Monday, April 30, 2007

A Federalist Peace Theory, 1946-1992

The following is an article I wrote six years ago on how competitive a theory of federal peace competes with the much more well-known theory of democratic peace. I have noticed a revival in discussion recently and thought I would repost it now here. It is an academic article in nature.

Democratic peace theory posits that democratic regimes are in general about as conflict- and war-prone as non-democratic regimes; on the other hand, democratic regimes have rarely gone to war against one another (Axelrod 1984, Maoz & Abdulali 1989, Maoz & Russett 1993, Lake 1992, Merrit & Zinnes 1991, Weart, 1998). In this research paper, it is posited that another regime type, namely the federation as a regime type, may be equally robust in predicting or post-predicting for the occurrence of war. In proposing to contrast the case of democratic peace with a federal one, I plan to eventually employ statistical approaches which will show whether federalism along with other important factors--most notably (a) autocratic versus democratic regime types--, (b) affective variables (Geva & Mintz 1993), (c) perceived utility (Bueno de Mesquite & Lalmon), or (d) perceived national interests and structural factors, such as (e) level economic development (Gartzke 1998)—each also plays positive or negative roles in a state’s willingness to go to war or to avoid major international conflict.

It should be noted, however, that concerning war and democratic peace theory, research on pre-20th Century war has necessarily required a relaxation of the definition of democracy to mean (1) periodic, (2) competitive elections, or that (3) the powerful can be kicked out of power, and (4) that a body of citizens hold equal rights, regardless of their class or status. Using such definitions, Rummel (1999) notes that “Weart, (1998) and others, finds that as far back in history as classical Greece, democracies rarely, if at all made war on each other. Weart, however, concludes that using a relaxed definition of democracy, democracies fight each other ‘not at all’." The claim that democracies never fight teach other is certainly called into question by both Rummel and Lake (1992).

This federalist paper is a foray into the research for testing a new federal peace hypothesis, specifically contrasting both David Lake’s (1992), “Powerful Pacifists: Democratic State’s and War”, and Maoz and Russett’s (1993) "Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace, 1946-1986" democratic peace hypotheses with a similar federal theory. Lake found that “democracies, constrained by their societies from earning rents, will devote greater absolute resources to security, enjoy greater social support for their policies, and tend to form overwhelming counter coalitions against expansionist autocracies (Lake: 24).” In addition, he indicated that all these political-economic factors place democracies in the position of likely winning the wars that they fight in. Similarly, Maoz and Russett claim that democratic peace was equally as robust when dyadic years were involved in the analysis. Dyadic year theory, and analysis of the state actors in the interstate system, claims that regardless of regime type some states over time (as measured by time series analysis, etc.) tend to have more trouble and conflict with one another than with other regime types.

Similarly, the impetus for the federalist peace theory, espoused in this paper, predicts similar propositions to the ones of democratic peace. These propositions, concerning federalism as a regime type, claim that federations avoid war with other like-regimes. These assumptions are derived from both reviews of studies of war and by the role of federalist state actors often joining coalitions in war.

A focal point of the theory is also based upon the perceived ability of federal states to handle diverse interests (or heterogenous group interests) and conflicts. For example, Elazar (1994a), in his Federalism and the Way to Peace, posits that “federalist solutions” to conflicts have until now been a rare focus of international relations. Elazar critically speaks of a missed opportunity in noting that the George H. Bush administration, in the days leading up to and through the end of the 1991 Gulf War, never seriously considered a federal solution in dealing with Iraq and Saddam Hussein . Elazar specifically claimed that 1991 Iraq--with regionally congregated groups of minorities of Shiites in the east, Kurdish peoples in the north, and its Sunnis in the west--was definitely a prime candidate for a federal peace treaty. In turn, particularly concerning Israeli and Palestinian territorial divisions of power in the near future, Elazar claimed that it is possible that similar federal or confederal solutions eventually would open the way for a more sustained peace in all of the Middle East.

Finally, Maoz and Russett (1993) have concurred that federalism likely has a strong negative effect on the propensity of such a nation to wage international war. They state: "Federalism is probably not as severe as a constraint on foreign policy as on domestic policy, but even on foreign policy it somewhat restricts the ability to mobilize economic and political resources rapidly in the event of a serious international dispute. It also provides an institutionalized base from which regional political leaders can challenge government policy (Maoz & Russett: 629)."

In contrast, Zinnes and Merrit (1991) have hypothesized that the differences in regime types might have little or nothing to do with foreign policy processes and negotiations, as foreign policy processes are usually dominated by elites who drive the process in approximately the same manner around the globe regardless of regime type. Zinnes and Merrit (1991: 230) also find that another variable, namely economic structure, of societies is likely of greater importance. This implies that regardless of regime type, "economically modernized societies have too much to lose to gamble on any serious war." Similarly, Gartzke (1998) has indicated that far too much, which has been ascribed to democratic peace, is actually the result of commonly perceived national interests. For this reason, a political-economic control variable is developed and applied in this paper to help test that dimension of federal and democratic peace theories.


One of the proposed models for the research is as follows: No War^=If [(fed)*(polity)*(demostate))] is positive versus a positive [(fed)*(polity)*(demostate)]

This means that regardless of political economic type, if the polity score is a positive score, i.e. democratic, for both sides and if both sides are federal there will be no war between them.

In line with replicating a part of Lake’s research, three hypotheses were proposed. Initially, they focus on (dyadic) year relationships of actors whereby at a minimum a pair of actors face off in conflict. The dependent dichotomous variable for war is based on having a level 6 score in the fatality category of the MID data set.

Of the hypotheses to be tested one of them is clearly normative, another one is clearly structural, while the others are mixed.

Hypothesis 1a: Federal regimes are less prone to engage in war with each other than non-federal types of regimes.

Hypothesis 1b Federal regimes are just as prone to engage in war as other types of regimes.

Hypothesis 2: Federal regimes are as prone to engage in war/military conflict with each other as democratic regimes are prone to engage in war/military conflict with democratic regimes.

Hypothesis 3: Democratic federal regimes are less prone to engage in War with each other than all other regime types are prone to engage in war with other regime types (federal-autocratic, democratic non-federal, and autocratic non-federal) regimes.

Hypotheses 1a and 1b are related or overlapping; it is hoped that such a design of clustering hypotheses was expected to provide salience for interpreting the results of the proposed regressions and surveys of data. The initial survey of the research was intended to find out whether these assumptions held at face value before running logistic regressions on the model above.


In prior research on federalism and war, “Federalist Peace Theory, 1817-1992” (2001), I hypothesized that regardless as to whether these wars are with non-federal, unitary-democracies, and/or non-democratic nations, that of those wars in which federations take on or find themselves involved in, these same federations generally are successful in "winning the war". Finally, by combining several different data sets on international conflict, regime, and polity types of indicators, I found that (1) regardless of whether it is a relatively autocratic-federal regime or a democratic-federal one, federal structure—in and of itself--has a robust and consistent negative effect on the likelihood of conflict or escalation, (2) both normative and structural models are supported by data, and (3) support for this federal normative-structural model is approximately as statistically robust as democratic peace models . This paper attempts in a more conceptual way to retest some of these hypothesis using a different data set.


As aforementioned, rationale behind this research derives from review of articles on (1) democratic peace and from (2a) studies of federal competition from the rational choice perspective and (b) from a review of analysis based on the research in the structural schools of economy and politics. Importantly, as noted above, according to "democratic peace" research and theory: Democracies, in and of themselves, are less likely to fight wars with each other--even as they are more likely to defeat an adversarial autocratic state (Lake, 1992). Democratic Peace is based on the assumption that both democratic and autocratic states are equally conflict-prone and war-oriented. (Maoz & Russett, 1993). Weart (1998), however, warns that, prior to the 20th century, other definitions of democracy dominated the landscape and “only very relaxed definitions of democracy” uphold democratic peace theory in earlier times . Just as importantly, Maoz and Russett (1993) have called into question the use of the simplified Polity I and II data sets, type espoused by Gurr (1974), Lake (1992), and others, used by many democratic peace theorists.

Some of these problems have been corrected in more recent Polity III (1993) and Polity IV (2001) updates. Nonetheless, the early inconsistencies in the Polity data sets had encouraged Maoz and Russett to develop their own 100 point scale for democracy basing it both on how democratic Side H scored on the Polity II scale plus how Side L scored. Then, in their subsequent formalization , Maoz and Russett, divided everything by how democratic Side H scored on the Polity scale while subtracting how Side L was scored. Maoz and Russett called this measure JOINREG .

However, since few have retested Maoz and Russetts dyadic data against the updated Polity IV scores, it is not clear whether the reformed versions of Polity might not be just as adequate. Therefore, in this paper I return to Polity IV for the overall Polity score. Nonetheless, in order to maintain some comparability with Maoz and Russett--as well as Lake--, this Polity score was cross checked with a dummy variable for democratic state of 1= (Polity>5) in regression analysis.

Eventually, federal peace theory intends to replicate much of Zinnes and Merrit (1993) and Lake (1992, as well as Maoz and Russett (1993), and their research on democratic peace. However, instead of focusing on the degree democracy plays in war making and foreign policy, another regime type, namely the federal regime, is being studied. As noted in aforementioned reviews, democratic-federal states are predicted to be less war-prone than non-democratic ones. This was also previously empirically tested (Stoda, 2001) so there were also a dummy variable for this dimension of variable interaction of these two variables. This was retested in this paper. The other very important test was to see if federal states as a whole really are, indeed, equally prone to war in general as other non-federal regime since this is an important assumption for comparison of regime types and has been a problematic assumption criticized by Gartzke (1998) and others.


The Polity IV data set includes data on regimes or states dating back to 1800. It uses a 21-point scale, which helps in coding regime type on a democratic-autocratic scale. Therefore, both federal and non-federal states can be rated according to the 21-point Polity scale, so as to classify them as non-democratic federal or as democratic-federal regimes. Frustratingly, the Polity IV data set no longer provides information on a three point scale for centralization, which had been a surrogate for federalism mentioned by Maoz and Russett. Therefore, I elected to build a new data set of federations or federal state actors from 1800 to 1994 relying primarily on Lemco (1991) and Elazar (1994b). This data set was largely based on both Jonathan Lemco’s (1991), Political Stability in Federal Governments, and Elazar’s (1994b), Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook of Federalism, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements.

