Monday, March 26, 2012

Facebook Almost Ruined My Marriage

Last week a young lady of my acquaintance posted a humble plea on Facebook that set off a totally mundane chain of events that, while being the very definition of the term "first-world problem," nonetheless raise a number of ultimately unimportant questions I feel compelled to examine.

Her plea (paraphrased): "Help me win a free vacation! Go to [beach resort's Facebook page] and Like or Comment on my post on their Wall! The person with the most Likes and Comments wins 2 nights at the resort, all expenses paid!"

Being the charitable sort -- by which I mean willing to click something if it will help someone I know -- I clicked through and found the photo in question: it was of this young lady of my acquaintance, looking beautiful in a bikini, sitting on the beach. I saw that only one person had Liked this photo before me, I brought the tally up to two, and went on about my important business at work: writing "Manimal" fan fiction, bidding on commemorative coins from the Bicentennial, and trolling the "Smallville" message boards.

Maybe five minutes later, the IM window pops up on my screen:

Jennifer: why are you liking photos of
hot young girls on facebook

It's my wife. (The question mark on her computer is broken.) It had not occurred to me that she would see that I had Liked this photo, nor had it occurred to me how it would look when she did. My wife and I are almost 40. The young lady in the photo is indeed a hot young girl of, I dunno, 25? 26? Not sure, but under 30. I felt confident that my wife would be satisfied by my explanation, which had the benefit of being the truth:
me: she asked everybody to like it so she can win a free vacation.
Mrs. Wiferson seemed placated by this:
Jennifer: oh ok
I never doubted that my wife would believe that there was nothing untoward going on, because a) there isn't, b) the marriage is solid, we get along great and always have, and c) she is my alibi for my whereabouts nearly every waking, non-working moment over the last 13 years. She knows this dog never leaves the porch.

But even though my wife has heard my explanation that I only clicked on the bikini photo because I was explicitly asked to and I swear I'm not a creep no really I'm not, none of my other Facebook friends (18 and counting!) has heard that explanation, and now they all have "Alex Castle likes a photo" of a hot chick not my wife in a bikini in their news feed. I barely even remember the photo, so I go back and look at it again to see just how creepy I am for Like-ing it. It is not like a super-erotic Sports Illustrated photo of a well-lit underwear model slathered in vaseline, wearing just bikini bottoms, and covering herself with her hands. It's just a candid shot of a very pretty girl at the beach.

By now many more people have acquiesced to her request that they Like or Comment on the photo; she is up to 25 Likes and 10 Comments. My eye is caught by one of the comments (paraphrased):  "[Name of beach resort] looks amazing. As do you babe!"

Now, I'm sure this person meant nothing by that comment, other than that this gal looks good in a bikini, which anyone with eyesight would agree. But I feel a little creeped out by his comment nonetheless, the same way I'm creeped out when another lady friend, who's sort of famous from having been on a reality show, gets 85 "You're so beautiful" comments on any picture she posts of herself. If you verbally said "you look amazing" or "you're so beautiful" or "you're really wearing that bikini" to someone of the other gender who you weren't dating, you'd feel a little creepy/desperate, right? It's not like I made a creepy comment, but I almost feel like the thumbs-up of a Like is even worse, like the Facebook equivalent of a wolf whistle.

Since my lady friend here openly solicited the Like, I know there's nothing creepy about it in her eyes, and I know that my wife bought my explanation, so I'm not worried about either of them. It's just that Like-ing a bikini photo of a hottie ten-plus years younger than I am on Facebook doesn't look good to all the other people are seeing it, and I'm not comfortable with it. I'm Facebook friends with my parents. With my wife's parents! This does not look good, so I think about my options.

Should I un-Like the photo? If I do that she might not win the contest, and since the contest depends on her Likes, she'll notice that I un-Liked it and that would be weird under the circumstances. Would it even get the Like out of people's news feeds? How does that even work?

Do I post a Status Update with a short explanation of what happened? That could only read like the paranoid rantings of a deranged psychopath (quite unlike this blog post). Right?

Alex Castle
You may have seen that I Liked a photo of a lovely young lady who is not my wife. Rest assured that I do not like her like her -- I'm quite happily married and have been since the Florida recount -- I just "Like" her like her, like a friend Likes another friend so they can go on vacation. Seperately! Not together! She's going on vacation, with the friend of her choosing (not me) if enough people "Like" her photo. So you see, It's the friendly thing to do! #KONY2012

Yeah, we're not going to be doing that.  So where does that leave me? Nowhere! I look like some kind of weird Internet pervert trying to hit on my Facebook friends. Thanks a lot Facebook! Why does everyone have to see everything I Like anyway? I see headlines for news articles that interest me and I don't click on them because I don't want "Alex Castle read  'Lindsay Lohan's Mochachino Disaster' on Washington Post News Reader" to be popping up on everyone's news feed.

And while we're at it, why do I have to see everything everyone else Likes? I know everyone has privacy options for what portion of their Facebook activity is visible and to whom. Any chance I can change my incoming options? Can I opt out of seeing what other people Like? Do I really need to be alerted when one of my friends communicates with another of my friends? Is there a "Don't show me strangers' sonograms" box I can check? (That last joke was actually my wife's. It's one of the reasons I don't cheat on her.)

Maybe it's not Facebook's fault, maybe it's my fault for not thinking it through, that everything I do on this stupid website can be seen not just by all my friends but potentially my friends' friends' friends, which could add up to like 30 or 40 people (I'm not much good at math). Or maybe it's my friend's fault for putting me in this position. Sure, she needs a vacation, but what about me? What about my marriage? Did she ever once think about that? I have a wife and a son! Actually, it's that stupid resort's fault. How dare they get people to post pictures of themselves half-naked for other people to see and look at and Like and post vaguely creepy comments to? And for what? I never did find out if my friend won that vacation!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Delta Is Like A Soviet Airline

I first realized maybe things would not go so smoothly when I went to the Delta website and poked around until I found out the extra baggage fee to bring my snowboard on the plane: $150. Each way. Almost as much as another ticket.

So I began my flight experience with Delta Airlines on the wrong foot. It’s not like my snowboard is amazing or irreplaceable or anything -- but as this was a ski trip, it would have been nice to have it, and having to rent gear, although far cheaper than the baggage fee, adds an unwelcome layer of hassle to the proceedings.

I pack my boots and helmet and other gear into a regular suitcase, put my computer, iPod, and a book in a backpack and grumble about this bullshit baggage fee. I check the website again to make sure everything’s on time, and see that it’s recommended I arrive 75 minutes before my flight.

My arrival at the check-in beats that target by 15 or 20 minutes, but I’m disheartened to see that both the check-in line and the line for security are really long and show no sign of moving.

I get into the check-in line but it is soon shouted at me that I can’t get in the line without a boarding pass, and I (and several of the people in line in front of me) are directed to a bank of self-serve kiosks.

I swipe my credit card a few times but it doesn’t work, and then I notice the barcode reader on the machine, and remember the confirmation email I printed is in my backpack. I hold the barcode under the reader every way I can think of, but it won’t scan. There is a blank and an onscreen keyboard so I can enter my confirmation number, but I can’t find it on the document.

Just then a lady in a Delta jacket steps up and asks me where I’m going. Denver, I say, and she glances at my sheet, types in the confirmation number, and I get in the check-in line, which has not moved at all in the eight minutes I’ve been wrestling with this machine.

A few minutes go by and just when I start to think about the possibility of not making it to my plane in the next 75 minutes, a new desk worker appears and asks if there are any 6pm departures in line. My plane’s leaving at 6:05 so I raise my hand, and I and seven or eight other people are waved forward to the front of the line.

“Things are going my way,” I allow myself to think, somehow forgetting the awful psychic scars of all my air travel of the past ten years or so, the way abused children block out their abuse and mothers forget the pain of childbirth. I go to the front of the line and yet another new clerk appears, and she checks my bag.

I feel a small sense of victory at having completely jumped the line, but it evaporates when I turn my attention to the line for security. Whereas the line for check-in was long, it was single-file and somewhat orderly; this one looks more like a mob, like the line for U2 tickets or the new iPad or whatever other kind of long long line that’s not moving you can think of. I let out a deep sigh and feel an odd sense of deja vu as I take in the scene, but can't quite put my finger on it.

There appears to be only one table to search people up at the front of this security line, but I’m so far away it’s hard to tell. In any case, it's clear I'll be waiting quite a while. Just as I start to adjust to this new reality and once again consider the possibility that I won’t make my flight, the line parts like some kind of huge body of water in a sci-fi novel or something, and before I even see anyone doing it, the stanchion ropes are up, and the first 50 people or so in the security line are on that side of a velvet rope (actually retractable nylon strap), there is a gulf, and I and the next 50 people in line are behind another retractable nylon strap.

Everyone is disoriented by this sudden stanchion change, as those of us in back no longer seem to be in a line at all, but it’s immediately shouted at us to follow the Delta jacketed agents outside: “It’ll be quicker, trust me,” we are assured.

Forty people are then led out the front door and into the roadway leading out of the terminal, toward the parking garage. Everyone looks confused and apprehensive. We go down a hill and double back under the building. As we go into the parking garage underground, the sound of loud creaking metal can be heard, and it suddenly hits me where I’ve seen all this before.

When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, the Cold War was still going strong and there was a lot of talk about the quality of life in the Soviet Union, and how Communism had turned every day into an interminable slog of long lines and decomposing infratructure. Footage of this aspect of Russian life always seemed to be in black and white even when it wasn’t. Walking out of that terminal, with its filthy carpets and cheap folding tables and blinking fluorescent lights, full of miserable faces and people in bad blazers shouting at them, out into the groaning, creaking parking garage felt like we lost the Cold War.

The walk through the parking garage was long, and the walk after that even longer, through empty hallways and past unused baggage carousels. We went around a corner and suddenly we were indoors again, in a busy part of the terminal. I had a short moment of panic when the road forked and I realized I wasn’t paying very close attention to the rest of the exodus, and couldn’t be sure which way they’d gone. I swallowed, made a mental coin flip, and went left, and soon recognized the back of someone’s ugly jacket and followed the crowd through yet another door and another unused carousel. Is Delta sneaking us all past security? How much of this airport is not in use? What is that smell? Do I really want to get on this plane?

After wandering the bowels of the airport for at least ten minutes like Spinal Tap looking for the stage, we come into yet another dimly lit room and another bunch of stanchions with retractable nylon straps and a line almost as long as the one we got out of to embark on this safari.

Like all the previous lines I’d encountered so far, this one did not appear to be moving, and unlike the previous lines, I was not given a miracle reprieve from waiting in it. Of all the shouting that was shouted at our weary band of travelers, the shoutiest was shouted in the manner of a drill sergeant by the lady at the folding tables, loud enough for the whole line of 80 people:

“Your footwear! Will come off! Your jacket! Will come off! If you are wearing a belt! That will also come off! Empty everything from your pockets! Keys! Change! Phones! Any electronic devices! Must be removed from their bags! And put in their own white bin! Your ID! And boarding pass! Should be visible in your hand!” A guy at the front of the line kind of bumbles his way through the process and I worry that she’s about to assign him 50 push-ups.

My turn comes 15 minutes later or so, and as I’m she barks something at me that I don’t quite make out, and she repeats, “Where are you flying in from?” I say, “I’m not flying in, I’m flying out,” and she shrugs and waves me through. As I put my shoes back on, I wonder: is it that security lady’s first day? Nobody goes through security when they’re flying in! Is this a setup? Are the real security guards bound and gagged in a nearby closet?

There is another 10 minutes of walking to my gate after I get to the terminal, but I can follow the signs rather than my fellow travelers. As I reach the gate, the plane is just beginning to board, so I’m right on time -- advising me to be there 75 minutes before the flight turned out to be right on the money.

I guess there’s two ways to look at it: that I got sent on a wild goose chase by the worst-run airline in the world, and missed out on an hour of valuable sitting-at-the-gate time, time I could have used to buy something I didn’t really want to drink at Starbucks and something I didn’t really want to read at Hudson News; or, I got to go through a wormhole to 1988 Moscow and experience the very thing we bankrupted ourselves to prevent. Yay capitalism!

Oh, and I saw this on the way onto the plane:

A company that gouges its customers with outrageous baggage fees, has downsized its workforce and replaced it with self-serve technology that doesn't actually work, passes the extra hassle on to its customers, and treats its customers almost literally like cattle is one of Fortune Magazine's "World's Most Admired Companies" for 2011. Yay free market!

PS: In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit this flight experience wasn't all bad. Once I boarded, I got my first glimpse of an endangered species I’d long thought extinct. There was a genuinely hot flight attendant on the plane. I’d never seen one before! Have you ever seen one before? Back in the day, "stewardess" was like shorthand for "gorgeous and willing" -- at least it was when Jack Tripper's neighbor Larry said it. But in my 30+ years of air travel I've never seen a flight attendant more attractive than a defensive line coach, and this gal could have been an underwear model. It was like a unicorn was handing out peanuts! Well played, Delta.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Boycotting Rush Limbaugh Is A Waste Of Time

For the last week my Facebook feed has been full of outrage and petitions (and, like every week, photos of people's dinner). The outrage and petitions, if not necessarily the dinners, have been directed at Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host who despite various moral failings, intellectual shortcomings, and a glaring honesty deficit over a 20-year career has suddenly come perilously close to hitting bottom (if he actually has one).

Rush managed to wriggle his way into a slow news week by saying a number of unchivalrous things about a young law student called to testify before a Democratic subcommittee on health insurance and birth control. These hearings were purely symbolic, called to draw attention to the fact that the Republicans' own hearings on the matter forgot to invite any women, and to get at least a couple of female opinions on the matter on record.

Limbaugh's rantings on the matter were coarse, and insulting, and illustrated a disturbing, deep-seated hostility to women, and I don't intend to quote or repeat them. Suffice to say, they were ungallant enough to prompt an online campaign to boycott his advertisers and get him pulled from the airwaves.

I certainly understand the impulse, and I wouldn't miss Rush if he were gone. I never listen to his show, except on long drives when I lose NPR and can't get a good classic rock station, and even then I never last longer than one 7-minute segment. Even though I've never agreed with anything I've heard him say and I find his know-it-all tone insulting and obnoxious, I do find him compelling in a weird way. Even so, the 7-minute bile eruptions he calls segments are punctuated by 19-minute blocks of ads even more annoying and unlistenable than Rush himself, and it is they that usually drive me to change the channel.

But of course those ads are Rush's bread and butter, so pressure is being put on the advertisers to bail from Rush's "Accounts Receivable" ledger in protest of his comments. While I don't disagree with the sentiment, I'm not sure I see the point.

"Get Rush Off The Air." Does that even exist anymore? Let's say these petitions succeed and all of Rush's sponsors pull out and Clear Channel fires him. Is there anyone anywhere who thinks that would be the last we hear of Rush Limbaugh? He would go from being the highest-rated political commentator on the radio to being the highest-rated political podcaster on the Internet in about four seconds.

Because even if you get rid of Rush, his audience is still going to be there, and is there anyone who thinks that his audience would not follow him to whatever media he chooses, be it Sirius, iTunes, or smoke signal? It's not like these people are waiting for all the facts to come in on Rush -- their minds are made up. Because while Limbaugh seems to be losing advertisers, I'd be more interested in whether he's lost any listeners and I would bet a steak dinner that he's lost close to none.

The things Rush said about this woman were pretty gross, but I'm not particularly bothered by them because they're consistent with his entire career. I don't know that he's ever gone quite so overboard before, but the only time anyone notices him at all is when he goes overboard, so he does it on purpose -- everyone knows that, right? -- so it's only natural that he would eventually go too far.

What I find interesting here isn't his lapse in taste and honor in discourse, because he's always been an asshole. It's how completely he exposed himself has having no understanding whatsoever of what he's talking about.

The woman he insulted so mercilessly, Sandra Fluke, is a law student at Georgetown University, and as a student at that private institution, buys into the private health insurance plan offered by the University. Her appearance before the Congressional subcommittee was to argue in favor of the University continuing to include birth control as part of the insurance plan that, once again, she pays for. At issue was whether a (it bears repeating, private) Catholic organization should be obliged, as all other health insurance providers are obliged, to provide birth control, even if that coverage is at odds with the school's own religious doctrine to students and employees not themselves Catholic. Ms. Fluke spoke eloqently of the various non-reproductive applications of the pill for women, and did not mention herself or her own sex life at all.

Somehow, Rush contorted that innocent, benign, wholly sensible argument into a harpy's craven demand that the the government, and thus the taxpayers, fill her own bottomless demand for morning after pills to abort the babies that she is conceiving with a platoon of faceless partners every night and twice on Sunday.

The insult to Ms. Fluke's character is one thing -- it's gross, and childish, and creepy, and totally undeserved -- but the total distortion of the issue at hand is something else. Because when you put it the way Rush put it, no, I don't want my tax dollars to pay for hooker abortions! (Actually, I wouldn't really have a problem with it, but I can at least see that point of view.)

But that is not remotely what Ms. Fluke was arguing, and taxpayer dollars accounted for no part of her testimony, and had nothing to do with the issue at hand, which begs the question: Is Rush Limbaugh misrepresenting the facts on purpose, or does he just not understand them? Whatever the answer, he's been doing this for a long time on a wide range of issues, and it's only dumb luck that this is the issue that finally blew up in his face.

But it doesn't really matter. Short of appearing in a three-way gay porn video with Barack Obama and Saul Alinsky (whoever that is), there's nothing Rush can do to lose his audience now. They have drunk the Kool-Aid and remade themselves in his image -- they proudly call themselves "Dittoheads," for God's sake.  If Rush dropped dead of, say, an oxy-induced food coma, is there any doubt at all that his people would find another stridently xenophobic, misogynistic, racially hostile blowhard to listen to?

His remarks may have turned off a few new listeners, but that raises another question: how many new listeners do you really think Rush is picking up these days? Is his cultural influence ongoing, or is it more or less complete? Are his people getting dumber by continuing to listen to him, or do they continue to listen because they're dumb?

All of which is to say that I don't see his firing, if it were to happen, having a very big impact in the world at large. As Rush himself loves to say derisively of left-wing goals, it would make everybody feel good for a minute, but accomplish little else. Those of us who never listen to him will continue to never listen to him, and those who do will either find another asshole to hitch their wagons to, or, more likely, follow Rush to his next enterprise.

Seems to me the best thing we can do to Rush is ignore him, even (and especially) when he goes this far overboard, and if we really want to apply pressure somewhere, apply it to the news outlets that spent a week breathlessly repeating and deconstructing his remarks and telling us something everyone already knew -- Rush Limbaugh is hostile to women and women's interests, and is either too stupid or too mendacious to argue an issue on the merits. Thanks, Woodward and Bernstein, but that's not exactly news.  

Incidentally, Congress passed a bill last week that would outlaw the right of citizens to assemble or demonstrate at any public event attended by someone receiving Secret Service protection, which would include presidential candidates.

So while we're all shrieking about Rush Limbaugh's First Amendment rights (which are in no kind of danger, by the way -- his beloved free market is merely doing what it does), our own First Amendment rights are in actual jeopardy, and nobody's paying attention. I Googled "HR 347" and look at what came up (note who's covering this story, and more importantly, who's not) : 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rick Santorum Will Save The GOP

Rick Santorum
I like to think that I try harder than most people I know to understand Republicans. (Emphasis on "try.") Whereas most of the people I know in my two adopted hometowns (New York and San Francisco) are content to believe that the folks on the right are the Earthly manifestation of pure evil sent to hold dominion over the weak, I always try to look a little deeper and to understand how and why they vote the way they vote.

The reason for that of course is that both of my parents and some of my extended family vote Republican, and I happen to know that they are all very intelligent, very compassionate, very pleasant people. They are not social conservatives, or fundamentalists, or strident pro-lifers. So there is a disconnect that I struggle to understand, because these are the issues that increasingly seem to define right-wing pundits and politicians.

It's been my observation that in politics, people seem to be much more passionate about what they're against than what they're for. When I vote for Democratic candidates, am I affirmatively voting for a cradle-to-grave safety net and unlimited power to labor unions, or am I voting against the party that is historically most hostile to minorities, seems to relish sending people to war, clings desperately to economic policies that in the last 30 years have twice failed catastrophically, and appears to be in the grip of religious crazies?

I have no great love of Democrats or the Democratic Party, but as it is, they are the less unappealing option. I'm not particularly thrilled by the idea of paying higher taxes, or people abusing welfare, or corrupt unions killing our kids, or any of the other things that come with the Democrats, but I am definitely, strongly, actively opposed to outlawing contraception, or starting more wars in Asia, or letting the Old Testament guide foreign policy. I vote Democratic more as a vote against Republicans than a vote for Democrats.

My dad, on the other hand, worked in upper-middle management for a manufacturing behemoth for 35 years, took advantage of a very generous employee stock program, and came away with a great deal of negative experience with unions -- he once caught an employee employing an escort on the hood of his car in an outdoor parking lot, and was prevented by the union from firing him -- and made enough money to get pissed off about how much he paid in taxes. So while I have never known him to give a shit about gay marriage, drug sentencing minimums, abortion rights, or going to church, that's not what he's voting for -- he's voting against unions and against higher taxes. If the only guy available to carry that torch also happens to be pro-life, anti-gay, fundamentalist, well, politics makes strange bedfellows.

