Free at last!

The Iowa Caucuses (Cauci?) are over and everyone in our Hawkeye State is sleeping it off. Every four years, we are subjected to criticism that Iowa is too old, too white, too Christian, too homogenous, too Clem-Kaddidlehopperish to deserve the honor of being first in the nation in selecting presidential candidates.

Typical Iowan at caucus

You want to be first ? You got it. About this time, the only people who would fight you for it are the Iowa television stations that have been minting money for several months now. The rest of us have been on the receiving end of the attack ads. They were everywhere: local news, Wheel of Fortune, the Khardashians, Iron Chef, Sports Center, even the test pattern. Once you’ve had the opportunity to sit through a 30-minute Newt Gingrich infomercial, the Seventh Level of Hell doesn’t look all that bad.

The media makes a big deal out of the fact that Iowans go out on a frigid January night to caucus. Trust me, it ain’t all that altruistic; it’s the only way we’ve found to get away from the political ads.

The kingmaker who couldn’t pull the trigger

Representative Steve King (R-Far Right Fringe) has missed the bus. He coulda been a contender instead of a bum, which is what he is. Yep, the Man Who Would Be a Kingmaker snoozed through his opportunity to have an impact on the Iowa caucuses. He dithered. He fiddled while Rome burned. He pulled the old Rip Van Winkle.

Rep. Steve King: Fast asleep when his ship came in.

His refusal to endorse a candidate means if he tries to take credit for the most excellent showing of Big Rick Santorum (not to be confused with Little Rick Perry), he must also take blame for the total campaign collapse of his friend and fellow-wingnut, Michele Bachmann. In other word, he didn’t move the needle even a little bit. We can only hope he follows Bachmann into well-deserved oblivion. Iowa will be a focal point during the general election but King will be a non-player as the GOP tacks toward the center. His role leading up to the presidential election will be to dutifully round up and deliver the evangelical votes for the Romney campaign.

Our Lord and Savior one of few endorsements not on Santorum’s list

According to a Wikipedia entry no doubt maintained by the Rick Santorum campaign (with a little assistance from the Holy Ghost), Santorum received endorsements from several major Iowa conservative leaders in the fall of 2011. Prominent social conservatives Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley, both leaders of the Family Leader social conservative advocacy organization, praised Santorum’s conservative record on social issues. Sioux City conservative talk radio host Sam Clovis cited Santorum’s beliefs in “a constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and unflagging devotion to life and traditional marriage.”[22]

Other endorsements include Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Cornerstone Church pastor and evangelical leader Cary Gordon, and bestselling thriller novelist Brad Thor.

Just sayin’.


Michele Bachmann

Within hours of finishing last among a weak field, Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman from neighboring Minnesota, announced she was “suspending” her campaign. In today’s political lexicon, “suspending” means “running away with your tail between your legs like a whipped dog.” But hey, it’s not like we didn’t get a chance to get to know Michele. Remember when she was the “frontrunner” because she “won” the Straw Poll? This tells us two things: 1) the Straw Poll is not a serious thing; 2) the national media are desperate.

I will miss her. She filled a lunacy gap in the Clown Car and did her best to make even Donald Trump look presidential. Her candidacy offered a glimpse into the Pit of Doom where the 1630s Puritans meet 21st century Revolutionary War re-enactors. In Bachmann’s world, the line between reality and delusion is never clear and is often crossed. God bless us all.

We won't have the governor of Texas to kick around anymore

It was a long slog, America, but we Iowans did what we’ve been called to do: we winnowed. We did the dirty work so you don’t have to. We’re down to one. The media, hungry for anything to expand beyond and dilute their preternatural fixation with kidnapped blondes and psychotic mothers who kill their kids, will figure out some way to gum the results of the Iowa caucus like a toothless hag working on a slice of white bread. It’s all a sham. Ladies and gentlemen of the universe, Iowa presents your GOP nominee, Mitt Romney!

We’ve learned a lot about the candidates in the past 18 months (like dentist-chair time, the time leading up to the caucuses drags out so that minutes seem like…well, hours). We learned that Texans have elected the closest approximation to Bozo the Clown that doesn’t come with orange hair and gigantic shoes. We learned that Michele Bachmann’s husband’s name is Marcus and that he casts out demons. We learned that Ron Paul is even crankier than he was in 2008. We learned Herman Cain is ALL man and that 9-9-9 upside down in 666.

666: Number of the Beast and 9-9-9 upside down

We also learned that green trumps white. White, as in 91% white (and vastly whiter for self-identified Republicans). Green as in the color of money. Rick Santorum, who right now is thinking he is coming out of the Iowa caucuses riding on the shoulders of Uncle Moe Mentum, has in reality just become the next target of Restore Our Future, Romney’s Super PAC. Restore Our Future, carved up Newt Gingrich like roast beef on a Sunday brunch sideboard. And it only cost a few million dollars.