Lemco, in his research on the origin and stability of federations, found 44 historical federal regimes dating back to 1787. This is the basic list of states used in this research paper; however, several other federal regimes neglected by or unknown by Lemco, such as the United Arab Emirates and modern day Russia, were added. Finally, Elazar (1994b) provided another exceptional list of federations, which corroborated and expanded Lemco's list. Lemco's coding method required that a federal regime, at its origin and throughout his existence, include or exhibit at least one of the following: (1) a territorial divisions of power at two levels of governance, (2) a federal constitution, or (3) a mixed bicameral government. I have accordingly coded the addition of several federal states and have added them to Lemco's and Elazar’s lists, based on the existing presence of at least one of these three federal conditions of the regime. (See Appendix for complete list of federations by region.)

Regardless as to whether a federation is a democratic or non-democratic state, due to its matrix-like structure of governance, it was posited apriori to the investigation that: a federal regime is likely to avoid war with other federal states. War, in this paper, is defined as a measure of interstate dispute, using Militarized International Dispute data, that has moved to the highest level of conflict which involves 1000 or military deaths each year. Further, the wars considered relevant for study in this paper had to have occurred between 1946 and 1992 and are in the MID 2a and 2b data sets on international disputes . The MID 2a data set includes data on nearly 2100 conflict events involving actors in the international system. Meanwhile MID 2b consists of nearly 4800 observations of state actors in the international system involved in interstate conflicts on a fatality scale of 1 through 6 (with level 1 being no casualties and level 6 being a full-scale war involving 1000 casualties a year). For this paper, I also used a modified a MID year list available from R. Tucker (1997) provided for creating dyadic year data involving interstate system actors under the Correlates of War (COW) project.

A federation is defined as a nation state actor that has federal structure which is territorially defined, dual governance, and/or shared sovereignties of governments. This key independent variable is defined as a constitutionally , territorially, or institutionally recognized federal regime. Such federal governance must include divisions of autonomy between local or constituent governments, as well as being a nationally recognized arrangement. Finally, since shared sovereignties exist and since there are specifically divided areas of sovereignty between the constituent and national governments, each federal regime may be too busy to take on the most controversial of foreign actions, namely “war”.

Other assumptions concerning the federal peace theory are induced from Maoz and Russett’s (1993) list of key democratic assumptions concerning peace in democratic theory.

Assumption #1: The specific rationale for a federal peace theory is that dual governance in federal states requires a high level of cooperation among differing leadership--as well as among national, regional, and constituent state opinion at the public level. Socialization in this cooperative process leads elites to practice compromise with others—including even relations with foreign states or regimes.

Assumption #2: Federal states at the national level face at least two other sovereignties—the sovereign people who are represented directly at the national level and the constituent states, which are also represented at the national level.

Assumption #3: One condition to be considered is the size of the federation and how those constituent states which directly border other countries might be likely to put pressure on the central or national government to either participate or refrain from war. This implies that unicentric governments and constituent states that do not border other nations, as compared to federations and their border states, might certainly have varying interests and attitudes towards international confrontation with foreign states, regions, or governments .

Assumption #4: Economic autonomy means the ability to set ones own labor, construction, and trade standards, fees, price supports, etc.--separately from other constituent states. Constituent states own federal economic autonomy, which provides them with stability in competition over time, enables these federal states to be more advanced industrially as nations as compared to their non-federal neighbors. These federations, as more advanced economies, thus face to lose much more in face-to-face war with all other highly economically developed federal regimes than do less developed nations.


Since replicating or approximating prior “democratic peace” studies through a federal research lens is the focus of this paper, it needs to be recalled that by comparing federal and non-federal actors in terms of (1) their proneness to fight wars with each other and (2) their tendency to win wars, I used separate dummy variables just as Maoz and Russett did. Finally, (3) I compared findings within these two sets of regime types to those scores on the polity scale for democracy and autocracy, a 21-point scale (after checking to see if JOINREG and my dichotomous classification using the Polity IV data set were similar on most of the federal state observations and variables).

Between 1946 and 1992, the new data set registered 10,054 state years in the international system using to the Polity IV list of regimes. Of this total number of country years, there were 892 federal state years. That is, federations make up 8.87% of all state years in the international system in this data-set period. More importantly, there were 209 regime years when these 10,054 regime-years were at war. That is, 2.08% of all state years involved states being at war with one another during the period investigated.

Of those 209 total state years of war, federal states were involved in 23.44%. However, only in 1965 when Pakistan faced off against India and again in 1971 when these same foes fought in the Bangladesh War, did federations fight each other. This means that of the total of all state war years, only four federation-years, or 1.9% of the total state-war years involved federal states. This only slightly contradict hypothesis 1a, which claimed that federal regimes are less prone to engage in war with each other than non-federal types of regimes. Meanwhile, among all federal-war years, the total of federal-on-federal war years make up only 8.16% of the total number of total number of war-years.

Interestingly, only in 1965 is a slightly democratic-federal-versus-democratic-federal war to be found. In that year, India had a +9 Polity score and Pakistan had a measly +1 Polity score. Democratic-federal country war-years made up 41 of the total 49 federal war years, yet only 2 out of 49 or only 4.08% of those years involved democratic-federal-versus-democratic-federal years. More importantly, less than 1% of all war years involved democratic-federal-versus-democratic-federal regime wars.

Hypothesis 1b also seems to be strongly supported. Federal regimes are at least as prone to engage in war as democratic regimes are prone to engage in war. Federal states make up over 23% of all-war years although they only make up 8% of the population total state years. Meanwhile, hypothesis 2 also stands. Federal regimes are certainly as prone to engage in war with each other as democratic regimes are prone to engage in war with democratic regimes. Reviewing the list democratic-versus-democratic year wars, over twice as many democratic state-war years were found as for the total number of federal war years in the 1946-1992 period under study in this paper. Finally, hypothesis 3, which says democratic-federal regimes are less prone to engage in War with each other than all other regime types are prone to engage in war with other regime types (federal-autocratic, democratic non-federal, and autocratic non-federal) types, cannot be rejected either. Although, more detailed comparison of the data, including ANOVAs are necessary to strengthen the conceptual arguments posed in this paper.

Also, due to the 1965 case of Pakistan and India, with both states having positive Polity scores and going to war, the model certainly is open to further adaptation. The current model looks as follows:

No War^=If [(fed)*(polity)*(demostate))] is positive opposes a positive [(fed)*(polity)*(demostate)]

One such adaptation likely includes the addition of a stronger set of variables for political-economy and/or alliance than used in the footnoted section of this article. Clearly, of all of the war years, in which federations were involved, more than a simple majority of those years involved federations acting in coalition with one another: For instance, the U.S. worked with other federations in the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars. In addition, if one considers that among federations only Pakistan and India have faced off in war against one another in the post-WWII period; therefore, one must consider further what role economic development plays in the creation of “ No War” conditions.


As Maoz And Russett have observed, there have been several problems with the Polity data set in the past but it currently is a shame that centralization data have been dropped entirely from Polity III and Polity IV. In contrast, further development on the former three-point “unity-federal” scale offered in earlier Polity data sets would be more helpful in developing the data sets put together for this paper than are the current data sets—which have dropped this key variable totally. In the future, evaluations of democracy, based largely on Maoz and Russett’s JOINREG scale should be undertaken, enabling the MID data to be retested more in line with Maoz and Russett’s dyadic year research on democratic states. This would certainly be a significant test for federal war and peace theory espoused in this conceptual work.

Federalist structures traditionally have been designed to calm cross-national or cross-ethnic cleavages. Further, federalism has historically encompassed both democratic and non-democratic regimes. Federations and federalist regimes, such as the European Union, NATO, the United Nations and ASEAN, are going to play an ever greater part in the international system’s future. This ability, under federalism, to include both autocratic states and more democratic ones provides ample opportunity for new and significant developments in areas of both political scientific research and in public foreign policy decision making.

Federal organization, with its matrix-like division of powers, enables political economy, international relations, and comparative politics to converge in domains of research. This is extremely important as the global system becomes ever more integrated during the 21st century. Meanwhile, further research on federations, federal regimes, and war is certainly needed, especially as concerns independent variables not fully considered in my model: Such variables continue to be the roles of economic growth and wealth, alliances, contiguity, and military capability ratios. These were indeed, however, indirectly based on the political economic scoring device developed for and revealed in this paper (and its footnotes). Such COW data, along with. Maoz and Russett’s (1993), Lakes (1992), and Gartzke (1998)’s data, provide further material for using quantitative economic measures (separated from politics) rather than the qualitative variable used in my data set.

Further, critical comparison of federal and democratic peace theory models need now turn to Ward and Gleditsch (1998) and Gartzke’s critical (1998) pieces (just as this paper looked toward David Lake’s research on democratic peace). On the other hand, such later papers should also attempt to come to grips with how decentralization of governments as posed by federal theory, specifically including the concept and structure of matrix-like divided sovereignties among federal constituent states, plays an important role in peace theory—as well as in the ongoing internationalist integration of states.

Finally, Merritt and Zinnes (1991) framework for democratic peace should be reviewed again for its apt political economic modeling and testing. Zinnes and Merritt’s proposed framework for democratic peace theory included full-interactions of society, political regime, economic regime, foreign policy process, and how all these affect foreign policy behavior. In conclusion, the traditional Hobbsian approach to states has implied that peace is destined to dominate domestic politics while war is to rage through competition and through self-maximizing efforts of states on the international level. Federal theory of shared sovereignties is, however, another option for looking at the international arena.

Whereas, some structures, such as federalism, may, in fact, (1) best promote competition and cooperation at both political and economic levels among states while (2) a federal peace may in turn enable economic development and durability of state actors over time. This durability then (3) increases room for actors to become more fully committed to the international regime while individual sovereign state actors are able to maintain peace at home and amongst one another through a federal framework. All three independent variables viewed in this federalist peace project—federations, polity type, and political economic developments in the international system—surveyed in this paper are found robust and should be integrated into one larger theory of peace, development, and foreign policy decision-making.


Axelrod, Robert 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.

Beck, Nathaniel & Katz, Jonathon 1997. “The Analysis of Binary Time--Series— Cross-Section Data and/or Democratic Peace.” Political Methodology Working Paper Archive at UC-Riverside

Bueno de Mesquite, Bruce and Lalmon, David 1992. War and Reason. New Haven: Yale University.

Elazar, Daniel J. 1994a. Federalism and the Way to Peace. Kingston, Ontario: Queen's University Institute of Intergovernmental Relations.

