Political Myth No. 2:  “Cowboy State” and “Equality State” are contradictory nicknames

There’s been quite the flap over the University of Wyoming slogan about the world needing more cowboys. Phil Roberts wrote this perspective in this piece in Wyoming Almanac.

The new University of Wyoming recruitment slogan “The World News More Cowboys!” has caused quite a stir among Cowboy Nation.

On its surface, the slogan is exclusive to men which has caused the uproar. The Wyoming mainstream seems to think it’s another liberal and politically-correct fake-news conspiracy and no big deal.

Maybe I’m just old school and think that a slogan or logline needs to stand on its own without explanation or rationale.

Apparently, along with the slogan, are images of non-stereotypical cowboys, who would be an Asian student smiling at the camera while at the library.

Maybe a woman signing up for a class at the registrar’s office.

Cognitive dissonance.

That’s a little heady. Whether or not one ad campaign touting the least populated state in the nation gains any traction is anyone’s guess. The negative pushback has received more national media attention than the UW administration hoped.

Particularly since the story is now about the provincial Wyoming mentality about western expansion and Native American genocide vs. whatever image the school is trying to project about there is “no such thing as a cowboy” except in myth.

osu cowboys slogan

Oklahoma State University’s alumni and friends are the epitome of loyal and true. With a love of all things orange, you can help share the spirit of OSU with the next generation of Cowboys and Cowgirls! 
If you know a high school or transfer student that would make a great addition to the Cowboy family, please consider passing along his or her information.

The other aspect about this strikes me as weird. Oklahoma State University (OSU) also are the Cowboys and came up with the same “The World Needs More Cowboys” slogan. Apparently OSU and UW came to an agreement that Wyoming could use the slogan, too.

I want to know the backstory about the Boulder, Colorado ad firm that co-opted the OSU slogan and paid $500,000 to “develop” it.

Just a coincidence?

OSU came to fisticuffs in 1993 over the Pistol Pete trademark infringement. OSU prevailed in that one and Wyoming can use Pistol Pete, but I haven’t seen that logo used in recent times. New Mexico State University recently settled with OSU about it’s Pistol Pete logo. NMSU has since moved on from Pistol Pete.

It takes academic analysis to explain the Wyoming slogans. Retired UW history professor gave a very thorough vetting of the issue in 2007:

Cowboy State? Equality State?

By Phil Roberts

The new Wyoming quarter, officially unveiled in September 2007, shows Wyoming’s license-plate bucking horse and next to it are three words: “The Equality State.”

It’s not the only place where the seemingly contradictory nicknames seem to joust for dominance.  The legislature designated the state officially as “the Equality State” back in the early 1900s, but even Wyoming Public Radio refers to Wyoming with the more “tourist-friendly” nickname, “The Cowboy State.”

The cowboy is an image that has been with us for a very long time. The bucking horse went on the license plate in 1935—the first logo on any license plate in America.

If a state has a “self-image” (something I often question), are we more drawn to one than the other?  “Cowboy State?”  “Equality State?”  Doesn’t one cancel out the other? Are these contradictions?

I say the two nicknames represent remarkably compatible concepts.  In modern times, the image of the cowboy has taken a beating, becoming stereotyped, for good or bad, as a term denoting reckless foreign policy, for instance, or fiercely intolerant and destructive acts against the environment.  Cowboys, in Hollywood film, have been gun-toting, fighting, hard-drinking white guys who showed educated sophistication when it came to dealing with women, the law and the community–the ones wearing white hats anyway.

But like all stereotypes, this one is mostly wrong when you look at history.  Open-range cowboys in frontier Wyoming came from every racial and ethnic group. Most didn’t have anything except a saddle and a backpack—and sometimes, his own horse. Few had even rudimentary education. They were mostly the floating transient population of their day.

That is not to say they lacked understanding of their environment. Unlike farmers who tried to change the landscape by clearing land and digging irrigation ditches or miners that dug big ugly holes in the ground, the cowboy lived with the environment. He put on a slicker when it rained, tied his hat down tight with a bandanna to keep the winter winds at bay, and tried to protect his charges from thirst, snow-blindness, and wolves. He knew he couldn’t change the environment; he just had to live with what it dealt him.

