Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reflecting on "shepherds" as leaders

Passover, Easter and the ethics of a shepherd: Salutin

All the main founder-heroes in the Hebrew Bible — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David — thrived in wandering, rural lives.

By Rick Salutin, Toronto Star, March 29, 2013 Israeli scholar Yoram Hazony, in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, claims the Old Testament (the Jewish-Hebrew part of the Bible) is rooted in “the ethics of a shepherd.” All the main founder-heroes there — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David — thrived in wandering, rural lives. Settled, urban locales like Babylon, Egypt, even Jerusalem, were far more ambiguous morally. Moses dies just as the Hebrew tribes end their 40 desert years. David’s moral compass deteriorates when he’s king in Jerusalem. Hazony implies an original biblical preference — albeit a complex one — for wandering.

The "Wanderer" archetype is the one Carole Pearson suggests is appropriate when transitioning from one principal archetype to another: "victim" to "warrior" for example, or from "warrior" to "magician"
in her outstanding book, The Hero Within. The New Testament model is found in the wandering for forty days and nights in the Garden of Gethsemane, prior to the crucifixion, in the life of Jesus.
There is a kind of openness under the open sky, alone with the animals and the elements, each of these integral to the wandering experience. There is really no one to impress, and no one else attempting to impress the solitary shepherd. There is only the care of the animals, and the protection and care of oneself that renders many of the political dramas of highly interactive urban life absurd, tempting, complicating and too often incompatible with the human capacity for holding true to the moral compass.
There is also a very different expectation from wandering than from urbanity, the job, the income, the competition, the sales, the reports, the rise and fall of the economic tide resulting from forces humans attempt to control, whereas the shepherd make no such foolish attempts to control either his animals or the conditions under which he and they exist. Of course, the shepherd has heard the stories of the marauding thieves who may happen along at any time, and either kill or steal his flock, depending on their state of mind. Of course, he has also heard the stories of the inclement winds, the sandstorms, and the occasions voracious predator animal which is determined to feed off his flock.
Yet, there is a kind of clarity to his relationship to the land and the animals; survival is at the core of their shared existence. Food, exercise, rest, contemplation and quiet are among the top priorities for the shepherd. Occasionally a new baby must be helped from womb to open air; occasionally, an ill animal requires 'putting down'....and so the shepherd is constantly keeping in touch with both birth and death...the two bookends of all living creatures' existence.
And the open sky, with all of its wonders of both individual stars and multiple galaxies becomes an intimate companion to the shepherd, with all of the speculation those wonders can only inspire, and all of  the permanence and the transcendence that are both represented in that dazzling dome. Little wonder that early historic leadership accompanied such modest, challenging, opening and focused existences.
Losing sight of what is important could and did prove instantly catastrophic. Holding true to the task and the balance and the equilibrium that includes night following day, relentlessly yet predictably, that vegetation usually pointed to some moisture, or vice versa, that animals' needs, while recurring are relatively simple and predictable, as are shepherds when faced with limited resources and the constant need to search for them.
It is in the urban world that multiple choices, to feed multiple and insatiable motives, among multiple and complex communities, over mostly finite resources like land and water and air and something to eat, where tensions are more complex, more varied in their sources, their combatants, their methods and their outcomes. And while building larger and more densely populated urban dwelling places, in distant corners of our planet, we are also losing much of the solidarity that was the life of the shepherd.
We are constantly bombarded by stimuli, to the point where we are suffering overload, and the natural anxiety that accompanies that overload, including our loss of wonder, our loss of reflective and meditative time, our loss of a singular focus on survival, through our own efforts, now being almost completely dependent on the competing appetites of many others, mostly unknown, who push and pull levers in our lives, as if our lives were their's to push and pull.
And so "fitting in" to the local culture, the workplace culture, the school or church culture, becomes the 'holy grail' whereas wandering, and not 'fitting in' and 'not complying' and 'not conforming' would preserve many  of the virtues and possibilities that were and are indigenous to the shepherd.
Call this nostalgia for a lost past if you like. More cogently, it seems as if we have willingly succumbed to the ravages of joining games for which there are increasingly no rules, no training and no mentors, except for those whose clan, family have already climbed to the top of the social, political, economic totem pole of the culture.
And increasingly, there is also an apparent atrophy of any motivation to pass those rules, and training along, in the narcissistic dream that as fewer and fewer seek to join the competitive race, there will be "more" for those already living in the gated communities, as one colleague put it, describing his Caribbean retreat: "We live in a cage of iron, protected from the marauding thieves as the gap between the have's and the have-not's grows bigger and some will do anything to stay alive!"
Ironically, both doves and sheep, while poetically and romantically, have been depicted as quiet, peaceful and pastoral creatures, they are both vicious, dangerous and harmful to others of their species. Shepherds would have to keep their 'charges' from eliminating the rest of the flock, and would thereby also have considerable experience in negotiating, mediating and defending the weaker and more vulnerable from the stronger and more predatory of their flock.
That capacity too, seems to have gone with the migration to the cities. We no longer care about the weaker and more vulnerable among us. They are left to their own meager, at best, resources, and often repeat the cycle of poverty, disease, failure and tragedy that accompanied their ancestors.
We know how to do things differently; we do know how to pass the needed skills and insights and perceptions that strive to look "into the life of things" (as Wordsworth puts it) that are both necessary for the shepherd and would significantly enhance the lives of all urban dwellers...but we continue to exaggerate the importance of the newly discovered "techie" operations, before we instill the awe of the open sky, and the simplicity of the perseverance and tenacity of the shepherd to care for and to protect his flock...and so we have become little more than automatons pushing the buttons that we put in front of us and in front of our children, wondering what happened to the stars and galaxies, visible mostly now to the astronomers, the experts, and to few others.
Experts alone, it seems, have risen to the top of our hierarchy of accomplishments, and shepherds have slipped off the totem pole of values.
Sad, eh? Where are the Abraham's, Isaac's, Jacob's, Moses's, David's that we need to bring us back "into" the wilderness, having attempted to survive for too long under the ashphalt and the wires and the satellites of our urbanities?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New BRIC Bank to challenge World Bank

Leaders of the five BRICS nations fueling global economic growth agreed Wednesday to create a development bank to help fund their $4.5 trillion infrastructure programs — a direct challenge to the World Bank that they accuse of Western bias.

Few details and no figures were given, indicating that many issues still need to be resolved.
The bank will use $50 billion of seed capital shared equally between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, but will undoubtedly be dominated by China, according to officials at the conference, who insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.
The development bank will be the first institution of the informal BRICS forum which was started in 2009 amid the economic meltdown to chart a new and more equitable world economic order. (from "New BRICs bank to build massive infrastructure, challenge World Bank" by Michelle Faul, The Associated Press, in Toronto Star, March 27, 2013, below)
"Dominated By China" is a phrase that the western world had better get accustomed to hearing. It will be written, uttered, inked, graphically presented, digitally confirmed and U-Tube disseminated for the foreseeable future. And the implications are monstrous, to put it mildly!
Not only is China the principal investor in American Treasury Bills, in effect the holder of the American credit card, she is also the investor in multiple energy projects around the world, including in Canada, the pivotal voice in most international disputes (beside Russia) and now the dominating player on a new stage represented by this new BRIC's Bank....challenging the World Bank.
As Russia runs to support, keep up and ingratiate herself to the new financial institution, no doubt the western world will be trying to ascertain how to "relate" to this new-found lever of financial power and influence. There is no question that having held the stage in world economic development for decades, the World Bank is accustomed to doing things in what could easily be perceived as a "colonial" manner, to be a little more blunt than merely suggesting it is less than democratic.
The "old boys club" is the signature of much of what characterizes the political/cultural/elite structure of international relations over the last century-plus. Euro-centric, latterly including North America, Australia and New Zealand and Japan, this bloc of countries has fostered a world view that favoured "insider" politics which by definition and by fact, excluded "outsiders".
Now the former "outsiders" are finding their own voice, their own feet and their own institutions to challenge what they legitimately see as their former "parents" or guardians. And the world will never be the same.
This new BRIC Bank will serve as a mirror and a lamp on the activities, aspirations and decisions of the countries whose representatives sit at its board table. As a mirror, it will reflect the cultures, languages, histories and traditions of those emerging countries whose full impact has not been given free rein previously, according to their reality. As a lamp, the BRIC Bank will also provide some light into new and different ways of doing business. And the world can only hope that the free-market capitalists of the World Bank will find their global impact moderated by a more socially conscious, more human-centric, and less corporate mind-set that pursues profit regardless of the consequences.
Let's hope that the BRIC  Bank will have the long-term impact of reining in the galloping even run-away globalization that has stripped workers everywhere of legitimate rights, that has gutted too many environmental protections, that has driven a huge wedge between the "have's" and the "have-not's" and that has turned a blind eye to international co-operation unless and until such co-operation directly benefited the "old-boys'" network of the rich and the powerful.
There are new kids on the block, and they are not going away.
Their voice, and the wallets and their world views will be heard, loudly, clearly and unequivocally.
Let's welcome this new institution, and let's start by agreeing that the "west" has a lot to learn from the combined perspectives of the new wave.

