Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Pulling no punches

“May you fill you New Year with new adventures, accomplishments, and learnings!”
Golden Age Bar | Bars in Surry Hills, Sydney

Stop 'wishy-washy' talk and drug test politicians: councillor

Liberal Pat Daley will move a motion at Northern Beaches council's next meeting in February to introduce drug tests for all councillors and staff.

The 25 Worst Headlines of 2018  Current Affairs Most were not just “worst headlines” but “worst stories”

What sexual favors were exchanged for Tesla to get this headline? As if Ellison were a model of corporate governance. Gah. His board is packed with cronies. An even more telling take: Tesla Brings On The Grizzled Theranos Team Seeking Alpha

Wells Fargo agrees to $575 million settlement affecting all 50 states in wake of fake accounts USA Today. And no executives go to jail, despite outright theft from customers’ accounts.
Lord Abbett Affiliated v. Navient Corporation: “We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you!” Condemed to Debt (UserFriendly). “Forbearance” lets Navient keep non-performing loans on the books…

Sears wins reprieve from liquidation as Chairman Lampert makes last-minute bid on bankrupt company CNBC “Am I reading this right? He destroys Sears and the uses his hedge fund to buy it up on the cheap?”

Confirming our dim vies of Paetron (Chuck L):

Exclusive: Civil servant accuses ministers of ‘Project Fear Mark III’ over no-deal Brexit Telegraph. I’m skeptical due to repeated demonstrations of the Government’s incompetence. Richard North concurs, albeit for different reasons:

This is quite unlike anything written by a civil servant that I have ever seen and, given the propensity of Telegraph journalists to make things up, we cannot avoid the suspicion that this is another piece of fakery to which big-name journals are prone.

A List of Weird Facts

This was surprisingly interesting: How a Celebrity Trainer Gets Actors in Shape for Movies
Arborists have cloned the most massive redwood trees cut down in the 19th & 20th centuries and are planting them around the world

Cocktails from Hell: Five Complex Wars Shaping the 21st Century

BILL EDEBOHLS. Advent – Pulling no punches

Christians know that Advent is about preparing – getting ready – for the coming of Christ. Getting ready for his second coming at the end of time and also getting ready for the celebration of his birth at Christmas.   Continue reading 

Making sense of 2018

JOHN QUIGGIN. Public Private Partnerships. The mirage.

In the UK Budget last week, the  Chancellor, Phillip Hammond announced the end of the PF2 scheme, the Conservative government’s replacement for the discredited Public Finance Initiative originally introduced by the Conservatives under John Major, but greatly expanded  by Tony Blair’s New Labour.  This announcement is less than meets the eye in a couple of respects. Financing under PF2 had already slowed to a trickle.
(The NSW Government should read this to understand what has gone wrong with the PPP venture at the Northern Beaches Hospital…..John Menadue)

On the ABC’s Late Night Live Phillip Adams brings together Laura Tingle, Peter Hartcher and Clementine Ford to talk through the events and trends of 2018. They share their insights on women in public life (and the backlash from men in power), the ideological conflicts tearing the Liberal party apart, the Trumpism of Australian politics (why has Australia become a magnet for foreign Alt-Right missionaries?), the rise of populism, and the global reach of the Chinese Communist Party. Ford concludes with guarded optimism for 2019, as more people in the community find their voice to stand up against those who cling to power. (54 minutes)

On ABC’s Saturday Extra (from 0730 to 0900 or on their website in case you miss it)

Geraldine Doogue talks with business journalist Michael West about how the banks have been paying penalties to charities and thus receiving tax deductions;

Italian-American economist Mariana Mazzucato – on the importance of the state in driving innovation. On Tuesday evening Ms Mazzucato will be delivering the John Menadue Oration  for the Centre for Policy Development;

On both sides of the Channel, similarities and differences the French and Brits are facing – with Anne McElvoy, British journalist for The Economistand Dominique Moisi, French political scientist;

Why honour matters – a debate with philosophers Raimond Gaita and Tamler Sommers and on the economics of plants with Mark Nesbitt, curator and senior research leader at London’s Kew Gardens.

Other commentary

Why is populism suddenly all the rage?
That’s the title of Matthijs Rooduijn’s article in The Guardian. He suggests that in democracies four developments nurture support for populism: a loss of people’s attachment to traditional political parties, a convergence of “left” and “right” parties leaving a lot of ideological space either side, an economic or social crisis such as perceptions of terrorist threat or of overwhelming influxes of refugees, and the reality or perception of corruption in political and other public institutions.
What does it mean to be a citizen?
Over this year Australians have enjoyed political dramas around Section 44 High Court citizenship cases. But there has been little discussion about just what citizenship is – the rights and obligations of citizenship, how citizenship has been understood historically and in different countries, and how Australians made painfully slow progress from the demeaning status as “British subjects” to that of “Australian citizens”. On the ABC’s Rear Vision Keri Phillips brings together four experts to cover these topics. Just what citizenship entails is far from clear-cut. (29 minutes).
Why has Donald Trump gone quiet?
Australia’s ABC journalists in Washington are wondering why Trump has hardly muttered a word or a tweet since arriving home from the G20. Does it have something to do with Robert Mueller’s investigation? William Rivers Pitt, senior editor at Truthout, leaves us with little doubt. He mentions how Trump’s negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow continued during the election campaign (one of Michael Cohen’s revelations), how Mueller has recommended no prison time for disgraced security adviser Michael Flynn, and how there has been a raid on Deutsche Bank (“the only financial institution outside of Moscow willing to loan Donald Trump money”). Zoe Daniel and Emily Olson may soon find themselves with plenty on which to report.
Global terrorism continues its downwards trend
You didn’t hear it from Christopher Pyne, but globally deaths from terrorism have fallen for the third consecutive year, as revealed in the 2018 Global Terrorism Index, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Terrorism remains concentrated in a west-east band with hot spots in Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Iraq Afghanistan and Pakistan: in these countries conflict and human rights abuses are strongly correlated with terrorism. In more prosperous countries “social alienation, lack of economic opportunity and involvement in an external conflict” are the major correlates, and those with criminal records are most susceptible to recruitment. While the influence of ISIL has waned, there are other threats, and the Institute warns of the growing terrorism threat from far-right individuals and groups.

We must re-think the purpose of the corporation

That’s the title of an article by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. (Warning – the FT gives you only one go at a free download). “The public at large increasingly views corporations as sociopathic” writes Wolf, in his review of Colin Mayer’s book Prosperity. In deconstructing the idea that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make a profit for its shareholders, he points out the fallacies in such a model. Corporations exist for a purpose – to make something, to do something that contributes to customer value: profit is a condition for achieving that purpose, it is not, or should not be, the purpose itself. (It’s notable that readers of the financial press may find his views novel. Business scholars, such as Adolf Berle, Chester Barnard and Kawakami Hajime were making the same point early last century, but their views went out of fashion in the brave new world of neoliberalism.)

And corporations should pay more tax

Writing in The Conversation, Ross Garnaut, Craig Emerson and Reuben Finighan call for an overhaul of the way we tax corporations. Taxation based on reported profit – the traditional basis of corporate taxes – is too easy to  dodge through allocation of costs to ensure that profits are realised in tax havens. They advocate taxes based on cash flows, on the basis that cash flows are easily and objectively measured (money in less money out), and cannot so easily be manipulated to reduce a company’s tax liability in the country where it actually does business.

Jim Mattis’s resignation letter, published with annotations in the Washington Post.