Windmills and non-ghost cattle along the Columbia River Gorge.
Windmills and non-ghost cattle along the Columbia River Gorge. BruceBlock/gettyimages.com

According to the Tri-City Herald, Cody A. Easterday, the president of Easterday Ranches Inc, finally admitted that he was the sorcerer who conjured up from the never-ever world 200,000 cattle that were fed never-ever food in never-ever feed lots. Tyson, a corporation whose dark doings are examined in Season Three of True Detective, paid good money for the ghost food, the ghost feedlot, the ghost moos of bovines made of stuff that only phantom plants could process and phantasmagorical supermarkets sell.

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Tri-City Herald:

The president of one of the largest agricultural operations in Washington state has admitted concocting a scheme to defraud Tyson Foods and another company out of more than $244 million.

Cody A. Easterday, 49, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in a case that federal prosecutors are calling a “ghost-cattle scam.'

Easterday...charged the two companies under various agreements for the costs of buying and feeding 200,000 cattle, when those cattle did not actually exist, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

What accounted for the fantastic cattle was $200 million that Easterday "lost in commodity futures contracts trading." Meaning, we have here the mirror not of production, as the under-appreciated 20th century French philosopher Jean Baudrillard would call it, but the mirror of finance.

On one side of the mirror, we see the specter of money; on the other, the specter of cattle. But when the mirror is removed from the productive context, when the specter of the universal equivalent is no longer reflected, we see an actual chair is still there, or a hairpin, or a vibrator, or even an hamburger. When the mirror is removed from finance we find nothing there at all, which is even more disturbing than when Dracula stands before a mirror: he is there in the real world, but his specular other is not.

Tri-City Heard:

“For years, Cody Easterday perpetrated a fraud scheme on a massive scale, increasing the cost of producing food for American families,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“The Criminal Division’s prosecutors are committed to swiftly and thoroughly prosecuting frauds affecting our nation’s agricultural and other commodities markets, whether in the heartland or on Wall Street.”


But why is this story of such great importance? Because we live in a world that sees the rural and its economy as somehow distinct from the urban and its economy. This distinction being defined by levels of economic intensity and integration. The city aspires to the condition of finance, global interconnectedness, and market cosmopolitanism. (The resistance to this aspiration defines progressive politics). The rural, on the other hand, does all that it can to remain on the ground of the real economy, the root of its tiresome conservative politics.

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I will be the first to admit that I have long expressed and supported this distinction in my rants against the rural. But I was totally wrong. Global capitalism permeates every aspect of city life in much the same way it permeates life in the sticks.

There is, I now see, thanks to all of these ghost cattle near the Snake River, a smooth space between the inside and the outside of the city. No break or rupture is to be found from downtown Seattle (with its concentration of coding and banking institutions) to Easterday Ranches (with its concentration of futures contracts and fictitious capital). The core of the rural and that of the urban form an economic field that is much like the field formed by two magnets.

When the rural economy and urban economy distinction is dissolved into a field, then so too is the substance of the divide between red areas and blue areas. We in the city can now see that country voters are really only playing rural attitudes. This stuff they go on about Coastal Elites is utter nonsense. Mom and pop are very much in the same situation as city slickers. The rural does not have to go New York City to see the sins of Wall Street at work. They only have to visit their local ranches.

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