First Principles

In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

First Principles header image 1

A Tale of Two Speeches – Bonus Features

January 23rd, 2015 · 4 Comments

So a couple of things I would have liked to have added to my RGJ column about the contrast between Governor Sandoval’s State of the State and President Obama’s State of the Union addresses, but didn’t fit for space or flow reasons:


I didn’t actually watch either speech.  I’ve always preferred to listen to State of the Union addresses on the radio or read a transcript.  Even when I’ve live-blogged them in the past, I couldn’t really see the TV screen while I was writing.  In this case, I read both of them (here and here), and that’s where the contrast really, really shows up.

Numbers and thoughtful policy specifics tend to be boring for most people, which is why people who rely on rhetoric instead of substance try to avoid them.  A good delivery or a speaker you’re already predisposed to buy into can make complete nonsense sound profound.

[

→ 4 CommentsTags: Brian Sandoval · Obama · Partisanship

A Bold New Era* In Nevada Punditry

January 22nd, 2015 · No Comments

Hey – is this thing still on?  It is?  Wait, we’re posting?  Man, step away from a blog for a few years, and a guy forgets all his technical skills…

Ah, that’s better.  Now – let’s see if I can remember how to cross promote across multiple platforms!

The reason for blowing the dust off of this little corner of the internet is that I was recently offered a chance to write a column for the Reno Gazette-Journal.  I’m super excited about it, and incredibly appreciative of the folks at the RGJ (and one or two others who thought to mention me) for the opportunity for a new and bigger platform.

Here’s the column, which contrasts Governor Sandoval’s substantive, detailed, and adult State of the State speech with the President’s vapid and dishonest federal version – and hints at some lessons conservatives can learn from both.  I think it’s not a bad start, as judged by the fact that several breathless, insult-filled, and point-missing comments have already been posted in response!

Ah, the mature thoughtfulness of modern political discourse…

Anyway, as pumped as I am, the space limitations of a newspaper column is a different way to write, and presents a new and welcome challenge.  I actually prefer to read the paper on dead trees, and not just because getting Daddy’s newspaper makes a great first chore for a two year old.  And the discipline of having to get to the point will be very good for me.

But I love the ability to hyperlink to supporting evidence, provide clarifications and caveats, and otherwise free-form my way through a topic.  Fortunately, thanks to the miracle of the interwebs, I don’t have to chose!  Besides – the RGJ was kind enough to add my website to the bottom of the piece “to read more,” so there should probably be more here.

So if it’s your first visit, welcome, and if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, welcome back!  Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you find something interesting and thought provoking here.  And please do click through to the RGJ – not only do I think the pieces are worth perusing, but shares and clicks are the name of the game for us both!

*Individual eras and the degree of their boldness may vary.

→ No CommentsTags: Housekeeping

Barack Obama vs. Liberalism

May 19th, 2013 · 4 Comments

In defending the President against his responsibility for his scandals, liberals undermine their governing philosophy.  We should support these efforts!

It’s been incredibly interesting to watch supporters of the President try to defend his actions – or lack thereof – in his various swirling scandals these days.  First there was a lot of silence – it took awhile for the damage control talking points to get worked out.  It takes special skill to defend the indefensible, after all.  Some are denying anything is wrong at all, that the IRS was just doing its job, that no one was lying about Benghazi, and that monitoring the AP reporters’ phone calls was vital to national security.  The RGJ’s Corey Farley absurdly argued today that the IRS targeting and harassment is no big deal, because Nixon, McCarthy, and Ted Kennedy (all folks modern Republicans hold in the highest regard, of course) did it, too.  All of these excuses have the same drawback, though – they require the excuse maker to be either stupid or a liar.  But now they seem to have settled on the ultimate defense.

The President didn’t do anything wrong, you see – he’s just incompetent!

[

→ 4 CommentsTags: Big Government · Obama · Partisanship · Principles

Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The Winner Revealed!

March 19th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Here we go into the final stretch – let’s see which mascot will wear this year’s Badass Crown!

