“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Housing Slump Over, Economy Improving- In Iraq

Economic boost gives hope to Iraqis
12 January 2008 BBC

House prices on the up and increased banking business are not readily associated with Iraq. Yet as Humphrey Hawksley reports, there are entrepreneurs who see good times in the horizon.

"This is the entrance hall," said Naimah Abdul Jabbah, throwing open a huge pair of wooden double doors.

"How much?", I asked.

"$1m. Maybe some negotiation. But $1m, I reckon."

He turned to my interpreter to confirm the dollar exchange rate to the dinar, because in recent months Iraq's currency has been creeping up in value.

Business playground

Naimah, in his early 40s, is a leading Iraqi estate agent.

He took over the business from his father and talks of the glory days of the 1980s when Iraq dreamt of becoming a business centre and a playground of the Middle East. He now sees a glimpse of the good times coming back again.

We were in a large detached house in a fashionable Baghdad suburb, standing under a dust-caked chandelier and next to floor-to-ceiling windows with the top half blocked out in case of a rocket attack or bombing.

"Since the drop in violence," I asked "how much have prices gone up?"

Dubai prices


He reached for his ringing mobile phone and switched to Arabic.

"I'm with some people now, but I can make it at 1300," he said, fixing up his next meeting.

Then, he picked up where we left off, "I'm told our prices are reaching those in Dubai."

"But they don't get bombed in Dubai."

"I know," he said amid peels of laughter.

"But Iraq, it's a beautiful place. Many people want to be here."

Just over a year ago, President George W Bush confounded his Iraq war critics by sending more troops to the country, instead of withdrawing them as much of America was demanding.The plan is called the "surge" and in the past few months, its impact is being felt.

US and newly-trained Iraqi troops go into neighbourhoods, drive out insurgents, stay there, win round the local people and begin development programmes.It is not all working. Bombers slip through.There are daily killings. This is a country still very much at war. But amid it, many Iraqis have a new spring in their step.

Buoyant prices

Buoyant property prices might be one result, just as the jumping, bustling shopping streets in central Baghdad are another - often so packed that you have to jostle your way through, past clothes stalls, shops of electronic gadgets and trolleys brimming with bright, fresh fruit.

Some of those oranges, bananas, apricots and apples find their way into the window display of the MeshMesha fruit juice and pastry bar run by Ahmed Sabah and his extended family.

Young nephews and cousins, dressed in smart, orange, sports shirts with the MeshMesha logo - which actually means Apricot - blend delicious drinks of fresh fruit for a steady stream of customers - Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians. No-one seems to care as they sit at minimalist tables watching the world go by.

"When it's safe outside, of course business is better," said Ahmed.

"I have four branches - one we've had to close because it was in a violent neighbourhood, but once the war is over we can spread the chain throughout Iraq."

The MeshMesha chain supports five families that between them are raising 25 children still at school and it employs a couple of dozen of its youngsters in the fruit juice bars.

Return of the ATM?

Without work and a sense of the future, many young men head off to join a militia.

"Your money," I asked. "Do you keep it in cash, put it in the bank? How does that work?"

"In a bank," said Ahmed. "And we exchange some into US dollars."

One of Iraq's biggest private banks has a luxuriously designed office above the Baghdad Stock Exchange and I asked a senior executive how business was now compared to those glory days of the 1980s that Naimah, the estate agent, had spoken about.

"People didn't trust the banks, then," said the financier Mohammed Issa.

His accent was East Coast American and he wore a brown suit with a brightly coloured open-necked shirt. He would have a panoramic view across Baghdad except the window was blocked by glass cabinets with ornamental displays - again to shield against a bomb attack.

"We had, maybe 4,000 clients under Saddam. Now we have 50,000," he explained.

"We've just set up Internet banking so our customers don't have to risk getting bombed by going to a branch.". He paused for a moment. "Yes, once the war's over, we'll have our ATM machines throughout the country."

Check-point fear

In the afternoon we were driving back to the office past what we thought was a routine check-point. A van had been stopped. Men in military uniforms waved guns holding open the vehicle's sliding door. People were shouting. The expression of those in the van were of anger, anxiety and fear.

