Major Award: Protestor Pilot of the Week.

It’s only Wednesday but we feel quite confident calling it early: Doug Hughes is the recipient of Perry Street Palace’s highly coveted Major Award® for Protestor Pilot of the Week:

On Wednesday, Hughes, a 61-year-old mailman from a small town on Florida’s Gulf Coast who dearly wants campaign finance reform, flew his fragile little ultralight gyrocopter through some of the most closely protected airspace on the planet and landed it on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. He called it Project Kitty Hawk.

Project Kitty Hawk. Hahaha. Awesome.

He said he felt compelled to do what he could to halt corruption in the nation’s capital. He attached a big U.S. Postal Service insignia to the aircraft fuselage, loaded it onto a trailer last Friday, and drove north. He would not go postal, but rather airborne, to deliver 535 letters to members of Congress urging them to tighten the rules on money in political campaigns.


Hughes, who was spurred to political activism by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision striking down limits on campaign donations by corporations and unions, wrote on his blog that he hoped his “special delivery” stunt would “change the narrative” and bring voters together to insist on “honest government. . . . Corruption in Washington, D.C. has robbed the U.S. citizens of the representative government that is our birthright.”

The letters Hughes was carrying said he was “declaring a voter’s rebellion.”

doughughesflyingOMFG this guy.

While Loyal Readers™ may recall a righteous rant or two on the surreal horror show we all now live in known as the land of Citizens United, I offer this as a refresher:

[The] shitweasel majority on the high court overturned a century of precedent and decades of campaign finance reform laws, essentially holding that corporations = people, and corporate cash = protected speech under the First Amendment. These twin delusions are massive affronts to democracy, logic and reality, so easily debunked even a young child could do it…

‘Cause here’s the thing: corporations are not people.


For one thing, unlike people, they can potentially live forever. That makes them immortal. You know, like vampires. Or possibly tardigrades. But definitely not like people…unlike people, corporations cannot be put in prison for the crimes they commit:

prisonpopincrease[h/t Sally Strange via Cory Booker]

So these “people” are immortals who are never subject to the same rules of law and justice as everyone else. Is any of this starting to sound to you like a zombie movie yet?

With Citizens United, the right-wing douches on the Supreme Court were only getting started. And in truth, America’s Owners hardly needed the Supreme Court’s imprimatur: neither the banksters nor the defense industry have ever been in any real danger of losing control of the US treasury or foreign policy, at least not in my lifetime. Now, though, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, not only are corporations people, they can actually be religious people, they can be laughably wrong and willfully ignorant religious people, they can enforce their laughably wrong and willfully ignorant religious views on their employees, and they can ignore laws they don’t like. Unlike, say, actual fucking people. (And no, the Lizard People like Dick Cheney and his ilk do not count—the fact that these creatures have not been dragged before a tribunal at the Hague and locked up in jail forever only further illustrates my point about actual fucking people.)

Therefore, we hereby bestow upon Doug Hughes the Perry Street Palace Major Award® for Protestor Pilot of the Week:

doughughesmajorawardWe sincerely hope that Mr. Hughes succeeds in sparking his voters rebellion. Indeed, we applaud and support any person who risks life, limb and certain arrest in nonviolent protest of gross injustice, evil and/or epic ratfuckery. (After landing at Capitol Hill, Hughes just sat in his open cockpit for a minute until Capitol Police surrounded him; he was arrested without incident). But we have exactly zero optimism that this grand gesture is anything but futile. When future generations of the United States (if indeed there are future generations of anything remotely resembling the United States) look back on the travesty that is government in our age and wonder what the fuck we were doing instead of marching around DC with pitchforks*, they will find in the pages of The Washington Post the heroic story of one Doug Hughes, and come to realize #notallcitizens.

Speaking of The Washington Post, it should surprise no one that the critical context and enormous implications of Mr. Hughes’ spectacular stunt are barely touched upon, let alone critically analyzed and professionally mocked. The Washington Post is the very definition of “establishment media,” and thus we can expect never to see anything printed in its pages beyond the stifling, narrow range of permissible discourse that so well serves the conservative, corporatist and corrupt status quo.

Of course, the failed Fourth Estate is one reason why the Palace has the Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ it does. From the same article:

Air defense systems did not detect the copter as it entered restricted airspace above Washington, according to a North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman. No one tried to stop the gyrocopter, which sounds like a lawnmower and looks like a flying bridge chair.