And the equality part?  Mostly, he judged other cowboys by how well he rode, whether he paid you back if you loaned him a quarter for cigarettes, how hard he worked, and whether you can count on him to watch your back in a fracas. Every man had to prove himself, regardless of race or ancestry. It didn’t matter how great one’s family was. It was what he was that counted. As my grandmother used to say, “Every tub sits on its own bottom.”

But there are awful lapses in how Wyomingites have dealt with “equality.” From the Rock Springs massacre to the Black 14 and Mathew Shepard, some would say “equality” isn’t a nickname Wyoming deserves. I disagree.

“The cowboy state” ought to reflect the non-stereotypical past—when being a cowboy meant honor, capacity for hard work, and respect for the individual. In some ways, it is “historical”—a touchstone to look back to for inspiration. It is retrospective—even a mythical way for us to identify with the past.

And the “equality state”—that nickname is aspirational—a goal toward which we ought to be striving. While we likely will continue to come up short, being mindful of striving for equality ought to continue to make us not only a more humane society, but conscious of our state’s reputation for friendliness to visitors, for dedication to community, for tolerance of other’s views—and for valuing individual differences.

And the two nicknames aren’t contradictory. As we aspire to greater equality, we need to remain true to the “cowboy” way that brought us this to this point—not just the Hollywood version, but what came from the reality of the Wyoming cowboy of the open-range days.

After all, they are both on the same coin.

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Democrats: Is there a better story other than ‘POTUS IS A BUFFOON’?

trump cartoon

Whether you like POTUS or not the only way to change things is at the voting booth.

I’m growing tired of my progressive friends espousing what they despise about our sitting president.

Yeah, he’s a womanizer, disrespectful of people different from himself, a pathologic liar and otherwise a dastardly dotard – not to mention his staff members.

But those are given.

In which case, why rehash all that day-in and day-out?

Democrats have no identity, let alone a story boiled down to an elevator speech.

It’s like arguing that cigarettes cause cancer. We all know that. Even the tobacco companies believe it. It’s printed on every cigarette pack. I won’t even get into the “it was the Russians” or “it was the electoral college” or any of the other red-herring issues. The Trump campaign was just a little smarter, but I digress.

Why waste time, words and energy?

Every anti-POTUS comment translates into a free ads for the sitting president that energize his base even more. POTUS stands for “Making America Great Again” but his roadshow casts that in a different light. Witness his recent whistle stop in Montana.

If you’re not in favor of making America great again, what do you believe?

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As of June 2018, this map shows there are 90 competitive districts (brown). You can rest assured that the Republicans are out in force.

Here it is 2018 – the midterm election cycle – and there is no coherent message from the Democratic Party.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is trying to reinvent herself; Elizabeth Warren is on the stump; I still get emails from Bernie. But it’s the same old anti-POTUS schtick.

If I’m wrong on this, please set me straight.

Sure there are candidates who have this figured out, like MJ Hegar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez running for congressional seats in Texas and Hawaii.

Based on Hegar’s video, I put down $5 and am following her congressional race. No facts and figures cluttering up the really great story.

The map on the right shows where the contested districts are located. If you live in a safe district, like me in Colorado’s 2nd CD, send your money and pound the pavement for candidates who may have a chance turn the tide. In the fall of 2017, I spent a lot of cyber-time helping get Doug Jones elected. As an analog action I had pizza delivered to volunteers in Huntsville.

There’s a lot a volunteer can do from afar.

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This is a 1980 Ronald Reagan “Make America Great Again” campaign button from my collection.

Republicans are really good at principled messaging. I think it was Ronald Reagan who originally coined “Make America Great Again” slogan and articulated what people feel in his famous “morning in America” ads.

Obama took a page out of the Reagan playbook, with his “Hope and Change” campaign. He was a very principled, retail politician. Unlike his Democratic predecessors he told stories rather than spouting facts and figures.

