Friday, July 31, 2009

Dear Friends and Family, We are on an imposed HONEY MOON

Dear Friends and Family,

I am in Bolinao, Pangasinan in the Philippines where I have been with my wife since last Friday.

We are on an imposed but enjoyable honeymoon at PEURTO DE SOL resorts.

We went to ONE HUNDRED ISLANDS RESORTS on Tuesday after we met many wonderful people at the church in Dagupan. One couple, Joy an husband and Jhun took us to their town of Lingayen , which has a lot of WWII history.

Lingayan is where MacArthur’s forces first landed after three years in exile in January 1945.

We visited 100 Islands with people from the church also, Kart and his wife Jocey. It rained a lot but it was fun. One of the islands we stopped at is where the Pinoy Big Brother program was filmed.

Yesterday, we went to a small cave to swim inside. It was called Enchanted Cave and Maria Victoria really liked it.

Later, we headed that same afternoon to the White Sand Beach further down south by the light house.

Victoria and I bobbed in the waves there before going out to eat fish or seafood for the 5th day in a row. Yummmmmm.

Tomorrow we head back to Manila , where we hope to meet her sister, visit the church, HOPE projects, and have fellowship and fun before flying on to Palawan , where Maria Victoria is from.

Vik has been beating me in billiards and in chess a lot lately. Otherwise, It has been fun.

God bless,

Kevin and Vik


Thursday, July 30, 2009



By Kevin Stoda, in the Philippines Dateline July 29, 2009

The story in today’s THE GAZETTE of Colorado Springs notes, “With each roadside bombing, [Colorado Unit] soldiers would fire in all directions ‘and just light the whole area up,’ said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. ‘If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em.’"

The problem of not holding officers and presidents [or vice presidents] accountable for bad behavior certainly led to the Colorado unit in Iraq running amok and killing and hurting so many Iraqis needlessly—i.e as well as doing all this with an apparent (at the time) belief of untouchability. Many of these same American soldiers will suffer in the USA for years to come with their consciences and memories. Iraqi victims will suffer even more, of course. Leaders who set the standards must be judged by juries and courts for those decisions. This is the American way. Perpetrators who make the decisions—starting with former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and several serving generals in the USA armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq—need to be brought to the U.S. courts so America can begin to forgive and move on.

The story, entitled “Soldiers in Colorado Slayings Tell of Iraq Horrors” from Colorado Springs is the sort of story Filipinos recall from WWII—whether from actions of the Japanese occupiers or from the supposed [American] saving forces. At least that is the case of memories in Lingayen.That Colorado tale concerns: “soldiers from an Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops murdered civilians, a newspaper reported Sunday.”

Moreover, the article writer adds, “Some Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers have had trouble adjusting to life back in the United States, saying they refused to seek help, or were belittled or punished for seeking help. Others say they were ignored by their commanders, or coped through drug and alcohol abuse before they allegedly committed crimes, The Gazette of Colorado Springs said.” This is not an uncommon story in times of war (and due to be expected repercussions of war), but American stories that create myths about American purity of motive and action have made it worse in the days since WWII when the US first really began bombing and attacking foreign enemies in mass targeted and untargeted slaughters.


Yesterday, I was at the beaches of Lingayen in Pangasinan and the Philippine historians there tell a much different story than the more official or traditional. U.S. tale of what happened there in January 1945. There is a memorial on the Beach Lingayen to the many locals who were killed in that invasion. Apparently more civilians than Japanese were killed during this attack on occupied Philippines. The U.S. history makers claimed it was a great sea and land assault.

In late 1944 and during the first week in January 1945, the Filipino freedom fighters had sent word to USA military planners and leaders and right up through the weeks of the massive USA landing. The Filipino Freedom fighters—including soldiers abandoned by MacArthur three years earlier—stated time-and-again in their messages to the U.S. Sea Command that the Japanese had virtually pulled out of the Pangasinan coastal region and had relocated in the mountains.

These same freedom fighters indicated to U.S. leadership in their various messages that there was no need to bomb civilians at all as there were only token forces of Japanese in the area. Furthermore, these same Filipino freedom fighters were monitoring those handful of Japanese troops in and around Lingayen quite well.
On the other hand, it was true that the Japanese occupiers in January attacked the U.S. invaders heavily—with well-over 100 USA ships hit and sunk—mostly by kamikaze attacks. By comparison however, the American landing itself, had been a cake-walk because the Filipino freedom fighters were correct.

In short, it was nothing at all like D-Day in Europe--a half a year earlier. This is because the Japanese had taken their troops in to the mountains nearer to Manila in anticipation of the Allied force’s landing—and they had essentially given up the coast to the massing USA troop force out at sea.

Today—in 2009—the photos on Lingayen Beach Exhibition show Filipino non-combatants being carted off by caribou-drawn wagons for burial. In contrast to the sad scenes of devastation of Pangasinan towns along the sea coast, there are some other photos which showed that some local people pulled out old USA flags to welcome the landing forces. Meanwhile, whole towns along the coast had been wiped out by U.S. bombers on the northern coast of Pangasinan, Philippines in a matter of days.

Interestingly, American military historians have often considered the whole adventure at Lingayen to be a total success in January 1945, Filipino historians recall often that more Filipinos were killed in U.S. bombings and coastal strafing fire than Japanese soldiers in that month at Lingayen, Pangasinan.


When asked again and again why U.S. forces had attacked the towns along the Pangasinan coast so mercilessly. I.e. these were towns which were mostly totally evacuated by the Japanese military. U.S. commanders could only shake their heads and say, “We had to follow our plans.”

What kind of an explanation is that???

I’m sure that might be a good enough statement for privates during a wartime—but for USA commanders, such lame excuses, as “We were just following the playbook written by others” are the logic of weaklings and followers or incompetents. Such Admirals and generals certainly lacked any sense of accountability and responsibility. This lack of use of military intelligence to me verges on war criminality. (The Japanese are justly condemned for blowing up and killing Filipinos without conscience during their invasion and occupation.)

However, when over decades every single American war has the same crimes of negligence and irresponsibility. The senseless killing and torturing of Asians and others goes on and on by the same military.

Such negligence in thinking is certainly a crime carried out by criminals-of-sorts. What do readers think or have to say?


Sunday, July 19, 2009



Dear Maria Victoria

I went bicycling to Mainz tonight from Wiesbaden. I had crossed over the Rhine River from Hessen to the Palatinate and was heading on northwards past some Swiss ferries. Suddenly, as I went under the Main River railway bridge, I began to hear the music.

Yes, over the hill to my right was Carlos Santana and his band playing in Mainz City’s Volksbuehne. As large ferries with several levels of cargo freight loaded on them passed by, the sound rising from the amphitheater bounced back to me on the shore—so I heard in stereo—

“Maria, Maria …”

„See mi y Maria on the corner
Thinking of ways to make it better“

Anyway, it was a fine welcome to another vicarious concert for me in the Rhine-Main region. I sent my wife Maria „Victoria“ an sms from the next pedestrian bridge, where I was able to stand over the railway and listen to Santana’s band jamming away to all his classics as the sun was setting on the Rhine on a blissful but cool evening.

Soon, I will be flying to see you and visit your homeland, the Philippines. In the meantime, I pray you can join me and ride on the Rhine before Carlos Santana comes by again and jams, „Maria, Maria“.

God Bless and Te amo (Ich liebe Dich)—Guten Nacht.



Stoda, Kevin , “Dancing Cubana in the Ring Church”,


Stoda, Kevin , “German Foreign and Internal Ministries Kept my Wife from Coming to the Elton John Concert tonight”,

Stoda, Kevin , “No Malice, just Glueck Wanted”,

Stoda, Kevin , “Where are the Strong German Lawyers?”,


Saturday, July 18, 2009



By Kevin Anthony Stoda, Germany

Recently, I finished an earlier novel by Bernhard Schlink, who is both a famous German author and former professor of law and philosophy at some of Germany’s more famous universities. One of his other novels was THE READER (DER VORLESER in German), which was recently made into a film that was up for five Oscars earlier this year.

THE READER supposedly holds an attraction for all living German readers concerning how we all go through phases in our lives—as individuals and societies (or cultures)--in dealing with the sins and memories of the fathers, the mothers, the grandfathers, the great-grand mothers, and so-on. THE READER was well-received in Israel and in the USA. However, it was originally published in Switzerland rather than in Germany. Perhaps, Schlink had felt German audiences were not quite ready for the book.

However, THE READERS publication in the late 1990s was at a time in history when Germans were once again busily debating the memories and burdens of 1933-1945 through the traveling WEHRMACHT exhibition: This was the first nationwide exhibition to question head-on some of the founding myths of post-WWII society concerning the crimes of the German military (non-SS/non-Nazis).

Therefore, since its arrival in the literary world, students and classes in Germany have been going over Schlink’s THE READER, and discussing what Schlink is trying to bring out, i.e. about how to deal with some of the horrid historical memories which still guide various peoples and nation state actions in this very 3rd millennia. We are referring to those memories of both victims and perpetrators as related to do the death camps and the entire era of the Holocaust/Shoah in Europe.

I personally had been disappointed with THE READER at the time I read it (nearly a decade ago) because I felt that rather than talking about the issues from a perspective from which all German generations in the wake of the Holocaust Crimes of the Century, can attack evenhandedly. However, I felt that this German author, Bernhard Schlink, was specifically only dealing with his own and his parents generations. In other words, it barely touched the world which any German historian would have witnessed in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of this 21st Century.

