Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mugabe or Bush? Who should leave rather than lead?

Mugabe or Bush? Who should leave rather than lead?

By Kevin Stoda, on-the-road in India

Here in India, the headline editorial in many papers and magazines is the Thomas L. Friedman piece from last week entitled, “Mr. Bush, Lead or Leave”. (See the original from NY TIMES at:

In that piece, Friedman holds nothing back and appears to almost totally jumped into the Impeach Bush-Cheney camp by the title alone. He paints George W. Bush as Addict-In-Chief when it comes to promoting America dependence on fossil fuels instead of supporting the H.R. 6049 — “The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008”, before it lapses at the end of this year:

Friedman state’s clearly, “It’s as if our addict-in-chief is saying to us: ‘C’mon guys, you know you want a little more of the good stuff. One more hit, baby. Just one more toke on the ole oil pipe. I promise, next year, we’ll all go straight. I’ll even put a wind turbine on my presidential library. But for now, give me one more pop from that drill, please, baby. Just one more transfusion of that sweet offshore crude.’”

Other words which Friedman aptly puts into George W. Bush’s mouth include, “Oil is poisoning our climate and our geopolitics, and here is how we’re going to break our addiction: We’re going to set a floor price of $4.50 a gallon for gasoline and $100 a barrel for oil. And that floor price is going to trigger massive investments in renewable energy — particularly wind, solar panels and solar thermal. And we’re also going to go on a crash program to dramatically increase energy efficiency, to drive conservation to a whole new level and to build more nuclear power. And I want every Democrat and every Republican to join me in this endeavor.”

In another of his personal epiphanies, Friedman makes it clear: “It is hard for me to find the words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy this is. But it gets better. The president actually had the gall to set a deadline for this drug deal.”

To top it off, Friedman points out, George W. Bush and John McCain have even helped stopped the passage of good legislation six times on this very issue in the last couple of years.

Meanwhile as Robert Mugabe reelects himself president for life in Zimbabwe
, it is time for Americans demand that Bush leave now—even if Congress won’t do its job, threaten to take Bush to Den Haag.

Do we, Americans in 2008 wish to go down in history as the lame-duck-citizens who left the Worst President in history in charge by the end of his term and his finger on the trigger of Nuclear Weapons.
Forget the fact that his war in Iraq has increased oil prices by 6 Trillion dollars on its own. (See: )

Some Indian newspapers have also recently noted that the 6 GCC states, primarily oil exporting states and all situated in the Persian Gulf, have now soaked up 95 trillion dollars in the last few decades. Hummmmm, let us see how many houses could have been fitted with wind, solar or other alternative renewable energy sources!

At least, Dictator-for-Life Mugabe hasn’t increased the price of petroleum and increase poppy field production in Afghanistan, i.e. by freeing opium warlords. (See: )


When I arrived in India earlier this month, I was met at the Mumbai Domestic Airport with a headlining story pasted on the advertising billboards of several of the news kiosks. It showed a picture of George W. Bush woofing down a humongous bowl of Tex-Mex been, beef, guacamole and cheese nachos. Below it was a quote from Bush on his recent romp to India, he blamed India for the world’s food shortage:

Just because Americans have put up with Bush so long does not mean we have to have this man in the White House another day making more mischief and War Crimes.

I think we, Americans and global citizens around the globe, would all stand up and applaud if Bush and his side-kick Cheney just went into exile in one of those rich Gulf states, like Michael Jackson did a few years back.

At least, we could start cleaning up his mess in 2008 and not wait to see what January 21, 2009 brings.

Thursday, June 19, 2008



By Kevin Stoda

On June 10, Jamie Etheridge, the Texas-born managing editor of the KUWAIT TIMES , one of Kuwaits 3 major English daily newspapers, led a diwaniya at the AWARE CENTER where she focused on censorship in the Kuwaiti press. Etheridge, who arrived in Kuwait from Texas in 2004, also writes for STRATFOR and the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR.

Etheridge began the diwaniya, a Kuwaiti word for meeting whereby a speaker talks from fifteen minutes to half an hour on particular topic. This sort of diwaniya is then followed by open comments and questions from the audience. (Diwaniya also means a particular place for regular meetings held by various families or tribes in the area.)


Concerning censorship in Kuwait, Etheridge noted that there are three main forms or sources of censorship. These are (1) journalist’s self-censorship, (2) difficulties in persuading sources to go public, and (3) adverse pressures from advertisers--or from advertising in general.

Etheridge began the discussion be stating: “The greatest problem journalists face here in Kuwait is self-censorship. This is particularly true for Arab journalists who are pretty aware of how writings will affect certain communities in Kuwait.” This refers to how families, tribes, and well-connected personages will respond to any particular article or report.

