Sunday, February 28, 2010

FAR FROM THE FRONT IN AFGHANISTAN -- translation of Gehrmann's writing on Lack of Protest and Active Peace Movement in Germany 2010

FAR FROM THE FRONT IN AFGHANISTAN -- translation of Gehrmann's writing on Lack of Protest and Active Peace Movement in Germany 2010

a “Free Translation” by Kevin Stoda

The material translated below into English from German is from “Der Krieg ist Weit Weg”

by Sebastian Gehrmann, Frankfurter Rundschau.

Berlin. Imagen if there would be a war and no one would stand up and protest against it!

“One has to wonder,” said one onlooker on Saturday to another, “Do you see over there a pair of pacifists on the square?” Actually, on the square are 1500 people. The man continued, “Seven from ten Germans oppose the war in Afghanistan, but when it comes to protesting it [these days], one sees only the same old banners.” There are only the same old folks showing their true colors.

Standing next to the protestor’s stage [on Saturday Feb. 20] was Peter Strutynski. He had just been up on that stage speaking, raging, and shouting. “What actually will continue to grow in Afghanistan in the near future are opium poppies, corruption, and prostitution, “ as the Speaker of the Bundestag Parliamentary Committee on Peace and Public Opinion had been reported to claim that day.

However, no one has patience any more in order to take time and listen to politicians. War and nothing but war will be waged by the German military in the Hindu Kush. This must be stopped.

There was scattered applause for Peter Strutynski. “It is claimed that the Peace Movement is exhausted,” he continued “One hears here and there that the Peace movement doesn’t have the energy to mobilize.” Some don’t have the strength to continue, etc.

“’The war is very very far away’ says one man. Another one then claims, ‘We currently are overwhelmed by the Economic Crisis here. One has to be directly affected to take to the streets these days.”

Meanwhile one man walks by carrying an impressively huge poster and by his demeanor one is reminded of the great anti-weapons and anti-war demonstrations of years gone-by, such as during the anti-Vietnam War or anti-Iraq war protests. There must be a reason as to why the great demonstrations have now disappeared once again from the streets of Germany.? Strutynski responds, “I know but I fight windmills even if it is foggy.”

What Strutynski does recognize is that the masses are missing now in terms of visible support. Of the five major parties in the Bundestag or German Parliament, only one—THE LEFT Party—had advocated protest against the continuing war build up from Germany’s military in Afghanistan. Shaking his head, he observed, “Even the Green Party have pulled out of the Anti-War [Peace] movement.”

To this [crises in the Peace Movement put in play by the Greens’ public silence], he adds, “The opposition SPD deserve a special medal for weakly capitulating [to the governing coalition on this issue.” For Strutynski, the Social Democratic party [SPD] Germany is disaster-of-the-week. First, Sigmar Gabriel had said that there would be NO MORE TROOPS for Afghanistan. Next, Frank Walter Steinmeier [last year’s SPD candidate for Chancellor] announced that the party would support that very same plan [opposed by others in his party]. “I just don’t get it, “ he said and indicated that the government would be getting opposition votes for the 2010 troop buildup.

Many of those who had already advocated strong protest day turnouts in Munich and Dresden [earlier in February] are also deeply frustrated. Nevertheless, these protestors will always recall the famous words of Eugen Drewermanns of church-critic-fame who had once shouted during his days as protest leader, “Thank you all for coming here and simply saying ‘NO’.”


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Human Rights Abuse against Indigenous People in Bangladesh An Urgent Appeal for Protection

The following is an urgent action appeal from my friends at (Burma)Buddhist Relief. it tells of an attack in Bengladesh on the Buddhist minority there.

Human Rights Abuse against Indigenous People in Bangladesh
An Urgent Appeal for Protection

On February 19-20, 2010, members of the Bangladesh army and illegal Bengali settlers
attacked fourteen villages of the indigenous Jumma people in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) in Bangladesh. In these pre-planned attacks, at least 200 houses, seven shops, a UNDP-sponsored villagecenter, Buddhist temples, and a church were burned
to the ground.

After the settlers began torching the buildings, the army opened fire, killing at least six Jumma villagers and injuring at least twenty-five. Many others are missing.
To add insult to injury, six injured Jumma villagers who were admitted to Baghaichari hospital werearrested. The army claims that the attacks were actually
a clash between ethnic groups, that the soldiers firedonly blanks, and that the fires were set by the villagers themselves. All of these claims are patently false. Sixvillagers were killed, the villagers would not destroy their own homes, and no settlers were injured.

Because of the attacks, about 1,500 Jummas, whose houses were burned, are still taking refuge in the jungle. Since their food supplies were also destroyed, they are close to starvation, but no relief has been provided.

In order to prevent the truth from coming out, curfew has been imposed in the district. The Bangladesh army personnel have prevented journalists and human rights activists from visiting the affected areas. On February 20, two journalists from Bengali newspapers tried to enter the villages, but they were attacked by the illegal settlers, and one reporter’s motorcycle was burned.

These latest attacks are part of a drive by Bengalis, backed by the Bangladesh Army, to take over land owned by the indigenous Jumma people, which has been going on since 2005. The villagers have repeatedly lodged complaints, but nothing has
been done to stop the illegal settlers.

For a full report of the attacks, and the background of the struggle, please see the AsianHuman Rights Commission report “Bangladesh IPs Massacred for Land Grab” at

For more information, please contact Buddhist Relief Mission

Please send brief, politely-worded letters and emails ASAP

Please send brief, politely-worded letters urging justice and protection for the persecuted Jumma villagers of the Chittagong
Hill Tracts in Bangladesh.

Please ask that their lives and homes be protected and that their rights ensured. Send your letters to:

Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister
Government of the People's Republic of
Office of the Prime Minister
Tejgaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Ms. Renata Lok Dessallien
UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh

Ms. Navanethem Pillay
,United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights
Human Rights Council and Treaties Division
Complaint Procedure
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

High Commission of Bangladesh in
Sri Lanka
286 Bauddhaloka Mawatha
Colombo 7, Sri Lanka
Embassy of Bangladesh in the
United States
3510 International Drive, NW D.C. 20008
Washington DC, United States

High Commission of Bangladesh in the
United Kingdom
28 Queen's Gate,
London SW7 5JA, United Kingdom




By Kevin Stoda

This last week, President Obama asked the right questions but he used some questionable statistics. With lackluster, Obama told lackluster Republicans: “I’d like the Republicans to do a little soul searching and find out are there some things that you’d be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance and dealing seriously with the pre-existing condition issue.”

Just last year, the Obama White House had stated numerous times that there were 46 to 48 million (or 60% more than he noted last week) unemployed peoples in the USA who did not have health care. “The claim was made repeatedly in a report published by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) on June 2 and again in an op-ed published the same day by Christina Romer, the chair of CEA.”

“The claim that there are 46 million uninsured ‘Americans’ has also been used by members of Congress and news organizations.” The White House noted that this figure included 10 million non-Americans who do not have health care at the time last Spring when many census figures were counted.

This shift from nearly 50 Million Unemployed in America to 30 Million in less than 9 months is outrageous politics by the White House. As I (not-to-mention-my-wife) am currently an uninsured American living abroad, I would estimate that the number of Americans who are uninsured and are forced to work outside the USA during any recent census might be several million more than the 46 to 48 million figure used by the Obama Administration most of 2009. In other words, Obama’s White House is as of this past week undercounting well-over ten million transient or foreign (& American) laborers in and outside the USA who are not being covered by health care in the USA.

As late as October 2009, the Kaisar Foundation “ha[d] analyzed census data to provide a closer look at the people without health insurance in the U.S. Its report, focused on people younger than age 65, found 45.7 million "nonelderly" uninsured people in the U.S. last year (including the elderly, the number of uninsured was 46.3 million). Low-income adults without dependent children — who generally do not qualify for government programs like Medicaid — were hit hardest. Despite heated rhetoric on the issue, immigrants are not driving the problem; 80% of the uninsured under age 65 are native-born or naturalized citizens. The uncompensated cost of providing health care to the uninsured last year was $57 billion, three-quarters of which was picked up by the Federal Government.”

Read more:,8599,1930096,00.html

In the last decade, the federal government and states have only marginally improved health care in one area, i.e for children in the USA—and I am not certain that non-American children are covered as well by good health care. Moreover, the uninsured parents of “insured children” are forced to damage their health further by overworking or stressing themselves out job hunting full-time in today’s market.

Interestingly, there is still another report from CNN in 2009 that nearly 90 million Americans had been uninsured in 2007 and 2008. CNN reported, “The study, commissioned by the consumer health advocacy group Families USA, found 86.7 million Americans were uninsured at one point during the past two years.”

