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Rise Like Lions - Occupy Wall Street and the Seeds of Revolution

"Scott Noble’s film Rise Like Lions takes the people, actions, and words from the camps and streets of Occupy Wall Street and provides a radical, compelling and inspiring account of what the movement is about. Watch it. Share it. Do it!" -Ron Jacobs, Journalist, Author The Co-Conspirator’s Tale

Filed under Commentary documentary Occupy Occupy Wall Street Revolution

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Confessions of a would-be Egyptian revolutionary

By Khaled Diab

Returning to Egypt for the first time since the revolution, an expat desktop rebel discovers the inspirational, the troubling and the simply bizarre.

“The next president of Egypt will be the Mahdi,” Dr Omar, who claimed to be a paediatrician who had treated injured protesters on Tahrir Square, told me. In his hand, he held up a petition calling on the government to dig up, at a precise location in a poor Cairo suburb, the Ark of the Covenant because, he claimed, it contained the Mahdi’s identity.

At first, I simply assumed that the good doctor and his not-so-merry crew, who stood on the tented central island of Tahrir Square, were using the sharp wit and humour that have been part and parcel of the revolution to mock the anti-democratic tendencies of the military junta still running the show. But after a little extra probing, it dawned on me that they were deadly serious and they expected the messianic Mahdi to return and reclaim his earthly throne by becoming president of medium-sized Egypt, rather than, say, the United States or China.

This was not quite what I had been expecting to hear on my first visit to Tahrir Square since the Egyptian revolution began in January 2011. Although when I last departed Egypt, a few short weeks before the now-legendary uprising, I was feeling pretty sick of home, and all its corruption and cronyism, with my wife and I speculating about what kind of a second homeland awaited our son. Less than a month later, I began to feel homesick. Even though I’m not into patriotism and I regard nationalism to be safe only in small doses, nonetheless, in addition to the humanist admiration for the underdog, the revolution awoke in my a certain amount of national pride and I longed to be with the protesters rewriting their history.

But I was in the wrong place at the right time, and the best I could manage was the whole-hearted support of the sympathetic spectator. Of course, I could have followed the example of some expatriated friends who, in their haste to return, almost parachuted into Tahrir. But at the time, I was temporarily on my own holding the baby, and then came our move to Jerusalem and… and… and… perhaps I simply wasn’t really a hands-on revolutionary.

May be I also felt a certain unworthiness. Sure, in my journalism I had for years harshly criticised all that I saw wrong with the Egyptian regime and society and dreamed – or wishfully fantasised, as some alleged – of a free and democratic Egypt of social and economic justice for all.

But these newspaper columns, though they could have come crashing down around my ears during one of my regular visits, also supported the ivory tower which afforded me, the expat Egyptian with a foreign passport who was working mostly for foreign outlets, relative protection. So, while I had spilt rivers of ink pontificating, intellectualising and agonising, millions of Egyptians were actually demanding their freedom, dignity and hope, and paying for it with their blood, sweat, tears and fears.

This emotional baggage could perhaps explain why I entered a futile debate with these Mahdist maniacs on the messianic margin, and even got threatened with violence by a couple of them in the process, rather than just walking away scratching my head. Then again, sometimes my mouth is just bigger and my tongue sharper than the weights and pullies that are meant to keep them under control.

Moreover, Tahrir had finally, thanks to the combined will, determination and courage of millions of protesters, lived up to the promise of its name, liberty, freedom. And so if Tahrirites were to endorse the presidential aspirations of anyone, it should be a candidate with some democratic credentials, not an unelected spiritual leader whose rule, benign or not, would be tantamount to a divine dictatorship.

Of course, the unprecedented display of people power deposing the country’s anointed pharaoh-in-chief and the unpresidented prospect of Egyptians actually choosing their own leader may have been too much for some to absorb, and a “miracle” like this is bound to awaken millennialist ideas in the quackier reaches of society.

Even in more “sensible” and “rational” quarters, some worrying signs of antidemocratic tendencies could be seen, such as the pro-stability Egyptians I came across who express support for the Vladimir Putin of Egyptian politics, the mysterious and shady Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s right-hand man and Egypt’s chief of military intelligence, as the country’s next president because they think he’s a “real man” who can restore order to the country and, with his vast insider knowledge, manage its transition.

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Filed under Commentary Egypt Revolution Arab Spring

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Hacks of Valor

Why Anonymous Is Not a Threat to National Security

Yochai Benkler

Over the past year, the U.S. government has begun to think of Anonymous, the online network phenomenon, as a threat to national security. According to The Wall Street Journal, Keith Alexander, the general in charge of the U.S. Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, warned earlier this year that “the hacking group Anonymous could have the ability within the next year or two to bring about a limited power outage through a cyberattack.” His disclosure followed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s release of several bulletins over the course of 2011 warning about Anonymous. Media coverage has often similarly framed Anonymous as a threat, likening it to a terrorist organization. Articles regularly refer to the Anonymous offshoot LulzSec as a “splinter group,” and a recent Fox News report uncritically quoted an FBI source lauding a series of arrests that would “[chop] off the head of LulzSec.”

