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, January 14, 2006

Finding al-Zawahri

We appear to be treading a strange a troubiling knife edge path with Pakistan, and it makes me wonder what sort of breakdowns we are having in coordinated commuications between the White House and the DoD and the CIA, and the US and Pakistan militaries, and whether the mix of differing duplicities in what each of these two governments portray to their populations and what they need to do to A) maintain power and B) avoid the wrath of either the international community or the popular support of the people.

This current attack, which may or may not have been effective, and may or may not have been handled well, and may or may not have been coordinated with Musharraf's government, is still going to be a mess for the simple reason that the intended target for assassination was not killed. With each attack, and each event which has the appearance of presumptive breach of Pakistani sovereignty, we have less leverage to pursue the goal of cooperation and containment of this most volatile nation.
"But the attack in Damadola was the latest in a string of incidents on Pakistan's side of the border in recent weeks that many people suspect were U.S. assaults that violated this Islamic country's sovereignty.

Last Saturday, U.S. helicopters reportedly attacked a house in the North Waziristan tribal region, killing eight people. Two days later, Pakistan lodged a protest with the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

In December, a senior Egyptian al-Qaida suspect, Hamza Rabia, was killed in what appeared to be a missile strike, also in North Waziristan — although Pakistan's government maintained that Rabia died in a bomb-making accident."
Pakistanis Condemn Purported CIA Attack
A Peep At Education

This article caught my eye, and I share it, for purely personal reasons. I was a student at UC Santa Cruz in the 80's, and a university employee there in the 90's. That Santa Cruz students are seething with political activism, anti-military and anti-government feeling, and a healthy dash of anarcho-syndicalist tendencies, comes as no surprise. What interests me here though, is that they've been swept up in the current domestic spying hubbub, and that the NY Times has bothered to notice. I agree with the faculty member quoted at the end of the piece:
"One reaction was, 'Gosh, I wonder if we're doing something right?' " Professor Crosby said. "Another reaction was it's a waste of taxpayer money. What are we a threat to?"
I remember when the students "occupied" the main library back in the day. I believe we were protesting Reagan's activities in Nicaragua (though I may be muddling issues); we got some good press then as well. It is a picturesque campus, and attractive fiery students singing songs of solidarity in the forest make for a good 15 second news spot. But a threat? Come on. It's Santa Cruz. The Campus That Time Forgot.

I think the two things to take away from this are that there is indeed a serious disconnect between the activities of the government viz. domestic spying, and the needs of the nation viz. securing us against terror; and that one of the ramifications of an overexuberant executive branch is the utter failure of oversight over both the actions and the costs (in financial and long term human terms) of such activities.

A Protest, a Spy Program and a Campus in an Uproar

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Room 101, Anyone?

Regarding the continuing investigations and revelations into Abu Ghraib and related abuses:
"' This document suggests that Task Force 6-26 was part of a larger, clandestine program that we think may have links with high-ranking officials, because obviously someone high up had the authority to put this program in place.'"

Does this come as a surprise to anyone? Will we ever hear from Rumsfeld on this? From Reuters:
Documents tie shadowy US unit to inmate abuse case
Morning Brew

Isn't this getting to be an annual news piece? Rather like the hurricane season...Not to deny the grief or magnitude of the tragedy of more than 300 pilgrims losing their lives during the hajj, but in the current state of world affairs, with the contrast and conflicts between the Muslim world and that of the (forgive me the term) Judaeo-Christian west, doesn't this sort of headline implicitly underscore a deeper tragedy?

And all the while: Alito continues to show himself to be a strict conservative judge---but does nothing to imply that he would not be an activist conservative on the Supreme Court. Whether on Slate or from Sullivan or in the MSM, no one seems to make the distinction between a conservative circuit court judge applying the law, and a conservative Supreme Court justice interpreting the meaning and structure of that law. And the two are worlds apart.

Other than that? Iran's about to be in the UNSC bullseye. The Abu Ghraib scandal is coming back up to surface, even as the Shi'a government is reneging on the offer to allow Sunni modification of the constitution, post-election. And Turkey's bird flu woes won't seem to end.

