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Dave Simpson: Remember, Always Lie to Pollsters

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5191

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Dave Simpson, Columnist

So much news. So much going on.

Let’s touch some bases:

– According to the polls, Joe Biden – who has adopted an “in his basement” strategy, an offshoot of the “Rose Garden” strategy – is leading President Trump by double digits.

The question is, can we trust these polls to be as whoppingly wrong as they were in 2016? Can we depend on pollsters to get it as laughably incorrect as they did in the last presidential election?

The late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko had this advice when exit polling was first introduced: Always, always lie to pollsters. It’s the only defense we have against people who are relentlessly distorting our election process.

– It’s hard to imagine voters turning the presidency over to the political party that has made such a mess of things in our big cities – crime, budget chaos, horrible schools, and now, in Minneapolis, a unanimous city council vote to disband the police department.

What next, de-funding hospitals because there are some bad doctors?

– The amazing thing is that politicians who have been in Washington for 30, 40, even 50 years can so blithely blame everything on a president who was new to politics a mere four years ago.

So they expect us to believe that everything is his fault, and we need to turn the government back to those who have been mismanaging it for decades?

– Comedian/pundit Dennis Miller said he’s through worrying about Chicago until voters there throw out the bums who have been running the city for decades (Democrats), and try something different (say, a few Republicans). I agree. Time for a change.

– The president and governors are walking a fine line between virus precautions and wrecking the economy. What amazes me are the folks who are perfectly happy decimating the economy if it means getting rid of a president they loathe. They’re OK with economic devastation if it defeats Trump. It’s a price they’re willing to pay.

Which brings to mind something longtime Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn said about critics:

 “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.”

– Does anyone really believe the answer to this complex snarl of problems and challenges is Joe Biden?

Have you listened to the man? Recently?

– Up where I do my social distancing, the Medicine Bow National Forest issued a warning that more black bears than usual have been sighted this year.

I saw that warning in a Facebook post. It was followed by a comment that anyone stupid enough to leave food or garbage around deserves to have bears ravaging their camp.

I never leave food or garbage outside my cabin, and that’s probably why I’ve seen exactly one bear – a smallish cinnamon-colored bear about a mile from my place – in the 39 years I’ve been summering there. And one time tooth marks on a torn down hummingbird feeder let me know a bear had visited my porch when I wasn’t around.

However, I appreciate the Forest Service warning that more bears than usual are being sighted. Thanks for the heads up.

As for that guy’s comment on the post, something about Facebook makes it almost irresistible for people to call other people stupid. Social media can be a bare-knuckle, unforgiving place.

Why the anger?

– Just wondering. With as mean and vicious and hateful as our politics have gotten by summer, what’s it doing to be like in late October?

– And lastly, if something isn’t done soon, some “peaceful demonstrator” is going to get squashed like a bug pulling down a statue they don’t like in some big city.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration needs to require the use of hard hats and steel-toed shoes by all peaceful demonstrators. If a ladder is to be used, it must be secured at the top of the statue before a peaceful demonstrator may climb it. Approved barricades should be required to keep the statue from falling onto other peaceful demonstrators, squashing them like bugs.

And if the statue is to be dumped into a harbor, Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices should be required of all peaceful demonstrators.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Bill Sniffin: The Red Desert: Loneliest Place In Loneliest State

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By Bill Sniffin, Publisher, Cowboy State Daily

RED DESERT – Jim Smail’s Scottish grandfather came to America and homesteaded in Farson back in 1915.  

That old desert rat started taking Jim’s father to the Red Desert back then and that tradition continued as Jim’s father took his son to the desert shortly after Jim entered the world 83 years ago.

This column is a tribute both to my friend Jim, who died recently, and to that vast desert that he loved more than just about anybody that I ever knew.

It is also a companion story to the unveiling of a wonderful new map of the Red Desert produced by the Wyoming Outdoor Council, which printed 20,000 copies for distribution across the state.

A map such as this is long overdue.

Has this magnificent area known as the Great Red Desert changed in the more than three-fourths of a century that Jim roamed it?

Well, yes and no.

Just like today’s energy prospectors who look to Wyoming’s plains for sources of power, the desert was always seen as a place of opportunity.  In typical risk-reward activities, the stakes were high when you ventured out into this vast empty place.

Some folks think of it as a place almost devoid of permanent human habitation. But it has been provided a stage for American Indians, Oregon Trail travelers, gold prospectors, the Pony Express and other intrepid souls trying to conquer an unconquerable place. 

Geographically, some folks think the desert is a gigantic space that includes land crossed by Interstate 80 and extends up toward Casper, Shoshoni, Riverton, Lander and encompassing Rock Springs and Green River.

