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Saturday, Jul 26th

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An Evening with ... Anonymous

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My son and I recently attended a talk regarding Income Inequality at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Vancouver. I went because the speaker has had hundreds of his articles published in progressive websites like OpEdNews, and I always had thought of him as one of the good guys.

Now I don’t.

I’ve tried a number of different approaches to writing about the event and I thought it was best to keep the speaker anonymous for now and just let his statements speak for themselves.

What’s happening in the United States, the divisiveness, the polarization, again, is related to this fundamental economic problem. Because when so many people feel that they’re working so hard, they’re working harder than ever, but they’re not getting anywhere. They’re actually falling behind. They feel economically insecure.

When all of those people feel that the game is rigged against them, they get angry. They get frustrated. They’re very prone to demagogues on the left or the right - it doesn’t matter who want to point the finger of blame at immigrants or at the poor or at the rich, at corporations or at government or at the trade unions. There’s a lot of blame to go around.”

This was the first WTF moment.

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Life, Death, and Other Mindsets

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You're never too old to read a love letter.  It's not embarrassing, either.  It's downright invigorating.  Even at my age.  Or yours.

Age is just a state of mind, anyway.  In a year that's been filled with keen reminders of just how tenuous this whole business of breathing and remaining upright really is, Mark Twain comes unshakably to mind:  "Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

I'm not usually so accepting of such homilies and bromides, especially the ones bordering on such blind, positive-thinking alleyways and perky, overly-caffeinated boulevards -- but there you go.  The effects of reading last night's love letter, I suspect.

The love letter was called Young Frankenstein, first rolled out on its electrical scroll, way back in the Dark Ages (as some would say) of 1974.  Hard to believe almost four decades has slipped through consciousness since, the years as easy to misplace as handfuls of lake fog gathered just before dawn.

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2 or 3 Reasons to Not Vaporize Us - Yet

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Welcome to the sequel:  Monday, Part 2 -- The Non-Incredible Sameness of It All.

Oh, sure. We could mist up some, get all starry-eyed, get down on one knee, mutter a hazy, uncertain prayer, and utter our eternal gratitude, all because our elected representatives in Washington finally started doing (gasp!) their jobs.  Avoiding a national and worldwide financial meltdown was a side bonus, of course.

Somehow, I'm just not there, way off in Blissful Gratitude Land somewhere.  It just doesn't seem like that much of a bargain or blessing.

Of course, we're not currently engaged in hand-to-hand combat in the streets, with the prize being the dubious but life-sustaining reward of dining on weeks-old dumpster fare.  That's a Good Thing, that whole Avoiding Apocalypse business.  I'm glad House representatives are finally allowing the country to do as its laws say, and actually honor the debts they have approved all along.

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The "Special Relationship": How We Got Spying Wrong

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by Montag

'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).

We've also followed the British tendency of taking its prime intelligence recruits from elite institutions--Cambridge, Oxford, Eton, Sandhurst, and the like, as our intelligence services are fond of Yale, particularly, and Harvard, and for a time during the Cold War, from elite Catholic universities such as Fordham and Notre Dame, most likely because idealistic young Catholic students might reliably become good Cold Warriors in the fight against godless Communism.

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How to Solve Modern Crises with Ancient Snacks

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Popcorn 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?

Those feelings are normal, of course.

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Too Stupid To Live

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Here’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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Hobbling the Four Horses of the Apocalypse

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New 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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