Sweet Sixteen

The (16) Liberty Flames over the (5) Oklahoma State Cowboys

SS - Liberty v OK StThere are times when not giving a crap any more can be what you need for a final badass push.  But not when it comes to being consumed by the flaming torch of avian-borne freedom [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: Silliness · Sports

Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The Third Round

March 19th, 2013 · Comments Off

We’re underway, and the creme is starting to rise to the top of the chaffe, or something.  Let’s find out just how badass these mascots can be in the third round!


The (16) Liberty Flames over the (9) Missouri Tigers

R3 - Liberty v Mizzou [

Comments OffTags: Silliness · Sports

Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The First and Second Rounds

March 18th, 2013 · 3 Comments

Woo Hoo!  It’s Madness Time on the hard court once again, ladies and gentlemen!  It’s a time I’ve always looked forward to, even as a casual sports fan most of the year, for reasons that totally had nothing to do with finals being over.  And indeed, as our politics have gotten stupider, the need for escape becomes that much greater.  Here at First Principles, I’ve always tried to offer a perspective that you won’t get anywhere else, and that commitment to Uniquiosity™ isn’t limited just to politics.   Anyone can watch games, crunch statistics, know which players match up well against who.  You can look at seeds, win-loss records, RPI, distance from home, etc., and everyone does.  But no one – no one! – seems to account for what might be the most important stat of all:  The Relative Badassity of the Team Mascot, as defined by Myself.

Click on this picture for hilarious real mascot fights.

Click on this picture for hilarious real mascot fights.

“Badassity” is a function of many things – “Who Would Win In a Fight” is a major determiner, but that alone isn’t always enough.  Mascots lose points for lack of originality (I’m talking to you, 8 Million Wildcat Teams).  History of the team nickname matters, as well as how it’s used today.  Logo design can be key – what do do when you have multiple Bulldogs?  Acknowledging Badassity doesn’t necessarily constitute endorsement – the Forces of Darkness tend to do well in this bracket.  And I try to look to the past when in doubt in close contests, following the rule of stare decisis when possible.  You can check out 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012 just for reference (2010 was purged from the record books after an NCAA rules violations investigation that I’m contractually prohibited from discussing).  And of course, the results are totally and completely guaranteed*!

*If you believe this, please join my pool.

So, defend your own school’s mascot if you can, and let’s get on with the Dance!

The First Four – Play-In Round

The (16) Liberty Flames over the (16) North Carolina A&T Aggies

R1 - NC AT v LibertyThis first matchup is an odd combination of overused mascots tossed together in a stew of medium grade Badassity, but with some real hidden potential in each.  Aggies, of course, refers to [Read more →]

→ 3 CommentsTags: Sports

Hey… It’s Gotten a Little Dusty in Here

March 17th, 2013 · Comments Off


This is probably the longest I’ve gone without blogging since I started doing it back in 2005.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but it’s time to come back, unlock the doors, blow off some dust, and open this shop back up.  I’ve been working on a series of posts about what Republicans and conservatives can do to change our fortunes – and the country – for the better, so stay tuned for that.  But as long time fans know, my favorite blogging of the year comes from my own, unique, and of course flawless take on the NCAA tournament.  With the Selection Sunday show now in the books, and the field set, I can no longer sit back and remain silent…

So the mascots are calling me back, along with a lot of readers who have asked me what’s going on and demanding more (thanks, you guys!).  In the meantime, enjoy some hoops predictions in the next few days!

Comments OffTags: Housekeeping

Uff Da.

November 7th, 2012 · 9 Comments

Obama wins.  Republicans lose everywhere they could have lost in the Senate.  No wave.  No repudiation.  No change.  No mandate either way, and yet everyone will claim one.

Let me say this at the outset – I hope like hell that I’m wrong about what we’re in store for in the next four years.  I hope my friends who voted for and still support the president are wiser than me.  I hope that Obamacare bends the cost curve down and that it provides good health to Americans in an economically sustainable way.  I hope the economy comes screaming back to life, with the GDP growing at 5%+ every quarter for the duration.  I hope unemployment plummets.  I hope that Obama will make a serious effort to balance the budget.  I hope a Democrat wins in a landslide in 2016 because things are going so well.  I hope Iran will be prevented from getting a nuke because the Islamists are enchanted with him as a global healer.  I hope Obama stops considering me his “enemy.”