But to the purist, and I guess that includes me, the real Red Desert is found in the confines of the Great Divide Basin.  This, truly, is the loneliest place in the loneliest state.  A place with no permanent human habitation at the present time. Despite that, it is a place that has been occupied by humans for over 1,000 years.

In many ways the desert has not changed at all. 

Smail told me: “Among the high points of my life has been driving my jeep around the approved roads in the desert and visiting ancient sites of these early humans.  We always approach them with respect and with a vivid imagination to trying to figure out what was happening here?

“Perhaps this desert affection started with some family history.  My dad climbed up Boar’s Tusk north of Rock Springs and sat me in the notch high above the desert floor when I was just 18 months old.  Now that would whet anyone’s appetite!” Smail said.

To someone speeding by the desert on the highways, well, how can you describe to them the joys of White Horse Canyon?  Or the vast Killpecker Sand Dunes?  The magic of Steamboat Mountain and its wondrous buffalo jump? Adobe Town or the Honeycomb Buttes?  Continental Peak and the famous Oregon Buttes?  And so much more.

It is a vast area and once you start looking, well, it is almost impossible to comprehend it all.

Here’s a challenge: Turn on the Google Earth app on your computer, tablet or your smart phone and scan the Red Desert between Rock Springs and Lander.  What you see will look like the surface of some far-away planet.  Yet, it is right here in Wyoming.

Let me take you on a little journey that we took a few summers ago. Here are some of our thoughts and feelings.

Strange noises and odd winds abound in the desert. Was that sound just the wind or was it the noise generated by the ghosts of a vast herd of bison that roamed this place for thousands of years?  Or was that the cry of a lonely Indian brave in the center of a vision circle evoking whatever image he was trying to conjure?  

Maybe it was the plaintive cry of the gold miner lost in a snowstorm, knowing full well that his death was imminent?  Maybe it was the sound of a lonely white man trying desperately to work his way across this vast expanse alive?

Perhaps it was a combination of all of these? 

We were standing on a lonely knob about 25 miles southwest of Jeffrey City. 

Strange rocks covered this knob and occasionally, powerful gusts of wind would come from nowhere and almost knock you down.   My three companions and I all looked at each other following these gusts.  “What the heck was that?  Did you feel that?”  

Jim and I were driving around to some of these odd sites.  It was my first time out here to most of them.  The first time experiencing the odd feelings and powers that the desert emits. 

But we were not there to check out the wind.  Unusual ancient rock structures and symbols were our goals, commonly called “teepee rings.” 

I prefer the term “vision circles” and they can be found in old sites along old, worn Indian trails.

Smail’s theory was that young Indian braves or perhaps older Indian medicine men used these circles as ways to experience visions or to communicate with the spirit world.

Instead of perfectly round circles, often the rings of rocks would have an opening and most often, they actually had a spiral effect, as if “to let the spirits into the circle,” he speculated.

Although Smail did not qualify as a learned college professor, he spent much of his 80-plus years in this desert, having originally grown up in Farson and spending the rest of his life in the Lander area.

We continued on riding along the well-worn trail to a location rarely visited near the Honeycomb Buttes.  There, we found 19 of these vision circles, which were the best I had ever seen.

We were in the northern part of the Great Divide Basin, a vast 2.25 million-acre area where the Continental Divide splits in two.  Water inside that basin does not go outside of it, not East or West.

Wyoming is the lowest populated state in the country. And the least populated place in Wyoming is this basin.  

My favorite area in the Red Desert is the Oregon Buttes area, which is full of wondrous rock formations and strange canyons.

Aging hippie-types like to believe that certain places in the world have special energy fields called vortexes.  Not sure I believe it, but there are places in the Red Desert that sure give me a positive energy boost. 

Smail contended that if Wyoming had a vortex area, it might very well be right there.

Then another of our companions, Joe Motherway, told us about these weird circles he and his wife Bonnie had found.   We headed off to the east through this maze of old dirt roads and two-tracks. 

Occasionally there were roads blocked by signs listing that area as part of a wilderness study area.  We are not allowed to drive off the road with jeep or an ATV.

This new spot was hard to find and after a miss or two, we finally arrived.  And then the aforementioned wind really started to blow. Eerily so.

The place was littered with what Joe called “Flying Saucer Rocks,” which appeared to have been burned and had other little rocks stuck to them.  The site was a small barren knob surrounded by dozens of square miles of sagebrush.

It was obviously a special place. And it was full of these vision circles — only these really featured that spiral effect.  Doubt anyone would call them teepee rings because of the odd shapes.

Of course, we did not disturb them. Just took some pictures and tried to keep from getting blown over by the wind.

Then it was time to go home.  We traveled a few miles before stopping.  “Do you notice anything different?” Jim Smail asked me.  “No wind.” 


