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 30, 2009

Random Distraction

I love it when this type of news crosses my path: apparently, the flying house in the new Pixar film Up might actually be doable. Wired's science nerds have done the math, and found it feasible.

So who's up for collecting our 112,000 balloons?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And Even More....

Apparently, there are a lot of folks who think as I do that the court has set up an essentially unsustainable Separate but Equal situation in the state, with 18,000 gay couples having the right to marriage, and all others --- their equal in every respect --- denied that same right. I suspect it will be this point that drives a federal appeal, and also that with the precedent of Brown v. Board of Education the current state of things in California will be altered, for better or worse. Either the 18,000 must be forcibly divorced, or their marriages annulled, or Prop. 8 will need to be thrown out. Of course, the question of whether an appeal or a new referendum will happen first is anyone's guess.

I wonder if the Justices thought about this jeopardy they have now created, by following the law in bold, but following their ethical sensibility in the margins. In a way, they have tossed up their hands and said "not our problem."

Still, I'd like to see the California initiative process reformed. It was a firebrand mobocracy movement that gave it to us in the first place, back in the start of the 20th century; it's time to move toward a more mature sensibility for governing our state, and protecting those rights we have declared to be, as they say, "self-evident."

Prop 8 Again

I've just skimmed through the opinion, and it's interesting: the logic of the decision rests effectively on the determination that a constitutional revision is identified not by its importance, but by its breadth. In other words, it's about being wide, not deep, in impact. If we diddle constitutional rights in only one fine pinpoint area, then it is fine. It only becomes arguable if we diddle in all areas of rights all at once.

The court also makes a strong point that no rights are being rescinded in this law, only the semantic prerogative to use the label "marriage."

Interesting. So, theoretically, we could draft an initiative that would bar the application of the generic term "human" from use by politicians, while allowing that these said politicians would continue to have and hold the same rights and privileges constitutionally afforded all humans, but simply be precluded from identifying their species of origin as "human" --- since that would be held as a term privileged to only those individuals with a modicum of empathy and feeling for others. And this would, using the case law of Marriage Cases, stand with precedent.

I like it. Anyone with me on this? We could start collecting signatures today....

More on Prop 8

The more I think about it, the more troublesome this ruling is to me. While it is solid, legally speaking, and in that way was the expected outcome, it leaves open a host of problems. We now have 18,000 couples who are married, but unique in the law, and open to any number of discriminatory issues. We also have the overwhelming burden of carrying forward two separate sets of rights for the population. It is equality without inclusion. Separate But Equal. Gay couples get to drink from that perfectly adequate water fountain, over there behind the toolshed.

From the LA Times:
Even with the court upholding Proposition 8, a key portion of the court's May 15, 2008, decision remains intact. Sexual orientation will continue to receive the strongest constitutional protection possible when California courts consider cases of alleged discrimination. The California Supreme Court is the only state high court in the nation to have elevated sexual orientation to the status of race and gender in weighing discrimination claims.
This creates a huge breach in the wall against potential legal mayhem. Discrimination claims which are valid due to sexual orientation are now a guaranteed outcome of this ruling, until it is clarified either by constitutional amendment, legislative override, or yet another initiative on the ballot.

We are all equal, only some are more equal than others --- that's now the rule of the state. And I can see it working better if the court hadn't done the ethically and morally correct thing -- maintaining the pre-existent marriages -- while simultaneously doing the legally correct (yet morally blind) thing, and upholding the law.

CA Supreme Court Upholds Prop 8

So the ban stays in place, and the constitution remains amended. And the marriages performed prior to the ban remain valid. I think that this decision may force a number of state constitutional issues to the fore, in unexpected ways.

First, that we now have an excepted class of married couples, for whom the abrogation of rights does not affect. We also have set a precedent for the abrogation of rights as a constitutional modification allowable by voter initiative, rather than legislation.

What happens now, in conjunction with the economic collapse of the state --- due also in much part to the voter initiative process? We've lost our money, we've lost our ability to protect human rights, we're losing our schools and our services. I expect the calls for a constitutional convention to become deafening before the year is out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


An excellent little blog-op (now there's a neologism for you: "op-ed in a blog!") regarding the dialectic between our need for silence and stillness to understand ourselves and the world around us, and our natural inclination to fill the void with every possible distraction so as to barricade ourselves against the possibility of addressing that need:
Twitter, Facebook and cell phones didn't create this desire or problem. I've known people all my life who turned the television on as soon as they woke up in the morning and left it on until they went to bed at night, just to insure there was never complete silence in the house. All that the new connectivity, on-line virtual game options, and instant messaging do is make it easier to avoid the awful specter of silent, alone time. And yet ... just try to imagine Henry David Thoreau writing his masterpiece about Walden Pond while twittering, texting, and watching CNN.
Yup. Read the whole entry here.

A Good Idea

Michael Bauer reports in his blog that our local restaurant Fish & Farm will be banishing surcharges and taxes on their pricing, and have a single set fee for all food & service --- with an inclusive 18.5% gratuity.

If you take a look at the article, you'll see that per usual the comments section is full of folks whining about how awful this idea is. To me, it is the best direction possible. First, it eases the burden on diners to determine what the meal will cost, and removes the sense of being nickel&dimed to death (valid or not). Next, it puts control (and the onus) of fair compensation squarely back in the court of the restaurant owner, rather than on the backs of the workers themselves. If the pay and tip distribution is communally acceptable and equitable, then the entire staff can work to achieve success, rather than to try and benefit themselves at the expense of their coworkers. Finally, in a city so dependent of tourism, particularly foreign tourism, the absence of the American oddity of sales tax being hidden until the bill is produced will ease confusion and frustration for our thousands of European, Asian, and other foreign guests.

I'd love to see this approach catch on, and let the impact trickle up into an industry that is faced with difficult economic times, and an overly inequitable and complicated (at least here in California) employment model.

Pink Slip Update

The reported numbers for layoffs in the state of California in June are not good: more than 4,300 people will be given the boot in Northern California alone. And that, as always, is just the number for those companies with planned layoffs, and of a size large enough to require notification. I didn't bother running the numbers for the Southland, but I'm sure it's just as bleak: just a glance shows me almost 600 layoffs in little ol' Laguna Beach alone.

It's true that unemployment is a lagging indicator, but I don't think that there is anything in the current news to indicate a change in the state of things. A slowing of the velocity if our collapse is not a sign of betterment; only a note that perhaps when we hit bottom our heads won't go SPLAT.

With a current nominal unemployment rate of 11%, and a "real" rate (adjusted for underemployment, dropping off the roles, etc) of closer to 18%, I can only hope that we bottom out soon.