A couple of headlines caught my attention Monday as I put in my next eBay bid on a box of Twinkies and counted the number of schools in the Big 10 Conference.
First, a reminder to Iowans:
You'll hear it again in 2015 or so, but don't listen to national reporters who whine about having to tromp around in the frigid Iowa snow every four years as the presidential nomination process takes shape. When they say Iowans aren't representative of the nation as a whole, what they really mean is: "It's December and January. Why can't Florida have the first-in-the-nation caucus? The cities are bigger, there's more to do and I'd be a lot warmer."
I've always said, no state is truly representative. The interests of Texans are different than the interests of New Yorkers and so on. I've also said Iowa doesn't decide the nominee. Partisans in other states are welcome to ignore us and go a different direction. The Iowa Caucuses are merely a suggestion for the rest of the nation: "We like this candidate. So, New Hampshire, what do you think?" It's as simple as that.
Simple math tells us the state with the largest influence in the process is California. They send the most delegates to the national conventions and they have the most electoral votes.
And I'm a little relieved they don't get first say in the nomination process, because, well, I'm not quite sure they're representative of the nation as a whole. (Pssst, don't tell your friends in California this, but I'm trying to be "Iowa Nice" here. I'll stop short of saying some inventory may have escaped the almond factory out west.)
Exhibit A: The interesting story from the Associated Press about how a public nudity ban is being considered in "fed-up San Francisco." A thankfully well-cropped protest photo accompanied the story about how some San Franciscans hope their city council says "yes to nudism." The white-bearded guy holding up that protest sign was wearing only a baseball cap - check that, there's a nose ring, too. Thank you again, AP, for the tasteful cropping.
The AP reporter, Lisa Leff - who hopefully will be out of her assignment editor's doghouse soon - said San Franciscans have "complained about the naked men who gather in a small Castro plaza most days and sometimes walk the streets au naturel." Whatever you do, Lisa, don't look down.
In the past year, city leaders had to pass a law requiring, as she carefully phrased it, "a cloth to be placed between public seating and bare rears." From now on, I'm not following the sunset cross-country without a map of California, a paint brush and a big ol' jar of hand sanitizer for those park benches.
A vote on the proposed nudity ban took place Tuesday.
Meanwhile, just down the crowded freeways a stretch comes Exhibit B: A federal judge in Santa Monica ruled against a church group's right to reopen a nativity scene on display in a public park. The nativity scene was apparently a 60-year-old tradition there, but a newcomer added to the display in the past few years. The well-known local atheist put up a banner with images of Santa Claus, King Triton, Jesus and the devil right next to the Bethlehem scene. "What myths do you see?" the banner asks.
As you might expect, vandalism followed and, ultimately the city banned displays by both church and secular groups in the park. The church sued on First Amendment grounds and lost.
So, going into Tuesday, nude people walking around San Francisco neighborhoods? OK. Park statues of fully-clothed Mary and Joseph at the manger? Not so much.
I don't consider Iowa to be all that conservative. Our farmers are risk-takers - disease can wipe out a herd, floods can wipe out a harvest. Half our delegates to Congress have left-leaning views and President Obama carried the state twice.
But in Iowa, I think it's safe to say: If Mary and Joseph have to be covered up, then the dude walking past the local bistro has to be, too. And the moment that's no longer true, I hope some other state gets the honor of launching the presidential nomination process.