Chris Mahin writes: On Thoreau’s 200th Birthday: His Plea For Captain John Brown

On Thoreau’s 200th Birthday: His Plea For Captain John Brown

by Chris Mahin

July 12, 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the writer Henry David Thoreau. Much of the commentary about this occasion has focused on Thoreau’s love of nature. This is understandable, given the current attacks on the environment.496e6f6286424697b36fa4e159c73599-640x433

But while “Walden” is justly celebrated, nothing Thoreau ever wrote did more good than the heartfelt essay he crafted on short notice to defend the opponents of slavery who attacked the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in the autumn of 1859.

Just two weeks after John Brown and his compatriots staged their daring raid, Thoreau stood up in a church in Concord, Massachusetts to defend them. On Sunday evening, October 30, 1859, he read aloud his essay, “A Plea for Captain John Brown.”

Describing Brown’s character, Thoreau said:

John_Brown_portrait,_1859“He was like the best of those who stood at Concord Bridge once, on Lexington Common, and on Bunker Hill, only he was firmer and higher principled than any I have chanced to hear of as there. … They could bravely face their country’s foes, but he had the courage to face his country herself, when she was in the wrong. …

“No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any and all governments. In that sense he was the most American of us all.”

In the days and weeks after the Harpers Ferry raid, Americans were stunned. Many were willing to let Brown and his men hang. Thoreau’s early, brave stance helped pave the way for other Northern intellectuals to speak out in defense of Brown and his compatriots.

I have been to Walden Pond. I have been to the church in Concord where Thoreau uttered his plea.

Both are shrines.

 

  • Chris Mahin

For more information about the Harpers Ferry raid and Thoreau’s role afterward, see the article “Harpers Ferry: Courage and clarity changed history once – and will do it again” in Rally, Comrades!, Vol. 19, Number 5, September-October 2009.

To read the complete text of Thoreau’s “Prayer for Captain John Brown,” click this link.

A commemorative U.S. postage stamp in honor of Henry David Thoreau has just been issued, which you can read about here.

Pablo Neruda: Let the Railsplitter Awake

2015 is the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, and, of course, therefore the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  As this is poetry month, I think there is no better way to look at Lincoln, to understand his legacy, than through the lens of the great Pablo Neruda

Neruda 2This is from Canto IX of Pablo Neruda’s Canto General, entitled “Let the Railsplitter Awake.”  Written at the start of the Cold War (1948), Neruda describes, celebrates the varying faces of the working class (“We love your man with his red hands/ of Oregon clay, your black child/ who brought you music born/ in the ivory lands:. . .”), shows how much he would hope for a unity of the peoples of the world against the aggression you can already see in the U.S.  And then he warns about what might happen if the U.S. fulfills its warlike ambitions, concluding with a section that begins “Let none of this come to pass.”

The section up to and including “Let none of this come to pass”  is from the Jack Schmitt translation of Canto General. The remainder is from the translation by Mexican dancer and poet Waldeen, a close friend of Neruda, which seems to me much more lyrical than the Schmitt translation.  To learn more about her click this link, which also discusses the relationship between her and the poet.

But if you arm your hordes, North America,

translators include Jack Hirschman, Stephen Kessler, Robert Haas

translators include Jack Hirschman, Stephen Kessler, Robert Haas

to destroy that pure frontier
and bring the butcher from Chicago
to govern the music and the order
that we love,
we’ll rise from the stones and the air
to bite you:
we’ll rise from the last window
to pour fire on you:
we’ll rise from the deepest waves
to sting you with spines:
we’ll rise from the furrow so that the seed
will pound you like a Colombian fist,

we’ll rise to deny you bread and water,
we’ll rise to burn you in hell.

**************************

Let none of this come to pass.

Let the Rail Splitter awake.

Let Abe come, let his aged yeast raise

Waldeen Dancing

Waldeen Dancing

the green and gold earth of Illinois,
let him lift up his axe in his own town
against the new slaveholders
against the slave-lash
against the poisoned printing-press
against the bloodied merchandise
they want to sell.
Let them march singing and smiling,
the young white, the young Negro,
against the walls of gold
against the manufacturer of their blood,
let them sing, laugh and conquer.

Let the Rail Splitter awake.

Peace for the twilights to come,
peace for the bridge, peace for the wine,
peace for the stanzas which pursue me
and in my blood uprise entangling
my earlier songs with earth and loves,
peace for the city in the morning
when bread wakes up, peace for the Mississippi,
source of rivers,
peace for my brother’s shirt,
peace for books like a seal of air,
peace for the great kolkhoz of Kiev,
peace for the ashes of those dead
and of these other dead, peace for the grimy
iron of Brooklyn, peace for the letter-carrier
who from house to house goes like the day,
peace for the choreographer who shouts
through a funnel to the honeysuckle vine,
peace for my own right hand
that wants to write only Rosario,
peace for the Bolivian, secretive
as a lump of tin, peace
so that you may marry, peace for all
the saw-mills of Bio-Bio,
peace for the torn heart of guerilla Spain,
peace for the little museum in Wyoming
where the most lovely thing
is a pillow embroidered with a heart,
peace for the baker and his loaves,
and peace for the flour, peace
for all the wheat to be born,
for all the love which will seek its tasselled shelter,
peace for all those alive: peace
for all lands and all waters.

Here I say farewell, I return
to my house, in my dreams
I return to Patagonia where
the wind rattles the barns
and the ocean spatters ice.
I am nothing more than a poet: I love all of you,
I wander about the world I love;
in my country they gaol miners
and soldiers give orders to judges.
But I love even the roots
in my small cold country,
if I had to die a thousand times over
it is there I would die,
if I had to be born a thousand times over
it is there I would be born
near the tall wild pines
the tempestuous south wind
the newly purchased bells.
Let none think of me.
Let us think of the entire earth
and pound the table with love.
I don’t want blood again
to saturate bread, beans, music: Neruda 3
I wish they would come with me:
the miner, the little girl,
the lawyer, the seaman,
the doll-maker,
to go into a movie and come out
to drink the reddest wine.
I did not come to solve anything.
I came here to sing
and for you to sing with me.

From somewhere in the Americas, May 1948

Eduardo Galeano: Because of You, We Will Remember

galeanodouble-webEduardo Galeano sat at my dining room table in my Chicago apartment on Lill Street one block away from Guild Books, pen poised and a stack of books to be signed at his side. Breakfast consumed, he had reluctantly agreed to sign some books in advance of his appearance at the bookstore later that Saturday, 1988.   He was anxious, it seemed, and we had been warned that his health was mending after some heart issues. We didn’t press him to sign books, but were delighted when he agreed with our suggestion that some folks might just want to purchase a signed copy without talking with him. After a walk in the neighborhood he arrived at the bookstore. He began to read.

The crowd hung on his words, as he read in English but also in Spanish, and then answered questions, altogether about an hour and a half, and then began signing books, as the line snaked throughout the store. He talked with each person as much as the person wanted; he took pictures with the customers and their children. I stood at his side doing the task that all booksellers do in this situation: open the books to the pages preferred for the signature. And about 45 minutes into the signing ritual Eduardo turned to me with a broad but incredulous smile: “They like me. They really like me!”

Before he left, Eduardo toured the 3,000 square feet of the book store and spent some time looking at the political and labor posters we had for sale, on display in a rack. He fingered the display, took some notes, and left. The next morning friends of ours recorded an interview with him on video and took him in search of Haymarket Square, a search that proved unsuccessful.

Some years later he returned for a reading of the Book of Embraces. In a section entitled “Forgetting,” about Haymarket and about Guild, he wrote:

Bk of EmbracesAfter my fruitless exploration of the Haymarket, my friends take me to the largest bookstore in the city. And there, poking around, just by accident, I discover an old poster that seems to be waiting for me, stuck among many movie and rock posters. The poster displays an African proverb: Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

 

In 1995 Guild Books had been closed for two years, but the Guild Complex hosted Eduardo for his newest book, Walking Words. Diana and I drove him to the reading location, a settlement house in the Wicker Park area, and on the way crossed the Chicago River. Walking Words is a book of myths, some modern, some older, many of water spirits and animals, in a collaborative with Jose Francisco Borges, whose woodcuts illustrate the stories. Diana told Eduardo stories about the Chicago River, whose history included years of being set on fire from the materials polluting the waters, years of being unsafe to drink for the animals that populated the river, years of being attacked by the manufacturers who degraded the water supply and the people who lived on its banks. Eduardo listened, intent, with evident pain in his face. “But wait,” Diana said, “the river had its revenge. Last year the river refused to be contained by the man made barricades, burst through into the tunnel through which the subways run and up into the streets of the city, causing millions and millions of dollars of damage.”

“The earth has memory,” Eduardo said. “That is important. Memory is important. I want to know more about memory.”

A decade had passed between the time I first tried to get Eduardo Galeano to come to my bookstore and the publication party for Walking Words. By the time Book of Embraces was published, Susan Bergholz (Eduardo’s agent) had negotiated a contract with a different publisher, W.W. Norton, whose list more adequately represented the independent ideas expressed by Galeano. How could Eduardo possibly remain with Random House, the publisher who had fired Pantheon’s manager, Andres Schiffrin? Which had been taken over by European conglomerate Bertelsmann? Whose corporate leadership reveled in the literary (meaning sales) qualities of Danielle Steele?

