Who am I?Where am I?

19 December 2010

Travel Agency

Just announcing the formation of my own travel agency!If you want to check it out and book airline tickets, cruises, hotel rooms, car rentals, etc., just follow this link! Any questions, feel free to email me!


24 September 2010

Oppose South Africa's Proposed Media Tribunal

South Africa's democracy is at risk -- an unconstitutional new secrecy Bill is in Parliament and a Media Tribunal could be endorsed by the ANC Council this week, muzzling the media and threatening our freedoms. Only a massive citizens' outcry could push the ANC to reverse the proposals -- sign the urgent petition now: South Africa's democracy is at risk -- a draconian and unconstitutional new secrecy Bill is in Parliament and a Media Tribunal could be endorsed by the ANC Council this week, muzzling the media and letting the security agencies operate without accountability.

The secrecy measures in the "Protection of Information Bill" and the proposed "Media Appeals Tribunal" threaten press freedom enshrined in the Constitution and will hamper public scrutiny of the government and security agencies, blocking the media from exposing corruption and abuse of power. Hundreds of prominent South Africans, business executives, civic leaders and journalists have condemned the measures and submitted amendments on the Bill to Parliament, but so far the ANC is defending both proposals. Only massive pressure from citizens across South Africa can wake them up and preserve hard-won freedoms!

We have just 3 days to be heard at the ANC Council. Let's raise an irresistible outcry -- join the call for the ANC to listen to the people, respect the Constitution and promote accountable and transparent government! Click to sign the urgent petition, then forward this message to everyone – it will be delivered at the ANC Council:


43% of South Africans survive on no more than R16 a day and half of our youth are unemployed, while Transparency International claims "corruption is increasing at an enormous rate and it impacts severely on the poor. Revenue destined for the poor is misappropriated". These new proposals would obstruct the media's bold efforts to expose bribery, corruption and fraud and would lead this proud democracy towards autocratic control.

The proposed Protection of Information Bill would allow any national or local government department or agency to classify and make secret any information that they consider against the 'national interest' and would punish whistle blowers or journalists with up to 25 years in jail if they leak or publish information that was classified, even if it was in the public interest. This violates Section 32 of the Constitution -- which protects the citizens right of access to any information held by the State.

The Media Tribunal would replace the Press Ombudsman with a state agency accountable only to the ruling party, tightly regulating reporting, and imposing penalties on journalists who publish unapproved content.

Just like when citizens came together to call for effective treatment for HIV and AIDS in 2007, if we rally now we could change the course of these repressive policies and efforts to silence the media can be stopped.

The ANC Council meeting is the decisive moment -- if we lose this chance, the ANC's 60% majority in Parliament will most likely push these proposals through unchanged. Inside the ANC Council COSATU delegates and others are strongly against the gag law -- if we raise a massive citizens' outcry this week, we could support their efforts on the inside to overwhelm an elite who attempt to railroad through these undemocratic proposals.

Sign the petition and forward this message to everyone:


Many fought, and died, for these freedoms. Now, if citizens stand up together to protect South Africa's democracy, our outcry will be too loud to ignore -- and we will beat those who want to protect their power and privilege by curbing constitutional liberties.

With hope and determination:

Alice, Paul, Ricken, Benjamin, Emma, Giulia, Pascal, Iain, Paula and the whole Avaaz team

More information:

Avaaz.org was launched in January 2007 with a simple democratic mission: work with citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. In three years, Avaaz has grown to over 5.8 million members from every country on earth, becoming the largest global web movement in history.¬ Avaaz's largest membership is in Brazil and France and Mexico and India are two of Avaaz's fastest growing memberships this year. This campaign is being launched with the nearly 60,000 Avaaz members across South Africa.


