A bumper addition. Can’t help it. Too much news going around I guess. Lost in Africa. And guess what. I am not touching US politics this week! Okay, maybe just a little…

1. Fighting corruption the Nigerian way

Oh Nigeria… Good old Nigeria decided to fight corruption. At last. Get rid of this plague that has been haunting this beautiful country. But it didn’t go according to plan. This week Nigeria’s anti-corruption police had to sack 11 of its own officials. Why? Because most of them lied about their academic credentials and one for trying to defraud a suspect. Or as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) called it “forgery and other fraudulent acts”.  I can think of another word that also uses a “F” and a “C” that might be a better way to describe the Nigerian anti-corruption efforts. I think these guys used to work as consultants for Jack Abramoff’s and worked as Tom Delay’s special advisers.

2. Parliamentary priviledges the Zimbabwean way

What a big week in Zimbabwe. The newly(ish) elected parliamentarians got to go to parliament for the first time. And it was meant to be a changing of the guards. You know. The MDC won the election. Even after loser Bob “I-Murder-Before-Breakfast” Mugabe tried his best to get his party to win. And it was going to be a big day. They had to vote for the Speaker of Parliament. Guess what Bob “Crazier-Than-Bush” Mugabe did? He arrested opposition politicians as they entered parliament to be sworn in. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF hoped that enough opposition politicians would get arrested so that they (the ZANU-PF) would have enough votes to elect the Speaker. And how sad is this? They still lost the vote. Enough ZANU-PF members voted for the opposition MDC. So the new Speaker is from the MDC. I think that these people were the same people who organized the FEMA response to Katrina.

3. Mugabe is a “…”

We all want to say it. Hell. Some of us have actually said it. But you can’t do that in Zimbabwe. A guy got arrested in Zimbabwe for describing Bob “I-Have-No-Morals” Mugabe as a “female genital organ”. In all fairness, I would do it as well. Chuck the guy in jail. I mean really. It is an insult to… hum… “female genital organs”. Here is the clincher. Guess what was the guy’s name? And I am not joking. His name is Pinas. I think these were the same guys who worked for the main-stream media from 2001 to around 2006 in the US. They got fired and some journalist actually started developing a backbone again.

4. OMG! I just switched you off! LOL!

This one puzzles me a bit. The Kenya Power and Lighting Company has introduced new cutting-edge technology to communicate a very third world thing. They are going to text people to tell them that their electricity will be cut thanks to “supply interruptions” – read, we’re outa juice. Now here is the three things that puzzles me. Firstly, why can’t they introduce some new technology to keep the electricity flowing? You know? Buy some new cables instead of the latest iPhone. Secondly, where the hell do you get the electricity to charge your phone? Do you have a long extension cord to a neighboring country with a steady supply? Lastly, how the hell can you send a text if the electricity is down? You know, everything shuts down. Even the towers sending the signals. But then. Logic shouldn’t be part of it right? I think the guys who worked on this plan were the same guys who works on the US energy efficiency and oil independence policies.

5. A trial leading nowhere

Looks like the ANC is pulling the trusted “good cop, bad cop” treatment on the judges looking into Zuma’s corruption trial. First Blade “Short-Shit” Nzimande climbed into the judges for investigating Zuma. Do remember that Blade has a casual relationship with justice. I mean, as the leader of the Communist Party, he has a very old-school communist way of looking at justice. Then Motlanthe came out defending the judges. Okay, I won’t even try to explain it, but according to party leaders these two positions are not at odds with the party line. No idea how that logic works. I know these guys worked for the Bush administration. Why? Because in a Scooter Libby type move, Blade also said he is not going to rule out the possibility of an arms deal amnesty as a way forward. Hello Scooter.

6. Circumcision not a rip-off

And you thought I was joking! They actually found a new way to do circumcision. But, to quote them, “the question that arose was how the procedure could be rolled out universally. The new method is called the ShangRing. I think it is very unfortunate that this is a Chinese inventor. I don’t think anything to do with circumcision should have the sound of a knife as part of its name – “Shang” (can you hear the ring as the knife cuts through the… hum… you know…). How does it work? I am not going to tell you. But if you know what mulesing is… It is something similar. I like the fact that Dr Marc Goldstein said that “Shang promises to be faster, safer and more acceptable to patients than conventional surgical circumcision methods”. I am sorry. No “Shang” will be more acceptable to the guy getting his willy cut. And how about this one by Dr Howard Kim, “The beauty of this device is its simple, innovative design”. Sorry Dr Kim. The ShangRing is not an iPod or iPhone. It is never going to take off. No pun intended.

There is no foreskin toothfairy

There is no foreskin toothfairy

7. What’s in a name?

It seems as if the Thai people are getting fed up with the corruption that is so rife in their government. And like all good people pissed off, they decided to take to the streets. And they protested and ranted and threw their toys. All for democracy. The People’s Alliance for Democracy has drawn the line and want change now. No more corruption. And that is what democrats everywhere would want – a democratic government free of corruption. And with a name like that it is clear they want new elections. Right? Wrong! They aren’t protesting to get new elections. Nope. They are protesting for a “new coup”! They want the military to take over again. Either the Thais just don’t get this democracy thing or something got seriously lost in translation.

8. Canadians are weird

At last. At last they broke one of the major crime mysteries in Canada. A crime that has Canadians on the edge of their seats. Choking on their blubber because of the audacity of this crime. The Canadian version of Capone. The thief of all thieves. You could lock it but he always found a way. No chains could hold him back. But they got this man who terrorized communities all across Moose country. Free. Free at last. They got him. Him. The bicycle thief. Yes. The bicycle thief. But not just a run-of-the-mill bicycle thief. No. They found over 3,000 bicycles. 3,000 bicycles. What the hell was he going to do with 3,000 bicycles? I don’t know. But then, it is Canada. I think he was planning on starting their version of NASCAR.

