Last month in mockery.

I was just going to plunk this into a link roundup, but upon re-reading it I like it so much I really want to highlight it. It has everything Loyal Readers™ crave: the appalling truth about how our government and media actually operate, witty snark, and a cudgel with which to clobber conservatives, all of it expressed by someone who clearly relishes the opportunity and/or understands the necessity of doing so.

A few weeks ago, a blogger at Daily Kos who goes by mtosner posted The Biggest Scandal in US History That We’re Still Not Talking About, based on this truly excellent 3-part work of investigative journalism by Scot J. Paltrow and Kelly Carr for Reuters from July.

That would be July of 2013.

Take it away mtosner:


The above is roughly what 8.5 Trillion dollars would look like… and those are $100 bills. Take another look and let that sink in for a bit…   I find it absolutely astonishing that the pentagon could lose track of this much money and for there to be no MSM coverage of this scandalous amount of mismanagement and fraud. Where is the demand for accountability? Why is the first question to ANY candidate for president not “What would you do about the massive fraud and waste at the Pentagon?”  Where are the hearings, nay indictments, that are warranted when a sum equal to 1/2 of our national debt can be sent to the pentagon to never be accounted for.

In an update, the author also notes the fact that since 1996, the Pentagon has been required by law to be “audit ready.” In the nearly 20 years that have passed since then, no real accounting systems have been implemented, much less actual audits. I have been traveling the last day or so through the part of our country I refer to as Pennsyltucky, with brief stops in Latrobe, PA, Lexington, KY and Memphis, TN (don’t ask), and I can attest that every television screen in sight is broadcasting Republican warmongers whinging about the Iran deal, and no one appears the slightest bit concerned with the mysteriously missing EIGHT AND A HALF TRILLION DOLLARS. Why just this morning, I caught my BFF George Pataki yammering on CNN about how the U.S. got “nothing” from the Iran deal. And here I thought “not going to war with Iran” would be less expensive in terms of blood and treasure than, you know, actually going to war with Iran. Silly me. I mean at this point, what’s a few more trillion dollars down the rabbit hole, plus thousands more dead and maimed soldiers, millions of dead, maimed and displaced Iranians, and yet another politically unstable country in the Middle East? “Nothing,” that’s what.

Of course $8.5 trillion worth of Pentagon corruption and/or incompetence (with no end in sight) affects virtually everyone across the nation, but soldiers and veterans suffer the worst of it by far. Just read the first part of the Reuters series to see what “supporting the troops” looks like in practice.

With all of that as backdrop, mtosner urges us to get our game on and work that $8.5 trillion into every political conversation we have, especially with conservatives*. To wit:

“What’s that? Body cameras for all cops will be too expensive? How bout we find 1/10,000th of the money we sent to the pentagon.”

“Oh really? There’s 500 million in provable food stamp fraud going to poor people how bout the 8.5 TRILLION the pentagon can’t account for?”

“Oh really? You think Obama care is going to cost us almost a trillion dollars over 15  years? How about the 8.5 Trillion that just disappeared into the ether at the pentagon? What’s you’re take on that?”

“Oh really, you’re concerned about deficit spending and the debt? Fully 1/3 of the national debt it is money we sent the Pentagon and they can’t tell us where it went. It’s just gone.”

“College for everyone will cost too much? You must be really pissed at the 8.5 Trillion, with a ‘t’, dollars the pentagon’s spent and can’t tell us where it went.”

Yes indeed.

Moreover mtosner is correct that the corporate media’s silence on this issue (among others) ought to require the modification of the oft-used term Military-Industrial-Complex to Military-Industrial-Media-Complex. Then again, when defense contractor GE owns NBC—including MSNBC, beloved by liberals who think Rachel Maddow is as leftist as it gets—perhaps it’s redundant. As mtosnter points out, “It seems for few hundred million in ‘be all you can be’ ad buys the MSM will keep it’s mouth shut.”

I do have a few nits to pick with mtosner, though, who suggests that this exercise exposes conservatives’ hypocrisy. This is true as far as it goes, but conservatives are notoriously impervious to charges of hypocrisy no matter how blatant (just think of all the sexual shenanigans by the Traditional Marriage™ types). But my bigger disagreement with mtosner is the characterization of any of this as “scandalous,” as if it represented some kind of aberration in the way things ordinarily operate. It isn’t. It only appears that way if you buy into the illusion that we are living in anything resembling a constitutional democracy.