I picked up a book called “The Political Brain” by Drew Weston. The book shows how a different view of the mind and brain leads to a different way of talking with voters about issues that have tied the tongues of Democrats for much of forty years—such as abortion, guns, taxes, and race. You can’t change the structure of the brain. But you can change the way you appeal to it.

BUSH DUKAKIS DEBATE 1988

Michael Dukakis was unable to recover from his non-principled responses during a debate with George HW Bush.

In 1988, Mike Dukakis is asked during a debate if he would favor the death penalty for a rapist if he assaulted and murdered his wife, Kitty. His response wasn’t about how horrific the crime is, or how he would feel or his wife’s anguish, he responds with the data show that the death penalty isn’t a crime deterrent.

Sheesh.

Republicans have boiled down Democrats to “tax and spend liberals.” That’s a throwback to the 1932 New Deal and the 1965 Great Society. Democrats haven’t gone on the offensive and come up with a four-word stereotype for Republicans.

More recently, NeoCons call progressives “libtards”, a term that has largely gone with no response, but a term that galvanizes their base.

democrat republican stereotypes

Despite the stereotypes, Republicans have a better story.

When I engage in a conversation. I’ve thought about a principled response and say something like,  “I stand for strong family values – a safe home to raise kids; a strong neighborhood and excellent schools.” It’s usually the end of the conversation.

Restating this in a non-principled jargon-laced light, “I stand for marriage equality, affordable housing, community policing and a low student – teacher ratio.” This would cast me as pro-gay, handouts to poor people, anti-gun and pro-teacher unions.

Not that there’s anything wrong with these stances, but based on the Political Brain, voters will better relate to a candidate based on emotions rather than policy and data.

One of my hobbies is collecting political campaign memorabilia. Here are a few slogans I think are principled. I’ve surmised that candidates who include references to themselves have lost more times than those with visionary slogans. I’ll list them without election year or candidate:

  • Patriotism, Protection, and Prosperity
  • Peace and Prosperity
  • Making us Proud Again
  • Prosperity and Progress
  • Believe in America

Now what?

Jared Polis for Governor

I’m voting for Jared Polis on Tuesday.

I’m one to wait until election day to vote and if you haven’t mailed in your ballot yet, you have until 7pm on Tuesday June 26th to do so.

Who is my choice for governor?

My vote goes to Jared Polis in the Democratic primary.

Why?

I’ve known Jared for many years, I think dating back to my days at Assets for Colorado Youth in the early 2000s. ACY was a positive youth development non-profit organization that taught teachers and youth serving organizations how to apply the development assets to the daily lives of kids.

Jared and his foundation were strong supporters of alternative approaches to students, other than the “containment” approach.

He also was chair of the Colorado State Board of Education where he was supportive of education and classrooms in all their forms in Colorado.

I remember when he first ran for the 2nd Congressional District. It’s a diverse district encompassing the very Republican south part of Weld, Broomfield, Adams, Jefferson, and Summit counties and blue Boulder County.

I’m not one much for political litmus tests. Any candidate who says they can pass all of them is telling you alternative facts. I don’t have a political score card for the gubernatorial candidates.

I think it comes down to style.

Jared knows how to govern toward the middle when it comes to inflammatory issues like the natural gas fracking. He can’t be a purist on the issue having to balance drilling interests in Weld County with the hard core no-fracking stance in Boulder.

The 2nd CD is a microcosm of the state of Colorado. Whoever gets elected will not be able to keep any purist campaign promises, be it to the teachers, the energy industry or the gun lobby.

Jared is a maverick and not afraid to buck the system. When he first ran in 2008, he dared to challenge long-time Denver politico Joan Fitz-Gerald. She admirably served in the state senate and was the heir-apparent to the open seat. He campaigned hard and won in an upset.

When elected in 2008, was the most liberal member of his congressional class and picked to be on a CNN reality cable show featuring himself and freshman Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis – one of my East High School classmates and longtime family friend – from Wyoming’s at large district 1 and the most conservative members of the class.

