About Me

My photo

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, November 08, 2008

Reflection

Two significant things occurred yesterday for me. First, after much anxiety and review, I decided to leave my current workplace, despite not having secured a new position. After six months of trying to make lemonade of bitter lemons, it became clear that there was no effective way to bridge the gap between the inadequacy of the position and its management, and my health, sanity, and professional growth. The disappointment of this was only compounded by the fact that my employer is a part of my own City government, and I have to accept that not only does my hometown condone and propogate a wildly dysfunctional and self-defeating management system (and thereby the groups which that management claque supports), but also that I have little opportunity in the forseeable future to have any positive impact on that negative and costly dysfunction. And that is sad. But making the decision to move on was the right one; despite the gloomy outlook for the economy, and record unemployment, and no light yet at the end of the tunnel, I feel as though a huge shadow has been lifted from over my head, and my head is clear of anxiety for the first time since things went sour with the job---which was on the very first day.

The second thing is that, due to a confluence of anxiety, stress, lack of exercise, and insomnia, my back went out on me yesterday, with more vengefulness than I have experienced in more than five years. If you have never had back trouble, be grateful: you are blessed. If you have, then perhaps you understand. I had to leave the office early, as I could neither sit nor stand; my torso is twisted sharply to one side, and movement is intensely painful, even through 600mg of ibuprofen. The only sure position giving me surcease is to lie flat on my back, knees bent slightly, a pillow supporting my back and under the knees.

So, you will have to forgive me for light blogging between now and Thanksgiving; for the moment it is troublesome to be online at all, let alone to actively engage; and when I am back in the office, I will be unable to use the internet until my final departure on the 20th of this month. So, for the next 13 days, posting will be a bit more sparse, and coming after hours. I hope you will bear with me during that time, and I thank you in advance for still checking in here for what rants may be available.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Updates

From AP:

Rahm Emanuel takes the job as Obama CoS.

AP call North Carolina for Obama, the first Democratic win there since Carter in '76.

The jobless rate has hit a 25-year high, the worst since 1983. The worst of that---I will likely be joining them soon. Meh.

Post-Election Market Sag

Yet another dark opening on Wall Street today, showing that there is just too much bad news on the economic front for a positive electoral outcome to have any impact worth noting. As Obama works to build a transition and bring on his key cabinet and advisors, we can rest in the political lull and watch our investments melt away.

But there is still some interesting local news: the SF Chron is interpreting the local ballot results as a "surprising" conservative shift to the right for the city of the Left Coast. I think in certain respects they are right: this is all about money, and the voice of fear (that motivational driver of conservatism) speaking very loudly out of people's wallets and into their ears. What I find most interesting about it though is the uninformedness of the patterns: leaving aside the $900 million approved for the General Hospital repairs, while we shot down every measure with a price tag attached, we happily passed new measures that are unfunded, but did not explicitly state a cost. So a new city preservation review panel (unfunded)? Passed. A new drug rehab program (unfunded)? Passed. And so on.

It's interesting. I guess this is just a town where if it isn't glaringly obvious, and in your face, it just doesn't exist for people.

At the same time, we did vote down all the "moral lssitude" measures as well: the prostitution laws aren't changing, and 25% voted FOR prop. 8 (wow.) At the same time, we've voted heavily for the very people who support the selfsame measure we as a citizenry disapproved of at the ballot box.

Talk about a conflicted community. You gotta love San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For The Record

Country First

We came so close, and yet they kept this under wraps, knowing the risk to nation and world:



Watching Fox eat themselves alive like this feels good, for a bit. But seeing how right we all were about Palin, and about McCain's ill judgment, and knowing that nearly half the country still voted for them, is a little scary.

California: Vanguard of Fiscal Stupidity

Two ballot measures here, 5 and 9: 5 was a low cost implementation of rehab rather than prison sentence for non-violent drug crimes. Most studies have shown it to be more effective than incarceration, and also showed that this would be a program with overall cost savings for the state: the reduced prison costs would more than compensate for the total costs of the program itself.

We voted against that.

9 was a measure to add to victim's rights, and hampering the ability to parole prisoners, extending parole hearings from 5 years apart to 15.

We voted for that.

So essentially, we voted to increase the overall cost of our prison system, which we already cannot afford.

You can see how the whole CA mess turned out county by county here.

The World Responds

It looks like everyone is sighing, worldwide.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Tuesday's poll historic and said he and Mr Obama "share many values".

Chinese President Hu Jintao said he looked forward to strengthening dialogue. France's Nicolas Sarkozy said the poll had raised "enormous hope".

Outgoing US President George W Bush said Mr Obama could count on "complete co-operation" during the transition.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was looking forwards "to an era of renewed partnership and a new multilateralism".

In Kenya - the birthplace of Mr Obama's father - President Mwai Kibaki declared a national holiday on Thursday.

Pope Benedict XVI asked for "God's blessings on the American people".

California: Vanguard of Discrimination

So now we have written discrimination into the State Constitution.

I am overwhelmingly disgusted.

What Next?

Now that the basic run is complete, I think it's time to listen to what McCain said last night in his commendable concession speech, and put down the partisan banners, and get back to the work of being that one United States of America that Obama has always spoken of so eloquently. So I am going to try not to pay too much attention to the last few races being sorted out: The final decision on the presidential race in North Carolina and Missouri (I'm guessing NC to Obama, and Missouri to McCain); the senate race runoffs in Minnesota and Georgia; yadda yadda yadda. It's important, but it will sort itself out without making any major change nationally. The 60-seat mark is not going to be seen, and an additional 11 or even 22 electoral votes only adds to the massive shift we already see, rather than altering the shape or magnitude of it.

More importantly to me, here at home we appear to have rescinded a basic civil right for many people in this state with the passage of prop. 8, while simultaneously affording more rights to farm animals (with prop. 2). We also appear to have happily once again voted in every bond measure we could blink at, despite a State debt that should be terrifying us. And in SF, it's much the same: it's looking like we still hope to spend our way out of a recession, with a falling tax base and no sign of budgetary restraint. My thrill at Obama's win is thus tempered by the down-ticket local mess; I wish we could have the intelligence shown by Obama and his campaign --- just a glimmer of it --- here in the politics of San Francisco. It seems that while Washington may be on the road to healing the rifts of the 40 year long culture wars, San Francisco remains deeply ensconced in its own self-hobbling bubble of blindered provincial thinking.

We Win


President-elect Barack Obama.

I do like how that rolls off the tongue.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sea Changes

Interesting trivia, via Yahoo News and MSNBC:

  • This is the first time in 28 years (since 1980) that a Bush or a Clinton hasn't been on the ballot as president or vice president.

  • This is the first time in 40 years (since 1968!) that a Yale alumn is not on the ballot as president or vice president.

No Clintons. No Bushes. No Yalies. Somehow it feels like a breath of fresh air sweeping through a stuffy room (with all due respect to Clintons, Bushes, and Yale University. It's just time.).

...As They Ready For Defeat II


David Brooks joins in with a piece that shows that as when it comes to writing the juxtaposition of his own generation (the boomers) with the new generation of post-boomers, he truly, deeply, just doesn't get it. Like so many of his colleagues, his misconstrues a new generation of leaders, and assumes that they will face the same problems and issues as his own, and misses the crux of this shift: that we are, as we have in the past, not only changing the guard, but changing the nature of what they guard, as well. It's not troubled answers to the same questions: it's reframing the questions completely.

It is nothing unique, but it seems that the nature of the last cycle obscures the meta-picture for those entrenched in it.

...As They Ready For Defeat

The grumblings of retrenchment can already be heard echoing in the right-hand corners of the nation. This slightly tendentious articl in the WSJ is one example. It seems that in electing Obama, we have forsaken our hatred of terrorism, and thereby fallen into slovenly thinking:
People also began speaking of the attacks as a "tragedy," as if they were no different in kind from a catastrophic earthquake. This was largely a product of linguistic slovenliness. But as George Orwell once observed, "the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts."

To suggest that 9/11 was anything other than an outrage is one such thought, though really it's more like a form of ideological legerdemain. A tragedy involves no villainy or evil, except perhaps metaphorically; assigns no blame, except perhaps against fundamentally impersonal causes; and prescribes no remedy, much less any form of justice, other than the act of "healing" itself. Marking 9/11 as a "tragedy" thus becomes a way of signifying its political irrelevance.
Frankly this offends me. First, for more than 70 years, we have identified the holocaust, that methodical murder of six million Jews, as a "tragedy." I don't see this as slovenly thinking, but as empathetic dismay at a crime so unconscionable. And then the second point: the administration was ideologically, fundamentally opposed to identifying the tragedy of 9/11 as a "crime"---one of the key talking points of the battle against Kerry in the 2004 election---and labeling it as an act of war, and so removed a basic leg on which any typical outrage could stand. As a war, it whipped up nationalist fervor. But fervor dissipates.

