Wednesday, August 29, 2007

American Education in USA--in TERRE HAUTE where one Sign at the Steakhouse reads: DRAFT BEER, NOT PEOPLE

Education in USA--in TERRE HAUTE where one Sign at the Steakhouse reads: DRAFT BEER, NOT SOLDIERS

By Kevin Stoda in Kuwait

Recently, I flew back to the USA to be with my father as my step-mother of nearly 20 years had recently passed away. During my drive to my father’s home in Jackson, Michigan from where I had parked my car in Missouri, I passed through the town of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Terre Haute is the home of Indiana State University in a historically blue collar and farming state. A block or so from the main campus I pleasantly noted that one signboard in front of a local steakhouse boldly welcomed students back to Indiana State this August with the adage: “DRAFT BEER, NOT WAR”.

I smiled and was happy to see that some sort of public debate is in the air this year in the USA concerning a debate by concerned young Americans on whether a national conscription is soon to be implemented. Alas, my smile turned to frustration a few minutes later as I continued my drive up towards the region of wooden covered bridges around Rockville, Indiana. This frown of frustration was the result of a commercial on one of the local hard rock radio stations from Terre Haute. I heard a glossy-sounding advertisement aimed at recruiting young female students to join the National Guard.

In that radio advert, a young American women went on-and-on explaining why young women should join the National Guard. This female recruiter had mainly two points: (1) She had become a more self-confident young person by joining the military, and (2) she felt like she was protecting her family and country.

I realized that in contrast to the lone advertising sign in front of a steakhouse back in Terre Haute, the clout of the National Guard’s nationwide recruiting budget was a humongous beast—and it seems to be busily devouring the hearts and minds of confused and misdirected young Americans.


Less than a week later several newspaper articles in Michigan caught my attention as they are related to the education and training process of young Americans. I, myself, currently work in vocational training of youths in Kuwait (but not American youths. I teach Kuwaiti youths starting on their career at one of the national petroleum companies.)

The first article evaluated revealed the results of a national survey and then primarily focused on the results in Michigan. The author was concerned about the likelihood of present 16- to 18-year old Michigan high school students either (a) graduating from a vocational or community college within 4 years or (b) graduating from a university or college within 8 years. The article writer pointed out that Michigan students were well under the national average in both these categories. An furtive explanation was given saying that young people were disillusioned with their educational options in America, but the article didn’t elaborate further.

In summary, the author of that aforementioned first article stated simply that a large portion of American youth were disillusioned with the education system in America. That is, not only are the public primary and secondary students and parents unhappy with the American education process, but university-age students are finding the prominent options and modes of education in the USA as deplorable or at least disillusioning. (For decades now U.S. education has been basking in its status as the best in the world in its offerings higher education. However, such a survey of students disillusioned with the higher education process in the USA is seldom discussed either in the USA or abroad.)

The same author should have t out that students in American university and college levels in America have been leaving school (graduation or not) with the largest educational debts in American—especially since the 1970s when the GI bill ended. These financial debts are one of the many reasons that young people in America join the military—despite being shipped off to war and to other dangerous places year after year.

Similarly, a second article I noted that same weekend concerned the huge recent increase of young recruits joining America’s armed services in this August 2007.

This increase was largely due to $20,000 joining bonuses currently being offered new recruits. It is questionable whether this sudden increase in young people leaving colleges and universities in autumn 2007 will continue very much longer as university classes are starting up and the many American university students, who have decided to run-up their debt on run-away education costs, have made their decision to borrow and forego falling prey to the short-gains promised them by military recruiters--who often cannot back up a majority of their recruitment promises each year.


Now, it is important to connect the dots among these facts:

• Young people have high university and college debts.
• Young people are disillusioned with educational options and costs.
• Some people oppose the draft as a solution to America’s recruitment shortfalls, however, no one is discussing drastic reduction in American military waste and over-expansion of budgets each year.
• The media and propaganda budget of the USA government’s military machines overwhelm young people in debt.
• Seldom carried-out, short-term promises by recruiters claiming that benefits will be bequeathed upon the enlistees are made.
• Little or no mention of how one can be killed or maimed in war is made in the whole cynical process.
• The source and causes of America’s fear is not discussed.