New BRICs bank to build massive infrastructure, challenge World Bank

By Michelle Faul, The Associated Press, in Toronto Star, March 27 2013
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA— Leaders of the five BRICS nations fueling global economic growth agreed Wednesday to create a development bank to help fund their $4.5 trillion infrastructure programs — a direct challenge to the World Bank that they accuse of Western bias.
Few details and no figures were given, indicating that many issues still need to be resolved.
The bank will use $50 billion of seed capital shared equally between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, but will undoubtedly be dominated by China, according to officials at the conference, who insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.
The development bank will be the first institution of the informal BRICS forum which was started in 2009 amid the economic meltdown to chart a new and more equitable world economic order.
“Russia supports the creation of this financial institution,” said President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, but he cautioned “we believe that, if it is created, then it must work on market principles only and support the business of all our countries.”
Host President Jacob Zuma, whose country is lobbying to be home to the bank, said the formal negotiations to establish the institution were “based on our own considerable infrastructure needs, which amount to about $4.5 trillion U.S. dollars over the next five years.” The bank will also cooperate with other emerging market countries and developing economies.
Zuma said the bank also will establish a “BRICS contingent reserve arrangement,” a pool of money to cushion member states against any future economic shocks and further lessen their dependence on Western institutions.
Both those aims challenge the traditional roles of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, institutions that in their 50-year life have been dominated by the United States and Europe.
“As cooperation between the BRICS becomes more increasingly institutionalized, it will begin to challenge the economic architecture set out by the Bretton Woods institutions, regarded by many policy-makers within the BRICS as obsolete and biased toward the developed world, “ analyst Martyn Davies of Frontier Advisory wrote this week. “The underlying motivation within the BRICSs is to assert their own collective interests, hard though they are to define, and do so against established Western ones.”
While Zuma was keen to “take this proposal (on a development bank) further to fruition,” Putin indicated more work was needed, saying “Russia believes this work can be continued ...”
Many technical issues remain to be resolved, Brazil’s foreign trade minister Fernando Pimentel said before the start of the two-day summit, which ends Wednesday. They included the voting structure of the bank’s board, he said.
While BRICS nations emphasize their equal partnership there is no doubt about the dominant role in trade and investment played by China, the world’s most populous nation and its second largest economy which recently overtook the United States as the biggest importer of oil. China also has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves.
This BRICS summit has been dedicated to supporting development in Africa — Zuma invited 15 other African leaders to the meeting — and analysts note that some BRICS nations are rivals in the scramble for Africa’s resources.
China long has overtaken traditional former European colonizers as Africa’s biggest trading partner. Recently there have been rumbles about the nature of China’s investment in Africa.
Botswana’s President Ian Khama last month lambasted China for shoddy work in his country, saying “We have had some bad experiences with Chinese companies.” In an interview with South Africa’s BusinessDay newspaper, Khama blamed Chinese companies for a spate of power cuts he blamed on Chinese construction of a power plant that is months behind schedule.
Khama also expressed concern about the rate of Chinese migration to Africa in the interview, saying “We accept China’s goods. But they don’t have to export their population to sell us those goods.”
And in a recent opinion piece the governor of Nigeria’s central bank, Lamido Sanusi, accused China of being “a significant contributor to Africa’s de-industrialization and underdevelopment,” with its cheap manufactured goods competing with African goods on the continent and its huge appetite for raw materials preventing Africans from adding value to their natural resources. He suggested there was a “whiff of colonialism” about China’s Africa policy.
China’s new leader Xi Jinping, attending his first international summit at the BRICS, said China would “support Africa’s efforts for stronger growth.”
He said China would continue to make its own and international development priorities as it works to achieve a “grand goal” of doubling China’s gross domestic product and the per capita income of its population of 3 billion by 2020.
Other leaders at the summit, in South Africa’s coastal resort of Durban, gushed about the possibilities opened by their fledgling BRICS forum, which represents nearly half of the world’s population and more than a quarter of world trade.
India’s trade minister Anand Sharma said BRICS will “have a defining influence on the global order of this century.”
He warned against trade protectionism, which has played out within BRICS with South Africa accusing Brazil of dumping poultry products.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said BRICS has confounded its critics. “Even the most skeptical voices do recognize the contribution the BRICS bloc of countries has provided in the field of international economics,” she said. Even the World Bank has said that global growth over the past few years and for the foreseeable future is being driven by the bloc.
Rousseff said it is time multilateral institutions like the IMF and World Bank become more democratic to clearly reflect the growing influence of developing countries.

Thanks and farewell to Bob Rae...Canada is the loser in his retirement

Rae vows not to become Liberals’ ‘crazy Uncle Bob’ as he wraps term as interim leader

By Canadian Press in National Post, March 27, 2013
OTTAWA — As federal MPs prepare to go back to their ridings for two weeks, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae is packing up his office.
Wednesday marked Rae’s final meeting with the Liberal caucus as the party’s caretaker boss; by the time the House of Commons resumes in mid-April, someone else will have the job of Liberal leader and the office that goes with it.
But the man chosen by the Liberals to lead the party after it was decimated in the 2011 election says while he’ll have new digs off the Hill and a new seat in the Commons, he has no intention of disappearing.
“I’m not going to be crazy uncle Bob coming down from the attic every once in a while to make a speech to the kids,” Rae told a news conference, his wife and children watching nearby.
“It’s not my intention to do that.”
In the two years since the Liberals were reduced to third-party status, recent polls suggest the party is clawing its way back to respectability, thanks in part to the high-profile leadership bid of presumptive front-runner Justin Trudeau.
The Liberals are scheduled to announce the results of their leadership contest April 14.
Rae said he intends to stay in the caucus until the next federal election in 2015, but won’t commit to sticking around after that. Meanwhile, he said he looks forward to speaking with his successor about his future role.
“There are times when you are on the stage and there are times when you’re doing something else, and I’ve had my moments and the new leader will make the decisions,” Rae said.
“I’ll be doing whatever that new leader wants me to do.”
Always the gentleman, always the diplomat, always the insightful, incisive and intellectually astute political leader whose career has spanned terms in both federal and provincial politics, as well as stints in international development leadership and national investigative commissions (Air India disaster), Bob Rae leaves the federal Liberal party's interim leadership to the thanks and praise of his parliamentary colleagues on all sides of the House of Commons.
And well they might heap well-deserved praise and thanks!
Rae's stewardship of the beleagured party, merely a rump since the last federal election, has been nothing short of inspiring. And it will be all the more inspiring given the predictable results of the coronation of M. Trudeau on April 14.
Never mind the next leader's inexperience, policy vacuity, charm and showmanship; he will be attempting to fill shoes that a man or woman twice as seasoned would have trouble filling.
And the only leadership candidates to even approximate that seasoning are three women: Martha Hall Findlay, Joyce Murray and Debra Coyne and not one of them apparently has a ghost of a chance to replace Mr. Rae as leader.
While is it a small and isolated voice in the wilderness of national political life, this voice still calls for the people who have taken the time and trouble to "vote" in this absurd political theatre called the election of the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, to think long and hard about the future of their party, and to resist what amounts to a media wave of nostalgic charm of the angel dust of former glory, still falling from the clouds blowing past the Great One's grave. This country and this party deserve more than the knock-off younger Trudeau is offering (can offer?) and the future of the party is in their hands.

Canada pulls out of UN Convention to prevent droughts

The UN body has a research committee dedicated to finding ways to stop the spread of droughts that lay waste to farmland across the planet, particularly Africa.

Scientists, governments and civil society organizations are headed to Bonn next month “to carry out the first ever comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of desertification, land degradation and drought,” says a notice from the United Nations Environment Program.
“Also, for the very first time, governments will provide concrete data on the status of poverty and of land cover in the areas affected by desertification in their countries.” (from "Canada pulls out of UN convention to fight droughts" by Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press, in Toronto Star, March 27, 2013, below)
The question of Canada's participation in this UN Convention to Combat Desertification, while costing a few hundred thousand dollars is not only framed under "environmental protection". It is also about the rise of terrorism in the Sahel, and the increased threat of poverty at the heart of the global need for food and survival of individuals...and the fact that everyone on the planet is interconnected to the degree that the rising incidence of droughts is a common human issue. Also, Canadian representation has been and would continue to be an indication of Canada's interest in participating both as recipient of the best research and as co-provider of additional research from our own scientists on the matter of droughts, and their potential impact, and on new and innovative methods of farming as the size and number of droughts grows.
There is a degree of isolationism in the Canadian government's decision to withdraw, and on the issue of "deserification" the government knows it can rely on the big yawn of the Canadian people both on issues of international development and on a bureaucratic or scientific matter like desertification...a word that would spark interest only among the scientists and thinkers interested in the issue. This government ideologically, sits to the right of most humanitarian issues and needs, believing as it does, that the free market is the answer to most issues facing governments. Unfortunately, the UN does not rank very high on the government's totem pole of agencies it wishes to support. And there is certainly evidence of the UN's ineffectual nature when we look at the vaccuum of international co-operation in such headline conflicts as Syria where some 80,000 are now reported to have died in that civil war.
The Canadian government is also "science-averse" resisting most attempts of science to provide data on which to base government decisions. The government's replacement of what might be called the ivory tower of science has been the government's 'ivory tower of political survivorship'....polite words for their goal of maintain their hold on power for the longest period possible.
The country's best interests, and the planet's best interests must not get in the way of the achievment of that over-riding goal...holding onto power.
This is a narrow, inward-looking, selfishly motivated, group of "know-nothings" (to borrow Pierre Trudeau's word describing MP's one hundred miles out of Ottawa) led by an extremely heavy-handed and controlling Prime Minister who is completely in charge of every syllable the government utters, including the muzzling of his own backbenchers on matters of social conservative files like therapeutic abortions.
And the propaganda line to cover all government decisions has really two prongs:
1) the government is committed to prosperity, growth and new jobs and
2) the Prime Minister is the only one permitted to generate and express government thought, and all statements must be cleared through the PMO.
From this government, don't look for international collaboration, for research-based decisions, or for Canadian support for causes from which the government cannot squeeze political advantage in terms of votes. "Desertification" and the prevention of droughts through collaborative research simply does not register on this government's radar.

