Musings on Tax Day.

According to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office:

the U.S. has made a deep dent in its deficit. The federal deficit lingered above $1 trillion from 2009 to 2012, reaching higher than $1.4 trillion in 2009 amid the recession. But the shortfall dropped to $680 billion in fiscal 2013. And CBO’s latest projections Monday show the deficit continuing to drop to $492 billion this fiscal year and then to $469 billion in 2015.

But after 2015, CBO says that it will start to rise and could reach $1 trillion in 2022 through 2024.

Those are some big numbers. And we should never, ever forget exactly where those numbers came from:

deficits

__________

Here are some more big numbers:

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the U.S. Treasury will lose approximately $50 billion a year because of the deferral of corporate taxes on foreign profit. The projected cost from 2013 to 2017 is more than $265 billion.

__________

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

__________

The bar patrons were so sure that their bartender was the strongest man around that they offered a standing $1000 bet. The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and hand the lemon to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice out would win the money.

Many people had tried over time: weightlifters, longshoremen, etc., but nobody could do it.

One day, this scrawny little fellow came into the bar, wearing thick glasses and a polyester suit, and said in a small voice, “I’d like to try the bet.”

After the laughter had died down, the bartender said, “OK”; grabbed the lemon; and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the little fellow. But the Crowd’s laughter turned to total silence…. as the man clenched his little fist around the lemon…. and six drops fell into the glass.

As the crowd cheered, the bartender paid the $1000, and asked the little man: “What do you do for a living? Are you a lumberjack, a weight-lifter, or what?”

The little fellow quietly replied: “I’m with the IRS.”

[h/t don ardell]

__________

Nobody whines more about the taxes they pay than rich people:

Rich People Are Mad They Have to Pay So Many Taxes
on Their Ballooning Incomes

No group of Americans is less happy about the taxes they pay than the wealthy, The Wall Street Journal reports, glossing over the fact that they are paying more in taxes in large part because they are seeing most of the increase in incomes. This is like being mad that you paid more in sales tax on your Bentley than your doorman paid in taxes for a Ford.

The Journal, being the literal journal of Wall Street, takes great pains to articulate the anguish of the wealthy while downplaying that contributing factor. “Higher earners’ share of the overall federal tax burden has been climbing fairly steadily,” the Journal’s John McKinnon writes, “even before lawmakers negotiated the fiscal-cliff deal at the end of 2012.” He tells the story of a business owner that saw her taxes “rise from around $600,000 in 2012 to more than $700,000.” That’s a steep increase. And, McKinnon continues, it was “driven mainly by changes in investment-tax rates on the $2 million in dividends she received from her firm.” Oh. Well. Sorry? “She was really shocked by the increase,” her attorney said. “That one hit home.” Which home? Not the Aspen one, I hope.

I can think of a lot of people who would love to have a $700,000 tax bill today on $2 million. Jeezus.

__________

“There is a mass delusion in whitebread suburban America that they are the real America, and that they are being oppressed by high taxes to pay for poor minorities, even though the reality is actually the reverse: urban centers pay the bills for parasitic suburban lifestyles, which are ultimately unsustainable socially, fiscally and environmentally.”
-David Atkins (thereisnospoon), blogger

__________

Paul Ryan’s proposed budget increases taxes on middle- and working-class people, guts programs for the sick, the poor and the elderly, and gives enormous tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest Americans. What a shocker.

By a vote of 219-205 yesterday the Republicans rammed through their “reverse-Robin Hood” budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

For the next decade, the Republicans basically propose taking from the middle class and the poor and giving to the wealthy. This is a crass and clear class warfare tactic coming from the Republicans in the House. By cutting $5.1 trillion in education, health care, help for seniors, food assistance for the poor and proposing huge tax breaks for the super wealthy, the Ryan budget upends not only our economy, but our society and our values.

According to Brookings, if you are in the top 1 percent of wage earners (over $633,000) the Ryan plan would cut taxes in half. If you are among the 75 percent of Americans making between $20,000 and $200,000 you likely would be facing a tax increase.

Paul Ryan, a.k.a. Satan.

Paul Ryan, a.k.a. Satan.

__________

“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

Sounds about right.

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I was so wrong about capitalism vs. healthcare!

[TRIGGER WARNING: several f-bombs, one m-f bomb, graphic depictions of opulence.]