*Unless you are simply enjoying sharpening your fangs, I don’t generally recommend having conversations with conservatives, ever, unless there is an audience. In that case it’s your goddamn patriotic duty to mock them mercilessly and thereby, perhaps, enlighten your fellow citizens. It’s not like the corporate media is going to do the job for us, people.


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…

Trickle Down Economics: FIFY.

Last night I shared on Facebook this graphic from United Humanists*:

trickledownIt’s pretty good as far as it goes. But by this morning, my astute FB comrades had correctly pointed out that the final frame is missing: you know, the one with MOAR wine and money pouring in to the big glass on top, such that all of the smaller glasses have shattered under its weight. I needed to fix it, obviously. If not me, people, then who?

winecapitalI just love the smell of anti-capitalist collaboration in the morning.

[h/t Llewellyn & Tony. ]

*As Loyal Readers™ well know, I am not a humanist. I despise the human species WAY too much for that, especially Homo sapiens conservatus Americanus. Don’t be alarmed: I ain’t going soft or anything.

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.


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?


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—


palacefuckyouOfficial Palace FUCK YOU.


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.


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.


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.

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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For the Quote Collection:

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

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


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

Free Market™ Fail. Again.

A dated article I just came across today really pisses me off, so my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ will get a nice little rant this morning.

Workers at biggest fast food companies need billions in public assistance

Walmart isn’t the only corporate giant relying on government assistance to make up for the low, low wages it pays its workers. According to a new report from the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center, 52 percent of front-line fast food workers are on some form of public assistance, at a cost of nearly $7 billion a year. And the 10 largest fast food companies account for $3.8 billion of that, the National Employment Law Project estimates.

The UC-Berkeley study only looks at participation in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; if it included all government programs, such as child-care subsidies and reduced price school lunches, the total would be higher.

Accompanying the article are two charts that are quite revealing:

public_assistance_10_largest_fast_food_companies public_assistance_share_of_workers_by_industryIt is just so…interesting how the Free Market™ works best without any of that pesky government “interference.” Interesting, too, that of all the industries listed, public administration (i.e. government employment) has the lowest participation in public programs. I mean golly, why should ridiculously profitable corporations pay workers a living wage when they can soak their own taxpaying customers to pick up the tab? So their employees don’t, you know, starve or die of preventable diseases. Frankly, this should piss everyone off, liberal or conservative.

But remember, too, that the beneficiaries of this system are the exact same people lavishly funding right-wing politicians who are hell-bent on slashing, privatizing and ultimately destroying the already inadequate social safety net, in all its forms. (Among many other despicable aims.) I don’t know how they can sleep at night. But they do—and probably much better than you or I do. Operating in a Social Darwinist economic system will tend to foster a lack of conscience, especially among the fittest.

Here’s a thought: if it is just not profitable for McDonald’s to pay its workers a living wage, then it should go out of business. Perhaps all that capital can instead be put to use for businesses involving less factory farming, less trucking, less unhealthy food and less labor exploitation. Why not profit from sustainable industries that help instead of harm the very communities where they operate?

Any politician that does not support a living wage and a robust safety net including single payer healthcare—and I’m talking with actions, not just words—will never, ever get my vote. And they shouldn’t get yours, either.



Oh yeah, and one more thing:



library4An Ex-Jewish Camel’s Sad Epiphany on Israeli Fanaticism. Centre, B., Atheist Camel (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

5 Near-Identical Jesus Myths That Predate Jesus. Richard, L., Liberal America (Mar. 2015). [h/t Ian]

Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum. Service, R.F., Science (Mar. 2015). [The headline overreaches, but the science is interesting. -Ed.]

Nightmare in Sin City: How a Rumor Sent a Teen to Prison for Murder in Vegas. Smith, J., The Intercept (Mar. 2015).

27 Black Women Activists Everyone Should Know. Foster, K., For Harriet (Feb. 2014). [h/t Sally]

Humanism and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. Kirabo, S., The Humanist (Mar. 2015).

Support for government help has fallen among those who rely on it most. Ehrenfreund, M., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [Deja vu. *yawn* –Ed.]

Teaching Doubt. Krauss, L.M., The New Yorker (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

Anti-Abortion Website Whines About Being Bombed… With Glitter. Merlan, A., Jezebel (Mar. 2015). [Hahaha. The fine folks at Glitter Bombs for Choice are clearly kindred spirits, although I prefer to mail coat hangers myself. –Ed.]

The Cops Don’t Care About Violent Online Threats. What Do We Do Now? Merlan, A., Jezebel (Jan. 2015).

Woman killed by flying plywood from NYC construction site. Rosario, F., et al, The New York Post (Mar. 2015). [The luxury condo construction at the site of my former neighborhood hospital now has a body count. (For background see here.) –Ed.]

Bad News for Those of You Who, Like Us, Drank Cheap Wine Each and Every Night of Your 20s. (Mar. 2015). [SPOILER ALERT! Arsenic poisoning. Which sounds almost as bad as the crap wine. –Ed.]

Intersex advocates correct and clarify Nightline news report. Murray, R., GLAAD (Mar. 2015). (with VIDEO)

How activists are responding to the NYPD’s attempts to thwart Black Lives Matter. Rugh, P., Waging Nonviolence (Feb. 2015).

How Prison Stints Replaced Study Hall: America’s problem with criminalizing kids. Owens, J., Politico (Mar. 2015). [An excellent piece on the school-to-prison pipeline by the managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office. -Ed.]

Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Promises Echo Clinton’s On NAFTA. Johnson, D., Campaign for America’s Future (Feb. 2015). [Lying liars lie: film at 11. –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.

Recent reading.

It’s Time for Atheists to Stop Debating God’s Existence and Decide What to Do About It. Lee, A., AlterNet via The Guardian (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ] (“For too long, atheists have conducted abstract debates. It’s time to focus on the pursuit of justice.”) [IRIS Adam Lee, but this strikes me as hopelessly naive in in light of things like this. –Ed.]

10 stunning images show the beauty hidden in pi. Swanson, A., The Washington Post (Mar. 14). [h/t Mr. Born]

NYPD Edited Police Brutality Wikipedia Entries: IP addresses linked to the NYPD found to have altered Wikipedia pages about Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. Kreps, D., Rolling Stone (Mar. 2015).

The CIA and America’s Presidents: Some Rarely Discussed Truths Shaping Contemporary American Democracy. Chuckman, J., Counterpunch (Mar. 2015).

Consent: Not actually that complicated. Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess (Mar. 2015).

Project Vox. (“Project Vox seeks to recover the lost voices of women who have been ignored in standard narratives of the history of modern philosophy…From Lady Masham, Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway in England to Émilie Du Châtelet in France, many women played significant roles in the development of modern philosophy, but their contributions have often gone unnoticed.”)


Finding Philosophy’s Female Voices. Ferreri, E., Duke Today (Mar. 2015).

Throw a Dinner Party with This Creepy Tableware and Watch Everyone Run Away. Zuras, M., Munchies at Vice (Mar. 2015). [WANT. –Ed.]

ronitbarangateacupI can haz dis teekup nao plz.

Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds. Davey, M., The Guardian (Mar. 2015). [GTFO. –Ed.]

Anita Sarkeesian Describes the Fury She Cannot Express in Public. RH Reality Check via youtube (Mar. 2015). [VIDEO]

Best State for Business? Yes, California. Winkler, M.A., Bloomberg Business (Mar. 2015). [But high taxes! Evil regulations! BOOOOOTSTRAPPPPPS!!! –Ed.]

White Christian America in Decline: Why Young People Are Sick of Conservative Religion. Marcotte, A., AlterNet (Mar. 2015). (“White Christians are now a minority in 19 states.”) [Needz moar lionz? –Ed.]

Trans woman shows how ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans are with urinal selfie campaign. Wee, D., Gay Star News (Mar. 2015). [I love everything about this woman’s campaign. Except, of course, the need for it in the first place. –Ed.]


Trans selfies have caught bathroom bans and lawmakers with their pants down. Fae, J., Gay Star News (Mar. 2015).

