#muschniwogdowis of the day: Syria.

Today’s report in Most US Citizens Have No Idea What Our Government Does Or Who It Serves (#muschniwogdowis) follows.

The United States violated its ceasefire commitments with Russia, flew four military aircraft and a drone out of Iraq and bombed the shit out of a fragile Syrian Arab Army position at Deir ez-Zor, killing over 60 soldiers and injuring more than 100 others. Earlier in the day, Syria announced the arrival at the base of 1,000 additional soldiers to help liberate the surrounding region from ISIS control. A statement from US Central Command said “U.S. surveillance had been ‘tracking’ an Islamic State fighting position ‘for a significant amount of time before the strike.'” [<- o.O] An anonymous US official from the Department of Defense said the US strike “appears to be an intelligence failure.”


150,000 civilians (still) live in the Deir ez-Zor region, which has been held under ISIS control. While the Syrians and Russians have been hitting ISIS targets in the region for some time, the US had done absolutely nothing about that until yesterday.

For a…slightly different view, let’s hear what Russian envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin had to say:

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Nine Eleven.

I wasn’t going to write anything today about September 11, 2001. I haven’t done so for the last few years, and before that I never said much about it anyway.

But just so you know: I watched the towers burn and then fall that day. I helped my work colleagues evacuate 30 Rockefeller Center that morning, when we still weren’t sure how many hijacked planes were still flying or what landmarks they might still target. I breathed the acrid, yellow air that hung over Manhattan for days. I brought flowers and candles to my local fire station in Hell’s Kitchen, and I wrote sad and grateful messages in a big book they kept there on the sidewalk.

From a high floor at 30 Rock, I heard bagpipes day after day after day after day. The funerals at St. Patrick’s cathedral—so, so many goddamn funerals— could only be seen from the north side of the building, but it seemed no matter where you were, you could always hear those bagpipes. I still recall those days vividly whenever I hear bagpipes.

I find this subject very, very difficult to write about, talk about or think about, and I’m pretty sure I know why. It’s that I am still processing the events of that day, and the wars, opportunistic power grabs and unconscionable greed unleashed over the last fifteen years. It was and still is traumatic.

But it’s a different kind of trauma than any I’ve every experienced, before or since. All of the others were strictly personal. September 11, 2001, and my government’s actions since that day, have profoundly affected not just me, but my city, my country and much of the world. And I have come to realize that the way I am dealing with the grief, the rage, the insights and revelations that come later whether you want them to or not, is much the same: I make art. I make a life. I write.

It is not lost on me that when I write about abortion rights and feminism and rape and abuse, I am also saying something about my own life. And when I write about politics, war, religious conservatives and conservative Democrats, I am also saying something about September 11, 2001.

If I have learned anything on my journey that I can share with you, it’s this: find joy in your day. Today and every day. Bring joy to others where you can. Otherwise, the terrorists really do win.


Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.

Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Robert Green Ingersoll



Greenmarket Day.

With the exception of Gay Pride, summer weekends in the West Village are very quiet. Especially the mornings. I took a stroll to the Saturday Greenmarket at Abingdon Square to acquire some provisions for the week, and along the way I took a bunch of pictures with my iPhone like a goddamn tourist. I was thinking you might enjoy them.


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Fucking hell, people.

[CONTENT NOTE: Orlando mass shooting and related issues; rape; mental health. No violent images or graphic descriptions.]

I was quite literally rendered speechless upon learning of the tragedy in Orlando Sunday morning. I cannot say I was surprised, though; mass public shootings in the US have been increasing, and it’s no secret that conservatives have been cranking up the hate against the LGBTQ community (just as they have against women, immigrants, religious minorities, the poor, the disabled, etc., and of course none of this is a coincidence). But I did (and do) feel traumatized—as in anxious, dissociating, difficulty concentrating, overwhelming sadness and anger, waking through the night with my heart pounding, super fun stuff like that. For an artist and writer who uses art and writing to process life and the world around her, such a state is nothing short of devastating. (<-See? Dissociating. I just referred to myself in the third person for no fucking reason FFS.)

I don’t write a lot about my personal life online, for many reasons I won’t go into here. But in this case some of that is relevant, and I think perhaps worth sharing.

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One of the things I love most about this city is that it is constantly recycling itself. If you’re a fan of urban hiking, you can walk the same streets day after day and almost always discover something new. Sometimes you notice something old that somehow escaped your attention. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you get yelled at by the police for taking pictures with your iPhone in a public fucking building.


On Friday I had some business at the New York County court house at 60 Centre Street. The subways on the West side don’t get you very close, so when you come up from the station on Chambers Street you have to zig and zag your way North and East for several blocks. I guess I had never taken this particular path before, or at least not for a long time, because I stumbled on something striking: the African Burial Ground National Monument.


It reads:

For all those who were lost
For all those who were stolen
For all those who were left behind
For all those who were not forgotten

From the plaque by the street:

A Place of Remembrance

From the 1690s until 1794, an estimated 15,000 enslaved and free Africans were laid to rest in the African Burial Ground. In 1991, during construction of the Ted Weiss Federal Building, 419 skeletal remains were exhumed. The rediscovery of the cemetery sparked vigorous efforts to preserve this hallowed ground. In 1993 a small portion of the original 6.6 acre cemetery became the first below-ground New York City landmark and a national historic landmark. African Burial Ground National Monument was proclaimed on February 27, 2006. Widely regarded as one of America’s most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century, it is also a place of remembrance and reflection.

Ancestral Reinterment Ground

On October 4, 2003, the exhumed ancestral remains were reburied on this site. The bones and accompanying artifacts were placed in hand-carved wooden coffins made in Ghana and lined with Kente cloth. The coffins were placed in seven crypts as close as possible to the original burial positions with heads facing west. Seven burial mounds mark the locations of the reinterments. If you wish, you may place flowers on top of the burial mounds.

The plaque also gives an overview of the layout:


Circle of the Diaspora

The African Diaspora is the forced removal of Africans from their homeland to different parts of the world. It is also Africans’ unwavering spirit and ability to adapt. This circular wall, ramp, and interior court display cultural and spiritual images from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and other areas throughout the Diaspora.

Ancestral Chamber

The 24-foot-high Ancestral Chamber represents the soaring African spirit and the distance below ground from which the ancestral remains were exhumed. It is made of Verde Fontaine green granite from Africa. The heartlike Sankofa symbol from West Africa means “Learn from the past to prepare for the future.” The interior recalls a ship’s hold and provides a place for individual contemplation and prayer.

I found all of this quite moving.

It was a cool gray day, raining on and off. There was a long line to get inside the visitor center, but the monument itself was practically deserted: I saw only two people, both black, come and go separately. (You will be happy to learn that I waited until they were well out of sight before I started snapping pictures like a maniacal tourist.) The monument’s web site has some interesting resources, but I’d really like to explore the visitor center when I have a little more time. It has a book store, which I’m hoping houses a treasure trove of titles that can rarely be found all in one place.

I love New York City, and I’ve learned over the years that its history has at least as many facets as people. Sometimes its stories are sad or strange, sometimes surprising or even exhilarating. But at the rate this city reinvents itself, it seems unimaginable to me that any one person could learn all that much about it, relatively speaking, even over the course of a lifetime.


A few blocks away, I was standing in line to clear security in the lobby of the court house. It’s pretty much the standard airport security theater setup: x-ray for bags and coats and whatnot, walk-through metal detectors and a phalanx of people in uniform, inside-joking with each other while waiting for someone to set of an alarm. Except unlike TSA agents, these d00ds were armed—NYPD, I think—and I couldn’t help wondering if they were also waiting for an opportunity to pull their guns. You know: to break up the monotony of Keeping Us Safe™ by killing someone.

As I waited my turn, I took in the stunning architecture, not for the first time. Soaring columns, vaulted ceilings, gorgeous details—lit up, unfortunately, by a monstrous chandelier ablaze with fluorescent glare.


“Hey! Hey! You can’t do that!” I heard one of the uniformed gentlemen barking. I ignored it —it couldn’t possibly be directed at me—as I snapped another shot with my iPhone.


“HEY!” Much more emphatic this time.”YOU CAN’T TAKE PICTURES IN HERE!”

“Oh. Really?” I was a bit miffed. What Sooper Seekrit stuff could there possibly be in the lobby of the same building where millions of New Yorkers serve jury duty, FFS.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t know.” It’s not like there was a big sign that said NO CAMERAS or anything. I slipped the phone into my pocket. “Did you want me to delete them?”

“WHAT?” he snapped back.

“The pictures, do you want me to delete them?”

He seemed to think about it for a second or two before shaking his head in exasperation. Or disgust. Hard to tell, really.

Later I wondered if I were black whether he might have opened fire instead.


