Quotes from "Inside the Jihad"

I’m reading an excellent book, Omar Nasiri’s “Inside the Jihad:  My Life with Al-Qaeda”, for Michael Scheuer’s class about a guy from Morocco who ends up being a spy within a mujaheddin cell in Belgium and then goes through terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and other terrorist hotspots, finally writing a book about the dilemmas and moral quandaries he finds himself in as a Muslim disgusted with radicals.  Did I tell you I love this class?  I should also ask, “Is this book fake?”  The story is almost too good.

Here are some early quotes:

“Every boy has a dream — to be a fireman or an astronaut or a president, to be something fantastic.  Of course, most boys will never fulfill their childhood dream, but that’s not the point.  As a boy grows up and becomes a man, he gradually lets the dream go, although it may still linger in the form of nostalgia.  But if his dream is destroyed at a very young age, the boy will either be destroyed totally along with it, or he will become strong.  He will become strong because he no longer has anything to lose.  He will give up on the future.  A boy without a dream is dangerous.” (p. 12)

“His eyes flickered for a moment, and I knew I had him.  There are guys like this all over the world:  they drink, they smoke, they snort coke, they are complete infidels in the eyes of real Muslims.  But at the first mention of the words umma or jihad they suddenly reconnect with Islam.  I think this is particularly true in Europe, where young men are so far from everything, from the Muslim land.  Jihad is nothing to them, nothing real.  But it is also everything.” (p. 28)

“Only one thing really bothered me about my new career:  the Uzis.  It made me sad to see all of them — Hakim, Yasin, Amin — prattle on about umma and jihad while they spent thousands on Israeli guns and Russian bullets.  This is the problem of modern Islam in a nutshell.  We are totally dependent on the West — for our dishwashers, our clothes, our cars, our education, everything.  It is humiliating, and every Muslim feels it.  I felt it every time I thought about the Uzis.  I was disappointed with Amin and Yasin for their hypocrisy, but even more disappointed in the Muslim world.  Once we had accomplished so much — in science, mathematics, medicine, philosophy.  For centuries we ran far ahead of the West.  We were the most sophisticated civilization in the world.  Now we are backward.  We can’t even fight our wars without our enemies’ weapons.” (p. 38)

“‘Your battle against the terrorists.  You’ve already lost your battle.’  Gilles was curious and asked me why I said that.  I told him that Muslims everywhere were rebelling against the dictators they lived under.  In Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, and all over the Middle East, Muslims knew that their governments were being propped up by France, England, or the United States.  It was bad enough to live under these repressive regimes, but far worse knowing that these regimes were just the playthings of Zionist and Christian nations.  It enraged Muslims and made them hate the West.  And it made them distrust democracy, because they saw how antidemocratic Western countries could be when it served their interests.  There would always be violence, I told him, as long as Western powers continued to manipulate the Muslim world.” (p.53)

Andrew Bacevich on US Foreign Policy

An excellent interview by Bill Moyers with retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html

“Bacevich […] identifies three major problems facing our democracy: the crises of economy, government and militarism, and calls for a redefinition of the American way of life.”

Covers the failure of the Dems to get us out of Iraq, the current one-party US government (in the sense that both Dems and Republicans are alike), and “supporting” the troops.  Calls for a lighter, smaller foreign policy.

Superb commentary.  Watch both parts or read the transcript.

"The End of History" Blows

One of the most oft-quoted books in international relations theory is Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History and the Last Man”.

This is one of the three books I hope I never have to read. It goes along with Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat” and Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. Now, the last one from what I’ve heard is probably actually pretty good but it’s just quoted and covered so much that the book is hardly worth reading anymore. There are more interesting off-shoots from it by now. I read a similar book in my Globalization class, “Ecological Imperialism”, by Alfred Crosby.

As for Friedman, this dope is pretty good at crafting a message that people can conceptualize easy and then parrot to their friends, but basically he’s wrong. The world isn’t becoming flat as a result of globalization. If anything, it’s becoming far more starkly textured and terrained. More importantly, the world will become more interesting. Ricardian specialization will make even more pronounced the expertise of some regions over others in certain goods. Cultural identities will return as societies learn how to integrate the new international order into their old customs and traditions. Right now many societies are just being smothered by globalization but they will adjust.

In other words I think Friedman is just wrong. And at least right now, the prospect of free trade and liberal democracy is precarious. It’s presumptuous to declare victory.