Be afraid...

Be afraid...

9. Just don’t answer the phone

You sit there in your lounge and the phone rings. Bloody phone. Interrupting American Idol. And who called? The dreaded telemarketer. So you do what every proud American does at least once a week. You hang up on the idiot who phoned. That’ll teach them. You just sat down and settled in for some more Simon Cowell – to see how high he can pull up his pants this time. And the phone rings again. It’s the telemarketer again. But this time they have a message for you. “If you don’t want to get contacted if somebody wins, then don’t put your name in it.  That was just such a girl thing to do. Wimp,” yelled the telemarketer to poor old Randall Whited. And then slammed the phone down. One mistake though. The telemarketer must have forgotten that this is America. In England you just shake your head and say, “How rude.” And then go back to watch EastEnders. But this is the US. Here you will get your ass sued baby. And that is just what Randall is thinking about. I guess it could have been worse. If Randall was in England he would have been called by a telemarketer in India shouting insults at the British version of curry. And you know you should never touch an Englishman and his curry. Mind you, I don’t think they would have understood each other in any case.

10. When Obama is right…

Remember when McCain and Bush laughed at Obama and his plan to get American troops out of Iraq in 16 months? To get a timetable for the pullout of the troops? Well, it seems as if John “100-Years-In-Iraq” McCain has to eat some major humble pie. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called her bluff just a week after Condoleezza Rice said that America was only in Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi government. And then the Iraqi government said, “Get the hell out”. And gave them a deadline. Come Condi, you said it yourself. You will leave when you are not wanted anymore. Message clear? Come on McCain? Get the message? You were wrong. And Obama was (and is) right. Now take a cue from the Iraqi pullout deadline and get yourself a pullout deadline. I call it November 2008.

Like I said. A bumper issue! Hope you had fun.

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Am I getting dated? I am sure I am going to lose track of how many I have done but I don’t think I will run out of news soon. Let’s have a look what has been cooking this week.

1. The pot calling the kettle…

President Bush decided to show some global leadership balls. On China. Calling them out on their human rights record. He is apparently not impressed. Good on you President Bush. Stand up against the (next) bully. Don’t let them push us around. Just please don’t invade them. We know how you get all worked up. This one might be a little bit to much for you to handle. Two big guys in the schoolyard getting ready for some “how’s your mother”? Nah. He won’t do much other than bitch a bit and then sit back and run in his Chinese made running shoes, watch Bill O’Reilly on his Chinese made television, and wave his Chinese made American flag. But there is another snag. Calling China out on their human rights record… Two words President Bush… Guantanamo Bay… Sorry, you lost your right to bitch about humans and their rights. Can’t have it both ways. No matter how big and strong you are.

2. I don’t give a flying…

You want a bag with that sir? That will be $15 thank you. Oh, you have two! Hand over another $25. We made you miss your flight and you need to change it? $150 please. Thirsty? A dollar for a cuppa Joe. As if you want to stay awake on this flight. You’ll have to pay for the movies in any case. But better to pay $5 to watch a movie I guess. Better than paying $7 for a blanket and a pillow. Next up? How much for a safety vets? We packed 5 – open bids start just after take-off. No wonder American airlines are going bankrupt. They offer nothing and charge you the world. And still can’t get you off the ground in time. Try this in Africa. Feeding people nothing and charging them for air… Here’s one I don’t get. Why is it that they charge per bag? Weight… It’s the weight that gets to them. Apparently the fuel costs are out of control and one way to save on fuel is by cutting down on the weight. Apparently, people still weigh more than the 400 tonne bloody airplane. Riiight… No, it’s true. They have a real obesity problem over here in the US. But what happens if I go on a diet? Can I get a discount? American airlines… Like the economy. Going down fast. At least the dollar lost value. Or else the airline greed might actually hurt. But not yet. So far it is only really stupid and funny. Their motto? I don’t give a flying…

3. I can’t recall, recall

We can’t afford to go to Disney yet (January maybe!), but we have found another way to entertain ourselves. We go to Whole Foods. It is just one amazing place for us Africans in America. The food so fresh they make Pamela Anderson blush and they use baby bottoms to wipe the apples because they are so delicate. Oh, Whole Foods. They have mist spraying over the fresh fruits and vegetables – it makes me feel as if I am on the farm or in the Amazon somewhere. And they have juices, cookies, hams and fruits to taste all over the place. We take the kids there on a Friday night. We call it “eating out”. I like to spoil my girls. Ah, Whole Foods – the amusement park for Africans. But they have a memory like a leaky watermelon those guys. They forgot to recall the bad meat. And then recalled that they had to recall. You see, they found E. Coli a few months ago from a company called Nebraska Beef. And it is not a Springsteen song. So all those “shops for the less privileged” like Costco and Stop & Shop (where we shop) had to make a huge recall of all the meat. But of course we knew Whole Foods wouldn’t be affected by it all. I mean really they feed their chickens organic Fairtrade corn with mint jelly and slaughter their cattle by massaging them slowly to death. And then it happened. Months later. Whole Foods had to recall the meat. Because they too bought from Nebraska Meat. But they recalled it months later. Only after they recalled that they bought meat from the same dude that Earl’s Meat Palace & Pet Shop bought his meat from. After it was already sold. Nice business plan Mr Mackey. It is at last off the shelf. But rest assured. It might have been E. Coli. But it was organic E. Coli.

How the E.Coli rumor started...

How the E.Coli rumor started...