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Jonathan Lange: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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By Jonathan Lange, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Why can’t we all just get along? Since the L.A. riots in 1992, many have breathed out these words in despair and confusion. But, take courage! This question actually has an answer. And in the answer, there is a way forward.

Already in 1978, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on America’s problem and showed us the way forward. It was delivered by way of a commencement address at Harvard University titled, “A World Split Apart.” The audience, expecting to hear the Russian dissident criticize Soviet communism, was scandalized when he turned the tables.

With devastating accuracy, he showed how America was abusing its own freedom by wallowing in the same lies that communism forced upon the Russian people. Solzhenitsyn explained that virtue, not material prosperity, leads to freedom and human thriving. By abandoning it, America was enslaving itself.

His warning sounded strange to his audience. Many dismissed him as a quasi-religious moralist. The Ivy Leaguers counted virtue as a quaint vestige of the unenlightened past and were tossing it out of the classroom, the courtroom, and the legislative assembly.

But they were wrong. Long before Christianity came on the scene, public virtue was the single most important element of a functioning society. Plato, 400 years before Christ, first named the four personal qualities that were necessary for people to get along. These have come down to us as the Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Courage, and Justice.

Centuries later, Christian thinkers added Faith, Hope and Love to this list. These are called the Theological Virtues because they are specifically Christian. But the Cardinal Virtues are shared by all humanity.

One of the strangest ironies of our time is that the non-religious Cardinal Virtues have been marginalized under the rubric of “freedom from religion,” while the specifically religious virtue, “Love,” has been emptied of its Christian content and perverted into a political cudgel to beat down every other virtue.

Solzhenitsyn reminded his audience that human beings are more than animals. They have not only a body, but also a spirit. That is why the virtues are absolutely necessary for human society. Without them, societies can never rise above mere animal instinct. The following survey of the Cardinal Virtues will bear this out.

Prudence (wisdom) is the mother of all virtues. It rightly directs all human action toward a good goal. To do so, it requires all people to know the difference between good and evil. It rests on our common sense of right and wrong.

Without the categories of right and wrong, good and evil, there can be no society. Yet it is precisely these categories that are denied any place in public policy. They are treated as merely personal value judgments with no basis in objective truth. “That may be good for you,” we are told, “but it is not good for me.”

Any society unable to speak with a unified voice on the subject of good and evil will never be able to get along. And, every attempt to get along, while avoiding a sober and reasonable discussion of good and evil, will only underscore how unwise and uncivilized that society has become.

Temperance (moderation) is the virtue of controlling the appetite. It recognizes that human beings have built-in needs that must be met, and that meeting these needs gives pleasure. It also recognizes that overindulgence and disordered use of these appetites will always cause great human suffering.

Four of the seven deadly sins are connected to temperance. Gluttony, greed, lust and sloth are overindulgence in food, money, sex and rest respectively. But sin, like virtue itself, is dismissed as a “religious” category. Most forget that it was as familiar in pre-Christian Greece as in the Bible.

But, the pretense that only religious fanatics condemn intemperance is a convenient strategy to divide and conquer. By it many defenders of temperance are shamed out of the public square. This leaves room for a decadent culture not only to tolerate, but to celebrate and encourage such sins.

Courage (fortitude) is the virtue that is most in short supply today. It is the virtue that overcomes personal fear in order to do what is right. It is especially necessary today because Americans have become so entangled in their appetites for public approval and economic success that the Twitter mob and the Cancel Culture can easily silence those who lack this virtue.

Think about how many politicians, teachers, church leaders and businesses have been frightened into silence, or even into public apology for speaking their mind. Solzhenitsyn put America’s lack of courage up front in his critique. She has not gotten any braver in the four decades since.

Justice (righteousness) is the final virtue in Plato’s list. It is the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due. Prudence—the intellectual ability to discern good and evil—can tell you what is right and just. Justice is the willpower to do the right thing without regard to persons.

When Lady Justice is depicted in art, she is always blindfolded because she operates without respect of persons. When money, status, or public opinion skews the application of justice, it is evil. Social justice that judges class membership but ignores individual acts of good and evil is inherently unjust.

It has been a very long time since our political system paid attention to this virtue. America has been deluded into thinking that justice requires strict moral neutrality. This lie has driven our common sense of good and evil out of the public square. This foolishness has brought us to the brink of disaster.

While the Cardinal Virtues do not establish any particular religion, their exclusion is motivated by a materialistic worldview that hates the very idea of religion. This worldview is itself a religion that denies the very spirit of humanity and has led to the slaughter of millions and the enslavement of billions around the globe.

While Solzhenitsyn knew the evils of communism, he saw clearly that it sprang from virtue-less materialism. He observed that “through intense suffering our country has achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive.”

