Maureen Dowd Gets Way Too High

Do NOT let Maureen near that—she'll eat the whole thing! (Flickr/animakitty)
While I usually try to abstain from writing posts about how something an op-ed columnist wrote was stupid—not an unworthy endeavor, but if I don't do it many other people will be there to pick up the slack—today I'm going to make an exception for Maureen Dowd. That's not only because her column in today's New York Times is particularly inane , but because there's a lesson hidden there, really there is. So stick with me. But first, on to Dowd's glorious tale. Seems she was in Denver and decided to sample some of this "marijuana" she's been hearing so much about. Like any sensible person trying a drug for the first time, she made no attempt whatsoever to determine how much of it she should consume to reach her desired state of consciousness. Instead, she bought a cannabis candy bar and ate the whole thing. The results were unsurprising: But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state...

Daily Meme: Is the Obamacare Tantrum Finally Over?

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Sometimes, the best thing to do with a child throwing a tantrum is to let them have it and wait for them to wear themselves out. Could the GOP—after voting to repeal Obamacare more than 50 times —have finally grown tired of its own screams? For the first time in quite some time, Republicans' congressional calendar over the next few weeks is clear of any hearings or votes about the health-care law. According to The Hill , “The lack of action highlights the GOP’s struggle to adjust its message now that enrollment in the exchanges beat projections and the uninsured rate is going down.” The reason? Sign-ups have beaten expectations, people are paying their premiums, and the rate of uninsured is plummeting. In total, 17.8 million people now have health-care coverage because of Obamacare . “There is absolutely zero evidence that any Republican is talking about Obamacare less,” says the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Just like climate change, huh? It may be futile given...

Where the Wild Things Are

AP Images/Google
P icture a perfect Southwestern day: The air as clear as gin, the bright blue sky marked only by a few stray clouds. In this spot, the waters of the Colorado River are placid, cool green, with none of the muddy brown foam found in the rapids that, over millennia, have carved out the Grand Canyon. Redwall limestone cliffs stretch high above. They’re streaked with desert varnish—the stain left by manganese seeps—and lightly colored with the aquamarine of lichen. Eons of the planet’s history are visible from here, whole epochs rendered in the span of a few thousand vertical feet. It’s an awesome sight. Then I move my mouse over the river surface and click on a small circle of white in the water. The scene swirls in fast-forward, and I continue my trip downriver. I’ve never rafted the Colorado River through the bottom of the Grand Canyon. My “experience” through that wonder of the world came courtesy of Google Treks, the information company’s effort to extend its popular Street View...

The Magnificent Anderson

Yes, Wes Anderson’s films are hyper-stylized, but they’re rich in meaning too. None more so than The Grand Budapest Hotel

AP Images/Martin Scali
AP Images/Martin Scali W ho could’ve predicted, when Wes Anderson first surfaced in 1996 with the caper comedy Bottle Rocket , that he would become the most polarizing director of his generation? The movie seemed, on paper at least, an artifact of the post-Tarantino indie boom in smirking gunplay and logorrheic dudes. In fact it was the vessel for a new sensibility, dry yet earnest, ironic without being cynical (well, someone grasped its magnitude: Martin Scorsese put it on his decade’s-best list). Rushmore followed, then The Royal Tenenbaums , and suddenly the sensibility swallowed the culture. Its ubiquity enlarged an impassioned cult—and inspired a no less heated backlash. “It has become a popular critics’ drinking game to think of creative new ways to slag Wes Anderson,” wrote the critic Saul Austerlitz in Another Fine Mess , his 2010 history of American film comedy. What irks the detractors? Many things, really, but most can be grouped under a category called “The Wes Anderson...

Soul Food's Contested History

Does a new account with recipes get it right?

AP Images/ Jeff Roberson
AP Images/ Jeff Roberson The kitchen of Sweetie Pie's in St. Louis, Missouri. A bout a year ago, I was going down the line at Sweetie Pie’s at the Mangrove, Ms. Robbie Montgomery’s culinary temple to all things soul in St. Louis. The macaroni and cheese gleamed, the fried chicken was crisper than Ms. Robbie’s outfits when she sang backup as an Ikette, and the peach cobbler was worthy of a last meal. Surveying the clientele, however, I wondered how much connection the crowd that packed the house had to the food at hand. My fellow bear brothers (stocky, hairy, gay, but unlike me almost all white) were in town from across the Midwest for their bar night. I was in St. Louis to present on the heritage of Missouri’s African American foodways during slavery. I was hankering for a dialogue—minority to minority—on the meaning of food as hot-sauce bottles were passed around and the uninitiated suspiciously sniffed, then scarfed plates of collard greens. I suppressed my culinary-historian self...

It's Alive!

This is not exactly what a vital political movement looks like. (Flickr/Jeffrey Scism)
Back in what if memory serves was early 2011, I ran into a former Prospect writer and now semi-famous person in the lobby of a building near the Capitol where a bunch of TV stations have studios. We began chatting about the Tea Party, and I suggested that once the Republican presidential primary campaign got underway in earnest in a few months time, all those tricorner hats would be put away as the Republican activists who made up the movement turned their attention to the race to pick their party's standard-bearer, and the Tea Party would peter out. He agreed, and we parted ways, satisfied with our sage prediction that all that unpleasantness would soon be over and the country would return to its prior, more manageable level of political silliness. OK, so it didn't exactly work out that way. What happened to the Tea Party was more a slow dissipation than a rapid fizzling out, and it still persists. Sure, they aren't organizing any well-attended protests, and the hundreds of Tea Party...

