Freedom and Empire in America – A Cold War Identity Crisis

The Rule of Freedom (Courtesy of

The Rule of Freedom (Courtesy of

Four decades of Cold War wanderings around the world yielded a few answers to the important questions of life for this itinerant engineer, but one vital query went wanting. Why did the people I meet in Africa, Australia, South America, the Pacific, Europe, and Asia love and embrace me, a lowly American, but hate the country I loved?  Starving under various socio-political-economic systems drove iterations of learning and deepened my belief in the underlying truth and integrity of the governance wrapped by ideals that the founding brothers attempted to frame during the development of the Constitution of the United States.  When did the U.S. stop being the ‘good guys’ and join the roster of ‘bad guys’?

In WWII, the U.S. played the good guys rescuing the world from the nightmares of Hitler and Japan.  U.S. soldiers from farms, factories and villages across the country fought and died in places they did not know existed. There are American soldiers buried in cemeteries in

American Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands

American Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands

France, Belgium, England, Italy, Luxembourg, Philippines, Netherlands, and Tunisia. In 2012, the Times- Herald’s Alex McRae wrote, “When Netherlands resident Marco Weijers adopted the grave of Newnan’s Albert Partridge, he became one of 8,301 local residents who adopted the grave of an American soldier at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.”[1]  The U.S. was far from angelic during WWII, but the overall review was good. Following WWII, the American public pushed to ‘restore its natural order’.  They expected the soldiers to come home, the war machine to be trimmed down smartly and the business of making a living and a life to resume.  Surprise! Peace was a dream and, for a while, it was an illusion.   The Cold War clicked on and the nation’s long journey to the ‘dark side’ began with unsteady first steps.  But wait, there’s more!

The Borg Generation – A Cold War Legacy

It was cold and dark that early December 1982 night when stew, homemade biscuits and honey warmed the insides of five hungry, tired people. I remember it well because it was the night of my

It is all about how our children are educated.

It is all about how our children are educated.

awakening; the realization that I no longer lived in my father’s America. Dinner was followed by chores and homework. Our son was assigned dishes and the two girls were told to bundle up the trash and take it out. We, the parents, took care of clearing the table, putting excess food away, and sweeping up. Right then is when the trouble started. Our eldest daughter informed us that we had no right to force her to take out the trash as that constituted psychological abuse. What?

The next day found us at the elementary school principal’s office demanding to know what was happening in that particular classroom. The principal made soothing, cooing noises as she explained that twenty-five percent of children in the United States were abused and the federal government was sponsoring an abuse awareness campaign. But wait, there’s more!

Wizard’s Chess

The pieces on the geopolitical chess board are in play in all three dimensions. Politically, nations are reacting to cultures in transition. Economically, there is a reordering of monetary and commodity values. Militarily, there is movement on a global scale. The tension mounts. The fishmongers ramp-up the volume as they compete for our attention with their wares wrapped in newsprint, byte segments and blog-tissue. The neurons that, in a single black box fleck of time, take data and make information we can understand, are fairly glowing with activity. Scandals riddle the federal government. Gold is dropping like a rock and oil is skyrocketing. The U.S. is hunting Snowden, the NSA whistleblower. Egypt is in flames. North Korea is playing games. India and China are facing off. So much is happening simultaneously, it is difficult to focus the present picture of our little globe. We humans do like our patterns and pictures to help us understand how events impact us individually. What is going on?

Is there, as some believe, a conspiracy of the global elite? It is no theory that a group of elite people, the Bilderberg Group, representing “government, finance, industry, labour, education and communications”[1] have been meeting annually to discuss the world situation for over fifty years. The Bilderberg Group even summons individuals from the bourgeoisie to attend from time-to-time. In Montreal, they interviewed President Obama before his first run. While I have no doubt they would like and, perhaps, even try to be puppet masters, there are too many variables. Humans, as individuals and groups of individuals, are too unpredictable.  On the other hand, it would not make sense to discount the Bilderberg Group and their agenda. There is no doubt that the members are players on the global stage and specific initiatives, such as the United Nations Agenda 21, are integrated into plans and vigorously promoted.

What is the problem with the UN’s Agenda 21 and its benign label of ‘Sustainable Development’? “Agenda 21, Sustainable Development, is the action plan implemented worldwide to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all energy, all education, all information, and all human beings in the world.  INVENTORY AND CONTROL.”[2]—Rosa Koire.  For a start, it removes resources from the hands of individuals and places them in the hands of a bureaucracy and it herds people into central population centers. Agenda 21 is the antithesis of the founding principles of the U.S., the concept of Natural Law. “Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man.” Frédéric Bastiat, The Law (written in 1850). The U.S. Agenda 21 process is well underway in central planning processes.

If not a global puppet master, what then? Wizard’s Chess in three dimensions-political, economic, and military- appears to be the game of choice.  In Wizard’s Chess, the pieces move of their own

Let the games begin.

Let the games begin.

accord when commanded by the player. “When a piece is taken, it is removed by the attacking piece, often in a barbaric manner where the losing piece is smashed violently by the winning piece.”[3] Depending upon the number of players, the chess board can become a chaotic place.

China, the Wizard’s Rook, is trying the wings of its newly found economic growth. With the tentative measure of placing troops in Mali, China is stepping off-continent. At the economic chess board, China is also ‘stepping out’, broadening its horizons with arms sales according to Reuters. “China’s volume of weapons exports between 2008 and 2012 rose 162 percent compared with the previous five-year period, with its share of the global arms trade rising from 2 percent to 5 percent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.”[4] For instance, China’s recent sale of missiles to Turkey has NATO all abuzz.[5]

China is busy taking care of business politically as well. Overcoming past bad blood with Russia, China is reaching out for an alliance. The Diplomat points out that managing expectations about the relationship; expanding bilateral trade in energy and arms; and cooperation on international security affairs was the focus of a March 2013 conference between Russia’s Putin and China’s Jinping.[6] In the Indian Ocean, China is building harbors for trade but according to Stimson’s Ellen Laipson, “China’s maritime objectives in shipbuilding and port construction around the Indian Ocean are driven by commercial interests, although it’s reasonable to assume that the large investments could later evolve or be adapted for military purposes.”[7]

While the U.S. is the reigning superpower in the region, its light is fading. Combinations of other countries, like India, Pakistan, China, and the Koreas, are moving their respective chess pieces to fill in the voids and take up the slack. The U.S. is, arguably, the largest super power the world has ever seen. For the decades it engaged the Cold War (1947-1991), it grew to be a full service super

Waiting in the wings.

Waiting in the wings.

power provider. It built infrastructure, protected and manipulated countries without conquest, bolstered, bought and traded its way to its objectives, fought political wars, and ‘policed’ the world.  The U.S. played its pawns; installed and toppled leaders, bought and sold countries, and befriended and betrayed rogue groups. The U.S. may be a poor empire builder but she is a great super power who, until recently, controlled the seven seas. She is the Wizard’s queen and she is on the run. No one with any wisdom, however, would count the queen in check.

Russia, the Wizard’s Bishop, is on the move, double-time, since Vladimir Putin re-ascended the presidency. Putin does not trust the U.S. and most in the U.S. do not trust Putin. Each side has valid reasons for their distrust. Putin senses that the U.S. is a tired super power and is moving to fill some of the void. Putin knows, as we all do, that the U.S. is strapped for cash as he bolsters his oil and gas resources and backs Syria’s Assad. Putin has noted the U.S.’s current penchant for kinder, softer tactics like ‘winning hearts and minds’ and ‘leading from behind’ as he backs Iran. Arming both hemispheres of the world, a business area traditionally under the almost exclusive control of the U.S., has become a pastime for Putin’s government. The Wizard’s Bishop and Rook have teamed up on some policy fronts. Their combined capabilities rival the Wizard Queen’s.

