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Rod Miller

Rod Miller: Liz Cheney And A House Divided

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By Rod Miller, columnist

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Thus, Charles Dickens opens his classic, “A Tale of Two Cities”. Dickens could just as easily been describing today’s Republican Party and the schism that makes the GOP look like a house divided, warring against itself.

As the GOP leadership, both in Wyoming and nationally, purges from the ranks any voices critical of ex-president Trump, the ideological schism widens. The result will be a party containing two cities – one loyal to a demagogue, and one loyal to the U.S. Constitution.

So, what’s the solution? Let’s take a look at another old, dusty document and see if we can get a hint.

WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

Dissolving political bands seems, in times like these, to be a wise idea. The Republican party (or one or the other of the factions within it) should summon up the intellectual honesty to admit that the current schism will not heal, and that the opposing internal ideologies should divorce.

Break-ups are always painful and angsty, but often necessary. The modern GOP is, in fact, the result of the Whig Party dividing over the question of slavery in the new western states back in the 1850s.

The new Republican Party, only a couple of years old, lost its first presidential election in 1856, when John C. Fremont was the candidate. They took their lumps in the first contest, but won four years later with Abraham Lincoln leading the ticket.

So, history teaches us that being a brand new political party splitting off because of ideological differences is NOT the kiss of death.

The Whigs split over slavery, but today the shear point in the GOP is the personality of one man. One element of the Republican Party would gleefully follow Trump over a cliff just to kiss his ass. The rest of us owe fidelity to the Constitution, rather than to any individual. The only solution is to divide the party.

The Trump wing should proudly disavow itself of any political impetus other than what comes out of his mouth, thus freeing themselves totally from any constraints that the Constitution might impose. And they have an instructive example from Argentina in the first half of the 20th Century with Juan and Evita Peron and the Peronistas.

The rest of us should re-read “Conscience of a Conservative” and re-dedicate ourselves to a party that embraces the Constitution, the rule of law, fiscal constraint, individual (rather than governmental or corporate) rights and responsibilities, peaceful transitions of power, civil debate, and good grammar and punctuation. We should also take a firm stand against the designated hitter rule.

These two approaches to a nation’s civic life simply cannot co-exist within the same party. Its time for a break-up and a new political party. I suppose we can flip a coin to see who gets to keep the name “Republican”, but if this current situation goes on much longer, that name won’t have much meaning anymore.

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Rod Miller: What the Hell is Cheney Doing?

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Amid all the noggin-scratchin’ and perplexity over Rep. Liz Cheney’s recent actions, there is wild conjecture about what her endgame is. Folks justifiably wonder what her ultimate goal might be as she prods and pokes at the Trump machine that is gobbling up the Republican Party.

History might offer an answer. Lets look back to the Second Punic War, a couple hundred years BC, when Rome and Carthage tussled over control of the western Mediterranean.

Two prominent military/political families, the Scipios from Rome and the Barcas from Carthage, were front and center as they led their respective nations in war. Each family send brothers to do battle with brothers from the other family.

Hannibal Barca was the Carthaginian leader, and you’ll remember him for taking a herd of elephants across the Alps to attack the Roman Empire from the north. Elephants…as in the symbol of the GOP. His counterpart on the Roman side was Scipio Africanus.

The Roman Legions had never seen elephants before and scattered in terror as Hannibal marched south toward Rome. Scipio’s Romans knew they couldn’t win against such a terrible weapon, and never offered Hannibal the satisfaction of a set-piece battle to decide the outcome of the war.

Instead, the Romans holed up within the walls of the city, hoping the Carthaginian would just go away. To convince the Romans to come out and fight, Hannibal captured one of Scipio Africanus’ brothers, cut off his head and threw it over the wall of the city as a challenge.

He is quoted as saying about this tactic, “If a battle is inevitable, make it immediate”.

Liz Cheney has, in a figurative but elegantly political sense, tossed the severed head of Donald Trump over the MAGA wall to get his troops to come out and fight. She is making the inevitable battle immediate.

