About Me

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Armchair theorist, poet, and occasional IT manager, Sascha B. is equipped with a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas, and is not afraid to use it. His work has been published by the University Press of America, Edwin Mellen Press, University of Texas Press, and a variety of small journals nationwide. He is also the proprietor and baker for 3141 Pie, of which you should eat many.

The Deal

I stopped blogging in 2013, when life overtook me. My father became ill and died shortly thereafter, and my mother was left with increasing dementia. I became the primary caregiver, and now orchestrate my mother's care and our family estate.

Now, I am coming up for air again.

Looking for the next book to read. All suggestions welcome.

My reading list is over here.







Saturday, March 05, 2005

'Nuff Said
"'An Italian agent has been killed by an American bullet -- a tragic demonstration that everything that's happening in Iraq is completely senseless and mad,' he said. 'Nicola Calipari is the person we must thank most for Giuliana's release. Unfortunately, he was killed by American bullets.'"
I was speaking with my brother in Rome as this news broke, and his phone started buzzing like mad---I expect he's got an uncomfortably busy weekend at the embassy now.

The whole incident of Sgrena's release is messy. I doubt this will tip the scales for Italy and the US, but it certainly won't add to the good will. Berlusconi has taken a scolding but stable role. So far. Senseless and mad; a good description.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Another Brilliant String Of Words
"'I don't mean just the troops out of Lebanon, I mean all of them out of Lebanon, particularly the secret service out of Lebanon — the intelligence services,' [President Bush] told the New York Post in an interview published Friday.

'This is nonnegotiable. It is time to get out,' he said. 'I don't think you can have fair elections with Syrian troops there.'"
Nonnegotiable is a strong word to use in this case. Does he really want to see things move that quickly, when we have no immediate action plan to ensure security? When we are still deciphering the impact with Israel, and Iran, and Hezbollah, and all? I wonder. The progressive actions in Lebanon are exciting and positive, but still do not include a large portion of the sectarian population, and have yet to be measured in terms of stability. I just wish we were acting with a bit more diplomacy, and a bit less rhetorical belligerence. It hasn't served us too well lately---think North Korea, think Cuba, think France. It's
worth a read.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Weird

Just for the record, my index fingers are pretty darn long...

BBC: Finger length 'key to aggression'

Same Old Same Old

In just a few hours, Steve Fossett will land his (or really, Virgin's and Branson's) airplane in Kansas, completing one of the more interesting useless adventures of the year: solo non-stop circumnavigation of the globe by air. At the same time, the papers are all spouting about the fact that 1,500 soldiers have died in Iraq since the war began.

Somehow the two items are too me utterly incongruous on the front pages, as well as equally meaningless. It's sad, really.


UPDATE: Fossett has landed. A record 67 hour flight. Kansas rejoices. All the dead in Iraq remain so.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I'm Shocked, I Tell You, Shocked

It's democracy in action. Or perhaps the impending collapse of the nascent government. Says AP on Iraq:
"Politicians had hoped to convene the new parliament by Sunday. But Ali Faisal, of the Shiite Political Council, said the date was now 'postponed' and that a new date had not been set.

'The blocs failed to reach an understanding over the formation of the government,' said Faisal, whose council is part of the United Iraqi Alliance.

The Kurds, he added, were 'the basis of the problem' in the negotiations.

'The Kurds are wary about al-Jaafari's nomination to head the government. They are concerned that a strict Islamic government might be formed,' al-Faisal said. 'Negotiations and dialogue are ongoing.'"
Not to mention the trouble some have with the Kurds demand that their autonomous zone be extended south to include Kirkuk. It all is starting to look like some of the wosrt-case scenarios painted last year. For everyone's sake, let's hope it doesn't continue to trend in that direction.

Read it all here.
Hump Day

In my efforts to try and ignore the pontifications of Mr. Greenspan (how can he be so incredibly lackey-like?), I have been thinking about the potential ramifications of the tack being taken by Secretary Rice in the Middle East. She has come out on the side of Sharon in accusing Syria for the recent bombing in Israel, and has threatened them with unknown reactions by the US if they don't immediately withdraw from Lebanon.

On the first issue, I feel as though she is being either willfully ignorant, or truly is thick about the structure and history of political parties in the Arab Middle East. Islamic Jihad has offices in Damascus. So does Hamas. And Fatah. It is questionable if any of them receive more than condescending support from the Syrian government proper. To directly tie the actions of a single political faction the government is risky business, whether correct or not. Because the actions taken by the government in response could far outweigh the trouble already faced. By her accusation, Rice has allied our sensibilities with Israeli rhetoric, and thereby lost whatever potential leverage might have been gained with Syrian allies in the Arab world. I don't see this as either a responsible move, nor as beneficial to the Israelis (or for that matter the Palestinians.)

