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 02, 2009

Cocktail Hour


Today's Imbibement

Version 1:
2 oz. Vodka
Juice of 1/2 grapefruit
3/4 oz. ginger syrup
6 mint leaves
1/2 oz. Campari

Muddle the mint leaves with the ginger syrup. Add ice, Vodka, grapefruit juice, and shake until well chilled. strain into cocktail glass and carefully pour Campari into drink. Campari will settle at bottom of glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Alternates:
1: As above, only use white rum instead of vodka. Reduce ginger syrup to 1/2 oz.
2: As above, only strain into highball glass with ice, and add soda water. Increase ginger syrup to 1 oz.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ahmadinejadowitz?

From Middle East Analyst, this amusing contra post:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s holocaust denial may have grabbed the headlines abroad.

However in Iran, they have backfired.

Some Iranian presidential candidates, instead of denying the holocaust, are now actually confirming it.

More amazing is the fact that some of his right wing allies are so furious about the publicity which he has given to this tragedy, that they have accused him of being a closet Jew.
He links to this Guardian article for support. Apparently, his original surname has Jewish connotations.

Personally, I'm disavowing any relation to the guy. Nobody in my family is that short.

May Day Immigration Protests

Held all around the country. It still bewilders me why anyone wanting to convince the unconvinced to go with immigration reform would troop around with the flags of other nations, and sing or chant in any language other than English. I mean, seriously: if you want to send a message that you love this country so much that you want all your family to be able to gain citizenship, then don't you think that it might be counterproductive to be showing your attachment to the Old Country?
With banners and flags from the United States and many other nations, the San Francisco crowd stepped to the rhythm of marching bands and the sound of an Aztec conch shell horn. Some chanted in English and Spanish, "The people united will never be defeated."
I'm all for some sensible immigration reform, and I'm all for pride in heritage. But if you are looking to sway the heartland, the way to do it is not in Spanish, while waving a Mexican flag.

Local Stupid

"If we can bail out AIG, why can't we bail out all the public transit agencies in America, considering that many lower-income and middle-class people have no other transportation choice," said Schneider. Last month, he couldn't afford to buy a monthly Fast Pass. When the price goes up, "it's going to be even harder," he said.
Yup, that's right: in the face of decreased service, lowered standards, no compromises gained from the Union, and a whopping deficit, San Francisco is raising the cost of Muni bus and rail service. But the man quoted above has an interesting point: across the country, mass transit is deeply tied to local productivity, energy independence, and infrastructure enhancement. I see the concerns about nationalizing the banks via bailout, but how about a program to address transit in a similar fashion? Force not nationalization, but privatization with a major shareholder stake given to the government. I don't know what the cost or ramifications would be overall, but it couldn't be worse than what we are doing in SF currently...

Whatever You Do....

In order to maintain parity with the tenor of the media today, regarding:

Terrorists!
Pig Flu!
Iraq!
Recession!
Afghanistan!
Global Warming!
Pirate attacks!
Fuel prices!
Food shortages!
Energy crises!
Ponzi Schemes!
Child Abductions!
Cholesterol!
France!


>DON'T PANIC!!!<

Condi Again

It's been discussed, but man: Condi Rice is amazing. Even now, I boggle at how such an intelligent person can go down such a stupid, blind, and arrogant path. Sullivan notes it here, and Scott Horton fact checks here. Note especially the comments of John Dean at the end. Exposure of culpability, straight from someone who knows damn well what that means. But to browbeat student questioners, when they are factually correct, in order to obfuscate her own damning actions, is really just a bit much from a woman who as an educator should know not to do so. Horton responds to the particular interchange I am recalling:
Rice insists that no one was tortured at Guantánamo. She cites an OSCE report that called it a “model medium security prison.” But, as the report’s author stressed, this was a characterization of the physical facility. How about the treatment of the prisoners? On that score, the OSCE had a different conclusion: it was “mental torture.” The Red Cross did complete two studies of detainees at Guantánamo, and Condi’s characterization of them is false. The first report concluded that the treatment of prisoners, particularly isolation treatment, was “tantamount to torture.” The second examined the use of the Bush Program and concluded it was “torture,” no qualifications. Rice was furnished copies of these reports. Did she take the time to read them?
And her response to shut down the student? "Do your homework!"


