Battening down for another snow-and-ice storm and about ready to capsize from fatigue, but forgive me just one more CPAC post. The only entertaining element of that subhuman zoo at this point is watching High Brow Conservatives – who mostly would not be caught dead at such a spectacle – attempt to parse the goings-on in a very Serious analytical fashion. The effect is not unlike listening to a seventh-year grad student in Cultural Studies explain at great length why Teen Wolf is actually a brilliant film.

The American Spectator – a geriatric rag of the Old Right if ever there was one – ran this unintentionally hilarious bit about the Ann Coulter vs. Mickey Kaus "debate" on immigration. In a credulous and apparently earnest appeal, the author asks, "Where's the Debate?" Apparently he tuned into CPAC expecting a serious policy debate to take place on stage…with said stage occupied by Ann Coulter and with multiple audience members dressed in faux-Colonial Patriot garb. Perhaps it was not even enough of a giveaway that the "liberal" in the debate is Mickey Fucking Kaus; for those of you not familiar with this skidmark on the underwear of American journalism, Mickey Kaus is the fake liberal you get after Alan Colmes turned you down by claiming he had too much dignity to consider appearing.

On the plus side…

(W)hen as she did at CPAC, Coulter speaks of illegal immigrants as those who lurk in "barrels" and "Pico de gallo" trucks, and (in jest?) argues that "death squads" should pursue those who approve of amnesty, two things happen. First, the media picks reports her words with gleeful rapture. Second, conservatism’s appeal takes a major hit with floating voters.

Perhaps Matt Lewis’s tweet summed it up best. "Could you blame Hispanics for hating conservatives after watching this?"

…the GOP Minority Outreach Program continues apace.

Also, there are Pico de Gallo trucks now? What an age we live in!


Since Hollywood officially ran out of ideas ten or fifteen years ago we've been treated to an avalanche of sequels, remakes, and adaptations of source material ranging from video games to classic works of fiction to comics. When you're remaking everything all the time you have to deal with the fact that the audience's expectations are affected by the earlier versions. I mean, after you've made 10 different Batman movies the next actor to take the role is limited by how the previous actors played it.

Sometimes casting decisions complicate things when a role is handed off from one actor to another. Some casting decisions are baffling, like choosing an overgrown fratboy like Vince Vaughn to reprise Anthony Perkins' role in Psycho. In other cases the problem is that an actor's appearance does not match the viewers' image of the character. Like, for example, when the upcoming remake of beloved children's movie-musical Annie casts a black girl in the title role. Being a previous Oscar nominee, I'm fairly certain that said actress can handle the not-terribly-complex film.

Admittedly, the fictional character of Annie is pretty closely associated with the "red hair and freckles" image. It might be odd to see someone else do it. But honestly, is it that big of a deal? After all, they call the profession "acting" for a reason – it implies (stay with me here) "acting" like you're something you're not! An actress isn't Annie any more than she is Queen Elizabeth or a serial killer or a talking pig. Why I've even heard that sometimes all-male or all-female schools manage to put on plays where the people who fill some of the roles aren't even the right gender. Because it's acting, and you suspend your disbelief as an audience member. Since the role in question in Annie is a fictional character, I hardly see the problem.

Oh wait. It's that she's black, as these totally-not-racist white people helpfully explain.

Were it a biopic, the actor's race might be an issue. You wouldn't cast Wesley Snipes as Pope John Paul II or Ed Asner as Malcolm X. When we're talking about a character that doesn't exist except as a figment of our imaginations, is it really that hard to suspend disbelief to think that, for example, Idris Elba is a mythological Norse god? If you're stuck on that question, bear in mind that Norse gods are made up and never existed so no one has any idea what they look like.

Oh wait. I keep forgetting. Black. The problem is black, even though we're totally not racist.


Every media outlet aimed at either an educated, NPR-type audience or irony-loving hipsters runs an annual "Gathering of the Juggalos" story at this point. Despite the fact that nearly everyone in America is familiar with the decade-plus old festival at this point, the blogs and freelancers and even the Old Media can't help themselves from writing "Will you look at this shit?" pieces about the human circus. Look, they're all fat white trash! They like terrible music! There's a thing called "The Drug Bridge"! There's "Little People" wrestling! It cracks me up as much as the next guy who enjoys feeling superior to a group of people of whom it is fish-in-barrel easy to make fun, but it feels pretty 2005 at this point. There's nothing left to say.