Not knowing at all. Forgetting. And recovering memory.

We know now where the Haymarket was, where the rally was for which the Haymarket martyrs were arrested and imprisoned and executed. In 2006 Henry Holt published Eduardo’s Voices of Time, continuing the epigrammatic form he has worked with, this time “stories that I lived or heard.”   At the Guild Complex we convinced Susan Bergholz to take Eduardo’s strenuous tour through Chicago once more. He read for us at the Museum of Contemporary Art to a packed audience. For many, this was the culmination of what Guild Books had been about. For us, it was an opportunity of bringing memory, forgetting, and not knowing at all together, these themes that strike at the heart of Galeano’s work and of the revolutionary process.

May Day, 2006, just weeks earlier, I walked among almost a million Chicagoans along a route from Union Park to Randolph into the Loop and Grant Park. The steel, concrete and glass canyons resounded with the chants of marchers, many of them recent immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido” reverberated from the walls of those buildings, the marchers swelling into the streets in a mass farther than anyone could see.

But before coming to the loop, just a few blocks out of Union Park, we came to Randolph and Des Plaines. I stepped to the sidewalk, stood in the shadow of the corner building and looked north as the throng walked by me. The contingent from one union, also looking north, paused briefly and saluted the sculpture across the way – a recreation of the platform from which the speakers addressed their audience that May, 1886.

To bring this reality of American consciousness to the reading that Eduardo was going to do, we made sure that some of those union leaders representing the marchers introduce Eduardo. And so they did, and we had the chance to talk about the sculpture, the march, and that although many marchers did not know where Haymarket square was, and we noted the fact that their march reclaimed not only the memory of the martyrs but the reality of the struggle which continues.

My life after Guild Books led me to become an assistant manager in Barnes & Noble. This essay closes with a morning meeting, the kind of meeting that corporations think is necessary to get everyone on board for the day’s sales. This day was May Day. So I took the opportunity to dig out The Book Of Embraces to read to the opening staff the words about this historic day. Most listened in respectful silence, Open Veinsone or two said they knew about this, I noticed a sneer and some uncomfortable whispering. But when the meeting was over, one of the receivers (the department responsible for unpacking books and getting them ready for shelving) came over to me. He was a Scottish immigrant going to school while working. His expression was intent, excited. “You mean the workers holiday,” he said, “international workers day started here, in Chicago? I did na’ know that. That’s amazing!”

I want to be clear about this: while this piece is about Eduardo Galeano; and while it is about what kind of bookstore Guild Books was; and of course about my relationship to both; fundamentally it is about literature and revolution. It is about history and lions and how, by recovering memory, of making known what is unknown, the lions begin to write their own history.

On this day, April 13, 2015 we learned that Don Eduardo Galeano has died. Eduardo, we will remember. Because of you, we will remember.

 

 

Automation and Robotics News – April-Sept. 2014 published by Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News – April-Sept. 2014
Check the website http://blogs.evergreen.edu/arnews/ for the archive of ARNEWS
June 1, 2014

China becomes largest buyer of industrial robots

…Fanuc and Germany’s Kuka, have been pouring resources into the Chinese market to capitalise on the country’s rapid

Farm labor still being done by workers . . .

Farm labor still being done by workers . . .

automation. In 2011, Foxconn, the Shenzhen-based assembler for Apple, vowed to build a “million robot army” over three years…By Tanya Powley in London

June 1, 2014

South Korean robots lead the world

How many will be replaced by the Deere driverless tractor?

How many will be replaced by the Deere driverless tractor?

…says Hur Yeon-ho, head of factory automation for LG Display. “There’s no way that…and 273 respectively. The increasing automation of South Korean factories – as well…strong labour unions, the level of automation in the South Korean plants appears much…By Simon Mundy in Paju, South Kor

Robotics Company Prepares to Take Responsibility For Displaced Workers

Momentum Machines aims to eliminate the burger boy—and retrain him to be an engineer

Five Myths and Facts About Robotics Technology Today

An investor discusses five pressing issues about the future of robots
08/21/14 — You’re probably getting tired of hearing that robots will take your jobs (and, ugh, ours) in the future over and over again. But, here’s the deal: perhaps it’s necessary keep repeating it so it sinks in, because there’s a huge chance that it’ll actually happen. The video below explains how…
POSTED: 07/28/2014
Fueled by strong demand from manufacturing companies in all sectors, the North American robotics industry is off to its fastest
04/10/14 — The Boeing Co. plans to deploy robotic assembly technology on the 777X that will dramatically change the way the plane’s metal hull is built, documents submitted to the city of Everett indicate. The automation technology, replacing a crane and a giant cylindrical fixture now used to turn the half-built fuselage…
08/28/14 — Robots will soon be teaching basic math and other subjects at a private school in Abu Dhabi. Merryland International School in Mussafah has launched what it claims is the first robotic lab in a UAE school, with more than 30 cutting edge robots including humanoids with built-in intelligence. Humanoid AISOY…
08/06/14 — The robots are coming, even for the boss’s job. Up until now, robots and other smart machines have been used to replace blue-collar workers. But a new study by The Pew Research Center and Elon University, released Wednesday, says that while artificial intelligence will continue to replace jobs in factories…

WeChat dives into wearables to start ‘connecting everything’

 By Francis BeaJuly 18, 2014
Several health-and-fitness trackers have gone on sale in China, revealing that messaging-app maker’s efforts to become a software platform for wearables and eventually “everything.”
09/25/14 — Cutting Dynamics, one of the leading manufacturers of sub-assemblies and components for the aerospace industry, has installed Rethink Robotics’ Baxter robot as a critical part of its thermal deburring line in its Avon, Ohio plant.The company, widely recognized for its innovation in laser-cutting hydro-forming and thermoplastics fabrication has now joined…
09/04/14 — Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics mean that machines will soon be able to do many of the tasks of today’s workers. And not just blue collar jobs in areas such as manufacturing, but even in such white collar occupations as lawyers, doctors and – gulp – journalists.A new viral…
09/11/14 — America’s top business leaders admit that they would rather hire robots then employ humans.A recent survey of Harvard Business School alumni found that 46 percent would rather have robots perform their company’s labor then hire people to do the same work. Another 49 percent said their business would rather outsource…

Robohub Digest September 2014: Robo-vacuums, regulation, IROS and more

 

Robohub Digest August 2014: Drone deliveries, record robot sales, job fears, butlers and more

 

Robohub Digest July 2014: Social robots, autonomous cars, STEM education and more

 

Robohub Digest June 2014: Robots at the World Cup, machine ethics and more

 

Robohub Digest May 2014

 

Robohub Digest April 2014

 
 

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

America’s dominance in military robotics is starting to crumble

Posted on 05/17/14 by Frank Tobe
Foreign Policy Magazine’s recent examination of “The Looming Robotics Gap” by University of Pennsylvania International Relations Associate Professor Michael C Horowitz, and recent Pentagon insider on national security issues, is an up-to-date review of the world-wide state of military robotics.

Underwater robot for port security

MIT News-Sep 25, 2014
Last week, at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, MIT researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a …

A Military-Grade Drone That Can Be Printed Anywhere

By Jordan Golson Tuesday, September 16
We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense. In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak […]
09/11/14 — The latest in robotic design is leading to ‘new creatures’ that can move without constraint, withstand harsh temperature changes, ambulate over a variety of surfaces and even ‘limbo’. The newest model has recently been let off the leash.The latest ‘soft’ robot from Professor George M. Whitesides Research Group at Harvard…
04/03/14 — The ability to link human brains to machines, create new life forms and build Star Trek-style disease detectors will be the focus of a new Defense Department office soon. The new office, named the Biological Technology Office, or BTO, will serve as a clearinghouse for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or…
04/04/14 — A military unmanned aerial vehicle crashed outside a Lebanon County school and a hotel this afternoon. Fort Indiantown Gap spokesman Maj. Ed Shank said the UAV was involved in training operations when it experienced an uncontrolled hard landing on Fischer Avenue in Union Township. The drone came down between Lickdale…
06/05/14 — Bloomberg BusinesWeek is reporting that a robot inside Unit 1 of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has discovered the source of water leaks delaying decommissioning work. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) says a robot designed by Hitachi-GE Nuclear energy “for the first time took clear pictures showing water drips from…
06/25/14 — Israel-based Duke Airborne Systems’ Robotic Weapon Station (RWS) – billed as the “first-of-its-kind” concealed weapon system for helicopters – See more at: http://www.popularmechanics.co.za/blogs/hidden-firepower-helicopters/#sthash.aVBB1byF.dpuf Israel-based Duke Airborne Systems has developed a concealed Robotic Weapon System (RWS) for helicopters that allows utility helicopters to fly into hostile territory without an armed escort.…
07/03/14 — G4S, the world’s largest provider of security officers, has a new autonomous robot called Bob that is now patrolling its offices in England. Bob is there to monitor the environment, make suren doors are properly closed and gather other information. Bob is completely autonomous, stands 5 feet 10 inches tall…
07/31/14 — The Israeli Defense Forces have introduced new robot technology to help aid in excavating Hamas’ vast tunnel network and a mobile radar system designed to warn against short-range mortar shelling. Defense News featured the Micro Tactical Ground Robot, developed by Roboteam, a Tel Aviv-based start-up that beat more established U.S.…
08/14/14 — Waterloo-based robotic vehicle manufacturer Clearpath Robotics is the first robotics company to sign on with the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, “an international coalition of non-governmental organisations working to ban fully autonomous weapons.”The aptly-named Campaign To Stop Killer Robots seeks legislation and regulation that would block people from having access…
08/28/14 — Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL), which came up under the public private partner model, has ushered in a new initiative for maintaining airport safety by employing robotics technology.   CIAL is all set to implement a high-end robotic security system with Canadian-built robotic equipment at an estimated Rs 12 crore.…
09/11/14 — Finding and neutralizing landmines is a tedious but very dangerous job, so the Army is planning to turn it over to robots. The service’s Contracting Command at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., has awarded a nearly $23 million contract to Carnegie Robotics for an Autonomous Mine Detection System (AMDS) being developed to…
09/18/14 — Soldiers are used to being weighed down by what they wear, especially when it can add up to 100 pounds or so. But researchers are working on wearable gear that could actually do the opposite, reducing fatigue and the risk of injury when carrying heavy loads. The Defense Advanced Research…
 
