Flint State

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2016 by rgwallace

Flint1At Kent State, eight years ago, we killed our own children. We finally went ahead and made plain the substance of our hanging threat to all the lives of our children. If you do not do as we have done, if you do not continue what we do, we who have brought you here, we will take you out; we who feed and clothe you and teach you the words that you use, the name that is your name, we will destroy you even unto death. –June Jordan (1978)

The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, offers a quintessential example of the social origins of our abiotic environments. Our sociality imprints upon even the most elemental of Earth’s matter.

Following up resident complaints about discoloration, taste, and smell, Virginia Tech researchers tested 271 Flint homes for lead in their tap water. From 27 parts per billion, five times greater than concentrations considered safe, an exposure leading to cardiovasular problems, kidney damage and neurological morbidity, the investigators found lead levels as high as over 5,000 pbb, a level the Environmental Protection Agency defines as “toxic waste”.

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Business as Unusual

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by rgwallace

Chicken in a business suit

John Huston told me he and [Orson] Welles were always trying to stick each other with the tab and once faked simultaneous heart attacks at a restaurant in Paris. –Jim Harrison (1988)

Some of you here in the Twin Cities may have noticed this past year the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis paper, has published almost its entire run of articles on the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 in its business section.

The placement is telling. It reminds us the paper, owned by agribusinessman Glen Taylor, views the virus, killing 50 million poultry across 21 states, as a matter for food companies and investors. It seems the ecologies and epidemiologies in which we are all embedded are to be treated as mere externalities to the matter at hand–the trade in commodities.

An update last week, published–where else?–in the business section, reprinted unsupported declarations about the origins of the outbreak, claims the newspaper turned into facts by year-long repetition. The virus originated in Asia. Migratory waterfowl brought it here and spread it. Farmer error is to blame for the outbreak. Anything but the poultry sector itself.

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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.


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