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Dave Simpson: Nine Pounds of Turkey Per Person

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

By sheer force of habit, we bought an 18-pound turkey this year.

Then we realized that it would only be the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner.

That works out to, uh, let me do the math, nine pounds of turkey for each of us. That’s more than we usually eat at one sitting.

I’m writing this before the holiday, so the bird is lodged like a beached whale out in our garage (beer) refrigerator. It’s cheek-by-jowl right now in the freezer compartment.

Pretty sure I’ll get a drumstick this year, maybe two. We won’t have to arm wrestle for the dark meat. But at nine pounds of turkey, I’ll probably only have room for a couple pounds of dressing, and maybe a pound of “pink stuff,” which is a mix of whipped cream, cranberries, and maybe marshmallows. Ask my wife.

Then every year we have “Green Beans Tannenbaum.”  This doesn’t have anything to do with the German word for Christmas tree. No, back when I was in the newspaper publishing biz, we would sometimes invite single employees stuck in town for the holiday to our house for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, so they wouldn’t be alone.

And one year a reporter brought a hot dish to our Thanksgiving dinner, which entailed canned green beans, mushroom soup and toasted onions. That reporter’s name? Tannenbaum! And forevermore the Simpsons have enjoyed what I call “Green Beans Tannenbaum” at Thanksgiving and Christmas. (With just three ingredients, anyone can make it.)

And then of course there’s pumpkin pie, which could be in jeopardy this year, what with the size of the turkey we will be slogging our way through.

How did two people end up with an 18-pound turkey? Isn’t this bad planning? Couldn’t we have anticipated this conundrum and adjusted accordingly?

Well, yes, especially given the sucking chest wound of a year that is 2020, when government officials in many states are telling us how many people can gather at our homes for Thanksgiving dinner. (Did you ever think you’d see this day in America? Honestly now, did you ever?)

At two people, we will be pretty safe from Covid, but a little forethought, given this Beelzebub of a  year, would have meant buying a smaller bird.

Turns out both of our sons will be out of town for Thanksgiving, but if they were here, an 18-pound bird would be reasonable. (Their mother sends them both home with lots of Tupperware full of leftovers.)

Our daughter, on the other hand, seems to think that being days away from delivering another grand child is reason enough to not put her husband, her two-year-old daughter (bordering on a “terrible two,” but you didn’t hear that from me), and all the necessary accouterments in the car and drive 230 miles to eat a turkey dinner with us, then jump back in the car and drive 230 miles home.

Takes all kinds, I guess.

Our son-in-law is the only one in the family who actually likes white meat, and I figure there will be about four or five pounds of it on this 18-pound bird. So he will be sorely missed.

My wife and I will soldier on, however, remembering one of our best Thanksgivings back in the 1990s.

We had a flat tire on the way to Thanksgiving dinner with my parents and my brother’s family near Chicago. I was worried sick about an optometrist’s assessment that a problem with my daughter’s eyesight was “beyond my expertise.” The appointment with an ophthalmologist was still days away. I was a nervous wreck. Worried sick.

“That’s it!” I said after we got the flat tire fixed. “We’re going home!”

We all got to pick whatever TV dinner we wanted. The kids had macaroni and cheese. I had a  delicious “He Man” turkey dinner. It was probably our most memorable Thanksgiving, and a few days later my daughter’s eye problem turned out to be nothing at all.

(I think our very pregnant daughter ought to get in the car and come down here to help us deconstruct this 18-pound turkey to make amends for worrying her dad sick that Thanksgiving years ago. It’s the least she could do.)

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Somehow, I’m Not Feeling The Love

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Don’t look now, but I don’t think this “coming together” deal is working.

Joe Biden contends that it’s time to stop the political roughhousing; recognize that he will be president; realize that there was nothing to see here – move along folks – with his wealthy, jet-setting boy Hunter; realize that there was nothing to see here – move along folks – with the truly curious events of election night; and “put away the harsh rhetoric.”

Hmmm.

What he wants is the perfect victory. He and his party hounded Donald Trump for the last four years, ridiculing him, wire tapping his staffers, accusing him of every crime imaginable, making fun of his hair, dumping Big Gulps on the heads of people brave enough to wear MAGA hats, calling his supporters “deplorables,” hectoring his staffers out of restaurants, calling him a racist, spending $48 million on a two-year investigation that came to nothing, impeaching him over a telephone call, fighting him over every project, initiative, tax cut, trade deal and appointment he dared propose, and turning him into a nightly joke on network TV.

But, now Biden wants to be friends.

He might want to have a word with Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary under President Clinton, who wrote this about Trump in a Tweet:

“When this nightmare is over, we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It would erase Trump’s lies, comfort those who have been harmed by his hatefulness, and name every official, politician, executive and media mogul whose greed and cowardice enabled this catastrophe.”

Catastrophe? I know people – normal people who don’t fly around in private jets – whose retirement funds are up over 30 percent since Trump was elected.

Some catastrophe.

But Reich wants to set us straight, pass out blame, maybe ruin some careers.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling the love here. And I’m going to wait a while before I beat my sword into a plowshare.

It’s time, our liberal friends and most in the news media tell us, to accept the election results, even though there are still members of Biden’s party who haven’t accepted the election of Donald Trump four years ago.

On “The View,” an angry Whoopi Goldberg scolded people like us the other day, shaking her finger and yelling that we just have to “suck it up, just like we did.” But they never sucked anything up, hating Trump with a vociferous intensity from before he was even elected. The angry women of “The View” never accepted the will of the voters in electing Trump in 2016.

A former Obama staffer named Hari Sevugan even suggested that a “Trump Accountability Project” be mounted, so that anyone who dared work for Trump could be held publicly accountable, so that they might never work again.

Late word is that someone in the Biden camp told the Trump Accountability Project folks to cool their jets, probably because highly-paid Washington perennials wouldn’t want a trend like that to get started.

I don’t think Joe Biden is going to get his perfect victory, with us all making S’mores around the campfire, singing “KumBaYah.”

The wounds are way too fresh for that.

I suspect they don’t really want unity at all. What they want is conformity.

AND LASTLY: In a recent column I suggested that if Democrats take control of the Senate, folks should bury their life savings in coffee cans in their back yards, and shelter in place in their basements until 2022. It was pointed out by a rather humorless reader that I am not a trained retirement planner (true), and folks could take me seriously. So, for the record, don’t bury your money in coffee cans.

Milk cans are more durable, and hold a lot more money.

I was also criticized for mentioning the fact that a successful candidate for the U.S. Senate was a former rodeo queen – asking why that would be a reason to vote for her.

I’ve never seen a rodeo queen kneel during the national anthem, disrespect the flag, tear up jack in Portland, lie, cheat, or spend money like a drunken sailor.

I say rodeo queen is a resume enhancer, any day of the week.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Gotta Be A Pony In Here Somewhere…

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Let’s see if we can find the pony in this pile of manure.

(Optimists, Ronald Reagan joked, look for the pony buried in any pile of road apples.)

Let’s take a look at the tumultuous events of recent weeks:

– The good news is that political ads disappeared from TV and radio after election day. The bad news: Those Medicare supplement renewal TV ads still have a couple more weeks to run. (Are you as tired of Joe Namath as I am?) And I don’t think the pillow guy from Minnesota is ever going to give us a rest.

– A radio ad that ran before the election got my dander up, referring to the “atrocious” voting record of a candidate I met during my reporting days, and who got my vote in several elections. Atrocious? Really? She is a former rodeo queen, legislator, state office holder and congresswoman. Sometimes bare knuckles turn people off, and the former rodeo queen won by a huge margin.

Good for her.

– I wrote in a column two weeks ago that if Joe Biden wins the election, “I intend to regard him with all the respect, dignity, good will, cooperation and benefit of the doubt that our Democrat friends have extended to Donald J. Trump.”

That column ran on Facebook and got 337 likes, a couple loves and some laughing smiley faces. But one reader called me a “mouth-breathing dullard,” and another said, “This guy needs to find a different line of work.” (Now he tells me, after 47 years in this business.) “He’s not the brightest bulb in the box.”  Another asked, “Who paid this idiot to publish articles?”

Several were appalled that I would treat the next president as shabbily as the current one has been treated. But don’t worry. I don’t think we will treat your guy as badly as you relentlessly treated our guy, from day one, for four years, day in and day out, with constant investigations and 95 percent of the news coverage of him deemed negative. We’re nicer people, and I doubt we could compete with that virtuoso performance.

– Talk of a “blue wave” of Democratic victories in the House and Senate did not pan out, with Republicans actually picking up seats in the House.

In the Senate it’s a closer deal, but it looks like Republicans are likely to hold on to their slim margin and retain leadership. That throws a monkey wrench into liberal plans to expand the Supreme Court, end the legislative filibuster, add two new states to the union, repeal the Trump tax cuts, and make rich people “pay their fair share.” Oh yeah, and they want to phase out fossil fuels and put a cork in cows.

Not gonna happen, unless the Democrats can win both of those Georgia runoff elections on January 5th for two Senate seats. Seems unlikely.

If the Democrats pull that off, however, my advice is to bury your life savings in coffee cans in your back yard, and shelter in place in your basement until 2022.

– I think it’s very good news that Hollywood airheads donated big money to defeat Republican Lindsey Graham, and Graham got re-elected by a 10 percent margin. That’s $100 million wasted. A similar unsuccessful effort to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted another $100 million.

Is there a dumber town than Hollywood?

Sometimes, like calling someone’s voting record “atrocious,” throwing millions at defeating a candidate just makes voters mad.

– Borrowing a term from one of my critics, I think some states aren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack, either. Alaska is almost as sparsely populated as Wyoming, and yet Wyoming’s vote totals were in early on election night. But five days after the election, they were only half done counting votes in Alaska. (I think the votes were coming in by dog sled, one at a time.)

Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada were also dim bulbs when it comes to timely vote counting.

– And lastly, who in their right minds will ever believe pre-election opinion polls again after their woeful performance in the last two presidential elections?

I wouldn’t trust those guys to tell me the time of day.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Wringing My Hands Over The Election

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Joe and Carol were as western as a couple could be.

He rode bulls in his younger days. They raised horses together. And they had a beautiful place in Northwest Colorado.

When it got cold, they had to shoo elk out of their barn.

Carol was a crackerjack sales person, the advertising director at the small paper I was running. She and another guy created the daily paper out of nothing, taking on an established weekly paper and succeeding. At one point, a guy paid for his ad with live chickens.

One evening I got a call from the emergency room at the hospital. Joe was there, and it didn’t look good. He died that evening from an abdominal aneurysm.

Joe and Carol had saddled their horses earlier in the evening, and had a ride around their place, soaking in the beauty of their land, and what they had created. Right before he died, he was enjoying what they had created, together. On horseback.

I often think of Joe and Carol when I take my dog Mitch out for his afternoon romp through the prairie, rooting out jack rabbits. From one side of an old bench I can watch trains go by. From the other, I look over our place, and what we have created, together.

It didn’t come easy. When I started out as a reporter, I made $100 a week. We agonized over whether we could afford $90 a month for a basement apartment.

I worked hard, loving every minute of it, and moved up to editing. And at age 33 I was given the opportunity to run a small paper for a family that owned 18 of them. We moved around for that company, and at one point owned houses in three states. It took a long time to unload two of those houses.

We bought old houses and fixed them up. I spent two years of weekends stripping the beige/pink paint off the ornate woodwork of a wonderful old Victorian house in Illinois. My wife got so good at putting up fancy Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper that a real estate broker said she could make a living at it. (She wisely stuck with nursing.)

Over the years, bit by bit, we were able to buy better houses, fix them up, and make a little money when we moved on. In the town where we now live, we’ve had three houses, and I finished the basements of all three.

Meanwhile, up in the mountains, a friend and I built a cabin back in the 1980s out of native logs. If we had asked an expert, they probably would have told us we didn’t have the time, the expertise, or the money to build a cabin. Thank heavens we were too young and self confident to ask. I still have that little cabin today, the culmination of a lifetime of summer work.

As I write this, I don’t know what the results of the presidential election of 2020 will be. These words will appear on election day in one on-line publication, and in following days for several newspapers. I have no idea who the ultimate winner will be.

I have never been so worried, however, over the results of an election. I’ve always had faith that our country was strong enough to withstand any election results.

This year, however, is different. The threat of fundamental change is real. There is talk of adding new states to the union, to enlarging the Supreme Court, and to doing away with the fossil fuels that have powered this nation for most of its history. There is rioting in our large cities, a rejection of capitalism, shocking bias in the news media, and a demand for equal outcomes, instead of equal opportunities.

This is a great country, where a kid can start out at minimum wage and work his way up to a comfortable retirement. I want that for my kids and my red-haired, blue-eyed grand daughter, who is two.

However this election turns out, I want her to have her own Joe and Carol moments, looking over what she has created, and counting her blessings that she was born in this great country.

Whatever we do, let’s not mess that up.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Enough To Boggle Our Lizard Brains

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Last chance to get in some licks before Election Day:

– Those of us who voted for Donald Trump have been called “a basket of deplorables” by Hillary Clinton, and members of Trump’s “rube, 10-tooth base,” by Never Trumper Republican “strategist” Rick Wilson. As a registered Republican who voted for Trump, it’s difficult to avoid the studied conclusion that we don’t get no respect.

Last week presidential historian John Meacham, an NBC analyst, piled on, saying this:

“There is a lizard brain in this country. Donald Trump is a product of the white man’s, the anguished, nervous white guy’s lizard brain.”

Seems kind of harsh, don’t you think?

On Facebook, I posted this:

“I just saw historian John Meacham call people who voted for Trump ‘lizard brains.’ What I like best about liberals is their compassion.”

A liberal friend responded that he has compassion for me, citing his sympathy for my tiny lizard brain as evidence.

I responded that I would have expected something better from a noted presidential historian like Meacham, adding that “it boggles my tiny lizard brain.”

The question is, will this name calling (didn’t John Meacham’s mother teach him better?) make lizard brains like us (there were 63 million of us in 2016) more or less likely to go to the polls and vote for Trump?

I say more likely. I say walking through hot coals and crawling over broken glass likely.

Out here in the West, we have a response to insults like this:

“Smile when you call me lizard brain, pardner.”

– Joe Biden has repeatedly accused President Trump of “attacking my family” in his references to the curious activities of his son Hunter Biden.

I think, however, there is a difference between attacking a candidate’s family – say, alleging that “your mother wears army boots,” or that your children are ugly – and asking a perfectly justifiable question about family members, and perhaps Old Joe himself, getting rich off of public “service.”

Most of the news media are far too partisan (nutty liberal) to ask Biden about this, making me wonder if Nixon and Agnew could have avoided resignation if they had only been Democrats.

– I may have a primitive reptilian brain, tiny and insignificant, but it can still be boggled by politicians who – despite the needs of Americans suffering from Covid-19 shutdowns, loss of jobs, lack of income to pay for rent or mortgages, and the depression of long-term isolation – have so far refused to place the needs of struggling Americans above their political careers.

They like to call themselves “honorable,” but what we have seen is despicable. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi demands trillions in coronavirus relief, while Republicans believe hundreds of billions should suffice. (!) And instead of granting mere hundreds of billions, to get help flowing to folks running out of groceries and losing their businesses, with the possibility of more help in the future, Pelosi stood in the way of any help at all.

One must conclude that a political victory, or depriving Republicans of one on the eve of an election, are more important to our Speaker of the House than throwing a life-line to pandemic drowning Americans.

I believe this is the very definition of the word “craven,” and the reason most common-sense Americans feel a degree of disgust when it comes to politics.

And politicians.

(Thank heavens self-serving people like this weren’t aboard the landing craft at Normandy.)

– An advertisement for a Parkinson’s Disease treatment drug called “Nuplazid” shows a picture of an anxious man who has “started believing things that aren’t true!”

Who among us, in this Chinese water torture of a presidential election, hasn’t thought the same thing – they believe things that aren’t true – about members of the opposing party?

–  And lastly, if it turns out that Joe Biden wins the election and becomes the 46th President of the United States, I intend to regard him with all the respect, dignity, good will, cooperation and benefit of the doubt that our Democrat friends have extended to Donald J. Trump.

Every. Single. Stinking. Bit.

Payback, as they say, will be, well, let’s just say, pretty unpleasant.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Western Wildfires: ‘Log It, Graze It, Or Watch It Burn’

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Nine miles south of the single acre of land I own in the mountains, the huge Mullen Fire had burned 176,840 acres in the Snowy Range of the Rocky Mountains as of last week.

Now there’s a sobering thought.

The fire has been burning since mid September, and is now 69 percent contained, thanks to the efforts of almost 1,000 firefighters, fleets of fire-fighting equipment, and slurry bombing airplanes.

Between my little acre and the massive fire to the south are Libby Flats, Medicine Bow Peak, and other peaks, which are above timberline, providing an effective fire barrier.

Still, nine miles is small comfort when I consider the safety of the mountain property I have owned for 39 years, and the small log cabin a friend and I built in the 1980s.

Before the Mullen Fire started, I drove through the area that would be hardest hit, along the Wyoming/Colorado border. Along Highway 230, I was amazed at the miles of dead timber lining the road.

The massive pine bark beetle infestation, first noted in 1996, ravaged huge tracts of land in Wyoming and Colorado, and today, 24 years later, the amount of standing dead timber is staggering.