This is the wrong approach. Seeing Anonymous primarily as a cybersecurity threat is like analyzing the breadth of the antiwar movement and 1960s counterculture by focusing only on the Weathermen. Anonymous is not an organization. It is an idea, a zeitgeist, coupled with a set of social and technical practices. Diffuse and leaderless, its driving force is “lulz” — irreverence, playfulness, and spectacle. It is also a protest movement, inspiring action both on and off the Internet, that seeks to contest the abuse of power by governments and corporations and promote transparency in politics and business. Just as the antiwar movement had its bomb-throwing radicals, online hacktivists organizing under the banner of Anonymous sometimes cross the boundaries of legitimate protest. But a fearful overreaction to Anonymous poses a greater threat to freedom of expression, creativity, and innovation than any threat posed by the disruptions themselves.

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Filed under Commentary Hacking Anonymous Internet Cybersecurity Cyberwar Wikileaks Egypt Revolution

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Greek Town Implements Revolutionary Barter System Without Euro

Activist Post

Greece continues along a path toward self-sufficiency that could very well see them break free from their debt servitude.

In the wake of their pillaging by international financiers, Greeks who have realized that protesting is likely to bring little relief have begun to implement barter systems to meet their local community needs.  Through a combination of decentralization from the Euro, free markets, local cooperation, and the creation of a new currency based on productivity, markets like the one below in Volos are leading the charge to a restoration of the principles that build truly sustainable economies.

This is an encouraging sign, and one that is replicating throughout austerity-ridden economies the world over.  International currencies are increasingly being rejected in the face of reduced living standards through inflation and outright theft by global banksters.

Americans would do well to learn from the truly revolutionary actions taken by individuals in deliberately collapsed countries, because if global (mis)managers have their way, a similar scenario is guaranteed to unfold in the United States.


Filed under News Greece Revolution Financial Crisis United States Euro

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"The Rose Of Fire Has Returned"

CRIMETHINC

In May 2011, tens of thousands occupied plazas throughout Spain in a protest movement that prefigured similar occupations around the world, including the Occupy movement in the United States. On March 29, 2012, a nationwide general strike erupted into massive street-fighting in Barcelona, as participants wrested control of the streets from riot police. How did this come to pass, and what can it tell us about what will follow the occupation movements outside Spain?

Here, our Barcelona correspondent provides extensive background on the riots of March 29, tracing the trajectory from the plaza occupations to the general strike, and explores the questions that have arisen as anarchists face new opportunities and challenges.

The History

“La rosa de foc ha tornat!” This was the expression of excitement on many people’s lips during the general strike throughout Spain on March 29, 2012. While the unions estimated an impressive 77% turnout, it was the fires blackening the skies over Barcelona that everyone talked about.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, when more anarchist attentats and bombings were carried out in Barcelona than in any other two countries combined and dozens of churches and police stations were burned to the ground, the city was affectionately known as la rosa de foc, “the rose of fire.” The period of“revolutionary gymnastics” in the ’20s and ’30s foregrounded the city as a laboratory of subversion for anarchist struggles worldwide, a role that was taken further with the revolution of July 1936. The struggle of Catalan maquis—guerrillas—during the Franco years was the precursor to the guerrilla struggles that blossomed in Europe and Latin America in the ’60s and ’70s; in some cases, it was the vector along which experience and materials were directly passed on. But this history has largely been lost, thanks to the rupture imposed by fascism and democracy, and Barcelona lost its significance on the revolutionary stage.

With the backing of the democratic powers, forty years of dictatorship and repression effectively suppressed the anarchist movement in Catalunya and the rest of the Spanish state. A great deal of pro-anarchist sentiment remained, but this was dissipated when the rebounding social revolution was sidetracked by the transition to democracy in the 1970s. Hundreds of thousands of people were taking the street, hoping to pick up the torch that had been dropped in ’36, but the government played its cards well, the returning CNT played its cards poorly, and democracy carried the day. Since then, the city has been tamed, if not outright pacified, and the rose of fire forgotten.

Fierce neighborhood struggles continued into the ’80s, but these were largely limited to marginalized immigrant[1] neighborhoods and they were calmed by the political and economic integration—or bulldozing—of the slums and shantytowns that gave them birth. In the ’90s, there were several intense squatter and antifascist riots, but the media successfully spun these as isolated phenomena. In the ’00s, social control and pacification made great leaps forward. A new police force trained in democratic policing tactics, the mossos d’escuadra, were introduced along with an insistent public campaign of civic behavior ordinances; in time, the riot disappeared along with street-fighting know-how, the use of Molotov cocktails, and the practice of resisting evictions. The police became untouchable: they only had to charge—or simply draw their batons—to send people scattering.

