Who am I?Where am I?

29 December 2008

Viagra and Afghan Warlords

My buddy Alex sent this to me and correctly stated, "You can't make this stuff up!" True indeed!

America's CIA has found a novel way to gain information from fickle Afghan warlords - supplying sex-enhancing drug Viagra, a US media report says. The Washington Post said it was one of a number of enticements being used. In one case, a 60-year-old warlord with four wives was given four pills and four days later detailed Taleban movements in return for more.
"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people," the Post quoted one agent as saying. "Whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra." The newspaper said the use of Viagra had to be handled sensitively as the drug was not always known about in rural areas.
It quoted one retired agent as saying: "You didn't hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones." In the case of the 60-year-old warlord - the head of a clan in southern Afghanistan who had not co-operated - operatives saw he had four younger wives. The pills were explained and offered. Four days later the agents returned.
"He came up to us beaming," the Post quoted an agent as saying. "He said, 'You are a great man.' "And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area." The pills could put chieftains "back in an authoritative position", another official said. The paper said the CIA had a long line of inducements for the notoriously fickle warlords, including dental work, visas, toys and medicine.
It quoted one private security official as saying that simply handing over large sums of money would raise suspicions about newfound wealth.



Where is the Humanity?

My good friend, who goes by the alias 'The Cat', advised me not to write this and offend "the choosen people." I cannot not write this. I was working on a post about Somalian Pirates and another about Cricket, but this weekend kind of changed all that and my focus.

I am a fan of the underdog. I love the NCAA basketball tournament each March where almost annually, a small unknown school beats a roster full of future NBA players. I enjoy the world cup in soccer/football when a small team from a smaller country defeats a larger country like Senegal (defeating France) in 2002. In baseball, I root for the Toronto Blue Jays, against the New York Yankees, and for the team with the smaller payroll in the World Series. I can't stand Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, or Liverpool. I root for the team in England with the most English players on its roster, so this year, I'm a Hull supporter. I root against Brazil in football, Australia in cricket, and New Zealand in rugby. Thus, it's probably natural that I would support the Palestinians against Israel.

If this were a sporting event, I would be supporting the young Hebrew boy, armed with a slingshot who fearlessly walked out into battle against the giant aggressor. In this case, I would be supporting the Palestinians since they use the modern version of the proverbial slingshot against one of the most technologically advanced miltaries in the world. The only problem is that this is not a sporting event. This is real life. These are real people being murdered (over 300 as of this writing). Where is the humanity?

I will freely admit that I have many mixed emotions when it comes to Israel (and to the Palestinian cause to which feelings about Israel are inextricably linked.) First, history shows that during the years leading up to World War II, the United States did nothing to help the plight of Jews in Europe. Ships carrying Jewish refugees were refused entry into US waters and Jews onboard sent back into the clutches of Hitler's maniacal regime. Jewish leaders repeatedly asked military leaders to bomb railroad lines, which the Germans used to transport Jews to their deaths in concentration camps. Had these lines been bombed, which they could have easily been, thousands of lives would have saved. Roosevelt refused. Thus, it was perhaps understandable that American leaders, supported the creation of Israel after World War II. As an American now, probably as a result of a smidgen of collective guilt, I do think that the state of Israel has a right to exist. Secondly, if a people do not have rights to govern themselves, then often they are persecuted. History is fraught with examples of this, which further supports my belief that a Jewish state should exist.

Over the years, I have had one particularly good relationship with a Jewish carpenter (no...not Jesus), who really taught me a lot about life and helped me get to where I am now. For this, I will be eternally greatful. In South Africa, two of my closest friends are Jewish. I love celebrating Jewish holidays with them, just as I now enjoy celebrating Islamic holidays with Muslim friends, particularly now that I reside in the Persian Gulf. This is one side of the coin.
However, as I sat in front of the television this past weekend, watching Al-Jazeera do it's best to be neutral, and CNN and BBC make no effort to do the same, I was aghast on many levels. Where is the humanity? There is something inherently unfair about attacking buildings and positions with F-16 fighters when the opposition is either unarmed or has mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades. Why now? Is this just politics before an Israeli election. Historically, Isreaeli politicians have acted as though bombs exploding in the West Bank and Palestine were euphonious and could help them convince the Israeli public to vote for them. Sadly, they have normally been correct and their policies have won them the plaudits of Israeli voters.

Israeli politicians were repeatedly paraded in front of cameras over the weekend. They were beseeched with questions about why this was happening. Their only explanation for the actions of the government and military was that Hamas started this latest conflagration. This argument is not valid. We can go back to 1948 and engage in a vicious cycle of who started what. In the end, this was started by the dispossession of Palestinians from their land by the Israelis.

Regardless of who began this latest sordid episode, the Israeli reaction is akin to a child being hit with a pebble on a playground and turning around and shooting everyone on the school ground with an uzi. What defines "starting the fight" anyway? There was a 6-month cease fire, which was largely honored by both sides. However, during the past several months, Gaza was cut off by an Israeli blockade. It is arguable as to whether the blockade prevented arms from getting into Gaza but it is quite clear that food, medicine, and essential staples necessary to survive, were cut off. Hospitals have been bombed. Hospitals don't have medicine. An overwhelming percentage of Palestinians living in Gaza receive food aid. This has been cut off. In short, the world has abandoned Gaza.

