Adonis Diaries

Archive for May 2018

Do we strive to Prove the skeptics wrong?

“It’ll never last…”

“Someone with her background will never make a go of this…”

“Are you kidding me?” “Pathetic! Delusional!”

“Social media is a fad, the iPad is a toy, you’re never going to amount to anything…”

Seth Godin posted on July 10, 2013 “Proving the skeptics wrong”

Here’s the thing about proving skeptics wrong: They don’t care. They won’t learn. They will stay skeptics.

The ones who said the airplane would never fly ignored the success of the Wright Bros. and went on to become skeptical of something else.

And when they got onto an airplane, they didn’t apologize to the engineers on their way in.

I used to have a list, and I kept it in my head, the list of people who rejected, who were skeptical, who stood in the way.

What I discovered was that this wasn’t the point of the work, and my goal wasn’t actually to prove these folks wrong, it was only to do the work that was worth doing.

So long ago, I stopped keeping track: It’s not about the skeptics. 

It’s about the people who care about, support and enable.

Instead of working so hard to prove the skeptics wrong, it makes a lot more sense to delight the true believers.

After all, hey deserve it and they’re the ones that are going to spread the word for you.”

Note: Now is the time to ponder “what word you want to spread?” What is your passion?

To be Successful, Proportional Representation must be Accompanied by Party Reform 

Sami Atallah, LCPS executive director. May 2018

While there was genuine hope that adopting a proportional representation system could pave the way for political reform in Lebanon, its impact was largely confined to shifting the balance of power among the same political elite. (Not bad as a first in Lebanon, after 75 years of “Majority takes All” law) in every district

Many of the new faces in Lebanon’s recently-elected parliament are from the same political or social fabric as their predecessors, including many sons of politicians (mosly feudal families).

In some districts, the old guard has returned. Save one candidate, no individuals put forward by new political groups crossed the finish line, while women remain heavily under-represented in the country’s national legislature. (6 women deputy, one of them returned)

Granted, Lebanon’s new electoral law introduced pre-printed ballots for the first time; many lists competed against each other—averaging five in the fifteen districts—though on an unequal footing.

A record number of highly qualified women threw their respective hats into the ring (86 compared to only twelve in 2009).

However, this election exposed several deficiencies in the law, many of which we highlighted in an earlier article and need to be addressed to better represent different segments of society.

This election showed that while electoral reform is necessary, it is not sufficient. (As in all laws that need to be updated every now and then?)

There is an urgent need to address electoral strategies that parties have resorted to in order to manipulate voters’ behavior. This brings us to key questions regarding political party reforms and whether parties can transform themselves from being clientelistic to programmatic by forwarding and promoting policy prescriptions that address people’s concerns.

One of the key provisions of this law concerns the requirement that candidates be named on a single list. It was hoped that this would foster some policy coherence among candidates on the same list, something largely absent in Lebanese politics.

More alarming is the fact that many of these parties ran with and against the same parties in different districts.

For instance, the Amal movement ran with the FPM (who is the FPM again?) in Beirut II, Baabda, and Rachaya but against it in Baalbek-Hermel, Saida-Jezzine, Sour-Saida villages-Zahrani, and Bint Jbeil-Nabatiyeh-Hasbaya-Marjayoun.

The FPM ran with Hezbollah in Beirut II and Baabda but against it in Zahle, Baalbek-Hermel, Sour-Saida villages-Zahrani, and Bint Jbeil-Nabatiyeh-Hasbaya-Marjayoun.

The same holds true for the Future Movement, as it allied with the Lebanese Forces in Chouf-Aley, Akkar-Tripoli, and Baalbek-Hermel, but competed against it in Baabda, Zahleh, and Saida-Jezzine.

If all of this sounds confusing, it merely reflects the complexity of alliances that were struck—putting on hold personal as well as ideological and political differences—with the exclusive aim of winning seats at all costs.

Once lists were formed, the competition between them transformed, in many cases, into competitions among candidates on the same lists, as they scrambled to garner preferential votes.

Candidates sought preferential votes from their co-confessionalists, leading to the electoral system operating similarly to the “Orthodox law”, under which it had been proposed that citizens cast votes exclusively for candidates of the same confession.

This effectively reduces representation to largely contrived confessional concerns, ignoring all other aims, chief among them a national vision.

It also overlooks the fact that improvement in people’s welfare rests not on being governed by co-confessional leaders, but by the ability of citizens to hold their leaders accountable.

Compounding this is a lack of substantive and programmatic platforms on which parties campaign. (Only Hezbollah sounded serious about confronting the spoilage system in our budget and public funds)

While this has never been part of Lebanese political discourse, it was hoped that a PR system would inject some degree of public policy debate addressing socio-economic interests into campaigning.

Indeed, political parties drafted programs but most were too thin on evidence, rife with generalities, and short on specifics.

Most importantly, the programs lacked any sense of vision or direction. (No party dares project into the future the direction of their purpose)

Even when a position was articulated by a party, very few measures were suggested on how to reach a desired end. While many party programs ostensibly support the productive sector, reforming the tax system, and repairing the electricity sector, party members’ alleged consensus ends there and programs continue to languish where they serve parties best: On a web portal.

The lack of programmatic campaigning means political parties in 2018 resorted to what they do best: Coercing voters.

Stories circulated about vote buying, either through cash or the provision of services such as paying school tuition or securing medical treatments.

Others were promised public sector jobs by candidates if family members cast their votes for them.

Candidates sought to scare their constituents using fear of the “other” as a way to mobilize voters.

A Hezbollah MP warned constituents in Baalbek against allowing “others” to win Sunni and Christian seats, in reference to the Future Movement and Lebanese Forces, respectively. (These forces supported the Syrian factions during its civil war, even refusing to kick out these factions from Lebanon Eastern mountain chains)

In return, the minister of interior tried to mobilize Sunnis in Beirut to vote for his party so the Shiites “do not invade” the capital. (Mashnouk blatantly was kissing Saudi Kingdom for support and cash)

In the last few days of the election, Jumblatt, not wanting to take any risks regarding the election outcome, warned his Druze followers that Mukhtara may “fall” if his list was not elected. Of course, FPM chief Gebran Bassil did not miss the chance to associate himself with “the rights of Christians” (what you mean by rights here?).

It is no surprise then that many voters were not eager to go to the polls last Sunday. (Especially those earning a living in the Gulf States, of about 400,000 voters)

While turnout was expected to be higher under a proportional representation system compared to a majoritarian system, this was not the case in Lebanon, where it fell by 2%. (Just 2%? In many districts it barely reached 35%)

Sensing voters’ apathy and worried that low turnout may bring the threshold down and give smaller parties or new political groups the chance to grab a few seats, two of the larger political parties—the Future Movement and Hezbollah—even considered extending the voting period but chose not to as it would threaten to delegitimize the election results.

Instead, the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities issued a decision that classified the vicinity of polling stations as part of voting areas, which meant that any voter who was within that perimeter could vote, even after the official cutoff time. This effectively extended the duration of voting, in violation of the spirit of the law.

In the case of Baalbek-Hermel, the absence of a courtyard in some schools led to a wider interpretation of the vicinity of the polling station, leading to a larger defined area. To compliment this, political parties also opted to mobilize voters in the remaining few hours that polls were opened.

While the Future Movement attempted to do so softly using TV and radio messages, Hezbollah employed its strong organizational capabilities to get voters to the polling booths.

Despite voter apathy, political parties and the media went to great lengths to paint the election as a “wedding”, conveniently disregarding the violations that took place before and during the election.

Voting secrecy was not respected in many instances as elderly voters were carried to polling stations and were assisted by party delegates under the pretext that they are either illiterate or in need of physical assistance to cast their ballot.

Several anecdotes were shared by citizens whose votes apparently evaporated from specific polling stations. (Particularly In district Beirut #2, where Mashnouk and the Future were extremely worried of the turnout. Actually, the governor of Beirut reneged on his signature to permit Independent lists to have representatives in the polling stations)

As for ballot boxes, some went missing, others were not sealed, and one video showed two people rummaging through one. The inability or unwillingness of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities to address these violations or at least to openly communicate with the public made things worse.

