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.
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.
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.
As many of you know, I am a confirmed OC personality. My wife calls me “Man of Action” and it’s not because of what you think. Nope, I am the guy who will drive two miles to avoid waiting at a crossing for a train that will pass in three minutes. As my mom used to say, I’ve got ants in my pants.
That’s why I’ve decided to be the first person to call the Republican results in the January 3 Iowa Caucuses (cauci?). It’ll be Ron Paul and it won’t be all that close. You can pass those songbooks down to the end of the pew now.
OK, so some of you want an explanation. Here’s why it will be Ron Paul:
1) Attending a caucus requires commitment. Ron Paul’s followers are committed. Maybe not suicide-bomber committed but still more likely to suffer pain and inconvenience than, say, Mitt Romney’s. Unlike those wussy primaries where you just flit into a voting booth, pull the lever and head out, a caucus requires a whole evening. You have to sit down with your fellow caucusees (?) and discuss WHY you support a certain person. People then have the opportunity to grill you and try to dissuade you from your choice and persuade you to convert to candidate they’re supporting. What this means is that the Michele Bachmann supporters who say they support her “because the voices told me to” are likely to come under intense psychological pressure. Likewise the Gingrich advocates who like him “because he uses big words.” Hey, sometimes the voices use big words too.
2) Ron Paul stands for something. Iowans, especially Iowa Republicans, like things in black and white. That’s why so many of them (the Republicans) take the Old Testament literally. Ron Paul gives it to them in black and white. The fact that a great deal of what he says is demonstrable lunacy doesn’t matter. He talks straight talk. His opposition to the war in Iraq and his support for a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion has seduced some left leaners into considering him as a candidate. Once people stop to realize a country such as the one Ron Paul describes would be pretty similar to the border town of San Miguel in the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western “A Fistful of Dollars” where the residents are caught between the warring factions of the Rojos and the Baxter families, libertarianism doesn’t look so good. When you don’t pay taxes, you don’t get any services…unless the Man With No Name rides into town.
But what if you think about the Rojos as the Republican Party and the Baxters as the Democrats?? Does that make Ron Paul the Man With No Name? I’m going to have to get the movie and watch it again!
3) Ron Paul has youth on his side. First, let’s point out the obvious: anyone under 30 who doesn’t have a nice trust fund is absolutely insane to be a Republican. But let me stipulate that such crazy young people do exist and Ron Paul has been successful reaching out to them. Young people are often portrayed as being passionate in support of causes and if this is so, Ron Paul will be the beneficiary. Paul is lucky that the caucuses are at night because if they were at 7 am, the youth participation would be negligible, especially in college towns.
4) The rest of the field is so repugnant. Come on, people! Can you imagine a serious person actually sitting face to face with other Republicans and arguing that Rick Santorum should be the Republican candidate? Or Bachmann? Or Newt Gingrich, whose unfavorables within his own party are off the charts (not to mention his wife)? Or Mitt Romney, who a) is a Mormon which most Republicans think is something like a B’hai or the Amish; b) has been running for president since 2007 but hasn’t seemed to have gotten around to visiting Iowa since he got his ass handed to him on a silver platter in 2008; c) is really the reincarnation of Teddy Kennedy with a few less pounds.
In summary, if you can find yourself a bookmaker, liquidate all your capital assets and put them down on Ron Paul of Texas in the Iowa Caucuses. I guarantee you’ll be richer than Romney on Jan. 4.
Sometime soon, just for laughs, take an informal poll among your friends and relatives; ask them “who da man?” Good question. Who IS Da Man? If you want, we can meet back here after the holidays and compare notes.
How would YOU answer the question? Would you select a great political leader? A brilliant scientist? A star athlete” A religious figure? Perhaps a military hero? Who IS da man?
I humbly submit there is ONLY ONE “Da Man” and his name is Santa Claus.
Last night, we were at a brass band concert here in Mount Vernon. During the encore song of a very nice program, a door to the auditorium opened, spilling light down the aisle. When people turned to see who was coming in so late in the program, they saw Santa Claus himself entering the room, stopping to shake hands, wave and wish people Merry Christmas. After the song ended, the young female conductor turned around and when she saw Santa, she lit up. Santa had done what he does better than anyone who ever lived; he brought joy to someone.
