Sunday, May 31, 2009



By Kevin in Germany

Many of you have followed my wife (Maria Victoria) and my adventures since 2008. This adventure included a civil wedding in Kuwait on the last day of that year and a big, fun church wedding in Kuwait this past spring. (Click on the link to the wedding description at this line of my blog.)

Today is my wife’s, Maria Victoria (Baradero) Stoda, birthday.

I flew to Kuwait to visit my wife this past week—with the original week with the intention of bringing her to Germany to join me, my home, my church, my work, and my life here. (I already have her enrolled in a German course.) Alas, the Integration Office in Wiesbaden and other German officials have to-date unhappily and apparently unfairly delayed her visa.

At least I could take her out for dinner and be with Maria Victoria (Vik) at the time of her birthday. (Pray that the civil servants in Wiesbaden act as soon as possible on Vik’s visa.)

Maria was raised on Palawan Island of the Philippines. It is an island where many languages and dialects are spoken at homes, so Tagalong is known and used wisely to help peoples to get along with one another.

“Palawan's almost 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) of irregular coastline are dotted with 1,780 islands and islets, rocky coves, and sugar-white sandy beaches. It also harbors a vast stretch of virgin forests that carpet its chain of mountain ranges. The mountain heights average 3,500 feet (1,100 m) in altitude, with the highest peak rising to 6,843 feet (2,086 m) at Mount Matalingahan. The vast mountain areas are the source of valuable timber. The terrain is a mix of coastal plain, craggy foothills, valley deltas, and heavy forest interspersed with riverine arteries that serve as irrigation.” [Wikipedia]

Palawan is on the western edge of the Philippines and is in the shape of a dagger pointing towards the Malaysia. It is the third longest island of the nation state with the most islands in the world. It is also considered by National Geographic to be one of the most beautiful islands in all of Southeast Asia for tourists to visit.

Chinese immigrations, dating over 2000 years ago, was followed by Malay and Borneo immigrations to the island in the centuries prior to arrival of the Spanish five centuries ago.

In short, there is a lot of mixed culture there, including new immigrants from across the Philippines.

Victoria’s father and mother came from Negros, another island group a days boat journey from Palawan and near the central part of the Philippines. So, Maria Victoria spoke several languages growing up on Palawan.

Dear Victoria, I am wishing you again a happy new year on this birth date of yours. I look forward to you coming to Germany soon and encouraging all who live here with your positive energy and charm.

Remember the Love of the Lord on this day:

"In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:13

Meanwhile, I Corinthians 13:4-7:

“ 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I am committed to work on this all.




Wednesday, May 27, 2009

About Aung San Suu Kyi, Meditator and Teacher

About Aung San Suu Kyi, Meditator and Teacher


Source:, May 21, 2009

To paraphrase our beloved James Baldwin: the world is held together, really the world is held together by the love and compassion and clarity of thought of a very few individuals. Though this idea may be frightening, the world being in such distress, it is also comforting.

At least there are a few people who can be counted on to lead us in a proper direction for survival as humans, and for thriving as a species. Aung San Suu Kyi is at the top of the list. That is really the reason she is jailed and on her way to being imprisoned in Insein Prison, in Burma, where conditions are notoriously horrific and from which inmates often emerge, if indeed they do emerge alive, broken and in need of things like wheelchairs. What can we do?

My parents grew up in a society very much like Burma’s, in the Southern United States of North America. Repression of every kind, for people of color, was the order of the day. They taught their children to hold an inner dignity as the highest possible sign of human development, and they taught us to believe in education. These are things that, when I traveled in Burma recently, I recognized immediately in the Burmese people. These people, like the Palestinians who suffer a fate remarkably similar to theirs under Israeli occupation, are holding a sacred thread, not unlike the thread of Ariadne, which we can use, if we lend our whole selves to the effort, to lead us out of the labyrinth of confusion, and away from the people eating Minotaur that has turned out to be human greed. It is as astonishing as it is fascinating to see so clearly that it is our own greed that is eating us.

In Burma it is the greed of a faceless mob of generals who dream up ways every day to further ransack and impoverish the Burmese population and the land of Burma itself. Selling its precious woods, gems and minerals, and routinely enslaving its people to work on “public projects” designed to enrich those in power. I am sure the Junta viewed a recent film made in Burma by unbelievably courageous journalists, journalists with cameras, called Burma VJ: Report from a Closed Country that thoroughly exposes their implacable brutality. In graphic detail it shows the relentless attempt by the Generals to dominate and destroy the Burmese people. It depicts the soul stirring solidarity of common people with the monks and nuns who rise in defense of them, and the slaughter of monks whose very chants, as they’re bludgeoned or shot down, remind the Burmese people of their non-negotiable belief in Non-Harming. This is one of the places I suggest we start: viewing and widely distributing and discussing this film. From the point of view that everyone on earth is Burmese. Greed knows no nationality or boundary, and if we wait for things to change in Burma of their own accord, we will have abandoned what is most threatened in all of us: our human dignity and our freedom to pursue the life we choose for ourselves; in other words, democracy. Indeed, true democracy is what Americans, from all the Americas, are working toward. Largely because of centuries of greed and theft, we are far from the goal.

When I returned from Burma in February 2009, I wrote a long letter to Aung San Suu Kyi. I understood she might never see it; the point was to send it as a postcard for the world to read, for those who knew nothing or little of her situation, of Burma’s situation, to have a quick study in preparation for the struggle to free her and to give her country back to her, and to the people who love it. As an offering to a contemporary view of a tiny part of Burma, by a North American, that I was able to grasp in less than two weeks, I offer this letter/postcard to anyone who wishes to read it.

There is also an Aung San Suu Kyi webpage where one can find suggestions for actions. There is a petition that asks the United Nations to intervene. There are suggestions for places to contact and people to write. I personally feel we as a world have almost passed the following point, but I will offer it: It is time for people to descend en masse in places like Burma and Palestine and to …. Well, show up. Do I know how to get hundreds and thousands of people on this journey? No, I don’t. But somebody does; it has been done before. People showed up en masse in Mississippi decades ago, and changed the direction of the world. Without the Mississippi struggle there would be no Obama, for starters; there would be no possibility of Americans, black and white, feeling the freedom and joy in each other’s being that is so frequently the most pleasant and astounding surprise of the recent quarter century.

What makes Aung San Suu Kyi so very special – and Buddhists will yawn – is that she is a meditator. This means her mind is well trained to grasp the implications of actions, especially violent ones, too many of our world leaders seem clueless about. They talk about annihilating, obliterating, beggaring, starving, impoverishing, raping and pillaging other human beings as if this behavior has no consequences to themselves or to those they represent. This is an incredibly antique way of looking at our problems: that we can bomb them away. War is a dead end, literally. And, what is more, we simply can’t afford it. Not morally, and not financially. How long will it take the citizens of the United States, one wonders, to recognize that the house their country bombed in Iraq is the same one they were living in until it was foreclosed? We see, if we care to look, that everything really is connected, and, not only connected, it is the same thing. Aung San Suu Kyi gets this, which is why she renounces violence in the face of one of the most violent regimes in the world, while at the same time not condemning those who, driven to desperate measures by their mistreatment by the regime, resort to violence in an attempt to defend themselves.

I can’t think of anything more important than Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle, which she is waging so brilliantly. She has proved she is not afraid of death, and one feels imprisonment will be to her - as being jailed was for Martin Luther King - simply part of a necessary pilgrimage of the soul. I am not as concerned about her, to be honest, as I am about the rest of us. We need Aung San Suu Kyi. We need her example of integrity, courage, a raging and revolutionary loving kindness that has kept her steady in her long years under house arrest. It is amazing to think of the discipline she has taught herself over these years: to see through the masks of even the most brutal dictators, and to discern the confused, unwell, frightened persons behind the masks. To say, even after years of house arrest: I would hope one day to be friends. I would sit down and talk with them.

This is a rare being. But not too rare for this world. It was this world and the Burmese culture and life in India and England, and her own special spirit that produced her. A spirit, for all its rareness, not of “heaven” but of Earth. Reading her thoughts one finds nothing vaporous or otherworldly; she is among the most practical of people. Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma are world treasures; if we lose them, we lose knowledge of a human capacity for wisdom, and an instinct for understanding our human responsibility for the gift of life, that will mean we may never know what, on this endlessly giving and radiant planet, a planet that bows to us every single day, we are doing here.