Which is what Fukuyama did in his book. One thing I’ve read recently that’s interesting is that the end of the Cold War is being reinterpreted. Instead of the Cold War being normal international relations, it was actually an anomoly. It allowed for a calculated, insured world where everyone knew what the stakes and rules were. The US and the Soviet Union used MAD and detente to keep order.

Then the Cold War ended, and communism was considered a massive failure, leaving capitalist liberal democracy as the sole superpower in political economy.

This should have been a good thing, but the balance was now completely off. Capitalism was left unchecked by any real-world or theoretical competitor. And that’s what we’ve seen: corporatism in the US government, a privatization of everything traditionally done by the government, and a massive spread in income inequality as natural capitalism laws exert their forces upon society.

Fukuyama recently wrote an essay for the Washington Post. You can see that he focuses almost entirely on authoritarian governments, because his detractors are arguing that the rise of Chavez in Venezuela and Putin in Russia and so on signals some return of those types of governments. But I think one can explain the rise of those governments based on another portion of international relations theory: balance of power. US capitalism is pushing hard into the rest of the world and countries are beginning to strongly resist, seeking nationalist leaders who protect local identity.

Strangely, Fukuyama says the greatest competitor to capitalist liberal democracy is radical Islamism, whatever that means. Notice he didn’t say just Islam, or fundamentalist Islam, but radical Islamism. Who the fuck even says Islamism? What I think is happening in the Muslim world is the long-awaited reform, where, as Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, says, bin Laden has taken the fatwa and made it an individual decision and not one given by corrupt mullahs, and eventually that sense of spiritual individualism will lead to a version of Islam that is incompatible with militant jihad.

The 21st century in my mind was all about economics, and for Fukuyama to not address the fact that there needs to be a competitor to unchecked capitalism is just strange to me. It’s clear that centrism is the way to proceed, and that the two poles are socialism and Friedman neo-liberalism. And you can see an emergence of socialism in Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army and Venezuela (corrupt as it is), and other groups labeled as evil by the US. Fukuyama says that Russia and China are more than happy to embrace capitalism, so democracy is on its way. Well, not necessarily. In fact, as Fukuyama quotes Zakaria’s “post-American world”, competitors are stepping up against the US. This includes competitors with different political economic models, which all seem to work well in the international system. I mean, China is an authoritarian system with a growing capitalist model. The EU is a fascinating hodge-podge of socialist structures within an increasingly competitive union. It may be that the American model ends up not being the one that succeeds in the future.

As long as the international system only rewards profits and GDP growth, and not things like human values, strong labor rights, etc., then countries like China and Russia can still be part of the current system without suffering. Is this an end of history?

I sat in on a class on the internet and society which I won’t end up taking because the syllabus is a little too undergrad-ish. But the prof does have a blog post in which she says in response to Fukuyama, “Even from this most favorable vantage point, we see that capitalism and democracy are compatible with violence, environmental destruction, poverty, and war, itself.”

What Fukuyama is promoting is a world without balance, completely focused around the US, where you have to get rich or die tryin’. Through money comes power, and that’s it. And this is why I strongly dislike what he has to say.

Walled Communities

I’m currently reading Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World”, which is an excellent book about the future of international relations. It does focus on the US, China, and India most, perhaps overlooking Russia which is of course rivaling China in the news right now.

But what strikes me about the future is the opening up of connections between organizations worldwide. Apparently Google and Estonia are relocating Georgia’s web sites to keep them online while denial-of-service attacks are being levied against Georgia. At the Achievement Summit I attended, the three mayors Willie Brown, Richard Daley, and Antonio Villaraigosa seemed to be saying that the federal government was not working with them, so they’ve had to take matters into their own hands on international trade and education — their megaregions are becoming entities to themselves.

PirateBay is circumventing local copyright laws by spreading itself out over the Internet. Organizations are blending themselves with international coalitions and Clay Shirky talks of American churches aligning with Nigerian ones.

What seems to be coming closer is the Metaverse as Neal Stephenson envisions it. Nation-states have lost the organizing role for most people, and instead there are city-states with walled communities within them that are quite tough to enter without permission (which resembles the walling off of Baghdad and the Palestine). But there’s a robust online world which can be dangerous but remains amorphous — a world which will probably be truly enabled by the efforts to create an online cloud currently. This large web of servers capable of massive processing power will enable us to create a real-time, highly detailed and intricate virtual world. Second Life is a fucking disaster if you ask me, and the cloud will put it out of its disgusting misery.

