Who am I?Where am I?

30 March 2009

Sand Storms

I have been asked recently what a sandstorm is like. For those that want an idea of what a sandstorm is like, here it is.

While the sandstorms here in Al-Ain are not quite this bad, they are insidious. The sky is blotted out. The sun is virtually invisible and everything is just covered in dust...including this keyboard I'm typing on. Enjoy the pics.


28 March 2009

Mugabe, Zimbabwe, and Humanity

Robert Mugabe...a name synonomous with feckless and corrupt despotism, is at it again. According to the Times, he and his wife recently purchased a luxury apartment, valued at almost US$6m in Hong Kong. Why does this enrage me?

In addition, the President's wife, Grace Mugabe, has recently embarked on a spending spree. She reportedly spent over $80k on marble statues in Vietnam and $12k on a handbag in Singapore. All of this despite the fact that Zimbabwe is in a huge economic crisis. The country has an inflation rate gauged to be close 231m % (that's 231,000,000%), and an unemployment rate hovering above 90%.

In short, the Mugabes epitomize all that is wrong with African dictatorships. Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa as late as the 1990s. The country produced a surplus of food and supplied its neighbours with a significant quantity of their food. All of this has changed and what was once a thriving country is now bereft of food, clean water, and hope.

According to Robert Mugabe, this is all the fault of colonialism and the West. I am often outspoken about the horrors of colonialism and how a significantly high percentage of problems on the African continent stem from the colonial era. I have also argued that this era has not completely ended and that neo-colonialism is an even more sinister force than colonialism was. Mugabe argued that the white Zimbabweans, who owned most of the farms in country, came by these farms illicitly and therefore the farms could be seized and given to the "war veterans."

Personally, I agree that the land in Zimbabwe needed to be re-distributed. However, that desire to have Africa for Africans needed to be developed by meeting the needs of Africans. Mugabe's blatant land grab did not satisfy the desire of the masses for land and only served to plunge his country into a desperate state. What is little known is that Mugabe has seized many farms that were black owned as well. Many of the farms seized by Mugabe and his cronies were purchased legally, under Zimbabwean law (as opposed Rhodesian law) by people who had a vested interest in the upliftment of Zimbabwe. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Robert and Grace Mugabe.

What is really upsetting about this latest episode in Zimbabwe involving the mis-use of state funds by Robert and Grace Mugabe is that in the midst of this crisis, people are dying simply because of the government's inability to purchase water-treatment chemicals. Mugabe is pillaging the treasury of a country where over 3500 people have died because of a cholera outbreak...a preventable disease that is occuring in Zimbabwe because the country does not have enough money to buy the chemicals to treat the drinking water.

Where are the morals in this? How can Robert and Grace Mugabe wake up each morning and look in the mirror knowing that their actions, greed, and corruption are directly leading to corpses strewn around the country. This is a mot juste example of how African leaders have mis-managed their countries post colonialism, and has directly contributed to the dire poverty that currently exists on the continent. Mugabe needs to honestly look at himself and find a way to step aside and let someone with morals lead Zimbabwe back to where it was a decade ago.


Wine and Water

I received this message from my Mom. No telling where she found it...enjoy.

As Ben Franklin said:
In wine there is wisdom,
In beer there is freedom,
In water there is bacteria.

In a number of carefully controlled trials, Scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. Coli) - bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop. However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whisky or other liquor), because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.


Water = Poop Wine = Health

Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of shit. There is no need to thank me for this valuable information:
I'm doing it as a public service.


12 March 2009

Northern Ireland...an Imperfect Compromise

While I was student at Howard, one of my best friends and I decided to host a radio show. It was called the Mick and Limey show. He is a Limey...since he has English citizenship (as well as Jamaican and Canadian.) I was the Mick since my ancestors (at least some of them) are Irish. Though few would have understood the name of our show, I have always been proud of the fact that I have roots in Ireland. Northern Ireland has always been a source of personal angst for me. As an American, with Irish ancestry, I have always felt some sort of affinity for Ireland. It is on my list of top five countries I wish to visit, and I plan to trace my ancestry to enable me to pinpoint exactly where my ancestors emigrated from. Like many Americans of Irish ancestry, I have strongly identified with the Republican cause in the past and thus found myself supporting the Irish Republican Army.

