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, February 10, 2006

Nelson Says....

Haaa Haaa!
Nelson: Ha Ha 

Bush Reveals Rationale Behind Surveillance - New York Times
Good Point To Remember

A bit snarky, but I couldn't really put it any better myself:
"Of course it is not Western values that are trampling freedom of expression: It is the ayatollah [Khamenei]'s own values, combined with the threat of violence. The other problem with his little joke about double standards, and with the whole supposedly mordant comparison between denying the Holocaust and portraying the prophet, is that the offended Muslims do not want a world where people are free to do both. They don't even want a world where people are not free to do either, which would at least be consistent. They want a world where you may not portray the Prophet Mohammed (even flatteringly, slaying infidels or whatnot) but you may deny the Holocaust all day long."

So saith Slate's Michael Kinsley: The Ayatollah Joke Book - So, the Prophet Mohammed walks into a bar

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ouch! I Bumped My Ethics!
"'It is with real regret that I have come to acknowledge that we have not always met the standards others hold us to in matters of compensation and compensation disclosure,'' Dynes said. 'My ethics are upset by this.'"
The equivocation, sheer audacity, mendacity, and absurd unwillingness to either accept responsibility for wrongful actions, or an absence of action, by UC President Robert Dynes is stunning. Even more so that this is not a corporate executive, or even an elected professional politician, but the steward of a hugely important public trust: the University of California, one of the primary and most prestigious public university systems in the nation.

Without even quibbling over his abominable grammatical and nominative misuse of the word and meaning "ethics" in his statement, I think it is sad that we have nothing but a continuing example by our government and our marketplace that this sort of behavior is "acceptable." In that the idea is not to adhere to the law, but to avoid being caught in the law's circumvention. Shame on us.

After the hearings, think anything will change?


SENATORS DEMAND ANSWERS ON UC PAY / Unreported compensation raises ire at panel's hearing
Worth A Read
"Consider the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. They are the world’s single largest group of suicide bombers. Their cadres are not Muslim, but Hindu by religion and nearly 40 percent are female."
This brief but clear primer on some of the myths and facts surrounding terror and the war is definitely worth a read: Foreign Policy: Think Again: Islamist Terrorism

Finally, news of something relatively positive coming out of the Middle East. For all you budding Egyptologists out there:

New Tomb Found in Valley of Kings
Hypocrisy Kills

Today Andrew Sullivan points to this blog, which outs Egypt (among others) in the cartoon exploits, and shows the violence for what it is: rampant hate without good reason. This is a must read:
Freedom for Egyptians: Egyptian Newspaper Pictures that Published Cartoons 5 months ago

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


The Administration giving an inch? Hmm...White House Gives Details on Surveillance - Yahoo! News
Fool You Once, Fool You Twice...

You didn't want it. I didn't want it. Middle America didn't want it. Congress didn't want it. The President and the VP tried hard as hell to sell it. We just wouldn't buy it. So now he's gonna try and stick it to us anyway.

That's right: The Social Security Ripoff is back!

Do you think that maybe our President was a used car salesman in a past life?
This Is Good
"I demand that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Indonesia and Egypt apologise to me. Otherwise I am unfortunately forced to threaten, beat up, kidnap or behead their citizens. Because I am somewhat sensitive about my cultural identity.

I feel offended."
Some pointed sardonically reversed outrage: "What next, bearded one?" - signandsight
Transformational, Indeed
"We had a great group of people. They are highly knowledgeable experts," said former Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, who frequently clashed with Bolton. "To the extent they now are leaving State Department employ, or U.S. government employ, it's a real loss to State Department. It's a real loss to the government."

"....officers were passed over, the document says, adding that none had negative work histories "aside from intimations that they were not as `trusted' politically by the political management level."
This does not bode well for State, or the FS, or Condi, or the long-term health of our diplomatic agenda. I said it before, and I say it again: it's too much stick, too much propaganda. Replacing career experts with political cronies smacks of a corrupt empire, not a vibrant democratic power.

Read the Knight Ridder piece here: KR - State Department sees exodus of weapons experts

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Doing It Right, Doing It Wrong

Compared with the non-statement by the President in his SOTU speech, this wildly ambitious announcement by the Swedes may actually have some impact---not like the US stated goal of reducing the 12% of our oil supply from the Middle East by 75%---but actually significantly impacting their national power infrastructure across all sectors. Now.

Watch to see who announces gains in freeing themselves from oil dependency first.

Read More: Sweden Aims to End Oil Dependency by 2020 - New York Times
Ha Ha
"When Gonzales argues that the Constitution gives the president undisputable powers to conduct warrantless surveillance despite a statute aimed at requiring him to seek court approval, such an interpretation 'is not sound,' Specter said in the interview. '. . . He's smoking Dutch Cleanser.'"
Activists on Right, GOP Lawmakers Divided on Spying
Fool Me Twice...

Emily Bazelon gets it in a nutshell:
"Gonzales' dance on FISA—it's the best of laws; it's the worst of laws—makes the administration's defense of the NSA program seem all the more like a power grab. The most important thing isn't to make sure that the agency has undisputed legal authority to spy as it says it needs to. It's to make sure that Congress doesn't tell the president what he can and can't do. So, what's a responsible lawmaker to do? More than hold a one-day hearing. If Congress doesn't take back some of its war powers soon, there won't be anything left to fight over."
Cowardly Lions - Congress talks tough to Gonzales—and then turns and runs. By Emily Bazelon

Monday, February 06, 2006

Al Speaks

I'm listening to the Attorney General speak right now at the congressional hearings on the domestic spying. And setting aside his lawyerly inability to directly answer a simple question, and the clear aggravation on the part of the congressmen questioning him, the issue that they are skirting is simple: is it the executive branch, or the judiciary, who decide on the bounds of legislation? And if the legislature has a clear implication in the drafting of statute, is it appropriate for the executive to ignore or transgress that implication, and can they do so without the advice and consent of either of the other two branches?

Al won't answer that question. And I expect that the committee won't directly ask it. It is too direct an affront to the president. But it is a shame, because that is the heart of this debate. Not FISA, not Al Qaeda, not the NSA.
Die, Infidel!
"They want to test our feelings,' protester Mawli Abdul Qahar Abu Israra told the BBC.

'They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and to their newspapers.' "
Complain all you want. Demand that editors get sacked, demand retractions or apologies. But now five are dead.

BBC: Five die in Afghan cartoon furore