The Bolivian Water War

In the course of doing research for the final chapter of my Latin American history project, I came across this item. I found it interesting because Bechtel is one of the five engineering companies that is active at my current place of work. While Bechtel is not the company that hired me, it is by far the biggest on site, and I work closely with some Bechtel people (my immediate supervisor is one). Here’s the story:

In the 1990s, the government of Bolivia ran more than a hundred corporations, most of which were not very profitable. To cut losses and deficit spending, more than one administration opted for privatization; they sold off those corporations to private investors, And because most Bolivians were poor, a lot of those investors were foreigners; many Bolivians thought there were too many foreign investors. This led to the so-called “Cochabamba Water War” of January-April 2000.

As part of the privatization program, the water utility of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, was auctioned to a firm named Aguas del Tunari. This was a consortium made up of several companies, some of them Bolivian, but the controlling interest (55% of ownership) came from a British company, which was in turn controlled by Bechtel, the big US-based engineering corporation. Once it had the water works, the firm steeply raised water rates, to pay for the construction of a new dam. This led to demonstrations all over the province, the blockading of a highway for several weeks, and violence; one seventeen-year-old boy was killed and 175 injuries were reported. The government declared a state of siege and put Cochabamba under martial law. Protests continued for ninety days, until officials of Aguas del Tunari fled after the government said it could not guarantee their safety; then the government announced they had abandoned the water works, and declared the contract void.

That ended the water war, but the story wasn’t over just yet. In 2002 Bechtel sued the Bolivian government for $50 million, charging that it had lost at least half that amount from damages and because the closing of Aguas del Tunari kept it from earning any profits. The case dragged on in court for years, until Bechtel got tired of it, judging from how it was resolved; in January 2006 Bechtel settled by accepting a payment of two bolivianos – 25 US cents (US $0.25 or 25¢).

17 Reasons to NOT Become a Technical Writer

Yesterday marked twenty-five years since I started working at Ticketmaster as a senior phone agent.  At a little over eight years (September 1989-December 1997), it is the longest-lasting job I have had so far.  Still, I am hoping to beat that at the place where I am working now.  I have now been at my current technical writer job for five months, and as I put more experience under my belt, I am having a better time in the office.  Yesterday, for instance, I was asked to help train a new technical writer who started this month – definitely a good sign.  And this project is expected to need folks like me until 2023, so if it runs late, I could be here until I am old enough to retire.  Job security is welcome, inasmuch as I have seen terribly little of it for the past four years.

Anyway, I just read an article on the downsides of this kind of work.  For some reason I cannot copy and paste even an excerpt from the text (is the whole article one big graphic?), so you’ll have to follow this link to read it:

I’m wondering about the reference to interpersonal skills in #13.  I became a technical writer because my people skills were never very good.  Are they referring to the mania of meetings you are expected to attend?  Some of the places I have worked in seemed to consider meetings more important than work.

Now if I had written the article I would add an eighteenth point:  This is a feast & famine profession.  The jobs pay great when you can get them (I couldn’t pay the bills on what I made as a teacher), but they are only common in areas with high-tech centers, like Silicon Valley or Oak Ridge.  Although one of those jobs persuaded me to move from Florida to Kentucky in 2006, Kentucky is not a high-tech center; hence my long period out of work until last April, and the job I had in Connecticut during 2011 and 2012.

But even with the points mentioned in the article, it’s good to be back at it again.  Now I’m telling my co-workers this is the most complicated job I will ever love!

Are You Pinterested?

I have had an account with Pinterest, the famous picture-sharing website, for a year of two, since I learned that pictures from The Xenophile Historian are being “pinned” there.  It gives me an idea of what’s popular on the site.  Currently it looks like the picture of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau dancing behind the Queen of England’s back is very popular indeed.



Anyway, here is a link to The Xenophile Historian board:


Earlier this month I decided to pin as many pictures from my website as possible, to increase traffic.  So far I have put up 289 pins, on three boards.  One board is for African history, one is for East Asian history (India, China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia), and one is for European history.  And much more will be going up in the near future; I haven’t gotten to the picture collections for the Middle East, Russia or the Americas yet.  Click on this link to see them for yourself:

Israeli Spies Falsifying History to Show Jews Built Pyramids


Well, well, well.  A few times in the past I have reported here about the crazy crackpot ideas that have come out of the Islamic world, especially Egypt.  See my messages from June 13, 2007 and April 30, 2012 for a few examples.  Now the article I just linked to shows us that the Moslem Brotherhood may no longer be in power, but Egypt is still producing more than its share of anti-Semites and conspiracy theories.  This one comes from the same guy who tried to sue Israel for inflicting the Ten Plagues on Egypt, without saying a word about the enslavement of Israelites that started the whole affair.

With the latest claim I would point out, for a start, that the theory suggesting that Pharaoh Sheshonq I = Shishak is not a recent Israeli invention.  Some European reading hieroglyphics at the temple of Karnak, nearly two hundred years ago, came up with that idea.  Perhaps Mr. Gamal would prefer David Rohl’s theory, that Shishak is none other than Ramses the Great?  And as for the treasures found in the tombs of the pharaohs at Tanis, I can make a case that they were stolen from earlier pharaohs like Amenhotep III, not from the Israelites.