I advise America to take all these issues more seriously as the 2008 elections surface.

Since 1975 when America last walked away from its call to a war is now a long time ago, student debt has expanded exponentially. Sadly, the debts that young people are paying for education are not going away soon. So, recruitment of America’s poor and disillusioned will continue.

Lethargy cannot be the answer. America has to begin now offering a less illusionary and disillusionary futures for the young people growing up there.

The options in education have to be expanded and cost issue have to be wresteled to the ground.

Moreover, the advise we give our young must be more trustworthy, and higher education leaders need to get off their laurels and begin to reduce the cynicism that leads people of all ages to believe that between big education debts and big military options, Americans have no other future.

American progressives and conservatives are going to have to promote $20,000 bonuses to young Americans who want to serve in inner cities, rebuild Louisiana after Katarina, or actually desire to help old people in their own home towns.

In short, America, if we restructure our priorities, there would be less disillusionment for American youth!

Currently, I am working in Kuwait where a large U.S. military base is located. Most of the 30,000 young soldiers here aren’t allowed off the base to learn to know local Kuwaitis or other Arabs. These young people continue to be cocooned in the propaganda arms of a military industrial machine which paints the world as a fearful place where only Americans can be your friends abroad.

On the other hand, there are also many former young people (who formerly served in America’s armed forces for noble reasons or to learn a skill) who come to Kuwait and help milk the military industrial machine as foreign contractors servicing American armed services in Iraq and around the Gulf region.

However, many of these Americans are no longer capable, neither willing nor able to improving the American pro-military support the system they have grown up a part of.

I have asked some of these American contactors—most of whom never cross into the much more dangerous land of Iraq—whether they (1) don’t feel some sort of desire to stop the cynical dependency cycle they are part of and whether there wsn’t some way that they might (2) promote more people-to-people exchanges in the region for these poor young American troops—whom are locked up on base most of their time in Kuwait before being sent over to Iraq or after one year simply returned home.

Many of these contractors dependent on the war-machine are bright people but they don’t question what they or their firms are up to.

Nor do they question the educational and recruiting system that made them—these military support contractors--what they are today. Even if these contractors do go across the border to Iraq, most of them don’t analyze much beyond their own little world—as a cog in a big machine.

One talented contractor for ITT stated, “I’m just a spectator here.”

That man just laughed at the deeper thinking that might require him to admit or confess the truth: “After Auschwitz and Nuremburg, there are no spectators, i.e. the world cannot simply be divided into simple categories of Victims, Perpetrators, and Spectators.”

As a lifelong historian and educator, I want to shout; “The fact is that when America is at war, no American should ever think there are clear distinctions between victims, perpetrators and spectators.” Once these distinctions are properly ignored, we can then begin to think more universally—more truly globally and compassionately.

Any American who has [a] formerly served in the Kuwait, Afghanistan, or Iraq wars and [2] then returns to a war zone contracted out to someone else making money off of a war, should know better than to call him- or herself “just a spectator here.” This is a basic critical thinking skill that should be hammered into American citizens in both high school and college—instead of allowing military recruiters to meander up-and-down the hallways of our schools spewing out their paid-for-by-Big-Brother-government propaganda.

As long as I observe the continuing string of former American and British vets serving again and again as bigger paid earners for military contactors in the Middle East, I will have to agree with the results of the survey discussed in that Michigan paper, “American education continues to be disillusioning.”


Bay Area United Against the War,

Hell No, We Still Won’t Go!,§ionID=104

It’s Easy to Talk About!

The Media Floats the Draft Balloon,

Military Recruiters Boost Offers to Dwindling Group of Prospects,

Should Progressives and Anti-War Movement Oppose the Draft?

