TIME Civil Rights

FBI Letter to Martin Luther King Jr Reveals Ugly Truths From Hoover’s Era

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964
"First person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence"
Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

MLK is depicted as evil and a fraud in the letter that urges the civil rights icon to commit suicide

A scathing letter sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Civil Rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been uncovered, pulling back the curtain on J. Edgar Hoover’s efforts to discredit the leader as his popularity grew.

In the anonymous letter, published for the first time in the New York Times Wednesday, the author refers to the Nobel Peace Prize recipient as “evil,” a “fraud,” and a “dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile.” The author threatens to expose King as an adulterer and in the end flat-out suggests that the leader commit suicide.

One passage reads: “No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself. Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure. You will find yourself in all your dirt, filth, evil, and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time. I repeat—no person can argue successfully against facts. You are finished.”

The FBI under Hoover devoted a great deal of attention to Dr. King, whom Hoover considered a threat to national security, Vox reports. The letter reportedly came to be after Hoover failed to prove King was a Communist, which he could have used to disgrace him. Yale professor of American History Beverly Gage wrote in the New York Times, the letter is “the most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover’s F.B.I. run amok.”

Read the full letter at the New York Times.

TIME Veterans Day

Sen. John McCain Remembers the Female Vets of the Gulf War

McCain is a U.S. Senator and the author, with Mark Salter, of Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War.

Among the subjects profiled in Thirteen Soldiers: an army reservist whose life was forever changed by an Iraqi Scud missile attack in the 1990–91 Gulf War

Military service was a tradition in the families who joined the Army Reserve’s 14th Quartermaster Detachment. They came from communities and circumstances that yield more volun­teers for the military than do other parts of our society. They lived in a part of Pennsylvania where so many young people were in the military that “whenever a disaster happens anywhere in the world,” a local re­porter observed, “people around here hold their breath.” They were likely to know some of the casualties in the February 25, 1991, Scud missle attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 28 reservists.

Specialist Beverly Sue Clark, 23, was from Indiana County, Pennsylvania. She had joined the Reserves out of high school. She worked as a security guard and as a secretary at a local window and door manufac­turer. She wanted to be a teacher. She was popular and athletic and loved to ski. Her best friend in the 14th Quartermaster Detachment, headquartered in Greensburg, Pennsylva­nia, was Mary Rhoads, a meter maid in California Borough, Pennsylva­nia. Mary joined the Army Reserve in 1974, during the summer between her junior and senior years at Canon-McMillan Senior High, south of Pittsburgh. She didn’t have clear plans for her life after graduation, and she thought a part-time job in the army would let her follow in the family tradition and bring home much needed extra income.

In 1979 she transferred from the engineering company to the 1004th General Supply Company, also based at the Army Reserve Cen­ter in Greensburg. Mary and Beverly became friends when Beverly joined the 1004th in 1985. They hit it off right away. Mary, ten years in the Reserves by then, took the younger woman under her wing. When Mary trans­ferred to the 14th Quartermaster Detachment at Greensburg in 1988, Bev followed her. They were close, and thought they always would be. They would watch each other’s kids grow up. Mary’s daughter, Samantha, called Beverly “Aunt Bev” and always pes­tered Mary to pass the phone to Beverly when she called home.

Predictions varied about how many dead and wounded the United States would suffer in the war. Most were wildly off the mark. The U.S. Armed Forces were im­measurably better war fighters, better armed and equipped, and better led than the armed forces of the Republic of Iraq. None of the prognosticators realized just how much of a war you could fight from the air over a desert battleground where the enemy parked his tanks and ar­tillery in the glaring sun and sheltered his soldiers in sand berms. Nor did they appreciate just how determined Desert Storm’s commander, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., was to use the immense force he assembled to keep casualties low.

Given the nature of the war—a long air campaign followed by a short ground war and Iraq’s quick capitulation—casualties were far fewer than the most optimistic analyst had expected. But there were ca­sualties: 149 killed in action, a comparable number of noncombat deaths, and eight hundred or so wounded. Three hundred graves over which three hundred families wept and prayed. Many thousands of survivors wept too and bore their own wounds, seen and unseen. It helps none of them to know it could have been worse.