Jared could have staying in Congress forever, but he chose to stay home this time around. He and Marlon have two young kids and while I don’t know if that was a reason why he chose to run for governor rather than stay in Congress, I imagine it was a part of the decision making equation.

His hands-on experience with federalism coupled with knowledge and work at the state level makes Jared the most practical and best-suited candidate in my mind.

Besides his list of credentials, he’s a really nice guy.

Facebook Community Boost videos: At least, make them look good

Facebook brought an event called the Community Boost to Denver

Facebook is putting on a full court press to get the gig economy to become an integral part of the macro-economy. How do we turn our hobbies and cottage businesses into real money using facebook groups, ads, photos and video?

I attended the free grassroots road show, Community Boost, that recently rolled into Denver. It was a classy event at the Cable Center near the University of Denver.

The Cable Center is a non-profit organization that educates the public about, I suppose, the great things that cable TV has done for the good of society.

My background is public access TV, which was a provision of the original Cable Communications Act of 1984 that set up community access channels as a ploy to avoid regulation as a public utility and dodge FCC oversight.

I had to check out the CATV museum with the history of cable and honors all the pioneers who made billions of dollars.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I digress.

The event’s goal was to provide basic information and some hands-on experience about how to use facebook to increase website traffic, get more buyers / customers and ultimately how to buy more facebook ads through micro-market targeting and subsequently make more money for your fledgling business and for facebook.

facebook booster creative

The facebook Community Boost exhibit area include the Mobile Studio that provides in-phone apps to edit pix and video.

I’m a filmmaker and facebook is trying to turn everyone into rough-around-the-edges filmmakers, which devalues the work that I and all of my colleagues do.

Nonetheless, if you’re going to make video, you might as well post stuff that at least looks halfway decent.

Here are a few tips to improve your videos:

  • Have a story in mind. Even on the spot, you can mentally compose a beginning, middle and end to your movie, even if it’s only 15 seconds long. If you use an in-phone app like Splice or iMovie, you can shoot clips, trim and reassemble them. If you don’t edit, lots of creativity can come about from the continuous shot – going from scene to scene while keeping the phone camera steady. The climax to your story is some sort of call to action – “Click here”, “Call us”, “Donate now.”
  • Hold your camera steady. Move smoothly hand-held. My preference is to shoot with the phone camera horizontally. TV screens and monitors are not vertical and horizontal video displays and looks better. If you’re webcasting facebook live, turn the camera horizontally until the image flips then start the recording.
  • Movies are 80% sound. Viewers can take video that’s a little shaky or out of focus but if the sound is bad, your potential customers will skip to the next video. The microphone is at the bottom of the phone. Get as close as you can to your action or subjects. Normal voices from across the room won’t be picked up. If you decide you want your voice in the recording, try to let your subject complete their statement and avoid “walking over” their audio with your excited utterances or laughing.
  • Fill out the meta-data fields. Facebook has figured out the meta-data thing and prompts you through the video upload with titles and key word fields. Fill them out and write the post narrative. Pick out a few key hashtags that are common-sensical. I see posts with six or more hashtags – many of which are nonsense which detract from the content.

If you’re interested in turning your volunteers or staff into better social media movie makers, I offer workshops about how to tell your organization or business story in a 140 character elevator speech. I also teach practical ways to light a scene, get good sound using inexpensive, everyday items.

facebook creative sources

The Community Boost mobile studio pushed 10 apps to edit images and movies.

What I learned from the Community Boost is that real filmmakers need to differentiate themselves from short-form shooters who know may how to point the camera and record, but make bad video look better with the bells and whistles graphic overlay apps.

At the same time, filmmakers can better promote their work using the short and rough cut formats.

Since attending the Community Boost, I’ve pushed out short videos a couple times for Boulder Community Media production projects that generated some pretty good organic engagement – a couple thousand views of one and nearing 1,000 views of another.

