First Principles

In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

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Scenes and Thoughts from the Paul Ryan Rally

September 8th, 2012 · Comments Off on Scenes and Thoughts from the Paul Ryan Rally

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.

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Comments Off on Scenes and Thoughts from the Paul Ryan RallyTags: Campaign '12 · Mark Amodei · Paul Ryan · Principles · Religion

Harry Reid Thinks You’re This Dumb

September 4th, 2012 · Comments Off on Harry Reid Thinks You’re This Dumb

$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 Off on Harry Reid Thinks You’re This DumbTags: 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 on Does the GOP’s Online Gaming Platform Make Them Identical to Democrats?

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:

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photo by: JohnSeb

Comments Off on Does the GOP’s Online Gaming Platform Make Them Identical to Democrats?Tags: 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:

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→ 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.

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→ 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!

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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.”

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

It’s Governor Sandoval’s Fault That the Obama Administration Undermined Welfare Reform?

August 8th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Last month, the Obama Administration issued an “Information Memorandum” that broadly reinterprets federal “welfare to work” programs, and encourages states to seek waivers of employment requirements for people on federally subsidized welfare benefits.  While the Memorandum claims that waivers won’t be granted if they violate the spirit of that welfare reform, the reinterpretation of the law claims the authority to do exactly that, effectively claiming an ability to do an end-run around duly passed legislation by royal decree executive fiat.

After being rightfully blasted for this attempt to undermine a successful and popular law by the Romney campaign, Barack Obama is now risibly claiming that Governor Brian Sandoval made him do it, or at least gave him the idea.

Hey, at least he’s taking a break from blaming George Bush for everything for awhile.

The trouble is that none of the Obama Administration’s claims or refutations are true.

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Brian Sandoval · Campaign '12 · Constitutional Law · Federalism · Harry Reid · Mitt Romney · Obama · Welfare

Being Smart on Crime – A Defense of Veteran’s Court

August 1st, 2012 · Comments Off on Being Smart on Crime – A Defense of Veteran’s Court

Last week Thomas Mitchell penned an incredibly ignorant and even offensive post regarding the better-late-than-never expansion of Veteran’s Court in Clark County.  Mr. Mitchell argued against even having a specialized Veteran’s Court, thinking instead that we should ignore everything we know about addiction, the mental trauma of combat, and the relationship between the two, and instead waste lives and untold millions of taxpayer dollars in a Harrison Bergeron-esque effort to treat everyone exactly equally no matter what.

As a vet with three deployments under my belt, and someone who now works in the criminal justice system (often with vets who have committed crimes), I can say with certainty that he has no idea what he’s talking about, how specialty courts work, or how various brain injuries, including PTSD, impact veterans who return home from war.

Would any sane human sneer at efforts to prevent veteran suicides, or argue that the special, underlying circumstances that lead to vet suicide shouldn’t be addressed differently than others? A lot of the same circumstances for these vets lead to drug addiction, violence, and crime, and we need to address those in context.

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Comments Off on Being Smart on Crime – A Defense of Veteran’s CourtTags: Crime · Veterans

It’s Up to Us

July 30th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Things have been a little quiet around here, I know.  I’ve been gone for some work travel, had some family obligations, and honestly, just wanted a break from the silliest of the silly in the political season.  (Chick-Fil-A?  Really?  We’re $16,000,000,000,000.00 in debt and we have time to give a steaming pile that a regional restaurant owner has an opinion on gay marriage that was shared by everyone from Rick Santorum to Barack Obama until about 5 minutes ago?)  There is nothing like the smallness of our politics and too many of our politicians to make our already too large problems seem even larger, and sometimes a guy just has to take a step back.

But while the politicians are small, the problems we face aren’t, and the consequences of choosing the wrong leaders (and more importantly, the wrong governing philosophies) are just plain frightening.

So, it’s time to get back in the saddle here.

If Barack Obama is reelected, we will have a President who believes that both his power to regulate every possible aspect of your life and the reservoirs of Other People’s Money are infinite and unlimited.  We’ll have a President who will appoint judges and sign laws that reflect those very incorrect and inevitably unsustainable philosophies.  And whatever you think about Obama’s own motivations or integrity, we’ll have a President who will have reworked the American government into a tool of unlimited power that evil and/or stupid men will wish to wield in the future.

That never seems to work out very well in the end.

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→ 1 CommentTags: Campaign '12 · Obama

The Tax Pledge: Defining Terms

June 8th, 2012 · 1 Comment

The original Conservatives were very concerned with what words meant, and how they were used.

When asking the question, “Is the Taxpayer Protection Pledge Conservative?”, once must first know what the pledge says, and know what we mean by “Conservative.”  I’ve written about the later for years, but if you need a review on my starting point, you can find it here.

The short version, though, is that “Conservatives” are “conserving” the Enlightenment principles of the supremacy of individual liberty, with government’s legitimate role being to protect the life, liberty, and economic opportunity of those individuals.  Conservative government policy, then, should work to protect and promote individual liberty.  Therefore, if the Tax Pledge does not have the effect of maximizing individual liberty within a society, it’s not “Conservative” in any recognizable sense.


So – what is the pledge?  Here it is, in its entirety:

I, ________________________, pledge to the taxpayers of the _______ District of the state of ____________________ and all the people of this state that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.

“Taxes” is not defined in the pledge.  Certainly regular, no kidding things like property taxes apply.  Do user fees, for say, State Park entry count?  DMV fees?  Bridge or road tolls?  What about fines for felonies?  Traffic tickets?  Court filing fees?  What about expenses like public school uniforms?

How about public debt?  [

→ 1 CommentTags: Economy · Nevada Politics · Taxes

Venus Transit Pics

June 5th, 2012 · 5 Comments

I was pretty worried all the clouds that piled up this afternoon would make the Venus transit impossible for me to see, but I got him just in time to catch a cloud break.  I was able to use my trusty sextant that I used to photograph the recent solar eclipse to see the planet in front of the sun, but I thought it would be too bright to capture an image.  But here it is, overexposed though it may be!

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→ 5 CommentsTags: Space

What’s Conservative About the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”?

June 5th, 2012 · 4 Comments

When it comes to political hot points in conservative political circles in Nevada, the Grover Norquist/Americans for Tax Reform “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” may be the most singularly significant.  It has become, for some, THE litmus test for who a “real” conservative is and isn’t.  But is that fair?  Does the pledge make sense politically, policy-wise, or philosophically?

This blog was conceived specifically to answer questions like that, and now – with several Republican primary races pitting Pledge-signers against non-Pledge signers (both arguing over who the “true conservative” is) – is as good a time as any to explore this issue.

This is often painted as a “pragmatist vs. purist” argument – but I think that is too glib, especially for something as complicated as tax policy.  And it lets both signers and non-signers off the hook when it comes to truly understanding – and explaining to their constituents! – the complex budget bills they’re considering.

I’m going to explore this on multiple fronts and in multiple posts to follow, but the bottom line is this – the Pledge is an un-serious document, poorly tailored to promote sound, conservative economic policy.

Brought to you in part by the Taxpayer Protection Pledge?

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Nevada Politics · Taxes

Reno’s Annular Eclipse – Back Yard Photos!

May 20th, 2012 · 3 Comments

Today, of course, we here in northern Nevada were lucky enough to be in the path of an annular solar eclipse.  If you’re really into the science of it, here’s a great article.  Since I’m not as smart as Ethan Siegel, though (which is why I blog about politics instead of astrophysics), I’ll just share some pretty cool pictures (if I do say so) I shot of the event from my back yard.

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→ 3 CommentsTags: Life · Space

How a State Party Destroys Itself – And How Nevada Republicans Might Actually Come Out Ahead in the End

May 17th, 2012 · 2 Comments

There was a lot of news today about the continuing implosion of the State GOP.  The Clark County (Vegas) Central Committee voted to condemn the RNC chair for (gasp!) supporting the (yes, “the”) Republican Presidential candidate, erroneously claiming rules were violated.  Outside conservative organizations like Americans for Prosperity are overtly announcing themselves as alternatives to sane Republicans looking to invest their time and money to actually elect Republicans.  And the RNC/Romney Campaign very obviously deliberately leaked their plans today to completely bypass the state party.

In one more blow, I learned today that Reno attorney David O’Mara, who has contributed his legal services to the State party since 2004, sent a letter to the state party informing them that he would no longer make himself or his firm available to the State GOP.  O’Mara successfully defended the state party against a pointless lawsuit from a few Ron Paul supporters in 2008, and often provided his legal acumen to the party at little or no cost.  He was “on call” for the party, even when another general counsel had been appointed.  Not only is he a great lawyer, but he has a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge about the party itself, local political players, and the state’s legal culture.

McDonald and Company might be able to replace the legal services IF they can find the money to do it, but that would, of course, take tens of thousands of dollars away from other things the party might want to spend money on (like rent and staff and voter registration efforts).  But election law is an area very few Nevada attorneys are experienced with, and finding someone with those skills who are also sympathetic to the Ron Paul campaign personality cult would probably be a pretty tough job.  And you can’t replace the experience and knowledge O’Mara has, no matter how much money you spend. Not anytime soon, anyway.

I wonder – did the Ron Paul goofballs who “took over” the party and “overthrew the Establishment” understand that this is what they were throwing away? I get the urge to shake things up, but you still have a mission to accomplish.  How many other David O’Maras did they drive away?  Who did they think they were going to get to replace the lawyers and secretaries and fundraisers and accountants and PR people and donors they drove out as being “too Establishment”?


The implosion of the state party is happening faster and furiouser that I thought possible.  And in a way, this is giving me cause for hope.

Either this is a goose being cooked in a pan or a phoenix rising from the ashes. Either one is a potential symbol for the State GOP - let's hope we pick the right interpretation.

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Nevada Politics · Republicans

The Flexibility of Statistics and the Real US Jobs Picture

May 10th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Today on Nevada Newsmakers we had a spirited discussion about the unemployment rate, with a claim that the number of jobs has actually been increasing under President Obama.  (You can see the full panel discussion here – it was much feistier than usual!)  I threw out some rough approximation of stats during the debate (you never know what’s going to come up), but thought they were worth following up with in some detail here.

Our unemployment rate is officially dropping, but the economy isn’t adding enough jobs to keep up with new entrants into the workforce – a net loss.  It’s only because so many potential productive workers are just dropping out of the economy altogether that the math works out for the administration.  The bottom line from the Washington Post?

If the same percentage of adults were in the workforce today as when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be 11.1 percent. If the percentage was where it was when George W. Bush took office, the unemployment rate would be 13.1 percent.

The Washington Post gives some demographic excuses for this, but even they have to admit that it’s bad for the economy.  And it’s not what President Obama and his supporters are claiming – they’re claiming the jobs picture is getting better and the economy more productive, when neither claim is accurate.

Ed Morrissey has a great roundup on this issue in The Financial Times as well, with more stats and charts.  Here’s the guts of it, though.

But what about the claim that this is all a result of public sector layoffs (Aiieee!!!  Scary Austerity!!!)?

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→ 1 CommentTags: Economy · Media Alert

So Ron Paul Supporters “Win” – But What Exactly Did They Win?

May 8th, 2012 · 13 Comments

Ron Paul supporters in Nevada had their crowning achievement this weekend – they “took over” the state party.  It took them four years of planning, coordination, and subterfuge, but they won a smashing victory over the weekend by sticking it to “The Establishment”.

And in doing so, they (at best) did nothing.  At worst, they immeasurably damaged the cause of liberty in this state, and indeed, perhaps the entire nation.


Some commentators, like the Reno Gazette-Journal’s editorial today, have risably claimed that the Ron Paul contingent “understands the dynamics of party politics better than the party rank and file”.  But this is simply untrue, because the Paul people forgot the underlying purpose of the party in the first place.  What they did was the equivalent of singing a song in a foreign language you don’t know – you can learn to mimic the sounds perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you understand the meaning of the lyrics.

Ron Paul state campaign chair Carl Bunce proudly says that his people are "driving the car" now that they've caught it. Does he know they're driving it off the cliff?

Let’s review.  The purpose of a political party is to help candidates from that party win elections.  Period.  If you can’t influence election outcomes, you are irrelevant in politics and policy debates.  Party members, committees, and delegates don’t set tax rates, ratify treaties, confirm judges, pass or repeal regulations, produce budgets, select cabinet appointments, or in any other way directly control the actual policies which govern our everyday lives and our economic futures.

The only way a party influences actual policy is if it influences elections.  The only way for a party to do that is to have power and influence over who runs and who can get elected.  Traditionally, parties do that by raising money for candidates, and by making themselves indispensable to the actual job of winning an election via volunteers, influence, credibility, and resources like walk lists, voter rolls, and precinct maps.

The Ron Paul Revolutionaries, however have shown a remarkable INability to accomplish any of the things that influences candidates.  Consider: [Read more →]

→ 13 CommentsTags: Campaign '12 · Constitutional Law · Constitutionalists · Corruption · Libertarians · Mike Roberson · Mitt Romney · Principles · Republicans · Ron Paul · Sharron Angle

Ron Paul Campaign: So What If We Cheat? Whaddyagonnadoaboudit?

May 1st, 2012 · 24 Comments

The goal of my last post on the Ron Paul Campaign’s exhortations to lie, cheat, and steal was to shine as bright a light as possible on their dishonorable and ultimately self destructive tactics.  I’m not alone amongst principled conservatives – Ned Barnett in particular has been doing yeoman’s work in ferreting out the hypocrisy of these perpetually aggrieved, self-entitled, ends-justify-the-means thugs.  I’m glad to say those efforts seem to have been successful, and judging from my comments section explosion, there are a lot of upset Paul fans out there who are spending a lot of time trying to intimidate me into silence while unintentionally helping make my point.

You could argue that the Paul campaign’s delegate strategy is odious and unethical, but that at least they’re “playing by the rules.”  (Paul supporters are the first to scream bloody murder if another candidate plays the insider rules to their advantage, but when the Paul folks do it they’re JUST like the Founding Fathers (cue eye roll here).)

But then I saw this article from Ray Hagar, in which the Paul Campaign (not some random supporter, the state campaign chair) all but announced they would be ignoring even that fig leaf of legitimacy.

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→ 24 CommentsTags: Campaign '12 · Republicans · Ron Paul · Voter Fraud

Yeah, I’m “Judgeing”

April 26th, 2012 · 2 Comments

So there we were, watching a nice PSA on how not to judge or bully our fellow high school kids (or maybe it was Terminator: 90210), and BAM!


Remember, folks. We borrowed money from China to pay the people who put this together, edited it, and cleared it for the airwaves. Maybe next time we can just recycle some old School House Rock – we seem to need to go back to some basics…

I’m sure similar attention to detail will be applied when these folks fully take over our health care system.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I made that same spelling error so often in law school that I finally set up a custom auto-correct to fix it.  But then, I probably would have spell checked my notes if I was going to, like, put them on TV or something…)

→ 2 CommentsTags: Deficits and Debt · Silliness

Lie, Cheat, and Steal – It’s the Ron Paul Way!

April 25th, 2012 · 61 Comments

I recently received an E-mail from a disaffected Ron Paul supporter that Nevada Paul Campaign Chair Carl Bunce recently sent out to his supporters.  The long and the short of it is that it’s a battle plan which encourages Paul folks to lie to pollsters to “fool” the Romney campaign, in order to make it easier to shock-‘n’-awe their way to a Ron Paul National Convention slate.  It’s full of paranoia about information control (Hah!  Fail!) and secrecy, with a nice dab of Personality Cult for Doctor Paul.

Well, secret’s out, you dishonest goofballs.  Everyone knows your game.

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→ 61 CommentsTags: Campaign '12 · Nevada Politics · Ron Paul