Elazar, Daniel J. 1994b. Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook of Federalism, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements, 2nd Ed., London: Longman.

Gartzke, Erik 1998. "Kant We all Just get Along? Opportunity, Willingness, and the Origins of the Democratic Peace", The American Journal of Political Science 42:1-27.

Gurr, Ted R. 1974. "Persistence and Change in Political Systems," The American Political Science Review 68: 1482-1504.

International Conflict and Cooperation Data (includes MID,ICB, and COW data sets),

Lake, David A. 1992. "Powerful Pacifists: Democratic States and War" The American Political Science Review 86: 24-37.

Lemco, Jonathan 1991. Political Stability in Federal Governments. New York: Praeger Books.

Marshall, Monty & Jaggers, Keith 2000. Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transition, 1800-1999.

Marshall, Monty & Jaggers, Keith 2000. Polity IV Project: Dataset and Users’ Manual.

Maoz, Zeev & Abdulali, Nasrin 1989. "Regime Type and International Conflict, 1816-1976." International Studies Quarterly 33:3-35.

Maoz, Zeev & Russett, Bruce 1993. "Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace, 1946-1986." The American Political Science Review 87:3 624-638.
Merritt, Richard L. and Zinnes, Dina A. 1991. "Democracies and War" in A. Inkles (ed.) On Measuring Democracy: Its Consequences and Concomitants, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Mintz, Alex & Geva, Nehemia. "Why Don't Democracies Fight Each Other?" Journal of Conflict Resolution 37: 484-503.

Ido Oren, "The Subjectivity of the 'Democratic' Peace: Changing U.S. Perceptions of Imperial Germany," International Security, Vol. 20, no. 2 (Fall 1995). Rummel, R.J. 2000. “What is the Democratic Peace?”

United Nations Framework Convention on Global Warming: Full Treaty

Stoda, Kevin. “Federalist Peace Theory, 1817-1992”, unpublished document, Texas A & M University.

Tucker, R. “Dyad Hard” The Political Methodologist, Vol. 8, No. 1, Fall 1997

Ward, Michael & Gleditsch, Kristian. “Democratizing for Peace”, American Political Science Review, 92:1 (March 1998), 51-61.

Weart, Spencer (1998) Never at War: Why Democracies will Not Fight One Another. New Haven: Yale University.


Sunday, April 29, 2007


By Kevin Anthony Stoda


Because my credit rating had been so good for over two decades, I managed to kid myself into running up debt on credit cards in the early part of this decade in the new Millennium. Worse still is the fact that I had managed to get myself involved with Citibank again, i.e. after having trouble with them in the 1980s when they “illegally’ bought out my student loan from HELP of Kansas. Worst of all is that I had gotten myself in a bad debt situation do to the company’s predatory lending practices.

Let me remind the reader that Citibank has a long and awful reputation of predatory lending policies in the USA and overseas dating back decades. As Jake Lewis has written: “Citigroup has invested tens of billions of dollars in schemes to peddle various financial products to low and moderate income families and persons with blemished credit histories.”

In my case, like a group of attack automobiles on a highway, Citibank has worked hand-in-hand with other agencies to squeeze me—as well as the other lower and upper middle class credit card users and loan-takers in the USA and in poorer lands.

In my case, in 2003 and 2004, Citibank and a pair of financial service organization ganged up on my credit rating first and then attacked my credit cards themselves, leaving me with debt frozen where it shouldn’t have been. Later, the pair of financial helper firms—one from Florida, the other from Texas-- took me for rides, leaving me higher and higher in debt.

Here is how CITIBANK and cronies made me a victim of a hit and run debt program in the USA—even making it hard for me to return to my home state the USA at times over the past 5 years:


I had moved from Texas to Monterrey, Mexico to live and work in August 2002 as the job market for ESL instructors at the university level in the USA had fallen flat due to the after effects of 9-11. These aftershocks had led to many foreign students not coming to the USA to study during the subsequent years.

So, by February 2003 I had already been teaching at the University of Monterrey two semesters when I took the two-hour drive to the border at Laredo, Texas to go shopping. On the way, I decided that I might need a small increase of my credit limit on one of my credit cards as I did not plan to come back across the border for a several months. (One cannot make 1-800 phone calls from the Mexican side of the border to the United States.)

I made the horrible mistake of calling my customer service for my CITIBANK AADVANTAGE card, which is a credit card that gave me mileage on American Airlines.

As indicated above, I had never had any real credit trouble prior to 2002-2003, and I had been able to fly to South America and Europe free with my mileage points earned over the previous five years on the AAdvanatage Card and on my Delta Airlines American Express card. To tell the truth, until this episode, I had actually been pleasantly surprised and pleased by CITIBANK’S treatment of me. [Nonetheless, I had also planned to drop the CITIBANK AAdvantage card the previous year, but once I had moved to Mexico, it had become easier to just continue using the ones in the USA which I had in hand already.]

The main problem for me in 2003 as far as finances goes is that the Peso had had continuous devaluations totaling about 25 percent against the dollar over the previous year and a half, and I was indeed having trouble making large payments. Nonetheless, I still typically paid more than I owed on a card in any month so as to keep overall interest charges down. (Another problem in Mexico was the poor postal system—leading me to drive across borders on occasion just to send mail in the US, e.g. to pay mycredit card and student loan bills.)

As I came across the border in Laredo on Valentines Day 2003, I called Citibank AAdvantage and asked for a limit increase of about two hundred dollars on my credit card.

A pleasant voice told me, “We can do better than that. We can give you a thousand dollar limit increase.”

Pleased with the offer and that my credit rating was good enough for me to receive an offer like that so unexpectedly, I accepted the offer of a thousand dollar credit limit increase.

Sadly, without telling me by phone in Mexico or without even writing me a letter in February, Citibank administrators reneged on the credit increase within about seven days of making the increase available to me over the phone. That is, by the whim of some official at CITIBANK “my increased credit limit” of one-thousand dollars had disappeared--long before February 2003 was over.

I repeat: The obvious problem is that no one from CITIBANK had notified me of this change in my credit line!

Therefore, without knowing it for almost 2 ½ months, I continued to spend over my limit on my CITIBANK AAdvantage Card.


To make a long sad tale short, I must remind the reader that I didn’t become aware that CITIBANK had canceled my loan increase in February, of the reneging on their offer to me until after I had run up over two months of debt--based on their promise to give me a line increase of $1000 on credit.

By late April 2003, I was being asked to pay back about 650 dollars immediately.

By June, it was up to 1200 dollars—even though I had still continued to mail in a few hundred dollars to Citibank each month--, and I was definitely no longer using CITIBANK’s credit card.

In other words, most of what I was being asked to pay in these suddenly increased billing charges from CITIBANK was the direct result of penalties that CITIBANK had created for me in February, March and April when it had arbitrarily canceled the credit limit increase—less than one week after making me an unsolicited offer of $800 more than I had asked for on my visit to Laredo from Monterrey, Mexico.

This is the sort of predatory lending that Americans face each year from CITIBANK and friends in the USA. I wonder what arm-twisting it uses in other countries to pump up its profit?? I know that the average credit card interest rate in Mexico in 2003 was 30% a year.

Only, when I came back across the border to Laredo at the end of April did I find out though the phone call I made that I was in trouble, and that the credit limit increase had somehow disappeared from my CITIBANK records without anyone reporting this to me in a letter. [It should be noted that I still have never received a letter notifying me of such a decline of my requested credit increase. When I contacted the attorney generals of new York, South Dakota, Kansas, and Texas to investigate, CITIBANK could not produce to them or me such a letter dated February 2003 either.]


Finally, seeking a settlement of sorts on that CITIBANK credit card, in late June 2003 I asked Citibank’s customer service over the phone how I could get all those penalties off my account.?? My debt on the card was by then running around $1300 on my most recent statement—with half or more of that debt being fines or late charges from CITIBANK.

I was promised with that phone call that if I sent a check of $1300, they would take off the penalties and get my account back to normal.

I subsequently borrowed the money from my family and sent that money in the mail in July to CTIBANK. However, near the end of July Citibank received my check for $1300, but decided to freeze and close out my credit card account the next day, instead of doing what I had been promised over the phone at the end of June.

By closing and freezing that recently paid $1300 on my CITIBANK account, I could not make the transfers to pay down two other credit cards in August. That had been my plan as of July 2003.

In short, in August when I returned to teach at the University of Monterrey I was forced to look for an extra teaching job immediately in order to pay off the other credit cards that month and to make ends meet in general.


So, by the beginning of August I was in real trouble. In Monterrey, I had to begin teaching night school at a Normal College for adults along with my day-time university load at the University of Monterrey, just to pay my mother back the $1300 dollars.

Naturally, for the rest of 2003 I focused on paying off family and other credit cards. This neglect of CITIBANK led to more penalties from Citibank in subsequent months as I saved and scrimped to keep my other credit cards from falling into trouble. [In previous years, I would have normally taken form the Citibank card to pay down debt on the other cards, but that option was closed off. I was still sending few dollars to CITIBANK whenever my budget would allow it.]

In short, I did well at paying down some of my other debt (including debt with family members), but I finally came to decide to leave Mexico and to move to Kuwait in January 2004, in order to get that stupid CITIBANK card and other debt matters in line.

In other words, I had become a third world debtor paying back Citibank.


However, as I took part of my time in November and December to go over the border to the USA and began to consolidate my debt with the help of a company out of Florida, I would get another rude shock—again, too a great degree, caussed by CITIBANK.

The Florida debt-relief firm I was working with at that time had originally agreed to settle my debts with CITIBANK and all my other credit card recipients for payments of about $512 a month paid out over many years. (I agreed to this sum and even sent the initial $512 check to Florida to retain this debt relief agency’s services starting in early December.)

To my shock and distain, later in December 2003 CITIBANK notified this same debt relief agency in Florida whom I was working with that CITIBANK wanted me to pay an extra 33 dollars each month—for the second time in 2003 CITIBANK was arbitrarily increasing overnight by more than a thousand dollars. It had done so by reneging on its original offer to this Florida based debt relief firm.

I asked the Florida credit finance company to play hardball and tell CITIBANK that their actions of increasing my debt twice in the same year were based on illegal and fraudulent actions and claims. I told them I was not prepared to send the extra 33 dollars monthly to a bank that had purposely helped put me into a credit black hole.

