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Bill Sniffin: Covid Be Damned, We Sneaked Off On A Sin City Road Trip

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4976

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher Cowboy State Daily

We blew this popsicle stand. We skedaddled.  We flew out of our nest. We ventured cautiously out in to the world.  Hell, folks, last week, Nancy and I went on a real road trip, ha!

After being confined for exactly three months, we decided it was time to go rescue our 15-year old motorhome, which had been held hostage in 100-degree heat at a Las Vegas RV park. 

The poor thing, which we have named “Follow My Nose,” was in disarray as we left in a hurry on March 19 at the request of our children. We had been attending a Rod Stewart concert at Caesar’s Palace when we were told, under no uncertain terms, “get out of there and get your butts home!”

Our middle daughter Shelli Johnson, who lives in Lander with her husband and three boys, keeps a pretty good eye on us. But she says it’s challenging. 

Like many folks her age, she could be described as being in a “sandwich generation.” This means being responsible for their own kids and their parents.  She says the kids are much easier to manage!

Back then on March 17, I thought it would be fun to email some photos of a Rod Stewart concert in Las Vegas to our kids. Instead of them being thrilled, they told us to pack up and get home to Lander.  Now.

We dutifully complied and left our motorhome there, thinking we would return and get it in 30 days.

It was too cold to bring it home in March, as Lander usually gets two or three big snowstorms with freezing temperatures in April.  As time passed, we seriously wondered when we could go down and fetch the big rig.

As an aside, the only casinos in Wyoming are here in Fremont County. All four of them are still shuttered.  We heard that Vegas was going to be opening last week so we wondered what we would run into down there.

Our motorhome is 40 feet long and weighs 34,000 pounds.  It is also 13 feet high and that stretch of Interstate 15 from Vegas to Salt Lake City is notorious for terrible cross winds. 

Ace Weatherman Don Day from the Cowboy State Daily said the weather on Saturday, June 20, should be nice along that route. “Don’t you want to know about Wyoming’s weather?” he asked.  I told him that all I cared about was getting past that north-south stretch.

Wyoming’s South Pass, which is notorious for winds, was mild on June 18 when we left Lander. We always take the La Barge highway, which goes through the largest solar array in the state. It is huge and going to get bigger.

We stopped for gas at Little America.  This frontier outpost is amazing. I went inside wearing my mask and noticed about a third of the travelers had their masks on, too. 

There were several families and a bunch of truck drivers.  We didn’t linger. We were trying to make it all the way to Vegas in one long day, some 700 miles.

Interstate 80 was busy.  There were lots of cars, campers, and motorhomes. It seemed tourism counts were normal.  And semi-trailer trucks were everywhere. The Interstate 80 Railroad, which is what I call it, was operating at full-strength. Seemed like two semis for every car.

We stopped again in one of my favorite towns, Evanston. I was scouting for places I could park our motorhome on the way back, in case of high winds or even mechanical issues. We had not driven the coach since last October when we took it to Vegas and left it there in storage.

It was a beautiful summer day and we loafed along, getting to Las Vegas about 5 p.m.  We put on our masks and ventured to Sam’s Town, a nearby casino, and ate some dinner. 

It was at 20 percent its normal capacity and all the help were wearing masks. Every other employee was scrubbing things down with sanitizer.  We felt uneasy and left early. 

We were going to spend a couple of days but Nancy says, heck let’s go home. We hooked up the car to the back of the motorhome (now, we were 60 feet long) and started home. It was 99 degrees. 

Before doing that, I insisted we take one quick spin around Vegas. We checked out the new shiny Las Vegas Raiders stadium. It is a huge black dome just off Interstate 15 near the south end of the Strip. It looks magnificent. Locals call it the Death Star.

The strip was almost empty.  It was actually eerie on a Friday afternoon. Normally, it would be wall-to-wall with people and bumper-to-bumper for cars.  Not on this day.

We headed north and Don Day was right. No wind.  We got through Virgin River Gorge and made it to a rest area near Cedar City. Temperatures were 105 going through St. George and we discovered our air conditioning was not working.  Whew! 

We like the Heber City bypass around Salt Lake City through Provo Canyon. The road goes by a couple of lakes that were jammed with people. No masks or social distancing in sight.

Also drove by Coalville Reservoir and Jordanelle Reservoir by Park City – lots of folks on the lakes having fun. We were sweltering in our big, ponderous motorhome slowly working our way home back to cool Wyoming.

Then in Wyoming the wind hit us.  Uh-oh, what was Don trying to tell me a few days ago?

It is easy to appreciate those informational signs that WYDOT uses to let you know if bad weather is ahead. The sign leading up to South Pass in Lander had been reading “40 mph gusts on South Pass” every day for two weeks prior to our trip. That was on my mind at this point.

When we got to Farson, the informational sign was blank.  Blank? Was it out of order?  Forty miles closer to home, at the South Pass rest area, another informational sign was blank? The wind was howling. What the heck?

Luckily, just over South Pass the winds calmed and we headed down the pass for home. It was the longest day of the year so we rolled in at 8:30 p.m. with plenty of sunlight left.  The weather was wondrously cool.

We were home. We were back in jail. We plan to self-quarantine for a while, just in case we somehow got exposed in Las Vegas or at a rest area along the way.

It sure felt fantastic to be free again even if it only lasted 65 hours. 

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

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4933

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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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Bill Sniffin: Lots To Do In Goshen County, The Welcome Mat Is Out For State Visitors

in Bill Sniffin/Column
4937

By Bill Sniffin, publisher Cowboy State Daily

TORRINGTON — Not long ago, I made a tour of eastern Wyoming was among the most fun experiences of a near half-century in the state.

Nestled between Devils Tower on the north end and Laramie Peak on the south end and the rugged hills and buttes of western South Dakota and Nebraska, is a very special place, stretching from up north to Hulett down to Pine Bluffs on the south.

One of our recent trips involved three wonderful towns, Torrington, Lingle, LaGrange, and Fort Laramie.

It is hard to find a small city in Wyoming that is more diversified that Torrington.

It has a thriving Ag community including the region’s largest sale barn Torrington Livestock Market plus a community college plus a large home for children and the state’s medium security prison. 

One the town’s biggest annual events is the 2-Shot Goose Hunt and we were there for the annual victory banquet Saturday, Dec. 9, 2018.