For their part, the Juggalos understand that they are being mocked. They have a tacit agreement with the media. The Juggalos behave Hilariously Trashy. The media, who came specifically to see such behavior, act appropriately outraged. Everyone goes home happy. It has become so formulaic that it is hardly worth writing about anymore.

This is the part where I compare The Gathering of the Juggalos to CPAC.

About ten years ago it was worth getting outraged about CPAC. About five years ago it was no longer worth taking seriously but it was still good as Theater of the Absurd. Today I have to say I'm just bored with it. The "coverage" that every left-leaning media outlet is obligated to provide is predictable and uninspired; worse yet, the attendees and speakers appear to be in on the joke now. It's getting to be uncomfortably tongue-in-cheek, the speakers spouting all the same nonsense but with an implied wink-and-nudge. Yes, every attendee at CPAC is nuts. Yes, the speakers are opportunistic parasites shamelessly taking wingnut welfare checks from the billionaire backers who are so divorced from reality that they take people like Michele Bachmann seriously. But even most of the people involved with CPAC realize it is a three-ring circus at this point, so the media coverage falls flat.

That is, unless you're Charles Pierce. You guys know how I feel about Charles Pierce (and I think he has visited us here a few times) and frankly I was disappointed to see that even he could not make the ritual mocking of CPAC interesting over the past few days. It turns out he was just saving it for the Closing Act, the Idiot Queen of Wasilla herself. This is…a thing you should read.

By now, and by god, it should have settled permanently in the consciousness of the nation what a huge and untoward gamble with the country John McCain and his campaign took in 2008 when they elevated Sarah Palin from her rightful place on the tundra to the political celebrity she currently enjoys. McCain should pay a heavy price for unleashing this ignorant, two-wheeled bilewagon on the country's politics. If you think she's a legitimate political leader, you're an idiot and a sucker and I feel sorry for you.

Yesterday she gave a wildly received speech to ring down the curtain at CPAC. The applause, as far as I know, may still be going on. It was as singularly embarrassing a public address as any allegedly sentient primate ever has delivered. It was a disgrace to politics, to rhetoric, to the English language, and to seventh-grade slam books everywhere.

This ambulatiory bag of rank resentment pulled out all the tricks. The cheap shots; "Aw, John, why the long face?" to the Secretary of State. The sneering, wheedling playground taunting — "You can't make a phone call without Michelle Obama knowing, 'This is the third time this week you dialed Pizza Hut Delivery'" — and a full panoply of funny voices that are the trademark of dipshit comics in every two-drink minimum club in America. We got "hope and channng-ey," and how "some members" of the GOP establishment are saying to us, "Hush, America. Go to sleep, little lambs." And, in what is being celebrated as the piece de resistance , she turned Green Eggs And Ham into an extended taunt.

"I do not like this spyin' man, I do not like ‘Oh, yes we can,' I do not like this kind of hope, and we won't take it nope, nope, nope." (Dr. Seuss, a noted progressive, was having dry heaves in the Void.)

If you laughed, you're an idiot and I feel sorry for you.

It gets better.

A friend bailed on the speech, making the very plausible case that Palin is simply another political celebrity freakshow, like Donald Trump. I can see the point there but, with Palin, and watching the hysterical reception her puerile screed received, there is something more serious going on. She is the living representation of the infantilization of American politics, a poisonous Grimm Sister telling toxic fairy tales to audiences drunk on fear, and hate and nonsense. She respects no standards but her own. She is in perpetual tantrum, railing against her betters, which is practically everyone, and volunteering for the job of avatar to the country's reckless vandal of a political Id. It was the address of a malignant child delivered to an audience of malignant children. If you applauded, you're an idiot and I feel sorry for you.

I need a cigarette.