Why is the White House not using these higher, 86.7 million figures to make its point that we need health care across the board?

Worse still, a Raw Story report had already clarified last December 2009, “If Democrats manage to pull off efforts to reform the US healthcare system and ensure coverage for millions who are currently without insurance, the new system -- by design -- will likely still leave tens of thousands to die without insurance before reforms kick in.”

In addition, “A Raw Story analysis, based on a recent Harvard Medical School study, estimates that 135,000 American citizens and over 6,600 US veterans will die due to a lack of health insurance before current proposed healthcare reform measures would take effect.”
To make the numbers easier to envision for readers, The Raw Story explained, “One hundred and thirty-five thousand US lives far exceeds the total number of Americans who died in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the attacks of 9/11 combined. The lives of over 6,600 US veterans is more -- by over 1,300 -- than the total number of US soldiers who have thus far died in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”
The only credible source that might indicate that the lower totals of uninsured peoples in America used last week by Obama to talk to Republicans in congress is appropriate comes from a WSJ article. In late June 2009 the Wall Street Journal’s Carl Bialik wrote about the “Unhealthy Accounting of Uninsured Americans”. Bialik noted, “The Census Bureau estimates that the number of uninsured amounts to 45.7 million people. But the agency might be overcounting by millions due to faulty assumptions. Another problem: That 45.7 million figure includes undocumented immigrants, even though they aren't likely to be covered under new laws.”

I read through Bialik’s article, but found only half of his flawed assumption charges actually held water.

For example, Bialik writes, “Of the rest, some people are eligible for health insurance but don't know it and many can afford it but don't want it. About 43% of uninsured nonelderly adults have incomes greater than 2.5 times the poverty level, according to a report released Tuesday by the business-backed Employment Policies Institute.”

Again Bialik is making too many assumptions. I think a lot of civil servants do fail to notify people of their legal eligibilities for health care at the state and federal level.

As well, Bialik ignores the millions of US contract employees and businessmen working abroad to bring earnings back to the USA each year. I, for example, have been making that much money in some of the last 2 decades, but often I have had no health insurance for or within the continental USA. (As a teacher, I often have 2 to 4 months holiday in the year which would theoretically allow me to return t the USA—but due to lack of insurance I have often avoided doing so for more than a month.)

I wonder how many other overseas-laboring (or contracting) Americans in places, like Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere do not have good health care coverage when they return to their families in the USA each year.

This condition of “failing to have state-side insurance” does not have to do with the fact that these individuals do not want insurance. Other realities, like pre-existing conditions rules or the very high start-up costs of health care for a one to three month-long visit back in the USA are too much to put financially together at one time for most Americans with families. (i.e. Have you tried to get good short-duration full time health coverage in the USA? How much do you think it costs?)

In summary, why is Obama Administration slacking off on using a well-backed statistic that there were nearly 50 million people in American in 2009 who were uninsured? The President needs to be using robust figures and stronger language in protecting interests and concerns of all Americans anywhere and all peoples living within its borders.


Friday, February 26, 2010



By Kevin Anthony Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany

This past week started with news of the collapse of the Dutch government over the plans to extend NATO’s role in Afghanistan [, i.e. all NATO states have been under pressure of the United States to expand the role of NATO]. According to official state news agencies, the Dutch government collapsed over a division “between coalition parties about extending Dutch military participation in Afghanistan.” Most of the governing coalition ended up opposing the Prime Minister’s desire to extend the timetable. News of the collapse had spread by early last Saturday morning, but it was not official till Monday when the Queen Beatrix could accept the resignation of the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende.
“The stand-off began after . . . .leader of the Labour Party, drew a line in the sand over extending the Dutch mission in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan - coalition partners wanted to consider this option after a specific request from NATO to do so.” Balkenende claimed, “We've experienced this failure both individually and collectively as a defeat. This doesn't change anything about the facts or the conclusions we have reached.”,,5272193,00.html
“The outgoing prime minister said he expected the Netherlands to withdraw its 2,000 soldiers from Afghanistan in August as scheduled, but he also voiced concern about the impact of the withdrawal on his country's international standing. ‘The moment the Netherlands says as sole and first country [to NATO and Afghanistan] we will no longer have activities at the end of 2010, it will raise questions in other countries and this really pains me,’” Balkenende noted.

Meanwhile, Canada has also noted it will leave Afghanistan by 2011.
On the weekend, protests in Berlin were held against the increasing Germany’s role in the Afghan War. Democracy Now reported: “In Germany, over a thousand antiwar protesters rallied in Berlin on Saturday to demonstrate against Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan. Germany is planning to beef up its presence in Afghanistan, where its 4,300 troops make up the third-largest contingent after the United States and Britain. Many protesters said they did not understand why Germany was in Afghanistan in the first place.”

According to one German activist that day, “It’s almost too late, but we hope to convey the message that not one soldier has to be sent to Afghanistan. That’s why we are protesting here. The German people have paid enough taxes, and there are more and more taxes being squeezed out of us just to finance the American wars. We have in Germany a constitution that is still valid, that states that from German ground we will not instigate a war, but only defend ourselves. The Afghans never attacked us. So what are our soldiers doing in Afghanistan?”

Earlier in the month, there had been large protests in Munich against the planned increase in all NATO involvement in Afghanistan.


Interestingly, German media has appeared to be more interested in what was happening in the Netherlands than in the protests in Berlin on either Sunday or Saturday. Even now when I do web searches on the topic of “protest against NATO expansion by Germany, mostly only the Islamic-media-world seems to covers the opposition. Here is an article from Tehran.

Here is another Islamic press article.

In short, on Monday after the protests on the weekend in Berlin [, i.e. in the run-up to a major vote today in the German Parliament to approve German troop increases in Afghanistan], little or nothing was made of the activists efforts in any major media sources of the public opposition to NATO expansion in Germany.
It should be noted that Germany already has the third highest presence among NATO allies in Afghanistan.


Only DIE LINKE (The Left) Party stood firm against the nearly 17% increase in German troop involvement in Afghanistan approved by the German Bundestag today. Soon Germany will have well over 5300 troops in Afghanistan. On the other hand, despite the media blackout on the popular debate about Germany’s role in NATO outside of Europe, it should be noted that nearly 160 German parliamentary representatives either withheld their vote or directly voted against the NATO troop increase.

DIE LINKE party tried to use a series of parliamentary rules and procedures to delay the vote on the immediate expansion of German troop presence in Afghanistan. However, the opposition SPD leadereship eventually sided with the ruling German coalition to vote down procedural blockage of floor debate by the leftist and some Green and SPD party members.

I fully believe the self-censorship of the German media has been GREATLY responsible in recent months to the lack of German citizen’s attention to the details of Germany’s creeping leadership in NATO as an active war executioner. Just this past Sunday, I heard a local minister say the following when I noted that my brother-in-law was being sent to Afghanistan. The pastor said, “We don’t even hear much about Afghanistan any more.”

This is a sad trend in media and society. This is because it signals a shift in Germany’s sense of self in the Post-Nazi era. As in the case of Japan, Germany had largely been proud to have a sort of peace constitution in place since 1949. That is, “Germany's post-war Constitution (Basic Law) was until the late 1990s held to prohibit participation in wars outside its borders. However, since then Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, however, has found another interpretation of the Constitution, i.e. “that - without amending the Constitution or any other pertinent legislation – has allowed “a ‘German solution’ which reconciles the putative post-war prohibitions with Germany's obligations as a member of the United Nations.”

By not questioning the creeping expansion of Germany as a nation carrying out war-making powers across its borders, e.g. in Afghanistan, in this decade, the German media is doing a disservice to its own target audience. Moreover, the media is lulling German citizens into believing that the end of war is coming soon, i.e. with Obama’s next big push in Afghanistan and Pakistan this spring.

“Whereas during the Cold War the Bundeswehr was functioning within its original function in defending its borders and the alliance, conscientious objection within the ranks of the military was of rather abstract importance. This changed the moment defense missions began to be redefined and inflated to include the most distant world regions such as the Hindukush. At this point, individual Bundeswehr soldiers suddenly began to refuse to obey orders which they considered incompatible with Basic Law and international law standards. The most consequential case happened in 2003 when Major Florian Pfaff, at that time Major in the Bundeswehr, bravely opposed orders that would have involved knowingly participating in a “crime against international law” (Professor Reinhard Merkel, Hamburg).”

