Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 26th, 2015

Participating In a Protest, sit -in, marches…?   A few Ways to Protect Yourself

Comparing Beirut’s You Stink protest to Kiev’s Orange Protests is quite alarming.

If history has taught us anything is that peaceful protests soon turn violent on both ends.

The Security Forces will not back down, and will be escalating into fatal assaults on the demonstration since the usual Arab strategy of divide and conquer has not worked yet.

Egypt’s spring has proved that warlords that have ruled for decades sometimes lose their grip on reality, and tend to muscle their way using old techniques.

Ferguson’s protest also turned violent overnight and gained international media attention, although to this day it has lacked any significant changes in the way minorities are policed.

Occupy Wall street are still without a clear victory.

There will be more bloodshed before the end.

While the ISF (Lebanon internal security forces) has been the source of much corruption, the army has been the only thing to hold this country together.

The bloody conflicts in Nahr El Bared, Arsal, and other instances have shown that the Army is the least sectarian entity. Not without their vices, I remember distinctly being beaten senselessly by the army on more than one occasion during the 2008 university “incidents”.

I came through those times solely on instinct and pure luck. A lot of my friends had the misfortune of being arrested and getting the ass-whooping of their lives.

Our only target back then was surviving the snipers from the rooftops and protecting our own, as the ISF and army were powerless to protect any civilian at the time, and took their frustration and anger out on the helpless and unarmed.

To this day I have never held a weapon in the face of any military man in uniform, Lebanese or otherwise, and I do not ever intend to.

Despite my martial arts lifestyle, I am a pacifist at heart and dedicate most of my free time to making sure people can negotiate confrontations in a non-violent manner.

In all further demonstrations, civilians are urged to bring gas masks, home made shields, wet cloths, milk, and water proof phones to document everything live.

Do NOT depend solely on Touch and Alfa communications as they have been known before to shut off 3G and 4G networks to provide cover to the corrupt governing entities. Bring alternate internet devices with you.

I believe that it is not yet time for civil disobedience, as the Lebanese people are not yet united. They do not have a cause yet. There are no martyrs yet.

This, unfortunately, will soon change. Give it a few days, and if the political parties do not tear the You Stink campaign to shreds, the ISF will. I can’t say how many martyrs will be necessary for Machnouk to give more than a statement from his vacation abroad, or how deep the rivers of blood will run for the international media to understand that this is more than a fight for garbage collection but rather a fight for control of the country.

With several political countries backed by international powers, I would not expect any change to come easily.

The last internal victory Lebanon had as a country was in 2005, but that was backed by certain political powers uniting against their common enemy at the time.

Since then, a long list of arrests, beatings, assassinations, and targeted political bankruptcy have been methodically used to target enemies of these governing entities.

I do not condone violence, neither through street protests nor open revolutions.

Nonviolent confrontations have succeeded in the past and will do so  in the future. MLK’s I Have A Dream VS the Black Panthers has proved this ideology.

You have the power of Google (if you have internet and electricity lol), use it to research self protection in these times. Gas masks are expensive, but there are home made products and methods that can me used safely and legally. Remember, safety first, both digitally and on the field.

