18 July 2017

If Hillary, as The Donald insists, somehow got 'millions' of fraudulent votes, how come she didn't get enough to win?

17 July 2017

All-American gubs

GunDigest has an article by Elwood Shelton about the top ten 'Most American Guns Of All Time':


ARTICLE
Rico says he wouldn't want them all, but he wouldn't turn 'em down...

Keegan on Landau, Romero, & Freddie Mercury

It’s Monday, and I’m starting a support group for people who don’t watch Game of Thrones. On Sunday nights, we meet and talk about Proust.
Hello from Los Angeles, where we’re mourning Martin Landau and George Romero, celebrating a new Doctor Who, and casting some shine on A Wrinkle in Time.
Martin Landau has died at age 89, and on VF.com, Gary Susman delivers a full obituary covering Landau’s extraordinary career in movies like Ed Wood, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and North by Northwest, and his master-of-disguise role in the 1960s Mission: Impossible series. In addition to his screen and stage work, Landau was also a gifted acting teacher at the West Coast Actors Studio, who counted Jack Nicholson among his students. When I interviewed Landau in 2012, he delivered one of the best tutorials on acting that I’ve ever heard. “No one shows their feelings except bad actors,” Landau told me. “No one tries to cry. You try not to cry. No one tries to laugh. You try not to laugh . . . In a well-written script, dialogue is what a character is willing to say to another character. The 90 percent he isn’t is what I do for a living.” Thank you for the work, Martin Landau. We’re trying not to cry.
Hollywood suffered another loss this weekend, with the death of horror-movie godfather George Romero, who died of lung cancer at 77, “while listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his all-time favorite films,” according to a family statement. Tre’vell Anderson’s L.A. Times obit traces Romero’s history as a Hollywood outsider who minted the zombie movie sub-genre with his groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead. On VF.com, Joanna Robinson gathers the remembrances that have poured in from the likes of Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, and The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero, who called Romero his “mentor” and “inspiration.”

Sure, it’s the lazy, hazy days of summer, but it’s never too soon to start packing for the Venice-Telluride-Toronto trio of film festivals that kicks off awards season. A glimmer of a major Oscar contender emerged on Friday when Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh reported that Paramount will see its Alexander Payne social satire, Downsizing, open Venice, in the slot La La Land claimed last year. On VF.com, Chris Lee reads the tea leaves on another potential awards film, Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic, Dunkirk, which Warner Bros. will open Friday. As Lee writes, “The Oscar pedigree on this film is too much to ignore . . . So what’s a classy movie like this doing opening between Transformers: The Last Knight and The Emoji Movie?” WB’s summer counter-programming follows a path forged by another prestigious director’s World War II movie, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, which opened in July of 1998 and went on to win five Oscars. And the timing allows the studio to give big-screen traditionalist Nolan a full theatrical release before sending out Oscar screeners.
DOCTOR WHO?!
The wait for the new Time Lord has finally ended. For the first time in 55 years, Doctor Who will be . . . a woman! Specifically, Jodie Whittaker will play the iconic character. After years of lobbying for a female Doctor, many fans were ecstatic—but naturally, not everyone was thrilled. As one might have guessed, a healthy contingent of trolls cropped up, complaining that a time-traveling alien also being a woman would be simply ludicrous. Thankfully, Whittaker appears to have predicted that backlash, and came prepared to her introductory interview with the BBC with a rebuttal: “I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”

VF.com’s Yohana Desta e-mails:
Is this real life, or is this just fantasy? Queen fans will no longer have to ponder that age-old question, as it appears that the Freddie Mercury biopic, entitled Bohemian Rhapsody, is happening after all. The band confirmed the news with a long post on their official website, announcing that Emmy winner Rami Malek will play Mercury and Bryan Singer will direct. Guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor will executive produce. Pre-production will begin this week in the UK, and principal photography will gear up around mid-September in London, according to the band. Close followers of this film will note that rumors have kicked around for years about the potential biopic. Back in 2010, Sacha Baron Cohen was tapped as the potential star, but he eventually parted ways with Taylor and May in 2013 after creative differences. Not only did they not see eye-to-eye on the storyline (Cohen claims the duo wanted to play down Mercury’s wild personal antics, which May later disputed, and called him an “arse” to boot), they also couldn’t settle on a potential director. Cohen’s list reportedly included boffo options like David Fincher and Tom Hooper. After the actor’s departure, Ben Whishaw was thrown into the mix as a potential replacement, but that fizzled out too. Now it’s Mr. Robot’s turn to bring Freddie to life if this movie is as close to happening as the band swears it is.
Last March, I had my remain-chill-at-all-times reporting philosophy challenged when Oprah Winfrey emerged gloriously costumed as a celestial being on the Santa Clarita, California, set of Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time. Over the weekend, Disney fans were living their best lives at D23, the media giant’s convention in Anaheim, where DuVernay, Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, and newcomer Storm Reid appeared to unveil the film’s first teaser. VF.com’s Robinson, who is officially the hardest-working woman in show business right now, attended the mouse-house bacchanal, and writes up the Wrinkle in Time teaser:
 
Game of Thrones, as you might have heard, premiered its seventh season Sunday night. At VF.com, we have the deepest coverage, including Robinson’s recap, Julie Miller’s interview with production designer Deborah Riley about the design of Khaleesi’s Dragonstone den, and a look ahead at next week’s episode. Dive in!
That’s the news for this sunny Monday in L.A. What are you seeing out there? Send tips, comments, and Game of Thrones support group R.S.V.P.s to rebecca_keegan@condenast.com. Follow me on Twitter @thatrebecca.
Rico says he will not be watching Game of Thrones nor anything about Freddie Mercury...