Man, she should really take her own advice some day.

Freedom of the Press


Apparently it isn't improving. Freedom House has released its 2009 survey of the worldwide free press. The news is unsurprising, and slightly disappointing. Basically, things are getting worse---though not by too much.

Full rankings here. Analysis here.

Souter Heading Home

With last night's announcement that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is going to take his retirement, and leave an open chair on the bench, I'm not sure how I feel. On the one hand, this Bush I appointee turned out to be a far more centrist justice than many (myself included) ever expected. With his departure, the current balance in our overly conservative court will be tipping. And while the timing is clearly aimed at providing Obama --- our first centrist president in a while --- the opportunity to correct that balance somewhat, the current level of crises leads me to suspect that the circus of appointment may be larger and less successful than one might hope. With the president's current plate full of economic collapse, flu pandemic, unfilled cabinet and critical posts, Afghanistan, Iraq, healthcare, G20 machinations, pirates, Israel/Palestine unrest, auto industry collapse, torture outings and Spanish War crimes investigations, Pakistan, and so forth (need I go on, really?)....with all this, I wonder if adding a Supreme Court appointment to the works is going to turn out without some significant unexpected consequences along the way.

Still, for Justice Souter: enjoy your post-court retirement, and the knowledge that you did a pretty good job through complicated times.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The World We Live In


I had no idea that this existed. The World SuperHero Registry is actually really real for reals. These are real people prowling real cities keeping presumably real villains at bay.

Apparently, this is now a big deal in Cincinnati.

Watch out, Lex Luthor!

Random Thought

This afternoon, I've caught up on the last two episodes of The Daily Show, and am currently watching Obama's "100-day" press conference.

While I truly am gratified by having a president who can speak in complete sentences, think on his feet, reach occasional impromptu eloquence while still making good points, and exudes (for lack of a better term) presidential-ness --- John Stewart takes the prize for driving the key points of the day home. If you get a chance, watch his unedited discussion with Cliff May. It's a fascinating collision of ideas, and speaks to the the philosophical divide in our country today.

100 Days


The punditry will be huffing and puffing all day today, with report cards and measurements and pontifications. My own two cents? Obama has done more of positive significance in his first hundred days than Bush did in his last six years.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wow.

"I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania."
Arlen Specter is switching parties, to run as a Democrat in the next Pennsylvania primary. I am impressed by his somewhat naive idealism though, when he states that
"The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation."
I think that may have been true when he entered politics four decades ago. Right now, I am saddened to say that I think that far too many Americans really do care which party solves our problems, and are quite willing to sabotage any solution if it is being provided by a party other than their own ideological sliver of the Party Pie.

Nevertheless, I am impressed and surprised.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Nation Of "Seekers"?

Or just a bunch of confused folks desperately hoping to find meaning in the next cookie jar over?
In a survey released in 2006, the Pew Forum found that 28 percent of Americans have left their childhood religion, through conversion or abandonment of institutional religion altogether. They also found that an additional 16 percent had switched between Christian denominations.

Now, the Pew Forum has found that an additional 9 percent of Americans have left the faith of their childhood at some point during their lives for a different religion only to return. That means that a majority of the nation - 53 percent - has identified with a religion different than their own at some point during their lives.

"It really puts an exclamation point on the degree of churn that characterizes religion in the United States," said Gregory Smith, senior fellow at the Pew Forum.

The survey found that American religious identity moves in all directions. No category of belief is fixed.
More than half of us reject what we were given at birth, and find something else; which in turn has been rejected by others, who have fled (or flocked) to the belief systems which we in turn have renounced. Sounds like a confusion carousel to me. Full survey result are here.