Monday, February 23, 2009

LOT, LOTTO, AND CASINO CAPITALISM--and the future of Federalism


By Kevin Stoda in Germany

What does the Biblical character Lot have to do with casino capitalism today? Is it more than a coincidence that Lot sounds like the word Lotto? The world needs solutions tested in time but new for this millenium in many ways. Where do we begin? How about the World Federalist movement?


What does the life of a Genesis character named Lot have to teach us today? I.e. in the midst of the world’s greatest financial crisis in over 6 decades?

A Scottish minister recently retold his audience the story of Lot, a minor character in Genesis. This distant ancestor of Adam Smith related this biblical footnote in a new way –that is, in a way which really hits home to us (1) victims of the international gambling industry and to us (2) victims of 4 decades of global financial malfeasance.

This particular Scottish minister pointed out that the supposedly minor character, Lot--with all his human frailties and occasional financial, spiritual, and political misfortune—resembles many of us smaller and larger investors and gamblers around the globe today.

First, the preacher noted that in Genesis 11 and 12, we find that Lot is born well-to-do fairly and is born a nephew in Abraham’s ever-growing family.. Lot is soon treated as an orphaned nephew of Abraham after the death of both his elders.

At first, financially Lot does well with his inheritance and works diligently raising a great number of lambs. Lot, along with his Uncle Abraham, eventually manages to build up a tremendous herd of sheep.

Alas, these two shepherds both become so successful that there develops an over-competitiveness. This competiveness was mirrored in their laborers who seemed to be at each others throats.

Soon, in order to stop fights from breaking out amongst Lot’s and Abraham’s shepherds, the two men chose to split their herds and go in separate ways.

This separation amongst the members of Abrahamic family business is reported in Genesis 13, whereby it is also noted that Lot had apparently chosen to take over the easier to graze and wide-open green pastureland of the valleys, where Sodom and Gomorrah were the main cities. This left the aging Abraham to try his hand at grazing the sheep in the difficult hill country to the west and to the north.

In the Scottish minister’s retelling of this Genesis tale, it was noted that at first Lot appears to have been a shrewd herder of his sheep. Moreover, Lot apparently had already gotten wind of what kind of businesses were being run in the two infamous cities, Sodom and Gomorrah.

Therefore, Lot camped away from these towns and often initially sought to bypass them in his regular journeys across the plains of the Jordan Valley. However, over time the businesses and lifestyle of those in Sodom and Gomorrah began to attract the businessman Lot.

Later, in Genesis 14 we find that when Lot was camping particularly close to the city of Sodom, Lot, his family, animals, and his tribesman were attacked and kidnapped.

At this point Abraham rescued Lot and his family’s resources in a small war with the kings of Shinar, Goiim, and Kedorlaomar. It is reported in Genesis 14 that Lot received all of his property, women and children back as Abraham saved him from his captors.


Despite this unfortunate kidnapping, Lot continued to be attracted again to the lives and businesses—as well as to the lights of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Immediately as a gambler I saw the connection of the pull that these two cities had on a formerly sound working rancher and businessman. Much as we gamblers are attracted to and addicted to betting and casinos, or to fancy financial instruments, and to easy money investment schemes—Lot appears to have become once again entranced by the glittering and sinful life of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is certainly why in the following chapters of Genesis, we see that Lot has apparently lost much of his property in and around the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no longer any mention of his herds at all. He is now living and serving on government seats and on boards of directors of the going-ons at Sodom City.

Did Lot sell all his sheep and simply move into these cities to live or did he actually again lose his wealth—i.e. this time possibly losing his property through gambling, graft or poor financial investments?

Perhaps someone in Sodom had indicated that Lot no linger needed to produce “actual somethings”, like herds of new born sheep, in order to make wealth.

Perhaps Lot fell for one of those housing or savings and building scams which have recently brought people all over the world to lose their retirement savings and investments--from the shores of Dubai to Las Vegas or Reno to Atlantic City or from Monte Carlo to New York or London, Spain, Italy, or Florida?????

Think about it, besides sex, there were Time-Shares sales and property Development schemes galore—such as snow-ball, pyramid or pansy schemes!!!

Anyway, although Lot is still a respected man in the city of Sodom, e.g. he is often found sitting on the governing panel and on the board of directors of a few businesses at the gate of the city, by Genesis 19 Lot apparently has little financial substance or properety on the night when two angles from heaven show up in Sodom in order to see if they can find any other right-living folks around.

Despite the precariousness of Lot’s situation, the two angles practically had to drag Lot, his daughters and wife out of the city. Like us investors (and government oversight figures) of the last two or three decades, Lot was unwilling to see the truth, i.e. his world was about to collapse

Finally, despite having lost just about everything of worth to him, Lot demands to stay living in a small village not far from where the disasters of nature and heaven have befallen the now-long-gone cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is not unlike the neo-cons and conservatives who still think the world described by Adam Smith, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman built into our heads decades ago concerning the magical self-fixing hand of the free market economy.

Are we losers, i.e. losers of the biggest financial boondoggles of history, going to continue to live the way we were trying to living before we entered this crisis full speed—a few years back???

Or, are we going to change and do a damned lot better in developing our planet’s human and physical resources in a more socially just and nature-supportive economy?

On the other hand, are we, like Lot, sit across the way and stare in mourning at the embers of the international financial system’ simmering and simply dream of what might have been?

I hope not!!!


Here in Germany, not a day seems to go by that one political party (or another) calls the financial and investment system the world has built up-to-date by the name of “Casino Capitalism”.|lang_de

The parties of the left, center, and even the right seem to agree in this.

“The world system is fairly broken”, they say, and it will take a globally managed program to reform and rebuild the lack of trust destroyed in this decade. The international community needs the management and oversight at a global level—to a degree that it has never known before.

Among the internationally well-coordinated policies needed are (1) those that are pro-poor and (2) those that eliminate subsidies to Green House Gas producers.

The poor need to participate more democratically to balance out the development in the system which has swung only into the mismanaging arms of the wealthy and their wealthy financiers.

One of the G8 summiteers reported this past week, “Indeed, continuing to pour trillions of dollars into carbon-based infrastructure and fossil-fuel subsidies would be like investing in sub-prime real estate all over again.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has warned that a united global policy of stimuli is needed to stop the economies globally falling into the protectionist beggar-thy-neighbor policies that brought out the great worldwide depression of the 1930s.


CASINO CAPITALISM was the name of a Susan Strange book printed in the early 1970s after the USA went off the gold standard. (It is currently out-of-stock on Amazon but odds are out that several reprints are coming out very soon.) It has fairly well described the capitalist world since Nixon was U.S. president.

Strange wrote regularly for the Observer and The Economist for decades. In one review of the book, it is noted: “The ‘casino’ in the title refers not to the role of speculation and gambling in world finance, but to the fact that, for the first time in history, global markets were open twenty-four hours a day.”

In the capitalist world described by Strange, “Th[e] conception of finance as an autonomous sphere of economic activity was presented alongside the argument that no economic system--industrial, financial, agricultural--could function without the active role of the state. Her theoretical aspiration was to echo the pioneering work of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Karl Marx in bringing together the study of politics and the state with that of the economy and markets. The policy injunction that followed was that the modern state had to promote and protect markets, just as it did (for example) security of travel and transport, the stability of currencies, the promotion of education and scientific research, and other often unacknowledged but essential supports.”

From the very beginning of history, cities have offered the rural investor or entrepreneur, like Lot, an opportunity (or illusion) to find a better way of trying to accumulating resources and building a life both (1) different from and possibly (2) more full of leisure than the lives his father, grandfather and ancestors have ever dreamed of.

Since the 1970s, cities from Hong Kong to New York to London (and all-around the globe) have served as breadbaskets for investors looking for that-better-day or that-better-way to improve one’s lot in life.

However, just as the 24 hour investor network was going into place during the second half of the 20th Century, the governments from London to the USA to China threw their hats into a ring and pretended that markets had always righted themselves efficiently and had kept life and society in order.

These blind leaders attempted to ignore history and the great theories of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, Strange, and others.

WILL AMERICA finally throw in its LOT with OTHERS & DO BETTER?

There is already a lot of talk concerning what kind of new financial & international development system of finances and investments (by individuals, investor groups, and states) should look like.

Click on this link to find out what just some on the New Left think:

This newly-developing regime assumes that neo-liberalism--as has existed over the past 60 years --has now seen its day in the sun and a new order is essential.

