Tuesday, September 28

Blog Round-up

Crispus writes about 'How Regulation Feeds African Poverty' based upon a clear interpretation of a World Bank report, “Doing Business in 2005”.

Healing Iraq on 'Conspiracy Theories and the Ummah' delves into how many Mid-Eastern governments and radical movements have used implausible conspiracy theories to spread ignorance and to serve their own agendas.

Andrew Sullivan ably defends himself from fellow pundits. A.S. has been a political touchstone of ours since he began blogging years ago. Recently he has tried and did not succeed at using 'the power of wishing really hard' to bind the Kerry Campaign to the war on terror. Given a chance he would no doubt blame Bush's 'hubris, incompetence, arrogance etc.' for the current hurricane season. However, he remains an essential read for his usual passion and common sense.

Chrenkoff on 'The Post-Totalitarian Stress Disorder' takes an informed look at how the horrific national wounds created by the dictatorial past of Iraq may hamper the transition to democracy. The ongoing series Good news from Iraq and Good news from Afghanistan should be read next time you hear the word quagmire. Thanks to this Australian blogger for the idea for this blog round-up.

Baldilocks in 'Fair Trade?' explores the issues raised by a recent article in which the Iraqi "insurgents" describe particularly targetting Black soldiers because "To have Negroes occupying us is a particular humiliation". Her take on Black-Arab-Islam relations is a lucid and revealing read.

The Belmont Club in 'The Sword is Mightier than the Pen' describes how intimidation of journalists by Palestinian and Iraqi terror groups seems to be working.

Booker Rising is a valuable blog that spreads its net very widely for news and commentary and then converts them into engaging posts. Written in the spirit of Booker T. Washington, it is worth frequent visits.

EURSOC in the 'The Loony Latin Left' takes on the new Spanish Prime Minister and his campaign against the pillars of Spanish culture.

Little Green Footballs also takes Zapatero to task for appeasement of terror and nostalgia for Saddam.

Foreign Dispatches in 'How the Middle East Lost the Wheel' discusses how the wheel is not necessarily 'the mark of civilization'. This intelligent blog covers material from ancient Rome to election 2004.

The Head Heeb in 'Reuniting the Seperatists' discusses a little known twenty year old insurgency in southern Senegal that may be near a resolution.

No Pasaran notes that in France many blame the usual suspect, Uncle Sam, for the kidnapping of Frenchmen in Iraq. (This blame is in addition to that America gets for everything from Waterloo to ants at le picnic.) You can't go very far wrong with a blog that has Che Guevera with Mickey Mouse ears on as part of its title.

The Marmot's Hole in 'Kim Il-sung’s family and North Korean place names' talks about that dynasty and its cartographic mark on the land.

Ambra Nykol who has been "bothering people since 1981" has a regular column now and remains as ever charmingly opinionated and enjoyable.

The Belgravia Dispatch clearly has some issues with the NYT's Maureen Dowd as evident in 'MoDo is the Marionette'.

Unganisha continues with life observations in 'Two Haircuts'.

Viking Pundit, the only conservative in Western Massachusetts, continues his lonely vigil with up to the minute election news.

Air Vectors is one of the best air enthusiast sites and every month has a detailed piece of a featured plane. Elsewhere in Vectorsite there are write-ups on historic and technical subjects.

Michelle Malkin has some upsetting news in 'The Rape Jihad'.

Over at Fear and Loathing in Iraq actual experiences at war are no longer allowed but current pieces and the archives make for a unique blog.

The Religious Policeman is back but not active. His archives are well worth a visit for an insiders view of Saudi Arabia.

This unique blog dedicated to 'Bringing Electricity to the countryside in Ethiopia' was shortlived but is a glimpse into a whole other world of (professional?) interests.

Best of the Web Today has a wry take on current events.

FuturePundit lets us know that 'Obesity Causes Inflammation Which Accelerates Aging'. This blog is far more interesting than that title would have you believe. It does a good job of translating current hard research into bite sized pieces for curious science 'browsers'.

Monday, September 27

Condors and Eagles from Harlem

When fascist Italy led by Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935 much worldwide sympathy was aroused for the Ethiopian cause but there was little actual support given.

A popular fascination with Africa, and independent Ethiopia in particular, had arisen in Black American and Afro-Carribean communities in the years before the invasion. Beginning as far back as the 1880s there was a spread of "Ethiopianist" churches and for many
Ethiopianism served as an ideology which linked African-American brethren with their African brothers and sisters. During this same period, largely due to the sovereignty of Ethiopia amidst European colonialism on the continent, African Americans fixed greater attention on the ancient Empire of Ethiopia itself, thinking of Ethiopia as a black Zion. In 1896, the defeat of invading Italian forces by Menelik II in the Battle of Adwa served to bolster the mythic status and redemptive symbolism of Ethiopia in the eyes of Africans at home and abroad.

The second Italian invasion of Ethiopia in October of 1935 produced an enormous wave of pro-Ethiopianist sentiments among blacks across the African continent as well as in the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States. Particularly to blacks in the diaspora the invasion was seen as an attack on the dominant symbol of African pride and cultural sovereignty.

Col. John C. Robinson, later known as the Brown Condor returning home in 1936

the condor

Some of the international support that was actually delivered is described in this 2004 speech by Consul General of Ethiopia in LA discusses
Colonel John Robinson (the Black Condor [sometimes called the Brown Condor]), helped in establishing the nascent Ethiopian air force. Colonel Robinson commanded The Ethiopian Air force and actively participated in reconnaissance mission for the Ethiopian Army during the Italian invasion.
In this article by Negussay Ayele from Tadias Online there is more on Robinson
He completed his pilot’s training and earned his wings from Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama in 1920, one of the six hundred black pilots to do so. He again attended another mainstream flight school in Chicago where in 1931 and thus became the first African American to break the color barrier and graduate from that institution. His ordeal/odyssey was not over yet. Even after his bona fide graduation local airfields were closed to black pilots to use. So, Robinson got together with some supporters and financed the establishment of another private airport, which was duly certified by the authorities to be used by black pilots. According to his biography written by Thomas E. Simmons, The Brown Condor: The True Adventures of John C. Robinson, immediately after earning his flying license in 1927, Robinson started his own flying school in Chicago for blacks. He even founded an Air Pilots Association for black aviators, and he launched a “John Robinson Airlines.” However, the more he heard of what was happening in Ethiopia and sensed the indignation and frustration of the black community at its inability to do something about it, the more he was impelled to offer his services to fight fascism in Ethiopia.

Melaku Beyan [an Ethiopian in the U.S. who was active in building bridges between Black America and Ethiopia - registration required] heard about him and made contact. Subsequently, Robinson received a cable from the Emperor himself offering him a commission in the Ethiopian army. Prudently, when applying for his U.S. exit visa, he said he was going to Ethiopia on business to sell civilian airplanes. He arrived in Ethiopia at the end of May 1935.

Ethiopia had neither combat trained national pilots nor combat aircraft at the time, out of less than two-dozen mostly dysfunctional aircrafts. With that one aircraft, the intrepid Brown Condor flew incessantly on dangerous missions—not to mention a terrain and airspace he was unfamiliar with—from Addis to Adwa and back. He was carrying supplies, fighters and the Emperor from place to place in the very heat of the war, when the Fascists were controlling the skies and raining down bombs and poison gases. They tried to down him but could not. Robinson gives an eyewitness account of Fascist bombing spree in Adwa where he witnessed the very first assaults of the Fascist elements across the Mereb river on 3 October 1935. Professor William Scott in his book, The Sons of Sheba’s Race, paraphrases the Brown Condor’s description of that first day of bombing and the tragic reaction of innocent civilians in Tigrai:

"When Italian planes attacked the Ethiopian towns of Adwa and Adigrat at the start of Rome’s African campaign, Robinson was caught along with Ethiopian civilians and military in the wanton and bloody bombardment. He had been sent on a courier mission to Adwa, scene of Italy’s humiliating defeat in 1896, the day before the surprise attack. Staying there overnight, Robinson was awakened at dawn by the terrible noise of explosions. Four large bombing planes arrived…and began bombing. Many people ran for cover in the city’s outskirts. Others sought refuge at the Red Cross hospital, imagining they would be protected there, but it too was shelled and was the scene of the heaviest casualties. Infuriated Ethiopian soldiers, anxious to engage the enemy in battle, ran out into the streets, waving their swords and challenging their adversaries to descend from the clouds and fight like men in hand-to-hand combat."

