New Hampshire

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary clinic. As she placed her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird’s chest. After a moment or two, the vet shook his head sadly and said, “I’m so sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away.”

The distressed owner wailed, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure. The duck is dead,” he replied.

“How can you be so sure?” she protested. “I mean, you haven’t done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something”.

The vet rolled his eyes, then turned round and left the room, and returned a few moments later with a black Labrador. The duck’s owner looked on in amazement as the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head. The vet patted the dog and took it out, returning a few moments later with a cat.

The cat jumped up on the table and also sniffed delicately at the duck from head to foot. The cat sat back on his haunches, shook its head, mewed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the woman and said, “I’m sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely a dead duck”.

Then the vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman.

The duck’s owner, still in shock, took the bill. “$150!” she cried.

The vet shrugged. “I’m sorry. If you had taken my word for it, the bill would have been $50, but I had to add more for the the lab report and cat scan.

Take our word for it: Carson, Christie, Fiorina, ¿JEB? & Kasich are all dead ducks.

New Hampshire

Au Courant

This week’s au courant links, après Flint le déluge edition:

And finally, what the sullen, well dressed bulimic will be wearing this Spring:

Au Courant

Show 1 footnote

  1. Which means the population in Oklahoma, as just one example, may be declining over the next generation. And, of course, the costs of fracking don’t stop there: Wichita, KS, is still trying to figure out how much damage to its public buildings the man-made Oklahoma earthquakes will cost its citizens. Don’t be surprised to see earthquakes-from-fracking lawsuits in the future for damage caused across state lines.

Empty Cities

Unborn Chinese Cities

The Kangbashi District of Ordos, China is a marvel of urban planning, 137-square miles of shining towers, futuristic architecture and pristine parks carved out of the grassland of Inner Mongolia. It is a thoroughly modern city, but for one thing: No one lives there.

…Kangbashi is one of hundreds of sparkling new cities sitting relatively empty throughout China, built by a government eager to urbanize the country but shunned by people unable to afford it or hesitant to leave the rural communities they know. Chicago photographer Kai Caemmerer visited Kangbashi and two other cities for his ongoing series Unborn Cities. The photos capture the eerie sensation of standing on a silent street surrounded by empty skyscrapers and public spaces devoid of life…

Empty Cities

Two Siderism

WASHINGTON — Cable customers who are tired of paying through the nose to rent set-top boxes are about to see some serious savings, thanks to a new proposal from the Federal Communications Commission.

The new regulation would open up the set-top box market to consumer choice so that customers could rent or buy devices from providers other than their cable companies. About 99 percent of cable customers currently rent set-top boxes from their cable company. According to a survey commissioned by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), cable customers pay an average of $232 a year for those rentals — a $20 billion market annually, just for set-top box rentals…

…Cable companies and their lobbyists are furious about the plan, which the commission is set to vote on Feb. 18. But the proposal didn’t emerge from a vacuum. Liberal senators have been pressuring the FCC to act on cable “monopolies” for months. In July, current Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) organized a letter calling on the agency to collect a host of consumer pricing information from cable companies — a move designed to show that in many regions of the country, households pay arbitrarily high prices due to a lack of other cable options. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Markey and Blumenthal all signed on to the letter.

In a blatant attempt at two siderism, Hillary once told the banks to “cut it out.”

Two Siderism

Lees and Orts

Our Friend’s girls’ school, Académie Lafayette, recently instituted a finger scanning system to better track attendance and lunches.

The emphasis on finger scanning (as opposed to finger prints) is deliberate: the software AL purchased identifies and stores only random points generated from a child’s prints, NOT the prints themselves: finger prints are never entered into the system. When that child next passes their finger over the scanner, the software lugs through its database until it finds the right points and…voilà!

Our Friend has mentioned that while most parents are fine with the system, there are some who refuse to have their children’s fingers scanned. Because…Luddites! 1

Undoubtedly these fine folk have also taken steps to assure their children’s’ social security numbers have not been compromised, as well as have taken great care to avoid buying sexist dolls with relaxed moral sensibilities, not to mention the rabid toy bears available everywhere.