I have no doubt that there is an important role in the government for a strong conservative party to watch the money and curb the excesses of the hippies on the Left. I generally agree with the spirit and the goal of what Democrats do but they also seem to be chronic bunglers, unorganized and undisciplined, so I think it's important that all of that be kept in check by someone sternly watching the money. And I don't even have any money to watch -- just think how strongly must people who actually have money feel.

It seems that they feel strongly enough to look the other way while a militia of religious nuts slowly infiltrated and gradually took over their party over the last 30 years. It was a marriage of convenience: the GOP needed their votes, the crazies needed the GOP's power. For a long time it was possible to ignore and marginalize the ranting religious wing, but their ranks have increased within the party to the point that the tail is now violently wagging the dog.

Sure, every presidential candidate in modern history has bent over backwards to prove their piety and religious bona fides, but I think the less religious among us have always just assumed they were faking. Right? Not that they didn't believe in God necessarily, but they're more that lazy American kind of religious, where you believe but not enough to plan your life around.

Is anyone that ambitious, that consumed with work and obsessed with a goal, also super religious? I would think there simply wouldn't be enough time in the day, and I'm sure all these guys are faking, including Obama. I don't even believe that George W. Bush is really religious, even though he claims to be born again. I think that was just his "Get Out Of Jail Free" card to wipe the embarrassing first 40 years of his life off the books.

Anyway, of the Republican voters I happen to know personally, roughly 100% would still vote Republican if the party dropped the words "abortion," "immigrant," "marriage," "drugs" and "Iran" from its platform and just focused on the money. But since there's not a party like that, voting Republican will have to do.

(Also, when you boil it all the way down, Republicans just think liberals are pussies, an impression the Democratic Party has bent over backward to reinforce over the last 30 years. People who don't want to be pussies vote Republican.)

But now the day of reckoning is arriving, because the religious crazies' very own candidate, Rick Santorum, who is definitely not faking, might plausibly overtake nobody's favorite Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, putting the crazies' views and agenda front and center for everyone, most importantly the non-crazies in their party, to see.

I think it's important that they see it: that their entirely reasonable preference for low taxes and small government has borne a socially regressive political entity that is as far from "personal liberty" as one can imagine.  Consider these recent quotes by Mr. Santorum:

"One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." — Rick Santorum, October 2011

"I understand why [Obama] wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.” –- Rick Santorum, February 2012

There are a couple things I find troubling here. The first is that anyone thinks that any part of society's progress, good or bad, can be reversed is shockingly out of touch with reality. Drug use, sexuality, technology -- a vast array of genies have left their bottles and it's insane to think that any of them are going back in.  Second is that a contender for the Party of Individual Freedom's nomination has a notion of "how things are supposed to be" and wants to impose it upon the rest of us. For all his sputtering about how Barack Obama wants to control all of our lives, there's rather a sharp irony there.

When discussing gun control, serious conservatives always mention the "camel's nose in the tent" argument -- that absolutely no kind of restriction on gun ownership can be tolerated because once the camel's nose is in the tent, we'll never get it out, and gun laws will get more and more restrictive until the activist crazies are satisfied and the second amendment is abolished. I can't think of a clearer illustration of the "Camel's nose" principle than the way the Christian crazies got their nose into the tent and little by little have taken it over.  I sincerely hope that Santorum wins this nomination, and not just because Obama would beat him like a cheap drum.

Santorum's nomination would force all those reasonable Republicans out there to really look at the increasingly crazy people they're voting for just to keep the pussies and the hippies out of power.  I have no illusions that reasonable folks like mine would ever vote Democratic, and I'm not sure I'd want them to. As I said, I think we need small-c conservatives in government. Oddly, some of my favorite political analysis for the last few years has been coming from guys like Andrew Sullivan and David Frum -- true conservatives disowned by their party when they stuck to principle rather than follow blindly on the party's increasingly radical social agenda. I disagree with these guys frequently, but at least I know that they're not toeing any kind of party line, and that their thoughts and ideas are their own, that they're not working backward from "This is a Christian nation" or "Whatever Obama does, I oppose."

Anyway, I'm hoping Santorum's nomination will lead to either a fracturing or a restructuring of the Republican party, with actual hands-off, free-thinking small-government moderate conservatives given a seat at the table. You know, guys like Barack Obama.