Friday, June 25, 2010

Key Judge in Lousiana Fails to Recuse Himself—Should He be Impeached?

Key Judge in Lousiana Fails to Recuse Himself—Should He be Impeached?

By Kevin Stoda

According to Democracy Now and other national media, the judge who stopped the Obama’s Administration’s 6-month moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico this week likely should have had to recuse himself before taking part in the case.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now stated, “A federal judge has rejected the latest attempt by the Obama administration to continue its six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House imposed the ban last month as the BP oil spill spiraled into what many have called the worst environmental disaster in US history. On Thursday, US District Judge Martin Feldman refused to stay his June 22 order lifting the moratorium. A Reagan appointee, Feldman has extensive stock holdings in energy companies, including Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig where the explosion occurred, and Halliburton, which also performed work at the site. Feldman also owns stock in two of BP’s largest shareholders, BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase.”

The controversial injunction by Judge Felman can be read at this link.

Even FOX News has noted, “U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman financial disclosure report shows he still owns eight energy-related investments including stock in Exxon Mobil Corp. In last year's disclosure report, Feldman owned up to 16 energy-related investments. His new report was released Friday. Among the assets sold was stock in Transocean, the Switzerland-based company that owned the drilling rig operated by BP that is now spewing oil into the Gulf .”

The controversial decision made by Feldman benefited Transocean and many other oil dependent firms—even as America continues to face the consequences of the worst man-made economic and environmental disaster in its entire history.


I think that any judge with a scrap of decency would have recused himself from such a case. Since he did not, Judge Feldman should be impeached.

This Judge Feldman may have been correct in his decision, but he was not the judge who should have made such an injunction—his hands and bank account are bloodied by present and past oil investments.



Many Americans are totally oblivious to what soldiers have to say about Afghanistan and the newest appointment of a new lead general in that mountainous, dangerous, and fascinating land. In short, the general public in the USA and in most NATO countries get too little important news (& opinions) and fail to listen to people, like the 3 on Democracy Now this morning, who spoke about what troops serving in the Middle East really are thinking.

Young Americans and military age peoples in all NATO lands need to hear what these 3 have to say.
June 24, 2010

3 US Soldiers Speak Out on McChrystal’s Firing, Petraeus as Replacement, and the Unending War in Afghanistan


President Obama says the Afghan war will continue as planned despite his firing of General Stanley McChrystal over disparaging comments made by McChrystal and his aides about top US officials. Obama has named General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command and architect of the surge in Iraq, as a successor. The firing of McChrystal comes at a perilous moment in the Afghan war, with June now the deadliest month for the NATO force since the 2001 invasion. We speak to three soldiers: Brock McIntosh, an Afghan war vet who has filed for conscientious objector status; Victor Agosto, who was jailed after refusing to deploy to Afghanistan after serving in Iraq; and Camilo Mejia, the first GI who served in Iraq to have publicly resisted the war. [includes rush transcript]


Victor Agosto, soldier who refused to deploy to Afghanistan after serving in Iraq. In August 2009 he was demoted and sentenced to one month in jail. He is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Camilo Mejia, first GI who served in Iraq to have publicly resisted the war and was imprisoned for refusing to go back for almost a year. He is the former chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Brock McIntosh, soldier who served in Afghanistan from November 2008 to August 2009. He is still serving in the military and is filing for conscientious objector status.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show on Afghanistan. President Obama says the Afghan war will continue as planned despite his firing of General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal was fired Wednesday after being summoned by Obama to explain remarks he and his aides made in a Rolling Stone article that disparaged the US president and other senior civilian leaders.

On Wednesday, Obama named General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, to replace McChrystal. Petraeus oversaw the so-called surge in Iraq. Like McChrystal, Petraeus is a strong advocate for counterinsurgency warfare.

The firing of McChrystal comes at a perilous moment in the Afghan war. Earlier this month, General Petraeus admitted stabilizing Afghanistan would, quote, “be harder than Iraq due to the lack of human capital, damage after thirty years of war, illiteracy, lack of infrastructure and so on,” he said. Seventy-nine NATO troops have died in Afghanistan so far this month, making it the deadliest month on record for international troops. We don’t have the exact figures for Afghan casualties. More US and NATO troops have died this month than in all of 2002, 2003 or 2004.

The Afghan war recently entered its 104th month, making it the longest war in US history, surpassing the Vietnam War. US relations with the Afghan government are also tenuous. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has reportedly lost faith in the US and NATO to prevail and has begun secret negotiations with the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the US military is preparing for what could be another public relations disaster. The watchdog website Wikileaks has said it plans to soon release a classified video showing US troops killing scores of civilians in the Afghan village of Garani thirteen months ago.

To talk more about the US war effort, we’re joined by three soldiers. They’re here in Detroit attending the US Social Forum. Brock McIntosh is an active-duty soldier who served in Afghanistan from November 2008 to August 2009. He’s filed for conscientious objector status. Victor Agosto refused to deploy to Afghanistan after serving in Iraq. In August 2009 he was demoted and sentenced to a month in jail. He’s a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. And Camilo Mejia also joins us. He’s the first GI who served in Iraq to have publicly resisted the war and was imprisoned for refusing to return for almost a year. He is the former chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Brock, I’d like to begin with you. When did you return from Afghanistan?

BROCK McINTOSH: August 2009.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the firing of General McChrystal and the naming of Petraeus to replace him.

BROCK McINTOSH: Well, I was sort of shocked that he fired General McChrystal, because this counterinsurgency plan is sort of his—it’s his proposal. And I feel like Obama was digging himself in a hole when he began this counterinsurgency plan, because it requires years and years and lots and lots of money. It requires casualties on both sides, in Afghanistan and also American lives. And so, he was setting himself up for either a protracted war or having to cut the war short and sort of flee Afghanistan in the same way that we fled Vietnam. So I was shocked that he fired General McChrystal. And I feel like General Petraeus, having General Petraeus there, it’s not really going to change our strategy very much. And, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You were a big proponent of counterinsurgency when you went to Afghanistan. Why?

BROCK McINTOSH: Because with counterinsurgency, you measure success not by how many enemies you kill, but by how many civilians you protect. And so, to me, it was sort of like Batman warfare, where you’re protecting civilians and you’re not worried about killing enemies. And so, it was something that was really attractive to me.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you change your view?

BROCK McINTOSH: Well, counterinsurgency has a lot of contradictions and paradoxes in it. And in the counterinsurgency manual itself, it lists twelve paradoxes, and even that list isn’t exhaustive enough. But when I talk about counterinsurgency with my fellow soldiers, they talk about not being willing to put their own lives on the line in order to save civilians. It’s not something that the regular soldier, I think, is willing to do. And there are several other paradoxes with counterinsurgency. But also what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to legitimize and support a government in Afghanistan that I believe is irreversibly corrupt, whose foundations is based on drug lords and warlords.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’ve returned from Afghanistan, and you’re filing for conscientious objector status, though you’re active-duty now?

BROCK McINTOSH: Yeah, I’m in the National Guard, but I’m still on active orders. I drill one weekend a month. And I’m currently in the process of filling out the application. But the first question is a pretty hefty question, because I’m supposed to describe the nature of my beliefs, which is taking a pretty long time.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to ask you further about that, but, Victor Agosto, you served in Iraq. You refused to deploy to Afghanistan. What are your feelings about the war today, as General McChrystal has been fired and Petraeus has been named to replace him?

VICTOR AGOSTO: Well, I think General Petraeus will be less critical of the Obama administration’s plan than General McChrystal was. And I think this shows that there are strong divisions within the administration as to how to proceed. But in reality, there is no good way to conduct this occupation. What needs to happen is an immediate withdrawal of all American troops. The United States needs to pay for the damages, and the Afghan people have to be allowed to determine their own fate.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you return—refuse to deploy to Afghanistan?

VICTOR AGOSTO: Because the war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with making the American people safer. It’s really about projecting American power in Southwest Asia. And I didn’t want to be part of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to ask you about why you originally signed up then, and also we’ll be talking with Camilo Mejia, who is well known as the Iraqi officer—as the US officer who fought in Iraq, returned home, and then refused to go back and was imprisoned for almost a year.

This is Democracy Now!,, the War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Brock McIntosh—he served in Afghanistan for a year, has returned, continues on active duty, but has applied for conscientious objector status; Victor Agosto, refused to deploy to Afghanistan after serving in Iraq; and Camilo Mejia is a staff sergeant. He’s the first GI imprisoned for refusing to return to Iraq. He was imprisoned for close to a year.

Camilo Mejia, you’re the former chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War. But that’s Iraq Veterans Against the War. What is the stance of IVAW on Afghanistan?

