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Wednesday, Apr 16th

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Montag: The "Special Relationship": How We Got Spying Wrong

Spies'Have been musing about how the NSA and the GCHQ got so chummy, and this opinion piece also made me wonder about how our own system evolved over time in the way it did.  Based on the anecdotal evidence, it seems that the U.S. has always been dependent in some ways on the British scheme of intelligence, as structured in government.  We forget nowadays that, in the longer view, the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA are all fairly recent constructs--the FBI is a little more than 75 years old (although it grew out of the earlier BOI--Bureau of Investigations--created about 25 years previously).  The CIA is only about 65 years old, and the NSA, a mere stripling at 60 years old.

To a considerable degree, we've followed the British model of organization.  The FBI is the analog of MI5, the CIA that of MI6 (thus purportedly separating domestic and foreign intelligence pursuits), with GCHQ originally handling signals intelligence and cryptography for both the military and civilian government, as the NSA has done for much of its existence (the notable exception being that NSA has its mandate as a military operation, with military leadership and funding from military budgets).

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Alex Baer: How to Solve Modern Crises with Ancient Snacks

popcornPopcorn could be just the breakthrough we've all been looking for.

We've long needed something to help break through Madison Avenue's icy grip on our minds and on our wallets.  It could even allow, and help facilitate, contact with the Space Aliens openly living in our midst, called Republicans.

Popcorn?  Madison Avenue?  Space Aliens?

OK, let's back up and go slowly.  For openers, you know how a familiar feeling of vulnerability sometimes goes -- the sense that there are teams of psychologists working around the clock, seeking inroads to your psyche, in order to make you want to buy useless products, and ensure you are helpless to all commercial ads and suggestions, right?

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Why I Will Never, Ever, Go Back to the United States

welcome to NYAfter a year of traveling, I had planned a last, short trip. I was going to take the train from Montreal to New Orleans. The travels I had been undertaking earlier this year had brought me to places that were meant to form the background of my second novel.

This trip, however, was for my dad. He, a trumpet player, loved New Orleans and had died a year ago. It felt like the first sensible trip I undertook this year. I had been searching for ways to forget about the last hours at his deathbed. He had been ill for 15 years and his body just would not give up. It was a violent sight. I had decided the trip to New Orleans would put an end to those memories.

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Alex Baer: Tri-Corner Logic: Easy as 1-2-3

tea partyIt's an interesting phenomenon:  You have a tiny shard of the U.S. population holding itself, and the world, hostage via the Shutdown-Blowdown-Blowup fever dreams of a handful of boneheads who dress up like Constitutional preservationists and protectionists -- while those same boneheads betray the very document they themselves claim to be supporting and providing safe harbor, all while using that same document as a handy club on all who dare disagree with them.

It's interesting, all right -- and in the same twisted, horrific, hold-your-breath-way that it's interesting to consider what happens, say, when a freight train filled with 13 million gallons of molasses and Super Glue piles into an oncoming train loaded down with 42 tons of high grit sandpaper and radioactive goose feathers .

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Bob Alexander: Too Stupid To Live

too dtupidHere’s the way it shakes out. Paraphrasing Slavoj Žižek, Slovene philosopher and cultural critic:

Of these three features:
personal honesty,
intelligence,
and sincere support of Republican policies,

it is only possible to combine two, never all three of these attributes.

If one is honest and supportive … one is not very bright.
If one is bright and supportive … one is not honest.
And if one is honest and bright … one can not be supportive.

There’s no such thing as a smart, honest, Republican. I challenge anyone to find this elusive creature. The odds are you’ll stumble across the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman playing cribbage in The Vatican before you’ll be able to snap a couple shots of a smart, honest, Republican.

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Prairie 2: Hobbling the Four Horses of the Apocalypse

Four horsemenNew unemployment claims jumped by 66,000 last week to 374,000 after months settling down toward 300,000. This doesn't begin to show the real effects of the government shutdown as contractors are only now beginning to kick people to the curb. The effect this will have on the rest of economy will begin to show soon as the lack of spending by those affected by the shutdown starts to mushroom into a reduction in US GDP. This is one of those self reinforcing feedback loops that are commonly referred to as a 'death spiral'.

You see, the problem isn't confined to the simple math of less spending, but is actually multiplied by the fact that the natural mitigators of an economic downturn that we commonly refer to as 'government safety nets' are also being removed. State run programs are running out of 'pass through' money, and the charities will be affected soon. Right wingers are always saying churches could care for the poor better and somehow do it at no cost, but the christian charities get 2/3 of their money from the Feds. With Uncle Sam out the picture, their private donations will dry up too.

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Alex Baer: Meditations on Our Daily Horror

GOP horror showOctober:  This is the traditional month for frost on the pumpkin,  a jump-started sweet tooth, and a handful of artificial horrors.

Except every day is a day of all-too-real horror with Republicans.  Forget Elm Street -- every day is Nightmare on Capitol Hill these days, and each day comes with at least one twisted plot twist and adrenalin rush.  It's not unlike the ultimately depressing, empty-calorie gore-banquet of a slasher flick.

You know the feeling:  The highly-charged, hyper-energized sensation stemming from emptying half of your Trick-or-Treat stash in one sitting.  As usual, that sugar-rushing rocket ride can be exhilarating, but the plummet back to Earth is always queasy and dizzy-making.

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