Over the past decade, the global landscape has changed markedly. September 11th drastically changed how people view independence movements. Movements, which had previously enjoyed wide spread global support, suddenly found themselves under intense criticism because of the tactics these organizations employed. The Good Friday accord was signed in 1998, well before 9/11, and had as one of its provisions the caveat that all parties would use "exclusively peaceful and democratic means" to achieve their political goals. However, the Irish Republican Army did not formally renounce violence as a legitimate means of struggle until 2005, well after the tide of global public opinion had turned against using this as a legitimate means of achieving independence.

The reason for the seemingly disparate action of signing the agreement vis-a-vis the organizational ethos of the IRA had to do with internal struggle. This internal struggle is rooted in the history of the IRA. The IRA was founded on 25 November 1913 and was essentially the military that fought the British for the independence of what is now known as the Republic of Ireland. After independence was achieved in 1921, the IRA splintered. The splintering was not only, as some have suggested, about the independence of Northern Ireland. (Both sides involved thought that Northern Ireland would be emasculated by the Irish Boundary Commission and would not be economically viable. Thus inanition would set in and Northern Ireland, empty of finances and support would come grovelling back to join the Republic. The dispute also centered on the British retention of Southern Irish ports and on whether or not Ireland would remain part of the British commonwealth.

Even though Michael Collins had led the IRA against the British and had helped negotiate the treaty ending the war, the majority of the IRA did not agree with the treaty. Thus a Civil War ensued between those loyal to the Dail, the Irish parliament, and those who believed that the Dail had sold out to the British government by signing the treaty. After it became clear that Northern Ireland would in fact remain part of the United Kingdom, the complete unity of Ireland became the issue.

The IRA lost the Civil War, but the cause to which they were devoted did not die. Violence has sporadically occurred in the intervening decades. Essentially, the IRA has morphed over the years, but as one faction has decided to share power and give peace a chance, another faction has decided that the only way for there to be peace is if Ireland is united and the entire island is under the control of Dublin. The Real IRA and the Continuity IRA have claimed responsibility for the recent murders of the soldiers and police officers in Northern Ireland. These groups have simply split off from the Gerry Adams led group which signed the Good Friday accords just over a decade ago.
Recently, the same friend who did the radio show at Howard with me posed a question on this issue: "Given that the world has changed so much and that Ireland and England are both part of the EU, does this matter?" My answer, on a practical level no it does not. Ireland probably has a stronger economy at the moment and has had one of the fastest growing economies in Europe over the past decade.

On an emotional level, however, it certainly does matter. There is still animosity towards the British for the numerous atrocities committed during the centuries they ruled Ireland. Because of this animosity, it is difficult for some Irish to accept that there would be countrymen loyal to the English crown. English cruelty during the Potato Famine of the 1840s is but one example of this heinous occupation that is cited and used ot incite this strong anti-English resentment. Therefore, it is unfathomable to ultra-Republicans that anything short of a unified Republican Ireland could even be remotely considered an acceptable solution. Sadly, the division of Ireland was an imperfect compromise that continues to inflame resentment amongst a minority of the population, but until this minority is placated, there will only be a pinchbeck peace and sporadic violence will continue as a reminder of the English occupation and less than ideal settlement that led to the creation of the Republic of Ireland.


07 March 2009

New 7 Natural Wonders of the World

Okay so here is your chance to help us get Africa on the map and increase tourism money to countries on the continent. There is a competition to nominate the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World. You have to vote. The competition runs through July and then finalists will be selected. Please vote. I voted for 7 sites I had been to in Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe/Zambia (I bet everyone knows which one that would be), Mozambique, and Rwanda. Even if you have never been, vote for something in your region of Africa to help increase tourism in your region and create jobs. It only takes a few minutes. Go to: http://www.new7wonders.com/nature/en/vote_on_nominees/ . You will have to fill in your email address and confirm your vote by clicking on the email they send you. Have fun and remember to support your favorite spots in Africa. Feel free to pass this my blog site around and have as many of your friends vote as well (plus if they come through my blog, it raises the number of hits on my blog, which is always a good thing!)


Nomadic Richard


06 March 2009

What the Attacks in Lahore Mean

I first read about the attack on the bus carrying both match officials and the Sri Lankan cricket team on cricinfo.com. It is probably the website I spend the most time on due to the fact that cricket matches take a long time and cricinfo.com provides it's viewers with ball-by-ball updates of matches in progress. I therefore logged onto cricinfo to check the score of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka match on Tuesday, which should have been day three of this particular match.