Schlink had been born a child of persecuted religious (German) family who had opposed what national socialism was up to and had lost their church assignment in Heidelberg during the Nazi era. In short, the first person narrator in the READER was about the age of Schlink himself.

In short, as I read the reader, I felt Schlink was neglecting many peoples who are now in their forties (my generation) and much younger--by cutting off the narration basically in the late 70s or early 80s when the author and main character part. The only way one can get around this short-fall is to know that there is an endless cycle of finger pointing going on in Germany between and through the generations—even to today. Moreover, this finger pointing manifests itself in new forms each generation. (We are now approaching the 4th and 5th generations of the Holocaust and the Third Reich.)

Each Germany generation has looked at the previous generation and pointed a hurting—sometimes a vindictive finger at other times simply one of anger or shame--at the parents generation and said, “You are guilty.” For example, in the immediate post-Nazi era, those people who (like Schlink’s parents) had opposed the Nazi-led insanities and crimes of German perpetrators had often been seen by the more blood-stained-handed Germans as “traitors” to their people.

In turn, the children of these same opponents to the Nazi regime (and to Germany’s pro-war path to European dominance) had pointed their finger in the 1960s at their own parents generation and had said basically, “J’accuse… you are guilty for not doing enough to stop Hitler, etc. You are accomplices and at best passive helpers of the 3rd Reich.”

Some of these later generations of Germans did, in fact, write many autobiographies about what it was like to grow up in the shadows of a war criminal. Meanwhile, others of the third and fourth generations would look at the superficial ways that the past had been recognized in post-1945 Germany. They then ridiculed their parents and their shallowness (and overall lack of courage) in not taking in or working through the sins of their fathers more fully.

By the third generation, it was the 1980s, i.e. when I showed up in Germany and witnessed the great debates about German memories marching across the national pages of newspapers from years on end. Here are some examples:

--There was Reagan’s visit to Bitburg. There were more than just protests on the German side of the Atlantic that time.
--There was the speech by the son of a perpetrator who had become the Bundespresident, i.e. Richard von Weizaecker, of West Germany about how to deal with his father’s generation and its memories.
--There were many Parliamentary discussions and some political heads actually rolled for failing to see their follies.

(Until that decade, wealthy families in Germany who had felt unfairly treated in books about the Nazi-era could still sue in Germany to have their names censored out of books. I remember looking at many black out pages in such a recently published work. By the 1990s this was no longer possible.)

In the midst of that transforming 1980 decade, Bernhard Schlink and Walter Popp, published a novel called SELBS JUSTIZ (1987, Self Justice in English). In that book, during the post-WWII era or German economic miracle, certain Germans of that generation had continued to find themselves being manipulated by the same national economic and business elites who had supported Hitler’s Germany and who had come back together later to help create the Wirtshafts Wunder of 1950s & 1960s Germany). In short, even in the 1980s, this was still a core plot in Cold War Germany. In the end, the question for the remaining generation--made up both of small-time perpetrators and victims—was what to do about the continuing legacy: “How do we really move on after Auschwitz and the 3rd Reich?”

Would moving on mean to get revenge for oneself or for others? Does one need to bring the aging criminals to a court of law? or simply do it (through) the newspapers using the court of public opinion? What are the alternatives to dealing with the remnants of the Nazi regime in our midst and memories?

Whereas, in THE READER, in the character of Hanna (the war-criminal who was illiterate and not likely to get a better job than working as a guard at a prison under the Nazi system or state), we feel a bit sorry for the perpetrator once the perpetrator has a loving female face. In contrast, the main economic criminal (Read former Nazi industrial leader), in SELBS JUSTICE ,who had run a factory of slaves during WWII in Lugwigshafen, Germany and continued to manipulate people unashamedly would not be let off that easily by the author, Schlink. That former Nazi and “mover and shaker of modern Germany” finally gets his just deserves—as in any Hollywood film where the good guys win and true frontier justice reigns on the landscape.

Schlink himself has since the publication of both books has noted, “I was often criticized for depicting Hanna, the woman protagonist of my novel The Reader, a former concentration camp guard who committed monstrous crimes, with a human face. I understand the desire for a world where those who commit monstrous crimes are always monsters. We don't easily talk about people looking beautiful and being awful, looking warm and being cold, looking cultured and being amoral.”

On the other hand, Schlink points out, “But the world is full of this tension. Not seeing its multifaceted nature is simplistic and misleading. Maybe I insist on this point so strongly because my generation experienced again and again that someone whom we loved and respected turned out to have done something horrible during the Third Reich.”

Schlink recalls, “I remember the nights that I worked in a factory as a student in the 1960s. My impressions of my fellow workers, who had all fought in the war, were of nice, decent, helpful people. But between 2am and 5am they sometimes talked about the war and in what capacity they had been involved. They didn't talk in detail, but it was clear that some had been involved in evil things that they could neither forget nor repress. And I remember the professor whose class I attended at law school and through whom I came to understand that studying law is more than studying articles and paragraphs; that it includes history and philosophy and is a rich intellectual universe.”

Finally, Schlink reveals his own coming of age in post-war Germany in he 1960s, “After my exam I started reading the legal literature from the Third Reich that, during my years of study, had been locked away in the so-called poison closet and had become available only as a concession to the rebellious students of 1968. And there they were, his [my old professor’s] writings on the totalitarian state and its necessary homogeneity and exclusion of the other, the Jew, the enemy.”

For me, Schlink has become a bit more confused as the years go by. He focuses more on the fact that humans become ever more confusing the more that you perceive each from a different perspective. Moreover, hyper-focusing on some facts over others changes our picture and understanding of the whole context. Finally, each person as an individual in one generation are not necessarily typical to the generation in which they live. Yet, in focusing on many details and atypical characters, Schlink discolors the view we have of earlier generations, which he himself could have judged in the courtroom based on the facts as presented at that time. However, when Schlink now writes he does so with a genre of literature and narration whereby everything verges on or merges in grays.

Should my children and grandchildren simply forget the mistakes and crimes of my generation because they perceive the world in grey colors rather then in rose colored glasses?

The protagonist, Selbs ( a word play in German on the word for “self” which is pronounced the same way as “Selbs” is pronounced), was a small time war criminal who decided not to serve in a court of law after he was finally released by those in charge of the entnazification process in Germany in the late 1940s. Instead of returning to the courtroom as a judge or lawyer, Selbs, for the rest of his life becomes a detective, a man looking for facts and not emotion to mislead him--as he had been misled in becoming a Nazi follower in his youth.

In short, Selbs was one of those who represent the groups of those alienated in the post-WWII economic miracle of Germany. They could not quite fit in and thus decided to pursue their own road of making peace with the crimes of their Nazi or military past by searching for the truth and sharing it with others. Some of these men, like Schlink, became authors of renown—both Guenther Grasse and Heinrich Boell come to mind.

Now, Schlink is continuing to follow in their footsteps.

Schlink would likely reply to the critique he has faced from readers like me, “I understand the impulse. Yet I don't believe in avoiding or suppressing the tension that reality holds for us. Germans were perpetrators and victims, the people in the occupied countries were suppressed and also collaborated, Jews suffered and were also involved. Since the tension is already there, an image free of tension couldn't be upheld in the long run even if it served a noble cause. What can and should be upheld and strived for is not a reduced but a complete image where the involvement of the Judenrate is not suppressed but explained, where the fact that Germans were victims is not meant to insinuate any excuse, and where collaboration is shown as a companion to each and every occupation - as is, in one form or other, resistance.”

Actually, I just wish that we could see the old “Selbs” (self) more in Schlink’s work these days. Bring us further into the narration of German post-WWII history. Explain exactly how one advances from becoming a war criminal and then on to finally becoming transformed into something else—if you can.

Don’t just make a claim like this one, Mr. Schlink (which you made in a recent book of yours on memory), and leave us without a novel to back up your claim and narrative of the events and process of change over time:
For example, in your newest book, you (Schlink) claimed, ”But there are as many insides of evil as there are evil people and there isn't that much to find out about them. Once an SS officer or soldier has crossed the line from being a fighter to being a murderer every additional murder is just an additional number. And they crossed the line for all kinds of reasons. The psychological predispositions that enabled them to enjoy crossing the line or to want to obey orders or not to care were as manifold as the reasons for doing so. To create the typical evil-doer is as simplistic and misleading as creating any other stereotype.”

Ok, if you don’t have much to say, “Write a short story, OK?”

Is that too much to ask?


Popp, Walter & Schlink, Bernhard, SELBS JUSTIZ, Zuerich, Switzerland: Diogenes Verlag, 1987.

Schlink, Bernhard, DER VORLESER, Zuerich, Switzerland: Diogenes Taschenbuch, 1997.


Twenty percent of Americans premium dollars on health care are paying for these government insiders and other lobbying or TV propaganda.

I came across this DEMOCRACY NOW interview with the former head spokesman for CIGNA and other health care monsters that have made life or death decisions on poor but insured Americans while taking bonuses to the wealthiest corporate thugs.

As my brother, Ronald Paul Stoda, became a victim of CIGNA’s money making practices, which left him uncovered after even seeing the doctor’s CIGNA had approved.

He has been paying (unpaid from CIGNA) doctors back for over 5 years—even though he is just an underpaid school teacher. Therefore, out of recognition of the suffering of my brother—and others like him, I am publishing the entire DN interview with the ex-CIGNA spokesman.

