Iris has sex with Congresscritters.

[CONTENT NOTE: sexual objectification. By Your Humble Monarch™. On purpose. The images are fine; the text is moderately explicit = NSFW.]

A well-known quote attributed to various sources holds that “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.” It sure seems intuitively true: whatever aesthetics may be on offer when they pose for their portraits in front of flags, successful politicians are a special breed with a very specific skill set, one that ultimately renders them repellant in the extreme: e.g. a propensity for spewing platitudes and weasel words without saying anything meaningful, a willingness to relentlessly hondle people for cash, and a narcissistic appetite for the spotlight and a captive audience without being anywhere near entertaining enough to warrant the slightest bit of attention. Now that I think about it, politicians are more like clergy than Hollywood actors—and let’s just say Loyal Readers™ will have no trouble discerning how revolting we find clergy ferchrissakes.*

All of which is why I was a bit miffed to find a link to Sexy Congress posted to my Facebook wall by my friend Tony (who else?). The site purports to rate members of Congress on their hawtness, which is problematic for reasons even beyond those I mentioned above. For one thing, the gender binary is alive and well: your menu choices of sex partners are restricted to “Women Only / Men Only / Both.” I suppose this is to be expected in a realm that is as deeply conservative, superficial and publicly policed as the US Congress: unfortunately, non-conforming individuals are all too easy to weed out in the electoral process by political opponents. I mean, can you imagine some congressman showing up at the Capitol on casual Fridays in a sundress and strappy sandals? Or a masculine-of-center congresswoman rocking a tux instead of a gown at a White House state dinner? Of course not. The public would have themselves a giant, collective shit, and the press would only be too happy to encourage it with great gusto. People suck.

But that is hardly my biggest issue with Sexy Congress. Sexualizing men (heteronormatively) adds to their existing social status and power, whereas sexualizing women diminishes theirs:

A recent study found that showing men pictures of sexualized women evokes less activity in areas of the brain responsible for mental state attribution—that is, the area of the brain that becomes active when we think we are looking at an entity capable of thought and planned action. Other studies have found similar results. When men see body shots of women as compared with face shots, they judge women to be less intelligent, likeable, ambitious and competent.

No one will reduce a powerful congressman’s entire worth to that of an incompetent, not-so-bright fuck toy because he is a hottie horndog, not even unconsciously. Women do not exactly fare as well, to put it mildly. Did I mention people suck? FYI: people suck.

So for all of these reasons, my immediate response to Tony was—and I quote—”EEEEEEEEW.

Apparently unfazed by my succinct and eloquent retort, Tony insisted that there were indeed many good choices (“I found 10 future husbands in the list”) and challenged me to find that number myself. And if I would show him mine, so-to-speak, he’d show me his.

Game on.

CAVEATS.

Now, I have an unfair advantage over Tony, because I am not limited to men with respect to people I find sexually attractive. And since this entire exercise is a fantasy about who I would have sex with—in an alternate universe where I could somehow get past all those repulsive clergy parallels, and My Amazing Lover™ did not exist—I am including women in my top ten. Yes, I understand I am Ruining Feminism®, and I take full responsibility for that. 

I am also sexually attracted to people who, regardless of gender, do not fit cultural standards of “conventionally attractive.” This probably has some relation to my being kinky, but it is also just a fact that I have found many people sexually attractive who exude a natural confidence, an interesting sense of humor compatible with mine, and a certain kind of intelligence (i.e. intellectually curious, informed, open-minded, witty, creative, reality-based…), regardless of their physical attributes. But these kinds of personality-based traits would be impossible for me to detect in 535 members of Congress without reviewing hundreds of hours of extremely boring video footage, if even then.

After further consultations between us, Tony and I agreed that we could take into consideration factors such as spite fucking—that is, so thoroughly ravaging your enemies that they will remain perpetually disappointed with every other sex partner they will ever have for the rest of their miserable lives. And of course it would be fair to deploy the use of ball gags, ear buds or other means of ensuring that these motherfuckers cannot ruin our enjoyment of the experience by saying something terrible, like asking for campaign contributions or expounding on the merits of neoliberalism.

So with all of these caveats in mind, here is my list of the sexiest critters of the 114th Congress.

Oh, and my safe word is “Snowden.”

__________

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

Rep.EricSwalwellD-CASwalwell seems fun. He not only posts silly pics of himself with Etch-a-Sketch self-portraits, he also holds the impressive distinction of being the first person to Vine his vote from the House floor.

“When House @GOP try to roll back health protections for women, this is how I vote. #WarOnWomen” -Eric Swalwell

#adorable.

__________

Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)

Rep.TulsiGabbardD-HITulsi Gabbard is a badass. Not only is she a serious surfer, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard after 9/11 and served two combat tours in the Middle East. She’s also a practicing Hindu, which, you know…about the best I can say about that is at least it has girl gods. I’d really like to salute you, Congresswoman. Repeatedly. If you catch my drift.

__________

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Sen.corybookerD-NJBooker earned a BA in political science and an MA in sociology at Stanford, an honors degree in US history as a Rhodes Scholar at Queen’s College, Oxford, and his JD at Yale. Senator Smarty Pants is a sharp dresser, and easy with a smile. Although he has neither confirmed nor denied persistent rumors that he’s gay, I am going on the record here and saying that I am not adverse to him bringing a date to our tryst. At all. YUMMY.

__________

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen.KirstenGillibrandD-NYGillibrand strikes me as…well, classy. With her, I envision a romantic date where we go shopping for dresses and lingerie on Madison Avenue and make out in all the dressing rooms. We both buy classic black Louboutin pumps, and have our driver stop to pick up a couple bottles of 1975 Dom Perignon Oenotheque on the way back to my suite at the Crosby Street Hotel. Later we fall asleep in each other’s arms wearing nothing but the pumps. After a few hours we wake up hungry, so we sneak out to hit a dive bar on the Lower East Side for a late night dinner of Spanish tapas. Back at the hotel, we giggle all night watching 80s movies.

TL;dr: Hit me up on my cell Kirsten, so I can ruin all your future sexual encounters with men.

__________

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)

Rep.AaronSchockR-ILSchock is a Republican, so it won’t surprise anyone that he is a lying, scheming shitweasel who had to resign from Congress in March under the weight of a massive corruption scandal. (That means he still technically qualifies as a member of the 114th Congress, just sayin’.) The feds have opened a “preliminary investigation” into his reprehensible activities, but in the meantime, before he goes to jail or anything, I wish to invoke both the spite fuck and the ball gag exemptions, as I introduce him to the fine art of vigorous pegging.

__________

Donna Edwards (D-MD)

Rep.DonnaEdwardsD-MDBefore running for Congress, Edwards co-founded and served as the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. She also gets major props from me for getting herself arrested outside the Sudanese embassy during a 2009 protest against the Darfur genocide and the blocking of aid to victims. But never mind all of that—this woman is drop dead gorgeous THE END.

__________

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)

Rep.XavierBecerraD-CABecerra is a first generation Mexican-American, with a JD from Stanford Law. He’s got some kind of Jeff-Goldblum-meets-Argentinian-Tango-Dancer thing going on. And I like it.

__________

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)

Rep.JudyChuD-CAChu is the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress. She has a B.A. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in psychology and blah blah blah…She’s just really pretty, has a great smile and rocks amazing haircuts.

Why don’t you say hello to your California colleague Mr. Swalwell, Congresswoman? Perhaps the three of us can get together sometime. I think we might have a few things to talk about…

__________

Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

SenJohnThuneR-SDThune is an unrepentant Republican and therefore obviously the absolute worst. He is also a tall drink of water, and wears well-fitting suits. I’m definitely invoking the spite fuck exemption here, but I’m reserving the right to a ball gag for now—I’m kinda digging the thought of him turning out to be really good at talking dirty to me.

