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Showing posts from January, 2008

And this about the Democratic race...

Business Times - 31 Jan 2008


Will 'Billary' stop the Obama resurgence?

Expect a long and nasty fight between these political stars

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

SENATOR Barack Obama's crushing victory over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary on Saturday has provided his campaign with huge political momentum as these two political stars, together with the third presidential contender, Senator John Edwards prepare for the key primary races, including in California, New York and New Jersey that will take place next week.

The final results of the Democratic primary in South Carolina indicate that Mr Obama had won 55 per cent of the vote against 27 per cent for Mrs Clinton and 18 per cent for Mr Edwards. This is the second primary victory for Mr Obama after his earlier victory in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa.

Mr Obama needed a big win in South Carolina after his losses in the primaries in New Hampshire and Nevada. And…

Nightmare scenario evolving

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Last month I suggested here that "And who knows? If Mr McCain starts regaining his status as a Republican front runner, the earlier Conventional Wisdom - Mrs Clinton vs Mr McCain - would prove to be very perceptive." Based on my reading of the McCain victory in Florida and the expected endorsement by Giuliani as well as the mess among the Democrats -- I'm very doubtful that Obama will win the Democratic nomination -- we'll probably get a Clinton-McCain race, and my guess is that McCain will win. He'll use foreign policy/national security -- especially against the backdrop of a possible confrontation with Iran 9see my earlier post) and the alleged "success" in Iraq -- to bash Hillary and the Democrats as "appeasers" etc. and who in any case don't have any alternative to offer in the Middle East. For those of us who opposed the Iraq War and W's foreign policy – and for opponents of Big Government, in general -- all of this is VERY BAD n…

Monetary and fiscal policies to the rescue?

Business Times - 29 Jan 2008


Monetary and fiscal policies to the rescue?

Observers worry that the policies' potential effects could plant the seeds of stagflation

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

FACED with a clear and present danger that the crisis in the sub-prime mortgage sector and the ensuing turmoil in the financial markets could transform the downturn spiral in the US economy into a long and painful recession, officials and lawmakers in Washington decided last week on strong doses of monetary and fiscal medicine.

Many economists remain doubtful that the monetary step - an emergency rate cut of three-quarters of a percentage point by the Federal Reserve (the largest in a quarter century, that was announced last Tuesday) - combined with the US$150 billion package of fiscal stimulus agreed by Congress are going to avert a recession, especially since it would take several months before these two moves could affect the economy.

Moreover, many observers are worried that some …

Forget about a war with Iran?

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in Asiatimes.com

SPEAKING FREELY
Forget about war with Iran?
By Leon Hadar

"Ding-dong, the witch is dead," cheerlead the proponents of the Conventional Wisdom (CW) in the Beltway's reality-based community these days - the "witch" being President Buscheney's plan to bomb Iran, which was supposed to be the next chapter in the neo-conservative narrative.

Unfortunately, this CWers' (pronounced se-wers) don't-worry-be-happy spinning is based not on reality but on a lot of wishful thinking masquerading as a larger-than-life Realpolitik axiom, that is, the realist "surge" in Washington is working!

On a macro-level, this realist faith has helped construct a fairy-tale-like narrative in which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pentagon chief Robert Gates have mounted a courageous and effective bureaucratic and political campaign against the neo-con remnants in the George W Bush administration now that Rummy (Donald Rumsfeld) the matinee idol…

And bad economic news

Business Times - 22 Jan 2008


Business Times - 24 Jan 2008


Cutting rates like it's an election year

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

THE decision by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on Tuesday to lower its target for the federal funds rate 75 basis points to 3.5 per cent is probably only the first in a series of such cuts by the policy arm of the US central bank. This is the largest cut since 1982 when it started using cuts to the federal funds rate as a primary policy tool.

The Fed chief Ben Bernanke and his colleagues on the FOMC have already cut the funds rate by 1.75 percentage points since last year and most observers expect the central bank to embrace another cut of 25 basis points at the scheduled FOMC meeting next week and to continue cutting rates to 2.5 or even two percentage points by the end of this year.

