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February 27, 2013

Actually, you're wrong...

Min has covered one Supreme Court case in the post below, but the other one going on right now is about the Voting Rights Act and whether it is constitutional to apply stricter standards to historically racist states (e.g., to ensure that when Alabama moves a polling station, it isn't being done to disenfranchise poor people without cars by making it more difficult to get there to vote).

Based on the Justices' questions and statements so far, chances for the Voting Rights Act aren't looking so good. But a TPM reader has a really good counterpoint for Scalia.


By fnord12 | February 27, 2013, 2:55 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Supreme Court Ruling Protects Warrantless Wiretapping Law From Questions of Constitutionality

Glenn Greenwald

The Obama justice department succeeded in convincing the five right-wing Supreme Court justices to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, which vastly expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. In the case of Clapper v. Amnesty International, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion, released today, which adopted the argument of the Obama DOJ, while the Court's four less conservative justices (Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan) all dissented. This means that the lawsuit is dismissed without any ruling on whether the US government's new eavesdropping powers violate core constitutional rights.
...
In 2008, the Democratic-led Congress (with the support of then-Sen. Barack Obama) enacted the so-called FISA Amendments Act, which dramatically expanded the government's warrantless eavesdropping powers beyond what they had been for the prior 30 years. The primary intention of that new law was to render the Bush warrantless eavesdropping program legal, and it achieved that goal by authorizing the NSA to engage in whole new categories of warrantless surveillance aimed at Americans.

Since its enactment, the Obama administration has been using that massively expanded eavesdropping authority to spy on the electronic communications of Americans without the need to obtain specific warrants (the law simply provides that the government must periodically obtain court approval for their general methods of eavesdropping, but not approval for their specific eavesdropping targets). At the end of last year, the Obama administration relied on overwhelming GOP Congressional support to extend this law for another five years without a single reform.

...

With perfect Kafkaesque reasoning, the Obama DOJ says that (1) who we spy on is a total secret, and therefore (2) nobody has the right to obtain a judicial ruling as to whether what we are doing is legal or constitutional.


By min | February 27, 2013, 11:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



February 26, 2013

Beefo

I'm putting out a dogfood called Beefo-O.  It has 89% more Beefo.

By fnord12 | February 26, 2013, 3:28 PM | Comics| Link



February 23, 2013

Rise of the Gorillas

This is what greeted me when i got home yesterday.

There was some debate among the group about whether or not the four-armed gorilla ought to be included.  I suspect the infighting will cause the entire rebellion to fall apart before it gets very far.

Rebellion in my own home. Unbelievable.


By min | February 23, 2013, 2:30 PM | My stupid life| Link



February 22, 2013

Mountain Dew Mouth

I've got "Mountain Dew" on my Google Alerts because i'm interested in seeing if there is any follow-up on the brominated vegetable oil issue (so far, there is none, but i'll note that their ridiculous new breakfast drink doesn't seem to contain it).

But thanks to that, i've been alerted to this condition that is apparently localized to the Central Appalachia region.

I think of Mountain Dew primarily as a drink for people who play lots of video games or go on all-day comic book review binges. I didn't know about the Appalachia connection. But i guess the original logo, revived with the Throwback product, should have been a hint.

He looks like he probably still has all his teeth, though.

Maybe i'll stick with my lime & seltzer concoctions even after (if?) the BVO is removed. And green tea for caffeine.


By fnord12 | February 22, 2013, 12:47 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link



Emergency Room Bargains

There's apparently some actual journalism in the latest Time magazine, both Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias cover it. First, an excerpt/summary from Drum:

Most people who come to the emergency room have no choice and no bargaining power. Hospitals can, almost literally, charge them whatever they feel like. And as Brill documents meticulously, they do. They're not eager to talk about it, either. As one hospital spokesman told Brill when he asked to see the "chargemaster" price list used to bill uninsured patients, "Most people never pay those prices....So I'm not sure why you care." Faced with an actual bill, he got annoyed: "I've told you I don't think a bill like this is relevant. Very few people actually pay those rates."

Then Yglesias:

I can see two reasonable policy conclusions to draw from this, neither of which Brill embraces. One is that Medicare should cover everyone, just as Canadian Medicare does. Taxes would be higher, but overall health care spending would be much lower since Universal Medicare could push the unit cost of services way down. The other would be to adopt all-payer rate setting rules--aka price controls--keeping the insurance market largely private, but simply pushing the prices down. Most European countries aren't single payer, but do use price controls. Even Singapore, which is often touted by U.S. conservatives as a market-oriented forced-savings alternative to a universal health insurance system relies heavily on price controls to keep costs down.

For reasons I do not understand after having read the conclusion twice, Brill rejects both of these ideas in favor of meaningless tinkering around the edges.

What neither the article nor my go-to bloggers mention is the fact that a major Republican talking point around the ACA is that the use of emergency rooms is effectively a safety net for the uninsured. And this article pretty clearly illustrates how ineffective and costly that is.


By fnord12 | February 22, 2013, 12:33 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



3-D Pen

I was admonished for not telling fnord12 about the 3-D printing technology when i first heard about it. So, now i'm making sure i post about the 3-D pen.


By min | February 22, 2013, 11:17 AM | Science | Comments (2) | Link



Bait & Switch or Boogie Man Set Up?

The U.S. is accusing Russia and China of "cyber-espionage" and warning us that it's quite "aggressive".

In a report outlining plans to deal with the theft of American trade secrets that comes in the wake of revelations about Chinese hacking in the US, the White House warned that both countries would remain active in trying to illegally obtain sensitive information.

"We judge that the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive US economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace," the report stated.

...

In its section on China, the report said the Chinese intelligence services, as well as private Chinese companies, often used people with family ties to China as a way to hack into sensitive information. "[They] frequently seek to exploit Chinese citizens or persons with family ties to China who can use their insider access to corporate networks to steal trade secrets using removable media devices or e-mail," the report said.

