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

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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

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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.