Archive for Minnesota

Business as Unusual

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

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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Made in Minnesota

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2015 by Rob Wallace

This photo provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows chickens in a trench on a farm in northwest Iowa. Millions of dead chickens and turkeys are decomposing in fly-swarmed piles near dozens of Iowa farms, culled because of a bird flu virus that swept through the state's large poultry operations. (Iowa Department of Natural Resources via AP)

From the outside, the headquarters of the Cankor Health Group resembles a garage. The interior is modeled after an industrial poultry factory. The lobby is a dank, low-ceilinged concrete chamber. Upon entering, employees and visitors are asked to ingest a small capsule…The fast-acting drug produces a series of vivid hallucinations. –Ben Katchor (2013)

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

The epizootic began with a soft opening, hitting a handful of backyard farms and wild birds in December in Washington and Oregon before spreading east. Suddenly in early March, H5N2 wiped out 15,000 turkeys on an industrial farm in Pope County, Minnesota, the first of what would be nearly 9 million birds and counting killed or culled across 108 farms over 23 counties.

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H5N2 Much

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by Rob Wallace

John Gaps III AP Rose Acre Farms, IowaA week from Thursday, June 11, I’ll be talking about the H5N2 bird flu outbreak here in the Midwest at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. Find out the details here. All are welcome.

Midwest bird flu: A diseconomy of industrial poultry

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

In its efforts to protect a $265.6-billion-a-year industry, the poultry sector has laid blame upon farm workers and wild waterfowl. In actuality, H5N2 demonstrates poultry production is defined by inherent diseconomies of scale it survives solely by externalizing the resulting damage to consumers, workers, governments and the environment. In a market economy, such costs, moved back onto company margins, would end the industry as we know it.

We will review the mechanisms by which poultry’s bioeconomics is thought sooner than later to select a deadly disease with the potential for killing millions of people worldwide. We will also address what an alternate food landscape might look like.

You can find a video of the half-hour talk here.

Grand Illusions

Posted in Revolution with tags , , , , , , on June 2, 2014 by Rob Wallace

Vulcan Krewe 1My daughter Violet and I join our neighbors for Grand Old Day in St. Paul. The kick-off parade pipes Lynchian perversity inside a crust of small town prosaicism:

Following the color guard and a motorcade of beauty queens waving their wrists down Grand Avenue, the masked Vulcan Krewe, the Imperial Order of Fire and Brimstone–including Grand Duke Fertilious, “the Minister of Propaganda, the Propagator of Progeny, the Krewe member with the most offspring”–smears charcoal mustaches on kids and adults alike.

A Schwarzenegger impersonator, riffing on Jesus–“I’ll be back”–blasts Christian metal from the Godinator float. A clutch of belly dancers advertise the threepenny uprights of the Renaissance Faire later in the summer. The married middle-aged men of the St Paul Bouncing Team have been using Browder sheets to heave young women in short skirts thirty feet up in the air since 1886. Continue reading


Posted in Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2013 by Rob Wallace

Princess KayState Fair today. Violet devours a corn dog but the chocolate banana’s too cold and she won’t try the deep fried Twinkie. Dad eats clean-up and enters a diabetic hallucination that careens toward Umwelt, then a baaaad trip, man, riding Daughter’s shotgun down the big slide. Celebrity sighting at the parade–Princess Kay of the Milky Way, with whom Violet conferred in a behind-barn-doors session earlier in the week (and who directs we take in her doppelgänger in butter). Tour kids’ agribusiness-sponsored fake farm–an illusion of an illusion truer than true–with toy chickens in battery cages to be fed plastic corn (and a Cub supermarket at the exit). We avoid the barns of flu but Violet’s pink blow-up unicorn fascinates the sweet and suddenly demonically curious goats, whose Revelations all just came fucking true. Third one bounces back from its parousiatic euphoria to take a nip at Our Returned Savior in Pink. End the day at O’Gara’s on the fairgrounds playing all-out barroom Jenga. I hear another rendition of ‘Hotel Minnesota.’ I stab the cover band with my steely sticks / but I just can’t kill the beast.

Red River

Posted in Ecological resilience, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2011 by Rob Wallace

It is the height of hubris to think we could [destroy the planet]…God is not capricious. He’s given us a creation that is dynamically stable. We are not going to run out of anything. –Minnesota State Representative Mike Beard (R-Shakopee)

Sims Reeves: Plantin’ and readin’, plantin’ and readin’. Fill a man full o’ lead, stick him in the ground an’ then read words on him. Why, when you’ve killed a man, why try to read the Lord in as a partner on the job?Red River (1948)

It’s been a bastard of a winter in Lake Wobehere, Minnesota way, where men are men and sheep passive-aggressive.

The Twin Cities have already suffered 80+ inches of snow, seventh heaviest snow season since record keeping began, with more storms likely in the meteorological queue. The snow (and cold) may be part and parcel of a shift in the North Atlantic Oscillation, which usually sequesters the worse of winter to the Arctic Circle.

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