Canada pulls out of UN convention to fight droughts

The Harper government is pulling out of a United Nations convention that fights droughts in Africa and elsewhere, which would make Canada the only country in the world outside the agreement.

By Mike blanchfield, The Canadian Press in Toronto Star, March 27, 2013
The Conservative government is pulling out of a United Nations convention that fights droughts in Africa and elsewhere, which would make Canada the only country in the world outside the agreement.

The federal cabinet last week ordered the unannounced withdrawal on the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, ahead of a major scientific meeting on the convention next month in Germany.
The abrupt move caught the UN secretariat that administers the convention off guard, which was informed through a telephone call from The Canadian Press.
The cabinet order “authorizes the Minister of Foreign Affairs to take the actions necessary to withdraw, on behalf of Canada, from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in those Countries Experiencing Severe Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa.”
Canada signed the convention in 1994 and ratified it in 1995. Every UN nation —194 countries and the European Union — is currently a party to it.
Baird’s office referred questions to the Canadian International Development Agency, which rejected a request for an interview.
A spokesman for International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino said in an emailed statement that “membership in this convention was costly for Canadians and showed few results, if any for the environment.”
Fantino’s office refused to answer follow-up questions, including how much money was being saved by the move, and when Canada planned to notify the UN of its decision.
Government documents show Canada provided a $283,000 grant to support the convention from 2010 to 2012.
The UN body has a research committee dedicated to finding ways to stop the spread of droughts that lay waste to farmland across the planet, particularly Africa.
Scientists, governments and civil society organizations are headed to Bonn next month “to carry out the first ever comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of desertification, land degradation and drought,” says a notice from the United Nations Environment Program.
“Also, for the very first time, governments will provide concrete data on the status of poverty and of land cover in the areas affected by desertification in their countries.”
The issue of encroaching deserts has become urgent because of renewed droughts that have plunged millions into poverty in Africa’s Sahel belt last year and in East Africa the year before.
The Bonn-based secretariat for the UN body said no Canadian official had contacted them about the withdrawal.
“We cannot comment on something that is not communicated officially to the secretariat or to the United Nations,” said a spokeswoman, who added she planned to contact the secretariat’s legal office for advice.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the decision “shows ... that the government is clearly outside of what is international norms here. We’re increasing our isolation by doing this.”
He also questioned why the government didn’t announce the decision.
“The questions are Why are we doing this? Who is behind this? And it would appear they just got caught doing this. They didn’t make an announcement about this,” said Dewar.
“Was this something they were hoping no one would notice?”
The decision could stoke more criticism of the Harper government’s record on the environment.
Canada, along with Japan, Russia and New Zealand, joined the United States in opting out of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
The government has also faced widespread criticism for muzzling scientists, leading to a recent complaint to the federal information commissioner to look into the matter.
Its decision to cut the funding for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has also sparked an outcry.
Baird has suggested the closure of the think-tank was because the government did not want to pay for advice that did not fit with the government’s general direction.
The roundtable had warned repeatedly that the federal government would not be able to meet its targets for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions without putting a price on carbon, an idea the Conservatives vehemently oppose.
“Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit,” says the secretariat’s description of the 1994 convention.
It calls the convention the “sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.”
Canada has also been an active participant in the convention, and has said it was in the country’s national interest to be a party to it.
The Canadian International Development Agency — soon to be merged into the Foreign Affairs Department — has administered Canada’s participation and affirmed that fact in an undated, 40-page report, titled “Canada’s First Report on Domestic Activities Relevant to the United Nations Convention to Combat Diversification.”
The report says that Canada is an “Affected Party” under the treaty because of “the existence of drylands in the Canadian prairies.”
The convention, the report states, requires Canada “to ensure that desertification issues are integrated into its national sustainable development plans and policies.”
The convention also obliges its parties “to report on activities undertaken to address the problem,” says the CIDA report.
“Our status as Party to this Convention is in our national interest because this Convention (and related issues like biodiversity), and the global thinking which is emanating from it, will benefit our own vision and approach of how we address our own, and the world’s drylands,” the report concluded.
In a May 2008 speech to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, Canada’s representative said in a prepared text that “Canada has been a strong supporter” of the convention.
The text said that “Canada applauds” the efforts of the convention’s executive secretary “to elevate the profile of desertification as a key environment and development issue, and will continue to support activities to combat desertification, land degradation and drought” in keeping with the goals of the convention.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Easter, 2013

“The church is called on to emerge from itself and move toward the peripheries, not only geographic but also existential (ones): those of sin, suffering, injustice, ignorance and religious abstention, thought and all misery,” Bergoglio said.(from "Pope Francis called on the Catholic Church to refocus its energies outward." by Andrea Rodriguez The Associated Press, in Toronto Star, March 27 2013, below)
And to that impressive list, the then Cardinal Bergoglio might also have added, "Ecclesiastical alienation, excommunication and ostracism!"
Evangelism has many faces, and many feet and even more voices. And too often, its purpose is more to "grow the business" of the church memberships and the church coffers, while the individual's soul gets lost in the "growth" process. In other words, the church's needs trump the spiritual needs of the individuals attracted to the spiritual values, processes and especially relationships that are potential within the church community. However, as this and other churches are too often dominated by men, whose capacity for relationship verges on the non-existant, given the male penchant for "fixing the carborator or the transmission" (the human/spiritual equivalent is to expose oneself to the penitential, seeking forgiveness for one's sins, and then to receive the appropriate penance, perform it, in a perfunctory manner and return to everyday life.)
Humans are not surrogate autos for surrogate mechanics looking for new projects, even in the name of God, of Jesus, or of Christ. Humans are much more complex that autos. In another perspective, humans are not subjects for surgical intervention, in the manner of the cancer surgeon removing a cancerous tumour. And too much of church attention has been focussed on the sins of the world, begging the question, "Is the church too eager by half, to provide spiritual relief and forgiveness for those many sins still lying secret in too many closets?"...and thereby generate more numbers in the pews and more dollars in the coffers, not to mention more bragging rights among the various world religions, for highest growth rates, and for largest percentage of practicing converts.
Forcussing on the existential needs of individual people, all of us in deep and profound spiritual need, if the truth were told, requires and must be premised on the church's doing its own "inner work".
That would require the church to acknowlede its own often glaring and far too visible and far too covered over, denied or ignored carnal and venal sins, by those in ecclesiastical leadership.
Ironically, church dogma is often at the core of the church's own spiritual wilderness.
However, there is an even deeper irony.
Church dogma is fixed, engraved in whatever current type of stone is available and worthy of "sacred" status, and not open to critical examination, the sine qua non of the spiritual process.
Any relationship with God, with the Resurrected Christ, has to include, if not operate on the premise of "struggle": the struggle to persist in questioning God's meaning, purpose and gift to be derived from our heritage, our history, our biography, our current situation and our potential in the future. And that persistence includes many nights of "unknowing" and "wandering" through the wilderness, (Gethsemane, being the Biblical model) even into our own death, as part of the uncovering, evolving and discovering of our relationship with God, and the Resurrected Christ.
And that process cannot be restricted to the individual human being, but also must apply equally, if not even more crucially, to the ecclesiastical "being" called the church.
Too many Christian churches proclaim their "brand" of the faith as the "right" and "only" faith, when they have to know, and to acknowledge that such "advertising" is merely to present the kind of face to the world that inspires confidence. After all, if church leaders do not have confidence in their faith's dogma, liturgy, history and "rules and regulations" then who will?
Ironically, (and this being Holy Week on the Christian calendar, it  might seem especially appropriate to say it) the church would be far more emblematic, representative and incarnational of the Risen Christ, if it were to take the position of the Jew left dying in the ditch in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, vulnerable, confused, ignored and beaten, and open to the authentic service of the hated Samaritan who provides solace, and pays for recovery. (With deep and profound gratitude to Professor John Kloppenborg, St. Michael's College, class on Parables, 1990)
That stance, authentically incarnated and not painted on like mascara, could and would go far to hearing the deeper meaning and prayer of the then Cardinal from Argentina, now the current Pope Francis I.
And that would sound a completely different and clarion call to discipleship, from a totally transformed church, from one triumphally pontificating its successes, to a solitary, painful and struggling walk with the most vulnerable, seeking the forgiveness it currently so proudly announces as the carrot to entice ordinary people, each of whom are more than aware of their own failings...if the church itself were to shed its triumphal robes, rings, ermine and spiritual "hubris" then even the most skeptical would have to re-examine his or her distance from the institution that is attempting to bring the Risen Christ into the lives of the dispossessed.
First, the church has to become, itself, dispossessed, of all power and might and honour and glory, and beautiful architecture and massive buildings and bank accounts....and then, perhaps, its pursuit of an effective, long-lasting and enduring relationship both with God and its people might emerge.
Easter 2013 is only a few days away.
May each of us pause, pray and reflect on our own capacity and willingness to accept that we, too, are closest to the Christ of Calvary, if we are willing to become the "dying Jew in the ditch" vulnerable and open to the hated Samaritan's agape love.
Happy Easter!

