Song of the Day (10/29/2018)

Today’s song of the day is Live to Win by Paul Stanley. Now for you car guys, here’s what’s called the “arcade dashboard” on the C4 Corvette:

And an amazing costume, calendar and all:

Well, I have to get back to work. My third-party data provider in India must have eyes like a hawk: every time they send me an excel file, they’re always zoomed out at 10% magnification – the guy has got to be the best Halo MCC sniper of all time.

Speaking of which, I found the asshole teammate in Halo who’s always running around Rat Race and other dark maps with his pistol light on, alerting the other team to our exact location:

This guy was walking around the restaurant with his cell light on for at least five minutes.

At least the guy was in the right area, it was at the following event:

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Random Bidtits (10/25/2018)

Y’all like amazon?!? Not just the stock – everyone likes the stock – but the online marketplace? Well check out this cool shit:

Also, I heard a bad hombre badmouthing Donald’s dong the other day and realized this thing isn’t going to stand up for itself…okay, maybe it would. But that thing ain’t no toadstool, Donny is packin’ Mr. Snuffleupagus down there, believe me!

Going through my texts and was reminded of a baby shower I attended a month or so ago. The parents chose a bar as the venue, but it was the sort of bar with a wall of taps and the consumer is left to choose their own glass, swipe their special card, and fill ‘er up while paying by the ounce. Aside from sounding strangely reminiscent of my days as a hungry gigolo back in college, I had to question whether it would be borderline blasphemous for me to steal the child’s afterlife and baptize it under the Natty Lite tap right then and there. Unfortunately, I had already tapped out the keg and was more focused on regaining control of my colon before the natty splatties reared their ugly head.

Before I forget, you guys NEED to go to HomeGoods and drop a mere $80 for this thing:

5’6″ tall. $80. Guys… $80. That’s nothing. I’m seriously debating this investment. Not just for me, but for my children, and my children’s children.

And finally, please, please, PLEASE watch this 1 minute Holiday Special South Park video. Unlike Tobias Funkë, I’m not a big “TV” person, but this video is the greatest thing you’ll ever watch.

Fuck you, Megyn Kelly. AND FUCK YOU ELLEN PAO!

Arch Stanton Guest Post: “Batman Cries” by Joe Settineri

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This is an emergency post. Sometimes an event is so life-shattering, so monumental, that you can’t help but urgently move to share it with every person you know. Today, I share with you: “Batman Cries” by Joe Settineri. If that title doesn’t grab you and immediately require 100% of your attention, well… how did you even find this page in the first place?

So this life-nourishing bit of mana appeared in my life as a tweet from someone claiming this was part of a PR promotional email, which normally warrants immediate deletion without further waste of your precious time but they noticed the particularly grabbing headline you saw above.

I am almost certain this is satire. There has to be a nudge-and-wink I’m missing somewhere, because this could not have been approved by multiple serious professionals. I struggle to understand the intended purpose here if it was indeed a sincere song and video, therefore I am electing to go step by step this song that is… something.

0:01: Look at this Stepford-ass neighborhood with its quaint houses and charming light fixtures. It’s nighttime, which goes without saying because the title includes “Batman.” You could say this is redundant, but let’s take nothing for granted. Our protagonist is an inoffensively quasi-handsome man, a kind of a Long Island Tony Romo. He is singing over some somber piano, alone in the middle of the street and on the sidewalk as water runs into a sewer gate. This is called foreshadowing, people!

0:24: Wait a second, our protagonist’s face looks different in this shot.

0:39: EYE PAINT! Joe looks like he is fronting an emo KISS cover band. No one tell Gene Simmons, we don’t want this artistic masterpiece to vanish due to a frivolous copyright infringement claim. We are approximately one-ninth of the way into the video, and I am HOOKED.

0:45: Joe is BELTING out the chorus. This motherfucker is leaning into it, he is giving it everything his high school music teacher taught him – really utilizing that diaphragm to project his emotions as he sings “when he cries, when BAT-MAN- CRIIIIIIIIIIES!” We have hands pumping, gripping dramatically, and arms akimbo as Joe channels his inner Scott Stapp to really convey his emotion. This is the first chorus. There’s still like four minutes. How can Joe keep this energy?!?!

1:20: Joe is now in a foggy shower with his face paint. Now, I don’t typically wear much makeup, but this will lead to running mascara, correct? Is Joe going to show us his impersonation of a sorority girl who went too hard at the Phi Delt kegger? God I hope so.

1:33: It’s raining now. Joe is remarkably dry despite the pouring rain. The logistics aren’t adding up – is he on a sound stage and the rain is behind him for texture/ambiance, or is he under an umbrella? And it doesn’t work as a storytelling aspect either – we still have a long ways to go and it’s already raining. Even in “November Rain” Guns N Roses knew to keep us titillated by withholding the rain until the end of the video. Joe may have blown his load too early.

1:36: The pouty little emo kid pulling his hood over his head is delightful. I will find this gif, and it will be my response to everything in my life going forward. A distant uncle left me his vast fortune? Slouchy Batman. Dog died? Slouchy Batman. Stuck waiting in the rain? You got it – slouchy Batman. Immediately following slouchy Batman, Joe is now wet. The tension has been dissolved. Joe is wet and wearing face paint, all within the first ninety seconds of this video.

1:45: To quote the ephemeral Tobias Funke: “I’m afraid I prematurely shot my wad.” SLOUCHING IN FACE PAINT IN THE SHOWER! Knees tucked in looking forlorn – is it possible to get this tattooed across my chest?

1:50: Face paint shower Joe has his hand on the glass looking down as the water cascades over him. If you have never seen a movie before, this is suggesting our character is distressed or experiencing self-doubt about who he is as a person. Really soak in this for a moment – an adult man is scream-singing about how Batman cries while pantomiming as a KISS tribute band member while acting serious in a shower. If you don’t find this incredible, leave this site immediately and question where you are in your life.

2:00 Second time through the chorus, but this particular moment, Joe (somehow dry again in the rain) leans back to yell his displeasure at any heavenly body who will hear his wails about a comic book character crying.

2:08: Face painted Joe is back in the shower and pounding on the tiling. I have moved from “I need this tattoo” to “I need a triptych of this face painted man tattooed across my body.”

2:25: Not only is this chorus absurdly long, but they repeat it. This song is like 70% “Batman… CRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIES,” but at this particular moment, Joe is howling like the Wolfman at the moon after another slaughter he was powerless to prevent.

2:35: DEAD. I am dead. I cease to exist. Face painted Joe strikes a symbolic Jesus pose with arms spread, and crashes face first into a pool. This is a man in face paint. Imitating Jesus. Falling into a pool. Singing about Batman. There is nothing I can say that will be funnier than that Madlibs-ass sentence. They second shot is him floating face-down in the pool. Just astonishing. This is where I am convinced this is satire, because no one in their rational mind could think this would perceived as anything other than bonkers.

2:52: The man sinks in the pool. Hooded face painted Joe curls under sweatshirt in the rain. He falls to his knees in the shower. The bridge comes in. He claws at the light post back as he pulls himself up. He dramatically stumbles to his feet in the middle of the street in the rain as he encourages himself to “come on, stand up” in song. The song builds with strings towards its triumphant crescendo: face painted Joe screaming about Batman crying again in the pouring rain.

The song plays out to the same beats: Joe Wolfman-howling while looking at something vaguely just off-screen, face painted Joe leaning into the rain, arms outstretched as we defeated our foe: Batman’s loneliness.

I did more research on Joe Settineri. He has no Wikipedia page, but does have two albums on Spotify from 2009 and 2014. According to his own site, he is a “go-to singer in Los Angeles” (whatever that means) and quit his job in finance to pursue his singing career. As of 10 pm October 24th, there are 35,729 streams of “Batman Cries” on Spotify. He has one other perfect fine music video (“Hello Goodbye”) posted June 1, 2018 with 909 views; “Batman Cries” has 21,500. His site includes the following about this soon-to-be part of internet lore: “The new video for BATMAN CRIES explores the inner superhero in us all — the strong, inner-spirit that fights for us and keeps us moving, dreaming, and striving. It’s about the eventuality that even our strongest self needs to be reassured, lifted up, and cheered on. It’s about being down – seriously down – with seemingly no way up and finding that inner strength to go forth. When a superhero is down, it tears us apart, but when that superhero is us, it’s a matter of life and death.” Unrelated to the video, but the producer’s name is “Mike Krompass”. That doesn’t impact anything, but I really needed you to hear the last name “Krompass,” which I’m pretty sure was part of Kenneth Parcel’s made-up religion in 30 Rock.

This is 100% real, people. There is nothing but absolute sincerity in every bit of this, and I don’t understand a single bit of it. I set out to get answers about what this was about, and yet I left with more questions. I may not have got what I came for, but I got what I needed.

Arch Stanton Guest Post: CIA Operations, Ranked by Insanity

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There is a surprising amount of publicly available information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s past operations on Wikipedia! The basic premise of the organization as a whole is pursue American interests overseas, which was bound to lead to some moral gray areas. What is acceptable foreign actions, and what constitutes an obscene overstepping of moral standards? I have no idea! You definitely aren’t going to learn anything about morality here, but you can learn about some insane historical footnotes. Starting with the most reasonable actions and ending with the most indefensibly insane:

(NOTE – there are a lot of these – A LOT. Many are related to things you are already are familiar with, while others are more unfamiliar. Any single one of these could warrant a full self-standing article, so I will do my best to briefly summarize the most insane parts of each while still attempting to be subjective and instructive, because we all came here to learn right?)

Canadian Caper: In 1979, Iranian students took US embassy personnel as hostages in a protest of the Iranian government. In 1980, somewhere in the midpoint of the crisis before all the hostages were released, the CIA, with the help of six Canadians, an Irishman and one Latin American (before you bitch, Wikipedia didn’t specify the last individual’s nationality – vague brown person it is!). This group pretended to be a film crew looking for a location to shoot their fictional science fiction movie (word play!), and then snuck eight Americans out with them when they left. This was the movie Argo with Ben Affleck. As far as international intervention goes, this is a great reason to fuck with some foreigners.

Operation Lincoln: During the height of the Cold War, individuals accepted by the USSR for travel to the Soviet bloc were briefed before their trip about things to observe and take note of, and then debriefed upon their return. Relatively innocuous if you ask me. Just asking some questions about the people threatening to nuke the planet into oblivion is all!

Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis: Post-Cold War, the CIA leveraged their global surveillance records and capabilities for the study of climate change. Look how thoughtful the CIA is! Nothing came of this, but hey, the effort is what counts right? /watches Florida get hammered relentlessly during hurricane season for the umpteenth year before falling entirely into the Atlantic

Operation Timber Sycamore: The CIA began providing money and weaponry to Syrian rebels fighting President Assad, who likes to gas and murder civilians. So, pretty justified I would say.

Operation MIAS: Remember all those missiles and Stingers and anti-aircraft the CIA sold to the mujhadeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 80s? Yeah they want those back now please. SPOILER: they didn’t get all of them.

JMWAVE: Around the time the Cuban government began to tip their hand as a communist state, the CIA went to the University of Miami and built a station to spy on our now-enemies to the south. When your rival loads a ton of nuclear-tipped missiles a few miles away from your border, you’re gonna want to keep an eye on that; I’ve played Risk, I know this.

Project COLDFEET: In 1961, the Soviets were forced to abandon an ice station in the Arctic due to pressure in the ice disrupting their only means of egress. For some reason, the Soviets thought they could just leave the station to eventually be folded into the ice, but the CIA is all about digging through other people’s trash, and flew out to collect any pertinent data they could from the station. Hey, if your rival is going to leave his shit out in the open, it’s fair game I say. /eats all of your leftovers from the fridge, “I SAID FAIR GAME!”

Project Azorian: Similar to COLDFEET. A Soviet submarine sunk in the Pacific in 1974, and the CIA was hell bent on uncovering what those rascally Soviets were up to. The Soviets watched the sub sink to a deep trench, and figured it would be safe from prying eyes miles below the surface. NO FUCKING WAY, said the CIA. Roughly $800 million dollars later (approximately $4 billion in 2018 dollars), the CIA managed to get the sub off the floor of the ocean, only for two-thirds of the recovered sections to break off and sink back to the bottom completely destroyed after a mechanical failure. FYI – the average teacher makes $36,617 annually. Think on that while you grapple with $4 billion spent to recover one-third of a soggy submarine.

HTLINGUAL: Between 1952 and 1973, the CIA intercepted mail sent to the Soviet Union and China as a matter of national security and general nosiness. Originally the CIA only monitored names and addresses, and then graduated to straight up opening and reading mail. Considering the political environment, this seems like a pretty reasonable operation; I don’t love it but hey, don’t send shit to communists.

Osama bin Laden/Operation Neptune Spear: Before you break out into chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”, consider: the CIA led a joint special operation into an allied country in order to execute a known terrorist. We celebrate this because: A. it worked, and B. fuck that guy, but consider if it had not? Consider a bunch of SEALs showed up in Pakistan, shot a bunch of civilians, and left? Absolute chaos – the Obama presidency is all but over before his second term, a critical ally abandons the US in the war on terror, and the US looks like an even bigger asshole on the international stage. Lost in the celebration was how big a gamble this was. That said… U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Operation Gold: When Berlin was separated post-WWII, foreign countries rushed to establish embassies in order to stake their claim over central Europe. Almost immediately, the US and British set to tapping the Soviet landlines back to Moscow. Lest it seem like we are unfairly maligning America, be assured the Soviets did equally terrible things across the board (keep this in mind as this certainly applies throughout the rest of the list).

Operation Merlin: The CIA left significantly flawed designs for nuclear weapons in a place they expected Iran to steal them in order to delay their progress during the Clinton Administration. I have no problems with some good old-fashioned counterespionage, but my real issue here is the gambit was immediately uncovered, which turned out to not only be useless, but a boon to the Iranians who could suddenly weed out any inaccuracies in their current program against a list of everything you shouldn’t do while making a nuclear missile. Lower than it originally would have been due to poor execution.

Extraordinary Rendition: If you are not familiar with the concept, extraordinary rendition is another delightful little moral quandary where American captives or detainees with potentially useful information are “rendered” to allied nations with more flexible stances on torture, where they are then, ahem, “interrogated” for additional information. Some would call this “kidnapping”, others would call this “deterring illegal combatants from further action”. I understand others concerns about the process but I maintain the outlook of “fuck with the bull, get the horns” of international geopolitics. Fuck ’em.

Secret War/Laotian Civil War: If I didn’t lead with “Secret War”, no one would be that interested in this. Anyway – did you know Laos had a civil war?!? At the same time as the Vietnam War? I bet you didn’t, but the CIA sure did. Soviets were dumping money into the communist rebels while the US threw weapons and funds at the reigning monarchy in an attempt to keep them in power against an artificially-inflated resistance force. The Wikipedia article was real long, but it looks like the rebels won with the backing of the North Vietnamese across the street. The CIA has a pretty sub-par record in southeast Asia.

Albanian Subversion: Wikipedia gets exceptionally opinionated on this article by referring to this as “one of the earliest and most notable failures of Western cover paramilitary operations”. Seems like editorializing to me. The CIA, in addition to other western intelligence agencies, sought to foment resistance to Soviet communism in Albania by installing expats and other agents throughout the newly-formed communist government. A Soviet mole tipped off Moscow, which immediately crushed and/or captured the agents and sent them to life in prison camps. Gonna chalk that up as a tough loss.