"SA journalists fight proposed media laws", Mail&Guardian:

"It's your right to know, public reminded", Iol/Cape Times:

Protection of Information Bill:

"Media Appeals Tribunal" proposal in the ANC Discussion paper on "Media Diversity and Ownership":

South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign: Combining Law and Social Mobilization to Realize the Right to Health, Mark Heywood:


28 August 2010

New 7 Wonders of the World

There is currently a global campaign to nominate the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Have your say now!The top seven locations will become the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Being nominated as one of the final seven will mean more eco-tourism money as well as ensuring conservation of these pristine locations. When you vote, please include Bu Tinah, Kilimanjaro, Table Mountain, and Maldives in your vote!


04 July 2010

Old Friend

I loved these motivational words and I hope you do as well.


27 June 2010

English Football

Yesterday it was the turn of the Americans to have a disappointing day on the pitch. Taking their cue, today it was the turn of England.

There were so many things lacking about the English performance today that I hardly know where to begin. Let's list them:

1. The defending was atrocious. Each of the four German goals either involved an egregious breakdown in defense or an English defender beaten by pace. This cannot happen at this level by a team as skilled as Germany.

2. The English team, like the Americans before them, rely much to heavily on a vaunted midfield for scoring. The English strikers are wastrels. Wayne Rooney failed to find the back of the net during the entire tournament, as did Emile Heskey (whose introduction today seemed to amount to a capitulation.) So England's three goals came from a defender, a mid-fielder, and a striker (and Dafoe's goal against Slovenia was just bad goal-keeping, which England know a little about...right Mr. Green?)

3. Fabio Capello is abysmal as a manager (and not because of his choice of Speedos...but serioulsy man..what were you thinking in these pictures?) The penumbra he now finds himself in is his own making. While Wayne Rooney and Heskey were clearly weak links, Peter Crouch spent most of this tournament on the bench. What was the reasoning for this? Would it not have not have been better to be viewed as a mugwump who waffled back and forth between players in search of the right combination than one who stubbornly stuck with a losing formula? Mr. Capello failed to do anything creative to give his team a chance to overcome the lack of cohesion.

4. We have now confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard cannot play together. Why is it that everyone underestimates the rivalries in English football and overestimates the ability of the players who take part in these weekly battles to overcome this and gel as a unit? In some cases it may be feasible, but in the case of Gerrard and Lampard they cannot.

5. Quick question: Was David James selected because, as the GK for Portsmouth, he is used to making do with an incompetent backline? While he did not play poorly, England need to develop some quality goalkeepers in the near future.

The bottom line is that English fans need to adjust their expectations. The non-goal did not cost England this game. They played lousy football. This team is and was always overrated in both talent and heart. Four years is a long time to wait for a chance to ameliorate the stench of this performance.


The Mick and Limey Show Returns to discuss taxes and future World Cups

So my good buddy, Limey, and I have had a discussion over the past few days about FIFA taxes and the World Cup. What spawned this discussion was an article on BBC about the taxes FIFA pays (or does not pay.) With his permission, I am posting our edited comments.

Dear Mick, While I've loved the world cup since I was a little kid but after reading the attached article I am reminded that ignorance is not always bliss. It's about some of the hidden costs of hosting a world cup. Let me know if you think you find it an interesting read or not.

Dear Limey, That is really interesting. I did not know any of that. It is kind of sickening in a way, especially in South Africa. Collecting tax revenue would be a great way to stage World Cups in smaller poorer countries. Thus, it irritates me though I am not sure how much money in South Africa is lost by this since a lot of the sales are going to be in the informal sector anyway and hotels and restaurants are already taxed via VAT.