If the conditions in the markets continue to deteriorate there is a possibility that the FOMC will cut rates by half a percentage point next week.

The sur…

Bad news

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There are growing indications that either one of the two presidential candidates that had backed Bush's decision to invade Iraq John ("One Hundred" Years") McCain or Hillary ("Won't Apologize") Clinton are going to end-up in the White House. And to get an idea of what's going to happen after the election, read this bipartisan manifesto and this "analysis" by a New York Times' cheerleader for the Iraq War who wasn't fired. I also remain very skeptical about the notion advanced by some analysts about the realist resurgence in Washington led supposedly by Gates and Rice. I don't buy that wishful thinking. I just see tactical adjustments here and there. But consider the following: If either McCain or Clinton are chosen by their parties as the presidential candidates, Bush-Cheney are then left with a wide window of opporunity (say from June to November) to take U.S. military action against Iran (which will probably be in response t…

No Sunshine For Bush In Mideast

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From the Hartford Courant:
Courant.com
No Sunshine For Bush In Mideast
LEON HADAR

January 17, 2008

Some U.S. presidents facing political and economic problems at home seemed to have embraced the political dictum, "If it rains in the Midwest, seek the sunshine in the Middle East." Hence in June 1974, as he was drowning politically and personally in scandals that would lead eventually to a humiliating resignation from office, President Richard Nixon took a triumphant seven-day trip to four Arab states and Israel where, as Time put it, "the huzzas and the hosannas fell like sweet rain."

President Bill Clinton, who was also beset by scandals in the last years of his term, was eager to salvage his legacy as a statesman by inviting the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Camp David in July 2000 to negotiate a historic peace accord.

But neither Nixon nor Clinton could warm the political weather in Washington.

President George W. Bush seems to dismiss the lessons learned by his pre…

Voter anxiety over economy to decide White House race

Business Times - 18 Jan 2008


Voter anxiety over economy to decide White House race

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

POLITICAL and economic analysts are continuing to debate whether the American economy is heading towards a full-blown recession. But they all would agree that Michigan - the state in which Mitt Romney, the son of the late governor of the state, won the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday - is in the midst of what has been described as a 'one-state recession'.

Most observers seem to recognise that Michigan's faltering economy was a major issue in Tuesday's presidential primary and this explains why Mr Romney - a successful business executive who placed the bad economic news coming out of the Great Lakes State at the centre of his campaign there - achieved an impressive victory, winning 39 per cent of the votes in the primary, compared to 30 per cent for Senator John McCain and 16 per cent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Indeed, exit…

Bloody bad movie

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I didn't like There will be Blood and was disappointed by Daniel Day-Lewis's performance in the film. I thought that the film was too long and boring and very pretentious. It's based loosely a novel by socialist author Upton Sinclair and indeed, its "message" is that the so-called Robber Barons who helped establish the economic-indutrial foundations of this country -- it wasn't TR who did it -- were not only ruthless and greedy; but as reflected in the the character of "Daniel Plainview," played by Day-Lewis, they were either sociopaths,pyscopaths or both. I don't think so. The Aviator where Leonardo_DiCaprio played Howard Hughes did a better job in terms of portraying the fascinating and complex characters of the risk-taking American entrepreneurs who were the driving forces behind America's greatness.

economic stuff

Business Times - 15 Jan 2008


Not saying the R-word - but alluding to it a lot

Bush concedes 'economic challenges' and the Fed stands ready to take 'substantive action'

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

FEDERAL Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was asked whether he expects, as the questioner put it, 'the R-word'.

'The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession,' Mr Bernanke responded after his address in Washington last week. 'We are forecasting slow growth.'

Then he added: 'But as I mentioned today, there are downside risks and, therefore, it's very important for us to stand ready to take substantive action to address those risks and provide some insurance against those negative outcomes.'

