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Posts Tagged ‘terrorism

“The prevailing ideology of the modern west – which is political economy – is in the doghouse”*…

 

recession

 

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers (the largest bankruptcy in U.S.history) and the start of the Great Recession.  We took a look at the crisis, it’s dimensions, and its aftermath last month (“Not every business cycle has a financial crisis. Frequently they do“); but there’s so much to remember– and so many may smart folks from whom to learn…

In “From Trump to Trade, the Financial Crisis Still Resonates 10 Years Later,” Andrew Ross Sorkin thinks about the consequences of the crash still unfolding.  In “Can We Survive the Next Financial Crisis?,” Bloomberg’s Yalman Onaran, considers both the ways in which the system that led to the last crisis has become safer and also the pockets of risk that have grown since 2008.  (Keep your eyes on CLOs– collateralized loan obligations– this decade’s version of the CDOs that tanked the economy in 2008…)

The always-illuminating Matt Levine, considering John Cassidy’s review of Adam Tooze’s new history of the financial crisis/crises, Crashed, highlights Tooze’s central argument: that much of our current geopolitical situation — the nativism and fragmentation and general rejection of decades of stability and elite consensus — is a consequence of the 2008 financial crisis and the flawed response to it.  Levine concludes with a striking observation…

Finally here is a passage I found interesting from Tooze’s “Crashed,” on quantitative easing, political volatility, and the U.S.’s flirtation with defaulting on its debt in 2013:

That the astonishing events in Congress in 2013 did not lead to an immediate crisis in the bond market pointed to the resilience of the US Treasurys as the global safe asset of choice. Though the Chinese and Germans might complain and the market blipped, demand for US Treasurys quickly recovered. Ultimately, the market for IOUs drawn on the American taxpayer was underwritten by the Fed. Unlike the ECB, America’s central bank left no doubt that it backed its governments’s debt. QE3 bond purchases provided immediate support, keeping prices up and rates down. This provided at least one point of stability for global investors. But after the events of 2013 questions could no longer be avoided. Was one of the unintended side effects of the stability generated by the Fed to free politics from market constraints and thus enable Republican extremism? Did America’s ability to ride out short-term budget crises like those of 2011 and 2013 lead contemporaries to underestimate the future dangers that the degeneration of American democracy might bring with it? And how long would the Fed’s technocratic interventions compensate for America’s lackluster economic recovery and the shambles in the legislative branch?

Obviously one can disagree with some of the characterizations there. But one thing that we used to talk about a lot around here was that people were worried that people weren’t worried enough: Financial-market volatility seemed eerily low given the apparent instability of, you know, the world. That worry turned out to be overstated — volatility picked back up without causing any particular crisis — but it really was a bit eerie: Apparent actual volatility in the world kept not causing volatility in asset prices. But an implication of Tooze’s argument is that some of the causality went the other way: Because financial markets were calm in the face of geopolitical instability, they enabled more geopolitical instability. If you don’t have bond vigilantes checking up on you, then you can get up to a lot of weird stuff.

[image above: source]

* James Buchan

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As we try to keep cause and effect straight, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that the biggest incidence of domestic terrorism in U.S. history to that date occurred: the Wall Street bombing.  At noon, a horse-drawn wagon passed by lunchtime crowds on Wall Street and stopped across the street from the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan bank at 23 Wall Street, on the Financial District’s busiest corner.  Inside the wagon, 100 pounds of dynamite with 500 pounds of heavy, cast-iron sash weights exploded in a timer-set detonation, sending the weights tearing through the air.  30 people were killed immediately, and another eight died later of wounds sustained in the blast.  There were 143 seriously injured; the total number of injured was in the hundreds.

Though investigators and historians believe the bombing was carried out by Galleanists (an anarchist group responsible for a series of bombings the previous year), the attack– which was a part of postwar social unrest, labor struggles and anti-capitalist agitation in the U. S.– was never officially solved.

The aftermath of the explosion

source

 

Written by LW

September 16, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”*…

 

Your correspondent is old enough to remember the Cold War and the Civil Defense efforts (booklets, films, duck-and-cover drills) aimed at “preparing” us for atomic conflict.  It’s a sad sign of our times that they’re re-emerging:  “Where to Hide If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off In Your Area.”

(If there’s a silver lining in this fallout-laced cloud, it’s that it’s re-directing attention to a problem– a threat– that never actually went away; c.f., Ploughshares.)

* J. Robert Oppenheimer

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As we enter the Twilight Zone, we might recall that it was on this date in 1903 that The Times (London) newspaper reported that Marie and Pierre Curie communicated to the Academy of Sciences that the recently discovered Radium…

… possesses the extraordinary property of continuously emitting heat, without combustion, without chemical change of any kind, and without any change to its molecular structure, which remains spectroscopically identical after many months of continuous emission of heat … such that the pure Radium salt would melt more than its own weight of ice every hour … A small tube containing Radium, if kept in contact with the skin for some hours … produces an open sore, by destroying the epidermis and the true skin beneath … and cause the death of living things whose nerve centres do not lie deep enough to be shielded from their influence.

That same year the Curies (and Antoine Henri Becquerel) were awarded the Noble Prize in Physics for their work on radioactivity and radiation.

