Election Day!

It’s election day, and I am determined to exercise my hard-won right to vote! Naturally I want to make an informed decision, because DEMOCRACY!!11!!!! is depending on me! I looked up the election voter guide for my district, and saw that the only candidates up for election today are judges. But that’s okay! The judicial branch of our government is important, people. Now, I have mixed feelings about judicial elections: unlike lifetime court appointments, election requirements make judges much more likely to become beholden to special interests (consciously or otherwise). On the other hand, just imagine what our world might look like if we could vote Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito off of the Supreme Court, and replace them all with Ruth Bader Ginsburg clones. Just sayin’.

Anyway, here is what’s on my ballot today! Exciting!

electionSo for New York Supreme Court Judicial District 1, I get to select five Justices out of a total of… five candidates.  : |

But hey, at least I get to vote for Judge of Manhattan County Civil Court!

Wait. WHAT.

There is only one candidate on the ballot.


In case you are unaware, the political system here is exactly as beholden to real estate developers as the US Congress is to the banksters, a state of affairs which I hardly need to spell out for Loyal Readers™ of this blog. This is how we end up with people in power like the odious Democratic former City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn: the infamous New York Democratic Party Machine simply picks its preferred candidates for us, and we lucky citizens get the honor and privilege of voting for them! Hooray.

Now obviously this situation is totally different than when Saddam Hussein held an election in 2002, and was the only candidate on the ballot. That was VERY BAD, and so of course the US tsk-tsked and scolded all those silly backwards Iraqis: YER DOO’IN DEEMOCKRISSY RONG, we ‘splained—right before illegally invading and utterly destroying that country, killing untold numbers of innocent civilians and displacing millions more:

Iraqi officials say President Saddam Hussein has won 100% backing in a referendum on whether he should rule for another seven years. There were 11,445,638 eligible voters – and every one of them voted for the president, according to Izzat Ibrahim, Vice-Chairman of Iraq’s Revolutionary Command Council.

The government insists the count was fair and accurate.

Saddam Hussein – who has ruled Iraq since 1979 – was the only candidate.

Before the vote, Washington dismissed the referendum as a farce after the last such vote gave the Iraqi leader 99.96% support.

“Obviously it’s not a very serious day, not a very serious vote and nobody places any credibility on it,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday.


TL;dr: who should I write in on my ballot today?


Iris has a terrible headache from drugs.

Here we have a promoted story from The Washington Post highlighting a recent “scandal,” whereby some douchebro Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of an off-patent AIDS drug by like 5,000 percent or something, and now the entire Internet hates him. Even all the other drug companies hate him! The Post reports:

The major pharmaceutical and biotech industry groups have portrayed Shkreli’s actions as totally repugnant and the work of just one company, acting alone, with a flippant young chief executive who doesn’t reflect the broader values, practices, or trends of other companies.

Hahaha. Sure. The Post article proceeds to demonstrate that this is rank bullshit:

For example, tetracycline, an antibiotic discovered in 1948, cost 5 cents for a 500 milligram capsule back in November of 2013…Nearly two years later, it’s coming in at $11 a pill — a nearly 2,200 percent increase. Clomipramine, an antidepressant developed in the 1960s used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, cost 22 cents per pill in November 2012. Now, it’s $8.17 — a 3,600 percent increase.

In 2010, Amedra Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to abendazole, an off-patent drug used to treat intestinal parasites. At the time, the average wholesale price of the drug was $6 a day. By 2013, it was $120 — a nearly 2,000 percent increase.

These are hardly the only egregious examples the Post could have mentioned: this nifty interactive infographic from Bloomberg charts 74 top-selling drugs for which the cost increased in the US between 2007 and 2014 by at least 75 percent, and sometimes many multiples of that. Why, one might be inclined to wonder what’s going on here with all these skyrocketing drug prices. Alas, the Post only offers: “The trouble is this: right now, we can’t tell why prices are high, or even if they are high.”


Oh wait, no. No, it’s not. See, drug prices are not this high everywhere else, or even anywhere else: USians pay from two to six times more than the rest of the world for pharmaceuticals. Why?

Well, the short answer is that US taxpayers and consumers massively subsidize the world’s pharmaceutical research costs. For a more comprehensive answer, anyone (presumably including the bewildered author of the Post piece) can read an in-depth article at Medscape Medical News entitled, appropriately enough, Why Are Drug Costs So High in the United States?

But that is not our forte at the Palace. Here, we will just want to highlight a few perverse and corrupt policies that impact US drug pricing, and what is responsible for them. SPOILER ALERT: it’s conservatism.

Econ 101: desperation vs. demand. 

In the mythical world of the Free Market™, buyers and sellers will come to a compromise on the price for goods and services: too high, no one will buy; too low, and sellers will not have viable businesses. This is the storied principle of supply and demand, blah blah blah. But when it comes to health care, the “demand” side of the equation is driven by factors very different from those that drive demand for ordinary consumer goods. We are talking about human suffering, often profound, and sometimes the kind where life and death hangs in the balance. When that suffering human is you—or your child, or indeed anyone you love—you will pay anything for medicine and appropriate care, even if it means you lose everything.

Even post-ACA, health care is still the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the US:

A recent Harvard University study showed that medical expenses account for approximately 62 percent of personal bankruptcies in the US. Interestingly, the study also showed that 72 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy due to medical expenses had some type of health insurance.

That said, the ACA is having a positive effect on some cost-related trends. For example, in 2012, 80 million people “didn’t visit a doctor or clinic for a medical problem, didn’t fill a prescription, skipped a follow-up, treatment or test, or did not get needed specialist care” because of the cost. Two years later, only 66 million people reported the same. That trend is encouraging, and so is the fact that in 2014 almost 9 million more people had health insurance coverage than in 2013, bringing the total share of uninsured down to 10.4 percent.

