A New Year’s Day Parade for ‘Medicare for All’ Signals Energized Battle Ahead in California

“People are hip to faux solutions and incrementalism and are not buying it. They want Medicare for All—and they want it now.”

Advocates for ‘Medicare for All’ and the state-level single payer bill, SB562, marched in the immediate wake of the Rose Parade in Pasadena on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (Photo: Keith Durflinger, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)

In the immediate wake of Monday’s Rose Parade—which takes place annually on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California—hundreds of residents and advocates took over the parade route with a march of their own as they called for ‘Medicare for All’ and demanded passage of a bill currently stalled in the state legislature that would provide every Californian with healthcare coverage.

“People should pay attention to California because it is the example, the model, the bellwether, for what is possible and as California has set the trend for the rest of the country on a myriad of other important issues, it is and will set the trend on guaranteed, single-payer healthcare for all.” —RoseAnn DeMoro, CNA/NNU

Those who marched, reports the Pasadena Star-News, waved large banners reading “Medicare for all” and “Public health not corporate wealth” as they sang songs, danced along the streets, and emphasized to onlookers the need for a universal healthcare system that excludes nobody.

“What we’re saying is health care for all, rich, poor, and no matter what race you are,” Sam Schwiner, a local resident and one of the marchers, told the newspaper.

“SB… 5… 6… 2!” chanted members of the parade. “It’s good for me! It’s good for you!”

As Common Dreams has reported, the progress of SB 562—the proposed bill that would establish a single-payer system in California, the nation’s most populous state—was derailed in June of 2017 when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, decided to pull the plug on its progress by shelving it for the legislative session.

Though Rendon received plenty of criticism from the major backers of the bill, including the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) and the Healthy California campaign, its supporters have continued to push for its passage, sweeping the state with a tireless door-to-door campaign and vowing to see it brought back before state lawmakers in 2018.

According to RoseAnn DeMoro, CNA/NNU’s executive director, support for the single-payer cuts across ideological divisions and remains extremely popular across the state.

The parade on Pasadena on Monday “signifies the ongoing popularity of the issue among all facets of our society,” DeMoro told Common Dreams in an email.

“There is nothing more mainstream in California than the Rose Parade and to see this level of turnout, enthusiasm and commitment in the early morning of a New Year’s Day is impressive,” she continued.

Despite the ongoing hostility from its opponents—which DeMoro identified as “establishment Democrats” and financial donors from the insurance and pharmaceutical industry, for-profit hospitals, right-wing operatives, and corporate interests—she says support for SB562 is only getting stronger.

Quoting longtime organizer Bill Moyer—who once said that “movements succeed when they win over ever-greater levels of public support for their cause and undermine the pillars of support” of the status quo—DeMoro says that is precisely what’s happening in California’s ongoing battle for single-payer.

“People should pay attention to California because it is the example, the model, the bellwether, for what is possible and as California has set the trend for the rest of the country on a myriad of other important issues, it is and will set the trend on guaranteed, single-payer healthcare for all,” she said. “And people are hip to faux solutions and incrementalism and are not buying it. They want Medicare for All—and they want it now.”

The time for Medicare for All, she said, has finally come.

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Feds Press Lawsuit Against Berkeley’s Historic Civic Center District

The City of Berkeley and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), acting on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service, will be in Federal Court on Thursday January 11, 2018. This hearing is the result of a suit filed by the DOJ against Berkeley on August 22, 2016. The DOJ suit alleges that Berkeley’s Civic Center Historic District Zoning Overlay is not permitted under the United States Constitution.

Some background: In 1998 the City of Berkeley designated our Civic Center as an historic district and the same year Berkeley’s Civic Center Historic District was entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

In September of 2014, responding to community demand, including numerous public hearings and a ballot initiative, the Berkeley City Council passed the Civic Center Historic District Zoning Overlay. The Overlay protects and preserves our Civic Center from commercial activities that are different in character than its current and historic civic, institutional and community-serving uses.

