Thursday, September 30, 2010


By Kevin Stoda

“So long as they incorporate, businesses will now be free to trade in or exploit slaves, employ mercenary armies to do dirty work for despots, perform genocides or operate torture prisons for a despot’s political opponents, or engage in piracy—all without civil liability to victims." This statement came from Judge Pierre Leval in his dissention to his own Second U.S. Court’s decision on a case against Royal Dutch Shell in relationship to the murder and torture of many Nigerian activists over the past decades.
The decision was shared on Democracy Now yesterday but the case has already been discussed for several weeks on the internet. See an example of legal specialists’ skewed discussions here:
Court Exempts Corporations from Alien Tort Law“A federal appeals court has ruled US corporations can no longer be sued for human rights violations abroad under the longstanding Alien Tort Statute. Earlier this month, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alien tort claims can only be brought against individuals, not corporations. The ruling dismissed a lawsuit accusing the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell of complicity in the murder and torture of Nigerian activists including Ken Saro-Wiwa. In a separate opinion, Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval criticized the ruling, writing, ‘The majority opinion deals a substantial blow to international law and its undertaking to protect fundamental human rights… So long as they incorporate, businesses will now be free to trade in or exploit slaves, employ mercenary armies to do dirty work for despots, perform genocides or operate torture prisons for a despot’s political opponents, or engage in piracy—all without civil liability to victims.’”
The reasons for the second circuit’s negative decision in reviewing the Alien Torts statues in America are supposedly:
“(1) International Law governs the scope of liability for violations of international law, hence the question of whether a corporation is liable for violating international law is itself governed by international law.”
“(2) Under Supreme Court precedent, the Alien Tort Statute requires courts to apply norms of international law, and not domestic law, to the scope of defendants’ liabilities. Such norms must be ‘specific, universal, and obligatory.’
“(3) Under international law, corporations are not liable for violations, and any such norm of corporate liability is far from ‘specific, universal, and obligatory.’”
On the other hand, what the Second Court has ignored (and what many legal eagles fail to note) is that this issue dates back to 1789 US legislation, called the Alien Torts Statute. The ATS law apparently came into being after Europeans in America were initially unable to seek resort to American courts when beaten up, attacked or robbed-of-moneys-owed-them by Americans and American states.
The Supreme Court has supported the ATS on at least 2 occasions in the past few decades.
“In 1980 . . . the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, which ‘paved the way for a new conceptualization of the ATS.’ First, the Second Circuit held in Filartiga that the ATS, which allowed jurisdiction in the federal courts over a suit between two aliens, was constitutional, because ‘the law of nations...has always been part of the federal common law,’ and thus the statute fell within federal-question jurisdiction. Filartiga then held that violations of contemporary international norms, including violations of modern international human rights, are actionable under the ATS.”
“Since Filartiga, jurisdiction under the ATS has been upheld in dozens of cases. The only United States Supreme Court case directly addressing the ATS is the 2004 case Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain. The Sosa Court clarified that the ATS did not create a cause of action, but instead merely ‘furnish[ed] jurisdiction for a relatively modest set of actions alleging violations of the law of nations.’ Noting that it must take "great caution in adapting the law of nations to private rights," the Court nonetheless upheld the applicability of the ATS to actions committed abroad that violate contemporary customary international law, but held that the recognition of new causes of action should be subject to ‘vigilant doorkeeping.’”


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Please, Protest FBI Raids and Harassment of Antiwar Activists

The following message was sent by United for Peace and Justice (, the antiwar coalition to which HAW belongs. It includes a list of demonstrations planned by local groups in approximately 20 different cities over the next few days in response to last Friday’s FBI raids, described below. The report by the Office of the Inspector General’s, referred to in the third paragraph, is online at

Protest FBI Raids and Harassment of Antiwar Activists

United for Peace and Justice stands in solidarity with the anti-war and international solidarity activists whose homes were raided by the FBI on Friday, September 24. Homes in Chicago and Mineapolis were raided. Doors were kicked in during the early morning raids and personal belongings including childrens' artwork, posters of Martin Luther King, Jr, were taken, as well as cell phones, computers and boxes of paper records. About a dozen activists from Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury.

The FBI emphasized that no arrests were made, but that evidence was being collected regarding the possible 'material support' of terrorism. The 'material support' statute is so broadly written that it can, and does, criminalize international peace-building activities whose only connection to terrorism is to reduce it.

Only one week ago, the Justice Department's own Inspector General released a report documenting political surveillance by the FBI. Friday's raids are the latest violations by a recidivist agency whose abuses have unfortunately recurred throughout its history.

The FBI's raids threaten the First Amendment, our Peace Movement, and reflect the dangerous expansion of guilt by association pervading the Justice Department's "counter-terror" prosecutions. They cannot stand, and the FBI should be held accountable for any abuses. Activists are encouraged to join demonstrations at FBI and/or Federal buildings in cities around the country:

Monday 9/27:

Minneapolis, MN - 4:30, FBI Office Monday, 111 Washington Ave. S.

Chicago, IL - 4:30 Federal Building, Federal Plaza.

Kalamazoo, MI - 4:30 Federal Building, 410 W Michigan Ave

Salt Lake City, Utah - 9 AM at Federal Building

Durham, NC - 12 noon Federal Building, 323 E Chapel Hill St

Buffalo, NY- 4:30 pm at FBI Building - Corner of So. Elmwood Ave. & Niagara St.

Gainesville, FL - Monday, 4:30 PM at FBI Building

Boston, MA - 4 to 6, JFK Federal Building, Government Center

Tuesday 9/28:

NYC, NY - 4:30 to 6pm Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza,

Newark, NJ - 5 to 6pm Federal Building Broad Street

Philadelphia, PA - 4:30pm Federal Building, 6th & Market,

Washington DC - 4:30 - 5:30 FBI Building, 935 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

Boston, MA - 5 pm, JFK Federal Building

Detroit, MI - 4:30 pm McNamara Federal Building, Michigan Ave. at Cass

Raleigh, NC - 9 am. Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave

Asheville, NC - 5 pm Federal Building,

Atlanta, GA - Noon, FBI Building

Los Angeles, CA - 5 pm, Downtown Federal Building, 300 N Los Angeles St

Tucson, AZ - 5 pm Federal Building

Wednesday 9/29:

Albany, NY -5 to 6 pm Federal Building


Curiosity Campaigns are Good for Education and the World

Curiosity Campaigns are Good for Education and the World

By Kevin Stoda, international educator on TEACHERS DAY in Taiwan

NOTE: Taiwan and China celebrate a day for teachers in September each year. In Taiwan it always falls on the 28th of September. In the USA, it is in May. World Teachers Day is on October 5 each year. In our elementary school here on Beigan Island, Taiwan, students celebrated TEACHERS DAY by first playing (recorders)and singing a song for the teachers. they pounded and massaged teachers shoulders, backs, and necks as part of a thank-you ceremony. They also gave teachers thank-you cards before going outside and playing a school-wide dodge ball match at the end of the school day.

Recently, the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) has begun running an educational campaign on the theme of “Curiosity”. (See the NOTES section below for an example of their most recent letters.) This particular UCS educational campaign is focused on changing the Worst-Congress-in-the-World’s (especially referring to the USA Senate’s) head-in-the-sand attitude towards the global disasters we are facing due to man-made related climate change. Curiosity (and encouraging students’ and teachers’ curiosity) should be a primary goal of education anywhere in the world.

As a lifelong teacher, I have always tried to encourage curiosity in-the-name-of teaching the world’s youth to experience the joy of a positive attitude towards life-long learning . This insatiable curiosity, which I have had for over 4 decades, has led to my having already worked in ten different countries and with students from well over a hundred different lands during the past 25 years. Moreover, I have personally been empowered by the driving-forces-of-curiosity to travel in and journal (write) in over a hundred different lands.

Two teachers and my own father originally propelled me on this journey of life-long learning driven-by-daily-doses of curiosity.


When I was about nine years-old, my father, Ronald John Stoda, first showed us children his slides from his round-the-world-trip. (Those slides had been taken circa 1957.) My father’s slides from Egypt, France, Iran, India, and other surfaces of the globe had first made me fascinated with all the corners of the globe.

I should add that my dad was also a voracious reader. He read over 7000 books in his life-time on a wide variety of topics--and was reading up till the very month he passed away. He encouraged me early on to read adventure stories and later to read the classics of literature, like Les Miserables. In short, Dad set good examples for us through his curiosity for travel and his drive for reading & acquiring information.

NOTE: My father had barely survived a 4-weeks of college back in the mid-1950s, but he was always curious. Mom explained once that dad was practically starving at the time he had dropped out of college in late-September way-back-when. [He had attended on a whim, receiving at the last minute a ten dollar scholarship from someone in his home town to attend college. Alas, ten dollars a month was not enough to live on at the time. Dad was ineligible for military service, so he didn’t ever have GI Bill money to go to college.] Due to the lack of money he had had set aside for education--and after starving a few weeks--, Dad had simply quietly returned home after 4 weeks of college.

Soon, Dad found employment in a local lawnmower factory. Dad, then, simply saved his money from his job for the next three years and then bought his round-the-world plane ticket (back in 1957, i.e. in an era when the U.S. dollar-was-like-gold when spent outside of North America.)


Next, my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Duvall, was particularly influential in continuing to grow my curiosity for the world of travel and for learning. Mrs. Duvall encouraged us (students) to rake through the school libraries on a vast variety of social studies and do reports. Aside from American history, she taught us English language &literature related topics. Most importantly, she also taught us African studies. Mrs. Duvall and her husband had both traveled together three times to Africa (north, south, and central).

Therefore, Mrs. Duvall was not only teaching us—she was living out a lifelong curiosity for learning and travel--Right before my eyes! Moreover, although Mrs. D. and Mr. D. had graying hair, they were very young at heart. I recall Mr. D picking up Mrs. D. on his Harley one day after school. Cool!!!! I’m sure that having Mrs. D. as a teacher enabled me to envision a future that was not U.S.-centric at a relatively impressionable time in my life. At the same time, she had taught us American and African history at the same time, enabling us to contrast different worlds and experience for ourselves. In short, at a very early age we students were being invited to compare history and culture—raising our sense of curiosity and leading us to ask “Why do we do it this way?” or “Why do they do it that way?” or “Why not do it some other way?”