Air Bridge Denial Service: Starting in the 1990s, the CIA targeted aircraft believed to be trafficking drugs from Colombia and Peru, and would “force them down” (shoot them out of the fucking sky). I am extremely curious about the legality of such a program, because I am pretty confident in saying the CIA certainly was not. The project was suspended after a legitimate aircraft was shot down and two Americans were killed. Jk they halted the program for less than two years before resuming their plan to shoot anything suspicious flying out of Colombia. Drugs are bad, but the War on Drugs is even dumber, and shooting civilian aircraft because you distrust them seems like a morally questionable area.

Project MERRIMAC/CHAOS/RESISTANCE: A information gathering procedure against individuals who posed a threat to the CIA. Not terrible until you realize this was a domestic program and included spying and surveillance on domestic anti-war groups. So far we’ve seen justifiable threats, but this is more paranoia about a bunch of stoned hippies.

Plausible Deniability: Basically, everything is off-the-books. Instead of keeping an org chart, the CIA likes to just pretend potentially damaging projects or people don’t exist by leaving the off the books. I do the same thing in my phone with ugly girls.

Contras: Not Iran-Contra, mind you. Just the Contras. They were totally fine. They were only counterrevolutionaries fighting against the socialist-sympathetic Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Their ideology is described as “anti-communist”, which you can really take a lot of different directions if you really dive into it. If we fold in the Iran part, well… then the CIA was receiving money from illicitly-promised weapons to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard in order to fund the resistance against a naturally-selected sovereign government after the presidency explicitly said that’s totally not what they were doing. This is hard to explain – I can’t believe American citizens had the attention span to follow this long string of affairs. It was just discovered our current president committed goddamn TAX FRAUD in order to gain his fortune and no one even batted an eye. Christ we are so fucked.

“Disposition Matrix”/Drone Strikes: I bet you opened this tab and did not expect to delve into a legitimate ethics discussion, did you? The Disposition Matrix is the database maintained by the CIA in order to track, capture and kill suspected enemies of the US by way of unarmed aerial vehicles (drones). The process for determining who lives and dies, or when they are allowed to be targeted or what the equation for determining an acceptable amount of collateral casualties is not publicly known, but we DO know President Obama is the first person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize while staking his foreign policy on the concept of executing unarmed civilians in foreign countries on ambiguously defined qualities.

Tibet: The CIA had a long-running operation during the Cold War in Tibet where they pushed political action, propaganda and the general idea of an independent Tibetian state among foreign nations in an attempt to piss off China, and by extension, the Soviets. If you haven’t noticed, this is a recurring theme. The CIA worked closely with the Dalai Lama’s brothers in order to basically annoy the Chinese, and ended the program once President Nixon agreed to call it off after visiting China in 1972. This pissed off the Dalai Lama, who used it as evidence the US never actually cared about Tibet’s plight. Imagine what an asshole you had to be to piss off the Dalai Lama. Tricky Dick was one of a kind.

Operation CHATTER: Technically not the CIA, but its forerunner in the US Navy; the government was interested in identifying and testing natural and synthetic drugs during interrogation and recruitment of agents. At the risk of spoiling later entries, this one is relatively low as the testees were animals and consenting volunteers.

Bay of Pigs: You know the basics – the CIA got some Cuban expats together to invade and overthrow the newly-Communist government of Cuba under Fidel Castro. This faux revolution lasted three days before the rebels were hammered by Cuban armed forces. Like Operation Merlin, it loses additional credibility by being an absolute shitshow in the sense that not only did it not succeed, but backfired tremendously in that it strengthened Castro’s position as a legitimate leader and pushed Cuba to more closely align with the USSR, leading ultimately to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I may be overstepping my bounds here, but it seems like the CIA tends to overvalue short-term gains in regard to potential long-term losses. But hey what do I know, I’m just an asshole writing on the internet.

Assassination Attempts of Fidel Castro/Operation Mongoose: The CIA hates many things: communism, independently-elected leaders, unapproved foreign activity, communism again, coherent strategies, communism again for the third time, but none of these compare to their detestation of Fidel Castro. They HATED that guy. There are at least eight attempts on Castro’s life according to declassified CIA documents, whereas a Cuban counterintelligence chief stated it was closer to 638: I’m guessing it’s somewhere between those two estimates. Some of the verified attempts included: subcontracting the mafia for an execution, cigars laced with botulism, bacteria-laden scuba suits with a booby-trapped conch on the bottom of the sea, an (actual) exploding cigar, a hypodermic syringe masquerading as a pen, an attempt to blow him up while visiting Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban museum, cold creams filled with poison, and tampering with podiums where he was set to visit. The CIA also attempted to thin Castro’s revolutionary beard, lace him with LSD during public speeches in attempts to make him seem disoriented, and dropped leaflets over the country offering hundreds of thousands to anyone who could bring them the head of heads of state but only offering $2 for Castro in an attempt to denigrate his power. I was not kidding when I said the CIA hated Castro more than you could imagine.

Battalion 3-16 in Honduras: A CIA-funded and -trained army unit responsible for carrying out assassinations and torture. That’s pretty unfortunate, and then you realize, this Battalion had collaborated with the Chileans and Argentines to assist in their respective rebellions and coups. Geez guys. If you wanted to jump off before things got too real, now is about that time.