CAMILO MEJIA: We passed a resolution by a majority vote, I believe two years ago, in which the organization officially took a stance against the Afghanistan war. And we basically adopted Afghanistan within our organizing goals to—you know, of full and unconditional withdrawal for troops from that country, as well as, you know, from Iraq, and reparations to the people of Afghanistan and full benefits for returning veterans from that war, as well. Actually, we stand for full benefits for all veterans. But the key thing was that we adopted Afghanistan into our strategy.

AMY GOODMAN: The firing of McChrystal, the replacing him with General Petraeus, who was the architect of the surge in Iraq?

CAMILO MEJIA: I agree with both Brock and Victor. Petraeus, I think, was one of the main creators of the counterinsurgency plan in Afghanistan. We don’t believe that there is going to be a change in ideology. We don’t believe that there’s going to be a change in strategy. We don’t believe that there’s going to be a change in US commitment to the mission in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is that a problem for you?

CAMILO MEJIA: It’s a problem because I think that what we’re seeing now is not necessarily a problem or a matter of who is in charge in Afghanistan or who is in charge even here, but the fact that this is in an unwinnable situation both for America and for Afghanistan. And this is the main thing that we have to draw from this, that we cannot place our hopes neither in Obama or in any general that is in Afghanistan, until there is a change in attitude, until there is a decision made to bring all the troops home and, you know, put an end to both the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re not hearing very much debate about this. I mean, right now, I would say, in the media in the United States, it’s pretty much—well, reflects what we’re seeing in Congress, the Republicans and the Democrats joining together now, uniting around Petraeus, saying this is going to be the shortest hearing for confirmation in the history of the country. We hear a, you know, really uniform approval of the choice of Petraeus and moving forward with the war in Afghanistan.

CAMILO MEJIA: But that’s not what we’re hearing from the public. I think that the President’s approval rating has dropped to, I think, below 45 percent. Afghanistan, as you mentioned, is now officially the longest US war in history, and we have record casualty numbers in Afghanistan both for American and NATO troops. So I think dissatisfaction among the public and the troops themselves has grown to an unprecedented high level. And I think that people should concentrate more on that side of things than on the side of the government and Congress. I think that people should view the reality in Afghanistan, that we have a very corrupt government, that we have a strategy that’s bound to fail, that there is high dissatisfaction and low morale among the troops, and that this is yet another opportunity for President Obama to do what he was elected to do, which is to listen to the American people and act appropriately and accordingly.

AMY GOODMAN: Brock McIntosh, General McChrystal recently admitted US forces are killing innocent Afghans at military checkpoints. He said, quote, “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.” That was General McChrystal. What do you think of the surge in Afghanistan? You were a part of it. You are. You’re still in the military.

BROCK McINTOSH: Yeah, I was—they were transitioning into counterinsurgency while I was over there. But it’s important to recognize that the surge in Iraq was a lot different from the surge in Afghanistan, because with the surge in Iraq, it was trying to counter an urban insurgency, so it was really more of a surge into Baghdad and the suburbs, whereas in Afghanistan, the insurgencies rule, so you have to have a surge in every little village and hamlet in Afghanistan, which requires hundreds of thousands of troops. Every counterinsurgency expert says it requires hundreds of thousands of troops, which we don’t have. And one of the ways that General McChrystal wanted to make up for this disparity is by quadrupling the Afghan security force from 100,000 to 400,000. And every single one of their salaries are paid by us, and their weapons are supplied by us, and they’re very prone to mutiny. And then they use those weapons against us. And—

AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean to be active-duty right now, if you—well, would you refuse to return to Afghanistan?

BROCK McINTOSH: It’s hard to say at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: And why do you have questions?

BROCK McINTOSH: I was actually—I was watching the World Cup a couple weekends ago, and I made a joke: why don’t we just settle conflict with sports, with soccer? And my friend was like, “Because then America would lose,” because we’re not very good at soccer. And I realized that what we’re really good at is war and that there’s really not much of a difference between the sport of war and the sport of soccer, because in both cases values are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter who’s more righteous, who has the better values. What matters is who has the best skills at this particular sport. And being proficient at the sport of killing is not something that I want to be proficient at, and I don’t believe that being good at killing proves that I have better values.

AMY GOODMAN: Victor Agosto, you served in Iraq. You refused to go to Afghanistan. You were court-martialed. What caused you to change? Why did you sign up for the military?

VICTOR AGOSTO: I just grew tired of sitting in classrooms. I wanted to do something. And the military was a way of seeing the world and getting a job. And that’s—and, of course, patriotism played a role, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re in Iraq. What changed your attitude?

VICTOR AGOSTO: It just didn’t make sense to me why we were there, why—why these contractors were making, you know, all this money. And eventually, I started making the connections between that and just the idea of empire. And I realized that what I was doing there was just that, just being a soldier for empire, basically, not to make America or Afghanistan a better place, I mean. So I read some books. I read some Chomsky. I realized that there’s absolutely no American moral superiority. There’s no—we were no one to impose anything on the people of Iraq or Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get a Noam Chomsky book in Iraq?

VICTOR AGOSTO: I ordered it on

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting. Peter Pace was asked on Meet the Press about a former prime minister—I think it was Jaafari—that he said Chomsky was his favorite author, and Pace said, “I hope he has some other books on his bookstand.” So, you came back. You said no. Describe the court-martial process, what happened to you.

VICTOR AGOSTO: Well, it was pretty—pretty quick proceeding. Cindy Thomas from Under the Hood Café in Killeen, Texas, spoke to my character. And I also—I pled guilty to refusing an order. That way I would get a summary court-martial and face a maximum penalty of thirty days. But I also said that I felt that eventually the wars would be ruled illegal, because they violate international law, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your sense of soldiers, soldiers you served with, soldiers going to Afghanistan, whether they support the war or not?

VICTOR AGOSTO: Well, it’s interesting. I heard a presentation by a reporter who was embedded with troops in Afghanistan, and he had been with like a Stryker platoon, and he had conducted a straw poll, which—in which he asked, “Do you think the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting?” And out of this group of twenty-four soldiers, none of them felt it was worth fighting. And he also expressed the sentiment, that soldiers were giving him, that they felt that they were fighting for checkpoints and intersections and nothing else.

AMY GOODMAN: Camilo Mejia, the big debate around the Rolling Stone piece, what’s most being talked about is the name calling, as, you know, which official was called by McChrystal or his staff what name, you know, whether we’re talking about a “wounded animal” or a “clown,” whether President Obama, McChrystal felt, was uncomfortable or unprepared in a meeting. But that has overshadowed the bigger issue of how the war is going. In the Rolling Stone piece, a senior US adviser to McChrystal said, quote, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”

Yesterday at the US Social Forum, I attended a session that you were all at, talking about the war and what soldiers should do and what people who are—if they’re recruited, what they should do. I went across the hallway, and there were some folks who were cleaning the convention center, a man and woman, and they were sitting there taking a break. And I asked them if they knew what the US Social Forum was about. And the man, an African American man in his twenties, said that he was sort of interested in what was going on. And I said there was this session right across the hallway about the wars. And he said, “Do you think I could go into it?” And I said, “I’m sure you could.” He said, “Because I’m against these wars.”

Now, that sense of whether Americans are against the war—what are you doing here at the US Social Forum? And how do you advise young people, who are recruited or who are weighing the war, or soldiers, what they can do right now?

CAMILO MEJIA: I think we are all here because we want to participate in this gathering, in this open-space gathering, with other movements, because I believe that we, as antiwar activists, need to build bridges with other movements, because we’re not—we should not be a one-issue organization. We should not be—even movement-wide, we should not be a one-issue movement. I think that antiwar movements should build bridges to work with the immigrant rights movement. I think that we should be fighting poverty. I think that we should be fighting for equality. We should be fighting for all these things.

And we should be actually working in coalition with not only grassroots organizations but within our own communities and people like the young man that you spoke to across the hall from our workshop yesterday, because in order for us to accomplish our mission, which is the withdrawal from occupied nations and benefits for veterans and reparations to the people of those countries, we’re not going to be able to accomplish that unless we build a support network upon which soldiers who are resisting can fall and that they can be embraced by the civilian community and the civilian movement. And for that, we need to do this kind of work. And I think that the US Social Forum is the perfect place where you can find those people, learn about what they’re doing, and build those very important connections to build, you know, a movement that not only goes after one issue, but that aims to, you know, rebuild the system from the ground up.

