Archive for July, 2009


Thursday, July 30th, 2009

2009, 36″ x 37″ x 2″, oil paint and rhinestones on wood (click on image for enlargement)


Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Just  short note on the republican “birther” movement.

I can’t think of anything that quite reaches the plateau of absurdity in the history of American polemics, that this issue raises. There is really nothing comparable to this notion that the president of the United States has somehow managed to circumvented all procedural qualifications and is actually an alien posing as president.

There is only one explanation capable of defining such a state of affairs and that would be that a significant number of people can’t actually believe that a black man, Barack Obama is indeed the president of the United States – and the obvious matter of fact perception that he is a real person, in the White House, giving interviews, and press conferences – a mental template to the contrary, regardless of how absurd, must be invented in order to sop up and absorb all the disbelief in order to reinvent it into new some alchemical vestige of political capital born from frustration and failure. I don’t know who thinks this shit up, but there must be a demented think tank full of wet lipped wide eyed and sweaty palmed desperado’s out there in a cave somewhere  conjuring up such fantastical explanations. The fact that it also has invaded the corporate media as a legitimate talking point only serves to emphasize  that this also serves the powers that be, and is a demonstration of how desperate they really are.

a-counting and d-counting in the big empty

Friday, July 24th, 2009

2009, 28″ x 30″ x 2″, oil paint on wood (click on image for enlargement)

(fences#8) corral o.k.

Friday, July 24th, 2009

2009, 14″ x 14″ x 2″, oil on wood (click on image for enlargement)

unsustainability and escalation

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

A post by Newshoggers on THIS McClatchy article figures into another factoid of the unreality currently underway in Afghanistan. It concerns the costs of General McChrystal’s plans to increase the size of the Afghanistan military and police:

Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is considering his nomination to lead U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, suggested that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is likely to cost American taxpayers and NATO member nations billions of dollars for many years.

The Afghan National Army is now 86,000 strong, and the national police have 81,000 members. The U.S. military has said it wants to expand the Army to 134,000 and the police to 82,000 by the end of 2011. McChrystal said he plans to boost those figures, but said he won’t know by how much until he’s in Afghanistan.

However, maintaining and building the security forces to the current 2011 goals is estimated to cost roughly $4 billion a year, while Afghanistan’s economy generates only $800 million a year. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told McChrystal Tuesday that the U.S. would have to foot the bill for years.

“We are building an army they will never be able to afford,” a senior U.S. military official told McClatchy. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to reporters.

“Building an army they will never be able afford” belies even more reality. Especially considering that if we add in the 55,000 troops from 26 NATO countries,  the current total number of anti-Taliban troops in country now is only a few thousand more than the 2011 total of Afghan troops McCrystal is asking for. And by judging  how successful the “war” has been  going recently, this (current total number of troops) is not even enough troops to maintain that lowly status quo. What McChrystal seems to be banking (no euphemism) on is that the NATO countries will also elevate their troop numbers as well during the same period, thereby locking in an unsustainable  commitment from the U.S. and NATO on top of the unsustainable commitment of troops from the Afghan government. Which only serves to underline the baseline overall absurdity of the whole mission – that the collective GDP of Afghanistan cannot, and will never ever (even remotely)  be able to fund the political and military troop levels  from their own people necessary to achieve (or enforce) an acceptable political solution to their situation. While the U.S. and it’s NATO allies are in the process, creating a massive , bloody, and unsustainable dependency that has absolutely no chance of working.

the low drama of empty promise

Friday, July 10th, 2009

2008-9, 16″ x 28″ x 2″, oil paint and rhinestones on wood (click on image for enlargement)

behind (fences#4) i think i passed sun ra on the street the other day

Friday, July 10th, 2009

2008-9, 28″ x 27″ x 2″, oil paint and rhinestones on wood

alchemy in afghanistan

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Every once in a while an article by somebody comes up that acts to auger some fermenting and developing ideas both deeper into the mire of hopelessness, while presenting itself at the same time as a kind of revelation, sad is it might be. Just such an article comes from Mathew Parris, entitled; In the Fog, Remember: Victory is Impossible in Afghanistan. Perris, who apparently is back from a week long orientation at starship Bagram in Afghanistan is right out of the gate with the disclaimer stating:

It’s important not to understand. It’s important not to learn. In the total buggeration into which the world’s help for Afghanistan has now descended, it’s important not to know too much. Accept that somebody some day may understand, but it isn’t going to be you. Somebody some day may grab the Gordian knot and cut it, but it isn’t going to be us. Know only that. To know more is to know less.

Then moves directly to his revelation on what the whole exercise of the many briefings meant to him;

As I stared unfocused at my notes the acronyms swam forward, their small-print meanings swam away, and I saw only acronyms.

And in the meaninglessness I suddenly saw meaning. It is this. The entire operation is up its own bottom, lost in committees, strategies and initiatives. Forget what these monstrous letters stand for. Grasp, instead, the essential incoherence.


And further…

Acronyms are not the only refuge. Others lullaby their brains to sleep swathed in the acrylic blankets of a new language now suffocating the ministries, missions and shirt-sleeved development-wallahs in shiny white Toyota 4x4s: a hideous hybrid of NGO-speak, Whitehall-chic, political pap and military jargon . . .