Twitter Explodes With ‘Rap Albums That Caused Slavery’ After MSNBC Segment. Walsh, T., Talking Points Memo (Mar. 2015). (“Twitter blew up with the satirical hashtag #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery on Wednesday morning after a panel on MSNBC managed to blame rap music for a recent outburst of racism at the University of Oklahoma.”) [And I love everything about this too. Except the need for it in the first place. –Ed.]

Why White People Freak Out When They’re Called Out About Race. Adler-Bell, S., AlterNet (Mar. 2015). [An excellent interview with anti-racist educator and author Robin DiAngelo, who wrote the brilliant and insightful 2011 journal article White Fragility we linked for you before. –Ed.]

The melting of Antarctica was already really bad. It just got worse. Mooney, C., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015).

These Badass Feminist Tattoos Are the Perfect Accessory for Smashing the Patriarchy. Bianco, M., Mic (Mar. 2015).

An 11-year-old reported being raped twice, wound up with a conviction. Walters, J., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [TRIGGER WARNING: One of the worst stories I have ever heard. And that is saying something, my friends. –Ed.]

Eight Pseudoscientific Climate Claims Debunked by Real Scientists. Holland, J., Moyers & Co. (May 2014).

The Throwback Sexism of Kleiner Perkins. Williams, J.C., Harvard Business Review (Mar. 2015). (“Pao v. Kleiner Perkins is not just about the kind of subtle stereotyping that’s common at many large tech companies. Much of what Pao describes is something quite different: an atmosphere straight from the blatant bias playbook.”)

25 Times Tumblr Told The Truth About Mental Health. Nigatu, H., BuzzFeed (Feb. 2015).

Drones and the rise of the high-tech assassins: How twenty-three innocent Afghani civilians were wiped out by self-deceiving drone operators seven and a half thousand miles away. Cockburn, A., Boing Boing (Mar. 2015). [h/t Julie] [Our tax dollars at work Keeping Us Safe™. –Ed.]

How White Separatists Disable Native American Facebook Accounts. Bogado, A., Colorlines (Mar. 2015).

33 Things That Secretly Want To Kill You. Pulptastic [h/t Julie] [Hahaha. Pareidolia FTW. –Ed.]

Why death rates among white women are soaring. Paquette, D., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [SPOILER ALERT! Prescription painkillers. –Ed.]

A Woman Is Writing Feminist Messages On Period Pads And Posting Them Around Her City: One message reads “Imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods.” Warren, R., BuzzFeed (Mar. 2015). [Indeed. –Ed.]

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie: The Insidious Threat To Reproductive Freedom. NARAL Pro-Choice America (pdf) (“Anti-choice organizations claim more than 3,500 of these fake clinics are in operation across the country, far outnumbering the ever-dwindling number of abortion clinics.”)


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.

Ask Iris: WWID?

Loyal Subject™ SJ sent a righteous rant to me and Palace blogger Don Ardell along with following graphic:

homeopathyexplainedThe missive’s subject was “Shame on everyone associated with this.” He wrote:

It is beneath the dignity of human beings living in the 21st Century (or the 20th, or maybe even the 19th, for that matter) to believe in such utter and total nonsense. Yet millions do.

And it is shameful to be associated with the manufacture, marketing, selling and purchasing homeopathic products. (Homeopathy is far from the only quackery, but it is possibly the most ridiculous.)

We are not children anymore, although prodigious numbers of us think and act like low-information ten-year-olds.

In a rational world, CVS would never consider selling totally worthless products. And anyone doing so would be prosecuted, convicted and punished for fraud. By now we should be waaay above this [kind] of shit.

Don and I were in full agreement with SJ’s assessment here, but Don was troubled by something else, too:

Full disclosure: I recently bought CVS. I could say I did it because the company, like Ringling Brothers with elephants, quit the cigarette trade because it was the decent thing to do, as well as good business. But, as Tricky D would say, that would be wrong. I did it to make money on a rising stock. And rise it has.

Now this. I face a crisis of conscience. WWID? (Yes, I mean you, Iris.)

