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, November 07, 2009

For Everything Else, There's Hard Drugs

Number of bank failures this year, due directly or indirectly to the legacy of GOP excesses and ideology-driven policies: 120.
Total cost of failures to the American people: $27 billion.
Current rate of underemployment for those of us trying to get by in the country we love: 17.5%.

Current GOP plan to stymie health care reform --- and thereby deny coverage to millions, increase the deficit, and drive the nation and its people to bankruptcy and debtor status --- by tying it to abortion funding bans?

Priceless.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Goobers and Gubernators

So it seems (according to NPR) that Diane [Everything's]Feinstein won't make a desicion whether or not to run until after she's heard the economic proposals of all the other candidates. To my way of thinking, this is wildly egotistical and selfish. If she thinks she has answers, she should tell the electorate. If we think her ideas are better, we'll elect her. But to wait until the race begins, and then at her whim deign to grace us with her presence as an option...it presumes that Feinstein is the heir apparent to the gubernatorial throne (she is not), and that whatever ideas she may have, they will of course be better than the alternatives presented by any other candidate---and she is most qualified to be the final arbiter of such.

That's crap.

If Diane Feinstein wants to be governor of this state, that's great: she should join the race. If she does not, fine --- let her continue on in her course. But she does not have the privilege of presumption.

At the same time, Carly has garnered endorsements from eight GOP stalwarts in her grab at Barbara Boxer's seat in the Senate:
  1. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
  2. Assistant Minority Leader Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
  3. John McCain, R-AZ.
  4. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
  5. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
  6. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
  7. Susan Collins, R-ME
  8. Olympia J. Snowe, R-ME
"All cited her experience as a business leader."

Maybe Diane will like the business approach Fiorina will bring to bear: I bet they both are in sync with that whole wiretapping, backstabbing, "létat c'est moi" approach to leadership.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Carly vs. Boxer

The executive who felt that wiretapping her own board members was a reasonable move is now planning to run for congress: Carly Fiorina, late of HP, will challenge Barbara Boxer for her senate seat.

I'm no fan of Boxer's: she irritates me and frankly I suspect she does, in the long run, more harm than good to the progressive agenda she promotes, but in comparison to a power freak who has not only left a very checkered past in the business world behind her, but attached herself to losing campaigns and the wrong side of history for the last few years, I'll take Boxer any day. From all the evidence, Fiorina has the moral scruple of a toad. And that's being unfair to the toad.

Gavin?

So in the wake of his withdrawal from the gubernatorial race, our mayor has scarpered off to Hawaii.

Unannounced.

He's skipping out on all planned engagements, and is playing some bad political shufflestuff, with his apparently hastily post-scripted assignation of authority to his ally on the board of supes, in order to avoid a hand off to his opponents (and the president of the board).

I'm not sure where he is going with this: not only does it look bad, it plays poorly for his political future. There's a lot going on in SF, and he's been taking heat as an absentee landlord mayor. I would think the first thing he would want to do is make a monstrous splash --- "I'm baa--aack!" --- and immediately begin to make noise about tackling such pressing issues as the collapsing Bay Bridge, The water bond that passed last night, the oil spill in the bay, and the like.

Instead, he vanishes to another state.

It would be one thing to choose family and personal well-being over politics if that is your determination: it's another to choose the politics, and then bail on your constituents when it gets rough (cf. Sarah Palin). I don't want to diminish how difficult this must be for the guy. But this is what he signed up for. And now he needs to do the damn job.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

R.I.P. Claude Levi-Strauss

Notice arrives of the passing of centenarian anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. It was his thinking, and his work, that first opened my mind to the convolutions of structuralism in the world of anthropology.

While not everything in his works like The Raw and the Cooked has stood the test of time, he remains a giant in the intellectual world of the 20th century.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Snap!

Harry Reid once again surprises: this time with a monumentally snarky letter to his GOP colleagues in the Senate regarding the upcoming heath care bill debate. TPM points us to this delightfully scathing note, and I have to say that, if it doesn't completely piss off the GOP Senators, then it has to be the most entertaining bit of paper to come out of the Senate in some time:
While the two health care reform plans that are serving as the main building blocks for the merged bill have been publicly available for quite some time, I would note that the Republican leadership’s health care plan remains a secret, unless perhaps it does not exist.

