The Practical Radical

MapAfghan Update: New Maps from Afghanistanelectiondata.org

September 16, 2010
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I decided to do a specific blog on mapping of Afghan data, especially now since Afghanistanelectiondata.org has put together all the open source data that is related to the Afghan elections into one nicely laid out page.

I think this is a very nice example of what can be done again with keeping  electoral processes transparent. We saw something in the same vein with the maps during the Kenyan referendum (see my blog post Transparency + Accountability = Democracy, Kenya Style). What is as well exciting is that the data is provided – gotta love that opensource!

The new maps are really interesting. As well as the basic landcover maps, there is one on ethnic groups. experiences of corruption and female candidates. I have put a few snapshots of the maps below. If you click on them you will go to the actual map.

Ethnic Groups

2009 Experience of Corruption

I have as well left the old blog post on the Afghan insurgency in this blog – it is an interesting reference point on how far mapping has come in so short a time.

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Mapping the War in Afghanistan

This is an interesting map visualization of the presence of Taliban activity in Afghanistan from 2007 to August 2009. The maps are based on insurgent activity reports. They give a probable snapshot of “how things are going” in the war (not well me thinks). The use of maps combined with reporting is informative over time, though clearly there are possible issues with both data validity and overlap in time periods.

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during 2007 – November 2008
Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan between January and November 2008
Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during January – August 2009

** Taken from the International Council on Security and Development website. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) is an international policy think tank working to combine grassroots research and policy innovation at the intersections of security, development, counter-narcotics and public health issues.


Restoring Sanity – Martin Luther King Jr. speaks on Honor and War

August 30, 2010
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There is no greater irony than to listen to Sarah Palin speaking on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a man who gave his life for peace and justice and spoke out against an unjust Vietnam war, while she in the same speech extols the virtues of another questionable war in a far off place.

In her speech she makes admirable commendations of two soldiers who undertook honorable actions in horrific conditions. She cannot be faulted for this.

click more to see the rest of the article and video of her speeches …

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Guest Blog: What happened in South Africa shouldn’t just stay in South Africa

August 18, 2010
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The following is (my first!!) guest blog from two quite cool people – Kevina Power and Ron Harris (aka Os12). I will leave it at that and let them explain the rest …

Guest Blogger: Kevina Power

It was late fall 2005 when we left Kenya for South Africa to host 2 World Urban Cafes (WUCs); one during the 1st African Hip Hop Summit, and one during the monthly Black Sunday event in Soweto. As I write this lots of memories are flooding back… WUCs, Hip Hop, Friends, Soweto… it all feels like a dream, a damn good dream.

First let me explain some background; how did we end up in Kenya? South Africa?  To many other places far far away? Well, back then, when I was considering working with Doug on the World Urban Forum project of the Environmental Youth Alliance, I remember him trying to explain his vision to me… it was on a napkin I think, sitting in some cafeteria in downtown Vancouver. If you know Doug, you know he speaks from a place where he calls ‘the bleeding edge’ and indeed this World Urban Café plan of his was certainly that. You see, UN Habitat, the UN agency charged with ‘improving the lives of slum dwellers’ was going to host their 3rd Session of the World Urban Forum in our city, VanCity, the next year.

When Doug asked to meet with me, I thought it would be just another long lunch with Doug, talking about our lives, our city, our vision for the future. Little did I know that this lunch would change me forever. Jumping forward, about 8 months later, here I am, living in Nairobi, Kenya, a place I had not even knew existed a year before, working with UN Habitat and the Environmental Youth Alliance on the World Urban Forum, specifically implementing this WUC Concept in the lead up to the 2006 Conference in Vancouver.

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Mapping the War in Afghanistan

August 5, 2010
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This is an interesting map visualization of the presence of Taliban activity in Afghanistan from 2007 to August 2009. The maps are based on insurgent activity reports. They give a probable snapshot of “how things are going” in the war (not well me thinks). The use of maps combined with reporting is informative over time, though clearly there are possible issues with both data validity and overlap in time periods.

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during 2007 - November 2008

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan between January and November 2008

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during January - August 2009

** Taken from the International Council on Security and Development website. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) is an international policy think tank working to combine grassroots research and policy innovation at the intersections of security, development, counter-narcotics and public health issues.


Transparency + Accountability = Democracy, Kenya Style

August 4, 2010
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Stand up for Kenya - (the Nation, August 3, 2010)

Christabell’s facebook post says it all, a key constitutional referendum in Kenyan is so far violence free, unlike the last trip to the polls a few years ago. In part this is due to citizens (mostly youth!) tweets and posts providing real time monitoring, transparency, accountability …  leading to … Democracy.

Uchaguzi (which means “election” in Swahili) is a site driven by tweets and posts. The site provides real-time reporting on what is happening during the referendum in Kenya. Issues such as violence, vote counting, results, and polling logistics are uploaded and mapped on Google Earth. This information then becomes accessible to people locally and globally.

A snapshot from the map on the Uchaguzi site

Some examples of what is being reported

The development of launch site is important for Kenyans and for citizens globally. One has to wonder who might have been elected President of the United States in 2000 if this technology had been around?

If you are interested in this game changing technology go to my (yet to be published, but hey, take a look at the draft) blog post on Usahidi, the platform this site is based on.

Good Luck Kenya!!


Framing Our World – A Photo Collage

June 30, 2010
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This is a photo collage done for the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006. The photos are part of a larger exhibition focused on youth perspective on the urban environment. The photos exhibition was mounted by EYA and UN-HABIAT. Photos done by KK Law.

Generations of Woodwards

From the roof of Woodwards 1

From the roof of Woodwards 2

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Fight, Flight or Unite – What’s the strategy?

June 27, 2010
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Lots of issues around violence and when to use it have come to the fore for me in the past few days – the Afghan war and the G8 riots being the most media prominent. Yet, its my current favorite TV show Boston Legal which describes it best.

There was a great episode where one of the lawyers got into an altercation with a bruiser at a bar. Said lawyer taunted said bruiser, who punched him. View the video to see one way our of this situation.

As you can see his solution was unique – but it brings up the question for me of when do you fight, when do you flee (and maybe fight another day) and when do you bring in help.

In a more metaphorical way, this scenario is often revisited in one’s career when you are faced with a serious conflict (say getting fired or majorly jerked around) and the aforementioned three choices. Though at first blush, going on the offensive may feel like the right thing, upon sleeping on it the answer often seems to be to walk away. The long-term strategy often becomes bringing in others to help you.

I follow the idiom that revenge is best served cold.*  It is more important to determine my immediate interests and needs than it is to go for the throat. But, then again, sometimes it sure would be nice …

* this phrase is alternatively attributed to Klingon Khaless the unforgettable; a quote by Pierre Ambroise Francois Choderios de LaClos (1741-1803) in his book Les Liasons Dangereuses; or as old Mafiosi saying from Sicily.


A General and a Rolling Stone: Should the Rebel Bite the dust?

June 23, 2010
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Mcchrystal - The Rebel General

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is a rebel.

From his hard partying, authority bucking days in West Point to his current post as commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, he does it his own way. We have often seen greater leaders in the military such as Patton and Macarthur (linked to a book and a movie on the subject) who do amazing things on the field, but have not so amazing relationships with the political types back home. McChrystal is cut from this cloth.

McChrystal and his aides seemed to have been caught drinking their own koolaide and dished some interviews to Rolling Stone, from which an article was written critical of the President – “Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss [McChrystal] was pretty disappointed.” – and Vice-President – “Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”.

Unfortunately, the kafuffle about whether the General is respecting the President overshadows the real focus of the article. The article was about whether the General was pursuing an un-winnable war with a strategy that is radical and questioned by many.

The strategy he is advancing – counterinsurgency  or “COIN” – calls for sending a large number of troops to both pummel the enemy as well as befriend the civilian population and rebuild its government. As the article states, this is a long process, much longer than Obama’s promised stand down slated for next year, and is not generally supported or understood by the troops, who see it as putting them in danger by limiting their ability to defend themselves. Though in an ideal world I like the concept of an army multi-tasking and play both the role of the peacemaker and the warrior, I strongly question the ability or the desire of American soldiers to undertake this.

Please read more of the Rolling Stone article here entitled “The Runaway General“.


Trophy Hunting

June 18, 2010
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The following are the tweets from the Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff leading up to the execution of convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad.

Another execution done in the name of one’s God by the State. In a country which questions the reach and role of government in private citizens lives, this is the cruelest of ironies.

There is the inhumanity of the murder, compounded upon by the inhumanity of a “firing squad” execution, compounded upon the ignominy of declaring it on twitter and inviting everyone to watch the press conference.

Doing this in this way shows the true intent of this “justice”  – demeaning it to nothing more than a big game hunt with the hunter putting the killers head on a plaque in his den.

The Press Conference.


Digital Access for All: Broadband for the People … really

June 4, 2010
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When there is an increase in broadband speed in the North America, we can download more episodes of our favorite TV show (mine is 30 rock); when broadband speed increases in Africa, millions more people get online through mobile technologies.

Whole “development” leaps are being taken on the African continent – mind numbing and corrupt bureaucracy is in one click being overcome with government services going online; banking is being revolutionized with mobile “MPESA” banking;  “urban wilderness”, the unplanned settlements or slums, or being mapped for the first time. And I can go on – read my article on Bridging the Digital Divide.

Just saw this great article and video done by Declan McCormack on the impact of mobile phones and the internet in east Africa that i thought nails it in regards to what is going on. Enjoy.

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    Practical things that make me radical

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