in the charango, a small ten-stringed instrument from South America. I have always enjoyed outdoor sports such as golf, softball, and bicycle riding, but was never a "jock." Over the years I have become more of a nature lover, and since the late 1990s have been a semi-serious bird watcher. I am fascinated by foreign cultures, especially Latin America. I am avid photographer, and take pride in the photo galleries that reflect my varied interests.
Finally, I am very proud of my wife Jacqueline, who was born in Peru. Indeed, the original (rather corny) name for this blog was "Los Clems." (Click here to see us after having climbed a high peak at Machu Picchu in Peru.) Cliches aside, we are truly blessed to share so many tastes in music (rock, salsa, etc.), food (enchiladas, salsa, etc.), and pastimes (hiking, bicycling, travel, camping, nature, baseball), and indeed we do almost everything together. Exception: I (Andrew) tire of shopping almost as quickly as Jacqueline tires of politics. (I must admit, her skepticism of what politicians promise is certainly well founded.) The content on this Web site in part reflects the fact that my career as a scholar of international relations, focusing on Latin America, is intertwined with our family life.
Political beliefs (arguable, fact based)
Until May 2008, the underlying theme of this blog was "subverting the dominant (statist) paradigm," which implied a libertarian zeal for radically scaling back the power of the government in domestic affairs. In any case, however, I never was fond of dogmatic approaches, and I'm a bit skeptical of the "rugged individualism" of Ayn Rand and the comcommitant atheistic tendencies. My idea of making this country a "more perfect union" (not a utopia) involves a building strong local community, and in that sense I share many of the inclinations as Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons; see my Sept. 6, 2006 blog post on him. Here are some basic tenets of my somewhat unorthodox socio-political outlook:
- The American political system is being corrupted by the gradual creep toward an illiberal, majoritarian form of democracy (à la Rousseau) in which the winning side takes all, raising tensions and instability.
- Constitutional norms and respect for law in society are eroding, raising doubts about whether we can "keep this republic."
- In any country, capitalism is prone to corruption by get-rich-quick hucksters, and far too many corporations and individuals act as though the only way to get ahead in life is to cut legal corners or flagrantly cheat.
- That is why a moral foundation and widely-shared normative vision -- usually but not necessarily religious -- are required for capitalism to work.
- The public education system in this country is appallingly inclined to reward mediocrity and conformity while punishing excellence and creativity. As long as parents remain disengaged from their children's education because they are "too busy," no Federal mandates or standardized testing sytem will rectify this travesty.
- By any reasonable standard, the vast majority of American people live in opulent luxury, but very few of them are even vaguely aware of it.
- I doubt that current consumption habits in the U.S.A. can be sustained much longer, but it's none of my business how people live their own lives, as long as they don't whine and put pressure on the government to enact market-distorting measures, such as caps on energy prices or subsidies for health care.
- U.S. energy prices are artificially low compared to the rest of the world, and profligate consumption of hydrocarbons should be reduced by means of a large tax increase of petroleum fuels, not by government regulations or feel-good conservation campaigns.
- Lying under oath is a crime, and for a public official, therefore, it is an impeachable offense.
- The success of the American economy in the late 20th century was primarily the result of the return to wealth-building free enterprise principles inspired by President Reagan.
- The Reagan legacy has been severely tarnished by a cynical group of anti-tax advocates who profess, wrongly, that "deficits don't matter."
- Under certain circumstances (such as after World War II), the United States can encourage other countries to adopt principles and practices of classical liberalism. Usually, however, other countries must learn on their own.
Personal opinions ("no accounting for taste")
- Foul language, public rudeness, indifference to learning and the arts, disrespect for elderly people, and various forms of debasement of human sexuality are all indications that Western Civilization is in decline, in the social democratic nations of Europe, as well as the U.S.A.
- People who in any way deprecate the value of an honest day's work, however humble the job may be, whether in or out of the home, are reprehensible scum bags.
- The key to rediscovering our national identity in this bewildering era of globalization, and rebuilding a truly national community, is baseball.
- Wildlife and the natural beauty in this country are gifts of God, and all Americans are morally obligated to be good stewards. Environmental laws should be based on "wise use" principles, working with property owners, not against them.
The general conclusion that I draw from these premises and observations is that the only way that the United States can avoid a further erosion of its precious culture of civility is to sharply cut back on the size and scope of the Federal government. The older I get, however, the less hopeful I am that such reforms might be practical, especially given the current backbiting in the Republican Party, and as a conservative I think the best we can do for the time being is to prevent a further loss of our freedoms. Among the political analysts who share my general view of what is wrong today with the Republican Party are former Sen. John Danforth (see my Oct. 2006 blog post), pollster Frank Luntz (see Feb. 2007), and former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett (see March 2006). To me it is obvious that the recent successes of the Democratic Party, and the 2008 election of Barack Obama in particular, are direct, predictable results of a deeply dysfunctional Republican Party, which was led astray by former President George W. Bush. While generally sympathetic to the stated goals of the "Tea Party" movement, I remain skeptical of the anti-intellectual, populist style which some of its members exhibit, and of the funding it receives from certain wealthy donors who have a narrow agenda. That is why I have doubts about whether it can help to restore the constitutional principles of limited government upon which our republic was founded.