Pope Francis called on the Catholic Church to refocus its energies outward.
By: Andrea Rodriguez The Associated Press, in Toronto Star, March 27 2013
HAVANA—Pope Francis issued a strong critique of the church before the College of Cardinals just hours before it selected him as the new pontiff, according to comments published Tuesday by a Roman Catholic magazine in Cuba.
According to Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio urged the Vatican to eschew self-absorption and refocus its energies outward.
“The church is called on to emerge from itself and move toward the peripheries, not only geographic but also existential (ones): those of sin, suffering, injustice, ignorance and religious abstention, thought and all misery,” Bergoglio said.
Ortega said Bergoglio’s comments were made to cardinals as they gathered to select Benedict XVI’s replacement, and reflect his vision of the contemporary Catholic Church. He said Bergoglio later gave him a handwritten version and permission to divulge its contents.
“Cardinal Bergoglio made a speech that I thought was masterful, insightful, engaging and true,” Ortega said.
Ortega added that the remarks offer insight about the direction in which the new pope could take the church following his March 13 election.
In his statements, the future pontiff also warned of the dangers of stagnation.
“When the church does not emerge from itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and therefore becomes sick. ... The evils that, over time, occur in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-referentiality, a kind of theological narcissism.” Bergoglio said.
He also criticized “a mundane church that lives within itself, of itself and for itself.”
Finally Bergoglio said that whoever became the new pope should be “a man who ... helps the church to emerge from itself toward the existential outskirts.”
Orgeta first revealed Bergoglio’s comments in a weekend Mass, and they were published Tuesday on the website of Palabra Nueva magazine, along with a photo of the two men embracing after Bergoglio had donned the papal white robes and rechristened himself Francis.

China pivotal in calming North Korea

Kim “needs to show he has the guts. The best way to do that is to use the military might that he commands,” said Lee Yoon-gyu, a North Korea expert at Korea National Defence University in Seoul. “This paves the way for greater praise for him if North Korea makes a provocation later and claims victory.”

Kim will eventually be compelled to do “something provocative to prove the threats weren’t empty,” Lee said. (from "North Korea forces at ‘highest alert’ against U.S., South Korea ‘imperialist aggressors’" by Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press, in National Post, March 26, 2013, below)
There are far too many situations in geo-politics, in which leaders use the school-yard bully to attempt to establish their credentials, as if the show of force were a reasonable and responsible sign of power.
There is clear evidence that George W. Bush was entrapped in that scenario, when he entered the war on Iraq. Now the young Korean leader is flexing his military muscles as if to prove to his people that he deserves the inherited mantle of leadership of his "failed state" nation.
A far more mature, responsible and forsighted act would be to join the community of nations, put down his arms and reap the rewards by feeding his people.
However much the west responds to the new leader's sabre-rattling, it will take a phone call from the leaders in China, who seem singularly uninterested in making such a call, to calm the pugilistic bravado and erase North Korea from world headlines.
Is there some part of the Chinese menetality, leadership and culture that  either requires or delights in open military cancers around the world, as part of their strategy to keep China itself off the front pages, thereby enabling many more discreet, subtle and dangerous moves out of the eyes of the global reporting pool? The very fact that China seems pivotal to such 'hotspots' as Syria, North Korea, Iran (from whom they buy much of their energy supplies, shipped in Chinese ships recently purchased from the Asian giant), suggests that China is not only the holder of many of the U.S. Treasury Bills, thereby making the U.S. both dependent on and sensitive to Chinese interests. but also integral to the solutions to many of the world's contentious files where real people are suffering greviously, too often for ends that will seem completely incomprehensible when the fighting stops.
Imperialist designs, no matter the manner in which they are achieved, are nevertheless, still imperialist designs. China reaps much of its economic power from producing "knock-offs" to many western designed products. And it does so with impunity, given her inordinate power to fend off the many skirmishes that could see her in court with many countries, over many issues.
With North Korea, it would seem only reasonable that eventually Chinese leaders will make that phone call to the new leader in North Korea, if for no other reason that to prevent nuclear contamination in the region of the South China Sea.
No one wants the young "pup" pontificating his missiles to demonstrate his "guts", even the Chinese.

North Korea forces at ‘highest alert’ against U.S., South Korea ‘imperialist aggressors’
By Hyung-Jin Kim, the Associated Press, in National Post, March 26, 2013
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s artillery and rocket forces are at the highest combat posture, the country’s military warned on Tuesday in the latest in a line of threats aimed at South Korea and the United States.

The North Korean army’s Supreme Command said it will take “practical military action” to protect national sovereignty and its leadership in response to what it called U.S. and South Korean plots to attack.
The statement, carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, cited the participation of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers in South Korea-U.S. drills.
orth Korea’s field artillery forces — including strategic rocket and long-range artillery units that are “assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity” — will be placed on “the highest alert from this moment,” the statement said.

This is the highest combat posture North Korea has ever issued, and South Korea is analyzing the threat while staying alert for any provocation, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said by telephone. Tuesday’s threat came days after the U.S. and South Korea signed a contingency plan against potential attacks from North Korea.

Seoul’s Defence Ministry said it hasn’t seen any suspicious North Korean military activity and that officials were analyzing the North’s warning. Analysts say a direct North Korean attack is extremely unlikely, especially during joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that end April 30, though there’s some worry about a provocation after the training wraps up.
North Korea, angry over routine U.S.-South Korean drills and recent U.N. sanctions punishing it for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, has vowed to launch a nuclear strike against the United States and repeated its nearly two-decade-old threat to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire.” Despite the rhetoric, outside weapons analysts have seen no proof that North Korea has mastered the technology needed to build a warhead small enough to mount on a missile.
The North’s recent threats are seen partly as efforts to strengthen internal loyalty to young leader Kim Jong Un and to build up his military credentials.

Kim “needs to show he has the guts. The best way to do that is to use the military might that he commands,” said Lee Yoon-gyu, a North Korea expert at Korea National Defence University in Seoul. “This paves the way for greater praise for him if North Korea makes a provocation later and claims victory.”
Kim will eventually be compelled to do “something provocative to prove the threats weren’t empty,” Lee said.
he rival Koreas have had several bloody naval skirmishes in disputed Yellow Sea waters since 1999. In November 2010, a North Korean artillery strike on a South Korean island killed two marines and two civilians. A suspected North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship earlier that same year, killing 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea denies the warship sinking.

Tuesday is the third anniversary of the warship sinking, and new South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged the North again to abandon its nuclear weapons program. “Focussing its national strength on the development of nuclear weapons while its people are suffering starvation … will only bring international isolation to themselves,” Park said in a televised speech at a national cemetery south of Seoul where the 46 sailors are buried.
eanwhile, websites and organizations run by North Korean defectors in South Korea said they suffered cyberattacks on Tuesday, one week after computer systems at some South Korean banks and TV networks were widely disrupted.

Daily NK, which posts news about North Korea, said it experienced a cyperattack, and South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Free North Korea Radio also was attacked.
Yonhap said a computer network used by seven local governments was also briefly attacked, as was a network belonging to broadcaster YTN.
Authorities have not confirmed who was behind last week’s cyberattack but suspect North Korea.
With files from Bloomberg and Associated Press writer Sam Kim

Monday, March 25, 2013

Unmasking the insiders....needs to continue in all countries

Eurozone’s 5 bailout packages at a glance

By The Associated Press in National Post, March 25, 2013

LONDON — Cyprus’ bailout deal is the fifth agreed on so far in the 17-strong group of European Union countries that use the euro since the debt crisis began in late 2009.