By calling bullshit on “The Big Lie”, Cheney has drawn a line in the sand and we all must choose our side now. Not later. Now while the blood is hot.

It matters very little whether Cheney’s ambitions are toward a presidential run, retention of her seat as GOP Conference Chair, or re-election to her house seat in Wyoming. Her greatest contribution to her country and state is to get the rumble started, to force citizens to take one side or another in an inevitable conflict without which there would be no resolution.

That, in and of itself, takes considerable courage my friends.

Liz Cheney is making the fence a very uncomfortable place to sit. She is almost single-handedly obliterating the middle ground. Like Tom Paine, Cheney is publicly shaming the “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots”.

This moment of cathartic decision for the nation, the Republican Party and the State of Wyoming is brought to you by Liz Cheney. The Rubicon has been crossed and the die is cast. There is no turning back from this inevitable clash of ideology. Trump will lose, or not, depending on the outcome of this battle that Cheney has provoked.

When the dust clears, we will have learned a great deal about ourselves.

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Rod Miller: Uinta County and Federalist #10

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By Rod Miller, Cowboy State Daily

A political shoving match within the Uinta County GOP over an internal election was recently referred to the Wyoming Secretary of State and the Attorney General for resolution. I’ll repeat that: a private political organization that can’t decide how it should function has appealed to the sovereign State of Wyoming for help sorting itself out.

James Madison, writing as Publius, warned us about this sort of nonsense at the frayed edge of popular government in the Federalist #10, except he didn’t call the culprits Republicans or Democrats, he called them “factions”. Madison cautioned that, unless our republic protected itself through its very structure, factions would act as a metastacizing cancer within.

He described: “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Today, these factions are our organized political parties.

Madison realized that his countrymen are complex human beings, capable of great subtlety of thought and divergent opinions. To reduce their political activity to nothing more than blind adherence to the maxims of one party or another would be to reduce them as citizens. This was his stern warning against factionalism in Federalist #10.

He would be heartbroken, I’m sure, if he could observe the political climate today in both Wyoming and the nation, and realize that love of party has supplanted love of country or state. And what a sad commentary that is upon us all, Wyomingites and Americans.

Here we find ourselves in 2021, in Wyoming (describing ourselves as the most inde-goddam-pendent state in the Union), so ensnared in partisan dogma that we define ourselves first as Repuplican, Democrat or member of another party.

We have forsaken that independence of thought so treasured by Publius, and we have replaced it with blind obedience to a couple dozen or so planks in a party platform.

And we have established a body of law that protects and coddles these factions. Partisanship is so integral to our public life today that Uinta County felt justified in bringing their private, intramural food fight to the attention of Wyoming’s public officials with a plea for help.

We have so bought into the Republican/Democrat dichotomy that folks drinking coffee in Farson or Alladin read about the Uinta County kerfluffle, convinced that the outcome has importance to them.

Were it not for the profile and political power that Wyoming has given to these factions, their private squabbles would mean about as much as the Elks Club in Worland arguing over what to have for supper.

To their credit, the Secretary of State and Attorney General both passed on reviewing the Uinta County case, tossing it back to the county for resolution. But I don’t think that’s going far enough.

The State of Wyoming should extricate itself from the clutches of political parties, and repeal any statute that governs partisanship.

All that we require of them, if they are so inclined, is to present candidates on public ballots in public general elections.

We, the State, should not dictate how primary elections are conducted, nor how internal party discipline is administered.

While we may have convinced ourselves otherwise over the years, we really don’t have any dogs in those fights. The parties are big boys and girls, eating at the adults’ table and they should act accordingly.

If Wyoming can liberate itself from the clutches of organized political parties, then it can direct its attention to the really important work. But if we continue to let the tail wag the dog, we doom ourselves to a future where nothing gets done except the business of the party.

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Rod Miller: We Need To Get This Right

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Wyoming doesn’t need to be a microcosm of the rest of the country if we her citizens don’t want that. There is no reason why a state as small and intimate as our should be whip-sawed by political events outside our borders.

We can and must craft a government in Wyoming that serves us, and doesn’t serve national interests. We must do that at the street level of government.