In January President Bush authorized the call-up of one million re­servists and national guardsmen for up to two years. The sixty-nine sol­diers of the 14th Quartermaster Detachment had started hearing scuttlebutt back in November that they would eventually deploy to the Gulf. Their order to mobilize came on January 15, 1991, the day before Desert Storm commenced. They left for Saudi Arabia on February 18 and arrived at the air base the next day. They were quartered temporarily in a large corrugated metal warehouse in Al Khobar, a suburb several miles from Dhahran.

Of course, they wouldn’t be on the front lines, although to do their jobs they would have to be closer than two hundred miles behind the front in Al Khobar. Some soldiers had premonitions, as soldiers off to war often do. Beverly Clark told her friend Mary Rhoads she had a bad feeling about the whole thing. She also mentioned her apprehension in the journal she kept. Soldiers’ families have premonitions too, especially the mothers. Just before she passed away from pancreatic cancer in November, Rhoads’s mother had told her that something terrible would happen but that Rhoads would be okay. Whatever fears disturbed them, none of the reservists resented their call-up.

Eleven of the reservists in the 14th who deployed to Saudi Arabia were women. The Persian Gulf War occasioned the largest single deploy­ment of women to a combat zone in American military history. Forty-one thousand officers and enlisted—one out of every five women in uni­form—deployed. They were pilots, aircrew, doctors, dentists, nurses, military police, truck drivers, communications technicians, intelligence analysts, security experts, administrative clerks, and water purification specialists deployed to a society built on tribalism, Islamic fundamental­ism, and primitive notions of gender inequality. Thirteen of them would be killed, four from enemy fire. Twenty-one were wounded in action and two taken prisoner. They did just about everything the men did, includ­ing flying missions and accepting other assignments that blurred the lines separating women from combat roles. But this was a war where lines were readily blurred. Even the idea of a front line seemed an anachronism in a war where so much of the fighting was in the air and where missiles were fired at targets located far to the rear, even at a country that wasn’t a bel­ligerent. The metaphor “a line in the sand” has come to mean a state­ment of resolve, but it originally indicated something impermanent, something that disappears in the first breeze. That is an apt metaphor for the Persian Gulf War, where the front was, literally and figuratively, a line in the sand. Even two hundred miles in the rear, the front could sud­denly encompass you.

For people of an active disposition, the Gulf War, irrespective of its high-tech thrills, its stunning successes and surprising brevity, could have been stultifying to soldiers who weren’t involved in the fighting. Mary Rhoads was bored to tears sitting in that big warehouse, and she hated being bored. She had spent seventeen years in the Army Reserve, half her life. She looked at the kids in the unit as her kids, saw herself as the mother hen. She picked up stuff they liked to eat, things to read, games to play, any­thing that might shorten the days until they were sent forward to do the job they had come to do. She had purchased a Trivial Pursuit game, among other diversions, and it was instantly a favorite entertainment in the barracks. She still felt closest to Clark. They both brought teddy bears with them to war; Clark’s was white and Rhoads’s brown. One night they were both on guard duty on the warehouse roof when Bev noticed a mist forming in the desert. “Look,” she pointed, “the angel of death.” Rhoads would remember that through all the years that followed, wondering if her friend had had another premonition.


The Iraqis fired four Scuds the night of February 25. Three of them appeared to break up in the atmosphere. The missile fired at 8:32 p.m. was detected by satellite and its position relayed to Patriot crews in Saudi Arabia. Three batteries tracked it on their radarscopes but didn’t launch their missiles because the Scud was outside their respective sectors. Two batteries, Alpha and Bravo, protected the air base at Dhahran. Bravo was shut down for maintenance that night. Alpha’s crew had been alerted to the Scud traveling in their direction, but their screen was blank. They checked to make sure their equipment was operating properly and were satisfied that it was. Still they saw nothing. They didn’t know their range gate had miscalculated the missile’s whereabouts. No one knew a Scud was plunging to earth at five times the speed of sound above the big metal warehouse where 127 reservists were living.

Ten minutes later, driving down the highway toward Dhahran, Rhoads heard the siren. They pulled off the road and watched as the Scud slammed into the barracks and detonated, creating a red and orange inferno that engulfed twisted beams, flying shrapnel, the modest posses­sions and mementos of the dead, and their charred bodies. Twenty-eight people were killed and ninety-nine wounded, grievously wounded in many cases. Among the dead were thirteen reservists in the 14th Quar­termaster Detachment, including Clark. Forty-three of the reservists wounded in the attack were from the 14th, which meant the detachment had suffered in a single attack a casualty rate higher than 80 percent, about as high a rate as any recorded. They had been in Saudi Arabia only six days.