It is up to the citizens of the world to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burma’s political prisoners, as well as the country of Burma itself. Our governments, bogged down with the accumulated mistakes of the past, and burdened by their own entanglement in greed, are not likely to be sufficient help, even when they are willing. We must remember as we look about the planet at people like ourselves who are oppressed and discouraged, that we are the majority. Sometimes the feeling of being very small in so large a scheme of suffering hinders us. But, take heart. Before the ice at the polar caps completely melts and we are all submerged, along with our dreams, we can do a lot. Especially if we can commit to do even a little. Once someone pointed out to Sojourner Truth how insignificant she was; a black person, a woman, recently enslaved. To paraphrase her acerbic rejoinder: If I’m only a flea on the back of the stubbornest mule on earth, by God I intend to keep him scratching.

That we can do. Somebody who reads this, perhaps in China, Cambodia, Thailand or Burma, will know how to be a flea on the backs of the Generals in Rangoon. Somebody in Washington, D.C. may know how to do this. Each of us must find our own mule. Meanwhile, we cheer you on!

With metta, and in Solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Brave People of Burma, especially the monks and the journalists!

Alice Walker is an American novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist, and activist. Her most famous novel, The Color Purple, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983. ©2009 by Alice Walker

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009



By Kevin Stoda, Germany

Since Sunday May 24 2009 on platform 5 in Wiesbaden’s train station is found the confrontation ground for the TRAIN TO REMEMBERING (Zug zur Ernnerung) in Hessen, Germany.

I visited the train on Sunday and was struck myself by the lack of advertising and lack of awareness for the TRAIN TO REMEMBERING. The train is a decades-long response to the fact that it took the German Railway system (Bundesbahn) over 4 decades to even admit it had earned well under the Nazis.

The TRAIN TO REMEMBERING has visited hundreds of cities in Germany over the past two years and the intention is that it will continue to travel throughout Germany until, the German Railway and city train stations across the land recognize the war guilt NAZI burden that remains since 1945.

1985 was the first time that the Bundesbahn even recognized it had made a mistake by not reaching out to the millions of slavery and holocaust victims which the Reichs Ministry for Transportation and the Reichsbahn took part in from 1937 and 1945. In tows like Wuppertal and Bielefeld commemorations have been placed at or around the outside of train stations.

However, in other locations, such as in Darmstadt, it too decades for the Bundesbahn to agree to any memorial being placed at the station to the victims of deportation and genocide.

The primary recognition that the Bundesbahn of Germany needs to do is to make it clear that the transportation projects and ongoing greed for Nazi transportation moneys led the leadership of the Ministry of Transport and the Reichsbahn to pursue and earn billions of Reichsmarks transporting Holocaust victims and factory slaves for the Third Reich.


Until this past year, one could go to the website of the German Bundesbahn and see a memorial film from 1985 that showed how poorly the Bundesbahn was dealing with any war guilt and its image. That particular video is part of what visitors at the TRAIN TO REMEMBERING can see--along with stories & photos of young gypsy, Jews, and Slavic children who were forced to ride to their deaths on the rails to Hell under the Nazi regime.
What I most noticed from that old DB (Deutschbahn) video is that every segment started with the refrain that the end of WWII had seen the poor Reichsbahn left with over 8,000,000,000 reichsmark in damages.

The focus in that propaganda film and on the rise of the Bundesbahn in subsequent decades glosses over the fact that the Reichsbahn had helped make a lot of the know-how possible in terms of how to build and rebuild a European transport network possible. The Reichsbahn had shown how to make money and improve a transport network which was having the Hell supposedly bombed out of it from Allie sorties.


The entrance area to the train cars of TRAIN TO REMEMBERING reveals suitcases on the platform. The suitcases have names of victims of the racist policies of the Nazi regime and those who followed its leadership from 1933 through 1945 in what is now mostly known as Germany, Poland, and Austria.

Inside there is also a sign with the names of 172 children deported from the station I Wiesbaden

However, victims were from all over the continent,too.

There were the escape trains for Jewish children across Europe fleeing to the UK and Scandinavia in the early 1930s. These were called KINDERTRANSPORT TRAINS.

Moreover, there were forced expulsions of thousands of Jews en masse at the Polish borders in the year before the war really kicked off in September of 1939.

All-in-all, there were estimated up to be up to 20 to 30 million victims of the Nazi racist policies (and slave labor policies for factories) who were transported on the Reichsbahn in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Some were transported several times across the continent before they eventually succumbed to death due to overwork or were simply murdered.

Interestingly and sadly, the step-son of the Reichsbahn is the Bundesbahn (DB) and each month the Bundesbahn charges the founders and promoters of this memorial train some 14,000 Euros to transport and permit the exposition of the TRAIN TO REMEMBERING to be shown to schools and the general public.

April’s bill is for over 15,000 Euros.

Therefore, it is probably appropriate that rather than focusing solely on the victims of the Reichsbahn trains to death and labor camps around the continent, the promoters of the TRAIN TO REMEMBERING provide a whole car of the train for the realization of how hard it has been to even reach the stage of public discourse and confrontation with the Deutschebundesbahn (DB) has permitted and indirectly supported commemoration of the criminality of the Reichsbahn and Reichstransport leadership of the Nazi Era.

For example, up until 1985 the Bundesbahn in Essen Germany had a conference room with a bust of Julius Doerpmueller who was not freed until 1949 from the Americans and their allies in the ENTNAZIFICATION Process. (He was released with misgivings because he refused to repent at all for his acts.) Doerpmueller was the head of the Reichsbahn.for the war effort.

This man, Doerpmueller had joined the Nazi leadership in the late 1930s and was seen as an opportunist by most of his countrymen. He therefore oversaw the logistics and implementation of the ENDLOESUNG (Final Solution) for the Jewish Question.

Many Germans use the DB (train often) and many are not happy with the national train service not helping to finance memorials to the Train Transports of the Nazi era.

Here is a link (in German which reflects the disappointment and discontent of some of the Germans who have visited the exhibition in southern Germany.

I hope that public pressure can get behind a more helpful approach to commemoration by the relatively wealthy (DB) German train system. Children who ride trains often will surely be able to relate to the stories of the Holocaust and other anti-human activities by visiting such a train.

NOTE: The DB is planning to go public on the stock exchange in the near future, by the way.

The Deutschbahn or German Railway is one of the better run and more profitable railways in the world, yet, little is done to have its train stations or its leadership recognize any linkages in memory related to the Holocaust or slave labor under the Nazi Regime in the 1930s and 1940s. A train is in Wiebaden to help raise awareness among children and general public this week. The dots need to be connected.


Friday, May 22, 2009

KEVIN STODA--On-Line Independent Senator Candidate for Kansas in 2010--Suggests Closing Guantanamo Immediately and Moving it to Ft. Benning , Georgia

KEVIN STODA--On-Line Independent Senator Candidate for Kansas in 2010--Suggests Closing Guantanamo Immediately and Moving it to Ft. Benning , Georgia , Home of the Infamous School of the Americas

By Yours-Truly

The former online presidential candidate from Kansas (KEVIN ANTHONY STODA), who before the Iowa Caucus in January 2008 demanded that the U.S. government (1) freeze all housing foreclosures and (2) reduce draconian penalties and fees on banks, has another great suggestion.


As of May 21, 2009, Kevin Stoda has appropriately been publically advocating

--a move of the Guantanamo Prison

--to Ft. Benning , Georgia , where the infamous SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS (SOA) WATCH has been located for decades.

SOA WATCH has described the history of America ’s SOA projects, “Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the `biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.` The SOA, frequently dubbed the ` School of Assassins ` has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.”


In an e-mail to SOA Watch yesterday, U.S. Senate candidate KEVIN ANTHONY Stoda of Kansas , wrote the following:

“Why not move the trials from Guantanamo to the School of Americas´ location in Fort Benning and close them all down at the same time?”

Ft. Benning, Georgia has been the location of the school for 3 decades or more.

“Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, `disappeared,` massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins .”

Kevin Stoda believes that the moving of all trials and terrorists to Ft. Benning is therefore the most appropriate place on the North American continent.


One fundraiser for SOA WATCH responded, “That's a great idea! That way those responsible for torture and crimes against humanity could get put on trial at the same time.”

On-line candidate Kevin Stoda believes that by linking both Guantanamo Prison in Cuba and Ft. Benning´s SOA activities is the most appropriate way to say to the world that (1) America is cleaning house and (2) opening questions of terror and prosecution to greater public introspection at a location where militarism and torture have been directly and indirectly promoted by various USA regimes for decades.

Meanwhile, Stoda calls on President Obama to support the McGovern Bill to close the SOA facility in Ft. Benning .

Already nearly 130 congressmen support the McGovern Bill to close Ft. Benning´s activities in current and former SOA activities.

The closure of Ft. Benning´s most infamous training project will make North and Americans breath a sigh of relief.

Stoda noted that he personally had gotten to know that one Guatemalan victim, named Hurtado, of the SOA school training (and its torture and kidnapping tradition).