4. Power less sharing

Crazy Uncle Bob and Tsvangirai are talking. Bah, humbug. Talking about ending the fight between the two of them that has been going on for months. Talking about sharing power. In some way. Sharing power. Was that a joke? Most of the country hasn’t had electricity for ages. Not since Mugabe needed it to keep his food warm and artificial heart pumping. And share what? There is nothing to share. Jack baby. Mugabe has already eaten the donkey and now wants to share the carcass? Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum doing the slow dance. Doing the slow dance to Power of Love or Careless Whisper? I think Bob was listening to I Got You Babe.

5. South Africa takes over England

I guess they had to do something. I mean really. They got their backsides kicked by the South Africans in cricket. Just a few months after getting their butts kicked in rugby. It’s a national pastime in South Africa. Beating the English in anything and everything. Ah, they thought they had the political one in the bag with Gordon Brown. Sorry dudes, our President Mbeki is pulling away in the lame-duck race. But back to the sports. So what do you think the Poms did after losing to us again? They appointed a South African as their captain. A guy who can’t make our team. He’s their best guy… And he is from Durban. It’s a bit like saying he’s from Texas. Minus the silly hats. But they are loud, have funny accents, like to talk about how great they are, but their leaders stink like Sue Ellen’s acting in Dallas. Hey, England! I have one for you. Why don’t you take Zuma? We won’t be able to beat that one.

6. China wins. Next year.

The US better take as many medals as they can at the Olympics in Beijing. Because China is about to take their lunch money. The US economy is going down the dumps. It’s slowing down faster than McCain without a cane first thing in the morning. Or me without coffee. Dropping faster than President Bush’s popularity. Yes. It is pretty bad. But here is the clincher. China will overtake America as the world’s largest producer of manufactured goods. Yes. China will push America off the top spot. A spot they have held for over 100 years. Will someone remember to switch off the lights when the last factory closes its door? The USA. Made in China.

________________________________

Hope to have better news next week. Yeah, right.

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The news isn’t getting any better is it? Time to have a closer look. I must apologize first though. I do get a bit worked up today. So please excuse the anger. But some of this stuff just isn’t funny anymore. Don’t worry though, some of it is still pretty funny. Hey remember, no news is good news. So some news is slightly crap news. I’ll start with the crap news first.

Same old, same old...

Same old, same old...

1. Mr McCain, act your age – or maybe not

It’s becoming a bit tedious. Every week I tell myself that I will leave McCane alone. His an old man after all. And I am not being nice. My mom won’t be impressed. You know, she always said I should show respect to old people. And I really want to. But then he does it again. Or maybe I should say, “Oops he did it again”. Yes, McCane has scrapped right through the bottom of the barrel and is now digging up old cat crap from the garden soil below. He is reaching a new low. Even for a Republican. Okay, maybe I am wrong. You can’t really reach a new low as a Republican. Or at least not this type of Republican. They boldly go where no one has gone before. Anyway, let’s get back to the Mac. McCane decided to take Obama on by focusing on the issues. Not. No, he decided to tell us nothing of his own policies or why he might be a good President and instead compared Obama to Britney and then said Obama is playing the race card. Sigh. (I wish my wife would allow me to swear in my blog. McCain deserves one.) Come now Mista McCane, what the hell do you stand for apart from anything anti-Obama? The USA actually needs someone to stand for something and not just against everything. Look what happened the last time you picked a President that stood for nothing but anti-everything. You are living in that world right now. Who are you McCane? Who are you when you look in the mirror apart from an angry old man with no life or policies? If Obama is Britney, are you the wino old hag who hangs around Britney trying to catch a bit of her “shine”? Get a life of your own please. And saying Obama is playing the race card… Have you actually been on the “internets” as your buddy calls it? Have you seen and heard the things people are saying of Obama? Have you not heard how that stupid blond woman called Ann Coulter play “funny” with Obama’s names? Have you seen the original racist comments that Rooster99 left on this blog? Obama playing the race card… Bah! Wake up and smell the roses. Grow up and act your age. No wait. Please don’t. We don’t need another President asleep behind the wheel. I guess the next thing you should start bitching about is that Obama is playing the intelligence card and walking the leadership path. That is so unfair hey? Ek is gatvol van MyPyn se wyn.

2. UK decides not to prosecute corruption

Imagine if this happened in South Africa. Or anywhere in Africa… The anti-fraud agency starts to investigate allegation that the largest national arms manufacturer and dealer offered bribes to a potential buyer. A bribe to get the buyer to buy some weapons. Maybe even a few weapons of mass destruction? And the buyer? A Middle Eastern buyer. With a really bad human rights record. And then the agency drops the investigation. Why? Because the buyer blackmailed the investigators by saying that they won’t give any anti-terrorism support or intelligence info in the fight against terrorism. What would you expect the agency and your government to do? Don’t answer – let’s first look at what the UK did. The UK government actually supported the investigators decision not to probe a bit deeper into the bribery case. Even though they already had good evidence. And they are so happy the agency dropped the case. The reason? National security. Bull. Let any African government do this and guess what – everyone will be all over them and throw their toys. They will talk about the corruption by African governments. And say it is just “the way these Africans are”. Well, stuff you. Go put it where the sun don’t shine. You Mr Brown and gang, the bribes are on your hands and for the whole world to see. The blood of those who die because of these weapons? One your hands. National security? Guess what. Did you know that Osama bin Laden comes from that country involved in this corrupt arms deal, terrorism threat and blackmail case? To the UK – you just lost your right to bitch about corruption anywhere else in the world. Especially in Africa. Go clean your own house first.

Oh, in a new development… This same UK arms manufacturer (BAE) was just caught in another case. One that involves their links to a Zimbabwean arms trader. A Zimbabwean arms dealer with strong ties to Robert Mugabe. Sweeping that one under the carpet as well now shall we? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Right? No reason to investigate this one if you didn’t want to look at the Saudi one. “Nothing to see here folks. Please move on.” Spineless bigots. Murdering bastards. What a pair they make. The UK and Zimbabwe caught necking behind the barn. Brown and Mugabe seen doing some heavy petting in the hay. Blood on your hands you stupid gutless Pom.