Finally, my 6th-grade Social Studies teacher was Mrs. G.ilani. It should be noted that Mrs. G. was born in Brazil but was of German parentage. Therefore, she was the first multi-racial person I got to know intimately as a student. Mrs. G. taught us Latin American studies and since she had grown up in South America, the experience and research were very authentic.

Mrs. Gilani encouraged me as a presenter and appropriately criticized my writing. Moreover, she taught us to do research on longer projects. For example, Mrs. G. had us right and present reports on various countries in Latin America. She had us write several embassies, the United Nations, and tourist organizations while we were collecting information on our research projects. This enabled me at a relatively early age to begin feeling comfortable writing American government authorities and American congressmen (and even presidents) over the next decade, i.e. before email made such hand written letters passé. By the time I would attend university, I was already traveling from Kansas to Washington, D.C. to lobby congress on education and on American’s ill-devised policies in Latin America (i.e. in the early 1980s).

In fact, I should note here that my first educational research experience abroad was undertaken in Honduras and Nicaragua in the summer of 1983—at a time when I first considered making international development a life long career of mine.

So, in conclusion, on this National Teachers Day (here in Taiwan), I want to thank my father and these 2 special teachers of mine for making me CURIOUS about our world.



Dear Kevin,
Climatologist Cameron Wake knows it. So does ecologist David Inouye. In fact, 98 percent of all scientists agree that global warming is a human-caused problem with potentially devastating consequences.

So how is it that so many people are still in the dark? Well, in short, they've been misinformed, and sometimes deliberately, by people who would rather protect their own short-term interests than our grandchildren and our environment.

That's why it's more important now than ever before that the voices of scientists are heard. Can you make a donation now to help us spread the truth about global warming?

Curiosity is what first inspired scientists like David and Cameron to explore the world around them, and it's that curiosity that is the key to solving some of our most pressing environmental, health, and security problems.

Yet, by sowing doubt about the reliability of science, global warming deniers seek to kill the very curiosity that could save us and our environment. And we can't let that happen. Support the Union of Concerned Scientists in our efforts to bring sound science to the public and spread the curiosity and the truth about global warming. Become a member of UCS by making a donation today.

Whether studying bees and wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains or glacial cores in the Himalayans, it's clear that the world is warming like never before. But by working together to champion truth, curiosity, and science, we can protect our world and all of its precious curiosities.


Kevin Knobloch
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world.
Union of Concerned Scientists, 2 Brattle Square Cambridge, MA 02138-3780
Phone: 800-666-8276 | Fax: 617-864-9405 | |


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Knots Prayer

The Knots Prayer

Dear God,
please untie the knots
that are in my mind,
my heart and my life.
Remove the have nots,
the can nots and the do nots
that I have in my mind.

Erase the will nots,
may nots, and
might nots that find
a home in my heart.

Release me from the could nots,
would nots and
should nots that obstruct my life.

And most of all, dear God,
I ask that you remove from my mind
my heart and my life all of the am nots
that I have allowed to hold me back,
especially the thought
that I am not good enough.




Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why have German-, Italian- and Latin American Internment during WWII been kept out of the USA History books?

Why have German-, Italian- and Latin American Internment during WWII been kept out of the USA History books?
By Kevin Anthony Stoda

I have a lot of Germanic blood on both sides of my family. Previously, I have written on the topic of being an American in Germany and being either of German descent (or simply German) in America previously. One writing of mine was a review of the book TEARING THE SILENCE: On Being German in America , a collection of interviews which were conducted, compiled and edited by psychologistUrsula Hegi.

Heggi focused primarily on Germans who were mostly too young to remember WWII (and felt little responsibility for the Hitler era) but who had grown of age in America following WWII.
Recently, I came across another set of historical examples on the perplexing reality of the Germanic peoples in America landscape of the 20th Century. This particular topic encompasses the great internment of the Germans, Japanese, Italians, and many Latin American German and Japanese in the USA during WWII.
I had long been familiar with the Japanese internments and believe that the Japanese Stodas were also interned at that time. However, until I came across a series of websites and oral histories on the topic of German internment in WWII, I had had no idea how pervasive internment of potential American enemies had been during the Great War against Fascism.

The silence on German, Italian, and Latin American internments is still great in places as hot as Crystal City, Texas (120 degrees at times) and as cold and as snowy as Ft. Missoula, Montana or Ft. Lincoln, North Dakota. One web project that is beginning to tell these imprisoned people’s stories is at the German American Internee Coalition site:
The site shares:
“German Americans constitute the largest ethnic group in the US. Approximately 60 million Americans claim German ancestry. German American loyalty to America's promise of freedom traces back to the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, during World War II, the US government and many Americans viewed ethnic Germans and others of ‘enemy ancestry’ as potentially dangerous, particularly recent immigrants. The Japanese American World War II experience is well known. Few, however, know of the European American World War II experience, particularly that of the German Americans and Latin Americans. We also have much to learn about the Japanese and Italian Latin American programs. The focus of this overview is the US resident German experience, however, the programs were applied to all of “enemy ancestry” with varying ramifications. For more information regarding the internment of Germans from Latin America, click here. For more information regarding the related legal framework, click here.

The US government used many interrelated, constitutionally questionable methods to control those of enemy ancestry, including internment, individual and group exclusion from military zones, internee exchanges for Americans held in Germany, deportation, ‘alien enemy’ registration requirements, travel restrictions and property confiscation. The human cost of these civil liberties violations was high. Families were disrupted, reputations destroyed, homes and belongings lost. Meanwhile, untold numbers of German Americans fought for freedom around the world, including their ancestral homelands. Some were the immediate relatives of those subject to oppressive restrictions on the home front. Pressured by the US, Latin American governments arrested at least 8500 German Latin Americans. An unknown number were sent directly to Germany, while 4050 were shipped in dark boat holds to the United States and interned. At least 2,650 US and Latin American resident immigrants of German ethnicity and their native-born children were later exchanged for Americans and Latin Americans held in Germany. Some allege that internees were captured to use as exchange bait.
There is little wonder that so many of our ancestors did not pass down German or other languages to the second and third generations here in the USA.
Most German-Americans only have found out about their ancestors having been interned through accident.
The erasing of memories and the shame that internment had brought has been almost been complete over the last few generations. Deborah McCarty Smith writes of John Heitman’s experience growing up in post-WWII America:
“A German Lutheran catechism and an ashtray, crafted from a rock and painted ‘Seagoville 1943,’ were John Heitmann's first clues to his family's history in the years before his birth. The clues would lead him to FBI files, immigration records and conversations with princes and professors and to the tip of the iceberg of a chapter of U.S. history unknown to most Americans - the internment of German aliens during World War II.”
Smith continues, “Seagoville [in reality an internment camp near Dallas], Heitmann knew, was somewhere his parents lived in Texas during the war, but never spoke of. The catechism, found two years ago while browsing books in his mother's home, was stamped with a German inscription: ‘A gift of the German Red Cross to prisoners of war, 1943.’ A fax from a friend at the National Archives handed Heitmann the missing piece: ‘my father's card file from the Immigration and Naturalization Service in May 1942 with a warrant to arrest my father as a dangerous pro-Nazi. My father was apprehended at his home in Astoria, N.Y., by seven FBI men with machine guns.’”
"We never talked about this. After the war, my father settled into a seemingly normal middle-class existence and lived as if it never happened," Heitmann said.
The story of many of WWII internees of Asian, European, and Latin American descent often shared the same experience—an experience that many Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians have been sharing in too much--after 9-11-2001.
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) instituted very limited due process protections for those arrested. Potential internees were held in custody for weeks in temporary detention centers, such as jails and hospitals, prior to their hearings. Frequently, their families had no idea where they were for weeks. The hearings took place before DOJ-constituted civilian hearing boards. Those arrested were subject to hostile questioning by the local prosecuting US Attorney, who was assisted by the investigating FBI agents. The intimidated, frequently semi-fluent accused had no right to counsel, could not contest the proceedings or question their accusers. Hearing board recommendations were forwarded to the DOJ’s Alien Enemy Control Unit (AECU) for a final determination that could take weeks or months.
Internees remained in custody nervously awaiting DOJ's order--unconditional release, parole or internment. Policy dictated that the AECU resolve what it deemed to be questionable hearing board recommendations in favor of internment. Based on AECU recommendations, the Attorney General issued internment orders for the duration of the war. Internees were shipped off to distant camps. Families were torn apart and lives disrupted, many irreparably. Family members left at home were shunned due to fear of the FBI and spite. Newspapers published stories and incriminating lists. Eventually destitute, many families lost their homes and had to apply to the government to join spouses in family camps, apply for welfare and/or rely on other family members who could afford to support them. Eventually, under such duress, hundreds of internees agreed to repatriate to war-torn Germany to be exchanged with their children for Americans. Once there, food was scarce, Allied bombs were falling and their German families could do little to help them. Many regretted their decision. Considering the spurious allegations, which led to the internment of a majority of internees, their treatment by our government was harsh indeed. Their experience provides ample evidence of why our civil liberties are so precious.”
John Heitmann, who is mentioned above, is a now professor of history and has often sought to obtain all records on his father’s case with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI through the Freedom of Information Act, but he has often come up against Walls of Silence over the years.
When discussing his continuing struggle to obtain information, Heitmann recalls “"I've always dealt with the history of institutions and how they can impersonally repress individuals who are perceived as a threat to those institutions. . . .”
“’Do we really learn from our past?’ Heitmann wonders, tracing parallels between the internment of German- Americans in the '40s and government plans to intern suspected communists in the '50s, Iranians in the '70s and Iraqis in the '90s. In the FBI Filegate flap of the Clinton administration, in current anti-immigrant sentiment, in anti-terrorist legislation that circumvents due process, historians hear ominous echoes of earlier times.”
Finally, Heitmann summarizes, "There are some intrinsic flaws in human nature that reappear and are reflected in our institutions. It's a story of how institutions end up biting people . . . . In a world where there are lots of smoke screens and J. Edgar Hoovers, an individual can really be hurt….” He then acknowledged “a professional curiosity that is fueled by a personal quest to discover a part of his family history that is buried under years of silence.”
If this is the case, our endless war on terrorism in the 21st century is going to leave many more generations scarred due to American backlash and internment.
Enemy Alien Control Program WWII: An Overview
German American Internee Coalition
Internment of German Americans in the United States in World War II
Japanese American Legacy Project
Japanese Internment: This is the Enemy
Japanese Relocation Centers,
Letters from Japanese Internment
The Story of Italian American Internment in WWII
Traces: German-Americans in the United States in WW II
World War Two—Japanese Internment Camps in the USA

