Did you really think, after those promos, we were going to let this freak show pass without sending someone out to cover it?

Here are the first three dispatches from our man on the inside. Nothing too freaky as of yet, although there has been a Wonkette sighting. The heavy hitters don’t get going until tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Update: A surreal day ends on a surreal note as Andrew “Rogue Nation” Sullivan accuses us of being shrill. And of stereotyping, which is a point I’ll ponder while awaiting his next missive on “Christianists.”

Anyway, welcome to Captain Sanctimony’s readers!

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Vegas

First time here. What an odd choice for this conference. Here’s a city built by capitalism for risk takers, a randy Randian town, an ecological improbability, a city in all bright neon instead of earth tones. What an utterly un-Kossy town.

But when you think about it, it makes sense. This oasis sprang up because a lot of gullible people exist in the world, people who can be enticed here by the prospect of Something for Nothing. That is the lie underlying socialist politics—that you can run a society by redistributing the goods from the successful risk-takers to those who have, for whatever reason, crapped out.

So it looks like these folks are here to discuss a change to the house rules—these folks want to squeeze the high-rollers even harder, and make it harder and harder for them to walk away from the table a winner. Why we think the high rollers will still play with worse odds and smaller payouts, well, I don’t expect they’ll have an answer to that. I do expect a lot of nifty ideas on how to spend all that extra wealth they’re going to squeeze out of the undeserving rich.

Plus it’s easy to make a convincing argument for global warming here in the desert.

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Ho-Hum

So far it’s not exactly a revival meeting. I’ve been to two technical, very detailed presentations, one about How To Run For Office, one about translating online activism into real world results. This second was by Howard Dean’s Democracy For America, not by the Kos machine, which would be pretty ironic, given Kos’ endorsement record of 0 for—what, 15? More? Do we count Francine Busby in that total?

Zarqawi came up once as the DFA guy tried to explain how you make an action-oriented group e-mail out of daily headlines. “So if we wanted to make an action item out of that…well, there’s really not much action you could urge, because he’s dead.”

I can’t help but doubt that these kinds of technical, campaign-consultant powerpoint lectures—though they are useful— are what most of the ideologically hydrophobic Kossacks had in mind. (The lack of coffee can’t help. Power Point, 8:00 AM, no caffeine—even the most scenery-chewing Democratic Underground ogre has to mellow out.) The DFA guy said he usually starts his presentations by asking people why they’re here, and then saying—and I’m quoting roughly from memory here—”No, you’re here because you’re strange. In a good way. Most people don’t care as much about politics as you do. If you care about election reform, well, you think everybody must care about election reform, right? No. I’m telling you I can show you quantitatively that most people don’t care about election reform. It’s like 18th on the list of things people care about.”

That’s true, and I suspect it’s more true than they would be comfortable facing up to. It’s got to hurt because that’s actually true of about most of the issues they care strongly about. Most people care about borders, terrorism, and gas prices. Sustainable wind energy and foreign aid for Bangladeshi microcredit lending are just not a priority for most voters.

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The Netroots

People here are largely, disappointingly, golf-shirted, short-haired, and white bread. Grooming and hygiene are up to western business standards. There is one dude wearing a pith helmet and another guy in a kilt, but the freakish T-shirts I brought along a camera for are not popping up. Oh, I spoke too soon, there’s a girl in an I HAD AN ABORTION t-shirt. For such a routine, ordinary, medical procedure she seems awfully proud of it. Can I get an “I HAD A TONSILLECTOMY” shirt?

On the other hand there’s a buzz-cut grey-templed fellow in a pinstripe suit and an American flag tie. Hmm…maybe they’re catching on. The media is here pretty strong, so maybe they cleaned up and want to look respectable.

So far, and maybe it’s the character of the particular panels I’ve been to, people are pretty nice. There hasn’t been much opportunity for venting, so I haven’t heard a lot of gratuitous grouching about the Right yet. I also haven’t introduced myself as a Hotair correspondent; that might change the reaction I get…but I think this is a case of the well-documented phenomenon of people who are nice and socially adept enough in person who lose all restraint online.

Oh-one always wants to know whether the other side’s women are more attractive. So rest assured, my gentlemen readers at Hotair, you are on the right side of history. Again, not an extreme case: If you had pictured nothing but young, budding, be-Birkenstocked Helen Thomases traipsing through the Riviera’s halls, seeking whom they may devour, it’s nowhere near that bad; it’s just that I’ve been to CPAC; and this, sir, is no CPAC. Hmm…I think I just saw Wonkette, if she’s your type…

Update: Byron York is live at YK too.

Update (Bryan): Andrew Sullivan. Calls us. A “screamfest.” This from the guy for whom every other written word is emotionally-charged nonsense about the US being a “rogue nation.” This from a guy so fixated on Abu Ghraib and the FMA that he can no longer comprehend the war beyond his own pet leftwing version of it. This from the guy who screeeams at the mere mention of menstrual blood, fake or otherwise. This from a guy who ranted and raved and denounced Ramesh Ponnuru about the title of his book, and the flap of the book, and a blurb about the book–a book Sullivan never bothered to, you know, read.

Oooookay, Andrew, we’re a screamfest. Riiiight.