No tongue-in-cheek – I hope this will be so with all of my being, even as I know it won’t be so.

[

→ 9 CommentsTags: Campaign '12

Final Pre-Election Thoughts

November 5th, 2012 · 6 Comments

One day away.  I’m feeling good about this election, and even better that it’s almost over.  But nothing is certain, and it ain’t over ’til it’s over – GO VOTE!!!!!

I think Romney wins tomorrow, and the “why” boils down to this:  Romney isn’t simultaneously demolishing Obama among independent voters and losing the race.  Those two things are just not compatible.  And while the polls have been all over the map, there has been one tremendous consistency – Romney wins big with independent voters.  Even in polls where it’s showing things tied, like in this CNN poll, Romney is winning Indies by 22 points.  22!  And the poll, like many others, assume Democrats will have an even greater electoral advantage than they had in 2008.  No thinking person thinks the electorate will look like this tomorrow.  Couple that with Obama failing to breach 50% pretty much anywhere, along with the tendency of late deciders to break hard for a challenger, and I feel like my cautious optimism is pretty well justified.

The other reason, beyond all others for me, is that Obama is acting like a losing candidate, and Romney is acting like a winning one.  Good polling is very, very expensive, which is one of the reasons there are so many bad ones out there.  Major campaigns are one of the few entities who can afford the better ones.  Obama wouldn’t be talking about getting “revenge” if he thought he was winning – indeed, that word suggests he’salready lost.

But still – VOTE!  A win is good.  A mandate is better.


But what about Nevada?

For my non-Nevadan readers, this is (l to r) Senator Dean Heller, some guy who blew in from the parking lot, Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Congressman Mark Amodei, Governor Brian Sandoval, and Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki.

Today I had the honor and opportunity to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at a campaign stop by Condoleezza Rice here in Reno.  Scheduled to speak before her were my Governor, my Lt. Governor, my Senator, and my Congressman, and we were all in a back room waiting for the former Secretary of State to come.  Four of the most powerful men in Nevada were relaxed, happy, and having fun with each other.  They were warm, respectful, and gracious to harried staffers, volunteers, and almost-3 year-olds who could have slept more last night.

[

→ 6 CommentsTags: Campaign '12

LiveBlogging the Final Debate – LIVE from Washoe GOP/Team Nevada HQ

October 22nd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Final Thoughts:  I thought this went well, and Romney did what he needed to do.  Some of the activists are wondering why Romney didn’t hit Benghazi harder, but it’s clear that was a calculated decision.  (I probably would have hit Libya harder, but I wonder if they have some focus group data that suggested that wasn’t resonating.)  Again, the audience here are the late undecideds who aren’t happy with Obama (or they wouldn’t be undecided), but want to make sure Romney isn’t some crazy, loose canon warmonger.  He did that, and did it very well.  He looked reasonable, strong without being overly brash, well informed, and competent.  Obama did nothing to reverse the momentum here, and said a few things that I think will really hurt him.  (He does know our largest Navy base is in swing state Virginia, right?)

As a successful business guy, Romney is necessarily very good at FIRST asking the question, “What does it mean to win?”  Pundits and activists want to count blows and “points” and other such nonsense.  Undecided voters want a gut feel that the guy they’re voting for is going to take care of business so they can quit paying attention to politics for awhile.

Obama was playing for the pundits (and even they are conceding that Romney “passed the Commander-in-Chief Test”), Romney for the voters.  If the polls after the last debates are any indication – and I think they will be – the momentum remains with Romney.

My cautious optimism is growing…

Read the full recap here!  [

→ 1 CommentTags: Campaign '12

LiveBlogging the Presidential “Town Hall” Debate

October 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Bottom Line:  I thought Romney bested the President in the first half hour, but the President finished pretty strong.  Since it was boring in the middle, I think that benefits Romney.