Rhoads and her companions raced back to the base. They had to climb a fence to get into the compound, where all was bedlam. Fire trucks and ambulances had raced to the scene, sirens wailing. Blackhawks de­scended from the dark heavens to airlift the most seriously wounded. Rhoads tried to enter the burning building, but one of the rescuers stopped her. “My friends are in there,” she repeated over and over again. “You don’t want to go in there,” he warned her. When the ambulances pulled away, she ran to the other side and entered the building there. The smell of burned flesh, of death, filled her nostrils. She thought they were all dead. A moment later she tripped over a girder, wrenching her knee. A soldier in a transportation unit pulled her back outside and told her to stay there. That was where she saw the bodies. The Vietnam veterans in the unit who survived the attack had retrieved them and lined them up side by side. She recognized Clark right away. She limped over to her friend, embraced her lifeless form, and shrieked at the treacherous night, while a news camera recorded her agony.

Everyone who wasn’t badly hurt was quartered that night in a large, convention center–like meeting space, where television sets replayed the disaster on what seemed a continuous loop. Rhoads called her husband to let him know she was alive and reported to a sergeant back at the Re­serve center in Greensburg. Then she and a few others, impatient and wanting to help, commandeered a van and drove first to the warehouse, then to different hospitals to locate the wounded, and then to the morgue to identify the dead. Rhoads identified the bodies of Tony Madison, Frank Keough, and Beverly Clark.


Rhoads eventually returned to her job with her leg in a big white brace. She was eager to get going; she wanted her life back. Something was wrong, though. She had frequent nightmares; she lost her temper. She used to shrug off the kids who hassled her and called her names for giving them a parking ticket; now she got into it with them, right in their faces, daring them. She wasn’t herself. She froze once while directing traffic when she heard an emergency vehicle’s siren. Then she started getting really sick.

Chronic vaginal bleeding resulted in a hysterectomy. She had her gall bladder removed and her appendix. Stomach ailments, headaches, sinus troubles, and serious difficulty breathing brought her to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, then the hospital in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the VA hospital in Pittsburgh, then back to Walter Reed and again to Pittsburgh. Doctors discovered precancerous cells in her esophagus. She developed liver disease.

These and other ailments were attributed to the mysterious malady that afflicted many Desert Storm veterans, called Persian Gulf War syn­drome. None of the doctors Rhoads saw in Bethesda or Pittsburgh could figure out what was making her so sick. She was becoming almost com­pletely incapacitated. Scott Beveridge and another local reporter, Connie Gore, took a genuine interest in her case and wrote about her often. Her local congressman, Frank Mascara, and his aide, Pam Snyder, got involved and pushed the VA to recognize that whatever its cause, Gulf War syndrome was real, and it was destroying the lives of people who had risked everything to serve their country and who deserved their government’s attention to their service-related illness. Their persistent appeals on her behalf re­sulted in a full disability pension, one of the first awarded to a sufferer of Gulf War syndrome. She gave testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in 1991 and traveled to Washington in 1995, while very ill, to testify to President Bill Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Gulf War Illnesses. Congressman Mascara began his statement in a hearing at the House Veterans Committee by invoking her as the poster child for Gulf War syndrome.

When word got around about his successful intervention on Rhoads’s behalf, Mascara’s office was swarmed with calls from veterans around the country, who like Rhoads were plagued by numerous illnesses since com­ing home from the Gulf. No one has yet to establish a cause or causes of the disorder that appears to weaken the immune system, making its vic­tims susceptible to multiple illnesses. There are many theories—fumes from the oil well fires, reactions to inoculations, Iraq’s undetected use of chemical weapons, Scud warheads carrying biological agents, combat stress—but none have been proven. Whatever its cause, thousands of Gulf War veterans suffer chronic and multiple illnesses attributed to it.