Stoda specifically recalls, “Luckily, in Dr. Hurtado´s specific case of being kidnapped by former SOA-trained military officers, both Kansas Representatives and Kansas Senators back in 1982 had intervened in Guatemalan governments management of terror and dirty war--and had luckily negotiated Dr. Hurtado´s release.”

Kevin Stoda says the country needs Senators, like Nancy Kassebaum who stood up back then for human rights.

Stoda asks that his opponents, Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback, join President Obama in closing down Guantanamo Prison as well as the School of Americas . “They both should introduce a bill to match HR 1707 in the Senate before this month is out.”

According to SOA Watch, here (below) are those representatives who currently support the McGovern bill.

Cosponsors of HR 1707
125 + McGovern

Rep Ackerman, Gary L. [NY-5]

Rep Allen, Thomas H. [ME-1]

Rep Altmire, Jason [PA-4]

Rep Baca, Joe [CA-43]

Rep Baird, Brian [WA-3]

Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2]

Rep Bean, Melissa L. [IL-8]

Rep Biggert, Judy [IL-13]

Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1]

Rep Blumenauer, Earl [OR-3]

Rep Boucher, Rick [VA-9]

Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1]

Rep Braley, Bruce L. [IA-1]

Rep Capps, Lois [CA-23]

Rep Capuano, Michael E. [MA-8]

Rep Carnahan, Russ [MO-3]

Rep Carson, Julia [IN-7]

Rep Clarke, Yvette D. [NY-11]

Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1]

Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5]

Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9]

Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14]

Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12]

Rep Crowley, Joseph [NY-7]

Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7]

Rep Davis, Danny K. [IL-7]

Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4]

Rep DeGette, Diana [CO-1]

Rep Delahunt, William D. [MA-10]

Rep DeLauro, Rosa L. [CT-3]

Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25]

Rep Doyle, Michael F. [PA-14]

Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5]

Rep Emanuel, Rahm [IL-5]

Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14]

Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17]

Rep Fattah, Chaka [PA-2]

Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51]

Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4]

Rep Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY-20]

Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7]

Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-4]

Rep Hare, Phil [IL-17]

Rep Higgins, Brian [NY-27]

Rep Hill, Baron P. [IN-9]

Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22]

Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12]

Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15]

Rep Hooley, Darlene [OR-5]

Rep Inslee, Jay [WA-1]

Rep Israel , Steve [NY-2]

Rep Jackson, Jesse L., Jr. [IL-2]

Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30]

Rep Johnson, Henry C. "Hank," Jr. [GA-4]

Rep Kagen, Steve, M.D. [WI-8]

Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9]

Rep Kennedy, Patrick J. [RI-1]

Rep Kildee, Dale E. [MI-5]

Rep Kilpatrick, Carolyn C. [MI-13]

Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3]

Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. [OH-10]

Rep LaHood, Ray [IL-18]

Rep Lantos, Tom [CA-12]

Rep Larsen, Rick [WA-2]

Rep Larson, John B. [CT-1]

Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9]

Rep Levin, Sander M. [MI-12]

Rep Lewis, John [GA-5]

Rep Loebsack, David [IA-2]

Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16]

Rep Lowey, Nita M. [NY-18]

Rep Lynch, Stephen F. [MA-9]

Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14]

Rep Markey, Edward J. [MA-7]

Rep Matsui, Doris O. [CA-5]

Rep McCollum, Betty [MN-4]

Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7]

Rep McNerney, Jerry [CA-11]

Rep McNulty, Michael R. [NY-21]

Rep Meehan, Martin T. [MA-5]

Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2]

Rep Miller, George [CA-7]

Rep Moore, Dennis [KS-3]

Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4]

Rep Moran, James P. [VA-8]

Rep Moran, Jerry [KS-1]

Rep Nadler, Jerrold [NY-8]

Rep Oberstar, James L. [MN-8]

Rep Olver, John W. [MA-1]

Rep Pallone, Frank, Jr. [NJ-6]

Rep Pascrell, Bill, Jr. [NJ-8]

Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4]

Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14]

Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10]

Rep Petri, Thomas E. [WI-6]

Rep Platts, Todd Russell [PA-19]

Rep Price, David E. [NC-4]

Rep Rothman, Steven R. [NJ-9]

Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-1]

Rep Ryan, Tim [OH-17]

Rep Sanchez, Linda T. [CA-39]

Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9]

Rep Serrano, Jose E. [NY-16]

Rep Shays, Christopher [CT-4]

Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [NY-28]

Rep Solis, Hilda L. [CA-32]

Rep Speier, Jackie [CA-12]

Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13]

Rep Sutton, Betty [OH-13]

Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6]

Rep Udall, Tom [NM-3]

Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8]

Rep Velazquez, Nydia M. [NY-12]

Rep Walsh, James T. [NY-25]

Rep Walz, Timothy J. [MN-1]

Rep Waters, Maxine [CA-35]

Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33]

Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30]

Rep Weiner, Anthony D. [NY-9]

Rep Welch, Peter [VT]

Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19]

Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6]

Rep Wu, David [OR-1]

Rep Wynn, Albert Russell [MD-4]

Rep Yarmuth, John A. [KY-3]

Kevin Stoda notes that some Kansas representatives are on the list. However, “it is shameful” he says that very few Kansas and Midwestern representatives have joined in supporting the HR 1707.


Monday, May 18, 2009

An Active-Museum and How Oral, Aural, and Visual Memory Are Taught and Can Empower Peoples By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden Germany

An Active-Museum and How Oral, Aural, and Visual Memory Are Taught and Can Empower Peoples

By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden Germany

I visited a traveling exhibition on Anne Frank at the Oranien-Memorial Church in Beibrich-Wiesbaden last month.

The traveling exhibition on Anne Frank is part of a many-month’s-long focus on improving educational delivery in schools, training, and in encouraging research related to the holocaust in the city of Wiesbaden.

Wiesbaden is one of many cities where the local Nazi regime and supporters burnt down the Synagogues and tried to erase memory of Jews in local history during the 1930s and 1940s.

One facet of the focus on Jewish persecution in Wiesbaden area has been the leadership of the Active-Museum (Aktiven Museum in Spiegelgasse), situated in Spiegel Street.

The Active Museum is actually located in one of the oldest Jewish meeting buildings left in the region.

Note: The title of the combined archive-, research-, library-, exhibition-, and educational training center as the “Active Museum Speigelgasse” (AMS) is intended ironically.

That is, most museums have been historically seen as a passive place where history was to be observed. (This compares with history as retold through books.)

This museum wanted to be different, i.e. very active and encouraging people to be more involved in history and memory.

One way that the Active Museum meets its goals is by working closely with the artist Gunter Demnig’s Stolperstein project.

The Stolperstein (“Stumbling Stones” in German.) is a reflection of more than a movement of artistic memoralization of political, individual, religious, and social memory in a lively and active way.

Alexandra Larson has experienced and written about “stumbling stones”, which she had come to know very personally on a recent visit of hers to Germany.

“Imagine a peaceful walk that is suddenly interrupted by a stumble on a stone in the middle of the pathway. Notice the small bronze plaque embedded in the stone. It reads:
Here resided
Erna Jungbluth
born Abraham
in year 1895
Erna Jungbluth was my great-grandmother. Her stone is placed in the middle of the sidewalk in front of her parent’s house. The stumble and the slight throb in your toe from the encounter with the protruding stone are small echos of the past pain of the victims of the Holocaust. These stumbling stones, or “Stolpersteine,” are scattered throughout the sidewalks of Germany, immortalizing the Jewish people who were ripped from their homes during WWII. Stolpersteine are small bronze plaques placed about half an inch above the sidewalk in front of the houses of Holocaust victims. These stones were designed and installed by Gunter Demnig from Germany in 2004. He said “they are to warn against (forgetting) the cruelties committed by the Nazis against their fellow-citizens” (Stolpersteine). I believe these cruelties were allowed to come to pass because of the physical and emotional detachment of the world towards the victims of the Holocaust. In order to prevent further genocide, detachment and desensitization must be replaced with compassion and action.”


Just around the corner of my own flat in Wiesbaden, on Friederich Ring IN FRONT of housenumber 80 exist three such tiny square bronzed Stolpersteine (Stumbling Stones).

The stones tell me [and anyone who happens upon them] of three members of the Kahn family who had lived here.

The father’s stone shares in German: ”Here lived Julius Kahn, [born] J8 1901, Deported 1942, Lublin Majdenek, murdered 28.8.1942”.

The mother’s stone states: “Here lived Erna Kahn, Born J8 1908, Deported 1942, killed in Sobibor”.

Finally, we see, “Here lived Lure Kahn, J8 1933, Deported 1942. Lublin, murdered 1942 in Sobibor.”