 

INDUSTRY AND MANUFACTURING

07/14/14 — Folks eagerly awaiting the availability of the iPhone 6 in Sept. 2014 might not spend much time thinking about who made it and how. But for those of us interested in more than snapping selfies, robots will be making the iPhone 6 a reality. The Fiscal Times reports that “Foxconn parent…

Video: Foxconn, Pegatron Install More Robotic Arms in China Factories

Apple’s suppliers are depending more on robots to assemble gadgets. The Wall Street Journal’s Eva Dou tours a factory and tells Yun-Hee Kim why this is happening.
 
06/12/14 — Researchers at University West in Trollhättan have developed a new robotic welding technique that can reduce the weight of cars, reports Phys.org. And it has to do with incorporating the battery into the vehicle chassis. Here’s how it works, writes Phys.org: Researchers at University West in Trollhättan have now invented…
POSTED: 09/03/2014
KUKA Aerospace is locating its first US facility outside of Michigan in Everett, WA.
POSTED: 09/09/2014
Innovative human-friendly dual arm robot with breakthrough functionality unlocks vast global additional automation potential in industry.

Robots Work Their Way Into Small Factories

New, relatively inexpensive collaborative robots—designed to work alongside people in close settings—are changing how some smaller U.S. manufacturers do their jobs.

French group Renault to increase automation of its Romanian Dacia

Romania-Insider.com-Sep 28, 2014
“If we will continue to increase salaries every year like we have done so far then we will also increase the automation of the plant, which is currently at 10% and …

U.S. Manufacturing: Will It See a Revival?

The Experts weigh in on how new energy realities and technological developments seem to be reshaping this sector.

U.S. Manufacturing Is Rolling on Aged Wheels

Even as economic indicators rise, domestic capital spending has remained anemic by historical standards and the nation’s capital equipment base is getting long in the tooth.
05/01/14 — Most industrial robots are far less friendly than the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, which is safe enough to be a surprisingly popular means of feline transportation. Industrial robots often sit behind metal fences, their mechanical arms a blur of terrific speed and precision; to prevent serious injury to humans (or…

India’s Drug Makers Move Toward Automation

India’s drug makers have blossomed into multibillion-dollar companies and have come under increased scrutiny in the U.S. for manufacturing and testing. As a result, some companies are spending millions to automate.
 
 
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODOUCTION
 
04/23/14 — Lenders are expecting a rise in demand for robotic milking systems, but urge farmers to look on them as part of a long-term business plan and future herd expansion rather than just replacing a parlour. Dawn Ferris, senior agricultural manager with financiers Lombard, said the company was looking “very positively”…
 
08/14/14 — FANUC Robotics has assisted a snacks manufacturer in increasing its output of packed crisp boxes with the installation of six M-410 robotic palletising systems. Palletising over 5,000 boxes of crisps per hour the robots have been integrated into all of the six packing lines within the company’s factory enabling them…
 

Automation Of Global Agriculture Will Yield Significant Growth

Seeking Alpha (registration)-Sep 26, 2014
Technology and automation have powered efficiencies in the agricultural … in the agricultural sector is enormous with increased automation, and not just in …
 

What you need to know about the robots that feed humanity

Engadget-Sep 22, 2014
But more and more farmers in the country are also turning to agricultural robots, as laborers start dwindling in number and demands for crops and produce …
 

Will agricultural robots arrive in time to keep fruit and vegetable costs down?

77% of all agricultural workers in the U.S. are foreign born and about half of those are undocumented (1). These low-wage workers have helped keep American food prices reasonable – especially for growing, harvesting and processing fruits and vegetables.
 

Data-Driven Food Processing Extends to the Farm

Automation World-Sep 19, 2014
But I bet you didn’t know that automation also is infiltrating food growing counterparts around the world—commercial farms, orchards, hatcheries, and the like.
 
 

SERVICE SECTOR

Coming Soon to the Library: Humanoid Robots

They can recognize faces, speak in 19 languages, even do tai chi. One Connecticut library will be using these toddler-sized robots to teach patrons coding and programming skills.
08/14/14 — I saw the future of work in a San Francisco garage two years ago. Or rather, I was in proximity to the future of work, but happened to be looking the other direction. At the time, I was visiting a space startup building satellites behind a carport. But just behind…
08/21/14 — It’s more teatime than Terminator — a restaurant in China is electrifying customers by using more than a dozen robots to cook and deliver food. Mechanical staff greet customers, deliver dishes to tables and even stir-fry meat and vegetables at the eatery in Kunshan, which opened last week. “My daughter…

Nao Humanoid Robot Learns to Drive Mini BMW Z4

09/11/14 — Aldebaran Robotics’ RobotsLAB, maker and seller of the small humanoid robot, Nao, has built a miniature version of the BMW Z4 for the Nao robot to drive around – and it’s for sale to consumers already.The Nao robot has made a splash in the educational community – it comes with…

Panasonic Robot Bed/Wheelchair Earns Global Safety Certification

04/16/14 — There’s a lot of talk about Japan’s rapidly aging society, and how it is expected to literally place a heavy burden on the island nation’s caregivers. Among the many projected problems is a smaller pool of health care workers amidst a growing tide of elderly who require around-the-clock care. With…

Startup Avidbots Targets Robotic Cleaning of Commercial Areas

05/01/14 — Vacuuming is one of the few markets where robots have proven that they can be consistently commercially successful. There’s a good reason for this: vacuuming is a repetitive, time-intensive task that has to be performed over and over again in environments that are relatively constrained. Despite the success of several…

Robot Valet Parking Cars at German Airport

06/24/14 — Running late for a flight and don’t have time to park your car? If you’re flying out of Dusseldorf airport in Germany, you’re in luck. A robot valet named Ray has started parking cars at the airport and can be booked with a smartphone. The best part? Ray doesn’t even…

Musk Promises 90% Autopilot for Teslas in 2015, Doesn’t Say How

A Tesla may be technically capable of autonomous driving by 2015, but will it be ready for consumers?

New UK Hospital Enlists AGVs to Deliver Meals to Patients

09/04/14 — Southmead Hospital, a new £430million hospital in England, has deployed a fleet of 12 automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) to deliver meals to its 950 patients. The droids, which start work at 10.15 every morning, are capable of opening doors, operating lifts and picking up food without any human assistance. They…

08/14/14 — When Sunnyvale, Calif.-based robotics startup Savioke announced a $2 million seed round of funding in April 2014, the company said it would use the money to develop and build its first autonomous robot for the services industry. However, no further details about the robot were shared. Until now, as The…
09/11/14 — There’s a new bartender set to sail on Royal Caribbean’s next-generation cruise ship – a robotic bartender, to be precise. The Makr Shakr, created by designers at MIT Senseable City Lab, may not indulge stories of your latest break-up or offer philosophical advice as it slides your Moscow Mule across…
10/09/14 — Like a real life “Dalek,” Dr. Who’s robotic nemesis in the British science fiction show, a Texas company’s robot is ready to “exterminate.” Only this robot, “Little Moe,” is trying to exterminate viruses, including perhaps the Ebola virus. “Little Moe” is manufactured by a Texas company called Xenex. The company told CBS News that its disinfection robots are in use in 250 American hospitals, including Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan is being treated and is in critical condition. The company would not confirm whether their robot was being used in that part of the hospital.…
06/26/14 — Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro has been creating humanoid robots for years, and his latest creations might be the most humanlike. The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Japan has added humanoid robots to its staff to show visitors around the science museum in Tokyo. Otonaroid is working…

VertiKUL UAV Explores Practicalities of Delivery Drones

Autonomous landings, cargo management, and range: this drone is trying to do it all

SaviOne: Savioke Unveils Its Delivery Robot

This robot will deliver whatever you need to your hotel room while emitting adorable R2-D2 beeps

“Service Robots – Flexible Helpers in Professional Use”, A Film by EUnited Robotics, June 2014
“Service Robots – Flexible Helpers in Professional Use” is an exhilarating film by EUnited Robotics, that is technologically inspired and a must…

Secret Service urgently seeks sarcasm-detecting software

 By Chris MatyszczykJune 3, 2014
In a work order posted online, the service is looking for software that synthesizes social-media data and weeds out false positives and sarcasm. Oh, and it has to be IE8 compatible.

