(picture: A man carries Buthaina Muhammad Mansour, an injured girl rescued from the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, Yemen, on August 25, 2017.)
In no particular order.
1. The war in Yemen. Or: Dictators are only bad if they go against US interests.
This war gets a lot less attention than the uprisings in Syria or Libya, because it’s being fought by one of the main allies of the US: Saudi-Arabia, and it goes against the interests of Iran, a country the US loves to demonize.
The Atlantic writes:
‘For more than 1,000 days now, Yemen has been torn by a ferocious war pitting rebels, known as Houthis (supported by Iran), and forces fighting for former President Ali Abdullah Saleh (who was killed in December) against fighters loyal to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (supported by Saudi Arabia). Multiple Yemeni tribal militias have aligned with the Hadi government, or the Houthis, or have struck out on their own, seeking independence—and Al Qaeda and ISIS are both attempting to hold or seize territory. A thousand days of airstrikes, civil war, suicide attacks, cholera outbreaks, and near-famine conditions have taken enormous tolls on Yemenis.’ (For more see: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/12/more-than-a-thousand-days-of-war-in-yemen/549329/?utm_source=&silverid=NDI0MDk4MzMyODAxS0)
Why does it draw so little attention? Because Saudi-Arabia, the country that is behind this war, is a US ally, that’s why you hear a lot less about it than the war in Libya or Syria.
‘So far, the war on Yemen has killed over 2 thousand women, over 2 thousand children, and over 8 thousand men. Over 400,000 homes, over 1,000 government buildings, over 2,000 roads + bridges, and a majority of Yemen’s medical centers have been destroyed.’ (source: Redacted Tonight)
2. The #metoo hashtag
I think we’re all considering to curb back our flirtatious actions in the wake of this hashtag. It’s good that sexual predators are punished, but at the same time the lines between actual rape, severe sexual harrasment, minor misdemanor, and simple flirting got a little blurred this year. I hope in 2018 we can flirt in such a way that nobody feels threatened. Seual harassment is a serious matter, but it would be sad if we lost a certain vibrancy in the world of attraction and seduction, because a minority of people for whatever reason disrepected other people’s boundaries and/or used their power to seek sexual gratification without mutual consent. We wrote a lot about this, which you can read here.
3. The US fails to recognize its real problems. Hint: It’s not terrorism.
In the US the 0,1 percent at the top owns as many assets as the bottom 90 percent. Poverty, societal fragementation, the wealth gap, and the coping strategies of people to deal with a chaotic world are killing far more people than terrorism.
US drug overdose deaths in 2016: 63,600 For comparison: US deaths in the Vietnam war: 58,000 US HIV/AIDS deaths in 1995, the peak of the crisis: 43,000 US motor accidents deaths in 2016: 37,461 Annual gun deaths in the US: 33,000. (source: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/12/21/16803302/drug-overdose-deaths-2016-worst) 3,066 Americans have been killed in terrorist attacks from 9/11/2001 through 12/31/2014, including perpetrators and excluding deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. (source: https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_AmericanTerrorismDeaths_FactSheet_Oct2015.pdf )
This is an excellent interview with Chris Hedges, on the fall of America.
4.Bitcoin,cryptocurrencies and other bubbles
If you could have an incredibly complicated machine to turn out, lets say, 125 million unique marbles, and you could find people willing to provide you with goods and services in exchange for those marbles, hey, you would have landed upon your own currency! Nevermind that those marbles don’t have any intrinsic value. It’s just people BELIEVING in their value, combined with their limited number and the difficulty, almost impossibility, to reproduce them anywhere, that gives them their value. From the moment people refuse to accept them for their goods and services, the marbles would lose all their value. The same is true of bitcoin and of any currency used today. It’s a fiat currency, it’s not really based on anything, people who claim it’s based on something are wrong, the proof: if people stop believing in bitcoin it immediately reverts back to a value of 0.00 euro or dollar. It’s even still linked to other currencies, like the dollar. It’s not a real currency. And every currency in the world is a fiat currency, which means that its value only exists in our heads. At least with the dollar there’s an artificially created demand for dollars, because oil is traded in dollar, this is called the petrodollar. As long as oil is traded in dollar, the dollar will keep its worth. Unless the world stops needing oil of course, which is not going to happen any time soon. What happens to the dollar when the world runs out of oil, is anyone’s guess, but we can suppose it won’t be pretty.
