Showing posts from February, 2010

US climate change legislation loses puff

Business Times - 26 Feb 2010 US climate change legislation loses puff By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT EVEN before the electoral loss that the Democrats suffered in the Massachusetts special Senate race, depriving them of their filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats, most political analysts seemed to agree that the climate change legislation mandating industry reductions in greenhouse gas emissions was facing serious obstacles on Capitol Hill. Although the legislation was promoted by the White House for most of the year, public opinion polls suggested that many Americans, pained by the economic recession, were concerned that it would lead to a rise in energy prices. Moreover, the same polls also indicated that less than 30 per cent of American voters regarded global warming as a top policy priority now. Thus, while the Democrats in the House of Representatives were able to win a narrow approval for an energy bill that included a cap-and-trade mechanism in it - requiring companies

Obama drifting into war with Iran

Business Times - 24 Feb 2010 Obama drifting into war with Iran He's more dependent on support from conservative Democrats and Republicans who want tougher action against Teheran By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IT is quite possible that confounding the conventional wisdom, the Obama administration has been conducting secret negotiations with Iran that could open way to a diplomatic detente between the two governments. It is also possible that Washington is working behind the scenes with the Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions for bringing about a peace accord between these two peoples. It's possible but not so probable. Even if something has been going on in that not-that-much-utilised sphere of 'secret diplomacy' - and once upon a time diplomacy used to be secret and went 'public' only after the deals were made - one would expect in this era of 24/7 news coverage opponents of American-Iranian dialogue in Washington and Teheran and Israeli a

Trapped in a political gridlock

Business Times - 20 Feb 2010 Trapped in a political gridlock Americans could find themselves facing financial bankruptcy, but there seems to be very little political will on Capitol Hill to do anything about it By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT THE announcement by Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, 54, from Indiana that he would not be seeking re-election this year is continuing to send political shockwaves across Washington. After all, the relatively young and very telegenic lawmaker, who had served as a successful governor of Indiana and was elected in 1998 to the Senate seat once held by his father, was considered to be one of the leading stars in the American political scene. Almost everyone seemed to agree that he was destined to run for, and even get elected, as president sooner or later; in fact, Bayh was on the top of the list of President Barack Obama's choices for the position of vice-president. And as a conservative Democrat representing a traditionally Republican-leanin

Snowstorms fail to blow away Fed chief's exit strategy

Business Times - 16 Feb 2010 PERSPECTIVE Snowstorms fail to blow away Fed chief's exit strategy There are some novel tools in Bernanke's plan. But how effective will they be? By Leon Hadar US FEDERAL Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is considered to be one of the world's most powerful public figures. But not even he could overcome the might of Mother Nature that took the form of what has been described by pundits as a 'historic' snowstorm or the 'Snowcalypse', as Washingtonians refer to the mess that hit the US capital last week. Indeed, not even the head of the US central bank was spared from the Washington area's unprecedented winter weather last week with the House of Representative's Financial Services Committee being forced to cancel Mr Bernanke's much-anticipated testimony which was scheduled for Wednesday. He was expected to detail the way he was planning to unwind the Fed's liquidity programmes - trillions of US dollars of aid that have

Populist pressure could push Obama into China bashing

Business Times - 09 Feb 2010 Populist pressure could push Obama into China bashing Amid difficult economic ties, China has emerged as a convenient target for both Democrats and Republicans By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON ONE of the fantasies concocted by Obamaniacs in the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election was that the Chinese leadership would welcome the election of an African-American president with whom supposedly they shared a non-white heritage. Mr Obama, who was born in Hawaii and went to primary school in Indonesia, highlighted his 'civilisational' affinity with East Asians when he noted during his first visit to the region that he was the America's first 'Pacific president'. In fact, not many US watchers in Beijing were celebrating the change in the balance of power in Washington after the Republicans lost their control over the White House and Capitol Hill in 2008. Indeed, consider one of the ironies that have characterised the Sino-American relationship

Should Geithner start looking for a new job?

Business Times - 06 Feb 2010 Should Geithner start looking for a new job? By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT WHEN "sources close to the White House" tell reporters that the US President remains "confident" about your "leadership" and "job performance", is it time for you to start looking for another job? Indeed, for several weeks, the American media has been reporting that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner retains the confidence of President Barack Obama as well as of leading Congressional Democrats even as lawmakers and journalists continue to raise questions about why the Federal Reserve Bank of New York held back information about the government's bailout operations at a time when Mr Geithner served as its president. They have been asking whether Mr Geithner, who came to his current job from the New York Fed, was behind the decision by the New York Fed in December 2008 to request that American International Group (AIG) keep secret certai

Obama needs a coherent strategy to deal with Iran

Business Times - 05 Feb 2010 Obama needs a coherent strategy to deal with Iran By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT US President Barack Obama came to office promising to replace his predecessor's Axis-of-Evil approach to Iran with one based on diplomatic engagement. But against the backdrop of the stalled nuclear talks with Teheran and the rise of the Green Movement in Iran, Mr Obama's engagement policy has been coming under criticism - and not only from the neoconservatives. In a Newsweek commentary, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass has called for 'promoting regime change' in Iran. Mr Haass is not a neoconservative but a self-described 'card-carrying realist' and a former official in the administrations of Bush I and Bush II. For a long time, Mr Haass seemed to be in agreement with Mr Obama's pursuit of diplomatic engagement with Iran. And while he is not in favour of using military force to achieve regime change in Teheran, he believe

Bernanke faces curbs on Fed's independence

Business Times - 02 Feb 2010 Bernanke faces curbs on Fed's independence Confirmation for second term comes with political strings that may stymie policymaking By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT WITH supporters like this, who needs detractors? Take, for instance, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, who said after announcing his intention to vote to approve the confirmation of Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman for a second term: 'I made it clear that to merit confirmation, Chairman Bernanke must redouble his effort to ensure families can access the credit they need to buy or keep their home, send their children to college and start business.' Offering what sounded, at best, as a lukewarm endorsement of Mr Bernanke, Mr Reid added that Mr Bernanke 'assured me that he will soon outline plans for making that happen, and I eagerly await them'. Mr Reid, who had the task of mobilising the Senate votes to approve Mr Bernanke's re-nomination, seemed t