A combative spirit was still widespread, at least among anarchists, some squatters, and a part of the Catalan independentistes,[2] but the tools needed to express it were lost. In 2007, when police tried to win undisputed control of the streets once and for all by kettling and shutting down any non-permitted protest, the so-calledantisistema[3] halted this by seeking broader alliances, returning to the streets, and emphasizing the contradiction between the State’s attempted power grab and its democratic narrative. This persistence achieved some results, but no one could figure out how to go back on the offensive.

When the economic crisis eroded the public welfare that had guaranteed the social peace, many more people besides the couple thousand antisistema began to take action. Neighborhood assemblies formed, pushed forward by well-meaning reformists, indepes, or closet libertarians, and attracting a few Trotskyists and similar types. The anarchist CNT and the anarcho-reformist CGT, kept in shape by minor labor struggles in a supermarket chain and among the bus drivers, geared up for a battle more worthy of their history.[4] The indepes, irked by years of irrelevance despite strong public support for independence from Spain and reenergized by the emergence of a new political party that has not yet entered government to betray them, also made ready for a new offensive. And the black bloc anarchists, finally ready to take the initiative after years of action-repression-prisoner support, moved from the limited field of clandestine action, antisocial propaganda, and self-organization within autonomous ghettos to a more porous terrain on which the skills they had honed could have greater effects.

Barcelona General Strike, September 29, 2010

The general strike of September 29, 2010 was called by the major unions (CCOO andUGT) along with the smaller unions like the CNT and CGT. But a large part of the organizing was also carried out by neighborhood assemblies, non-union anarchists, indepes, and others. On a national level, it was a success from the union standpoint, achieving majority participation despite being the first general strike in eight years. In Barcelona, it was also a success from an insurrectionary standpoint, precipitating an intense riot in which attacks on agents of government and capitalism generalized. The rioting was largely spontaneous, carried out by many more people than the usual suspects, and reached a scale and intensity not seen since at least the la Cine Princesa riots in 1996.[5] A large number of arrests with serious charges and an intense campaign of demonization via the media conditioned future actions and attitudes. Nonetheless, September 2010 left diverse actors with more strength and social backing.

Banco Español “discredited” after the general strike of 2010

CCOO and UGT immediately went to the negotiating table and traded in a large part of that backing for the privilege of signing on to the Socialist government’s pension reform. Both unions were in true form. UGT had been a major force in hampering proletarian struggles in the ’20s and ’30s; they were the mass organization that gave the paltry number of Stalinists in 1936 the cover they needed to sabotage the revolution. CCOO (Comisiones Obreras, Workers’ Commissions) is the institutionalization of the libertarian communist Workers’ Autonomy movement of the ’70s. When the fascists who became the Popular Party were looking for leftists to invite into government to help them forestall revolution by putting on a democratic mask, they found their men in the CCOO and the newly reformed Socialist Party (PSOE).

On the other side of things, the CGT (a split from the CNT) and the two CNTs(another split) got over their age-old enmity and started working more closely. Squatter and black bloc anarchists also started working together with CNT anarchists or joining the neighborhood assemblies and working with indepes, closet libertarians, and community activists. Widespread isolation, as much the result of a shared social condition as of any particular choices, began to melt away.

In January 2011, these latter groups decided to organize another general strike without the two major unions. Most people regard this second strike as a failure on account of the low level of participation. This frames the purpose of a strike through the quantitative, organizational mentality of a union. The historical significance of the January strike was to demonstrate that CCOO and UGT were losing their hold. It showed that those operating from a more insurrectionary logic could seize the initiative, cause a significant disruption, and communicate radical ideas if they were willing to work beyond narrow affinities and address the immediate concerns of livelihood usually monopolized by reformist discourses. This discovery is at the heart of two tensions that recur throughout the history of the events of March 29. These tensions have to do with how the principle of affinity changes its behavior between times of isolation and times of coalescence; and how immediate concerns are frequently paired with reformist methods, and idealist concerns with revolutionary, methods, creating a false polarization. This will be explored further in the final section.

After January 27, 2011, the next significant date was May Day, when the anticapitalist protest comprised of black bloc anarchists, the CNT, and many indepes marched from Gràcia to the rich neighborhood of Sarrià, where they smashed a hundred banks and luxury stores before police managed to disperse them. May Day 2011 demonstrated the strength of this new encounter between previously segregated sectors of antisistema. People still did not have the power to withstand the police, nor had they regained street-fighting know-how, but they did manage to go on the attack. For years before 2011, black bloc anarchists in Barcelona had been trying to regain May Day as a combative holiday, failing every time despite creative and varied attempts, while the CNT anarchists had been content with peaceful marches commemorating a waning history. The success in 2011 was an important breakthrough. It also revealed a fear that anti-capitalist violence against the rich would resonate widely, as the media suppressed most news or imagery of the protest.bus drivers, geared up for a battle more worthy of their history.[6]

On the other hand, criticisms by some fellow protestors demonstrated that these new relationships would be lost if the hooded ones used heterogeneous, multitudinous spaces instrumentally as a mute and convenient terrain apt for wreaking havoc and nothing else. The specific criticisms were not pacifist, nor were they coming from people who were displeased by the smashing up of a rich neighborhood. They had more to do with who bore the brunt of the repression, who held the line against the police, and who carried out the smashing; or with sticking to joint objectives, or sharing information so others wouldn’t be unprepared for a confrontational situation. Nonetheless, after years of dealing with a broad public rejection of their violence, the more insurrectionary of the antisistema were predisposed to ignore these criticisms.