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Kevin Stoda,

I am starting to promote at this website a forum on international labor and movement (of all peoples) and related issues. In order to do this, I am beginning to share here first several good articles or interviews on labor-in-a-globalized world. I just republished and article on DEFINING THE RIGHT TO MOVE by James Farrer and Devin T. Stewart.
What follows is part of a Democracy NOW interview with Paul Mason, Juan Gonzalez, and Amy Goodman this last Friday. Goodman and Gonzalez spoke to Paul Mason on his new labor (history) book, Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The Census Bureau’s latest report shows that the numbers of Americans living in poverty and without health insurance have skyrocketed: 43.6 million people—about one in seven—lived below the poverty level of $22,000 for a family of four in 2009, pushing the national poverty rate to a fifteen-year high of 14.3 percent. Meanwhile, the number of uninsured Americans grew from 46.3 million people in 2008 to 50.7 million last year. The proportion of Americans with employer-based health coverage reached its lowest rate in twenty years: nearly 56 percent.
AMY GOODMAN: Many commentators have noted these numbers point to an all but disappearing American middle class. But few people are talking about the working class and the role of the labor movement, whether in this country or elsewhere.
Well, that’s the subject of an award-winning British journalist’s work. His name is Paul Mason. His book is Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global. It’s just out here in the United States. Paul Mason’s the economics editor for BBC Newsnight and appears on BBC America. He’s also the author of Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed.
Paul Mason, it’s great to have you in New York right before you go back to Britain. You’ve been traveling for two weeks now through the United States. Talk about the middle class.
PAUL MASON: It’s disappearing. For us, the Brits, the concept of the American middle class has always been a bit flaky. We notice that your politicians call people who earn salaries and work "workers" at election time and then "middle-class" when things are going, you know, a little bit south in terms of the economy. The figures you’ve just read out are borne out by the income statistics. We had the Census Bureau telling us that American average incomes have stagnated for a decade—on some measures, stagnated for thirty years. We know what filled the gap: credit. The credit boom is over. And I think, for many Americans I’ve met on this trip, the whole—the economic collapse of their lives. I met a couple who had lost—who had gone from 75,000 pounds a year to 14,000 pounds a year. I said to them, "Do you still feel middle-class?" They said, "Kind of, but we’re not sure what that means anymore." To me, as a journalist looking from the outside, that’s going to have big impacts on your—on the sociology of America, and eventually on its politics.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I was struck in your book where you basically go head on against a myth that’s been spread quite a bit in—especially in Europe and the United States: the deindustrialization of the modern world. And in fact, you say that the opposite is true, that in fact there are more industrial workers than ever before. It’s just that they’re not in necessarily the United States or Germany or England.
PAUL MASON: I think the number one fact that history will record about the three decades we’ve lived through is the doubling of the world’s workforce, "The Great Doubling," as one Harvard academic calls it. Now, this has huge implications. I’ve had the privilege to report on this. You were speaking about contractors earlier, Iraqi contractors earlier on. I went to Lima, Peru, and found some of the people who had been working in the Green Zone, dumped back in Lima with life-changing injuries, no insurance. They’re part of the global working class.
But, you know, just as the stories in history didn’t get reported in that way, they’re not being reported in that way now. I think the story of global labor is one of the most important things we’re living through and certainly is something that everybody should own. It shouldn’t be the property of archivists and activists, because these are great human stories of individual bravery and triumph over adversity. I just wanted to retell them to people who just have no other way of knowing what their grandfathers and great-grandfathers did.
AMY GOODMAN: Paul Mason, we were just in London, where you’re going back to, and we interviewed the great spy writer John le Carré—and we’re going to play that in the next few weeks. You begin your book in the community, often called the slum, in Kenya, Kabira, where—well, people may know it in the United States only as the place—the backdrop of The Constant Gardner, John le Carré’s book. But why did you start in Kenya, in Kabira?
PAUL MASON: Because I’ve reported from that shantytown, that slum—that self-organized community, as they would prefer to call it—many times. But it always occurs to me that we see it as a poverty story. And, of course, the struggles in those streets are about avoiding your shack being bulldozed by some hoodlum. But just one mile away is the Kenyan industrial district. And every morning at 5:00 a.m., those people go out of the slums and into the factories. We don’t see them as workers, and yet, without those people living in the slums—earning, by the way, much less than a Chinese worker could earn—all our green beans in Europe and our fresh tulips would not appear.
It’s a hidden story. And they need to know, I think, just as the people here in Lower Manhattan, on your streets. You know, they’re having trouble with the geography of the place they live, recent migrants. They don’t know the history, that Irish and Jewish migrants before them fought exactly the same battles and how they won and what it did to them as people and how it raised them up as people. I just think that we’re almost living in a sort of Groundhog Day, where workforces keep repeating and reliving, just as the people in Kenya are reliving what, you know, my great, great-grandfathers actually went through in the first phase of industrialization. I’m from an industrial town in northern Britain.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The impact of the new centers of the working class and the world being China, India, Mexico, these other countries now, where labor organization is a lot more difficult because the government is so—in most of these places, in essence, controlling, even the unions that develop. What is it doing to labor consciousness, to solidarity between labor organizations around the world?
PAUL MASON: Well, above all, I think China is the absolute pivot of what’s going to happen in the world. I’ve managed to track the emergence of the Chinese labor movement. When I first started to go into China, migrant laborers, the most oppressed people, were just happy to be living in a dormitory, to be honest. You interview a young woman who gets her first pair of high-heel, pointy shoes. That is not—she doesn’t see it as a tragedy that she has to live in a dormitory and work twelve, fourteen hours a day.
But now, five years on, it’s not just the fact that the militancy is there. I’ve spoken to some of the people who organize these Chinese strikes. You know how they organize them? I said, "How do you organize a strike?" Woman said to me, "You write on a piece of paper the size of a postage stamp the single Chinese character 'strike.' And then you pass it to the next person on the line." She looked to me gone out, as—that there might be a difficulty organizing a strike. It’s easy, because they see the gap between what they’re promised and what they’re getting. So we are in a tremendously rapid development of a labor movement in China.
Now, don’t think that this is a labor movement that is going to bring down the Communist Party. The Communist Party has done something very clever. It has depoliticized labor disputes, so that these strikes we had this summer, in Foshan with Honda and the Foxconn, the suicide bids, it became political, but it doesn’t become insurrectionary. The Chinese government has learned its lesson from the twentieth century revolutions where those two things mixed up. But we are seeing the development of a labor movement in China. There’s no mistaking it.
AMY GOODMAN: What about these protests that are taking place now in France? And just to say, overall, I think people in the United States have very little information about what happens in the rest of the world and how we’re connected to the rest of the world. But you’ve got millions of people marching in the streets, protesting the rising of the retirement age from, what, sixty to sixty-two.
PAUL MASON: I mean, look, all over Europe, the social bargain that came with the formation of the European Union is now under question and under threat, because these are heavily welfarized societies. The states are all deeply in debt. Unlike you, they can’t just print the money. The European Central Bank won’t print the money. So they’re going to have to balance their books in short order. So the attack is on pensions. And as we know, pensions are just deferred pay. It’s like clawing back, you know, in some cases, 20 percent of your pay. People are annoyed.
Now, nation by nation, it’s going to play out differently. In Spain, later this month, there’s a general strike. It could be quite big. We’ve already seen the Greek general strikes. Here, however, I think we’re talking about old labor—labor movements that have been around for 200 years, that are not particularly setting on fire the young. And I think many people in Europe, when they look at these protests, the great worry—I mean, France, there were young and old on the streets—but the worry is the young don’t see any future. They don’t—they’re not going to have a pension. They’re not going to have much the same level of healthcare. They’re going to work 'til they're seventy. There’s a quite clever game being played about the young lose out from the benefits accrued by the old. And that’s going to be a rising story. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a big story here in parts of the workforce where you have still good benefits, good healthcare. It’s the oldest trick in the book to say, well, play one off against the other.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, another way that one is being played off against the other in many of these countries is now over the issue of immigration.
JUAN GONZALEZ: You have in Sweden, in Italy, and even in Germany now, in France, huge anti-immigrant movements that are developing, here in the United States. And in essence, immigration is the other side of international capital. It’s international—people being forced to move to be able to survive. How is this whole anti-immigrant trend feeding into potential fascist movements in many of these countries?
PAUL MASON: Well, the interesting thing is that the European right—you know, most of the European right originated in the remnants of World War II fascism. But it’s evolving. You’d have to say that it’s evolving towards a kind of plebeian—often based on things like opposition to Islam rather than race itself, color of skin. It certainly is there. I think that you have—your news has been dominated by this whole issue of mosques. We have that in the UK.
But I think the point about my book is to say we live in a global labor market. The labor market starts at our door and ends at a bus stop in the poorest city in China. That’s the labor market. And I think organized labor has had a lot of trouble getting its head around this. They hate offshoring. The American unions don’t like it. Fair enough. Then parts of the American population don’t like the influx of migrants. But if you were to stand back and say, "What period of history are we living through?" we’re living through the history of the globalization of labor. So, one has to, in one’s life, get used to it.
My town I come from in Britain is unrecognizable demographically to what it was when I lived there in the 1980s. But when I was in there in the 1980s, it was the same as it was in the 1900s when my granddad was there. The change we’re going through is a one-time-only change, I think. It’s for everybody to decide what they thing about that. But it’s—I can’t see it as stoppable. The country of Spain is short ten million people. It won’t have a pension system, unless it gets ten million more employees by the middle of the century. Where is it going to get them from?
AMY GOODMAN: Paul Mason, why are US labor organizations, why unions, are so vilified in the United States? I mean, you have the blaming of the demise of the auto industry, by many, on the pension plans, the healthcare funds of the United Auto Workers. You have the blaming of the education budget shortfalls on teachers’ unions and their pay.
PAUL MASON: I think you have to see both sides of this. I think when everyone finds the remains of a strong union way of life, one finds people who are grieving about the collapse of the social solidarity around them. I found this in Detroit. You find people who want to hang on to what they have. You know, I think that can sometimes lead to behavior by unions that seems to people who have no rights or benefits as selfish. Now, I think that is where that debate begins. And I think in Britain unions stick to what you’ve got. You hang on to what you hold. The episodes I cover historically in my book are when trade unions stepped out of that.
William Dudley Haywood, Big Bill Haywood, the leader of the IWW in America, was the leader of white men in the Rocky Mountains, and they were very militant, and they could dictate to the bosses. They blew up everything they didn’t like—the strike breakers, the biggest silver processor in the world. There was a lot of whiskey drunk. But then he just realized, they weren’t winning. And why weren’t they winning? Because the Italian and Lebanese and Jewish migrants in the Eastern cities were not organized. So this man, who had already done—he had lived his life—stepped out of that and said, "I’m going to organize them." And I think that, you know, all over the world, that is the choice facing the existing organized labor. You either stick to your bastions and what you already own and the great union halls and the banners and the old strikes you won twenty years ago, or you do what Hayward did, and you rethink, certainly—I’ve reported on this process of rethinking. It’s something that’s happened in the American unions. It’s certainly happened in the UK unions.
In the financial district of London, there are Somali and Brazilian migrants organizing in the very exact place that the Jewish and Irish migrants were organized. They just—I went up to them and said, "Do you know you’re doing this? Do you even know about this?" They didn’t even know about strikes that happened twenty years ago. So I think the power of history helps educate us. And I mean, it’s not a partisan history. It’s a history that says, look, for employers who want to do the right thing, here also is the way that employer-worker bargains have worked in the past. There has been industrial democracy, believe it or not, in capitalist countries that didn’t hold themselves to be that left-wing.
AMY GOODMAN: Your previous book called Meltdown—can you talk about the issue of the United States and how it’s used as a model, despite the collapse? You talk about writing it on the train from New York to Washington as Lehman Brothers are going down.
PAUL MASON: Yeah. I mean, I lived through a very frenetic two weeks during the collapse of Lehman. I was outside Lehman on the day it collapsed, on the street, stood outside AIG trying to find out what’s going on at the moment that went the next day. And what I think we have lived through is the collapse of an economic model. I mean, the fact that people are still trying to make an economic doctrine work doesn’t—and that they can’t think of anything better—doesn’t mean that it works.
But I think the policy debate now is beginning to move towards bigger choices. Fed Chairman Bernanke said two weeks ago that he almost—he made a speech at Jackson Hole saying, "Look, I’m running out of options, guys. I can do these things you want me to do—more quantitative easing, boost the inflation target, all kinds of other things—but I’m really not sure that any of them are going to make much difference." When you get a policymaker saying that, what you realize is that you are probably on the eve of a bigger ideological debate. The monetary stimulus does not revive America. This is why I’m here. And the fiscal stimulus, well, we’ve had it, and it’s maybe saved some jobs. It’s annoyed a lot of people. It certainly hasn’t revived America.
The next question has to be, "Well, what does?" You were talking about some of it, I think, earlier. You know, there is now a discussion about currency, big discussion about the currency. Bernanke, himself, in his book on the '30s, reminds us that countries that devalue their currency first get out of the Depression first. Now Europe's devalued its currency. Britain has relentlessly devalued. Japan has devalued. I would expect the policy debate in America to hot up in that direction.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But there are also major differences in how the different governments are responding to the crisis. Obviously Germany has taken the lead in being a lot more aggressive against the threat of financial speculators and derivatives than the United States. And there is still this issue that the finance capital has had a heyday now for so long, in terms of their being able to develop these exotic instruments that are almost like phantoms in terms of a financial system. How do you resolve these differences between Germany, Britain, the United States, and how they’re going to deal with the financial reform?
PAUL MASON: I think, look, either there’s—there’s a binary outcome. Either there’s going to be global re-regulation of the banking industry, as many of the governments want, or there isn’t. And the re-regulation will take place on a nation-by-nation basis. But, you know, in Britain, our central bankers are doing some very radical thinking about the future role of finance. They are basically saying in their academic work, we’re never going to get stung again. We are not going to have the situation where the safety net is extended again and again. Or if we do, then the banking industry has to pay some kind of much more—much, much, much bigger social insurance cost towards the state. The state, in other words, will get bigger and stronger as a result of this. I think that we either go in a global direction or, as with trade, what happens is that the whole world fragments. I wouldn’t like to know what the world is going to be like if the world finance system fragments. There are many people, I think, on the left wishing it to happen. But as Keynes said, you know, don’t wish for the failure of the palliative measures, because you might not like what comes after.