Stronger than at any time since Bretton Woods, there is a growing call that there will be for the long-term a growing role for the states and state-groups (such as the European Union) in the newly-forming-financial-economic regime is certainly

This call for a shift in how “the system” is built up and run is “propelled by a wholesale loss of confidence in the Anglo-American model of transactions-oriented capitalism and the neoliberal economics that legitimized it (and by the U.S.’s loss of moral authority, now at rock bottom in much of the world). Governmental responses to the crisis further suggest that we have entered the second leg of Polanyi’s ‘double movement’, the recurrent pattern in capitalism whereby (to oversimplify) a regime of free markets and increasing commodification generates such suffering and displacement as to prompt attempts to impose closer regulation of markets and de-commodification (hence ‘embedded liberalism’).”

This ongoing transformation is already even being measured by some economists in terms of transaction costs.

If only a system of actually counting-of-costs had actually been in place or been properly developed and in-use by the majority of nations over the past few decades, this so-called ( & mindless) free market capitalism would not have been allowed to get out of control under bad financial leadership and bad development principles.

Anyone with a basic understanding of political-economic history was able to predict what an absolute loser the 1960’s to 2008 model was for all on planet earth within a few short years.

But these same error-filled leadership brains had already bought out American media firms and ran the wars our countries fight.

CRISIS might be GOOD--or are we going to continue to Play Lotto?

The currently powerless majorities of each nation state need to stand up and stop the casino.

Moreover, we need more of a say in our individual and global development.

One option would be to have the peoples and nations join in a more cooperative civilization orientation, such as the model provided by democratic world federalist movements.

For example, “The World Federalist Movement is an international citizen's movement working for justice, peace, and sustainable prosperity. We call for an end to the rule of force, through a world governed by law, based on strengthened and democratized world institutions. World federalists support the creation of democratic global structures accountable to the citizens of the world and call for the division of international authority among separate agencies.”

This movement calls for drastic reformation of the United Nations.

The World Federalist Movement arose first in the 1930s to provide an alternative to the fallen League of Nations and a response to bad capitalism practices and the rise of fascist ideologies. However, it has never been interested in communism or any other autocratic form of governance nor development.

The World Federalist Movement later was founded again after WWII and the United Nations had already begun to build an unjust post-war world.

Federalism is a concept older than democracies and dates back to the time of Lot, when tribes protected one another whom they treated as family members while trying to keep law and order in a chaotic world.

For example, Abraham’s many attempts to take care of and support his nephew Lot were and example of the sort of tribes which would soon be found throughout the Middle East.

On the other hand, modern federalism is much more peace-oriented than was tribal federalism of Lot and Abraham’s days. For example, the current federal Europe Union is a relatively peaceful entity—spanning 30 countries who used to often be at each other’s throats.

Any financial regime in this millennium needs to have as much political commitment as the EU movement has shown towards peace and development. On the other hand, the EU has only barely touched upon working together with African, Asian and American nations to build a better planet.

This is why A world federalist regime is needed to oversee the economic system and to develop cooperatively regions of the world—already under siege by global warming and bad developmental debt earned over recent decades.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dear Church of Christ, ICOC, Mennonites, and Conservative Evangelicals or Pentacostals


By Kevin Stoda, Germany

I will summarize what I have shared with you before:
1 Timothy 2:12 (New International Version)
12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

I shared with you that this later verse of Paul’s is a clarification on an early set of verses—in Romans for example—which Paul has made in various writings.

In this verse, we have Paul doing something he rarely does: Paul clarifies that it is a personal preference of his.

No amount of arguing that Paul is speaking in terms of apostolic vision. Paul clarifies that it is his preference that in his own services this rule-of-thumb should apply.

Paul is older by this time in his writings and has gained some greater insight into many more fellowship communities, and he has cultivated some room for tolerance to the implementation of the rule-of-thumbs to which he had held once so dear.

In this writing, Paul does not refer to anything in the old testament of God to make the rationale for his clear. Paul simply interprets, as a former Pharisee would, the status quo belief and practices of how a community of believers functions.


However, the now-more-mature Paul of Tarsus is making it clear that it is HE who is speaking by doing what he did not do in Romans—i.e. he is distinctly using “I” not as a prophet but clearly as teacher or guide to the younger Timothy. (By using this “I”, Paul is giving advice or at lease relegating his advice to the status of the sort of advice Christians and even non-believers recognize from the Book of Proverbs.

As Christians, and with the old testament example of Judge or Leader Deborah (in Judges 4-5) glaring in our face, we can see that the Lord appoints whomever, he/she wants to lead his people and to speak up or give counsel. This makes it clear that women can certainly give advice or counsel to males—even publically.

I, therefore, encourage all church women and our more conservative church, itself, to encourage greater wisdom for all members and provide training to women to step up when there is a clear time for them to do so—i.e. certainly when they feel called to do so.
For example, if the English church does not have enough male leaders to fill slots, women need to feel comfortable in their training and in their knowledge of the scriptures to take over the slot—i.e. with one important caveat being that wisdom and prayer of the community support her.

I foresee that at some point in the next decades, this will become normal so that our Kingdom will expand with more women voices sharing in leadership.

However, education is the key.

The common lack of female education in the time of Paul was certainly one reason those women asked so many questions at the back of the church during the fellowship, i.e. negatively impacting church meetings.

However, I am prepared to wait and simply encourage the family to consider the advice I feel called by my personal experience to share.


I share and emphasize ALL this NOW because of a story from our current fellowship dating back a few years.

The following was reported to me as an important but disturbing event in my current fellowship’s history. (My current church fellowship conducts its services both in German and in English.)

-“On one Sunday several summers ago, an African member of the church had her father visit the fellowship. This African women then stepped-up to translate the service into the language of her father.”

-“After several minutes, an American member of this bilingual congregation—namely a member from one of the more conservative traditions in the fellowship—loudly got up to leave.”

-“However, before he angrily marched out of the room, this same American stated, ‘I cannot stay here because a woman is not permitted to lead, translate or give advice to men in my fellowship.’”

-“This same American then contacted church leaders in the United States and complained about this very incident.”

-“The subsequent enquiry from the American-side led the German’s in the congregation, who have generally been more progressive and tolerant on women’s matters, to fear a takeover of their church building, i.e. which had been built with the assistance of American missionary funds nearly 40 years earlier.”


I have shared with you in face-to-face discussion that I was baptized as an adult on 12th of March 2000 in the waters of the Persian Gulf in the Emirate of Sharjah in the federation of the UAE.

Two days later, I had taken off for a long weekend to Oman by bus.

Before I left for Muscat, I had contacted a small fellowship in that capital city. I was able to meet with the leader of the church and to study the Bible and worship with them.

In the meantime, I had decided to rent a car as Oman was difficult to travel around by using public transportation.

This particular small church fellowship in Muscat, Oman asked me if I would be willing to drive to a hospital in the Omani desert, where a Filipino sister-in-Christ worked as a nurse.

At first, I agreed to undertake the trip and began planning to make the six or seven hour journey into the desert.

In this, I was to be accompanied by a sister in Muscat for holding communion and prayer with that weekend. However, the night before we were to leave this same 8-year member of the church told me, “You will have to give the message, you know.”

“Giving a message” means that I was to be seen as the preacher or leader or the meeting—e.g. in Acts we read that “wherever two or three our gathered in prayer” the Lord will be there.

I was shocked by this request from my older and sister-in-Christ.

I couldn’t believe that this very much more mature female Christian would metaphorically bow to me and ask me to “give the message” the next day.

I quickly reminded her that I had just been baptized three days before. (By the way, the sister, whom we were visiting and who was working at a hospital deep in the desert of Oman, had also been in the church for about a decade. So, combined they had nearly two decades of experience as a bible-studying Christian than I had.)

It, therefore, seemed incredible that they would stand on church tradition and ask that I lead the service, i.e. in giving a communion message.


In the aftermath of this experience in a small church community in Oman (which incidentally had more males than females in attendance), I feel called the rest of my days to ask the more conservative factions of my church to reconsider (1) what is practice and (2) what is really both biblical and functional.

I imagine that in some cases: one reason the church has not been able to grow at times is that the church does not often enough fully integrate the wife and women—and by extension the entire family--better into the whole process of church community.

By this, I mean empowerment is not complete and well-rounded education in church participation is not more fully practiced

I, myself, am committed to empower everyone in the more conservative evangelical and apostolic churches to become more well-rounded—just as I need to be more well-rounded.

Apostle Paul set examples for us by focusing on the roles of women in Romans 16 and elsewhere. Some women were married. Some were not.

Paul also demonstrated to us examples of his own life where he evolved and tried to become all things to all men—that is to be well-rounded in serving the communities of Christians wherever he went.

This is one reason I am encouraging our wonderful bilingual fellowship in Germany--and other conservative fellowships elsewhere to learn each others languages.

In March, others and I will begin to offer both English and German classes in our fellowship so that integration and a more well-rounded fellowships develops over the next decade

Austausch or cultural exchange is important for us.

