Mickey the Measles

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 29, 2015 by rgwallace

mickeymeasles I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it all started with a mouse. –Walt Disney (1954)

An outbreak of highly infectious measles starting at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has spread to eight U.S. states and Mexico. Arizona, one state hit, is presently monitoring 1000 people linked to Disneyland visitors and subsequent exposures.

With good reason, much attention has been placed on the role the anti-vax movement has played in both the initial outbreak and its subsequent spread. In 2014, before the outbreak, U.S. measles clocked in at three times the cases (644) than any of the ten years previous.

The outbreak may represent a second scandal.

Five years ago Disney objected to suggestions the theme park and resort, drawing 15 million visitors a year from around the world, was a potential amplifier for infectious diseases. Continue reading

Pigskins for the Ancestors

Posted in Ecological resilience, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2015 by rgwallace

jea 147 gopher FB uniformsBolivian medical anthropologist Isadore Nabi recently visited Minnesota. With his permission we reproduce an excerpt of a draft report he is preparing.

Despite constructing sprawling monasteries dedicated to positivist empiricism, imperatives of magical thinking are strictly enforced here even in what are ostensibly the most leisurely of cultural practices.

Take the popular sport of American football, an anomalous mix of tableau vivant–wherein players pose together in different combinations looking up at a scoreboard while pulling on their uncomfortable costumes–and an explosive brutality that, in the course of carrying a pig bladder toward an opponent’s distal zone, leaves even the strongest participants bloodied, broken-boned, concussed, and, repeated studies show, brain damaged. Dementia is a lucrative trade here.  Continue reading

Merican Mengele

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2014 by rgwallace

Answers to leading questions under torture naturally tell us nothing about the beliefs of the accused; but they are good evidence for the beliefs of the accusers. -C.S. Lewis (1964)

[A] dramatic rise in witchcraft cases after the 1560s [during the French civil wars] provided more proof the Apocalypse was coming. As fast as they were detected, the courts burned them, but the Devil replaced them even faster. Contemporary demonologist Jean Bodin argued that, in crisis conditions such as these, standards of evidence must be lowered. Witchcraft was so serious, and so hard to detect using normal methods of proof, that society could not afford to adhere too much to “legal tidiness and normal procedures.” –Sarah Bakewell (2010)

Days before the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program, VICE News, above, posted an interview with the program’s architect, psychologist James Mitchell.

It’s a chilling conversation. Mitchell plays the retired Kurtz, kayaking among alligators back from the heart of darkness in the easygoing manner of the unpunishable. Nothing on land or water threatens him now save, it seems, his reputation.

His flaccid self-justifications here of following orders and a terrible enemy have long been refuted by international law from Nuremberg on and by name by his colleagues at the American Psychological Association, who four years ago began calling for stripping Mitchell his license to practice.

There are too Mitchell’s creepy yuck-yucks over the “tool” of waterboarding, as if a rite of frat initiation.

Continue reading

Everything and the Cop

Posted in Ecological resilience, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2014 by rgwallace

EricGarner2In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY) blamed Eric Garner’s death not on the cop who choked him out, but on Garner’s underlying medical condition.

As if the autonomous arm of Daniel Pantaleo–an officer already sued multiple times for false arrest–happened to find itself around Garner’s neck just as the man was having a heart attack.

Yet the Long Island congressman’s attempt at blaming the victim only draws attention to the larger problem he maneuvers to deflect.

King ends up instantiating the lengths to which the U.S. individualizes public health problems as a matter of policy. As I describe here and here, across many a disease and chronic illness, health is in fact deeply structured by the institutionally supported racism that left Garner’s body unattended on a Staten Island sidewalk.

Continue reading

Wishbone Formation

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2014 by rgwallace

Thanksgiving FergusonThanksgiving. A quintessentially American holiday. We are asked to celebrate an ideal of La Convivencia fronting for the genocide and primitive accumulation that followed. As if a party that didn’t happen that way rationalizes the pillaging that did.

And–’tis the season–you can see such a reaction formation in many a characterization of Ferguson. Rioting against property embodying the social relations that left Mike Brown dead in the street is dismissed as the wrong response to a rigged decision no other ‘respectable’ reply stopped or reversed. After all, can’t we all just get along (without changing a fucking thing)?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be eating turkey and watching football too. And happily so, as we’ll be giving thanks here for the understanding now rolling across the country there are few options for the many millions stranded other than acting together.

However terrible the path there, a painful middle passage in reverse, there is great hope too in realizing we are the agents of our own history. A wish growing in the bones.

The Palm Oil Sector?

Posted in Evolution, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by rgwallace

Palm oil 5And he told them about this new God, the Creator of all the world and all the men and women. He told them that they worshipped false gods, gods of wood and stone. A deep murmur went through the crowd when he said this. He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm-oil. –Chinua Achebe (1958)

There’s something fishy about the bushmeat narrative of Ebola.

In August we explored the way the story internalizes the outbreak to local West Africans. It’s part of the ooga booga epidemiology that detracts from the circuits of capital, originating in New York, London and elsewhere, that fund the development and deforestation driving the emergence of new diseases in the global South.

But in addition, and not unconnected, there’s something missing from the model’s purported etiology. Indeed, Ebola may have almost nothing, or only something tangentially, to do with the bushmeat trade.

Continue reading

Talking Ebola

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2014 by rgwallace

Wallace Ebola Agrifood Collaborative poster_5UPDATE. A video of the talk is now available here. A little rough in voice and ideas, some of which hours later I revised. Such is the nature of the beast of an outbreak. But some good info I hope and some lively discussion afterwards.


For those of you in the Twin Cities area, Monday I’ll be giving a talk on Ebola at the University of Minnesota.

Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomics of a Deadly Spillover

Monday, October 13, Noon

Carlson School of Management, rm 1-149
321 19th Ave South, Minneapolis
University of Minnesota

The first human outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa, and by far the largest and most extensive recorded to date anywhere, began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013. Understandably much attention has been placed upon the lethargy of the world’s response to the outbreak as well as the role a broadly painted ‘poverty’ has played in the pathogen’s spread and case fatality rate. Some work has focused on the local deforestation, dedevelopment, population mobility, periurbanization, and inadequate health system that apparently smoothed Ebola’s ecophylogentic transition.

But we can situate these diverse possibilities within a broader framework that unifies Ebola’s origins and its failure of containment. The neoliberal policies that truncated regional medical infrastructure also redirected forest development. The latter may have reset multispecies agroecologies, including perhaps between frugivore bats, a documented Ebola reservoir, and partially proletarianized pickers of increasingly commoditized oil palm.


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