In the case of Major Florian Pfaff, the German courts ruled that demoting the major to captain was appropriate. Since then, the Peace Constitution and nation’s love affair with the International Laws, with which it should be embedded in limiting Germany’s roles in foreign wars, has practically ceased in most of German media.
This lack of self-reflection on the changes in German media attitude toward the making of foreign wars in Germany is tragic. Germans need to be encouraged to consider rolling the clock back on a trend that is not good for its standing as a peacemaker or at least as a just or neutral partner in many parts of the third world.
In summary, “The Bundeswehr’s classic mission of defending Germany’s borders and the NATO alliance are still valid, yet have unmistakably become less important. Instead . . . the German military’s top priority as ‘the prevention of international conflicts and crisis management, to include the fight against international terrorism’, and only as a second priority is the ‘protection of German territory and its citizens’ listed.” In addition, “[t]he Bundeswehr’s new and almost exclusive orientation as an intervention force deployed in ‘conflict management and crisis prevention’ is also [now] reflected by its structure: In the case of ‘rapid, robust reaction and network-enabled operations for missions involving high-intensity conflicts’ – which is the Orwellian newspeak for ‘war’ in post-modern military jargon – a contingent of 35,000 German soldiers is planned. This includes 15,000 to be deployed in the ‘NATO Response Force’, 18,000 as the German contribution to the European rapid reaction force, in accordance with the ‘European Headline Goal’, 1,000 to be deployed by the United Nations according to the “UN Standby arrangement system” as well as 1,000 to be sent in national rescue and evacuation operations”.


Thursday, February 25, 2010



By Kevin Anthony Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany

I really doubt that it is my presence in Germany that has forced the image or rebranding of Citibank here, however, Citibank is certainly undertaking that rebranding full-speed ahead here this year. Citibank Germany is now called TARGO or Targobank (Targo Bank).

This website [below] of Citibank Germany has now been changed to Targo Bank.

Targo Bank has actually been a bank brand in Germany of Citibank for sometime, i.e. after Citibank first bought out Targo in 2007. [Quickly, Citibank’s logo on the Werder Bremen Soccer team was changed at that time to Targo.]

Since the beginning of 2007, I have written nearly ten articles on the need for the USA federal government to take over Citibank and turn it into something else—like a halfway humane banking and financial entity which doesn’t rob thousands (or millions) of peoples of their good credit rating (and good business reputations) each year. One of the more recent articles I published was “TIME TO TAKE OVER CITIBANK AMERICAN TAXPAYERS: DEMAND THAT OBAMA FORCE IT TO GIVE LOANS TO HELP HOME OWNERS AND WORKERS TAKE OVER BADLY RUN COMPANIES LIKE GENERAL MOTORS”.

I have been a victim of Citibank’s illegal financial assistance practices and had filed claims against the company with 5 Attorney Generals in 4 states during the past decade. One of the more popular articles of mine on Citibank was: “CITIBANK CORRUPTION EXPLAINED!!!”

German economic newspapers note that Citibank (now officially Targo) is continuing to make profits hand over fist in Germany. What is not often noted in the press is that several of the private but U.S.-federal- and USA-military-contracting firms in Germany often require their employees to use Citibank cards. How did Citibank earn or come to command such a cozy relationship with USA contractors around the world?

I’d like to see some investigation of Citibank’s practices in U.S. federal and military contracting in Germany and around the globe.

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I don't like to do fundraising, but since the HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY USES your money to pay to lobby Congress, I have agreed to share this letter.

Dear Kevin,

Right now President Obama and a bi-partisan group of Congressional leaders are in a high stakes nationally televised meeting on healthcare reform. This summit is President Obama's attempt to jumpstart health reform that is stalled in Congress.

We're outraged that in the last year health insurance companies earned 56% more in profits and covered 2.7 million fewer people.[1] And, healthcare insurance rate hikes of up to 39 percent are now happening across the country![2]

It's time for American families to come together to state the obvious. Congress represents us, the families of America, not insurance companies. They must take action to pass health reform now before more families lose their access to healthcare and are priced out of getting the care they need.

The days following the summit will make or break healthcare reform. . . .

What's the plan? MomsRising members will work in unison with other national organizations to amplify the drumbeat of emails and calls to Congress in the coming weeks, reminding them that America's families need reform now.

We're already off to an amazing start. Just yesterday people across America sent over a MILLION messages to Congress telling them to get down to business and pass real healthcare reform. In the next few days we'll build on this momentum by circulating a massive nationwide petition that calls on Congress to stand up for families, not health insurance lobbyists, and get healthcare reform done. And we'll make sure Congress can't ignore us by donning our MomsRising supermom t-shirts and personally delivering these petitions.


Congress needs to hear that we can't wait any longer. We need healthcare reform now. No excuses. No more politics. It's time to get it done.

But we need your help. This campaign for healthcare reform has taken longer than we had hoped and we can't keep up the fight without your continued support. Can you help out now . . . .?

Now is the time to give it all we've got. We are so close to finally passing real healthcare reform which stops unfair insurance practices that deny people coverage who have pre-existing conditions and raises rates or drops people just when they get sick. We have fought too hard and too long to let the insurance companies win another battle and continue to line their pockets at the expense of America's families and our children's health. Help push this win over the finish line. We may not have another chance like this for many years to come.

Thank you for the heroism you show every day!

--Donna, Ashley, Anita, Julia, Molly, Ariana, Kristin, and the MomsRising Team




Sunday, February 21, 2010

STACK’S SUICIDE ATTACK REMINISCENT of Oklahoma City Bombing, 9-11, and the Corder OR Byck Suicide Attacks on the White House

STACK’S SUICIDE ATTACK REMINISCENT of Oklahoma City Bombing, 9-11, and the Corder OR Byck Suicide Attacks on the White House

By Alone, REVIEW from ABROAD

Most readers know that last week, a man named Joseph Andrew Stack flew a plane into an IRS [Internal Revenue Service] office building, the Echelon Building, in Austin, Texas—killing at least one person. His name was reportedly, Joseph Stack.

It seems the man left a lot of suicide notes online explaining the reasons for his attack on the IRS as he was a computer software program and knew how to get his message across online. I haven’t tried much to search online for the suicide messages because I have been told that a lot of websites and government officials had the messages taken down. However, now on the web new ones are appearing.

Notice how the producer of this video managed to add Middle Eastern rhythm to the letter—implying that some Eastern conspiracy or prediction from Osama bin Laden may be coming true in good old USA. I don’t know readers. What do you say? Whose propaganda is now here at work—fascist westerners against Islam or fascist Islamists against the West?

Here is a less provocative version. It doesn’t bias with the music—at least.

I used to Drive into Austin on that highway by the IRS offices when I lived in Bryan, Texas and visited the Texas state capital. I used to be listening sometimes to loud music like this one.

There are some news stories online that have the truer effect of a lot of cars passing by without slowing—acting oblivious to the smoke and destruction about them.

This one provides you with interviews from witnesses of the fire at the man’s house and at the Echelon Building.
More than 50 YouTube videos are online currently.

Psychological troubles will be faced by many for months or years to come. This video gives some advice for those affected. People who have experienced similar attacks in the past, like at the Pentagon, World Trade Centers or OKC bombings might all have memories reawakened.

This video reminds us, Americans, how many have been facing PTSD in recent years.

Three ways of identifying Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome or Disorder (PTSD) is explained on this site.

I believe partially society, government, and the marginalization of mentally disturbed peoples is a great cause of the stress we all face. This site shares with great examples of how politics and stress lead to increased explosions in PTSD and attacks on others.


There was a lot of interest to place the blame for Stack’s attack in Austin on Islamic Terrorists—as had occurred after the OKC Bombings in 1995.

The fact is, suicide by plane was not that uncommon in America prior to 9-11. In 1974, an unemployed Tire Salesman tried to kill Richard Nixon in a suicidal attack on the White House. The man’s name was Samuel Byck, and Byck was immortalized in a movie with Sean Penn playing his life on screen.

In 1994, another disturbed American--receiving little or no help for his mental illness—tried to fly his plane into the Clinton White House.
“The authorities said the plane had been stolen and the pilot was Frank Eugene Corder, a 38-year-old truck driver from Maryland. His relatives said he had struggled with vertiginous moods, alcohol, a drug conviction, financial problems, the recent rupture of his third marriage and the death of his father. Associates said that Mr. Corder, who was killed in the crash, even told a friend last year that he felt so hopeless he might fly a plane on a suicide mission to the White House. That could not be confirmed.”


I have reviewed the world press and see that reports on the recent suicide attack on the IRS in Austin has been analyzed typically as follows. The first part of this Brisbane paper first shared (1) what happened on Feb. 18, 2010. Next, (2) the paper defers to FBI reports and then back to (3) eyewitness reports. Soon, the (4) FBI is allowed to speak again—in this case praising the work of volunteers, especially federal workers, whose quick actions probably saved several lives in the minutes after the attack. Finally, the (5) attacker is given some explanation. That is the WHY of the attack is given background.

