Monthly Archives: February 2006

Quote of the Day: Feb. 28, 2006

From Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash:

“Hiro, you are such a geek. She’s a woman, you’re a dude. You’re not SUPPOSED to understand her. That’s not what she’s after. She doesn’t want you to understand HER. She knows THAT’S impossible. She just wants you to understand YOURSELF. Everything else is negotiable.”

“You figure?”

“Yeah. Definitely.”

“What makes you think I don’t understand myself?”

“It’s just obvious. You’re a really smart hacker and the greatest sword fighter in the world — and you’re delivering pizza and promoting concerts that you don’t make any money off of.”

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Random: In the News, Last Day of February

MMMMMMMMMMH!

First of all, it’s one of my favorite times of year. Yes, Easter. Why? Because of the resurrection of Christ? Fuck no. Because of Cadbury Creme-Filled Easter Eggs! Mmmm! I love you Cadbury Creme-Filled Easter Egg. If you could only genetically mutate together with a strain of steak, and maybe Mountain Dew, you’d be perfect.

Cadbury Goodness

By the way, I’m not sure why I love Cadbury so much. Maybe because I’m part British. I’m genetically predisposed to eating Cadbury. Also, it tastes much better when it’s actually made in England than when it’s made in the U.S. That’s why we discriminating travelers have no qualms about buying pounds and pounds of Cadbury when we pass through Heathrow Airport on the way to our final destination!!! The commissary has Cadbury Flakes, which are like these long sticks of flaky Cadbury chocolate that melts in your mouth instantly. In the immortal words of the Beastie Boys, “One two, oh my god.”

Dubai and Ports

Do you understand the furor over this port management story? I sure don’t! Politicians have grabbed onto it like a Ben on a Cadbury Creme-Filled Easter Egg and won’t let go. National security! Arabs! Constituency! Reactionary politicking!!!

This post from theglitteringeye.com I think puts the truth out there on the matter. What’s sad is that everyone’s reacting now, months after everything actually happened, and despite the fact that Arab government-owned companies already exert massive influence at our nation’s ports. People don’t even realize that KBR-backed Muslims are all over our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, “threatening” the soldiers’ security.

The U.S. is hypocritical. Business is good as long as it’s western business. We can’t trust the UAE, which we have extensive trade relations with already, and which is full of American expats.

The politicians, our wise elders who galvanize the wishes of their represented voters, are supposed to look into these matters and learn the truth. They’re not supposed to just parrot their constituency, they’re supposed to see what their constituency cares about and then exert brainpower into finding a better solution/implementation that addresses their constituency’s views.

I actually support Bush on this one — fighting the port deal is denying the inevitable and ignoring the obvious. However, I don’t understand why Bush dropped the ball on this matter politically by being stubborn about it.

Iraq Civil War?

And in Iraq, the bombing of a “Shi’ite” mosque has been misrepresented,
according to some regional experts. The main point being that the imams supposedly honored by bombed mosques were not Shi’ite but Muslim imams, living before the Shi’ites and Sunnis split apart. Sigh. You could say anything in the news and people would believe it.

Low-grade civil war? No. As long as Al-Sistani keeps his Shi’ites calm, there will be no civil war. He is holding the country together. He gives his people focus and order. If there’s no Al-Sistani, or he turns indifferent/militant, THEN you’ll see a civil war. But it won’t really be civil war. It’d be more like a Shi’ite vs. Sunni/Salafist/Wahabi extremist war.

Airborne

Tomorrow I get to jump from an airplane for the first time in a long time! Whee, fun! C-130 ramp jump! I’m excited! The best part is taking a little nap on the plane as the engines roar, then standing up, hooking up, and jumping out the back of a big ol’ bird.

An airborne jump.

Google Down as Much as 50 Points Today

GOOG’s precipitous drop today perhaps shows how fragile the market is right now. With high-flyers losing their trends, I’m concerned for the broader market.

MySpace

I just don’t understand MySpace. Why is it so hot? It’s ugly as shit, you can’t configure anything, and all your buddies’ pages are full of embedded videos, songs, and other annoying stuff. Julie and I discussed this. It’s like EVERYWHERE. MySpace this, MySpace that. But I’d never really thought it was that big until lately. I guess a lot of my non-internet friends use it a lot. But it’s like an ugly friendster/orkut clone. Daily Show spoofed it for people thinking they’re social because they have thousands of “friends” connected on their page. Julie and I agree that MySpace should do the web a favor and move to moveabletype or wordpress.

Then again, we’re web geeks who have our own sites.

