Wednesday, April 30, 2008

J Matthew Sleeth, MD: His Thoughts for and on Christians

The following article is includes a set of comments, observations, and thought's shared by J Matthew Sleeth, MD, who has written on the need for Christians to act now. With Earth Days passing and with the costs of America's wars destroying a lot of natural infrastructure around the world, I encourage Christians to read this important piece and pass it on to their friends and family.

That is, I am doing this with the strong hope and very intention of seeing recommendations implemented in ours lives immediately and in the future.
Kevin Stoda

Can Americans Prevent Future Katrina’s?

A Christian Call to Action

By J Matthew Sleeth, MD

Hurricane Katrina has come, and raged, and passed. Our nation faces a moment as crucial as July 4, 1776, December 7, 1941, or September 11, 2001. We are at a crossroads and have vitally important decisions to make. As a physician, evangelical Christian, and environmental lecturer and writer, I would like to explore the events that led up to where we are and the roads that lie ahead.

On November 2, PBS will air a documentary filmed over the past two years and produced by Stonehaven Productions and South Carolina ETV. Global Warming: The Signs and the Science predicts with chilling accuracy the sinking of New Orleans. But that is not all. Because of constantly rising sea levels and dramatic increases in air and water temperature, scientists predict more frequent and more intense severe weather. This will place population centers such as Miami, New York, London, and Baltimore at similar risk for storm surges and flooding. Vast areas of the American Southwest will simultaneously experience drought.

The majority of climate scientists and meteorologists worldwide agree that global warming is a fact, not a theory. Still, there are a few who say there is no problem, or that the problem needs more study. As a physician, I cannot help but think back to those few scientists who for decades declared that there was no connection between cigarette smoking and disease. We can see for ourselves that cities are consistently warmer than nearby rural areas, and 80 percent of our population lives in greater metropolitan areas. We burn trillions of gallons of fossil fuels yearly and we are cutting down the world’s forests. Riding in a plane, we can see the extent of mankind’s reworking of the planet. From the air and from the ground, an ominous haze hangs overhead. Denial of the obvious is as old as Adam, yet no less dangerous today.

In general we are not good at reading obvious signs. We live on Chestnut or Elm Street and do not question why the elms and chestnuts are extinct. We live in Caribou, Maine, but the caribou are no more. We demand homes and golf courses in places formerly named Dry Gulch or Death Valley. We fear drinking the water or eating the fish from nearby lakes and streams because they contain dioxin and mercury. We may deny these signs and our connection to the natural world, but that does not mean they are not real. I can pull from my bookshelf two editions of the same medical textbook published only 22 years apart (the 13th and 17th printings of the Merck Manual). The earlier edition says that a woman’s risk of breast cancer is 1 in 15. The recent one says it is 1 in 8. A correct response to this medical fact is not to build more cancer treatment centers, just as the right response to global warming is not to buy everyone an air conditioner. It is time to think long-term. It is time to talk about diverting disasters and preventing diseases.

No one, scientist or otherwise, can say exactly which hurricanes, droughts, or floods are caused by global warming. Yet some of them are, and there will continue to be more. Rarely can science say which chemical, toxin, hormone, or food additive caused a particular cancer or other disease. Yet the links are well established. Conversely, if we as a country or as individuals make changes to lower our use of natural resources, we cannot point to the exact life that might be saved. We must do what is right for the future based on faith and trust. Faith and trust are not always synonymous with government or business. Answers and leadership in these areas must come from those who possess a moral compass—people who are able to read signs and make appropriate changes.

Increasingly, evangelical leaders such as the Reverends Richard Cizik, Jim Ball, and Rick Warren are calling believers to stop business as usual and to change their lifestyles as needed. They ask that we take individual responsibility for the care of the planet. The Bible declares that the earth is the Lord’s and that everything living belongs to Him (Psalm 24). When we read the Bible, we find that God likes—even loves—trees and flowers and whales. He takes note at the falling of the smallest sparrow. How can we as believers claim to love God and yet be oblivious or destructive to what He loves?

The Bible says that God created the earth to provide for all of humanity’s needs. It was not given to one or two generations of us to be exploited for our every want and whim. If we do not change our ways, our ways will be changed for us, and it will not be pleasant. All existing models predict that if we continue business as usual, we can expect dozens and dozens of Katrina-like events every decade.

Through His teachings and parables, Jesus stressed care not for the rich, powerful, politically connected, or famous, but rather for the most humble and lowly. By definition, no one is more powerless or dependent than today’s youth or those yet to be born. In order to save their planet, we will have to make changes. We cannot wait on governments to force us to do what is right. We must begin today.

Driving an average SUV puts six tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually; a small hybrid gives off one and one-half tons, and biking gives off none. Drying clothing in an electric dryer for a family of four makes one ton of greenhouse gases annually, while line drying gives off none. The U.S. Government’s Energy Star website says that if every family in America changed just five light bulbs to compact fluorescents, we could shut down twenty-one coal powered plants tomorrow; this would have the same effect as taking eight million cars off the road. It would prevent an estimated two thousand respiratory and other related deaths annually.

America does not suffer from what one cynical writer called "compassion fatigue." We will give our money, clothing, time, and homes to Katrina’s victims. What we must decide now is whether we have the courage and wisdom to make the changes needed to clean up our planet and halt global warming. Every time we drive less, carpool, turn off the lights, or move to a smaller home, we invest in the future of all creatures great and small, not to mention our own children. With God all things are possible.

Dr. Sleeth is author of SERVE GOD, SAVE THE PLANET.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Almontaser Case & the Fact that Many in Education Have to Fall on their Sword or Take Dives for Bad Leadership

The Almontaser Case & the Fact that Many in Education Have to Fall on their Sword or Take Dives for Bad Leadership

By Kevin A. Stoda, in a kind of exile: Kuwait

This week Democracy Now ran an important interview, “Ousted NYC Arabic School Principal Debbie Almontaser Speaks Out on the New McCarthyism & Rightwing Media Attacks.” Debbie Almontaser was the founding principal of the Khalhil Gibran School, which opened as the first Arab language school in the New York City School System last September.

However, just weeks prior to starting this school, the good principal--who had worked diligently to build the schools new program, hired new staff, and had developed its recruitment—was forced into resigning or seeing the whole program and school canceled in 2007.

As any mother would sacrifice her welfare for her baby, Almontaser agreed to resign in late August.

In opening this news program on the Almontaser case, Amy Goodman explained, “Last August, just weeks before fall classes were set to begin, Debbie Almontaser was forced out as the founding principal of New York City’s first public Arabic-language school. At issue were Almontaser’s comments in the New York Post when she explained the use of the word ‘intifada,’ or ‘uprising.’ The Post had questioned Almontaser, because the word ‘intifada’ appeared on a T-shirt of a women’s organization that sometimes used the offices of a community group where she was a board member. The T-shirt had nothing to do with her school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, but Almontaser came under rightwing criticism for not denouncing the use of the word ‘intifada’ on the T-shirt. She stepped down days later.”

Soon, a segment was played of a NYC councilman supporting Almontaser’s case and who voiced this opinion, “There’s no reason why this sister shouldn’t be the head of a school that she started, she founded, she gave life to. This is absurd. This is xenophobia. This is racism. This is disrespectful. And we are standing here today solidly behind her to say that not only should she be considered, she is the most qualified, the best qualified and should be put in that position immediately. Immediately.”

Al-Montaser, herself, notes: “The school is a secular school. It has absolutely nothing to do with religion. And unfortunately, the rightwing groups began to spin the school as a religious school. The school is a secular school offering the New York City curriculum and meeting the state and city’s standards that all New York City public schools are mandated to, you know, meet. And it was a school that was going to be teaching Arabic as a second language, as many other schools do across the city, across the country, and provide students with a better understanding of Arab culture and history. As you may know, anyone who seeks to learn a foreign language, to be effective and proficient in that language, they need to know and understand the cultural nuances and the history of the people to use the language effectively without offending the natives of that language.”

As I was reminded of the Almontaser case, I thought to myself, “How often does it happen that a teacher or educator must fall on his (or her) sword because administrators and school lawyers are about as weak-kneed as most any of our nation’s politicians & Supreme Court justices when it comes to doing the right thing?”


I recall my first full-time high school teaching experience in western Kansas in 1990-1991. As fate would have it, the very month I started teaching at Great Bend High School was August 1990, i.e. the very month that Iraq had invaded Kuwait.

I was very proud to be taking over the German program at a high school that had built a wonderful school-to-school exchange-program--involving dozens of students and families in Germany and Barton County, Kansas in the 1980s. Great Bend city had even created a partner city relationship with where Great Bend high school had created its relationship with a private high school in Villengen-Schwenningen (situated in the Black Forest region of Germany) four years earlier.

In March of 1991, the partner school (and nearly 2 dozen high school students) from the sister city in Villengen-Schwenningen was expected to visit our school in Kansas. Three months later we were to take our youth from Kansas to their school for three weeks.

Meanwhile, as September, October and November 1990 came along, the drumbeats of the Allied Coalition’s (led by the USA) War in the Persian Gulf were already being heard in every corner of the United States.

As the Great Bend High School was situated directly across from the National Guard building, all students and teacher were aware that some of the parents and older siblings of our students were being sent to Saudi Arabia to prepare for the January 1991 war with Iraq. The whole National Guard base had been emptied and moved to Saudi within a few weeks.

By late September 1991, I had slowly begun to open my mouth upon entering the faculty lounge stating, “I don’t like the revolving door this high school has for army and military recruiters.”

In the four or five short-weeks I had been teaching at Great Bend, I had observed not only military recruiters wandering about in the hallways, but I had seen them eating lunch with numerous students in the cafeteria several different days—all this with a great war looming on the horizon!

I was incensed at this blind-way of mis-educating youth to think that joining the military was either (1) their only chance in the future or (2) was their only opportunity to serve the nation.

To make a long story short, it is clear that the principal of the school did not like what I had to say.

Moreover, a month later when I tried to encourage some of my students to learn something about the many pacifist German language (Mennonite) speakers who had made Kansas great, the principal got onto me for promoting my alma mater, i.e. Bethel College.

Over the next weeks, I took an alternative tact. I began to write public education letters to the editor in the local and regional newspapers in response to the U.S.A.’s overspending on weaponry and war in the previous decade. I also noted that education need to be emphasized more than prisons in America.

In school, I encouraged students to read books like, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, THE WAVE, and other books by German authors translated into English.
Moreover, I showed films like the classic 1930 version of All’s Quiet on the Western Front, The Bridge (Die Bruecke), and several works made into film by Hienrich Boll and Gunther Grass, including the anti-war classic, The Tin Drum.

In the midst of this, the Gulf War to free Kuwait began.

By the end of February 1991, the fighting by the USA would largely be over in Kuwait. However, in early February—and without even talking to me or my partner school principal in the Black Forest community in Germany—my high school principal unilaterally canceled the large German-American exchange program for the year.

That principal, who had been a marine in his younger years, had simply decided to cancel the exchange program, based upon an unidentified fear of war-time travel—or so he said. I soon came to believe that the principal wanted the German program and the German exchange program to collapse with me apparently holding responsibility for its failure.

The bottom-line for me, in early February, as an educator was that I should have been asked to give my input into the decision to cancel—as should my German cohort.
In the meantime, that same principal told me that my contract would not be renewed for the 1991-1992 school year. He stated some blatant innuendos and lies about me but in the non-renewal letter there was no-cause given for non-renewal.

It is typical in the USA that a teacher or professor can have their contract non-renewed in the first and second year with no cause given.

However, I took my case to the county teacher’s union. Sadly, I was told that until I was tenured I didn’t have much of a chance of beating the non-renewal in court.
This was not entirely true, as the school district was soon in the midst of a major hiring and firing scandal that Spring and practically all teachers were automatically renewed due to the fiasco.

In the meantime, I fell on my sword and did not try to raise Cain with the many disappointed parents and students who had had their trip to Germany--and visa versa-- canceled.

I knew they would have been outraged had they known that the principal had not taken anyone’s advice nor even called Germany before canceling that trip.

In short, here was one time in the past 20 years when those young Americans from the Midwest could have come face-to-face with Germans their age—i.e. who had a completely different understanding and education about war and peace-making than our American youth generally receive--but they were cut off from face-to-face contact in the midst of a war out by the combination of (a) one principal’s fears of travel and (b) his ongoing decision to have me replaced as head of the German program in the coming year.

My decision to not protest publicly that non-renewal and to finally simply go with the flow that Spring was based primarily on my desire to make sure that the Villengen-Schwenningen (Germany) and Great Bend High School (Kansas) continued in subsequent years.

Therefore, I worked hard in March and April to make certain that even more students were signed up to take German the year than I had taught the year I had arrived. In this, I was successful.

[Note: Only by May was it clear that if I had protested in March 1991, I may have had the parental and community support to override the principal’s desire to not renew my teaching German at Great Bend high that subsequent year.]

In any case, I am able to say, as Debbie Almontaser has done so eloquently in her interviews concerning her case against the NYC school system, that (whether I like it or not) I was a pawn educator—simply trying to do my job in the realm of school- and community education. However, when the winds of war and prejudice against alternative world views swept across the Kansas plains in 1991, I had it just as hard as Ms. Almontaser did.


I could share at least three other such similar stories from my own 25-year teaching career, but I would like to encourage readers and educators to share their own support for Debbie Almontaser (and her case) below—as well as to share stories from your own educational and learning experiences where good teachers have had to take the fall for administrators.

We need to shine the light on how pervasively this occurs in schools and universities in America and around the globe.

We also need to lift up good educators around the globe and encourage them not to give up.




Die Bruecke (The Bridge),

“BROADCAST EXCLUSIVE…Ousted NYC Arabic School Principal Debbie Almontaser Speaks Out on the New McCarthyism & Rightwing Media Attacks”,

Ende Einer Dienstfahrt,

Gulf War: The German Resistance,

The Tin Drum (1979),


Friday, April 25, 2008

Can we really learn on line well enough? Here is my test-run taking an online class with the University of Kansas on How to Teach East Asia to youth?

This is an article that sets out to demonstrate how far on-line learning has come in terms of teaching an instructor half-way around the planet what the important points of East Asian education and learning should be in creating curricula in the 21st Century.

[1] What challenges and advantages does the geographical location of China offer its inhabitants in each of its nine regions? Consider topography, climate, vegetation and resources.

As far as the potential for international trade is concerned, China has the largest number of neighboring countries in the world. It borders (1) Afghanistan, (2) Bhutan , (3) Burma, (4) India, (5) Kazakhstan, (6) North Korea, (7) Kyrgyzstan, (8) Laos, (9) Mongolia, (10) Nepal, (11) Pakistan, (12) Russia, (13) Tajikistan, and (14) Vietnam. It also has regional borders with its own Hong Kong and Macau. Finally, it is only stones throw from three other states of economical power: South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

By comparison, Kuwait has only two bordering states—as does the United States, my homeland.

Potentially, despite its huge internal market of over 1.2 billion people, China’s many borders provide it with an even larger external market in Asia (alone). Meanwhile, as China is located just across the Pacific Ocean from the United States, its currently greatest trading partnerships are with North American lands.
Another set of ways to look at China geographically, though, is provided in Nancy Hope’s lecture. She looks first at the three major waterways of China and how they have defined China’s history and development. These rivers are: in the north , the Yellow River (Huang He in Chinese), in the central part of China, the Long River (called the Yanzi River in English or Chang Jiang in Chinese), and in the south, the West River (Xi Jiang in Chinese).

Living and teaching in Kuwait, i.e. where there are no rivers nor major productive areas of vegetation, it is important to stress that the heart of great civilizations began at rivers—whether we are talking about the Nile, the Thames, or the great rivers of Asia.

One can look at the three largest rivers in China historically, i.e. as this part of Asia’s fertile crescent.

Or, one can view them by focusing on their characteristics or differences. For example, the Yellow River carries extremely high levels of sediment which enables it to become extended further and further out to sea with each passing generation. The body of water is named “yellow” because of the color of the sediment it brings—making for fertile crops but also for a lot of surprising floods, waters, and changes in river pathways.

Another major water pathway is the man-made Grand Canal which connects the Huang He and Yanzi Rivers. Along with the Grand Canal’s 1000-miles of waterway are the amazing man- made terraces, which enable rice production from south to north. (A further--non-water way-- marvel is naturally the Great Wall of China.)

Karen Hope notes that another way to study geography is by viewing the types of crops grown—from the potatoes and wheat in the north to the rice in the south (which can be planted at least twice a year). Meanwhile, in the Northeast by Korea soybeans and corn are grown as well. In contrast, in the great Northwest, there is mostly only pasture land.

China is slightly larger than the United States, but it has 17 minority populations (with their own languages). Each of these is of 1.2 million (or more) in population, so China is not as homogeneous in many regions as its fame implies.

There are, for example, over 5 million Tibetan speakers in the Southwest near India—while on the Mongolian border in the north, there are nearly that same number of Mongolian speakers in China. Likewise in the south, there are many Chinese who were expelled from Vietnam in the last quarter of a century. There are also nearly 9 million Hui and Manchu in China—along with nearly 16 million Zhuang.

Karen Hope notes that both housing and topography are also important ways to view China. Personally, I was particularly fascinated by the number of cave dwellers and underground houses in the Loesse Plateau region.

Meanwhile, there are small redbrick houses on the great North China plains. There are also mammoth megalopolises of people across the border from Hong Kong and Macau. There mammoth skyscrapers in Shanghai and other fast modernizing locatins in China.

Other regions of special note include the productive and fruitful Szechwan Basin. In addition, there are the boat peoples of the Yanzi river and the thatched housing of the Uplands in the south. Tibet, in the midst of Himalayan mountains, has the higher plateaus, yak, and a special brand of Buddhism. There is also the Manchuria region, with its great forests, which Hope describes as very Russian-like.

China has a lot of natural resources but is not very plentiful in oil. Moreover, it is already currently important a great percentage of world’s resources, e.g. steel, gas, and copper, to propel its booming economic growth.

Many rivers are thus also polluted, and the fact that more and more coal fire plants and chemical factories are still being opened means that China’s great natural resources and beauty are under threat, especially in the East where the greatest amount of industrialization has taken place.

[2]Why should the study of China, Korea, and Japan include a discussion of rice?

