DAY 23

January 20th, 2013 § 2 comments

Since a blog is, I suppose, a message to the world (Hello, world!), can I ask any of you who have seen my copy of

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (Gregory Peck, above, but I mean the book, not the film), to return it – I hadn’t finished with it. How do you virtually return a book? I hadn’t thought of that. Post a comment, with a suggestion. Thanks.

On (or back) to a different topic; forgetfulness. remember Fallujah? It seems to me that it’s easier to remember war crimes of thirty years ago than the more recent ones; in fact, there was a great deal that I’d never known about the two battles of Fallujah in 2004 (April and November), and I found a helpful retrospective on the ‘toxic effects’ by Patrick Cockburn from two years back. There’s a great deal I learned from a meeting on ‘torture, drones, and detention’ last week (warning! if you click the link you get an audio file of a 1 1/2 hour meeting); but most particularly, that the US army kept detailed ‘biometric records’ – iris scans and fingerprints etc. – on everyone in Fallujah, and put them on ID cards which you had to carry to enter or leave the surrounded city, now half destroyed. Since when the database as been extended to 3 million Iraqis or ’10 percent of the population’.

Fallujah, 2004

On ‘leaving’ Iraq, which they have now supposedly done, the US started worrying that the data might get into the ‘wrong hands’, who might use it for purposes less ethical than neo-imperialist population control – e.g. settling old scores. So – the story is told – they took it off with them to West Virginia, where it now resides. (See this article.)

At which point the realist in this blog starts worrying about practicalities: How many kilobytes are there in one person’s biometric profile? What kind of a file is it? If you have three million of them and you want to shift them from Baghdad to Arlington, do you store them on one or several CDs (notoriously easy to leave in a taxi), or on the hard drive of a computer? Do you have to compress them first, perhaps using a lossy codec (say onto an MP3) which would risk losing you precisely the bits of data you needed and get a bad guy and a good guy confused? I don’t envy the US Army filekeepers their job.

The blog will return later – maybe much later – to the mathematical basis of iris scans and their (un)reliability, etc etc. The whole idea of this database is a) Orwellian, as everyone says and b) surreal. The author who could best do it justice is probably Borges.

To change the subject for a moment: a poem by Marianne Moore: ‘Feed me Also, River God’:

Lest by diminished vitality and abated 
   vigilance, I become food for crocodiles—for that quicksand 
   of gluttony which is legion. It is there close at hand—
      on either side 
      of me. You remember the Israelites who said in pride 

and stoutness of heart: "The bricks are fallen down, we will 
   build with hewn stone, the sycamores are cut down, we will 
   change to cedars"? I am not ambitious to dress stones, to 
      renew forts, nor to match 
      my value in action, against their ability to catch 

up with arrested prosperity. I am not like 
   them, indefatigable, but if you are a god, you will 
   not discriminate against me. Yet—if you may fulfill 
      none but prayers dressed 
      as gifts in return for your gifts—disregard the request.

I’ve been meaning for ever to give you a Billie Holiday track; and the snow (as she says, a good excuse), gives a chance, with the classic ‘It’s Easy to Blame the Weather‘. Keep warm – it’s cold in the resistance camp in the E1 zone.


§ 2 Responses to DAY 23"

  • James734 says:

    Composed again, perched at a table no paper, no pen but a laptop, what new developments of the digital age, how many new things does one have to learn in a day? Sky is not working again, might have to call the technician for help with sending signals to the black box perched on the table with a proud cat at the end. I rather play guitar and have Iranian beer and let things be ok, but the fact is I could decay with tiredness and support needed for my next essay, to reassure my mind at that church where I pray, that maybe soon ill have my way not be down and out with debts unpaid, so I can find a job that suits my trade, and be happy at the end with the rare earnings to find my way.

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