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Automatopod

June 5, 2009

The Octopus

by James Merrill

There are many monsters that a glassen surface
Restrains. And none more sinister
Than vision asleep in the eve’s tight translucence.
Rarely it seeks now to unloose
Its diamonds. Having divined how drab a prison
The purest mortal tissue is,
Rarely it wakes. Unless, coaxed out by lusters
Extraordinary, like the octopus
From the gloom of its tank half-swimming half-drifting
Toward anything fair, a handkerchief
Or child’s face dreaming near the glass, the writher
Advances in a godlike wreath
Of its own wrath. Chilled by such fragile reeling
A hundred blows of a boot-heel
Shall not quell, the dreamer wakes and hungers.
Percussive pulses, drum or gong,
Build in his skull their loud entrancement,
Volutions of a Hindu dance.
His hands move clumsily in the first conventional
Gestures of assent.
He is willing to undergo the volition and fervor
Of many fleshlike arms, observe
These in their holiness of indirection
Destroy, adore, evolve, reject—
Till on glass rigid with his own seizure
At length the sucking jewels freeze.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    June 6, 2009 8:35 am

    Very nice poem and pic! Was that pic an illustration for something? Can’t help thinking of some surreal Don Quixote.

    • Stemella permalink*
      June 6, 2009 5:19 pm

      I found the pic on one of the links in our blogroll. That was exactly my thought. Insane cephalo quixote. Speaking of which, today I built a boulder sculpture in my yard with a iron Don quixote in the middle of it. Next I’ll install a small rock water feature, once my back recovers from lifting 100-200 lb rocks. Ouch. I am crazy quixote for having done this.

      • cometman permalink*
        June 6, 2009 7:27 pm

        That sculpture sounds great! You should post a pic when it’s done if you feel like it, I’d love to see it.

        I was actually thinking of doing something similar today although not on nearly as monumental a scale. I keep pulling rocks out of my garden and piling them on a big tree stump. Don’t really have anywhere to get rid of them easily so I was thinking they’d look nice piled in a flower bed surrounding a sculpture of some kind, but a peeing boy was the best idea I’ve come up with so far :P

  2. cometman permalink*
    June 6, 2009 9:21 am

    Nice article here on building a new economy. The intro:

    Wall Street is bankrupt. Instead of trying to save it, we can build a new economy that puts money and business in the service of people and the planet-not the other way around. Whether it was divine providence or just good luck, we should give thanks that financial collapse hit us before the worst of global warming and peak oil. As challenging as the economic meltdown may be, it buys time to build a new economy that serves life rather than money. It lays bare the fact that the existing financial system has brought our way of life and the natural systems on which we depend to the brink of collapse. This wake-up call is inspiring unprecedented numbers of people to take action to bring forth the culture and institutions of a new economy that can serve us and sustain our living planet for generations into the future.
    “In the world we want, the organization of economic life mimics healthy ecosystems that are locally rooted, highly adaptive, and self-reliant in food ad energy. Information and technology are shared freely, and trade between neighbors is fair and balanced.”

    The world of financial stability, environmental sustainability, economic justice, and peace that most psychologically healthy people want is possible if we replace a defective operating system that values only money, seeks to monetize every relationship, and pits each person in a competition with every other for dominance.

    Probably wishful thinking to hope any of what the article discusses will actually happen but it sure would be nice.

    After years of passing tax cuts all over the country as the supposed answer to economic problems , a policy which has prove to be an abysmal failure unless you happen to be a multimillionaire, yesterday our state legislature (led by the Democrats ) passed, you guessed it, a big income tax cut as the supposed answer to the state’s economic problems. I was at a meeting last night with several legislators in attendance and I asked one of the most liberal members what the rationale behind it was. He did mention that the state’s top tax bracket encompassed a lot of people since it hadn’t been adjusted for quite some time, so the tax cut does take some burden off the middle class. But it also cuts taxes substantially for the wealthiest too and seeks to make up the revenue by taxing other areas:

    The package pays for the income-tax cut by extending the state’s 5 percent sales tax to previously untaxed goods and services, such as ski lift tickets, golf course fees and auto repairs. It also raises the state meals and lodging tax from 7 percent to 8.5 percent.

    Proponents say it helps relieve the tax burden on Mainers by exporting an estimated $58 million in taxes to tourists.

    Here’s a news flash for the legislature – people who live in this state like to ski and play golf, eat out and get their cars fixed too. So depending on how you spend your money, the few hundred bucks you might save on income tax will be canceled out by the extra taxes on everything else. The article doesn’t even mention that fees to state parks and highway tolls as well as cigarette taxes were also increased dramatically in recent weeks. These are all regressive taxes which tax those with lower incomes much higher proportionally. When I lived in WA state which has no income tax, I often wished they did because taxes on everything else like food, alcohol, cigarettes, etc were much higher than elsewhere and since at the time most of my disposable income was spent on beer, cigarettes, and eating out I wound up paying way more in taxes than if there had been a reasonable state income tax.

