Friday, January 05, 2007

Daily Digest January 5, 2007

Joe Hueglin wrote:


ST.JOHN'S TELEGRAM - It’s in their blood
What testing politicians tells us

HALIFAX HERALD - Changing climates

MONTREAL GAZETTE - Policy, not Ambrose, is the problem

MONTREAL GAZETTE - Is this the year to cut the cord?

OTTAWA CITIZEN - Baird faces tough battle

OTTAWA SUN - Tories see green light

TORONTO STAR - Now Harper must shuffle his policies

NATIONAL POST - Harper's shuffled deck

NATIONAL POST - Internal dissent

LONDON FREE PRESS - Risky business

K-W RECORD - A timely overhaul for Harper cabinet

WINDSOR STAR - Board games: Harper and patronage

SUDBURY STAR - The state has no business in the refrigerators of the nation =

SUDBURY STAR - The greening of Stephen Harper =

SASKATOON STARPHOENIX - Harper moves could bolster Sask. fortunes

REGINA LEADER-POST - Harper plays musical chairs

CALGARY HERALD - Calgary builds muscle in PM's cabinet shift

EDMONTON JOURNAL - Edmonton left out in the cold

LETHBRIDGE HERALD - Cabinet fit for the next election run

Prince George Citizen - A seat at the big table

HOPE STANDARD - Forestry beyond hope =

VANCOUVER SUN - Harper's cabinet shuffle sparked by mixed motives, to say the least

VANCOUVER SUN - Who will audit the auditor-general?

VANCOUVER PROVINCE - Shuffle offers little for Lower Mainland voters

VICTORIA TIMES-COLONIST - Pre-election tweak for Harper team
A fresh face in the environment portfolio might not mean a major change in direction


Canucks do battle with Taliban fighters
Friday, 4 p.m. No troops injured in village firefight


U.S. seeking more imports

Dollar hit from all sides
Falls below US85 cents: Commodity price drop, rate fears pile on pressure

Domestic productivity lags
Report: cause for concern: Foreign firms here invest more in innovation

Unemployment rate at 30-year-low in December

Canada cattle industry sees hope in U.S. trade move

Doctor calls for universal HIV testing in court

Immigrants often need vaccinations, tests show

Righting a costly wrong; Federal government owes Ontarians billions of dollars. Will it ever pay?
Dalton McGuinty, premier of the province of Ontario. =

'Policy on the run' slammed by former B.C. health official

Liberal MP's defection hands NDP balance of power in Commons

Change is all about perception

all 356 news articles »

PM gears up for election with major shakeup

New cabinet built for election

Winds of election bring change
Realignment aims to make Tories' image more appealing

Appointments key to Conservative majority

Tory PM expands ministry Sets 6 new places at cabinet table

Liberal MP defects to Tories after serving as Harper adviser since summer

Dion's foreign policy concerned defector Khan


Fresh off cabinet shuffle, PM vows tax cuts in 2007 budget

Haskett bailing out after election defeat

Harper shuffles deck

Costs of expansion

PM charts a greener course

Calm Nicholson likely to bring diplomatic air to justice post

Yes, things are heating up, new environment minister says

Tories get fresh shot at environment
Concerns over global warming underestimated

Seniors groups support LeBreton appointment

PM warms to environment

Harper goes green
Baird replaces Ambrose as Tories make environment an election priority

Baird keen to work with political rivals

The man sent to kill the issue
Baird posting is all about appearances

Baird brings clout, baggage to his new job

Baird's career in politics 'nothing short of meteoric'
At 37, minister is trusted by Harper, consultant says

Ontario's 'Mr. Fix-It' has Harper's trust
New environment minister is young, but seasoned by tough portfolios under Harris

Dion moves key allies into top positions

Kyoto gases Ambrose

Don't shed tears for Rona

Rona pays price

Being kept on PM's short leash cooled political life for Ambrose

Toews' appointment 'scary thought' for PS

Loss of portfolio in shuffle a relief to Sask. MP Skelton

Harper faces a rough year, especially in Quebec

PM's better-late-than-never shuffle

Safe Injection Site needs more research

The sun moves climate change

Toxic statistics

The Changing South Polar Cap of Mars: 1999-2005

The coming Tory war on prosperity

Wasting the court's time
Was this case about a child's best interests -- or scoring political points against straights?

The logic of cross-pollination
In terms of brains, integrity, enterprise, vision and likeability, 2007 is shaping up as a banner year in Canadian politics. The trouble is, no candidate embodies all of these qualities.

