Wednesday, December 25, 2002

The good news first. We are going to celebrate New Year's at my parents place, they are throwing a party and since the house will be a mess anyway I am occupying the upper floor for my partying purposes. Everyone is invited bring a friend, a bottle of whatever you drink and a candle. Make that lots of candles. The electricity situation is getting out of hand.
The last couple of days you were lucky if you live in an area where the blackout is for 5 hours a day only. We have been de-electrified for 7 hours today; the day is not over yet. Some areas in Baghdad have had 10 hours of darkness. And it is not improving. Other governorates are getting half an hour of electricity if at all.
There is an official explanation. They say maintenance. I say Bull. They are probably packing those generators away.
You learn to deal with the scheduled blackouts, you know when they are and for how many hours. But the last couple of days have been really bad. Very erratic, they turn it on and off whenever they like. We just freeze and thaw then freeze again. It has been very cold for the season and it is expected to get colder. The prices of kerosene heaters have gone thru the roof. There is a local factory, state owned, which manufactures these heaters, 130,000 Iraqi Dinars a pop. But buying one requires approval from the general manager. Don't ask. I can't figure why. It wouldn't be called bureaucracy otherwise.
Now take your newly acquired heater and stand in front of the company's building, someone will offer you 200,000 Iraqi Dinars for it within a minute. Look for it in the shops you will find it for 260,000 ID. That's free market economy isn't it? I decided it was cheaper to bring down an extra blanket.


Because of these sudden electricity blackouts, this is the third time I write this post. I keep forgetting the save button. Not anymore, autosave came to the rescue, every 5 minutes.
A couple of days ago the NY Times published another article by John F. Burns. Does anyone know if there is a photo of him somewhere, because if I see him on the street I really want to tell him how off the mark he can get when he gets carried away. More on that later.

The Iraqi currency, the dinar, had gone into free fall, losing 25 percent of its value against the dollar.
It has been very weird with the dinar the last couple of weeks, it is floating between 2200 and 2300. yesterday at night when I went to exchange my hard earned dinars to $$ it was 2285, and the dealer expected it to go up a bit. Many of the wholesale shops at alshorja and kifah streets stop buying and selling the moment the dinar starts going crazy, which happens often enough. I went to buy a new monitor for my computer (my old one blew a fuse when the electricity came back with a surge, it made a zzzzttt-ppfffttt sound and died) and the dealer had to check for the price of the dollar before selling me the equivalent of $140, it is getting to be that silly.
Burns does suggest a reason:
somebody high in the government had dumped dinars on the market to buy tens of millions of dollars in a few hours.
very probable. But there is another reason; no one wants to hold on to eventually worthless Iraqi dinars. Prices of real estate and cars have gone up very quickly, almost doubling in very short periods, specially unbuilt land within Baghdad city limits. Investment loans with lower than low interest rates are being ignored. No one wants to have money floating around. And get all your gold out of the safe deposits as well. Some of you know the meaning of Farhud in Arabic. If a bomb will hit a bank it will be ‘farhud’ed. I am straying away from the subject. The point is not only high government officials buying dollars like crazy off the market, everybody else is also doing it.
Talking of money, there is a very pressing question. What are we going to do with all the notes; they all have saddam’s face on them. From the worthless 25 ID bill to the newly issued 10,000 ID note?
More from he srticle:
Last month, Uday's wings were clipped when the government suspended his newspaper after it published articles that seemed intended to expose incompetence and corruption in the government.
It is back in print, two days ago I walked into the office and found it on my desk, still being printed with the same smudgy cheap ink. You would think saddam’s son would use good materials.
If anybody but Saddam Hussein himself seems like the perfect totem for all that is past, it is Uday. Yet his posture now is to present himself as the one Iraqis can turn to, should they want a more modern man to lead them out of the dead end his father has led them to.
sorry what posture? Everyone except his closest “friends” know that he is a sick monster. He has already driven himself into a dead end before his father did. Families walk out quietly when he enters a restaurant, he is known to send one of his boys to bring him the women sitting at the closest tables to “join” him. People hate him, as much as they fear his father. So no one is looking for him to lead them anywhere. What a pointless thing to write.

Anyway since it is the season to be merry, here is a funny little story about him: In the early eighties the Iraqi Hunting Club had a new indoor swimming pool built. Quite big and state of the art. They decided to have some sort of a party to announce it’s opening. A nice classy affair. at around eleven Uday comes in with his entourage wearing a white tuxedo and top hat, there is still a photo of him in that tux being printed on calendars but without the top hat, has a couple of drinks, decides that the party is boring and to liven things up a bit commands everyone to jump into the swimming pool, and unleashes his dogs = bodyguards to push people into the pool. Has a good laugh and leaves, A fun guy eh?