Once I had learned what Stolpersteine were back at a historical lecture at the end January of this year, I have found dozens of such shiny memorial stones throughout the city of Wiesbaden.


Finally, I decided to take part in a tour of some of the Stumbling Stones in Wiesbaden.

Almost every week this time of year, the Active Museum in Wiesbaden is offering tours of various Stolpersteine in the city.

On Sunday May 17, 2009, I took a tour of the footprints of history and story of victims of the Holocaust in the Westend Section of town.

The center part of the Westend neighborhood in Wiesbaden is one of the older neighborhoods in the city. Upon entering it, one immediately notices that there were a large number of stores run by peoples from Arab lands, Turkey, the Balkans, India, and Eastern Europe. Looking around the neighborhood, I also observed peoples from both Africa and the Americas as well.

That Sunday afternoon some 22 visitors, including myself, showed up the Community Center Georg Buch. Inside was a short slide show for first-time tourists of Stolperstein tours of the city. On the slides, viewed photos of the stone placement ceremonies over the past several years.

Schools have been active in this.

Visitors of related Holocaust victims from Wiesbaden have arrived from the USA, the UK, Israel in recent years to take part in such history—i.e. making the history much more alive.

It became clear by the accents of some of those attending that I was not the only foreigner in the group that afternoon. There were some Eastern Europeans and Turkish visitors, too.

Shortly, after a quarter-past-two, we headed out of the center to visit the “first family” Baum.

This Baum family had three members killed in the Holocaust. We were shown pictures of the family—including some members who had managed to survive the persecution of the Nazis.

The Baums had lived at Weissenburg Street 6. They had lived there for half a century.

They had run the children’s clothing store at one of the snazziest corners of town. They had done financially quite well till the Nazis took over.

The matriarch, Emile Baum, survived in Teresienstadt till 1944.

However, both her daughter and son-in-law were dead in Auschwitz by 1942.

We then moved a few houses up the street on the same side of the block to Weissenburg Street 10.


Here we found seven tiny Stumbling Stones, reminding us that the Rosner family had lived here until they were forced into ghetto-like buildings late in the 1930s.

In the period around the horrible burning of synagogues in 1938, the father in the house had actually managed to flee with two sons to Antwerp, Belgium.

These two Rosner sons later made it to Israel, however, the father was recaptured in Belgium after the Germans invaded in 1940. The father, too, then was soon killed in a camp--as his daughters and wives would shortly do.

At this address, we were shown many photos collected from the surviving sons.

The tour audience observed at Weissenburg Street 10, a very poor housing situation for the era. The Rosners were not wealthy and had done financially poorly in the decade before the Nazis had taken over.

We also learned that once Jewish children were no longer permitted to go to public schools in the 1930s, the Wiesbaden Jewish community had created their own school on Mainzer Street, where a large Walmart-like store is now located.

One of the photos showed more than a dozen Jewish boys and girls in shorts and t-shirts who had taken part in a sports competition with a similar Jewish school in Darmstadt.

Only one of those dozen children in the photo actually survived the war.


Since the 1970s and 1980s, German educators have focused on getting local students across the country doing first hand research and oral histories of the Holocaust and WWII.

The Stumbling Stone movement is part of this.

As we interested visitors moved through the neighborhood to five more locations where Jews who were killed in the Holocaust had once lived, we were provided at times photos or copies of letters and postcards from those who had lived there.

Such stories are gathered as part-and-parcel to the Stumbling Stone project. The idea, as envisioned by the grounders of the movement, is that before any bronzed stone is placed, school children and adult researchers need to undertake intensive research over the history of the affected Jewish family.

This means that history is narrated very authentically in the place where history was lived.

Photos and regalia are sought out overe months and years on end.

Our guide this very day shared his relationship to affected family members of victims of the Shoah in this neighborhood.

It was clear that the guide and historian had developed these relationships over decades of research at places such as the Active Museum.


It was, therefore, very disconcerting when, for example, sometimes no pictures of the victims could be found after years of research.

In short, although their stories could be shared on the place or location where the victims had once lived and carried out their daily activities (shopping, playing children’s games, etc.), it was depressing that we came to recognize that too often photos of many Holocaust children victims had never been made or had disappeared with their parents.

In short, unlike Anne Frank, who was born in nearby Frankfurt but whose family had fled to Amsterdam in 1933, there are no photos of many of the smallest victims of the Holocaust here in Wiesbaden and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, it is certainly and honor to have given the victims voices and names through such on-site visits of Holocaust victims’ home sites and old neighborhoods in Wiesbaden.


We stopped at the location on Wallram Street where the Stock Family had lived.

For we Wiesbaden residents, the names of these Shoah victims were already well-known. This is because in Wiesbaden’s center is a cul-de-sac name Stock Siblings’ Place with a bus stop on the main East to West road.

At the location is a memorial made specifically to memorialize all those children-victims of the Holocaust. It is named after the faceless Stock children.

It is at Wallram Street 31 that we find that the Stock family--and another Family Straus--had always lived crammed into a poor man’s neck-of-the-woods in Wiesbaden.

In short, many of the victims of the holocaust were poor—even before the Nazis took over. The family was jammed into an attic in a backroom upstairs apartment even before brownshirts took over the landscape of all of Germany.

On the other hand, many Jews had been shop owners—including owners of a butcher shop on Wellritzer Street 16.

Here it was reported that the father, Moritz, of “the second” Baum Family (we had visited that day) who lived at this address was one of the first victims of the holocaust in the neighborhood of Jews.

It was reported to us that in Wiesbaden 10% of the butchers in the early 1930s were Jewish and the Baum family in Wellritzer Street had relatives running a total of five such establishments—all which were very hard hit by the Jewish boycotts after 1933.

The guide noted that the other butchers had enjoyed the disappearance of their competition with a demonstration of horror.

At one point, all of the Jewish butchers were rounded up and marched through the city. When they arrived at the police station, they were harshly beaten.

Moritz Baum was shot fleeing his beating at the police station.

Our group of historical tourists is shown a picture of the father-less family a year or so later.

As in many of the photos, the boys in the Father-less Baum photo are wearing the classic navy uniform that German boys of an earlier era war—i.e. before the brownshirts and Hitler youth programs were formed.


Two negative views of this insightful tour are left in my memory.

First, at one of the locations, we arrived to find seven Stolpersteine covered in dog shit.

That was at Hellmund Street 52.

I grabbed a newspaper from the tattered street and cleaned up the scene as the guide stated, “That is horrible. . . . and you missed a spot.”

We looked around and found no clue of anti-semitism in the neighborhood’s graffiti filled walls.

Perhaps it was an anti-Semitic German Shepherd or St. Bernard.???

Later, at Bertram Street 21, the group led by the Active Museum’s volunteer guide discovered that a garbage dumpster now covered up the Stumbling Stone of Chaja Keh (born Berglas).

Chaja keh had fled with her husband and family to Belgium in 1939, but she was captured and died soon thereafter in a concentration camp.

Again, it did not seem to be a sign of disrespect that the Stolpersteine had been covered up by the local facility’s manager.

The dumpster was now empty and had likely been placed there away from the street by the garbage. They had likely not seen the bronze stone. They had simply made room so that pedestrians would not have to walk around the large garbage container.


All along our tour, Arabs, Turks, Croats, Africans, and peoples of other nationalities or regions of the globe were interested in what our tour of tiny stone memorials to Jewish victims of the Holocaust was doing--as we made our way through the Westend.

Some knew what we up to, i.e. especially those who lived in buildings behind the Stolpersteine. Some had to ask to pass through as we blocked the door.

Others had only a vague ide--or no idea at all.

As our group began to disband for the afternoon a youth came up to me and asked what we were doing. I explained about the stones, but he seemed to have barely any interest.

However, suddenly a woman whom was wearing a nice Sunday dress in white and brown came up to me.


I realized that I had seen her in Hellmund Street.


She had been standing near us, too, in Wellritzer Street.

This woman, too, asked what we were up to.

I started to explain again to her in detail what we had been up to as a tour.

I explained in German that we had been interested in following the steps of some of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust who had once lived here in Wiesbaden.

This Eastern European woman then spoke to me in very good German. “We are gypsies. You know what that means, don’t you?”

The woman continued, “My mother continues to suffer to this very day because of what the Nazi Germans did to her family.”

“We have never gotten a penny from the German government. The government has given us nothing.”

Finally, the women asked, ”Do you know how to help us get what we deserve from the government?”

I looked around.

The guide (and all other members of the group I had been with for the previous two hours) were gone.

I explained, “I am just “somewhat”of a historian and am new here in Wiesbaden. . . . However, perhaps someone at the Active Museum in Spiegelgasse could help? I gave her a brochure of our tour with telephone, fax and email to the Active Museum.”