Here’s a look at the rescue programs:
GREECE — Greece has received two bailout packages from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. Its problems began in late 2009, when the government admitted that public debt was far higher than official statistics showed. That led it to accept a bailout package of 110-billion euros (worth US$142-billion today) in May 2010. When it became clear that bailout was not enough — because the economy kept weakening — a second bailout was clinched in February 2012 for another 130-billion euros. That included a writedown on the value of Greek government bonds to lighten Athens’ debt burden.
IRELAND — Ireland’s banks suffered from their exposure to the U.S. mortgage market meltdown as well as to a collapse in the local housing sector. The government stepped in to guarantee creditors and deposits, but the move cost it dearly. As it rescued its banks, the costs grew and soon the government’s borrowing rates on bond markets rose so high it was unable to finance itself independently. It secured a 67.5-billion euro package in November 2010.
PORTUGAL — After Ireland’s rescue, investors turned their eyes to the next weakest country in the currency bloc. Portugal’s economy was weak and public finances shaky. The government’s borrowing rates in bond markets kept rising on fears it finances would prove unsustainable. By April 2011 talks on a bailout began. In May 2011, the country agreed to a package of 78-billion euros in rescue loans.
SPANISH BANKS — Spain was considered the next weakest link, which fueled fear among European investors because the country’s economy is much larger than those of Greece, Ireland or Portugal. Giving it rescue loans would severely test the eurozone’s financial capabilities. The main concern was that Spanish banks, which took huge losses on a collapsed real estate market, would force the Spanish government into rescue efforts it could not afford. The Spanish government agreed a deal in July 2012 with eurozone officials to get up to 100-billion euros in rescue loans directly for the banks. For a few weeks it seemed the Spanish government would also need rescue loans, but its borrowing rates in bond markets fell back down after the European Central Bank vowed to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. It created a new program to buy a country’s bonds if needed, drastically boosting confidence in the eurozone states’ public finances.
CYPRUS — The ECB’s move calmed markets in Europe for months, but Cyprus’ financial problems continued to fester. The country’s banks had taken huge losses from Greece’s debt writedown and the government also needed saving after it was overwhelmed by the cost of supporting its banks. Cyprus first formally asked for a eurozone and IMF rescue package in June 2012. The talks continued for months as Cyprus negotiated for a better deal, possibly involving Russia. The issue came to a head in March, when Cyprus agreed to confiscate a part of deposits in exchange for 10-billion euros (US$13-billion) in rescue loans. That was rejected by the Cypriot parliament and after days of more negotiations a new deal was crafted. Analysts estimate as much as 40% of deposits above the insured limit of 100,000 euros would be seized at the country’s two largest and most troubled banks. Along with other, smaller measures, that would raise the money needed to qualify for the rescue loans.

By attracting large deposits from mainly Russian oligarchs, in what amounts to a tax haven, with lax controls, Cyprus, whose economy has been referred to as a "casino economy" is now facing the music due to its own irresponsibility. If 40% of the deposits of account holders having more than 100,000 Euro's in Cypriot banks are forfeited, to pay for the debacle, perhaps there will be some re-thinking along with the required re-structuring of those banks, including their business model....something to would appear to be long overdue.
Numbers on a bank statement, without the appropriate support in supervision, regulation and controls, meaning little more than somebodies padding their reputation with deception.
Come to think of it, padding a reputation with deception could be the title of many books on financial services management over the last decade, in too many countries, including the United States.
What happened to a little truth-telling between and among leaders, between countries, and between the people on the "inside" and the rest of us on the "outside". There are altogether too many organizations, political parties, school boards, churches, villages, towns, cities, provinces, regions and nations running on the decisions of the "insiders" while leaving the rest of us increasingly on the "outside"....

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Personal political ambitions trump national interests in U.S. and Canada

Former Speaker of the house of Representatives, during the Reagan presidency, Tip O'Neill, reminds us, from his grave, that all politics is local.
During his tenure, O'Neill worked with Reagan as two "old boys" to accomplish legislation that worked for the people of the United States.
Today, "local" has to be replaced with "personal" an every-ending slide into micro-management on the part of the people elected to "serve".
In Canada, in the most recent budget this week, the Harper government commits to pursue tax evaders, setting an estimate of $6.8 billion in unrecovered and undelivered taxes not currently being paid by those using whatever loopholes to escape paying. At the same time, in the same document, the same government eliminates 320 positions of tax collectors whose job it would have been to pursue those very same tax evaders, promising instead, a "snich" line to encourage "ratting" on those who don't pay their taxes. Overriding these small, completely incompatible facts, however, is a budget that sets a goal of eliminating the deficit by 2015, which just happens to be the year of the next federal election.
So, in reality, the Canadian government's primary goal in the budget is to see that it is re-elected in 2015, campaigning on a balalnced budget, achieved through who cares what measures, and who cares whether those measures are in the best interests of the country as a whole, so long as the government's selfish, narcissistic and "personal" ambition to retain power is fulfilled.
Similarly, in the U.S. politicians are running like scattering birds from a twenty-six wheeler bearing down on their 'meeting' on the freeway, away from any sign that they might put the country's best interests ahead of their own political futures, by supporting an assault weapons ban, by supporting a ban on large magazines, and by supporting a comprehensive background check that is truly effective.
Even the slaughter of some twenty first-graders in Newtown Connecticutt, in December will not prove adequate to overcome the potential that politicians in too many districts fear being primaried by candidates who are opposed to gun controls, supported by the NRA and candidates ready to step into the breach with their support. So the interests of the nation, the security of the children, and the honesty that assault weapons are not permitted by the Second Amendment, nor are large magazines are sacrificed on the altar of personal political ambition in the form of re-election.
Insurance for re-election, in the form of either national budgets that contradict themselves, and in the form of avoidance of legislating in the best interests of the people cannot be considered adequate rationale for politicians worthy of re-election.
In Canada, we need serious attention paid to the growing disparity between have and have-not Canadians, through increased support for education, health care, infrastructure and poverty and homelessness, especially in the First Nations communities. There is literally nothing in the Flaherty Budget to address that national disgrace. We also need a national stragegy to provide high-speed internet services to every corner of the country. There is nothing in the budget to address that national need. We need a national energy strategy that would see a pipeline from west to east completed to move "tar-sands" oil to eastern refineries for eastern consumption. There is nothing in the budget to address that goal.
There is a long-running national advertising program trumpeting "jobs, prosperity and growth" for which the federal government has paid some $78 million, that is really nothing more or less than a long-running ad campaign for their own re-election, using the public funds at their disposal, funds that could easily be re-directed into national needs, rather then feathering the nests of the government and it members.
In the U.S. the national needs have been so clearly articulated by the president both during the last campaign and since, and even with his re-election and the retention of the Senate by the Democrats, the Republican House is still holding the country hostage to the narrow, narcissistic and selfish personal political ambitions of their Republican members, along with some southern Democrats whose constitutents are firmed mired in conservative ideology and an addiction to their guns. A jobs bills has languished in the House since before the November election. An infrastructure bill is going nowhere. A bill to ban assault weapons and large magazines will not even be presented to the Democratic Senate by Majority Leader Reid, since he says there are only 40 votes to support it....
Government paralysis based on the private, personal, political interests and prospects of the elected representatives, 95% of whom are conventionally re-elected (their way paved through redistricting that favours encumbents) is both unsustainable and insufferably arrogant, frightened and self-sabotaging for the nation.
And the president is right on one thing: only through the political activism of the electorate will government move to follow and only through those who traditionally remain on the sidelines entering the playing field will the current crop of political actors be replaced, as they must be in whatever opportunities come along to vote them out, including the 2015 federal election in Canada.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Has the nature of "conflict" morphed at the hands of terrorists in Syria?

While there is an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, (clearly an oxymoron in this case!), reports depicting their deployment in Syria could be either confirmation of the desperation of either side in this slaughter, or another propaganda weapon used by either or both sides to ramp up both the rhetoric and thereby the need for international intervention to bring this most recent human tragedy to an end, or both.
Any end to the conflict, however, will be too late for the already slaughtered 70,000 innocents, men, women and children.
And while fingers of blame are pointed in all directions, at Assad, at the Syrian rebel forces, at Russia and Iran for standing with Assad, at the 'west' for holding back, suffering itself from the fatigue of war, obviously at the UN for failing to reach a consensus on behalf of "humanity" generally, this cancer continues and potentially grows.
What is the role of "terrorism" in this debacle? Are they fighting on both sides? Are they making the discernment of "rebel forces" so difficult that they are in fact exacerbating the conflict while in effect preventing the international community from intervening, thereby leaving them free to kill at will, and to change the nature of the conflict, from one between two different and discreet opponents to one in which fighting can and does erupt anywhere, anytime, rendering all forces unsafe, insecure and vulnerable to many opponents and to any real opportunity for either victory or defeat.
Just as terrorists, and terrorism have morphed how war is conducted, now without state actors, without formal declarations against nations and now against individual people, and against a culture and possibly one or more religions, is the Syrian conflict the next generation of multiple combatants representing multiple sectarian perspectives and hatreds leaving the previously clear military options confused and thereby unprepared?
Is this more of an internal civil war, for which there needs to be an international equivalent of the CIA, the MGB, MI-5, to take out the various "heads" of the various factions, in order to emasculate the obsessive commitment to slaughter, presumably originally for some identified purpose and goal, on the part of all combatants, and now a conflict serving different, merged and enmeshed goals and purposes...none of them individually or taken together worthy of the best of any human society, culture and faith.