Project Dark Gene: Back when the US and Iran were the bestest of friends (oh did you forget the US and Iran used be super tight? You can’t be arch nemeses without a period of aggressive cooperation), they would look for holes in USSR radars by flying America planes stationed at Iranian bases through them to test for responsiveness, effectiveness and interception tactics used by the Soviets. Imagine being a pilot and being told you are going to fly into the USSR in order to see what happens next. IT’S OKAY, IT’S FOR SCIENCE! To reiterate, we are ranking based on the sheer audacity of these operations, not necessarily the questionable morality of said operations. Because morally, this is dubious, but look at the notion they did this with the outlook of “fuck it, let’s see what happens” really escalates the insanity.

1953 Egyptian Coup d’Etat/Project FF: WE COVERED THIS ALREADY! It was great, and you should read it (https://musingsandmalarkey.org/2018/07/12/arch-stanton-guest-post-episode-11-in-today-i-learned-project-ff/). We call this ‘synergy’ in the blogging biz. Teddy Roosevelt’s kid got pissed off at the Iranian head of state whom he prefer to refer to as “Fat Fuck”, and eventual had his deposed. What a delightful little anecdote!

Stargate Project: Literally the X-Files in real life. The CIA created a unit dedicated to investigating potential psychic phenomenons. This unit was really only formed after multiple similar projects were eventually combined – GONDOLA WISH, GRILL FLAME, CENTER LANE and SUN STREAK. Take a moment to appreciate the fact the CIA has had multiple independent iterations of projects dedicated to psychic activity, and one was called “GONDOLA WISH”.

1954 Guatemalan Coup d’Etat (MS Alfhem/Operation PBHistory): Pretty straight forward at this point. The elected officials were communist, and the CIA ain’t about that shit, so they dabbled in fomenting a little revolution. Just a little one, no big deal.

Operation Charly: The CIA would provide weapons and military accouterments to the Argentinean military which they would then forward to Central American anti-communist parties in order to presumably round out their cosplay outfits. Or to murder people. Potato, po-murder.

Operation IA Feature: It doesn’t get much publicity, but the CIA has interests in Africa! In this instance, they were providing support to Angolan rebels. Pretty boring really. This is why no one knows about CIA ops in Africa.

Operation Midnight Climax: Definitely the SEXIEST named operation. Part of  larger, yet-to-be-addressed project where the CIA would hire prostitutes to lure johns back to safe houses where they would be unknowingly dosed with LSD. Drugging unsuspecting victims is unchill, even by CIA standards, but you have to appreciate the perspective of “hey they’re already breaking the law so fuck ’em, right?”

1951 Iranian Revolution: In an attempted to be cooler than their imperial British predecessors, the Americans were going to let Iran govern itself. What a novel idea! The Iranians then sought to nationalize what was at that time a private British company responsible for draining oil out of the country. Suddenly, this seemed like a bad idea. The CIA hustles in, astroturfs a revolution forcing the leader Shah Reza Pahlavi to resign. Problem solved! Oil = retained! At least until fundamental Islamists took control of the country, executing dissenters and nationalizing the oil anyway. It went just about as poor as it could have possibly could have. This gets a bump down because in the immediate aftermath, the CIA was so pleased with itself it took this same playbook to South America where they did the same shit a dozen more times before realizing they had fucked up what they originally perceived as a success more than they could have possibly expected. The fun part is seeing your success collapse, and then looking at all your current successes based on that same plan as they begin to unravel, and thinking “well this is just unfortunate”.

Operation Mockingbird: In the 1950s, the CIA attempted to influence domestic news sources in order to promote propaganda. They also funded student organizations and magazines to push their policies in a more organic manner. Part of me is deeply offended by this, but what modern technocrat doesn’t do the same shit with well-placed soft ball interviews or puff pieces about all the good things they’re doing? Did you guys know Mark Zuckerberg likes smoking meats (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBxTEoseZak)? Look how quaint his little backyard is! That’s totally where he lives guys, just like you! Definitely not in the middle of the four surrounding properties he bought and tore down for additional privacy (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/facebook-ceo-mark-zuckerberg-to-raze-four-homes-with-a-view-of-his-own-2016-05-24)!

Operation CHAOS: This was the CIA equivalent of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, where American citizens/dissenters were surveyed, infiltrated, discredited and blackmailed. COINTELPRO was all about really ruining lives domestically, where CHAOS was about attempting to identify any possible foreign influences. I’m sure that was it, they definitely wouldn’t resort to planting evidence to make their own case.

Operation Washtub: The CIA resorted to planting evidence of Soviet weapons in Nicaragua to make the case the government was harboring Soviet sympathies. Well, so much for the CIA not fabricating reasons to fuck some shit up. FYI – it worked. It drummed up enough dissent among locals (in addition to CIA canvassing and efforts) that the Nicaraguan president eventually resigned in 1979. The ends justify the means, I suppose. The CIA does seem to draw heavily from Machiavelli.

Edgewood Arsenal: The CIA was in charge of documenting the results of low-doses of various chemical agents. The victims – ahem – “volunteers” were generally aware of what they were agreeing to, but without reading more into it, I have a hunch they were not made fully aware of the dangers they were to be exposed to. A sample of the chemical agents tested were: alcohol and caffeine (original Four Lokos baby!), cannabis, LSD, PCP, benezoids, irritants/riot control pepper sprays, pesticides, mustard gas, and fucking sarin gases. It escalated from “aw hell yeah this is a party” to “sweet Jesus I am being murdered in the most painful ways imaginable.” Obviously (or, given the rest of this article, maybe not), these experiments resulted in massive lawsuits and government crackdowns.