Unless they mean bootlegged movies, i dunno what these trade secrets could be. If China's going to steal technology secrets, they should steal them from Japan. They're building people over there!

When i read something like this, my immediate thought is "What is the U.S. government doing that they're trying to hide?". Is it a smokescreen for some illicit activity they are engaging in or is it the creation of a boogie man so that the public is more amenable to accept some other charges they will make at a future date? And just what are those illicit activities or future charges?

And really, our government is living in a glass house. They have been perpetrating their own cyber-attacks. I guess it's only an act of war if someone is doing it to us. That's fair.

I think it's telling that the report brings up the "threat" posed by social activists (who are clearly very much into stealing technological secrets, don't you know).

"Political or social activists may use the tools of economic espionage against US companies, agencies or other entities, with disgruntled insiders leaking information about corporate trade secrets or critical US technology to "hactivist" groups like Wikileaks," the report said.

Are they really concerned about technology secrets being stolen or are they actually worried their dirty laundry will be aired? Tough call there.


By min | February 22, 2013, 10:31 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



February 21, 2013

Sounds Like the Plot to a CSI Episode

I didn't think real murderers hid their victims' bodies in things like water towers.

The body of a missing Canadian woman has been discovered in a cistern that was being used to provide drinking water to guests in a Los Angeles hotel.

The remains of Elisa Lam, 21, were found by a maintenance worker at the 600-room, $65-a-night Cecil Hotel after guests complained about low water pressure. Detectives were working to determine if her death was the result of foul play or an accident.

British tourist Michael Baugh, 27, and his wife, who had complained about the poor water flow after days of showering, brushing their teeth and drinking some of the tap water, were shocked at the discovery. "We feel a bit sick to the stomach, quite literally, especially having drank the water. We're not well mentally," he said.

Officials are trying to reassure people by saying that since there was so much water in the cistern, the water was perfectly fine. Nothing to worry about. I don't think they're going to get much traction with that line of logic, though.

And i appreciate how they're being circumspect, saying they're not sure yet if it was foul play or an accident. Not quite sure how you end up in a cistern on the roof of a hotel by accident.

To get to the tanks, which are on a platform at least 10 ft above the roof, someone would have to go to the top floor then climb a staircase and enter a locked door and turn off an emergency alarm that prevents roof access. Another ladder would have to be taken to the platform and a person would have to climb the side of the tank.

That would be some accident. Everybody with water towers needs to implement a policy of checking those things everyday now cause i do not want to find out one day that i've been showering in corpse water.


By min | February 21, 2013, 11:20 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link



February 20, 2013

Marvel Sales

I took the Beat off my RSS feed because 90% of their posts are either massively long streams of cover images that are impossible to scroll through in Google Reader, or press releases. But it means i'm behind in my Marvel Sales links:

November.

December.

I know no one reads these things but me, but i still apologize for neglecting them.


By fnord12 | February 20, 2013, 6:02 PM | Comics| Link



Our sad media

Two unrelated stories showing what a failure our media is: Origins of Friends of Hamas and Bipartisan At All Costs.


By fnord12 | February 20, 2013, 2:00 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Who are they for?!?!

I'm not reading First X-Men, but the latest Comic Critics installment applies equally well to all continuity inserts put out by Marvel over the past several years, as well as All-New X-Men.


By fnord12 | February 20, 2013, 10:18 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



February 19, 2013

Pride and Prejudice for Dummies

You remember that horrendous piece of shit Pride and Prejudice graphic novel Marvel put out in 2009.

(i dunno why the webpage is featuring a page from some Beast/Morbius comic as the "See Inside" link. prolly cause the P&P art was so awful they don't want anyone to see it right away? i mean, look at that! *shudder)

   

Well, apparently it's being read by Illinois students in an AP English class.

Enrique Montoya was happy not to be bogged down with unnecessary details. When pictures are included, you don't need so many long sentences with endless clauses to describe a scene, an outfit or the expression on a character's face.

He's absolutely right. All those goddamned boring words with their details and their meanings and their describing things. Who needs that when you're trying to read? You certainly wouldn't want to see examples of how to properly structure a sentence or use a clause in a composition class.

Did i mention this is an AP class? I can understand how some of you might have assumed we were talking about remedial English or an ESL class, but no. They are reading a graphic novel instead of the actual novel in a course where you can get college credit because classic literature has "complicated themes" and pictures make it easier to digest.

It's fucking Pride & Prejudice! It's not a difficult book to read. It's no Beowulf, ferchrissakes. It's written in plain English. Yes, there are different customs and practices. Women wear petticoats. Men don't expose their throats. But it's essentially a romance novel. WTF???

You know what? Just skip the reading altogether. Books should be replaced by films. They can watch the 2005 Kiera Knightly P&P and be done with it. I'm sure it's close enough to Jane Austen's novel. Specific context isn't all that important, afterall, when you're concerned with complicated themes. And instead of reading Emma, they can just watch Clueless. It's much more relatable since it isn't bogged down by all that period vernacular and out-of-date views on gender and class.

And that's not all! No. In their discussion groups, they've employed hand gestures ala Occupy.

When the students in the periphery agreed with something a member of the select group said, they raised both hands and snapped their fingers repeatedly in approval.

Again, why waste time with words during a discussion? Emoticons are the way of the future.

I'm not sure who to blame for this last bit - the English teacher or the author of the article who seems to be enthusiastically endorsing the dumbing down of our youth:

Kallenborn said he tries to incorporate one or two graphic novels a year into his classes. Last year, his students read the Marvel version of "Spiderman."

The Marvel version?? What other version is there? And they spelled Spider-Man wrong.

This article is the saddest thing i've read this week. Fnord12 tried to cheer me up by pointing out it's only Tuesday.