Then-Gov. Matt Mead was the biggest celebrity at the event, which he told me he enjoys very much.  Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal also competed that year.  And current governor Mark Gordon also competed. 

Hunters compete in teams of two. One year, Gov. Mead and his wife Carol were a team.  They camped out in their blind and saw nary a bird. Mead later quipped at the banquet that night that they had nothing else to do, so they repeated their marriage vows.

During my stay in Torrington in 2019, Director Bob Mayor gave us a tour of the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, which was started as an orphanage some 89 years ago. Today, they serve young boys and girls who usually are sent to the home by the courts. They usually stay about six months.

The home is impressive.  Its grounds are beautiful and it has a solemn, beautiful chapel.  Its museum is one of the more distinctive in the state.  The home was founded by Bishop Patrick McGovern of Cheyenne.

Our friends Bryan and Donna Cay Heinz showed us around the area, including some fantastic historic homes.  These old homes had crow’s nests on the roofs where presumably you could watch for hostile Indians or just check on things for quite a distance.

It was fun visiting the Torrington Telegram and meeting publisher Rob Mortimore and then-Editor Andrew Brosig.  I have too much ink in my blood not to just love the smells and sounds of the local newspaper.  And the Telegram is a darned good one. 

The 2-Shot and other events were held in some of the impressive Goshen County Fair buildings.  Hard to imagine a town as small as Torrington having an indoor arena of such size. They host national roping events and you can see why. It is both enormous and impressive.

Another big thing in this small town is the Torrington Livestock Market. It is one of three biggest livestock auction barns in the country.  Hard to imagine the number of cows that go through that place each year.

While I was in Torrington, I gave a talk to the local Rotary Club about my trilogy of Wyoming Coffee Table Books. What an outstanding club.  And the meeting was at the clubhouse of one of the prettiest golf courses in the state. 

Eastern Wyoming College is going through a building boom, which we saw courtesy of one of the students.  President Leslie Lanham Travers is a Lander native, whom I had watched growing up in my town.  John Hansen, the director of institutional development, has a number of impressive projects underway.

The college is all-in when it comes to the trades with a massive welding teaching complex and an ample cosmetology facility.

As a student of Wyoming history, it has always been easy for me to assume that the only major railroad in the state is the Union Pacific, which runs across the southern tier of counties.

But the eastern side of the state was literally also built of towns nestled next to the railroad, which includes Torrington, Lusk, Newcastle, and onward north.

And it is important to note that for 50 years, Goshen County was the center of the entire west because it was home to Fort Laramie. Today it has been restored and is an amazing site to visit.  It is a national monument.  Watch your schedule because it closes at 4:30p.m. even though the sun doesn’t go down until 9 p.m. in June.

For a quarter of a century, my wife Nancy and I owned a newspaper in Winner, S. D. and often drove through eastern Wyoming on our way there from Lander.  Also, since we had relatives in Iowa, we often drove through Goshen County on our drives back and forth. The people were always incredibly friendly, the food was great, and the fields were lush.

During one of my stops in eastern Wyoming we also visited Jeff Rose at the Rose Brothers Implement Store in Lingle.  Last time I saw him, he was climbing Devils Tower with his daughter.  Now he is talking about climbing Gannett Peak.  Good luck on that!

Often the sites and sights of Goshen County are viewed more by out of state tourists than in-state tourists.  We would strongly recommend that this is a great time for Wyoming folks to visit other Wyoming folks.  A trip to Goshen County should be high on your list. I highly recommend it.

The Goshen County Economic Development agency put together a list of things to do:

Explore Goshen County’s Historical Markers

Ash Point Trading Post

California National Historic Trail

Cheyenne Deadwood Stage Route

Cold Springs Emigrant Camp

County Line Grave

Dickens Site

Fort Bernard Trading Post

Government Farm & State Station

Grattan Massacre Historical Monument

Griffin-Gardner House

Harvard Fossil Beds

Horse Creek Treaty

Indian Grave, Quarry, and Camp

Jay Em Bison Kill Site

John Henry Museum

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

Pony Express National Historic Trail

Rawhide Stage Station

Rawhide Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail 

Red Cloud Indian Agency

Sod House

Stuart Party Camp

Table Mountain Wildlife Habitat

Texas Trail

Texas Trail Marker

The Pioneer Community Center

Three Mile Hog Ranch

United States Postal Service

United States Postal Service

Whalen Diversion Dam

Woodworth Springs

Yoder Home Site

Torrington-Things to Do

Adam Walter Memorial Botanical Park

Basketball Courts

Bird Watching

Bounce City

City Park

Cottonwood Country Club 

Cottonwood Golf Course

Cross the state line

Dale Jones Municipal Swimming Pool

Fishing (90 bodies of water throughout the county)

Frisbee Golf

Geocaching (locations around the county)

Go Goshen Visitor Center

GoGoshen Visitor Center

Goshen County Fair Grounds

Goshen County Library

Goshen County Sportsman’s Club

Grass Roots Walking Trail

Gravity Rail Park

Hiking

Homesteader’s Museum

Jirdon Park

Nebraska State Line

North Platte River

Oregon Trail Historic Trail’