  City eyes robot mower for dangerous work

Mansfield News Journal-Sep 19, 2014
Theaker and several city employees took turns operating a robot lawnmower that city officials are considering for purchase from Century Equipment, a company …

Google+ Stories thinks it can top your vacation slideshow

 By Seth RosenblattMay 20, 2014
Google+ expands automation with the new Stories and Movies features, which create digital travelogues of your vacation.

Google’s Nest Thermostat talks to your car, washing machine

 By Bridget CareyJune 24, 2014
Nest Labs opens its platform so the smart thermostat and smoke detector can communicate with other appliances and apps. And Intel shows off a walking, talking 3D-printed robot anyone can build and program.

Sense’s Mother hub wants to control your day-to-day

 By Megan WollertonSeptember 29, 2014
Creepy marketing aside, the $299 Mother home automation kit by Sense is a really solid smart home option.

In 2025, our lovers will be robots

Chris MatyszczykAugust 15, 2014
A new Pew Report examines the world in the near future. It’ll be one in which robots aren’t confined to machine-like tasks.

Japanese comedian robot is the other kind of funny

 By Michelle Starr June 16, 2014
Can humour be broken down into a series of programmable commands? The Kobian robot helps researchers find out.
05/01/14 — Robots can capture a child’s imagination like no other tool by creating a fun, physical learning process. With robots, kids learn programming via interactive play by moving a robot in various sequences and using intuitive, visual programming on a computer screen. The children also learn STEM (science, technology, engineering and…

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

09/25/14 — Eugene Izhikevich thinks you shouldn’t have to write code in order to teach robots new tricks. “It should be more like training a dog,” he says.  “Instead of programming, you show it consistent examples of desired behavior.”Izhikevich’s startup, Brain Corporation, based in San Diego, has developed an operating system for…
POSTED: 09/17/2014
Technology is the result of a collaborative effort by the airplane maker and the KUKA Systems Aerospace Group.
 

PACKING, SHIPPING AND TRANSPORTATION

Global Supply Chain News: Automation Emerging as Key Issue in

Supply Chain Digest-Sep 25, 2014
With the International Longshore and Warehouse Union now is working without a contract at West Coast ports for coming up on three months, new insight into …

  Port labor talks turn on effects of automation

The Columbian-Sep 20, 2014
The two sides are discussing how to retrain and preserve jobs for dockworkers as automation reduces the number of positions at one Los Angeles terminal by …
August 6, 2014

Rail industry reviews prospects for automated trains

…It would be the first time that such automation was used on the railways, where trains…the London Underground, where partial automation is in use on the Central, Jubilee and Victoria…Thameslink franchise next month as Govia. Automation would allow more trains to run, and…By Jane Wild

DHL UAS Parcel Delivery Gets First Test

DHL launches first authorized autonomous delivery flights by “parcelcopter” to and from the North Sea island of Juist, 7.5 miles off the coast of Northern Germany.

Self-Driving Cars Face Serious Roadblocks, Experts Say

The technical and safety challenges are tremendous, says panel of researchers

Smart Cars Would Save 420 Million Barrels of Oil Over 10 Years

Giving vehicles in the United States the ability to communicate would save more than lives

Google Wants Option to Test Autonomous Motorcycles and Trucks in California

Google isn’t testing self-driving motorcycles, but is there a reason that it shouldn’t be able to?

Mercedes Shows Off Self-Driving “Future Truck 2025”

Even 11 years from now, though, the company expects human drivers to still be “in the loop”
 
07/24/14 — The use of material-handling robots has increasingly become a solution to raise productivity and manufacturing versatility, while enhancing worker safety as they historically have. Material handling is a natural extension of robotics and an area where the technology has already been predominant for many years, but robots are finding new…
 

A Radical But Possible Plan to Connect African Nations With Cargo Drones

By J.M. Ledgard | Monday September 22, 2014
Let me detail here what I mean by cargo drones and why I think hoisting time-dependent goods into the sky and moving them about with a flying robot is, like the mobile phone before it, a good idea in Africa—and beyond.
 

Military Grade Drone That Can Be Printed Anywhere

By Jordan Golson | Tuesday September 16, 2014
We have 3-D printed keys, guns and shoes—now a research team at the University of Virginia has created a 3D printed UAV drone for the Department of Defense. In the works for three years, the aircraft, no bigger than a remote-controlled plane, can carry a 1.5-pound payload. If it crashes or needs a design tweak […]
 
 

JOB DISPLACEMENT DEBATE

7/03/14 — If you’re worried robots are going to steal your job in the near future and take over the world, you’re not going to like what a few professors recently said at the Financial Times Camp Alphaville event. Professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Oxford University and Sussex University agree…
 
08/28/14 — In a recent study from MIT labor economist David Autor, he pointed out that most of us are safe from having our jobs stolen away by robots, due to the fundamental way humans are ‘creative’ and have ‘common sense’. With a job that depends heavily on computer models already, it might…

Finally somebody debunks the Pew Research Center’s “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs” report

Kudos to Erik Sofge, Boston-based reporter for Popular Science Magazine. His recent story, “Sex Bots, Robo-Maids, and other Sci-Fi Myths of the Coming Robot Economy,” cleverly pokes holes where they’re most needed.
  June 3, 2014

Robot makers warned over fears that automation will ‘steal jobs’

…vice-president of the European Commission, that they must do more to reassure the public over concerns that a new wave of automation could take away their jobs. Launching a €700m round of EU funding for robotics research, which will be supplemented by…By Chris Bryant in Frankfurt
Aug 16, 2014 Engineer no.1 Aug 18th 2014 4:50 GMT. How can you not include automation as one of the primary causes of structural unemployment?
Mar 8th 2011, 5:46 from Democracy in America
Union power will not suffice to maintain broadly shared prosperity in the face of increasing automation

The rise of the robots

AzerNews-Sep 30, 2014
For decades, people have been predicting how the rise of advanced computing and robotic technologies will affect our lives. On one side, there are warnings …
September 25, 2014

Robots are our saviours, not the enemy

…though most PayPal customers would never even hear about it, thinking of us simply as a software company. Fas cinated by automation, most people still overlook the role that humans play in running software that would be worthless on its own. Spiralling…By Peter Thiel

Automation has made certain professions an endangered species

Financial Director-Sep 24, 2014
The list of skilled jobs and professions that have been automated, drastically reduced, or redistributed out of existence is endless and appears to be growing fast.

Automation likely to impact jobs in future’

The Hindu-Sep 15, 2014
In the coming years, there would be a lot of automation in the industry worldwide and this could cast an impact on the jobs. India is not immune to this situation …
 
  June 23, 2014

Robots will not eat the jobs but will unleash our creativity

…increase in living standards. One consequence of a growing robot workforce is that products become less expensive. Indeed…intelligence can replace What is often forgotten in all this robot fear-mongering is that the technology revolution has put the…By Marc Andreessen
 
 

GOVERNMENT, POLITICS, POLICY AND LAW

04/16/14 — Mention Daleks and a ruthless race of extraterrestrial robots intent on universal domination spring to mind.But ‘The Dalek’ is also the nickname of a £200,000 machine that is exterminating potholes 30 times as fast as the conventional method of repair.The machine is capable of filling in the craters in just…

Governmental Funding of Strategic Robotic Projects

Many governments have determined that robotics will play a significant role in contributing to their economy and have set up projects to fund bottlenecks to speed up the process.

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

4 reports predict steady growth for robotics

Four recent research reports covering service robots, vision guided robotics, material handling robots, and robot component speed reducers, all predict steady growth, particularly in China.

Robot Wars: Why China Is Outmanned in Electronics Automation

Chinese electronics makers face pressure to automate as labor costs rise but are challenged by the low margins, precise work and short product life of the phones and other gadgets that the country produces.

  Robots Cannot Solve Japan’s Big Problem

Forbes-Sep 21, 2014
Robots like SoftBank’s latest humanoid Pepper, showcased over the weekend in Tokyo, can perform many tasks. They can dance, sketch portraits, and control …

Japan holds first “robotics revolution” council meeting

Colin Lewis  –   October 16, 2014
This fall the Japanese government held its first meeting of a new panel focused on its goal of a “robotics revolution,” a key item in the government’s economic growth strategy adopted in June. The panel is tasked with promoting measures to increase the use of robots and related technologies in various fields, extending out of the manufacturing sector and into hotel, distribution, medical and elderly nursing-care services. According to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who instigated the robot panel, determining the appropriate use of robots will be a key to solving these problems.
  June 15, 2014

Japan’s robot makers under threat

…national robotics industry. But Japan’s robot makers are facing new and difficult challenges…countries catch up and hardware – the robot “bodies” that Japanese groups have proven…group, Aldebaran, to supply a humanoid robot that is designed to recognise and respond…By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo

Microsoft gets into the home automation game with Insteon partnership

 By Ry CristMay 15, 2014
With exclusive features coming to Windows devices this June, the tech giant is officially getting into the home automation game.
 