The fact is that I just didn’t have any more money to spare. When my flight to Kuwait from Texas arrived on February 2, 2004, I had less than 65 dollars in my pocket. Moreover, I had long since cut up all of my credit cards.


Saturday, April 28, 2007



By Kevin Anthony Stoda


Earlier this April 2007, Sallie Mae, the infamous owner of millions of student loans in the USA agreed to pay a fine for manipulating college students and college administrators in a way that has appeared to be illegal and fraudulent. For example, it appears that administrators at various schools and institutions around the USA were wined and dined so that they would steer student loan-takers to certain banks that would turn around and sell the loans to Sallie Mae. Almost the next day after agreeing to pay a tiny fine of several million dollars, Sallie Mae has agreed to be bought out for 25 billion dollars.

I was one of those who during his University of Kansas Days in the 1990s had his/her loan bought out from a small Kansas bank—which had claimed “We Never Sell Loans”. I wonder if there wasn’t some sort of buying off of staff at that bank and at other banks which went on in that Kansas Bank. I had chosen to use a bank Hillsboro, KS to get my loan from—only to have that bank change its policy within one year and sell my graduate student loan to Sallie Mae.

At least, when I think about how Citibank treated me, Sallie Mae has at times agreed to give me a loan-payment free holiday or deferment when I have gone back to graduate schools over the past decades. For example, I went to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and later to College Station’s Texas A & M.

This treatment of my first graduate level student loans by Sallie Mae can be contrasted with the way that Citibank handled my student loan just after my undergraduate days back in the 1980s.


In the early 1980s, I attended little Bethel College in Kansas on the way to B.A.degrees in History and the Social Sciences as well as in German. In several of my political science classes and in my Global Issues courses at Bethel, I became evermore aware of the sordid history of CITIBANK in Latin America and in the United States. In a report on the Mexican economy presented to forty other students, I noted how CITIBANK, Chase Manhattan and friends had gone about in Latin American countries promoting great increases in national debt during the 1970s and early 1980s.

The US government and organizations, like the IMF and World Bank, helped CITIBANK and cronies promote debt for Latin American countries. By the end of that decade, per capita debt for some Latin American countries were several thousand per person—whereby most people in those nations only earned several hundred to about one-thousand dollars or less each year.

In short, as a Bethel College student in the 1980s I learned what predatory lending was in a third world context was. Later, I would study International Political Economy even more and came to learn that CITIBANK and other USA banks in the 1970s had felt compelled to pressure others and look for markets (with the help of the USA government) in the 1970s and early 1980s because petro-dollars from the first and second oil shocks in the 1970s needed to be put somewhere.

Where should the sheiks from oil-rich Kingdoms in the Middle East put their cash? They didn’t want to waste the money, so they went looking for banks in the USA to put the monies in.

They often stuck money in other country’s banks as their economies were poorly run at that time or they were afraid that either progressive taxes, terrorists, or revolutionaries would take over their country some day.

These chosen American banks—with CITIBANK often being NUMBER ONE—in turn needed to earn money to pay back the interest on all that Petroleum based cash from the Middle East. Therefore, up through the late 1980s, USA banks pushed debt onto Latin American and other third world countries—with several of these countries having debts of over 75 billion dollars at the end of the Carter-Reagan era.

To my shock, the Kansas office in charge of student loans for Kansas students in the early 1980s decided to close shop, and it sold off all of my undergraduate student loans. Sadly, one of those student loans ended up being bought up by—YOU GUESSED IT--: CITIBANK in New York.

The Kansas office that closed had been named HELP of Kansas and the intention had been to keep the loan money in Kansas. By 1985, the year I graduated from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas Some, sort of free-market shenanigans or fascism had taken place in the statehouse; hence my local Kansas loan was sold to one of the largest banks in the USA overnight.

Upset, I wrote both Kansas officials and CITIBANK demanding that my loan be returned to a local bank. I did not want my loan to end up in CITIBANK’s accounts.

These correspondences were to no avail; by spring 1986 I had began to repay my student loans to several banks, including Sallie Mae’s and CITIBANK.

Finally, in late October of that same year, I traveled to Germany to begin studying at the Berische University in Wuppertal for a year. Sallie Mae allowed me to take a loan deferment while I studied in Germany, but CITIBANK steadfastly refused after several correspondences (which) included appropriate deferment forms, to give me a loan deferment according to the bank’s own rules, i.e. even though I was a full-time student in Germany.


I sincerely believed over the following 3 1/2 years as I continued to pay on the CITIBANK student loan of mine that I was not being given a proper deferment while I studied in Germany because I had written those critical letters to CITIBANK as a college student telling them that [1]I did not wish CITIBANK to have my loan and [2] I was very critical of its predatory loan practices to Latin American governments over the previous decade.

This is no conspiracy theory.

However, I have no strong evidence but the fact that due to my various studies in Kansas, Texas, Germany and other locations around the globe over the past twenty years, I have regularly received loan deferments from every lien holder—except CITIBANK.

In short, the only variables that explain the lack of deferment has to do with: [A] the history & identity of CITIBANK as being a predatory lender, and [B] CITIBANK’s heavy-handed way of treating people who disagree with its policies and practices.

I welcome comments and insight on this?


Predatory Associates: Citigroup, Predatory Lending and the Credit Crunch for the Poor and Working Class
CitiGroup Settles Predatory Lending Charges for $215 Million
FTC Charges Associates, Citigroup With Predatory Lending Practices : Damages Could Exceed $500 Million
The Citigroup Watch
Predatory Lending



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kevin, WOW Keep it up because it is ohhh so true. American's are all about self consumption and what is in it for me. SAAAD and only getting worse by

Kevin, WOW Keep it up because it is ohhh so true. American's are all about self consumption and what is in it for me. SAAAD and only getting worse by the day.

Tammy Stoda


Monday, April 23, 2007


By Kevin Anthony Stoda

One of the great things about staying on a small island separated from the mainland for over a week (as I was on the Gilis of Northwest Lombok in the Indonesian archipelago this past month) is that one has time to admire God’s creation at a slow place. Remember no motorized vehicles were allowed on Gili Meno and its neighboring isles! I was able to to enjoy nature like never before while working my brain muscles, too, reading through Bill Bryson’s A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING (Black Swain Books, 2003).

Long prior to reading through the 600 pages of this “rough guide to science” (as John Waller of The Guardian calls the book), I had taken an advanced physics class with Karl Helrich at my first alma mater, Bethel College in Kansas. Bill Bryson does a tremendous job of rehashing the material covered in that course focusing on the history of physics from Newton to the present day. As I read through Bryson’s book with little difficulty, I came to feel prouder of the fact that I had studied at a liberal arts school where one is required to know a little bit about most of the humanities and sciences.

In short because of my background in history and science, I enjoyed a lot of my time on Gili Meno Island sitting by the sea and reading cover-to-cover this non-fiction work of Brysons. I was told by someone who has left the book by Bryson on their book shelf untouched for years that I may be one of the few people on the planet who has actually read from cover-to-cover Bryson’s narration of the physics of our solar system and molecules--as well as his geological, anthropological, natural & narrative history of our planet. I doubt that. Bryson’s book is a good read and to the curious: enlightening and refreshing in its narration of science.


I got up one morning on Gili Meno and went scuba diving with large loggerhead sea turtles that weighed twice as much as I do. Later the same day, I was able to visit the hatchery for those tiny baby rascal turtles who would grow to such mammoth proportions, i.e. larger than me, in about a decade. Next, I would go to my regular beachside café under palm fronds and look out towards the neighboring islands beyond the harbor on Gili Meno isle.

All and all, I was very proud of the people Of how the natives of Meno Gili Island were taking such care to protect hundreds of baby turtles. Other inhabitants also were working to both protect and raise new coral through a nurturing process using frames and electricity just east of the harbor under sea. While snorkeling or diving, one could easily encounter the progress of these endeavors to raise coral just off the coast.

Naturally, also, while diving near the Gili Wall on the west side of the isle, one could see literally millions of fish. There were fish with vertical stripes. There were fish with horizontal stripes. There were large fish, small fish, blue fish, red fish, silver fish, green fish, turquoise fish, metallic-colored fish, long nose darters, etc.

In other words, swarming around the Gili islands were hundreds of different schools of fish and animal-plant life. As in any functioning eco-system, these life forms were living off and on one another. While I was praising the Lord for the blessing of seeing his creations, my guide captured and killed an octopus to take back and feed to the baby turtles back on the mainland. In short, life and death are connected quite obviously in the seas—where most people get their protein and other substance in that part of Indonesia. (I particularly liked the taste of both the white and red snappers in garlic sauce.)

Back on the mainland, I could walk around the island in about 2 hours or across it in about 25 to 35 minutes. On the way, I could see a small salt lake where large birds enjoyed living. There in the water are even a handful of Gili Meno Komodo dragons—a variety of this species found nowhere else on the planet.


In the final chapter of his book, Bill Bryson talks about man and his role in being at the top of the food chain and life-cycle, i.e. as caretaker of Planet Earth. Bryson states that placing man in charge of all the creatures on earth has not always appeared to be a very good or logical idea. Basically, similar to those type of people who are blind supporters of the NRA in America, a lot of man’s efforts in the history living species on planet earth have involved killing off of other species. This has gone on in the name of progress or in the name of man’s prerogative for many millennia.

Bryson starts off that final chapter by talking about the killing off of the dodo, “the famously flightless bird whose dim but trusting nature and lack of leggy zip made it a rather irresistible target for bored tars on shore leave.” [p. 563] The last bird was killed about the time that Newton wrote his PRINCIPIA in the 1680s and transformed man’s understanding of the universe. In making this connection of extinguishing life and creating a better view of our planet, Bryson is pointing out that man is like a star that can shine or that can be star that is burns out and leaves a solar system in the dark.

As an example of outright neglect and ill-thinking, Bryson notes that the “indignities to the poor dodo” didn’t end in the 1680s. “In 1755, some seventy years after the last dodo’s death, the director of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford decided that the institution’s stuffed dodo was becoming unpleasantly musty and ordered it be tossed into a bonfire.” [p. 564] This was the last specimen left in existence. Luckily, some worker at the same institution observed the folly and managed to save some parts of the skeleton and the head of the creature. In short, lack of common sense has been a problem with man since the beginning of the ages.