It’s a big shock when you learn the literal truth about Santa. Sometimes you’re young (as in when an older sibling rats it out) and sometimes you’re older (my nine-year-old grandson still believes!). Sometimes you learn slowly (rumors grow more numerous, you start to figure out the story is illogical and violates common sense in any number of ways). Other times, it’s as quick as a slap across the face with a wet mitten. Boom, it’s over for me so it’s over for you, kid sister!
But after a while, if you want, you can build an alternative world for yourself where Santa and Aristotle can both exist. Of COURSE there’s not just a single Santa. There’s too many people around the world for one individual to be able to give joyservice to them all.
Even if you figure a big fraction of the world’s 8 billion people aren’t part of the Santa orbit (Jews, Muslims, commies, Hindus, Ba’hais, etc) there is STILL a ton of work. So many years ago, the Main Santa decided to open some recruiting posts. Given the fact that Santa is a rotund man, it was logical for M.S. to turn quickly to Iowa as prime recruiting ground. The state’s economic development office immediately offered some choice locations, conveniently TIF’d so as to sweeten the pot. It was a big success! Given the unemployment rate in the state, the fact that a good portion of the state’s workforce is idle over the winter (farmers, etc.) and given the fact that Iowans have a neutral accent (experience has shown that Santas with pronounced drawls or New Jersey accents encounter legitimacy problems in the field). Plus, Iowans are nice which is a required quality for Santa.
So those Santas you see around town are trainees, interns if you will. Hard-working rookies who are learning the Santa ropes. But why? The pay is bad; being a Santa isn’t going to help you crack the 1%. The suit is hot, the hours long, the beard itchy, the likelihood of some kid dumping a Slurpee down your pants is high. Money is not the motivator. Nor is fame. If anyone labors in anonymity, it’s the guy behind the Santa suit.
The reward of being Santa comes from being plugged into the myth, to be part of that big river of belief that’s been flowing through Euro-Western society for more than a thousand years. Based mainly on St. Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop, Santa Claus also draws on Germanic pagan traditions such as that of Odin. By the middle ages, a character named Sinterklaas had emerged in what is now Holland. The stories about Santa’s employment of elves derive directly from the Sinterklaas story, although Sinter used mischievous helpers in blackface and colorful outfits. These assistants were called ‘Zwarte Pieten’ or Black Peter. You can look all this stuff up.
While the Santa you see in the store, at the mall, on the corner, may not be Main Santa, he (I’ve never seen a she-Santa) IS a continuation and culmination of centuries of tradition. And while for kids, Santa’s main job is to haul the merchandise, for many of us who have exited through the one-way door of belief, Santa still brings a smile to our faces. We smile because we remember the magic Santa brought when we were kids, when we looked for cookie-remnant evidence of his presence. We smile at the thought of a rotund man controlling an eight (or on foggy nights, nine) reindeer hitch flying through the sky. We smile because we remember the Night Before Christmas, and yes, Victoria and trying to figure out how Santa moved his throne from Sears to J.C. Penney faster than we could walk between those stores. We smile when we remember the letters we sent him c/o North Pole, so carefully written, so lovingly addressed. We remember focusing on being good just after Thanksgiving and hoping it would be enough. We smile to remember marking years by the arrival of Christmas.
Mainly we smile because Santa is Da Man.
The “Powers That Be” which in Washington, DC consists mainly of the collective pundits, politicians and their entourages, and various well-paid shills for special interest groups, keep trying to smoke out the protesters. The Powers That Be simply can’t deal with a shape-shifting mass that doesn’t come with a prepared list of demands. It’s frustrating for the Powers That Be, mainly because without a list, they are unable to slice it and dice it, spin it and refudiate it, mock it and lie about it. In a nutshell, they can’t attack it or embrace it. They can’t CONTROL it. Which is exactly the point.
The protestors don’t seem to want to change the players. They want to change the game, a game they have come to perceive as rigged, not only against them but against all of myths upon which this country has rested for more than 200 years.
One of those myths is that anyone can get ahead with enough pluck, enough hard work, enough self-sufficiency. America was a MERITOCRACY! It didn’t matter where you came from or who your parents were, as long as you had a good work ethic and a little ambition, you could move up in the world.