Don’s question inspired me to finally coalesce into words some thoughts I had been kicking around for a while spew forth hundreds of words in reply to my poor correspondents. What’s that old saying? “Never ask a question you don’t want answered.” Oh, and “opinions are like assholes: everyone has one.” Here is mine. My opinion, not my asshole. In case that wasn’t clear.

A. WWID? Well, that really is entirely between you and your conscience, Don. My thoughts are these.

For better and for worse, we presently exist in an uber-capitalist hegemon. Participation in this system is mandatory, at least if we wish to have a decent quality of life* (and of course we do). An intelligent, informed and empathic person such as yourself (and SJ) cannot possibly avoid crises of conscience, grounded as our system is in the unjust exploitation of people and natural resources, short-term thinking, rigid class hierarchies and unearned privilege. From all of this necessarily emerges a brutal manifestation of Social Darwinism. Therefore we must make our compromises with conscience, and that starts with acknowledging that we are all hypocrites in ways large and small.

That said, we can certainly make choices that mitigate our hypocrisy. For instance, a major portion of your life’s work is promoting reason and evidence-based thinking in the context of wellness; if we ever rid civilization of the pestilence that is homeopathic “medicine,” undoubtedly that will be the cure (hahaha. so-to-speak). Another example: as you know I am a fierce advocate for a US single-payer health care system, and an unrelenting critic of Obamacare. This terrible health care law was written in large part by Big Pharma to suit itself at grave cost to my fellow citizens. Yet the fact is that I am alive and healthy today because of cutting-edge pharmaceutical research (biologic insulin analogs, to be specific), which—in this system— would probably not be available to me without the incentive of obscene profits for development and manufacturing. Am I a hypocrite? Absolutely. But I still rail on about single-payer, because it is a far superior system by nearly any metric. I also want generous government funding of medical research, the results of which would belong to the public or to nonprofit public partnerships with the private sector. With a “defense” budget greater than that of the next 8 countries combined, we certainly have the resources to spare, and the savings from the efficiency of single-payer alone would finance even more of it.

Similarly, My Amazing Lover™ and I can (and do) drive a hybrid vehicle; we have also made a conscious choice to have none of our retirement savings invested in dirty energy. That doesn’t mean we can avoid filling up the car with gasoline, though, and thus contributing to climate change (to say nothing of the intractable violence and unrest in the Middle East and the profits of defense contractors who benefit immensely from the human misery that ensues).


I guess the way I see it is that we have three choices:

  1. Ignorance. We can ignore the facts and their implications, or if we do become aware of them we can ignore our hypocrisy. This seems to come easier for some than for others…
  2. Rationalization. And yes, to some extent that is precisely what I am doing here. But I have more in mind things like “but jobs!” as a rationalization for fracking, say. Or “terrorism!” to rationalize all manner of evils like NSA surveillance and our bloated Military-Industrial Complex. Of course these break down under even the most minimal scrutiny; unfortunately they are not likely to receive even that by mainstream “journalists.”
  3. Subversion. Participate in the system to the extent we can and must, even as we actively seek to undermine it. Audre Lorde said that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, and in many respects I think she is right. But I also believe that capitalism itself contains the seeds of its own destruction (and of democracy, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). What form that destruction will take is anyone’s guess at this point. But in the meantime, we can loudly advocate for leftist policies, especially with respect to health care, prison, and other arenas where government clearly should be the only institution responsible. Whatever happens, keeping these ideas in the public consciousness is absolutely crucial, if they are to stand a chance of ever being implemented.

Shorter Iris: CVS is hardly the worst purveyor of crimes against humanity; I think you might feel very differently about investing directly in the company that makes the homeopathic product. But again, you are the one who has to draw that line for yourself, and live with it. There can be no lasting shame in playing this game, when it’s the only game in town.

* “Decent quality of life” has both objective and subjective meaning; it is objective with respect to needs like shelter, food, potable water, basic necessities such as electricity and tools, access to quality health care and education, positive bonds with other humans, safety and security—and, in this day and age, a reliable internet connection. The subjective part is more or less determined by each individual, but it’s important to note that by no means does it exclude altruistic endeavors, i.e. investing one’s time and money in the pursuit of helping others, and leaving this world at least a little better than one found it.

medicare4allOne more thing:nonprofitdefense