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.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Peace And Democracy Spread Like Wildfire Through Middle East

...as can be seen from this BBC story. Somehow, I don't think a halt to new settlements in Gaza is really the primary issue to be focused on in Israel at the moment.
Up Is Down

On a day when one of the great thinkers and formative minds of diplomacy in the 20th century, George F. Kennan, has died, the papers are more concerned with baseball players talking to politicians about drugs they say they didn't use. Somehow are priorities are off. And let's not forget the tragic Floridian tempest in a teapot--or a feeding tube.

And you know what beats all? It's raining, and they say it won't stop til tuesday.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dumb Truck

When gasoline prices spiked a year ago, I warned some friends that this was the start of a trend, not a bump. Now it looks like I was unfortunately right. With oil at nearly $58 dollars a barrel, and OPEC at near capacity, even the short-sighted opening of ANWR to drilling won't have much impact. Conservancy, and a move to alternatives to oil, are still too unappetizing for either business or government to swallow. But the pressure will mount; as the dollar drops, and the price of oil heads up to $80 a barrel, people will start to make noise. And the chorus won't be "drill in my backyard"; it will more be "buy back my Hummer, and give me a Prius." Monstrosities like the new International truck (above) I suspect are the late empire gasps of a failing way of life. And thank goodness for that.

ADDENDUM: It's gas prices too: this Reuters release from the AAA says it all.
"Retail Gasoline Hits Record"
Syria Withdraws

With a third of their troops now removed to the Bekaa valley or beyond the border (no one has any specifics on this in the US media), Syria has officially "begun" its withdrawal from Lebanon. This is heartening, but: what is the current pro-Syria government doing in response? And is anyone monitoring developments in covert activity? At the same time, Hezbollah is remaining armed and flexing muscle; Bush in his press conference yesterday again showed a bewildering lack of understanding in his denunciation of them as "terrorists". They may be, but now is not the time to shout about it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Sick Of The Bullshit

On the domestic front: politics is a disingenuous method of extorting concessions and consolidating power. The Social Securtiy debate? Specious lies vs. inarticulate reactionary thinking. The latest round of appointments to posts in the administration (and beyond)? Payback for yes-man loyalty. Here in SF: we've been trying to rebuild 'The Bridge That Fell' for 16 years now, the price tag has risen from a few hundreds of millions to multiple billions of dollars, and guess what? still no bridge, still no concensus, and, yes, an enormous political battle brewing as we try, helplessly to move forward.

Yeah, I'm sick of it. Yeah, I've had too much coffee. Yeah, there's no point in whining about it. But there ya go. Scott Peterson gets the death penalty, and Robert Blake walks free. Bernard Ebbers is guilty on all counts, and We're still waiting to hear about Kenneth Lay. On the news today they talk about how great it is that prosthetic devices have become so advanced---because there are so many amputees coming home from Iraq. No mention about the implication of the making of so many amputees in the first place...

Does it matter? You bet it does.
Two Departures

Well, for what it's worth, the Syrian intel folks appear to be cleaning out the drawers in the Beirut office. This is an impressive visual, but I wonder whet the reality is behind the move. I somehow am suspicious that the entire Syrian apparatus is simply going to up and wander off over the border back to Damascus. And since this single office that is being vacated was the last visible outpost of Syrian power in Beirut (as opposed to the whole of Lebanon), I wonder where the line is drawn here between symbolism and efficacy. But a move is a move. Let's see what happens.

At the same time, in another symbolic but questionably efficacious move, Israel has handed over Jericho to the Palestinian Authority. Of course, they still control all access points on the roads to and from the city, so to get to this oasis of self-rule, people will have to pass the gauntlet of Israeli security regardless. And I doubt that Abbas will be able to keep the militants from getting a single action to occur---any more than Sharon has been 100% successful in maintaining a violence free environment. And a single bullet, a single bomb, may well be more than enough for Israel to renege on its path to releasing the Five Cities to Palestinian security.

Is the world coming to an end? First Karen Hughes, Now Paul Wolfowitz...Next we'll have Tom DeLay running the UNHRC.

Reuters: Bush Taps Wolfowitz as New World Bank President

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Familiar Refrain

I wonder how many times we are going to see this headline:
AP: Leaders Fail to Form Iraq Coalition Gov't
But I think the key quote on just what the current situation is comes from this Reuters piece (which, incidentally, leads with a headline supposing an opposite view of things, "Shi'ites and Kurds near Iraq Deal"):
Another Shi'ite politician expressed doubt a new government was imminent, saying there were internal disagreements between both blocs that could delay a deal.

"We have been having arguments of the deaf," he said.
Sounds to me like despite the winds of change, in some ways the Middle East is staying pretty much the same.

Here's Your Stick With The Horse's Head Handle -- Go See What The Tigers Can Do

I suppose it's just a mauling-at-the-zoo season. But I think this boy got off lucky, compared to the guy who tried to reason with the chimpanzees....
Reuters - Lions maul showoff teenager

Monday, March 14, 2005

Big News

And good news as well:
Court invalidates California's ban on same-sex marriage
This isn't about sex or sexual "preference"; this is all about civil rights, and constitutional validity of discrimination.

Get the (pdf format) text of the decision here. Be warned: the server is pretty damn busy at the moment....
What The Hell

"Karen Hughes to Be Named to Top Diplomatic Post"

All I can think to say is sheesh! And there was a moment in time when I was thinking of joining the public diplomacy branch (a.k.a. propaganda branch) of the State dept. I think given the choice of working for Hughes or having to eat live scorpions while getting a flaming sword rammed up my bum, I'd have to stop and think. Hard.

So much for the independent voice of Condi's fiefdom.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Energizer Bunny

He just keeps going...and going...and going....and going....

Pope Leaves Hospital After 2 1/2-Week Stay
Help Me Understand.

So, after a 17-year boycott, Hamas has been drawn back to the political process by Mahmoud Abbas, and will presumably take part in Palestinian elections. This is, in turn a step toward demilitarization of the faction. One would hope. And since hope is such a rare bird in the region, I see no reason to shoot this one out of the sky while still fledgling.

But that appears to be the tack being taken by Israel. Once again, the formal line appears to be "Democracy, but only for the groups we like." Funny how similar a Sharon government and a Bush government sound....
Israeli spokesman Avi Pazner said the participation of Hamas could "pose problems to (Abbas) and for the future of negotiations between us and the Palestinian Authority."
Well, yes. And the existence of Peace Now could pose problems to sharon and the future of negotiations between Sharon and the settlers on the West Bank. And the existence of militants in Iraq could pose problems for the stability of a future Iraqi government. This is the most specious and unconstructive sort of positioning possible. And it is shameful that as the leaders of a democratic world, we are becoming (by proxy in this case) the more regressive of nations, while younger governments with a history of repression and lack of freedom are now taking the torch from the old guard of liberty:
"Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the question of who should stand in elections was one of democracy"
Perhaps there will come a time when this issue does not consist of threat and blunder from one or the other sides, or (more often) both. Perhaps there will be a moment when death and the threat of death is not the predominant motivation for action. Perhaps.

And perhaps monkeys will fly out of my butt.