The point of the interview appears to be to let the public understand that a lot of (over 350 government insiders) former staff members from Senators and Representatives--as well as former government officials have been hired by the Health Care Industry to write America’s new health care policies.

Twenty percent of Americans premium dollars on health care are paying for these government insiders and other lobbying or TV propaganda.
People who use Medicare are overwhelmingly satisfied with it in the USA and Canada. Let’s give it to everyone.

“They Dump the Sick to Satisfy Investors”: Insurance Exec Turned Whistleblower Wendell Potter Speaks Out Against Healthcare Industry

As the debate over healthcare reform intensifies on Capitol Hill, we spend the hour with a former top insurance executive who’s now exposing the industry’s dirty secrets. Wendell Potter once served as the head of corporate communications at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies. We speak to Potter about his own transformation from industry mouthpiece to whistleblower, the healthcare industry’s extensive PR and lobbying machine, the campaign to discredit Michael Moore’s film Sicko, and the insurance industry’s most pressing task: the fight against a public option, let alone a single-payer system. [includes rush transcript below]

AMY GOODMAN: As the healthcare reform debate intensifies on Capitol Hill, we spend the hour today with a former top executive from one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies who has begun exposing some of the industry’s dirty secrets. This whistleblower testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last month.
WENDELL POTTER: My name is Wendell Potter, and for twenty years I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies. And I saw how they confused their customers and dumped the sick, so all they—so also they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.

AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter joins us today for the hour.
Up until last year he was the head of corporate communications at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies. He served as CIGNA’s chief corporate spokesperson. He also once headed communications at Humana, another large for-profit health insurer. In 2007, Wendell Potter helped spearhead the healthcare industry’s campaign against Michael Moore’s movie Sicko. Today he is a fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy and is becoming one of the most prominent industry whistleblowers.
I sat down with Wendell Potter earlier this week.
WENDELL POTTER: I worked for CIGNA for fifteen years, and I was a spokesman or spokesperson for CIGNA for all of that time, and probably the last four or five years I was the head of corporate communications and also the chief spokesman for the company.
AMY GOODMAN: So why have you decided to speak out?
WENDELL POTTER: You know, when I left, I left voluntarily. It was a little over a year ago. I just decided I didn’t want to keep doing that. I had no longer felt that what I was doing was the right thing. But I didn’t decide to start speaking out until just earlier this year, when I started seeing the evidence that the insurance industry’s PR and lobbying campaigns were apparently paying off, like they did in the early ’90s when they were leading the effort to kill the Clinton plan, and how they’ve killed every meaningful healthcare reform initiative since then.
AMY GOODMAN: But you were a critical part of that, being in communications and then head of communications at CIGNA.
WENDELL POTTER: I was. I was a person who was often speaking for not just the company, but sometimes the industry. I spent a lot of time working with my colleagues at other companies on task forces and trade association committees to help develop the strategy and the tactics. So, yes, I did a lot of that. So, as a consequence, I know pretty much the game plan that they have developed and used and the talking points that they use and send out to people who they think will say the things they want them to say.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are those talking points? What is the game plan of the health insurance industry?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, the game plan is based on scare tactics. And, of course, the thing they fear most is that the country will at some point gravitate toward a single-payer plan. That’s the ultimate fear that they have. But currently—and they know that right now that is not something that’s on the legislative table. And they’ve been very successful in making sure that it isn’t. They fear even the public insurance option that’s being proposed, that was part of President Obama’s campaign platform, his healthcare platform. And they’ll pull out all the stops they can to defeat that.
And they’ll be working with their ideological allies, with the business community, with conservative pundits and editorial writers, to try to scare people into thinking that embracing a public health insurance option would lead us down the slippery—excuse me, slippery slope toward socialism and that you will be, in essence, putting a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor. That is—you know, they’ve used those talking points for years, and in years past they’ve always worked.
AMY GOODMAN: What turned you? Why did you change?
WENDELL POTTER: I changed because over the last two or three years I began seeing more than I’d ever seen before and became more knowledgeable of how health insurance—how health insurance companies make money, how they maximize profits.
The companies that I worked for were two of the biggest for-profit health insurance companies. And over the past fifteen years, since the last time we had this debate, the health insurance industry has consolidated to the point that now there are about seven very large for-profit health insurance companies that dominate the market.
They have begun shifting their business model away from managed care, which, frankly, I used to think was a great model, a great concept, for the delivery of healthcare. But they’ve moved—they’re moving away from that to what they refer to as consumer-driven or consumer-directed care, and it really is just a euphemism for shifting the financial burden from insurers and employers onto the shoulders of working men and women. I saw that happening. But I also saw how—you know, the things that they do to maximize their profit, which really boils down to dumping the sick.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “dumping the sick”?
WENDELL POTTER: Two different ways that they do this. In the individual insurance market, we’ve seen quite a bit of news coverage, especially in California. When insurance companies who are active in the individual market—and this means when you don’t get your insurance coverage through your workplace, about the only option you have is to buy it directly from an insurance company, and usually it’s much more costly than it is through—if you buy it or get it through your employer. Once you file a claim, if you are unfortunate enough to get very sick or have an accident and file a claim, you very often will find that your insurance company will go back and look at your application to see if there might be a chance that you either didn’t disclose something that you knew about in the past or inadvertently didn’t disclose something or might not have known about a pre-existing condition. They’ll use that as evidence that you were committing fraud, and they’ll revoke your policy, or they call it “rescinding” your policy, leaving you holding the bag, making you completely responsible for all the medical bills. That’s one way that they dump people who need insurance the most.
Another is, if you are employed, particularly with a small business, and your insurance—your employer gets his or her insurance through one of the large insurers, and if just one person in your company files a claim that the underwriters think is too high, if it skews what they think is the appropriate medical experience or claim experience, when that business comes up for renewal, they very likely will jack up the rates so much that your employer has no alternative but to leave and leave you and all of your coworkers without insurance. Either that or they may cut benefits or try to shop for coverage somewhere else. But the end result is, you may find yourself dumped into the rolls and the ranks of the uninsured.
AMY GOODMAN: Was there a seminal moment when you were head of communications at CIGNA that really made you start to look? And how were you isolated there from, well, most people in the country, you know, who were increasingly talking about the massive problems of healthcare and access to it and being cutting off, the dumping of the sick, as you put it?
WENDELL POTTER: I was very isolated, along with most insurance company executives who deal with numbers all the time—profit margins and medical loss ratios and earnings per share and how many millions of members you have, or things like that. It’s just—they’re just numbers. And I didn’t really associate that with real people as much as I should and as much as most insurance company executives should, until I went to visit my relatives in Tennessee.
And while I was there, I happened to learn about a healthcare expedition that was being held at a nearby town across the state line in Virginia. And I was intrigued, borrowed my dad’s car and drove up to Wise County to see what was going on there. And this expedition was being held at the Wise County fairgrounds, and it was being put on by this group called Remote Area Medical that got its start several years ago taking volunteer doctors from this country to remote villages in South America, where people really don’t have any access to medical care. The founder realized pretty soon, though, that the need in this country is very, very great, and he started holding similar expeditions in rural communities throughout the country. And this one was nearby. I decided to check it out.
I didn’t have any idea what to expect, but when I walked through the fairground gates, it was just absolutely overwhelming. What I saw were people who were lined up. It was raining that day. They were lined up in the rain by the hundreds, waiting to get care that was being donated by doctors and nurses and dentists and other caregivers, and they were being treated in animal stalls. Volunteers had come to disinfect the animal stalls. They also had set up tents. It looked like a MASH unit. It looked like this could have been something that was happening in a war-torn country, and war refugees were there to get their care. It was just unbelievable, and it just drove it home to me, maybe for the first time, that we were talking about real human beings and not just numbers.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did you do with that?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, it took me a while to just really process it. I came back to work. I knew at that time that I couldn’t continue doing what I was doing. It just didn’t seem like it was ethically the right thing for me to do. My first career, I was a journalist, and I had been in PR, though, for many years. And I came to realize that much of what I was doing now—or then—in my PR career was just the opposite of what I was trying to do as a journalist. But still, you know, I had mortgage payments. I had other bills to pay. And it was just—it was difficult to work through this and figure out what do I do and how do I—what do I do next?
But then, you know, just two or three weeks later, I was having to fly to a meeting, and I often would fly on one of the corporate jets. And while I was doing that, I was served my lunch on a gold-rimmed plate, was given gold-plated flatware to eat my lunch. I was sitting in a very spacious and luxurious leather chair. And it just dawned on me for the first time. I had done this many times. But because of the Wise County experience, I just realized for the first time that someone’s premiums were helping me to travel that way and were paying for my lunch on gold-trimmed china. And then I thought about those men and women that I had seen in Wise County, undoubtedly not having any idea that this is the way that insurance executives lived and how premium dollars were being spent. And that got me closer to making an ultimate decision that I had to leave.

AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter, the former chief spokesperson for the health insurance giant CIGNA. We’ll come back to this wide-ranging conversation in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to my conversation with the former health insurance executive Wendell Potter. He was the former head of corporate communications at the insurance giant CIGNA, now a fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy. I asked him whether he felt many of the journalists covering the health insurance industry are acting as PR agents for the industry.
WENDELL POTTER: I do think so, maybe unwittingly in many cases, and probably mostly unwittingly. But also, just the way the mainstream media’s influence has changed and the—excuse me, the decline in newspaper circulation and just the way that people get their information, that has changed, and that has worked to the favor of people like I used to be—PR professionals and corporate executives. There aren’t as many reporters as there used to be. The so-called news hole isn’t as big as it used to be to have investigative pieces.
Reporters who are still there are much busier, I think, than reporters were when I was there, and I was very busy. I think that they too often, or more often than they should, will just accept a statement that’s given to them from a corporate PR guy, like I used to be, and run with it and think their obligation is done, or just don’t have the time to explore it or do any in-depth stories. So, in that regard, I think they really are unwittingly helping the insurance industry.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you think of an example of when you told a reporter something that you felt was not true, and that reporter did not investigate further?
WENDELL POTTER: Two or three things. I think insurance companies and, well, anyone can—one of my favorite textbooks when I was in college was How to Lie with Statistics, and I think that we in PR often will throw statistics out that are true to a certain extent but are also misleading and don’t disclose the full story. That is what, more often than not, was what I was doing. I don’t recall intentionally or knowingly lying to a reporter; I wouldn’t have done that. But I think there are times when by withholding all the information or providing selective information or data, you definitely are misleading. And that’s what I did more often than not.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you give us an example?
WENDELL POTTER: One of the things you’ll see that insurance companies are doing these days, they do their own surveys of members. And one of the objectives they have right now is to try to persuade people that these consumer-directed plans are really popular with their customers and with the membership that they have. And the other data that we see that’s done by non-affiliated organizations show that people really don’t like these consumer-directed plans and are concerned about the cost shifting that is going on. But the insurance companies do their own surveying of their members, and they will—they’ll send out news releases with selective data about certain responses to certain questions, without disclosing the questions they ask or much of the methodology that they use. And as a consequence, they’re painting a picture that really is not necessarily the full picture. And I think that that’s an example. That’s one of the things I think people need to be very aware of and that journalists need to be very aware of, of the techniques that corporate PR people use to influence public opinion.
AMY GOODMAN: In 2007, CIGNA denied a California teenager, Nataline Sarkisyan, coverage for a liver transplant. Her family went to the media. This is her mother.
HILDA SARKISYAN: The insurance company can’t decide who’s going to live and who’s going to die. Only doctors and nurses. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: The California Nurses Association joined in. Geri Jenkins is head of the CNA.
GERI JENKINS: It’s just really atrocious that we let decisions be made based on money and not on human life and what’s necessary to keep people alive. The Sarkisyans had insurance. And that’s the telling thing here. They had insurance. They had done everything that was expected of them. They worked hard. They provided insurance. And yet, when they needed it, it wasn’t there for them.
AMY GOODMAN: Under mounting pressure, CIGNA finally granted coverage for the liver transplant. But it was too late. Two hours later, Nataline died.
AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter, can you talk about—well, I’m sure this was a challenge for CIGNA—and how you dealt with this story?
WENDELL POTTER: It was a challenge. And frankly, it was probably within a month or so after I first learned of Nataline Sarkisyan that I told the company that I worked for—pardon me—that I had come to the end of my career and had a long run at CIGNA, but it was time for me to go.
Nataline Sarkisyan, as you know, was a seventeen-year-old girl in California when her doctors at UCLA suggested—or requested coverage for a liver transplant that was denied. That request was denied by CIGNA. And it was one of those things that became what we called a high-profile case. The Sarkisyan family reached out to the media, to the California Nurses Associations and others to help them put pressure on CIGNA to try to get the company to reverse its decision. Ultimately, the company did.
It was a very, very difficult time for—I can’t imagine what it was like for the family. I don’t want to suggest that the difficulty that I had was anything close to what the family was going through. My heart went out to them and still does. But it was difficult to serve as a spokesman for the company during that time. And as you know, the company did make a decision to cover the procedure, but regrettably that decision came too late, because Nataline died just hours after that decision was communicated to the family.
AMY GOODMAN: And how were you feeling at the time?
WENDELL POTTER: Oh, just devastated. I have a daughter myself. And I—even though I was having to represent the company, and again was being as truthful as I could, I all the time was just thinking about the family and the grief that they were going through and the way their—you know, they were briefly optimistic that the decision to cover the procedure might save her life, and then so quickly for that hope to be dashed was just devastating for them, I know, and it was just crushing for me and a lot of people that I worked with at CIGNA, too. I want to make sure that that’s understood, that it, you know—I was so disappointed, and I was hopeful, too, that this might be something that actually would save her life. It was just a dreadful, dreadful experience for everyone concerned; there were no winners in that at all.
And certainly, from a public relations point of view, CIGNA really suffered a black eye. And I, as the spokesman for the company—there were two people who really spoke for the company during this time. It was me and the chief medical officer. And I was—my name was on the website, and my contact information was on the website, CIGNA’s website, and so people were venting their frustration. I received—I can’t tell you how many emails, how many voicemail messages and calls from people who were just outraged. And it was a very difficult—very, very difficult thing to go through.

AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter was the former head of corporate communications at the insurance giant CIGNA.
I also asked him about the case of Thomas Concannon, the former head of the Federal Defenders of the Eastern District of the Legal Aid Society here in Manhattan. In 2002, Concannon was suffering from multiple myeloma, a rare form of cancer. His doctors planned to perform a bone marrow transplant, but as Concannon lay on the operating table, his insurance company, CIGNA, announced it would not cover the operation. Days later, Concannon came on Democracy Now! This is part of our interview seven years ago, on April 24th, 2002, with Thomas Concannon and Elisabeth Benjamin, supervising attorney in the Health Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society. This is Tom Concannon.
THOMAS CONCANNON: On April 9th, they actually put me in the surgical—put me in an operating room, and through general anesthesia, put a tube in my chest that was—it’s called a catheter, a three-lumen catheter that’s meant to be the vehicle through which they extract for blood tests and where they put chemo, different forms, chemical cocktails in. And so, that was put in. And we thought, after a day of rest, that I’d get—begin two other days of certain kinds of photopheresis, other blood-cleansing processes and other things that would prevent grant-versus-host disease. And then, the following week, to get—I expected to get radiation and my sister’s transplant. In fact, last Friday, on my enchantress’s birthday here, that was the day that [inaudible]—
AMY GOODMAN: That’s your wife?
THOMAS CONCANNON: Yes, that’s my sweetie here. She—it was to be put in on that day. And that was the day we got the notice from—we got the letter from CIGNA saying we’re not—from Dr. Janet Maurer, saying we’re not going to—they were not going to approve that.
AMY GOODMAN: What can people do, Elisabeth Benjamin, in a case like this?
ELISABETH BENJAMIN: Well, if you want to help Tom, I think a good thing to do would be to call CIGNA’s vice president and corporate spokesman and express your utter dismay at their conduct in this case. His name is Wendell Potter, P-O-T-T-E-R. His telephone number is (215) 761-4450.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Elisabeth Benjamin. At the time, she was with the Legal Aid Society, giving out Wendell Potter’s office number on Democracy Now! It was seven years ago, on April 24th, 2002. At the time, Wendell Potter was the top spokesperson for CIGNA. As a result of our coverage, the company reversed its decision and paid for the surgery.
I asked Wendell Potter if he remembered the case of Thomas Concannon.
WENDELL POTTER: Oh, I absolutely do. I mean, that case, the Nataline Sarkisyan case are two that I will never forget. I absolutely do.
And it does speak to the influence that you have at Democracy Now! I came into work the next morning, and my inbox, my email inbox, was—I’d never seen anything quite like it, before or since. It was just phenomenal. I was just being inundated with emails and phone calls and faxes. It was just extraordinary. And I knew that the influence of the media was important in situations like this. And it just—I guess it just proves what I said before: it makes a big difference when someone can get the media or someone on their side to bring this—to make it a high-profile case. It was unforgettable.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to stick with the media and the power of the media. You were the point person on Michael Moore’s film Sicko.
AMY GOODMAN: On refuting it.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what happened and how you organized against his film, and then how you feel about that today, or even how you felt about it at the time.
WENDELL POTTER: Well, frankly, I was very conflicted, because when I saw the movie for the first time, I really felt that—well, I knew it was an honest film. The information that was contained in the film, it truly was a documentary, and certainly a documentary with a point of view, but that’s understandable.
But the industry knew, from the moment that we heard that Michael Moore was going to be doing a film, a documentary, on the health insurance industry, that—or not just the health insurance industry, but the whole American healthcare system, that undoubtedly the American insurance system would not fare too well. And so, over the course of many months leading up to the premier of the movie, the industry was very active in trying to figure out how to blunt the impact of the movie when it did premier and was very careful to avoid any memos being written that had Michael Moore’s name or Sicko in the subject line, because there was this great fear that it would be leaked to Michael Moore, and he would use it as part of his publicity campaign. Apparently, such a memo was leaked from one of the pharmaceutical companies, and he used it to great advantage. So all of the memos would have the subject line “Hollywood,” and all the conversations would be on very secretive conference calls.
And then, when the movie was about to premier, the industry—it was premiered, as you may remember, in Cannes at the film festival in 2007, and the industry, through some connections that it had in the entertainment business, was able to fly someone to France to get a ticket and to sit in the theater during the first screening of the movie. And then, after that, this person got on the phone for a much-anticipated conference call. I’m sure there were dozens of us who were on the conference call waiting to hear the first reports about Sicko. And that was when we all knew which companies were mentioned in the movie and then what cases were being mentioned. And that gave the companies some time to prepare, to develop talking points to counteract the ultimate questions, the inevitable questions that would be asked when the movie was beginning to premier in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: And what were the buzzwords, the talking points, that you developed that you felt were most important to refute what he did? And then, your thoughts as the media repeated them?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, two things. One is very consistent with what they’re doing now, the industry is doing now, to try to defeat or shape healthcare reform legislation to its benefit, and also consistent with what it did in ’93 and ’94 to kill the Clinton plan. Number one, with regards to Michael Moore himself, they knew that he could be a polarizing figure and that conservatives don’t like him, so they—the industry—part of the industry strategy was to recruit conservative pundits and editorial writers and members of Congress who were conservative and aligned with the industry’s agenda and point of view. And we would do media training with all of our executives, because there was the expectation that Moore would do ambush interviews, as he has done in some of his previous films. That didn’t happen, but if they had, we had our executives well trained with how to handle such an interview. We referred to him—we were prepared to refer to him in any interviews we did have as Michael Moore the movie maker, the entertainer, in an effort to diminish his importance as a documentary maker, to try to cast him as part of the Hollywood establishment and someone who was really making a fantasy, rather than a documentary. So that was part of the strategy.
The other was to use the subject of what he was doing, which was—you know, as you may recall, he went to many different countries that have universal care, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and even Cuba, and some other places, to show how people can get care and have much better access to care than in the United States. The industry saw this certainly as a threat. They didn’t like seeing those countries’ healthcare systems depicted in a positive light, because they’d been fighting that kind of a system for many years. So the talking points were to demean a single-payer system or a government-run system. Government-run—whenever you hear someone who’s allied with the industry talk about a government-run system, they’ll use the term pejoratively, and they’ll say that it will put us on the slippery slope toward socialism, or it will put a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor. And you’re seeing that now in some of the ads that are running by—I think Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is one group that’s got ads running like that right now. So it was an effort to take advantage, actually, of the movie and to start the campaign against government-run healthcare once again.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Wendell Potter. He is the former healthcare industry spokesperson—health insurance industry spokesperson for CIGNA. We’ll have more of his interview after break.
AMY GOODMAN: Tomorrow on Democracy Now!, on Friday, we’ll be spending the hour with Howard Dean. Yes, the doctor, the former Vermont governor, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, and the former presidential candidate. He has a new book out. It’s called Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform. And if you have questions for him, you can send them to us at mail(at) or stories(at)
Well, we’re going to return now to the end of our conversation with the former health insurance spokesperson Wendell Potter. Yes, he’s formerly head of corporate communications at the insurance giant CIGNA, now a fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the way the Senate now is dealing with healthcare, and Congress overall, and the power that the health insurance industry has over these politicians? I mean, you have people like Senator Max Baucus, who gets more money perhaps than anyone in the Senate from the health insurance, hospital, healthcare industry, and he’s head of the Senate Finance Committee.
WENDELL POTTER: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that strategy the insurance industry has in dealing with politicians and your thoughts on this.
WENDELL POTTER: Well, one thing to remember is that the health insurance industry has been anticipating this debate on healthcare reform for many years. They knew it was inevitable that it would come back. And they knew that if a Democrat were elected president, undoubtedly it would be on the top of the political agenda. So they’ve been positioning themselves to get very close to influential members of Congress in both parties, and Max Baucus is certainly someone they knew, a long time ago, was going to be critical for their interests. So, yes, they—the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and others in healthcare—have spent, have donated lots and lots, millions of dollars, to his campaigns over the past few years.
But aside from money, it’s relationships that count. And that’s why the insurance industry has hired scores and scores of lobbyists, many of whom have worked for members of Congress and some who are former members of Congress, to lobby on their behalf. Some of Max Baucus’s former staff members work for—in the health insurance industry as lobbyists these days. That is very important. It helps to open the door, and it enables people who are aligned with the industry, who have good associations or close associations with members of Congress, to pass along the talking points or to express the industry’s points of view.
For example, one of the companies hired a very influential lobbyist who has connections on the Democratic side. And one of the things that the industry has been doing is engaging in what’s referred to as "grasstops lobbying.” And that means the top executives go to Washington and meet with members of Congress and try to persuade them, or at least make them see, that they don’t have two heads and that they’re reasonable people, and you should listen to us. One of the companies that I used to work for was able to get my former CEO in an audience with Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton certainly—this was when she was still senator and was running for president, and her platform was very similar to Barack Obama’s platform on healthcare reform. And she, undoubtedly more than almost anybody else in the Senate, knew the power and influence of the insurance industry, but she was willing to meet with the executives. So that just gives you an example of how doors can be opened for some of the most influential people on Capitol Hill. And most people can’t imagine having that kind of access or that kind of entree to the power and leadership on Capitol Hill.
AMY GOODMAN: Was that when you were working for CIGNA?
WENDELL POTTER: It was, it was. And one of the industry’s lobbyists is Heather Podesta. Heather has her own company now. She used to be with another big firm called Blank Rome, which also is doing a significant amount of lobbying. But her husband is Tony Podesta. They are a power couple in Washington, if there ever was one. Tony is John Podesta’s brother. And they, themselves, have contributed thousands and thousands of dollars to candidates over the past several years. So, having someone like that on your team makes a huge difference in being able to get the foot in the door and to present your points of view.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, what about that, Tony’s brother being John Podesta, who is seminal for the shaping of Obama policy, and the people who are—most significantly, the people who are put into the Obama administration? What is your understanding of how much influence he has on his brother?
WENDELL POTTER: You know, I don’t know, and I think that would be something that would be very interesting for some reporters to ask, to call up both Podestas and just explore that and find out if they have conversations. And I would—I don’t know. I would be speculating, and I haven’t been a part of any conversations that would suggest that there is anything untoward there. But I think it would be—it’s something that I think would be appropriate for the media to take a look at it and just to do stories about the connections in Washington and how the insurance industry and others who have gained so much power and influence shape legislation, as it very likely will be shaping healthcare reform legislation this time.
AMY GOODMAN: The Washington Post recently had a piece about the nation’s healthcare industry hiring more than 350 former government officials and members of Congress to sway healthcare reform on Capitol Hill. According to lobbying records, three out of every four major healthcare companies have at least one former government insider on the payroll. Nearly half held positions under key committees and lawmakers, including Senators Max Baucus, as you mentioned, and Charles Grassley. Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, of course, which is largely steering healthcare reform. Baucus’s aides, as you mentioned, recently held a meeting with a group of lobbyists that included two of his former chiefs of staff. The Washington Post says the healthcare industry is now spending $1.4 million a day on lobbying, totaling $126 million in the first fiscal quarter, I guess spending the money of the premiums of people. Perhaps a number have been denied. Wendell?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, there’s no doubt that the money that insurance companies have to do their lobbying comes from premium income. One thing that people, I think, need to understand, that I’ve been talking about as part of my testimony, was how less and less of a person’s premium dollar is being spent actually to cover claims these days. Back when Bill Clinton was president and he and Hillary Clinton were trying to reform the healthcare system, back in 1993, 95—on the average, 95 cents of every premium dollar was being spent to pay claims. Last year, it was down to just around 80 cents. So we’ve seen that much of a change in fifteen years. And that coincides with the consolidation of the insurance industry and the industry becoming much more dominated by for-profit insurance companies.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of single payer? And first, explain it, as you understand it. I think that’s critical, because most people don’t even understand the idea of government-paid-for healthcare. And compare it to a public plan. And then, where do you see us going now, and where do you think we have to go?
WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, I think one of the ways for people to understand how a single-payer system works is to look at our Medicare program, which is a single-payer program. The government runs the program. So we have a very popular government-run program in this country, and have since the 1960s. And it has been—it has made enormous difference in the lives of people who are elderly and disabled. And, in fact, the satisfaction ratings of people who are enrolled in Medicare—and these are people who are elderly and disabled, who have a much greater chance of needing care than people who are younger and who are enrolled in private plans—the satisfaction ratings of people in Medicare is higher than it is for people who are in private plans.
In Canada, their system there is called Medicare, and it is a system that essentially has taken our Medicare program and expanded it to include or be available to all their citizens. And in Canada—it’s probably the ultimate single-payer system—there are no private insurance companies that compete for business. In the UK and some other countries in Europe, there are government-run programs, but some allow insurance companies to operate. So there are different kinds of government-run programs or programs that are essentially financed largely by the government.
But even in a single-payer system like in Canada and our own Medicare system, the care is delivered by the private sector, by doctors and nurses who are in private practice and by private hospitals. So it is not a government takeover, as some in the industry and its allies would like us to believe. It is not a government takeover of the healthcare system, by any means. In a single-payer system, doctors and nurses and hospitals deliver the care. And people have a broad choice; they’re not restricted to certain doctors and nurses and hospitals.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you for single-payer healthcare in this country?
WENDELL POTTER: It works in Canada. There are people in Canada—I think the satisfaction ratings in Canada, people are much happier with their system there than Americans are here. In fact, more people in this country are uninsured than the entire population of Canada. And if you take into consideration the people who—the number of people who are underinsured now—and that is a number that is growing because of the new health plans that are being sold, these so-called consumer-directed plans that are really high-deductible plans—when you add those people in, there are more people who are either uninsured or underinsured than the entire population of the United Kingdom. So, you know, we are at a point where some fundamental reform is absolutely necessary. We can’t let another opportunity go. We can’t go another fifteen years before we have some meaningful reform.
AMY GOODMAN: Should there be for-profit health insurance companies in this country?
WENDELL POTTER: You know, interesting. One of the big champions of the so-called consumer-directed plans is a woman named Regina Herzlinger. She’s a professor at Harvard and is kind of considered the guru of consumer-directed plans. She often talks about the Swiss system as something that the US might look at as a model, because they presumably have something like a consumer-directed care there. They do have private insurance companies that operate there. The interesting thing is that she doesn’t mention too much, or at all, for that matter, is that while there are insurance companies that operate there, for-profit insurance companies are illegal in Switzerland, and they are very highly regulated. And they all have to offer standard benefit plans. And so, there’s nothing like the kind of system that we have here.
I think, in many ways, it might not be a bad model to look at, because there are no for-profit companies that operate there. Some of the companies even in this country do sell supplemental products in Asia and Europe. But I kind of think the Swiss are onto something. If they don’t allow for-profit insurance companies to operate, there must be some good reasons why they think that should be the way it is.
AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter, as you look back on your life and look forward about what your plans are now—you voluntarily left as the chief of corporate communications at CIGNA—would you do things any differently?
WENDELL POTTER: You know, I’ve said that in the twenty years I’ve spent in the health insurance industry, looking back at it now, I feel like I was a journalist undercover for twenty years. And that helps me sleep at night to look at it that way. Yeah, I think there are some things I would do differently. But on the other hand, if I hadn’t done what I did, I wouldn’t know what I know now, and I wouldn’t be in a position to be able to speak out and to disclose and describe what really goes on. So, you know, you can’t really look back and say, “I wish I’d done this,” because it doesn’t do a bit of good. I think you just have to do what you can do in the present moment, and hopefully that it will make a positive difference. And that’s what I hope to do, going forward.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, as the push for healthcare reform continues, it looks like President Obama is having a mutiny within his own party. What they call the conservative Democrats, or the Blue Dog Democrats, look like they might even be backing away from a public plan. In fact, Rahm Emanuel, President Obama himself seems to have backed off somewhat, saying that may not be the first step in healthcare reform. Does this concern you? And what advice would you give to them right now, when you have a population that’s overwhelmingly for a public plan, if not single payer, and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate?
WENDELL POTTER: I think it would be absolutely disastrous for the administration to even consider signing legislation that doesn’t include a strong public plan. You’re exactly right. And I think many, many people voted for Barack Obama because of his healthcare platform and the things that he said he felt were vital in terms of reform. The inclusion of a public insurance plan is paramount, it is absolutely necessary, and I would hope that people who voted for him and people who are uninsured, who are underinsured, will make sure that he understands that.
I think what Rahm Emanuel said, let’s hope it was a trial balloon to see just what kind of reaction it might get. And I think it was swift. People who are supporters of the President, from what I understand, were very, very quick to say, you know, “That dog won’t hunt. You’ve got to—a public plan is important, it is something that we expect. And we expect that you will get behind it in a strong way.”
I think that the President’s influence may be seen more toward the end of this process. There will be a House bill that’s hopefully passed, a Senate bill that will be passed. They will be different, because they always are, and there will be a conference committee that will need to be held to iron out the differences. And I think that will be a time when the President’s influence will be especially needed to make sure that a public plan, and a strong one, is included in the final legislation that reaches his desk.

AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter, the former chief spokesperson at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Sehr geehrte Hessesischen Landtag, und Vorsitzenden der Petitionen, et. Al.

17. Juli 2009

Auswärtige Amt
das Hessisches Ministerium des Innern und für Sport,
Postfach 31 76,
65021 Wiesbaden

Sehr geehrte Hessesischen Landtag, und Vorsitzenden der Petitionen, et. Al.

Der Bundesministerium des Innern– Bürgerservice-Zentrum –hat mir gesagt, dass ich an Ihnen schreiben soll, da das Bundesland Hessen fuer die enzeilnenden Einwohner- und Integerationsaemtern in Wiesbaden und anderen Orten zustaendig ist.

Durch eigenen Ergfahrungen habe ich festgestellt, dass seit Jahren schon bei verschiedenen Laender, wie Hesse, fragwuerdige Ueberpruenfungenweise bei dem Entscheid ob ein Mann, der schon in Deutschland einen Arbeitsvisum hat, seiner Frau hierherholen kann. Bis jetzt hat niemand wie Sie dagegen remonstriert. Das ist eine Schand fuer nicht nur Wiesbaden und Hessen aber jedoch auch fuer Deutschland innerhalb den EU, wobei ein Mensch erwartet, dass er seine Frau hierherbring kann und sollte, wenn er 30.000 oder mehr Euro in Jahr verdient.

Darf ich mich kurz mal einstellen? Ich arbeite im Hessen seit Januar 2009. Ich bin Kevin Anthony Stoda aus den USA und Steuerzahler in Deutschland. Meine Frau, die ein Visum im Juni abgesagt worden war, stammt aus den Philipinen.

Da sind viele Gruenden weswegen den Entscheidung ueberprueft werden soll.

Noch wichtiger—ich frage mich wie hauefig diese Faelle in Deutschland auftauchen. Dagegen sollten Sie remonstrieren.

Mittlerweile muss ich auf eigenen Kosten im Juli und August 3000 bis 5000 euro ausgeben, um mit meiner Frau in den Philipinen hinzufliegen, und fuer meinen Ferien bei ihr zu sein, sonst waere ich noch in Wiesbaden (und soviel Geld gesparrt).

Ich bedanke ich im Voraus fuer Eure Hilfe.

Ihr Steuerzahler,

Kevin Anthony Stoda


ONLINE Political Parties—What is your future?

ONLINE Political Parties—What is your future?

By Kevin Stoda, American online Candidate (making a living in Germany )

Ever since the Online Pirate Party won over 7 percent of the vote in Sweden last month in the election for the new European Parliament, my students have been asking me about my own online campaigns. That vote in Sweden had guaranteed a seat in the European Parliament for the online Pirate Party. It also quickly spawned the creation of Pirate and other online parties in Germany and other European countries.

In Sweden “the result puts the Pirate Party in fifth place, behind the Social Democrats, Greens, Liberals and the Moderate Party.” The party leader, Mr Falkvinge, told BBC, "People were not taken in by the establishment and we got political trust from the citizens."

The BBC reporter added, “The profile of the Pirate Party and issues surrounding copyright law have dominated headlines in Sweden over the past few months.” According to the same BBC writers, “In April, a court in Sweden sentenced the four men behind The Pirate Bay, the world's most high-profile file-sharing website, to a year in jail and ordered them to pay $4.5m (£3m) in damages. Mr Falkvinge said it had played a significant role in getting them the vote.”

The Pirate party leadership is made up almost entirely of males in most countries. I am sure that this has to do with the fact that those who founded the Pirate Bay website and who tried to take the government to court were mostly males. On the other hand, by hyper-focusing only on digital freedom issues, the party has abandoned any hope of building more permanent alliances with certain party constellations in Europe .

For example, immediately after the elections, the Pirate Party began negotiating with 4 different political grouping in the EU parliament. In short, the male dominated party is neither particularly progressive, conservative, nor extreme. In short, other than the online rights campaign, it has little to offer.

I would suggest that Americans attempt to create a national or international online party, especially to get names on the ballots across the land for the 2010 elections. My first online campaign for the President of the USA went almost unnoticed last year—despite my campaign focusing on helping those who were losing their homes more than any of the major party candidates. (See NOTES below for a bit more about my first online race.)

Another obvious difference between my campaign and the Pirates is that my interests are more holistic than any platforms embraced by the libertarian-like Pirate party from Sweden .

This policy of mine not to be hyper-focused on digital rights will cost me the vote. On the other hand, I can also really talk about global and national issues of security and justice in a more integrated manner than the Pirate Party in Europe can.

Since spring this year, I have been running again for U.S. Senator from Kansas , and I encourage all progressives to get behind me. This campaign has already gotten me more on-line press than my presidential (foot in the water) campaign ever did.

For example, on Kansas senators websites recently some voters raised the same issues I did—in that I had called in May for the closing of the program in Ft. Bragg, Georgia (known as THE SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS). The two U.S. Senators from Kansas were then asked by their constituents how they stoodd on this issue—as well as on the matter of closing down Guantanamo Prison (which I had also advocated).

My campaign for U.S. Senate would stop the caging of Kansas voters and demand a new constitutional convention to allow for more representation by progressives in Kansas legislatures and U.S. government offices.

As an evangelical progressive, I am likely to fair better than some others in the Sunflower state would.

If I were U.S. Senator, I would put pressure on the White House to get our troops out of Afghanistan into a more peace making rather than war-making role worldwide.

Moreover, I would demand that American ideas on transparency in government were realized—demanding that the records and documents of the past 4 U.S. presidents and vice presidents be reviewed and be considered or vetted by a representative body of historians, lawyers, and national security personnel.

Billions of documents, starting with at least the Herber Walker Bush administration (and his son) may need to be made public over the next one to two years just to help the Attorney General clarify (1) how we got into the financial mess we are in today and in (2) so many wars in such a short number of years.

As well, this search through documents would include (3) a demand that all documents related to oil policy in 2001 be revealed and (4) who approved what form of torture starting in the same year as USA national policy.

Let me make this clear.

Never in our history has America intervened in more foreign wars—Panama, Iraq, Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Iraq again, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc.-- than in any other twenty year period in USA history.