The federal lawsuit asserts that the Zoning Overlay is an unconstitutional attempt by a local government to interfere with a function of the federal government.  In this case that function is the Postal Service plan to sell our historic Berkeley Main Post Office. Possibly, the Postal Service argues, it could get more money for the building if a new owner could develop the property for whatever uses would fetch the highest return.

The City of Berkeley and the DOJ/ USPS have filed competing motions for summary judgment. At 8 a.m. on Thursday, January 11, 2018, arguments will be heard before Judge William Alsup, Courtroom 12, 19th floor, 450 Golden Gate Avenue.

It is wholly remarkable that in the space of a very few years our federal government has transformed from being a cornerstone of civic life in America’s communities to filing a lawsuit against the City of Berkeley alleging that its attempt to preserve its Civic Center violates the United States Constitution.

In the 1998 nomination for National Register listing the late Susan Cerny wrote: “By its very nature, Berkeley’s Civic Center District has been intimately intertwined with the political/social history and welfare of the city. Every civic and social function within the district promoted the welfare of citizens. The district is significant for efforts during the first four decades of the twentieth century to establish good public parks and buildings — not only as a way to beautify communities, but as a means of fostering public-minded behavior and good citizenship.”

If you want to witness the hearing on January 11th, be advised that entry to 450 Golden Gate requires presentation of government-issued photo identification and that visitors are required to pass through electronic security equipment. Both the Golden Gate and Turk Street entrances have ADA access.

Read the City of Berkeley and the DOJ/ USPS arguments in their motions to dismiss.
Confirm time and date of the hearing on Judge Alsup’s calendar.

The Zoning Overlay boundaries are identical to the Civic Center Historic District as listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
(savetheberkeleypostoffice@gmail.com)
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Berkeley Aquatic Park camp needs food (from JP Massar)

Subject: Aquatic park camp needs food

We need some more non perishable food like canned soups and top
Raman. That kinda of food last longer. We also need paper plates and
cups. We are so gratefully for all your help.

Top Raman
Canned soups
Canned fruits
Paper towels
Paper plates
Cups
Milk
Coffee

Thank you
Jay

The Aquatic Park camp is on Bay St, just North of Ashby and just
south of the South entrance to Aquatic Park.

Easy access: San Pablo – 67th St (west), cross the tracks –
Shellmound/Bay St (right/north), camp on right

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ARTISTS IN GERMANY BUILD HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL REPLICA OUTSIDE FAR-RIGHT POLITICIAN’S HOME

December 29, 2017 (moc.media)

In response to criticism of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin from a German politician, the art collective Center for Political Beauty (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit) set up a replica of the memorial next to the home of a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

The miniature replica of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Source: Kai Pfaffenbach/ArtForum

According to Deutsche Welle, Afd’s senior leader Björn Höcke referred to the memorial as a “monument of shame” earlier this year and called on Germany to make a “180-degree turn” in the way it addresses World War II.

Artists build a small replica of the monument and installed of 24 concrete slabs of different sizes on the private property near the politician’s house in a village in Thuringia. The art group’s leader, Philipp Ruch, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper about the project: “We are doing our neighbourly duty. We hope he [Björn Höcke] enjoys the view every day when he looks out the window.”

Ruch added: “He will now have to deal with the fact that he has neighbors who don’t consider the Holocaust Memorial a ‘monument of shame’, but who try to remember what had happened, to prevent it from happening again.”

The Center for Political Beauty launched a fundraising campaign to rent the property for two more years. The group says the installation will be removed if Höcke falls on his knees in front of the memorial and asks for forgiveness, as former chancellor Willy Brand did in front of Warsaw’s Ghetto Heroes Monument in the 1970, ArtForum reports.

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Scotland united in curiosity as councils trial universal basic income

Four local authorities tasked with turning utopian fantasy into reality with backing of first minister and multi-party support 

Grassmarket and Victoria Street in Edinburgh, where universal basic income will be trialled next year
 Grassmarket and Victoria Street in Edinburgh, where universal basic income will be trialled next year Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Universal basic income is, according to its many and various supporters, an idea whose time has come. The deceptively simple notion of offering every citizen a regular payment without means testing or requiring them to work for it has backers as disparate as Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking, Caroline Lucas and Richard Branson. Ed Miliband chose the concept to launch his ideas podcastReasons to be Cheerful in the autumn.