AMY GOODMAN: Victor Agosto, what do you tell young people who served, like you did, and are refusing to return? I mean, yesterday there was very practical advice being given in these sessions. People felt they weren’t getting accurate information, they didn’t have the proper advice, and they were scared.

VICTOR AGOSTO: In terms of soldiers who are—

AMY GOODMAN: Like you, perhaps, served, don’t want to go back, or young recruits?

VICTOR AGOSTO: Right. There are many resources available. There is a GI Rights Hotline. There’s Iraq Veterans Against the War, has many resources on its website. There’s many options for people who are determined not to deploy. There’s conscientious objector status and ways of—

AMY GOODMAN: I don’t think most people—now, how often, for example, are any of you interviewed in mainstream media? The debate in Washington is whether McChrystal should have been fired. It is not whether you should refuse to deploy. How often, for example, Camilo, are you interviewed in the mainstream media?

CAMILO MEJIA: Not very often at all. I had one interview last month, and before that, I don’t remember when was the last time that I spoke with any mainstream media.

AMY GOODMAN: Brock McIntosh, you are, like the other guests here today, unusual. You’ve served in Afghanistan. You’ve come back. Now you’re applying for CO status. Are interviewers knocking down your door to talk to you about your situation?

BROCK McINTOSH: No, because war is a top-down approach, so it doesn’t matter what people on the ground think, they perceive.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel you have support from other soldiers, other people in the Army National Guard?

BROCK McINTOSH: A lot of my fellow soldiers are either supportive, or at least they recognize my freedom of speech. So they’re understanding. There’s a few soldiers who have made threats at me, you know, threatening to burn me, whatever that means. But they’re all empty threats. But most people have been pretty supportive. So…

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid to return to Afghanistan?

BROCK McINTOSH: No, I’m not. I’m just afraid to kill. I would have returned to Afghanistan as a civilian in a heartbeat.

AMY GOODMAN: Today there’s going to be a big antiwar session at the US Social Forum here in Detroit. Among those who will be speaking are, well, Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, who tried to go to Canada yesterday, but she was detained, along with another person, and she was turned back. Among those who will be speaking are Colonel Ann Wright. We had Colonel Ann Wright on yesterday, who helped to open the mission in Afghanistan, the embassy, in 2002, feels, though, the war is wrong.

Victor Agosto, what would you say to a young person now who’s been recruited out of high school? What would you tell them? What if they’re in boot camp and they’re changing their mind?

VICTOR AGOSTO: Well, I find that just about anyone who signs up for the military really believes that they are doing something good. So I would basically try to convince them that, in reality, instead of being a force for good, they’re going to be a force for evil, really, in that the wars aren’t making anybody any safer, they are just bringing misery to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that they’re drawing away vital resources here at home.

AMY GOODMAN: Final comment, Camilo Mejia? You’re the former chair of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. As you organize, your thoughts?

CAMILO MEJIA: Well, I want to speak to the question you just asked. And I want to address servicemembers who are considering not re-deploying to either Iraq or Afghanistan or to, you know, filing a CO claim. In my experience having fought in Iraq and come back, being court-martialed, applied for CO status and denied so far, and served time in jail—I actually served almost nine months of a year sentence. I have not spoken with a single war resister who has taken a stance against war and has served time in jail, who has any regrets about the decision to speak your mind freely and follow your conscience. I would say to young people in the military to follow their conscience and to not be afraid of jail, because in the end, if they do follow their conscience, they will have no regrets, whatever the consequences.

AMY GOODMAN: Camilo Mejia, thank you for being with us, former staff sergeant. Victor Agosto served in Iraq, refused to go to Afghanistan. And Brock McIntosh, thank you for being with us, still active-duty, recently came back from Afghanistan.

If you are interested in the World Social Forum in Detroit, check out this article in the NATION:

See more from War Veterans, who speak up, at:


Thursday, June 24, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, Missouri

According to Heidi Burgess, “Social conflicts often involve some misunderstanding. Parties in conflict communicate by what they say (or do not say) and how they behave toward each other. Even normal interaction may involve faulty communication, but conflict seems to worsen the problem. When two people are in conflict, they often make negative assumptions about "the other." Consequently, a statement that might have seemed innocuous when two parties were friends might seem hostile or threatening when the same parties are in conflict.”

Burgess goes on to state in an essay entitled “Misunderstandings” that “[a]ll communication has two parts: a sender and a receiver. The sender has a message he or she intends to transmit, and s/he puts it in words, which, to her/him, best reflect what s/he is thinking. But many things can intervene to prevent the intended message from being received accurately.”

I was struck by the importance of using the proper and most functional or appropriate tools in communicating one’s message this week as American observed that the noxious“ Runaway” General McChrystal was forced to bail-out-early in the war and on his troops in Afghanistan. (Was McChrystal just trying to get fired—and skip-out-of-Dodge, i.e. before things turn worse in Afghanistan? Or was he a fool in doing those interviews?)

Also, this past week, I recalled Burgess’ words and reflected on how easily it is to be misunderstood in the heightened political environment in America (i.e. culture wars and tea-party politics) upon my arrival to a small Missouri town where my mother lives.

The very first day in town, I had quickly observed that there was a nearby home with a 20-foot-flag-pole set at half-mast. I wondered “Why?”

As I took my mother’s dog for a walk each day past the flag, I was forced to continue to ponder what message this apparently-very-patriotic American was trying to convey with his flag at half mast. I enquired of neighbors and soon learned that the flag had been at half for quite some time.

I thought, “Could the man who flies the flat at half mast be anti-Obama? i.e. and be in mourning, like those who still don’t recognize Obama as our duly elected president?”

On the other hand, I asked myself, Could the owner of the flag at half mast be the opposite? Perhaps he is mourning America being in wars so far from our shores and wasting tax payers money on rich banks?”

I thought, “A Flag-at-Half-Mast represents mourning. Mourning is good at times, but now, in our nation’s history, we need to move beyond mourning and act to change and improve things.”

Finally, yesterday morning, I walked with the dog once again by the house with the flag at half mast and saw a tall but aging fellow in the garage.

I told myself, “Enough of my just guessing at the old man’s intentions at flying his American flag each day at half-mast. I needed to stop making assumptions and get to the root of the message.”

Well, the gracious older American (neighbor) explained, “Well the part of the mast is broken at the top. However, I can get up their to fix it. The flag just doesn’t go any higher.”


I say it is high time that Americans stop all the misunderstandings and false assumptions (and other misunderstandings) leading to hostilities this hot summer of 2010. Sitting down and talking to your neighbors and start repairing our flag poles (and fences) and rotting infrastructure is a great place to start, eh?

That is as direct as I want to be right now.

What do you think we can otherwise do as citizens of peace (and of a relatively free land) to make our country and our world to function and communicate better this year—and this decade?

We sure are not going to solve our problems by waiving our dirty laundry, like General McChrystal did, are we?


HAS ANYONE ELSE HAD TROUBLE GETTING REFUNDS FROM RYANAIR & Other Airlines in the wake of the Icelandic Volcano Eruptions in April?

HAS ANYONE ELSE HAD TROUBLE GETTING REFUNDS FROM RYANAIR & Other Airlines in the wake of the Icelandic Volcano Eruptions in April?

Dear Readers and Fellow Global Travelers,

At this point, RyanAir has failed to repay me still for about 200 Euors. i.e. since mid April 2010 when millions of others and I were stranded in Germany and could not take planes I had paid for to-and-from London. My first cancellation was on a Saturday due to the Icelandic Volcano ash covered the skies of northern Europe. The next cancellation was on the subsequent Monday.

In both cases of non-flights, I applied online with RyanAir immediately for my refunds. In a subsequent email from RyanAir Germany, I was told my flight refunds would arrive no later than mid-May.

I have contacted RyanAir several times since May about this non-payment (for a non-flight) because in both late May and early June 2010 my bank charged me an overdraft fee of nearly 30 dollars because RyanAir had failed to meet its promise to reimburse. (This occurred again while I was travling by plane in the Philippines and could not follow up with RyanAir every day.)

Dear Readers, I would love to know (1) if other stranded travelers of RyanAir received their reimbursements for their non-flights in April or (2) whether other airlines are scamming folks still.

Let me know here at this site what your experience with reimbursements due to the volcanic eruptions of Iceland have been. I will share with the world and local media your tales.


Kevin Stoda

Friday, June 18, 2010

A World Literature Assignment on Nobel Prize and More

A World Literature Assignment on Nobel Prize and More

By Kevin Anthony Stoda,

Project and other ideas for high school teachers

A curriculum unit on the Nobel Prize in World Literature using the internet resources and primary readings (The unit will include this paper and bibliography.)