According ot Bryson, it is hard to state exactly how many man-related extinctions have occurred over the millennia. Estimates run from one every four years to 120,000 times that. On the one hand, a lot of extinction have not been as cruel as with the dodo—which was apparently killed for fun by sailors off Madagascar. Most extinctions are just accidents carried out with the help of man as when a lighthouse was built on Stephens Island off New Zealand about 100 years ago. The cats, brought to the island to chase vermin, killed off the dozens of the only-known flightless wren still in existence.

On the other hand, there was tremendous amounts of intentional killing-of f of species caused by collectors and other hunters from Europe and the Americas in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These maniacal collectors included Lionel Walter Rothschild—the second Baron Rothschild—who lived between 1868 and 1937. Rothschild was especially fond Hawaiian species—of which 8800 unique species had existed originally in the Hawaiian archipelago at the end of the 19th century. Rothschild’s ace collector, a man named Harry Palmer, shot or took the last of several of these species. Bryson writes that many men showed enjoyment at being the last one to have killed off a particular species and took it home for stuffing as a memento of the moment.

Even governments got involved in such killing off of whole species. Right up till their extinction in the early 20th century, New York, West Virginia and other eastern states paid substantial sums for the killing of mountain lions and other creatures known as pests.

Moreover, Bryson indicates that not only were Americans involved in the killing off of species. He notes that Australia, too, the situation was particularly bad. There is hardly anything left of the Tasmanian Tige except a film taken in the 1930s. When the last marsupial tiger died off in the Hobart Zoo in 1936, that zoo threw out the carcass into the trash, i.e. giving up the last known example of a very special creature: It was the only known large carnivorous marsupial to live into modern times.

In conclusion, we live on a fragile planet and man plays a great and important role in its upkeep. We need to do better. For example, if man can stall off the rising climate change over the next decades, many species may be able to learn to adapt to the changing environment by either emigrating or by acclimatizing themselves to the environmental changes that go with global warming.


One of the great environmental heroes all-time who Bill Bryson writes about is a man who never one a Nobel Prize--but should have. The scientist’s name was Clair Patterson and he led campaigns which have likely helped the planet’s inhabitants more than any other person in modern history.

You see it was scientist Clair Patterson who in the 1950s proved that the lead increases in the planet’s atmosphere in the previous decades were related to the burning of ethyl and leaded gasoline. He also proved that the growth in lead that humans were breathing was dangerously out of control. (By the way, Patterson was also the man who discovered a way to measure the earth’s age while working at the University of Chicago using lead isotopes—also in the 1950s.)

Since the 1920s, big oil companies in the USA and later around the globe had been using lead in gasoline to reduce knocks in car engines. Meanwhile, the production of ethyl fuel in the U.S. had grown to be a big business, too. However, in doing his research on the age of the planet, Patterson discovered that he was having grave trouble finding a space on the planet free from lead. Finally, he created the first completely sterile lab. Next, Patterson created the practice of taking core samples from ice sheets in Greenland which he used to evaluate the increase in led over the previous decades.

To Patterson’s horror, lead percentage in the earth’s atmosphere was increasing in our at a faster rate than at any time in the previous thousand years. This was undoubtedly already causing all kinds of health dangers to the planet.

This is why Patterson began a three-decade long campaign to get lead taken out of gasoline. Meanwhile, oil companies, who spent a lot of money on research in the USA, pressured the universities where Patterson was working. In short, Patterson lost many of his research monies and eventually his job. However, when Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in the early 1970s he was vindicated. Lead was banned in fuel in America. Other countries would soon follow suit.

Importantly, Clair Patterson did not stop saving the planet at this point. According to Bryson, Patters was also the key leader and researcher concerned about the adverse effects of CFCs (Carbonflourocarbons) and their danger to the planets ozone. Bryson explains that the ozone protects us all from harmful sun radiation.

Similar to lead in gasoline, CFCs had been used in refrigeration and aerosols since the 1920s. Nevertheless, Clair Patterson’s tireless campaigning led to the worldwide ban in CFC usage in developed nations by 1985.

Clair Patterson is now dead but his legacy in saving the planet should not be ignored. It is great that Bryson chose to report an emphasize in his rough guide to science how one man’s lifelong efforts on behalf of all earths inhabitants turned out successful.

Our planet needs more self-less heroes like Clair Patterson.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shaven Head and Mourning from Cambodia to Virginia Tech REVISED

Shaven Head and Mourning from Cambodia to Virginia Tech

The connection to HOLOCAUST COMMEMORATION DAY and the Virginia Tech shooting massacre will be linked forever in some peoples hearts--because they will fall on the same day every year.Fascinatingly, one Holocaust survivor was one of the heroes who died on April 16 protecting his classroom of students from death and horrors. His name was Liviu Librescu who was born in Romani but had lived in Jerusalem.As teacher myself I honor and mourn the victims. Thank God for heroes.

JERUSALEM — A 76-year-old professor who survived the Holocaust was shot to death while saving his students from the Virginia Tech assailant, students said.Liviu Librescu, an internationally respected aeronautics engineer who taught at Virginia Tech for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by barricading his classroom door before he was gunned down in the massacre, according to e-mail accounts sent by students to his wife."My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," his son, Joe Librescu, said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

The gunman, identified as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, an English major and native of South Korea, killed 32 people before committing suicide, officials said, in what was the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.On campus, students spoke of Librescu's bravery."He should be recognized as a hero," Virginia Tech graduate student Philip Huffstetler said. "We should be in such great debt to his family for the rest of our lives."


On April 17th I [Kevin Anthony Stoda] personnally learned via CNN News about the Virginia Tech massacre of 32 students--and others being left with physical and mental scars for life. I was traveling to Angkor Wat in Cambodia the day those horrible events happened on Holocaust Day.

In recognition and commemoration for these 32 victims in Virginia, I took a vow to shave my head for 32 days--not 33 days which would include the perpetrator with or among the victims.

I've shaved my head before for mourning and commemorative dates.Sadly most of these dates come in April each year. [April 19 commemorates the WACO catastrophe, Ruby Ridge shootings, and the OKC Bombing. April 20 is both Hitler's birthday and the date of the Colombine High School shooting massacre in Colorado.] For the victoms, the shaven head in concentration camps was a symbol of shame for men and women in Auschwitz and other Holocaust sites around Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

On the other hand, besides mourning as the prophet Job performed in shaving his head after he lost nearly all his family members through a devil inspired set of catastrophes in Biblical times, a lot of religions use the shaving of one's head as a marking a point of renewal in one's life.

In short, shaving one's head is a commitment or recommitment to faith.For example, Muslim males who go to Mecca for Haj or for Omra shave their heads. In turn, Buddhists--even females-- who become monks shave their heads.

I wish to both mourn the senseless murders and ask my country to consider a renewal of its heart, soul, and mind--especially concerning guns and the right to have them.I think it is time for Americans to reconsider the American Constitution and its wording or miswording on possession of weapons.

In this way, the Consitution can join American law officials in making the USA a safer place.Historically, I think America has been far too slow to revise its consitution at many junctions in its history. It was, for example, slow to ban slavery [ over 65 years] and even slower [over 130 years] to give women political voting rights.

Cognizant of these histories of shortcomings in our BELOVED CONSTITTUION, I think hunting guns should be permitted but more regulated than now.

Moreover, conerning the treatment of America's poor and isolated peoples , it is high time that universal health care--including MENTAL HEALTH CARE-- be made available to all citizens immediately.There is good reason to believe that if American law enforcement officials and its justices had overseen the mental health care of Cheong Song-Hui in the 2005-2007 period that this crazy and disturbed killer of 32 people at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg would never have committed those infamous acts or atrocities.

God help America improve in all these areas in 2007 and beyond!!!!


Friday, April 20, 2007

Shaven Head and Mourning from Cambodia to Virginia Tech

The connection to HOLOCAUST COMMEMORATION DAY and the Virginia Tech shooting massacre will be linked forever in some peoples hearts--because they will fall on the same day every year.

Fascinatingly, one Holocaust survivor was one of the heroes who died on April 16 protecting his classroom of students from death and horrors. His name was Liviu Librescu who was born in Romani but had lived in Jerusalem.

As teacher myself I honor and mourn the victims. Thank God for heroes.

JERUSALEM — A 76-year-old professor who survived the Holocaust was shot to death while saving his students from the Virginia Tech assailant, students said.
Liviu Librescu, an internationally respected aeronautics engineer who taught at Virginia Tech for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by barricading his classroom door before he was gunned down in the massacre, according to e-mail accounts sent by students to his wife.
"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," his son, Joe Librescu, said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

The gunman, identified as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, an English major and native of South Korea, killed 32 people before committing suicide, officials said, in what was the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

On campus, students spoke of Librescu's bravery.

"He should be recognized as a hero," Virginia Tech graduate student Philip Huffstetler said. "We should be in such great debt to his family for the rest of our lives."


On April 17th I [Kevin Anthony Stoda] personnally learned via CNN News about the Virginia Tech massacre of 32 students--and others being left with physical and mental scars for life. I was traveling to Angkor Wat in Cambodia the day those horrible events happened on Holocaust Day.

In recognition and commemoration for these 32 victims in Virginia, I took a vow to shave my head for 32 days--not 33 days which would include the perpetrator with or among the victims.

I've shaved my head before for mourning and commemorative dates.

Sadly most of these dates come in April each year. [April 19 commemorates the WACO catastrophe, Ruby Ridge shootings, and the OKC Bombing. April 20 is both Hitler's birthday and the date of the Colombine High School shooting massacre in Colorado.] For the victoms, the shaven head in concentration camps was a symbol of shame for men and women in Auschwitz and other Holocaust sites around Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

On the other hand, besides mourning as the prophet Job performed in shaving his head after he lost nearly all his family members through a devil inspired set of catastrophes in Biblical times, a lot of religions use the shaving of one's head as a marking a point of renewal in one's life. In short, shaving one's head is a commitment or recommitment to faith.

For example, Muslim males who go to Mecca for Haj or for Omra shave their heads. In turn, Buddhists--even females-- who become monks shave their heads.

I wish to both mourn the senseless murders and ask my country to consider a renewal of its heart, soul, and mind--especially concerning guns and the right to have them.

I think it is time for Americans to reconsider the American Constitution and its wording or miswording on possession of weapons. In this way, the Consittution can join American law officials in making the USA a safer place.

Historically, I think America has been far too slow to revise its consitution at many junctions in its history. It was, for example, slow to ban slavery [ over 65 years] and even slower [over 130 years] to give women political voting rights.

Cognizant of these histories of shortcomings in our BELOVED CONSTITTUION, I think hunting guns should be permitted but more regulated than now.

