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.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


In Hanover, Germany, a troupe of Jewish dancers is stoned in the streets:
Youths reportedly shouted "Juden Raus" (Jews Out) as they attacked the dancers of the Chaverim ("Friends" in Hebrew) dance troupe last weekend.
It's disturbing on so many levels: the resurgence of antisemitism in central Europe, the association with North African Muslim immigrants, themselves a trouble minority, the blurring between Jew-hating and Israel-hating....

"What happened is just so awful. The teenagers started throwing stones the moment our dance group was announced, even before they started dancing."
It's dark times in so many ways; I just hope it doesn't start yet again becoming "the fault of the Jews."

Mixed (Crude) Results

So Judge "don't mess with my portfolio returns" Feldman has refused to grant a stay on his judgment against the federal offshore drilling moratorium. Not surprising. But from the sound of things, we may wind up with better oversight, and a more rational short term take on the process. No oil company wants to be the next BP, hence Shell and others voluntarily abiding by the moratorium despite the ruling.

But in the end, balancing between the disastrous economic effects for the Gulf of a shutdown of the 33 deep water platforms, and all new development, and the disastrous economic, environmental, political, and societal effects of the BP spill, and the potential of more of the same from a similar event in the future, I think that we wind up where Salazar seems to imply he is going: making review and oversight of every new and requested action out in the water the subject of intense expert scrutiny and assessment. Will it slow the oil economy? Hell, yes. Will it kill it? Of course not. Not any more than 60,000 barrels a day is killing it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Busy Day

What with the renegade General (shades of MacArthur?) balnketing the airwaves, it is a mere bump in the bustle to see that the drilling moratorium has been blocked by a NOLA judge. Says the judge,
“the blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger.”
Well...yes, it does. Generally, in risk assessment, if you have a failure which cannot be explained, you must assume that every similar system is at the same level of catastrophic risk: until you determine cause. Yes, it is a terrible hardship for some, and yes, it appears to play toward a more abstract policy goal for some, but in the end, it does make sense.

From a simple risk abatement point of view, we currently have a deadly and catastrophic failure. We do not know the cause. We do know that the complexity of the issue, and the potential severity of the damage, increases with depth.

the moratorium makes sense. It isn't ideal. But it is logical. The right answer to this isn't to challenge it in court, but to find the proximate cause of the blowout, and effectively guarantee that the same set of circumstances are not likely in all other deepwater rigs. Until then, it's just russian roulette.

Monday, June 21, 2010

15 years in prison

That's what you will now get if you try to get a terrorist organization to stop using terror.

Thanks to the painfully deferential Roberts court, we have extended the meaning of the Patriot Act yet again, this time to infringe on the basic act of political discourse. Now, I don't disagree with the majority of the law in question: that providing material aid to organizations that engage in terror is not fine and dandy. Money, technical training, goods and personnel; these we can easily identify and condemn. But this ruling cuts at the basic protections of the first amendment, and allows -- at the discretion of the Executive branch, and/or Congress, at their pleasure -- the criminalization of political speech. The hair that Roberts and the majority split for this irrational rationalization is that of "coordination." It's OK to speak out and say that you'd like Hamas to use the international court system instead of rockets and bombs. You just can't say so to Hamas. As David Cole put it in his response on the NYT blog,
...human rights advocacy is not fungible. It cannot be turned into guns and bullets. It is designed to persuade, not coerce. It is, in short, what the First Amendment is all about. But it is now a crime, and according to this Supreme Court, the First Amendment poses no obstacle to its suppression.
The two galling aspects of this are first, the absurd and naive deference given by the court to the other branches of government, as though they were children bowing to the will of a stern parent, rather than the final constitutional authority in the nation, and second, that despite Justice Breyer's eloquent and rational dissent, this law opens a chasm in the inviolate protections which are the basis for our freedoms---and the majority apparently approve.