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Filed under News Anarchy Anarchism Revolution Spain May Day Resistance

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The labour movement and the future of democracy in Egypt

Amor Eletrebi

The actions of the Ultras and the labour movement could determine the future of revolutionary politics of Egypt.

Irvine, CA, & Cairo, Egypt - There has never been any coordination between them, but over the coming months, the actions of the Ultras and the labour movement could well determine the future of revolutionary politics in Egypt.

Both movements, with their strong working class roots, have been at the front lines of protest in Egypt in the last decade, with institutional memories of opposing unjust rulers, whether in the football stadiums or the factories, going back much further. Each played a crucial role in the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Years of experience - and often exuberance while - fighting riot police and security forces put the Ultras at the front lines of the early battles of Tahrir, and every battle since. For its part, decades of sit-ins, strikes and other acts of civil disobedience - large and small - made the labour movement a natural deus ex machina to save the revolution on that unseasonably warm day, the Wednesday before Mubarak fell, when Tahrir had lost its energy and Mubarak’s strategy of getting Egypt back to work while letting protesters stew in Midan seemed to be working.

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Filed under News Commentary Egypt Revolution Revolutionary

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Draft Law for the Nationalization of Civil Society and Transforming it into a Government Institution

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

Joint Press Release by 25 Human Rights Organizations

The undersigned human rights organizations declare their utter rejection of the new draft law on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), prepared by the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs and which aims to nationalize civil society. Under this law civil society would be considered an institution of the government, and NGO staff would be regarded as civil servants. Furthermore, the new law would impose several new arbitrary restrictions aiming to terrorize civil society activists.

This draft law actually epitomizes the same philosophy of tightening the firm grip on civil society organizations in general and stifling human rights organizations in particular. The new draft law goes even further in its restrictions than all of the previous laws which have repressed civil society since the proclamation of Law No. 32 of 1964. The undersigned human rights organizations warn Parliament against the adoption of this anti-civil society draft law, which is designed to undermine the already limited margin allowed for NGO activities and imposes exorbitant fees for establishing NGOs, thereby stifling the interest of citizens in establishing or participating in the work of such groups. These undersigned organizations reaffirm their support for the draft law which they presented before the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee in January of this year.

The main features of the new draft law are:

1) The philosophy of the draft law reflects the government’s ambitions to integrate civil society organizations into the state apparatus. Hence, the law considers NGO staff to be state employees. This runs counter to the philosophy and understanding of civil society in democratic societies, in which civil society is an autonomous sector independent from state control which works freely to perform the services that the state fails to provide.

2) Based on its philosophy which lacks any professional basis or reference, the draft law regards board members of associations, NGOs, and their affiliated unions and staff as civil servants as well. This anomalous classification clashes with the concept of civil servants found in jurisprudence provisions of the Egyptian law and rulings of the Egyptian courts, in which a civil servant is defined as “any person entrusted with a function of a permanent nature in a public utility run by the State; or any person who becomes subject to public law by way of his work in a position which falls under the administrative organization of the said utility.” Hence, in order to acquire the capacity of a civil servant, a person must work in the service of a state-run public utility through direct employment. Therefore, even according to the reading of Egyptian law, associations and NGOs are subject to private law – just as are corporations - because these organizations are not public utilities run by the state. Therefore, it is illogical to consider their funds to be public funds, just as it is illogical to consider their administrators to be civil servants.

3) Based on the distorted line of thought of the crafters of the new draft law, who consider NGOs to be part of the state’s administrative structure, the said draft law allows the government to intervene in the minutest details of NGOs’ affairs (such as in the composition of a general assembly, method of convening such a general assembly, dates of its meetings, and method of membership and withdrawal of members, as well as in the composition or election of a Board of Directors, dates of board meetings, and competencies and functions of each board member - according to executive regulations - and even extending to include the government’s right to dissolve a NGO’s Board of Directors). Such powers are explicitly inconsistent with the logic of a civil society, since NGOs fundamentally arise from the will of their founders and run their affairs according to the vision of their constituent members, not that of the government.

