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.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Why Does This Make Me Sad?

From the SF Chron:
"She has spent $80 million to secure the nomination - and (GOP) voters are convinced she'll spend whatever it takes to win in the general election," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. "That's a very persuasive argument ...
So Meg Whitman will "spend whatever it takes"...Are we as voters and citizens really that incredibly shallow? Whatever happened to content? Quality? Anything having power other than dollars?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

In The Wake Of Disaster

This month California is on the verge of beginning use of a newly approved chemical for agriculture: methyl iodide. In support of the decision, the industry panel and groups in charge of this stuff looked at the data:
...the state's own scientists concluded that the chemical posed a potential risk to public health. The department then appointed an outside review panel, which essentially came out with the same results.

Brooks said the department incorporated many of the review panel's suggestions in the final risk assessment.

"However, the members are experts in assessing pesticide risks, not in regulatory risk management that leads to decisions on registration," Brooks wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle. "Panel members were not familiar with the many options and measures that can be put into place by risk managers to avoid unsafe exposure levels."
Yup. Just like deep sea oil drilling is totally safe because the risk managers understand how to avoid unsafe situations in the Gulf of Mexico.

They plan on injecting this stuff into the ground acre after bloody acre prior to planting your strawberries.

And of course only trained chemists will be handling material, and of course all the regulations will be followed to the letter, because everyone knows just how thorough folks are out in the fields when 70% of your workforce speaks little English, and 70% of those are in the country illegally, and would never say a word about improper activities or dangerous work conditions for fear of la migra.

Please: If you live in California, write or call your representative, or your state legislator, and ask that this be halted; if you don't, send an email to the EPA, to the White House, to Nancy Pelosi. I love my strawberries as much as the next guy, but I'd rather they cost more, and be a little less perfect, than that we grow them in fields sown with cancer and thyroid disease.


Amos Oz, the Israeli author, has painfully direct words about the current situation in Israel and Gaza:
Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip and Monday’s violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid there are the rank products of this mantra that what can’t be done by force can be done with even greater force. This view originates in the mistaken assumption that Hamas’s control of Gaza can be ended by force of arms or, in more general terms, that the Palestinian problem can be crushed instead of solved.

But Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force — not by siege, not by bombardment, not by being flattened with tank treads and not by marine commandos. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.
The Israeli government and the nation's leaders are currently on the losing side of the battle of ideas, and someone else is writing the history of the war.

When will they wake up to this? And who will wake them?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Flotilla Fail

There's a lot of hyperventilating going on now over the Israeli clusterf--k raid on the Turkish-led flotilla to Gaza; this is typical of an event in its first hours. But there is one post (at least) where someone has drawn the obvious and disturbing parallel between this event and the early actions of the Jews in the Palestinian mandate. The short of it is that politics is in great part theater, and whomever controls the narrative, wins. Israel, in its flubbing of this event --- the overkill of sending in special troops equivalent to navy seals, rather than police troops better able to handle civil unrest, the cutting of communications prior to the raid, the taking of action so far into international waters, the attempt to portray themselves as victims in the aftermath despite the normative understanding of their power and prowess by the rest of the world --- all this has basically handed over the narrative to the Turkish activists, and Hamas, and the Palestinians.

George Friedman over at Stratfor has nailed one of the basic problems that Israel has made for itself in this situation: they've played into someone else's story, and so have failed to own how that story will be told. It's worth reading, so follow the link.

One other thing: at first nod, it reminds me a bit of the conundrum in which Obama finds himself with the BP oil disaster. By not playing the game of outrage, he effectively is allowing others to write the narrative of the event, and while he may well be doing everything possible, letting the story be told by others that he might not be -- simply implying the narrative is enough -- is putting him at a grave disadvantage with the public.

Politics is theater. One needs to act.