Lees and Orts

German scientists today will conduct an experiment that’s much safer than playing with kid’s toys: they intend to heat up hydrogen until it equals the exact same temperature as the center of the sun.

What could possibly go wrong there?

Lees and Orts

Liz CheneyAs if a mere month into the year there has not been enough political idiocy, comes now Liz Cheney to announce her candidacy for a Wyoming state office…from Virginia.

It’s got to drive her daddy crazy, watching Liz use the same election strategy as Hillary. [.2 Especially since she’s doing it so poorly.]

Lees and Orts
The poisoning of Flint, MI, is –at the least– a future educational nightmare.

To put this in context, 0.3 to 0.6 standard deviations [in test scores] is huge: if an [educational] intervention yields a 0.05 standard deviation change, that’s considered a success.

If this effect carries over to a test like the NAEP, the effects become even worse. The effects of lead poisoning are close to the low-income/non-low income difference or the black-white difference, which are typically around 0.67 standard deviations.

State-wide in Michigan, the median learning-disabled child is a full standard deviation below the median non-disabled child (1.03 to be precise) on eighth grade math if the child is low-income; if not, the median learning-disabled child is one and one third standard deviations below the below the median non-disabled child.

If we assume that lead poisoning lowers test scores by 0.5 standard deviations–and given the massive poisoning in Flint (this isn’t just air pollution or eating flakes of paint–it was in the water) that doesn’t seem unreasonable, what this means is that [students with] learning disabilities, rather than being ten to fifteen percent of the student population (using the median learning-disabled score as a cutoff) would be twenty to thirty percent of the student population.

The NYT weighs in:

Bilal Tawwab, the superintendent of the city school system, said that one school nurse serves the 5,400 students in the district, but that he hoped some of the money flowing into Flint might help open health centers in every school.

He also hoped to make prekindergarten available to every 4-year-old — spaces are limited — and to hire more experienced teachers for special education.

“That’s the piece that keeps me up at night,” he said. “It costs almost double to educate a student with special needs. And our wages, our salaries, are so low.”

How is it an angry mob has not yet lynched Michigan governor Rick Snyder?

Lees and Orts

While stuck in Taco Bell’s drive-thru —Taco Party Pack!– last evening Asta Jr. inquired whether Ted Cruz would be really good for America (as Ms. Spencer, her English teacher, asserted) or if he would stone our culture back to a 16th century theocracy? I mean, she seemed really worried about it.

I assured her that America’s Christian population is in decline, with the foam-at-the-mouth evangelicals dropping as well, so that even should Thor completely abandon mankind and allow Cruz to become the GOP nominee, his i.) lack of enough “base” votes, combined with ii.) the rest of an appalled America dead set against him, would easily lose Cruz the general election.

And that seemed to suffice. However, it did evade the larger question – what would Cruz attempt to do?

The answer is easy enough: Cruz would want to lead the nation backwards into religious slavery. And I know this because of part of his victory speech on Monday night. I’ve posted it below, complete with informative links of his backers. If you can get through those without shuddering…well, more power to you.

TED CRUZ (R-TX): And let me say our leadership team, our Iowa state chairman, Matt Shultz, what an extraordinary job. You have done organizing a grass roots army, and let me say to our Iowa state director, Brian English, what an amazing job Brian has done. And to our national co-chairman, Bob Vander Plaats and Steve King, these men have become dear and trusted friends. They are warriors. They are men of principle. They stand and speak the truth. They stand to defend their values and let me tell you, these leaders, day after day, week after week, have been crawling under broken glass with knives between their teeth. I’m grateful for the support, the early support of my friend Steve Deace. We’re grateful for the over 150 pastors across the state of Iowa, who joined our team to energize people of faith. We’re grateful to the state senators, to the state representatives, to the volunteer leaders in each of the 99 counties who stood up and said we will be heard and this will be decided by the grassroots. And then, I am so grateful to national leaders, people like Dr. James Dobson, and Tony Perkins, and Phil Robertson, and Governor Rick Perry, and Glenn Beck. Leaders who have stood and led, bringing together and coalescing conservatives here in Iowa and all across the country.