3. UK crime levels fall

I know I joked about it in my Next Week’s News Today II, but it is actually true. Crime rates are falling in the UK. It has done so by 10% over the last year. I stand by my original assessment that the economic crunch is behind it all. There is just nothing to steal anymore. I just wonder if the nanny state UK government will provide the criminals with some economic “stimulant” package as well. I mean really. It’s bad if the mob can’t even squeeze anything out of the dry UK well anymore. See? Crime doesn’t pay. Not now. At least they will have the dole to fall back on.

4. Scientific proof that Conservatives are sick

A new study from the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque!) has just linked religion with diseases. Basically, the study “proves” that there is a link between the number of religions and the “control” of diseases. Apparently, society organizes itself in religious groups to limit the spread infectious diseases and other health risks. That’s a bit of a bummer. It makes the US a pretty sick society. I mean really, the Christian churches over here are worse than Trotskyists – they split into two separate groups every time two Christian conservatives/evangelicals get together in a room. Aah, now I get the whole anti-science thing amongst some of the more fundamentalist Christian groups in the US. You see, some science actually focus on healing people. Get rid of diseases. So the basic fibre of religion will fall apart. The healthier we are the more secular we will become. I hope Hagee and Bush don’t read this. Or maybe they knew about this all along. You know – denying evolution and denying global warming. Very Christian of them.

5. China and US sync laptops

China. What can I say. Loved it over there. Just don’t take your laptop with when you go and visit. They don’t like free information that much. Like to control it a bit. Can’t get access to all the sites on the internet. Including this one. (Wonder if they lifted the “ban” on this one when they relaxed their control a bit this week?) Anyway. They like control. And they have a bit of a habit of taking laptops at airports. You know – to check for “information”. And good luck if you can get it back. They go a bit further though. They check what you do and download your information, contacts and everything they can get their hands on. It helps that they control the networks you have to use. They are checking for anything that can “threaten” China. I call it no freedom and control freaks. So no surprise that American politicians are a bit unhappy about that. America is build on the foundations of freedom. Free expression and information are the cornerstones of this great country. I was even happier to see that it was a Republican being pissed at the Chinese for doing this. Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas was really pissed at the Chinese and their attempts to get every single piece of information they could get their hands on. Good on you Senator Brownback. Freedom of expression and information should always be protected. It’s the American way. But… Hang on a minute… What do we have here? It can’t be. The US doing the same? Yes! You see, first it was invasion of privacy with the “Patriot” Act. Like the Chinese, they will track your info like a true Chinese autocrat. And now it seems they are taking another leaf from the little red Chinese book of control. They are ready to take your laptop at the airport. And do pretty much what ever the hell they want to do with it. And they go a step further. They’ll take your iPod as well. Not to control your music as if it is some 50’s rock ‘n roll clampdown. No, just to check what info you have on there. (I would be so embarrassed by my playlist.) So there you go. Information control. China and the US dancing to the same tune. And I bet it ain’t to the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Closer to the Grateful Dead I guess. George W Bush and Hu Jintao, both President and Commander in Chief of the two most powerful nations in the world, dancing the slow dance of control. It’ll make Mao so proud. He didn’t even have to invade the US for the Red Revolution to take over. First they took over the economy and now exported they own special brand of information control and freedom suppression. Tangle or tango anyone. Any wise words of wisdom now Senator Brownback?

________________________

That’s it folks. More pissed than usual. But can’t help it – they keep on feeding me crap.

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Well, 4th of July just passed. And the celebrations could be seen all around us. Flags flying, parades everywhere and fireworks to scare the cats – and kids. And it made me wonder – what does it mean to be a patriot?

We were sitting outside having a barbeque. American style. Burgers and all. Pretty American on 4th of July. Just us South Africans and an Aussie friend. Anyway… Our backyard neighbors were having their own party. Big family gathering. Even bigger griller. And meat to feed an army. At least a few divisions. And it went on and on. The crowd kept on growing and the noise kept on rising. We didn’t have a problem with it. They were having fun. Good clean fun. (And we loved the fireworks later in the evening – all courtesy of our partying neighbors.) And then we noticed the balloons.

Big balloons. All in the American colors. Red, white and blue. Stars and stripes everywhere. Almost every chair had a few of them tied to the back. Flying in the wind. This new type of flag. My wife and myself looked at each other and laughed. A very typical thing for us – we know each other way too well already! We said it at almost the same time, “I bet you those balloons were made in China!”

She won the right to blog on the “Made in China” joke. I really can’t say no to her. But it made me think of China. Again. And on the meaning of being proud of your country. Being a patriot.

And no. It wasn’t the “Free Tibet” flags that was made in China that made me think of China. It was my recent chats with a few Chinese in China that made me realize they are very proud of their country. Well, most of them anyway. Wherever I went they told me so. How they love their country and how proud they are of how China is developing. And, of course, the Beijing Olympics. For them the Olympics was about the Chinese people and not the Chinese government. A chance for us to meet China and the Chinese people. For them it was about them and their country. And not their government. I know, the Chinese government really secured the Olympics – not the people. But it still made sense. I know how it felt.

I have always loved my country. And my people. But I wasn’t always that proud of my government. The Apartheid government was not a regime to be proud of. Trust me. They weren’t. But I always loved my country. The mountains, the rivers, everything. And I really loved my people. It was an easy call. I loved my country. I loved my people. And I still saw myself as a patriot. I would defend my country and my people. But not my government. They were corrupt. In every sense of the word. If they asked me to go to war I would say no. If they asked me to vote in their rigged elections I wouldn’t. I would not listen to them and I would not support them in anything. But I would defend my country and my people. In my way. By protesting against the Apartheid regime. By speaking out when ever I got the chance. I would defy them. And challenge them. Because I was a patriot.