Longtime Loyal Readers™ may recall the long and sordid tale of how the entire lower West side of Manhattan ended up without a single hospital bed (see e.g. here, here, here, here and here). I often write about the deadly cruelty, inefficiency, cost and jaw-dropping stupidity of our for-profit health care system here in the U.S. of A., and I won’t repeat that here. Suffice it to say that St. Vincent’s, our neighborhood hospital, was just one more predictable casualty. At least ten New York City hospitals have closed since 2006; others remain on life support.

The fact is that wealthy real estate developers pretty much run this town, and the politicians they own are more than happy to help. The closing of St. Vincent’s was eagerly aided and abetted by a raft of corrupt, neoliberal shitweasels in every branch of state and city government—for example, the hospital emerged from bankruptcy court with its impossible debt obligations 100% intact—whereupon the well-connected Rudin family immediately picked up the property for a song. Perhaps no one was more helpful to this process than former city council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, the Robin to Michael Bloomberg’s Batman—except that this metaphor really should be about some kind of Bizarro World Robin Hood. How else to describe Quinn proudly taking credit for the destruction of a 161-year old charity hospital with a Level I trauma center smack in the middle of her own district—the primary admitting hospital for victims of the 9-11 World Trade Center attacks in 2001 and survivors of the Titanic in 1912—in favor of a billion dollar luxury condo development?

I’d like to think it cost Quinn the mayor’s race. During the campaign, she stupidly showed up at a health care rally on the site of the former St. Vincent’s, and was loudly booed. Putting aside for a moment the public health aspects of closing a full-service hospital, many local businesses that catered to the daily influx of visitors and staff (e.g. florists, restaurants, pharmacies, coffee shops) swiftly went under—and that’s to say nothing of job losses at the hospital itself in a rapidly consolidating health care market. A particularly rich moment occurred in July when Quinn was speaking at a campaign event: one of her staffers passed out, and it took more than 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene. She was flabbergasted and appalled, complaining bitterly the whole time. What a joke. Except it’s not fucking funny.

Here is a map that shows the hospitals closest to where I am presently sitting, as well as the site of the former St. Vincents:

hospitalmap

greenwichlanesite

Construction at former St. Vincent’s.

If those distances seem negligible to you, you have never been in New York City during morning or evening rush hours, when the UN is in session, or when our neoliberal shitweasel president is in town back-slapping the banksters on a job well done and/or undermining our liberal congresscritters. Meanwhile, city and fire department officials are busy ensuring that no EMS transit times are made public, as they once routinely were. There can be only one reason for that: those numbers are not good. At this link (@ 1:06) you can see a Beth Israel Hospital ambulance stuck in traffic on 7th Avenue, directly in front of the former entrance to St. Vincent’s emergency room.

But never mind all of that, people, because today I bring you absolutely fantastic news. After walking by the construction site, I actually remembered when I got home to go online and look at the Rudin development’s website! And I am here to tell you: I was so, so wrong about all of this. My silly protest signs, speeches at zoning meetings, signatures on petitions, emails and phone calls to politicians and my impassioned screeds on the subject now just make me look foolish.

My sign.Iris’s dumbass protest sign.
Occupy St. Vincent’s, Oct. 27, 2011.
(Jeezus. How embarrassing.)

For as it turns out, hundreds of thousands of residents going without a single nearby hospital bed, trauma unit, emergency room or surgery facility is but a pittance to pay in exchange for something so…so… magnificent. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: The Greenwich Lane,”a collection of five unique addresses and five townhouses nestled together in the West Village.”

greenwichlanerenderingAs you can see from this gorgeous rendering, the gleaming towers of floor-to-ceiling glass will provide a stunning visual counterpoint to the surrounding low-rise buildings emblematic of this historic neighborhood. But that’s not even the best part. Nope: the best part is the enormous private garden, billed as “the heart of the community”—although technically speaking, the actual community will have no access to it whatsoever. But never mind that. Just look at it!

greenwichlanegarden

A formal garden with a reflecting pool passes into a birch allée with limestone benches, followed by a more sheltered area with a contemplative, trellised pavilion. The garden offers not only the pleasures of a natural landscape; but also, with all of its plantings, it fulfills an important role in creating a healthier microclimate for the buildings, filtering the air and beneficially restoring more trees to the neighborhood.

And just maybe, if some of these trees eventually grow tall enough, people in the neighborhood might be able to see the very tops of them! OMFG swoon!