Indeed, I think that the writer misses the point so greatly in his blindered position of frustration that there is little point in argument. But to tie the horror and anger of 9/11, of that crime against us, of that great national tragedy which we continue to mourn, and the ramifications of which we live with every day of our lives now, to tie that to the desire to elct a man like Barack Obama, for whom the future is possibility rather than posturing, opportunity rather than punitive action...to do that, now, that is the tragedy, and the crime, and the sorrow.

and another thing....

Here in SF, in an annoying political ploy, the city just now announced----on themorning of election day---that the long publicized budget shortfall of $70 million for the city is actually nearly double that: $125 million.

And this on the morning of the election, where nearly $1 billion of general obligation bonds (all supported by the mayor) are up for a vote.

Fiscal responsibility? We're San Francisco: we don't have to.

Sheesh.

On The Low Down

I plan on keeping a very low profile today; I have just voted, and my white-knuckled democratic anxiety has settled in. Until we pass the bean-counter frenzy this evening, expect minimal updates here.

One anecdote: my quiet little polling station where the poll workers generally snooze the day away, was packed at 7:15 this morning. A line out the door, extra "booths" (really just chairs in secluded corners), and a wait of maybe ten minutes. I've not seen anything close to this since 1996.

Don't forget to vote; and don't forget to vote your conscience.

More soon.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tragic

What a sad moment, and such precipitous timing: Obama's grandmother has passed away.

Pace.

And They Is Us!

More alike in our deceits than we may care to admit.
A senior Iranian minister faces an impeachment hearing after he admitted he faked a degree from Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

Interesting

It would seem there is now some solid evidence for what I have guessed was the case all along:
Three sets of researchers recently concluded that professors have virtually no impact on the political views and ideology of their students.
Not surprising, really. Research in this book suggests that the liberal "bias" (more of a 'lean' than a 'bias') comes far more from class, socioeconomic status, and a generalized trend within the age demographic historically. But the most frustrating and insightful comment of the review reveals yet another conservative failure in the trend of mixing data and metadata, and confusing tactic and strategy on a very basic level:
K. C. Johnson, a historian at the City University of New York, characterizes the problem as pedagogical, not political. Entire fields of study, from traditional literary analysis to political and military history, are simply not widely taught anymore, Mr. Johnson contended: “Even students who want to learn don’t have the opportunity because there are no specialists on the faculty to take courses from.”

“The conservative critics are inventing a straw man that doesn’t exist and are missing the real problem that does,” he added.
Inventing a straw man and ignoring the real problem.

Now why does that sound so disastrously familiar.....?

A Budding Joe McCarthy


As the Democrats take up the reins of government, and the GOP retrenches to its lowest common demoninators, becoming not the party of conservatives, but that of the religious fanatics, hate mongering xenophobes, and militarist jingoists, we all should be wary of this beacon. She is going to be a lightning rod for divisiveness and reductionist thinking in its vilest forms, if we aren't lucky. the incident linked is just the latest in a long string: The lack of press conferences, the lack of medical records disclosure, the insinuations against Khalidi, and Obama, that circle around (if not zeroing in on) race-baiting.

I wonder if she already has a secret list of names.....ehh. If not, perhaps she can work it out with Michelle Bachmann.

Keeping The Lid On


Another story identifying the rumblings of the Civil War we have been trying to keep under wraps in Iraq. Today? Nine dead, more than thirty-three wounded:
Scattered bombings occur almost daily in Baghdad despite the drop in violence since the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and the routing of Shiite militias in Baghdad and southern Iraq last spring.

Most of the blasts appear to be directed at Iraqi police and soldiers rather than U.S. troops.
The US troop body count is no indicator of the reality of the situation we face there. President Obama is going to be faced with a real problem come January. They want us out, and when we go, as of now there is nothing else to keep them from each others throats.

Monday


Well, all the news on the economy this morning is grim, with manufacturing numbers at a 26 year low, GM getting the shaft on their desired bailout, Circuit City shuttering more than 150 stores, and Goldman Sachs warning of losses as the global players all are starting to take the heat that was felt more locally the last few weeks. At the same time, the remainder of conservative rats with still-functioning brains are jumping ship from the GOP to the Good Ship Obama, as we roll toward what look more and more like not only a democratic rout, but a massive repudiation of the tone and tenor of the last decade, and the miscreant ideologies that have been clouding us as a nation.

Happy Monday!

On the up side, it's election day tomorrow. Don't forget to cast your vote!