Showing posts from August 4, 2014

The Fourth Branch: The Rise to Power of the National Security State

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[Nice overview. *RON*]

By Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch, 3 August 2014

As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary. That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material. Only one problem: it’s just not so.

During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved. It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach. Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power. Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington. Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of…

World's top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers

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[Good! Ten firms say they will not represent clients that deny man-made climate change or seek to block emisson-reducing regulations. As you'd expect, most of the language used is weasel-like, but you really have to love the kaka-spracht of the companies that wouldn't say they wouldn't take on climate deniers as clients: "Expanding the dialogue in a constructive manner, and driving productive outcomes to solve energy challenges are the key criteria for evaluating client engagements." *RON*]

Suzanne Goldenberg and Nishad, 4 August 2014
Some of the world’s top PR companies have for the first time publicly ruled out working with climate change deniers, marking a fundamental shift in the multi-billion dollar industry that has grown up around the issue of global warming.

Public relations firms have played a critical role over the years in framing the debate on climate change and its solutions – as well as th…

Barack Obama talks to The Economist: An interview with the president

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[Obama to CEOs, 'Quit whining.'' Obama says corporations have done well under his administration's policies, and argues that it's time to turn their attention to making the lives of the middle class better. *RON*]

by The Economist, 2 August 2014

AS HE prepares to host a summit in Washington, DC, that will bring together leaders from across Africa, how does Barack Obama see the continent's future (see article)? Does he feel let down by Vladimir Putin? Could he have designed a more elegant health-care law? And why don't more business leaders admit that they have lunch with him?

In his cabin aboard Air Force One, returning to Washington from Kansas City, where he had been speaking about economic policy, the president talked with John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Edward Carr, our foreign editor. The prompt for the interview was the Africa summit, but the conversation ranged widely through the emergi…

Banco Espírito Santo split in €4.9bn rescue

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[This seems like a bit of good news to me. It will be interesting to see how other banks react to this. Rather than simply letting the entire bank fail, the Portuguese government took the foundering Espírito Santo bank, hived its good assets off, threw in a little already-borrowed IMF and EU money, and formed a new bank from this, which will be sold off. The remaining toxic assets are being left in Espírito Santo to sink along with its investors. Some of the Espírito Santo board members are now under criminal investigation. *RON*]

By Peter Wise, Financial Times, 4 August 2014

Banco Espírito Santo has been split into “good” and “bad” banks as part of a €4.9bn rescue of the distressed Portuguese lender that protects taxpayers and senior creditors but leaves shareholders and junior bondholders holding only toxic assets.

The rescue, which will destroy much of the value of investments made by equity and subordinated debt holders, is seen as a test cas…

Canadian corporate cash hoard rises to $630-billion in first quarter

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[This is an older piece, but I hadn't seen this precise figure cited previously - Canadian corporations sitting and twiddling their thumbs atop a decidedly un-trickled-down $630 billion - and wanted to have it at hand. As Mark Carney already remarked two years ago - plainly it was time for the man to go - "If companies can’t figure out what to do with it, then they should give it to shareholders and they’ll figure it out." *RON*]

Gordon Isfeld,  Financial Post, 19 June 2014

OTTAWA — Maybe “dead money” is a bit of a misnomer. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that cash reserves of Canadian corporations are merely “sleeping” — and growing — until there is a louder economic wakeup call.

Statistics Canada said Thursday that private non-financial corporations increased their cash holdings to $630-billion in the first quarter of this year — up from $621-billion at the end of 2013.

“It would be nice if we could wake it up and get it invest…

How Harper's latest attack on pensions would erode retirement security

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[Harper "intends to change long-standing legislation governing workplace pensions in ways that would allow employers (private sector and Crown corporations) to walk away from pension commitments they made to employees, even after those employees have paid into the plans throughout their working years." Meanwhile, "Canadian corporations are now sitting on a stunning $630 billion in cash holdings -- which they are declining to invest." *RON*]
By Linda McQuaig,, 31 July 2014

Quaint as it now seems, not long ago this was considered a good basic plan: Work hard all your life and then retire with a comfortable pension.

In recent times, a new plan has replaced it: Work hard all your life and then all bets are off.

The notion of retirement security in exchange for a lifetime of hard work -- a central element in the implicit social contract between capital and labour in the postwar years -- has been effectively tossed aside, as …

Ontario is left with few options to fix its revenue problem

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[Two bastions of the conservative ümwelt - the Globe & Mail and the CD Howe Institute - have combined to agree that the problem with Ontario is not over-spending (with austerity as its cure), it's that it is under-taxed! *RON*]
By Christopher Ragan, The Globe and Mail, Jul. 29 2014

I argued in my last column that Premier Kathleen Wynne faces a challenge in balancing Ontario’s books, promising to reduce the province’s budget deficit from this year’s predicted $12.5-billion to zero within a few years. I also argued that, compared to other provinces, Ontario has more of a revenue problem than a spending one; the lion’s share of the deficit will need to be eliminated by increasing tax revenues.

When it comes to seeking new revenues, some politicians like to claim that economic growth will somehow increase and greater tax revenues will naturally follow. More growth would certainly be nice, but it isn’t something a government can just will into …