The five Hispanic guys who worked from 7 am to 8 pm re-roofing the house next to mine in 100 degree heat last summer looked like they had pluck, enough work ethic, enough ambition to get ahead. But the Powers That Be have been spending the last three years debating the best way to keep guys like that out of the country. A fence? An electric fence? Dogs? Moats? Guys with guns? Go after the employers? Let the cops pull any guy with a dark complexion over to give him a shakedown?
Those protesters (we’ll call them the 99% for shorthand) identify a lot more with those Hispanic guys than they do with anyone in Congress, even liberals like my own representative. Why? Because the Hispanic guys and the 99% have been forced to play the same rigged game. The Hispanic guys just have to do it with 40 pound bags of sand tied around their waist.
The oil that allows the American Political Machine to run is money. If you have money, you affect change in the system. If you don’t have money, you’re fucked. Forget one man, one vote. You’re fucked.
The Koch Brothers have announced they plan to spend somewhere around $240 million in the 2012 elections. Two-hundred and forty MILLION dollars. But of course, they only have two votes, so my wife and I have equal opportunity to sway the election, right?
The 99% don’t have to think about this. It’s in their DNA. They understand a genetic pre-disposition to being fucked by the system. That’s why is so incredibly stupid for the main stream media to stick a camera in the face of a kid named Sequoia Brooktrout and ask him what he’s protesting. Sequoia doesn’t represent the 99%. He’s just a kid out to have a good time, maybe get laid. The 99% are the people who used to gather at the union hall, back when unions had some actual clout. They’re the people whose kids can’t afford to get into college, can’t even afford to go to welding school. They’re the people who bought what the banks were selling — interest-only mortgages on houses three times larger than they could afford.
The Republicans want to discredit the 99% and the Democrats want to pre-empt them. Good luck on both accounts. Both political parties are little more than assemblages of whores, pandering to whatever special interest is willing to rent them for an election cycle. The 99% recognizes this. The Democrats are like 50-year-old hookers in hot pants and spandex. They might have been attractive, even sexy once but they’re pretty repulsive when you take a close look at them. And the Republicans are even worse. Unless, of course, you’re a Tea Partier.
Although neither side wants to admit it, I think the Tea Party and the 99% have a lot in common. The major difference is that the Tea Party sees the problem as Big Government. Their solution is to wreck the engine of government by taking away its oil: tax money.
The 99% see the problem as the corruption of government by corporate and other special interests. While they haven’t gotten to the point of articulating it, I think their solution is likely to be to wreck the engine of the existing political system by taking away its oil: campaign money.
Getting money out of politics is about as likely as me scoring the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. But reformation movements aren’t started by people trying to do the possible; they are started by people trying to do the impossible.
The worst thing that could happen would be for either of the political parties to succeed in co-opting these movements. The political gridlock we’re experiencing across the country is not because the two parties are exploding with new ideas. To the contrary, the parties are simply trying to bend the rules to maintain power. Meanwhile, a very very large number of people advocating for a major re-write of the rules with the express intent of bringing new players into the game.
As Dylan sang in “Ballad of a Thin Man”: Something is happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”
Next year there will be new Congressional districts in Iowa. I will be in the First District, which is currently represented by Democrat Bruce Braley. I see in today’s news that Braley showed up at a rally the corporate jet manufacturers’ association held in Cedar Rapids. Also there were Republican extremists Charles Grassley and Steve King. Nine percent unemployment and Braley is playing shill for a corporate PR event.
Here is the text of an email I sent Braley:
Dear Congressman Braley,
What could you have been thinking when you showed up at the Cedar Rapids rally put on by the corporate jet manufacturers’ association? As a result of the newly drawn congressional districts, you will be campaigning for election in a district that includes Mount Vernon, where I live. I assure you my loyalty to the Democratic Party does not prevent me from refusing to vote for a candidate who appears at an event like this.
The email could actually be translated to read “get your head out of your butt and act like a Democrat for god’s sake.”
Q: What’s the difference between Barack Obama and Grover Norquist?
A: Grover Norquist has principles he stands up for.
It was Calvin Coolidge (the patron saint of the Tea Party) who said “The business of America is business.” About 30 years later, the CEO of General Motors said “what’s good for GM is good for America.” Since that time, a remarkable number of people believe that business can do no wrong (let’s just forget about those unfortunate spills and emissions) and that the chief goal of the US government should be to let business do whatever it wants. Both parties now subscribe to this theory to one degree or another. But both parties, while professing concern about small businesses and entrepreneurs, really don’t give a rat’s ass about anything other than mega-corporations. Let’s take a closer look.