Although the Fascists failed to down his plane, the Brown Condor was shot at and wounded on his left hand, but he still managed to land safely ... On the eve of Fascist entry into Addis Ababa on 5 May 1936, Robinson had to return back to the United States ... Later, after the war had ended, Colonel Robinson was returned to Ethiopia in 1944 as head of a team of African American aviators and technicians to help build a modern Ethiopian Air Force.
In his book "Ethiopia and the United States Volume 1; the Season of Courtship" (no link available) Negussay Ayele describes Robinson's 1944 return along with his team, the self styled "Brood" (including one Puerto-Rican electrician and radio technician). They set up shop in the Orma garage in Addis Ababa and proceeded to train eighty cadets over two years that formed the nuclei of the colonels in the air force.

Robinson had some difficulties with the Swedish pilot, Count Von Rosen, who had also served in Ethiopia. Significantly, Ethiopia's post war air force was largely a Swedish financed and supplied affair - a threatened break of that relationship simply could not be afforded. Robinson resigned from the service to set up Sultan Airlines and an import firm with one of the Emperor Haile Selassie's sons. In addition Robinson and another son of Africa who took up life in Ethiopia, Dr. Talbot, created the educational American Institute. Throughout, Robinson remained a consultant to the Ethiopian Ministry of War.

On March 13, 1954 Robinson volunteered for an emergency flight to deliver blood and crashed. Barely surviving the accident, he died two weeks later in hospital and was mourned by thousands on two continents.

In a National Day Message by Ambassador Aurelia E. Brazeal on February 20, 2003 had this to say about African-American and Ethiopian relations.
During the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, Ethiopia, the uncolonized nation, became a symbol of freedom to the African-American, and often black churches and civic organizations included the word Ethiopian or Abyssinian in the formal names of their organizations to affirm the dignity and self-determination of a free people.

The twentieth century saw many African-Americans come to Ethiopia to work in a spirit of solidarity, especially during the struggle against the Italians. These include people like Colonel John Robinson, an American pilot, who helped Ethiopia defeat the Fascist occupation, and later became an important figure in Ethiopian aviation.

Recognizing the appeal Ethiopia had as an ideal to the African-American community, Ato Yilma Deressa, Ethiopia's Vice-Minister of Finance in 1943, visited Washington, which was then a racially-segregated city, and successfully recruited African-American teachers, technicians and other professionals to come to Ethiopia and assist in its post-war reconstruction.

Among these Americans were William Steen, one of the first editors of the Ethiopian Herald; Edgar Love, headmaster of the Ras Mekonnen School, and several aircraft technicians, who worked alongside Colonel Robinson in the development of civil aviation.

the eagle

Colonel Hubert Fauntleroy Julian with his Packard Bellanca, "The Abyssinia" in 1931. Julian was at the time the holder of the World's Non-Refueling Endurance Record for a flight lasting 84 HRS. and 33 MINS.

Colonel Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, the Black Eagle of Harlem is another little known figure in Ethiopian and American history. He was
the first black person to obtain a pilot's license. Tall, athletic and handsome, he was dubbed "the Lindbergh of his race." Despite constant struggles to raise financial backing for his exploits, he had a brilliant and widely publicized flying career.
The African American Registry has more detail about Julian
From Trinidad, he came from a well-to-do family who sent him to England for school. The dangers during WW I caused the family to move him to Montreal.

By 1921 and having moved to New York, he had become a “gentleman flyer,” a man about town, sharp dresser, etc. He was a supporter of Marcus Garvey and in 1922 flew his plane over parades in support of Garvey.

In July, 1924, Julian intended to fly to Africa and become the first person to fly solo across the Atlanic Ocean. He dubbed his airplane Ethiopia I and began to raise money for the trip. This attempt failed with a crash into the water off of Flushing New York, and Julian spent the next month in the hospital recovering from injuries. His 1929 Trans-Atlanic flight (was) 2 years after that of Charles Lindbergh.

Julian flew to Ethiopia in 1930, where his flying exploits impressed Emperor Haile Selassie, who awarded Julian Abyssinian citizenship and the rank of Colonel. In 1931 he was the first African-American to fly coast to coast in the United States. Julian was one of several aviators in the 1920s and 1930s who competed in outdoing each other and breifly holding records for longest non-stop flights. In 1931, for example, Julian held the non-stop non-refueling aviation endurance record with a flight of 84 hours and 33 minutes. Julian flew a number of flights in and between the Americas, Europe, and Africa, surviving several crashes. In between major flights he headed and toured with a small all-Black flying circus called The Five Blackbirds.

During the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, Julian flew to Ethiopia to aid in the defense of Selassie's government. He commanded their Ethiopian airforce, which at the time consisted of 3 planes. Yet after getting into a public fist-fight with Black aviator John C. Robinson, he was ordered to leave the country. Beyond aviation, Julian also invented some safety devices used in airplanes ... After the United States entered World War II, Julian volunteered to train for combat with the Tuskegee Airmen. He was a colorful character who wore a non-regulation Colonel's uniform, despite not holding rank with the United States Armed Forces, and was discharged before graduation.
According to Wikepedia
The 14 November 1974 issue of Jet Magazine briefly mentions Julian, saying he was then 77 years of age, and was making plans to rescue Haile Selassie [during the Dergue coup of that year], then believed to be held prisoner by the new government of Ethiopia.

Hubert Fauntleroy Julian died in the borough of the Bronx, New York City, in February 1983. His passing went largely unnoticed.
There is a history of the distinguished Tuskegee Airman here.

Air Vectors has an informative brief on their adventures.

Tuesday, September 21

The Creation of a Nation of Serfs

Herein is the tragic true story of how tens of millions of Ethiopians were transformed into a nation of eternally poor serfs and how the same set of selfish political interests kept them that way.

A serf is
1) A member of the lowest feudal class, attached to the land owned by a lord and required to perform labor in return for certain legal or customary rights.
2) An agricultural laborer under various similar systems, especially in 18th- and 19th-century Russia and eastern Europe.
3)A person in bondage or servitude.

The issue of land reform has been a constant and contentious issue for Ethiopians throughout her modern history. Obviously, the varying degrees of posession that the ruled and the rulers have had of the land defines the Ethiopian experience.

Most economic activity and indeed the continuity of national life has come from the blood, sweat and tears of peasants whose daily life is little removed from their ancestors of millennia past. The effects of a near constant state of war from of a seemingly endless list of invaders and from regular internecine warfare have worsened this tragedy.

Through all of this the culture has often thrived and always survived as generations waited patiently for providence to finally give them a break. Part of the title of this blog comes from the title of a powerful 1975 film by Haile Gerima called Harvest 3,000 Years set in rural Ethiopia and described as
the story of a peasant family´s struggle on the farm of a wealthy feudal landowner. The film´s pace and visual style is geared to the rhythms of daily life, providing a sensitive portrayal of the details and dramas of everyday reality. The drama is set in motion by the teen-age son and daughter who contest traditional social roles, the tyrannical behavior of the landowner and the visionary and revolutionary deeds of the local ´madman´.
The revolution came and it may as well have been planned by a madman for all the good it did. The former Emperor's tardy policy towards the land issue partially brought about the much heralded 1974 revolution that immediately devolved into a coup by a murderous Marxist-Leninist junta. The messianic vision of that revolution's nightmare reality still dominates Ethiopian political thought and policy. At three thousand years and counting, Ethiopians are still waiting for that nod from providence that will have them expect more than survival.

In Ethiopia since that time no peasant farmer has been allowed to own land, to have any confidence of a long term stay on any land or even the right to leave the land as he sees fit. This has had predictably tragic consequences.

Far from being a liberation, the mindless overthrow of the tired old order made things far worse by transforming all Ethiopians into eternal serfs of whatever clique happens to control the government. That ruling clique thus becomes the sole owners of every square meter of land and the masters of every soul in the country.

What was the situation before 1974?

The popular historical conception of land ownership in Ethiopia is one of feudalism. However, this was not universal as this excellent summary of the land reform issue shows. Basically
the tenure system can be understood in a rudimentary way if one examines it in the context of the basic distinction between landownership patterns in the north and those in the south.

Historically, Ethiopia was divided into the northern highlands, which constituted the core of the old Christian kingdom, and the southern highlands, most of which were brought under imperial rule by conquest.
In the north the Rist communal system of "hereditary, inalienable, and inviolable" land rights predominated and most peasants were in some way invested in it.

The northern Gult system was based upon land grants from the Emperor or other rulers whereby the labor of peasants constituted a base of salary for appointees. This system was officially outlawed after 1966.

Other northern tenure systems included samon, mengist and maderia land. Samon land (10-20% of the total) and was owned by the Church. Mengist land (12% of the total)was owned by the government itself while maderia land was given to lesser officials and veterans in lieu of pensions or salaries. Absentee landlords were rare in the north and landlessness was rare but a system more recognizable as feudal predominated in the south
In the southern provinces, however, few farmers owned the land on which they worked. Southern landownership patterns developed as a result of land measurement and land grants following the Ethiopian conquest of the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

After conquest, officials divided southern land equally among the state, the church, and the indigenous population. Warlords who administered the occupied regions received the state's share. They, in turn, redistributed part of their share to their officers and soldiers. The government distributed the church's share among the church hierarchy in the same manner.

