Friday, July 24, 2009

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part CXXXIV: Howie Klein

Howie Klein is a founder of the popular American blog DownWithTyranny!, which deals with politics and journalism, mixed with biting satire.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I had just retired from running Reprise Records and I woke up before dawn, as I always did, and CNN had a piece on a new blog called The Huffington Post. It sounded interesting and I went downstairs and found it on my computer and saw a post on the first day by a friend of mine from the music business who didn't understand the role of iTunes. I posted either the first comment or one of the first comments on HuffPo,without even knowing what blogging was. But I had a HUGE response from people all over the world-- including from people I hadn't been in touch with in decades. Arianna asked me if I wanted to blog regularly about music and I said I wanted to write about politics and she explained how she was already fulled up in that department.
So I started my own blog that day. Unfortunately it took me another few months before I started understanding what blogging was. I mean I didn't even know how to make a link or understand that there were other blogs out there too.

What is your best blogging experience?

Along with Crooks and Liars, Firedoglake and Digby, DownWithTyranny raised almost $2 million through our PAC, BlueAmerica and we've helped elect a couple dozen progressive men and women to the Senate and House. Many of them-- like Allen Grayson (D-FL), Donna Edwards (D-MD), JeffMerkley (D-OR) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) are among the best members of Congress and one of our candidates, Hilda Solis, was named to Obama's cabinet as Labor Secretary.

And your worst?

One of our candidates, Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA) was lying to us about being a progressive and we totally got him elected and he turned out to be a homophobic maniac and an anti-working family extremist who votes with the Republicans on crucial policy over and over. It's been a nightmare trying to dislodge him.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

I was a dj most of my life and my policy was never to record a show--although others recorded them and used to sell them; two even came out as records,one an interview I did with the Sex Pistols. I never recorded a show because I tried to just be a dj fully in the moment and that once the show went out into the universe it was no longer mine anyway. I sort of feel the same way about blogging. Once I do a piece,I just pray I caught all the errors and off it goes.

Favourite blogs?

I read Firedoglake, Crooks and Liars, Digby, DailyKos, and Open Left everyday but I make an effort to try to read lots of blogs as often as I can

Your blog recently touched on Defence spending. Its a similar situation with the UK at the moment with regards to Afghanistan, in which case do you think we should reconsider our situation within that region and work out fresh ways of bringing down the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan-- twice. I might not be an expertbut I'm afraid-- REALLY AFRAID-- that I might be more of an expert than our decision makers, a horrifying thought. Obama needs to get us out of that hellhole as soon as possible-- or sooner... unless he plans to marry Roxanna.

How would you define the American blogosphere?

I wouldn't

What are the most popular items at the DownWithTyranny store?

thetwo books we've sold the most are BLOGGERS ON THE BUS by Eric Boehlert, IDIOT AMERICA by Charles Pierce and THE PROGRESSIVE REVOLUTION by Mike Lux. Musically we've sold mostly 21st Century Breakdown by Green Day and The Loving Kind by Nanci Griffith. Why that stuff? Those are book and CDs we write about-- a lot.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

I want to visit Russia but I hate cold weather. I also hear that it's impossible to eat in a remotely healthy way there, but it's someplace I'm hoping to see. My grandfather came from there.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

LOL-- I'm writing to you right now from Bali, which I'm revisiting.
I've been on the road since I was a teenager and lived overseas for almost 7 years. I travel a lot and always go to my favorite places again and again: Morocco, Thailand, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Italy, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Tuscany... I wish I could go back to Afghanistan, but I know that's never going to happen. And by the way, I also have a travel blog:

Do you have a favourite political figure in history?

So many... this month I'm very high on farsighted American progressives Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln

Which figure has been your greatest inspiration?

my grandfather, who escaped from czarist Russia, came to America and started a successful business and always taught me to stand up for the less fortunate. He was a lifelong socialist

Favourite Bond movie?

I'll leave that one to Ken

Favourite Doctor Who?

I don't watch much TV; sorry

Chocolate,vanilla, or mint?

I don't eat sugar but I just taught Made and Putu, our cooks on Bali
how to make raw vegan ice-cream and they made it with fresh vanilla
beans and it was completely delicious. Basically I love eating whatever
is natural and try to not eat manufactured food-substitutes

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

I've seen every band I ever wanted too (all of them, basically). I went to an incredible concert last year in Mali by Bassekou and I hope I see him again. Oh yeah-- and the original Pakistani Ali Brothers. I went to find them in Pakistan and they were away. Years later they played at the Kosmos in Amsterdam where I was working and I just stumbled into the room not even knowing they would be playing there! I love their music. But they're dead. So I'll stick with Bassekou.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, New York, Harvard, or Chicago?

New York of course. The other two? Um... why?

Favourite national newspaper?

NY Times.

What would you say your hobbies were?

history, reading, music, map drawing, stamp collecting, whitewater rafting

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three
favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

I can't even come close to narrowing it down like that. For my first years of loving music the Rolling Stones and Dylan were my favorite artists, followed by The Clash and U2. But these days I barely listen to them. My iPod has lots of Green Day, lots of Wilco, lots of Doves (but only from THE LAST BROADCAST), and lots of Steve Earle, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones.

As for books, my favorite books this summer (so far) are FAMILY OF SECRETS by Russ Baker, THE ELIMINATIONISTS by Dave Neiwert, and THE PROGRESSIVE REVOLUTION by Mike Lux.

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