However, here is where it really irritates and annoys me. Sepp Blatter is a lying if the US doesn't get the World Cup 2018. Now before you dismiss this, follow my logic. According to FIFA policy, there is supposed to be a continental rotation of the World Cup. In 2018, it is the turn of CONCACAF. The US, like Brazil in 2014, is the only federation bidding. That did not stop Brazil from procuring it becuase it was going to CONMEBOL anyway. However, now they are supposedly opening up 2018 to European bids (four of them.) I am not saying that the USA has to have the World Cup again, though it still stands as the World Cup with the highest attendance despite having 8 fewer teams than the current allotment of 32 (and thus fewer matches.) What I am saying is that is should go to CONCACAF...period. I would love to see Mexico, Canada, or a confederation of say 8-10 Carribbean Islands bid. It would be a bonanza. Can you imagine? Matches in Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, etc? Have those teams qualify regularly through the process so obviously not all would make it, but then allow the non-qualifiers to play a tournament for the one host country automatic bid. These islands have the tourism infratstructure to hold the people and by upgrading the stadia, it could work. Why not have a truly Central American World Cup by having a joint Costa Rica/Panama bid. Simple. Because of this stupid greed, the small countries cannot afford it. FIFA is backwards. If the game is going to truly help the world, this tax policy has to go. South Africa made it over the line to host this because they could afford to...barely. Other countries that might be very suitable (Costa Rica and Panama would be amazing as would the islands)...will not be able to do so and that stinks. What do you think?

Dear Mick, I am pretty much in agreement with you although and there is always a but... given the cost of new stadiums there is little chance of the Caribbean or Central American nations hosting the world cup with it being a joint bid. That leaves it to being a North American affair with only Mexico and the US standing a real chance to host the event as attested by the US bid to host the 2018 World Cup. In my heart I would love to see some sort of joint bid within CONCACAF but as that is not likely to happen and I believe hosting the world cup means more to the people here in Europe, especially in the UK, than it would for the average Joe in the US I'm pretty much backing the UK bid. If you ask the average Brit would they trade the Olympics for the world cup the answer would be "Hell YES!"

What really gets my goat is this rumor that FIFA is discouraging joint bids. Without joint bits moving forward how will smaller countries ever be able host a World cup due to the prohibitive cost? The last time a small to midsized nation hosted the WC was back in 1978 Argentina and that was with 16 teams; since the larger format no country with less than approx. 40 million has hosted it. Shoot the last joint bid, which was bad mouthed by the way, had a combined population of 175 million people and were both developed nations (South Korea and Japan 2002). It is bad enough the fact that the last time a small nation won the world cup was back in 1950 Uruguay and the only country with a population of or about 20 million to win was Argentina. Let's face it, the odds are heavily against small nations on the pitch ever winning and now FIFA wants to make it virtually impossible for them to host it. The FIFA World Cup is starting to look more and more like the UN security counsel than the General Counsel in terms of winning and hosting. If not for the qualifying rounds they should not even use the title "World Cup" maybe they should just call it the FIFA CUP.


20 June 2010

British Petroleum and British Attitudes

Ever since the explosion of Deepwater Horizon and subsequent oil spill, I have been glued to news reports about the progress being made to contain the spill, plug the leak, drill a relief well, and clean up the mess. Coincidentally, I was recently reading Collapse by Jared Diamond (which is an excellent book.)

In this book, Diamond is discussing Chevron and some of the reasons the company has taken such a pro-environment stance in New Guinea and why mining companies do not behave in a similar manner. "No one in the oil industry today would deny that spilled oil is harmful, but mine executives do deny the harm of spilled metals and acid." Mr. Diamond, I would like you to meet a scapegrace named Mr. Tony Hayward, CEO of BP.

Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20 (yes over two months ago), Mr. Hayward has repeatedly made comments that are repugnant to the senses. For example, Mr. Hayward was quoted as saying, "I want my life back." Well Mr. Hayward, so too do the residents of the Gulf. Unfortunately, your company created a mess that you and your colleagues seemingly cannot deal with.

While I have watched this environmental catastrophe unfold second by second, I am struck by the lunacy of the British public. I have seen numerous interviews on BBC where someone interviewed has stated something like this: "President Obama is treating BP too harshly."