Packer Lake

Picnicking

Pioneer Park

Pleasant Valley Greenhouse & Recreation

Rendezvous Center & Indoor Arena

Stargazing

Table Mountain Vineyards

Tennis Courts

Torrington Cruise Night,  June-September

Torrington Livestock Markets

Torrington Rock Shop

Torrington Skate Park

Torrington Sports Complex

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your Dog

Wyoming Theatre Two

Standing Events

2 Shot Goose Hunt

3rd Thursdays

Ag Breakfast

Car Show

Christmas Festivities

Christmas Parade

Comedy Night

Easter Egg Hunt

Forks Corks & Kegs

Goshen County Fair

Holiday Bazaar

Lions Club Summer Arts and Crafts Festival

National Circuit Finals Steer Roping

Parade of Tables

Pictures with Santa

Prairie Rose Vintage Garden

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Rooster Booster

Rotary Wine Tasting

Sagebrush and Roses

The Polar Express at the Museum

Torrington Farmers Market every Thursday from June until October

Torrington Fire Department Fireworks Show

Trunk-or-Treat

Yeehaw Daze

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

The 307 Bar & Grill

1500 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-8164

Family Variety, Bar & Grill

AJ’s Soda Shop

918 W Valley Rd, Torrington

307-575-7632

Family Variety, Ice Cream, Coffee, Soda

Arby’s

128 W Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-8900

Fast Food

Bee Chilled

Torrington

307-575-3295

Mobile Ice Cream Truck

The Bread Doctor

2017 Main St, Torrington

307-534-2253

Bakery

Broncho Bar

1924 Main St, Torrington

307-532-8660

Bar

Broncho Grill House

1918 Main St, Torrington

307-532-2950

Family Variety, Bar & Grill

Bucking Horse Steakhouse

Hwy 85, Torrington

307-532-8500

Family Variety, Fine Dining

Burger King

1020 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-4505

Fast Food

Canton Dragon

2126 Main St, Torrington

307-532-3888

Chinese

Cottonwood Country Club

2101 W 15th St, Torrington

307-532-4347

Family Variety, Bar & Grill

The Corner Bar

202 Main St, Lingle

307-837-2673

Bar & Grill

Cowboy Cafe

626 W Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-3333

Coffee/Cafe, Family Variety

Cowboy up Coffee

2702 W C St., Torrington

307-575-1392

Coffee/food to go

Deacon’s Restaurant

1558 S Main St, Torrington

307-532-4766

Family Variety

Domino’s Pizza

2741 W C St, Torrington

307-532-0330

Family Variety

Garcia’s

1915 Main Street

307-532-0852

Mexican

J & B Liquor

120 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-2521

Bar

The Java Jar

1940 Main St, Torrington

307-532-8541

Coffee/Café

La Familia Prado

1250 S Main St, Torrington

307-534-1975

Mexican

The Mint

1914 Main St

307-532-7421

Bar

McDonald’s

800 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-0120

Fast Food

Open Barrel Brewing Company

1930 Main St

307-401-0107

Bar/Snack food

Pizza Hut

1120 E Valley Rd, Torrington

307-532-7007

Pizza/Italian

Prairie Creek Books

and Tea

4392 US-26, Torrington 

307-532-3495

Tea

San Pedros

2113 Main Street, Torrington

Mexican

Scott’s Hiway Bar

1202 Main St, Torrington

307-532-3777

Bar & Grill

Subway

1934 W A St, Torrington

307-532-8444

Fast Food

Sweet Lou’s Bakery Café

120 W 20th Ave, Torrington

307-534-6984

Coffee/Café, Bakery

Table Mountain Vineyards

5933 Rd 48, Huntley

307-459-0233

Wine Tasting/Catering/Food Events

Taco Johns

224 W 20th Ave, Torrington

307-532-3711

Fast Food

Lingle-Things To Do

Bird Watching

Ellis Harvest Home

Fishing 

Haven on the Rock

Hiking

Historic Ban Shell 

Historic Jay Em

Jay Em Historic District Tours

Lingle Pool

Newcomb’s Arcade

North Platte River

Oregon Trail Historic Trail

Picnicking

Rawhide Wildlife Habitat Nature Trail

Stargazing

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your Dog

Whipple Park

Wyoming History Center

Standing Events

Car Show

Christmas Lighting Contest

Church in the Park

Fireman’s Ball

Fireman’s Burger Feed

Lingle Volunteer Fire Department – Easter Egg Hunt

Lingle, Mingle, Jingle

Movies in the Park

SAREC Tours

Trunk or Treat

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

The Corner Bar

202 Main St, Lingle

307-837-2673

Bar & Grill

Lira’s Restaurant

E Hwy 26, Lingle

307-837-2826

Mexican

Fort Laramie-Things To Do 

1875 Iron Bridge

B.A. Cave

Bird Watching

Dr. Brownrigg House & Hospital

Fishing 

Fort Laramie Community Center

Fort Laramie Frontier Trading Post

Fort Laramie National Historic Site Audio Tour

Fort Laramie National Historical Site

Fort Laramie Visitor Center

Hell Gap National Historic Landmark

Hiking

Interpretive Programs at the Fort

Mormon Initials Carved on Rock

North Platte River

Oregon Trail Historic Trail

Picnicking

Splash Park

Stargazing

Tracs and Traces

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your dog

Standing Events

4th Fridays (street fair and farmers market] from July through October)

Annual New Year’s Eve Dance

Halloween Party

Easter Breakfast

Easter Egg Hunt

4th of July Fireworks

Old fashion 4th of July activities at the Fort Laramie National Historic site

Christmas with Santa

Summer Street Dance

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

Ft. Laramie American Grill

302 Pioneer Ct, Ft. Laramie

307-837-2324

Family Variety

The Gathering Place

101 Lawton Ave, Ft. Laramie

307-837-3082

Tearoom

Vickie’s Saloon

115 N Laramie, Ft. Laramie

307-587-2288

Bar & Grill

Yoder-Things To Do

Bump Sullivan 

Downer Bird Farm

Fishing

Hawk Springs Easter Egg Hunt

Hawk Springs State Recreation

Hunting

Oregon Trail Historic Trail

Picnicking

Springer Reservoir

Springer Wildlife Management

Stargazing

TravelStorys Tour

Walk your dog

Water Sports

Yoder Abandoned Jail

Yoder Park

Standing Events

Pheasant Dinner [women’s club]

Roster-Booster [Springer bird farm]

Trunk-or-Treat

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

The Emporium

Hwy 85, Hawk Springs

307-532-3442

Bar & Grill

Longbranch Saloon & Steakhouse

525 Hwy 85, Hawk Springs

307-532-4266

Bar & Grill

LaGrange-Things To Do

Basketball court

Bill Ward Memorial Playground

Cookout in Local Park

Cross the State Line

Disc Golf

Enjoy fresh pie at the diner

Fishing

Hiking

Hunting

Library

Picnic

RC race track

Silver Wing Sporting Club

Take a tour of the Historic Heritage Center

Tennis court

Three parks

Walk your Dog

Walking Trail

Standing Events

June Mini Fair [includes pancake breakfast, foot races, lunch, 5k run, car show, garage sale, bands, games, and rodeo]

Annual Fireworks and Ice Cream Social

Community building fund raising through silent auction [soup and desserts auction

Easter Egg Hunt

Halloween Party

Christmas Lightning Contest

Enjoy a Bite at our Family-owned Restaurants

Bear Mountain Stage Stop

1252 Hwy 85, LaGrange

307-834-0105

Bar & Grill

Longhorn Café

5th Ave, LaGrange

307-834-2432

Family Variety

For more information, contact:

Sandy Hoehn 

Community Development Director

Goshen County Economic Development

Home of Goshen County Economic Development, Chamber and Visitor’s Center

2042 Main Street  | Torrington, WY  82240

Phone  307.532.3879 | Cell 307.575.5919

Jonathan Lange: The Seattle Disaster and How it Applies to Wyoming

in Column/Jonathan Lange
4934

By Jonathan Lange. Columnist, Cowboy State Daily

CHOP, formerly known as CHAZ, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, surrounds the vacant and boarded up East Precinct headquarters of the Seattle Police Department. It is six square blocks of banana republic planted in the middle of an American city.