Officials divided the rest between the traditional leaders (balabats) and the indigenous people. Thus, the loss of two-thirds of the land to the new landlords and the church made many local people tenants (gebbars). Tenancy in the southern provinces ranged between 65 and 80 percent of the holdings, and tenant payments to landowners averaged as high as 50 percent of the produce.
There were some attempts by the Imperial government to improve the lot of farmers. Here some projects in the South are described.
In 1971 the Ministry of Agriculture introduced the Minimum Package Program (MPP) to bring about economic and social changes. The MPP included credit for the purchase of items such as fertilizers, improved seeds, and pesticides; innovative extension services; the establishment of cooperatives; and the provision of infrastructure, mainly water supply and all-weather roads.

Although the MPPs improved the agricultural productivity of farmers, particularly in the project areas, there were many problems associated with discrimination against small farmers (because of a restrictive credit system that favored big landowners) and tenant eviction.

Imperial government policy permitting investors to import fertilizers, pesticides, tractors and combines, and (until 1973) fuel free of import duties encouraged the rapid expansion of large-scale commercial farming. As a result, agriculture continued to grow, albeit below the population growth rate.
In the most basic interests of justice and national development the land tenure systems had to be changed. However, Marxist-Leninist junta, the Dergue, (scroll down to the end of Chapter 1 for sections on the Mengistu regime and Ethiopia in crisis) proclaimed a sweeping nationalization of all land in 1975 that had disastrous consequences in the near and short term. The raw deal of no ownership of any kind handed to all Ethiopians at that time is still honored by the current government.

How could a country opt for serfdom?

The Emperor's Clothes (no link available) is a memoir by Gaitachew Bekele. This valuable book chronicles the author's service from his days as a teenage resistance fighter against the Italian occupation through to the revolution of 1974.

Near the end of his service he was part of a land reform committee that included Cabinet Ministers and some members of the Dergue (the communist junta that took power in 1974). His observations are revealing.
It was interesting that those educated in the West held the most radical views, favoring the nationalization of land and the reorganization of agriculture along collective lines. Those who had been trained in the East and had been given the opportunity of studying collective agriculture firsthand knew it had one important failing - despite all its apparent attractions, it did not work.
After much debate the committee finally decided against a communist style communal system but the Dergue insisted on a minority report from the radical members which they pushed through. The Dergue was scrambling around for a way to justify its rule beyond the fact that it controlled the Army and had a willingness to use lethal force. They found that justification in the catechism of Marxist-Leninism that was romanticized in the ivory towers of a West that utterly rejected it in practice.

Because Communism had such a natural jealousy towards any other form of thought it could guarantee dictatorial power while justifying it as effectively as a Medieval lord tortured his people with a sense of divine right. Power was the only issue involved. By the 1970s it was certainly clear to the Eastern bloc educated Ethiopians and to any casual observer that Communism was a failure at providing any human rights or prosperity. It was only successful if it was judged by its ability to give absolute power to a tiny ruling clique.

The results of Communist land policies were so predictably disastrous that even the advice of the 'fraternal socialist countries' the Soviet Union and Cuba was for the Dergue to go slow on nationalization according to Ethiopia: the United States and the Soviet Union (no link available). Even that advice was ignored and in March of 1975 all land was nationalized. Ato Gaitachew goes on to say
The result of the Derg's [sic] decision was the most savage and prolonged famine in Ethiopian history.
The sheer idiocy of those radical policies is on exhibit in this July 1976 interview from African Development Magazine (no link available) with the then 'Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Land Reform and Settlement'

The interviewer asks about the new Peasant Associations and Collective Farms
Do you think a "kulak" class will emerge within the associations and take control of them?
The communist bureaucrat answers
The question of a kulak class is a problem, but I believe that adequate precautions can be taken to deal with this. The appearance of wealthy peasants will depend upon land not being redistributed within the peasant associations and their consciousness not being raised by a programme of political education ... So we hope that such redistribution will provide for a redistribution of power that will ensure a kulak class does not emerge.
How did kulaks ever hurt anybody? After all they are nothing but farmers slightly more prosperous than their neighbors. The jealous gods of revolution can't tolerate any form of human advancement that it outside of party control.

Note the absurd set of assumptions shared by both the interviewer and bureaucrat that a system in which everyone is equally destitute is desireable and that anyone who improves their lot is a threat. Stalin sums up this idea in this statement
We have gone over from a policy of limiting the exploiting tendencies of the kulak to a policy of liquidating the kulak as a class.
The frankly murderous intent of Stalin is not far removed from that of several criminally deluded generations of world 'intellectuals', bureaucrats and so called visionary ideological leaders whose essentially corrupt vision of man destroyed tens of millions of lives. If this was the standard fare offered by a magazine titled African Development, no one should be suprised by the current state of most African economies.

So what happened?

There was a ban on all hiring of labor for farming, peasants could only sell through the new government Agricultural Marketing Corportation at a fixed low price and many peasants were forced into failing collective farms. In the north the policy was immediately a failure. In the south some families were initially better off but very quickly their prospects were driven sharply back by the lack of freedom and security.

Overall there was a sustained fall in per capita food production.
Government attempts to implement land reform also created problems related to land fragmentation, insecurity of tenure, and shortages of farm inputs and tools. Peasant associations often were periodically compelled to redistribute land to accommodate young families or new households moving into their area. The process meant not only smaller farms but also the fragmentation of holdings, which were often scattered into small plots to give families land of comparable quality.

The second problem related to security of tenure, which was threatened by increasing pressure to redistribute land and to collectivize farms. Many peasants were reluctant to improve their land because they were afraid that they would not receive adequate compensation for upgrades. The third problem developed as a result of the military government's failure to provide farmers with basic items like seeds, oxen, and fertilizer.
In this report (scroll down to the end of Chapter 1 to Ethiopia in crisis) we can see what resulted. In 1984 and the years after the West fed those who survived the one million plus death toll but it must be emphasized that government policy caused the famine. Poor people suffer drought but only the utterly disenfanchised suffer famine. The government hampered aid deliveries to rebel held areas, charged aid organizations exhorbitant port fees for grain shipments and indeed had already taken away much of the seed holdings of peasants in the form of taxes so that there could be little recovery even when rains returned.

That year the Dergue spent millions importing Johnny Walker whiskey to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their taking power while dependent on American aid to feed their people. (Saddam imported the same whiskey for his Republican Guards using siphoned oil for food money).

How about right now?

Today the country remains in the grip of cyclical famines and unworkable schemes. Every year millions are kept alive by the West. According to this 2003 article from the World Press Review
Ethiopia is what development experts call “chronically food insecure.” For a nation that relies on rain-fed agriculture and Iron Age agricultural techniques, drought means famine. When the rains fail, so does the harvest. The immediate cause of the latest disaster is drought. The ruling party maintains that “the delay of the main rains of between one and one-and-a-half months magnified the effects of the drought,” wrote The Reporter (Dec. 25). But, countered the Addis Tribune (Dec. 20), drought would not have turned into a food crisis if not for the “neurotic bunch of incompetent oligarchs” in the administration, who “failed to make any prudent revision of their failed policies” and “stone age practices.”

Many people are working on small amounts of exhausted land. They plant maize and sorghum, high-yield crops that depend on rain. Lack of roads makes it hard for them to get their crops to market, and they are burdened with taxes on the land they lease from the state. Opposition parties blame the government for faulty policies on land ownership, lack of forest planting, and not encouraging farmers to use better yields of seed and better ways of farming.
In Ethiopia’s Struggle over Land Reform the World Press Review elaborates
Since 1984’s much-photographed famine, Ethiopia has experienced more than seven famines—with far less world attention. However, successive governments have quietly tried different ways to improve agricultural output in a bid to resolve the root problem. Still, the latest drought in 2003 left 13.2 million people in need of food aid.

Although regular rains are crucial to crops—as only 1 percent of the land is irrigated—drought is not the only cause of famine in Ethiopia. Other causes include the practice of intensive cultivation, deforestation, soil erosion, and a wood-fuel crisis, says a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report published in November 2003.

Add to that the potentially divisive and contentious issue of land—and you have a complex range of reasons for hunger in Ethiopia. However, many experts say population is not the main problem—rather, it is the absence of coherent policies to tackle poverty, which currently affects 82 percent of the population, who live on less than a dollar a day.

A group of Ethiopian economists says there is a direct link between famines and the land-tenure system. Lacking the security that comes with land ownership, farmers will not invest in improving fertility, or plant trees, or build terraces to stop soil erosion. The problem, the independent Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA) adds, is that the current civilian government, by making land a constitutional subject, will not brook any discussion on state ownership of land.

