The Great Debate UK

from Breakingviews:

Bank liability levy may not be foolish

A levy on bank liabilities would get the industry squealing - especially if it approached $120 billion. But the Obama administration isn’t crazy to float the idea. A well-crafted tax could help recoup bailout costs while also giving banks an incentive to behave more sensibly. It doesn't have to apply just to the United States, either.

Populism aside, the main rationale for a levy is that the size of a bank's liabilities is a goodish proxy for the risk it poses to the financial system - as well as the benefit it received from the cheap money central banks doled out to offset the credit crunch. It’s reasonable that banks should pay for help from their lenders of last resort.

There is one big proviso. Deposits should be taken out of the liability bucket. In the United States and elsewhere banks already pay deposit insurance fees - so including them would amount to double taxation. Any new liability tax should focus just on wholesale finance, a riskier "easy come, easy go" form of funding. With such a charge in place, banks would have an incentive to build up their deposits - something that regulators across the world are urging them to do anyway.

There is also one big question. Should such a tariff be an ongoing part of the fiscal framework or a one-off? The argument for permanence derives from the fact that it’s best viewed as an insurance premium paid in return for a continuing safety net.

from The Great Debate:

American intelligence and fortune-telling

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-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Hot on the heels of  what President Barack Obama called a potentially disastrous "screw-up" by the civilian intelligence community, here comes a devastating report on shortcomings of military intelligence in Afghanistan, by the officer in charge of it. He likens the work of analysts to fortune-telling.

from The Great Debate:

The Underwear Bomber and the war of ideas

- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Who is winning the war of ideas between the West and al Qaeda's hate-driven version of  Islam?

It is a question that merits asking again after a  23-year-old Western-educated Nigerian of privileged background, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to murder almost 300 people by bringing down a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day with  explosives sewn into the crotch of his underpants.

from The Great Debate:

War and Peace, by Barack Obama

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Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

It is a timeline rich in irony. On Dec. 10, Barack Obama will star at a glittering ceremony in Oslo to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. That's just nine days after he ordered 30,000 additional American troops into a war many of his fellow citizens think the U.S. can neither win nor afford.

Doubts linger over Obama’s Guantanamo intentions

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clare_algar-Clare Algar is executive director of Reprieve. The opinions expressed are her own.-

Disappointed, but not surprised, was my first response to hearing President Barack Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that he would not make the January 22 deadline for closing the prison in Guantanamo Bay.

from The Great Debate:

America’s perennial Vietnam syndrome

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cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpg --  Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Prophetic words they were not. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all...The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula."

from Tales from the Trail:

Victory for Karzai, minefield for Obama?

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Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the "soft bigotry of low expectations." He was talking about education in the United States.

But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government's attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, J Street, and Middle East peace

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Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Message to Israelis disgruntled with President Barack Obama's Middle East policies: you've got used to U.S. presidents pouring affection on you. Forget that. Obama is not "a lovey-dovey kind of guy".

That assessment came from an old Middle East hand, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in an exchange in the closing minutes of the inaugural national conference of J Street, a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

from The Great Debate:

Obama in the footsteps of George W. Bush

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Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Words of wisdom from an American leader: "The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

from The Great Debate:

Global rebalancing to weaken dollar, quietly

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-- Neal Kimberley is an FX market analyst for Reuters. The opinions expressed are his own --forex

Twenty-four years ago, major nations called for depreciation of the dollar to rebalance the global economy. Now, as another effort at rebalancing looms, the dollar will again bear the brunt -- though officials will try to ensure its fall is less dramatic this time.

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