Marie and Pierre Curie

source

 

Written by LW

March 25, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Let us save what remains”*…

 

On Friday morning, January 25, 2013, 15 jihadis entered the restoration and conservation rooms on the ground floor of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Sankoré, a government library in Mali. The men swept 4,202 manuscripts off lab tables and shelves and carried them into the tiled courtyard. They doused the manuscripts—including 14th- and 15th-century works of physics, chemistry, and mathematics, their fragile pages covered with algebraic formulas, charts of the heavens, and molecular diagrams—in gasoline. Then they tossed in a lit match. The brittle pages and their dry leather covers ignited in a flash.

In minutes, the work of Timbuktu’s greatest savants and scientists, preserved for centuries, hidden from the 19th-century jihadis and French conquerors, survivors of floods, bacteria, water, and insects, were consumed by the inferno.

In the capital city of Bamako 800 miles away, the founder of Timbuktu’s Mamma Haidara Library, a scholar and community leader named Abdel Kader Haidara, saw the burning of the manuscripts as a tragedy—and a vindication of a remarkable plan he’d undertaken. Starting with no money besides the meager sum in his savings account, the librarian had recruited a loyal circle of volunteers, badgered and shamed the international community into funding the scheme, raised $1 million, and hired hundreds of amateur smugglers in Timbuktu and beyond. Their goal? Save books…

The whole heart-warming story at “The Great Library Rescue of Timbuktu.”

* Thomas Jefferson

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As we check it out, we might wish a spectacularly happy birthday to Phineas Taylor (“P.T.”) Barnum; he was born on this date in 1810.  Barnum founded and ran a small business, then a weekly newspaper in his native Connecticut before leaving for New York City and the entertainment business.  He parlayed a variety troop and a “curiosities” museum (featuring the ‘”Feejee” mermaid’ and “General Tom Thumb”) into a fortune…  which he lost in a series of legal setbacks.  He replenished his stores by touring as a temperance speaker, then served as a Connecticut State legislator and as Mayor of Bridgeport (a role in which he introduced gas lighting and founded the Bridgeport hospital)… It wasn’t until after his 60th birthday that he turned to endeavor for which he’s best remembered– the circus.

“I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.”

source: Library of Congress

Written by LW

July 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Meanwhile, fears of universal disaster sank to an all time low over the world”*…

 

Tsunami #8 Indonesia

New York photographer Sasha Bezzubov uses a variety of conceptual methods to point viewers to larger phenomena that underlie visible landscapes…  Bezzubov’s series Things Fall Apart (2001-07), depicts the aftermath of natural disasters in India, Indonesia, Thailand and the United States. The pictures function in part as documents of these tragic events, but the series as a whole does not convey enough specific information to be useful as documentary work. Rather, the images blend together to form a more generalized, and aestheticized, portrayal of destruction, following the long artistic tradition of appreciating the melancholy beauty of ruins and nature’s destructive power. That tradition is closely tied to the idea of the sublime — a sensation of beauty and terror in the face of nature’s power — prevalent in 18th and early 19th century philosophy and landscape art, and often understood as a way of experiencing the divine. Nature’s power is certainly evident in Bezzubov’s images, but the knowledge that human-caused climate change has increased the frequency and strength of catastrophic storms reshapes our sense of the sublime…

Hurricane #4, Florida

Read more at Design Observer

* Isaac Asimov

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As we take stock, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the World Trade Center in New York was attacked for the first time:  a nitrate-hydrogen truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower.  The blast shook the 110 story tower, causing the collapse of several floors in the underground garage, and tore a hole in the ceiling of an adjoining subway; six people were killed, another thousand, injured.  The attack is believed to have been planned by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a member of what we now know as al-Qaeda, and was executed by a group who were apprehended, tried, and convicted the following year.

Underground damage after the bombing

source

 

Written by LW

February 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

Take two and call me in the morning…

A well-known foe of fever, aches, and pains turns out to have a hitherto-hidden additional talent: according to a post by Kratomystic, scientists at the University of British Columbia say they’ve discovered that Tylenol reduces the anxiety associated with “thoughts of existential uncertainty and death.”  Their research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that acetaminophen (of which Tynenol is the leading over-the-counter brand) may help to reduce the existential pain that thinking about death can cause us to feel– as they characterize it, ” a sort of existential angst that isn’t attributable to a specific source.”

Other recent studies suggest that acetaminophen can mitigate social anxiety, in particular, “the non-physical pain of being ostracized from friends.”

Never leave home without it.

[TotH to Gawker; photo via Daily News]

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As we keep calm and carry on, we might recall that it was on this date in 1995 that an explosion devastated the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.  The blast claimed 168 lives and injured more than 680 people, destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings,  an estimated $652 million in damage.  Initially assumed to be the work of “Arab terrorists,” the bombing was conducted by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, with help from Michael Fortier and his wife Lori.  The three men were Army  buddies who’d become part of the militia movement; they acted out of anger over the FBI’s 1992 Ruby Ridge siege and their 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco (the attack was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the deadly fire that ended the stand-off at Waco).

 source

Written by LW

April 19, 2013 at 1:01 am

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