Kuwait is country of approximately the size of New Jersey, and most people live in a relatively small urban area along the central coast. Therefore, in one sense, Kuwait is like a village of 3 million people. There are 11 daily newspapers here and most of them are targeted at the wealthy Kuwaiti population, who make up less than one-third of the city state’s total population. Only the English language dailies target the much larger ex-patriate community.

There is also some degree of official censorship, for example it is against the law to say bad things about the Emir of the country and to make fun of religion. Etheridge provided one example of when her paper got into trouble for displaying a political cartoon with the image of God in it. In that case, the newspaper had to print an apology and pay a fine.

Fear of censorship and worries about what certain families and cliques in society will think or do in reaction to any particular article leads to a greater form of censorship in Kuwait—i.e. self-censorship--just as such self-censorship function in most of small-town USA or possibly just about corner of the globe, where local feelings dominate the press on a wide variety of issues.

Last month, one of Etheridge’s journalists had decided to write about a fascinating park in Kuwait, where homosexuals meet regularly. The journalists had made a great pitch for the story and the interest it would bring.

However, after the article began to be written, this same journalist began to get cold feet and demanded that his/her name not be used on the piece. More disturbing still--to the editors--was the fact that the article had lost much of the specificity the journalist had originally share in terms of describing the where, who, and why of the location. In short, that Arab writer was becoming more and more concerned about the bad backwash such an article would have on family, friends and acquaintances in Kuwait. (See that article here in its final form: )

Thus, self-censorship not only led to this journalist removing his/her name from the piece, but the story had become a bit more vague, ethereal and nebulous in terms of space, time and source of quotations by the time it was published.


Etheridge continued, “Sourcing is the second most important” phenomena adversely related to censorship “as faced by the press in Kuwait. Here in Kuwait there are just so many sources who refuse to allow journalists to use there name—even public officials and figures who should be responsible to the public.”

Etheridge then provided the example of how it took her newspaper over a month to badger and persuade officials at the Ministry of Education to create and release documents—and to make official statements about the ministry’s recent changes in school fees (mandated by that same ministry) affecting the majority of schools in Kuwait. (See:
In most countries this sort of news story would have been a straight forward report. The appropriate ministry in most any land would simply have released to the press in a timely manner the new rates affecting the majority of schools in the 2008-2009 school year. The problem here is that the government and society desires a veil of secrecy over the greater part of information in the public domain.

In this case, by the end of May most of the ongoing enrollment for this 2008-2009 period in Kuwait already was over, but still the government ministries involved had neither notified the schools nor the hundreds of thousands of affected parents and students as to what the new fees to be charged would be. In short, the KUWAIT TIMES staff found that the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education had trouble finding any official or office that was willing to go public on these important changes affecting most of Kuwaiti school children.

In other words, rumors and secrecy rather than responsible officials and accountable sources rule the day throughout the Kuwaiti bureaucracy—rated one of the least transparent governments on the planet.

NOTE: Some Kuwaitis, such as those involved with the local Transparency International chapter are pushing for reform and the government under the Emir is pushing for greater transparency. Kuwaitis should see this web site if they wish to get involved with the newest reports: ]

Etheridge added, “Likewise, even people in the street will often not give their name when we our doing an [otherwise innocuous] survey.”

This was exemplified by a recent KUWAIT TIMES survey of the ex-pat community in Kuwait on a proposed new law in Kuwait—an outrageous bill which would segregate hospitals officially in practice throughout Kuwait. That is, the new law proposes that one section of the hospitals be for Kuwaitis only to use—while all other 2-million plus ex-pats would be required to go to another entrance.

Etheridge noted, “Many, many ex-pats refused to put their names alongside their opinions during the interviews on this topic.”

All-in-all, expatriates seem to quickly learn how life functions in Kuwait. Don’t attach your name to any of your opinions!

Later, one audience member commented, “Many readers [in Kuwait] could care less if you don’t quote the name of the source because they understand the context of Kuwait”, i.e. a place where anonymous sources are preferred.

This is partially the result of archaic laws and societal practices by which (1) victims, especially women who are victims of crimes, rape or violence, may refuse to give their names out of fear of staining their family’s name.

The legal system allows the police officer taking the claim of abuse and throw the report into the garbage if the victim refuses to give his or her name. In Kuwait this means that the sometimes lackadaisical police in the country are not obligated to even go to the crime scene and investigate or interview parties where the most obvious of disturbances or crimes have apparently taken place.


According to Etheridge, the third major problem is one that most every newspaper around the world has to face each day. This problem has to do with advertisers and advertising.

Etheridge claims that the fact is: “We can’t print without them [i.e. advertisers].”

The KT managing editor, Etheridge notes, “I’ve had advertisers pull their accounts due to our stories. This is why I have to work closely with the advertising department at our newspaper.”

At this point in the diwaniya, an important question was raised by the audience: “Anywhere worldwide--where does press freedom begin and where does it end?”

