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.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Scare, Threat, Or False Alarm?

A 28 year old woman "of Pakistani origin" held in West Virginia after her carryon liquids test positive for explosives at the airport: BBC: US airport in 'explosives' alert.
Another Stunning Rebuke

I've been reading judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision halting the President's warrantless eavesdropping program. It is interesting on a number of levels, and it will be even more interesting to see how the administration chooses to contest it. Most notable is her adamancy on grounding the decision in the constitutional structure of government's balance of powers:
"In this case, the President has acted, undisputedly, as FISA forbids. FISA is the expressed statutory policy of our Congress. The presidential power, therefore, was exercised at its lowest ebb and cannot be sustained." (p.36)

"The duties and powers of the Chief Executive are carefully listed, including the duty to be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,49 and the Presidential Oath of Office is set forth in the Constitution and requires him to swear or affirm that he “will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Government appears to argue here that, pursuant to the penumbra of Constitutional language in Article II, and particularly because the President is designated Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, itself.

We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all “inherent powers” must derive from that Constitution." (p.40)
This isn't about Bush hating; this is about a backlash against the expansion of the executive against the far bounds of constitutional authority. And as I said above, I think the most telling thing will be what tack is taken by the administration in challenging this decision.

By their actions we shall know them. Read the decision (pdf) here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Feminine Mystake

If you are a woman, and you have an interest in your own well being in the context of Western civilization, read this article.
"Hassan Nasrallah, the Shi’ite cleric who leads Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, regularly issues bloodcurdling threats against the Jews. “If they (the Jews all gather in Israel,” he has said, “it will save us the trouble of going after them on a worldwide basis.”

For some on the left such words are merely understandable hyperbole, provoked by decades of Israeli ill-treatment of the Palestinians, but I prefer to take Islamic fundamentalists at their word when they spout insults about Jews being the descendants of “pigs and apes” and launch their chillingly apocalyptic tirades.

Why? Because they not only talk centuries-old nonsense about the place of women in society, but they also purposely oppress the female sex whenever they are given the chance. As regards their treatment of women, there is no discernible difference between their acts and their words."
Check it out: Wimmin at War - Review - Times Online
Chivalry in Time of War is Long, Long Dead

A classic exqample of why the Middle East is such a clusterf---k of a place. Murder is celebrated, but confraternity will get you hauled in:
BEIRUT, Lebanon - A Lebanese general was ordered arrested Wednesday for appearing in a videotape drinking tea with Israeli soldiers who had occupied his south Lebanon barracks during their incursion of the country.

Lebanon is in a state of war with Israel, although it signed an armistice in 1949. To this day, Lebanon does not recognize the State of Israel.

Lebanese law forbids any dealings with Israel. A Lebanese citizen faces arrest and prosecution for having such dealings.
Read it all here: AP: Lebanese general held over Israeli video
From What I Can Glean...

Israel won't fully depart from Lebanon until the new 15,000 troop unifil patrol is in place. The UN says it may be up to a year before that happens, and they still have no firm commitment from any member nation for troops.

Hizbullah has no intention of disarming, and the Lebanese army has no intention of making them disarm. Hizbullah also only intends to withdraw from the border if no one pokes around into their remaining infrastructure of bunkers and caches. And if no one is allowed to shoot at them.

France won't provide troops until Hizbullah leaves the south; Hizbullah won't leave the south without conditions that defeat the purpose of the multinational force, and without the total departure of Israel. Israel won't leave until the multinationals are there; we could repeat this ad infinitum in a round or a canon, set to music, and it still wouldn't get any better...

The US government is pumping up the "optimism" angle in the press (except for Rice, who is repeating her "we-can't-disarm-them-we-can't-make-anyone-do-what-they-don't-really-want" line still), but I think they are alone in that right now. Israel is in an uproar internally at the war's failures and missteps; what little acceptance there was of Israel anywhere in the Levant has curdled utterly; Iran is providing Hizbullah with $150 million to lead the relief effort in what is left of the Lebanese non-state; I'm trying hard to see an upside politically for anyone but the beleaguered Lebanese, and it isn't coming to me yet.