__________

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)

Rep.BetoO’RourkeD-TXO’Rourke’s got a bit of a checkered past, including arrests for burglary and DUI; he was also a singer and guitarist in a touring rock band in the early 90s. He’s been an outspoken critic of the failed Drug War. He looks like he could be the love child of a young Bobby Kennedy and mid-career Hugh Grant, if that were, you know, A Thing. I can’t seem to stop myself from wondering whether he and Rep. Swalwell might be up for a double date—if you’re catching what I’m pitching.

__________

Pretty sure my chances of serving in Congress just went down from zero to less-than-zero. Hahaha. And I guess I should probably leave a note here for the Capitol Police:

In case this isn’t crystal clear to you for for some reason: there is virtually no scenario in this universe in which I can envision myself actually fooling around with any of these people, even given the ideal opportunity and enthusiastic consent from themselves and their partner(s). This is strictly an exercise in fantasy and/or mockery about public figures, falling squarely under the protection of the First Amendment. There is no need to concern yourself with my stalking or ever attempting to contact any of these people, with the exception of Kirsten Gillibrand who is my Senator and whose office I have on speed dial of course. But I would never contact her in anything but her professional capacity. Mmmkay?

Have a nice day, officers.

I wouldn’t fuck ’em with your dick, Tony. :p

__________
*For as long as I can remember having sexual fantasies, I’ve had a recurring one involving getting fucked, hard, by a smoking hot Catholic priest in traditional dress. In the church. On the altar. I look him in the eyes as I unbutton his black shirt from the bottom up, and stop just before I get to the white collar. He quickly unbuttons his pants and pulls out his hard dick and…well.

I told you I was kinky.

The Ten Commandments Are Pathetic As Moral Guides: How About An Alternative Set of Ten REAL Wellness Common Decency Commitments?

Preface: Ingersoll on the 10 Commandments

Some Christian lawyers – some eminent judges – have said and still say, that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of all law.

 

Nothing could be more absurd. Long before these commandments were given there were codes of laws in India and Egypt – laws against murder, perjury, larceny, adultery and fraud. Such laws are as old as human society; as old as the love of life; as old as industry; as the idea of prosperity; as old as human love.

 

All of the Ten Commandments that are good were old; all that were new are foolish. If Jehovah had been civilized he would have left out the commandment about keeping the Sabbath, and in its place would have said: ‘Thou shalt not enslave thy fellow-men … He would have left out the one about graven images, and in its stead would have said: ‘Thou shalt not wage wars of extermination, and thou shalt not unsheathe the sword except in self-defense.’

 

If Jehovah had been civilized, how much grander the Ten

Commandments would have been. All that we call progress – the enfranchisement of man, of labor, the substitution of imprisonment for death, of fine for imprisonment, the destruction of polygamy, the establishing of free speech, of the rights of conscience; in short, all that has tended to the development and civilization of man; all the results of investigation, observation, experience and free thought; all that man has accomplished for the benefit of man since the close of the Dark Ages – has been done in spite of the Old Testament.

 

~Robert Green Ingersoll, What Would You Substitute for the Bible as a Moral Guide? The Millennium Project.

Introductory Overview

This essay offers ten suggested decency commitments to Christians as a big improvement over the biblical 10 commandments.

The 10 commandments strike me as archaic, unhelpful and ill-fitted to the 20th century, let alone the 21st. Still relentlessly promoted by the Religious Right, a modicum of objective scrutiny suggests it’s time for a new and improved edition. If I were pope, head of a Protestant sect or a televangelist, I’d lead the way for major changes. I’d upgrade from ten negative, general and bossy shalt nots to a set of positive, specific and helpful common decencies. The decencies would be commitments from within, not commandments from without.

Since I’m a bit elderly and probably not in line for a leadership role in any religion, I’d better not wait too long. Or, delay at all. I’ll do it right now.

Monuments and Religious Freedom

Many religious people get quite irate when articles of their faith are questioned or when secularists object to intrusions of religion on public life. Consider, for example, the situation in Oklahoma concerning the placement of a 10 commandments monument, by a religious group with the endorsement of state officials, on state capital grounds. This display led to protests and legal challenges, which culminated on June 30, 2015 in a ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court directing removal of the monument. The Court held that its location violated a provision in the state’s constitution that no public money or property can be used either directly or indirectly for the benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination or system of religion. As concerns the historic purpose claims by the defendants, the Court found the 10 commandments to be obviously religious in nature and an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.

The governor of Oklahoma immediately declared her intent to defy the order. Not long ago, Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was ordered to do the same by a federal court, refused and was removed from office. The monument was then removed from the state capitol steps where Moore, in the middle of the night, had directed the monument’s placement. (The same Roy Moore, re-elected to his old job, is currently defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s by encouraging county clerks in Alabama not to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of the Court’s ruling granting equal rights to same sex couples.)

Setbacks to public piety of this kind are the lifeblood of Religious Right organizations, leaders and commentators, particularly national media hosts, such as those on the fair and balanced Fox News network. The latter were quick to declare that the Oklahoma court decision was an assault on religious freedom. Similar protests have been heard when devout shopkeepers discover that there are limits on their rights to deny service based on faith claims. Also, many Christians are flummoxed when secularists challenge tax exemption of church property, the granting of public funds for chaplains and the inclusion of a god reference in our currency and Pledge of Allegiance. Christian politicians who insist on prayers at government meetings and public schools feel victimized by secular objections to such practices.

History Or Evangelism?

In the Oklahoma case and elsewhere, religionists claim that their icons, such as the 10 Commandments, are historic, not religious. Such claims make one wonder: Do those making such statements understand the nature of the 10 Commandments? Polls have shown that most people asked to name the commandments can’t recall more than a couple, usually the ones forbidding stealing, murdering and coveting. Yet, Christians assert that every one these ancient rules are the foundation elements of our modern laws and the U.S. Constitution.

Therefore, It seems time for another look at the 10 commandments. In the 1940’s, I had to memorize these rules. Let me tell you about my early experiences in this regard.

My Early Years

I was raised in Southwest Philadelphia in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood. All of us little Catholic devils soon learned that we faced ghastly retribution in the afterlife if we died with a mortal sin on our souls. Mortal sins were (and probably still are) the Catholic equivalent of capital crimes, though most are punishable only in the next life. Preparing for that life while trying to do the right Catholic things in this one is the focus of being Catholic. Every believer discovers soon enough that he wants to go to heaven; no Catholic who takes the faith seriously wants to end up in the alternative destination.

We Catholic children at St. Barnabas learned that breaking a commandment was a mortal sin. We also learned that we had to get mortal sins off our chests (souls, actually) before perishing – die with one on your soul and you’re hell-bound. Period. No appeals, no clemency, no pardon – only everlasting doom! The nuns made it their business to remind us on a near-daily basis how important it was to avoid committing or, more practically, having these dreadful spiritual crimes forgiven, while alive, via the confessional box. Otherwise, we’d spend eternity in hell. Sister deChantel forecast a high probability that this was precisely where I was headed, unless I reformed my ways. She seldom resisted adding this zinger: And you won’t like that one bit, young man, I can tell you that.

As children, we of course believed everything the nuns and other adults led us to believe – about angels, devils, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, goblins – all of it. If I’d been brought up in ancient Greece I might have believed in Greek gods, but there I would have known they weren’t real. Not so with the god described by his agents at St. Barnabas. In the 40’s and 50’s, the Inquisition may have been over, but the nuns had not gotten word. Amongst my friends, non-conformity to religious norms, rituals, beliefs or traditions was not an option. In my neighborhood, nobody liked a “wise guy.” We went along with what we were told. And yet, we didn’t think about god very much, not even when marched into church on Sundays or during religion classes throughout the week. Church services and religion classes were times for fantasies, daydreams or planning fun things when church or school let out.

In my case, once a modicum of brain development and independent thinking came into play, parts of the religion were questioned, doubted and eventually challenged, tentatively at first. Soon enough, I decided things might not be quite as represented. I gave it all up for Lent – and never started up again. That was nearly 70 years ago.

Despite the fearsome consequences of an afterlife writhing in the fires of hell, commandments were broken. However, no worries, for confession was a readily available Catholic guilt resolution mechanism. After violating a commandment, all you had to do was tell a priest about it on a Saturday afternoon in a confessional box. All would then be forgiven and you would have a clean soul slate. There was a small price to pay, a punishment designed to motivate us little sinners not to transgress again. That was penance, which usually consisted of being assigned x number of prayers, depending on the number and type dispensed by the priest confessor. That was it. Once the prayer sentence was recited, all was forgiven, hell no longer loomed and I was seemingly heaven-bound (though I might have to suffer third degree burns in Purgatory for an indeterminate spell). The problem was it seemed impossible not to screw up again and again, given the nature and interpretation of the commandment prohibitions. This uncertainty, combined with my curious and somewhat rebellious nature, led to weekly offenses. As mentioned, the key to staying out of hell was not dying before seeing a parish priest or any priest, but preferably Father Doyle, who everyone knew doled out the least punishment (i.e., three Hail Mary’s). Then I was sin-free to go on about my business, which soon enough included falling off the hell-proof wagon.

So, that’s a short overview of my early experience with religion in general and 10 commandments in particular.

Ten Commandments

Let’s put aside the fact that displaying of 10 commandments on government property violates an established tradition of separating church and state. Another reason not to do this is because they are non-functional and unpleasant. They are medieval proscriptions; they are quite simply useless in most cases and self-evident in others. They don’t work as guides to morality on the issues of our time. To secularists, the 10 commandments are nothing if not bizarre.

Consider each of the following ten from the point of view of a secular citizen – and about a third of Americans are secular. (The version cited is found in Exodus 20:2-17.)

1. I am the lord your god, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.

What? Who are you again? Not my lord, not my god. I don’t believe in a lord, or a god. Egypt? What’s that got to do with me? No worries about other gods before anybody. They are all make believe.

Even as a small child, this did not apply. I had no clues about other gods. If I heard of one, it’s unlikely I would have violated this commandment. I was led to believe that this god was all-powerful, all-knowing, all this and all everything. Why shop around if you believed that, which before age ten or so I certainly did. Keeping this commandment was never a problem. Besides, I wasn’t brought out of Egypt by anybody, nor was I aware of anyone in my family being held in bondage.

2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the lord your god, am a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love me and keep my commandments.

As an adult freethinker, this comes across as crazy talk. As a small child, it was confusing, and easily put out of mind. Even then it made little sense, as there were images, which looked sort of carved, all over the place. The church itself was loaded with them, as were our classrooms. There was one in my bedroom and the dashboard of our car. Priests and nuns carried them around in processions and during assemblies. I didn’t get it, so I didn’t think about it. As with the first commandment, this was never mentioned in confession, for there was nothing to tempt a violation. I did wonder why a god that was so super would brag about or proclaim himself a jealous god. What did he have to be jealous about? And what about that threat to harm my children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren if I were bad.

That didn’t seem very nice.

3. You shall not take the name of the lord your god in vain, for the lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Being lord-free as an adult, this is senseless, but it was an issue in my early years.
I was not sure what the in vain phrase meant, but I assumed that it was not a good idea to say things like goddammit or Jesus or lots of other words that got a rise out of grownups. I heard many such words, though. I was surprised that the lines of sinners waiting for confessional boxes were not a lot longer on Saturday afternoons.

I also thought, then and now, that commandments two and three were similar, pretty much the same thing.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the lord your god. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. therefore the lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.

Oh boy, as an adult I have to wonder, Who would put up with this kind of bossiness? Why would anyone want to display such a statement anywhere, let alone a public place?
We had to go to Mass on Sunday – that seemed to satisfy this commandment. We could do what we liked the rest of the time without unhallowing the day, though a lot of stores were closed. I didn’t mind that so much and was not affected by the details of commandment number four. We owned no cattle (I lived in a row house in a big city), had no servants and I was too young to have a son or daughter. We had no strangers within our gates. We didn’t even have gates. And if they say God did all that in six days, well, he certainly seemed entitled to a day off, no doubt of that. But even then I failed to see what any of it had to do with me.

5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the lord your god is giving you.

I’m in favor of being respectful to all, appreciating sacrifices, treats, love and all the rest of a positive nature. Kindness would be invaluable even if it did not lengthen the day or whatever that phase attributed to honoring parents was about. I used to wonder about the the forms that honor was supposed to take, and whether there were exceptions for fathers and mothers (not mine, of course) who did awful things. Did they still have to be honored?
Yes, I tried to honor, not to mention obey, my parents. However, this was usually the “mortal sin” I’d mention in confession. I needed material, so number five became my bread and butter, go-to sin that I would confess to breaking several times a week. But, I was guessing if not inventing data – it could have been more or fewer transgressions, depending on what counted and what didn’t.

6. You shall not murder.

In my nearly 70 years as a non-Catholic, I did not murdered anyone. Honest. Never even tempted. I was pretty good without a god, and certainly would have been no better if I had been trying to apply these weirdo commandments. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to kill me, so this is just a self-interest thing, in addition to a fundamental decency. Who really needs to be commanded not to kill? I wonder: Did this commandment ever deter a homicidal maniac? I mean, think about it – a murderous mate could eliminate his spouse, go to confession (priests can’t rat a sinner out to authorities) and, three Hail Mary’s later, be in good standing with god and heaven-bound.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Well, that’s impossible. Besides, what, exactly is adultery? Wouldn’t you think cultural norms at the time when two stone tablets are alleged to have been given by God to Moses intended for the Israelites in the general vicinity of Mount Sinai might have been somewhat different from norms today? Even norms today are dramatically different across the globe (e.g., normal is a bit different in San Francisco and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia or Tehran, Iran).

8. You shall not steal.

A good idea, but there were shades of gray, as a child and ever since. Was it stealing to sneak treats before dinner? I suppose it was, come to think about it. In any event, this admonition was not much of a problem. I had what I needed and wanted, for the most part – it’s always easier to be virtuous when not desperate.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

No problem.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

Check. Our house was about the same as everyone else’s, and the ladies in the neighborhood were way too adult and often rather cranky. I had no idea why anyone would covet any of them. As already mentioned, neither our family nor anyone I knew had servants, male or female, let alone an ox or a donkey.

Adults raised without religion and others who, for varied reasons, came to question and eventually reject their childhood indoctrinations generally view the 10 commandments as antediluvian bromides, useless as a moral guide or code of conduct.

Certainly the list of shall and shalt nots are self-evident to anyone with an ounce of good sense. The rules or admonitions are hardly practical. The secularist is not likely to elevate false gods when he holds none to be real. How can believers be confident they’ve chosen or, more likely, been taught to adore the true god? Who needs a religion to know that it’s not OK to steal or, for God’s sake (just an expression!), murder people? All civilized societies forbid such crimes and punish (in this life) those who violate human rights. And why forbid coveting when it’s actions that matter? Why the big deal about your neighbor’s wife, which almost implies that other forms of coveting might be just dandy? Where would the advertising profession be if we did not covet stuff? Could there be a free enterprise economy?

Millions of people have been led to believe in deity-dictated commandments. Millions also believe religious leaders who proclaim that the commandments inspired the U.S. Constitution, were the foundation of Western laws and even morality, that they safeguard our liberties, secure our civilization and constitute revelations from the wisdom and love of God to the heart and brain of man. Millions go along with faith leaders who say they must be revered, obeyed and proclaimed. In short, millions of people remain respectful of these antiquated dictates. What are they thinking?

Maybe instead of ignoring the 10 commandments, secularists should remind believers what the commandments are all about, and encourage discussions about each one and note all manner of things not mentioned at all that would be good to discourage and, more important, encourage. How long could these follies stand up to a little objective scrutiny before the faithful realize that erecting monuments that promote them in public places might not be such a good idea?

Preface to the Ten Commitments

The following remarks were uttered by Robert Ingersoll during the final years of the 19th century.

We cannot depend on what are called ‘inspired books,’ or the religions of the world. These religions are based on the supernatural, and according to them we are under obligation to worship and obey some supernatural being, or beings. All these religions are inconsistent with intellectual liberty. They are the enemies of thought, of investigation, of mental honesty. They destroy the manliness of man. They promise eternal rewards for belief, for credulity, for what they call faith.

 

These religions teach the slave virtues. They make inanimate things holy, and falsehoods sacred. They create artificial crimes. To eat meat on Friday, to enjoy yourself on Sunday, to eat on fast-days, to be happy in Lent, to dispute a priest, to ask for evidence, to deny a creed, to express your sincere thought, all these acts are sins, crimes against some god. To give your honest opinion about Jehovah, Mohammed or Christ, is far worse than to maliciously slander your neighbor. To question or doubt miracles. is far worse than to deny known facts. Only the obedient, the credulous, the cringers, the kneelers, the meek, the unquestioning, the true believers, are regarded as moral, as virtuous. It is not enough to be honest, generous and useful; not enough to be governed by evidence, by facts. In addition to this, you must believe. These things are the foes of morality. They subvert all natural conceptions of virtue.

 

All ‘inspired books,’ teaching that what the supernatural commands is right, and right because commanded, and that what the supernatural prohibits is wrong, and wrong because prohibited, are absurdly unphilosophic.

 

And all ‘inspired books,’ teaching that only those who obey the commands of the supernatural are, or can be, truly virtuous, and that unquestioning faith will be rewarded with eternal joy, are grossly immoral.

 

Again I say: Intelligence is the only moral guide.

 

Robert Green Ingersoll, What Would You Substitute for the Bible as a Moral Guide,? The Millennium Project.

Summary

I have reviewed the nature of controversies surrounding the placement of religious icons in public places, summarized my early experience with religion and assessed the 10 commandments. Now, at last, I hereby unveil a promised set of updated moral guides better suited to modern times than the ancient Decalogue.

Enough of the overly negative, vague and bossy shalt not 10 commandments. My recommended 10 common decency commitments offer standards of behavior more personally honorable and socially beneficial than the proscriptions found in the 10 commandments. The major differences are that the common decency commitments are positive, specific and addressed to concerns vital to good order in 21st century society.

1. Be aware and respectful of nature, the environment and other life forms. while nourishing a sense of awe about the cosmos and the wonder and brevity of your existence.

 

2. Cultivate your mind: Be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world. (Robert Green Ingersoll)

 

3. Be a wise steward in caring for and enhancing the quality of your corporeal being – nourish it well while cultivating a high level of physical fitness.

 

4. Be independent and of service to others.

 

5. Be truthful, sincere, kind and honest.

 

6. Embrace responsibility for past and present outcomes and future possibilities.

 

7. Practice critical thinking – respect the demonstrated facts of science and the true history and nature of the world.

 

8. Promote peace and justice at every opportunity, in ways large and small.

 

9. Embrace the common decencies. The latter invite slightly more explication that the rest.

 

The list of such virtues could be quite extensive; however, mention of a few should convey the basic ideas. Some of these overlap with the ten noted above – they are important enough to repeat as a tenth commitment.

 

10. Common decencies include personal integrity (telling the truth, not lying or being deceitful), sincerity (e.g., candid, frank and free of hypocrisy), keeping promises (honoring pledges and agreements) and acting honorably (eschewing fraud and skullduggery). Other virtues deserving a place in your commitments to decency are trustworthiness, loyalty, dependability, reliability and acceptance of responsibility. Add benevolence, fairness, gratitude, respect for justice and equality, tolerance and a willingness to negotiate differences and you have a list sufficient for a worthy upgrade from the medieval 10 commandments.

Be well.

Brave New World.

amazonrecs Allegedly “inspired” by my recent browsing history—a 3 lb bag of apples that I am quite sure I never viewed (I’d buy Greenmarket apples, hello?)—Amazon has helpfully suggested the following products for me:

an 8 oz. bottle of coyote urine
1,500 live ladybugs
a $600 stage fan with wireless remote (“Great for blowing fog!”)

And now that I have actually viewed these items, OMFG I cannot wait to see what product suggestions Amazon will have for me next! How about a big rubber fish head mask? Glow-in-the-dark toilet paper? An iPhone case made out of astroturf? Ooh! Ooh! A Donald Trump board game!* The possibilities truly boggle the mind.

Another thought occurred to me, and I really have to check myself here because it sounds more than a little paranoid. See, I’m pretty sure Amazon.com employs some of the most sophisticated software available to generate product suggestions. These programs keep track of everything I’ve ever viewed and purchased from Amazon of course, and probably every other online transaction I’ve ever made and website I’ve visited, my Facebook posts and Tweets, what I ate for lunch today, plus whatever else can be hoovered up by Big Data bots. Naturally, Amazon also tracks what its other customers bought after they viewed a three pound bag of apples, and all of this information is compiled and analyzed for the purpose of generating ads for those products and services I am most likely to purchase. That’s its entire raison d’être: to extract the maximum amount of cash from the Palace treasury as efficiently as possible. And somehow, all of this data mining and number crunching has culminated in a prediction that I just might be in dire need of a $10 bottle of coyote piss.

Are you with me so far? Okay good.

The United States government presently deploys thousands of federal, state and local organizations to engage in domestic surveillance for the purpose (allegedly) of counterterrorism—although as Loyal Readers™ well know, these programs are spectacular failures in this regard, and one never needs to look very far or wait very long for even more evidence of this rather critical fact that is never, ever mentioned in media coverage. Based on what we know for certain, surveillance agencies such as NSAC use big data analysis just like Amazon does, except that instead of generating tempting ads for coyote pee, the objective (again, allegedly) is to discover terrorist suspects and so-called “clean skins.” That is,

“people with no known affiliation to terrorism or crime, needles in a giant haystack that don’t necessarily look like needles. Or people who aren’t needles at all, but who might become needles in the future and thus warrant observation today.”

In other words, the data sets and search algorithms are different, but the underlying concept of predictive software is the same. But how good is the government’s technology at identifying potential terrorists: does its software serve up better or worse results than Amazon’s coyote secretions?

The question is more than academic. Because what’s at stake here is much bigger than the potential US market for coyote urine (how do they even gather that by the way…?). It’s the likelihood that any one of us can be designated a potential terrorist threat by the state, based on data that may not even be accurate: recall that I neither searched for nor viewed (much less purchased) a bag of apples in the first place. It’s one thing to write fun blog posts about Amazon’s bizarre product suggestions, but just try arguing that the government’s data is wrong at your military tribunal.

And it’s not just the false positives that matter, it’s the misses. Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old Jordanian national born in Kuwait who visited the Middle East last year, just shot up a military recruitment center in a Chattanooga strip mall before attacking a Naval reserve center seven miles away, killing four Marines and wounding three others. He used an AK-47 style weapon‎ and had a fuckton of ammo in 30-round magazines. Yet before the shooting, none of his activities generated surveillance alerts or investigations by law enforcement?

All of which is to say—yet again—that mass surveillance is worse than useless, at least for its purported purposes.

Hey, does anybody have any good recipes for coyote pee?

__________
*Yes, these are all actual things sold on Amazon. Our civilization is imminently doomed, FYI.

Recent reads.

library4CRITICAL THINKING.

No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong. Rouner, J., Houston Press (Jul. 2015). [Unless of course we are talking about my opinion, in which case it is always 100% factually correct. :DEd.]

SCIENCE.

