November 24th, 2012 § 3 comments

And so it goes on. But I forgot to include a poem yesterday. (My own ‘poems’ are to come, if I can retrieve them from the archives.) So there had better be two today, and here’s one:

A Poison Tree (William Blake)

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water’d it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veil’d the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.


So, what is it about drones? They are suddenly everywhere in the news, as the favoured weapon of the Obama administration in Pakistan, in Yemen, and in Somalia. They are described as ‘surgically accurate’ (does that ring any bells?) – for comments on the claim see here. And yet, there is a point which has something to do with mathematics. It is true that old-fashioned artillery was always unselective about who was hit, and ‘carpet bombing’ Vietnam style even worse. Drones seem to offer a technology where you can be sure you are killing the right man, and this depends on (highly mathematical) remote recognition and guidance systems – such as GPS. The ‘operator’ is in control throughout the flight, says the literature; According to Human Rights Watch’s account (p.4), ‘if a last-second doubt arises about a target, the drone operator can use the missile’s remote guidance system to divert the fired missile, steering the missile away from the target with a joystick’.

But, notoriously, it doesn’t work quite like that. The mathematical precision, which can undoubtedly be described, isn’t ‘surgical’; and the idea of precision in the weapons is used to stifle concerns about them and how they are used.Mathematics – you’d better get used to this idea – isn’t nearly as often exact as its users would like you to think. In the one case where you’d expect a thorough investigation (‘friendly fire’, or two deaths of US servicemen), there is an investigation which gives some idea of what can go wrong. There’s no such machinery in place for Pakistanis who are hit by mistake.

This, as you can see, is only the beginning of a larger investigation into mathematical accuracy and objectivity, who uses them, and for what. How exciting!

For a good 66-page read on the subject, with references, if you have the time, look at the Stanford/NYU report.

Haven’t had time to report on today’s wet Gaza march – tomorrow hopefully.

Pauk Klee, ‘At the Boulevard in Tunisia’, 1918
Today’s music: ‘Take Five‘ (I really can’t justify my selections but does any dj?)
and as a treat extra: Super Mario Bros played on the oud.
Poem 2:
In Jerusalem: Mahmoud Darwish

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,

I walk from one epoch to another without a memory

to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing

the history of the holy . . . ascending to heaven

and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love

and peace are holy and are coming to town.

I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How

do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?

Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?

I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see

no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.

All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly

then I become another. Transfigured. Words

sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger

mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t believe.”

I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white

biblical rose. And my hands like two doves

on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.

I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,

transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?

I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I

think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad

spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”

Then what? A woman soldier shouted:

Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?

I said: You killed me . . . and I forgot, like you, to die.

§ 3 Responses to DAY 5"

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