Monkerud on Trump

Rico's friend from the old days in California, Don Monkerud, offers a cogent opinion on Trump:
None Dare Call It Treasonby Don Monkerud
As we watch policy develop for the nation, disturbing warning signs jump to the headlines. Foremost is the lack of concern by the GOP that the president’s family conducted secret meetings with Russia to undermine the election. The president’s son and son-in-law met with Russians connected to the Federal Security Service, the old KGB intelligence service. Emails reveal that the Trump team received “very high level and sensitive information” to help the GOP win the election. Trump lawyers claim the only thing wrong was that the meeting became public. Evidently, the less the public knows, the better. Little mention is made of the possible hacking of election machines or how the GOP coordinated planning with the Kremlin, which both Russia and Trump want to keep secret.
Once known as Russia’s fiercest rival, today’s GOP has become a Russian ally, coupled with a president described as “Putin’s boyfriend”. The President now calls for a joint US-Russian cybersecurity team, after Russia has hacked its way through America’s corporate computer system. Where once the GOP attacked Democrats for “being soft on Communism", they now enable the current administration, as they pussy foot around what is rapidly becoming a kleptocracy. The president’s supporters evidently believe the winner takes all, by any means necessary.
As private business takes control of the companies who make billions off the government, bring their owners and investors boundless wealth, and will be freed from many of the constraints placed on US soldiers. The president’s supporters try to keep the nation focused on an Islamic enemy, while milking the US budget for profit, and continuing the occupation of Afghanistan.
Today’s GOP is devoting itself to overthrowing the US government and wants corporations to have more control, long a dream of the party that became known as “the party of big business”. As far-right forces take control of the GOP, they are attacking government on every level. The New York Times reports that the administration has seventy appointees who represented businesses in cases against government regulation, staff members from secret money groups, employees of industry who oppose regulations, and lobbyists. These appointees are working full time to overturn protections of air and water pollution, consumer protections, bank and financial regulations, and other rules that protect Americans from corporate misdeeds.
While the public sorts through stupid presidential Twitter posts, misnaming China’s leader as being the leader of Taiwan, calling the Japanese prime minister President Abe, and mixing up the leaders of Singapore and Indonesia, his appointees seek to end government support of birth control for women. Ideological fanatics, called “nutters” in England, have long opposed birth control in any form and find a sympathetic ear in the current President. “The longer you stay on the pill, the longer you ruin your uterus for baby-hosting,” claims the President’s special assistant for health policy. The President’s backers claim that their “religious beliefs” exempt them from government laws that apply to every other citizen.
Even more egregious are the attempts of the GOP to roll back new rules of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that protect customers against arbitration. Under the old rules, companies  demand that you sign a contract, which includes mandatory arbitration for such things as credit cards, bank accounts, employment, and purchases. Under these “arbitration clauses” you give up your right to sue, and instead go to a company’s secret arbitration panel if you feel you’ve been cheated by their policies. Because you no longer go before a judge, companies can do things like charge excessive fees on overdrafts, steal your wages, provide poor medical care, abuse you sexually, and even kill you, and prevent you from seeking justice in a courtroom.
Under the old arbitration rules, as a customer you cannot join in a class action or seek other relief because you’ve signed away your rights. If you don’t sign, companies refuse to hire you, give you a credit card or do business with you. The GOP is fighting the new rules by rallying the public against “fat cat” Democratic lawyers who might make money when companies are sued for acting illegally. One Texas House member goes as far as to claim that the rules allow bureaucrats to control people’s lives. Presumably he believes that the government is infringing on corporations’ right to control your life.
The GOP gets away with such policies because the President’s supporters remain dead set on opposing government. They are willing to sacrifice their own well-being, their families, their futures, and their lives to a new group in Washington that is turning their lives over to corporations. They follow the President’s motto, “ethics are for suckers”, and none dare call it treason.
Rico says he couldn't agree more, but he will call it treason...

Colbert on Trump again

Esquire has an article by Jack Holmes about Colbert's latest:

As Stephen Colbert has well learned, any time the President heads abroad, it's an opportunity for embarrassment. In this case, the Great American Facepalm involved France's First Lady, Brigitte Macron, whom the President of the United States deemed in "such good shape" and then, just in case there was any confusion, added, "physical shape". (And they said chivalry was dead.) Colbert had some fun with that, but also with the joint press conference Trump held with Emmanuel Macron, in which Don the Elder was forced to defend his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer whom Don Junior knew was connected to the Kremlin, but was promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
First, the President argued it was really quick collusion, so it doesn't really count:
"It's like a five second rule for your soul," Colbert sniped, as it dawned on all of us all over again that the President has no sense of morality that extends beyond whether there will be consequences for his behavior. That was actually just one of Trump's excuses, though. He also said "most people would have taken that meeting" ("to the FBI," Colbert snapped) and that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, like, weren't even paying attention, and that it was "not a Russian government lawyer". To that last point, though, that's exactly how she was billed to Junior by Rob Goldstone in that email, so Junior was more than willing to take information directly from the Russian government if it meant tarring Hillary Clinton. That Natalia Vesenitskaya turns out to be merely Kremlin-connected does not absolve that: the intent here appears to have been collusion.
But hey! Let President Smoothtalk do his thing; after all he's just trying to build alliances with our allies.
Rico says assuming we have any allies left when Trump leaves office...

History for the day: 1955: Disneyland opens

History.com has this for 17 July:


Disneyland, Walt Disney’s metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism, opened on 17 July 1955. The seventeen million dollar  theme park was built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, and soon brought in staggering profits. Today, Disneyland hosts more than fourteen million visitors a year, who spend close to three billion dollars.
Disney, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901, worked as a commercial artist before setting up a small studio in Los Angeles, California to produce animated cartoons. In 1928, his short film Steamboat Willy, starring the character Mickey Mouse, was a national sensation. It was the first animated film to use sound, and Disney provided the voice for Mickey. From there on, Disney cartoons were in heavy demand, but the company struggled financially because of Disney’s insistence on ever-improving artistic and technical quality. His first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), took three years to complete and was a great commercial success.
Snow White was followed by other feature-length classics for children, such as Pinocchio in 1940, Dumbo in 1941, and Bambi in 1942. Fantasia (released in 1940), which coordinated animated segments with famous classical music pieces, was an artistic and technical achievement. In Song of the South (1946), Disney combined live actors with animated figures, and beginning with Treasure Island in 1950, the company added live-action movies to its repertoire. Disney was also one of the first movie studios to produce film directly for television, and its Zorro and Davy Crockett series were very popular with children.
In the early 1950s, Disney began designing a huge amusement park to be built near Los Angeles, California. He intended Disneyland to have educational as well as amusement value, and to entertain both adults and their children. Land was bought in the farming community of Anaheim, about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and construction began in 1954. In the summer of 1955, special invitations were sent out for the opening of Disneyland on 17 July 17. Unfortunately, the pass was counterfeited and thousands of uninvited people were admitted into Disneyland on opening day. The park was not ready for the them: food and drink ran out, a women’s high-heel shoe got stuck in the wet asphalt of Main Street USA, and the Mark Twain Steamboat nearly capsized from too many passengers.
Disneyland soon recovered, however, and attractions such as the Castle, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Adventures, Space Station X-1, Jungle Cruise, and Stage Coach drew countless children and their parents. Special events and the continual building of new state-of-the-art attractions encouraged them to visit again. In 1965, work began on an even bigger Disney theme park and resort near Orlando, Florida. Disney died in 1966, and Walt Disney World was opened in his honor on 1 October 1971. Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom were later added to Walt Disney World, and it remains Florida’s premier tourist attraction. In 1983, Disneyland Tokyo opened in Japan, and, in 1992 Disneyland Paris, EuroDisney, opened to a mixed reaction in Marne-la-Vallee. The newest Disneyland, in Hong Kong, opened its doors in September 2005.
Rico says he went to the one in Anaheim as a child with his parents, and loved it. (And the fact that Disney had Rico's grandfather's mustache was a plus.)

Obituary for the day: Martin Landau UF

Yahoo has the obit by Mike Barnes of The Hollywood Reporter:

Martin Landau, the all-purpose actor who showcased his versatility as a master of disguise on the Mission: Impossible television series and as a broken-down Bela Lugosi (photo, right, with Johnny Depp) in his Oscar-winning performance in Ed Wood, has died. He was 89.
His publicist has confirmed that Landau, who shot to fame by playing a homosexual henchman in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest, died Saturday after a brief stay at UCLA Medical Center.
After he quit CBSMission: Impossible after three seasons in 1969 because of a contract dispute, Landau’s career was on the rocks until he was picked by Francis Ford Coppola to play Abe Karatz, the business partner of visionary automaker Preston Tucker (played by Jeff Bridges), in Tucker: The Man and His Dream in1988. Landau received a best supporting actor nomination for that performance, then backed it up the following year with another nom for starring as Judah Rosenthal, an ophthalmologist who has his mistress (played by Angelica Huston) killed, in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989.
Landau lost out on Oscar night to Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington, respectively, in those years but finally prevailed for his larger-than-life portrayal of horror-movie legend Lugosi in the biopic Ed Wood (1994), directed by Tim Burton.
Landau also starred as Commander John Koenig on the 1970s science-fiction series Space: 1999opposite his Mission: Impossible co-star Barbara Bain, his wife from 1957 until their divorce in 1993.
A former newspaper cartoonist, Landau turned down the role of Mr. Spock in the NBC series Star Trek, which went to Leonard Nimoy (who later effectively replaced Landau on Mission: Impossibleafter Trek was canceled).
Landau also was an admired acting teacher who taught the craft to the likes of Jack Nicholson. And in the 1950s, he was best friends with James Dean and, for several months, the boyfriend of Marilyn Monroe. “She could be wonderful, but she was incredibly insecure, to the point she could drive you crazy,” he told The New York Times in 1988.
Landau was born in Brooklyn on June 20, 1928. At age 17, he landed a job as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News, but he turned down a promotion and quit five years later to pursue acting.
“It was an impulsive move on my part to do that,” Landau told The Jewish Journal in 2013. “To become an actor was a dream I must’ve had so deeply and so strongly because I left a lucrative, well-paying job that I could do well to become an unemployed actor. It’s crazy if you think about it. To this day, I can still hear my mother’s voice saying, ‘You did what?!’ ”
In 1955, he auditioned for Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio (choosing a scene from Clifford Odets’ Clash by Night against the advice of friends), and he and Steve McQueen were the only new students accepted that year out of the 2,000-plus aspirants who had applied.
With his dark hair and penetrating blue eyes, Landau found success on New York stages in Goat Song, Stalag 17 and First Love. Hitchcock caught his performance on opening night opposite Edward G. Robinson in a road production of Middle of the Night, the first Broadway play written by Paddy Chayefsky, and cast him as the killer Leonard in North by Northwest.
In Middle of the Night, “I played a very macho guy, 180 degrees from Leonard, who I chose to play as a homosexual — very subtly — because he wanted to get rid of Eva Marie Saint with such a vengeance,” he recalled in a 2012 interview.
As the ally of James Mason and nemesis of Saint and Cary Grant, Landau plummets to his death off Mount Rushmore in the movie’s climactic scene. With his slick, sinister gleam and calculating demeanor, he attracted the notice of producers and directors.
He went on to perform for such top directors as Joseph L. Mankiewicz in Cleopatra (1963) — though he said most of his best work on that film was sent to the cutting-room floor — George Stevens in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), John Sturges in The Hallelujah Trail (1965) and Henry Hathaway in Nevada Smith (1966).
Rico remembers him well, for all his roles.

16 July 2017

Jarheads, appropriately named UF

Esquire has an article by Elliot Ackerman about the latest Marine stupidity:

One morning this past February, a female active-duty Marine was standing in line at CIF, a cavernous supply warehouse at Camp Lejeune. It was a little past ten o'clock, and the weather outside was clear and gusty, typical of winters among the sand pines of coastal North Carolina. The woman, we'll call her Judy, was checking into a new unit. She'd come to CIF to collect her standard issue of combat equipment.
While Judy stood among the rows of stacked body armor, Kevlar helmets, and camouflage hiking packs, an infantryman named Brenden McDonel, who was standing a few places behind her in line, pulled out his phone and started surreptitiously taking her photograph. McDonel didn't know Judy, but that didn't keep him from posting the pictures to a private Facebook group called Marines United. "Standing in line behind her at CIF," he wrote. "Who's got em?"

A screenshot from Marines United 4.0, one of the Facebook photo-sharing groups that sprung up after the original was taken down.
Within minutes of that first post, dozens of members of Marines United chimed in. "Stalker game has just been elevated," one posted. Others suggested sexual acts. "FHRITP," one proposed. "And butthole. And throat. And ears. Both of them. Video it though . . . for science." Another encouraged McDonel to "take her out back and pound her out." Several members of the Facebook group recognized Judy, and some said that she belonged to their unit. "Was on the range with her while back, pink ass jeep right." Her platoon sergeant—her direct supervisor—liked the thread.
As they advanced through the line, McDonel continued to stalk Judy, shooting photos and posting them to Marines United. Only ninety minutes after his initial request, a photo showing Judy topless was posted to the Facebook thread. The picture had clearly been taken by a lover, someone she had trusted. But its appearance on Marines United represented an obvious breach of that trust.
The topless photograph was greeted by some members of Marines United with applause ("Great job gents!"), while others seemed surprised ("Wow it actually worked . . . wtf"). Still others expressed a muted dismay ("Some of you guys are creepy as fuck").
Thomas Brennan, a thirty-one-year-old investigative journalist and former Marine, was disgusted but not surprised. For weeks he had been tracking Marines United, watching as the group, which had been organized as a suicide-prevention and support network for veterans, was transformed into a forum for revenge porn. In the course of his reporting, he discovered that members of the all-male group had crowdsourced thousands of images of hundreds of naked servicewomen. The pictures included selfies, creepshots, and intimate photos. Like the pictures at the heart of the celebrity-photo scandals on 4chan and Reddit, the images were being posted without their subjects' knowledge or consent. Here, however, they were being deployed to intimidate women in the Marine Corps.
Brennan's story about Marines United, which he published in March, revealed one of the most significant scandals the Corps has faced in a decade. When we met at his house earlier this year, he told me that he had seen isolated images of naked female service members on military-oriented Facebook pages before. But the scale and sophistication of the Marines United collection were unlike anything he'd ever encountered. "What made this different was the volume of photographs and the details: names, ranks, duty stations," he said. "They were weaponizing this stuff."
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When Brennan first joined Marines United in early 2016, most of the postings were benign: active-duty Marines asking about life at one duty station or another, or veterans offering advice about transitioning to civilian life. Brennan joined the group, he told me, to get the word out about stories he was writing for The War Horse, a military-news nonprofit that he'd recently founded.
On January 30 of this year, he was scrolling through his Facebook feed on his phone when he came across a link posted to Marines United by an account that belonged to Joseph Bundt, who identified himself as a former Marine. "Here you go, you thirsty fucks," the post said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more coming."
When Brennan clicked the link, he saw that it led to a shared Google Drive folder containing thousands of images of naked women from every branch of the military. The photographs were indexed by name, which meant that the Google Drive was effectively a searchable image database. (Reached by phone, the owner of Bundt's accounts denied that he had posted the photographs to the Google Drive or the link to Facebook. He said his accounts had been hacked, and declined to comment on other details of the incident.)
"What made this different was the volume of photographs and the details. They were weaponizing this stuff."
Brennan took screenshots of the hundreds of likes and comments that followed the link to the Google Drive, as well as of subsequent posts that encouraged others to add to the photo collection. Within twelve hours of the first post, the number of folders on the Google Drive had ballooned from four to fifty. Brennan told me that members of Marines United were operating "like a company-level intelligence- collection team," gathering images using tactics similar to the ones that had helped Marines investigate insurgent networks in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As he watched the photo scandal unfold in real time, Brennan called Major Kendra Motz, a public- affairs officer at Camp Lejeune who had helped him with a story he'd written for Vanity Fair. Motz recognized the significance of what Brennan had found. She contacted Major Clark Carpenter, a public-affairs officer at Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington. At Brennan's request, the information he passed along was recorded as an anonymous tip.
By February 1, the Marine Corps had succeeded in getting the link to the Google Drive and the Facebook posts on the Marines United thread deleted. In an email, Carpenter updated several senior field-grade and general officers on the situation. He wrote that he had registered a complaint with the company that employed, through a subcontractor, a member of Marines United. But he also noted that the group remained active on Facebook, and that the offending thread had been deleted before he could gather "enough information about the group or group members to link individuals or the group to inappropriate actions." The following day, Brennan asked Motz if the Corps was launching an investigation. To his surprise, she said no.
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Brennan's house is in Onslow County, a thirty-minute drive from the front gate of Camp Lejeune, where he was stationed before he was medically retired from the Corps in 2012. A modest three-bedroom with a Marine Corps flag out front, it is nestled in a cul-de-sac among dozens of identical vinyl-sided homes. When I visited him this spring, his daughter, who is in grade school, had left her books and toys scattered across the living room. His wife, Melinda, was at work. Zeus, his Great Dane, drooled on my lap, and Cupcake, his epileptic pit bull, whined by the front door. Strewn across the kitchen counter were stacks of papers, a laptop, and a four-inch-thick black binder in which he kept the screenshots from Marines United. After the Facebook posts and shared Google folders were deleted, the binder became the only known record of the incident.

Thomas Brennan, the journalist and former Marine who broke the story.
Reuters
I first met Brennan in 2004, when I was a twenty-four-year-old second lieutenant and he was a nineteen-year-old private first class. We were both infantrymen, fresh out of training and bound for our first combat deployments in Iraq. Both of us were assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, or 1/8, and we both fought in the battle for Fallujah, in November 2004. Although I didn't know Brennan well at the time, his platoon was led by one of my best friends.
I ran into Brennan again a decade later, in New York, where he was living while studying at Columbia Journalism School. I was drinking one night at the Half King, a Manhattan bar co-owned by the writer Sebastian Junger, when a guy with a face full of stubble and tattoos climbing up his arms tapped me on the shoulder. I didn't recognize Brennan until he said that he'd been in my friend's platoon. Standing there among the sticky wooden tables, we exchanged gossip about Marines we both knew—"Did you hear Esquibel got his foot blown off in Helmand?"—and then Brennan told me about "this thing I'm trying to get off the ground": a news organization focused on military and veterans' stories. In the months to come, I pitched in a few bucks to the Kickstarter campaign for The War Horse, but I couldn't help noticing that the funding thermometer on its website remained stuck at arctic lows.
At the Half King, Brennan never mentioned that he couldn't afford to bring his wife and their daughter to live with him in New York. Nor did he say much about the combat injury that ultimately ended his career in the Marines. But when we met this spring, he told me about the rocket-propelled grenade that had exploded a few feet from his head in 2010, during an ambush in a wisp of a town called Musa Qala, in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. The injury caused memory loss and mood swings. Military doctors eventually diagnosed him with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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While on leave and awaiting his mandatory medical retirement from the Corps, Brennan started a job as a newspaper reporter in Lumberton, North Carolina, a hundred miles from his house. He had a vague notion that he wanted to tell other people's stories. Every Monday morning, he left Melinda and their daughter to spend the workweek at a studio apartment he was renting in Lumberton. At the paper, he spent most of his time mechanically reporting on mundane happenings about town. The job was unsatisfying, and Brennan's imminent discharge left him feeling that his true purpose—to make a career as a Marine—had been snatched from under him.
"Someone needs to stand up and say this does not represent the values of the Marine Corps."
By late 2012, Brennan had had enough. Three days after Christmas and two days before the end of his military career, he was at his apartment in Lumberton when he decided to write Melinda a letter. "To the woman I love with my whole heart and soul: You are finally free of the terror I have caused in your life," Brennan typed on his laptop. "I am sorry for everything I have done to you. I deserve every bit of sorrow I feel. Never forget how much I love you and cherish the times we spent together." The letter finished, "I'll hopefully see you on the other side." Brennan left his laptop open, swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills, and lay on his bed.
His thoughts turned to his daughter. He imagined her growing up without him, and what it would be like for her to find out that her father had quit on himself. The vision was enough to change his mind. He rushed to the toilet, pushed his fingers down his throat, and vomited up dozens of little white pills. Before driving himself to the local hospital, he stood staring at his phone. He needed to tell Melinda what he'd almost done. "I stood for a long time trying to call her," Brennan recalled. Eventually he summoned the nerve. Once he explained everything, the line went silent until Melinda said, "You have another chance to find a purpose."
After his suicide attempt, Brennan quit his job in Lumberton and found a position closer to home, at the Jacksonville Daily News. At Melinda's urging, he left North Carolina in 2014 to attend Columbia. He returned home to Jacksonville after finishing his journalism degree and turned his full attention to The War Horse.
In February of this year, not long after he discovered the cache of Marines United photographs, Brennan called Anna Hiatt, an adjunct professor at Columbia. Hiatt had supported Brennan's vision for The War Horse, even agreeing to serve as its editor, and now she encouraged him to write about the photos as a journalist. "There was a sense of disbelief," Hiatt told me. "He wanted validation that what he was seeing was, in fact, very wrong. But his first instinct wasn't to write about it. That idea felt like a break from the tribe."
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Anna Hiatt, an adjunct professor at Columbia, encouraged Brennan to write about the photos.
Courtesy Anna Hiatt
Motz, too, encouraged him to write about the photos. "The more I talked to Kendra," Brennan told me, "the more I could hear frustration in her voice." He recalled Motz telling him, "There are only so many opportunities to do the right thing."
Early on, Brennan tried to make contact with the victims. "You don't have to say anything," he promised. "Just listen." An active-duty staff noncommissioned officer who had served in the Corps for a decade told Brennan that she already knew her photos had been posted. She thanked him and asked to be left alone.
Savannah Cunningham, a twenty-year-old from Phoenix, wasn't even a Marine at the time she was harassed. She was a poolee, a civilian who had signed enlistment papers but had yet to attend recruit training. "Someone needs to stand up and say this does not represent the values of the Marine Corps," she told The New York Times in March, before shipping off to boot camp. (The Marines declined to make her available for an interview.) "If not me, then who?"
"Savannah is what made it real to me," Brennan told me over breakfast at his house. "Her pictures being in there is like the ultimate welcome to the family." He considered a photograph of his daughter that was held to the fridge by a magnet. "She reminds me of Savannah," he said. "They both have that wavy hair."
As Brennan reported his story, he spoke often to Anna Hiatt. "I kept saying to him, 'This is going to be big,' " she said. "He didn't really believe me. What he kept saying was, 'Guys I know are probably going to come after me,' which I didn't really believe."
"I kept saying to Brennan, 'This is going to be big.' He didn't really believe me."
On February 6, nearly a week after Brennan first reported the Google Drive to the Marine Corps, he scheduled a meeting with Motz and her boss at Camp Lejeune. Brennan presented them with the binder of screenshots. Journalistic due diligence was part of the reason, but he also feared that the organization, one he cared deeply about, wasn't prepared for the fallout.
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Still, Brennan told me, "the scariest part was that there was no recourse for victims of this type of harassment." Although the Corps had programs in place for victims of sexual assault or for those who faced workplace sexual harassment, the Marines had no specific programs for victims of cyber harassment. In May 2013, Jackie Speier, a Democratic congresswoman from California, had sent a letter to General James F. Amos, the Marine commandant at the time, about online sexual harassment. In his response, Amos wrote that "the anonymous nature of social media, the use of online pseudonyms, and the magnitude of available sites presents key challenges to curtailing inappropriate postings." The Marine inspector general, he told Speier, "lacks the resources and infrastructure to actively and consistently monitor the countless, ever-evolving social media sites."
Through his reporting, Brennan had compiled the online profiles and identities of forty-nine Marines who had shared photos through the Google Drive and Marines United. Three quarters of the participants were or had been commissioned or noncommissioned officers, including three drill instructors, one recruiter, a major who served as a fighter pilot, and a former member of HMX-1, the helicopter squadron that flies the president. At Camp Lejeune, Brennan again pressed the Corps to initiate an investigation, and he asked it to confirm the names he'd provided. The Corps did neither. It did, however, invite him to meet officers at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington later that month.
While Brennan worked on his story, he continued to monitor Marines United. He was working at his kitchen counter on February 16 when he saw the photo McDonel posted of Judy. Brennan documented the stalking as it occurred, taking screenshots on his laptop while simultaneously attempting to contact Judy on Facebook.
He also called Anna Hiatt. "We didn't know what to do," Hiatt told me. "I was worried that if he called Marine authorities that he'd expose the entire story, but he felt he needed to alert someone." Brennan then contacted Motz, who notified her superiors at Headquarters Marine Corps. Motz, now acting in her capacity as a victims' advocate, alerted Judy about the incident. Two days later, Judy agreed to meet with Brennan at a coffee shop off base. She brought a friend. Brennan showed her his screenshots. McDonel, she noted, was "standing close enough to smell my perfume. This is going to follow me—just like he did."
"Marine leadership seemed more concerned with killing the story as opposed to striking at the root of the problem."
I spoke to Judy this spring. The day after the incident, she told me, the officer in charge of her unit, a male first lieutenant, called her into his office. He explained that she was being transferred to a unit that would not be deploying abroad. "Why am I the one being punished?" Judy asked him. "I am a tier-one Marine and I deserve to be here. I want to deploy. That's why I joined the Marine Corps." The officer said that she had been in the unit for only two days and had already caused problems. Later, she was removed from a scheduled training exercise in Arizona.
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Judy considered "requesting mast," a process that allows junior enlisted Marines to circumvent their immediate chain of command and seek a direct audience with a senior officer. "They only let me stay because I forced the issue," Judy told me. When I asked whether her superiors talked about removing the men involved, she guessed at their thinking: "It'd be too many spots to fill if they ask the men to leave. So let's just pretend like it didn't happen." She went on, "That's the way the Marine Corps works: sweep the problem under the rug and don't make it a bigger issue."
Brennan, meanwhile, continued to hound the Marine Corps. He wanted it to confirm the names of the forty-nine individuals he'd identified, as well as Brenden McDonel. Four days after the stalking, Brennan received a response. Citing difficulties with its records systems, the Corps told him that McDonel was the only Marine it could identify. McDonel, however, had finished his enlistment and was being processed out of the service. As a private citizen, he would remain outside the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice so long as he was not on active duty.

Savannah Cunningham, recently enlisted Marine.
Caitlin O'Hara/Redux
The Facebook posts from the stalking incident were taken down, once again leaving Brennan with the only known copies outside official channels. "Marine leadership seemed more concerned with deleting everything and then killing the story as opposed to disciplining those involved and striking at the root of the problem," Brennan told me. Though the authorities deleted links to the photos, many of the images have since found their way to other groups on Facebook, or even to other websites. In April, some of the images were put up for sale on Alpha Bay, an untraceable online marketplace on the so-called Dark Web.
In May, three months after the stalking incident, I tracked down Brenden McDonel. Speaking publicly for the first time, he was unapologetic. "I don't think it is as malicious and serious as it's been portrayed," he said. "Just because you feel like you're attacked and targeted doesn't make it so." The topless photo of Judy, he claimed, was already "out there." He said that she either shouldn't have allowed it to be taken or "should do a better job thinking about who she trusts." But shouldn't she be able to trust him? I asked. Don't Marines need to trust each other with their lives? "When it comes to the Marines I served with, I'd trust them with my life but not with my wife," McDonel said. Marines like him, he added, "are going to do dumb things. That's inevitable."
Judy, meanwhile, continues to work among the same Marines who posted about her on Facebook. "I don't go to the chow hall," she told me. "I don't go to the gym. If I see someone pull a phone, I get out of line. When I stand in formation, I'm always wondering who has seen the posts." When I told Judy that I had spoken to McDonel, she grew quiet. "Print this," she said. "How would he feel if someone did this to his mother or his sister? He is a predator. He is despicable. His actions are deplorable and not those becoming a Marine." At the time this story went to press, the Corps had yet to take any formal disciplinary action against the Marines from Judy's unit who'd commented on the Facebook posts. They continue to work in her office.
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Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff.
Christoph Bangert/laif/Redux
The Marines United scandal obviously has much to do with the decisions of individual Marines like McDonel. But it arrived during the implementation of two major changes within the organization, timing that suggests a broader significance. The first of these changes started in December 2015, when Ashton Carter, then secretary of defense, announced that women would be integrated into all combat jobs across the U. S. military.
Women currently make up 7 percent of the Marine Corps, and for the past hundred years they have been allowed to hold positions—logistics, aviation, communication—that didn't place them in direct combat. They have not, however, been permitted to join the infantry, the soul of the Corps. Two months before the integration policy went into effect, the Marines requested an exemption to keep armor and infantry jobs closed to women. The request was denied. Marine General Joseph F. Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chose not to attend Carter's announcement of the new policy at the Pentagon. Instead, he released a statement of tepid acquiescence. "I have had the opportunity to provide my advice on the issue of full integration of women into the armed forces," Dunford said. "In the wake of the secretary's decision, my responsibility is to ensure his decision is properly implemented." Dunford has a sterling reputation and a proven combat record as a regimental commander during some of the toughest fighting in Iraq, and his apparent resistance to the policy did not go unnoticed by the rank and file.
His apparent resistance to gender integration did not go unnoticed by the Marine rank and file.
The Marines United scandal also arrived at a time when the Marine Corps did not have the clarifying purpose of a major war. Historically, significant dips in discipline, morale, and readiness have occurred in the wake of conflicts. The mass demobilization that took place after the Second World War left U. S. forces underprepared when communists invaded South Korea in 1950. Similarly, the racism and drug problems of the post-Vietnam military took nearly a decade to uproot, and eventually led to the creation of an all-volunteer force. Retired Admiral James Stavridis, the former commander of NATO, told me recently that when he was a junior officer in the 1970s, "There were certain parts of the ship you just didn't go to. Down there it was like Apocalypse Now."
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Though it might sound precious, or even melodramatic, to an outsider, it is no exaggeration to say that culture is everything in the Marine Corps. It is a truism among Marines that while the Army has its tanks, the Navy has its ships, and the Air Force has its planes, the Corps has its culture. That culture is steeped in battle history and heroism, places and people that most Americans have never heard of but that any Marine can rattle off the tongue—Chapultepec, Belleau Wood, Chosin Reservoir, Dan Daly, Smedley Darlington Butler, Lewis "Chesty" Puller.
As U. S. involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts wound down and the integration policy went into effect, members of social- media groups like Marines United took it upon themselves to defend their interpretation of the Corps' culture. A spokesman for a Marine-run online group called Just the Tip of the Spear, who insisted on being identified only as "jttotsvader2," told me that the Corps needs "to push back against society because we are a fighting organization." Like Marines United, his group often distributes controversial material. When I asked how posting photos of nude service members helped the Corps maintain its fighting readiness, he was emphatic that his group did not condone such behavior. I was looking at his website while we spoke, however, and I noted that it contained degrading photos of female service members. When I pointed this out, jttotsvader2 told me, "Our website needs to be updated."
At 4:40 in the morning on February 21, five days after McDonel stalked Judy, Brennan left home in his pickup truck and drove up I-95 to Washington. When he arrived at the Pentagon, he met with Clark Carpenter and a colleague from public affairs. They had suggested talking informally before Brennan attended a larger meeting scheduled for the afternoon. Brennan had the black binder full of screenshots and a draft of his story with him, the details of which he planned to ask Carpenter to confirm.
Carpenter took Brennan to the cafeteria and suggested he get lunch while the public-affairs officials looked over the story. Brennan, who suspected they wanted a copy to circulate internally, refused. "I wasn't about to leave it for them to photograph with their phones," he told me. Instead, he sat with them while they read. When they were done, Carpenter challenged only one fact: He changed his job title in a quote attributed to him.
"How much more do the females of our Corps have to do to be accepted? What is it going to take for you to accept these Marines as Marines?"
Carpenter then escorted Brennan to a secure conference room where approximately a dozen majors and colonels, a representative from the Marine Corps Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, and a judge advocate were waiting. Brennan gave them copies of the story and showed them the screenshots, which none of them had seen. According to Brennan, the conversation ranged from the specifics of the story—none of which were challenged—to questions about whether the Marine Corps had a cultural issue that it needed to confront. The day after leaving the Pentagon, he was notified that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service had launched a formal investigation into the February 16 stalking incident.
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Brennan wanted comments from senior military leaders to include in his story, but he initially had difficulty getting much more than a canned remark from a junior public- affairs officer. After much pushing, however, he received a statement on March 2 from Ronald L. Green, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps. Green said that the harassment on Marines United and similar groups "hurts fellow Marines, family members, and civilians. It is a direct attack on our ethos and legacy." And yet even though Green acknowledged that "we need to realize that silence is consent," the leadership at Headquarters Marine Corps answered none of Brennan's specific questions about the investigation or what steps the Corps might take to remedy the problem.
The next day, Brennan received a text message from a number he didn't recognize. Attached was a leaked document, known as a public-affairs guidance, or PAG, that the Marine Corps had sent to nearly one hundred of its generals in preparation for Brennan's story. The PAG did not advise commanders how to respond to online sexual harassment; it was, rather, a guide for how to navigate the potential public-relations damage.
"I can only speculate who sent me the text message with the PAG," Brennan told me. "It was an internal document, so it was someone within the organization. All I can say is that throughout this process, it was women in the Marine Corps who ensured that the story never died."
The leaked PAG indicated to Brennan that the Marine Corps was maneuvering to diminish the impact of his reporting. On March 4, The War Horse published his story in partnership with Reveal, the website for the Center for Investigative Journalism. As he waited for the response, Brennan told me, he was afraid in a way he'd been only one other time in his life: after he swallowed the sleeping pills in 2012. Brennan was still a member of Marines United, so he posted a link to the story onto the group's feed with this message, "Here you go, you thirsty fucks . . . this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more coming."
Brennan is an unlikely advocate for the integration of women into the infantry, mainly because he has his own reservations about the change. "The issue isn't the women, it's the men," he told me. "I'm not certain that I would be ready for this. The sound of a woman crying out for her life on a battlefield would make me think of my wife and daughter." Though he knows that this is not a good reason not to allow women in combat—"It's my problem," he told me—he has doubts about whether the Marine Corps culture can accept integration. Looking again at a photo of his daughter, he said, "It's funny, isn't it? If she told me that she wanted to join the Marines, a war wouldn't be my most immediate concern regarding her safety."
Brennan's story was picked up immediately by nearly every major newspaper and network news channel. As he'd expected, the self- appointed defenders of the Marines' culture provided swift retribution. A torrent of online threats led him to deactivate his social-media profiles. Most notably, a bounty of $500 still exists for nude photos of his wife, and others have sought photos of his "girl." He has been left to wonder whether this means Melinda, their daughter, or both.

Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps.
Win McNamee
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There were other responses as well, however. In March, Marines United was shut down, and in May, the House of Representatives passed the PRIVATE Act, a bill that criminalizes the nonconsensual sharing of explicit photographs. Three days after his story broke, Brennan was sitting on his porch with Thomas Jacobs, a friend from 1/8, his old outfit, when his phone rang. Brennan didn't recognize the number and almost didn't pick up. The caller was General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps. Brennan said that Neller thanked him and told him that sometimes it takes an outsider to show the organization where it's coming up short.
A week later, Neller was called to testify on the Marines United incident and the status of integration in the Corps before the Committee on Armed Services in the Senate. He asked female Marines to "trust me personally as your commandant and when I say I'm outraged that many of you haven't been given the same respect when you earn the title Marine." Speaking to the men, he said, "I need you to ask yourselves, how much more do the females of our Corps have to do to be accepted? Was it enough when Major Megan McClung was killed by an IED in Ramadi? Or Captain Jennifer Harris . . . Or Corporals Jennifer Parcell and Holly Ann Charette and Ramona Valdez, all killed by the hands of our enemies? What is it going to take for you to accept these Marines as Marines?"
When Neller called Brennan in March, the commandant asked him if he had someone he could talk to about the pressure he was under. Brennan said that Jacobs, his buddy from 1/8, was over. The commandant asked to speak with him.
I asked Brennan what Neller said to Jacobs. We were sitting on his porch. It was quiet but for the sound of wind chimes in the breeze.
"He was worried," Brennan told me. "We're Marines, so he wanted Jacobs to keep an eye on me as I went through this."
This past January, 1/8 became the first battalion to receive female infantry Marines. There were three in total in a unit of eight hundred men, and later this year, they will likely deploy overseas. Lieutenant Colonel Reginald McClam, the current commander of 1/8, told me that "the beauty of the Marine Corps is that you don't get to choose who you lead or who you're led by." McClam led my training more than ten years ago, when he was a captain. The Corps is small. The infantry is even smaller. When I asked him about the challenges of integration, he seemed almost dismissive. "This is only a big deal to folks on the outside," he said. "We don't talk about it much."
"After I passed through training," a newly minted female infantry Marine told me recently, "some male Marines went onto my Facebook and started posting my photo on these websites. I just want to do my job—this stuff is all a distraction from that." I asked why she wanted to join the infantry. "When you think of a Marine, you think of the infantry, not a truck driver or a supply clerk," she said. "I wanted to be a Marine. So I wanted to be in the infantry." 

But the infantry culture she wanted to join was all male. Had that occurred to her?
"Honestly," she said, "it never did."
UPDATE: On Monday, July 10, the Marine Corps announced that on June 29 an unnamed Marine pleaded guilty "at a summary-court martial related to the nonconsensual sharing of explicit photos on the Marines United Facebook group." According to a USMC press release, "The Marine was sentenced to 10 days confinement, reduction of rank by three grades, and a forfeiture of two-thirds of one month's pay."
Rico says WHAT

History for the day: 1945: Atom bomb successfully tested

History.com has this for 16 July:

On 16 July 1945, at 05:29:45, the Manhattan Project came to an explosive end as the first atom bomb was successfully tested (photo) in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Plans for the creation of a uranium bomb by the Allies were established as early as 1939, when Italian emigre physicist Enrico Fermi met with Navy Department officials at Columbia University to discuss the use of fissionable materials for military purposes. That same year, Albert Einstein wrote to then-President Franklin Roosevelt supporting the theory that an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction had great potential as a basis for a weapon of mass destruction. In February of 1940, the Federal government granted a total of $6,000 for research. But, in early 1942, with the United States now at war with the Axis powers, and fear mounting that Germany was working on its own uranium bomb, the War Department took a more active interest, and limits on resources for the project were removed.
Brigadier-General Leslie R. Groves, himself an engineer, was now in complete charge of a project to assemble the greatest minds in science and discover how to harness the power of the atom as a means of bringing the war to a decisive end. The Manhattan Project (so-called because of where the research began) would wind its way through many locations during the early period of theoretical exploration, most importantly, the University of Chicago, where Enrico Fermi successfully set off the first fission chain reaction. But the Manhattan Project took its final form in the desert of New Mexico, where, in 1943, Robert J. Oppenheimer began directing Project Y at a laboratory at Los Alamos, along with such scientists as Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, and Enrico Fermi. Here theory and practice came together, as the problems of achieving critical mass and the construction of a deliverable bomb were worked out.
Finally, on the morning of 16 July 1945, in the New Mexico desert, a hundred and twenty miles south of Santa FeNew Mexico, the first atomic bomb was detonated. The scientists and a few dignitaries had removed themselves ten thousand yards away to observe as the first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched forty thousand feet into the air and generated the destructive power of fifteen to twenty thousand tons of TNT. The tower on which the bomb sat when detonated was vaporized.
The question now became on whom was the bomb to be dropped? Germany was the original target, but the Germans had already surrendered. The only belligerent remaining was Japan.

A footnote: The original $6,000 budget for the Manhattan Project finally ballooned to a total cost of two billion dollars.
Rico says we'd have been better off if we'd never invented them... (The Japanese, especially.)

15 July 2017

A private island

Digital Trends has an article by Jenny McGrath about what money can get you:

For about forty thousand dollars, you can purchase a private island in Maine. Of course, barring any natural phenomenon, you and your piece of land will remain residents of the Pine Tree State, because islands are pretty stationary, unless they’re man-made and mobile.
Submarine company Migaloo will custom-make you a private island with ridiculous amenities. Named the Kokomo Ailand (presumably after the island in Maui, Hawai'i), the island is moveable, but forget about getting there fast and then taking it slow; the Kokomo only reaches speeds of roughly nine miles per hour.
At 384 feet long and with a penthouse 262 feet above sea level (illustration), it’s no wonder you don’t want to zip around like a speedboat. The island is totally customizable, and the features owners decide upon will determine its price, Christian Gumpold, Migaloo’s managing director, tells the Huffington Post. Some of the add-ons include pools, decks, spas, helipad, waterfalls, outdoor movie theater, and a shark-feeding station. (Undoubtedly one will be the scene for Jaws 5: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Island.)
The company recently showed off its plans for the islands at the Monaco Yacht Show, where lots of really rich potential buyers showed interest. Prospective owners are likely to be “trendsetters” who want to “stick out” from the crowd, Gumpold tells CNN. Migaloo is banking on people turning to the sea to live in the future. The company also makes mega-yachts and incorporated many of the features that The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous set is looking for in their boats for the island.
The Kokomo is meant to be a sort of home base, where travel enthusiasts can jet off in their helicopters or boats or submersible yachts. Migaloo also has a concept for a yacht-submarine hybrid that super-villains probably can’t wait to get their hands on. Seriously, this company is inspiring us to come up with so many movie plots.
Rico says being wealthy gives you so many more options in life...

Those damned robocalls

Megan Leonhardt has a Time article about one of life's little irritations, on the rise:


If you think you’ve been getting more phone calls that start with an automatic recording, something like, “You've been specially selected for this offer”, or pretend to be from an IRS agent attempting to collect on back taxes, you’re not imagining it.
Nearly everyone says they've gotten a call from a telemarketer in the past six months, according to a survey of over a thousand Americans by telecom service company First Orion, a jump from 84% in 2015.
While some of those calls are legit, there's been a thirteen percent surge in phone scams, with nearly seventy percent of respondents saying they've gotten at least one scam call over the past six months. One in eight people report receiving over twenty different scam calls in that same period, a whopping four times as many people who reported that volume of scam calls in 2015, First Orion found.
Regular robocalls are annoying, but these scammers can also be dangerous. Fraudsters posing as IRS agents have netted $54 million from unsuspecting victims since October of 2013, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
And when it comes to parting you with your money or your personal information, these scammers are inventive. In addition to the tax scams, the the Federal Trade Commission warns about callers posing as a debt collector, an employment agency, and a sweepstakes company. Recently the FTC even posted about callers claiming to be with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, demanding "fees" for routine services.
Among the FTC's tips: Play hard to get. These scammers want you to say yes as quickly as possible, so never give into a caller who pressures you to make up your mind on the spot, the FTC warns.
Also, be wary of unknown callers who promise “free” bonuses or services, even vacations, as bait. Be sure to question any fees, such as shipping and handling, that you'd need to pay in order to get the freebies. “Free is free. If you have to pay, it's a purchase—not a prize or a gift,” the FTC says on its website.
The simplest way to avoid getting caught up in a scam call is to avoid answering your phone whenever you see an unknown number. “If I don't recognize who is calling, I allow it to go to voicemail. If it's someone who needs to talk to me, they will leave a message; and if it's a scammer I will then block their number,” says Amy Nofziger, regional director for the AARP Foundation and a member of the organization’s AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Particularly if you’re receiving these calls on your cell phone, which was the case for eight out of ten scam calls, First Orion found that you can use one of several apps that automatically identify spam and fraud calls before you pick up.
For those willing to pay, TrapCall and Truecaller (both available for iPhone and Android phones) are some of the most highly rated call blocking apps. TrapCall services start at $3.95 a month, while Truecaller charges $1.99 for an ad-free experience.
If you’re looking for a free service and have an Android phone, Should I Answer? is a good bet. The free app displays a phone number rating when an unknown number shows up, and allows you to block numbers. For iPhone users, the Hiya app is free and designed to identify and block a variety of robocalls, including telemarketers, debt collectors and scam calls.
“Most of the apps work by using crowdsourcing,” Nofziger says. The apps check incoming numbers against numbers or other criteria previously associated with scam callers.
If you don’t want to download yet another app, you can manually block a number on most smartphones. On the iPhone, for example, you can look up your recent calls and, at the bottom of the caller information, you have the option to block calls from that number. One final reminder: “Regardless of how you handle these calls, remember to never give personal or private information to anyone over the phone,” Nofziger says. “Never give your bank account number, credit card number, or buy a pre-paid gift card for anyone who claims you owe them money.”
Rico says the trick is to say "Excuse me, what part of fuck you didn't you understand?" early on...

14 July 2017

Idiots for the day

The Washington Post has an article by Amy Wang about a woman killed by jet-engine blast at a popular Caribbean tourist attraction:
Despite warning signs, tourists at St. Maarten's Maho Beach have continued watching planes take off while clinging to a fence, just yards away from Princess Juliana International Airport:

Rico says, as usual, it's good to take some people out of the breeding pool...

History for the day: 1789: French revolutionaries storm the Bastille

History.com has this for 14 July:

Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops stormed and dismantled the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette, were executed.
By the summer of 1789, France was moving quickly toward revolution. Bernard-René Jordan de Launay, the military governor of the Bastille, feared that his fortress would be a target for the revolutionaries and requested reinforcements. On 12 July 1789, royal authorities transferred over two hundred barrels of gunpowder to the Bastille, and Launay brought his men into the massive fortress and raised its two drawbridges.
At dawn on 14 July, a great crowd armed with muskets, swords, and various makeshift weapons began to gather around the Bastille. Launay’s men were able to hold the mob back but, as more and more Parisians were converging on the Bastille, Launay raised a white flag of surrender over the fortress. Launay and his men were taken into custody, the Bastille’s gunpowder and cannons were seized, and the seven prisoners were freed. Upon arriving at the Hotel de Ville, where Launay was to be arrested and tried by a revolutionary council, he was instead pulled away by a mob and murdered.
The capture of the Bastille symbolized the end of the ancien regime and provided the French revolutionary cause with an irresistible momentum. In 1792, the monarchy was abolished, and Louis and his wife Marie-Antoinette were sent to the guillotine for treason in 1793.


Rico says revolutions are always ugly...
Jul
14
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1789
French revolutionaries storm Bastille
Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King... read more »
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1798
Sedition Act becomes federal law »
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1986
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1864
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1913
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1968
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1964
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1918
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1974
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