Gay Arab porn: will Turkish do?

[CONTENT NOTE:  This post contains a discussion of gay pornography. If you are under 18 or you find this subject matter offensive or problematic, please go elsewhere.]

The WordPress gods have helpfully informed me that a search term that brought people to the Palace gates this week was this: “gay arab porn.”

As our Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ well know, gay porn is not our area of expertise (that would be mocking conservatives). Nevertheless, the Palace does employ an Official Gay Porn Consultant™ for just such occasions, who was happy to enlighten us about this particular genre of adult film, one that had heretofore remained rather obscure to us.

First, he noted (apparently with no intended pun) that gay Arab porn is a “big thing these days,” and is believed to have started in Turkey. The fact that Arabs are actually a tiny ethnic minority in Turkey seemed somehow less relevant to the inquiry than the fact that the country is overwhelmingly Muslim (99.8%), and yet fairly progressive with respect to LGBT rights. When I further inquired as to whether there were any hawt Turks on his NSA-like gay porn surveillance radar, the Official Gay Porn Consultant™ informed me that they are all hawt. Yes that’s right, people, you heard it here first: it seems you really cannot go wrong with Turkish gay porn. “Very manly,” he continued, “and lotsa eyelashes.”

WHAT.

I thanked him profusely for all of these important and valuable insights, and promised to brief my readers right away. “Always queer to help,” he quipped.

THE PALACE HAS THE BEST OFFICIAL GAY PORN CONSULTANT™ EVAR.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matthew 7:20). And mock them.

[TRIGGER WARNING: homophobia; ableism; graphic and ill-informed descriptions of gay sex; harmful Christian delusions and lies.]

My colleague and the Palace’s Official Wellness Consultant Don Ardell sent me a timely reminder today that sometimes, one barely need lift a finger in order to mock buffoons: just quote them.

The context was yesterday’s absurd debate by the Alabama legislature to amend the state constitution in order to permit the display of the biblical Ten Commandments in public buildings, including schools and courthouses, before voting 77-19 in favor of this constitutionally doomed proposal. In response, Kyle Whitmire of AL.com posted Things I learned during the Alabama Legislature’s Ten Commandments debate today, a compendium of quips from various and sundry doucheweasels elected to state office by the good people of Alabama. It includes such gems as these:

- School shootings, patricide and matricide are due to the Ten Commandments not being displayed in schools and other government buildings. – Rep. Bridges.

- If you proposed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution about the Ten Commandments, Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, will give you a quiz in which he repeatedly refers to them as the “10th Amendment.”

It ends with a masterstroke:

- This issue has been tested by the courts numerous times and it has always ended the same way. – Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa.

- Rep. England is way too knowledgeable, intelligent and well-spoken to serve in the Alabama Legislature. – Me.

It is hilarious, and you should definitely go read the whole thing. In the same vein, here is an actual press statement released by a group of military chaplains:

Military Chaplains Speak Up on Marriage and Homosexuality in the Military

ESCONDIDO, Calif., Feb. 2, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — Before civilizations crumble, the last thing to hit the fan is government-sponsored, government-forced, homosexuality, sodomy, and pedophilia. Homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder [sic] and probably the worst sin described in the Holy Bible [!!! -Ed.] due to the permanent damage caused to what was or is or might have been a temple of the Spirit. The consequences are said to be nothing short of eternal damnation, by choice. It’s a shame that the US military, historically known to be a beacon of morality and religious tolerance and freedom, while the civilian sector has engaged in immorality [LOL -Ed.], is now having its nose shoved in the dirt of filth to make the Sinners-in-Chief in the highest echelons of politics–the perverts, the pedophiles, and the psychiatrically ill–feel better about themselves. 

Retired Military Chaplain Jim Linzey, a Baptist minister, states that “the teachings of the Church are an elaboration of the laws that Jesus gave when He said, ‘But from the beginning of the creation, God “made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh’ (Mark 10:6-8). Jesus’ teaching emphasizes the unity between a man and his wife. Jesus also said, ‘Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Mark 10:9, NKJV). Based on Jesus’ statement, it is a moral obligation to remain married once the marriage is consummated.”

There is a biblical basis for separation. “But the point is that marriage between men and women are the foundation of society, including military society,” said Chaplain Valerie Potter, who is Methodist.

Military couples face many trials, including separations due to deployments. Chaplains have a crucial role to counsel them, to help them keep their marriages intact. As Chaplain Frank Johnson, a Baptist minister, said, “Marriage is a combat multiplier in that it gives married troops hope and a reason to fight well, defending ones country, of which marriage and families are the foundation; it gives troops a reason to live and come home.” “But homosexuality is a combat divider, dividing one’s reason to live while taking breaks on the combat field to change diapers all because their treacherous sin causes them to lose control of their bowels,” said Chaplain John R. Kauffman, a Pentecostal minister. “How do you win a war like that? What a spectacle in the face of moral Muslims who detest homosexuality,” he continued. 

As a military chaplain, Rev. Linzey has counselled Soldiers struggling with homosexuality who left the military and some who had HIV. “Homosexuality was not a pleasant sin for these Soldiers,” Linzey said. “They were laden with guilt and wished they could be freed from this most vile bondage, destroying their mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. But only a penitent heart in the soul of one who would receive the atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Christ can be free.” God have mercy on the US military.

Contact: Jim Brandt, 760-855-3905, theleadersbible@gmail.com.