Defining a Right to Move? By James Farrer, Devin T. Stewart

Defining a Right to Move?
Reflections on "Ethics of Migration" Conference
By James Farrer, Devin T. Stewart
January 6, 2010

Credit: Ariel Kaplan (CC).

The goal of declaring a "right to move" proved elusive at a two-day symposium on immigration ethics at Sophia University in Tokyo, held in cooperation with the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs (Dec. 12–13, 2009). While many of the participants, and certainly both of us, started out with the hope of issuing a strong declaration on the rights of people to move across national borders, several obstacles emerged. Given that the conference was held in Tokyo, the Japanese immigration context also framed the debate.
The first obstacle, as pointed out by philosopher Mathias Risse, is that historically the right to international migration has been largely defined as a right to leave one's own country. According to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to leave or return to their country, and a right to movement within their country, but there is no established right to settle outside one's country. As such, Risse pointed out, the right to move—as it exists now—is more akin to other liberty rights, such as the right to marriage, than to claim rights, such as a right to emergency medical attention. Just as people have a right to marry, but no right to demand that any given person marry, individuals now are widely recognized to have a right to leave their own country, but no right to demand to be let in somewhere else. They must first find a partner willing to accept their claim.
The lack of any international agreements for exercising a generalized "right to move" points to national governments as the site for political interventions. Advocates of "open borders" first must persuade the national governments of individual states to change their restrictive immigration policies. One plausible tactic, advocated by Michele Wucker, is to show states that accepting migrants serves their national interests, particularly economic and societal interests.
This was also the approach taken by John Haffner in his discussion of why Japan should accept many more migrants than it does now, basically in order to compensate for declining birth rates and thereby shore up the tax base. Both Wucker and Haffner thus foresee a happy convergence of immigrant rights and economic imperatives that could lead to a free flow of people across borders—if politicians can be persuaded.
Some participants saw flaws in this argument. At the most general level, Risse pointed out that there may not always be such a convenient convergence of economic and moral arguments on migration. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is, he said. Akihiro Asakawa used the case of Brazilian migrants in Japan to show that national economic development policies and migration strategies are not always well aligned. Labor migrants, particularly factory workers such as ethnically Japanese Brazilians, may easily lose out during recessions and become an economic burden on the host society. A borderless world would therefore not always be a happy experience, he concluded.
Given such concerns about unskilled migrants, in Japan and in other countries, it seems that economic arguments will favor policies of selective migration, such as those outlined by Hiroshi Kimizuka of the Japanese Ministry of Justice, in which foreigners who can contribute to society are welcomed but those who harm societal interests are dealt with severely. Japan will increasingly compete for high-value skilled migrants. This global competition for "good immigrants" may intensify at the same time that restrictions against other migrants increase.
One difficult problem that emerges in any discussion of a "right to move" is the conflict between individual migrant rights and the group rights of the host community. Gracia Liu-Farrer argues that undocumented Chinese migrants in Japan justify their own migration practices largely in terms of their contributions to Japan, taking jobs that others are unwilling to take, while not constituting a burden on the host society. On the other hand, as Liu-Farrer herself points out, the objections to migrants often come from Japanese in communities with large concentrations of migrants, who may see new migrants as disruptive and uncooperative in maintaining community standards, such as Japan's complicated recycling practices. A particularly vexing issue for migrants and host societies is the problem of language. As Florian Coulmas pointed out, immigration almost always involves questions of language rights, and any political decision regarding language rights involves a claim on other people, including the state, that creates a burden for either host societies or migrants, or both.
Nevertheless, it wasn't clear whether tension between group claims was a problem exclusive to the migration debate or to a broader phenomenon of urbanization. As Masaru Tamamoto pointed out in the discussion, Tokyoites endured very similar forms of culture shock while absorbing waves of rural-to-urban migrants during the twentieth century. James Farrer suggests that such intercultural clashes should be considered an essential and positive feature of the creative cosmopolitan milieu of city life.
Another objection to these economic arguments for open borders came from Koichi Nakano, who pointed to the alignment of economic arguments for immigration with neoliberal politics that advocate free flows of goods and capital, while weakening of social safety nets. In such a context, importing labor may not only exacerbate social inequalities but also undermine the political will to improve the conditions for workers. This phenomenon may already be seen in Japan in the case of foreign "trainees" used as cheap labor by Japanese companies. Japan also has begun to import healthcare workers to cope with the aging population, but not offering these workers the possibility of citizenship or full access to the Japanese labor market. Although, a free flow of people is needed to fulfill the liberal compact of other freely flowing factors such as goods and capital, as this discussion shows, a political failure to protect the rights of both host society and migrant workers simultaneously undermines the welfare of both.
Given the impasse on the labor front, it seems impossible to ground an ethics (or politics) of migration entirely on utilitarian or economic calculations. Risse, in his talk, grounds the ethics of migration in the claim of the general rights of humanity to the entire surface of the Earth. If we accept such a universalistic Kantian argument, then people should have a right to move to places that are underpopulated or otherwise underutilized in terms of the available resources.
Devin Stewart similarly pointed out that nation-states as "imagined communities" have only been the dominant agents of social control and international politics for a brief span of human civilization, and therefore a right of movement can be grounded in primordial traditions of borderless migrations. We might label this a "state of nature" argument for migration rights. Given the arbitrariness of the nation-state as a moral agent and more urgent transnational issues such as climate change on the horizon, Stewart advocated for open-mindedness when it comes to formulating migration policy.
Farrer, in his paper, argued that the ethical debates over migration might be better framed in terms of an intercultural ethics of cosmopolitanism in which cultural and social betterment is grounded in a creative dialog among cultures, rather than simply evaluating migration in terms of economic benefits and costs. Anthony Appiah's concept of "rooted cosmopolitanism" suggests that cosmopolitans need not give up their own native culture, nor reach a consensus on all issues, but everyone will benefit from more cultural contamination.
One outcome of this conference seems to be that such fundamental ethical claims to free flows of people will have to be enshrined in international political agreements before national governments will come around to acknowledging a general right to movement across borders. Unfortunately, as Midori Okabe points out in the case of EU diplomacy with African states, international diplomacy has been tending toward finding ways to better control migrant flows rather than enable these flows. We are still far from any international agreement on a right to move. One middle-ground approach focuses on non-state agents that actually are enabling migration flows. As Kosaku Yoshino argues, this would include educational organizations, or "cultural intermediaries," that are enabling growing flows of college students across borders. Although such non-state agents ultimately depend on national legal regimes, at a practical level they have a very important role in shaping flows of migrants.
Perhaps the strongest case for an internationally recognized right to move may arise out of considerations for the "worst-case scenarios" of global migration. As Mark Raper and Stewart pointed out, we need to focus on those for whom migration is really an existential question of survival, and who are most in need of aid and a place of settlement. Climate or "environmentally induced" refugees were an important focus of discussion at this conference, and perhaps more than any other category of people, seem to justify a global effort to plan for the massive movements of peoples from one area of the world to another. Climate change could instead spur more efforts simply to lock up national borders and elevate the immediate community as the core of survival.
Despite this ominous possibility, the threat of global warming has the potential for creating a sense of common ownership of the Earth by focusing the attentions of an international public on the world as a whole, and perhaps pushing more people toward acceptance of a right to move across borders.

