About Me

My photo

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.







Thursday, March 31, 2005

Brilliant

This piece from Reuters is too good to pass up. I quote in full:
OSLO (Reuters) - A Swedish bikini-style top for toddlers will be withdrawn from sale amid criticism from a Norwegian cabinet minister that bra-like clothing was inappropriate for small girls.

"It is remarkably daft to make bra-like bikinis for one-year-olds," Norwegian Minister of Children and Family Affairs Laila Daavoey was quoted as telling the Norwegian daily Verdens Gang Thursday.

"This is a terrible commercialization of childhood. Children are not women. Bikinis on small children are a way of linking children to sexuality. We must say 'No' to this," she said.

Swedish clothes maker Lindex said it would withdraw one design of top, meant for girls aged 1-2, after an internal review.

"It's a bit too similar to an adult top so we are choosing to withdraw it," spokeswoman Ulrika Danielson told Norway's NRK public radio. She said the decision was made independently of the Norwegian criticism.

Earlier this month, Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik criticized Swedish furniture maker IKEA for showing few women assembling flat-packed goods in cartoon instruction leaflets. IKEA agreed to depict more women.

Norway is celebrating 100 years of independence from Sweden in 2005. [emphasis added]
Now, what on earth does Norwegian independence have to do with this debate on baby bikinis? Or for that matter, with the misogyny of the pamphlets produced by Ikea? God only knows. Perhaps a century of independence drives home the point that issues of gender and women's rights have had a chance to diverge among the scandinavians?

We need more scandals like this one. It would be healthier than the crap we have to deal with here at home.
Pope-O-Vision?

Just a question: why hasn't someone come up with a scheme for keeping a 24/7 webcam focused on John Paul, that ailing vicar of christ, so that the many anxious faithful around the globe can keep watch over him in real time, as he slips from pontifical to passed-on? I would think that there would be some great profit in the scheme for the Vatican, and even potentially some good press. Just think: the Pope-Cam. They could mount it in the corner of his room, to get a bird's-eye view of the proceedings. Millions of people the world over could check out the state of his health, without waiting on the pronouncements of the clearly biased, left-leaning, life-hating, amoral and anti-religious media.

Anyone at the Vatican listening?
When Will We Be Seeing Smoke From The Chimneys?

Looks like we are coming to the end of this story very soon: Pope Has Very High Fever, Says Vatican
A Week Of Endings

Along with the end of the month of March, it looks like some other things are drawing to a close as well: Terry Schiavo has finally died, The committee report on pre-war intelligence has been released, the pope's ability to function is waning, the arguments over Wolfowitz going to the World Bank are moot, and on and on and on. And oh yeah: peace in the middle east.

Also, a scan of Thomas Friedman's latest rumination in the NY Times; I think it's funny to look at the "spread of democracy" in the Middle East, regardless of what catalyst brought things to where they are now. Lebanon was a failed democracy stifled by an authoritarian end to civil war; now it is a power vacuum in the making, on the verge of renewed civil war. Egypt has provided an empty promise of revised electoral process, less than meaningless in the context of Middle Eastern politics. Iraq cannot even appoint a speaker to it's interim assembly, let alone choose a president and government and move toward a constitutional convention. And Israel and Palestine? Click on the link in the first paragraph. This is not movement forward; this is just a rippling in the waters. We neither know where it is leading, nor have much say in the matter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Cost Of Freedom?

From the BBC today:
"Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says.

Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led intervention - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says.

The report was prepared for the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva."
And the Assembly cannot even agree on a Speaker, as the first step in forming a government. And yesterday Sec. Rumsfeld admitted in interviews that we will "never" defeat the insurgents; that we will merely lead the Iraqis toward "containing" the problem. Remember back in the day when he was saying that these guys were just 'dead-enders', back before we were talking about 'insurgents' at all?

How times change.
A Good Quote
"I am affiliated with the Basque Nationalist Party...The PNV has for a motto: Jaungoikua eta lagizarra, God and the ancient laws. In naming God in the first word, we understand that the party wishes to be religious, and in the phraseology of the left and the right, ridiculous phraseology, we have a well defined position: We are Catholics, virile and upright, in a human Catholicism, not a bigoted sentimentality. For us, in this phraseology to which I have alluded, if you are on the right, you are opposed to the legitimate progress of democracy, since it opposes absolute power. If that is what being on the right means, then we are leftists. If being on the right means defending any kind of regime, as long as it is identified with religion, and against the absolute separations of powers of church and state, then we are leftists. And if by being rightist, it is understood that in social matters we oppose progress for the working class, if that is what is meant by being on the right, then we are leftists. But, on the other hand, if to be a leftist means we are going to be against family, against the holy principles of the Catholic Church, whose rulers we observe, then in this phraseology which I find ridiculous, we are right-wingers."

--José Antonio Aguirre, 1931, quoted in The Basque History of the World, M. Kurlansky.


Today, with the rising tide of radical religious conservativism, and the battling of the so-called right and left, as well as the muddiness of the waters of definition for both sides, Aguirre is still making a good point. Perhaps a good hard look at the Spanish Civil War, and the rise of Franco against the Loyalists, and his bargain with the devil in his alignment with Hitler and Mussolini which of course led to the disaster of Guernica, and more, perhaps a look at all this is in order. The troubling mix of religious morality, military growth and action, and the consolidation of power, is all too present once again at the start of this century, as it was at the start of the last.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Unbelievable
"It's outrageous. It's sex discrimination. It prevents access to a basic form of health care for women. We're going back in time."
-Rachel Laser, National Women's Law Center
It's so-called 'right-to-life' pharmacists refusing women prescriptions for bith control. Another symptom, along with the Schiavo case, of a nation with a major mental illness.
"Our group was founded with the idea of returning pharmacy to a healing-only profession. What's been going on is the use of medication to stop human life. That violates the ideal of the Hippocratic oath that medical practitioners should do no harm," said Karen L. Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, who was fired from a Kmart pharmacy in Delhi, Ohio, for refusing to fill birth control prescriptions.
Now, the fact---medical and moral---that birth control does not "stop human life", nor conflict with the Hippocratic oath, doesn't seem to get through to this woman and her minions. It's another insensibility to reality due to an ideological idée fixe, an obsessive fixation with an ideological error.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Ugliness On Easter

If any of you think that racism and anti-semitism are not alive and well in the world, and promoted by quite intelligent and educated individuals and groups, think again. For a taste of some really good hate, take a gander at this commentary from al-Jazeerah. I don't even know where to begin to respond to this sort of hatemongering; on the one hand, it is clear that the writer(s) and publishers know full well that they have a receptive audience, and on the other that the members of that audience are impervious to any sort of logical rebuttal. On the other hand, those who might engage in discussion are already willing to forego this kind of hatred and bigotry. You see some of this if you cruise through the posted comments at the end of the article.

The conflation of anti-zionism and anti-Judaism has a solid and long history in the Arab world; the wildly incorrect representations of what Judaism is has a good background as well. But to find this sort of amazingly erroneous hate-literature not only available via a major media outlet, but online---in this "information age" when anyone with access can find better information---is sad.

I think what irks me more is that the editors of al-Jazeerah are anything but uninformed. These are very bright, well educated, and professional people. And they know full well that despite the destructive content, this sort of thing sells well. So they sell hate, and bring in readership, future moral dilemmas be damned.

Another interesting note: while linked on the front page of the English version of the website, I have yet to find an Arabic language version of this editorial posted by them.

I don't know what to worry over more: that so much hate is streaming around the world, to no point or purpose, or that so much of that hate is directed at me and my family.