  1. To the protest organizers: DO NOT USE THE FACEBOOK PAGE as a single point of communication with the masses. Facebook is not your friend, and a page can easily be taken down blocked or seized through legal and illegal methods.
  2. Have a united list of demands. It’s ridiculous how a garbage cleanup and demands for a minister resigning can quickly turn into an unplanned demand for cabinet resignation into a void, or even complete revolution. Stay focused. Baby steps. Bad media will jump on the chance to show divided lines.
  3. Using a website hosted in a non friendly country will retain it’s uptime to 99%.
  4. Using a domain name should have a hidden credit card, with a private domain name registration in order to avoid hacking and legal seizure of digital assets.
  5. Using emails should not be through Gmail or Hotmail. They are the easiest to track back to their source.
  6. Do not use home internet connections to upload sensitive data. Non government entities can also track them back to the source. Saving phone contacts under “Ryan Hamze – YouReek” makes it easier for ISF to track down others in case of arrest (and illegal phone searches).
  7. If you cannot physically take part of a movement, support them online. Do NOT criticize anyone during major incidents as tensions are high. Leave the constructive  criticism for later and talk with community leaders.
  8. Always give credit to photo or video takers. During the chaos people tend to forget the ethics that govern social media. It is a weed that I’ve been trying to get rid of for 5 years, and others have joined this fight too like “السلطة الخامسة “, Blog Baladi, and Lebanese Blogs. The rest think it’s just a side issue, but at this point, I digress. I’ve been trying to track down the original taker of this epic shot, but come up short. This may well represent the image of the movement/revolution/ideology in the future, so it would be nice (and ethical) not to piggy pack on an anonymous tweep.Update: photographer wishes to remain anonymous
    1. If you are a protest organizer, do not be a media hog. They will target you and arrest you while you sleep a week later. Be anonymous.
    2. If you are a protest organizer, do not use your personal email or home internet connection. You are already being monitored and documented, so your plans will be used against you when you set them inn action.
    3. Steel trays will not be of much use against bullets, but a properly modified Sobia Tray would be of use against the riot police. Straps should be tested before hand.
    4. Do not park near the main event. Assume things will turn nasty and roads will be blocked and people pursued en masse.
    5. Have an emergency point of assembly every hour on the hour. Once cell coverage is blocked (or the infrastructure breaks thank you Botrous Harb)  you will be acting blind and people who are afraid and lost tend to do stupid things.
    6. For those who have gas masks, I suggest they train on how to sling small objects (like gas grenades) back at the source since they will be in the front line of fire.
    7. Do not bring knives or guns to the protest, it will deem the protest violent instead of a peaceful one. Hell will be unleashed. This is a method used methodically by Shabiha and secret police, who run with the crowd and trick the mass psychi into violence or entrapment.
    8. If you see secret police or Shabiha or overzealous demonstrators doing something against the common good, do not be afraid to call them out. Others will still see sense through the red haze of anger and help control the situation.
    9. Containers of milk should be on standby with makeshift bases for the Lebanese Red Cross.
    10. Bring Spray paint with different colors. Marking the ground for crowd control, marking a shabiha among you, and a bunch of other legal and safe uses. Do NOT spray the police riot shields, this will hinder their vision and render you a threat.
    11. Everyone should have Superglue (Altico) with them. It might save a life once the bullets start flying.
    12. Make sure the flags do NOT have strong wooden sticks that can be used for violence in case of trouble. Also, nobody wants to see that flag on the ground so be smart.
    13. Waterproof your phones and provide shock proof casings.
    14. Don’t forget to clean up after the demonstration. Bad media can rip a cause to shreds.
    15. Try not to get arrested. It’s not a smart thing to play martyr, especially since you may get beaten up and raped by parliament security and ISF.
    16. Never take the offensive when ISF and Army are involved. They are trained men and have Shabiha among them, they will not hesitate to kill you. Defensive tactics are your only friend.
    17. Children, and the elderly should be made aware to step back in case of violence. Let the stronger individuals cover a retreat. Obviously in this case I cannot say “Women” should stay back, because honestly I’ve seen a more than a few hard headed Lebanese women take on the ISF before. Do you remember “The Tomato Revolution”?
    18. For front runners, always wear a mask or kuffyye. Even if you escape the events taking place, your family may not be so safe.
    19. Safety in numbers. Stay close to large groups, ISF will more likely pick off anyone claiming they’re Press or injured.
    20. Always run to the edge of any mass confrontation.
    21. If you are cornered, DO NOT FIGHT BACK. These men are trained their entire lives to subdue people like you. Put your arms over your head and curl into the fetal position. If you raise your arms above your heads like in Hollywood movies, you will get your head bashed in as per the Lebanese code of ethics.
    1. Self Defense only in case you are being beaten senselessly and fear for your life:
    2. Assess your assailant. Look at their hands. If they were about to attack with their hands, they would have their hands out. However, if they are concealing a weapon, they will have them hidden or at their side. If Batons are shaking then they are revving up for a coordinated assault, do NOT take head on, use defensive tactics and trays. In case of gunfire in the air, stay united in a single line. In case of gunfire directly into your ranks, do NOT run, you will only trample the people behind you, go to the sides and lay down on the floor until you are able to run freely to safety and escape arrest.
    • Go for the eyes and nose. If you have to end the fight as quickly as possible by striking first, strike hard, and strike as many times as you can, then run for help
    • Kick or grab the groin of a male attacker. Bringing a knee sharply into the groin of an attacker or grabbing the groin with your hand and twisting is an instantly effective move that will take your attacker down.
    • Go for the kneecaps. If, for example, you are being choked, or your assailant has their hands up in your face, attacking their legs will give you the opportunity to open him up to more attacks, or allow you to escape. This is especially effective on larger attackers and easy to do from your guarded position.
  9. Comparing Beirut’s You Stink protest to Kiev’s Orange Protests is quite alarming. If history has taught us anything, is that peaceful protests soon turn violent on both ends.
    The Security Forces will not back down, and will be escalating into fatal…
    ryanhamze.com

 

What Makes the Lebanese Work and Lebanon Not Work?

Does the environment makes all the difference?

By Tommy Weir (founder of the Emerging Markets Leadership Center), February 8, 2015

For all practical purposes, Lebanon is still struggling from the effects of civil war that ended over two decades ago.