We can be a light until others if we work together more and more biculturally and bilingually—and spiritually.

That is right.

In summation:

We are also hoping to discuss and share the Bible a bit more in the English and German classes. We also what to help others and ourselves to work together better multiculturally.

This is another example of Paul’s maturation process that we all need to emulate as the world and our societies change and try to handle in a positive way globalization and its effects on our communities.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

THE CONTRAST ON COVER OF INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Protests and Counter Protests in Dresden and Protests in Afghanistan

THE CONTRAST ON COVER OF INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Protests and Counter Protests in Dresden and Protests in Afghanistan

By Kevin Stoda, in Germany

“Civilian Casualties Mar U.S. Envoy’s Kabul Talks” was the headline on the International Herald Tribune (IHT) online today, marking the 54th anniversary of the three day fire-bombing of Dresden in Germany.

IHT noted that far right and neo-Nazi leaders in Germany have equated the firebombing of Dresden to a Holocaust. Today (February 14, 2009) saw the largest numbers of neo-Nazis in years on the streets of this Saxon capital today.,1518,339833,00.html

However, IHT did not mention that a lot of other Germans and non-Germans, such as Polish slave laborers in the Germany on February 12 through14, 1945 might have called it a Holocaust later themselves—if they survived to tell about it.

From February 12 through February 14, 1945 Dresden had been fired bombed to the ground by the allied forces near the end of WWII. Early reports of those who died in the fire bombings ran to 200,000.

In recent years the numbers were identified as much lower—something like 25,000 to 30,000 in all. However, that city’s particular almost total destruction came as close as any set of bombings in Europe in WWII to imitating the destruction of bombings that Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki revealed at that same wars end.

More buildings in Japan were made of wood and were thus more readily incinerated in firebombing and atomic attacks than was the case in Germany in the 1940s.

Needless to say, the great majority of those killed in those bombings in Dresden were civilians, including some of the last Jews living in Germany at that time as well as allied soldiers, such as Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote of this event in his science-fictional work, SLAUGHTER HOUSE FIVE.

Meanwhile, today in Afghanistan, Americas’ new envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke visited that capital city of Kabul just a few days after Taliban attacks reached the capital for the first time in years.

Holbrooke's various meetings and negotiations also “came on the day the Australian military announced that five children had been killed in predawn fighting Thursday between Australian special operations troops and Taliban guerrillas in south-central Afghanistan, the latest incident of rising civilian casualties that have hurt support for American and NATO troops here.”

This comes only weeks after a series of bombings by USA forces purportedly attacking Taliban forces killed other civilians. (Last autumn, 60 members of an Afghani wedding party were bombed by U.S. forces by accident—i.e. collateral damage.)

According to IHT reports, Afghanis will continue to push their case for an end to reckless bombing raids leading to civilian deaths in the next days as they meet with Holbrooke. “The deaths come amid growing complaints from Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai, about civilian casualties. The officials have said that plans by the U.S.-led military alliance in Afghanistan to add as many as 30,000 more American troops could lead to more fatalities.”


There were several conflicting reports in Germany today as to what has taken place in Dresden. Radio station news reports initially indicated that although the numbers of neo-Nazis and rightwing marches were in the thousands, they were outnumbered by 10,000 leftist- and conservative peace witnesses who held a counter protest.

Meanwhile, the various German radio and news stations I have heard gave reports which claimed that astoundingly there was no fighting or confrontations.

However, later the IHT reported, “Police said they broke up a third demonstration, involving about 2,500 left-wing opponents of the far-right march, after officers were targeted with stones and bottles.”

According to Dresden Mayor, Helma Orosz, "The neo-Nazis emphasize revenge; we [the counter protestors] set against that our will for peace."

According to one of the few English-language dailies, THE LOCAL, in Germany, “Thousands of people took to the streets of Dresden on Saturday to protest against a neo-Nazi march to commemorate the victims of the 1945 Allied bombing raids on the eastern German city.”

In addition, the same German English daily reported, “Several prominent members of Germany’s Jewish community and politicians took part in the demonstrations called by rights groups which began with a public Sabbath in the Dresden synagogue.


Even after the U..S. supported the Afghani leader, Hamid Karzai for years, he too has belatedly joined the protests against the U.S. and its allies recklessness over the past year or two.

Alas, both Karzai’s poor record of achievement and record of not-fighting corruption in his own regime over the past 8 years have left Karzai little political support nor power as he faces an uphill reelection campaign this coming year in Afghanistan.

According to a fairly recent UN report, the number of Afghani civilian deaths, due to bombings and fighting from all sides in Afghanistan (including NATO, UN troops, and Taliban forces): “More than 2,100 civilians in Afghanistan were killed last year as a result of armed conflict, a 40 per cent rise from the previous year, the UN's humanitarian chief said Tuesday.”


I have a question, when will the USA and its war allies learn that bombing the hell out of civilians is always bad NOW and IN the future.

In the old Cold War days, Curtis LeMay led and dominated U.S. aerial bombing policies even as they tried to run roughshod over presidents like Eisenhower and Kennedy. These were military men who had little use for elected officials.

According to several sources, “LeMay apparently had grown immune to the horror of killing. He had directed the gasoline-jelled fire bombing of Japan -- estimated to have killed ‘more persons in a six-hour period than at any time in the history of man.’ He said of war: "You've got to kill people, and when you've killed enough they stop fighting.’ He once said, ‘We killed off -- what -- twenty percent of the population of North Korea.’ More than two million civilians died in LeMay's campaign from napalm bombing and destruction of massive dams to flood waterways.”

In other words, from the 1940s to the 1960s all factions in the USA military were led by groups of men who were often not only great Cold Warriors but leaders who preached a simple reality they called “collateral damage” when trying to scare the hell out of American enemies. (This required a psychological blocking of memory and reality by the average pilot and navigator as well as soldiers who witnessed bombing ‘collateral damage’ as a people burned to smitherings.),15202,91860,00.html

This sort of recklessness in American and allied military bombing history and practice has never made the U.S. or its Allies appear any better in the eyes of civilians, i.e. those who are victims of bombings (and describe as the “collateral damage’).

Civilians who receive the brunt of run-away bombing methods and fire bomb parties do not forget—neither do their children, grandchildren or their grandchildren.

Just look at Dresden today, a capital in Eastern Germany for neo-Nazis and rightwing renegades.,1518,504427,00.html

One only has to look at Israel and Palestine or to Iraq to see how burning buildings and charred bodies end up fueling the worst excesses, like suicide bombers and blind rocket attacks on civilians again—repeating the visions and imaginable limits of “acceptable collateral damage” again to the Palestinian warmongers or Al Qaeda perpetrators

Perhaps, instead of giving flowers and hear shaped boxes of chocolate on February 14 each year, Americans and their allies should mourn and march for peace as is the form of counter-protest in Dresden each year.


Friday, February 13, 2009

C & A Takes Google to Court—Should other Bloggers, too?

C & A Takes Google to Court—Should other Bloggers, too?

By Kevin Stoda, visiting in Germany

According to the WELT KOMPAKT (Feb. 10, 2008), the department chain C & A has taken Google, Inc. to court to prohibit its AD SENSE advertising on German websites.

The claim is that Google’s AD SENSE has unfairly edited its already paid-for advertising.

The AD SENSE business is a Google advertising business, whereby thousands of Google Bloggers can make money through advertising exclusively for Google clients on their blogs.

However, the manner in which the AD SENSE software posts its advertisements is not showing responsibility to its clients.

In C & A’s claim against Google currently in German courts, the recklessness of Google’s AD SENSE marketing software becomes clear as AD SENSE posted a C & A advert over the top of one German Google Blogger’s on-line article-- an article which severely criticized C & A for the way it handles its child models.

Therefore, C & A will likely win its case against Google in German courts, i.e. it is against the law for Google AD SENSE or any other publisher “to editorialize the material, which it has contractually agreed to post” on its websites.

This was clearly done on that particular anti-C & A Blogger page through the automated Google AD SENSE software currently in use throughout the globe.

WHAT’S ALSO A PROBLEM for Bloggers is…

I have been blogging with Google almost 4 years now.

Several times I have seen advertisements on my blog which were almost satirical—as when I criticized Blackwater in several only to find Iraqi subcontractors and recruiting contractors sponsoring my blog.

Therefore, I certainly understand the concern of C & A, i.e. as paying Google client.


On the other hand, I am even more frustrated with Google’s AD SENSE because in all of these past four years, I have never once received a check from AD SENSE for allowing it to run advertisements on my BLOGSPO site:

In these same 4 years I have published over 260 articles—95% of them written by me. In Microsoft WORD-terms, this is equal to about 1750 (double spaced) pages of work.