"What's happening there?" I asked our interpreter.

"I don't know." He shrugged. "It looks like the army, but I think it's a militia."

"What might happen to them."

"I don't know," he said sombrely.

There are glimpses of hope in Iraq, but at the moment only glimpses.


  1. Optimism, Hope and Love
    it's all we really need.

    Just watch out for those militias

  2. because in recent months Iraq's currency has been creeping up in value.

    That says something, knew I should have bought dinars.:) With a President Obama, dinar will make good wallpaper.

    An Iraqi real estate agent might actually earn his money.

  3. LOCATION-LOCATION-LOCATION! Repossessed Home For Sale---Baghdad--Former Mixed Christian/Sunni Area--Shiites Only-Dollars or Dinars 'OK'--Electricity 24/7--Walk to River--Local Security Excellent--Contact Hakim

  4. Got yourself two violations of the Fair Housing Act, in your ad, bob.

    Best be careful about abusing the Law.

  5. The Minister of Housing is one of my cousins--Hakim

  6. Just keeping tabs on the enemy--

    Dear MoveOn member,

    We just got the message below from Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees union (SEIU). He asked us to pass it on to you—it's an all-hands-on-deck moment for progressives.

    The Democratic primary election in Maryland's 4th congressional district is being watched closely by other Democrats who are wondering if they'll be held accountable for cozying up to corporate lobbyists. We need to make sure the answer is a resounding "yes!"

    MoveOn members have already raised $100,000 to help progressive champion Donna Edwards, but the incumbent, right-wing Democrat Al Wynn, has special interest dollars pouring into his campaign. If we can raise $90,000 by Tuesday, we can put a fair-but-tough ad on the air that tells voters about Wynn's ties to oil companies and other special interests. Please help:
    –Adam and the MoveOn Team

    As progressives, we need champions in Congress and we need to challenge those who are failing to lead.
    Click here to see a new TV ad aimed at corporate Democrat Al Wynn and contribute $25 keep it on the air:

    Click Here

    Dear MoveOn member,
    As the President of SEIU, the nation's fastest-growing union, representing janitors, child care and health care workers, and public employees. I know our families need champions in Congress. Sometimes that means challenging Democrats who are failing to be accountable to the people who put them in office.

    That's why SEIU, MoveOn, and other groups are working together to defeat Democratic Representative Al Wynn in Maryland's primary election next month. As progressives, we have the opportunity to elect Donna Edwards, a person who will work for us.

    In his 16 years in office, Al Wynn has put the interests of big business and corporate contributors ahead of his constituents. Instead of offering assistance to families feeling the pinch from high gas and heating oil prices, Wynn voted to give big oil and gas companies tax breaks after receiving more than $250,000 from the industry.1

    And that's just the beginning. SEIU members have produced a TV ad that highlights Wynn's connections to lobbyists and corporate donors. It's already on the air, but only for a few more days. If MoveOn members like you contribute, MoveOn can keep its own version of the ad running until the primary election next month. Can you chip in $25 today? To see the ad and donate, click here:

    Taking back Congress from the Republicans in 2006 was a great victory for all progressives, but our work is far from over. Groups like SEIU, the Sierra Club, ACORN and others are working with MoveOn to hold the Democrats in power accountable.

    Donna Edwards is the kind of person we'd all like to see in Congress. She's been fighting for our interests her entire career:

    Helping to pass the Violence Against Women Act;
    Leading a national effort for affordable prescription drugs;
    Standing up to billionaire developers to negotiate an agreement that protected the air, water, and wildlife in suburban Maryland;
    Supporting living wage campaigns and promoting innovative programs that make a difference in the lives of working families;
    And once elected, she'll work to bring our troops home from Iraq.

    In 2006, MoveOn members supported Edwards and she came very close to defeating Wynn and his corporate interests. This time, with an even stronger coalition of local and national progressives behind her, we can push her to victory. Electing Donna Edwards will send a message to all Democrats in Congress that we expect leadership on issues like health care, the war, and global warming.

    Your contribution of $25 will help elect a Representative who will fight for our interests over special interests every day in Washington. Please chip in here:

    Together, we can win this race and make real changes in Congress.