By min | February 19, 2013, 10:27 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



February 18, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Captain Marvel #9 - So we all hated the time travel arc and with DeConnick also doing a poor job on Avengers Assemble, we decided that the Monica Rambeau arc was good, but not good enough to keep getting the book. Then min changed her mind, so here we are. And i'm glad she did; i thought this was a cute talky sort of book. I don't love the "here's some dinosaurs to fight; who cares why?" sort of action element where it feels like an obligatory acknowledgement that this is a super-hero book and not an indie soap opera book. But i did like the soap opera bits (until the Disease of the Week ending; hopefully that is just about limiting Carol's powers and nothing more, but then again: why do we need to limit her powers?) and i thought the cutesy stylized art fit the book's tone.

Secret Avengers #1 - This is like a solid C book that has the interesting angle of showing the new Nick Fury as a dirty Black Ops guy (along with Coulson and Hill). If Marvel was only putting out like 20 books a month, i'd probably get this. But i'm already kind of overwhelmed and all told i don't think i need to add a Hawkeye/Black Widow to the pull list.

Uncanny X-Men #1 - Same basic thing here. I did like Bachalo's art and the new costumes. I don't really buy the Magneto switch (surely he himself has tried to kill Xavier a number of times, and he also understands what it's like to not be in control of your own actions) but i think there's room for a double-cross here or some other explanation. I have been a defender of Bendis' dialogue, tics and all, but i really am starting to need a break from it. Magneto saying "This -- what I'm describing to you -- is what you call a lucky shot."... there's nothing inherently wrong with it but it just doesn't feel right. I'm tired of everyone sounding the same. More critically, i don't see what this story can't be combined with the one in All New X-Men. In a single comic, i mean. We need to pick up the pace on these books again. We've decompressed as much as we can decompress and now it's time to squeeze things back together a little bit. You know that Bachalo won't be able to draw every issue of this series; how awesome would it be for him and Immonen to switch off on a single book? So as much as i feel like i'm required to get this if i'm getting All-New, i'm saying we drop it.

Avengers Arena #4 - Well, i asked for the kids to get together and try to figure stuff out, but obviously Hopeless won't let that happen. It reads like plot-driven distrust; i really think that X-23 is both willing to believe and also capable of determining that Chase wasn't the guy who attacked Reptil. Still, i want to see where this story goes. According to the lettercol, issue #7 will have some revelations, so i think that's our next checkpoint.


By fnord12 | February 18, 2013, 3:55 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



Spare Penis

It's good to have one just in case you or your mate decide to chew it off...

A string of three "tear-off" penises is how Janet Leonard of the University of California, Santa Cruz describes the sea slug's genitalia. The banana slugs she studies, of the genus Ariolimax, also part with genitals but in a different way. "On rare occasions, an Ariolimax acting as a female -- these are hermaphrodites -- will chew off its partner's penis, a process caused apophallation," she says. "On even rarer occasions an Ariolimax will chew off its own penis." Yet these events are rare, so the report of sea slugs' routine genital disposal with back-ups is unique, as far as she knows, and "quite exciting," Leonard says.

Link

Note, the chewing off of a partner's penis is so common, they have a name for it.

Apparently, each penis has 3 uses. The used bit falls off and the slug extends some of the unused bit like a "mechanical pencil". After that, it has to regrow the entire structure. Bet some husbands with knife-wielding wives wish they had that ability.

There's a photo in the article that supposedly shows two slugs both with their penises extended to mate with each other, but cereally, i can't tell what exactly are supposed to be the extended bits. They're not obvious like duck wangs.


By min | February 18, 2013, 3:13 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link



Orwell on Nationalism

I was reading Glenn Greenwald's post today (*groan* i know) and came across this George Orwell quote from "Notes on Nationalism":

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

It made me think of that interview with Alan Clark, the British Minister of Trade in the 80s:

John Pilger (JP): "Did it bother you personally that you were causing such mayhem and human suffering (by supplying arms for Indonesia's war in East Timor)?"
AC: "No, not in the slightest, it never entered my head."
JP: "I ask the question because I read you are a vegetarian and you are quite seriously concerned about the way animals are killed."
AC: "Yeah..?"
JP: "Doesn't that concern extend to the way humans, albeit foreigners, are killed?"
AC: "Curiously not. No."

Curious, indeed.


By min | February 18, 2013, 2:37 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Yoga Butt

i'm going to paint you a picture. it won't be a pretty picture.

on saturday, i went to yoga. i've been sore since. my ribs are sore. laughing has been banned in my house. i've been so sore that i've resorted to massaging my own ass every time i have to get up and walk somewhere.

last night, while i was asleep, i made the unfortunate mistake of having to cough at the same moment i happened to be attempting to roll over. the pain was excruciating. i was certain i had injured something vital. i lay there for a minute or two, in pain from the position i was laying in, but in too much pain to try to move again.

so, if anyone tries to tell you that yoga is just lying around stretching, you punch them in the face for me.


By min | February 18, 2013, 10:50 AM | My stupid life| Link



February 16, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

gonna batter and deep fry that chicken, put it on top of some waffles, and slather it all in honey

The tangerine with the stem and leaves is how you know it's New Year's.


By min | February 16, 2013, 9:36 PM | My stupid life| Link



February 15, 2013

Tesla vs. New York Times

It seems Tesla Motors had a problem where a television show called Top Gear faked a problem with their car, so now they monitor the car's log files when they give them out for reviews. So when the NYT's John Broder (who apparently doesn't think much of electric cars) came out with a negative review, Tesla has released data showing that he's a faker too.