But it is in Scotland that four councils face the task of turning basic income from a utopian fantasy to contemporary reality as they build the first pilot schemes in the UK, with the support of a £250,000 grant announced by the Scottish government last month and the explicit support of Nicola Sturgeon.

The concept of a universal basic income revolves around the idea of offering every individual, regardless of their existing benefit entitlement or earned income, a non-conditional flat-rate payment, with any income earned above that taxed progressively. The intention is to replace the welfare safety net with a platform on which people can build their lives, whether they choose to earn, learn, care or set up a business.

Thomas Paine
Pinterest
 Thomas Paine. Photograph: Alamy

The idea has its roots in 16th-century humanist philosophy. The political theorist Thomas Paine advocated a citizen’s dividend. But there has been a groundswell of interest over the past decade not only among lateral thinkers but also anti-poverty groups, which see it as a means of changing the relationship between people and state, and between workers and the gig economy.

In Scotland, a country wearily familiar with divisions of a constitutional nature, the concept of a basic income is almost unique in enjoying multi-party favour. Across the four areas currently designing basic income pilots – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire – the projects have variously been championed by Labour, SNP, Green and, in one case, Conservative councillors.

Matt Kerr, who has tirelessly lobbied for the idea through Glasgow city council, said: “Reactions to basic income have not split along the usual left/right party lines. Some people to the left of the Labour party think that it undermines the role of trade unions and others take the opposite view. But there should be room for scepticism; you need that to get the right policy.”

Advocates are aware such unity of purpose is precious and worth preserving. “The danger is that this falls into party blocks,” said Kerr. “If people can unite around having a curiosity about [it] then I’m happy with that. But having the first minister on board has done us no harm at all.”

Inevitably, Sturgeon’s declared interest has invited criticism from her opponents. A civil service briefing paper on basic income, which expressed concerns that the “conflicting and confusing” policy could be a disincentive to work and costed its national roll-out at £12.3bn a year, was obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through a freedom of information request in October. The party accused her of “pandering to the extreme left of the [independence] movement”.

But advocates argue the figures fail to take into account savings the scheme would bring. The independent thinktank Reform Scotland, which published a briefing earlier this month setting out a suggested basic income of £5,200 for every adult, has calculated that much of the cost could be met through a combination of making work-related benefits obsolete and changes to the tax system, including scrapping the personal allowance and merging national insurance and income tax.

Sturgeon has remained committed to the pilots, telling a conference of international economists days after the critical briefing paper: “It might turn out not to be the answer, it might turn out not to be feasible. But as work and employment changes as rapidly as it is doing, I think its really important that we are prepared to be open-minded about the different ways that we can support individuals to participate fully in the new economy.”

Sunset at Tayport, Fife
Pinterest
 Sunset at Tayport, Fife, one of the council areas involved in the pilot schemes, the first in the UK. Photograph: Simon Powis/Alamy

The councils in question, which span a cross-section of urban and rural demographics, are studying feasibility as part of their broader anti-poverty work. Joe Cullinane, the Labour leader of North Ayrshire council, said: “We have high levels of deprivation and high unemployment, so we take the view that the current system is failing us and we need to look at something new to lift people out of poverty.

“Basic income has critics and supporters on the left and right, which tells you there are very different ways of shaping it and we need to state at the outset that this is a progressive change, to remove that fear and allow people to have greater control over their lives, to enter the labour market on their own terms.”

Cullinane also noted that while the Scottish government has asked councils to bid for a £250,000 grant between them, his administration had already set aside £200,000 in its budget for a feasibility study.

Dave Dempsey, the leader of the Conservative group on Fife council, who joined forces with its independent poverty advisory group Fairer Fife Commission to promote a potential pilot, the appeal revolves around the reduction of benefits bureaucracy. “I come from a maths and engineering background and there is an elegance to it,” he said.

(Contributed by Gwyllm Llwydd.)