Over here in America people are asking the patriotism question. Again. And I am not just talking about Obama. Whether him wearing a flag or not makes him more or less patriotic. Like everyone wears that each day. Go do a Google search on the Mac and see how many times he wears one. Being a vet does not give you a free pass. Or at least I don’t think so. But this isn’t about Obama. Maybe only in an indirect way. The questions about him being American and being a patriot triggered some initial thoughts. But it isn’t about him. No, it’s about people who are claiming to be more patriotic than the next.

Supporting the war. That makes you a patriot. Being against gay marriages. That makes you a patriot. Not criticising President Bush. That makes you a patriot. Saying it is okay to hold people without trail and (maybe) torturing them. That makes you a patriot. Being in favour of subsidies for big oil but against universal health care. That makes you a patriot. Being Republican. Being conservative and against liberals. Listening to Rush and Bill. Watching Fox. Pro-flag. Anti-protests. And so on. And so on. It all makes you a patriot.

Or does it?

Were you a patriot if you supported the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII? Or were you a patriot when you tried to speak out against it? Were you a patriot when you supported segregation? Or were you a patriot when you acted against it? Were you a patriot when you lynched blacks and burned crosses and churches all over? Or were you a patriot when you marched against it? Were you a patriot when you supported a war to get rid of weapons of mass destruction? Or were you a patriot when you protested against a war with little evidence to support the claims of the President? Are you a patriot when you support a war no matter what the reasons? Or are you a patriot when you believe you can support the soldiers and still not agree with the war? Are you a patriot when you say other Americans are not American enough because they do not agree with everything you do or say? Or are you a patriot when you say that being an American means celebrating and loving diversity of all kinds – religion, color, languages, political thoughts, food and even stupid bloody movies?

You decide. I am not here to tell you what patriotism means in America. I can only tell you what it means for me as a South African. It means loving my country. Believing in my people. Caring for those around me. Looking after our land and the animals who live there. And speaking out when my government is unjust. Or just plain wrong. They are not my country. They are not my people. They do not stand for what my country stand for. Or at least not what the majority of us want our country to stand for. They are our government. They come and go. The people, the land and the spirit that make us never die. The meaning of being South African never come and go. It is more than the sum of us. It is that intangible meaning of us.

I am a patriotic South African when I disagree with my government when they are wrong. I am a patriot when I speak out against stupid decisions made by my government. I was a patriot when I protested against the government during Apartheid. I am a patriot when I speak out and protest against my government when I believe they are not being true to what we want our country to stand for – freedom, tolerance, equality and celebrating our diversity. And all the other good stuff.

And don’t confuse the patriotism bit with loving it or being proud of it. I love my children. But I am not proud of them when they do something wrong. I still love them. I still care for them. Deeply and without question. No less than before. But I also know I have to remind them of the rules. Our rules. Rules of respect, love and hard work. It does not make me less of a dad just because they need to know when I am disappointed with them. I tell them. But I also tell them I love them no less. I love them. I care for them. But I can’t always be proud of them. But I can be even more proud of them when they make right what they did wrong. That makes me love them even more. When they hold up their hands and say, “Yeah, I was wrong. Sorry dad.”

But driving a car made in Japan? Wearing clothes made in India? Eating food grown in Mexico? Drinking coffee grown in Ethiopia? Buying gas imported from Saudi Arabia? Reading books written by an Englishman? Watching a French movie? Having balloons made in China?

I don’t know. I like it when I see something made in South Africa. But I don’t buy it just because it is made in South Africa. I buy it (or not) because of many reasons – price, quality, taste, smell, functionality etc. Whatever. I buy it when I can. But I won’t buy a SUV just because it was made in South Africa. I’ll buy the less thirsty car made wherever.

A patriot. What is it? You decide. Because you make it. You build your country with every decision you make. The easy decisions and the difficult ones. They all count. There is no end. You build it every day. America is different from what it was a 100 years ago. Every single day you are still working on it. Keeping the good bits alive. And turning it into something new and making it relevant for society today. No end game. It’s not a game. It a journey. With no end destination. And every step counts. Every person count.

Every American count. Every American equals one brick. And you decide how strong you want this structure called America to be. You place your brick. You make it strong or you make it weak. It isn’t easy. And it has never been easy to build this great nation. It wasn’t easy to fight the British for independence. It wasn’t easy to free the slaves. It wasn’t easy to give women voting rights. It wasn’t easy to fight in WWII. It wasn’t easy to end segregation. It wasn’t easy to pull out of Vietnam. But it was the right thing to do.

Are you a patriot? Just wait before you answer. First ask yourself what does it mean to be a patriot? Define it. Look around and ask if this is what your fellow countrymen mean by it? Do you agree with it? What is your America? Happy you got all the info you need? Good. Now answer it. Are you a patriot?

Just don’t forget to look in the mirror when you answer.

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I am back. And what a ride it was. So much to say. I don’t even know where to start. 2 days in Shanghai and 4 days in Beijing. And so different from what I expected. I should have known better. Much better. The world isn’t black and white. And neither is China. But let’s start with the heading of this blog…

Please Mr China. Please unblock my blog. Yep. My blog isn’t for public consumption in China. For some or other reason you just can’t open it over there. Blocked. I hope it was just my computer. And the computer of the few people who tried to read my blog. But it seems as if the Chinese government decided that it is better that my blog be blocked in China. Come on. It isn’t that much of a blog. Pretty middle of the road if you ask me. Just a few questions and observations on life, love and the universe. No need to block it.