Santorum, who as one wag said, ran a fantastic gubernatorial campaign in Iowa, ain’t got game. If you’ve been paying attention over the past, oh, forever, money = game. Santorum has no money and no organization. What he does have is the evangelical, anti-gay, anti-21st century base who could have coalesced around Rick Perry or Bachmann. When Santorum (who brings new meaning to the word “froth”) takes away your votes you have some serious wound licking to do.

We can now call him “Big Rick” as opposed to Perry’s “Little Rick.” But Big Rick has problems beyond money and organization. For one thing, he’s a single-issue candidate. Oh sure, he’s cobbled together some economic talking points and he’s cut and pasted something that looks like a foreign policy, but Santorum’s only issue is his stance against gay people. And folks, he’s on the wrong side of public opinion on the gay thing. It’s been obvious for a long time that the American public is vastly more tolerant of gays than the GOP will admit. Bashing gays seems more and more akin to dog fighting all the time: it’s patently offensive. But it’s a hot-button issue with the evangelicals who took over the Iowa Republican Party back in the days of Ronald Reagan.

Besides, it’s the economy stupid and Santorum, who was a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania back when earmarks were the unapologetic oil in the legislative machine, can’t really run on an economic reform platform beyond making sure there aren’t any illegal immigrants to compete with Americans for those $5 an hour hotel maid and fruit-picker jobs.

So it’s Mitt. In retrospect, the whole thing seems like a bad Clive Cussler novel. There’s a beginning, a lot of incoherent plot twists and then a predictable ending. As I’ve said all along, Romney is the only near-sane person in the crowd. Sane, perhaps, but ruthless. By using his PAC to do his dirty work, the Mitten has done his best to keep his cardigan clean. It will only get worse as we enter the general election cycle. These days, politicians don’t seem to give a rat’s ass what the landscape looks like after they’ve achieved their near-term goals. Win now and worry about the mess later.

Newt Gingrich's inner troll is about to be unleashed

This is not to say there won’t be some entertainment ahead. Newt Gingrich, who seemingly tried to keep his inner troll under wraps here in Iowa, has signaled that he’s pulling out the long knives to seek vengeance on Mitt for all the attack ads funded by Restore Our Future that sank his campaign. Newt Gingrich crying foul is like Genghis Khan complaining someone broke a gentleman’s agreement.

Let’s hope Newt’s anger burns hot enough to keep things interesting at least through Memorial Day. I am not getting my hopes up. Newt’s money is going to dry up and I don’t think he’s the type to self fund a campaign of retribution.

The other interesting plot line will be how the Tea Party, which was so full of itself just one year ago, reconciles itself to Romney. He is as old-school as they come, essentially a centrist Democrat pandering to the wingnuts. If the Tea Partiers don’t rise up to fight him, they’ll be consigned to the vacuum cleaner bag of history. If nothing else, that will make the right wing of America a lot less interesting. It will also be the death knell of the subculture of retailers selling tric0rn hats and colonial waistcoats.

Iowans on a date

There’s been a lot (well, more like some) outrage over an opinion piece written by a University of Iowa journalism faculty member that appears in the Atlantic Online. The writer, a guy named Steve Bloom, (who is the Bessie Dutton Murray Professional Scholar at the UI journalism school) says he is trying to explain Iowa and its inhabitants (mainly the latter) to outsiders. He does so by providing such insights as:

In this land, deep within America, on Friday nights it’s not unusual to take a date to a Tractor Pull or to a Combine Demolition Derby (“First they were thrashin’, now they’re CRASHIN’!”).

Bloom has lived in Iowa for 20 years. I’ve lived here three times that long and have never been to a tractor pull. In fact, I can’t think of any friends who have been to a tractor pull but then that’s not something my friends would mention out of fear of ridicule.

In fact, just last Sunday, when my friends and I could theoretically been at a tractor pull, we were instead at a poetry reading in Mount Vernon (pop. 4,000) where I live. The event was the celebration of a newly published book of poems by a friend, Glenn Freeman, who was born and raised in Baltimore and who moved voluntarily to Iowa where he teaches writing at Cornell College.

The food for the event was provided by another friend, Matt Steigerwald, who owns the Lincoln Wine Bar (where the event was held) and the Lincoln Cafe, which has been written up in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Midwest Living, Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, and many other publications. Matt, who has also competed in national competitions against the likes of the chefs from the French Laundry, hails from North Carolina. His culinary skills would be a hit in any major city. He to0 moved voluntarily to Iowa and has sunk extremely deep roots into the local community.

Music for the event was provided by another close friend, Dale Beeks. In addition to being a musical polyglot, Dale is a high-end collector and dealer in antiques, specifically scientific instruments. He literally wrote the book on antique surveying instruments and once owned surveyors tools purchased by George Washington. He was invited by Antiques Roadshow to be one of their on-air appraisers. Dale is originally from the Bay Area in California. He came to Iowa after a long and very thoroughly researched hunt for a new place for his family to live. Out of all the places in the USA, he selected Iowa and he loves it here.

When Bloom refers to Iowa as a”schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state”, I’d suggest that he may be 1) pandering to a more effete segment of society; 2) hanging with the wrong crowd and; 3) intellectually so lazy that he reflects very poorly on the University of Iowa and its j-school.