In total, the Lebanese Association for Democratic Election (LADE) reported 950 violations, which is higher than the number recorded in 2009, including 222 that are very serious and involve intimidation.

Furthermore, the commission overseeing the election was hardly present. A lack of resources, lack of serious responsibilities, and the resignation of one of its civil society members cast a shadow on the commission’s credibility in undertaking its role.

The electoral law and the 2018 elections can hardly be called a success.

Political parties and their elite backers managed to steal the election to gain legitimacy for another four years using a range of tricks and gimmicks. While some political parties won a few seats and others lost, the biggest loser in this election is the Lebanese voter, who either voted for or was forced to vote for the same parties that have managed to do little more than impoverish them.

This election cast a shadow on how the PR system was designed and implemented. There is a serious need to revise the electoral law based on the PR system, particularly the high threshold it imposes and the use of preferential voting, which reduced voting in many regions to a confessional contest.

More than ever, there is a need to establish an independent commission with wide responsibilities and the human and financial resources to establish an even playing field across competing groups as well as prevent voter intimidation.

Lastly, there is a strong need for political parties to campaign on public policy proposals as opposed to fiery, fear-inducing discourse laced with the same, played out sectarian themes.

The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
“…This #election showed that while #electoral reform is necessary, it is Not sufficient. There is an urgent need to address electoral strategies that parties have resorted to in order to manipulate voters’ behavior. This brings us to key questions regarding political party reforms and whether parties can transform themselves from being clientelistic to programmatic by forwarding and promoting

You’re not capable of doing what? Not even once?

Seth Godin posted this July 17, 2013

It’s so easy to have a black and white list of the things you’re not capable of doing.

A hard limit, a boundary that says you just don’t have the genes to make art, speak up, write, give a speech, be funny, be charming, be memorable, come through in the clutch, survive an ordeal like this one… it’s easy to give up.

In response, we ask, “not even once?”

Never once have you been funny or inspired or connected?

Not even once have you been trusted, eager or original?

Not even once have you written a sentence that someone else was happy to read, or asked a question that needed to be


Is there a difference between “I want people to talk about this,” and “I want to control what people say”?

Controlling the Ideavirus

Dennis O. Smith wrote in with this question about Unleashing the Ideavirus: “I understand the concept of spreading the idea, but how can you control or direct that growth? ‘Going viral’ is great for fast growth and sharing of your idea, but are there mechanisms to steer it, trim it, shape it, etc.”

The reason that so many people catch a cold every year is that no one is trying to control where it goes. The reason that Wikipedia is so robust is that control is decentralized.

The reason that there’s a huge disconnect between corporate marketing and ideas that spread is that the culture of contagious ideas is anathema to the command, control and responsibility mindset of the industrial marketer.

There’s a huge difference between, “I want people to talk about this,” and “I want to control what people say.”

But, and it’s a huge but: the marketer decides where the virus starts. She decides who the first sneezers will be.

She decides on what easy-to-use tools may be made available to the group that she’s identified. These decisions go a very long way to determining what happens next.

Napster and Facebook were both optimized for college students and were intentionally seeded there. Sure, the founders could have picked nursing homes or military academies, but the character and culture of the college campus ensured that not only would these ideas spread, but that they would spread in the desired direction.

If you want to spread an idea among policy wonks, don’t involve People-magazine style celebrities, or aim for big numbers.

Instead, find the hive that matches the group you’d like to be discussing your idea, and (this is the big and) create an idea that not only interests this group, but is easy and fun to spread precisely among this group.

[When I launched this book, I knew which group I wanted to read it. So I wrote in a tone that appealed to this group, placed a long excerpt in Fast Company, which was sort of patient zero for this group, and then gave the book away for free (it’s still free online) with explicit instructions to share and email it to people who might become engaged with it.

No, I couldn’t control what would happen, or where it would go, or what the impact might be, but by picking the 3,000 people who got it first, and then making it easy for this group to share it, it quickly got to over a million readers.

