What’s Next for Libya

Mahmoud Jibril is the leader of Libya’s National Transitional Council, the official name adopted by the group of Libyans who have nearly overthrown Muammar Ghaddafi’s government. He has been educated in Egypt and the United States and represents an interesting paradox. His connections with both the West and the Arab world have given him the ability to work closely with partners in both regions with the result that countries as diverse as France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have officially recognized the NTC as the governing body in Libya.

Mr. Jibril also worked in the very government his movement has overthrown. He was the head of the National Economic Development Board from 2007 until the fall of the Ghaddafi regime. As head of the NEDB, Mr. Jibril lead efforts to privatize many of Libya’s industries and to liberalize the overall economic structure of Libya. through his position at the NEDB, Mr. Jibril worked closely with the United Nations Development Programme in an effort to spur and sustain economic growth and development in Libya.

Now that the NTC seems poised to take over the halls of government in Libya, it remains to be seen what kind of leaders they will be. There have already been reports that the armed rebels are filling in the peace-keeping roles abandoned by Ghaddafi forces and that they are doing a rather admirable job. The rebels may be filled with joyous exuberance, but it seems that most of the rest of Libya too is filled with a sort of cautious optimism. Let’s hope that the people of Libya can realize true self-determinaiton and self-rule and can create a model for the world.

*Author’s Note: While I respect the fact that, geographically Libya is traditionally considered to be part of Africa, by custom, tradition, religion, lifestyle, and societal norms, the Libyan people share a great deal in common with the people of Southwest Asia.

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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Africa, Asia


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I came across this story today. Apparently, the Russians want to build a 65 mile tunnel under the Bering Straight to connect Russia and Alaska. the intended use will be freight transportation to the tune of 100 million tons of goods per year.

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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Europe, North America


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Standing Up to Tyranny

As the rebels in Libya march into Tripoli in apparent victory, this story was published by the BBC magazine about Hans Litten. Mr. Litten was one of the first to question Hitler’s methods in open court, before the Nazi leader would rise to power. The story is captivating so I’ll just leave you to read it for yourself.

The man is still revered in Germany and Europe today. There’s even an international prize named after him.

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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Europe


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Drilling the Gulf

Let me introduce you to the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. They are the branch of the Department of the Interior tasked with overseeing the safe management of the nation’s mineral wealth on the Outer Continental Shelf. When the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up in April 2010, it was BOEMRE that should have been overseeing the whole process. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, President Obama suspended the auction of drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico.

The United States retains mineral rights, generally speaking, for land that lies under the surface of the ocean up to about 200-250 miles from the coast – though there’s a whole process of law for determining the exact extent of U.S. territorial claims at any given point. The government leases rights to mineral companies to develop tracts of land. These leases are generally auctioned off to the highest bidder. The way the system is supposed to work is that a company, say BP, is supposed to bid on the rights to develop a given tract of land (or ocean floor). If BP wins, they are supposed to then proceed with the development of those tracts and begin to extract the mineral wealth below, say oil. However, companies will often bid on and win these lease contracts at very low prices and then instead of developing them, simply hoard them. In response to this hoarding, the BOEMRE has instituted new rules that will go into effect when the U.S. resumes lease auctions in December. One of these new rules includes upping the minimum bid price to $100 per acre for tracts in water depths of 1,300 feet or more; up from a previous minimum of $37.50. The $100 price point is important as this is the price under which the BOEMRE found oil companies were more likely to hoard rather than develop. The minimum bid for tracts in shallower water will remain at $25 per acre.

These tracts, more than 20 million acres in all, are expected to produce between 222 and 423 million barrels of oil and between 1.49 and 2.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The BOEMRE is currently going through a massive reorganization in response to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, including the creation of the Investigation and Review Unit. Let’s hope that these reform truly do lead to a more secure, sustainable energy solution. Yes, I know it’s still fossil fuels, but if we’re going to use them, at least we should use them responsibly.

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in North America


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Indigenous People of South America

There have been two stories in the news recently about indigenous peoples in South America. First, is reporting that the last remaining (previously) un-contacted tribe in Paraguay is being systematically ousted by Brazilian cattle-ranchers. In this case, it seems the land is being illegally taken from the tribe as the land had previously been purchased from the cattle ranchers by the government with the condition that it be returned to the tribe. It seems that this subgroup of the Ayoreo people was first contacted in 2004 and that since that time they have faced constant pressure from the cattle ranchers to abandon their lands. It remains unclear whether the Paraguayan government has the capability to fully protect their native people from encroachment from large farming and timber interests.

