Archive | March 2012

From “In Defence of Free Speech”

By Dr N. et al.

[…] Reasonable arguments cannot succeed here. Willetts is not interested in winning an argument of that kind; indeed he is not interested in argument in the way that you are interested in it at all: he simply does not esteem argument as you esteem it. He is interested in only one thing — in managing his policy through Whitehall. You can’t talk him out of it. Politicians are immune to having “flaws” in argument exposed: that just isn’t how argument appears to them to work, isn’t what they believe argument is for. They do not behave like academics in debate; they do not behave reasonably, and cannot be reasoned with. Willetts’ views, right down to his responses to sharp questions on policy, are well-known. The man hardly lacks a platform. Only the most cloth-eared participant in our higher-education culture could be unaware of Willetts’ arguments, and only the most staringly loyal tory squire would be unable to mount his own description of its egregious opportunism, myopia, and chauvinism. His policy will not change: it’s not like a research paper which we can subject to an especially swingeing peer-review. There is no super-sophisticated, high-level, “interdisciplinary” argument which we can deploy to change his heart. To entertain such fantasies is vain and self-deceiving […] I can only suppose that such fantasies vibrated in the minds of those behind the invitation which CRASSH extended to this person.

PDF pamphlet.
Original context: statement from Jeremy Prynne & discussion thread.
Sections of the goatscape: Ian Patterson in the LRB | Alice Jones in the Independent | Matt Russell (Varsity) on rustication protest | Rees Arnott-Davies in The Guardian


From “A Discourse on Vegetation & Motion”

By Frances Kruk.

today I paint them
in the Image of a flying Head
that knows the Desire
to live is a political Decision:
I guarantee the hard Mother
of Braegen will slaughter Boredom,
I do promise that Fabric will sicken,
will damage all Spectators


today the Penalty is Self

Rectum flickers Gulag,
is Mudfuckery
is a riveting Read
The Reek of old Purse comes
from Musk of Cathedrals only kept
for Nostalgia & Emergency

Self damns Itself
needs no other Fury
no external Superstition

From “A Discourse on Vegetation & Motion”

today I wank the Fact
I got Perfume
from working hard
for Sex is bound for Trouble
like the Fluff of Gender
before Pube-shave

Grout Note (1/2)

When filler words like um and uh and er rise in frequency, it can be a sign that something difficult is being talked about.  (Er-cancer was the ur-cancer, etc.).  But words like um and uh and er are fairly uncommon in difficult poetry.

If this just indicates that two different types of difficulty are involved, what does the specific disanalogy say about what they actually are?  Or if not, why do few difficult poems contain fillers?

Where do fillers normally appear?  Firstly, more or less corralled in their proper language.  In Portuguese, é and hum are common. Also. (1) The usual uh purpose of fillers is to “hold on” to the speaker’s “turn” (see note A) – to indicate that they intend to carry on talking (in my case, forever), although at the moment the filler rolls out, the speaker presumably isn’t quite ready to continue.  (2) Provoking that very presumption – with or without real intent to fool the audience – can be a kind of ancillary purpose of fillers.  In other words, the speaker might say “um” not because they need a moment to think, but because they want to mark what follows as that which uh characteristically would have been preceded by a moment’s thought.  Such heralded utterances are often especially apt (because chosen with care) and/or especially inapt (because chosen as a compromise, what feels like a next best option).  (See notes B, C & D).


Note A: Holding on to the speaker’s turn – it’s worth mentioning that some fillers slip into speech which would otherwise sound pauselessly fluent.  This might indicate an especially firm grip on the turn.  I can also imagine it indicating language which is only very slightly behind schedule.  “We’re expecting the verb any – in fact here she is now!  May I present: reshoogle.”

Note B: A next best option.  The unavailability of the implied better option is unavoidable in various degrees and with various presumptions.

Note C: Some speakers, BTW, may sharply differentiate for long periods between, for instance, “um” and “uh.”  In an example I noticed, “um” was much more emphatically indexed to inclusion of the listener’s (as it happened in this guy’s eyes totally fucking preposterous) expectations; “uh” evidenced personal semantic struggle.

Note D: and/or inapt.  The filler may be in league with an ensuing ardently apt / half-heartedly inapt tone.  But to me the more interesting case is when it is not: then it’s like the aptness spectrum has swollen, without ceteris paribus a spot having been selected along it.

From “Public Management Reform”

By Christopher Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert

The relationship between poltics, public management, and public opinion is a contentious area, and one in which systemic data are at best patchy. Having made these caveats, we will attempt to draw out a few broad propositions from the evidence advanced above.

First, public management reforms have altered the relationships between elected and appointed officials, in a number of countries and in a number of ways. In this sense, at least, they are not ‘neutral’. It seems likely that these changes have been greatest in the core NPM countries, somewhat less in the northern group of European countries, and smallest in the central European group. Second, there is an absence of convincing evidence concerning the willingness or ability of executive politicians to become the the ‘strategic managers’ of their portfolios. The kindest thing that could be said about the reform models that cast politicians in such roles would be that they are unproven and seem to fly in the face of known incentives to behave in a more traditional ‘political’ fashion. Third, managers do appear to have gained extra authority in a number of ways but at the same time political control has been vigorously reasserted in many of the twelve countries. There is no necessary contradiction between these two developments – the public sector is large and diverse enough for both to be happening at the same time. In specific cases, however, there may be a quite definite tension. Fourth, any suggestion that public management can be radically depoliticized […] is either a misunderstanding or flies in the face of evidence from many countries. The allocation of, say, health care resources or decisions about educational standards or major public infrastructure projects are all inherently ‘political’ decisions, whether they are taken by powerful politicians or tough public managers (or, indeed, medical doctors or teachers). The public will often see the political authority as ultimately responsible – or, at least, sharing responsibility – however much ministers may protest that these are technical or professional decisions which have been taken by the appropriate officials. Fifth, there is a certain ambiguity in much of the rhetoric around strengthening accountability and increasing transparency, in so far as the executive politicians have used the new politics/administration split to redefine policy weaknesses as managerial failures. This enables political leaders to shuffle off direct responsibilities for things going wrong – or, at least, to try to. Furthermore, it appears that legislatures have been slow to take up and use the increased flow of performance data which greater transparency and the contemporary emphasis on outputs and outcomes afford. […] one might say that even when a ‘real result’ manages to climb over the conceptual, methodological, and political barriers, and escapes into the wider public world, it is often left wandering around looking for an audience. Sixth, few of the specific reforms appear to have been undertaken in direct response to ‘public opinion’ – although some such rationale has quite often been claimed. Privatization, the introduction of market mechanisms, downsizing, and the promotion of PI systems are the products of elite, not popular, agendas (even if public opinion has subsequently accepted some of these innovations and begun to make use of them). The sector of greatest tension would appear to be the welfare state, the basic elements of which remain enduringly popular in most countries but the expense of which inevitably draws it into the line of fire of the cost-cutters and downsizers […] Seventh, any simple picture of public opinion as being ‘for’ or ‘against’ ‘big government’ is misleading. Such evidence as is available shows that, however limited the public’s knowledge may be of the specifics of reform, popluar attitudes towards government are multifaceted and, in some respects, quite sophisticated.