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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You know me. Pretty much a patriotic South African. Proud of our history. And deeply affected by Madiba – Nelson Mandela. I think the guy did an incredible job starting us off on the right track. Oh, we had a few other great leaders as well. But Madiba was our big daddy. Our Patriot. The John Adams of South Africa. The man who fought so hard to bring freedom to our little country down South. Just like John Adams and the other Patriots did over here in the US. (Oh yes, just like with the US, most of our subsequent leaders have been less “patriotic”, loved, reputable and effective as leaders than those original Founding Fathers.) So, I read with interest the recent flood of opinions regarding Nelson Mandela needing a special waiver to enter the US because he is still classified as a terrorist. As a South African I will refrain from commenting on whether he is a terrorist or not. That should be obvious. I will also refrain from blaming President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney for this as that would be easy, but also opportunistic and a cheap shot. The fact is that President Mandela’s good friend President Bill Clinton had 8 years to undo this injustice. As did his partner Senator Clinton. I am more concerned with the policy behind this terror list and the message it sends to other “liberation” organizations and individuals across the world.

Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress that he belonged to, were put on the list because the US government supported the Apartheid regime’s classification of the ANC as a terrorist organization. This indicated support of the Apartheid regime by the US government – both Republicans and Democrats. Again, I will refrain from discussing the Apartheid regime. I think we can all agree that it was a regime based on one of the most unjust and oppressive political systems in modern history. Really, take it from me and the people who suffered and died at the hands of that regime, they were not a nice bunch of guys to be associated with. Trust me, your mother will be most disappointed if you hung out with them.

On the other hand, the ANC was a peaceful organization for most of its history. It was established in 1912 in direct reaction to being excluded from having any political rights under the Union constitution of 1910. They remained an organization who believed in peaceful protest against the oppressive governments that gave no political rights to black South Africans. They did not even revert to violence when widows of black soldiers who died fighting in WWII received no pension whatsoever. It was only after 69 people were shot, mostly schoolchildren shot in the back, on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville that the ANC got banned for calling a national stay-away campaign. Note, still no violence called for by the ANC – just a stay-away. It was only after more murdering by the Apartheid government and the arrest of more than 2,000 people that the ANC took up the armed struggle against the Apartheid government – while they were banned from South Africa. Their “military wing”, Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation), was only established in 1961. They officially took up arms when exiled. They took up arms when their people got murdered, arrested and taxed to death and they were banned from being in South Africa to represent the oppressed in even a peaceful way. Remember this bit – people being taxed, not represented in government, no ownership, murdered and arrested left, right and centre AND their “party” being banned even though they are promoting peaceful resistance.

In short, the ANC was a peaceful organization for 48 years before they took up arms. And only after they got banned and people were murdered in public did they take up arms. And they continued this armed struggle against the Apartheid regime for the next 30 years. So yes, they were peaceful for much longer than what they were in the armed struggle. But still the US and many other Western governments declared them a terrorist organization. And before you get on your high horse – they only started taking in money and support from the old USSR when all those Western governments refused to provide them with any support against the Apartheid regime. Many, many years after they got banned and classified as a terrorist organization. A case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend…”

Let me put this in language and context you might get. A bit closer to home. Imagine you live in the US. Peacefully. Oh, there is a colonial power in charge, but you don’t care much for them. But then they start shooting your people when they protest against the unjust laws and taxes these colonial powers instituted against your people. And, of course, you don’t have full representation – only token representation. So after many years of continued oppression you say “enough is enough” and you stand up and have a big old war for independence. And you take support from anyone – even those who also have oppressive systems in place in their own country. Let’s say like asking the French monarchy for support even though they did not give their own people the rights you were fighting for and who were an oppressiveregime to their own people. Oh, wait – that happened here right? Imagine that, those Patriots who stood up against the British rule would have been branded a terrorist group if the current US application of the term terrorist was used by the colonial master back then. See, the ANC was like the Patriots back when you fought for your independence… And I for one will defend John Adams and anyone else who dare call them terrorists. They were freedom fighters on the side of the good and the brave. On the side of the oppressed. They were the good guys. They were the brave guys. Full stop. Not terrorists.

But the problem they would face today is that there is no clear guidelines on what will constitute a terrorist organization in the eyes of the US government.

So, does the US classify organizations based on their opposition to legitimate governments? No. As the case in South Africa highlights, the US government supported an oppressive regime and not those seeking democracy. It did the same in Angola and in Mozambique. It supported the warlords in both those countries who fought the legitimate governments. Governments who continued to win the popular democratic votes in elections from before, during and after the wars that ravished these countries. And, of course, the US supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and many Latin American dictators who were as oppressive as these African and Middle Eastern dictators. Yes, it was during the Cold War, but it still… The US build their partnership in the same way the ANC did – not being picky, but just picking anyone who will fight against the injustice they believe their own people will or are facing. Both picked dirty friends. And neither of them can claim that the other one had “worse” friends than the other. You willing to make a call on whether you would prefer the Taliban or a Communist? Not an easy choice is it? A bit like a pan and a fire choice I think. Hello pot, cheers kettle.