Etheridge replied that limits to Freedom of the Press should always depend on the local community, however, she added, “One should be able to criticize the government.”

On the one hand, Etheridge explains, “We should have enough transparency so that a government official provide us with information on government tenders and other important governmental activities” Censorship should not be carried out by withholding or even refusing to produce proper documentation.

On the other hand, Etheridge, who comes from Austin, Texas where she graduated from journalism school, notes that although she may agree that Hustler magazine has the right to be published, but such a magazine does not have the right—in her opinion—to be displayed and sold everywhere and in every community where her children can get their hands on the Hustler. Parents in every community should help a community determine what the limits on Freedom of the Press are to be. [She distinguishes between freedom of the press and the freedom of speech.]


According to Etheridge and most observers, Kuwait’s level of freedom of the press normally outshines that form of journalism experienced by readers in all other neighboring countries.

In addition to the 3 English language dailies, Kuwait has at least 8 other daily Arabic papers and most of them do better in terms of producing an open forum than do all the other newspapers in the neighboring countries, including Bahrain, Qatar and Emirates.

It wasn’t always this way.

Even as late as 1991, the Kuwaiti government actually even had official censors assigned to each newspaper in the land—and the same has been true for TV stations until fairly recently.

Nonetheless, through the tradition of diwaniyas—where wide-ranging public debate has typically taken place in Kuwait over several centuries—Kuwait’s level of public discourse on issues-of-the-day far surpasses what is often experienced by many other Arab states in the region (and in north Africa or Western Asia).

This means that in general, Kuwaiti society if very supportive of freedom of the press.


At this junction, another audience member asked why there hasn’t been more regular reporting about violence and crime in the newspapers . Nor is much known about what can be done by ex-pats to seek social justice in Kuwait.

This is particularly true of the Arab language press which is biased toward Kuwaiti viewpoint and not particularly supportive of Palestinian and other nationality viewpoints.

Etheridge replied, “There is real human interest in the topics of suffering people, but at times a new angle is needed to prick the public’s interest” or to spur one story or another to be of interest enough to publish on.

For example, much has been printed recently in Kuwait about Kuwait’s local ranking by the U.S. government in terms of improving human rights within its own borders. (See one such article here:
) This is because the appointment of a new U.S. Ambassador dovetailed with a human rights report placing Kuwait in the lower third of states fighting human trafficking.

Awareness of rights in Kuwait is a problem as is a lack of substantial awareness among the ex-pat community about their own access to Kuwaiti law, i.e. which could protect them and aid those being abused by unscrupulous ex-pats and Kuwaitis.

Etheridge explains that whenever the U.S. government blacklists a country for it’s lack of human rights, it is a political move—not necessarily a means of making life immediately easier for all those involved.

On the other hand, Muslim on Muslim violence in Kuwait is beyond the acceptable level according to the Asian newspapers I have seen. See the detailed story in one Bangladeshi paper whose author also seems to be reticent or afraid to name names in Kuwait as are the local papers: One of the quotes of that report from WEEKLY BLITZ states, concerning a victim imprisoned in Kuwait: “Hasina told a friend, who recently visited her in prison [in Kuwait], ‘The purgatory of Bangladesh is far better than the Kuwaiti paradise.’”

Another quote from the same article charges, “Hasina’s ordeal is a pattern of human trafficking, i.e. slavery in the 21st century in the Middle East, in particular in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Qatar. All human rights organizations and the US State Department, for years now, have classified these countries among the worst in terms of human trafficking. Kuwait and the other Arab countries on the Persian Gulf have been urged to do something against human trafficking, but to no avail.”

On the other hand, Etheridge points out that a lot of the human trafficking occurs after people arrive in Kuwait—and not prior to it—which is different than is the case for those émigrés fleeing to Europe or the United States these days. These peoples in European a the USA are more often are involved in illegal recruitment and trafficking before they arrive in those Western countries.

This implies that the issue with Kuwait and other Middle Eastern lands is that the government potentially can do a lot more to improve treatment and protections of foreign labor upon their arrival—as most of them arrive legally in Kuwait rather than illegally, before being forced into human slavery by being kidnapped, by having their passport taken away, etc.


Bowman, Dylon, “Kuwait Defends Human Trafficking Record”,

Etheridge, Jamie, “Kuwait Caps Consumer Loans, Tackles Inflation”,

Etheridge, Jamie, “Kuwait Oil Plan Stirs Nationalist Fervor”

Etheridge, Jamie, “Understanding the Private School Fee Hikes”,

Garcia, Ben, “New U.S. Ambassador Scolds Kuwait on Human Trafficking”,

“Kuwait Media Restrictions Slammed”,

“Kuwait—Fighting Corruption, Terrorism and Human Rights Violations”,

Staff Reporter, “Dangers at the Park”,

Stoda, Kevin, “Kuwait Inc, etc.”


Thursday, June 12, 2008

U.S. Indebtedness is Rising by over $1 Trillion a Year

U.S. Indebtedness is Rising by over $1 Trillion a Year

By Kevin Stoda

According to research discussed in the Economist’s Voice, the “fiscal gap, which is the true measure of indebtedness, is rising by over $1 trillion per year just due to the accumulation of interest” in the U.S.

Laurence Kotlicoff is the author of the article “The Emperors Dangerous Clothes”. He states that future federal expenditures are running $70,000,000,000,000 above anticipated receipts. The worrisome part of this deficit is that most of the total U.S. fiscal deficit increase each year has to do with household spending and it is often America’s elderly who are often forced to create this deficit.

In short, Kotlicoff and other fiscal financial researchers note that even thought the federal deficit is not under control, the more worrying factor has been the decrease in American household savings during the most recent decades.

A lot of Americans note that it is more than obvious by now that American’s are (1) not saving as well as Japan and other countries are. Moreover, they are (2) not saving as well as their grandfather’s generations did.

However, it is too seldom asked, “How did we get to be this way?” This is where generational research in economics and finances are so important.


For example, far too much blame is put on the shoulders of America’s consumer, i.e. the over-spending habits of the average American household consumer. At the same time, too little blame has been placed on the lack of federal and state incentives to save and invest in the long-term. This has adversely affected the health of one’s individual, local, state, and regional economies.

One federal orientation that has taken away from local savings and investment has been the focus on creating larger banks and bank networks across America, i.e. banks which don’t have nearly the concern for the local economy than, let us say, credit unions would have. This has been a result of the deregulation of many sectors of the economy and finance in recent decades.

Instead, the U.S. federal focus has been in support of national banking and national consolidation, in order that the U.S. can compete with other global economies, who have enormous banks. (Recall when Japan had 9 of the 10 largest banks on the planet back in the 1980s and 1990s.)

Another shortsighted orientation has been America’s over dependence on so-called free market economic and financial development over the years. Throwing Keynesian economics out the window in the late 1970s all over America was not necessarily the way to proceed for the next few decades. This lack of focus on the commonweal of a society rather than focusing on those who can lift other sup has been short-sighted. It also led many to falsely believe that trickle-down rebates and tax credits for the wealthiest individual was the only way for the M1 and M2 supplies to be manipulated effectively to lift us all forward out of the 1970s stagnation.

Meanwhile, various political economic developments in free trade, the rise of China and the tiger economies, and the joining of Eastern Europe in the global economy have also led to an increase in cheaper manufactured goods everywhere. This deflation in prices of certain goods allowed American consumers to remain relatively quiet over the last 4 decades—even as the average wage earner since 1968 has annually taken home less—and-less money each.

Under this open-market-at-all-cost approach, the U.S. has become more & more dependent on cheap imports to maintain a semblance of the status-quo for American families over 4 decades—even though actual savings opportunities have decreased substantially. In short, keeping up with the Joneses in 1960 to 1979 period was a lot cheaper than it has become in the most recent quarter of a century.


On the other hand, it is also true that Uncle Sam has had to come in and bail out America’s seniors increasingly in recent years—enabling some of the elderly to keep part of their savings and investments, which would have been lost due to ill-health. The Medicare and Medicaid Benefits are just part of the big picture. States, NGOs, and other charities have stepped in to assist, too.

Likewise, because the federal government has intervened in the health sector so often, the health sector is not as efficient as it could be. In this way, the U.S. health care system—although more beneficial than the military industrial complex which siphons off billions of dollars of each day—is not nearly as efficient as it could be, i.e. for

Moreover, “Can the current dangerous trend—possibly leading to the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial sector some day--be turned around?”

This is an extremely important question, but Kotlicoff reports the major sticking point for America’s messed up financial sector often has to do with properly analyzing the American accounting and financing system, so that we could improve how the economy operates through increased awareness and knowledge for all planners, political economists, and everyone interested in long and short term societal and economic development.


As shown by the Enron, WorldCom and housing & loan scandals and catastrophes in recent years, there are currently too many non-standard or smoke-screen ways of accounting and manipulating numbers. This is why Kotlicoff entitles his article, targeting economists, “The Emperors Dangerous Clothes”.

Kotlicoff notes, “We economists are the worst offenders here. It’s our theory, and we should know better. But too many of us don’t see, ignore this emperor’s true state of dress. ”

Kotlicoff has made this statement because he had recently reviewed 3 sets of papers with 3 different views on the same subject—all using elaborate regression techniques & coming to opposite opinions by using different definitions of similar terms.

When he talked to the writers of these papers whom he had severely critiqued, Kotlicoff noted that all three well-known economists had responded that his critique was on the mark.

They, however, felt compelled to deal in such confusing narrations because the articles that are prominent in the world of political economy deal with such crazy usages of regressions and terms these days, i.e. terms which are seldom equivalent in definition. That is they are not in any roughly equivalent; thus, the authors posit to explain and spin data—rather than to improve and standardize terms and treatments.

This is not only a problem for the world of social sciences, finance, and economy!

This failure to use clarifying terms and to adequately use economic terminology & analysis properly is more than simply slipshod in the world of academia. It has been worse in the press and in popular understanding of daily American spending issues over the past 50 years, i.e. since the Chicago University boys took over the narration of American economic policy and national & urban planning in the 1960s and 1970s.

Meanwhile , Kotlicoff is correct when he says, “If establish academic economists won’t focus on fundamentals, who will?”

Kotlicoff concludes that his only hope now lies with new generations of economists who are “beholden to no one”.

In short, this is a time in history when a new set of paradigms need to re-look at the mismanagement of the past 40 years and begins making lucid and clear descriptions of what could happen in 40 years if America doesn’t stop pretending and realize that a mixed managed and free market is the only way to go. Americans need to start using and naming social and numerical phenomena as they really are—i.e. part of the truth of the world, which we Americans need to learn to understand about 500% better than we have done in recent decades.


Kotlicoff, Laurence, “The Emperors Dangerous Clothes”, Economist’s Voice , April 2007, pp. 1-5,


Wednesday, June 11, 2008



By Kevin Stoda, Kuwait

“What happened to the $23 Billion Dollars?” is a catch phrase used on the link to the BBC-News Panarama. The program is on BBC TV, radio, and on the web. It reveals recent findings that lost billions in Iraq (i.e. starting with the time the U.S. government and military started giving out no-bid contracts for that occupation) are mind boggling to Europeans.

One short trailer for the program can be viewed here.

The Panarama program is entitled: “BBC UNCOVERS LOST IRAQ BILLIONS”.

BBC Panorama's Jane Corbin has spoken with many who “tell of who got rich and who got burned.”

In addition, Corbin intensively looks at the “allegations of mismanagement, fraud and waste; tales of contractors chosen for their US government connections without a competitive bidding process; contractors inflating their costs and double counting to increase their profits and billions supposed to be used to rebuild the Iraqi military allegedly ending up in the pockets of some Iraqi government officials.”

Whereas this is old news to people in the USA, this is the first major expose from the U.S.’s most important ally in Iraq—the British.

See CorpWatch’s Report from Kuwait here on more U.S. billions and how they disappear:

On the aforementioned recent BBC program, Henry Waxman, who is the Chairmen of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform notes, “It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”

Judge Radhi al-Radhi of Iraq's Commission for Public Integrity has looked into the matter from the Iraqi side. He has noted that billions of dollars disappeared from the country’s various national budgets, including the Defense Budget, over the past 4 to 5 years.

Al-Radhi stated on BBC, “I believe these people are criminals. …They failed to rebuild the Ministry of Defense, and as a result the violence and the bloodshed went on and on - the murder of Iraqis and foreigners continues and they bear responsibility.”

The recent news report from BBC occurred the very same week that reports from London were shared on BBC stating that the UK was considering withdrawing from Basra, Iraq by the end of the year--if improvements in Iraq continue. “Previous plans to reduce troop numbers to 2,500 were put on hold in March”, i.e. before the recent jump in violence there.

If one desires to comment on the likely pullout, you can go to this site and HAVE YOUR SAY on a BBC program of that same name.

In less than a single day of discussion, there had been nearly 800 comments.

Americans and British really need to dialogue about leaving Iraq now, June 2008.
Bringing troops out of the Gulf will certainly reduce the uncertainty for the Gulf States who really don’t like the Iran and Iraq militarization to continue. In the meantime, check out what Cities for Peace have to say.


“Americans Call Iraq Mistake, Divided over Withdrawal”,
“Cities for Peace (Bring the Troops Home”,
Corbin, Jane, “BBC Uncovers Lost Iraq Billion”,
CorpWatch: “Kuwait Documents Allege Halliburton Bribe Scandal”,
“Daylight Robbery”,
“Demand Diplomacy with Iran, Not War”,
“Iraq Troops Decision ‘This Year’”,
Stein, Sam, “McCain Strongly Rejected Long-Term Iraq Presence: ‘Bring them All Home’”,
Stone, Kathlyn, “Veterans for Peace Sit-In at Conyers Office for Impeachment”,


Thursday, June 05, 2008

NEWS AND WARNINGS: Westerners Seek Jobs in Gulf to Beat High Living Costs

NEWS AND WARNINGS: Westerners Seek Jobs in Gulf to Beat High Living Costs

By Kevin Stoda

In last weeks Kuwait Times, Sarah Abdullah wrote an article entitled, “More Westerners Seek Jobs in Gulf to Beat High Living Costs”.

In a way there was little new to the story: (1) Recession and bad economic management of the political economy in the USA and (2) the subsequent housing markets negative effects on finance have led to (3) many Americans and British leaving their homelands to make ends meet by working in the Persian Gulf where (4) a great deal of international capital is being funneled these days in the wake of the world’s rising petroleum prices.

What was not mentioned in Abdullah’s article is the sheer numbers of global immigrants who are seeking jobs so far from home.

Moreover, the contexts of working in the gulf are underplayed in terms of the cartels, monopolies, and societal norms & peculiarities, which cause long-term stress and propel potential success or failure for the job hopefuls in the long and short term.


In her narration, Sarah Abdullah shared the following tidbits:

 In a story of one settler, Abdullah records, “My family and I have been living in Riyadh and Jeddah for the past seven years.”

Diana, a nurse from Hawaii who works at a government hospital, said this, too . “Despite local complaints about the high cost of rent and food in the region, it is still better living here in terms of housing, utility rates, food and fuel costs. In the US, many people have lost their jobs due to numerous company layoffs.”

 With the UK and Germany having their worst growth rates in years, many Europeans from different lands are also making the exit to the Gulf, where they often have tax-free or partially tax free jobs.

 Dimitri, a British national, stated, “I first moved to the Middle East two years ago as part of a relocation program I applied for with the company I currently work for. I was first sent to the UAE when they opened an office in Dubai an was then relocated to Saudi Arabia initially for one year.”

 Many who live in compounds or gated communities in Saudi Arabia or some other parts of the Gulf state chime in, “I must admit I had concerns about the standard and way of living in the Kingdom and the region. However, upon moving to Saudi Arabia, I found that these worries are somewhat a myth. Having lived here for over eight months, I would be willing to extend the duration of my contract here.”

 Michelle, an American science teacher at an International School in Jeddah for the last two years, added, “I think another advantage of living in Saudi Arabia is the crime rate. Things happen from time to time here, but incidents aren’t so widespread compared to other countries.”

Sarah Abdullah ends her piece by noting that there has been an upswing in Western expats entering Kuwait, too: “While British nationals continue to comprise the bulk of Westerners, more and more Americans, Canadians, French and Germans among others are seeking opportunities in Kuwait in order to escape few jobs and higher living costs in their home countries.”


I believe it is fairly obvious that some things are not being shared clearly to potential settlers from the West through such rosy narration orprognostic.

For example, Sarah Abdullah doesn’t note:

--Kuwait and Saudi Arabia border Iraq where a civil war has continued for over 5 years now.

--Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar also have a surprising degree of underdevelopment economically—due to crony capitalism and resistance to reform in several parts of the society & political economies, including the areas of women’s rights and harassment at the work place.

--There is also the fact that many who come to this region witness various forms of racism in terms of salaries and in terms of recognition of academic degrees, based on arbitrary decisions made by the ministries of the Interior (MOI) and the Ministry of Education.

--Power shortages and water shortages are expected again this summer 2008 in Kuwait—likely the hottest country on the planet, and a place where labor has relatively no right to organize when one is forced to illegally work overtime or in the heat, etc.

In order to create more balance than Sarah Abdullah’s article appears to do. I suggest that Westerners know a fuller story before becoming fully in enticed into giving up their homeland for a “higher standard of living”, I will share the following about my colleagues and my own black-listing or black-balling experiences within the city state capitalism of Kuwait (and neighboring lands)—i.e. as currently practiced in the wealthiest parts of the Persian Gulf in 2008.


Due to crony capitalism (or fraternal wasta capitalism) as practiced in small-closed communities around the Arab world, rumors and unspoken agreements are taken more seriously and are more problematic for the foreign workforce in the Gulf than in many other parts of the world.

For example, I used to teach very successfully at Gulf University of Science and Technology (GUST) in Kuwait as an English as a Foreign Language instructor. I was laid off in the summer of 2006 after severing in that capacity over 2 ½ years. I was laid off from the university without being given a reason orally or in writing why this non-renewal had occurred. According to the guidelines for university professionals in both Kuwait and in the USA, this was an illegal act of dismissal.

There were a few possibilities for my lay off:

(1) My lack of strong connection to the right people in human resources and in other campus’ departments. Connections are called “wasta” in Kuwait and are more than the lifeblood of society here—wasta is in the air and greases all the wheels of life here in the Gulf each and every day—in and outside academia.

I had taught as a progressive staff member at GUST who wanted very much to help Kuwaitis succeed well in the market places of work and academics. I set high standards and helped students achieve them. Despite my high standards and demands on students’ achievement , I was fairly popular with the students at GUST—the youth of Kuwait who are demanding more from their modern life than what their parents and elders provide.

(2) My having upset one Dean of Liberal Arts, who didn’t respect anyone who didn’t have a doctorate, is possibly another rationale for my non-renewal.

Let me explain. I had simply asked the Dean of Liberal Arts to meet with me to consider my various proposals to introduce English for special purposes courses into a variety of academic subject areas where hundreds of Kuwaiti students were struggling to do well. The Head of the English Department didn’t think my suggestions were bad. As well, the acting Business Dean at GUST liked the ideas and my course and seminar & training suggestions for staff across the curriculum, but the Egyptian-born Dean of Liberal Arts still refused to meet with me face-to-face for over 18 months. Only then did I suddenly receive a non-renewal of my contract. Interestingly, that same Egyptian dean was eased out her job at the same month—I have wondered if there had been a qui-pro-quo, i.e. my non-renewal for her resignation.

(3) The crony capitalism involved in financing Gulf University (GUST), the wealthiest private university in the country, also might have led to my non-renewal.

For example, the university leaders in 2006 had found an outsourcing firm, owned surprisingly--by one of the board of directors at GUST. This firm had agreed to take over the whole EFL program at GUST. Another outsourced firm also began to operate immediately after I left GUST in my old department. [This particular out-source educational firm also belongs to a family firm of a relative of one of the university’s many secret investors. This firm then paid new EFL teachers in Autumn 2006 starting salaries of 20% to 40% lower than the university had. This was then followed by other dismissals and forced resignations at GUST.]

In short, despite the fact that GUST is the partner university of the University of Missouri at St. Louis (MSL) in the USA, i.e. a stated educational system where it is absolutely against the law to not-renew any employee’s contract after 2 years, i.e. without giving a single reason or performance review, I was laid off.

IN THE INTERIM—More Blacklisting in Kuwait Abounded

Since I couldn’t afford a lawyer to force GUST to either higher me back or pay me off—as other employees who speak Arabic have done in the past--, I simply got a new job.

I subsequently found worked elsewhere in Kuwait. However, one year later--after I published this research on wasta in Kuwait, on Op-Ed News last summer

--, I began almost immediately to get pressure in Kuwait (at an unbelievable level) from many unseen sources, but often stemming from the family of investors, who own GULF UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY in KUWAIT.

First, in late November 2007, my full-time job teaching at an Oil Company was also ended in a lay off—alongside a group of other 45 year olds.

Next, in early December 2008, the American University of Kuwait (AUK), for whom I had been planning to teach part-time starting in 2008, sent me an e-mail stating that I would not be teaching with them.

Subsequently, in January 2008, my new boss in a part-time position of mine at AMIDEAST in Kuwait picked a fight—or what appeared in retrospect to have been an unfair and a staged fight with me—and dismissed me. On the way out the door, he shouted loudly at me how certain unknown voices emanating from Gulf University of Science and Technology were spreading terrible and untrue rumors about me. He threatened, “Your reputation (from GUST) proceeds you.”

I responded to this blackballing by first meeting with that American NGO’s (AMIDEAST) head in Kuwait about the unfair and clearly illegal sudden dismissal from my part-time teaching load.

This director for AMIDEAST Kuwait agreed in our meeting that her employee had behaved unseemly and inappropriately. She also agreed to tell her employees to stop spreading rumors about me, i.e. based on innuendos from unknown peoples at Gulf University.

Next, I met with the Vice Chancellor at Gulf University of Science and Technology and asked that he send the word out to Human Resources and elsewhere at GUST to cease and desist from harassing me at my new work locations and stop stating false things about me whenever some employer calls to ask about me.

Then, in April, I signed a lucrative teaching contract for one of the private schools in Sabah Salim.

So, I was relieved to think that the familial blacklisting by Kuwaiti (crony monopolies)of my good name had ended in Kuwait.


Suddenly at the end of this very May 2008, I was suddenly called to the school in Sabah Salim, where I was readying to teach starting in August.

That day, I was told that this very new school of mine had received orders from their own parent company, known as IPE, which owned 12 other schools in the Middle East region. In the memorandum, that school in Sabah Salim and all the other IPE schools were not any longer allowed to hire any teachers whom had formerly worked at Gulf University of Science and Technology in Kuwait.

It is not clear how, when, nor why this new deal was made between IPE and GUST.

However, this time I was surely not the only prospective teacher in a bind by IPE’s new rule. This is because several other former teachers at GUST were being blacklisted as well from working with any IPE schools anywhere.

The school officials in Sabah Salim said they were frustrated by the new rule and had wanted to hire another staffer, but they were now being forced to look elsewhere.


Since I had begun running up against with the Kuwaiti kinships propaganda rumor mill which seems to drive these small city states in the Gulf, I have discovered that there have been many such blacklisting agreements between schools and universities in Kuwait, i.e. not to hire staff from each other.

For example, reports from the Lebanon based American Open University in Kuwait indicate that currently all Americans are being blacklisted from hire at that institution. (There are a few Americans still working there, but they were apparently grandfathered in prior to these new rules.) Moreover, that same university also refuses to hire any more teachers from GUST.

I recently interviewed at a university, which refuses to hire people who have instructed at the secondary or tertiary in Kuwait. (The reason for this was explained by whom the owner of that university was, i.e. the owner has connections with other schools.)

Worse still is the fact that rumor and innuendo have a lot to do with how people’s employment is daily being mugged from them here—in a land which barely follows half of the WTO’s rules and other international laws related to the work place.

For example, one former employee at one Gulf university shared how rumors had started to fly from the first day she arrived on campus.

She was told several bad and absolutely false things about herself that very first day—all which could not be true as the rumors claimed she had lived in Kuwait before, but she had never set foot in the country before she began to teach here.

This particular American professor revealed how sleazy these below-the-belt rumors were.

In the charged social and political climate of today, the rumor mongers control so much. In this women’s case these rumors were bounced around campus and collected by others who wanted to play political-power games with her or with her department colleagues over the coming year. She was ultra-stressed out.

Luckily, that same female professor successfully made the jump to another university that would have her. The best news is that unlike at many other schools in the regions, this new university didn’t buy into the fictional Kuwaiti wasta-rumor mill--dominating the job markets of unsuspecting incoming foreigners.

Needless to say, the very fact that that particular American professor was unmarried—likely fueled the rumors upon her arrival.

I have certainly observed the unfair rumors that often fly around foreign women in Kuwait. One female ex-pat principle of a secondary school, has noted in no uncertain terms to her colleagues, “Stop spreading gossip! You are ruining peoples lives and careers.”

In short, due to the combination of crony capitalism and the power of wasta connections, peoples lives are getting hurt or imperiled too often in the Gulf.


Before any reader charges that I am being unfair to the Kuwaiti culture, I need to state clearly that blacklisting and blackballing occurs against employees in and among Western Nations, too.

To this very day, I recall how my own last name “Stoda” got smeared in Kansas in 1991.

It was immediately after the Gulf War (or Desert Storm) and I had been against U.S. participation in it. I had had trouble with my principle in Western Kansas at the high school where I had taught because he and some parents or family members (movers and shakers possibly) didn’t like my vocal stand against blindly following the USA government into war in 1990-1991.

Subsequently, by the time I moved to Eastern Kansas the following school year, the blackballing of the “Stoda” name in Kansas had already begun.

On my first day at my new school, in a small town near Lawrence, the superintendent of school refused to shake my hand. I wondered why. “Could it have been because of something spread about me from one superintendent to another 200 miles away? What had been said or lied about me? By whom?”

Meanwhile, my own brother had completed his teaching block and certification in Kansas, too, in mid-1991.

He was a math teacher and certainly thought that he had a job sewn up in Wichita at a high school for autumn or winter 1991-1992.

Alas, it soon appeared that although my poor brother didn’t share my politics (and had actually served in the Gulf), my family’s last name was being blacklisted in and around the state of Kansas in the world of education.

NOTE: My poor brother eventually moved in Spring 1992 to teach first in California—and then in Oklahoma & in Colorado over the subsequent decade. Finally, he has returned to Kansas to teach over the past 5 years ago.

In short, even (or especially) in a right-to-work state, it is hard to get a teaching job in America if someone is spreading bad rumors or innuendos about you.

The problem is that Kuwait & the other Gulf countries are far away from the USA and Europe and legal familiarity. This means injustice and innuendos can hurt you a lot easier when you come here to work. There is less shame here publicly in terms of spreading such falsehoods about foreigners who are not connected well enough generally to protect themselves.

In the long-term perhaps Kuwait and the Gulf Arabs will open their systems to reform. Sadly, in the meantime, get ready for unfair rumors and innuendo affecting your career if you come to work or teach in the Gulf!

When & if you arrives, seek out support from Kuwaitis who don’t like the system of wasta and kinship leading to individual and national underdevelopment.

If you click on this link, you will find one such Kuwaiti, who is trying to support improving the system:

It is an article called “Thriving Dishonesty” by a Kuwaiti, Shamael Al-Sharikh, who is one of many natives concerned about Kuwaiti education--and in improving the status quo for all.

Shamael Al-Sharikh discusses in her piece on “Dishonesty” the bad educational habits I sought valiantly to get taken out of the bad educational practices at Gulf University from 2004 to 2006—and which I continue to try and see erased elsewhere by improving primary and secondary educational practices as well.


Abdullah, Sarah, “More Westerners Seek Jobs in Gulf to Beat High Living Costs” Kuwait Times, 17 May 2008, p. 2.

Al-Sharikh, Shamael, “Thriving Dishonesty”,

Al-Sharikh, Shamael, “Why doesn’t Anyone want to be Prime Minister?”,

Stoda, Kevin, “Sustainability, Kuwait Society, Progress Towards Democracy, Liberal Education Sidelined Due to Intermediary Wasta”