    –Andy Stern
    Monday, January 14th, 2008

    P.S. My friend Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, offers one more reason for you to get involved in this important race:

    "We expect every member of Congress to lead in the effort to reduce global warming, protect our environment, and create good jobs. I know Donna Edwards will do that and more. MoveOn members' contributions can push her to victory."

    1. Votes in Congress by Rep. Al Wynn. Vote #132, 4/21/05; Vote #445, 7/28/05; Vote #241, 6/15/04; Vote #630, 11/18/03.

    Campaign contributions to Rep. Al Wynn,, August 20, 2007.

    Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

  7. Orson Swindall up next on Medved re:
    McCain on Immigration.


  9. Crap! He was on this hour and I missed it!
    Meathed probly won't give us an mp3.

  10. Buy in Pakistan, values abound!!!

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Associated Press) -- Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif accused Pakistan's president Monday of blindly following America and ordering anti-terror operations that have left the country "drowned in blood."
    "Musharraf has destroyed Pakistan. He is blindly following America's orders," Sharif told an election rally of about 3,000 people on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad. "The whole of Pakistan is drowned in blood."

    The former prime minister reiterated his demand for Musharraf to step down and for a government of national unity to take power and oversee the Feb. 18 parliamentary elections. Opposition parties say the current caretaker administration is biased and the elections will be rigged in favor of the pro-Musharraf ruling party _ allegations Musharraf denies.

    The latest violence underscored the volatility of Pakistan as the nation heads into the elections. The United States and other Western nations are hoping the vote will usher in a period of stability as the country battles rising attacks by al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

    This is the craziest thing I've read, in a while ...

    "... are hoping the vote will usher in a period of stability ..."

    A Policy of Hope
    Is Mr Obama is already in charge of US foreign policy?

  11. Good thing we've won the war on terror, but for Iran.
    Otherwise this could be bad news

    KHARTOUM, Sudan (Associated Press) -- Gunmen stormed a Darfur prison, setting free at least 90 detainees, officials and local media said Monday as sporadic violence continued to erupt throughout the western Sudanese region.

    A large group of armed men driving pickup trucks overran the prison in the South Darfur town of Buram, injuring two guards, the semiofficial Sudan Media Center and other media reported.

    Sudanese police did not comment and would not say who the detainees were and why they were in prison.

    But a U.N. official in South Darfur said the attack appeared to have been conducted by fighters from the Salamat tribe of nomadic Arabs, who escaped with several of the detainees also believed to be Salamat. ...

    The Salamat and other Darfur nomadic tribes are among the groups suspected of belonging to the janjaweed, an Arab militia that the Sudanese government is accused of having armed and funded to fight Darfur's ethnic African rebels.

  12. Ha! And you all think Kucinich is crazy. Little do you know. Entire Texas Town Reports UFO With fighter jets in chase, I might add.

  13. Hitchens has a good writing on Hillary today. If you don't make me president, I'll, I'll cry!

  14. Hey Bob! Dennis Miller had a guest today, Richard Hoagland. He has a book out claiming that the Apollo program brought back pictures of the moon showing the remains of some civilization.

    Do you know anything about him?

  15. Great post, Sam! All these conspiracy theories that Rat throws around are nothing compared to the real deal.
    Even now I am trying to track down that Texas sighting, to see if anyone described it as triangular, which would, if true, mark it as congruent with Art Bell's famous sighting(he and his wife) over their house in Pahrumps, Nevada, years ago. Same description, same M.O., everything.

    Old news, Whit. To keep up on the latest go to Enterprise Mission, which is Hoagland's site. He worked for NASA, and Walter Cronkite too, so he must be 'A-OK'.
    The moon is covered with artifacts, as is Mars, from which we came, if I understand him aright. It's encouraging that Miller is finally getting a clue. We may break this to mainstream yet.

  16. Wikipedia's got some stuff on him.

  17. I feel like I may be making real progress today, like a Bolshevic that, after years of effort, finally turns the workers.

  18. Walter Cronkite says Hoagland is mad as a hatter, but we know you can't believe anything that guy says.

  19. Hoagland sees things that aren’t really there. But he believes they are, and that’s what’s important, right?

    Well, no.