This is wholly unacceptable and due to bad thinking and leadership in governance. The Senate as the senior body in the U.S. government needs to get the most imperial of presidents under control NOW. I will demand it use its Constitutional powers to do so.


“Day 2 of the Iowa Campaign”,

“Foreign Policy Questions for the next President”

“I Decided to Run for President Tonight in the Iowa Caucus”,

“Now that EDWARDS; KUCINICH, RICHARDSON and Other Progressives have Left the Race”



REVIEW: Tadeusz Sobolewicz’s BUT I SURVIVED—and How to Take the Longer View on Horrors of War, Terror and Torture

REVIEW: Tadeusz Sobolewicz’s BUT I SURVIVED—and How to Take the Longer View on Horrors of War, Terror and Torture

By Kevin Stoda, Germany

In 1985, the Polish actor and lifelong volunteer teacher in Polish schools (and in other youth programs), Tadeusz Sobolewicz published his WWII memoir, BUT I SURVIVED. For this well-written tale, Sobolewicz won first prize for the Polish Auschwitz Recollections Collection. However, the book encompasses much more than just giving a witness’s description of the horrors of death camps during one of the darkest periods and places in world history.

The non-fiction work also tells both of luck, fate, and selflessness and/or revenge of the survivors. Moreover, the book, BUT I SURVIVED, discusses how one begins to move on from such a past or experience of living as part of a hideous inhumane world order (under some of the worst war criminals one could ever imagine). We need to look into this topic as our world is awash with terror, torture, and wars of occupation. From all these perspectives, I feel the book from Tadeusz Sobolewicz ought to become the cannon of high school and young college history curricula—not just in Germany, but worldwide.

Despite its content, it inspires as much as it depresses while giving the reader a fairly authentic narration—perhaps more so than the biography of Anne Frank has ever done. The difference is that this narrator, Sobolewicz , was just old enough to experience the full moving into adulthood at the time world war broke out.

Tadeusz Sobolewicz was only 17 when the story begins. This means that he went from being a naïve boy scout to becoming an active and on-the-run in a double occupation of his homeland by the Soviet Union and Germany starting in 1939 till 1941. Thereafter, he became a death camp prisoner who survived.

This is because, by 1941, a Polish girl had turned him in, and he was sent off to Auschwitz following months of beatings in a local Polish prison, ran by SS agents. Over the next four years, Sobolewicz lived through hell in 6 death- and work camps in Poland and Germany: These were Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Leipzig, Muelsen, Flossenbuerg, and Regensburg. Meanwhile, his father would die in Auschwitz—almost before the young Sobolewicz’s eyes. (His grandfather had been shot to death for helping Jews.) His mother was taken off to Ravensbrueck for the duration of the war. Another cousin had been killed in the infamous Katyn massacre.

In the beginning of his narration, Tadeusz Sobolewicz emphasizes that perhaps “luck and coincidence” is all that had kept him alive throughout his travails. However, this is in a way only partially true as his very narration is full of surprisingly hopeful events and peoples who risk their own security and survival to help others—as he does. In Sobolewicz’s narration, often these personages or events pop up just as young Sobolewicz is at his wit’s end--and is almost begging to be taken form his misery by the Hand of Death.


Just as in Guenther Grass’s novelette, CATS AND MOUSE, set in Gdansk in 1939, Sobolewicz describes a pre-German Occupation world in Poland that was filled with the excitement of a youth growing up. Just months before the September invasion of the Germans, Sobolewicz was training as a boy scout in the same fields where so many Polish soldiers would soon die.

As the German military pushed from the west, millions of Polish mothers and their children hit the road to drive, ride, or march east. Sobolewicz then became the man of the house as the father was off fighting with the Polish military. He and his mother headed to what soon became the Soviet Zone, i.e. in the wake of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. On their way in search of safety from the Germans, the Sobolewicz family witnessed again-and-again Guernica-type horror scenes with horses and farm animals running here and there—and with trucks and railroad yards being bombed along the way before their eye. The family also watched as unprotected cities were attacked again and again by the German blitzkrieg.

In the eastern part of Soviet occupied Poland, Mrs. Sobolewicz had relatives, but after a few months of staying with them and with others from whom she rented property, the Sobolewicz family received word from Tadeusz’ father to return to the German occupied zone to the west. After making the dangerous crossing, they rejoined the father, who had become a regional leader in the resistance movement for Poland. Soon young Tadeusz was following his father’s footsteps.

However, shortly thereafter, the SS and German occupiers are quickly after Tadeusz and his dad. In order to get the two to turn themselves in, the mother is arrested and sent to a prison in Germany named Camp Ravensbrueck for women. She stays there for the duration of the war. One year later both Tadeusz and his dad find themselves being tortured in SS-run prisons and finally sent at different times to become political prisoners in one of the Auschwitz camps prior to Christmas of 1941.

Although there were many traitors in Poland aiding (or forced to aid) the occupying forces, even during his days in SS prison and while he had been on the run from the Gestapo as a freedom fighter, Tadeusz always found one or more role models who gave him help or served to tell him how to live and survive. (Tadeusz was always particularly trusting of those who had served in or had led boy scout troops. Even during his years in death- and internment camps, he would seek out fellow former scouts and scout leaders to gain assistance.)

1941-1943 Auschwitz

Tadeusz received the number 23053 in Auschwitz. He had heard rumors of the camp and rumors about what awaited him there, but the beatings in prison had been so bad that he had actually looked hopefully to the transport to Auschwitz, where he could at least see the sun. (He had been in a dungeon or cellar of the jail for many months—without ever seeing daylight.)

On his first day in the Auschwitz camp, he saw a Polish criminal, who had been give charge of his bunkhouse. This man who was given so much power over his fellow prisoners soon beat a prisoner to death for having diarrhea--and stinking up the room. When Tadeusz asked why this occurred, the reply from the long term residents was, “Here they don’t need a reason to beat you at all, don’t you understand that?”

Within weeks Tadeusz physical frame was worked almost to death by the heavy outdoor work that winter. In the meantime, he observed several suicides by those who had given up all hope. These prisoners would simply either walk up to a wire and touch it or start walking away from their workplace at a slow pace, only to be mowed down in rifle, pistol, or machine gun fire. Another time, he observed capos and bunk leaders killing prisoners simply to hide their bodies under the bunkhouse for a few days. (During this time, these criminal types could take the food rations of these other dead prisoners unnoticed by the German higher-ups for a week at a time.) Likewise, German soldiers were given holidays for every prisoner they shot escaping—a lot of prisoners who weren’t escaping just so the soldier could “earn” a holiday.

Just as Tadeusz was giving up all hope, he fell ill with tuberculosis. This is when he came across several miracle workers in the camp. First, Tadeusz was taken to the camp medical hospital and put in isolation—instead of sent straight to the gas chamber. In his interim of delirium at the so-called camp hospital, Tadeusz was taken care of by prison clinic assistants and a few Polish doctors who actually did their best (with next-to-know medicine) to take care of the few prisoners they could. When Tadeusz had recovered a bit, some of his former cellmates then smuggled bread and food into the clinic for him to help in his recovery. Likewise, amongst the prison clinic and the camp kitchen Tadeusz observed, there were teams of volunteers who smuggled food regularly to assist the sickest prisoners among them in the camp—excepting, of course, those who had not been shot, killed, or beaten to death.

It was in this context, Tadeusz was even able to receive a visit from his own father. Soon Tadeusz was well enough to volunteer to help out in the clinic. Tadeusz helped other victims of illnesses, particularly those with tuberculosis which was sweeping the camp. Even after he was well, the doctors and helpers in the hospital clinic kept Tadeusz there longer than normally permitted as an all-around clinic assistant—i.e. cleaning beds, changing sheets, etc. These same prisoners and doctors in the clinic had also protected Tadeusz from various SS “selections”, whereby sick prisoners were marked to be shot, sent to gas chambers or to experiment centers.

Finally, Tadeusz was forced to rejoin the world of work- and death camps. Suddenly, he had one of the most dreaded jobs of all. This occurred because it became clear that he could speak and read German. Therefore, Tadeusz was assigned as a translator and transcriber for the Auschwitz “train welcoming committee”. This meant he daily faced scenes like one witnesses in the film, SOPHIE’S CHOICE, whereby loved ones were, separated, parted and selected from one-another. Some were sent to various parts of the camp to work--or to their immediate deaths.

It was during this short period of great shame as translator, that another major miracle or stroke of luck occurred to Tadeusz. An elderly Jew who recognized that they were originally from the same township in Poland gave Tadeusz an expensive watch because, as the old man said, “I can’t use it wear I am going and you can.” Tadeusz looked around and pocketed the watch quickly.

Within a few hours, Tadeusz was out looking across the camp for a benefactor who could use the watch and get him out of the horrible job as translator and statistician for new arrivals. Tadeusz came across the right man—a national champion boxer of Poland who had connections all over Auschwitz. His benefactor-to-be admired the watch.

Tadeusz asked if the Polish boxing champ had been a Boy Scout—and the man nodded that he had. Tadeusz then handed him the watch and asked the boxer to help get him transferred to a better job in the camp. The man promised to do so, and a week later, Tadeusz found himself working in the camp kitchen—where for the first time ever in the camp he began to actually build himself up physically, i.e. as he received regular nourishment for the first time in a year.

The story of his time in the kitchen is an important one because one perceives a sort of Stalag-17-functioning resistance working out of the kitchen in Auschwitz led mostly by Polish political prisoners. Tadeusz was able to help out a lot.