How that translates into more business is anyone’s guess but the phone keeps ringing and my friends keep making referrals.

The Community Boost was set up for lots of face-to-face networking, but during the breaks most everyone was sitting in the corners staring at their phones, computers and other screens.

The lunch was good, but nearly missed out since I ran into a filmmaker in the hallway after the facebook ads workshop.

Community Boost “Aha” Moment – Campaign 2016

facebook parscale stahl

The Trump presidential campaign successfully employed the same techniques as taught at the Community Boost. The Hillary campaign didn’t and the rest is history.

I had a big “Aha” moment during the facebook ads workshop.

It was about how to target the ads to particular markets and how different messages and their words, images, colors and other variables can be tweaked to maximize viewership and interaction.

Earlier, I watched a 60 Minute TV news magazine segment by Leslie Stahl. She interviewed the Donald Trump campaign 2016 social media guy Brad Parscale. Apparently, facebook offered to embed staff members into campaign organizations who advised about how to maximize use of facebook ads.

Parscale explained how they decided to focus on 3,000 voters in Wisconsin which ended up turning the course of the election. The Trump campaign tried out the facebook offer. The Hillary campaign didn’t and the rest is history.

Those of us in the Community Boost ad workshop learned in 30 minutes what was taught during the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook ads, with practice, can be a very effective way to micro-target market and maximize advertising budgets.

I get chided by friends about why I spend so much time on my facebook account and pages that I manage. I’d say three quarters of my business leads come as a result of my presence on facebook. “If I didn’t make money from facebook, I wouldn’t waste my time there,” I tell them.

I still don’t understand the psychology behind facebook and why people respond, but then again, it really doesn’t matter.

With 300 million guns circulating how can people be deterred from buying more?

guns with history

This video is a good example of how the gun culture can be changed by people believing their own observations, rather than their perceptions.

We’re a gun culture and nothing will change that. I used to think otherwise until there was yet another mass shooting by another American, killing 17 school kids and wounding another 15 in south Florida.

I don’t know about you, but I’m growing tired of all this.

I suppose the positive is the out pouring of care – random people wanting to donate blood, heroic acts by strangers, prayer vigils, flowers left at the scene, public officials decrying the action, social media memes.

Before the Texas 26 and 40 wounded, were 59 dead and 500 wounded in Vegas, before that it was Congressman Scalise shot while playing baseball this summer.

Before that, it was the June 2016 Orlando Massacre – 49 dead and 53 wounded.

Before that was in October 2015 at Umqua Community College in Oregon that was shot up by another twisted buy with 14 weapons in his apartment.

Rather than more laws, how can the culture change?

There’s an excellent scenario that played out in Manhattan with huge impact. Prospective first-time gun buyers get their wake up calls about gun ownership. Watch it here.

Buffalo Operation Rescue 1992

The gun control lobby should take a page out of the anti-abortion lobby playbook and start publicly shaming gun shop patrons.

The anti-gun lobby should take a page out of the anti-abortion playbook.

The anti-abortion lobby works hard to change the culture through grassroots efforts. It can’t pass laws that ban abortions, but put up roadblocks like strategic public shaming.

The pro-gun lobby says that more laws won’t keep guns out of the hands of anybody, let alone crazy people.

I acquired my hunting rifle from a friend. When I gave up the sport, I traded it to a guy who did some tile work.  I had a box of shot gun shells that I used for a movie prop and sold those at a garage sale. Guns and ammo are easy to come by – crazy or not.

I have to agree with that, particularly with 300 million civilian guns in circulation. One size does not fit all.

The crazies and bad guys get guns regardless of laws. The United States government is the largest consumer of firearms in the world, so it’s not backing off guns anytime soon.

newtown parents testifying

Newtown parents testifying before elected officials has fallen on deaf ears.

The politicos think that keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people is the answer. All crazy people have access to guns, but not all crazy people have access to mental health services.

That makes sense from a rhetorical standpoint, but I don’t know how politicians decide who’s the craziest, though.

Who’s crazier, McConnell or me? It’s a toss up.

