MENA Region General Archives
July 11, 2010
Deals vs Rule: Good obs on how it works in emerging mkts
This speaks to me.
Deals vs. rules - PSD Blog - The World Bank Group
Over on the All About Finance blog, Mary Hallward-Driemeier has an excellent post on the "deals" that firms have to make in countries with excessive regulations. Money quote:
For countries with lengthy requirements...almost no firm actually faces the formal burdens on the books.
This does not mean that lengthy formal practices are costless. Rather, firms ‘pay’ through other channels. This variation in implementation is associated with greater activities on the part of firms to influence the actions of officials (e.g. paying bribes or spending time with officials). Rather than coping with the application of (more or less favorable) rules, firms face deals. And the larger the gap between the de jure and de facto outcomes, the greater the potential space for deals, and indeed, the more prevalent are bribes.
Spot on comment actually.
September 07, 2009
Ramadan & Economic Illiteracy (And exageratted Ftour tables)
This is sure to get me in trouble, but reading articles like this, (Citizens call for sit ins against rise in food prices [during Ramadan]) irritate me:
Des groupes de citoyens appellent à des sit-ins contre la hausse des prix alimentaires (Magharebia.com) (also see La hausse des prix se poursuit pendant le ramadhan en Algérie (Rise in prices continues during Ramadan in Algeria).
It's really quite simple. Despite being a month of "fasting," in fact Ramadan is a month of gorging. At night-time, but nevertheless. It's impossible to go to a Ftour / Iftaar and not find a table loaded down with an absurd amount of food, never mind the dinner that follows or the Suhour in the wee hours. I'd guess that consumption actually rises by about a third. And the law of supply and demand kicks in, spike in consumption means a spike in prices. I can't locate the article, but when I was just in Algeria last week, I ran across a particularly cretinous bit of idiocy written by a supposed business journo claiming there was no reason at all for such price rises, other than "speculation."
Of course part of this is few people want - in public - to admit the obvious, that Ramadan is effectively treated as a month long excuse to gorge oneself at night on sweeties, roll into work an hour late, malinger about and repeat. Now, this is not particularly news or a new development. But the whinging on about prices really gets on my nerves for its sheer illiteracy. I was just at a friends Iftar in Algeria (at least it spared me eating Iftar in the hotel, given the horrid standards of Algerian state hotel cuisine), and sadly my amigo whinged on about how Ramadan prices killed his pitiful little state salary. Salary is genuinely sad, although given my interactions with his division what comes to mind is "you get paid for your value add...." - the department if not him personally. But the other item that went through my mind was "for the love of God, then chill the bloody hell out with the Ftour table." Which was loaded down with enough sweets to keep Cuban sugar imports high for a decade, never mind the boureks and etc. etc. Of course the whole guest angle was there, but I've been to enough of these to know the lay-on was not really upped much for the guest.
I'll admit that fasting all day, one has the natural desire to kick in a big of a sugar rush, and "compensate" for the annoyances as it were. Entirely human, and my general philosophy is Beni Adam, Beni Adam - people are people and one shouldn't expect magical variations in basic human nature. Nevertheless, I feel confident in opining that generally throughout MENA it goes far too far (and in many ways defeats the whole philosophy of the month, but that's religious philosophising, which I don't care to engage in).
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September 03, 2009
An Aside, interesting review, discusion re Irwin, Orientalism Etc.
A wee bit academic but worth a read for those of you interested in such things: Robert Irwin’s “Dangerous Knowledge” « The Moor Next Door
I am, but not enough to genuinely write about it.
Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and its Discontents (Overlook, 2006) is a spirited refutation of the late Edward Said’s magnum opus Orientalism.
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August 21, 2009
Fears of an Islamic revolt in Europe begin to fade
Well this arty might be taken as a sort of Aqoul verification: Fears of an Islamic revolt in Europe begin to fade
Bloody fucking obvious, but still.
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April 14, 2009
Observation: Any Blog with the title "Watch" in it has a high liklihood of being a hysteric conspiracy mongering nutjob site
Case in point: Shariah Finance Watch
Terribly deranged by the concept of needlessly complex financial transactions which pious but economically naive Muslims use to pay more money for the exact same economic transaction one can do straight.
This is somehow a threat to the writer of the blog, whose weak-minded panic is possibly slightly more droolingly idiotic than declarations that Islamic Finance (sic) will replace conventional finance.
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November 22, 2008
Crisis Economics & MENA
Now that my obsession, the global financial crisis is migrating to home turf, I shall try to have some comment now and again. Unfortunately, professional limitations shall rather hinder my ability to be as entertaining as usual. Otherwise, I put E100 that Citi is toast.
September 22, 2008
Oh they're ber drining Arabs, why they're the model for the Arab world (Dubai)
This article is profoundly stupid and shallow on so many levels I am agog. Will return to it shortly.
September 02, 2008
Lovely Leb Land & Khlije tourism
An amusing article, besides its value for the photo as contrasts typical of Leb Land (or Dubai...)
Okay the link doesn't bloody work, see comments for the same damned link but oddly going to the proper article
I rather liked this part, which is so true:
“Times were different back then and so were the guests. It was all more cosmopolitan,” Mr Kassis says. There was also more entertainment, something sorely lacking in Aley today. The casino was closed after the civil war. “Gambling is now illegal,” he says.
It is not as if modern-day visitors from the Gulf do not crave old-fashioned diversions. One restaurateur in Bhamdoun says most male Gulf diners order alcohol, even if they are with their families. “But they want it served in a teapot and in teacups,” he says.
September 01, 2008
Nour, the Soap Opera that just keeps giving & giving to bored journos
Ramadan Mubarek encore: and for Ramadan, the month of overdone soap operas, too much sweets made by grannies with rather ridiculous expectations on sweets consumption, etc., another dumb arty on that bloody Turk Opera, Nour, whose end I celebrated having grown bloody sick of the damned thing. It certainly has pulled in even the non-typical viewer (i.e. even those who don't normally watch such rot, as I can attest by anectdote), but bloody hell, the overdone ink spilled over this thing (and frankly it ain't that different than the Venezuelan operas) has truly gotten on my nerves.
Bored Journos and summer season.
July 06, 2008
Review of Amin Maalouf's "Origins..." & Hirsi Ali
An interesting note on Amin Maalouf's memoir, "Origins" but with a closing quote that goes beyond irritating to be truly stupid:
He is one of that small handful of writers, like David Grossman and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who are indispensable to us in our current crisis.Why a Somaliyah chameleon is indispensable is a bit beyond me. Above all insofar as her commentary at once on her own past, on her former religion and even on her own specific culture is shot through with a rather nasty mixture of opportunistic posturing, inconsistencies, and a deep tainting of personal complexes assumed and writ large upon the entire body of Islamic culture and belief.
I would certainly give Irshaad Manji a higher place than Ayaan - although Irshaad I think mistaken in her reading of things, it seems more or less honest and the world is big. Ayaan.... Good faith lacks, and her commentary strikes me as opportunistic bitterness, and while that may be personally defensible, it hardly makes her commentary indispensable for the Westerner. Quite the contrary, I constantly run into Americans in my work who've read her works, and in the context of work come out to my part of the world expecting.... well some strange mix of backwoods Somali custom and Saudi Wahhabism. They generally leave bemused at how stark the contrast is between image and reality.
June 08, 2008
Iran, US Sanctions & Finance
American Footprint's China Hand has a fine note on the strange idiocies of American policy in re Iran and financial sanctions. An idiocy only exceeded by Iran's horrible domestic economic policy.
For those of you wishing headaches, Pipes series on MENA
At the National Review, I haven't the gumption to actually go further myself. However the National Review's summary would seem to indicate he's losing the veneer on his pure bigotry to descend into batty land:
Daniel Pipes talks the odds. The chance that immigrant Muslims and indigenous Europeans find a way to live in harmony? Five percent, says Pipes. The chance that Europe becomes Eurabian, part of the Muslim world? Forty-seven-and-a-half percent. The chance that Europeans reassert control over the continent? Forty-seven-and-a-half percent, once more — and Pipes says it won’t be pretty.
Eurabia...well, I suppose if one gets that special combination of innumeracy and bigotry together, one can seriously believe that Europe is going to somehow become "Eurabia"...
MENA Investment, amusing posts
First, there is United States Vigorously Backs Palestine Investment Conference, which is so fundamentally risible that I have a hard time thinking anyone would swallow this, were it not for the fact I have a friend working on a fund looking to leverage OPIC. Good fucking lucking, mate, I tell him. Given my understanding of their new bloody rules, even were he to succeed, and I think it not bloody likely, he'd be unable to invest in anyone given their political restrictions.
Never mind the crazy idea that investing in West Bank is even possible in the current situation. But then the same clowns thought Iraq was possible.
MENA - Africa investment article [corrected, blog post]
A quick if incomplete return to this topic, motivated by a somewhat peculiar article on Arab investment in Africa, oddly in a small American newspaper. Some notes on the article, both in re substance and its truly odd "background." [Correction, a blog post]
June 02, 2008
Quick Reference - Roy and MENA Democratisation book review
An interesting book review at Fistful of Euros on Olivier Roy's work The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East of interest. I will expand later on my reaction.