The war in Syria did not go the way the US and its allies wanted. What is really going on in Syria?
What’s the war in Syria about? Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah in Lebanon form a chain. Iran delivers weapons to Hezbollah via Assad’s Syria. Syria is also in the way of a pipeline for oil and gas from Saudi-Arabia and Qatar to Europe. Assad is an ally of Russia, Russia has a maritime base in Syria. The US and Israel want to disrupt this chain, and further isolate Iran.
Then it becomes very complicated. Enter the internally divived religion called Islam. Shiites and Sunnis can’t stand each other. The Shiites are the biggest threat to Israel, Sunni countries like Saudi-Arabia and Egypt have regimes that support the US.
Hezbollah is a Shiite militia, Syria has economically well-off Shiites and impoverished Sunnis, Assad himself is part of a 15 percent minority called the Allawites, which is a Shiite sect. This minority is in power because under French colonial rule, it was the part of the population that was too poor to get out of military service, so when the French left, they were in control of the army. The Allawite minority said, let us have the power, and we won’t bother you. That worked sort of well, until, due to draughts and a slowly westernized youth, the cities exploded. Assad could have easily subdued those uprisings….
But: The US and Saudi-Arabia started supporting the uprising. There’s also a people in the region which western powers forgot to give a country to after they redrew the maps of the region. The Kurds. The Kurds in Syria quickly took control of their region. This was not to the liking of Turkey. So when ISIS and other violent Sunni militias entered Syria, they supported them. They even treated ISIS fighters in Turkish hospitals and they bought oil from ISIS, which greatly benefited ISIS. ISIS can give good salaries to empoverished Sunnis.
Where does ISIS come from? After the US invaded Iraq in 2003 it sent Saddam’s army home. Hundreds of thousands of people became jobless. They also organized elections and the Shiite majority came to power, which started cooperating with Shiite Iran. The Sunni minority who had been in power under Saddam, who’s from Sunni Tikrit, was not happy about that. There was much to be unhappy about because the country lay in complete ruins after a long, costly, useless war against Iran in the 1980’s, a failed invasion of Kuwait and a heavy American counterstrike, brutal economic sanctions against the country, the cancerous consequences of the use of enriched uranium that was used by the US coaltion of ‘the willing’, which is very hard to get rid of in a sand environment, and the invasion and plundering that followed. So from that ash ISIS arose. A Sunni group that picked up tons and tons of US military equipment when it easily overran large parts of Syria and Iraq, including Mosul. It failed to capture Bagdad, because there are lots of Shiites in Bagdad. ISIS is not really being defeated by the Iraqi army, but by Shiite militias.
The Kurds in Northern Iraq, are supported by Turkey, whereas the Kurds in Turkey and in Syria are a Turkish enemy. Israel still occupies a part of Syria, called the Golan heights. This all creates a volatile, chaotic situation in which violence breeds more violence. Thanks to the Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict -not for any humanitarian reasons, but to keep its base and to prevent the country from plunging into further chaos like Libya and to prevent the weakening of US enemies and also because of very intelligent strategic decisions on the part of the Assad regime, ISIS was beaten back. See this article for example: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/09/isis-ousted-syria-stronghold-albu-kamal-islamic-state-iraq
So in the end, the Russians got what they wanted, for once, the Kurds are a bit closer to an independent Kurdistan, though it’s still unlikely they will get it, Iran though still actively being demonized did not get even more isolated and has a stronger position now than before and Assad will stay in power, though he no longer controls the entire country, he controls the most vital areas. Even if they manage to assassinate him, his regime is strong enough to continue wielding the power. This war by proxy between Russia and Iran versus the US, the UK and other western powers plus the Saudis was won by Russia and Iran. Syria now has a battle-hardened army which, when the smoke clears, could prove a match for Israel’s hightech, highly modern IOF (Israeli Offensive Forces) which can’t sustain a long war effort, because its population is too small. In 2006 it had to ignominiously retreat from Lebanon.
