In a conversation with Laureano Ralon and Roman Onufrijchuk, I recall the great gift bestowed on me by the opportunity to study with great teachers, in particular the historian Herbert Gutman and the philosopher Herbert Marcuse.Â Questions about Â the eight years of apprenticeship I spent with Marcuse during the 1960s, both at Brandeis and UC San Diego, naturally lead to my own thoughts about his period of study with Martin Heidegger.Â Basing my discussion on the brilliant and pathbreaking book by the contemporary French philosopher Emmanuel Faye,Â Heidegger:Â The Introduction of Nazism into PhilosophyÂ [original in French, 2005; English translation, Yale University Press, 2009], I argue that Heideggerâ€™s thought will always be morally compromised by his enthusiastic and unapologetic support of Hitlerâ€™s regime and by his own effort to synthesize his philosophical thought with Nazi ideology.Â A passage in Heideggerâ€™s postwar work, cited by Faye, describes the fate of extermination-camp victims as, in effect, a â€œdeath unworthy of death,â€ bringing to mind the notorious phrase, â€œlife unworthy of life,â€ which was used during the Nazi period to justify the murder of groups singled out for extermination.Â I undertake these reflections in the context of my own continuing struggle, as a person of German descent, with the legacy of barbarism and savagery bestowed on us by the Nazi regime, a legacy that must never be forgotten and that can never be forgiven.
This past September we learned of The University of Calgaryâ€™s embarrassment over the discovery that oil industry funds had been moved through its research accounts to carry out non-research activities dealing with climate change issues.Â These funds were used to support the activities of a group calling itself, buy somewhat mischievously, â€œFriends of Scienceâ€ (http://www.friendsofscience.org/).Â Of course one thinks immediately of the old saw:Â â€œWith friends such as this, who needs enemiesâ€?Â Is the irony implicit in the name intended or not (the case would be more interesting if it were).
 http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/sept2011/friends_of_science; Vancouver Sun, 09/15/11Â : http://tinyurl.com/3dvscdr; Postmedia News, 09/16/11 (Talisman): http://tinyurl.com/3pvfptv.
Here are extracts from Chapter 3 of my book, physician The Doom Loop in the Financial Sector, and Other Black Holes of Risk (University of Ottawa Press, 2010), pp. 101-2:
Thus, by the middle of 2010 six of the seven largest economies in the world looked to be in no shape … to spend their way out of another serious financial meltdown for a very long time to come [due to accumulated debt levels]….Â Recent events have seriously eroded the margin of safety in the discretionary public resources available to most of the worldâ€™s wealthiest economies; that is, the capacity of their governments to incur additional debt responding to a further financial crisis,…â€
Read the full article:Â Death by DebtÂ [PDF]
The Online English Edition of Der Spiegel has a brilliant analysis of the European debt crisis that is not to be missed.
Read â€œThe Ticking Euro Bombâ€ (October 5-7, no rx 2011):
Part 1, advice Section 1:Â â€œHow a good idea became a tragedyâ€:Â http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790138,00.html
Part 1, Section 2:Â â€œThe Greeks jump at the opportunityâ€: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790138-2,00.html
Part 1, Section 3:Â â€œThe critics of the Euroâ€: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790138-3,00.html
Act II:Â Life with the Euro (2001 â€“ 2008):
Part 2, Section 1: â€œHow the Euro Zone ignored its own rulesâ€:
Part 2, Section 2:Â â€œThe Greek deception is discoveredâ€: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790333-2,00.html
Part 3, Section 1:Â What options are left for the common currency? http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568,00.html
Part 3, Section 2:Â Greece adrift http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568-2,00.html
Part 3, Section 3:Â Design defects, political weakness, public disinterest http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568-3,00.html
Part 3, Section 4:Â Are European rescue efforts doomed to fail? http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,790568-4,00.html
In case you missed the important and perceptive article by Doug Saunders, in Saturdayâ€™s Globe and Mail (â€œWhy the West quietly cheers Turkeyâ€™s Rise,â€ 17 September 2011, A16: http://tinyurl.com/3sucw5d), here is a short summary: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was well-received during a visit last week to the capitals of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. This and other recent initiatives appears to mark a significant shift in Turkeyâ€™s foreign-policy orientation, away from Europe and the prospect of EU membership and toward the Arab world, which of course remembers Constantinople as the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled much of the Middle East and North Africa for four centuries, until it finally collapsed for good in 1922.Political Risk in the Middle East
Summaries – and links back to the originals – on the reports on the oil spill.