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Quote of the Day: Feb. 27, 2006

From The Great Influenza:

“As Einstein once said, “One of the strongest motives that lead persons to art or science is a flight from the everyday life… With this negative motive goes a positive one. Man seeks to form for himself, in whatever manner is suitable for him, a simplified and lucid image of the world, and so to overcome the world of experience by striving to replace it to some extent by this image. This is what the painter does, and the poet, the speculative philosopher, the natural scientist, each in his own way. Into this image and its formation, he places the center of gravity of his emotional life, in order to attain the peace and serenity that he cannot find within the narrow confines of swirling personal experience.”

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Green Day, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”

This video haunts me.

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Iraq, December 2005

[old; written in December obviously]

It is now December of 2005, a week before another election of Iraqi officials takes place. The Administration has begun making concessions towards removing troops from Iraq — other countries are planning on withdrawing from the mission soon if they haven’t already. There’s nothing for most other countries to do except provide interior, or rarely, perimeter, security. The American presence in Iraq is in its third year. There’s been an election and a constitutional referendum. Saddam Hussein is boycotting his current trial and getting himself in the papers daily with his theatrics.

Over 2,000 American military servicemembers have died. Countless others have been severely wounded. Explosive attacks have grown more powerful, more directed in their damage but more indiscriminate in their targets, which anti-coalition forces have been directing towards large groups of Shi’ites or police recruits or sometimes just large groups of Iraqis. The Marines have attempted to seal off Al-Anbar and the Syrian border to stop the influx of stolen vehicles for VBIEDs and foreign fighters.

Iraq’s GDP and GNP have risen sharply, along with cellular phone usage. Other figures such as crude oil production and hours of electricity per day have fallen dramatically with a spiralling loss of security instead of improving, as it should show after Bush’s claims that security for the infrastructure is the primary concern.

The Democrats have tried — and failed — to begin impeachment proceedings for the President in relation to faulty intelligence leading to the Iraq invasion. Scooter Libby is on the chopping block for being accused of ratting out an undercover CIA employee in response to bad intelligence used as justification for the invasion. The CIA is trying to hide the evidence of secret prisons and torture in Europe and other places near the Middle East. Jack Abramoff is in trouble for skimming off lobbying fees. All of this has gotten a lot of media attention but there remains a likely possibility that this will all slide off the Administration’s back in the eyes of the people.

Anti-war proponents have been gaining a foothold in the debate lately, along with assault from people like House Representative Murtha, former military, who argued for removing the troops. Murtha’s efforts are hard to counter because of his status as a Vietnam vet, but as Kerry showed, that’s no guarantee of invulnerability.

Since 9/11, Bali, London, Spain, and other countries have been hit with terrorist attacks. The U.S. has avoided further attacks. Bush claims this is because of stricter domestic security but I think it’s because Al-Qaeda has accomplished as much as it wanted out of provoking the U.S. at this point in time.

ORIGINAL PREMISE FOR WAR

The most reliable sources stated that the embargo, no-fly zones, weapons inspectors, and Hussein’s own paranoia had led to both a strangling of Iraq’s people and an inability to continue WMD research. While certainly removing Hussein would lift embargos which were killing and starving Iraqis, citing WMDs as a main reason for war was not sound. The only people saying there were WMDs were people who had no business stating their opinion on the matter, whether they be Democrat or Republican or foreign intelligence service. And since they all get their intel from the same places, of course they agreed.

Banksy's Happy Chopper

Hussein was a brutal dictator, yes. There are many brutal dictators currently in power around the world right now. Terrorist funding was non-existent, or at the very least, minimal compared to other countries in the Middle East. In terms of risk vs. reward in invading Iraq, removing Hussein’s Ba’ath government for these reasons seems stupid.

No one anticipated the insurgency. Just like no one anticipated the effect Al-Qaeda would have, even after 9/11. The only people warning of what might happen were regional experts, who were obviously ignored.

TRAINING IRAQIS

Most people would agree that the Iraqis need a suitable police and military force before the U.S. can exit Iraq. However, trust is hard to find. Anyone who’s worked with the Iraqis know they rely heavily on the Americans. The Iraqis have no heavy weapons, no heavy armor, no air support, little strategic or planning ability. To say that we are close to letting them loose is ignorant. You cannot warp a third-world technology country into the 21st century of American technological warfare overnight when there’s no underlying economy or cultural basis in Iraq to support it. We will have to invest in better equipment for them and I am sure everyone from politicians to American citizens to soldiers are hesitant to arm Arabs. Prejudice is alive and well. Sure there are some officers who are willing to cross the culture boundary but most military folks hate Arabs, hate Islam, won’t share food or shelter or touch Iraqis. They are convinced Arabs are dirty and will give them tuberculosis or something. Most military folks hate being in the Middle East. They hate the culture. I have dined with Iraqis, been given gifts by Iraqis, been called “brother” by Iraqis.