I NOW ask of the readership of this website whether there are many other Bloggers contracted with AD SENSE whom also have never seen a paycheck?



Winckler, Lars, “C & A klagt gegen Google”, WELT KOMPAKT, February 10, 2009, p. 15.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

NEED FOR RELIGIOUS SELF-REFLECTION--Mother of Suicide Bombers, Jim Jones, Hamas, Israel, Vietnam, Ira, Hitler-like Love, and Frankie Goes to Hollywoo

NEED FOR RELIGIOUS SELF-REFLECTION--Mother of Suicide Bombers, Jim Jones, Hamas, Israel, Vietnam, Ira, Hitler-like Love, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany

Nearly twenty residents have publicly left the Catholic church in Wiesbaden, Germany this month, i.e. in the wake of Pope Benedict’s inability to apologize (and admit the fallibility of a Pope) after the blunder of his Papacy recognizing a holocaust denier (named Williams) amongst the members of the Pius Brotherhood. That is--those questionable group of Catholic separatists who were recently allowed to rejoin join the church last month.

Meanwhile, during these last weeks in Wiesbaden in January and February rhis 2009, there have been a series of reflective remembrances on both the 76th anniversary of the Nazi’s seizure of power (Jan. 30) and on the 65th anniversary of the freeing of Soviet Army’s capture of Auschwitz (Jan.27) and the subsequent freeing of Polish, Jewish and other surviving inmates. (See the Appendix 1 below for further German history memories and commemorations being recognized this year.)

For example, in mid-January 2009, the Aktives Museum in Wiesbaden opened with an exhibition, which recognized the stories of the few German Luftwaffe members, like the Israeli recognized righteous gentiles. This exposition focused on a German named Karl Flagge. Flagge was working for the Nazi Luftwaffe (Air Force) during WWII in Lithuania. at the time he took the advantage of his position to save at least one-hundred Jews, who would have otherwise been the victims of pogroms and Nazi-inspired massacres.


In January, there was a presentation on the Warsaw Ghetto at the Wiesbaden Courthouse as well as a whole set of presentations, discussions, and films on how a society like Germany ought to continue to go about remembering the past. For example, there were numerous showings of a famous documentary on the Stolpersteine Project.

“Stolpersteine” means “stumbling block in Germany and Wiesbaden has been participating in this national art and commemoration project to recall and remember the victims of the Nazi-era in each community in Germany (as well as—so far—in Austria, the Netherlands, and Hungary.

The names of victims are researched by local residents and bricks (stolpersteine) paid for by individuals in each city. Then the names, birth and death location of these victims are placed on walkways in different parts of each city. In Hamburg, Germany alone as of April 2007, “there were in Berlin along 1,800 Stolpersteine in front of former residences or in the case of the homeless homosexuals in front of the shelter (Pik As), which were initiated by district‘s and victim’s initiatives. There’s another stumbling block in commemoration of a former senator, 15 paces to the right of the entrance of Hamburg’s town hall. Many papers report about the project and expand the investigations. Between 1941 and 1945 10.000 Jews were deported from Hamburg.”

The artist’s first Stolpersteine were placed in Cologne in the early 1990s by the artist, Gunter Demnig. The Antoniter Church was the first church community to support Demnig. Soon the project moved to Kreuzberg in Berlin.

Soon local communities all over Germany, Austria and elsewhere were investigating the names of local victims of the Third Reich and commemorating them by their name under foot throughout their cities and communities.


On the 2nd of February, I went again to the Wiesbaden City Courthouse to hear a presentation on the “Motives and Practices of the Members of the White Rose.”

According to the Spartacus website, “The White Rose, was formed by students at the University of Munich in 1941. It is believed that the group was formed after the Archbishop of Munster, spoke out in a sermon against the Nazi practice of euthanasia (the killing of those considered by the Nazis as genetically unsuitable).”

The group sent letter out all over Germany indicating that overthrowing Hitler and standing up for what was right was in the German people’s hands. “[I]n 1943 the group explained the reasons why they had formed the White Rose group: "We want to try and show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people - people who are agreed as to the means they must use. We have no great number of choices as to the means. The meaning and goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from our course, any action, whatever its nature. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable, frightful consequences."

Naturally, most The White Rose group was tracked down and executed by the Nazis and their followers within the next month, i.e. February 20, 1943. This talk on the “Motives and Practices of the Members of the White Rose” was sponsored by Martin Niemoller’s Gegen Vergessen Fuer Demokratie (Against Forgetting—For Democracy).

NOTE: I think Americans need to have such organizations set up to remember and educate on crimes against human right and human beings. Explicitly, there should be memorials and commemorative art work in every city and town. I say this because in all my travels in the USA, I recall only observing the occasional black and white MIA (Missing in Action) flag as the single common reminder found in villages and cities in America the Vietnam War. Those flags which focus primarily on U.S. soldier victims in war are the only artifacts which come close to commemorating the 14-plus year war with the Vietnamese (and other nations in Southeast Asia).

Later, on the first Friday night this same February, I arrived home to watch Germanys ARD-TV present a program called TATORT that claimed “it has discovered the fate of one of the ‘most wanted’ Nazi criminals, Doctor Aribert Heim” who had “worked at Mauthausen concentration camp during the Second World War, conducting sadistic experiments and killing hundreds of inmates, earning him the nickname ‘Doctor Death’. The television report details Heim’s movements since fleeing Germany in the 1960s, concluding that he died, while living under a pseudonym, in Egypt in 1992.”

That particular ARD- TV program almost every single week takes time to report on Nazi crimes using investigative journalist techniques to track down facts and rumors from the Third Reich era.

Overall, I am fairly impressed by the way Germans are currently handling and debating their past, especially their ancestors’ experiences and crimes. In short, not a day goes by when one doesn’t find at least one or more lengthy documentaries on the subject of the Nazi Germany of their forefathers.

On the one hand, some of these memorials focus only on German soldiers and families. However, in recent decades these memorial locations have seen a whole new culture of alternative memorials and commemorations, such as the Stolpersteine movement described above.

I will never forget my first visit to the new Holocaust Memorial in the center of Berlin some years again. This is because juxtaposed with what the memorial location is the topography of the area around the Holocaust Memorial and Museum. For example, that particular memorial is situated where the Wall between East and West Berlin used to run. Moreover, arriving at the monument by way of the park across the street from the new memorial, I observed that there was an ancient statue of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe looking in the direction of the new monument.

The fact that the Goethe commemorative statue or monument was allowed to conintue to quietly peer through the greenery at a monument to genocide (perpetrated by his great-great grandchildren) left me both amused and thoughtful at the way monuments juxtaposed across from one another over generations share a much fuller sense of history than singular commemorative events and holidays, such as the U.S. holiday for veterans or a holiday for presidents.

Moreover, in Germany there are numerous monuments galore to the stupidity of war and to the memory of genocide are prolific.

For example, the fire bombings of Hamburg under Britain’s Operation Gomorrah destroyed most of the city in 1943 but left the third largest church tower in the country of Germany, the Nikolai Church, still standing. This church tower was subsequently dedicated as a monument against the stupidity of WWII.

All these monuments, certainly make me ponder what the world would be like today if Americans had had to daily face on their TV screens and in their daily experience critiques of the wars of our fathers (and mothers), for example of the Vietnam War or of the Filipino Occupation.

Why doesn’t most every city memorialize victims of crimes and war which Americans have been involved in dating at least back to the U.S. Civil War?

If I look at American TV, even the number of critical documentaries dissecting U.S. wars in Central America, the Middle East and in East Asia over the last 50 years are not shown on TV very much anymore. (There are a growing number of websites, though. See my NOTES section below for more on this very topic by clicking on links.)

Sure, I might find in the U.S.A. a few TV channels, like the History Channel or a few public broadcasting stations, playing documentaries and leading discussions, but most Americans don’t have their nose shoved into criminal home country history like many in Germany have had as a living and growing up experience on a daily basis all of their lives—i.e. monuments or Stolpersteine in the street, articles in the press, or in commercial and public media on at least a weekly basis

NOTE: On the one hand, this constant barrage of news of and from the past leaves some German youth quite disaffected and sometimes even hardened. It is emblematic of Germany that when the Martin Niemoller Society sponsored the discussion of the few famous Germans who opposed Hitler and his War in early February, not a person in the Wiesbaden County Court hall discussion room under the age of 40 years. (Of course, university exams were being taken the following week.) On the other hand, despite the fact that many youth feel this focus on the past is overdone, most know quite a bit more about their nation’s past than do Americans as a whole.

JIM JONES’ STORY IN GERMAN--& Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Then on Saturday night recently, for a change of pace, I was surprised to come across one German channel, ZDF-TV, showing the 2006 documentary Jonestown: Life and Death of the People’s Temple.