When will the senior political and financial leaders in European countries come to their senses? When will they concede that their current policies to contain the debt crisis are not working and cannot be made to work? How long are they going to prolong the agony of waiting for the next wave of contagion to strike?
Two of my books from The University of Ottawa Press – The Doom Loop in the Financial Sector and The Priesthood of Science – are available as ebooks or PDF file: http://www.press.uottawa.ca/search/node/leiss.
In addition, all of my books from McGill/Queens Press are available as eBooks for libraries. These include:
9780773575356 Leiss, W – C.B. Macpherson
9780773561922 Leiss, W. – The Limits to Satisfaction: An Essay on the Problem of Needs and Commodities
9780773562219 Leiss, W. – Under Technology’s Thumb
9780773564794 Leiss, W. – The Domination of Nature
9780773569515 Leiss, W. – In the Chamber of Risks: Understanding Risk Controversies
9780773572409 Leiss, W. – Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk: the Perils of Poor Risk communication
9780773564671 Leiss/Chociolko – Risk and Responsibility
Three papers on risks associated with the long-term storage of high-level radioactive waste in Canada, mind commissioned by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization: Go to http://www.nwmo.ca/conceptofrisk
Paper #1: How should matters of risk and safety be discussed?
The first paper addresses the question of how to approach discussions about risk in this area. Four â€œreference framesâ€ are used to demonstrate the different approaches or perspectives that can be applied to a conversation about this risk: the energy policy frame; the risk and safety frame; the overriding values frame, and; the geographical frame.
Paper #2: How might communities organize their discussions about hosting a site for used nuclear fuel?
This paper presents a variety of deliberative tools that a community might use when holding discussions about hosting a facility. Communities involved in a site selection process may wish to consider how the process of engagement might unfold in the context of their own unique situation, and the author describes some types of formal and informal methods for facilitating reasoned debates about controversial issues.
Paper #3: What is happening in other countries where similar issues about used nuclear fuel are being discussed?
This final paper deals primarily with high-level radioactive waste management and provides an overview of the plans of various countries to deal with their high-level waste. All of the information is taken from publicly-available Internet sources, most of which are websites maintained either by national agencies that have legal responsibility for the waste within their borders, or international agencies with other types of mandates in this area. Profiles for 16 countries are provided, along with a large collection of references and links to internet-based resources, as well as a table illustrating the progress of each country in managing radioactive waste.
William Leiss, OC, PhD, FRSC
The following series of short essays was written in the period June â€“ August 2011 and posted on my website: www.leiss.ca. Similar pieces will be added to the series on a regular basis. If you are interested in them you may check the website periodically or follow me on Twitter (@WilliamLeiss), where I post a Tweet (a) each time a new short blog appears on my website and (b) when I read something in the current press relevant to risk issues and provide the URL for those who also might want to read it.
Update: the PDF was updated August 29, 2011
Before 2008 financial industry professionals arranged to deceive local government officials around the world about the risks inherent in their â€œstructuredâ€ products, pilule costing the citizens those officials worked for huge losses they could ill afford. Much of this sad story has been told in excellent investigative journalism accounts published in The New York Times, some of which are referred to in my 2010 book, The Doom Loop in the Financial Sector and Other Black Holes of Risk (University of Ottawa Press), pages 38-43. Here I refer to developments occurring after the book was finished, as well as one other newly-reported important episode, involving school districts in the state of Wisconsin.
Duping the RubesRev3 [PDF]
Update: the PDF was updated October 3
There was an important article by Jack Ewing and Liz Alderman in the August 10 edition of The New York Times, thumb entitled â€œSome in Germany want Greece to temporarily exit the Euro Zone.â€ This article takes up issues that have been quietly heating up in the background for some time already but which are, cialis inevitably, becoming harder to ignore. Ever since the first EU bailout of Greece in May 2010, and intensifying with the subsequent Portuguese rescue mission and especially the second Greek one, both in 2011, comments emanating from Germany and elsewhere have cast aspersions on the â€œprofligate southernersâ€ who have come to depend on their â€œfrugalâ€ northern compatriots to rescue them from financial disasters of their own making.
