Thursday, January 27, 2011

Silly season in Des Moines

Don't Bother, They're Here

The late Molly Ivins, a far greater writer than I can even dream of being, was at her finest when describing the crazy antics of her home state politics: “The Texas Legislature will soon be in session, God forbid, leaving many a village without its idiot.”

We need Molly back from the dead and we need her in Des Moines. The capitol dome seems to have been replaced with a circus big top. Ivins had just the right mix of outrage, exasperation, dung on the boots and sense of the absurd to do justice to the likes of Dwayne Alons.

Alons has taken a break from solving global warming with air conditioning, but he can't decide if he's more obsessed with guns or gays. He's the leading light, or dimmest bulb, behind what the cops are calling House File 007. As in Licence To Kill. The bill stands up for our Constitutional right to go packin' at day care centers, shuffleboard matches and Pizza Ranches. The hearings yielded this priceless exchange:
Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls, asked what would happen if a person kills someone thought to be a threat when “actually it’s the next door neighbor coming over to borrow a cup of sugar.”

“The neighbor should’ve knocked first,” Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, answered with a grin.
As Sondheim said, don't bother, they're here. (In fairness, a number of Democrats have to share some blame for this one...)

Meanwhile, legislative n00bs Kim Pearson and Glen Massie are arguing with their fellow Republicans about how many fetuses can dance on the head of a pin:
The legislators, The FAMiLY Leader, and (non-Polk County Republican chair Steve) Deace, object to the bill because they believe all life should be protected, not just unborn children after twenty weeks of fertilization. On his radio show on Tuesday night, Deace called legislators who believe that life begins at conception, but who are supporting House File 5, “evil,” because he says the goal is to protect all unborn life, not just babies over 20 weeks.
The split on the right may yet abort chances for a bill coming out this session and turn western Iowa into a, quoting here, "a midwest mecca for late-term abortions." And we all know who prays to Mecca.

In the third ring of this circus we have Clel Baudler's clown act. Baudler, last seen having his clerk push the voting button in the 2010 session, is now taking a page out of the James Traficant textbook (Democrats have clowns too) and conducting his own sting operation--in California:
Baudler, 71, made public his plan to lie about a medical condition to obtain a medical marijuana prescription almost a year ago when the Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously to recommend that legislators reclassify marijuana in a way that could allow people to use it for pain, nausea and other symptoms from diseases such as cancer, AIDS or multiple sclerosis.

He told how he planned to go to California.

“Then I’ll lie about having hemorrhoids so I can get medical marijuana for hemorrhoids and get smoke blown up my rear end,” he said.
Ole Clel has inadvertently stumbled onto the right metaphor. A lot of smoke went up a lot of rear ends this last campaign season.

Terry Branstad got elected on a platform of 1) I'm Not Chet 2) I'm Not Vander Plaats either and 3) did I mention I'm not Chet. Yeah, we all knew the unionized public employees were screwed; that goes with the territory with Terry.

But Branstad 5.0 was supposed to be the Grownups Back In Charge administration, not Silly Season On The Right. Yet so far the legislative session is playing out like BVP's wildest fantasies, and I'm really sorry to have put that image in your head.

True, the governor's influence over the legislative branch, even of his own party, has its limits. Just ask Chet Culver. But the governor can do more to set the tone. Even his main economic focus, the battle with the state employee unions, seems less about budgets and more about political payback, and under the dome the ugliest and meanest obsessions of the far right and far far right are on center stage.

(And people think I'm extreme for saying a voting age adult should be able to go into a bar and have a beer.)

"It's a low-tax, low-service state--so shoot us," Ivins said of her beloved Texas. "The only depressing part is that, unlike Mississippi, we can afford to do better. We just don't. " And this session, Iowa seems to have that attitude as well.

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