Others of the Wizard’s pawns are moving smartly to avoid becoming victims of the super-storm cells that are swirling about in an apparently random fashion. India has a rocket, Agni-V, which can accurately deliver a payload over 3,000 miles. Pakistan is redoubling its nuclear saber rattling in its dispute with India over the Kashmir region, a legacy of the colonial breakup. Of course, India is reciprocating. Venezuela is buying missiles and submarines. North Korea is bellowing about its nuclear capability. Brazil, if it doesn’t disintegrate, is an emerging giant and prepared to defend its position. The Arab conflicts, mostly a Shi’a/Sunni issue and a legacy of decolonization, are ripping the Middle East apart. Every player, except the U.S., is amassing gold bullion; a sign of coming monetary upheaval.  Bread baskets in countries across the world are being fortified with defenses; yet another sign of global insecurity.

The Wizard’s chess boards are chaotic on all three levels; political, economic, and military. While chaos is disconcerting and unsettling to the human psyche, creative solutions frequently precipitate from the mess. While the Wizard’s chess game is unfolding quickly, others are preparing to play the next game. The odds-makers cipher the probabilities and the poker players are amusing themselves shuffling the geopolitical deck.  If the old Queen is placed in check, the world will look different. The key to stability on all three levels of Wizard’s chess, is the behavior of the Queen. Can she withdraw to her color without sacrificing her power? At the moment it is dicey. As China and Russia emerge from socialism and communism to trade-based economies, the U.S. is rocketing headlong into that failed experiment. It has never been more important that the U.S. hold onto its founding principles for it is a dangerous game being played. If the U.S. Queen fails in her withdrawal strategy and is captured, the destruction will be monumental and cultures of the world will reel backwards.

[2] Behind the Green Mask; Rosa Koire;

[4] Reuters; China replaces Britain in world’s top five arms exporters: report;

[6] The Diplomat; April 12, 2013; A Russia-China Alliance Brewing?;

[7] International Business Times; June 27 2013; Ellen Laipson; New Geopolitics In The Indian Ocean Region?;

Choice of Legacy

Choices, the exercises of an individual’s free will, are the stepping stones that line the paths of our lives. Once made, the path that follows is fairly well defined. Barring unforeseen storms, or other intervention, the only way to avoid the path’s destination is to modify the original choice. So, too, it is with a country’s destiny. Today the U.S. trudges along such a path. The last big change in the path’s direction occurred in 1947with Truman’s decision to enter the Cold War (1947-1991).  Harry Truman could have chosen the ‘damn-the-torpedoes’ route and told the U.S.’s Josef Stalin to return our POW’s or the U.S. would come and get them. “Here’s the deal. Both ways, Joe, we will bring our soldiers home and only then will we go our separate ways,” he could have said. But he did not.

One of my indulgences is wondering. What might have happened if the U.S. had chosen to ‘go its own way’ after WWII? The big military contractors could have returned to what they had done best before the War. Raytheon might have continued manufacturing transformers, power equipment, electronics and vacuum tubes. With their employees’ creativity and skill, who can guess what wonders would have been performed in the market place. Northrop Grumman might have teamed with Martin Marietta and Lockheed for the Mars terraforming project. Cold fusion could have been pursued and solar paint perfected so, by now, we all could generate the energy we use in the closet or by painting the house. Instead of dreaming up biological weapons and their antidotes, medical research could have teamed with nano-tech developers to solve the ills of the world.

The tens of thousands of returning WWII veterans would have joined the manufacturing and development boom in response to a need for skilled, hard-working employees. Disposable incomes would have risen and the economy would be healthier. Of course, the hard part for government would be staying out of the way and allowing the winnowing process to occur. Crony capitalism and the unholy matrimony of corporations to government would have to die. Big bloated companies would fail without their political patronage and individuals with new and creative ideas could sew the fields and grow.  Okay, so we might have done better but what about the rest of the world?

Europe was reconstructed with a large influx of U.S. Marshall Plan dollars. Asia essentially brought itself back by its bootstraps. Guess which geopolitical area won the race of most improved living condition for the most people? Once ‘Communism’ was no longer defined as a national security issue, the trillions of dollars in foreign aid could have been saved. There would be no demand for the ‘pathological altruism’ that drives billions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of people who openly call us ‘enemy’. The CIA would have had no need to overthrow governments or back cruel, corrupt ‘leaders’. Yes, the world would still have had to ‘settle out’ from the colonial legacy. Then again, it is ‘settling out’ anyway in countries and continents like India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Africa. Energy could have been spent on encouraging free and open trade and manufacturing. It is the one thing we know works. China, Russia, and Taiwan are all examples where markets drive a culture forward for more people faster than bureaucracies ever could. No, these countries’ cultures do not look like the U.S. culture but they do not have to look the same to be successful.

With Communism off the national security table, there is no justification for stationing the military in over 200 countries across the globe. To illustrate, the U.S. has three bases in Bulgaria. Bush wanted the bases ostensibly to rapidly deploy troops to the Middle East where, of course, we have no national security dog in the fight. For goodness sake, why on earth does the U.S. want or need to maintain three military bases in Bulgaria?  In the meanders of my mind, the Navy would be committed, as it was, to keeping the lanes of commerce open. The war knowledge, competencies, and lessons learned would have been continued through the marines, surface, naval air, and submarine services. The other services could have been reduced in force to a minimum. Oh we would still be playing tit-for-tat on weapons development but no arms race means the effort would have been reduced by orders of magnitude. There is no need to police the world and try to make it over in our own image. Many think tanks and foundations work and play better with our brothers and sisters across the globe than the government ever could.

None of it happened. We chose to engage the Cold War and are living the legacy of that choice. In the U.S. effort to defeat Communism, the country has embraced socialism. The U.S. can be likened to a big fish with a line of lamprey eels locked on and sucking its life blood. The lamprey eels even have names; agriculture, health care, education, military/industrial, federal lands, environment, big pharma. No matter how much the big fish eats there is not enough to feed the parasites so the big fish begins to devour its young. As the big fish slowly dies, all energy is focused on survival not creative problem solving. The federal government has indebted the young, innocent, and upcoming taxpayers to a point where none may draw a breath free for their own choices.

Unrealistic, you say. Perhaps it is, but I venture to guess that if Harry Truman knew the destination of the path his choice made, he’d have laughed in disbelief. The U.S. is a lousy imperialist. Others, such as the European nations, Russia, and the remnants of Persia have been at the imperialism game for centuries and are much better suited to the role. Imperialism is not a part of the U.S.’s culture heritage, yet here it is, playing imperialist. The U.S. is so inept that it cannot even understand it has lost the game so it keeps trying harder.

One thing the U.S. has historically done well is to breed and foster individual exceptionalism.  The individuals, who dream, build, excel, and fail with equal enthusiasm only to tackle the challenge anew or again, built this land; rooted in industry, farming, mining and business. It is they, with their creative sweat, who laid block upon block to build the greatest country in the world. Even today, during some tough times, most of us have no concept of real poverty or pain. Instead of embracing what it does well, building a working environment fit for an exceptional people, the federal government appears bent on complete annihilation of the individual.

Once each individual is pushed, pulled, compressed or stamped into the federal government’s ‘ideal’ bottle, we’ll all be on the pills seventy percent of us already take. Once the individual allows the theft of the creative sweat that provides the unique nature of each person, the nation will die. I do not like to be labeled. I like chocolate and cupcakes, kids who climb trees and play Jedi knights in shining armor saving a world. Sometimes I choose to engage in ‘high-risk behavior’ like not fastening my seat belt or playing with nukes. I do not want my refrigerator to make my grocery list or report its contents to the government (just in case I am not following my dietary restrictions). All of these labels are defined by someone else who thinks they know best. How I spend my money, what I write to my friends is my business; not the federal government’s business. I love the current hue and cry and all the scandals for they encourage a long overdue dialog among the American people on the role of their government. I hear individual voices choosing to rise in a chorus, rather than be told to sing in a predefined harmony. It is the music of the streets and it is beautiful; it is the choice being made for the future’s path.

A Lost Highway: Foreign Aid

We, the people of the United States, overburdened with taxes, fighting for survival and a way of life, struggling with out-of-touch and out-of-control politicians from all political bents are, in spite of the odds, generous to a fault. Last night the boys and I watched twelve Israeli Scouts perform in the Caravan Gilad; a celebration of Israel through the eyes of its young people. It was energetic, fun and inspiring to watch these youngsters hail life with such enthusiasm. Following the performance, the boys gathered around to listen to Israeli scout tales and, as I was a stranger at the Jewish Community Center, I sat by myself quietly waiting. One of the young women performers joined me

The Caravan Gilad

The Caravan Gilad

for a spot of conversation. It did not take long for her to share all of the wonderful welcomes and generosity she had discovered in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Tucson. Her story is repeated as complete strangers in the United States donate everything from kidneys to money to other complete strangers just because they want to help. The United States is, indeed, a marvelously giving country. These very same benefactors, the everyday taxpayers, almost to a person, loathe foreign aid. Why?

A cursory evaluation of foreign aid could lead one to believe that it helps people outside of the United States by supplying food or money when they need it. If that were so, I think we’d all be pleased, or at least feel slightly less ill-at-ease. The historical foundation and current application of foreign aid, however, are a case study in unintended consequences. The historical roots of today’s foreign aid can be traced to three distinct acts in the foreign aid play.

Act I occurred at a meeting of representatives of forty five countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944. The Bretton Woods conference,[1] also known as the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, turned the world on its fiscal ear including the effective elimination of the bothersome gold standard, which required nations to take the nasty deflation medicine when their economies got out of balance. At the same conference, this group laid the cornerstone of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, an organization which pegs the exchange rates to the U.S. dollar. This is also called the par value system. Nineteen countries eventually signed the original Articles of Agreement and the IMF went into business in 1947.[2]  Additionally, this august body also established the foundation for the World Bank, to assist in the reconstruction of Europe following WWII. France became its first customer when the country borrowed $250 million for reconstruction, in 1947.[3]  The IMF and World Bank evolved and changed as they defined and re-defined and expanded their missions. Their tentacles reach around the world, seducing countries and influencing the geopolitical play. For the most part, their losses, which are significant, are underwritten by the taxpayer in the United States.

At the time, Henry Hazlitt, a leading editorialist for the New York Times argued against the Bretton Woods model stating that it would break down over time. In a stroke of genius or prophesy, Hazlitt maintained that “…the result of trusting governments and tying their fates together would be inflation and the collapse of what remained of sound money.” He opined that, to achieve stability, each country should maintain its own monetary system. Hazlitt’s position on the Bretton Woods model eventually cost him his job. He later published From Bretton Woods to World Inflation: A Study of Causes and Consequences; a collection of the articles.

Act II, The Marshall Plan[4] or the European Recovery Program resulted in $13 billion in aid over a four year period from 1947 through 1951. Sixteen of Europe’s war torn nations were the beneficiaries of the original package including technical assistance as well as food, fuel and machinery from the United States. Later there were direct investments in Europe’s industrial sector. President Truman appointed General Marshall as Secretary of State in 1947. The new secretary’s challenge was to address the reconstruction of Europe. Marshall probably already had the roadmap in his head because The Marshall Plan came together quickly and solidly. During a speech rolling out the plan at Harvard, Marshall gave a preview of how the aid would politically benefit the U.S. as it entered the Cold War (1947-1991). Marshall posited that political stability in Western Europe was vital to countering communist expansion in that region, and he believed that political stability was integral to the recovery of Europe’s national economies.

Act III, the Truman Doctrine, was simple and succinct. In February 1947, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson introduced the domino theory when he explained that more was at stake in the Greek crisis than Greece and Turkey during a meeting with members of both houses of congress. If those two key states fell, he clarified, then communism would likely spread south to Iran and as far east as India. Using the set point of Rome and Carthage, Acheson explained the extent of the polarization of power. The legislators believed, and quickly cut a ‘deal’. They agreed to endorse the program if President Truman would emphasize the severity of the crisis publicly in an address to Congress and in a radio broadcast to the American people. Truman complied. He set the doctrine in few words as he asserted, “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” The Republican Congress sanctioned the aid to Greece and Turkey, which marked the beginning of a long and enduring bipartisan cold war foreign policy.[5]

Currently U.S. foreign aid is divided into two broad categories: military and economic assistance. The State Department is no longer directly responsible for handing out the civilian half of the direct U.S. foreign aid. That task was handed to the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, in 1961 and it is the only place where a firm number can be obtained. In 2013, USAID, under the State Department’s budget requested $51.6 billion. According to the USAID web site[6] this money is invested in agricultural productivity, combating maternal and child mortality and deadly diseases, providing life-saving assistance in the wake of disaster, promoting democracy, human rights and good governance around the world, fostering private sector development and sustainable economic growth, helping communities adapt to a changing environment, and elevating the role of women and girls.

The total cost of foreign aid is tough to grasp since the only firm number is the USAID budget request of $51.6 billion. The U.S. military currently has a presence in 78 per of the world’s countries. Some of the cost of occupation is in the DoD budget but much of it is funded directly through other congressional appropriations. The cost of the IMF and World Bank is mired in mirrors and misdirection. The only thing certain is that the U.S. taxpayer funds most of it and most of their extensive losses. At least the military still does what the military does. The World Bank is currently directing most of its effort to ‘alleviating poverty’ (See Footnote 3) and USAID is engineering societies.

Both missions are a far cry from reconstruction following a world war. But, while the fruits of reconstruction are still visible, the aid of today rarely reaches the people it claims to help. As a person who has lived and worked in many of the places foreign aid claims as victories, I will bear witness that foreign aid does more harm than good. It creates incentives for dishonesty and lines the pockets of corrupt politicians and crony capitalists. It does little for the people. I stood on the docks in Antofagasta, Chile, while wheat from the U.S. was being unloaded to help the Chilean people following the huge earthquakes there in the early 1960s. The wheat was loaded into government trucks and transshipped to the highest bidder. I survived a 1966 coup d’état in Ghana and the foreign aid for education and democratic systems along with food poured directly into the hands of General Ankrah  and his coup cronies; nothing much reached the thousands in need. I lived on Guam in the 1990s while the State Department turned a knowing blind eye to slavery, while sending foreign aid money to the government to stop it. In the Congo, the U.S. backed Mobutu had bank accounts approximating the sum of the World Bank and IMF loans and grant while his people died of starvation during the many famines. To add insult to injury, we underwrite our enemies with foreign aid. On June 8, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry released of $1.8 billion in military foreign aid to Egypt[7] even after the release of a video in which they denounced the U.S. as an enemy[8].  Foreign aid is a travesty, another secret pipeline for politicians to use for whatever agenda is on their minds.

Perhaps the American taxpayer is uncomfortable with foreign aid because, while each taxpayer makes a choice to be generous, foreign aid takes taxpayer money by force and spends it to promote political agendas.


[1] This PDF is a selection from an out-of-print volume from the National Bureau of Economic Research;

[2] International Monetary Fund; History;

[5] Harry S. Truman Library and Museum; The Truman Doctrine;

[7] Al Arabiya; 8 June 2013; Kerry quietly releases $1.3bn military aid package for Egypt;

[8] The Blaze; Jun. 12, 2013; Hot Mic Catches Egyptian Politician Discussing ‘War’ with ‘Enemies’ Israel and America;

The Congo: Crunch Time

“This accidental meeting of possibilities calls itself I. I ask: what am I doing here? And, at once, this I becomes unreal.”  ― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings

 ‘Old Shaky’, the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, argued with her pilot, Captain Richard T. Johnson, about taking that last turn into the Elizabethville (now called Lubumbashi) Airport

C124 Globemaster

C124 Globemaster

before landing in 1961. Noted as a heavy lift airplane, this evening it was loaded to the gills with Gurkhas[1] from the Indian Independent Brigade Group and their gear. Deployed by NATO to quell the latest fighting between the mineral rich Katanga province, whose citizens viewed the rest of the Congo as a nation of thieves, and the rest of the old Belgian Congo, the Gurkhas were battle hardened and ready. Capt. Johnson, a veteran Cold War (1947-1991) pilot, was no fool. He knew this was a Cold War strategy pure and simple. The United Sates and the Soviet Union were ‘duking’ it out for the Congo’s mineral wealth; but they were doing so by deputation. As he fought to bring the Globemaster in line for the approach, there was no friendly voice from the control tower;

The Gurkhas in the Congo

The Gurkhas in the Congo

there was no control tower. His second enemy was the surrender of daylight, Johnson couldn’t be certain he was at the correct airfield but it was the only flat spot in view that was big enough to land the old girl. Gunfire erupting to the port side confirmed he was at the right place, and Johnson wondered once again, if that old airplane was prescient. Landing quickly, safely and deploying the Gurkhas became a burning priority. A quick conference with their commander as the airplane made contact with the tarmac brought the Globemaster to a quick turn to port with the doors already opening. The Gurkhas[2] rolled straight out of the aircraft directly into the battle. Taking care of business, they were. After unloading the last of the supplies, a quick salute sent the old airplane back to the runway and she was off.

 The 1960-1965 uprising in the Congo had its roots back in 1884-1885  when German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck invited fourteen countries to The Berlin Conference to sit down and establish who was doing what to whom in Africa. France, Great Britain, Germany, and Portugal were among the important players. Going into The Berlin Conference, the European countries maintained isolated posts and the vast majority of the African Continent was still ruled by local tribes in a traditional fashion. By the end of the conference, Africa was covered with boundary lines that took no account of local mores or tribes. The Belgian Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, some 900 thousand square miles, was picked up by Belgium and King Leopold II. The rest of the continent was divided as well:[3]

  • Great Britain took a Cape-to-Cairo collection of colonies from Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), and Botswana. The British also controlled Nigeria and Ghana.
  • France grabbed much of western Africa, from Mauritania to Chad (French West Africa) and Gabon and the Republic of Congo (French Equatorial Africa).  
  • Portugal got Mozambique in the east and Angola in the west.
  • Italy was given Somalia (Italian Somaliland) and a portion of Ethiopia. 
  • Germany picked up Namibia (German Southwest Africa) and Tanzania (German East Africa).
  • Spain ended up with little Equatorial Guinea (Rio Muni).

Much of the terrible fighting, bloodshed, and famine is a legacy of The Berlin Conference. The fifty ‘countries’ that were formed in a conference room made no sense in the context of the centuries old cultures that were Africa. Groups that were culturally poles apart and didn’t even like each other were forced to live together. This mess, which worked fairly well while the colonies stayed in place, blew up as the colonies began to receive their independence from the home countries in the 1950s. The traditional cultures, you see, had not been erased; they had just been ignored or controlled by the colonial interests. The old Belgian Congo was one such place.

Belgium treated the Africans in the Congo as children. They were cared for, trained and their rulers

The Congo, a beautiful, rich land filled with violence and contradiction.

The Congo, a beautiful, rich land filled with violence and contradiction.

were used for tasks like tax collection or to recruit labor but they played no part of the legislative process. The bad or uncooperative children/rulers were deposed and replaced. While the United Kingdom and France began preparing their colonies for independence, Belgium made no such effort. Following WWI, American as well as European corporations invested in cotton, coffee, cacao, and rubber operations as well as livestock ventures. The Katanga province was developed for its mineral wealth; gold, copper, tin, cobalt, and zinc. During WWII, the U.S. used the Belgian Congo as a source of uranium. During this time, Africans worked four to seven year contracts as indentured servants in mining, agricultural and public infrastructure sectors. They built electric generation, roads, railroads and public buildings.

Agitation for independence began in 1958 with the formation Patrice Lumumba’s Congo National Movement, the first nationwide Congolese political party. By January 1959, they were rioting for independence in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and continued for a year. Belgium, which asserted that there was no possibility of independence in the immediate future, suddenly changed its political mind and the Congo became an independent republic on June 30, 1960.  The problem was the cultural context. The tribes enclosed by the Belgian Congo’s border did not really like each other. Before the First Republic in 1960, the native Congolese elites formed semi-political organizations based on ethnic relationships, personal relationships, and urban intellectualism which evolved into Lumumba’s party pushing for independence. It was a perfect set-up for interference by the Cold War rivals; the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Katanga picked up it marbles, business interests, mines, and 6,000 Belgian troops and left the new republic in July 1960, less than a month after independence. Katanga declared itself independent under the leadership of Moise Tshombe. Diamond rich South Kasai followed in October. This was not good as Katanga and Kasai were wealth generators. Money grew short and the crisis grew hot.

In July 1960, The United Nations passed a resolution to force the Belgian troops out of the Congo, including Katanga and Kasai. UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld disagreed with Lumumba that the UN force could be used to subdue the rebel government of Katanga. Hammarskjöld believed that the secession of Katanga was an internal Congolese matter and the UN was forbidden to intervene by Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. And so it went.

When the United Nations refused to intervene, Lumumba asked for and received Soviet military assistance to bring Katanga and Kasai to heel. Soviet ANC troops were airlifted into Kasai resulting in the deaths of hundreds of local Baluba tribesmen and 250,000 refugees. Lumumba’s decision engage the Soviet’s POed  the Eisenhower administration in the U.S. resulting in the CIA being given its head to support Joseph Mobutu and Kasa-Vubu, two other political hopefuls. Rumor has it that the CIA planned to poison Lumumba’s food. What can be established is that the CIA station chief in Leopoldville did cable his director to saying: “Congo [is] experiencing [a] classic communist effort [to] takeover government… there may be little time to take action to avoid another Cuba”.[4]

'Che' Guevara in the Congo.

‘Che’ Guevara in the Congo.

In 1965, following the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba Cuba did join the fight.  Fidel Castro sent  ‘Che’ Guevara to the Congo to try and spark a revolution against the pro-Western regime, which had emerged after . Guevara’s attempt was defeated by mercenaries led by Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare.  According to BBC News:

“…Che Guevara’s seven-month stay in the Fizi Baraka mountains was, as he admits himself, an “unmitigated disaster”. 

The mercenary Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare, who had been contracted by the American-influenced government in Kinshasa, squeezed Che’s small Cuban force into an ever smaller area until he had to escape back across Lake Tanganyika into the then-friendly territory of revolutionary Tanzania….”

 Katanga remained a free and independent state for three years; Kasai for much less time. In the five bloody years it took to bring the old Belgian Congo together as a new country, thousands died and over a million became refugees. Famine, in a country that four years before could feed itself and have enough left over to export, killed thousands more. Lumumba, Mobuto and others ripped up the farms, deforested, and looted the country to starvation. Lumumba was killed by Joseph Mobutu’s forces; Che Guevara went to the Congo to ‘help’ in 1965, and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in Africa while on a quest to find some middle Congolese ground. The U.S. saw their choice, Mobutu, in power. In 1997, when he died, his bank accounts just about equaled the amount the World Bank had loaned and granted the Congo; Zaire as it was called by then.

Capt. Johnson was lucky; he flew away. The Gurkhas’s and others fought admirably in a terrible situation. And all of this horror happened because a bunch of people in Berlin, who

The Congo is incredibly rich in minerals.

The Congo is incredibly rich in minerals.

only knew what they wanted, drew lines on maps in 1914. When freedom in Africa tried to stick its head out in the 1950s, the country borders formed lay lines of power and greed. The colonists took the people of Africa for granted and their lack of respect for their cultural fabric has ripped the continent apart. The natural resources are an irresistible attraction for more ‘developed’ predator nations. The continuing upheavals leave the peoples and the nations of Africa vulnerable.

Was it all inevitable with or without the colonial period? Maybe, but it didn’t need to happen this way.


“They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran. What nature doesn’t do to us. Will be done by our fellow man.”-

The Merry Minuet

Copyright Alley Music Corp. and Trio Music co., Inc.


[2] Firefight in Elizabethville, Congo – Lt Lee Ah Pow PGB of C Squadron, 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment; April 10, 2011;

[3] Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 to Divide Africa;

[4] The Church Committee; Assassination Planning and the Plots;

The Weapon of Choice

The mind is our weapon of choice; Language is our ammunition; and Reason keeps our aim true. – F.P. Romero

Why did the Cold War (1947-1991) unfold? Wars are declared for a reason and fought for a noble idea. WWII was declared in the West when Germany and Russia invaded Poland in 1939 and, in the Pacific, when the Empire of Japan invaded the Republic of China in 1937.  Democracy and the Western way-of-life was the noble idea. WWI was declared following the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, Bosnia by the ‘Black Hand’, a Serbian secret society. The noble idea was national pride. The preceding is gross oversimplification to be sure; the learned have written volumes on each war throughout known history and through a variety of analytical lenses. However, if the observer is far enough away, the date of the war and the mechanism by which governments mobilized the citizenry to fight and die in it, are fairly discrete and simple. On the receiving side mobilizing the citizenry is very simple; they are fighting to defend themselves. The Cold War does not reduce to a reason and a noble idea. It is vexing.

The Cold War more closely resembles an economic construct; some weird and strange Keynesian cycle whose bubble finally burst in 1991, when President Clinton declared the Cold War over. A British economist, civil servant, director of the British Eugenics Society, director of the Bank of England, part of the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals, patron of the arts, writer, philosopher, private investor, and farmer, John Maynard Keynes, is one of the founders of modern macroeconomics, and he greatly influenced the economic policies of governments. Developed during the 1930s, Keynesian economics is a theory promoting government intervention in the marketplace and monetary policy as the best way to warrant economic growth and stability and level out the ‘boom and bust’ cycles[1].  In the U.S. in 2007, the intervention first by the Bush administration and continuing through the Obama administration to save the too-big-to-fail companies through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, and the Federal Reserve’s $80 billion a month bond buying program are direct applications of the theory.

Keynes theories were 180 degrees juxtaposed from the classical (or neo-classical) liberal economists who argued for a free market with the role of government being very small and confined. Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, two such economists, argued that government should be as small as possible in order to allow the exercise of individual freedom. They maintained that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. Not surprisingly, almost all capitalist governments adopting the Keynesian policy recommendations resulting in the crony capitalism that is destroying personal freedom and the marketplace in today’s world. For the record, my bias is to the classical liberal.

Murray Rothbard, another classical liberal economist and philosopher, argued for intellectuals as the ‘opinion-molders’ in society in his book, Anatomy of the State.  Rothbard stated, “And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.” If Rothbard’s definition of the role of the intellectual as ‘opinion-molders’ in society is accurate, it brings the origins of the Cold War into sharp relief. During the 1930s and the 1940s, the U.S. government had grown accustomed to and enthusiastically embraced its role as the economic orchestra conductor that Keynes argued was their role. The intellectuals molded the opinions of society as the New Deal was inked and, before Roosevelt’s death in 1945, most of the members of that society were celebrating their salvation.

The New Deal eliminated the gold standard and promised Americans FCIC (crop insurance), the FDIC (insurance for small bank depositors), a Social security act to help with retirement, the SEC (to make the stock market transparent), a Civil aeronautics board (to provide federal regulation to the airline industry), the Wagener Act (establishing the rights of union a court (NLRB) to hammer out their grievances), and Fannie Mae (primary mortgage system so more people could own homes). Wow, good stuff and free lunches for everyone; gifts from the government. Not everyone was on board, though. In fact, many citizens felt they had lost their country, but most rejoiced. The federal government was king.

Truman was known to have been uncomfortable with many aspects of the New Deal. When he assumed the presidency in 1945, he had been the Vice President 82 days and had only met with Roosevelt twice. Truman was a compromise candidate and was not in with the in-crowd on the major geopolitical issues or politics at home. He was also completely in the dark, except for rumors, on war initiatives or the Manhattan Project, which was about to test the world’s first atomic bomb. Truman asked FDR’s cabinet members to remain. He informed them that he was open to their advice, but stated clearly that he would be the one making decisions, and they were to support him.

Making the decisions himself may have been a hallmark of the Truman administration but he was not immune to the opinions that had already been molded by the intellectuals. They performed their magic in the decade and a half before Truman; they were the magicians who turned the country on its ear with a huge increase in the role of the central government. The die was cast and the pattern established.

As the blush of the success of the end WWII faded, Truman and others were fearful of Stalin and the Communists. It didn’t matter whether or not Stalin’s takeover in Poland was to increase Russia’s buffer zone. It didn’t matter whether or not East Germany was losing is technical capability every night when they went west to go home from their work in the east when he put up the wall. It didn’t matter whether or not Stalin really wanted compensation for the 28 million people Russia lost or just respect for Russia’s contribution. Certainly, Stalin was untrustworthy, cruel, deceitful, and a tyrant. Others before him in different places and at different times had also been all of those things and the U.S. lived and let live. The Cold War started because the intellectual ‘opinion-molders’ reforming culture in the shape of the Keynesian Economic theory created a society that expected the government to take care of them. Those magic molders also reformed the government to a role it relished; that of king.

It was a quickening; the U.S. would not live and let live as far as Russia was concerned. In March 1946, Winston Churchill delivered the “Iron Curtain” Speech and by March, 1947, Truman declared an active role in Greek Civil War to ‘stop the spread of Communism’. The Cold War game was on, the government could use the military as a political tool and it did. Of course, the Soviets played along when they took over Czechoslovakia in 1948.

Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Bosnia, two gulf wars, and military representation in 78 percent of the world’s countries are a few examples of military men and women fighting, being maimed, and dying for political purposes. Right now, the citizens of this country accept blindly that the military may be used anywhere, for any reason. In most cases, the military has been called to fight to solve political embarrassment at home or to refill the pockets of military contractors; but that is another story.

The unfolding of the Cold War was as wrong-headed as embracing Keynesian economics. Both need to stop. The new intellectuals are fighting back with their minds, their words, and their reason. I am pulling for these ‘opinion-molders’ to open the eyes of society. In that culture, our best and brightest can produce the wealth that benefits us all rather than die on battle fields to save some politician’s career.


Another Big Ditch

Night closed in like the crash of a coffin’s lid. Clouds low enough to catch the spire of the light plant, were ominous and threatening. The noise and vibration of full belly-dumps rolling by on one side of my post by the light plant every few seconds were met in counter point by others returning empty on the other side. The din of the endless lines of full and empty trucks and the chatter of their drivers on the radio was unrelenting. Lightning flashed, thunder rolled and I tucked my Bureau of Reclamation, BUREC, Earth Manual under my shirt and into the back of my trousers with all of the skill of a police officer stowing a spare gun. July nights in southern Arizona’s deserts can be hot, with temperatures into the 110s degrees Fahrenheit. This was such a night and I was way out of my comfort zone; a recently graduated power engineer monitoring dirt work on a high fill embankment as part of the Red Rock Pumping Plant, one of fourteen along the $4.7 billion Central Arizona Project, CAP.

The CAP is a large piece of Cold War (1947-1991) infrastructure constructed by the BUREC, a bureau within the Department of Interior, DOI. It enables Phoenix, Tucson and several smaller municipalities to thrive in a desert environment that cannot support that level of population. A big concrete-lined ditch that lifts over 1.4 million acre-feet of Colorado River water from Lake Havasu to Tucson, Arizona, The CAP was originally planned to extend into New Mexico. Long about Tucson, the project ran out of money. Victory was declared in 1994 when DOI pronounced the project ‘substantially complete’ and proceeded to turn it over to the CAP-AZ for management.

In theory, the CAP reduces ground water use and the sinking of the ground that is a result of pumping ground water. So far, so good, Tucson shut down several well fields. Politics being what they are, I would venture to guess ground water pumping will resume when the CAP allocation is fully used or otherwise dries up.

In 1968, the passage of the Colorado River Basin Project Act[1] turned the Secretary of the Interior loose to acquire the right to 24.3 percent of the power produced at the non-Federal Navajo Generating Station, Navajo Project. Electricity to lift all that water was a key component of making

Mark Wilmer Pumping plant (formerly know as the Havasu Pumping Plant)

Mark Wilmer Pumping plant (formerly know as the Havasu Pumping Plant)

the CAP dream come true. Work on the project began in earnest in 1973 as construction was started on the Havasu Intake Channel Dike and the excavation for the Havasu Pumping Plant, which is now called the Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant. If the EPA has its way, the Navajo Generating Station, along with other coal fired plants, will have to undergo at least $1 billion in retrofitting to meet the new standards and the cost of delivering CAP water will go through the roof.

Colorado River water to feed the canal is lifted over 290 feet straight up Buckskin Mountain and, over the course of the canal, is lifted about 3,000 feet. I had the privilege of participating during the acceptance testing of the big Hitachi vertical shaft pumps. As a ‘rotation’ engineer, my job was to read the visicorder. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness tests on big systems that generally one can only read about in text books. The most memorable test was the short circuit test. The pump was brought on line, isolated to a single transformer at Parker Canyon Dam and short circuited. When the test was executed, I think every air breaker in the place blew. Several levels underground, where I was located, the noise was deafening. The Japanese engineers facilitating the test rushed in from all directions to settle the pump unit down.  However, the angriest person of the bunch was at Parker Canyon Dam. It seems the big transformer we used moved several feet. That little thing we call electricity can wield incredible forces that, in this case, made a multi-ton transformer move. Whew, what a ride!

The CAP was the most recent straw dropped into the Colorado to satisfy the thirst of people and crops. In some ways it has become the straw that broke the camel’s back. The seven states, divided between upper and lower basins, which touch the Colorado River, met in 1922 to divide up the spoils of water. It was a time of plentiful water and snow fall so the Colorado River carried almost 18 million acre-feet of water[2].

We humans are short-lived and equally short-sighted so it was assumed that the Colorado River always had and always would carry almost 18 million acre-feet of water. Although the Colorado River flow is down to about 15 million acre-feet, it is still supporting 30 million people as well as agricultural interests. Oh by the way, what happened to the farming communities in Mexico that also depended on the Colorado River’s flow? Well, for the most part, they are gone in spite of a 1.5 million acre-foot commitment from the U.S. in 1944. Mexico does have very nice protected Colorado River wetlands, however. The Colorado River water that arrives in Yuma, the last stop before Mexico, is too salty to drink or use on crops[3]. The BUREC constructed a desalination plant at Yuma to correct the situation. The plant completed its pilot run in 2011. Desalination using Reverse Osmosis is a solution, but it is a short-term solution as the disposal of the brine will create ever increasing challenges. New technologies with fewer disposal legacies must come on-line for the long run.

Whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting here in the West but the East should take note, the water game will be there soon. International consortiums are investing in water resources. Within the past six years, Prescott Valley auctioned 1,103 acre-feet of effluent (water released from a wastewater treatment facility). A New York Investment firm picked up the water for about $25,000 per acre-foot and has already resold 700 acre-feet[4]. The federal government laid claim to all surface water in the U.S. in the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act in 2012, which makes water harvesting illegal. This significant change should raise eyebrows across the U.S.

The CAP is an expensive and well-intentioned piece of infrastructure that had the unintended consequence of highlighting how ill-equipped the DOI is to manage eco-systems as complex as the Colorado River. The twenty or so dams, lakes, and straws feeding canals provide water and electricity to millions and one cannot argue with that track record. The downside comes with a bureaucratic mentality that refuses to realistically address future impacts in project planning. While one does not know what one does not know, many challenges are known. The idea that something magical will happen to solve future problems has definite short-comings. A non-sexy example is maintenance. The project people knew maintenance would be required but few provisions, like by-pass systems, were included in the design. On September 20, 2012 the CAP canal failed close to Bouse, Arizona. It took three weeks to repair and the entire system had to be shut down for three weeks, meaning that Phoenix and Tucson were denied CAP water for the duration. The Arizona Republic’s Shaun McKinnon wrote an excellent piece about the failure and recovery, although I disagree, in part, with the conclusion.[5]

Whether or not the DOI has mismanaged the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basins can be argued for years. What cannot be disputed is the wisdom, or lack thereof, of a huge population base dependent on a central government’s largess when it comes to water. If the government shuts the water off, as has been done in California’s Central Valley to save a fish that may be endangered, the people are left high and dry[6]. Ghost towns develop quickly and people are herded like cattle to the next stop the government has in mind.

I was attending a bilateral problem solving meeting with Mexican officials in Nogales, Arizona on the topic of water. The Mexican contingent stormed out of the meeting labeling the U.S. insane because the EPA was worried that the action in question might possibly cause problems for a small fish called a chub. Nonsense science had brought this poor little fish to center stage of an international dispute.  I believe the answers to the future survival of the human species are embedded in science and engineering. To achieve this lofty goal, it is imperative that science return to a baseline of intellectual honesty and that engineers stop taking the easy way out. The lights of the new technologies that will save the species are twinkling in the eyes of scientists, engineers, and development specialists. The problem is bureaucracies can only function within the status quo and are, therefore, inflexible to a fault; bringing progress to a halt.

[1] Colorado River Basin Project Act; Public Law 90-537 Public Law 90-537; September 30, 1968;

[4] The Daily Courier; New York investment company sells PV effluent credits to Scottsdale developer;

[5] The Arizona Republic; Shaun McKinnon; Nov. 25, 2012;  Arizona canal project an uphill journey;

Land, Land Everywhere and Not A Drop To Spare

Following my relocation from Hawaii in the early 1990s, I was assigned to the Department of Energy’s Hanford Reservation in Washington State. The orientation session included a bus tour that hit the Hanford highlights. Hanford, founded during the middle of WWII, was depopulated and expanded to a 670 square mile reservation during the Cold War (1947-1991) because of its isolation. The Columbia River wanders for about fifty miles providing a boundary with a buffer zone on the other side of the

Demolition at 300 Area on the Columbia River 2010. Photo courtesy of DOE

Demolition at 300 Area on the Columbia River 2010. Photo courtesy of DOE

river. The tour guide regaled us with tales of the nine reactors situated at the rivers’ edge (think about that), gave us a quick and dirty lecture of the mothballing process used to decommission the reactors, showed us the Navy’s reactor burial ground, and boasted of the plutonium production during its heyday that had fueled some 60,000 nuclear weapons. After years of eye candy living in the Pacific, I felt I had been dropped into the middle of a film noire. The Hanford Reservation rolled endlessly to the horizon in unrelieved black and white.

What an excellent reorientation to reality! January in Hanford is just plain cold and the heater in my work truck stayed pegged on atomic. My timing was, as usual, excellent. I rolled into Hanford right in the middle of a gorilla fight between DOE and its contractors. Experience had taught me to avoid these exercises in futility as someone always gets seriously wounded. Thus began my quest to find a way to be useful that also worked well with my ‘fun’ requirement.

Armed with a ream or so of paper and maps gathered from old-timers so I wouldn’t get too far off of the beaten path and into too much trouble, I took off to explore the reservation on my own. Assigned to an ornery old cuss that had been at Hanford for nearly 40-years, I was pleased when

Hanford High School

What was left of Hanford High School (photographer unknown)

he took the time to talk to me of the people who had been displaced during the Cold War expansion. His parents had been among the refugees. They thought they would get their land back when the government’s need was over. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find the location of the town of White Bluffs so I soldiered on to Hanford. My visit to the old Hanford town site, at this man’s insistence, was a turning point in my world view. When I read the monument and looked at the tree skeletons on a forgotten, years-dead lawn in front of an abandoned school, my spirit reeled. I was transported back to the Marshallese people who were made the same promise and still they sang their songs infused with that very hope.

How many times had land been taken and how much land did the DOE own? Let’s see, there is Rocky Flats in Colorado, Nevada Test Site, the Mounds in Ohio, Idaho, Washington, New Mexico, Alabama, Tennessee, Alaska, Hawaii, and California; just for starters. DOE owns 3.1 million acres, about 4,850 square miles. The vast majority of the land was acquired during the Cold War from small communities and farmers who believed they were doing their patriotic duty. It is no worse, I guess, than those communities and farms that lie under the reservoirs of Hoover, Hungry Horse, and Cordis dams as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA, so that we may have electricity.

The dawning realization of the enormity of the DOE landholdings was like taking a January dip in the Columbia River, chilling. Even more sobering is that the DOE does not even rank in the top tier of federal agency landholders; they are pikers. Although the federal government is not really certain how much land it owns, the Congressional Research Service issued a 2012 report on Federal Land Ownership[1] in which it was estimated that the federal government owned between 635 and 640 million acres or 99,200-100,000 square miles. Of that, the Department of Interior, through four of its agencies, ‘manages’ 609 million acres or about 99,000 square miles. What that actually means is that about one-third of this country is out of commission. One-third of the land not only fails to generate wealth, it consumes resources. In the western U.S. about half of the land belongs to the federal government. In Nevada, the federal government owns 84 percent of the land.

If a single corporation owned one-third of the country there would be riots in the street. For one reason or another, U.S. citizens, the taxpayers, have accepted the government’s takings, displacement, and enormous growth in land ownership. I grew up with the sanctity of private property but I loved my time in the National Parks and Monuments in the West. Slowly, the Public Lands were taken from me as ‘wilderness’ areas of no trespassing were introduced and enlarged, roads were closed, access and use denied. Park Rangers became gun toting enforcers, the law I knew didn’t apply, and the concept of ‘land management’ became a joke of science. As the federal government consumes more and more land, even the requirement that property be taken either for government use or, by delegation, to third parties who will devote it to public use has become corrupt. Private property may now be ‘taken’ and, in turn, given to other private sector people for economic development. If my neighbor ‘needs’ my property more than I do, the courts have said they may have it. Of course, the evil deed (pun intended) must be done through a third party like a town or city government but it gets done none-the-less.

From the founding of the United States the concept and ideal of private property and contracts has flip-flopped several times. Property Rights in American History[2], prepared by James W. Ely Jr., a Milton R. Underwood Professor of Law and Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, is a good primer of property rights through U.S. history. As summarized by this engineer, strong protection for property and investment capital insures a good standard of living. After all, if we look back, the market economy increased national wealth and we, the people, benefited from that. Property ownership empowers individuals, which is why home ownership is the American Dream. In his paper, Ely states “…An economic system grounded on respect for private ownership tends to diffuse power and to strengthen individual autonomy from government. Property was therefore traditionally seen as a safeguard of liberty because it set limits on the reach of legitimate government…”

President Roosevelt’s New Deal initiated the latest round in the private property and contract debate and the federal government’s Cold War land grab added fuel to the fire that is today’s economy; $16 Trillion in debt, wars and rumors of wars, and an unknown number of our fellow citizens suffering the loss of their homes and or their jobs (the statistics are skewed so there is no real base line), the government grabs corporations and runs them, et cetera ad nauseam. Do you feel empowered or in control?

There is a way out. In 1999, DOE published a Record of Decision in the Federal Register[3] in which it proposed that the buffer zone across the Columbia River at Hanford be returned to the private domain. The land was indeed returned to private land holders who converted it from scrub land to orchards and other crops. Once again that land is being ‘managed’ and is productive. It is contributing to the economy in a sustainable way not because of regulation but because to do otherwise would jeopardize the livelihood of the property holders and their families who do not own printing presses to fix their mistakes.

[1] Congressional Research Service; Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data; February 8, 2012;

[2] History of Property Rights – Hillsdale College; James W. Ely Jr.;

Chile’s Cold War Political Dance: A Cueca of Ideas


Kids are still fascinated by Chuqui and the adventure it can be.

The two years spent roaming the great piles of overburden from the mine, abandoned morgues, high walls, ancient mining sites, and back alleys of Chuquicamata, Chile before the 1958 elections allowed me an acceptance by the miners’ families denied many gringos. “Familiarity breeds contempt” according to my little tiny German Lutheran grandmother who had a saying for every occasion and seemed to possess the wisdom of the ages. In this case, familiarity bred a nice long stay in my room staring at the ceiling and wondering about adults.

The winter of 1955 was busy for our family. My father’s announcement that we were off to Chile during dinner one cold, snowy evening prompted a brief flurry of animated discussion followed by hasty packing. We lived, at that time, in a little log cabin with all the modern conveniences on the north shore of Lake Superior in Schroeder, Minnesota. Dad, an electrical superintendent on a taconite project, had been offered the same job with a considerable raise at the Anaconda mine in Chuquicamata, Chile. I was the eldest of their three children and my brother was just an infant, which means my Mom probably didn’t get much help with the overwhelming task of preparing to leave the U.S. The memory of the terrible series of immunizations we received and of losing my cat is still vivid in my mind as is boarding the train in Two Harbors, Minnesota for a trip to New Jersey. The stop at my Aunt and Uncle’s place in New Jersey was a short, high energy shopping trip. Mom bought and packed everything three rapidly growing children, two girls and a baby boy, would need for the three years Dad’s contract would run.

The smell of the New York Harbor was overwhelming and our ship, the SS Santa Maria, looked huge. She was a tramp steamer and one of her cargoes was a few passengers. We steamed passed the bright lights of Cuba, off loaded molasses in Panama, transited the canal, picked up bananas in Buenaventura, Columbia, and steamed on. Each time we stopped to off or on-load cargo, we went ashore. Each time the ritual was performed, my eyes and dreams of life’s wonder and adventure grew larger. My brother’s first birthday was celebrated as we lay anchored in Chile’s Antofagasta Harbor. Except for the backdrop, a nearly vertical rock wall looming into the sky, Antofagasta looked like most of the harbors we’d seen. The launch picked us up and, following several days of customs and other bureaucratic nightmares, the family boarded an old DC-3 to fly into Calama, a town not too far away from Chuqui. I thought it was great that we could see through the seams on the airplane but my mother wasn’t nearly as impressed and, for a moment, I thought the great adventure was over.  Safely aboard we made the short flight from sea level to 10,000 feet. I learned about puna, altitude sickness, shortly after our arrival in Chile.

Puna is a very simple illness. The body grabs a breath of the air at 10,000 feet to do its thing, discovers the air is seriously lacking in oxygen and takes corrective measures. After several more samples of the air, corporal chaos theory kicks in. Headaches, stomach issues, and dizziness combine with whatever other horrors the autonomic nervous system can find to test the environment. A willful soul, choosing to ignore the warning signs, is simply rendered unconscious until the body’s brain can figure out what on earth is happening. Your body will simply take you out of the equation while it sorts itself out. Arriving back to a conscious state, I discovered the high, dry Atacama Desert in all of its glory. I loved Chuqui.

It is surprising that by 1958 I was not incarcerated permanently in my room.  I assembled a chemistry lab in that room and pretty much contaminated the house with my experiments, which I took from library books. A group of us, we kids travelled in groups back then, entered an abandoned morgue through a boarded window. It was slated to be covered by tailings. I took a skull I found and stashed it in my closet in a shoebox. Our beloved Rosa found it and the resulting domestic hysteria went on for days. Chuqui was built on the side of a steep hill so all roads either went almost straight up and down or across on the level. I built a go cart out of roller skate wheels and scrap lumber. To obtain additional control of the vehicle, I needed weight it back end. My baby brother was the perfect weight so I strapped him on and we zoomed off on a wondrous, exhilarating ride down the hills at breakneck speed; competing with work trucks for road real estate. It wasn’t long before the reports started coming in and a hopping mad parental search party located us. I am truly thankful I was allowed to live long enough to go to the movies with friends that night in 1958.

The movie theater disgorged us about 9:00 P.M., that fall high-desert 1958 night and, while we were awaiting pick-up by the parental limousine, I noticed a ‘party’ going on close by. Being of short attention span, I wandered over to check it out and discovered it was two parties. At one, people were holding torches and listening to a speaker and, close by, was another with a band and people waving white napkins while dancing the Cueca. The Cueca is the national dance in Chile. Its genesis is clouded but I like the version that it originated in the early 19th century bordellos of South America, as a pas de deux facilitating partner finding. I was, of course, located and, once again, was counting the spots on my bedroom ceiling. The next morning at the breakfast lecture, I learned that I had witnessed a union campaign rally for the Chilean presidential election. I also learned that the baby sister of a friend of mine in the workers’ camp had been killed during the ruckus that followed. The direction was for me to keep my nose completely out of this business and my body at home. I was devastated and my parents finally agreed to take me to the child’s wake so I could see Graciela, my friend. What I learned frightened me.

Salvador Allende was among the candidates in 1958. His Marxist party had brought in agitators from Bolivia. Graciela’s parents and all their friends were terrified. People who dissented were disappearing and having accidents. The union, always their uneasy ally, was now adamant that the membership comply with its political position. As we joined the others mourning the little child sitting in her chair, her life interrupted by adult insanity, my heart broke. I listened to the whispers of what had happened and smelled the fear. I complied with my parents’ wishes and stayed away from the gatherings and defied them by maintaining my friendships. I heard that people judged not to be supportive, even if it were as simple as not shouting as loudly as they should at a rally, were marked. A person would nudge against them leaving a white mark of flour on their back. Many vanished without a trace. Some of the bodies were found and others suffered mining accidents that left them unable to work. The rage I felt was impotent and I didn’t understand. My friends from the workers’ families withdrew from me and blamed the United Sates. As fall yielded to winter on the Atacama Desert, it was very cold. The wonderful world I knew changed forever.

Salvador Allende lost the 1958 election to Jorge Alessandri but not by much. He lost again in 1964 to Eduardo Frei. In 1970, Salvador Allende won the Presidency and, since then, the country has elected socialists. In the purges that followed Allende’s election, several of my Chilean friends and their families sought asylum in the U.S., went to school in the U.S. and have, subsequently, repatriated. Other friends stayed to fight for their country and died in camps. There was, of course, the little matter of Pinochet, an extreme right wing dictator. In both cases, left and right, the path chosen was violent and devastating to a beautiful country with more than its fair share of brilliant, hard-working, creative individuals and entrepreneurs. Pinochet brought in the Chicago Boys; “University of Chicago-trained or affiliated economists, including Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, who recommended and implemented the liberalization and stabilization policies of the military government.”[1] Finally, the markets began to open and the people could breathe just a bit.

While I did not understand at the time why my friends blamed and, later, hated the United States. It is clearer today. What happened to Chile was Cold War (1947-1991) Policy. In 2008, Harvard’s Richard N. Cooper published Economic Aspects of the Cold War, 1962-1975 [2]in which he wrote, “The principal instruments for preventing the spread of communism by non-military means involved building an international economic system conducive to economic prosperity; engaging in persuasion, providing incentives, and occasionally imposing economic sanctions; and, not least, promoting a robust US economy that could serve as a stimulant to others and as a beacon for the benefits of a free, enterprise-based, market-oriented economy.”  The U.S. had its big nose in Chile in 1958 and kept it there through the 1980s.

While Cooper covers the period between 1962 through 1975, the policy dates back to Roosevelt and the Marshall Plan aid to Europe. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was supposed to free the marketplace. Truman’s “Point Four,” provided the basis for aid to developing countries. According to Cooper, “The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, created in 1946, were also important features of the international economic architecture. The United States, with the sometimes reluctant cooperation of others, tried also to penalize countries within or too close to the Soviet orbit.

The U.S. spent over $130 million in 1958 to help the little known Jorge Alessandri win the election and much more than that in 1964.  Maybe it worked. Chile became very dependent on the U.S. as the successful U.S. backed candidates changed the tariff laws. The CIA effectively overthrew the government to bring Pinochet to power. Chile went from a normally developing country to social disaster and has, once again, climbed out and found its own soul and stalls in the global marketplace.

I have read and listened to how horrid the Pinochet government was; read of the atrocities and paid attention to the communist lawsuits. No doubt, it was a terrible time politically. What happened, though, is the Communist pot calling the capitalist kettle black. The purges under Allende killed countless thousands of dissenters, closed the schools, and leveled the economy so that everyone starved equally. Few rail about that period and those of us who lost friends to this regime mourn in private. The idea of the individual was lost for a while and it all happened very fast and furiously. I was thrilled when the Chicago Boys gave gold and silver mining back to hard working individuals. I am thrilled to see the rise of hope, education, and the individual in a country with such potential.

The Cueca of ideas with its flying white napkins, clubs and guns rocked my world. The dance was intense and so were the times.

[2] Economic Aspects of the Cold War, 1962-1975; Richard N. Cooper; Harvard University; February 2008;