On the second, I wonder if she realizes that when Syria vacates, despite the pro-independence, pro-"democracy" demonstrations being seen right now, when all is said and done the largest and most powerful political presence remaining in the fragile democratic alliance of Lebanon will be....Hezbollah, the radical group sponsored by Iran, with the declared intent of destroying the "zionist presence" in the Middle East by any means necessary. Leaving Hezbollah in power isn't really the most appealing of worlds. Yet if we push for immediate response by Syria, this will be the outcome. And we might have used our diplomatic leverage to broker some further arrangements to counter that end, but Rice has effectively cut that off by ungraciously insulting the leadership of the Lebanese overlords.

There is hope, but there is also great fear. And it hangs in the balance on a thread held by a power who dresses like a stormtrooper for an appearance in Weisbaden.

Yeah, I'm worried.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Wolfowitz For The World Bank?

What a strange presentation. The mere fact that his name is being floated---even on background---as the next World Bank president lends credence to the idea that our government really is trying to destroy the dollar, topple existing markets, and send the U.S. into a tailspin of universally deplorable economic recklessness. This is one time when I would definitely be on Carly's side.

Spring Nigh

They say that March 'comes in like a lion' but for me it's come in more like a hangover, or a bad case of flu. I am hoping that the coffee alters that a bit. In the world today I don't see any major change in situations or sympathies; while the Supreme Court has struck down the Juvenile Death Penalty, I don't think this is a big surprise. And Lebanon continues to ferment.

So, in the absence of cogent analysis or comment, I provide from my day calendar a lovely reproduction of Hundertwasser's 1972 silk screen, Green Power. Enjoy.


Green Power

Monday, February 28, 2005

Interesting

AP on Jose Padilla and "enemy combatants": White House Must Charge or Free Suspect
Pot Meets Kettle, Calls it 'Black'

It's become a bit ludicrous, in the wake of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, for the US to be lambasting others for human rights abuses. And yet, it's that time of year again: the report is out. The decades old issue of some of our closest 'allies' being tops on the list is only exacerbated now by our own actions in the 'War on Terror'. And the freedom we have provided to other nations to follow our example in the name of security, and democracy, and freedom.

What I'd like to see is a list that shows the nations that haven't been seen taking a lead in abusive practices, and then comparing that list to the who's who of the war, and "new Europe" and "old Europe", and our primary trading partners in Asia, and the list of the primary owners of dollar debt, and so on and so on. Now that would make for interesting reading.
Fascinating

While Syria continues to drag its feet in the same time-worn fashion as always, hedging between vague promises of future action and stringent denial of obvious involvement; while Israel continues to play its games of accusation and brinkmanship to appeal to all constituencies and appease all power players; as the Mid of the Middle East continues its familiar dysfunction, Lebanon is taking action, however symbolic. I suspect they are hurtling toward some rather momentous conclusions. Let's hope that the resignation of the government is the first of many peaceful steps, rather than a descent back into chaos. As Prime Minister Karami said, when he announced the resignation, "May God preserve Lebanon."

Yes indeed.
Post Oscar Night Quiz

Question #1:
   How many times did Beyoncé sing?
     A) 3
     B) 5
     C) Did she ever leave the stage?
     D) That was Beyoncé???

Question #2:
   How many seconds did it take to realize Beyoncé was singing in French?
     A) 10
     B) 30
     C) 60
     D) Oh dear God---That was French???

Question #3:
   Why doesn't everyone at these things look as good as Scarlett Johanssen, and have the integrity and grace of Morgan Freeman?
     A) If they did, we'd never have the chance to laugh at Reneé Zellwegger
     B) Without a moment of Penelope and Salma, they wouldn't hold the attention of the Budweiser crowd
     C) It's all Robin Williams fault, anyway
     D) Oh my, Barbra. Oh my...

Send in your answers! Win a prize!
Is This What It's Supposed To Look Like?

Unfortunately, democracy in Iraq is looking more and more like Lebanon circa 1975, or Israel circa 2001, than anything else in the West. The latest suicide attack---gruesome and effective---puts in high relief once again the truth that despite all the best intentions, freedom and democracy increase rather than decrease the tendency toward chaos and anarchy. I only hope that this phase of growing violence is a short one. The people of Iraq have had hardship enough.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sunday Funny

Ok. So we captured a half-brother of Saddam; the pope waved from his hospital window; the Middle East is still a mess and there are worries across the world.

Who cares?

Halle Berry showed up to collect her Razzie award for Worst Actress, in Catwoman. She may suck, but she sure has guts, and a great sense of humor.