In the interest of full disclosure, I hold a master’s degree from the UI School of Journalism. I earned this degree before Bloom arrived, for which I think I should be grateful. During my time at the school, (1982-84) there was great emphasis placed on accuracy in journalism. Get the facts right. Old school. Apparently, Bloom belongs to the Republican Party school of communication that says anything is a fact as long as you’re willing to present it as a fact. For example, in his article, Bloom writes, “Rural America has always been homogenous, as white as the milk the millions of Holstein cows here produce.”

In fact, the actual size of Iowa’s dairy herd is 209,000* and that includes some numbers of Guernseys, Brown Swiss, Jerseys, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorns. It took me about a minute to find out this fact, apparently more time than a journalism professor with a named chair is willing to spend while “researching” an article.

A Holstein cattle. Note the bag between the rear legs, which is where the dairy products are dispensed.

Bloom also writes:

The corn grows so fast in Iowa — from seedlings to 7-foot-high stalks in 12 weeks — that it crackles nonstop throughout the summer months. The sound is like popcorn popping slow-motion in a microwave. That pop-pop-popping can be heard especially in the early morning hours, as dew and fog cover the acres of gently swaying cornstalks that surround farming villages the way the sea encircles an island.

Again, a minute on the internet would have cautioned Bloom against repeating what agronomists say is a very specious assertion. While I am willing to grant him the benefit of the doubt when he implies that he has actually been in a cornfield in the early morning hours, I would submit that with the leaves rustling and scraping, it’s too damn noisy out there to hear microscopic cell division no matter how rapidly it’s taking place.

If this Atlantic piece is what passes for “scholarship,” I bet old Bessie Dutton Murray wants her endowment back.

In the end, whatever outrage Iowans may feel toward Bloom’s journalistic fuck you, it’s probably compounded by the fact that Bloom continues to cash checks underwritten by their tax money. While as a “scholar,” Bloom would claim he has academic freedom to say the things he says, in reality being a dick has a downside. For example, you never get invited to poetry readings on Sunday afternoons and instead have to spend your spare time in river towns like Keokuk, “a skuzzy depressed, crime-infested slum town.”

If I might offer some bits of advice to the poor forlorn Bloom:

Finally, why are you here? If you are so fundamentally unhappy, so professionally unfulfilled, so intellectually lonely why don’t you just move on? Is it tenure that keeps you here? The last third of the article is such an unvarnished venting of loathing for what you perceive to be the “real” Iowa, it’s hard to imagine the depth of your despair. Dude, life is too short to spend it among people who are not worthy of your presence. Go. Leave. Find another university’s tit to suck.


Ghadaffi. Qadaffi. Gadhafi. Kadaffi. Khadaffi. Khadafi. Gaddafi. Would someone in the media please just get him to decide how he wants his goddamn name spelled? Please?

The Wasilla Snowbilly says Tea Party candidates should get their message out through Fox and should avoid the “lamestream media.” Of course this is because the “lamestream media” is prejudiced and out to spread lies about the Tea Party, not because people like Christine O’Donnell (or Sharron Angle or anyone of a number of other nutbags) can’t string together two coherent sentences. To me, this seems similar to blaming your shoes and the gum when you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time; it can’t be because something’s wrong with YOU, can it?

Here’s a CNN article about Dr. Laura’s discussion on the air with a confused young person of color. You be the judge. First, this confused young person should NEVER have called Dr. Laura, because basically you’re a stone moron if you call Dr. Laura. Second, I feel real bad that Dr. Laura is being muzzled by these liberal-communist-Obamaniac-leftwing-socialists just because she dared to tell it like it is on the air, and so what if the n-word happened to slip out a couple of, ok, maybe 11 times in five minutes. Dr. Laura’s freedom of speech is being curtailed, just like the Muslims in Manhattan are NOT having their freedom of religion curtailed. See, Dr. Laura is a conservative radio personality who is trying to tell the truth and teach Americans about how to be better so she needs her freedom. The Muslims are part of the same religion as the people who flew the planes into the World Trade Center so they need to have their freedom curtailed. Doesn’t that just make sense?

Looks like President Obama has worked his magic again, single handedly stopping the leak a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. As the Washington Post says so unambiguously, “gulf waters begin clearing.” Yep, time for the media, which is the only connection those of us unfortunate not to live at ground zero of the tragedy, have. There will be the obligatory followup stories about heroism and loss. But the real stories will shift to Bristol and Levi’s latest breakup, Brangelina’s fortunes, Rush Limbaugh’s diatribes, and whomever is the next kidnapped kid who shows up on the cover of People after being held in some closet and living on canned lima beans for the past 10 years.

What did we learn from all this? Tony Hayward is a moron. Big Oil has a lot of extra cash lying around. Aquatic ecosystems are fragile. Barack Obama cares more about Louisiana than George Bush did. And I’m going to be a little suspicious on my next trip to Red Lobster and order something from waters far away from the Gulf of Mexico..