Showing posts from October, 2007

No Committee to Save the World now

There is a certain nostalgia in Washington these days for a creative US economic leadership, like back in the 1990s By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT MANY American magazines tend to feature on their covers pictures of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and other notorious public figures, so that it may be difficult to recall that there was a time when the US media treated economists like John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman like celebrities, if not as national superstars. On Feb 15, 1999, following the 1997 East Asian Financial Crisis and the 1998 Long Term Capital Management collapse/Russia/Brazil financial crisis, Time magazine's cover carried a group photo of then US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy, Lawrence Summers, and proclaimed the three to be the chairman and two co-chairmen of the 'Committee to Save the World'. 'Economists as heroes?' asked the magazine. 'It sounds sill

Sleeping with the enemy

Ang Lee's award-winning, very expensive and very-long Lust, Caution (158 minutes) reminded me very much of Paul Verhoeven's award-winning, very expensive and very-long Black Book (145 minutes). Both films are historical dramas that take place against the backdrop of war, involving political intrigue, espionage, deception and a lot of violence, torture and sex. Lee's film is set in World War II Shanghai during Japanese occupation while Verhoeven's is set in World War II Holland during the German occupation. "Lust, Caution" is about a young Chinese woman, played by the beautiful and very talented Tang Wei who is a member of an anti-Japanese underground and whose task is to seduce a member of the Japanese collaborationist government, played by the great actor, Tony Leung as part of a scheme to assassinate him while "The Black Book" is about a Dutch-Jewish woman played by Carice van Houten who is a member of an anti-German underground and whose task

Loving the weak U.S. dollar

Business Times - 18 Oct 2007 US happy with falling value of the greenback By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT NOTWITHSTANDING the rhetoric coming out of the Bush Administration about Washington's steadfast commitment to a 'strong' US currency, it is not a secret that most of this city's policymakers seem to share the view that the falling dollar is good news and that it should stay that way for quite a while. Hence, a friend and long-time critic of the Bush Administration admitted during a recent conversation that 'one of few things that the Bush team did right was not to talk it up as much as the Clinton Administration did'. Many Americans who associate a strong US economy with a strong US dollar 'just don't get it', he explained. 'Strangely, while it is common knowledge in China, Japan, Malaysia, Argentina, and many other countries that an overvalued currency is a curse, in the US this is much less understood, even among opponents of current

Elite vs. the people in American politics

Business Times - 16 Oct 2007 A gulf divides political elite and the US public Reactions to US policy on global issues shows up a division in govt and public attitudes By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IF you have been monitoring the latest opinion polls that measure the American public's shifting attitudes on the Iraq War, international trade and other global policy issues, you might assume that the Bush Administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress would be now in the process of adopting policies and taking steps aimed at the withdrawal of American troops from Mesopotamia and pulling the US out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). After all, the American politicians and the voters who elect them pride themselves as being part of the most open and representative democratic system that the world has ever known (and they even try to impose their political system on other countries through peaceful measures, and if necessary, by force). So if the opinion po

Some thoughts about the election

Business Times - 11 Oct 2007 Towards the Clinton restoration? It's no longer a question of if Hillary will become president but who will make up her cabinet By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT THE first US presidential primaries will take place in three months and the American voters will cast their votes for their next president on Nov 8 next year. But when it comes to Washington's political movers and shakers - the lawmakers, the bureaucrats, the lobbyists, the pollsters, the campaign managers, the reporters, the pundits - it seems that the choice has already been made. Indeed, it's very difficult to find anyone in the US capital who would challenge what has become the conventional wisdom of the political class: the next president of the United States will be the Democratic senator from New York and the ex-first lady. Drop into one of the cocktail parties or diplomatic receptions in this city and you won't be surprised to find out that those who belong to the Ins

on Burma (contrarian views)

October 3, 2007 The Costs of Isolating Myanmar by Leon Hadar President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, joined by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the leading presidential candidates, human right activists, and Christian evangelists, have been condemning the violent crackdown on protesters led by Buddhist monks in Myanmar. While they have called for taking more steps to diplomatically isolate the military regime there and impose more economic sanctions on it, they seem to have failed to recognize that one of the major reasons for the U.S.' inability to affect change in that embattled country has been the continuing American efforts to, well, diplomatically isolate the military regime of Myanmar and impose more economic sanctions on it. ( read more ) Also read my U.S. Sanctions Against Burma: A Failure on All Fronts