Needless to say, I fully understand if your plan is still under development, and would not presume to suggest that you publicly share draft legislative text for even an individual element of your plan, let alone an entire bill, before it is finalized.
Ouch, Harry. Ouch.

Read his full letter here (pdf).

Aside

Just thinking about an interview on the BBC this weekend with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Here she is known as either a wingnut (if you're on the left) or a bastion of speaking truth to power (if you're a wingnut). But as she explained why she prayed every night for the President to think rightly, and avoided explaining how that reconciled with asking her constituents to pray for his policy measures to fail, and became enthusiastic about the relationship between herself, god, and political action, the incredulity of the interviewer was palpable. Even over the radio.

It's a shame that the rest of the world see us a fanatical religious lunatics because of the outspoken idiocy of the darlings of the Right today.

Change


It's been a year since we went to the polls and made history by electing Barack Obama president of the United States. Since that day, much has indeed changed, but not in the ways that I think many progressives were expecting. Change has been slower, and more subtle, and frankly, exposed some of the uglier rifts in our society, opening them up with even greater speed than we had seen previously.

So what has actually "changed"?

  1. First and foremost, the long reign of Bush and Cheney is done and gone. In itself, this was a massive shift in the plate tectonics of global politics and opinion. Just look at the Nobel Prize that Obama has been awarded, and consider the vast sea change that this represents to the rest of the world.

  2. We've seen the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. And we've apparently come through to the other side. For better or worse, this crisis--and the methods by which we dealt with it, or failed to do so--have altered the state of our nation for years to come.

  3. Iraq. We're actually not seeing Iraq on the top of the news each day, and we've been slowly untangling ourselves from that war. Slowly---too slowly for many.

  4. Guantánamo. Obama has ended the torture regime, and has spent good time trying to undo the gordian knot of our mess down in Cuba. In the process, we have mostly restored the rule of law.

  5. Health Care. We are watching yet again a grand battle in Congress for the future health of the country. If this legislation passes in any meaningful way, this will be the legacy of Obama's term.

  6. The Right. We have seen an exacerbation of the shift of the right wing toward ever more self-referential and distasteful secession from the common discourse. The admixture of religiosity, populism, and xenophobia has only grown in volume, and served to create an entertainment platform where once there was a political agenda.

  7. The Left. The progressives, having supported Obama on the rather baseless assumption that because he was inspiring, and because he was savvy, and because he was young, that he would also lead a radically progressive agenda for the left. All this despite his obvious tendency toward conservative centrism, which I and others noted early in his candidacy. Now that Obama has staked out a careful spot in the middle ground, the progressive grassroots have become ever more radicalized and reactionary.


And of course there's much more. On a policy level, we have actions for climate control, work toward better future financial regulation, foreign policy activity in europe and the middle east that looks brighter than it has recently, among others. Yet we are saddled with double digit unemployment, a bleak forecast for the coming year, a tendentious and obstructionist minority party in Congress, and the war in Afghanistan is looking bleaker every day.

After one year, I'd say results are mixed. But have we seen change?

Hell yes.

Afghanistan

It just doesn't get any easier: with Abdullah Abdullah dropping out of the runoff election, the election itself has been scrapped, and Hamid Karzai once again declared President. Only this time, a tarnished, severely weakened president with clear evidence of massive fraud and vote manipulation on his hands; a president that vast swaths of the country (and the world) consider illegitimate---and among those the most difficult and vital populations in the country of Afghanistan.

So what now for the US, and the war? As David Sanger puts it in the NYT:
How do you consider sending tens of thousands of additional American troops, they asked in meetings in the White House, to prop up an Afghan government regarded as illegitimate by many of its own people?
Indeed. This moves radically complicates the scene: furthering our efforts will be challenged by a questionable government which is now firmly ensconced in power; withdrawal will be messy as the government lacks both authority and control (and potentially interest) to take over keeping what peace is there. And on the political front here at home, no matter what move is made, I suspect it is a black eye for president Obama.