Lees and Orts

Show 1 footnote

  1. Also…it occurs to us that most of these same people would have voted for either The Donald or The Canuck. We’re just sayin’…

Intellectuals and Power

MICHEL FOUCAULT: A Maoist once said to me: “I can easily understand Sartre’s purpose in siding with us; I can understand his goals and his involvement in politics; I can partially understand your position, since you’ve always been concerned with the problem of confinement. But Deleuze is an enigma.” I was shocked by this statement because your position has always seemed particularly clear to me.

GILLES DELEUZE: Possibly we’re in the process of experiencing a new relationship between theory and practice. At one time, practice was considered an application of theory, a consequence; at other times, it bad an opposite sense and it was thought to inspire theory, to be indispensable for the creation of future theoretical forms. In any event, their relationship was understood in terms of a process of totalisation. For us, however, the question is seen in a different light. The relationships between theory and practice are far more partial and fragmentary. on one side, a theory is always local and related to a limited field, and it is applied in another sphere, more or less distant from it. The relationship which holds in the application of a theory is never one of resemblance. Moreover, from the moment a theory moves into its proper domain, it begins to encounter obstacles, walls, and blockages which require its relay by another type of discourse (it is through this other discourse that it eventually passes to a different domain). Practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall. For example, your work began in the theoretical analysis of the context of confinement, specifically with respect to the psychiatric asylum within a capitalist society in the nineteenth century. Then you became aware of the necessity for confined individuals to speak for themselves, to create a relay (it’s possible, on the contrary, that your function was already that of a relay in relation to them); and this group is found in prisons — these individuals are imprisoned. It was on this basis that You organised the information group for prisons (G.I.P.)(1), the object being to create conditions that permit the prisoners themselves to speak. It would be absolutely false to say, as the Maoist implied, that in moving to this practice you were applying your theories. This was not an application; nor was it a project for initiating reforms or an enquiry in the traditional sense. The emphasis was altogether different: a system of relays within a larger sphere, within a multiplicity of parts that are both theoretical and practical. A theorising intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness. Those who act and struggle are no longer represented, either by a group or a union that appropriates the right to stand as their conscience. Who speaks and acts? It is always a multiplicity, even within the person who speaks and acts. All of us are “groupuscules.”(2) Representation no longer exists; there’s only action-theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.

FOUCAULT: It seems to me that the political involvement of the intellectual was traditionally the product of two different aspects of his activity: his position as an intellectual in bourgeois society, in the system of capitalist production and within the ideology it produces or imposes (his exploitation, poverty, rejection, persecution, the accusations of subversive activity, immorality, etc); and his proper discourse to the extent that it revealed a particular truth, that it disclosed political relationships where they were unsuspected. These two forms of politicisation did not exclude each other, but, being of a different order, neither did they coincide. Some were classed as “outcasts” and others as “socialists.” During moments of violent reaction on the part of the authorities, these two positions were readily fused: after 1848, after the Commune, after 1940. The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes. The intellectual spoke the truth to those who had yet to see it, in the name of those who were forbidden to speak the truth: he was conscience, consciousness, and eloquence. In the most recent upheaval (3) the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need him to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are certainly capable of expressing themselves. But there exists a system of power which blocks, prohibits, and invalidates this discourse and this knowledge, a power not only found in the manifest authority of censorship, but one that profoundly and subtly penetrates an entire societal network. Intellectuals are themselves agents of this system of power-the idea of their responsibility for “consciousness” and discourse forms part of the system. The intellectual’s role is no longer to place himself “somewhat ahead and to the side” in order to express the stifled truth of the collectivity; rather, it is to struggle against the forms of power that transform him into its object and instrument in the sphere of “knowledge,” “truth,” “consciousness,” and “discourse. “(4)

In this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. But it is local and regional, as you said, and not totalising. This is a struggle against power, a struggle aimed at revealing and undermining power where it is most invisible and insidious. It is not to “awaken consciousness” that we struggle (the masses have been aware for some time that consciousness is a form of knowledge; and consciousness as the basis of subjectivity is a prerogative of the bourgeoisie), but to sap power, to take power; it is an activity conducted alongside those who struggle for power, and not their illumination from a safe distance. A “theory ” is the regional system of this struggle.