On Wednesday evening I had about 90 minutes of sleep. This is rare for me; while I was a terrible insomniac as a kid and teenager, in recent years I've slept like a normal person. One bad night never killed anyone, but suffice it to say that after three consecutive 75 minute lecture classes on Thursday I was…done. This is relevant as a preemptive apology for giving you the quarterly Link Salad post for NPF. Despite having collected a lot of neat things lately I lack the energy to write about any one of them in great detail. So please enjoy, and by all means don't spend Friday working.

1. It was only a matter of time until one of BuzzFeed's billions of pieces of link bait turned out to be interesting. And this little write up on "American Parties" in foreign countries did it for me. I find this concept fabulous; apparently the two mandatory features at an American Party are red plastic Solo Cups and…popcorn? Presumably, shitty American music is involved as well. We are rightfully wary of internet journalism about "trends" – what the average NPR correspondent calls a fad sweeping the nation is actually anecdotal evidence from one of their friends – so I'm curious whether this is really a thing, I want to believe it is. And of all the things I'd imagine people around the world would see as symbolic of Americans, red plastic Solo Cups ranked low on the list.

2. An interesting read (from the ancient past: 1994) about an eccentric rich guy who concocted a plan many years ago to replace taxes with thousand-year trusts. And the story ends with the Unitarian Universalists going to court to try to steal his fortune after he died. Typical.

3. Apparently the heir to the throne of the Ottoman Empire lives in New York and is essentially a regular guy. That's an unbeatable cocktail party story, though.

4. Boeing developed an Android phone for intelligence agencies that self-destructs (more accurately, it erases all of its own data) if the phone case is opened. That technology has obvious utility in the world of security clearances and Top Secret information – and I'm guessing it won't be five years before they're including this on every phone so service providers can hold your data hostage.

5. Here's a terrific collection of images of placeholder text that someone forgot to replace in either signage or newspapers / magazines / advertisements / etc. The headline "3 DECK HEADLINE PLEASE" is a little on the nose even for a British newspaper. This reminds me of those old galleries of BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) in public places. Those are a helpful reminder that as long as we build SkyNet with Windows XP humanity is guaranteed to survive.

And now…



Sorry for punting tonight, but many moons ago I started to write up a piece about the Olympics as the ultimate modern White Elephant. You know, cities and countries fight tooth and nail to win the right to host these events and it almost inevitably leaves them deep in red ink. I find it very hard to believe, for example, that Russia turned a profit on the reported $51 billion they spent on Sochi.

Wherever the Olympics go, they leave behind massive debt and modern ruins. The elaborate "Bird's Nest" stadium from Beijing 2008 is now without a tenant; a handful of tourists per day pay a pittance to ride a Segway around inside it. The folks over at Sociological Images (which you should read regularly, by the way) have a good write up with links and photo galleries of what becomes of the often elaborate facilities cities build at great expense for the Olympics after the games end.

Not surprisingly, it usually involves crumbling concrete and graffiti. Remember when Fox News tried to make it sound like the U.S. was going to collapse because Obama didn't convince the IOC to host the 2016 Summer Games in Chicago? Sounds like the city dodged a bullet.


It's hard being the New York Times. The modern media paradigm necessitates Fairness to Both Sides and the inclusion of Conservative Voices. The Times' target audience, though, will not tolerate the level of stupidity and factual inaccuracy (remember the brief NYT-Bill Kristol marriage?) from the average right wing columnist. The paper is forced to find someone with that magical Will / Brooks / Buckley skill set that solders a layer of expensive boarding school erudition over the same old lowest common denominator conservative arguments. They need a conservative who looks and sounds like the readers expect, like someone who might be an associate professor at an expensive liberal arts college and not the usual Limbaugh-esque gas bag. They need Ross Douthat.

Ross's leather blazer and manicured facial hair ensure that he looks the part, but it's the Brooksian intellectual dishonesty inherent in trying to make right wing arguments sound palatable to smart people that make him a star. He showcases all of his skills in "Terms of Our Surrender," a rambling, mealy-mouthed defense of homophobia. Don't worry, he doesn't call it "homophobia." That would be off-putting to Times readers. Hmm, what would be a better name?

That's what we call a teaser. Buckle up!

