Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Of all people, why Aman?"

This was a quote from a taxi driver by the Associated Press after the execution of Aman Andom and other officials of the Haile Selassie government in the last week of November 1974. I am glad I was not old enough to understand the barbarism that ravaged Ethiopia in the mid 70s. My heart cries out for Aman, the other officials who were executed with him in that fateful week and all the rest (both Ethiopian and Eritrean) whose lives were brutally cut short in the aftermath of that killing orgy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Durban Blues

Two years ago in Copenhagen, Denmark these same beggars and climate change alarmists were almost successful in their attempt to extort a 100 billion dollars a year, to paraphrase Rep. Ron Paul, from the poor people in the rich nations and give it to the rich people in the poor nations. They failed then, but they did not give up. They kept trying at it in Cancun, Mexico last year and in Durban, South Africa again this year. It looks like they are now resigned to the fact that their extortion scheme will not work. Ah, the sweet smell of reality!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Ethiopians felt in 2007

The World Values Survey offers an interesting snapshot on how Ethiopians felt on various social and political issues in 2007. It confirms the view of many that the current government is deeply unpopular and that Ethiopia is a deeply conservative society in many ways. In 2007, Ethiopia was a place where about 7 in 10 of its citizens did not have confidence in the justice system. Less than 4 out of 10 people felt the same way in Ghana. The table below shows how confident Ethiopians felt about their government as compared to Ghanians:

Selected countries/samples: EthiopĂ­a [2007], Ghana [2007]

Weight  Ghana Ethiopia
Confidence: The Government A great deal 29.70% 7.90%
Quite a lot 41.60% 18.50%
Not very much 22.50% 48.10%
None at all 6.20% 25.50%
Total 1522 (100%) 1360 (100%)

Source: Values Surveys Databank

It looks like the survey was done in Addis Ababa and, as such, it probably is not a representative sample for the whole country. Nevertheless, I found it to be very informative and I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kismaayo or bust!

Kenya thinks it has learned from Ethiopia's Somalia mis-adventure of 2007-2009. Good luck!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Using game theory to predict Ethiopia's future government

Using game theory, a mathematical approach used to studying strategic interactions, the guy in this video correctly predicted in 2008 that Iran will not develop weapons-grade nuclear capability in two years time. Have you wondered if game theory can be used to predict whether or not there will be a new government in Ethiopia, say, in two years time? Perhaps Ethiopians should consult with this guy to calculate the chances.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Europe and China

The BBC has an insightful article by Ian Morris, a Stanford University historian, on the reversal of roles between Europe and China in the past century.
In October 1911, China rose up in revolution. Four months later the last emperor had fallen and European moneymen were flocking to Beijing, eager to finance the bankrupt new republic.

In October 2011, another European moneyman headed for Beijing. But Klaus Regling, head of the European Financial Stability Facility, did not go there to lend to China. He was there to borrow, asking China to save Europe from economic disaster.
Morris ends his article by suggesting that Europe should avoid the mistake the Chinese made a century ago by not taking loans from China to finance its debts. But the most revealing part of his article was a quote from Jin Liqun, the supervising chairman of China's sovereign wealth fund. He quotes Liqun as saying:
"If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn out welfare society... The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hard working."
Now, if this is not a wake up call for Europe, I do not know what is. I just hope that America will learn from the mistakes of the Europeans and move quickly to downsize the welfare state!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Simply Sowell

Thomas Sowell on the 2009 stimulus that was supposed to have created or "saved" 3 million jobs. We need a heavy dose of Thomas Sowell and economists like him in times like these.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Kiira EV

It seems this electric vehicle is a covered up golf cart with some additions, but it is a good start nonetheless...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quantum levitation

Superconductivity. Quantum physics. Fascinating stuff, eh. Here is the physics behind this phenomenon.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My new Ethiopian flag

The Ethiopian flag is boring and badly needs a remake. Not only the flag is boring, the color combination is hideous. That is why I do not adorn this blog with the green, yellow and red tricolors. I have a feeling there will be a new Ethiopian flag in the not too distant future. So, let me get a head start with my suggestion for a new Ethiopian flag. There is no concept behind the design. The color choices are simply based on the colors for the banner of this blog. The bull's eye in the middle (with the dreaded tricolor) is meant to signify a connection to the past. There you have it. Did I mention that the Ethiopian flag is boring?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why is the US sending its troops to Uganda now?

President Obama announced last week that he is sending "a small number of combat-equipped US forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield." His statement said the decision to send troops will further US national security interests and has the blessing of Congress.

Well, fine. But why send the troops now? The law the President sited was passed by Congress on May 24, 2010, and it required that the President submit a strategy to deal with the so-called Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to Congress "not later that 180 days after the enactment" of the law. The President took 508 days to inform Congress of his strategy. It is understood that the Executive branch of the US government usually wants to keep the Legislative branch at bay when it comes to foreign policy matters. But this dynamics doesn't seems to explain why it took so long, since this particular law was not controversial and had strong bipartisan support.