Crowley was much better than I thought, but not as good as she could have been.  And she was incredibly misleading about Obama calling the Benghazi incident a terrorist attack, as was Obama, of course.  Again – moderators can’t be trusted to be “fact checkers” any more than the candidates.  But still, Romney missed a huge opportunity on that, and missed an opportunity to really put the President on the spot.  I’m glad there is a final debate focusing on foreign policy.  And I’m equally glad that exchange will now dominate the reaction press until the next debate.

There were three exchanges when Romney was essentially trying to cross examine the President, and the President squirmed.  He needs to do more of that.

If folks were still undecided going in to this debate, I doubt this will change their minds – they will wait until the third.  I think Obama stopped some bleeding, but gained no new ground.  My Facebook feed tells me it was a draw – lots of enthusiasm from my friends on both sides.  And I have to think the President’s sunny picture of the economy will sit in jarring contrast to what people are seeing in their lives.

As always, the Ultimate Poll will tell!

Click here to read the full live blog…  [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Campaign '12

LiveBlogging the VP Debate

October 11th, 2012 · 2 Comments

The Bottom Line:  Before this debate, I thought Biden was a likeable buffoon.  Now I think he’s a very unlikeable buffoon.

Not a clear domination like the last debate.  Indeed – it left me damned frustrated for the lack of substance.  This is what happens when you have a too-present moderator who won’t do her one actual job, which is to be the umbrella for both sides when it’s their turn to speak.  Horrible.  Just horrible. And by the way, hate, hate, hate this sitting.  I agree with Peggy Noonan – stand up at podiums, people.

Ryan was unflappable, but I actually wish he would have flapped a bit more in response to Biden’s constant interrupting and grinning.  How great would it have been if he would have said, “Mr. Vice President, I don’t find 4 dead Americans funny – why are you laughing?”  And, “Mr. Vice President, I understand you don’t want the American people to hear the truth behind these numbers, but they deserve to hear them, and they can’t when you keep speaking over me and jumping in.  Be still for just 2 minutes!”  Biden exemplifies the incompetence of our political class.

The talking heads are aghast right now about the interruptions and rudeness.  I wonder what effect that imagery will have, especially coupled with the calm demeanor of Ryan.  For anyone with a well-tuned BS detector, interrupting like that spikes the BS Meter off the charts.  I’ve been losing faith, however, in the calibration of the American electorate’s BS detectors…

There is plenty here for both sides to claim victory on, but I don’t know.  I think both sides credibly got their messages out, and the question is how they will resonate with the undecideds, who are a mercurial bunch.  As always, when I live blog, I hear more than I see, and I thought Ryan had more memorable quips and takeaways, even a few with numbers (run the govt for 98 days and all that).

I didn’t watch it on CNN, but I understand from people who did that the undecided voter reaction was incredibly positive for Ryan, particularly with women.  If that’s true, the takeaway from this will be whether Biden energizing his base at the expense of turning off the undecideds came at too high a price for Obama.  Update on this:  The CNN snap poll:

Winner: Ryan 48%, Biden 44%
More likeable: Ryan 53%, Biden 43%
More in touch with problems of people like you: Ryan 51%, Biden 44%

CNBC Snap Poll:

Paul Ryan: 56%, Joe Biden: 36%, Neither: 8%

As I understand it, these snap polls are pre-selected, self-described undecided voters.  If that’s indeed the case, then this was a BIG win, since “winning” in this case is defined as what moves the most voters to our side.  If these numbers are accurate, the momentum Romney built last week was solidified, and that’s a good thing.

Click here for the whole live blog!  [

→ 2 CommentsTags: Campaign '12

Why Romney Won – A Worthy Debate Format For Once

October 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Pretty much every pundit – and every one with at least a brain stem – acknowledges that Romney won this debate decisively.  But what most of them are missing is why it was such a blowout.