The UK’s TimesOnline provided a similar story on its February 19, 2010 report, entitled “Joseph A Stack, Software Engineer who Fell Out with Taxman, Flies aircraft into IRS.”

Timesonline quoted,“Homeland Security officials [who] said the act was not connected to terrorism, but that the F16 Air Force jets had been scrambled ‘due to an abundance of caution’.”
However, the writer contradicted the Homeland Security’s downplaying the situation a bit by noting, “More than an hour after impact, flames poured from the smashed windows and thick black smoke filled the air. Aviation experts expressed shock at the intensity of the flames based on the relatively small amount of fuel the aircraft would have been able to carry, suggesting that Mr. Stack may have been carrying some sort of accelerant or explosive on board at the time of impact.”
Most of the world was surprised at how fast the FBI was able to release information on Mr. Stack, his family, and his burning home several miles north of Austin.
Here is the comment of one Timesonline reader, named WD, to the worldwide reporting on the attack on another USA federal building last February 18 and 19:

“Looks like the Looney’s [Looney newsmen and Looney bloggers] are all over this [story]. I had to shake my head at the number of ‘news’ people who can't seem to grasp reality. In this case, the reality is that everybody has a breaking point but nobody admits it. It is such a wonderful opportunity for survivors to display their ‘civilization’ and ‘superior intellect’ that essentially makes this guy's death wish completely lost. Liberals and conservatives are blaming each other or the "Tea Party" people as if he made a political statement. Others just blame engineers & programmers for being "strange."
I read the complete document before it was pulled. I've heard dozens of opinions and descriptions of it. None of them the least bit accurate.”

WD continues, “His indictment was dysfunctional courts and government agencies and he could have made a very valid point had he found the strength to carry on. American tax laws are so confusing, arbitrary and voluminous that nobody, not even our best tax lawyers really understand them but he was held responsible, and financially wiped out several times, for following the best tax advice available. Since yesterday, I have heard at least a dozen people say they, at one time, were very close to doing the same thing. But, it sounds more enlightened to just write him off as a political nutcase even as his friends are saying he had zero interest in politics. Otherwise, we might need to do some serious thinking and rebuilding.”

I think that many other foreigners watching America in 2010 would agree that Stack’s indictment of “dysfunctional courts and government agencies” to be on the mark for the stress far many Americans are feeling these days.

In the same online paper, Russell Turner adds, “Surprised more don't do it to the banks!!! They don't listen either, they get bailed out with our money, but there not so keen to bail/lend it!!! . . . Know how he feels, poor guy. Must have been at his wits end, imagine explaining, pleading with a gov dept when they say 'the computer say's no/yes'!!”

Geraldine Leal typed in under comments: “Sounds fair to me. Unfortunately he might have thought he was playing a computer game?”

Mark Jones wrote, “Having read the 'Manifesto' it seems that this was a well educated, intelligent man who had been pushed too far by the IRS. His method of protest is despicable, and I hope that no one else has been killed, but judging by the number of IRS horror stories that are popping up all over the web he is by no means alone in his loathing of the Tax Man.”

Another noted, “Sorry that a man had to die, but the IRS and HMRC are relentless on hard working people- but the real tax invaders are untouchable due to the governmental & corporate protection provided. Of the expenses fiddling MP's how many really got away with it, more than the token that the CPS are attempting to charge ( but will never pursue).”

W. Hutchison responded, “I am quite surprised that there have been no major acts of violence against the tax authorities in this country.More so when people are going to be taxed till the pips squeak whilst thousand of bankers pick up million pound tax-paid taxpayer funded bonuses.”

Meanwhile, Canadians as a whole were more condemning. Anonymous wrote: “the man was a scumbag coward...and a murderer.. the IRS isn't some 'entity' it's made up of human beings with jobs to do... why should he get special tax treatment when we don't? what i object to is all of the tax breaks for the uber wealthy..and spending waste.. tax money spent well educates our children, puts out our fires, protects our country and so on...”

Another Canadian noted, “What the hell makes people tick? Reminds me of the movie with Micahael Douglas, Falling Down. Disgruntled man flies plane into federal offices.”

Here is Mr. Stack’s final rant on this website. [It had disappeared but has come back up.]



Stiglitz for President NOW

Stiglitz for President NOW

By Kevin Stoda, Germany

Europeans are waiting for America to lead the way in getting the banks and financial institutions properly regulated. The lack of transparency has been a big issue for the last 15 years or more world-wide with the derivatives created and peddled around the globe as investments. In short, in 2010 American banks and European banks are still gambling with our savings—where the risk is born by American taxpayers. It is no secret that the Greek, Irish, Spanish and Portuguese crises were perpetrated by the same financing tricks that so-called investment firms and banks created in the derivative markets.

Germans and other European states are looking for the federal government in the USA to truly separate the investment risk takers (those institutions playing in high risk investments and derivatives) from the many serous and sound banks that we need to have. Such banks need to behave more traditionally in terms of promoting proper savings and proper loans or investment activities. They can be allowed to be tied to high-risk investments that brought governments down in the 1990s and in 2008.

Joseph Stiglitz was on Democracy Now last week and spoke on this topic. After hearing this interview, I nominate Joseph Stiglitz to take over the American finance reform and recovery effort in 2010 ( and do so immediately) .

Listen to or read about Stiglitz’s views here from the DN interview[below]. Or read his books and journals.

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at Columbia University. His latest book is Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy.

As President Obama defends the success of his one-year-old $787 billion stimulus package, we speak to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who says the stimulus was both not big enough and too focused on tax cuts. Stiglitz is the author of the new book Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, which analyzes the causes of the Great Recession of 2008 and calls for overcoming what he calls an “ersatz capitalism” that socializes losses but privatizes gains. The completer interview is below