In 2008, I had a visit from a local fire department official at my cabin. He was promoting a state program encouraging landowners to cut down trees near their cabins. The state of Wyoming would pay up to $2,000 (later $2,200) for labor and chainsaw time to make cabins less likely to burn.

“I bought this land because of the trees,” I told the guy. “I don’t want to cut them down.”

“A lot of them are already dead, Dave,” he replied.

After some thought, I agreed to participate, and he came back to mark trees – most of them dead – around my cabin, and I got to work with my small chainsaw.

But getting rid of all the dead trees was far bigger than anything I could handle, so in July of 2011 I had a young guy who had vast experience cutting trees with the Bureau of Land Management cut down 65 very large trees on my land.

I had a much larger chainsaw by then, and got to work cutting up logs even as he was bringing more trees crashing to the ground. It was a huge mess, with felled trees lying everywhere.

The work cleaning up would go on for years. About five years ago, I hacked up and stacked the last of those dead trees, and have spent the remaining summers splitting the logs, carrying them back to my fire pit and burning them. It’s quite an exercise routine.

Next summer will be 10 years since we cut down those 65 trees, and I’ve still got a couple summers to go before the last of that dead timber has been split, hauled and burned.

And I’m just dealing with one acre, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of public land in the Medicine Bow National Forest, and millions of beetle dead standing trees.

The growing threat in recent years is long dead trees, rotted out over the years at the roots, and blown over by the wind. In one day last summer, I saw two large trees – one on the edge of my property – simply crashing to the ground on a windy day.

Many of my neighbors participated in the program to clear trees around cabins, so our little community – about 100 lots in size – is in better shape than the surrounding national forest.

So far, we have been lucky and not had large fires in our neck of the woods. We have put a lot of hours and sweat into properly maintaining our land, but we could easily be consumed if a conflagration like the Mullen Fire comes our way.

On the radio a couple weeks ago, the Nelson brothers of Clear Out West Radio related this western advice when it comes to maintaining land:

“Log it, graze it, or watch it burn.”

There’s the distinct feeling that unless something changes in the management of our national forest neighbor, watching it burn is a real possibility.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Our Nightmare Year Ain’t Over Yet

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Is this a rotten year, or what?

It’s the Mona Lisa of horrible years. (Her slight smile is for those who expected a normal year.)

It’s the Boone and Crockett world’s largest ten-point bull elk of rotten years.

We think of the coronavirus as the low point of the year, but recall that 2020 started with Jerry Nadler and his colleagues slow-walking articles of impeachment over to the U.S. Senate. In the end, they could only dislodge one Republican vote in the Senate, and that from flip-flopping, now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t Mitt Romney, the recipient of the worst vote I ever cast for president.

Don’t forget that the State of the Union Speech was delayed this year because of a government shutdown sparked by the debt limit (Surprise!). They finally had the speech, but Donald Trump poured salt in liberal wounds by using the occasion to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh.

Here’s a fun thing to try. Those readers who have to prepare an annual budget at work should try telling their boss that instead of a budget this year, you will be submitting a “continuing resolution,” in which you will spend about 30 percent more than you plan to take in. Go ahead. Give it a try. (Old Simpson would have arrived at retirement about 20 years early if he had ever tried that.)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s response to Trump’s State of the Union Address? She made a big show of tearing up her copy of the speech, something we had never seen before, but which turned out to be par for the course in this impacted wisdom tooth of a year.

(Can’t we all just get along? Uh, no.)

Not long after that we headed for our basements, giving Covid-19 two weeks to play itself out and make sure health care workers had adequate masks and gowns. Two weeks. If only.

And when we ventured out to the grocery store, darned if the toilet paper aisle wasn’t sold out. Now, that’s my idea of threatening. They told us we needed hand sanitizer and masks, but they were sold out, too. Walmart tried to tell us what direction we could go in each aisle (“Don’t shop this way!” the signs said), but ultimately gave up. (I’m not walking an aisle and a half extra for a can of tomato soup, are you?)

Meat, soup, milk, potatoes – all were sold out for a time, and we got a taste of what socialism would be like if we turn things over to this new breed of hair-on-fire Democratic nuts in Congress.

It was almost a relief when we read that “murder hornets” were on the way. At least it was something different to worry about than toilet paper. (And just this week, hairy venomous caterpillars were spotted in Virginia.)

Trump was on TV every afternoon for a while with the scientists, but now Joe Biden tells us he never listened to the scientists. (Pundit Britt Hume put it best: “Which scientists” should he listen to?) Democrats and the media took every opportunity in an evolving crisis to criticize course changes along the way, and we’re told that hard-charging, ball-of-fire Joe Biden would have done much better.

(This just in: The World Health Organization now says lockdowns are not a good thing after all.)

A cop in Minneapolis killed a guy in handcuffs, setting off rioting and looting there, and crowds in Portland, Ore., demonstrated and rioted for the next 100 days. And they’re not done yet. Rioters took over part of Seattle for a while. Venturing downtown, in lots of cities (even Kenosha, Wis.), became questionable.

Covid and the alleged awfulness of our country delayed and crippled baseball, basketball and football, creating hoards of people like me who have sworn off pro sports forever. And we have seen more hurricanes than our alphabet has letters to name.

We still have two months and a bitter, angry, hateful presidential election to go, that could well be tied up in the courts for weeks, if not months.

What more could possibly go wrong?

Don’t ask.

The only good news? A Japanese study showed that something in McDonalds French fries may re-grow hair. That’s it.

Some year.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Praying For The Guy They Despise?

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Some thoughts from deepest Flyover Country:

– Since the onset of the coronavirus imbroglio, I’ve noticed that there has been less superiority expressed by our more cerebral bi-coastal cousins about those of us who live out here in Flyover Country.

Maybe it’s because our coastal counterparts are still largely stuck at home, but I haven’t taken offense at anyone calling our part of the country backwards and stupid for quite a while.  Air travel is way down, so maybe this is a case of out of sight, out of mind. They’re not up there, flying from liberal coast to liberal coast, so they’re not looking down on us.

I think, however, that the virus may have them reconsidering living cheek by jowl, one atop another, jammed in like cows in a stock truck, poking their snouts out for air. Maybe the virtues of life out here in the Big Lonesome, where social distancing is hard to avoid, have suddenly become clear to the poor dears.

Could be. I was born at a hospital on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and grew up nine miles from the Loop. But I wouldn’t live back there again for all the beer in Milwaukee.

The Flyover Country dogma lives loudly within me.

– Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill said Friday they are praying for the recovery of the man Joe on the previous Tuesday night called a “liar,” a “racist,” a “clown,” “the worst president we’ve ever had,” and who he told to “shut up.”

It’s to his credit that Biden is now praying for President Trump. And I bet in his heart of hearts, he wishes he hadn’t stooped to name calling. I also suspect Trump may now have second thoughts about making fun, during the debate, of Biden’s proclivity to wear masks. In both cases, let’s hope so.

This is the kind of stuff that makes common sense folks out in the middle of the country shake their heads, sigh, and say, “politicians.”

– Speaking of the debate, I’m scratching my head (up where the hair used to be) over Biden refusing to say whether he favors putting more justices on the Supreme Court.

“I’m not going to answer the question,” he insisted, saying that if he took a position, that would become the issue, as if that isn’t something we would want prior to an election. And he said he wouldn’t take a position because some people are already voting, as if that made a difference.

Anyone who reads this column knows I won’t be voting for Biden, but I suspect others who may vote for him would join me in wondering why he won’t say whether he favors packing the court.

Expanding the court seems like overturning the Monopoly board when your opponent just put hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place.

– I also did not learn in the debate whether Biden favors statehood for the liberal District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, no doubt giving Democrats four more seats in the Senate, and whether he favors abandoning the legislative filibuster in the Senate.

You can fault Trump for interrupting, but he makes no secret of what he thinks.

– Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but doesn’t it seem like Nancy Pelosi’s insistence on spending $2.2 trillion on another Covid-19 relief bill indicate that she’s willing to see people who need help get nothing, rather than compromise with Republicans and see them get something?

If I was out of work and getting short on groceries, I’d probably want Pelosi to be more flexible on this. Couldn’t they come back at some future date for more (borrowed) money, if necessary? They always do.

Why not help now?

– Ronald Reagan was famous for saying he’d rather get half a loaf than no loaf at all. (That was back in the quaint days when they were talking mere billions. These days it’s trillions.)

Of course, in Nancy Pelosi’s world, $2.2 trillion is already half a loaf (she wanted $3 trillion), and the $1.6 trillion the Republicans want is “the heel” of the loaf.

One point six trillion dollars. The heel of the loaf.

Let that sink in.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: I Had To Pry It Out Of Her Little Hands

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Years ago, in an advice to the graduates column, this suggestion was among the gems I bestowed upon the matriculating youngsters:

“Look up from your cell phone now and then. There’s a whole world out there that isn’t on the screen of your dopey little device. Give it a try, Skippy.”

A side benefit: You won’t walk into the path of an oncoming Greyhound bus, your final words on this planet to some best friend forever, “lol.”

(Two other pieces of advice worthy of revisiting here: Most of the romance you see on TV is bunk, so don’t get your heart set on never-ending, heart-pounding love. In the words of Cher, “Snap out of it!” And, don’t marry someone you can’t trust with a credit card.)

Look up right now from wherever you’re reading these words (newspaper, desk-top computer, cell phone). Chances are you see someone else, and there’s a good bet they’re peering into their cell phone – yammering with some friend (how do these people have so much to talk about?), crushing candy, or cussing at spam.

You can see how many grads took my advice and looked up from their phones: Nobody. (Swell advice for column-writing geezers like me: Don’t waste time writing advice to the grads columns.)

The other day, at the park where I walk half-mile laps around a lake, there was a guy sitting on the shore fishing. He had a folding chair, a cooler, and tackle box. And every time I walked past him, he was staring into his cell phone. Let me repeat that. He was staring into his cell phone while he was FISHING.

(He should go to the “app store” and look for an app that will alert him when his bobber bobs.)

A lady was sitting on a park bench, reading something on her tablet computer for about an hour as I walked my laps.

Other people at the park sat in the shade of trees, checking their cell phones. Couples held hands with one hand, their cell phones with the other. People walking dogs stopped every now and then, checking their phones for messages. A day in the park, these days, is no day in the park.

Waiters, construction workers, drivers in oncoming cars – everyone is sneaking a peek. The irritating person in the car in front of you at the drive-through at McDonalds or the bank, who doesn’t pull up when the person in front of him/her pulls up, is checking his/her cell phone.

Drives me nuts.

My wife, who hates wasting time, used to get frustrated by delays at the doctor’s office. Now, she whiles away the time playing Scrabble on her cell phone with friends hundreds of miles away. Our son kills aliens, or enemy soldiers, or who knows what, on his phone, using both thumbs to shoot.

To get their attention, I say something like this: “I’m thinking about joining Antifa and moving to Portland. What do you think?”

Last week I visited our red-haired, blue-eyed grand daughter, who is two. Cute as a button. Talking up a storm. (She has a disabled TV remote that she talks into like a cell phone. She calls it her “Hello.”) Her favorite thing in the world, next to her mom and dad, is any cell phone she can get her hands on.

Her mom doesn’t let her play with cell phones, but when I showed her pictures on my phone, she was on it like a monkey on a cupcake. She poked every button, changed settings, and swiped pictures, not intimidated by technology, fascinated with this magical device. She had her way with my cell phone until I pried it out of her little hands after she unwittingly set up a conference call with two of her great uncles, one in Utah, the other in California.

It was only after I was half way home that I realized why my phone was so quiet: My grand daughter put me in Airplane Mode.

I have to be patient, however. Five years from now she’ll be one of the young people I can ask to fix my cell phone when I have a problem.

Heaven help us.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Great Thoughts, On Our Bumpers

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Let’s touch some bases as campaign season is officially underway:

– “Ted Bundy Was A Republican!” proclaimed the bumper sticker on a car parked next to mine at our local Walmart.

I ducked into the store to do my shopping, thankful that I didn’t run into the driver of that car. While I used to relish political debate, it has become a blood sport, and conservatives like me are commonly, cruelly, labeled “buffoons” spouting “unbridled idiocy.”

One time in a newsroom over which I presided as publisher, I suggested that labor unions were much the same as political action committees. They laughed me out of my own newsroom, hooting in disbelief that their boss could be so incredibly ignorant.

Younger readers might not know that that Ted Bundy was a serial murderer who killed young women in Washington, Colorado and Florida, but who once also dabbled in local Republican politics in Washington state. He was electrocuted in Florida in 1989, and good riddance.

The person with the bumper sticker wants us to know that Ted was a Republican, as if all Republicans  lean toward serial murder, and should be strapped into Old Sparky like Ted.

(Oh yeah? Well serial murderer John Wayne Gacy was a liberal Democrat. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.)

Takes all kinds, I guess, which was confirmed the next day as I drove on Interstate 80. A cattle truck passed me, with a sign on the front that said, “Trump 2020.” And in bold letters across the back of the trailer it said, “No More Bull Schiff. We Stand With Trump!”

Before the last presidential election, a relative sent me a T-shirt proclaiming “Make America Great Again.” It fit great, and reflected my beliefs, but I only wore it once, in the privacy of my basement. Because politics in this country has become so bitter and hateful that wearing a MAGA hat or shirt is tantamount to an act of war. The relative who sent me the shirt was once asked to put a sweatshirt over his MAGA shirt, or to turn it inside out, when he dared wear it into a casino.

It’s come to that.

We’ve seen video of MAGA hats being snatched off the heads of Trump fans, even a child in one instance, and soft drinks dumped on their heads. I wouldn’t wear my MAGA shirt to exercise, because it would be seen as a provocation among the young group that gathers there.

I keep hearing that diversity is a goal we have to reach, but between the guy who owns the cattle truck and the person with the Ted Bundy bumper sticker, I think we’re plenty diverse already.

– A car frequently parked at our library sports a bumper sticker that says “Turn Off Fox News!” (You see a lot of liberals at libraries.) This person no doubt wants to return to the halcyon days when news from liberal anchors on ABC, CBS and NBC was all you could get.

This person apparently can’t tolerate even a single news source that doesn’t lean way left

My late father had a bumper sticker on the wall in his workshop that said, “Caution: I Don’t Brake for Liberals!” He thought it was funny, but didn’t put it on the bumper of his pickup in largely liberal Wisconsin. Smart.

For years I had a bumper sticker that said, “If God’s Not a Bronco Fan, Why Are Sunsets Orange?” That was before pro sports became a soap box for contempt for our country. (No more football, or Broncos, for me.)

I kick myself for not buying a bumper sticker in Wisconsin with this message:

“Eat More Lutefisk!”

(Who could disagree with that?)

– I was proud as punch this week to learn that a Forbes Magazine survey of the highest taxed cities in America showed my current home town of Cheyenne, Wyoming, coming in DEAD LAST. We’re the cheapest.

Woo Hoo! Break out the the party hats and noise makers. Peel me off the ceiling.

Stand by, however, fellow beleaguered fans of frugality (BFFs). Decimated mineral tax income in our state has the war drums for higher taxes beating louder than ever.

Pray for us, friends.

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Dave Simpson: Ready For The Times To Get Better

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“It’s been a too long time with no peace of mind, and I’m ready for the times to get better.”

Written by Allen Reynolds, performed by Crystal Gayle.

It was November of 1994 when I unwrapped a couple 60-minute tape cassettes and recorded my first Saturday night performance of “Prairie Home Companion.”

They were at the Oscar Meyer Theater in Madison, Wis., and they had an excellent band from Milwaukee that lit the place up. “The News from Lake Wobegon” was funny and poignant and charming in the way only Garrison Keillor – the storyteller of our times – could hold an audience in his spell.

I would go on to tape the program most Saturday nights for the next 12 years, storing them in plastic cabinets with drawers.

Over the years I would get out a selection of tapes whenever we were headed out on long car trips, driving from Illinois to Wyoming, or to grandma’s house in Wisconsin. Our kids grew up listening to “The Lives of the Cowboys,” “Guy Noir, Radio Private Eye,” and those wonderful stories from Lake Wobegon, “the town out on the edge of the prairie that time forgot.”

We laughed at a comedy bit in which private eye Guy Noir asks a Canadian Mountie his name. “Wooster, sir,” replies the Mountie, to which Noir responds, “Worcestershire.” “No, Wooster, sir,” the Mountie replies. “That’s what I said, Worcestershire!” It was like “Who’s on first?”

A show at Yellowstone Park from one Fourth of July was particularly memorable, from one of our favorite places. It ended with the eruption of Old Faithful.

We enjoyed the show so much that when it was broadcast from Peoria in May of 1999, my mother, my son and I were in the audience. It was the annual “Talent from Towns Under 2,000” show, won by an incredible young violinist from Idaho, but my favorite was a marimba band from Texas.

Seeing Keillor give the news from Lake Wobegon, standing before the packed house, without notes, and holding the silent crowd in the palm of his hand for 20 minutes, was the highlight of the evening. I can’t think of anyone in my lifetime who could tell a story like Keillor.

Over the years I hauled my stash of Prairie Home Companion tapes along with us – like lugging around heavy boxes of National Geographic Magazines – from one town in Illinois to another, then to Nebraska, and finally to Wyoming.

At one point I tried to donate them to the Veterans Administration hospital in Cheyenne, but they said they couldn’t accept them because who knows what might be on those tapes. Too bad for them.