Broder had already put out a response to Tesla's CEO's earlier tweets, but it seems the New York Times is now doing an investigation and will come out with a formal response.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2013, 8:30 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Then i could move to Adirondack

Proposal to redraw all the state borders so they'd have equal populations.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2013, 8:26 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link



February 13, 2013

All We're Missing Are the Giant Kangaroos

As real life moves closer and closer to imitating science fiction (Tank Girl, in this case), we now have corporations grabbing up land and water.

As a growing population stresses the world's food and water supplies, corporations and investors in wealthy countries are buying up foreign farmland and the freshwater perks that come with it.
...
The "water grabbing" by corporations amounts to 454 billion cubic meters per year globally, according to a new study by environmental scientists. That's about 5 percent of the water the world uses annually.

Investors from seven countries - the United States, United Arab Emirates, India, United Kingdom, Egypt, China and Israel - accounted for 60 percent of the water acquired under these deals.

...

For countries reliant on farming and already suffering from poverty, the potential impacts are huge, said Paolo D'Odorico, a University of Virginia professor and co-author of the new report that estimates the water supplies at stake. About 66 percent of the total deals are in countries with high hunger rates.

"In many of these countries, the sum of the water being grabbed would be enough to eliminate malnourishment," said D'Odorico, who collaborated with scientists from Italy's Polytechnic University of Milan.

And what's one of the culprits behind the need for all of this land and water? Biofuels. Goddamned biofuels.


By min | February 13, 2013, 11:54 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



February 12, 2013

Conference Call Pro-tip follow-up

Don't invite so many people to your conference calls. It won't be productive.


By fnord12 | February 12, 2013, 2:47 PM | My stupid life| Link



Conference Call Pro-tip

When you've organized a conference call that has more than a couple of people, starting the call by asking "Who's on the line?" is just going to result in mass chaos as a dozen people first pause awkwardly and then all say their names at once. Do a roll-call.


By fnord12 | February 12, 2013, 2:34 PM | My stupid life| Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Iron Man #6 - HAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh Greg Land.

Fearless Defenders #1 - This seemed... ok. As Bunn notes in the text piece at the end, the "Defenders" name is arbitrary but that's fine. As a set-up issue, this did its job. I'm iffy on the art and i'm blaming the weird and sudden lesbian kiss on that as well (it would have been just as weird a kiss if it was a guy and a girl, but i imagine reaction to the follow-up of "let me come with you or i'll use my Asgardian artifacts to control you" would have been stronger if the archaeologist was a guy). We'll see how it goes. P.S., the cover promised Hand ninjas in addition to Asgardian zombies, but i'm not complaining that they failed to deliver.

Red She-Hulk #62 - Enjoying Machine-Man, enjoying (god help me) Tesla, but still kind of neutral on Red She-Hulk. It's a good story and i'm enjoying it and i'm ok with Pagulayan's art, but nothing yet has convinced me that RShulk is an interesting character or that she has any connection to the Betty Ross that used to exist. And just as a jokey aside, it would have been great if Captain America walked into Walter Reed and all the soldiers were like "Hey, who's the guy in the fake Captain America costume? Dude, that costume looks terrible!".

Avengers Assemble annual #1 - I liked this (storywise; i think the art was atrocious), but i think aspects of it were really forced. Sunturion as a continually abused corporate lackey is not really a great parallel for the Vision, not in any reading of the character that i'm familiar with. If we ignore that forced comparison, i think on a more granular level the exploration of the Vision's feelings after his resurrection were pretty good.

All-New X-Men #7 - I am surprised to find myself still enjoying this. No blatant continuity problems that i noticed this issue (disclaimer: i'm not up to date on what Mystique is up to at this point), but even beyond that, i expected that by now the meandering pace would have me pretty annoyed. By all rights this should be a mini-series (note that this is different than my argument yesterday that everything should be a mini-series; what i mean here is that the "Young X-Men come to the future" ought to be a limited affair with a set end point, not the basis for an ongoing series. See also: Avengers Arena), but so far i can see how it will work as a Bendis-paced book and even with the art problems (more bad panel layouts), i'm going along with it for now.

X-Factor #251 - Min asked why i always say that this book is a good read but i don't like it anyway. So a little more detail this time: So we've had this kid who is the daughter of Wolfsbane and the Asgardian Wolf-Prince Hrimhari. And it seems he's marked for death. Why? Not because of his mutant-Asgardian heritage, or anything else specific to the kid. He just happens to be the seven billionth person born on Earth. That's not a plot, that a lottery. When X-Factor was debating whether to go to the X-Men or the Avengers for help, my thought was that they should dump the whole story on Dr. Strange; it's got nothing to do with X-Factor. I really don't have any interest in this disparate group of mutants fighting every Hell God in the Marvel Universe (i also have categorization problems with including the likes of Pluto and Hela with Mephisto and Satannish, and what is Satana doing here? But that's not the main point.). All the plots in this book since we started getting it (the dimension hopping storyline, the fake superhero vigilantes, the banshee thing) have seemed equally random and just uninteresting. All that said, Peter David does a good job with the script and provides distinct (if uniformly goofy) voices for all his characters, which i appreciate. So i don't mind that we're getting it if others like it. But it's really not for me. So with that, i'll just go back to "It's fine for what it is".

Thunderbolts #4 - Now this i am just loving. Not only is it zany crazy fun, but it's really cool having a team with really unique perspectives, from Flash-Venom's highly moral good soldier personality to the Punisher's pragmatic but short sighted approach to, well, Deadpool. And, of course, all are reacting to the Red Hulk's seemingly outrageous scheme. I think people worried that this group didn't make much sense should be comforted with the fact that, so far at least, they don't and that's borne out in the plot. On top of that, some geopolitical blowback plus an underutilized Hulk villain. In another book i might complain that Elektra's been in captivity the whole time, but i trust Way & Dillon to make that pay off.