This wasn’t the fastest way to get to a big number, but it was the best way to get to the right number and kind of people.

The temptation is to be big, when the real goal ought to be effective.]

PS: Last time I checked, you can get a used copy of the 13-year old edition of the book for a penny.

You may notice that I’ve chosen not to update past blog posts, past books or past websites.That’s because each is a testament to when it was written, as opposed to being a constantly updating resource. Even so, I hope these older books can add value and give you perspective.

PPS: Fritz Lieber wrote about the out of control ideavirus in his short story “Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee” published more than fifty years ago.

5 Reasons We So Blindly Support Israel in Spite of the Truth or Biblical Ethics

Ali Abdallah. Ali was a homeless man, and the legend of Bliss Street. I have personally crossed Ali countless times on his street. A few months ago, Ali died on the coldest night of Beirut's winter because he was living in pitiful conditions. Ali's death triggered short-lived actions to help the homeless in Beirut (for one or two weeks). I painted this mural a few hundred meters from Ali's street to immortalize him and to remind us that we should not wait the death of another Ali to help others. I wrote "Ghadan Yawmone Afdal"(Tomorrow is a better day) while listening to a song of the similar title by Mashrou' Leila, in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
Ali Abdallah. Ali was a homeless man, and the legend of Bliss Street.
I have personally crossed Ali countless times on his street.
A few months ago, Ali died on… the coldest night of Beirut’s winter because he was living in pitiful conditions.
Ali’s death triggered short-lived actions to help the homeless in Beirut (for one or two weeks). I painted this mural a few hundred meters from Ali’s street to immortalize him and to remind us that we should not wait the death of another Ali to help others.
I wrote “Ghadan Yawmone Afdal”(Tomorrow is a better day) while listening to a song of the similar title by Mashrou’ Leila, in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

A Chernobyl type catastrophe in the Amazon – hours left to win!

Joseph Huff-Hannon

Oil giant Chevron dumped billions of gallons of deadly chemicals in the Ecuadorian Amazon, leaving behind rivers full of toxic waste, decimating wildlife and spreading cancer and death in indigenous communities.
The battle between Chevron and Ecuador’s indigenous people has been waged for decades, becoming a landmark case globally.

Over 20 judges in Ecuador and Canada, including the Supreme Courts of both countries, have sided with the Ecuadorians in their pursuit to hold Chevron to account for dumping toxic waste in the water that people drink.

They’ve never cleaned it up!

But Chevron’s impunity could finally end if we persuade just one man to do the right thing, Bill McNabb .

Chevron’s top stockholder is a US retirement fund whose chair has challenged corporate abuse before, and his customers are part of this community!

If we flood him with support in the next 24 hours he could tip a historic vote — at Chevron’s shareholder meeting tomorrow. Add your name now:

Join the Call for Justice for the Amazon’s Chernobyl

A win against Chevron could open a new era where major corporations are finally held accountable for their crimes!

That’s where investor powerhouse Vanguard and its powerful chairman comes in.

Vanguard owns a large share of Chevron, and has just recently voted against management on climate-related resolutions at Exxon/Mobil, criticising executive pay at Viacom and pushing big banks on gender diversity.

With Chevron’s shareholder meeting in days, over 30 major investors are already calling on the company to settle the case. 

Vanguard Chairman Bill McNabb is a father of four who’s called on CEOs to be a “force for good.” Getting him on board could tip the balance toward a majority vote against Chevron’s recalcitrant management!

Add your name now and we’ll deliver our appeal directly to the chairman, right before the meeting:

Avaazers have campaigned against Chevron before, delivering letters to US senators, and filing legal briefings in court cases with partners. This is an incredible opportunity to get Chevron to finally clean up its toxic mess… and open up a new era of investor-driven social change!

