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1818 - The 2018 governor`s race is a doozy

My, how things can change on the statewide political scene over a few months.

         The Wyoming governor race in 2018 may end up being the most interesting race in the state’s history.  I hope people are paying attention. Not sure we will ever see the like of this circus again.

         Throughout 2017, it looked like a two-man race between State Treasurer Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Ed Murray was going to provide the most interest. But then Murray resigned because of decades-old allegations of impropriety, leaving Gordon looking like the last man standing.

         But not so fast.

         Two archconservatives Harriet Hageman, Cheyenne, and Taylor Haynes, Laramie, have been working hard.  Hageman, especially, has built a tremendous campaign and it’s not impossible to see her winning the whole thing.

         With Murray’s departure, Cheyenne’s Sam Galeotos has come forward as the “business” candidate. He has solid people working with him. Rumor has it that he may have a war chest over $1 million ready to spend on the effort. Former U. S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis is co-chairing his campaign along with Matt Micheli.

         Galeotos told me he realizes he is new to statewide voters but his family has a long history in Wyoming.  He has a record as an entrepreneur, which he is touting during this campaign.

         Hageman told me last week that she anticipates spending a million dollars. She is a tireless worker and enjoyed a terrific reception at the recent Republican state convention in Laramie.

         Meanwhile the first guy in the race, Bill Dahlin, of Sheridan is still out there shaking hands.

         So if the above were all that is going on, we would have one of the most interesting races ever featuring five busy candidates.

         But hold on, Foster Friess, 78, of Jackson announced at that convention that he is running, too.

         Billionaire Friess could be a real wild card. He has the ability to self-fund a campaign. He is much better known that most observers realize. Friess is known across the country.  During May, he was on Fox News, Fox Business, and MSNBC cable channels.

          In Wyoming, to win the Republican primary, you usually need to present yourself as really conservative. Friess touts conservative values but he is more well rounded than most of the candidates.

         Friess could launch a Donald Trump-style campaign. He does not need to raise money and he can use his private jet to crisscross the state in a hurry.

         I have known Foster for a long time and he is a good, responsible citizen, as is his wife Lynn. Lynn knows the state well, having served on the Wyoming Business Council.

         But I am not sure just being a wonderful person can get you elected governor.  Friess, an innovator, sure offers the possibility of stirring things up.

         So, based on the input that I am getting from my statewide network of Wyoming-Watchers, it looks like Gordon has a slight lead over Hageman.  Taylor Haynes is in there somewhere but as Galeotos gets better known, I see him moving up for right now. With Lummis in his corner, Galeotos should have considerable firepower going forward.

         Until Friess starts spending and campaigning, he is in the middle of the pack somewhere.

         As a political watcher I can guarantee to all these candidates that 16 weeks is a tiny period of time and it will pass quickly. They have to be possessive of their time and their money as the Aug. 21 primary finish line is barreling down on them.

         So what should Gordon be doing to maintain his lead over the rest of the campaign?

         He has already run two statewide campaigns and spent a lot of money in each. He has Gale Geringer running this campaign, which means it is well-connected and should be in all the right places at the right times.  I predicted three weeks ago that this race is Gordon’s to lose and that assessment is still correct.

         But the numbers are just nuts.

         There are 575,000 people in Wyoming.  But just 105,950 Republicans voted in that hotly contested August 2010, primary, which Mead won with 30,300 votes.

         If you do the math, it is possible that the winner could again get as few as 30,300 votes and still move on to the general election, where he or she would face the credible Mary Throne, the Democratic candidate.

         Folks, watching this campaign is way better than the best TV show you have ever experienced. Stay tuned.

1817 - A new season called `Sprinter`

Both in the movie business and the book business, there is the concept of “false ending,” where you as the viewer or reader think the story is over. Not so. Later the ultimate ending arrives. Just about every movie or book uses this device.  

         This also applies to Wyoming’s weather during this time of year.

         As part of our recent travels during this wet and crazy spring, I heard an expression by an Omaha TV weather reporter, who kept referring to their all-time record cold weather as coming after they had had a “false” spring.

         I like that term for spring.  My favorite way to describe Wyoming’s four seasons is: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Construction.

         Lander Mayor Del McOmie shared a funny weather description that he found on the Wyoming Going Blue Facebook page, which is all about law enforcement in the state.

         It included 12 seasons included one really cool season they called “sprinter,” which pretty much covers right now.  Here is their list of the 12 seasons:

1.    Winter

2.    Arctic Freeze

3.    Second winter

4.    Spring of Deception

5.    Semi Truck tipping season

6.    Sprinter

7.    Actual spring (lasts two weeks)

8.    Construction season

9.    Torrential downpour

10.                  Cheyenne Frontier Days - hail season

11.                  Summer

12.                  Pre-Winter - Fall Snow

         We had scheduled an extended motorhome trip crossing the south from Las Vegas to Flagstaff to Albuquerque to Santa Fe to Oklahoma City to Dallas and then north to western Iowa. The trip worked out well and we saw many relatives and friends. But this year’s wacky weather was not limited just to Wyoming. Flagstaff had blizzards.  Dallas had hail and near freezing temps. Golf ball-sized hailstones pummeled the car I tow behind our RV.