The LRA has been terrorizing villagers in northern Uganda and neighboring countries for more than two decades. Sure, LRA is a menace that must be confronted. But the current dictator of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, is just as much to blame for the rise and continued existence of the LRA as the LRA itself. Museveni, who came to power using the barrel of the gun, has been in power since 1986. He has used his guns liberally to stay in power and to also project his power in the central African region.

So, why did this conflict, ugly as it is, suddenly rise to to the level of affecting US national security interests after all these years of killings? Could it be because of Uganda's newly found oil wealth? That is my strong suspicion. If that is the case, then the Obama Administration should stop the pretense and clearly state the connection. Yes, indeed, securing oil fields is in the interest of US national security and that is not something the US should be shy about.

The humanitarian side of this conflict is a genuine one, and the US government and many NGOs have already been making an effort to solve the conflict. However, I don't think the humanitarian side of the conflict by itself warrants the involvement of US troops. A much better approach to protect US national security in the region would have been for the US to pressure the long standing dictator of Uganda to step down.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Ethiopia: The 4th Largest Slave Exporting Country

Yes, you read it correctly. Ethiopia was the 4th largest exporter of slaves from Africa in the 500 years between 1400 and 1900, and that's considered a conservative estimate. According to a research paper titled "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades" written in 2008 by Nathan Nunn, a Harvard University professor, nearly one and a half million Ethiopians, 1,447,455 to be exact, were sold into slavery and exported. Only Angola, Nigeria and Ghana in Africa had exported more. Just about all Ethiopian slaves were taken to Egypt and areas under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

Nunn's paper explores whether or not there is a causal relationship between the level of economic performance by contemporary African countries and the level of slavery that took place in those countries. His study shows that there is, indeed, an adverse correlation (see the graph below). His data for the paper comes mainly from Ralph Austen's work which you can find here. I think Nunn is on to something important and his observations should be given due attention.

I ran into Nunn's paper while searching the internet for slavery in Ethiopia after reading the story of Bisho Jarsa (picture below) a few weeks ago on BBC online. In that story the BBC relates Bisho's journey which began in 1887 when she was sold into slavery for a pittance of grain. Lucky for her, she was rescued by the British navy on the waters of the Red Sea where she was being taken by Arab slave traders to Jeddah in the Arabian peninsula. The British took her to Aden in Yemen where they handed her over to be taken care of by missionaries of the Scottish Free Church. She eventually ended up and made a life for herself in South Africa.

Bisho could have been my great-grandmother. Maybe yours, too. Bisho was lucky. Millions of others weren't. The story of the one and a half million Ethiopians who were sold into slavery between the years 1400 and 1900 is just a small portion of that sad and ugly legacy of our ancestors. Some of our ancestors, mine for sure, owned slaves while others, like the Jabartis, specialized in the slave trade. They were not, however, alone in this ugly legacy. Slavery is hardly a unique phenomenon to Ethiopia or Africa. It is a curse on the whole of humanity.

My online search for slavery in Ethiopia suggests that it has not gotten the kind of attention that it deserves from scholars. For example, I can't find a single book which is dedicated to the topic of slavery in Ethiopia. It may be out there but I have not yet found it. There are plenty of references available though, Richard Pankhurst's works being a good example. Another scholar that I found who had attempted to give an in-depth look to the issue of slavery in Ethiopia is Teshale Tibebu, a professor at Temple University. In his book, "The Making of Modern Ethiopia: 1896-1974," Tibebu devotes a whole chapter to the topic which is worthwhile your reading time.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I am Eskinder Nega

I am Eskinder Nega. I am not one person. I am eighty million strong. I will let one of my voices speak for me because today I am locked up in Makelawi prison. Those who are in power in Ethiopia have tried to silence my voice. They want to shut me up by locking me up. They don't want me to be heard. They are afraid of the truth I speak out. They think by putting me in solitary confinement they will destroy my hopes and dreams. As you can see, that is an impossible task. I am but a reflection of my people.

I am the echo of their voice. I am a proud father. I am a husband. I am a friend. I am a journalist. I am not now nor have I ever been a terrorist; but I am now and have on previous occasions been a victim of state terrorism and victim of a judicial system that works only for its creators.

I am Youcef Nadarkhani

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Obamanomics is almost dead

Here are two short articles that succinctly explain why Obamanomics has not worked. Enjoy!

Solyndra, the logical endpoint of Obamanomics

The bankruptcy of solar-panel maker Solyndra neatly encapsulates the economic, political and intellectual bankruptcy of Barack Obama's Big Idea. It was the president’s intention back in 2009 to begin centrally reorganizing the U.S. economy around the supposed climate-change crisis.