This Stanley Nelson documentary on the People’s Temple and Jim Jones is insightful and places the concepts of (a) suicide, (b) victimhood, and (c) the role of peer pressure as well as (d) the power of crazy or misguided charismatic leader in an entirely new American context.

However, these four concepts are assuredly well-known in Germany.

That is, for German historians, modern educators, and students, the story of Jim Jones and the Rise and Fall of the People’s Temple is not all that foreign as one reviews the 12 nasty years under Hitler ideology, a period of new nation building of modern man and society or if one looks at either the story of East Germany under the Communists through the end of WWII through 1989. (One might even look at the popularity of Che Gueverra and the rise of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, too, to see that terrorism and revolution still find sympathetic ears in Germany—as is the case in America—when it comes to war or for fighting for justice.)

It was fascinating to watch this translated (into German) documentary and relearn or retrace the phases in the idyllic Rise and Suicide of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple Community, i.e. in the language of the evil Hitler (who was actually an Austrian.)

As Jim Jones spoke about love and building a new society in America or on Earth (in German), I could imagine Hitler doing the same thing in his own way, i.e. Hitler and his Nazi cohorts created some of the same imagery of building a better and more modern society, especially as the charismatic Hitler and his henchmen had bonded with the Germanic peoples so well by playing on the theme of idealized love of/for any German to his country or his motherland--or tradition of the fatherland and its growing identity as a people and nation..

For many Germans in the 1930s, following a horrible period in their history in the wake of WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, love of family and love of one’s society became the dominant national dream.

That same Nazi German leadership, in turn, gave (non-Jewish) German citizens not only positive dreams and ideals—but physical gifts, such as national work projects, roads, sports-centers, and even family beach resorts (for the masses).

These gifts all came along with a sense of economic security--not witnessed in Germany for more than an entire generation.

Naturally, the way Jim Jones talked of love in the German language reminded me, too, of the the ironic TWO TRIBES song from 1980s Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

This song and other Frankie Goes to Hollywood (TGTH) tunes and texts were popular in Germany in the early and mid-1980s, i.e. as both East and West Germany citizens felt like they were being served up politically and militarily to the Gods of NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the biggest arms build up in history. The two tribes referred to were the West and the East during the latter years of the cold war.

In the live version of that (TGTH) TWO TRIBES song, one man carefully imitates the voice of Ronald Reagan and talks of love.

This Ronald Reagan-voice spoke passionately of love as revolutionary and then also whispered of the wonderful love of heroes for a better cause.

In this, the Reagan-voice, specifically showed his admiration for revolution and the revolutionary love of a man, like Che Guevarra, who had died for his greater cause.

When I first heard that live version of the song TWO TRIBES, I had had to laugh because that voice of Reagan was not only done well , but this Reagan’s passion for ultra-patriotism and love of country had turned to praise a passion for love of all others—and the love of revolution.

If you readers recall, back in the early 1980s Cold-War-era, a coalition of the West, i.e. NATO was positioning weapons in Central Europe ostensibly in order to preempt a long range nuclear attack on the USA from the Soviet Union.

In those same 1980 years, I didn’t see nor appreciate much love in the words of Ronald Reagan—but I do, indeed, know other Americans who felt Ronald Reagan was an honest and loving man.

Reagan was often called the “Teflon President”, and for many Americans who loved the man, his deeds, and his words or ideals, he represented the Teflon persons they wanted to be. There love for each other and their ideas would allow all rationale critique to bounce off their hero and their Weltanschauen (world view).

The joke or irony in many of the various songs from Frankie Goes to Hollywood were not lost out on by the Germans in that divided nations back in 1983, i.e. as the stationing of missiles in West Germany were soon to face off against the Soviets, Eastern Europeans and East Germans. For Germans and other Central Europeans, this arms meant a suicidal gambling-with-their-lives. (In summary, the stationing of medium ranged missiles in Central Europe meant for many a far from rosy few future for them and no-hope for their children.)

This, lack of hope in Germany and Western Europe at that time (1981-1988), could be contrasted with the apparently typical hope that many pro-Reagan Americans placed in the symbol of a U.S. President who was willing to blow up half the world to prove that his opinion of the universe and love of God and state were right.


According to most German- and American memories, Jim Jones was simply a leader of a Doomsday Cult, which eventually carried out its plan to move on to a better universe or heaven.
Both the documentary I saw on German TV and have read on various websites claim : “The Peoples Temple was initially structured as an inter-racial mission for the sick, homeless and jobless. He assembled a large following of over 900 members in Indianapolis IN during the 1950's. ‘He preached a 'social gospel' of human freedom, equality, and love, which required helping the least and the lowliest of society's members. Later on, however, this gospel became explicitly socialistic, or communistic in Jones' own view, and the hypocrisy of white Christianity was ridiculed while 'apostolic socialism' was preached.’”
However, websites also typically note of the People’s Temple, “It was an interracial congregation -- almost unheard of in Indiana at the time. When a government investigation began into his cures for cancer, heart disease and arthritis, he decided to move the group to Ukiah in Northern California. He preached the imminent end of the world in a nuclear war; Esquire magazine listed Ukiah as one of nine in the U.S. that cold survive a nuclear attack. They later moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles.”
Actually, the interracial congregation throughout most of the 20th century remained in most corners of the United States unheard of.
That is, Sunday mornings remained the most segregated time of each week in America, a supposedly free and open country.
One documentary reviewer noted, “Many of the cult followers were struggling with the social injustice and racial discrimination in the 60s and 70s. Jim Jones offered them equality and sense of belonging that the society didn't offer. So Peoples Temple becomes their utopia where they could be so happy and united. Only the sad part is that later some of them realize they were betrayed and they had no way out.”
At times, many Americans (and of course others around the globe) feel they are “betrayed and they had no way out”.
I understand that the Americans who supported America’s war on terrorism and other idealists who have gone to war over the past 8 years have certainly felt at some point that they were betrayed but that they had had no way out.
These Americans (and America’s allies) may have gotten into the army, air force, marines, or National Guard with good intentions or ideals but at times they have felt misspent and betrayed.
They feel they are victims.
Meanwhile, many of these same American victims of the Cult of the War of terrorism call themselves Christians but, in turn, cannot fathom how Christians, like those who had ideals like those in the People’s Temple (which was originally a spin-off from the Disciples of Christ in Indiana), ever found themselves moving to equality and then mass-suicide in Guyana.
Nor can they imagine why there are suicide bombers all over the Middle East--and sometimes in the USA, Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
The fact is that most of us learn all our concepts about suicide, war, fraternity, God and memory by what our immediate elders, schools, topography, or society is teaching us. (By topography, I mean our physical landscape, including schools, statues, theaters, etc.) That is one reason why Jim Jones fled with his tribe from the USA to build a community in Guyana anew.
In this way, Jonestown in Guyana could be built up from one side to look like a very idyllic community here on Earth, where race and gender didn’t matter and where other artifacts of America’s racial, political-economic and social messes and injustices were banned.
On the other hand, as one watched the film (in German) about the Jonestown camp, one realized immediately that what was being narrated was the story of a concentration camp.
Jonestown, like some military and concentration camps around the globe, was a camp where American radio and other news were not to be heard in 1977-1978.
The only news reports allowed in the camp were made-up news reports by Jim Jones and his immediate followers. In this context, Jones could drum into the inmate’s heads that America was killing itself in a horrible class war and that nuclear annihilation was coming on any day now.
Moreover, the inmates of Jonestown were told that the world hated them and that any day invaders from America might come to take away their dreams
REMEMBER: The USA government had been drumming this idea of a nuclear annihilation into the American children’s heads since World War II. Many of those adults in Jamestown Guyana had experiences as children the now-infamous duck-and-cover training at U.S. taxpayer expense in American schools growing up.

Similarly, many Americans who had stood by and allowed America in 2003 to be marched into a war in Iraq were in some ways victims of the same sort of control of media and mass propaganda of the Bush administration (acquired during the Reagan era)—carried out in the most systematic and efficient way from media-manipulation masters and charismatic leaders.

I believe that if counselors, churches and educators do not deal better with the past and memory, we will continue to repeat the debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.

What is required is that physical monuments (1) to the stupidity of war and (2) the crimes that have been done to Americans in the name of ideals or in the name of a faith—whether it is a faith in country or faith in a church—need to be immortalized in stone much more often than has been the case in U.S. developmental history to date.

The need for physical monuments and memorials in the American landscape becomes more important as the U.S. wages wars far from the continental USA (and bomb other nations remotely by their drone robot flights.)