But I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s the “principal amenities” surrounding the garden that really put the place over the top:

  • A dedicated fitness floor with state-of-the-art training, yoga, golf, and wellness rooms, as well as a 25-meter pool.
  • A suite of social and entertaining rooms overlooking the central garden, including a private lounge, a dramatic dining room, and a fully outfitted guest chef’s kitchen.
  • A separate catering kitchen for larger events.
  • A private screening room seating 22 with a private wet bar.
  • A light-filled and sheltered children’s playroom with views of the garden.
  • 24-hour attended lobbies, with services including storage for grocery, wine, and flower deliveries, on-site resident managers, complete porter staff, and handymen.
  • An underground private parking garage.

I know what you’re thinking and yes, before you ask, I believe it’s safe to assume there are oversized parking spaces large enough to accommodate the vintage Rolls.

greenwichlanepoolThe envisioned 25 meter pool + gym on the dedicated fitness floor.
(!!!)

This probably goes without saying, but: “As designed by Thomas O’Brien, these handsome spaces bring to mind the cachet of an Old World private club.” Including, probably, the parking garage. Here you can see a little movie wherein this very same Thomas O’Brien d00d ‘splains his unique vision, which looks an awful lot like last year’s Restoration Hardware catalog, but what do I know? (Wait, I know last year’s Restoration Hardware catalog, cover to cover. Hmmm.) Anyway:

It’s also this incredibly unique thing that rises above—in a very nice way—and you look downtown, South and West, over all of this protected, wonderful architecture that is the West Village.

Indeed! Why on earth would anyone want to live in all of this protected, wonderful architecture when instead one can peer down upon it—preferably, I assume, through a $3000 faux-vintage 19th century telescope from Restoration Hardware?

RHtelescope$3000 faux-vintage 19th century telescope from Restoration Hardware.
(On sale now for only $2395, because last year’s catalog hello?)

Also, Thomas O’Brien apparently forgot to mention it, but the views to the south also take in the Freedom Tower Penis, on the very site of the former World Trade Center.

penistowerView down 7th Avenue of the Freedom Penis.
Ejaculating FREEDOM, motherfuckers.

The bad news is that there are only a very limited number of units still available at these low pre-construction prices:

Building

Res.#

Bedrooms

/Baths

 Int.Sq.Ft.

/Ext.Sq.Ft.

  Price

Floor Plan

140 W. 12th St. M-1 2 2 / 1 2408 $5,550,000 VIEW
302 4 4 / 1 3088 $8,610,000 VIEW
150 W. 12th St. 3 E. 5 5 / 1 4187 732 $12,450,000 VIEW
4 W. 1 1 / 1 1465 255 $3,850,000 VIEW
7 W. 2 2 / 1 2079 $6,100,000 VIEW
160 W. 12th St. 36 2 2 / - 1583 $4,195,000 VIEW
45 1 1 / - 892 $2,170,000 VIEW
47 2 2 / 1 1737 $4,380,000 VIEW
58 3 3 / 1 2450 $6,900,000 VIEW
64 4 4 / 1 2818 153 $8,570,000 VIEW
72 2 2 / 1 2040 $5,740,000 VIEW
85 1 1 / 1 1166 $3,450,000 VIEW
86 3 3 / 1 2524 $7,350,000 VIEW
108 3 3 / 1 2455 $7,950,000 VIEW
155 W. 11th St. 4L 1 1 / - 758 $2,050,000 VIEW
4C 2 2 / 1 1934 $5,620,000 VIEW
4B 2 2 / 1 1670 68 $5,050,000 VIEW
6D 2 2 / - 1515 $5,275,000 VIEW
7A 4 4 / 1 3687 44 $14,500,000 VIEW
8B 3 3 / 1 2383 153 $7,650,000 VIEW
10C 2 2 / 1 1938 $6,710,000 VIEW
11A 4 4 / 1 3951 44 $17,525,000 VIEW
145 W. 11th St. 7 5 4 / 1 4537 83 $18,250,000 VIEW

The Palace, naturally, will be putting in a generous offer at once, so as not to lose out on this amazing opportunity. OMG I CANNOT PICK MY FAVORITE!!!11!!! (LOL #firstworldproblems, I know right?)

Now I ask you: Could there be anything our neighborhood needs more urgently than this fine establishment in our midst, and the several menial jobs that will be created in order to maintain it? And the fine upstanding citizens dwelling here at least part of the year will contribute literally oodles of tip money to the local delivery people. We can only hope that neither our new neighbors nor their (no doubt charming and adorable!) children ever suffer any ill health or injury on the premises. Because if that should happen, they’re just as fucked as the rest of us.

Haha what.

(Yes I know, I’m just phoning in my post titles today. Hey, at least the content is original. You get what you pay for, people.)

Spotted in the West Village (10th & Greenwich Sts.):

jesustirewutI think I’ll just drop a quote here:

Imagine the culture we would live in now if, instead of a dead corpse on an instrument of torture, our signifier was a child staring in wonder at the stars. -PZ Myers

Meanwhile, right around the corner:

torturejeezusThere are children around here, FFS. What is wrong with these people?

Haha no.

I was chatting about this on Facebook and thought I’d drop it here.

Pope Francis asks forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children.

No.

As in: absolutely not. May unrelenting contempt and loathing follow these priests and the church that enabled them for the rest of their days.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children…”

WTF d00d, that’s not how this works. See, *you* cannot “take on all the evil” that others do. Vicarious atonement is a reprehensible concept—one reason among the many that I so loathe Christianity.

Go fuck yourself, smiley “liberal” pope.

palacefuckyou

When mockery fails us: the case of professional liberals.

Lately we’ve seen a good deal of mockery emanating from various Democratic pundits over the “success” of Obamacare. Over 7 million people signed up! Hahaha, Republicans! YOU LOSE!

What.

Did everyone suddenly forget that the ACA is a terrible, fundamentally conservative paradigm, with deep Republican roots in both Romneycare and The Heritage Foundation? Sure, Republican efforts to block and repeal their own policies make them look like petty buffoons. What else is new? But gloating Democrats are arguably worse: we are witnessing the entrenchment of for-profit healthcare perniciously framed as a successful, liberal model. FAIL.

But okay, let’s assume I’m just some lefty kook (moi?) who is wrong about the delicious awesomesauce that is Obamacare. The U.S. population is about 308,745,538. A new Gallup poll pegs the rate of uninsured Americans at 15.6%, or 48,164,303. Yes, 7 million people signing up is still 7 million people. Yay for 7 million people with access to “affordable” healthcare! But with nearly 50 million people left uninsured and most of the rest tethered to bloodletting insurers, by what metric, exactly, is Obamacare a great success story worth crowing over?

And yet we have Joan McCarter at DailyKos taunting Republicans over the aforementioned Gallup poll under the headline “The uninsured rate is lowest since 2008.” That’s right: pre-Obamacare, before America’s Owners crashed the global economy, the uninsured rate was lower. McCarter even posted this helpful graph from Gallup:

gallupcoverageWell, she sure showed them, amirite? A whole 2.5% drop from its peak, and almost as low as 2008, before Obama was elected! VICTORY!

Then we’ve got Andy Borowitz, beloved lefty satirist, relentlessly mocking Republicans over the ACA in The New Yorker:

Boehner: “I Don’t Want to Live in a World Where Seven Million People Get Affordable Health Care”

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—A riveting scene unfolded in Congress today as a tearful Speaker John Boehner took to the floor of the House to tell his colleagues, “I don’t want to live in a world where seven million people get affordable health care.”

Tears streaming down his cheeks, Rep. Boehner appeared unable to maintain his composure as he delivered a speech interrupted by blubbering and sharp intakes of breath.

“What kind of a world is it where anyone can go on the Internet and get health care they can afford?” he said. “Not a world I’d care to live in, or leave to my children.”

As we Professional Mockers™ all know, mocking John Boehner is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. No, really: you can just quote practically anything he says, and your work is done. What’s troubling here is not Andy Borowitz phoning it in, but the underlying assumption that we can declare success with nearly 50 million Americans remaining uninsured and most of the rest beholden to for-profit insurers. (Note, too, the none-too-subtle classism. No Andy, we do not in fact live in a country where “anyone can go on the Internet” to get health care they can afford.)

A few days before that, Borowitz took a shot at another easy target:

Issa Subpoenas Seven Million Americans Who Signed Up for Obamacare

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Accusing them of involvement in “a widespread conspiracy to save President Obama’s failed health-care program,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) today subpoenaed the approximately seven million Americans who have signed up for Obamacare so far.

Arguing that the impressive enrollment numbers “don’t pass the smell test,” the House Oversight Committee chairman told reporters, “Any rational person would come to the same conclusion that I have: namely, that this is a well-orchestrated conspiracy of seven million people trying to make Obamacare look good.”

In case you missed it, the message is “the impressive enrollment numbers.” The joke doesn’t work without it. Perhaps instead, we might have had Issa subpoena the millions who are still uninsured? After all, Republicans are cynical enough to pull a stunt like that, notwithstanding that if they had their way the numbers would be even worse. But that wouldn’t be carrying water for the Grand Lefty Triumph that is the ACA, now would it?

As if we were not dazzled enough by his incisive political wit, Borowitz also went after the easiest target of all time:

President’s Announcement of Health-Care Numbers Angers Opponents of Math

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Tuesday’s announcement by President Obama that 7.1 million people have signed up for Obamacare set off a firestorm of controversy among opponents of math in the U.S. Congress.

Representative Michele Bachmann, a leading member of the anti-math caucus, told reporters, “Throughout the debate on Obamacare, there has been a tacit agreement to leave math out of it. Today, President Obama broke that agreement.”

Hahaha, Michele Bachmann, anti-math caucus, geddit? Hilarious—except for the tiny problem that the math does not make the case for Obamacare.

But the worst by far is Paul Krugman, esteemed liberal economist. Writing in the pages of the venerable New York Times this week, he continues to peddle the same bald-faced lie he has long been repeating: namely, that the president and Democrats had only two choices, Obamacare or immediate single-payer (i.e. nothing).

If it had been politically possible, extending Medicare to everyone would have been technically easy.

But it wasn’t politically possible, for a couple of reasons. One was the power of the insurance industry, which couldn’t be cut out of the loop if you wanted health reform this decade. Another was the fact that the 170 million Americans receiving health insurance through employers are generally satisfied with their coverage, and any plan replacing that coverage with something new and unknown was a nonstarter.

So health reform had to be run largely through private insurers, and be an add-on to the existing system rather than a complete replacement.

Remember, kids: since we can’t have Medicare for everyone right now, we must therefore entrench the insurance companies that provide absolutely nothing that the U.S. government cannot provide cheaper and more efficiently. Q.E.D. And we shall call this “reform!” And while we’re at it, let’s also block drug reimportation from countries where they’re cheaper (which is all of them), and prohibit the government from using its enormous purchasing power to negotiate better prices. What are you, a communist?

Of course Krugman is right that an immediate leap to single-payer was not politically feasible—but no one ever said it was. However, a public option/Medicare buy-in most certainly was. The idea was popular with the public, Nancy Pelosi delivered a House bill with a public option intact, and the entire Medicare infrastructure already exists. Unlike the ACA, it would have created a genuine path to single-payer, and put some real pressure on the Free Market™ to deliver better health care at lower prices. And this discussion occurred in the wake of the bank bailouts, when it would have been trivially easy for Democrats to frame a health care “reform” bill without a public option as the corporate giveaway that it is. But Krugman never mentions any of that. At the time, he was writing inexcusable broadsides entitled “Pass The Bill”, wherein the fact that the president had already secretly sold out the public option while disingenuously pretending otherwise merited no mention. To this day, Paul Krugman continues to whitewash history in favor of this blatantly false narrative.

He helpfully adds:

So my advice to reform supporters is, go ahead and celebrate. Oh, and feel free to ridicule right-wingers who confidently predicted doom.

Thanks, Paul.

I have nothing but bottomless contempt for these professional “liberals.” They do far more harm than good by selectively weaving threads of history into pretty lies, and worst of all, spewing imitation-lefty-flavored sauce all over rotten right-wing policies.

Behold: your liberal media.

Beware mockery deployed in the service of the status quo, my friends. It’s a powerful tool, and in the wrong hands it can be downright insidious. I don’t know how many times I have to say this: we must only use our mockery superpowers for good.

Military drone crash near Pennsylvania elementary school.

Why, who ever could have seen this coming?

A nearly 400-pound unmanned aerial vehicle crash-landed near an elementary school in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania on Thursday afternoon, irritating members of the community and alarming civil liberties advocates nervous about drones flying over the US.

“Irritating?”

RQ-7A_Shadow_200_lgRQ-7 Shadow drone
(photo: Defense Industry Daily)

The drone, an RQ-7 Shadow, is 11 feet long with a 14 foot wingspan. Why it was flying in the air above Lickdale Elemantary School is unknown, but Major Ed Shank, a public affairs officer for the Pennsylvania National Guard, told Les Stewart of the Lebanon Daily News that drones operate out of Fort Indiantown Gap, an Army post in Lebanon County.

The 375-pound craft endured what officials called a “hard landing” before being run over by a civilian vehicle. No one was hurt in the incident, but the drone – reportedly worth $150,000 – was a “total loss” and rendered useless after slamming into the ground.

“Here at Fort Indiantown Gap, that’s the first time something like this has happened,” Maj. Shank told WHTM News in Lebanon. “When it does happen we investigate it very thoroughly to figure out what happened and then let the public know and let our own aviators know so that it doesn’t happen again.”

I am sure nothing like this will ever happen again. Never. Ever.

