The Great Debate UK

from Reuters Investigates:

How to make friends and influence people

White House correspondent Caren Bohan's special report out today examines President Barack Obama's testy relationship with the business community.

OBAMA/After Tuesday's election, Obama was faced with the prospect of legislative gridlock. Republicans pushed Democrats decisively from power in the House of Representatives and strengthened their ranks in the Senate as voters vented frustration over the economy.

Now that the election is over, one idea that could gain traction is a payroll tax holiday to give consumers and businesses some extra cash. Obama had considered proposing it before the election but rejected it because of its cost. There is some openness at the White House to it now but much would depend on whether it seemed likely to gain bipartisan support.

Obama aides say they were frustrated that the economic package the administration offered in September -- including tax breaks for companies and beefed-up infrastructure spending -- received little to no backing from Republicans in Congress. They hope to enlist business support in reviving these ideas.

from Chrystia Freeland:

‘We can’t inflate our way to prosperity’

"There is no other policy tool available [besides quantitative easing],"' Laura Tyson, a former chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisors, said at this morning's Reuters/YouTube live debate on how to fix the economy. Tyson argues that additional Fed purchases of long-term bonds is the most viable way to energize the U.S. economy since a new fiscal stimulus bill is unlikely to pass Congress:

She appears alongside Glenn Hubbard, another former CEA chairman, who maintains the Fed will spend another $1 trillion to lower rates by 20 basis points. "We can't inflate our way to prosperity," he said.

from FaithWorld:

Fears rise over growing anti-Muslim feeling in U.S.

wtc 1 (Photo: An honor guard trumpeter plays during the ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York September 11, 2010/Chris Hondros)

Amid threats of Koran burning and a heated dispute over a planned Muslim cultural center in New York, Muslim leaders and rights activists warn of growing anti-Muslim feeling in America partly provoked for political reasons.  "Many people now treat Muslims as 'the other' -- as something to vilify and to discriminate against," said Daniel Mach of the American Civil Liberties Union. And, he said, some people have exploited that fear in the media, "for political gain or cheap notoriety."

The imam leading the project to build the cultural center, including a prayer room, near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks said there was a rise of what he called "Islamophobia" and the debate had been radicalized by extremists. "The radicals in the United States and the radicals in the Muslim world feed off each other. And to a certain extent, the attention that they've been able to get by the media has even aggravated the problem," Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in an interview with ABC news aired on Sunday.

Breaking up banks is no silver bullet

– Hugo Dixon is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Breaking up the banks is no silver bullet. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic — including two of the party leaders fighting the UK election — want to separate so-called casino investment banks from utility lenders. But such simple rules would create arbitrage opportunities and rigidities without curbing excess risk-taking.

from Afghan Journal:

Engaging the Afghan Taliban: a short history

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

For those pushing for high-level political negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to bring to an end to the eight-year war,  two U.S. scholars  in separate pieces are suggesting a walk through recent history  The United States has gone down the path of dialogue with the group before and suffered for it, believing against its own better judgement in the Taliban's promises until it ended up with the September 11, 2001 attacks, says  Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute in this article in Commentary.

Rubin, who is completing a history of U.S. engagement with rogue regimes, says unclassified U.S. State Department documents show that America opened talks with the Taliban soon after the group  emerged as a powerful force in Kandahar in 1994 and well over a year before they took over Kabul. From then on it was a story of   diplomats doing everything possible to remain engaged with the Taliban in the hope it would modify their  behaviour, and that they would be persuaded to expel Osama bin Laden who had  by then relocated from Sudan.  The Taliban, on the other hand, in their meetings with U.S. diplomats, would stonewall on terrorism  but would also dangle just enough hope to keep the officials calling and forestall punitive strategies.

Tariq Ali on the state of UK politics

Photo

TariqAliWhere is the burning debate on domestic and foreign policy observers might expect from the major political parties ahead of the next general election in Britain?

It’s just not going to happen, says political commentator and writer Tariq Ali, whose new novel “Night of the Golden Butterfly” concludes a fictional series titled “Islam Quintet” he began writing 20 years ago.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010: the year of living incrementally?

another barack obamaOne of the labels being attached to President Barack Obama is that he is a committed incrementalist - an insult or a compliment depending on which side of the political fence you sit, or indeed whether you believe it to be true.

A couple of articles on U.S.-led strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan fill out what that could mean going into the new year.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Can China help stabilise Pakistan?

forbidden cityWhen President Barack Obama suggested in Beijing last month that China and the United States could cooperate on bringing stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and indeed to "all of South Asia", much of the attention was diverted to India, where the media saw it as inviting unwarranted Chinese interference in the region.

But what about asking a different question? Can China help stabilise the region?

from Global News Journal:

Does Obama fit the Nobel mould, asks exhibit?

Obama dolls

Obama dolls

Some say U.S. President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace prize was at best premature, others say it should go to his speech writers and a number believe it’s groundless?
But what would Alfred Nobel think? That’s the question the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo seeks to answer in an exhibition due to open to the public on Saturday.
“The relation between Nobel’s testament and Barack Obama’s visions and actions has become a global debate and the theme for this exhibition,” the centre’s director Bente Erichsen told Reuters a day before Obama picks up his Nobel in Oslo.

The exhibit itself resembles a library, where Obama’s speeches and deeds are documented side-by-side the words and will of the Swedish dynamite inventor. It includes a number of pictures revealing “the person who is Barack Obama”.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: the missing piece in the Afghan jigsaw

One year ago, I asked whether then President-elect Barack Obama's plans for Afghanistan still made sense after the Mumbai attacks torpedoed hopes of a regional settlement involving Pakistan and India. The argument, much touted during Obama's election campaign, was that a peace deal with India would convince Pakistan to turn decisively on Islamist militants, thereby bolstering the United States flagging campaign in Afghanistan.

As I wrote at the time, it had always been an ambitious plan to convince India and Pakistan to put behind them 60 years of bitter struggle over Kashmir as part of a regional solution to many complex problems in Afghanistan.  Had the Mumbai attacks pushed it out of reach? And if so, what was the fall-back plan?

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