__________

Dear Jim Brandt and military chaplains:

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

What.

fractalwrongnessFRACTAL WRONGNESS: You are not just wrong. You are wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. Zooming in on any part of your worldview finds beliefs exactly as wrong as your entire worldview.

Also:

palacefuckyouOn behalf of our gay family members and friends, their loved ones, and the untold thousands of LGBT soldiers who have served with more honor than you could possibly even conceive in your fetid little minds,
a hearty Palace FUCK YOU.

Most sincerely,

-Iris Vander Pluym, Proprietress
Perry Street Palace

__________

Happy Friday, y’all!

palacehappyface

Mock ’til they drop it.

[TRIGGER WARNING: homophobia, racism, ableism, classism, and offensive statements and slurs related thereto; descriptions of sexual acts, potentially NSFW.]

The owner of Gary’s Chicaros restaurant near Oklahoma City has been all up in the news recently. Gary James is enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame after a disabled customer posted a complaint claiming he was banned from the restaurant by Mr. James simply because he is disabled and uses a wheelchair. Mr. James denies the allegation. If true, such despicable and illegal discrimination would be newsworthy in itself, but it’s the owner’s defiant defense of his policies that has really put Mr. James in the spotlight. Some choice excerpts:

“I’ve been in business 44 years, I think I can spot a freak or a faggot.”

“I don’t deal with these people walking down the street with no jobs on welfare.”

“If you work, you own a business, pay your taxes; you’re more than welcome here. If you’re on welfare, stay at home and spend my money there.”

“If I reached over there and slapped the shit out of you, you should be offended. But to call someone a ‘chink’ or someone call me a bigot, that doesn’t bother me.”

“I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything.”

The official t-shirt of Gary’s Chicaros reads “Where the Great Whites Gather.” It also has the word “nigger” on it, says “faggots” are not welcome, and promotes violence against Democrats, Muslims and minorities. Mr. James says he is proud to wear it. I can only imagine his delightful insights on the subject of women. I am sure his feminist credentials are impeccable.

But the aspect of this story I’d like to highlight is this: in 44 years no one ever challenged Gary James’s business practices.

IN 44 YEARS NO ONE HAS EVER CHALLENGED HIS BUSINESS PRACTICES.

What.

The now-banned disabled customer, Matt Gard—a white man—says he has witnessed James turning people away for years. He just never said or did anything about it until it affected him personally. He now says, “The people who still go back and patronize his business are condoning his behavior in how he treats others.” Indeed. Just as Mr. Gard did for years. Still, better late than never, I suppose. Well, assuming Mr. Gard’s change of views reflects genuine support for non-discrimination policies, and not just with respect to himself and people like him, but everyone. Either way, this story puts into spectacular relief the cavernous empathy deficit that conservatives blithely exhibit, when they are not openly and proudly reveling in it à la Mr. James.

Enid, Oklahoma, where Gary’s Chicaros is located, is a town of about 50,000 people (2010 census). The racial makeup is 81.6% White, 10.3% Hispanic, 3.6% African American, 2.3% Native American, and the rest from other or mixed racial identities. 61.9% claim affiliation with a religious congregation, overwhelmingly Christian: by 1987, there were 90 churches of 27 different Christian denominations in Enid. There are no synagogues or mosques. Enid was ranked the 28th best place in the USA to raise a family in a 1998 Reader’s Digest poll.

There are almost certainly many kind and decent people in Enid who abhor Mr. James’s views, regardless of whether they personally identify with the demographics he explicitly targets. But the community’s decades-long silence is experienced by Mr. James as agreement and support. He has never before paid any price whatsoever for his bigotry or his policies. This is why, as PZ Myers put it, “There’s no such thing as political neutrality. Silence is an argument in favor of the status quo.”

Mr. James is of course free to spout pretty much whatever ignorant and vile shit he wants, a right that we here at the Palace hold absolutely sacrosanct and support 100%. The question, then, becomes what to do about it. We are pleased to report that the Internet has answered this question: mockery.

Oklahoma restaurant that won’t serve ‘f*ggots’ gets Internet push as
‘best gay bar’

The owner of an Oklahoma restaurant who declared last week that he won’t serve “freaks,” “f*ggots,” the disabled, or people on welfare now finds himself the victim of an online campaign to brand his establishment the “Best Gay Club” in Oklahoma City.

Gary James of Gary’s Chicaros restaurant told KFOR last week that “I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything.”

The “gays” have responded on Yelp and Facebook by declaring James’s establishment the “[b]est place for hot man sex!”

Hahaha.

It’s important to point out that there are splash damage problems with the Yelp and Facebook campaigns to brand Gary’s Chicaros the best gay club in Oklahoma City: some of the comments employ gay stereotypes, center on the perceived ick factor surrounding anal sex, or imply that those who enjoy anal penetration or performing oral sex on men are by definition something other than “masculine.” Those particular messages are as harmful and dehumanizing as Gary James’s outright bigotry, and utterly unnecessary.

But the mockery impulse itself is exactly the right idea. Yelpers claiming his restaurant is “the best gay and/or BDSM club in or around Oklahoma” sends a message to Gary James—who will likely never change his own views—that while he is perfectly free to say terrible shit, he is no longer free to say terrible shit without unpleasant consequences. It sends a message to the good people of Enid that they can and perhaps should extract a price for injustice and bigotry in their midst. It sends a message to everyone that despite this community’s 44-year silence, there are many, many people who vehemently disagree with Gary James and have nothing but the deepest contempt for his views. It also sends a message to the LGBT communities in Enid that they have support in the wider world—which message is diluted by the aforementioned splash damage. Please, people: practice Safe Mocking™.

As I noted on a friend’s Facebook thread the other day:

For lurkers and bystanders actually interested in the truth, a non-response lends weight to the asshole side of the argument, whereas a sharp rebuke tilts the scales back. That’s why I recommend [mockery] *only* in public forums. E.g., in a group of friends and acquaintances recently, someone smugly announced “I’m a Republican.” I shot back “How embarrassing.” People laughed, and that d00d kept his vile conservative opinions to himself. That is a good result.

I liken it to racism: there still are and always will be racists among us, but they no longer feel as safe mouthing off publicly because they will often pay an uncomfortable price. It’s potentially happening with homophobia. It can work with right-wing conservatives, rape apologists, narcissists and sadistic trolls, too. They really do not like it when someone points and laughs at them. It’s an Achilles heel.

There’s a reason right-wing dictators have historically jailed cartoonists and taken over the media: mockery is a powerful tool for changing a culture. The instant oppressed people feel safe enough to mock their oppressors, the powerful become less so. I want to use my relative privilege to help create that safety.

More pointing and laughing, please. Watch the splash damage.

TDoR.

[UPDATED.]

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). Here is a very good post about it; here is another.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

A candle burns at the Palace. Flags are at half-mast.

Wallpaper: CandleUPDATE: Those We’ve Lost in 2013.

tdorgraphic

Lt. General Jerry Boykin LOVES Stinky Jeezus.

[CONTENT WARNING: homophobia, transphobia, gender essentialism, excessive and probably unnecessary profanity.]

I was reading an excellent post by Amanda Marcotte about the panty-sniffing authoritarian assholes that comprise the Forced Birth Brigades when I noticed a link to another piece at Raw Story. It read:

Anti-LGBT activist slams church over ‘effeminate’ Jesus:
‘He smelled bad… He was a man’s man’

Maybe it’s just my sense of humor, but I never fail to get a snicker out of the pathetically infantile views of sexuality and gender expressed by “anti-LGBT activists.” Especially the d00ds: these are plainly some of the most insecure men on the planet, anxious and obsessed with a toxic model of cartoonish hyper-masculinity (and, not coincidentally, with an equally toxic construct of femininity). It does not matter from which particular Abrahamic sect such noxious views emanate—and there is always a religious source—because they are all so boringly similar. Thus it has become my custom to emit a derisive snort in the general direction of such clickbait and move on.

But in this case, the prospect of a rant about Stinky Jeezus proved far too enticing. I clicked the link. And lo, it came to pass that I was not disappointed.

Lt_Gen_William_G_Boykin

Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin,
manly man’s man,
just like Jeezus.

An anti-Muslim retired lieutenant general who now serves as the Family Research Council (FRC) executive vice president recently said he was upset that Jesus had been “feminized” because the Son of God was a “man’s man” who “smelled bad” and had “big, bulging biceps, big ole veins popping out of his arms.”

In a video clip posted by Right Wing Watch on Monday, Jerry Boykin tells a group at William Jessup University that Jesus would have been a lot different than most people imagined because he did manual labor as a carpenter.

“Do you think he looked like the effeminate picture that we always see of him?” Boykin asked. “He didn’t look like that. He had big ole calluses over his hands, right? I imagine he probably lost a nail or two, he probably hit it with a hammer or something.”

“You think his biceps weren’t big bulging biceps, big ole veins popping out of his arms, thin waist, strong shoulders from lifting?” he continued. “He smelled bad! Why? Because he sweated, he worked. You think I’m sacrilegious because I said Jesus smelled bad? No, he was a man! He was a man’s man.”

Boykin lamented that “we feminize him in the church.”

“He was a tough guy, and that’s the Jesus I want to be like,” he insisted. “But we feminize Jesus in the church and men can’t identify with him anymore, not the kind of men I want to hang out with. They can’t identify with this effeminate Jesus that we’ve tried to portray.”

What.

Here’s the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXPq6j6NEbk

I’m familiar with FRC, the conservative Christian lobbying organization classified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and led by infamous bigot Tony Perkins. These merry assholes rail against gay rights, including marriage equality and LGBT adoption, and oppose any expansion of civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. FRC is vehemently anti-abortion, anti-birth control and proudly endorses the teaching of the spectacular font of misery and abject failure that is abstinence-only education, “intelligent design,” and prayer in public schools. In other words, these people are total fucking doucheweasels.

Boykin’s name sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place it so I looked him up. His impressive military career spanned 36 years, including 13 years in Delta Force. It almost didn’t happen: a Fort Bragg psychologist almost ended his career, wanting to exclude him from the Delta Force because he was “too religious.” But he finally got in anyway.

Boykin was awarded many military honors, including two Purple Hearts. He took part in some high-profile missions, including the 1992 hunt for drug lord Pablo Escobar. The Pentagon suspected Boykin intended to overstep his authority, break the law and have his team assassinate Escobar in Colombia, and it appears that’s exactly what he did. In 1993, he advised Attorney General Janet Reno regarding the stand-off at Waco, TX between the Feds and the Branch Davidians, and, well, let’s just say that didn’t work out very well. Boykin has been connected to secret Israeli counterinsurgency activities in Iraq, allegedly including assassination squads. In 2003, Seymour Hersh documented in the New Yorker that Boykin was a key planner behind Donald Rumsfeld’s approach to fighting the War on Terror. Heckuvajob there.