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Democracy Earth – Year 2017 in Review (from Santiago Siri at Democracy.Earth)

 

Dear Earth Citizen,

Our world is rapidly changing. Here at the end of 2017, it is clearer every day that nation-states are not the only game in town anymore. The recent changes in our geopolitical landscape are markedly defined by the internet: they involve, on one hand, Facebook gathering an unprecedented amount of power and allowing its business practices to be a disruptive force for democracy. And on the other hand: Bitcoin.

Surging from $940 to $19,000 USD in only one year, 2017 marked a point-of-no-return in Bitcoin’s ability to promote the divorce between Money and State. Peer-to-peer models and disintermediation are being widely discussed, reaching mainstream media and culture. And as populations from countries such as Venezuela 🇻🇪,  Zimbabwe 🇿🇼, Argentina 🇦🇷, and Greece 🇬🇷, start to rely on cryptocurrencies as a safeguard against their own banking systems, the configuration of a new status-quo is hard to ignore. 

Those profound changes are emboldened by the evident failures on both levels of political control: the Land (governments that monopolize the law on territorial jurisdictions) where the US 🇺🇸 is joined by France 🇫🇷, Greece 🇬🇷, Japan 🇯🇵 and more than 65 other countries with a downgraded Democracy Index; and the Cloud (global corporations that monopolize access to user data, a.k.a. the new oil), where we have witnessed large-scale cyberattacks exposing billions of internet users, and the irony of a security agency – the NSA – making us more insecure.


Those are not individual events, but pointers signaling the widespread decay of the economic and political frameworks in which our institutions operate. But there is good news too: as hierarchical and centralized systems disintegrate, the road is paved for new models to take place. Non-coincidentally, 2017 has also marked a pivotal point for Democracy Earth Foundation. 

         
Where have we been
? 

Institutionally:        

Physically:  🇺🇸 🇫🇷 🇦🇷 🇧🇷 🇩🇪 🇵🇹 🇪🇸 🇲🇽 🇹🇼 🇩🇪 🇦🇪 🇰🇷 🇻🇳 🇬🇧

Digitally:      

We ended 2016 with a very clear understanding of the requirements needed to create an organization capable of reaching impact at a global scale. So this year, we worked on those foundational building blocks. The Social Smart Contract, our White Paper published in September, was written on Github with contributors from all over the world 🌎, and it is now a living document gathering the digital hive mind to think about how we can govern ourselves on a planetary scale. Witnessing the creative and intellectual forces unlocked by the open source collaborations around this paper has been both a humbling and fascinating experience.

    

Sovereign, our token-based liquid democracy software, was soft-launched in its alpha version with a simple request to our community: use it to make suggestions and polls about the software itself. One more time, the response was beyond our imagination. Our focus on delivering a social-media like UX resonated with our users, who jumped in utilizing our features and making the most of the platform since day one!

                                     __________________________________________

Throughout the year we have developeddiscussed and demonstrated open source governance on the blockchain, the geopolitical nature of Bitcoin, and the power of liquid democracy tools at the World Economic Forum in Dubai 🇦🇪, the Sorbonne in Paris 🇫🇷, the Civic Tech Fest of Taipei 🇹🇼, as well as @CodeMoBerlin 🇩🇪, @#ColaborAmerica17 inRio 🇧🇷, and the BIEN conference in Lisbon 🇵🇹

We raised the profile of the decentralized democracy movement, starting the year on stage at the World’s Fair Nano in San Francisco, and appearing in stories and profiles by theOECD, the World Economic ForumForbesNew Scientist and Futurism in the months ensuing. Finishing the year, we introduced Democracy Earth 🌿 at the United Nations and launched our Ambassador’s program – a key initiative to empower leaders from all over the world with our message and software. We could not be prouder of our very first Ambassador, Sunny Sangha from the UK 🇬🇧, who gave this extraordinary TEDx talk and is starting a liquid democracy movement in Birmingham. Most exciting of all, we saw the expansion of our digital footprint with the growth of the Democracy Earth community, now numbering more than 92,000 subscribers and followers across TwitterFacebookGitHub,SlackMedium,  and Instagram.  