Local affiliates reported that the US Army and Marine Corps are known to use such aircraft for reconnaissance and surveillance overseas. Without elaborating, spokesman Shank maintained that the drone that went down was engaged in “training exercises.”

Lisa Cooper, who lives right down the street from where the crash occurred, said residents in the area have grown used to hearing aircraft buzzing overhead.

RQShadowindroneiraqRQ-7 Shadow drone launch in Iraq, September 24, 2004.
(photo: public domain)

Residents of the continental United States are all going to grow used to hearing drones buzzing overhead soon enough. Still, crashing drones are probably a rare thing. It’s not like it’s ever happened before. Oh, wait:

Earlier this year, a US Border Patrol drone went down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California, costing the federal agency $12 million. The crash suffered a mechanical failure and was deliberately flown into the sea, whereupon it broke apart on impact.

That incident came after a more serious one, when a drone undergoing military exercises slammed into a US Navy battleship and injured two sailors last November. The Navy Times reported at the time that the ship “was heavily damaged by the impact of a test target,” while the 13-foot UAV “crippled a key computer center integral to the ship’s cutting edge combat systems.”

That last sentence really needs no further comment. (And it happened before that, too.)

These sure are exciting times in Drone Nation.

snowdenmanning2016

Reason, Exuberance, Athleticism and Liberty (i.e., REAL) Wellness Is Unlikely Without Good and Ample Sex

Introduction

Of course it is well understood that swimming, biking, running, weight training and other forms of strenuous exertions facilitate and enhance sexual pleasures. This is as self-evident as the method discovered for crossing vast interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second, that is, via the “Infinite Improbability Drive,” described by Douglas Adams in “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide.” (See Chapter 10, page 60 in the 1986 Portland House edition of this classic work.) No need to go into details save to note that the revelation was based on “the principle of generating small amounts of ‘finite’ improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Browian motion producer.”

We (Dr. Grant Donovan and I – see note at end) believe our discovery linking positive sexuality and REAL wellness for consenting adults not under the influence of mind-altering drugs or suffering from religion-induced guilt who have a well-developed sense of humor and can appreciate the ludicrous) is at least as self-evident as the discovery of the infinite improbability drive.

There is ample research support for our contention that sex and humor are integral parts of everyday life and important for overall health and happiness. Among the scholarly works that explore these links is “Sex and Humor: Selections from The Kinsey Institute” (edited by Catherine Johnson, et.al., Indiana University Press, 2002). Yet, sex by itself, without any health-related justifications or elaborately controlled, romantic love and church sanctioned preparations, can be quite delightful without any harm being done. Naturally, sex works best when undertaken in socially approved ways, but that is not so easy to manage in most societies. The ultimate obstacles to sex that contributes to joy and delight are religious toxins, dogmas and mores that promote ignorance and fear. The expressed preference of the Catholic Church and many other religions is that no sex is good sex, except for purposes of procreation, and even then it’s best if the male and female to not enjoy it too much. Chastity, like faith, is a terrible idea but in the realm of theologies, both are put forward as virtues. We side with Aldous Huxley, who considered chastity “the most unnatural of the sexual perversions.”

A Short Case for Sex as a Good Thing in Boundless Ways

Sex is fun and totally exuberance-enhancing. Most secularists who study human sexual activity believe copious exertions of this kind, particularly with a loving partner, foster physical and mental health benefits. (This is true for sex with others who might just be friendly, not quite loving.) A key variable affecting the quality of life-enhancing aspects of sexuality is that relationships beyond the loving partner ideal are usually more complicated due to prevailing norms of a constrictive nature and are thus accompanied with risks and unintended consequences.

Sex and intimacy boost self-esteem and happiness. Happiness, as Ingersoll noted in “Improved Man”, “is the only good, and everything that adds to the happiness of sentient beings is good and to do the things, and no other, that add to the happiness of man is to practice the highest possible religion.”  Image

Sex also boosts your immune system. Studies suggest college students who have sex one or more times per week have higher levels of the immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody than their less successful peers. Surely one need not be enrolled in college to enjoy this immune system boost through sexual activity.

Abstinence Education Should Be Illegal

Surely that phrase is an oxymoron, for what “abstinence education” really stands for is “keep kids ignorant about human sexuality.” While sex is complicated enough in its own right, religious dogmas have always suppressed the dissemination of knowledge about it and thereby created all manner of dysfunctions.

Here are a few basics every young person should learn as thoroughly as anything else taught in the primary grades. Such knowledge would enable children to better care for their bodies, make more responsible choices and develop more confidence and self-respect.