         We timed the trip to end up in Iowa, figuring they would have a normal spring.  No so.  Temperatures were all time lows with snow and hail. We finally got out of there on the one nice day and made it to Cheyenne. It was a long pull but worth it.

         So there we were, stranded in Cheyenne, spending the night in our motorhome at the Terry Bison Ranch RV Park. We were trying to get home to Lander but the weather was typical Wyoming Spring – here came the winds!

Three semi trucks and a camper were on their sides just south of Cheyenne as the winds roared 75 mph for a direct hit on high profile vehicles on Interstate 25. Some reports said 88 mph gusts were blowing over these rigs on Wyoming Hill. More than a dozen rigs were over tuned statewide.

We desperately wanted to get home but not on Tuesday, April 17.

         Now there are two ways to get our home from Cheyenne. The shortest route is Interstate 80 through Laramie, Rawlins and Jeffrey City.  A slightly longer way (45 minutes longer) is north from Cheyenne to Wheatland, Douglas, Casper and Riverton then home.  So, here I sat in front of my laptop on a spectacular Tuesday morning (April 17) checking roads and forecasts.  You just cannot make this stuff up.

         Blizzards and rainstorms are issues when driving a 13-foot high motorhome, but crosswinds are the biggest hazard.  It is just too dangerous. We are at a time in our lives where we would rather wait a day than “have to” get home. Here is what I found:

Snow was predicted in Casper, Riverton and Lander.  Crosswinds of 50 mph were forecast for Wheatland.  The moisture was coming out of the north as Worland and Powell and the rest of the Big Horn Basin were going to get wet with rain and snow.

Thus, the Interstate 25 route was not going to work on this day.

So what about the Snow Chi Minh Trail on Interstate 80? The TV stations had blocked out all of SE Wyoming as “dangerous high winds.”  With no “high profile” traffic recommended. This meant that Cheyenne to Rawlins was unsafe for me, anyway, and that area north of Rawlins often features terrible cross winds.

I really like the Wyoming Department of Transportation weather forecast maps, which showed most roads “green” on this day, which would normally be welcomed. But not when driving a vehicle that is quite susceptible to toppling over.

Cheyenne to Laramie looked okay but Laramie to Rawlins was the typical Snow Chi Minh Trail forecast: high winds and blowing snow.

As a result, we stayed another night in our favorite capital city before getting home.



1816 - The Code of the West means a lot out here

 Know where to draw the line. – From Code of the West, Cowboy Ethics.


         Living in Wyoming is most often a blessing but sometimes it can be a challenge. At those times you need some standards to draw upon.

         When you live in an isolated state with a small population spread over 98,000 square miles with occasional severe weather, well, you better have some universal codes and standards to help you survive.

         The Code of the West is something that makes sense in such a place.  A state with a sense of place about it.

         Back in 2008, I published a column that involved six years of on-again and off-again research.  I called it Wyoming’s Universal Truths and Fundamental Values. It was an attempt to put into words those concepts and values unique to our state.

         It cited ideas like “small is good” as a Universal Truth when it comes to our state. And “you do not drive by a stranded motorist on a lonely country road in winter” as a Fundamental Value.

         It looks like I wasn’t the only person trying to figure out a way to verbalize these concepts.

         A group of folks were thinking along these lines when they put together a video based on Cowboy Ethics called Code of the West.  You can access it just about anywhere.

         That effort was funded by a consortium that included The Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership, Anschutz Foundation, UW College of Business, Daniels Fund, McMurry Foundation, Trihydro Corporation and the Wyoming Business Council.

         The guy who was the author of all this is Jim Owen who developed what he calls The Code of the West. This code has been adopted by Jonah Banks in Wyoming and Trihydro Corporation, among others, as an operating philosophy.

         When I tried to boil down a Wyoming philosophy, my effort was very wordy.  The Code of the West is simple, just ten short phrases. Those phrases are as follows:

         • Live each day with courage.

         • Take pride in your work.

         • Always finish what you start.

         • Do what has to be done.

         • Be tough, but fair.

         • When you make a promise, keep it.

         • Ride for the brand.

         • Talk less, say more.

         • Remember that some things are not for sale.

         • Know where to draw the line.

         Even the Legislature took notice made it the official Code for the state of Wyoming.

         This Wyoming Code is a much-abbreviated version of the first Code of the West compiled by the famous western writer Zane Grey. Grey wrote a lot about Wyoming cowboys during his long career 80 years ago. 

