Friday, February 12, 2016

The Joy of the Heist

I'm guest blogging at  Elizabeth A. White's blog today on how and why I came to write ICE CHEST. C'mon by!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Trying to Make Sense of Iowa, Sunday Feb 7, 2016:

After months of hype and hoopla, after endless hours of bickering and balderdash, the first primary-ish contest of the 2016 elections is over.
The aftermath of the Iowa Caucuses provided political junkies with some surprises and caused the rest of the country (aka “the sane people”) to experience the terrifying realization that this horror show that’s been playing out on their TVs and the Internet for the past several months isn’t over. It has, in fact, just begun.
At least there was some winnowing of the crowded field of candidates, even if it there weren’t as many casualties as we might have hoped.
Before midnight, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (or as I affectionately refer to him, “Who?”) finally experienced a moment of clarity and dropped out of the race. He was soon followed on the Republican side by Mike Huckabee, who’ll probably be either returning to a spot on Fox News or touring with Ted Nugent; and by Rand Paul.
One of the night’s big surprises was the upset victory of former Canadian Ted Cruz over Donald Trump. Guess running away from a female anchor because she was mean to him didn’t work as well as Trump thought.
Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler told “The PBS Newshour” that the victory happened because Cruz was “the original outsider, the proven outsider” in the race, despite being a sitting member of Washington’s most elite club, the United States Senate.
Perhaps Mr. Tyler is confusing “outsider” with “outcast,” because the general consensus is that the majority of the people who have known Cruz personally, in or out of Washington, utterly loathe him. Forget working “across the aisle” — this guy can’t even work with his own party. How he expects to get anything done as president under these circumstances is a mystery.
The near-universal detestation of Sen. Green Eggs and Ham among his party’s establishment gave fellow senator Marco Rubio, who came in third, his opening to position himself as the non-crazy candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton.
Rubio, however, is vulnerable on the Republican hot-button issue of immigration, since he supported an immigration reform bill that was called “amnesty” by people who have no idea what that word actually means. Unfortunately, that group includes the entire right wing of the Republican Party.
It also apparently included Marco Rubio, as Fox News’s Megyn Kelly pointed out in the Trumpless Republican debate when she played a clip of Rubio saying, “An earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty” two years before supporting a bill that called for just such an earned path to citizenship. Pressed by Ms. Kelly, poor Marco was reduced to babbling, “I do not support amnesty, I do not support amnesty” over and over.
Ms. Kelly also pointed out that Mr. Cruz has a similar problem because he introduced an amendment to the bill that wouldn’t allow citizenship, but would allow some sort of legal status. In a party where hatred of immigrants is a litmus test, these may prove to be crippling flaws.
The night’s biggest surprise, however, came on the Democratic side, where Sen. Bernie Sanders narrowed Hillary Clinton’s once double-digit poll advantages to the point where some precincts had to be decided by coin toss. (Yes, that’s a thing in Iowa. Caucuses are weird.)
According to the Des Moines Register, the final tallies netted Clinton 49.8 percent of “state delegate equivalents” on Monday, while Sanders claimed 49.6 percent of “delegate equivalents.” Please don’t ask me to explain “state delegate equivalents.” I’ve been trying to read the caucus rules, and my eyes are still bleeding. Just take my word for it that the Clinton lead was unexpectedly razor-thin.
How did it happen? Was it Clinton fatigue? Were Iowa voters worried about the “damn emails” story blowing up in the general election? Or did the Sanders campaign manage to excite Iowa Democrats who’ve been disgruntled for years with the timid Republican Lite stance of the party establishment and are willing to embrace an honest-to-God liberal who doesn’t feel the need to “triangulate” their positions or apologize for caring about things like income inequality and Wall Street malfeasance?
Now the campaigns and the eyes of the nation (well, some of them) move to New Hampshire, where Sanders is expected to win the Democratic primary handily, since he’s practically home folks.
After that, however, things get a little dicier for Bernie. South Carolina and Nevada are widely regarded as a lock for Clinton, due to the large minority turnout in both of those states. But then again, there was a time when Iowa was a lock for Clinton, too. Stay tuned …