Air Force Maj. Jamie Humphries, a NORAD spokesman, said the authorities are investigating why NORAD was not made aware of the gyrocopter until after it had landed on the Capitol grounds.

“We are trying to determine the why, but I can say we did not scramble assets,” he said.

Jeezus Haploid Christ. If you would be so kind to indulge me, please allow me to call your attention to two very relevant facts.

Fact 1: The United States spends more on defense than the next eight countries combined.

usdefensespendingApparently $640 billion is simply not enough to stop a d00d with a lawnmower chair strapped to his ass from landing on the Capitol lawn. I mean come on, this shit mocks itself, people! Defense: yer dooin it rong.

Of course in Federal Government Speak, “defense” does not actually mean, you know, defense; it means something else entirely, an inconvenient fact made even more painfully obvious by this very story. What is truly surprising is that as of this writing The Washington Post has yet to print an op-ed by someone arguing that this latest mailman gyrocopter incident only proves the urgent need to triple the “defense” budget.

Fact 2: Doug Hughes, Winner of Perry Street Palace’s highly coveted Major Award® for Protestor Pilot of the Week, is Surveillance State FAIL No. 6,427,336. (Or something close to that number—frankly it’s hard to keep count.)

You see, Mr. Hughes announced his exact plans a year ago on his blog, then in his hometown newspaper, and in a video posted online by The Tampa Bay Times.

doughughesDoug Hughes, being awesome.


Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said that in October 2013, “a concerned citizen” told the agency about someone who wanted “to land a single manned aircraft on the grounds of the United States Capitol or the White House.” Leary said Secret Service agents in Florida interviewed Hughes the next day and conducted “a complete and thorough investigation.”

Then about a year ago:

after Doug Hughes published his plan on his Web site, a Secret Service agent in Florida questioned both Hughes and a friend of his, Mike Shanahan, the Times reported. Hughes told the agent that he did own a gyrocopter, which he kept at a small airport in Wauchula, Fla., and that he had been planning a dramatic gesture to focus attention on campaign finance reform.

The Times said the same agent visited Hughes’s workplace, the post office in Riverview, Fla., a couple of days later and asked co-workers about him. But there was no further contact from the Secret Service, Hughes told the newspaper.

See, this is what we Super Savvy Media Types® call “burying the lede.”

The United States has long been assembling a vast and unaccountable domestic surveillance apparatus; one that, despite the justifications and claims lies to the contrary by our highest government officials, has never prevented a single terrorist attack. Unlike The Washington Post, we have called attention to this inconvenient (and highly fucking relevant) fact at every opportunity. For example:

What we do know is that terrorist attacks have indeed been thwarted—by ordinary citizens. Despite NSA’s massive surveillance operations, Richard Reid, the would-be “Shoe Bomber” managed to get a bomb on board an American Airlines flight to Miami. When he tried to set it off, passengers smelled smoke, subdued him and bound him up. Hello? NSA? Hello?

Then, with their amazing and vast surveillance powers and a heads up from CIA, US intelligence officials actually let suspected al-Qaeda collaborator Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab board a flight to the US. They were planning to let him into the states, too: they knew he was coming, but refused to let his visa be revoked. Unfortunately, he had a bomb in his underwear on the flight. Fortunately, passengers subdued him, too. Thanks, NSA.

Then there was Faisal Shahzad, the would-be “Times Square Bomber.” A t-shirt vendor noticed smoke coming out of an awkwardly parked SUV and alerted a mounted police officer, who called for assistance. The area was safely cleared and the bomb was defused. Law enforcement investigated over the next few days and narrowed in on Shahzad as the prime suspect. They put his name on the No Fly List (which even a known al-Qaeda collaborator wasn’t put on). Still, Shahzad was nonetheless able to buy a ticket to Dubai with cash at JFK airport, and board the plane. The flight was a few minutes from takeoff before the authorities caught up with him. The plane returned to the gate and he was arrested without incident.

T-shirt vendor: 1. NSA surveillance: 0.

For a more recent and far more devastating example, consider the Boston Marathon Bombers. The U.S. government was tipped off twice [!] about Tamerlan Tsarnaev by the Russian Federal Security Bureau. He had been on a terrorist watch list for eighteen months [!!!] before he and his brother set off bombs that killed three people and injured 264 others at the scene. Way to go, NSA. Really.