Now I really hate to be a Debbie Downer here, but I would be remiss if I did not point out that (a) bankruptcy and poverty are terrible fucking outcomes, (b) 33 million of us still remain uninsured, and (c) the 66 million of us who delayed or denied ourselves health care because we could not afford it is greater than the total population of the UK, where no citizen faces any of these problems for accessing health care. Ever. Nor do all 35,749,600 Canadians.

The ACA is based on a for-profit (read: conservative) health care reform model, one that Mitt Romney rolled out statewide as governor of Massachusetts. It did not slow medical bankruptcies there.

Price negotiation.

Elsewhere, single-payer and nationalized systems like the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) negotiate a single price with drug manufacturers for the entire country’s supply. By contrast, the US “system,” if one can even call it that, is mainly comprised of multiple for-profit insurance companies and hospital systems, all running countless different programs and plans, each of which negotiates pricing separately. In this scenario the sole supplier of any drug, patented or generic, has the upper hand. But where there are only a few large payers—or only one—drug companies are forced to come to the table and offer a reasonable price if they want access to that market.

And here’s the kicker: government-run Medicare, one of the largest payers for prescription drugs, is prohibited by law from negotiating drug pricing. You read that right. This was already true before the ACA, which only cemented it. That is because pharmaceutical companies got what they wanted with the ACA: “We got a good deal,” wrote Bryant Hall of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the largest, most influential lobbying groups in Washington.

One need look no further for proof of the power of negotiation than the government-run Veterans Administration, which is not barred from negotiating drug prices: costs run 25% to 50% lower than Medicare.

In 1992, federal Medicare spending on drugs was $400 million. By 1999 it was $7 billion. By 2013, $50 billion. Gosh, I wonder what it’ll be in a decade? EXCITING.


The ACA also banned reimportation: US patients cannot legally purchase less expensive drugs from another country like Canada. While the ACA was being cooked up by lobbyists and the Democratic president behind closed doors, PhRMA lobbyist Bryant Hall wrote that “WH [the White House] is working on some very explicit language on importation to kill it in health care reform.” Neat, huh?

But don’t you feel left out, my Canadian friends! PhRMA is coming for you, too:

“America’s big drug companies are intensifying their lobbying efforts to ‘change the Canadian health-care system’ and eliminate subsidized prescription drug prices enjoyed by Canadians” … “A prescription drug industry spokesman in Washington confirmed to CanWest News Service that information contained in confidential industry documents is accurate and that $1 million US is being added to the already heavily funded drug lobby against the Canadian system.” PhRMA was the leading drug industry trade group behind the increased lobbying and PR campaign. PhRMA was also independently spending $450,000 to target the booming Canadian Internet pharmacy industry, which has been providing Americans with prescription drugs at lower prices than in the United States.

And the UK’s NHS is barreling down the same road.

But fret not. This is only happening because Free Market™ health care is SUPER AWESOME! Once people wake up and smell the freedom, they will never want to pay reasonable prices for drugs again.

Comparative drug review.

Other countries compare drugs to determine whether a new, higher-cost treatment is any more effective than existing alternatives. These investigations can inform price negotiation, or determine whether a drug gets approval at all. In the US, our FDA has no legal authority to consider pricing, or to compare medications to one another. Even if it did have the authority, FDA does not even have the resources to confirm that data supplied by drug companies is accurate and complete—or, you know, not. Conservatives, chronically infected with deregulatory fever, will never task a federal agency with assessing the value of a new drug. After all, that might interfere with the Free Market™ gouging US patients on drug pricing. NO ONE WANTS THAT.

But what about research and development huh what about R&D?

The pharmaceutical industry defends its US pricing more or less thusly: it costs over a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market, and furthermore, more drugs fail to make it than succeed. We want to incentivize new and better drugs, don’t we?

YES! And that is why US taxpayers fund 85% of the basic research. No wonder US companies generate most new drug discoveries! GO USA! We also helpfully elect corrupt politicians who let the industry’s lobbyists write our nation’s health care laws. Yet strangely, we get nothing in return for any of this, while other countries reap the benefits. Consider the new hepatitis C drug, sofosbuvir. US patients will pay $80,000 to $160,000 for a course of treatment, while in Egypt and India the manufacturer has agreed to charge $900 per patient. And it’s still enormously profitable: a course of sofosbuvir costs only $138 to produce.

Nobody disputes that it’s a risky and expensive proposition to develop a new drug. But they do dispute the numbers. An oft-cited analysis by the Tufts Center pegs the development cost for a new drug at about $1.3 billion. Hagop M. Kantarjian, MD, professor and chair at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, begs to differ. In a 2013 paper he co-authored on cancer drug costs, Dr. Kantarjian and his colleagues suggest the actual figure might be as low as 10% of that:

“The figure may be inflated, because it includes ancillary expenses, salaries, bonuses, and other indirect costs not related to research or development, as well as an 11% compounded discount rate over 10 years based on stock market returns on capital investment,” they write. “Other independent estimates of cost of drug development put the figure as low as 4% to 25% of this estimate.”

Moreover, “R&D” for some new drugs apparently means “buying a smaller company that already did the R&D.” Gilead’s sofosbuvir, the hepatitis C wonder drug, is once again illustrative. When Gilead bought Pharmasset, Inc. in 2012 for $11.2 billion, Pharmasset reported $62 million in R&D costs over the three years to develop sofosbuvir (out of $177 million spent on R&D company wide over the same period). Before the Gilead buyout, Pharmasset was planning to make a reasonable profit selling sofosbuvir at $36,000 for a course of treatment; Gilead is now charging $80,000 to $160,000. Unless you live in Egypt or India, of course—then it’s only 900 bucks. FREE MARKET™ HEALTH CARE, everyone.