It remains to be seen how national governments will fit into this mix, but I guess they could still maintain their role by crushing the interoperability and accessibility of the Internet now. But it’s clear to me that people even now are becoming far less loyal to specific countries and more to organizations, ideas, and theories. For Americans, it is getting almost to the point where they will seriously consider moving to a great city in another country…but that point has not arrived yet. There are still a few regions that are still innovating and modernizing.

Anyway. Random thoughts. I don’t have anything to tie it all together with.

Quote of the Day: Mar. 4, 2006

John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, July 4, 1821:

“America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her own example. She well knows that by once enlisting under banners other than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, ambition, which assumed the colors and usurped the standards of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. … She might become the dictatress of the world. She would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit.”

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.

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.

Happy Holidays from Iraq

Well, it’s the month of Happy Holidays, so from Iraq (or not-Iraq, where I am, named for the complete lack of evidence in this base that I AM in Iraq), best wishes to you and yours this giving season! I wish I were back home with Julie and my family, enjoying a hot Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding, snow, and my girlfriend’s lovely company. The stuff I thought was cheesy before, I miss now — the Christmas lights, the tree, the decorations around town, even the pristinely white, clean displays in the malls.

My Christmas tree and living room at home in Dallas!

Just to remind you how out of touch the debate is back home, people are worried about talk of sending the troops home being demoralizing to the military effort here. These are not the days of people spitting on soldiers and calling them baby-killers like Vietnam was. I think what’s on most soldiers’ minds these days is the fact that many of them have missed their children’s births, their family members’ last three birthdays, and a couple of the last few Christmases and Thanksgivings. Speculation about returning home is just shrugged off by tired soldiers in their third year of constant deployment. But hey, you keep writing those morale-boosting “keep the troops away” blog entries in between family get-togethers this December, Mr. Concerned Citizen!! Or better yet, join your fellow citizens and serve a tour or two over in Iraq or Afghanistan!

I think it’s interesting seeing GOOG above 400$ — they continue to release more web applications that seem to point towards a vision of the Internet that hardly seems attainable right now. Yahoo! just bought del.icio.us, the link tagging site I now post my links to pretty regularly. (I will start feeding my del.icio.us into my other links page soon) While Yahoo! now owns this and Flickr, two of the most popular web geek apps, I can’t help but think that Yahoo! will never integrate Flickr nor feel Flickr-ish (which it should try to do), and that spending money to buy small web app companies (for anywhere from 15$ million to 40$ million for the latest two) is a waste of cash — they could’ve designed these by themselves, at a fraction of the cost, from the ground up, learning from the small startup’s mistakes and limitations. But I guess Yahoo! is paying for the communities and (if this is a real reason, that’s sad) reputation transference. Put the checkbook away though: communities can be fickle, ephemeral online — offer superior features, reliability, and innovation and people will move at the drop of a hat. I mean, who’s going to use Skype now that Yahoo! is offering cheaper VoIP integrated into Messenger?

Right now I’m contemplating the effect of massive Google networked-ness and bandwidth along with an energy situation relieved by massive estimated alternate energy growth this year of 30% for solar and wind power. The gains in productivity and capital for companies and individuals will be shocking. I see this as bullish for the American economy, but even more so for international economies, which still have yet to benefit as completely as the U.S. has from the Internet, global commerce, and post-bubble corporate re-structuring.

Chart of the Shanghai index, which has been losing for a while now.

I’m bullish on international funds for the next decade or two. And I want to invest in China, even though it still needs to reform many aspects of its economic and political infrastructure, and coöperate better with its blossoming, more expressive society, before foreign investment will really begin to flow in confidently. I am interested in their long-term strategies and their attempting to create eastern brand alternatives to western powerhouses.

I’m almost through this deployment and as a late Thanksgiving notice, I’m very thankful I’ve had Julie this whole time. Julie’s been an awesome, patient girlfriend even while I’ve been away in Iraq. I love you, darling. You’re totally being spoiled this Christmas, that’s for sure! And whenever I get to see you next! And your soundtrack song right now is Jamiroquai’s “Loveblind”, a killer track off their new album.