December was the first month since the existence of this blog where only one post was published. People asked me already if I want to close down the blog. No, I don’t intend to quit and I also don’t have writer’s block.
I still see a purpose for the blog, based on the assumption, that some critical and skeptical people want to get their information from sources which are not owned by a billionaire. These critical and skeptical minds look around and visit alternative media sites only to be inundated by intrusive ads, many of them targeted, making clear that the web travelers profile is kept in evidence and all moves are closely watched.
One has to understand, that nothing on the Internet is for free. Webspace is paid by advertising, by donations, by public funds, or by political or corporate interests. Most web content is either advertising or propaganda.
Websites who depend on ad revenue have a big problem: There is merciless competition, because a ballooning supply of ad space competes for limited demand by advertisers. Rates for ads have been crashing over the years and in order to survive the sites make it up with volume to increase traffic and they take in even the most intrusive and obnoxious ads.
So, here is a quiet, unobtrusive place in a remote corner of the internet without gimmicks or annoying advertising. Some will consider this as boring but others may be glad to have such a place where they can get information. Some will be glad that the information is presented calmly and not shouted at them.
There are a few reasons why I did not and probably also in the foreseeable future will not post regularly.
1. I don’t want to spend much time sitting on the computer, I prefer to be in the garden and in the forest.
2. I don’t want to compete with and take views away from other blogs who’s authors work hard to be heard and who can offer interesting ideas and insights.
3. I have already written about the most essential issues, asked the most essential questions, and answered them as best as I could. I will publish when I have new answers and new ides or when I changed my mind on important matters.
When I’m in the mood and have a little spare time I will publish actualized and corrected old blog posts.
It has become colder and we will have some kind of winter. Today it snowed just as I was starting to doubt that I will see snow ever again in my life. The cats and the two hedgehogs which are temporarily hosted in one of the green houses are fine.
Lucia is already completely integrated into the cat family and everybody accepts and respects her — that went fast! Yesterday I made a walk in the forest with Princess Min Ki, Linda, and Lucia. Linda and Lucia played the usual cat games, which basically consist of chasing each other, trying to hide and ambush, and making tree climbing competitions. At the end of the walk the two young cat ladies had become good friends.
I have decorated this post with a few more pictures of Lucia.
We survived the noise of the New Year’s Eve fireworks without lasting damage. It’s always difficult to calm down the cats when the explosions start. They usually hide under the beds in the bed rooms and the guest room where they stay till the morning sun rises.
It was not different this year but it seemed that there were less fireworks — maybe people are more careful with their money. Everybody here prepares for the financial crash and money is taken from the banks and invested in home improvement (thermal isolation), in repairs, and durable tools and goods. People are in the mood to hunker down and weather the storm.
In a guest column in the German Handelsblatt, Christine Lagarde, director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), offered a bleak economic forecast for 2016 and beyond, with slow growth, high unemployment, and high debt.
Global economic growth would be disappointing, the continuing slowdown in China and rising interest rates in the USA would lead to a continued slowdown in growth rates and possibly financial shocks. Lagarde also noted a stagnation of world trade and the ongoing fall in oil and other commodity prices (nickel dropped 40 percent, zinc 28 percent, iron ore 46 percent).
High levels of dollar-denominated corporate debt would threaten bankruptcies of companies in emerging markets (meaning mainly the BRICS) and energy sector companies (US shale), which in turn could “infect” banks and state treasuries.
Many environmentalists will rate such a prognosis rather positive. Low or no growth means less pollution and habitat destruction, low commodity prices mean less mining, less resource extraction. Could an economic slowdown save nature?
Beside that, one doesn’t need to be an economic expert to understand, that the luxurious life of Western consumers and the even more luxurious life of the billionaire class is unsustainable. They had a good run, borrowing from the future of coming generations, but from now things will go south fast. The Western economies are over-financialized, based on debt and fiat money, are pyramid (Ponzi) schemes and like all pyramid schemes eventually will collapse.
It seems appropriate to prepare for hard times and dark days. It seems wise to embrace a more modest (meaning less resource and energy intensive) lifestyle.
Such sentiments are not shared everywhere. While Brussels, Paris, and other cities in Europe had canceled their usual festivities, hoping that 2015 would end quietly, lavish celebrations marked by fireworks spectaculars were held in London, Edinburgh, and other big UK cities despite a perceived terror threat.
Around one million people converged on New York Times Square for the annual New Year’s Eve celebration. An 11,875-pound Waterford crystal ball descended as revelers counted down to 2016 before sharing hugs and their first kisses of the year under a blanket of confetti. The glitzy party included musical performances from Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, and Carrie Underwood. This year’s festivities were attended by nearly 6,000 police officers, including members of a specialized counterterrorism unit.
In Chicago’s Windy City, a 70-foot, six-point star, modeled after those on the city’s flag, ascended a hotel tower to bring in the new year. The inaugural “Chi-Town Rising” event in Chicago’s downtown also featured concerts from Chicago and American Authors.
Rio de Janeiro kicked off its Olympic year with a fiesta on Copacabana Beach, attended by more than 2 million people, according to police estimates. Brazil’s most popular New Year’s Eve show was illuminated by 24 tons of fireworks fired off over almost 16 minutes. To celebrate Rio’s hosting of the 2016 Summer Games in August, the soundtrack for revelers included music from previous Olympics and songs paying homage to samba on its 100th anniversary.
In Dubai the 63-storey, 303 meter high Address Downtown Hotel was engulfed in flames while the worlds biggest fireworks went on unimpeded at the nearby 160-storey Burj Khalifa, with 828 meters the highest building in the world. Hundred thousands of onlookers had the privilege to watch the fireworks and a burning hotel at the same time, though massive black plumes of smoke were obscuring the view. Fire alarms in the hotel initially failed to go off. By the afternoon of New Year’s Day, the fire had largely died down, but its embers still sent smoke into the air.
The five-star hotel is reportedly booked out for five years, though this will probably change now due to cancellations. Dubai has faced a series of recent tower fires. In February, a similar blaze spread along the external cladding of Dubai’s 86-story Torch tower, one of the world’s tallest residential buildings, and in October, another fire broke out in a high-rise residential tower in the Emirati city of Sharjah.
Downtown Dubai is the show-piece district of the emirate’s drive to become a hub of fashion and glamour. The 13 million tourists who visit Dubai every year can enjoy the Burj Kalifa, two Address hotels, Dubai Mall, with 1,200 shops one of the world’s largest shopping malls, and Dubai Fountain, a spectacular water display.
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is estimated to have cost 1.5 billion US$.
The Dubai Mall is not the worlds largest shopping center and there are at least a dozen bigger malls where dedicated consumers can feel in paradise. A few similarly large shopping malls:
SM Seaside, Cebu City, Philippines, 5576 shops
SM Megamall, Mandaluyong, Philippines, 900 shops
SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City, Philippines, 1000 shops
Isfahan City Center, Isfahan, Iran, 770 shops
1 Utama, Kuala Lumpur, Malysia, 770 shops
The Avenues Mall, Kuwait, 800 shops
West Edmonton Mall, Canada, 800 shops
Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malysia, 1000 shops
Mall of Arabia, Cairo, Egypt, 900 shops
Beijing Mall, Beijing, China, 600 shops
Future Park Rangsit, Pathum Thani, Thailand, 900 shops
Mall of America, Bloomington, USA, 520 shops
Despite gathering clouds of economic doom and gloom, consumerism seems to be alive and well, manifested in gigantic shopping malls, a flood of advertising, rising e-commerce (Amazon) and headlines of Reuters and other mainstream news agencies. Some exemplary headlines:
19 best cars 2015
Best SUV’s 2016
Best cars of 2016
For people who are not interested in cars, Reuters was reviewing the new cruise ship Norwegian Escape
A great experience for sure — and it costs only between 100 and 300 US$ a day.
The UAE (United Arab Emirates), of which Dubai is a part, are surly an extraordinarily rich nation and have weathered the storm created by the fall in oil prices quit well so far, but 2016 is likely to be the year in which low energy prices begin to bite. The UAE are involved in expensive foreign policy projects, like propping up Egypt, financing Syrian rebels, waging war against Yemen.
Recently 500 Columbian mercenaries were sent to Yemen. The Columbians, part of an mercenary army which Eric Prince (of Blackwater/Xe/Academi fame) organized, are experienced, often specialized, and hence well paid.
Until now 7,000 Yemenis have been killed, 28,000 wounded, two million are displaced, an estimated 7.6 million of the 24 million Yemenis are starving and would need urgently humanitarian assistance, which unfortunately cannot reach them because Saudi Arabia and the UAE have imposed a strict blockade.
Were the tourists, who spent this unforgettable New Year’s Eve in Dubai city, watching the worlds biggest fireworks and a burning skyscraper, aware, for what purpose their money is used?
Allow me to close with a positive note, consisting of a few more pictures from Lucia: