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, May 20, 2005

I hate to say it

...but Andrew Sullivan has it right here, dead on:
"THE SPIN ON TORTURE: It has gone chronologically something like this: 'It's not true. It's not true. It may be true but it's not torture. Okay, it's torture, but isn't official policy. It may be true and official policy, but we changed the policy and we uncovered the abuses ourselves. It may be true, it may have been widespread, but we've punished the culprits. It may be true, it may have been widespread, it may still be happening, but all these reports are old news.' Well, give these guys points for effort. How about: it is true; it should never have happened; the people responsible for the policy as well as the criminals should be punished. Ah, but that would mean taking responsibility, wouldn't it? And we don't do that in this administration, do we? Even at the expense of hurting the war effort and staining the reputation of countless great soldiers in a noble cause. "
This is the crux of the problem with all our actions of the moment, not just the torture hullabaloo. And this is to my mind an inevitable outcome of policy being driven by narrow religious ideology. There is no viable way to take responsibility for outcomes, because that entails the potential for fallibility. And religious absolutism has no room for fallibility.

We are so screwed.

God it is just so disheartening to realize how utterly oblivious our president is to how other people see us--not to mention his uncanny ability to either miss the point or avoid the question:
"President Bush, when asked if he thought the pictures would stoke more anti-Americanism in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, voiced some doubt. 'I think the Iraq insurgency is inspired by their desire to stop the march of freedom,' he said.

'Remember,' Mr. Bush said, 'these are ideologues that murder innocent people in order to spread their dark vision of hate.'

'You know, I don't think a photo inspires murderers,' Mr. Bush said, at an appearance with Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen of Denmark. 'I think they're inspired by an ideology that is so barbaric and backwards that it's hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think.'
U.S. Military Denounces Release of Candid Hussein Photos - New York Times

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Holy Cow

So now we are to have an imperial civil service? Says Prez Bush:
"One of the lessons we learned from our experience in Iraq is that, while military personnel can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, the same is not true of U.S. government civilians,' he said in prepared remarks to the International Republican Institute, which aims to promote democracy worldwide.

To remedy this Bush cited an initiative in his budget that would create a corps of trained civilians who could be deployed on short notice to help in crises caused by war or revolution."
It's funny how Bush is learning all these lessons from Iraq, when a vast number of us had already learned them from Kosovo, Afghanistan, Haiti, oh, hell--from Cuba, and the Philippines, and Japan, and on and on and on.

On the upside, at least the administration is willing to make at the minimum lip service to learning. I hope it is soon enough.

Read it all here.
"'If Heritage [Foundation] and Brookings [Institute] agree on something, there must be something to it.'"

A classic example of how we always seem to focus on the wrong thing at the wrong time: this is a must read. Almost Unnoticed, Bipartisan Budget Anxiety

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"'We appreciate the step that Newsweek took yesterday,' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. 'It was a good first step. And what we would like to see now is for Newsweek to work to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region, and Newsweek certainly has the ability to help undo what damage can be undone.'"
Say what? Newsweek has acted in a completely appropriate way: they've said they may have made a mistake. It's unfortunate that they caved to political pressure and retracted the story, rather than modifying it to take into account the now less than authoritative statements of the source. But "a good first step"??? The rumors of desecration at Gitmo did not begin with this story, nor will they end here. The riots did not break out a year ago when the stories first started surfacing, and to blame them on a single sentence that does not even pertain to the bulk of the reporting in the story is absurd. This is another show of force against a once-free press, which is more and more acting like a propaganda branch of an imperious and imperial government.


Newsweek must do more about Koran case: White House - Yahoo! News:
Dumbest Lede Ever For An Interesting Media Study

What is actually an interesting survey of what blogs do and where they currently fit in the Great Big American Idea Exchange, is unfortunately reduced to a corollary to the Obvious Theorem:
"NEW YORK (Reuters) - Web logs, or blogs, may be a powerful new force in U.S. politics but they have not displaced traditional media in terms of information and influence, a study revealed on Monday"
Despite the lame headline, worth a quick read to get a feel for where journalism sees itself trending.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek Caves

So much for the free press. The funny thing is, very few people are willing to go on the record and say that the Qur'an incident never happened. For instance:

"It's appalling that this story got out there." -- Condi Rice.

"Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we." -- Mark Whitaker.

"If it turns out to be true, obviously we will take action against those responsible." -- Stephen Hadley.

Only the Pentagon spokesman is willing to bloviate on a true denial, calling the incident "demonstrably false." But if that were the case, then why isn't anyone demonstrating its falsity?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

You need to read this WaPo article, if you care about sexual freedom, the issues of abortion, birth control, and women's rights. Whichever side of the ideological divide you are on, the end of ideological manipulation of health issues is vital: this KILLS people. This destroys lives. There is no moral goodness in this.
Plan B has been available with a prescription since 1999. Barr Laboratories, its manufacturer, applied for permission to sell it without a prescription in 2003, arguing that it could reduce the number of abortions from unintended pregnancies. Emergency contraception generally works if it is used within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Social conservatives in Congress, and many others opposed to abortion, have spoken out against the Plan B application, saying it would encourage unsafe sexual behavior.
This just kills me. The goal is to regulate sexual conduct, not to reduce abortion. This has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with a particular breed of Christian morality. Add to this the rising issue of pharmacists who take it upon themselves to decide which drugs they should or should not dispense, and we have an additional health care nightmare rearing up, on top of the issues of cost and care.
Oh Dear God!

You've always wanted to get up to pee in the middle of the night, only to discover that your toilet has been taken over by aliens! You can't deny it. Well, now, these folks have made it happen: give your crapper a green eerie glow. Amaze your friends! Frighten your mom!
A Sunday Thought

I'm all resigned to the inexorable trend toward a market-governed culture; I can see the strength of 20th century style nationalism fading as it is replaced by more localized and economically driven brand-identity and corporate consolidation of resources. But there are some things where the market should not be allowed to govern us, and we cannot allow the degradation of their quality occur due to the pressure of a capitalist culture.

1) Housing. As the cost of housing increases, particularly in impacted areas such as San Francisco and New York, the reinforcement of negative trends in population is inevitable. The rising tide of class inequality and division by home ownership and even rental accessibility is not a thing a compassionate society can tolerate. The homeless problem is the inescapable byproduct of this, a part of a hideous pattern.

2) Health Care. It is by now a trite cliché to say that we have a health care crisis. But it is true. We have some of the best medical technology in the world, but the majority---the MAJORITY---of Americans cannot afford it. The bulk of the increasing number of bankruptcies in this country are due at least in part to medical expenses. The cost of an ailing and untreated population, in productivity, competitive ability, and ancillary costs of care, are monstrous. Compared to the cost of any effective national program, no matter how much we might spend is a bargain price. To allow the insurance industry to manage the state of our well being is about as clever as banking with the Mafia.

3) Food. Less noticeable, but still significant. We do not eat well. We have obesity issues, we indulge in horrid habits, and create class constituencies reinforced by eating habits through the costs and availability of food. Other countries eat better and far cheaper than we do, with far less resource. Think Italy, Greece, the whole Mediterranean really. To allow subsidized Big Macs in low income (read: Black, Hispanic, immigrant, non-white, etc) areas, while providing disincentives for small scale farming, organic or sustainable farming, fresh goods, or unprocessed goods---except in high income (and high tax base) communities, is criminal.