Evan McMullin for President of the United States

Evan McMullin

I am supporting Evan McMullin for President of the United States.


Evan McMullin is the #NeverTrump alternative for Conservatives of conscience.  Evan stepped up in August, to provide a positive choice in the 2016 Presidential election.  He was born in Utah, grew up in Washington state, and went to school at BYU and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  He served his faith in Brazil, and worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Jordan.  And on September 11th, Evan McMullin was in training at CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia.  Her served the clandestine service in the War on Terror, then worked in Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs before returning to public service with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  McMullin has been there and done that.

Why McMullin?

On the issues, Evan McMullin offers a positive, principled platform, in contrast to the major party candidates.  McMullin is strong on National Security, with decades of experience out in the field and in the halls of Washington, DC.  And he has called out both Donald Trump’s sycophantic support of Putin’s oppressive rule and Hillary Clinton’s abysmal record as Secretary of State.

Where the major party candidates have enriched themselves by fair means or foul, McMullin understands what its like to earn a living, and has an economic platform supporting reform of the tax code, regulation and entitlement spending.

“America prospers when we compete globally,” he states on his website.  “Negotiate stronger grade deals and enforce the terms of existing agreements to ensure fair competition globally.”  America must not turn our back on the world.

Why Not Vote Libertarian or Green Party?

Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, is an impressive candidate.  Many of my friends are supporting the Governor, and good for them.  If either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein are your cup of tea, good for you.  Evan McMullin is a Conservative candidate offering a platform more Republican than the platform adopted by the Trump GOP.  He also offers more practical experience, and certainly more principled experience than Clinton.  We each must make our own choices, and live with the legacy of our choices.

But Not Voting for Trump/Hillary is Essentially a Vote for Hillary/Trump?

Pox on both their houses: the lesser of two evils is still evil.  It’s like choosing the form of your own death–do you want to die of Cancer or a Stroke?  Either way you are suffering in pain and then dead.  I would have voted for any of the Republican primary candidates, except Donald Trump, but 2016 is a year of evil on evil.  An unfortunate number of politicians have put their own careers over their principles, including Ted Cruz just yesterday.  Don’t choose the form of your Destructor.  Choose life, even if the chance of life is infinitely small.  McMullin acknowledges he doesn’t have much of a chance.  Very little chance.

Yet in 31 States we can vote for that chance.  Evan McMullin is on the ballot in Colorado.  Evan McMullin is on the ballot in Minnesota.  Evan McMullin is on the ballot in New Mexico.  Evan McMullin has qualified as a write-in candidate in Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Texas and several other states.

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson said it well in endorsing McMullin this week:  he might not win states, but he might ensure neither Trump nor Hillary get to 270, and let the Electoral College do the job the Founding Fathers gave it to do.  At the very least, he gives us a better reason to show up at the polling booth and consider principled down-ballot candidates.

We celebrate heroes who choose the slim chance, and perhaps give up their own lives to save others.  Be a hero this election.  Consider voting for Evan McMullin.


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The Lesser Evil

The “Bad Emperor” Problem

The lesser of two evils is still evil

“An authoritarian system can move much more quickly and decisively than a democratic one, but its success is ultimately dependent on having a continuing supply of good leaders—good not just in a technocratic sense but in their commitment to shared public goals rather than self-enrichment or personal power.”
—Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay

The lesser of two evils is still evil.  #NeverTrump #NeverHillary


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Red Ryder Rodeo, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Red Ryder Roundup 2016The Fourth of July is also known Out West as “Cowboy Christmas”, since there are so many rodeos held that the bucking horse set has a pretty good shot at filling their boot socks with a Summer Santa’s stash.  Western Heritage Events Center, Inc. puts on the annual Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo each year as our entry in Cowboy Christmas right here in the mountains of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Maybe you weren’t around for the original Red Ryder comic strip, drawn by Pagosa-native Fred Harmon from 1938-1964, but I’m sure you remember the Red Ryder BB Gun.  You know… “You’ll shoot your eye out!” from A Christmas Story.  To prove the critics wrong, the Rodeo folks grant each youngster who ride the Mutton Bustin’ a piece of Ralphie’s dream—the kids walk away with a brand new Red Ryder BB Gun.  God bless America.


