Mander Wins Big!

Gerald Mander (R-WI) was the big winner in Wisconsin politics in Tuesday’s election. Wisconsin is so heavily gerrymandered that nearly ⅓ of Republican candidates for the State Senate ran unopposed. Republicans won 12 of 17 seats up for election to retain a ⅔ majority.

In the State Assembly, 22 of 99 seats were one horse races (not counting a few write-ins or third party candidates). Republicans won 64 of 99 races to hold a nearly ⅔ majority.

The state is so effectively gerrymandered that Democrats, representing about 50% of the population, are crammed into ⅓ of districts, ensuring Republican control of both houses of the state legislature and ¾ of the Congressional seats. A Marquette Law School researcher calculated that if the overall vote were split 50/50, Republicans would hold just under ⅔ of the State Assembly and just over ⅔ of the State Senate. Surprise! Surprise! 64:35 and 22:11 are the current ratios. Ya can’t get much closer than that prediction.

This may not seem odd if this were a red state, but Wisconsin also elected a Democratic Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and a Republican State Treasurer.

Ron Johnson, best known for marrying into great wealth, which he has parlayed into even greater wealth since his election to the US Senate 12 years ago, won a third term despite his prior promise not to run. Attack ads called his challenger, Mandela Barnes, “dangerous” for Wisconsin. That’s code for “he’s a young Black man. If he’s not a criminal, his friends probably are.” When, at the end of a debate, each candidate was asked to name one thing he finds admirable about his opponent, Johnson said nice things about Barnes’ parents and then added, “with that upbringing, why has he turned against America?” Johnson is also an election denier, coup supporter, and backer of spurious and dangerous treatments for COVID-19. His Chief of Staff attempted to deliver a slate of fake electors to Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff on January 6. He was told to stay away. Since Pence refused to accept the fake electors, and Johnson had his chief handle it instead of doing it himself, Johnson claimed the famous “Five Second Rule” to play down his involvement in the coup.

At least I didn’t have to publish what I previously wrote about gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels. We’ll settle for a photo of his $17 million Connecticut mansion. We’re not sure if he planned to run the state from there, or move back to Wisconsin. Now he doesn’t have to decide.

Tim Michels’ Connecticut home, photo downloaded from “Wisconsin Right Now” which obtained it from realtor.com

Up in the air

After a valiant effort, Republicans were not able to propel Herschel Walker to victory and he will face a runoff election next month. Walker is best known as a football player. He campaigned as vehemently anti-choice despite allegations from two exes that he demanded that they abort the fetuses for which he was responsible. Both alleged that he paid for said abortions. In one of those cases, he was married to someone else at the time.

In his own defense, he said, “Everywhere I go, people say, ‘Did you pay for this abortion, did you pay for that abortion?’ How are you supposed to remember every single abortion? This is why people no longer trust the media.” To clarify, he added, “Let’s say you paid for ten abortions, or twenty, thirty, forty. You mean to tell me you’d remember every last one, clear as day? The answer is no, you wouldn’t. There’s no way a man could remember every single solitary abortion unless he kept an abortion journal, and I don’t know anyone who does that.” (The New Yorker 10/27/22. Emphasis added.)

Lauren Boebert’s race is still too close to call on Wednesday night, as is the Arizona gubernatorial contest featuring a former TV talking head turned follower of orange julius.

Stolen?!

Of course the Republicans were right. There was massive fraud and the election was stolen. How else can one explain the elections of Ron DeSantis, Ron Johnson, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, JD Vance, Rand Paul, et al?

This makes much more sense than the allegations of fraud in 2020, when the Democratic party allegedly stole the presidential election but didn’t bother to steal any others.

It makes more sense than to think that we, as the American people, would be stupid enough to vote against our own interests to elect these clowns and charlatans.

Climate change, or weather?

For the first time in my long life, I ended a November bike ride with ice cream. It is not supposed to be 70º (21 C) in November around here. The first place I planned to stop was closed for the season so I had to hold that ice cream jones for another 4 miles.

I rode out to the marsh the other day with my real camera and big lens for some wildlife photography. The only wildlife around was of the human variety. I did get to try the lens out to capture an oak leaf in flight (since the hawk was too far away even for a 500 mm lens). The oak leaf was at 330 mm (f5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100, for those keeping score at home). At least now we know I can track an object in flight, so stay tuned for bird pix in the future.