UN to probe chemical weapons in Syria

By Edith M. Lederer The Associated Press, in Toronto Star,  March 21 2013
The United Nations will investigate the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, which would amount to a crime against humanity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday.
The investigation could be broader than the Syrian government's request for an independent probe of a purported chemical weapons attack on Tuesday. Ban said he was aware of other, similar allegations and hoped the probe would ultimately help secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.
Syria is widely believed to have a large stockpile of chemical weapons. The government has not confirmed it, saying only that it would never use chemical weapons against its own people.
“My announcement should serve as an unequivocal reminder that the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity,” the secretary-general said. “The international community needs full assurance that chemical weapons stockpiles are verifiably safeguarded.”
Western nations fear President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons if he sees the two-year civil war turning against his government. But they are equally concerned that rebel forces, including some linked to Al Qaeda, could get their hands on unguarded chemical weapons or the materials to make them.

Ban said investigators would look into Syria's allegation that rebels carried out a chemical weapons attack on Khan al-Assal village in northern Aleppo province.
The rebels denied the attack and blamed regime forces. The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group, also demanded an international investigation.
The secretary-general said he was aware of “other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons,” but did not make clear whether these would be part of the UN investigation.
France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud said Wednesday that the Syrian National Coalition had reported a second chemical weapons attack Tuesday in the Damascus area. France and Britain said they would ask Ban to have the UN investigate both incidents.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States “supports an investigation that pursues any and all credible allegations of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.” She said the U.S. will continue to work closely with its partners to obtain further information on allegations of potential or actual use, and underscored the importance of launching the investigation swiftly.
“President Obama has been clear that the use or transfer of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable,” she said. “If Bashar Al-Assad and those under his command make the mistake of using chemical weapons, or fail to meet their obligation to secure them, then there will be consequences. Those responsible will be held accountable.”
Ban said his senior advisers are working to set up an investigation in close consultation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, known as the OPCW which oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the World Health Organization. He said issues to be decided include the overall mandate, the composition, and operational conditions, including safety and security.
The investigation will start “as soon as practically possible,” Ban said, but “will not happen overnight.”
The OPCW said in a statement that it was ready to work closely with the UN in setting up and conducting the mission.
“While allegations of this nature are not new to conflict situations, they are nonetheless serious, especially in the context of Syria which is not a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention,” the OPCW said. “This remains a matter of serious concern.”
Ban said full co-operation from all parties will be essential and stressed that this includes “unfettered access.”
As the situation in Syria worsens, Ban said, “the international community's concern about the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles as well as possible use by all parties has increased.”
Ban said he has spoken out repeatedly on the Syrian government's primary responsibility to ensure the safety and security of any chemical weapons and sent two letters to President Bashar Assad “to remind him of this solemn duty.”
“It is my hope that the mission would contribute to ensuring the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria,” he said.
With more than 70,000 people killed and no end to the violence in sight, the secretary-general reiterated that “the military solution in Syria is leading to the dissolution of Syria.”
He called on the deeply divided region and international community to find unity and support efforts by the joint UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to help the Syrian people reach a political solution and end the conflict.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

News Round-up: greed and power-dependence block healthy decisions

A roundup of news leaves one struck with the observation that too many issues around the globe are unresolved, unlikely to be resolved and unlikely to attract willing participants to "step up to the plate" as leaders of incipient and potential coalitions, the only vehicle that can and will save us from ourselves. There are simply too many ways to duck, dodge, dissemble, blame others and escape from having to take responsibility for making important, if extremely difficult, decisions. And the retention of the status quo, that is of current power-positions, on the part of all players and potential players, lies at the heart of the empty playing field.

News that:
  1.  the government of China is actively purchasing, and providing the networking necessary for the acquisition, ivory tusks from forest elephants in Central Africa, reducing the population of that species by some 62% in the last decade, while generating substantial income from ivory carvings targetted at the growing upper middle class in China.
  2. American Congressmen and women are actively and incestuously (politically) embedded, enmeshed, in a scheme of tax extenders, providing both lucrative incomes for lobbyists (former members of Congress a mere twelve months previously) because the extenders are usually of a two-year life-span,
  3. American corporations like Whirlpool, are producing high-end appliances, targetted at rich Americans, on the strength of their lobbyists' success in achieving tax extenders rendering their corporate tax to a figure less than 1% last year.
  4. other American-based international corporations, like General Electric, are also enmeshed in the same, or a similar scheme of tax avoidance, (all of it quite within American law) rendering their tax to a minus fugure
  5. money-movers are able to, at the push of a button, transfer billions from one country to another, instantaneously, for their own purposes, without the country where the transactions were conducted, or where the official bank accounts are located with official addresses, having any option to capture tax dollars from such seives;
  6. obesity rates, linked to smoking rates, linked to other forms of mostly preventable illnesses are sending increasing numbers of individuals to the health care system, impacting the capacity of the systems (in all countries) to withstand the additional fiscal and professional pressures;
  7. in both Canada and the U.S. large majorities of prison inmates come from clearly disadvantaged and racially discriminated populations (Black and Latino in the U.S. and First Nations in Canada) demonstrating the bias of the justice systems in both countries;
  8. the military budgets of both Canada and the U.S. are ostensibly outside the reach of budget cuts, as both governments play to their "fear-based" hard-line protectionist electorates;
  9. the right wing in both Canada and the U.S. is enmeshed with the energy sector (the oil and gas segment) to the degree that all meaningful attempts to wean both countries from fossil fuels and onto alternative energy sources are blocked, starting with the necessary, inevitable and long-overdue carbon tax;
  10. apparently one of the most obvious and most profound differences between the Muslim world and the 'western' world is the relationship between a man and a women, especially if that man is husband to that wife: as guardian, permitted to beat her, and when a beating occurs, the woman must bear a considerable perentage of the responsibility for that beating, and the woman must also consent to having sex if and when her husband asks (from an interview  today on WHYY's Fresh Air, with host Tery Gross interviewing Shereen El Feki (who) spent five years traveling across the Arab region asking people about sex: what they do, what they don't, what they think and why. Her ambition was to learn about the intimate lives of people in the Middle East, and how the sexual aspects of their lives reflect larger shifts. Shereen El Feki's book 'Sex And The Citadel' Peeks Inside Private Lives In The Arab World. Ms El Feki was raised in Canada of an Egyptian father and a Welsh mother and now divides her time between Cairo and the U.S.
  11. Female Genital Mutilation continues to be practiced, with both the consent and recommendation of the mothers and grandmothers of young women, in Muslim countries (also according to the interview of Shareen El Feki on WHYY's Fresh Air, with Terry Gross). Apparently the rate of FGM has dropped, however, in more recent years.
  12. there is no global concensus to bring an end to the slaughter in Syria, in spite of the claims that one or both sides threatens to use, or has used, chemical weapons, on a population in which over 70,000 have perished in the last two months. Mentioned as reasons for the lack of international co-operation are such historic debacles as Vietnam (discouraging additional attempts to intervene) or Rwanda (encouraging international attempts to intervene, given that some 800,000 died while the world did nothing)....without adequate responsibilty for discerning the significant differences between those chapters in world history and Syria today;
  13. talk about any potential peace agreement between Palestine and Israel is, once again, garnering some ink, now that President Obama is visiting the region, with little optimism that anything substantive will emerge from the visit, including the resumption of formal talks between Abbas and Netanyahu;
  14. North Korea and Iran are reported to have renewed and strengthened their "friendship"....but how do a tin-pot dictator from North Korea and an exiting President from Iran accomplish anything more than another photo op generating bluster?
  15. The Cyprus individual investors could face significant withdrawals from their personal bank accounts to pay for a bail-out of the Cypriot government, facing collapse...and also facing an imminent deadline primarily engineered by Germany...leaving the world financial markets wondering where the next Improvised Explosive Device (of economic, fiscal, debt origin) might explode.

Where is your Office of Religious Freedom now? Mr. Harper

Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, Muslim and Sikh prisoners sue over lack of non-Christian chaplains in federal prisons

By Dene Moore, Canadian Press, in National Post, March 19, 2013

A group of British Columbia prisoners is suing the federal government over its decision to cancel contracts for part-time chaplains, saying Ottawa has nearly eliminated minority faith ministries in federal institutions.
The lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court claims there were only two non-Christian chaplains in all of Canada as of the beginning of March, and none in B.C.
“Prisoners do not lose their right to freely express their religious and spiritual beliefs by virtue of their incarceration …,” says the lawsuit filed March 14 in Vancouver.
At least one former chaplain has been refused entry to a correctional facility in the province since the federal government announced last October that it would not be renewing contracts for part-time chaplains, the court document says.
The decision came shortly after the Correctional Service of Canada said it wouldn’t be hiring a Wiccan to minister in its B.C. prisons.
“Christian prisoners continue to have access to multiple Christian masses, bible study sessions and other faith-based activities every week,” says the lawsuit filed against Attorney General Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
It was filed by seven prisoners from B.C. and another recently transferred from B.C. to a prison in New Brunswick, along with the West Coast Prison Justice Society.