A tale of two dead presidents

Harper met de l'eau dans son vin

Québec préfère voir Rona Ambrose aux Affaires intergouvernementales

Rona Ambrose, «une femme heureuse»

Québec salue la nomination de Rona Ambrose

En bref - Quel contraste!
Le nouveau ministre fédéral de l'Environnement, John Baird, est reconnu aussi bien pour sa flamboyance que pour sa ténacité et sa loyauté au Parti conservateur.

"M. Harper ne cesse de nous surprendre" Jean-Pierre Blackburn

Le libéral Wajid Kahn traverse le parquet pour se joindre aux conservateurs

Rae sera candidat

30 mois ne serait plus trop vieux

Une surveillance coûteuse

        Passing comments on:
         "I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naive and irresponsible."
were the least of the words deprecating the hypotheses of the
        two wrtten up in this article "The sun moves climate change"

Taken together with what's apparently happening on Mars where there are no humans "The Changing South Polar Cap of Mars: 1999-2005" ought natural forces be included in considerations of factors causing climate

        That "Mrs. Ambrose is allied of Quebec as regards tax imbalance, of limitation of the federal capacity to spend and on the radiation of Quebec
is a positive for those seeking to reshape dominion-provincial relationships.  For those of us believing  there are matters that required uniform treatment    across the country it is a signal to watch this Alberta-Quebec nexus carefully .
Quebec greets the nomination of Rona Ambrose

        The Charest government favorably accommodates the cabinet reshuffle in Ottawa, particularly the nomination of Rona Ambrose to the ministry for the      intergovernmental Businesses.

        Mrs. Ambrose is allied of Quebec as regards tax imbalance, of limitation of the federal capacity to spend and on the radiation of Quebec abroad, put forward    Thursday the Minister for the Canadian intergovernmental Businesses, Benoît Pelletier.

        “It is very, very open and sensitive to Québécois reality”, commented on the Pelletier minister, who knows his news opposite since the time when it was responsible     for the file of the intergovernmental businesses in the opposition to the Communes.


Ron Thornton

*Hi Joe:

First, I wish to thank Rubie Britton for her contribution of that "dam" story of her's.  The story of the beavers and the response made by the land owner in Michigan to the environmental bureaucrats made me smile, dam it!  We can all use an item like that to brighten up our "dam" days.

Mark Garstin's comments regarding those folks who we see chanting anti-American slogans reminded me as to why I find myself supporting one side, albeit if only on an emotional level, while not so inclined to be so supportive for the other side of an issue.  Often, I can ask myself with whom would I wish to be associated with, and quite frankly there are those with whom I just don't feel compelled to be all that close to.   For example, while I think the American government has made a few mistakes, to understate things greatly, I would rather be associated with the American people than with a host of alternatives one might mention.


Mark Hendriks

Rosalie Piccioni provided the following link:

> Subject: Interesting?

> Rosie

Yes.  He is trying to send you a message: buy a more fuel efficient car.

Mark Hendriks

Glenn Harewood

Subject: Re: The federal government as a force in Canadian policy.

 We warned them -- the voters-- but they didn't listen carefully. They gave Harper  and the Neo-cons a small and weak minority government. Now this minority government is slowly but surely putting into place all the levers that will dismantle the strong  traditional Federal government. Witness on Tuesday the transfer of the control of billions of dollars from the Federal to the Ontario provincial government.!!  Sir John A. would  ''drink a rum" and scream with rage in his grave!!

A paper supporting your point of view that PM  Harper is, nibble by nibble, dismantling the Federal Government powers, is in preparation.

Glenn H.

Ian Berg

Subject: The US

Hey Joe,
The Democrats have control of both the Senate and House, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Both are highly critical of President Bush and have like-minded people controlling congressional committees. The Democrats are intent on scrutinizing the White House's decisions of the past years and start up investigations. One of them, Conyers from Michigan, has already drafted up articles of impeachment. Surely the Republicans no longer "control" America. While the Bush-bashers on this Digest are going to enjoy the spate of subponeas and hearings against White House and Defence staff which will soon paralyze US federal politics, I hope they realize it puts their conspiracy theories about a Republican "takeover of Canada" to rest.
Ian Berg
Calgary, Alberta