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Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival

Pagosa Folk 'n Bluegrass Festival tentGreat time was had by all at the 11th Annual Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival this year up on Reservoir Hill.  I even had a blast volunteering.  Having some trouble getting my videos off the fancy new iPhone now.  Hope to post more later.

See you at Four Corners Folk Festival over Labor Day weekend.


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Dori Freeman, Cactus Blossoms and Loretta Lynn—Winter’s Promise for Spring to Come

Last.fm Albums played Jan-May 2016

As spring draws us outside, away from radio and streaming out into Festival season, I’m finding myself still struggling to catch up with some great new Americana/alt.country/would have been Country before pop-Country killed Music Row releases.  Tops among these through about the first of April:  Dori Freeman, the Cactus Blossoms, and Loretta Lynn.  This Winter has given us a promise for many Springs to come.

Fast Tube

Dori Freeman

Hailing from the mountains of Southwest Virginia, 24-year old Dori Freeman‘s self-titled debut, released in February, earned early praise from the likes of Rolling Stone—but I gave her the benefit of the doubt any way, and am glad I did.  With a strong acoustic opening, the 2nd track “Where I Stood” is my favorite, with a haunting torch on “Lullaby”.  Dori builds on elements of Patsy  Cline and Peggy Lee with modern sensibilities of songwriters like Lori McKenna or Tift Merritt.  Dori Freeman gives me hope for the future of Country music built on a sold foundation of American Roots music.

Dori is playing HoustonFest bluegrass festival 10-11 June, which strangely enough is in southern Virginia, not Texas, but wherever it is the festival has a heck of a lineup.

Fast Tube

Cactus Blossoms

Jack and Page are brothers who like to play music that’s 30-years older than they are.  There’s a definite Everly Brothers vibe to The Cactus Blossoms that my parents first turned me onto, since the brothers hail from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and play music my folks like.  Music I like, too, like Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison haunting Music Row.  In January, The Cactus Blossoms released their national debut, You’re Dreaming, produced by J.D. McPherson, following up on a 2012 self-titled self-release I played the heck out of in my truck’s CD player.  Two of those tracks made the new album, “Traveler’s Paradise” and my favorite, “Adios Maria”, both penned by Jack.

After Memorial Day, the Cactus Blossoms are playing a couple dates in Wisconsin before heading south thru Cedar Rapids, Kansas City, and OKC on their way to Austin City Limits Live 14 June.

Fast Tube

Loretta Lynn

The great Loretta Lynn comes Full Circle from her excellent 2004 album Van Lear Rose with her new March release.  John Carter Cash and Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell produced this legacy album with a mix re-recording Lynn classics (i.e. “Fist City”), old-time mountain classics (A.P. Carter’s “Black Jack David”) with countrypolitan classics (“Always on My Mind”).  Hopefully, J.C. Cash does for the Loretta legacy what Rick Rubin did for Johnny’s legacy.

And believe it or not, at 80+ years old, Loretta Lynn is still holding events, with two Oklahoma casino shows 10-11 June, then 24 June up to Prairie’s Edge Casino at Granite Falls, a stone’s throw from my old Minnesota home.

And that’s not all folks…

Several other new album releases have caught my attention so far in 2016.  Caitlin Canty‘s Reckless Skyline was the year’s first good Americana release.  Margo Price‘s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and Jane Kramer‘s Carnival of Hopes caught my ear over the colder months.  I’ve also kept spinning Brennen Leigh Sings Lefty Frizzle and Sunny Sweeney‘s Provoked (along with their duet “But You Like Country Music”) from late in 2015.

I’m also really excited about my first Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival after Memorial Day.  Come on over Wolf Creek Pass 3-5 June and kick off festival season right.



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Springtime in the Rockies

Treasure Falls April 2016

Treasure Falls, below Wolf Creek Pass on US Hwy 160, Pagosa Springs, Colorado. April 2016.