First of all, at one level, the study of rice in a rice-growing region is as important for creating both socio-cultural and political-economic awareness about Asia as is educating our offspring about the

(1) importance of food to an entire economy,
(2) the importance of growing grains to stave off-famine worldwide
(See ),
(3) the importance of agriculture—especially wheat—to Kansas history.
Second, and more importantly, as Dr. Tsutsui emphasized, looking at the different political and social agricultural-related demands of a rice growing society as compared & contrasted to a European or North America society over the past 7-plus centuries, one cannot miss the important difference in requirements of:

(a) time (b) organization and (c) overall manpower needs, which have dominated food production in Asia until the last decade or so of the 20th Century.

For example, until recently, despite the population explosions of the 20th Century, much of Asia was able to employ almost all of its people in the agricultural sector—even when economic times were bad.

Until recent times, this enabled China and Japanese societies, to (i) weigh the benefits of manual versus machine labor in favor of manual labor well into the 20th Century.

In the West, this process of preferring efficiency over employment had certainly begun at the very latest in the late Middle with the dividing up (and selling off) of the commons in England. This, in turn, had led to Britain becoming industrialized earlier than other parts of the globe.

Meanwhile, as Dr. Tsutsui has pointed out, rice production has always required more hands than, for example, wheat production. This was true in ancient Egypt and is still true in modern Egypt. Rice cultivation from the outset has required flooding and draining of plots and terraces of land. The climate and monsoons in Asia has long made this grain or crop the staple of choice.

This preference for rice, in turn, reinforced political organization around autocracies, i.e. governments led by strong characters who oversaw the usage of land and redistribution of labor in times of harvest, planting, and drainage. This has led to a societal preference into the 21st Century for this sort of governance in Asia, i.e. a government that provided stability in lieu of simple direct democracy as the basic communal relationship.

China was one of the first societies to be based on the rice crop economy and is still a society organized in this way. That is, China is still affected by these traditional views on governance, societal organization, and individual rights today.

Dr. Tsuisui also mentioned the Luddite-like response to machines of all types in 20th Century China in one of his lectures. This indicates that many Chinese opposed the development of modern train transport, due to fears of job loss. That is, in the name of stability or a sense of stability, Chinese are willing to give up rights and self-government or autonomy.

[3]What are the significant accomplishments of the Shang dynasty; were any of them continued in later eras?

The Shang dynasty was once considered to be a mythical dynasty as no strong evidence of its actual existence was discovered until the 20th Century. It is now considered the first of the three Ancient Chinese Dynasties. The dynasty existed from the 18th Century B.C. to the 11th Century B.C.

Although there were some wealthy peoples and kings, the Shang Dynasty consisted mostly of subsistence society and subsistence activities. However, from the this first generation of China society onwards, China was an autocratic society—with the king also having a strong religious role to play as the peoples representative before the Gods.

Some recent discoveries in ancient artwork have shown that more than one regional center of power existed during the Shang Dynasty, including Dayangzhou and Sanxingdui, south of the Yangzi River in Jiangxi province. One website shares that “Dayangzhou produced a large burial chamber filled with hundreds of ceramics, bronzes (both weapons and vessels), and jades. Some of the bronzes could be related to types found at Erligang, but others, such as the meat-cooking vessels and bronze bells, were unique to Dayangzhou. Dayangzhou was also distinctive for its use of human heads, ram heads, deer, and especially tigers in design.”

Sinologists claim that the king must have been politically and economically quite powerful as well. For example, a bronze age was introduced early on in the history of China and a large number of laborers must have been needed for the diverse mining of ore activities. This bronze was used in ceremonial activities and the mining likely included a vast number of slaves or serfs.

In addition, besides animal sacrifices, it is felt also that human sacrifices likely took place in these early years of Ancient Chinese Civilization. So, like the emperor in the Incan or Aztec societies in the Americas, great fear and respect must have been found among both the friends and the enemies of the Chinese in the days of the Shang for the Chinese king.

Besides running mines and producing bronze goods, other pieces of developmental history evidencing that the autocrats in China had a great deal of authority over most inhabitants is in the area of textile production and rice production. As noted above, rice is the type of grain or main staple which requires great human coordination through (1) terrace building, (2) filling and emptying of water among the terraces, (1) the planting and replanting of seedlings, and (4) the harvesting of the crop.

Similarly, China was one of the first places in the world—circa 10,000 years ago—which had established silk production. This production of cloth requires great attention by many individuals in (1) maintaining good conditions for the silk worms in production and in (2) producing of large quantities of cloth from thread, i.e. by hand weaving.

Silk eventually spawned a pan-Eurasia trade route some centuries later, known as the Silk Route. Silk was produced into modern times. I, personally, still paint on silk produced in China.

In summary, both (1) rice growing and (2) silk production are still important in modern China today. Bronze artwork continued in China to be very important through the introduction of Buddhism, i.e. ceremonial bronze Buddhist statues and bronze bells would eventually be produced in practically every corner of the land during the ensuing millennia(, but bonze production is limited today in modern China.) In short, it is the many bronze vessels that allows us in modern times to appreciate the power of the Shang era autocrats. However, one doesn’t expect such large bronze items coming out of modern China from major Chinese artists in the 21st Century.

In the areas of religious practices in the Chinese Shang Dynasty, fortune telling was considered a key staple. It is through the discovery of the discarded scapula bones written on by high priests and leaders that we know a bit about what society in the Shang Dynasty was like. These scapula were written on by the priests as form of prayer to be brought before the gods for clarification.

This means that the writing system became interconnected with royalty and religion in China to a great degree. This means that during the Shang period and later dynasties in china, writing was for the privileged and the powerful. Writing remained in this social position for millennia.

This means that it is only in the last generations that millions (or billions) of Chinese can read and write in their own language.

One might, therefore, posit that the complexity of the current Chinese system of symbols in used in writing Chinese is a direct result of this millennial-long preference by the autocrats and leaders of China for secretiveness.

That is, this use of some 50,000 pictographs, which take on different meanings through radicalization and contexts, is part of the way the Chinese society’s leadership have engineered a sense of aura or mystery among its people (and among foreigners). Only the elite, who had time to study, could read, translate, and transcribe the data hidden to millions of other Chinese and foreign (or outsider) eyes.


Several times during the twentieth century, the Chinese considered replacing characters with an alphabet

Several times during the twentieth century, the Chinese considered replacing characters with an alphabet

Dr. Bill Tsutusi of the University of Kansas has stated that “we should note something about writing. From the start writing was associated with the emperor and the power of the state, because writing was used in the ritual function of scapulimancy to talk to the gods, and only the super elite in society could do that. Writing was not necessarily democratic. Writing was not—as was the case in other parts of the world—related particularly to commerce or to trade. Writing was political and only secondarily religious. As we look at Chinese history, we'll talk about why commerce and economic development have tended not to be the driving force in Chinese history. Rather, thought, philosophy, and government have tended to be the driving forces. From the beginning something as important as the writing system was already tied in with political administration, with government, with the emperor.”—Dr. Bill Tsutusi

As a historian, the very idea of getting rid of Chinese symbols seems as absurd as getting rid of Japanese, i.e. another places where people had also pressed for elimination of Chinese and other symbols in the 19th and mid-20th century was in the land of “the Rising Sun”.

So much of the culture, history, and nuances of the language and culture of China would have disappeared from the world (or gone into hiding) if the Chinese leadership had ended the society’s historic affinity for its stylized set of 50,000 hieroglyphics (pictographs).

On the other hand, I have lived in Japan and have studied Japanese. It would certainly have facilitated me in learning, speaking, and reading Japanese if the whole written set of Japanese alphabets—including Kanji or Chinese symbols—had been sidelined during and after the U.S. occupation of that land.

Nonetheless, so much of what makes Japan peculiarly Asian would have also become somewhat invisible (or more transparent). Moreover, it would have made teaching and working with the Japanese a bit more confusing. For example, if one has the Chinese symbols on hand, one knows the root and radicals for certain words.

Even if one doesn’t comprehend the pronunciation, one can still read or interpret ideas, commands, and actions based upon the symbols--and based upon what one knows about these symbols and the process of reading radicals. Further, idioms, puns and word games with symbols and language would be inherently less playful in Japan or China without these symbols.

Reading through the history of Romanization in China in the Wikipedia website,
one discovers how other languages have had influence on the systemization of Chinese symbols in its earliest years. For example, Buddhism over 2000 years ago brought Indian scholars to codify and translate or transfer pronunciation and word concepts from the sub-continent to the Imperial Cities of China. New symbols were incorporated into the system in this way.

In turn, the Chinese brought their own symbols to both the Koreas and to Japan in subsequent centuries—along with Buddhism.
In short, symbols can be affected by cross-cultural observation, research, and intercultural practices.

Likewise, Korea has reasserted its own alphabet over Chinese and Japanese ones in recent decades--with little to no problems. Moreover, a country like Vietnam has adopted Romanization and seems to function quite well. That is, people still fall in love, write poetry, communicate in, and record history while using Romanized language systems.

So, perhaps China could eventually give up its cumbersome system. The system is definitely not fair to students who can’t memorize as well as others can. The system is also inherently pro-Chinese and in a world where cross-cultural communication is at a premium in the marketplaces of business and knowledge, Chinese (and Japanese) load the system against those who are weak in understanding Chinese symbols. I.e. a lot of translation and trust that the translator is accurate and trustworthy are prerequisites for many doing business in China.