This episode of the Empire Files deals with Syria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_5p2Gwq42k
If you know German, we recommend the excellent lecture by Michael Lüders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syygOaRlwNE
The situation of Palestine under Israeli oppression is becoming more and more dire, but Palestinian resistance is awe-inspiring.
While the west turns a blind eye to Israeli violations of international law… Meet Ahed Tamimi, for example, Palestine’s Malala. Read this article for example: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/ahed-nariman-tamimi-detentions-extended-171225212559689.html She’s a teenager in an Israeli jail. She’s very eloquent and defiant and she’s fast becoming a recongnizable icon for Palestinian rights, so Israel wants to break her spirit.
Israel routinely arrests children. In 2009 I was in Palestine and talked to several mothers and fathers whose children had been detained, often on trumped up charges. I spoke to a mother whose 15 year old son was in jail, in the same jail with his father, but they had never been allowed to see each other, which is a clear violation. The father had almost lost his eye sight because the Israelis had kept him in the dark for months. I saw a country where there are two road systems, one for Israelis, those with yellow license plates, and one, a crappier one, for Arabs. I was in the tense city of Hebron, where 500 jewish colonists get paid to live in the center, they rotate since nobody really wants to live there. I talked to Palestinian medics who had been threatened at gunpoint not to come near jewish settlers wounded in a car accident, just because they had wanted to help the victims. I talked to a mother who had given birth in her car, because the IOF didn’t want to let her pass a checkpoint to reach a hospital. I talked to people who had had IOF soldiers camping on their roof, using their house as an outpost, I talked to two doctors who said the IOF routinely shoots youngsters in the loin. You either bleed to death or you are paralyzed for the rest of your life. They sometimes do this for no reason at all. The brother of the man who was our host in Bethlehem was shot by passing soldiers, just like that, for no reason other than being Palestinian.
Israel’s open air prison known as Gaza is rapidly becoming unliveable. The UN predicts that by 2020 the soil will be too salty to do anything with it. See this article for example: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/living-conditions-worsen-10-year-gaza-siege-170712045047448.html
The fight for freedom and justice of Palestinians is largely ignored by the west. Israel is a US ally. It’s basically a US backed military outpost in a region that is of great geopolitical importance. The mainstream news will mostly paint a positive picture of Israel and demonize Palestinians, although the west itself has caused the problems in the region, by simply giving away land of one people to an other people and then blaming the landless people for resisting.
Weapon manufacturers are still an excellent investment opportunity
If you had bought shares in a company like, to name just one example, Lockheed-Martin, before the war by proxy in Syria, you would have made a killing. Ok, there would have been blood on your hands, but you would have seen your investment rise very steadily. Every time there was some bombardment somewhere, which was a lot in 2017, you could have cracked open an other champagne bottle.