Another analysis published in the BMJ estimates the typical R&D cost at between $60 million and $90 million. But even if the $1.2 billion figure is accurate, there is no justification for US taxpayers and patients disproportionately footing the bill. Especially when we pay dearly in other ways, too: with people bankrupted for accessing life-saving medication, or going without it altogether.

There is a solution: Medicare For All, where “all” includes congresscritters. Just for starters, you would see drug prices negotiated so fast it would make your head spin, and we’d all find just how far they can fall. We really could have a less corrupt and more equitable system, in which corporate greed is not the driver of pharmaceutical innovation or pricing—human health is. But it’s just not going to happen unless and until we find the cure for conservatism. And it sure as shit isn’t in the interests of the pharmaceutical industry to cure that.

And listen. Lest you think I’m just a lefty kook talking out of my ass with no skin in this game: I am alive today only because of pharmaceutical innovations and the privilege to access them affordably. I’m a Type 1 diabetic, and I inject two different bio-engineered insulin analogs daily. I also take several oral medications to mitigate or prevent complications of the disease. I am grateful for this every fucking day. My grandmother’s generation had few alternatives to pig-derived insulin, which could be suddenly and violently rejected at any time by the body’s immune system (sometimes causing premature death), and rendering it useless as an intervention such that the disease would take its natural course (always causing premature death). In fact, as a young adult my grandmother’s sister died from complications of Type 1 diabetes.

I am not arguing for abolishing profits and nationalizing the drug companies. (Not yet, anyway. But if they keep this shit up I just might.) Again, I am arguing for a less corrupt and more equitable paradigm, wherein corporate greed is not the primary driver of pharmaceutical innovation or pricing—human health is.


Drones vs. anti-drone laser cannons for fun and profit. UPDATED. UPDATE 2.


Loyal Readers™, prepare to be dazzled—if unsurprised—by my astonishing prescience.

Early last week I was dining with My Amazing Lover™, and of course the topic of drones naturally came up. We were discussing the article by The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock that I had linked in one of my Recent Reads roundups; thanks to a whistleblower at FAA, we now know about the 700 near-collisions between planes and drones this year (so far).

“But don’t worry about it!” I scoffed. “Drone manufacturers will surely come up with a perfect solution to the very drone menace they created! Then our tax dollars will not only pay for drones themselves, we’ll also happily pay America’s Owners for the technology to neutralize them! WIN-WIN!”

We ordered another bottle of rosé. It was half-price bottle night! But let’s face it, we would have ordered another one anyway.

And then lo and behold, on Wednesday morning Boeing debuted its new compact drone-blasting laser cannon!

dronelasercannonImage: Jordan Golson/WIRED

Isn’t it cute? It looks like the infant spawn of R2D2 and the girl robot from WALL-E!

ever2d2^These two are working for Boeing now, OBVIOUSLY.

The adorable little laser weapon is designed specifically for turning drones into flaming piles of wreckage. The device is controlled with a standard Xbox 360 controller, and no, I did not just make that up. (“If it breaks, just head to the barracks to get a replacement!”).

In the demo, Boeing used the laser to burn holes in a stationary, composite UAV shell, to show how quickly it can compromise an aircraft. Two seconds at full power and the target was aflame…the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes.

Front_View_2kW_Session_1GIF: Boeing.

What could possibly go wrong shooting high power laser beams at drones buzzing around commercial aircraft? FLAMING WRECKAGE FTW.

And what a business opportunity! The market is huuuuge, and I’m not just talking about every single airport in the U.S. (and beyond), or even the military. Last month, drones chased away firefighting helicopters from burning cars on a California highway, which means that every municipal fire department requires a laser cannon, too. There has been a rash of drones dropping all sorts of contraband—weed, weapons, heroin, porn—into prison yards in Ohio, Maryland, South Carolina and probably other places where they went undetected. Boeing blasters on top of every guard tower, anyone? Hundreds of stadiums need laser beam drone exploders, amid growing concerns about all those drones flying overhead. Better to have flaming drone wreckage falling on football fans and players than take a chance on nefarious jihadi plots involving unmanned aerial vehicles, amirite? It would certainly make watching the games much more interesting, that’s for sure. Oh and remember last year when I told you about that 400 pound military drone that crashed landed at a Pennsylvania elementary school? There are a hundred thousand or so public schools in the U.S., and all of them now require an advanced laser weapon. And a working Xbox controller.

And why stop there? The Second Amendment surely guarantees that anyone in the market for a drone blasting laser cannon should be able to get one from Boeing. I’ll certainly need a few of these babies myself, stationed atop the Palace turrets. I’ll be a goddamned one-woman well-regulated militia, necessary to the security of a free state! Whoo-hoo!



Now that you are utterly in awe of my psychic prediction powers, here are some super fun facts about The Boeing Company:

droneattackBoeing’s Unmanned Little Bird H-6U drone under laser attack by Boeing’s new Compact Laser Weapon System.
(Artist’s rendering.)

  • Boeing paid no federal taxes from 2008 to 2010, instead receiving $178 million in tax rebates on profits of $9.7 billion. It spent $52.29 million on lobbying during the same period, when the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.
  • In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama “was by far the biggest recipient of campaign contributions from Boeing employees and executives, hauling in $197,000 – five times as much as John McCain, and more than the top eight Republicans combined.”
  • Since 2008, Boeing has laid off 14,862 workers. In 2010 it increased pay for its top five executives to $41.9 million—a 31% raise.