The idea of promoting and recognizing great humanitarian contributions to the world in terms of sciences, medicine, literature, and society, i.e. in the form the international prizes for peace, came to Alfred Nobel near the end of his life. However, it is likely that the one person with the singular important influence on Alfred Nobel was Bertha Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau (later von Suttner). She had originally signed on to become the great philanthropist’s personal assistant in 1876. The subsequent two decades of written correspondence between Nobel and von Suttner, helped leading him to use most of his great wealth to found what the world sees now as it’s most prestigious peace prize. In short, a chance meeting in Paris and the eventual hiring of a Miss Tettau, (later von Suttner) as Alfred’s personal assistant in 1876 has certainly proven to be beneficial coincidences in modern humanity.

The first stages of Alfred Nobel’s life had been less than easy. Born 1833, in the very year that his father’s first firm went bankrupt, Alfred eventually moved with his family to St. Petersburg , Russia , where his father had started working under the Czars as a mechanic. By 1850, young Alfred moved on his own to Paris and began to work in a private laboratory. Soon he was establishing his own business contributions to the family’s new found wealth, especially after his travels to Germany and Italy in the early part of that decade created for him important business and research connections. With his family firm’s patenting of nitroglycerine in 1863, great profits were beginning to come in for the Nobels.

However, tragedy soon hit Alfred and his family again in 1864 as his own brother, Emile, was killed in Heleneborg , Sweden . Emile had been working on nitroglycerine at the time. Looking for a new way to handle nitroglycerine more safely, Alfred’s laboratories invented dynamite, patenting the invention in 1867. By the 1870s, Nobel had become a wealthy man. He had established firms, not only in his homeland, but in France , Italy , Germany , the UK , and the United States . He had, meanwhile produced a series of patented blasting camps that had enabled him to move back to Paris , where he established Société Générale pour la Fabrication de la Dynamite. Although the killing power of his inventions were well-known in his own day, Nobel saw himself as a businessman and observed that his original intentions for such explosive inventions was in industry and mining, not in war-making, which was becoming too common in his own day.

As noted above, Paris is the city where in 1876 the pacifist, Bertha von Suttner crossed paths with the wealthy patriarch, Alfred Nobel, head of many international corporations and the great Nobel family estate. Born with the family name Tettau, Von Suttner had many military men in her family. Bertha von Suttner eventually became the first female recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 1905. Importantlly, becides being an activist, she was also an author, who used her fictional writing skills to help finance many great peace conferences, such as in Den Haag, excursions to encourage peace education in the USA, and peace campaigns in the decades leading up to the turn of the century(—and right through WWI).

One of von Suttner’s more serious writing efforts was Das Maschinenzeitalter [The Machine Age], which, “when published early in 1889, was much discussed and reviewed. This book, criticizing many aspects of the times, was among the first to foretell the results of exaggerated nationalism and armaments.” That very same year, she also published, Die Waffen Nieder [Lay Down Your Arms]. This work struck a chord with even more hearts and minds—i.e. as Suttner had intended. In this particular novel, Bertha von Suttner created a novel whose “heroine suffers all the horrors of war; the wars involved were those of the author's own day on which she did careful research. The effect of published late in 1889, was consequently so real and the implied indictment of militarism so telling that the impact made on the reading public was tremendous.”
Meanwhile, through a series of now-famous correspondences with Alfred Nobel, von Suttner was making major contributions leading to continued debate on the merits of his own inventions and the chances of helping the peace movement with his legacy, especially in terms of promoting greater individual and societal sense-of-responsibilities for waging peace as well as war in the Nobel name.


According to Sven Tagal, “When Alfred Nobel's will was made known after his death in San Remo on 10 December 1896, and when it was disclosed that he had established a special peace prize, this immediately created a great international sensation. The name Nobel was connected with explosives and with inventions useful to the art of making war, but certainly not with questions related to peace.”

Legend had it, “[e]ven if Alfred Nobel for a long time [had] maintained a certain cool distance to the international peace association's methods, his interest in a donation to the promotion of world peace was influenced by Bertha von Suttner. In his last will, signed on November 27, 1895, we find the well-known peace prize formulation ‘to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.’ Alfred Nobel promptly informed Bertha von Suttner of his decision, and she expressed her delight: ‘Whether I am around then or not does not matter; what we have given, you and I, is going to live on.’”

The idea of using a sort of global competition to promote peace, rather than having competiveness with explosives and armaments leading to war was truly an important goal at the beginning of the 20th century. Alfred Nobel passed away in 1897 but his name lives on—and is even more-often linked to peace than to explosions and violence in modern times. At the time of the creation of this magnificent set of prizes through the will and financing of its benefactor, Alfred Nobel, though, the Scandinavian leadership was fairly weak in evaluating one of the key areas that both von Suttner and Nobel had realized was important to peace: This was the area of the literary prize. In the age before radio, TV, and the internet, both Nobel and von Suttner had realized that ideas were important to waging peace--especially the written word had shown itself in the works of von Suttner to be have greatest affect on motivating people and the the human spirit.


According to Kjell Espmark, “Among the five prizes provided for in (1895) Alfred Nobel’s will, one was intended for the person who, in the literary field, had produced ‘the most outstanding work in an ideal direction". As a goal, this was obviously a bit too vague. Initially, there were seeral other guiding rules in determining the criteria for who could or should receive such a literary prize. For example, the Swedish Academy was Nobel’s preferred to group of individuals to make final recommendations and determination which of the candidates nominated in February in any one year would be recommended in April for the annual Nobel Literary award.

Nobel had emphasized in his will that the selections of works nominated should be published the preceding year, but this was quickly revised as the focus of his other prizes were more holistic. The literary prize thus became not what was newest but what had become (or was becoming) the most influential in improving literature (and what had improved the world of thought and human development) for a more global and peaceful understanding of man and his life.

Meanwhile, until 1949 nominations might have come from a variety of sources, such as the favored readings of a particular government. At the turn of the century, however, it was determined that a new “special regulation gave the right of nomination to members of the Swedish Academy and [only] other academies, institutions and societies similar to it in constitution and purpose, and to university teachers of aesthetics, literature and history.” Thus, after 1949, those who could nominate an author were reduced to specialists in literature, i.e. “professors of literature and philology at universities and university colleges.”

A set of problems hurt the selection process of literature during the early decades of the Nobel Prize’s inception. For example, early on political trends, especially very conservative forces in Sweden , discolored much of the wide acceptance of the Nobel Literature Prize for much of the first half of the century. According to Espmark, “The [Swedish] Academy which got this exacting commission [from Nobe’s will] was simply not fit for the task. It was deliberately formed as ‘a bulwark’ against the new radical literature in Sweden and much too conservative in outlook and taste to be an international literary jury. It was not until the 1940s - with Anders Österling as secretary - that the Academy, considerably rejuvenated, had the competence to address the major writers of, in the first place, the Western World.” For this very reason, Tolstoy was never nominated seriously in 1901 (or thereafter), even though he was the most influential writer of his age—and a man who was very interested in improving chances for long term peace on the continent of Europe. For these conservative memories and the politicization of the Literary Award in its first half-century, Jean-Paul Sartre turned down his Literary Nobel Prize in 1964.

Interesting, even during the Cold War, the literature prize continued to be seen as largely political, especially by Eastern European governments who believed that every time a dissident was nominated, it was evidence that the West was attacking their people and nation. On the other hand, through the last half of the 20th Century, the Literary Prize continually became more-and-more international, i.e. less visibly blown by winds of peace and war on the European continent. This, in a sense, has pushed the Literary Prize to be considered less-and-less political in recent years, and it is now seen more as a means of shining light on ideals of progress or developments in global literature as well as a recognition or appreciation of man’s predicaments in a fast changing modern planet.


For several decades, Rabindranath Tagore (1913) was the only winner of the Literature Prize from outside Europe . Tagore was born in Bengal and could write in many languages. Although he proved to be a great writer in a variety of genres and languages, in the West he is best known as a poet. As the Nobel committees have noted, “Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal . With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. For the world he became the voice of India 's spiritual heritage; and for India , especially for Bengal , he became a great living institution.” In addition, he founded his own educational institutions and Ashrams, which likewise influenced Mahatma Gandhi and others.

As noted above, experimentalism was not weighed heavily by the early Swedish- Academy-dominated selections. This bias was clear, when Tagore received the Nobel Prize for a collection of his poetry published in English with the chairmen of the committee noting in praise: “Concerning our understanding of this poetry, by no means exotic but truly universally human in character, the future will probably add to what we know now.” In a sense, the committee was pushing the clock backwards by choosing Tagore as a poet of love and a representative of a particular people. In the West, Tagore is currently no longer looked at as a very great poet. In short, retrospectively, Tagore is seen in the Western world of poetry as having offered very little innovation. On the other hand, in South Asian politics Tagore’s world view, his poetry, and his educational and cultural philosophies remain ever-current. In summary, Tagore remains a giant in any language he is published in any of these areas—even as his poetry is now ignored in the West to too great a degree.