As a direct result of that development, countries of the former Soviet Union are rebuilding their societies by an unabashed return to the virtues. Poland, Serbia and Hungary, among others, are leading by example. If America is unwilling to take their advice, Solzhenitsyn predicted that it “would be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.”

Mobs that burn, loot and deface statues may well portend the events that Solzhenitsyn warned about 42 years ago. No society can deny human nature forever. It will either be prudent enough to listen to those who have gained wisdom through suffering, or it must undergo its own bitter lessons.

How America responds to this present hour will determine the outcome for our children and grandchildren. They will either endure great suffering or enjoy true freedom. They will also have the clarity of hindsight to judge this present generation. By Prudence, Temperance, Courage and Justice our generation can renew America’s freedom. Without these, history will be a harsh judge.

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Glenn Arbery: Should We Celebrate The 4th This Year?

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5139

By Glenn Arbery, President Wyoming Catholic College

A statue of Abraham Lincoln is being removed from Boston this week even though it is a copy of the statue in Washington, D.C., paid for by freed slaves and dedicated by the great Frederick Douglass. The statue of Columbus is now gone from Columbus City Hall in the capital of Ohio, and Mount Rushmore is under attack. Surely, the total eradication of past injustice is at hand.

A Song for the Fourth:

Are we celebrating our independence this year? Whether we even should is an open question in many places—but not in Lander, Wyoming, where the parade will go on, albeit more modestly than usual: no folding chairs parked curbside a day ahead of time, no candy thrown from floats to the kids swarming the streets, no firetrucks spraying water two hundred feet into the air above Main Street in the grand finale.

The Wyoming Catholic College community will participate, and fireworks that night could very well make up for the relative restraint of the morning, but even in Lander the strangeness of 2020 will continue. It is good to remind ourselves, particularly this year, what America means in its noblest register. 

One-hundred twenty-five years ago this week, Katherine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, published the first version of “America the Beautiful” for the Fourth of July that summer. Many phrases from her hymn have become part of our national memory: “spacious skies,” “purple mountain majesties,” “amber waves of grain,” “from sea to shining sea.”

The song’s emphasis is bracing. The lines that best address our current situation come at the end of the second stanza:

                America, America!

                God mend thine every flaw.

                Confirm thy soul in self-control,

                Thy liberty in law.

Difficult as it is these days to imagine addressing America as a single entity, Bates does so boldly in her hymn. 

After acknowledging “every flaw” of this beautiful nation and praying for God’s help, the song turns imperative. “Confirm thy soul in self-control,” writes Bates, and a great deal is compacted into the word soul. It evokes 19th century romantic heroes—great, striving, sublime figures impatient with all boundaries, like Napoleon or Melville’s Ahab.

As Abraham Lincoln wrote in one of his early speeches, “Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others.”

Bates has such heroes in mind, but she also draws upon the classical idea of magnanimity, “greatness of soul,” the crown of the moral virtues that Aristotle describes in the Nicomachean Ethics.

The tyrant’s way to distinguish himself might be to step over the usual moral thresholds with a larger-than-life excess, like the “extraordinary man” that Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov imagines. But the strongest soul overcomes its own unruly impulses and manifests its virtues through an inner equilibrium; it is like tuning an instrument.

“Confirm thy soul” in Bates’s poem means two things: first, to establish America’s nobility of soul beyond doubt before the nations of the world, and, second, to add greater strength to the national identity and make it firmer. The more America exercises the power and depth of self-restraint, as George Washington did, the more she confirms her greatness. 

The song also urges America to confirm her “liberty in law.” Liberty is sometimes construed to mean breaking free of all constraints, like an escaping prisoner. I am reminded of William Wordsworth’s poem, “Nuns Fret Not At Their Convent’s Narrow Room,” where he praises the demands of the sonnet form.

                In truth the prison, into which we doom

                Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,

                In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound

                Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground.

As the convent is no prison for the nun who chooses it, or the sonnet for Wordsworth, so the law is no prison for those who exercise their liberty in choosing its restraint.

In fact, America confirms her liberty—makes it firmer, gives it a more established strength—through obedience to law. 

Bates’s song remains perennially appealing because it conveys the incalculable beauty of virtue that America can exhibit by exercising self-control and taking on the high responsibilities of self-rule. The same appeal applies to each individual citizen.

We ought to shine, especially on this day, among the nations of the earth. The prayer of Wyoming Catholic College for this Fourth of July is that the anomalies of 2020 do not overcome us and that our nation will recall itself and find again the greatness of soul that gave us our liberty.

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Hey GOP! Don’t Call at Dinnertime!

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

THEM AGAIN: There was a time when a phone call from the U.S. Senate would have been a big deal in my family.