  • Sexual and reproductive anatomy.
  • Gender identity and orientation (e.g., heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual).
  • Ways in which morals, family, friends, religion, age, life goals and other factors shape our sexual selves.
  • The nature and significance of intimacy, touch, love, compassion, etc.
  • Of course, this just skims the surface. It’s mind-boggling to think of how little knowledge about sexuality (none in the case of religious schools other than the message “don’t even think about it”) has been incorporated into the educational system for children over the centuries. How did we ever survive?

Let’s do more to ensure that own children receive sound information informed by science, not superstition and ignorance, with a focus on such fundamentals as the following:

  • Human reproduction.
  • The biology of the fertility cycle.
  • Birth control methods.
  • Helpful facts, such as this one—85% of women who have vaginal sex sans birth control will become pregnant within a year.
  • How to use and where to obtain birth control supplies.
  • How to communicate assertively with a partner about protection.

Adults should know a lot more about the subject, for example:

  • That sex enhances libido in women by increasing vaginal lubrication while improving blood flow and building elasticity;
  • That sex improves bladder control in women by building stronger pelvic muscles;
  • That mechanical devices exist that can increase sexual arousal, particularly in women, chief among them being a Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible (thanks P.J. O’Rourke);
  • That sex lowers blood pressure by burning calories, far more, for example, than watching TV.
  • That sex reduces pain by releasing endorphins (the effects are a bit like morphine) during orgasm;
  • That sex improves sleep via the release of prolactin, a relaxation hormone; and
  • That sex contributes to feel-good sensations, thanks to the release of oxytocin, the hormone that also reduces anxiety and depression.

REAL Wellness and Sex – The Connections

REAL wellness is not focused on living longer, becoming more beautiful or more virtuous, though don’t be surprised if these and other fringe benefits come to pass when you’re in the throes of such a lifestyle. REAL wellness is not tied to vanities popular in the culture. However, if these pleasantries come to pass, well, don’t hold that against REAL wellness. It is, after all, an exuberance-rich way of living.

There is a reason for mentioning this.

A recent study at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland hinted at a link between sexuality and youthful appearances. An odd pairing, but being the exuberance-focused social scientist I imagine myself to be, I grabbed a magnifying glass and peered into this research with a jaundiced but hopeful eye.

It seems a randomized sample of judges were gathered and empaneled to observe randomly picked subjects through one-way mirrors. The assignment? Guess their ages. The judges had no information on the subjects seen through one-way mirrors. However, the age guesses produced fascinated the good scientists at Royal Hospital. It seems that subjects who enjoyed sex on average four times per week, with a steady partner, were perceived to be seven to 12 years younger than their actual age. Quelle horreur! What could this mean?

The study authors concluded that regular sex promotes the release of testosterone and estrogen, which in turn promote soft skin and shiny hair which, at least in this case, made the study subjects pretty inept at guessing ages. These people have no future at carnivals guessing how old marks are, or probably how much they weigh, either.

Could this result really mean something related to the benefits of sex, if looking younger is indeed a benefit? Think of the implications. If I’m having sex four times a week with a steady partner and I’m 50 years old but look somewhere between 38 and 43, could I appear between 26 and 36 years of age if I have sex with two steady partners eight times per week? If so, how can I persuade my wife to support this approach, in the interest of science, of course, for regaining a bit of my youthful countenance?

Well, regardless, let’s remember that REAL wellness is not about preventing or disguising aging—it’s about joy, exuberance and the bountiful pleasures of well-being.

Whether sex makes you look younger or not, know that other things being the same (which they never are), it’s a good thing, in the right hands, yours or someone else’s. Physical orgasms are only the most obvious expression of exuberance at the apex of human experience; these pleasures and all others must not be taken lightly or neglected.

—–

Note: The essay is based on a chapter in Don’s forthcoming book, co-authored with Dr. Grant Donovan of Australia, entitled “Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy.”

Back to IMPORTANT business: tardigrades.

Now that every single thing has been said on the subject of abortion rights, the shitweasel arguments in opposition thereto, and the Man Children who feel entitled to materially abandon their own offspring because waaaaaaaaah, we can finally get back to matters far more pressing than forced birth, child abandonment and all the dead and maimed women and impoverished families around the globe.*

I refer, of course, to the tardigrades.