The business of our democratic republic is conducted on a personal level, every day and every night, on the streets of America. As citizens interact with police, it represents our self-government at the cellular level and we need to get it right.

The national debate over the enforcement of laws in our country, and the conduct of law enforcement professionals in their interactions with citizens, is timely and necessary. The national debate over lawlessness in the streets, and the conduct of citizens as they exercise their constitutionally-protected rights of speech and assembly is also timely and overdue.

Nobody gets a free pass to end run the Constitution, not citizens, not police. For either, or both, to act otherwise weakens that document and the rule of law. And it is not up to either side to make sure the other toes the line. Its up to each to keep themselves in line.

This is the Social Contract, to live together peacefully and safely through common endeavor. This, like any contract, requires hard work.

Its very simplistic to apply this to a nation of 350 million individuals in a time of great social turmoil, But it is much easier to apply to a state of around half a million which claims as one of its virtues neighborliness. Our Constitution is our social contract with each other as citizens and it demands our common labor.

The Wyoming Legislature took a look at a couple of bills on this subject, but decided to pass. Unwisely so, in my opinion. This debate is overdue. If this debate won’t occur at the state level due to legislative intransigence, then it is left to smaller, more local units of government to step up.

The City of Laramie has, as the result of a deadly shooting by a police officer, initiated a citizen oversight group wherein both law enforcement and the citizenry will, hopefully, work on solutions at the municipal level, where the rubber hits the road. Cheyenne has a similar citizen/police working group in place. Work like this will help make sure that we get it right.

We have damn little control, if any, over what happens between citizens and law enforcement in our major cities, or in our national capitol. We watch on the news, we get pissed off, and we spout off, but we can’t do anything.

We DO have control over how we Wyomingites interact with our citizens with badges, and they with us.

The city cops, the sheriff’s deputies, the game wardens, the brand inspectors and the highway patrol officers that are sworn to protect us are our neighbors They are not faceless D.C. bureaucrats who drink tea with their pinkies stuck out, nor are they some deep-state goon squad dropped from black helicopters.

The citizens of Wyoming are also our neighbors whom you see on the streets and in the stores, who always return a borrowed garden hose. They revere the Constitution and aren’t shy about expressing that reverence in the streets when they have a good reason to do so. They are not bused in from Portland to cause trouble.

We should be able, as neighbors, official and civilian, to sit down together and discuss how we collectively want our streets safe and our rights protected. I hope the Laramie and Cheyenne prototypes show us all how to do just that. Maybe we should take that model and run with it.

It has been several decades since Wyoming’s body of statutes that govern law enforcement has undergone a critical review. Perhaps its time to revisit that code, and to examine our statutes together as citizens and law enforcement professionals with an eye toward a legal framework that works for all citizens in 21st Century Wyoming.

If we can do this at the level of our Wyoming streets, then we inoculate ourselves from craziness and disorder outside our borders. We may not be able to convince 350 million Americans to fulfill their social contract, but we can make damn sure that we 550 thousand Wyomingites honor ours.

We need to get this right.

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Rod Miller: Legislature Did Nothing On Education But Deserves Thanks For Public Lands Bill

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By Rod Miller, columnist

This year’s session of the Wyoming Legislature is over, and the solons have departed Cheyenne, leaving the rest of us to scratch our noggins and figure out exactly what they did. So, here’s my postmortem.

Our legislators did absolutely nothing – zilch, nada, zero – to address Wyoming’s looming crisis in education funding. Nor did they provide any innovative solutions to the state’s ongoing fiscal difficulties.

But they did ensure that every unborn child in the Cowboy State will have an AR-15, so there’s that. I suppose, in some folks’ minds, that would qualify as health care.

And they passed, and the governor signed, HB122: for that foresight, the legislature deserves our thanks. In this bill, sponsored by Rep. Cyrus Western, the legislature has applied free market, capitalist principles to one of the thorniest problems in Wyoming, public access to “landlocked” public parcels.

Ever since humans came to what is now Wyoming, they have tussled and fought over who gets to do what on the landscape. The Battle of Crowheart Butte and the Johnson County War are but two examples in our history where disagreements over land use resulted in bloodshed.

With the passage of the various homesteading acts and grants to the Union Pacific Railroad, the federal government further complicated what had always been a situation fraught with controversy and acrimony. These laws created a pattern wherein about three million acres of public land in Wyoming are now surrounded by private land, and have provided headaches for both private landowners and sportsmen for generations.

Two of the great underpinnings of Wyoming culture are hunting and private property ownership. No true Wyomingite, with Brown & Gold running through their veins, can stand the thought of the federal government monkeying around with either. And yet these two interests have been at each other’s throats for decades, because of the irrational pattern of land ownership in the state.

Another cornerstone of conservative Wyoming ideology has always been, “If you want something, then pay for it.” We have always preferred Adam Smith’s approach to that of Karl Marx. That’s why the philosophy behind HB122 is so elegant, and should be embraced by every Wyomingite.

In brief, HB122 intends to raise money for the purchase of access easements across private land to allow sportsmen to reach those landlocked acres. The new law will add a few bucks to the price of the conservation stamp that each hunter or fisherman buys with their license. Revenues accrued will be used by the Wyoming Game and Fist Department to secure access across private land to federal land that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The important thing to note is that easements will be purchased from landowners in willing buyer/willing seller transactions. This approach has two advantages. First, voluntary transactions will be cheaper in the long run and happen quicker than exercising eminent domain (the taking of private property for public use through a condemnation action). Second, negotiations over easement purchases authorized by HB122 will bring landowners and sportsmen to the table to address eye-to-eye a conflict that has festered too long.

Have no illusions, HB122 won’t provide an easement into each and every one of those three million landlocked acres. Some of that country isn’t worth accessing anyhow, since rattlesnakes and jackrabbits avoid it. And not every landowner will be willing to negotiate.

But, for that really primo public land, surrounded by a landowner willing to sit down and dicker over an easement, Western’s bill is a welcome breath of reason when emotion and anger have prevailed up til now. And its taking a step away from relying on the blunt instrument of eminent domain.

Buying what you want is Adam Smith’s solution, taking what you want by force is Karl Marx’ solution. As for me, I’ve always preferred the free market approach of Smith.

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Rod Miller: Direct Democracy in the Cowboy State

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By Rod Miller, columnist

’Tis the season again. The Wyoming Legislature is in session and its open season on “those dunderheads in Cheyenne”.

The armchair quarterbacks and Monday morning coaches are in the field and taking shots at anyone with an election certificate. It seems like this time of year Wyoming suffers from a statewide case of voter regret.

Whining about the legislature is a parlor game that is almost expected as one group gets their ox gored, or another group reaps goodies. Dissatisfaction with the legislature is as common as the wind. “Hell, I could do a better job than those idiots” is on almost every tongue.

Make no mistake, this attitude prevails throughout our nation right now. I can’t remember a time when the general population has been so disaffected with the workings of our government, unless you take into account the mid-1850s. But I’m talking about my home state in this rant.

We, in Wyoming, have at our fingertips something that other states lack when it comes to bringing to heel our elected legislators. We have the Wyoming Constitution, written at the dawn of America’s Progressive Age, and full of populist remedies for legislative foolishness. Read it again, and highlight the juicy parts!

Article 3, Section 52 of our Constitution, “Initiative and Referendum”, almost seems as if it was written in anticipation of today’s political climate. Subsection (a) reads, “The people may propose and enact laws by the initiative, and approve or reject acts of the legislature by the referendum”.

As few as a hundred qualified voters can get the ball rolling by applying for either an initiative or a referendum. Then there are numerical thresholds for getting the matter on the ballot, but these thresholds are not prohibitive.

Once on the ballot, a simple majority of affirmative votes will enact it as law, utterly bypassing the legislature. Voila! Direct democracy in action!

There are, of course, the “terms & conditions” on initiative and referendum. Neither can be used to monkey around with appropriations, to set up courts, or to enact local legislation. Subsection (g) goes into more detail about what cannot be done via these means.

