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 29, 2006

The Problem With Italy....

comments like this one (and headlines like this one) speak volumes for why post-war Italy is still just Italy---a wiener dog state in a kennel of pit bulls---and probably always will be:
"It is our moral duty, more than our political one, to make this government fall as quickly as possible." (Roberto Maroni, Mr. Berlusconi's outgoing minister of welfare.)
Read it all here: NY Times: Berlusconi Concedes Italy Defeat, Without Saying 'Concede'.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A New What?

Okay. Whoever wrote this AP headline wins a prize, above and beyond anything else:
Katrina Report Rips the White House Anew
Aside from that, it's an interesting slam at FEMA from a fearfully vote-desperate congress. Not sure whether to be pleased (at any action), or digusted (at the worthlessness of the action itself). Hopefully the headline won't get pulled over the next few hours. It would be a shame if the editors think too much about it...
Taking A Page From Bolton

OK. So not content with paternalistic threats voiced against Iran, Condi Rice is now doing the same with the UN. And if the UNSC doesn't kowtow to her way of thinking, what then? Do we bomb them, too?

AP: Rice: U.N. Credibility at Stake Over Iran
New Look At Old News

So I am trying to wrap my head around this new article in Foreign Affairs, which distills the 230-page Joint Forces Command report on what we now know of internal thinking and activities in Saddam's Iraq prior to and during the war. It makes for fascinating reading, and is worth it for anyone interested in just how Iraq was functioning under Saddam in the last few years prior to the invasion, and what WMD meant to the regime itself, and where the militias enter into the equation, and many, many other issues.

What's troubling me, then? It's the portrait on a grand scale being painted of Saddam Hussein and his government. It describes a leader intent on placing loyalty over competence, a ruler intent on ignoring evidence of fact in preference for firmly held personal conviction, a regime which falls into the trap of believing its own propaganda, rank and file leaders silenced by fear of reprisal, a military exhausted and strained by too much war for too long a time without adequate support or rejuvenation, and the list goes on. It all sounds too damn familiar to me.

This isn't even a slam at Mr. Bush, though it begs the opportunity. It is a troubling thought nagging the back of my mind: barring a sea change in national directon, are we headed for ( in many ways) the same sort of disastrous infrastructure and intelligence failures that beset Iraq under Saddam Hussein? And if we aren't, can anyone---anyone at all---give me a few valid and pertinent arguments as to why?

Some choice quotes:
"'Saddam had an idea about Iraq's conventional and potential unconventional capabilities, but never an accurate one because of the extensive lying occurring in that area. Many reports were falsified. The ministers attempted to convey a positive perspective with reports, which were forwarded to Saddam's secretary, who in turn passed them up to Saddam.' In the years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, everyone around Saddam understood that his need to hear only good news was constantly growing and that it was in their best interest to feed that hunger." (p.3)

"'Actually, I forbade the intelligence outfits from deducing from press and political analysis anything about America. I told them that [this] was not their specialty...I said I don't want either intelligence organization [the Iraqi Intelligence Service or the General Military Intelligence Directorate] to give me analysis...'" (p.5)
Go ahead. Read it and see what you think:Foreign Affairs - Saddam's Delusions: The View From the Inside - Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Movement

This, coupled with yesterday morning's "discussion" between the UN investigator and Bashar Assad could have some very interesting outcomes, both in terms of the investigation of Hariri's assassination, and US-Syrian relationships. I'm curious what prompted Assad to agree to it, after strenuously refusing twice previously. If there is any hint of Syrian government complicity now, the US will be obliged to cut off ties in one way or another. And like I've hinted at before, I really don't think that the isolation of regimes we don't like is an effective method of diplomacy, or a goad to bring them to the table.

My only hope is that this isn't seen as an opportunity by Bush et al. to open a third front in the war.

Bush blocks assets related to Hariri killing
Hmmm.

So as the CIA purges for its leaks, Carl Rove is getting hauled back before the Grand Jury in the White House's own leak kerfuffle, a.k.a the Plame affair. I somehow doubt that this will spark any new revelations, but considering the current climate, I find it interesting. What might be most interesting is to see if any intrepid reporter will draw lines between the timing of this call, the shuffle of the White House staff, Mary Mcarthy's firing and declaration of innocence, the rising uncertainty in the GOP of its supremacy, and the smell of blood that is lingering in the air...