On June 8, 2020 after several continuous days of turmoil, a mob began to throw bricks, bottles and homemade bombs at the men and women who were there to protect and serve. Many were hospitalized. Still more were injured. The mob’s threats to torch the precinct headquarters prompted police to abandon the area.

Thriving communities are the product of building, not tearing down. For families to live together in peace and harmony, hundreds of institutions and millions of moving parts need to be painstakingly and lovingly cultivated. It is possible for a community to survive the sudden collapse of an important institution. But that is an injury it must work to heal. It cannot be the constituting principle of the community.

By emptying the East Precinct, CHOP did not rid themselves of the police, they simply established a new, untrained and ununiformed police department. In so doing, they erected barricades that disrupted commerce with the outside world.

Of course, the armed men manning the barricades will be quick to assure us that all the vehicles of community and commerce are free to enter the zone. But will the utilities themselves and trucks supplying commerce be willing to risk equipment and personnel in an area controlled by an untested and unlawful police force?

The buildings and businesses that support a community are only made possible by trusting relationships forged over decades. No father or mother wants to raise children in a community where neighbors corrupt their children. No shop owner wants to do business where his shop may be picked clean at the whim of a mob.  No police officer will be willing to risk life and limb to protect and serve neighbors and shop owners if he is targeted by revolutionaries and abandoned by city government.

That is why education, not law enforcement, remains the backbone of every community. Education is not simply the imparting of a body of knowledge. Properly speaking, it is the raising of good citizens. Technological know-how and the ability to spout the latest politically correct mantra are worthless in themselves.

Unless children are raised up to be virtuous, community is not possible. When these foundations are eroded, a community may survive for a while, but there will come a tipping point. Communities that fail to inculcate prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope and love will inevitably collapse into chaos.

The occupiers of Seattle are staring into this abyss today. They seem, instinctively, to know the value of education. The two most visible activities of the occupiers are digging up the park for “guerilla gardens,” and setting up “teach-in tables.” These teaching stations offer crash courses in transformative justice and other progressive values.

Whether hasty indoctrination into social justice theory can replace the virtue that built Seattle is doubtful. But at least someone is recognizing the truth that community starts by inculcating the virtues.

That raises questions about our own communities. Are we still teaching the virtues that built Wyoming? Or, is progressive indoctrination stripping our children of the education needed to thrive? Institutions, buildings and businesses built by past generations may survive by pure inertia. But if we do not constantly renew freedom’s foundations, they will not survive for long.

Good intentions cannot redeem bad ideas. Central planning cannot make up for the suppression of common sense. The sudden appearance of a banana republic in Seattle ought to put every American citizen on alert. President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Wyoming’s people know this instinctively and work hard to raise their own children with the virtues that support freedom. What they must learn from events in Seattle is that the transmission of freedom to the next generation is a cooperative endeavor. It cannot be done alone in a bunker.

It involves not only the home, but the school; not only the school, but the library; not only the library, but Main Street. Lawyers, doctors, ranchers, rough necks, miners, mothers, teachers and preachers all have a unique and vital contribution to make in the education of a free society.

Hard work and self-sufficiency are the necessary foundation of freedom. But unless free citizens work together to build communities, they will be overwhelmed by the mob when a “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” comes to Cheyenne. Now is the time to come together. Now is the time to build.

Bill Sniffin: My COVID Bucket List Of Things To See In Wyoming

in Bill Sniffin/Column
4869

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By Bill Sniffin

Today, in the face of COVID-19, what advice can I give to people about getting out there and seeing Wyoming?

It is prudent to pack the face masks, hand sanitizers, and to practice social distancing.  Wyoming has proven to be a very safe place but we are now being invaded by 5 million tourists from around the world, so be aware of the dangers out there.

Because of the virus, this is a time to enjoy the wide-open spaces in the Cowboy State. I am emphasizing outdoor sights and sites. 

With that said, here is my COVID-era bucket list for Wyoming.

Lake Marie, Hobo Hot Spring, and the Wolf Hotel are among my favorite places in Saratoga. The fishing there is spectacular, too.

The Boar’s Tusk, Killpecker Sand Dunes, and the petroglyphs north of Rock Springs are among my favorite spots.  Hope to see them again soon.

Did you know that Fort Laramie in Goshen County was the preeminent place in the northern Rocky Mountains for 50 years, from 1830 to 1880? It is a fantastic site with restored buildings. It is a national site and closes at 4:30 p.m., so do not get there late.

In Cheyenne, a tour of the newly-refurbished State Capitol building is on my list.  Be sure to practice the necessary precautions, though.

The Red Desert, nestled between Lander, Rawlins, and Rock Springs has so much to see and do.  From the Oregon Buttes to Adobe Town and everything in-between, it is sight to behold. And the roads are decent. A family car should work for most of it, although I would leave the sports car home.

Fossil Butte near Kemmerer is on my list again, thanks for Vince Tomassi, who is a big advocate of this national historical site.

Ogden Driskill is the un-elected emperor of Devils Tower.  It was the country’s first national monument. I love everything about Northeast Wyoming.  The Gore Buffalo Jump is incredibly impressive, as is Ranch A. Little Hulett has one of the nicest golf courses in the state, too.

One of the more unique small parks is Ayer’s Natural Bridge in Converse County.  A cool spot that is truly cool on a hot summer day.

This could be a great summer to follow the Oregon Trail. More than 350,000 people traveled this route 180 years ago.  The Wyoming portion starts in Goshen County and ends in Uinta County. A great way to explore national history right here in the Cowboy State. There are visitor centers all along the way and some great museums, including the Trails Center in Casper and terrific restored forts at Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger.

The town of Evanston is full of things to see.  Folks there have created a great River Walk and pond complex on the Bear River.