That was back in the 1960s when I was growing up in Illinois. It’s hard to imagine today, but back then Illinois was represented in the Senate by two actual Republicans – former Bell and Howell mogul Charles Percy, and smooth-talking Everett Dirksen. Today, Democrats represent Illinois in the Senate.

What we all knew about Percy was the tragic story of the murder of his daughter Valerie at their exclusive north suburban Chicago mansion in 1966. The murder was never solved.

Our other senator, Dirksen, was a giant of the Senate, and was key in gathering Republican support for President Lyndon Johnson’s historic civil rights legislation.

My grandmother, in her 80s at the time, loved Dirksen’s famous voice. It was so smooth and memorable that four records were produced featuring Dirksen reading poems and famous speeches. He won a Grammy for one in 1966. We gave my grandmother one of those albums for Christmas.

I can imagine how excited my grandmother would have been to get a call from the U.S. Senate, and maybe her favorite senator – who we called her “boyfriend.” Little did she know that her youngest grandson would be publisher of the paper in Dirksen’s home town of Pekin, Ill., for 13 years. Dirksen at one time had a private office upstairs in the newspaper building.

That was then. This is now.

These days, with the miracle of caller ID, a call from the U.S. Senate is little more than a nuisance call. We never even bother to pick up.

“It’s those pests from the U.S. Senate again,” we say when they call at about 5:20 p.m., while we’re trying to get dinner on the table. If you make the mistake of picking up, it is some phony baloney “town hall” event to keep support ginned up in Wyoming for our Senate delegation, which is just as Republican as Percy and Dirksen were in Illinois. The calls are no doubt intended to goose donations to the Republican Party

They used to send us fund raising letters, with “survey” questions like this: Are you aware that Nancy Pelosi is the spawn of Beelzebub and is bent on enslaving your cute little grand daughter and ending life as we know it in the United States? Stop her by sending $100 to the Republican Party before dinnertime tonight!

I finally scrawled this on one letter and sent it back: “Stop sending this crap! Republicans need to become actual conservatives before they get a dime out of me. Have you guys ever heard of a balanced budget? You’re as bad as the Democrats! Take me off your mailing list.”

I don’t need a town hall meeting, or a fund-raising letter, to know my senators are Republicans, and conservative basics ought to be obvious without my input or cash. You know, obvious stuff like lower taxes, fewer regulations, strong military, no doing number two on city sidewalks, and that famous chant from Rick Santelli that spawned the Tea Party: STOP SPENDING!

A key problem, however, is that the U.S. Senate is so out of touch and rude that it calls us at dinnertime. If they want my attention, they shouldn’t call when I’m setting the table, chopping salad and popping the Shake n’ Bake pork chops in the oven.

I mean, really. How obvious is this?

OOPS: When the kids were growing up, we always ate dinner at 5:45, always ate together, and if they kids’ little friends called while we were eating, I’d do a not-so-slow burn. I was a real grouch about it.

Then one night, during dinner, the phone rang and I went into my rant. One of the kids picked up the phone.

“Who could be so RUDE as to call while we’re eating dinner?” I demanded.

“Your circulation department down at the newspaper,” my daughter replied. “They want to know if you want to subscribe!”

Hoist on my own petard. Coup-fourre (which Mille Bornes fans like me recall meant “counter thrust.’)

In true Saturday Night Live Emily Litella fashion, I sheepishly replied:

“Never mind.”

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Mike Moser & Chris Brown: Controlling What We Can In Uncertain Times

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5099

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Controlling What We Can In Uncertain Times

Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry is the state’s second largest industry.  In 2019 we welcomed 9.2 million overnight visitors that spent $3.95 billion in our restaurants, retail shops, drinking establishments, lodging properties and main street businesses.  This visitor spending generated $203 million in local and state tax revenue and supported 32,750 full and part time jobs.  

Enter COVID-19.

We are now half way though 2020 and our businesses that rely on a booming visitor economy are now struggling for their very survival.  Occupancy and average daily rates for lodging properties are well below that of last year. 

Wyoming’s cities, towns and counties are seeing lower tax revenue to pay for essential services, restaurants, bars, and clubs are seeing lower volumes of customers, employees are seeing reduced hours and all have to adapt to health orders that limit operations in ways that we have never seen… or could have imagined. 

To add to an already uncertain horizon, states like Arizona, Texas, New Jersey, Washington, California and Florida have all taken steps backwards by re-closing (or keeping closed) bars, gyms, movie theaters, etc, after significant spikes in COVID-19 cases.  We cannot let this happen in Wyoming.

In a time when it’s easy to be overwhelmed by what the future may hold, there are commonsense steps that establishments and patrons across Wyoming have been and can continue to take to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep our businesses open.