May 26, 2008
Where to focus?
As I reflect on what I should spend some time on, given other obligations, I wonder where there are real possibilities for interesting comment. I probably should try on this page to move to short comment on issues popping up in English, via the feed. While there would be more value add for translation, that requires more time to do properly. And I dislike doing rubbish.
March 22, 2008
Echoing Obama to MENA
An interesting comment in The Wasington Post, whose main thesis is an approach like Obama's to race, to MENA would help. Of course I also think of race within MENA at the same time. But worthy of a think.
March 21, 2008
Lunatic Real Estate
Now and again one can question even the basic sanity of some decisions. Or the pure idiot cupidity. Real Estate and UK investors come to mind. In particular, from The Times (London) and this particularly inane note Fly-to-let: the best places to buy an investment property overseas:
March 08, 2008
Somewhere on Aqoul comments a commentator asked us to comment on Israel & Gaza. Here is my one and sole comment. Same same and now the Arab Sats are even more tediously over-focused on a few square kilometres of idiocy than usual. Boring. Until someone is ready to knock Israeli heads together to get reasonable engagement, nothing to see but more mayhem. I gave up on this ages ago.
December 29, 2007
American Idiocies & Reasons to Fear Left Bollocks
While I await with impatience the end of the current American administration, as its gross incompetence and sheer idiocy are in themselves reasons to see them off, this bit of blogging nonsense and the coverage from the Financial Times reminded me that the American left has its share of incompetent posturing morons, and not merely in blogging land. Leaving aside the blog partisan, whose silly ranting on about Mr Guilani's having done business with Qatar, and oh horrors a "Qataran" [the same author mocked 'poofed' up hair as an expression...] or rather Qatari minister of the responsible ministry having supposed connexions to al Qaeda. Insofar as the fellow is the Interior Minister of Qatar, and member of the Royal family which runs Qatar (a close US ally), the posturing is idiotic.
Or more directly, the harmlessness of the supposed measure which pretends to allow private American citizens to attempt to sue Sovereigns they pretend are state sponsors of terror [presumably defined by Americans] (never mind the potential of it having been overlooked, which does not strike one as impossible) is clearly false proposition.
The Iraqi government was quite right to object, and the US Presidency was right to veto this idiocy.
November 11, 2007
Curse of the Dilettantes: celebrity interest in MENA (and other) causes
Worthy of a quick reada note on the celebrity aide complex for Africa which as well applies to the MENA fringe, I draw particular attention to this:
Twenty years on, more “fockin’ money” is still the musicians’ basic prescription for Africa. Bono’s crusade centres around foreign aid and debt relief. There are experts who agree with him. Jeffrey Sachs, the stars’ favourite economist, favours an aid-driven approach to African poverty – and, according to Angelina Jolie, he is “one of the smartest people in the world.”
But the Sachs-Bono-Jolie prescription for Africa is hardly uncontested. There are experts who believe that aid to Africa is often counter-productive. Even some of those who agree that aid and debt relief are important see them as only a small part of the solution. In a much-praised book on global poverty, The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier argues that many of the problems of Africa are essentially political. He laments the fact that at the G8: “We have had leadership without an adequate agenda, because to date the agenda has been dominated by aid.
As all know, I frankly detest Sachs as an idiot theotician.
October 27, 2007
Bang, bang goes petrol
I don't know that I could put it better than Stephens: "the White House once again seems hell-bent on being outwitted in the court of global opinion; and, maybe, on making a strategic miscalculation that could make the war in Iraq look like a sideshow."
Regardless, while dealing with big international money center banks has its efficiencies, there is other non-transparent sources of financing, and while perhaps less skilled, their equally non-transparent friends in Dubai's 2nd to 3rd tier operators can get by.
I am merely happy to have a new found interest in likely benefiting parties.
September 19, 2007
In Defence of Wealthy Royals and Against Monopoly
I was seduced by this item noted via our News Room on the Moroccan Monarchy & the King's wealth to make a long comment in defence of a wealthy royalty (or as an observation that the criticisms were wrong headed in a typical wooley headed Left way) but against Monopoly - as a good Liberal that I am.
September 06, 2007
Cold water for Eurabia and similar silly idiocies
I shall find time to return to this, I promise, but let me draw attention to The Financial Times' ongoing series on Muslims in Europe which has to date collected a fine series of articles.
By the way, who was the cretin who coined Eurabia?
August 29, 2007
Idiotic Headline: Turk With Islamic Ties....
Frankly, this headline is inexcusably idiotic: Turk With Islamic Ties Is Elected President.
It's like bloody writing, American with Christian ties...
August 15, 2007
MENA & Credit Crunches, further thoughts
This interestingly timed article in the FT on the sharp rise in Islamic bond issuances provoked some thought, in conjunction with FT REPORT - FT FUND MANAGEMENT: Gulf pensions law promises a bonanza for fund managers from 13 August.
Although the arty has Humphrey Percy, chief executive of the Bank of London and the Middle East, London’s second biggest wholesale Islamic bank, saying “The growth of the sukuk market is a result of far greater knowledge about Islamic finance and much readier acceptance of sukuk as an investment vehicle.” I rather think it's a picture that looks more like CDOs before the tires got kicked this month, insofar as Sukuks haven't been stress tested in reality.
However, the plausible deniability, the lack of clarity and funky issue of "rating" (which frankly I think the rating agencies have become so lax as to make almost fictional)... all strike me as likely to fuel a boom. Liquidity flowing off, non-transparent funds....
August 03, 2007
Gulfies and Berberism versus Salafism (a trivial and somewhat boring story from the 10e)
An amusing, for me at least, conversation witnessed in the 10e arrondissement yesterday at a bodega / dukkan / epicerie shop run by a Chleuh. Myself, waiting to buy my mineral water and afternoon yoghurt snacks.
A unkept beardy type salafi sort from (by accent I am guessing the origins) some aroubi backwoods place such as KSA or Yemen buying groceries from your typical round-headed dorky looking Chleuh shopkeeper. As it is clear the aroubi fellow speaks piss-poor French, and the shopkeeper no English, they use Arabic. Of course the shopkeeper uses derridja, and our aroubi fellow rather more formal Arabic.
For reasons that entirely escaped me the buying of a certain article (some leben nastiness) involved a really stupid exchange about quantity, price, blah blah. I confess I hardly paid attention as I was merely annoyed at being held up. But he is my favourite shopkeeper, and it's not his fault the googly eyed unkept bearded aroubi fellow is tedious.
July 18, 2007
Egyptian Committee for Boycotting
Priceless take away from an otherwise pedestrian article on the retail markets in certain of the MENA markets, the existence of an Egyptian Committee for Boycotting, headed of course by Nasserist cretinliving in a dream world where consumption is something alien to Egypt....
Typical left activist clap-trap at the end, but I love the committee name.
May 31, 2007
Global Blog Commentary as Twittery
I am sure that if this gets linked I shall endure much flaming, but as I don't give a bloody fuck:
In our Aggregator / Syndicator (depenidng on the terminology) I always find posts from the "Global Voices Online" - some precious bit of ... well wooley headed Leftish oriented Kumbaya sharing preciousness that I suppose serves a purposes (although for the love of fucking I hope it is low rent, or supported by some intellectually impaired artist who has more money than reason) in boosting global communication.
However, things like this post (which is not perhaps the best example... well it is not a good example, it simply provoked my gathering irritation. Plus I have been supporting Castro this evening) irritate me.
April 15, 2007
Dar Fur: Finally a decent article in the US press
I do not have much comment, other than to say that this is easily one of the more well-informed articles published in English (although the faux racialisation of Arab versus non-Arab remains in the background) on Dar Fur. In reading this, I should think it clear wny I take a dim view indeed of Western intervention in such conflicts, givent he penchant for White Hat Black Hat thinking, and the utter ignorance that comes with it. Like the Tuareg - Mali Bambara conflict of the early 90s, this is something best left to the locals to settle. Foreign intervention by gullible dupes rarely goes well. And yes, I do not exclude Rwanda from this. The best resolution for Rwanda was not foreign intervention, but rather what occured, except earlier.
[16 April 9:00 GMT: Link fixed]
March 28, 2007
Economic Policy & Lessons for Maghreb: The pain in Spain will follow years of rapid economic gain
Although not directly MENA related, this is worthy of quick attention as it shows someone besides Hogan going for painful punditry, although with an underlying point, and because Spain is beginning to have a truly important influence in the North Africa - essentially Maghreb - region on an economic basis. As well, I would add, to a limited extent on a political basis.
March 15, 2007
A Whiff of Idiocy, A Whiff of Bigotry, A Whiff of Cankerous Fear in his Dotage (Lewis, Bernard)
Unlike many of my fellow authors, I rather like the works of Bernard Lewis, or rather, the classic works of Bernard Lewis when he was a historian rather than a political dabbler.
As such FT columnist & Slate editor Jacob Weisberg's report on the recent American Frothing Right Bolshy Lunatics Masquerading as Free Enterprise Promoters Institute (Am. Enterprise Institute) meeting saddened me.