So I finally just lugged them up to my cabin, where I break one out on summer Saturday nights, at about the same time I used to hear the show on the radio. It was a good decision, now that Keillor has retired, and was later accused of some impropriety with a female staffer. The storyteller of our time became one of the first celebrities “canceled” by the #MeToo movement, and even his reruns quickly disappeared from Public Radio.

The other night, I grabbed a tape from October 23, 1999.

As luck would have it, the musical guest was one of my favorites, Bluegrass legend Doc Watson. One of the songs he performed was written by Allen Reynolds and first performed by Crystal Gayle, and included these words:

“It’s been a too long time, with no peace of mind, and I’m ready for the times to get better.”

Just as timely today, maybe more timely, than in 1999, or 1978 when it was written. And to be sung by Doc Watson – perfection.

The News from Lake Wobegon, about folks retiring from farming and moving into town, featured a story about a kindly aunt – who secretly smoked – starting a fire smoking in an outhouse. It was put out by her nephew, in a manner “men are equipped to do,” keeping her secret.

Keillor ended with these words:

“Empires fall. Great schemes crash. Farms fail. Our lives are adrift. But kindness lasts forever. Kindness goes on forever.”

Prairie Home Companion.

What a loss.

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Dave Simpson: Better Cross Portland Off Your List

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

So, answer me this.

Was the guy in Portland who kicked the other guy in the head a peaceful demonstrator?

Was he so worked up and enthusiastic about his peaceful demonstrating that the only reasonable course of action was to take a good run up and kick a man, who was sitting dazed on the ground from his preliminary beating at the hands of other peaceful demonstrators, IN THE HEAD, like an NFL field goal kicker trying to put the ball through the uprights from mid field?

Was that guy a peaceful demonstrator?

I live out where the buses don’t run, and it has been many years since I lived in a big city. So maybe I’m just not up to date on current trends. So I have to ask, is kicking  man viciously in the head classified as peaceful demonstrating these days?

Looks like attempted murder to me.

How about attempting to burn down a federal courthouse? Is that peaceful demonstrating, too? Firing commercial grade fireworks into a line of police officers. Throwing rocks, urine and feces at cops. Smashing store windows. Looting. Is all of this going on now in Portland for almost three months peaceful demonstrating?

Meanwhile, persistent efforts are being made by the news media to portray all of this craziness as just more “peaceful demonstrating.” (In London, rioting sparked this headline from the BBC: “27 Police Officers Injured in Largely Peaceful Anti-racism Protests.”

Largely peaceful? Twenty seven cops injured?) Insisting that these are peaceful demonstrations as we see video after video of rioting brings to mind the Groucho Marx quote about not believing our own eyes.

Another question: Was the guy who got kicked in the head by the peaceful demonstrator exhibiting some kind of privilege that made him deserve a swift kick to the head?

It’s my understanding that his offense was trying to defend a trans-gender woman who was being beaten by peaceful demonstrators. So he too was beaten by the mob, then kicked in the head.

The guy who got kicked in the head is apparently going to be OK, and as I write this, they’ve identified the the guy who kicked him and are looking for him. That’s progress for a city in which the mayor seems to be OK with over 80 days of mayhem, but draws the line at federal officers trying to keep the rampaging mob from burning down the federal courthouse.

Where on earth is the adult supervision in Portland? What do normal people there think? Who would want to live in Portland, or run a business there, under these conditions?

When does the rioting stop? Never?

A year ago, my daughter, my son and I attended a wedding in Portland. We boarded a cruise boat downtown and spent a beautiful evening cruising the Willamette River, past the posh homes and spectacular buildings of Portland.

The afternoon before, we visited a huge book store downtown, and had an excellent lunch at a local brewery. I have a framed picture of the three of us at the brewery, enjoying our visit to Portland. The only downside was finding a place to park, because the downtown area was so popular.

I wonder what that visit would be like today, after almost three months of peaceful demonstrators tearing up jack in Portland. Maybe if you avoid the federal courthouse you can keep from getting kicked in the head, or beaten for defending a woman being beaten by peaceful demonstrators.

Maybe the directions you get on your cell phone have been adjusted to avoid kicked-in-the-head zones.

The fact is, if that wedding was this year instead of last year, we would have sent our regrets. Who in his right mind would visit war-torn Portland today?

The city leaders of Portland, however, are apparently OK with this situation, saving their ire for federal officers trying to keep the lunatics from burning down the (our) federal courthouse.

So much for Portland. And too bad. It’s a beautiful city, now at the mercy of brutal anarchists.

I listened closely last week and didn’t hear one Democrat at their convention cite the great job their party has done running big cities like Portland.

It figures.

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Dave Simpson: Chewing The Fat Out On The Porch

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Three old guys sitting in Adirondack chairs on a porch, staring into a crackling campfire.

All three of us are 69, but the consensus is that we feel like we’re in our 50s.

“Except when I first get up from a chair like this,” I say. “For the first couple minutes after sitting for a while, I walk around like an old man.”

“You ARE an old man, Dave,” one of them says, and the other one laughs. Between the three of us, there have been one knee replacement, a torn quadriceps, two rotator cuff repairs, a back operation and one heart scare.

One of us has escaped the attention of the orthopedic surgeons, so far, but his wife has had two knees and two shoulders replaced. Nobody escapes unscathed.

We worked together in Central Illinois for a time back in the ’90s. I was their boss, but our friendships survived anyway. We remain close friends. Two of us live in Wyoming now, and the third lives in southern California.

All of us have had our share of caring for aging parents. My wife and I care for her mother at age 96. The guy from California was on his way home from taking care of his dad, who is in his 90s, in Nebraska. We seized on his passing through, giving us a chance to get together, sit on the porch, and as my dad used to say, “chew the fat.”

I’ll be the first to admit that some adult beverages were consumed, and empty cans of Coors and Pabst Blue Ribbon littered the porch floor. We’re not the kind of guys who want grapefruit, or raspberries or lemon in our beer. That’s not who we are.

We make quick work of a tin of Beer Nuts, and move on to the Doritos.

The beautiful wife of the guy from California died 13 years ago from cancer. He has not remarried. The long-suffering wives of the other two don’t mind us getting together up in the mountains now and then. We joke that they must have boyfriends. (Not likely after 35 and 47 years of marriage.)

I pass around a notebook full of pictures of two of us building this cabin back in the 1980s. The third guy asked specifically to visit “the cabin,” and he finds a sad note in my cabin diary from the day his wife died.

“Look,” he says, pointing to a picture of me with lots of hair and a full beard, wielding an ax, way back in 1984. “This is when Dave had hair!”

I gamely join in the laughter. I was nice about it.

All three of us are conservatives, close to rock-ribbed. We worked together in a vastly liberal business – local newspapers – and we have plenty of stories about how crazy it once was. That business has pretty much gone down the tubes in recent years, making retirement – at least in my case – a welcome rescue from a sinking ship.

Two of the three of us don’t watch much television anymore, having parted ways with most broadcast stations and cable. One watches a lot of YouTube. They don’t listen to much talk radio. I watch cable and listen to talk radio, a creature of habit. Of the three former local newspaper employees, only one still subscribes to a local newspaper. Two get the Wall Street Journal.

We all appreciate much of what Donald Trump has accomplished, but wish he would quit giving the Democrats so much ammunition with his tweets. Supporters like us deserve a break. None of us can imagine a President Joe Biden, because he’s so liberal, and because we see evidence of getting older in Joe, things we see in ourselves, memories that aren’t as sharp as the once were, gaits that aren’t as quick, words that don’t come easily anymore.

A steak dinner on the porch, some beer and hours of conversation take their toll.

As I head off to bed, they’re still going strong out on the porch, turning their attention to religion.

A porch. A campfire. Three old friends chewing the fat.

As the kids say nowadays, “Perfect.”

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Dave Simpson: Getting Cold Feet Over The Debates

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

OLD NORMAL: The one thing you almost always hear in the endless political debate in this country is the need for a “national dialog.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time some pundit, politician or activist called for a “national discussion” of this or that societal challenge, as if we weren’t already talking problems to death. As if pundits, politicians and activists don’t get paid plenty for talking problems to death.

It’s like that line from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” On the subject of Butch talking, Sundance says, “That’s what your good at, Butch!”

And yet, in what was arguably the greatest American achievement of my lifetime – putting men on the moon – it started with a challenge from President Kennedy, followed by a decade of calculations, invention, determination, and some tragedy. They didn’t talk it to death. They just did it.

It was only after they got to the moon that the politicians talked it to death, bent on spending the money back here on Earth. (And how did that work out?)

We fought this country’s bloodiest war over slavery. In 1964 and ’65, with the help of Republicans – who are now routinely vilified as racist – our country passed historic civil rights and voting rights legislation. Affirmative action programs were put in place.

And yet we’re now told by The New York Times that the very foundation of our country is racist. “Systemic racism” is the new blanket slur.

The cop who killed George Floyd is charged with second-degree murder. The cop who shot and killed a fleeing man in Georgia is charged with first-degree murder, and could face the death penalty. What’s left to discuss? Summary execution of cops who are accused?

But like Sundance says, talking is what politicians, pundits and activists are good at, so we need another serious discussion to begin, yet another national dialog. When was the last time a national dialog solved anything?

As the old saying goes, “Money talks. Bull… (let’s just leave it at bull) walks.”

The one thing that never seems to spark a meaningful national dialog is the huge debt we have heaped on our kids and grand kids. The main difference between our spendthrift political parties today is whether to add another $1 trillion to our debt, or $3 trillion.

Some difference.

I didn’t think I’d ever hear the number $1 trillion described as not nearly enough. Until now.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that national dialog.

NEW NORMAL: The very essence of a sharp national dialog is the presidential debate.

And yet, we’re hearing Democrats say that Joe Biden should not debate President Trump. Joe Lockhart, President Clinton’s former press secretary, said last week that Biden absolutely should not debate. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says Biden should only debate if Trump first releases his tax records, and the debate is monitored by “fact checkers.” Writer Elizabeth Drew and comedian Jimmy Fallon joined the don’t debate chorus this week.

Anyone who has seen Biden recently knows, however, the reason he will have his hands full in a debate. He can’t string two sentences together without faltering or committing an embarrassing gaff.

Simply put, Trump would be on him like a duck on a June bug.

The sad fact is that Biden – who ate vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan alive in their 2012 debate, which pundit Britt Hume said was the most “disrespectful” debate performance he had ever seen – is not nearly as articulate as he once was. Biden was all over Ryan in that debate, repeatedly demanding, “C’mon man!” that anyone could oppose him and Barack Obama.

It’s not an ageist slur to recognize that Biden now has trouble expressing himself. It’s obvious.

But some of the very folks who normally want a national dialog now oppose debates.

As the saying goes, “They can argue it flat, and they can argue it round.”

AND LASTLY: I can’t imagine Democrats – who hate the president with an intensity that’s enough to blow your hat in the creek – will allow Trump to beat them twice.

They’ll use any and all means to beat him. Count on it.

Katie bar the door.

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Dave Simpson: Coin Shortage: Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

It was at a sandwich shop this week that the guy behind the counter asked if I minded if my change wasn’t quite exact, due to the current shortage of coins.

I resisted the urge to argue – we were both wearing masks and I get a little dizzy from oxygen deprivation – even though I’m one of those guys who picks up pennies I find in parking lots, and who is uncomfortable with those little dishes full of free pennies that clerks use to make change

When a clerk gives me a penny or two to make the change easier, I go out to my pickup and scrounge around for loose change, so I can go back in and replace the penny or two, and pay for what I buy.

The way I see it, if you get casual about pennies, then nickels, dimes and quarters are next, and before you know it, fiscal discipline breaks down, and pretty soon our country is $25 trillion in debt. (Oh, wait, I guess that’s already happened, and the big debate in Washington right now is whether or not to add another $1 trillion to that debt, or $3 trillion. My mistake.)

We should have seen this coin shortage coming.

Several years ago, my bank – Wells Fargo – took out the coin counting machines. I said to a teller, “I guess you guys aren’t in the money business anymore. Where do we go now if banks are above counting the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that make up dollars?”

It was pointed out to me, however, that this teller didn’t make the decision to rip out the coin counting machines. Decisions like that are made much higher up, by the geniuses who have been running Wells Fargo for some time now. It was the higher ups that decided they were way too important to waste time on the jar of coins that fills up on my dresser.

The teller told me I could wrap my coins myself, and bring the rolls of coins into the bank, and they would redeem them for dollars. She gave me a hand full of free wrappers.

So after that, I spent my winter evenings wrapping coins. (It’s not much of a hobby.)

Apparently, Wells Fargo wasn’t worried that I might short them a penny or two, or give them a roll of quarters with one less than required, because they always redeemed my rolls of coins without question. And here I thought bankers were picky about stuff like that. Apparently this new breed of bankers isn’t into bending down to pick up stray pennies in the parking lot.

That went on for a couple years, with me bringing in my coin bag full of wrapped coins every three or four months, and leaving with between $30 and $40 in dollars, plus a few coins to get me started on the next jar of change.

Then along came Covid-19, and a big sign was posted on the front door of our branch bank, saying someone had contracted the virus, so they had to close the lobby. Well, OK, I can go to the drive-up windows.

That went fine until my jar of coins overflowed, and it was obvious that I couldn’t load my rolls of coins into the pneumatic tube system that connects you to the tellers at the drive-up windows.

Put five rolls of heavy quarters in that system and they’ll have to call a plumber to fish the cylinder out of the innards of the drive-up.

So, my only alternative now is to take my coins to the grocery store, where they CHARGE you to take your change.

I don’t think so, Bullwinkle.

The wonder of it is we didn’t see this coming. But then, that’s the nature of this crisis. It’s full of results we should have seen coming. Close businesses and the economy tanks and unemployment goes through the roof. Surprise! Pay people more in unemployment than they make working and they won’t come back to work. Surprise!

Our clueless response to things we should have seen coming brings to mind another famous quote from Gomer:

“Shazam!”

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Dave Simpson: Up Where Distancing Is No Problem

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Nice to know that 2020 isn’t nearly as rotten a year if we can just get far enough away from members of our own species.

Twenty miles up a rough dirt road, the final five miles steep and full of potholes, is far enough. Social distancing is the order of the day up here at 9,600 feet elevation, and you’d have to work hard to get within 600 feet of someone, much less six feet.

Not long ago, a lady who was upset about something I wrote sent an email saying I should come up here to my cabin, not bring any writing materials, and NEVER COME BACK. (Helpful suggestions like that come with the territory.)

If you can avoid the temptation to tune in the news on the radio, you can spend an entire day not thinking about whether or not masks work against Covid-19, about kneeling athletes, about Portland, Ore., or about the looming presidential election.

Maybe they’ll have things worked out by the time the snow flies and cabin season is over. But I doubt it.

Keeping the radio turned off is particularly important because the only news that comes in clearly in the morning is National Public Radio, where they’ve given up any semblance of impartiality. It’s non-stop Trump-is-a-dope-and-despot coverage, all day, every day. I’ve considered using my radio for target practice.

Podcasts can save the day. My favorite so far is a solid hour of a calmly gurgling mountain stream.

But, on to the not-so-bad news of 2020 up here where the buses don’t run:

The mosquitoes haven’t been nearly as bad as usual, probably because the standing water disappeared more quickly than usual. Mosquitoes were a real issue 35 years ago when we were horsing around logs to build the cabin, and we returned to town Sunday afternoons covered in sweat and layers of mosquito repellent.

I remember looking down at a stick of butter on the picnic table and seeing half a dozen mosquitoes mired in the sticky butter. Nothing like a little extra protein on your slice of toast.

Mosquito technology has improved over the years, and a spray or two of Deet, and burning a Pic coil in the evening seems to keep the rascals at bay, at least this year. And for the last three years I’ve hung something called “Mosquito Eradicators” in trees on either side of the porch, and they seem to help.

Back in the 90s we saw a lot more hummingbirds at my feeders. I have a  photo from back then of more than a dozen hovering around a feeder. But in recent years there haven’t been nearly as many. Four is the most I’ve counted this year.

There’s one hummingbird that seems to be in charge of running off the other three. A rust and red colored beauty, he terrorizes the other hummingbirds, even though there’s plenty for everyone at my feeders.

Maybe hummingbirds are selfish, and the mean bird is just protecting what he considers his valuable assets. Even in the animal kingdom, we apparently can’t all just get along.

I heard a bird expert say on TV that red dye in the nectar does not attract more hummingbirds. Tell that to the birds I see trying to feed at the red Coleman lanterns hanging from my porch rafters. I always put red food coloring in my feeder nectar.

Last year I spotted several nice bucks on my little acre of forest, but so far this year I’ve seen just one doe. I spotted a moose calf on the road coming up a couple weeks ago, and if there’s more leg in any animal short of a giraffe, I don’t know what it is.

Bark beetles wiped out thousands of our trees 11 years ago, and one neighbor cried as the dead trees surrounding her cabin were cut down. We cut down 65 on my place, and I’ve spent the last 11 years cleaning up the forest floor.

The good news is that the new trees that have come up are now as tall as I am, enjoying the newfound sunlight.

Nature has a way of dealing with a crisis.

(I’m not sure it works that way in town.)

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: The NFL – Taking A Walk, As They Take A Knee

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Who cares what a pro football team’s nickname is if we have to sit through millionaire players and coaches taking a knee during the national anthem to show their contempt for our country?

Why would I care what they call a team if its members have such a low opinion of the country I love?

I was a Broncos fan for decades. But this is it for me. I’m finished. Done with football. All it is today is another heaping, steaming helping of political correctness, wokeness, and angry grievances. Brain injuries. Boring contract issues.  And anger for the country that made it possible for so many to become so vastly wealthy, so successful.

And apparently way too big for their britches.

No thanks. I’ll clean my garage on Sunday afternoons from now on. The library in our town is open on Sundays, so there’s that, too. Or maybe while they’re taking a knee, I’ll be taking a walk.

To Hell with all of them.

For the record, I don’t care if – as the woke people insist on saying – “the Washington football team” (instead of what we used to call the Washington Redskins) changes it’s name to the Washington Walleyes. Although in today’s ultra-sensitive environment, who knows if a reference to a fine-tasting freshwater fish might offend someone, somewhere, someday, and trigger some snowflake.

The late, great Washington columnist Charles Krauthammer once wrote that while many die-hard fans wanted to keep the nickname Redskins, words evolve. And since the choice of a nickname for a sports team does not rate high on issues of cosmic importance, the nickname should probably be changed in deference to the evolving nature of language. It was a reasonable opinion. It was the sport he enjoyed, not the nickname, so make the change. He preferred “Skins.”

The problem today, however, is the larger issue of disparaging our country at the beginning of games by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. According to news reports, a song considered the Black national anthem will be played at the start of the first two games of the season (if there is a season), then the Star Spangled Banner will be played, during which players and coaches may well take a knee, apparently to show their solidarity in not honoring our country.

Who would ever have thought that a hero like Drew Brees would have to apologize for saying he would never dishonor the flag and the country that his grandfathers fought to defend in World War II? How on earth could that be deemed so outrageous that Brees would be browbeaten and berated into issuing repeated apologies?

But, that’s what happened.

And who would have expected Bret Favre to liken pioneer anthem kneeler Colin Kaepernick, known to wear socks depicting police officers as pigs, to Pat Tillman, who gave up a career in the NFL to enlist in the Army, and died fighting for his country? Really, Brett? He later backed off from that stupid opinion, after many were justifiably outraged. 

The football coach of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys was pictured wearing a t-shirt showing the name of a conservative news site. A player expressed outrage. And the coach gave up over a million dollars in annual salary to try to make amends. 

And how about the gutless NFL owners, who own teams in a country that is nuts about football, but can’t summon up the spine to defend the economic system that made them all so fabulously wealthy. Or to speak up for the vast majority of the hard-working police officers who patrol our streets. Or for the working-class guy who just wants to watch football on a weekend afternoon without having his nose rubbed in ever more political correctness, smarmy insufferable wokeness, and contempt for the country he loves. 

The problem is that pro football is confusing entertainment with just another truckload of seething, hateful controversy, in a world already chock full of hatred. And it’s just as bad in basketball, where they’re planning to wear protest slogans on the back of their jerseys.

This is entertainment?

No thanks.

I’m done.

I’ve been putting off cleaning the garage for years.

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Dave Simpson: Behold, The Kitchen-Table Haircut

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

It’s like getting a haircut from Nurse Ratched.

Maybe you remember Nurse Ratched from the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and her look of icy disapproval. She was perfectly willing to recommend shock therapy to get a patient’s ducks in a row.

My wife worked for years as an emergency room nurse, then went back to school and became a nurse practitioner. For a few years during her long career, she worked on a psych ward.

So she’s pretty much seen it all, and participated in much of it. (She even likes that show “Dr. Pimple Popper,” if you can imagine that.)

So, she’s not about to be intimidated by the small matter of cutting my hair. And she likes saving the $11 that a geezer haircut costs at the place I used to go. When the coronavirus hit, we had no alternative but to have her cut my hair at the kitchen table.

These days, you can get a barber shop haircut again, but only if you “sign in on line” with your electronic gizmo of choice, which is a real turnoff for guys like me. So the other night I got my second kitchen-table haircut of the pandemic.

Some amazing things have happened at our kitchen table. In Nebraska, we had friends with four growing sons, a dad who was a contractor, sky-high insurance deductibles, and nose-bleed-sized premiums, thanks to Obamacare.

More than once my wife sewed up the dad’s fingers at our kitchen table, to avoid a costly visit to the emergency room. (Don’t tell that family that Obamacare is popular. They don’t agree.)

One time in Illinois, my wife cut a cyst out of my back, while I sat at the kitchen table and the kids watched with wide eyes. “GROSS!” they said. “I think I’m going to THROW UP. Gag me with spoon!”

When she got it out, she proudly held it up with her tweezers like a dissected frog heart in biology class. Right there at our kitchen table. (The experience must not have been too traumatic for our daughter, who went on to become a physician assistant.)

Nurse Ratched drained a couple Boone and Crockett-sized “lipomas” on our old black Lab Woody in our kitchen, and never batted an eye. I couldn’t watch.

So, mere haircuts are a piece of cake.

I will say, however, that she lacks the gentle manner of Floyd the Barber from the old “Andy Griffith Show.” Floyd had a light touch with his comb in one hand, his scissors in the other, and his pinky fingers held high as he gently moved his customer’s noggin around during a trim.

My wife’s touch is much more, shall we say, direct, as she shoves my head up, down, to the right, to the left, like she’s inspecting a questionable cantaloupe at Walmart.

“Put your head up!” she demands, as if she’s not about to put up with much more of this foolishness.

She’s been getting the job done with a little rechargeable beard trimmer, but it frequently gets bogged down in the thick weeds at the back of my head, sometimes pulling my hair. But I don’t complain. Because you don’t mess with Nurse Ratched.

“Oops!” she said the other night, as she trimmed the hair around the back of my neck, and mistakenly cut a big divot. “Oops” is something you don’t want to hear from your surgeon, your dentist, or your barber, but she reassured me that “in a couple days you won’t be able to see that at all.”

Easy for her to say.

The next day, she showed the divot to our son, and they both got a pretty good laugh. He said, “in a couple WEEKS you don’t be able to see that.”

All things considered, these kitchen table haircuts aren’t nearly as bad as having a bloody cyst cut out of your back, and I’m likely to keep getting them until the virus goes away.

She says she ought to get paid, and receive a nice tip as well.

Nurse Ratched isn’t getting a tip, however, until she stops shoving my head around like a questionable cantaloupe at Walmart.

Dave Simpson: Remember, Always Lie to Pollsters

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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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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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Dave Simpson: Don’t Paint All Cops With Same Brush

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By Dave Simpson. Columnist, Cowboy State Daily

Years ago, a beefy police dispatcher not so patiently explained to me the difference between a robbery and a burglary.

I was a beginning reporter, and had mistakenly called a burglary a robbery. In print.

A robbery, he explained, is when you threaten someone to steal something. A burglary is when you take something when they aren’t around. Big difference.

I never made that mistake again.

As a newsman, I’ve had plenty of dealings with police officers and deputies over the years.

– A quiet, sincere deputy I spoke to many times – as I recall he grew up on a local ranch – died in a small plane crash, searching for a snowmobiler lost in the mountains. The snowmobiler was later found unhurt, but the deputy and the pilot died in the search.

– In another town, a police chief took a dislike to our paper, and started calling everyone arrested John Doe, Mary Doe, Bob Doe, to be difficult. So we put the “Doe Report” on the front page of the paper each day, reporting on the ongoing woes of the Doe family. After a week of ridicule, the chief went back to releasing real names.

– Also in that town, a police officer who was on the school board, tired of what he considered unfair coverage in the newspaper, wore his bulletproof vest, on the outside of his shirt, to a meeting. To make a point. (Sensitive guy.)

– At the crash of a private airplane up in the mountains, I saw Highway Patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies loading body parts into body bags. Imagine your job including that task.

– A justice of the peace in one town had an ongoing feud with the sheriff, accusing the sheriff of making faces at him from the back of the courtroom. The sheriff said I should sit in on some court sessions to see the best show in town.

So I did. And one day, that justice of the peace allowed a state legislator to plead guilty, in private, to drunk driving. In the hallway afterwards, I repeatedly asked the justice of the peace why the plea was taken behind closed doors.

“Arrest that man!” the JP said to a a sheriff’s deputy, pointing at me. “I don’t see anybody,” replied the smiling deputy. Word that the JP tried to arrest a reporter quickly spread around the courthouse. When I got upstairs to the district court, the District Judge laughed and said if they had arrested me, he would have put me “on work release.”

– Once, when my brother was overdue getting to our house in Illinois from Ohio in a snowstorm, a friend who was the former police chief offered to get in his car and help search for him. (Turned out my brother was OK.) When I moved away, that former chief gave me a framed copy of Voltaire’s quote, “I may disagree with what you say, but shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.”

– A veteran police officer in Illinois was part of my coffee group at a place called “Common Grounds.” He liked the fact that I referred to him as “a friend who is a cop,” instead of “a cop friend.”

A talented woodworker, he had a beautifully restored 1950s-era pickup truck, and he loved to ride his Harley. When I moved from Illinois to Nebraska, he pulled a trailer loaded with my stuff, then helped me unload.

He told me once that he never had to draw his sidearm in all his years on the job.

I’ve seen plenty of law enforcement folks over the years – some great guys, some ornery, a whiner or two, a couple heroes, and one who drove 1,600 miles round trip to help me move.

Point is, making sweeping generalizations about “all cops” is just as wrong as lumping peaceful demonstrators with looters.

I’d bet that every officer mentioned in this column is appalled by that calmly homicidal cop in Minneapolis who choked the life out of George Floyd.

Some guys just shouldn’t be cops, but it’s my experience that those cases are exceedingly rare.

I know I never ran into one.

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Dave Simpson: Digital News: We’re Losing Plenty In This Process

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Imagine a digital news source that would tell you what happened at your city council’s Tuesday evening meeting first thing Wednesday morning.

Every time they met, not just when some big issue comes up.

Imagine 800, maybe 1,000 words letting you know what the most important action taken was, then going down the list of lesser items on their agenda. What council members had to say, how they voted, and who missed the meeting would all be right there in the story.

Imagine a digital news source that would include a list of calls answered by your police department and sheriff’s office, and what the problem was.

Imagine that this news source would take the time, every day, to go to the courthouse, and prepare a long list of property exchanges, marriage licenses issued, charges filed by the prosecutor, and court actions. Over at city hall, a list of calls answered by the fire department and city ambulances would be jotted down, and listed in this digital news source.

Then, this news source would also have a list of people (if they chose to be listed) admitted to the hospital, and births at the hospital. If you spotted a friend’s name, you could send flowers, or call and ask if they would like you to check on their house while they are in the hospital.

Now, let’s say your school board wants to raise property taxes, but your tax bill is so full of incomprehensible words like “mils” and “multipliers” and “extensions” that you don’t know what the ding-dong heck is going on. Let’s say your digital news source had a person on staff who could write a story explaining it, so you know what effect this would have on your house payment. 

Let’s say the local Weed and Pest Board wants to add your favorite plant to the list of noxious weeds that you’re responsible for eradicating. You don’t even know where that board meets, but you want to protect your beloved Russian olives. Let’s say that handy news source gets wind of the change, and does a story all about it.

Let’s say that local college kids propose a “pub crawl” from bar to bar for next weekend, and the city manager figures that a 100-pound coed will be dead halfway through the crawl if she drinks a drink at every stop. The manager gets a reporter to do a story, and the pub crawl is canceled. And you knew all about it, because you read about it right on your cell phone or other device.

Let’s say your kids finished college and left boxes of junk from their old dorm rooms in your garage, and you’ve been stumbling over them for years. You decide to have a garage sale and sell their futons, beer signs and lava lamps, and a little ad in this news source, for not much money, ensures a nice crowd on Saturday morning. Simple. Easy.

Now, here’s the hard part. This digital local news source attracts young people fresh out of college, willing to work for minimum wage if necessary, with grand hopes of moving up in the news business. They are motivated to do some good stories to show prospective employers at the next step up on the career ladder. They work hard, then move on.

Imagine all that stuff, plus a nice write-up when your daughter has a big wedding in town with all your friends and neighbors in attendance.

Back to the real world.

Our local paper canceled its Tuesday edition last month, cutting costs to survive dwindling revenues and the national move from the printed page to digital news sources. A couple years ago they canceled their Monday edition. It has never been tougher to run a local newspaper.

Your coverage of local issues has never been more threatened.

I’m not suggesting that buggy whip companies should have survived Henry Ford’s mass production of automobiles. How we get our news has changed dramatically. New digital sources are showing up, and that’s reason for optimism.

They’ve got a long way to go, however, in providing the gritty local stuff we’ve been receiving from our local papers for decades.

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Dave Simpson: We’re Less Deplorable Than Before!

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Articulate Ball-of-Fire Presidential Candidate Joe Biden said this last week:

“There are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people…”

(This quote has to be accurate, because it appeared in The New York Times.)

Biden was addressing a group of democrats by video from his basement rumpus room, and he was surprisingly coherent.

(Forgive me, but this reminds me of a school superintendent I once encountered who said student achievement scores would improve if the town could just attract a better grade of parent. Smarter parents would translate to smarter kids, and better test scores. The town was unimpressed by his logic.)

As positive people, who turn frowns upside down, and insist on seeing glasses half full, it behooves us to see this as possible good news. Because it was just four years ago that Hillary Clinton, also running for president, estimated that half the people who supported her opponent Donald Trump – which would translate to 31.5 million voting Americans – were a “basket of deplorables.”

Whether or not this translates into meaningful progress depends on how you do the math.

If you take all the people in the United States, and apply Joe’s 10 percent number, that gives you 33 million of us who are “not very good people,” or just slightly more than Hillary’s estimate of how many lowlifes like us were in the basket of deplorables back in 2016. (Not good.)

At 15 percent of all the people in America, hard-charging Joe figures that 49.5 million of us are “not very good people.” (Even worse.) This would mean that more of us had oozed to the deplorable side of the political spectrum in a mere 3.5 years, which is no doubt Donald Trump’s fault, because, well, everything is, darn him.

According to this way of looking at the world, a higher stock market and lower unemployment – until the big coronavirus home confinement hit – made us (yes, I proudly count myself as deplorable) even more deplorable than before, and more not very good people-ish.

However, if you never took a statistics class like I never took a statistics class, you know that as soon as you cite numbers like these, some smug statistics grad will tell you that you don’t know your caboose from a hole in the ground.

So, let’s look deeper.

Hillary beat Trump in the popular vote by 3 million votes, meaning that a total of about 128 million people voted in 2016. (That factors out those who are not yet old enough to vote, and who haven’t had time to become deplorable yet, under the influence, no doubt, of their deplorable parents.)

Factor Joe’s 10 percent “not very good people” into that, and you come up with a mere 12.6 million of us who are not very good people. Bump it up to 15 percent, and you still only have 19.2 million not very good people. This is progress, people.

Take the higher estimate of not very good people, compare it to Hillary’s 31.5 million deplorables, and we’re talking real, measurable improvement. Positively granular. Even under the highest estimate of not very good people, an impressive 12.3 million of us have somehow slithered out of the basket of deplorables. This is a 39 percent decrease in deplorableness, which is enough to make even statistics grads bark their approval.

(I used to say “gnarly, Dude” at moments like this, but my wife won’t let me say that anymore. Forget I said it.)

Apparently what makes us deplorable and not good people is our fondness for keeping our doctor if we like our doctor, keeping our insurance if we like our insurance, secure borders, an aversion to late-term abortions, not saddling our grand kids with huge, crippling debt, a general appreciation for capitalism over socialism, and a general belief that big government screws up more than it fixes. (As some say, government could “screw up a steel ball with a rubber hammer.”)

Shame on us for thinking crazy stuff like that. Despicable, huh?

The good news is that we may be appreciably less deplorable, even if our democrat friends are doing the math.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: No Frontier Days? Cowboy Up!

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist Cowboy State Daily

There’s gotta be a pony in this pile of manure…

That was the punchline from a Ronald Reagan story, about the couple with two sons, one a pessimist, the other an optimist.

“What should we give the boys for Christmas?” the wife asked. “It doesn’t matter what we give our little pessimist,” the husband replied. “He won’t be happy with anything. But let’s give our little optimist a pile of horse manure. He’ll figure there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.”

(I miss Reagan, don’t you? Remember when he was pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey, and Sam Donaldson shouted a question at the president? The turkey kicked up a fuss, and Reagan turned to the bird and said, “That’s tellin’ him, boy!”)

(Remember when Reagan was touting the virtues of the Individual Retirement Account? He cited Moses, who lived 600 years, and said, “Imagine what he could have accumulated in his IRA!”)

We learned last week that the biggest event of the year in our town – Frontier Days, when 500,000 people come to a city of 60,000 – is canceled this year. That’s because you can hardly pack the town full of tourists for rodeos, concerts, multiple parades and free pancake breakfasts with everyone wearing pancake-blocking masks, and staying six feet away from each other. How do you whoop it up at a time like this?

A few years ago, I was getting an oil change downtown. The manager lamented the onset of Frontier Days.

“For the next week,” he said, “if it isn’t a parade blocking traffic, it’s a free pancake breakfast.”