Restaurants and drinking establishments in Wyoming should please consider the following steps.

·      Emphasize the importance of employees staying home when sick.  This will help other staff members from being exposed and being quarantined if the illness is COIVD-19.

·      Screen employees for illness before each shift. Employees reporting illness should not be allowed to work, to prevent exposing other employees and customers.

·      Follow physical distancing guidelines among customers and staff.  Develop systems for staff to remain 6 feet away from each other as much as possible, including during breaks, will limit the number of employees exposed should one of your staff develop COVID-19.

·      Ensure the use of face coverings among staff members.

·      Utilize proper sanitization practices.

·      Encourage customers to wear face coverings inside your establishment when away from their table or the bar

·      Follow all state and county health orders closely.

Patrons visiting their favorite establishments should please consider the following steps.

·      Please respect business practices meant to encourage physical distancing. This not only protects you as a customer but protects other customers and their staff as well.

·      Wear face coverings when inside an establishment and away from your table or the bar.

·      Stay home when you are sick.

·      Wash your hands frequently.

·      Avoid shaking hands.

·      Avoid gathering in large groups when inside the establishment.

·      Follow all state and county health orders closely.

The Fourth of July is this weekend. As we get ready to celebrate our country’s independence, focus on the things that are within our control. Let’s enjoy the holiday and the summertime traditions that we look forward to all year, in a safe manner that protects our freedoms and will keep Wyoming open for business.

Chris Brown

Executive Director

Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association

Mike Moser

Executive Director

Wyoming State Liquor Association

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Bill Sniffin: Covid Destroying Wyoming Traditions

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5088

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming, in several ways, has been forever changed.

The new systems and techniques put into place during the last 100 days, will continue on into the future, I predict. Biggest things will be state wide meetings being held with Zoom, distance education, and telehealth medicine.

Wyoming people drive more miles per year than people in any other state, on a per-capita basis.  We have good roads.  We are small in population but almost desperate to get together for meetings, it seems.

For 50 years, my typical Wyoming day might mean driving three hours to Casper or Rawlins or Rock Springs or Jackson or Cody or Pinedale for a two-hour meeting and then driving three hours home.  In the summers, we even would make the 4.5-hour trip to Cheyenne for a meeting and then drive back home in the same day. 

Not anymore.

Some of the most impressive folks in doing these state meetings are members of the Legislature, who travel from one end of the state to the other for committee meetings. I have even attended legislative meetings in some of our wonderful towns like Newcastle and Evanston.  Both are four hours plus for me and eight hours apart from each other.

Our legislators have been meeting almost non-stop by Zoom and I predict that whenever this darned pandemic ends, that option will continue.  The computer-generated meetings are not as comfortable as in-person meetings but they certainly work better than anything else I have ever seen.

Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) showed me his calendar. It was crazy nuts with these remote meetings. We need to applaud our hard-working legislators for the time they are devoting to our current issues.

Years ago, the state created their own closed circuit TV system as a way to eliminate the need of all that driving.  The system was doable but way more cumbersome than Zoom. You would go to a centralized location in your county and watch other folks on this big old TV.  There were always bugs with it.

There is even a new phrase called “Zoom casual,” which means you can wear some kind of presentable shirt or even a sport coat and tie from the waist up.  If you have your boxers or pajamas on the bottom, well, it doesn’t matter.

Another tricky thing with Zoom is now you can put a scenic photo behind you, so it looks like you are out in the mountains somewhere. Nice touch. But I digress.

Secondly, Wyoming has built billions of dollars in new school buildings.  They have sat idle for the past three months, in most cases, and it can truly cause a person to wonder if they are needed? We had over $100 million in new schools built here in Fremont County over the past few years. They are impressive and I think they are great. But would they have been built in the wake of a COVID-19 crisis when the state is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall? 

Distance learning has affected just about every student.  Today’s kids are computer fluent anyway but now 95% of the students have the ability to stay home and take their classes.  What effect will that have on education planning going forward?  You can anticipate that members of the legislature are looking for places to cut expenses and the state’s big education budget is a looming target.

Thirdly, Telehealth is fantastic.  With modern cell phones, laptops, tablets and even smart watches, people are able to monitor their health from a distance. It is not as good as in-person, but health appointments will never go back to the old way. A frontier state like Wyoming is ideally suited for such a system.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation just keeps getting more interesting. 

Wyoming’s coronavirus numbers just blow my mind.

As I write this on June 28. 2020, here are some numbers to ponder:

Wyoming population – 550,000.

Folks tested – 42,402.

Tested positive – 1,112.

Probable’s – 296.

Deaths – 20.

Persons sick now – 343.

Recovered – 1,057.

The stats show 7.7% of the Wyoming population has been tested with just 1.7 percent of those testing positive and dying.  

