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Barack Obama - The Blackberry President

Politics / US Politics Sep 28, 2013 - 04:00 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop

Politics

TIME MOVES ON
At the height of his short-lived media acclaim and uncritical public support, Obama was happy to show he knew how to use, and liked his Blackberry cellphone. Time has also moved on for Blackberry. Like Nokia it missed the boat for upmarket Internet devices. It was unable to adapt to the surge of new and flashier gimmicks from Samsung and Apple. Blackberry is now a corporate disaster.  On its August sales, it lost nearly $24 for every $100 of the dwindling sales it could garner. T-Mobile, the fourth-largest US wireless provider said it will no longer stock Blackberry devices in its shops and will only ship them when people make a written request. 


The company could be bought out, like Nokia, it could downsize and be returned to private ownership – or it could simply go out of business. Today, the Obama who was proud of his high-tech Blackberry of past times, is unlikely to mention that piece of clunky unsaleable hardware which seemed so “iconic”, like him, a few short years ago. Time moves on.

In the long distant 1990s American thinkers toyed for a while with Francis Fukuyama's theory that History is dead, replaced by an American century during which nothing at all would happen – because history was dead. Conversely, the almost perfect neoliberal economy would drive economic growth at Belle Epoque rates. This belle epoque, the “neolibs”chimed, was the period of about 1945-1975 when the US ruled the world and economic growth ran at constant high annual rates. We can be rather sure Obama has read the totally discredited Fukuyama theory, and maybe took it much too seriously.

Time moved on. The 1990s are long dead. The forty-year Cold War interval ending with the collapse of the USSR in 1989 seems so far back it is antediluvian. However, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda had already been invented, with a lot of US help and Saudi money, even if Blackberry cellphones and president Obama did not yet exist.

Obama's historical fault was simple. He inherited decline – and then he added to it.

CORRIDOR TALK AT THE UN
Speaking to a 'Wall St Journal' reporter on condition of anonymity, in the week ending 27 September, a high ranking European politician at the UN's annual General Assembly said: "In the past we have seen American overreach", adding: "Now I think we're seeing American underreach".

He was firstly referring to the recent surreal sequence of political events during which the Obama administration, under Russian pressure, backed down on the US intention to bomb Syria, a quest in which only France had loyally signed in as would-be co-bomber. There was no international support. Germans politicians, for example, openly insulted the US and France with harsh words of “reckless military adventure”. The European politician reported by 'WSJ' went on to say that not only foreign policy but economic and trade policies, and other issues and interests showed the new limits crowding in on America – most or many of them imposed on itself, due to itself or increased by itself.

He pined for the USA's old economic dynamism, its pioneering spirit, its old belief that every American could invent something, get it to market, make a bundle of cash and rise in society. Coming from Europe – further over the curve and trending down faster than the US – this politician expressed the widespread concern and anxiety in Europe that the US was becoming a failed economy and could not “rescue the Old Continent”. He thought one reason for American decline was that the US was exhibiting the same thoughtless arrogance and blindness that had undone Europe. In particular the cult of birthright wealth, not needing to be earned. Never challenged by the rest of the world.

Being European from a centre-right political party, he thought that more entrepreneurship, higher public goals and better leadership could fix the problem for the US - like they haven't in Europe. He admitted the world is in an epic new kind of flux and confusion, and one of the things it doesn't know is what to make of America anymore.

One thing is however sure, American president Barack Obama most surely and certainly no longer wields a high reputation among his fellow international players. For some, his stature has almost collapsed. The Syrian crisis sequence, which was very rapid, went from American overreach to peak and then decline in full media view. For some diplomats – not only from countries hostile to the US – the biggest danger is that the world now has a “power void”. The kinder analysts say Obama just happened to be the US president who was there when it happened, but American decline on the world stage has accelerated so fast since Obama became president he is very possibly no longer relevant, but is the scapegoat and symbol of American decline.

NEW DOCTRINE OF DECLINE
Another world-stage entity that rapidly cycled from peak overreach and arrogance, to decline and to backtrack, is the IPCC group of mollycoddled scientists who believe in global warming apocalypse – that Obama also loudly professes. Over 10 years, the IPCC has traced a full cycle of early media acclaim, complete arrogance at its peak of power enshrined by the Dec 2009 Copenhagen climate “summit”, and then rapid decline as it is forced to humiliatingly backtrack on its previous bombast, lying and exaggeration. Obama's sequence ending in decline has been faster, only 5 years, but his handling of the Syria crisis, with its “red line”, its dodging and flummery, its confusion, its admission of defeat, its final backtracking and forced moderation was similar to the IPCC's fall from grace.