Looking back over the first half of the 20th Century, many Nobel Laureates were noteworthy for their affects on developments in literature both in European and outside the continent. However, due to the politics of the day in Scandinavia , which preferred conservatism, authors were not always promoted for their recent and most inflectional works—but simply for their decades-long popularity. For example, in 1929, Thomas Mann became the Nobel Laureate for Literature with the novel Buddenbrooks, which had been published nearly three decades earlier. “The book is generally understood as a portrait of the German bourgeois society throughout several decades of the 19th century. The book displays Mann's characteristic detailed style, and it was this novel which won Mann” the Nobel Prize, but Mann considered his own masterwork at that time to be Magic Mountain . In Buddenbrooks, the conflict between the artist’s world and the world of a businessman is prominent. This is a common theme throughout modernism and post-modernist literature, it is also why his later work was not chosen by the Nobel Committee.

It was the legacy of war and the search for peace-of-mind that played a major role in Magic Mountain , a novel begun by Thomas Mann prior to WWI, but not finished till nearly a decade later. “The conflict and its aftermath led the author to undertake a major re-examination of European bourgeois society, including the sources of the willful, perverse destructiveness displayed by much of civilized humanity. He was also drawn to speculate about more general questions surrounding personal attitudes to life, health, illness, sexuality and mortality.” This story of Magic Mountain takes place in the safe world of Switzerland as war-clouds try and call the main protagonist back to world insanity. The work is notable for the fact that it was simultaneously realism-oriented in its details while at the same time filled with symbolic (psychological) narrative and background.

By the time the Nazis took over Germany in the late 1930s, Thomas Mann and many of his Central European colleagues had had to flee their homelands. Only after WWII did a now rejuvenated Swedish Academy really proceed in moderate tempo to try and inculcate more and more diverse perspectives into its world literary prizes. First, however, in 1946 a bow was made to some of the pre-war Literary Greats who had been ignored by the conservative selection committees of the first 4 decades of the 21st century. In that particular year, Hermann Hesse—another German, who had moved to Switzerland ,--received the literary award for his classic (1927) Steppenwolf. The work was the result of a “personal crisis [which] found its magnificent expression in the fantastical novel. . . ., an inspired account of the split in human nature, the tension between desire and reason in an individual who is outside the social and moral notions of everyday life. In this bizarre fable of a man without a home, hunted like a wolf, plagued by neuroses, Hesse created an incomparable and explosive book, dangerous and fateful perhaps, but at the same time liberating by its mixture of sardonic humor and poetry in the treatment of the theme.”

Again, one must admit from the case of Hesse ’s, Mann’s and other laureate’s selections that the Nobel Prize committee is consistently not interested in one-hit wonder. Hesse had already written another classic in 1922, entitled Siddhartha. “ Hesse 's maternal grandfather was the famous Indologist Gundert. Thus even in his childhood the writer felt drawn to Indian wisdom. When as a mature man he travelled to the country of his desire he did not, indeed, solve the riddle of life; but the influence of Buddhism soon entered his thought, an influence by no means restricted to Siddhartha . . . the beautiful story of a young Brahman's search for the meaning of life on earth.” It has been charged that Hesse is an eclectic who chooses “influences from Buddha and St. Francis to Nietzsche and Dostoevsky” but does not really integrate them. However, throughout several other works, Hesse sincerity and his seriousness [in integrating Eastern and Western ideas] are the foundations of his work and remain in control even in his treatment of the most extravagant subjects.”

At the award ceremony in 1946, the Permanent Secretary at the Swedish Academy indicated his fondness for one of Herman Hesse’s more recent and creatively developed works, Magister Ludi (1943), “In a period of collapse it is a precious task to preserve the cultural tradition. But civilization cannot be permanently kept alive by turning it into a cult for the few. If it is possible to reduce the variety of knowledge to an abstract system of formulas, we have on the one hand proof that civilization rests on an organic system; on the other, this high knowledge cannot be considered permanent. It is as fragile and destructible as the glass pearls themselves, and the child that finds the glittering pearls in the rubble no longer knows their meaning.”

Many decades later, the world would continue to deal with the collapse of European centered colonialism, revolutions, and the destruction of cultures and traditional worlds as magical realism came to the fore. Under the destructive capacity’s of both WWI and WWII, the young Gabriel Garcia Marquez was coming of age as a writer. In 1967, Marquez would published his One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien anos de Soledad ). In 1982, Marquez would receive the Nobel Prize in Literature for it and many related shorter works of magical realism, such as The Incredible and Sad Story of Enrindira and Her Soulless Grandmother (1972).

Interestingly, Marquez had been born in a small town in Colombia before going to work abroad to live, write, and work (especially in the film industry where he was also scene as a prolific scriptwriter) for most of adult life. Marquez’s imaginary tale of Macondo, set at the cross-roads of Nowhere-Latin-America telescopes more than 500 years of history into a few generations of family life and many reoccuring memories. Marquez had picked up where decades earlier,Thomas Mann had been delving into, i.e. a place where symbolism and realism meet. Like Mann, Marquez was interested in “general questions surrounding personal attitudes to life, health, illness, sexuality and mortality.”

As well, similar to Hesse , Marquez also dealt specifically with the fragility of tradition and cultural knowledge. To this dialogue, Marquez’s and Sartre’s (1964) generation of global authors were adding specific concerns about man’s ability to remember, comprehend knowledge, and forget important concepts over time. Finally, Marquez has added a very Latin American sort-of-narration, i.e. one with a great sense of humor and irony mixed with shopping lists of tall-tales and magical realism.

In short, as the Cold War came to a close in the early 1980s, radical breaks with the past were being promoted throughout the literary world and what had once been avante gard in cinema and literature were now at the center of the Nobel Prize selection committees efforts. Angel Flores explains, “magical realism involves the fusion of the real and the fantastic, or as he claims, ‘an amalgamation of realism and fantasy’. The presence of the supernatural in magical realism is often connected to the primeval or ‘magical’ Indian mentality, which exists in conjunction with European rationality.”

Naturally, the Indian mentality mentioned here by Flores was intended to refer to “Native American” peoples, but in the modern awarding of Nobel Prize, the literary committee’s nominations and selections have made it clear that Indians of South Asia and other Asians and even Africans also have and deserve voice and articulation world-wide. This is just as Marquez called for the committee to do in his own acceptance speech in 1982.

Marquez had called for Europeans to stop seeing Latin America as a land of illegitimate cousins and had asked for greater global integration of the arts.


“The term ‘magical realism’ was first introduced by Franz Roh, a German art critic, who considered magical realism an art category. To him, it was a way of representing and responding to reality and pictorially depicting the enigmas of reality. In Latin America in the 1940s, magical realism was a way to express the realistic American mentality and create an autonomous style of literature.” However, observing the supernatural stories of Edgar Allen Poe in the mid- 19th Century, for example, one recognizes that the mode or genre is not truly new. However, the humor and well-developed-hybridism of the New World cultures enabled a native flavor to dominate in Latin American modern and post-colonial literature to an ever greater degree over the last six decades.

This world of magical realism, fully supported in the 1980s and 1990s by the Nobel selection choices, is not a world without terror as wars have remained with us all through this current age. However, terror is attacked by time and irony by author with a thoughtful reader encouraged to play along with the multi-layered narrations in such fiction. As Lindsay Moore has noted, in magical realism, “the idea of terror [in society and culture] overwhelms the possibility of rejuvenation in magical realism.” Moore adds that “prominent authoritarian figures, such as soldiers, police, and sadists all have the power to torture and kill. Time is another conspicuous theme, which is frequently displayed as cyclical instead of linear. What happens once is destined to happen again. Characters rarely, if ever, realize the promise of a better life. As a result, irony and paradox stay rooted in recurring social and political aspirations.”

Especially in Latin American literature, the role of carnivals, dances or balls are portrayed with a special mission to the literary community. This is why one “particularly complex theme in magical realism is the carnivalesque.” According to Moore , “The carnivalesque [in magical realism] is carnival’s reflection in literature.” She adds that the “concept of carnival celebrates the body, the senses, and the relations between humans. ‘Carnival’ refers to cultural manifestations that take place in different related forms in North and South America, Europe, and the Caribbean , often including particular language and dress, as well as the presence of a madman, fool, or clown. In addition, people organize and participate in dance, music, or theater. Latin American magical realists, for instance, explore the bright life-affirming side of the carnivalesque. The reality of revolution, and continual political upheaval in certain parts of the world, also relates to magical realism.”