Humans are nowhere near as special as we like to think. Hogenboom, M., BBC (Jul. 2015). [Except for me, in which case I am exactly as Very, Very Special™ as I think. –Ed.]

POLICE.

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Not Talk to the Police. Agorist, M., The Free Thought Project (Feb. 2014). [Tl;dr: STFU. WARNING: taking this advice, or, alternatively, not taking this advice, may have fatal consequences depending on the melanin content of one’s skin. –Ed.]

Dashcam footage clearly shows the real reason Sandra Bland changed lanes in the first place. King, S., Daily Kos (Jul. 2015). [SPOILER ALERT! “the only reason she changed lanes, which the officer claimed was his rationale for pulling her over, was so that she could get out of the way for his patrol car.” –Ed.]

Iowa cops shot unarmed bystander 5 times, lied about the incident. RT (Jul. 2015).

One day after Sandra Bland’s death, 18-year-old Kindra Chapman was found dead in jail. Markus, B.P., Raw Story (Jul. 2015).

A Virginia Cop Pepper-Sprayed a Man Having a Medical Emergency. AJ+ via Facebook (May 2015). (VIDEO.) (“A Virginia police officer tased and used pepper spray on a man who was reportedly having a stroke because he wasn’t responding.”) [Bet you will never guess what color his skin is! Go on, guess! –Ed.]

HEALTH CARE.

semicoloncompSemicolon tattoos aren’t a trend. They’re a symbol of a silent fight. Anderson, E., BDCWire (Jul. 2015). (“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”) [See also: Project Semicolon, “to raise public awareness against depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.” –Ed.]

Terrible Doctors Are Uploading Selfies Taken Next to Women’s Vaginas During Childbirth. Schiller, R., Vice (Jul. 2015). [%$@&(^$@*! –Ed.]

Study: ‘Overwhelming Majority’ of Women Don’t Regret Their Abortions. Merlan, A., Jezebel (Jul. 2015). [I.e. 95% don’t regret aborting—and major factors cited by those who do are social support and…stigma. FUCK YOU, ANTI-CHOICERS. –Ed.]

HUMOR.

spacevampiresSome Very Deep Shower ThoughtsThe Poke via Reddit r/showerthoughts.[Hahaha. –Ed.]

THE BEDROOM.

6 Ways To Keep (Queer) Sex On Fleek In Long-Term Monogamous Relationships. Masucci, V., Black Girl Dangerous (Jul. 2015). [Great advice generally, i.e. not just applicable to monogamous or queer sexual relationships. –Ed.]

My Husband Had to Learn Sex Again, and I Had to Become One Tenacious Bitch. Lea, S., Alternet (Jul. 2015). (“Richard’s memory loss rocked our happy marriage. Our way back required arguments, patience and trips to Babeland.”)

MEDIA.

Bernie Sanders Blindsided by New York Times Blackout. Boardman, W., Reader Supported News (Jul. 2015).

The 6 Grand Illusions That Keep Us Enslaved. Fraud, S., True Activist (Jul. 2015).

Satanists are masters at trolling conservatives — just ask Megyn Kelly. Marcotte, A., Salon via Alternet (Jul. 2015).

ENERGY + ENVIRONMENT.

Congressional Republicans attack clean air, water and wildlife protections in budget process. Neff, S., Wisconsin Gazette (Jul. 2015).

Oh frack, now there’s radiation in Pennsylvania’s water. Gardner, F., Daily Kos (Jul. 2015). (“both samples had 60 times the EPA drinking water standard of 5 picocuries per liter…That stuff coming out of there will eventually get in your drinking water in Pittsburgh.”)

Here’s How You Can Make Meat Way More Sustainable. Johnson, N., Mother Jones (Jul. 18, 2015). (“You can be a carnivore and an environmentalist.”)

When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job. Richardson, J., Esquire (Jul. 2015) (“Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can’t really talk about it.”) [TODAY IN WE ARE SO FUCKED. –Ed.]

Major greenhouse gases hit record highs in 2014: report. Raw Story via Agence France-Presse (Jul. 2015). [MOAR FUCKAGE. –Ed.]

Denmark Just Produced 140% Of Its Electricity Needs Via Wind Power. Froelich, A., True Activist (Jul. 2015). [Yes We Can’t. –Ed.]

ECONOMICS.

How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis. Reich, R.R., The Nation (Jul. 2015). (“The investment bank made millions by helping to hide the true extent of the debt, and in the process almost doubled it.”) [Why, it’s almost as if economic crises are actually opportunities for America’s Owners!!!11!! –Ed.]

Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold: Barack Obama’s former top cop cashes in after six years of letting banks run wild. Taibbi, M., Rolling Stone (Jul. 2015). (“Holder will reassume his lucrative partnership…and take his seat in an office that reportedly – this is no joke – was kept empty for him in his absence.”) [Why, it’s almost as if there is no significant difference between our government and America’s Owners!!!11!! –Ed.]

RACE.

The Hard Truths of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Wallace-Wells, B., New York Magazine (Jul. 2015). An excerpt:

Coates is not a Christian. The heavy force in Between the World and Me — what makes it both unique and bleak — is his atheism. It gives Coates’s writing urgency. To consider the African-American experience without the language of souls and destiny is to strip it of euphemism, and to make the security of African-American bodies even more crucial. It also isolates him from the main black political tradition. “There’s a kind of optimism specifically within Christianity about the world — about whose side God is on,” he said. “Well, I didn’t have any of that in my background. I had physicality and chaos.”

“I have become radicalized,” he said.

This heroic tuba player followed a KKK march and gave it the soundtrack it always needed. Nedostup, M., Someecards (Jul. 2015). [HAHAHAHA! Mockery, FTW. –Ed.]

GUNS.

There have been 204 mass shootings — and 204 days — in 2015 so far. Ingraham, C., Washington Post (Jul. 2015).

DRONES.

Firefighters Can’t Help People In Burning Cars Because of a Stupid Drone. Walker, A., Gizmodo (Jul. 2015). (“five drones were in the air and ‘definitely’ delayed the firefighters’ response: Two drones actually gave chase to air units, and the incident delayed response by about 15 to 20 minutes.”) [A small price to pay for happy dronemaker profits! –Ed.]

POVERTY.

How School Districts Seal Their Students Into Poverty: A striking new map shows how districts’ property-tax funding system enforces divides between rich and poor. Bliss, L., CITYLAB (Jul. 2015).

The remarkably high odds you’ll be poor at some point in your life. Badger, E. and Ingraham, C., Washington Post (Jul. 2015). [Better start stockpiling those bootstraps—you’re gonna need ’em. –Ed.]

In Pennsylvania city, the poor are paying the price for a bad water deal. Cantú, A.M., Al Jazeera America (Jul. 2015). (“Beleaguered Coatesville sold its water system to a private company in hopes of fueling a turnaround that never came.”)

ACTIVISM, FEMINISM.

Malala Turns 18, And Opens A School For Syrian Refugee Girls. Bloch, A., NPR (Jul. 2015). [♥ ♥ ♥ !!! –Ed.]

__________

REMINDER: Acquisition of links for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization, source or individual.

A bigger pool.

My friend Tony over at The Shoops Roost is concerned that the new Palace pool just isn’t big enough to contain all of the gushing streams of hot conservative tears. At first, I considered installing a large waterfall feature to take up the extra volume. But Tony thinks I should just expand it to Olympic size:

olympicsizepoolNow that I think about it though, I figure it’s time to go big or go home. Behold the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake in Dubai:

640px-Dubai_Fountain_from_At_The_Top_of_Burj_Khalifaphoto credit: Nealt
[Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported]

It contains the world’s largest choreographed fountain system, and can launch 22,000 gallons of water into the air simultaneously. The “extreme jets” can shoot up to 500 ft high.

640px-Dubai_Fountain_7photo credit: Nealt
[Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported]

Surrounded by speakers that play a wide range of musical fare, the Dubai fountain is lit by 6,600 lights and 25 colored projectors. A fire feature was added a few years ago.