Yet, today the country is without a president, Parliament extended its tenure for another 4 years, shackled by continued corruption, weakening job prospects, and on-going strikes that are the only way for the working class voice to be heard.

Roadblocks and tires burning in the streets are everyday forms of protest.

While it may not technically be a failed state, it certainly is a fragile state. (How many constitutional failures does it take and for how long to call it a Failed State?)

It’s in a political stalemate, where opposing parties simply boycott votes they disagree with rather than represent the people who voted them into office.

The success of the Lebanese people is a recognisable, even respected, contrast to the frail state.

Nearly every field – science, fashion, art, business, music, film, journalism, education, even politics (outside of Lebanon) – are peppered with notable Lebanese.

The condition of Lebanon and the success of the Lebanese makes me wonder, “What makes the Lebanese work when Lebanon isn’t?”

They left! That is the difference.

The Lebanese “work” because they left an environment that isn’t working. When you look up lists and listen to stories of Lebanese achievements, they are most often outside of its geographical boundaries.

The Lebanese diaspora is spread across the globe. Although there are no reliable figures, the diaspora is estimated to be around 14 million people. It is three times the population of Lebanon.

They left to find an environment where they could succeed. (And as they land in Lebanon, all the good behaviors for success vanish and strutting and flaunting status become the norm)

And this is the leadership insight you need to be aware of.

Not to run off to a different environment, but to create an environment where others can and do achieve. That is your job as a leader to help others become successful.

I am not making a political point about Lebanon. (Are you making a psychological point?)

I, as a fellow Lebanese citizen, love the country and the people. The current reality pains every member of the Lebanese diaspora, including me. (Viva diaspora?)

We can learn from it. We can learn that as leaders we are to create an environment for our employees, teams, even customers, to succeed.

Dubai did just that. It created an environment for others to succeed and as a result it prospered. (And how the State of Lebanon can create the proper environment?)

Creating this type of environment results in a spiral – an upward spiral. You, as the leader create the environment either for mediocrity, failure or success.

If you create an environment of success, then your people and you succeed as well, which strengthens the environment for future success. The upward spiral continues on.

In the case of Dubai, it has been good to a lot of people – nationals and expats alike.

It’s environment makes people collectively successful and want to contribute to its triumph. So much so, that in the 1980s a group of expats went to the government saying, “Corporates should pay to make Dubai green.”

They believed so much in Dubai that they wanted to help. Their idea was immediately shot down with a response. “The government will take care of those matters. We want you to work hard, make money and live a better life for your family” They added, “What is good for you, is good for us!” (I am curious: Repeat your suggestion to the government in Lebanon. I badly need to hear their response)

They created the environment, others succeeded, which resulted in Dubai succeeding and the environment became even stronger – the upward spiral.

An organisational environment of success is supportive, helping employees but not subsidising them. It removes the hurdles and obstacles.

It minimises “red tape”, but it does not do their work for them. Actually, it pushes people to achieve more, do more. Being supportive leans to the side of encouragement rather than compassionate.

Studying organisational culture, it becomes clear that an environment of success is actually very tough.

It resembles a jockey who knows the exact breaking point of his horse and pushes him just shy of breaking.

You need to support and encourage your employee to achieve as much as they can.

The essence of great leadership is helping other people succeed. This begins with the environment that you create.

Have you created an environment where people come to you so they can succeed (and of course this leads to your success) or one where they have to leave in order to succeed?

Najat Rizk shared a link.
The environment makes all the difference, writes Tommy Weir, founder of the Emerging Markets…
gulfbusiness.com

How to Rid Money from Politics? Lawrence Lessig weighs Presidential Run

“96% of Americans believe it important to reduce the influence of money in politics. But 91% didn’t think it was possible”.

So that is the politics of resignation?

 

The 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive political race in history.

Experts predict as much as $10 billion could be spent by candidates, parties and outside groups on the campaign.

A recent analysis by The New York Times shows fewer than 400 families are responsible for almost half the money raised to date.

The vast majority of the $388 million raised so far has been channeled to super PACs which can accept unlimited donations in support of candidates.

According to the Times, the political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign.

That figure dwarfs how much the Republican National Committee and the party’s two congressional campaign committees spent in the 2012 election.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has a set a fundraising goal of $2.5 billion. Today we are joined by a law professor who is considering challenging Clinton in the Democratic primary.

His platform is simple: Get money out of politics. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig says that if he won the presidency, he would serve only as long as it takes to pass sweeping campaign finance reform. Then, he says, he would resign.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

Today we’re joined by a law professor who’s considering challenging Clinton in the Democratic primary. His platform is simple:

Get money out of politics. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig says if he won the presidency, he would serve only as long as it takes to pass sweeping campaign finance reform legislation. Then, he says, he would resign. (Won’t stand well with voters who need Presidents to finish the term)

In 2012, Lawrence Lessig launched Rootstrikers to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics. He’s a legendary figure in the world of cyberlaw, credited with helping to create Creative Commons, an alternative copyright system.

