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, February 18, 2006


(repost, links have been lost. sorry!)

It's 44° F at the moment; that's 10° warmer than it was when I woke up this morning. They've been reporting snow above 1500' around the SF Bay, and for anyone who doesn't know, that is not a typical thing.

It's cold. Damn cold.

Beyond that, I am having a hard time guessing where the new government of Palestine is headed. You can pretty clearly see that not only has a basis been created for further Israeli unilateral action and continued conflict, but also some significant philosophical rents in the PA itself, which can't be papered over even in the swearing in ceremony of the Legislature. The Jerusalem Post has a decently clear coverage from the Israeli (and "euro") perspective, and has a bit more detail than most other English language outlets. For a more Palestinian-domestic point of view, Asharq al-Awsat has a decent review as well.

Personally, I find the Palestinian POV to be blindered and self-indulgent, and the Israeli POV to be arrogant and self-righteous. Neither seems to have the ability to move beyond the pretexts of failure in the face of a radically uncomfortable new reality.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Some Thoughts for February 15th...
"Once you knock out the marriage tourism capitals of Nevada and Hawaii, the three states with the highest marriage rates are Arkansas (75.5 weddings per 1,000 single women), Idaho (74.5), and Tennessee (69.9). All three rank well below the national average for median household income—though, granted, it's also cheaper to live in those places. They also all exceed the national average for children living below the poverty line.

States with high marriage rates also have a lot of divorces—Arkansas, for example, ranks second only to Nevada in divorce rate..."
Want to get married, and be a poverty and/or divorce statistic? Move to Arkansas. Or just read the article on Slate: I Don't! - Why people in Connecticut have cold feet. By Brendan I. Koerner

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Market Is Not An Effective Arbiter Of Health

If there is any argument clearly showing the need for a mandatory interference in market forces in health care in this country, this is it. I am disgusted.
"Until now, drug makers have typically defended high prices by noting the cost of developing new medicines. But executives at Genentech and its majority owner, Roche, are now using a separate argument — citing the inherent value of life-sustaining therapies.

If society wants the benefits, they say, it must be ready to spend more for treatments....

'As we look at Avastin and Herceptin pricing, right now the health economics hold up, and therefore I don't see any reason to be touching them,' said William M. Burns, the chief executive of Roche's pharmaceutical division and a member of Genentech's board. 'The pressure on society to use strong and good products is there.'"
The implication here is ugly: economic-class based eugenics. That's all.

Boycott Roche. Boycott Genentech.

Read it all here: A Cancer Drug Shows Promise, at a Price That Many Can't Pay - New York Times
Just Another Error In Judgment
AP: "The wildlife department issued a report Monday that found the main factor contributing to the accident was a 'hunter's judgment factor.' No other secondary factors were found to have played a role."

Heading into Aaron Burr territory?

Hunter Shot by Cheney Has Heart Attack

Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Man, will I ever kick some Whittington ass with this baby!" 
Loose Cannon:
In Deed As In Word

It would seem that the Vice President has a penchant for misdirected gunfire literally, and not just metaphorically: BBC NEWS: Cheney shoots man in hunt error

Sometimes the irony is too strong for even sarcastic commentary.
Right Thoughts, Wrong Conclusions

American Enterprise Institute fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht has an article in the Weekly Standard on anti-Americanism, and Islamic fundamentalism, and the power of democratic reform. It is worth a read, as an interesting review of the topic. But more importantly to me, it is a brilliant example of everything that is wrong with the thinking of the neoconservative movement in regard to the current conflict between western Christian Secularism and Islam. Take this quote:
"This is all about internal Muslim evolution, about coming to terms with the centuries-long absorption of both good and bad Western ideas. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether the Israeli-Palestinian peace process can somehow soon resume. When al Qaeda's princes--bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--rail against the intrusion of Western democracy into the Muslim world, they know what they are talking about. If it succeeds, democracy will eventually kill them off. It will pull fundamentalist believers--the pool that bin Ladenism must draw from to survive--into the great ethical and spiritual debates that can best happen when free people fight it out in elections. Only Muslims--only fundamentalist Muslims--have the power to kill off bin Ladenism. Historically, there is no reason to believe this will happen under the dictatorships that gave birth to Islamic extremism in the first place.

Like Christendom before it, the Muslim Middle East will have to work out its relation to modernity. The faster democracy arrives, the sooner the debates about God and man can begin in earnest. "
The assumptions contained in that statement abound, and rest on some very shaky ground.

First, that democracy breeds peace and open government by nature. Look at the most egregious examples of tyranny in the West, and you will notice that they arise in democratic societies with elected governments. Nazism and Hitler, Fascism and Mussolini, Franco in Spain; they all came to power in open governments, in countries with long histories of political and philosophical discourse and debate. There is no guarantee or even hint that democracy will be a cure-all to either fanaticism or terror.

Next, the implication that "the debates about God and man" have not begun "in earnest" in the world of Islam is like hoping that someone in the West will at last rail against the corruption of the Church. Luther nailed up his theses long ago. And in Islam, the debates on existence and meaning have been engaged since at least the 9th century. Too often these guys get themselves wrapped up in their global humanistic beliefs, and forget that there really are cultural contexts which preclude one another. The history of western Christian thought and the history of Islamic thought are not interchangeable. They have different traditions and different bases, and cannot be swapped out for one another.

Finally, the overarching sense of cultural bigotry: that the way we approach things is better. This is exactly the problem on the other side of the equation as well. Islam views the West as inferior. The West (in this instance) is doing the same. By its nature, this perspective degrades any argument being provided, unless the presenter is willing to support the subsuming or annihilation of the opposing system.

I don't know if Gerecht buys into that. But I do know that if we as a nation and culture accept his presumptions and outcomes, then we are as likely to succeed in our goals as we are to wake up tomorrow morning and hear that violence in Iraq has ended.

Read it all here: Selling Out Moderate Islam