Yarrow: Disillusioned with College,


Monday, August 20, 2007



By Kevin Stoda

I had certain concerns and questions about crossing into Laos as an American—even as recently as a few weeks ago. I wondered what remnants of war and isolation I would find in a land where the U.S. tonnage of bombs in an illegal and covert war in the 1960s and 1970s had totaled 2 million tons of bombs. At that time, there was only a population of about 2 to 3 million peoples among the various ethnic tribes and groupings in the whole country of Laos. That means that the total tonnage per capita was unheard of (in a comparison to any other country on the planet).

Americans have to a great degree not acknowledged (or at least often have failed to recall) what sort of damage and continuing damage such a war crime of bombing has created not only for the psyches of the Americans who had to participate as perpetrators in such misguided bombings, but of the continuing legacy of personal injuries, deaths and destruction affecting Lao peoples for far too long. Further, the war effort and subsequent U.S. isolation of the region has stunted cultural, economic, political, and social development in Laos and its neighboring Indochinese lands

My own cousin, who flew as a bombing pilot for the Navy in the Vietnam era, once shared how he had asked his navigator never to even reveal to him where his plane was headed.

My cousin consistently repeated to the navigator, “Don’t tell me!”

This intentional act of not-knowing of my cousin is symbolic of the intentional lack of recollection by far too many Americans after April 30, 1975 of what we had done or had been doing in Southeast Asia. Now, because of this neglect of cultivating memory, young Americans of the past two generations have been led once again into the crimes of war by a new set of American regimes repeating the same sins and crimes in our present day—and again in Asia, but this time in Southwest Asia.


Most Americans of non-Hmong or non-Laotian descent know only of the image of Laos (and the CIA) portrayed in the 1980s film with Mel Gibson, Air America. In This film, Gibson plays an American making money in the name of Patriotism in Laos on CIA run air strips. He sometimes even finds himself flying drug money in and out of the country on behalf of corrupt Lao generals.

However, from watching the film Americans then learn to recall only that America did well by getting thousands of refugee victims, including Hmong tribes, out of war-torn Laos in the final days of an evacuation—an evacuation that was the prelude to the disastrous and horrific evacuation of the Vietnamese capital seen some weeks later. Through watching the film, it is not clear to the viewer that the U.S. CIA was responsible for the growth of the drug cartels in Laos at that time. The U.S. CIA did this dabbling in and promotion of the drugs trade in Southeast Asia in order to raise cash that was free of congressional oversight.

I, myself, learned only of the Hmong tribal experience when I arrived to teach in Kansas City, Kansas around 1985. As part of my preparation for teaching in inner city KCK school district, I learned of how these Hmongs, often referred to in literature as a nearly stone-aged society in Laos, had worked hand-in-hand with both the fascist and anti-communist forces in Laos and Vietnam only a decade earlier. I realized then that their resettlement in America had been harder than for many other South East Asians throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Imagine having to learn to read and write in another language when you had never even had an alphabet in your own language!

Hmongs had arrived to America without a writing system of their own. Therefore, as might be expected, their youth and offspring—unlike many other Asian immigrants—did not do very well in school (as they were too culturally and educationally disadvantaged coming in).

Moreover, the modern United States offered no economic area that the Hmongs had a natural advantage in. The Hmong students whom I tried to teach either U.S. History or World Cultures to at U.S.D. 500 in Kansas City, Kansas in 1985 had had the potential to share o much insight into America’s Vietnam-ra educational,but their language skills and understanding of why education was important was extremely limited. Moreover, Americans just wanted to forget the bad old days and the stupidity of the Vietnam era.

In America of 1985, Hmongs and other Laotian tribal groups were continuing to be too internally focused. Talking to some of these students was like talking to someone in a drug induced haze--as though the members of the community were still in a mass state of shock even a full decade after resettlement in the USA. This was one reason why their children, even as high school students could hardly read nor speak English.

This meant that many young Laos and Hmong teens were still dropping out of American schools as soon as they hit the age of 16.


Luckily, in Kansas City, Kansas school district, I came to know a high school French teacher who had lived most of the 1960s in the capital of Laos: Vientiane. It appears that at that time, no one else from the USA wanted to do a Fulbright Scholarship in that corner of the globe, so this soon-to-be French teacher from Louisiana received a record total of 6 Fulbright’s and got to know the Laotians quite well. This French instructor told wonderful stories of his time in Laos and of the people he had gotten to know there.

In short, even during the darkest era of American covert-war as well as during the fighting between communist (Pathet Lao) and Laos governmental forces in the country of the 1960s and 1970s—a time when most of America’s images of the land of Laos was either that of a CIA-promoting opium producers or of fascist generals increasing the desire of the native peoples for a redistribution of society’s wealth and governance, i.e. through support of communism—life and people were good and pleasant to live with. My school teacher colleague’s portrait of a Laotian world filled with friendly and loving peoples, i.e. real people (not images) who made up the Landscape of Laos.

Finally, this past August 10, 2007—after having visited neighboring Cambodia and Thailand on numerous occasions—I made the trek to the International Friendship Bridge on the Mekong between the Thai village of Nong Khai and the tiny capital of Laos, Vientiane. Soon, I was spending very agreeable days traveling (first) in the capital and then in the rural regions of the “Land of a Million Elephants, known as Laos.”

My former French teaching colleague back in KCK was certainly correct. The people of the country are warm, helpful, and friendly. The country is pleasnt to live and travel in.

Moreover, NGOs—including the many who have been helping pick up (and detonate the) millions of American bombs and bomblets strewn all over the countryside in this beautiful and sparsely populated Southeast Asian land—have been particularly effective in partnering with local peoples and with local organizations in creating a fairly safe and easy country to travel around in. [Nonetheless, up to 30% of the mines and bombs around the country of Laos have not yet been detonated nor cleared from the landscape.]


My first evidence of the continuing repercussions of bombing of Laos by American and other forces approximately four decades ago was noted in the jobs that youth with good skills were receiving in the nation’s job market.

I was enjoying a hot sauna and massage at one of the traditional forest temples, located at the outskirts of town, when a young IT specialist came in and sat across from us in the steam. I soon learned that he was from southeast Laos--near Cambodia. His first job has been in Vientiane with an NGO that worked to eliminate landmines and other unexploded ordinance in the country. He claims that the NGO will continue to work in the country for decades to come—even with financial support from some American governmental agencies in recent years increasing the amount of land area cleared annually.

The young Lao estimated that in the wake of the Japan occupation of Indochina in WWII, through the wars of independence in the late 1940s and 1950s , the subsequent American, Lao communist, and Vietnamese fights from the 1960s and early 1970s, and during the struggle to takeover of the nation that followed the Pathet Lao’s victory in 1975, it was still estimated that there existed several tons of unexploded ordinance per capita throughout the country. In short, from a political-economic standpoint for many years to come laborers and volunteers would be needed to clear this poor country of 6 million citizens of more tonnage than ever landed in Germany or its occupied countries during the whole of WWII.

Later, while crossing over a pair of private bridges on the Nom Song river in the village of Vang Vieng, I witnessed missile shell casings now being used to decorate both the exit and entrance ramps of both bridges. They served as a reminder of the nation’s past. By placing the missile casings on these relatively new private bridges of Laos’ hinterland, a point is made that the Land of a Million Elephants doesn’t forget so easily—or can’t forget easily.

The next day at the Buddhist Temple of Elephant Cave, upstream a few kilometers from Vang Vieng, I noticed a large bell created from the casing of much larger bomb casing than I had seen along the river bridges the day before.

I went up and rang the large bell. This weapon of war turned into a symbol of Buddhist reflection—and definitely sounded beautiful and soothing. It was certainly good to note how a history of war and the weapons of mass destruction used in Laos so long ago could be turned into something of beauty. As I rang the bell one final time, I knew that some of the bad memories had been forever transformed.