Nevertheless, voters in Wyoming have, in their civic toolboxes, ways to either end-run or override actions taken by, or inaction of, our legislature. Using these tools is a lot harder than whining, but every Wyoming citizen should know that they exist.

And here’s the kicker. If all of the above is tried, and yet “the people” are still at odds with their state government, the Framers of the Wyoming Constitution have written into Article 1, Section 1 the Doomsday Option. The second clause of which reads, “for the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish the government in such manner as they think proper.”

This is why I chuckle inwardly when I hear Wyomingites whine about the legislature screwing them over. Its almost like the whiners have never read our Constitution.

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Rod Miller: Voter Apathy is the Enemy!

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Voter fraud is NOT the greatest threat to our republic, but voter apathy certainly is. The former is a glitch in our democratic process that through history has been present, but nowhere near prevalent enough to be a widespread threat. The latter poses a real risk to a nation operating under democratic principles.

We have laws against voter fraud intended to protect the sanctity of the voting booth. They need to operate as they were intended. But we have no laws against voter apathy which poses the greater threat to democracy.

There are, as we speak, 445,000 citizens of Wyoming of voting age. As of last election, 278,000 actually cast votes. For fact-checkers out there, these numbers are provided by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office, and the Wyoming Dept. of Administration and Information, Economic Analysis Division.

Simple math reveals that 38% of eligible voters in Wyoming didn’t even bother to vote. That means that roughly one out of every three people you meet in Wyoming chose not to exercise their franchise and to participate in our collective political life.

I didn’t check nationwide numbers, but knowing Wyoming folks, I’ll hazard a guess that we’re doing better in that regard than the rest of the country. But more than a third of us not caring enough to vote? Give me a break!

Solon, often called the Father of Western Law, was the lawgiver in Athens about 2500 years ago. He amended the often brutal constitution of his predecessor, Draco, to be much more democratic and inclusive. It is from Draco that we get the adjective “draconian”.

One of Solon’s laws mandated that every eligible citizen in Athens must participate in their democracy or forfeit their citizenship. His reasoning was that, in political controversies, one side or the other is bound to win, but Solon didn’t want that victory to come about because of citizens’ apathy. He recognized that excluding any part of the population from decision-making would give more power to organized factions.

Contrast Solon’s view of democracy with our own in the United States. And don’t give me any of that “we don’t live in a democracy” crap. I know exactly where I live.

Our own “Great Experiment” began by limiting the franchise to wealthy, Anglo-Saxon landowners. We have spent the last couple hundred years expanding that to include everyone else through Constitutional amendments and federal laws.

I sure as hell wouldn’t have blamed a woman living in the early 19th century for feeling apathetic about voting. By law, she couldn’t vote. The same could be said for a black man in Alabama. What better way to foster voter apathy?

But our better American angels have, over time, broken down those barriers to citizen participation. In theory, at least.

Today, because so many noses got out of joint as a result of the 2020 election we see the “organized factions” that Solon condemned erecting once again barriers to full citizen participation. (Please note that, throughout this screed, I’m careful to use the term “citizen”).

Limiting polling places by demography, curtailing absentee voting, imposing strictures on registration and other knuckleheaded notions to counter “voter fraud” will do nothing more than make it more difficult for citizens to exercise their rights. I can think of no better way to increase voter apathy.

This approach will enable political victories that are not based upon the will of the citizens, but upon one faction or another successfully manipulating the process.

Call me old-school, and accuse me of having my head stuck in Athenian history, but I think a better solution would be to encourage the 170,000 eligible Wyoming voters who sat it out last time to fulfill their obligations as Wyoming citizens. We won’t accomplish that by making it harder to participate.

And then, once we have every eligible Wyoming voter engaged in our democratic process, we can worry about fraudulent votes.

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Rod Miller: The Model Is In Your Hand

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By Rod Miller, columnist

The poet Gary Snyder once wrote that “when making an axe handle, the model is in your hand.” Wyoming’s legislature should remember this truism while struggling with hate crime or anti-discrimination legislation for the Equality State.