But it still leaves the question open – does the US classify organizations as terrorist if they take up arms against any type of government then? No. The US government is not averse to supporting organizations who take up arms. As mentioned before, they supported violent groups in Mozambique and Angola. And they have continued to do so – who can forget the call to arms of Iraqi’s during the first Gulf War? And the direct or indirect support for those who take up arms against oppressive regimes.

So what is a terrorist in the eyes of the US government? Who knows? And that has been the problem with declassifying Nelson Mandela as terrorist. We have no clear guidelines. How can we declassify someone when we don’t know the classification in the first place? It’s a bit like just building a road and seeing where it takes us. Or a railroad. And remember the big railroad bubble of 1893? This road is just waiting to blow up in our face and create panic.

At the very least we need to know what a terrorist is. I don’t mean some global definition we can all agree on. I am not that naive. All I can ask is for the US to have a clear definition. But there isn’t. Do yourself a favour – try and find a clear definition anywhere in the US laws. Too vague and too many loopholes. How can we win a war against terrorism if we can’t even define who or what is a terrorist? So far we have been more or less lucky. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were relatively easy calls. Sadam not so easy. And the more we go into this “War Against Terrorism” the more fuzzy it will become. I would really like Nelson Mandela to not be classified as a terrorist. And I really don’t want us to start a war against the next John Adams and his group of Patriots. He was a Patriot. And so was Mandela. Let’s not shoot at anything that moves. Not every shadow is a threat. Let’s know who we fight. Because how else would we know when we have won?

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I know. Many of you will tell me, as you have, that this election has nothing to do with us foreigners. That it is all about America. The American choice. The American future. And you are (mostly) right. This is your choice. This is about the American future. This is about America.

But it does have something to do with us Johnny Foreigners. We do have a stake in this. Why? Because most level-headed people in this world still look to America for direction. We still look up to America. We look for guidance. We look to America for leadership in this crazy little sphere of ours. A beacon we can follow. A little light in the dark world of wars, hunger, poverty and injustice.

Others might not acknowledge that this is what they want from America. But they know that this is what they need and this is what they want. Think about it. If not you then who? The UK? Come on. It’s just a sh*tty little island and a has-been world power. Overtaxed and oversensitive – and trying to punch above their weight. The days of colonizing the world is over, but we won’t forget. And we won’t allow them to direct us and lead us. Not with their history. And do I need to remind you that even they follow you. Even when their people don’t want the war – they still followed.

France? Too French. No, seriously. Too many Frenchmen. You don’t get anything done over there – and they are in the same boat as the UK. A spent force. Germany? No thank you. We haven’t forgotten yet. Italy? Haha. Running out of options here…

All of them will deny it. But they know. They know we need America to lead. And all of us in smaller little countries know. And people fighting for justice know. We all know we need America. We need that light to shine on us. That light we can use to point to. Show people the hope of a better future. A world where I can look at my countrymen and say, “Look, I know it is tough. But keep on pushing forward. We can be a little America.” A world where I can help the poor and the marginalized and say, “Look, I know it is tough. But don’t give up hope. Don’t give up on your dreams. Keep on pushing forward. You to can have the freedom of an America.” A world where I can hold the hands of the dying and oppressed and say, “Look, I know it is tough. But you have the just and the right on your side. You are not alone in this cold world. You are not dying for nothing. There is a better future for your children. And their children. Keep on pushing forward. You to can have a life to live like an American.”

You might not want to give it. And you might not want to play that role. But that is not for you decide. Sorry. You have no choice. You are the superpower and with that comes influence. And most of all, with that comes impact. Impact on the world and the people who live there. So I might be harder on you than on anyone else. But that is because I love you. Because I know how much I need you. How much you mean to me. I hold you to a higher standard. Because I know my hope lies with you. My hope of a better world. My hope of a just world. I know it isn’t fair that I expect more of you than from others. But that just life. I think you are the greatest and for that reason I hold you to the highest standard. When I buy food at Whole Foods I expect more than from Wal-Mart. When I buy a Cadilac I expect more than from a Chrysler. When I buy business class seats I expect more than from economy class. That’s life. I hold you to higher standards because frankly, you are our only hope in this world. AWithout you I have no future. And my people have no future. And no hope.

We look at you and know that somehow you are on our side. We don’t want a China. We don’t want a Russia. We want a world of freedom. We want a world where we can talk about the World of the Free. So we need the Land of the Free.