Pity to see an old historian stretch himself into idiocy.
March 14, 2007
Development Investing & Indiscipline
I just came away from one of the most profoundly frustrating meetings in a while.
Talking with some local business people about potential financing for an investment project (in real industry, for a change).
Not a bad proposition.
Except for the life of me I can't get them to express their god damned concepts and value proposition.
March 13, 2007
Go East Old Man, Go East: Halliburton to Dubai
An interesting article, or rather an article on an interesting development that is difficult to assess. From the FT, entitled Risky Locations, on Halliburton's queer decision to move its CEO to Dubai.
I am, to be frank, puzzled. Comment below.
March 07, 2007
Imperial America: Iran & Sanctions on 3rd Party Hydrocarbon Sector Investment
The Financial Times has an interesting, if infuriating (from its content, not writing) article on the Imperial American pretension to regulate other's investment in Iran. What irritates here especially is that I know from experience the slightest hint of similar actions by EU or similar parties touching on American interests provokes paroxysms of incoherent rage on the part of Americans. I confess readily knowledge of this, as well as my conviction that the US efforts here are posturing and will end up merely alienating without any real achievement, adds to my deep sense of irritation.
Now, mind you, the concept of the effort does not offend, and my snide swipe at Imperial America is most explicitly not from your usual Lefty whinging "evil capitalist America" tripe sort of point of view. No, It's about over-reaching, and clumsy over-reaching. I am a strong believer in avoiding too much obvious hypocrisy. One reason the overdone language the Americans and the French tends to engage in in their precious self-fellating rhetoric over their respective civilisations irritates.
Operationally, for many of the same reasons I predict that it will be the Chinese and similar parties that will reap the Iraqi hydrocarbons windfall, I strongly believe the US sanctions are an example of cutting off your nose to spite your face, which for some reason the current American administration seems to find to be a queerly enjoyable activity.
March 06, 2007
I just had an amusing, even hilarious for me, lunch with my attorney who was ranting on about how his local clients have to be brow-beaten (and we're talking corporates, name brand even) into conveying timely information, to him, their attorney, for work they've demanded.
I actually have the exact same experience. It's amazing, really, what it takes to get the simplest fucking things done in this region. Efficiency. What's most irritating and yet in some ways puzzling (in others not when you think about internal organisational structures and incentives) is the foot dragging raises their costs as much as mine (or the attorney's). Of course the constant whinging on about costs etc when they sit down with a bill makes this even more infuriating.
But there are clear organisation incentives to non-performance in the typical MENA company, nothing shocking that doesn't exist in the West of course - see Dilbert. But as always, these things are a question of degree, and indeed the weakness of countervailing incentives.
In some ways it's a good way to look at the failures of Iraq, since the American decision makers innocently assumed the exact same incentive structures, decisional processes and worst yet, reactivity. And being arrogantly blinded to the sometimes (indeed often) subtle differences - any one of which may be individually trivial, but cumulatively is fatal - were unable to react, to adjust and change at once tactics and conceptual strategy in ways that actually responded to the real incentive structures.
I've noted in places like our fool Andrew Sullivan (and even more egregiously chez the Moustache of Understanding) comments tending to indicate that Arabs (or Muslims, en grosso modo) don't value / want / desire Liberty, etc. etc. That's bollocks - but the operational incentives for making changes to achieve those things require different approaches, and realisation that the near term incentive structure is weighted towards avoidance of decisions etc. - nails get pounded down - unless one has a means to control - as in guns.
February 21, 2007
The Carib Gulag Archipelago
I am not frequently moved to comment on issues American domestic in large part, however this news item caught my eye for its meaning to the MENA region and US image there.
I have no expertise in US constitutional law and shall not remotely pretend to comment on the legality or constitutionality. I am sure others will.
Rather, I am moved by the sheer idiocy of what the US continues to do. If this is indeed legal and constitutional, well, I have to say that the Americans have carved out a vast gaping whole in the tradition of Habeus Corpus, one that is at once revolting for its Neo-Bolshevik logic and disturbing given the increasingly imperial pretensions and reach of US law. Worse than these essentially moral, but also pragmatic issues, given that these acts might be justified if the cost-benefit was positive (it is not), is the massive self-inflicted damage (for no real gain at all) the US is doing to itself in creating what is, in effect, an off-shored version of the Gulag Archipelago. Yes, rather more humane if still involving torture, than the Soviet version, but in many ways less honest, for the tortured logic that Guantanamo is somehow in some tortured legal fiction, not under US sovereignty.
I am particularly moved to comment on this because of an interesting anecdote from a friend yesterday, who had to do some neurological tests - involving electroshocks to test reaction. The joke on the part of the Arab doctors, all quite Westernized and Western leaning, based on his citizenship, was "not going to be any worse than the torture at Guantanamo."
The US has fallen to a low level when even its friends make jokes in this manner. Reminds me of the jokes I used to hear from Sov lands....
Regardless, then of the legality, the US has stepped up to a precipice. It must come back.
February 18, 2007
Hirsi Ali Autobiography: Inconsistencies, an Economist review
A brief note calling attention to The Economist review of Hirsi Ali's autobio: I believe my Aqoul colleagues should enjoy reading both the review and perhaps eventually the book.
I have to say the notes in the review rather confirm some observations and speculation on the part of Eerie.
Reflexions on Talent, Markets, MENA & Development - The Value of Initiative
Inspired in part by a comment by Shaheen, and in part by some convo I dimly recall from a few months back somewhere in bloggy land about the value of expats and overseas educated and experienced staff, I thought I might make a comment on the value of staff with international experience.
While perhaps potentially self-serving, I really mean to briefly reflect on barriers to growth in MENA, as a business as well as a social problem.
January 26, 2007
Oh Bollocks. These Bloody Bolshy Fuckers
Every time I think the Americans can not possibly get any stupider, any more completely retarded and incompetent, I am decieved. What possesses them to think that antognising yet more parties in the region can possibly help their sorry asses utterly escapes me - although I suppose in the lunatic ideological world of the Right Bolshevik World this is the equivalent of liquidating the Grasping Kulaks so as to prevent hoarding, as after all if the Kulaks are liquidated, obviously Socialist Bliss will result.
January 23, 2007
And for MENA
In a busy day of meetings, the news that the US is putting a new carrier group in the Persian Gulf area brought a bit of cheer, like napalm to us all. Except for the US fund manager who oddly was pimping his firm to do Islamic finance offerings.
Queer how tone deaf and self-referential that was. "We should send a message to the Persians...."
Mate, leave that stridency for the other side of the sea. Everyone else is thinking about the sheer incredible March of Folly aspect to this and the likely disaster (given the incompetence seen to date).
January 19, 2007
Iraqi Factories Arty
It becomes tedious in some ways to constantly harp on the sheer, mind-numbing incompetence of the Bush Administration (and in its own way, the Poodle's complicity in enabling such), however articles like this constantly remind me of the utter idiocy.
What is most painful is the degree to which this Right Bolshevism has given ammunition (rhetorically, not fundamentally factually) to attack free markets, etc. in a Naomi Klein sort of fashion.
Of course, the arty, on reviving the Iraqi state factories, includes this more depressing note:
There are also serious questions on whether officials in the focus of the United States presence in Iraq, within the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, are ready to support factories that were seen as no more than relics of an era that American ingenuity and reconstruction were going to make forever obsolete.
I am sure. Bolsheviks live in a fantasy world.
January 16, 2007
American MENA Public Diplo profile
A serviceable article from The Financial Times on Karen Hughes.
January 12, 2007
Further image problems notes
Where to start?
In the full basket of bad news, it is hard to know where to start.
It strikes me that this editiorial from the bland Gulf News rather captures what has become a universal frustration in the region, in response to the reports the US is scheming to use the Siniora government to tackle Hezbullah, likely of course but most unwelcome leaking for said recipient. Or the terrible optics of Somalia with the idiocy of air strikes in the midst of villages and the like neither have the tactical nor the strategic effect presumably intended, although they do achieve a brilliant effect of making the al-Qaeda and other opponents of America look spot-on correct in their claims that the US prefers chaos and death for Muslims.
Nor does the raid on Iranian quasi-consular sites, sites duly organized with Iraqi entities help attenuate the image of the US as a blundering, incompetent bull in a chinashop, lashing out withour regard to friendly interests.
It is no wonder the sober Financial Times calls the latest American ... well policy seems to be granting the idiocy too much dignity, reaction then, the latest reaction Surge towards debacle in Iraq and MidEast.
Entre Somalia and Iraq, and then generally the Middle East, I am positively discouraged. Even writing something outraged at the Americans capacity to achieve collosally stupid own goals escapes me of late.
It makes the naive reaction of the US diplo a few days ago sadder and more pitiful.
January 10, 2007
Naivete, oh so naive these Americans who are unloved...
I had lunch today with a US diplo who likes to talk to me for financial sector intelligence in MENA (I presume said diplo gets to write blisteringly interesting cables back to Washington about such things).