    The legislator I talked to yesterday said he was against the tax cut initially but eventually came around to voting for it. I have to wonder why he couldn’t have stuck to his guns since he has been a progressive champion here for quite some time. But as far as I know, he doesn’t rank high among the party leadership and I suspect that once the Democratic leadership got behind it, they told the rest of the caucus which way to vote, with a little ‘or else’ added for good measure.

  3. cometman permalink*
    June 7, 2009 9:15 am

    Good article from Michael Winship at Truthout about the continued and expanded use of military contractors/mercenaries by the Obama administration:

    According to new Pentagon statistics, in the second quarter of this year there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of private security contractors working for the Pentagon in Iraq, and a 29 percent hike in Afghanistan. In fact, outside contractors now make up approximately half of our forces fighting in the two countries. “This means,” according to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” “there are a whopping 242,647 contractors working on these two US wars.”

    Scahill, who runs an excellent new website called Rebel Reports, spoke with my colleague Bill Moyers on the current edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. “What we have seen happen, as a result of this incredible reliance on private military contractors, is that the United States has created a new system for waging war,” he said. By hiring foreign nationals as mercenaries “You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground. You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars.

    “In the process of doing that you undermine US democratic policies. And you also violate the sovereignty of other nations, because you’re making their citizens combatants in a war to which their country is not a party.

    “I feel that the end game of all of this could well be the disintegration of the nation-state apparatus in the world. And it could be replaced by a scenario where you have corporations with their own private armies. To me, that would be a devastating development. But it’s happening on a micro level. And I fear it will start to happen on a much bigger scale.”

    Jeremy Scahill’s comments come just as Lt. General Stanley McChrystal, the man slated to be the new commander of our troops in Afghanistan, says the cost of our strategy there is going to cost America and its NATO allies billions of additional dollars for years to come. In fact, according to budget documents released by the Pentagon last month, as of next year, the cost of the war in Afghanistan – more and more known as “Obama’s War” – will exceed the cost of the war in Iraq.

    • Stemella permalink*
      June 7, 2009 11:05 am

      Privatization – the method used by the govt to avoid/bypass accountability and many responsibilities. Same philosophy exactly as employed by Rumsfeld in the Pentago. Lean and mean fighting private machine. Dangerous. This is yet another incredibly discouraging sign from Status Quobama.

      The Military Industrial Complex has the CEO they wanted and paid for, clearly.

  4. cometman permalink*
    June 7, 2009 8:06 pm

    Checking out some science blogs and eventually ran across this song about isopods where a well know giant cephalopod gets a shout out:

    The video came from here where you can listen to a bunch of other songs about giant underwater cockroaches.

    • Stemella permalink*
      June 8, 2009 6:00 am

      Oh my god. That is so bad and so hilarious! Of the songs you linked, I’ve got to go with the “Nefarious Crustacean Confectionary” Who knew there were so many twisted podophiles out there!! Kraken!

  5. Stemella permalink*
    June 8, 2009 6:05 am

    Back to the big bad world of Bankstas

    Citigroup May Gain Geithner Swap Backing as Pandit Bucks Bair or More Shite from Shittygroup

    Citigroup Inc. is poised to start a $58 billion stock swap that was delayed last week as Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair questioned Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit’s leadership and the bank awaited regulatory approval from other agencies, people close to the bank said.

    Bair backed off and the U.S. Treasury Department signaled it would sign a final agreement to take a 34 percent stake in the bank, clearing the New York-based lender to proceed without further review by securities regulators, people familiar with the matter said. The exchange of preferred stock for common was announced three months ago.

    Citigroup is counting on the exchange to replenish an equity base eroded by $36 billion of net losses during the past six quarters. Last week’s encounter with Bair underscores the scrutiny Pandit, 52, faces as the former Morgan Stanley banker steers the lender toward partial government ownership to shore up its finances.

    “This is not about Pandit himself,” said Joshua Rosner, managing director at New York research firm Graham Fisher & Co. “Sheila Bair appears to be the only prudential regulator in Washington who has any understanding of the need to force the disgorgement of troubled assets from troubled institutions. And you cannot have a healthy banking institution without doing that.”

  6. Stemella permalink*
    June 8, 2009 6:17 am

    This story made me scream, Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

    The future of robots is rat-shaped

    Psikharpax — named after a cunning king of the rats, according to a tale attributed to Homer — is the brainchild of European researchers who believe it may push back a frontier in artificial intelligence.