This attitude is ridiculous! Let us think about this for a moment. A company is responsible for a disaster, cannot find a way to fix the problem, and the people affected ask for compensation. Hmmm. This sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I recently expressed my frustration with BP to a British colleague. His response, "Remember that it was your government that asked and allowed BP to drill there." Fair enough. SAFELY. My astonished response included me asking him whether or not he would like it if Exxon had dumped this much oil in the North Sea, English Channel, or Irish Sea? I also pointed out that had this been a US company, nothing different would be happening. There would still be a public outcry. You would not see Americans discussing how poorly Mr. Obama was treating Exxon. Another difference is that BP stock forms a significant portion of many 401k retirement and pension funds. Therefore, the lack of dividend payouts is adversely affecting these funds. Guess what? If you own a stock, you own a piece of a company. If you own a company, you are responsible for what it does. Here is a newsflash: You own a company with an abysmal environmental record and this was bound to happen. Please stop complaining about the amount of money this is costing BP. It is not as if BP is a company with exiguous resources

In the time it has taken me to write this, approximately 43500 gallons (164,665.4126 liters for you metric types) of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. (Just for the sake of reference, that's enough fuel to drive a Hummer H2, one of the least efficient cars on the planet--using its worst case city MPG--around the circumference of the globe--at the equator--over 15 times.) Until BP can stop the spill, clean up the mess, and compensate those affected by this spill, BBC and the media, as well as the British public need to cease with this ridiculous spin and focus on fixing this mess.


17 June 2010


I am huge football/soccer fan. I love going to matches and watching on television. I am disgusted with the coverage of the World Cup because of the vuvuzela. Why I am disgusted may surprise you.

The beginning of my disgust started last year during the Confederations Cup when Japanese broadcasters complained about the use of the vuvuzela and how it was irritating their listeners. Sepp Blatter, quite correctly, stated that it was not up to the rest of the world to impose their sporting culture and traditions on another country. Fast-forward a year to the 2010 spectacle that is taking place on the shores of the African continent for the first time. What is the focus of the coverage? The vuvuzela.

Come on! The vuv
uzela is a tradition of South African football that is derived from the kudu horn, despite what CNN is reporting (since when is CNN an expert on South African culture? All they have to do is ask any South Africa who grew up in a village about the vuvuzela's origins). The kudu horn was used in villages throughout Southern Africa to summon villagers to a meeting. It is loud for a reason. If one looks closely at the pictures emanating from South Africa, iterspersed throughout the plastic vuvuzelas one might see an actual kudu horn. The tradition of blowing a vuvuzela at a football match stems from the desire of the fans of one team to beckon fellow supporters.

I have heard compla
ints that the vuvuzela drowns out singing. I have two responses to this: First, this singing is part and parcel of football culture mainly in Europe. Like the famous quote in the Wizard of Oz, "We aren't in Kansas anymore Dorothy." We aren't in Europe, so suck it up. Second, have you heard the "harmonizing"? Personally, I'm glad I can't hear some of this singing! Having experienced the vuvuzela noise at many football matches in South Africa including three in packed stadiums, I know what the noise level is like...and love it. I can feel a bit of ruth for fans in the stadium and understand why they leave with a headache and may complain a bit (though I question whether or not these fans regularly attended football matches before the World Cup.) What I do not understand is the complaints of fans who are watching on television. Turn the sound down or deal with it. This is the World Cup. It will all be over in a month. It will not return to South Africa during our lifetimes. Suck it up and enjoy the spectacle for what it is...an African event and a South(ern) African one in particular. At the next World Cup, the detractors can complain about South Americans setting off flares, but until then, let South(ern) Africans enjoy their time on the global stage and show you how they celebrate their football.

**By the way, as I'm writing this, I am watching a replay of Zimbabwe's recent triangular one-day international series (cricket). Zimbabwe supporters, and this was before the World Cup began, are dancing in the stand to drums and blowing their vuvuzelas.