All of which is to say that in at least these four instances, the NSA’s invasive surveillance did not, in fact, Keep Us Safe™.

Again, the only thing surprising here is that as of this writing The Washington Post has yet to print an op-ed arguing that this latest mailman gyrocopter incident proves the urgent need to triple the surveillance budget, too.

So hearty congratulations to Doug Hughes, Citizens United protestor, pilot and patriot, who simultaneously protested the twin grotesqueries of US “defense” policy and its enormous, worse-than-useless surveillance state, however unwittingly.

Today we drink to you, sir. Although frankly we were going to drink anyway. See: ALL OF THE ABOVE.


*The answer to the question of what the fuck we were doing instead of marching around DC with pitchforks is no doubt complex, but I’m pretty sure a sizable part of it is “watching men’s sporting competitions.”

In which I become a Christian again!

As Loyal Readers™ may recall, I was born and raised a Christian—first Catholic, later Lutheran—but it never really stuck. As a young teen I came to question, then doubt, eventually disbelieve and finally loathe religion. And not just the Jeezus-flavored variety, but all of it, right down to the very mildest of lefty New Age silliness. (Except for Lord Shiva. OBVIOUSLY.) In other words I am 100% on board with Palace Patron Saint PZ Myers who put it this way:

I don’t target particular religions for bad conclusions — I detest them all for having bad methodologies.

But people, I am here to tell you: I was deceived. And very probably by Satan himself! Yes, everything I was ever taught about Jeezus was wrong, wrong, wrong. Tragically, the very nature of the Christ god and the beautiful, joyful essence of Christianity was denied me. For I have just come unto the Lord, and am eager and fully prepared to spend the rest of my days worshiping Him. Behold, the truth, the light and the way:


sexyjesus3DEAR GOD.

sexyjesusWHO’S YOUR DADDY!



And look, He even pooped me an Easter egg! sexyjesus4OMFG IRIS JEEZUS. SO HARD.

[h/t Aly]

Recent reading.


Does Alan Grayson Want War With Iran? Naiman, R., The Huffington Post (Apr. 2015). [Alan Grayson is trying to break up with ME?! WTF. –Ed.]

Scientists: Psychedelic drugs ‘safe as riding a bike or playing soccer’. Richardson, H., Newsweek via Raw Story (Apr. 2015). [Also, IIRC waaaay more fun. –Ed.]

Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time. Shim, E., Mic (Jun. 2014). (“people holding left-wing political views were less willing to hurt others. One particular group held steady and refused destructive orders: women who had previously participated in rebellious political activism such as strikes or occupying a factory.”) [Don’t get any ideas, people. I WILL TOTALLY FUCK YOU UP!!!11!!! –Ed.]

Researchers Discover Fossils Of A New Species Of Terror Bird. Thompson, B., Daily Science Journal (Apr. 2015). [h/t Vanina]

terrorbirdIris can haz dis terra berd nao plz.

First Hologram Protest in History Held Against Spain’s Gag Law. Baker, J. Revolution News (Apr. 2015). [Wow, Spain. –Ed.]

Meet Walnut, the crane who fell in love with her zookeeper. Hillenbrand, S., The Verge (Apr. 2015). [Awesome weirdness, PLUS weird awesomeness. –Ed.]

Long-Awaited ‘Jump’ In Global Warming Now Appears ‘Imminent’. Romm, J., Think Progress (Apr. 2015) [Today in WE ARE SO FUCKED. –Ed.]

Boycott, Divest and Sanction Corporations That Feed on Prisons. Hedges, C., Truthdig Apr. 2015). [h/t SJ]

U.S. secretly tracked billions of calls for decades. Heath, B., USA TODAY (Apr. 2015). [GTFO. –Ed.]

Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’. Nieves, E., AlterNet (Mar. 2015). (“The boom and bust in North Dakota has trapped people there, with little hope of work or escape.”) [But…but…JOBS! –Ed.]

28 Majestic Owls Caught On Camera. Earth Porm (Apr. 2015).


Racism at Core of Native Teen Suicides in Pine Ridge. Fenton, D.A., Colorlines (Apr. 2015). (“Let’s be clear. These events tell Native children one thing: “Your lives are not valued. You do not have a place in the world beyond the reservation.”) [Fucking hell. –Ed.]