Have a nice day.

*Okay, anyone with even a minimal understanding of how U.S. capitalism and government work would have predicted precisely this development. But My Amazing Lover™ sure seemed quite impressed with me as I jumped around the Palace animatedly, shrieking “Didn’t I JUST SAY this would happen?! Huh? Weren’t we JUST TALKING about this?!” All right, so maybe “impressed” isn’t exactly accurate. But it’s what I’m going with, people.


Two things pinged my radar after posting yesterday:

Just a little reminder, from the Palace Library archives:

A study conducted by a US military adviser has found that drone strikes in Afghanistan during a year of the protracted conflict caused 10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft.


It turns out you don’t need a Boeing laser cannon to take down a drone after all: chimpanzees with sticks can get the job done quite nicely.

Plus, you have to admit it would be so awesome having a bunch of chimps hanging around all our airports, prisons, schools and stadiums.

IMAGE 5Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird H-6U drone under attack by chimpanzees with sticks
(Author’s rendering.)

Anybody know whether the chimps have a lobbyist yet? Asking for a friend…

BREAKING: Martin O’Malley announces announcement.

Governor Martin O’Malley has just announced an announcement, and also announced a website announcing the announcement:

Join me on May 30th at 10am on Federal Hill in Baltimore for a special announcement. http://omalleyannouncement.com/

omalleyannounceLoyal Readers™ will recall that Your Humble Monarch® has been selflessly volunteering her time and talents to help her BFF Martin O’Malley’s pre-presidential pre-campaign (while secretly working on a national write-in campaign for Snowden/Manning 2016 on the FUCK YOU party ticket).

At this time, however, all I am authorized to tell you is this:


Have a nice day.



Ask Iris: How can that happen?

I’ve been conversing in the comments on my seminal post on Conservative Personality Disorder with reader jim davis, who asks: “Why don’t progressives use facts and statistics to make their case?” He then provides irrefutable evidence—in the form of facts and statistics—that the (conservative) economic policies enacted over the past decades have utterly failed the American public and systematically devastated the middle and lower classes.

I responded that the utility—or futility—of deploying facts as a method of political persuasion depends on one’s target audience, and that unfortunately, for many of our fellow citizens facts are not only irrelevant, but exposure to facts can actually backfire. <—That article summarizes the research demonstrating that conservatives are especially prone to this effect, whereas liberals are more likely to change their minds when presented with new evidence and sound reasoning (i.e. reality-based).

jim davis responded:

How can that happen? Iris, I just read exposure to facts can actually backfire. I don’t buy it because all we have to do is change a very small percentage of peoples minds to tip the scales.
MLK, and a small group of activist did it in the 60’s and we can do it now, and we better begin before it’s too late.

I started answering in the comments, but instead I thought I would share my response here.


How can that happen?

The short answer is that humans are not particularly rational creatures—although some are, or at least potentially can be, more rational than others. Unconscious biases and our physical and social environments motivate our actions and reasoning to a far greater extent than we generally like to admit. But for now, we don’t need to know how the backfire effect happens to observe that it clearly does. (See also reactance.)

Behold just some people you would like to persuade with facts and statistics:

Almost half of Americans believe that a god created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, and, except in the relatively rare case of extremist homeschoolers, it isn’t because they’ve never heard the facts about the age of the earth and evolutionary biology. We recently learned that the Governor of Texas ordered the state guard to monitor military training exercises based on widespread fears that President Obama is planning to invade Texas and declare martial law. Influential American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke—a ranking member in perhaps the most patriarchal institution on Earth—blames the Catholic Church’s pedophile priest scandals on…feminists. Abstinence-only sex education is an unrivaled policy failure, and yet its proponents only double-down in the face of indisputable facts:

Officials with the Crane Independent School District are meeting to discuss their sex education program after nearly two dozen cases of Chlamydia were reported among the high school student body.

The school district’s superintendent, Jim T. Rumage, stands by his chlamydia-friendly strategy of telling kids to wait until marriage. “If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can’t get this disease,” he told the Express-News in a phone interview.

I recently wrote about conservatives in the Colorado legislature ending funding for a program that saves the state many multiples of its cost by providing long-term contraception to low-income women. Under that initiative teen birth rates plummeted, and abortions fell 42 percent among women aged 15 to 19. The legislators’ “reasoning,” if we can call it that, for ending the program is the (false) belief that IUDs cause abortions. In other words, in order to curb the horrifying scourge of fictional abortions, actual abortions are now going to rise—to the tune of about 42%. And I can guarantee you that these same legislators will insist without even blinking that they are fiscally conservative and fiercely anti-abortion. And they believe it.

So. For whatever reason(s)*, our society continues to generate a critical mass of highly illogical, willfully ignorant, stunningly selfish, aggressively petty, historically naive, self-righteous, shallow-thinking and empathy-deficient (when not actively violent) apes—i.e., conservatives. And I would argue that precisely to the extent one is conservative, one is an arealist at best, and anti-reality at worst. (Yes, I just coined that word “arealist.” Like amoral, or atheist. You’re welcome, people!)

And let us not forget for one single second that the power center of the Democratic Party—which includes Barack Obama—is economically conservative (“neoliberal”). That makes them arealist, too. (See?! It’s come in handy already!)

I just read exposure to facts can actually backfire. I don’t buy it because all we have to do is change a very small percentage of peoples minds to tip the scales.