America is already a place where people move away from their villages and towns quite regularly. Americans thus need to have constant physical reminders as to where they (and their people) have been and who they are.

Without the visual- and physical places of memory and commemoration, our children will never wrestle with their pasts as the Germans have been forced to.

The society cannot depend on TV or any single electronic nor print media to teach and raise citizens who are ready to fight for what is right—ie. when the government is wrong.

In conclusion, the physical place of mourning and loss of innocence needs to be much more ever-present in our lives (especially in the case of long distance war-making carried out by remote-control battalions.)

Without such monuments and memorials, we are no better educationally than many of the Middle Eastern Muslim lands where statues and memorials are forbidden in much of the public domain.

FAST FORWARD: Middle Eastern Suicide Cadres 2000-2009

In case you aren’t aware, many Muslims in the Middle East are quite certain that both Islam and the Koran ban images of people.

This is, of course, not correct at all.

Nonetheless, the ban against image laws have been in place in many Muslim regions for centuries. This means that in the many centuries when few Muslims in the Gulf Arab states could neither read nor write, there developed an overdependence on the spoken word for interpreting or acquiring one’s belief systems. Neither images of Islamic characters nor images of Koranic stories to be found anywhere.

Even today, there are not many pictures or statues for a community of religious believers to discuss or reflect on anywhere in most Gulf state lands. This is naturally why Muslims in many countries point-blank oppose images of Prophet Mohammed.

Behind this self-taught (or cultural) belief in (and tradition concerning) the prohibition of images, the authority of one’s elders is becomes primary to interpret and understand one’s world—even well into adulthood for many.

This is one reason (among many reasons) why so many young people in the Middle East and elsewhere fall for the message-controlled-by-authorities in these Gulf State (and neighboring) lands and end up ignoring what contrary views there are in our planets multimedia world.

This controlling of the message is one reason I wasn’t surprised to learn of the Iraqi women who is purported to be the Mother of Suicide Bombers in Iraq.

The martyr-making women is in her 50s. Her name is Samira Ahmed Dschassim.

After her capture, a video of Samira confessing to having persuaded dozens of Iraqi youth to go through suicide bombing training—i.e. to actually be prepared to die in such suicide attacks all over Iraq. Samira’s motherly face has been shown repeatedly on Iraqi TV and around the world this past week.

Samira claims to have persuaded already around 80 young Iraqis to sign up to become mass-killing suicide-bombers, claiming that the only-way-out for them to have a better life is through suicide.

In the case of many young suicide-bombing girls, these young ladies often had been attacked and raped by some people known by Samira.

In their shock and consternation, these young women then turned to Samira for help. (In these same Middle Eastern lands, a non-virgin unmarried girl is threatened with death or shame over the whole family.)

In short, Al-Qaida, for whom Samira indirectly was active for in Iraq, was doing what Hitler, Jim Jones, and the Bush-Cheney administration had done.

They played on the fact that they could control information and manipulate the youth and adults whom they worked with by playing on love for culture, faith, tribe, or family/.

Recall that in the Iraq of the Baathist (or Sadam Hussein) era that the media and PUBLIC ART was controlled by the Baath party. Only Sadam Hussein and Baathist party statues or monuments could be created in those days.

Starting in 2003, there would be no more statues from Saddam Hussein and the despondent youth and adults in Iraq reverted to pre-Baathist cultural and religious identities.

In the last 6 years, there were few alternative memorials created in Iraq—even in the ruins for the world that Hussein had left behind and that Americans and their allies had helped create.

Ruins, however, remind only of loss and do not teach the stupidity of endless wars and other educational factors cultivated in Iraqi poverty of recent decades.

The U.S. should both build memorials to this war of stupidity in the USA and leave memorials that can teach peace and reconciliation whenever they leave (or after they have left) a land. Like the German government, American church’s and states need to even pay in foreign countries for monuments of apology, which are to be maintained for eternity to remember the crimes to be commemorated.

What do you think?

In the meantime, religious leaders must control their messages less and teach adults and children to identify stupidity where they see it.

Moreover, I believe that church leaders or mosque leadership need to stop using the terms suicide or martyr for what is a cruel and horrific act of self immolation, i.e. with each suicide bomber or freedom fighter. (This includes soldiers of nations who considered themselves to be freedom fighters as they invaded Iraq.)

Only by building permanent education campaigns which include permanent memorials as historical witness for crimes will we grow up spiritually and mentally as nations and statesmen.

Appendix 1: Anniversaries in 2009 of last 300 years of German history

As some of the readers of my writings may have noticed, I am spending a bit of time this year in Germany. This is a particularly interesting year to be in Germany witnessing the struggle which present day Germans always face in dealing with history, culture, and religious heritage.

You see…. This is the 20th anniversary of the Wall separating East and West Germany being opened up.

2009 is also the 60th anniversary of the modern federal German democratic republic.

2009 is the 65th anniversary of the failed coup of von Stauffenburg and other generals.

It is the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s Nazi Germany invading both Czechoslovakia and Poland, i.e. officially kicking off the European portion of WWII. (It is also when the Nazis signed a secret treaty to divide up Poland and the Baltic states.)

2009 is the 75th Anniversary of President Hindenburg’s passing away and Hitler taking over all governmental leadership posts in Nazi Germany. Only months before the Nazis murdered the Austrian Chancellor Dolfuss.

2009 is the 90th anniversary of the somewhat unequal Treaty of Versailles.

It is the 95th anniversary of the start of WWII.

2009 is the 120th anniversary of the birth in Austria of one Adolf Hitler.

It is the 160th anniversary of the Hohenzollern turning down the crown from the first Democratic National Assembly in Frankfurt.

2009 is 175th anniversary of the first major European customs union, i.e. putting Germany on the path to becoming a federal state.

It is the 195th anniversary of the start of the Congress of Vienna, which under Austrian and Prussian leadership would redraw the map of Europe.

2009 is the 220th anniversary of the French revolution, which eventually leads to the invasion and transformation of Germanic Kingdoms across the continent.

It is the 300th anniversary of the Catholic Union being formed, which eventually helped lead nearly a decade later to the 30 Years War.


American Wars,

American Wars, American Peace,

American Experience—Vietnam Online,

American Wars—In Whose Interest?

Cultural Memory,


Honor Our Fallen,

A Fearful War to Remember,

The Forgotten War,

In the Long Shadow of the Vietnam War,

Jonestown: Life and Death of the People’s Temple

Let the Dead Bury the Dead,

Memorial Day 2005,

Mind Games,

Mr. Roberts and American Remembering,

Really Remember the Alamo,

Remember American Veteranos,

Remember Beirut,

Remember the Bufallo Soldier,

Remember the Cost of War,,15202,98712,00.html

Remember the Filipinos in War,

Remember the Maine,

Remember the Philippines War?

Remember American-Indian War Veterans Memorial,

Remember African-Americans in Civil War,

Remember the Yom Kippur War,

Remembering American Occupation of Munich,,1518,354029,00.html

Remembering American Soldiers with Little Red Sweaters,

Remembering Black American Loyalties,

Remembering France,

Remembering the Forgotten War,

Remembering a Treaty,

Remembering John Ripley,

Remembering our Bloodiest War,

Remembering One War,

Remembering Falluja,

Remembering War: A U.S.-Soviet Dialogue,

Remembering “the Good War”,

Remembering Which Victims?

Remembering those Who lost the War,

Remembering World War II,

Remembering World War II, The Revisionists have Got it Wrong,

Remembering the Vietnam War

Remembering the Victims of Those Who Profit from War,

The War Dead,

Veteran Museum,


Your Memories,


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Wired for War

Hello Warriors, Weekend Warriors, and Concerned Peaceniks,

There is a growing usage of drones in military. The usage of up to 10,000 drones in the last decade or so by U.S. forces means our soldiers are facing more PTSD at home than if they are were in the regular forces, i.e. when they are sitting in las vegas and attacking others in Pakistan or Afghanitan.

The best pilots are those who trained on an X-box game.

More importantly, the issues of war are being turned on their heads.

People in the Middle East and elsewhere feel threatened by the drones but see that the USA is afraid of frighting them on their own turf. this will likely lead them to hate or despise the USA more in the 21st Century, i.e. as people playing video games do the killing rather than those who face people and their pains and threats head on.

I agree that we should say WE DON'T LIKE WHERE THIS IS HEADING.

Check out the full interview and beginning of debate.

IN 2009 and ONWARDS THE world needs to get laws on the books concering robots and war, i.e. who is responsible and for what.

Wired for War

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to war. Three days after President Obama took office, an unmanned US Predator drone fired missiles at houses in Pakistan’s Administered Tribal Areas. Twenty-two people were reported killed, including three children. According to a tally by Reuters, the US has carried out thirty such drone attacks on alleged al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan since last summer, killing some 250 people.