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama defended the success of his one-year-old $787 billion stimulus package Wednesday. Speaking on the first anniversary of the day he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, Obama said it helped prevent the country from sliding into a depression.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility. It’s one of the main reasons the economy has gone from shrinking by six percent to growing at about six percent. And this morning we learned that manufacturing production posted a strong gain. So far, the Recovery Act is responsible for the jobs of about two million Americans who would otherwise be unemployed.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama’s comments come in the midst of a bitter debate between Democrats and Republicans over the success of the stimulus bill. The White House is now aggressively trying convince Americans of the virtues of the stimulus package.
This week Vice President Joseph Biden and other administration officials are traveling across the country, talking up the Recovery Act and trying to clear up public confusion between the bailout and the stimulus.
On Wednesday, Obama also acknowledged the limited success of his stimulus package in tackling rising unemployment.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You can argue, rightly, that we haven’t made as much progress as we need to make when it comes to spurring job creation. That’s part of the reason why the Recovery Act is on track to save or create another 1.5 million jobs in 2010. That’s part of the reason why I expect Congress to pass additional measures as quickly as possible that will help our small business owners create new jobs, give them more of an incentive to hire.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more on the success of the stimulus, what to expect from the Obama administration and Congress, and the state of the American and global economy, we’re joined now from Chicago by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. His latest book analyzes the causes of the Great Recession of 2008 and offers suggestions for how this country can learn from what he describes as a “near-death experience” instead of continuing what he calls an “ersatz capitalism” that socializes losses but privatizes gains. His book is calledFreefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy.
Well, Joe Stiglitz, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don’t you start off by assessing this first anniversary of the stimulus?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, it has made a difference. I think President Obama is absolutely right that, were it not for the stimulus bill, unemployment would be higher, much higher, than it is today.
And we should be clear that the unemployment rate that we have today is unacceptable. Unemployment is almost ten percent. But more telling, more than one out of six Americans who would like a full-time job cannot get one now.
The problem with the stimulus was not that it didn’t work, but it wasn’t big enough, and it wasn’t as well designed as I would have—I would have liked. Two problems. What was needed was a stimulus of at least 50 percent larger. Even the President’s own economic adviser talked about the need for a $1.2 trillion bill. But unfortunately, President Obama wasn’t given that choice. Even before it was presented to him, it was downscaled to a choice between $600 and $800 billion, and he pushed for the larger number.
The second problem was that about a third of it is in tax cuts. And with Americans burdened with debt, with the uncertainties in the job market, much of that tax cut went into savings, not into spending. And the nature of a stimulus is you have to spend it. So while the money may have given them more security, may have provided individual benefits, it did not provide the stimulus that, for instance, directing money to help states maintain their universities, schools, teachers, would have done.
You know, the unusual situation we have today is there are a lot of youth unemployment, but the schools, the universities are being cut back so that they can’t use this time to build up their skills. Other countries have really tried to do it much better, tried to make sure that at least if you can’t get a job, you can get skills that increase your productivity.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz, isn’t there a question in terms of how the administration even tried to sell this bill to the American public that’s created the enormous confusion and the pessimism now among the people, in terms of how many jobs were actually created? Because they always talked about saving or creating new jobs, when the reality is that it appears that the bulk of the stimulus basically went to saving jobs, not creating any, obviously, net gains in US employment.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Yeah, I agree with you. There were actually two problems in, you might say, marketing. The first is that the administration, at the same time, continued the massive bailout of the banks. And that was a terribly designed measure, where money was poured into the banks, that was defended on the grounds that it would restart credit and the flow of credit. It didn’t work. There were no restraints. And the fact that as we were pouring money into the banks, they were pouring money out in bonuses, really got the ire of the American people. So that was the first problem.
The second problem one is, as you said, that they talked about this ambiguity of saving or creating. But that was a difficult one to try to explain. The economists call this the “counterfactual”—what it would have been, but for the stimulus. And that’s a hard concept to try to explain to people: if we didn’t have the stimulus, the unemployment rate would have been even higher.
Interesting thing was, part of the problem, the administration was overly optimistic about where the economy was going, which is part of the reason that they didn’t have the size of the stimulus that they needed. They thought the unemployment rate was going to peak at about ten percent and that they were going to bring it down to eight percent, as opposed to other people, like Mark Zandi, who were talking about unemployment peaking around 12 percent, and they’d be bringing it down to ten percent. I was among those who were more pessimistic about where the direction of the economy was going, and unfortunately, the bears, people like me who didn’t—who thought that there were real problems, proved to be correct.
AMY GOODMAN: In that case, Joe Stiglitz, has the White House asked you to join them?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: No, no. They have from time to time talked about, you know, advice on particular issues. We’ve kept in contact, but they have—you know, any administration has their team that they’re going to have to rely on.
AMY GOODMAN: But quite seriously, and then you look at President Obama’s team, and what is your assessment of them? So they don’t choose you, who’s gotten it right, but they do, for example, the bigger team, the ones in charge, Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner. What’s your assessment of them?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, you know, they’re—they are very devoted. I do think that they have the interest of the country at heart.
There is a problem, and a problem that I talked about in my book Freefall. Actually, there’s more than one problem. One of them is that they were so associated with the failures of the past that even were they to give the correct advice, there would be a suspicion. There would be a suspicion, partly, as I say, because they’ve been very closely connected with some of the measures that were clearly done to benefit the financial sector, the banks.
Two examples. They were—one of them was very closely associated with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that allowed the “too big to fail” banks to get even bigger. For commercial banks, that are supposed to do boring banking, and the banks, the investment banks, that are supposed to manage money for high-income people, they allowed those to get together, and the culture of risk-taking took over the whole industry. They were responsible for the law that said we will not allow the regulators to regulate derivatives, these—what Warren Buffett called “financial weapons of mass destruction.” One bailout, that of AIG, costing taxpayers $180 billion. So, you know, that was the first problem.
The second one is that it’s not always clear that people change their mindset so quickly. If you believe that markets are always self-correcting, that they always take care of themselves, that you don’t need regulation—even when the evidence comes in, that that’s not true—the question is, do you think it’s a minor adjustment that’s required, or do you think there’s a more major overhaul that’s required? Is there a problem with the plumbing—we just need to unclog the plumbing, and everything will flow quickly? Or is the real problem with the design of the system, the balance between the market and the state? And the risk is that they will be too aligned with the mistaken economic philosophy that has dominated the last three decades.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, professor at Columbia University, has just written a new book. It’s called Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. We’ll be back with him in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking with Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, professor at Columbia University. His latest book is called Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz, one of the things that intrigued me about your book was the effort that you did to look at the historical development that preceded this Great Recession of 2007, 2008. You actually trace the origins of some of the aspects of the crisis back about a decade to what was happening in the third world, especially in Asia, all of the countries that experienced crises in 1997, 1998—Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. And it reminded me very much that people forget that the Great Depression of the 1930s was actually preceded by an enormous crisis in the third world in the 1920s that, if people had been looking, would have told them what was about to happen here in the United States. Now, you had a front-row seat in that, because you were involved with the World Bank back then. Could you talk about what happened in the late ’90s and its relationship to the current crisis?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: There are actually two connections. One of them is that we were seeing played out around the world the consequences of the kinds of deregulation, financial market deregulation, that had begun in the United States and around the world in the era of Reagan and Thatcher. In the quarter-century before that, the world had experienced the first extended period in which there was no financial crisis since the beginning of capitalism. Financial crises had happened over and over and over again, and after the Great Depression, we passed a set of regulations in the United States, and similar ones in other countries, that at last had provided an element of financial stability. We had stopped the banks from engaging in the excesses that had repeatedly marked their behavior.
We forgot that, those lessons. We deregulated. Unfortunately, the World Bank and the IMF were at the forefront of that in the days and the years before I arrived, and the result of that was that there were literally more than a hundred financial crises around the world in the period after the deregulation movement began. And the consequences were really serious. I saw, for instance, Indonesia, in the central island of Java, the unemployment rate got up to 40 percent. You know, I can remember people saying, you know, “We’re so much smarter than we were back in the Great Depression, we know how to prevent another recession of that depth.” But we were as smart then as we are now, and the right policies were not put into place, and Indonesia went into this really serious depression.
The second link is a forward-looking link. Because of the way the US Treasury and the IMF managed those crises around the world, the policies they pushed on these countries, the economic downturns turned into recessions, recessions turned into depressions. I talked to the prime minister of one of these countries, and he said, quite frankly, “We were in the class of ’97. We saw what happens if you don’t have enough reserves.” And then he went on to say, “We’ll never let this happen again.” And he and countries all over the developing world started to save. They started to build up reserves, hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
Now, this led to greater security for them, but it has contributed to a global problem. If people aren’t spending, there’s a lack of global aggregate demand, a lack of spending that will sustain the global economy. In a world of globalization, it is global aggregate demand that matters a great deal.
So, what we are now seeing, and we’re likely to see in the future, is that this problem, already serious, is going to get worse, because the countries that did better in this crisis were the countries that had built up the most reserves. China has built up reserves of over $2.3 trillion. Yeah, it’s a huge amount of money. China is the one country that never went into a recession. Growth did slow down from about 12 percent down to seven, eight percent, maybe for some quarters even lower than that, but it’s back to nine percent. It could do that because it had these huge reserves. So the lesson that countries are learning is save, don’t spend. And, of course, if the countries follow that lesson, then the global recovery will be very anemic.
