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Ethiopia and Syria revisited

By Yilma Bekele

The Syrian regime is killing its own people to save the country from terrorists (ashebariwoch). The world is watching and keeping score. Thanks to social media such as Twitter and Facebook we are all witnessing this display of total madness safely from our home. The missile attack on neighborhoods is televised in living color. The old Soviet tanks lined up outside towns are not defending the country from outsiders but rearing to rain death on their own people. It was only a few years back that such atrocity by dictators was not considered newsworthy. It is not because no one cared but rather because it was done behind closed borders. Things are different now. There is no place to hide.

The last year has been a very {www:tumultuous} year in our neighborhood. We have all witnessed the happenings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. All these countries have imploded from inside. There was no outside interference so to speak of. There was no scapegoat. If you look closely there is one theme that is common to all. The existence of what is called a ‘strong leader’; ‘dictator’ or ‘mad person in charge’ is what is true in every instance. Change was overdue but dictatorship and change are not compatible. Dictatorship cannot be overcome by evolutionary means. Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria are living examples of the validity of that statement.

I am sure the citizens of all those countries would have preferred a peaceful route to bring needed change. I am also sure they for many years, have tried to convince their respective Leaders to accommodate their demands. The upheaval is the result of the inability of the system to fulfill the aspiration of the people. When the needs of the citizen and the wishes of the dictator clash the country enters a very volatile state that can only be resolved by some sort of explosion.

There are controlled explosions and spontaneous explosion. The transition from the Derg to TPLF was a good example of controlled explosion. The transition from the Emperor to the Derg was a very haphazard, creeping and tiring kind of wimpy explosion. The last one standing won. The one with balls but no brains was victorious. Result speaks louder than words.

Syria is entering or has entered that stage. This is the last show and the curtains are coming down. There will be no repeat performance. We all know how it is going to end. By ‘we’ I mean the rest of the world except of course the Syrian ruling lass. All Dictators have a tendency for getting caught by surprise. For some the denial is so strong they don’t even have an escape plan. That is what Gaddafi’s aide said in an interview. The Leader never thought his ‘people’ would be able to gather their nerves and rise up against him. Didn’t he crush their will and personhood? The Idiot was surprised!

Our current object Syria is nothing but a continuation of Arab awakening or “Arab Spring” that originated in Tunisia. But it has its own unique features. In the scheme of Dictatorships in history, it gets a grade of D- at best. It looks like it will only last a single generation. It is nothing to write home about. I do not mean no disrespect or sneer at ours that is gasping to last even a half-life but that is the nature of the business. Africa is littered with wannabe dictators that have lasted less.

The Assad’s have managed to exist by all sorts of trickery and Ponzi scheme. This includes Clannish behavior, benefactor role, blackmail, extortion, assassination and every kind of criminal activity that buys them another day. Today the fabric that has been painstakingly woven is breaking apart. It has run its course and there is no new trick left to prop up the dying system. The Assad’s know it, their Alawit Clan is aware of it and the Syrian people are doing all that they could to hurry matters along.

What exactly is arrayed against the Assad clan is a good question. The main characters all are easy to spot. We are witnessing their cajoling for the best spot after the dust settles. And there are many actors in this farce. The Israelis want a weak Syria with Assad in charge. Their motto is decapitate but not kill. The Jordanians are not thrilled by another crazy regime on the other side of their border. Iraq has already caused a lot of dislocations. The Lebanese are as usual caught between a rock and a hard place. They are keeping a low profile. Turkey is delirious by the opportunity to be seen as an emerging neighborhood bully. Turkey is flexing its muscles.

Iran is depressed. This could not have come at a most unfortunate time. Iran is under siege and it its important ally is jumping from a plane without knowing if the parachute would work. The Mullahs in Quom are not happy and the Islamic Republic will do all that is necessary to prop up the dying regime. The US is walking a tight rope. Mr. Obama does not want anything to complicate matters in this election season. The Israeli Lobby is beating war drums. Mr. Obama has no intention of picking a fight with a powerful constituent no matter what the cause is.

Russia is posturing. Mr. Putin still possess a few not sea worthy submarines prone to accident and rusting nuke Silos and for some reason the West pretends he packs a punch. Clint East Wood would say “Go ahead Vladimir make my day.” Russia’s useless posturing is tolerated because it buys the West time to figure out the volatile situation inside Syria.

The Chinese are looking after number one here. They are thinking “if these foreign devils pass a resolution regarding interference in Syria what is to stop them doing the same when it comes to Tibet?” China is still smarting over being tricked into going along with the invasion of Libya. They have concluded this not to be the time to posture but send scouts to bid on infrastructure building that will definitely follow the mayhem.

Did you notice who I left for last? Yes, good old Syrian people. I am afraid they allowed this abuse by the Assad family and his minority Alawite Clan to go for so long they have become an after thought in the search for a solution to their problem. No one takes their protestations and defiance seriously. Outsiders are looking for a ‘solution’ to impose on them with little or no regard to what they want. It is exactly like what parents say to their child ‘eat your vegetables, it is good for you!’

We Ethiopians are looking closely at the situation in Syria. We have a lot in common. We are both victims of a mad leader and minority clan rule. We both live in a very dangerous neighborhood where others use our precarious existence to wage proxy wars. My interest in writing this paper is to show you what will be done to your country and people in the next few months. I hope you will not feign surprise or pretend you were in the dark. What you see in Syria will be what you will witness in Ethiopia. It won’t be exact but it will be close enough to act as a model. I promise to be the happiest person if I am proven wrong, but that would be flying against facts.

In a very simplistic term this is what we got in Syria. Assad is a second-generation dictator. His power base is the minority Alawite Clan. They consist 12% of the population and occupy all the upper echelons of the military. Security is in the hands of close family members. The economy is used to reward or punish the rest of the population including the majority Sunnis. All media is under the control of the State.

Syria has been in turmoil since March of 2011. The official figure is over seven thousand killed. The Syrian government has killed over seven thousand of its own citizens to stay in power. Bashir and his Alawite Clan are telling the rest of the Syrians either we rule or you all die. It is that simple. He owns a formidable army. Unlike in Egypt the Army is disciplined and controlled better from above. They do not hesitate to fire even into populated areas. Assad, his family and Clan today are feeling like cornered animals. Due to situation they created their escape route is narrowing as we read this. Under the circumstances the only thing to do is pray that the Syrian people put their differences aside and finish this varmint once and for all.