I don’t understand your disbelief in the fact-backfire effect. As I noted in my first reply, whether facts can be persuasive depends on (among other things) one’s target audience. For conservatives, that approach is particularly counterproductive. The effect is real, and that article I linked does a decent job of reporting the solid research that backs this up.

Your contention that “all we have to do is change a very small percentage of peoples minds to tip the scales” is also a bit confusing to me, as I am not entirely sure what claim you are making. By “tip the scales,” do you mean “get people who are uninformed, misinformed, unmotivated non-voters to consistently turn out to vote for liberal candidates and support liberal policies”? Because that is a very different order than “get a small percentage of conservatives to vote for liberal candidates and support liberal policies.” The former is exceedingly difficult; the latter, nigh impossible.

There is a key axiom that underlies all conservative ideology, namely: conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. In other words, when conservative policies fail (and fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail…), well, this only proves that we obviously need more of it. It’s a cognitive cousin to narcissism: since they can never, ever be wrong about anything, it therefore follows that anything that contradicts their beliefs simply cannot be true. QED. This is why they cannot help but spin bizarre rationalizations, believe wacky conspiracy theories, and accept all manner of conveniently confirming bullshit as “fact.”

Relevant to the facts and statistics you presented in your comments, virtually all conservatives, all libertarians and an unconscionable number of Democrats have bought into the Just World Fallacy of the Free Market™ as a moral arbiter, i.e. that based on the inherent moral character and work ethic of the individual, the poor and the rich “deserve” their respective lots in life. Now obviously if this myth were even remotely true, Mexican day laborers would all be millionaires and the idle rich would be living on the streets. I mean, it doesn’t even hold up to the slightest empirical scrutiny. Nevertheless, the belief makes those who hold it readily susceptible to messages that we should further punish the poor until they get their goddamn bootstrappin’ shit together, and enact more tax cuts for all those wonderful wealthy job creators. The fact that the American Dream is now an empty promise for nearly everyone is either outright denied, or—contrary to all available evidence—blamed on liberals.

Likewise, if the middle and lower classes have had their income and wealth decimated for decades—and as you document, they certainly have—conservative economic policies simply cannot be responsible. Thus people are eagerly gullible dupes for messages that claim the source of our economic woes are our (inadequate) social safety net programs like Medicaid or food stamps that benefit Those Other Undeserving People at the expense of me and my own, and oppressively high taxes on rapacious corporations and wealthy individuals—and not, say, our absurd “defense” budget, or deregulating the banksters. It is simply a fact that over the past three decades 100 percent of income growth has gone to the wealthiest ten percent of Americans, and that this is the direct result of conservative economic policies. (And no, neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama are liberals on economic policy: they are neoliberal True Believers™). But good luck convincing the American people of that: conservative economic dogma so dominates our political discourse to such an extent that even people who are not particularly conservative by nature adopt conservative economic beliefs unquestioningly.

You will never, ever reason conservatives out of their wrong ideas. It is not just what people believe, but how they think that makes the task so daunting. That too, my friend, is just a fact. When it comes to the forces driving the economic status quo, Americans are among the most propagandized populations in the world, and the overwhelming majority cannot or will not interrogate the myths they have been force-fed since childhood. They have absolutely no fucking idea what their government is up to, or who it serves. And I am not convinced that even if they did, a sufficient number would be any more rational, compassionate, or motivated to do anything effective about it. There is something going on here that makes us uniquely irrational among Western nations.

Last, I would be remiss if I did not address this:

MLK, and a small group of activists did it in the 60’s and we can do it now, and we better begin before it’s too late.

Again, I’m not exactly sure what you are trying to say here, but facts and statistics did not drive the civil rights movement any more than reasoned argument got women the right to vote. As the brutal state violence visited upon peaceful protestors (including whites) was splashed across the nation’s TV screens, black activist leaders seized the moment and maneuvered politically to force the federal government to intervene. The FBI wanted Dr. King dead, and I am 100% certain that if a leader with the potential to upend the status quo arose today, the same would be true. More to the point, for all practical purposes blacks are still segregated in housing and education, legally lynched and discriminated against in ways large and small. Whatever gains the civil rights movement made, the backlash was swift, severe and continues to this day. Do you think Dr. King, if he were alive today, would declare victory for civil rights?

*I have my pet theories on the causes of Conservative Personality Disorder. Religiosity is a likely vector: faith is antithetical to critical thinking and a reality-based worldview; it is no accident that the least religious countries are the most socially advanced. A permanent war footing is another: War on Drugs, War on Terror, War on Whatever Bogeyman is Coming Next, war, war, and more war. Presently, we are bombing at least seven Muslim countries; meanwhile we are bombarded with images of Islamic terrorism (not our terrorism, silly) that serve up easy justifications for our counterproductive state violence abroad and worse-than-useless mass surveillance domestically. Militarization invariably degrades the humanity and empathy of any citizenry, and that trend is only increasing in the US. Economic insecurity also spawns conservatism, and as your examples demonstrate there is certainly plenty of that to go around. And perhaps the greatest impediment to meaningful change is that this state of affairs suits some very, very powerful interests very, very well.


I hope this edition of Ask Iris has been helpful. And I would like to thank jim davis very much for his comments and question.

In which Gov. Martin O’Malley heeds my campaign advice.

omalley2Well, well, well. It appears mah BFF Gov. Martin O’Malley is not only serious about a run for the presidency, he has quite obviously taken my campaign advice to heart. Loyal Readers™ may recall that after our meeting last year, I wrote about some of my concerns about his messaging, image and tone:

He does not have tight soundbites in response to direct questions; instead he takes the approach of a patient explainer. Think: Al Gore. Only hawt. That said, this occasion was part of a series of candid meetings with potential supporters, not a media appearance: between now and an official campaign launch, he will hopefully crystallize his responses. His messaging needs to be clear, coherent and consistent—even, or perhaps especially, when obfuscation is necessary.