It’s obviously a bargain at only $218 million, but before I annoy the neighbors again with the renovations, I have to ask: is it big enough?

Introducing The Palace Pool.

scaliamantearsOn the happy occasion of the US Supreme Court’s same sex marriage decision, I noted that Antonin Scalia’s tears were the most delicious I had ever tasted. My cup runneth over, and I imbibed deeply.

*burp*

Excuse moi.

But then came more conservative tears—lots and lots more tears. Of course we had Justice Samuel Alito, Scalia’s #1 comrade in the War on Fucking, crying that the Obergefell v. Hodges case will be “used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” This heretofore unheard of “new orthodoxy” being, you know, the foundational (if elusive) principle of the United States and its constitution: equality. And for those who are unwilling to assent to equality, I can only say: yay for vilification! I AM ON BOARD, VILIFIERS. And Scalia’s BFF, Justice Clarence Thomas, wailed about “potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.” Hahaha. FYI doucheweasel: your religious liberty stops where human rights begin. Mmmkay?

*slurp*

Concerned Women for [sic] America bewailed the end of democracy. THE END OF DEMOCRACY, PEOPLE!!!!11!! Conservatives hate democracy at least as much as they hate Teh Ghey Sechs™, but it is kind of adorable when they bawl like babies about the end of the oligarchy under which we all presently live—one that conservatives are pretty much single-handedly responsible for bringing about.

We also learned that human shitsack and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is whimpering about “a national standard for marriage.” He said, and I quote: “I don’t think we can have a standard from one state to another on what marriage is.” I am actually worried about him. Does this poor man understand what Supreme Court decisions are? Hint: they can indeed ensure that we do not have a different standard from one state to another. And here’s the real kicker: Santorum wants a constitutional amendment “to define marriage the way it was defined for 4,000 years of human history.” Here comes polygamy! Women as chattel! And—my personal favorite—that biblical classic: marriage-by-rape + 50 shekels!

*slurp slurp*

Then there’s a d00d named Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of some outfit called the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which claims an affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention—

BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAMMING IN ORDER TO DELIVER THE CUSTOMARY PALACE “FUCK YOU” TO BAPTISTS, WHENEVER AND WHEREVER WE ENCOUNTER THEM, INCLUDING BRINGING THEM UP ON OUR OWN BLOG:

palacefuckyouOfficial Palace FUCK YOU.

WE NOW RETURN TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED CONSERVATIVE MOCKING.

Anyway, this Bethancourt character blubbered on and on about conservative Christians having become a “moral [sic] minority” living in a “post-Bible belt” America that discriminates against them. Let that sink in: America discriminates against Christians. Why, it’s almost as if they’re suggesting that discrimination would be wrong somehow. ?

Of course there are also legions of keening nobodies, like this one wondering what if ‘Murrikkka had as many Real Christians™ as gay activists what about that huh?

“What if a mere 3% of Americans were consecrated by the grace of God to the propagation of His Kingdom through loving obedience to His crystal clear command to take every thought captive and make obedient disciples of all nations (including – and starting with – our own)?”

We all know that 75% of US citizens identify as Christians, so maybe the word they meant to use was “Christo-fascists”? Or perhaps submissives? NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. (The submissives, not the Christo-fascists. There is plenty wrong with them.)

Then came the confederate flag sobbers. One precious manbaby called the police when he and like a hundred other douches had a confederate flag parade through Petersburg, Virginia—which is three-quarters black—and their Manly Man Trucks™ were pelted with water bottles.

manbabyflagtears“Waaaaaaaaaah!”

But that wasn’t the worst part for Chris Oliver, oh no. “The racial slurs are really what hurt me,” he said. “You know, it’s uncalled for. There’s no need for that in today’s society.”

O. M. F. G.

Brandy Burgess said she was crying even before the flag on the South Carolina capital grounds came down:

“It started coming down and I felt like part of my heart broke,” she said. “And when it did, everyone that was chanting ‘USA’ and all that, it felt like they were slapping me in the face. Me and my whole family.”

conservativetears“Boo-hooo! BOOHOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!”

Excellent work, people!

And this Saturday, the South Carolina KKK is having themselves a big snivel-fest over the confederate flag.

I gotta tell you, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of conservative tears in sight, at least in the near future. And when I realized I could no longer obtain the dozens of additional large (stylish) vessels I would need to contain them all, I did what any Humble Monarch™ worth her diamond-studded tiara would do: I put in a fabulous pool.

_________

 

palacepoolThe Palace pool.

As astute readers may note, the exquisite design of our new 25-meter pool is, um…an “homage to a similar one nearby. Palace staff and guests are welcome to enjoy the facility 24/7/365 (while supplies of conservative tears last). Well, with the exception of our notorious fuck parties, which are strictly invitation only.

John Boehner notwithstanding, delicious conservative tears have been a rarity during my lifetime. For one thing, right-wing types generally evince spittle-flecked rage in lieu of sadness whenever the moral progress of modern civilization threatens their sense of entitlement and Special Snowflakiness. More critically, the country has drifted ever further rightward over recent decades. Take “privatization,” that cornerstone of conservative economic dogma: prisons, health care, education, the military and even the most essential human requirement of water access are now run as profit centers instead of public resources and services. This has quite predictably created all sorts of fucked-up incentives, inefficiencies and evil effects. Even war profiteering, once universally reviled, is now The American Way®. The tragic results of conservative social and economic policies are all too obvious, and speak for themselves. And without sustained, significant pushback from an organized left—which has been all but nonexistent—a deadly right-wing feedback loop is an inevitable emergent property of the capitalist state.

What troubles me is that these recent fonts of abundant conservative waterworks are in all likelihood an aberration, rather than a portent of great social progress to come. Sure, there have always been and probably always will be bright spots, and those are worth fighting for and celebrating. But I happen to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates, and James Baldwin before him, that there is no good reason to believe that the long arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. Human apes are inevitably doomed by natural causes of course, but due to our unbridled greed, arrogance, ignorance, irrationality and propensity for ingenious and systematic violence (i.e. conservatism), our extinction will come much, much sooner than necessary, and at our own hands. That would not be an entirely bad thing, except that our crowning achievement, our most significant legacy, will be taking with us most (if not all) of Earth’s other inhabitants when we go. So while humanism may very well suit my moral instincts and temperament on a day-to-day basis over the tiny timescale of my lifetime, it simply finds no purchase with me intellectually. None. Readers may find this view bleak and pessimistic, and that may be true. But I do think the case is strong that it is realistic. It is also spectacularly freeing—not from the struggle that justice and joy demand from every one of us every single day—but from the foolish tyranny of apocryphal hope. Yes we can’t.

:D

So in the grand tradition of the Palace Abattoir we will simply replenish our salty liquid reservoirs as more conservatives have teary tantrums. And if the Abattoir is any indication, we will not be running low any time soon.

TL;dr: Dive right on in. The water’s nice and warm. Enjoy the Palace pool, filled to overflowing with hot conservative tears, for however fleeting a time it lasts.

Things I would wish upon my enemies.

A friend on Facebook posted this delightful chart, entitled “Things I would wish upon my enemies.”

gridwishorigWell done, DOGHOUSEDIARIES! Even the occasional occurrence of such plagues is annoying as fuck-all. Now I don’t know anything about these dog house diarists, so I can only guess at who their enemies are. (For all I know, this shit is directed at Your Humble Monarch™ personally.) But I do know exactly who my enemies are.

What’s that, you say? That you, Loyal Reader™—a generous and kind human being, a tax-paying solid citizen, a loving person, a live-and-let-liver—don’t have any enemies to speak of?

BZZZZZT.