04 April 2010

Kids Humor

I received an e-mail this morning that had me cracking up. Kids do say the darnedest things

The innocence of kids....very cute.............

JACK (age 3)was watching his Mom breast-feeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked: 'Mom why have you got two? Is one for hot and one for cold milk?'

MELANIE (age 5)asked her Granny how old she was. Granny replied she was so old she didn't remember any more. Melanie said, 'If you don't remember you must look in the back of your panties. Mine say five to six.'

STEVEN (age 3)hugged and kissed his Mom good night. 'I love you so much that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroom window.'

BRITTANY (age 4)had an ear ache and wanted a pain killer. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a child-proof cap and she'd have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: 'How does it know it's me?'

SUSAN (age 4)was drinking juice when she got the hiccups. 'Please don't give me this juice again,' she said, 'It makes my teeth cough.'
DJ (age 4)stepped onto the bathroom scale and asked: 'How much do I cost?'

CLINTON (age 5) was in his bedroom looking worried When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, 'I don't know what'll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in it?'

MARC (age 4) was engrossed in a young couple that were hugging and kissing in a restaurant. Without taking his eyes off them, he asked his dad: 'Why is he whispering in her mouth?'

TAMMY (age 4) was with her mother when they met an elderly, rather wrinkled woman her Mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, 'Why doesn't your skin fit your face?'

JAMES (age 4)was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: 'The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city but his wife looked back and was turned to salt.' Concerned, James asked: 'What happened to the flea?'

This particular Sunday sermon...'Dear Lord,' the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. 'Without you, we are but dust...' He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter who was listening leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little four year old girl voice, 'Mom, what is butt dust?'


Islam and Europe

As I read through the newspaper late last week, I started thinking about two seemingly unrelated articles detailing events in Europe and Islam and how they are somehow related.

The first article I read dealt with the recent passing of a bill in Serbia's Parliament that apologizes for the slaughter of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by the Serbian Army and para-military forces outside of Srebrenica. T
his occurred in 1995 and was the worst war time atrocity committed in Europe since the end World War II. While this apology is undoubtedly welcome, there were two items of note: First, this bill was not passed unanimously. In fact, it barely passed at all, with only 127 out of 250 Parliamentarians supporting it. Second, though this bill was an apology, it did not declare this massacre as a genocide. Thus, the bill fell far short of what the Bosnians (and Pan-Islamic world) want and did little to slake their thirst for justice. Two other facts lead to cynicism concerning this bill: Serbia is in the process of applying for EU membership and several prominent individuals, such as Ratko Mladic, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) are at large and believed to still be in Serbia and believed to be receiving support from Serbian Nationalist organizations.

The other article that caused me to think about Islam in a European context was the recent decision by the Belgian government to ban the niqab and burqa in public. Those who do not receive police permission to wear either garment will be fined. This is akin to asking the police for permission to wear a cross around one's neck and completely infringes upon the rights of Belgian Muslims to freely practice their faith. In fact, this bill was opposed by several Catholic Bishops.

These two issues are seemingly unrelated except that both deal with issues pertaining to Islam in Europe. There is definitely a mixed message emanating from Europe. Though religious freedom and anti-genocide protocols are ensconced in various EU conventions and rights laws, these freedoms and rights seemingly do not extend to Islam and thus make a mockery of these conventions and popinjays out of European Leaders who continually harp about the shortcomings of governments in predominantly Muslim countries.

How can Europe criticize Sudan's president for violating the rights various groups when it is not protecting basic rights of its own citizens? The adage about people living in glass houses throwing stones rings true. This is the type of double standard that has to cease if Europe ever hopes to have influence in the Islamic world.


02 April 2010

Iran and Sanctions

When Barack Obama arrived in Washington last year, there was limitless optimism. I remember watching a Jib-Jab.com original that accurately illustrated the hopes the rest of the world had for his administration. Afterall, Obama was replacing one of the most devisive Presidents in American history and promised change on myriad issues.