We don’t want a Bin Laden. We don’t want Mugabe. We want leaders with vision. And we want leaders who sometimes look at us little people of the world and smile. I know you have your own issues you want sorted. And I don’t want to take that away. I just want a little light to shine on my path. Just a little warmth from standing next to you in this dark cold world. Just a little smile. Every now and again.

Yes. I know. There are people out there who don’t want this. Who wants their own little world to oppress. But most of us in this world just want a life to live. And a life to love. With little interference from those above us. A land we can call our own. A country we can be proud of. A world that has a little bit of space for each and every one of us. A world where we don’t have to look over our shoulder when we run. Most of us just want to be American. Wherever we are.

But right now we are lost. We walk around aimlessly in this world. Stumble from one hope to another. We look to America but we don’t see the light. We look to America and we don’t feel the warmth. And we are rudderless. We are without hope. Without direction. We need you America. We need you more than you will ever know. But we need an America that is strong. That is just. And that is right. If you don’t – then no one will.

We need an America where freedom reigns. Where the government doesn’t tap into phones. Where people can say what they want and when they want. I never liked it, but always understood that people can say what they want in America. I come from South Africa. And we have a history. A history that reeks of racism and hate. And here in America you have the KKK. Never got it. Never got why you tolerate that. And then I understood. That your freedom comes at a price. A price of allowing people to say things that you might not like. But that is the price of freedom. And we need that. We need that to show the world what ultimate freedom looks like. The freedom of tolerance and living with differences celebrated. But do you still have that?

We need an America where the rights of people are protected. Where the people are the people. And the people govern. Through their leaders. A true democracy. A democracy for the people and of the people and by the people. A democracy we can look up to and say. That’s how the people rule. That’s how the people rule. But the voices in DC. Oh, those voices in DC. The corporate voices drowning out the voice of the people. We need an America where the people rule. Do you still have that?

We need an America where war is the last option and not a preemptive action. Where peace rules before war. Where America goes to war as a last resort. An America that find new ways to break down the walls of injustice. The way America helped break down the walls of Apartheid. An America that broke down the Berlin wall. An America that broke down the communist regime of the old USSR. That’s the America that we need. And that’s the America that shows us how to bring peace and justice to the world. Without war. An America that goes to war with the support of the free world. Like we did in the war against Afghanistan. But not in Iraq. We need an America that uses the carrot more than the stick. Do you still have that?

We need an America where rights rule. Where people are treated with respect for human rights. Even when they don’t show that same respect themselves. An America that is morally and ethically above those who will murder and terrorize the free world. Because that is what the free world is about. We don’t sleep with pigs. Because we know it is a slippery slope when we do what they do. We need an America that doesn’t torture. Even when they torture us. We need an America that stands for more than what they stand for. An America does does less than they do. We need and want an America that says torture isn’t right. No matter who you are. Torture is for those who hide and those who are cowards. And those who have no respect for the people of the world. And who have no respect for the freedom and rights that go with that. A torture free America. A message of hope. Loud and clear. Do you still have that?

We need an America that shows no fear. Who are never scared at what others might do. An America that says, “Bring it on. Is that the best you can do?” An America that fears nothing. Because it is an America that can never be bullied or terrorized in their hearts. An America that stands for more than a single action. We need and want an America that is strong. That tells us and shows us that no matter what is thrown at them, America will always stand tall. Stand proud. An America we can stand next to because we know together we have nothing to fear. Nothing to fear but fear itself. An America that knows no matter how many times sick people fly their airplanes into buildings and plant bombs on trains, America will stand tall and not be scared. They can hide. But that can’t strike fear into the hearts of America. Do you still have that?

We don’t need you to be perfect. Nobody will ever be perfect. You’ll always have a Texan talking to loudly when visiting our shores. Or an oil company that forgets their responsibility. We know Reagan wasn’t perfect. We know Clinton wasn’t perfect. We know Bush Sr wasn’t perfect. Hell, we know Nixon wasn’t perfect. But we always knew that they were just and they were true to us. Always there for us. Always saw us as their partner – even when we don’t agree. But now? Now we have a world divided. A world that looks to America and doesn’t recognise the one we loved. Because it is an America that tells us there is but one way and that is their way. Not in partnership. But in forceful domination. We need an America that says it wants to be our friend and be part of a greater good – even though we know you don’t really need us. But do you still have that?

We need an America with a vision. A vision of a better world. A vision of a better future. A different future. Different from where we are today. All divided and alone. We need that America that can point us to the path we will walk. Walk hand in hand. Together. Do you still have that?

And we need an America that knows what a vision can bring. The power of a vision. The power of tomorrow. The power of hope. The power of change. Not looking back over our shoulders, but looking ahead to the path we create. The power of the people. We need to know that you have a vision. Not a vision of a better version of the past. But a vision of a better future. Like when you moved west. You didn’t want to build a new England. Or a better version of the East. No. You went west to create a new world. Of hope and change. A world still undefined. But a new world nonetheless. But today. Today you show us leaders who look back and have no vision. Do you still have it?

Yes you do. You still have it. You hold in your hands an America we can follow and look up to. An America that will be that light and banish the darkness. An America that will embrace us with the warmth of love and life. An America that smiles at us and holds out a hand. An America that is the land of the free. An America that is ruled by the people, of the people and for the people. An America that changes the world without us knowing it. An America that says no to war and yes to peace more strongly. An America that says no to torture and yes to justice. An America that shows no fear. That shows power without abuse. An America that can take us into the future without fear. That brings hope to the hopeless. Justice to the oppressed. And change to a dark world.

America. It is your world. Your choice. And we have little say. We have only hope. Hope you will remember us. Your friends who need you. We are watching. And we are waiting. We hope we can walk this path together again. Be wise. Be strong. Be just. Be free. Be American.

You choose. I just hope that you choose wisely. You choose and we hope to follow. We have little choice…

So the people are in the streets everywhere. London – stiff upper lip protests and Brown decided not to touch the torch. France – pull off a riot and put out that flame like only the French could. San Francisco – hanging off the bridge to stop the hanging. Yes! China is all over the news. Well, not China only. The Olympics and China. It seems as if there are a few people who actually do care about this little world and the people who live here. It’s not only the warmth of the globe that gets people going. No. It’s also the warmth of the human heart that makes us look after each other.

But where do they all go when the torch passes by? I always hear that people don’t really care. That people worry more about their own lives and where the next big buy will come from. You know. That Westerners don’t really care about the world where people suffer and die. But again we have seen that they do care. Yes they do. It’s been with us this whole time – just hidden away where the press can’t find them. Why? Because there are no stories and pictures to go with the protest of the heart. It’s not Seattle ’99 every day you know. But I have a plan.

All we need is a regular chance for people to express their outrage. To show their anger. To highlight their unhappiness with the world. To come out in their numbers and stand up against injustice. To give the media the stories and pics to go with these scenes of protest. And I have the perfect solution for that. The Oh-Limp-Pic Games.

This is how it works. Every four years the tyrants of the world will come together and celebrate the ways they murder people. To show the world what they are made of. To give the world a chance to take pictures and see for themselves how tyrants and oppressors deal with anyone who stand in their way. The Games to celebrate all those broken limbs and the limp of humanity – the limp of death and destruction. It’s a time for the world to stand up against these bastards I mean… tyrants and show the world we care. We can hang banners off bridges. Protest in the streets. Pressure our governments. Lobby our politicians. Boycott our companies. You know – get the stories and pic to the media for front-page news. Yes. Every four years we will have our Oh-Limp-Pic Games. A celebration of broken promises and the death of the innocent.

Of course we will need someone to coordinate all this. Don’t worry – already thought of that. How about the IOC. The International Oppressors Committee. They will set the guidelines and select the winning regime who will host the next Oh-Limp-Pic Games. Only those who murder and kill can sit on the IOC. I mean really. Murder is too good to share with everyone.

Some guidelines for selection? You have to be a warlord or tyrant in charge of the country or have “People’s Republic” or “Democratic Republics” in the name of your country. Sorry Tamil Tigers and Al-Qaeda, you just don’t make the cut. Honorable mention, but you haven’t done enough to be part of this exclusive group. Work harder. Maybe next time. But just murdering from behind a mask doesn’t do it for the IOC. You need to be loud and you need to be proud – in your own country of mayhem and death. Just attacking other people you don’t like is way too cowardly. Get your own spot to practice proactive oppression. Until then – get in the back of the line please.

I have a short-list ready for those who can lead the IOC in these early days:

1. China – Hu Jintao. The clear leader of the field. It takes a special regime to rule a country of that size with an iron fist. Well done. You make the IOC proud. You deserve the first Oh-Limp-Pic Games. I mean really – it took balls to kill that Tibetan flame quicker than the French did in Paris. See you in the summer.

2. North Korea – The Eternal President, Kim Il-Sung, would be proud. Not only do you execute and torture like there is no tomorrow (or yesterday), but you rank dead last when it comes to democracy. No pun intended with “dead last”.

3. Sudan – President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, excellent job in keeping genocide in Africa. Just when we thought we got over that… You even managed to make Darfur a household name across the world. And in such a short period of time.