Full article: Risk Risk Tradeoffs [PDF]
The phrase â€œfat tailsâ€ became familiar to some people after the storm broke in 2008â€™s global financial crisis. A fat tail refers to the probability and consequences of a possible event that is outside the bounds of our normal expectations, find as defined either by our prior experience or by accepted theories â€“ for example, link theories of the behaviour of financial markets.1 More specifically, it refers to the probability of an adverse event (such as a financial crisis) that is both more likely to occur than is â€œnormallyâ€ expected, and that if it should occur could have catastrophic dimensions. [See www.fattails.ca and the lovely 2010 animated graphics in The Economist: http://econ.st/n9xYZq.]
Environmental risks associated with drilling for shale gas, prescription and the extraction process known as â€œhydraulic fracturingâ€ [â€œfrackingâ€], are receiving a good deal of attention in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.
The state of New York has had a moratorium on shale gas development for the past year, but Governor Mario Cuomo has recommended that it be lifted in favour of permitting activity in selected areas. The Province of Quebec now has a two-year moratorium in place and has indicated that further research will be required before it is known whether the environmental risks can be limited to acceptable levels.
Readers who are interested in this issue, especially those who live in or near areas where underground shale deposits may attract this activity, will be interested in the following current resources.
Shale Gas Drilling [PDF]
Hereâ€™s the latest from the Greek debt crisis:
â€œEurope is seeking to avoid a default at all cost because it could also initiate payment of credit-default swaps, there with unpredictable results. There is little public information on which financial institutions have sold credit-default swaps and might have to absorb losses if Greece defaulted, there but it is likely that American banks and insurance companies have taken on the largest share. The shock to the global economy might compare to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, illness the European Central Bank has warned.â€ (Jack Ewing & Landon Thomas Jr., â€œEurope faces tough road on effort to ease Greek debt,â€ The New York Times, 4 July 2011)
Wait a minute! In credit default swaps the first party pays a premium to a second party in order to â€œinsureâ€ the value of an amount invested in corporate or government bonds made by the first, and the second party guarantees to make up the shortfall if that investment loses value, for example where the issuers of the bonds default on their debt.* Derivatives such as credit default swaps are a risk management strategy for investors, protecting them (for a price) against large losses. So how does this very sensible risk mitigation strategy, used by individual investors, end up causing or exacerbating another broad financial crisis?
The month of June 2011 marks the first anniversary of the release of Air India Flight 182: A Canadian Tragedy, illness the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, troche headed by Mr. Justice John Major.
The mid-flight destruction of Flight 182 off the Irish coast on 23 June 1985 killed all 329 passengers and crew; an explosion at Narita Airport in Japan, which was part of the same terrorist plot, killed two baggage handlers there. The resulting toll represents, still today, the second-largest loss of life (second only to the September 11, 2001 events in the United States) in a single terrorist plot ever to occur anywhere in the world.
As we are now seeing in the long-running global financial crisis, decease the initial stages of catastrophic failures in risk management can have follow-on consequences over long periods of time. In the case of blood donation risk, the infection of blood recipients by the HIV and Hepatitis C viruses in many countries around the world, including Canada, in the 1980s was such a catastrophic failure. This risk is known as â€œtransfusion-transmitted infectionâ€ (TTI). Full post here: Catastrophic Failures in Risk Management 3 [PDF]
With increasing frequency comments on the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Greece and the euro zone include a reference to the need to avoid a repeat of the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008. The basis for this otherwise puzzling comparison is the concept of â€œcontagion,â€ that is, cascading failures in the financial sector â€“ the â€œfalling dominos scenarioâ€ â€“ which once started with a single â€œeventâ€ cannot be halted, by any means currently at our disposal, until other (perhaps many other) large losses occur.
Full post here: Catastrophic Failures in Risk Management 2 [PDF]
Intergovernmental Forum on Risk Management 2011 Conference Board of Canada, Ottawa, May 2011 and the 3rd iNTeg-Risk Conference: â€œRisk vs. Riskâ€ Stuttgart, Germany, June 2011. PDF version of slides here: Blindsided by Risk
Dr. Atsuo Kishimoto is a member of the Research Institute of Science for Safety and Sustainability (RISS), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) , Onogawa 16-1, Tsukuba 305-8569, Japan. This presentation was delivered at the iNTeg-Risk Annual Conference, 7-8 June 2011, in Stuttgart, Germany and is made available here with the kind permission of Dr. Kishimoto:
Atsuo Kishimoto, â€œRisk governance deficits in the multiple risk situation: The Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear accidentâ€ [PPT]. IR_JP 1 4_Kishimoto