Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Stanislaw Lem 1921-2006... and every vector dreams of matrices

/ obituaries / Lem /
A brilliant author, a sui generis visionary. A sci-fi Borges some say. Stanislaw Lem was a cherished favorite, his memory safely perserved, coded in the orbit of Solaris, implied in Ijon Tichy's unpredictability and programmed into the Electronic Bard's poetry:

Love and Tensor Algebra from the Cyberiad:

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustum longs to be a cone
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not - for what then shall remain?
Abscissas some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
the product of four scalars it defines!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a^2 cos 2 phi!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

French unrest blogged

/ uprisings / blogged /
The French youth along with the unions by their protests and actions have shown that France remains a society of active citizens not easily taken in by the neoliberal hogwash. The linked blog provides english language information and commentary on the events as they unfold.

If your sources for these events are the English language financial press, I would suggest you take a look at the thorough debunking of the myths circulating about the French economy and the recent demonstrations done by Jerome over at the European Tribune (this is the latest - previous).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Welcome to Liberated Iraq

/ liberty as death /
Dr. Entissar Mohammad Ariabi, a pharmacist from Yarmook Hospital went to the US to talk about what's really happening in Iraq, three years after the invasion, from her experience as someone who works in one of the largest hospitals in Iraq. Her testimony is truly horrific and infuriating, as it points to a willful (and murderous) mismanagement for the sake of profiteering, that defies any sort of ethics, apart from the deadly toll of an already immensely murderous campaign:

After our hospitals were bombed and looted, millions of dollars were given to contractors to repair them. We suggested that this money be used to buy things that we urgently need, but the contractors refused and instead bought furniture and flowers and superficial things. Meanwhile, we suffer from a critical shortage of medicines, emergency supplies and anesthesia, and there is no sterilization in the operation rooms. As the director of the pharmacy department in my hospital, I refused to sit on a new chair while there were no sterile operating rooms.

And confirms that the health situation in the country is even worse than it was under the UN sanctions:

Diseases that were under control under the regime of Saddam Hussein, diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, polio, have now returned to haunt the population, especially the children. Death due to cancer has increased because treatment programs stopped and medicines are not available. The health of the Iraqi people is also devastated by environmental contamination due to the destruction of our water and sewage systems.

The health of women, particularly pregnant women, has deteriorated. Many pregnant women suffer from malnutrition. When it comes time to give birth, many women prefer to give birth at home because they fear being shot on their way to the hospital and they know the bad conditions in the hospitals. As a result, more women are dying in childbirth, and more babies are dying.

Before the occupation, with all the problems we had under sanctions, Iraq ranked number 80 in the worldwide list of deaths of children under 5. Today, we have jumped up to number 36. UNICEF has said that the rate of severe malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since the occupation.

So it seems that when the occupation forces are not busy killing six-month-old infants and two-year-old children with their own hands, they are spreading death much more efficiently through institutionalized negligence.

Three years ago, as the US armed forces invaded Iraq, creating what was an easily predictable catastrophe in an already ravaged land, millions of people world wide demonstrated against the intervention, sensing (I suspect) directly or indirectly that this would be the opening act of a much larger campaign of recolonisation and of war. In the process the ethos of the US government was demonstrated in the killing fields of Fallujah, in Abu Ghraib and in the myriads of theatres of the most horrendous violence and repression, already far beyond what Saddam would have been able to inflict on his own country. The net result is a brewing low intensity civil war in Iraq, that threatens at any moment to erupt on a grander scale, coupled with unfathomable destruction and looting by the partners of the Bush regime - a gang of kleptocrats that would put Yeltsin to shame. The mantra that if the occupation forces leave now the situation will only become worse, is tired already and will possibly become a self-fulfilling prophecy if they are not removed now, but are rather left to watch over a civil war whose flames they can only fan. The only reasonable chance that Iraq has of avoiding a total civil war is immediate negotiated withdrawal of occupation forces now.

As we speak it seems possible that the same crew of warmongers is preparing the ground for an attack on Iran which, most rational people would agree, will create an even more deadly and dangerous world. In this event anti-war demonstrations are not enough. Any government which chooses to ride the Bush bandwagon should be brought down by demonstrations, strikes, and every imaginable sort of campaign. This is not only for the sake of the people of Iran (for whom an aerial attack on nuclear facilities will be a disaster of immense scale), but for the sake of our own lives and the lives of our children.