Still, none of that really rang any bells. Then I came across an item that jogged my memory: Lt. General Boykin saying stupid shit. In a recorded speech to a religious group in 2003, Boykin said that Islamic extremists hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians…and the enemy is a guy named Satan.” (Wait, I thought the Satan worshippers hated us for our Freedom™, not for our Jewy-Jeezusness. ?) The next day the Los Angeles Times ran some more Boykin quotes, including a doozy about hunting down Osman Atto in Mogadishu: “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.” (Translation: “I am insecure about the size of my penis. Also, my dad can beat up your dad.”) Worst of all, Boykin has questioned the eligibility of Muslims for protection under the Constitution—despite the fact that thousands of Muslims presently serve honorably in the military and have done so since the American Revolution.

muslimgravesatarlingtonGraves of Muslim soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
These three lost their lives in Iraq, a war for which
Lt. Gen. Boykin was a key planner.

When Boykin started mouthing off about his big penis god and the small penises evils of Muslims, people went apeshit, and rightfully so. Arab and Muslim organizations in the U.S. called for his resignation, as did many mainstream publications like Newsweek. Congresscritters from both parties denounced the remarks, and urged Rumsfeld to censure and reassign him. Even President Bush distanced himself, saying Boykin didn’t “reflect my point of view or the point of view of this administration.”

Of course nothing ever came of any of it. Boykin retired in 2007 and went on to say even more stupid shit, if you can believe it. For example, he co-wrote a hilariously paranoid book for a neocon think [sic] tank, entitled Shariah: The threat to America (pdf). Its central argument is that “most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.” Um, no. As an acclaimed article in the Washington Post understated it: “Government terrorism experts call the views expressed in the center’s book inaccurate and counterproductive.” Boykin also claims the Holy Spirit speaks to him personally and tells him what to say to the Lord’s men: “put your armor on and get into battle.” For Jeezus. Yikes.

And now we have this Stinky Jeezus rant. Christ. Where to begin.

First, the projection. Religious people apparently cannot grok that to everyone else, their gods are obviously projections of themselves. Thus it is yawningly predictable when an anti-gay war-lover like Boykin pompously proclaims with certainty that Jeezus is not only super butch, he gives Boykin personal messages to tell other men to be super butch, too. Yet strangely enough, we have Anglican priest Father Rod Bower also claiming to know the mind of the Christian god—who loves gays:

JESUS HAD
2 DADS
AND HE TURNED
OUT OKAY

DEAR CHRISTIANS
SOME PPL ARE GAY
GET OVER IT.
LOVE GOD

For the religious, the only issue here is which version of god is the correct one. If you are a homophobic authoritarian asshat, you will “know” that Boykin is right about super butch Stinky Jeezus. Not only that, but you will probably think this image distributed at the 2000 Republican national convention is seriously awesome, if not incontrovertible proof that Stinky Jeezus himself wants George W. Bush to be the 43rd president.

bushasunclesamOn the other hand, if you are socially liberal, you will “know” that god loves and accepts gay people and abhors discrimination. You will also likely think the above image is hilariously absurd.

‘Twas ever thus. The history of this nation is scarred with epic battles where we somehow find Jeezus on both sides of slavery, the Civil War, women’s emancipation, the civil rights movement, abortion, contraception, gun rights, “free market” capitalism, welfare, the Vietnam War, public education, stem cell research, everything. The obvious problem is that there is no way of determining any such thing. In some cases scripture might appear to “help,” for example by providing a religious justification for the vilification of gays and the commodification of women. But in many cases scripture itself is so internally contradictory that one cannot possibly justify any particular argument for what this god character wants, at least not honestly and coherently. And so we are right back to the same problem of projection: sects and individuals choosing whatever idea of god suits them personally. Never mind that the most likely explanation by far for this conundrum is that there is no Jeezus and religious people are naively unreflective at best, and willfully ignorant narcissists at worst.

Boykin says he wants to see only butch Jeezus images in churches, and only hang out with d00ds who are sweaty, smelly and have “big bulging biceps, big ole veins popping out of his arms, thin waist, strong shoulders from lifting.” NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. I’m not being flippant here, I mean it: whoever Boykin finds appealing company is entirely his prerogative and the Palace supports him 100% in this, no matter how superficial it reveals him to be. But his low regard for men who are not super butch like him and Stinky Jeezus—in particular his use of “effeminate” as an insult, as something defiling Christian churches—is toxic patriarchal bullshit of the first order. Using “effeminate” to label men he does not wish to look at or hang out with is not only dismissive of men who do not meet his aberrational standards for masculinity, it is equally contemptuous of women and all things feminine. Boykin devalues the worth and humanity of countless soldiers who have served the U.S. military bravely and honorably in critical roles that do not, in fact, require bulging biceps any more than they require Christianity. He demeans and erases these soldiers, just as he erases the Muslim soldiers killed and maimed in his stupid fucking war. If you were an effeminate man, slight of build, androgynous, or hell, anything other than a super butch smelly d00d, what would it be like to serve under a patriarchal shitweasel like Lt. General Boykin?

Because here’s the truth: Jerry Boykin doesn’t get to define masculinity. Neither he nor the FRC is the arbiter of who is or is not a man. I am reminded of something bell hooks said recently in this amazing discussion with Melissa Harris Perry [h/t Jadehawk]:

When we talk about hyper-masculinity, if what we mean is patriarchy, that’s what we need to say. Because we have to have a space to love, to revere, and to honor that which is masculine but is not patriarchal. And if we are constantly equating the two, then we are part of the assault on masculinity.

