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, May 13, 2006

If You Ever Doubted

It is becoming eminently clear that, in terms of the internal disruption of the US system of governmental checks and balances, the extension of executive power, and the erosion of civil liberties for the sake of the current war, the devil is in the details. And when you look at those details, the devil is all too often Vice President Dick Cheney.

The domestic spying? Cheney pushed for it. The outing of CIA agents and the ensuing coverup? Cheney again. I expect that when all is said and done, the Vice President will come off as one of the most brazenly arrogant leaders of the last century. It's worth reading the Isikoff article just to see the implications there of how remarkably consistent Cheney's thinking is, how deeply he knows Washington, and how ready he is to attack anyone who might have a differing point of view.

Read it and weep:

Newsweek: A Fresh Focus on Cheney

NY Times: Cheney Pushed U.S. to Widen Eavesdropping

Friday, May 12, 2006

Constitutional Crisis Looming?

Fred Kaplan seems to think so. Diane Feinstein seems to think so (at least she said so on NPR today). It would be interesting to see if this bit of absurd stretching of the executive's power causes the crisis on 4th amendment issues and all---rather than the de facto legalization of torture, the absurdist tactics in the war, the clamping down on access to information, the abuses against political free speech, the merging of propaganda and "disclosure" for profit, and the list goes on....Good thing the White House just put a brand new spokesdude in place.

And I still ask: Where is Mr. Alberto Gonzales these days, and when do we get to hear from him? The wholesale illicit creation of a data warehouse of every call ever made would seem to me to deserve at least a remark or two from the Attorney General...

In any case, Kaplan's take on it is worth a read: How the NSA could fix its data-mining program.
Ten HUT!

This is creepy. Fascinating, and intriguing, but creepy. Military border patrols makes me think of Cold War Europe along the Iron Curtain...CNN: Pentagon eyes ways to use military for border security - May 12, 2006.
Nixon Country?

King George at 29%, straight from the pages of the WSJ: Bush Dips Into the 20s.

I hope this has a restraining effect on the administration's dismaying belief that laws do not protect the citizenry, but avoiding or obviating those laws does. Just because the president says it is legal does not make it so.

And where is our lapdog attorney general amid all of this? Nary a peep from him? Alberto? Alberto? Hello?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Oh My Ha Ha Ha

And this from the guys who proffered our phone records up to the feds. Sheesh.
"I repeat-o, put the oranges down and step away from the telephone-o. I'm deporting you back home-o."

Barrio Mobile said the ringtone "La Migra" — a slang term for Border Patrol agent — was satire and shouldn't be taken seriously.

Cingular Says Pulled Ringtone Was Satire
The Man Speaks

A golden foot in his mouth:
"We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaida and their known affiliates. "

--George W. Bush, today regarding the USAT story on phone call collection by the NSA.
So, we're not trolling your personal life: just every call you make, to anyone, all the time. And oh, by the way: you might be a terrorist.

What a great message.

Text: Bush's Comments on NSA Activities.
The Noise Increases

Remember all this when elections roll around. Even his loyal troopers are getting fed up with the dictatorial attitude and activity of the executive branch right now...."On Capitol Hill, several lawmakers expressed incredulity about the program." I like that quote. Incredulity in Washington. Can you imagine?
Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter: "We're really flying blind on the subject and that's not a good way to approach the Fourth Amendment and the constitutional issues involving privacy."

House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio: "I don't know enough about the details except that I am willing to find out because I'm not sure why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham R-S.C.: "The idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers, how does that fit into following the enemy?"
And that doesn't even touch what the other side is saying. Read it here: AP: Bush Doesn't Confirm NSA Data Collection
Oh Shit

I imagine this won't do any good for the 31% approval rating the prez is getting...If you had any doubts that we are living in a world where ends justify means, regardless of the potential for destroying all we believe in the process, stop doubting.

It's the largest database in the world. It's every phone call you ever will make (unless you are a Qwest customer). It's in the hands of the guys who got it all wrong in Iraq, who failed on 9/11, who are selling us a bill of goods on Afghanistan and Iran. Feel safer?

I like this bit, as told by Slate.com:
USAT says after 9/11, the NSA approached the major telecoms and asked for inside access. AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth all went along. One company, Qwest, balked. It asked the NSA to get the program approved by the national security FISA court. The NSA said no thank you. According to USAT, the NSA also "rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization" from the attorney general's office.

Read it:
NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

Paper Reports NSA Collecting Phone Records

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Another Failing Grade

One of the most distressing news items I've seen in a while is this one on CNN today. Infant mortality rates historically have been a pretty accurate signifier of well-being for most nationsl; that we are now ranking near dead last is cause for alarm. If this doesn't set off alarm bells for anyone concerned with health care, economic growth and distribution, and class disjunction, then you just aren't listening.
Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the U.S., which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with five deaths per 1,000 births.

"The United States has more neonatologists and neonatal intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but its newborn rate is higher than any of those countries."
Malta? Slovakia? Latvia? Is that the level we are at? And there are more good quotes. On womens' rights (and by implication contraceptive choice, family planning, and education): "In countries where mothers do well, children do well." And if you are still wondering about direct causation:
"The report said that family planning and increased contraception use leads to lower maternal and infant death rates. Many women and children in developing nations, it said, die as a result of births that come at the wrong time -- too close together, too early or too late in the mother's life."
Think about it. If the correlation was direct between medical cost, and medical diversity, and health, we should have the lowest infant mortality rate in the West. Instead, we are #10 overall in the health index, and next to dead last in the mortality rates.

It's time for more than tinkering with the system.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Anyone Else Feeling The Love?

So now the Prez is polling down at 31% approval; the corruption investigations are reaching into the heart of not only the Congress and the White House (think Abramoff, Wade), but now also the top of the intelligence community (Goss is gone, just this hour Foggo has quit); anyone else feel like despite the perpetual corruption of the political arena, despite the ongoing issues of our dysfunctional congress, that things are getting closer and closer to being beyond SNAFU and heading into FUBAR?
A Thought

A friend accused me this weekend of falling into the implicitly foolish belief in "ethical capitalism". It came up in a discussion of business practices which I feel are both anti-consumer, and financially untenable in the long term, and as such I no longer will put up with as a consumer. My friend argued that my approach is sour grapes: that since the things I ethically disagree with actually make people money, I've fallen on the second argument (long-term financial unfeasability) as my last resort after losing the first (anti-consumer and bad for the global polity). His retort was that the market is the ultimate self-correcting engine.

In some respects that's true. In others, it misses the point.

The market has no morals. To think that we can divide the way we engage in making our livelihood from how we actually live our lives is a stupid fallacy. It rubs off. Also, while the market will correct itself in the end, the market is a woefully sluggish realm to respond to large scale correction. Systems evolve. With only very rare exceptions (read catastrophic change) do they transform in short order. If you have the time to wait through a 40 year economic cycle, then sure: let the market manage itself. If you think that the impact of economies on our lives matters, then you don't have that sort of leisure.

I stand as accused: an ethical capitalist. I don't know if it's a tenable position. But I do know that there is nothing that will get me to embrace the anti-humanist and anti-consumerist approach of the current marketplace in so many large sectors.

That's all. Just some pre-coffee thinking.