The Armchair Stonellectual

Breaking open the progressive mind

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Click Fascism

I realize that I sometimes have a tendency toward hyperbole, but whatever. Sometimes that's all people will listen to:

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Price of Wealth

Americans are known for many things, some of them nobler than others. But one thing that has long been associated with the United States is Americans' propensity for relentless hard work and efficient mass production on a larger scale than most other industrialized nations. We Americans work more hours per week than Europeans, and get less vacation time and social services provided by our government. Where the average American worker spends 40 hours a week in the office, with many working even more than that, both France and Italy have a standard 35 hour work week. Americans generally get a standard two weeks of vacation per year, whereas many European workers are given an average of five weeks of vacation each year. In addition, where millions of Americans live without healthcare and face the ever-increasing price of sending their children to college, these things are standard services in many parts of Europe. In America, the heart of the capitalist West, we are working harder and producing more, but getting less.

And what do Americans have to show for their agonizing hard work? Well, overlooking America's current multi-billion dollar deficit, we are the richest nation in the world. Of course, most Americans don't end up getting filthy rich from their hard work, despite the Horatio Alger fantasy of the American Dream that most of us harbor somewhere deep inside us. In truth, it is a very small percentage of Americans who attain great wealth, while most of us fall safely into the middle class, or below. Many Americans, despite working more than one job, still struggle just to make ends meet. For hourly-wage workers, their increased production makes the company owner wealthier, while they are not likely to make any more than minimum wage, no matter how much they manage to produce. In short, a great many Americans work harder to make a very few Americans richer.

Recently, the Washington Monthly reported that the United States leads the world in almost every type of mental illness, with a higher percentage of its population suffering from some form of clinically diagnosed mental disorder than any other country. According to their statistics, 26.4% of the United States' population suffers from some kind of mental disorder. The Ukraine comes in at a relatively distant second with 20.5% of its population suffering. Especially notable is America's 18.2% suffering from anxiety. The next highest in this category is France at only 12%. And these statistics are not so hard to believe; all you have to do is watch television for half an hour. Anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants are advertised regularly on prime time TV to a country that apparently needs them. These numbers don't tell us whether America's high capacity for mental disorder is related to their overworking, but it is an interesting correlation to consider. Is it possible that we are working ourselves into a state of national depression?

Aldous Huxley, in a series of essays collected in his book Brave New World Revisited, warned us about our tendency to place more importance on making money than on taking care of the individual. He saw it as "efficiency at the cost of humanity," with so many people giving themselves to a lifetime of endless, unfulfilling work, with little to show for it. Why do we need to be the richest country in the world? Why do we need to produce so much more than we ourselves can use? Huxley argued that if we worked enough simply to produce what we needed without worrying about surplus, that we would have plenty of time for those things which are not work, but are simply the things that we enjoy doing. True, we would be less wealthy, have less luxury, but on an individual level we would be taken care of, and just maybe, we might even be happier.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Words of the Wise

"A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they're dead."
~Leo C. Rosten

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

If At First You Don't Succeed

You're probably doing something wrong ...

The evidence that VP Dick Cheney thinks the American people are gullible fools keeps piling up as he pushes with less and less subtlety the prospect of a necessary intervention in Iran. The question that remains is, are we the gullible fools he takes us for? He's basically using the same spiel he made in regard to Iraq, claiming that Iran has "robust nuclear programs" and "sponsors terrorism." We've heard this speech before. Remember how well that's worked out?

We believed him the first time, when he said it about Iraq, but now that so much has come out to prove that there were no WMDs in Iraq, and that they had no connection to the terrorism of 9/11, can he really get away with pulling the same joke twice?

Repeat it with me: "We are at war with Eastasia. We've always been at war with Eastasia ..."

If he tries the line about being greeted as libertors, can we all just agree to put him out of his misery? He's pumping a dry well at this point.

Another big issue that may crop into discussion here is how military intervention in Iran would affect the possibility of a draft. With it generally agreed that there are not enough troops in Iraq to stabalize the country, and no signs of that quagmire clearing up any time soon, how could we possibly have enough troops to take on a whole other country without imposing a draft? And will the world really let us just keep making the same mistake again and again? And will we really let ourselves keep making the same mistake again and again?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Unceasing Amazement

Possible HIV/AIDS Vaccine Advances In Tests

The company working on this is the same company responsible for Vioxx, a drug that was over-prescribed and later recalled for making people prone to heart attacks. While an AIDS vaccine is a major technological advancement that would help millions around the world, just imagine what we could find out about it 10 years down the line. Still, this is pretty incredible news.

What do you want to bet the religious right (and therefore the government) won't approve? "What? How is God going to punish people for being gay now?" This could revolutionalize human sexual relations more than anything since the pill or, well, AIDS ...

"I dunno how much AIDS scares y'all, but I got a theory: the day they come out with a cure for AIDS, a guaranteed one-shot cure, on that day there's gonna be fucking in the streets, man."
-the late, great Bill Hicks

"I can respect that he takes really weird polar sides sometimes, like Barry Goldwater did in his senility."

Maybe senility suits him. Sometimes, only by losing their minds do people truly become sane. Or insanity is just being a minority of one. Or, well, Pat Buchanan making sense, you try to make sense of it ...

More really weird, yet surprisingly logical - liberal even - polar sides from Pat Buchanan over at Media Matters:

BUCHANAN: Well, listen, the reason the terrorists are over here is because we are over there.

And Joe Scarborough actually had the nerve to tell Mr. Buchanan that he sounded like Susan Sontag, like that was a bad thing.

Now I kind of respect Pat Buchanan. And the world shifts on its axis ...

"One day you can't smoke in a bar, the next day the Rosenbergs who live around the corner? Gone."

Should Anti-Bush Journalists Be Tried As Spies?

Tony Blankley, editorial page editor at the Washington Times, thinks so:

Blankley suggests, in all seriousness, that [Seymour Hersh] – who compiled an impressive track record with a recent string of scoops regarding Abu Ghraib and related outrages – should be arraigned, and face possible execution, as an enemy spy.

By "anti-Bush journalists" do they mean any journalist who dares to question, second-guess or make public any unpleasant truths about the President? In short, any journalists who actually do the job that the media was meant to do, protecting the public by keeping an objective, critical eye on the government to make sure there is no abuse of power and that the constitution remains intact.

So any journalist who dares to do their job is in danger of being executed? Guess that means Robert Novak is more than safe ...

It's only a matter of time before we have someone telling us, in absolute seriousness, that the creation of a real-life Thought Police is not only justified, but absolutely necessary, in these troubled and dangerous times. For the record, no amount of war and/or terror will EVER justify torture, execution or an abridement to either our inalienable Freedom of Speech or our Right to Know.

Voting No On Torture

The Senate Judiciary Committee's vote about Alberto Gonzalez for Attorney General is on Wednesday.

As we all know, Gonzalez condoned the use of torture at Abu Ghraib, called the Geneva Conventions "quaint," was insufficiently vague on answering the senate's questions on his stand on the use of torture, and allegedly lied about helping to excuse Bush from disclosing a DUI. And Dubya wants to make him Attorney General, highest ranking law enforcement agent in the United States.

This a test for the Dems, a big, huge, will-they-take-a-fucking-stand-already test. They need us to help give them a push in the right direction, to tell them to vote NO on Gonzalez, because we want them to take a discernible stand against torture.

Let them know that this is extremely important. We do not want to be a party that capitulates on torture, because then, there is no anti-torture party, and that doesn't help anyone.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Words of the Wise

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
~Mario Savio

Friday, January 21, 2005

A Bevy of Beauty, A Frenzy of Freedom

Looking past all of the important stuff that Bush said yesterday during his inaugural address, such as the implication that we won't be stopping with Iraq when it comes to bringing/forcing freedom and democracy to the entire world, he also made this statement:

"Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations."

And as we nurture those seeds with the benevolent water of superior firepower, and the nutrients of armored vehicles, soon it will take root in the soil of democracy and grow into a giant redwood, towering above those formerly fascist nations. But not just one redwood, more like a whole forest, a giant freedom forest of grateful forceably democratic nations raining down leaves of freedom whenever the winds of terror blow. And the people who will live under these freedom trees, will rake up those leaves, into great big piles of liberty, and jump into the piles of liberty like children playing in ... leaves. Leaves of liberty! Which will then be collected and disposed of in controlled burns, because that's how you contain liberty and ensure that it doesn't build up and rot and then impede the growth of the grass underneath. The grass of ... of ... Freedom! Liberty! Environmental ... stuff ...

Ah. This is why no one reads this thing, isn't it?

And the Unfair and the Unbalanced

This is either hilarious, or ... well, mostly hilarious. It's either satire, or just completely ridiculously sincere in that way that makes you wish it was satire.

Read this Letter to the Editor at Atrios.

Why does The Daily Independent print the degenerate views of poisonous Liberals who hate freedom?

I don't know, but that sounds almost like a Greg Proops quote in reverse! Although I get a little confused with this next part. Who is hating freedom exactly? Or maybe it's the freedom to not be allowed to express opposing views? Freedom is slavery? I'm not sure ...

I don't want to read any more letters from Liberals suggesting non-believers should be allowed to express their superstitions just because we Christians can express ours.

Of course not. We've been overlooking the fine print all these years--the First Amendment only applies to Christians. By the way, Jesus was a sword-fighting conservative, that whole Prince of Peace thing - total misnomer.

Sometimes we laugh in order that we do not cry.

The Fair and the Balanced

Yesterday's inauguration was interesting in many ways. Protesters coming from near and far. Bush's motorcade speeding up when they passed the demonstrations. Bush's Freedom (27 times) and Liberty (15 times) address. Another interesting way to view the inauguration is from a standpoint of the event's media coverage. As far as straight inauguration coverage, Media Matters has compiled some stats showing the ratio of conservative to progressive/liberal commentators on three leading news channels. Fox News unsurprisingly favored conservative commentators 17-6. More surprising perhaps to those who maintain that there is a liberal media bias, was the 10-1 ratio on CNN and the 13-2 ratio on MSNBC.

Another point of interest was the lack of coverage on the counter-inaugural protests going on all day. Someone noted that many media outlets said that they would cover the protests another night, since that night belonged to Bush. Fair and balanced indeed. A collection of links to protest-centric news and blog stories was posted here yesterday. Seems a bit paltry in comparison to the relentless pro-Bush coverage ...