After her testimony to President Clinton’s advisory commission, Rhoads dropped out of public view. Beveridge wrote that he had received “anonymous hate mail” attacking Rhoads for publicizing her suffering and condemning the deployment of women to war theaters. It appears she heard some of the same criticism. She might have been estranged, for a brief time anyway, from a few others in her unit. When asked, she said the 14th was like a family, and like all families, they have their squabbles and then make up. “We love each other,” she maintains.


Senator John McCain is a United States Senator and an author, with Mark Salter, of Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War, out today. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 until 1981.

Mark Salter is the author, with John McCain, of several books, including Faith of My Fathers. He served on Sen. McCain’s staff for 18 years.

From Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War, by John McCain and Mark Salter. Copyright © 2014 by John McCain and Mark Salter. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME White House

Reagan Apologized to Thatcher for Grenada Invasion

Margaret Thatcher Meets With Ronald Reagan In London In 1978
Margaret Thatcher the Head Of The British Conservative Party meets with President Ronald Reagan at The Chamber Of Communes In London on Nov. 28, 1978. Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

According to a newly published phone conversation between the leaders

Ronald Reagan apologized to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for invading Grenada in 1983 without consulting her, according to a newly published conversation between the world leaders.

“I’m sorry for any embarrassment that we caused you,” the former President said, “but please understand that it was just our fear of our own weakness over here with regard to secrecy.” In October 1983, Reagan ordered U.S. troops to invade Grenada, a Caribbean island nation, after he determined that its turbulent Marxist government posed a threat to the almost 1,000 Americans on the island (many of whom were students at a medical school). Grenada had been troubling the Reagan administration ever since its Constitution was suspended after a coup in 1979, and the new government began to cozy up to Communist Cuba.

The American invasion of Grenada was very unpopular in Britain, as Grenada was a Commonwealth nation.

“If I were there Margaret, I’d throw my hat in the door before I came in,” Reagan said, which the BBC recalled was an old tradition that allowed an unwelcome guest to announce their arrival before they entered a room. The full transcript of the phone conversation is available on the Margaret Thatcher Foundation’s website.

While Thatcher wasn’t exactly forgiving, she did say she understood where Reagan was coming from. “I know about sensitivity, because of the Falklands. That’s why I would not speak for very long even on the secret telephone to you. Because even that can be broken. I’m very much aware of sensitivities,” she said. “The action is underway now and we just hope it will be successful.”

The conversation ended on good terms, though, with Thatcher getting off the phone to go to a “tricky” Parliament debate, and Reagan encouraging her to “Go get ’em. Eat ’em alive.”

The tapes, released to the public in October at the Reagan Library in Los Angeles, prove that Reagan continued the long Presidential tradition of recording phone conversations in the White House situation room, even after the debacle with former President Richard Nixon years earlier. It’s also a classic example of an age-old trick: ask forgiveness, not permission.

TIME History

After the Fall: The Day the Captain Didn’t Shoot My Father

Lev Golinkin is the author of A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka.

25 years ago, a confrontation at the Czechoslovakian border drove home the reality to me and my family that the Berlin Wall had fallen

In the early hours of December 24, 1989, I was standing perfectly still inside an examination chamber at a border post on the very edge of the Soviet Union. I barely noticed the broken plates strewn across the floor, or the four soldiers with AK-47s in the corners, or the rest of my family huddled around me. My entire existence had shrunk to the only thing that mattered: my father and the captain of the border guards, screaming at each other in the middle of the room.

I couldn’t process the scene; 25 years later I can still remember my brain playing the image over and over like a GIF, reminding itself that yes, this was my father, and yes, he was screaming at a guard. We had been a few steps away from the exit door to Czechoslovakia, and freedom, when the captain accused Dad of hiding documents and threatened to detain us in the USSR. Dad began to argue. My jaw was squeezed so tight it felt like my cheekbones were about to shatter. My forearms ached with a dull pain spreading out from my clenched fists. I kept waiting for the captain to do the inevitable, to bark orders to the soldiers, beat Dad, shoot Dad, handcuff him. But the captain… the captain just shouted back.

Even as a nine-year-old child, I knew that what I was witnessing was incomprehensibly, fundamentally wrong. Complaint forms, lawsuits, civil disobedience didn’t exist in my world, not even as concepts. The police decided, arrested, and killed. They weren’t argued with, or screamed at. Waterfalls flowed down, not up. The sun rose in the east. The police were obeyed.

Six weeks before the standoff between my father and the border captain, another rumor, just as baffling, shook the USSR to the core. The Berlin Wall had fallen. The news snuck into our Ukrainian apartment late at night, borne aloft forbidden airwaves beamed into the country by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. The Berlin Wall had fallen. A group of East German citizens armed with sledgehammers had scampered atop and demolished the dreaded symbol of Communist power, and the guards on the Wall were ordered to back off and make way for the cameras. The Soviet Union had taken away the soldiers’ ability to destroy lives…but it did not take away their guns. What happens when people accustomed to wielding absolute power, people whose only answer, only training, only reason for existence can be summed up by the word “fire,” are suddenly told to stand down? No one knew, and – just as with my family at the Soviet border – the world stood perfectly still.

The silence didn’t last. For forty years, Eastern Europe existed as a bloated cultural Frankenstein, with dozens of ethnicities, religions, and nationalities lashed together by Communist dictatorships. Forty years of grudges and dreams, yearnings and hatreds simmered inside unwieldy entities like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and suddenly the Wall had collapsed. Families reunited with families; neighbors slaughtered neighbors. East Germany merged with West Germany. Czechoslovakia peacefully split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Romania had a revolution. Yugoslavia burned.

Whether by fate, or a hiccup, or pure chance, the Soviet border captain had relented, angrily waving my family across to Czechoslovakia and then Austria, to seek a better life in the West. Two months later, we were stationed at a refugee safe house on the outskirts of Vienna. Most of the inhabitants were ex-Soviet Jews, like us, but one night, a family of Bosnian Muslims showed up at the shelter. We didn’t have many belongings – a change of clothes, spare blankets, bits of cookware which had survived that awful night at the Soviet border – but compared to the Bosnians we were barons. The Bosnians didn’t speak to us and mostly kept to their room, only venturing out to use the communal bathroom, and even then, they moved as in a trance. Rumor had it they fled to Vienna because of the Orthodox Serbian death squads operating with impunity in the new post-Communist world, settling scores and launching a campaign of ethnic cleansing that would rage across southeast Europe for years.

The Wall had collapsed and echoes still ring across Chechnya, and Central Asia, through eastern Ukraine, and the Balkans. The Wall had collapsed and my family ran toward freedom; the Bosnians across the hall from us ran for their lives.

Lev Golinkin is the author of the memoir A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, out this week.


TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Barack Obama

Obama Says He Will ‘Never Forget’ Berlin Wall Fall

While commending the reunification of Germany, the President criticized Russia's actions in Ukraine for unsettling Europe

As people around the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Barack Obama said in a tweet that he will “never forget” the scenes of people reuniting with their families and entering “the free world.”

“It was a reminder that walls of concrete and barbed wire are ultimately no match for the will of ordinary men and women who are determined to live free,” he said in the statement.

He also used the occasion to take a jab at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he said has held back progress in Europe: “But as Russia’s actions against Ukraine remind us, we have more work to do to fully realize our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.”

MONEY investing strategy

5 Mental Habits That Make Investors Rich

PeopleImages.com—Getty Images

Don't take yourself so seriously.

If I could build a dream investor from scratch, his name would be Paul.

Paul is an optimistic a-political sociopathic history buff with lots of hobbies who takes others’ opinions more seriously than his own.

Let me tell you why he is going to kick your butt at investing.

The sociopath

Psychologist Essi Vidling once interviewed a serial killer. Vidling showed the killer pictures of different facial expressions, and asked him to describe what the people were feeling. The murderer got most right, except pictures of people making fearful faces. “I don’t know what that expression is called, but it’s what people look like right before I stab them,” he said.

Paul couldn’t harm a fly. But a key trait of sociopaths is the ability to remain calm when others are terrified, so much that they don’t even understand why other people get scared. It’s also a necessity to becoming a good investor. In her book Confessions of a Sociopath, M.E Thomas writes:

The thing with sociopaths is that we are largely unaffected by fear … I am also blessed with a complete lack of sentiment … My lack of empathy means I don’t get caught up in other people’s panic.

Paul is like this, too. He doesn’t understand why people investing for 10 years get fearful when stocks have a bad 10 days. Recessions don’t bother him. Pullbacks entertain him. He thought the flash crash was kind of funny. He doesn’t care when his companies miss earnings by a penny. He’s immune to that stuff, which is a big advantage over most investors.

