Obama’s December: deity or damaged goods?

Obama: We Need Global Emissions to Peak Now

While I still hope Obama’s team will tell him to turn down the Nobel Peace Prize (see my earlier post), that now looks unlikely.His initial reaction doesn’t leave much wriggle room (“humbled to be selected” etc). Given that he was woken in the early hours to be told the news, one wonders whether this was the 3 am call that Hillary tried to warn us all about.

So let’s look forward to Obama’s December, which could progress along two dramatically different paths. Here’s the key dates:

December 7: Copenhagen climate summit opens.

December 10: 300 miles away, Obama arrives in Oslo to give his Peace prize acceptance speech.

December 16: Copenhagen’s high level segment starts (the bit Ban-Ki Moon, Ministers and some heads of state pitch up for – Gordon Brown is confirmed, other are under pressure to turn up).

December 18: Copenhagen concludes – with a deal (triumphant headlines) or no deal (major league acrimony).

So by Christmas, two scenarios – one that will see the President attain mythical status before his first anniversary in office; the other will fuel claims that he is already a busted flush:

Obama’s best case: Health care passed. Nobel prize accepted to great acclaim. Climate change deal sealed (now an outside chance, that is certain to require Obama’s personal intervention).

His worst case: No health care. Copenhagen talks have collapsed. Remorseless mockery for Obama’s Nobel. The IOC’s snub to Chicago’s Olympics dream (also delivered in Copenhagen) now seen as portent for what was to come.

So hold tight Mr President. December is going to be quite a ride.

Nobel Peace Prize – just say no! (update x5)

Early reactions to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize are almost universally negative. I agree. The decision is absurd.

I’d love to be in the White House now. How does the President react? What can he possibly say that won’t make him look vain and narcissistic? Also – when was he informed? Did his team know this was coming? Was there anything they could do to head it off?

If I was one of his advisers, I’d currently be writing a speech that started something like this:

Today, the Nobel Peace Prize committee made a decision that places an enormous, but welcome, burden on my shoulders. They hope that I can be part of a new global effort to achieve a nuclear free world. This goal is of paramount importance to our future, and that of our descendants, and I would like to thank the committee for recognizing that fact.

There is still a great deal of work to be done, however. We are at the beginning of what will be a long and difficult journey. That is why, after much soul searching, I have decided that I must decline the honour that has been offered to me and ask that it be awarded to a more deserving beneficiary – one whose contribution to peace is in the past, not the future.

Perhaps, in ten, twenty or thirty years’ time, I will be truly worthy of a prize that has such an illustrious history. Today’s news has inspired me to redouble my efforts to make sure that is the case.

Update: Loren Feldman: “In office for 11 days when nominations closed. The fix was in. A sad day for the whole world. Shameful.”

Update II: Just done an interview for ABC News on why Obama should decline. Cashewman is thinking along similar lines.

Update III: This tweet seems to be going viral: “BREAKING NEWS on Obama’s Nobel prize. Turns out it was awarded for making peace with Hillary Clinton.”

Update IV: Looks like he’s going to accept it – big big mistake, I say:

U.S. President Barack Obama felt humbled to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a senior administration official said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called before dawn and woke Obama with the news that he had won the prestigious honor which was announced in Oslo at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT). “The president was humbled to be selected by the committee,” the official said.

When told in an e-mail from Reuters that many people around the world were stunned by the announcement, Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, responded, “As are we.”

Update V: Here’s an interesting wrinkle. Obama will be accepting his Nobel Prize in Oslo on December 10, just as the climate talks get under way a few hundred miles down the road in Copenhagen.

Q: Why’s the dollar in freefall? A: Robert Fisk.

Tumultuous times for the dollar this week. Gold has hit an all-time high three days in a row (this morning it’s at $1,045  troy ounce – it was only $990 on 29 September) while WTI oil is up at $71.50 a barrel todaycompared to $66 just over a week ago – both commodities head upwards when the greenback’s going the other way. So what was going on? Over to the NYT for the stocks and bonds report in Wednesday’s paper:

Investors clamored to buy pretty much anything on Tuesday — as long as it was not the dollar. A seven-month slide in the value of the dollar gained force as investors migrated to other markets and fretted over a report that crude oil could one day be priced in other currencies, hobbling the dollar’s role as a vehicle for global trade.

Whatever would give investors that idea, you wonder? Answer:

A report on Tuesday in The Independent, a British newspaper, suggested that China, France, Japan and Russia were in secret talks with Persian Gulf countries to abandon the dollar for international trade in oil and replace it with a basket of currencies and gold.

The Independent? Not the FT, not the WSJ, but the Independent? Yup, the FT’s Alphaville blog says so too:

The Independent appears to have rocked the world on Tuesday with its Robert Fisk exclusive exposing a secret plot by international central banks to topple the US dollar.

So what on earth did he say that managed to move markets on the other side of the Atlantic?

Continue reading

EU in Africa: triumph of the bean-counters

OK, here’s the EU’s strategy for Somalia: (1) pay our African allies to put their troops in the line of fire; (2) cut off the money over accounting issues; (3) er…

The European Union has suspended its financial support to African Union peacekeepers in Somalia over the delay by the continental body to account for the past funds, the Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, has said. The suspension has left the peacekeepers composed of Ugandan and Burundian forces in Somalia without operational allowances for the last three months.

However, Dr Kiyonga on Wednesday told Ugandan peacekeepers who returned from Somalia three weeks ago, that the matter will be resolved soon. “We owe you some money. The delay was caused by African Union because the donors have withheld the money due to accountability issues,” Dr Kiyonga told the soldiers in Mubende.

Another triumph for bean-counting over strategy. And then there’s the scurvy.

The minister also said that findings by the World Health Organisation investigation into the causes of the strange ailments that killed two Ugandan peacekeepers indicated that the deaths were caused by malnutrition and not poison as the Al-Shabaab rebels had claimed.

“The investigations indicate that it was lack of VitaminB1 in the food they were eating. But now soldiers are getting sufficient fresh fruits, a move that will prevent recurring of such ailments,” he said.

If we can’t send peacekeepers cash, perhaps we could at least send oranges?

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