On my way back to the subway via a different route, I spotted a Lot-Less store. It’s one of those discount/closeout/outlet operations that pepper the city, promising (and often delivering) all kinds of brand-name retail items, from food to shoes to housewares to electronics at, like, 80% off. I’ve always been a sucker for these shops, not least because when I’ve been poor, I could always score a deal there on some necessity. And when I’m not-poor, I take pleasure in paying a small fraction of the retail price for my gym socks and bathroom rug. Another opportunity to stick it to The Man!

I decided to take a quick swing through. And lo, it came to pass that I did scoreth The Deals.

For myself, I found an amazing dress for $20.


It fits me really well, which is a small miracle because there are no fitting rooms at Lot-Less and also because NOTHING EVER DOES GODDAMMIT. I almost didn’t buy it. But then I figured what the hell: worst case, I donate it to Housing Works with the tags still on it. (They’d probably get more than $20 for it too.) It seems well made, of 97% cotton 3% spandex, and it has deep pockets. WIN.

But this dress? This dress is nothing compared to what I scored for My Amazing Lover™. That’s right, people: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles boxer underwear—with a detachable cape! As I’m sure you can imagine there were precious few of them left, so I breathlessly pawed through the racks hoping to find a pair in his size. And find them I did.


L-R: front view, back view, back view with cape. 

I cannot fathom how one could possibly experience more joy for $3.99. Unless it’s happy hour, obviously. And yes, he loves them and will wear them to work under his business suit.

Possibly sans cape.


Speaking of happy hour, I was shortly back in my neighborhood, treasures in tow, and headed for one of my local watering holes for a late lunch and some very good Rosé. The weather here this winter has been all kinds of fucked-up, but somehow the Bradford pear trees have rallied to put on their annual show of snowy white blossoms.


The streets of the West Village never look more magical than they do in the spring, even on a dreary day. Soon all the white petals will fall to the sidewalks, and everything will seem snow-covered for a day or two. But the breezes will be warmer. And then I’ll get to wear my new dress, with open-toed shoes.


[cross-posted at death to squirrels]

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Evil supervillain’s lair discovered in NYC.

The early afternoon was sunny and warm yesterday as My Amazing Lover™ and I strolled through West Chelsea toward Hudson River Park. Though the route would take us out of our way, we were hoping to catch a cool breeze coming off the water as we made our way downtown, back to the West Village. Our path also held the sweet, sweet promise of encountering fewer annoying tourists than taking the High Line, and fewer ginormous-baby-stroller-toting brunch-goers than a more direct route down Eighth Ave.

If you’ve never been to West Chelsea, it is an architectural wonderland. Spared from the ($electively applied) restrictions of the West Village historic district, in recent years the neighborhood has become a Mecca of sorts for wealthy moguls and visionaries erecting all sorts of innovative and whimsical structures. I’ve always been partial to Shigeru Ban’s Metal Shutter Houses on 19th Street, a short walk from the West Side Highway, where you can also see Frank Gehry’s IAC building and Jean Nouvel’s 100 Eleventh Avenue.

IACNouvelFrank Gehry’s IAC Building (2007); behind it and to the left is Jean Nouvel’s 100 Eleventh Avenue (2010).
[IMAGE: Beyond My Ken]

Then there is Renzo Piano’s much ballyhooed new Whitney Museum, which, I’m sorry to say my friends, I do not get. Like, at all.

WhitneyfromtheHudsonWhitney Museum from the Hudson River. NO.
[IMAGE: Bill Benzon]

What makes the area even more intriguing architecturally is the juxtaposition—sometimes quite literally—of old structures with new. West Chelsea still retains quiet, tree-lined streets lined with low-rise brownstones sporting exquisite ironwork, none of which would be out of place in the West Village. Then there are the iconic London Terrace Apartments, connected structures that occupy the entire city block bounded by 23rd and 24th Streets and Eighth and Ninth Aves. Constructed during 1929-30, the complex has been called home by some of the city’s most famous residents, from Debby Harry to Chelsea Clinton.

londonterraceVictor C. Farrar’s London Terrace,
with older low-rise townhouses visible in the foreground.

[IMAGE: Beyond My Ken]

londonterracedetailLondon Terrace detail.