The a-political investor

Paul has political beliefs — who doesn’t?

But he knows that millions of equally smart people have opposite beliefs they are just as sure in. Since markets reflect the combined beliefs of millions of people, Paul knows that there is no reason to expect markets to converge on his personal beliefs, even if he is dead sure it is the truth. So he never lets his politics guide his investment decisions.

Paul knows that political moralizing is one of the most dangerous poisons your brain can come across, causing countless smart people to make dumb decisions. Even when he is bothered by political events, Paul repeats to himself in the mirror: “The market doesn’t care what I think. The market doesn’t care what I think.”

The history buff

Paul loves history. He loves it for a specific reason: It teaches him that anything is possible at any time, no matter how farfetched it sounds. “One damned thing after another,” a historian once described his field.

Paul knows that some people read history for clues on what might happen next, but history’s biggest lesson is that nobody has any idea, ever.

When people say oil prices can only go up, or have to fall, Paul knows history isn’t on their side — either could occur. He knows that when people say China owns the next century, or that America’s best days are behind it, history says either could be wrong.

History makes Paul humble, and prevents him from taking forecasts too seriously.

The hobbyist

Paul likes golf. He enjoys cooking. He reads on the beach. He has a day job that takes up most of his time.

Paul loves investing, but he doesn’t have time to worry about whether Apple is going to miss earnings, or if fourth-quarter GDP will come in lower than expected. He’s too busy for that stuff.

And he likes it that way. He knows investing is mostly a waiting game, and he has plenty of hobbies to keep him busy while he waits. His ignorance of trivial stuff has saved him thousands of dollars and countless time.

The open-minded thinker

Paul knows he’s just one of seven billion people in the world, and that his own life experiences are a tiny fraction of what’s to be learned out there.

He knows that everyone wants to think they are right, and that people will jump through hoops to defend their beliefs. He also knows this is dangerous, because it prevents people from learning. Paul knows that everyone has at least one firm, diehard belief that is totally wrong, and this scares him.

Paul is insanely curious about what other people think. He’s more interested in what other people think than he is in sharing his own views. He doesn’t take everyone seriously — he knows the world is full of idiots — but he knows the only way he can improve is if he questions what he knows and opens his mind to what others think.

The realistic optimist

Paul knows there’s a lot of bad stuff in this world. Crime. War. Hunger. Poverty. Injustice. Disease. Politicians.

All of these things bother Paul. But only to a point. Because he knows that despite the wrongs of the world, more people wake up every morning wanting to do good than try to do harm. And he knows that despite a constant barrage of problems, the good group will eventually win out in the long run. That’s why things tend to get better for almost everyone.

Paul doesn’t get caught up in doom loops, refusing to invest today because he’s worried about future budget deficits, or future inflation, or how his grandkids will pay for Social Security. Optimists get heckled as oblivious goofs from time to time, but Paul knows the odds are overwhelmingly in their favor of the long haul.

I’m trying to be more like Paul.


Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel’s columns.

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TIME movies

After 10 Years, Still Incredibles!

The Incredibles
Disney / AP Images

Dip into the TIME Archive to relive the superhero magic of Brad Bird's Pixar hit

A mopey Pixar hero? That was Bob (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), a former superhero retired into a desk job after an ungrateful city tired of paying for his selfless but expensive exploits. As he flips through his scrapbooks, Bob moodily muses that “Reliving the glory days is better than acting like they didn’t happen.” He’s coping with midlife ennui, as his wife Helen (Holly Hunter) and their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Spencer Fox) must try being ordinary people for a change — not the preternatural family once known as The Incredibles.

Then an old villain crosses their paths, the world is imperiled, the old superheroes flex their marvels and, as I wrote back then:

The movie…explodes into the year’s wittiest, zippiest adventure, with each knockout action sequence eclipsing the last and with echoes of ’60s James Bond films and Fantastic Four comic books. But it’s still unusual: in its length (nearly two hours), in its rating (PG for “action violence,” a first for G-loving Pixar) and in its cast of human characters.