Similarly, the draft law allows the government to request that the judiciary dissolve any association if the government deems that the association is incapable of accomplishing the objectives for which it was established.  Not only is the wording used here vague and easily distorted, but the only two parties which have the right to evaluate an association’s activities and whether or not it has accomplished its objectives are the association itself and the public which is served by the services of said association. What is truly ridiculous about this clause, however, is to think that the nation, its security, and its key interests could be endangered because an association was incapable of accomplishing its aims!

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Filed under News Egypt Press Release Human Rights Revolution NGO

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Syria: The virtue of civil disobedience

Civil disobedience is the only way to mobilise people in big cities that are deemed to be regime strongholds in Syria.

By Donatella Della Ratta 

Something is happening in Syria, away from the media spotlight. Last March 27, when Damascus woke up, the independence flag - symbol of the Syrian revolution -  was raised in different districts, from Berzeh to Mezzeh, from school walls to bridges. Civil disobedience groups had successfully managed to coordinate the biggest anti-regime protests conducted simultaneously in different parts of the Syrian capital.

When you make Mutasem Abou AlShamat notice that raising the independence flag is nothing more than just a symbolic action - although beautiful - this Damascene in his 20s, smiles and calmly explains: “You have to look at what lies behind the action, not at its immediate content. Doing this simultaneously means that different non-violent groups are finally getting together and organising common actions. Achieving this degree of coordination should not be taken for granted in Damascus, where security control is tight, communications are either tracked or lacking and moving from one area to another is extremely difficult.”

"This is a step further to coordinate a much bigger operation that is in the pipeline," he says, mysteriously.

Mutasem is a member of the Syrian non-violent movement. Together with many other groups, mostly based in Damascus and Aleppo, he has joined “Ayyam al hurryia” (Freedom days), a consortium of individuals and loose organisations which share a common goal: “To topple the regime through peaceful resistance and civil disobedience”.

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Filed under Commentary Dissent Civil Disobedience Syria REVOLUTION Rebellion

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Economic Revolution

By Joel Hirschhorn

Believing in the classic American Dream that hard work will deliver prosperity is like believing that buying super lottery tickets is a smart way to become wealthy.   Both are delusional beliefs because both are bets on incredible long shots that will disappoint nearly everyone who believes this garbage.   The American Dream has been destroyed by a revolution from the top.

Americans have been watching authentic bottom-up revolutions in other countries but remain oblivious to a very different kind of revolution by elites that has been in progress for over three decades in the US.   It has not destroyed the government or Constitution, merely bought control of both.   Our government was not overthrown in a bloody revolution.   It was purchased to win the class war against the 99 percent. 

Call it the frog revolution.   It is best understood by the parable of the frog in water that stays in it as the temperature is raised, ultimately to the boiling point, killing the frog.   The key indicator of the US frog revolution is a mountain of data showing the rise in economic inequality, the loss of upward economic mobility, and the killing of the middle class.   The vast majority of Americans, the 99 percent of frogs, remain ignorant of how they are being destroyed by that infamous rich and powerful one percent. 

Note that in a poll released by Pew, 19 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside of our control,” the highest number since 1994.   It would be much higher if there was not an epidemic of delusional thinking.   But more on target, 40 percent of Americans — also the highest number since 1994 — agreed with the statement that “hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people.”   For the counter-revolution we need that number must get much higher. 

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Filed under Commentary America Revolution Rebellion Resistance Economy Frog Boiling

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April 6: Genealogy of a Youth Movement

By Sarah Carr

Go to any protest outside Tahrir Square today and you will inevitably hear onlookers grumbling about “April 6 youths destroying the country” — even when the group has no presence at the demonstration.

The April 6 Youth Movement’s reputation doesn’t so much precede it as outstrip it. Loyalists of former President Hosni Mubarak vilify the group’s leaders as foreign-funded traitors intent on (and more to the point, capable of) using their cadres to destroy Egypt as part of a vaguely-worded plot usually involving a foreign Western power.

The group inspires the particular ire of the “I Am Sorry, Mr President” Facebook group made up of Mubarak sympathizers. It dedicates large swathes of its Facebook wall to mobilizing its members against its nemesis through a torrent of accusations and insinuations, and together the groups form a sort of Yin and Yang of Facebook activism relying on the same medium to achieve very different ends.

The group can be positioned in the landscape of emerging youth groups since the mid-2000s, which operated outside the scope of formal political parties and were at the forefront of street politics, all while without clearly articulated political propositions.

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Filed under News Commentary Youth Revolution Egypt Facebook Revolt General Strike Cairo Tahrir Square

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The Draft Anti-Terrorism Law in Saudi Arabia: Legalizing the Abrogation of Civil Liberties

Side note: Please visit this amazing site;  http://www.jadaliyya.com . I think I just found a great source for Middle Eastern news.