I sometimes even get snippets of intel for meself (good to know if a certain firm has been in town with US Emb. assistance prospecting etc), and at least a lunch (although most tediously they can't buy alcohol, bloody puritans).
I was amused, in my convo, to get a reaction of shock - actual genuine shock - when I declined to intro to some local financiers because I felt they'd react badly to a US Gov contact.
(The image supra is from the online edition today of a Maghrebine business daily - I use it here to illustrate merely the image problem the US faces. The topic was business, but the imagery, Sadaam.... Unfair, but there it is.)
January 05, 2007
The Burning Issue in the Middle East That Will Resolve All Conflict
Properly designed public and quasi public restrooms that can (i) be properly maintained by sub-literate peasant cleaning staff with only the vaguest acquaintance with the restroom concept, (ii) be used for the various required abulatory pre-prayer functions without forcing said devote praying people into odd contortions such as washing their feet in the same sink I want to use to wash me face, (iii) for men, ideally with urinals that are at once functional, marginally water efficient and set a height that a reasonably constructed male can use without untoward events.
January 02, 2007
Arab Reform & Aid - analysis question
Having read it, I wonder if readers think a small Aqoul colloq. might be interesting, playing off of this and perhaps other recent online pubs readers might suggest.
[nb: links should be fixed now]
And I wonder if this is an intefada in Paris
Perhaps it is unkind of me to mock the ignorant rubes in the US who constantly shriek on about "Eurabia" and other Islamophobic hysteria-phrasing, but perhaps if this article was retitled as 'Muslims youths torch cars' (Muslim of course in such context in France meaning most any non-euro descended youth with a "brown-black" racial cast, regardless of actual ethnicity and religion, commonly refered to as immigrant of course, even if born to 3rd generation parents).
January 01, 2007
Happy New Year, New Month, New Year Thread
Ancient tradition, and a new year. The Lounsbury / Collounsbury enters 2007 with rather limited optimism for Western policy in the MENA region, but nevertheless some optimism remains.
Let this thread, then, be my welcome to 2007 and an open thread for comments, inquiries and the like.
December 31, 2006
In Lighter Moments
In watching TV last night one of the very young cousins, on seeing the video of Sadaam's execution, yelled out, "haouli1, mistaking Sadaam for a sheep.
It was quite amusing.
Of course the little fellow I think has only just learned the word.
December 30, 2006
Ill Framed Concern: Always "Islamist" if it is bad
I ran across this arty in Yahoo, poorly done as it is, Morocco's Christian converts irk the world of Islam including a title that puzzles since it's only about Morocco (world of Islam?).
The essence of the article is the tiny thimbful of converts to Xianity are opporessed, and does the usual "liberal" versus Islamist contrast.
December 28, 2006
Venture Bank & MENA VC investment
Starting a new category of commentary that might hive off one day, I thought I would share this odd bit of news from the Khalij Times on Bahrain's queer new entity the Venture Capital Bank [an oxymoron really, but what can I say, Machreqi Arab usage in English is usually painful], (well if one can call things published in the Gulf newspapers 'news' in any meaningful sense, perhaps regurgitated PR...Reg-PeR. My new jargon, Reg-PeR news).
Taking the essentials,
DUBAI — Bahrain-based Venture Capital Bank (VC Bank) has announced the first closing of its recently launched $250 million MENA Small & Medium Enterprises Fund, the first Shaiah-compliant fund dedicated to small and medium enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Co-managed by VC Bank and its technical partner, the US private equity firm Global Emerging Markets (GEM), the fund has raised more than the targeted amount for first closing of $75 million. Out of the total amount raised, almost 20 per cent has been committed by investors from USA.
I personally doubt the Fund will actually invest outside Gulf plus Egypt plus Jordan, knowing how the Gulf based funds generally work. Announced first closing at 75 million USD. Interesting part is they claim to have raised 20% from US investors.
Which US investors, well I am sure that is not disclosable.
December 27, 2006
Somalia: Appearances and Decisions
It is difficult to determine what precisely is occurring in Somalia with the Ethiopian intervention - which strikes me as rather typical of the Zeneoui government adventurism (as in Eritrea) - but the reports from the US media such as the Washington Post leads one to suspect that Ethiopian adventurism (combined with some real but limited security threat) is being egged on and supported by the Americans who are likely pointlessly giving themselves a black eye backing a government of feuding warlords over the Islamists.
Bad optics at best, probably a fundamental error - presuming that the reporting holds up.
December 08, 2006
France 24: New player in the Sat News Game
Long planned the trilingual France 24 station is up and running I shall follow this as closely as possible, but another international player is interesting even if it is a very crowded market.
Poodle Bis: Servile Foolishness
I see the Poodle is still humping Bush ibn Bush, the Cretin hereafter's leg. Pity.
I await with impatience a Conservative government, but it is a pity the avalanche of realism has not jerked either the Cretin or the Poodle into reality.
December 05, 2006
Flocking to Sukuk... well, maybe
The Financial Times has a moderately interesting article on the supposed flocking of Western investors to the sukuk market.
I am skeptical that the end buyers are in fact 'Western' but I was amused by the framing at the opening, with its perhaps unintentional, but certainly very clever accuracy as to reality, if adopting the double-language of the Islamist take:
December 04, 2006
Bolton Pisses Off - Good Bloody News
Good news, although as usual the Bush ibn Bush manages to undertake the clean up in a clumsy, ungraceful manner that neither looks credible nor even leverages the moment.
Sadly the US President's comportment underlines his personal incompetence and inability to live up to the historic situation his own incompetence created. Worse than a mediocrity, an incompetent mediocrity who believes himself Theodore Roosevelt or Churchill.
December 02, 2006
Agitprop Blogs: Or Does It Explode
For a rather long time I believe eerie has had the blog, "...Or Does It Explode?' on the aggregator. For just about as long, I have rather not been taken with the same, for all its purported focus on "Civil Right" in MENA - a claim I would say is bollocks. Today, however, a post took me over the edge (and not only me, as another commentator - unless deleted - shows).
October 10, 2006
Drawing attention to an amusing arty in the FT on the annual Soup Opera scandals. I previously was interested in the Tash Ma Tash Soup Opera, although initially for its sardonic imagery re the 'War on Vague Abstractions in the Place of Concrete Policy'.
October 08, 2006
Al Hurra and Market Driven Advice
Related to Tom's recent note on the TV in the Middle East, our old Aqoul amigo Abu Aardvark has some Advice for al-Hurra which I found quite on point, being at once driven by a good understanding of American interests and the media market in region.
I am sure longer term readers will recall some commentary back in the old livejournal days regarding the supposed al Jazeerah privatisation and related Arab Media Policy. Some simple minded commentators cheered without understanding the media market.
The Father of Aardvarks has what I consider rather savvy market-oriented advice, which I am sure this current American Administration will not heed, despite their faux-Conservatism with their magical Right Bolshy inclination to unrealistic Bolshy type transformationalism. Real, honest market driven evaluations and pragmatic market driven policy utterly escapes them.
October 07, 2006
Mr Straw & The Niqab
It appears that For. Sec. Straw's comments on the Niqab, the face veil, have set off a bit of a storm. From The Financial Times to The Times coverage of his original comments regarding prefering women not wear the face veil as divisive through to coverage of The Poodle's craven and inconsistent pandering and on to coverage (the sooner he is gone the better, I await with impatience The New York Times (but British official, I am come on, how about Brit For. Sec.?).
I am not sure if that is good or bad, but it bears some commenting on. First, when I first saw the comments I wasn't sure if he meant the hijab, which would have been annoyingly tedious, or the niqab, which I agree with. I am pleased to see it is about the covering of the face. There is a vast and important difference between the ninja get-ups that are so very Saudi Wahhabite neo-Islamic rot, and a woman covering her hair with a scarf.
October 03, 2006
On Nation Building & American Magicalism
Prompted by an somewhat typical George Will column, The Leaders [Americans] Have
Aside from this amusing closing (whose connexion with the remainder of the opinion piece is a bit obscure)
"Where's the leader?" Bush, according to Woodward, has exclaimed in dismay about the Iraqi government's dithering. "Where's George Washington? Where's Thomas Jefferson? Where's John Adams, for crying out loud?" For a president to ask that question about Iraq, that tribal stew, is enough to cause one to ask it about the United States.there is Will's foolish comment:
October 02, 2006
Tariq Ramadan has an interesting Op Ed on his effective banning from the United States. The Right Bolsheviks seem to be like the old Left Bolsheviks.
September 26, 2006
The MBC cartoon
Fellow Arab Sat watchers, can someone tell me the name of that Ramadan cartoon on MBC that just started running, the one with the evil US empire bombing and snatching innocent schmoes?
Caught it twice now.
September 25, 2006
Decisions, not faux decisions. Alternatives, not faux alternatives
Normally the blog, the atrociously named but nevertheless readable Glittering Eye does not irritate me sufficiently to post something on it. However, today it did. Plus I have Ramadan insomnia.
US Air Travel
Have to fly shortly to the US of A for some business. Would rather not, but there it is.
Can anyone direct me to a current summary of the idiotic American regs designed to give pants wetters a false sense of security while inconveniencing the maximum number of persons possible?
August 26, 2006
German Steel & Transaction Costs
The operation buying my new German Steel is taking far too fucking long.
First, there was the idiocy of the American correspondant that froze my funds when some semi literate bank functioniary panicked over the cash being transferred to a suspect country.... Once resolved, now I am lost in the intricate idiocies of the local bureacracy which render any transaction 30 times more complex than necessary.
It's the sort of operation that underlines the idiocy of the Stiglitz's in their ivory tower attacks on globalisation and celebration of statism.
August 24, 2006
Joint Ventures & Coops: Reflexions in real estate and coops in MENA
My side Joint Venture has given me the keys into experience and personal fashion the intricacies of communal property practices in MENA, and outside the context of a multinational with all kinds of influence and the like to throw around, but rather in the context of being a weak foreign investor without corporate structures. While surprising, the experience has highlighted the sometimes incredibly irritating but always illustrative of under-development incentives and practices in ways that have been somewhat intriguing.
August 16, 2006
The Lebanon Debacle First Lessons
Lessons may be to big a word, perhaps "preliminary observations approaching lessons" would be better.
The most remarkable item from this fiasco is the manner in which the current American administration unerringly executes near-perfect bicycle-kick own-goals. It's breathtaking in its consistency, and the sheer deluded pig-headedness of it all. Only a year or two I passed over in polite silence or sneered at American Left whinging on that the Bush Administration is the worst in living memory; I confess I am sliding towards a similar opinion now in light of the simply extraordinary incompetence on display and the bizarre inability to learn from its own goals. The "Neo-Con" block is truly Bolshevik in its elevation of its ideological precepts over all fact and ample evidence of failure of its most radical precepts.
The night before last in particular in watching on one of the arab sats the Bush speech with my partner and friends I was Almost taken aback by the depth and intensity of the reaction to his speech, and this among, as I noted at Lounsbury, a crowd tending to the liberal (free market) and not typically anti-American (my JV partner being the sole person who I might characterise as "pro-American" at some level) but certainly typically pro-West. Bankers and the like.
August 13, 2006
And a short echo on cluelessness and navel-gazing
While were I not obliged to spend my time this weekend working on investment performance whanking (obliged meaning, choosing to as the said performance is not in any way related to me Titanic), I would have some amplifications on this note by Billmon with respect to a fine Op Ed in The Washington wondering why US military can't achieve the same street cred as Hezbullah on the ground.
August 07, 2006
Public Opinion in an Image
Regarding Leb Land:
August 06, 2006
A Comment on The Bolshy Right: The intellectuals have taken over the asylum
I am not normally given to quoting entire op eds at length, but I found FT's America's editor-at-large, Jurek Martin brilliant on Friday: capturing as he did the special type of idiocy when theoreticians, aka intellectuals of a certain kind - or better, ideologues - run things, in "The intellectuals have taken over the asylum" The Financial Times, 4 Aug. 06.
A note of warning for the humourless and those prone to the same, Jurek oft writes tongue in cheek, so no, not everything stands to close scrutiny. However, it is an amusing and close comment on the matter:
August 01, 2006
Reflexions Economic & Practical - MENA During Times of Conflict
If I may (and of course I can, as this is my bloody bloggy and I do whatever I bloody want) some indirect comments on the current environment in region. Sitting in region, I will nevertheless note that spending evenings watching (as this evening) imagery of shattered children's bodies (headless even, on Al Arabiyah) is not precisely cheery. Even my JV partner, normally an almost pro-Israeli type said this evening something along the lines of "They want to impose their rule over all their neighbours like tyrants." Utterly out of character. And certainly the Arabic for tyrants carries a lot of meaning.
But on the environment, I spent this evening between popular (working class) beach and consular parties, an interesting contrast on some level, and an occasion to reflect on the diffent worlds, perceptions and understandings of crisis. Best of all, plenty of American diplos showed up at the later, I suppose needing to mingle with people less likely to tell them straight out their employer is a stupid git.
July 26, 2006
Despairing of sense: MENA and an increasingly unmoored America
I am increasingly despairing of the completely unmoored US position in the Middle East. Between utterly magical thinking regarding breaking Hezbullah militarily and equally bizarely unmoored and ungrounded policy in Iraq (where, per this NYT arty, after 3 years of major effort, the American military is working to "reclaim control of the Iraqi capital"), I am beginning to think, after some hope that Rice was actually rather more competent than I had given credit in the past, that I am facing roughly two odd years of truly complete, ham-handed incompetence of the most dangerous kind.
July 22, 2006
Lounsbury Musings - The Leb Crisis & Economy
Some thoughts or concerns without any particular answer at present regarding the Leb Land-Israel cris and its economic impact in the region (ex the clear disaster for Leb Land).
July 21, 2006
On lighter matters
I just caught what may be the queerest combination of music I have heard to date (that still merits the name music, meaning leaving aside the horrible clownish screeching that Cairo studios put out): Ragga-Rai.
Think a combination of Rai a la (ex-Cheb) Khaled and Shaggy.
Odd but compelling in a queer way.
July 19, 2006
America, the land of bizarro-world MENA commentary
I sometimes wonder what it is about American media that leads to quite such utterly delusional commentary on the Middle East. Following up on my initial gut reaction, some more thoughts on the utterly surreal American whanking.
July 18, 2006
MENA Ground, Crises & Lounsbury Observations
Today, for the first time since the cancer, I am back on the ground. Some thoughts about this bloody crisis which I've flown into.
First, as a general observation, despite the rhetoric I do not see this as truly being about "destroying Hizbullah." As Abu Sinan noted in comments on 'Aqoul, replying to Raf Bey's commentary, and I hit on in comments on Tom's "What was Hizbullah thinking?", if Israel was unable to break Hizbullah when it occupied southern Lebanon and ran its own indigenous Lebanese militia there (the confettis of which live in Israel now, see link), there is no chance in hell mere airstrikes and border raids are going to break Hizbullah. And as Abu Sinan opines, and I agree, degrading Hizbullah would simply lead to a replacement. A political supply and demand.
Now, some thoughts about the genesis of the crisis:
July 14, 2006
UAE shifting reserves to Euro
A quick note drawing attention to this story by Roula Khalaf in the FT, which is likely to be lost: UAE shifts 10% of its reserves into euros.
Islamic Banking - Incoherent Whinging
It is not often I read something in The Financial Times that provokes me to think in contempt, what the fuck were they thinking, but today’s arty entitled Banks subvert Islam’s ban on usury by some cretin named Tarek el Diwany certainly did.
The commentary piece, which largely covers a truly superficial and irrelevant ‘history’ of
European lending institutions supposed origins, does put its finger on a real issue, the superficiality and conflict of interest ridden process by which “Islamic” products are being created today. Whatever one’s interpretation of the religious ban on usury (whether you have the economically illiterate if traditional penchant for seeing it cover all interest or whether you see it in the more rational and economically literate light of a ban on abusive lending), one can not deny that the current system which institutions are creating “Islamic” products is entirely incoherent and more than a bit of a sham; or at least that it is ridden with severe conflict of interest issues that are bound to result in debilitating corruption.
Leb Land and Israeli bloody mindedness
Some thoughts on this escalating madness.
First, it really is painful to watch CNN fellating the Israeli point of view. Really bloody hell, a bit of critical analysis, not soft-ball questions to Netanyahu. I expect American media to be pro-Israeli, but critically so.
Second, the escalation is begining to worry me. Yesterday I was inclined to think this would blow over, but now the number of (American and Israeli) security types out pimping the line that Israel has to move into southern Leb Land to insure its security strikes me as a worrisome indicator of both American and Israeli thinking in the decision making circles. Of course, the last time they ran this, it was decades long disaster that made Hizbullah what it is today.
Third, Israeli actions while not unjustified are Pyrrhic. They are going to drive a rally-round-the-flag effect and doubtful they are going to generate what is wanted.
Lebanon - Israel: US Media
As I count down the US exile, the Leb Land crisis with the Israeli over-reaction is an interesting occasion to observe the sheer incompetence, laziness and pandering that is the US media (mass and blog-loonistan).
Watching CNN in particular I was bemused by a truly stupid waste of broadcast time in reading the inanely ignorant blithering of viewers (which was as predictable as it was unenlightening, such as Avi from LI -not an actual name- ranting on about the evil UN, etc.); hardly news unless one had some analysis of the reactions.
The segement on "knowing our enemy" (our? Has Israel become a US state? Bloody hell, a bit of objectivty mates) re Hizbullah was typically shallow, ill-informed and security focused. Domestic US news really is atrocious. Not a new comment but bloody hell.
June 28, 2006
NYT & US SWIFT 'spying' prog bis
I noted that Kevin Drum has linked to an intriguing but I think rather wrong-headed discussion at Crooked Timber with respect to the SWIFT program. How the author at Crooked concludes that the Central Banks were not the proper authorities for SWIFT to communicate with truly escapes me, as in most jurisdictions they are precisely the authorities that most jurisdictions have regulating payment systems, and for most GAFI compliant countries, have dedicated staff for these kinds of issues...
June 04, 2006
Deserving Further Comment: Muslim Women as Victims - Lalami's "Missionary Position"
In a rather longish piece in the American Leftist dinosaur paper, The Nation, expatriate Moroccan author Laila Lalami takes a whack at one of eerie's favourite topics, Muslim Victim Women Reformers in an arty entitled "The Missionary Position".
While I am not normally inclined to read such things as The Nation, the highlighting by The Arabist were enough to induce a read.
I cannot say that I am a fan of such hackneyed phrases as "supporters of empire", above when used seriously, but what can I expect out of literary types?
May 29, 2006
Outsourcing Peacekeeping - A Return Comment
I thought I would take quick note following on a silly conversation some months back on Dar Fur where some idiot ideologue of a simpleton was pimping the idea of using private contractors in place of proper peacekeepers, to draw attention to this small issue involving private security contractors and a little bit of a coup d'etat plot in Congo. Illustrating some of my observations back in April.
May 27, 2006
Economic Progressivism: Left Things to Love in Islamic "Economics"
I ran across a press release from some US Uni by some anthro-sociology professors on 'progressive' features of Islam ironically pointed to by an 'Islamic Investing' website trumpeting it as Study Finds Muslim Scholars An Egalitarian Force For Economic Reforms, a fine illustration of the brainless lack of confidence among certain circles that they take anything with a remotely positive spin on anything "Islamic" and wave it around, saying "See Islam positive, Islam positive!!!!" like five year olds. Witless gits.
The site itself I came across from a decent arty on the diversity of fatwas and the general focus on small things in life although in fact although I am of the opinion that foolish fatwa shopping is a bad sign of a rather brainless 'islamisation' but that is probably my general snobbery and contempt for people running after ill-groomed 'religious men' for advice when half a brain and some reasonable reflexion would suffice.
However, let me get on to the silly stereotypically Left academics' silly PR note on "Progressivism" and Islam:
The Agency - Clandestine Operations, MENA and Amusement
Via our friend Zenpundit, and a post on A New Clandestine Service: The Case for Creative Destruction by Reuel Marc Gerecht which is a PDF article on Gerecht's observations on the American clandestine service and its supposed short comings, I was quite entertained and intrigued.
I have zero idea if Gerecht is right (although the article reads in a generally non-ideological fashion, which is a pleasant change of pace from Left and Right axe grinding in this area - in this sense Gerecht may be wrong about what he is writing about, but I at least came away with a sensation he would be honestly wrong, and not due to ideological whanking), but a number of his observations on field practices rang some bells. And entertained. As I have known a number of Agency people over the years (doubtless more than I know I knew), it was interesting.
May 12, 2006
Comparing Sex and Jihad
This was brought to my attention by David Weman of Fistful of Euros one of 'Aqoul's oldest friends and in some ways one can say, responsible for inspiring us to take the leap: Google Trends.
His link was to the search term sex, which had some interesting results, and which I reran with Jihad.
The search and reference may be found here
The chart is ... well interesting although if one reflects not surprising on some level.
Rather surprising is the regional break-out, which shows in the screen capture.
May 07, 2006
Al Qaeda & Media, a quick reflexion on Bou Aardvark
Aqoul's fine friend, Bou Aardvark has some interesting reflexions on the recent blithering on about Al Qaeda, the recent tapes and like from Bin Laden and Zarqaouie and communication strategy that I thought I might make a superficial comment on.
Both Some jihadi perspectives on the al-Qaeda tapes (although after perusing the source material I realised why I don't amuse myself with Jihadi internet boards) and the more American domestically oriented AQ's media strategy: strength or weakness? are one of a piece in a sense, and I think together a necessary reminder for the sharp observer that one really knows very little about what is going on with the organisation, al Qaeda.
Bloody Annoying Whanking Morons
My dear friend and 'Aqoul quasi-colleague, as well as Dubai commentator extraordinaire, Secret Dubai has done a terrible thing.
Abusing her privs (well not really, but I indulge myself), she linked to a Totten piece on Libya on our main page via the 'Picks' function, without any warning or sign, leading me to innocently click through and afflict myself with my least favourite idiot's article on the country.
Now that I have polluted myself, I must purge. Which means a quick comment on this contemptible superficial git of a monolingual fool's typically impoverished comment on Libya.
April 02, 2006
On April and On Iraq
First, as a personal matter I don't like April Fool's jokes and express my dislike for our 'Aqoul joke. But I am not the Big Cheese so, on the other hand, Tom did a fine bit of writing.
Second, on Blog things, certain persons actually - likely in an act of deluded generosity but perhaps in an attempt to bribe us (although I have yet to generate a plausible scenario as to (i) why we should be bribed, (ii) what possible benefit to others might be involved) - used that bloody button to give 'Aqoul money to cover costs. That of course really means eerie, our dear hostess, editor in chief, strangely obsessive IT chica, etc. I thankfully am allowed nowhere near items of responsibility.
As such, on behalf of eerie (largely becuase it allowed me to write the above) and the whole 'Aqoul team (although thinking of us as a team is moderately abusive of the concept of team) let me extend some form of thanks to the deluded contributors. However, should my bribery theory hold (and personally I hope so, as it helps me maintain my view of humanity, whereas unforced acts of giving without some interest involved makes me nervous), please do clarify what negotiable interest may be involved.
Now, otherwise, Iraq.
Well, I merely wanted to note I am moderately amused by the continued state of denial re the civil war in certain circles, but it is moderately encouraging that in the US media finally the idiotic Bush Administration Happy Talk is wearing away. (I should note that American students, expats and tourists visiting the Egyptian museum commemorating the Victory [or in the real world, utter defeat] in the Sinia should stifle their mockery, as the instinct of Happy Talk Self Delusion is clearly not only an Egyptian trait; although it is often said the Egyptians are the Americans of the Arab world. That's clearly abusive, the Egyptian idiot to not-idiot ratio is among the worst in the world, although I guess the fuming leaded petrol mess that is their capital is probably of some import).
Else, afraid I am quite fucked with the fiasco. Still desperately trying to bail with a spoon. My obsession with sticking to me region is just starting to crack.
March 14, 2006
Cheap MENA Markets: Get Yer Cheap Stocks Here
John Dizard offers an ironically timed article on the MENA markets in The Financial Times, telling the American investor that The Middle East offers fertile soil for value hunters (yes this is subscription only, get a fucking subscription you lazy git, best fucking paper out there).
Well, yes. Although given the timing I hardly imagine the US investor is going to overcome his fear of The Average Mohammed and buy MENA securities.
On the other hand, there are these cretins speculating on actual physical Iraqi dinars, so .... As an aside regarding the same cretins, I wonder how thy've handled the utter collapse of their dreams. Well, no matter, MENA securities and the Investor in You.
February 26, 2006
US-Arab Cham of Comm Statement on DPW
Afraid still fighting some illness at present, stupid white cells. Regardless, sharing the statement by Nat US Cham of Comm on the Dubai Ports World, in part, as I liked it.
February 20, 2006
On Islamic Law, reproducing a comment of mine
Which I thought might be of interest, from The Washington Monthly:
From Comments: A Perfect Illustration of Ports Controversy Driver
From comments on More Mendacious Madness: Lawsuits & Merely Quoting (Updated: Requested comments on AP Article) a perfect illustration of the kind of weak thinking, xenophobic, ignorant nonsense that is driving the Arab-baiting response to DPW's takeover of the UK firm P&O:
Ports & Soft Bigotry: A Commentary I Wish I Had Written
Pity I have real work to shoe horn into my moments of lucidity (stupid pain meds), as I would have loved to have written this comment (ex some of the US domestic politics).
I like it so much, a bit of a commentary on the comment Playing The Muslim Card: Dubai Ports World at the blog Dennis the Peasant, a reference which pleases me immensely having had the online signature referring to cheese makers.
February 01, 2006
Iraq, Reconstruction Notes [edited] - - Liberal / American Footprints
Pratike's colleague Eric Martin has a missive on Iraq and reconstruction or the lack thereof.
It is worth reading I suppose, although in a way it all has been said already. [Actually strike that, I rather like the effort Martin put in, and will try to add some further comments based on my worm's eye view of things, many wil recall my beautiful, painfully beautiful steel project. Or would have been if those loathsome incompetents had not fucked the country and everything about reconstruction with their chimpanzee like idiocy. The conceit at present, on the Left but as much on the Right is that Iraq could not have worked. Yes, the fairy tale about an Iraq as a new model transforming the MENA region would not, but it did not have to be fucking disaster. These idiots made it that.]
I only add the following, in re this quote:
The privatizing of Iraq's economy was handled at first by Thomas Foley, a top Bush fund-raiser, and then by Michael Fleischer, brother of President Bush's first press secretary. After explaining that he had got the job in Iraq through his brother Ari, he told the Chicago Tribune - without any apparent sense of irony - that the Americans were going to teach the Iraqis a new way of doing business. "The only paradigm they know is cronyism. We are teaching them that there is an alternative system with built-in checks and built-in review."
Those of you who were reading me in 2003 recall my bouncing off the walls. What is the best way to put this? I hold that idiot very much responsible for much of the fucked up idiocies I encountered. Smarmy clueless fuck, I came to actively hate the guy.
Very typical of CPA in general.
January 31, 2006
On Juan Cole's Informed Comment
Is it just me or is Juan Cole becoming more and more of a partisan harpy? I find his blog useful, but ever more tediously filled with silly US domestic political digs and just tedious partisanness.
Mind you, I reject the Bolshy Right howlers' jihad against the man, who clearly has useful things to say and is capable of stepping back and making well-informed and reasonable analysis (if highly coloured by his classic Academic Left penchants, his comments on economic issues are just plain idiotic).
However, at the same time, in the past few months I find the ongoing vulgarly partisan tone (and Bush as the fault of all error) tedious and unuseful. Banging away at the incompetence of the Bush Administration in Iraq or the Middle East is not hard, it is a target rich environment, but really the sensation of negative spin for its own sake has been growing on me with Cole. Tiresome. Perhaps someone should suggest to him he's getting shrill.
January 30, 2006
MENA Finance and News, some interesting notes - Iraqi Bonds, Project Finance &
I would normally place this in 'Aqoul, but I don't want to push down more general conversations.
First, and most intriguing is this one:
Then there is this little dandy,
A few quick excerpts and droolingly ignorant comments on my part:
January 24, 2006
An actual comment from investment discussions today that I assisted with:
January 22, 2006
Bataille d'Alger: Lessons, an open thread on film, terror and Western intervention in MENA.
Having wasted, if I can abuse the verb, much time with the Criterion DVD set The Battle of Algiers, I thought I would see who has seen this, and what opinions among the readers are (regarding either the film, the DVD set or more importantly, the lessons from the film and the situation it describes).
As added context I add this link to a fundamentally interesting Washington Post article which highlights the context in my mind:
Lessons Learned in Iraq Show Up in Army Classes
Culture Shifts to Counterinsurgency
By Thomas E. Ricks
The article itself merits, perhaps, seperate comment.
I note also this article is interesting:
Use Every Article In the Arsenal
Good Press Is a Legitimate Weapon
By Michael Schrage
Finally, I found the interview with Allaire moving.
January 12, 2006
Sullivan on Islamo Facist
Quote Andrew the confused Islamophobe:
"KILL ALL NON-MUSLIMS": London's most famous mullah unplugged. According to the prosecutor,
"In the course of one lecture [Abu Hamza] accused the Jews of being blasphemous, traitors and dirty. This, because of the treachery, because of their blasphemy and filth, was why Hitler was sent into the world."
And people question why some of us insist on calling these monsters Islamo-fascists. The answer: because we speak English."
No, in fact the answer is that you're intellectually impoverished slightly (but politely) islamophobic, not particalarly well-versed in Islam and get over excited, leading you to latch onto ugly and inaccurate agit-prop type phrases.
Speaking English has fuck all to do with this (other than it is in English speaking circles that the ugly, inaccurate and frankly utterly lacking in panache phrase has taken hold). And yes, the Imam in question is a reprehensible scum. Not a fascist, more your old school bigot.
December 12, 2005
Having just seen this film, I thought I might make a comment or two.
Overall, a very interesting film, I rather liked it. Somewhat on the dramatic side, as relatively large budget film has to be, but very nicely done overall. I shall not pretend to review the film as a film reviewer, but some thoughts on its MENA subject matter and small details that pleased me (as well as displeased), from someone who operates in this kind of world.
What follows will have direct reference to the film’s events, “spoilers” to use that silly precious little phrase. Don’t want to read them, don’t read on. For those who may want to see the film, my summary is I found the film to be a very nice rendition of affaires here in my region, although to be sure dramatised.
November 06, 2005
Back Again - Some random observations on idiotic ignorant blithering on about France and the riots
Back in from a fine longish weekend for the Eid l-Fitr and working diligently on some work projects as well.
I see from my limited access (bloody telecom monopoly having issues) that there is something of a firestorm about the riots in France. The American conservative Know Nothings seem to in particular have their ill-informed knee-jerking panties in a bunch over some completely imaginary "Islamist uprising" - bloody ignorant morons the lot of them.
However, I shall have to expand on this later as I have deadlines to hit. I will add for the moment that seeing the French riots as some kind of Salafiste uprising is such utter tripe as to be laughable, and rather like an outside observer watching the United States in the late 1960s opining that the urban racial riots reflected an incipent Communist insurgency in the United States because a few Commie sorts inserted themselves. Completely ignorant navel gazing idiotic tripe of the most ill informed absurd and utterly domestic politics driven sort. No wonder I have such contempt for the American right. Bloody ill informed ignoramuses.
(As an added bonus, for those of you with a moderate literacy in French, you may read this article from the conservative Le Figaro L'islam ne joue pas un rôle déterminant dans la propagation des troubles. Frankly anyone who can't read the bloody thing without translation shouldn't be fucking commenting.
PS: Were there literate American right wing commentators out there not taken in by the idiotic Islamophobe bleating, they might profitably look at the real explanation for the issues facing France, which reside squarely in the realm of France's sins against liberalism (the classic kind), a sclerotic economic system and systematic discrimination against people with the wrong kinds of names (if one does not know to what I refer, I would suggest some research on a series of stings with French employment agencies that demonstrated systematic discrimination against job seekers with 'non-French' (read African and North African) names), and a general employment system geared to protect the priviledges of the 'labour elite' at the expense of real job creation.
An illiberal, statist society is the angle, not ludicrous fantasy tales about Islamist intefadas.....
PPS: One item for the French literate to look for is the queer habit of the French commentators to use "immigrant" to refer to 2nd and 3rd generation African and North African French citizens. Look for it. It's interesting.
October 17, 2005
On Arabic, Training, Provincialism and Stereotypes
There is an a moderately amusing column of comments on The Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog with respect to the Arabic training arty that appeared in The Washington Post (See my earlier note On American Diplos....
Among the items that has cropped up is the "why would anyone want to study Arabic" as well as the Arabs evil.
I reproduce here for the amusement value my reply to this brilliantly provincial comment:
You know, what I missed in this whole discussion is the countries themselves. I've lived abroad in 3 countries and I have to say: There's almost nothing in this world that would convince me to live in one of the countries where we need Arabic speakers. I mean, architecture and literature and culture are great... but eventually I need to go out with my friends, get drunk, and get laid. I mean, come on -- do you know anyone dying to live in any of Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, UAE or Saudi Arabia?
Compare those to West Europe, East Europe, and South America. Why on earth would anyone want to spend the 2-4 years living in one of those countries that is required to reach a level 4 fluency when there are so many nicer, more tolerant places to live?
October 12, 2005
Some observations on socialisation, expattedness, plumbers and afternoon apartment sex, videos and US foreign policy in MENA, from a personal perspective
Well, pratike is proving a good soucre of items to comment on in the past week, and since I do enjoy myself in this respect, let me present some comments on his comment, Why do they hate us? in my typically useful manner.
Our dear Man in Le Caire focuses on a snippet from a commentary in Foreign Affaires that I can not be bothered to read as of yet, but the snippet is quite good: "Forty-six percent of Egyptians polled identified U.S. policy as the source of their feelings, compared with 43 percent who stressed American values."
Well as the Man says, it is rather highish. The icky American values part that is. Leaving aside substantive questions as to the poll and the article, I prefer for the moment to entertain myself with pratike and commentators. More sporting, besides, I'm feeling ill.
September 26, 2005
Gulf Finance, Booms & Inefficiencies
Our friend and sometime contributor Waterboy draws attention to something obvious to all involved, and yet an item that remains out of control: overliquidity in the Gulf region and the consquent mad asset price boom in the Gulf. His observation is spot on, that there is
there's too much cash chasing too few investment opportunities in the region; too little oversight, regulation or transparency; too much exuberance - bear in mind, as Japanese bank Nomura pointed out, that Saudi Telecom's market capitalisation of US$74bn is worth more than BT (US$35bn), AT&T
(US$15bn), SK Telecom (US$15bn), and Telekom SA (US$9bn) combined - and far too many unsophisticated investors who think that having the names of a couple of ruling family members in the IPO prospectus is a valid alternative to a business plan - or, for that matter, an existing business.
No doubt about this at all. Some conversations I had over the past week painfully illustrated that. This aside, a key point of disequilibrium is the degree to which despite the asset valuations in the Gulf being absolutely looney to the point of surreal, the money is not flowing within the region to a reasonable degree.
September 12, 2005
Underdevelopment as Dilettantisme: Why MENA Does Not Attract Capital, Reason No. 5
While sadly behind on my ability to comment substantively, I thought a bit of a comment on dilettanstisme would be worth a quick intervention (and it being all I have time for, it's what one gets).
The comment is provoked by a series of convos over the past few days in regards to a certain MENA country (which for various sensitivity reasons shall remain unnamed) and its hosting of a MENA region investment conference. Let's say that our certain MENA country is not exactly a star performer in the realm of attracted FDI, per capita or in gross. Of course neither is the region.