It may be a personal choice to access mental health care services, but part of creating a new culture includes a social environment that makes seeking mental health services socially acceptable. Depression and other mental diseases are coming out of the shadows.

The POTUS 2018 budget slashes funding for mental health services which doesn’t exactly encourage people to seek services which are scarce. When a guy like the Vegas shooter knowingly goes up into a hotel with two dozen fire arms, that’s a public health issue.

While I’m sure that everyone personally deals with events like this differently, there doesn’t seem to be very many who are interested in creating the social and cultural change necessary to end gun violence.

I, for one,  haven’t followed the most recent Florida shooting much and end up watching the fake violence switching back and forth between Law & Order SVU and Criminal Minds.

Compared to anti-abortion zealots, the anti-gun group members don’t show the same long-term passion.

Before buying a gun, maybe prospective purchasers have to watch a video with bloodied up shooting victims. How about public shaming and protests in the rights-of-way of gun stores or on the public sidewalks in front of the Walton family homes.

Like the anti-abortion lobby, the anti-gun people should be grooming like-minded people to put in for appointed and run for elected public offices.

caleb keeter vegas

After the Vegas massacre, Kyle Abbott band guitarist Caleb Keeter posted this tweet after he was shot at during the show in Vegas.

I’m thinking that in the final analysis, the only people who get involved in trying to change the gun culture are those families and friends directly affected by the death or injury to a friend or loved one.

That’s a pretty small number of people and they can’t do it alone. The anti-gun lobby needs to come up with a higher purpose for their end game.

After Vegas, there was a country music guitarist, Caleb Keeter who had a wake up call after playing at the concert that night. He tweeted “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment all my life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.”

Knowing his market, he may well go the route of the Dixie Chicks.

After the most recent Florida massacre, I doubt any legislators will put forth much effort beyond strong emotional responses, particularly since nothing happened after the 59 dead were sniped in Vegas, 49 were gunned down in Orlando, 27 school kids and teachers murdered in their school, nine South Carolina church goers shot in the back, another nine gunned down in a community college classroom. I lose track.

Here are three ideas to help change the culture without having to take anyone’s guns away since that’s not happening any time soon:

Short Term: Go to the shooting range and take a hunter safety class – The United States is a gun culture. If you don’t want to fire a gun, at least go to a gun shop and handle one – they have a distinct smell, they are heavier than the ones Detective Benson slings around. I used to be a hunter, but that experience gave me an appreciation for the power of guns and a realization that animals don’t stand much of a chance against them. I felled an antelope, shot at a few deer which was enough for me – it was a right of passage for a Wyoming guy. The country was founded on violence. The Constitution was written with that in mind – preserving and protecting citizen rights over that of the government – not storming into people’s houses, innocent until proven guilty by the government, right to privacy.

The last thing the government is going to do is take away people’s guns. That’s a scare tactic, but a successful one since the gun lobby continues to grow and the sale of guns is out of sight, despite nobody taking away any guns.

Medium Term: * Civil Rights Laws – Unless authorities uncover some hidden agenda behind the recent Florida massacre shooter, what about an “asterisk civil rights” class? Acting strange and owning guns do not rise to the “probable cause” threshold. People who are observed to have weird behavior, say odd things, post crazy facebooks posts need to put on some sort of “watch list”. After Orlando, I heard a news guy talking about this on the Today Show. He asked a Homeland Security guy about what it would take to “asterisk” civil rights laws so that anyone like the latest Florida terrorist could continue to be watched and monitored even if there is no probable cause determined. I think the only time limited martial law was approved was by the antebellum Congress at the time of Abraham Lincoln.

Long Term: Reapportionment – the US Census will be completed in 2020 and new US congressional districts will be drawn as well as state legislative districts. The SCOTUS ruled in favor of independent redistricting commissions taking gerrymandering out of the political process. This is an opportune time to create competitive state and national districts and balance when considering potentially divisive legislation.

If you didn’t read this story last time or this time, I’ll re-write the lead after the next massacre.