(Some are more concerned about a give away than a takeover)
Brian D. Marlatt

Subject: Liberal Khan defects to Conservatives

Comment posted at:
Brian Marlatt, from White Rock, BC, Canada wrote: The member for Mississauga-Streetsville seems to have made a decision of conscience. For that he is to be respected. This cannot be said of the Emerson decision. Nor can it be said of Stephen Harper and those of his caucus who have decried in the past similar decisions which were made on similar grounds but did not favour their partisan interest. The list of genuine Tories who have decided that they could not in good conscience participate in the dismantling of Canada and assimilation of Canadian values and institutions into the neoconservativism of American far-right Republicanism is long and telling. It includes those Tory parliamentarians and activists who chose not to run under or support the 'new' Conservative banner -- former PC Environment Critic John Herron, Finance Critic Scott Brison, from the West Rick Borotsik, the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, PC Party National Presidents Bruck Easton and Mort Glanville, Tory Senators who continue to sit as Progressive Conservatives, former MPs and activists who continue the PC tradition under the banner of the Progressive Canadian Party, and those within Mr. Harper's party who are trying to make the best of a bad deal and know that in order for the 'new' Conservative Party to gain respectability and to serve the interests of Canada their party must first be purged of the old Reform Party element, including Mr. Harper, who have tainted Canadian politics. The question of conscience to be asked of the new Conservative member for Mississauga-Streetsville and for the remaining Tories in the CPC caucus is 'What are you doing to get rid of Stephen Harper?' What are you doing to 'Give Steve the Heave'?

Nola Crewe

Hi Joe:
I think the reason you aren't hearing much from your readership on the federal disaster zone is that Canadian politics are so overwhelmingly depressing these days.  It seems that there is a whirlpool whose vortex is inexorably pulling our world apart and sending it down the sewer.  Federal powers are being abandoned.  The provinces divided.  The environment a mere pawn to be bandied about, but not taken seriously.  The Liberals recent selection of leader is the best thing that ever happened to Harper and hope for the future seems dimmer and dimmer each day.  I can barely get through the first few headlines before turfing the paper these days.
We are such a blessed nation:  resources, people and history.  And it is being squandered.  We all ought to be ashamed of ourselves for letting it happen.  And with such a grim perspective these days . . . it's why I don't write.  When I don't think about it, I can almost convince myself that Canada's future can be as bright as it used to be. 

John Feldsted" <>
To: "John Feldsted" <>
Subject: Political climate fraud

When our politicians are promising to take drastic action to curb carbon dioxide emissions in Canada without any explanation of what the costs or potential repercussions are, we need to be very wary.

Our politicians cannot look at global warming and carbon emissions in isolation from our economy and society. They have a responsibility to improve our atmosphere and environment without triggering serious economic and social harm.

Canada accounts for 2.23% of world-wide carbon emissions; 2.8% of carbon emissions by the top twenty world emitters. The top five emitters, the US, China, Russia, India and Japan in that order, account for 55% of world emissions and 69% of top twenty. Anyone who dreams that full Kyoto compliance by Canada will significantly affect global warming is dreaming.  

We are told by auto makers, various manufacturers, oil sands producers and smelter operators that stringent emissions standards will cripple their operations – which translated into lay-offs and unemployment. We have just had a major tire plant in Quebec drastically reduce its operations and work force as it could not compete with imports from China – which is not required to meet Kyoto standards. Manufacturers can and will relocate to jurisdictions which do not have as strict emission standards.

Transportation is a major source of carbon pollution. Strict emission standards will result in increased purchase and operating costs. The increased costs will be passed through to consumers and we will pay more for almost everything as all products, including food, are transported by truck. Reducing carbon emissions can result in higher costs for our morning toast.

Reductions in carbon emissions alone will not address the air pollution problems faced by major urban centers. We would be foolhardy not to ensure that whatever action we take addresses serious urban air quality health hazards.

Those who promise to meet arbitrary Kyoto standards over a few years are at best reckless and at worst disinterested in the welfare of our nation and society. As responsible members of the international community, we have an obligation to take action to reduce carbon emissions. We have a greater responsibility to our citizens and society to clean up our atmosphere and environment without serious harm to our economy.

The scare tactics employed by some environmentalists and politicians are a disservice to our society. We need a careful, measured approach to the global warming issue. Overreacting in a panic can destroy our economy. We are entitled to far more than the ‘sky is falling’ nonsense spouted by opposition politicians. Until they produce a viable plan to reduce carbon emissions with costs and economic impacts, they are no better than any other end-of-world soothsayers and unworthy of our support.

