Archive for September, 2008

“Wall Street, R.I.P.: The End of an Era, Even at Goldman”

Posted in Economic Geography on September 29, 2008 by geography101

Goldman Sachs Headquarters in New York

Above, the headlines from the business section of Sunday’s New York Times.

The story begins in an eerily similar fashion to the one we’ve been following in the Enron documentary: ‘A world of big egos. A world where people love to roll the dice with borrowed money. A world of tightwire trading, propelled by computers…”

Toward the end of the Enron documentary, Sherron Watkins the whistleblower at Enron remarks ‘it could happen again.’ In what ways is the financial crisis on Wall street a larger version of the spectacular collapse that befell Enron? How does it differ?


“This Weeks News is a Geography Lesson”

Posted in Economic Geography, Geography and Globalization on September 22, 2008 by geography101

Geographer Rob Shields comments on the recent economic crisis in the US arguing that we need to understand it as a lesson in geography…Read the short blog here

Life and Debt: Globalization in Jamaica

Posted in Economic Geography, Geography and Globalization on September 22, 2008 by geography101

Dana Sitar, from our class sent in this video. She writes “its about Jamaica’s debt [from policies of the World Bank, IMF and Inter-American Development Bank] and the Kingston Free Zone, an EPZ in the capital city.  It’s a great example of the NIDL and an explanation of EPZ’s.  Enjoy– if you have the time!”. Its an impressive film that has received rave reviews. Steven Holden of the NYT says “‘Life and Debt’ illustrates with an impressive (and depressing) acuity, globalization can have a devastating impact on third world countries. The movie offers the clearest analysis of globalization and its negative effects that I’ve ever seen on a movie or television screen”. You can watch the full film here

Film Screening on Tuesday and Thursday: Enron

Posted in Cultural Geography, Economic Geography on September 22, 2008 by geography101

Just a reminder that we will be screening the film ‘Enron: The smartest guys in the room’, this week starting Tuesday, Sept 23rd and ending Thursday Sept 26th. Here are some notes to help guide your screening.

First, please read over Schonenberger, ‘Creating the Corporate World: Strategy, Culture, Time and Space’, from the E-Reserves. Her chapter, focuses on ‘how the world looks from the point of view of…the corporation–and what happens when it needs to change its world’ (2000:377). While her chapter mainly focuses on the transition from fordism to post-fordism, or ‘secondary economies’ (manufacturing) we are going to take this focus and apply it to the tertiary economy – particularly the world of banks, stock market, etc. The tertiary economy is largely driven by finance capital (or money). This is the sector of the economy that is in crisis right now in the US. The US Federal Reserve has been pumping money into various corporations  – the latest to receive loans are Lehman Brothers Bank and American International  Group.  This economy is so globally interconnected that this crisis is having effects all over the globe (see the article from the New York Times below)

Often it appears that this economy, aside from head offices on Wall Street, etc, does not exist in any particular ‘place’. For example we cannot trace the the wealth it produces back to a factory with hundreds of workers actually making a product (like cars). On the surface, it appears to make money out of simply trading stocks and investing money. But somewhere along the line this wealth has to be connected to some real place. For example, the current crisis in the US’s tertiary economy can be traced back to mortgages on houses in the US. In other words, geography is central to the teritary economy, even though it does not seem that way.

Fearing world wide financial collapse, Federal Reserve bails out “sprawling empire” American International Group for $85 billion

Posted in Economic Geography on September 17, 2008 by geography101

Over the past few weeks, the global web of capital flows has been making headlines worldwide. Today the Fed announced it will loan financial giant American International Group an astounding $85 billion dollars. What happened to AIG? Well, A.I.G. provides insurance to investors who purchase mortgage-backed securities. But the sub-prime crisis that has resulted so many people loosing their homes in the US has made those mortgage-backed securities basically worthless. If that sounds a bit complicated, well, its because it is. And getting more so. Here’s a diagram to help you follow the AIG trail. The important thing for geographers to note is that no matter how easy it gets for this complex web of financial systems to ‘defy gravity’, it is always, in the end (as we see from the diagram), tied to some real place. In this case, as we can see, people’s homes in the US. Read the full story here.

Worried AIG customers line up outside its office in Singapore.

Worried AIG customers line up outside its office in Singapore.

Redefining the core: “Strong Economy Propels Brazil to World Stage”

Posted in Economic Geography, Geography and Globalization on September 12, 2008 by geography101

As President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s investment in Brazil’s social economy transforms everyday life for many of the country’s poor; the oil boom propels the nation onto the world economic stage. Long one of the most economically polarized countries in the Americas, the gap between the rich and the poor has decreased by 6% since 2001: ‘while the top 10 percent of Brazil’s earners saw their cumulative income rise by 7 percent from 2001 to 2006, the bottom 10 percent shot up by 58 percent’. View the slide show and read the full article in the New York Times.

Oil worker's id cards now fill the walls of an obsolete shipyard

Oil workers' name tags hang on the wall of a once abandoned shipyard

“New UW sweatshirt promotes environment, fair trade”

Posted in Economic Geography, Geography and Globalization on September 9, 2008 by geography101

UW Madison has worked out a deal with a company in Peru to produce UW sweatshirts. Read about it here. Fair trade, organic, unionized labour. All good. And just in time for the next Badger’s game…

Another example of how our consumption of goods (shaped by our everyday life, identity, and social relations here in Madison) – in this case ‘ethical’ consumption – can have real material effects in another place (Peru). But if the shirts are coming all the way from Peru to Madison, does our consumption of these sweatshirts produce real material effects in other places as well?