Saturday, April 28, 2012

Death Of A Dream: Dick Santorum 2012

Rick Santorum quit?! He QUIT?!

Well, son of a bitch. I really do deserve this. I knew this day would eventually come, and I knew I would feel compelled to expound to thee less familiar, with supreme insightfulness, the ramifications of its arrival. Hell, I’d even planned out most of what I’d wanted to write. I just… didn’t. Or, better, I just couldn’t. I mean, how do you write a full, encompassing examination of a phenomenon when it’s only getting more phenomenal by the day? I'll admit it was a bit short-sighted of me to think it could go on forever. But in my defense, this dude was talking an awful big talk about taking his candidacy, however futilely, all the way to the big dance in Tampa, collecting any and all fly-over state delegates en route. I think it’s entirely reasonable that I wanted to abstain from analysis until the California primary on June 5th, at which point I could properly roll it all out in grand fashion with an official The Side Retired endorsement of Tricky Rick... Except then he quit, and I had nothing done. By the time I got my shit together, the never-ending news cycle had already washed and dried this laundry several times over. The cold, hard truth is that procrastination has no place in modern day political reactionism. 

It should be noted that of my many defects, the one that runs a real risk of becoming socially overwhelming and laborious is my interest in political theatre of all stars and stripes. I admit, I'm pretty terrible. I listen to talk radio pretty much any time I'm in a moving vehicle. My favorite television series is and will always be The West Wing (Which season? I give not a shit.). And though my three favorite movies of 2011 all starred Ryan Gosling (3-time TSR nominee for Man Crush of the Year), I preferred The Ides of March to the really great one and the one where his insecurity-inducing bod (OMFG) was credited with a cameo. Christ, I'm even interested in state politics. I'm just that guy. (Subtract a job and add a sexual appetite piqued only by Google search results for "Ron Paul" and then I'm really that guy.) I know it's a terrible way to make and retain friends, but I will talk politics with anyone regardless of their leanings or how terribly misinformed Rush Limbaugh has left them on basically any issue. I don't care. I listen to Rush, too, and am only separated from the cretins of Open Line Friday in that I'm privy to the fact that he's a jackass.

Even though I long ago reached this level of enlightenment, I was still at least partially mystified as to how this dude was elevated from afterthought to underdog. How were serious, campaign-related websites similarly being elevated above the one I'd always associated with a search box and the word"Santorum" in relevancy? I understand that the talking heads (and, subsequently, the sheep they lead to slaughter) felt duty-bound to beat every wild, exotic-looking drum in the room before they finally settled for the trusty ol' snare, Willard Romney (dont worry, I'll get to that). I even understand how the guy could win a primary or two given the opportune timing of his rise to the near-top. What I don't get is how, in a primary season where all alternatives (well, besides Jon Huntsman, who inexplicably listed qualifications on his resume) were given a moment in the sun and then abandoned when that sunlight uncovered a speck of ideological impurity, Richard Santorum was the one to wield staying power.

I think we can cut through the nonsense pretty easily. Rick Santorum rose to the role of challenger because he became the only challenger, and he quit because he was about to look like a total ass in his home state. That's really all there is to it. When you're the last non-Romney to step into the spotlight, and when at least five other people have already auditioned for the role, it's difficult to believe that its your message, and not sheer desperation, that's finally brought the people around. This difficulty is only augmented when your message is Fucking. Crazy.

I should clarify that when I say crazy, I do not mean it's crazy that he believes climate change is a hoax or that supply-side economics are infallible. I mean that the truths he holds to be self-evident would earn at least a wary second glance from even the reddest-blooded Americans. Take gay marriage for instance. Now, I grew up in one of the few counties in California where conservatism (and not the affluent strain) reigns supreme, so I've been exposed to plenty of people who are opposed to gay marriage for reasons that often fall far short of logical coherency. By and large, though, I'd say most would stop well short of equating homosexuality to dog sex or incest like the good Senator did back in 2003. As you could probably discern from the Ryan Gosling nod above, I've no problem with the gays or letting them do their thing. That being said, I have retained from a childhood spent in the High Desert an innate skepticism of anyone who is just too anti-gay. Best I can figure is that it stems from a larger aversion to people that are full of shit; because, so often it's the  people who most fitfully flail with disgust at even the slightest of gay innuendo who are, in fact, gay themselves.