You have enemies, whether you think you do or not. It’s true! There are armies of hateful asshats arrayed against you, right at this very moment, plotting and scheming your demise with glee. If you don’t believe it, well, that is purely a matter of projection on your part, since you cannot imagine yourself being a hateful asshat plotting and scheming a stranger’s demise (much less with glee). And this, my friends, is the liberal’s Achilles heel: we simply cannot believe people could truly harbor such a deep, abiding hatred for us, and sincerely want to see us utterly destroyed. They can, and they do.

Taken in that context, all of those things the dog house diarists wished upon their enemies are WAY too nice. (WAAAAAAAAYYYYY.) I have taken the liberty of revising the chart to indicate precisely how I would wish to afflict mine:

gridwishpalaceHave a nice day.

Theocracy Alert – Vouchers Mean We Will All Be Taxed to Support Superstition

The Religious Right is aggressively working nationwide to secure taxpayer money, that is, public funds, for religious education.

Public schools will suffer if the U.S. Congress passes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Write your Congressional representatives expressing opposition to the theocratic onslaught against our secular form of government. It’s not only Federal politicians, pressured by religious interests to fund their superstitions, who are constructing Trojan floats to parade into public schools. In Wisconsin and several other states, vouchers are advanced to undermine public (non-religious) anti-science education. The effect is to validate support for Catholic and other Christian sects that blend dogma with science to inculcate faith-based thinking. This is done with monies from all taxpayers, not just those who embrace irrational dogmas.

The Christian voucher movement is both expensive and unconstitutional. According to Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “The proposal in the (WI) state budget will set up two publicly supported statewide school systems, one of which will not be accountable to the public and whose primary purpose is largely to proselytize students.” According to the state Department of Public Instruction, aid for 55% of WI school districts for the coming school year will decrease, due to this program to aid religions.

That level of cuts affects 234 out of the state’s 424 public school districts. An existing cap of 1,000 student max for statewide vouchers is being removed gradually until, after ten years, there will be no cap. Welcome to the holy land.

Ms. Gaylor termed this action “a barefaced handout to parents seeking public dollars to pay for their children’s parochial schools.”

Children across the land may soon return to school districts that are underfunded because of actions by religious right extremists in Congress and in many “Red” states that fund private religious schools with everyone’s taxes.

FFRF, the American Humanist Association, the National Coalition for Public Education, the Secular Coalition for America and other groups supporting church/state separation are leading efforts to defeat the voucher movement. I have no doubt the award-winning Perry Street Palace also supports efforts to defeat this creeping theocracy. Please contact your Representative and Senators. Ask that they protect the separation of church and state. Ask that they oppose vouchers.

There is no question but that vouchers defund cash-strapped public schools to support private religious schools. This is a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars for religious instruction. Religious schools discriminate against teachers and students on the basis of religious belief and/or other factors.

This is a wellness issue affecting our personal liberties and the form of government we will have for years to come. Don’t stand by while taxpayer money goes to religious institutions. Do what you can to prevent government funding of private religious education.

Never forget what it was like when religions controlled what could be taught, said and believed. In a speech in the 19th century entitled, “Individuality,” the Great Agnostic Rbert Green Ingersoll said:

All the machinery of the church is constantly employed in corrupting the reason of children. In every possible way that are robbed of their own thoughts and forced to accept the statements of others. Every Sunday school has for its object the crushing out of every germ of individuality. The poor children are taught that nothing could be more acceptable to God than unreasoning obedience and eyeless faith, and that to believe God did an impossible act is far better than to do a good one yourself.

Do those of us who are not enamored of this kind of education want to pay for it? I don’t and I hope you don’t, either.

BREAKING: Palace Wins Major Award!

Blogger STH (“struggling toward hope”) at Living in Color has graciously bestowed upon Your Humble Monarch™ the highly coveted Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

veryinspiringbloggerawardSTH writeth about us thusly:

Perry Street Palace — Iris Vander Pluym’s palace of social justice, righteous outrage, and snark.  This post on abortion–well, just read it.

I sincerely thank STH for the recognition! That post she links was difficult to write, but it got loads of traffic, great comments and some nice signal boosts, so I guess it’s…good? (I’m partial to The Abattoir myself, but seriously wtf do I know? I’m a blogger. Albeit a VERY INSPIRING one.)

So here is how this is all supposed to go down: I am to inform you about the whys and wherefores of this prestigious award, and then present it to bloggers that have inspired me in turn. I clicked through to the blogger who nominated STH, and then followed a few more links back from there, and noticed that the award guidelines had been tweaked with almost every iteration. I have therefore taken the liberty to pick and choose between the versions among them, because (a) there is no rule that says I can’t, and even if there were, (b) rules are not the boss of me. One example: STH’s post says I need to nominate ten bloggers, while an earlier rule just said “other bloggers.” Well what if I can’t think of ten very inspiring bloggers right now, and someone worthy ends up getting left out and feeling dissed? Or what if I think of more than ten? Then I would have to weigh them all against each other to cull the list? No. This “ten” rule is obviously going to create WAY too much pressure, and since I fully intend to enjoy this exercise I will be awarding the award to “other bloggers,” and leaving it at that.

Now all of this may sound like nothing more than a silly and pointless chain letter to you, but I assure you it is not: it is a VERY IMPORTANT Very Inspiring Blogger Award—and I have won it fair and square.

Wait, are blogs even A Thing anymore? Well, whatever.

__________

So, what is the Very Inspiring Blogger Award?

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award is an award given to bloggers from fellow bloggers. It recognizes bloggers who work hard to keep the blogosphere a beautiful place.

Award Guidelines:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog. [Done and done.]
  2. Display the award logo in a blog entry. [Done.]
  3. List the award guidelines so your nominees will know what to do. [Aaaaand here they are. You are actually reading them right now!]
  4. State 7 hidden facts about yourself OR 3 things that inspire you. [See below.]
  5. Nominate other blogger friends for the award. [As many or as few bloggers as you feel like, or, you know, none. You’re welcome!]

 __________

“7 hidden facts about myself OR 3 things that inspire me?” Listen, it’s a pretty good bet that if there are indeed any hidden facts about myself—and for the record, I am neither confirming nor denying that there are—they would be hidden for very good reasons, and it would not serve me well to reveal them here.

But okay, I’ll give up one. As much as I looooove these shoes, I really have no need for them because my feet already look exactly like this:

tentacleshoesRather than continue to annoy you with nine more similarly “revealing” “facts,” I’ll take door number two: 3 things that inspire me.

Art. Construed broadly, so as to include everything you’re probably thinking of like music, movies and writing, but also innovative cuisine. And architecture. And cocktails. And Banksy.

Science. I.e., the natural world, and what we can know about it.

New York City. The only place that has ever felt like home.

Finally, in no particular order, here are some bloggers I find very inspiring—and to the extent I can parse it, why. (My usual disclaimer applies: inclusion here does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with any particular individual and their every post. That list would contain approximately zero entries.)

rancidhoneytrapheaderThe Rancid Honeytrap. Tarzie is a brilliant and scathing critic of professional liberals. He notes that “what most people regard as the American left is largely a status-quo fortifying fraud, regardless of how its individual members see themselves, and that exposing and ridiculing this fraud is a good thing.” I could not agree more. Mocking the Christian right and Republicans is as easy as shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel: hell, I have pointed out here on many occasions that it’s even easier than that, because conservatives helpfully mock themselves on a regular basis. All I have to do is point you to them and my work is done (which obviously suits my Lazy Royal Arse™ just fine). It is much more challenging and, I would argue much more necessary, to directly critique what passes for “the left,” which has drifted ever further rightward for at least my lifetime. Our public and media discourse is so stultifyingly restricted and narrow that people actually believe Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and their compatriot Democrats are actually bona fide lefties. Except for mocking them, I want absolutely nothing to do with either of them, their shitty political party, or their media supporters and enablers, all of whom entrench and reinforce an unsustainable, imperialist, sexist, white supremacist, Christianist, planet-destroying, brutally violent, corrupt, oligarchical, hierarchical, ubercapitalist status quo. That is the very definition of conservatism, people. Regardless of whether or not I ultimately agree with his analysis or conclusions, Tarzie never fails to remind me to view with a critical eye those narratives I may find intuitively appealing and…convenient.