Yesterday the sky was cloudless and the sun was strong, so we Whitey McWhitepersons, who naturally hadn’t bothered to apply sunblock or hats, kept to the south side of 23rd Street for the occasional patches of shade on offer. Still, it was sweltering. I was beginning to wish that I could somehow conjure up some ice cold water when I first saw it, and suddenly it was my blood that was running ice cold. Ladies and Gentlemen and other people of any gender and/or no gender whatsoever, I give you: 344 W. 23rd Street. A.K.A. The Cheyney.

thecheyney344 W. 23rd Street. A.K.A. The Cheyney.
[IMAGE: Iris Vander Pluym]

Now you might think evil supervillains would be smarter than to put up signage announcing the location of their secret lairs, but I can assure you that is not the case. Their egos are too enormous so they simply cannot resist—although they often misspell their own names, as Dick Cheney obviously did in this case, in a futile effort to throw certain Intrepid Internet Journalists™ off the scent. He is a clever old weasel, I’ll give him that, hiding his hideout in plain sight like this. I mean, the building is nondescript by any standard. But plunked down among this neighborhood’s glittering architectural gems, it is veritably camouflaged if not utterly invisible. Note too the aluminum bars on the cellar windows: I shudder to think what kinds of Dark Arts are being practiced in that dungeon as we speak!

I quickly put it all together and announced proudly and boldly that I, Your Humble Monarch™, had single-handedly uncovered the Gotham lair of evil supervillain Darth Cheney. Incredibly, my partner remained entirely unpersuaded. But the more My Amazing Lover™ tried to talk me out of my conclusion, the more absolutely certain I became that it was true. “Don’t you see? That’s exactly what he wants us to think!” I insisted, “You’re playing right into his hands!”

Some people just have no appreciation for Intrepid Internet Journalist Genius™.

It would be a few hours before I would contact the International Criminal Court with my invaluable insights and information; I had to take every precaution to ensure none of this would be traced back to me. But in the meantime we trudged on silently in the merciless heat. Shade was scarce along the water, and the Hudson River yielded no cool breezes. Worse, my sandals were giving me painful blisters, and I felt parched and weak.

That’s right: I was in Hell. And I knew that at that moment one of Satan’s very own minions was not far away, gloating. But I can promise Loyal Readers™ this: if he dares set one foot on Perry Street, I’ma totally moon him.

Fiscal conservative/social liberals can f*ck right off.

I haven’t done a link roundup in a while, due in part to a near-lethal combination of busyness and laziness. While I do not deny that laziness has always been one of my many, many charming personal qualities (and seriously people, I highly recommend it), a good deal of my most recent malaise is directly attributable to Thea, Goddess of Pain. Thea, you see, pretends to be something called a “personal trainer.” But I am on to her. She is actually a professional assassin, hired by some right-wing political operative no doubt, threatened by my magnanimous free assistance to Governor Martin O’Malley’s pre-presidential pre-campaign. Thea’s mission is to brutally torture me (no, not the fun kind) at regularly scheduled intervals until she finally sucks the last drop of life out of me. Oh, and it gets weirder: Thea is a dead ringer for Jennifer fucking Lawrence:

jlawtheaLEFT: J-Law. RIGHT: Thea.

So for several hours every week, my life is quite literally The Hunger Games: David Barton Gym. I tell you, it’s fucking exhausting. I look at a dozen open tabs in my browser that I would very much like to compile here for your infotainment, and I just think ahhhh gaaaaawd itttt’s tooooo muuuuuch as my cursor drifts listlessly around my screen. Eventually I say fuck it, and just close the goddamn window. ACHIEVEMENT: UNLOCKED.

But I came across an important piece that I really want to signal boost, so I’ve had an extra cup of coffee and am getting down to business. Greta Christina, atheist author and Godless Pervert after my own heart, has a piece up at AlterNet titled 7 Things People Who Say They’re ‘Fiscally Conservative But Socially Liberal’ Don’t Understand. As my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ well know, the Palace is home to the world’s preeminent research institution dedicated to the study of All Things Conservative®, in the hope of someday finding a cure. The fabulous Ms. Christina’s article is a handy resource, chock full of salient facts and sound reasoning, that perfectly captures the inconsistencies inherent in the supremely annoying fiscal conservative/social liberal position (“FC/SL”). It will make an excellent addition to our library.

Because Greta is a much nicer person than I am (well isn’t everyone? EXCEPT THEA) she gives FC/SLs the benefit of the doubt: her essay is addressed to well-meaning, bona fide social liberals who for whatever reason have just not thought any of this through. And for those who genuinely care about injustice and oppression—and are open to persuasion by evidence and reason—Greta’s piece will be powerfully compelling. As in: case fucking closed, compelling. But in my experience, such citizens are vanishingly rare (although certainly worth reaching with posts like Greta’s).

As she points out, self-professed FC/SLs are depressingly common. And she notes right up front:

You can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues.

This is true as far as it goes, but I think these things are connected in another sense that warrants mentioning. Unlike Greta, you see, I operate under the assumption that the vast majority of those who claim to be FC/SL are not actually socially liberal, except on issues that either happen to suit them personally (e.g. legal weed) or don’t affect them at all (e.g. gay marriage). Instead, they are actually straight-up conservatives, with all of the reality-averse, empathy-deficient privilege denial and sense of entitlement this typically entails. Unsurprisingly, this view results in my taking a rather different approach to dealing with them than Greta does. Why, just the other night I could have really used a link to her piece, and thus spared myself the tedium of making the case, again, for why FC/SL is not fucking legit, to someone who will never, ever get it.

Allow me to set the scene:* My Amazing Lover™ and I were enjoying half-priced Martinis and dinner at a bar, and chatting it up with the bartender, a regular patron we know, and a semi-regular patron we did not. Semi-regular patron turned out to be the fiercely badass Karen Greenberg; it turns out I had met her at a 2010 conference I attended, The Constitution and National Security: The First Amendment Under Attack, at NYU’s Center on Law and Security—which center she founded and served as executive director until 2011. I had also come across her writing before, at Mother Jones and elsewhere. She is an exceptionally brilliant author (here, go read this, you’re welcome) and an accomplished legal expert on terrorism, national security and the rule of law. Karen had attended Chelsea Manning’s trial (!!!), so of course she was super impressed upon hearing about my national write-in campaign for Snowden/Manning 2016 on the FUCK YOU party ticket. To call our conversation interesting would be like calling Dick Cheney a little bit naughty. As great bar conversations invariably go, ours evolved and drifted through many topics on which we were all pretty much in agreement, including our terminally diseased media, racist police murders, poverty, disastrous US foreign policy, and—my personal area of expertise—the plague of conservatism.

At some point two young women sat down directly to my left and ordered drinks. When one of them went to the ladies room, the other (lets call her Roberta) took this opportunity to interject herself into our conversation with the breathtaking insight that “you know, there is another point of view.”

Not at this bar, there isn’t.

Roberta proceeded to ‘splain to me—while the amazing conversation to my right carried on without me!—that her generation felt strongly about the truly grave injustice of having to pay so much in taxes. Yep: here we were talking about the travesty of food insecurity among impoverished children in the United States and civilian casualties of drone bombings in the Middle East, when thankfully Roberta piped up to set us all straight about the truly important problem facing our world: her tax bill.

I took a big slurp of my drink while I sized her up. She was tall, conventionally attractive, apparently able-bodied, well-dressed, with perfectly coiffed hair, tasteful jewelry, makeup and manicure. I can generally spot a conservative in the wild from five blocks away, and lets just say that this one definitely pegged the meter. Now, I don’t normally argue with conservatives without an audience (except when I do); it is, as Loyal Readers™ are well aware, the ultimate exercise in futility. As I have repeatedly, thoroughly and conclusively documented, conservatives are constitutionally incapable of recognizing when they are flat-out wrong and changing their minds accordingly. Perhaps it was the scintillating discourse that evening that had me firing on all cylinders (Karen Greenberg!), although probably it was the second Martini kicking in, but I let out an exasperated sigh and rattled off a couple quips in rapid succession:

-You know, if you’re fortunate enough that you actually see fit to sit here and complain about paying too much in taxes, you’re doing way better than the vast majority of your fellow citizens.

-I happen to agree with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”

-Unfortunately for the lower-my-taxes brigades AND for everyone else, there are certain functions a government can perform way more cost-efficiently and at a superior level than private industry can—like health care, for instance. But because of people like you, we all end up paying more and getting less rather than pay for things with taxes.” She started to say something about Obamacare (which I am sure I never ever would have heard before and which would have no doubt been stunningly insightful) but I cut her off. “Okay here’s another example: New Jersey’s roads are in such terrible disrepair that it actually costs drivers more in vehicles damage than it would to fix and maintain the roads by raising the gas tax. But nooooooooo, raising taxes is a political nonstarter, because waaaahhhh taaaaaxes. That sound you heard? That was your drive train being ripped off your car by a foot-deep pothole. But you saved fifty cents at your last fill-up! So, congratulations?”


