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<em>“I view derivatives as time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system.”
Warren Buffett, letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, 2004.</em>
During 1997, Blythe Masters, a 34-year-old British-born Cambridge graduate, whose degree is in mathematics, conceived and created a new financial product at J.P. Morgan in New York. It was designed to separate the default risk on loans from the loans themselves. Continue Reading Just in case you really do want to know who got us into this mess

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Earlier this month, the Associated Press distributed a story about the last breeding pair of Yangtze giant soft-shell turtles.
“She’s around 80 years old. He’s 100. Breathless scientists watched as the world’s most endangered turtles successfully mated. But the attempt to breed the species’ last known female with the last known male in China has failed because the eggs didn’t hatch …. The elderly pair can try again next year, part of a delicate attempt to keep the species alive.” Continue Reading Fourth Estate could learn a lot from a couple over-the-hill turtles (20441)

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As the election approaches, it seems more and more likely that Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the United States.
He will assume the office during a time of social and economic upheaval that has few parallels in American history. While the nation is not in grave peril, its future depends, more than at any time since 1932, upon wise, thoughtful and courageous leadership. Continue Reading We could be on the precipice of a new political reality

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The world crisis, which has seen the arcane financial system that underpinned a globalized economy disintegrate, is far from over. Think of the Panic of 1907, the Depression of the 1930s and the economic “dead zone” of the 1970s — events with repercussions that eventually affected all businesses, not just Wall Street. Continue Reading Hindsight: perhaps we really did live too well too long

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A few years back, unwinding a real estate deal gone bad, I called up my then-partner to give him the bad news: to get rid of the junk property we’d foolishly bought, we’d have to bring several thousand bucks to the closing table.
There was a long silence.
Then he said: “You know, John, sometimes you pay tuition and you didn’t even know you were going to school.”
Last month, I paid one of those “tuition” bills. Continue Reading We could use a little more protecting and serving

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Here are some lessons from last week’s epochal financial meltdown/bailout.
On the good side, we learned that the federal government can be powerful and decisive at a time of real crisis. Whatever you might think about the rescue plan drafted on the fly by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, it almost certainly will forestall an economic disaster of unparalleled scale. Continue Reading Hopefully we’ve learned something from staring into the abyss

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Remember Sarah Connor?
In the first “Terminator,” she was the apparently simple-minded young woman who found herself at the center of history, with the fate of all mankind hanging on her courage, intelligence and resourcefulness.
And, as all of us who loved the movie know, Sarah came through. Continue Reading While Obama slept, McCain was producing a blockbuster sequel

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Detroit: fading and moribund, plagued by crime, with a decaying central city, a public school system in crisis, a disgraced mayor, plummeting property values and chronically high unemployment.
Colorado Springs: vibrant and growing, located in a setting of unparalleled beauty, with good schools, abundant employment opportunities, low taxes, honest government and business-friendly policies. Continue Reading Are we driving down the same dead-end road as Detroit?

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It’s easy to be cynical about politics. And after spending last week in Denver, covering the Democratic National Convention, surrounded by preening, narcissistic pols, listening to endless speechifying, ears and eyes assaulted by protestors, special interests and subgroups of every description, it was even easier. Continue Reading This year’s presidential politics really are personal

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Attack ads! They’re everywhere, inescapable unless you’ve managed to leave the 21st century and dwell in an idyllic, undefiled wilderness, without TV, Internet access, cell phones, newspapers or mail.
Otherwise, you have to put up with various screamers telling you all about Bob Schaeffer, Mark Udall, Barack Obama, and John McCain. Continue Reading It’s time to roll up the sleeves and let the mud fly

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