An EEA study shows that 46 percent of farmers prefer the existing land- tenure system, while 32 percent want land to be privatized. Almost 85 percent of Ethiopia’s 69 million people live in rural areas.
It is hard to believe these numbers to any degree. There is no history of political freedom or of opinion in Ethiopia. Any peasant who has never heard of opinion surveys and is approached by a foreigner or offical of any kind with such exquisitely sensitive questions would consider his own interests in terms of family, freedom and land security before criticizing the government in any way.

Indeed, according to "An Analysis of the New Consitution and the Process of Its Adoption" from the Journal of Northeast African Studies Volume 3, number 2 1996 (no link available) citizen participation in staged 'voluntary' mass discussions about the Constitution was coerced by the government with threats of cessation of "sales of sugar, edible oils, soap and salt at kebele* shops - an especially effective inducement in the countryside". This is a situation reminiscent of the 'company stores' that West Virginia coal miners and the former slaveowner-landlord's ledger books that Southern sharecroppers depended on to survive. Neither company stores nor kebeles are conducive environments for free and democratic expression.

*Kebeles are local government organizations, like peasant associations, that were the main instruments of state terror under the Dergue regime. Today they remain the main point of contact that people have with the government in the form of the collection of local taxes as well as the registration of houses, residents, births, deaths, marriages, identification cards and all important evaluations of political reliability and loyalty to the government.

A look at Human Rights reports from Human Rights Watch, the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Amnesty International and the Ethiopian Human Rights Council makes it abundantly clear that the methods of government coercion extends very far beyond the power of kebeles.

Back to the World Press Review
Dessalegn Rahmato, general manager of the independent research institute Forum for Social Studies, says the government wants to hold on to the current system to keep control over rural populations, but warns against privatization, which, he says, donors are pushing as the only alternative to government ownership.

“We can’t just jump onto this privatization bandwagon,” he adds, citing Kenya, which tried privatization and which he says “is now in a mess,” and Latin America, where “the big boys own most of the land and there are many poor landless.”
Authorities such as Hernando de Soto would vigorously dispute this point about free title to land and its importance to numerous developed and developing economies worldwide. In de Soto's words
“Agrarian reform is a process by means of which government assigns lands to the peasants...Until you have universal, well-protected, clear, and transferable private property rights, you cannot have a market economy.

If you take a walk through the countryside, from Indonesia to Peru, and you walk by field after field--in each field a different dog is going to bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all about. The only one who does not know it is the government."
Rahmato's point of view is quite interesting because it meshes with those of some critics of de Soto who feel that his formula does not take into account local cultural conditions. It seems that Rahmato is advocating a at least a partial return to a 'rist' type of tenure system that was prevalent in northern Ethiopia before the disastrous land nationalization of 1975.
Rahmato believes there is a third way—combining community ownership with private ownership, which would allow communities to manage the land and buy plots if farmers decide to sell. Farmers could still sell their plots freely and use their land as an asset for bank loans.

It’s a radical idea, but with little debate over land, the chances of farmers and other ordinary Ethiopians discussing it with government and donor representatives are slim at the moment.
Whatever remedies are discussed any would be preferable to the current situation which is entirely inspired by Marxist-Leninism and exists to secure the rulers position very far above the ruled. Properly managed agricultural and land policies could easily see Ethiopia become a large scale food exporter.
Ethiopia has great agricultural potential because of its vast areas of fertile land, diverse climate, generally adequate rainfall, and large labor pool. Despite this potential, however, Ethiopian agriculture has remained underdeveloped.
The West, particularly the United States, continues to aid the Ethiopian people while their own government has essentially abidcated responsiblity for their food security beyond reporting famines to CNN, the BBC and the United Nations.

The creation and maintenance of a nation of serfs in the pursuit of power is a tragedy and crime for which no end is in sight. Ethiopian state feudalism is alive and well today.

Friday, September 17

Information De-Evolution V - Big Brother?

Big Brother 2004?

Big Brother Is Watching You. Image from Michael Anderson's 1956 adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 (Courtesy of Columbia Pictures Corporation from World Press Review)

In the Information De-Evolution series we have taken a look at the development of Information Technology (IT) and associated issues in Ethiopia.

Information De-Evolution I describes the initial introduction of IT via the telephone and telegraph with an example of initial resistance from conservative elements such as the Church.

Information De-Evolution II describes the current state of IT in terms of the dismally low penetration of technologies such as phone service (even in comparison with poor countries elsewhere in Africa) and the inadequate response of the government monopoly, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC).

Despite the fact that ETC is staffed by dedicated professionals the basic structure of the deliberately Soviet modelled government bureaucracy has prevented proper policies from being introduced. Current 'privitization policies' reveal that the further evolution of IT is discouraged outside of the close control of government or government associated 'private' actors.

On the subject of the potential privitization of the ETC "Internet in Ethiopia Revisited – A Mixed Bag of Progress and Opportunities on-Hold" has some insights
So, the obvious question will be: Will Ethiopian current and potential Internet users benefit from this? Undoubtedly, any relaxation of the current outdated and lethargic regulations will bring some tangible benefits such as quick response to customer demands, reduced interference with private Internet-based businesses (particularly Internet Cafes), etc.

It still remains difficult, however, to suggest that anything less than a free atmosphere for ISP-business will bring very significant changes in Internet penetration. This is not to say that there is a lack of will from the country’s telecom executives; but the fact that the decision making processes, particularly those related with policy and regulations, require a tacit approval from top government leaders is simply non-conducive to the type of unbridled growth Internet penetration has seen time and again in every other part of the world.

To make matters worse from a policy point of view, one of the government ministerial bodies just recommended on April 12, 2002 that Internet access in Ethiopia be exclusively offered by the government! This is clearly worrisome and raises legitimate concerns about the prospects of telecom, particularly Internet, in the country.
Information De-Evolution III looks at the history of computing in Ethiopia and how government monopoly of all related issues hampered the development of that sector in the tried and failed manner perfected by the Soviet Union, the ideological progenitor of the current and past Ethiopian government.

Information De-Evolution IV describes the development of internet technology in the country and how the insistence on a government monopoly has actively discouraged its adoption on a widescale basis.

The IV post noted the revelation that the number of internet subscribers as of 2002 (4073 subscribers according to ICT Focus) was going to be expanded by a further 100,000 in a deal with a U.S. company that dwarfed previous efforts by the sole actors, the government and the U.N. Development Project. With the UNDP plan alone "the number of subscribers will increase from 3,000 to 14,000 throughout the country".

We ended post IV with these thoughts
internet service will still be under government monopoly control which implies ... other forms of control. Since 1996 the private sector, or indeed ETC itself, could have done far more to increase the number of internet connections that have only been promised just this month - if that had been desired.

Perhaps the questions to ask are why the delay lasted most of a decade and why the government is now comfortable with expanding services?
The report of the 'order of magnitude' expansion of internet service included this information - "(t)he project makes use of an electronic voucher distribution (EVD) system that fully automates Internet provision. The system allows customers to register online for Internet services via a prepaid platform". Does this mean that registrants have their online status automatically noted by the system and thus subject to automated tracking?

Suspicions such as those in the previous paragraph have some foundation based upon reports such as this in 2002 from Reporters Without Borders on China
The number of Internet users doubles nearly every six months and the number of websites every year. But this dizzying growth is matched by the authorities' energetic attempts to monitor, censor and repress Internet activity, with tough laws, jailing cyber-dissidents, blocking access to websites, monitoring online forums and shutting down cybercafés.

The tremendous growth of the Internet now makes it technically impossible for the authorities to monitor the content of all the millions of e-mail messages being exchanged around the country. But the regime is still banning users from looking at websites it considers endanger "the social order and the socialist system." The authorities have created a legal arsenal to punish cybercrime and cyber-dissidence.
The active measures by the Chinese government to control information appear to have been enhanced since 2002 by new technologies to make a 'Great Information Wall' a reality by 2004 that may have influenced Ethiopia's belated expansion of internet service.

The new level of control possible is described by the BBC
China's authorities have shown an ambiguous attitude to the rise of internet use.

On the one hand they see it as essential for remaining economically competitive to have a computer literate population.

But on the other hand they fear the open access to information that the internet provides.

So the government has done its best to control internet use through a range of regulations, outlawing all sorts of content from political dissent to gambling.

It blocks access to distant sites and most foreign news organisations.

It calls on internet providers to show what it calls self discipline and has internet police units monitoring online activity, including people surfing in the many thousands of internet cafes.
In this report the BBC describes policies to continually censor text messages from cell phones which in the past defied efforts to control information about SARS - the targets are thought to be political dissidents. The BBC goes on about the ongoing battle that China is waging on the internet and freedom of information here describing an Amnesty International report
There has been a dramatic rise in the number of people detained or sentenced for internet-related offences in China, according to the London-based rights group Amnesty International.

Many of the individuals cited in the report have been denied due process of law and some have been tortured or ill-treated in custody, says Amnesty.
Why does what happens in China matter to Ethiopia? It is the model for the flow of information in Ethiopia according to the Ethiopian government.

Take a look at this article from The Reporter that details the final public debate about the draconian draft press law, thought by many to be the death knell for Ethiopia's already besieged press.
According to observers who followed the meeting, what was more revolting than the restrictive and prohibitive content of the draft press law were the explanations of the Minister of Information himself who officiously told the participants that his government has the right to jam broadcasting, block the internet.

". . .Jamming is not illegal, China does block the internet," the Minister said. "What toppled the governments of eastern European countries were mainly the international broadcasters. We don't want that to be repeated in our country . . ." he added

Publishers, editors and journalists alike vowed to continue their fight against both the content of the draft press law and the intent and purpose of the government.
The admiration for China's restrictions on information and the expressed fear that the events that liberated Eastern Europe from totalitarianism parallel the Ethiopian situation today is a stunning and revealing admission from a government official.

Stating that the "government has the right to jam broadcasting (and) block the internet" is both obvious and wrong. Government has the power in a dictatorship to do whatever it wants and to make anything legal or illegal that it desires. In Woody Allen's wonderful satire of revolution and those it seduces Bananas, the new strongman of a fictional country announces to his captive masses that
From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!
The Marxist military dictatorship that the current government overthrew had laws in the 1970s against 'youths' meeting in groups larger than three for fear of student protests being organized and possible political violence. Tens of thousands were killed for such violations and the merest suspicions of opposition. Does the fact that those deaths would have survived any legal challenge under the Mengistu regime make them somehow acceptable? Of course not!

Past policies indicated that development of the internet was actually being discouraged in Ethiopia long before the 'threat' of information approached Chinese levels. Internet service may be expanded now because technologies have become available at inviting prices to further follow the Chinese example in the realm of control.

One example of how China deserves to be emulated is described in this post China shows the way - Chinese policies towards land reform have provided a clear pass out of the permanent crisis manufactured by policies of state ownership of all land as is the case in Ethiopia. Well, Ethiopian peasants will remain government sharecroppers for the foreseeable future while China's bad policies are the ones pursued.

Given what we have seen with the other issues such as press freedom, food security, national cohesion, empowering peasant farmers and national unity the government always puts its security interests first.

An informed and outspoken population of any size outside of government control is thus a mortal threat to the ruling party.

Wednesday, September 15

WMD Legacy from Mengistu & Mussolini

Global Security has a World Special Weapons Guide that includes some unexpected data on Ethiopian Chemical Weapons development during the 1974-1991 period.
Ethiopia's history with chemical weapons began with Italy's use of mustard gas during the 1935-1936 war in which Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia). In 2001 Ethiopia charged that Italy had left stocks of chemical weapons in Ethiopia from the conflict. Italy has denied leaving any stocks of chemical weapons in Ethiopia. (If Italy admits to leaving stocks in Ethiopia, under the CWC it will be responsible for destroying the material.)

In addition, Ethiopia has long been suspected of an in-house chemical weapons program. Unsubstantiated allegations have been made that Ethiopia used chemical agents against Eritrea in the 1970s and 1980s. Ethiopia was termed a “probable” chemical weapons possessor by Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks, Director of Naval Intelligence, in a statement before the House Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Sea Power, Strategic and Critical Materials, March 7, 1991.

More recently the Congressional Research Service, “Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons and Missiles: The Current Situation and Trends,” Aug. 10, 2001, continues to list Ethiopia as a likely owner of chemical weapons (this report seems to again be citing Rear Admiral Thomas Brooks statement from 1991). Ethiopia signed the CWC in 1993 and ratified it in 1996.
According to this report
Ethiopia ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in May 1996, but has a somewhat checkered history with regard to allegations of chemical weapons use. Charges to that effect surfaced in the late 1970s and continued through the mid 1980s during conflict in Eritrea.

The allegations generally mentioned incapacitating rather than lethal agents, but there were sporadic references to the use of nerve gas (supplied by the Soviet Union). The Ethiopian government adamantly denied the charges. Although some sources do not view Ethiopia as currently capable of producing chemical weapons, a 1989 compilation of open-source materials listed Ethiopia as probably either developing, possessing, or producing chemical weapons.
The current Ethiopian government has behaved correctly in this regard and chemical weapons activities date back to the openly murderous Mengistu regime (scroll down to the end of Chapter 1) which was overthrown in 1991 following decades of bitterly fought internal wars, deliberate famines and other horrors. Mengistu is currently a guest of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe - local press reactions to his presence are here and here.

On the Italian front as late as 2001 chemical weapons were still not a dead issue. Italy may have brought up to 80,000 tons of chemicals into Ethiopia during the 1935 invasion. The Ethiopian government states that “persistent attempts to get Italy to comply with its international obligations have failed.” The Italians disagree - as late as 2002 they denied that any such weapons remained in Ethiopia according to records from 1935-36.

Despite the advantages that industrialized first world Italy had over undeveloped third world Ethiopia in 1935, Mussolini's invasion was failing to advance before the use of chemical weapons broke up Haile Selassie's army and laid waste to entire civilian districts.

When Anglo-Ethiopian forces drove the Italians out the fascists did not use WMD. Perhaps as the Italians claim today, the weapons were gone by 1936 or more likely they were worried about eventual British retaliation in kind.

Thankfully chemical weapons did not help Mengistu. The harm they may have done to the Ethiopian people is largely undocumented.

Tuesday, September 14

South Korea's Big Stick

There are new nuclear developments from the Korean peninsula. This time South Korea is in the hot seat (on purpose?).

The story is reported in Time Magazine "Awkward Fallout: Seoul's admission of nuclear experiments raises uncomfortable questions"
Four years ago, a handful of scientists at a government-run South Korean nuclear research institute were experimenting with a gun that blasts laser beams at elements like gadolinium. The experiments weren't successful and the scientists decided to dismantle the equipment. But before they did, somebody suggested using the laser to enrich uranium—a process that produces the fuel for one type of nuclear bomb. "Scientists are full of curiosity," explains Chang In Soon, president of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, where the experiment took place. "They're interested in this kind of thing."

That unlikely tale was Seoul's explanation last week for the startling news that its scientists had been caught enriching uranium—the very activity Washington is trying to get North Korea to halt. (Pyongyang also has a plutonium-based weapons program, the focus of continuing six-nation negotiations.) South Korea foreswore its nuclear weapons program in 1975, and has since been under the inspection regime of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. Last February, the government signed a protocol giving the IAEA the right to more information and to inspect sites anywhere in the country. Seoul had six months to make a full declaration of its nuclear research, and the IAEA started asking uncomfortable questions about the institute in Daejon.

On Thursday, a Science and Technology Ministry spokesman admitted that scientists there produced 0.2 grams of enriched uranium in 2000. (At least 10 kilos are needed to fuel a weapon.) Late last week, the government said it wasn't sure whether it had violated its nonproliferation commitments.

There is no evidence that Seoul is trying to go nuclear, but the revelation couldn't have come at a more awkward time. "This incident is extremely unhelpful and damaging," says a Western diplomat in Vienna. He says Seoul must be dealt with sternly or countries like North Korea and Iran might reasonably object that they've been unfairly vilified for developing their own nuclear programs. Not surprisingly, Seoul is in serious spin mode. Across the DMZ, North Korea's Kim Jong Il must be enjoying a quiet chuckle at its expense.
In the Washington Post South Korean officials insist that
South Korea has never had, and does not have, enrichment or nuclear reprocessing programs, let alone a weaponization program," said Oh Joon, an official in South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

Oh referred to the 2000 enrichment test -- conducted at a nuclear research center south of Seoul -- as an "isolated scientific experiment" and dismissed comparisons between it and suspected nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

"Since this was a one-time, isolated scientific experiment, not part of any enrichment or weaponization program, we think this should not, and will not, have any impact on the ongoing six-nation nuclear talks" Oh said.
North Korea's Kim Jong Il is not having a quiet chuckle about this news and of course it will have an enormous impact on the ongoing six-nation talks as well as the strategic balance in Asia. The South Korean revelations are probably not a secret that just now got out somehow but a matter of carefully calculated state policy. Basically, Seoul is letting the world know what it is capable of doing and deliberately raising questions about what else it may have already done regarding nuclear research and arms.

Earlier this summer the U.S. announced a major withdrawal of forces from South Korea that had been stationed right up on the DMZ for over fifty years. This move was motivated in part because America had other pressing military obligations in Iraq, for example, and accompanied plans to redeploy troops from Western Europe.

