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.







Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mumbai


So it looks like it's on the bad side of things; more than 100 people confirmed dead, and hostages in the two main hotels. The group claiming responsibility for the coordinated attacks is calling themselves the Dekkan Mujahedeen.

No one has ever heard of them before.

My own personal connotation with the Dekkan is the Jungle Books of Rudyard Kipling, and the Dekkan yellow dogs with their ravenous hunger and hate. It makes one wonder.

Whether this is truly some new splinter radical group of militant islamists, or whether a cover for actions by Pakistan, or by Kashmiri separatists, or some gangland plot, it is brutal. Mumbai is an ancient city, with too much history lingering in its streets to avoid the occasional explosion. But this, with its destruction of monuments, and taking of life, and spreading of ill will and fear, is anathema.

Really. Important. News.


This headline just caught my eye. I now feel completely informed and up to date.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Britney Spears Feels Old And Boring.

Ugliness

It could be radical terrorists. Or just disgruntled plutocrats in some arcane turf war. In any case, the attacks in Mumbai are horrid, leaving more than 16 dead (according to Reuters), and up to 80 (according to unconfirmed sources via the BBC). I hope it's closer to the Reuters report.

SF Is Just Like London?

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which has been studying the idea of imposing congestion-based tolls on city streets for nearly two years, released some of the details of its study Tuesday...The congestion toll, if implemented, would be the first in the nation.

While many of the details are still being studied, Zabe Bent, principal planner for the authority, said a $3 toll was chosen because it would probably influence how many people choose to drive versus walking, biking or taking transit.


I have my doubts about the viability of this plan in our town. While we have world class street congestion, we truly don't have world class alternatives, nor the commercial density that I would expect necessary for success. Still, it's worth giving a shot and seeing just how badly this one-sided regressive measure misfires.

More effective would be doing this and coupling it with a cessation of bus fares in the downtown area during the targeted peak hours, along with a massive preemptive increase of funding for new and existing transit options. Of course, with no money, a reactionary old guard, a massive transit union antipathy to real change, and more pre-existing headaches for the board and mayor than I'd care to deal with, I suspect we will, with this plan, get less than half of what we need, and less than half of that will be successful.

ObamaQuotes

(photo: AP)


On his cabinet picks, and change:

"Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost," he said. "It comes from me. That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing [that vision]."
On keeping his Blackberry despite being President:
"One of things i'm going to have to work through is how to break through the isolation, the bubble that exissts around the President. I'm negotiating to to get information from beyond the ten or twelve people who surround me in the White House."
Like I said: grownups. How refreshing.

Ahh, Power.

Shut down all the airports you want, says Somchai Wongsawat; he's still not stepping down. As for me, if the head of the army gently suggested to me that it was time to go, I'd probably take his advice....

The Real Cost


So it would seem I woefully (mis-)underestimated the cost of our bailout plans earlier: according to this article we are looking at a cost of....$8.5 trillion dollars, or 60% of GDP.

Still, watching Obama announce this morning that the Economic Advisory Council will be headed up by Volcker and Goolsbee, I once again had the sense that despite any misgivings, the government is once again being wrested back into the hands of the grownups, and away from the spoiled royal children. And that is undoubtedly a good thing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fly Thai

(photo: al-Jazeera)

I'm a little fascinated by the overrunning of the Bangkok airport today by protestors from People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) looking for the removal of Somchai Wongsawat, the Thai PM. They were able to shut down the airport --- equivalent of shutting down a western hub like Heathrow, or JFK, if you haven't been there ---and while they have yet to bring down the government, despite six months of protest, it looks unsettling for Somchai to say the least.

At least as fascinating to me are the images of the event, from places like al-Jazeera.

Safe

Some small good news here for one of the Big Three, amid their sea of woe: a Ford has been rated the world's safest car.

Amusing though, that Chrysler didn't even make list, despite there being 72 slots. They responded with a profound "no comment."

I wonder if the Ford CEO, the designer, and the product manager will each take their own private jet to a celebratory dinner somewhere....

A Happy Story


Amid all the crap out there, here is a great feel-good story, and a local one as well: Mindy Yip, a SF 1st grade teacher, just won a $25,000 prize for teaching excellence. No strings attached. The giver? Mike Milken.

Now, if every great teacher could get that 25K kick in the pants wallet, we might start getting somewhere with the education system in this country.

A few things I love about this vignette:

  1. the award went to an early-childhood educator. It isn't graduating high schoolers that we really need to target; it's kids just starting on the path of education. Teachers like Ms. Yip are wildly undervalued in the market right now, with our inability to see long term gains and outcomes;

  2. It went to a teacher deep in the trenches. Visitacion Valley is no easy street for teachers (or anyone else). It takes dedication, nerve, luck, and a lot of chutzpah to survive and be successful there.

  3. She had no idea she was even in the running for the award. Just working hard, and trying to get her rugrats to progress. That's very cool.


So to all you teachers out there who are slaving away, wondering where the recognition might be, hang in there: between awards like this, and presidents like our incoming executive, there is hope.

Another Day, Another Bailout.

So what's $800 billion among friends? Clearly, after listening to Paulson this morning, it's not quite enough. Pender is noting the Citi lifeline as being an expensive throwaway, and frankly, when I look at the current real cost---about $1.8 trillion dollars---and think about the implied total costs---running somewhere around $2.3 trillion, depending on who you listen to---I have to wonder what happens when the money runs out, and there is still no real relief.

I have no faith that the Fed & Treasury have any idea of what they are doing, or what they will do next. Watching Paulson's body language is terrifying. He clearly is doing little more than guessing, and at some level he knows it. And to play that game with trillions ---- trillions ---- of dollars, well...I'm glad I'm not in his place. But I wish some grownup were.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Depressing

Wow. I hope that things aren't quite as bleak as Krugman paints here.

Unfortunately, he has of late been pretty accurate.

Countdown


As we head toward a number of Calendar moments --- Thanksgiving, the Christmas holidays, the turn in the year, and the changing of the guard in Washington --- everything seems to be moving faster and faster. Obama has introduced his "best and brightest" economic team, to a wash of apparent relief on the markets, and president Bush (remember him? He is still our chief executive. Really.) has announced a bailout for Citigroup, to the tune of $20 billion. Still, I am watching the value of gold continue to head up, as investors shore up in safe havens.

At the same time, the seasonal uptick in homicide here in SF is in full swing, with a drive-by death of a 22-year old last night, making the annual tally to at least 95 deaths.

Happy Holidays, one and all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Supplement

The cabinet taps are coming fast and furious: Geithner, Richardson, Summers, and Citigroup is on the verge of a real mess, made by methods of almost Enronic proportions. And me? Well, I am looking out at a stunning autumn day, trying to ignore the burn of sciatica (a hard job, let me tell you), and hoping that the future is as bright as the sky today might portend.

And in other news, it appears that Spaniards are way ahead of the curve in accessing cheap renewable energy. Even the deceased are helping out there.