Today is the 49th anniversary of a classic height-of-the-Cold-War moment: the exchange of Rudolf Abel for captured U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers over the Glienicker Bridge in Potsdam. Here is the contemporaneous story from Time Magazine. A little-known fact about this little-remembered incident is that Powers was accompanied by American graduate student Frederic Pryor, who had been detained by the USSR as a potential spy. In reality, Pryor simply stumbled into a spy trap in East Berlin and was not in fact an agent. He went on to teach Economics at Swarthmore, Michigan, and other elite universities for decades. He is still alive and semi-retired.

I want so badly to go next year and re-enact this for the 50th anniversary. If you don't know who Rudolf Abel is, fix that. If you are ignorant of Gary Powers and the U-2 incident, fix that too.

Quick question – why did the CIA give Powers a poisoned suicide pin (which he failed to use as he had been ordered to do) while also giving him a parachute? It appears that giving him neither would have produced more desired results than giving him both.


After months and months of prodding, the House Republicans have finally coughed up a list of specific things they want to cut from the budget. The hit list totals…wait for it…$58 billion.

Wow! $58 billion sure is a lot of money! Unless of course we're talking about the Federal budget. Let me double check something.

Yes, we're talking about the Federal budget. Let's take a quick look at these cuts in perspective, despite Perspective's well-established liberal bias. Click to embiggen:

Wow, over 4/10ths of one percent of the FY2011 budget! Oddly enough the $58 billion all comes out of non-defense discretionary spending, which makes sense because I think that is the largest share of the budget.


Well surely they targeted wasteful spending and clear examples of unnecessary programs.

Oh for fuck's sake.

You could almost respect their misguided zeal – rhetorically, if not in practice – for "cutting spending" if it was not such an obvious smokescreen for partisan hackery. Like, "Let's target everything our donors and base don't like and call it fiscal responsibility" as though cutting the National Endowment for the Arts is actually going to make a dent.

Or perhaps I'm just being cynical. Maybe the two most unnecessary items in the budget really are job training and the EPA.