“Well I’m just trying to inform you about my generation’s different point of view, which you may not be aware of, and it’s about paying high taxes,” she replied. “From, you know, the corporate side, people who work. I mean I’m pretty liberal on most things, but…”

Oh, no. Now she’d done it: FC/SL.

“Okay, first of all, you don’t speak for your generation. Any more than I speak for mine,” I said—and yeah, with a derisive snort. Because holy arrogant shitweaselry, are you fucking kidding me? “And as for your truly unique and super-special perspective that I might be unfamiliar with—lower taxes, smaller government?—it is the exact same point of view relentlessly broadcast via every major media outlet in this country since at least the 1980s. In fact I don’t see how it’s even possible for anyone to escape it, try as we might. I mean, you are just so, so, flat-out wrong.”


I started to turn away from her in the hope of rejoining the grown-up’s conversation (with My Amazing Lover™ and Karen Greenberg! Did I mention Karen Greenberg? KAREN. GREENBERG.). Alas, it was not to be: right at that moment Roberta’s friend (lets call her Kathy) returned and became instantly incensed with my irritated, weary tone and unvarnished disagreement with Roberta’s comically uninformed opinions.

“Wow, where do you get off talking to my friend like that?” Kathy practically spat at me. “You need to learn to tolerate other people who just happen to disagree with you!”

“No, I don’t have to do any such thing,” I said flatly. “See, people with opinions like your friend here are not just wrong about reality, they are destroying my country and making the world a lot worse. So no, I do not have to tolerate that.” Now I was actually becoming amused at all this ‘splainin, directed at me by two people I had never met and who don’t know the first fucking thing about me.

Kathy got even more torqued up, and said something about isn’t that what makes this country great, tho? that we can all sit right here and have a civil discussion even though we disagree, and how we can still all get along if we show each other respect and blah blah blah…NOPE.

“No, that is not what makes this country great—to the extent it even is great, which by the way I categorically dispute. And no, I do not have to or even want to get along with everybody. There is a lot of evil and suffering in the world, including on this very city block, so no, I do not have to respect people whose views and votes make things worse.”

“Are you calling my friend EVIL?! Wow! That’s just…so rude!”

All right, all right. I admit I was trolling them. A little bit. BUT I ONLY EVER USE MY ASSHOLE SUPERPOWERS FOR GOOD, PEOPLE.

“Well what I’m saying is,” Roberta chimed in again, apparently unfazed, “Is I just think when it comes to helping poor people for instance, that I should be the one to decide who gets my two dollars, not the government.” (Yes, she actually said two dollars. Jeezus.)

“Well, then your opinion is not reality-based.”

That really set Kathy off. “See? That right there? ‘Reality-based?’ That’s just rude and completely unnecessary!”

“Oh, is it? Well hear me out,” I said. “See, people have actually studied this method of individual charity and compared the results with centralized government programs that do the same thing, in the real world.” Kathy crossed her arms tightly and rolled her eyes. “And it turns out that, just like health care, it’s more efficient and effective for the government to do these things. By far. So when I say reality-based, that’s not rude, it’s data. This is information anyone can look up, if they cared to.”

“Listen,” I continued, “Your friend interjected herself into our conversation, with complaints about high taxes and other bullshit, so yeah, if I want to, I get to tell her why and how she is wrong. Disastrously, horrifically wrong, morally and factually. And you know what? If that’s rude, I really don’t give a shit.”

That shut Kathy up for a minute. “Oh. Well I didn’t realize that. I just came back in the middle of what seemed really rude…but okay, if she barged in and just started disagreeing with you, that’s different.” Why, I might even call it rude. You know, if I gave a shit.

And then the worst possible thing happened: Karen Greenberg came over to say goodnight. She was leaving! We hugged, thanked each other for a great night and said we hoped we’d soon cross paths again.

We got in touch the very next day, so all was not lost. Now we can plan to meet, or just see if one of us might be around when the other happens to be headed in the direction of those Martinis. Perhaps next time I will be free from the pestilence of ignorant conservatives who think they’re liberals setting me straight about what’s what.

As for Roberta and Kathy, things turned out all right there, too. After Karen Greenberg left, Roberta looked forlorn and stared morosely up at the muted TV. My Amazing Lover™, having lost his extraordinary conversation partner, saddled right up to her and they began chatting. I have no idea about what—I haven’t asked, he hasn’t volunteered, and you will not be at all surprised to learn that I don’t give a shit. There is nothing new about conservatives, or conservatism. Any of it. Ever.