    Scientists have strived for decades to make a robot that can do some more than make repetitive, programmed gestures. These are fine for making cars or amusing small children, but are of little help in the real world.

    One of the biggest obstacles is learning ability. Without the smarts to figure out dangers and opportunities, a robot is helpless without human intervention.

    “The autonomy of robots today is similar to that of an insect,” snorts Guillot, a researcher at France’s Institute for Intelligent Systems and Robotics (ISIR), one of the “Psikharpax” team.

    Such failures mean it is time to change tack, argue some roboticist.

    Rather than try to replicate human intelligence, in all its furious complexities and higher levels of language and reasoning, it would be better to start at the bottom and figure out simpler abilities that humans share with other animals, they say.

    These include navigating, seeking food and avoiding dangers.

    And, for this job, there can be no better inspiration than the rat, which has lived cheek-by-whisker with humans since Homo sapiens took his first steps.

    I refuse, REFUSE, to accept this new overloard, Psikharpax. Rattus est, Rattus mortis.

  7. Stemella permalink*
    June 8, 2009 7:20 am

    Here’s an interesting story from NYT about tension within Team EcObama with Frogface Larry. Obama’s Economic Circle Keeps Tensions Simmering

    By all accounts, much of the tension derives from the president’s choice of the brilliant but sometimes supercilious Mr. Summers to be the director of the National Economic Council, making him the policy impresario of the team. The widespread assumption, from Washington to Wall Street, was that the job would be Mr. Summers’s way station until the president could name him chairman of the Federal Reserve when Ben S. Bernanke’s term expires early next year.

    But Mr. Bernanke’s aggressive response to the crisis has so improved his reputation that people close to Mr. Obama increasingly suggest the president could well reappoint him in the interests of financial stability — just as Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton retained Fed chiefs who had been picked by predecessors of the other party.

    As for Mr. Summers, even as top administration officials acknowledge the occasional strains among economic advisers, they say the president is thrilled with the job Mr. Summers is doing in his current post.

    ~snip~

    You can’t assemble a group of really brilliant people, and deal with some of the most complex problems in our lifetimes and not have disagreements,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior political strategist who, with the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, plays a big role in mediating among the economic advisers and helps shape the decisions.

    The president “invites debate but he doesn’t tolerate factionalism. And ultimately everybody on the economic team knows that at the end of the day we’re going to hold hands and jump together,” Mr. Axelrod added.

    People familiar with the deliberations say that Mr. Summers has been more populist than they expected for a right-of-center economist, siding often with Mr. Obama’s political advisers. That has given rise to speculation among colleagues, associates and banking representatives that Mr. Summers is trying to win the Fed seat.

    Oh fuck. fuck. fuck. This is nauseating. If canetoad Larry takes the Fed, we are all the more flies to be zapped by the flick of his flapping tongue.

    Not sure what to make of this. It is awfully gossipy and very NYT. It seems pushed somehow. It is also being mentioned on the teevee news. Probably propaganda.

    • cometman permalink*
      June 8, 2009 9:58 am

      Just because Axelrod is calling the very people who caused the biggest financial meltdown in history “really brilliant” doesn’t make it so. Son of a bitch it pisses me off to keep hearing that kind of tripe. But it wouldn’t surprise me to find out we don’t get rid of these clowns anytime soon, especially since the recovery plan now seems to be just say nice things to restore confidence and hopefully it will all magically get better. You may have seen it already but Naked Capitalism had a post to that effect:

      …it has been noteworthy that some formerly more balanced outlets have swung to at least a high proportion of cheerleading headlines, in particular Bloomberg and the Financial Times (although with the FT, one might argue that it is attempting to cater to a US market).

      But if one was paying only a teeny bit of attention, it would be hard to miss the persistent, nay insistent efforts of the officialdom to put the best possible spin on matters economic. The very fact that Geithner said not more than once that the stress tests were about restoring confidence was such a brazen admission as to be breathtaking. But on another level, it was spin within spin, since the idea that the authorities would openly talk of the tests as a ruse to restore confidence (which is what predetermining the answers, as Geithner also did) is tantamount to saying the skeptics are all wrong, and all we need to do is drown them out for saner heads to prevail.

      While the “nary a bad word will be said”, or to the extent it is, it is countermanded by an even more positive take, has gotten some notice in the MSM. But I cannot recall anyone taking issue with it frontally. So an article today in the New York Times, “The Economy Is Still at the Brink” by Sandy Lewis and William Cohan, is a badly needed contirbution:

      President Obama is conducting an all-out campaign to try to make us feel a whole lot better about the economy as quickly as possible…

      Mr. Obama thinks that the way to revive the economy is to restore confidence in it. If the mood is right, the capital will flow. But this belief is dangerously misguided. We are sympathetic to the extraordinary challenge the president faces, but if we’ve learned anything at all two years into the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, it is that a capital-markets system this dependent on public confidence is a shockingly inadequate foundation upon which to rest our economy.

  8. cometman permalink*
    June 8, 2009 9:34 am

    Greg Palast smells a rat in the GM bankruptcy:

    Screw the autoworkers.

    They may be crying about General Motors’ bankruptcy today. But dumping 40,000 of the last 60,000 union jobs into a mass grave won’t spoil Jamie Dimon’s day.

    Dimon is the CEO of JP Morgan Chase bank. While GM workers are losing their retirement health benefits, their jobs, their life savings; while shareholders are getting zilch and many creditors getting hosed, a few privileged GM lenders – led by Morgan and Citibank – expect to get back 100% of their loans to GM, a stunning $6 billion.

    The way these banks are getting their $6 billion bonanza is stone cold illegal.

    I smell a rat.

    Stevie the Rat, to be precise. Steven Rattner, Barack Obama’s ‘Car Czar’ – the man who essentially ordered GM into bankruptcy this morning.

    When a company goes bankrupt, everyone takes a hit: fair or not, workers lose some contract wages, stockholders get wiped out and creditors get fragments of what’s left. That’s the law. What workers don’t lose are their pensions (including old-age health funds) already taken from their wages and held in their name.

    But not this time. Stevie the Rat has a different plan for GM: grab the pension funds to pay off Morgan and Citi.

    Here’s the scheme: Rattner is demanding the bankruptcy court simply wipe away the money GM owes workers for their retirement health insurance. Cash in the insurance fund would be replaced by GM stock. The percentage may be 17% of GM’s stock – or 25%. Whatever, 17% or 25% is worth, well … just try paying for your dialysis with 50 shares of bankrupt auto stock.

    Yet Citibank and Morgan, says Rattner, should get their whole enchilada – $6 billion right now and in cash – from a company that can’t pay for auto parts or worker eye exams.

    We’ve talked about this here and the autoworkers taking common stock is pretty obviously a raw deal especially as the stock may turn out to be worthless. But Palast explains that it is also illegal and is basically just bankers raiding the worker’s pension fund. How this was forced on the workers with barely a peep made against it is beyond me.

  9. cometman permalink*
    June 8, 2009 10:09 am

    Ran across this article from The Daily Reckoning about Bernanke having to eventually just start printing money via a link at Zero Hedge and thought it was pretty good:

    “Either cuts in spending or increases in taxes will be necessary to stabilize the fiscal situation,” said Ben Bernanke in response to a question posed by a member of Congress. Then, he added…

    “The Federal Reserve will not monetize the debt.”

    That last sentence has a ring to it. It reminds us of Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” Surely, it is destined to make its way into the history books, alongside Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” and the builder of the Titanic’s “even God himself couldn’t sink this ship.”

    Monetizing the debt is precisely what the Fed will do. But it will not do so precisely. Instead, it will act clumsily…reluctantly…incompetently…accidentally…and finally, catastrophically.

    ~snip~

    Which is WHY the Fed will eventually monetize the debt. “Monetizing” debt, by the way, is larceny on the grandest scale. Rather than honestly repaying what it has borrowed, a government merely prints up extra currency and uses it to pay its loans. The debt is “monetized”…transformed into an increase in the money supply, thereby lowering the purchasing power of everybody’s savings.

    Poked around the site a little and found some other pretty good articles, including another funny commencement address called Class of ’09: You’re Screwed.

    But here’s the weird thing – if you check their list of contributors and click on the links in the special report section for each one, it leads to a bunch of get rich quick schemes. The content on the site seems pretty legitimate so I don’t know why they’d have links like that. What do you make of it? Do you think like many other sites they just took whatever advertising they could get?

  10. Stemella permalink*
    June 9, 2009 7:39 am

    CIA Urges Judge To Keep Bush-Era Documents Sealed

    The Obama administration objected yesterday to the release of certain Bush-era documents that detail the videotaped interrogations of CIA detainees at secret prisons, arguing to a federal judge that doing so would endanger national security and benefit al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts.

    In an affidavit, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta defended the classification of records describing the contents of the 92 videotapes, their destruction by the CIA in 2005 and what he called “sensitive operational information” about the interrogations.

    The forced disclosure of such material to the American Civil Liberties Union “could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security by informing our enemies of what we knew about them, and when, and in some instances, how we obtained the intelligence we possessed,” Panetta argued.

    snip

    Panetta also said he wanted to emphasize that his request was “in no way driven by a desire to prevent embarrassment for the U.S. government or the CIA, or to suppress evidence of any unlawful conduct.” He said his only purpose was to prevent harm to U.S. national security and to protect intelligence sources and methods.

    yeah, right, Panetta.

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