Claims to "fame"
- Was present in the audience when Sen. George McGovern conceded the presidential election to Richard Nixon, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Nov. 1972
- In my capacity as Federal government economist, was quoted on the front page of Wall Street Journal ("there's no indication yet that the economy is picking up"), contradicting the White House spokesman, Apr. 12, 1982
- Completed "century" (100+ mile) bicycle rides with the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club in 1986, 1988, and 1989
- Interviewed two former presidents of Peru (Morales Bermudez and Belaunde) in Lima, Nov. 1994
- Spotted the first Western tanager ever recorded in the Shenandoah Valley, Apr. 2004
- Hit a double eagle (2 on a 487-yard par 5), witnessed by father and two brothers, Aug. 2004
- Cast as an "extra" for crowd scenes in the movie War of the Worlds, Dec. 2004
- Attended the Washington Nationals' first-ever regular-season game, in Philadelphia, Apr. 4, 2005
- Played a key role in helping to reelect State Senator Emmett Hanger, June 12, 2007
- Elected as chairman of the Mountain Valley Republicans, March, 2009
Does some of that sound far-fetched? Well, it's all true. Believe it ... or not!
Frequently asked questions
When did I start to blog?
I launched my personal Web site in early 2002 and first began to post blog-like comments semi-regularly in May 2002. However, I did not really blog on a consistent, standardized basis until November 2004, and the transition to the new (home-made) semi-automated blog system based on permalinks was completed in December 2004. As far as I know, I am the first blogger in the Staunton-Waynesboro-Augusta County (SWAC) area.
What were some other key blogging milestones?
Based on my new skills in PHP scripting, in late May 2005 I made the blog system 99 percent automatic, and created a blog post template page for the sake of aesthetics and ease of navigation. In September 2006 I enabled the "impressions" feedback feature on my baseball stadium pages, and enabled blog comments shortly thereafter. Finally, I created RSS/XML feeds (from the proverbial sweat of my own brow, mind you) in February 2007, after which this blog began to be "broadcast" to a wider audience for the first time. During 2010, I gradually reformatted nearly all of the informational background (non-blog) and photo gallery pages, adopting a uniform navigational interface and making other enhancements for the sake of convenience and aesthetics.
Where did the name of this blog (or lack thereof) come from?
It's taken from the song by the acoustic rock group America "Horse With No Name," which I adopted in December 2005. It's also an (ironic) allusion to my very open blog identity. The blog itself has "no name," but the blog author has always been clearly identified.
What is my relationship with other local bloggers?
Through my encouragement, other SWAC-area Republicans began blogging in 2005 and 2006, and at first I was very proud to have led the way. I always sought to encourage active, open, constructive dialogue among Republicans, hoping to build a bigger and stronger majority. Sadly, however, others in the party disagreed with that "Big Tent" approach, and tensions began to grow. In April 2007 a nasty dispute with some of my erstwhile colleagues erupted as a side-effect of the bitter Hanger-Sayre primary campaign race.
Some Most of us have since reconciled, and I remain hopeful that, someday, we will "all get along" once again.
Where did that background photo in my blog banner come from?
It's the Missouri River Valley, near where I grew up in South Dakota.
Do I have a FaceBook account?
Yes, I reluctantly signed up in March 2009, and after some struggle I gradually figured out how to make good use of it. Since the fall of 2009 I have been keeping up with it on a regular basis, usually at least once a day. I will be "friends" with folks who have already registered for this Web site, or those with whom I have become acquainted via e-mail. Thus far I have resisted the Twitter phenomenon, loathing the way that it forces the English language to be compacted, but I may eventually relent...
Do I have a Blogger account?
Yes, but mainly for the purpose of commenting on other blogs, which I don't do very often. See my Blogger profile page. In late 2006 and early 2007 I posted a few blog comments under the name "Andrew C" or "And Rue."
Do I have a YouTube account?
Yes, but I have only submitted a few videos thus far. See my YouTube page.
Do I have a LinkedIn account?
Yes, I finally joined in March 2010, but have not done much with it thus far.
What other online social networking services do I use?
In 2007 I also posted a few comments as "Cholo1" on the Staunton News Leader "talkback" feature, have done so (as "AndrewClem") more frequently on their new system that began in April 2008. In March 2009 I registered with baseball-fever.com, using the cryptic pseudonym "AC/DC2005," which stands for my initials, the District of Columbia, and the year that baseball returned there. In late 2009 I registered with MLB.com, using a similar moniker.
Who is my intended blogging audience?
Those who share my passion for baseball, and ballparks in particular, of course, but also anyone who cares deeply about this country and is searching for a fresh, thoughtful point of view on vital issues of the day -- more likely, someone in Virginia and especially western Virginia.
Why do I continue to blog?
Because my personal and educational background gives me a unique perspective on politics and matters of public interest in general, and I believe very deeply that our country -- and the Republican Party in particular -- needs more independent, honest voices who are not afraid to "question authority" or challenge "conventional wisdom."
"I blog, therefore I think I am."
(Attributed to a nameless blogger; apologies to René Descartes (1596-1650): "Cogito ergo sum.")