6 Ways to Keep Terrorists From Ruining the World. Wong, D., Cracked (Jan. 2015). [Suggested re-title: “6 Ways to Keep EVERYONE From Ruining the World.” –Ed.]

Thousands dead, few prosecuted. Kelly, K. and Kindi, K., The Washington Post (Apr. 2015). (“Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005, only 54 officers have been charged, a Post analysis found. Most were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved.”) [TW: police violence.]

A letter from Mary Lucia. Lucia, M., The Current (Apr. 2015). [TW: stalking and harassment.]

VeinViewer Means No More Poking People Relentlessly to Locate Veins. Goyal, N., Industry Tap (Apr. 2015).

veinviewerIris can haz dis vane veewer nao plz.

Bystander Effect Also Found Among Five-Year-Olds. Jacobs, T., Pacific Standard (Mar. 2015). (“Little kids will help an adult, but if they’re in a group, they’ll wait to see if someone else volunteers first.”)

Hundreds of illicit oil wastewater pits found in Kern County. Cart, J., Los Angeles Times (Apr. 2015).

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust. Maughan, T., BBC (Apr. 2015).

13 Outrageous Acts By Drug War Cops Just This Week. Smith, P., AlterNet (Apr. 2015). [TW: police violence]

Guatemalans deliberately infected with STDs sue Johns Hopkins University for $1bn. Laughland, O., The Guardian (Apr. 2015). [TW: human rights abuses, hostility to autonomy and consent.]

Tales from the Trenches: I was SWATed. Harper, R., Randi-io (Apr. 2015). [TW: harassment and abuse.]

235 Anti-Choice Bills Proposed in State Legislatures Since January. Wilson, T., RH Reality Check (Mar. 2015). [*spit* –Ed.]

The “Special Snowflake” Syndrome of American Conservatives. Rachel191, Daily Kos (Apr. 2015).

How the U.S. spends more helping its citizens than other rich countries, but gets way less. Swanson, A., The Washington Post (Apr. 2015). (“Premature death for women in the U.S. is about on par with Mexico, which spends just $858 on health care per capita compared with nearly $8,000 per capita in the U.S.”) [VERY interesting. –Ed.]


PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Off the charts.

Well. Sunday’s post about Time Magazine’s political quiz turned out to be even more amusing and informative than I could ever have predicted:

I fear that until I get this pestilence eradicated from the Palace, I may have to lock up everyone in quarantine—including, apparently, myself. But the whole exercise got me thinking about another quiz that’s been around for a while: the Political Compass. This one adds another axis to the left-right dimension, and outputs a four-quadrant grid with your position on it. When I took it a few years ago and wrote about it here, my results looked like this:

irispoliticalcompassIris the Lefty Libertarian. Quelle surprise.

At the time I mused:

I took the quiz years ago, and I do not remember my chart position.  It would be interesting to compare it to today, and see whether over time my views have drifted in one direction or another.  As you can see, in certain respects there is not much further I can possibly drift.

So I took it again yesterday BECAUSE SCIENCE, but it returned only a blank grid.

blankchartI thought there was a problem with the site itself. But no: the problem is that my results are now off the charts:

Economic Left/Right: -18.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.03

Technically my social score is on the grid—only barely—but its intersection with my economic score is…way off.

I am left wondering if this shift is because a few years more reading, writing, learning and thinking on my part has led to my feeling more strongly about positions that I previously held more tentatively. In other words, I may have drifted from “yes, I think so” (agree) to “I am quite certain” (strongly agree). In any case, here is what my results would look like if the Political Compass could handle the likes of Your Humble Monarch™:

irisnewchartWhatever you do, don’t tell the NYPD or the FBI. Or CIA. Or anyone at the Federal Reserve, the Bank of New York, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer or CitiGroup. I don’t need their ilk coming ’round the Palace. I already have enough problems with Mr. Born.

Eight percent awful—UPDATED.

UPDATED: See below.

An anthropology professor once told me that a quirk unique to Americans is that we generally love to take quizzes, polls and surveys. Perhaps this is true, although I never found it to be particularly true about myself: unless there is obvious potential for the results to inform or amuse me, I tend to blow right by them. The only exception is when they are political in nature: those clearly fall within the purview of the Palace’s world-renowned research program into the deadly scourge that is Conservative Personality Disorder. It would be irresponsible and unseemly of us to look away.

