Monthly Archives: March 2010

Trade-war not likely


Tak­ing a legal case over exchange rate mis­align­ments to the WTO would prob­a­bly fail, and take years in any case. The only real route left is to uni­lat­er­al­ly slap tar­iffs on Chi­nese imports to com­pen­sate for alleged cur­ren­cy under­val­u­a­tion. That would be a nuclear option that real­ly could spark the destruc­tion of the post­war world trad­ing sys­tem, and it doesn’t look like the US is quite des­per­ate enough for that yet.” Extract from Alan Beat­tie in the FT — Skir­mish­es are not all-out trade war

The crash of AF447

As the mys­tery clears, trou­bling facts emerge

After months of inves­ti­ga­tion, a clear pic­ture has emerged of what went wrong [in the loss of AF447]. The recon­struc­tion of the hor­rif­ic final four min­utes reveal con­tin­u­ing safe­ty prob­lems in civ­il avi­a­tion.” Extract from Death in the Atlantic: der SPIEGEL

Simple deductions about climate change

The UK Met Office (which has been unable to pre­dict British weath­er recent­ly) now claims to be cer­tain about cli­mate.

The fin­ger­print of human influ­ence has been detect­ed in many dif­fer­ent aspects of observed cli­mate changes,” said Peter Stott, head of cli­mate mon­i­tor­ing at the Met Office Hadley Cen­tre for Cli­mate Research. “Nat­ur­al vari­abil­i­ty, from the sun, vol­canic erup­tions or nat­ur­al cycles, can­not explain recent warm­ingExtract from (empha­sis added)

This sort of mad assertion—reminscent of the IPCC’s orign­i­nal claims that there could be no expla­na­tion oth­er than man-made CO2 emissions—makes a claim so broad that it would not be fea­si­ble to estab­lish its truth. Some cli­mate sci­en­tists may like to pre­tend that they can detect a cause by sim­ple foren­sics (‘fin­ger­prints’), but if that is so, let them show us the suc­cess of their pre­dic­tions.

Cli­mate is a com­plex, chaot­ic sys­tem, whose course has not been mod­elled suc­cess­ful­ly despit­ed decades of attempts by well-fund­ed insti­tu­tions such as NOAA, the Met Office and the CSIRO. Not even one mod­el has suc­cess­ful­ly account­ed for the path of warm­ing since 2000 nor do any of the IPCC mod­els suc­ceed even in back­cast­ing the path of warm­ing before 1990.

In the face of the evi­dent fail­ure of cur­rent mod­els to pro­duce con­firmed pro­jec­tions, god-like pro­nounce­ments such as these beg­gar creduli­ty.

Apple’s patent protectionism

In an action before the U.S. Fed­er­al courts and the Inter­na­tion­al Trade Com­mis­sion, Apple Inc. is attack­ing a Tai­wanese man­u­fac­tur­er of Google’s Android Phone for alleged abuse­of 20 soft­ware patents. It seems the suits are aimed at slow­ing the growth of com­pe­ti­tion for the iPhone and, pos­si­bly, aimed at Google’s pro­posed web oper­at­ing sys­tem.

The pros­e­cu­tion of soft­ware patents, espe­cial­ly those for ‘user inter­face inno­va­tions’, is a dubi­ous action at best that is some­times (often? usu­al­ly?) an abuse of mar­ket-com­pe­ti­tion prin­ci­ples. Worse, in this case, Apple has cho­sen to pur­sue it’s com­peti­tors under the noto­ri­ous, pro­tec­tion­ist, S.337 of the US Trade Act of 1930 which does not pro­vide dam­ages for infringe­ment of patent rights but pro­hibits imports of goods like­ly to infringe a U.S. patent.

Sec­tion 337 of the US Trade Act (1930) was the sub­ject of a well-known GATT com­plaint brought by the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ties against the USA in 1998. The Pan­el Report, adopt­ed by the GATT Con­tract­ing Par­ties, con­clud­ed:

…that Sec­tion 337 of the Unit­ed States Tar­iff Act of 1930 is incon­sis­tent with Arti­cle III:4 [of GATT], in that it accords to import­ed prod­ucts chal­lenged as infring­ing Unit­ed States patents treat­ment less favourable than the treat­ment accord­ed to prod­ucts of Unit­ed States ori­gin sim­i­lar­ly chal­lenged, and that these incon­sis­ten­cies can­not be jus­ti­fied in all respects under Arti­cle XX(d).

The GATT Pan­el rec­om­mend­ed that Mem­ber gov­ern­ments ask the USA to amend it’s leg­is­la­tion to bring it back into con­for­mi­ty with the GATT. But this was the mid­dle of the Uruguay Round of nego­ti­a­tions, focussing on the TRIPS nego­ti­a­tions on intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty. The USA took no action as rec­om­mend­ed by the Pan­el. Final­ly, in 2000 the EC again request­ed con­sul­ta­tions with the USA over S.337, now cit­ing its con­cerns about incom­pat­i­bil­i­ty with the TRIPS Agreement…but, again, there has been no action by the USA.

The Apple com­men­tari­at, is unhap­py about the idea of pro­tect­ing soft­ware patents to con­sol­i­date what is, already, a dom­i­nant pos­tion for Apple in the phone mar­ket. Here are two pret­ty big guns from that world, blast­ing Apple with both bar­rels.

” What­ev­er ben­e­fit in the mar­ket Apple hopes to achieve by this suit to me seems like­ly to be worth far less than the loss of good will and pres­tige Apple will suf­fer if they vig­or­ous­ly pur­sue this case (let alone if they ini­ti­ate more such suits).” Extract from John Gru­ber: This Apple-HTC Patent Thing
But when you sue some­one for doing some­thing you do your­self, you become one of the bad guys. Can you name a com­pa­ny you admire that spends its time enforc­ing patents, instead of inno­vat­ing? Remem­ber the pirate flag you flew over Apple’s head­quar­ters when you were build­ing the Mac? Is Apple part of the Navy now?” Extract from Will Ship­ley: An Open Let­ter to Steve Jobs Con­cern­ing the HTC Law­suits.