Pictures of me
Some people to whom I would buy a beer
As we approach the holiday season, I've been thinking about people I
respect in this crazy ol' world. The people who have great
courage, intellect and strength.
So, here is my list of very cool people who I would buy a beer,
orange juice or beverage of their choice.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia.
She was raised a Muslim and was subjected to many tortures that
that barbaric religion practices. Everything from genital
mutilation, to regular beatings from her mother, to being forced
into an arranged marriage.
Well, almost being forced into an arranged marriage.
She managed to flee to Holland and gained refugee status.
Ali was amazed at the things she saw in Holland: Females
would openly drink, not wear a burka, and - most
surprisingly - Holland was not degenerating into a life of
debauchery as "Muslim scholars" said it would.
Ali gradually shed her own burka and her religious
ideas to eventually become an atheist (yay!) and became a
member of the Dutch Parliament where she was a strong voice for
women's rights, especially those trapped in the hell that is
It was about this time that she met
Theo van Gogh, a controversial Dutch filmmaker (and a
relative of the famous painter, Vincent van Gogh). van
Gogh and Ali collaborated on a film about the horrors that
Muslim women face called
Submission Part I. You can watch the ten minute film
here. The reaction from the Muslim community in
Holland was not positive and Ali and van Gogh received death
van Gogh refused any bodyguards. He had received plenty
of death threats in his life, and saw this as just one more.
This turned out to be a tragic mistake. van Gogh was
brutally murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri - a Muslim Fundamentalist.
Bouyeri shot van Gogh eight times, slit his throat and pinned a
written death threat to Ali onto van Gogh's chest with a knife.
Bouyeri never showed any remorse for his actions and is
currently serving a life sentence without parole in a Dutch
Ali was immediately swooped up by Dutch Police and moved from
safe house to safe house to keep her safe.
I dunno about you, but if I were Ali, I would step back a
little and try not to be so controversial. But no, Ali
become even more resolute and continued to speak out against
Islam and its oppression of women in her role as a Dutch
Ali eventually lost her job as a Dutch politician (due to her
lying to receive her refugee status) and ended up moving to
She still is in a great amount of danger. She gets
bundled around from safe house to safe house and is under 24
hour protection, yet she continues to speak out.
The Dutch Parliament - in their infinite wisdom - decided to
no longer pay for her protection. The U.S. government has
not come to the party and Ali is being forced to dig into her
own somewhat shallow pockets to keep herself safe. By the
way, if you think this is a grave injustice, you can donate to
the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust
as I have done.
If you want to learn more about Ali, I suggest you read her
Infidel. You can also watch a speech of hers
Ayaan, you are a strong, brave and beautiful - in every sense
of the word - women. If we were ever to meet, I'd be happy
to buy you a glass of wine, which I know you like. Keep
well. Be safe.
Here is the secret to happiness according to Daniel
Find something more important than yourself and dedicate
your life to it.
I think that is quite brilliant. I have taken his
advice to heart and have indeed found happiness.
Dennett is a philosopher by trade and - in my opinion - one
of the most brilliant men on the planet. His book,
Darwin's Dangerous Idea, is the book that has single
greatest influence on my life. It is that good.
It allowed me to finally break free from the lingering shackles
of Christianity and face the world anew.
Some of ideas are just plain old brilliant. Here are
- Compulsory Religious Education
Let's list some ideas: Mohammed ascended to heaven
on a winged horse; Vishnu sustains and governs the universe;
the communion bread and the wine literally become the body
and blood of Christ.
At most, one of the ideas will seem plausible to you. Which
one is it? Well, it depends on your upbringing. Bible Belt
folk will most likely believe the whole transubstantiation
thing, Hindus the Vishnu thing and so on.
Every religion has some crazy ideas at it heart. Everybody
can see they are crazy, except for the people in the
religion. Some of these crazy ideas are downright
dangerous. Sunni and Shiites regularly slaughter each other
over just where the true lineage of Mohammed lies.
What can we do about this?
Dennett suggests that we have compulsory religious
education. Every kid would be required to learn the four
R's: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic,
and Religion. They would learn the basic
tenants of all the major religions.
If we give children the opportunity to think - and not be
indoctrinated into the religion that their parents happen to
be - then they can make sensible informed decision. One
would hope that if they see the crazy ideas at the heart of
every religion, then they'll choose no religion. But hey,
if they happen choose religion A, then more power to them.
At least it was an informed decision.
- Distill Religion for its Good Parts
Some folk think all religions are evil and that
evil and the world would be better without them. I
sometimes think this way myself. Dennett says something
Well hold on there. There is undoubtedly some evil
things that have been done in the name of religion, but what
about the good things? Maybe we should study religion and
find out how we can remove the extreme things that cause
evil, and keep the good things?
This is the basic premise of his latest book,
Breaking the Spell. The spell he wants to break is
that it is wrong to study religion. If you are not
religious, then it pays to study religion to see where it
came from and where it is going. If you are religious, then
it is surely in your best interest to study your religion so
that you know what makes it tick and how you can further
your own religious agendas. There is no good reason not to
After answering the question "Should we study religion?" in
the affirmative, Dennett proceeds to give a blow by blow
account of how we got from a world with no religion to a
world filled with such bizarre cultural features as the
Wailing Wall, Catholicism and Mecca.
Prof. Dennett, if we were ever to meet, I would most
assuredly buy you a beverage of your choice. Your books
are just brilliant and have had a profound and positive effect
on my life
Prof. Jeffrey Sachs is an economist by trade, and a
crusader for the poor at heart. His book
The End of Poverty, has been very influential on my
thinking about poverty and what meaningful (there's that
word again) things I can
do in places like the Philippines and Africa. (You can see
my copy of his book lying on an African floor
The main point of Sachs' book is that it is not hard to fix
poverty. We know what the solutions are. We just
have to do them.
Wanna reduce malaria? Well, get mosquito nets in the hands
of the poor, educate them in their use, give antihistamines to
those who contract it anyway, and Bam!, you've saved many lives
Wanna minimize the affect of AIDS? Well, set up health clinics
with trained personals, and get ARVs into the hands of those who
Wanna boost up the economy? Well, build some damn decent
Ditto for building schools, getting electricity to all,
increasing crop yields, and so on.
"Aha", says the pessimist, "How you gonna fund that, huh?"
Well, at the turn of the century, just about every modern
country pledged to give 0.7% of their GDP to a fund. That
equates to 70 cents from every $100 you earn. This would
mean $70 to every extremely poor person in the world. This
would be more than enough to fund roads, schools, hospitals,
clinics, electricity lines, ARVs...
The big problem is - of course - that countries are not
following through on their promise. I mentioned this way
Jeffrey Sachs, like Daniel Dennett is just packed full of good
idea. One I really like is the deal he suggests aid
workers make with farmers. They'll increase the farmers'
crop yields by 50% if they give 10% of the yields to the local
schools for lunch programs.
There are - of course - the naysayers who say his big ideas
won't work. As a (preemptive?) response to this, Sachs set
up the Millennium Villages - which you can read more about
Needless to say, the Millennium Villages are flourishing.
Prof. Sachs, if I ever have the pleasure of meeting you, I would
most assuredly buy you a beer. If I could achieve a tenth
of what you've done, then my life will be well spent.
Bill Gates?! Wtf? Why would I buy Bill Gates a
beer? Many people see Bill Gates - the richest man in the
world and the man behind Microsoft - as a symbol of everything
that is wrong in the world. Capitalism gone mad.
Well, this might all be true but Bill Gates has changed his
focus. He is now a billionaire philanthropist. The
vast majority of his sizeable fortune has been channeled into
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - which, among other
things, is working on:
- Fighting Diseases such as:
- Acute Diarrheal Illness
- Acute Lower Respiratory Infections
- Child Health
- Poor Nutrition
- Reproductive and Maternal Health
- Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
- Research including:
- Needle-less vaccines
- Vaccines that don't require refrigeration
- Preventing insects from spreading disease
- Global Development
- Agriculture Development
- Financial Serices for the poor
- Global Libraries
I could list more, but I won't. If Bill Gates achieves
just one of these things, he will of had a profound and positive
affect on the world.
Warren Buffet -
currently listed as the world's second richest man - has
also donated the vast majority of his wealth to the foundation.
Mr. Gates, if we ever to meet you in real life, I would buy
you a beer. I'm sure you could probably afford your own
one, but you get the point...
Invisible Aid Worker
I've met a million cool people on my travels. None of
them as famous as Bill Gates, or as clever as Daniel Dennett, or
with as much influence as Jeffry Sachs. But everyone of
them shares the courage of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
this guy for example. He saw too many road deaths in
his neighborhood, so he got some cardboard and old clothes and
made a stop-go sign to control traffic and allow kids to safely
cross the road. His simple actions have saved many lives.
Or how about, Nasubuga. Nasubuga is and old lady and
runs a small school in Uganda (where
Nakalema used to gand
Nanta go to by the
way). She gets no glory, no big pay check and hardly
anybody outside of her neighborhood knows she exists. Many
children, however, get an education because of her.
Or, how about Loise?
She works her butt off in an
orphanage in war-torn
Or my crazy Filipino journalist friend who risks his life to
get the truth out there.
Rwandan man who weeps everyday for lost loved ones, but still
tells his story.
The list goes on and on.
I would gladly buy a beer for any one of them.
||Do you like the work that I am doing?
Wanna help in a real and tangible way?
Then visit GrassRootsUganda.com
and purchase some crafts made by Ugandan ladies. 100% of the profits
are returned to the ladies
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2005, 2006 and 2007 Malcolm Trevena.
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