To be honest, I thought I had opened the wrong web page. When I saw the news coverage of a terrorist attack, I though I had mistakenly opened cnn.com or another of the news sites I frequent. I had to double check the url of the page I had opened. Sadly, I was not mistaken. I had indeed opened cricinfo.com. I was at work and went downstairs to the office of the English subject coordinator, Will, who is English, and also a cricket fan. The initial reports were sketchy and since I was relying only on the internet for reports, I couldn't be sure of who was hurt, injured, or even dead. Unfortunately, too many people did lose their lives. We were both shocked.

It was not until I reached home in the afternoon and was able to turn on the television that I was able to procure the full story. What died that day was not just several drivers and Pakistani security personnel. Many other things perished as well.

First, Pakistani cricket is on life-support. Australia, West Indies, India, and South Africa have all refused to tour Pakistan in the past few years citing security concerns. Personally, I viewed this as a joke. Afterall, who would attack a bunch of innoculous foreign cricketers applying their craft in a country that is probably second only to India in terms of passionate cricket support? I criticized the cowardly acts of the cricket boards of all of these countries. I was wrong. Sri Lanka was not even supposed to be touring Pakistan. India was. They refused after the Mumbai terrorist attacks last year. This was the first test series Pakistan had played on home soil in 14 months. It will be the last for quite some time. Pakistan can now only hope to "host" home series in United Arab Emirates (which is great for me as I will be able to attend some matches in Abu Dhabi or Dubai) or England. Either way, this does not bode well for the game in Pakistan.

Secondly, Asian unity died. Cricket on the sub-continent is perhaps more of a unifying factor than any other single entity. In the midst of a violent and on-going civil war in Sri Lanka between the government and Tamil rebels, Tamils and Sinahlese both play side-by-side on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Muttiah Muralitharan is Tamil, yet is basically the face of the Sri Lankan team and perhaps one of the greatest bowlers of all time. In Pakistan, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus all play cricket for the national team. Same goes for India with Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. I recently asked an Indian driver here, who is Muslim, who he roots for: India or Pakistan. His answer was unequivocal: India. In short, passion for cricket takes precedence over other loyalties. If you are a group of religious fanatics, hellbent on destroying vestiges of secularity within a society, destroying cricket in the sub-continent would be a good start. The first step towards the destruction of Pakistani cricket was achieved this week.

Thirdly, innocence about sport was lost. Since the 1972 Munich Olympics, there have been few incidents involving terrorist activities at sporting venues. Billions have been spent procuring the safety of matches for football, rugby, cricket, and Olympic venues. This, coupled with the fact that many try to make sport out to be apolitical has succeeded in luring us into a false sense of security. I chided the above mentioned countries for not touring Pakistan. No more. The fact that innocent cricket players (who were actually doing Pakistan a favour by standing in for their more fancied Indian rivals) were targeted is sickening. Although several players were hurt, one can only be thankful that these attackers were rather amateurish and missed the bus with their rocket launcher and that the bus driver managed to speed over the grenade thrown before it exploded. Otherwise, players themselves would have died rather than been injured.

Lastly, the Pakistani government lost face. The government had guaranteed the safety of the Sri Lankan team. Obviously, the government does not have it within its grasp to keep their word. This is problematic for a fledgling government in a what is increasingly viewed as a failed state. If one cannot protect foreign cricketers, how can security for anyone be offered with any real guarantee?

I just hope that the attacks in Lahore do not inextricably link politics with sport. This seems to be happening in the aftermath and immediate hand-wringing that is taking place. I also hope that the Pakistanis themselves are irate enough about the potential destruction of their national pasttime that they take exception and force the various parties to sit down and negotiate a peaceful solution to the problems plauging the country. Lastly, I hope that other cricket playing nations stand by the Pakistani Cricket Board and try to assist them financially by staging neutral venue matches. For the good of the game, for the good of peace on the sub-continent, and for the good of global sport, these hopes need to become a reality so that the tragedy of Lahore is not repeated and no sporting team suffers the horror of Israeli athletes in Munich or Pakistani cricketers in Lahore.

Nomadic Richard


Hugo Chavez

Please note that this is an article I submitted for publication in January of 2007. It was not published. I recently came across it and decided to publish it on my blog even though it is slightly outdated. - Nomadic Richard

Hugo Chavez is one of the most devisive leaders on the world stage today. World opinion (if not Venezuelan opinion) is split. Chavez is the object of intense loathing on the one hand from groups that say he is an autocratic and somewhat authoritarian despot who seeks to emulate Fidel Castro and transform Venezuela into a communist state. The converse opinion paints Hugo Chavez as a Brobdingagian philanthropist who is the first Venezuelan President to truly implement policies designed with the interest of the proletarian lower classes at heart.

George W. Bush has proven to be the “Great Divider,” despite earlier his record and and reputation of uniting politicians from both sides of the aisle whilst governor of Texas. Yet, excpept for a period of just over two years from the end of 2003 until the first half of 2006, there has generally been a consensus on Bush. Partisan politics aside, Americans overwhelmingly favored how Bush handled the country immediately following September 11th. We approved of the war in Afghanistan and the fight against the Taliban just as much as we now loathe the flibbertigibbet who has brought us the debauchery that has become our policy in Iraq. We approved and disapproved of George Bush together as a country. The same cannot be said of Hugo Chavez. Rarely has a world leader evoked such a dichotomy of devisive opinions. The questions arise: Who is Hugo Chavez and why is he so devisive? What to make of Hugo Chavez?

By the lights of the Bush administration, the President of Venezuela is an anti-American trouble maker, a sychopant of Fidel Castro, who is keen to play politics with Venezuela's oil industry by influence peddling throughout the Western Hemisphere. To the frustrated Venezuelan opposition, Chavez is a leftist dictator who incited and then exploited a wave of class and racial divisions and rode it to the presidency, and who, in office, has assumed despotic new powers at every chance. To others, Chavez is out-of-touch utopian who sooner or later will ruin the Venezuelan economy. Chavez is refreshingly free with his opinions of the Bush administration as exemplified by his speeches at the United Nations and numerous published interviews. He freely calls the United States a terrorist state, ridicules George W. Bush, and generally makes a nuisance of himself to the current administration. He is convinced that the Bush administration backed, or at least conscienced, a coup attempt against him in 2002, a claim that existing evidence supports . In a non-susurrus tone, Chavez repeats this allegation at every turn.

Chavez’s governing style is populist, and he routinely lambastes Venezuela's elite class. This is a convenient castigation, which endears him to his populist supporters yet, since the opposition, and until the rise of Chavez, Venezuela’s political landscape, has been dominated by this landed gentry. However, Chavez won a free and fair election in 1998 with 56% of the vote, a number many world leaders from Mugabe to Bush must envy. His support base and poll numbers have meteorically risen since then. Chavez has survived a coup attempt and a strike and with each emergence, his popularity has risen. Furthermore, Chavez has for the first time enfranchised the 80% of Venezuela’s population that live in townships outside of Venezuela’s cities or labor on the multitude of plantation like ranches throughout the country. The opposition’s claims of race and class baiting makes political sense in a country with the glaring socio-economic inequalities that exist in Venezuela. With 80 percent of the population living in abject poverty and with the vast majority of this group indigenous or black, race is inextricably linked to class. Thus, the consolidation of power by enfranchising this group makes politically sensible.

The Chavez government has brought healthcare and education to many of the ranchos and rural areas, which before now have seen little of either. These “missions” are paid for by profits stemming from Venezuela's oil industry, which Chavez contrversially nationalized. Chavez replaced a government that, though democratic, was widely seen as corrupt. The redistribution of wealth, social policies, and the perception that Chavez is not in the hip-pocket of Washington, has endeared him to the masses of Venezuelans that form the core of the Chavez base. The main point used by the Venezuelan opposition is that Hugo Chavez is autocratic. The opposition points out that Chavez has used censored the media and restructured the judiciary system. The censuring of the media that has occurred is not censorship in its purist form. The Chavez government has regulated a few television stations. How is this different than the South African government of Mandela and Mbeki, which owns the controlling stake in SABC, one of the two television stations in the country? Governments all over the world control some aspects of the media within their borders. Why should Venezuela be different?

The judiciary system, according to Richard Gott, author of the book Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, was a “complete mess” when Chavez was first elected. The judiciary branch attempted to block all attempts at reform. Chavez simply tried to stack the courts in much the same way that Franklin D. Roosevelt unsuccessfully attempted early in his presidency. The comparisons between FDR and Chavez are not as farfecthed as they seem at first glance. Roosevelt’s New Deal included a progressive income tax system. So does Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. The New Deal created Social Security in the United States. The Bolivarian Revolution is attempting to mimic this. Roosevelt advocated huge public works projects in order to ameliorate unemployment during the Great Depression. Chavez is embarking on a plan that includes massive spending on public works projects to ameliorate Venezuela’s massive unemployment. The Tennessee Valley Authority was created under Roosevelt to, among other things, provide cheap electricity to the masses of the population in the United States. Chavez is investing Venezuela’s vast oil revenue into sources that will provide cheap electricity to the masses of the population in Venezuela and Latin America. What the American government seemingly fails to realize (then again this administration always seems to miss the boat on foreign policy issues) is that Chavez is here to stay and he could be used in a useful partnership to end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. According to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has the largest supply of crude oil in the world. Venezuela has the largest supply of natural gas in the Western Hemisphere and the eighth largest supply in the world. Is this the grandiose bragging of a madman? Not according to the United States Department of Energy, which agrees with these statements.

What’s the catch? The reasons the United States need Chavez are obvious, but why does Chavez need the United States? Despite the seemingly endless supply of Venezuelan oil, Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan people cannot easily benefit from this resource. The crude oil contained within Venezuela is a heavy crude oil that is much more costly to drill, process, and refine. It is not cost-effective to drill Venezuelan oil unless the price of oil is at $50 or above. This may seem a high cost until one remembers that the price of Brent crude was hovering around $75 per barrel at times during the past year. Chavez is more than willing to sell the United States all of the oil it needs if in exchange the United States would work to help him keep the oil price around $50 per barrel. This could potentially be a win-win situation for both the Venezuelan and American people and would protect investments in heavy crude production. However, because of the Bush family relationship with the Saudi government, which is far from democratically elected, and Bush family interests in Middle Eastern oil, it is not desirable for this administration to genuinely explore alternative means of procuring the petrol energy upon which the United States is reliant. Thus, the Venezuelan oil industry languishes, and Hugo Chavez is forced to find alternate sources of consumption for their supplies.

This is seen in Washington as influence peddling and beligerance, however Chavez has been forced into this position by the United States government’s refusal to purchase more Venezuelan crude. Chavez has sought to sell more oil in South America, Cental America, and the Caribbean. He has increased subsidized sales to Argentina, Uruguay, Haiti, Cuba, Dominca, the Domincan Republic, and several Central American countries. According to Chavez, “[Venezuelan] oil is helping the poor.” Chavez offerred assistance, in the form of cheap petrol, to facilitate the clean-up and recovery of New Orleans. This offer was refused by the White House. Chavez has delivred cheap gasoline to filling stations in the Bronx and other poor communities. In addition to the many altruistic intentions that Hugo Chavez has repeatedly demonstrated, he has started institutions that promote Venezuelan culture as well as Latin American culture and seeks to limit the influence Pax Americana has on the television and film industry within Venezuela. This has been accomplished through the creation of subsidized television stations that broadcast a high content of Venezuelan shows. Furthermore, he has yet to demonstrate many of the characteristics that historically have manifested themselves in past dictators. Thus, the allegations of Chavez transforming his government into a despotic autocracy are grossly exaggerated and generally baseless. Chavez is simply seeking to free Venezuela and Latin America from the styming effect of American protectionist economic policies, which negatively affects the Caribbean, Central America, and South America and creates a dependence on the United States.

In seeking to alleviate poverty in the Western Hemisphere, Chavez has sought to cut the historical strings through which the United States has proven to be a less than benevolent puppeteer. When the real Chavez stands up, his policies and viewpoints have angered the historical powerbase both locally in Venezuela and abroad in Washington. Yet these same policies have endeared him to the the masses of the Venezuelan population who view him as a modern day Robin Hood. Viva Chavez! Viva!


Arne Hoel


This guy has taken some amazing artistic photographs. My Mom found this site and I thought I would share.

Nomadic Richard


We Didn't Start the Fire

I always loved this song by Billy Joel. I dig this video.



Nomadic Richard


03 March 2009

The End of Cricket in Pakistan