War and Peace

It is a segregated environment entirely, despite the Iraqis being very friendly and generous. The Iraqis are nervous because they know the rug can be pulled out at any time from under their feet and they will be out-gunned by the terrorists.

Iraqis don’t have the assets to plan effective missions yet. Moreover a lot of what they need to do needs to be done by a police force, not a military. The police need to patrol the streets, maintain a presence. They need SWAT teams, not military brigades, amongst the people.

Everyone says that Iraqis need to have a trained force, but no one wants to commit towards achieving that.

A significant risk is that the security fabric of the nation will tear apart, leaving anti-American sentiment, more distrust (after a snubbed rebellion after Desert Storm), and tens of thousands of ex-soldiers trained by the U.S. in (admittedly insufficient) mission-planning, targeting, urban tactics, and most importantly, rifle marksmanship. They might turn into this generation’s American-trained and -funded Afghan mujaheddin.

Pressure has made limping out of Iraq the most likely outcome for the U.S. Of course the terrorists will claim a victory and the Republicans will claim that the Democrats caused us to lose Iraq. The important thing is that Iraq will slip into a vacuum again unless it fights back against its extremist infiltrators. Iraq has little going for it in the long run, like other poor, war-ravaged countries in the Middle East. It’s no Vietnam.

TERRORISTS

Al-Qaeda has a long-term plan that involves the entire western world, not just the U.S. This has been shown by its attempts to attack multiple countries widely scattered across the globe. It has not hit targets repeatedly. It’s inciting the masses. It wants to appear as though the jihad exists everywhere. It wants to hold traitors accountable. Anti-coalition forces are now working on hitting oil lines, oil convoys, police recruits, public works. I think these attacks may be counter to Al-Qaeda’s vision — it does not want a poor, disadvantaged Middle East. It just wants a pure Muslim one. Keeping Muslims and Arabs in destitution is not the Al-Qaeda modus operandi. It is more Zarqawi’s style, and he is the primary influence among the most violent in Iraq. Zarqawi has finally managed to execute a foreign attack with the Jordan hotel bombing. His career as a terrorist has been marred by many embarrassing failures trying to attack other countries. Maybe his men are more sophisticated now.

The U.S. and world continue to ignore what the terrorists are plainly telling them. Thus each side is arguing things in its own terms, and the two are not going to resolve any differences until someone gets a clue. Which isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

TROOP MORALE

The Administration says that Americans must support the troops by supporting the war. There is no alternative. Bringing the troops home is akin to dishonoring their memories, and ruining the wishes of the soldiers who protect their memories also. What kind of argument is this? This is a defeatist argument to me.

CPL Matthew Conley

We have to STAY in Iraq no matter what the cost in order to honor the fallen? This seems like a vicious cycle to me. More soldiers will die, more Americans will be emotionally invested in staying there. We must intervene in this cycle that destroys our nation’s psyche. Let’s get things straight here. The military follows orders of the Commander-in-Chief, whatever those orders may be. The military achieves honor by doing this, and only this. We cannot expect the military to “win” a “war” of hearts and minds and Sunni/Salafist/Wahhabi extremist conversion to the “good” side. It’s not going to happen no matter how many soldiers we have. The military can at best maintain security (something a police force should be doing) and train Iraqis (something Special Forces and police force contractors should be doing). The military is made to create and destroy, and facilitating creating and destroying. That primary focus is not what the military is doing now. The military is waiting to go home. Soldiers have missed several Christmas’s in a row, or several of their children’s birthdays in a row. The military is tired. It performed an awesome job of taking control of Iraq in little time at all. Now it is dug in, fit with movie theaters and PX’s and swimming pools and biding time until they can go home. Yes, a lot of missions are being run still but let’s face it, all the top leaders of extremist organizations realized long ago that we’d be in Iraq for a while, and they’re hiding out in other countries, just like the Viet Cong did in Vietnam.

The extremists have more to win by us needing to honor the fallen, no matter which way it turns out. If we stay longer, we wear out our welcome, and create more martyrs. If we cut out, they will claim victory in their own ignorant way, as if it was their actions that led to our leaving. That people are afraid of the terrorists claiming victory if we leave is defeatist. The terrorists will ALWAYS claim victory. They have to rally people to the cause just like we do, but they have to make more noise about it.