I would not be surprised to see Olmert's government in a bit of a tumble by the end of the year; and I will be even more surprised if we don't see a massive resurgence in support for Hizbullah in Lebanon, with them taking an ever greater de facto role in the day to day management of social and civil affairs. Rather than being the state within a state, if they continue to lead the rebuilding effort, and continue to receive massive support financially to promote that from Iran, it would be unremarkable to see them become the State itself in very short time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Again, do not overrate what Hezbollah did: The group did not conduct offensive operations; it was not able to conduct maneuver combat; it did not challenge the Israeli air force in the air. All it did was survive and, at the end of the war, retain its ability to threaten Israel with such casualties that Israel declined extended combat. Hezbollah did not defeat Israel on the battlefield. The group merely prevented Israel from defeating it. And that outcome marks a political and psychological triumph for Hezbollah and a massive defeat for Israel."
-George Friedman, Stratfor: Geopolitical Intelligence Report - August 15, 2006
Cease-Fire: Shaking Core Beliefs in the Middle East
Friedman makes some critical insights in this update; the potential change in the mindset of the Middle East is a massive shift in the power politics pertainig to Israel. And dismayingly, I suspect that this will mean more, rather than less violence. If Hizbullah --- and by implication Iran and the radicalized Shia of the region --- are empowered to engage Israel militarily, under the premise that while they may not win, it is likely that they won't lose, then we face a future of hell. And this has ramifications for internecine Arab and Islamic strife as well; at this juncture the only force to remain standing after war with Israel is a blatantly Islamist group whose primary sponsor, Iran, is outside the Arab world, and a rising force in the region.

What Friedman neglects to note is the wild swing in power away from the nation states of the region, to the paranational groups like Hizbullah. It was not Egypt, or Syria, or even Lebanon who held off the Israelis: it was Hizbullah, the non-nation. In this respect, it carries much the same force as al-Qaeda's success in attacking the US on 9/11: not a nation, but an idea with an army. In al-Qaeda's case, an army of 20. In Hizbullah's, an army of thousands. But the power dynamic is the same. And in this respect, if we do not learn rapidly how to approach this new threat, we will have lost the upper hand in maintaining a stable polity.
Boobs Redux

I just don't know what to say about this one...: Reuters: Breast implants save woman's life?

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Funny Sort Of 'Cease-Fire'
"(08-14) 08:15 PDT JERUSALEM, Israel (AP) --

Israeli soldiers killed six Hezbollah fighters in four skirmishes in Lebanon after the U.N.-imposed cease-fire took effect Monday, the army said."
Yup. It's only skirmishes, rather than carnage. I guess we should be grateful.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The New Meaning Of 'Ceasefire'
"Hezbollah, a member of the government, says it will abide by the resolution but retains the right to continue attacks until the last Israeli soldier has left Lebanese soil."
And Israel won't leave Southern Lebanon until the UN arrives. So effectively, you have a hot war for at least another month, and realistically longer than that. At the same time, the Lebanese government has once again balked at the notion of disarming Hizbullah. And if the armed militia remains in the south, then Israel will likely not stand down.

A failure of will on the part of the US, of Europe, of the Arab world...We are not seeing the end of a war; we are seeing the first battle in a new one.
BBC: Lebanon falters over truce detail.

A vision of comedy that still is close to ideal to me. Dudley Moore and Peter Cook commenting on love, attraction, stardom, art, and desire. Watch and learn, O Grasshopper:

Poor Prophecy

So call it another bad prediction; I really didn't think the old bastard would make it to his birthday. But Fidel is 80 today, and grinning. It's impressive; stomach surgery at 79 is no laughing matter.

It will be interesting to see how much he can recover, and if he can take back full authority from Raul. If he does it will be a remarkable thing, not just physically but politically (a Latin American nation coming under the power of the head of the military, who then peacefully cedes power back). And if not, well...then it will be a very interesting season.

Castro "better" on 80th birthday | News One | Reuters.com