Let's be honest, it happens all the time. There's that Senator from Idaho with the "wide stance" in an airport bathroom stall. Or there's that creepy fuck mega-church pastor from the tail-end of Jesus Camp. Christ, remember these guys?! The examples continue on ad infinitum. My point is that there is a proven inverse relationship between the degree of one's anti-gay militancy and the probability of their possessing a latent drive to sample the forbidden fruit. At a certain level people stop believing the rhetoric is the result of staunch moral conviction and start suspecting it's some Freudian response to the subjection of alter boys to the Good Book. (I know Freud might not be the right guy, but this blog does not cater to fussy humanities majors.) It's been my oft-recited belief that the above stated corollary also applies to Sen. Santorum, the only candidate running on social issues and preservation of the nuclear family from the homosexual agenda in an election staged against record unemployment. Do yourself a favor and scroll back up to that photo at the top. There is no way there wasn't originally a cock in that clinched fist. Well, a cock or a Shake Weight. Either way, only due to the deft hand of someone particularly skilled in Photoshop is this the second gayest picture I've seen all year.

 And number one?

YOU SEE, THIS IS THE KIND OF SHIT I'M TALKING ABOUT! If you are a presidential candidate and/or a renowned homophobe, you do not allow this fucking picture to be taken! You just don't, and if you do, the amount of time you've spent preoccupied with the avoidance of anything even remotely homosexual would imply it's not by accident. Mitt Romney is probably old-fashioned and naive enough to think whoopie cushions and burning bags of dog shit are hilarious. Yet, there is no way in hell he's staring into a bank of cameras all doughy-eyed, putting something that dark and phallic anywhere near his prissy Ivy League lips. You know why? Because it's pretty fucking gay. And while there's no problem with being gay or pretending to be in pursuit of quality humor, there's definite a problem with being a hypocritical piece of shit that inflicts their own self-loathing upon the happiness of others.

All this being said, the wildest part is that Rick Santorum's overly antagonistic stance on gay culture is easily the culture war clash most cohesive with the run-of-the-mill red-staters of the Republican Party. It's easy for most to turn a lenient eye to something that's essentially the prevailing stance of the party, just taken outward to it's antiquated, myopic endpoint. What's been particularly amusing is to watch these same people squirm with support upon realization that antiquated, myopic endpoints are where the Senator lands on all social issues, not just those pertaining to minorities. Turns out the dude gets all kinds of Roman Catholic on things like pornography. And you know who likes pornography, don't you? Fucking everyone! Porn is not red or blue, it's goddamn purple. The only thing that separates leather-skinned, sparse-toothed Southerners from the sodomites of Manhattan on this issue are their favorite flavors. So forget the Remmington, you can have the rednecks' copies of Briana Loves Jenna when you pry it from their cold, dead phalanges.

Back in the late 1950s, people used to be afraid of JFK's Catholicism and the possibility he would be a surrogate of the Holy Father (thank God he only turned out to be another godless liberal). Rick Santorum, however, is the true embodiment of those fears, locksteppng alongside the Church in opposition to something as popular and constructive as birth control. I'm not talking about the federal government's funding of birth control, mind you, but the use and availability of birth control in general because, as Sen. Santorum claims, it is a "license to do things in a sexual realm that [are] counter to how things are supposed to be." I presume he means that making contraception accessible is analogous to granting society carte blanche to engage in sexual immoderation, a claim to which I object greatly. Birth control does not make people want to fuck more. Biology makes people want to fuck more. It's also allowed people to utilize personal responsibility and prevent unwanted pregnancies they can't provide for. Weird how I always thought personal responsibility was a staple of the Republican Party. The same could also once be said regarding a limited government that acts with restraint.

