Monday, August 15, 2005

meme tagged...

I've been tagged for a while now. In retrospect, I should have been able to respond sooner than now, but life sometimes takes us on unplanned twists. Sometimes they're expected and can be easily included in the general agenda of life, and sometimes they catch us off guard. I was caught off guard.

But let's say that now I'm somewhere near where I'd like to be in a number of ways...I'm still in a confused situation, but more willing to work with it.

Anyways, back to the meme thing.

Total number of books owned: Too many... and I have a problem with letting them go. About 200 are easily countable, and then there are stashes hidden in scarce closet space and archived at home in Libya. Something I'm not proud of, but is related, is that I have been known to steal books from family, friends, and even the public library. I had to force myself to return a book that is out of print and could only do it because I knew some poor student would be searching for it like I did. I know that this is wrong and am working on this problem, but we all have our weaknesses, don't we?

Last book bought: I bought a stack from a street vendor that included a Malcolm X reader By Any Means Necessary and Aaron Cometbus's Double Duce among some others. The last book I bought from a store was Khaled Mattawa's book of poems called Zodiac of Echoes. Most of my books are either hand-me-downs (yes, this may mean I just never returned them to their owners), presents, or bought on the street. It's good that Bay Area people read so much.

Last book read: Hmmm...I guess that would have to be Arab Women, an anthology of essays written by none other than Arab women. Not sure if I would really recommend it though. It left me wondering who the Arab women they were seeking out to speak on behalf of the others were.

Five books that mean a lot to you:
1- The Question of Palestine--Edward Said;
2- The Cairo Trilogy--Naguib Mahfouz;
3- Ismailia Eclipse--Khaled Mattawa
4- The Watchers--Tahar Djaout
5- Woman at Point Zero--Nawal El Saadawi.

Tag five people to continue this meme:

I can't tag anyone at this point. I've been gone for so long... I'll do it though. Slowly but surely.

Did I do this meme thing right? Is there something else I should include?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Daily Star - Business Articles - Libyan reforms exceed expectations

I've included the article in the post as in case the link isn't open to all.

I post this glowing review of the Q-man as yet another example of the hypocricy of international policy makers. Democratic reform and rights apparently refer to the freeing of money, not humans. The message I'm getting is that as long as money can be made in your country at whatever cost, everything's fine and dandy and all is forgiven. As long as the West gets its share, all is well, and the grievances of thousands and millions is forgotten.

Nothing new, I realize, but remains frustrating.

Consider this posting a concession in the spirit of objectivity, but don't expect too many like this.

Libyan reforms exceed expectations

By Daniel Epps
Special to The Daily Star
Friday, August 05, 2005

For nearly 36 years, Libya's fate has been inextricably linked with that of its enigmatic leader, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. While for much of that time that fate has been isolation from the rest of the world and domination by socialism, something new is brewing in Tripoli. After decades opposing the West and maintaining a policy of nonalignment as part of his "Third Universal Theory," Gadhafi has recently worked to restore Libya's standing in the international community and modernize his nation's outdated economy. While the self-styled "leader of the revolution" is anything but predictable, his stunning about-face could mark the beginning of a Libyan renaissance.

A few years ago, few would have thought change for the better in Libya was likely in the short term. The country's involvement in international terrorism, including the infamous 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing that killed 270 people, had destroyed diplomatic relations with the West and resulted in heavy economic sanctions. Libya's economic policies - according to Gadhafi an alternative to both capitalism and communism - were decidedly socialist, characterized by state ownership. And while supposedly a "direct democracy" with rule by committees of the people, the "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya," as it is officially known, is a dictatorship controlled by a leader one might charitably call eccentric. Libya's future was not looking very bright.

But suddenly things are looking up. Gadhafi has gone out of his way to make amends for Lockerbie and other incidents. Libya formally accepted responsibility for the killings and provided compensation for victims in 2003. Later that year, Gadhafi publicly abandoned all weapons of mass destruction programs. By 2004, all sanctions had been lifted and Libya had restored diplomatic ties with the U.S. The change in fortunes could not have been more dramatic or swift. In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush added Libya to his "axis of evil"; this year he praised the country, calling on North Korea's Kim Jong Il to emulate Gadhafi.

While turning a rogue nation into a lauded paragon of international cooperation quickly was an extraordinary feat, Gadhafi's ambitions are greater. Despite his long allegiance to socialism, Gadhafi is now moving his country toward a Western-style free market system. Libya recently announced it would lift virtually all tariffs on imports later this year and is preparing a bid for membership in the World Trade Organization. Other barriers to foreign investment have been or will be eased, and there are plans to privatize many state-owned concerns soon - an unthinkable suggestion a decade ago.

If Gadhafi succeeds in fully liberalizing Libya's trade relations, next he will need to work to bring in foreign investors and create new industries. Currently, Libya's economy is largely based on the country's oil reserves. Manufacturing and construction from about 20 percent of GDP, a figure that will need to rise as oil production inevitably drops. Unemployment is high - 30 percent - and jobs for the growing number of young, educated Libyans are needed. Perhaps tourism is the solution; although Libya is not currently viewed as a prime vacation spot, Gadhafi has recently voiced interest in developing hotels on the country's long coastline. Perhaps, as Libya becomes increasingly viewed as a mainstream, Western-friendly nation, more tourists will choose to spend their holidays there.

There are still many unanswered questions. Will the sometimes fickle Gadhafi change course yet again, setting back recent progress? Even if not, what will the country look like after he is gone? Some say Gadhafi has chosen as his successor his son, Saif, who many believe is encouraging his father's new pro-Western policies. But as Libya becomes more economically and politically connected to the rest of the world, Libyans could become increasingly unwilling to live in an undemocratic country. While in some ways Libya's current autocratic system has actually made reform easier - government policies in democracies can rarely be changed so drastically, so quickly - it will increasingly become an impediment. Political destabilization is never good for business; hopefully Libya will eventually be able to make a smooth transition to a more stable form of government.

While many may remain skeptical about Gadhafi's motives and intentions, his recent reforms are by no means superficial and have put Libya on the fast track to a better way of life. Free-trade policies don't guarantee and new jobs and more money, but they certainly make them more of a possibility. Libyans may soon be grateful that their leader has exchanged the idiosyncratic philosophy laid out in his "Green Book" for plain, old-fashioned pro-business values.