CES 2014: Wearables, connected appliances, automated cars, and curved TVs

 By CNET staffJanuary 10, 2014
This year’s International CES in Las Vegas once again showcased the latest and greatest in tech. Here’s what it all means.
 
 

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

08/06/14 — Sleek yellow gliders will soon cruise the waters off Nova Scotia in a high-tech bid to track down one of the world’s most endangered marine mammals and possibly provide clues to an ecological mystery. Canadian and American scientists are getting ready to deploy autonomous underwater vehicles around the Scotian shelf…
09/18/14 — Researchers at MIT have built a robotic “cheetah” which may not be quite as fast as its feline counterpart but does have the ability to run and jump across a grass field without a tether. The four-legged robot, which can sprint at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour…

Robots: How Will They Be Employed in the Future?

Automation and digitization are transforming the workplace. The Experts predict future avenues for the employment of machines with artificial intelligence.
September 29, 2014

The future of the City of London

…European and Asian markets.” This will play into the development and further automation of processes, says Rolet: “The next 30 years will be about the automation of financial information disclosure as well as the primary capital-raising process…By Harriet Agnew
  June 5, 2014

Dawn of a robot revolution as army of machines escape the factory

…coming to your workplace soon. At the Automatica robot and automation fair in Munich this week the organisers devoted a whole section…the Fraunhofer Institute for manufacturing, engineering and automation demonstrated a Care-O-Bot that sweeps office floors and…By Chris Bryant in Frankfurt
  June 29, 2014

US economy: The productivity puzzle

…days, and think, is that person going to be replaced by a robot in the next 20 years? Prof Gordon is also dismissive of the…days, and think, is that person going to be replaced by a robot in the next 20 years?” One curious aspect of both professors…By Robin Harding

Automation and Robotics News–Dec. 2012 from Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News–Dec. 2012

LEADS
Rise of the Robots
By PAUL KRUGMAN, NY Times, December 8, 2012,
Krugman_New-articleInlineCatherine Rampell and Nick Wingfield write about the growing evidence for “reshoring” of manufacturing to the United States. They cite several reasons: rising wages in Asia; lower energy costs here; higher transportation costs. In a followup piece, however, Rampell cites another factor: robots.

Robots and Robber Barons
By PAUL KRUGMAN, NY Times Op-Ed December 9, 2012
The American economy is still, by most measures, deeply depressed. But corporate profits are at a record high. How is that possible? It’s simple: profits have surged as a share of national income, while wages and other labor compensation are down. The pie isn’t growing the way it should – but capital is doing fine by grabbing an ever-larger slice, at labor’s expense. Wait – are we really back to talking about capital versus labor? Isn’t that an old-fashioned, almost Marxist sort of discussion, out of date in our modern information economy? Well, that’s what many people thought; for the past generation discussions of inequality have focused overwhelmingly not on capital versus labor but on distributional issues between workers, either on the gap between more- and less-educated workers or on the soaring incomes of a handful of superstars in finance and other fields. But that may be yesterday’s story. More specifically, while it’s true that the finance guys are still making out like bandits – in part because, as we now know, some of them actually are bandits – the wage gap between workers with a college education and those without, which grew a lot in the 1980s and early 1990s, hasn’t changed much since then. Indeed, recent college graduates had stagnant incomes even before the financial crisis struck.
Increasingly, profits have been rising at the expense of workers in general, including workers with the skills that were supposed to lead to success in today’s economy. Why is this happening? As best as I can tell, there are two plausible explanations, both of which could be true to some extent. One is that technology has taken a turn that places labor at a disadvantage; the other is that we’re looking at the effects of a sharp increase in monopoly power. Think of these two stories as emphasizing robots on one side, robber barons on the other. …

China: Robotic Growth Tied to Factory Automation Advancements
Automation World-Dec 21, 2012
Morgan Stanley (www.morganstanley.com) recently released a Blue Paper, entitled, China – Robotics: Automation for the People and it includes growth factors, …

Da Vinci Surgery Robot Lawsuits Mount, as Bernstein Liebhard LLP …
San Francisco Chronicle (press release)-11 hours ago
According to a recent report issued by Citron Research, Intuitive Surgical has been named in at least nine Da Vinci Robot lawsuits alleging bad outcomes …

2013: The rise of the robot cars
ZDNet-Dec 21, 2012
The face of today’s robot car owes a lot to the autonomous vehicles developed for Google by Stanford’s Sebastian Thrun. His work on Stanford’s entries in the …

The rise of the robot
Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard-Dec 18, 2012
“In whatever form they take, it’s darned exciting to think that we are not far off from having armies of robots all around us that collectively make it easier to be a …

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

12/26/12 — The city of Berkeley, Calif., this week took the first steps toward a ban on drones as the autonomous aircraft deployed in the war on terrorism are being embraced for local law enforcement. The debate over creating a No Drone Zone in this famously left-wing stronghold is likely to be repeated across the U.S. as ever-smaller drones equipped with high-definition cameras and sensors take to the skies with the ability to collect vast amounts of data on citizens. While the Federal Aviation Administration is drafting rules for the deployment of drones in domestic airspace the use of drones to collect…

Chip Johnson, Chronicle Columnist, Updated 11:22 am, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
If everything goes according to plan, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office will soon have a drone, a small unmanned aircraft, to aid with crowd control, search-and-rescue missions and 628x471other law enforcement duties that could use a set of eyes in the air. Think of it as the newest tool for law enforcement. Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy about this. The chief concern of critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, is that the drones threaten the privacy rights of everyday citizens. The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission went as far as to propose a ban, a “No Drone Zone” in Berkeley airspace for all but hobbyists. But despite the commission’s stern stance, in the not-too-distant future the skies above American cities will host unmanned flying vehicles.

By Angela Woodall, Oakland TribunePosted:   12/04/2012
Outcry from privacy advocates prompted Alameda County Board of Supervisors to postpone or possibly scrap plans to purchase a surveillance drone for the Sheriff’s Office.Last minute intervention Tuesday morning by the American Civil Liberties Union prompted supervisors to require explicit authorization to use grant money the Sheriff’s Office received to purchase the drone. Now the proposal will have to go to the public protection committee for approval then back to the full board of supervisors. That is likely to happen early next year. Concern has been mounting among privacy groups for months that Sheriff Greg Ahern was forging ahead without rules for deploying a drone in the skies above Alameda County. The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation are concerned about the lack of privacy protections. They were dismayed to find that the Sheriff’s Office was asking the supervisors on Tuesday to approve a $31,646 grant to help pay for a drone, indicating that the department was far closer to acquisition than they had led the public to believe.

Evan Ackerman  /  Fri, December 28, 2012
We know, it’s Friday. And usually, we post a whole bunch o’ videos on Fridays, but since we’ve done that for two out of our last three posts (!), we figured we’d give you a bit of a break. Instead, we’ve got this little quadrotor from Japan that’s trying to be the next level of paranoia in private security.

12/05/12 — The U.S. Defense Department has issued a new directive on the use of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems, an attempt to regulate a technology that officials say could be years from becoming reality. The directive, released Nov. 27, is focused on systems that can select and engage targets without the…

Posted 10/09/12 at 05:17 PM
… senseFly, a Swiss start-up, launched their new eBee aerial photography drone with funding from a recent equity investment by Parrot (of AR.Drone quadcopter fame). With it’s 3’ wingspan the eBee can fly for 45 minutes in up to 25 mph winds.
… Two kinds of software drive the eBee: one to create a flight path and the other to turn the 2D geotagged images into 3d maps and reports.
… Two videos explain the process.

By Spencer Ackerman, 01.03.13
It’s barely three days into 2013, and the Obama administration’s lethal campaign of drone strikes has resumed in earnest. Missiles fired by remotely piloted planes struck targets in Pakistan and Yemen three times in the past several hours, killing several people, including two prominent militant commanders. In Pakistan’s South Waziristan province, at least 4 MQ-1 Predators or MQ-9 Reapers operated by the CIA killed a Pakistani Taliban commander, Maulvi Nazir, according to media reports that cite unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. Nazir had struck a detente with the Pakistani government but, according to drone watcher Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal, maintained ties to al-Qaida and attacked U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The drones fired on Nazir’s vehicle, killing him and at least five others.

The Navy’s next wave of robots will take on one of the most dangerous missions on the open water: destroying mines. Anti-mine warfare is a critical mission for the Navy, as nations like Iran can mess with the global economy just by threatening to plant mines in crucial waterways.

By Noah Shachtman, Monday, December 31
Drones may be at the center of the U.S. campaign to take out extremists around the globe. But there’s a “pervasive vulnerability” in the robotic aircraft, according to the Pentagon’s premier science and technology division — a weakness the drones share with just about every car, medical device and power plant on the planet. The control algorithms for these crucial machines are written in a fundamentally insecure manner, says Dr. Kathleen Fisher, a Tufts University computer scientist and a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. There’s simply no systematic way for programmers to check for vulnerabilities as they put together the software that runs our drones, our trucks or our pacemakers.