    Now although I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I am rather fascinated by the psychology of conspiracy theorists, which I think informs the study of history (stay with me on this). Conspiracy theorists have this basic psychological need to explain the world, particularly major events, in terms of grand interconnected—and very complicated—theories.

    The Truth is Out there

  20. As I am uncertain of the date(s) of the Texas sightings, I am uncertain if this pertains, but it might--

    11/27/07 06:00 Rockdale TX Triangle 3 minutes I stepped outside with my dogs at 6:07 AM and happened to look up. Overhead was a huge triangled shaped craft with blinking lights.

    --from National UFO Reporting Center, which is run by Peter Davenport, who got out of the law business to devote his life to something important. NUFO hasn't updated for a few days.

  21. Just another slander on Hoagland. We've heard 'em all, Sam. Don't play it again.

  22. 'Somebody later told me that Hoagland has a small group of disciples who apparently all live together in some kind of peaceful communal arrangement.'

    Some journalist you cite, Sam
    He'd be run out of The Daily Idahoan.

    And Hoagland has maintained all along, those structures are hard to see, as they are made out of some type of transparent or semi-transparent material unknown.

  23. Jan. 6, 2007:Ryan Alexander – a San Clemente surfer who gave up a career in real estate to join the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division to fight terrorists in Iraq – is at the wheel of a Humvee in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad. The vehicle is ripped apart as it hits two anti-tank mines.

    Alexander is nearly killed by the blast.

    Jan. 6, 2008:Alexander is home in San Clemente, thankful to be alive, on the road back, undergoing physical therapy four times a week for a traumatic brain injury, facing physical issues but returning to a normal life. And now very much in bliss.

    Back in Hometown and in Bliss

  24. The funny stuff, is where there theories combine the UFOs with the Bilderburgs.

    I will say though, all the theories revolve around the same groups of humans, the famous families of historic wealth and power.

    Hoagland on the moonbases and stuffA radio show on the mineral rights of the moon.

    But there are other videos, too
    The Plains of CYDONIA...
    What's really on Mars

  25. Google video & YouTube.

    Everyone can describe their beliefs on just about any subject.

    Perceptions and perspectives, coloring outside the lines

  26. The Plains of Cydonia link @ 22 mins, references the results of a Brookings Institute study.

    The perception that explains why the Space Program is still in low Earth orbit.

  27. With all these posts about Cydonia, Brookings and such, my internal proton monitor is about to burst.

  28. What could be simpler and more profound than that--
    Cairo = Mars
    Martians R Us
    we left just in time...

  29. The truth is out there

    What ever it is

  30. That crazy John Lear is the son of the Lear that made the Lear jet. I don't know if he's related to King Lear. Transcript of Art Bell interviewing John Lear.

  31. DEUCE!

    Globaloney: Turmoil in the Middle East
    There is something surreal about the spectacle of President Bush touring the Persian Gulf.
    It calls to mind the signature line of Mad Magazine's mascot,
    Alfred E. Neuman:
    "What, me worry??

    READ More

  32. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Saudis say, it was the invasion of Iraq that has had the most profound effect on U.S.-Saudi relations. Saleh al-Mani, dean of the college of law and political science at King Saud University, said the invasion and the way it was handled, led inevitably to the current crisis with Iran by removing Saddam Hussein and his Sunni bulwark against the regional ambitions of the Shiite leadership.

    "The invasion of Iraq has really disturbed the balance of power in the region," al-Mani said. "So we have now a problem with Iran having so much influence in the region and in Iraq."

    Many Saudis say they are baffled by U.S. policy toward Iran, but they are most worried about another military conflict on their doorstep. Al-Mani said the U.S. would be wise to let diplomacy and sanctions have their full effect, because Iranians appear to be getting fed up with hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies.

    Changing Alliance

  33. Mr Gaffney, he does not see it the way Team43 does, that's for sure.

    It seems so obvious, most of his points, vis a vie the Saudis and Gulf State potentates. But his view is not US policy, he describes US policy, the Alfred C Newman way forward.