Washington justified the plans by noting that Korea was a prosperous and vibrant democracy with first rate armed forces that no longer needed an American 'trip wire' on their northern border guaranteeing U.S. involvement in the event of war. Rather, even American forces that remained would be deployed further back with options for more flexibility if needed.

These decisions were made amidst stalled multilateral talks to convince North Korea to give up its own nuclear program. North Korea has one of the largest military establishments in the world and all of it is pointed southwards. Indeed, North Korea is more a Communist party and army grafted onto a country than a country that happens to be well armed.

This despite the fact that it has largely failed to function as a society capable of any more than maintaining its current regime and threatening its neighbors and the U.S., who in turn actually feed the North Korean people and provide other desperately needed aid.

South Korea's dealings with the North have been curious. Large elements of the population and at times Seoul act as though they were bystanders to a problem between morally equivalent U.S. and North Korea intransigence. In "Seoul Tries Hard to Keep Its 'Sunshine Policy' Free of Clouds" the New York Times (registration required) reports on Seoul's relations with the North. Despite great efforts
Few South Korean overtures are reciprocated. For example, under bills now in the National Assembly, South Koreans would be allowed to freely access North Korean Web sites and to travel to North Korea. South Korea's official defense papers would no longer describe North Korea as "the main enemy." Other bills would end national security laws banning advocacy of North Korea's Communist system.

None of these moves has been met with a wisp of a concession from North Korea. Instead, North Korea recently restricted cellphone use and travel to China.

"What is needed is a phased development program that draws the North Koreans out and opens them up," said C. Kenneth Quinones, an American aid worker who recently spent several days in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. "But South Korea is doing a hodgepodge that is not going anywhere. The North Koreans are getting everything they need, without giving anything back."
This looks startingly like appeasement. This 'Sunshine Policy' to the evidently hostile North Korea probably made the Bush Administration decide that it was time for Seoul to take its own security more seriously. It is also probably because of the failure of the 'Sunshine Policy' that the world has learned now of South Korea's nuclear potential.

Kim Jong Il is certainly an intended recipient of this message in addition to Russia and China who have been slow to pressure the North in the nuclear talks. Neither wants a nuclear arms race in East Asia that may draw in Taiwan and Japan.

Why should anyone be surprised if this were the case? Imagine the world from the South Korean point of view during the early 1970s: The U.S. was leaving South Vietnam despite an enormous commitment of blood and prestige. Among the victors were Moscow and Beijing.

Both represented independent and broad spectrum threats to South Korea and they were also the major patrons of a North Korea which was as always hostile and dedicated to conquest of the South. To many observers at the time America seemed to be in retreat and the Soviets ascendant worldwide.

The eventual Sino-American alliance against the Soviets may not have made things much better from Seoul's point of view. As a result the North turned more solidly towards the Soviets and after Mao's death Deng started reforms that changed China from a paper tiger to a real Asian power.

Remember that despite Mao's belligerence and small nuclear arsenal, his basic policies evident in disasters such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution kept China quite weak, poor and far removed from any ability to project power for several decades.

According to Global Security
South Korea began a nuclear weapons program in 1970, in response to the Nixon Doctrine's emphasis on self-defense for Asian allies. Following the withdrawal of 26,000 American troops, the South Korean government established a Weapons Exploitation Committee, which decided to pursue nuclear weapons. By 1975 the US had pressured France into not delivering a reprocessing facility, effectiely ending attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Under pressure from the United States, Korea ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on 23 April 1975. Although President Park Chung-Hee said in 1977 that South Korea would not develop nuclear weapons, he continued a clandestine program that only ended with his assassination in October 1979.

South Korea may have had plans in the 1980s to develop nuclear weapons to deter an attack by the North. The plans were reported to have been dropped under US pressure. However, the reports seem to have emanated in the form of hearsay from a South Korean opposition legislator, with no confirmation from US or South Korean officials, or independent sources. The United States remained concerned, as indicated by the "special" inspections that the US conducts at the center of Seoul's nuclear research, the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) located at Daeduk, near the city of Taejon. The United States maintains a ban on plutonium being supplied to the South Korea.
Now Seoul says that in 1982 just a few short years after both the supposed and secret ends of the South Korean program that plutonium extraction was taking place. The end of the Cold War brought about hopes that peaceful reconciliation with the North was possible but it clearly did not work. The same old struggle of totalitarian aggression and the need to resist was further complicated by a nuclear North Korea on the verge of collapse.

Two other nations in the region Taiwan and Japan have already demonstrated some of the interest and every bit of the ability to quickly deploy nuclear arsenals if needed.

To quote Teddy Roosevelt it seems that the South Korean government now 'will speak softly AND carry a big stick'.

Monday, September 13

Cocaine 2.0 - Coca Cola to Crack

Back Across the Pond

Cocaine had a far larger impact on the U.S. than it did in Europe. From cocaine.org
Coca-cola was introduced in 1886 as "a valuable brain-tonic and cure for all nervous afflictions". Coca-cola was promoted as a temperance drink "offering the virtues of coca without the vices of alcohol". The new beverage was invigorating and popular. Until 1903, a typical serving contained around 60mg of cocaine. Sold today, it still contains an extract of coca-leaves. The Coca-Cola Company imports eight tons from South America each year. Nowadays the leaves are used only for flavouring since the drug has been removed.
Snopes.com, the Urban Legends Reference Pages, clarifies the relationship between cocaine and Coke
in 1885 it was far from uncommon to use cocaine in patent medicines (which is what Coca-Cola was originally marketed as) and other medical potions. When it first became general knowledge that cocaine could be harmful, the backroom chemists who comprised Coca-Cola at the time (long before it became the huge company we now know) did everything they could with the technology they had available at the time to remove every trace of cocaine from the beverage. What was left behind (until the technology improved enough for it all to be removed) wasn't enough to give a fly a buzz.

(b)y 1902 it was as little as 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup. Coca-Cola didn't become completely cocaine-free until 1929, but there was scarcely any of the drug left in the drink by then
Of course, cocaine seeped into American culture despite its removal from Coca-Cola - for example, back in the Roaring Twenties the noted song writer Cole Porter penned the lyrics
"I get no kick from champagne,
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?
Some get a kick from cocaine.
I'm sure that if I took even one sniff.
That would bore me terrific'ly too.
Yet I get a kick out of you."
The drug was an open secret among the rich and some artists despite government efforts that are documented at cocaineabuse.net
At the dawn of the twentieth century however, anti-cocaine legislation grew considerably. People began to see the rise of violence among abusers of the drug in the lower socioeconomic stratum and a rise in the awareness of cocaine’s harmful physical effects. The first Federal Legislation regarding cocaine was with the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act that required products precisely label the content therein. And in 1914, US Congress passed the Harrison Act that imposed taxes on products containing cocaine. Soon, Drug Enforcement Officials quickly transformed the law to prohibit all recreational use of cocaine.

As legislation and enforcement thereof stiffened so the general use of the drug decreased, and by 1930 synthetic stimulants like amphetamine became available and replaced much of the black market for cocaine. The drug began to be used almost strictly by artists and entertainers and as an occasional alternative for heroin addicts. However, in the 1960’s we saw an increase in the use of all drugs, including cocaine and through the 1970’s and 1980’s cocaine use increased steadily among the younger populations. And as medically prescribed amphetamine became less available, and the prices of other drugs like marijuana increased cocaine enjoyed a steep rise in popularity.
Now for more history by pop culture. Back in 1972 during the era of Blaxploitation movies Ron O'Neal's Superfly was a drug dealer who wore a coke spoon around his neck and most viewers were outraged. However, in 1984 the TV show Miami Vice was purportedly based on the standard cops and robbers format but treated the then violent cocaine infused criminal subculture of Southern Florida with a romantic eye and something approaching reverence. In the popular imagination, the twisted 'romance' with the drug may have actually begun with the 1983 coke epic Scarface.

Cocaine for the Masses

There is an old saying that when 'America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia'. The story of cocaine at this point becomes to a tragic degree a story of suffering in Black and Hispanic America. This is reflected in the transformation of that popular fascination into that violent offshoot of hip hop culture - Gangsta Rap. Its thuggish racial caricatures, violence, misogyny and crass worship of money, however acquired, quite clearly reflect the dead end nihilistic worldview of Al Pacino's Tony Montanna in Scarface.

