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Crisis-O-Rama

Crisis-O-Rama


All of a sudden, events are looking a bit fluxy out there, as though the world is shuddering through some spooky ch-ch-ch-changes, like a monster waiting to be born, with strange convergences of ecology, politics and economy, and there’s only so much you can do to prepare, really. Criticality is in the air!

The horses are out of the barn on the Wuhan Coronavirus. Air travel was curtailed too late in the game — and still only partially — with asymptomatic-but-infectious human carriers winging to every corner of the world and probably contaminating airports all along the way. There’s plenty of thought and counter-thought on what exactly is going on behind the scenes in China. The ruling party has knocked itself out demonstrating its earnestness in the crisis, performing great feats like the construction of a one-thousand-bed hospital in ten days, shutting down the lunar new year festivities (like cancelling Christmas here), and locking down a hundred million citizens in quarantine. Pretty impressive.

But there’s also a theory that the Coronavirus affords a cover for cascading failures in China’s corrupt and shifty banking system. The country had already stepped across some frontiers in demographics, energy consumption, and industrial growth that were shoving it toward contraction for the first time in two generations. Coronavirus has shut down a lot of production in big things like cars and big-little things like cell phones, and supply lines are shutting down to world markets. This amounts to the first big test of the integrated global economy, as well as the world’s debt-saturated business model.

When a lot of parties and counterparties can’t pay each other because their revenue flows are cut off, the securities, currencies, equities, and other abstract representations of wealth go south. The US and Europe are no better positioned for a crisis in their banking arrangements, and confidence is starting to crack.

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