August 26, 2005
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development (bis)
Added Thoughts on Private Equity for Devleopment MENA
I neglected to touch on a few key points in my original note, below are further thoughts on private equity and economic development for the MENA region.
Bou Aradvrak, MEPI, and Floundering
Our dear and agile Father of Ardvaarks has noted some oddness in the idea of the US Gov's spanky new (well not so new, actually a bit aged now come to think of it, as political initiatives go) Middle East Partnership Initiative being headquartered (I presume this is correct) in Tunis, Tunisia (aka Ben Ali Park).
As I noted in comments, when I first started seeing the Middle East Partnership Initiative diplos out and about, they were all about economic development and policy. In which case Tunis makes sense.
Now the US Gov seems to be obsessed (although surely this will only last for as long as Madame Cheney's attention does) with Democratisation. That does make Tunisia something of a... peculiar choice, given I understand from the diplos that Democracy and Governance are the new obsessions above all else.
Waste of money over all, the entire Democracy promotion effort in my opinion, but there it is.
So, in keeping with US Gov's general incompetence in the MENA region, it occurs to me that actually Tunis is a brilliantly symbolic choice of shambolic misconceptions, clumsy off-base symbolism and general floundering about.
August 25, 2005
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development
Structuring Private Equity in MENA for Development
A few weeks ago I raised the subject of emerging markets private equity in particular in the context of US Gov efforts to utilize the vehicle to further its political / development goals in the Middle East – North Africa region. One of our online world colleagues if you will posed a question to me as to what the “The Lounsbury” approach would be, in the context of my expressed skepticism in regards to the investment vehicle / definition chosen by The Overseas Private Equity Corporation.
Ironically (well not really) at present I am working on materials closely related to just this question, although not really in regards to development – but as much of the private equity activity in region has been international development institution driven there is a clearly overlap. Now, having sent drafts of my materials off for comment I can take a moment to sketch out some preliminary thoughts on the issue that will be the basis for future comment.
First, my assumptions, based on personal experience in the region and in the “sector” if we can call it that. Again, these are my a priori assumptions and principes.
August 11, 2005
Market Madness or Brilliance? US Gov Private Equity for MENA Announced (cross from Aqoul main)
At the risk of descending into flackery or something approaching it, I thought a brief comment here might be fun.
Certainly this plays into my personal interests. (and in this cross post I indulge in them)
July 16, 2005
On the road at the moment, I note reports of the resort bombings in Turkey, one of which is reported to have a Kurdish connexion.
July 11, 2005
A Collounsbury Take on Frontier Investing
This was written for comments re investing in Iraq, thought I would reproduce as I rather like it on some level:
That aside, 30 percent is a quality return, if and when you realise it. Thin illiquid markets can often show "quality returns" without being able to deliver the liquidity to realise. [In short, a market under buying pressure but little liquidity may appear to be delivering healthy returns, but when it comes sales time to realise, the same mechanics can make it impossible to sell without serious discounts, i.e. price decline - liquidity is the key, else one is trappe, many an emerging markets investor learned that in the gogo years of the emerging markets stock market boom of the mid-1990s.]
Further, electronic trading systems [noted in relationship with Iraq] have never stopped front running, playing with orders and the like. They make it a slight bit harder, but w/o oversight you have false confidence. Among the many things you need is delivery against payment with an operative guarantee system (still doesn't remove the risk as I have seen personally, but helps), and one has to be sure it is operative.
But what the fuck do I know, I've only seen it done in these markets under an electronic trading platform that was and is state of the art.
Finally on the underlying peg discussion, Frankel's theoretical proposal [in an article in the Financial Times suggesting a basked peg with roughly 1/3 Euro, 1/3 dollar, 1/3 weighted price of oil] is an interesting one as a variation on a crawling basket peg, although your online discussion takes his phrase rather far too literally in a classic case of seeking justification for a desired result. The obvious item, rather than the appreciation issue itself or false analogies to post-WW II Germany, to analyze is what a large appreciation means to the Iraqi economy. Any large, short term currency move is a shock to the real economy and few real world policy makers generally avoid such for very good reasons. In Iraq the play off is between current cost of consumption versus current income. That breaks out between consumption of domestic goods and that of tradeables - imports - although obviously some domestic goods depend on imported inputs. Immediately exporters lose the X percent of income, consumers of imports gain X percent of buying pozer, an implicit subsidy to consumption of imports and an implicit tax on domestic production that competes with imports. In short a penalty to the domestic producer economy ex-hydrocarbons.
Second of course, is the impact on real investment (in explicit contrast to speculative hot money such as yours). An X percent appreciation due to a revaluation on a peg immediately raises the cost faced by foreign currency investors for Iraqi assets, with no change in potential returns in the near term, insofar as no economic fundamentals, ex the penalty to real productive economy that is import competing (but with a boost to productive economy that has imported inputs, to the degree they are import factors and cost drivers). It is an effect a penalty to incoming money - as say for example the private equity fund I have consulted with which has USD 70 million in hard currency raised. [I of course did not touch on the disruptive effects of serious real price deflation]
Now, obviously Iraqi policy makers should be looking at these real economy choices, and not things that make hot money speculators happy. It may be that they will decide that subsidising current consumption of imports and current capital imports is more important than creating a stable real economic environment that is well-priced in regards to real assets and allows export competivity. Choosing near term "gifts" to urban consumers, who are heavier consumers of imported goods and services (running from food to white goods) than others typically in this kind of environment, and subsidising capital imports to the detriment of labour competivity is a frequent choice in these economies - certainly Egypt managed to do this ever so brilliantly over the last 30 years with a "strong pound" regime partially backed by its nat gaz and petrol exports.
I certainly hope they don't - but then to you this is merely being "negative." Contemptible speculation aside, I favour the real market and policies to grow it.
In presenting your new payment facility
Do not, I repeat, do not call it an "Islamist payment facility" - it's "Islamic" - Islamist means something else you idiot illiterate marketing goon.
Bloody hell, these idiots will want to roll out an Qaeda Basic Islamist Finances Services Platform next.
July 06, 2005
Very good arty from FT on MENA markets:
Will try to do an Aqoul item on this.
June 29, 2005
Why I do what I do.
Interesting point of reflexion emerged on my post on policy and funding last night. I shall extend commentary but for the moment, this post merely allows you to opine.
Well, before letting you opine, if I ever even bother, let me reproduce the comment that provoked this:
Your final paragraph is the key one.
First, all else being equal in theory developing markets ought to offer excess returns in pretty much every sector because they are not as efficient/sophisticated as developed markets. I made a sneering remark earlier about exporting best practices to Nigerian breweries. "Best practices" which ignore local political/cultural/social conditions are unworkable practices or, worse, practices that, when implemented, achieve some completely unintended effect. But you don't need to implement best practices to beat your competition in developing markets, just better practices. To do that, you must understand how and why things work they way they do in the country you're in.
The problem is that all things are not equal. Developing markets must compete for human capital just as they must compete for investment capital. The educated people who would normally be smart, agressive entrepreneurs in developing countries are either a) already part of the established rent-seeking system and, therefore, already making excess returns or b) taking advantage of better opportunities elsewhere. Why mess about with trying to crack the local system when you can make piles of cash in the developed world without having to worry about being economically or physically knee-capped?
In other words, you need the right kind of local partner to make these investments work. But the right kind of local partner often has better things to do than be your local partner. Thus, you're left to choose between various wrong kinds of local partner.
China is a good example of this. When China first opened up, it was as worthless a mess as you could ever hope to see. The best and the brightest Chinese got out of China and never went back, often starting or working for extremely innovative companies in the U.S.
But China did have a lot of highly-trained smart, agressive people who were willing and able (language skills) to game the system -- Hong Kong. They turned China into a place to do business. Now, many Chinese who left China back in the 70s and 80s have gone back or at least established strong business links there and have made piles of cash in the process.
Had you tried to convince some of these people to go back to China to start a business in, say, 1985, they would have laughed at you and quite right, too. But without their (or someone like them's) cultural/political/linguistic skills, any enterpreneurial effort would have been doomed to failure.
In conclusion, if you have the right sort of local partners with the right sort of modern business attitudes you ought to make money in almost any sector -- the more basic the better. If you don't have the right sort of local partners with the right sort of modern business attitudes, you're probably going down in flames no matter how good your idea is.
For example, few things are less sexy than distribution systems. But if you had people with the guanxi to pull it off and the modern business attitudes to run it, you could make piles of money with a Walmart-style business in almost any region in the developing world. The problem is that the folks with the guanxi are already part of the system and the folks with the modern business attitudes are in London.
I plan to comment more on this. The commentator has hit on a number of points that I absolutely agree with. Some items I would qualify, and an excellent area of discussion.
February 18, 2004
An Entreprise Fund
Informed sources tell me that influential staff in the MEPI are going to opt for an entreprise fund, over a regional private equity fund model. This is a stupid decision. A large pot of USG money, admined from Washington to do 'entreprise grants' in a region they are not well-connected with, do not have on the ground business intelligence, and for which the bureaucrats in charge really do not have a direct risk involved. Risk is discipline.
This is a perfect way to piss away a rather large number of millions. Morons.