    900 JDAMs, French submarines, F16 strike aircraft.
    The Pakistani have modified F16s to deliver nuclear warheads.

    All supposedly to challenge the Iranians, whose entire economy does not equal the US defense budget. Excluding "black funding".

    One must ask, why?

    How did the Wahabbists become attached at the hip US allies?

    As we have exampled, often, it is not the energy resources the Saudis control, those could be replaced. Despite mats' fondest hopes, the reality of the situation is not found in the oil.

    The folk at the BC, just so far outside the lines, and they do not even know it. Thinking it is about Islam, in the face of Team43 realities.

    For $68,500 you can get a pretty reasonable house in Panama or Costa Rica, even Mexico.
    Any of those locales would be better than Kurdistan.

  34. "How did the Wahabbists become attached at the hip US allies?"

    (How does anyone, for that matter?)

    Sounds like an apropos research project to me, Rat. I'm sure there's a wealth of (ahem) credibly sourced background at your fingertips.

    Dig in.

  35. dRat,

    It's not US policy and it's not Team43. It's a bureaucracy out of control. A bureaucracy that runs roughshods over the will of the people.

  36. It was Kim Philby's old man we can thank for the beginnings of our special relationship with our special friend. He 'went native' and took up local ways, and greased the skids for us americanos.

    In May 1933 Standard Oil of California (SOCAL) concluded negotiations with Philby for a 60-year contract to obtain the exclusive concession for exploration and extraction of oil in the Hasa region along the Persian Gulf. This marked the beginning of the decline of British influence in the region and the start of American influence. The personal contacts between the United States and Saudi Arabia were largely channeled through the person of Philby.
    from wiki

  37. Sir Harry St. John Philby--an Odd Goose if there ever was one. Grew a beard, wore the clothing, really went native, converted, the whole nine yards.

  38. Trish is awful quiet. Did you notice that, Bob?

  39. Trish is awful busy.

    Trish is wheels up at O dark thiiiiiirrrrrrrrty.

  40. If you haven't read about this Philby guy, you ought get a book about him, Mat. From my point of view, crazy as hell, going native like that, but he did sort of swing Saudia Arabia our way there, a relationship that has lasted to the mutual benefit of both, so far, at least. I mean, you know, taken all in all, oil wise, for 60 some years or more, disregarding minor dust ups like 9/11 and etc. It's an odd thing when some people go native, seem to really bite the whole bait, but he ended up estranged from his friends there in Arabia, and is buried in Lebanon I think.

    God's speed, Trish. Be well.

  41. Trish,

    You can take them blades off, you know.

  42. Peter Grynch said...
    History's Worst Typo

    A new young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand. He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.

    So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up. In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

    The head monk, says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son."

    So, he goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscript is held as archives in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds of years.

    Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot. So, the young monk gets worried and goes downstairs to look for him.

    He sees him banging his head against the wall, and wailing "We forgot the "R", We forgot the "R" His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.

    The young monk asks the old abbot, "What's wrong, father?"

    With a choking voice, the old abbot replies, "The word is celebrate!" "The word is celebRate!!!"

    hardehar from BC

    I'm not sure he was that far gone, Mat. I wonder what Joseph Conrad would have thought of the movie.

  43. You too, bob.

    My reading in transit is Martin Mayer's (1982) The Diplomats. First three chapters engaging and promising both. Should be reading Love in the Time of Cholera, but needed something lighter to pass the time.

    Anyone seen cutler lately?

  44. In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.


  45. Bob,

    Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right. Unless you were goin' all the way. Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin' program.

  46. Cutler's buried in class reading, work, and other stuff.

    ...But almost always around in some [reduced] manner.

  47. You can email me, cutler, at, if and when the occasion arises. Or occasions arise.

  48. Provided its possible, I'm still going to hold you to that rain check when you get back.

  49. As long as you know we don't play poker, but Hand and Foot or Hearts or Texas Rummy. Had our last game here this evening.

    It was a little hair-raising this holiday season because my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer the day before Thanksgiving. Caught early, and non-aggressive, thankfully. She's doing well thus far.

    We'll be back-back in 2010 or 11, with brief visits in the meantime.

    I'll be glad to honor the rain check.