That’s our town, but just about every town has one. In Central Illinois, Pekin has the Marigold Festival, because that was hometown hero Everett Dirksen’s favorite flower. (If that isn’t enough to make you put on your dancing shoes, I don’t know what is.)  In Mattoon (pronounced MAT-oon), Illinois, it was (no kidding) the Bagel Festival, because Lenders baked a lot of bagels there.

In our favorite town in Wisconsin, they had a fall festival in which a helicopter swooped over the main intersection, dropping hundreds of ping pong balls on the crowd. Elbow your friends and neighbors out of the way, stomp them if necessary, and you might get a ball with a cash prize printed on it.

Standing in a long line, sweating in the heat and humidity, waiting for your chance to score a butterfly pork chop, or a roasted turkey leg, was never my idea of fun. Local festivals tended to drive me out of town, and I’m told that a lot of Cheyenne residents plan their out-of-town vacations to coincide with Frontier Days. (I tend to come down from the mountains for a day or two, just to see the Air Force Thunderbirds buzzing the town.)

Summer will be a more subtle pleasure this year, one of the few positive aspects of the long coronavirus lockdown, and I hope the folks who love standing in long lines, sweating, waiting for a butterfly pork chop, can adapt.

Better than any local festival I ever attended is the smell, on a summer afternoon, of sagebrush after a rain. It’s the most wonderful smell you can imagine, and I always stop the truck, roll down the windows, and breathe it in for a while. There’s nothing like it, and if you don’t agree, you need to take a long, hard look at your priorities, young fella.

Years ago, my father had a big garden in Wisconsin. On vacation, I could send my son out behind the house with a steak knife, to cut a handful of asparagus, right out of the ground, for dinner. In the morning, we could pick fresh raspberries and put them on our bowls of cereal.

(My father, in retirement, once told me, “This is the good life,” and he was right.)

A crackling campfire high in the Rockies, with the Milky Way in all it’s glory above, is enough to make a guy sit back and wonder what the heck this life deal is all about, anyway.

There’s a pony in this 2020 pile of manure, if we look hard enough.

All we need to do is cowboy up.

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Dave Simpson: That ‘Powerful Odor Of Mendacity’, Dispatches From the New Abnormal

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

– Looks to me like our progressive friends – who were never much impressed by a growing economy, record low unemployment, and a Dow Industrial Average that almost reached 30,000 – are suddenly showing interest in the economy, now that the coronavirus has thrown a monkey wrench into the works.

If the economy was still as strong as it was as recently as February, the prevailing argument on the left would be that it’s just an extension of the great work of Barack Obama and his ball-of-fire VP Joe.

But, now that we’ve gone through some rough months, it’s all Donald Trump’s fault, as if he cooked up the coronavirus on a hot plate in the White House basement.

Go figure.

– Call me greedy and selfish if you will, but I’ve always thought it is preferable for me to be conservative with your money, than for you to be liberal with my money.

– Fox reporter Griff Jenkins was doing a story about the dilemma faced by politicians who want to keep the economy shut down despite the urgent need of Americans to get back to normal. He said if these lawmakers support staying locked down, they are “shooting themselves in the foot to spite their face” with the voters.

(A vastly mixed metaphor is a much-needed moment of levity these days, and I think the waggish Jenkins did it on purpose.)

– In the excellent book “First Man,” about the Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969, a NASA official said going to the moon made other countries want to be like the United States. Such a feat spoke volumes about our nation, and the amazing things we could accomplish.

Contrast that with the difficulties experienced over recent weeks in simply distributing much-needed (borrowed) money to people and businesses after our politicians shut the economy down, resulting in massive layoffs.

It turns out that, far from the accomplishments of previous generations, our politicians and massive bureaucracy can’t even GIVE AWAY MONEY in an effective manner. We can’t even blow through trillions without turning the recipients against us.

“What took you so long?” is about all the reaction you hear.

And these are the people, and the bureaucracy, that some are hell bent to put in charge of our health care.

It reminds me of a line by the great Merle Haggard:

“Stop rollin’ downhill like a snowball headed for hell.”

– Shouldn’t we all laugh out loud when spendthrift politicians – on both the right and the left, although the ones on the left are less apologetic about it – nevertheless say they think government ought to live on a budget, like the rest of us, and that someday real soon, any day now, they’re going to get serious about reducing our huge debt?

Don’t we owe it to our kids and grand kids to laugh out loud when politicians say that?

It brings to mind a line from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” when the ailing Big Daddy says this:

“There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity.”

– If that dynamic, hard-charging Joe “C’mon Man!” Biden gets elected in November, imagine the sea change we will see in the news media.

The vast majority in the news biz would be transformed overnight from Trump-hating Dobermans, spotting every conceivable flaw in Trump and rubbing our noses in them, to fawning lapdogs getting thrills up their hind legs at every goofball liberal give-away scheme that Biden and his squad of wild-eyed revolutionaries can come up with.

(If Biden gets elected, bury your life savings out in the back yard, in coffee cans.)

– There is, however, some good news to report.

The American people, indomitable and resourceful in times of adversity, are clearing grocery shelves of margarita mix, according to east coast grocer Stew Leonard, Jr. He said last weekend they can’t keep the stuff in stock.

And, I have it from a reliable source (Facebook, so it has to be true) that there’s a new treat this year at summer campfires:

S’Mores made with bacon, instead of graham crackers.

Despite it all, is this a great country, or what?

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Temperatures Soaring Over Masks

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

TOGETHERNESS: An editorial in our local paper last week said failing to wear a mask in public “reeks of selfishness and lack of compassion.”

Reeks!

This week in the paper, a letter writer gave a columnist and other letter writers the dickens for suggesting that masks are optional. Such opinions are “bringing together a lack of character with a selfish lack of interest in the welfare of ” others. People like that are  “full of (reference alluding to raw sewage).” 

People who don’t wear masks, the letter continued, “suffer from a demagnatized moral compass. Giving two whoops in hell for other people” is beyond them.

On the facing page, an unnamed emailer (back in my editing days, people had to sign their letters) unloaded on a letter writer who does not wear a mask:

“People with your attitude are just as irresponsible and self-absorbed as most 16-year-old boys. … While you are out there socializing at the pub or restaurant or library because you are immortal, you may just get COVID-19 and then infect a bunch of other people. If that happens, I hope your conscience condemns you to a life in Purgatory.”

Purgatory! (Better than Hell, I guess.) Folks reeking of selfishness. Our mask-less brothers and sisters “full of… sewage.”

Are you sure we’re all in this together, like we keep hearing?

Even the ones headed for Purgatory with demagnatized moral compasses?

I WEAR ONE: Trying to avoid  Purgatory, or worse, I wear a mask I found in the garage from my drywall sanding days. It’s kind of ratty, and I can’t wear my glasses when I use it because they fog up. So I can’t read small print when I shop, and I tend to run into posts. 

I buy the argument that I’m protecting others from anything I might have picked up. But I’m not into scolding those who disagree.

Where I live, it’s about half people wearing masks at Walmart, and half not. Fewer masks at the home improvement store. So if you wanted to pick fights with people not wearing masks, you could be fighting all the time.

I hope someday soon masks with our favorite sports teams, university mascots, or preferred brand of pickup trucks become available. I’ll need a Ford Ranger mask before this is over.

FURIOUS: I remember the days when politicians were sheepish about our national debt. They promised to “get control of spending” every time they raised the debt limit. 

Ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one. A knee-slapper.

Today, however, when we have already spent trillions in borrowed money to battle this virus, and Democrats want to spend another $3 trillion in borrowed money, some politicians are ANGRY at anyone who suggests not heaping on more debt.  

Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, railed on the floor of the House last week:

“Are you KIDDING ME?” he yelled at Republican House members, waving his arms in fury. “Where do you guys LIVE? Food lines at our food banks AROUND THE BLOCK? In the United States of AMERICA?”

It’s too much to expect, I guess, that politicians who have already racked up $25 trillion in debt would suddenly understand how a checkbook works, and stop spending when the money runs out. That’s beyond them.

A cynic once asked why I care about the debt. 

“We’ll be dead before the day of reckoning arrives,” he said.

I can’t look my little grand daughter in the eye, however, and buy that argument.

HO HUM: Another day, another investigation of the president, this time for firing an inspector general late on a Friday. You could get worried about this, if it weren’t just the latest in four years of steady attacks on anything the guy we elected president says or does. Even the pills he takes.

This could be different, I guess. Maybe they’ll get him, this time.

Maybe this time, Ralphie gets his BB gun for Christmas.

A THEORY: I suspect that some of my Democrat friends want this country shut down all the way to election day, after which they figure that articulate ball of fire Joe Biden will step in and solve all our problems.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: For This Nomad, The Long Trek Is Over

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist, Cowboy State Daily

From an old bench at the edge of our place east of Cheyenne, you can watch freight trains fight their way over Archer Hill, making their way east and west on the Union Pacific Railroad.

Either way, the locomotives work hard to put that hill behind them. You can hear them throttle back once the hill is crested.

I take the dog out there every morning, and again every afternoon. He loves chasing rabbits, while I marvel at the sound and the feel of 4,500-horsepower locomotives – sometimes five, six, seven of them in a row – hauling the mile and a half-long trains that keep America supplied with new cars, lumber, frozen food, coal, grain, oil, fruit – everything you can imagine. A woman in North Platte once said the sound of locomotive whistles is the sound of America thriving.

Just beyond the tracks is Interstate-80, and from our old bench you can see the cars and trucks heading east and west on that vital American artery as well.

For years, long before we owned our place here, in the first week of August I would be in one of those cars heading west on I-80, along with one of my kids, unaware that we were passing by land that would someday become our home. On the way west, it was always with intense anticipation of two weeks in the mountains.

When my son was finally old enough to “go to the cabin with dad,” he was so excited that he slept the night before we left Illinois in his t-shirt, cargo shorts, and little hiking boots, so there wouldn’t be any chance of being left behind. It was that kind of family ritual.

The trips were always timed to coincide with the end of mosquito season, after one cold night wiped out the swarm, and the perfect warm days of August in the mountains arrived. They don’t last long. It can snow after Labor Day.

After our two weeks in the mountains, we would get up at 4 a.m., board up the cabin, and around breakfast time we would be one of the cars headed east on I-80, visible from land that would years later become our home, hurrying back to Illinois. There wasn’t much eager anticipation expressed on the trips back home.

(One year, heading back east, we stopped at a convenience store in Cheyenne, and my son bought Mountain Dew, Slim Jims, and “Pop Rocks” candy. The clerk looked at me like the world’s worst dad, letting his kid have such a breakfast. But we’d been up since 4, and on the road for hours. It was lunch for us.)

Our home in Illinois turned out to be a great place to raise a family. We still have good friends there, friends who would never consider living anywhere else. A friend who served as mayor of our town said once the “taproot” was set, folks tended to stay, and grow to love the place.

But, while our kids consider that town their hometown, we were nomads, going wherever my boss told me to go. It was the job that was most important, the career, and whether it was Wyoming, Colorado or Illinois, when the boss said go, we lined up the moving van. At one point we owned houses in all three of those states, and it was tough, but we never missed a house payment on any of them.

Over those years, I met folks who were the opposite side of the coin. They loved where they lived, and wouldn’t let any job or opportunity take them away. I envied them. They had a peace of mind about their surroundings that fly-by-nighters like us seldom experienced. I’m still not sure which side of that coin – to favor place or opportunity – is right or wrong.

It took many years before we were able to pack up our stuff and get back to the place we always liked best, where the dog and I now take our walks every morning and afternoon.

From my worn bench, as I watch the cars and trains go by, I’m thankful that this old nomad finally found his home.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: It’s Almost Time To Get Out of Dodge

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If ever there was a summer to head for the hills, this is it.

Where I go in the summer – way up in the mountains, just shy of 10,000 feet – folks prefer to stay six feet away from each other, if not more.  We’re not huggers. And you’d have to work hard to come up with a crowd of 10 people or more.

This will be my 39th year up there, in a small log cabin that an old college roommate and I built with our bare hands, lots of sweat, and the smallest chainsaw Homelite ever built. (At $79, it was all I could afford.)

The place is 14 feet by 14 feet, because a 14-foot log was the longest two young guys with more muscle than sense could lift. The place became a lifetime project, and still isn’t finished.

Pretty soon, when the snow up there melts (last time I looked there was still six feet of snow on the ground), I’ll be leaving my in-town problems behind and heading for the simpler life.

And when my cabin season is over come September, I’m hoping the picture down here in town will be clearer.

Some issues I hope will be resolved by then:

– My inalienable right to get a haircut has only this week been restored by our governor (just in time to avoid a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet). But I still can’t walk into our local McDonalds and enjoy a senior geezer discount cup of coffee.

 If someone told me a year ago that politicians could “close” an economy, I would have said, “no way!” We’re all scared of what this virus can do – especially to the over 65 crowd like me – but the notion of politicians forcing businesses (even churches!) to close would not have occurred to me. I didn’t think they had that much power.

– You can call people who want to get back to work impatient and ill-advised, I guess. But you’re wrong if you call them selfish, which I see in comments and social media posts. Getting back to work, earning a paycheck, taking care of your family and paying your bills can be called a lot of things, but selfish isn’t one of them. Being out of work now, after all, isn’t their fault.

If anyone is unreasonable in this equation, it’s those who demand that everyone see things the same, staying home, not making a living.

– Maybe by September we’ll know when you accumulate enough “anecdotes” that results aren’t “anecdotal” anymore. From what I can tell, the only way results aren’t anecdotal is if you set up a trial that takes months or years, hoodwink half the people into taking placebo sugar pills, and see if they don’t get better, while the people who took the actual pills do get better. (Sucks to be a placebo recipient.)

– As it stands now, that drug HCQ has it’s supporters, and some folks say it saved their lives. But it lost media favor when President You Know Who expressed optimism for it (an unpardonable sin). Then along came something called “Remdisivir,” which looks pretty good, except the president is hyping it now, so there must be something wrong with it, too. Drugs are partisan now, at least in the media, so the best advice is to be an Independent so you can take all the drugs.

– Could someone explain how “herd immunity” ever gets going if the herd is social distancing? If all the cows are six feet apart, or sheltering in place in their bovine basements, how does this herd immunity get any traction? Don’t we have to be a herd to get herd immunity?

– I’m betting we’ll have enough masks come September. I notice that “Shamwow Vince” – the funny, loud-talking guy who used to hawk car care sponges on TV – is back, selling some pretty nice looking face masks.

Is this a great country, or what?

– And finally, I notice that the governor of California has closed the beaches. If a governor can close the beaches, could a governor close the mountains?

I better get up there as soon as possible.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Trump Column Unleashes the Beast

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

We keep hearing that “we’re all in this together” in this crisis, (did you remember to wash your hands?), but that doesn’t mean we’re getting along very well.

First, an aside: About 30 years ago, an unhappy column reader invited me to take a dip in the local sewage lagoon. I taped that letter to the wall, a reminder that there are a lot of unhappy campers out there. I was also grudgingly amused by his creativity.

I was new to Illinois at the time, and another unhappy column customer dubbed me “the Big Wind from Wyoming.” One day a local business took $90,000 in annual advertising away from us, in the wake of our coverage of some controversial issues. Ouch. (It didn’t change our reporting.)

Another aside: A longtime friend who is liberal met me at a local bar in Casper, Wyo. – Frosties it was called, and it still exists – a few times back in the 1980s. We had a good time debating politics over pitchers of Coors. We liked each other – still do – even though he saw me as a money-grubbing Republican who would snatch porridge away from starving orphans, and I saw him as a wild-eyed Democrat who would pound hard-earned tax dollars down every crazy liberal rat hole he could find.

We laughed a lot on those occasions. I’m not sure that’s possible anymore. (Recently, when I asked for viewing suggestions, he came up with two Michael Moore movies, but did not include an “lol.” I did not respond with an “lol,” not wanting to press my luck in these contentious times. We do what we have to do to hang onto old friends.)

Which brings us to what I wrote last week in this space. I said that while I often wish Donald Trump would say things differently, avoiding his habit of walking into screaming buzz saw issues with the media and Democrats, I continue to support the job he has done as president. And I included the appraisal of my wife – a well-educated person – that Trump “has our back.”

She predicted, “You’re gonna get some flak over this one,” and once again she was right. (I hate it when she’s right.)

Most readers were supportive, saying they felt exactly the same way. Trump rambles, he blusters, he blowtorches reporters, and he sometimes gets carried away. But we support the results he has gotten, cutting regulations, appointing judges, and until recently, helping take the stock market all the way from 18,000 to almost 30,000. That’s good for our life savings.

The column reached a remarkable 2,549 people on Facebook [Simpson’s personal page], and was re-posted 34 times. Most were in agreement. I hope it’s taped to some refrigerator doors.

About a dozen didn’t like the column at all. While some were polite, asking what Trump had ever done to have my back, there was some amazing name calling. One dubbed me a “synaptic dendrite of the GOP” (smile when you call me that, mister), and called Dick Cheney “a war criminal.” He suggested I might drive one of those “coal roller” pickups that spew smoke. (Not true, Your Honor.)

Another person posted on Facebook that he would rather not respond to my “unbridled idiocy,” but wondered nonetheless why anyone could like Trump. He found my explanation lacking, and called Republicans “mouth breathers.” Another unhappy customer raised the ante, calling Republicans “booger eaters.” (This, from the folks who claim to have a corner on compassion, intellectual superiority, and articulate debate.)

Two called me both stupid and ignorant. I “disgusted” another.

One asked, “Isb you. a (blanking) idiot?” obviously so worked up that he botched the typing.

Answer: No, I isn’t.

Another unhappy column customer (hey, they’re FREE!) offered this: “If you can support him (Trump) and sleep at night, you have no moral compass.” To which my wife responded, “if you support the Democrats who murder full-term babies, I question YOUR moral compass.”

Feisty, ain’t she?

We may all be in this together, like everyone is saying. But don’t look for much love over there on the other side if you like the president.

The name calling is enough to blow your hat in the creek.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Why We Support Trump, In Four Words

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist for Cowboy State Daily

It’s not like we don’t see the humor in this.

And that’s what separates us from our liberal friends. (We have so many. And some seem so angry.)

Our liberal friends are mystified that we still like a president who sometimes rambles, who repeats himself, who often blusters, and who rips the hide off reporters. How could educated people like us, they wonder, like a president who has told us many times about that “perfect” call to the president of Ukraine?

At first, that one gave me pause. What is a “perfect” call? Did he get the phone number correct? Did he make all the points he wished to make? Were his parting words hopeful? What about that call was perfect?

I spent decades as an editor, and often wish I could fix something someone wrote. I cringe when a public official speaks awkwardly. I can almost always think of a better word or phrase. So supporting Donald Trump has been, well, a minefield. I avoid watching his press conferences, because I dread what his mortal enemies will make of every hyperbolic utterance, every awkward rejoinder, every word that seems an unfortunate choice.

“Oh gosh,” I think, “I wish he hadn’t said THAT! Imagine what Joe and Mika will make of THAT on ‘Morning Joe’ tomorrow.”

And they do, in full Trump Derangement Syndrome contempt.

After almost four years, however, we have decided that while we would almost always put things a bit differently, it was Donald Trump who was elected president, not us. And we have seen the humor in his hyperbolic interludes ever since.

“Did you call your brother back?” my wife will ask. I respond, “Yes. And it was a PERFECT call. Absolutely PERFECT. Couldn’t have been better in any way! One of the GREATEST CALLS ever made.” And we laugh at the oblique reference to our president, who often gets a little carried away, but whom we still like very much.

We have started to view people we don’t like as “TOTAL LOSERS, absolute DISASTERS,” who are probably “FAILING” and “CORRUPT.” We laugh at that, as well.

When I mow the lawn, I say I did a “TERRIFIC JOB, FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE.” When I barbecue burgers, they are the GREATEST hamburgers ever barbecued in the HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.

We’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of this, even as our liberal friends meticulously dissect the utterances of our president, examining every word under an electron microscope. And they are uniformly appalled, horrified. When you hate a guy enough, if he says “good morning,” you can read it as shocking lack of empathy for those poor souls who are not having a good morning.

Our president gives them countless things to get their guts in a knot over, every day, and make them sputter in disbelief at the uncouthness of the man. How dare such a person be our president?

The other day, my wife – who has more advanced degrees than you can shake a stick at – summed it up in a mere four words. We still like the man, despite the disbelief of our liberal friends, for one reason:

“He’s got our back,” she said.

Bingo!

He talks about American greatness at every opportunity. He’s an optimist. He’s determined to restart our shuttered economy. He stands by those who have saved their money so they can live the American dream. Despite relentless opposition, he gets things done. He helped make a massive run-up of the stock market happen, and promises to do it again. He put solid justices on the Supreme Court.

And he has cut federal regulations. (Can our liberal friends justify government declaring a creek and stock pond in our state “navigable waters,” and defend suing a rancher into near oblivion? Even liberals have to admit that previous administrations got carried away with regulations.)

And despite all the people who hate everything about him, he still seems to like the job.

Just about every day he makes us laugh, saying something we wish he hadn’t. Something no other president would have said.

But, after almost four years we remain sure of that one thing:

He’s got our back.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: When Hunkering Down Isn’t Enough

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

We’re a month into this Coronavirus imbroglio – probably the worst case of cabin fever we have ever suffered – and you have to wonder how long this can go on.

Some thoughts from solitary confinement:

– I live in one of the eight states that are not currently under “shelter in place” orders. The governor of Wyoming has urged us to stay home, but hasn’t ordered us to shelter in place. And he gets right testy when asked about it.

Reporters and many Democrats (they’ve got a lot in common) suspect we’re not doing our part. Why haven’t we joined the other 42 states, they ask, in issuing a shelter in place order? Our local paper ran a long editorial last Sunday, beseeching the governor to order us to shelter in place.

What are folks in those other states doing, however, that we’re not? Beats me.

Our schools are closed. The university is closed. Churches are closed. Restaurant dining areas are closed. Coffee shops are closed. Bars are closed. Exercise gyms are closed. The library is closed. Bank lobbies are closed. Barber shops are closed. Beauty shops are closed. You can’t even get a commemorative Coronavirus tattoo or piercing, because those joints are closed, too.

You can still go to the grocery store, but try finding a bottle of hand sanitizer.

I don’t know how to shelter in place any more than I’m already sheltering in place. I’m as hunkered as I can hunker.

Even rock star doctor Anthony Fauci said last week that folks in our state are doing a good job avoiding each other. (It’s easy. We have tons of distance, and people are scarce as hen’s teeth.)

So, what’s all this “shelter in place” fuss about?

– Speaking of rock stars, if the barber shops stay closed for much longer, I’m going to look like Meatloaf.

My wife cut our son’s hair, but he wears his hair like a recruit at basic training. Cutting his hair is about as complicated as mowing the lawn. She wanted to cut my hair, but I said, “Uh, no thanks.”

My father cut my hair when I was a kid, and whatever directions you gave him, you always got a crew cut. Every time. One time I said I wanted sideburns like Elvis, and he laughed out loud.

The barbershops better reopen before a man bun becomes an option.

– I’m wearing a mask when I’m at the grocery store. I get a little dizzy if I wear it too long, and my glasses fog up. (In scuba diving, they teach you to spit in your mask to keep it from fogging, but that’s not an option here.)

Wearing a mask takes some getting used to, but an old saying comes to mind:

“Nobody’s going to get down off his horse” to notice that I’m wearing a mask.

It’s the least we can do.

– To stay busy, I’ve cleaned out the file cabinet, tossed out old magazines and newspapers, tested the sump pump (it works), serviced the lawn mower, cleaned off my workbench, made peanut butter cookies, read four books, made onion soup, finished watching “Breaking Bad,” and started watching “Making a Murderer.”

This is an amazing opportunity – time to get things done. I’ve even hung a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling of the garage, so I know exactly where to park my pickup.

You can’t get much more organized than that.

– Little things can become issues when cooped up like this.

My wife and son pick their favorite jelly beans out of the jar, leaving the rejects for me.

It’s starting to get on my nerves.

– President You Know Who caught a lot of flak for saying it, but didn’t we all want this to be over by Easter? Was that so crazy? And don’t we all hope that HCQ drug helps people with this disease? And don’t we all want businesses to reopen and everyone to get back to work? Don’t we?

Our politics, however, have become so hateful and deranged that expressing any optimism at all is politically incorrect.

Didn’t these folks once embrace “hope and change?”

I guess it depends on who’s president.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Bored? Pick A Fight On Facebook!

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

It was getting a little boring here at Camp Quarantine the other day, so I decided to light things up on Facebook, posting this:

“Let’s just pray that Coronavirus isn’t as virulent and incurable as Trump Hate.”

Most of my Facebook pals thought Old Dave hit the nail on the head.

“It’s unbelievable, Dave,” a friend from Nebraska replied. “Absolutely unbelievable. And you can’t reason with it. It is hate at it’s lowest form!”

A Wyoming friend said, “It’s like flying in a plane and hoping the pilot fails.”

“They just can’t let it go,” replied a relative from Ohio, “even in a time of crisis.”

An editor friend from Nebraska said she just finished reading an article in “The Atlantic” magazine. She had “never read anything from there before, and I won’t waste my time doing it again. Just hate Trump junk.”

The jury, however, was by no means unanimous in its verdict. The loyal opposition was awake, and ready for a fight.

A former neighbor from Illinois accused Old Dave of “media hate,” to which, in some instances, I have to plead guilty. I have noticed that being a White House reporter these days doesn’t just involve asking tough questions, but also arguing with the president, interrupting him, and refusing to stop talking when he tries to move on to the next question. You’ve noticed that too, right?

One of the best publishers I ever worked for said it’s perfectly all right for reporters to be skeptical of those in power. In fact, it’s their job. But it isn’t all right for reporters to be cynical. There’s a difference.

I recall President Barack Obama telling a reporter who persisted with followup questions that, “I didn’t come here for a debate!” and maybe Trump should do that. (He won’t.) Press conferences these days sound more like episodes of “The Bickersons.”

My Illinois neighbor finished by calling Trump “the Hindenburg president,” full of gas, and prone to explosions.

Ouch. (But funny.)

Another Illinois friend questioned my use of  “Trump Hate,” asking if I begrudge those who merely ask questions. Does that make one a hater? he asked.

Having worked in the news biz for a while, I do not think asking questions makes one a hater. However, when almost every action taken by a president is met, in many venues, with vociferous contempt – tune in “Morning Joe” if you doubt me –  I believe that cynicism and hate are rampant. When questions become heated arguments, the true leanings of the questioner become clear. I recall a reporter caught on tape, shortly after Trump was elected, hoping his plane would crash.

I see hate when the opposing party in Congress does everything possible to hold up cabinet appointments, when Maxine Waters urges Democrats to get in the faces of Trump supporters in stores and at gas stations, and when a guy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat gets a soft drink dumped on his head. I see hate when, unbelievably, Nancy Pelosi petulantly, childishly rips up Trump’s State of the Union speech, for all to see.

And just last weekend, in a tweet, President Obama’s White House photographer Pete Souza reportedly called Trump “a pathetic human being,” and said, “(blank) you potus.” (Potus is the too-cool-for-school Washington term for president of the United States.) Nine thousand people reportedly re-tweeted his foul-mouthed tweet in agreement.

Yup. That’s hate. I may not be able to precisely define it, but know it when I see it.

A friend in Florida said it’s the “drumbeat” of criticism that makes this different. But a friend in Norway said calling it a drumbeat just makes us “numb” to Trump’s “lies.”

I replied, “It’s a matter of intensity. The level of opposition to this president is something we haven’t seen before.”

Overall, it was an action-packed way to spend a day of social distancing, with political distance often outdistancing the physical distance (even between Wyoming and Norway).

Lately, people keep saying “we’re all in this together,” but I have my doubts. Because I have no doubt at all that Trump Hate is alive and well.

I rest my case, Your Honor.

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Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: What Will You Do With Your $1,200?

in Dave Simpson/Column
3848

By Dave Simpson, Columnist

“Will you be taking the money?”

The question came in a Facebook thread, after I wrote this initial post:

“Don’t anyone tell them what comes after a trillion.”

That observation, as the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill had just passed in Congress, drew mostly friendly replies.

“McZillion sold,” one friend responded. “A Gazillion? Asking for a friend” another replied.

(The answer: A “quadrillion.” And I don’t even want to think about it.)

So the mood was light regarding a heavy subject: This country’s mountain of debt has grown over most of my life, and is growing much faster in recent years. It stood at $23 trillion before this latest stimulus bill. It will soon be $25 trillion. And Nancy Pelosi promises that more trillions will be needed before the coronavirus nightmare ends.

A friend of almost exactly 40 years asked if I will take the $1,200 that will soon be on its way to most Americans. This guy is about as far left on the political spectrum as I am to the right. He seemed to be asking if I would be a hypocrite, and take the money despite my national debt worries. The question had an edge.

I hadn’t given the matter much thought. Not taking the money hadn’t occurred to me. And turning it down would be a tough sell with my wife, who is twice as frugal as I am. (We crawl under doors to save wear and tear on the hinges.)

So I replied:

“I’m thinking of giving it to my grand daughter. It’s only fair. Her generation will get stuck with the debt. It’s stupid to give it to people like us. (We’re retired.) The people out of work need the help. What will you do?”

I added this: “And what on earth do the Kennedy Center and NPR have to do with this crisis? Why shower them with millions?”

Well, that last part must have struck a nerve, and my old friend replied that he would be giving his $1,200 to people in his family who are out of work, and to a young man he helped pay for college, “who now finds his whole world slipping away.” He added, “What did you think I would do?”

He agreed that showering the Kennedy Center and NPR with millions is crazy, but added that he also didn’t want to see money go to “huge corporations” that spent millions on stock buybacks last time we doled out borrowed stimulus billions.

Off to the races…

So I asked why he was picking this fight, when we both knew we would never change the other guy’s mind on anything political. He replied that he’s getting cabin fever being cooped up in his house, and just needed to vent. My post gave him the opportunity.

I replied, “I have lost a couple long-time friends over politics, and I don’t intend to lose you. Not gonna happen.”

Then I had a better idea. A couple weeks ago we were about to move my 95-year-old mother-in-law from assisted living to a nursing home. Then the coronavirus hit, and because we couldn’t visit her in the nursing home, we decided to bring her to our home instead. While moving her, on top of everything else, downed power lines knocked out electric service to our neighborhood.

We live outside of town, with a well, and a lift station for the downstairs plumbing. So nothing was working as we moved her in. And for a while, there was no power for her oxygen machine.

“That’s it,” I said. “We’re getting that standby generator we’ve been talking about.”

It’s the perfect solution. A good cause: Caring for an elderly family member. Money to a local electrician who has a passel of kids. And money to Home Depot, a business started by Ken Langone, who has given $200 million to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

The project will cost more than the $2,400 my wife and I will be getting, maybe as much as $10,000.

But the government money will quickly be out there, stimulating up a storm. And everyone will be happy.

Maybe even my old liberal friend.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Still Hunkering in Wyoming, After All These Days

in Dave Simpson/Column
3623

By Dave Simpson, columnist

We’ve been hunkered down for over a week now, which is longer than we’ve ever hunkered before.

“Social distancing” is starting to look like the mother of all cabin fevers. But, we’re soldiering on.

Let’s touch some bases:

– Watching Walmart handle shortages is like seeing an oil tanker turn around. It takes a while. For the time being, Sam Walton’s super store behemoth is at the mercy of folks for whom security is a closet full of toilet paper.

We’ve still got 19 rolls – I’m keeping track  –  which ought to be enough. But when supplies return to the shelves, I’ll pick up a 12-pack. As Buffalo Springfield once sang, “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your heart (and the toilet paper aisle) it will creep.”

Fresh meat comes and goes at our Walmart, and potatoes are back, but you have to be there at the right time. I scored a five-pound bag of spuds last weekend, and felt like I should  high-five someone. There has always been milk, but you have to shop early to get eggs.

Apparently the milk cows have stepped up to the challenge of keeping America safe for democracy, even in these trying times. (Next time you see a cow, thank her for her service.) The chickens, however, aren’t about to be pushed around by panicky, hoarding shoppers. The laying hens must have a stronger union, and membership is holding the line.

The good news is that asparagus is dirt cheap and plentiful. You can get lots of kale, but I don’t know anyone who eats that stuff. And someday soon, even toilet paper will be back on the shelves. So don’t get your innards in a knot.

– I stocked up on books at our library before it shut down on account of the virus.

“A Warning” by “Anonymous” is surprisingly devoid of things we haven’t already heard on the “We Hate Trump” cable news networks. The world is full of back-stabbers who want to dry gulch someone without having their name attached to the deed. Editors see them from time to time. But these days, anonymous attacks are much more frequent, as social media makes us all publishers. My advice: Don’t waste your time on “A Warning.”

“Start By Believing,” on the other hand, by Dan Murphy and John Barr, will keep you up late reading. It’s about that creepy Olympic gymnastics doctor from Michigan, Larry Nassar, and you can’t put it down. That guy’s lucky some dad didn’t kill him.

Around the house, I’ve taken this opportunity to thin out the filing cabinet, and finally put the silverware holder in the dishwasher for a good scrub. (It makes me happy now, every time I reach for a spoon.) And I’m not opening any envelopes regarding my Individual Retirement Account, firm in the belief that you don’t lose money if you don’t panic and sell at the bottom. I believe there will be a roaring comeback, and wish I had more cash on hand to pick up some incredible bargains.

My gym shut down, but lately I’m getting my exercise walking around the pond down at the park.

– I think most of us agree that people put out of work by all this, and industries on the brink like the airlines, need help from the federal government. But I get nervous when the words “massive,” “stimulus” and “bipartisan” appear in the same sentence.

Not to worry, however, says Greg Mankiw, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, and who teaches at Harvard.

 “There are times to worry about growing government debt,” Mankiw said. “This is not one of them.”

With a national debt of $23 trillion already, however, when do our great leaders in Washington EVER worry about debt? Aside from fighting wars and going to the moon, their main function these days is to provide access to the Magic Federal Checkbook, where you never have to deduct the amount of any check.

When self-serving lawmakers talk about “bipartisanship,” remember this quote from George Carlin:

“Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

Bingo!

Keep on hunkering, folks. We’ll get through this.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Picking the Walmart Carcass Clean

in Dave Simpson/Column
3419

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

A guy in a beard, work shirt and worn jeans smiled as he tilted the almost empty bin of potatoes back, so I could see the dozen or so spuds left in the bottom.

He was willing to share what was left, a touch of humanity in a week that sure looked like the beginnings of panic. (Ammo sales were twice to three times normal last week, according to news reports.) I smiled and shook my head no, figuring I needed a bag of potatoes, not a handful.


Make sure to check-out our Wyoming Coronavirus news blog.

One aisle over, however, the bagged potatoes were long gone, snapped up earlier by folks preparing – scared to the core by what they were seeing on TV – for whatever this Coronavirus deal will bring. There’s so much we still don’t know. A Wall Street Journal columnist likened the lack of reliable data to buying a house when you don’t know what you make, and you don’t know the price of the house. We’re barking in the dark.

So, panicky/prudent folks stock up on groceries. Lots of groceries. The head of Walmart said sales last week were way ahead of Christmas season levels, as worried folks streamed in, on a mission to get prepared.

I do a lot of the shopping at our house. So I was at the big Walmart down the road on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of last week. The change, day by day, was remarkable, and from what I’ve seen in the news, it happened everywhere.

On Tuesday afternoon, most of the aisles looked pretty normal, but shopper traffic was noticeably high. (I didn’t get my usual lucky close-in parking space.) Two things, however, were already sold out: Toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The early birds of semi-panic had already come and gone, carrying off one entire aisle of every kind of toilet paper you can imagine. Same thing in the hand sanitizer shelves. As they say out here in Wyoming (I’m not sure why), “Gone Johnson.”

“Who needs that much toilet paper?” I wondered.

Luckily, I bought some the week before, and when I got home I counted 20 rolls. That ought to be enough for three people, right?

On Thursday, the toilet paper was still sold out, and half of the paper towels on the other side of the aisle were gone as well. (God help our municipal sewer system.) The real action, however, was over in the canned soup aisle, where serious folks were loading their carts, not caring that they were blocking traffic. (Some didn’t look like soup eaters to me.)

Same thing over in canned goods, as pinto beans and diced tomatoes were going fast. Something about a crisis makes folks want to make soup, I guess, and that’s probably a good thing. The dry packets of Lipton Chicken Soup were sold out, but they had plenty of dry onion soup packets left. (Folks want soup, not dip, in an emergency.)

The big change was apparent Friday afternoon. Both sides of the toilet paper/hand towel aisle were completely empty. A fresh box of towels never made it to the shelf, as folks grabbed them from the stock person. Not much left in canned goods. Potatoes: Pretty much gone. The display of packaged deli meats was picked clean.

The near-panic had spread to the dairy section, where there wasn’t a carton of eggs to be had. Plenty of milk, though.

Folks had finally found their way to the fresh meat display. No hamburger. A few of the more expensive steaks were left, but not many. The only things left in the chicken display were packages of bright green marinated chicken breasts, which didn’t interest a virus-conscious crowd. The big bags of frozen chicken were still available, but going fast.

The only thing left in plenty of supply was bratwurst. Plenty of brats, and I wondered if the same could be said at Wisconsin Walmarts.

My most enduring image of the week was the roaming computerized stock monitoring robot named “Bossanova” (we can’t blame it on him), parked forlornly in the empty toilet paper/hand towel aisle, blinking sadly.

We’ll get through this, folks. And we’ll have well-stocked freezers when we come out the other end.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Voting for the Youngster in the Race

in Dave Simpson/Column
3285

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Some swell thoughts and observations as the process of selecting the leader of the free world careens through the primary election stage:

– The fresh young face, the guy full of pep and get-up-and-go, this election year is now President Donald J. Trump, at a callow 73 years old.

Our go-go president, whipping up big crowds at the drop of a Make America Great Again hat, has now dislodged Mayor Pete Buttigieg as the only viable youngster in the race, no doubt attracting the support of woke young people everywhere.

“We don’t want some old guy,” young people are no doubt saying. “We want the guy who’s only 73!”

This comes as Joe Biden, who is 77, has established himself as the Comeback Septuagenarian, launching into angry, finger-pointing screeds at those who dare doubt his inevitability, like an old guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Let him talk long enough, and he’ll get to the word salad stage, sputtering random, disconnected words, and it becomes a do-it-yourself project figuring out what the ding-dong heck Joe is trying to say this time.

(Don’t believe me? Here’s what Biden said in Texas: “We hold these truths to be self evident. All men and women created by, you know, you know, the thing.” If Joe is elected, all we can do is pray and put our fate in the hands of “you know, you know, The Thing.”)

And then, at 78, we have Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, who gesticulates wildly like Elizabeth Warren, shooting out his arms when giving a speech, then wiggling his hands like he’s writing a big check in the air. (We don’t have to make payment on Bernie’s big air checks, at least for now.)

Bernie keeps pointing out what’s right about Cuba and Fidel, making folks out here in Flyover Country ask, “What’s THAT all about?”

Biden and Sanders would be octogenarians by the time they finished the term of office they now seek. Which makes a late-term sexagenarian (not as sexy as it sounds) like me wonder if they haven’t pondered the joys of a senior-discount morning coffee group at McDonalds, with a bunch of retired guys their own age. Why deprive yourself of retirement into your 80s? Who needs the stress of being leader of the free world?

Haven’t they ever walked into a room and forgotten what they came there to get? Of course, if you’re president, the guy with the nuclear launch codes follows you around, and he could remind you what you came there to get. So, there’s that. And you have plenty of doctors and nurses around, in case a rotator cuff or knee goes bad on you.

I’m going with young and energetic Donald Trump. I don’t want to hear about the virtues of Cuba from Bernie, or seek guidance from “The Thing” to figure out what Joe Biden is saying this time.

I look at this as a youth movement.

– Farmers everywhere in our great country, who grow the food on our tables, are no doubt having a good laugh now that Michael “Call me Mike” Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race after spending $500 million to secure a grand total of four delegate votes (from American Samoa).

You’ll recall that Bloomberg told a gathering a few years back that it doesn’t take much “gray matter” to be a farmer. All you do is make a hole, put a seed in it, cover it up, water it, and you get corn.

Well, I spent some years in the fabulously fertile farm country of Central Illinois – home of the best soil on planet Earth – and I could have told Michael/Mike that he was seriously underestimating the gray matter of farmers. They have to be mechanics, biologists, chemists, truck drivers, money managers, economists, savvy gamblers, and more, to succeed in a brutal business in which a late spring, bugs, lack of rain, too much rain, low prices, or a long list of other factors can spell disaster.

Michael/Mike thinks he’s smarter than a farmer. But I know of no farmer who ever spent $500 million and only managed to get four plants to sprout.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: The ‘Children’ Who Oppose Higher Taxes

in Dave Simpson/Column
3246

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Our local paper – I live east of Cheyenne – wrote this in an editorial Sunday:

“We hate to treat our elected leaders like children, but…”

Children? That’s not the half of it, as the legislature lumbers into the final days of the budget session, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the For God’s Sake Raise Taxes Crowd is at full wail/gnash.

It isn’t enough to simply propose a state income tax. No, proponents must insist that anyone who disagrees is a child, a hopeless case, a denier of reality. Oppose Medicaid expansion? How could anyone be so stupid and heartless, they ask, as to oppose free money from Washington?

A corporate income tax? Anyone who disagrees, they suggest, is greedy, oblivious, ignorant, hoodwinked by distant corporate interests.

The beating from the raise taxes contingent – particularly evident here in Cheyenne – is unrelenting, and reliably disparaging to our legislative majority. They’re “children,” as our local paper suggests.

Well, not so fast.

I moved a lot back when I was in the newspaper business. Three towns in Wyoming. One in Colorado. Two towns in Illinois. One in Nebraska.

(When I finally retired from the daily newspaper biz, we scurried back to Wyoming.)

The great thing about Illinois was the neat old houses that were available for not much money. In 1995, we bought a big old Victorian house that was great for raising kids, for $125,000. We worked like the dickens on it, before selling it six years later for $175,000.

When it came to taxes, however, Illinois was not a great deal. Every year we paid around $3,700 in property taxes. And we paid state income taxes – we both worked – of 3 percent.

Nebraska was just as bad, maybe worse. We bought a beautiful brick house, walking distance from the newspaper, right across the street from a city park, for $165,000. Beautiful lawn. Great garage. Big trees. Nice neighbors.

Once again, however, the property taxes were enough to make a grown man cry – around $3,600. The state income tax, graduated, was 6 percent.

I wrote an editorial about high taxes depressing housing values, and it was one of the rare times I got some real pushback from the movers and shakers in that town, especially the real estate people.

(I found Nebraskans to be incredibly patient with the high taxes, and chalked it up to the fact that average guy is too busy rooting for the Cornhuskers to care about taxes.)

So then, daily journalism darn near ran the wheels off me, and we finally moved back to Wyoming. It took a lot of work, three houses, and three basements that I finished myself, but we ended up in a nice house and some land (a “ranchette,” making me a ranchetter) that the county assessor says is worth well over $400,000.

And our property tax bill – GET THIS – is $2,700 a year.

That’s $1,000 less than on the $125,000 house in Illinois. Nine hundred less than the $165,000 house in Nebraska. And we pay no state income tax. We saved $10,000 the first year, and wondered why we hadn’t moved back to Wyoming far sooner.

And yet, according to our friends in the media, any lawmaker who doesn’t support higher taxes and Medicaid expansion is a “child.”  Lawmakers must be “brave” enough to raise taxes, according to most editorial pages. (Why are editors such fans of tax increases? Beats me.)

And, of course, the pressure to expand Medicaid is huge, with hospitals and health care groups banging the drum to accept free money from a federal government that is already $23 trillion in the red. “Free money?” From Washington? Now there’s a horse laugh.

Some among us are determined to give up a significant competitive advantage and make us just like Colorado, Nebraska, even Illinois, with their high taxes, spending, and taste for more free money from the federal government. And they call those who disagree “children.”

Folks like my wife and I appreciate common sense Wyoming lawmakers who are doggedly preserving a tax climate that is one more thing making this state so attractive.

We may be a voice in the wilderness, but they have our thanks.

Dave Simpson — Splitsville: States Head for the Exits

in Dave Simpson
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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

BAILING OUT: I see on the news that some folks in Virginia, upset over gun control, want to secede from their state and join up with West Virginia.

In Oregon, saner residents want to pull up stakes in that nutty liberal state and saddle up with Idaho, giving Idaho some swell new Pacific coastline.

There’s always talk in Illinois of the rural areas of my home state splitting the sheets with Chicago, and forming their own state. Forming a new state, some feel, would be preferable to moving to get away from Illinois’ precarious state finances, high taxes, and corrupt politicians.

In Colorado, several years ago Moffat County, on the Western Slope, and Weld County, in eastern Colorado, expressed interest in bailing out and joining Wyoming. Lately, folks in Weld County want to try it again.

It’s not easy getting out of one state and joining another, or forming a new state. Nobody has done it since West Virginia became it’s own state. Everybody and their brother, including Congress, has to agree, making it virtually impossible.

Back in the 1980s, I was a reporter at the Wyoming Legislature when a group from western Nebraska showed up, saying they wanted to secede from Nebraska, and attach themselves to Wyoming, like a big Cornhusker carbuncle on the eastern border. Their complaint: It was 400 miles to their state capital in Lincoln. (Apparently, they had just figured that out.)

I find it reassuring that parts of two of our neighboring states wanted to attach themselves to Wyoming. And no part of Wyoming, to my knowledge, wants to leave our state and join some other state. (We’ve got it good out here, with fresh air, awesome vistas and low taxes. But, don’t tell anybody.)

I’ll always remember the advice one Wyoming lawmaker gave to the delegation from western Nebraska:

“Sober up.”

HALF FULL: Who says there’s no good news in the paper these days?

According to recent news reports, an unspecified number of personnel at Warren Air Force Base, who provide security for 150 Minuteman missiles buried in silos north and east of Cheyenne, have been smoking marijuana on the job.

(Marijuana, as you know, is legal a mere nine miles away in Colorado.)

Living cheek by jowl with one leg of our nuclear triad is no big deal out here. We’ve done it since the 1960s. On Interstate-80 and I-25, you see armored cars with gun turrets, dark blue government Suburbans and crew-cab pickups transporting missile crews to and from the underground launch control facilities that each control 10 missiles. Periodically, you see convoys of well-armed vehicles, with two helicopters circling above, going to swap out nuclear warheads or missiles at the silos that dot our landscape.

Way back in the 1980s, in a Cheyenne bar, I talked to an airman who worked in an underground launch control facility. Does it get boring? He replied, “Have you ever read every word in a Playboy magazine? That’s how boring it gets.”

I asked if he could turn the key to launch missiles. He said by the time he would get the order to launch, he figured his girlfriend and his stereo would already be incinerated by the enemy, so yes, he could turn that key.

But Dave, you’re wondering, how could the fact that airmen are suspected of smoking marijuana on the job possibly be good news?

Well, as we all know, we need to see the glass as half full instead of half empty, and always look for the pony hidden in the pile of manure.

The good news is that four years ago, they caught a small number of missile security personnel taking LSD.

We’re making progress here, people.

Give it another four years and they’ll be drinking Near Beer.

NO WINNEBAGO:  I was disappointed to see that Andrew Yang gave up his run for the presidency.

You’ll recall that the Democrat businessman, who is rich, proposed giving every American $1,000 a month, even though we’re already $23 trillion in debt.

I was holding out for Andrew to throw in a free Winnebago RV for senior citizens like me. I think seniors have a RIGHT to a free Winnebago.

Don’t you?

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson:An Old Reporter Checks Out the New Capitol

in Dave Simpson/Column
State Capitol
3121

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

My, how things have changed at the Wyoming State Capitol over the 38 years since I spent time there.

For four years in the early 1980s, I was part of the Casper Star-Tribune team that helped our Cheyenne bureau chief (the truly amazing Joan Barron)  cover the bases during legislative sessions. It was a fun opportunity for editors to be reporters again.

These days, reporters are covering the news from up in the balconies surrounding the House and Senate. Back in the old days, we got to sit down on the floor, close to the lawmakers. In the House, there was a table to the left of the Speaker’s desk. In the Senate, our table was to the right of the Senate President’s desk.

There we were, right in the thick of things. (Lawmakers got a little ringy toward the end of sessions, and one year a senator from Casper hit me with a piece of Jolly Rancher candy as I sat at the reporter’s table on the final evening. Funny stuff. Everyone was tired and ready to go home.)

The great access began to unravel while I was there. A radio reporter from Cheyenne insisted on filling his coffee mug – about the size of a Big Gulp – from the urns in the doughnut room, draining them dry. Some reporters may have been chowing down on too many doughnuts. (Not me.) We were summarily banned from the doughnut room, and reimbursed for the money we had paid into the doughnut fund.

I also heard that the Cheyenne radio reporter was ambushing lawmakers as they came out of the bathrooms off the House and Senate floors, sticking a microphone in their faces for surprise interviews. Not good.

Not long after that, our access to the floor was limited to the press tables, and we had to be invited to visit lawmakers at their desks. Today, I noticed a couple of young reporters doing their work right beside me in the House gallery. No more press tables on the floor.

Another big difference today is that everyone, EVERYONE, has a computer.

Lawmakers all have laptop computers, which they peruse as the process of introducing, amending and deciding the fate of bills drones on. Up in the gallery, the reporters sitting next to me took their notes on laptops as well. And folks in the gallery could be seen peering into their cell phones every few minutes.

It wasn’t that way in the ’80s. For the first couple years, it was all taking notes in reporter’s notebooks, then scurrying up to the third-floor press room to write our stories on clunky, unreliable desk-top terminals.

When you finished a story, you took your life in your hands and hit the “send” button to send your work to the office in Casper. One Saturday I wrote four stories, and every one of them was lost in transmission. (I think they disappeared somewhere between Wheatland and Glendo.)  An entire day’s work, gone, and I was wastebasket-kicking mad.

In 1983, however, along came the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. The paper equipped us with the $1,000 early laptops, and suddenly we were able to listen to the debates in the House and Senate, and write our stories right at the press table. And you still had a copy of your story if something went haywire in the transmission process.

The TRS-80, while revolutionary, was primitive. It had 8 kilobytes of memory. (My computer-savvy son laughs at the notion of 8 kilobytes.)

Our “Trash-80s,” as we called them, were so primitive that much of the software was written by a guy named Bill Gates.

“Part of my nostalgia about this machine,” Gates said in an article I Googled, “is this was the last machine where I wrote most of the percentage of the code.”

When we started using our TRS-80s, suddenly the lawmakers were coming up to our press table to see what we were doing. (They didn’t need an invitation to visit our desk.) Our equipment was that new, and ground-breaking.

Today, all that has changed, and everyone has at least one computer on their desk, and a cell phone in their pocket. And I’m guessing that news stories don’t disappear between Wheatland and Glendo anymore.

They say that if you get an old reporter talking, he or she will talk longer than you want to listen. So, I’ll end with this.

In an age when national politicians call folks “lying, dog-faced pony soldiers,” a visit to the Wyoming Legislature will lift your spirits. I highly recommend it. All the lawmakers seemed to be at their desks and paying attention to the process. Good humor was evident, as even the opposing parties seemed to be getting along, at least for the moment.

And there’s this. The newly-renovated Wyoming State Capitol building is, in a word, spectacular. The old Supreme Court Chambers are fully restored. The House and Senate chambers are stunning, faithfully brought back to their original grandeur.

The entire renovation process was first class in every way. (I think Esther Hobart Morris belongs out front, where she used to be, but the statue still looks great in the lower-level concourse.)

You hear a lot of talk in legislative sessions about living up to the ideals and virtues of our forefathers. Wyoming’s restored Capitol building is a true testament to our state’s amazing brick-and-mortar commitment to our roots.

Every Wyoming resident can be proud of our beautifully-restored Capitol.

Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne.

Dave Simpson: I’ve Got Just the Solution for UW President

in Dave Simpson/Column
University of Wyoming
3027

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight.

About a year ago, trustees from the University of Wyoming got on a plane and flew down to Arizona to interrupt the university president’s vacation with the news that they wouldn’t be renewing her contract.

Surprise! Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

A lot of us were surprised. I think most of us figured Laurie Nichols had been doing OK under some pretty tough conditions, cutting approximately $42 million out of  the university budget in the three years she had been on the job.

We figured Nichols was likely to continue at UW, and maybe things were finally settling down over in Laramie.

When the news hit the papers that Nichols would not be offered a new contract, the reasoning was treated with Manhattan Project-type secrecy. The stories about her ouster made it clear that whatever happened regarding Nichols was one of those personnel matters that qualify for Area 51-type confidentiality.

Some news organizations took UW to court to release details, and that dragged on for almost a year. While that was going on, it was reported that UW had hired a company from Colorado to investigate Nichols, and what they found led to the trustees’ decision.

A judge in Laramie ruled that UW couldn’t keep everything secret. And while UW officials thought about appealing that decision, they ultimately released some details.

They claim there were numerous complaints about Nichols’ management style. She made people feel bad when she chewed them out. One staffer said she threw up all weekend after Nichols criticized her. Nichols allegedly was upset by an international student who helped cater an event at Nichols’ home, and didn’t like Nichols’ dog. We’re left with the image of a short-fused diva who made people throw up.

Nichols, who is now president of Black Hills State University in South Dakota, says that when you cut $42 million out of a university budget, there will be some unhappy campers. And, she says, the UW trustees never let her know about the complaints against her, which violates their own personnel policies. She never got a chance to improve her performance.

Meanwhile, the obligatory “nationwide search” is going on to find the next president of UW, with the help, of course, of consultants. But you have to wonder about anyone who would want the job. The guy two presidents before Nichols lasted six months. The trustees had Nichols investigated without telling her. And they canned her while she was on vacation. Doesn’t sound like the best university president gig out there, if you ask me.

Who do we believe? Nichols? The trustees? The faculty? The food service employee who doesn’t like dogs? The person who threw up all weekend?

I write this as a guy who spent two years at the University of Wyoming (eighth floor of Orr Hall one year, fourth floor the second), but went on to graduate from a small college in Wisconsin. My wife has an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree from UW. My daughter and her husband have degrees from UW. My first newspaper job was at the Laramie Boomerang. We all love Laramie, root for the Cowboys, and have fond memories of UW and the Buckhorn Bar.

That said, I have a suggestion. I think one of our former governors should be asked to take one for the home team, become university president for a few years, and get things settled down over there.

I’ve never met Dave Freudenthal, but he’s got the kind of common sense that would give us confidence that a steady hand was at the tiller, and we could trust whatever he had to say. He’s a Democrat that even Republicans (like me) kind of like. And he looks like he might have some good years left in him.

I met Mike Sullivan once, years before he became governor, and I think he’d make a good choice for this special assignment as well. Again, a common sense, even keel, honest guy.

As a retired guy myself, I’d hate to ask anyone to give up the absolute wonderfulness of retirement. But it seems to me they could do a lot to get the university we all love through these rocky times.

Dave Simpson: Strike ‘Heartland’ From the OK List

in Dave Simpson/Column
Aerial drone view of cultivated green corn field landscape
2950

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Those of us who live in Flyover Country are in big trouble once again with our more evolved bi-coastal cousins. 

Dang, we’ve gone and done it again, Ma. Another ding-dong faux pas.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (and did it ever take me a while to learn how to spell THAT name), who is proud of the fact that he polled his campaign staff to see if they have suffered “micro aggressions” while in his employ, has nevertheless stepped in it big time by using a term that many of us did not realize is politically incorrect.

(The How Dare You Scolds need to put out a weekly newsletter so that we can all keep up with what suddenly is NOT OK to say. It would be a big help.)

It seems that Mayor Pete, despite his many good intentions as he runs for president, got himself into a pickle (unacceptable food-group cultural appropriation?) when he claimed to have some kind of special virtue in his “vision shaped by the American Heartland.”

To our surprise out here in the Big Empty (I think it’s still OK to use that term), the word “Heartland” is apparently now on the Official Do Not Say List, because it has been deemed a “dog whistle” (a subtle indicator of bigotry), a micro-aggression, and – as is everything else Democrats don’t like – racist. (I knew they’d get around to that last one.)

For years now, we have heard the term “Flyover Country.” And if folks like us, who live in Flyover Country, were in the habit of telling other people how to talk (we aren’t), we might call the term Flyover Country a dog whistle, implying that we are backwoods, unsophisticated hicks.

Since the term Flyover Country has been used for years, I think of it less as a dog whistle, and more of a fog horn of coastal superiority. It has pretty much entered the lexicon.

(I once lived in an area of Illinois that some called the “Heart of Illinois,” because of its upper middle of the state location. But wags – every zip code has them – pointed out that it was more like the “Pancreas of Illinois,” or the “Gall Bladder of Illinois.” We won’t get into what organs or body parts areas of Southern Illinois might be dubbed.)

So anyway, a Buttigieg critic pointedly asked if living in Compton, Cal., might also provide a “vision shaped by the American Heartland.” And a journalist who said she grew up out here in whatever you can still call where I live, dubbed our area the “land of casseroles, county fairs and Friday night bingo.” She can apparently say this, having somehow escaped living where I live, and not be accused of dog whistling. But it sure sounds like dog whistling to me, even though my hearing isn’t what it used to be.

For the record, even though I live in deepest Flyover Country – you can hardly even see the planes flying over my back yard, they’re up so high – I have not been to a county fair in decades. I don’t play bingo. (Yet.)  And casseroles are not on the South Beach Diet.

Amazing, isn’t it, what you can get away with saying in these otherwise contentious times, if your political beliefs are dubbed correct. For the rest of us, it’s open season.

Now Buttigieg will have to apologize for where he was born, and the color of his skin, his faulty “vision,” and probably some other stuff we haven’t thought to be outraged about yet. The only thing he won’t have to apologize for is being gay, which is gangbusters with the How Dare You Scolds.

Since they are mildly derogatory terms, it is probably still OK to refer to where I live as “the Big Lonesome,” “the Big Empty,” “the Corn Belt,” “the Sticks,” “East Bum Something or Other,” “Rubesilvania,” and my favorite, “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.”

The acceptability of these terms could change at any time, however, so keep a close eye on the How Dare You Scolds for guidance.

In the meantime, so long from Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne.

Opinion: We’ll Walk Across Hot Coals to Re-elect Donald Trump

in Dave Simpson/Column
2854

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

So, what have non-coastal, common-sense folks like us – odoriferous Walmart shoppers, wearers of hats with ear flaps,  purveyors of homespun wisdom – learned from the presidency of  Donald Trump?

What do we think out here in the Big Lonesome?

Some thoughts:

On his first day on the job, Trump should have fired everyone he could legally fire.

“Thanks for your service,” he should have said. “Good luck in your new careers as lobbyists, top-level hangers on, and screaming Trump critics on CNN and MSNBC. Don’t let the door hit you in the caboose on the way out.”

It would have caused chaos. The media would have screamed like mashed cats. Imagine getting along without the deputy undersecretary of the assistant to the administrator of the counsel on incredibly important affairs. But the festering boil would have been lanced.

Instead, Trump kept a lot of people in place, and many have proven to be knife-wielding scoundrels who were (and still are) itching to betray him. Did you ever think you’d see accounts of presidential phone calls to foreign leaders leaked to the press? I didn’t. Did you ever think an anonymous staff member would write an opinion piece for the New York Times, claiming to protect us from the dangerous man we stupidly elected president? I didn’t.

And some of these back stabbers are still on the payroll.

Saboteurs, even civil service saboteurs, can’t be tolerated. They have done terrible damage.

The guy who spent 15 years firing people on TV should be firing leakers in his administration.

We have also learned in the Trump years not to get in the way of Congress when it’s spending billions. (Borrowed billions.) All Trump did was delay sending $400 billion to the Ukraine, and ask some questions about corruption. Isn’t that a good thing?

But, it resulted in impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate. At a time when we’re already $23 TRILLION in debt.

We all know there are different rules for Democrats, who are the passionate love interests of the media, and Republicans, who are hated by the media. In Ukraine’s struggle with Russia, Obama sent blankets and meals ready to eat. Trump sent missiles. And Trump gets impeached for somehow abusing Ukraine. Go figure.

Joe Biden can be seen on video telling Ukrainians that $1 billion in U.S. aid would be held up unless they fired a prosecutor. We’ve all seen it. And yet, the adoring media says any suggestion that Biden did anything wrong is a “debunked conspiracy theory.” But, Trump gets impeached for maybe doing what we SAW Biden doing. (Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.)

Does anyone remember the word “debunked” being used in reference to Obama’s lie that if we liked our doctors we could keep our doctors? How about that $2,500 he said we would save?

Why aren’t those promises dubbed debunked?

We have also learned that asking questions about corruption in Ukraine is off limits for Republicans. And questioning Joe Biden’s son making $50,000 a month, or maybe $83,000 a month, from a Ukrainian gas company is way out of line, and none of our business. So if your dad is running for president, any sweet deal you can come up with is nobody’s business. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Say what you want in defense of the Bidens, but a guy making $50,000 a month, or maybe $83,000 a month, will never fly out here in Flyover Country.

(Fifty thousand a month would buy you one heck of a bass boat.)

Most stark of all, Barack Obama, who killed hundreds of terrorists with drone strikes, was a hero for giving the go-ahead to kill Bin Laden. But Trump’s decision to kill Iranian terrorist Gen. Qassem Soleimani was immediately dubbed an “assassination” by hysterical, hair-on-fire Democrats, who then passed a meaningless House resolution to limit Trump’s war powers.

Funny how that works.

Looks to me like there’s only one way to win this stacked-deck deal with the Democrats and their liberal media pals:

Flyover Country folks like us have to be ready to crawl over broken glass and hot coals to get to the polls in November.

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne. Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Joan Barron: Hall of Fame Reporter

in Dave Simpson/Column
2774

The easiest job I ever had in newspapers was editing news stories written by longtime Wyoming capitol reporter Joan Barron.

That was back in the early 1980s, when I was state editor for the Casper Star-Tribune.

Talk about a sweet deal. Not long after I got to work in the morning, Joan (pronounced Jo ANN) would submit a list of stories she would be writing that day. There were always four, maybe five stories, about all kinds of things going on at the state capitol. After lunch, her stories would start arriving, and they would keep arriving all afternoon.

While being state editor involved some heavy duty pick and shovel work for a number of the 25 correspondents spread out all over Wyoming – part-timers with varying levels of writing talent, paid by the inch –  Joan was full-time, and a real professional. Her copy was clean as a whistle.

(Conversely, one of our far-flung correspondents once submitted a story with this lead: “It was an island, completely surrounded by water.”)

If you asked Joan to cover a story late in the day, she never complained, and always got right to work and had something for you on deadline. It usually ended up on the front page. That’s how good she was.

She was the Star-Tribune’s capitol reporter for an amazing 45 years, covering legislative sessions, committee meetings, state government issues, and the administrations of six Wyoming governors. (Ed Herschler called her “Snoopy.”) She retired in 2014 at the age of 85, and continues to write a weekly column for the Star-Tribune. If you want to understand state government issues in Wyoming, read Joan’s Sunday columns.

Simply put, she was the best reporter I ever worked with in over four decades in the newspaper business. And she never editorialized.

So, it’s great news that this weekend, in Casper, Joan is being inducted into the Wyoming Press Association Hall of Fame, at the group’s annual convention. She is the first inductee who worked an entire career as a reporter. The other 28 inductees, named since the Hall of Fame started in 2003, are publishers, editors, advertising executives, an author, and two former directors of the press association.

Joan started out as a part-time correspondent for the Star-Tribune in Rock Springs in 1966, a job that allowed her to take care of her young son and daughter. In 1969, she became a full-time capitol reporter in Cheyenne, and remained in that job for the next 45 years.

While she had opportunities to move into editing positions, “I never wanted to,” she told me. “I was holding my breath that nobody would say I had to.”

When she retired in 2014, she told an interviewer she was perfectly happy to be an observer of the news, and report on it.

“The fly on the wall,” she said. “That’s me.”

For a time in the 1980s, editors and reporters from Casper would come to Cheyenne to help cover the legislative sessions. Joan was busy working on a story one day, so I filled in for her at a news conference held by Gov. Herschler.

I noticed that the governor kept delaying the start of the news conference and looking out at the gathering of reporters. It finally occurred to me that he was looking for Joan, so I raised my hand and said that I would be covering the news conference for the Star-Tribune. I could tell he wasn’t pleased to be dealing with the junior varsity. That’s the kind of trust and respect he had for Joan.

Dan Neal, former editor of the Star-Tribune, said Joan “knew people in offices throughout state government. People trusted and respected her reporting. Those relationships are built over time. The institutional memory she compiled over many, many years is invaluable. We’ll be lucky if we ever see it again in Wyoming.”

Rob Hurless, former publisher of the Star-Tribune, agreed.

“With her long career, I think it is safe to say that she probably has been read by three generations in the same family trees across Wyoming,” Hurless said. “What an amazing contribution, and legacy. Her recognition for literally decades of service is wonderfully deserved.”

The induction ceremony in Casper this week is serving as sort of a reunion for Star-Tribune veterans from over the years. Some are coming from as far away as California, North Carolina and Tennessee to honor Joan. I can’t think of a single Star-Tribune alum who isn’t delighted to see her inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The only question in the minds of many Star-Tribuners:

What took them so long?

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne.

Golden Globes: Taking Our Licks From Hollywood

in Dave Simpson/Column/arts and culture
2683

By Dave Simpson

PEACOCKS: The annual award show season – always good for a horse laugh out here in Deepest Frozen-Tundra Flyover Country – kicked off last week with the Golden Globe Awards.

This is when preening, self-absorbed peacocks who I couldn’t name if you held a gun to my head, dress up like they’re going to the prom, and gather for a feed folks like us could never afford, and slobber all over each other over movies that Corn Belt types like myself have never seen, and will never see.

This is an exclusive gathering of rich people with big hair who like to whine and complain about how rotten the country that made them so rich and glamorous and superior really is.

They view it as an opportunity to make rubes like us aware of all kinds of problems.

The last movie I paid actual money to see was “Forrest Gump,” which was released 25 years ago. So, if you do the math, it has been a quarter of a century since I saw an actual movie, which no doubt excludes me from the award show target audience.

The only interesting part for me was waiting for the next obscenity-laced kick in the pants, as these vacuous Hollywood boobs took the opportunity to show us their great compassion and vast knowledge of politics and foreign affairs.

(I will say that if you’re only going to see one movie in a quarter century, “Forrest Gump” was a pretty good movie to see. It was swell. The star, Tom Hanks, reportedly shares the Hollywood belief that anyone who voted for Donald Trump is stupid and hopeless, but he’s smart enough to keep it under his hat. He has the brains not to lead the parade of Hollywood Trump haters.)

So anyway, despite a warning from host Ricky Gervais that nobody is interested in their loopy political beliefs, the beautiful people nevertheless gave the rest of us the dickens for electing a president they loathe with theatrical gush and histrionics. One award recipient/foreign policy expert predicted that we are “on the brink of war” with Iran, thanks to the evil Trump. And they fretted, of course, over climate change, striking a major blow by eating a cow-emissions-free vegan dinner. (I wonder if they’ve heard that vegetables scream when you pick them.)

They were in fine form, using lots of filthy language – during family viewing hours, no less – that had to be bleeped out as they lamented the country many of the rest of us like just fine.

Who on earth would want to go see a movie put together by awful people like these?

I don’t know about you, but I’m good for another 25 years without seeing a movie.

THAT SAID: I’m not like the beautiful people above (duh) complaining about major aspects of life in America. But there are some minor irritants that come to mind. Stuff that we tend to notice more at this time of year when we’re stuck inside and can’t escape to the woods, and which wouldn’t take too much ding-dong effort to fix.

Some that come to mind:

People on TV who insist on all talking at the same time. The more interesting the subject is, the more frustrating it is when everyone talks at once.

Pundits/hosts who insist on asking long, detailed questions with multiple examples baked in, that go on so long that nobody can remember what the first part of the question was. (Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough are the absolute worst, and should be sentenced to diagram their sentences.)

Guys who walk around naked in the locker room at exercise, like they’ve got a blue-ribbon entry in the county fair.

Cell phone rings built into advertisements to get your attention. A pox upon them.

The “LIMU EMU” ads on TV. Lord, have mercy.

Selfish imbeciles who block traffic waiting for a great parking space at Walmart. I’ve mentioned this before, but they endure, like bed bugs. Get the tar and feathers.

Those white plastic sleeves that soda crackers come in, that fight you every inch of the way.

Telemarketers. Keel hauling is too good for them.

Tailgaters.

Hollywood award shows.

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne.

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