Another glorious day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Random Realization


Remember the food pyramid? I think I've just realized that my daily diet looks a good deal more like the food tenement than the pyramid. Uh-oh.
Too Much Free Time

This has nothing to do with anything at all, and it is in incredibly poor taste, but...I am amazed that anyone came up with this product, let alone produces and sells it. The end of civilization must be near. I mean, c'mon: a tagline that says "Liquid Ass Fart Smell Spray"??? See the website here: www.liquidass.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Don't Hold Your Breath

How many headlines do you think we will endure this week which say essentially
"Judge Alito Believes Judges Should Uphold The Law"?
I suspect far too many. And on the other end of the silliness spectrum, my mailbox is filling with emails like this one, from Act For Change, those beacons of unbiased social activism. The title?
"'What's Alito Hiding?'



Tell Senator Feinstein: Alito Unfit For Supreme Court -- Reject Him"
Seems you can't get a break right now. Either he is a beacon of light, or a bearer of armageddon.

And all the while, Iran has cut the locks on its nuclear facilities, as the IAEA/UN observers look on; Turkey is belatedly sending out the troops to cull all fowl in Anatolia, but it is right now feeling like too little too late; The Washington political lobbyist industry is quaking and cracking; and here in SF, some truly clever "activists" tried to set off a bomb in a Starbucks bathroom.

That'll show those successful, capitalistic, employment-generating, 401(k) providing, union-friendly, high wage paying bastards!

Monday, January 09, 2006

"Another unforeseen cost, the study said, is the loss to the U.S. economy from injured veterans who cannot contribute as productively as they otherwise would and costs related to American civilian contractors and journalists killed in Iraq."
Unforeseen? My god, it's like some cruel and horrid joke. I can enter into the fray on the debate over the good or ill of the war, but this sort of lame rhetoric is inexcusable: a stain on the many military personnel fighting overseas, and giving their lives and livelihood in service of our country, and a stain on the politicians and thinkers who either choose to ignore or cannot even conceive of the aftermath of violence.

Read it all here: Cost of Iraq war could top $2 trillion: study

I know it's wrong, but this headline is too absurd for such a significant issue, man, and time: Sharon breathes on own, moves slightly

I keep thinking of a bad Monty Python sketch, or perhaps the scene in Woody Allen's Sleeper when they are about to revive The Leader's Nose...
Why Journalists Shouldn't Write Articles Like This

Just reading this bit on Slate about the latest ugly security breach of Microsoft Windows, and it struck me yet again that while the content of the article is accurate, the context is lacking. In his doom and gloom review of Microsoft's future as a secure systems provider, the author provides this lovely comment:
"Although Oracle, Linux, UNIX, and even Apple iTunes have fallen prey to buffer overflow attacks, the number that have afflicted Microsoft products far outstrips them."
This is akin to saying "While the number of births on Gilligan's Island (pop. 7) has increased, the number of births in mainland China (pop. 1,000,000,000) far outstrips them." Microsoft, by nature of being the overwhelmingly dominant player in the market, is also the overwhelmingly dominant target. You can't avoid that.

By ignoring this rather important statistic, the author, Adam L. Penenberg, conveniently creates a dark view of Microsoft, without providing the context that would validate his commentary. I don't disagree with him in essence, but by crafting such a report, he ignores the more complicated issues of actually making a comparative analysis. What are the percentage of attacks on LINUX or Apple systems in terms of market share compared to those of Microsoft? That sort of number would provide a better view of the sort of landscape we actually face in security and security issues.

But then again, it wouldn't make for such splashy copy.
Something I Can't Get Excited Over

Today begin the congressional hearings for Judge Alito. And I must admit I don't give a damn. I seriously doubt that we will either learn anything new about him and his philosophy toward constitutional law, nor find any brilliant hidden gems of wisdom amid the senators grilling him. Mostly I suspect a good deal of pontificating and bloviation, some self serving rhetoric, and very very little content. And at the end, depending on the political climate of the week, and whether or not there is more NSA hullabaloo, or if any other scandals rise up to froth on the top of the Washington stew, the Democrats will decide to filibuster. Or not.


More concerning to me is the wildly inadequate public response that Turkey is having to the fact that H5N1 has now made its path all the way to Ankara. With a flock of chickens in every backyard, and no signs of enforced culling, this could be a bad time in Anatolia.