By fnord12 | February 12, 2013, 12:39 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



February 11, 2013

More Greenwald on Obama's Kill List

I'm with him on being completely annoyed, angry, and worried about the complete lack of outrage on the left. I'm not so much shocked by the behavior of the Democratic politicians, but by the bloggers who were so outraged by Bush's overreach but aren't the least bit phased because they trust Obama to wield the power of the One Ring.

Link

Baker also noticed this: "Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama's hands, not Mr. Bush's." As but one example, the article quoted Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor and fervent Obama supporter, as admitting without any apparent shame that "if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms" because, she said "we trust the president". Thus did we have - while some media liberals objected - scores of progressives and conservatives uniting to overtly embrace the once-controversial Bush/Cheney premises of the War on Terror (it's a global war! the whole world is a battlefield! the president has authority to do whatever he wants to The Terrorists without interference from courts!) in order to defend the war's most radical power yet (the president's power to assassinate even his own citizens in secret, without charges, and without checks).

Yay change! Ugh.


By min | February 11, 2013, 2:45 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Make everything a mini-series

Caleb does a decent job of running through the possible reasons why various New 52 books have been cancelled, but i'm not sure it really requires that much analysis. The comics industry is in a precarious state and we really shouldn't expect any but the most prominent books to remain in publication.

I really think instead of looking at those cancelled DC books as a failure, we should recognize that DC is at least trying to put out some weird and obscure stuff. I mean, we're well past any fears about brand dilution, so they could just close ranks and put out ALL Batman and Green Lantern books (not picking on DC; replace with Avengers or X-Men as appropriate). The only thing i suggest is that they plan for failure. Write it as a 6 issue mini and make sure issue #6 is a complete wrap-up. You can of course leave some open threads to be explored later. Then plan to move the same creative team to some other characters ("properties") with a new #1. If the first series did better than expected, bring it back in 6 months or a year as another mini. This way we don't have that awkward wrap-up issue with a year's worth of plots crammed into half an issue, and this way no one is writing posts about why your book "failed". I've said all this before but when you look at sales charts and the constant needs for reboots and renumbering, you realize that the companies are practically doing this anyway, so might as well formalize it and do it in a controlled fashion.


By fnord12 | February 11, 2013, 12:49 PM | Comics| Link



February 8, 2013

Whoa whoa whoa! Speak for yourself there!

As i've mentioned before, i'm on a lag when it comes to reading Discover magazines, so at this point i'm reacting to a letter published in the October 2012 issue which was reacting to an even older issue that was suggesting that scientists may one day figure out immortality.

And the letter writer says:

People reading these articles must question the wisdom of extending life beyond its natural evolutionary lifecycle. Boredom and questioning the purpose of life are facts most seniors live with. Unless mankind can give meaning and purpose to life extension, we will end up with a huge social liability whose main endeavor is sitting around watching reruns of I Love Lucy.

Now i'm assuming whatever form of longevity we're offered includes the ability to retain our ability to reason, see, move our arms, etc.. And with that assumption, i promise that i'll have plenty that i can do without resorting to couch surfing (my comic project alone will probably take a life time). So don't you listen to this naysayer, scientists! Just because this guy doesn't have any hobbies doesn't mean the rest of us wouldn't appreciate some bonus rounds.


By fnord12 | February 8, 2013, 3:53 PM | Science| Link



February 7, 2013

Pfizer Doctoring Their Drug Trial Reports

In a shocking reveal, researchers discovered there was a distinct difference between what the company has presented for publication in peer-reviewed journals and what has been recorded on internal documents. Link

The results, the researchers say, suggest that the published trials were biased and misleading, even though they read as if standard protocols were followed. That lack of transparency could mean that clinicians prescribe drugs based on incomplete or incorrect information.

"We could see all of the biases right in front of us all at once," says Dickersin, who was an expert witness in the suit, which was brought by a health insurer against Pfizer. Pfizer lost the case in 2010, and a judge ruled it should pay $142 million in damages for violating federal racketeering laws in promoting Neurontin for treating migraines and bipolar disorder.

...

In three of the 10 trials, the numbers of study participants in the published results didn't match those in the internal documents. In one case, data from 40 percent of the participants were not included in the published trial. Dickersin and her colleagues also tried to directly compare several other aspects of the studies. But they found so many differences in definitions and in the analyses and protocols that the comparisons turned out to be difficult, she says.


By min | February 7, 2013, 3:01 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (1) | Link



Kitchen of the future

Matthew Yglesias has a clip of Walter Cronkite in 1961 talking about the kitchens of 2001, and cheekily calls it "chilling". He uses it to repeat his opinion that there have actually been major advances in kitchen technology, and certainly food choices, that generally go unacknowledged. But i think Yglesias deliberately ignores some of the cooler ideas in the video to make his point, like the plastic dishes that are molded automatically before the meal is served and then get recycled when it's done. That seems to anticipate 3D printers. And sure, we do have microwaveable frozen dinners, but the ability to push a button and have the meal run across a little assembly line for me seems kind of cool.


By fnord12 | February 7, 2013, 1:39 PM | Science| Link



Longform Atrios

Atrios got a column in USA Today and used it to push the idea that - forget cutting social security beneifts - we need to be raising them. It's weird reading more than a sentence at a time from Atrios and i was so distracted by that i'm not sure if he made the case very well. But i like that he's not writing defensively; he's pushing forward with a proposal instead of first addressing why don't need to be cutting the program.

Give it a read if you can tolerate USA Today's strange website format, which i guess is optimized for mobile.


By fnord12 | February 7, 2013, 1:35 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



The Spidey founds out!

I really apologize for all the typos and worse lurking in my Timeline reviews.


By fnord12 | February 7, 2013, 8:59 AM | Comics & My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link



February 6, 2013

Post Post Office Post

Felix Simon notes another angle on the Post Office: they don't actually have the power to unilaterally cancel Saturday delivery. Congress has to approve it. But Congress is a mess, so the USPS is just moving forward without their approval.