The Predator attacks highlight the US military’s increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles and other robotic devices on the battlefield. At the start of the Iraq war, the US had only a handful of drones in the air. Today the US has over 5,300 drones. They have been used in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as here at home. The Department of Homeland Security uses drones to patrol the US-Mexico border.

There has been a similar boom in the use of ground robotics. When US forces went into Iraq in 2003, they had zero robotic units on the ground. Now they have as many as 12,000. Some of the robots are used to dismantle landmines and roadside bombs, but a new generation of robots are designed to be fighting machines. One robot, known as SWORDS, can operate an M-16 rifle and a rocket launcher.

A new book has just come out examining how robots will change the ways wars are fought. It’s called Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. The author, P.W. Singer, joins me here in the firehouse. He’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, served as coordinator of the Obama campaign’s defense policy task force. He is also the author of Corporate Warriors and Children at War.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

P.W. SINGER: Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s start with Pakistan. Explain what these unmanned drones are.

P.W. SINGER: Well, you’re talking about systems that can be flown remotely. So, the planes, these Predator drones, are taking off from places in, for example, Afghanistan, but the pilots are physically sitting in bases in Nevada. And there, you have incredible capabilities. They can see from a great distance. They can stay in the air for twenty-four hours. And so, they’re very valuable in going after these insurgent and terrorist hide sites, which is in, you know, mountainous terrain, and it would be difficult to get US troops in.

But the flipside is that there’s a question of what’s the message that we think we are sending with these systems versus the message that’s being received on the ground, in terms of the broader war of ideas.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

P.W. SINGER: Well, so, I spent the last several years going around trying to meet with everyone engaged in this robotics revolution, everything from the scientists behind it to the science fiction authors influencing them, to the drone pilots, to the four-star generals, but also went out and interviewed people in the region.

And this question of messaging, one of the people that I met with was a senior Bush administration official, and he said, “The unmanning of war plays to our strength. The thing that scares people is our technology.” But that’s very different when you go meet with someone, for example, in Lebanon. One of the people that I met with for the book was an editor of a leading newspaper there. And he had to say that basically this shows that you are cowardly, that you are not man enough to come fight us. So a disconnect between message we think we’re sending versus message that’s being received.

Or another illustration of this would be, there was a popular music—one of the hit songs in Pakistan last year talked about how the Americans look at us like insects. Shows you how it’s permeating pop culture. So you have this balancing act that we’re facing between short-term goals and long-term goals.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, the SWORDS, the CRAM, the PackBot—you talk about the robots taking on the “Three D’s.”

P.W. SINGER: The “Three D’s” are roles that are dull, dirty or dangerous, and they’re basically areas where they’ve found robotics have been useful. Dull would be, you know, you can’t keep your eyes open thirty hours straight; a robot can. So it can monitor empty desert for just in case something happens. Dirty is the environment. It can operate not only in, you know, chemical or biological but also in dust storms or at night. We can’t see at night. Things like that. And then, of course, dangerous is you can send out a robot to do things that you wouldn’t send a soldier to do. And the sort of joke of it is that, you know, when it comes to war, you are the weakest link.

Now, the problem is, what are the implications of that for our democracy? So, for example, if you are sending less and less Americans into harm’s way, does it make you more cavalier about the use of force? And one of the people that was fascinating that I interviewed was a former assistant secretary of Defense for Ronald Reagan, who actually had this to say about these systems. He worried that they would create more marketization of war, as he put it. We might have more shock and awe talk to defray discussion of the true costs of war.

AMY GOODMAN: But that is a very serious issue, when—I mean, the time when wars are ended is when one side cannot take the number of casualties, that, for example, if your soldiers that are fighting are being killed. But if they’re robots…

P.W. SINGER: I mean, the concern I have is that it takes certain trends that are already in play in our body politic. We don’t have declarations of war anymore. We don’t have a draft. We don’t buy war bonds anymore. We don’t pay higher taxes for war. And now you have the fact that you may be sending more and more machines instead people. And so, you may be taking the already lowering bars to war and dropping them to the ground.

And then there’s another part of this, of course, is it changes the public’s relationship with war. It’s not just that the public is becoming de-linked, but remember, these machines record everything that they see. And so, we have the rise of what I call YouTube war. That is, you can go on YouTube right now and download video clips of combat footage, much of it from these drones. And so, in some ways, you could say that’s a good thing. The home front and war front are finally connected. You can see what’s going on. But we all know this is taking place in sort of our weird, strange world, and these video clips have become a form of entertainment for people. The soldiers call it war porn.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, you write about robots making mistakes, like in South Africa in 2007, a software glitch in a robotic gun; in ’88, a semi-automatic defense system of the USS Vincennes accidentally shoots down an Iranian passenger plane, killing all 290 people on board, including sixty-six children.

P.W. SINGER: The challenge here is that while we are gaining incredible capabilities with these systems, it doesn’t end the human mistakes and dilemmas behind them. Another way of putting it is, a lot of people are familiar with Moore’s Law, the idea that you can pack in more and more computing power, such that they double in their power every two years. It’s the reason why the Pentagon in 1960 had the amount of computing power that you and I can get from a Hallmark card right now. Now, Moore’s Law is certainly operative. These systems are getting better and better. But Murphy’s Law is still in place. And so, you get what robot executives call these “oops” moments with robots, when things don’t work out the way you want. And it’s just like, you know, our laptop computers crash. Well, imagine your laptop computer crashing with an M-16 rifle.

AMY GOODMAN: How does international law address robots in war?

P.W. SINGER: The problem right now is we don’t have a good answer to that question. Some of the people that I met with for the book were at both the International Red Cross and then also at Human Rights Watch. And there’s two sort of interesting things that came out of that.

At the Red Cross, they basically said, “There’s so much going on in the world that’s bad, we don’t have time to focus on something like this, something that’s like this kind of science fiction.” And that’s a completely justifiable thing to say. I mean, there’s a lot of bad things going on in the world, you know, Darfur, for example. But you could have said the exact same thing back in, say, 1942, where there was lots of bad things going on then, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have, if we had had the chance, launched a discussion about atomic weapons back then. And unlike with atomic weapons, robotics isn’t being worked on in secret desert labs that no one knows about; it’s in our face. It’s being worked on in, you know, suburban factories we all know about. We can see the video clips of it.

The Human Rights Watch visit was sort of interesting, but both funny, because while I was there, two of their lead people got in an argument over whether the Geneva Conventions were the best guideline or the Star Trek prime directive. And it kind of points to that we’re grasping at straws right now when it comes to regulating these machines. And this is—again, as you pointed out, this isn’t science fiction. We have 12,000 of them on the ground right now.

AMY GOODMAN: What happens if a robot commits a massacre?

P.W. SINGER: It’s a great question. You know, who do you hold responsible? Do you hold responsible the human operator? Do you hold responsible the commander who authorized them there? Do you hold responsible the software engineer who wrote it wrong? And how do you hold them accountable? We don’t have good answers.

And what was funny is, one person that I interviewed was a Pentagon robotic scientist. And he said, “You know what? You’re wrong. There’s no social or ethical or legal dimensions with robotics in war that we have to figure out.” He said, “That is, unless the machine kills the wrong person repeatedly.” Quote, “Then it’s just a product recall issue.” That isn’t the way I think we should be looking at the social, ethical and legal dimensions of all of this. And that’s why we need to launch a discussion about it. Otherwise, we’re going to make the very same mistake that a past generation did with atomic bombs, you know, not talking about them until Pandora’s box is already opened.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, who makes these drones? What are the corporations involved?

P.W. SINGER: It is a wide industry that’s growing, and it includes both the large traditional defense contractors—and not just in the US. There’s forty-three other countries working on military robotics right now.

But it also includes companies that people may think of in a different way. The book opens with a visit to iRobot. IRobot is—it’s named after the Isaac Asimov novel and the—you know, the Will Smith movie. And they make the PackBot, which is one of the most popular robots in Iraq. It’s about the size of a lawnmower and goes out and defuses bombs, and now it’s being armed. But iRobot also makes the Roomba, the robot vacuum cleaner. And so, I joke it’s, you know, one of the few companies in the world that sells both to the Pentagon and also to Linens ‘n Things.

AMY GOODMAN: Who else? What other companies?

P.W. SINGER: Well, right down the road from iRobot is a company called Foster-Miller. And Foster-Miller is interesting because, just like it, it was launched by three MIT engineers. Now, Foster-Miller is a fascinating company, because iRobot started out in robotics and moved into the defense world; Foster-Miller is a defense company that moved into the robotics world. And it’s actually a subsidiary of QinetiQ, which is also linked to, you know, the company that everybody loves to speculate about, the Carlyle Group.

