Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Stephany Griffith-Jones points out the lack of any coherent argument against a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions - and the public support when political parties actually raise it for debate:
Major financial sectors such as the United States, Hong Kong and South Korea already have FTTs which together raise tens of billions in revenue annually without causing economic damage. In the UK we have the very successful stamp duty, an FTT on share transactions that raises more than £3bn a year, of which 40% is paid by foreign-based investors and banks. It too rightly taxes all those trading UK shares, wherever they are based. This is the same principle on which the European FTT will be based.

Fortunately, the European commission is clearly supportive of the proposal, as is the European parliament. Eleven European countries, representing 66% of European GDP, remain committed to implementing the tax.

It is encouraging that in coalition talks between the German SPD and CDU, they achieved clear consensus on the FTT. This is not surprising, as in Germany 82% of citizens, according to Euro-barometer, support a European FTT. In France this figure reaches 72%, and the EU average is 64%. Let's hope politicians elsewhere will listen to their voters and fully implement the tax soon.
- Brian Topp draws a connection (as I've done before) between the caucus fraud scandal of the Grant Devine PCs and the Harper Cons' Senate abuses. And Haroon Siddiqui finds a disturbing number of similarities between Harper and Rob Ford in their common demonization of anybody who would question their laughable claims to infallibility.

- Meanwhile, Chantal Hebert sees the Cons' convention as a missed opportunity to propose and push a national Senate referendum.

- Finally, Bruce Livesey writes that the NSA's surveillance has little to do with security, and almost everything to do with the pursuit of economic advantage:
During the Cold War, signals intelligence agencies focused mostly on the Soviet Union and its satellites and allies. But with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, these agencies needed a new raison d’etre. In my 1998 Financial Post piece, I detailed how these agencies were now focusing on economic targets, such as spying on countries to glean information that would give them an advantage in trade talks, or allow multinationals to garner business deals to the detriment of their foreign competitors. “We were all looking at other ways of earning our living other than military and political intelligence,” Mike Frost, a former CSE operative who spent 18 years with the agency, told me when I was researching the Post story. “It was just a given we would be looking at economic things. We thought there was nothing wrong with this.”

For example, the CSE spied on South Korea while Canada was attempting to sell $6 billion worth of CANDU nuclear reactors to that country (presumably to ensure the deal went through). And it spied on Mexico during the 1992-93 NAFTA talks, again to garner advantages in those discussions.

In the current scandal over the NSA, it’s clear that the real intention of the agency’s spying on America’s so-called allies like Germany, Brazil, France and Spain, is solely for economic purposes. After all, these are not countries that are hotbeds of Islamic or al Qaeda terrorism that would justify this level of espionage.
Today, intelligence agencies can pretend that all of their spying is to hunt down “terrorists” in our midst. In reality, their entire function is to further the interests of capital, even if it means trampling our privacy and civil rights in the process.

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