Friday, May 05, 2006

Marvel Comics takes on homeland security

On the AlterNet, Maria Luisa Tucker wrote: "Marvel comics is taking on politics with its new series called Civil War, "which can only be described as a gutsy comic-book series focusing on the whole debate over homeland security and tighter government controls in the name of public safety," according to The Globe and Mail. The series was released Wednesday:

The seven-issue series once again puts superheroes right back in the thick of real-world news, just as DC Comics has Batman battling al-Qaeda in a soon-to-appear comic and Marvel's X-Men continue to explore themes of public intolerance and discrimination.

It also recalls the plotline during the Watergate years when Captain America's alterego, disillusioned by White House politics, stopped donning the patriotic costume.

But with Civil War, hero is pitted against hero in the choice of whether or not to side with the government, as issues ranging from a Guantanamo-like prison camp for superheroes, embedded reporters and the power of media all play in the mix.
The story essentially revolves around issues of civil liberties versus homeland security. In the fictional world, superheroes are supposed to register with the government as human weapons of mass destruction, but not all of them want to cozy up to the government in this way.

Marvel Comics says it is not trying to take sides or be partisan, but is simply exploring the issues and allowing readers to decide what they think. But, of course, that leaves one big question up in the air: Which side wins? Guess I’ll have to start reading the comics to find out."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

NASA lacks science funds

"NASA lacks the money to support vigorous science research while building the international space station and returning astronauts to the moon, according to a report released Thursday by the National Research Council. The end result, the scientists warned, will be further erosion of the nation's leadership in scientific research.

"NASA is being asked to accomplish too much with too little," said the document, prepared by a panel of scientists at the request of Congress. The proposed 2007 budget for the space agency could weaken programs for space and earth science, jeopardize national research goals and stunt the development of the nation's next generation of scientists." (Read more in CNN Science & Space)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Xian wingnuts attack NIH funding of enhancement ethics project

I always enjoy looking at the world through the Xian Right's eyes, because they think the forces of progress have accomplished so much more. In this case, transhumanists have apparently taken control of the National Institutes of Health.
The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity Denounces NIH Funding of Genetic Re-Engineering Project

CHICAGO, May 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity strongly denounces the decision by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to fund a project to develop guidelines for the use of human subjects in genetic enhancement research. The grant, totaling almost three-quarters of a million dollars, is being given to Maxwell Mehlman and Case Law School to promote the genetic re-engineering of human beings for non-therapeutic purposes under the rubric of "enhancement."

"This is a violation of the spirit of the NIH-sponsored Human Genome Project," says CBHD Senior Fellow C. Ben Mitchell. "Providing this grant signals a fundamental and dangerous change in the policy of the NIH, resurrecting the mistaken goals of the eugenics programs in the United States and Europe in the early twentieth century."

The project has been charged with "determining the conditions under which it would be ethical to conduct genetic enhancement research using human subjects," implying that scientists, physicians, politicians, ethicists or the public at large, condones such research.

"The project presupposes that it is ethical to reengineer normal human beings," says CBHD President Dr. Andrew Fergusson. "But in a society which correctly decries the use of artificial means, such as steroids to 'enhance' athletic abilities, the presumption of the NIH to pursue the re-engineering of human beings is the height of scientific and social arrogance."

By choosing to pursue an agenda for re-engineering humankind, the NIH has clearly demonstrated an inadequate degree of oversight of its funding activities. The White House and Congress must investigate this blatant misuse of taxpayer funds. CBHD is a strong advocate of research for healing, and is deeply saddened that this incredibly important instrument of good is being used for a course of evil.
I think they see that the Bush administration's implosion may mean that the wingnut lobby's days in Washington are numbered. Listen to my Changesurfer Radio interview with Mehlman here.

Max Mehlman is author of Wondergenes: Genetic Enhancement and the Future of Society

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Worker-owned co-op phone company

[From Boing Boing] Cory Doctorow: Telekommunisten is a new virtual phone company -- a company that hosts your voicemail, call-forwarding, automated attendant, conference bridges, and provides cheap long-distance rates -- run as a worker-owned co-op by international development activists in Montreal and Berlin. They use the proceeds to fund international development projects like coordinating post-Katrina relief efforts and working with refugees in Europe. Link

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day: The Great American Boycott 2006

Today, May 1st, is known as May Day or International Worker's Day. The day is an official government holiday in most countries with mass demonstrations, rallies and marches being held to express labor solidarity and celebrate worker's rights. In the United States May Day is not a government-sanctioned holiday even though the commemoration originated there. However this year immigrant groups have chosen this day to stage a work strike and take part in a one-day economic boycott to protest anti-immigrant legislation being considered by the US Congress. Hundreds of thousands are expected to participate in the boycott and various other events taking place throughout the country.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Personal Democracy Forum 2006

On the AlterNet, Deanna Zandt wrote: "It's that time of year again: time for online organizers everywhere to gather in New York City for the third annual Personal Democracy Forum conference, held on May 15. This is the place to be if you're looking to explore trends and learn new skills in the expansive workshop offerings this year. Here's a few examples:

--Why Your Website is Probably Obsolete (And How to Fix It)
--Bringing it All Together
--Merging Online and Offline Organizing
--MySpace for Politics
--Free, Easy or Cheap Tools That Anyone Can Use

The roster of speakers this year is fairly extensive, too-- some of the noteworthy:

Joe Trippi, Change for America
Matt Bai, New York Times Magazine
Christopher Rabb, Afro-Netizen
Chris Nolan, Spot-on
Adam Green,
Zephyr Teachout, Berkman Center

It's an excellent opportunity to spend a day hashing out and sorting through the major trends, obstacles and issues that face the online political community. For the extra geeky, the weekend before (May 13-14) features DrupalCampNYC, where beginners and advanced developers alike can learn everything you ever needed to know about the free, open source content management system -- and surrounding community -- that is Drupal."