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By Saleh Al Amer

In July 2011, Amnesty International published aleaked copy of the draft Saudi Arabian Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism. This Anti-Terror Law, which grants the Ministry of Interior unprecedented levels of authority and discretion in intelligence gathering, policing, and detention, has already been reviewed by the Security Committee of the Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura) and the Committee of Experts in the Ministers’ Council, and awaits final approval for its enactment. Given the recent appointment of the Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdulaziz as the new Crown Prince, it seems likely that the law will soon be adopted.

Widespread criticism of the law has been voiced internally, by local activists, and internationally, with Amnesty International andHuman Rights Watch leading the way. Unlike the US Patriot Act and the Terrorism Act 2006 of Great Britain, both of which allowed for tremendous expansions of state power, the proposed Anti-Terror Law seems designed to legitimize already-existing extra-judicial practices of the Saudi state by cloaking them in the rule of law. With broad support for legal reforms, continued protests and civil disobedience, and public debate growing over the injustices suffered by Saudi prisoners of conscience, the Anti-Terror Law seeks to forestall any movement towards enhanced legal protections.

The regime response was limited to a letter written by the Saudi Ambassador in London, emphasizing that the Anti-Terror Law provides both for the need to deal with terrorism within a legal framework, and for the protection of the “legitimate rights of suspects.” What has been neglected in this exchange between officials and critics is that the unapplied 2002 Law of Criminal Procedure (LCP) already exists to ensure a speedy, fair, and inexpensive trial, while guaranteeing basic rights. While the LCP is not without its flaws, unlike the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law, it limits the discretionary power of the Ministry of Interior and provides a foundation for a broader set of legal reforms.

The Saudi Criminal Procedure LCP

In 2002 Saudi Arabia published its first Law of Criminal Procedure (LCP). This law contains 225 articles laying out the process for the initiation of criminal action; rules of collecting and preserving evidence; conditions of arrest and pretrial detention, including bail; and the jurisdiction of courts and their proceedings … These new laws gave Saudi citizens and residents a clearer definition of their rights in detention and at trial and laid out the procedures the investigators and courts must follow. For the first time, defendants had the right to legal counsel during investigation as well as at trial (Law of Criminal Procedure, Article 4).

The LCP codified certain guarantees and rights absent in Saudi jurisprudence. It provided the right to be represented by a lawyer throughout investigations, charging, and trials, and guarded against prolonged detention as well. Article 33 and Article 34 state that a person cannot be held for over twenty-four hours without a written order and must be seen by an investigator and charged within this twenty-four-hour period. A person cannot be held incommunicado and must be able to inform others of his or her arrest and charges. Similarly, the LCP provided for a proper searching procedure where the citizen’s privacy is respected. The search must be done during the daytime; the person must be present when his or her home is being searched; and finally, a detailed warrant supported by specific information and probable cause is required. Private conversations are highly protected in the articles of the LCP. Monitoring people’s communications and wiretapping must be supported by probable cause and its warrant is a temporary one that must be renewed every ten days. During the investigation, the accused must be informed of the charge during the first meeting with the investigators and no form of coercion may be used. The fact that the authorities have a twenty-four-hour period to investigate and charge or release the detainee was emphasized through repetition in two different sections of the LCP. This twenty-four-hour period could be extended to six months, however, only after the initiation of investigation, and before charging the suspect, if specified reasons are met. Finally, the LCP gives the Minister of Interior the discretion to define the capital crimes that require arrest.

The LCP is far from perfect and significant changes must be made for it to meet international standards and conform to regional and universal treaties. These shortcomings were highlighted by Human Rights Watch in its 2008 report, which focused its criticism on the lack of codification of crimes. Judges and investigators are given the discretion to interpret the Sharia (Islamic Jurisprudence) texts and define the crimes, their elements, and the punishment. With the lack of codification, prompt charging is not possible since the investigator will only charge after the completion of the investigation and not within the required twenty-four-hour period.

Saudi lawyers and activists based their analysis and criticism of the LCP on Sharia law (Islamic Jurisprudence), a very strategic move in Saudi Arabia. Using this tactic, activists avoid common accusations of Western influence, which can serve to delegitimize their perspective in the public eye. Waleed Al-Majid, a Saudi writer and researcher, argued that the LCP did not accommodate a key Sharia principle, which stipulates that nobody can be punished without a text, which requires a clear and intelligible definition of crimes and guards against detention without charge. Human rights activist and Saudi lawyer Abdulrahman Al-Lahim pointed out that the LCP lacks two main principles. The first one is what is known as the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. The doctrine states that a piece of evidence is inadmissible if obtained through improper procedure. The second doctrine is the presumption of innocence. The LCP places the burden of proof on the accused not the investigator. Despite these problems, however, advocates of legal reform are enthusiastic for the LCP to be implemented. As Al-Majid has pointed out, the lack of implementation hinders any possible improvement through legal challenge and practice.

The strength, as well as the weakness, of the LCP became apparent in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in 2003 and 2004 in Saudi Arabia. Instead of putting the LCP to the test and strengthening it in the process of implementing it, the Saudi government decided to take a different route. The attacks had provided grounds for the regime to shelve the LCP and roll back what had until that point been incremental progress in legal reform.

The Draft Penal Law of Terrorism Crimes and Financing Terrorism

The drafting committee listed numerous Saudi and international bodies of law as bases and justifications for the proposed Anti-Terror Law. The long list includes the LCP, a great number of international and regional treaties, different anti-terror laws in the region, and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 of 2001. The latter dictates that states shall bring every person participating in the commission of a terrorist act in any form or shape to justice and establish such terrorist acts as crimes in domestic law. Interestingly, the Law of Criminal Procedure was also cited as legal basis. While the Anti-Terror Law certainly violates numerous international treaties and basic human rights principles, it is in reference to the LCP that these contraventions are most important. The discrepancies between the two laws provide the best basis for legal and popular challenges to the enactment of the Anti-Terror Law.

The draft law does four main things. First, it gives the Ministry of Interior and the Minister himself an unprecedented level of authority and discretion. Second, it defines terrorist crimes over-broadly and vaguely. Third, it lacks the basic measures of due process and fair trial. Finally, and more importantly, it chills and officially bans free expression and the freedom of assembly.

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Filed under Commentary Terrorism Human Rights Saudi Arabia Geopolitics Revolution Terrorist Freedom Civil liberties Rights

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thepeoplesrecord:

The Scope of the Global Spring

In December 2010, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi drenched himself in fuel in the middle of Sidi Bouzid’s town square and ignited himself on fire as a traditional form of protest. Eighteen days later, Bouazizi died and four days after that, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year dictatorship crumbled. More than a year later, Bouazizi’s self-immolation has created a scourge of resistance across all corners of the world.

The people’s epoch of protest has not come easily, but no revolution ever has. Censorship, brutality, arrest and murder have greeted protesters to derail their struggle for liberation. But as last year’s Arab Spring has proved, once the oppressed have lost their fear and tolerance for tyranny, real revolution and change is possible.

An international uprising

Now that the people of the Middle East have paved the way for emancipation, the afflicted working classes across the world are stirring up mass waves of upheaval, each fighting for their own distinct struggles. So far, this Global Spring has activated thousands in nearly every country to take the streets, mobilize and launch an international revolution.

March brought the revitalization of resistance communities all over the world:

  • The Socialist Unity Centre of India has reclaimed the streets of New Delhi to rally against unemployment, lack of education opportunities and violence against women and children in India.
  • When the Indonesian government announced fuel price hikes of more than 30 percent, thousands invaded Jakarta to protest and were met with tear gas and water cannons.
  • On the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, protesters reignited the American uprising against capitalism in all areas of the country.
  • More than 200,000 Canadian students marched to protest tuition hikes in Montreal and awoke a student movement for accessible education.
  • Protesters in the Philippines have marched by the thousands to rally against the U.S. imperialist occupation of their country.
  • Portuguese protesters conducted a general strike against austerity measures after a 78-billion euro bailout last year.
  • More than 400 people gathered in Moscow after taking the streets to mobilize against state television propaganda programming condemning opposition rallies.
  • The Pakistan working class took over a petrol station to oppose power cuts in Lahore.
  • The Aysén Social Movement in Chile has made great strides against its government tormentors and has worked to provide the working class with better working conditions, healthcare, education and city infrastructure.
  • About 40 people were killed in this week alone in Syria as a continued backlash against the Arab Spring and activist groups. More than 9,000 have been killed in the year-long conflict, but protests and marches have continued.
  • Countless marches have sprung up in the United States to assemble against racism in the dozens of protests that fought for justice for murdered teenager Treyvon Martin.
  • Jamyang Palden set himself aflame in the town of Rongwo in China to protest the country’s occupation of Tibet where government officials have cut off Internet and international news access. Palden is the 27th person in the last year to self-immolate in protest.

…and this has only been in the month of March.

These are just a few of the communities of resistance that have assembled and organized against their oppressors to continue the legacy of revolution Bouazizi helped spark.

Solidarity in revolution

As the globalization of government and markets has come to be the way of the world, oppressive regimes and capitalist interests have terrorized working classes and distorted countries’ economies. But the working class is using internationalism to their benefit; one country’s struggle has become another’s struggle. This use of solidarity has acted as the fuel to enrage and motivate working class groups to begin their own emancipation. Globalization has forced us to see that revolution cannot just happen in one country; it must be an international effort to crush the oppressive forces of government control, greed, violence and war. Social justice and human rights cannot exist in one country and not in another. This conflagration of dissent is spreading purposefully and will continue a power shift from the oppressive to the oppressed.

Those maintaining the status quo are scared, too. The use of violence against protesters only demonstrates a government’s belief that uprisings can and will eventually topple them to dust. Brutality cannot and has not prevented activists all over the world from continuing their plight for basic human rights.