Today's GOP simply is not your father's GOP, though it's not for a lack of trying to convince voters otherwise. All the endless, fanatical railing against Obama's Big Government has seemingly mandated the unblemished adherence to the laissez-faire for any and all governmental applications. No one really remembers that by the time Rick Perry wanted to eliminate 2 or 3 or every governmental agency, his popularity was already in steep decline because he had the audacity to pin personal liberty directly beneath the snakeskin size 10 of Government and force upon helpless citizens of the Lone Star State the benefits of modern medicine. It's in this environment that the tea-drinking wing of the party took the big lurch rightward and finally arrived at the guy that campaigned in a blue-collared sweater vest without an ounce of irony. The part I've struggled most to comprehend is how, after serious scrutiny of his voting record and political history were undertaken, he was not discarded in similar fashion.

Rick Santorum is Big Government. On social issues, your bedroom is his bedroom. Economically speaking, you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish his record from those of the progressive caucus. The signature legislation he's participated in passing contains more hidden pork than Michael Moore's colon.  He's even had the gall to defend the practice of earmarking. He epitomizes the ideology that every other candidate in the last two cycles has been running from, that which not only excuses big spending, but also neglects to pay for it. There he is like a proud, flaming John Hancock on all of Bush 43's least fiscally responsible bills: No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, the Bush Tax Cuts of 2001 and 2003. How in 2012, when economic awareness and penny-pinching reign supreme, could a half-nation of fair-weather deficit hawks knowingly pine for such a stalwart of deficit spending? After all, it's not like all of this didn't come to light when it was Santorum's turn to bear the heap of opposition research levied against him a nationally televised debate. The answer is relatively straight forward: they don't really care.

And that right there is the greatest guise in contemporary American politics. The narrative, if you listen to Fox News or any other part of the conservative blowhard machine, is that the Lord's chosen people have had the liberty they were promised trampled upon by excessive federal spending, unjust taxation and oppressive regulation. The modern Tea Party, a grassroots faction of commoners concerned exclusively with the long-term economic sustainability of the promised land, has risen to fend off the Government menace, its meddling in Medicare and taxes they've tolled without due representation... Or something like that. I'm not really sure, to be honest... Regardless, it's all garbage. I've thought the Tea Party was retarded since its moment of immaculate inception. That's not to say I disagree with their loose, illy conveyed message entirely, because I don't. I do think entitlement programs need serious reform, for instance. But these people care a whole lot less about reining in Social Security, Medicare and national defense spending than they do about the same holy trinity of gods, gays and guns they cared about back when they were branded as the Moral Majority. This movement has never offered substantive ideas or means of tackling difficult challenges. What they've provided instead are thousands of idiots dressed like Ben Franklin (accused sodomite) misappropriating  Reagan's ghost on the National Mall. I could get the same kind of meaningful discourse from my dinner table in 12th grade, so I'm simply not impressed with that. These are important issues, so it's imperative that we exclude a large swath of these kinds of people (and by that I'm speaking of those who've failed high school economics, civics and/or history) from participating directly. It is for this reason and with considerable foresight that the Founding Fathers were wise enough to construct a democratic republic and not a democracy. If there's one tradition we keep, I strongly feel it should be that one.

Ok. So taking all of this into consideration, there's got to be some overriding reason for the intended endorsement, right? O, you bet.

Even though he pussed out, I'm still going to pull the trigger for Rick Santorum this summer because I'm afraid that Mitt Romney could very well lose. This concerns me not as a geek, political junkie, or registered independent, but simply as Joe Shmoe, average swing-voter. I don't live in perpetual fear that Obama 2.0 will open the border and weaponize an army of illegal Mexican immigrants with firearms confiscated from my cache. I also in no way, shape or form believe Rick Santorum is more electable than the Romneybot. But that's kind of what I'm getting at. As a regular person with a regular job, regular burdens and a blog, the thought of the coming election and its aftermath is pretty nauseating. How am I to choose between a center-left President hamstrung by Congress and concern for his own legacy versus a guy whose biggest problem with the country seems to be that he isn't running it? Please excuse me if I cannot prevent my enthusiasm from impairing my objectivity. It's difficult to avoid getting all ginned up knowing that after Obama crushes with 271 electoral votes, we'll be blessed with four more years of gridlock, manufactured outrage at fringe issues, and the purging of what precious few serious pragmatists remain in either party.