Moreover, conerning the treatment of America's poor and isolated peoples , it is high time that universal health care--including MENTAL HEALTH CARE-- be made available to all citizens immediately.

There is good reason to believe that if American law enforcement officials and its justices had overseen the mental health care of Cheong Song-Hui in the 2005-2007 period that this crazy and disturbed killer of 32 people at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg would never have committed those infamous acts or atrocities.

God help America improve in all these areas in 2007 and beyond!!!!


Thursday, April 19, 2007

THE LOSER SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT STRIKES AGAIN--Let's look at what all the other countries are learning from American Democracy & Lack of Good Leaders

The article below comes from an Indian news source. It is about Paul Wolfowitz refusing to resign from the world bank due to corruption.

Meanwhile Bush's buddy Roberto Gonzalez is refusing to resign, too. Before this we had Rumsfeld refuse to resign despite making war crimes.

Earlier still, we had Dick Cheney refuse to fall on his sword for holding meetings with energy companies in the White House prior to the catastrophic fule hikes of 2001-2004. (Recall that the General Accounting Office had demanded to see notes of those meetings and Cheney refused--setting a new precedent for brazenly manipulating fuel prices in the USA and around the globe.)

I am currently in Cambodia and with Paul Wolfowitz getting jobs for his grilfriend like he has been doing--the U.S. leadership is being criticized soundly. The local corrupt Cambodian leaders say how can anyone take the US seriously if its own leaders at the World Bank are so corrupt?

Now, recall that Paul Wolfowitz is the one NEO-CON who brought america the current iraq war and occupation. Don't my fellow Americans agree that it is about time to impeach the whole lot--George W., too, for lying and misconstruing truth leading to deaths of 1000s of Americans and almost a million refugeeds from Iraq in neighboring countries.

Here is the story from around the globe:

Development ministers from around the globe voiced ''great concern'' over World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz's handling of his girlfriend's promotion, but Wolfowitz said he intends to stay in his job. ''The current situation is of great concern to all of us,'' the top officials said in a communique issued after a meeting of the IMF-World Bank Development Committee. ''We have to ensure that the bank can effectively carry out its mandate and maintain its credibility and reputation as well as motivation of the staff,'' the ministers from World Bank member states said. In a news conference shortly after the Development Committee's tough words were released, Wolfowitz said he believed he could still effectively lead the poverty-fighting lender. ''This is important work and I intend to continue it.'' Top European officials were among those who expressed worry in closed-door sessions yesterday that Wolfowitz had tarnished the bank's reputation by helping to secure a high-paying promotion for his girlfriend, bank employee Shaha Riza. At the start of speeches to the Development Committee, ministers from Britain and Germany said the bank's reputation had been dented, sources told Reuters. Other sources monitoring the meeting said several other European countries also briefly addressed the issue, although they did not call outright for Wolfowitz to step down. The Netherlands, a large donor country, was among the chorus of nations wondering how the bank's credibility could be restored. ''We are critical but are awaiting development,'' William Lelieveldt, Dutch Treasury spokesman, told Reuters. Moral authority in question Staff and development activists accuse Wolfowitz of breaking bank rules in helping to arrange Riza's promotion before she was assigned to outside work at the State Department. They argue the institution's moral authority has been left in tatters, especially its authority to make countries who receive aid accountable for the money, a priority for Wolfowitz, who has ruffled feathers at the bank with a strong-arm anti-corruption push. The former No. 2 official at the Pentagon has apologized for his handling of Riza's promotion and has said he was advised by a World Bank ethics panel to assign her to a job outside the bank to avoid a conflict of interest. While his backers in the White House have come to his defense, large shareholders like Britain, Germany and France question whether he still has the credibility to lead the bank, which spends about 25 billion dollar a year on projects to fight poverty in developing countries. African ministers have expressed confidence in Wolfowitz and many World Bank member countries have cautioned against judging him until an examination by the bank's board wraps up. The board has said it will move quickly. Still, the scandal has stirred up lingering antagonism over Wolfowitz's appointment to the bank in mid-2005 by the US administration and bitterness over his role in the US invasion of Iraq while he was deputy defense secretary. In notes of a speech prepared for delivery to the Development Committee, Wolfowitz appealed to rich nations to deliver on aid promises and to keep the bank's own coffers stocked so it can keep lending to needy countries. ''We stand half way to the 2010 goal post for doubling aid to Africa compared with 2004,'' Wolfowitz said, as he outlined priority areas for the bank. But his appeal was clouded by the concerns of many of the bank's main donor countries, who are beginning year-long talks about replenishing the World Bank's main lending fund. Some insiders worry some donors could withhold funding to the bank's International Development Association if the scandal hampers Wolfowitz's ability to run the back.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Book Review of a Classic: THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH by Robert Coles and Daniel Berrigan

Book Review of a Classic: Daniel Berrigan and Robert Coles’:

By Kevin Anthony Stoda

I am writing this book review at a location on the planet Earth very remote from the America I grew up in. I am on the island called Gili Meno off the coast of Lombok, an island just east of Bali in the great Indonesian archipelago. Since the title of this religious-oriented peace activist classic, THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH, which I am reviewing refers to geography, it seems appropriate to travel so far to do the review.

Allow me to describe the island of Gili Meno a bit. It is one of three islands to the northeast of Lombok Island, where the people speak the language of Sasak. Nearly all residents are Muslim, but here are also practicing Hindus and Buddhists. As well, emigrated laborers from islands like Flores and Timor and tourists, such as myself, may at times represent Christianity on the island. As a matter of fact, today as I start to write, it is Easter Sunday 2007. I celebrated Good Friday on the Hindu island of Bali not two days back. Although La Pascua (Easter in Portuguese) is no big deal here on Meno Gili, the island’s quiet ambience provides time to reflect on what God has provided.

As in much of the rest of the world over the past decade, terrorism struck neighboring Bali twice in the past 5 years—hurting significantly its tourist business for the duration and causing fear of Muslim radicalism, which hardly existed otherwise in the region. Most Balinese blame the bombings on Islamist radical who came from outside the Indonesian archipelago. It should be noted that historically the Balinese Hindu culture had been relatively free to dominate the religious culture on both their island of Bali as well as on the island of Lombok until the 20th Century .

Only when the Dutch took over Bali and Lombok at the turn of the 20th century did Christians even get a foothold in Bali—and this was done despite official Dutch colonial policy and practices. The Dutch colonial government even rounded up several large Christian groups, mostly of Chinese Christian missionary heritage, and forced these Christian groups to relocate to unwanted jungle land in western Bali in the late 1930s, i.e. this policy was a form of Dutch ghettoization aimed at only Balinese Christians.

Meanwhile, Muslims had gotten toe holds in Bali and Lombok long before Christian missionaries did. For example, some seafaring Muslims, known as Bugis from the island of Salawesi, were hired as pirates and mercenaries to keep the various Balinese and Java Kingdoms in domination starting in the 17th century. I recently visited one such Muslim village, called Pengambangan, on the west coast of Bali. The town’s harbor displays traditionally colorful Bugi ships. Pengambangan was founded by Muslim sailors and pirates who settled not very far from where in the 20th Century the aforementioned Christian enclaves would be hollowed out from the jungle under Dutch auspices.

Earlier during my stay in Bali, I, myself, had visited a much newer evangelical church community, which had been planted by my own denomination in Denpasar less than a decade ago. The day I went to the fellowship was on Palm Sunday, 2007. I was told by churchmen there and by others around the island of Bali that the people of different faiths still get along together fairly well in this corner of the world despite the 2002 and 2004 Bali bombings of tourist locales. This is good news and a reminder to the rest of us growing wary of the 21st struggles or wars of ideas, cultures and religious convictions that have led to war and terror too often as of late

Returning again to the topic of the island of Meno Gili, I need to state that despite Dutch influence in the region, the island is not a namesake for the famous Dutch Anabaptist minister, Meno Simons, who had long since given his name to Mennonite Christians who have been seeking refuge and a new starts in life for nearly half a millenia—and whom have settled ubiquitously in South and North America over the past three or more centuries. The island’s name, Meno, means simply “small”. The word Gili in Sasak means “island”.

However, in terms of development policies on the island as practiced by local citizens here, there may be a connection in wisdom to the lifestyles as practiced by some Mennonite Amish in North America in terms of transportation and development. For example, as stewards of their islands, the governing leaders and residents on Gili Meno and its neighboring islands have determined not to permit any type of motor vehicles. Here, one either travels by foot, bicycle or on pony-drawn carriages, called “cidomo”.

In short, there is a proper restraint in making decisions related to development which is not present in many other parts of Southeast Asia. On the other hand, many individuals and guesthouses do maintain their own power generators, though. As well, boats to the island and between the islands are permitted to be powered by engines. Nonetheless, the island, Gili Meno, is not well lit with electricity. Therefore, all year long, the stars in the sky are as bright as on the Kansas prairie on a clear winter night.

Finally, it should be noted that the three islands, called Lombok’s Western Gilis, (of which Gili Meno is the one in the middle) are home to a great array of diving and snorkeling adventures and PADI training opportunities. There are reported to be over 3500 species of fish and plant life off the coast. This tourism interest in the islands, inspired by undersea wonders and nature, has recently enabled the westernmost island of the three Gilis to open a public high school on the region. Prior to this, all had to travel far to the mainland to complete their education.

Despite the healthy and idyllic living conditions here on the Gilis, life is naturally not so easy for the people who live in a tropical paradise. Besides historical under-education, there is a general lack of jobs here and in the northwester region of Lombok. Moreover, there are developmental stresses. For example, with the rise of tourism the local government has had to learn to make decisions related to how much water to import, how much development to allow, and what limits on tourism and construction need to be implemented.

The fact is that many of the locals live very simple lives--with not much in the way of modern education and technologies available to them and to their children. Many who open restaurants and try to cater to tourism are doing so only to finance education of their children, who often live several hours away with family or in boarding schools.

On the other hand, life certainly is healthy for raising a family here. Parents note that the sea, natural scenery, and sand provide more than enough fascination for most children. Crops, like tapioca, coconuts, watermelon, and even corn can be grown on the island. Popular sports, like badminton, are played any evening around the village. The three Gili islands are close enough from the mainland to import any seriously important objects within a half hour by boat.

I should note that of the three Gili islands, Meno Gili is not the party island of the three. Meno likes to see itself as the get-away place. There are no throbbing amplifiers here as one would find on the islands to the east or west of Meno Gili. Live music heard here in the night is likely to come from men and women strumming guitars or playing hand-made drums around a table under a thatched roof and singing in Sasak, Indonesia, English, Spanish, Japanese or in whatever language the locals or emigrants have learned a song two over the past few decades.

Finally, there is seldom a harsh word spoken here and people often see themselves as artists and peacemakers between their world and the wider world that comes to visit there. Newly emigrated business people always buy fish caught locally by fisherman on the island (instead of catching the fish themselves), so as not to interrupt the harmony within the community—providing deeper sense of roots of ownership or identity with those with whom they cohabitate this ecosphere.


Just a month or so back I reviewed the book, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS? Kansas is so geographically distant from the Gili islands where I am writing at the moment that I would have to take at least: (1) two horse-drawn carriage rides, (2) one puttering passenger boat passage, (3) an hour-long taxi ride to a distant airport through monkey country in Lombok to the town of Mataram, and (4)hop at least 4 planes or jets to get to my home state.

Nonetheless, there is a common thread between the content discussed in the classic book THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH, the currently popular WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS, and how I have come about writing this book review here in April 2007.

The connecting thread has to do with family as a unit and what it means to live out one’s faith as an individual in a way that faith is reflected in how we live out our lives. In short, the references to Geography in the title of Daniel Berrigan and Robert Coles book indicates that there needs to be a match between where we find ourselves geographically in our own faiths and how we are actually living out our lives and living out our faiths. This focus on geography of place in our times of faith has too often been ignored by more individualistic evangelists from whatever faith.

In contrast, in Frank’s book on Kansas peoples and faiths, we have seen that the relationship between family, individual faith and geography of a community of believers or non-believers has not always been ignored by many fundamentalists and conservative spin doctors. This is one reason that a reading of THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH dovetails so well with Thomas Frank’s book on the politics of modern Kansas. The focus on family has not only been an asset to rightwing fundamentalist-steered politics in America, it has also been a major success in mobilizing radical or extreme Islamist campaigns around the world historically.

In fact, in both corners of the Middle East and in Western nationalist religions, there is a tendency to enshrine family in one’s form of worship—which, on the one hand, leads to tribal violence in many parts of the globe, especially where family is defined at the tribal level in countries, like Jordan and Kuwait. Meanwhile, nationalist or nation-bound families around the globe can be observed determining to sacrifice their children and future resources on unending wars in the name of family, i.e. serving the nation as though it were equal to serving the family of God.

Appropriately, the new edition of THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH (2001) I am reviewing was issued just months before the fateful bombing of the World Train Center Buildings in New York City. Just that very spring 2001, coauthor Daniel Berrigan had been arrested as part of a protest against a major museum exhibitionin New York City promoting war history on a ship located in the harbor--not very far from where the horrible 9-11 events took place.

In his “Afterward” to this new edition of his 1970s classic, Berrigan sadly noted that since THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH was originally published, the U.S. had already bombed nearly 20 countries. Tragically, he added, “In not one of these targets has a government arisen respectful of human or civil rights.” Berrigan accurately defined the practice that America has yet to get over: this unacceptable practice of honor over logic leads in U.S. history consistently to the policy of: “If a tactic utterly fails, redouble it.”

Such failed thinking has dominated American leadership rhetoric for the duration of America as a country. These demagogues play up the image of the U.S.A. country as one big American family--whether the object or subject matter has to do with fighting poverty, cutting taxes to the rich, or making war.

This fantasized family image ignores or even throws out the realities of real American families. Whatever is done is simply done in the name of families but may not be even worthwhile for families. For example, within a short ten-year period America politicians will have spent 5 trillion dollars in America on defense and security related expenditures in order to make the American family and world safe after the 9-11 attacks—never once taking seriously the post-colonial conditions and bad policy practices of the past century.

Meanwhile, the debt of our American grandchildren is tripled and social security and Medicare are threatened by the spending spree to keep families in America free from terrorism and attack for a few short years.

At the international level America’s most expensive media and political spin-makers often only indicate in their analysis that the American family is considered worthy of rating or of major concern when bombs drop anywhere in the world— e.g. in Palestine, Iraq, Bali—only what happens in the U.S.A. is important. Any good analyzer of religious practices should be able to assess that such a focus on the American Family is simply an extended animistic family-worship or American ancestor worship.

In short, how can the so-called honor of nation (a nation, like America, that doesn’t want to lose another war or admit it did terribly stupid and horrible things) ever be more important to any individual on this planet than his own faith in God?

Nonetheless, as the authors, Coles and Berrigan, point out: Family trumps faith in too many people’s sense of geography. That was the way it was in the early 1970s when GEOGRAPHY was written and that is tragically the way the American family ideal functions now.


These issues of family and sense of self living geographically within and acting out our faith are among the issues that the priest Daniel Berrigan and the famous psychologist Robert Coles discuss in their GEOGRAPHY.

In a diabolical way, over the past three decades, I suppose the religious right and their conservative co-conspirators in America have taken quite a bit from Coles and Berrigans analyses within & concerning family, family identity & faith--along with other important metaphors laid out in this book. For example, Coles and Berrigan hav made references and discussions of these American typologies: (a) the angry American, (b) the isolated American, (b) the idealist, (c) the disgruntled, (d) the liberal, (e) the family man, (f) unhappy Americans like the Panthers or Weathermen who’d already turned to violence, and (g) different types of the so-called silent Americans.

Many of these silent Americans are often referred to by politicians but seldom do politicians actually have discussions with them. Dr. Coles, as a decades-long researcher and Pulitzer Prize winning writer concerning working class families in America, has talked to these silent Americans. Coles, therefore, has a lot of important things to say.

One of the most important points concerning the concept of geography and family is made when Coles shares of his long-time relationship with a Klu Klux Klan member and father. The man, off-the-cuff, admitted that had he been born anywhere in the world but the location he has been born and raised in Louisiana there was no doubt he’d be a different man and raising his family in faith and fellowship much differently.

Coles goes on to share that he noted the same geographic truth from his own experiences working throughout the South and North in the 1950s through 1970s, where he studied working class families, communities the protestors, and other residents there during that era of American transformation.

Besides geography being of such importance, Coles indicates that only time is as strong an influence on how someone actually lives his lives or raises his family. Nevertheless, it is the geographic make-up of the culture and perceived ideals and practices within a geographic setting which are most dominant. Coles explained that for many months in Louisiana he worked with those opposing and supporting integration. For example, he studied the protestors against integration of the New Orleans public schools and the children and families involved in the integration of those districts in the early part of the decade. Eight years later he observed the integration of Atlanta public schools. In contrast to his later experience in Atlanta studying the same phenomena, there were many protestors out in front of schools in New Orleans for months-on-end as police escorted black students to their schools. In Atlanta, nearly eight years later, almost no protests were visible

Why was there this difference?

Well, on the one hand, times had changed. What was acceptable in one time and place was no longer acceptable in another part of the south. However, when asked if he felt whether the people involved in the Atlanta and New Orleans transformations of public schools were different in character, belief and faith to any degree, Dr. Coles denied this.

Coles explained that the most important thing was that American South geography had changed. He stated that up until the early 1960s in the South certain behaviors were permitted and promoted in the name of law and order. Once the laws changed and the enforcement changed, people did not behave publicly as they did before the geographic transformation of what was expected of local citizenry.

Naturally, in Atlanta, there may have been even more economic reasons not to oppose immigration than in New Orleans. Nonetheless, Coles, who spent decades studying working class Americans in Boston and New York as well as in the South was not convinced that the Americans of one particular place or era were essentially different at heart.

Only the context in a certain place in time had changed. That was the only the factor that had allowed certain behaviors in New Orleans in early 1960s to be carried out, but not later in Atlanta. These behaviors included in Louisiana the permitting of adults to line up against, jeer at, and spit on children. By the end of the decade, concepts of what was acceptable had changed significantly—but mostly because enforcement of certain rules of law came into play first, not because hearts or belief systems had.


Unlike the French writer Herbert Marcuse who wrote so critically of American working class families, Dr. Coles spends a great deal of time in his discussions with Berrigan pointing out how amazed he is that working class Americans fight on so hard against a system that seems to distract them from faith,, personal values, and family.

On the other hand, he does agree with Marcuse and other French researchers on families who have noted that the modern nuclear family prevalent in U.S. imagery is a bourgeoisie creation dating back only a few hundred years. Nonetheless, it is this image and/or reality of family, which one must really take on seriously or get to know if one is to understand how America functions in the world.

For example, Dr. Coles states in response to a comment from Berrigan, “In certain respects as you say, the American family is now a consumer unit the likes of which the world has never seen; and the family certainly can become—here or maybe anywhere—a rallying ground for traditional forces. After all, as one becomes a family man one often does, as you said earlier, put aside political interests and instead make a series of adjustments, accommodations, compromises, arrangements, the sum of which sap one’s spirit. The result is less interest in protest, less effort to stay politically aware, less anger and outrage at the world’s injustices.” [p. 46]

In my opinion, the image makers of America’s past 4 decades, have found a way to package people’s faith in a bottle of conservative misrepresentations that leave the family system in America believing that the hard-working American family person has no choice but to try and survive by simply continuing to sacrifice itself to the post-industrial world of consumerism based on destructible and replaceable things—like military missiles and other expensive gadgets that cost 100 million dollars a pop.

However, this hasn’t always been in fact the case in America’s immediate post-Vietnam era, i.e. the years I came into manhood. For instance, in the late 1970s, I recall, Congress cutting off funding for both a B-1 Bomber and the neutron bomb. In other words, despite being the world’s biggest consumption unit, the American family could also think logically about great concepts, like global security, and economic waste associated with military gluttony. That is, when religionists and conservative manipulators didn’t distort the image of family and political party affiliation as has been the case for the most part of the period since the early 1970s in the USA.