4. Equatorial Guinea – President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, or as the state-operated radio and you declared – that you are God who is “in permanent contact with the Almighty” and “can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell”. And Condieven calls you a good friend. Man you managed to pull this one off big time. Thank you oil. Thank you oil. Even the Pope sees you. Just wonder if they pray to you? Special touch – cannibalism.

5. Burma – Senior General Than Shwe, no need to pussy-foot around with titles hey? How do you manage to stuff up a country for so long and still not get caught? Guess it must be big brother from the North hey? Oh stop moaning – the name change didn’t change anything.

These are the Five Rings of the Oh-Limp-Pic Games (also know as the Ring Leaders). The Supreme Gods of the IOC. They embody the spirit of the Oh-Limp-Pics – torture, death and war-on-their-own. They will have to decide who would join them in the IOC. A few just missed it – Saudi Arabia (King Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud) could well lead the Middle East in the IOCas they have special connections to hide their abuses; Zimbabwe (Robert “Bob” Mugabe) just missed the cut with an inflation of 100,000%, but the possibility of him losing his own rigged election really hurt him.

The Oh-Limp-Pic Games itself will have “sports” such as shooting, shooting and more shooting. The winners will all receive a medal. Of course they will. But not just gold – that’s so yesterday. Nope, here we will hand out blood diamonds set in child-laboured gold. Second place prizes? No medal sorry. Remember in this sport of shooting and mayhem there will be no second place at all. Maybe just a Free Tibet with every Happy Meal.

But the biggest reason for having the Oh-Limp-Pic Games is to give people the chance to show their distaste for tyrants and oppressors everywhere. So the IOC will bring the tyrants to you – the people. Every four years the torch of torture will be paraded through all free countries across the world. It will be the theme of the stories and the pics to highlight our distaste. Of course, the flags we burn and the posters we hang will all be made in China, but that doesn’t matter. We are here to protest, and damn you we will. But the path of the torch of torture will give us a chance to show we care. The Pic of moment.

Yes, it is a joke. But we need a regular opportunity to show our feelings and show our numbers. Because those who care. Those who really care. Those who hang off the bridges and those who force their Prime Ministers to not hold the torch and those who extinguish the flame all deserve to be heard more often. I blame the media. They need their moment they can capture in a picture. Their soundbite. And those who care? Well, they don’t live in a soundbite. Or in a picture. They live for others to live. For others not to die. They live for humanity. I salute you bridge hangers and protesters. You are my brothers and sisters. The media should be embedded with you to learn about humanity. To remind themselves that they were once the watchdogs. Today? More like watch, dogs.

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It irritates the living hell out of me when politicians (or anyone for that matter) uses the “I have been there” line. You know, that line when a country comes up in a conversation and they say “I have been there”. I was listening Bill Maher (yeah, yeah) on my iPod when some or other politician was using this argument that things are soooo much better in Iraq. You know – he’s “been there”. Like he knows something we don’t know. Sorry buddy. You haven’t been there. Going on an escorted trip to some holiday camp isn’t “been there”. It’s just a package deal holiday trip. It’s buying that Disney trip off the travel agent. Not planning your own trip to Florida. Disney isn’t Florida. You haven’t been to Florida just because you have been to Disney World. Mickey Mouse isn’t Governor Charlie Crist – and Goofy isn’t Jeb Bush either. They just act like them. I know – it’s a shocker. But that’s the truth.

Dick Cheney has been to Iraq. Hillary has been all over the place. All escorted trips. Talking to people and seeing people that other people controlled. Not a moment of meeting the people in the streets. No. They met the people those in power wanted them to meet. Those “good little soldiers”. Those on the side of the winners or warlords or occupiers – not those who suffer in their homes without water or electricity or food or jobs. Or walls for that matter. Those have been bombed as well. So what you have are just very big windows as the Republicans would like you to believe. You see what they want you to see. And not what you should see. You don’t see the families caring for the wounded ones or crying for the lost ones.

It brings me to McCain. (No, I am still not writing about the election – just the topic of “I have been there”). McCain went to Iraq last week. Made a few “misspokes” by confusing a few issues. Wouldn’t you with Lieberman standing next to you? You just don’t know which way Lieberman might go – Independent today, Republican tomorrow, Democrat yesterday. Anyway – I digress. Again. So McCain went to the marketplace. Bought a few goods there I hope. You know. A bucket of water (just a few minor shrapnel holes in it). Some oil (imported from Saudi Arabia because you can’t find Iraqi oil). An AK47 (seen some action). But no food and no freedom fries. But why didn’t he go to the market he went to the last time? Because it wasn’t safe. Not even with those Blackwater guards, marines, armoured vehicles and helicopters. He hasn’t “been there”. He could only say “I haven’t been there”.

They don’t know those places. They don’t live in those places. They fly in and they fly out. Just so they can say “I have been there”. Just so they can spin it in a way that you like it – with a bit of cream on top thank you. It makes it soooo much easier to swallow. It’s just the way I used to feed my dog his medicine – hide it in a piece of ham. But even my dog got it in the end. He started spitting out the pills (but still ate the ham). Americans aren’t stupid. No. Let me rephrase that. Americans aren’t dumb for long. You start smelling something rotten and starts spitting out the pill of stupidity. And the approval rating of those “who have been there” starts dropping faster than the bombs in Iraq. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time…

“I have been there”. I should be a politician really. No – I should be the ruler of the world by now. Hear me people of the world – your leader is here. The wait is over. Get the roses and the wine ready, because here I come. The people of Cameroon – I am your main-man. I have been there once. For almost a day. A stopover on my flight to Bamako, Mali. Actually, I have been there twice – on my return flight as well. I am the most knowledgeable foreign policy person I know. Why? Because “I have been there”. Zambia – vote me in. I spend time in Lusaka – many times. “I have been there”. I’ve eaten your nsima and drank your Mosi. Ivory Coast – your saviour and warlord is here. “I have been there”. Twice. Stuck at the airport.  Hungary – anoint me in the Danube. “I have been there”. For 3 long days in a luxury hotel that included a massage from a big hairy Hungarian – male. Mexico – ola, make me your main revolutionary piñata. “I have been there”. Mexico City, Chihuahua, Monterrey and many Tequila’s. France – c‘est la vie, your monsieur of la resistance has arrived. “I have been there”. Four long days in Paris – baguettes, wine, cheese, insults and all. Germany – your über prince of the united country is here. “I have been there”. In Trier to shop for toys, in Berlin to do nothing really, and in Nuremberg for a job interview. “I have been there”. I have been everywhere. Almost. Never mind South Africa where I was born and raised. Or the UK where I spend four long years watching footie, drinking pints and eating crap “fish and chips” like a real Englishman. Or the US where I have lived for the last 18 months shouting for the Red Sox and hating the Yankees like all good Americans should. Yes, I have been there. But I know nothing. Because I don’t live their lives. I am just a guy from South Africa. An Umlungu who knows too little and says too much.

Really, if “I have been there” qualifies you as a foreign policy expert then every pilot on the Delta international route is Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And sorry my friend, you ain’t from Egypt or his world. I sometimes even doubt if you are even from this world. Even if you “have been there”. You still haven’t “been there” or “got it”.

So. Stop it please. Stop trying to sound all travelled and wise because you “have been there”. You haven’t. You haven’t even “been there” when it comes to the US. You can’t use a daft and brainless line just to justify and spin your stupid, warped and pathetic policies. It isn’t an answer. It isn’t an analysis. It isn’t even SNL or Real Time. It’s just you being stupid. Like my dog was in the beginning. But even he got over it. He roams and knows his territory. He even marks it by lifting his leg on everything. Instead of telling me “I have been there”, tell me how you are going to “be here”. Just don’t leave a mark like my dog. Just don’t take the piss.

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Now, before I start let me remind you that my mother committed suicide by the gun. So I hate guns. Really hate guns. I have never seen anything good come from it. All my experiences have been on the wrong side of guns. People being shot in the streets of South Africa – the rock against the gun. Never a fair game. So I am bias. Live with it.

But I was watching a program on television earlier tonight – all about gun control in Massachusetts. They had the usual angle. How easy it is to buy a gun in neighboring states and bring it into Massachusetts. (Damn, still difficult to spell this states name.) How gun control is out of control. How bad guns are. How guns crimes are rising. Blah… blah… heard it all before. The interesting part came when they had two guys on arguing about the gun laws. Now, before I get into that let me remind you about a few things.

Sweet and short. Americans die from guns. And at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world. And more kids die from it here than anywhere else in the world. The rate of firearm death among kids under the age of 15 is almost 12 times higher than in 25 industrialized countries combined. American children are more at risk from firearms than children in any other industrialized nation. In one year, firearms killed no children in Japan, 19 in Great Britain, 57 in Germany, 109 in France, 153 in Canada, and 5,285 in the United States. So the guns are killing the kids. Okay, the people holding the gun kill kids – then we have to do something about those people with guns I guess.

But it isn’t just an American problem. The USA’s 220 millions guns account for almost 1/3 of all the guns in the world. (What? That’s almost a gun per person – including kids. You guys are trigger/gun happy aren’t you?) American guns don’t just kill Americans – they fuel the illegal gun trade and gun violence world-wide. At least half of the illegal handguns recovered in Canada and 80% of crime guns in Mexico originate from the US. And who said America doesn’t export anything anymore. And why all the moaning and bitching about illegal immigrants when your illegal guns force them here because of all the killing back home? They just don’t know that they can’t run from the gun in Mexico because there are more waiting in the US.

I can go on and on. How guns are bought by terrorist at gun shows – remember Ali Boumelhem? How 1% of gun stores sell the guns used in 57% of crimes. How gun theft is more likely in states that don’t require strong gun storage. How only 2% of federal gun crimes are prosecuted. How the US have a history of gun “incidents” at colleges and universities. Yes. Guns are a problem over here. Anyone who denies this is an idiot. But what solution? Back to my rant for that – that wasn’t it.

This guy from the Gun Owners Action League (more like gun action if you ask me) said that the problem is that gun laws don’t work. Duh. Of course they don’t. Not when most of them are not applied or when the feds don’t prosecute. So what is the answer? The other guy from the Stop Handgun Violence (who is a gun owner himself) believes that a national law is needed. It is just too easy for someone to buy a gun illegally in another state and commit the crime here. Massachusetts might have one of the strongest gun control laws and the second lowest gun crime figure in the US (only Hawaii is better), but we still have a problem. He wants a national law to ensure that private owners still need to do a background check on people who want to buy guns. Yes. All you have to do to buy a gun without any checks is buy it from a private guy – try the dealer on the corner as he should be a private seller.

Makes sense. It won’t stop gun crimes, but it will make it a bit more difficult to sell and buy. At least Ali would have had a more difficult time buying his guns…

And what do you think the guy from the Owners League for Gun Action had to say? Sorry, meant the Gun Owners Action League… He said that all it proves is that the gun laws don’t work. And what is needed is no gun laws at all. Because if they don’t work we should have nothing at all. WTF? Is this guy for real? The law doesn’t stop people from breaking it so we should just get rid of it. Not strengthen it, just get rid of it. Not try something new. No. Just get rid of it. Okay let’s take that to its natural conclusion. Let’s get rid of the laws that doesn’t stop people from breaking them.

Firstly, let’s just get rid of all those bloody parking rules. No more money in the meter. No more fines as we won’t be breaking the laws anymore. Actually, sarcasm doesn’t work here. That’s a pretty good idea. Let’s try something else.

Let’s stick with cars for a bit though. Let’s get rid of all laws stopping us from speeding. Or driving like maniacs. And when we crash – let’s not have any laws that can find us guilty of anything. Why? Because we do find people speeding every single day. We have people driving like idiots. So the law doesn’t work. And according to the People for some Gun Action we should get rid of laws that doesn’t prevent people from breaking that law. Idiots.

Even better. Why not drop the laws that “prevent” people from stealing? People steal don’t they? So the law doesn’t stop people from breaking it – drop the law. Hum, will that stop stealing you thinkg? Idiots.

Or even killing people. People still kill. So obviously the laws that tells people not to kill doesn’t work. Just drop it then if it doesn’t work. Well, it seems to be okay for the Idiots for more Gun Action. Idiots.

And we can go on and on. The argument just doesn’t work buddy. Next up will be the law that should prevent people from flying airplanes into buildings… Idiots. Both of you.

Laws are there to try and put the guidelines there for the average law abiding person. The framework of how we more or less want to organize ourselves before chaos hits. You know – some social meaning to how we want to live in peace and harmony with each other. At least most of the time in any case. To keep the wackos in check. And make it difficult for those who want to break it. People will break laws. We must just make it more difficult for them to do so. And a strong national law will do that. Jeez, these people are allowed to have guns? Really… My kid makes more sense when telling me the latest Spongebob story. And she is 4. And she at least tries to be funny. Now – how to deal with idiots. Go back to get some Gun Action for Dummies – just don’t shoot yourself in the foot again.

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I thought I liked him. You know the guy called Spitzer. The legal Rambo. The Sheriff of Wall Street. The big man for the little man. But I really didn’t know much about him. Just what I read in the newspapers and web while in South Africa and in the UK. He wasn’t big news there. Just little bits of news as he took on the big guys. From over there it looked like he was on the side of the little guy. Getting under the skin of big business and anyone with a vested interest or something to hide. A Robin Hood character. What wasn’t there to like. And it looked like New Yorkers agreed with me.

Oh well. Then he had to go and sleep with a hooker. Sorry prostitute. I mean sex worker. (We still don’t have a politically correct word for this old profession). I have to admit I was surprised. I ignored the initial rumours. Thinking that it was just some right winging again. But no. Not this time. He did it and he had to come out with the truth. He paid for sex. So what’s the problem?

If only he was French. The Frogs would have looked at you for a while with squinty eyes while taking a drag of their Gaulloises, shrugged their shoulders, blow a smoke ring nonchalantly, and say Cest La Vie, before taking a sip of a small cup of coffee. For the French it is nothing but a national pastime for politicians. It is something you have to do to qualify as a French politician. You will be seen as a political novice if you don’t have some mistress or prostitute on the side. You know, similar to getting a free lunch or boat paid by a lobbyist in the US. Forget about it being about some lefty thing in France. The current President Sarkozy just got married to another woman. His mistress for the last few years. And he was married to someone else when he got elected. But everyone knew his wife wasn’t his lover. Hell, she was having a relationship with another politician while married to Sarkozy. I don’t know. It must be something to do with the wine and baguettes because they don’t have enough pharmaceuticals in their water to justify all the sex going around in politics. For the French it is just being French. Spitzer would have been seen as a bit of a latecomer – wet behind the ears. His visits to the prostitutes would have been a right of passage. You know. Him getting to grips with politics and a show of force to convince people he is ready to take the next step in his political career. Unfortunately, he isn’t French.

It wouldn’t have gone down well in South Africa though. Yes, the newly elected leader of the ANC in South Africa, Zuma, has a few wives. He is on number five – one died and another divorced him. No wait. It would have been okay in South Africa. We are a conservative bunch in South Africa. All of us, really. But we also know that there are more important things we expect from a leader than how many wives or husbands he or she has. We want them to govern our country with special care. Especially because we have so many things we still need to do to fight poverty – and so little resources to do it with. But there is an even bigger reason why we tolerate it. We know from our history of Apartheid that we have to be tolerant of different cultures and traditions. We are sick and tired of people telling us how we should live our lives according to their principles. Yes, we have to fight injustice, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t mean a new form of cultural oppression. We are tolerant because we know what happens if you are not. But there is a line that Spitzer would have crossed in South Africa. Prostitution. It is rife in South Africa. But it is seen as a big no-no to be caught – politician or not. You can sleep with family members and friends, but not pay for sex. That just isn’t done. So it wouldn’t be okay in South Africa – sorry it took a while to make up my mind there. South Africa is a complex place full of contradictions. But Spitzer would have been outta there as fast as you can say “zip it up baby“.

It would also be a big no-no in the UK. Those prudes in England don’t like their politicians to be to open in their relationships. Remember, an Englishman’s home is his castle. What goes on behind closed doors is one thing. But it is a no-no to do anything in public – or get caught doing it. Get caught and it’s the end of your career. The only people who can come back from something like this would be a Tory. It’s expected that they would be caught with some leather gear, a whip and a gay lover. But that is only meant to happen at the end of your career. Not when you are on a high.

So the US is not like France. More like the UK? Not really. See, it should be unacceptable for us on the side of the Democrats. Especially for us on the slight left of centre. Why? Because this is what those right-wingers would love to see us do. They wish this upon us. It is not okay to sleep around. It is only okay to make war – not love. We live under different rules than them. Rules they make and rules we make.

The rules they make says that we on the (slightly) left – the liberals – are all about free love and orgies. That’s why youngsters join us – they live in hope. But turn conservative when they get older and realize that it was a false promise. Okay, seriously. They have different rules for us and when something like this happens it is a double whammy for them. They said it was going to happen and it did. Eventually. If it happened to one of them? Just someone who went of the rails a bit. Then we have to forgive them and love them. And suckers that we are – we do. We can’t allow Spitzer to get away with this because it plays into their hands. It allows them to “show” people how promiscuous we are. How morally corrupt we are. It gives them a chance to say, “See, I told you so“. When Spitzer did this he gave them the ammunition to hurt us all and what we stand for. We have to show tolerance when they do it, but we don’t have the luxury to be tolerant when one of our own do it.

Those are the rules we have to live by. We expect more because we know they are looking. We expect less of them because we know how the human mind works. That it is fallible and weak. That it will cave in under all the pressure and seduction of power. We know that this is a human weakness and that is why we should not tolerate it. They don’t acknowledge their own weakness and we know they are therefore bound to fail. But we know better and should therefore be particularly aware of being strong in times of weakness. For us there should be no second chance in the public eye. A second chance in life? Yes – but not in the public eye. At least not now. Maybe once he has shown that he can be trusted with our support and beliefs – but we need time for that to happen.

And there is another more personal reason why we should be outraged. We admired him for always fighting for what was right. Fought for the little guy. We believed that he fought for what was right. But he lived a lie because he didn’t fight for the most important little guy out there. He didn’t fight for his wife and three daughters. His family. Because his family is our family. For that he should go and ask for their forgiveness first. And he should leave and live that forgiveness first.

Hard? Yes. But we don’t have the luxury of second chances right now. Not now while they are looking. We forgive him for what he did. He will always be one of us. But we can’t forget. Not now. And for that reason he should go. He should go and come to us. He should go and live with his family again.

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