Since the start of the downturn in the American economy - the housing crisis; the credit crunch; the high oil prices; signs of unemployment and lower spending - US officials and lawmakers, including the head of the central bank, have r…

Golden Oldie: Tonkin Gulf and Persian Gulf

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George McGovern writes that Gulf of Tonkin Will Be
Tough to Repeat.
Please read my related commentary here.

"Louis-Farrakhaning" Obama

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And now from the Republican to the Democratic race. I’m registered as an “independent” in Maryland so I won’t be able to vote in the Democratic primary even if I wanted (and I don’t). I’ve read a lot about Barack Obama and while I don’t share his views on many issues, I certainly applaud his anti-Iraq-War position (although, again, I’m not sure about his overall foreign policy agenda).And I can’t stand Hillary with her I’m-entitled-to-be-President-and-I-really-care-about-you mode and Obama is really “cool.” So I probably would have voted for him. My guess is that the Clintons are in panic now as they are continuing to spread the allegations that Obama is a “Muslim,” like the one I received through the internet which was emailed to many American-Jewish voters:
Who is Barack Obama?

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu , Hawaii , to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel , Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHIEST from Wichita…

Double Standards?

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I finally had a chance to read James Kirchick piece in the New Republic about a few racist, homophobic and what is described as "Israel-obssesed" (like the New York Times is not "Israel-obsessed?") quotes from newsletters published once- unon-a-time by Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul about whom I had written here and I've been following the debate over the issue, including Dr. Paul's interview on CNN (via Reason.com). Whoever had written these comments should not be regarded as a libertarian but as a small-time bigot. I do believe Dr. Paul who maintains that he didn't author the material in the newsletters. And I totally agree with the point he made in CNN that racism, homophbia, and anti-Semitism are collectivist ideologies that run contrary to the basic principles of libertarianism. For the sake of transparency, I think that it would be a good idea for Dr. Paul to let us know who did author these ugly comments and then he will be able t…

'Obamania' in eclipse as Hillary wins New Hampshire

Business Times - 10 Jan 2008


By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IN THE aftermath of last week's Democratic and Republican caucuses in Iowa, it seemed as though the political pundits in Washington were joining what was described as 'Obamania', an ecstasy-like outburst of enthusiasm over the impressive victory of the young and charismatic African-American Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton who once upon a time was considered to be the 'inevitable' presidential candidate of her party.

Defying all the political insiders and pollsters, Mr Obama ended-up transforming expectations about who was going to win the nomination, gaining a huge momentum, or a Big Mo as the political professionals call it, and leading the same people who dismissed his significance before Iowa to predict after Iowa that Hillary was 'finished', especially if - as most opinion polls indicated - the Senator from New York would lose the primaries in New Hampshire.

Indeed, te…

Is the era of Republican dominance over?

Business Times - 09 Jan 2008

While anti-Bush sentiment and cracks in the Republican coalition are clearly playing into the hands of the Democrats, it's too early to conclude that the Democrats are about to emerge as the next majority party

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IN THE aftermath of the 2004 re-election of US President George W Bush - who was considered in 2000 to be an 'accidental president' - and the regaining by Republicans of control over the Senate and the House of Representatives, analysts were speculating that the Republicans were on their way to dominate US politics for another generation of two.

After all, Republicans had occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years and had managed to hold on to the House of Representatives for eight years, reflecting economic and demographic changes that had transformed the nation since the 1960s.

Hence pundits and historians suggested that the 'war of terrorism' was providing the Republicans, whose …

Small Think

An article in the New York Times drew my attention to a new website Big Think which the NYT piece describes as "a YouTube for ideas." It sounds very intriguing, until you check it out and you discover that it's nothing more than another platform for the kind of people who show up on Charlie Rose, which is not surprising since the two guys behind it are former "producers" with the show. The concept itself is interesting if Big Think could have developed into a site where intellectuals discuss issues with other intetellectuals and interact with you and I. But there isn't any reason why should waste my time watching John McCain or Tom Friedman do their familiar shtick.