With this pleasant reflection, I proceeded back to the river, enjoyed a meal with our Lao guides, and continued on a kayak journey downstream back to Vang Vieng.

That evening in Vang Vieng, a small town which has become a major low budget tourist destination along one of the prettier parts of Indochina, I swung slowly on a hammock and observed Japanese visitors photographing the beautiful hills to the west at sunset.

As dusk surrounded me on the hammock along the river, I reflected that Laos now certainly seemed to be a place of peace. I thought that many other Americans, too, need to come here and visit this land—getting to know the Lao peoples of whatever ethnic identity. I felt they needed to come and leave some money behind and get to know one of the nicer and friendlier places on the planet to while away one’s vacation.

I thought, “Come & get to know the history & culture of this land and make some friends.”


In order to be fair and critical, it would certainly appear that the Laos government—still officially communist—has not gotten over the past in a totally positive manner either, i.e. similar to America and its tendency to carry war era-amnesia or not desiring to deal with making peace with the past.

As on August 10, 2007 I had been making the crossing over the Mekong River at the Friendship Bridge to Vientiane, Laos, the border entrance from the Laos side was being blockaded by several hundred elderly demonstrators. According to my guide that day, they were not being allowed to return to Laos.

He explained they were carrying out a 2 or 3 day-long direct action at the border in order to create awareness for their dilemma on both sides of the river. I found this fascinating: Even though, the Thai government is still under martial law, the border police on the Thai side were permitting this direction action by Lao refugees to take place.

I took pictures of these demonstrators singing traditional songs as they sat and occupied the international border. I reflected how difficult it would be in the USA or Mexico for demonstrators to block a major international border for 2 or 3 days—even with advanced permission from government officials on one side of the border. In any case, it is sad that older citizens of Laos, who had fled their homeland decades ago during times of war (or during communist persecution or retribution), were still being banned from returning to their peaceful land--nearly 1/3 of a century after the Asian wars or revolution or independence had ended.

Before I close, I also need to add that despite the years of bombing there is still goodwill towards Americans in Laos—i.e. despite the unwarranted and long-lasting devastation cause by our record number of bombings in search of the Ho Chi Minh trail decades back. I found local people surprised that I was from the US and traveling in their land—This is because our representation as tourists is too sparse. Only on the last day of my journey back to the Mekong border crossing did I even run into Americans for the first time on my entire trip.

I hope to go back to the Land of Laos soon and enjoy its laid-back peoples, and now that 4 years ago the U.S. State Department had finally taken Laos off its list of evil empires, more Americans should do so and soon—i.e. before everyone else discovers the joy of living and visiting there.

If a reader is interested in kayaking, hiking, spelunking, volunteering and getting to know Laotians and their land today, here are a few web sites:

Green Discovery

Lao Travel Links

Land of a Million Elephants and a White Parasol

By the way, Green Discovery is possibly one of the stronger soft tourism and ecotourism outfits I have found anywhere. (Laos is the 95th country I have visited in the past two or so decades.)

Green Discovery folks promote good local participation in the development of tourism and give tourists a lot of face-to-face encounters with local Laos of different ethnic origin, who are empowered to market their goods and their society in a more eco-friendlier way than other countries in the past have had the opportunity to do. In short, one can leave a positive social and economic footprint while visiting and departing from Laos as a tourist.

In addition, I should note not all things that America did in Laos in the 1960s were bad or ill-thought out. One night, I met in Vang Vieng a man who had helped build the main road artery going north from the capital to Vang Vieng and on to Louang Phrabang (a UNESCO world cultural city) under US funding during that era of civil war. This Lao resident was quite positive in sharing of his good experiences working with Americans—even though America appeared to have permanently abandoned the country decades ago.