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Friday, September 24, 2010



By Kevin Stoda

Last night, I watched the film, THE SOLOIST. In that film, the main protagonist, Nathaniel Ayers, is enamored by all musicians. The character, played by Jamie Foxx, raves about Beethoven and when Beethoven’s concerts were being performed, this character felt as if Ludwig von Beethoven were in the room. His joy was contagious.

Ayer’s sense of appreciation and marvel for Beethoven at such moments were so great that the other primary protagonist, played by Robert Downey, Jr., stated that he was thus inspired to feel the joy of the other. This created in him, too, a joy and sense of oneness with the music, which was inspiring his friend. In short, the Downey character felt the “Ode to Joy” of Nathaniel Ayers at an extreme level of contagion.

As I write this vignette, in the very streets of the town of Banli on Beigan Island I hear Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Fuer Elise”--or simply often known as“Elise”. At least twice a day, this tune “Fuer Elise” (For Elise) winds its way through the 7 villages of this particular island (which belongs to Taiwan, but is located a stone’s throw from mainland China).

You see—“Fuer Elise” is the theme song for the two local garbage trucks. As the trucks enter each town and head down the roadway to each village, the two trucks blare the tune of Beethoven’s across the air-space.

If you live in the seven villages of this island of Taiwan and you have forgotten to take out your garbage, you can run out with your trash at the last moment.
However, I need to note that this island is not unique. It appears that throughout the many islands and cities of the country of Taiwan, garbage trucks are playing the same tune: “Elise”.

In short, you, too, (if you are) in Taiwan can have the joy of taking part in Taiwan’s tradition of running after “Elise”, just like Beethoven. However, you need to carry some trash, otherwise you will look ridiculous.

I asked one Taiwanese resident whether he though Beethoven might roll over in his grave if he knew that “Elise” was the representative sound of the garbage truck’s arrival.

The response was: “I had thought that once, too--but after getting used to the music being played every day for months at a time--I think Beethoven would see it as an extension of music appreciation.”

Or, it could drive you—or Beethoven—crazy.

Click here for more.


Thursday, September 23, 2010



This article is part of a series of articles on borders, border lands, divided states, divided cities and divided worlds.


By Kevin Stoda, on the Matsu Islands

During the Cold War, there were two Yemens, two Germanies, and two Berlins. Even after the Cold War, there have continued to be two Koreas and two Jerusalems. Likewise on the Pacific Coast of Asia, where I live, there exist still two Fujian provinces. Both Taiwan, known as the Republic of China, and mainland China—also known as the Peoples Republic of China (PRC)—continue to maintain the simultaneous existence of 2 Fujian provinces squaring off against each other at the edge of the Pacific.[1]
Just click on Wikopedia’s Fujian Province which warns the reader: “Not to be confused with Fujian Province, Republic of China” if you question the accuracy of my report in this article.

According to Wiki in English, “Most of Fujian is administered by the People's Republic of China. However, the archipelagos of Kinmen and Matsu are under the control of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Thus, there are two provinces (in the sense of government organizations; PRC's Fujian and ROC's Fujian).”
Interestingly, via adoption of the PRC’s vocabulary and interpretation of planet Earth, the German version of Wikopedia insinuates that the province of Fujian is “actually still only one big province” but “simply administrated by two different governments”. (That is one way of avoiding the fact that there are two countries and peoples of differing nationalities involved.)
Despite what the German propagandist might say (and considering the facts on the ground or in the Yellow Sea), please believe me when I state that Fujian Province is actually plural--and there are still certainly two separate countries with a common history and ancestry using the name in close proximity to one another. (I can see mainland China from Beigan Island where I live and work.)
I am pleased to say that the Taiwanese government, which controls the island regions of Kinmen and Matsu, has devolved greater autonomy to these local governments in recent years while at the same time building up new tourist and trading infrastructure. (Prior to the 1990s, infrastructure development had often been military-related.) Similarly, after the PRC had taken over the eastern part of the Asian continent during the mid-20th Century, most of the larger Fujian Province has grown enormously in terms of economic power on the mainland..
In short, prior to the second half of the 20th century, the undivided Fujian Province had been languishing economically for several millennia as the backwaters of China. [2] Exemplifying this isolation and underdevelopment was the fact that there were no train-lines built into Fujian’s major cities from the rest of China until the 1950s. In short, “[o]wing to the mountainous landscape, Fujian was the most secluded province of the PRC in eastern China due to the lack of rail and underdeveloped networks of paved roads. . . .”
The symbiotic trade relationship between mainland China and Taiwan took effect starting in the 1970s, i.e. after the deaths of Mao and Chiang Kai-Shek.
In short, “Since the late 1970s, the economy of [mailnand] Fujian [Province] along the coast has greatly benefited from its geographic and cultural proximity to Taiwan. In 2003, Xiamen ranked number eight GDP per capita among 659 Chinese cities, ahead of Shanghai and Beijing, while Fuzhou ranked no. 21.”


“[I]t should also be pointed out that the slow development of Fujian in its early days has proven a blessing for the province's ecology; today, the province has the highest forest coverage rate and the most diverse biosphere in China whereas central China suffers from severe overpopulation and displays severe signs of soil erosion accompanied by frequent droughts and floods due to lack of forest coverage.”
However, “the development [ on the mainland] has been accompanied by a large influx of population from the over-populated areas in the north and west, and much of the farmland and forest as well as cultural heritage sites such as the temples of king Wuzhu have given way to ubiquitous high-rise buildings, and the government faces a challenge at all levels to sustain development while, at the same time, preserving the unique and vital natural and cultural heritage of Fujian.”
Meanwhile across the strait, Taiwan’s Fujian Province underwent full militarization into the 1970s. Nightly curfews were ended only about 30 years ago on Matsu, for example. This had certainly contributed to the continuation of this part of Fujian remaining a backwater to the larger island of Taiwan proper. For decades. On the other hand, it has left many corners of Fujian under local control and in pristine condition or currently undergoing strong restoration. Fujian still remains the primary language of older folks in the area. (When formal Mandarin Chinese is spoken, locals here refer to it as “Taiwanese”.) Now, in 2010, the Matsu and Kineman Islands are important tourist attraction destinations for all of Taiwan. Whereas, most of the mainland and Taiwan Island had undergone massive industrial changes in the cold War period, the Taiwanese Fujian isles had been kept in a more traditional state of development.
Meanwhile, several islands in Taiwan’s Fujian Province carry out direct trade with China. Fishermen prefer to sell their catch in the capital city of Fujian rather than in Taiwan because the mainland Chinese pay better.
In short, the original air-lock nature of Cold War era intra-Fujian relations (from 1949 through the 1970s) eventually were transformed into a much more open trading area. This changed has created once again many bridges between the islands of Taiwanese Fujian and the PRC’s Fujian. These peoples are slowly being enabled two maintain separate Fujian Provinces. While also slowly once again learning to get along and trade with one another by the end of the last century both Fujian regions have been able to take-off on their different paths developmentally.
Will these Fujian provinces ever unify? Not in the near future, but perhaps in another millennia.
Meanwhile, the borders are somewhat porous and peaceful, especially from the Taiwanese side. To a great degree, societal exchanges can continue to be increased at the will of the local governments. On the other hand, perhaps some federal or cross-national federal relationship will be workable before the end of this next century. In any case, a go-slow, friendly, and relaxed attitude towards the future awaits the youth of the future Chinas.


for Taiwan’s position geographically in the world and region.

Perspectives of Taiwan

Much discussion of Taiwan is framed in the context of Taiwan as part of China versus Taiwan as an independent nation. However, Taiwan's geographical position is much more complex than this. In the map from Google Earth above showing the island of Taiwan the territories of three other countries are visible — China, Japan and The Philippines.

This map shows Taiwan and China separated by the waters of the Taiwan Strait. Fujian Province, from where most Taiwanese people trace their ancestry takes up much of the map. Chinese people have been migrating to Taiwan over the past four centuries.

The Ryukyu islands of Japan's Okinawa Prefecture stretch between Taiwan and the four main islands of Japan. In fact the southernmost islands of Japan are to the west of Taiwan. The island of Yonaguni is just 125 kilometres from Taiwan. The Japanese ruled Taiwan from 1895 to 1945.

Taiwan is also closely connected to Southeast Asia. The Batanes Islands in the Bashi Channel lie midway between Taiwan and Luzon. The Yami people of Orchid Island are actually culturally and linguistically related to the people of the Batanes. In the past slate and jade was exported from Taiwan to the Batanes where it was carved into jewellery.

Finally, Taiwan is part of the Pacific Ocean, a vast expanse of water dotted with islands stretching all the way to the Americas. Linguistic and archaeological evidence suggests that the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans where populated by people who began their migration from Taiwan.
Hence Taiwan is connected in multiple ways with the lands and seas around it and occupies a unique place in the Asia-Pacific region.
[2] “The name Fujian came from the combination of Fuzhou and Jian'ou, two cities in Fujian, during the Tang Dynasty. It is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse provinces in China with Han Chinese majority.” Part of the reason for this was the fact that it was located geographically at the fringe of two or three Chinese Kingdoms. So, refugees who were persecuted by one Dynasty or another often moved to Fujian to resettle and take up a new life. Similarly, millions of Chinese refugees moved from Fujian to the Matsu, Kineman and Taiwan islands during Chinese Communist take over of the continent in the 20th Century.
This constant movement of peoples in and through the mountains and cities or among the islands of Fujian led to the promotion of academics in the region—even during the many centuries when Fujian’s economy was dismal. Academic achievement was the only way out of the entrenched poverty.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Millions of Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans live and work near borders. What is the trend in your area of the globe?