When we look at Syria in the mirror why do I get this feeling that we see Ethiopia. Look at the bright side. This gives us the opportunity to avoid disaster. If we share a common problem and if one of us self-destruct trying a solution I believe the second party should lean from the mistakes and adjust accordingly. That is where we come in. Observe and study all the wrong moves taken by the Dictators and circumvent it before it takes place. I know it is easy said than done. I agree it is not easy for Prime Minster Meles and his group. It is a little naïve to think they are doing this because they are evil or lack the expertise. The simple answer is it is because that is the only way they know how. But it is very easy for us to learn and adopt.

A far as Assad or Meles are concerned the last thirty years has only proved the effectiveness of their method. I said effectiveness not correct and sustainable. Since their inception the use of brute force has been the only way they have resolved any contradiction. The chances of teaching them the value of compromise and the lasting nature of give and take is not possible and utterly a waste of time. It is not going to happen. Gaddafi did not fall for that. Assad will not even consider such farce. The TPLF party is not into committing suicide.

We know they are not capable of learning. I was talking about us. I believe we are capable of learning from the tactics of Gaddafi, Saleh and Assad. Ato Meles is not going to invent a new reality. He is going to act exactly like his friends in a predictable manner. Killing and more killing is the only solution. The assume the more they kill the less we rise up against them. That always worked. Unfortunately once the population gets rid of its fears death is not a valid threat anymore. More killing only breeds more sacrifice and primal anger. Go ask Gaddafi he will tell you what that feels like.

There isn’t much the world can do for the Syrians. Send ‘coffins’ is what a Syrian said in the town of Homs. The Syrians are on their own. May be it will be a good idea to work on our collective responses when the time comes. We Ethiopians are going to find ourselves on our own pretty soon. Thus when you hear the agony of Homs think of Addis Abeba, when they mention Daraa you might as well cry for Dire Dawa when you read the shelling in Hama remember that is what is waiting Hawasa. You might say I exaggerate but really isn’t the same Meles that killed close to three hundred unarmed kids? Isn’t it Meles and company that used their EFFORT lorries to haul any body and everybody to Zuwai, Sendafa etc? Do you think I am being an alarmist?

We have an opportunity to find a way to work together and minimize the damage that is bound to occur when this unfortunate experience implodes on itself. Sergena meta berbere kentesu is not a winning strategy.

Ato Bereket writes a book?

By Yilma Bekele

Did you see what was coming out of North Korea this week? Someone referred to it as the ‘world’s largest display of uncontrollable grief.’ Kim Jung un ‘the Brilliant Comrade’ succeeded his father Kim Jung il ‘the Dear Leader’ who took over from his Grand Father the ‘Great Leader.’ The Korean people are celebrating sixty years under the stewardship of the Kim family? Do you wonder why? How is that possible in this day and age that one family can control a whole nation?

The Korean people are no different than the rest of humanity. There is no outward sign that sets them apart from the rest of us except the system they live under. That is the key to their dilemma. The Kim family and the system they perpetuate is the cause of all this freaky display being beamed out.

The Korean people are kept in ignorance by design. The Kim family motto is ‘Military first.’ It is not because North Koreans have enemies ready to conquer them. In fact North Korea have no enemies other than the Kim family and those aligned with them. The military ‘s mission is to bully, frighten and intimidate the Korean people into submission. The people are the enemy.

There is no independent Television broadcaster, no independent Radio station, no independent Newspaper and no independent Internet provider in the Kingdom of Korea. The Kim family and friends control all of the communications media. They figure that ignorant people are easier to control. You can’t argue with sixty years of success. I was looking and marveling at this phenomenon when I heard the news that Ato Bereket has written a book. You know me I was delirious with joy with the news. I have found my own Kim in my backyard. For some reason Kim of Korea and Meles of Ethiopia converged.

Mind you Ato Bereket have no compelling reason to stick his neck out and display his normal unfamiliarity with rational thought process and his utter contempt for facts and put all that down on paper for all to see. The only explanation I have is this disease of contempt for truth, self-aggrandizement, ego trip and simple garden-variety madness.

I have not read the book yet. To tell you the truth, I have no intention of reading it either. Judging from the inaugural ceremony when the book was made public I figured reading is not a requirement to talk or write about it. I am not going against convention here and read the damn book. My sincere hope is Ato Bereket himself has read the book.

The setting for the unveiling (Addis Sheraton, Lalibela Room) more than made up for the pedestrian quality of the content. It is reported that ‘who is who’ of the Ruling Party was present. The most esteemed benefactor of our motherland, Dr. Sheik Al Amoudi was there. The report does not say if Ato Meles was present or was watching from a remote site. I know from sources that videotaping is standard procedure. The First lady was not present either. I assume they were watching from their bunker.

The book is titled ‘A tale of the two elections.’ The dilemma faced by librarians all over is which category to file the book under. Fact or fiction is a valid question. It purports to be based on facts but from the reviews I get the feeling there is no research and data to support the thesis presented but rather it is a matter of taking the authors assertion as facts. Simple faith is what is called for.
Dr. Sheik Al Amoudi paid for the printing that was done in Kenya for quality purpose. According to the Dr. Sheik who confessed that he has not read the book it is a work of such importance that he recommended it as a ‘must reading’ for our youth. Judging by the glossy cover, beautiful fonts and pretty soft paper its function, as a doorstop will be invaluable. I know I am hating but deservingly.

Next to give his lofty recommendation was none other than Ato Demeke Mekonen, Minster of Education. Unfortunately he has not read the book either but it did not stop him from offering his praise and opinion. In fact he went a step further and added stuff that was not even in the book. Ato Demeke was glad and praised the author for dedicating the book to his comrades from the liberation movement when the reality is that Ato Bereket dedicated his book to his brother. Needless to say the Minster is in favor of adapting it as a textbook for our children.