Among the plaintiffs is Jamie Cliff, 38, an inmate serving a life sentence at Kent Institution in Agassiz, B.C.
A man named Jamie Cliff was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder for the 2008 killing of his ex-girlfriend in Vancouver, as well as her roommate, whose throat was slashed before the man was doused in gas and set on fire.
Cliff has been Muslim all his life, says the notice of claim.
“Mr. Cliff was involved in gangs and violence,” the lawsuit says. “He has turned to Islam to help him steer away from that path.”
Since contact with his imam ended, Cliff “feels persecuted and anxious. He cannot understand why something that was such a positive force in his life was taken away from him,” says the lawsuit.
Muslim prisoners at Kent gather for group prayers on Friday, which are now led by a prisoner, according to claim. An imam now visits the group as a volunteer, but does not have the same access to prisoners, it says.

“The reality is people in prison are there to rehabilitate themselves … so they can re-enter society as law-abiding citizens,” said D.J. Larkin of West Coast Prison Justice.
“Taking away a service that has been a huge support for these individuals … is just not in the interests of public safety.”
Another prisoner involved in the court action is Peter Ashton, 46, who is serving a life sentence in Mountain Institution near Agassiz, B.C. The document does not specify Ashton’s crime.
In 1997, it says he became the first prisoner in North America to receive monastic vows while behind bars.
“Mr. Ashton acknowledges that he was a very violent person before he found Buddhism,” says the claim.
“Buddhism is the core of Mr. Ashton’s identity, it is instrumental to his rehabilitation. He feels frustrated, alone and devastated by the loss of access to Chaplain Mak.”
The prisoners involved represent the Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, Muslim and Sikh faiths.
They also include Douglas Guyatt, 67, who has been in prison for 18 years. A Douglas Guyatt was convicted in 1994 of the murder of his estranged wife, Shannon Guyatt, whose head he claimed to have found in a plastic bag on the front lawn of their Victoria-area home in 1992.
Timothy Mitchel Nome, 38, joined the suit when he was serving time at Mountain Institution for assault causing bodily harm and has since been transferred to Atlantic Institution in Renous, New Brunswick. Nome is Jewish, as well as Cree, says the notice of claim.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rowland: Return on Whirlpool lobbying investment: 6700%

Tax lobbyists help businesses reap windfalls

While Congress fights over ways to cut spending and the deficit, generous breaks for corporations pass with little notice

By Christopher Rowland, The Boston Globe, March 17, 2013
WASHINGTON — Lobbying for special tax treatment produced a spectacular return for Whirlpool Corp., courtesy of Congress and those who pay the bills, the American taxpayers.

