Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tic Tacs #1

In a fit of desperation for originality, the Draconian Observation name for 'rapid fire' entries will be Tic Tacs - after the spiky sweets my granddad used to buy me.

CRS: GWOT Price Tag Exceeds 500 Billion Dollars
Through FY2006, Congress has appropriated a total of about $437 billion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) covering Afghanistan and other Global War on Terror (GWOT) operations, Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) providing enhanced security at military bases, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Iraq. In the last week of September 2006, the House and Senate are slated to consider the conference versions of the FY2007 defense appropriations bill, H.R. 5631, and the national defense authorization bill (H.R. 6122/S. 2766), both of which include an additional $70 billion for war costs. This $70 billion bridge fund is to cover war
costs in the first half of the fiscal year plus $23 billion for reset — to repair and replace war-worn equipment. The Administration is expected to submit a FY2007 supplemental for additional war costs some time next year. If the FY2007 defense appropriation bill passes, total war appropriations for all three operations would reach about $507 billion.
Ghani Lists Challenges at UN
Afghanistan's candidate to succeed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that he would focus most on fixing the organization's troubled management department if he gets the job.Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan finance minister, is the latest of seven candidates to enter the race. He said transparency at the U.N. must be a priority and audits were like "a dye" that could be used to ensure that. "Its damaged culture can be fixed — it must be fixed," Ghani told an audience at the Asia Society in Manhattan on Wednesday, in reference to criticism that the management department is inefficient and marred by corruption. "It must disclose every dollar of its expenditure to the citizens of the world. It cannot hide behind secrecy, because its only the sunshine of public scrutiny that can bring about the required system of checks and balances," he said. Ghani said a review of skills among existing U.N. staff was necessary. He also said, as a place of employment, he would strive to make the U.N. the "top choice of women and men across the globe."He said the organization must also emphasize partnerships between civil society and government. In order to fund those partnerships, Ghani said diversifying the source of financial contributions would be a priority, in order to get away from the U.N.'s dependence on the fraction of members who contribute the vast majority of its budget.
Davos: Nordics Top Global Competitiveness
The Scandinavian countries remain among the top performers, with Finland, Sweden, and Denmark occupying second, third and fourth places, respectively. They share with Switzerland a broadly similar institutional and structural profile. The Nordic countries have better ranks on the macroeconomy pillar of the GCI, since they are all running budget surpluses and have lower levels of public indebtedness than Switzerland and, indeed, much of the rest of Europe. Finland and Sweden have the best institutions in the world (ranked 1 and 2, respectively) and occupy places in the top ten ranks in health and primary education. These three Nordic countries also occupy the top three positions in education and training, where Finland’s rank of 1 is remarkable for its durability over time. They lag behind Switzerland in the areas of labor market flexibility and, to a lesser extent, in indicators of business sophistication. The Nordic countries show that transparent institutions and excellent macroeconomic management, coupled with world class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation are a successful strategy for maintaining competitiveness in small, highly developed economies.
Economist's Buttonwood Column Finally in Print Edition
Believers in Fibonacci numbers are part of a school known as technical analysis, or chartism, which believes the future movement of asset prices can be divined from past data. Some chartists follow patterns such as “head and shoulders” and “double tops”; others focus on moving averages; a third group believes markets move in pre-determined waves. The Fibonacci fans fall into this last set. Buttonwood, who is daringly defying the tide of history by moving from into the newspaper, has bad news for the numerologists. A new study (...) finds no evidence that Fibonacci numbers work in American stockmarkets. The academics looked at the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the period 1914-2002 and found no indication that trends reverse at the 61.8% level, or indeed at any predictable milestone. This research may well fall on stony ground. Experience has taught Buttonwood that chartists defend their territory with an almost religious zeal.
Non-French WWII Vets Finally Put on Pension Par With French
Après 47 années de gel, le gouvernement va mettre les retraites et les pensions d'invalidité des anciens combattants de ses ex-colonies entièrement au niveau de celles qui sont versées en France. Les vétérans des anciennes colonies d'Afrique et d'Asie ne touchaient pour l'instant, dans le meilleur des cas, que 30% des sommes versées à leurs frères d'armes français. Cette revalorisation, dont l'annonce était attendue, bénéficiera à environ 80.000 vétérans, représentera un coût de 110 millions d'euros par an et sera introduite par amendement gouvernemental au projet de loi de finances 2007.
Masters of Logistics: TPFDL Ironi Behind Pentagon Travel Booking Woes

After a decade and more than $500 million in costs, the Defense Department's new travel booking system doesn't work, it doesn't save money, and most staff members don't use it, a new study says. A Government Accountability Office report released yesterday slams the Northrop Grumman-designed Defense Travel System and calls Pentagon estimates of usage and cost savings into serious question. So poor is the Pentagon's analysis of the system's merits, the report says, that defense officials offered a credit card company news release as sole proof for its claim that the system saves millions of dollars each year.

Fukuyama Critiques Wolfowitz' Anti-Corruption Strategy (hat tip to WB PSD blog)
[T]he problem is that Wolfowitz is heading an organization poorly structured to lead a fight against corruption. There are several reasons for this. First, a lot of corruption starts at the top, and can’t be addressed without getting into overtly political issues. The Bank’s articles of agreement explicitly prohibit it from dealing with politics. Its lawyers have pushed the envelope over the past decade by arguing that corruption and bad governance are clearly linked to bad economic performance. (On this, they are largely right.) But the Bank cannot intervene openly to remove corrupt politicians, or cut off countries simply for being undemocratic or unaccountable. China, after all, has been one of its biggest poverty-reduction successes in recent years. Second, the Bank is structured as a lending and aid-granting institution, and all of its incentives are to push money out the door. Pressure to lend has undermined past efforts to tie loans to good economic policies; like Charlie Brown and the football, it keeps running up for another kick on Lucy’s promises that she will never, ever pull the ball away again.Third, pressure to move money regardless of performance is vastly increased by lobbying from the likes of Jeff Sachs, Bob Geldorf, Bono, and others to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Drezner: US Iran Policy Still Fuzzy

I blogged in the spring about my puzzlement and confusion regarding U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. On the one hand, it was clear that certain elements of the Bush administration were not big fans of either direct or indirect dialogue.

On the other hand: [E]ven if this skepticism (towards negotiations and incentives) is warranted, exactly what is the hawkish set of policy options on Iran? Is there any coercive policy instrument that is a) publicly viable; and b) would actually compel Iran into compliance without negotiations?
I'm even more puzzled today. (...)
So, to review: there are administration efforts to sabotage the available diplomatic option, and the most powerful economic sanction has been rejected in the near term. I don't think financial sanctions will bite as much as the secretary, in part because it always takes a long time to implement and after the 1979 asset seizures the Iranians have moved down the learning curve on evading those kind of strictures.

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