Afton-Star Valley is an often-ignored valley by many Wyomingites because it is so remote. But the trip is worth it. Wonderful dining and wonderful, friendly people.  A giant new Mormon Temple is a tourist site in its own right.

Our mountain ranges are spectacular. My favorite mountain roads will give you goose bumps. Highway 14A out of Lovell (which leads to the amazing Bighorn Medicine Wheel), the Beartooth Highway north of Cody, the Loop Road outside of Lander are some of the most scenic.  Shell Canyon out of Greybull and Tensleep Canyon out of Worland are terrific mountain passes with good roads.

The Big Horn Basin is this huge area in NW Wyoming surrounded by Thermopolis, Worland, Greybull, Basin, Lovell, Powell, and Cody. There is so much to see ranging from the world’s largest hot spring in Thermopolis to wild horses and all the events that Cody has to offer, including rodeos.

Here is my county you have the wondrous Sinks Canyon and towering Wind River Mountain Range. The Wind River Indian Reservation has curtailed some of their powwows but there is still a lot to see.

Wyoming’s next great museum is the National Museum of Military Vehicles just south of Dubois. This will be a game-changer when it comes to tourist patterns.  Dan Starks’ creation is magnificent. The multi-million-dollar facility will have soft opening in August, due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Oops, it seems I forgot a couple of icons.  Yes, Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks are worth a visit, too. These are our crown jewels. Be sure to see them if you get the chance. 

There is so much to see and do here in our home state. The above is a partial list of places I intend to see this summer.  Why don’t you join me?

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Q&A With Wyoming Athletic Director Tom Burman

in Cody Tucker/Column
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LARAMIE — Tom Burman is busy addressing a disaster.

What else is new?

The latest one was a wet, unexpected snow storm that hit Laramie two days ago, taking out numerous tress, shutting down highways in and out of the city and power for several hours late Monday night through Tuesday afternoon.

“It looks like a tornado hit Laramie,” Wyoming’s athletics director said Wednesday to begin a 21-minute phone conversation. “Trees on Ivinson will probably have to come down. They are split right down the middle.

We will get through this. It’s just another 2020 issue.”

Those 2020 issues were front and center for Burman during our talk Wednesday.

We spoke about the latest on the COVID-19 front, financial issues and civil unrest around the nation. Mostly, how all of those things will impact the athletic programs at UW. It wasn’t all bad news. We also touched on optimism, actual football and men’s hoops news and what this season might look like from a fans’ perspective.

7220 sports: So, first and foremost, I think the fans want to know — what’s the latest on football starting on time? 

Tom Burman: I would say, as of June 10, we are planning on playing football Sept. 5 versus Weber State and again the next week against Utah. All indications and the direction things are going in college football, we are planning on playing. Will that mean a full stadium? Very unlikely. There will be games and we will have fans.

7220 sports: Some athletes returned to campus June 1. They have all been tested for COVID-19 and are quarantined for 14 days. Has anyone tested positive? Any idea how many players have been tested?

Tom Burman: We’ve tested 166 people. We will release something probably today. Until legal people go over the results, I can’t say how it went. All

I can say is it went well.

7220 sports: Did you get the giant Q-tip test? How did that feel?

Tom Burman: It was miserable, but were going to have to have to get used to it. It’s a part of our life now. Is it painful? No. It’s uncomfortable. I’m hoping we are making progress on saliva tests. The issues are the cost and accuracy of a saliva test … The end game and goal is to switch from a nasal swab to a saliva test … They’re less invasive.

7220 sports: With recent protests sweeping the nation, including in Laramie, will players who are engaged in the protests have to start over when it comes to quarantine?

Tom Burman: No. We gave them some flexibility … They were all wearing masks, and for the most part, stayed six feet apart from those they didn’t know. They went there with a group and tried not to intermingle. We are not naive enough to say they didn’t do it, but we feel good about it. We think it’s important they participate in something they are passionate about.

7220 sports: On Monday, the Division-I Football Oversight Committee drafted a six-week practice plan, allowing coaches to work with players as early as July 6. It is still awaiting approval from the NCAA. Wyoming players would begin workouts July 13, “enhanced training” that is set to begin July 24, and a normal preseason start date of Aug. 7. Are you in favor of that?

Tom Burman: Yeah, I think that model has a lot of merrit … We’ll be getting freshmen here in the next few weeks. We need to get them through quarantine and in a position for a structured, mandatory workout program in early July.

7220 sports: The California State University system announced in May that its campuses would be closed to in-person classes this fall. Three Mountain West teams — San Diego State, San Jose State and Fresno State — are in that system. The Cowboys host the Aztecs Oct. 17. In April, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said there wouldn’t be football unless students return to campus. What is the latest on that?

Tom Burman: It looks like all three are planning to play and have fall sports. Most classes will be online, but some students will be on campus … All states and institutions have autonomy and how they want to do it. It’s possible those schools play in front of no fans. I don’t know how they make that work — that’s their issue. They are hoping to loosen up regulations and have some level of fans.

7220 sports: Has the pandemic effected season ticket sales?

Tom Burman: Were about 750 to 800 below this same time last year. Most people are taking a wait-and-see approach. In the fall, I can see where we are at last year’s numbers and maybe even a bit ahead of it. The first game could be very limited with possibly no single-game tickets available. We will have season-ticket holders and possibly 1,500 students (in the stadium), along with players’ families. We hope to move (the number of fans) up each week as the season progresses. Depends on the results and analysis and whether (COVID-19) spikes or doesn’t spike in Wyoming.

7220 sports: You’ve said the stadium needs to be at least 30 percent filled when the season rolls around. Have you even begun to think of how you would iron that out? Season ticket holders get first dibs? Will students get in?

Tom Burman: We’ve got multiple plans and have had conversations with the state department of health, the governor’s office, our board of trustees, our doctors and the NCAA doctors … As long as there is not a vaccine, we have to be comfortable with some level of risk. The only way to be absolutely safe is to not play.

At present, we are planning to play and have access for all season-ticket holders. We are going to try to move some of them. A couple of sections are very crowded. We are going to ask them to move to spread them out a little bit.

They can go back to that seat the following year. They will be displaced for a season, and we will start that process immediately. We will have about 5,000 seats set as socially distanced and safe as possibly. If you want to go sit in this section, there is approx six feet between fans and everyone will wear masks.

There will be security. If anyone is nervous, they can feel comfortable there. We average roughly 3,000 students per game. We will reduce that and the rest of the stadium 50 percent.

We are hoping to grow it every week. Keep in mind, this is all as of June 10. Things could change dramatically. But that’s kind of what we are thinking. It will be very restricted. We aren’t giving many tickets to visiting fans and they aren’t going to give us many, I would suspect.

7220 sports: OK, enough of the doom and gloom. Let’s pretend the season is a go and Weber State is inside War Memorial Stadium Sept. 5. In your 14 years as the AD in Laramie, have you seen this much excitement surrounding the football program?

Tom Burman: No. I’d say there’s more optimism and belief that we have a quality football program and are one of the top teams in our conference. I’m not going to say we are Boise State or San Diego State. I’m not going to say that we are worse, either. It’s great knowing that every time teams come to The War, they are going to get a first-class effort from a team that plays cowboy tough football. That’s why, selfishly — and there are a lot bigger issues in the world than University of Wyoming athletics — Covid-19 and the crash of energy prices could not have hit at a worse time. We were looking at historic attendance with the schedule we have. It is what it is. If things go well, in the country and in Wyoming, if we can have crowds for Boise State and San Diego State, we would be thrilled. (The Cowboys host SDSU Oct. 17 and Boise State Nov. 21)

7220 sports: Craig Bohl returns a pair of young, exciting quarterbacks, one of the top running backs in the nation in Xazavian Valladay, a wealth of experience and talent on both lines of scrimmage and one of the best home schedules in recent memory. What are you looking forward to most?

Tom Burman: Winning. I just like to win. What I’m looking forward to most is we all have to come together to help each other. We will not be able to operate like normal, but at the end of the day, we are coming together to celebrate the university and the state of Wyoming. We see friends from Cody, Powell, Green River and Denver. Maybe you don’t hug, but elbow bump. There’s still the opportunity to do what we love in the state of Wyoming. If we can pull that off, we will have a great time celebrating the Cowboys. We are getting through this.

7220 sports: Want to jump on a grenade? Who starts under center against Weber State? Sean Chambers or Levi Williams?

Tom Burman: I don’t want to touch that grenade. Whoever starts, it will be excellent. They are both great players and I love both as people. It will be exciting to watch them compete and lead Wyoming football.

7220 sports: Let’s move on to men’s hoops. Last year was rough. The last two years have been rough. Despite all of that, firing coaches, especially one with the character and values of Allen Edwards, has to be the worst part of this job, right?

Tom Burman: Correct. No-brainer. He’s a good man with a great family. He tried everything in his power to get Wyoming basketball to where it needed to be. He’ll be better for it and someday will get another chance. It is hard, but you’ve got to remember to separate personal feelings from business. You have to do what you have to do

7220 sports: You bring in Jeff Linder on St. Patrick’s Day. Right around the time the world came to a halt. How impressive has it been for you to watch this guy land the top recruiting class in the conference without even stepping foot in a living room or meeting mom and dad — or the players — face to face?

Tom Burman: I give a great deal of credit to him and his staff. His plan and what they’ve accomplished, is amazing. More than just recruiting, the decision making process. You can’t hold coaches hands. You can guide them at times, but to micromanage a coach creates an atmosphere where eventually you can’t work together.

With him, it was what do you do first? Go see Hunter Maldonado in Colorado Springs. Go see Kenny Foster and Kwane Marble in Denver. Go meet up with Hunter Thompson. It’s not like, I’ll get to it tomorrow. It’s, I’m leaving in 15 minutes to go to Colorado Springs. Immediate stuff like that. His decision on staff, keeping Sean Vandiver here. He brings continuity to the old players and gives comfort to all of us in athletics. We love Coach V. He’s easy to work with.

Then he goes out and finds a Wyoming guy who dreamed of playing for the Cowboys. That didn’t work out, he left and become a head coach. He goes out and hires Sundance Wicks. You can’t just rely on recruiting Wyoming and Colorado to be successful, so he brings in coach (Ken) DeWeese, who has contacts in Texas …

There’s a value of being a head coach. Every time I miss on a coach, 9 out of 10, I should’ve hired someone who is a head coach. He was at Northern Colorado for four years and that prepared him to do a great job at UW. I’m fired up for hoops.

l hoop we can get through football without a flare of COVID and start hoops on time. The players are fired up to be here and get going.

7220 sports: You told me last season, around this time, that you are loving your job more than you ever have. In just a few months you have had to let a coach go, hire a new one, try and secure state funding, see COVID-19 take hold of the world, come up with plan after plan and sit in on virtual meeting after meeting, speak up in the face of nationwide protests, reschedule games last minute, get a giant swab jabbed into your brain and it snowed six inches in Laramie on June 8. Still love it that much?

Tom Burman: This has been the hardest three months of my career, no doubt about it. Do I still love it? Yes. But it’s been rough. One thing you failed to mention is one of the biggest single threats to us — the crash in energy prices. We can’t continue to build, watch and develop without state support. I’m concerned about that. I wouldn’t say it’s gone, but it took a huge hit. I hope and pray we get it back.

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Is This The End? Or Is It Another Messy Beginning?

in Column/Glenn Arbery
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By Dr. Glenn Arbery, President, Wyoming Catholic College

In a recent Daily Cartoon for the New Yorker, cartoonist Elizabeth McNair depicts an old bearded white man with his eyes closed — the familiar doomsday prophet — holding up a sign that reads THE END IS NEAR. Around the corner behind him comes an open-eyed and determined-looking young black woman holding up a sign that says ACTUALLY, THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING. 

McNair presents a quick and simple interpretation of the national turmoil we now face. First of all, it is racially divided, old white man versus young black woman. Whiteness, very much including the white beard of old age, is an embattled order that feels a more or less apocalyptic dread of the end of civilization.

Given the biblical associations with prophecy, the cartoon hints at this benighted antique figure’s understanding of moral order. Note his closed eyes. Blackness, by contrast, is embodied in the determined countenance of the young woman. Her life matters. Forward-looking, wholly oriented toward the future, she does not anticipate doomsday, but some brighter and better tomorrow where her personal ambitions have been liberated from the oppressive past. Her race and gender will not hinder her. 

Looking at this cartoon, I am reminded of another one that I saw this week, this one by Pat Cross in the National Catholic Register.Playing on another familiar cartoon theme, the Titanic and the iceberg, Cross depicts a massive iceberg of which “Riots” are merely the small, visible tip. “Broken Families” are the massive, unseen part of the iceberg toward which a ship flying the U.S. flag is blithely steaming. 

Cross does not emphasize the peaceful demonstrations implied in McNair’s cartoon, but the symptomatic civil disorder that these demonstrations unleash. Race is not the overt reference of his cartoon. The hidden part of the iceberg applies across all racial divides, since (to cite the common statistics) 40% of all children in the United States are now born out of wedlock, and 50% of marriages end in divorce.

But in the current circumstances, Cross’s word “Riots” might easily be interpreted to mean “black lawlessness” and “Broken Families” might suggest the cause of lawlessness: the fact that 77% of all black children in the United States are now born out of wedlock.

What do “broken families” have to do with the murder of George Floyd, the insistence that black lives matter, the charge of systemic racism, and the brutality of the police? For Cross, black lives matter so much that the restoration of families must be the crucial first step in acknowledging the great wrong that began with race slavery.

Why?

Because stable relationships between a mother and a father, their mutual trust, and their love of their children provide a strong moral grounding, a sense of ownership in the present, and solid expectations for the future. If, on the other hand, a child’s primary experience is abandonment and illegitimacy, he or she will have no deeply felt reason to respect law itself or enforcers of the law. If black people encounter “law” as an instrument of deprivation and violence, why not resist it? If “law” is merely oppression enacted by policemen who serve “whiteness,” then any so-called common good that law promises has already been denied to black people in advance. 

Pat Cross, looking at the reality of the rejection of marriage, believes that healing broken families is the least racist thing America can do. For McNair, on the other hand, “just the beginning” means that the defeat of the old doomsday prophet is the condition of personal liberation in the new America she envisions. 

I understand very well the appeal of being able to say, “Actually, this is just the beginning.” In fact, I say it about Wyoming Catholic College, both in its founding purpose and its future. I do not associate that new beginning with liberation from the best of the past, however, but rather with its deeper and more thoughtful recovery, with the acknowledgment of past wrongs and the genuine attempt at redress. What is permanently true will reemerge. Christ is risen. What is false or merely ideological will inevitably fall away.

There is much to examine in our own hearts about how we treat others, much to repent. But McNair’s young, determined, black woman is convinced, like many in my generation in the 1960s (or French Revolutionaries in the 1790s), that the old repressive human condition can at last be remedied through enlightened social action.

That action now appears to entail a great and growing contempt for America itself, our hard-won Republic, as inherently flawed; it appears to interpret the world’s greatest ongoing endeavor of self-government as an evil thing from the moment that Columbus set sail from Europe. A young writer in Brooklyn, Robert Jones, Jr., writes that “The United States of America is by its very nature, anti-Black…. [Anti-Blackness] is the foundation of every American institution and what animates every American person.” 

The title of his piece is “Let It Burn.” No wonder statues are toppled, churches violated, public officials derided or removed for trying to maintain public order.

If this is actually just the beginning, no wonder the old prophet, who has seen many a revolution like this one, says what he does. He closes his eyes because he sees all too well what is coming.

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Jonathan Lange: Torrington Court Case Says Unborn Babies Are Not Persons

in Column/Jonathan Lange
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By Jonathan Lange, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Clarissa was born on the bathroom floor, weighing only three and a quarter pounds. She arrived six weeks premature, induced by an overdose on methamphetamine, cocaine and, possibly, heroine. Her maternal grandmother scooped up the tiny baby and helped her take her first breaths.

An ambulance rushed Clarissa to the NICU where she was treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). She was withdrawing from the illegal drugs shared with her mother throughout her gestation.

Clarissa had her struggles, but by the love of her foster family and the skill of her doctors, she pulled through. Her rough entry into the world is now a story she has a passion to share. This bright and strong Wyoming woman knows that she speaks for others, many less fortunate. Some are still born. Others die unattended. Survivors sometimes have life-long birth defects.

Statistically, a child is born with NAS every fifteen minutes. The tragedy of America’s addiction epidemic is that it affects not only men and women, but tens of thousands of unborn persons every year. The unjust injury and death inflicted upon people with no say in the matter, cries out for justice. We, as Wyomingites, have a duty to intervene for their protection.

Exercising that duty, the State of Wyoming recently filed charges against a Torrington mother. On August 18, 2019, hospital employees called Child Protective Services after a newborn tested positive for methamphetamine. When police tested the mother, it was clear that the baby was exposed in utero. “She was charged with felony child abuse and delivery of methamphetamine to a minor,” according to the Torrington Telegram.

But, on March 26, 2020, her charges were dismissed. Public Defender David MacDonald argued that Wyoming’s statutory language does not specifically designate an unborn Wyomingite as a “child.” Therefore, the charge of delivering meth to a minor child must be dismissed. He further argued that it does not specifically call a pregnant woman a “mother.” If not a mother, she cannot be a “parent” in the eyes of the law. Therefore, she cannot be charged with parental abuse for action taken before the birth.

The Torrington Telegram headlined the story, “Charges dropped; attorney proves a fetus isn’t a person, according to state statute.” Actually, MacDonald is more modest about his achievement. Charges were dismissed when the state’s prosecutor failed to answer his brief. By default, the Eighth District Court found that the statutory language fails to stipulate that an unborn child is a person, or that a pregnant woman is a mother.

This ought to alarm every pregnant woman and every expectant couple in the state. By denying that a fetus has any legally recognized parents prior to birth, the court not only exonerated one mother of parental responsibilities, it also wiped away the corresponding parental rights for all parents.

Anybody from a medical worker, to a state agency, to a total stranger can interfere with the parent child relationship before the child is born. Neither parent has parental standing to advocate for the child.

As for the unborn child, the Eighth District Court has just wiped away any legal protection that the child formerly had under Wyoming law. If a child has no right to be protected from illegal and harmful drugs, she also has no right to be protected from murder. Should a boyfriend kill the child through battery, or drugs, the state has no authority to charge him with murder.

During the 2019 general session, Senator Lynn Hutchings introduced the Unborn victims of violence act (SF 128) to repair this injustice in Wyoming law. It would have provided statutory language that allows Wyoming to prosecute the murder of an unborn child.

Sadly, the bill was heavily amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Every reference to “unborn child” was replaced with “fetus,” and every reference to “mother,” was replaced with “pregnant woman.” The bill ultimately failed. It remains legal in Wyoming to murder an unborn child against the will of the mother.