Okay, so I wrote a piece or two on China. And maybe they were slightly critical. Okay, maybe more than just slightly critical. Comparing China to Zimbabwe might have been over the top. At least from an Olympic perspective. And maybe I shouldn’t be so critical of tyrants and other non-democrats when I created an Oh-Limp-Pic Games to celebrate tyrants everywhere. Maybe it just wasn’t fair. But hey, life isn’t fair. Live with it.

So please unblock my blog.

Also. I have some good news to tell about China. My week there has been awesome. What an eye opener. So many stories to tell. So many things observed. Too many surprises I never expected. But let’s start with why I was there in the first place.

It was all about disasters. And specifically because of the earthquake that hit the Sichuan province in China on May 12 of this year. So far almost 70,000 lives have been taken by the disaster. And they expect it to rise to at least 80,000 by the time they close this chapter. I was asked by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs and other partners (let’s not name any names) to speak at two conferences and chair two sessions on how to prepare for disasters and how to develop effective public-private partnerships. One was held in Shanghai and one was held in Beijing. Yes, the Angry African was invited to go there. But under my real name.

I won’t bore you with the details of the conferences and meetings. It was amazing. But I am sure you don’t come here to read about that. Let’s just say that they are way better prepared for disasters than I expected. And way better organized than what I have seen elsewhere in the world. I think I learned more from them than they from me.

Let’s also say that I really did not want to go. I tried everything to get out of it. Delayed my travel plans. Moaned and groaned. Bitched and threw my toys. I just don’t like flying anymore. I am not scared of flying. It’s just boring. I would rather spend time with my wife and kids. They are the most important things in my life and I would rather be with them 24/7. But, alas, I got the visa the day before I had to fly off so I ran out of excuses. And there I went. Flying off to China.

It didn’t start off that well though. I had to fly American Airlines. You know, I have flown some weird and wonderful airlines in my life. It comes with having flown maybe 1,000+ times in my life. I mean really, I have flown Air Cameroon and made it to my destination. Eventually. So American Airlines should be a breeze, right? Nah. They are by far the worse airline I have ever flown. Crappy planes. Crappy food. And just… crappy. I mean really. Why the hell do they block off the aisle and window seats right until they are about to take off? It meant that I had to take a middle seat because I had to fly via Chicago and couldn’t change my seat at either Logan (Boston) or even online. Jeez. So backwards. Even Air California (Mexico) had a better system in place.

And, of course, I had to be squashed seated next to a guy with the worse breath I have ever (EVER) had the pleasure to smell. Not that I wanted to smell it, but he fell asleep with his head almost on my shoulder, mouth gaping wide open and snoring away. And breathing on me. I can’t even explain how bad it was. Let’s just say that I have seen grown men cry when facing this. It is even banned in Guantanamo Bay because they believe that this kind of torture would be crossing that invisible (but smelly) line. I had to go to the toilets a few times just to get fresh air. It was not a pretty sight or smell.

And the food was crap. Of course. Imagine Chinese food made by a pissed of dude in downtown Philly. Well, I would love to have his version rather than what they gave me on the plane. Cold noodles. And warm water. And a soggy bun with plastic ham and a year-old lettuce. Let’s just say that they did not impress me with their culinary skills. I am sure the guy with the stinky breath flies American Airlines all the time or might be their official food taster.

And the “in-flight entertainment”. Mm. What entertainment. Movies and programmes to fit in with their food service I guess. College Road Trip was never funny. And neither is Definitely, Maybe. It’s not even that romantic. And Spiderwick Chroniclesis really not my cup of tea. And the music and television offered nothing better. Sad old programs to fit in with the sad old plane. My general feeling about their in-flight entertainment? Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn… I had my iPod and a few books. The books also helped block off Mr Smelly Breath.

So I wasn’t a happy camper. I didn’t want to go to China. And I didn’t want to sit in the crappy plane. But here I was. Stuck on the plane and hurtling towards Shanghai. Man. I was not into this at all.

But what a surprise when I landed. China made my crappy flight worthwhile. And that is a whole new story.

————————–

Tomorrow: To China (with love) II: Man, the Chinese are funny

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Here we go again…

1. The world growing bigger?

The only problem is that not everything else is expanding with it. I know it is disturbing. But don’t worry. We are. Humans. And other planets. And animals. At least until we slaughter them and turn them into burgers and steaks. Even our measurements are expanding. And no, I don’t mean our waistlines. Okay. Not only our waistlines. Also our waste-lines. No idea what that means, but it sounded good when I wrote it. Anyway… I thought the world must be growing while our food and drinks stay the same size. Why? Because everything is getting smaller. Bought a salad the other day and realized that it is smaller than what I remembered from the last time I bought a salad. But then I had a closer look. Damnit. Can you believe it. Even salads are being reduced in size. No – not because of obesity. Rather because of profits. With “raw” materials and overheads going up they had to cut cost somewhere. Why not start with the portions they sell? No problem. Right? Well, I don’t have a problem with it. But it would have been nice of them to tell me. I felt a bit cheated. Dirty. And looking at the smaller packet made me feel all grown up and bigger than what I feel really comfortable with. I felt a bit like Alice for a minute. But, as you might know, I am not a big salad eater. So it didn’t faze me. But I lost it when I realized that they are doing it to beer! Bloody hell people! That’s a line you should never, ever cross. Do what you want with us, but leave our beer alone. You thought President Bush got all pissed at Iraq trying to kill his daddy. Don’t mess with an African and his beer. But they did. Selling us 14 ounce beers but passing it off as a 16 ounce beer! Sacrilege! But the trend continues. Cars are getting smaller. Which is a good thing. My ego can fit into a Mini. But those guys with the big trucks and girls with the big SUV’s. Not sure if their ego can fit into a Ford Focus. I mean really, they only just manage to squeeze into a Hummer. Yeah. The world is shrinking. No, you aren’t getting fat. It’s the clothes shrinking… We’ll all look like Lance Armstrong soon. Tights everywhere. Okay, maybe with two… hum… you know. Oh, I was lying about the salad. It is shrinking, but I am African. We don’t do salad. A good salad is anything not meaty – like chicken.