Alas, by the end of 1942, the SS had gotten wise to the personal suasion and connections fostered over years by these older camp prisoners, and, therefore, began to put spies and peoples of other nationalities, such as Ukranians in their midst. In one of these catches against the camp cooking staff, Tadeusz was caught up (and like many of the older Polish political prisoners that same winter), so he was sent off to another work camp: Buchenwald.

1943-1945: Five more Camps in Two Years

Before WWII was over, Tadeusz had gotten a working tour of various famous extermination and industrial work camps. His first stop was in Buchenwald, where he and other newly transported prisoners had to start over in a new pecking order. This meant that even the senior political prisoners had no connections or support network at these other prison camps. This shifting from camp to camp would happen several times over Tadeusz’ next two years in confinement.

For Tadeusz, probably the worst place he could have ended up was where he got caught in a life-or-death fire in the cellar of a V1Rocket factory. (There was no way prisoners could have thought of escaping it would seem, i.e. so far under the earth.) This fire took place because some Russian prisoners had successfully sabotaged some weaponry at the site. The SS soldiers response was ruthless and all prisoners in Tadeusz’ block were told that none of the Russian prisoners would not be allowed to eat until someone turned someone in. Tadeusz and his fellow prisoners could not look each other in the eye as the Russians received no substance day after day.

After several days of this, the Russians flipped out. Some Russian set the underground area on fire in hopes of some of them escaping into the night.

Tadeusz was caught in this fire and was burnt badly. Hundreds of other prisoners either died in the flames, or from smoke or were shot fleeing through the few doors and window. Luckily for Tadeusz, that particular underground camp, Muelsen, belonged to a much larger work camp 5 hours to the west. Therefore any surviving wounded prisoners or guards were sent to that camp’s medical facilities. This camp was in Bavaria and was known as Flossenburg.

Again, a particular miracle worker stepped in at this camp and saved Tadeusz’ life. It seems that this medical professional, too, was Polish and like Tadeusz, was a survivor of Auschwitz. This particular Pole worked overtime for months cleaning Tadeusz’ wounds of scraps of earth and stones embedded in the wounds. The polish medical profession also oversaw and treated him for all related infections. Later, when Tadeusz, was sent out to work in the camp, this same new savior of Takeusz helped him again and again—even keeping Tadeusz from the hands of a maniacal German camp doctor, who liked to do horrible experiments and related dangerous surgeries on patients.

1945: Death March

As the war neared its end, some Gestapo (and soldiers) became more & more vicious while some became less of the monsters they had once been. This is what Tadeusz and his fellow prisoners began to witness from the time of the June 1944 Allied Invasion of Normandy till the end of the war. For example, one former officer from Auschwitz who never would have thought a second about shooting Tadeusz in Auschwitz, decided to simply have Tadeusz whipped for smuggling bread to other prisoners when he was serving again as cook in Regensburg.

Due to this increasingly unclear constellation of actions by both German soldiers and SS helpers, the remaining prisoners began considering more escapes. Such uncertainty and the growing need to take one’s life into one’s own hands, led Tadeusz and several companions escape during a death march to Austria in late April. By May 2, 1945 his life was in Allied Forces hands—but only because several Bavarian villagers had, in the meantime, helped him and his peers to hide inside their little town on several occasions, i.e. at risk to their own lives.


Near the end of his narration in BUT I SURVIVED, Tadeusz Sobolewicz tells of two scenes that affect his recalling of those days of horror and the hope he has for himself and his fellow man to grow past the hate and senseless killings and retributions of war and occupation.

The first occurs when a Gestapo motorcycle with its too passengers are found pinned to the ground after an accident. Sobolewicz’s fellow ex-prisoner friend, walks up and shoots them both. Then the friend goes up to each German soldier, and he kicks and stomps on them up until the life goes out of each of them. All the time, this man is shouting out loud about all his family members who have died under German occupation back in Poland. At this moment, Tadeusz Sobolewicz feels full empathy with his fellow prisoner. The rage of his friend is cathartic and he considers his possible opportunity of revenge some day.

However, later in this same chapter—after Tadeusz Sobolewicz and his friend have had some food to eat and have gotten used to the fact that Allied victors are swamping in to the regions in large numbers--, the two go motorbiking towards a U.S. military. On the way, they see many tanks and get food from U.S. soldiers to take with them on their journey. In short, there is a sense of ecstasy in the two men’s hearts, i.e. that a new chapter in history has begun for them and their world.

Suddenly, the two ex-prisoners come upon a handful of other ex-prisoners, whom they had been in both Regensburg and on their supposed Death March towards Austria.

These men had tied up a German officer and were torturing him. He was hanging from a tree and “there wasn’t a piece of skin left on his body”—noted Tadeusz. Showing his sense of humanity, Sobolewicz’s Polish friend this time took his pistol out of his own pocket and sought to put the German soldier out of his tortured misery. The other ex-death camp prisoners, however, jumped on Sobolewicz friend and stopped him—all the time wining and crying that this very German had never shown pity to any of those whom he had killed or torture.

These ex-victims of German extermination camps were vehement about it, so Sobolewicz and his friend just drove on to the American camp as they intended to do in the first place. By this time, however, the young Sobolewicz said to himself, “We can’t allow ourselves through our will to revenge to become like those who mistreated and tortured us or killed our family members.” There will be time and courts enough for that he said.


I wish that in the aftermath of the 9-11 attack in New York City and Washington D.C. that Americans and other governments and nations will learn that revenge is not enough of a reason to torture—neither is prevention. Neither is prevention nor revenge a good reason for war. This is a key reason American and German youth ought to discuss the content of this book. Perhaps it is time to get out of the war on terror. Let justice reign.


Sobolewicz, Tadeusz, AUS DEM JENSEITS ZURUECK, Poland: Museum Publication Auschwitz, 1993.

Sobolewicz, Tadeusz, BUT I SURVIVED Poland: Museum Publication Auschwitz, 1992.

Sobolewicz, Tadeusz ,


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Berlin, GERMANY: Bishop Huber of Evangelical Church notes that Germany is Europameister in Weapon Exports

Berlin, GERMANY: Bishop Huber of Evangelical Church notes that Germany is Europameister in Weapon Exports and We all have too much Blood on our Hands

By Kevin Stoda, Germany

Every year, Germany’s mainstream Evangelical churches get together for a weeklong gathering called KIRCHENTAG. This past May it was held in Bremen. At this event in Bremen, Bishop Wolfgang Huber of the Evangelical Church received “red hands” This receiving of red hands is part of a worldwide campaign against children being used as (and abused by) soldiers—which is sadly the case year-after-year for at least some 250,000 children around the globe.

As a matter of fact, this past February 12, a world-wide red hand day was held.

On that day in Germany, the President of Germany, Horst Koehler, had received 100,000 such red hands—to mark the fact that the peoples of Germany feel that they have blood on their hands due to its free ranging weapons export practices. In addition, Bishop Huber noted that German’s have not only blood on their hands for indirectly supporting endless wars—some wars where children are both the victims and soldiers (–i.e. with weapons of bad foreign policy alliances or pure international indifference). This is because, as Bishop Hubert noted, that German’s have blood on their hands as the result of their country’s blind economic and political policies, which he claimed have made the country of Germany, the European Champions in Exports of Armaments.

On the one hand, I thought to myself. This is nothing new.

As I was growing up in Cold-War 1970s, Americans were told again-and-again by their armaments dealers and national politicians: “If we don’t sell them [some country where a dictator abuses his people] these weapons, the Germans, French, or British will do it.”
Nowadays, the West is more likely to say the same thing about the Russians and the Chinese. E.g. “If we don’t sell the weapons to Zimbabwe, the Chinese will.”

On the other hand, since I do come from the USA, I always have to remember that while I point my finger at one country for buddy-ing up to dictators or terrorists, I always have all the other fingers pointing back to me and my homeland. The USA exports 38% of all weapons sales on this planet.

What a loser of country for a peacemaker to be born into eh? “Last year [again], the United States sold more arms than any other country, continuing a post-Cold War pattern, according to an authoritative Congressional Research Service (CRS) report published Sept. 22.”

On the other hand, I think that Germany is not actually the number one arms export in Europe as Bishop Hubert with his “red hands” claims. According to the data I have (as late as 2007), both the United Kingdom and France outsell Germany by 100% per annum.

I wonder how many “red hand” are in the UK being passed around. ??

In any case, due to Germany’s peculiar history, i.e. 1933 to 1945, it is certainly true that the Germans should shame themselves at being number 2 or 3 in Europe—but how much more should Americans be ready to paint their hands red..??

Just as disturbing is news that in 2009 China is seeking to catch up with Russian and American arms exporters over the coming decade.[tt_news]=35242&tx_ttnews[backPid]=7&cHash=1aa12ed646

Moreover, pacifist constitutional Japan is considering easing its exports on armaments.

Returning to Bishop Huber’s article, printed in his article for this month’s CRISMOM magazine (the national Evangelical Church magazine) , it is certainly good that U.S. President Barack Obama is interested in reducing more nuclear weapons and that he is finally joining others in calling for a nuclear weapon free planet earth. However, both Bishop Huber and I are awaiting Obama to walk the walk more than talk the talk on that issue.

What about you folks? Are we going to see a reduction in weapons in our lifetime?

I guess we are going to have a lot of red bloody hands for generations to come—or is someone going to get serious and stop the spending on the things that go BOOM and keep on killing?