Race to the Oval Office throwing up surprises

Business Times - 08 Jan 2008

The success of Obama also marks the decline of the older generation of the Baby Boomers

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IF A YEAR ago while at a party in Washington, you had contemplated over dinner that a Kenyan man's son whose middle name happened to be 'Hussein' and who had spent his early childhood in Indonesia would win the Democratic party's first presidential primary in Iowa - and with the help of white rural voters would beat a former First Lady and the choice of the party's establishment - the guests would probably respond to your prediction by urging you to stop drinking that strong stuff in your glass.

And if you had also suggested that the Republicans would select in Iowa as their presidential candidate a Baptist Minister and a unknown governor of a small southern state, whose only claim to fame is that he had lost more than 100 pounds instead of a former governor of Massachusetts, a former mayor of New York city and a…

The Reagan Coalition, etc.

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There have been a lot of articles in the MSM and on the Internet in recent weeks about the coming breakup of the so-called Reagan Coalition -- social conservatives; national security conservatives; economic conservatives -- here and here and hereand here. Like my thoughtful brothers and sisters in the media I enjoy promoting grand decline-and-fall theories explaining current political developments by ascribing them to historical struggles involving clashing intellectual-political forces (or the other side of the coin: the formation of coalitions between them). But I'm not sure whether that that is happening right now with regard to the Reagan Coalition. It's true that the glue of the Cold War that held it together melted after the Soviet Union and Communism collapsed. But the post-9/11 effort to replace the Soviet/Communism threat with that of so-called Islamo-Fascism has overall been quite successful. Yes, some of of the "realists" and a few libertarians and paleos …

My letter to the editor in the Financial Times

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letter to the editor
... but at least Prof Ferguson kept it short this time
Published: January 4 2008 02:00 | Last updated: January 4 2008 02:00

From Dr Leon Hadar.

Sir, It took me 416 pages, or about five hours, to learn that the US could and should become the 21st-century version of the 19th century’s successful British empire (Niall Ferguson, The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, Penguin Books, 2005). But it took me only 914 words and about five minutes to discover that the US was actually becoming the 21st-century version of the 19th century's bankrupted Ottoman empire (Niall Ferguson, “An Ottoman warning for America”, Financial Times, January 2 2008).

Thank God (and the FT) for small mercies.

Leon Hadar,
Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies,
Cato Institute,
Washington, DC 20001, US

predictions...

Today in Iowa:

Democrats:
1. Edwards.
2. Obama.
3. Clinton.

Republicans:
1. Paul.
2. Huckabee.
3. Romney.

November: Romney vs. Edwards.

And I'm probably wrong. But it's fun doing it.

...And I was wrong. I suppose that with regard to Paul it had to do with some wishful thinking. In any case, it's good news that the two anti-war candidates in the Democratic party came ahead of the Washington Candidate. Huckabee has been critical of Bush's foreign policy and that he and Ron Paul ended-up with so many delegates is also good news. Let's hope that the trend continues. My worst-case scenario is McCain re-emerging (imagine a McCain-Giuliani ticket).

US Election -- forget the conventional wisdom

Business Times - 02 Jan 2008

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IF YOU'VE been following the media coverage of the current US presidential campaign and listened to the many predictions that have been made by the pundits, pollsters and political 'insiders' about which of the Democratic and Republicans candidate was going to win the nomination of his or her party, you may have concluded by now that the 'experts' seem to be always wrong.

Indeed, at the start of the campaign last year, Washington's political professionals, reflecting the Conventional Wisdom (CW), were stating with quite a lot of confidence that Democratic New York Senator (and former first lady) Hillary Clinton and Republican Senator John McCain were going to emerge as the winners in the presidential primaries.

Hence Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the young and charismatic African-American, was dismissed by the media as nothing more than a brief media sensation, a political upstart tha…