In keeping with the decentralized nature of the Democracy Earth Foundation, for the first time ever this December, members of the team came together from all points of the globe. We converged in the Sierra Nevada mountains where we worked on finalizing plans to hold an Initial Coin Offering in early 2018 – the last in a sequence of events, aimed at creating a massive global movement for blockchain-based liquid democracy.  

              

It’s been an extremely productive year, filled with accomplishments and recognitions. Yet we are only at the very beginning.

Thank you for reading, and thank you as always for being part of the Democracy Earth community.  Be well, and we wish you an extraordinary 2018!

🌎

Santiago Siri
Founder & President

Democracy Earth Foundation
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit in San Francisco, California.
democracy.earth

Donate: opencollective.com/democracyearth

Support our work with Bitcoin:

Connect through Twitter 
Connect through Facebook

Our mailing address is:

Democracy Earth Foundation

1246 36th st

San FranciscoCA 94122

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Thousands rally in support of Russian opposition leader Navalny

© Dmitry Serebryakov, AFP | Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny (C) carry boxes with signatures to nominate him as opposition candidate for the forthcoming presidential election in Moscow on December 24, 2017. Alexei Navalny, seen as the only Russian opposition leader who stands a fighting chance of challenging strongman Vladimir Putin, seeks to get his name on the ballot for a March vote, with supporters gathering across Russia to endorse the move.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-24 (france24.com)

More than 15,000 Russians on Sunday endorsed the candidacy of Alexei Navalny, seen as the only Russian opposition leader who stands a fighting chance of challenging strongman Vladimir Putin in a March vote.

Thousands backing the charismatic 41-year-old lawyer met in 20 cities from the Pacific port of Vladivostok to Saint Petersburg in the northwest to nominate him as a candidate in the presence of electoral officials to boost his chances of contesting the March 18 ballot.

Navalny‘s campaign said more than 15,000 people endorsed him nationwide. An independent candidate needs 500 votes to get registered with election authorities, according to law.

In Moscow, over 700 people supported Navalny’s candidacy as they gathered in a huge marquee set up in a picturesque park on the snow-covered banks of the Moscow River.

Navalny supporters who had submitted their personal details and are ready to officially endorse him. The average age is clearly over 30.

“I am hugely happy, I am proud to tell you that I stand here as a candidate of the entire Russia,” the Western-educated Navalny told supporters at the Moscow event which at times felt like a US campaign conference.

“We are ready to win and we will win these elections,” Navalny said before finishing his speech in a cloud of confetti.

Two electoral officials attended the Moscow event and Navalny’s campaign planned later Sunday to submit his nomination to the Central Election Commission, where officials will rule whether he can run.

Authorities have deemed Navalny ineligible to run due to a criminal conviction, saying “only a miracle” would help him get registered. Navalny has described the conviction as politically motivated.

‘Thwart dishonest elections’

Navalny said that if he is not allowed to put his name on the ballot he will contest the ban in courts and repeated his threat to call for a boycott of the polls if he did not get registered.

“Thwart the elections if they are dishonest,” he told supporters.

Putin, 65, announced this month that he will seek a fourth presidential term, which would extend his rule until 2024 and make him the longest-serving Russian leader since dictator Joseph Stalin.

Opposed by token opposition candidates, he is widely expected to sail to victory.

But with the result of the March vote a foregone conclusion, turnout could be low, harming Putin’s hopes for a clear new mandate, observers say.

Navalny, who has tapped into the anger of a younger generation who yearn for change, hopes that popular support for his Kremlin bid would pressure authorities into putting his name on the ballot.

THOMAS LOWE REPORTS FROM MOSCOW: THOUSANDS RALLY TO SUPPORT NAVALNY

“If Navalny is not allowed to run I am not going to vote,” pensioner Marina Kurbatskaya told AFP in Moscow. “I don’t see anyone else who I want to become president.”

Navalny has built a robust protest movement in the face of persistent harassment and jumped through multiple hoops as he campaigned across the country in an effort to shift attitudes amid widespread political ennui.