I then encouraged her to follow up.


I then decided to look some help up on the internet.

A 2004 report notes: “The first ever report specifically analyzing the situation of Sinti and Roma women in Germany has found that women of this minority group face intersectional discrimination, cumulating the effects of both gender and ethnic or racial discrimination.”

“According to the report's conclusions, Sinti and Roma women in Germany are clearly disadvantaged in a number of key areas such as education, employment, health care, and participation in public and political life, and have not enjoyed the progress that other German women have achieved in recent years. Foreign Romani women are particularly disadvantaged.”

I then wrote several e-mails to the Active Museum in Spiegel Street.*

It sounds like the Active Museum in Wiesbaden might still need to expand its work into recognizing the other victims of Nazism in their midst to this date. Otherwise, it is doing an important job in integrating culture, memory, history, and education into the lives of the Wiesbaden, German community.


Aktiven Museum Speigelbild,

Gestern habe ich an einem Stolpersteintur im Westend teilgenommen, aber anschliessend hat eine (Sinti/Romer )Frau gefragt, ob Jemand ihnen hilfen koennen.

Ich wende Sie an Ihnen.

Die Frau hat erklaert, dass seit 1946 ist ihr Familien aus Polen hierher ausgeewandert.

Sie meinte, dass Der Regierung hat ihrer Familie nichts gegeben, obwohl ihre Mutter noch von der Verfolgung sehr leidet.


Kevin A. Stoda
Oranienstr. 62
Wiesbaden 68185


Saturday, May 16, 2009



By Kevin Stoda, Germany

German cinema is raving about the somewhat forgotten (in the USA-only) 2008 film GRAN TORINO from Clint Eastwood.

The world is craving films about more average and genuine American lives—and believe it or not, the dysfunctional families in a former-big-gas-guzzling-car manufacturing boomtown in Michigan offer such an insight of (view of) America!

This thirst for good and more genuine stories, i.e. which reflect the width and breadth of the American experience, especially in our economic-shell-shocked age, is very strong around the globe.

Particularly, the racist wars with Muslims and Arabs have spawned this interest in the American saga of multicultural and multi-generational integration.

I went to the early showing of the film, GRAN TORINO, last night at Castle Biebrich. [Yes, this movie theater is really a nice castle on the Rhine River where classic films are studied on a regular basis.

This particular 6:30pm showing was the premier of the English language version (with German subtitles) of GRAN TORINO in Germany.

The movie room in the third floor of the giant castle was filled when I went in. The German crowd awaiting at 9:00 the second showing of GRAND TORINO was absolutely overflowing the hallway. (I’m sure some folks had to be turned away.)

As a slow rain fell, I reflected on what I had just seen in the Castle Biebrich in Germany about life in Michigan-America 2008-2009 through the lens of Clint Eastwood (and cohorts) as the water bounced off my umbrella and I wandered in the evening light of the castle gardens.


According to internet blurbs, the plot of the film GRAN TORINO goes as follows.

“The story follows Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed Korean War veteran, and examines his attitude to his neighbors, [including] a Hmong family. After Kowalski’s young neighbor, Thao tries to steal his Gran Torino and a Hmong gang attacks Thao for failing, Kowalalski reluctantly forms a relationship with the family.”

Such a blurb doesn’t tell you that the film is also an educational film on how to teach new settlers in America to try an integrate in a positive way.

Nor do most Americans know that the 2008 film has been the highest grossing Clint Eastwood film of all time worldwide—beating out the Academy Award winning MILLION DOLLAR BABY.

The end of this film, GRAN TORINO, finds a dead protagonist, played by Clint Eastwood, singing a tune as the young Hmong-American hero, Thao, begins (1) to drive the Gran Torino along Lake Michigan and (2) to live out the American dream that the racist old man has opened him up to him--through the old racist’s mentoring in the realm of how to live in and make it in macho-old-run-down Michigan, especially in economically troubled times.

That is, in an age when gangs offer more hope to young Hmongs and minority males than most of the rest of their slice of the American dream-pi actually appears to do so.


The racist old foul-mouthed man whom Eastwood plays had not even known that Hmongs were among the Montagnards or hill tribes in Vietnam, Laos and China who had fought against the Viet Cong on behalf of the U.S. in the Vietnam War.

Interestingly, the story of the Hmongs in USA history remains mostly unknown in MOST OF America and elsewhere, TOO.
Jeffrey Lindsay notes, “The Hmong [in Southeast Asia] apparently were told that they could bravely fight for the U.S. because the United States would always be there to protect them should local communists turn on the Hmong. It was a relationship of trust, but Hmong trust in the US would be sadly misplaced.”
Lindsay continues, “In 1963 the Kennedy Administration had the CIA increase the secret Hmong army in Laos to 20,000 soldiers. Significant battles occurred as the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao occupied major areas in northern Laos in 1964. Meanwhile, the US began a secret air war in Laos. By 1968, US pilots would be doing 300 dangerous sorties a day to battle many thousands of Communist troops. Hmong soldiers rescued many American pilots who were shot down. Sometimes dozens of Hmong would die in order to rescue one American pilot. Over 100 Hmong pilots were recruited and trained by the US, and they ran mission after mission until they were all killed. Hmong courage seemed to know no bounds in the fight for freedom. But sadly, much of the fighting seems to have been in vain.”
Finally, “[a]fter taking over Laos in 1975, the Pathet Lao Communists stated that they would wipe out the Hmong. A Vietnamese broadcast apparently called for genocide against them. From 1976 to 1979, there were credible reports of chemical warfare used against Hmong villages. The world tried to ignore these reports, and some influential voices in the United States tried to discredit the evidence, claiming that the "yellow rain" that had been used to kill Hmong people was just natural bee feces, not a chemical toxin. By the time overwhelming evidence had been gathered to shatter the "bee feces" theory, the media no longer seemed interested in exploring charges of genocide by Communist forces.”

I, myself, learned only whom Hmongs were when I went to teach in urban Kansas City, Kansas in the mid-1980s. I came to know through my educational training at that time that most of the Hmong males and youth were not integrating well.
Because the Hmong had never had even had their own written language at the end of the Vietnam War (1975), integrating the hill tribe Hmongs into the greater American saga was, in some ways, like trying to reintegrate stone-age culture into a modern educational setting.

It was unfair situation for most of the youth (who had depended historically on their ancestors and ancestor’s learning to guide them), and the U.S. as a whole certainly has done a bad job of educating and integrating the Hmong population into American society over the last 4 decades.

Left to sink or swim, Hmong could only fall back onto family support and tribal traditions (leading to a preference for gangs among many male youth)—or simply sink.
According to Lindsay., “The United States, recognizing the sacrifice made by Hmong soldiers to fight for the U.S., began accepting Hmong refugees into the United States in December of 1975. By 1990, about 100,000 refugees had entered the United States. Today approximately 250,000 Hmong are in the U.S., and a similar number still live in Laos. Over 5 million Hmong people are in Southern China, also under Communist rule.”

So, in the 2008 film, set in a run-down part of Michigan, it is no surprise that Hmong characters (and other such Southeast Asian immigrants) have not done as well as other Asian Americans in integrating or succeeding in American society.
The film, GRAN TORINO, introduces a global audience to the food habits, social problems, and Hmong culture for the first time.

As the world has spent nearly 300 million dollars viewing the film over the last 6 months, I would say the world is interested in the integration story of America.


In the film, GRAN TORINO, Walt Kowalski is a Korean War veteran who still hates himself for some of the horrors he inflicted on others in an Asian war over five decades earlier. This film is ever-in-the-present though. In this way, Kowalski never reveals a flash-back of those scenes that haunt him and make him unable to deal with death—whether it is his own death or the death of his wife.
Kowalski does share one poignant line, though.

Kowalski basically tells a priest, “It is not those horrible things or killings you did [in war] because you were ordered to which haunt [you], it is those horrible things you have done without being told to do them.”
This is a poignant thought, eh?

Too often we (as peace makers) try to awaken guilt for crimes committed by soldiers—regardless as to whether these soldiers are from fascist lands, communist-run countries, or very mentally-confused Islamic tribes.

The killing guilt is, though, the kind of guilt we have when we know that no demagogue, officer or fascist ordered us to commit them.
This guilt might even include the sense of guilt in building weapons (by our own firms) for some of us if that is the case.

Such a sense of guilt can not be corrected in any straight-forward way because there are so many internal and psychological cover-ups of our own guilt that none of our friends or family may ever scratch the surface or help us transcend the sense of guilt for non-acting to stop violence before it happened(s).
This means are unwillingness to go to jail to stop war.
This means that our willingness to take a chance and help-the-other will mean us having to take a bullet for the other.
The film GRAN TORINO’s storyline and critical self-reflection handles this theme ‘of taking a bullet” to some great degree and shows why Clint Eastwood’s films are getting better as he ages--and is no longer allowing the rest of the world dictate his narration.