Now don’t get me wrong: I am grateful that we have delusional right-wing assholes like Boykin in the military. If it should it ever prove necessary for the United States to resort to violence in self-defense (hahaha), their cavernous empathy deficit coupled with enthusiasm for physical aggression would seem to render such personalities remarkably well-suited to killing other humans, and presumably more psychologically resilient in the aftermath than a decent human being would be. But while there may be a practical need for delusional right-wing assholes in the military, we obviously cannot have delusional right-wing assholes in charge of the military. That goes for everyone from the so-called Commander-in-Chief, the Pentagon leadership, CIA Director, and especially for the unelected, unaccountable permanent power factions they so ably serve: the Military Industrial Complex, Big Banks, Dirty Energy and the shifting coalitions of other nefarious shitheads such as the health insurance industry and Big Agriculture.

Unfortunately, all indicators point to a mass of delusional right-wing assholes running the shit show.

Iris the radical?

I recently enjoyed the company of one of my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ over dinner and cocktails. At one point during our wide-ranging conversation, he said to me: “You are a radical.” Not a “radical feminist.” Not a “radical leftist.” Not “a radical atheist and anti-clerical zealot.”

Just… a radical.

I laughed. Not because I found the charge insulting by any means, but because I had never really considered before whether that particular term accurately described my political views. If it did, I would gladly identify as such, and update my professional resume accordingly.

I am not particularly fond of labeling people—especially political animals—because labels necessarily paint with a broad brush and thereby oversimplify exceedingly complex realities. Humans are wildly complex creatures, our priorities are as fluid as they are diverse, and none of us are always perfectly rational—and this may be particularly true in the case of political orientation. But labels do make for useful shorthand, at least sometimes. For example, it can be meaningful to say that someone leans left (or libertarian) on certain issues (e.g. drug legalization, same-sex marriage), and right-wing conservative on others (e.g. abortion, and funding a social safety net). And so, since that pleasant conversation I’ve been wondering whether or not the term “radical” (noun) is an apt description of Your Humble Monarch™.

Readers are strongly cautioned that what follows is an epic, self-righteous, self-indulgent screed: all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

__________

Loyal Readers™ will not be surprised that I approached the question of whether I am a radical methodically, starting with the definition. Unfortunately, Step One did not exactly turn out to be an exercise in clarification. (Wikipedia was of no help at all here: see if you can glean from that page any coherent, consensus definition of a radical.)

We’re pretty much stuck with crap like this:

radical [rad-i-kuhl]
noun

  • a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist.
  • a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.

Wait a minute. For one thing, “a person who holds or follows strong convictions” applies to nearly everyone I know, from family and friends to run-of-the-mill partisans. Ask any American adult about their views on religion, reproductive rights, Wall Street, taxes, drugs, Fox News, Syria, the Second Amendment, health care, Sarah Palin, affirmative action, Israel, criminal law, feminism, assisted suicide, etc. and I can pretty much guarantee you will discover at least one (and probably more) convictions the person holds strongly. Further, the U.S. Constitution itself is absolutist in much of its language and intent, and surely the major principles embodied therein can be correctly characterized as “strong”—although perhaps not strong enough to survive the bipartisan attacks of the early 21st century. In any case, its framers can accurately be described as radicals under this definition. So I will concede that I am a person who holds strong convictions (else, why blog?). But really, this definition is fairly useless. I may be a radical by this definition, but then, nearly everybody else is, too.

The second part of the definition, “a person who holds or follows … extreme principles; extremist,” is equally useless—not for being too broad but for being too vague. “Extreme” is a relative term. Extreme, relative to what, exactly? I suspect many readers here would view, say, neo-Nazis as extremists. Catholic bishops. Eco-terrorists. Take your pick/fill in the blank: you probably have some idea of an “extremist” in mind.

However:

  • Not even 20 years ago, legalized same-sex marriage seemed all but a pipe dream; now, the feds, the states and the courts are dismantling same-sex marriage prohibitions (due in no small part to advocates bolting from Democrats to Republicans in droves after Dems failed to act). Were same-sex marriage supporters extremists or radicals 20 years ago? Are they today? Likewise, how about their opponents, then and now?
  • It took women’s suffrage advocates almost 150 years to secure for American women their right to vote. At some point were they radicals? At what point did they cease to be radicals? I have similar questions regarding American abolitionists. Were they radicals or extremists? Everywhere, or only in the South?
  • An astonishing number (46%) of my fellow citizens believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that some god created humans in their present form around the same time. Are they extremists? Radicals?

If extremism is only a numbers game confined to a particular geographic area and time—that is, if enough people in one place share a view, no matter how demonstrably false it is or how much evil results from holding it—are they by definition not extremists? Because if that is true, then the concept of “extreme” is entirely subjective. I don’t think anyone would disagree that a whole lot of people at almost all times and places fervently believe a whole lot of stupid, wrong and vile shit, consciously or not. We probably all do. So I’m afraid “extreme” (and “extremist”) are far too slippery for our purposes here.

Finally, there is this alternative definition: “a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.” Now this seems somewhat more promising. Let’s see:

“a person” -CHECK.

“who advocates” -CHECK.

“fundamental political, economic, and social reforms.” If you think that a more socialist democracy, i.e., less economic and political inequality, single-payer universal healthcare and advances in social justice for women and minorities, are fundamental reforms, then -CHECK. But we run into the same problems we did with “extreme”: fundamental is equally slippery and subjective. And I would strongly urge you to consider that your judgement on this “fundamental” matter may depend on how far down the right-wing rabbit hole you’ve fallen.

Take a look at these quotes:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican President, WWII General

“I believe that there should be a very much heavier progressive tax on very large incomes, a tax which should increase in a very marked fashion for the gigantic incomes.”
~Theodore Roosevelt, Republican President

“The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”
~Thomas Jefferson, Democratic-Republican President, Founding Father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
~Abraham Lincoln, Republican President

“Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”
~Barry Goldwater, Republican presidential candidate

“The supreme duty of the Nation is the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice. We pledge ourselves to work unceasingly in State and Nation for … the protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use.”
~Theodore Roosevelt, Republican President

“The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any state or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.”
~James A. Garfield, Republican President

“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.”
~Barry Goldwater, Republican presidential candidate

“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”
~George Washington, first President of the United States, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and Founding Father

“We establish no religion in this country. We command no worship. We mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are and must remain separate.”
~Ronald Reagan, Republican President

“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.”
~Ronald Reagan, Republican President

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Court Justice (Republican appointee)

“We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference.”
~Rutherford B. Hayes, Republican President

“We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican President, WWII General

There is nothing there that I disagree with. You?

For comparison, and with that context in mind, I posted in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election a (non-exhaustive) list of things a political candidate could do to earn my support:

At the time, I noted:

This is not fringe lefty stuff. I really isn’t. There is nothing here that is not standard, mainstream liberal fare.

Much of it was mainstream Republican fare, for most of our nation’s history.

It sure seems to me that something like the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall would qualify as a “fundamental” reform. Dismantling the provisions of the 1933 Banking Act enacted in the wake of the crash that led to the Great Depression that separated commercial banking from investment banking predictably led to the 2008 crash, from which much of the world is still reeling (with the exception of America’s Owners, of course)—and the unprecedented taxpayer bailouts that followed. That seems rather…um…hmmm…what’s the word I’m looking for here? Oh right: radical. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a century of settled law in the Citizens United case, granting corporations First Amendment rights and thereby unleashing the floodgates on corporate money in elections. That is radical. The president’s assassination of American citizens without due process: what could possibly be a more radical “fundamental reform” than that?

These are all recent, rapid, fundamental changes, and I want them changed back. Christ, now I sound like a fucking reactionary.

Anyway. Putting aside whether the reforms I support are “fundamental” or not, the final clause in the definition of “radical” that we are working with requires that I advocate for these reforms “by direct and often uncompromising methods.” Do I?

Well, I do strongly advocate voting, especially in primaries. And I strongly advocate supporting lefty candidates, financially or otherwise—again, especially in primaries, and even more especially in primaries against conservative Democratic incumbents. I further advocate not voting for conservative Democrats (including Barack Obama), both as a tactical strategy and on principle. Finally, I advocate peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience. There is a long and grand tradition of Americans doing precisely the same, from slavery abolition to women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement to Vietnam war protests, and history has looked back and smiled kindly at every one of them.

I absolutely do not concede that any of these methods are “direct and often uncompromising” in an ostensible democracy. Indeed, citizens have the right (if not the duty) to advocate for and against candidates, platforms, causes and initiatives that they believe are important.

I am not directly advocating for a revolution, although I do believe that one is inevitable if our current trajectory as a country is not significantly altered—politically, economically and socially—and soon. No one can claim to have any idea what will spark it, where or when, and there is a grave risk that things will turn out very, very badly for large swaths of humanity (almost certainly including America’s Owners themselves). I would like to have some influence on the shape it will take, and the way that it will play out. It is my fervent hope that this revolution will be nonviolent, that diverse coalitions will seek and find common cause in restoring our democracy from the ravages of endless war and corporate greed, and that we will not fall prey to the tactics of an elite which seeks to divide and conquer us. To that end, I will do what I can to advocate peaceful protest and civil disobedience, as well as coalition-building with multiple constituencies, including with those whose political perspective is radically (hahaha) different than my own.

But if I change my mind about all of that, and start directly advocating for a revolution, I would still probably eschew the label “radical.”

Instead, I would be a revolutionary.

IRS to treat same-sex marriages equally for tax purposes; feds won’t mess with legal weed.

prideflagYay for gays:

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced on Thursday that they would treat legal same-sex marriages the same as heterosexual marriages for federal tax purposes.

The new policy, which comes in response to a June Supreme Court ruling that overturned a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, allows same-sex spouses to file tax returns as married couples regardless of whether they live in jurisdictions that recognize gay unions.

I really like it when my government does the right thing, even if it takes a Supreme Court decision to get them to do it.

Speaking of my government doing the right thing:

Obama administration will not block state marijuana laws, if distribution is regulated.

The Obama administration on Thursday said it will not stand in the way of Colorado, Washington and other states where voters have supported legalizing marijuana either for medical or recreational use, as long as those states maintain strict rules involving distribution of the drug.

In a memo sent Thursday to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole detailed the administration’s new stance, even as he reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The memo directs federal prosecutors to focus their resources on eight specific areas of enforcement, rather than targeting individual marijuana users, which even President Obama has acknowledged is not the best use of federal manpower. Those areas include preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the sale of pot to cartels and gangs, preventing sales to other states where the drug remains illegal under state law, and stopping the growing of marijuana on public lands.