Nonetheless, China and the world would be at a loss without such symbols—and a common ability to read them by hundreds of millions (or even billions) of people today.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Part 2 and 3: Why Study East Asia in all Schools from Kuwait to the USA these days?

(2) Discuss the quantity and quality of the materials about East Asia currently used in your school.

As I teach in Kuwait in a bilingual school based on the American form of education, there is a dearth of material here on East Asia. Surprisingly, there are a few children’s books in the school library with characters from Asia—but mostly India and Iran.

We have internet and all students are required to take one or two hours of computer related activities each week, so we can potentially look at different parts of the world through the media of the internet. However, currently study of nations around the globe are not even partially integrated in this way.

In contrast, the American company Houghton-Mifflin, does provide websites and suggested websites for its textbook HORIZON, which does partially integrate Asia into their coursework. I have e-mailed this Houghton-Mifflin HORIZON link to the students of mine who have e-mail, so that they can peruse or try out the activities at home. (Some parents in Kuwait don’t allow there children at home to use the internet nor e-mails, so I cannot assign the websites for all students in 6th grade to do.)

The HORIZON textbook by Houghton-Mifflin is targeted towards both 5th and 6th grade classrooms. It does have surprisingly a lot on Asia in the second chapter, which focuses on the 15th and early 16th century North and South America. The first lesson in that chapter talks about the Silk Route and how the closing off of that route around 1453, i.e. as the Turkish forces took over Constantinople, led to the age of discovery for western Europeans.

Moreover, China’s age of discovery, led by Admiral Zheng He, in that same15th century is also discussed. The textbook also notes that soon after that era of Zheng He, China again went into a period of isolation limiting contact and trade with foreigners outside of Asia.

In late May, I am hoping to trial run a short teacher created unit on China with the 6th grade, using what I am gaining from this course EALC course.

(3) Why are primary sources an important teaching tool? How have you used them in your classroom in the past? How do you see yourself using them in the future?

My B.A. degree at Bethel College in Kansas in 1985 was in “History and the Social Sciences”, so I am quite comfortable with primary resources and have conducted oral interviews and historical interviews over the years as well as undertook research using them.

While teaching German in Great Bend, KS I received a mini-grant in 1991 to put together a slide program for students on the “German Speaking Settlers of Barton County”. For this, I also took photos and conducted oral interviews. Therefore, I find it no stretch to do the same with my students.

In fast changing Kuwait, it is clearly important to be able to talk with youth about how the way life used to be, i.e. prior to Oil in the 1950s, and compare it to life now—as well as to encourage them to make predictions about the future. We contrast family relationships, economy, and other practices. The students gather there authentic information by talking with their grandparents and other elders.

Note: It was only 4 generations ago that the main fame of Kuwait was trading, pearling, and shipping. Kuwait was affected adversely by the culturing of pearls in the 1920s. Through the 1940s many Kuwaiti males hired themselves out as sailors on ships to Africa, India and all the way to Singapore. There are (reprinted) photographs galore from these eras to share--as well as testimonies of those who lived in those days. In short, primary sources and interviews are quite motivating for Kuwaiti students.

As far as my own paraphernalia is concerned, I bring photos and photo albums of my trips around the world. I hang dozens of 8 x 11 prints on the wall around the classroom. These are photos of my trips around the world. I hang them around in order to motivate my students to be curious and to ask questions about places around the world---perhaps inspiring students to travel to places, like East Asia, some day.

In the future, I will be coordinator of the social studies program in this bilingual school. I am hoping to create a global studies curriculum and persuade those who are teaching computers to implement internet research, i.e. using authentic materials, for students looking up material on different cultures and nation states. The students will also do written and oral presentations on these countries and cultures. Since there are many embassies here, I will also ask students to contact some of the 50 embassies to gather more authentic material.


(1) Why should knowledge of East Asia be part of the twenty-first century curriculum?

TIME TO STUDY EAST ASIA, WORLD: Why should knowledge of East Asia be part of the twenty-first century curriculum?

Just as during WWII--when every child in my own father’s tiny school in rural Genoa, Illinois was expected to be shown maps of the globe on a daily basis in order to find out where the events in the Great War of that day were taking place--American youth must be shown and educated in school & on a daily basis where the major events around the world are occurring.

In addition, the youth of America must also be given the background & past cultural-historical information to predict, identify, & handle future events (and trends) that are likely to affect them as well. With the fast growth in Asia’s economic influence on the world in the last 40 years, East Asia is an important place to start.

I, myself, taught in Japan from 1992-1994 through the JET program and worked in high schools there. Therefore, on the one hand, I know that lack of awareness of the globe around us may be certainly be found in parts of Asia--just as it is in the USA. However, on the other hand, the JET program—as the world’s largest teacher exchange program--, showed us how forward thinking a country can be in empowering local communities to operate better in a cross-cultural situations over time.

The aforementioned WWII-era educational experience of my father’s, i.e. in “world literacy education” in primary school, can be contrasted with what was prevalent in American elementary, junior highs, and high schools in the 1980s and 1990s as schools sought to keep up with the new testing standard trends mandated in their various states. (Moreover, at the personal level, I had been taught Latin American culture & geography a decade earlier in Wentzville, Missouri in the 6th grade and African studies was integrated with my American history education in the 5th grade. So, the low expectations of the 1980s can also be contrasted with my own personal primary educational experience.)

Due to my father’s global awareness training and through creative social studies curricula tried out on my 5th (African culture and geography) and 6th (Latin America and the Caribbean) grades while I grew up in Missouri in the early 1970s, I could comprehend that there was a growing & grave disconnect in America long-before 2000 arrived. Although the Cold-War era was over, I felt that something bad was on the horizon for America and Americans if it didn’t become more culturally savvy.

As the events of September 11, 2001 occurred, I was teaching students from 25 different nations at the Intensive English Language Program at Texas A & M University. The events of that day once again affected directly my job prospects as a university ESL instructor in America—as enrollment of foreign students, especially from the Middle East sky dived. In short, I—and other Americans—are affected by what is occurring in other parts of our small planet. This should be reason enough to fill our minds with world literacy & cultural education.


Over the years, my late father, Ronald John Stoda, shared his educational experiences during and after WWII with me again and again.

He had clarified that his elementary teachers talked about where the U.S. forces were active each day in each corner of the world throughout that war. Those teachers brought the newspaper to class and talked about life in Southeast Asia, China & Japan, the geography of northern Africa, the politics of Europe and Russia throughout WWII.

As Asia makes up the majority of the world’s current population and its global market places, it is essential to see that Asia needs to be placed in front of our students on an almost daily basis. East Asia is a good place to start in this as the sun rises there and our news comes from there long before we wake up each day. In addition, more migrants from China and companies from Japan and South Korea or Taiwan are interested in the USA than most of us can imagine. We need to be interested in them, too, as they move here—and integrate ourselves towards each other better.

My father was so impressed with his elementary school “literacy in world education” that instead of going off to college upon graduation from high school, he saved up his money over 3 years and then at the age of 21 took an around the world tour in 1957—i.e. the year the USSR sent Sputnik up.

Dad landed in Japan at the end of that around-the-world tour. He traveled from Tokyo on a train through Hiroshima on to the famous village of Iwakuni, Japan to visit a high school classmate of his stationed on a marine base there—i.e. near the famous wooden bridge of Iwakuni. On his way, he read John Hershey’s book HIROSHIMA.

In short, my dad modeled a lifelong fascination with global cultures. He wanted younger Americans to have such an experience. These experiences of my father connected me to the world at a young age—through him showing slides. Without a doubt, this is why I became a history and social studies instructor.

However, my father indicated time-and-again that learning was a life-long endeavor. He read voraciously 7000 books by the time he had passed away. He said I would need to change my jobs as economic and global forces came along. He impressed this upon me in my high school years.

In the wake of 9-11 and in the wake of another economic downturn with high unemployment in the USA, Americans need to become empowered educationally. Foreign language education is one way. International cultural literacy is the other way.

One obvious concern of a global natures is global warming.

The global climate reduction regime is still quite synonymous with the Kyoto Framework on Global Warming. Having lived in Japan, I was quite pleased that Japan took such a strong posture on this global problem while, at the same time, I have been quite dismayed that American Senators were so ill-informed on how the U.S., China, and India needed to be brought on board.

This very awareness that the heating atmosphere which we all share ends only 6 to 7 miles up should impress upon us all the realization that we need to be more concerned at a multinational level about certain global matters. Getting-to-know states around the globe rather than vilifying them should be the focus of this new century—whether we are talking about Japan, North Korea, China, Russia, or somewhere in Arabia.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DEAR PROGRESSIVES, Should I Change my Name to “GENERAL” in Order to Be Elected President???

DEAR PROGRESSIVES, Should I Change my Name to “GENERAL” in Order to Be Elected President???

By Kevin Stoda, On-Line candidate for Democrats and Republicans for the US Presidency in 2008

As many of you recall, I have been running an on-line experiment.

That is, I am running for President of the United States (and several other offices, like Senator from Kansas) on-line. The experiment is to see how many votes I can receive without spending a dime (or penny). I will simply push the envelope.

Since terrible Tuesday is over in Pennsylvania, I thought I would stand up and remind the front runners—That’s right: You, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton!!!!!!!—that I’m still running, whether your cronies in the remaining primary states put me on the ballot or not.

(Don’t turn your heads, I might be gaining on you.) Here is the beginning of my platform.

First of all, I want all Americans to have a single-payer system for health insurance in 2009. This would only be partially socialized—as most doctors and hospitals would be private. (Why not, since we have socialized banks and fully socialized military contractors.)

Second, I want a peace dividend in 2009 and onwards to be used to transform America’s energy and transportation sectors. That means a transportation system of fast trains, trains that can load cars and trucks in less than 5 minutes, and solar and wind power pumping away like never before.

I’d also like that peace dividend used to build hospitals and promote jobs in the USA—not just overseas and in Iraq or Afghanistan as is the U.S. government strategy currently.

Third, I want food security and clean water for everyone—in the USA and abroad.

Fourth, I want to get the judicial system and legislation system into appropriate balance with the executive branch. (We can’t keep letting the derriere to run the whole train.) That is, the buck doesn’t stop at the White House currently; it is blindly and stupidly paid forward and takes money out of the poorest homeowners and homeless’s pockets. This is a constitutional issue of great emergency status. This may involve the arrest of current officials, but let justice be served.

Fifth, I want the environment to be better supported—even if it means transferring billions from homeland security and DOD to parks and waterways around the globe. Also, I would get China to join the USA in fighting increases in Greenhouse gases by explaining to the Chinese that it is within great Chinese Daoist tradition that harmony be created between doing business and nature.

I would support all kinds of technological transfers to get China and India on board. Business partnerships in creating non-petroleum based energy creation is a key and employable plan.

Sixth, I want foreign languages to be required in all states and in the elementary and secondary levels, so we all can keep up with the global economy. (Much of the literature in Arabic still takes, for example, a decade to be translated well into English. The same goes for Mandarin and Japanese or Korean. How can we use our personal suasion to change the bad U.S. economic situation in the long term if we have to wait for translators or depend on foreign translators 100% of the time.)

In the last 50-60 years, we saw billions and trillions of dollars of cash and gold leave the USA to go abroad because American business was clueless about certain foreign markets and cultural phenomena. A peace dividend would be used to promote young Americans becoming proficient in three or more languages.

Knowledge is a key America!!!!!

Finally, I want more scholarships for hardworking students, and I want cheaper higher education for all. I want good schools and better learning everywhere—but not by simply making tests and praying they bring about change and accountability.

NOTE: I am open to more suggestions. Add your own comment below!


I was listening to Tuesday’s Democracy Now’s (DN) review of the Pentagon’s puppetry scandals at CNN and other TV news sources over the past 6 years.

That is, the Pentagon and Bush-Cheney White House purposefully had talking points written up for dozens and dozens of former generals and officers to spend 2002 and early 2003 drumming a Gobles-style march of America into war in Iraq.

This report was noted in a New York Times article last Sunday, but DN and FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) have reported this fact for years.

The strategy of the White House and Pentagon was simple: (1) Make war on Afghanistan and (2) hint loudly that the news stations needed to have more weapons and war experts on call to narrate present and future battles and wars!!!

This vicious circle has continued in this way: (3) These same paid former generals and other military types encouraged the country to go to war, or they directly dazzled viewers with war images while those pundits spoke.

An alternative to continuing this high level of feeding between Pentagon, ex-Pentagon, and News Sources was as follows: (4) Have the war in Iraq followed by a Civil War, so that even more former military officers could get jobs on the tube and other media fronts worldwide.

What a wonderful war- and money-making concept, eh?

In the meantime, CNN and other news sources will continuously refuse to employ and pay pro-Peace Americans. This is why silence was sickening in the run-up to the war and in the case of many public issue campaigns on the war-costs to American’s physically, financially, and psychologically.

All this is explained at:
There is audio for that article, “Pentagon Pundits: A Look at the Defense Department’s Propaganda Program”, demonstrating the past 11 years of research on the continuing black-washing of American peace voices occurring since prior to the U.S.’s war in Kosovo.

Meanwhile Pentagon and TV spinners continue to manipulate Americans and are paid by our tax-payer supported executive branch. That is, they all continued misleading the American public despite the fact that the U.S. government told its Pentagon public relations people, etc. in 2003, “We actually don’t have hard evidence right now that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.” Did any of them go on the air and say that? No. The Pentagon, I think, had total control and total faith that these guys would deliver the message that they intended to deliver to the public, and that’s exactly what they did, and the media did very little to counteract this overwhelming propaganda campaign from the Pentagon.

Finally, “Should I change my name to ‘General’ in order to get my views recognized by the press in America????”

In short, within this context and crisis in media and governance whereby the USA news corporations and their drones, like Aaron Brown of CNN, worship and pay (financially and with respect) ex-military personnel to such a degree that they don’t question them, i.e. they behave like parishioners in a church, synagogue, or mosque who don’t question the minister or priest at a pulpit.

This all should be illegal—and I suggest making it illegal for military personnel to lobby for (or be hired by) media and private military-dependent concerns for 5 or more years after they leave the military.

However, in the meantime, I believe that in order to win the presidency and to gain air time for a progressive Republican and Democratic 2009 victory I should change my name.

What do you suggest?


Perhaps thousands and thousands of other progressives should change their first name to GENERAL, too.

Perhaps, then we could get the respect in American and World media we deserve, . . . couldn’t we?

As I am not allowed to officially change my name—as during this online reality contest, I am not allowed to personally spend a dime--, you can call me “General” if you want—as long as you do it with respect and adoration like CNN and Murdoch’s babies give to those other generals.


Palermo, Joseph, “The Pentagon’s ‘Message Force Multipliers’ in Run-Up to Iraq Invasion”,

“Pentagon Pundits: A Look at the Defense Department’s Propaganda Program”,

Stoda, Kevin, “DAY 2 OF THE CAMPAIGN IN IOWA This writing is sort of a letter to Republican Unionists and Republican Iowa Progressives”,


Stoda, Kevin, “OBVIOUS REASONS that Kansans Need to Sack Republican Senator Pat Roberts in 2008”,



Sunday, April 20, 2008

From Kuwait Elections for Parliament to American primaries—a Landscape of News, Self-Censorship, Non-sense, and the Outrageous—along with Governments

From Kuwait Elections for Parliament to American primaries—a Landscape of News, Self-Censorship, Non-sense, and the Outrageous—along with Governments & Societies Needing Reform

By Kevin Stoda in Kuwait, the on-line opponent to John McCain and others

After watching the U.S. media make a fuss about Barack Obama’s bad bowling this past week, it was refreshing to read some of Kuwait’s daily English papers this last weekend.

That is to say--despite some self-censorship and occasional official censorship in this Gulf state, all three daily English newspapers do a better job of reporting a wider spectrum of local and international news and view than over 75 to 85 percent of the various U.S. papers I have ever read.

One article that stands out in the midst of Kuwait’s national parliamentary election season was a well-written and critical diatribe from a Kuwait Times editorialist who took on the national government for recently creating an apartheid-like law in the past month, whereby a non-Kuwaiti can be kicked out of the country for driving through a red light.


The politically timely editorial by Abdallah Al-Otaibi was entitled “Red Light: A Nightmare that Haunts Expats”. It appeared in the April 20, 2008 Kuwait Times. The article was targeted at both Kuwaiti citizenry and to the government in support of the 67% of the population who don’t hold Kuwait citizenship. The article was in response to an event last week, whereby a Syrian citizen was deported from Kuwait for running a red light.

As far as anyone in Kuwait can tell this new law was passed and implemented by the Kuwaiti government after the Emir of Kuwait closed down the National Assembly in mid-March and called for new national parliamentary elections, now set for the 17th of May.

Worse still, according to some disapproving security personnel, overzealous Kuwait Ministry of the Interior (MOI) personnel implemented that law and exported the first violator of the new law 72 hours “before the new rule should have taken effect”.

Two days ago, a report in the Friday Times shared, “A senior Kuwait security official defended yesterday the deportation of foreigners who may run red traffic lights as a legal right of the interior ministry.”

Maj. Gen. Thabet Al-Mahanna, assistant undersecretary of the Interior Ministry for Traffic, based his claim on “Article 17 of the law 17 for 1959 as to foreigners’ residency, the interior minister can deport any foreigners as long as this serves public interest or security”.

The rationale for the change in practices is also based on a request from Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khalid Al-Sabah to oversee that “necessary measures” are “to be taken in order to oblige citizens and foreigners to observe traffic rules by means of imposing strict penalties.”

One major obviously unanswered question by the MOI statements is how deporting only foreigners for traffic violations will stop the majority of Kuwaiti national drivers from breaking the law with impunity. In short, it simply reeks of xenophobia or racism.

This is where the Kuwait Times editorialist, Abdallah Al-Otaibi, entered the fray with a bold article this Sunday aimed at the government, which had closed down the National Assembly--only to begin to implement such draconian laws or procedures in the interim.

Al-Otaibi intoned, “If the Interior Ministry seeks to deter violators, it must target Kuwaitis first. They flout most of the laws, be it traffic or otherwise. It is time to stop singling out peaceful expatriates, who are already intimidated by the law. [Moreover] Looks like traffic accidents will increase at intersections because expatriates will be extremely cautious while slowing down, especially at traffic lights.”

Without noting one obvious fact, namely that already in the past three years the Kuwaiti ministries have more than twice created increasingly stronger (anti-lower class and anti-foreigner) apartheid-like rules in Kuwait concerning access to driving license for foreigners by first stating in 2005 that one needed to earn 850 dollars-a-month to obtain a license and raising it again this year to over 1300 dollars a month, Al-Otaibi tells readers tongue and cheek:

“As solution to the [road safety] problem, we propose that the Interior Ministry suspend all expatriate driver’s licenses. It should provide mass public transport system to commute them to their work places. One condition, though, the drivers should be Kuwaitis.”

Note: The irony in Al-Otaibi’s punch-line “condition” is that some Kuwaiti kids--as young as 5 or 6 years of age—are regularly given charge of foreign born drivers to traverse the city in at their convenience. Meanwhile, many other Kuwaiti families’s find the roadways now so dangerous, i.e. with so many other Kuwaitis driving about at 200km with impunity, that they themselves have had to hire foreign drivers.

The only Kuwaiti drivers I know who drive for others are the aging retirees of past generations who drive some of the large metal-plated taxi cabs at the airport—which charge 25% more than other taxis. In short, the idea of Kuwaitis driving professionally for others is not in the cards for the future generation of Kuwaitis currently.

Al-Otaibi also takes opportunity to compare the current new practices in Kuwait for deporting foreigner to laws in Apartheid South Africa and Idi Amin’s Uganda.

He also adds, “It is similar to the situation in Israel now. It does not allow Palestinians to use roads earmarked for Israeli settlers.”

Al-Otaibi points out what a sudden shock it must be to the poor and suddenly expelled expats and their family.

Noting that it is likely a major breadwinner in the family who can afford to drive a car in any case, Al-Otaibi adds, “The new rule is akin to passing a death sentence for the entire family. It ruins every human being’s ambition regardless of creed or gender. It is the violation of the equality principle that exists between the citizen and the expatriate and above all, contradicts Islam.”

Turning to the national and international issues, Al-Otaibi charges, “The above mentioned law not only violates human rights, it contradicts with Kuwait’s Constitution which guarantees litigation for all citizens and expats. It also robs the right to a fair trial in accordance with international principles.”

The bottom-line, Al-Otaibi asks,: “Doesn’t Kuwait enjoy enough notoriety with regard to human rights violations?”

Finally, Al-Otaibi lets it be known that this particular law and its bungled and unfair implementation is not the fault of the people of Kuwait--but the fault of the government of Kuwait during this interim period, i.e. between dismissal in March 2008 of the parliament and the new elections set for mid-May. Al-Otaibi points out that in the international arena the people and legislature are demeaned by the ruling leadership for being immature, but in fact it is the government that is at fault here.


After reading this hard charging editorial in the midst of national elections I have to seriously ask:

Why couldn’t the USA media have shouted the following in loud voice in at least one-third of the nation’s newspapers during the week after the Patriot was passed in October 2001? “The above mentioned law not only violates human rights, it contradicts with the USA Constitution which guarantees litigation for all citizens and expats. It also robs the right to a fair trial in accordance with international principles.”

Instead 1200 foreigners were arrested within weeks in late 2001 and others were expelled without trial or sent overseas for torture .

As well, why can’t the USA media have become so upset with our executive and legislative branches over the past 8 years that 1/3 of the country’s media sources responsibly join the national call and movement to impeach President George W. Bush and Cheney for crimes of all sorts? i.e.“Doesn’t America enjoy enough notoriety with regard to human rights violations?”

Let’s stop putting up with mediocre and incompetent press in America today.

Surely, Americans can expect better than Kuwaiti’s can. After all, Kuwait still has official government censorship within its ministries and state..

Meanwhile, let’s stop self-censorship of the American media and press in 2008!

Blog everyone until all the Walls fall down!!!!!!!!


Al-Otaibi, Abdallah, “Red Light: A Nightmare that Haunts Expats” (April 20, 2008) Kuwait Times, p. 4.

“History of the Patriot Act”,

“Kuwaiti official defends foreigner deportation”, (April 18, 2008) Friday Times, p.70.

“Syrian deported for running red light”, (April 18, 2008) Friday Times, p.3.

Thomma, Steven, “Hillary leads in Pennsylvania, including among bowlers, gun owners”,


Saturday, April 12, 2008



By Kevin Anthony Stoda

On April 1, 2008 the AWARE Center in Surra, Kuwait hosted a “diwaniya” (i.e. a meeting) which focused on the evolving tribal system in Kuwait and its current impact on Kuwaiti society. The presenter that evening was anthropologist Dr. Mohammed Al-Haddad of Kuwait University, who has published extensively on the phenomena of tribalism for many decades. The presentation and subsequent discussion was considered fairly timely as tribalism significantly effects all Kuwaiti elections, and national elections for the country’s National Assembly are to be held on the 17th of May. (The Emir of Kuwait had closed the parliament down and had called for new elections two weeks earlier.)

Within days of the parliament being closed down, tribes, tribal politicians and other local kingmakers were already holding illegal gatherings to determine who would run and who would win. In this way, these tribal political figures function as a cartel group in the five Kuwaiti governates, ensuring tribal—rather than civil—dominance of the popular election of officials in one of the two wealthiest countries on the planet.

This time around, though, the Kuwaiti government has been playing tougher than usual with the tribes and tribesmen and has actually arrested several tribal leaders who have openly broken Kuwaiti election laws. This led to tribesmen, who over several days had witnessed arrests of their members and leadership, to confront violently the government’s criminal investigators on March 26, 2008—i.e. with the hopes of freeing the tribesmen. (There was another such violent confrontation yesterday evening.)

With all of this recent focus on tribes and tribalism, a very large Kuwait audience overfilled the diwaniya hall at the AWARE Center on April 1, 2008, in order to learn the basics on tribalism in Kuwait from a renowned expert in the field.


The anthropologist, Dr. Muhammed Al-Haddad, sees “tribalism” as a descriptive term to identify a certain kind of social group. In this social group kinship principles are dominant and thus rule behavior and much of the interpersonal interaction. In this case of “a tribe as a social group”, blood brotherhood (or relationship by birth) is the key to the relationship among members of the tribal group.

In short, genealogical origin dominates the relationships. This genealogical relationship is the basic rationale for the identity of individuals in the group. Such as situation is common in other parts of the world, from Iraq to Sudan to Somalia or Nigeria and Kenya—where bitter fighting has taken place in recent years among tribes. However, in Kuwait such violence has not been the case in general.

Tribal identity is a transnational phenomena in the Arab Gulf region, which is to be expected as these tribal genealogical groups are founded on Bedouin movements and traditions dating back millennia. This is still the case, even though tribes, such as the Kuwaiti ruling family, i.e. the al-Sabah tribe, basically had settled in what is Kuwait over 240 years ago and haven’t been generally observed as Bedouins since that time.

Likewise, mercantile classes include other tribes in Kuwait. This mercantile class of tribesmen have been since subsumed under the title of “urbans”—which other Kuwait tribesmen use to identify (with somewhat disdain) these more cosmopolitan Kuwaiti peoples. In short, every Kuwaiti citizen ostensibly belongs to one tribe or another, but the “urbans” prefer not to be associated in the minds of others as tribesmen.


In this introductory speech on tribes in Kuwait, Dr. Al-Haddad asked the following questions: (1) Has “tribalization” weakened in Kuwait in recent times? (2) What has the Kuwaiti government done to weaken tribalism? (3) What has tribalism done for Kuwait? (4) What has happened to tribalism in terms of integration into Kuwait?

Dr. Al-Haddad noted that there are other definitions of tribe than the anthropological one he prefers to use. Other concepts of tribe include the idea of equating “nomads with the word tribe”. Other definitions claim that “tribes are Bedouin” or “Bedouins as equivalent to tribe”.

However, Dr. Al-Haddad notes that in Kuwait these definitional entities are in no way equal to each other in the 21st century version of tribalism in Kuwait.

Today, as a matter of fact, most of Gulf Arab tribalism from Iraq to Kuwait to Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE (and most of Saudi Arabia and beyond) do not reflect traditional concepts of nomadic life . That is, as tribes emerged from the desert, Dr. Al-Haddad notes, they left nomadism behind.

On the other hand, Dr. Al-Haddad emphasizes, “The best social organization to arise in the desert is tribalism.” When the tribes of the Arabian peninsula emerged from the desert and left their nomadic practices and way of life behind, the social structure of tribalism remained. That is, they brought the rules of behavior of group to the more urban world they finally settled and have adapted to.

In Kuwait today, tribalism is notable only by the individual’s preferred self-identification, “I am from ‘A’ tribe.” Or “I have a genealogical identification in common with others in Tribe ‘A’.” Blood brotherhood means related by birth and identity comes from one’s tribal heritage.

Naturally, other definitions of tribe in anthropology involve a group’s:

-feelings of unity,
-awareness of belonging
-consciousness of being of one like kind
-common language
-common religion
-common dress
-common enforcement of leadership and administration.