“Across the piece”, “agent for change”, “alternative livelihoods”, “asymmetric means of operation”, “capability milestones”, “civilian surge”, “conditionality”, “demand- reduction”, “drivers of radicalisation”, “fixed-wing assets”, “fledgeling capabilities”, “injectors of risk”, “kinetic situation”, “licit livelihoods”, “light footprint”, “lily pads”, “messaging campaign”, “partnering- and-mentoring”, “capacity-building”, “strategic review”, “reconciliation and reintegration”, “rolling out a top-down approach”, “shake — clear — hold — build”, “upskilling”.

It’s so, so important not to understand the meaning but to hear the noise.

What Perris is saying in the most pedestrian of terms is, we’re not seeing the forest for the trees – all the talk of trees is designed not to characterize the forest but to keep talk of the forest occult. Which brings to mind what the story means when the metaphor is ratcheted a bit tighter, which is something that has invaded my own thinking on the subject for some time now (see artwork).

It seems that this last decade, we’ve been living in a dimension that can be best described as a modern day version of the age alchemy. Alchemy, as we know it, was a long and dark period when knowledge of the world began to separate itself from simple explanation and faith, with a new found promise in the pre-scientific notion of (what can only be described as a fuax) objectification. It held out the promise of radical transformation – that could not only turn lead into gold, but could also through cryptic language of metaphysics, create a “panacea” or an “elixor of life” that could cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely should the researcher be lucky enough to hold the answer to the arcane “philosophers stone”.

Could it be that the what drives the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan is the same belief in magical transformations and solutions veiled as they are in the modern high tech nomenclature of endless acronyms, special units, military and humanitarian jargon, and anthropological euphemisims be orchestrated much the same way as alchemy played upon the powers of old? Offering, as it were, the modern day variant of American exceptionalism as the elixor of life, as the transformational remedy to the worlds many problems. And to ultimately, impose itself upon the world (for its own sake) as the last remaining great hope for mankind – all of which is veiled in the manifest prowest of modern language, its neologisms, and its digital age technology, that will somehow herald a newfound philosophers stone that will charm tribal peoples in the Middle East to cast off their culture and history like a dead skin. And embrace post industrial western liberal lifestyle values when there is absolutely zero sustaining context, tradition, or reason to do so.

Unless of course all this liberal talk is just a cover for the more applicable Mexican drug lord version of alchemy – which is to confront the local authority with the proposition – ” would you prefer the lead, or the gold” . Or, as it would seem, the “abbreviated” version of alchemy.


Again, I feel the need to post Guy Debord #23:

“The root of the spectacle is that oldest of all social specializations, the specialization of power. The spectacle plays the specialized role of speaking in the name of all the other activities. It is hierarchical society’s ambassador to itself, delivering its official messages at a court where no one else is allowed to speak. The most modern aspect of the spectacle is thus also the most archaic.”

open thread

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

At Monolycus’ suggestion, I’ll post an open thread. I started this blog primarily to inventory my pictures, but then used it to write a few things when time and inclination demanded. I can’t moderate the discussion with regularity because of job/family/artwork,etc, but will try to keep up if anything should develop.

Robert Macnamara is dead

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Pat Lang has a short obit on Macnamara’s passing, (in part):

And then there was our war.  You know who you are.  This mathmatical prodigy had it all figured out.  He and his systems analysis and operations research “children” worked it all out on blackboards and primitive mainframe computers.   If there were enough “inputs,” then by a date certain, the “output” would be North Vietnamese surrender.  I have been told many times that the date certain produced as prediction by these methods arrived sometime in 1967 or 1968.  I forget which. I was told that before I left for Vietnam the first time.  The problem in his reasoning was that those little NVA buggers in green fatigues and fiber helmets were not calculating the costs and the benefits.  They gave it all, all they had, as many of us did.

And for what?  For what?  I hope God forgives Macnamara.  pl

I suppose if Macnamara was a reasonably devout  Christian, I’d have to give him a pass in that he did attempt some  atonement for his sins later in life. As recounted by Steve Hynd at Newsoggers:

We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.

We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience. We saw in them a thirst for – and a determination to fight for — freedom and democracy. We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.

We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values….

Our misjudgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders….No Southeast Asian [experts] existed for senior officials to consult when making decisions on Vietnam.

We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine in confronting unconventional, highly motivated people’s movements. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to …winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.

We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.

After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course … we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did….We had not prepared the public to understand the complex events we faced…confront[ing] uncharted seas and an alien environment. A nation’s deepest strength lies not in its military prowess, bur rather in the unity of its people. We failed to maintain it.

We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people’s or country’s best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.

We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action — other than in response to direct threats to our own national security – should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.

We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.

…We thus failed to analyze and debate our actions in Southeast Asia – our objectives, the risks and costs of alternative ways of dealing with them, and the necessity of changing course when failure was clear….

It’s to bad that none of these belated observations have been  undertaken or even appropriately acknowledged by  the U.S. foreign policy establishment. And instead have refuted all of his points under the new banner of COIN.

Some day (hopefully) all this quantification and quasi-objectification of the human body and mind in the interests and delusions of empire  will be seen as a long, misguided,  and dark period of alchemy – of trying to liberate a mystical little American buried deep in the bodies of a far away people.