Tl;dr: I wanna have Tarzie’s rancid baybeez.

gradientlairheaderGradient Lair. Trudy’s is the quintessential “womanist blog about Black women and art, media, social media, socio-politics and culture.” It will not be lost on Loyal Readers™ that our White Supremacist culture—and this includes White feminism—fails Black women in uniquely terrible ways. As a card-carrying member of the STFU and Listen School of Allyship™, I have benefited tremendously from Trudy’s perspective. I ain’t gonna lie: sometimes her trenchant observations really, really sting. And that of course is a gift, not just because it inspires self-reflection and personal growth, but because it broadens my understanding of the world in which all of us find ourselves. Her prolific output, large following on multiple social media platforms, and honesty about her vulnerabilities unfortunately attracts an endless torrent of abuse from Capital A Assholes of all races and genders. It’s like sharks to blood in the water. (Okay, that was an entirely unwarranted insult to sharks, which are ridiculously cool animals. I’M SORRY SHARKS!) I am also wowed and inspired by the gorgeous images Trudy frequently posts that celebrate vibrant and diverse Black womanhood and Black art: frankly we could all use more exposure to non-Eurocentric standards of female beauty, and that certainly goes for Whitney McWhitepersons like yours truly.

pharyngulaheaderPharyngula. There’s a reason PZ Myers is the Palace’s Patron Saint. Many reasons, actually, including taking strong stands for liberalism, feminism, racial inequality, science- and evidence-based reasoning, and the moral and political implications of atheism. He takes a ton of shit for it, too, mainly from the White Douchebro Atheist Brigades and their poo-flinging flying monkeys, but also from creationists and the incorrigibly religious. Fortunately for us, though, these clashes often result in biting comedy gold. YMMV of course, but for me PZ hits the infotainment sweet spot, and his commentariat is eagle-eyed and notoriously ferocious with bullshitters of every stripe. Years ago as an Internet fledgeling I cut my teeth at Pharyngula, and I have met some amazing people via that site. Also: cephalopods. So, you know, WIN.

seriouslyheaderSeriously?!? Feminace describes herself as “low-income, disabled, and snarky.” And oh, her snark is sublime. Consider this gem from her recent piece A Prescription from Dr. Feminace, PH.D of Done With This Shit:

You’re missing the point so hard that you can’t catch a fucking clue with clue bait, a clue hunting rifle and covered in clue pee in the middle of clue hunting season.

She is a reproductive justice activist and clinic escort, a gamer and a geek—and in her spare time she writes dirty novels. I FUCKING LOVE THIS WOMAN.

shoopsroostheaderThe Shoops Roost. My friend Tony is a fellow Pharyngulite, a hawt d00d, and a fierce Social Justice Warrior who writes about LGBT issues (he lives them!), feminism (he’s for it!), and racial inequality (he lives that too—and he’s against it!). Tony is also a professional bartender by trade, ahem. All of this is why, were it not for my undying devotion to My Amazing Lover™ AND OH YEAH THE FACT THAT TONY IS GAY, I would be writing this post from Florida where he lives and relentlessly cajoling him into marrying me. OBVIOUSLY. Tony is also a Loyal Reader™, commenter and supportive fan of the Palace’s trademark snarkittude. The other day he had either a massive brain fart or a flash of brilliance when he proposed that we join forces for a podcast, “Tea Time With Iris and Tony,” wherein we (a) discuss, you know, stuff, and (b) presumably reclaim tea for the left. (Mar-Tea-ni, anyone?) If that isn’t inspiring some serious Next Level shit, well, I don’t know what is.

shakesvilleheaderShakesville. Melissa McEwan is a relentless advocate for intersectional feminism, which is inspiring enough, but the sheer amount of thoughtful and eloquent content she generates on a regular basis is nothing short of astonishing. She has more than once opened my mind up to seeing social justice issues in new ways, and her blog roundups have turned me on to many other amazing writers (e.g. Trudy at Gradient Lair). Perhaps most inspiring, Liss and her mods maintain a truly safe space on the Internet, like a cool oasis in a scorching desert—no small feat, to put it mildly, particularly when she has been the target of relentless threats and abuse, online and in meatspace, for years. And yet she soldiers on. FUCK YEAH.

mofonationheaderMofoNation. Elyse is one of the most gifted writers I know—and one of the bravest. If you want to understand what feminists deal with on the Internet, just read the comments on virtually any of her recent posts. In response, she has decided that rather than taking the “safe space” approach à la Shakesville, i.e. blocking and deleting the comments of shitweasels who viciously berate and threaten her, she plans to leave every shitty comment on the record:

I was told to be quieter and ask my fellow feminists to be quieter, too. But also, that hides the abuse. It doesn’t take it off me. It doesn’t make it so I do not endure it. It moves it to a place where others do not have to see what is being done and said. And I won’t do that.

I want it on full display. I want for people to be able to see what uttering feminist words does. I want people to see.

So I am doing none of those things. I turned off comment moderation. I turned off comment flagging. I brought on one person to help me manage comments for threats against me and my family, but informed that person to never delete a single comment.

Just…wow. To be clear, I am not saying that I admire this approach over Shakesville’s; people can and should curate their blog comment sections however they see fit. I’m for “all hands on deck” approaches to most problems, and this one is no exception.

bitchesgottaeatheaderBitches Gotta Eat. Samantha Irby is a Chicago-based comedian and author who never, ever fails to elicit howling gales of laughter from the core of my very being. She suffers from Crohn’s disease, which is not fucking funny in the least, but the way she writes about it sure is (see: “i wore a diaper to speed dating.” OMFG). She somehow manages to be simultaneously crude and classy, disgusting and dignified, misanthropic and humanistic. I love the way she plays with language and storytelling: it’s unorthodox and can sometimes be jarring, but for that very reason she pushes me out of my comfort zone as a writer, and thereby sparks new possibilities. Her blog has no comment section; in light of the above, this policy should be perfectly understandable.

pervocracyheaderThe Pervocracy. Cliff’s palace of kink is a treasure trove of BDSM advice and uproarious critiques of sexism from a sex-positive feminist perspective. His series on the incomprehensibly terrible of Fifty Shades of Grey is a goddamn masterwork. I find Cliff’s writing inspiring not just for his wicked wit, but for his nuanced thinking and honesty about deeply personal experiences with sexuality, gender and intimate relationships.

wehuntedthemammothheaderWe Hunted the Mammoth. David Futrelle expertly, hilariously and mercilessly mocks the manosphere, but believe it or not that isn’t why I find him inspiring. It’s because he deploys his (male) privilege to take a principled stand against oppression that doesn’t directly target him: misogyny. That is the kind of writer and ally I aspire to be: one who infotains, yes, but also one who signal boosts the voices and perspectives of those whose lived experience does not comport with the false and harmful narratives that dominate our culture—be they racial, sexual, nativist, class- or ability-based, or otherwise.

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That was ten? Well crap: |

When I started this little blog venture, I really didn’t know whether I would (or should) persist with it. I had no idea whether I would find my own voice as a writer, and I definitely did not know whether anyone, anywhere, would find my rantings worth their time to read. But to my great surprise, my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ answered those questions in the affirmative, for which I am so very grateful. Thank you, all of you, for your encouragement. And an extra special shout-out goes to my co-bloggers SJ and Don Ardell, for making the Palace a much better place than I could possibly make it alone.

Please join us in the Palace Bar today to celebrate our very important Very Inspiring Blogger Award. We will be serving champagne, and cookies from Sweet Corner Bakeshop. Breakfast of champions.