Showing posts from June, 2009

Ignore the chickenhawks pushing for an Iran coup

Ignore the chickenhawks pushing for an Iran coup By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT MUCH has been said and written in recent days about the way the demonstrators in Tehran have been utilising new kinds of 'social media' to challenge the Iranian theocratic regime. Protestors blog, post to Facebook, and most intriguing, coordinate their protests on Twitter, the messaging service. On Twitter, young Iranians and their supporters post reports and links to photos from demonstrations along with accounts of street fighting and casualties around the country. So will this revolution be twitted? Perhaps. But in any case, with all the attention focused on Tehran's Twitter Revolutionaries, we shouldn't forget the other impressive group of revolutionaries that has emerged in Washington just as the media started reporting on allegations about a rigged Iranian presidential election and angry protesters were gathering in Teheran. I'm referring here to the many brave US lawmakers

Obama using political wealth for health reform

Business Times - 24 Jun 2009 Obama using political wealth for health reform The President is intent on getting the healthcare legislation passed by Congress this year By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IT'S beginning to feel as though the American political system is reverting to an election campaign mode. Is President Barack Obama running for re-election? That was at least the impression of journalists who were covering Mr Obama's announcement on Monday that he was going to use all the weapons in his political arsenal to win the coming fight in Congress and around the country over his plan to reform the nation's ailing healthcare system. It was clearly one of the major opening shots in what are expected to be long and costly political and legislative battles over health care. 'Yes we can,' Mr Obama told reporters at the White House as he discussed the decision by the drug companies to put a price ceiling on prescription drug coverage for the elderly that is off

Mountain crisis, mouse reform

Business Times - 20 Jun 2009 Mountain crisis, mouse reform The financial restructuring plan unveiled by Obama is high on rhetoric but low on solid proposals to prevent future catastrophes in the financial system By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT DURING the height of the current financial crisis, at a time when the perception on Wall Street and in Washington had been that the sky was falling and that, at a minimum, the American economy and the entire capitalist system were about to collapse, the hope among progressive Democratic lawmakers and activists - and the fear among bankers and hedge fund investors - was that newly elected President Barack Obama would lead a crusade to change the way business was done on Wall Street. After all, it was Mr Obama who had warned during the election campaign last October that Americans were 'living beyond their means, from Wall Street to Washington to even some on Main Street'. In fact, pundits speculated that after the falling of financi

On Iran, etc. Thank God Obama favors the 'old' Mideast By Leon T. Hadar Commentary by Friday, June 19, 2009 State Condoleezza Rice travelled to Lebanon in an effort to bring an end to the war raging there between Israel and Hizbullah. At the time, she tried to market to reporters in Washington a somewhat odd spin on the violence taking place, not only in Lebanon but also in Iraq and Israel and Palestine. "What we're seeing here is, in a sense, the growing - the birth pangs of a new Middle East, and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we're pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old Middle East," Rice explained. Indeed, the Bush administration's Freedom Agenda was challenging the status quo in the "old" Middle East by using US military and diplomatic power to promote democracy in Iraq (by ousting Saddam Hussein and holding free elections),

Spending like there is no tomorrow

Business Times - 19 Jun 2009 Spending like there is no tomorrow It seems in Washington's new financial universe, a trillion here and a trillion there are nothing more than small change By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT MANY years ago one of America's elder statesmen, the late Everett Dirksen, a Republican Senator from Illinois who had spoken often and passionately about the debt ceiling, federal waste and the growth of government, was reported to have made the following observation about US government spending: 'A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.' It is not difficult to imagine Mr Dirksen turning over again and again in his grave these days after finding out that Washington has approved about US$13 trillion worth of bailouts over the last year; that the US deficit this year will run nearly US$2 trillion (as a result of financial bailouts and the stimulus package); and that the current national debt exceeds US$11 trill

Is Obama ditching his challenge to Wall St?

Business Times - 16 Jun 2009 Is Obama ditching his challenge to Wall St? He and his aides may be embracing a more gentle approach to financial system reforms By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AGAINST the backdrop of economic crisis and Washington's decision to bail out some of Wall Street's leading financial institutions earlier this year, there were expectations that the Obama administration would respond to rising populist sentiments with ambitious proposals to enforce tough federal government regulations on the financial system. Some even thought that this would include direct intervention in corporate pay decisions and the creation of a powerful government regulatory agency. President Barack Obama is expected to announce this week his plan to overhaul regulation of America's chaotic financial system. The conventional wisdom in Washington and Wall Street now is that the administration and Congress will probably adopt measures that would allow the government to liqui

Obama is the realist, not neocon critics

Business Times - 11 Jun 2009 Obama is the realist, not neocon critics By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IN THE aftermath of his Cairo address to Muslims last week, neoconservative critics of US President Barack Obama's foreign policy are portraying him as a spacey idealist who, in the tradition of president Woodrow Wilson, is trying to recreate the international system based on a wild fantasy that, as Robert Kagan puts it, 'nations will act on the basis of what they perceive to be the goodwill, good intentions or moral purity of other nations, in particular the United States'. In particular, out-of-job neocons are blasting the supposedly naive approach of the current White House occupant towards the Middle East with his emphasis on the need to open a diplomatic dialogue with Iran and Syria and promote a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And they warn that a region where players operate based on crude Realpolitik principles would be resistant to Mr Obama&#

Lower job loss rate does not equal a recovery

Business Times - 09 Jun 2009 Lower job loss rate does not equal a recovery By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT US President Barack Obama returned to Washington, after his trip to the Middle East and Europe, where he will presumably try to boost efforts towards what some officials and pundits are describing now as 'economic recovery'. Economic recovery you said? But the US Labor Department reported on Friday that 345,000 Americans lost their jobs last month - adding to the six million already out of work since this recession began - as US unemployment rose to 9.4 per cent, which is the highest rate since 1983. And if one recalls the so-called 'bank stress tests', the unemployment rate applied in their worst case scenario was 8.9 per cent. So a 9.4 unemployment rate does not sound like great economic news. Yet, both officials in Washington and investors in Wall Street seemed to be in a cheerful mood after the report was issued on Friday and digested over the weekend. T

The 'New GM' will find it tough driving out of trouble

Business Times - 03 Jun 2009 The 'New GM' will find it tough driving out of trouble By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AFTER buying more than 60 per cent of General Motors (GM), America Inc and the millions of American shareholders (aka taxpayers) are probably not very cheerful owners of a company going through the fourth largest bankruptcy in US history. In fact, America Inc's CEO and President Barack Obama told reporters on Monday that the federal government was a 'reluctant shareholder' in GM, he had 'no interest in running GM' and 'the federal government will refrain from exercising its rights as shareholders on all but the most fundamental decisions'. In any case, no one has been surprised that after years of losses and the recent collapse in sales, GM would file for bankruptcy protection or by the fact that the federal government ended up with ownership in the company that during its heyday in the 1950s was regarded as an integral component