As I watched this weekend, I remembered why I long ago had a poster of Yasser Arafat in my house and a Palestinian flag hanging next to it. Regardless of the circumstances that led us here, Gaza and the West Bank are occupied territories. They are occupied by an alien invading force. If my country was similarly occupied, I would fight for it with all resources at my disposal. I too, would fight the Israelis.

If one examines George Bush over the past eight years, one can see a microcosm of the Israeli state. After 9/11, Bush had the highest approval ratings in history, the sympathy of the world, and could do whatever he wanted (within reason.) He squandered this in a mis-guided war, obstensibly (according reports on what Condoleza Rice stated at the time) to establish a democracy in the Middle East. More on this in a moment. The Jewish community, post-1945, had the sympathy of the world and leveraged this to establish Israel. This sympathy has been squandered. I cannot sympathize with a nation that drops bombs from F-16s on hospitals. To do so would also be to sympathize with my own leader, who has done the same thing. Morally, I cannot do that. Israel is as wrong as Bush and their actions have only served to radicalize many segments of the populations in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

According to reports, Bush's team had different reasons for wanting to invade Iraq. Condoleza Rice wanted to set up a stable democracy in one of the most un-democratic regions in the world. In case nobody understands this, the occupied territories are democratic. Hamas has been elected! Gaza and the West Bank are (with all due respect to Lebanon) the only truly functioning democracies in the Middle East. Israel denies citizens within it's territory the right to vote (since both of the occupied territories are presently within the country of Israel). People do not generally vote for organizations and parties that will lead them to self-annihiliation unless they see no alternative. The fact that Hamas was voted into power illustrates just how desparate the plight of Palestinians in Gaza has become. The West Bank, where things are more stable, has not voted for Hamas. Despite the fact that there are over 600 Israeli Army checkpoints, a wall that encroaches on Palestinian land and divides it's people further, and the daily harassment meted out by the Israeli occupying army, West Bank residents still have hope and have not voted for a radical organization like Hamas. Clearly, Israel has destroyed this hope in Gaza and the people have voted for an alternative. Has nobody posed the question: what caused this to happen?

As a student of African history, the liberation movement that most strongly correlates to the Palestinian cause is the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Mandela, Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, etc., were all viewed as terrorists because they were fighting for freedom against an oppressive and sinister force. So too are the Palestinians. The Israeli government has lost it's touch with reality and has completely misprized the will of the people of Gaza to fight on. Furthermore, it has completely lost the ability to think of Palestinians as fellow humans and continues to pursue an otiose and outdated policy bent on beating Gaza into submission. Lastly, it has recklessly murdered over 300 people in 48 hours (35% of whom are women and children). This is very similar to apartheid government policy, which ultimately proved futile.

On another level, the Arab governments in this region have demonstrated that they truly do not care about Palestine. Postponing the Arab League meeting until Wednesday illustrates this. How can the Arab world not issue a cohesive statement for at least five days after something as monstrous as this. These governments are not democratic and do not reflect the will of the people in this region any more than Stalin reflected the will of the Russian people.

One can only hope that the Israeli citizens realize emerge from their chthonic state, realize their mistake, and elect a new government before it is too late and world opinion has seriously weakened the ability of the Israelis to negotiate. This is not the place where I want to place too much faith at this point. This would be similar to placing faith in the white South African electorate between 1948-1994.
The peace process lingers at the edge of a staircase devoid of a balustrade. If it fails, more lives will be lost. The time is now! Free Palestine. End the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Remove the Jewish settlements from these areas. Get a solution to the city of Jerusalem. Get a peace deal now before more innocent lives are lost.


18 December 2008

Me in Muscat, Oman

These pictures were taken last week in Muscat. Yes, I walked around the capital of Oman dressed in traditional Omani attire.


This Made me Laugh

"I'm not afraid of dying... I just don't want to be there when it happens" Woody Allen


16 December 2008

Duck or an Eagle

I received this email from my Mom and thought it was poignant. Personally I like ducks as they are much better tempered than eagles, but metaphorically speaking, I'd rather be an eagle!
Richard the Nomad

Duck Or An Eagle?

Harvey Mackay, tells a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this point. He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a brightshine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the backpassenger door for Harvey. He handed my friend a laminated card and said: 'I'm Wally, your driver. While I'm loading your bags in the trunk I'd like you to read my mission statement.

'Taken aback, Harvey read the card.It said: Wally's Mission Statement: To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest andcheapest way possible in a friendly environment.

This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of thecab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean!As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, 'Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf.'My friend said jokingly, 'No, I'd prefer a soft drink. 'Wally smiled and said, 'No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice.'Almost stuttering, Harvey said, 'I'll take a Diet Coke. 'Handing him his drink, Wally said, 'If you'd like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today.'As they were pulling away, Wally handed my friend another laminated card, 'These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you'd like to listen to the radio.'

And as if that weren't enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him.

Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of day. He also let him know that he'd be happy to chat and tell him aboutsome of the sights or, if Harvey preferred, to leave him with his ownthoughts.

'Tell me, Wally,' my amazed friend asked the driver, 'have you alwaysserved customers like this?' Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. 'No, not always. In fact, it's only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day. He had just written a book called You'll See It When You Believe It. Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you'll rarely disappointyourself. He said, 'Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don't be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar abovethe crowd.'''That hit me right between the eyes,' said Wally. 'Dyer was really talking about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customerswere unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time. When my customers responded well, I did more.

''I take it that has paid off for you,' Harvey said.'It sure has,' Wally replied. 'My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year I'll probably quadruple it. You were lucky to get me today. I don't sit at cabstands anymore. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering machine. If I can't pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to do it and I take a piece of the action. 'Wally was phenomenal. He was running a limo service out of a Yellow Cab.
I've probably told that story to more than fifty cab drivers over the years, and only two took the idea and ran with it. Whenever I go to their cities, I give them a call. The rest of the drivers quacked like ducks and told me all the reasons they couldn't do any of what I was suggesting. Wally the Cab Driver made a different choice. He decided to stop quacking like ducks and start soaring like eagles. How about us? A man reaps what he sows. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up...let us do good to all people. Ducks Quack, Eagles Soar
Author Unknown


11 December 2008

10 December 2008

Wear Sunscreen

I heard this song the other day and loved it! Figured I would post the lyrics and the wikipedia link to find the history of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '99... Wear Sunscreen If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….You're not as fat as you imagine. Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing everyday that scares you Sing Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss Don't waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind…the race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself. Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch. Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds know still don't. Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone. Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't, maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't, maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don't be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don't follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents, you never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out. Don't mess too much with your hair, or by the time it's 40, it will look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth. But trust me on the sunscreen...



02 December 2008

Emirati National Day Celebration

This are a couple of the pics from yesterday's Emirati Day celebration at my school. Ali is the math co-teacher that works for the same company I do. Mr. Mostapha is in the middle. He is a science teacher. I'm on the right.


Richard the Nomad


26 November 2008

Prop 8

Please note: Please read the two posts below before reading this one as they form the crux of this debate.

My View

I have many random thoughts on this issue. So let me just put them out in no particular order.

1. Let me just say that after reading my father's views again, I do disagree with him on some points. I understand his background and make-up lead him to take a very Christian view of the world and try to analyze things from that point of view. That is his bailiwick and not mine. Mine would be in the historical context and area and I feel that my Dad brings up many good points.

2. I feel that homosexuality has unjustly become the sobriquet of modern America. As I stated in the first post in this series, Barack Obama would not have been President in the 1700s because he is not a white, landowning, male, from one of the 13 original colonies. Thankfully, the USA has outgrown this mode of thinking and clearly, though racism still exists, the color of one's skin, amount of owned property, and state of residence (except in the case of Washington, DC...but that's another issue altogether) is no longer the sole determining factor in how far one can advance. The Declaration of Independence defined certain unalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. I believe that Proposition 8 violates a homosexual's right to all three of these rights. Thus, this is wrong.

Notice that I did not say morally wrong. I do not care what one's views are personally on homosexuality, to limit a person's right to choose is wrong. Morals implies religious and the United States Constitution implicity separates church and state, which is why we do not have a national religion. The United States prides itself on being a bastion of "freedom." I challenge that by posing the question: Free to whom? Historically, every single group within the United States has been oppressed, including the Founding Fathers, and by extension, "free white men" of the colonial era. Everyone has wanted freedom. This right has been fought for. Gay rights is merely an extension of this process.

3. By what right does any American justify a yes vote on Prop 8? There are generally two arguments. The first is moral and the Bible is often used. Again, this is not my bailiwick so please read my Dad's post for a discussion on that front. The second arguement is legal and historical. This too is bogus because by assuming that we can limit the rights of others by voting is to assume that we know better how to achieve happiness for another person than that person himself would know.

What strikes me as ironic is that those who most voiciferously argued for Prop 8 were the conservatives who feel as though the American way of life is somehow in danger because of this issue. Conservatives who worry about American liberalism. Conservatives who take stands that are akin to those taken by a young Austrian in the 1920s who later became the leader of the Facist world. Is Nazi Germany the ideal goal of conservative leaders? I doubt it, yet these arguments and limits on one's personal freedom are the first step towards a fascist state.

4. Most of the arguments proffered by the religious right sound as if they have been concocted by a flibbertigibbet. These arguments use circular logic that make no sense. (As I'm sure some of my arguments do likewise!) However, the fact of the matter is that the religious right is trying to impose its values and norms onto other Americans and in the case of California, many Californians allowed it to happen. This is an unfortunate state of affairs and undermines (albeit only marginally) the joy and pride I felt on election day watching Barack Obama win the election. We as Americans need to recognize that the rights of individuals apply to everyone and not try to summarily limit these rights.

5. I hope this issue at least makes you think and evaluate why you have your own views. Again, I really do not care what your views are on any subject. I simply do not want you to enforce your views on me nor anyone else.

Kind regards,

Richard the Nomad


One Christian Minister's View on Gay Marriage and Prop 8

Subject: Re: Fw: Be Scared California Be VERY SCARED

I don't believe for one minute that the disasters in California are the result of God being angry at the homosexual marriages or punishing the people of California for the decision of "four activist judges." That is just plain crazy. In a similar vein neither do I agree with the words of Jerry Farwell that 9-11 was because of our nation allowing homosexuality, etc. And because I see the thread of the religious right running through both Jerry Farwell's statement and the e-mail in question I find myself reacting in opposition to the sentiment and intent and logic of such a campaign. (I believe 9-11 to be more the result of a hegemonic US foreign policy but that is another subject.) The logic of the e-mail supposedly quoting our early founding fathers does not accurately quote them. The truths that were self evident were "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I haven't read everything that they wrote but I am pretty sure that the issue of homosexuality was not in their thoughts as a truth that was "self evident." The founding fathers were secular men and morality was not what they were trying to define in our early national documents.

I don't really know how God is going to judge homosexuality in the end. I personally don't know whether homosexuality is part of heredity and acquired at birth or if it is produced by a social programming in a dysfunctional family. I have had male homosexual church members who believed that they were somehow different at the time of their first memories. In one church, I had four homosexual men who didn't know that there were three others with the same sexual orientation within the church. I never told them. But I did have opportunity to talk with them at length and after mulling over those conversations I was able to talk with some of the best minds within my denomination at that time regarding the issues surrounding homosexuality. Just suppose for the sake of argument that a homosexual became a homosexual because of some genetic mix-up at conception. If that were the case then do you believe that God would condemn that person forever?

I have to look at homosexuality two ways. First, as a pastor my church left me no option. Practicing homosexuals could not hold church office. However I could use them to play the piano and do various other ministries on a low key basis and if they wanted to participate in church activities I welcomed them.
But secondly, as an American, homosexuals have an equal right to pursue happiness as they define it. And our constitution is founded on the Declaration of Independence which defined those rights as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Contrary to the common beliefs, America was not founded as a Christian nation and therefore the whole Christian right idea of somehow defining morality in a Christian or for that matter even in a religious way is a violation of the Constitution. Many Christians don't believe this to be true but if you read the Federalist papers and read some of the early founding documents you will find this to be true. It is the basis of our Religious Liberty work within the church. Our constitution is founded upon "rights." Congress shall make no laws concerning the establishment of religion. We have a right to bear arms, a right to free speech, a right to have a free press. And while I might disagree with my whole heart with the NRA or what someone might write in a ragtag newspaper he/she would still have the right to put into print whatever he wanted to say and our laws would be obliged to protect him. We have had a women's rights law when suffrage was allowed and women got a vote, we have voted a civil rights law, and Roe vs. Wade was an attempt to provide women with reproductive rights. That is why I don't believe that Roe Vs Wade will be overturned nor should it be. So the question might be raised about those four so called "activist judges" in California. Could they be closer to the intent of the US constitution than all of the citizens who voted for Proposition 8? I believe that it is entirely plausible for our country to have a gay rights law and it might be that Proposition 8 will bring it on faster. Our politics should stay out of the bedroom. Now, do I personally believe in abortion. No! Do I personally want to practice homosexuality. No! If there are legal things I can do to limit the number of abortions then I am bound as a Christian to do that. I believe that our society should help an unwed mother figure out a way to adopt out an unwanted baby, or perhaps provide enough assistance to that mother so she would see a way to financially support that baby and keep it. But I don't believe that I have a right to tell that mother that she must carry that baby to full term and deliver it. I do not believe that our society has a right to force a woman into a back alley abortion clinic where she has a good chance to lose her life after a botched abortion either. Once, at my hospital, we had a twelve year old patient who carried a baby to full term. I believe that it would have been far better for that baby to have been aborted than to have put that child through the delivery.

If there are ways to help a homosexual person to not practice homosexuality if he/she wants that then I think that we should try to help. We have had a couple of Christian organizations who have tried to do that with limited success. Essentially the church's stand is to say that a young person with a homosexual orientation must remain celibate all of of their life. That might work for a few but for the most part they cannot live a celibate lifestyle anymore than many heterosexuals can live a celibate lifestyle. I once had a male church member who after being trapped in a male body for 22 years went to New Orleans and had a sex change operation. Allen became Allison. A few years later she married and as far as I know she is still happily married. My stand with the church at that time is that we should just leave the judging to God on issues like that and perhaps that was the best choice for Allen. I wasn't consulted before the operation but after the operation I tried to do the thing that would have been the most redemptive for her. It wasn't easy to support Allen's father who had a series of heart attacks related to the stress following Allen's surgery and it wasn't easy to be the pastor of a condemning church but I would still do things the same way if I had the same situation today. While that had nothing to do with homosexuality the issue seems similar in that if I don't know something about a situation I would rather err on the side of being pastoral.

What I am saying is that a Christian cannot use a cookie cutter kind of ethics. In a philosophical debate perhaps you can debate against homosexuality or abortion but in real life it is much harder to debate. And from a theological standpoint I believe it is even more difficult because of the statement in scripture which says. "Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you."

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this. It was a good exercise to rethink it a bit.


Proposition 8 and Gay Marriage

My Comments:

I usually do not post hate speech and summarily dismiss these types of conversations. However, I received this email from an unlikely source: my father. He then wrote an excellent rebuttal. Considering he is an ordained Christian minister, I found it interesting and asked him if I could post it here. He agreed. So thanks Dad!

I am going to post these unedited. However, just know that as much as my father takes a religious view of this, I would take exception to the historical references and would note that the "Founding Fathers" also were not infallible. Our own president-elect would have been considered merely 60% of a human during the time of the "Founding Fathers." Inter-racial marriage, women voting, and myriad other things that we consider commonplace now, would have the Founding Fathers aghast if they were alive today. Additionally, Rome and Greece did not fall because of homosexuality. They fell because of the Lucullan lifestyles of its populace. Thus, we should consider our way of life and rampant consumerism if we feel as though America is about to "fall." Regardless, the historical aspects of this email that I am about to post are essentially rubbish. Furthermore, I do not believe that a homosexual is a reprobate doomed to eternal damnation. I believe that gay-bashing is inherently wrong and that "religious" people who use the Bible or the Qu'ran as their reason for justifying gay-bashing are simply wrong. Without further here is the first post (the one I vehemently disagree with.)

Be Scared California… Be VERY SCARED!

On March 7, 2000, millions of Californians voted and passed that:


But then on May 15, 2008, four liberal San Francisco judges threw aside the vote of millions of Californians forcing the legalization of gay marriages. Since that shameful day the state has experienced record forest fires! - A record budget crisis! - State-wide drought! - Record home foreclosures. Not to mention the general economic meltdown.

Just a coincidence? Think again!
Jesus foretold that conditions in the world before the end would resemble the conditions of Sodom just before their destruction.

"Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; "but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28-30)
The Scripture plainly tell us why God destroyed Sodom. "Because their sin is very grave." Genesis 18:20.

The very strongest language in the bible is used to denounce homosexual behavior and it is mentioned alongside bestiality.

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 'Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion" (Leviticus 18:22, 23).
“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them" (Leviticus 20:13).
Fact - Moral bankruptcy led to the implosion of the Babylonian- Persian- Greek- and Roman empires. America is now following in the footsteps of these fallen civilizations. “As goes California, so goes the country.” California can still slow the approaching disaster and buy a few more years of tranquility if we vote YES ON PROPOSITION 8!

Help restore the blessing and protection of God on our country,
Fact! Our Founding Fathers — such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin,— all believed certain truths are “self evident”. Among those truths was the belief that homosexuality was unnatural and deviant behavior. William Blackstone, whose Commentary on the Law is the basis of law in America, said homosexuality was “so reprehensible that he was ashamed even to discuss it.” He called it a “detestable … infamous crime against nature.”
Gay activists are kidnapping the definition of marriage, the state, and our freedoms. Unless we resist this robbery of our liberties, judgment will be at our doors! Vote — yes, Yes, YES on Prop 8!


What does proposition 8 say? 14 simple words;
"Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.”

It is a tragic shame that we must vote on what Americans have always believed to be a basic truth. SO WHAT CHANGED?

Hollywood is pouring millions of dollars into defeating Proposition 8. That itself should tell you something!

The liberal media has been systematically working to brainwash the conscience of Americans to accept this obvious perversion as normal. The television and theaters are saturated with messages glorifying the homosexual lifestyle and portraying them as a misunderstood minority. Gay activists are not a minority, they are a rich special interest group. We need to wake up and see what is happening before it's too late! VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 8!

What can we expect if Proposition 8 fails?
· Confused kids will be taught in school that gay marriage is just as healthy, normal, and valid as traditional marriage. It already happening. (Link)
· Photographers, bakers, limo drivers, et… will be sued for not wanting to serve Gay weddings. It’s already happening.
· Anyone who speaks against gay marriage will be labeled a “Homophobe” as though they have a mental illness, and be required to receive counseling.
· Groups like the ACLU will force churches to perform gay "weddings" in order to maintain their tax-exempt status.
· Pastors who dare to teach what the Bible says regarding homosexual behavior will be accused of "hate speech". It's already happening in Canada!

And this is only the tip of the iceberg!

Please! If you value common decency and American freedom, vote yes, Yes, YES! on proposition 8!

….and Please forward this e-mail now to everybody you can, …even if you're not a resident in California.

“If the right are silent, the wrong will rule.”

If Proposition 8 fails…. BE SCARED CALIFORNIA…. BE VERY SCARED!Visit www.AdventistsFor8.com for more information!


28 October 2008

Aid For Georgia and Haiti. How much is a life worth?

As I sit here and watch Al-Jazeera International (which is in English), I am horrified. I'm watching a story about how Western countries have pledged over $4,000,000,000 (billion) in aid to Georgia. I do not have a problem with Georgia and feel for this country that has been overtly bullied and attacked by Russia. However, in an attempt to be fully objective, (which admittedly, I sometimes struggle to do) Georgia did attack Abkhazia and South Ossetia first. Yes, they were undoubtedly provoked and were essentially thoroughly routed on the battlefield. However, this blog is not here to debate the merits of the Georgian crisis. The geo-political landscape of Europe does not really interest me on the same level that it does in the developing world.
No, the fact that the Western countries said they would raise $4,000,000,000 for Georgia, and then raised well over that amount is not really the issue. The United States contributed $1,000,000,000. There were 180,000 people displaced. There were 360 people killed during the conflagration in Georgia. The issue here is actually located in America's backyard, on the small island nation of Haiti. Haiti is a country that is almost the same size as Georgia. However, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, Georgia is ranked 96th, 50 places ahead of Haiti, which ranks as 31st least developed country in the world.
With 24-hour news cycles, the Presidential elections, Wall Street crashes, etc., it is easy to forget what happened in Haiti over this past hurricane season. No less than five major hurricanes hit the island of Hispaniola. Because of the geographic topography of the island, the eastern side of the island, Dominican Republic, bore the brunt of the storms, but the after effects were more severe on the western side, Haiti. Mudslides, floods, and suffering enveloped Haiti after each hurricane. This misery was only compounded by the fact that before aid could be shipped and properly distributed across the country, another hurricane was bearing down on the island. This vicious cycle continued for weeks. During this time, diseases, such as cholera, broke out in epidemic proportions during which hundreds died and at least 360,000 people were displaced during the hurricanes; exactly double the number of displaced people in Georgia. Based on the amount of money that was donated to Georgia, one would expect Haiti to have received at least $9 billion, especially considering that Haiti experienced natural disasters while Georgia's crisis was at least to some degree, self-inflicted. So how much aid has Haiti received? The answer: less than $100 million. France gave a paltry $4 million to Haiti. The US pledged over $1 billion to Georgia but less than $10 million to Haiti.

The United Nations only requested $108 million for Haiti and has not yet met that paltry goal. The United Nations has been pleading with donor organizations and nations to give more, but to no avail. Some Caribbean countries did make significant contributions in relation to their GDP. Trinidad and Tobago donated $1million to Haiti. St. Kitts & Nevis donated $150,000 to the cause. Why have the larger donor countries been absent? The excuse proffered has been that with the current global economic situation, rich countries simply do not have the money to give. This excuse has proven farcical given the money donated to Georgia. Haiti is a poor, non-European country (translation: non-white), with few natural resources. Western countries are seemingly making a point of showing solidarity with Georgia simply because Georgia is on Russia's doorstep. Thus, Georgia does have some intrinsic geo-political value. Based on the amount of aid given, Haiti seemingly does not.
What I find particularly galling about the huge discrepancy between the amount of money donated to Georgia and Haiti is the implied quantification of human life and suffering, which apparently illustrates that according to the governments of at least 67 countries (the number who donated to Georgia), a Georgian life is worth approximately $12,500,000. A Haitian life is worth $144,000: significantly less. Personally, I feel that this is yet another example of institutional prejudice against non-European countries that is built into the geo-political stage upon which all governments act. When will the world begin to value a life in Port-au-Prince on par with a life in Paris; a life in a township on par with a life in Tblisi; a life in Haiti on par with a life in Georgia?


10 October 2008

Random pic of me in Moletsi

I just came across this pic a few days ago and I had forgotten about it. Good grief...my hair was long! Modiege was not even in school either! Just thought I'd share!


Live from Al-Ain

Wow! It's been a while since I wrote on this. I'm trying to make a few changes that I hope you enjoy. All-in-all, life is good. I'm happy that Ramadan is over and that Eid-Al-Fitr has also ended. I'm back at work and we are working normal hours. Today, I had an interesting day. I received a call at 12h43. I was in Al-Ain mall goofing off. One of the "local" teachers I work with, asked me to come over for lunch since he had just finished Juma prayer. I happily accepted, at which point, he stated "[p]lease wait outside the mall for me as I will be there in twelve minutes." He was there in 12 minutes! Lol. Too funny. I went over to his home for a couple of hours and proceeded to talk about a lot of things. We mainly talked about life in his country. He asked me not to reveal his name to anyone during the course of the conversation, so I am respecting that. We were talking about the repressive policies of his government. It was really interesting. He had a lot to say but made it very clear that everything said within that room had to stay in that room. It's interesting because it's a country that the USA and the west generally have good relations with and is yet another example of how these powers have effectively used legerdemain to deceive their own people and only paid lipservice to real reform and democracy when it serves their own interests...aka Iraq. C'est la vie.

We ended up abruptly changing the topic of conversation as he was clearly uncomfortable continuing. Regardless, it was a fantastic time and wonderfully delicious food. I am growing to love Middle Eastern food, with it's spices, vegetables, olive oil, etc. It's extremely healthy, which suits me just fine. Anyway. I am signing off and will post more later.


Richard the Nomad


13 September 2008

Alaska Earmarks

I came across the State of Alaska Fiscal year 2009 Request for Federal Approprations. Why is this important? John McCain has said that he wants to cut pork out of Washington, which is a catchy phrase that has some credence. Sarah Palin has been labelled as a conservative who wants to eliminate pork. McCain has sighted his elimination of a $3,000,000 request from the State of Montana to study the deer population in Montana as an example of his elimination of pork. My question for Mr. McCain would be how does he feel about spending $3,200,000 next year researching sea lions in Alaska? What about $7,400,000 to light rural airports in Alaska? According to the Alaska Fiscal year 2009 Request for Federal Approprations submitted by the government of Alaska with the governnor's approval...these were requested items. The link is below.


I am not belittling most of these requests. As an environmentalist, I support many of them. My point is that the reform credentials John McCain espouses and claims his running mate espouses are not supported by the record of McCain and especially Palin.


Americans and the election

Last December while white-water rafting on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, I heard a joke. The joke went something like, "Thabo Mbeki, Robert Mugabe, Tony Blair, and boy scout were all on a plane. The pilot came to the back of the plane and said that the plane was going down but there were only four parachutes. He took one, wished the others good luck and jumped out. Tony Blair said, 'I am the leader of the country that built the biggest empire in history,' took a parachute and jumped out. Robert Mugabe said, 'I'm the smartest leader in the world.' He took a parachute and jumped out. Thabo Mbeki says to the boy scout, 'I've lived a long time so you can have the last parachute.' The boy scout turned to Mbeki and said, 'No worries. You know that last guy...he took my napsack'."

I think that American public could similarly be lumped together, at least the part of the public that has now come out in droves to voice their support of Republican candidate John McCain after he announced Sarah Palin as his choice to be the Vice-President. Having lived abroad for the past 6.5 years and not having to view American politics through the monocle that is the American media, I simply cannot fathom how a considerable number of Americans are really too studpid to see the mossback policies of Karl Rove and Bush in the rhetoric of McCain. For 6.5 years, I have defended America, if not always American policy, in many debates. If McCain is elected, I will seriously not defend the USA for a considerable amount of time. His election would simply be indefensible. As I watch McCain surge in the polls after picking someone to the right of BUSH as his running mate, I have realized...I don't understand Americans.

I don't understand our policies from an American view. What I do understand after having been here in this particular part of the world for less than a month: the anger at American foreign policy, the stupidity of an apparent majority of voting Americans due to our lack of travel, the lack of understanding about Islam, etc.

American foreign policy makers routinely bloviate about exporting democracy, freedom, and liberty to the rest of the world. A close examination of the US track record here in the Middle East paints a less than sterling picture. The US supports an oppressive royal family in Saudi Arabia that does not have the support of the majority of the people. Sadam Hussein was supported by the Americans in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Even in the first Gulf War, he was deemed preferable to a Shiite majority ruled government, which is why he was left in power after that war by Bush I. Then, he was toppled a decade later for supposedly having weapons of mass destruction, which he never possessed. Furthermore, after watching a CNN report from Iraq on Thursday, I realized that most American soliders do not even know why we are in Iraq. It has nothing to do with September 11 and it never did. The idea of Sadam alligning himself with AlQaeda is simply abusurd. The brand of Islam practiced by Osama bin-Laden is not a brand that the majority of Sunni Mulims (who comprise the majority of the world's Islamic population) deems as being real Islam. Thus, it would be impossible for Sadam and Osama to agree to fight a jihad against the West. They don't think each other holy in the first place so no holy war could be fought with them on the same side. Is it any wonder, that Sadam must have been sitting in Baghdad in the lead up to the 2nd Gulf War chortling to himself about how ludicrous it was to try to link him to 9/11 and to think he had weapons, which he clearly knew he did not have?

In addition, the US has blindly supported Israel (the merits of which I will not debate here), mistakenly attacked a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in response to the bombings of our embassies in East Africa, and supported a corrupt Shah in Iran. Our record in this region is not good.

Americans hold a monolithic view of the world. Until 9/11, fewer than 10% owned a passport. Now that number is up just under 50% because one now needs a passport to travel to the Caribbean and Canada. However, most Americans do not go out and see the world. During my various travels, I rarely encounter fellow Americans. This is disconcerting because only by seeing the world can one hope to understand it. I am safer walking around Al-Ain, the town where I currently am working, as an American in an Islamic country than I was at any point in time in South Africa. I'm safer than I was walking around DC streets as a Howard student. Yet, I have been asked numerous times by people at home if I am safe here?

I just do not get it. I do no understand how Americans, who have a failing economy, a falling dollar, losing 84,000 jobs last month alone, etc., can even consider voting for any Republican in this campaign. Anyone earning less than $250,000 per annum is voting against their own pocket book if they vote for a Republican administration.

What is really interesting to me is that John McCain loves to quote Theodore Roosevelt, who by the way would be branded an anti-corporate far left-liberal in today's political environment. On January 1, 1908, Teddy Roosevelt wrote a letter to George Otto Trevelyan. In this letter, Roosevelt described the "typical American multimillionaire" as an "unlovely being with little resemblance to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other heroes who founded this government, conquered this continent, and fought to a finish the great war for Union and for liberty." Roosevelt would turn over in his grave if he knew that McCain was using his name and legacy for political gain. McCain is pro-big business which does not help the fundamental plight of the failed economic policies of the Regan-Bush-Bush era.

On the War on Terror...this is an unwinnable war. We need to security, but unlike Theordore Roosevelt's Big Stick policy, we need to protect ourselves but utilize a big carrot. The world does not hate us. The world is simply tired of being bullied by us. Sure there will always be crazy fanatics (the only difference between ours and theirs is that we elect ours to the White House). But the world can generally deal with these groups. During the late 1930s, a Gallup Poll asked Americans why the United States had entered World War I. The most frequent reponse was that the United States had been the "victim of propaganda and selfish interests." Does this sound familiar? The war in Iraq is not about terror. It has only increased terrorist activities. It is about the selfish interests of the ruling elite and the propaganda promulgated by these same elites to deceive the masses...and it has worked! A friend and confidant of President John Adams, Elbridge Gerry thought that a large standing Army was "like a swollen penis, providing an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure." Alas, we the American public have allowed ourselves to be deceived by the media and the Republicans. We have engaged in foreign adventure and it has ruined our domestic tranquility.

One can only hope that Americans are smarter than the current polls suggest and they see through the hype and smokescreen of the Republican machine and elect Barack Obama. It is our only hope of restoring the greatest country in the world to the top of the pedestal from which it should stand.


28 August 2008

Live from Al-Ain

I'm sitting at my school right now here in Al-Ain waiting for the bus to arrive to take me back to my flat. I'm so glad the weekend is here. I'm tired. I'm happy though because I had a really productive week with my teachers. I actually think that the English teachers are competent and understand the problems facing the school better than I have been led to believe. I'm not sure though. I shall see once school gears up and I can see them in action. I was led to believe that they would be uncooperative and not willing to embrace new ideas. I have found my English teachers to be exactly the opposite. They are willing to sit and discuss business and are very cooperative thus far.

School opens on Sunday and Ramadan begins on Monday so not a whole lot will happen during the first month...however, I'm looking forward to the challenge of this job.

What else? I don't really have any weekend plans. I opted not to take the trip to Abu Dhabi tomorrow. I just want to relax a bit. Anyway. I'm getting a kick out of watching the DNC on Al-Jazeera International. Then switching to BBC, then to CNN, then to the French station. It's all quite interesting to see their differing slants. I like Al-Jazeera's coverage the best so far.

I've developed some sinus allergies. I'm in the desert for goodness sake. This shouldn't be happening. It started the day after we had a deluge. Oh man, watching Emirati (and ex-pat) drivers trying to cope with rain-soaked roads was akin to watching a Floridian highway during a blizzard. Erratic would be an understatement. I saw two accidents while walking home and I only live about 600 meters from the mall where I was walking home from. Anyway. I digress. I have some allergies so I'm taking it easy. I want to explore Al-Ain some more...maybe check out the camel souq and definitely check out the vegetable souq.

Signing off from Al-Ain,

Richard the Nomad


Disposable Diapers

Did you know that 3.5 million tonnes of waste each year in the United States is from dirty diapers and it is estimated that approximately 1.4% of US landfills are comprised of dirty diapers? Furthermore, 250,000 trees are cut down annually in the United States to provide the filling for diapers. Use cloth diapers.


Democratic National Convention

As I sat here watching coverage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), I'm struck by how ridiculous the 4th Estate has become. Pundits are analysing the comments as they are made without really knowing how they will play. What I was struck by was how little Americans make decisions on who to vote for based on real issues. The issues in this election (in no particular order) are quite clear. 1) The economy 2) The War in Iraq 3) Health care 4) American foreign policy. How one can even conscience voting for any Republican candidate at any level is beyond my ability to comprehend. To put it simply, I'm flabbergasted. Where do the Republicans find these troglodytes from? How do the Republicans convince millions of working class Americans to vote against their own economic interests and for them? Anybody earning less than $500k per year should read the book "What's the Matter With Kansas" before deciding to ever again vote for a Republican.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 45.7 million Americans have no health insurance. Almost one in five AMERICAN children live below the poverty line (18%). That is happening in the wealthiest country in the world (and perhaps the wealthiest country in world history). It is simply absurd. As much as I like(d) John McCain in the past, after doing some research, he has voted with the "mainstream" Republican Party viewpoint in over 90% of his votes since 2000. The translation: he agrees with Bush.

Bush is a failure as a world leader and has not taken America in the direction we as a nation needed to go. How did we go from a budget surplus under a Democrat (Clinton) to a huge budget deficit in 8 years? How did we as a nation on 12 September 2001, wake up with the entire world feeling sympathy for the biggest most powerful country in the world, and proceed to dispose of this sympathy in record fashion with a ridiculous war? How can we justify the billions spent in Iraq when we have 18% of our own kids living in poverty? The answer is simple: the chthonic reign of George W. Bush. McCain has shown by his voting record that these nascent policies would continue. Is this what McCain means by leadership when he questions Barack's leadership credentials?

Recently Barack stated that the Republicans would try to make the American populace afraid of his last name, skin color, big ears, etc. This is precisely what has happened. We need Barack. We need a leader with resonance on the world stage.

Theoretically, the part of the world who dislikes America would love for us to vote for McCain, not Barack. Voting for McCain will vividly illustrate to the world that the majority of Americans agree with the disasterous course of American policies over the past few years. This action will only serve to alienate America further from the rest of the world. Electing McCain will be the waterloo of American influence. We need a fresh face with fresh ideas.

Make a smart decision in this election and ignore the media. Vote based on knowledge and on the candidates records. In short: ignore the soundbites. If you don't know the issues, go to www.glassbooth.org and you can find the candidate that best reflects your own views. Okay...I'm going back out into the desert night.


Richard the Nomad


27 August 2008

27 August 2008

Okay I'm trying this out. I just figured out how to change the language from Arabic to English so now I know what I'm actually typing. Today, I'm still feeling a bit punky but I'm going to be fine b/c tomorrow is my last day of work before the weekend. I had a weird day at work that was very fulfilling. We began working as usual but after about an hour of the training session, the principal of the school came in and interrupted my director. He politely asked all of the SABIS staff to leave the room, which we did. The teachers then had a meeting without us. It was weird. Before that happened, I had made sure I had some space next to me in the meeting room and some of my English teachers actually sat with me. That was cool. They really aren't intimidated, which is a good thing. After their meeting, I was in the English Club room and all of the English teachers came into the room and sat and we talked politics. They were free to go, but we weren't. However, they stayed for about 45 minutes. We had a great conversation about Palestinian, Jordanian, and Sudanese politics. All very interesting. This afternoon, I relaxed a bit and then found the post office finally. Sent some letters. Later, Will and I met Katia about our flat situation and the fact that we haven't moved and aren't moving and that I have a ton of stuff in my place...it's like a furniture warehouse now. Katia took us over to what is supposed to be our new place. It's new, nice, but far away from the center of town, and in a building. I don't like the last two things so I will have to see what I decide to do. Anyway. I need to go. Signing off from Al-Ain. Richard the Nomad