A copy of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming is readily available to each legislator, and I hope that they each carry a dog-eared, highlighted copy of this most egalitarian and humane document in their pocket. The model is in their hand.

Here’s what our constitution has to say about discrimination, from Article I, at the very front of the document: Sec. 2. Equality of all. In their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all members of the human race are equal.

Sec. 3. Equal political rights. Since equality in the enjoyment of natural and civil rights is only made sure through political equality, the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex, or any circumstance or condition whatsoever other than individual incompetency, or unworthiness duly ascertained by a court of competent jurisdiction.

I’m no lawyer, but it looks to me like anytime that anyone violates another Wyomingite’s “natural and civil rights” because of who they sleep with, what they worship, how they act or dress, or any other reason that sets them apart, then they have violated our constitution. I see no wiggle room. None at all.

Now, nothing in our constitution requires that you have to accept or love a person whose lifestyle or appearance is so different from yours that it makes you blow snot bubbles. It only says that their rights are exactly the same as yours. The Wyoming Constitution renders “identity politics” moot.

If you want to read up on requirements for whom you should love or accept, I’d suggest the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7. The Framers of the Wyoming Constitution weren’t preaching salvation, they were just laying down the law.

Here’s a simple suggestion to legislators who are struggling, on one side or the other, with writing anti-discrimination legislation. Don’t load it up with a lot of lawyer talk, and a litany of do’s and don’ts.

Just cut and paste the above sections of our constitution and add something like, “Anyone found guilty of violating another human being’s natural and civil rights in Wyoming will be subject to a fine of X dollars, and a term in prison of X years.” The model is in your hand.

Maybe we DO need a statute that codifies our constitution with regard to civil rights. That’s a sad commentary on us, though. It means that we either don’t know what our constitution says on the matter, or else we don’t believe in it enough to act accordingly.

This is most certainly NOT socialistic, libtard drivel. There is nothing more conservative than a deep belief in the constitution, and a willingness to defend it by living it in our day to day lives.

So, if it takes a hate crime or anti-discrimination statute to realize the humanistic dream of our Wyoming Founders, then I’m all for it. But it shouldn’t stray too far from the model.

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Rod Miller: Legislators Should Quit Wasting Our Time With Worthless Federal Land Bills

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By Rod Miller, columnist

They’re at it again! A bill, HB141, has been filed in the Wyoming legislature, intending to force the U.S. government to relinquish claim to federal lands in Wyoming.

This is the umpteenth time that this nonsense has raised its empty head. Past attempts have met with abject failure, and things won’t be a bit different this time.

We’ve all heard the indelicate expression, “Wish in one hand, defecate in the other and see which one fills up first.”

Permit me to spare the sponsors and supporters of this bill an embarrassingly fragrant and certain outcome. Wishing against reality is a futile exercise, so keep your hands in your pockets.

This feckless notion has been around a long time, since well before the Sagebrush Rebellion under Reagan.

It always fails to do anything but give boneheaded politicians a chance to strut around, pound their chests and cuss the feds. Sure, as a political move, its great theater and appeals to a certain base. But in the harsh reality of the world of law, its a waste of time.

Here’s why. The State of Wyoming’s sovereignty documents, our Constitution and Act of Admission, clearly say that Wyoming permanently forswears any claim to federal lands within our borders, other than those lands already granted for the benefit of our common institutions. Wyoming’s founders and Congress left a paper trail that bodes ill for HB141.

To wit: Article 21, Section 26 of the Wyoming Constitution, “. The people inhabiting this state do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof…”.

And Section 12 of Wyoming’s Act of Admission, “The state of Wyoming shall not be entitled to any further or other grants of land for any purpose than as expressly provided in this act; and the lands granted by this section shall be held, appropriated, and disposed of exclusively for the purposes herein mentioned, in such manner as the legislature of the state may provide.”

So, to the sponsors of HB141 and to anyone who salivates over the prospect, I’ll suggest that they forget their pie-in-the-sky dreams of a Wyoming without federal land ownership.