Is it towards air-compression-chamber-like locked tight borders?

Is it partially flowing border traffic with bridges and blocked off ramps?

or is it fairly open?

What does the future hold for North America and other corners of the globe after 2010?


By Kevin Stoda

In the past, I have written extensively on borders, border crossings and peoples who live there lives on borders. "Border Towns and Divided Cities, Divided Cultures: Imaginary or Real Walls?" (2003) is one of my most-shared writings on the topic, whereby I had compared the life and imagery of border towns of (1) East and West Berlin, (2) the three cities and three countries of the Basle-St. Louis area—which includes France, Germany, and Switzerland--, and the Texas’ Laredo-Nuevo Laredo townships.

In those works, I also made allusions to other divided places, such as the Spanish portion of Morocco’s landscape, e.g. the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. Unlike Hong Kong and Macau, which reverted to Chinese control in the late 1990s, the enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla, situated on the African Mediterranean continue as fully part of Spain in Europe.

As a theme, in the work, "Border Towns and Divided Cities, Divided Cultures: Imaginary or Real Walls?", I had found that there were essentially 3 types of divided public space in border towns and border regions around the world. I feel these 3 metaphors are still helpful to us for visualizing--on a small scale--, the differing levels of globalization that people in various corners of the world feel or perceive today.


First, I noted that there was the air-lock type imagery, which one still witnesses between most of North and South Korea today. In the days of Cold War Europe, spies and non-spies alike would have to pass through such air-locks--or severely protected and regulated borders. Crossing-over was perceived by the traveler in some ways to be akin to entering a decompression chamber, i.e. prior to being permitted to enter the other side of the border (border city).

By the way, this particular metaphor of a “decompression chamber” came from a written description of crossing the border by one American, Mark Jantzen, who lived from 1988 through 1991 in the eastern half of Berlin in the days before and after the Wall came down. (He wrote of his experiences in THE WRONG SIDE OF THE WALL.} The working existence of peoples (and their lives) on different sides of the border were so different in nature—and so protected in time and space--that the bureaucratic regimes who once controlled the crossings required that the traveler to take some moments (or hours) to become acclimatized to breathing in different air and space.


The second type of border town is what I referred to as the bridge. It is most often witnessed one at North America’s busiest multinational intersection—a crossover point between the USA and Mexico: This is the junction where I-35 hits Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. This particular connection has the city of Laredo, Texas meeting millions & millions of peoples in Latin America.

The small city is literally best described as a city of bridges. There are specialized highway bridges for international trucking. There are also auto- and pedestrian bridges—where crossing-over takes most people only minutes—unless there happens to be an international terror alert or if the usual holiday traffic jam materializes

The worlds on either side of the bridges of Laredo across the Rio Grande River are certainly very different. Different types economic specialties, a different sense-of-self internationally, and one’s access-to-rights exist on either side of the bridge. Passports or special identification are still needed to undertake the crossing-over from one civilization to the other, but the connections between peoples, families, businesses, and ways-of-life are not as extreme as that witnessed in 1961-1989 Berlin, in today’s Ceuta or Melilla surrounded by Morocco, or in pre-1980s China and Hong Kong or Macau. In those towns (and eras), different global ideologies warred with each other at the border.

In contrast, to some great-extent, the immigrant and drug wars, i.e. which we see at the border with Mexico and the USA today, are not ideological but the result of the same dominant global socio-political economic that have been functioning on both sides of the river to a great degree for decades—although a river, fences and bridges divide the towns of Nuevo Laredo and Laredo.


The third image of border relationships is the one I experienced when I lived in France, near the city of Basel in Switzerland and the city of Bad Basel in Germany. I call this simply the Open Border image. (I should note that the French town in this 3-country megapolis is named St. Louis. I lived outside of St. Louis in rural Alsace—but only a few kilometers from the Swiss border on a farm.) Crossing over was so fluid in the 1980s, when I lived in this region, that most of the controls and checkpoints had become unmanned. In one incident, I recall simply starting in France by hitching a ride on the back of one farmer’s tractor and then crossing over to Switzerland, where I ended up taking a streetcar into a train station before I headed on to Germany.


Once, when explaining why I liked living in the country of German to my students in Germany, I explained that one reason I liked the country is that it is a federal state bound up (Bund) in a federal regime, namely the European Union.

I find that states that understand how to permit divisions, like federations or confederations in Europe currently often do, have the potential to have great international relations. That is, if they learn to have federalist and tolerant relationships with their neighbors, i.e. in the same positive federalist or strong international ties.

The commitment of European states after WWII to take down their border posts and the subsequent 60-plus years of learning experience in building a European Union (federation) has made many European states stronger, in terms of understanding how to work with their neighbors, while even growing a sense of regional-ship or regional identity across borders (across state lines).. In turn, many European Union states, like Germany, have had great success over the same period in improving the continent’s relationships with their former colonies and former Cold War adversaries.

Disappointingly, recent decades have seen these same European states and their peoples gain notoriety for building a new Fortress Europe in recent decades. On the other hand, as a whole European states have had more positive and beneficial relationships with neighboring countries than states in most corners of the globe. (Just look at the tensions in South and Central Asia and the troubles in Africa from Sudan to Somalia south into the Congo!)

I think that greater regional cooperation (federal-like) and greater support for local autonomy—without fear of disintegration of society or country—is a great European model that could be exported. So many cities on borders in European states have created mega-cities with others across-their-national-border with whom they are often socially and economically well-integrated. The Basle-St. Louis area on the Rhine river is not the only tri-city or tri-state example.

Open traffic, openness to travel, and openness to the other (neighboring land) having influence on one’s own city and state have become the norm. This contrasts with North America over the past decade. Whereas NAFTA’s introduction in the early 1990s initially brought more personal and economic exchange across borders in American, Canadian, and Mexican, this new Millennium has seen darkness cover the borders of the North American continent. Post-9-11-01 anti-terrorist mania (and bad North American political economic development in the last 3 decades have) destroyed the USA’s openness to immigrants over the past decade.

In short, the trends towards an ever-more-open border relationship between my homeland and Canada & Mexico are now being replaced with a border that is more of an air-lock or decompression chamber—i.e. as far as travel, international labor, and transportation or people-to-people exchanges are concerned. In short, just as I complain about a Fortress Europe border mentality rising on the old continent, I now have to state in shame that American borders—in Canada and Mexico as well as the USA—have been tightening over the last few years. Will Americans and Mexican (and Canadians) simply look nostalgically on a time that has passed, i.e. when we had bridge-like border societies while we build decompression chambers at the border?


“Calderon: Border Fence is Unfriendly”,

“US is Unfriendly towards Visitors”,

Mills, Dave, “Tips for Driving across the US Canadian Border”,

Stoda, Kevin, "Border Towns and Divided Cities, Divided Cultures: Imaginary or Real Walls?", in Eds. Will Wright and Steven Kaplan, Image of the City: Proceedings from--2003 Conference: Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery Pueblo, Colorado: Society of the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Take a Poll on Reinstituting Solar Energy in the White House --at OP-ED News

Should the White House [re]implement Solar Energy?

By Kevin Anthony Stoda (about the author)

To take the poll, click on this link at OP-ED News above.


Over 30 years ago, Jimmy Carter installed the first solar energy (water heating). Less than a decade later they were de-installed. Last week, the Obama White House rejected a proposal to reinstall the solar panels.

Should the White House [re]implement Solar Energy?


Take the POLL: Patents on Life Forms Should Never Be issued to a Corporation OPED NEWS

Patents on Life Forms Should Never Be issued to a Corporation

By Kevin Anthony Stoda (about the author)

Click on the OP-ED News link above to take the poll:


Patents on Life Forms Should Never Be issued to a Corporation


(Note that Monsanto is claiming this right with genes of certain plants in North America and elsewhere.)

Do you agree or do you disagree with this statement?

I agree fully
I mostly agree with this statement
I am not sure where I should stand
In most cases I disagree
I totally disagree


Sunday, September 19, 2010


With the Teaparty and its recent gains, progressives need to bite and fight back as we did 100 years ago in national and presidential elections. We need real progressive people in office to fight off the fascists and luke-warm leaders we have now.

This 2010 to 2012 election period appears to be the best time for progressives to make a response to demagoguery and fascism. That is, if the people or electorate wake up.
In 1900, Frank Baum once wrote the Midwesterners perspective on the national cultural wars of the day. I would like to share the scenario to you (BELOW) here and ask you to identify the characters and monsters we are facing in both the 2010 and 2012 elections.
The following summary was used, by the way, in a Wall Street editorial some years ago. (Here is the scorecard to identify the players then. Who are they now in 2010?) --KAS

For those interested in L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (1900) as a populist novel, the following translation table and discussion are helpful:
In the Wizard of Oz: Meaning:
----------------------- ---------------------
Oz ounce (oz) of gold
Dorothy "Everyman"
Tin Woodsman industrial worker
Scarecrow farmer
Cowardly Lion William Jennings Bryan, populist
Munchkins the "little people"
Yellow Brick Road gold standard
Toto a dog
"In the story, Dorothy is swept away from Kansas in a tornado and arrives in a mysterious land inhabited by `little people.' Her landing kills the Wicked Witch of the East (bankers and capitalists), who `kept the munchkin people in bondage.'
"In the movie, Dorothy begins her journey through the Land of Oz wearing ruby slippers, but in the original story Dorothy's magical slippers are silver [a reference to the bimetallic system advocated by W.J. Bryan]. Along the way on the yellow brick (gold) road, she meets a Tin Woodsman who is `rusted solid' (a reference to the industrial factories shut down during the depression of 1893). The Tin Woodsman's real problem, however, is that he doesn't have a heart (the result of dehumanizing work in the factory that turned men into machines).
"Farther down the road Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, who is without a brain (the farmer, Baum suggests, doesn't have enough brains to recognize what his political interests are). [Shades of Marx's critique of peasants!] Next Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, an animal in need of courage (Bryan, with a load roar but little else). Together they go off to Emerald City (Washington) in search of what the wonderful Wizard of Oz (the President) might give them.
"When they finally get to Emerald City and meet the Wizard, he, like all good politicians, appears to be whatever people wish to see in him. He also plays on their fears.... But soon the Wizard is revealed to be a fraud--only a little old man `with a wrinkled face' who admits that he's been `making believe.' `I am just a common man,' he says. But he is a common man who can rule only by deceiving the people into thinking that he is more than he really is.
"`You're a humbug,' shouts the Scarecrow, and this is the core of Baum's message. Those forces that keep the farmer and worker down are manipulated by frauds who rule by deception and trickery; the President is powerful only as long as he is able to manipulate images and fool the people. [Politics doesn't change, does it?]
"Finally, to save her friends, Dorothy `melts' the Wicked Witch of the West (just as evil as the East), and the Wizard flies off in a hot-air balloon to a new life. The Scarecrow (farmer) is left in charge of Oz, and the Tin Woodsman is left to rule the East. This populist dream of the farmer and worker gaining political power was never to come true, and Baum seems to recognize this by sending the Cowardly Lion back into the forest, a recognition of Bryan's retreat from national politics.
"Dorothy is able to return to her home with the aid of her magical silver shoes, but on waking in Kansas, she realizes that they've fallen off, representing the demise of the silver coinage issue in American politics."
Source: Michael A. Genovese, _Los Angeles Times_, 19 March 1988. (He teaches Political Science and is director of the Peace Studies program at Loyola Marymount University, where I teach.)
It's amazing what I do to keep from writing my final exams.
Jim Devine BITNET: jndf@lmuacad INTERNET: Econ. Dept., Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles, CA 90045-2699 USA 310/338-2948 (off); 310/202-6546 (hm); FAX: 310/338-1950 if bitnet address fails, try jndf@lmuacad.bitnet