Berrigan, unlike conservative political religionist Lou Dobb’s, often lives out his life in a way that imitates better what he preaches, what he says about family, and I how children should be raised. Berrigan notes, “I think it is very important to consider the relationship between the American Family and American Life in general. One of the things that many American children are denied is exposure to human variety—and then there is the fact that many of our children are taught to hate, not only so in homes, but by sheriffs, mayors, governors, and so up. Then, our children, so many of them, are taught to close the doors of their homes, barricade themselves from others and instead fill their own coffers with one purchase after another. I may be oversimplifying, but it does seem to me that, as the saying goes, we are what we eat, and that’s a cultural statement as well, which means that the kinds of families that have been ‘flourishing’ in this society for a hundred and fifty years, especially in the white middle classes, have become what they embraced: consumerism; militant self-interest; and wars to subdue ‘natives’, obtain international power, and control various governments.”[p.47]

In what they have observed, Berrigan and Coles have poignantly lain down the choices for family and for any individuals of faith at both an individual and a national level. More importantly, the fact is that America and its family members have had a choice since Vietnam to learn from our previous arrogance and wayward thinking, but as a society, the USA has chosen to march along the same path that took the country to Vietnam.

What stubbornness in raising a culture or a family!!!

We shouldn’t just tell children to apologize when they have wronged others. We need to do the same as a national family and repent of our errant ways. (Apologizing was one of the only good things that President Clinton ever did. He apologized so well for the sins of previous administrations in the U.S. had done, like undertaking nuclear and chemical testing on civilians and soldiers. Now, we have reverted to a Neanderthal family leader, George W. Bush, who no only fails to apologize and clean up his messes, but fails to get his underlings, like Cheney and Rumsfeld to do so in any timely manner.)

Repenting and turning from the errors of one’s ways is part of individual faith that needs to be lived out in families and states. I mean we need to live out our faiths geographically not just in one’s individual heart—as far too many evangelicals seem to believe.

What would the world be like if the German family or nation or peoples had decided not to learn from their errors after WWII!? The world would definitely be worse off—and yet Americans chose not to be quick to learn from the Vietnam era all the various lessons discussed by Berrigan in this book.

Berrigan also admonishes families in America: “I take it as crucial from the very beginning that the child have before him or her a wide variety of possibilities. The child should know well many kinds of people, not only the two people who have produced him or her; and exposure to what we might call many ‘models of manhood’ should continue right through, be present in the schools and playing fields and colleges.”[p.47]

What one would call this today is a good multicultural education. However, multiculturalism has been so much maligned by conservative and off-base evangelical spindoctors so much over the past two decades that very few Christians can see that multiculturalisms support in most of the USA was rooted in the increasing of proper family values. These well-rounded values were needed and advocated for America in the wake of the greatest military bungle of the USA’s 21st Century, i.e. the Vietnam War—a war that almost ripped the country in half. Further, multicultural education was part and parcel of a program to deepen t relations among American families and peoples of all faiths and religions, so that we could be more unified as a multicultural patchwork—not a fascist demagogic family that never admits errors nor grows up.

Coles points out that children need both potential male and female role models as well. The bottom line is that individual faith cannot grow without experience—variety brings experience. Faith if simply cocooned in the experience of the one individual is not enough to find growth. Only by interacting with families, societies and the greater world, can one’s faith become robust and not solely family tied or tied to a single individual’s heart.


I think that there are a great many facets of my own life that have provided good modeling for young people and young believers around the globe. Nonetheless, the fundamentalist hyper-focus on the family—whether it be from a Christian or Islamic perspective—ignores and denigrates me—much as has done to most individuals who have not been married nor raised children of their own.

For Christian practitioners of faith, this truth should be a fact of great shame. The apostle Paul never got married, and yet this ancient single is lifted up as a man in the know and has a served as an example for all of us. Further, Jesus Christ of Nazareth was also single.

Luckily, while I have been serving as a life-long educator during the past three decades on various continents around the globe, I have also come to understand that I have truly served as a positive role model for many others (including those of my faith or of other faiths) in many things that I do--or through how my faith is reflected in how I have been living my life.

Some of these acknowledgments have come through direct messages—through e-mails, letters, and thank you notes from students in Nicaragua, Malaysia and Mexico. In other ways, I have received direct unsolicited verbal praise from peers in my religious fellowship—often years after my time spent with someone has ended.

Nonetheless, in both Kansas and in greater America—an America that is focused on the family as the consumer black box of certain ideologies and belief systems--, I have not been often been welcomed by officials, school principals, and leaders—who should know better than they are revealing about what a GOOD ROLE MODEL should be.

A good role model should be able to support and change the path of another in a way that improves ones faith and one’s way of living, don’t you think?


Back in the early 1980s during my days as a Bethel College student in the Newton area of Kansas, I took a lot of time to do volunteer activities and to look out for others. I was one of the first to volunteer when President Reagan decided it was time to hand out the butter and cheese stockpiles to the working poor in Kansas. I was also one of the first huggers in the Special Olympics. Two years in a row, I shepherded a different set of little brothers all year as a Big Brother in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. I also served as a counselor for church youth out at Camp Mennoscah one summer.

However, by the time I returned to Kansas from living abroad in 1990, I discovered that much of my volunteerism related to being a good role model had been closed off to me.

What had occurred in Kansas?

Obviously, Kansas had become a less trusting and more insecure place. People didn’t trust outsiders to volunteer with their youth in many instances. Young male teachers, like myself, who tried to volunteer, to guide or mentor youth in the Big Brothers/Big Sister’s program were never given a call-back.

Worse still, if you tried to encourage young women in either their school endeavors or by complimenting them on their dress or clothes at a high school ball, you were likely to be called into the office by the local school principal and be told, “Don’t ever say anything to that girl again.”

Similarly, after my one full-year teaching in Great Bend High School in 1990-1991 (during the Gulf War), I quickly found myself practically blackballed from ever teaching in the state of Kansas again—despite the school principal’s, fellow instructor’s and board members’ at GBHS giving me good observation ratings numerous times over the year.

What had I done in Great Bend besides set high standards of achievement in the classroom?

Quite obviously, it was in the very realm of role-modeling for young America that I was clashing in the 1990s with society in Kansas to such a great degree. For example, as a Christian witness, educator, and role model, I felt I had to write a letter to the editor of the local paper that stated that the U.S.A. was spending to much on new prisons and not enough on education.

Moreover, as the first Gulf War was rolling near, I told staffers in my teacher’s lounge that I didn’t believe it to be right that Great Bend High School military recruiters were allowed to wander around the campus, confront, and meet with students in the cafeteria.

Finally, I showed anti-war films—often from the perspective of soldiers and children—such as ALL’S QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT in the month the U.S.-led coalition attacked Iraq in 1991. I also shared with my students a lot bout how different cultures behave and think. I also encouraged them to question and learn for the sake of learning, not always worrying about grades or standardized exams.

Several of those many students of mine at GBHS in Kansas let me know they thought I was a good role model and teacher. However, when my contract was not renewed—without cause--, I was forced to move on and look for another teaching job.

Similar sort of administrative shenanigans happened at the next (and last) school I taught at in Eudora, Kansas. (That was in 1991-1992.) This was at Eudora High School where I would routinely send students who used bad language, like saying “Fuck you” at me or another in class to the principal’s office. I wanted the boys to be talked to by the principal and their parents set straight about their rudeness and lack of respect.

Nearly a dozen times in a single semester, such students would return an hour later laughing and joking—the message was clear. The school office was not interested in being a good role model for me or my students.

In short, in the past three decades both Kansas and greater America have become very picky and choosy about who are allowed to be role models for its youth. With limited role modeling going on in schools, it seems little wonder that there is so much violence and mistrust in the American public and private school landscapes.

The bottom-line is that by narrowing local definitions of who good role-models are and how they behave, America has fallen short. Left with small numbers of options, these schools and states have not done a good job of picking or choosing role models for their youth.

Have churches and religious organizations done any better at getting good role models involved?

I am not certain about individual cases in America are but as a whole American Christians and religious leaders need to do better. I recall how after the 9-11 attacks in 2001, I had to walk out of church holding my ears one evening as one leader spoke stating that we all needed to see the events as 9-11 as rationale to follow our nation to a global war on terrorism starting in Afghanistan. (I wrote a note to that leader later about how I had felt abused by such a statement and he quietly never used such language in church again. In this action, I too served as a good role model—not confronting in front of the church my brother who was out of line but using a quiet approach to get him to rethink what he was saying and modeling to others.)

Churches and religious leaders must look into the matter or role models and faith--and demand more choice in America in terms of good role models—not some fictitious model imagined by one leader of FOCUS ON THE FAMILY--but a living breathing person acting out his faith and family values in the real world where faith and integrity are put to the test every day.


Dr. Coles wrote a book once on Simone Weil, a refugee from Germany, who almost converted to Christianity but rejected the authoritative form of baptism as practiced in the church institutions she had come to know in the UK. She died in 1943, and seems to have half-consciously starved herself (gone on a hunger strike or simply refused to eat) out of empathy for those who were suffering and dying under the heels of Fascism and Xenophobia in that time period.

Berrigan comments on Simone Weil, “She presents us with a fascinating puzzle. On the one hand, she was suspicious, as you have mentioned, of almost every possible political alignment or ideological position; and on the other hand, she demonstrated a very mysterious but organic or spiritual unity with others. It seems to me that she expresses in a rather exemplary way the struggle practically every modern person wages with alienation. I could say wages against alienation, but I mean with it, with the inescapable reality of it. We can be only so close to family or religion or culture. We can take only so much part of the continuing conflicts which go to make up history. . . . For her it was important to be a certain kind of exile; she was in England and yet she chose to die rather than to luxuriate in exile or rather than to use exile as an excuse for further alienation from her people, further spiritual distance from suffering.”

Berrigan was certainly in a sort of exile as he was being interviewed in THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH. At that very time, he was on the run from the law after being sentenced to numerous years of jail-time after burning draft cards.

I, however, also feel at times, exiled from the land of my birth as I try to live out an exemplary life of faith and struggle towards making the earth more just. Nonetheless, despite my sense of exile, over the last twenty-three years, I have returned to the U.S. to take up community, live out my faith and teach five times.

In the next year, I will likely turn myself again to the world of Kansas and/or to my homeland: the USA, I will try to return and make a difference while not falling into the mediocrity of faith that so many in my homeland seem to live their lives out in.

I will try to persuade Americans to raise their families to think about the bigger pictures of the geography of living faith than the realm of their material consumption and habitation. For this reason, I have recently bought time-share property on Gili Meno Island here in Indonesia. I am hoping to be able to tell my Congressman Ted Tiahart in Kansas and the powerful U.S. Senators there that Global Climate Change is affecting my property as well as our whole planet. I will ask them to please do something to get America to better manage climate change and to stop thinking primarily in terms of how the world should spin around America and American consumption needs.

Good Night from Southeast Asia!!

Kevin Anthony Stoda