In short, the ugly-nasty-mouthed-hero Kowalski (also from a family of polish immigrants a century earlier) handles the concept of suicide attack better than many characters in most other films of any similar genre.

Finally, as the USA military complex is still at war and soldiers will continue to be sent in to do suicide raids and attacks, we should all ponder the reality of it all and ask whether we follow orders or act on (and through) our own conviction, too.
I hope some Arab and Muslim viewers understand what the underlying message is and see that unnecessarily wounding the innocent in war is a loser, too. That is certainly an indirect but important message from the film.

After a long wait at a rainy bus stop not far from the gardens of Biebrich Castle last night, I was able to catch a ride back to my home near the train station.
It was still pouring down as I rushed up the street to my flat in Oranien Street. (The Oranien family had built Biebrich Castle orgiginally.)

Suddenly a thirty-year-old black man stopped me, talked to me, and begged for money. He offered me his watch and coat in return for twenty or thirty Euros.
As the rain poured down, the man shared, “I have been all over town today but I don’t speak much German. I havr just been to the Red Cross at the military base, where he had used to be employed as contractor.”

The man explained that he had been laid-off when there was a cut-back in work several months back. He had been promised a few more jobs, but each time, different contractors with more seniority had gotten the work.

In other words, for several months, the man had been out of work.
This man was from Michigan—yep, just like the characters in the film I had just watched in Biebrich Castle. (You know, the film GRAN TORINO about isolated fringe types in the American culture 2008-2009.)

This American shared that he had been kicked out of his apartment that very morning and his suitcases were hidden under bushes in a town west of Biebrich—called Shierstein.

He couldn’t speak much German, he said, but he needed money and help to make it to Frankfurt where the U.S. Consulate had a place to stay for orphaned contractors like himself.

I told the young man that the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt is closed till Monday.
Nonetheless, this man assured me that he had contacted the USA Consulate and their was a place where he could go and they could help him to stay a bit until a plane ticket could be found to send him back to Michigan, i.e. with the Consulate’s assistance.
I wondered aloud, “Do I have the word SUCKER planted on my forehead?”

I pondered whether to invite the guy back to my house.

I also began to look at the watch the man had offered me in lieu of some cash.
The man said he planned to head with his stuff to Frankfurt as soon as he had enough money to get a taxi to take his belongings from the town of Shierstein-- i.e. not far from Biebrich,--and back to the main Wiesbaden train station.
I had only about 30 Euros--and a bit of change--in my pocket.

As the rain poured down, the man said he planned to simply walk back to Shierstein, get himself something to eat, take a taxi to the train station, and then go on a train into Frankfurt.

I thought and calculated, “It is 10 o’clock on a Friday night in Germany. All that would cost about 30 or 40 Euros.”

Still worrying about being played for a sucker, I agreed to take the man’s watch and give him 30 Euros. (NOTE: I have needed a watch for some time but have usually gotten by for a half a year with a cell-phone clock.)

I turned away after praying for the guy.

After about 50 meters, I looked at the black man from Michigan as he trudged up the Biebricher Road.

That Michigan man did not stop walking and take a bus as I had anticipated him doing if he was just tricking me out of my money.

Instead, he passed the bus stop.

Then, in the rain, the young man continued his walk up the road as though he was on a great mission, which would take him on a circuitous but safe route in a few hours to Shierstein.

“Hopefully, [if that is where he is meant to be], the broke man would be on a plane back to Michigan in a few days, “ I thought.
Who knows?

At least I’ve got a Nike Watch.


WE ALL have a chance in our lives to take a chance on others.
I don’t mean that other readers should be reckless enough to chance throwing money away at or on beggars from foreign lands as I possibly did last night
On the other hand, I believe, “At least taking a thirty-euro chance on this apparently homeless thirty-year-old Michiganite is better than throwing my money away in a casino. There, in the casino, my chance to help someone is none once the money is gone.”*

The main character in GRAN TORINO had rolled the dice, too,--i.e. on a young man who had try to steal his own car from him.

What chance are you going to take on humanity today?

What kind of mentoring can you offer young people today?

What kind of hopeful and helpful life do you want to live out?

These are other things that the world wants to know from/about America in 2009.

Such films are what life is full of….. aren’t they, America?
*Casino is the current Germany metaphor for the incompetent/misleading form of capitalism that dominated in the world over the past two decades or more. Read this article for more clarification.


Friday, May 15, 2009



By Kevin Stoda, Germany

I could start this article by talking about how the Whitehouse has failed to encourage Congress to even consider a more universal health care system, including consideration of either (1) single-payer or (2) the highly ranked Australian system.

I could start this article by writing about the way, the Obama Whitehouse has failed to oversee the prosecution of war crimes during the Bush-Cheney Administration (2001-2009), especially in the area of demanding and supporting torture and cruelty.

I could ridicule and ask why the Obama administration is not closing down Gitmo in a timely fashion as promised. (Moreover, reports of continuing torture techniques and practices continue there and in various semi-secret U.S.-stateside prisons. Some of these techniques in the USA and have in the past led to homicides as well as suicides.)

I could go on-and-on about Obama’s expansion and extension of war making powers and practices in the White House after publicly stating for many years that he is against perpetuating the American War nightmares of the Bush-era.

I could note that Obama is just spinning and hyping the story often.

For example, the recent arguments Obama has posted on his decision to hide photos of torture has clearly been hiding the fact that other documents are being hidden and held from those human rights supporters and legal experts clearly legally seeking to find out who ordered what torture techniques lead to murder, etc.

John Sifton has said on Democracy Now, “Well, the photographs are obviously very important, but they’re just one side of the coin. There are large amounts of CIA internal documents from the inspector general’s report that the CIA prepared about detainee abuse. There’s a lot of stuff there, a lot of material that Obama can consider releasing. The photographs, obviously, are very important. It’s good that we’re paying attention to them. But the real evidence that shows the way these techniques spread and the involvement of senior Bush administration officials, that’s not photographs. Those are memos. Those are CIA cables from black sites to Langley, notes from meetings between Langley and the White House, things like that.”

I just don’t have too much time for Obama till he gets some of these issues right.

Others citizens and governments world-wide are keeping tabs on Obama’s shortfalls and excessive spending on bad banks while failing to save many U.S. jobs in the automobile industry.

For example, the inability of Obama to get the German state to accept no more Gitmo prisoners is likely linked to his turn around on investigating the crimes of the previous administration.

Why should Germany and the European Union pick up the mess that Obama refuses to clean up himself?


The only good news is that the birds (who should be) in the cages—the ex-USA President and VP—are starting to sing.

For example, Dick Cheney recently admitted that both he and President George Bush were aware of the methods and had approved the torture techniques and other war crimes or crimes against human rights and dignity.

This means that American legal experts and human rights experts can now ask District Attorneys across America to arrest those men—and their supporters like Rice and Rumsfeld. Get work, guys!

It is predicted that a war crimes trial for Dick Cheney would likely be the shortest in history.

I know I need to get to w….

Ooops, one more thought.


Michael Pollen, author of IN DEFENSE OF FOOD: AN EATERS MANIFESTO, wrote a letter to Barack Obama as the nation’s-farmer-in chief. Pollen basically stated:

“The most salient point is simply, you are not going to be able to tackle either the healthcare crisis or climate change unless you look at our food system. In the case of climate change, food is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gases, the way we’re growing food, the way we’re processing it and the way we’re eating. And the healthcare crisis, as I’ve talked about. So we need to address it. It’s really the shadow issue over these other two issues.”

Eat healthy, Mr. President, you need to start eating better and thinking more clearly--and connecting the dots shown to you by Mr. Pollen and I—and millions of other dissatisfied folks around the world.

Now, I really need to get to wo…….


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Thoughts for Today: Shared by Howard Zinn to Barack Obama this date in History


Obama does need to change his mindset on anything from acting like a terrorist to opposing the American will on healthcare for all.

Please read or listen to these words.

HOWARD ZINN: I wish President Obama would listen carefully to Martin Luther King. I’m sure he pays verbal homage, as everyone does, to Martin Luther King, but he ought to think before he sends missiles over Pakistan, before he agrees to this bloated military budget, before he sends troops to Afghanistan, before he opposes the single-payer system, which you talked about earlier in your program. He ought to ask, “What would Martin Luther King do? And what would Martin Luther King say?” And if he only listened to King, he would be a very different president than he’s turning out to be so far. I think we ought to hold Obama to his promise to be different and bold and to make change. So far, he hasn’t come through on that promise.