John Feldsted      

Jacob Rempel
Good Morning.
We are having a nice warm snowfall in Vancouver.
The Liberals just lost MP Wajid Khan to the
Harper neo-cons. Kkan says he likes Harper's
"more assertive" foreign policy. This means
that Khan supports the Harper and George
Bush more "assertive" war policy.
Stéphane Dion has a more creative Canadian
policy in war and peace. Note his policy on
Afghanistan, reported in the Globe on Dec 6.
Dion also wants us to make peace
with Mother Earth

...Jacob Rempel, Vancouver Kingsway
Dion to push for Afghan Marshall Plan

Independent World Television,
with The Real News
Shortcut to IWT:
Dear Stéphane Dion and David Orchard,
I am certain you will appreciate this new television network,
 and especially the first interview, with George Monbiot,
Columnist for The Guardian and author of the
bestselling books Captive State, The Age of Consent,
Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning.

He discusses the science of climate change
with The Real News senior editor, Paul Jay.
What causes global warming?
What is the tipping point?
And why are countries failing to act
with any sense of urgency on the issue?
Link attachments:
Shortcut to:
...Jacob Rempel, Vancouver Kingsway

HALIFAX NEWS - Poll suggests Tories, Grits fit to be tied
There's no justice in this base world. Liberals should be in the deep-six doldrums.
Like anything, it depends on context. Indeed, there ARE gross abuses (the one that stings me the most is John Roth's walking away with $100 million CDN in stock options just before Nortel sank into the abyss. Cash for wealth DE-struction .. where can I get a job like that?). One that bothers me right now is the CEO of Metro, a QC supermarket chain that owns stores in ON (and others?). He's to get $1 million annual pay ... and $36 million (current worth) of share options, which he can cash in anytime in the next two years. Notice to shareholders: those are potential dividends that are being given away. Mind you, excessive pay is the privilege of the few ... but how much longer can a democratically-inclined society put up with this kind of thing?
One day, I'd like to have some of these guys taken to task by having them answer two questions:
1. Some justify high pay (whether or not linked to share performance) as a spur to extra effort, vision, and creativity. If we were to cut your pay in half, would you work less? (Awkward silence ...)
2. Some justify high pay by saying that it arises from a shortage of well-qualified, potential CEOs. What measures would YOU recommend to fill this shortage? (Duuuhhh ...)
To tell you the truth, paying CEOs through share options has some advantages:
a. For one, it links his pay to the company's share performance ... which is counterbalanced by his being motivated to maximize share price at the expense of everything else. Boards have to be particularly attentive to this, which they sometimes are (e.g. SunBeam, whose Board caught on to "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap's short-term share-price maximization technique: get hired, chop thousands of jobs, write off a whole bunch of stuff, and take the financial hit in one big dunking (this is called the "Big Bath" approach). Then, having driven the share price so low through radical, not necessarily beneficial measures, watch it bounce back the next year or two and ca$h in your options. Be declared Corporate Saviour, move on to other company needing a turnaround (more like a "turn over in your casket before we bury you"), repeat, make more million$. Get adulated until you're found out). And sometimes the Boards either aren't or they get captured by a swashbuckler and his accomplices (Enron, WorldCom, Conrad Black's Hollinger).
b. Share options also are an easy way for companies to pay employees by making them partners. Many Internet startups began this way: pay starvation-level salaries to young, pimply uber-nerds (OK, I'm exaggerating ... but they WERE mostly quite young), top it up with options that are sure to go through the roof once the brilliant website is up and running, and watch the nerds work 18-hour days. The benefit: companies pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, plus a number of young millionaires. The down side: employees getting stuck with worthless shares when the company goes bust. Ah, but they'll keep the memories.
c. And, of course, every CEO's favourite ... shares get taxed as capital gains, so $$$ earned by exercising options and selling the corresponding shares gets taxed at a much lower rate than straight cash. So, to compensate for taking on the risk of share prices not going up as desired, CEOs and pimply uber-nerds benefit from a nice tax dodge.
Moral of the above: every benefit comes at a price. The complicated part is figuring out how to get the desired benefits at a decent price.
Analysis: Priority No.1: Get re-elected
When I read headlines like this, I get the hearty feeling that ALL of us could be high-calibre analysts. Career change, anyone?
Harper to blame for environment failures: Dion
National ruin. And with only ONE year's effort. Can Mr. Harper perform, or what?