The middle entry in an amazing 11-movie run of Pixar triumphs, The Incredibles followed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo and preceded Cars, Ratatouille, WALL·E, Up and Toy Story 3. With this movie, which opened just 10 years ago on Nov. 5, 2004, writer-director Brad Bird became the first artist outside creative director John Lasseter’s original core team to helm a Pixar feature. He also created the first Pixar movie with more-or-less human characters: Bob and his brood.

Yes, they could fly (as Bob did in his Mr. Incredible persona), stretch (Helen as Elastigirl), move at lightning speed (Dash) and become invisible (Violet), but they were recognizably an American family with all the usual affinities and stresses. And in Bob, Pixar found another protagonist who — like the goblins in Monsters, Inc., Marlin the fish in Finding Nemo, gruff Carl Fredricksen in Up and the queen mother in Brave — suffers the anxieties of real or surrogate parenthood.

Turning the special-abilities misfits of Alan Moore’s Watchmen into a mildly dysfunctional family, Bird also borrowed from a half-century of fantasy spy movies; he devised gadgets and supporting characters beyond the James Bond universe. One of these creatures, a “Q”-type couturier named Edna “E” Mode, was voiced by Bird himself with a cutting comic cunning that earned him a spot on TIME’s Top 10 Pixar Voices.

After The Incredibles, which earned an impressive $631.4 million at the global box office (about $750 million today), Bird assumed control of a Pixar project begun by Jan Pinkava — the gourmet rodent tale Ratatouille — that took in $623.7 million worldwide. He then became the first Pixar auteur to make a live-action blockbuster, directing Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, which expanded on some of the spy toys in The Incredibles and earned $695 million worldwide. (Andrew Stanton, who directed Finding Nemo and WALL·E, had less success with the sci-fi epic John Carter.)

Not content to relive his glory days at Pixar, Bird has embarked on his latest live-action vision: Tomorrowland, a fantasy hatched by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof that is due to hit theaters next Memorial Day weekend. In the beguiling trailer, a young woman (Britt Robertson) touches a mysterious pin and is transported to another realm. She hears an oddly familiar voice: “What if there’s a place, a secret place, where nothing is impossible?” Cut to George Clooney, saying, “You wanna go?”

We trust Bird to show us a place where nothing is impossible, since he already made a movie where everything was Incredibles.

Read TIME’s Nov. 2004 review of The Incredibles, here in the archives: All Too Superhuman

TIME feminism

What We Can Learn From Nellie Tayloe Ross, America’s First Female Governor

Nellie Tayloe Ross
Nellie Tayloe Ross when elected governor of Wyoming in 1925. AP Images

Not much has changed for women in politics since 1924

Before there was Sarah Palin or Ann Richards, there was Nellie Tayloe Ross. Ninety years ago today, on Nov 4, 1924, Ross was elected governor of Wyoming, and became the first woman governor in the United States.

Ross was elected a month after her husband, Governor William B. Ross, died suddenly of appendicitis. Her supporters thought it was fitting that the first state to allow equal voting rights (Wyoming passed women’s suffrage in 1869) would also be the first to have a woman governor, and Ross was committed to continuing her husband’s progressive policies. Plus, she wanted the job. Ross was the first woman governor by only a few days — Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who had also been a state First Lady, was sworn in as governor of Texas just over two weeks after Ross took office.

Ross was inaugurated on Jan. 5, 1925. Eleven days later, when she appeared before the Legislature to review the progress of her late husband, The New York Times ran the headline, “Mrs. Ross Wears Hat Before Legislature,” and noted that she “defied precedent” by “wearing hat and gloves.” Other contemporary media accounts noted that she had “not lost her womanliness” and remained “ever feminine, never a feminist,” as noted in her Times obituary when she died in 1977. “Really, I dropped accidentally into politics,” she told the Times in 1926, saying she preferred to taking a stroll along the boardwalk to discussing rumors of a 1928 bid for the Vice Presidency (which never materialized).

Ninety years later, women politicians are still struggling with the delicate balance of femininity, ambition and power. Even though we may have a woman president sometime soon, female politicians must still be attractive but not too sexy, ambitious but not too scary. And as much as we may want to think that we’re past caring how female politicians look, the recent kerfuffle over Sen. Tom Harkin comparing Iowa Republican candidate Joni Ernst to Taylor Swift proves not much as changed in the last nine decades. That focus on looks is bad for women who aspire to politics. “When [a woman]’s appearance is commented on publicly during a campaign, it undermines her; it actually hurts her,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel in October. “And it doesn’t matter if the comment is positive or negative. It undermines her credibility.”

Ross also had to dispel the idea that she would use her power to rid the Wyoming government of men, and create an all-woman government ( a 1925 man’s worst nightmare). Here’s what TIME reported in 1925 that she told the Associated Press when asked about her view of women in politics:

“It is most amusing and amazing to me, for example, to be asked, as I was soon after my election, whether I expected to appoint any men to office? This question, telegraphed to me from the East by a well-known metropolitan newspaper, had every indication of being quite sincere, and was apparently inspired by the fear that the elevation of women to executive office was likely to be followed by the dismissal of all men and the substitution of women in their places.”

If Nellie Tayloe Ross were alive today, she’d certainly have some thoughts about #notallmen.

TIME Holidays

See the Creepy Traditions That Spawned Halloween

Here's how Halloween happened.

All Hallow’s Eve. The Holy Evening. All Saint’s Eve. No matter what you call it, the holiday’s true origin is still shrouded in mystery. But before you don your velvet wizard’s cap and giant cat paws this Oct. 31, here’s a look at how the Celtic festival Samhain transformed into what we know today as Halloween.

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TIME Gadgets

Watch Steve Jobs Unveil the iPod 13 Years Ago

Gather ’round, kids. Gather ’round. Old Uncle Doug is going to regale you with a tale of an excellent rectangle that was introduced to the world on October 23, 2001.

Back in 2001, MP3 players weren’t scarce, by any means, but they each had a fundamental problem: They were either pocketable and could only hold a few dozen songs or they were comically big and could hold several hundred songs.

I didn’t own the original iPod. It was too expensive (I didn’t have $400 to my name) and initially Mac-only (I didn’t have a Mac — a side-effect of not having money). I was, however, enamored with portable MP3 players. In fact, instead of buying several CD-, flash- and hard drive-based MP3 players at upwards of $200 a pop, as I did, I probably could have owned an iPod and maybe even a Mac.

Here’s a photo of two real gems I still own: the Pocket mStation (left) and the NeoPlayer (right), with an old iPhone 4 thrown into the mix to give you a sense of size. I’ll frame these someday:

iPod Size
Doug Aamoth / TIME

These two ridiculous beasts each used a 2.5-inch hard drive commonly used in laptops. So I could stuff a ton of songs on them, but I couldn’t stuff either of them into anything but the Hammer-est of Hammer pants.

Apple / Getty Images

The world needed an MP3 player that was small enough to fit in a pocket, yet had enough storage to hold hundreds of songs. The problem was that flash-based storage maxed out at mere megabytes and tiny, high-capacity hard drives didn’t exist in sufficient quantities…yet.

This was a conundrum for Apple engineers in late 2000, as Steve Jobs had expressed interest in building a sleek, pocketable MP3 player that could hold a ton of music. In true Steve Jobs fashion, Jobs tasked Jon Rubinstein with building such a device even though the necessary components didn’t exist.

Rubinstein lucked out, though. In February of 2001, while he was meeting with Toshiba, a boatload of tiny, high-capacity hard drives nearly fell in his lap. The following is a passage in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs book (page 384):

At the end of a routine meeting with Toshiba, the engineers mentioned a new product they had in the lab that would be ready by that June. It was a tiny, 1.8-inch drive (the size of a silver dollar) that would hold five gigabytes of storage (about a thousand songs), and they were not sure what to do with it. When the Toshiba engineers showed it to Rubinstein, he knew immediately what it could be used for. A thousand songs in his pocket! Perfect. But he kept a poker face. Jobs was also in Japan, giving the keynote speech at the Tokyo Macworld conference. They met that night at the Hotel Okura, where Jobs was staying. “I know how to do it now,” Rubinstein told him. “All I need is a $10 million check.” Jobs immediately authorized it. So Rubinstein started negotiating with Toshiba to have exclusive rights to every one of the disks it could make, and he began to look around for someone who could lead the development team.

The “exclusive rights to every one of the disks it could make” quip is important. Apple rolled out the iPod in late 2001; it would take a while for competing MP3 players to shrink down and catch up.

Further Reading:

Read next: Aaron Sorkin Confirms Christian Bale Will Play Steve Jobs

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