Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Books!

OK since the National Day break is almost here and you are not exactly excited about hala fibrayir why don't you grab a book and stay in. Here are three interesting memoirs:

The Accidental President of Brazil: A memoir by Fernando Henrique Cardoso. A really interesting memoir about the struggles of an emerging democracy. Maybe we can learn a thing or two.

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong. The renown author of History of God. She talks about her experience as a nun, falling out of it and her search for enlightenment. Excellent memoir, a bit dragging though.

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir. Reads like fiction. Daughter of a Moroccan General talks about her life growing up amidst then falling out of favour with the royal family.

And if you can't decide whether you are more crazy about books or gadgets.. well here is the perfect solution for you. It's the latest Portable Reader System from Sony!

Enjoy the break and stay away from spray foam!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chicago

A follow-up to a best selling novel could get repetitive. Chicago by Alaa al Aswani author of the best selling novel Yaqobian Building is no exception. Yaqobian Building was noted for breaking taboos in the Arab and Muslim world; Chicago is more of the same.

This new novel takes place in Chicago among Egyptian PhD students. Despite the different setting from the first novel it ties closely to home. Some of the issues were already reflected in the previous novel such as the corruption and oppression of the political system. Other issues are new such as 9/11 and the resulting Islamophobia in the US. On the social side there were plenty of breaking taboos as well, just like the first novel which got into homosexuality, but different taboos such as inter racial and cross faith relationships among others. However I felt the author overemphasized breaking taboos, as if he had a check list of them to cover.

The dimension I enjoyed the most was the struggle between eastern and western values. The author paints a vivid picture of that struggle. One character questions her strict Islamic values after falling in love. Overall Chicago is definitely a page turner that flows very well and is full of surprises.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What it’s All About

I must say I am new to the world of blogging, but now that I have my own I am constantly checking out others. It seems the hot topic in like minded Kuwaiti blogs is the censorship and other pressures imposed on liberal sites that led to the shutdown of one.

It is strange in this day and age that some people still refer to censorship and pressure to fight the battle of ideas. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a recent speech reflected on how the West won the Cold War and defeated totalitarianism as much by ideas as tanks and warships.

He said the most effective weapon was a “shared belief in political and economic freedom, religious toleration, human rights, representative government, and the rule of law. These values kept our side united, and inspired those on the other side.” (NYTimes 11/2/2007)

Gates put it nicely. This is what it’s all about. It’s a battle between the forces of freedom and those of totalitarianism. Luckily we know history is on whose side.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Love's in the Air

As we approach Valentine's day on Feb 14th, love is already in the air! The economic term for this -and I am stretching the concept- is laissez-faire. To prove it, if you google "love and economics" -and I am not saying that I did!- you will get a result related to the subject.

The term laissez-faire is French -which explains the connection with love- meaning essentially: let it be. This is synonymous with free market. A laissez-faire policy argues for minimal government intervention in the economy. Just like love, an economic system is better served when it is left on its own without restrictions or restrains, it is argued.

If the overriding objective of a well functioning economic system is to create wealth for a nation, then it is better left to Adam Smith's invisible hand. When people are left on their own to pursue their own economic interest, the overall economic objective will be achieved. This is the theory in its pure form. Now some intervention may be necessary to correct market imbalances; however capitalism and free markets remain the best existing system. So after all love and economics agree.. just let it be..

PS: As an after thought, I attended a lecture by Alaa Aswani the author of Yaqobian Building which is a best selling international novel. He explained how he carefully composes the characters of his novel, but half way into it he loses control over them! He creates the characters then they take a life of their own.. Jokingly he said that he was pleased when two of the characters decided to get married and he congratulated them! I guess even in best selling work of fiction laissez-faire works its magic.

Friday, February 02, 2007

K “U Wait” Airways

Ladies and Gentlemen, in a David Letterman fashion here are the top five reasons why Kuwait Airways (KA), the airline everyone loves to hate, should be privatized (khaskhasa ;p). In case you follow the David Letterman show and you wonder why the list is reduced to five rather than ten, well it’s not the lack of reasons for sure!

Let me give a brief background, even though my latest experience was anything but brief. Lately I had the misfortune of flying with our loathed national carrier. I originally made my booking to travel to London via British Airways (BA) as I usually do. I switched only due to the planned strike that was supposed to take place, which was averted at the last minute. So I thought since I already changed my booking I might as well stick with it.. I did not realize how wrong I was!

Anyways five hours of delay was sufficient for me to come to such realization and hence comes the five reasons. So without further a due here they are:

5- Privatization worked for BA: BA was national carrier that was privatized. Ever since the government transferred ownership of the carrier to the private sector, it became one of the leading airlines in the world.

4- Even though Kuwait Airways is one of the first national airlines in the region, it got overshadowed by the rest. Today airlines such as the Dubai based Emirates is way ahead. Even newer carriers such as Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad are making more headway.

3- Competition is not restricted to the region. Even in Kuwait the relatively new budget airline Al Jazeera is getting ahead. Despite being no frills airline, it is known for its simple online reservation system, fresh fleet and being on time –which is unheard of for Kuwait Airways!

2- The fleet is old and deteriorating. It relies on government support and is not financially viable at its current state.

1- Here comes the top reason for privatizing KA: cause it simply sucks!