Although O’Malley comes off as smart and capable, he needs a more fiery presence and populist stance to appeal to disparate swaths of Democratic voters in key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania…O’Malley is exceptionally good looking and fit, but he does not exude the personal charisma of, say, Bill Clinton. In short, and with the caveat that he will need to walk the line carefully: more rock star, less wonk.

omalley3The former Governor of Maryland at his own inauguration
actually playing Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line.”

And what do you know, here we have Martin—that’s what I call him, “Martin,” because it sounds really classy in a Jackie-O sorta way—schooling the shit out of DC detritus Chuck Todd on decades of failed conservative policies:

Hahaha. Well done, Martin. I always knew you had it in you.

I agree with Egberto at Kos, who pointed out:

Chuck Todd once again allowed his program to be used as an Ayn Rand message conduit…[A] Democratic primary is necessary…to remind America that it has been living under a conservative biased agenda for north of thirty years. The catastrophic results surround us all.

Indeed. But I also have concerns about the role of Martin’s wife, Katie, a U.S. District Court judge who is barred from political campaigning. As I said, it is difficult to envision any successful presidential campaign without the ubiquitous presence of a candidate’s spouse. Unless and until she resigns from the court to hit the campaign trail with her husband, Martin will absolutely require the presence of a strong, politically savvy woman among his very closest advisers.

Yes, my friends, you heard it here first: Your Humble Monarch™ has magnanimously volunteered herself to fill this critical role in Governor Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign!

omalleycomp01Me and Martin, campaignin’ and shit.

omalleycomp03Oh, and hey listen: now I am counting on you guys to STFU for a while and don’t tell him about our national write-in campaign for Snowden/Manning on the FUCK YOU party ticket. I am just helping mah BFF Martin out, that’s all.



library4KKK fliers left at Selma homes on 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’. Hill, E., AL.com (Mar. 2015). [Post racial Amerikkka, y’all. –Ed.]

Martin O’Malley Readies His Run as the Un-Hillary. Weigel, D., Bloomberg (Mar. 2015). [Mah BFF. –Ed.]

5 Ancient Discoveries That Prove Modern Men Are Sexist. Kosh, W. and Harlow, K., Cracked (Mar. 2015). (“Well, this serves as a nice example of how this kind of unintentional exclusion works: When archaeologists dug up this statue of a female gladiator, threateningly brandishing some kind of weapon in a victorious warrior pose, they originally described it as “a cleaning tool” — because cleaning is a thing that women do.”)

The Gangsters of Ferguson. Coates, T.N., The Atlantic (Mar. 2015). [FIVE STARS. –Ed.]

This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Increased the Minimum Wage — Now, His State’s Economy Is One of the Best in the Country. Gibson, C., Huffington Post (Feb. 2015). [Duh. –Ed.]

U.N. Finds ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence Against Women. Sengupta, S., The New York Times (Mar. 2015). (“The latest United Nations report draws attention to the rise of ‘extremism and conservatism,’ and without naming any countries or groups, it argues that what they share is a ‘resistance to women’s human rights.'”) [O rly. –Ed.]

Motor W-32. Miniatura. W-32 Engine. youtube (Feb. 2015). [h/t flyboy] [Engineering, meet Art. Art, meet Engineering. Turns out you two have a lot to discuss. –Ed.]

How Transgender Women Make Topless Laws Look Even More Ridiculous And Offensive Than We Already Knew They Were. Molloy, P.M., Bustle (Feb. 2015).

Plane Attempting First Solar-Powered Around-The-World Flight Resembles Wright Brothers Design. Phillips, A., Think Progress (Mar. 2015).



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.


Recent reads.

library4FOIA Documents Reveal Massive DEA Program to Record American’s Whereabouts With License Plate Readers. Stein, B., ACLU (Jan. 2015).

DHS intelligence report warns of domestic right-wing terror threat. Perez, E. and Bruer, W., CNN (Feb. 2015). [h/t SJ] (“Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups”) [No shit. –Ed.]

Editor of major newspaper says he planted stories for CIA. Lopez, R., Digital Journal (Jan. 2015). [Quelle surprise. –Ed.]

The U.S. Media and the 13-Year-Old Yemeni Boy Burned to Death Last Month by a U.S. Drone. Greenwald, G., The Intercept (Feb. 2015). (“Most Americans, by design, will have no idea that their government just burned a 13-year-old boy to death and then claimed he was a Terrorist.”)

Obama administration to allow sales of armed drones to allies. Ryan, M., The Washington Post (Feb. 2015). [Finally! Now other countries can enjoy burning 13-year-olds to death too! –Ed.]

1 In 3 College Men In Survey Say They Would Rape A Woman If They Could Get Away With It. Culp-Ressler, T., Think Progress (Jan. 2015). [ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME. –Ed.]

How Israeli High-Tech Firms Are Turning the U.S.-Mexico Border into a New Kind of Hell. Miller, T. and Schivone, G., TomDispatch via AlterNet (Jan. 2015).

The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle. Scahill, J. and Begley, J., The Intercept (Feb. 2015). (“The hack…gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.”)

To the Parent of the Unvaccinated Child Who Exposed My Family to Measles. Jacks, T., Mother Jones (Feb. 2015). (“When your child gets sick, others are endangered—including my daughter with cancer.”) [To the parent of that unvaccinated child from Perry Street Palace: FUCK YOU. –Ed.]