Outside of Alaska and Hawaii, Wyoming appears to be the safest place in the USA if you do not want to die from the coronavirus COVID-19.  Alaska has 12 deaths and Hawaii has 17.  Wyoming is sitting at 20 deaths.

I now fear we are living in a time of great over-reaction.  As I wrote in an earlier column, when we watched those scenes of emergency rooms in Italy and New York City, well, it just scared us to death. Most everyone wanted to shut things down to protect folks.

Original estimates of deaths for Wyoming were over 150.  Did our social distancing really save us from that number? There are a lot of doubters here.

The Cowboy State is now facing its biggest test with 6 million tourists headed our way.  One Yellowstone employee told me recently that very few of the tourists are wearing masks.   That will tell the final story.

As the state opens up, are we looking at a surge in cases? How does the virus fare in Wyoming’s windy and hot wide-open spaces that tend to be very, very dry?

Answers to the COVID-19 questions are still waiting to be known.  But we are learning more each month as the days march on.

Stay tuned.

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Wyoming Humanities Awards Nearly $400K In CARES Grants

in Bill Sniffin/Column
Microsoft contributes to computer science training
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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Humanities has awarded nearly $400,000 in Cultural CARES Grants to 50 institutions and organizations throughout the state with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act economic stabilization plan appropriated by the U.S. Congress.

Wyoming Humanities’ Cultural CARES Grants provide operating expense and salary support to Wyoming nonprofit organizations that support humanities and cultural projects and have suffered financial losses due to COVID-19. These grants provide immediate funds to libraries, museums, historical and cultural organizations, and other nonprofits that comprise Wyoming’s cultural and creative economy to help stabilize this sector. 

This funding enables these organizations to maintain essential functions and retain core personnel during this public health crisis with the goal of ensuring their future success. These important organizations allow our communities to thrive and engage with public history, cultural heritage, and civic learning during this unprecedented time.

Cowboy State Daily, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, was one of the grantees, receiving $9,750.

“We knew the cultural sector would have a great demand for these funds,” said Shannon Smith, Executive Director and CEO of Wyoming Humanities, “but we were stunned when we received $590,000 in requests in five business days. Conversations with these organizations revealed stress and apprehension about the important summer months coming up and we are concerned that the funding we provided will barely scratch the surface of this sector’s financial issues.” 

These grants are the first grant line of the Wyoming Crossroads Fund, an initiative to help Wyoming explore solutions to its imminent social and economic challenges resulting from the energy sector contraction—challenges that have been compounded by the pandemic. 

According to Wyoming Humanities COO, Shawn Reese, there is an urgent need to stabilize the institutions that tell our state’s stories, “To protect and preserve the cultural network that will help us diversify our economy and form grass-roots conversations about our current and future issues, we must shore up those organizations that are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Funding for these grants was provided by the NEH as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act national economic stabilization plan. 

Wyoming Humanities invested 100% of this federal funding into these grants going straight to communities in all parts of the state.

“Like the funding we receive from the State of Wyoming, we charge no administration expenses and invest the entirety into the creative and cultural sector,” said CEO Smith, “we believe the cultural arts should be brought to Wyomingites through a carefully arranged blend of public and private resources. As a statewide nonprofit, we are able to leverage public funds—both state and federal—to raise private funds in order to serve Wyoming. As we continue to face the challenges ahead, we will work with our state’s leaders to ensure the creative economy can be a major part of Wyoming’s future.” 

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Clouds Of Cotton, A Billion Moths, Plus Covid Curtail Buffalo Activities

in Column/Jim Hicks
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Column by Jim Hicks

BUFFALO – After mom finished cleaning up the mess the kids made in the kitchen while they “fixed breakfast” for Dad last Sunday, she had to get busy cooking that special “Father’s Day” dinner.

A lot of moms noticed that Father’s Day just happened to be the longest day of the year too.

Summer has officially arrived, but 2020’s version may be different than usual because of the threat of the pandemic that can even touch a remote place like Johnson County.

Some days most of the people shopping in the grocery stores are wearing masks, and other days almost no one. Perhaps most of us feel it’s really not much of a threat, but in the back of our minds a lot of doubt remains.

The shut-down of the most popular “coffee spots” has sure done some serious damage to the local “rumor mill” for many people in this community who are not tied to their computers or smart phones.

We used to think there were some things which could only be passed along by leaning over and whispering to the guy across the table. But now that kind of stuff shows up on the internet and social media and nobody seems to think anything about it.

One of the Bench Sitters says Will Rogers must have been thinking about all that when he wrote: “There are some men who learn by reading, a few learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.”