The idea is both delicious and dangerous: go ahead an implement the plan whether Congress likes it or not. And then dare them to bring down the hammer, or simply capitulate to the inevitable.

I really think the Obama administration ought to follow suit and start executive orders and tell Congress that they can go ahead of overrule them. As Simon says, it's dangerous, and undemocratic, but so is having a non-functioning branch of government.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2013, 2:50 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Post Office Post

Speaking of Post Offices, i don't imagine that the cancellation of Saturday deliveries will result in major howls of protest. Yglesias says it's a good first step but ultimately we're going to have to stop delivering to rural areas, which is a very controversial Slate-tarian type of thing to say but it helps illustrate the point that the USPS is a government service, not a for-profit corporation. And i of course want to push my agenda of eliminating the bulk rate; either companies will pay more to have their junk delivered or the Post Office will have to sort and deliver less junk.

Finally, whenever we talk about Post Office budget issues, we should repeat the fact that the USPS's problems are largely due to the fact that it is required to pre-fund its employee benefits unlike any other business in the world.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2013, 1:00 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Bipartisanship

If you're looking for reactions to the memo on Obama's kill list that came out on Monday, try Glenn Greenwald and Ta-Nehisi Coates (and more from him here).

I want to focus on a different aspect, though. In this era where Congress can barely get a Post Office named without a filibuster, this is one area where you hear nothing. In fact, everybody's getting along:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Wednesday said he agrees with his Republican colleague Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on the use of drone strikes against U.S. citizens who are believed to be senior al-Qaeda members. In a statement Tuesday, Rogers defended the use of the strikes, arguing that the government has the authority and obligation to protect itself from terrorist threats.

During a press conference Wednesday, Boehner said he agreed with Rogers' statement. "That's all," he said.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2013, 12:47 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Don't let this happen to you

Even with all the griping i do here about Marvel comics these days, at least i never switched to DC.

This whole post was just an excuse to put up this image.

By fnord12 | February 6, 2013, 10:24 AM | Comics| Link



February 5, 2013

Crunky Cover Reviews

As many of you might have noticed, i have some strong opinions about some things. Mostly negative ones. Fnord12 asked me to put my energies towards reviewing the cover art on the monthly solicitations Marvel puts out. So, i'm going to give it a shot, but no promises on it being entertaining or ongoing.

(Clicking on the title will link you to the cover art.)

1. Age of Ultron #3 by Bryan Hitch

If She-Hulk got twisted like a corkscrew during the fight, then it makes perfect sense and i humbly apologize for lumping Hitch in with those artists. But if not, i need to point out how outrageous it is that even unconscious, her body is contorted to show off both her boobs and her ass.



2. Guardians of the Galaxy #1 variant by Milo Manara

Good fantasy porn (ala Boris Vallejo) poster art. We've got the slightly open mouth, the upthrust bosom (we aren't going to criticize the outfit. that's what Gamorra wears. der). All it's missing is a prehistoric animal of some sort for her to tame.

However, it's a less good cover for a comic book. A very less good cover for a comic book about a team of space action heroes. I'm not exactly in love with the main cover either, but at least the whole team is there posing in action poses that i will refrain from nitpicking (but if Gamorra's looking straight ahead while her gun is pointed to her left...).

What i'm saying is i'd prefer a cover that shows all of the GotG posing or fighting or something or a cover depicting a hint of what is going to happen in the issue over a cover that's just sexy Gamorra walking around some nondescript locale.



3. Uncanny Avengers #6 by John Cassaday

What is Thor wearing? No. Really. Look, i wasn't totally in agreement when fnord12 and Wanyas got outraged they'd changed his costume to look more like actual chainmail and dulled down his colors. But this...he's wearing a leather tank top (at least i hope it's leather and not spandex. Oh god, please let it now be spandex). And not only that. With his cape clipped through the top of it, it's not turned his tank top into a tank top with a boob window!

Why does Thor have a boob window!!!

Also, why is there an arm dangling over his right shoulder? Is he toting Golem around during his Apocalypse fight?



4. Avengers #7 by Dustin Weaver

This is not an artist criticism. You can't blame Weaver for Cap's chin strap look. I just want to know if i'm the only one who gets reminded of Natalie Portman's Garden State foam safety helmet everytime they see a picture of movie-costume Cap (a costume that, while high on head protection, leaves his soft middle completely armor-free. what is that about? why is Cap wearing a scale mail half-shirt?).



5. Secret Avengers #2 by Tomm Coker

There's nothing really super wrong with this cover if you don't take into account the long history of drawing women in ridiculous poses. She's not contorted. Everything is in proportion. She's looking focused. She's brandishing a weapon. Her hoohah isn't exposed.

But we do have decades of ridiculous female poses in comics, so i feel compelled to point out that once again, the female on the cover is nevertheless in a sexy pose while her male counterpart is being action-y with his arrows firing at an unseen enemy. In otherwords, look at this through the lens of the Hawkeye Initiative and see what you think.



6. Young Avengers #3 variant by Tradd Moore

The art style here is a bit too angular and cartoony for my tastes, but it's fine. I'm only linking to it cause of Kid Loki. Kid Loki!!

It's too bad the records don't seem to be anything real/recognizable. I for one would be very interested to know what sort of music the Young Avengers are into.



7. Uncanny X-Men #3 by Chris Bachalo

When did it become standard to obscure the title of your book to make it extra difficult (especially for new readers) to figure out what it is? I know it's Uncanny X-Men cause it was placed next to the solicitation info for Uncanny X-Men, and also because i'm sitting here devoting actual time to look at it. I'm not trying to quickly browse the magazine racks for that X-Men title i heard might be good.

Put another way, even inside a drawer box, fnord12 can easily determine what 80s comic is in front from what little he can see peeking out from the handle hole (and that's not just cause he's a huge geek). It's cause these covers displayed the titles in large and colorful fonts that stood out instead of turning it into a mini word search.