To what end? Well, Obama claimed his election would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." But that was just the cover story. At its core, Obamanomics is about the top-down redistribution of wealth and income. Government spending on various “green” subsidies and programs, along with a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions, would enrich key Democrat constituencies: lawyers, public sector unions, academia and non-profits.

Oh, and Wall Street, too.

Kiss of Debt for the Flagging U.S. Economy
Why can't the economy grow? It's the debt, stupid.

That is the reminder from the Federal Reserve's quarterly data dump. Added up, household, business and government debt now amounts to some $36.5 trillion, a new nominal record. And that figure excludes the government's unfunded liabilities for Medicare and Social Security.

This debt overhang remains a key problem for the U.S. economy because it limits growth drivers like consumer spending. Consumers who still face big mortgage payments and credit-card bills have less flexibility to increase spending on goods and services, which in turn keeps a lid on job growth.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The "Make Addis Ababa like Baghdad" Plot

This voluminous report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea dated July 18, 2001 is a must-read. A portion of the 417 page report deals with the alleged plot by the Eritrean regime to "make Addis Ababa like Baghdad" during the African Union summit in January of 2011. Here is the report's conclusion on the failed plot.
Only one detainee interviewed by the Monitoring Group, team leader Omar Idriss Mohamed, appears to have been in regular contact with the OLF leadership in Asmara. All other team members were isolated from OLF structures from the moment of recruitment and received all training and orders directly from Eritrean officers. According to Omar, only Dawud Ibsa, Chairman of OLF, was aware of the existence of this special operation and its objectives, and he does not appear to have exercised any command or control over its actions. The Monitoring Group therefore concludes that this operation was effectively an Eritrean intelligence activity, falsely flagged as an OLF initiative.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

We must help the famine victims... Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and other Horn of Africa countries. There is enough blame to go around why there is a recurring famine in that part of the world. We can have that discussion at a different time. The time now is to help in whatever ways we can.

This NY Times photographer paints a grim picture of the famine condition in Somalia.

The are may ways you can help. Here are the emergency fundraising links to some of the reputable relief agencies I know. There are many more. Just google...

Catholic Relief Services

World Vision

Friday, August 05, 2011

The never-ending famine

The BBC and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism have teamed up to expose how the Ethiopian government systematically uses aid from donor nations to punish areas that support its political opponents. The current drought in the Horn of Africa is creating famine conditions that are exacerbated by government and rebel activities. This never-ending cycle of war and famine in that part of the world is demoralizing to put it mildly.

Read all the details here: Ethiopia Aid Exposed

The accompanying BBC video report can be found here:
Ethiopia 'using aid as weapon of oppression'

A BBC radio interview with Angus Strickler, the investigative journalist, who went to Ethiopia undercover can be listened to here.

Before and after satellite images of burned villages in the Ogaden region from 2007.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Probability of pregnancy for healthy women

Gene Expression is one of my favorite blogs to read. The blogger recently posted an article on the probability of healthy women getting pregnant by age. A prospective couple who want to have a healthy child should especially take note of the second graph.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pure Menzie, Mootchoor Hadiya

I heard of these repugnant phrases recently. They were used to describe an Ethiopian ethnic identity. I heard the first one on the internet and the second one in a personal conversation. Both mean the same thing -- mootchoor means 'pure' in the Hadiyissa language.

What does it mean when a person says I am a 'pure' this or that ethnic group? I suppose it means that all of one's known ancestors belong to the same ethnic group.

What then does an ethnic purity constitute? Let's suppose that all of my eight great-grandparents are Menzie. Does that make me a pure (netsooh) Menzie? Or, let's say that all of my 16 great-great-grandparents are Hadiya. Would this be good enough to make me a pure (mootchoor) Hadiya? Why stop at 16? Why not push the ancestor count further out to 32 or 64 or even 128 of my ancestors?

As you can see, sooner or later, this exercise will turn out to be a futile exercise. In fact, it is a foolish exercise, and it is farcical to think of one's ethnicity as pure for there is no such thing. If you go back enough in historical time, it is clear that an overwhelming majority of Ethiopians (for that matter East and Northeast Africans) share the same ancestors. In fact, all humans on the face of the Earth share the same ancestors if you push the time period beyond 60 thousand years.

It is true that Ethiopia's ethnic problems did not start with the current regime. But it is an incontrovertible fact that this regime has used ethnic differences as the linchpin of its divide-and-rule policy over the past 20 years. The results of this policy (economic disintegration, social immobility, etc...) are out there for everyone to see. Isn't it time that Ethiopians put an end to this absurdity once and for all?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Being Birtukan

It is good to see Birtukan in good spirit. Hopefully, there are more exciting and uplifting chapters to her story in the years to come. Stay well.

Monday, July 04, 2011

All come to look for America

Josh Groban did a lame version of this classic Simon and Garfunkel song at the 4th of July concert at the Capitol today and I had to get over my disappointment by listening to the original. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dictatorship of relativism (Liberalism in overdrive)

Regardless of where you stand on the debate over marriage, I think you will find this National Review article by George Weigel to be a thought-provoking one. Here is a passage from the article:
New York State notwithstanding, the argument over marriage will and must continue, because it touches first principles of democratic governance -- and because resistance to the agenda of the gay-marriage lobby is a necessary act of resistance against the dictatorship of relativism, in which coercive state power is used to impose on all of society a relativistic ethic of personal willfulness. In conducting that argument in the months and years ahead, it would be helpful if the proponents of marriage rightly understood would challenge the usurpation by the proponents of gay marriage of the civil-rights trump card.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Music is Really Good for You - VII

I am sure you have listened to music from Mali (they are world famous, you know), but I bet you have not heard of Habib Koite and Bamada before. Malian music is similar to Ethiopian music in that they both are rich in melody. But I have to say that Malian music sounds a lot better than Ethiopian music, to me at least. I suspect the reason may be because Malian musicians make a far better use of stringed instruments and their drum beats are much more sophisticated. When will Ethiopian musicians abandon the dreaded keyboard for a real instrument as their main musical instrument? Wasn't this used to be the case just a short two decades ago? Pardon me for the rant, but please enjoy these three great works of music from Habib and his super band mates.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I am for doing good to the poor, but...

Benjamin Franklin, the sage of an amazing group of people who founded America, wrote the following in 1766 which is still relevant today for everyone everwhere. This is from an article he wrote for a London newspaper regarding the price of corn and the management of the poor.
I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"The Solution is in Tehran"

Peter Robinson of Uncommon Knowledge interviews Michael Totten, a foreign correspondent and author of The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah and the Iranian War against Israel.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Does Foreign Aid Work? No, It Does Not!

Andrew Mwenda (a Ugandan) at the TED conference in Arusha Tanzania. Please take a note of Andrew's brief interaction with Bono (of U2 fame). I think all would agree that Bono has a good heart and is a man of action. But I would have to say Bono's answer to Andrew's simple question demonstrates how the aid industry has failed Africa.

Dambisa Moyo (a Zambian) author of Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa

Andrew Mwenda and Karol Boudreaux (an American) of Mercatus Center at George Mason University discussing foreign aid on Stossel at FBN.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Three Cool Engineering Videos

A walking dog from a project funded by DARPA, the folks who gave us the internet...

The last launch of the space shuttle Discovery as seen from a flying aircraft...

Germans doing what they do cars.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Regime Change

There has been a consensus among Ethiopians for while now that there needs to be a regime change in Ethiopia, but not so much on how to bring about that change. The abrupt changes we have witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt in recent days seem to have given hope for Ethiopians that a similar change may be possible in Ethiopia in the near future.

It would be nice to have a relatively peaceful regime change in Ethiopia as have happened in Tunisia and Egypt.
I doubt that will be the case though in Ethiopia as recent history of Ethiopian opposition groups is replete with disorganization and mistrust. I also question the wisdom of bringing about changes in a sudden way since that usually invites chaos and power vacuum.

Regardless, some kind of forced regime change in Ethiopia seems inevitable.
If the Ethiopian people decide they had enough like their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts, there is nothing the Woyane regime can do to prevent its own demise. The only question is whether or not the regime that will take over from the Woyane will be more accountable to the people.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This Music is Really Good for You - VI

The David Crowder*Band is a very entertaining Christian group out of Texas. They are loaded with talent and fun to listen to and watch. I think of them as a fusion between the sounds of U2 and Michael W. Smith. I can't wait to see them perform live. Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Poverty and Affluence in Ethiopia

Ethiopia today is a study in contrast between two extremes, more so than at any time in its modern history. The picture below is a composite of two pictures: a mother begging on a street side in Bahr Dar and a family celebrating a birthday in a private room at a hotel in Addis Ababa.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

This WSJ article with the same title should be of high interest to most readers of this blog who, I believe, are either parents of young ones or prospective parents. The author, Amy Chua, is a parent and a professor at Yale Law School. Her Chinese approach to strict parenting was an extremely refreshing reading for my wife and I; stereotypes aside, we agree with most of her parenting philosophy. I hope you will find it useful. Here are a couple of quotes from the article:
"Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best."

"...studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams."

The Tiger Mother Talks Back

Amy Chua responds to readers' questions about happiness, relationships and tips for teaching toddlers.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Have a Happy New (Zealand) Year!

Poi-E is a song in Maori language by Patea Maori Club of New Zealand. The harmony and rhythms they display is infectious. Enjoy!

Here is the original version.