It now seems certain that before too many years elapse, the Supreme Court will be forced to acknowledge the logic of its own jurisprudence on same-sex marriage and redefine marriage to include gay couples in all 50 states.

Here Ross uses the time-honored tactic of approaching the reader hat-in-hand, head hung low, inviting your pity from the word go. Look, he's already beaten! Shouldn't you take it easy on him? Cut him a little slack, intellectually speaking? Of course, unless you're history's greatest monster.

Once this happens, the national debate essentially will be finished, but the country will remain divided, with a substantial minority of Americans, most of them religious, still committed to the older view of marriage.

If people can get used to lady police officers and male flight attendants, we can accept anything!

So what then? One possibility is that this division will recede into the cultural background, with marriage joining the long list of topics on which Americans disagree without making a political issue out of it.

Sounds good. This has been a Ross Douthat Column. Good night and god bless. We'll see you next week with some foreign policy concern trolling about Russia!

In this scenario, religious conservatives would essentially be left to promote their view of wedlock within their own institutions, as a kind of dissenting subculture emphasizing gender differences and procreation, while the wider culture declares that love and commitment are enough to make a marriage. And where conflicts arise – in a case where, say, a Mormon caterer or a Catholic photographer objected to working at a same-sex wedding –

Find me a pair of gay dudes or lesbians anywhere – ANYWHERE – who would hire a Mormon caterer for their wedding. Unless he happens to have the only artisanal craft lilac cocktails in the city, something tells me that isn't happening. And if he does, then he's probably down with the gays.

And that Catholic photographer, does he pass moral judgment on every potential client or just the gay ones? If he's anything like most professional photographers he's probably on his knees thanking a sampling of deities every time a client makes the phone ring, signifying one more week before the photography "business" dream dies and he heads back to working the night maintenance shift at PetSmart.

gay rights supporters would heed the advice of gay marriage's intellectual progenitor, Andrew Sullivan, and let the dissenters opt out "in the name of their freedom — and ours."

Gay marriage: invented by Andrew Sullivan. Funny, I thought the Spartans invented it.

But there’s another possibility, in which the oft-invoked analogy between opposition to gay marriage and support for segregation in the 1960s South is pushed to its logical public-policy conclusion. In this scenario, the unwilling photographer or caterer would be treated like the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter, and face fines or lose his business — which is the intent of recent legal actions against a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington State, and a baker in Colorado.

Florists, bakers, wedding photographers – you know, gay shit.

Perhaps the reason people keep using that analogy is that it's a pretty good analogy, like how people use the term "racist" to describe people who say, believe, and do racist things.

Meanwhile, pressure would be brought to bear wherever the religious subculture brushed up against state power.

Ahh, the re-branding begins. It's not homophobia or discrimination, it's "dissent". It's not a bunch of assholes hung up on The Gays, it's a "subculture."

Until someone can show me the part of the Bible that says you don't have to serve someone in a restaurant or other place of business if you think they are a sinner, it's not a subculture. True, Jesus did say, "If someone sins, fuck 'em" but I think religious scholars have found some ambiguity over time.

These people don't need a law to protect them, they need a therapist. They need to find out exactly what it is about someone else having the gay sexes that drives them so insane.

Religious-affiliated adoption agencies would be closed if they declined to place children with same-sex couples. (This has happened in Massachusetts and Illinois.) Organizations and businesses that promoted the older definition of marriage would face constant procedural harassment, along the lines suggested by the mayors who battled with Chick-fil-A.

Well, when a company's attitudes are out of line with the beliefs of their customer base, that tends to happen. Maybe the better solution would be to avoid mixing the sale of greasy chicken sandwiches with morally indignant politicking. The president of Chipotle might be a Level IX Klansman for all I know, but he doesn't tell me about it while I'm in the middle of the only six-to-eight enjoyable minutes in my life in any given week with one of his burritos.

And, eventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked.

This sounds awesome! Wait, is he trying to sell this or turn us against it?

In the past, this constant-pressure scenario has seemed the less-likely one, since Americans are better at agreeing to disagree than the culture war would suggest. But it feels a little bit more likely after last week’s "debate" in Arizona, over a bill that was designed to clarify whether existing religious freedom protections can be invoked by defendants like the florist or the photographer.