AMY GOODMAN: Say more about the Carlyle Group.

P.W. SINGER: Oh, your listeners are probably more familiar with the Carlyle Group than I am. It’s, you know, one of the large investment firms based in D.C. that has sort of a who’s who of people on its board, and it’s the company that conspiracy theorists love to hate.

AMY GOODMAN: P.W. Singer, you write about—in a previous book, Corporate Warriors, you write about mercenaries.

P.W. SINGER: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a link between mercenaries and robots, having to do with deniability, not being included in the body count, and other issues?

P.W. SINGER: That’s a really great question. And a lot of people ask, you know, “How do you—how did you—you first did a book on private contractors, then a book on child soldiers, and now one on robots. You know, what’s the thread that links these?” And there’s two.

One is that the sands are shifting underneath us in warfare, and we’re in denial about it. We have an assumption of who fights wars, and it’s usually a man in a uniform, and that means, oh, well, he’s part of a military, and he must be fighting on behalf of a government, and it must be politics and patriotism. But look at, for example, the rise of the private military industry. That is someone who’s fighting not on behalf of a government, but a private corporation. Profit motive is involved. Child soldier is another breakdown. Ten percent of the combatants in the world today are children. You know, war is not an adult game anymore. And then, with robotics, it’s sort of the ultimate breakdown of humankind’s 5,000-year-old monopoly on war.

But the second thing, as you raised, is an important point, that the use of contractors, as well as the movement towards machines, is, in a sense, a sort of outsourcing of responsibility, an outsourcing of risk, trying to avoid some of the political costs that go to war. You know, I’m often asked, “Well, does this save us money?” Well, that’s not the right question on either the contractor issue nor the digital issue. We aren’t using these systems because simply they save money. It’s because they allow us to avoid certain political costs.

AMY GOODMAN: Are these robotic technologies available to the mercenary companies like Blackwater?

P.W. SINGER: Yeah. There’s a section in the book. I call it “Soldiers of Fortran,” after the old software program Fortran. And there’s a great story in it, which actually encapsulates some of the weird ways this is going, where a group of college students fundraised money to do something about Darfur, and they ended up actually raising about a half-million dollars. It went well beyond their wildest dreams.

And so, then they explored whether they could hire their own private military company. And they called—you know, sent messages out via email, and a number of private military companies called them back, to their dorm room, and one of them actually offered to lease them some drones and—to use in Darfur. And the kids were talking about this. They didn’t imagine it would take off like this, but it did. Now, fortunately, some other people spoke with them and said, “Hey, this is really not the best use of the money that you fundraised.”

But it points to how these systems, they’re not just accessible to militaries. As you noted, they’re being used by DHS, by police agencies. And, of course, many of them use commercial technology. For $1,000, you could do it yourself. You can build the version of a Raven drone. And so—


P.W. SINGER: Well, it’s a little more complex than we can go into on the show, but basically there’s a do-it-yourself kit for building very similar to a Raven drone. And the point here is that you have—

AMY GOODMAN: And the drone shoots people?

P.W. SINGER: That drone isn’t armed. It’s the ability to sort of toss it in the air, and it could go off and, a mile away, show you what’s on the other side of that hill. Now, of course, you could probably jury-rig it yourself to do bad things.

What I’m getting at is that just as software has gone open source, so has warfare. And these systems are not something that requires a massive industrial complex to build, like an aircraft carrier would or like an atomic weapon would. They use commercial technology. And so, that means that they can be used both for good and ill, by actors that have both good intent and bad intent. And the ethical question that we need to think about, you know, when we talk about robots and ethics—most people just want to talk about, you know, Asimov’s laws—well, we also need to think about the ethics of the people behind the robots.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about specifically the experience of the soldiers who are now pushing buttons. They, themselves, their lives, are not at risk. They’re not experiencing the person at the other end.

P.W. SINGER: Yeah, when I use the term "robotics revolution,” I need to be clear here. You know, I’m not talking about a revolution where, you know, your Roomba vacuum cleaner is going to sneak up and ambush you. We’re talking about a revolution in the way wars are fought and who fights them. And this aspect of distance is one of the big ones. It changes the very meaning of going to war.

You know, my grandfather served in the Pacific fleet in World War II. When he went to war, he went to a place where danger took place, and the family didn’t know if he was ever coming back. And that’s very different than the experience of, for example, a Predator drone pilot that I met with who described that basically his experience of fighting in the Iraq war was getting in his Toyota Corolla, driving to work—he’s doing this in Nevada—driving into work for twelve hours, he puts missiles on targets, then gets back in the Toyota, commutes back home, and within twenty minutes he’s talking to his son at the dinner table.

AMY GOODMAN: When you say “puts missiles on targets,” you mean bombs.

P.W. SINGER: Hellfire missiles. You know, he’s basically—he is engaging—

AMY GOODMAN: He attacks, I mean.

P.W. SINGER: He is engaging in combat. But he’s doing it from 7,000 miles away. And then, at the end of the day, he goes to a PTA meeting or takes his kid to soccer practice. And so, it’s a whole new experience of war, which is actually creating a new concept of a warrior.

AMY GOODMAN: But you write, interestingly, that these soldiers who are engaging in war remotely actually suffer greater rates of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.

P.W. SINGER: Yeah, it actually creates a huge psychological disconnect for them and challenges for them on a lot of different levels. And one of the people I met with was a commander of one of these squadrons, and he said it was actually tougher leading an unmanned squadron based back home than it was leading a squadron based in the Middle East, deployed.

And it was a couple things. One is the distancing. You’re at home, but you’re watching these scenes of violence. You’re watching both Americans die in front of you and not able to do anything about it, or you’re engaging in kills on enemies, and you’re seeing it. And then you leave the room, and it’s just like nothing else happened. Your wife is asking you about, you know, why didn’t—you were late for a PTA meeting. You also have the fact that war is 24/7 now. And so, you’re at home, but your time schedule is off because of—you know, it’s 7,000 miles away.

There’s a lot of psychological challenges that we’re just trying to figure out. And there’s also a little bit of denial, in terms of the military support, because these guys don’t want to seem like they’re soft, and they don’t want to say, you know, “I’m suffering worse than the guys in the field.” And they’re not, in many cases, getting as much support as they should be.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the use of drones here at home, for example, on the border?

P.W. SINGER: It’s a fascinating thing, because it raises this question of who should be allowed to have these systems and how should they use them. So, for example, DHS saw the success that the military was having with drones and said, you know, “We want our own.” They bought them using mainly counterterrorism money, but, of course, we know they’re being used for a different kind of infiltrator across the border than al-Qaeda agents. They’ve been used to deal with immigrants and some drug smuggling.

AMY GOODMAN: Are they armed?

P.W. SINGER: No, those ones are not armed, but these are issues that you have to think about, moving forward. Who should be allowed to have armed systems or not? Should police be allowed to have it? You know, the LA Police Department is exploring purchasing a drone to put above a high crime neighborhood and just have it fly above and document everything. Is that something we think is OK for our rights? What about—remember, drones aren’t just big large planes. Some of them are as small as—they could fit on your fingertip, and they could climb up to a windowsill and peer inside.

AMY GOODMAN: The relationship with games? You write that the best pilot is an eighteen-year-old kid who trained on an [Xbox] video game?

P.W. SINGER: Pretty much. It’s a sort of fascinating story of—


P.W. SINGER: Yeah. He was actually a high school dropout who wanted to join the military to make his father proud. He wanted to be a helicopter mechanic. And they said, “Well, you failed your high school English course, so you’re not qualified to be a mechanic. But would you like to be a drone pilot?” And he said, “Sure.” And it turned out, because of playing on video games, he was already good at it. He was naturally trained up. And he turned out to be so good that they brought him back from Iraq and made him an instructor in the training academy, even though he’s an enlisted man and he’s still—he was nineteen.

And the fascinating thing is, you go, “That’s an interesting story.” You tell that story to someone in the Air Force, like an F-15 pilot, and they go, “I do not like where this is headed. You know, I’ve got a college education. The military spent $5 million training me up. And you’re telling me that this kid, this nineteen-year-old—and, oh, by the way, he’s in the Army—is doing more than I am?” And that’s the reality of it.

AMY GOODMAN: ABC News says you wrote the campaign paper for Obama on robots?

P.W. SINGER: I served as defense policy coordinator for the task force that advised him on defense policy, so not just robotics, but across the board. And it was an amazing experience. And one of the things that I was proud of is how we brought together a really diverse set of advisers and experts, you know, people—everything from retired generals to young veterans to academic experts, a whole mix that gathered around helping to advise who is now the President and what our policies should be.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, P.W. Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His new book is Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.