1973 Chilean Coup d’Etat/Project FUBELT: In the 1960’s, Chile was one of those undecided countries in terms of the Cold War. There came a point when it became clear socialist Salvador Allende was set to win an open election, and the CIA was dispatched to fuck things up, because that’s what they’re there to do. Once Allende was identified as a likely leader, the CIA set about to assassinate his character before his confirmation and begin laying the groundwork for a military coup to boot. Why is this project ahead of the long list of similarly situated operations? One – FUBELT is a wonderful name. Two – Castro was on the record as anti-American and pro-Soviet, same as many other Central American countries, so they essentially identified themselves as hostiles in regards to the US. Allende was relatively neutral in the Cold War and intended to operate Chile as he thought best, not by American or Soviet terms. But fuck if that was going to be allowed – a military coup was pressed against him. He vowed to never resign his democratically-elected position, and instead opted to shoot himself in the head. I am sure the CIA considered this a win. I don’t really have a punchline here. Not only did the CIA topple an elected government, but they replaced him with Augusto Pinoche, who was a bit of a dick, to put in the most modest of terms. Pinochet was a fan of mass executions and tortures in the center of then-abandoned soccer stadiums. I am pretty comfortable calling this a low point for the CIA and American foreign policy in general.

Operation Northwoods: Moving away from “morally dubious” into “wait, what?”, let’s revisit Cuba. Doesn’t it feel like it’s been a while since we talked about the CIA’s throbbing boner for fucking with Castro? In 1962, the CIA floated an array of operations to the Kennedy administration about false flag attacks in order to drum up the justification for large-scale war in Cuba. Some of the alleged ideas to get the American public’s backing included: sinking Cuban refugees attempting to flee to America, hijacking planes, blowing up American ships, and orchestrating terrorist attacks in American cities. We’ve seen some pretty heinous shit but really let that sink in – the CIA was totally cool with killing American civilians in false flag attacks so they could invade another country. Sometimes I really understand conspiracy theorists who think the government is out to get, because history has this nasty habit of proving them correct. I like to think that, at some point, CIA agents looked at their plans and had an honest moment of reflection on “are we sure we aren’t the bad guys?”

MKUltra: The CIA mind control operation! This is a fun one! Until you realize it was less ET and more “identifying drugs to force confessions from unwilling participants by manipulating their mental states.” When you put it that way, less fun. Most of what we know about this comes from a Congressional investigation called the Church Committee and the testimony that resulted since, as soon as it was apparent Congress was curious what all these hallucinating people were talking about, CIA heads ordered most of the physical documentation destroyed. The best thing I learned about this was many of the victims were Canadian because, eh, what are they going to do about it?

Project ARTICHOKE: I’ll let a particularly descriptive sentence from the CIA documentation introduction clarify this project: “Not all viruses have to be lethal.” Do you really need to know more? Do you really WANT to know more? Yes you do because you are a sadist. Similar to MKUltra, this was an earlier attempt to see if the CIA could take control of an individual to the point they would “do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation.” Further details emerged about targeting “weaker” and “less intelligent” segments of society. Spoiler! They were almost certainly “black” and “Native American”, and probably women because it was 1951. I wonder what later generations will look back on us and think “what was their deal with [x]?” like how we look back at the 1950s and 1960s obsessions with mind control.

Acoustic Kitty: We have covered a wide range of territory, escalating into some pretty reprehensible actions in the ambiguous and all-encompassing name of “national defense”. Many of these dabble on the edge of or veer into moral gray areas, with many straight up terrible (it going to take a while for me to get over the CIA telling Kennedy “whattya mean we can’t kill some Americans to go kill some Cubans?”), but most had some basis in reality. But not Acoustic Kitty. Oh baby, Acoustic Kitty was something different. The CIA wanted to bug cats to spy on the Kremlin. They inserted microphones into the cats’ ears and a small transmitter at the base of the skull. The first cat was bugged and let lose outside the Soviet compound in DC where it was immediately hit and killed by a taxi. Subsequent tests failed as the cats turned out to be hard to train and pretty indifferent to handler requests, and opted to just prowl around looking for snacks. This project cost the CIA $20 million dollars in the 1960s. TWENTY MILLION DOLLAR CATS. Steve Austin was seriously injured in an experimental airplane crash, and he was remade with the best the United State of America had to offer, and he still only turned out to be the Six Million Dollar Man.

Article: Naples vs. Palm Beach: A Tale of Two Towns

Naples vs. Palm Beach: A Tale of Two Towns.  Are these two luxury communities really so different? You bet they are – and here’s why.  By Michael Korb. (2013)

(Please note, this article is from 2013 so the home prices are very dated)

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When the whole east coast vs. west coast thing gets brought up in conversation, most of the country thinks of the late Notorious B.I.G. and the equally deceased Tupac Shakur. But not those of us living in Florida.

The Sunshine State is known for being as diverse as the people who flee here from various other, colder parts of the globe. In Florida, a 30-minute drive can land you in what feels like a totally different world. Just think of the differences between Fort Myers and Sanibel or Marco Island and Everglades City or Estero and Lehigh Acres.

But when the time comes for someone with deep pockets to move to Florida—and that time always comes—there seems to be just one decision to make: Naples or Palm Beach.

Life on the two coasts might appear similar on paper (it’s warm, there are palm trees, you can get your Aston Martin serviced at the dealership, etc.), but there are some very real differences between the two mega-wealth destinations.

First and foremost: formality. Palm Beach, having been established as a resort community by Henry Morrison Flagler (a founder of Standard Oil) in the late 1800s, has some. With the benefit of age, Palm Beach has a solid foundation of old money with structures to match. Homes, such as Mar-A Lago, built by Marjorie Merriweather Post and her then husband, E.F. Hutton, in 1924 (now owned and operated as a private club by Donald Trump), and hotels such as The Breakers, have history behind them. The rich and famous fl ocked to the island, making it synonymous with chic sophistication. It was (and/or still is) populated by names such as Vanderbilt, Astor, Whitney, Wilmot, Trump, Kennedy, Kluge, Perelman, Lauder, Limbaugh and Madoff .

Though Naples was founded at much the same time, no one got the memo. And almost no one bothered to visit until The Ritz-Carlton, Naples opened its doors in 1985. Since then, however, Naples has gained in reputation and stature, landing several big fish of its own (Tom Golisano, Papa John, Judge Judy, among others), but still doesn’t garner the same respect.

“Naples is such a wonderful place—to read a book,” says Lidia Bazar, a renowned art collector from New York, while browsing the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, just minutes before celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan took our photo. “I mean, it’s lovely, but they don’t have what we have here in Palm Beach.”

The “what” it seems, is respect. The New York Times once reported, “Naples is sound asleep by 10:30 p.m. The population is older, socially conservative and startlingly homogenous. Although the number of single, educated young professionals is rising in Naples, the city remains a place where an attractive woman in her 20s, sunning by the pool at La Playa Beach & Golf Resort, is asked by an attendant, in all seriousness, ‘What are you even doing here?’”

Yikes. And that reputation continues to be hard to shake. Take, for example, the aforementioned Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show, which held its opening night VIP event on a Friday with a 7 p.m. start time. The Naples version of the exact same show a week earlier had a 5 p.m. Thursday launch time. In Palm Beach, there was a 25-minute wait just to give your car to the valet. In Naples, you could pull right up and walk in. No wait. Naples residents will tell you that’s precisely the reason they live here: They’re well-rested.

“I think the whole ambience of Naples, I mean the small-town feel of it is very appealing to people,” says the Baroness Mimy von Schreiner-Valenti, a luxury residential specialist with John R. Wood Realtors. “I think the cultural opportunities here, between the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the museums, the restaurants, the properties; I mean the beachfronts that you can have access to, the high-end gated communities like the Bay Colonies, the Pelican Bays, the Port Royals. I think all of that appeals to people. For a lot of them, it’s the lifestyle. … If Palm Beach is Newport, Naples is Nantucket.”

For Dawn Hoff man, who used to live in Naples but now calls Palm Beach home, that point rings true. “I think that Naples is more welcoming,” says Hoff man. “I go back to the Midwest and the type of people that live there. The Iowa, Ohio, Michigan natives are much more welcoming than Palm Beach proper is. You’ve got more of that blueblood society here that is not as accepting. Don’t get me wrong: They’re very gracious, but they’re not going to welcome you in unless you are connected to somebody who is connected to them.”

And though Palm Beach has Worth Avenue with its Jimmy Choo, Chanel and Georgio Armani boutiques, Naples counters nicely with similar options at Waterside Shops, Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South. It’s just that while Palm Beachers tend to do their shopping and lunching in Lilly Pulitzer, Naples tends to appreciate a Tommy Bahama vibe.

“There is a lot of black belt fashion happening here, especially at the big charity events, but that’s because so many residents are from New York City,” says Colleen Orrico of C. Orrico boutique in Palm Beach. “Still, there’s … a chic beyond the de la Rentas and Yves St. Laurents here that can be very simple: a cashmere sweater with slim silk capris or ball skirt, a Chanel jacket with a pair of simple leggings and exquisite shoes.”

Even the men are in button-down oxfords with bowties under windowpane sport coats on a Friday afternoon. Naples men have, for the most part, eschewed any sense of formality and are working the comfort angle. Many feel they’ve paid for the privilege. Khakis and a polo shirt at dinner are not going to upset anyone on the Gulf coast. It truly feels as if it’s Mr. Bahama’s world and we’re just living in it.

Another notch in Naples’ belt is that there is a lot more waterfront available here than Palm Beach. Frankly, there is very little appealing beachfront on the other coast. And what you do find only gives you sunrises, not the spectacular sunsets found in Naples.

“There isn’t any waterfront available that I am aware of like where we’re living now,” says Ralph Stayer, CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, of his home on the Gulf. “We have wonderful sunsets and we do get the sunsets. They don’t get the sunsets; they get the sunrises. Not many people are awake to appreciate sunrises. In the last three years, we have seen six or eight green fl ashes. … So if anybody says there is no green flash, they are full of baloney.”

Those same disbelievers will find it hard to accept that Naples isn’t filled with oxygen-wearing octogenarians, either.