The most destructive aspects of life that Gangsta Rap celebrates and the criminal life it glorifies were a direct result of the coming of cocaine for the masses in the form of crack. Human life that cocaine had previously damaged on a limited basis because of cost was then destroyed on a veritable assembly line of mass violence - all at affordable prices. By the early 1990s odes to cocaine had changed from Cole Porter's style to a norm of lyrics such as these from the 'Chronic' by Dr. Dre.
"Rat tat tat tat,
Cause I never hesitate to put a n****r on his back."
Let us go back to cocaineabuse.net
By the early 80’s the use of freebase cocaine became popular among those searching for the “highest” high. Freebase is a form of cocaine produced when the user takes cocaine hydrochloride and mixes it with a liquid base such as baking soda or ammonia to remove the hydrochloric acid and then dissolving the resultant alkaloidal cocaine in a solvent, such as ether and heating it to evaporate the liquid. The result is pure smokable cocaine.

Although this seemed to be a way of getting the most out of cocaine, users were uncomfortable with the volatile process of cooking down the solvent mixture. Around 1985 the drug dealers got wise to the idea of a more potent form of cocaine. The conversion process in freebasing was dangerous and time consuming and was not suitable for mass production.

This was when Crack became the option. In the conversion process of Crack, the drug is similarly cooked down to a smokeable substance, but the risky process of removing the impurities and hydrochloric acid is taken out. So all that is required is baking soda, water and a heat source, often a home oven.
The movie Menace II Society has a scene with this process shown in stunning detail. Wikepedia has this to say about crack cocaine and its origins.
Sometime in the early 1980s, probably in the Bahamas, it was discovered that expensive reverse–engineering was not necessary to make a smokable paste, and in fact one could process cocaine with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water, and then heating it to remove the hydrochloride; thus producing a form of cocaine that can be smoked — what has been since the mid–1980s been known as "rock" or "crack" cocaine. (The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound which is made when the mixture is heated, while "rock" refers to the physical appearance of the compound.)

Users originally began mixing cocaine with ammonia to test the purity of their product. This process removes any impurities from the cocaine and allows the user to determine the amount of pure cocaine remaining. No longer dependent on high–quality cocaine or an expensive chemical process, users now had an extremely cheap form of smokable cocaine. This new process became popular soon after a coup in Bolivia flooded the world market with cheap cocaine.

Crack cocaine, is often sold in small, inexpensive dosage units frequently known as "nickels" or "nickel rocks" (referring to the price of $5.00), and also "dimes" or "dime rocks" ($10.00). The quantity provided by a "nickel" or "dime" rock varies depending upon many factors, such as geographic location or availability.
Again back to cocaineabuse.net
As this process allowed a person to essentially get more bang out of their buck, by delivering the drug more efficiently, we saw cocaine become available to the lower socioeconomic stratum. This gave rise to the “Crack epidemic” and all classes from low to high became affected by the scourge of cocaine use spreading across the US.
The sudden intense high cost relatively little and did not last long making all the more addictive - there are no casual users of crack. Quite soon users needed crack to get high but to feel even barely normal as their level of functioning plummets. Unlike the usual somnelence that follows abuse of heroin, use of crack can lead to such high levels of hyperactivity and violence in the pursuit of more money and more highs that has made some inner city areas nostalgic for the relatively peaceful days of king heroin. From The National Institute of Drug Abuse
The duration of cocaine's immediate euphoric effects, which include hyper-stimulation, reduced fatigue, and mental clarity, depends on the route of administration. The faster the absorption, the more intense the high. On the other hand, the faster the absorption, the shorter the duration of action. The high from snorting may last 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Increased use can reduce the period of stimulation.

Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. An appreciable tolerance to the high may be developed, and many addicts report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure. Scientific evidence suggests that the powerful neuropsychologic reinforcing property of cocaine is responsible for an individual's continued use, despite harmful physical and social consequences.

High doses of cocaine and/or prolonged use can trigger paranoia. Smoking crack cocaine can produce a particularly aggressive paranoid behavior in users. When addicted individuals stop using cocaine, they often become depressed. This also may lead to further cocaine use to alleviate depression.
From a Neurobiology Department paper at Berkeley
Annual crime rate provided by FBI was based on number of crimes per 100,000 residents within that area. Although there's considerable variation in crime rates by the FBI, central cities are more crime-ridden than the suburbs. For this particular manuscript, it is better to observed the crime rates in central cities before and after the introduction of crack cocaine. For most of the offenses in the crime categories, results seem to suggest that the emergence of crack had a significant influence in the rise of these particular crimes. For example, the effect on murder indicates that crack cocaine caused murder rates to rise by 4.4 per 100,000 population, an amount equal to 18.7 percent (+/- 2.7) of the before-crack murder rate in the central cities. The statistics for robbery (up 27%) and aggravate assault (up ~50%) provide ample evidence for crack cocaine causing crime rates to increase substantially.

Although there are multiple ways that this technological innovation (crack) of the mid 1980s' have affect(ed) the community, the three main consequence discussed in this manuscript are : (1) destruction of a strong nuclear family household (2) driving out middle and working- class Americans from their crack infested communities (3) disintegration of the education system.

Crack cocaine's most significant influence in leading to social erosion in urban cities is in the destruction of the nuclear family household. Attacking at the heart of the community (the family), this drug gave young, poor kids new heroes and role models to look up to. Notorious crack dealers were given legendary status on the streets by supplanting fathers as the new authoritative figures. Flashing gold watches and driving nice cars, it wasn't too easy for these "new-age businessmen" to induced young and impressionable teenagers to join their new family. The phenomenon occurred at a time when the family household of these communities could least afford it.

In the 1980s', ghetto communities saw a mass exodus of middle and working-class citizens. This mass migration seem to have occurred at about the same time as the introduction of crack cocaine in these cities. It is still debatable as to whether it was the crack cocaine that led to the migration or vice versa. Which ever the case may be, the emergence of crack did not seem to have help(ed to) halt the mass exodus of hard working professionals from cities that were depriving of social and economic constants. It was these same citizens that were keeping the community together by reinforcing societal norms and values.

They provided their cities with a stable and moral environment which soon were displaced by depravity and violence of the crack age. Joblessness caused by the lack of investment of businessmen into these communities skyrocketed further by the crack cocaine explosion of the mid 1980s'. Armies of crack dealers implanted themselves securely into these societies while driving away investors and hard working citizens.
In recent years the crack epidemic has abated from its previous nightmare levels but it remains a serious danger. It is possible that many users burned themselves out, were jailed or died that the drug became less attractive to potential users. The general decrease in crime levels nationwide may have some influence in this that is not clear because both the variables of drug use and crime fall changed at the same time. It is probable that like many cultural phenomena cocaine and crack flow through time and human lives in waves.

America maybe in a relative trough now - that super-cocaine may help to end.

Cocaine 3.0 will follow the cocaine story to Colombia and view the further tragedies it has caused there. Cocaine 4.0 will discuss some of the implications of the coming of super cocaine.

Saturday, September 11

World War IV

9/11 in the U.S.; School siege in Russia; Child Slaves in Sudan; Suicide bombing in Israel; Shi'ite Mosque bombing in Pakistan; Car bomb in Iraq; Australian Embassy bombing in Indonesia; Afghan Woman executed by the Taliban; Nepali hostages killed in Iraq

The Fourth World War is here. This time humanity faces determined enemies who want to bend Islam, one of the world's great religions, to their own private will in the service of a new totalitarian evil. The first three wars were fought against the Central Powers from 1914-18, totalitarian Fascism from 1935-45 and totalitarian Communism from 1945-91.

The enemies were first engaged with (often simultaneous) policies based upon wishful thinking and frank appeasement that were nurtured by civilization's own self doubts, denial and fears. Peace only came when enough people had the final bitter realization that like it or not there was a war going on that was worth winning.

That realization came to most in the U.S. three years ago today. Some countries had been fighting the war for years while a few are just noticing it. Many others in the U.S. and elsewhere remain unconvinced or simply assume they will remain untouched.

It is the same war all over the world and it has to be won.

Friday, September 10

Mass Transit System for Central Shoa?

From the Railway Gazette of March 2004 - Addis Abeba plans interurban light rail.
Proposals are being developed for a 100km rapid transit link between Addis Abeba and Nazareth to relieve transport problems in the Ethiopian capital. Public transport patronage has increased by 43% since 1986, with local buses now handling more than 600 000 passengers a day.

Although described as light rail, the initial route would be an electrified interurban parallelling the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway main line between Addis Abeba and Nazareth. Services would run every 10min, serving 15 intermediate stations including Meskel Flower, Gottera, Ring Road, Kaliti, Akake, Dukem, Debre Ziet and Mojo. As a second phase, this would be augmented by a feeder trolleybus route serving the industrial area south of the capital. Hydro-electric power for both routes would be supplied by the Ethiopian Electric & Power Authority.

Project Director Dr Getachew Betru of GBA Consultancy says the line would be built by a public-private partnership, taking two years to complete. The project has been endorsed by the government, and Betru is hopeful of raising finance from international donors. With patronage of 60 000 passengers a day and a load factor of 65%, Betru believes the line could pay back its private-sector investment within five years.
This is certainly an ambitous project that reveals a reassuring degree of forethought on the part of the Addis Ababa Administration. However, Subways.net is more wary because of the general depressed state of the economy
Unfortunately, many residents enjoy substandard housing without running water, so the prospect of a new rail line seems unusual.
According to the Railroad Association of South Africa
A Mass Rapid Rail Transit Public Network that links the city of Addis Ababa with Nazareth Town and an electric bus way transit between Eastside (Jima Road) and Westside (Megenagna Junction) linking with the southern corridor would be constructed at a cost of one Billion birr [nearly 120mn US dollars] soon, project director said. In a statement he gave here on Thursday [29 January], Dr Getachew Betru said the rapid rail and the bus way transits are interlikned but independent mass transport systems.
Building will reportedly start by early next year. Clearly such a project would have enormous benefits. Any problems will probably be investigated by whoever is putting up the money be it the IMF or World Bank before funds are released.

Thursday, September 9

Cocaine 1.0 - Super Cocaine to Vin Mariani

Super Cocaine

This article should cause great uneasiness around the world

New super strain of coca plant stuns anti-drug officials
Drug traffickers have created a new strain of coca plant that yields up to four times more cocaine than existing plants and promises to revolutionise Colombia’s drugs industry.

The new variety of coca, the raw material for cocaine, was found in an anti-drug operation on the Caribbean coast, on the mountainsides of the Sierra Nevada, long known as a drug-growing region.

Samples of the plant were sent for laboratory analysis and experts then pronounced drugs traffickers had developed a new breed.

"This is a very tall plant," said Colonel Diego Leon Caicedo of the anti-narcotics police. "It has a lot more leaves and a lighter colour than other varieties."

A toxicologist, Camilo Uribe, who studied the coca, said: "The quality and percentage of hydrochloride from each leaf is much better, between 97 and 98 per cent. A normal plant does not get more than 25 per cent, meaning that more drugs and of a higher purity can be extracted."

Experts estimate that the drugs traffickers spent £60 million to develop the new plant, using strains from Peru and crossbreeding them with potent Colombian varieties, as well as engaging in genetic engineering.

The resulting plant has also been bred to resist the gliphosate chemicals developed in the US that are sprayed on drugs crops across Colombia.

While traditional coca plants are dark green and grow to some 5ft, the new strain grows to more than 12ft.

"What we found were not bushes but trees," Col Caicedo said.

Such an investment by drugs traffickers is small compared to the earnings from what is the most lucrative business on earth. Traffickers can produce a kilogram of cocaine for less than £1,500. That kilogram will sell in Miami for £14,000, in London for £34,000 and in Tokyo would bring £50,000.

The discovery threatens to undermine the successes the US-funded crop eradication programme has enjoyed.

Over the last two years, thanks to an unprecedented aerial eradication campaign, Colombian authorities have sprayed hundreds of thousands of hectares of drug crops, reducing narcotics cultivation by more than a third.

Two years ago Colombia produced an estimated 800 tonnes of cocaine a year. That figure is believed to have dropped below 600 tonnes.

On Monday, Mexican authorities signalled a major blow for the drugs-smuggling gangs when they announced the arrest of the man thought to be a leader of a crime organisation responsible for nearly half the cocaine and marijuana entering the United States.

The US had offered a $2 million (£1.1 million) reward for Gilberto Higuera Guerrero’s capture.

However, such success could be immediately wiped out if the potent new coca strain spreads across Colombia.

In the southern province of Putumayo, once the coca capital of Colombia, drug farmers have changed the way they sow crops in the face of repeated aerial fumigations.

"We know the spray planes need a target area of three hectares," said Sebastian Umaya, standing in the middle of a tiny field of coca. "Now we just have smaller fields, but with more intensive farming of the coca bushes."

Should the new strain be introduced, these smaller fields could yield up to four times more drugs and be immune to aerial eradication, meaning anti-narcotic police would have to eradicate them manually, an impossible task in the southern jungle provinces controlled by Marxist rebels.

The introduction of the new coca strain could undermine the efforts of the Oxford-educated president Alvaro Uribe to win the 40-year civil conflict.

By destroying drugs crops, the president was hoping to weaken the warring factions, both Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries, who between them earn more than £500 million a year from drugs.

The US, the primary destination for Colombian drugs, finances the war effort with £400 million a year and has hailed reduction in drug crops as evidence that its war on drugs is finally bearing fruit.
Using cross breeding to 'improve' cocaine plants is not surprising - after all most varieties of roses came to us the same way. The genetic engineering bit is real news here as well as the repurcussions that the new plants will have from Colombia right up the spine of the Americas to a neighborhood near you.

Indeed, these new plants may herald the deadly 'internationalization' of cocaine production and use to Asia, Africa and beyond. But first a brief history ...

The History of Cocaine starts in the Americas

According to cocaine.org
Cocaine is an alkaloid found in leaves of the South American shrub Erythroxylon coca. It is a powerfully reinforcing psychostimulant. The drug induces a sense of exhilaration in the user primarily by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the midbrain.

In pre-Columbian times, the coca leaf was officially reserved for Inca royalty. The natives used coca for mystical, religious, social, nutritional and medicinal purposes. Coqueros exploited its stimulant properties to ward off fatigue and hunger, enhance endurance, and to promote a benign sense of well-being. Coca was initially banned by the Spanish.

In 1551 the Bishop of Cuzco outlawed coca use on pain of death because it was "an evil agent of the Devil". The noted 16th century orthodox Catholic artist Don Diego De Robles declared that "coca is a plant that the devil invented for the total destruction of the natives." But the invaders discovered that without the Incan "gift of the gods", the natives could barely work the fields - or mine gold. So it came to be cultivated even by the Catholic Church. Coca leaves were distributed three or four times a day to the workers during brief rest-breaks.
Over to Europe
Returning Spanish conquistadores introduced coca to Europe. Even Shakespeare may have smoked it - and inhaled.
CNN reported on this possiblity in "Drugs clue to Shakespeare's genius" in 2001. Apparently this is based on "fragments of clay pipes dating back to the 17th century near the garden of England's greatest playwright which have shown traces of cocaine." This type of story makes for a fine headline on slow news days but is quite silly in terms of its standards of proof.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City is built atop the ruins of the tenement slums romanticized in the 1950s musical and later movie "West Side Story". Should anthropologists of the 23rd century then conclude that swichblade knives and zip guns were a vital element of 20th century opera? Any way let us get back to the cocaine story
The coca plant is perishable and travels poorly. Yet coca was touted as "an elixir of life". In 1814, an editorial in Gentleman's Magazine urged researchers to begin experimentation so that coca could be used as "a substitute for food so that people could live a month, now and then, without eating..."

The active ingredient of the coca plant was first isolated in the West by the German chemist Friedrich Gaedcke in 1855; he named it "Erythroxyline". Albert Niemann described an improved purification process for his PhD; he named it "cocaine". Sigmund Freud, an early enthusiast, described cocaine as a magical drug. Freud wrote a song of praise in its honour; and he practised extensive self-experimentation.

To Sherlock Holmes, cocaine was "so transcendentally stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment". Robert Louis Stephenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde during a six-day cocaine-binge. Intrepid polar adventurer Ernest Shackleton explored Antarctica propelled by tablets of Forced March.

Doctors dispensed cocaine as an antidote to morphine addiction. Unfortunately, some of their patients made a habit of combining both.

Cocaine was soon sold over-the-counter. Until 1916, one could buy it at Harrods: a kit labelled "A Welcome Present for Friends at the Front" contained cocaine, morphine, syringes and spare needles. Cocaine was widely used in tonics, toothache cures and patent medicines; in coca cigarettes "guaranteed to lift depression"; and in chocolate cocaine tablets. One fast-selling product, Ryno's Hay Fever and Catarrh Remedy ("for when the nose is stuffed up, red and sore") consisted of 99.9 per cent pure cocaine. Prospective buyers were advised - in the words of pharmaceutical firm Parke-Davis - that cocaine "could make the coward brave, the silent eloquent, and render the sufferer insensitive to pain".

When combined with alcohol, the cocaine alkaloid yields a further potently reinforcing compound, now known to be cocaethylene. Thus cocaine was a popular ingredient in wines, notably Vin Mariani. Coca wine received endorsement from prime-ministers, royalty and even the Pope. Architect Frédérick-Auguste Bartholdi remarked that if only he had used Vin Mariani earlier in his life, then he would have engineered the Statue of Liberty a few hundred meters higher.
Cocaine certainly established itself in Europe but made its presence felt far more strongly in the U.S. Perhaps this was because of cost or simply because of the ease of supply within the Americas where Cocaine 2.0 continues.