Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 2nd, 2012

Why should the common people be targeted to suffer from economic sanctions?

All politically motivated economic and financial sanctions on weaker States, labelled  “rogue States” by the western powers for political reasons, ended up subjecting the common people to hell of miseries, famine, health degradation, high infantile mortality, reduction of the number of educated people, minors integrated to the workforce...and decades of pains and suffering trying to get out of an infernal situation that never reaches any adequate resolution…

Think of Iraq after 1992 as Saddam Hussein circles were supposed to suffer from economic embargoes, and the Iraqis experiencing two million deaths, mostly among babies for lack of milk and essential medical medicine and equipment…

Saddam and his retinue kept purchasing BMW, building humongous palaces, and never lacking any item of luxury, and maintaining a huge army and security forces…

Think of North Korea where millions are dying of famine and the dictator and his oligarchy importing every luxury items from China and Germany…

Think of Iran, with inflation reaching 50% on foodstuff, and revenue dwindling, and social services curtailed…so that Israel and Saudi Arabia be satisfied that “economic pressures” are making a dent on the program of peaceful atomic energy self-sufficiency…

Think of Venezuela and Cuba…

Think of the Syrians at the receiving end from both the regime and the western financial and economic sanctions…

No, these sanctions are not meant for degrading a political regime, but strategically to weaken the potential capability of an entire nation that is trying to regain economic self-sufficiency and be totally at the beck and commands of the superpowers…

On March 02, 2012, Djilali Belaid and Talal El-Atrache published their opinion on “Ordinary Syrians hit by sanctions-fueled price hikes

Agence France Presse
People walk through Hamidiya popular market in Damascus, Syria, on Tuesday Feb. 28, 2012. (AP/Bassem Tellawi)
People walk through Hamidiya popular market in Damascus, Syria, on Tuesday Feb. 28, 2012. (AP/Bassem Tellawi)

DAMASCUS: In Medhat Pasha souq, a bustling market in central Damascus, Fahed is deeply troubled by the “disastrous” price hikes and collapse of the local currency that are choking ordinary Syrians.

Western and Arab countries, outraged by the deadly government crackdown on an 11-month uprising, have imposed economic sanctions on the regime of President Bashar Assad, but the heaviest toll is on the Syrian people.

A 32-year-old clothes vendor said: “Since the start of the crisis, there has been a huge rise in prices. This is a disaster that touches everyone all over the country. The poor are getting hit, and even the rich are facing difficulties.

It is really unbelievable. The price of one kilo of locally manufactured cotton has gone from 400 to 550 Syrian pounds ($5.70 to $7.80), a kilo of sugar, which was worth 50 pounds (70 cents), today sells for nearly 73 pounds ($1), and vegetable oil has gone up 50%.

“We are spared nothing. The price of a gas cylinder has jumped by 60 percent. The poor really cannot cope…”

Syria’s banking system and oil exports have been hit by rounds of sanctions, dealing a heavy blow to foreign exchange earnings and stoking inflation.

And later on Friday, EU leaders are expected to tighten the noose on Assad’s regime with fresh sanctions.

Nidal, a 29-year-old taxi driver, waits patiently in a long queue at a petrol station in Damascus’s Tahrir Square. He says: “Twenty litres of petrol today costs 1,000 pounds ($14.30), compared with 800 pounds ($11.40) before the crisis.”

The slide in the value of the pound has crippled purchasing power. The dollar, which traded at 46.50 pounds a year ago, today buying 74 pounds, representing a fall of 62 percent for the pound.

Jihad Yazigi, editor-in-chief of The Syria Report, said: “Inflation has shot up. The official rate rose from 5% in November to 11 percent in December. It is partly the result of the strong dollar, but also of supply problems, because many products come from the flash point regions of Homs and Hama,”

To prevent the pound from plunging still further, the government has raised customs duties on several consumer goods, risking a further inflationary shock.

Under a decree issued last month, import tax rose from 40 to 80%, the government daily Tishrin said on Wednesday. This applies to 39 food items, as well as electrical appliances, beauty and hygiene products, kitchen utensils, water tanks and paint.

The daily Tishrin warned, citing economists, that the measure would “encourage the smuggling of goods from neighboring countries, causing losses for the state and a rise in prices on the Syrian market.”

The government is also pursuing other options to overcome the barrage of sanctions, including barter agreements with “friendly” countries such as Russia, China and Venezuela.

Syria could exchange its crude oil for sugar, a key commodity in the local market, other agricultural products and manufactured goods, which usually require hard currency.

“But the countries with which such trade is possible are limited, as they have to accept this type of exchange and have something to sell that Syria needs.  There is no doubt that the sanctions imposed on Syria touch the population first of all. Are they having an impact on the regime? It’s an open question,” Yazigi notes.

“The Syrian people are suffering a political crisis, a very difficult security situation, and economic conditions which were already deteriorating before sanctions struck. But today those sanctions are lumbering them with an additional burden.”

Funny that the worst rogue States such as Saudi Arabia and Israel that have been financing, supplying, and training al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalists have never been sanctioned…

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

A “democratic” design? The product, the behavior, or the process in design?

Designer Karim Rashid said: “Designers have to make-design democratic products.  It is the only real way to work in the design world, to make an impact, to make people live better, to make change, concerned about earth on every level…People want products that can be  used, are affordable, accessible, and are beautiful to love…Original products must be designed to be mass-produced in order to be labelled “work of art”, product that describe the current community life-style for later generations, like the artefacts that shed a strong light on past civilizations, thousand of years ago…”

Designer Alex Bogusky developed COMMON to prototype new corporate structures and relationships…COMMON is a designer tool to getting designers involved and re-imagine the world and capitalism system

Many start-ups are adopting the democratization process in design, under the banner “Branding platform matches socially focused startups with hand-picked designers…”

Brands for the People is an online platform that aims to help socially focused young companies get customized branding help without spending a fortune.

Marketing & Advertising published on Feb. 16, 2012:
“We’ve seen a spate of startup-focused innovations emerge in recent months, including A Startup Store and the LaunchNow game for real-world competition. Zeroing in on startups with an ethical mission, Canadian Brands for the People is an online platform that aims to help socially focused young companies get customized branding help without spending a fortune.
Aiming to set itself apart from crowdsourced sites offering simple logo competitions, Brands for the People takes a more comprehensive approach. The company explains: “Branding is much more than a beauty parade of sexy logo designs — it’s a step-by-step process that guides business owners to decide what they are and what they aren’t. This clarity helps to create a ownable space for the business which in turn directs how the brand is designed.”
Toward that end, the site offers up free strategic branding tools to help guide leaders through creative exercises so they can develop their own brand briefs; brand strategy experts are also available for consultation.
Either way, once that’s done, the design phase of the branding process is achieved through an online matching system that helps small businesses connect with designers that meet their budget, industry type, style, personality and skill sets, chosen from a stable hand-picked by the company.
Branding packages are priced starting at $780, including a logo and graphic element, font palette, color palette, business card design, home page concept and more.  Given the controversy that has surrounded efforts to crowdsourced professional services such as graphic design, it’s interesting to see hybrid approaches springing up with a more sustainable alternative — not to mention Brands for the People’s focus on social enterprises. One to try out on your latest big thing?

After all “Who is a credible designer”?

Do you think that learning Photoshop, 2D and 3D animation, and many other computer packages for graphic designing projects enable you to consider your skills as a credible designer?

Do you think that facilities to producing a hundred mediocre designers are substitute to a single credible experience designers?

After all “Who is a credible designer”?

First, a designer must have a rich and varied background knowledge on the product, the history of the client company, the target users, their idiosyncracies, their particular culture…

Second, a designer is a modern “Renaissance Man” who dabbed in many artistic fields and was initiated to a variety of art production…

Third, a designer must conduct usability research with the targeted users..

Four, designers implicitly tap into the current sociopolitical ideology of value system and figure out where the balance is leaning (conservative or protest behaviors…)

A credible designer must be able to say to his client: “You cannot promise something you have no intention of delivering…Your product with fail and my brand will fail on its challenge and my name will be tarnished…”

The current computer facilities that democratize the design process offer this great opportunity for many potential designers to focus their energy on learning and acquiring background knowledge related to people characteristics and behavior, community and social culture…


Bait-and-switch in Syria? What of safe heavens?

In a previous post on Syria Constitution referendum, I stated:

“The vast majority of Syrians in the referendum on a new Constitution have said it loud: “We want a negotiated political resolution”. Period.

The Constitution is not serious in the kind of changes expected, but Russia and China wanted the regime to demonstrate two things:

First, that the regime is in control of all the institutions capable of carrying out a referendum, and

Second, that the military of the regime is capable to putting down the armed uprising in Homs.

The Syrian regime of Assad has no alternative choices but to offer these two practical proofs of its viability“.

What of these “safe heavens” that the western powers are hammering out?

Stephen Walt on Foreign Policy published (with minor editing):

“The continued carnage in Syria is leading more people to call for some sort of international interventions (to protect Syrian rebels from further attacks by government forces).

Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning at the State Department, recommended in the New York Times that the United States and others create “no-kill zones” on Syrian territory, protected by a coalition of outside powers.  Slaughter wants these outside powers to give the rebel forces various forms of weaponry, military training, and tactical advice.

To avoid the criticism that her policy would fuel a civil war, Slaughter insists that support be conditional on the aid being used “defensively,” though Turkish or Arab League units would be free to use drones or unmanned helicopters “to attack Syrian air defenses and mortars in order to protect the no-kill zones.” (How funny is this NO-Kill Zone recommendation)

The core problem with this proposal is the critique of Paul Stanil:  This recommendation ignores basic military realities. The rebels are trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Once we commit ourselves to arming and protecting the rebels, how are we going to stop them from doing whatever they can to bring Assad down? Once engaged on their behalf, is it realistic that any government could cut them off because they had gone beyond our Marquis of Queensbury rules of engagement? Moreover, Slaughter admits that we cannot protect her “no-kill zones” without degrading Assad’s forces. In practice, therefore, her neat distinction between “defensive” and “offensive” operations would quickly break down.

Slaughter’s proposal would lead inexorably to an active military effort to overthrow the Assad regime. As in Libya, what sounded at first like a noble effort to protect civilians would quickly turn into offensive action against a despised regime, and in partnership with a host of opposition forces whose character and competence we can only guess at.  If that’s what Slaughter and others want to do, they should say so openly, instead of performing what can only be described as a strategic bait-and-switch.

China and Russia have figured this ploy out.  By the way, this is one reason they’ve been so reluctant to endorse any international action to stop the killing.

Here’s the basic problem.

Once we commit ourselves to creating safe havens (“no-kill zones”), we will be obliged to defend them for as long as there is any possibility that Assad’s forces might attack. As our experience with the no-fly zones in Iraq teaches, this could involve defending them for years.

And if Assad’s forces start shelling the rebel areas, then we will have to defend them or risk humiliation. But let’s be clear: “defending them” means attacking Assad’s own forces.

In other words: war.

And once that happens, the United States and the other outside powers will face enormous pressures to complete the job.  It is hard to believe that we could take the step Slaughter is recommending and subsequently agree to leave Assad and his regime in place. As soon as outside powers take sides and intervene, a failure to remove Assad from power would be interpreted as a striking defeat for the intervening powers and a blow to those who have seen the Arab Spring as a hopeful turn for a troubled region.

In short, there is no way to conduct the sort of minimalist, purely defensive, and strictly humanitarian operation that Slaughter describes in her op-ed, without it eventually leading to forcible regime change. And one big reason that Syria’s neighbors have been reluctant to go that route is their understandable fear of a protracted internal conflict there that would make the present carnage look mild by comparison.

I take no pleasure from that reality, and I share Slaughter’s anger and disgust at what Assad is doing.

But the choice we face is stark and agonizing, and pretending that we can keep our balance on this steep and slippery slope is not helpful.”

Note:  Turkey and Jordan have already established refugee camps for Syrians fleeing the onslaught.  Lebanon was quickly been dragged in until the army decided to step in and close the borders for arms and “rebels” trafficking




March 2012

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