By Spencer Ackerman, Thursday, December 27
Submariners like to say there are two kinds of ships: subs and targets. The Pentagon’s futurists want to turn that on its head, with a new kind of robotic surface ship that can pinpoint a sub.

By Spencer Ackerman, Wednesday, December 26
They’re grabby. They use microbes as fuel. They’re the robots the Navy wants to send to outer space.

070931-M-5827M-011-660x440By David Axe, 12.08.12
The Air Force’s multi-billion-dollar drone fleets may have helped against the insurgents of Iraq and Afghanistan. But in a fight against a real military like China’s, the relatively defenseless unmanned aerial vehicles would get shot down in a second. So once again, the air will belong to traditional, manned bombers and fighters able to survive the sophisticated air defenses. At least that’s the Air Force’s official position. Secretly, however, the flying branch could be working on at least two new high-tech UAVs optimized for the most intensive future air wars. Ace aviation reporter Bill Sweetman has gathered evidence of new stealth drones under development by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — the latter potentially armed, and both drawing on classified funds. If these robots are real, the Air Force’s drone era is not only not ending — it’s barely begun.

By Spencer Ackerman, 12.06.12
The soldiers and marines are packing their bags. The pilots are sitting on the tarmac. But the armed robotic planes are busier than they’ve ever been: Revised U.S. military statistics show a much, much larger drone war in Afghanistan than anyone suspected. Last month, military stats revealed that the U.S. had launched some 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan thus far in 2012. That made Afghanistan the epicenter of U.S. drone attacks — not Pakistan, not Yemen, not Somalia. But it turns out those stats were off, according to revised ones released by the Air Force on Thursday morning. There have actually been 447 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year. That means drone strikes represent 11.5 percent of the entire air war — up from about 5 percent last year.

By Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman, 12.04.12
The Navy talks about its drone helicopter the way Apple geeks gushed over the first-generation iPhone in 2007. The MQ-8 Fire Scout does it all, from hunting for drugs at sea to spotting insurgents over the battlefields of Afghanistan. But like that early iPhone, the Fire Scout is seriously buggy — so much so that the Defense Department has conceded it will be forced to seriously delay buying all the robocopters it wants.

By Spencer Ackerman, 12.03.12
This drone may have an awkward name. But several European governments think the nEUROn is their ticket to a future of flying killer robots. The video above shows the first flight of the nEUROn, a drone with a 41-foot wingspan and an empty weight of five tons, which on Saturday launched from France’s Istres air base. The takeoff of the stealthy, batwing-shaped drone, jointly developed by six European countries, was nearly a decade in the making, and tests will continue in France, Sweden and Italy for years to come. In fact, the nEURON won’t actually join any European air forces. Much like the U.S. Navy’s stealthy X-47B — which, as David Cenciotti of The Aviationist notes, the drone kinda resembles — it’s just a demonstrator aircraft, meant to show that European companies can successfully develop an attack-sized, stealthy unmanned plane. Concept proven, the follow-on aircraft will

CBS2 Chicago-15 hours ago
MUNSTER (CBS) — Police in Northwest Indiana are questioning a man suspected of beating his estranged wife to death, then holding police at bay outside the …

Haaretz-Dec 26, 2012
Better the refusenik than the robot. ‘What will become of this country if everyone refuses orders?’ ask the hysteria-mongers. Unfortunately, soldiers of conscience …

News – Dec 20, 2012, 4:39 PM | By Christopher MacManus
DARPA researchers continue to add new functionality to the four-legged robot originally developed by Boston Dynamics.

INDUSTRY AND MANUFACTURING

December 11, 2012
The weeks after Chinese New Year are typically peak recruiting season for the factories in southern China, which for three decades have produced toys, jeans and electronics for retailers around the world. This year was markedly different. Factory owners in Dongguan, a city a couple of hours drive from Hong Kong that consists of constellations of factories specialising in different products, reported that they were confronted with a labour shortage.

Manufacturing Business Technology-Dec 21, 2012
Today the manufacturing of control panels is traditionally a labor intensive process with few options for process automation. Most operations are done manually …

ARC Advisory Group-Dec 20, 2012
Automation Expenditures for Discrete Industries Global Business … This environment created tremendous growth opportunities for automation equipment for …

RubberNews.com-Dec 10, 2012
HEBRON, Ky.—Automating certain rubber product processes once was thought to be unthinkable, but not anymore. Now it’s looked on as a way to minimize …

Wall Street Journal-Dec 11, 2012
Automating production for such items as television sets, game consoles and Apple’s iPhones could be a game changer for Hon Hai, helping it become more …

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

The company’s flexpicker robots dramatically impact production and changeover time
By Robotics Trends’ News Sources – Filed Dec 26, 2012
“After three weeks of production, a brand-new product was introduced in less than an hour without the need for any new investment from Honeytop.” FOOD AND BEVERIDGE PACKAGING: Robots help packagers work more efficiently, increasing output and reducing change over time. But they address hygiene concerns too. One company in the UK saw firsthand the benefits of automation, which helped the pancake producer streamline its packaging process.

Perception of Australia as the future “food bowl” for the Asian market is driving innovation
By Robotics Trends’ News Sources – Filed Dec 13, 2012
Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems Salah Sukkarieh at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies leads a team that is developing robotic devices with the ability to autonomously sense, analyse and respond to their own surroundings.

NPR (blog)-Dec 28, 2012
We all have an inkling of how our food is grown these days, but increasingly we don’t really know what it looks like. You’d probably recognize a tomato plant or a …

SERVICE SECTOR

December 8, 2012 – Technology is marching ever forward and the medicine is no exception. CNN’s Fortune Tech predicts tech will eventually take over 80 percent of what doctors do today, and that might be great, but would you feel comfortable putting your life in the hands of Dr.

December 8, 2012 – We may not have had the wide variety of radiation-resistant robots we needed before Fukushima, but we’re certainly getting it now. Following Toshiba’s four-legged dogbot, Mitsubishi is rolling out their own four-tredded tankbot that aims to fix up a disaster site without sending anyone in.

News – Dec 16, 2012, 4:37 PM | By Tim Hornyak
Fresh from its maiden flight, this drink dispenser promises to speed up relief for thirsty passengers.

ZDNet-by Heather Clancy-Dec 26, 2012
Summary: This isn’t just potty talk. The experimental EcBot III uses the microbes in human waste to generate electricity, creating power from the water it cleans.

12/19/12 — Science fiction has always positioned the idea that one day our human jobs would be replaced by machines. For those working in burger assembly lines, that day might be sooner than you think. Introducing a machine that makes burgers. Literally, it’s a burger making machine, in prototype, that takes unprepared ingredients like whole tomatoes, onions, uncooked patties, untoasted buns, and spits out a completely assembled burger: Momentum Machines, the San Francisco-based robotics company responsible for the concept, notes that they are aiming to have a functional demo model by June 1st, 2012. About a month ago, the company got a quick…

PACKING, SHIPPING AND TRANSPORTATION

By Tom Gara, December 26, 2012
Unions and employees will have one last chance this week to reach a deal and avoid port closures that could cripple trade…

ENERGY AND RESOURCE EXTRACTION

Times of India-Dec 29, 2012
HUBLI: Hereafter, people can expect to get unadulterated petrol as petroleum companies have started installing automation machines in their petrol pumps in …

Australian Mining-Dec 10, 2012amnov12vehiclesandvik2_300
For experts at Sandvik and the CSIRO, the future of automation in mining is already upon us. And while we’ve started to introduce this technology on Australian …

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Wired-Dec 11, 2012
Big Data, cloud computing and mobile devices continue to be the business IT megatrends of the 21st Century’s second decade. Intimately linked to all three, as it …

PR Newswire (press release)-Dec 19, 2012
LONDON, Dec. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Every year, nearly 100 million samples are added to biobanks worldwide. Over 1500 bio repositories exist today and …

IT Business Edge (blog)-Dec 5, 2012
Click through for six IT automation predictions for 2013, as identified by Ben Rosenberg, CEO of Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc. IT environments are …

Forbes-Dec 18, 2012
Robot Data Collectors: How to Win in a Device-to-Data Center World … You can think of them as robot data collectors—collecting, culling, and sending back data …

JOB DISPLACEMENT DEBATE

FT Alphaville, December 10, 2012
It seems more top-tier economists are coming around to the idea that robots and technology could be having a greater influence on the economy (and this crisis in particular) than previously appreciated. Paul Krugman being the latest. But first a quick backgrounder on the debate so far (as tracked by us).

AlterNet / By William Lazonick
Worrying about automation distracts us from the real problem: misuse of corporate profits.

Patrick Thibodeau, December 13, 2012
The problem with unions is they can’t protect jobs. They can’t stop a company from moving jobs overseas, closing offices, or replacing workers with automation. I grew up in Connecticut, a heavily unionized state. In the post-war period, the state’s industries made typewriters, appliances, bearings, locks, tools. None of them survived. Through the 1960s and into the 1980s, thousands of factory workers lost their jobs, including my father. These jobs were lost because of globalization and changes in technology. The unions did not cause these job losses, and IT workers provide a good example as to why. In Connecticut, the big IT employers are financial services firms, insurance companies mostly. These firms aren’t unionized. In the late 1990s, financial services firms began offshoring work and IT jobs were cut. The same forces that dismantled manufacturing jobs were now attacking highly skilled, knowledge-based jobs.