Saturday, September 18, 2010

North American Farmers, like this Percy Schmeiser, must stand up

I noted earlier this week that farmers need to get involved in world movements to protect other farmers, in this case, those farmers in Palestine.

Today, I ask that farmers in North America work together and support farmers, like Percy Schmeiser, who are fightng Monsanto and the greatest threat to the family farm since the bad policies in USA agriculture implemented under Secretary EArl Butz in the 1970s.

See the story on DEMOCRACY NOW.

Percy Schmeiser vs Monsanto: The Story of a Canadian Farmer’s Fight to Defend the Rights of Farmers and the Future of Seeds

Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech giant Monsanto for years. When Monsanto seeds blew into Schmeiser’s property, Monsanto accused him of illegally planting their crops and took him to court. Ultimately his case landed in the Canadian Supreme Court. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1997 for fighting to defend the rights of farmers and the future of seeds. [includes rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Bonn, Germany, where the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards is being held. The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 and has become widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech company Monsanto for years. In 1997, Percy and his wife Louise won the Right Livelihood Award for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers’ rights. I spoke with Percy Schmeiser yesterday in Bonn, but first I want to turn to Bertram Verhaag’s documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto.

NARRATOR: The pesticide Roundup produced by the multinational concern Monsanto is the most widely sold spray in the world. Monsanto made its canola resistant to Roundup. This means Roundup kills every plant without exception. Only Monsanto’s genetically modified canola remains alive.

PERCY SCHMEISER: It was introduced without really much testing being done. And I think, even at that time, when it was introduced in the middle of the ’90s, that even the governments were taken in by what these corporations told what it would do, like increase yields and less chemicals and more nutritious. And I think the governments even believed the corporation.

NARRATOR: In 1996, the chemical giant Monsanto introduced its brand of canola into Canada, a brand resistant to the pesticide Roundup. In Schmeiser’s region, three farmers agreed to plant Monsanto’s new GMO canola. Due to a heavy storm during the harvest, freshly cut GMO canola drifted into Percy Schmeiser’s fields. His work of fifty years of breeding was destroyed, because his harvest was contaminated by Monsanto’s seed.

PERCY SCHMEISER: It came like a—like a time bomb, like a shock to me, that my seed was ruined through cross-pollination or direct seed drift by a substance, by a seed I didn’t want in my land. And so, it was very disgusting and hard to take that I had lost something that I worked fifty years on.

NARRATOR: Contamination and destruction of his own breed was irrevocably damaging to Percy Schmeiser. But on top of that, Monsanto turned him, the victim, into a culprit.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto.

Well, I met Percy Schmeiser yesterday here in Bonn and asked him to talk about this epic struggle he has with the biotech giant Monsanto. It’s one of the largest biotech companies in the world.

PERCY SCHMEISER: It started in 1998, when Monsanto laid what they call a patent infringement lawsuit against my wife and myself, and they charged us that we were growing their genetic altered, or GMO, canola, as we call it in Canada. And that was the beginning of it. And as GMOs were introduced in North America in 1996, so this was two years after the introduction.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what a GMO is.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Genetic modified organisms. And what that really means is that they took a gene from another life form, put it into canola, which made it resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what canola is.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Canola is—well, here—in most parts of the world, we call it rapeseed. But canola is an oil-based crop, and primarily it is used for making cooking oil. And the meal from it, after it’s pressed, is good animal feed, both for cattle and for pigs.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain how it ended up on your property.

PERCY SCHMEISER: My neighbor had grown it in 1997, and the following year it had true cross-pollination. But at that time, we believe it was primarily the contamination came from seeds blown in the wind, transportation by the farmer to the market, to his field, and from his field to his granaries.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you didn’t buy it and plant it, how could Monsanto sue you for using it?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, they said that it does not matter how it gets into any farmer’s field, and they specified just what I said before—cross-pollination, seed movement and so on. And because they have a patent on one gene that makes that plant resistant—canola plant resistant to a chemical, then they—that they own the ownership. So it doesn’t matter how it gets to your field, for patent law. They can take the whole total farmer’s crop from him or make him destroy it. And in our case, my wife and I were seed developers in canola, which we had been doing for over fifty years, research in the development of disease control and so on. Even we lost all that research when the court ordered, through patent law, they own it.

AMY GOODMAN: That Monsanto owned it.

PERCY SCHMEISER: That Monsanto owns it.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much did they fine you?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, initially they wanted so-much-an-acre fine, but it ended up that they laid another lawsuit of $1 million against my wife and myself. And that also, we had to fight. And besides that, there was another lawsuit in the seven years before it went to the Supreme Court, where they tried to seize all our farmland. They tried to seize our whole—our farm equipment, so they could stop us, because we were using mortgages on our farmland to pay for our legal bills.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, then explain what happened. You appealed this right to the Canadian Supreme Court?

PERCY SCHMEISER: It went all the way. It went through the lower courts and the court of appeal and so on, and then it went all the way to Supreme Court of Canada. But there were other issues at the Supreme Court we could bring in that we could not bring in at the lower courts—first of all, farmers’ rights, farmers’ rights to use your own seed from year to year to develop them, and then also the whole issue that we said, in regards to patents, there should be no patents allowed on higher life forms—basically, anything that comes from a seed. So that was one of the main things. We said to the Supreme Court that life is sacred. No one, no individual, no corporation, should ever, ever control it.

You have to remember that in Canada, and I believe also in the United States, that there’s nothing in our patent acts of 1867 and 1869 that talks about genes, because it was unknown at that time. So even at the present time, all these decisions are only decisions of the court and of a judge. And I should also mention that in the Supreme Court, it was a split decision, five-four, where they ruled that Monsanto’s patent on the gene is valid.

AMY GOODMAN: So, they ruled against you or for you?


AMY GOODMAN: At the Supreme Court.

PERCY SCHMEISER: The Supreme Court of Canada. But they also said that the whole issue of the patents on life has to go back to the Parliament of Canada to bring in laws and regulations in regards to the patents of seeds, plants, farmers’ rights and so on. And that’s where it stands now.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened to you?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, actually, what was the real—it was actually a real victory for us, because the Supreme Court ruled we would not have to pay Monsanto no money. And the issue of the million-dollar lawsuit, the issue of trying to seize our land and our farm equipment, our house and so on, and the whole issue that they could not have punitive damage against us and so on, was a major victory.

But we thought it was over at that time. But little did we know, about two years later, in 2005, we noticed that one of our fields, or we felt one of our fields were contaminated again with Monsanto’s GMOs. And we notified Monsanto, and we did testing ourselves, and we were quite sure it was Monsanto’s GMO canola in our field again. We notified Monsanto, and they said they would come out and check it, which we were surprised. And indeed, two days later, they came. Several days later, they notified us, “Yes, it is our GMO, Monsanto’s rapeseed, in your field again.” And they asked us what we wanted to have done with the contamination. We said to Monsanto, because we were starting to do research on mustard on the field, we wanted every rapeseed—GMO rapeseed plant of Monsanto’s pulled out by hand on this fifty-acre field. And they agreed to do that.

But here’s the unusual part of it, and they do this to farmers across North America. They said, first of all, we’d have to sign a release form. And in this release form, it said my wife, myself or any member of our family could never, ever take Monsanto to court again for the rest of our lives, no matter how much they contaminate us in the future on our land or on this farm. And we said there’s no way we will ever, ever do that.

And the other thing in the release form, they said that our freedom of speech would be taken away. In other words, we could never, ever talk what the terms of settlement were. I couldn’t even talk to you here this morning. So we said to them there’s no way we’re going to give up our freedom of speech. There’s too many people in our countries, United States and Canada, have given our lives for the freedom of speech, and we’ll never give it away to a corporation.

Monsanto said, “If you don’t sign the release, then we will not remove the offending plants,” the GMO Monsanto plants. And we said to Monsanto, we, with the help of our neighbors, will remove the contamination. And then my wife received a very nasty email or a fax from Monsanto that said, “We wish to remind you that those GMO plants on your field, Monsanto’s GMO plants on your field, are not your property. They are Monsanto’s property through patent law. And you cannot do with them what you want.” And we notified Monsanto, “We will do what we want with those plants. They’re on our land, our property. And we paid our taxes, and we own the land.” And we did remove the plants.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean, they were threatening you now not to remove the plants.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Not to remove them, because it was their property, and we could not do with them what we want, because they have a patent on it. They own it, even though it’s on our land. So, we removed the plants. And with the help of our neighbors—and this was very unusual. We paid our neighbors 640 Canadian dollars, and then we sent Monsanto the bill. And Monsanto refused to pay it. And eventually, after another year of letters going back and forth, Monsanto said they would pay the $640, plus a $20 cost, if we would sign that document. We refused to do that.