Three billboards outside of…Wyoming?

Republican candidates are falling over each other to declare themselves. There is the “Actual conservative republican” the “True conservative republican”, the “Constitutional conservative”, and then someone whose posters just say “Fossil fuels – yes!”

I’m not sure if any of those are code for “not a Trumper” or if they’re all code for “not like Liz Cheney”.

Then there is the billboard with a picture of a six month old baby asking “What about my choice?” This one is unclear on so many levels. First, by law a six month old baby has no choices. Its parents decide for it unless a court appoints someone else to decide for it. A six month old baby clearly is not capable of making many choices.

Clearly this is an anti-choice billboard. Do they know the difference between a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, and a six month old baby? Are they prepared to assume the care (physical, emotional, social, financial) of all of those children whose birth they want to force? It currently costs about ¼ million dollars to raise a child in the US. This does not include the cost of post-secondary education or training.

On another note, a Harley rider passed me the other day with a few gentle beeps of the horn and an enthusiastic thumb up. A semi passed with a quick toot of the air horn. A local cyclist going the other way gave a yell and a triumphantly raised fist. These moments sustain me for miles.

The cafe in the campground at Devil’s Tower opened for us with a special Cycle America menu. The best thing (not) on the menu was ice water. By 7:30 PM the temperature had plummeted to 91 degrees (33 C).

After a couple of Greg’s margarita’s (see 2018 post for “Reba’s Cantina” by Free Hot Lunch – this is “Greg’s Cantina”) and the second half of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I made my way back to my tent, getting lost on the way. It was well past my bedtime – nearly 10:30 when I got to the tent. I awoke before 5. All the water in the campground was shut down but came on at 5. I went back to bed, sleeping in until after 6. Gaspar and Dana were on the way to the airport by 7. We could not talk them into quitting their jobs to stay with us.

Small cave in Devil’s Tower

A front blew in over night – strongly enough to knock my bike over. I needed a blanket before dawn. A cool and pleasant morning with a forecast 15 degrees cooler than Saturday. (We’ve gone from 35 degrees in West Yellowstone to 98 degrees here in a week.) Nonetheless, we set out for the tower early. We hiked to the base of Devil’s Tower and followed a trail around the tower, stopping to watch climbers a few times. There are several named routes up the rock. In this heat, I would opt for one on the shady side.

Climbers lower left (atop tilted column) and slightly higher on right (atop straight column).

We hiked through grasslands and in and out of woods. The tower was closer than it appeared from the campsite, but disappeared and reappeared at intervals.

“The Window” – The missing section of rock lies just in front of us where it fell, as if calving from a glacier, some time ago.
Alien spaceship about to land on top of Devil’s Tower

Camping?

Nothing like a KOA/RV park to bring a new focus to the trip. In the high country we saw a lot of Mercedes Sprinter vans, which seem like a civilized alternative if you have tons of money (tall enough to stand in, but not like the behemoths we see here). Here we saw an RV with a foldout deck in back with two different gas cooking appliances. Some of these RVs are big enough that the parents could have a cocktail party in the front while the kids have a slumber party in back. They have slide out sections to make them even wider. It’s scary to think that no special license is required to drive these monsters – how many drivers are aware of how long and how wide they are while driving?

Monday morning we climb out of this valley, cross the border into South Dakota, climb through Spearfish Canyon and prepare for Needles Highway, the Black Hills, and The Badlands.

Breaking news

Sunday night I was watching “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. (I hadn’t seen the beginning in years.) The sky was darkening dramatically onscreen as the real sky mimicked it. Lightning began to appear in the distance. My tent was open so I left the movie and walked down to the campground quickly. The wind increased dramatically. I thought better of a quick trip to the bathroom – good thing, as I think my tent would have been gone when I returned. I got inside and tried to hold the tent up against the onslaught. Hail began striking my hands so I held up the poles instead. The windward side of the tent was flat against my body. Hail began to pile up at the base of the rainfly – see photo taken once it stopped.

Minutes later it was over. A gentle rain fell. The moon shone in a clearing sky. Per the National Weather Service, the wind was 60 mph. Now to sleep?