Who do you think has more clout on Capitol Hill, General Electric Chairman Jeffrey Immelt or the Vietnamese immigrant who owns the nail salon in your local Wal-Mart? OK, which business entity received more Federal bailout money in the financial crash of 2008, General Electric or the nail salon in your local Wal-Mart. Huh?
In 2009, General Electric’s GE Finance business received $80 billion in Federal TARP money. The next year, GE not only paid ZERO tax but actually received a $3.2 billion rebate. I feel confident in asserting (even without evidence) that the nail salon’s share of TARP was under $100 million and that it probably paid at least minimal taxes.
OK, some of you smarties are saying, “yes, but General Electric contributes more to the national economy because it employs hundreds of thousands of people. The logical extension of that thinking is that we should just give the entire US economy to mega corporations and eliminate corporate tax altogether. Wait! That’s essentially the Republican/Tea Party platform!
If Federal regulation is an obstacle to job creation, let’s be completely fair about it and eliminate ALL regulation that inhibits business. For example, if we were to repeal the onerous drug laws that prevent local crack dealer Pimp Daddy Silk from expanding his business, it would be good for the economy. At present, he only employs three low level crack runners and does all his own book work. If allowed to expand, Pimp Daddy would likely add additional runners, perhaps a district manager, hire an accountant, perhaps eventually an HR director and so on. Pimp Daddy is growing the economy!
I can see it now! “At a news conference today, the National Association of Pimps and Crack Dealers stood shoulder to shoulder with House Speaker Eric Cantor to denounce Democratic attempts to strangle American Business with regulation and suffocating taxes. ‘This will not stand!’ Cantor said. ‘We will protect American business from those who would hinder its ability to create jobs for Americans!’ NAPC President Arnold “Pimp Daddy” Silk then announced the formation of a Super-PAC, LeisureServicesUSA, to support free enterprise in American cities. As evidence of the growing political influence of the Crack Party Movement, Silk also announced a strategic alliance between his group and the Rural Meth Manufacturers Association to raise money for the Super-PAC.”
It’s clear: What’s good for Pimp Daddy is good for America!
No matter how much we try to deny it, one state has to be at the bottom of the heap. Perhaps more kindly, one state has to be the one that makes all the others look good. That state is Mississippi. Mississippi’s governor is a guy named Haley Barbour who actually has delusions of being the Republican presidential candidate in 2012. On March 15, 2011 he had the outsized cojones to say that President Barack Obama’s policies are “a threat to our economic future.” Whoa! Big words from the governor of Mississippi!
In a previous post, we looked at the pathetic rankings Mississippi holds in important health-related categories. While revealing, those rankings don’t tell the truly sad story of Mississippi. Let’s start with overall Best States to Live rankings. Take a guess. If you guessed last, you were right. It ranks last in the percentage of children who live in poverty. It ranks last in the percentage of all people who live in poverty.
Mississippi is dead last in the percentage of people who have finished high school. It has more children eligible for free lunches that any other state. It is last in the percentage of couples with both people in the workforce (a good statistic if you support traditional 1950s-style families I guess). Mississippi is last in the percent of people who can read at the 8th grade level. Mississippi is at the absolute bottom of the list of US states as ranked by the American Human Development Index. It has the lowest average ACT scores in the US. Mississippi students scored the lowest of any state on the National Assessments of Educational Progress in both math and science. It is 46th (!) in the American Education Legislative Exchange Council’s Report Card on Education.
Mississippi is not last in all categories. For example, it ranks second among the states in terms of receiving federal aid. It is also second in the ratio of federal taxes paid to taxpayer money that is given to the state ($2.02 for every dollar collected). Mississippi tops the nation in the percent of children who go to church every Sunday and is second in the number of Walmart Superstores per capita.
In an informal poll I conducted in the hallway, an amazing 100 percent of respondents said they felt Mississippi’s pathetic ranking among the states in meaningful health, education and economic categories probably would influence their decision whether or not to support him in 2012.
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?
Although not covered by the Lame Stream Media, here are some pictures of a recent rally on the National Mall in Washington DC. An estimated 84 million people converged on our nation’s capital to join Steve in his “I Can Have a Bigger Rally Than You.”