The Global Spring has arrived, but this is only the beginning of the emancipation of the world’s working class and oppressed.

-G. Razo

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

Filed under Middle East Revolution Protest

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How your data will fuel the coming digital/biological convergence

SIDE NOTE: Transhumanism is going to quickly become the predominant movement in the technology industry. It’s been in the background for years now waiting for it’s debut on stage. When it comes, no one is going to like it.

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By Brandon R. Reynolds

The secret thread running through the SXSW Interactive conference is one that, once noticed, is seen propagating throughout everything from politics to comedy, social media strategies to street parties, all the way to the very laws of thermodynamics.

It’s encapsulated in something keynote speaker Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, said on the first day of the March conference: “Up until a couple of years ago, every revolution had a leader.”

He calls ours the Age of Networked Intelligence: one that started with the advent of the printing press and rolled on through to the internet, where we have “access to the intelligence of other heads.” Then he talks about self-organization, the Tunisian revolution, and how weak ties conglomerate into strong ties. He ends with a long video of starlings, swarming like a living cloud. The flock is called a murmuration.

There’s the thread: The swarm, self-organization, emergence. Many small parts that, coming together, create a higher level of organization. After I recognized it, I found it everywhere. “Comedy Bang Bang” podcast host Scott Aukerman introducing a show by encouraging the audience to laugh: If you laugh, the person next to you will laugh, and the person next to them, and so on. The grassroots political organization AmericansElect.org, which surveys online voter information to identify an ideal presidential candidate (look for ‘em on the ballot this November). A talk on pop-up libraries in Chicago. “Coolfarming,” the act of realizing ideas through “swarm creativity,” where a “cool” idea excites people who recruit others who then recruit even more people until the idea gets “hot.” Wikipedia — now 10 times the size of Brittanica — which mobilized to help block the Stop Online Piracy Act. It inhabits futurist Ray Kurzweil’s discussion, when he comments on the power of “decentralized structures.” Even within the laws of physics, he says, tiny, randomly moving particles come together to shape the immense complexity of the universe.

So, yes, right: The Swarm Theory colors all the moments of SXSW. Capitalizing on this new decentralized Age of Networked Intelligence are all the social startups that hit the wires this year, the progeny of social media and location-based applications. Highlight (more or less the belle of the ball), Sonar, and Banjo collate your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and roll in your location to tell you who’s around with whom you might share common friends or interests. Meexo takes it a little further by surveying the scene for possible hookups. If where you are now isn’t interesting, Forecast lets your people know where you will be. GooseChase allows you to build scavenger hunts for friends. Health and wellness apps Jiff, Pipette, VitalClip, and BodiMojo, in various ways, keep an eye on you and connect your health information to friends, doctors, and medical expertise.

While the advantages of adopting these technologies are many and various, the coin of this new realm is access to your personal information. If you don’t have a problem with sharing your first memory or last bowel movement with the world, the Age of Networked Intelligence will be a smooth one. All of us, connected more completely and deeply than ever before in history, both to each other and to our machines.

"Just because it’s not in my body," Kurzweil said of his mobile devices, "most of the action will still be in the cloud. … It’s not gonna be humans on the left, computers on the right." The boundaries will blur.

Of course, all of this depends on our willingness to give up access to a lot of our data, which can be useful for shaping our consumer experiences. It’s also a slippery slope. Consider your feelings on Austin-based startup SceneTap, which, according to its pitch, “utilizes anonymous facial detection technology and video-based software to effectively track consumer analytics in a venue,” meaning age, gender, and crowd density. As long as this information isn’t turned against us, we’re good. We’ve had the fine fortune not to live in a country where monitoring = repression. Our new powers of communication require us to be responsible and aware in our integration. We’re either interactive citizens or data useful only to somebody else.

Which reminds me of the Decentralized Dance Party.

Swarming up and down Austin’s 6th Street on a Saturday night, a crowd of brightly dressed revelers danced to pop hits from a variety of eras. Walking into it, I couldn’t tell where the music was coming from. So as not to look like a fool to the guy in neon blue hotpants, I pretended to be from Finland. “Eye yam not foorum yewer coontry!” I discovered the dance party was the brainchild of Tom and Gary, two Canadian guys staging emergent properties in cities all over. One wears an FM transmitter and broadcasts music from an iPod to the dozens of boomboxes being passed around that are tuned to the same station. Thus, the music came from everywhere, and the crowd, dancing, glided up and down the street, settling at one point under the highway bridge. Traffic was stalled by the crowd, and eventually the police cars came in.

It was as close to an Arab Spring, that revolution without a leader, as any of us may ever get. Elsewhere, this was the point at which the police would start shooting and our phones would start broadcasting pictures of bodies in the streets. Instead, the murmuration simply carried itself back down the street and, for reasons known only to itself, eventually turned back into a number of individuals. •

Filed under Tech Technology News Trends SXSW Revolution Transhumanism

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