It’s the format, stupid – the best political debate format I’ve ever seen. And contrary to a lot of the professional pundits – most of whom dream to some day be in the spotlight (on par with or above the candidates themselves) by being debate moderators themselves – Jim Lehrer did exactly the right thing by NOT participating any more than with a gentle reminder here and there on time and the broad topic to be addressed.

[

→ 1 CommentTags: Campaign '12 · Mitt Romney · Obama

Scenes and Thoughts from the Paul Ryan Rally

September 8th, 2012 · Comments Off

You have to give credit to the folks who picked Peterbilt Truck Parts and Equipment for Paul Ryan’s visit to Sparks this morning.  Is there a better setting to perfectly embody the GOP image combination of “economy,” “manliness,” “you built that small business,” and “America”?

They even got Optimus Prime (like Clint Eastwood, Optimus is a Hollywood Republican) to greet Paul Ryan as the bus arrived.

[

Comments OffTags: Campaign '12 · Mark Amodei · Paul Ryan · Principles · Religion

Harry Reid Thinks You’re This Dumb

September 4th, 2012 · Comments Off

$5.4 Trillion in additional debt.  23 million un- or underemployed people.  Jihadists taking over the Middle East after the “Arab Spring”.  A trillion dollars (give or take) spent on economic stimulus that resulted in a significantly higher unemployment rate than we were told would result if NO money was spent.  Solyndra and its failed ilk.  An auto company takeover/bailout that lost $25 Billion tax dollars.  An average GDP growth rate of just 2.2% (half the historical post-war post-recession average) since July 2009 (with no improvement in sight). Expansion of already unsustainable entitlement spending, along with the largest middle class tax hike in history (aka Obamacare). Gas prices above $4 per gallon around the country. Median household income declining by 7.3% since Obama’s tenure. A record 46.7 million Americans on food stamps.  An entire Presidential Administration that has never once passed a budget.

And Harry Reid wants us to believe Mitt Romney’s tax returns is the most compelling issue in this election?

This was not the presentation of a serious man, or the priorities of a serious party.

Keep it up, guys.  Keep telling the American people what your priorities are – and aren’t.

Comments OffTags: Campaign '12 · Corruption · Deficits and Debt · Democrats · Economy · Harry Reid

Does the GOP’s Online Gaming Platform Make Them Identical to Democrats?

September 3rd, 2012 · Comments Off

Robert Fellner has an interesting piece on the GOP’s platform plank to resist the expansion of on-line gambling:

The stated justification for this horribly intrusive, un-Constitutional, un-American, nanny-state action that the most hardcore Progressive would be proud of, is that “compulsive gambling is a serious disease” blah blah blah, Why is there no call to ban all forms of poker? Or all gambling? Or what about tobacco? Or alcohol? Is alcoholism not a serious disease? What about high-fat diets? Red-meat, perhaps?

Although I wouldn’t agree this is “Unconstitutional,” (gaming has always been regulated, and expanding online poker necessarily entails dealing with those regulations on an interstate and international basis, which I think comfortably falls within the Commerce Clause power), I agree with the sentiment.  We’re $16,000,000,000,000 in debt, and THIS is what we think the Feds should spend time on?  Come on.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is THIS – not unsustainable entitlement program spending, national debt, or Iranian nukes – which represents an existential threat to our very existence. Get your regulation writing pencils ready! It’s for the children, you know.

Eugene Volokh has similar thoughts on the platform’s urge to crack down on porn:

[

photo by: JohnSeb

Comments OffTags: 1st Amendment · Big Government · Brian Sandoval · Campaign '12 · Federalism · Harry Reid · Health Care · Republicans · Rick Santorum · Social Conservatism

There Are Reasons to Boycott Restaurants, and Then There Are Reasons

August 29th, 2012 · 25 Comments

I didn’t know about this until recently, but every Friday in Idlewild Park here in Reno is a little food truck gathering. There is plenty of room to lay out a picnic blanket, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy some tasty and unique cuisine from small business owners who are showing some nice innovation over the standard brick-and-mortar diner or the stereotypical roach coach. I especially like supporting them after they’re being harassed – via crony “capitalism” inspired regulations – by their less innovative competitors.

But there is one I will never support, and neither should anyone else who opposes mass murder. I’m talking about the Dish Café truck, which looks something like this:

If you don’t understand why this is offensive, first go write angry letters to every history teacher you’ve ever had.  Then consider the reaction you might have for a sandwich chain that went with something like this for their ad campaign:

[

→ 25 CommentsTags: 1st Amendment · Communism

“Republican” Thieves in Tampa, and a Hard Blow to Conservatism in Nevada

August 28th, 2012 · 45 Comments

So today Nevada’s delegation to the National Republican Convention stole the votes of thousands of Nevada Republicans.  Caucus goers were promised that their delegates would honor their votes, and would vote on the floor of the convention in proportion to the vote in the caucuses.  The national delegates promised they would “play by the rules” and vote in accordance with the caucus vote.  Delegates elected in the caucus meetings themselves either stood silent about their intentions, or lied out loud about what they would do in Tampa if they ultimately went. The national delegates lied about their intentions.

Pursuant to the rules of our caucuses, Romney earned 20 delegate votes, while Ron Paul only garnered eight.  And yet when the roll call came, our delegation announced…  Ron Paul with 17, Romney with 5, and 5 abstentions.

How embarrassing.  How enraging.  How destructive to the cause they claim to champion.  Why have I been beating this drum for so long?  This is why.

Sadly, all is proceeding as I have foreseen.

[

→ 45 CommentsTags: Campaign '12 · Corruption · Mitt Romney · Republicans · Ron Paul

Do the Ron Paulestineans in the Nevada GOP Even Want To Win Elections?

August 19th, 2012 · 6 Comments

Sadly, it seems clear from their actions that the answer is “no.” 

Recently, Washoe County GOP Chair Dave Buell filed paperwork to make the Washoe County GOP a distinct entity from the State Party, disclaiming any intention to coordinate with or be controlled by the State.  While this Declaration of Independence has the advantage of adding a new legal entity to which potential donors can max out political contributions (the stated purpose), the real reason is because the State Party, largely controlled due to sheer numbers by the Clark County GOP, has fully run aground.  The Ron Paul Revolution “took over” the party, and now can’t raise money, register Republicans, or inspire faith in any Republican candidate or voter that their organization adds any value to anything whatsoever.  In order to reassure voters, volunteers, donors, and candidates that they aren’t wasting their time and money by contributing to and associating with their party, the Washoe County GOP had no choice but to distance itself as much as possible from the state party.  Moreover, now the Romney campaign has a local party operation in this state they can trust and coordinate with.

This is not about ideology, it’s about competence.  Buell did exactly the right thing, and now the Clark County folks, who have chased off every sane Republican in the state, are not only crying about it, but they’re stomping up and down and filing complaints with the FEC in order to force the sane amongst us back into their boiling crab pot.

It’s an imperfect analogy, because real crabs who stay in the boiling pot are actually useful in their deliciousness.

Oh, the delicious irony of a bunch of self-proclaimed libertarians gnashing their teeth when the only organization in the state who could keep them looking remotely effective decided to Go Galt!

[

photo by: Urban Sea Star

→ 6 CommentsTags: Campaign '12 · Nevada Politics · Republicans · Ron Paul

Paul Ryan – A Serious VP For Serious Times

August 11th, 2012 · 2 Comments

When I was running for the Assembly, I would often say that the good news is that no matter who is elected for any government post, Government will eventually get much, much smaller.  After all its current size and growth is unsustainable, and things that can’t go on forever, don’t.

But the choice we have is HOW it gets smaller.  Do we keep our heads in the sand and pretend we can just keep running up the credit card until it collapses around us (leading to ruin), or do we take things down in a controlled descent (leading to economic recovery)?

“The moment is here. The country can be saved. It is not too late to get America back on the right track. … It is not too late to save the American idea.”

[

→ 2 CommentsTags: Campaign '12 · Deficits and Debt · Mitt Romney · Paul Ryan