I knew my friends at Aiga would add their share of cheerleading to this work of historic proportion. I am grateful to Ato Reta Sisay for his blind review. No adjective was spared in his haste to pile the accolades. He boldly compares and equates the book to the work of the celebrated English author Charles Dickens. I have no idea how and why. The only reason why Charles Dickens would be mentioned can only be due to the similarity of the title because the two works have nothing in common what so ever. The Englishman’s book is a work of fiction while Ato Bereket’s book purports to be a historical analysis of what happened yesterday in front of all of us. Ato Reta got carried away.

In my opinion the best un read review is done by none other than Ben of Ethiopia First. He wanted to stay true to the theme of fiction and continued to weave his own tale. When the book was unveiled in Addis, Ben said he was visiting the Great Wall of China. We are grateful he stopped his tourist activity and stayed in his room to write his Blog. How he got hold of the book in China is not clear and to top it all he was writing a testimonial before he even finished reading the book. He said so himself. Ben, Ben, Ben, how many times have you been told to not make shit up!

I found the review written by an individual named Daniel Berhane to be mildly interesting. He seems to be a Party functionary and goes out of his way to show Ato Bereket in a good light despite his failings as the ‘main strategist’ for the 2005 elections. Daniel seems to take advantage of his ethnic affiliation and gives us inside information regarding the Prime Minster’s plan to be called Doctor and the many fiction he has written and are awaiting publication. Ato Daniel states that there was no need for Ato Meles to review the work since Bereket is a premier ‘spin doctor’ in his own right. It is a little confusing when Bereket claims that Ato Meles is the busiest person in the service of his country and Ato Daniel asserts that the PM is busy studying for his PHD. We got a part time student and Prime Minster, and a part time spin-doctor and historian author.

May be I should also mention the write up by Addis Fortune newspaper ‘gossip’ columnist. We are after all in Ethiopia where a few papers are allowed to function pretending all is honky dory and normal while some are hounded out of existence. Our Columnist took a different take on the whole issue. The concern was not what was in the book but rather the perception. It boldly claims the ‘recently released book, the launch of which, at Sheraton Addis, caused so much furor among members of the public.’ Over the top statement considering ‘members of the public’ are eighty million of which seventy nine million nine hundred thousand are not aware of the book nor do they give a damn. Furthermore the Columnist was ticked off and wrote ‘there has been a passionate disapproval by many after seeing a well-heeled businessman speak of a senior government official in a manner that was distasteful, if not repulsive.’ I am sure this disapproval was not followed by not eating the lavish dinner, not drinking the free booze and not lining up to buy an autographed copy. A room full of spineless sycophants is what it looks like. A little harsh but you know what I mean.

The following paragraph from the Fortune article I would like to leave it intact and you the reader be the judge of this madness:
‘Equally, he has been criticised for reaching out to a businessman while his own party, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), could have paid for the printing of the book. He could have received the services of Mega Printing, a subsidiary of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), a party-affiliated company, others criticised.’ I have nothing to add to this crap.

It will be considered rude to finish without saying something about our dear friend, newly minted author and Head of Government Communications Minster good old Bereket Semeon. I will start from the beginning and rely on Ato Tesfaye Gebreab’s first hand description of the times and events. I have no reason to doubt Ato Tesfaye’s meticulous research and incredible memory. We are lucky.

Ato Bereket was born in Gondar to Aboy Gebrehiwot and Weizero Werknesh. He was named Mebrehatu Gebrehiwot. He came of age when our country was in turmoil. Like the youth of his time he joined the struggle to topple the Military regime or Derg. He has an older brother named Kasahune and the book is dedicated to him. Kasahune was born in the province of Eritrea and grew up in Gondar. He joined the EPRP to liberate his country. In my opinion history will show EPRP to be the first modern multi national movement that understood the richness, diversity and strength of the new Ethiopia to be built. Ato Mebrehatu died in a battle between EPRP (EPRF) militia and TPLF army.

History will also show TPLF was established, formed and founded to liberate the province of Tigrai. George Orwell wrote ‘to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.’ The folks of TPLF have the whole of Ethiopia under their nose but they choose to liberate a small sliver of land. This myopic vision never left our fearless leaders.

Back to our tale, upon joining TPLF Mebrehatu changed his name to Bereket. This was a common practice at the time but Mebrehatu went a step further and changed his fathers name too. He wanted a complete transformation I guess. He choose the name of an EPRP combatant from Eritrea that has mysteriously disappeared. It was normal to assume that he might have been killed in battle. It is good to know that the real Ato Bereket Semeone is still alive and was even the Ambassador to France representing the State of Eritrea. Not even Hollywood can dream of such a tale.

Ato Bereket/Mebrehatu did not bother to go into these matters. His book is about the 2005 election and the 2010 Coronation. It is very strange that TPLF folks are trying hard to revise history right under our nose. They have this guilt feeling if at all possible mixed with real fear and are constantly working hard to make us believe they were the victims. I have this strange notion this fiction is authored by none other than Ato Meles/Legesse Zenawi. I consider myself a skilled observer of The TPLF in general and the Politburo in particular. In fact I specialize on three and half individuals as my object of interest.

Based on extensive review of the reviews I have concluded Ato Meles to be the author. The tone and language is vintage Meles. The length (over 300 pages) is standard Meles diatribe and the evil ways he attacks perceived opponents is familiar to us. The book was written to whitewash the crimes of 2005 settle scores with ‘enemies’ and gauge the reception from the one percent. The 99 percent are not part of the equation. I believe Ato Bereket is not wired to come up with such absurd tale and commit it to paper. It requires someone with a lot of time in his hands and the expertise to think smart and act damn. It is a worthy digression from the current malaise. But it is temporary. The economy is stuck, the remittances are still anemic, the constant jabbering of “Spring” is unnerving and the Gadaffi picture is difficult to shake. Most of all I truly enjoy their paranoia regarding Dr. Berhanu. They imprisoned him again and again, they exiled him and they still obsess about him. The more you hate him the more I love him. Bring it baby let us have some more fiction.

I have a few suggestions to our authors. It is easy to talk trash when you are the only one allowed to speak. I will fight for your right to write any book you want but please let others tell their side of the story too. You see your denial of the same rights to others cheapens your work. No one will believe it. What is the point of writing it if it doesn’t shed some light? You might think forcing schools, work places and associations to buy it might give you boasting rights but what is the point if everyone knew it is fake. It will be like your Tehadso project. You call a meeting of the faithful you give them money to donate and you shout how successful it was. This Mamo Kilo moment is not a wining strategy. I will read Ato Bereket’s fiction when he allows others to write their version of reality.