New Yorker (blog)-by Gary Marcus-Dec 29, 2012
Slowly, but surely, robots (and virtual ‘bots that exist only as software) are taking over our jobs; according to one back-of-the-envelope projection, in ninety years …

ff_robot_large-660x494By Kevin Kelly, 12.24.12
Imagine that 7 out of 10 working Americans got fired tomorrow. What would they all do?
It’s hard to believe you’d have an economy at all if you gave pink slips to more than half the labor force. But that—in slow motion—is what the industrial revolution did to the workforce of the early 19th century. Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines. But the displaced workers did not sit idle. Instead, automation created hundreds of millions of jobs in entirely new fields. Those who once farmed were now manning the legions of factories that churned out farm equipment, cars, and other industrial products. Since then, wave upon wave of new occupations have arrived—appliance repairman, offset printer, food chemist, photographer, web designer—each building on previous automation. Today, the vast majority of us are doing jobs that no farmer from the 1800s could have imagined.

Businessweek-Dec 13, 2012
The robots are coming. Resistance is futile. From car factories to microprocessor plants to fulfillment warehouses, a single robot can now handle tasks that once …

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Tucson Citizen-Dec 21, 2012
Pima County announced that Accela Automation is its new enterprise software for service delivery to eight Public Works departments.

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

Boston.com-Dec 19, 2012, By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff
Brooks Automation Inc., a Chelmsford-based provider of automation, vacuum, and instrumentation products for such markets as the semiconductor industry, said it will cut 100 jobs, or 6 percent, of its workforce as it looks to “achieve cost synergies” following an acquisition and to improve profitability in a tough economic environment. The company added that 29 jobs of the jobs being be cut are in Massachusetts. The cuts will leave Brooks with a Bay State headcount of 605 employees. Brooks recently acquired Crossing Automation Inc.

Automation World-Dec 4, 2012
The enormous growth spurt a lot of German automation companies—and many of their customers—have been experiencing since 2009 is expected to slow for …

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

December 11, 2012 – Eerily reminiscent of the design of Sonny and the other NS-5s in I, Robot, Kenshiro is the University of Tokyo’s latest attempt to create a humanoid robot that accurately mimics human movement.

Roboy is a tendon-driven robot designed to emulate humans, right down to the gestation period.
News – Dec 19, 2012, 12:19 PM | By Tim Hornyak

Liberation as Death Sentence: Health Care at the End of the Civil War

Liberation as Death Sentence

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER    Published: June 10, 2012   New York Times

When Civil War History published a paper this spring raising the conflict’s military death toll to 750,000 from 620,000, that journal’s editors called it one of the most important pieces of scholarship ever to appear in its pages.

Richard Perry/The New York Times historian Jim Downs at Grant’s Tomb.
Timothy H. O’Sullivan/Library of Congress  Digging graves in Fredericksburg, Va.,in 1864. A million ex-slaves are said to have become sick or died after 1862.

But to Jim Downs, an assistant professor of history at Connecticut College and the author of the new book “Sick From Freedom,” issued last month by Oxford University Press, that accounting of what he calls “the largest biological crisis of the 19th century” does not go nearly far enough.

To understand the war’s scale and impact truly, Professor Downs argues, historians have to look beyond military casualties and consider the public health crisis that faced the newly liberated slaves, who sickened and died in huge numbers in the years following Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

“We’re getting ready to celebrate 150 years of the movement from slavery to freedom,” he said in a recent interview at a cafe near his apartment in Chelsea. “But hundreds of thousands of people did not survive that movement.”

“Sick From Freedom,” at 178 pages (not counting 56 pages of tightly argued footnotes), may seem like a bantamweight in a field crowded with doorstops. But it’s already being greeted as an important challenge to our understanding of an event that scholars and laypeople alike have preferred to see as an uplifting story of newly liberated people vigorously claiming their long-denied rights.

“The freed people we want to see are the ones with all their belongings on the wagon, heading toward freedom,” said David W. Blight, a professor of history at Yale and the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. “But the truth is, for every person making it there may have been one falling by the way.”

Professor Downs, 39, is part of a wave of scholars who are sketching out a new, darker history of emancipation, Professor Blight said, one that recognizes it as a moral watershed while acknowledging its often devastating immediate impact. And the statistics offered in “Sick from Freedom” are certainly sobering, if necessarily tentative.

At least one quarter of the four million former slaves got sick or died between 1862 and 1870, Professor Downs writes, including at least 60,000 (the actual number is probably two or three times higher, he argues) who perished in a smallpox epidemic that began in Washington and spread through the South as former slaves traveled in search of work — an epidemic that Professor Downs says he is the first to reconstruct as a national event.

Historians of the Civil War have long acknowledged that two-thirds of all military casualties came from disease rather than heroic battle. But they have been more reluctant to dwell on the high number of newly emancipated slaves that fell prey to disease, dismissing earlier accounts as propaganda generated by racist 19th-century doctors and early-20th-century scholars bent on arguing that blacks were biologically inferior and unsuited to full political rights.

Instead, historians who came of age during the civil rights movement emphasized ways in which the former slaves asserted their agency, playing as important a role in their own liberation as Lincoln or the Union army.

“For so long, people were afraid to talk about freed people’s health,” Professor Downs said. “They wanted to talk about agency. But if you have smallpox, you don’t have agency. You can’t even get out of bed.”

Professor Downs first became interested in the health of newly liberated slaves when he was a graduate student at Columbia University with a job as a research assistant in the papers of Harriet Jacobs, the author of the 1861 autobiography “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” and a vivid chronicler of the often abysmal conditions in the “contraband camps” where escaped slaves congregated during the war and in settlements of freed people more generally after it. The papers were full of heart-wrenching encounters with sick and dying freed people — references that he noticed were strikingly absent in recent scholarship.

As he developed the topic into his dissertation, Professor Downs recalls sparring with his adviser, Eric Foner, the author of the classic book “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Business, 1863-1877.”

“He would joke: ‘Look in my index. You don’t even see smallpox,’ ” Professor Downs said.

But as he sorted through the little-explored records of the medical division of the Freedmen’s Bureau and other archives, he found reams of statistical and anecdotal accounts of sick and dying freed people, whose suffering was seen by even some sympathetic Northern reformers as evidence that the race was doomed to extinction.

Meanwhile tallies of the smaller number of white smallpox victims were kept only lackadaisically and eventually crossed out all together — evidence, he argues, that officials were eager to see the outbreak as a “black epidemic” not worth bothering about. (By contrast a cholera outbreak in 1866 that mainly affected whites was vigorously combated, he notes.)

Professor Downs also found a medical system that was less concerned with healing the sick than with separating out healthy workers who could be sent back to the fields, and then closing the hospitals as quickly as possible.

In an e-mail Professor Foner praised “Sick From Freedom” as offering “a highly original perspective” that “deserves wide attention.” And Professor Downs makes no bones about wanting to place health issues at the center of multiple scholarly conversations about the war and its aftermath.

“I wanted to say, ‘You’re not allowed to do the history of labor or the history of the family or the history of citizenship unless you go through my book,’ ” he said. “I wanted to be able to tell a story about these people’s lives that wouldn’t get pushed aside as melodrama.”

He is also not shy about drawing out his work’s contemporary relevance. His dissertation included an epilogue about AIDS, another epidemic, he said, that broke out shortly after a moment of liberation (in this case of gay people), was blamed on the victims and was largely ignored by the federal government. (He dropped the point from the book, which instead ends with an epilogue showing how policies developed in the post-Civil War South were exported to the Western frontier, with similarly devastating health consequences for American Indians.)

Professor Downs also sees parallels with the current health care debate. “Freed slaves,” he writes in the book, were “the first advocates of federal health care” — a statement that could be read from the left as an example of early black political activism, or from the right as an instance of newly liberated people immediately asking for a government handout.

That second reading was one he initially worried about, Professor Downs said. But he ultimately just let the historical chips fall where they may.

“I’ve been alone with these people in the archives,” he said. “I have a responsibility to tell their stories.”

Tom Engelhardt: Praying at the Church of St. Drone — Elections 2012


Posted by Tom Engelhardt at 7:51am, June 5, 2012.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Signed, personalized copies of Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050, the new book Nick Turse and I have co-authored, will soon be in the mail to the many of you who contributed $75 or more to this site — with our deepest thanks.  (Copies of my book The United States of Fear, similarly signed, will similarly be off.)  Those of you who still have the urge to contribute, do check TD’s donation page for our offer on both books.

And as for the rest of you, remember to pick up your copy of Terminator Planet, either the ebook by clicking here or the paperback by clicking here, and ensure that our little publishing venture is a success.  News of drones now seems to be everywhere, even in the comic strips, so this couldn’t be more timely! To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses drone warfare and the Obama administration, click here or download it to your iPod here. Tom]

Praying at the Church of St. Drone
The President and His Apostles

By Tom Engelhardt

Be assured of one thing: whichever candidate you choose at the polls in November, you aren’t just electing a president of the United States; you are also electing an assassin-in-chief.  The last two presidents may not have been emperors or kings, but they — and the vast national-security structure that continues to be built-up and institutionalized around the presidential self — are certainly one of the nightmares the founding fathers of this country warned us against.  They are one of the reasons those founders put significant war powers in the hands of Congress, which they knew would be a slow, recalcitrant, deliberative body.