He says he is the only Russian politician who has run a genuine Western-style political campaign, stumping for votes in far-flung regions.

Many critics scoff at Navalny’s Kremlin bid but the anti-corruption blogger says he would beat Putin in a free election if he had access to state-controlled television, the main source of news for a majority of Russians.

‘Need new president’

Navalny shot to prominence as an organiser of huge anti-Putin rallies that shook Russia in 2011 and 2012 following claims of vote-rigging in parliamentary polls.

The rallies gradually died down but he has been able to breathe new life into the protest movement this year, bringing out tens of thousands of mostly young protesters onto the streets.

“We need a new president,” Alexander Semyonov, 18, told AFP in the second city of Saint Petersburg where more than 1,800 supporters backed Navalny’s bid.

Separately, Ilya Yashin, a pro-opposition municipal deputy, gathered several hundred people for an authorised protest in central Moscow in support of free elections and Navalny’s bid.

“Putin is a thief,” some chanted as police looked on.

Despite a litany of problems such as corruption, poor healthcare and increasing poverty, opinion polls suggest Putin enjoys approval ratings of 80 percent.

Asked why Navalny had been barred from running, Putin – who has refused to mention him by name in public — said the opposition was hoping for a “coup” but would not succeed.

(AFP)

Date created : 2017-12-24

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TIBETAN FILMMAKER FLEES TO US AFTER RELEASE FROM CHINESE PRISON

December 28 2017 (moc.media)

He was charged with “inciting subversion” and sentenced to six years in jail for making a film about Tibetans living under China’s rule.

Dhondup Wangchen. Source: filmingfortibet/Twitter

Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen fled China to the United States after being released from jail. He was earlier arrested by Chinese authorities for making a film about Tibetans living under the rule of China. He was reunited with his family in the US, the New York Times journalist Sui-Lee Wee reports.

“After many years, this is the first time I’m enjoying the feeling of safety and freedom,” the 43-year-ol filmmaker said. “I would like to thank everyone who made it possible for me to hold my wife and children in my arms again. However, I also feel the pain of having left behind my country, Tibet.”

Dhondup Wangchen and his family. Source: filmingfortibet/Twitter

Wangchen was first detained in 2008 after footage from his film Leaving Fear Behind, for which he interviewed Tibetans across five months in 2007, was smuggled out of the country and shown at international film festivals. He was charged with “inciting subversion” and sentenced to six years in prison. During his incarceration, Wangchen was allegedly forced to do manual labor, kept in solitary confinement for six months, and denied medical care, sparking human rights groups to rally for his release. After he was freed, the authorities continued to monitor his whereabouts and communications, ArtForum writes.

Wangchen’s family was granted political asylum in the US in 2012. Dhondup Wangchen was finally reunited with his wife and children on December 25, 2017.

 

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Student debt burden: stories sought

From: Emily Wheeler
Sent: Wed, Dec 27, 2017 4:25 pm
Subject:  student debt burden: stories sought

Hi everyone,

As a volunteer with Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland, I’m researching student debt in the East Bay, and I’m hoping some of you can refer me to people who are struggling on account of their student debt burden.
As you probably know, the city of Oakland recently contracted with a consulting group (called Global Investment Company, or GIC) to carry out a study on the feasibility of chartering a public bank in Oakland or in the East Bay area. As a bank owned by the people and charged with operating for the public good, the PBO could offer refinancing of student loans with a lower interest rate and longer terms. For example, the Bank of North Dakota, the only US public bank currently in existence, is now offering student debt refinancing to ND residents at 4.78 percent interest.

In its feasibility study, GIC plans to include anecdotal evidence about the need for student debt refinancing in Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond. We need individuals who live in these cities and are willing to share detailed information about their debt and income situation in a phone interview. Their names would not be published in the study.
Please forward this message to anyone you know who may be interested and ask them to get in touch with me directly. GIC has asked for all information by January 5, so we hope to hear from loan-holders as soon as possible.

Thanks very much.