         A few of the more interesting ones on his list include:

         • Never try on another man’s hat.

         • Never shoot a woman, no matter what.

         • Give your enemy a fighting chance.

         • Never wake another man by shaking or touching him, as he might wake suddenly and shoot you.

         • Never shoot an unarmed or unwarned man.

         • Be generous with your life and money.

         It would be natural that a humorous version of this would be developed, too.  One of the best is by Cowboy Poet Bix Benders, which included these gems:

         • A smart ass just don’t fit in a saddle.

         • Always drink upstream from the herd.

         • Never miss a good chance to shut up.

         • When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a to a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson well.

         • Don’t worry about biting off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger than you think.

         • Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so imortant to know what it is, but it is critical to know what it was.

         • If you get to thinking you are a person of influence, try ordering somebody else’s dog around.

         • Never kick a fresh dropping on a hot day.

         • Never smack a man who is chewing tobacco.

         • If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging.

         • Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

         • Telling a man to get lost and making him do it are two entirely different propositions.

         • When you’re throwing your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

         • Write it in your heart. Stand by your code and it will stand by you.

         My all-time favorite Cowboy is Will Rogers and I believe that Bix acquired more than a few of his funnyisms here from old Will.


1815 - Future of work in Wyoming (plus robots!)

The smartest person I know was giving me his opinion about the future of jobs in Wyoming. It was a cautionary tale.

         Jeff Wacker was the staff futurist for the huge Hewlett-Packard Company and its 320,000 employees before retiring a few years ago.

         Our family was in north Dallas for Easter spending time with our daughter Amber, her husband Craig and three grandchildren. Wacker used to be a neighbor of theirs and still lives in the north Dallas area.

         He grew up on a farm near Alliance, NE but left the farm to be a computer programmer.  He worked his way up the ladder at EDS, a company founded by H. Ross Perot, where he became their futurist. When HP acquired that company, he became their futurist. When he tried to explain to HP that it needed to be a services company and not a hardware company, it was time to retire, he said.

         Wacker was the speaker at a conference I attended in Scottsdale 12 years ago when we all laughed when he held up his little cell phone and announced, “The future would revolve around this little box.” Of course he was right. Later I chatted with him and found out he lived in the same subdivision as my daughter. So we started meeting for lunch whenever I got to Dallas.

         He loves Wyoming and our people.  Perhaps being from western Nebraska helps but he feels very comfortable with Cowboy State values. He voted for Donald Trump and even listens to conservative radio hosts occasionally.

         Wacker thinks Wyoming should be more aggressive in developing wind, solar and other alternative energy supplies. He thinks the coal, oil, and natural gas will still be viable sources of tax income to the Cowboy State for decades to come.

         But he really wanted to talk about the bigger picture, which he calls “the future without jobs.” 

         He is working on a book that goes into great detail about nanobots (tiny, invisible robots), which will be everywhere in the near future. And these little buggers will eliminate a lot of work, as we know it. 

         They will be in our bloodstreams keeping us healthy. They will monitor everything that runs and keep it all running. These tiny robots and lots of bigger ones, too, could pretty much eliminate 60 percent of the jobs, which begs the question: what are people going to do if there are no jobs?

         Interestingly, as I write this, Fremont County, Wyoming, where I live, has the highest unemployment rate in the state and one of the highest in the country.

         But who needs jobs when you can get a guaranteed income?

         Wacker is not a big fan of UBI (Universal Basic Income), which is a hot topic in California.  But he sees it coming. And coming fast.

         Some version of UBI used to be favored by about 10 percent of the population. Today, some 44 percent of the people in the USA favor some variation of it.

         Essentially, it means everyone will get a monetary stipend whether they work or not.  If you want more, then you take one of the scarce jobs that are left. Under a plan like this, every family in America will get paid about $40,000 per year just for being a citizen.

         Wacker calls this future the Garden of Eden, where the individual has no worries. He also fears it could be like the Eloi and the Morlocks in the Orwell story The Time Machine. If you recall from that historic movie, the Eloi lived a life of leisure but ended up being like cattle as the Morlocks ultimately ate them for dinner.

         He says A. I. (Artificial Intelligence) is coming fast, almost blindingly fast.  He says China is working on a quantum computer that if developed, which make encryption impossible and thus all things could be controlled. He worries about this development.

         Time will shrink, he says, to where change will come along so fast, human beings will not be able recognize or deal with the changes that are coming. 

He asks the question: What happens when intelligent machines make more intelligent machines?  How can humans control this?

         As a futurist, these are the kinds of things that are worrisome.

         So on the plus side, we might live a lot longer and be a lot healthier. On the minus side, we might be slaves to robots.

         Even out here in Wyoming, the future is rapidly heading our way.