However, the traditional descriptions preferred by most anthropologists are not, as Dr. Al-Haddad re-emphasized, is often not practicable in Kuwait. For example, there are few language distinctions and few clothing differences among the some 40 or 50 tribes in Kuwait today.

Moreover, the traditional Sunni and Shia distinctions found throughout the Arab world are not particularly relevant to tribes—both in reference to tribes existing across borders or even within some of the Gulf states, like Iraq and Kuwait. For example, one tribe in Kuwait may be Sunni while their cousins across the border in Iraq are perhaps predominantly Shia.

One other definition common in social research in referring to tribes historically which is not applicable to the dozens of tribes in Kuwait includes the “concept of territorial contiguity”. E.g., whereas in a few parts of Kuwait, certain tribes are scattered in specific areas, such as in Jahra area and in Ahmady governate, other tribes are found scattered throughout the urbanized landscape of more metropolitan Kuwait.

This is why, Dr. Al-Haddad notes, it is likely that tribes may come to win every single seat in the country’s coming parliamentary elections, despite the presence of numerous non-aligned (non-tribal) urban candidates running for office in May 2008. Moreover, they will succeed despite the fact that the Emir and government of Kuwait are trying desperately to reduce the influence of tribalism on politics, economy, and society of Kuwait.

In a sense, the most straight forward and omnipresent manifestation of a tribe in Kuwait is the political organization of a tribe.

Regardless of which township a tribe member lives in or regardless of where he or she is working, the head of the tribe will be making the decisions. These tribal leaders are the ones, for example, who call together the current illegal meetings, primaries, and elections the population of Kuwait are observing this month.

In many of these meetings tribes are acting clearly as though they were a political party—even thought the Kuwaiti constitution has outlawed such political organizations since the country’s inception in 1962. These tribes also organize election primaries which are alos fixed—this process is also against the law.

Many tribes even join together, as political combines across the planet do, and have attempted insure again in 2008 that no women will win a seat in parliament.


Unlike in parts of tribal Africa and Asia, Kuwaiti tribal adjustment to ever changing and globalizing environments has almost always taken place almost entirely in an urban environment—although many tribes do hold meetings (or diwaniyas) under tents on occasion.

However, more similar to gypsies in religious tradition, Kuwaiti tribes as a whole are historically less religious–or at least less openly devoutly religious—than are some other parts of the Arab world. This is reflective of their nomadic ancestry where concept of God and one’s relationship to God were more personal—i.e. taking place in the desert under open skies rather than under a mosque or in a large open city square with large numbers of others all around them.

Therefore, many tribal customs and traditions are wrapped up in their individual and group religious identities.

On the other hand, the peoples of the desert were also originally more generous and until recent years this had been reflected in the character of many tribes that one visited in Kuwait. (Ask the average ex-pat in Kuwait in 2008 whether this generosity is evident, and most would say they were unaware of a tradition of great generosity reminiscent of nomad communities.)

According to Dr. Al-Haddad, it is apparently also not so clear these days as to how to be quickly able to distinguish one tribe from another. As noted above, very few tribesmen demonstrate clothing differences which had been used in days of old to be the norm in the desert areas when wandering centuries ago.

That is why, for example, when a man from Tribe “A” enters a government building and seeks preferential treatment from a fellow tribesman, he may be not able to identify the tribesmen who will bend-over-backwards to help him.

Dr. Al-Haddad shared an event he once observed in a large busy office one day a few years back: “A member from Tribe ‘A’ entered through the doorway and scanned the room. After a while of standing in a line, the man moved to the center of the room and shouted loudly, ‘Who here working is from Tribe A?” There was silence as all people looked around at the audacity of the man. However, a few moments later, a man in a far corner waived the man over and identified himself as a member of Tribe ‘A’. That clerk took the fellow tribesman’s paperwork and promised to do everything—fill out every form—for the audacious tribesman.”

Dr. Al-Haddad stated, “The tribesman who works in that office must help his fellow tribesmen or he will find himself ostracized in his own family group.”

It is such a role which tribalism plays in Kuwait today. It is fairly destructive to any attempts to level the playing field for all and to improve how the country functions economically, politically, socially, educationally, and developmentally.

Tribalism and traditional practices has left modern Kuwait encased in a state of bureaucratic and social backwardness at a time when national unity is required, esp. as wars and rumors of war sound from short distances away.


Meanwhile, if a tribesmen desires to be a tribal leader, he needs to be doing the following:

(1) not violate tribal custom, i.e. help out another tribesman when asked
(2) demonstrate oneself to be of strong character
(3) be affluent economically or socially
(4) have good connections with the ruling family.

Inspiring leaders are thus observed overtime within the tribe and legitimacy is earned. So, seldom are there any major surprises in the transition from one leader to another within a tribe. (However, some tribes are more freely democratic than others. Some also intentionally rotate their leaders on an annual basis.)

This emphasis on “the leadership principle” reveals itself by the fact that many boys in school will focus on doing what they can to become seen as a leader at a very young age. This leads to the leader-inspiring youth to neglect studies for social duties undertaken to serve others in the social group.


At its independence in 1961, tribalism and Kuwait were much different than today. At that time there were only about 100,000 Kuwaitis and almost none of them had a tribal affiliation directly related to their name.

That is, only in the 1950s and 1960s had a new and important phenomena begun of renaming oneself and family by tribe had occurred.

Until then many more names were used among the various tribal members to identify themselves, their parentage, and their ancestral bloodline. However, with the oil boom and modernization of Kuwait in the 1950s, the government began issuing new birth certificates and passports.

Suddenly, tribal peoples in Kuwait determined to change their name on their paperwork to reflect their tribal affiliation. Many invited their distant relatives from across the Arabian peninsula to join the Kuwaitis in their oil-boon blessings

Meanwhile, although no state would ever intentional plant tribes or the seeds of tribalism, the Kuwait royal family and government in the 1960s indirectly encouraged tribalism to offset the power of the traditionally politically powerful urban elite of Kuwait.

Now, the country has nearly a million Kuwaitis—with tribal politics dominating the country—while urban development and economic are left in disarray.

For example, up until the 1960s and 1970s Kuwait was seen in the Gulf world as avante gard in creating a constitution and civil liberties unparalleled in the region. Nowadays, Kuwait is well behind some of the other Gulf states in political economic development—e.g. only allowing women to vote for the first time two years ago.

The problem is that the tribal leaders wanted to be in the government and wanted to be in the cabinet of ministers. This wasn’t the case in 1965 when tribal resettlement was first quietly & actively encourage to offset the liberal tendencies of urban-oriented politics & trends in Kuwait in those heady post-Independence days.

Naturally, this misjudgment by the Emir and governing elite in the 1960s has led to constant stalemates and bad governance in Kuwait over the intervening years. Tribal reality is sometimes perceived here to supersede the role of the state in too many aspects of Kuwaiti life.

Dr. Al-Haddad ended his lecture by identifying some of the key tribes of Kuwait society and politics for the audience. (In a way, it was like setting up a box score for the players before a baseball game.)

Al-Mutairy Tribe—fairly related to the royal family, scattered geographically in many voting districts, increasingly powerful politically since the 1990s.

Al-Ajman—New comer, non-homogenous, politically active, scattered geographically.

—very politically active, long time residency in Kuwait, not linked closely with royals.

Al-Aneza—Northern tribe, arrived in Kuwait about the same time as the royal family, non-scattered geographically, but less overtly political.

Al-Awazan—Outnumbered by the others, scattered densely in Salmiya and roundabouts.

Al-Utaibi—Not as large as other tribes, but prevalent around township of Khaitan.

Al-Shammen—Arrived in Kuwait and settled in north in the 19th century, less active politically than most tribes.

Dr. Al-Haddad later confirmed that there are at least three dozen other smaller tribes in Kuwait. Most create alliances to have some political weight.

In short, over the past 4 to 5 decades, political contexts in Kuwait have actually raised the tendency for an individual Kuwaiti to see him- or herself as allied with one tribe or another.

The central government has since discovered that this causes dysfunctional tendencies in the oil sector and in the government ministries, which should be taking care of the whole society. Because the government has guaranteed jobs to all citizens, the influence of the tribal connections on employment has aided in the growing sense of Kuwaitis choosing to see themselves as affiliated with one tribe or another—i.e. perhaps Kuwaitis have become more tribally oriented than during the pre-oil era.


The only major opposition to tribal control or dominance of Kuwaiti politics come from “the urbans”, i.e. Kuwaiti people who desire that tribal identity have little role to play in modern Kuwait.

They don’t like tribes because (1) tribes hinder integration of society, (2) hinder all kinds of urban, social and other development in Kuwait, and (3) hinder the functioning of the state.

The government has recently tried several tactics to reduce the role of tribablism. These tactics have included a land reform, the redistricting of political boundaries and constituencies, the prohibition of tribal elections, and offers to relocate tribesmen in a more scattered way through expensive housing programs.

However, at this juncture in history, “the urbans” have too little political clout to eradicate from bad ministries and government-owned companies the bad leadership and the tribal infightings (and tribal job placement services). These practices are time-and-again not putting the most qualified peoples in the right positions.

Many women are choosing to run under urban platforms in this election. They will not likely succeed. On the other hand, if the tribes would agree to support women more, the women representing tribal groups would likely win handily.