Waterbear Tardigrade (water bear) Hypsibius dujardini
scanning electron micrograph by Bob Goldstein & Vicky Madden
UNC Chapel Hill

Immediately after the first episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, I took to Facebook to complain bitterly about the inexcusable lack of attention paid to tardigrades. Tyson and the producers obviously saw my complaint, because they attempted to rectify this tragic oversight by briefly discussing tardigrades in the second episode. But still, there were not nearly enough tardigrades, because as visitors to the Tardigrade Wing at the Palace Zoo well know, tardigrades are the coolest creatures ever:

They are teeny, tiny, water-dwelling, eight-legged animals prevalent in moss and lichen. About 1 millimeter (0.039 in) in length when fully grown, they can be seen under a low-power microscope. Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal: they can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about 6 times stronger than pressures found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than would kill a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for many years, drying out to the point where they are less than 3% water—then rehydrate, forage, and reproduce. Tardigrades have been found in hot springs, on top of the Himalayas, under layers of solid ice, in ocean sediments, in lakes, ponds, meadows, stone walls and roofs. Usually males and females are present, but some species are parthenogenetic.

Here is Professor Bob Goldstein at his lab at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill ‘splaining:

In other words, tardigrades are possibly space aliens, and in any event they are damn near…immortal.

I am sure you can see where this is going.

Yes, Loyal Readers™, the Palace lab will be testing the hypothesis that if I eat enough tardigrades, I will become a virtually immortal extremophile just as they are. To get started on this exciting and important research project, I sent an urgent missive to Professor Goldstein at his lab:

Dear Professor Goldstein:

I am a New York City-based columnist and blogger who usually writes about sex (I’m for it!) as well as politics and religion (I’m against ‘em!), and who finds herself weirdly enamored with tardigrades. I also write to promote science, skepticism, and the sheer transcendent joy to be found in discovering the wonders of the natural world. To that end I maintain a virtual zoo on my personal blog, in which I have a tardigrade specimen named Schnoot.

If I sound like a kook so far, well you’re probably right but I hope you will bear(!) with me.

____________

Professor Goldstein, have you ever eaten tardigrades?

If yes:
What do they taste like?
Do you have any good recipes?
What wine pairing would you recommend?
Are you now immortal?

If no:
Are they poisonous or otherwise dangerous to eat?
Would you recommend that I cook them (over 303 degrees F of course!) before I eat them, or do you think I have to eat them live in order to become immortal?

__________

With many thanks and kind regards,
-Iris Vander Pluym

I sent this over a week ago, and yet believe it or not as of this writing I have received no response from the good professor. WTF, Professor Goldstein. I have, however, made some important progress: a Loyal Subject™ is presently on a covert mission somewhere in the hinterlands of North Carolina collecting tardigrade specimens for me to eat. I shall report my progress once the next steps have been taken and/or Professor Goldstein responds to my inquiry. In the meantime, in order to remedy the appalling failure of Cosmos to provide us with enough tardigrades, please enjoy this slideshow, courtesy of Prof. Goldstein’s lab.

And this:

__________
*I am not really making light of or minimizing these things, of course. That was some heavy shit we’ve been dealing with around here, and, well, sometimes I crave a little dark humor in order to recharge, retrench and prepare to do battle with the shitweasels the next time. I make it a point to find some joy in my day, every day. Otherwise, the terrorists shitweasels win.

Rock on, 2Cellos. Rock on.

Incredibly, this video got over 13 million views in just over a month, and yet somehow mine was not among them. Two extraordinary cellists performed an extraordinary rendition of AC/DC’s classic “Thunderstruck,” and the lives of at least 13 million people are better off for it.

[h/t Jennifer]

The weasel returns.

[TRIGGER WARNING: boring and inane wankery; m*f*cker bomb.]

Not content to spew embarrassing dumbassity on my blog a few hours ago, our new friend GoodChoice has now returned to poop on the rug again with crap even more inane than last time, if you can believe it. Behold:

I confess: I have a mistrust of women. Not a hatred, just a mistrust. I don’t think they can always make the best decisions when it comes to certain things. But at the same, I have a mistrust of men. Not a hatred, just a mistrust. I don’t think they can always make the best decisions when it comes to certain things. So, does this make me both a misogynist AND a misandrist?

The profoundly insightful GoodChoice has discovered the fact that humans cannot, and in fact do not, always make the best decisions! This has far-reaching, world-changing implications for humanity, obviously. Can a Nobel be far behind?

Now, as to whether the mere proclamation of this astonishing discovery makes GoodChoice a misogynist AND a misandrist, I say no. However, it certainly does nothing to preclude the possibility that GoodChoice is either one, or both.

GoodChoice: Up your game motherfucker, or it’s banishment for you.