Reuters: Rove to testify in leak case

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rice-A-Roni

I still like the way she dresses. I used to have much respect for her mind. But if she continues to say things that challenge her boss's Bushisms for denseness and lack of insight, I don't know. This latest, that
"What Iran's statements do is further Iran's isolation from the international community,"
is so stupid as to be embarrassing. A threat to remove itself from the international community isolates it from that community? And all in response to a failing hardline by the US?

I expected her to be a bit of a toady. But I also expected some finesse. Seems all we have been left with (on the public side, at least) is toad. As I mentioned earlier, it looks as though our own foolishness has met its match in foreign Fear Factor idiocy in this engagement.

Read more: AP: Rice Dismisses New Threats From Iran.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A New Low

It looks like CNN is saying that we dislike president Bush even more this week than we did last week. Not a big surprise, but interesting that the reaction to the staff changes in the White House and his direct speaking on the imiigration bills and protests, as well as the aggressive new enagement against leakers in the CIA has brought Bush less, rather than more support.

CNN.com - Bush's approval ratings slide to new low - Apr 24, 2006.
The Best Laid Plans O' Mice & Men...

This will be an interesting case to watch: now that we have "legalized" domestic eavesdropping, will we also allow the military to create a detailed database of teens for potential recruiting? Would you mind if the Pentagon knew your child's complete personal history, grades, and SSN---at the age of 16? And that they planned on never purging the info from their records?

It's ok, though. Like the undersecretary of defense David Chu said about the database, "There's nothing sinister."

Rumsfeld sued over Pentagon's recruiting database.


They're out, they're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it any more:
Police Hunt for Chimps After Fatal Attack.
Any Bets?

So...who do you think will claim responsibility?

Reuters: Twenty-two killed as blasts shake Egyptian resort
Si Se Puede

In consideration jointly with the current turmoil here over illegal immigration, this article on the rising Left (or Lefts) of Latin America makes for useful and enlightening reading. I suppose it would be too much to ask of the Bush administration for some productive engagement with the other countries of this hemisphere. But hell, a guy can dream, right? Just imagine: a foreign policy that promotes stability and growth in Latin America, rather than antagonism and polarization.

Read it here: Foreign Affairs - Latin America's Left Turn - Jorge G. Castañeda.
A Nugget of Real Concern

...Amid a world of over-the-top inflammatory rhetoric:
"Ahmadinejad...said Iran would reconsider its compliance with the treaty and membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency if they continued to be of no benefit to the country."
If we push Iran straight out of the Nonproliferation treaty and the IAEA, what good have we done? By using our unilateral threat of force outside the realm of international treaty and constraint, we are dismantling whatever wtructures might be available in the future for other powers. The short-sightedeness of this sort of diplomacy is so striking, and so incredible, that despite the same activity domestically by the Rove White House I am shocked. We won't always be the pre-eminent force on the globe in all things. The GOP will not always be the ruling power in the nation. Dismantle the structures that constrain us, and we do so at the peril of all. You cannot know how the next rulers will abuse the systems you have discarded or frayed into uselessness. I think that G.W. Bush may have finally met his mate in lunatic fringe thinking with Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Read more crazy talk here: Iran Hints at Exiting Nuclear Treaty.
Dead End Kids

I'd like to find something positive about the Middle East, and spin it here. But I can't, really. As far as Palestine goes, Hamas is making a mess of the muddle left them by Fatah, and by Israel for that matter. This LA Times article by Laura King is a good rundown of the tale of stalemated frustration and incapacity. And frankly, after this weekend's Fatah-Hamas shootout over the appointment of Jamal Abu Samhadana at the health ministry, I am left disheartened and without much ability to comment. Can you imagine if Republican bodygueards opened fire on a group of Democratic bodyguards (or vice versa) off the Mall in D.C.? What would your reaction be?

Of course, with the IG of the CIA being subjected to polygraph tests, and signs of torture still being found---and mostly ignored---in Iraq's prisons and detention centers, I'm not sure it would be so farfetched to see the White House secret service battling it out with the Democratic holdouts at the FDA....