So, starting with William Faulkner’s selection in 1949, the idea of time, carnival and decades of family history have been paraded before Nobel Literary audiences. In Faulkner, who focused on the decline and disintegration in the South, we observe a similar “[t]heme and technique - the distortion of time through the use of the inner monologue are fused particularly successfully in The Sound and the Fury (1929), the downfall of the Compson family seen through the minds of several characters. The novel Sanctuary (1931) is about the degeneration of Temple Drake , a young girl from a distinguished southern family.”

A generation later, one African American author, Toni Morrison began to write and her mode of tale-telling often clearly can be labeled as a North American form of magical realism, with works like Sula, The Bluest Eye, and Beloved, a ghost story, to her name. In her 1993 Nobel Prize Lecture, Morrison gave the audience one perspective on her narration-style by talking about a clairvoyant old women-- much like the matriarch Ursula in the house of the Buendia household of Macondo as told in Marquez’s award-winning novel of over a decade earlier.

Morrison begins her award winning speech by noting, “"Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise."

Morrison interjected into her own narration to the Nobel audience the warning that this tale was simply her own version of a retold tale: “In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, ‘Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.’”

Morrison continued “She [the old women] does not answer, and the question is repeated. ‘Is the bird I am holding living or dead?’ Still she doesn't answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive. The old woman's silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter. Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. ‘I don't know’, she says. ‘I don't know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.’”

In short, there may be a repetition as such in any tale we tell or retell using our own memory and narrative skills. This is true whether we read ghost stories or of supernatural events in the Japanese Yasunari Kawabata’s (1968) Thousand Cranes, Colombian Marquez’s Solitude (1982), Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz’s (1988) many short stories , or the North American Morrison (1993) in her Beloved, we are hearing different ghost stories framed in different ways, but the magical imagery of fiction meeting realistic narration is ever-present.

What we as the audience do with the story from this point in our memories, e.g. our retelling or reframing of these tales, is up to us. In this way, the tale is all in our hands, as Toni Morrison told her audience.

By reading and contemplating stories, the art of telling, the history of story telling, and how we soon have the possibility to rewrite or retell of our past, present, and our futures are options that the not only these great authors provide us. We as individuals are invited to participate in the great contests of narration, like the Nobel Prize offers. What we do with our stories and our histories is the most important point, in terms of literary and historical developments. Such narrations offer all of us a chance to participate in enjoying in these vary developments in an ongoing way in the new millennium.

Will the rest of the 21st Century bring us only more war and terror or will it be an era filled with important and uplifting opportunities brought to us through authors and narrators of the arts seeking to reveal and celebrate the expanding interaction of man and memories--in the present and future? These are serious questions and starting with William Faulkner’s 1949 banquet speech at his awarding of the Nobel Prize for literature reminds us what the stakes are for our’s—and every generation.

Faulkner was speaking the very year it was confirmed that the USSR had successfully exploded hydrogen bomb and the Cold War armaments race was on. Faulkner somberly stated that day, “I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.”

Faulkner continued, “Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”

Most importantly, he voiced his deepest faith in the coming generations, “He [the younger generation] must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands. Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man.”

Such is the choice of every generation—to fear or to grow. Does it wish to be a generation that has thrown up its hands to endless terrors or will it fight for a longer lasting peace and the promotion of art and the spirit of man as Alfred Nobel had hoped for in his establishment of this literary--and several other international prizes, promoting peaceful competitions of mind and spirit? Will the individual with his or her individual voice were along with those promoting human development worldwide (as a focus of man’s natural tendencies to compete) rather than to seek vengeance as too many generations have done in the past?


Among the most recent Nobel Prize for Literature (2009) awarding events, the recipient Herta Mueller spoke of reoccurring themes under both Soviet-occupied- and Ceausescu’s Romania. In her speech, the reoccurring theme was a handkerchief. Mueller spoke of the need to have a handkerchief for every crises. For her, a handkerchief was both a memory of lobe and a symbol of security. For her, the handkerchief symbolized a memory of love, a memory of caring, a memory for times of sickness, a memory for days of sorrow and sadness, as well as a memory of nostalgia and melancholy.

What memories is this generation going to create? Will it be a peace-waging or a revenge mongering culture and a community? The Nobel Prize has thus always sought to promote peace movements rather than writers who degrade man’s and nation’s paths over time.

Gao Xingjian spoke of this need to create free cultural space and where the voices for individuals (as well as voices for greater communities made up of individuals) can be promoted. From Xingjian’s 2000 acceptance speech, as first Chinese prize winner in literature, we find out what as author’s role in our present day continues to be. Xingjian noted at the beginning of this address, “I have no way of knowing whether it was fate that has pushed me onto this dais but as various lucky coincidences have created this opportunity I may as well call it fate. Putting aside discussion of the existence or non-existence of God, I would like to say that despite my being an atheist I have always shown reverence for the unknowable.”

In the very next paragraph of his speech, Xingjian made allusions to Sartre and many other Nobel Prize winners and authors dating back to the time of Alfred Nobel. Xinjian stated: “A person cannot be God, certainly not replace God, and rule the world as a Superman; he will only succeed in creating more chaos and make a greater mess of the world. In the century after Nietzsche man-made disasters left the blackest records in the history of humankind. Supermen of all types called leader of the people, head of the nation and commander of the race did not baulk at resorting to various violent means in perpetrating crimes that in no way resemble the ravings of a very egotistic philosopher. However, I do not wish to waste this talk on literature by saying too much about politics and history, what I want to do is to use this opportunity to speak as one writer in the voice of an individual.”

Xingjian concluded this introductory section of his speech by reminding listeners of the role of authors in all ages. Xingjian said with modesty, “A writer is an ordinary person, perhaps he is more sensitive but people who are highly sensitive are often more frail. A writer does not speak as the spokesperson of the people or as the embodiment of righteousness. His voice is inevitably weak but it is precisely this voice of the individual that is more authentic.” In turned he warned listeners to that speech, “What I want to say here is that literature can only be the voice of the individual and this has always been so. Once literature is contrived as the hymn of the nation, the flag of the race, the mouthpiece of a political party or the voice of a class or a group, it can be employed as a mighty and all-engulfing tool of propaganda. However, such literature loses what is inherent in literature, ceases to be literature, and becomes a substitute for power and profit.” This warning against either ultra-nationalism or any other ideology taking the place of the individual or individual writer is a core belief of the practice of awarding all Nobel prizes.

VII. LEARNING OUTCOMES: Realism and Symbolism and their Role in Nobel Prize Literature in terms of Peace Making and Human Development in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Upon successful completion of this project, students will be able to :

(A) Describe the historical background for the creation of the Nobel Prize, and specifically explain how the literature prize fits in with the overall goals of the competitive global contests as established by Alfred Nobel.
(B) Explain some of the developmental phases in 20th and 21st century world literature as revealed by the literature and authors selected by the Nobel committees in their 110 Year history.
(C) Compare and contrast two or more Nobel Prize winning authors and their Nobel lectures.
(D) Identify characteristics of functional and dysfunctional families and communities in the Nobel winning literature of at least one author.
(E) Discuss literature relating to diverse cultures and lifestyles, especially remaining cognizant of human variability.
(F) Demonstrate the ability to work well with a partner or partners in carrying out a presentation that compares and contrasts 2 or more authors and/or their literature.
(G) Recognize the relationship between magical realism and one other (or more) literary modes or themes, made popular in the last two centuries in world literature.


Internet web links noted below (in the NOTES section) and books by the following authors:

Boell, Heinrich, Billiards at Half-past Nine / translated by Patrick Bowles. – London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1961

Boell, Heinrich, Group Portrait with Lady / translated by Leila Vennewitz. – New York : McGraw-Hill, 1973

Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury. – New York : Cape & Smith, 1929

Faulkner, William Absalom, Absalom! – New York : Random House, 1936

Fuentes, Carlos, The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962).

Grass, Guenther, The Tin Drum. Transl. by Ralph Manheim. – London : Secker & Warburg, 1962.

Grass, Guenther,Cat and Mouse. Transl. by Ralph Manheim. – San Diego : Harcourt Brace, 1963.

Grass, Guenther,Dog Years. Transl. by Ralph Manheim. – New York : Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965.

Golding, William, The Lord of the Flies, London : Faber, 1954

Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea – New York : Scribners, 1952

Hesse, Hermann Steppenwolf / Translated from the German by Basil Creighton. Rev. by Walter Sorell. – New York : Modern Library, 1963

Hesse, Hermann Siddhartha / translated by Hilde Rosner. – New York : New Directions, 1951.

Hesse, Hermann Magister Ludi / translated by Mervyn Savill. – New York : Holt, 1949.

Kawabata, Yasunari, Thousand Cranes / translated by Edward G. Seidensticker. – New York : Knopf, 1959

Kawabata, Yasunari, The Master of Go / translated by Edward G. Seidensticker. – New York : Knopf, 1972

Mahfouz, Naguib, Sugar Street / translated by William Maynard Hutchins and Angele Botros Samaan. – New York : Doubleday, 1992.

Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain . – 2 vol. – translated by H. T. Lowe-Porter. – New York : Knopf, 1927.

Mann, Thomas, Buddenbrooks : the Decline of a Family / translated by John E. Woods. – New York : Knopf, 1993

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia, One Hundred Years of Solitude / translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa. – New York : Harper & Row, 1970

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia Love in the Time of Cholera / translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. – New York : Knopf, 1988

Morrison, Toni, Beloved- New York: Knopf, 1987.

Morrison, Toni, The Bluest Eye. – New York : Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970.

Pamuk, Orhan, My Name is Red / translated from the Turkish by Erdağ M. Göknar. – New York : Knopf, 2001 ; London : Faber & Faber, 2001. – Translation of Benim Adım Kırmızı

Pamuk, Orhan, Snow / translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely. – New York : Knopf, 2004 ; London : Faber & Faber, 2004. – Translation of Kar

Pamuk, Orhan, Istanbul : Memories and the City / translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely. – New York : Knopf, 2005 ; London : Faber & Faber, 2005. – Translation of İstanbul : Hatıralar Ve Şehir

Sartre,Jean-Paul, The Words / translated by Bernard Frechtman. – New York : Braziller, 1964


A short bibliography of additional resources and links for the teacher/student on Nobel, the prize, the essay above, and/or individual authors studied that could be used in the classroom.

Alfred Nobel Biography

Alfred Nobel Timeline

Another Forgotten Hero

Another Century Looking for Sartre

Bertha Suttner Biography


40 Years with Morrison’s Blue Eyes

Gao Xingjian Nobel Lecture

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Nobel Lecture

Herman Hesse Presentation Speech

Herta Mueller Nobel Lecture

Magic Mountain

Magical Realism

Naguib Mafouz Presentation Speech

Naguib Mafouz, The Supernatural

Nobel Biography

The Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize in Literature

The Oddcouple: Alfred Nobel and Bertha Suttner

Poems of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Biography

Suicide, Art, Beauty, and Ceramics

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Presentation Speech

Why the Words of Gabriele Garcia Marquez Need to Be Reader Better, especially by Europeans

William Faulkner Banquet Speech

William Faulkner Biography

Yasunari Kawabata Presentation Speech


Friday, June 11, 2010



By Kevin Stoda

Yesterday, I was introduced to the story of the 2-year old Indonesian boy who has a two-pack a day cigarette habit because his father introduced him to smoking at an early age. His father says that the boy started his habit when he was 18 months old. Everyone seems to have had something to say about this story.

Naturally, all this YouTube publicity has created a bad image for all parents in the boys country and has also tarnished the national image of Indonesia. The Indonesian government has stated that it is discouraging the parents from allowing the boy to continue smoking. The parents note that the boy cries in pain when he doesn’t get his fix.

On YouTube a lot of people have been interviewed and spoken out against the boy´s parents allowing and encouraging the boy to smoke. (The father claimed that he introduced the boy to the habit because the boy had had pain from a hernia.) Now the boy must smoke up to 40 cigarettes a day.


According to many educators, “a CHILD gains satisfaction only when HE experiences the limits to his desires, freedoms, and wants.” In other words, children will never really be happy until they do not have NOR RECEIVE every wish fulfilled immediately. In this, a young child or maturing adult (a) learns to be patient, (b) learns to be disciplined in their demands, or simply (3) learns how to wait for (or work on) enfolding of new circumstances.

Making really important dreams realisable will not be within that child or young adults grasp. That is to say, if the dream or desire over time continues to be seen as a worthwhile dream or desire, one through discipline can better pattern his lifestyle to achieve it.


Now, I admit feeling sorry for the addicted boy—not because he is addicted—we all have our addictions. Rather, I feel sorry because, as Dirty Harry often stated, “A man has to know his limitation.” The boy, who is also 100% overweight does not know his limits. How can he ever know happiness?

Similarly, if Americans, WTO members, and Free-Marketiers continue to allow abusive no-limits bonuses to people, like many banking CEOs, who have never ever been introduced at early stages in their lives to discipline and learning to limit their demands for the good of the company, a family, the community, or even their own personal or even national welfare, how can we expect them to behave differently?
In short, as long as there is no discipline and appreciation of limits in terms of bonuses for company helmsmen and stockholders, the post- Cold War Capitalist system will flounder. Greed is unlimited. It knows no boundary on its own. We need a system of participants who know some limitations and respect them. We need to train MBA holders and others in the economy to have integrity, morality and discipline.

Finally, we as stakeholders in the global economy—in a way—are just like the parents of the smoking-addicted boy in Indonesia if we do not discipline and teach the current and future abusers of the system. We need to implant the values of waiting and working on dreams—rather than seizing things simply for the sake of greed or competition.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Odds and Ends from Around the World

Streamlining The Pentagon

In the last 10 years, the defense budget has nearly doubled to $549 billion, an increase of $252 billion, or 85 percent. Even controlled for inflation, the real growth amounts to nearly 50 percent -- about 5 percent a year in real terms. Although in real terms baseline defense spending is now higher than at the height of the Reagan buildup, and total defense spending now exceeds what we spent any time since World War II, the Obama administration projects continuing real increases in the baseline defense budget (although smaller than the past 13 years). Recognizing that the faltering national economy and surging U.S. debt will mean smaller increases in the defense budget going forward, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has led an effort since President Obama took office to cut expensive and unnecessary weapons programs designed to fight bygone enemies and rein in the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy. "The gusher has been turned off," Gates said last month at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. "And it will stay off for a good period of time." Gates has proposed much-needed cuts that would help reduce the deficit, make the military operate more efficiently, and better prioritize America's national security needs for the 21st century. But as the Washington Post noted, "Gates is hardly the first defense secretary" to try to overhaul the Pentagon, only to have his agenda stymied by federal lawmakers who want to keep defense pork in their districts. For example, the House passed its $567 billion defense authorization bill last month, which included a second engine for the F-35 that the Pentagon doesn't want. Gates has decided to stay on at the Pentagon until the end of this calendar year to pursue this efficiency campaign, but he now will need the resolve to follow through. To accomplish this, the Center for American Progress (CAP) has proposed a "unified national security budget encompassing defense, diplomacy, and development." The unified budget would compile funding across various federal departments so that priorities could better be compared and resources better allocated by taking funds from the Department of Defense budget and putting them into under-funded services like the Coast Guard and agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gates' ability to rein in spending is being tested now as the full Senate prepares to take up its own version of the defense authorization bill.

CUTTING THE WASTE: Last year, Gates proposed "the most sweeping changes in military spending priorities in decades," calling for cuts to several over-budget and unnecessary weapons programs to free up funds for counterinsurgency operations, an effort which he and Obama have continued fighting for. Gates called to end to production of the F-22, saying that any more than the Air Force's current fleet of 187 planes was "unnecessary." He also took an axe to the Army's Future Combat System (FCS), a multisystem modernization program. "[I]t turns out, just about every assumption the Army had about its future was wrong," the Danger Room reported of the FCS. The program was designed to fight other super powers, not counterinsurgencies like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates also took aim at missile defense, calling for an end to the Airborne Laser (ABL) program, which uses 747s mounted with giant laser beams to supposedly shoot down missiles, but has only been successfully tested once. "I don't know anybody at the Department of Defense who thinks that this program should, or would, ever be operationally deployed," Gates told Congress last year referring to the ABL. More recently, Gates has taken on the Pentagon's bloated, "barnacled, byzantine" bureaucracy, aiming to save $15 billion in wasteful spending. "Under Gates's plan, the billions taken from the Pentagon's vast administrative bureaucracy would be used to pay for weapons modernization programs and the overall fighting force in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Washington Post noted. Gates has also set his sights on the Navy, saying, "Do we really need eleven [aircraft] carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?"