AMY GOODMAN: When Barack Obama was running for president, asked in the debates who would MLK endorse, who would Dr. King endorse, he said, “None of us.”

HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, that’s true, because King believed—and this actually is one of the themes of our people’s history, is that you cannot depend on presidents, and you cannot depend on elections and voting to solve your problems. People themselves, organizing, demonstrating, clamoring, they are the only ones who can push the President and push Congress into change. And that’s what we have to do now with Obama. We have to point to what Obama said in the course of the campaign, when he said we not only have to get out of Iraq, we have to get out of the mindset that brought us into Iraq. Obama, himself, has not gotten out of that mindset yet. And I think we, the people, have to speak to him about that.


HOWARD ZINN: Well, these people that I saw on your program earlier who were demonstrating for the single-payer health system, which Obama is very, very reluctant to endorse, they were doing what needs to be done. They were committing acts of civil disobedience. They were going into offices where they were told to leave, and they wouldn’t leave. They were doing what we were doing during the movement against the war in Vietnam. They were doing what the black movement was doing in the South. And this is what we will need. We will need demonstrative acts which dramatize the fact that our government is not responding to what the people need and what the people want.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the alternative to war with Afghanistan and Pakistan?

HOWARD ZINN: Well, the alternative to war is to send food and medicine. I was with a taxi driver from Afghanistan, and I always start up a conversation with taxi drivers, because they know more than most news commentators. And so—not you. I’m not talking about you, Amy, of course. But he was from Afghanistan. And I said, “What do you think about Obama sending more troops to Afghanistan?” I didn’t tell him what my position was. He said, “We don’t need troops.” He said, “We need food and medicine.”

We ought to stop thinking that we must have military solutions to the problems that we face in the world. The solutions that we need are the solutions of dealing with sickness and disease and hunger. That’s fundamental. If you want to end terrorism—

AMY GOODMAN: I’m telling you, the great historian, you have five seconds.

HOWARD ZINN: If you want to end terrorism, you have to stop being terrorists, which is what war is.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Marriage, Integration, and Immigration Policy —Modern Bureaucracy Reflecting the Worst

Marriage, Integration, and Immigration Policy —Modern Bureaucracy Reflecting the Worst

By Kevin Stoda, Germany

In an era of big and bigger governance and at a time when companies, especially financial institutions, need to be managed better, the position of bureaucracy and managing-management are ever more seen as more important than ever when trying to comprehend how modern society currently functions.

Due to this shift or growth in many branches of government over the past decade, even the Republican Party in the USA is now seen as a big spender and friend to bureaucratic growth.

Traditionally modern rhetoric in the media and in the political landscape have primarily looked down in disdain at overblown management (and over-management) sectors or at ballooning bureaucracies and their machinery (or chicaner), which have appeared over the past decades to have grown like weeds on a Kansas landscape during rainy season.

Interestingly, this growing fascination with growing organization and bureaucratic power has occurred at a time when firms and companies have received and demanded ever more hands-often governance.

On the one hand, at the same time many firms and corporate leaders have made careers out of trying to make companies lean and tough—often by laying people off (i.e. putting them on the government payroll).

Similarly, politicians have made their own careers by bashing bureaucracy. However, in actuality, most, like the now infamous former U.S. President, George W. Bush, actually have grown bureaucracies faster than any of their predecessors.

In the midst of this phenomena, management and organizational theorists have suddenly once again grown to defend bureaucracy in the old school vain, which Max Weber made famous over a century ago.

These sage evaluators of business and governance say that the common good is often better managed than simply left to nature or to the so-called free market.

On the other hand, there are still certainly authors who criticize the growth in governments as having the tendency to create a negative relationship to the proper and fair functioning of (1) national constitutions and (2) human- and international relationships in general.

Let’s look at the role of marriage and international marriages and see how bureaucracy often does not work towards the public good, especially in a nation state like Germany --which actually is embedded quite firmly in a greater union or marriage to the European Union membership (and evolving treaties, i.e. treaties which are acting as constitutions currently).


Why is marriage in Germany today a good example of lack of attention of bureaucrats to the common good?

First of all, the father of all bureaucratic studies is Max Weber, a German Sociologist and theorist from the 19th century.

Second, up till this very era, within the European Union there have been many different lands with their own laws on marriage contracts--and the right to have a spouse--or the right to even bring one’s spouse across international borders.

Third, Germany , being itself a federal state consists of various lands and cities ( or layers of governance like in the USA ), also recognizes the role of cities and counties (called Bezirk or Landeskreis) to undertake the approval of marriage licenses and to allow for the integration of settlers from across Europe and beyond.

For example, final approval for a family visa in my city is undertaken at the Integration Office of the city where I live—and not at some larger bureaucratic center further up the levels of federal government hierarchies.

In short, Germany is the perfect place to discover how out-of–control and mismanaged local governance (combined with national & international arms of bureaucracy) can be in the way they destroy—and overburden-- families and unduly inhibit marriage- and settlement of married partners across borders.


My first example of bureaucracy run-amok stems from the marriage of a German and American couple last autumn in Baden-Württemberg.

The American bride-to-be had actually grown up most of her life in Belgium but she had kept her American citizenship. This was her second marriage. Her first had been to a local Belgian. So, most all official paperwork of hers was in Belgium .

As the wedding date in September 2008 drew near, the local government near Karlsruhe , Germany was continuing to ask for more and more paperwork.

Every time, the Belgium government provided the paperwork for the women promptly. She brought over the border to Germany .

These successive and growing demands for more paperwork by a local mayor’s office in Germany were sent back to Belgium with the bride-to-be.

Again, the courthouse in Belgium promptly provided papers for each new request from the German side.

This dismaying process went on throughout the summer of 2008.

The couples big church wedding in Germany was drawing near and the couple was extremely worried.

So, what did the American and German couple do?

At the end of August 2008, this couple flew to Denmark and had a civil wedding done there. This took less than a week.

The couple returned to Southwest German and held their church wedding as scheduled in early September 2008.


Well, since I met that American and German couple in February this year, I have learned that it is quite common for people in central Europe to travel to Denmark because the bureaucracy for marriage is much more endurable there.

One online advertisement for weeding assistance in Denmark notes that “getting married in Denmark is quicker than in Las Vegas ”.

I doubt that, but perhaps the advert is true if one considers the time it takes to fly to Las Vegas and back from Germany .

All I know is that bureaucracy and the power of a single government bureaucrat in Germany remains a bit like it was in the Middle Ages—byzantine and monarchal.

Likewise European law up-till-last year was so non-aligned across the continent that for example, one Portuguese man (i.e. a citizen of an EU land) who married a woman from Brazil ( a non-EU land) was allowed to bring his wife along to live in Germany (with no German visa required) when he decided to move to Germany to work (from his original place of residence in Lisbon).

Meanwhile, a German man (i.e. a German and an EU citizen) , who, married a woman from Namibia, was still not able to bring his wife directly to live in Germany (his homeland) without getting a visa for his wife first

Believe me! Getting a visa for one’s wife is quite difficult—even for Germans. I’ve talked to quite a few mixed national couples about the process.

NOTE: I myself have been trying for several months to bring my own wife over from Kuwait to Germany . (So you can bet the bureaucracy is still harder on me and my bride.)


I am hoping that there will be changes or reforms in the German system soon.

I have already read in a legal journal that recently there have been some bureaucratic alignments made across the EU (including Germany ) in the area of visa regulations for EU citizens and their spouses in late 2008 and early 2009.

However, the fact remains that Germany is just an example of how governments and bureaucracies around the globe fail to look after not only the greater good of their own citizens but fail to encourage common good amongst citizens of other nations at a time when tolerance and integration across race, religion, and nationality are supposed to be being promoted.

This need for more tolerance and fairness in awarding marriage licenses and in providing access to visas for spouses is particularly aggravating the situation in the majority of EU nations where population growth is around 1.5 per couple on average.

The situation in Germany appears to be particularly dire because (in 2008) for the first time in many decades, less foreigners have moved to live in Germany than the year before.

Already in the German state of Hessen, where I live, up to 1/3 of the children under 16 are from at least one parent who was born in other nations.

This means that by themselves the Germans are not keeping up demographically and their unhelpful bureaucracy of integration and marriage are keeping the incoming and integrating populations lower than they need to be.


To be fair, Germany is definitely not the only country in Europe or the world that has such a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde approach to marriage and integration of international couples.

Similarly, I have met numerous Americans who have married someone from abroad, especially USA servicemen.

From these American couples, I have heard horror tales of them spending several months to years with their spouses hanging out in the Philippines and in other corners of the globe before they were finally allowed to bring their wives across borders to the USA .

I bring this up because I married a beautiful Filipina myself this past year.