While Barack has already delivered on many of the promises he made during the campaign, the United States policy towards Iran needs some adjustment. The recent announcement that the United States and France would pursue another round (this will be the 4th) of UN sanctions against Iran is a mistake for a myriad reasons. Though Russia recently announced it would tacitly support this round of sanctions, China will not. China has veto power on the UN Security Council so any action will require their abstention or approval. Thus, any sanctions passed by the United Nations, no matter how bedizened with tough rhetoric, will be denuded and toothless.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will gleefully point out that the United States and France are hypocritical for allowing India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Israel to flout the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and acquire nuclear weapons (though South Africa has dismantled their weapons) while placing an immense amount of pressure on Iran, which is part of the NPT. This hugger-mugger approach to the NPT reeks of ambiguity, which will undoubtedly be exploited by the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad will also point out how Iran has in fact stuck to the letter of the law (if not its spirit) and the International Atomic Energy Agency has not yet found any evidence of a nuclear program. No matter how one feels about Iran and its current government, a new round of sanctions is a losing proposition.

Barack Obama initially hoped to engage the Iranian government. When this was rebuffed, the American administration sought to focus its energy on other issues, especially domestic ones. With the recent passage of the health-care bill, the Obama administration seems to be re-engaging in foreign affairs and on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. Sanctions are not the answer for this re-engagement. This sanctions policy will fail and give the Iranian government invaluable propaganda points. Instead, the Obama administration needs to engage the Iranian government and work with it if the United States is to have any influence on Iran's policies.


16 March 2010

Bumper Sticker

I thought this was one of the funniest bumper stickers I have seen recently!


10 February 2010

National Criminal Justice Commission Act (S.714)

This Senate Bill is designed to overhaul the current American penal system. Since its introduction in March 2009, the bill has garnered the bi-partisan support of 35 Senators and a broad array of organizations from across the political spectrum, including Human Rights Watch, American Jail Association, Prison Fellowship, American Society of Criminology, the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association, and many other stakeholders.

If S.714 is passed into law, the National Criminal Justice Commission will be created. This commission will be comprised of experts from a diverse range of relevant fields, including criminal justice, law enforcement, public heath, national security, prison administration, social services, prisoner reentry, and victims' rights. Commissioners will be tasked with proposing tangible, wide-ranging recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice.

So why is this law neccessary? Here are eight reasons why:

  1. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration on the planet. We currently have roughly 5% of the world's population, yet our country contains 25% of the world's reported inmates. More than 2.3 million Americans are now serving time in prison. Another 5 million are on probation or parole.

  2. During the past 20 years, our prison population has skyrocketed. More and more people have been incarcerated for non-violent acts driven by mental health related issues and/or drug dependence.

  3. Despite the economic crisis, the cost of our current penal system continues to grow exponentially. Many of those incarcerated are repeat offenders. Thus, true rehabilitation could ease this financial burden on the taxpayer.

  4. We currently lock up people who do not necessarily belong in prison, using valuable corrections resources that could be used against serious perpetuators of violent crime.

  5. Transnational criminal activity has increased in the United States and resources need to be devoted to fighting this problem.

  6. The incarceration of illegal drug users has done nothing to curb drug usage. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that has been largely unscathed. Despite the billions spent to combat the illegal drug industry, these drugs still reach our streets.

  7. Incarceration of for drug crimes has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities, despite virtually identical levels of drug use across racial and ethnic lines.

  8. It is extremely difficult for released inmates to become fully functioning members of society since post-incarceration re-entry programs either do not exist or are haphazard. This leads to repeat offenders and an undermining of public safety. Furthermore, the euphemism for prisons across the country is Department of Corrections. If we are to imply that prison corrects problems, then we need to ensure that rehabilitation has occurred when prisoners have completed their sentence.

What can you do to help? This bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If a Senator from your state serves on this committee, write to him/her and ask for support for this important initiative.