Emily
 
Emily Wheeler
cell: 510-725-5484
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The Revolution Continues: Ahmed Salah and the Arab Spring

 27 December 2017 (poormagazine.org)
Author:  Peter Menchini

“I was anticipating a breakthrough — hoping that the protest would not be instantly dispersed by riot police, like so many previous marches. On that day I thought that if everybody does their part, we will have tens of thousands. What happened was a shock to me. Instead of tens of thousands, there were hundreds of thousands”.
-Ahmed Salah, speaking to Washington Post reporter Jackson Diehl

Oddly, people who speak to me about revolution quote theorists of the 19th Century or their favorite heroes, now dead, from the 20th. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned there. Yet here in San Francisco, California, we have the key designer of the successful revolution in the most important country in the 21st Century Arab world. And far from being mobbed with inquiries from admirers, he instead lives in obscurity and near poverty.

How could Americans let Nikola Tesla, the genius who invented the modern era, die alone and in obscurity? Why do we ignore such people, but only revere them in death? Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?

In 1991, Ahmed Salah was a translator and teacher of Arabic to tourists and journalists. Within 20 years he would become a key player in the Arab Spring and a central designer of the revolution in Egypt itself. His memoir (co-written with Alex Mayyasi), You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution is a textbook for what makes mass social movements succeed and fail, and what makes revolutions triumph against all odds.

They’d tried everything in Egypt before. They’d held marches and demonstrations. They’d taken Tahrir Square before the revolution, only have the police violently take it back. They tried using social media, but that only gave the police their plans in advance. (Yes, “The Twitter Revolution” is an outright lie.) Nothing they tried gained any ground against the security forces until they took their organization and did actual market research, among the population of Cairo. Not that they used that term, but as “journalists”, they took to the streets and asked people if they heard of the upcoming demonstrations. Promising to use no names, they then asked if they planned to attend. Receiving the almost universal answer of “no”, they asked why, and listened. And they took the time to ask each person what their most important concerns about life were.

“It sounds simple for a group of idealists to express noble sentiments like ‘Bread, freedom, and dignity’—as Arabs articulated their demands during the Arab Spring. Yet as I learned from Youth for Change and April 6th, it is incredibly difficult. Activists and dissidents are humans who argue and make mistakes and let ego lead them astray. “
-You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution, p291

Salah’s memoir gives key insights into issues, not only in Egypt, but in the Middle East as a whole. He grew up in the most secular, educated and modern country in the entire region.

If you think what’s happening Syria is big, notice how central to the Middle East Egypt is on a map. Now note that, while Syria has a population of about 17 million people, Egypt has a population of 96 million. And in spite of all the oppression financed with U.S. tax dollars, parts of Egypt remain outside of government control to this day. There are parts of Egypt the government simply bombs a few times a month, unable to take control, but only fighting to keep rebellions from spreading. The country will fall apart, and when it does, what’s been happening in the Middle East up until now could look like a picnic by comparison. The instability, coupled with the increasing aggressions of Israeli and Saudi forces could lead to anything. Only an education on the realities, not the propaganda, of the region can save it.

“No one could wait for Mubarak to get out of power. Egyptians filled Tahrir Square, the surrounding blocks, and even the bridges over the Nile so thickly that it took hours to move a few hundred yards. When I managed to call activists over the overburdened cell phone network, I learned that protesters remained at the presidential palace and that worker strikes had ended train service, blocked roadways, “
-IBID p242

The revolutions, of course, were betrayed. Neither George W. Bush, nor Barack Obama had more then rhetoric for the Arab World’s yearning for freedom. Backing a strongman just feels safer to them, since an educated electorate will act in their own best interests, but dictators can be swayed with money and threats. But despite the bluster and out of control aggression of the Trump administration (or perhaps because of it), the empire is faltering. Future rebellions may not be so easy to reverse and threats may be harder to carry out.

Ahmed Salah lives with medical conditions resulting from torture paid for with U.S. tax dollars. He gets by from money earned from speaking engagements and from selling copies of his memoir. You can buy it at amazon.com or by contacting him personally at asea1009@yahoo.com.

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