Stop counting all the money that will never accrue to our coffers when we pull off this land grab. Give up any notion that your wishes trump the wisdom of Wyoming’s founders. Quit beating this poor, dead horse.

There are other valid arguments against transferring federal land to Wyoming. Such a move would extinguish our great public lands culture of hunting, fishing and recreating on federal land. That culture is part and parcel of our self-identity as Wyomingites, and if it were to disappear, we would be diminished.

If federal land was transferred to the state and then subsequently sold to improve Wyoming’s fiscal situation, we would encounter barbwire fences where we once found open land as the new owners enclosed their own little bit o’ heaven. We would sacrifice our independence to our bottom line, and that’s not a bargain I’m willing to make.

But in the clear, harsh light of the law, Wyoming can NOT legally take ownership of federal land within our borders, no matter how fervently sponsors of this bill wish otherwise.

So, I guess my advice to those legislators would be to enjoy the cheap headlines while you can, suck up all the beer folks will buy you for being a hardass fed basher, and score political points while the issue is hot. Then get back to your desks and do the real work that your constituents expect of you. Ride for the Brand, dammit!

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Rod Miller: I Am Nate Champion

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By Rod Miller, columnist

There is no more fitting allegory for Wyoming and her history than the Johnson County War. If there is one event that should instruct us as Wyomingites, it is that conflict. And yet, we have ignored that lesson for nearly a hundred and thirty years. We continue to ignore it today.

In 1892, bigshot cattlemen, mostly from Great Britain and backed by east-coast and foreign capital, sought to drive small homesteaders and ranchers out of Wyoming. They wanted all the grass and water to themselves, even though it was public domain.

To this end, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, representing that foreign money, hired fifty or so mercenary thugs from Texas to invade Johnson County. The invaders carried with them a hit list of names of small ranchers that were to be killed “for the good of the country”. They also intended to assassinate elected officials in Johnson County and to establish a county government more favorable to their interests.

Maybe we’ll talk more about Nate Champion later. But suffice it to say that he almost single handedly prevented the Stock Growers and their gunslingers from accomplishing their goals. That is why, in my presence, hats will be doffed when Champion’s name is mentioned.

“Invasion” is an apt term for what happened then, and it also applies today when Wyoming invites foreign capital to usurp our resources and control our lives. From the Union Pacific, through the cattle boom, the oil boom, the uranium boom and the coal boom, Wyoming has been content to allow ourselves to be colonized by outside interests.

Why we continue to describe ourselves as ruggedly independent, while kow-towing to outside money, is an unfathomable mystery to me.

Two of our founders, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, presented diametrically different views of how our new country should look. Jefferson favored a country populated by the “yeoman farmer”, a man and his family supporting themselves by the sweat of their brow and their individual initiative. Hamilton’s vision was a country expanding through corporate debt, foreign capital and strong central banking.

In Wyoming, we pay constant lip service to Jefferson, but enthusiastically embrace Hamilton. That’s how we ended up where we are today.

When we are faced, like we are now, with the decline of an industry that has kept us afloat, we look around for replacement industry to come in and save us. We cast about for an Elon Musk, or a bicoin mogul to ride in like a white knight to pull our chestnuts our of the fire; to pave our roads and to educate out kids. We always look outward, instead of inward, for our salvation.

“Rugged individuals”, my Aunt Fanny!! Hamilton must be so proud of us.

If we can break this cycle of depending on outsiders, then we can, with a straight face, call ourselves the “Cowboy State”. If we can find within ourselves the initiative and courage to try new things, to invent, to risk, to stand up on our own hind legs and take control of our future on our own terms, then we will make of ourselves Jeffersonian yeomen, rather than Hamiltonian serfs.

Such a sea change in our collective attitude won’t be easy. We’ll have to overcome more then a century of being babysat. There will be no guarantees of success. But there will be pride in it, and a justifiable pride. If we can do it together, and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and grip the reins in our own sweaty and calloused hands, then outside corporate interests will think twice before trying to take advantage of us ever again.

And we can all proclaim, with a loud and collective voice, shouted into that big, blue sky over Wyoming, “I am Nate Champion”.

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