DEFENDERS OF WASTE: One would think that during a time of soaring deficits and anemic tax revenues, Congress would happily cut any programs federal agencies say they don't need. And as the Lexington Institute's Loren Thompsen and CAP's Lawrence Korb have pointed out, the Pentagon's opposition to the F-35's second engine is absolutely on target. Gates has opposed the program since 2006, spoken out against it on numerous occasions, and even called on Obama to veto the entire defense authorization bill if it includes the $485 million that some congressmen want to fund the engine for the next year alone. Gates has warned "every dollar additional to the budget that we have to put into the F-35 is a dollar taken from something else that the troops may need." Nonetheless, the House Armed Services Committee and the full House "overruled the Pentagon" last month for the fourth time since 2006 and voted to continue funding the extra engine. An amendment stripping the engine funding from the defense authorization bill failed in the House by a 193-231 vote. Even lawmakers who fancy themselves to be fiscal conservatives, such as Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Eric Cantor (R-VA), support the "costly and unnecessary" extra engine. Rolls Royce, which would manufacture the extra engine, is headquartered in Cantor's state of Virginia and is the second-largest employer in Pence's Indiana. To its credit, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to cut funding for the extra engine, but now 75 lobbyists from no fewer than 13 different firms, plus "each contractor's in-house lobbyists," are engaged in the battle to save the engine before the full Senate vote. Unfortunately, the F-35 extra engine is only one, though perhaps the most egregious, example of congressmen putting their parochial and personal interests over what is best for the entire country and the military. The Pentagon's FY2011 request for missile defense amounted to $ 9.9 billion -- already up several hundred million dollars over 2010 -- but the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to give the agency $10.2 billion, while the House voted to give it $10.3 billion. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has said they have more than enough C-17 cargo planes, yet the House voted to procure more. Gates has explicitly called new C-17s unnecessary and recommended that Obama veto a bill that contains funding for new ones. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), however, apparently knows better than the Secretary of Defense, saying, "The additional C-17 transports we're procuring will greatly improve our strategic mobility." Meanwhile, the Airborne Laser program that Gates intended to cut was awarded a $40 million contract.

NEEDED INVESTMENT: As CAP pointed out in "Building a Military for the 21st Century," while there is certainly plenty of necessary savings to be found in American defense spending, there are some areas that need investment as well. One example that stands out in light of the Gulf oil spill is the Coast Guard. The Guard -- which is housed in the Department of Homeland Security, not Defense, and thus has to compete with 22 other agencies for funding -- has a FY2011 budget of only only $10.1 billion. That's less than the proposed amount of spending on missile defense in next year, and is dwarfed by the Navy's $160 billion budget. Former commandant Adm. Thad Allen, who is now heading the BP spill response, said the Coast Guard's outdated fleet is "putting our crews at risk, jeopardizing the ability to do our job." As CAP's Korb and Sean Duggan wrote in the New York Times, "The solution is simple: we need a unified national security budget. That would let lawmakers see that, for example, the F-35 Joint Strike projected to consume more money than the entire Coast Guard in 2011." "Such inefficiencies and disparities are obvious when compared directly," they continued, "but they get blurred when the Coast Guard and the other services are considered under different budgets and by different sets of Congressional committees."

Four SOA Watch Activists Incarcerated:
You can jail the resister, but you can't jail the resistance!

While our friends Nancy, Ken, Louis and Michael - the 'SOAW 4' - are spending their days in prison for speaking out against the SOA, those responsible for the training of human rights abusers and for the use of torture manuals at the SOA have never even been investigated.

Letters of support written to Nancy, Ken, Louis and Michael would be much appreciated and can be sent to the following addresses:

Nancy GwinNancy Gwin #94046-020
FCI Danbury
Federal Correctional Institution
Route 37
Danbury, CT 06811

Kenneth Wayne Hayes #94045-020Ken Hayes
FCI Fort Worth
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 15330
Fort Worth, TX 76119

Louis VitaleLouis Vitale #25803-048 FCI Lompoc
Federal Correctional Institution
3600 Guard Road
Lompoc, CA 93436

Mike WalliMichael Walli
c/o SOA Watch
PO Box 4566
Washington, DC 20017

The 'SOAW 4' were arrested by the military during the 2009 November Vigil, when they crossed onto Fort Benning to carry our message that the School of the Americas must be closed onto the base.

Ken, Louis and Nancy were sentenced to six months in prison - the maximum allowed for the charge of tresspass. The extremely harsh sentences are intended to deter others from following the example of the 'SOAW 4.' Michael, who resisted the judges orders to voluntarily return to Columbus for the court date in January, was arrested by federal marshals and is awaiting his June 14, 2010 trial (9am, at the federal courthouse in Columbus, Georgia) while in jail in Georgia.
They are in there for us, we are out here for them! Write to the Prisoners of Conscience!

Consider engaging in nonviolent direct action:
Keep the pressure on! People who put their bodies on the line to speak in solidarity with the people of Latin America are crucial in the struggle to close the SOA/ WHINSEC.

Stand up for justice at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia in November:


With the world's attention on the blockade of Gaza, more and more people are finally starting to understand the extent of the suffering there – but for ANERA, this human tragedy is not new. We have been with the families as they suffered since the blockade was started three years ago today.

Having visited thirteen times since 2007, I can tell you that families are struggling more and more in Gaza every day and that includes ANERA's Gaza staff.

They are 17 dedicated people, born and raised in Gaza, who we rely on to deliver support to their community. Today, I'd like to introduce you to one of them.

Rania joined ANERA's staff after graduating from the University of Colorado Journalism Department. She put together a brief video this past Tuesday, June 8, to give a glimpse of Gaza now.

Click here to watch Rania's video report.

Three years of blockade have deprived 1.5 million men, women and children of the tools they need to rebuild and survive. It has caused suffering, sickness and death for innocent families. We are one of the few organizations able to deliver donated medicine and other supplies into Gaza, but our work needs to touch more lives.

Whenever I return from the Middle East, I wish that people everywhere could see with their own eyes the dilemma of innocent families there. I hope that Rania's video helps you and your friends see the importance of our work.

Please watch the video and share it with friends and family.

Your kindness and dedication have helped us change lives. I'm very thankful for your ongoing support for families in Gaza and throughout the Middle East. Together we are making a difference.




By Kevin Stoda

I was in London last month and came across a large advertisement entitled, “Yalta to Siberia”. The advertisement ran in several major newspapers. The advertisement which poses as an article, is a nationalistic fear-tactic-type piece of propaganda that reflects changes in Russian identity in this 21st Century. It also reflects a failure of Russia to welcome and integrate many of its (multicultural native) peoples and would-be immigrants over the past 2 decades following the collapse of communism.

For example, Russias immigrant visa rules are revised and rewritten each month, making it hard for non-Russians to integrate—most have to leave the country 2 or more times a year to renew their work or living permits.

The article-advert, written by Aivars Slucis, states bluntly that China has its eye on Siberia and all of Russia’s great wealth there. Likewise, the same advertisement writer noted that “on Russia’s western border are NATO countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Koenigsburg (Kaliningrad in Russian).”

The ultra-nationalist Slucis adds that in these so-called NATO (Baltic) regions there are too many Russians while in Eastern Russia there are too few real Russians. Slucis rightly points out that following “the collapse of the Russian empire (the Soviet Union), the Russians left the rest of Central Europe but” are still living in large numbers in the Baltic states—and--, of course, in Kaliningrad.

I need to note on behalf of those who do not know geography well that Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea, is still, in fact, fully part of Russia today (i.e. not a separate state belonging to NATO)—so, the author of this propaganda has certainly gone out of his way to make false narration’s, especially in terms of Slucis´many insinuations about Russia being threatened or carved up further into small reams territory over coming decades.

Nonetheless, one interesting and important point of propaganda in the 4th paragraph in this “Yalta to Siberia” piece is that Slucis is encouraging Russians to now leave the Balkan states (and Kaliningrad), in order to return to their motherland and rebuild the country—especially in the Eastern part of Russia, where Russians with Asiatic faces dominate. Slucis encourages all these Russians from the Balkans to take their wealth and skills back to the home country, Russia, and make a difference in the years ahead, i.e. protecting the land from China and NATO.

Next, however, I was certainly taken aback by the ironical twist which came at the end of this advertisement.

It was irony, pure and simple. Here is the address that Aivars Slucis had the nerve to put at the bottom of his own propaganda piece written for good mother Russia:

Aivars Slucis
3452 Autumn Woods Drive
Chasca, MN 55318

It appears that our Russian ultra-nationalist either lives in the USA or at least publishes out of the USA—and not out of Russia.

What kind of role model are you Mr. Slucis?