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Disagreeing, Without Being Disagreeable

Fast Tube

Can we disagree, without being disagreeable?  US House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) thinks so.  Ryan flies the flag of Jack Kemp’s optimistic conservatism.  I wasn’t such a fan of Kemp back in the day (I don’t usually trust Quarterbacks).

“Ideas, passionately promoted, put to the test. That’s what politics can be. That’s what our country can be.”  With experience, I am much more appreciative of the importance of good governance and the hard work of debating ideas instead of attacking individuals.

This PBS Newshour video is a bit of a long read in our Twitter age.  The Speaker offers about 15 minutes, speaking to young people in the House Ways & Means chambers, with about 15 minutes of Q&A.  It’s worth your time in these troubling times.


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I have been more-or-less politically active since I was young, but have mostly avoided politics in favor of policy (and the pursuit of Americana) on this blog.  I do follow conservative politics, and am professionally committed to good governance, but have not declared for a presidential candidate this election cycle.  However, in advance of Colorado’s caucuses (even in absence of a presidential preference poll), I am compelled to declare that I will never, never, never support the candidacy of one Donald Trump.

I believe that Eric Erickson makes the case in his new blog, The Resurgent:

 I will not vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States even if he is the Republican nominee.

He is an authoritarian blending nationalist and tribal impulses, which historically has never worked out well for the nation that goes in that direction or the people in that nation.

He will not win in November. He will not win because he turns off a large number of Republicans; he turns off women; he turns off hispanic voters; he turns off black voters; and the blue collar voters who support him are not a sufficient base of support to carry him over the finish line….

Trump is a liberal who has supported big government, interventionist policies. He defends Planned Parenthood, says he can cut deals in Washington, and believes in a socialist government run healthcare scheme.

At a time when so much is on the line for people of faith and conservatives, Donald Trump believes judges sign bills….

Trump is also a con-artist and the media, which has built his campaign is going to destroy his campaign. After he secures the Republican nomination, the media will trot out every victim and perceived victim of Trump’s actions. All the people hurt by repeated strategic bankruptcies, all the people swindled by Trump University, and anyone who got food poisoning from Trump steaks will be in a 24/7 cavalcade on national television.

By the time the media and Democrats, but I repeat myself, are done with Trump, he will be radioactive.

Donald Trump will not win in November. Period. End of story….

If there ever was an East Coast liberal RINO—Republican In Name Only—he would be the one.  If I believed in conspiracy theories, I would strongly suspect the Clintonistas had put Mr. Trump up to it, as a Establishment Trojan horse.  Unfortunately, that would be too neat a scenario.  The script was set by the coarseness of our national debate and the devolution of Reality TV infotainment.  Unfortunately, democracy too often serves up the candidates we deserve.

It may be too late to #DumpTrump, but it is never too late to take a stand for common decency.



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Biological Foundations of Politics

Fukuyama - Origins of Political Order / Political Order and Political Decay

“Political institutions develop, often slowly and painfully, over time, as human societies strive to organize themselves to master their environments.  But political decay occurs when political systems fail to adjust to changing circumstances.”
—Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order

In mankind’s mythical State of Nature, are humans solitary libertarian beings—the rugged individualist, who only comes to town when the social contract offers an advantage?  Or are we inherently social creatures, allowed to stray from the fold only when the greater good doesn’t need us?  And how do these contrasting theories help (or hinder) our understanding of how we govern ourselves?

Analyst Francis Fukuyama gained notoriety with his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man.  Of course “history” hasn’t ended, and the title certainly did gain him attention, but since then Fukuyama has thought a lot about how we got to these particular ends, and where we might be going in the the realm of political economy.  In 2011, he published a thick tome, The Origins of Political Order, and in 2014, a second volume, Political Order and Political Decay.  If Fukuyama considered the end times to begin, he goes back to the very beginning of human society and throws a lot of history at us along the way.