I can get behind some of those limitations—except for preventing sales to other states where the drug remains illegal, and stopping the growing of marijuana on public lands. First, fuck those other states. If they don’t want weed from another state coming in, they can either figure out how to interdict and enforce their stupid prohibitions, or legalize it and get with the program. Second, how about people will agree to stop growing weed on public lands when the U.S. government agrees to stop permitting drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands. Until then, seriously, they can fuck right off.

Overall, the news coming out of Washington DC today has made for a very happy Thursday at the Palace.  We wish our Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ the same.

Ooh look! It’s cocktail hour! And we have a few things to celebrate—not that that’s a requirement for cocktails around here. Obviously.

Cheers!

Happy Pride.

prideflagThe gay community has much to celebrate this year: the death of DOMA in the Supreme Court means that discrimination against gay citizens may no longer be codified in federal law. This single decision has many positive ripple effects, from immigration rights to inheritance benefits. A delicious side benefit, of course, is that it drives religious conservatives positively apoplectic. We approve of this very, very much.

Another effect seems to be the unusually raucous and jubilant crowd outside the Palace walls today at the annual pride parade. (The Palace is located near the very end of the parade route, where marchers disband and floats are dismantled and every bar stool in the vicinity becomes inaccessible to Palace denizens until some time tomorrow afternoon.) Before we could see or even hear the impending arrival of the Dykes on Bikes — the traditional lead off contingent — the enormous crowd was happily shouting, whistling, chanting and applauding. There hasn’t been a lull since, and it’s now going past three hours — and raining. Occasionally, the din is overwhelmed by house music blasting from a passing float, or by someone speaking over a very loud PA system. But overall, there is just the electrifying sound of joy ringing through the West Village, ringing in a new era of legal recognition for our gay brothers and sisters. Their hard work and that of their allies to bring this about should make us all proud as Americans.

The goal of equality is far from accomplished, but this country has just taken a big step in the right direction. I have to say, it brings a tear to my jaded eye.

HAPPY, HAPPY PRIDE.

Also: fuck you, conservatives. Every time you lose, this country gets a little bit better.

Lazing around on the Internetz.

Via the awesome Abby Martin, we learn that as the pernicious CISPA bill stalls in Congress, it turns out that the Obama administration has already secretly authorized and put into effect the worst of the bill:

Well, knock me over with a feather. On the plus side: Abby Martin is a badass.

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Speaking of badasses, Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written one of the most succinct, well-expressed and devastating takedowns of the “principles” of economic conservatism I have seen anywhere. I was going to quote from it liberally (see what I did there?) but I will just urge you to go read it.

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If you are so inclined, please go sign this petition by navy Veteran and rape survivor Trina MacDonald,  urging Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice to move the prosecution of military sexual assault out of the chain of command.

According to estimates from the Department of Defense, 19,000 service men and women are sexually assaulted while serving in the United States military every year. But 86% of them never report their assault—too often because seeking justice threatens their safety, their job security, and their future.

One really shouldn’t have to report one’s rape to one’s rapist—or their enablers. Go do your good deed for the day and sign the petition.

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Without endorsing all of it, this is an excellent analysis of Why Things Happen that I mostly agree with. Short version: wars, lies and corruption are not the result of a “conspiracy” per se, at least not in the typical way we think of it. They are the inevitable emergent properties of a system: global capitalism.

Do powerful forces attempt to control events? Yes, they do. But these forces, in this day and age, are political representatives of a class—the capitalist-imperialist class. And they do not have total control.

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Irin Carmon has an interesting and provocative piece at Salon, in which she reflects on the intersection between toxic masculinity and terrorism in the case of the Boston bombings. Does it surprise anyone that friends of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife Katherine told NPR that he “flew into rages, calling her a slut and a prostitute and throwing things at her”? Or that he was arrested for domestic violence against another woman in 2009?

“Large public acts of terrorism are very public displays of masculinity, making a statement in the biggest way possible,” says Abby Ferber, a sociologist at the University of Colorado who has studied white supremacist groups and masculinity. In her work, she said, she often encountered a “vulnerability to their sense of masculinity whether it’s their relationship with their father, their culture. And there are a limited number of ways in the culture to show your masculinity.” In the absence of the traditional forms of masculinity — including financial or social power — “you’re more likely to see extreme means. They’re showing that they’re real men, man enough to do something like this.”

This is problem #423,752 with traditional cultures — i.e. conservative cultures: gender roles are distinct and narrowly limited. Where Real Men™ are defined by their status in a hierarchy and dominance over others, masculinity becomes synonymous with power and strength, and femininity with submission and weakness. This dynamic isn’t good for anyone in a healthy and diverse society. It’s a cultural meme that is self-perpetuating. It won’t die easily.

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Last but certainly not least, Glenn Greenwald has a revealing post about the San Francisco Gay Pride parade’s decision to ban any mention of Bradley Manning, while marching under the banner of some of the most corrupt corporations on the planet.

Yes, there will undoubtedly still be exotically-dressed drag queens, lesbian motorcycle clubs, and groups proudly defined by their unusual sexual proclivities participating in the parade, but they’ll be marching under a Bank of America banner and behind flag-waving fans of the National Security State, the US President, and the political party that dominates American politics and its political and military institutions. Yet another edgy, interesting, creative, independent event has been degraded and neutered into a meek and subservient ritual that must pay homage to the nation’s most powerful entities and at all costs avoid offending them in any way.

Budding fascists in the Democratic Party running the San Francisco pride parade: this is what authoritarianism looks like in the age of Obama.

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I think I’ll have a refreshing cocktail. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, you godless heathens.

It’s Time to Smite Two Religion-Based Impositions on American Liberties

What Robert Green Ingersoll said of the Bible (About the Holy Bible, 1894) applies as well to the Christian religion that promotes it, namely, it imprisons the brain and corrupts the heart.

While many examples could be cited, what clearer illustration of this reality could be found than in the positions advanced by religionists on the two issues now before the U.S. Supreme Court, namely, DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage?

Religious dogma leads otherwise decent people to deny certain basic human rights to others that affect them in no way whatsoever. In the case at hand, dogma has motivated Christians to oppose marriage equality. Why? Because Christian faith beliefs persuade followers that if others are allowed to do what they find sinful, namely allow marriage equality for gays and lesbians, this will be a  violation of their religious liberties .

How convoluted is that? Is intolerance a Christian virtue?

Gays and lesbians are not seeking to compel any churches or religions to do anything they don’t want to do. At present, gays or lesbians can marry without any involvement of religious officials, though some Christian ministers are supportive of such marriages and will perform such ceremonies in states where same sex unions are recognized.

Secularists and Christians and other religiously-oriented Americans who support freedom are wise to join in common cause to protect basic human rights and oppose religious encroachments on our laws and public policies.

Besides DOMA and Prop 8, other issues can be identified where liberties and personal freedoms are compromised, distorted, restricted or otherwise constrained by religion-inspired repression?

*  Restrictions on sexual conduct, including but not limited to same-sex relations between consenting adults.

*  Overt discrimination in the military. Only in the past year has the infamous don’t ask, don’t tell policy, which banned openly gay or bisexual from serving in the military, been overturned.

*  The status of women, who until the twentieth century were viewed as subordinate to men, lacking a full capacity for reason and dependent on husbands and other males. Not entirely but to a considerable extent, this prejudice was religiously inspired via holy books and suppressive elements of dogma and religious authority.

How odd that many still associate religions with the teaching of ethics when it fact religious policies and practices often are unethical. Freethinkers base their ethics not on ancient texts or the pontifications of pontiffs and other religious authorities but on reason and evidence. Religious dogma, usually vague and filled with you better the hell not threats, seems a sorry basis for ethics or public policies.

Who knows for sure that there is a God or, if one wants to believe there is, what his or her factual position is on freedoms and human rights?

There is only one reliable source for identifying the nature of human rights – us. We, the members of a given society, determine the nature of the rights we get to enjoy. In most Western nations, we rely on democratic processes to identify desired human rights based on our sense of desirable conditions under which we wish to live peacefully and productively with others with shared values. This is how we came up with what humanists call common decencies. We do not need religions to know that it is in our interest not to kill, steal, injure or plunder, break agreements, tell lies, ignore commitments, fail to assist others and so on.

Do you need a god or a religion to know these things? If someone is unlikely to refrain from doing such things save for fear of a god who will water-board him, hang him upside down and  burn him forevermore in some future life-after-death hellhole, would you want to associate with such a fiend?

Do you think this after-life form of justice motivates Christians who choose to oppose gay marriage?

Most of us accept the secular codes of conduct and common decencies of a positive nature even though we sometimes fail to function accordingly. (Self interest, temptations of varied kinds, special circumstances and so on lead us imperfect humans astray, some more often than others.) We accept these purely secular core norms, though often religionists give their faith traditions credit for their good, ethical behavior.

In this country and many others, we also embrace a variety of quite secular liberties for ourselves and others, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom to pursue an education and so on. For those who take their freedoms seriously, such liberties extend to sexual freedoms, though this is an area that brings conflict with those under the influence of religion.

Which brings me back to DOMA and Proposition 8. In the current issue of Free Inquiry Magazine (March 25, 2013), Ronald A. Lindsay has an article entitled, “Humanism, LGBT Equality and Human Rights. It concludes with this summary:

The freedom to marry is different from other fundamental liberties. To speak freely, to exercise your religion freely, and to have intimate relations with the partner of your choice, government just needs to stay out of the way. Marriage, however, is a State-run institution. One cannot get married without State support and approval. But these facts do not change our analysis significantly. If the State supports an institution such as marriage, which allows couples to obtain certain benefits by legally solemnizing their union, then all individuals should have the same right to take advantage of this institution. Denying same-sex couples the right to marry makes no more sense than denying women the right to vote or African Americans the right to attend integrated schools.

Let’s support a society wherein everyone enjoys fundamental human rights. Let’s recognize that religion is often no friend of liberty, though many Christians either have already or will come to favor human rights over dogma if the issues of freedom are communicated effectively.

Americans have a great stake in the current battle to gain equal rights for LGBT citizens. The right to marry based on reason and this nation’s commitment to liberty should trump the tenets of ancient religious texts.

I’m proud to be associated with the American Humanist Association, the Center for Free Inquiry, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and a diverse coalition of many other secular and humanist organizations that are leading the fight to have the Supreme Court strike down these two infamous, religion-inspired constraints on everyone’s liberty. Let’s hope that the religionists on the court decide the cases not so much in accord with the make-believe better angels of their nature but in concert with their training in law and passion for justice. If so, we should expect their support for what we secularists believe is the best interpretations of liberty of, by and for the people.