What Not To Wear After 50. Combs, C., Better After 50 (Feb. 2015). (“Resting bitch face. Hahahahaha. Just kidding. Wear that one all you want.”)

I’m Brianna Wu, And I’m Risking My Life Standing Up To Gamergate. Wu, B., Bustle (Feb. 2015).

Natural Deception: Conned By the World Congress of Families. Parke, C., Political Research Associates (Jan. 2015). (“the organization is leading a global legislative and public relations campaign against LGBTQ and reproductive rights.”) [They seem nice. –Ed.]

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’. Kruse, M., Politico Magazine (Jan. 2015). (“Michael Schiavo knows as well as anyone what Jeb Bush can do with executive power. He thinks you ought to know too.”)

Here Are 25 Jokes That Only Nerds Will Understand. If You Laugh Then Yep, You’re A Nerd! Boredom Therapy (Jul. 2014).

The Anti-Vaccine Movement Should Be Ridiculed, Because Shame Works. Novak, M., Gizmodo (Feb. 2015). [Hear, hear! He must be reading my blog! This d00d disagrees, though, and says “People who are told their deeply held beliefs are stupid tend to withdraw from the conversation.” Um, perhaps someone can ‘splain to me why getting these assholes to shut the fuck up would be a bad thing? I mean, there is a reason unvaccinated children with measles are found in clusters, and that reason is anti-vaxxers spreading their deeply held beliefs deadly bad ideas to others. –Ed.]

FBI monitored and critiqued African American writers for decades. Flood, A., The Guardian (Feb. 2015).

Policing Our Girls. Hutchinson, S., blackfemlens (Feb. 2015).

Gay People Posting Photos Of Gay People On Facebook Is Persecuting Christians Says Perkins. Badash, D., The New Civil Rights Movement (Jan. 2015). [To all mah gay peeps: go forth and persecute. –Ed.]

Something Really, Really Terrible Is About to Happen to Our Coral. Philpott, T., Mother Jones (Jan. 2015). [I hate people. Have I mentioned that I hate people? Well, I hate people. –Ed.]

How secular family values stack up. Zuckerman, P., The Los Angeles Times (Feb. 2015). (“Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children”) [h/t SJ]

Why science is so hard to believe. Achenbach, J., Washington Post (Feb. 2015).

10 Senate Ds Think Drillers Should Be Able to Inject Whatever the Frack They Want into Your Water. Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees, Daily Kos (Jan. 2015). [In case you’re wondering who these motherfrackers are: Michael Bennet (D-CO), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Warner (D-VA). –Ed.]

Obama, Biden & Pelosi Lobbying Hard for TPP. Publius, G., Hullabaloo (Feb. 2015).

Source Code Similarities: Experts Unmask ‘Regin’ Trojan as NSA Tool. Rosenbach, M., Spiegel Online InternationaI (Jan. 2015).

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History. Legum, J., ThinkProgress (Feb. 2015). [Christ. Doesn’t Oklahoma have enough problems already with all the earthquakes from fracking? –Ed.]

No good deed goes unpunished. Vermont Political Observer (Jan. 2015). (“What I did not anticipate was the vitriolic verbal assault from those who don’t know the difference between the Classics and illegal immigrants from South America.”) [D000000000d. Have you never been on the Internet? –Ed.]

Indisputable proof that prosecutors and politicians are penalized when they hold police accountable. King, S., Daily Kos (Jan. 2015).

Is the US the only country where more men are raped than women? Filipovic, J., The Guardian (Feb. 2015). [American exceptionalism, y’all. –Ed.]

5 Bizarre Realities of Being a Man Who Was Raped by a Woman. Anonymous, via Mannen, A., Cracked (Jan. 2015).

Pipeline explodes in West Virginia. Gardner, F., Daily Kos (Jan. 2013). (“This is the fourth major pipeline incident that’s occurred this month.”)

Hobby Lobby 2: Inside Republicans’ Plan to Kill America’s Most Effective Anti-Teen-Pregnancy Program. Baumann, N., Mother Jones (Feb. 2015). (“An innovative program has reduced the abortion rate and saved a state millions. Here’s why it’s doomed.”) [SPOILER ALERT! Because conservatives. –Ed.]

Black teens who commit a few crimes go to jail as often as white teens who commit dozens. Ehrenfreund, M., The Washington Post (Jan. 2015).

Here’s What It’s Like For A Woman To Send a Job Rejection To A Man. Creighton, J., Medium (Feb. 2015).

Liberal Racism: 25 Things I Learned After I Wrote About ISIS and White Racism at the Daily Kos. DeVega, C., Daily Kos (Feb. 2015).

Women Being Inexpertly Groped In Western Art History. Ortberg, M., The Toast (Feb. 2015). [NSFW] [Hahaha. –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.

BREAKING: King weasel infests Palace inbox, craps all over the place.

Oh. No. He. Didn’t.

whitehousemastheadFrom: President Barack Obama <info@mail.whitehouse.gov>
To: Iris Vander Pluym
Subject: Writing the rules for 21st century trade
Date: February 18, 2015

My top priority as President is making sure more hardworking Americans have a chance to get ahead. That’s why we have to make sure the United States — and not countries like China — is the one writing this century’s rules for the world’s economy.

Trade has an important role to play in supporting good-paying, middle-class jobs in the United States. Unfortunately, past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype. That’s why I’ve made it clear that I won’t sign any agreement that doesn’t put American workers first.

But we also should recognize that 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders. Exports support more than 11 million jobs — and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. Failing to seize new opportunities would be devastating not just for our businesses, but for our workers too.