By investing just $1.8 million over two years in payments for Washington lobbyists, Whirlpool secured the renewal of lucrative energy tax credits for making high-efficiency appliances that it estimates will be worth a combined $120 million for 2012 and 2013. Such breaks have helped the company keep its total tax expenses below zero in recent years.
The return on that lobbying investment: about 6,700 percent.
Corporate lobbying investment pays off
 As Obama, Senate collide, courts caught short These are the sort of returns that have attracted growing swarms of corporate tax lobbyists to the Capitol over the last decade — the sorts of payoffs typically reserved for gamblers and gold miners. Even as Congress says it is digging for every penny of savings, lobbyists are anything but sequestered; they are ratcheting up their efforts to protect and even increase their clients’ tax breaks.
‘It’s not about tax policy, it’s about benefiting the political class and the well-connected and the well-heeled in this country,’ Said Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
The Senate approved tax benefits for Whirlpool and a host of other corporations early on New Year’s Day, a couple of hours after the ball dropped over Times Square and champagne corks began popping. A smorgasbord of 43 business and energy tax breaks, collectively worth $67 billion this year, was packed into the emergency tax legislation that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff.’’
Whirlpool officials said the tax breaks help the company retain jobs, but in recent years, it has closed refrigerator manufacturing plants in Indiana (above) and Arkansas.
In the days that followed, the tax handouts for business were barely mentioned as President Obama and members of Congress hailed the broader effects of the dramatic legislation, which prevented income tax increases on the middle class and raised top marginal tax rates for the wealthy.
Yet the generous breaks awarded to narrow sectors of the American business community are just as symptomatic of Washington dysfunction as the serial budget crises that have gripped the capital since 2011. Leaders of both parties have repeatedly declared their intention to make the corporate income tax code fairer by lowering rates and ending special breaks, while intense lobbying, ideological divides, and unending political fights on Capitol Hill block most progress.
The result: sweeping bipartisan tax reform of the sort negotiated in 1986 by Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip’’ O’Neill Jr. is rated a long shot once again this year. In fact, the most visible signs of cross-party cooperation on corporate taxes are among regional groups of lawmakers who team up, out of parochial interest, to maintain special treatment for businesses in their home states.
In the absence of meaningful change, corporations like Whirlpool continue to pursue the exponential returns available from tax lobbying. The number of companies disclosing lobbying activity on tax issues rose 56 percent to 1,868 in 2012, up from 1,200 in 1998, according to data collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Whirlpool had plenty of company on New Year’s, including multinational corporations with offshore investment earnings, Hollywood companies that shoot films in the United States, railroads that invest in track maintenance, sellers of energy produced by windmills and solar panels, and producers of electric motorcycles.
Their special treatment is a fraction of a broader constellation of what the federal Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will be $154 billion in special corporate tax breaks in 2013, contained in 135 individual provisions of the tax code.
Watchdogs and tax analysts denounce these favors as a hidden form of spending that amounts to corporate welfare. In essence, these “tax expenditures’’ are no different than mailing subsidy checks directly to companies to pad their bottom lines.
Congress reduced the number of tax breaks in 1986 as part of the broader reform package. The breaks steadily crept back, particularly in the last decade, as lawmakers heeded requests from advocacy groups and business lobbyists to lower taxes as a way of subsidizing particular industries.
Howard Carruth of Arkansas, a machine maintenance worker, lost his job with Whirlpool last year. He said Congress made a mistake giving tax breaks to the company.
“There’s a justification and rationale for virtually every one of these. They have their intellectual advocates, and they have their political advocates, and that’s how they get in the law,’’ said Lawrence F. O’Brien III, an influential lobbyist and a top campaign fund-raiser for Senate Democrats who represents financial industry clients and other interests.
Whirlpool has a powerful Michigan delegation behind it, including key committee chairmen of tax-writing and energy committees in the House. In response to questions from the Globe, the company said its special tax breaks led it to save “hundreds’’ of American jobs from the effects of the recession.
“Energy tax credits required that Whirlpool Corporation make significant investments in tooling and manufacturing to build highly energy-efficient products,’’ Jeff Noel, Whirlpool’s corporate vice president of communication, said in an e-mail. “If you look at our 101-year history, we have definitely paid our fair share of US federal income taxes.’’
But its federal income taxes have been minimal in recent years, thanks in large part to tax credits and deferrals, according to public filings. Its total income taxes — including foreign, federal, and state — were negative-$436 million in 2011, negative-$64 million in 2010, and negative-$61 million in 2009. It carries forward federal credits as “deferred tax assets’’ that it can use to lower future tax bills.
The renewed tax breaks granted by Congress in January, which were retroactive to the beginning of 2012, will not be recorded until Whirlpool pays its 2013 taxes. Because of the absence of that tax credit, and because of greater earnings and changes in foreign taxes, the company estimated its total 2012 tax expenses will be $133 million.
Whirlpool did not provide a specific number of jobs retained. The benefits were not sufficient to protect Whirlpool’s employees at a refrigerator manufacturing plant in Arkansas. Last summer, the company laid off more than 800 hourly workers, closed the factory, and moved manufacturing of those refrigerators to Mexico. It was part of an overall reduction of 5,000 in its workforce announced in 2011 in North America and Europe.
Congress “made a big mistake,’’ by authorizing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits for Whirlpool based on arguments that the company would retain domestic jobs, said Howard Carruth, a machine maintenance worker and union official who began work at the plant in 1969 and lost his job last year when the plant closed.
“They really hurt the economy around here,’’ he said. “I blame the corporate greed.’’
The closing also transformed Carruth from loyal to embittered customer: “We bought Whirlpool for our own house, for family and friends. If one of those goes out in my house right now, it will not be replaced by Whirlpool.’’
Many companies would probably pay much higher taxes — including Whirlpool — if Congress eliminated special breaks and lowered the income tax rate to 25 percent from the current 35 percent.
An extra benefit of winning government subsidies through the tax code: Recipients remain immune from spending cuts like the automatic “sequester’’ imposed on March 1.
Called the “tax extenders,’’ 43 credits, deferrals, and exceptions for general business and energy firms were lumped into the fiscal cliff legislation. The returns on lobbying investments companies realized when the Senate passed its fiscal cliff bill helps explain why Washington tax lobbyists remain in demand:
■ Multinational companies and banks, including General Electric, Citigroup, and Ford Motor Co., with investment earnings from overseas accounts won tax breaks collectively worth $11 billion — a return on their two-year lobbying investment of at least 8,200 percent, according to a Globe analysis of lobbying reports.
■ Hollywood production companies received a $430 million tax benefit for filming within the United States. As a result, companies like Walt Disney Co., Viacom, Sony, and Time Warner — with the help of the Motion Picture Association of America, chaired by former Connecticut senator Christopher J. Dodd — realized a return on their lobbying investment of about 860 percent.
■ Railroads lobbied on a broad array of issues, a portion of which yielded $331 million for two years’ worth of track maintenance tax credits. Return on investment: at least 260 percent.
■ Even at the low end of the economic scale the returns can be large. Two West Coast companies that manufacture electric motorcycles — Brammo Inc. of Oregon, and Zero Motorcycle Inc. of California — reported combined lobbying expenditures of $200,000 in 2011 and 2012. They won tax subsidies payable to the consumers who buy their products worth an estimated $7 million. The electric motorcycle market stands to receive a return on that investment of up to 3,500 percent.
Like each of the industries that won special treatment in the Jan. 1 “extenders’’ corporate tax measure, the electric motorcycle lobby argued that tax breaks would protect or create jobs. Electric motorcycle manufacturers only employ hundreds of workers now, said Jay Friedland, Zero Motorcycles vice president, but could employ thousands in the future.
“There are definitely provisions in the extenders that people scratch their heads at, but if your goal is to build a replacement for the pure oil economy, this is the kind of industry you want to make an investment on,’’ he said.
Measuring the rewards for lobbying on individual tax provisions is by nature imprecise, especially for large corporations that weigh in on dozens of issues. Companies file blanket disclosure reports that do not break down their lobbying expenditures by individual issue.
Publicly traded companies like Whirlpool with narrower lobbying agendas, and who publish their annual tax credit benefits in shareholder disclosure reports, are easier to track.
In addition to seeking tax breaks, corporate lobbyists also seek to protect favorable elements that are already baked into US tax policy. Private equity firms, for instance, fight each year to defend the tax treatment of “carried interest’’ payments for investment managers. Those payments are treated as a capital gain by the Internal Revenue Service, and thus taxed at a much lower rate, 20 percent in 2013, than the top income-tax rate of 39.6 percent.
The best-known example of a millionaire benefiting from “carried interest’’ tax treatment was Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who reduced his individual tax rate to below 15 percent by applying the provision to his extensive Bain Capital profits.
The publicity surrounding Romney’s tax returns fueled an onslaught by critics. The private equity industry’s trade group and the nation’s largest firms spent close to $28 million on lobbying in 2011 and 2012, according to public records. So far, they have won — a benefit that the Obama administration has estimated is worth at least $1 billion over two years. The return on investment for maintaining the status quo on the carried-interest tax rate over two years was at least 3,500 percent.
The returns show how cheap it is, relatively speaking, to buy political influence.
“It’s an end run around policy, and that makes it very efficient,’’ said Raquel Meyer Alexander, a professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia who has examined the investment returns on lobbying. “Firms that sit on the sidelines are going to lose out. Everyone else has lawyered up, lobbied up.’’
Critics lament that fiscal combat between Republicans and Democrats is preventing serious reform of the business tax code.
“What we’re doing is running a Soviet-style, five-year industrial plan for those industries that are clever enough in their lobbying to ask all of us to subsidize their business profits,’’ said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Joint Committee on Taxation and now a law professor at the University of Southern California.
“These are perfect examples of Congress putting its thumb on the scale of the free market,’’ he said. “I’ll be damned if I know why I should be subsidizing Whirlpool.’’
Congress has the opportunity every two years to stop doling out a good portion of these favors. A peculiarity of many special tax breaks is that Congress places “sunset’’ provisions on them.
Some observers say passing temporary tax breaks gives lawmakers an ongoing source of campaign funds — from companies that are constantly trying to curry favor to get their tax credits renewed. Others say it’s because making these tax rates permanent would require a 10-year accounting method — a step that would show how much each provision is truly costing taxpayers.
Whatever the reason, Congress has made many of them quasi-permanent, by simply extending them again and again.
“It’s the same cowardice that Congress has on everything. They don’t want to be truthful about what they are doing,’’ said Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and persistent critic of government waste and special deals in the tax code.
Coburn voted against the raft of “extenders’’ when they were previewed and approved by the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing in August 2012. He offered amendments to strip individual tax breaks out of the package — including the high-efficiency appliance tax credit for Whirlpool and GE — but they were shot down by the majority Democrats on the committee, led by chairman Max Baucus, of Montana.
“It’s not about tax policy, it’s about benefiting the political class and the well-connected and the well-heeled in this country,’’ Coburn said in an interview. “We’re benefiting the politicians because they get credit for it. And we are benefiting those who can afford to have greater access than somebody else.’’
Whirlpool pursues its Capitol Hill agenda from an office suite it shares on the seventh floor of a building on Pennsylvania Avenue that is loaded with similar lobbying shops and sits just a few blocks from the Capitol. Across the street, lines of tourists wait to view the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution at the National Archives.
Whirlpool and other appliance manufacturers won tax breaks for producing high-efficiency washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerators in 2005, as part of a sweeping package of energy incentives approved by the Republican-controlled Congress.
But that victory was just the beginning of a prolonged effort. Whirlpool and other appliance manufacturers must perpetually work to win renewal of their credits every two years or so. In recent years, the company has spent around $1 million annually on lobbying, up from just $110,000 in 2005.
The fiscal cliff legislation represented the third time the appliance tax credits were included in a tax extenders bill.
Defending the credits has become easier, said a person who has participated in Whirlpool’s lobbying efforts. The extenders, this person explained, is an interlocking package of deals, each with a particular senator or representative demanding its inclusion.
“Some of it is the inherent stickiness of something that is already in the tax code,’’ said the person, who was not authorized to speak about Whirlpool’s efforts and requested anonymity. “If they open Pandora’s box and start taking things out, it’s politically very difficult.’’
The paradoxical posture of senators of both parties was on full display at the hearing last summer of the Senate Finance Committee to consider the most recent package of tax extenders. Some members lamented the system of doling out tax breaks, pledging to reform the corporate code, even as they defended individual items in the legislation and voted to approve it.
The senators said they wanted to provide stability and predictability for businesses that had come to rely on the temporary provisions to stay afloat and retain workers.
They did make an effort to trim the package: Some 20 provisions were left on the cutting room floor, according to data cited in committee. The panel ultimately approved the bill with a bipartisan, 19-to-5 majority.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, went to bat for Whirlpool and other companies who she said are creating next-generation appliances that save water and electricity.
“We have one of those major world headquarters in Michigan — and it’s amazing what they are doing,’’ she said. “Right now, we are exporting product, not jobs,’’ she added, without mentioning Whirlpool’s Arkansas plant closure last year.
Former senator John F. Kerry, another member of the committee, said certain industry sectors need temporary tax subsidies. Oil and gas companies, Kerry explained, benefit from permanent tax breaks in the law, while the wind, solar, and other alternative energy interests are forced to come to Congress “hat in hand’’ every two years.
Coming “hat in hand’’ in this context means deploying teams of lobbyists, mostly former Capitol Hill aides. They left their government jobs with an understanding of the tax code and, working in the private sector, are able to leverage their political connections to gain access to congressional leaders and staff.
Among the busiest and most influential of these tax-lobbying teams is Capitol Tax Partners, a firm headed by Lindsay Hooper, and his partner, Jonathan Talisman. Hooper served as a tax counsel to a senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee in the 1980s. Talisman held the post of assistant treasury secretary for tax policy during the Clinton administration. They did not respond to requests for comment.
Capitol Tax Partners lobbied on behalf of 48 companies in 2012, according to its mandatory disclosure reports. That client roster includes a bunch of companies that won tax breaks in the fiscal cliff bill: Whirlpool (energy-efficiency tax credits), State Street Bank (tax treatment of offshore investment income), and the Motion Picture Association of America (tax breaks for domestic film production), to name a few.
In Whirlpool’s case, Capitol Tax Partners and other boutique tax lobbyists helped the company win access to key lawmakers, said the person who has participated in the company’s lobbying efforts.
“There is a certain amount of door-opening and phone-call-answering quality of some of these firms that can be useful to make sure that you are getting your message to the right person at the right point in time,’’ the person said. “But on the substantive issues, these were done by the energy-efficiency advocacy groups and the companies themselves.’’
After the Senate Finance Committee approved the tax extenders package last summer, it remained uncertain when it would materialize on the Senate floor for a final vote. Insiders kept their eyes peeled as the rancorous debate over the fiscal cliff — whether taxes would rise on the middle class wealthy — drowned out any voices discussing corporate tax reform.
Nothing was certain, until majority Democrats rolled out their bill on New Year’s Eve. With tax increases for the rich included, it would raise $27 billion in new revenue in 2013. The Obama administration trumped that figure as helping to reduce the deficit.
But in reality, any gain from taxing the rich was easily eclipsed by waves of tax cuts in the bill — including the $67 billion in the corporate tax breaks that had been resurrected at the last minute and voted on early on Jan. 1.
“They finally do it, and the extenders were bigger than the tax increases on the rich,’’ said Robert McIntyre, director of the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice. “Wow. What was this fight about?’’
Christopher Rowland can be reached at