The second story of the struggle of indigenous people in South America comes from Peru where President Evo Morales has announced the construction of a trans-national roadway despite the protests of indigenous people whose land the roadway would cross. This is an interesting move for Mr. Morales. He is the first indigenous person ever elected to the position of President in Peru, and the first person of native ethnicity to be democratically elected in any Latin American country since Benito Juarez was elected President of Mexico in the 1850’s. Mr. Morales’ platform has centered on social reform and fair and equal treatment for indigenous people. Mr. Morales has demonstrated Marxist leanings greatly influenced by the political thought of Che Guevara, so to take such a strong stand against a significant part of his own constituency demonstrates that the voices of these indigenous people may be fading away.

It is almost a given that eventually there will be no more “un-contacted” people. As long as we as humans are driven to explore, contacting these native people will be unavoidable. What we can control however, is how we continue to interact with them and how we treat their rights as human beings.

All right, I’m off my soapbox. Enjoy the weekend.

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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Sacred Dollar

Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded the United States’ credit rating last Friday. You mat have seen the headlines. S&P claimed that despite the compromise on raising the debt ceiling, and avoiding default, the U.S. government has failed to address their core debt issues and thus U.S. treasury bills do not warrant the highest AAA rating.

The dollar has long been the symbol of safe investing. In fact, in investing, the interest rate on t-bills is called the “risk free rate”. Well it seems that with the downgrade, there is less international support for the greenback. China has renewed their call for a reserve currency that is not American. What that essentially means is that China is calling for the U.S. to either 1) address the growing debt problem, or 2) face a world in which China will no longer buy American bonds.

Either way, since the incarnation of the Euro, the dollar has seen its dominance slowly slip away. Since 2007 (and in some cases earlier) many OPEC members have quoted oil contract prices in currency other than dollars. Since dollars had been the traditional unit of measurement of oil contracts, and since every country on Earth uses oil in one form or another, accepting other currencies in exchange for oil was a huge first step in creating a multi-currency global economic system. And earlier this year, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange began denominating certain oil futures in Euros.

Despite all the negative publicity and the seemingly never-ending slide in value of the USD, it doesn’t appear that the currency of the United States will be going away any time soon. Too much business is still transacted in dollars and too many countries still hold U.S. debt. What is more likely is the dollar will no longer be allowed to dominate the currency market and we will no longer be able to simply “print money”. The dollar – and by extension the U.S. economy – will have to adapt and show that it is still a safe haven for investors in a world with more choice.

Update 9 August:

There’s a deeper discussion of the relationship between the Chinese and U.S. economies available here. [Yahoo! News]


Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Euro Effective at Last

I was in a class taught by a German professor once. At the beginning of the course on European Union history he held up a Euro coin and asked the class what it was. Fellow classmates answered “Currency,” or “Cooperation,” or “Unity” or other similar feelings. These answers were close, but what the professor was getting at is the Euro is a miracle. This was in 2004 and the EU had just expanded from 14 to 24 members. Having a single currency (and thus a single monetary policy) shared by the majority of the members was considered by many to be nothing short of a full-fledged miracle. Now the EU has 27 member nations, 17 of whom use the Euro. Most of the rest will eventually switch over to the Euro once they meet the Eurozone criteria.

However with so many nations using a single currency, there is bound to be problems with integration and implementing a single monetary policy. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that there are nearly as many types of economies as member states. Some members are net importers while others are net exporters. These divergent economies make it difficult to come up with a single strategy and the European Central Bank has had to play a much bigger role in stepping in to preserve economic union.¬†This is the latest move by the ECB to forestall a European-wide economic collapse. However the debt crises in Greece and Portugal are still fresh in European investors’ minds.

So how exactly has the Euro been effective? Well, for starters, only very recently has anyone (in this case Greece) even considered the possibility of leaving Club Euro. For all the anti-Euro sentiment, members of the Eurozone remain fiercely committed to the idea of a Europe united through currency. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, spearheaded the Greek bail-out plan as part of an effort to stabilize the Euro.

Sixty years ago, if you had asked a German or a French or a Greek if there would be political unity in Europe you would have been laughed back to this century. The French and Germans had just finished battling each other for the third time in 150 years, and the whole of Europe was coming to grips with the loss of an entire generation of young men. From this tragedy, the French and the Germans decided to do the only thing they could to avoid war; they decided to share the resources of war – coal and steel. From this European Coal and Steel Community grew the idea of a United States of Europe. And the way these Europeans chose to lay down the foundations of political unity was with economic unity. A political union would grow from economic, monetary, and fiscal unity. Indeed, in the face of reverting to nationalistic solutions, members of the Eurozone have instead chosen to pick themselves up and to unite politically to preserve the economy.

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Posted by on August 8, 2011 in Europe


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