With hope and determination,

Joseph, Pascal, Mike, Alice, Emma, Ricken and the entire Avaaz team

More information:

Shareholders Push New Chevron CEO For Answers on Ecuador

Tell Chevron’s New CEO to Finally Clean up Ecuador! (Amazon Watch)

In the Vanguard: Fund giants urge CEOs to be ‘Force for Good’

Investor Letter on Risks from Ecuador Litigation

Exxon Mobil loses support of a powerful voice in climate change policy

Chevron’s “Amazon Chernobyl” in Ecuador: The Real Irrefutable Truths About the Company’s Toxic Dumping and Fraud (Huffington Post)

Unmeasured results don’t matter? How to Measure without measuring?

Those who don’t enjoy measuring results, don’t enjoy achievement. And Unmeasured results don’t matter?

(Simpy because focusing just on the measured result encourages, you and organizations, to ignore other more important measuring sticks)

In general, someone is busy watching and measuring one number, but it’s the wrong one.

(We don’t measure a dependent variable simply because it is easy and straightforward, but to ask: “Is it a meaningful variable that corresponds to the experiment, testing or evaluation? Someone is busy watching one number, but it’s the wrong one.)

Measurement is fabulous. Unless you’re busy measuring what’s easy to measure as opposed to what’s important.

Dan Rockwell posted this June 6, 2013:

Hitting baseballs reminded me that effective assessments increase enthusiasm, concentration, and satisfaction.

The visit:

Dahliah, Asher, and Abram, three of our grandkids, are spending the week with us.

Asher, our 7 year-old grandson, is a sports fanatic. Yesterday, while in his red Phillies baseball jersey, I spent an hour hitting baseballs to him. He’s pretty good, if I must say so. He loves diving to make spectacular catches.

Poor performance:

His throwing, on the other hand, is inconsistent. Sometimes the ball has a mind of its own. Asher didn’t like seeing Poppi chasing after his inaccurate throws so I gave him a few throwing tips. Things got better but I could tell he still wasn’t happy.

Define winning. Measure results. Reward achievement.

The assessment:

“Hey Ash,” I said, “If Poppi doesn’t have to move to get the ball, when you throw it back, it’s a 10. But every step I take to get the ball is a point off.” His energy and attitude immediately lifted.

I took three steps to retrieve his next throw. Before I could announce his score, he called out, “That’s a seven.”

“Not bad,” I said. He smiled. Determination to get a ten gleamed on his face.

As his throws continued, he earned a few tens and everything from zero to nine. Curiously, after a perfect throw,  he called out, “Four.”

“Four?” I asked.

He said, “That’s four tens in a row.” He’d been keeping track of his achievement.

Enthusiasm requires:

  1. Clear pictures of winning.
  2. Measurable results that matter.
  3. Transparent, unbiased assessments.
  4. Immediate feedback.
  5. Belief that excellence is possible.

Bonus: Challenging and supportive environments.

What factors make assessments effective? Ineffective?


Why all the noise behind Nadine Labaki latest Cannes winning film “Capharnaüm”?

The newly elected deputy for the independent candidates, Paula Yakoubian, voted for Nadine Labaki as chairman of the new Parliament. Obviously, this vote was cancelled since Nadine is Not a deputy and this post is reserved to a Shi3a by convention and Not by any Constitution. But the message was clear because Berry party voiced negative opinions on Nadine latest film “Capharnaüm”, which won Cannes’ award from the jury.
The social media was frantic on the issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (more than 30% of population and the world community trying to deny Lebanon its rights to communicate with Syria in order to facilitate their return to the safe zones). Mostly the social media was in support of Nadine and her film,

Why Nadine Labaki scares them!
Is it because behind this name we find a committed filmmaker and a passionate activist who, with Brio, puts his finger on the wounds that hurt Lebanon society and various sectarian and feudal communities?

For examples:

“Caramel” in 2007 talks about the schizophrenia of the Lebanese woman between her deep desire and what society expects from her

“And now, where do we go?” is the film born as a result of the tragic events of may 2008 that failed to revive the civil war in a matter of hours.

(I Not sure I saw this movie. I recall watching two movies about expatriates returning to the south hunting for some explanation and lost people during the civil war (1975-1989). One of them is probably a Canadian documentary: A Canadian/Lebanese mother go about the South to locate the whereabouts of her missing son. Only to discover that it was her son, now living also in Canada, who raped her in an Israeli prison in Lebanon and his son is hers.)