If you want to honor the soldiers, know when and how long and why to use them. Plan in advance what role they will play, play to their strengths, don’t exceed their limits. Honoring the soldiers is bringing them home if it’s correct or more beneficial to do so. Honoring the soldiers is supporting them to kick fucking ass if it’s correct or more beneficial to destroy things. The soldiers are always ready to fight but that doesn’t mean that they SHOULD fight.

DEMOCRAT VOTE

The Democrats are now apologizing for voting for the war. It’s about damn time. Clearly they never should’ve voted for it in the first place. I think they probably did it so they didn’t look to be intervening in the way of freedom, or to win bi-partisan points, or perhaps just naive optimism that removing a secular dictator of thirty years would not leave a power vacuum in Iraq. It shows that none of them had any balls. Then again, they’re not necessarily supposed to have balls, just the ear of their constituency.

What really kills me is that the Republicans are calling the Democrats on changing their votes, as if to say, “Oh no, if we’re going to be involved in this mess, you’re going to be involved with us.” It’s really THAT sickening.

Furthermore, while more and more service-members die, many people are profiting off of the perpetual war. But hey, war is cool! War is America!

iPod Art Spoof for Well-Known Iraq Photos

Final note: watch this Frontline report on the insurgency’s development, from February 21, 2006.

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Filed under Foreign, Iraq, Military, Policy, Terrorism/Insurgency, War

Quote of the Day, Feb. 26 2006

From Jason Burke’s Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, Rohan Gunaratna’s Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror:

‘The status of the warring sides, Graham Allison wrote in the Economist, were different as night from day — the Americans ad hoc-ing their way to war, the Islamists steering a long-planned course. “Yet as the American government scrambles to pursue a war for which it was not prepared, it must, in the idiom, “go with what we’ve got.” Assembling a coalition of very strange bedfellows, acquiring intelligence from sources and by methods it had mostly neglected, and jerry-rigging defenses around the most obvious vulnerabilities, it gallops off in all directions. It does so without a comprehensive assessment of the threats it now faces, and lacking a coherent strategy for combating mega-terrorism. In contrast, Mr. Bin Ladin and his al Qaeda network have been thinking, planning, and training for this war for most of a decade. September 11th demonstrated a level of imagination, sophistication, and audacity previously thought impossible by the American, or any other, government.”‘

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Leading Indicator Stocks Sucking

I went cash in my accounts for two main reasons. The first is that I’m transferring to Scottrade. Supposedly it has the best all-around service and features in the discount broker industry. My old Datek got swallowed up by AmeriTrade, which blows. E*Trade gives you IPO shares but there’s not many hot IPOs and it’s awfully bloated.

I don’t have much of an opinion of Scottrade so far. Their Java client seems kind of poor. Their attempt to make branches that you can walk into (my local one is an hour away in downtown Nashville) seems overly costly but I guess they want to portray themselves as a personable broker. That seems kind of self-deceiving though because a broker’s job is to sell you services and to sell you stock that the company’s traders are trying to dump. I thought discount brokers got so successful because they tossed out all the sheeple fleecing of Wall Street. Oh well. We’ll see how it goes.

I wanted to cycle out of my Vanguard 500 for my Roth. While it is the best fund to be in if you just want to earn what the market makes, while taking advantage of the lowest fees around, I think I might be better stock-picking or going into international funds (which have a disadvantage of high fees). I also wanted to trade some money I made from deployment.

Right now the indices are not that far off their multi-year highs. I’m a little worried though because I have always thought that certain hype stocks will lead each bull run by a time period of perhaps a few weeks. The crazy stocks that make their runs rally a lot, and eventually the rest of the market catches the fever. Eventually those stocks’ rallies begin to fail while the rest of the market tops out. If you look at these charts, you’ll see that perhaps this will happen again.

Here’s the most popular hype stock right now, Google. You can see that it’s failed its 50dma but bounced off its 200dma, so its long-term trend is still okay.

Google (GOOG)

Perhaps the second most popular stock is Apple. But it’s stalling at its 50dma and could go test its 200dma.

Apple (AAPL)

Whole Foods made big news by going above and beyond in purchasing wind energy credits last month. It’s a darling. And it sells good food. Its stock is suffering though, having broken its 200dma, a serious problem.

Whole Foods (WFMI)

And finally, here’s my new darling, Nintendo, running away without me! (my money is still in transit)

Nintendo (NTDOY.PK)

The NASDAQ itself is stuck in a triangle pattern. TraderMike has covered its chart better than me. If the past is any indication, the NASDAQ will begin to fail and correct. I don’t expect the correction to be very bad. I just hope I’m right…I have been very wrong before. =)

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