Obama has been forced to recenter himself on “major issues” like climate change, but seems not to know the public loss of interest in this particular theme is awesome - even worse than its loss of interest in Blackberries. At the UN General Assembly, he talked about Iran and nuclear weapons— in such stilted terms copy-pasted from any speech by himself, or by any other mid-rank Western politician for the last 15 years, or longer, that he only received what is called “polite brief applause”. Frigid, that is.

His spokesmen excitedly suggested the possibility of a rapid “photo op” handshake between Obama and Iran's Hassan Rouhani. Who declined. He has serious political problems inside Iran, simply because he does not deny the Holocaust and does want better relations with America. Shaking the hand of the Great Satan, at this moment in time, would have been dangerous for him – but certain sections of US media instantly screamed the American president had been snubbed for all the world to see.

Unfortunately for Obama – but this does not mean he can plead innocence – economic decline of the US has been extreme since he became president. He had full powers, at least in his first mandate. He is still president. He did nothing except toe the line peddled to the preceding Bush administration by Goldman Sachs, AIG, JP Morgan, Citigroup, BofA and all the rest. They must be given enormous bailouts, then awarded QE, forever. They are too big to fail – like the USA.

Incredibly and on repeated occasions, in published and recorded statements, Obama takes credit “for the recovery”.

Recently, on 20 September, he felt able or rather compelled to say: "This is the United States of America, we’re not some banana republic. This is not a deadbeat nation. We don’t run out on our tab. We're the world's bedrock investment, the entire world looks to us to make sure the world economy is stable." This was his pitch before the debt limit debate, which he will probably lose. The bottom line he added – that the US “cannot not pay its bills”, a double negative meaning it must pay its bills – is only possible with more national debt.

Obama is the debt president. Obama is the Blackberry president.

THE CURSE OF ALWAYS BEING WRONG
Described as unkind, cruel or sardonic, a large number of American commentators already accuse Obama of always being wrong. On any issue. If he says something, he is wrong. On the economy it could be said he has no policy at all – so how can he be wrong? His critics say he uses line of sight flying, hoping for the best. He is the ultimate worst combination of naivety and fumbling.

On specific major new issues like the USA's natural gas boom driven by the fracking revolution, he quickly leapt on this supposed political-economic manna. While it is unlikely he will be proudly unveiling an F-18 Gas Hornet to display with the F-18 Green Hornet which partly runs on biodiesel type fuels, Obama was quick to announce  the US will likely to be a net gas exporter by 2020. Currently, Federal regulatory agencies are studying about 16 - 20 proposals for building new LNG export terminals or converting former LNG import terminals, for exporting.

Obama has regularly and proudly said that US carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically since 2005, partly because the country is making more electricity with natural gas instead of coal. And emitting less CO2 due to deindustrialization and recession, which he “rather rarely” mentions.

The program on one hand of stoking the rapid growth of gas production, and on the other exporting it as fast and much as possible to profit from high gas prices in Asia and Europe, spells no benefit for the average US consumer – because US gas prices will rise. For US industrial consumers and their employees and stockholders the outlook is similar, explaining the already large opposition from industry and commerce to Obama's “gas plan”, which like any other Obama “plan” has no substance.

Troublesome for the implied logic in this “plan”, the EIA (Energy Information Administration) says that in 2012, exports of American coal to Europe rose by 23% to 66.5 million tons, because natural gas for power generating is so expensive in Europe and current LNG prices, for European buyers, remain high. This proves what we need to know - natural gas in the US helps reduce carbon emissions in the US because domestic gas is so cheap. The US coal industry is now mired in economic crisis. It exports what it can, to anybody it can, at ultra-low prices. The natural gas boom in the US has therefore merely pushed carbon emissions from the US to holier-than-thou, no-fracking “low carbon Europe”.

To what extent Obama's “new energy policy”, if it exists, can be called rational and sustainable is very unsure. To what extent his posing and preening on the insanely exaggerated global warming issue are serious, we cannot say. Whether or not Obama can do anything about the economy is unsure, but on recent and present performance is very very unlikely. His handling of foreign policy issues is a farcical disaster, but in all cases the common thread is that Obama has always chosen, or rather stumbled on and clutched a clunker – like his Blackberry. 

By Andrew McKillop

Contact: xtran9@gmail.com

Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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