Isn’t “Beirut Madinati” this dazzling success of the first steps of civil society and does not advance its commitment to another Lebanon?

Can “Capharnaüm” be separated from the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war in Syria?

(Plausible with the hundreds of delinquent Lebanese and kids roaming the urban cities)

Let us continue to support all the achievements of Nadine Labaki and all those who, in shadow or light, are struggling to revive Lebanon!

Note 1Nada Corbani Akl wrote in a previous post:

The resilience of Nadine Labaki. The best that Lebanon offers to its children is to encourage them to migrate to countries where they shine, all without exception.

Nadine Labaki, who made us launch yesterday cries of joy mixed with pride, is doubly thanked because it resists here, in Beirut, in this bruised Lebanon, and that it is a message that we will, in spite of everything, get out of it, and brilliantly.

Note 2: My comment to this last post was: “Mais si on a decide’ de ne plus revenir et continuer notre mission au Liban, qui le fera? Our universities don’t take seriously scientific research, experimentation or free opinions that confront dogmatic pseudo-professors. We need a more reflective generation to hope for any change”

The Fear of Supporting Political Reform

May 24, 2018 | English and Arabic |

Laura Paler, Leslie Marshall, and Sami Atallah

This brief examines the extent to which people are willing to support political reform in Lebanon. Using a randomized petition experiment with 2,496 citizens across the country, it is demonstrated that, although people wish to abolish the confessional political system, they are less willing to express that publicly.

This is largely due to fear of being sanctioned by their family members, community, and political leaders.

Looking at various socio-economic groups, lower income citizens—like their upper income compatriots—do not support sectarian politics.

Lower income citizens group is less willing to take public political action.

Concerning confessional groups, Christians express more support for confessional politics than their Sunni and Shia counterparts. Though Sunnis are less likely than other confessional groups to take public action.

The study suggests that an effort to effect change would either need to target those who are less fearful of voicing support for reform or would need to reduce the level of fear among sections of Lebanese society that otherwise would support reform.

(And what about the upper income compatriots? How did you subdivide this group and their source of wealth? What do they want to change and how?)

(So, No group or religious sect want to express what they want to reform? And who are the reformist citizens? What if you search for the reformists and then conduct the grouping?)

Why connecting to people is the mark of success?

Young “leaders”, or aspiring to be leaders in their communities, often explain their purpose in self-centered language: They focus on themselves and neglect others.

Individual contributors are great, but leaders always connect and mobilize people.

Leadership is about others.

Dan Rockwell posted “12 ways to connect and mobilize”:

  1. Highlight need – explain why things can’t go on as they are.
  2. Make them know they matter – show how they can help.
  3. Include everyone in crafting vision – engage people if you expect them to be engaged.
  4. Create channels for service – build organizational structure.
  5. Call people to rise up – great work isn’t convenient. Disrupt established patterns.
  6. Establish enabling relationships – build confidence by connecting the inexperience with the experience.
  7. Honor effort – express gratitude along the way.
  8. Rotate tasks and offer training.
  9. Track results – tell everyone what’s getting done.
  10. Point out more need – more to-do makes people matter more.
  11. Celebrate success – dance because you’re making a difference.
  12. Identify and leverage forward looking leaders.

Six roadblocks to success:

  1. People tensions. Inexperienced leaders wrongly believe good causes and great needs solve interpersonal tensions. Connecting people, not completing projects, is the great challenge of leadership. Good people collide.
  2. Power struggles.
  3. Confusion. Begin with simple behaviors that express big vision.
  4. Underutilized talent. People walk away when you waste their time and talent.
  5. Diverse values and motivations. Accept that what’s important to one isn’t important to another.
  6. Losing purpose. People lose motivation when they feel their efforts don’t make a difference.

How can leaders mobilize people?

What hinders effective mobilization?

(Learning to connect with people and constantly exercising that acquired skill is provide a wider range of opportunities for success. Though you need other talents from a variety of skilled people in other fields and tasks… if you intend to create your own business)




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