When asked about the future of tribalism in Kuwait, Dr. Al-Haddad noted that once the benefits of tribalism can be erased, i.e. providing jobs and connections to governments and ministries, the need for the tribe would disappear politically and economically.

He believes that in the long-run education and diminishing returns for being a tribesmen in the modern world will reduce the pull and power of tribalist tendencies in Kuwait society.

This would leave tribes only dealing with social matters and the role of the family.

Dr. Al-Haddad is hopeful that this situation will evolve slowly in Kuwait, especially with Kuwait’s youth clamoring more and more for fairer access to jobs and the opportunity to govern better than their parents and grandparents have.


As the large multinational and multicultural audience listened to Dr. Al-Haddad’s lecture that evening, no one mentioned the obvious: That is, if Kuwait would grant citizenship rights to long-time residents of Kuwait—and not base citizenship on tribal blood lines—Kuwait could become a modern state much more quickly.

There are currently 2 million non-citizens in a country of 3 million people in Kuwait.

There are probably nearly one-million people, for example, who have lived in Kuwait more than 7 years or were born here. If citizenship was granted to all these folks, the political landscape would change significantly because politicians & government would not only have to listen to tribesmen but to thousands of others in their voting districts each election period.

The conditions of the majority of people living and working in the country of Kuwait—the naturally wealthiest per square kilometer in the Gulf--would improve drastically as well. This is because political franchise would become spread out more equally throughout the society.


Garcia, Ben, “Tribalism: A Social Phenomena in Kuwait”,

“Kuwait dissolves parliament, sets May 17 election date”,

Longva, Anh Nga, (2006) “Nationalism in Modern Guise: The Discourse of Hadher and Badu in Kuwait”, International Journal of Middle East, Cambridge University Press.

Al-Husaini, Meshari, “An Investigation Into Factors That May Contribute to School Violence in Male High Schools in Kuwait” (dissertation)

“Police use teargas to disperse tribesmen”


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

As General Patraeus continues to encourage the U.S.A. to indefinitely spend $500,000 per minute


By Kevin Stoda

As General Patraeus continues to encourage the U.S.A. to indefinitely spend $500,000 per minute (or 720million dollars per day) on the war in Iraq, Americans are being invited by American Friends Service Committee to view this wonderful and poignant video

and ask themselves how they would prefer to spend all that wasted money.

The video notes that with one-day’s military spending savings, 12,000 teachers could be hired and paid for.

The next day 84 new elementary schools could be opened and paid for.

Another day’s savings could pay for over 8000+ homes.

The next day’s savings could pay the entire 4 year college education of 34,000-plus students.

Or, one other day could pay for renewable energy being installed immediately in 1.27 million homes in the USA.

There is more to consider after viewing that short video, so I encourage you to check it out for yourself, sign a petition, and pass on this video from Friends to your friends.

Meanwhile, I am still dismayed that one of the best economists in the world, Dr. Paul Krugman, still fails to lead a call for better economic research to demonstrate how multiplier effects from having diverted so much U.S. spending on the Iraq War are not only having a bad effect for the U.S. economy but such misguided spending is reinforcing (and likely contributed to) the current nasty recession in America.


I took time to write up one response to one of Paul Krugman’s (author of “Conscience of a Liberal”) articles on the recession and war. I stated my concern for the ongoing lack of technical soul-searching and re-analysis :

“I believe that the very fact that the USA invaded and occupied Iraq is a fairly direct cause for the upward price of oil–explaining anywhere (directly or indirectly) leading to and explaining 45% or more of the rise in the last 5 years-- with the bulk of the rest being explained by increasing demands in mostly developing economy. The oil sheikdoms have made this clear by in the interim stating that as of now–post U.S. Iraqi invasion (and during the subsequent drain on U.S. production capacity in many areas)– they will not play politics so much with the oil prices, i.e. no longer being subservient (or overly considerate) to what is good for the U.S. and European political economic needs in the short term.”
“Once Saddam was taken out, the tension was released in the Gulf--and other OPEC states have joined in the freedom to take profits and invest or mis-spend them for the first time since the early 1980s. That said, it is important to note that Saudi Arabia and others do park their moneys primarily in the U.S. and West but their investment interests since Iraq was taken out have been on themselves and on Asia.”
“Finally, as the rising oil prices have had a negative multiplier effect on the bottom half of the U.S. consumer economy to save and to pay off debt, I would suggest that Paul Krugman rephrase the tone of his article in a future column.--Kevin in Kuwait (paying off debt in the USA)”


On the other hand, Paul Krugman does allow thoughtful comments to his articles on his blog.

Here is one of the earlier comments on Krugman’s blog about his de-emphasis of how war-spending (that has lasted over 5 years) drains the economy.

Phil Groce stated, “Some writers have noted, for example that ‘I would suggest that, like the fiscal stimulus package, most of the money is going to a relatively small number of enterprises who are probably banking it away rather than spending it downward into the rest of the U.S. economy. The money that isn’t being stuffed in corporate mattresses is also, one would think, more likely to end up ultimately in foreign hands — after all, much of it is being spent as overhead in the Middle East, and of the remainder, much of it goes to employees living in the field.’”

Groce adds, “Another perspective that promotes skepticism of this view: if even a fairly small part of the war budget was stimulating the economy here, it would be a pretty staggering stimulus. That would imply that we would be in staggeringly bad economic shape now without that war spending, correct? Bad as the housing bubble is, it would have to be a seismic financial event at least on the order of the Great Depression unwind to offset so much war spending. (Even WWII was able to offset the Great Depression and it cost less than this.)”

Finally, Groce also calls for renewed research, “I would love to see a more technical analysis that shows how much of the deficit spending is coming back home, and how much of it is in position to provide real stimulus. My suspicion is that, like so many other Bush policies, even the ostensible benefits end up being mismanaged away.”


I believe it is time that we look around at the sacred cows of economic research on war-making, i.e. a pervasive belief among social scientists that claims that generally more pluses (however small) than negatives appear to an economy through waging war.

A lot of the original mythology related to this pervasive economic belief in the positive benefits of war had resulted from WWII, when it was noted that the German economy appeared to operate more and more efficiently in war-time—even as the nation of Nazi Germany and its occupied territories had the living hell knocked out of them.
Moreover, WWII was considered a boon to the U.S. economy.

Historically, such analysis bolstered post-war spending in America to a great degree.
This was a turn-around in American ideology or thinking from during the WWI and Depression eras when war spending was seen as impoverishing many, killing the poor, and soaking the rich.

Only a few good books and articles have been published to counter this Cold-War era myth about spending on guns (i.e. not butter nor schools).

Here are some recent articles to peruse:
(1) Blanchard and Pereotti’s—“An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output”
(2) Collier’s—“On the Consequences of Civil War”
(3) Ramey and Shapiro’s—“Costly Capital Reallocation and the Effects of Government Spending”
(4) Faini, Annez & Taylor’s, “Defense Spending, Economic Structure, and Growth: Evidence among Countries and over Time”
(5) Barro’s “Output Effects of Government Purchases’,
(6) Deger’s “Economic Development and Defense Expenditure”,
(7) Kormendi’s “Government Debt, Government Spending, and Private Sector Behavior”
(8) Fatas and Mihov’s “The Effects of Fiscal Policy on Consumption and Employment”

That eighth article, “The Effects of Fiscal Policy on Consumption and Employment”, by Antonio Fatas and Ilian Mihov” is a good place to start reading up on the fiscal policies related to the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Similarly, Markusen et. als. The Rise of the Gunbelt and the Military Remapping of America, provides a good place to start for laymen.

One can also research great websites, like the National Priorities Project

Or the other hand, one could check out what former U.S. admirals and generals predicted based on research on the U.S. economy from Russian experts.

The former US military personnel at the Center for Defense Information have become concerned with the looming world-wide political-economic disaster, which they and the Russian economists have been anticipating for the USA due to changes in spending and priorities over the last 3 decades (in terms of U.S. political and economic policies).

This article, first published in English in 2003, i.e. prior to the U.S. attacking Iraq in march of that year, stresses the core issues related to the U.S. political economy in this decade.

That economy-oriented article, “WAR AND THE US ECONOMY
A Russian Expert's Survey”, had been released on 20 February 2003 by the CDI—and shows what great economic analysis needs to be able to do.

That is, this particular political analysis was a summary (translated from Russian) of what these old-Soviet era political economic researchers (i.e. people who have been watching the U.S.A. for decades) thought and felt about the U.S. economy as of 2003..
Those authors claimed clearly and fairly correctly the following as the U.S. prepared to enter Iraq: “The US economy is now suffering from an even more serious crisis than one may think. This is a comprehensive, rather than superficial, crisis. Among other things, it is connected with America's new status as a hyper-power. This status implies that, instead of merely implementing old-time world-domination methods, the United States should elevate them to an entirely new level. It's now hard to say whether the United States will manage to cope with this task; however, this objective can't be accomplished without an enemy and without war.”

In the short, that 2003 article clarifies that the U.S. might either do well or badly economically in the short term by invading Iraq, but in long term, the U.S is swimming upstream in a global economy that it has lost control of while simultaneously blowing off good long-term economic policies over several decades in a row now.