Anti-Zionists and the impossible peace
I'd expect that Anti-Zionism (that is, not being anti-Jew but rather being against the establishment/maintenance (expansion?) of Israel) will get some wind in its sails as many Westerners and their politicians will ask more and more whether we're having to take on too big a load on our shoulders by supporting Israel economically and diplomatically. Or, for that matter, whether creating a Jewish homeland was such a good idea in the first place. Let alone the fact "religious ethnicity" is the basis for full social participation over there, which isn't an obvious "Western" value.
# Le nouveau ministre de l'Environnement est reconnu pour sa flamboyance
"The new Environment Minister (John Baird) is recognized for his flamboyance". A combustible fellow, indeed. Let's hope that he's good at putting out fires, too. (Note: Not a slag on Mr. Baird. I don't know him enough to comment).
# Qu bec salue la nomination de Rona Ambrose aux Affaires intergouvernementales
"Quebec salutes (welcomes) the nomination of Rona Ambrose to Intergovernmental Affairs". Y'know, it's been a looooong time since Quebec's government has played footsy with Canada's federal one. Happy days are here again ... And Death to Liberals and Blocheads! May it pass that those two vile groups no longer polarize the QC federal vote. Pray that QC turns into the Liberal-Bloc Hadramaut (a region in south Yemen whose Arabic name means "The Death of Civilization" .. it's VERY dry there) or its hecatomb (with in classical Greek meant "a hundred oxen", which Greek cities would sacrifice once a year come the month of Hecatomvion). QC has only 75 MPs (of which 10 are Conservatives right now), but you get the general idea.
# Remaniement: BQ, PLC et Greenpeace l'estiment cosm tique; Qu bec se r jouit
"Shuffle: BQ, Liberals, and Greenpeace consider it cosmetic; QC rejoices". Hilarious, how headlines can sound when read out loud. ("Well, we needed a fresh face, so ...")
According to Herodotus, Croesus was placed upon a great pyre by Cyrus' orders, for Cyrus wanted to see if any of the heavenly powers would appear to save him from being burned alive. The pile was set ablaze, and as Cyrus watched he saw Croesus mutter a word, Solon. He asked the interpreters to find out why he said this word with such resignation and agony. The interpreters returned the answer that Solon had warned Croesus of the fickleness of good fortune. This touched Cyrus, who realized that he and Croesus were much the same man, and he bade the servants to quench the blazing fire as quickly as they could. They tried to do this, but the flames were not to be mastered. According to the story, Croesus called out to Apollo and prayed to him. The sky had been clear and the day without a breath of wind, but soon dark clouds gathered and a storm with rain of such violence that the flames were speedily extinguished. Cyrus, convinced by this that Croesus was a good man, made Croesus an advisor who served Cyrus well and later Cyrus's son by Cassandane, Cambyses.

I've been usurped! As inheritor of my ancestors' legacy (Solon and Herodotus were Greeks), I thought I was to be the Herodotus authority around here (hahahahaha). Outraged, I am.
All kidding aside, though, just to add a bit to the story, Solon, during his 10-year exile from Athens (he'd saved it from civil war by giving it a new constitution .. for his trouble, he got "ostracized", that is selected for 10-year exile in a once-yearly vote), went to visit King Croesus of Lydia (in modern-day Turkey). Croesus was thought to be the richest king in the world because of the great quantities of gold panned out in the river Pactolos (or Pactol, or something like that). When Solon came by, Croesus asked wise Solon who was the most fortunate man on Earth (guess what, Croesus was expecting to be told that he himself was that man). Solon didn't accomodate: he answered that it was some Greek fellow back home because "he had two fine sons". Croesus, taken aback, decided to ask who the second most fortunate man was. Solon answered some other fellow, for an equally plain reason (well, plain to Croesus, anyway). Croesus, annoyed, asked Solon where Croesus himself was in the ranking ... and Solon told him that he didn't know because only when a man's life is over can one tell whether he's been fortunate or not. Croesus wasn't pleased ... but he DID remember Solon when lying on his funeral pyre.
This good fortune thing was considered very important in classical times. Many Great Romans (Sulla, for example) considered that their personal rise to eminence was a result of both their skills and energy, but also because of their good fortune. (Sulla put much emphasis on his fortune). And ROmans in general considered that the pre-eminence of Rome itself was based on its good fortune. In that sense, she was favourite of the gods ...
An amusing aside, since we're into the Histories of Herodotus ... I chuckle every time I see the movie "The English Patient". The first scene pens with Ms. Scott-Key telling the story of how Gyges gained the throne a Persian monarch. Gyges had been a trusted man (maybe a minister or something). But along came the Shah's wife, who offered him the chance to become Shah himself. She was miffed at the current Shah for some reason and figured that Gyges could take his place since he himself looked like just like the Shah. One day, the Shah returns from some travel, slips into his wife's bed, and gets sent to meet his ancestors by Gyges' hand. And now, the chuckle part: I figured that Mr. Oondatje hadn't spent too much time gathering research material ... in the Histories of Herodotus, the Gyges story starts on page one, chapter one, paragraph one, line one. (<-- Heck, I thought it was funny. Ya takes yer humour where ya finds it).

We were talking about excessive pay for CEOs. Read below. I'm almost as mad at this as I was when (Nick?) DiGrasso resigned as head of the NY Stock Exchange. But only almost ... Mr. DiGrasso got more money ($280 vs $210 million) for less time served (five years vs. six). Aaaarrrgggbbbllll .... In each case, all that shareholder money to ONE individual. Builders of shareholders wealth, indeed! (P.S. Mr. DiGrasso agreed to return a whack of $$$ after public pressure had been brought to bear ...).
Can't blame the CEOs. But where are the Boards of Directors in all this?
 Executive pay

Golden handshakes
Jan 4th 2007

Robert Nardelli leaves Home Depot with a big pay-off

EXCESSIVE executive pay in America provokes expressions of awe, envy and outrage like little else. The latest example of a boss walking away with a big pay-off emerged on Wednesday January 3rd, when Robert Nardelli, chief executive of Home Depot, a home-improvement chain, resigned after six years in charge. To cushion the blow of unemployment he will get a compensation package worth $210m from a company that has suffered a lagging share price and performed poorly compared with Lowes, its closest rival. Yet despite this and several other recent examples of bosses prospering while investors do not, there are reasons to believe that the disconnection between corporate pay and performance may now diminish.

In the past year monster pay-offs for the likes of Henry McKinell of Pfizer and Lee Raymond of Exxon Mobil attracted lengthy press comment and much public ire. But these examples of extravagance, and that of Mr Nardelli, were the result of pay deals struck when times were good and shareholders felt less inclined to scrutinise.

Mr Nardelli made his arrangements in 2000 when markets were booming. Since then, shareholder activists have begun to question whether big payments for bosses make sense. Those activists, aided by public disquiet and by worried murmuring from politicians of both parties, have been demanding action. In 2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission introduced new rules that will force firms to disclose more about how various top bosses are compensated. Starting this month, companies will have to put a dollar figure on their chiefs' pay, perks and pensions and the board will have to explain why they are worth it.

Simply revealing what bosses earn will not necessarily help. The new rules do not give shareholders any formal powers over pay. But bosses will get useful information so they can demand pay rises to the "median" in their sector or, more likely, beyond. And the new transparency may even provide evidence-despite the headlines-that suggests the overpaying of bosses is not particularly acute. According to some measures, pay for chief executives at large American companies (excluding pensions and perks) rose in line with corporate profits in 2005. Though the gap between the pay of bosses and workers is historically high, it may now be dropping from its peak (see chart).

Yet there is evidence of a growing desire by shareholders to tighten corporate governance, along with a mood of conciliation among bosses. Shareholder democracy and greater accountability seems on the advance. Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), an influential organisation that advises big investors, late last year issued guidelines urging clients to be more assertive. In particular the ISS would like to see investors have the right to vote against the election of board members they don't like (rather than merely withholding votes, as now). Some even talk of getting the right to sack board members, if a majority of investors are in favour. The latter would be a step too far even for the most reforming firms but several large companies, including McDonald's and Wal-Mart, have said that they will consider some reforms to the way board members are elected.

Some of America's big pension funds also waded into the fray last year, expressing concern over the use of compensation consultants to determine the pay of chief executives. Often the consultants are hired by the same executives whose remuneration is under discussion. Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, also joined the call to restrict the use of consultants, suggesting that they may push top bosses' pay too far out of kilter compared with that of their deputies, which might breed discontent.

In defence of the bosses, they do face some risks along with their high pay. According to one estimate more lost their jobs last year than at any time before. But as annual general meetings grow ever more fractious bosses would do well to consider allowing shareholders, the firms' owners, to have more say on pay and other matters. Otherwise legislators may eventually decide that awe, envy and outrage are good grounds for giving investors more powers over America's bosses.