The USA Consulate in Frankfurt has since notified me that it refuses to help process any visas for non-Americans in Germany until these non-Americans have lived in Germany for at least 6 months.

That means that even while I am still currently waiting in Germany for the German leadership at the Integration Office in Wiesbaden, Hessen to process my wife’s visa to come and join me at work in Germany (from Kuwait) , I will have to expect to wait automatically six more months after my wife’s visa approval and arrival in German occurs before I can go to apply at the Consulate in Frankfurt to get a visa to go to the states and visit my family (while accompanied by my bride).

Don’t forget America !

Eight years ago, there was no such mammoth bureaucracy like the Department of homeland Security existing on the planet.

Now it is the largest and most out-of-control part of the American Bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, Germany and other countries will copy its every paperwork and delaying tactics. This sort of copying is called alignment or realignment of bureaucratic procedure.

Now this monster bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, even controls (my) our own spouses´ destiny.

AMERICA AND THE WORLD need to rethink their growing love of bureaucracy.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Billy Joel, Daniel Berrigan and I Celebrate Our Birthday: May 9 as Eastern Europe Continues to Commemorate End of WWII By Kevin Stoda, Germany I don

Billy Joel, Daniel Berrigan and I Celebrate Our Birthday: May 9 as Eastern Europe Continues to Commemorate End of WWII

By Kevin Stoda, Germany

I don’t know if biorhythms of history really do converge on certain dates. But, I do know that one of my freedom, peace and justice heroes was born on this date in 1921. That peacemaker is Father Daniel Berrigan.

Starting in the Vietnam War era, Father Daniel Berrigan began to stand up in a big way for his faith and belief that plowshares can and need to be hammered out of the world’s overstock of weapons and agitating & bullying governance. He flew to Vietnam with Howard Zinn in 1968 to take the release of three captured American GIs from Hanoi in January 1968.

Later, he became one of America’s most wanted for simply pouring blood on U.S. military draft cards that same year.

Numerous times Berrigan has gone to jail as a witness for his faith. He was on hand with the founding of the Plowshares Movement in 1981.

For decades, I have celebrated my birthday, May 9, and thought of Daniel Berrigan’s life witness for decades. After 9-11-2001, I have become more and more vocal about the lack of a real faith and practice geography for the majority of Christians (and non-Christians) who feel their faith is misused to fight wars and to make war crimes.

Robert Cole’s and Daniel Berrigan’s book THE GEOGRAPHY OF FAITH has empowered me and generations.

This year, however, as the biorhythm of life proceeds, I find myself geographically in Germany, where I was 20 years ago when the Wall between East and West came down.

As I have listened to the local German radio and read local German newspapers today, history seems to march behind me an in front of me.

MAY 7, 1989

For example, in East Germany on May7, 1989, the fraudulent local elections that led to a mass movement in East Germany—spearheaded by those gathering in churches—were carried out.

Over 380 citizens posted different official complaints against the SED government which had run the elections and the country. Hundreds of East German citizen volunteers had gathered that May 7 to oversee the elections. They monitored so well that fraud could not be ignored, but the Eric Honaker regime tried its best to do so.

Within months, many East Germans were voting with their feet to leave the country.

The rest is history.

MAY 8, 1945/1949

In Western Europe and the USA, VE-Day (Victory in Europe Day) was declared on May 8, 1945.

However, till today the holiday for The End of the world’s deadliest war on the European continent is still celebrated on May 9 as a truce did not go into effect until midnight that day.

This is why from the Czech Republic to Poland and on to Russia, May 9 is a national day of celebration.

I have always been honored to have a day of peace remembered on my birth date each year.

Meanwhile, both the Red Cross and Red Crescent consider May 8 their date. In Wiesbaden, Germany (where I live) yesterday, many flags were flying from all the buses to recognize the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE RED CROSS/RED CRESCENT.

Interestingly, the choice of May 8 as the special day for this Noble Peace Prize winning organization is not the result of war. It is simply because the founder, Henry Dunant, of the Red Cross was born on that day in 1828 in Geneva, Switzerland.

However, May 8 is also celebrated in Germany as the day that the first really good constitution was put in place. May 8 was the date in 1949 when the Bundestag in Bonn in West Germany voted on what is still called the Basic Law.

The whole world has benefitted from the passage of that constitution, the Basic Law, which enabled the German peoples to stop fighting each other and their neighbors for prosperity all over Europe by military means.

May 9, 2009

One person’s history of May 9 is always intimately related to others—even those whom we have never met. That is all part of the butterfly effect.

Here is a calendar of May 9 in Jewish history, for example.

By the way, Billy Joel (60 today) also celebrates his birth date on May 9 with Candice Bergen (62), Daniel Berrigan and I.

Joel has been searching out his Jewish roots more in recent years, especially after playing for a full stadium of US soldiers in the Nuremberg Stadium and former marching grounds for many in the Third Reich in summer 1994.

Although prior to the late 1990s Joel never showed much pubic interest in his roots, at that Nuremberg concert in 1994, Joel announced that his family had had to flee Germany in during the late 1930s. Moreover, he had learned that uncles and aunts of his were killed in concentration or death camps. He told the roaring crowd of American soldiers that he never wanted to see this sort of international crime to humanity happen again.

Today in HR1 (Radio station in Mainz) is this 60th birthday of Billy Joel being celebrated bit time with dozens of interviews. Interestingly, the program started out by celebrating both Joel’s German and Jewish roots.

Joel himself admits to being extremely influenced by classical German composers, like Bach. Meanwhile, Edwin Seroussi sees Joel as being an example of the 20th Century of Jewish renaissance in music—with likes of Kurt Weil, i.e. of the Three Penny Opera fame.

This is important because Seroussi and others state that the works of Jewish composers were too often forgotten and neglected in the centuries leading up to the monster Jewish massacres of the 20th Century under Nazi Germany.

Like me, Billy Joel, also wanted to be a history teacher.

By bringing out his hit, WE DIDN’T START THIS FIRE, in 1989, Billy Joel was certainly trying to teach Americans and the world a bit of history.

Interestingly, I was teaching a course in world issues and social/environmental problems in Germany in Spring and Autumn 1989 as communism was coming to its end in Central and Eastern Europe.

More interestingly, Billy Joel’s song was selected by my students for discussion one month before a good part of the Cold War, describe in WE DIDN’T START THIS FIRE, began to crash.

As a history teacher teaching in Cold War West Germany the text was meaningful to me and my students. Good job, Joel!

Here is the text. I hope you enjoy my birthday: MAY 9, 1962 –and this one, too.


Harry Truman Doris Day Red China Johnnie Ray
South Pacific Walter Winchell Joe DiMaggio
Joe McCarthy Richard Nixon Studebacker television
North Korea South Korea Marilyn Monroe
Rosenbergs H-bomb Sugar Ray Panmunjom
Brando The King and I and The catcher in the Rye
Eisenhower vaccine England's got a new queen
Maricano liberace Santayana goodbye
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
no we didn't light it
but we tried to fight it
Joseph Stalin Malenkov Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller Campanella communist block
Roy Cohn Juan Peron Toscanini Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls Rock around the clock
Einstein James Dean Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett Peter Pan Elvis Presley Disneyland
Bardot Budapest Alabama Khrushchev
Princess Grace Peyton Place trouble in the Suez
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
no we didn't light it
but we tried to fight it
Little rock Pasternak Mickey Mantle Kerouac
Sputnik Chou En-Lai Bridge on the River Kwai
Lebanon Charles de Gaulle California baseball
starkweather homicide children of thalidomide
Buddy Holly Ben Hur space monkey Mafia
hula hoops Castro Edsel is a no-go
U2 Syngman Rhee payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker Psycho Belgians in the Congo
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
no we didn't light it
but we tried to fight it
Hemingway Eichmann Stranger in a strange land
Dylan Berlin Bay of Pigs invasion
Lawrence of Arabia British Beatlemania
Ole Miss John Glenn Liston beats Patterson
Pope Paul Malcolm X British politican sex
JFK blown away what else do I have to say
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
no we didn't light it
but we tried to fight it
Birth control Ho Chi Minh Richard Nixon back again
moonshot Woodstock Watergate punk rock
begin Reagan Palestine terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran Russians in Afghanistan
Wheel of fortune Sally Ride heavy metal suicide
foreign debts homeless vets AIDS cracks Bernie Goetz
hypodermics on the shores China's under martial law
rock and roller cola wars I can't take it anymore
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
but when we are gone
will it still burn on and on and on and on
and on and on and on and on
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
no we didn't light it
but we tried to fight it
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
no we didn't light it
but we tried to fight it
We didn't start the fire
it was always burning
since the world's been turning
we didn't start the fire
no we didn't light it
but we tried to fight it