Nightmares & bugs & horrors, oh my!

(Via Ezra Klein)

This the most terrifying thing since the giant snakes roaming the South. Actually, it is worse.

Much, much, much worse:

Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They’re creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the U.S. military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at U.S. military bases.

Weaponized or not, moths are hardly the only cyborg insects that may fly, creep, or crawl into the military’s future arsenal. Scientists from Arizona State Universityand elsewhere, working under a grant from the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, “are rearing beetle species at various oxygen levels to attempt to produce beetles with greater-than-normal size and payload capacity.” Earlier this year, some of the same scientists published an articleon their DARPA-funded research titled “A Cyborg Beetle: Insect Flight Control Through an Implantable, Tetherless Microsystem.” They explained that, by implanting “multiple inserted neural and muscular stimulators, a visual stimulator, a polyimide assembly and a microcontroller” in a 2 centimeter long, 1-2 gram green June beetle, they were “capable of modulating [the insect’s] flight starts, stops, throttle/lift, and turning.” They could, that is, drive an actual beetle. However, unlike the June bug you might find on a porch screen or in a garden, these sported on-board electronics powered by cochlear implant batteries.

Cyborg insects are only the latest additions to the U.S. military’s menagerie. As defense tech-expert Noah Shachtman of Wiredmagazine’s Danger Room blog has reported, DARPA projects have equipped rats with electronic equipment and remotely controlled sharks, while the military has utilized all sorts of animals, from bomb-detecting honeybees and “chickens used as early-warning sensors for chemical attacks” to guard dogs and dolphins trained to hunt mines. Additionally, he notes, the DoD’s emphasis on the natural world has led to robots that resemble dogs, monkeys that control robotic limbs with their minds, and numerous other projects inspired by nature.

There is so much wrong with this animal-testing-gone-amok-death-machines that I can not even begin to articulate it.

As much as I love sci-fi, I never actually wanted to live in Frank Herbert’s science fiction nightmare.

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Surprise, surprise!

(Via The Beat)

Joe Q headed out at Marvel?

 And you want a spoiler, here’s the spoiler. Here’s the dark little secret that no one outside the office walls is talking about: Joe Q is about two weeks away from getting fired. Not just shown the door but having it slammed so hard it knocks him on his ass. He can sing and dance about how much of a success OMD was as much as he wants but everyone knows he messed up. Both licensing and west coast are pissed and even people in editorial know it was a mistake. There have been at least three meetings in the last couple of weeks about how we can get Peter and MJ back. Everything from lets just say it was an April Fool’s stunt to Peter’s been a Skrull since right before the unmasking has been thrown out there. (of course they have overlooked the best and most logical fix…it was Mysterio messing with Spidey’s mind!)  So the writing’s on the wall and Q knows it. He looks terrible, he’s hardly in the office anymore and when he is, he just sits in his office with the door closed the whole time. He even got disinvited to the Iron Man premiere in NYC! So when it happens, remember you heard it HERE first, Quesada is done at Marvel.  Don’t be surprised if you start reading MyCup of Blah-Blah-Brevoort sometime soon!

Marvel Boy continues to amuse beyond belief.


Sadly…

Re: Mike Sterling’s latest end of the civilization post.

Yes, people really do buy the hentai action figures. I know because I’ve sold them with my very hands.

And I still feel gross.


American politics, parties, and Ralph fucking Nader…

So I read this very long and very thoughtful post by Ari over at Edge of the American West and it really got me thinking about things. About this election, about how American politics works, and about Ralph Nader.

Now, I’m not sure of I’ve exactly said this here, but if some how Clinton takes the nomination over Obama I will vote for her.

There are a couple of reasons for this: (1) I’m a Democrat first and a Obama supporter second; I’m emotionally invested in the party. Hell, I almost threw my schooling out the window while volunteering on campus for Kerry in 2004, a candidate I had extremely ambivalent feelings towards. (2) On the stated issues Clinton and Obama are relatively close, so the reasons I support Obama are about interjecting new blood into the Democratic leadership more than substance. (3) John McCain.