So, I’ll never forget March 19th, 2007—or ’08, and it went—at the beginning of the court, the Monsanto’s lawyer got up and said, “Your Honor, we will pay”—well, there was mediation and everything before that—”We will pay the $640 and the $20 cost.” The whole issue was never the $640. The whole issue now became liability. If Monsanto owns the patent on a gene, and you cannot control it when you put it in the environment as a seed—in a seed or in a plant, then they should be responsible for the damages they do to organic farmers and conventional farmers. So that was a major victory, because now it has set a precedent that if a farmer is contaminated, he can seek relief in the courts that the damage—that the contamination damage is paid for or taken care of. So it’s worldwide. So we were very happy, after ten years of legal battle, that we finally had a corporation—first of all, like a corporation of Monsanto, to have a billion-dollar corporation plus in court on a $640 bill.

AMY GOODMAN: Canadian farmer and Right Livelihood laureate Percy Schmeiser describing his struggle with Monsanto. We’ll come back to his story in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We are here in Bonn for the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Award winners. About eighty of them have gathered here. Before we go back to our interview with the Right Livelihood Award-winner Percy Schmeiser, I want to turn back to an excerpt from the documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto, about Percy and his wife Louise, how they were repeatedly threatened after they took on Monsanto.

LOUISE SCHMEISER: It was scary at times. You just never know.

PERCY SCHMEISER: And the phone calls, you know, where there would be somebody on the line saying, “You better watch it. They’re going to get you.” So it was pretty scary, and I was very concerned, when I was gone, that something would happen to her.

LOUISE SCHMEISER: And when they would watch us, especially in our own house here—they watched days on end every move we made, in our house and for our office, what we use for the land, I felt like I was a prisoner in my own home.

PERCY SCHMEISER: They did everything to bring us down financially and mentally. And that’s what they’re doing, is to mentally and financially break people. They are totally ruthless. They have no ethics. They have no morals. It’s the bottom line.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto. Here in Bonn, I asked Percy Schmeiser yesterday to talk about how things stand now between, well, he, Louise and Monsanto.

PERCY SCHMEISER: I hope my battle with Monsanto is over. But I realize that as long as I bring awareness around the world about Monsanto’s patent—not only Monsanto’s patent, but Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont—what their patents do for the control of the future of our seed and our food supply, and that’s what it was all about. GMOs were never meant to feed a hungry or starving world. They were meant to get control of farmers’ seed supply. That gives them the control of the world food supply. And so, that’s where we stand at now, to bring that awareness around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Percy Schmeiser, we’re sitting here in Bonn, Germany, and you’re traveling through Germany. In fact, there is a law here named for you, the Schmeiser law.


AMY GOODMAN: People here are extremely interested in your case. What is the Schmeiser law?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Basically is that, here in Germany, that if a farmer is contaminated with Monsanto’s GMOs, Monsanto cannot come after that farmer to seize their crop, whatever it may be, or take them to court, if they are contaminated.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much of an issue is that here in Germany?

PERCY SCHMEISER: That’s a big issue, because that has become, I think also in North America, a big issue, the liability issue. And to give you an extent of that is that in North America, a farmer cannot—if he grows GMOs, he cannot get genetic insurance. So if—but I should go back, that at the last lawsuit with Monsanto in the courts, initially, before the final one, Monsanto said, first of all, the farmer is responsible for the contamination, because he knows if he grows GMOs, he will contaminate his neighbor by whatever means. When that did not go over in the courts, then Monsanto said the government is responsible for the contamination, because they gave us regulatory approval to sell it. And that did not go over. And so, in the end, Monsanto paid for the contamination cleanup.

So, that has become a very big issue around the world, that if you have a patent on a gene, doesn’t give you the right to release it into the environment, where it destroys biodiversity, where it destroys organic farmers and so on. And I think it has become a bigger issue in Europe now, it’s because the organic industry, I believe, is much stronger in European countries than it is in North America, although it’s growing very fast in both our countries, in the United States and Canada.

AMY GOODMAN: Percy Schmeiser, you mentioned that you figured out that probably your property was contaminated, the second time, with GMO, with Monsanto GMO crops. How did you know that?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, what happened was that we were using this fifty-acre piece of land for, as I mentioned, for mustard research. And we did not grow any crop that year. And we had used a herbicide on it, and there were canola plants that did not die. And that field did not have canola in for at least ten years. Where did it come from? And so, we did testing then with—we, from our neighbor, got a little bit of Roundup, Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, and we sprayed it on ten plants, and then those plants were marked. And then, when they did not die after about twelve days, we realized it had to have some sort of—some of Monsanto’s glyphosate in it, because Monsanto said, in the previous court trials, that if anything—any green thing is sprayed with Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and it does not die, it’s their gene that’s in it. So that’s why we suspected immediately it was Monsanto’s gene, herbicide gene, Roundup gene, in it. And that’s why we asked Monsanto to come, because what they had said, that if a farmer thinks he’s contaminated, he should notify Monsanto. And that’s what we did, on what they had said in the courts before.

AMY GOODMAN: What are the Schmeiser’s principles of food and agriculture?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, first of all, that all humans—number one, all humans have a right to food or to produce it, and that, number two, is that natural systems must be protected so that they can produce healthy food. Humans have a right to safe and nutritious food. And no rules should prevent countries controlling food imports. And everyone has a right to information about how their food is produced. Regions should have the right to regulate their own agriculture. Local production and consumption should be encouraged. So, like we say, local consumption or local produce, then you save the energy and the fuel that it’s required to move it thousands of miles, which happens, although, to a lot of us in North America. And seeds are a common property resource. And that’s where we felt very strongly that no one should have the right to the future of seeds. And then, no forms—no life forms should be patented. And terminator seeds should be globally banned. And we have a strong opinion that terminator seeds should never, never, ever be introduced, because, to us, it’s the—I think the most serious assault on life we’ve ever seen on this planet. When they come out with—want to come out with a gene that terminates the future of the germination of that seed, so that would totally control the world seed supply.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by a terminator seed.

PERCY SCHMEISER: A terminator gene basically, quite simply, is a gene that’s put into a seed. And when the seed becomes a plant, all seeds from that plant are sterile. And so, it cannot be used the following year for seed. But the danger also of the terminator gene, it can cross-pollinate into indigenous crops, heirloom crops, and render those seeds from those plants also sterile. So it’s a termination of the future of life.

AMY GOODMAN: So it forces farmers to buy seeds every year, rather than to conserve seeds so that they can be used every year.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Exactly. And that’s why we say it’s the greatest assault of life we’ve ever seen on this planet, where you terminate the future of life. Farmers would be forced to buy the seed each year, whether you’re a gardener, a tree planter or a grain producer.

And then the—so, and then, another one, farmers—freedom to exchange seeds should be protected. And one of the reasons for that is that, in the seed industry, we say that one glove does not fit all. My wife and I were developing seeds and plants suitable for our local climatic and soil conditions. But if we probably would have went to Montana or to the next province or 200 miles away, climatic conditions are different, soil conditions are different, and that’s why the farmers should always have that right to develop seeds and plants suitable for their own conditions. And that should never, ever be taken away, because we would use the biodiversity of our seeds and plants. And then, farmers should have the right—the right for the land and to be free of genetic contamination.

AMY GOODMAN: And how far have you gotten with these principles? Do you feel like, in the world, independent farmers are losing ground or gaining? I mean, is Monsanto gaining strength or losing?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, to answer that, I think that on the four crops that were introduced in 1996, which was maize, or corn, soybeans, cotton, especially in Canada, canola, is that it would be very difficult to find a way—and scientists say they don’t know if it ever can be recalled back out of the environment. Have we been able to solve it? I would say yes, because there is more concern, because when they wanted to introduce GMO wheat, GMO rice, GMO alfalfa, there was a big uproar by people in both our countries that no more GMOs should be introduced, because we saw the damage of what the four have done. So that’s why it’s so important. What we do today will affect generations to come in the seed—control of the seed and food supply of this world.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you now travel around the world. I mean, you were the—a member of the Saskatchewan legislature, ’67 to ’71. You were the mayor of your own hometown of Bruno in Saskatchewan. Were you traveling much then? And now, after these lawsuits against Monsanto, how much are you spreading word, like seeds, around the world?

PERCY SCHMEISER: Well, I could be probably traveling full times if I accepted all the invitations. But to give you an example, last year I probably was gone ten months from Saskatchewan, all over every continent, except Antarctica, to bring this information and awareness out. And at our age—we’re in retirement age—we felt that’s the least we can do. And one of the other reasons that we look at it is the—as I mentioned before, the future generation. My wife and I have fifteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And then we look at what kind of a future are we going to leave for them. And another thing that we’re very concerned about is how much of the funding for our research in our university now comes from corporations? And that really scares me, because we know that if the funding is applied to these universities and the land-grant colleges in the United States, how much control will the companies then have over our universities? So, what kind of a future? My wife and I have six grandchildren in university right now. What kind of future will they have if their academic freedom is controlled? And we don’t want to see that. A scientist should be free to express and release the findings that he develops or finds.

AMY GOODMAN: Has Monsanto dared to take you on again?

PERCY SCHMEISER: They’ve threatened us many times.

AMY GOODMAN: How did they threaten you?

PERCY SCHMEISER: They, with—I’ll give you an example. My wife and I were speaking in the Parliament in Cape Town of South Africa, and coming out of the Assembly, one of Monsanto’s representatives from Johannesburg ran face-to-face into us. And he lost his cool, and he said to my wife and myself—and he shook his fist in our face and said, “Nobody stands up to Monsanto. We are going to get both of you, somehow, some day, and destroy you both.” Phone calls my wife would receive: “You better watch it. We’re going to get you.” They would come into our driveway and watch what my wife would be doing all day. They would use their vehicles and sit on the roads alongside of our farmland, watch us all day long, to try and intimidate us and to put fear into us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what keeps you going?

PERCY SCHMEISER: I think that we feel that we have to stand up for the rights of farmers around the world. All my life I’ve been in agriculture and worked for agricultural policies and laws. And we feel that a farmer should never, ever lose the rights to his seeds or plants, because if we do, we’re going to be back to a serf system, we’re going to be back to a feudal system, that our forefathers, our grandfathers, left countries in Europe many years ago to get away from. Now, in less than—or 100 years, we’ve come full circle, where the control is not by kings or lords or barons, but now it’s corporations.

AMY GOODMAN: Percy Schmeiser, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

PERCY SCHMEISER: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning in the beautiful sunshine.

AMY GOODMAN: Right Livelihood laureate and Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser.