Friday Quick Hits and Good Reads: A Divided Yemen, Water in South Africa, Automation, and more

 

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What’s this week been up to? 

 

Happy Friday! Let’s get to the readings…

“The South will never be governed by Sanaa.”

 

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This map actually sort of makes sense

 

Some fine reporting by al-Jazeera on how the UAE is funding, and often literally fighting for, independence in south Yemen. Their motives seem to be a mix of regional power displays (Saudi Arabia is obviously against this move, violently supporting the Hadi government) and geopolitics, as their influence in a newly independent state will give them primary control over the region’s shipping lanes.

But, like, is this a good idea? In theory, the concept of splitting up a country is anathema to us, but it isn’t like the modern country of Yemen has a long history of unity from the sands of Saudi Arabia to the sea. It was originally unified in 1990 after the rapid decline of the Soviet Union made socialist South Yemen untenable, but then split again into civil war in 1994, only to be forcibly reunified by then-President Saleh and cadres of returning jihadis, who started to impose their concrete-grey vision of Islam on a more liberal area.

Looking at 20th-century history, one could argue that Yemen was split due to colonialism, with the Brits ruling southern Yemen out of Aden, but as cruel as their colonialism is, it was basically a concession to reality. The south was essentially never ruled by Aden.

Hell, most of the north was rarely unified. Even Yahya Muhammed and Ahmed bin-Yahya ran a “kingdom” based on constant negotiations and deal-makings, not absolute control. And never over the “south”.

None of this is to say that Yemen is a made-up land like Iraq, which is violently fraying again. It’s the idea of a modern nation-state ruled by a city in the north is essentially foreign, and against the way that Yemen has been governed for most of history.

To say that the south will never be governed by Sanaa doesn’t strike me as particularly defiant. It’s just saying what has been true for all but less than thirty of Yemen’s thousands of years.

“Could this be a sly plot to economize water in a third world country?”

Image result for cape town drought

Very excited about a new blog by ThatCapeTownGirl, who has as one of her initial posts an in-depth look at water in South Africa, and how it appears to be used as a political cudgel against the poor (which in South Africa of course is unmistakeable racialized).

While there has been a heavy drought in Cape Town for much of the year, this blog looks at how it is disproportionately being politicized, and how slow the recovery has been. She fears this may be an attempt to “economize water”, a great turn of phrase. There will always be people who capitalize on disaster, and water is one of the last great frontiers in commodification. It’s the one we have to fight the hardest. Once water becomes a tool of commodity, there really isn’t anything left. We’re all bought and sold.

Looking forward to reading this blog and learning more about South Africa!

What Bowe Bergdahl Comments Say About Trump

 

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Hell yeah! This picture again! 

 

Easily-lost Army Sargent Bowe Bergdahl, who pled guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing, has used in his defense wildly-inflammatory and prejudicial comments made about him by then-candidate and now-President Donald John Trump (just to remind you that yeah, this really happened).

“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said at a Las Vegas rally in 2015. “You know in the old days — Bing. Bong,” Trump said while mimicking firing a rifle. “When we were strong.”

He also added: “thirty years ago, he would have been shot.”

A few thoughts on this and what it says about the Current Occupant:

  1. Guns go neither “bing” nor “bong”. He can’t even be a doofus right.
  2. Desertion isn’t really being a traitor. Trump obviously didn’t know this, nor does he now, I’m sure. Just another reminder that he knows nothing about anything.
  3. These are clearly inflammatory lynch-mob type statements about a confused young man who probably never should have been in Afghanistan to begin with. As Hollywood Mark Perrone points out, he was in the army because he was considered too mentally unstable to be in the Coast Guard. But that’s Trump: a braying carny with the instincts of an arsonist. He doesn’t know anything, but he knows how to incite the basest passions of the mob.
  4. The “thirty years ago” is my favorite part, because at the time, 30 years ago was 1985. I’m pretty sure we weren’t lining up people against the wall in 1985. But Trump lives in an endless “the past was better”, even when the past has to move up to horrible times like the 80s, when the country was cheap and tacky and vulgar and idiots like Donald Trump were considered avatars of success. It shows the essential emptiness of his psuedo-nostalgia, but also its powerful pull: “the past”, as a concept instead of reality, is always better. In Back to the Future, 1955 was a time of innocence and cool, far more than 1985. Now 1985 is that past. For people whose lives are grim, that’s a powerful concept. Someone has to kick modernity in the pants, and that someone is somehow Donald Trump. That’s the rotten and phony core of his rotten and phony appeal, and that it doesn’t make a lick of goddamn sense somehow only makes it stronger.

OK, I actually gotta run. I’ll do a full post on the New Yorker automation article in a bit, because there is a lot of irritating stuff I want to yell about.

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