2. Getting ready to be arrested

I am off to China this weekend. But I’ll tell you about that later. Once I am back. Still waiting for my visa, but hopefully that will be sorted today. There is a reason why I use the name Angry African you know… Anyway. I have been talking to my IT guy about staying connected while I am over there. Apparently it won’t be a good idea to blog from there. Not only do they sometimes “relieve” you of the burden carrying your laptop around, but don’t like bloggers speaking out that much. Not much at all. You see, China, Burma, Iran and Egypt heads the list of countries arresting people because they blog about their political views. I am safe then I guess. I don’t do political views… What I write is nothing but an impartial view of the world and what is happening around us. So I should be safe. But many bloggers are not. 334 got arrested in Burma alone. But thanks to their “somewhat” restrictive government, these could not be verified. When you drop of the face of the earth… 

3. No workers, no problem

Biofuels are held up as either the answer to all our problems or the next disaster to hit us. I don’t have much of a view on this one. I think biofuels could be part of the solution (not the solution), but the current approach sucks. Using corn and sugar just don’t make sense. it pushes food prices right up and we cut down forests meant to protect us from emissions. Sounds like stupid economics to me. And Brazil has a huge problem. They are cutting down the Amazon rainforest faster than you can say “Hummer”. I mean really. 1,123 square kilometers were cut down in April alone… So Unica, the Brazilian ethanol lobby decided to go on the charm offensive. They invited a few journalist around to show them all the good stuff they are doing. Apart from the cutting down of trees that they forgot to mention, most of their ideas are just fine. Like going all mechanical in the cutting of the cane. Less pollution because they don’t have to burn them anymore. But there was something else that caught my eye. The reporter only mentions it as a “by the way”. But it struck me that Unico might still need some more PR training. Unico said that companies are going all mechanical on us because it addresses two challenges. One, the pollution. Check. Secondly, it will get rid of the cane-cutters and therefore also get rid of any labor problems and labor critics. Hum. Maybe you shouldn’t have mentioned that one. Keep spinning the “we chop down trees to be green” line. It’s not only more believable, it also makes the “little people” go away.

4. The two stooges

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are meeting as we speak. I mean Mbeki and Mugabe are meeting. In Zimbabwe. Not sure why. Maybe to discuss the weather. Or the latest fashion. Or what curtains to pick for their new houses. Or fining new and more spouses. Bloody idiots. Look. I have supported Mbeki through thick and thin. Defended him wherever I could. I even defended his initial position on HIV/Aids in South Africa. And justified his initial approach to the Zimbabwean crisis. But it has gone too far. People are dying in South Africa because of his idiotic HIV/Aids policies and lack of action. And people are dying in Zimbabwe because of a tyrant that has gone bonkers. Mbeki and his “quiet diplomacy” just sounds like “staying quiet”. Sorry you two idiots. Time’s up. You are not welcome anymore. Just take your stuff and go sit in the corner. And be quiet. We have a name for people like you. It starts with an “m”. “Moer-something” in Afrikaans and “Mother-something” in English. Just go. Don’t hang your curtains. Hang your heads in shame. Or just hang your heads.

5. McCain inspiring old white men in Europe

I don’t think so. Okay, maybe he does if you include the arms dealers. But other than that, McCain inspires people outside the US about as much as Osama Bin Laden inspires tolerance. yes, there might be one or two out there who would fall for them. But they are loonies and at the fringe. But Obama. Now that is another story. He isn’t even President (yet) and he is already inspiring people across the world. telling them to break out of their racial stereotype and that anything is possible. That you can do it – no matter where you come from. France is going through some tough times right now. Race is at the forefront of so many debates. And they have violence on the streets of Paris. Because people feel hopeless. That in the land of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Well educated blacks have to compete with 15-year old white kids for a job at McDonald’s. Nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s. But when the color of your skin stoops you from aiming higher, then you have a problem. But all of a sudden Obama is making people talk about race in France. And what it means. And how it can be overcome. And how it can inspire people to continue to fight the good fight for equality. Real equality. Not just a French word. That is inspiring. That is Obama. McSame? Well, apparently the old people in France likes his comb-over. It is so provincial.

See ya later.

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Look. This isn’t the Rumble in the Jungle. It’s not World War II. It’s not even Tom & Jerry. It’s more like Wrestlemania. A little bit of fireworks and a laser display. But it is really just make-believe. A show. A show that happens every few years. Lots of noise and lots of action. But fundamentally still just a show. Nobody gets hurt. Yes, I am talking about the US Presidential election.

Obama and Hillary and Mac tries. Oh man they really try hard. Trying to convince everyone that they are so different from the other one. I am more conservative/liberal than him or her. I am the most experienced. I am from outside the DC mentality. I will be the one answering the phone at 3 am. I am so different from those other two. Sorry people. You are not that different from each other. Apart from the obvious bits – black, white, male, female. But when it comes to politics in America? About as different as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Pretty much the same difference – car crashes, flashing underwear, rehab sessions and bad movies excluded.

Let me be open and honest here – full disclosure. I am all for Obama. I think he will be a great leader and will bring something new to the table that has been missing in American politics for a while. But that doesn’t make it him that different from HillBillary or Mac. They are all proudly American. And will defend this country to the end. And anyone who thinks otherwise should get out of the chicken coop and start scraping the poop of your shoes. It’s starting to smell. Where have you been all this time? Your head in the sand or up your …? Don’t drink the Kool-Aid – whether served by Fox and Rush or Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. It’s still Kool-Aid. Just a different flavor.

This election isn’t about what kind of political system America should have. Or what would be the best economic model. This isn’t a debate on whether the USA should have a monarchy or a republic. This isn’t about every person having a vote or America being run by a tyrant. This isn’t about America being a communist state or free market. I know, some would argue that a vote for the Democrats will make America more “socialist” or “communist”. Sorry people. Just not happening. You think the US will be more like China or Russia or even Sweden under either Obama or Hillary? Get real. Go read up on world politics a bit baby. The world is a bit more complicated than your backyard – even during hurricane season.

It’s like saying a vote for the Republicans would be a vote for an Apartheid-type system. Just not gonna happen. Go watch a French movie and get educated. Except maybe the Asterix and Obelix movies. Those are closely based on the France of today. And what’s this about a free market? Neither will America (or any other country) ever be a free market system. Too many regulations and too much protection for that. And I mean protection for big companies and not the little guy – read the you can’t sue them rulings and subsidies for big oil. So, the US will basically remain a semi-free market with slightly more or slightly less interference from government. With a failing health system that neither business or government can sort out. Except if you start cutting down on those Whoppers and start dying before you actually get ill. America won’t change that much under any of these three. Politics in America is less like a seesaw and more of a sandpit – you don’t really move much, you just get a little bit dirtier the longer you play.

The fight between Hillary and Obama is more of a slapfest than a slugfest. Like the Poms did way back when with the old white handkerchief through the face. A little bit of “how’s your mother” – but in a nice way. Nothing serious. A bit like when my wife and myself don’t agree. Yes, we get all worked up – but we know that we are still on the same side. Okay, our makeup is better than theirs… I hope! And I know I am wrong most of the time in any case. Hillary and Obama- pretty much the same with slightly different clothes on. And Obama looks a bit cooler than Hillary and way cooler than McCain. Come on, admit it. I know you want to.

You think Mac will be so different from Hillary or Obama? Sorry to disappoint you again. Why would you think that? Because he is Republican? Again, you’re confusing it with The West Wing. That wasn’t true you know. Remember, Mac is more progressive than what JFK was back in the old days. He will tinker around the edges and call it the Big Mac version. And you will swallow it faster than a hotdog in the bottom of the 9th at Fenway Park. (Huh? That didn’t even make sense. But you get the picture. You wanna get it down as quickly as possible before it all ends.)

Come to think of it. There is actually very little to bitch and moan about the “fundamentals” of the US. Yes, gas prices are up and housing down. The economy is a little shaky. Or as Bush calls it – a “slowdown”. But you think any of these candidates will solve it by themselves? You think they will come and wave their magic wand and make everything all hunky-dory again? Hum, sorry to disappoint you but things are never hunky-dory. There is always a little bit of doggy poo walked into the carpet in every house. Yesterday wasn’t better, it was just different. Okay, today is pretty crap, but we know that none of the candidates can be any worse than what you currently have. (My less than heartfelt apology to the 28% who actually approves of the job President Bush is doing. The lowest in recorded history. Yes, even lower than Truman during Korea and Nixon at any stage.) There is only one way and that is up from here. But they’ll tinker around the edges and call it a new dawn, but they won’t change what America is all about. Don’t worry. Baseball won’t turn into cricket at any stage soon. You’ll play ball your style for a few years yet.

And if you think there are major problems in the US – think again. Almost everyone in the world pays more than Americans for their gas. And pay more in tax. And more for food. And more for… well.. damn nearly everything. And the majority of the world would love to have your “problems”. Take the candidate you dislike the most and ask yourself – would I rather live in that America or in Zimbabwe or China? Or even in the UK? There are but a handful of countries in this world that can offer you a better life than in the US. (Okay, maybe only Luxembourg.) No matter who rules the country it will still be a pretty damn good place to live in. I mean come on. President Bush couldn’t f*ck mess up this country any more than he did and it is still pretty awesome to live here right?

So there isn’t really much of a fight going on in the Presidential race. Just a bit of name-calling. Oh, like with any good fake fight they’ll try to build it up. To get you all excited. But it’s like the ad on television for some crap April movie. They’ll show you the good bits, but you know that it is the same old lame formula as before. The media and the bloggers will tell you that this is the time. That this is about the heart and soul of America. But it isn’t. Americans are more than politics. And the soul of America is more than a few wise words and a pretty face. The media and blogs do it to sell you their ad space. And you buy baby. Buy.

In the end America will be better. No matter which one you decide you want as your President. Your choice. Little will change and America will continue to be a great place to live in. All three are great Americans. It’s not about who will give you the best tax break. It’s not about gay marriages. It’s not about racism or sexism. It’s not about religious intolerance. It’s not about universal healthcare. It’s not about immigration. Those are minor issues that doesn’t define what America stands for. Or what the world needs. Those are at the rough edges. The crazy uncle stuff every family suffers from. That’s not what you want to ask yourself. You want to ask yourself…

Who will inspire Americans to be the best it can be? Who will be more likely to bridge the political divide? Who will get the world to respect America again? Who will protect your freedom of speech even when it hurts? Who will get rid of laws that allows your privacy to be exploited? Who will be the least likely to get you into a stupid war? Who will fight against torture even when they torture you? Who will put you above the pigs crawling in the mud below? Who will protect your right to carry weapons even if they don’t like it? Who will most likely ensure that church and politics don’t mix? Who will protect the individual rights of people – whether they are gay or KKK? Who offers you the best hope for a future your children can be proud of?

I am sure there are more questions than these few. Feel free to fill in the gaps. Just make sure you don’t fill in the gaps with the Kool-Aid the candidates and parties and media are trying to force down your throat. They are all the same and they are all different. They are mostly good, with a few bad spots. They are all perfect in their own little way. And all flawed in their own little way. But they are all American – and as different as Americans can be. And proudly so. Anything else they say is just a little storm in a teacup.

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