Let Eskinder out of prison, he will show you how to write. Let Reiyot Alemu and Zerihune Gegziabeher out your dungeon and they will show you how to publish using their sweat. Let Andualem Arage out of his confinement and he will teach you how to organize without using force and bribery. This trash publishing business using welfare is not the way of the Ethiopia we envision. I suggest Ato Bereket read his book if nothing else to know what is being said in his name.

Ethiopia – In search of a common ground

By Yilma Bekele

How to manage and resolve conflict has always been our Achilles Heel. That is part of the reason why we stumble from one crisis to another. Last week was a perfect example of an attempt to try to find out a reasonable solution to a problem that arose in our region here in Northern California. I hope it will give us an insight into an exercise in positive behavior that will probably end up in a win-win situation. It made me realize that the scorched earth policy we seem to favor when it comes to resolving differences between us is not a winning strategy and it has not brought us any positive results.

The public transit system serving our area (BART) has been facing mounting criticism from the public due to the strong arm tactics used by the Transit Police. A few weeks ago BART police fatally shot an individual during an arrest. People were not happy about that. A public demonstration was held, a BART station was temporarily closed, and rail service disrupted. The organizers who were using social media as a tool to come together vowed to return the following Friday to continue their public demonstration.

How BART responded to the imminent gathering of angry people is what brought this important discussion into the forefront. BART management decided to meet the threat by pulling the plug on cell phone service for a portion of its stations to disrupt electronic communication. That act completely changed the nature of the problem. Folks wanted to know under whose authority those in charge are allowed to shut down a communications system. It opened a lively constitutional discussion regarding the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment.

Public discussions were held to define the problem. Experts in Constitutional Law were called to clarify the issue. BART board of Directors called a hearing to discuss the ramifications. The people demanded clarity. The core issue became how the First Amendment of the US Constitution was interpreted in action. I will present you the text of the First Amendment as well as two opinions by experts on the Constitution.

Here is the text of the First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

According to Michael Risher of ACLU of Northern California “To be clear, the First Amendment doesn’t protect the right of people to disrupt train service, and the government may impose reasonable restrictions on protest. But they can’t simply shut down a park because they don’t want an unpopular group to come protest there; they shouldn’t be shutting down a communications network just because they don’t like what’s being said on it. That’s contrary to the First Amendment.”

Professor Eugene Volokh of University of California at Los Angles (UCLA) response was “As to the federal constitution, based on press accounts of what the facts are, it seems to be that BART was acting within its constitutional power. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea… but the important thing is that BART was turning off cell phone hardware that was on its property that it either owned or had control over. That’s very different from the government shutting down private networks or interfering with communications on private property or for that matter on streets and parks, which are treated similar to private property in this respect under the First Amendment.”

Watching the discussion and trying to digest the information to make a reasonable assessment has been a teachable moment for me. I noticed the language that the participants used to make their respective points were measured and non-provocative. There were no good guys and bad guys, but people trying to resolve a common problem. There was no anger and none questioned the motives of their opponent. The task at hand was to try to find a lasting solution and avoid future problems. BART directors were not vilified while their decision making process was brought under public scrutiny. This type of environment creates a fertile ground for good ideas to blossom. It brings out the best in all of us and enhances possibility of a positive resolution of the problem. Might I add that the existence of a free and equal environment is what made it all this possible?
I believe that is what is lacking in our social discourse. A civilized way of handling conflicting ideas to be able to reach a reasonable and common ground. Why do I think we suffer from this disease of rigidness and lack of respect for other people’s ideas and opinions? I have two examples of the weakness of our system when it comes to dealing with ideas different than our own.

I wrote an opinion regarding the wisdom of our independent Web sites disseminating interviews with Shaleka Mengistu. I was not dealing with the individual’s right to grant an interview. I believe that is a different issue. Here in California the law does not allow a criminal to profit from his misdeeds. I understand the Shaleka has written a book and part of the interview was to market the product. My issue was the fact of our inability to say enough! That was what I questioned. On the other hand, the discussion that ensued was full of insults, hatred and unreasonable diatribe. I found out folks just don’t disagree and let it go but they take the extra step of questioning my lineage, my integrity and everything associated with me. Unfortunately, the original issue gets lost in this acrimonious festival.

Some said I should stop being angry, a few have forgiven him and they want all of us to do so while others championed his right to speak. I do not agree at all. I believe anger is a reasonable response. Remember, we are the victims. I think a certain amount of disgust is good for the psyche; otherwise, one is bound to be treated like a door mat. You know everybody stepping on you kind. ____ I almost said that is so like us, but I won’t. I will consider the possibility of forgiveness when the criminal shows remorse for his actions and confesses for his untold crimes. I also believe it is my responsibility to speak for my dead people and it is not my place to forgive on their behalf. I truly believe the Shaleka does not have any right to speak. He lost that right when he committed crimes against humanity. Justice demands that he be put on trial, and be hanged until he is dead. His death will serve as a deterrent to future tyrants. That will leave a lasting impression on how not to treat Abeshas. I also believe that asking the Shaleka to advise us in the intricate art of Nation building is the same as asking Ato Meles’s advice on economic growth and the best policy to achieve that goal. Good luck my clueless friends.
The next example is the discussion that has been going around the question of creating a united front against the common enemy and whom to include in this tent. I am assuming we all believe that our country is being mis-governed by the TPLF mafia and that we all want to change that. Please bear in mind the current abusers have been in power for twenty years and we have tried different methods to get rid of them. No one can accuse us of not trying. Failing yes, but definitely most have been doing their best to get rid of this cancer. Reasonable people will look at this situation and try to find out why a very tiny minority of criminals have succeeded in routing the many freedom seekers.

Well some are trying to find the formula that will succeed where others have failed. As the concept implies ‘United Front’ means an amalgamation of those that have a common goal and their attempt to find a way to work together. Organizations have a life of their own. They have their own peculiarities, needs, strengths, and weaknesses, and that is why it has been difficult to achieve unity. It is difficult but not impossible. It has been done before by others and they have succeeded. Why are we having this difficulty time and time again? Is our enemy that formidable or are we that dysfunctional? Is this our first instance to try to unite together, or have we done it before? Is our goal so unappealing that we have problems attracting the many, or does our recurring inability and failure turn people off? We have to mull over all of these are reasonable questions and come up with answers so we can move forward.

Some organizations are in the process of working on such issues to come up with answers that will enhance our ability to confront our abusers. It seems like the folks of Ginbot7, Oromo Liberation Front, Afar Liberation Front and Ogaden Liberation Front are in deep discussion to find a common ground. I am sure the TPLF mafia group is not happy with such a prospect. Reasonably so too! The part I find a little puzzling is the anger by those that are supposedly working to get rid of the same Woyane cancer. One would think they will be overjoyed others are getting together to help them in their common quest. It is even rational to think that they will probe ways of becoming part of such group and try to influence decisions in a democratic and equal manner.

True to our character a few organizations are contorting into knots and showing signs of hysteria beyond reason. Some claim to love Ethiopia more than others and are willing to destroy it to save it. A few are purity police and are constantly on guard to avoid pollution by others whoever they are. The Amhara super Nationalists and the Oromo steroid enhanced separatists are the two interesting groups to watch. When you consider it is these two groups that will greatly benefit from the demise of the mafia system, it is sort of difficult to rationally understand their respective hysteria.

For some of us without any ethnic identity other than being an Ethiopian the whole exercise is a little difficult to digest. For a Nation that is as old as the universe, it is a disconcerting to think today’s arrivals who are questioning the work of their forefathers. When you consider the fact that our country was there before others and by all acceptable standards have a set of internationally recognized boundary; why its own citizens are trying to tear that apart is not clear to many. When the current rulers are in the process of holding a garage sale of our fertile land, and when millions of our people are facing the scourge of famine, is this a good time to come together and avoid catastrophe or revert back into drawing imaginary lines on imaginary Oromia, Tigrai or Amhara enclave?
The lesson I learned from the BART incident in our area is that reasonable people do disagree, but reasonable people hold a quiet and balanced discussion to come up with a solution that might not satisfy all, but that has a reasonable chance of being accepted by many. The point of the exercise was not to win at any cost but find a solution that will bring peace and harmony in the community. All the parties were willing to listen to each other’s concerns and addressed the issue in an even handed manner. There were no losers or winners in this equation. Why couldn’t we do that? Why do we allow the nay Sayers and the belligerent amongst us to hijack the issue and define it in such a way that states that either I am for or against it. Can I be left alone to find a common ground where I can work with all Ethiopians to bring peace, harmony and love to all her children? That is not too much to ask, is it?

Please note that this discussion for good or bad is held on a free Diaspora Media. Here we are free to discuss any issue in a respectful and reasonable manner. Here ideas are not feared or censored. Just because I disagree with some, the sky is not going to fall. I believe we all are intelligent enough to decide what is good for ourselves without undermining others. Our people in Ethiopia cannot do that. There is a communications department that decides what people should view or hear. The Ethiopian government spends millions to block, jam or interfere with free flow of ideas. When our children are hungry the government spends money on technology to keep them dead or alive in the dark. A few decide for eighty million people. Being silent about that is acceptance of abuse. It is wrong. Encouraging our independent Web sites, giving what we could to ESAT and keeping an open mind and a positive outlook on the discussion for unity is what our country demands. That is if you care.

Meles writes Obama

By Yilma Bekele

To my dear friend Barack Obama. I hope this letter finds you well. We are doing fine here in this location that will stay nameless. Except for that little matter of famine, deflation and inflation most things are under control thanks to the Pentagon, IMF, World Bank and hodam Diaspora.

I am writing you this letter to console you on that little loss your party suffered in Massachusetts. I feel your pain. On the other hand I feel compelled to share with you the art of election, politics and staying in power.

My dear Barrack, I am really sorry for not contacting you earlier to share my misgivings regarding your sincere and shallow view of elections. Bereket and myself have long concluded that your candidate was going to lose. I tried to call and warn you plenty of times but as usual most circuits were busy. You have only been in office one year. Take it from a person who has been in charge for over eighteen years governing is not a simple matter. We in this nameless place know it is not for the faint-hearted.

I understand you have mid year elections coming. I hope the debacle in Mass. Has opened your eyes. I would like to share my experience and offer a few suggestions at this time. You might not be aware of it but I was put in the same predicament a while back. It was the first time I tasted the bitter medicine of defeat and humiliation. I was forced to kill a few and jail a lot. I don’t want you to go through the same nightmare. I don’t wish that on no one, not even my nemesis Isaias. Azeb tells me I was impossible to live with. I believe her. I vowed it would never happen again. It took four years of preparations to guarantee a sure victory. I have upgraded the art of dictatorship to a higher level.

Well, here you go buddy this is my blueprint for a successful election. I gave the same advice to your predecessor (remember the Supreme Court decision regarding vote counting in Florida, let us just say I played a little part…wink) but I charged him for it. For you my black friend it is free. Don’t tell Aiga I called you a friend.

I notice you have only two major parties. What kind of choice is that? Here in this nameless place I have organized over fifty. Of course all are subsidiary of TPLF but no one has to know. They are organized as ethnic group based on birth or language. My own cadres change their names and are put in charge until we produce local cadres schooled by TPLF to take over. We were lucky to recruit and train Amhara and Oromo cadres during the time in the field. They are serving with distinction. I am sure you will not have any problem forming one party per state and a few more based on gender and color. In America you got homosexual and trans gender people what ever that is, so go ahead create a party for them too. The more the better. It impresses the ferengis.

Your biggest challenge will be the media. Here (nameless place) I solved that problem in a creative manner. First I amended the definition and requirement of owning means of communication. I created a few of my own and last but not least I have the unruly editors eliminated or exiled. The Reporter is my flagship publication. This might not work for you so another solution is needed. Blackmail and extortion might be more appropriate in your case. I have what is called ‘Musina Commission’. Their office is next door to mine. Here is where I collect all information. Information is power. I am aware you can’t exile your opposition but you sure can blackmail them.

There is also the problem of having your own security. I understand you can’t ask the FBI to do some of the dirty work required to safe guard the smooth operation of the constitutional order. I suggest creating your own force. Federal police and Agazi force has been a lifesaver for me. Your system has all this separation of power and accountability foolishness built into it. I say to you, go around it my dear Barrack. There is nothing empowering like having your own private militia. May I suggest importing some Kenyans from your father’s tribe? They will be loyal to you and most of all since they don’t speak the language there is less chance of contamination. Believe me you will have all these Senators and Representatives cowering in front of you. I know you will drool over a few of my pets here in Arat Kilo. My new addition to the manger has already shown promise of consideration for the presidency after the elections. I am satisfied with his performance both in Mekele and Bahr Dar.

Last but not least let us talk about elections. Remember they do have elections in China and Russia, you see my friend it is just a matter of definition. I suggest you use your new security to kidnap some of the opposition candidates, co-opt a few and jail others until the election is over. Needless to say you should have boxes and ballots processed and ready to be unveiled the evening of the election. I hate to say it but we were caught unprepared during our last election. It took us over six months to reprint and recount. Foreign observers are a curse. Avoid them at all cost. If at all possible demand observers from friendly regimes. I have already put my request for Zimbabwean, Nigerian, and Uzbek observers. Of course we have trained our own observers too. Most wouldn’t find the door in a studio apartment. Sweet.

I have noticed that you address your people with respect and heap all kinds of praise on your subjects. That is a definite no, no. There is nothing they love more than being degraded. It is always a good idea to humiliate them. The more you trample on them the bigger their respect for you. Fear is what humans understand. A leader should be feared. Love is for sissies. I suggest you manufacture a few incidents and use your security forces to show who the boss is. Inter ethnic, inter state or inter faith crisis is what is required to present yourself as a lifesaver. By all means encourage strife and show up to save the day. It is too bad you can’t invade Canada or Mexico. There is nothing like war to rally your subjects around you. Afghanistan is too far. What the heck go ahead and invade Mexico. Illegal alien threat is a good excuse to wave in front of your people.

There are a few kinks I have been tackling with Berket during our daily ‘bercha’. I could arrange a shipment of the best Harar or Yergachefe Kat if you are open to the idea. I find the experience enriching and Berket swears that I come up with the best ideas during our afternoon session. Anyway we still have not figured out what to do in case of a few misguided souls complaining after the election. I doubt I can get away with a little violence like the last time. Thanks to your liberal friends killing a few is not in fashion anymore. Despotism is not what it used to be.

I am a little worried about this renegade group called G7. Despite my request to have their leader deported back, your justice department has ignored me. May be you can intervene on behalf of your new friend. While you are at it could you talk to Gordon Brown and mention the other G7 terrorist in London. I will be indebted to you. Tell you what my friend I have a few well-respected torturers that I will be willing to lend you for your new security. They have impeccable credentials and have served in North Korea and Zimbabwe with distinction. Well Barrack I wish you good luck and please don’t hesitate to call me. I know the circuits are busy but you never know.

Meles Zenawi
TPLF chairman
Prime Minster of name less place
Defense Minister
Finance Minster
NEPAD Chairman

P.S.- Please give my regards to Michelle and Azeb profoundly apologizes for that little incident in Pittsburgh. I promise not to bring her during the next G20 meeting. I know you will help me with the invite. I promise to behave and not follow you around for a Kodak moment. XoXo.

The case for war

This new year fills us with hope that at longlast we are ready to take matters into our own hands. It is a new year, It is a new day. It is a new begining. It is the time to stand up. We remeber the thousands of our children drowing in the Red Sea, disappearing in the jungles of central Africa and made to wither and die in Ogaden. The days of lametation is over. The time has come to act.”

By Yilma Bekele

There are three things important in real estate: location, location, location. Agents never tire mentioning this important fact. What exactly does it mean? Simply put what matters most is not the structure of the house as much as its physical location. It is smart to buy the ugliest house in a good neighborhood than a beautiful palace in a rough area. It is much easier and cheaper to remodel a bad and decrepit structure rather than moving it to a new location.

The importance of location never played such a pivotal role as in the current situation regarding our country. Our location has become our Achilles heel. It is true there was a time when our location worked in our favor. Our mountainous terrain protected us from foreign invaders while the scorching lowlands surrounding us were our natural defense. Isolated from others we were able to enjoy undisturbed peace and our own way of life.

Those days are gone. Today our location is working against us. Our neighborhood has become the center of the so-called ‘terrorist’ incubating ground. There is Somalia the poster child of a ‘failed state’. There is Yemen competing with Somalia for this coveted prize. There is Sudan teetering into civil war and religious fanaticism all rolled into one. There is Eritrea still trying to define it self while standing on a shaky ground.

How is this madness all around us affecting our country is a good question to ponder. I am afraid the prognosis is not favorable. Well at least for the ‘law and order’ contingent amongst us while it is making the cadres deliriously happy. ግር ግር ለሌባ ይመቻል fits this situation.

Somalia was a Godsend to the minority regime. The Bush administration obsession of fighting terrorism found its bedfellow in Ethiopia. The Meles regime was able to play one clan against the other, Jihadist against warlord and enjoy the fireworks. Poor Ethiopia was a scarifical lamb. Nothing was gained for our nation but the TPLF regime was able to ward off any discussion of democratic reforms by appearing to be a pillar of stability in the midst of chaotic neighborhood. The close alliance with the US military paid two dividends. TPLF army was able to get training and surplus arms for low level warfare and the Pentagon replaced State Department in policy formulations.

Sudan was another trouble spot that brought about more misery for our people. The Sudanese tyrants abhorrent policy in Darfur was a good excuse for the West to fan the flames of inter-ethnic animosity. The discovery of oil was all that was need to for the Chinese to enter the fray. The Ethiopian regime saw an opportunity to cozy up with Sudan. The more rogue Sudan becomes the closer it stuck with the minority regime. The cost to our country was loss of territory. The gain for the TPLF regime was a friendly dictator that will deny base of operation for the opposition.

When we thought things were quieting down guess who shows up to increase the stress level. It is none other than Yemen, the new preferred destination of Osama and company. This new situation does not bode well for our country. Surely the West is going to worry more about friendly areas of operation more than the rule of law and human rights. The horn of Africa is the new home of the fight against ‘extremism’. That means our quest for establishing a democratic state is going to be put on the back burner.

It is clear that the minority regime has been able to anticipate the situation correctly and seized the opportunity to endear itself to both the Americans and the Europeans. The opposition on the other hand has abandoned the initiative to the dictatorial regime. The opposition reacts to the shifting agenda set by the TPLF regime. The regime has surpassed its own benchmark due to its ability to create dissent, animosity and lack of trust in the camp of the opposition. Of course one cannot blame the enemy for one’s lack of foresight and resolve. Vacillation is the calling card of the spineless. We are blessed with plenty of spineless wana be leaders.

In spite of the efforts of a few to create confusion a certain notion is entering our everyday discourse. Despite our optimistic outlook the reality on the ground is forcing us to revise our thinking. We are beginning to accept the inevitability of the impending turmoil. The possibility of a violent eruption has become as sure as the sun rising tomorrow. There is no other conclusion. We are watching two trains speeding towards each other traveling on the same track.

Is it due to the worsening economic situation or the elevated paranoia of the police state is a tricky question. It is like who came first the chicken or the egg. Productivity does not match population increase. Unemployment, deflation, famine, and scarcity of goods are making life intolerable. Hopelessness breeds alienation. The only response possible by the police state is more repression. More repression invites more resistance. And vice versa. It is a merry go round of misery.

We are surrounded by the League of Failed states of the Horn of Africa. We are on our way to join them. On one hand, due to our location the international situation is not favorable to the democratic forces. On the other hand, the internal situation in Ethiopia is more than favorable to challenge the police state. Without going into details suffice to point out the over fourteen million on the brink of famine and the tens of thousands abandoning their country at the risk of imminent death is a testimonial to the abhorrent condition in the country. To say the Ethiopian people have reached a breaking point is not an exaggeration.

The late Kinijit was a perfect example of identifying the problem and appealing to the public in popular terms. Kinijit succeed beyond the wildest dreams of its founders. Kinijit was able to show the Ethiopian people the true nature of the dictatorial regime. Kinijit was able to expose the fallacy of ‘peaceful transition’ in a heavily armed police state. Kinijit’s success in winning the election and failure in assuming power was a revelation for the opposition to re-think the nature of the coming struggle. A redefinition of the path to attain victory was called for. The failure of the 2005 general election is a perfect example to the impossibility of rational conversation or dialogue with an armed and belligerent opponent.

It was very refreshing to hear President Obama presenting the problem and a solution to such a conundrum as faced by the Ethiopian people. In his important speech during the Noble Peace prize ceremony following is the way President Obama put the issue:

I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I am glad he said it. Some in Ethiopia have been saying that since 2005. The TPLF are the personification of evil. Their contempt for the Ethiopian people knows no bounds. Their cruelty is legendary. Though they try to mask their true nature by high-sounding sophistry they are nothing but ordinary thieves and street hustlers that have found themselves in a position of power. They will not abandon this gravy train without a fight. No amount of negotiation or dialogue will convince TPLF to ‘lay down their arms’. The last seventeen years is a testimonial to this irrefutable fact.

It is very sad the TPLF tugs are forcing the citizen to resort to violence. Force is not the preferred option. It contains its own shortcomings. It corrodes the soul and damages the human spirit. The brunt of the sacrifice falls on the young. Ultimately all of society pays the price. But there are some things that are not negotiable. Freedom is one such thing. A war that is waged to attain freedom is considered a just and necessary war. The war to remove TPLF and their associates from power will be judged to be a just and necessary action by any international standard. በቃ

It is not easy removing such an entrenched regime from power. It requires tested leadership. The enemy is lethal. They have no qualms about killing. They have showed their ugly side on numerous occassions. On the other hand their whole organization is like a house built on sand. They project an image of fierce warriors to hide their cowadly nature and fear that manifests itself by their empty rhetoric. Their lack of self esteem and doubt leads them to irratinality. It does not take much to un nerve them and make them react without thinking it over. The loyality of their members have no depth. They are prone to abandon them at the first sign of a percieved problem.

We are emolded with the appearance of Ginbot7, EPPF and other liberation fronts that have taken the nature of the facist regime toheart. Ginbot7 is the rightful heir of Kinijit. In a matter of one year it has shown a superior form of organization. Its utterings are well thought of and timely. Its no nonsense approach towards the minority regime have managed to fill us with hope. Ginbot7 cool demanour while surounded by hysterical nay sayers have won it plenty of quiet friends. The short wave radio broadcast is unprecedented success. It is not the result of some philatrophy by a rich uncle, or donation by ‘friendly’ government. It is the rsult of Ethiopians taking care of Ethiopia.

This new year fills us with hope that at longlast we are ready to take matters into our own hands. It is a new year, It is a new day. It is a new begining. It is the time to stand up. We remeber the thousands of our children drowing in the Red Sea, disappearing in the jungles of central Africa and made to wither and die in Ogaden. The days of lametation is over. The time has come to act.

We are emolded by the courageous act of Judge Bertukan Mideksa. We are greatful to her for showing us what it means to stand up for the truth. We honor her work by continuing her example of steadfatness in the face of overwhelming force. She did not buckle down. We will not back down. Here is the lyrics from Tom Pettys ‘I will not back down.’ Rock on my friends!

Well I won’t back down
No I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

No I’ll stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin me down
gonna stand my ground
… and I won’t back down

Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
in a world that keeps on pushin me around
but I’ll stand my ground
…and I won’t back down

Ginbot and Ethiopia

By Yilma Bekele

There are certain dates that mark a special event in our old history. They stand out when ever our history is told. These dates are adorned in red bold color when calendar is made. We are filled with a sense of euphoria and pride. They are not like other holidays. They are more than a holiday. They are a defining moment in our history.

March 2nd. is a special day. It is Victory at Adwa day. We proved that we could function as one when our sovereignty is threatened. April 6th. is another special day. It is the day the Fascist flag was lowered and our green, yellow and red flew high. It is a day we proved that we are unmatched in the art of protracted warfare to rout out an invader from our soil. Ginbot 15 is a special day too. It is the day the Ethiopian people tasted the power of the ballot box. Ginbot 15, 2005 the Ethiopian people woke up early to exercise their god given right to choose their leaders using the pencil instead of the gun.

Ginbot 15 changed Ethiopia for good. The very old, old and the young stood in line under the tropical sun on a hot muggy day to decide who they want to be in charge. It was unprecedented moment in our history. It was a lively campaign. The choice was laid out before them. There was the big, rich, organized TPLF camouflaged as EPDRF on one side and Kinijit, Hebret, OFDM on the other.

TPLF has been operating in a vacuum since 1991. The Derg has decimated both civilian and military leaders. TPLF entered the capital unopposed. For fourteen years TPLF roamed the country in the belief that it was shaping it in its own image. It facilitated the secession of Eritrea, rewrote a new Constitution, reconfisicated property, land and private businesses. It was a dark period in our history. Seventeen years of Derg mayhem left the population in a state of shock. The new leaders were looked at with total indifference. TPLF held a clearance sell of Derg companies and they all went to Tigrai rehab and endowment outfit. It even held an election in 1996 and 2000. TPLF (EPDRF) won everything. There was no organized opposition. It was actually a coronation.

Then came the famous 2005 general election. It was like the nation was waking up from a long slumber. New leaders were emerging. The people were eager to listen to new voices. The voices were smart, organized and defiant. The new leaders were focused, urbane, and fearless. Keste Damena under the leadership Of Dr. Berhanu Nega was the David against the TPLF Goliath. Slowly and methodically the TPLF cadres were goaded to react against their own interest. The Ethiopian people were given a front row seat to view the cadre clique naked flailing like a fish out of water.

The famous ‘television debates’ exposed the bankruptcy of the TPLF mafia. The Ethiopian people saw the cadres were blind leading the blind. Not even one was able to emerge worthy of respect. They were reduced to their old rant of ‘neftegna’ ‘deregist’ and bar room insults. They couldn’t articulate any vision so character assassination and bullying was the only thing left for them.

From Zele Anbesa to Moyale from Gore to Jijiga the Ethiopian people came out to vote on May 15. Using their newfound freedom, fueled by hope and a better future the Ethiopian people raised the banner of Kinijit and other opposition parties. TPLF was not safe even in its own backyard. The rejection of cadre economics, cadre politics and cadre leadership was universal. It was a landslide by any account. The cadres were in disarray. TPLF was the laughing stock of the continent. The only way out was illegal declaration of state of emergency and naked use of private Agaizi force.

Ginbot changed the dynamics of party building, election campaign and the sweet taste of freedom and one-man one vote principle. Ginbot showed that the Ethiopian people are ready and capable of exercising their right to choose their leaders in a peaceful manner.

Since Ginbot 15, 2005 our country has never been the same. We all woke up. The Ethiopian people realized TPLF was a paper tiger. It can kill, it can steal, it can lie and it can intimidate but it is also possible to defeat it. The Diaspora woke up too. You can physically transport the Ethiopian to a foreign land but you cannot take his Ethiopia ness out of him. The events of Ginbot 2005 downed on the Diaspora that silence is not an option.

So by imprisoning the leaders, killing activists, exiling opponents the TPLF regime thought it can turn time back to pre Ginbot state of affairs. What a wishful thinking? Freedom is infectious. Once you taste it there is no going back to slavery. Thus Kinijit became more than a party. It became an idea or as Judge Bertukan said ‘Kinijit is spirit’.

The TPLF regime said it took ‘a calculated risk’ in allowing the election and opening of the media to the opposition. It looks like they better get a new calculator because the old one seems to miscalculate a whole lot. Their love affair with Eritrea was a calculated risk that turned up into a two years war. The cease-fire and the Algiers agreement was another calculated risk that came back to bite them. Say goodbye to Badme. The invasion of Somalia was the mother of all calculated risks that blew up in the face of the cadres.

Can we give the cadres any credit for a job well done? I have tried but unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with one. You might say that is not fair but that is the truth. Ask a cadre to name a few success stories and see what they come up with. I know here in North America it is difficult to come up with an official TPLF supporter. TPLF is the only party in power with all its supporters underground. None of them will reveal their identity in broad daylight. They even use a pen name to write their poisonous propaganda.

Their mouthpiece ‘Aiga’ always posts tall buildings and freeways of the future being constructed. Are we supposed to be impressed by that? Is that what we want? Is that the blue print TPLF has for our country? How sad. Building wide freeways with borrowed money using Chinese labor is nothing to be proud of. A two-lane highway and plenty of primary schools with trained teachers is a better choice. Building soviet type concrete buildings with imported cement, imported metal, imported glass and remittance from the Diaspora is a shameful use of resources. Better to improve agriculture and feed the people instead of housing a few NGO’s in a high rise with no water and electricity.

The invention of the World Wide Web has brought untold advantage all over the world. Even the advanced economies have benefited from this miraculous technology. What did we do before the Web has become a genuine question. How is the TPLF regime using this wonderful invention? They built a ‘virtual network’ for the upper echelon of the party and foreign diplomats, but shut out the people. TPLF is afraid of free flow of information. Somalia a country in disarray is wired better than Ethiopia. On the other hand Ethiopia can boast the most robust firewall and web access blocking in Africa.

All this deep knowledge of the cadre government and Diaspora activism is the result of Ginbot 15. We were feeling defeated and resigned until Ginbot showed us the true strength of mass action. Ginbot 15 was the result of the action of dedicated sons and daughters of Ethiopia. It was the work of Dr. Berhanu, Ato Andargachew, Judge Birtukan, Ato Debebe, Dr. Hailu, Dr. Befekade and numerous others that are still working tirelessly to pave the way so our children can live free.

A lot has happened since Ginbot 15, 2005. The enemy is relentless. The enemy has the resources of the state under its control. The enemy is a big fat and ugly Goliath. But we have adapted too. We have managed to use our limited resources intelligently. We have risen to the occasion and routed the enemy in every encounter. We are lean, mean and smart. We have enjoyed numerous victories. We have forced the regime to release our leaders, convinced the US Congress and European Union to listen to our concerns, shamed paid lobbyists to distance themselves from the cadres, managed to work with such honorable organization as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and others to echo the cry of our people.

We look back at Ginbot 15 with pride. We honor the memory of those who were slain by the regime because they took the promise of Ginbot 15 to heart. We take solace from the fact that their sacrifice will live forever in our glorious history. Four years later their dedication has borne fruit and here we are in the thousands working hard, working smart and convinced in the end good will triumph over evil. No one can change that.