Monthly Archives: May 2009

Budget transparency turns murky

So much for the Government’s “Oper­a­tion Sun­shine” that was sup­posed to make bud­get pro­gram expen­di­ture more trans­par­ent and account­able.

On the biggest sin­gle pro­gram item, Defense—a stag­ger­ing 2.3% of GDP or $27 bil­lion dol­lars next year alone—it seems to be a case of re-neg­ging and obscu­ri­ty.

As the first bud­get after a new Defence White Paper, there is a glar­ing absence of sub­stan­tive infor­ma­tion on fund­ing, invest­ment and reform. The best that can be said is that the bud­get is con­sis­tent with a White Paper that’s silent on when any­thing will occur or what things will cost. All we are offered is a vision of what the defence force will look like in 2030.” Extract from Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute

The ASPI’s chief ana­lyst has described the Bud­get papers as “delib­er­ate­ly vague”.

Two tracks out of the Doha wasteland?

Pas­cal Lamy wants to stir up more action in the WTO’s Doha nego­ti­a­tions —at least its appearance—by open­ing up a ‘sec­ond front’ for the exchanges. One group will bat­tle on to refine the tech­ni­cal rules and one will start a ‘show and tell’ explo­ration of the imple­men­ta­tion of the rules.

My own sense is that there is scope to work on these two areas along two simul­ta­ne­ous tracks. One would see tech­ni­cal engage­ment in the nego­ti­at­ing groups move to a high­er gear to cov­er a num­ber of tech­ni­cal issues as men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, Mem­bers would start some sort of ‘out­come test­ing’, through bilat­er­al or pluri­lat­er­al dis­cus­sions, where they would pro­vide each oth­er with greater clar­i­ty on the use of flex­i­bil­i­ties and through it, on the val­ue of the deal.” Extract from Lamy’s address to the WTO Gen­er­al Coun­cil meet­ing

But if the prob­lem is that a large num­ber of coun­tries are reluc­tant to engage at all, how will widen­ing the front lead to an ear­li­er out­come?

U.S. breaks G-20 promise on trade


Just to remind you of what they said in April:

We reaf­firm the com­mit­ment made in Wash­ing­ton not to raise new bar­ri­ers to invest­ment or to trade in goods and ser­vices, includ­ing with­in exist­ing WTO lim­its, not to impose new trade restric­tions, and not to cre­ate new sub­si­dies to exports.” G-20 Com­mu­niqué empha­sis added

By any mea­sure the re-intro­duc­tion of an export sub­sidy for the cod­dled U.S. dairy­farmer is a new sub­sidy, even if with­in the terms of the 1994 WTO agree­ment on sub­sidy ceil­ings (cooked-up by the USA and EC in 1992). It’s out­ra­geous and dam­ag­ing. But fore­see­able.

The US Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment said it will sub­sidise about 92,000 tonnes of dairy prod­ucts head­ed for the world mar­ket. A spokes­woman said the sub­si­dies would help US farm­ers hit by plung­ing inter­na­tion­al prices and trade vol­umes and was the first time in five years the pro­gram would be used.” Extract from The Age

Risk and liberty


Inter­est­ing new book “What Price Lib­er­ty” from UK aca­d­e­m­ic, Ben Wil­son. You can down­load the book from the pub­lish­ers (Faber & Faber) from now until 4 June for what­ev­er price you think it’s worth.

Nowa­days states regard the indi­vid­ual as a poten­tial trou­ble­mak­er, a selfish eco­nom­ic actor who puts per­son­al gain first: a risk in oth­er words.

Plimer review: more from G Schmidt

Dr Gavin Schmidt has fur­ther crit­i­cisms of my review of Plimer (and of Plimer’s book). I’m hap­py to repro­duce them as emailed (pre­sum­ing again that he has no objec­tion). He has three main points con­cern­ing the Weg­man ‘clus­ter’ analy­sis of the Mann autho­r­i­al rela­tion­ships; whether the Hock­ey Stick arti­cle was a ‘fraud’, and; whether Plimer’s account of paleo-cli­mate vari­abil­i­ty mat­ters to cur­rent con­cerns.

U.S. and Global Temperatures: a correction

Corrected GISS record shows 1934 as the hottest year

Dr Gavin Schmidt, a cli­mate mod­el­er at NASA and a prin­ci­pal author of the Real Cli­mate weblog, has emailed me to point out an error (mine) in my review of Ian Plimer’s Heav­en + Earth.

I said that I had learned from Ian Plimer that NASA had reversed it’s claim that the ten years fol­low­ing 1995 were the hottest ten years of the cen­tu­ry when Steven McIn­tyre showed that the record belonged to 1934. But, as Dr Schmidt points out, 1934 was the hottest year in the GISS records only for the Unit­ed States, not in the glob­al GISS records. He goes on to accuse Prof. Plimer of ‘lying’ to his read­ers about this, and oth­er, mat­ters.

I am grate­ful to Dr Schmidt for point­ing out this error, which I have cor­rect­ed. But I still share Ian Plimer’s amply-doc­u­ment­ed con­clu­sion that there is no rea­son for alarm about the slight warm­ing that undoubt­ed­ly took place over a fifty year peri­od from the 1940s.

Scary pictures of a deep recession

Fall in employment (USA) this recession and 1981 Fall in output (USA) this recession and 1981

From the Fed­er­al Reserve of Min­neapo­lis, these charts com­par­ing out­put and employ­ment trends in this reces­sion com­pared with all post-war reces­sions in the Unit­ed States. No sign of bot­tom here.

The charts are inter­ac­tive. You can pick your own poi­son, if you fol­low the link.