More importantly for me the traveler , that national road has been well maintained—and I certainly enjoyed bicycling on it several days. I would hope that 20 or 30 years after America leaves Iraq that any such similar construction or development projects are appreciated and remembered by the Iraqis. (We know that the destruction we have wrought in Babylon has certainly adversely affected American image in Iraq and around the globe in recent years Maybe if we get back on a humanitarian focus in solving global problems, such tragedies can be avoided. In short, in the decades after the Vietnam War, the U.S. government has given less and less money benevolently abroad while giving more and more for supporting the weapons industry in the USA—the industry that produces bombs to drop on people)

In conclusion, I give a thumbs up to more Americans going to Laos and helping the country develop by taking their tourist dollars, being good human representatives of our land (i.e. no child pornography, drugs, or prostitution), and considering making some other long term investments in the region through private concerns or NGOs who can do so much good in countries around the world if they work on people-to-people exchange and not exchanges of weapons fire and drugs.

See this website for a list of some NGOs in Laos:


Sunday, August 05, 2007



By Kevin Stoda

Having lived in a 3rd world country (Nicaragua) and in several semi-developed nations (Mexico, the UAE and Kuwait) over the last three decades, I have observed with astonishment and dismay the U.S. federal government’s lack of forward planning (& lack of interest in maintaining infrastructure) and its promotion of bad priorities for quite some time. This malfeasance is exemplified by the U.S. footing the defense bill of all defense contractors and defense subcontractors (etc., according to the Washington Post and other sources, to a tune of a trillion dollars a year) around the globe--at the loss of American jobs and the cost of continued social and building infrastructural short falls in the U.S.

The recent collapse of a major bridge on a federal river plain and on a major interstate highway this past week in Minnesota reminds us all again of what we already had noted in the wake of the Katrina Hurricane: The U.S. federal and state governments have been driving America into underdevelopment and disaster at a speed never experienced before in 3 centuries of American history.

In April 2007, I wrote an article, called THE LOSER SCHOOL OF GORVERNMENT STRIKES AGAIN, about the tarnishing of America’s image and integrity abroad, i.e. as a supposedly fair-handed & less-corrupt-than-most-nation, and how this tarnishing continued in the wake of a series of business scandals, including the leadership debacle at the World Bank under Paul Wolfowitz. I noted at that time that the current image of the American government abroad could be likened to the modeling of a species of global free-tradism that should be known as the “Loser School of Government”.

I could write a book about how this “Loser School of Government” (2000-2007) has malfunctioned and destroyed more and more of the former memory around-the-world of America being a well-run country and a land where businesses and governments know how to work together, i.e. for the benefit of all.

The attack on the poor and the middle class, for example, in the last 7-years has been unheard of in the country’s history.

Moreover, over the last 5 decades, the federal government’s sustained attack on the providing of minimum guarantees to workers, investors, and national infrastructure, in turn, has hurt the basis of good governance at the local and state levels which small- and medium sized businesses and farmers across the land rely on. However, in the case of the bridge catastrophe and the Katarina devastation, it is also clear that local and state governments have also certainly fallen short—due to lack of federal funds being shared by taxpayers at both the national and state levels in the USA.

Finally, the reliance on greed and private sectors to keep America’s standards high has fallen flat on its face--as the I-35 Bridge Collapse showed the world. Recently a DEMOCRACY NOW program focused on this failed but popular trend in America to privatize our public highways through federal government under-funding.

Daniel Schulman co-authored a MOTHER JONES article with James Ridgeway entitled "The Highwaymen: Why You Could Soon Be Paying Wall Street Investors, Australian Bankers and Spanish Builders for the Privilege of Driving on American Roads". They both spoke about the article.

The DN piece started out by noting that the “American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it would take nearly $190 billion to fix more than 70,000 bridges deemed ‘structurally deficient.’” [1] Here is an excerpt of their dialogue that indicates where the privatization process has been heading the infrastructure in America:

JAMES RIDGEWAY: Well, you know, it’s all in process. I mean, the thing is that the major Wall Street investment companies are trying to link up with various international partners in Australia, in Spain, elsewhere, to essentially buy this sort of decaying -- or infrastructure that is in need of repair. And this is -- you know, it’s appealing, as Dan, I think, mentioned. It’s appealing to the local politicians, because it looks like they’re getting some cash from these guys on Wall Street, and they’re not going to have to raise taxes to fix the roads, and there’s the illusion that sooner or later these roads will get fixed. Now, you know, whether that happens or not is like anybody's guess, because when this actually takes place, when the actual improvement of the roads is done, it's going to be when all these politicians are dead and gone.
AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Schulman, in the piece, you write, “Fifty years to the day after Ike put his pen to the Highway Act, another Republican signed off on another historic highway project. On June 29, 2006, Mitch Daniels, the former Bush administration official turned governor of Indiana, was greeted with a round of applause as he stepped into a conference room packed with reporters and state lawmakers. The last of eight wire transfers had landed in the state's account, making it official: Indiana had received $3.8 billion from a foreign consortium made up of the Spanish construction firm Cintra and the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (mig) of Australia, and in exchange the state would hand over operation of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for the next 75 years.” And it goes on from there.
Talk about the political climate. How did people in Indiana, how did Hoosiers feel about this?
DANIEL SCHULMAN: People were absolutely -- I went to Indiana shortly after that, and people were absolutely outraged. If you travel that toll road even now, I think, and talk to people, they still don't understand why this road that really is part of their, you know, cultural -- it's just like the rest of the roads in this country, we really feel a deep affinity for them -- why this is in the hands of a foreign consortium. And some of it is xenophobia. Some of it, they don't want foreigners running their roads. But some of it is also, they've got -- you know, they’ve asked really hard questions about this. “Are we getting a good deal?” And, you know, frankly, a lot of people are saying no.
You cited the figure before that some say that Indiana -- over the life of this contract, the road could have generated $11 billion. So that's a $7 billion net loss for the taxpayers of Indiana. No, people in Indiana are outraged, and elsewhere, too. You’ve seen in New Jersey recently, there was a backlash against the potential plan to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike, which some said could bring in as much as $20 billion. I was driving that road recently, and there was a big sign, a big billboard, you know, against this privatization plan, and the plan has been pulled at this point.” [2]


Admittedly, the trend in America over the past decades has been to fill the different offices of congress in D.C. and our state houses (across the land) with examples or models of the “Loser School of Government”—so, the current demise certainly predated the current administration.

This administration, however, sought to use spending (and withholding spending) as particularly strong tools to speed up the collapse of major governmental departments and to discourage them from meeting their objectives. The hope in doing so has been to increase calls for privatizing ever more sectors of government responsibilities.

Further, more than any of its previous administrations, this federal government sought to fill federal (and eventually state offices) with people tied only to the largest industries and businesses in the land—neglecting the needs of medium and small businesses in terms of capitalizing infrastructural needs. Namely, the firms and the wealthiest investors who most benefit from good state and federal infrastructure ( i.e. the largest companies) have refused to support brave candidates who want to equitably fund and manage good government.

Meanwhile, more experienced officials are retiring from sectors as diverse as the foreign service and CIA to the departments overseeing environmental protection and public safety due to the lack of support and lack of receptiveness of this government’s leadership to rank & file needs and demands throughout the various governmental departments in the land.

Non-Americans around the globe are astonished by any government allowing such a public service hemorrhage as American people and their government are witnessing today. In almost no other country on the globe (save Zimbabwe for example), are bright people with the desire to make a difference in their country’s governmental bureaucracy leaving at the scale Americans have been witnessing of late. [3]

Where are the Eisenhower Republicans who built the Interstate Highways in the first place?

Where are the progressive democrats who should know that both our building and societal infrastructure do not blossom on their own--nor by seeding them with capital-only from the private sector?

Good government requires (a) teamwork—and (b) clear thinking about national and local priorities!

Those who benefit from the infrastructure in the USA need to pay the government—and not pay private international conglomerates—for usage of highways, airways, and cable networks running in the public domain.

The infrastructure on I-35 in Minnesota and in other states have been allowed to continue to be more and more underdeveloped under ever-more horrible conditions for decades. The deluge of competence in the public sector must be ended and resources channeled to rebuilding America. Not since the 1970s have policymakers left America’s drifting under the path of malaise and hopelessness that we are facing today.

The various problems with this bridge that collapsed so terribly this past July on the Mississippi in Minnesota provides a clear and memorable reminder of neglect. For example, major problems with the structure of that bridge was already well-known nearly 17 years ago.

All models of America’s “Loser School of Governments” (and leaders of such governance who shout blindly in favor of the private sector to take over where good governmental actors are needed) must be marginalized in the media and popular debate—at least until priorities have been better identified and infrastructure is returned to levels commensurate with the country’s past reputation of a land of high standards and governance.

We need to move beyond pithy clichés about either big government or private sector solving major problems without oversight, planning, and qualified funding from WE THE PEOPLE. We need to anticipate problems (and solve the ones we have already) instead of sitting back and waiting for some private investor monopoly, like the one run by Rupert Murdoch, to take over the rest of our nation..

In summary, Americans need to retake control of the pathway to good societal and building infrastructure and not simply CONSISTENTLY SIMPLY depend on a nebulous or unqualified private sector to solve problems--whereby good planning and GOOD MAINTENANCE are ALWAYS required--regardless of the kind of funding (private or public sector funding) might possibly provide to build and support infrastructure.

Improving these infrastructural matters in the USA is what will make the country a better place to live in!

America’s SPENDING annually of over $1,000,000,000,000 to 2,000,000,000 on (a) a national war machine, (b) its prior war debts & commitments, and (3) promoting arms trades abroad will not make AMERICA competitive with CHINA or any other power over the next 100 years.

Nor will it be an encouraging place for our children or grandchildren to grow up in. (America may remain to be a better place to live than Bangladesh or Burundi--or some other very underdeveloped state or nation in the long-term--to raise a family in, but why should we strive as a people to live in mediocrity and in the middle of the pack in terms of providing quality of life for our residents and citizens over the next hundred years?)

If and when states, local cities, and our federal governments sell bonds to raise money they need in the future to be for sounder things than what has been the case during the Reagan and Bush presidencies.

The focus in allocating resources needs to be on good projects: education, health infrastructure, roadways, etc. not on shifting all these areas to the private sector and then sending the savings bonds to help support military funding and military related investments EVERY SINGLE TIME. [4]


In conversing with my friends and peers around the globe this past weekend in the wake of the government-inspired catastrophe in Minnesota last week has led me to the conclusion that almost all peoples of under-developed nations are standing around in shock.

If such mismanagement of infrastructure, as resulted in the I-35 Bridge Collapse in the USA—which is supposedly, the richest and most powerful land in the world--, how could they ever have hope or expectations that their own governments could or would provide safer transport and better quality of life & safety standards in places as diverse as Indonesia, Philippines. Kenya, Nigeria, Bolivia, Nicaragua—where good governance has traditionally been lacking?

Any Third World Nation can see that the U.S. is dangerously shifting way too much of its economy into projects that blow things up—e.g. billion-dollar jet fighters of bombers & tanks that sit around in Iraq instead of being deployed some place that would make the world a safer place for all Americans.

These under-developed nations will eventually simply turn their eyes to China, Japan, and Europe to look for future role models in development. Meanwhile America will continue to be seen a second-class place to work (and second class piece of work in the third millennium), i.e. where foreigners may indeed continue to have more access to coming and working in than in the other 3 aforementioned regions due to America’s more open immigration policy.

However, at the current rate of underdevelopment and mismanagement of the American infrastructure, America will be off the radar screen as a model of good governance by the end of this first century of this millennium. That is--if Americans don’t take back their government and make governance, infrastructure, and society work better FOR ALL!


[1] “Following Minnesota Bridge Collapse, New Scrutiny for the Nation’s Ever-Privatizing Roads”,

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Testimony of Concerned Foreign Service Officers at the February 14, 2006 Testimony Congressional Hearing on National Security Whistle Blower Protection”,

[4] “2007 Budget Favors Defense”,