Now, the Torrington case has shown that it is likewise legal to deliver harmful drugs to an unborn child. It has exposed the legal fiction that children can be adequately protected without legal recognition of the parent-child relationship in the womb. The Eighth District Court has now made clear that nothing short of a legislative fix will address the problem.

For Wyoming, this also means that state law fails to protect what Wyoming’s Constitution guarantees. The Declaration of Rights, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming stipulates “In their [the people’s] inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all members of the human race are equal.”

Equal protection for life in Wyoming is not affected by any subjective stage of development or subcategory of human being. Regardless of whether a member of the human race may be dehumanized with terms like “embryo” and “fetus,” or humanized with words like “child” and “person,” the Constitution recognizes equality for “all members of the human race.”

In recent centuries, deeply anti-human “personhood theories” have sought to separate “human beings” from “persons.” By this sleight of hand, they have justified slavery, the Jewish holocaust, and other racist atrocities.

Wyoming’s Declaration of Rights, written after the war to free the slaves, deliberately side-steps the tainted terminology of “personhood,” giving equal protection under law to all members of the human race without regard to any discriminatory and undefined distinction between persons and non-persons.

The court should have recognized that the language of personhood theories are not only foreign to the Wyoming Constitution, they were explicitly rejected. The state’s prosecutor should have defended the Constitution’s intent to avoid the vagaries of personhood theory and stick with clear, provable statements.

The Torrington case highlights the failure of Wyoming law to adequately guarantee the protections promised in the Wyoming Constitution. Clarissa’s life reminds us that this failure is not merely theoretical. It causes tangible harm to real people with lives worth protecting.

It is past time for Wyoming’s executive branch, judicial system, and legislators to enact and enforce laws that give equal protection to every member of the human race as the Constitution expressly requires.

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Dave Simpson: We’re Less Deplorable Than Before!

in Column/Dave Simpson
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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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Jonathan Lange: Trump Executive Order Supports Free Speech In USA

in Column/Jonathan Lange
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By Jonathan Lange, guest column

“Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy.  Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution.  The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.” These are the opening words of Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, signed be President Trump on May 28, 2020. 

The Associated Press used this as another opportunity to gaslight the American people. They characterized the order as “challenging the lawsuit protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet.”

Actually, the lawsuit protections written into the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA) were originally written “to restrict free speech on the internet,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. If the AP mischaracterizes the Executive Order so badly, we should set the record straight.

In 1996, the Internet was still in its infancy. Netscape was the browser of choice and the fastest dial-up modems were operating at a whopping 33.6 kilobytes per second. Geocities.com and AOL.com were among the first service providers to let a web user build his own home page. Others soon followed. These interactive computer services became the precursors of today’s social media.


Unlike a newspaper, where every word and picture had to be specifically approved by the editor, this budding technology allowed content to be published without the oversight of a general editor. This was a revolution in the free flow of information. It was also an opening for more sinister pursuits.

Disgusting, indecent and obscene words and pictures could be uploaded just as easily as family photos and decent content. The unfettered use of user-generated content threatened to poison the Internet and drive away anyone who did not want to be assaulted by obscenities and lewd conduct. Unless something was done, its power would be unusable for decent citizens.

As a powerful new tool for the social good, it was in the interest of the government to protect the Internet from antisocial behavior. But the owners of interactive computer services ran into a legal conundrum.

If they deleted even one obscene photo, they were no longer the operators of public bulletin boards, but made themselves editors. As such, they would be legally and financially responsible for all the content available on the platform. 

What to do? Unless free speech was fettered to keep obscenities from turning the Internet into a sewer, it would not be available to anyone. But if user-generated pages were placed under the same libel laws as traditional newspapers, those pages could be sued out of existence. Again, the Internet would not be available to anyone.

Section 230 of the CDA was written to address this problem. Its explicit intent is “(4) to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material; and (5) to ensure vigorous enforcement of federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.”

Under paragraph (c) titled, “Protection for ‘Good Samaritan’ blocking and screening of offensive material,” Section 230 says, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 USC sec. 230). 

After this comes the lawsuit protection. “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

Clearly, the intent of Section 230 is to preserve parental rights and to protect children from “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, [and] harassing” material. Nobody ever envisioned the words, “otherwise objectionable,” to cover whatever the owner of the platform doesn’t want you to see.

It is the prerogative of print and broadcast media to disseminate, or to stifle whatever content it desires to give to or withhold from its consumers. With this right comes the responsibility to abide by decency laws and libel laws. If Facebook, Twitter, Google and the rest want these same prerogatives and responsibilities, they are welcome to have them. 

But if they do not want the responsibility of abiding by libel and decency laws, they have no business claiming the right of editors to create, stifle or alter the content that their users are generating. And yet, this is precisely what today’s social media are doing.

This is where President Trump’s Executive Order speaks. It declares, “When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct.  It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher.

The Executive Order makes no attempt to change the law. It only directs the executive agencies to give attention to applying liability protections in keeping with the entire law, not by cherry-picking isolated phrases. Thus, it directs the commerce secretary and the attorney general to petition the Federal Communications Commission to make rules appropriate to Section 230.

This provision, especially, ought to be applauded by every newspaper and cable news show in the country. Abuse of Section 230 by social media giants is a significant factor in the massive decline of traditional media outlets.

The Executive Order further directs the head of each executive agency to review the money that the federal government pays to these corporate giants. It asks for a report to be delivered to the Office of Management and Budget in the next month. The American people deserve to know how tax-payer money is spent in support of platforms that actively skew the public discourse.

The Order also directs the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General to look into unfair and deceptive practices of the social media giants. In May of 2019, the White House received 16,000 complaints from social media users. Many believe they were deceived. They were promised a platform to disseminate ideas, but instead were shadow banned by the very companies that promised to broadcast their content.

Twenty-four years ago the Internet had potential both to be a tremendous blessing and a terrible curse. That is no less true today. The world has jumped on an airplane that we are trying to build in mid-flight. 

Are interactive computer services (social media) free-for-all public forums? Or, are they simply electronic newspapers, with editors and agendas of their own? The Communications Decency Act has allowed these corporate giants to play both ends against the middle. They can advertise themselves as public bulletin boards, but rip down notices with impunity.

Ultimately, it will be the social media conglomerates themselves that will have to decide what they are. It is the job of the U.S. government to give them a clear choice. The Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, is a good step toward clarifying that choice. 

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