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, April 01, 2006

Happy Birthday, Café Trieste

50 years and going strong. Thank you, Papa Gianni. Thank you.


Friday, March 31, 2006

The Ends Justify The Stupidity

I guess it's foolish of me to remain able to be astonished at the paternalistic sort of pontification that comes out of this administration. Rice's comments today in Blackburn that 'these nations will thank us later for sticking with them in these difficult times' (that's a paraphrase from memory from this morning's broadcast) reminds me of nothing so much as a child being scolded by a parent and given the line "You'll thank me for this when you're older" just before they get smacked on the bottom.

On the up-side, at least we have someone admitting to tactical errors. It's a shame those errors have had no effect on the learning curve of the administration, and even more so that so many were preventable, if only Bush & Co. learned to listen to people beyond the inner circle of the white house secret sanctum.

Rice admits "thousands" of errors in Iraq

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Just One More Thing
"The Arab countries expressed willingness to fund a Palestinian budget and we are optimistic about that,' Razek said. 'At the same time, we are optimistic the West will change its mind and talk to us. We are an elected government."
-Hamas Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek
So, what do you call an elected government that repudiates past agreements, treaties, recognitions and responsibilites? A revolutionary council? A rogue state? A royal pain in the global arse?

AP reports; you decide: Palestinian Gov't Warned About Losing Aid.
The Stupidity Of Rhetoric, Part MCXXXVIII...

From Reuters, the voice of Hamas:
"'We do not promise our people to turn Gaza into Hong Kong or Taiwan but we promise them a dignified and proud life behind the resistance in defence of their honour, their land and their pride,' Meshaal said on Al Jazeera Television from Beirut."
Dignity, pride, and honor "behind the resistance?" He should think more about the possibility of turning Gaza into Hong Kong: economic success would do more for Palestinian pride and dignity than any number of empty speeches about resistance.

This is exactly the sort of self-destructive and immature thing I wss thinking of in my earlier post. If Hamas wishes to see an impoverished, violent, and hateful Palestine, then great: focus on the dignity that comes from behind the resistance. Otherwise, they really could start looking at Hong Kong as an (albeit very imprecise and not really comparable) exemplar and model---another former British colonial territory, at risk of being overwhelmed by a powerful neighbor---and think about how self-sufficiency can breed respect and honor and dignity far more effectively than poverty, and anger, and misery, and hate.

Read more: Hamas defies West with Israel threat.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Comment To Hamas

In light of the cutoff of funds and support to the PA from the US and now Canada, and the lackluster response of the Arab League once the supportive rhetoric has been aired, I offer this reminder, from a thinker far greater than myself:
"Revolutions are not child's play, nor are they academic debates in which only vanities are hurt in furious clashes, nor literary jousts wherein only ink is spilled profusely. Revolution means war, and that implies the destruction of men and things."
          -Mikhail Bakunin (quoted in Paul Berman, Quotations from the Anarchists)
Hamas remains a revolutionary entity. Until they can manage to grow from that to a political body, they will effectively remain withdrawn from the world polity, and be treated with less than equal respect. Stable governments don't like revolutions (at least so far, in this post-soviet world). And I doubt that any look forward to publicly financing one in so volatile a place and situation.
In Need Of Greater...Support

I really don't know what to add: Hooters Air to Be Grounded in April.
A Partisan Afterthought

You know, I didn't bother to pay too much attention when I saw this first the other day, about the failure to catch a test-case smuggling of radioactive material across the US border; it felt too much like Claude Rains being "shocked, shocked I tell you!" to find gambling going on in Rick's Café Americain in Casablanca. We've known for a year or more that our border security in regard to radioactive material has holes big enough to (literally) drive a glowing truck through. So that agents were able to sneak through with enough Cesium-137 for "two dirty bombs" isn't really an earth-shaker.

What caught my eye this time though, was the debate raised by David McIntyre of the NRC, who "disputed that there was enough material to make two bombs."

This is the sort of spin and deflection of issue that is classicly a part of the current political arena. Don't debate the problem; debate some insignificant and inconsequential detail instead.

It's important to keep our focus; in this issue, in the immigration issue, in the war. To get sidetracked into debating the name of the style of twist our knickers are in allows us to ignore the problem of our knickers being in a twist. If we go there, with Bush & Co., then we've lost before we've even begun to fight.

BBC NEWS: US Senate in 'dirty bomb' warning
Some Sense In Immigration Issues
"Said Jorge Chabat, of Mexico City's Center for Economic Investigation and Teaching (CIDE): 'There are two ways to tackle the migration problem: improve the (Mexican) economy or introduce a more flexible (U.S.) border policy, more toward an open border.'"
And that is the root of the issue: all the debate about citizenship, and workers rights, and racism, and all else, is just icing on the economic cake. Mixing the issue of Homeland Security and illegal immigration is conflating two distinct issues. Our problem is that we are a rich nation bordering on a poor nation. And we have xenophobic, racist tendencies that run deep in our country. I doubt we would see the same sort of protests and debate if our porous border was with a country where the faces were primarily white, and the language primarily English. But still: as long as there is an incentive, there will be a problem.

It doesn't help that we are in an election year.

Immigration debate seen skirting root cause

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Listening right now to Fred Barnes be "interviewed" on NPR---no followups, no conflict, no contradiction, no putting on the spot, that classic "Fresh Air" failure to engage---but still, I must say: This guy is scary in his unbelievable ability to ignore reality. Yuck.
And For The Sake Of Balance...

Here is a remarkably similar article in both tone and content from al-Jazeera. You might want to compare and contrast it with the J'lem Post bit noted below; once you get past the obvious minor variation in the wording of the quote I pulled, you might be surprised at how similar in concern the two are.

Read more here: Al-Jazeera: Hamas MP's vow for Jihad.
The Power Of Rhetoric
"Holding high a copy of the Koran, legislator Hamed Bitawi shouted: 'The Koran is our constitution, Mohammed is our prophet, jihad [holy war] is our path and dying for the sake of Allah is our biggest wish.' His remark drew a thunderous applause from all his Hamas colleagues."

Another really really useful, progressive, and constructive voice from the new parliament of the Palestinians. Even considering the bias of the source, this sort of thing is just so disheartening.

The Jerusalem Post has the story.
Some Sense From Arnold

The Governator has a respectable piece in the LA Times today, where he voices a reasonable opinion on the immigration issue. And as an immigrant, and the American Dream writ large in many ways, it's worth reading his thoughts. I don't think he's got the whole thing nailed, and I think that he and I would diverge in the details, but I certainly think he gets full points when he says
"We can embrace the immigrant without endorsing illegal immigration. Granting citizenship to people who are here illegally is not just amnesty … it's anarchy. We are a country of immigrants, yes. But we are also a nation of laws. People who want to be citizens will want to do it the right way."
Read it all: Next step for immigration - Los Angeles Times
Who's To Be #3?

  • Caspar Weinberger, dead at 88.

  • Stanislaw Lem, dead at 84.

    Do we have a trifecta of famous deaths today?
  • Border Talk

    I spent a good part of yesterday following the discussion in Washington and the protests around the country over the bill fresh out of committee that would effectively legalize the many millions of illegal immigrants currently in the country, and start up a guest worker program (similar to the old Bracero program of the 40s-60s) for 1.5 millions, and 500,000 annually after that, which would provide a track toward legal residency and provide some oversight of what is currently a terrible mess.

    Now, leaving aside the fact that my bus got caught up by the protest here in SF, I have some opinions on this. As the scion of immigrants to this country, I think that citizenship is indeed a privilege, not a right, and that it is something that is not provided wholesale. I also freely admit that we have a terrible problem right now, and that I have no immediate answers. But I do think that the current bill is indeed a backdoor amnesty, and effectively penalizes the many millions of people who have been and are playing by the rules to gain residency and citizenship legally. I also think that the guest worker program is a terrible idea: it creates an underclass of workers without full rights, giving them a sort of "jim crow" separate but equal status which to my mind runs counter to much of what we are standing for. But as I say, I don't have a good answer to the current problem; we have porous borders and have allowed ourselves to become economically dependent on illegal labor.

    On a different level, I am perplexed and intrigued by the gist of the protests: I saw many many Mexican flags. Very few American. The standard rant heard was "this is a great country and we love it, so you should change the laws and make an exception for me so I can stay here." It may be a heartfelt argument, but it doesn't hold much water when analyzed. I don't think that making an exception strengthens a system built on unexceptionalism.

    Here's my thought: when you drive too fast, and you get caught, you get a ticket. Most often you shrug. You got busted. When you come across the border illegally, you are breaking the law. Doesn't matter what you do, or how well you act. And if you get caught, you're busted. That's it. You shouldn't get a free ride. At the same time, we must find a way to fix the current state of affairs; move ourselves away from economic dependency on illegal labor, find ways of better controlling borders, and more effective ways of providing access to legal avenues for citizenship.

    Now, why can't we find a way to manage the law more equitably, rather than buying into the polarization of anti-immigration vs. pro-immigration?

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Off Topic

    This has nothing to do with any world events beyond my own living room, but rather than rant about Hamas or Iraq or Congress today, I want to talk briefly about a personal failure on my part.

    I have this amazing recipe for lemon refrigerator cookies. They are wickedly addictive, and remarkably tasty, and have about a pound of butter in each cookie. The last time I made them, I swore a vow to myself that the next time, I wouldn't snarf down an entire plate of them the minute I pulled them from the oven, thereby making myself feel ill. That was three months ago. This morning, I baked a batch to go with my coffee. They cooked in a slow oven, and eighteen minutes later, they came out to cool on a rack, and the house was suffused with the most amazing scent of lemons and sugar.

    Three minutes later, they were gone. I don't feel queasy yet, but I know I have failed myself. But damn! They are just irresistable!

    Forgive me my transgressions this day. Send me an absolution, and I'll send you the cookie recipe.

    P.S. UPDATE:
    As noted in the comments, an anonymous absolution won't cut it; I need an email address to send the recipe out. You can comment as a logged in user or just email me directly, it isn't hard. And dear lord, I am still in transgression...

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    Blind Justice
    "Give me a break."
    That's Antonin Scalia today, giving his opinion on prisoner's rights for the detainees at Gitmo. According to Scalia, "war is war" and if anyone is captured in our new endless war, and is sent to a camp where torture is an accepted and common practice, well...
    "If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs."
    Keep in mind: according to current practice, the entire world is our battlefield, and the war will never end.

    And this is a man who holds the reins of justice in his hands.

    Supreme Court justice said to slam detainee rights