“I think people are often surprised at how young Naples is and how much it has going on,” says Schreiner- Valenti. “I think it has taken a long time for people not to feel like Naples is God’s waiting room because for a long time it was. Naples is not so old. Not that Palm Beach is that young.”

But don’t tell anyone in Palm Beach. Though its residents are every bit as mature as those in Naples, they’re an eclectic bunch and dress as though they’re just coming from an event in the Hamptons. In fact, many probably are. Palm Beach International Airport is stunningly convenient to the island—4.6 miles, to be exact.

“When you look at the availability of flights between the Northeast, Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale versus the commercial flights that go into Fort Myers,” says Palm Beach resident Thomas Quick, of Quick & Reilly fame, “that tells you a lot right there. I can take flights all day long from five airports in the greater New York area, starting at 6 a.m. and the last one is about 9:30 p.m. … That’s telling about the size of the population and the demand. People do it in a day for business: take an early flight and leave early evening and they’re back home here.”

Though Palm Beach proper is just a sliver of land 16 miles long, residents can just cross some bridges and take advantage of the amenities of much larger communities of West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Wellington or Lake Worth. Naples is its own oasis, separated from Miami by 110 miles of swamp on one side and from Fort Myers by 30 miles of indifference.

The contrast between the two communities can easily be summed up in one word: hedges. Palm Beachers take great pride in having spectacularly tall hedges that define privacy. Naples, while certainly enjoying some quality landscaping of its own, prefers a more natural, relaxed, open setting.

But even with Naples’ more spectacular waterfront, its newness and its relative sense of privacy, it’s tough to shake the general sentiment of Palm Beachers when they think of their neighbor to the west: Naples is a charming, but largely inconsequential, spot where people retire to play golf and dote on grandkids. Palm Beach, they’ll tell you, is a vibrant extension of their lives in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Greenwich and Newport. You know, the places that matter.

“We have friends from all over the world who live in Palm Beach. It seems there are more people from the Midwest on the Gulf side of Florida,” says socialite Marylou Whitney, the widow of the legendary Cornelius “Sonny” Vanderbilt Whitney, who co-founded Pan-Am Airways, financed Gone With the Wind, won the U.S. Open polo title three times, was a director at Churchill Downs and founded Marineland. She, along with her husband, John Hendrickson, just purchased a charming $3 million home in Palm Beach. “We bought in Palm Beach because we wanted to be near our horses.”

The couple, known for their thoroughbred racehorses and philanthropic pursuits, is selling their other Florida home in Longboat Key. “We loved the west coast of Florida—the beaches are glorious and the people are so kind. We just needed to be closer to our horses,” says Whitney, who is the embodiment of old Palm Beach with her starched posture and vowels to match. Whitney had a home in Palm Beach previously, the famed Elephant Walk, but sold it when Cornelius passed.

“When we lived on the west coast, most restaurants were ‘smart-casual,’ which just meant ‘bring your wallet,’” says Hendrickson. “In Palm Beach, people do tend to dress up a bit more.”

However, says Whitney, “You can make Palm Beach whatever you like. John and I are choosing to be more casual. We are not attending all the black-tie functions.”

That might be because the social scene in Palm Beach is so rigorous it can be dangerous.

“John and I were at the Zoo Ball a few years ago, and the gentleman I was sitting next to starting choking on a piece of meat. I was hoping they weren’t serving zebra,” says Whitney. “Everyone at our table was in shock. Before anyone could get up to do the Heimlich maneuver on him, the society columnist from the Shiny Sheet jumped from her seat across the room and came running to our table. Well, she started riding him like Seabiscuit until the piece of meat was dislodged. It was a very scary scene, but that memory still makes me smile.”

To our knowledge, Naples has yet to have a society columnist perform any medical procedures. But it does give you some idea as to just how important the social scene is in Palm Beach. Their very lives are dependent upon it.

COMPARING THE PRICES OF HOMES

“So many people who fl y in to look at property go directly from here to Palm Beach or vice versa,” says Shelly Stayer, who, along with her husband, Ralph, have listed one of their two Gulf front homes for sale. “These are their top two choices.”

It’s not difficult to see why. Both places offer residents a lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed, with terrific restaurants, worldclass shopping and spectacular housing.

Currently, Palm Beach’s infamous Bilionaire’s Row has one home listed at $74 million, another at $59 million and yet another at $37.5 million, with eight more in the 20s. Naples, for its part, has one home available for $22.9 million and 24 more available between $10 million and $20 million (the majority in the tony Port Royal community). It also saw two Gulf front homes sell in private transactions for between $40 million and $45 million—each.

Random Bidtits (10/22/2018)

Arianna Huffington, ever at the forefront of business stagnation and frivolous personal pursuits, has some really valuable insights for you on her LinkedIn account:

I imagine Elizabeth’s theories on dressing for success are somewhat one dimensional: does she wear the orange jumper or does she wear the black and white pinstripes jumper today? Arianna is such a vagina. Speaking of vaginas, check out the sex toy for your grandparents:

Okay, let’s leave Arianna Huffington and step back into the realm of reality. Here are two very neat technologies that you may enjoy: a jet suit that legitimately works (3 minute YouTube video here) and a remote control jet airplane that goes over 450 MPH (6 minute YouTube video here).

Alright, I’ll get back to pinching off this python.