Hmm. Is that what it was?

If you don’t recognize my description of the bill, then you probably followed the press coverage, which was mendacious and hysterical – evincing no familiarity with the legal issues, and endlessly parroting the line that the bill would institute “Jim Crow” for gays. (Never mind that in Arizona it’s currently legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation — and mass discrimination isn't exactly breaking out.)

So why did they need another law? And, absent either law, the status quo in Arizona is that "mass discrimination isn't exactly breaking out"? Well, it sounds like our society is about as perfect as it can be. As long as "mass discrimination" is not taking place in the streets of Arizona, we're good. Ross Douthat, you understand the concept of laws and rights.

Allegedly sensible centrists compared the bill’s supporters to segregationist politicians, liberals invoked the Bob Jones precedent to dismiss religious-liberty concerns, and Republican politicians behaved as though the law had been written by David Duke.

Hmm, when all three of those groups are opposed to a bill, is it likely that they are all wrong or that maybe the bill isn't exactly the Sistine Chapel of abortive legislation?

What makes this response particularly instructive is that such bills have been seen, in the past, as a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender — to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.

No, legislating permission to discriminate (er, "dissent" – see, doesn't it sound like a noble act of disobedience? Instead of what it is, which is some gay-bashing shitwad trying to throw someone out of his restaurant?) is neither negotiating nor carving out protections. Again, show me the part of any Christian doctrine that suggests that a Christian is morally incapable of providing a professional service for someone who exhibits what he or she considers Un-Christian behavior.

I'll wait.

See, you don't have to paint yourself up in rainbow colors and deep throat a 9-incher in the alley behind a bar called "Rumors," you just have to serve them food. You don't have to follow them home and spot them in the bedroom, you just have to hand them a cake. You don't have to play tambourine in their band, "Ophelia: A Loving Tribute to the Indigo Girls", you just have to take their money in exchange for goods or services. You don't have to condone, endorse, love, or like anything. You are not Supporting Gayness by serving them any more than you are Supporting Eating In Bed and Masturbating by serving single men in their thirties.

If you're interested in passing moral judgment on everyone who walks through the door, maybe the restaurant industry isn't for you. Maybe that man and his wholesome looking wife are on their way to a slavery-themed BDSM orgy at the Airport Radisson. Maybe that couple with the adorable kids is raising them to be atheists. Maybe my friends and I just came from a strip club and are on our way to another, raunchier strip club that won't necessarily throw us out if we try to tip with a money order. The point is, you don't know and it doesn't matter because your opinion of the decisions made by your customers is not relevant.


Which has a certain bracing logic. If your only goal is ensuring that support for traditional marriage diminishes as rapidly as possible, applying constant pressure to religious individuals and institutions will probably do the job. Already, my fellow Christians are divided over these issues, and we’ll be more divided the more pressure we face. The conjugal, male-female view of marriage is too theologically rooted to disappear, but its remaining adherents can be marginalized, set against one other, and encouraged to conform.

Ah, the Christians-as-oppressed-minority canard. Even if that were realistic – which, it is worth noting, it isn't – I guess that would be an admission that being marginalized and encouraged to conform (at "Project Exodus: Summer Camp for Troubled Christian Youth") is not pleasant.

I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying.

I've seen crying freshmen girls who need a C or else Dad will kill them who are less self-pitying than you were in this essay, Ross. Try reading the opening paragraph again.

Christians had plenty of opportunities – thousands of years' worth – to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status – this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.

Just strongly imply it! Wink! Or, like most non-New York Times Christians, just go ahead and complain about it explicitly and often.

But it's still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we’re not having a negotiation. Instead, all that's left is the timing of the final victory – and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.

Subarus for everyone! Miniature versions of everything! All formal events of state will now be in drag! Everyone apply to Wellesley but also Mount Holyoke or Agnes Scott as safety schools! Ours will be a terrible victory!

Nice try, Ross Douthat. Prettier words, same lame-ass argument.


When I was in college I was a full blown Sunday Morning Talk Show addict. Let's overlook how sad that is and jump to the part about how eventually I couldn't take it anymore: the incessant George Will monologues, the same ten Senators in an endless rotation, and the David Brooksian devotion to the Beltway Consensus politics of Moderation and Reasonable People and all that happy horseshit. It starts as an effort to inform yourself but before long it sounds like exactly what it is: meaningless noise, with the curious spectacle of Raytheon commercials.

It would take something very special to get me to fall off the wagon. The prospect of seeing the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams of the world give sage foreign policy advice about the Russian Bear was it. Well, it was enough to get me through about 15 minutes; then I thought death would be preferable to continued viewing.

There's nothing quite like watching angry, impotent old men who know they will never be calling the shots talking tough about what they would do and trying to convince themselves that with a white Republican president everyone would cower in fear of America once again. The domestic politics of this Crimean crisis are playing out so predictably that we can shut off all of the analytic parts of our brains and treat it as pure cabaret. As always, it doesn't much matter what the President does, the GOP is foaming at the mouth to criticize it. If he does something immediate and decisive, then he's a tyrant and dictator. If he waits, he gets to listen to a South Carolina hillbilly who couldn't find the Crimea on a map if his life depended on it call him "weak and indecisive." More Neville Chamberlain references, tough guys!

The Republican message this weekend was remarkably consistent: clearly Obama needs to Do Something. Exactly what he should do, no one can say. That's inconsequential to Republicans, of course; all that matters is that the Kenyan One is a pussy and so on. In practical terms, though, the fact that no one has the slightest idea how the U.S. could or should respond is rather important. Every Republican hayseed who can get his face in a camera is making demands; boycott the G8. (Ooh, that'll show him!) Send in the aircraft carriers. (Sure, we'll start WWIII!) Impose economic sanctions. (They depend on us economically for what, exactly?) If this is the best they can do, it does nothing but underscore the dearth of realistic options available to the U.S. in a situation halfway around the globe that has absolutely nothing to do with America or its interests.

I'm not an expert on the region, but here are a few relevant facts. The Crimea is part of the Ukraine but is populated mostly by ethnic Russians who strongly support Russian influence in the area. The Russian military (following the Soviet tradition) pays Ukraine to maintain the Black Sea Fleet on the island, much as the U.S. pays Cuba for Guantanamo Bay. The Crimea, which is already essentially autonomous within the Ukraine, is about to hold a vote on independence at the end of March. The recent political upheaval in Kiev has left the entire country unstable and Putin saw an outstanding opportunity to fuck around and indulge his quasi-imperialist "We'll put the old Russian Empire back together again!) fantasies with relative impunity. Given these and all the other facts – You know, part of the Ukraine wants to move toward the EU and NATO while part of it wants to remain within Russia's sphere of influence – what exactly is the United States supposed to do about this?

It is clearly troubling that Putin has a Bush-like disrespect for the territorial integrity of the Ukraine, but this is hardly a surprise. He never passes up a chance to try to extend and solidify Russian influence over former Soviet states and the recent political turmoil practically rolled out the red carpet for shenanigans. If a response is needed, it needs to come from the European Union. Russia supplies more than one-third of all natural gas and nearly one-quarter of the oil used in continental Europe. An embargo would have a real impact there, although it might be as unpleasant for Europe as it would be for Russia. Moscow might easily find other markets for Garzprom while Europe would find itself short on gas in the middle of a frigid winter.

The only response that makes any sense from an American perspective is the ol' freeze-the-assets trick on Russian oligarchs stashing their plundered billions abroad. That would require coordination between the U.S. and Europe – you know, the kind of thing that takes time and doesn't work if the American president flies off half-cocked like Republicans believe a Real Leader would do. That might place enough domestic political pressure on Putin to get him to reverse course. Or perhaps this is all Putin's contribution to the old Khrushchevian buffoonery in international affairs, the joy Russia seems to take in watching the West panic and rush to respond to its every move (Berlin is, unfortunately, no longer the Testicles of the West). Maybe there's a little more to the concept of intervention than rushing in waving around our national dick.

No more Meet the Press until 2024.