AMY GOODMAN: Coming forward to today, Joe Stiglitz, I wanted to turn to President Obama in his State of the Union address, who called for a freeze on government spending, except, well, notably, in relation to spending on war. The record $3.8 trillion budget Obama unveiled the following week boosts money for war while cutting domestic spending. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama in his State of the Union address. Your assessment of this? You’re also author, with Linda Bilmes, of The Three Trillion Dollar War. What about the cost of war and the spending freeze on everything but war?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, first, wars are very expensive, and that was the point that Linda and I made in our book, that much of the cost of the war is beneath the ground, dishonest accounting, costs that we’re going to have to pay, for instance, for the disabled. The fraction of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that are coming back disabled is enormous. It’s now almost one out of two. And many of these disabilities are very, very serious. And we are going to be paying these costs for a half-century going forward. So we should remember that these costs are larger than the costs that they’re admitting to.
But going back to the basic economics of what we’re talking about here, two points I’d make. The first is a point that Linda and I made in our book, and that is, spending on the war is spending that does not stimulate the economy. It provides the least bang for the buck in terms of the economy of almost any other kind of spending. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve used large numbers of foreign contractors. Money that’s spent over there doesn’t have a second round of effects back at home. What we count on when we spend money in other areas is that we spend the money, the people who receive the money spend the money, that creates more jobs, and then they spend the money. And that round—that circulation of the money around keeps building up. But if we spend the money over on war costs, we don’t get those kinds of indirect benefits.
Secondly, unlike other kinds of spending—on investments, on education, infrastructure, technology—we don’t get extra tax revenues from the extra growth. When we spend money on these other areas, the economy grows. When the economy grows, tax revenues increase. It’s reflecting the same kind of shortsighted behavior perceptions that got the country into trouble in the first place. It’s not the national debt today that matters; it’s the national debt five, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. If we spend the money well and that creates a stronger economy, that will create more tax revenue. And just like a firm borrows to make profits in the future, it makes perfect sense for us to borrow to create jobs today and to get more tax revenues in the future, and our national debt will actually be lower if we spend more money now.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz—
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: The final point, the President—
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m sorry. Go ahead.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: You know, I just want to emphasize the point, the jobs problem is much more serious than the President seems to realize. We’re not going to be out of this by 2011, 2012. Even the administration and the CBO have said unemployment—in their, I think, optimistic projections—is not going to get back to normal at least until the middle of the decade. So the timing here is also off.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Joe Stiglitz, you’ve also urged a second stimulus package, especially focusing on the problems that state governments are going through, because, obviously, as real estate has collapsed, the value of real estate throughout the country has collapsed, that means that property taxes, which are a huge portion of local state revenues, have also collapsed. And this is going to be a problem for years to come, in terms of states being able to balance their budgets.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s exactly right. And the important point is that the states have what are called “balanced budget framework.” That means that the revenues are going down, and they’re going down by over $200 billion a year. As the revenues go down, they either have to cut back spending or raise taxes. This is a negative stimulus to the economy. So the stimulus at the federal level is being offset by the negative stimulus at the state level.
Same problem happened in the Great Depression. One of the reasons the Great Depression lasted as long as it did was that as the New Deal kicked in, the states were contracting. And the result of it was that we didn’t really recover for years from the Great Depression.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Joe Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist. His new book is called Freefall. You know, in our headlines, we just read that Yvo de Boer, the head of the climate change talks in Copenhagen, is quitting, is resigning. He won’t be there for the Mexico City talks. You’ve been very involved with the issue of climate change. Talk about what needs to be done and what you feel isn’t being done by this country.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, let me first try to give a link between climate change and the economic recovery. What is so disturbing about our current global economic situation is that we have this enormous excess capacity, and we have these unmet needs, unmet needs that we have to retrofit the global economy to meet the challenges of global warming. We have a couple billion people living in dire poverty around the world. We need to have investment to increase their standards of living. So we have this incongruity of excess supply and unmet needs. And our economy and our political leaders can’t seem to bring the two together.
In Copenhagen, if we had succeeded in raising the price of carbon—the cost of carbon emissions that pollute the atmosphere are going to impose enormous costs all over the world. If we had succeeded in doing that, that would have provided a market signal. It would have told firms, you have to invest to reduce your carbon emissions. There would have been this retrofitting of the global economy to meet the needs of global warming. That would have stimulated an enormous level of investment and stimulated a lot of spending. And that would have been the critical thing that could have gotten us out of the current Great Recession.
But as it is, what we did is left even greater uncertainty. Where are we going? The result of that is that—greater hesitancy even to make the kinds of investments that we were in the process of making. So, in fact, the failure in Copenhagen has its economic consequences right now.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In your book also, in terms of dealing with or analyzing the current crisis, you try to make the point that, really, this crisis was not the result of decisions of any few individuals, but you say, precisely, “This book has a different aim. Its view is that essentially all the critical policies, such as those related to deregulation, were the consequence of political and economic ‘forces’—interests, ideas, and ideologies—that go beyond any particular individual.” If these forces resulted in the current crisis, what kind of policies are you proposing that would get us out of the crisis?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, the point is that, you know, a lot of attention has been focused on, say, Alan Greenspan or Bernanke for the failures of regulation that led to the crisis. And what I was trying to do here is to say, if Greenspan hadn’t been there, there would have been somebody else. Reagan would have appointed another person who believes that regulation isn’t needed. And if you have regulators who don’t believe in regulation, you’re not going to get effective enforcement of regulation.
Right now we’re seeing some of that, the same mixture of ideology, interests, that are stopping us from restructuring the regulatory framework. So you see the outpouring of money, trying to persuade Congress not to adopt the regulations that are obviously needed. We should have learned from this experience, but so far, very little regulatory reform has been done. They use these arguments like, “Oh, we can’t go overboard. We’ll stifle innovation.” The fact is, as Paul Volcker has pointed out, there is—this innovation was not innovation that was positive. Only the bankers did well; not even their shareholders and bondholders did well. But the economy did disastrously. The taxpayers have lost. The workers have lost. Homeowners have lost. So this innovation has not been beneficial. So this conjunction of ideology, wrongly framed ideas, and interests are stopping now the regulatory reforms that are needed.
And finally, you asked the question, well, what’s behind all this? It’s obviously campaign contributions. Five lobbyists for every congressman. And unfortunately, in the Citizens United case before the Supreme Court, things have gotten worse. The Supreme Court basically allowed them to unleash the amount of spending to try—you know, we always had the best government that money could buy, and now the price has just gone up. And the likelihood of our political process being distorted has gotten worse.
AMY GOODMAN: The latest news in the New York Times about the crisis in Europe, and particularly in Greece, reporting that Wall Street tactics that were akin to what caused the subprime mortgage disaster are being used to enable governments to hide their mounting debts. And what they were talking about was the deal created by Goldman Sachs that helped Greece obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels. What did Goldman do? And what do you think of this?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, our banks were very creative in their accounting. They first used this creative accounting to avoid paying taxes, but then they discovered that you could use the same kind of creative—more accurately called “deceptive”—accounting to deceive investors, move things off balance sheet, hide what was going on, and do very well by yourself, even if, in the long run, other people are going to pick up the tab. And in this, in the case of the banks, it was the American taxpayers who’ve picked up a lot of the tab, but also, of course, the shareholders and the bondholders.
They then started marketing this kind of deception all over the world. And there are ways that you can move things off balance sheet so that the costs that you’re going to have to pay, years into the future, are not apparent. You see revenues coming in. The particular issue at the time was Greece was trying to get into the EU. It had to satisfy certain conditions about the deficits and the debt. And these were very clever ways of making it appear as if they were actually meeting the criteria, when in fact, of course, the problems persisted.
What is so upsetting to many people in Greece and all over Europe—I just came back from two weeks in Europe—is that the banks, after causing the crisis, after the governments having bailed out the banks, having had to spend a huge amount of money to stop a depression or a deep, deep recession caused by the banks, these same banks are now attacking the countries, criticizing them for the deficit that the banks’ irresponsibility helped create, and are trying to manage a speculative attack against these countries, the result of which is they are demanding that salaries be cut, wages be cut, meanwhile saying, “We need to keep our big bonuses. Don’t attack our bonuses. That’s necessary for the working of a market economy.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Joseph Stiglitz, finally, the issue of the derivatives market, this ticking time bomb, unregulated, no transparency. Most people don’t even know, even on Wall Street, which particular deals have been made and what they entail. Your assessment of how the Obama administration is moving on the front of bringing some regulation into the derivatives market?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: The derivatives market, let me just emphasize, was very critical in the deceptive accounting in Greece, important in the deceptive accounting that led to the freezing of the credit markets, because no one knew what their financial position was. And you could see what happened in AIG, where one moment it said it had a $10 billion problem, the next moment the taxpayer had to put in $89 billion, wound up $180 billion, money that some of which went to Goldman Sachs, which you mentioned before. We’ll never get that money back. So, those are the dangers that these derivatives can expose. We should have known that, because back in ’98, one hedge fund, LTCM, almost brought down the entire global economy. And so, we should have known the riskiness of that.
The Obama administration has not proposed doing anything adequate about these. Some of the new things that the Obama administration proposed in January deal with other problems that, until then, had not been adequately dealt with—the problem of “too big to fail” banks. But the problem of these under-regulated derivatives remains, and therefore the risks remain.
Let me just emphasize, a part of this is this lack of transparency. One of the things is the Obama administration is trying to encourage more of the trading to go to standardized products traded on exchanges, but it isn’t really going to force it. And the depository institutions, the “too big to fail” institutions, that we underwrite—we the taxpayers bailed them out—are continuing to write most of these derivatives. So, in the end, these are insurance policies without the kinds of regulation that insurance normally requires, without the kind of careful analysis that insurance normally requires, but at the end, the US taxpayer bears the big losses when these gambles don’t work out. And so, while they’re, in a sense, sold as insurance, not regulated as insurance, they’re really gambling products, but they’re gambling where the potential losses are going to be borne by the US taxpayers. And we just haven’t done anything significant about this.
AMY GOODMAN: Joe Stiglitz, we’re going to leave it there. We want to thank you very much for being with us. The new book he has written is Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. He’s a professor at Columbia University.