8. All New X-Men #8 by Stuart Immonen

That is Patrick Stewart in a Thor costume, and you can't tell me otherwise.



9. Journey Into Mystery #650 by Jeff Dekal

Hey! Sif got herself one of those "Sexy"/"Sassy" Halloween costumes! Now she just has to find a friend to put on the Sassy Thor costume, and they'd be set.



10. Fearless Defenders #2 by Mark Brooks

The torpedo endcaps Valkyrie riveted to the front of her shirt are a tad high. But, hey, at least her clavicles are well protected!

**Updated**
I was admonished, and rightfully so, for failing to mention that despite the strange shapes and placement of certain things, this is an awesome cover in that it's been made to look like the packaging for action figures. Who cares if the Dani Moonstar action figure it comes with might look like she's incontinent? The concept is still inventive.



11. A+X #6 by Guiseppe Camuncoli

Look, the 90s were a good time for me personally, but i'll be goddamned if you think you can bring back the Liefeld pouches without a fight!

I was gonna say "at least Camuncoli can draw feet" but then i looked at Wolverine's feet and wondered why his toes are (apparently) 12" long. I bet he's a strong swimmer! Har!



12. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #21 by Sara Pichelli

Wow. A cover i liked. Here's what i liked about it:

  1. If it's an accurate depiction of the contents of this issue, it's an exciting snapshot of what you'll get if you buy this issue. I hate the generic "we could have slapped this art on any issue" covers that we're more likely to see, especially since i've been reading the Silver Age stuff where the covers are always related to the inside story.

  2. That looks like Gwen Stacy. It's clearly Gwen Stacy, even if she's also clearly alternate universe, teen Gwen Stacy, she still looks like what you think Gwen Stacy looks like. That very thing is missing in alot of Marvel "real universe" art today. Guys, you can draw a character to look like how they've traditionally been depicted without sacrificing your unique style. Look! Pichelli did it.

  3. Because they're teens, there's a decided lack of inappropriate body parts being thrust anywhere or exposed even though they're falling and Gwen seems to be wearing a flippy skirt.

And those are all the covers i feel like being snarky about this month.


By min | February 5, 2013, 9:32 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



Pepsi takes sides in jocks vs. nerds

After the recent outrage over brominated vegetable oil, Pepsi has removed it from Gatorade. But not Mountain Dew.

I guess the optics of selling flame retardant in the product you market to athletes was particularly bad. But the product that gets tie-ins with Batman and Halo? Those schlubs will drink anything.

P.S., don't tell me that it's FDA approved. Every country with a functioning regulatory agency has banned it. And you're selling Mountain Dew in those countries. And you'll now be using the substitute in Gatorade. So you clearly have a solution here.


By fnord12 | February 5, 2013, 11:31 AM | My stupid life| Link



February 4, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Punisher War Zone #4 - So yeah, this was what i was hoping for. The Punisher plausibly fighting the Avengers. Good stuff.

Avengers #4 - We've already dropped this but you can't drop them fast enough these days. I covered issue #1 on December 13th and this is issue #4 already. But nothing here makes me regret my decision. I mean sure, the Avengers race AIM to the alien sites from the previous story; nothing wrong with the plot. But the story? Pretty bland. A very laid back encounter with AIM, one little corpse-plant monster, and tons of origin flashback. And normally i don't complain about Hickman's characterization, because usually there isn't any. But what's going on with Thor? Passing around booze during a mission? Saying things like "Surtur's sweaty orbs, it's hot."? Dude! If you wanted to write Hercules, then just use him. That was awful. And listen, i've had it. I've got a declaration here. Footnotes. I demand them. "AIM Island is now a U.N. recognized nation-state" requires a footnote. You can't just throw in stuff like that with no explanation. Along the same lines, Hyperion's lengthy origin story really annoyed me. As far as i know, there are two Hyperions in the mainstream Marvel universe. The evil one that was the last surviving man from a dying atomic world. And the good one that comes from a parallel dimension. This one's origin had elements of each, but i couldn't figure out which it was supposed to be (the fact that the narration kept talking about two Hyperions, in a metaphorical sense, didn't help). Turns out he's a new one. I found out on Wikipedia. Forget the fact that we need another Hyperion like i need another issue of this comic. WHY DID I HAVE TO GO TO WIKIPEDIA FOR THAT? Why isn't it in the story? Maybe in that scene from the origin when he's rescued by the Avengers, Iron Man could have said "Holy crap, a third Hyperion? Why do they keep winding up here?". Or how about a goddamn footnote? This is the new rule: i'm not looking it up on Wikipedia anymore, guys. If it isn't there in the comic, i'm assuming you're wrong. It's impossible to buy all your comics and i can't keep up with everything. So if i read that AIM is suddenly a country, or Hyperion's origin is all messed up, i'm just assuming that Hickman doesn't know what the hell he's writing about. I don't want to hear about it on your Formspring page, or in an interview. It's just wrong.


By fnord12 | February 4, 2013, 8:28 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link



Getting there

Me, March 11, 2011:

Decimal points now, huh? I await Hulk #30.7DD when Marvel decides to go hexidecimal next year.

Marvel's March 2012 solicits:

FANTASTIC FOUR #5AU
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #6AU

Ok, these are actually Age of Ultron tie-ins. But is this really necessary? Isn't it bad enough that my list of comics that i own looks like this?:

Avengers(2010) 1-12,12.1,13-24,24.1,25-34

Do we really need to start adding letters to this too?

Couldn't it just be, i don't know, FANTASTIC FOUR #6?

At least, i guess, we'll know where Age of Ultron is supposed to take place for the FF, right? FANTASTIC FOUR #5AU will take place between FANTASTIC FOUR #5 and FANTASTIC FOUR #6. Right?!