That’s why my Administration is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership — so we can benefit from trade that is not just free, but also fair.

Watch this video my team put together, and then share it with anyone who needs to know exactly what’s at stake.

We have the chance to open up more markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America. For the sake of our businesses, and American workers, it’s an opportunity we need to take.

But beyond greater access to the world’s fastest-growing region, the agreement will establish enforceable commitments to protect labor, environmental, and other crucial standards that Americans hold dear.

Right now, China wants to write the rules for commerce in Asia. If it succeeds, our competitors would be free to ignore basic environmental and labor standards, giving them an unfair advantage over American workers.

We can’t let that happen. We should write the rules, and level the playing field for our middle class. The first step is for Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority.

Watch the video, and then pass it along.

After years of shipping jobs overseas, our manufacturing sector is creating jobs at a pace not seen since the 1990s. Rather than outsourcing, more companies are insourcing and bringing jobs back home. Today, more than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re looking at bringing jobs back from China.

Let’s give them one more reason to get it done, by giving me the tools I need to grow our economy, boost exports for our businesses, and give more hardworking middle-class families a chance to get ahead.


President Barack Obama

The White House • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW • Washington, DC 20500 • 202-456-1111


I have taken the liberty of highlighting only the most bald-faced, blatant lies. That bolded statement in red, however, is particularly weaselly: the problem the TPP addresses is not other countries being “free to ignore basic environmental and labor standards, giving them an unfair advantage over American workers.” The problem the TPP addresses is that, so far at least, U.S. corporations have not been entirely free to ignore basic environmental and labor standards themselves—though not for lack of trying. Also, the interests on whose behalf the TPP is being negotiated are literally the last people in the world to give a flying fuck about improving the fortunes of U.S. workers. Please.

For more on the depth of the Democratic president’s depravity here, please go (re-)read my post from November 2013. Among other things, I noted that upon ratification of the TPP (and its transatlantic doppelganger the TTIP), corporate control of governments around the world—including ours—will be complete. Since then, more information has leaked out of the TPP negotiations (see e.g. this Wikileaks press release and linked documents therein) but very few people have seen a draft of the whole thing. My BFF Congressman Alan Grayson is one of them, and he says flat out: “This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.”

Here is how it works. The TPP has a binding “proactive requirement” that participating countries conform their laws and regulations to the desires and whims of Big Business. In practice, this means gutting already weak environmental protections, labor laws, banking regulations, public safety rules, you name it: it eviscerates virtually any law or provision that can be construed as compromising profits in any way. Draconian, right? But it’s the enforcement mechanism that is the real coup for America’s Owners: investor-state dispute settlement. Corporations can sue noncompliant governments to recover the “loss” of anticipated future profits—and not in a court of law, either, but before a secret(!) panel of three corporate lawyers(!). There are no appeals from these rulings. If a government loses, taxpayers are on the hook to pay the lucky winning corporation.

We are not talking about chump change here, either, nor are we talking about some imagined dystopian future. This is already in force in some countries, via NAFTA and other terrible trade agreements:

During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people’s energy and water bills… It was sued by the international utility companies whose vast bills had prompted the government to act. For this and other such crimes, it has been forced to pay out over a billion dollars in compensation. In El Salvador, local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long, perhaps. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.

In Canada, the courts revoked two patents owned by the American drugs firm Eli Lilly, on the grounds that the company had not produced enough evidence that they had the beneficial effects it claimed. Eli Lilly is now suing the Canadian government for $500m, and demanding that Canada’s patent laws are changed.

The TPP is “NAFTA on steroids.”

It’s not enough to stop this fast tracking bullshit the president wants, the TPP deal itself has to go down in flames. What are the chances of killing it? Well, just ponder for a moment what it means that it’s Barack Obama and Republicans who want the TPP deal fast-tracked—signed, sealed and delivered to America’s Owners a.s.a.p.

obamarepublicanLoyal Readers™ can attest that I am not particularly prone to hyperbolic hyperventilation. But that sound you just heard? Shhh. Listen carefully—it’s barely a whisper. Hear it? That is the sound of the last few tattered threads of democracy whizzing right past your head.

This webcomic provides excellent infotainment on the subject, and I really cannot recommend it highly enough. Well, except for one thing. The d00d serving the poison Kool-Aid is a piss-poor rendering of Barack Obama.

economixcomixThere is no scenario I can envision in which my fellow citizens and I are not forced to drink it.

Various and sundry.

Hello Loyal Readers™, and Happy Sunday! I hope your day is infused with joyous blasphemy and peppered liberally with sins. If you’re feeling up to a challenge, why not try to tick off all seven of the deadlies today?

  • Avarice
  • Envy
  • Gluttony
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Sloth
  • Wrath

My Amazing Lover™ and I once threw a Seven Deadly Sins party, at which guests had ample opportunities to engage in all seven of them. It was fucking epic.


I have a new post up at TPJ Magazine; it’s about Democratic weasels infesting my inbox and becoming more and more unhinged in the lead up to the OMG Most Sooper Important Ever Midnight January 31 fundraising deadline, for an election that is almost two years away.


I am also excited to be heading up the launch of a new series at Secular Woman in collaboration with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “The HerStory Project” will be home to an ongoing series of posts highlighting the contributions of secular women throughout history and into the present day. Lady badasses FTW.


I have approximately umpteen gazillion tabs open in my browser to compile into a recent reading list for you lovely people, which I will get to at some point. Probably. Possibly. You see, I have been rather obsessed lately with perfecting a new recipe, which I am happy to say I think I have finally accomplished. A new post from Iris the Idiot’s Kitchen will be forthcoming.


Now go, and sin some more.