People of the void, you should not rejoice that Dick Santorum fell short of the presidency. You should be scarred shitless that he got as close as he did, because worse is on the way if Mitt Romney loses by even the slimmest of margins come November. The perception peddlers on the right take every opportunity to hammer home the false notion that they lost in '08 because their candidate was a moderate, and not because they nominated Herman Cain's foreign policy adviser as Vice-President. In kind, they'll blame the nomination of a "Massachusetts moderate" for the loss this time around rather than the primary system that forced him to say on camera any number of things unfavorable among important voting blocks. (PS: Telemundo airs those debates, también.) It's pretty obvious the goal here is to replay the Barry Goldwater blowout of 1964 in the age of the Tea Party with the hopes that, this time around, a groundswell of conservative excitement and participation would render the prized independents irrelevant.

Upon reflection, I've concluded that at this point in our history, this is an experiment worth having. Thus, I feel my vote would be best cast in support of this effort. For at the very least, it gives the hardliners the chance to prove the true merits of their beliefs free from the invisible hand of the establishment, a chance to band together in a real Thelma & Louise type moment and go for broke. In all likelihood, a guy like Rick Santorum would do about 4 or 5 states better now than Goldwater did back then, but he'd still suffer emphatic defeat in the Electoral College. However, it would go far in reminding everyone of the fundamental truism that extremism in pursuit of our highest office is certain vice. It'd be a bold move, but it's a necessary one. For only by allowing the dregs of conservatism to drive themselves and their party wild-eyed off a cliff will order and common sense be restored.

There is, of course, the gross improbability of the alternative outcome: that a radically conservative candidate like Rick Santorum could actually win if forwarded on to the general election. What if that clown car plummets to certain peril but then lands gracefully on a canyon floor covered in pillows? Essentially, what if the crazy fucks call my bluff and rise to inherit the earth? Well, then I guess we'll no longer have to measure the merits of regressive social engineering in theory. But you know, even then at least something would happen. At least we'd avoid stagnation. And though it would regrettably give social conservatives the concrete proof in the existence of God they've so longed for, it would also prove that said God does not give two shits about America. That's a compromise I can get behind.

So in preparation for the long slog to November, I shall leave you with a reminder of what could have been, a portrait of Santorum made of santorum. God bless America.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Picturin' the Fortune / Just Tryin' to Spin the Wheel

Star of riches, my dick.

A week ago yesterday, I blew a cool $64 on Mega Millions lottery tickets (short-division made simpler: that's 1 ticket for every $10 million in the jackpot and proof that hood dreams can distill the inner tool in all of us). I saved some face with a $10 winner (not pictured, lest the haters emerge from the woodworks),  but at the end of the day I still lost more than $50 on some apple pie in the sky. Were he not so cowardly and delicate, my 18-year-old self would have kicked the living shit out my last-Friday self. He also would've had to borrow the money to play from his mom, though. So fuck him.

I think the lottery is awesome, and anytime the jackpot is around or above $150 million I have no qualms about throwing at least a Hamilton at it. I’m aware that this puts me squarely in the minority of moderately to substantially educated people that feel this way. I can also see how this could be construed by the majority as moronic given the fact that I was a math major for the better part of 10 minutes in college. Rest assured, people of the void, I am quite conscious of the fact that the returns on investment for this game are abhorrent. Statistically speaking, you’re about as likely to be touched by your priest and become president of the United States (though order is not important) as you are to correctly guess 56C5x46. Yet, then again...

In contrast, my bros’ dalliances with the lottery typically stop at second base with assorted scratchers. Any participation beyond that is solely to disparage me for willingly parting ways with my hard-earned dollars. Last Friday, however, even they were caught up in the human brain’s natural gravitation toward hopeful realms as they threw down on a staggering 15 tickets collectively. It goes to illustrate that for all of the recycled talk by the smarter-than-thous and reasonites of the world about how the lottery is but a tax on the poor and foolish, there remains a number (and judging by the number of people I saw last week struggling to figure out how to fill in a playslip, that number looks a whole lot like 640,000,000) at which the level head’s focus veers from probability to possibility.

These fantasies of fortune that fuel the lion's share of lottery purchases are not what ultimately drag me, hung-over and horridly disheveled, from my home on my days off to brave the callous disdain of mid-afternoon Shop-N-Go society. Or at least it’s not the desire to actually become rich that impels me to play. I’ll submit that in the days and hours preceding the drawing, the frequency and amplification of my daydreams appreciate significantly. My list of expenditures and good deeds is more or less set by now. To me, though, the value of the mirage lies not in the infinitesimal chance of its realization, but rather in the time spent in reverie itself. I’ve seen enough episodes of The Lottery Changed My Life to suspect that after the initial high of winning subsided, I would really hate being rich, especially by way of the lottery. The oft-heralded forgotten family members, the people in dire straights blowing up your spot with heart-wrenching pleas for assistance, the sudden and obligatory inclination toward finer taste: these are all things I’d find taxing to my general happiness and quality of life. Conveniently enough, they're also things that I don’t factor in while I’m pipe-dreaming the day away. The whole exercise is a vacation from the mundane of the workday, an escape to a world where pros come without accompanying cons. And that’s really nice.

This ultimately leads me to what I consider the true benefit of playing the lottery. Whilst straddling these two parallel and mutually exclusive realities, the hope from one tends to bleed into that in which it is lacking. For 2-3 days I afford myself at least partial abandonment of intrinsic bachelor concerns (read: basically anything related to money and/or my lack of it) and the stress tied to them. Liberation from worry is incredibly invigorating. It’s a weight lifted, to be sure, and invariably it results in an eagerness to pass that feeling on to others. Put plainly, I don’t just treat people better when there’s an overhanging possibility of pending wealth; I go out of my way to do so. It’s mostly in doing small things for strangers, sure. Opening and holding-open doors, giving up a spot in line or seat on the bus, or just generally being friendly to others are all things you’d expect of yourself normally, but they’re often the first things to be overlooked or abandoned come days of high water. It’s good to be conscious of your behavior towards others. And even if I’m not a rich bitch at the end of the day, at least I’m not just a bitch.

Aside from the intangibles, if you play this kind of game responsibly, you have to look at it solely as means for entertainment much in the same way that sensible folks look at gambling. I’m a terrible gambler in terms of both skill and attitude. When I play, I lose. Then I get angry at my lack of ability, and I lose more. When I awake nude a stone’s throw from the casino, I’m largely forlorn and upset not just that I lost money, but that I lost money because I wasn’t good enough to win it. In this respect, the Mega Millions is a game seemingly made for me. Whereas anyone with discernable talent and winning ability decries the terrible odds allowed by the lottery, this is probably my favorite part about it. There’s no strategy that gives anyone a better chance at winning: not buying a fuck-ton of tickets, not picking your dog’s birthday, not buying from multiple stores based upon diversity of ethnic ownership (the last two might by my own strategies, though I’ll never confirm it). Everyone is subject to statistics and the cruel, indifferent hand of gravity, and it’s awesome. The best part is that when I woke up last Saturday a little more broke than I had been, the only thing I regretted about losing the money was that I had opted to follow the not-so-esoteric advice of a goddamn fortune cookie.

Was spending so much money on this particular venture ill-advised and irresponsible to a fair extent? Unquestionably so. (Though, have I spent much more on much worse? Also a yes.) But as far as cheap thrills are concerned, nowhere will you find a bang/buck ratio greater than this. Hell, the California Lottery slogan says it all: “Imagine what a buck could do…”  IMAGINE?! I don’t have to imagine when I can just tell you outright that a dollar can’t do shit for you today. There was a period of pre-inflationary time when a dollar could put enough gas in your tank to get you all the way down to Flesh Club, where for a couple more dollars you could run that bitch. You go ahead and try to give a stripper $1 today and see where it gets you. Guaranteed that location does not contain the letters V, I or P. Now that's wasteful

You know, in the end, it's like Nas said, "I switch muh motto. 'Stead of sayin' 'Fuck tomorrow', 'That buck that bought a bottle coulda struck the lotto.'" Beleedat.