By fnord12 | February 4, 2013, 4:33 PM | Comics| Link



Super Bowl Monday should be a paid holiday

I spent my Sunday reading Thor comics but i still agree with Yglesias here:

Today should be a national holiday. Specifically, rather than observing President's Day two weeks from today, we should observe it today.

Even if you're not a football fan, there's absolutely no downside to this, and the upside is considerable. The typical American does not, I think, adequately reflect on how convenient it is to have holiday schedules aligned with real-world social practices because they generally get their way automatically. If you're Jewish, you know that it kind of sucks to have a major family observance (Passover) on a random spring day when it's not convenient for people to be traveling, while the goyim "conveniently" discover that schools and workplaces are all giving people time off right around Dec. 25. Mainstream Americans benefit from this arrangement, but it seems so "natural" that they don't necessarily appreciate it. But it makes perfect sense. For any given quantity of national holidays, it's hugely beneficial to align the holidays with real routines in people's lives. Christmas is a big deal, so aligning the December holiday with it is a big win. The Super Bowl is not as big a deal as Christmas, but in terms of people's lives, it's a much bigger deal than George Washington's birthday. There's nothing in American social life specifically tied to mid-February that would be disrupted by shifting the day a bit earlier.

To be sure, i'm more in favor have having today off AND President's Day AND Chinese New Year AND i should have actually had off for Martin Luther King's Day AND let's add a few more as well. We don't have enough public holidays. But at the very least i'm more than willing to accommodate football fans and move President's Day right after the Super Bowl.


By fnord12 | February 4, 2013, 1:33 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link



Immediate and predictable

The consequences of the failure to reform the filibuster are already showing and they're exactly what you'd expect.

Republicans are blocking Obama's appointment to the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It doesn't matter who it is. The Republicans are blocking the appointment because they don't like the CFPB. Democrats of course have enough votes to approve the appointment, but the Republicans are filibustering.

Kevin Drum:

Democrats could have gotten more out of [filibuster reform]. They could have gotten real filibuster reform, or, failing that, at least some concessions in return for a compromise. But they chickened out. Even after winning the fiscal cliff battle, and then forcing Republicans to back down over the debt ceiling, Dems still didn't understand the value of playing hardball. It was an opportunity missed.

I wonder if the speed at which this was thrown back in their faces is resulting in any soul searching. They're probably so used to it they don't realize anything's wrong.


By fnord12 | February 4, 2013, 12:25 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



February 1, 2013

Gary Gygax, Creationist?

"Apes are not humanoids for any spell purposes, nor do rangers gain damage bonuses against them." - per module WG6, Isle of the Ape

What i really want to know is "Are D&D dinosaurs considered reptiles for the purposes of a Longsword +2, +4 vs. Reptiles?".


By fnord12 | February 1, 2013, 3:58 PM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link



I know i'm cheating on my Timeline project

...but after the Snapper post, i feel less restrained and i want to mention one a few other things about some Golden Age comics i don't own.

In Marvel Mystery Comics #13, the Sub-Mariner gets a crazy new costume.

'Like a lunatic's nightmare - but it's practical' also describes people who wear Crocs with socks to the movies.

Just passing through your military base in gas masks.  Nothing to be alarmed about.

From the right angle, it makes him look like Superman.

Or maybe the Golden Age Angel.

And he surprisingly wears the costume at least for one more issue.

Namor's chest is HUGE!

If this doesn't work, Namor will take his pants off next.

I was surprised to see a continued status quo like this in the Golden Age.

I love Namor's contradictory attitudes towards humans.

Oh, yeah.  Like *you've* never started a war.

And after the spanking, the oral sex.

And speaking of continuity, check this out from Marvel Mystery Comics #18. It's the tube that Namor trapped the Human Torch in at the end of issue #9!

All we need is an asterisk and a footnote - Fussy Fnord12.

A lot more going on in these Golden Age stories than i expected. I'd love to get the run of Marvel Mystery books, but the Masterworks series only makes it to issue #8, the originals are way too expensive when available at all, and even the online scans are spotty.

One more thing for fun:

Gulp, indeed.

Oh and speaking of the Timeline project, it's a D&D weekend so this is the last you'll hear from me until maybe Sunday.


By fnord12 | February 1, 2013, 1:24 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link



Is the White House driving the debate on gun control?

Justin Green, at David Frum's site, thinks so, emphasizing how the White House is bypassing the media by also using Twitter and linking to a series of posts that show how the buzz about gun control is staying alive much longer than after previous massacres.

I don't care about gun control. Not really. I'm for it, more or less. But it's not something i'd be pushing for right now, with ~8% unemployment. And it seemed like a lost cause at this point anyway (see this Tom Tomorrow cartoon). But i bring it up because previously, when we were discussing the size of the stimulus, or the Public Option, or Cap & Trade, or the Union Check Card issue, wild eyed liberals like me would ask "Why doesn't the president get out there and rally his supporters to push Congress to act on this stuff? Where's the bully pulpit?". And more sensible Democrats would pat us on the head and tell us that's a nice romantic view of the presidency we've got there but the president doesn't really have that kind of power.

Well, he sure seems to have it now. Granted, it might reflect the fact that we've reached critical mass on the gun tragedies. But i still think the president has the power to influence public opinion, or at least better focus his supporters, in all cases.

To end on a positive note, you may remember that prior to the first Obama campaign there were a number of online advocacy groups that were growing in power. MoveOn. Democracy For America. And those got subsumed by Obama For America, which was very successful at focusing online activism into getting Obama elected. But after that, instead of keeping the organization alive and focused on pushing Congress to enact Obama's agenda, they let it die. Well, they seemed to have learned their lesson (or plan to be less cautious during Obama's second term) and are converting OFA to "Organizing For Action".


By fnord12 | February 1, 2013, 1:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link



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