Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This Music is Really Good for You - III

We all probably need some respite from all the negative news that surrounds us -- the turmoil in the stock markets around the world, the starvation and inflation in Ethiopia, etc. Please enjoy this fascinating Gnawa music from Morocco titled "L'Hadiya, L'Bossoyé" by Zakaria HOUAOURA. Beware, you could fall into a trance while listening!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Food Aid as a Weapon of War

It looks like the Woyane rulers of Ethiopia have taken a calculated risk in using food aid as a weapon in the war against the Ogaden rebels. They thought they could get away with it. They should have known better. Weren't they at the receiving end of the food aid war in the 80s?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What a difference a year makes!

By Fikru Helebo

In a piece titled "Is Kinijit the Way?" a year ago today I had expressed cautious optimism that Kinijit had the better chance of all the political groups out there to lead Ethiopians towards democratic pluralism. In that same piece I had also expressed my doubts on whether or not Kinijit was up to
the task. I was optimistic because a few days earlier I had gone to a meeting in Alexandria, Virginia which was called by leaders of Kinijit who, having been released from two years of incarceration by the Woyane regime, did not show bitterness at their fate and their jailers but rather preached hope and reconciliation among Ethiopian political groups. On the other hand, I had reason to be guarded in my optimism because there were signs of division within Kinijit and I was concerned about the negative implications of that division for Kinijit supporters and the Ethiopian opposition groups at large.

In less than a month's time after I wrote that piece, the acrimonious division within Kinijit had gotten out of control and its partitioning had become a foregone conclusion. And in the months following the split within Kinijit, the Woyane regime added insult to injury by handing over the rights to the name and logo of Kinijit to groups that had betrayed Kinijit. In less than a year, Kinijit had gone from being called a "spirit" among its hardcore supporters to being seen as just another one of the long list of Ethiopian political parties that proved to not have what it takes to survive its first major test.

may have become history, but the causes that it symbolized and championed (democracy, human rights, etc) still remain the cries of the Ethiopian people and are in desperate need of a party that is capable of offering a vanguard leadership. Unfortunately, by going their separate ways, the former Kinijit leaders have made the struggle for freedom, democracy and the rule of law in Ethiopia a more difficult task than it already was. Hailu Shawel's faction of Kinijit was the first to drop off the Kinijit bandwagon. Then the group which was aligned with Berhanu Nega came unhinged. That left the group led by Birtukan Mideksa as the only group that remained true to the original "spirit" of Kinijit that had won over the support of the Ethiopian people.
Hailu's group reverted to its old name of the All Ethiopia Unity Party, whereas Berhanu's group has reinvented itself as Ginbot 7 movement. Birtukan's group was forced to reorganize itself under a new name called Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (Andenet). My sympathies are with Birtukan's party and I wish her and her Andenet colleagues good luck.

What surprised me the most about the partitioning of Kinijit in the last year was its abandonment by the Berhanu Nega group. I have tremendous respect for Berhanu and his Ginbot 7 colleagues for the sacrifices they have made to help the cause of freedom and democracy in Ethiopia, and I still do think that Berhanu is the most effective advocate the Ethiopian opposition has got on its side. However, I do believe that Berhanu and his colleagues have made a serious political error in judgment in abandoning their former Kinijit colleagues and forming a group which neither complements the efforts of Andenet and others, who are determined to use what narrow political space that is left, nor fills a vacuum that is not already addressed by an existing Ethiopian political group.

What a difference a year makes! Unfortunately for Ethiopians, this was not the difference they were looking for from their political parties at the begining of the Ethiopian millenium.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back from Exile

The obelisks of Axum arguably represent the Golden Age of ancient Ethiopian civilization. Ethiopians of all backgrounds should unite in celebrating the return of our national treasure from Italy where it spent 70 years in exile. Happy Ethiopian New Year!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Obama, McCain: Change and the Status-quo

By Ephrem Madebo

I spent a good part of this week watching the Republican Party Convention from Saint Paul, Minnesota. I listened to many of the convention speakers including Laura Bush, Cindy McCain, George Bush, Fred Thomason, the ‘neo-Republican’ Joseph Lieberman, Carly Fiorina, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham. I found out the hard way that republicans are good at one thing. They don’t have anything new, they just keep on singing the same old song over and over again, and they sing it loud. Republicans and Senator McCain say things because they have to say them. Democrats and Obama say things because they have a lot to say. To me, the real drama of Tuesday night that caught me by surprise was Joseph Lieberman’s appearance in the Republican convention floor. When Lieberman blindly stood for the Bush-Cheney failed war policy, I knew he was a confused man. However, as confused as he is, I still thought he was smart enough to know the difference between friendship and democratic principles. Unfortunately, he didn’t! Yes, as he and others said it well, McCain like many other human beings is “his own” man; the problem is Joseph Lieberman isn’t. Last Tuesday night, Joseph Lieberman was a “stranger in the mirror”.

We love McCain for who he is, we respect his service to his country, and we honor his heroism, but we don’t give him the presidency because John McCain simply is not competent to the highest office in the nation. The maverick McCain might do well in some other offices, but not in the Oval Office. In 1992, when Bush senior was running for his second term; he was a war hero [fighter pilot] and a life long public servant. He was chief of the CIA, he was US ambassador in the UN, he was vice-president for 8 years, and most importantly he was a president for four years. G.H. Bush’s experience is by far greater and superior than McCain’s experience, but in 1992, the far sighted American voters saw beyond experience and elected a much younger, but competent president who led a stronger America into the 21st century. Today, eight years of Republican administration has made America a weak nation. With no clear economic, healthcare, education, and environmental policies, McCain will extend the failed Bush-Cheney administration and make America weaker.

President Bush who has a unique ability of looking deep into the eye of people and predict their character, told us about the good things that Senator McCain would do to America in the coming four years. I urge President Bush to look at the eye of Senator McCain again and tell us the truth because his prediction about Vladimir Putin was totally off. President Bush who has the lowest approval rating in history seems to have more confidence in what McCain could do in four years than what he himself could have done in eight years. All in all, instead of telling us what he himself did in the last eight years, George Bush tries to tell us about what McCain would do if elected president. In his campaign trail, instead of telling the American people what he would and wouldn’t do, McCain tells what Obama would and wouldn’t do. These are not the only similarities between the maverick McCain and the compassionate Bush. Neither George W. Bush nor Senator McCain were bright students when they were in college. Bush scored 70 (of 100) in Sociology and a 71 in Economics (no wander the economy is heading south). Senator McCain graduated 894th out of a class of 899. Both McCain and Bush have a clear stand on life’s important issues, but they have hard time explaining their stand or answering life’s important questions.

During the first term of G.Bush’s presidency, John McCain was one of the two republicans to vote against George Bush’s landmark tax cut. Today, McCain is fighting hard to make the same tax cut permanent. Senator McCain stood with the democrats and supported President Bush’s immigration policy. Today, McCain vehemently opposes the same immigration policy that he once supported. Senator McCain was a strong opponent of off-shore drilling. Today, he is a leading advocate of off-shore drilling. What should we call this kind of oscillating behavior? Is this what maverick means? Did any one see the current president and vice-president in the Republican Party convention? No! Because they have nothing to show except mess. The country is ashamed of them, Senator McCain is ashamed of them, and most importantly the party they lead is ashamed of them. If we elect McCain, I am positive, four years latter he will have nothing to show and we will be ashamed of him. By the way, I can’t wait until January 20, 2009 to see Dick Cheney end eight years of hibernation.

Last night Cindy McCain told us that Senator McCain was a true husband, and she also told us that having McCain as a father of her children was like hitting a home run. Well, way before Cindy McCain, there was another woman who until the ninth inning thought she hit a home run when she married McCain. The week long republican convention focused on one single issue - The biography of John McCain! As an American who needs information to elect the next president, I expected to hear less of McCain's biography and more of what he would do if elected president of this great nation. This election is not about McCain’s past, it is about America’s future. Last night John McCain vowed to work across party lines and change the ugly culture of Washington. Eight years ago, George Bush who was not a Washington insider promised to reach across party lines and change Washington. As soon as he entered the Whitehouse, Washington changed George Bush and today we have a deeply divided America. Watch out America! McCain’s last night rhetoric is not different from what his role model told us in 2000. McCain has been part and parcel of the Washington establishment for more than a quarter of a century. He has nothing in him that brings change to Washington; McCain is the symbol of Washington that Obama the true messenger of change wants to change.

The American people never questioned McCain’s heroism and his distinguished service to America. The slogan “Country First” and fighting for America are not just republican or democratic values, they are undisputed American values. The young men and women that went to Iraq and Afghanistan went as Americans, and when they pay the ultimate sacrifice, their body comes to Dover Air Force base as an American. John McCain and the Republican Party must stop mixing American values with Republican values. But, even if we consider important republican values such as “Traditional Family Value”, McCain started dating his current wife while married to other women whom he eventually asked for divorce. Well, there is nothing wrong because he is a maverick republican.

We all know that there is a significant difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties, but the difference between Obama and McCain is far deeper than the party differences, and it is visible to any naked eye. McCain is a man of yesterday whose vision for tomorrow is limited by his inability to see beyond the horizon. He is an ordinary man in history with less than average intellectual capacity. Don’t get me wrong, McCian is a war hero, but so are tens of thousands of Americans. Obama is a vector of change who is in a mission to make history. Obama has the intellectual capacity to see deeper into the future and seek answer to many burning questions of our time. Unlike McCain, Obama is here to correct the misguided policies of the Bush-Cheney administration. McCain is a mediocre communicator who has identical message for every audience. Obama is a charismatic communicator who has message to any audience. Geographically, McCain thinks Iraq and Afghanistan are neighbors, and politically; he does not know the difference between the Shiites and the Sunnis. Economically, he always fails to understand the threshold of poverty. How can McCain lead the free world with such a little knowledge about the world, and how can he lead America without knowing about poor and middle class Americans? America can not afford to have another so-so leader in this crucial time. I wonder how McCain chases Bin Laden to the gates of hell if he doesn’t know where the gate of hell is. Chasing the illusive Bin Laden is not an easy task for a person who does not visualize the Iraq-Afghanistan borer.

Let’s consider McCain’s judgment in selecting his running mate. Senator McCain barley knew Sarah Palin before he chose her to be a possible US president should something happens to him (if he is elected). I wonder where McCain’s nickname of “Country First” was when he made such a terrible decision. When McCain selected Palin as his running mate, the amount of women votes she would (yes, I said would) bring to the ticket seems to be his primary criteria. “Country first” and what happens to the presidency if the possible happens was not McCain’s cup of tea. John McCain who day-in and day-out tells us about his long time experience did not think otherwise when he insulted our intelligence by giving us the most in-experienced little known vice-president in America’s 232 years history. The only visible experience on Sarah Palin’s resume is governing the state of Alaska (population ~700K) for 21 months. The population of Alaska is almost four times less than the population of Chicago, a city in Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Yes, McCain is a maverick, a maverick to whom the pro-choice Hilary is the same as the anti -abortion slogan bearer Palin. To McCain, there is no difference between one of the most outspoken women in the world and the 2nd year governor from Alaska, a state that barley becomes a topic in the nightly news. Even Sarah Palin herself didn’t understand the huge difference between her and Hilary Clinton. Within hours of her introduction as the next VP, Sarah Palin substantiated McCain’s criteria of VP selection by repeating one of Hilary’s celebrated phrases - “18 million cracks”. What Palin didn’t understand is that, if she swears in as the next vice-president this coming winter, those 18 million cracks will turn into tears for another four winters. As a devoted Evangelical Christian, I applaud Palin’s unwavering anti-abortion stand, but as an American, I don’t vote for her just because we agree on one single issue. The future of America is very important to me because I am a father. I worry about Social Security because that is the last thing that I want to see handled by the private sector. Health Care is always in my mind because as a working father, I want to make sure that I can afford a meaningful health insurance for myself and my family. The future of my children highly depends on the quality of education they get today. I want my children and grand children to breathe clean air and live longer life. I know Senator McCain’s record on many of these issues and have heard him speak on the Environment, Education, Healthcare, and Social Security; to be honest, sometimes, I doubt that McCain’s America is the same as my America.

Readiness to lead is the function of intellectual capacity, judgment, intelligence, experience, character, and toughness in the soul and in the spirit. Both McCain and Obama have all of the above factors, but in different proportions. Senator Barack Obama has a much better judgment and a more developed intellectual thought process than McCain. He is more intelligent, wiser, and charismatic. Both Obama and McCain can handle the 3am calls, the difference is that by the time Obama resolves the problem; McCain is still on the phone. Nothing is important than a quick response for those of us who have a bad memory of September 11 and hurricane Katrina.

Much long after Obama’s first message of change reverberated through the Rockies, the Appalachians, and the Grand Canyon, Senator McCain’s campaign started talking about change. This proves that McCain is a born follower, not a leader. As I mentioned it above, Obama is a vector of change who has a good understanding of things that change, things that don’t change, and the difference between the two. A very important decision awaits us this Fall. We have the opportunity to vote for a change or to sustain the status-quo. If we want to be masters of our destiny, let’s vote for the candidate whose message of hope will be our anchor in the massive waves of the 21st century. As to my self, I am eager to see change, therefore, I vote for Obama!