He also remarked “people say there is nothing that will get your mind off of everything like golf. “But I’ve never been depressed enough to take up the game. They say it will make you so mad at yourself you will forget to hate your enemies.”

We suspect that’s why the last several Presidents have played so much golf.
Another Will Rogers idea that sure fits today: “Last year we said things couldn’t go on like this, and they didn’t . . . they got worse.”

Understand not everyone has the miller-month problem, but those pesky critters continue to “bug” our place. A pan of soapy water by the kitchen window will “harvest” at least two dozen every night. They are supposed to move to the mountains for cooler temperatures.

Summers in Wyoming are great, but this one looks like a “cotton year” for certain.
Clouds of cotton are starting to blow down the streets and seem to stick to everything imaginable.

The stuff plugs up coolers, air cleaners on lawn mowers, window and door screens and causes many people to sneeze and wheeze.

Those “grape –like clusters of cotton seem to be hanging from every branch of the old cottonwoods around Buffalo. This may be one of those years when a little hail might help the situation.

And finally, this week we heard a story that just might be true. An older lady was in a long line of cars at a local drive-in restaurant. She was reading a message on her cell phone when the car behind her started honking.

She had not seen to line move forward one car-space. She looked back,
and the young girl in the car behind also gave her the “one-finger” signal.

So, when she got to the “pay window” she said she wanted to pay for her meal and also for the order for the car behind her. She took both receipts and when she got to the “food window” she collected her order and the one for the car behind hers.

Smiling as she drove away, she knew the girl behind was going to have to go through the line again to order and get her food. Don’t mess with old people!

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Wyoming Taxes: Minerals Industry Can No Longer Pay For Everything

in Column/Don Thorson
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By Don Thorson, Guest Columnist

My knowledge of the Wyoming tax system began 40 years ago when I was elected to the state legislature and was appointed to the revenue committee. Taxes in Wyoming were based on a three-legged stool principle.

The three legs were sales tax, tourism, and property taxes, of which mineral taxes was a large component.

Wyoming, because of its physical nature, does not lend itself to an organized community as most other states do. It is rather a group of widely separated communities tied together by the railroads and agriculture interests.

Larger populations were in the southern tier along the UP railroad and a few communities in the central portion. These generally prospered along with some others where oil and gas were discovered. 

Oil became a major contributor to the property tax portion and soon became a dominant portion of the property tax component. This caused large disparities of wealth within counties and especially in the school systems.

The discrepancy has been mostly corrected by an equalization of the school portion of the tax. There is a problem with the way the property taxes on minerals were collected, because the taxes were not paid until about 18 months after the oil was sold.

The operators were then able to use that lag for payment of their operations and to pay the taxes out of next year’s production. This process worked fairly well because of growth and stable prices.

Problems could arise if an operator failed and could not pay last year’s taxes. This problem did make itself known in recent times because of the drastic increase in prices and also in the coal industry, which is subject to the same accounting.

I have spent my life in the oil industry and could see a problem arise. I have tried for some 30 years to get the legislature to make a change in the way property taxes are collected on mineral production.

This lack of change caused the loss of over $100 million in recent years, most of which would have gone to schools. The revenue committee finally did it recently with thanks to efforts of Mike Madden and Cale Case.

There are major changes which still need to be addressed though. The people of Wyoming are beneficiaries of a welfare system from which they receive about $6,000 worth of service but only pay less than $2,000 in taxes.

The people and the government are going to have to learn to live with a reduction of this 60% subsidy to their taxes. 

This discrepancy occurred because of the high prices for energy and the coal bonus prices, which are in a steep decline.

We have built some of the finest schools in the nation but are starting to have trouble maintaining them.

There is a need for value-added industry, but the basic nature of the state does not lend itself to that type of industry. The state spends large sums of money to entice companies to locate here, but the state receives no revenue from these companies other than a little property tax because of the way our system works.

There is only one other source for increased funds, and that is from the people. We could start with a business income tax. Many of the businesses in Wyoming are owned by out-of-state firms.

Most of these firms are domiciled in states that have a business tax, so they wind up paying tax on the money they earn in Wyoming to their home state. Mineral extraction companies would be exempt because they pay about 25% tax on their gross income without any exemptions.

The other main source could be a personal income tax starting at $100,000. An amendment in the Constitution requires that lower income people would not pay income tax because their sales and property taxes would be a credit against any income tax.

Taxes are always unpleasant to discuss, but they are a necessary part of the world in which we live. The legislature could return the power and duty of personal taxation to the city councils and county commissioners where it really belongs.

The property valuation factor could be raised either in increments or all at once. The mandatory school levies would need to be adjusted for this to happen.

The people of Wyoming have long been fortunate to have many of their services paid for by the mineral industry, but our needs and desires have outgrown the ability of that industry to carry us.

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