Thanks to a long New York Times piece by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” we now know that the president has spent startling amounts of time overseeing the “nomination” of terrorist suspects for assassination via the remotely piloted drone program he inherited from President George W. Bush and which he has expanded exponentially.  Moreover, that article was based largely on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.”  In other words, it was essentially an administration-inspired piece — columnist Robert Scheer calls it “planted” — on a “secret” program the president and those closest to him are quite proud of and want to brag about in an election year.

The language of the piece about our warrior president was generally sympathetic, even in places soaring.  It focused on the moral dilemmas of a man who — we now know — has personally approved and overseen the growth of a remarkably robust assassination program in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan based on a “kill list.” Moreover, he’s regularly done so target by target, name by name.  (The Times did not mention a recent U.S. drone strike in the Philippines that killed 15.)  According to Becker and Shane, President Obama has also been involved in the use of a fraudulent method of counting drone kills, one that unrealistically deemphasizes civilian deaths.

Historically speaking, this is all passing strange.  The Times calls Obama’s role in the drone killing machine “without precedent in presidential history.”  And that’s accurate.

It’s not, however, that American presidents have never had anything to do with or been in any way involved in assassination programs.  The state as assassin is hardly unknown in our history.  How could President John F. Kennedy, for example, not know about CIA-inspired or -backed assassination plots against Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, and South Vietnamese autocrat (and ostensible ally) Ngo Dinh Diem? (Lumumba and Diem were successfully murdered.)  Similarly, during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, the CIA carried out a massive assassination campaign in Vietnam, Operation Phoenix.  It proved to be a staggeringly profligate program for killing tens of thousands of Vietnamese, both actual enemies and those simply swept up in the process.

In previous eras, however, presidents either stayed above the assassination fray or practiced a kind of plausible deniability about the acts.  We are surely at a new stage in the history of the imperial presidency when a president (or his election team) assembles his aides, advisors, and associates to foster a story that’s meant to broadcast the group’s collective pride in the new position of assassin-in-chief.

Religious Cult or Mafia Hit Squad?

Here’s a believe-it-or-not footnote to our American age.  Who now remembers that, in the early years of his presidency, George W. Bush kept what the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward called “his own personal scorecard for the war” on terror?  It took the form of photographs with brief biographies and personality sketches of those judged to be the world’s most dangerous terrorists, each ready to be crossed out by Bush once captured or killed. That scorecard was, Woodward added, always available in a desk drawer in the Oval Office.

Such private presidential recordkeeping now seems penny-ante indeed.  The distance we’ve traveled in a decade can be measured by the Times’ description of the equivalent of that “personal scorecard” today (and no desk drawer could hold it):

“It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die. This secret ‘nominations’ process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases, and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia. The nominations go to the White House, where by his own insistence and guided by [counterterrorism ‘tsar’ John O.] Brennan, Mr. Obama must approve any name.”

In other words, thanks to such meetings — on what insiders have labeled “terror Tuesday” — assassination has been thoroughly institutionalized, normalized, and bureaucratized around the figure of the president.  Without the help of or any oversight from the American people or their elected representatives, he alone is now responsible for regular killings thousands of miles away, including those of civilians and even children.  He is, in other words, if not a king, at least the king of American assassinations.  On that score, his power is total and completely unchecked.  He can prescribe death for anyone “nominated,” choosing any of the “baseball cards” (PowerPoint bios) on that kill list and then order the drones to take them (or others in the neighborhood) out.

He and he alone can decide that assassinating known individuals isn’t enough and that the CIA’s drones can instead strike at suspicious “patterns of behavior” on the ground in Yemen or Pakistan. He can stop any attack, any killing, but there is no one, nor any mechanism that can stop him.  An American global killing machine (quite literally so, given that growing force of drones) is now at the beck and call of a single, unaccountable individual.  This is the nightmare the founding fathers tried to protect us from.

In the process, as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, the president has shredded the Fifth Amendment, guaranteeing Americans that they will not “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”  The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel produced a secret memo claiming that, while the Fifth Amendment’s due process guarantee does apply to the drone assassination of an American citizen in a land with which we are not at war, “it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”  (That, writes Greenwald, is “the most extremist government interpretation of the Bill of Rights I’ve heard in my lifetime.”)  In other words, the former Constitutional law professor has been freed from the law of the land in cases in which he “nominates,” as he has, U.S. citizens for robotic death.

There is, however, another aspect to the institutionalizing of those “kill lists” and assassination as presidential prerogatives that has gone unmentioned.  If the Times article — which largely reflects how the Obama administration cares to see itself and its actions — is to be believed, the drone program is also in the process of being sanctified and sacralized.

You get a sense of this from the language of the piece itself.  (“A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan…”)  The president is presented as a particularly moral man, who devotes himself to the “just war” writings of religious figures like Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, and takes every death as his own moral burden.  His leading counterterrorism advisor Brennan, a man who, while still in the CIA, was knee-deep in torture controversy, is presented, quite literally, as a priest of death, not once but twice in the piece.  He is described by the Times reporters as “a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama.”  They then quote the State Department’s top lawyer, Harold H. Koh, saying, “It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.”

In the Times telling, the organization of robotic killing had become the administration’s idée fixe, a kind of cult of death within the Oval Office, with those involved in it being so many religious devotees.  We may be, that is, at the edge of a new state-directed, national-security-based religion of killing grounded in the fact that we are in a “dangerous” world and the “safety” of Americans is our preeminent value.  In other words, the president, his apostles, and his campaign acolytes are all, it seems, praying at the Church of St. Drone.

Of course, thought about another way, that “terror Tuesday” scene might not be from a monastery or a church synod, but from a Mafia council directly out of a Mario Puzo novel, with the president as the Godfather, designating “hits” in a rough-and-tumble world.

How far we’ve come in just two presidencies!  Assassination as a way of life has been institutionalized in the Oval Office, thoroughly normalized, and is now being offered to the rest of us as a reasonable solution to American global problems and an issue on which to run a presidential campaign.

Downhill All the Way on Blowback Planet

After 5,719 inside-the-Beltway (largely inside-the-Oval-Office) words, the Times piece finally gets to this single outside-the-Beltway sentence: “Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president.”

Arguably, indeed!  For the few who made it that far, it was a brief reminder of just how narrow, how confining the experience of worshiping at St. Drone actually is.  All those endless meetings, all those presidential hours that might otherwise have been spent raising yet more money for campaign 2012, and the two countries that have taken the brunt of the drone raids are more hostile, more dangerous, and in worse shape than in 2009.  (And one of them, keep in mind, is a nuclear power.)  News articles since have only emphasized how powerfully those drones have radicalized local populations — however many “bad guys” (and children) they may also have wiped off the face of the Earth.

And though the Times doesn’t mention this, it’s not just bad news for Yemen or Pakistan.  American democracy, already on the ropes, is worse off, too.

What should astound Americans — but seldom seems to be noticed — is just how into the shadows, how thoroughly military-centric, and how unproductive has become Washington’s thinking at the altar of St. Drone and its equivalents (including special operations forces, increasingly the president’s secret military within the military). Yes, the world is always a dangerous place, even if far less so now than when, in the Cold War era, two superpowers were a heartbeat away from nuclear war.  But — though it’s increasingly heretical to say this — the perils facing Americans, including relatively modest dangers from terrorism, aren’t the worst things on our planet.

Electing an assassin-in-chief, no matter who you vote for, is worse.  Pretending that the Church of St. Drone offers any kind of reasonable or even practical solutions on this planet of ours, is worse yet.  And even worse, once such a process begins, it’s bound to be downhill all the way.  As we learned last week, again in the Times, we not only have an assassin-in-chief in the Oval Office, but a cyberwarrior, perfectly willing to release a new form of weaponry, the most sophisticated computer “worm” ever developed, against another country with which we are not at war.

This represents a breathtaking kind of rashness, especially from the leader of a country that, perhaps more than any other, is dependent on computer systems, opening the U.S. to potentially debilitating kinds of future blowback.  Once again, as with drones, the White House is setting the global rules of the road for every country (and group) able to get its hands on such weaponry and it’s hit the highway at 140 miles per hour without a cop in sight.

James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the rest of them knew war, and yet were not acolytes of the eighteenth century equivalents of St. Drone, nor of presidents who might be left free to choose to turn the world into a killing zone.  They knew at least as well as anyone in our national security state today that the world is always a dangerous place — and that that’s no excuse for investing war powers in a single individual.  They didn’t think that a state of permanent war, a state of permanent killing, or a president free to plunge Americans into such states was a reasonable way for their new republic to go.  To them, it was by far the more dangerous way to exist in our world.

The founding fathers would surely have chosen republican democracy over safety.  They would never have believed that a man surrounded by advisors and lawyers, left to his own devices, could protect them from what truly mattered.  They tried to guard against it.  Now, we have a government and a presidency dedicated to it, no matter who is elected in November.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses drone warfare and the Obama administration, click here or download it to your iPod here.

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Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt