From The Business Pages, Oct. 16, 2008

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THE PLANK OCTOBER 16, 2008

From The Business Pages, Oct. 16, 2008

A lotta great stuff in the papers
this morning, so let’s begin:

  • An important
    side story to the financial meltdown has been the way British Prime
    Minister Gordon Brown has used it to narrow the gap between him and his
    Tory opponent, David Cameron; until recently, Cameron had been up by
    double-digit points and the British commentariat has largely written Brown
    off. But early on, Brown, the former chancellor of the exchequer, said
    that a crisis of this magnitude meant the UK couldn’t afford to let a
    newbie (Cameron is just 42) take over. He has since underlined that point
    by launching a series of aggressive interventions into the British banking
    system, including the probable nationalization of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
    Now he’s pressing another, even bigger proposal, a reconstructed
    International Monetary Fund that could act as a “global
    early warning system
    ” for the financial system. European Union leaders
    are expected to put forward a similar position soon. So at least someone
    is profiting from all this mess.
  • In an interview
    with the Wall Street Journal
    (which, contrary to my post yesterday, apparently not longer puts the bulk
    of its content behind paywalls), FDIC head Sheila Bair wraps Washington
    for not providing more help to homeowners. Until now she’s been a steady
    soldier in the Bush response squad, allowing Paulson and Bernanke to set
    the pace. But she has also seen her agency gain enormous new powers and
    take a central role in the unfolding government response--and apparently
    she’s not going to sit quietly. (Oh, and for those who really don’t get
    what’s going on in the economy, she’s even written a children’s
    book
    about the magic of compound interest.)
  • It’s
    from yesterday, but an
    article
    in the Washington Post
    does a good job of explaining the emergence of credit derivatives and Washington’s
    failure to grasp their importance and risk. The piece goes too far by
    implying that Clinton-era SEC Chair Arthur Levitt was a key obstacle--Levitt
    is the standard-bearer for better accounting and stricter regulation of
    complex financial instruments--but it is a good read anyway.
  • Also,
    two stories unrelated to finance, but still interesting to me, at least:
    Turns out J

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