And so it was that I came across a Time Magazine quiz that purports to determine one’s political ideology based on answers to 12 questions about values and lifestyle. Based on work by Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business Jonathan Haidt (who we have mentioned before and with whom we have some disagreements), the quiz outputs a score from zero to one hundred, with zero being farthest left (liberal) and one hundred being farthest right (conservative). Loyal Readers™ will no doubt understand the shock and horror I felt upon seeing my results:

timequizresultsThat’s right, people: Your Humble Monarch® is fully 8% conservative!

Needless to say, because I understand the implications of that score probably more than any other human being on this planet, I am deeply disappointed and disgusted with myself. Among other things, this means that 8% of the time:

  • I am a raging racist, misogynist doucheweasel of epic proportions.
  • I hate poor people and blame them for their misfortune.
  • I want to privatize everything: prisons, healthcare, Social Security, the military.
  • Jeezus is telling me to run for office.
  • I am completely wrong, morally and factually, about everything.

It is this last point that is most troubling. If I ever think I have discovered the cure for conservatism, how can I possibly know that this isn’t one of those times (8%!) that my head is firmly planted up my ass? Worse, what if I have already discovered the cure—but wrongly discounted it for the same reason? This could set the entire research program back by years, if not decades. And that’s to say nothing of the deafening boom heard ’round the world when the Palace irony meter explodes.

I am devastated.

Wait a minute…perhaps what I am wrong about is this political quiz being all that meaningful or accurate? Mind: blown.


UPDATE: Below are my results—you may not want to look at these until after you’ve taken the quiz, at this will almost certainly skew your answers. It may also leave you as baffled as I am as to exactly where that 8% figure came from.

Continue reading

Great news, or greatest news EVER?



Loyal Readers™ will no doubt recall that it was exactly one year ago today that we sent our research proposal to tardigrade expert Professor Bob Goldstein at his lab at UNC, requesting his urgent assistance in confirming my paradigm-shattering theory that if I consume enough of them, then I will become a virtually immortal extremophile like the tardigrades:

Dear Professor Goldstein:

I am a New York City-based columnist and blogger who usually writes about sex (I’m for it!) as well as politics and religion (I’m against ’em!), and who finds herself weirdly enamored with tardigrades. I also write to promote science, skepticism, and the sheer transcendent joy to be found in discovering the wonders of the natural world. To that end I maintain a virtual zoo on my personal blog, in which I have a tardigrade specimen named Schnoot.

If I sound like a kook so far, well you’re probably right but I hope you will bear(!) with me.


Professor Goldstein, have you ever eaten tardigrades?

If yes:
What do they taste like?
Do you have any good recipes?
What wine pairing would you recommend?
Are you now immortal?

If no:
Are they poisonous or otherwise dangerous to eat?
Would you recommend that I cook them (over 303 degrees F of course!) before I eat them, or do you think I have to eat them live in order to become immortal?


With many thanks and kind regards,
-Iris Vander Pluym

Inexplicably, as of this writing we still have not received a reply from Professor Goldstein. It’s like he doesn’t even want to share the Nobel prize with us. ?

tardigradeScnoot, Palace Zoo resident tardigrade.

But in a spectacular “coincidence” that can only be a sign to us from the Tardigrade Goddess herself, the American Museum of Natural History’s Life at the Limits exhibition opens today, featuring—you guessed it—tardigrades!

I feel quite optimistic that unlike that big meanie Professor Goldstein, the exhibition’s curators Mark Siddall and John Sparks will feel honored and humbled to participate in the Palace’s important work on obtaining immortal extremophile superpowers for myself. Now I don’t want to blow their minds with too much too fast, so please keep this to yourself: I am also working on a rather promising inquiry into the youth-regenerating properties of axolotls. Two of these amazing neotenic creatures currently reside in the Amphibian wing of the Palace Zoo; unfortunately, I cannot in good conscience eat them as they are a critically endangered species. That’s where my new BFFs Mark Siddall and John Sparks come in: to help me establish a wild breeding population on the Palace grounds.

Because SCIENCE, motherfuckers.

[h/t Mr. Born]



10 Situations Where Christian Bakers Should Refuse To Bake Wedding Cakes. Corey, B.L., Patheos (Mar. 2015). (“we need to have the courage to radically expand our discrimination as we apply the Bible to everyone but ourselves.”) [No cake for you! Or you! You either! –Ed.]

CIA Torture Whistleblower: Wake Up America, You’re Next. Abby Martin interview of John Kiriakou, Media Roots (Mar. 2015). (VIDEO)

Costa Rica is now running completely on renewable energy. Epstein, A., Quartz (Mar. 2015). [Yes we can’t! -Ed.]

Starbuck’s CEO Just Made A Shocking Announcement That Has Christians Standing Up For Their Faith. Rachel, Q Political (Mar. 2015). [Shocking. LOL –Ed.]

Forget terrorists — be terrified of Harperites. Siddiqui, H., The Star (Mar. 2015). (“Stephen Harper’s government wants us to be terrified of terrorists, niqabis, criminals, thieves, etc. But it’s the Conservatives we should be scared of.)

Women on 20s. (“It’s our mission to generate an overwhelming people’s mandate for a new $20 bill, to be issued in time for the 100th anniversary in 2020 of the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.”) [What are you doing lounging around the Palace? Go vote! -Ed.]

“You Grow Up Wanting to be Luke Skywalker, Then Realize You’ve Become a Stormtrooper for the Empire”. Crimmins, D. via Garret, Upriser (undated). [An amazing piece of writing from an Iraq veteran. -Ed.]

Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories. Ferdman, R.A., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015).

France decrees new rooftops must be covered in plants or solar panelAgence France-Presse via The Guardian (Mar. 2015).

If Motivational Posters Were For People Who Hate People. Bailey, L., BuzzFeed (Feb. 2015). [I hate people, and I can attest that these posters are totally for me! -Ed.]

everyoneistheworstEven in nursing, no equal pay for women. Rapaport, L., Reuters (Mar. 2015).

Virtual reality is coming to sex, sports and Facebook. della Cava, M., USA Today (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales. Fang, L., The Intercept (Mar. 2015). [OH NOEZ!!! –Ed.]

Amazon’s trees removed nearly a third less carbon in last decade – study. Mathiesen, K., The Guardian (Mar. 2015). (“Fall in amount of carbon absorbed by rainforest means even greater cuts to manmade emissions are needed to combat climate change, warn scientists.”) [Today in We Are So Fucked. –Ed.]

Mother-Daughter Duo’s Photo Project Features 5-Year-Old as Iconic Black Women. Gilchrist, T., For Harriet (Mar. 2015). [Amazing and adorable. -Ed.]

If Purvi Patel delivered in hospital she could have declined neonatal care, but she delivered at home so faces jail. Gunter, J., Dr. Jen Gunter (Mar. 2015). (“So to be clear, had Ms. Patel delivered in a hospital she could have declined neonatal care had her baby been born alive. But because she delivered at home she is a criminal. Now tell me this wasn’t a reproductive witch hunt designed to both test the limits of Indiana law in curtailing reproductive rights and score points with pro-life donors and voters.”)

This Woman Says She Had A Miscarriage. Now She Could Face 70 Years In Prison. Culp-Ressler, T., Think Progress (Mar. 2015). (“Critics say there are a lot of issues with the way Patel’s case has unfolded over the past two years. For instance, Patel was first questioned in her hospital bed without a lawyer present. Expert witnesses could not come to consensus about the gestational age of her fetus. The prosecution relied on a highly unscientific method to try to determine whether her fetus was born dead or alive.”) [UPDATE: Purvi Patel was just sentenced to 30 years, with 10 suspended. -Ed.]

Two Cops Arrested for Beating 3-Month-Old Into Vegetative State; Baby Not Expected to Recover. Fairbanks, C., The Free Thought Project (Mar. 2015). [h/t Tony] [I can’t even. –Ed.]

Black Woman Locked In Psych Ward For 8 Days Because Cops Couldn’t Believe She’s A Businesswoman. Kerry-Anne, Addicting Info (Mar. 2015). [I. CAN’T. EVEN. –Ed.]

One Model Tried On 10 Different Pairs Of Size 16 Jeans And This Is What They Looked Like. Ospina, M.S., BuzzFeed (Jan. 2015).

This Photo Was Removed By Instagram. The Owner Writes A Powerful Open Letter In Response. Rupi Kaur via Chaudhary, S., Scoop Whoop (Mar. 2015).

Trillion Dollar Fraudsters. Krugman, P., The New York Times (Mar. 2015).

Shakespearean Insulter. [“Thou clouted fly-bitten boar-pig!” Hahaha. -Ed.]

Stunning Photos Reveal Beauty in Medicine. Live Science (Mar. 2015).

She’s back! Arizona legislator suggests church attendance should be mandatory. Mother Mags, Daily Kos (Mar. 2015). [Okay, player. –Ed.]


For the Quote Collection:

I think America has the best assholes in the world. I defy the Belgians or the Japanese to produce something like a Donald Trump. –Matt Taibbi

Women have always been an equal part of the past. They just haven’t been part of history. –Gloria Steinem


PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Movie review: How can I unsee Whiplash and get back those 106 minutes of my life?

whiplash1[TRIGGER WARNING: abuse.]

JKSimmonsI adore J.K. Simmons. He is an incredible character actor, turning in outstanding and memorable performances in Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Burn After Reading and countless TV shows including Oz. I am very happy that he just won an Oscar—that is, I am happy for him, because that is the only reason I decided to see Whiplash. Unfortunately, I am now in need of emergency brain surgery to extricate all memory of this film from my head. But before I am inducted under general anesthesia and the surgeon commences drilling into my cranium, allow me to offer a few thoughts.

Whiplash centers on the relationship between a drum student (played by Miles Teller) and his instructor (Simmons) at an elite New York conservatory. As Terence Fletcher, Simmons embodies every spittle-flecked drill sergeant, volatile sports coach and tough-love father you’ve ever seen in movies. This is a common archetype who initially appears unreasonable and mean, but is eventually revealed to be acting out of love, compassion and hard-won wisdom for the benefit of others, however misguided his tactics (see e.g. Gran Torino, The Judge, etc.) Not so with Fletcher. There is no self-reflection, no come-to-Jeezus moment, nothing remotely different about him from start to finish. Consequently, there is just no way to swallow that Fletcher’s is ultimately a worthy pursuit, much less that there is any basis for his actions beyond sheer, sadistic pleasure. By the film’s end, we are certain that he is not some misguided asshole with a heart of gold: no, he is an unrepentant asshole who revels in doing harm for its own sake and the power rush it delivers.

tn_gnp_et_1011_whiplashFletcher’s entire dynamic with Andrew is a classic, textbook cycle of abuse: the predator is a master pretender, cleverly wielding carrots and sticks to get his target to offer up concessions and information guaranteed to be weaponized later on. Fletcher’s absurdly grandiose view of his own worth—as a teacher and as a human being—is never challenged by the filmmakers. In the end it is only validated, and we have to step outside the film and reject its core narrative to even question whether Fletcher is responsible in any way for Andrew’s drive to excel. In fact, we virtually never see Fletcher actually teach Andrew anything about music; he serves up only humiliation, manipulation, spite, vengeance and violence. It is a testament to Simmons as an actor that Fletcher is no 2-dimensional cartoon villain, either. He plays it way over the top to be sure, but you recognize him. You have met him—or someone very much like him—and if you survived the encounter, it is because you eventually figured out how to escape him.

whiplash4Andrew hardly comes off any better, if you can believe it: he goes from being a shallow, arrogant asshole to being…a shallow, arrogant asshole more prone to the kind of explosive outbursts and cold cruelty that Fletcher so relishes. NEWSFLASH: no one wants to work with flaming assholes, no matter how talented they may be. As it turns out, being a huge douche is actually an impediment in an art form that is at its very essence collaborative.

So. Both actors turn in monster performances playing monsters. And I get it: it’s every actor’s dream to play roles like these—but in the service of what? There is absolutely nothing inspiring, redeeming or even remotely likeable about either of these characters, or their story arcs. If Whiplash plays nothing like a cautionary tale or heroic triumph, then what the fuck is it? Well, the ultimate message of the film is that behind every extraordinary talent lies a miserable, sadistic narcissist, without whose cruel ministrations a gifted artist will never achieve greatness. I reject that, entirely. Artistic “success,” however you wish to define it, requires an innate creative spark, aptitude, ambition and, like pretty much any other area of endeavor, a fair amount of luck. Of course privilege plays a role too, particularly with respect to opportunities and encouragement. And yes, it requires discipline, but not of the sort externally imposed by terror, violence and psychological abuse. Above all else, an artist is driven to make art. That is why the Terence Fletchers of the world are superfluous at best—and far more often than not, harmful in the extreme.

Wait a minute…now that I think of it, this movie would totally work a thousand times better as…gay BDSM porn!


Iris the Considerate! Iris the Merciful! Still, no.

My friend (and Palace blogger) Don Ardell forwards me FFRF’s Freethought of the Day e-newsletter every day. Although I am a longtime member of FFRF, for some reason I stopped receiving these daily emails a while ago. So it is always nice to see an email from Don in my inbox every morning, particularly since he often appends a witty and insightful comment, and sometimes additional content for our infotainment. (Don gets up VERY early. It is hardly unusual for him to have run, swum and biked a goddamn mini-triathlon, communicated with multiple correspondents, and produced an entire newsletter before the Palace coffee is even brewing.)

And so it came to pass that Richard Dawkins—unrepentant breaker of Your Humble Monarch™’s heart and involuntary organ donor presently confined to the Palace Abattoir—was featured in the Freethought of the Day missive of March 26, along with several other notables who share the same birthday. On this day, Don’s message to me included a Dawkins pull-quote from the newsletter—and a petition pleading for clemency on behalf of the heartbreaker-donor.


From: Donald Ardell
To: Iris Vander Pluym

Iris my dear:

Would your grace show some mercy and consider a pardon for Mr. Dawkins from the abattoir. Only the Christian god sends people to a place of torment forever and ever – you don’t want to be like Him, do you?

Consider these words – surely he who would produce such mighty words as follows, such freethinking genius, deserves your loving kind mercy:

“My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.”
—-“Time to Stand Up,” written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Sept. 2001. See Dawkins’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award


From: Iris Vander Pluym
To: Donald Ardell

“Would your grace show some mercy and consider a pardon for Mr. Dawkins from the abattoir.”

Of course! I am nothing if not considerate and merciful! Simply point me to where the good Dr. Dawkins has walked back his egregious affronts to my human rights. Or am I still, in his esteemed view, a fine candidate to be enslaved to a fetus for nine months? Because if so, what you are asking me for is like begging a Jew to pardon Hitler, because hey, he loved animals and by all accounts was exceedingly lovely to his pet dogs. ? Women are dying, right this very moment, because of views like his. IOW, to the Abattoir with him.

“Only the Christian god sends people to a place of torment forever and ever – you don’t want to be like Him, do you?”

No! Don’t be silly! The Dawk will be used for lifesaving organ harvesting purposes only for nine months duration. Unlike the Christian god, we are not monsters here! We aspire only to fairness and justice—which, I’m sure you will agree, are concepts with which the Abrahamic god appears entirely unfamiliar. Unfortunately, Richard Dawkins appears in need of instruction about them as well.

Tell you what: seeing as he’s a friend of yours, I’ll let you sneak him in a coat hanger. Perhaps he can find a way to escape his sentence with the aid of that?


From: Donald Ardell
To: Iris Vander Pluym

Iris, md

Well, when you put it that way, I can see that maybe he is yet unworthy of a pardon.

Perhaps he will reform his ways.

Human frailties being what they are, I have maintained a resistance to any awareness of these qualities of the Great Man. I suppose that reminds some of the happy go lucky neighbors of the camps in Poland, totally unaware, they claimed, of what was going on down the block at the youth camp jamborees, or whatever those places were. “Hey, we were not invited and told to stay back, so we put it all out of mind. And besides, what were we to do, storm the fences, demanding to know all?”

I think about that coat hangar.

Thanks – great response.



From: Iris Vander Pluym
To: Donald Ardell

You’re a good man, Don, to acknowledge a blind spot. We all have them. Unfortunately Dawkins seems utterly incapable of doing this.

Do you mind if I post our correspondence, either anonymously or not?


From: Donald Ardell
To: Iris Vander Pluym

Hello Iris:

Thanks for the nice note. Don’t mind at all. Prefer taking responsibility for my blind spot, as I stand, even now, with Dawkins for the good he’s done and does. So, expose me.

I do it myself, all the time. So, why shouldn’t others. :)