Burgers from the Future

This was definitely not grown in a lab. (Flickr/Simon Willison)
Let's talk meat, shall we? Americans eat a lot of it. Our cow population (or "inventory" if you prefer, as the beef industry does ) is almost 90 million, and total beef consumption in the U.S. is over 25 billion pounds. If you piled all those hamburgers in a stack, you'd have ... well, let's just say you'd have a really big stack of hamburgers. And we eat even more chicken, though a bit less pork; according to the National Chicken Council (unofficial motto: "B'cawk!"), total beef, pork, and poultry consumption adds up to more than 200 pounds a year for every waddling man, woman, and child in this great nation of ours. To a lot of people, even those who aren't vegetarians, industrial meat production is a moral compromise at best (and I say that as someone who does eat some kinds of meat). Most of us would just rather not think about the process that produced our chicken cutlet or burger. But what if you could produce the meat without actually killing an animal? And I don't mean some...

Lounging at SXSW

Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision for Bulleit Bourbon/AP Images
Until the South by Southwest Interactive festival, it had been a while since I'd thought about Blackberry, the company. I'll confess that I have one of their old phones, the kind with keys that displays a bizarre version of the Internet as slowly as possible on a non-touch screen. In my daydreaming about iPhones and Androids, I'd forgotten that somewhere, somehow, the company that made my cruddy phone still exists. But on the first day of the hipster conference known for launching start-ups and showcasing technologic innovation, I found myself walking, with a friend, into the Blackberry House. Yes, that's right—house. Blackberry took over an entire property to remind someone, anyone, that it still existed. The house wasn't exactly easy to spot, being a few blocks away from the convention hall and the center of downtown. But upon arriving, it was hard to miss. The modest home suddenly had a giant "Blackberry" sign on it. Inside, the rooms had been painted blue and black (the company's...

Brief Hiatus

I won't be blogging for the remainder of this week; over the next couple of days my plans include climbing K2 solo, learning Icelandic, mastering the art of painting on grains of rice, and finding a cure for a rare but embarassing earlobe disorder. I'll be back Monday.

Video Killed the Radio Star

The Nation
Please excuse a little self-promo, but The Nation made a trailer for my forthcoming article on Elizabeth Warren. How wild is that? Of course I will post the link here when it's published, so keep reading The Prospect !

Friday Music Break

For today's edition of "Musicians Who Died Too Young Doing Schoolhouse Rock," we have Jeff Buckley with "Three is a Magic Number." Yes it is. And a bonus link: here 's De La Soul's version.

Internet Killed the Political Party Star?

One of the most visible publicity campaigns at South by Southwest Interactive festival this year featured two guys dressed up as a fighting elephant and donkey. They ran around downtown complete with gloves, satin boxing shorts, and even a referee. Americans Elect —the political group they represented that wants to nominate an independent presidential challenge for the 2012 election—tweeted photos of the pair fighting. They also tweeted attendees to invite them to the group's lounge. The room featured t-shirts, hats, and "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots"—with a donkey and elephant head instead of robotic heads. Of course, the biggest draw was the free beer, which they advertised nonstop. South by Southwest is known more for hipsters and indy music than it is for campaign nerds and public policy. But this year's interactive portion of the festival featured an entire "Government and Global Issues" track—much of which dealt particularly with political changes caused by the evolving internet...

You Can Eat Whatever You Want, Cont.

A reader offers some additional context on whether restricting food stamp purchases is necessary to ensure healthy eating on part of recipients: On food spending among food stamp participants: there is evidence that food stamp receipt does alter how households spend their money on food. Journal article here and ungated report here . In short, food stamp participants spend more on at-home food and less on food away from home than comparable non-participant households with the same income. This implies food stamps can not only increase food security but also shift household food spending towards types of food that are subsidized (at-home food, under current rules) AND away from foods that are not subsidized–without making any restrictions on how households spend their own money. I understand the impulse that drives people to demand restrictions on how food stamp recipients use their assistance, but the simple fact is that it’s both wrong and unnecessary.

Life Imitating Art—and Parks

Scrolling through clips of state news, I happened on the latest from Idaho: The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is launching a new program that allows vehicle owners to voluntarily pay a $10 fee when they register their cars that gives them access to 30 state parks in an effort to raise money for the embattled agency. Director Nancy Merrill hopes the idea, modeled after a successful program in Michigan, will alleviate financial pressure on her agency that has been mounting since Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter moved to wean it from taxpayer support two years ago. A few years ago, I probably wouldn't have cared much what the Idaho Parks and Recreation units were doing. However, that was before I became an avid viewer of the television show Parks and Recreation. Devotees will remember that at the end of the second season, the city of Pawnee, Indiana was in dire economic straights and the Parks and Recreation Department was in trouble. Leslie Knope, heroine of both the show and my heart...

Day of Honor

Slideshow: Visitors to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebrate his legacy.

Jaime Fuller
Slideshow Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the National Mall Memorial For the first time Monday, the public was able to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day at his namesake memorial on the National Mall. Visitors sang "Happy Birthday" and laid wreaths to commemorate the life of the civil-rights hero. A small group of attendees sang Happy Birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday at the base of the statute built in his honor on the National Mall. The celebration was the first commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day since the memorial opened last year. As the group segued into “This Little Light of Mine,” more of the crowd that gathered to honor the man joined in the singing. Officials and political leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, also held a brief ceremony at the memorial. The fact that a serious flaw in the memorial’s design is on the verge of being fixed was also cause for celebration. The quotation "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” is...