Kathy, on the other hand, cheered right up immediately. As if a switch had been flipped, within no time she was acting as if I was her long-lost best friend, laughing up a storm and professing admiration for me?! Okay, player. Maybe there’s hope for you yet. I responded, “Pffffft. I’m nobody. You should have met Karen Greenberg.” We bought them a round of drinks, and they both hugged me on the way out, Kathy warmly and affectionately, then Roberta, stiff as a board.

I cannot always safely interact with conservatives as I did in this instance. Even when I can, I don’t always want to or have the spoons to do it. I am perfectly capable of diffusing, deescalating, or disengaging from such conversations at any time. But whether I engage because I am justifiably angered by a fellow citizen for holding forth as an unrepentant, inexcusably ignorant asshole and cannot in good conscience let it stand, or because I’m thoroughly enjoying myself—or both—it’s ultimately because I believe there must be a social cost for spewing this crap. As any social justice warrior will tell you, silence in the face of harmful speech, from rape jokes to racist slurs, is interpreted by both the speaker and bystanders as agreement and solidarity. While I do not think it is realistic to envision a future United States wherein conservatives have become enlightened, i.e. reality-based, in numbers significant enough to bring about anything remotely resembling an egalitarian social democracy, I do think it’s a reasonable (if daunting) goal to marginalize conservative views. To do that, we need to make social spaces conservatives have heretofore inhabited with impunity uncomfortable for them (for a change). If conservatism is as intractable at an individual level as racism and misogyny are—and there is every reason to believe that it is—then the best we can hope to achieve is a culture in which conservatives realize it is in their own best interests to shut the fuck up. After all, their own interests are pretty much the only thing that has ever motivated them.

But lefties will rarely confront conservatives on their bullshit directly, while the reverse is manifestly not the case. Liberals are more likely to take a live-and-let-live-go-along-to-get-along approach, to patiently explain reality when conservatives spout irrational nonsense, to cling to the barest thread of common ground when the whole fabric of society is burning, to be nice. And for better or for worse, this tendency is even more true of women and girls because of the way we are socialized.

Well I’ve come to the conclusion that nice is overrated. Good is where it’s at. Maybe, just maybe, Roberta will think twice before she pukes that tripe up the next time.




*Although I have reconstructed it to the best of my recollection and without much embellishment, the conversation reported herein is not a verbatim transcript, given the time passed and the fog of Martinis. I will note that I almost certainly write more coherently than I speak in casual conversation, but this is the essential gist of the evening as well as I can communicate it.

Recent reads.

library4DOJ Ferguson Report: How Elected Officials Used Racism To Generate Millions In Revenue. Morrison, A., International Business Times (Mar. 2015).

Justice Department Finds Bias In Ferguson But Clears Darren Wilson. India, L., UPTOWN Magazine (Mar. 2015).

U.S. millennials post ‘abysmal’ scores in tech skills test, lag behind foreign peers. Frankel, T.C., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015).

Sh*tting on the Israeli Flag: The Art of Natali Cohen Vaxbergyoutube (Feb. 2015).  (“a short documentary film about provocative Israeli playwright, actress and internet celebrity.”)

Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats? Greenwald, G., The Intercept (Feb. 2015). [To ask the question is to answer it. –Ed.]

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Long History of Crying Wolf About Iran’s Nuclear Weapons. The Intercept (Mar. 2015). (“The Israeli Prime Minister is expected to warn the U.S. Congress an Iranian bomb is imminent — just as he warned in 1992, 1995, 2002, 2009, and 2012.”)

How a Mid-Sized Tennessee Town Took on Comcast, Revived Its Economy and Did it With Socialism. Gibson, C., Nation of Change (Mar. 2015). (“Since its launch, the EPB’s network has proven to be 50 times faster than the average American’s internet connection.”) [But…but…the Free Market™ is superior and more efficient! Also, BOOTSTRAPS!!! –Ed.]

10 Tricks To Appear Smarter In Meetings. Bradford, H., Huffington Post (Mar. 2015). [LOL. -Ed.]

Two headlines perfectly sum up everything wrong with American drug policy. Ingraham, C., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [SPOILER ALERT! the headlines are “Colorado sold 17 tons of retail marijuana in first legal year” and “Life in Prison for Selling $20 of Weed“, both of which are well worth reading. –Ed.]

Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work. Appelbaum, B., The New York Times (Feb. 2015).