DELEUZE: Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (who then ceases to be a theoretician), then the theory is worthless or the moment is inappropriate. We don’t revise a theory, but construct new ones; we have no choice but to make others. It is strange that it was Proust, an author thought to be a pure intellectual, who said it so clearly: treat my book as a pair of glasses directed to the outside; if they don’t suit you, find another pair; I leave it to you to find your own instrument, which is necessarily an investment for combat. A theory does not totalise; it is an instrument for multiplication and it also multiplies itself. It is in the nature of power to totalise and it is your position. and one I fully agree with, that theory is by nature opposed to power. As soon as a theory is enmeshed in a particular point, we realise that it will never possess the slightest practical importance unless it can erupt in a totally different area. This is why the notion of reform is so stupid and hypocritical. Either reforms are designed by people who claim to be representative, who make a profession of speaking for others, and they lead to a division of power, to a distribution of this new power which is consequently increased by a double repression; or they arise from the complaints and demands of those concerned. This latter instance is no longer a reform but revolutionary action that questions (expressing the full force of its partiality) the totality of power and the hierarchy that maintains it. This is surely evident in prisons: the smallest and most insignificant of the prisoners’ demands can puncture Pleven’s pseudoreform (5). If the protests of children were heard in kindergarten, if their questions were attended to, it would be enough to explode the entire educational system. There is no denying that our social system is totally without tolerance; this accounts for its extreme fragility in all its aspects and also its need for a global form of repression. In my opinion, you were the first-in your books and in the practical sphere-to teach us something absolutely fundamental: the indignity of speaking for others. Pe ridiculed representation and said it was finished, but we failed to draw the consequences of this “theoretical” conversion-to appreciate the theoretical fact that only those directly concerned can speak in a practical way on their own behalf.

FOUCAULT: And when the prisoners began to speak, they possessed an individual theory of prisons, the penal system, and justice. It is this form of discourse which ultimately matters, a discourse against power, the counter-discourse of prisoners and those we call delinquents-and not a theory about delinquency. The problem of prisons is local and marginal: not more than 100,000 people pass through prisons in a year. In France at present, between 300,000 and 400,000 have been to prison. Yet this marginal problem seems to disturb everyone. I was surprised that so many who had not been to prison could become interested in its problems, surprised that all those who bad never heard the discourse of inmates could so easily understand them. How do we explain this? Isn’t it because, in a general way, the penal system is the form in which power is most obviously seen as power? To place someone in prison, to confine him to deprive him of food and heat, to prevent him from leaving, making love, etc.-this is certainly the most frenzied manifestation of power imaginable. The other day I was speaking to a woman who bad been in prison and she was saying: “Imagine, that at the age of forty, I was punished one day with a meal of dry bread.” What is striking about this story is not the childishness of the exercise of power but the cynicism with which power is exercised as power, in the most archaic, puerile, infantile manner. As children we learn what it means to be reduced to bread and water. Prison is the only place where power is manifested in its naked state, in its most excessive form, and where it is justified as moral force. “I am within my rights to punish you because you know that it is criminal to rob and kill . . . … What is fascinating about prisons is that, for once, power doesn’t hide or mask itself; it reveals itself as tyranny pursued into the tiniest details; it is cynical and at the same time pure and entirely “justified,” because its practice can be totally formulated within the framework of morality. Its brutal tyranny consequently appears as the serene domination of Good over Evil, of order over disorder…

Intellectuals and Power