The superrich park their money in offshore havens and -legally!!- avoid taxes, and nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care
It should by now be well know that superinvestor Warren Buffet’s cleaning lady is taxed harsher than her superwealthy employer. It should by now be well-known that factory workers automatically pay taxes since it’s taken from their paycheck, but that megacompanies have a whole battalion of lawyers to and financial wizzards to avoid taxes. In the US it’s getting absurd. Its billionaire president hasn’t paid any income tax in years. In fact, if you can report million dollar losses in one year, it exempts you from paying taxes in the following years, equal to the amount of business loss you have incurred. The tax code is made by the rich for the rich. And nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. Read this article for more information on the Paradise Papers: https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/paradise-papers
9. Gay rights are becoming a cornerstone of western values and laws
Well, this is good news to team PEP. In Slovakia we heard people with master degrees in physics claim that gay marriage is not a good thing, because it paves the way for the legalisation of pedophilia. They said: ‘We are like a frog in a kettle and we’re slowly being cooked’. Meaning that we accept these changes, and don’t see that it gradually leads to the acceptance of the abomination that is pedophilia. What’s good news to some, is horrible news to some others, but we hope gay men and women can marry the person of their choice, we utterly fail to see anything bad in that…
The Rohingya Crisis.
‘The Rohingya may be the most persecuted minority group in the world. They have lived in Myanmar for centuries. Most of them are Muslims, though some are Hindus, in a country in which nearly nine out of ten people are Buddhists. The Rohingya have long been discriminated against, often violently so, and the Myanmar government refuses to acknowledge them as citizens. The latest and ugliest surge of violence began in August when Rohingya began fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh telling stories of mass killings, systematic rape, and torture. At last count, more than 400,000 have fled Myanmar and thousands more have been displaced internally. The Myanmar military denies committing atrocities, insisting that it is combating attacks on police posts and army bases by Rohingya insurgents. But it’s clear that the Myanmar government is engaged in ethnic cleansing. Aung San Suu Kyi, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and Myanmar’s most prominent official, has done little publicly to end the violence. That’s probably because the military still runs the country despite the political opening of the past few years.’ (source: Council on Foreign Relations)
11. Most people were still more interested in losing weight than in fighting for a more just world
Ok, we’ve said it. You can carry on now. We hope you didn’t put on too much weight during the holiday season.
12. Japan is re-militarizing in the wake of the posturing of North-Korea
In North-Korea there’s a guy in power who desperately wants to stay in power, so he threatens the world with nuclear weapons. Given what’s happened to dictators that fell out of favor with the US AND abandoned their weapons of mass destruction such as Kaddafi and Saddam Hussein, you could say that he’s being smart. It’s extremely unlikely that North-Korea will use any nuclear weapons, because they are not complete idiots over there and they are not totally madmen, the regime knows it would self-destruct instantly, if it were ever to use nuclear weapons. But it likes to posture with them, and in a way it’s not a bad survival tactic. Arms manufacturers probably get a huge erection shaped like a tiny rocket whenever they think of North-Korea, because it’s good for business. Look at Japan, a country that after its total defeat in World War II, basically pledged to only keep an army around for purely defensive reasons. Well, it’s re-arming, and it’s not the only country. It decided to do so in December last year. Japan Approved a WHOPPING Record $43.6 Billion Military Budget to Counter China and North Korea. (source: http://time.com/4616114/japan-defense-budget-spending-china-military/)
13. Brexit and other examples of clutching after selfish quick fix solutions
They are really doing it. Perhaps last year we could still hope that they wouldn’t, but they are doing it for sure. Britiain has invoked article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is equivalent to a point of no return. At the same time we saw the independence movement in Catalunya go a lot less smoothly than a lot of people expected. Still, there’s a clear trend towards less cooperation, towards digging in, whole regions entrenching, especially if they feel when they are doing better than the ‘rest’ and want to keep the wealth to themselves. It’s funny that national identities suddenly pop up in wealthy regions, isn’t it? The same is true in Belgium for example, where the Flemish northern part has a popular political party, the NVA, -certainly not to be confused with the Nort Vietnamese Army, since those guys were a lot tougher than these Flemish upstarts – that sometimes flirts with turning Flanders into an independent country. Which, I being Belgian, and from the Flemish part, would personally find horrible. There’s one world, and there’s one human race, and we don’t need any more divisions.
14. The Trump show
It’s the usual shit you can expect from American politicians, but on steroids. There are tax cuts for the rich, the virtual end of diplomacy, with its most significant bold move, Tump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, thereby de facto recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This sparked outrage in the Arab world and even in western countries, but Trump got what he wanted: attention. In Israel they want to name all sorts of things, like streets and stations after Donald Trump. As a deeply needy narcissist that’s exactly the ego fix he needs. Until he needs an other fix, which will be very soon. If you think things would have been better under Hillary Clinton, think again, because this person would have been desperate to show how tough she can be, and would have done the same thing. During the election debates she was as pro-Israel as they come. She possibly would have provoked a war with Iran. All in all Trump’s presidency has been rather meek so far. It’s been mostly tax cuts, incoherent statements, attention seeking, and gifts to his rich friends. It’s becoming hard to see the US as anything else than an empire which uses its bloated military to stay influential, as a neo-liberal cleptocracy, with very little democracy, which claims to export values like democracy and justice for all as long as it serves its moneyed elites.
15. Internal reforms in Saudi-Arabia, but a much more aggressive foreign policy course
In Saudi-Arabia women are finally allowed to drive a car. The country is also doing all it can to sabatoge its archrival Iran, and is bombing Yemen, some rich Saudis help to fund ISIS, and the country has isolated its neighbour Qatar, probably because Qatar and Iran are doing business together.
16. In Germany the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer
I think this is a trend in most western countries today, thanks to austerity policies, and thanks to the fact that superrich are not tried for their crimes. The bankers were too big too fail and too big to jail, and that’s been a mistake. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, with the middle class slowly evaporating, because people have lost their class identity. Everybody is out for his or her own benefit, and Margaret Thatcher got what she wanted, people have started thinking that there’s no such thing as society, there’s only an economic playing field on which individuals compete with other individuals to sell their time to the highest bidder and to spend their earnings on comfort and entertainment at the lowest price. The result is that the superrich are getting richer and the rest is getting poorer.
Listen to Professor Michael Hartmann, if you know German, or read his book:
The bees keep dying
Fungicides could be the culprit, and if so, we will have to rush to ban them, because without bees we will face a horrendous argricultural collapse. About 75 percent of the world’s crops are fertilized by pollinators.
There were of course many other events and trends that were significant in 2017. There is the ongoing refugee crisis, the rise of cyber warfare, the ongoing effects of austerity politics, there’s the war in Ukraine, the attacks on gays in Chechnya, the crisis in Mali in the wake of the thoughtless killing of Kaddafi, there are the drug wars in Mexico, and so on and on. China is outproducing the US, Germany, well, everyone. There was the fall of Mugabe in Zimbabe. A fall that he survived, which nobody seems to think is remarkable, but how many dictators do you know that lost their power and survived? There is the progress in the development of human looking and acting sex robots which could cause a small revolution in the field of sexuality, there were was still massive human trafficking, millions of people are still stuck in prostitution, in Russia alone there are an estimated two million prostitutes, people kept desperately trying to build some form of identity in the face of spiritual, societal stagnation and fragmentation, western youth stayed glued to screens, using selfie-sticks remained more popular than funding or building wells for clean water in poor nations, and the west continued to wear clothes made in Bangladesh. Also, Israel kept nuclear weapons around so it can destroy the entire world from their nuclear submarines, if the country would ever be destroyed. It’s called the Samson option and it’s very real, check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson_Option, but somehow it’s never talked about, someone wants us to be scared of North-Korea and not Israel. The mainstream media keep churning out their articles and people are not taught to always ask: ‘Cui bono?’ Who benefits from all this?
Happy New Year,
The’ most interesting interview I saw in English this year, was the one where Abby Martin interviews Peter Joseph: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HwFOo5rbZA
The most interesting interview I saw in German this year was the one on KenFM, with Rainer Mausfeld, who brilliantly explains why people go about their business without noticing what is happening or how it does affect them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwRNpeWj5Cs