Lawrence Lessig, welcome back to Democracy Now! Are you announcing your candidacy for president of the United States?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, what we’ve said is that if by Labor Day, September 7th, two weeks from today, we’ve raised the initial million dollars that we’re kickstarting to fund this campaign, then I would run. And I would run on a platform not of campaign finance reform, which is kind of like referring to an alcoholic as someone with a liquid intake problem.

I would run on a platform of fundamental citizen equality, because what we’ve allowed to happen in this democracy is a radical inequality in the way citizens are represented. And since—the way we fund campaigns is just one example, but it’s the most grotesque example, of why we don’t have a democracy that works.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain the problem right now. Talk about the amount of money that is going into this election, and put it in some kind of historical and global context.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, you set it up perfectly, Amy. I mean, the point is, when you have a system that raises its money from such a tiny, tiny fraction of the public—400 families for all of the money raised or 130 families for half the money that’s been raised in the Republican Party—that tiny, tiny number have enormous influence inside of our political system.

And the influence they have is not some rational influence of the elite; it’s a completely destructive vetocracy that they create, where they’re able to block any kind of reform.

So if you want climate change legislation, what we know is we won’t have climate change legislation until we fix this corrupted inequality.

If you want to deal with the problem of Wall Street, we’re not going to deal with the largest contributor to congressional campaigns until we change the way campaigns are funded.

Every important issue gets tied to the way we are funding these campaigns, this inequality. And what I’ve said is, until we address that first, all of these other things that people are talking about, things that excite us, things that especially excite us progressives, all of them are a fantasy.

And we’ve got to stop with the fantasy politics and address the reality that we have to fix our democracy if we’re going to have a democracy that works.

AMY GOODMAN: So how do you do it? And how do you deal with money being equated with free speech?

LAWRENCE LESSIG:  The reforms that I’ve proposed, in what we’re calling the Citizen Equality Act, do not trigger any of the concerns the Supreme Court has talked about.

What the Supreme Court has said is you can’t be restricting speech.

So the step, the first step, that we’re describing is a way to dilute that incredible concentration of funders. So, by increasing bottom-up, citizen-funded elections, either through vouchers, which you could give to every voter that they could use to fund elections, or matching funds, the way John Sarbanes from Maryland has described, all of these would radically change the way campaigns are funded, and radically disempower the lobbyists and the special interests inside of our political system. That’s the first step.

What we need is a mandate strong enough to get that first step.

And what I’ve said is that none of the other candidates, even if they’re talking about the right issues, which I think only  Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley are even getting close to talking about the right issues—even if they’re talking about it, they can’t begin to describe a process, a plan for them to have the mandate to actually get this enacted.

They have a great plan for getting elected, but they don’t have a plan for actually getting us a democracy back.

AMY GOODMAN: How would you do it, if you were elected?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: So if I were elected, what I’ve said is I would serve only until we passed this thing we’ve called the Citizen Equality Act, which would establish citizen-funded elections, number one.

Number two, it would end the political gerrymandering that creates an incredible disempowerment for a vast number of Americans because of the way we design districts.

And number three, it would end the ridiculous systems that try to disempower or disable people from being able to vote.

That would get us the first steps of a democracy back. And when that’s passed, I would resign. And the vice president, the elected vice president, would become president.

But the point of this mandate is it would be a referendum on this reform, and this reform for citizen equality is the kind of equality that all of Americans should affirm. I mean, I agree with Bernie about the need to deal with wealth inequality, and there are many in the progressive left who agree with Bernie about that.

What I know is that America is not yet of the view that we should become Sweden. And the fact is, we can’t rally America unanimously to this—to that idea. But I think the idea of citizen equality, and the idea which is at the core of what representative democracy is, is an idea we could rally people to, and if we did, we could build a mandate powerful enough to begin to get us the democracy we deserve.

AMY GOODMAN: Since you say, Lawrence Lessig, if you became president, you would resign after you achieved your goal, your vice president would be particularly important. Who would you choose?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, I personally would love to see a vice president that excites the Democratic base to create the kind of passion and energy that would be necessary to get elected. People like Bernie have done that, Elizabeth Warren have done that.

But what I’ve also said is that the referendum president, which I’m describing here, trying to create, actually should have different power for picking the vice president from a regular president.

You know, a regular nominee selects the vice president assuming or hoping that vice president is never president. But I want to select a vice president who I want to be president the very next day after I am inaugurated. So this person is a much more significant person in the traditional balance.

And I think that means that the convention, the party, has a much more significant role in selecting and deciding who that person should be. So we would select based on what the party ratifies as the values of the party, based on also what they think is most likely to succeed in November.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you spoken, for example, with Bernie Sanders or any of the presidential candidates about your possible bid, your run for the presidency?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, I tried to reach out to Bernie before I announced. I haven’t had a chance to connect with him about that. But that’s the only person I’ve tried to reach out to, because Bernie is somebody who I have enormous respect for. He’s been a hero in the movement for the right kind of change for many, many years. And I had worked with him in trying to describe what kind of change would make his campaign credible. So I tried to reach out to him, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to him yet.

But I think the critical thing is to recognize that as much as people love what he is saying—and for good reason, they should love what he is saying—what we need is a way to make what he is saying possible. And what we don’t have right now is a way to make this change or any change, frankly, possible. And so that’s what I’m trying to focus this campaign on.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, 10 leading Republican presidential candidates faced off in the first debates of the 2016 presidential election. During the debate, Donald Trump defended his record of donating to Democratic candidates in previous races but admitted that the election system is broken.

DONALD TRUMP: I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.

CHRIS WALLACE: So what did you get? So what did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what. With Hillary Clinton, I said, “Be at my wedding,” and she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice, because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Donald Trump. Lawrence Lessig, your response?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: So I think Donald Trump has been the biggest gift to this movement since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, because what it’s done is crystallize a recognition that this system is deeply corrupted.

You know, there he is, pulling back the curtain on the way the system works, making it possible, even in the Republican primary, for people to begin to talk about the corruption of the system. And I agree with him absolutely: This system is deeply corrupted.

The difference between Donald Trump and me—well, there’s $10 billion in difference, at least—but in addition to $10 billion, the difference is that Donald Trump’s solution is that we elect billionaires, and my solution is that we actually have the representative democracy our framers gave us. The idea of electing billionaires was what we fought a revolution about, and Donald Trump’s side in that revolution lost.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton talked about campaign finance reform when she kicked off her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

HILLARY CLINTON: We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday. We need to strengthen families and communities, because that’s where it all starts. We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment. And we need to protect our country from the threats that we see and the ones that are on the horizon. So, I’m here in Iowa to begin a conversation about how we do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Lawrence Lessig, how do we do that? And what is your response to Hillary Clinton’s approach to campaign finance reform?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: We haven’t seen a lot. She’s talked about a constitutional amendment, which of course I support the idea of a constitutional amendment, but I think we have to recognize that that’s not going to be a solution in the short run.

And in the short run, we have a critical number of problems we have to have the ability to solve. She’s also pushed the idea of disclosure. In that statement, she said “unaccountable money.”

But I’m not sure what accountable money does. I don’t know why it’s any better to have billions of dollars that we can account for than billions of dollars that we can’t account for. I mean, of course I want to account for it, but still it’s the billions of dollars that’s calling the shots.

What we need is to change the way elections are funded. We need a commitment to a very simple idea, that we, in a democracy, in a representative democracy, need to be represented equally.

And Hillary has not yet articulated any plan that would get us that in any time short of when we need to get there to deal with the critical problems that we face as a nation.

AMY GOODMAN: Lawrence Lessig, I wanted to get your response to Mark Schmitt, the senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and former editor of The American Prospect. He was on Democracy Now! explaining why he’s opposed to a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

MARK SCHMITT: I view it as a real distraction from some real progress that we can make on money in politics, because while you can build a movement around these various—there are like 17 different versions of the amendment. While you can build a movement around this concept, the message it sends is: We can’t do anything until we have a constitutional amendment. And under the current circumstances, “We can’t do anything until we have a constitutional amendment” is exactly the same as saying, “We can’t do anything.” And so, I think that’s just sending the wrong signal to people and overlooking the tremendous progress that’s actually being made.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Mark Schmitt at the Roosevelt Institute. Your response, Lawrence Lessig?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: I think he’s completely right. I think the talk about constitutional amendments has excited an incredible base, and I think the movements that have pushed that have done enormous good to our democracy by getting people to recognize the fundamental problem we have to address.

But the truth is, we can address a vast majority of that problem tomorrow in a statute.

And so, when I talk about passing the Citizen Equality Act, that is a statute, that’s not amending the Constitution. It’s a first step that would have an enormous impact on the ability of democracy to actually function.

And I think if we can give people a sense of what’s possible, we can excite an incredible amount of energy. We, in 2013, did a poll and found 96 percent of Americans believe it important to reduce the influence of money in politics. But 91% didn’t think it was possible. So that is the politics of resignation.

And if you constantly talk about the constitutional amendment, or you make it sound like that’s what’s necessary to win, then those resigned people will stay resigned. They won’t show up to try to change the system. And that’s exactly the resignation we have to find a way to thaw.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, people are resorting to all sorts of efforts to change the system. Earlier this year, the U.S. mailman Doug Hughes made national headlines when he flew a tiny personal aircraft, known as the gyrocopter, onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in an act of civil disobedience. He was carrying letters to every member of Congress urging them to address corruption and to pass campaign finance reform.

The letter began with a quote from John Kerry’s farewell speech to the Senate: quote, “The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself,” Kerry wrote. In April, Democracy Now! spoke to Doug Hughes and asked him to elaborate on the message he hoped to convey.

DOUG HUGHES: What my letter actually said to the Congress critters was they’ve got to decide whether they’re going to deny that corruption exists, or they’re going to pretend that they’re doing something about it, or they’re going to really roll up their sleeves and be a part of reform.

But I’m looking to the local media, particularly the print media, OK, at the local level, to hold the candidates’ feet to the fire and force them to take a stand on real reform and whether or not they’re going to vote for it or whether or not they’re going to try and take a halfway, mealy-mouthed stand on it, which means they’re going to try and preserve the status quo.

The idea is, the voters can decide well if they’re informed. The national media can’t and won’t inform the voters about where the candidates stand. But the local media, which has been, you know, very weak and impotent in the political process, can really take the ball, and they can be the moving force in informing the voters.

AMY GOODMAN: And earlier this year, activists carried out a rare protest inside the Supreme Court chamber to oppose the ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case critics call the “next Citizens United.”

In a 5-to-4 vote last year, the court’s conservative justices eliminated a longstanding limit on how much donors can give in total to federal candidates, party committees and political action committees in a two-year election cycle.

Without any aggregate limit, a donor can now give millions of dollars directly to candidates and parties. In early April, the five activists with the group 99 Rise stood up inside the court to call on justices to reverse their decision.

99 RISE PROTESTER: Justices, is it not your duty to protect our right to self-government? Reverse McCutcheon! Overturn Citizens United. One person, one vote!

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the five activists with the group 99 Rise. And then you’ve got Doug Hughes. I believe he’s going to trial—he wouldn’t take any plea deal. A lot of the media didn’t even report he was doing this for campaign finance reform; they just said he flew a gyrocopter onto the grounds of the Capitol. Lawrence Lessig, talk about what groups are doing.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: I think there’s been an incredible amount of creative protest that’s been focused on this issue. Doug Hughes is a hero. We just opened up a kickstarter on Indiegogo to raise money for his legal defense fund.

We said we needed to raise $10,000 in 30 days. In one day, we raised the money that he needs to defend himself against the felony charges that he’s now facing. And 99 Rise has done an extraordinary job raising the attention of this issue in a lot of contexts, not just in the Supreme Court.

But what I think we need to do is to raise the level of the debate.

This is not just about telling some people they can’t speak or trying to silence the ability of certain interests to be in the political process. This is about achieving the fundamental equality of our democracy.

And I think that if we raise the level of the debate so we’re not talking about campaign finance, which is just one corner of this problem, and instead talk about the commitment of a representative democracy, as Madison said, one that would, quote, “be not where the rich would have no more power than the poor in this democracy,” we could build the political movement we have to build to win, because that’s what this has got to be a fight about, not in the court, not in the—not in the court at the Supreme Court, not in a court that’s deciding whether a protester should go to jail, but in the court of public opinion, where if the public is reminded of this commitment of equality in our democracy, they could see how we could get a democracy that could work again.

And if we did, then these problems that all of us roll our eyes about, of climate change or the debt or student debt or Wall Street or gun control, all of these problems would be problems we could actually solve. We could actually have a democracy that’s responsive again, because this inequality, this corrupted inequality, has been removed.

And it wouldn’t be a world where you’ve got to stand and say, “Black lives matter,” because we would have an equality in this system where that statement would be crazy to even imagine the necessity of uttering.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Lawrence Lessig, again, to summarize, your timetable on when you will announce your candidacy for president of the United States, under what conditions?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: So we’ve just crossed—we’re at about $550,000 of the million dollars that I said we needed to raise within two weeks. And if we get there and the two—the major candidates have not said this would be their primary focus, then I will enter the race.

And I will enter the race, and we will also try to recruit 50 referendum representatives to also run, to make it so that on day one of 2017, of the administration in 2017, we would have the majority necessary to pass this equality act. So, as of—in two weeks, we’ll know whether this race will happen. And if it does happen, I’m going to give it every ounce of my energy to make it possible for this democracy to utter the words that are so obvious and self-evident, that in a democracy all of us should be treated equal.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Lawrence Lessig, I want to thank you for being with us.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Lawrence Lessig is considering running for the Democratic nomination for president in order protest money in politics, professor at Harvard Law School. His most recent book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Sarah Shourd joins us. She was in solitary confinement in Iran for more than a year. She’s going to comment on the Iran nuclear deal and also talk about solitary confinement in the United States. Stay with us.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“96% of Americans believe it important to reduce the influence of money in politics. But 91% didn’t think it was possible. So that is the politics of resignation.”

The 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive political race in history.
Experts predict as much as $10 billion could be spent by candidates,…
democracynow.org

#YouStink rallying cry: Recycling ‘cornerstone’ solution to Lebanon garbage woes

By: Karim Traboulsi posted on 24 August, 2015

The ongoing garbage crisis has forced Lebanese to take to the streets

Pushing for a recycling-based solution, not calling for revolution, is the only way forward.

There are many different views on how to tackle Lebanon’s one-month-old garbage crisis.

Yet everyone agrees that the usual sweep-it-under-the-rug approach of the Lebanese government can no longer work.Indeed, the current problem is a turning point for an issue that many believe has been 40 years in the making

.Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990) put a freeze on any progress on waste management in the country.

After the end of the civil war, due to a combination of factors – arguably led by incompetence and corruption – the Lebanese government failed to develop a modern solution to manage the country’s waste, and resorted to burying it in landfills with little to no downstream processing.

The Lebanese government and the private contractor Sukleen, which was paid hundreds of millions of dollars to collect rubbish from Beirut and Mount Lebanon, acted little more than a “garbage taxi,” in the words of Ziad Abi Chaker, one of Lebanon’s leading environmental entrepreneurs.

Up to 80 percent of waste is buried, if we go with a 2014 report by the Regional Solid Waste Exchange of Information and Expertise network in Mashreq and Maghreb countries, and little of the remaining 20 percent is recycled or composted.

Lebanon waste in brief Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Generation: – 2.04 million tonnes per year (2013)

Final destination of MSW:- Composted 15 % – Recycled 8 %- Landfilled 48 %- Openly Dumped 29 %Waste composition:- Organic 52.5 % – Paper/cardboard 16% – Plastics 11.5 % – Metal 5.5 % – Glass 3.5 % – Others 11 %

Cost of waste management:- Collection and transportation: $10-$31/tonne- Total cost including disposal: $20-$143/tonne (Source: SWEEPNet (2014)

It was only a matter of time for Lebanon, a tiny mountainous country, to run out of space for its waste. This is exactly what precipitated the current, mother of all garbage crises, when the government shut down the overfilled landfill in Naahmeh, the main dumping ground for the capital’s rubbish, under pressure from frustrated locals.

They had had enough with the smell and worrying reports of higher cancer rates near landfill sites. The Lebanese government was stumped.

Already in paralysis, and structurally incapable of thinking outside the box of traditional solutions, it could do little to resolve the problem as no other Lebanese region accepted to absorb the waste of the capital.

The Lebanese government scrambled to find an easy, quick-and-dirty solution. It even considered selling waste to Sweden, which incinerates garbage to produce hot water, but that quickly failed as Sweden requires rubbish to be sorted first.

The next-best solution was to try and bribe neglected Lebanese regions in the periphery to become the capital’s dumping grounds (for example the neglected province of Akkar up north), in return for development projects.

Experts have spoken to local television stations about the prospect of acid rain over Lebanon. When emissions from uncollected garbage merge with oxygen and moisture, they warned, they could turn into acid that will combine with water droplets during the fast-approaching wet season.

The Lebanese government’s mishandling of the issue eventually prompted protests by civil campaigners and activists, who have launched the #YouStink campaign.

The first few protests were small in scale but the continuation of the crisis and violent police reaction has rallied more and more Lebanese around the cause and against government incompetence in general.

YouStink anti-government protests drew thousands over the weekend  forcing the government to deploy hundreds of police. The police clashed with the peaceful protesters, using water cannons and even tear gas. Hundreds were reportedly wounded, triggering a new political crisis and calls for the government to step down.

But protesters have been criticised for raising maximalist demands and expecting too much from a government that has no popular mandate and whose main function has been to prevent Lebanon from exploding under pressure from the Syrian conflict.

A few during the protests called for “revolution” against the system, but many believe the protests should have a more specific, achievable goal.

Predictably, some in the Lebanese left have accused YouStink of not being radical enough.

Ziad Abi Chaker believes that not only there is a feasible solution to the garbage problem, but also that it would be simple to implement a sustainable, profitable and eco-friendly plan.

Recycling and composting, or as environmentalists put it the 3Rs – Recycle, Reuse, Reduce – would be at the heart of such a plan.

The solution starts at the level of individual citizens. If the Lebanese government is unrepresentative and works for the service of a corrupt political class as it is alleged, then it is only logical that ordinary people should take the initiative and not wait for their unelected rulers to act.

The simplest two things people can do is to sort their rubbish and reduce their consumption to produce less organic and solid waste.

Ziad Abi Chaker and a number of NGOs have been trying to raise awareness about this for some years now, and the latest crisis has helped their cause dramatically.

Back in January, Abi Chaker and activist Sobhiya Najjar launched a viral video campaign to persuade Lebanese households to sort organic and solid waste using separate black and blue bags. Existing recycling plants in Lebanon could already absorb a lot of solid waste, including glass and plastics Existing scavenger networks would then pick the blue bags and sort their contents further, and sell recyclable items to private-sector recycling businesses.

Abi Chaker told al-Araby al-Jadeed that existing recycling plants in Lebanon could already absorb a lot of solid waste, including glass and plastics. He says there are other types of waste that Lebanon’s existing infrastructure cannot handle, such as green glass, but points out that the main challenge is organic waste

But even this would not be too difficult for Lebanon to deal with.

Abi Chaker stresses it would not take more than a few years for plants to be built, during which part of the waste could be safely stored for later processing.

Naturally, a comprehensive national waste management plan would improve sorting at home and not rely on scavengers, but rudimentary sorting is a good start to reduce the volume of waste, Abi Chaker argues.

Lebanese citizens could also do a lot more by way of reducing their consumption. Abi Chaker and NGOs advocating the 3Rs have been asking Lebanese people and restaurants, notorious for wasting food, to reduce organic waste by both consuming less and trying to compost when possible.

People can also reduce their solid waste by reusing and repurposing instead of disposing of items like glass or using reusable items instead of disposable ones. Part of the problem has been giving too much power to one company such as Sukleen Bypassing ‘centralised corruption’ Part of the problem has been giving too much power to one company such as Sukleen to handle the waste of metropolitan Beirut and Mount Lebanon, where the bulk of Lebanon’s population is concentrated.

Ziad Abi Chaker and others have instead proposed decentralising rubbish collection and downstream processing by working with local municipalities.Municipalities, together with citizens and environmental NGOs, can handle the sorting and collection of waste and then sell it to private recycling businesses for some revenue that goes back into improving infrastructure.

Municipalities are more answerable to local constituencies, and comprehensive decentralisation has been a constant demand after the civil war as one way to achieve fairer and more balanced development and reduce corruption at the level of the central government.

Enter the state gargantuan task of waste management in Lebanon in a way that meets modern international standards cannot be handled by civil society and the private sector alone, though these must take the lead and waste management must have a solid grassroots bedrock. Waste management must have a solid grassroots bedrock Lebanon’s Ministry of Environment and the Council for Development and Reconstrution, a quasi-state body, have already developed studies and supposedly drafted national waste management plants.

But these join similar plans for public transport, energy and water resource management plans on the forgotten shelves of Lebanese bureaucracy.The Lebanese state’s role, according go Ziad Abi Chaker, is primarily to develop tax incentives, draft legal frameworks and act as a facilitator for waste management stakeholders. It is also hoped that the Lebanese state would help finance and build large recycling plants, especially to handle organic waste.

The problem here is that it is hard to expect politicians to greenlight a radical recycling-based approach to waste management.

Many of those in power and their direct associates allegedly have links to waste management businesses and see no direct benefit for their pockets to go the sustainable way.In fact, politicians now seem to be taking advantage of the snowballing YouStink movement not to heed their citizens’ demands, but to settle scores among themselves and promote half-baked solutions favouring their cronies.Eyes on the prize #YouStink must learn from the mistakes of previous protest movements in the country

The YouStink campaign offers some hope by way of putting public pressure on the government to change its usual approach. But the campaign must learn from the mistakes of previous protest movements in the country, most recently the struggle of the Unions Coordination Committee (UCC) to end a 10-year-old freeze on pay rises amid a cost of living crisis, if it wants to avoid failure and losing public support.

The UCC protest movement expanded its goals so broadly that it eventually lost focus on its main objective.Worryingly, some in YouStink are going on tangents about changing the entire system and replacing the entire political class. While few in Lebanon disagree with these demands, the struggle to resolve the garbage crisis in a sustainable way must remain focused on the issue at hand.

The protesters must sustain pressure on politicians collectively and refuse any solution they propose other than the recipe environmentalists have put forward: No dumping, no landfills and no incinerators. The objective must be kept specific, technical and apolitical, at least until a nationwide recycling-based waste management system is up and running, where the citizens – not the state – take the lead.

Otherwise, the outcome will be more chaos and no solution to the country’s garbage woes.As the saying in Lebanon goes, we want to eat grapes, not kill the vineyard guard.Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff. – See more at: http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2015/8/24/youstink-recycling-cornerstone-of-solution-to-lebanon-garbage-woes#sthash.cizxlOhx.dpuf


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