Wet Blanket

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2014 by rgwallace

As if Ferguson might prove a shock of an ice bucket too much, it seems, Lauren Duca points out, a curious coincidence mainstream culture suddenly moves social capital’s heaven and earth for an albeit terrible disease of bad-luck biology.

The different etiologies need be no zero-sum game, but are the Vine-length dunks of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge–the frisson of a waterboarding–a subliminal misdirection from the historical wrongs from which some of the most generous check writers benefit?

The irony, in which we traffic here, is that most cases of ALS are social in origin, including a cluster around a lead smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri, just 50 miles south of Ferguson, Continue reading

Trust Whitey

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2014 by rgwallace

FerugsonLiterature, [James] Baldwin suggested, was recruited to provide for everybody, in a manner noxious to none, the official story of racial difference within the emerging American project…Baldwin saw Uncle Tom’s Cabin as evidence that the actual work of sentimental discourses of liberal reform (past and present) was to establish an epistemology that guaranteed white salvation…For Baldwin abolitionist discourse was just a slight displacement of white supremacist religiosity. –Jody Melamed (2011)

The New York Times’s Dwight Garner reviews Jess Row’s new novel.

In Row’s near-future, people (with the right insurance) may elect for racial reassignment, a radical plastic surgery that cherry-picks phenotypes social categories presume are signal enough.

Continue reading

Stick to Physics

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2014 by rgwallace

xjrf95-neil-degrasse-tyson-cosmos-gif-gbfaThe stranger promises to return. They both know they’ll never see each other again. Alone now, and before he puts out the lamp, [Jorge Luis Borges's] Paracelsus scoops up the ashes and utters a single word in a low voice. And in his hands the rose springs back to life.Roberto Bolaño (2004)

Neil deGrasse Tyson has parlayed his sudden Cosmos fame into succinct and biting critiques of anti-intellectualisms of a variety of stars and stripes.

On creationist notions of the age of the universe,

If the universe were only 6,500 years old, how could we see the light from anything more distant than the Crab Nebula? We couldn’t. There wouldn’t have been enough time for the light to get to Earth from anywhere farther away than 6,500 light years in any direction. That’s just enough time for light to travel a tiny portion of our Milky Way galaxy.

On climate denialism,

Abe Lincoln would turn in his grave if he knew that his descendants, his political descendants — if I remember correctly, Abe Lincoln was Republican — were cherry-picking scientific results. I don’t know what he would say. I’m pretty sure he’d be disappointed.

Continue reading

Soft Soap

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , on July 10, 2014 by rgwallace

Sculptor Aaron Dysart’s moving meditation here on the Mississippi River culminates in a hilarious Duchampian stunt.

The public health analogs are legion, stretching far beyond concepts in environmental thinking.

Many progressive efforts in global public health are organized around accepting the predicates of the problems the system to be fought imposes.

On the contrary, the boundaries of conceivable intervention extend beyond the soft soap the few respectable institutions allowed to address the crises are willing to risk as a solution. And certainly far outside state-sanctioned notions of social justice.

Many global health researchers–a networked elite, oft-bought, and structurally dishonest–know this full well. Any expectation they’d say so outside whispers in the airport lounge is another matter.

Growing Agroecology Research

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by rgwallace

The Union of Concerned Scientists is calling upon agriculture and health scientists to sign on to a statement demanding increased public investment in agroecological research.

Former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter describes the need for such research in the video above.

The letter, reported on by Food First’s Eric Holt Gimenez here, reads in part,

Agroecology regards farms as ecosystems embedded in broader landscapes and society. Agroecological approaches are based on understanding and managing ecological processes and biological functions to increase and sustain crop and livestock productivity, efficiently recycle inputs, and build soil fertility, while minimizing harmful impacts on soil, air, water, wildlife, and human health…

While other approaches may also yield promising solutions, they are more likely to already benefit from private sector support. Agroecology is less likely to be supported by the private sector since these farming methods often reduce requirements for purchased inputs. This leaves to the public sector the responsibility to fund agroecological research that serves the interests of farmers and society.

Continue reading

Goliathian Priors

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2014 by rgwallace

Ghana GermanyEven on fútbol Nate Silver panders to power, predicting the winners will win. He’s the statistical Malcolm Gladwell, the latter, despite his new book, already on record disparaging successful underdogs as metaphysically unfair.

As if contingencies and sudden regime shifts, to reference Slavoj Žižek‘s Hegel, aren’t themselves universal necessities (well beyond the power of Silver’s Bayesian).

And to which the revolutionary toasts the Ghanas and Costa Ricas a beer or three, minding Alain Badiou’s Paris Commune, wherein the truth upon the world’s contested pitches changes the very predicates of circumstance.

Lipstick on a Pig

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2014 by rgwallace

I have discovered that I cannot burn the candle at one end and write…with the other. –Katherine Mansfield (1919)

By casuistry as uproarious as it is dismal, a Minnesota hog farmer claims ‘factory farms’ no such thing.

Why yes, our barns, equipped with automatic feeders and temperature and air controls, look like factories. Why yes, hog genetics reducing diversity and fat content limit the animals’ toleration for weather and, left unsaid, disease.

But on the heels of bad publicity around vile abuse at a Pipestone farm damning piglets as so many uncooperative widgets–see the video above–Wanda Patsche tells us don’t call them factories. They’re owned by “my neighbors, my friends, fellow church members…,” who, in actuality, are caught in Big Ag contracts that, as we described here last month, hold the farmers to all the value chain’s liabilities and allows them none of its control.

Y’know, like factory workers. Continue reading

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