Caligula of Albany

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2016 by rgwallace

Andrew CuomoWould that the Roman people had but one neck! –Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Caligula, as quoted by Suetonius (AD 121)

Nick Pinto’s piece on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is matched in its wincing iridescence only by its subject’s proverbial event horizon, from which no light seems to escape.

Pinto reports Cuomo’s budget calls for nearly a half-a-billion dollar gouge out of the City University of New York’s budget, a university system traditionally open to the poorest of students and already suffering two decades of devastating cuts.

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The Paraphyletic Commune

Posted in Evolution, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2016 by rgwallace

564px-Barricade_Paris_1871_by_Pierre-Ambrose_RichebourgToday marks the 145th anniversary of the founding of the Paris Commune, the revolutionary socialist government that ruled France’s capital for seventy-two days in 1871.

Upon the collapse of the Second Empire in the face of a Prussian invasion, the Parisian proletariat, backed by radicalized National Guard from working class neighborhoods, rejected the bourgeois Third Republic that rose in its stead, electing a Commune council of Blanquists, Proudhinists, and other radicals in its place.

The Commune’s bottom-up legitimization represents a refutation of the kind of double bind liberals demand of their constituencies to this day: if you don’t want the troglodytic Donald Trump, you must support Hillary Clinton–the Kissinger of Honduras–and the neoliberal kleptocracy she represents, impoverishing millions at home and murdering millions more abroad.

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The Silver Standard

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , on March 9, 2016 by rgwallace

Ministry of InformationDid Secretary of Fracking Hillary Clinton lose Michigan in part because she supports the economic model that poisons water at home and abroad? Maybe. The connection struck me (as I learned later it had others).

But Bernie Sanders’s primary upset in Michigan, busting many a prediction, including FiveThirtyEight’s pooled polling model, clearly unveiled loaded epistemologies.

A number of oppositional wags–funny but accurate–have characterized polling in the U.S. as testing whether voters have adequately assimilated ruling class propaganda. That is, at heart all polls are push polls, part and parcel of managing expectation. Until they don’t.

A couple years ago, suffering a case of World Cup fever, I wrote three short paragraphs on Nate Silver, pointing out the Bayesian  on which his shop depends can be saddled with the premises of power, a problem far beyond mere technical disagreements.

The politics of the nomenklatura–rolling over systemic prime directives one time interval to another in the face of what it dismisses as stochastic noise–can be found down in the very mechanics of statistical modeling.

But what happens when the rest of the world begins to make itself matter? Do the models break down from more than just bad priors and missed predictions?

Losing Zika for the Trees

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2016 by rgwallace

zika mosquito

Children are always ready to believe that adult catastrophes are their fault. –P.D. James (1992)

If you haven’t heard by now, and I’d be surprised as we are full swing in this year’s plague alarm, there is presently a Zika outbreak in Latin America that appears to have begun in Brazil, infecting a million people there alone. The World Health Organization estimates four million will ultimately be infected as the virus spreads across Latin America.

Zika is a RNA virus of the Flavivirus group that includes dengue, yellow fever, West Nile, and chikungunya.

Most adults infected don’t exhibit symptoms. Only one out of five infected actually get sick. Those who do suffer a flu-like syndrome, including fever, rash, joint pain, malaise, dizziness, anorexia, edema, intestinal trouble, and at times conjunctivitis. It’s a comparatively mild infection as far as such diseases go. Zika has been described as a beginner’s chikungunya.

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Did Deforestation Spring Zika?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2016 by rgwallace

This is the first of three clips in which I’m interviewed by the Real News Network about the outbreak of Zika virus across Latin America.

No matter what turns out to be the cause of the microcephaly thousands of Brazilian newborns are suffering–Zika, pesticides, something else, or some combo–a large literature shows the resurgence of the Flaviviruses–dengue, yellow fever, Chikungunya, and now Zika–is, like Ebola in West Africa, being driven largely by neoliberal deforestation.

By logging, mining, and monoculture agriculture, we appear to be stripping away the ecosystemic limits forests typically place upon many a pathogen.

I’ll have a more in-depth post on Zika in the days to follow.

Yellow Science Journalism

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Farming Human Pathogens book, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2016 by rgwallace

Apparently there’s a liberal equivalent to Donald Trump’s Sinophobic expediency.

In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, Sonia Shah, the author of a forthcoming book on pandemics, presents a nationalistic disease ecology, characterizing avian influenza as the dirty Chinese’s fault.

As if the industrial model of production didn’t originate in the States.

As if migratory birds haven’t been transporting influenza strains across the Bering Sea for thousands of years, even as those patterns also shift in response to environmental changes global and local. Continue reading

Ghostface Killahs

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2016 by rgwallace

My thoughts must be relaxed, be able to maintain / Cause times is changed and life is strange / The glorious days is gone, and everybody’s doing bad / Yo, mad lives is up for grabs –Ghostface Killah (1993)

Yesterday U.S. Representatives on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform scored rhetorical points on Martin Shkreli, the Pharma Bro whose Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 per tablet to $750.

This is the same Congress, taking in $30 million a year in pharm contributions, that dismantled the sector’s regulatory infrastructure, legalizing the price spike.

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