Thinking about all of that got me thinking more about American politics generally. I’m not completely comfortable in the Democratic Party; I think it is safe to say that I’m more liberal than most Democrats (and most Americans for that matter). Many issues I care about from animal rights, food policies, to true gender and sexual equality are either on the back burner or completely off the political map. I would be more comfortable in a social-democratic party or voting for the Greens or, hell, voting for Ralph Nader than who ever becomes the national Democratic nominee, even Obama (who I support wholeheartedly).

Despite that I’m an active Democrat, who would sooner not vote than vote for Nader or a third party.

Why? Because of how American political structures work.

This is obvious to me, but I think many well-meaning people miss it. American politics requires there be two parties. Because in American elections you either win or you lose, it doesn’t matter how many votes you have as long as you have 49.9 percent of the vote… you win. So if you have a left wing party, and center-left party and conservative party in America; the unified conservative party will almost always win. In this example, with the voters on the left split and with our winner-take all rules no liberal voice will be heard in government.

Why is this so? It goes back to our founding. Our basic national political structure, formed in the eighteenth century, was not designed to accommodate mass political parties. They were designed to sift out the “best” sort of men from faction filled state politics who would rise above the fray and act in the “national good”. Democracy was not something the “Framers” put a high price on. This was the best 18th century political science had to offer. Of course, we don’t live in 18th century anymore and we place a higher value on democracy than the Founders did. But our basic national political structure (and many of our state and local ones too) remain mired in a 18th century mentality with its undemocratic attitude.

Because of this American politics is an either or game; either this person or that one. It is not a multiple choice test.

As much as we might want we can not wish this away.

To be politically effective a movement must seize control of one of the two parties and reshape it to its needs. There are many examples of this in recent history; the shift of African-American voters to the Democratic party, New Lefters taking control of the Democratic party in the 70s, and movement conservatives seizing control of the Republican Party in the 80s.

Look: if the neo-conservatives and Christian fundamentalists had gone out and formed their own, third, party they would still be out in the political wilderness.

The only time a “third party” has proven successful was in 1860. There are two basic reasons for this: the chaos of the coming of the Civil War and the fact that early Republican party was interested in becoming a permanent party. It was not completely organized around one issue (though slavery was of course, central) or for one election like most third parties have been before and since.

Thus if we are to ever have a viable third party we’d need one interested in sticking around and building, you know, an actual party.

Ralph Nader is not that, whatever his merits. His runs in 2000, 2004, and now 2008 are about Ralph. He’s not interested in building a movement or a party. He’s about making his point. And, of course, he’s welcome to do that. But that doesn’t make him a viable third party. In fact the way I see the modern Nader he is not into politics, but purity. Politics requires compromise, nobody agrees on everything in every way. Nader places a higher value, it seems, on the purity of his position than the necessary compromises required for political success.

I think few people out there would like to see America’s political structure change more than me. I would love to see proportional representation introduced into Congressional elections, among many other reforms. But I don’t see that happening. We are too in love with the genius of our “Founders” to want to go and tinker with their “masterwork”.

To effect any sort of positive change, we must play with the political rules we have, not the political rules we wish we had. Thus I’m a Democrat and likely to remain one for my entire life.


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

I am going to allow myself to be excited by this:

RAMA: Expand on that – to you, who is Iron Man, and who is Tony Stark? Are they the same person? That is, is Iron Man just another suit that Tony Stark puts on, akin to an Armani on Oscar night, or is the Iron Man/Tony more along the lines of a Batman/Bruce Wayne dichotomy?

MF: Iron Man is man’s vision of his own future. He is evolution as manifest destiny. And Tony exists somewhere between Chuck Yeager and James Bond. The Iron Man is something Stark pilots; Iron Man is the vessel Stark’s using to quite literally rocket himself– and, at his very best, humanity itself — into tomorrow.

NRAMA: It’s gotten so in vogue to talk about how the “genius brain” is different from the regular person’s noodle, so how is Tony’s mellon different from a regular joe’s? I think it was John Jackson Miller who explained it along the lines of Tony being born ten years early…that his ideas and way of viewing things is perpetually ten years ahead of everyone else…is that close to how you see him?

MF: He’s not a futurist, or rather– he’s not just a futurist– he’s also an alcoholic. When he’s out of whack, he thinks he can control the world because it all spins around him. The events of the last couple years of stories have, I think, proven otherwise, contrary to his behavior. And that’s how I see him, as we open up: a man constantly on the verge of spinning wildly out of control, addicted to every aspect of his own lifestyle. His greatest gift is diametrically opposed to his fatal flaw.

And that’s set him up for an incredible reckoning.

He seems to have a very good grasp on the character.

Now, hopefully this will not be the like tenth Iron Man project that I have been disappointed by this decade.


*YAWN*

I can’t be the own person completely bored by this. And this.

Can I?


Just why are we liberals?

To say that I am a huge fan of the work of Eric Alterman is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been following his work since I read “What Liberal Media?” in my senior year of high school. Since then I’ve read most of his books and read his daily work over at Altercation. Alterman is one of my idols, he manages to combine historical scholarship, political/media journalism, and public intellectualism into one nice, attractive package.

So, yeah, it’s an understatement to say I was excited to buy his newest book “Why We’re Liberals” last week. Sadly, though, it was a bit of a disappointment.

The book is broken into two parts (after a very good & lengthy introduction). The first (about 1/4 to 1/3 of the book) lays out just what exactly American liberalism is and the problems it faces. The second (from 3/4s to 2/3s of the book) argues that everything conservatives have said about American liberalism for the last 40 years is wrong.
Alterman seems to have four central arguments in his book: (1) that liberalism is not some aberration (like Ann Coulter or Mike Savage would have you believe) but a natural part of American politics; (2) that liberalism needs (for lack of a better term) to “grow a pair” and really begin to combat conservatives and articulate what they believe; (3) that liberalism needs to reclaim its label in a positive way; (4) that modern conservatism has been lying about what liberalism stands for to cover up their own problems as a governing ideology.

All of these arguments are well taken. I think the problem is that the first 2 or 3 get very little space in the book, as they are mostly covered by the too short first part of the book. Most of the book seems to be about conservatism more than liberalism, in that for the largest portion  Alterman takes to task conservatives and corrects their lies and distortions instead of promoting liberalism. Basically, the book is too negative for a book titled “Why Were Liberals”. Alterman doesn’t spend enough time answering that question. He fails really, to lay out a positive case for liberalism on its own. I wish the content ratio had been flipped with 2/3s of the book laying out a positive case for liberalism and what it stands for and only 1/3 dealing with conservatives distortion of liberalism.

Perhaps I feel that way because I’ve seen Alterman go after conservative distortions  before in his blog and his previous books and was hoping for something fresher.

Now, this is not to say that “Why We’re Liberals” is a bad book. It is not. It is very good book. As always Alterman’s prose is clear and accessible. He does a great job of articulating his ideas and has a great eye for the telling anecdote. And, most of all, the man is a genuine funny writer, several of his quips caused me to laugh out loud. There is some great media criticism here to, which one can always expect from Eric Alterman.

Essentially I can recommend anyone interested in a good political book for the 2008 election season. Especially if you’re not a frequent Alterman reader. Big Alterman fans like myself may find the book a bit disappointing. That disappointment is less with the book than what it could have been.

Of course, I continue to wait for Alterman’s sure to be excellent study of post-war liberalism. From the bits of it we got in “Why We’re Liberals”, I’m sure it will be fantastic.