Saturday, February 20, 2010



By Kevin Stoda

On DN [Democracy Now] last week, Robert Barnett, the director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University and the author of Lhasa: Streets with Memories sounded upbeat.

This past week, in the face of official Chinese government opposition, President Barak Obama met behind closed doors with the Dalai Lama of Tibet. This week’s saber rattling by China over the Dalai Lama’s visit had been preceded earlier this February by a confrontation over Congress’ interested in selling Taiwan some major new weaponry. [China had immediately threatened sanctions.]

Barnett, who has written the introduction to a new book of essays called The Struggle for Tibet, stated, “I think there’s actually a bigger question behind this [weeks visit of the Dalai Lama to the White House and the ongoing superpower stress between China and America].”

Barnett also noted optimistically, “I think many people, people who support the Tibetan issue or the Dalai Lama—I think they have a certain kind of—really a kind of popular political intelligence that the Tibet issue is really very easy to solve for the Chinese. It has this very compromising leader, this very concessional leader. They could solve it quite quickly. And that’s very rare in the world today. We can’t solve issues like Chechnya or Darfur or Palestine easily. And there is a certain genuine sense, for the Americans, trying to encourage the Chinese to resolve this issue before it’s too late, before the Dalai Lama dies.”

Later, Barnett summarized a slow current change underway in China, i.e. since the region-wide riots in Tibet two years ago.

“We are seeing changes in China. There are very important discussions coming on this. This writer who I’ve been working with, Wang Lixiong, an enormously significant intellectual, who’s starting to use terms like ‘cultural imperialism’ to describe China’s way of treating Tibetans. These conversations are beginning to emerge inside China. Very significant. But it’s going to be a long time before they lead to real policy changes in the leadership of China. That’s going to take time,” noted Professor Barnett.

Barnet noted earlier, “Of course, China has legitimate interests, like other major powers do, in securing sea channels and so on. But there are some areas in Southeast Asia and South Asia where there is some nervousness about China. And interestingly, Tibet is exactly at the center of those tensions. Tibet is becoming surprisingly significant in ways that I think nobody really realized twenty years ago, in that it’s the nuclear tri-junction, probably the only one in the world, between Pakistan, India and China. Three nuclear powers face each other over that Tibetan border. And it’s also the source for the water supply for the main rivers that feed about a fifth of the world’s population. And, as we know, the glaciers there are showing signs of drying up. So future conflicts about water, that a lot of people predict, will probably involve Tibet, if it comes to that kind of tension. So, there are some feelings of nervousness about China in certain parts of Asia.”

In short, with the possible confrontations awaiting China, India and Pakistan over the water supply of the Himalayas, i.e. with Tibet at its center, China might seriously want to significantly improve Tibetan and national government relations immensely over the next two decades. Likewise, border relations need to be strengthened within Tibet to ward off any nuclear or other military confrontations in the Himalayas—as well.


Seth Wessler Shares to the World again: America’s Story now “is about what Happens when the Great Recession meets [neo-liberal] Welfare Reform”

Seth Wessler Shares to the World again: America’s Story now “is about what Happens when the Great Recession meets [neo-liberal] Welfare Reform”

By Kevin Stoda, Germany

Most Americans have known it in their hearts, but they don’t really internalize the abject poverty and it relationship to daily-life-and-death struggles of real people in America—UNTIL NOW, i.e. 2010.

On Democracy Now on Friday, there was an episode where Seth Wessler reported, “Well, this really is a[n American] story about what happens when the Great Recession meets welfare reform from 1996. It’s a story about what happens when people are pushed off of cash assistance by a welfare program that’s intent is to push people off of cash assistance, families trying to raise their children; what people do now that even those low-wage poverty jobs, that families have been stuck in for now a decade and a half, aren’t available.”

Wessler, being interviewed by Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman added, “I spent the winter reporting from Hartford, Connecticut, a city that’s long been hit by the disappearance of manufacturing jobs and is struggling economically to figure out what families are doing now that the recession has hit and there really is no substantive safety net for poor families. And what I found was that people are forced to make very difficult decisions and are forced to trade their food assistance at bodegas for pennies on the dollar in order to make some cash to pay their bills, to pay rent, to buy, in the case of one woman I spent time with—who we’re calling Eva in this story; she asked her name be changed—to buy children’s shoes for her kids. So, people are forced to, in the end, break the law to get by. And what I see this as is a story about poor families innovating to survive in a horribly difficult economy after years of a stripped safety net.”

Recall, America, this same Connecticut is the home of many large health insurers—so it is a very very wealthy state. However, it is clear that Connecticut has one of the strictest welfare policies in the USA—even in cities, like Harford, where many minorities are unemployed. Is this the image America wants to portray to China and other non-democratic lands around the globe? How can America project power when it is a social economic basket case?

Wessler gave a clear example in his DN interview, “Eva, the woman I spent three months with, talking to, was cut off of cash assistance last March. She’s in the state, Connecticut, with the shortest time limit [for assistance] in the country. After welfare reform, states were given vast amount of power to determine how long people could stay on cash assistance, how generous the program would be. And the state set the shortest time limit of any state of the country. She was cut off of cash assistance in the middle of the worst job crisis in a generation and has been searching for work endlessly without any luck. She’s a woman who’s been working low-wage poverty jobs for the greater part of a decade and now can’t even find one of those. She’s precipitously close to the edge now of becoming homeless, of not being able to feed her kids. And she’s forced to sell her food stamps, like many women who I talked to in Connecticut, in order to get by.”

A German friend told me today that she had see a [German] documentary a few years ago. The documentary’s title would be translated into English as follows: “Living Poor Means to Die Young in America.”

This is the very clear American image that American administrations have been projecting to a globalized world since the 1970s. Since the so-called welfare reforms of the 1990s, this image has become still worse and worse. Here are the headlines across the USA this Winter 2010 that any Americanist [American Studies specialist] world wide will have picked up on. They reflect that the states are in trouble if the whole federal welfare system is not improved immediately:

California: “More women dying from pregnancy complications; state holds on to report”

“States and Medicaid Enrollment”

“Feds reject Utah's low Medicaid pay for dentists”

“Plan to raise fees for parents of disabled children…”

“Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System”

“Recession Swells Medicaid Rolls, Shrinks State Treasuries”
Massachusetts, “Walgreen May Leave Medicaid”


On Democracy Now, Seth Wessler stated yesterday, “I mean, we’re in a situation in which, almost fifteen years ago, the federal government basically decimated the cash assistance program, after another decade and a half of highly racialized attacks against the program that demonized the program, stigmatized the problem deeply. And at the same time, consecutive administrations, Republican and Democratic administrations, have de-stigmatized the Food Stamp Program. And we’re seeing now that that program is on the rise, that there’s more access to that program. So people are leaning more heavily now on that program.”

Likewise, the sheer numbers of American Medicaid users have already reached an all-time high already. “According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than three million people signed up for Medicaid in the year ending last June, increasing enrollment 7.5 percent to a record 46.8 million. Thirteen states reported double-digit increases. As enrollment has ballooned, states across the country have tried to cut benefits to keep up with budget constraints. The Kaiser study says twenty-nine states are considering further reductions or have already made them since the current fiscal year began.”


Friday, February 19, 2010

Since I have considered working in Iraq, Syria, or Iran (someday), it certainly bothers me that THE THREE HIKERS HAVE NOT BEEN FREED

Since I have considered working in Iraq, Syria, or Iran (someday), it certainly bothers me that THE THREE HIKERS HAVE NOT BEEN FREED

By Kevin Stoda, lifelong international educator, traveler and photographer

I decided to look at the FREE THE HIKERS LINK after hearing the Democracy Now [DN] program with two of the mothers of the young American hikers who were on the border of Iraq and Iran last year (July 2009)—only to be arrested and kidnapped further into Iran by Iranian authorities last autumn. They have no been sitting as stooges or hostages in Iran for over 6 months. Cindy Hickey and Nora Shourd were the guests on DN yesterday and made it clear the three Americans can hardly be confused for spies.

The friends-of-the-three-hikers website supporting the imprisoned-three is very convincing of the idealistic and people-oriented kidnapped victims in Iran. Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were a couple and lived together in Damascus. (Sarah taught English to refugees in Syria.) Josh Fattal

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has appeal on their behalf. Last month, Tutu wrote to the Iranian leadership, “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that [Shane, Sarah and Josh] continue to be held because they are Americans and not for any legal reason. I urge the Iranian authorities not to deny them their freedom in order to express their discontent with the United States. Nations have a right to disagree but their citizens should not be made to pay the price of their differences.”

According to the website, FREE THE HIKERS, “The three young Americans, all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley, are being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. They have not been charged with any crime and have not had any contact with their families. Shane, Josh and Sarah care greatly about the world in which we live. They admire and respect different cultures and religions and share a love of travel that has taken them to many countries. That is why they went to Kurdistan, not because they wanted to enter Iran. We hope the Iranian authorities understand that if Shane, Sarah and Josh were in Iranian territory there is just one reason: because they made a regrettable mistake and got lost. Please let them return home as soon as possible.”

The website encourages you to record a YOU-TUBE message and send it in. Hopefully, it will be seen by the intended people in Iran—and the three (Shane, Josh, and Sarah) will at least here about it. (You can support the 3 from this website and sign into Facebook.)