The philosophy is as thick as the texts are heavy.  The kind of writing that is very good at bringing on sleep quickly.  The kind of writing that demands attention, and invites re-reading.  This winter I’ve been re-visiting the 2011 installment, finding context for the 2016 political silly season.  In particular, I’ve been thinking over Fukuyama’s observations on biological foundations of politics.

  • Human beings never existed in a pre-social state.
  • Natural human sociability is built around two principles, kin selection and reciprocal altruism.
  • Human beings have an innate propensity for creating and following norms or rules.
  • Human beings (also) have a natural propensity for violence.
  • Human beings by nature desire not just material resources but also recognition.

None of these ideas are new, but Fukuyama weaves them into an argument for how our inherent biology has influenced political development around the world and across the ages.  Generalizing broadly, contra-Rousseau, the author supports the idea man is a social animal, supported (imprisoned) by family ties (kin groups).  It may take a village to raise a child, but it is also very difficult to escape the tyranny of cousins.  Reciprocal altruism—you rub my back, I’ll rub yours—is an amazingly simple relationship, yet also amazingly difficult to overcome in the name of transparency, accountability, good government and the rule of law.

Fukuyama talks a lot about the rule of law, especially in terms of property rights and contract enforcement, as a key foundation for political order, and how political order is a key foundation for long-term economic growth and development.  People across history seem to want to follow norms, which helps offset the equal urge to just fight it out, often as not over ideas as much as stuff.  As a thought for Presidents Day, that, folks, is politics.



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2015 In Review

San Juan Mountains2015 was 150 years from the end of the Civil War, and 1 more year that I changed jobs and moved, this time back to the Centennial State of Colorado.  I started out continuing the daily journal of my ancestor Pvt. Orrin Brown, then relaxing my publishing schedule and finishing with some pretty good Americana music.  I had my busiest day ever, with 240 blog views on 16 January 2015.  Thanks for sticking around.

#1 Cheyenne-Laramie County, Wyoming, Historical Timeline:  I worked for 2 years on this keyword-rich listing of major events from 1833-1992, published before I left the Cowboy State in 2014, when it was my 2nd most popular post.  Glad to share.

#2 Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 15, 1864:  The Battle of Nashville.  Orrin Brown was laying siege to Savannah, Georgia, while Sherman’s Union rear guard held off Confederate John Bell Hood.

#3 Where the Well Things Are #11 Bittersweet in the Bakken:  There’s Oil in them there Bakken hills (and in the Denver-Julesburg, and in the San Juan Basin…) and Natural Gas if you want it.  Even if it’s not paying out so well now days as when I wrote these posts in 2013 or even last year when one was my #1 most popular post and the other #7.

#4 Little (Lego) House on the Prairie (Style):  Perennially popular post from 2009, where Lego goes all Frank Lloyd Wright.

#5 All Things Shepard:  History meets genealogy.

#6/#1 new post Diary of Orrin Brown—March 20, 1865: Pvt. Brown joins the Battle of Bentonville, as far as I could figure the only sure time he picked up arms, and just two days before he was put on permanent disability.  The 14th Michigan Infantry held their own.

#7/#2 new post Meet Some New Friends Doing Interesting Things in Community Development: Shout-out to the good works of the Orton Foundation and Sonoran Institute.

#8/#3 new post At the Wilsall Rodeo:  In honor of Cowboy Poetry Week, I brought back my ode to the Northern Rodeo Association circuit in Big Sky Country.

#9 The Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown: The initial post for the dairy, Marching through Georgia and the Carolinas with General Sherman.

#10 Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 31, 1864: A keyword-rich review of the timeline of the Civil War, from 15 April 1861 to the end of 1864.

#12 Ten Albums for 2015 – Corb and Rhiannon, Bob Wills and More: My year-end review of my Top 10 Americana Albums made the dozen most-read posts in just the last two-weeks of the year.  Corb Lund, Rhiannon Giddens, Asleep at the Wheel, Ryan Bingham, James McMurtry, Jason Isbell, Gretchen Peters, Tom Russell, The Mavericks, and Nora Jane Struthers.  Great music from some good folks.

And for old time’s sake, here’s my 2014 Top Posts post.




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