Bayes’ Theorem with Lego. Count Bayesie (Feb. 2015).

Petraeus reaches deal to plead guilty to misdemeanor; likely won’t face prison. Goldman, A. and Horwitz, S., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015).

At New York Private Schools, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside. Spencer, K., The New York Times (Feb. 2015). [h/t Sunshine]

Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 240 Million Undocumented Whites. City World News (Jan. 2015). (“They all need to be deported back to Europe,” John Dakota from True Americans said. “They came here illegally and took a giant crap on our land. They brought disease and alcoholism, stole everything we have because they were too lazy to improve and develop their own countries.”) [Hahaha. Perfect. -Ed.]

Schizophrenic Brains Not Fooled by Optical Illusion. Buchen, L., Wired (Apr. 2009).

5 Women Cut from Pop Culture History for Being Too Important. Sargent, J.F., Cracked (Feb. 2015).

The Inside Story Of How A For-Profit College Hoodwinked Students And Got Away With It. Pyke, A., Think Progress (Feb. 2015).

Bush White House’s Repeated Torture Denials Led CIA Torturers to Seek Repeated Reassurances. Froomkin, D., The Intercept (Mar. 2015). [War criminals in the Bush administration lied?! GTFO. –Ed.]

War On Christianity? FBI Hate Crime Statistics Utterly Destroy Fox News Lies. Morris, R., Addicting Info (Feb. 2015). (“in far more cases than not, right wing Christians are the instigators or even the perpetrators of a very large majority of the hate crimes committed in the US… In 2013 there were 7,242 hate crimes committed in the US. In total, crimes against protestant Christians amounted to .0051 percent, a tiny fraction of a percentage point.”)

The cost of getting an abortion is higher if you’re poor. Dusenbery, M., Feministing (Feb. 2015). (“the process of obtaining an abortion could total up to $1,380 for a low-income single mother saddled with charges related to gas, a hotel stay, childcare, and taking time off work. For a middle-income woman living comfortably in a city with no children and public transit options to the clinic, meanwhile, those fees dropped to $593.”…”The idea that it is somehow not a serious burden for someone who is living paycheck to paycheck to be forced to — suddenly and entirely unexpectedly — come up with more than a month’s wages is absurd.”)

Drink In Style At Dear Irving, The Most Gorgeous Bar In Manhattan. Carlson, J., Gothamist (Mar. 2015). [h/t Vanina]

‘Is College Bad for Girls?’ cautionary pamphlet from 1905. Jardin, X., Boing Boing (Mar. 2015). [At least according to this pamphlet, college is absolutely fucking awesome for girls! –Ed.]

Nothing Is Wrong With Your Sex Drive. Nagoski, E., The New York Times (Feb. 2015). [The Palace’s favorite sex nerd and Your Humble Monarch™’s longtime correspondent not only has her first Op-Ed in the NYT, she also has a new book out: Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life. YAY EMILY! –Ed.]

How to Be the Perfect Welfare RecipientFeminace (Mar. 2015). (“where the fuck do people get off trying to talk about welfare while knowing fuck all about it?…allow me to tackle some of those shit excuses for arguments here, where I can be an uncivil as I please.”) [FIVE STARS.Ed.]

The word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscape. Macfarlane, R. The Guardian (Feb. 2015). [h/t Chris Clarke] [Gorgeous essay! If you love words and good writing, stop whatever you are doing and read this right fucking now. –Ed.]

Pioneering Women of PhysicsPerimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (Feb. 2015).(“They discovered pulsars, found the first evidence of dark matter, pioneered mathematics, radioactivity, nuclear fission, elasticity, and computer programming, and have even stopped light.”)

Coalition of Police Officers Heads to D.C. to Demand the Broken and Brutal Police System Be Fixed. Syrmopoulos, J., The Free Thought Project (Feb. 2015).


For the Palace Quote collection:

If your different-sex marriage isn’t special or “sacred” or whatthefuckever just because more people are allowed to do it, then that’s not a problem with the law; that’s a problem with your marriage. –Melissa McEwan

From Frida Kahlo:

FridaKahloFrida Kahlo
Mexican painter

I drank because I wanted to drown my sorrows, but now the damned things have learned to swim.

The most important thing for everyone in Gringolandia is to have ambition and become ‘somebody,’ and frankly, I don’t have the least ambition to become anybody.

I paint flowers so they will not die.

I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.

Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.

I hope the exit is joyful. And I hope never to return.

At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.


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.