Shon McFessal, a friend of the three and on the border trip with the 3, said on DN last autumn, “So I understand clearly why the Iranian authorities would be curious about their presence, initially, and have some questions for them, but they know who they are at this point. They know what their characters are. Everything is publicly available. Anyone with questions about their character can look at their writings on the internet or, you know, clearly see our past, as it’s evident. And it’s obvious the kind of people they are. It’s obvious they’re not a threat to Iran, so I just don’t understand why they’re being held.”

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have been detained in Iran since July 31, 2009, when news reports say they accidentally crossed an unmarked border while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan near the Ahmed Awa waterfall, a local beauty spot. They were in a peaceful region of northern Iraq that is increasingly popular with Western tourists attracted by its natural beauty, traditional culture and long history. The three hikers, all graduates of UC Berkeley, entered northern Iraq with visas from Turkey on July 28 and had planned to spend five days visiting the area. A fourth friend, Shon Meckfessel had stayed behind in Sulaimaniya when Shane, Josh and Sarah set out on their hike because he was feeling unwell.
Shane Bauer, 27, has been living in Damascus, Syria with Sarah Shourd since late 2008 and is a student of Arabic, which he speaks fluently. He is a freelance journalist whose writing and award-winning photographs have been published in the US, UK, Middle East, and Canada. Shane, who has two younger sisters, grew up in Onamia, Minnesota and graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies in 2007. Shane has reported from Syria, Iraq, Darfur in Sudan, Yemen and Ethiopia but has never reported from Iran, nor expressed any interest in doing so. He had hoped to offer photographs and a story on the aftermath of recent elections in Kurdistan to the online news network New America Media, but was not on a formal news assignment.
Sarah Shourd, 31, has been living with Shane in Damascus, where she teaches English and is learning Arabic. She previously taught as part of the Iraqi Student Project, a program which gives Iraqi students living in Damascus the skills to continue their education in US schools. She was on a break from her teaching responsibilities for a week, and she and Shane decided to take a hiking trip with their friends Josh and Shon. Sarah has written articles on travel and social issues reflecting her time in Syria, Ethiopia, Yemen and Mexico. Sarah, who has an older brother and sister, was born in Chicago, Illinois, grew up in Los Angeles, California and recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Josh Fattal, 27, is an environmentalist who worked for three years at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon, which teaches sustainable living skills. From January to June 2009, Josh was a Teaching Fellow with the International Honors Program (IHP) “Health and Community” study abroad program in Switzerland, India, China, and South Africa. Josh and his elder brother grew up in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. He spent his junior year of college on an IHP study abroad program in the UK, India, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Mexico and graduated from UC Berkeley in 2004 with a degree in environmental economics and policy from the College of Natural Resources. Josh was visiting Sarah and Shane in Damascus when they went on their trip.

I RECOMMEND that you guys write the Iranian Embassy and start stepping up the pressure--make the world save for good helpful progressives.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany

Today, one teacher was killed and two more attacked and threatened to death by 23-year old student who was not satisfied with his grades at a Ludwigshafen Berufschule. [Berufschule are vocational training schools or specialized junior colleges.] By the way, latest reports state that this violent ex-student actually left that institution over five years ago.,1518,678807,00.html

Carrying only a starter gun and a knife the 23-year-old killed a 58-year-old faculty member. Students fled the classroom and an alarm went off. Two other faculty members were facing the same fate when police moved onto the 1000-student campus in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The well-armed police were able to interrupt the attacks and the violent student was apprehended, already claiming guilt for his act.

There have been similar events in almost every German state over the past decade. The German President Horst Kohler has immediately today called for a national conference in April to address the growing violence at schools in the country. In the state of Baden-Württemberg a younger high school student had killed 14 people just last March 2009.

Until now, most of the school killings and shooting violence of the past few years in Germany has resulted from bullying and marginalization of certain pupils over time. It is not clear that this was the case in Ludwigshafen murder of today.

The young man, who undertook the killing of a professor for his bad grades from years ago will certainly be tried for murder and attempted murder, but the violence in German schools has not been of national concern only. Across the border in France, there have been a series of violent attacks and daytime robberies in schools. Teachers in Paris have already been on strike demanding more security and staff in the schools. [Teachers all over France were on strike last month due to the vast government cuts in education.],,3988362,00.html

News from France this week is: “The French government came under pressure on yesterday to curb violence in schools after a 17-year-old boy was slashed with a knife and beaten with baseball bats by a gang during a sports class.The attack on Monday at a gymnasium in Thiais, a poor suburb of Paris, was the third such bloody incident in a French school reported this year.”
“In January an 18-year-old pupil was stabbed to death by a classmate at another school nearby and earlier this month, a 14-year-old was attacked with a knife in nearby Vitry-sur-Seine. Teachers at the school in Thiais, south-east of the capital, refused to work yesterday and echoed the demand of staff at other schools for extra security guards.”
The AFP reported teachers claiming, "We are afraid. The pupils are afraid . . . We can't go on as if nothing has happened."
A second national strike is scheduled by teachers on March 12. It is expected that in the public services in Paris this year 16,000 jobs will be stricken.
Meanwhile, remaining French teachers are worried. “’This attack is not a chance incident,’" teachers from the Thais school claimed. "We demand the human resources necessary to re-establish the climate of calm that is indispensible for study."
Students too do not do well generally in violent times. So, many students are siding with teachers.
Education Minister, Luc Chatel, in France is also calling for a national conference on violence to target a decrease in violence in the country’s schools. However, he seems to be missing the point that draconian budget cuts across France in 2010 are going to make the needs of students and staff much larger in coming months.

At first glance the problems in German and French schools seem to be coming from different directions. The shootings and attacks in Germany have taken place often in well-to-do towns and in schools that were financially and socially well-off —while a lot of the violence in France has been seen in urban and suburban ghettos.
However, the common variant in both countries seems to be a lack of people present in schools who are able to listen to and help marginalized human beings. This is to-a-great-part a manpower and financial or training issue—not necessarily a societal issue.
Nonetheless, on the other hand, there are also questionable issues related to how school systems in both France and Germany are functioning and organized. Are students feeling shut-in to a life or career path at too early an age? This has increased the area or perceptions of marginalizing certain peoples, schools and neighborhoods from one another. In short, there are school-rankings in the minds of inhabitants everywhere and many of the places where violent attacks have taken place in German have occurred [as note above] where a student with a great lack of self-confidence, suddenly hits out at his perceived abusers. That is, when students are feeling alienated and they do not know where to turn [when they feel threatened by the society that exists around them], they eventually explode.
It could be that, as the worldwide economy has been threatened [and because Germany is an exporting country dependent on the global economy] students are finding their future options in society limited by the exam pressure in German educational institutions. Moreover, in the last decade many secondary and tertiary schools have been turning-up-the-crack now intensifying their course curriculum while reducing students’ study times. Many students at Berufschule and Fachhochschule [polytechnic schools] in Germany today do not feel they can properly keep up and learn what they really need due to the increased time and exam pressures. For example, in America it is accepted that a student take 4, 5 or more years to finish a B.A., whereas Germans are being asked to do it in 3 years now (due to draconian competition among colleges and increased costs of private education in Germany).
In France, there may be a more racial dimension to the school attacks and violence of late, but in a sense, the social structure of France and the lack of opportunities for minority students has led to the increase in violence there as well.
Laurent Esccure says “Above all, it should be remembered that classrooms are not lawless zones.” He is a teacher in Toulouse-Montmirail and a member of a union of primary school teachers. “On a day-to-day basis, verbal violence is common,” he adds. “The atmosphere is tense and serious incidents occur frequently.”

According to France 24 quoted Escure as warning his colleagues, “You need to know how to guide a classroom, and you must be in good form.”

Escure states “that the psychological wear on teachers at many schools is obvious.
Those high schools considered high-risk need additional resources. . . . you really notice the lack of teachers’ assistants and the 50,000 other positions that the government has eliminated over the past four years.”

France 24 adds, “In places where adults are absent − such as hallways and parts of the courtyard − the situation quickly degenerates into aggression or even just dangerous play.”

“Even when they are not directly involved, people see and live the violence,” Escure indicated. “And this violence is difficult to purge when recreation time is over.”

Finally, Radio 24 noted that Escure called for change. “It is time for the minister of education to make a move. ‘[Chatel] has the power to put an end to the conflict with the teachers in the suburbs, and especially in Vitry-sur-Seine . . . .He must reinstate the positions that they are demanding.’”

Of course, teachers need to also be better trained to meet the violence that students do bring off the streets of violent parts of French marginalized townships, too. Moreover, other societal supports outside of school need to be built up to provide local and regional security to all classes and races in France.