Sunday, July 23, 2017

Birdies II

So, I'm writing this post on civil rights or something like that - I really don't know exactly until I finish. There are a lot of decisions to make about what I want to say, so it is taking a while. I can't believe I used to do this once a week, but most of the time I was doing that I was on my 4 1/2 year vacation down in Virginia and I was not working as much. In any event, I wanted to post something and I've been more than a little obsessed by birds lately, so . . . .

I am sometimes surprised how little most people are interested in birds. Of course, some people are, and are expert at it. Like with most of my hobbies, I'm a dilettante, more an enthusiast than what I would call an expert (although I've learned that some people have a much broader definition of "expert" than I do, particularly when considering their own talents). Sometimes, when I point out a beautiful or interesting bird to someone, they look at, have almost no reaction or nod, and go back to what they were doing. To be fair, I find I'm not very interested in a lot of things most people are, so I guess no accounting for taste, as they say. Admittedly, I am a little shy about mentioning my hobbies to many people, though I talk about it here. With birds, not so much. I'll be sitting with a group of people or talking on the phone with someone and suddenly scream out "Osprey!" or whatever.

In any event, while playing with the aforementioned civil rights post, I realized I was thinking a lot about birds. At first, I wasn't going to do it, because I just posted Birdies in February, but I suddenly remembered, it's my blog, and who cares what anyone else thinks. Not to mention, if I bored my regular readers, including myself, that might make up a basketball team. So . . . . And at this point, whatever readers there are, are asking, as usual, why won't he get to the point? I don't know. I just like to ramble a bit before I start. Let's call it a trademark, because that sounds distinquished.

In Birdies I wrote about my everlovin' pond just down the road a bit, but after a quick mention, I barely spoke about the most common residents, which happen to be a gaggle of geese, a small family of swans and a family of mallards.

Geese are more suavely handsome, rather than beautiful creatures to our eyes. Perhaps we are just so used to them year after year that you rarely hear anyone appreciating their looks. They also, like many birds, are quite awkward on land, and perhaps that detracts from their beauty for some or most people.





Of course, they are truly beautiful in flight, usually in the skein or jet fighter formation. But, I actually prefer seeing them take off and land. Like so:



There are a few things I've learned about geese from reading rather than observation. For one thing, it's been determined by scientists that geese fly in the formation they do because the forward geese provide a draft for the rearward ones, the more draft the further back they are. Their wing beats are actually quite powerful. Single geese who aren't leading have to work, not a little, but much harder. And there is no single leader like with some pack animals. Because flying lead is so much harder, they take turns, the lead goose slipping to the rear when he gets tired. This is the explanation we are given anyway. Other birds obviously haven't figured it out.

They are very social creatures. Even if one becomes injured and can't get about, a few stay with him if the flock moves on, almost as a guard. I have no idea how they communicate what they are supposed to do, but it works. And, I always wonder where they think they are going and who decides it is time to go to the other side of the pond or make a giant loop and come back. And if you ever see a gaggle taking a nap, note one or two keeping watch, necks held erect.

You see them everywhere in New York. Recently I was at a large shopping mall. When leaving, the light turned green and I couldn't go because a huge party was waddling by, goslings and all:



I always find it interesting that you don't see geese laying dead with tire marks on them all over the road. They often sit uncomfortably close to roads eating grass. But, I also notice that although they will venture across roads very slowly (once causing me to scream at them "fly you morons. You have wings.") but they seem to recognize that cars could splatter them if they get too close. When I pull into the small dirt parking lot at my pond, they are non-plussed, gathered near the water. But, come closer with it and they will scatter quickly - probably not quick enough if I was trying to get one.

For whatever reason, I notice that geese often tend to sit along the shore as close as they can to swans, who seem indifferent to them. The edge of the pack of smaller birds keep a short comfortable distance, only a few feet away from the larger birds, but do not surround them. And swanlets are princes and princesses. Geese do not, in my observation, bother them at all, even at a distance of a few feet, although I can't tell you if that rule would be violated if mom and dad, relatively huge, weren't sitting right there. I notice the smaller mallards and their children get slightly less respect, but I've never seen a goose really go after them either - just small warning nips in the air.

Geese do occasionally nip at each other if distance rules aren't observed. This is common of birds. And there is almost every day an instance of a crazed goosed chasing one or two others for who knows what reason. Of course, people do that too. But, I've never seen an actual goose fight.

I did see, at another pond a few miles away from my usual haunts, a very odd situation. A single goose and a single swan (I can't tell sex in either of those species, although it is easy with some other birds, including other aquatic fowl) were chasing each other back and forth on the water. I mean first the goose would chase the swan. Then, when the goose stopped and started retreating, the swan would chase him or her. On and on, back and forth. It was quite comical. I stood there about 20 minutes taking pictures. You can click on all these pictures and make them screen size. I recommend it with this the second picture below in particular. Look at the power of their wing beats on the surface of the water, like small explosions, the splash remaining even as they are a couple of beats away:




I really don't know what they were doing. I've never seen any other goose or swan fly as fast as these two did either, or act like this. As I noted in Birdies I am convinced birds play games with each other, but always intra-species. I've never seen inter-species play, at least before, if that is what it was. And, I've never seen any conflict between these two kinds at all, or any other two kinds of waterfowl other than geese chasing after each other without result or a larger bird edging a smaller one off a prize rock to perch on. An elderly gentleman who lived in a house on the pond 30 years or so insisted that they were chasing each other to protect their young and their territory. There were some swanlets with the other parent (you almost always see grown swans in pairs - they mate for life). But, they were 50 yards or so away. I've seen geese gathered all around Swans and their children hundreds of times and neither party showed any type of stress or worry, no signs of territoriality except for the few feet around them.


Swans are possibly the most graceful animals in the world, at least while floating and maybe even while sitting. But, though many birds are graceful when soaring, so are swans despite their large size. Here's one coming in for a smooth landing, its neck stretched out long before it:



I can watch swans for hours. One day at the Bluff I saw a swan convention. I think I counted 32 of them. Why did they get together? How did they know to go to the mouth of the Nissequogue River on the Long Island Sound that day? They don't flock so each pair must have had a reason to be there. But, it's not like they were attending a lecture. They were all doing what they always do, floating on the water, grooming themselves and sometimes feeding. The next day, when I went back, they were gone.

But, enough of geese and swans. I have always been interested in birds, but I became much more so when I moved to Virginia and would sit on my porch and watch the birds in the neighborhood. I have become increasingly so to the point where watching them is a daily ritual. It is amazing how regular many of them are in their habits. Mornings, for example, I often arrive at the pond between 8 and 9, and geese and swans are sitting on the shore where I pull up, often grooming like mad, but sometimes just sitting there. There's a family of mallards that hangs out there too, all in harmony. After all, they aren't gulls, who are much more combative, active and noisy. After a while, a very small group of common sparrows arrives. Why are they there? A very specific reason. They are after the goose down which is drifting on the dirt all around the geese. Though they keep their distance to avoid a threatened peck from a goose, who is like a giant to them, the sparrows comically hop around and try to pick up the down in their little beaks. Usually, after quite an effort, they succeed. Apparently, down is hard to grab.

Much more entertaining are the swallows who show up and dart all over the water. They try to pick up the fluffy down right off the surface, and that's even harder. Rarely do I see them succeed. Unlike hummingbirds, they can't hover and have to try and snare it on the fly - and they fly really fast. These particular birds are tree swallows, quite beautiful themselves. I caught this one pausing on a telephone wire. You can see its forked tail, dark blue wings and head, sort of like Batman. Well, Batman if he had a red throat.


Perching birds usually don't sit still long and they are both tiny and quick, so it is often hard to get a picture. Many times by the time I pick up the camera, turn it on and get the lens cap off, it is gone. Recently I pulled up in my driveway and was surprised to see on the ground a downy woodpecker, which are quite small. But, it had the distinctive black and white pattern on its back and a red cap. I fumbled and it was quite patient, but gone before I could get any kind of good picture through my window. This is a professional shot because I missed:



I became even more obsessed with bird watching just this year and suddenly my eye is picking up different and rarer species a lot more often (see Birdies). A few weeks ago I was kayaking near Stony Brook harbor, surrounded by egrets, giant herons, osprey, a few varieties of gulls, double crested cormorants and a few other common birds for long island. All of a sudden three odd-looking birds flew across the inlet, very low to the water, with really long bright orange bills, a black had and brown wings. I thought maybe they were related to gulls, although the beek was all wrong., more like the heron family. They came to a rest on the other side of the inlet. I'm not sure I would have noticed them except they make an unusual noise - wheeee, wheeeee, wheeee, sort of like the piggy all the way home. I ended up seeing about 7-10 of them during the day and listened as they called to each other. At one point I passed some on the shore, doing the usual shore bird thing of waiting patiently and then jabbing their beak straight down to pluck out a small fish. I couldn't get close enough for a picture (and managed to take my cell phone for a swim that day anyway). But, I went straight to my bird books when I got home (I have four I can find right now). Sometimes I recognize a bird when I have seen it in one of my books but don't know its name. Not so with these, but I found it easily. They were American Oystercatchers, which I don't remember ever noticing before. I was pretty sure it was them from the picture, although sometimes it is hard to tell, even with a good picture. But when I read the behavioral description, I was sure, as it was a perfect match, right down the high pitched whistling sound and their flying low over the water. Here's an image from the internet:



Only last week I was at the pond when a large bird, for a second I thought a raven, landed on a tree limb that stretches over the water and where I often notice lone birds perching. I'm not sure if they like the limb because it is so accessible or I just notice them there because they are so visible. It had large talons. I got out of my car with a camera and started to take pictures, slowly approaching, hoping it wouldn't fly away. It stayed a few minutes and I got as close as I could. The sun was behind it so it was hard to make out its color. Its shape though reminded me precisely of night herons, who have a long feather coming out of the back of their heads, like the Chinese ponytail during the last imperial period (and the style you see in some kung fu movies). This one lacked that long feather. I zoomed in on my camera and could see that it was mostly brownish, but with a white-brown thrush pattern on its breast. Suddenly it gave a loud "SCRAW!," like a bird of prey, which startled me and it flew off. From the way it beat its wings it also reminded me of a bird of prey and I was momentarily not sure of what I saw. But, looking at the pictures of it perched, the heron shape was too definitive for me to be mistaken about that. When I got home, I looked up herons and found a picture of a night heron. The shape was about right, but it couldn't be. Then my eye alighted on a picture of a green heron, and except for the brilliant colors, it matched exactly, down to its loud cry. It must be another kind of heron, I thought. I thought it might be a young, or immature bird, whose feathers often are quite different than a grown one's. I couldn't find a picture in my usual books. But, laying down in bed that night my eye alighted on my fourth bird book, a very old paperback I rarely look at anymore. I opened it up, turned to green heron and found my bird - it was an immature green heron, which are brown in color except for the pattern on the chest. The picture matched exactly.



If you aren't getting all excited about this, then you just aren't a bird person and its fine. I love recognizing dogs and often get excited when I spot a rare breed, even once a part dingo and another time a combination Rhodesian Ridgeback and Weimaraner. But, a number of my friends are dog owners and they display a great affection for them that many other people reserve for their children that I can in no way summon.

I actually screwed up on one recently and feel strangely inadequate about it (I mean, really, who should care ? But I do - I already know I'll never forget it). Down in Virginia I had noticed beautiful light tan birds, usually in pairs, with brilliant white underwing and tail feathers which I wasn't familiar with from New York. They had a long upright tail, almost like a folded Japanese fan. I asked a local what it was called and he told me it was a bobwhite. This year, in New York, we had a pair nest near our back yard and they are quite active, but often perch on wires. They are very aggressive in their territory and fearlessly attack larger birds. I pointed it out to some friends and repeated the name to them. Later that day I realized I had never really looked it up for myself and just took the old codger's word for it. And, in my experience, old codgers were frequently wrong. For some reason, it just didn't sound right. I looked up bobwhite in a book and sure enough it was a quail with similar coloring. Dammit! I hate having the wrong name for an animal! But, I couldn't figure out what this was. As soon as I saw it I smacked myself mentally. Of course I knew that. Then Bear, who is also an enthusiast, came for a visit. I described it to him and he said it was probably a mockingbird, which are quite plentiful where he lives in Maryland. Of course, I had heard of mockingbirds my whole life, but for some reason, I thought they were black, like ravens, probably because the Munsters lived on Mockingbird Lane and they had a black pet raven (who was actually a famous avian actor - see my 1/1/15 post on ravens). Strange connection, but I think that's why I believed so. In any event, I located mockingbirds easily in a book and the picture was very close and the behavior exact. I felt mortified because I had told people and they had believed me. When one flew passed us on the deck, Bear confirmed it.

Why is that embarrassing to me? I don't know. Facts like that have an importance to me since I was little. It was even a bit obsessive when was really young and memorizing lists of everything that looked interesting in my almanac. I hate telling someone something that turns out to be wrong. It used to be very important to me that I correct it with them, no matter how trivial. But, they never seemed to even remember talking about it (see how interesting I am), so I don't really worry about it much anymore.  You can't know everything and it is not the first time in my life I thought one thing for the longest time only to find out I was misinformed. I just hate it.

I'll leave off with a drama that was a little coincidental. One day recently I was waiting for my bank t open. As I often do in the morning I chat on the phone. My friend was telling me that she had just arrived home and saw he cat torturing a blue jay on their lawn. I suggested she chase the cat away and put the poor bird out of its misery. But, she admitted to being cowardly and not able to deal with it. She drove away. As I was sitting there listening, I was watching a group of sparrows chasing after a blue jay. I thought, how odd she is telling me about a blue jay and I am watching one right now 450-500 miles or so away at the same time - and we only know because of cell phones. Blue jays are not nice birds, however beautiful. The jay came to rest on the parking lot about 50 feet from me and the sparrows seemed content to sit there too around the jay, a foot or so away. The jay lazily pecked at the ground. At what I started thinking. All of a sudden I realized he had a sparrow pinned beneath his talon and was pecking it to death. I screamed in my friend's ear, leaped out of the car and ran towards them hollering like a maniac - "Hey, cut it out."

The jay flew off into the bushes and the sparrows all fled too, including the victim. I couldn't find the sparrow and have no idea if he was injured or dead under a bush or flew away with his friends. I saw the jay fly off.

I was telling this to someone who asked me why didn't I just let nature happen. I'll tell you why. I am part of nature too. And I have an empathy for creatures, which I actually had to learn to tamp down when I was young (mostly because other young idiots would actually be even crueler to animals if they knew). And if I want to stop a jay from killing a sparrow I will and it is no less natural than what they were doing. Besides, if it had a brain bigger than a pie crumb, I'm sure the little guy or gal would appreciate it. We all know the prime directive, but Kirk couldn't help himself any more than I could.

And that's a wrap folks.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bond. James Bond.

I’ve decided James Bond deserves some attention. These are “top ten” lists, which, of course are official and not just my opinion. Others may differ and be damned. The first category is the most important.

Ranking of James Bond Actors
1.               Sean Connery
2-3.      - Roger Moore
            - Pierce Brosnan
4.         David Niven
5.         Daniel Craig
6.               Timothy Dalton
7.               George Lazenby

Discussion – I know that many people are now Daniel Craig fans and he is or I guess now was a great James Bond. But, there have been several greater ones. It’s like, Jimmy Foxx was a great baseball player, but he wasn’t Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. I simply can’t choose between Moore (RIP) and Brosnan. Moore played it more comically, but Brosnan is an underrated actor who brought back the grit mixed with sophistication in 007.  He was clearly Bond even when he was playing in the comic adventure Remington Steele. David Niven was Bond in a comedy, Casino Royale, in which Woody Allen played his evil nephew, Jimmy Bond. But, it was pretty good and if ever there was an actor perfectly cast for the role other than Connery, it’s probably Niven. Daniel Craig, as said, was also really good, but I don’t think quite as good as most of his predecessors. Dalton was okay and . . .
Lazenby – well, I wouldn’t say poor George. Lazenby was actually a highly paid male model before he got the Bond gig, which he claims he learned about during a threesome. He quit after one film thinking he could do better in other roles. He has had an acting career since then (although retired between 2003-14), but mostly movies like the Emmanuelle series, which, if I recall, were soft core porn and kung fu films. Nevertheless, he’s an interesting guy with several black belts. He was a Bruce Lee student and had just signed contracts to star with Lee in Game of Death and other kung fu films.

Now for other Bond matters:

Ranking of James Bond movies

     1.     From Russia with Love
     2.     Goldfinger
     3.     Dr. No
     4.     Live and Let Die
     5.     The Man with the Golden Gun
     6.     Never Say Never Again
     7.     You Only Live Twice
     8.     Casino Royale (Niven)
     9.     GoldenEye
     10.  For Your Eyes Only

Ranking of James Bond books by Ian Fleming (top ten)

      1.     Casino Royale
      2.     You Only Live Twice
      3.     Dr. No.
      4.     Goldfinger
      5.     From Russia with Love
      6.     The Spy Who Loved Me
      7.     On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (short stories)
      8.     The Man with the Golden Gun
      9.     Thunderball
     10.  Diamonds are Forever

Bond books are still being written by others. I’m not a big fan of this practice, which is becoming more and more common. I read a few of them and then stopped. It’s not the same.

Ranking of James Bond movie villains (top ten)

      1.     Odd Job (villain) – Harald Sakata (actor) – Goldfinger (film)
      2.     Jaws – Richard Kiel – The Spy Who Love Me/Moonraker
      3.     Fatima Blush – Barbara Carrera – Never Say Never Again
      4.     Maximillian Largo – Klaus Maria Brandauer – Never Say Never Again
      5.     Auric Goldfinger – Gert Fröbe –– Goldfinger
      6.     Colonel Rosa Klebb – Lotta Lenya – From Russia with Love
      7.     Le Chiffre – Mads Mikkelson – Casino Royale
      8.     Xenia Onatopp – Famke Jannsen – GoldenEye
      9.     Red Grant – Robert Shaw – From Russia with Love
      10.  Elecktra King – Sophie Marceau – The World is Not Enough

Discussion: Some might find it hard to believe that I put Fatima Blush and Max Largo ahead of Goldfinger. Bond films are an embarrassment of riches. I thought all of these villains and others were great roles, but I have to rank them according to what I think, not the conventional wisdom. Carrera and Brandauer were just great in their roles and deserve a lot of credit.

You might also notice no Blofeld, who I agree is a classic Bond character. But, I just didn’t think anyone captured the role the way they above group captured theirs.  I was never a Blofeld guy. I know some of the above ended up on Bond’s side, but if they were villains for a while, I count them. There are so many great bond villains that I had to leave out characters like Dr. No. That’s hard – but. 
. . .

Ranking of James Bond movie lines (top three – there were just too many great ones. In no particular order)

1.         
Plenty O'Toole:
Hi, I'm Plenty.
Bond:
But of course you are.
Plenty O'Toole:
Plenty O'Toole.
Bond:
Named after your father perhaps?

     2.

Bond:
The name's Bond, James Bond.

     3.

M:
007!
Gen. Golgol:
Triple X!
Sir Gray:
Bond! What do you think you're doing?
Bond:
Keeping the British end up, sir.

Discussion: The meaning of the first two are pretty obvious. The last one, you may or may not remember, when Bond and his co-star are caught in a compromising position, which happened more than once.

Ranking of James Bond movie gadgets and weapons (top ten)
     
      1.     Walter PPK (various films)
      2.     Aston Martin with various gadgets (Goldfinger)
      3.     Underwater tow sled weaponized with spears (Thunderball).
      4.     Bede BD-5J – the world’s smallest jet plane (Octopussy)
      5.     Pen gun (Never Say Never Again)
      6.     Jet pack (Bell Rocket Belt) (Thunderball)
      7.     Laser beam watch (various films)
      8.     Attache case (a sort of Swiss watch of attache cases)  (From Russia with Love)
      9.     Wet Nellie – half car/half submarine (The Spy who Loved Me)
     10.  Cigarette Rocket (You Only Live Twice)

      Ranking of James Bond chase scenes (top five)

      1.     Ski chase in Austria (The Spy who Loved Me) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaEU_A405zA
      2.     On foot chase (Casino Royale) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaEU_A405zA
      3.     Motorboat chase with Louisiana Sheriff, John W. Pepper (Live and Let Die) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBRqPFkAQCM
      4.     Parachute chase (Moonraker) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G4zT2X8MT0
      5.     Airplane on the ground (Live and Let Die) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvqldWwbRcA
Discussion: Clifton James, who was perfect as Sheriff Pepper, just died at age 96 in April. The Live and Let Die chase scene ended with Bond asking the traumatized student who he took along on his demolition chase – “Same time tomorrow, Mrs. Bell?” Moonraker also had an excellent chase motorboat chase with Jaws, but the parachute one was more spectacular. Still in the motorboat scene, Jaws goes over Iguazu Falls while Bond, pops up a glider and floats away.


That should do it. Feel free to criticize. Few things are more controversial than opinions about Bond.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Political update for June, 2017

               I haven’t done a political update in quite a while, so you are probably not knowing what to make of the world. Let me help.

               Obviously, the story is almost always going to be Trump, Trump, Trump. He excites the media, which also loathes him. One morning I decided to do my own test and counted ELEVEN! negative news stories about Trump (or in a few cases Republicans in general), above the virtual fold in my longtime favorite media source, The New York Times, against no positive ones. Even in the recent Harvard study which showed that most media sites were almost entirely negative about him, the most balanced one, Fox News, was still slightly more negative than positive – 52-48%.

               The commenters, that is, the readers, many anonymous, are worse even than the one-sided columnists (including the ones who claim to be conservative but somehow, never approve of any Republicans or conservatives). Just as facebook has “like” buttons to click, the NYTs has “recommend” buttons to click. I may, some days, see a handful of people to click recommend on mine (ironically, on non-political articles with little traffic I sometimes get more than anyone else), but I’m always surprised I get any. Sometimes, even saying that I don’t like Trump, my desire to be fair or not rush to judgment leads to my getting a number of people replying to me, most of them furious that I took anything but a straight liberal line on stories.

The way to get hundreds, sometimes thousands of recommends is to say something extremely disparaging about either Trump, Bush or Republicans (and one other). It doesn’t have to make sense. The recommends aren’t important in themselves – the “typical” Times’ reader, and this has been quantified, is liberal and it is expected that this is what they want to hear (although it would be completely the opposite on a conservative site) but it is interesting to me what people get excited or angry about. The worst part of the comments and what the “Recommends” indicate delights the readers, is anti-Americanism, sometimes blatant anti-Americanism.

               I consider myself an independent moderate who leans slightly libertarian, in that I don’t think much of either party, usually find myself somewhere in the middle of their policy disputes – sometimes for this side, sometimes for the other and at least preach waiting on the facts before I decide who’s guilty or not.  If there is a liberty interest at stake, there should be a default in favor of freedom, overcome by a good reason. If it is constitutionally protected, like speech, it has to be a damned good reason and carefully crafted to have the least negative impact on it – that’s a rough summary of the law, anyway. There are many good reasons for laws and regulations. The best example of that is lead paint and traffic regulations. I’m fine with reasonable regulations on them. Doesn’t mean we will agree what is reasonable, of course.

               And, as a moderate/independent, I didn’t have anyone to vote for this election. Trump is probably the least knowledgeable, least eloquent and most character flawed president we have had in a long time. The only ones I can think of who had the depth of his personality conflicts were LBJ and Nixon, both who were at least extremely knowledgeable and adept politicians.  Although, if it true that B. Clinton raped Paula Broderick (I know, she reneged, but then said she did so in fear of them) and/or has been abusive to women as claimed by others, then his character might even be worse, but no one doubts his intelligence or his eloquence.
               
                I didn’t care if Trump won or Clinton. I wanted both to lose: him because – well, you know all the reasons beginning with narcissism and ending with ignorance of almost everything one should know if you are going to run at all. She, on the other hand, was entirely competent to the job, but was as dishonest as he was, if it was not quite as frequently displayed, and it appears to me that she did violate the law with respect to handling classified data, did put the country at risk by using a server and did engage in .some form of pay for play as Secretary of State – at the very least, she gave out the impression of it. Last, her campaign plainly cheated against Sanders. More so than all of that, I did not want a continuation of the Obama policies, which was assured if she was elected
               
                 In any event, I was going to be unhappy no matter who won and I was. But, I had a saving grace for both of them. If she won, at least we wouldn’t have a complete novice in the WH. And if he won, the media would get the slap in the face it deserved for abandoning its watch dog role and taking sides.  Despite how shabbily members of the press said Obama’s administration treated them – they still worship him and despise, detest, loathe Trump.
                
                All that being said – Trump was elected fair and square. Despite his insecure ramblings about fraud, it doesn’t appear that any fraud, if it occurred, affected the election. He won and that’s all there is to it.

               What resulted from it – the so-called “resistance,” is far worse than Trump (and that is hard to say). In fact, it has crept over into fascism. By using the word fascism, which is used by people to mean a variety of things but always related to a totalitarian gov’t or a group seeking that status. My definition, because I think this is what most people mean by it, is a political group that seeks to gain authority to enforce its will by violence and intimidation based upon a justification of race or ethnicity.

               And what I mean by worse than Trump is that the left seems most exorcised – I’d say hysterical – about his comments respecting Mexicans and Muslims (not that they made me comfortable – I just didn’t contemplate suicide or break anyone’s windows). Of course, he also largely took them back. In return, some members of the left, and I presume it is a great minority (but still way too many) engage in things like chanting “death to cops” and actually killing cops, rioting (braking windows, burning cars, beating up people), generally acting hysterical (again, just read the comments), opposing everything he does politically far more so than even the Republicans did under Obama, attacking and drowning out speakers, taking over and attacking political rallies, even arguing that free speech means the right to stop others from speaking in ways they find offensive and other equally obnoxious behaviors. Amazingly, they are in uproar at the punching of two intruders who were interrupting Trump rallies, while those on the left have attacked and closed down rallies, and admittedly tried to bait conservatives (although recorded surreptitiously).

               Being a moderate/independent does not mean that the parties are always equal or that I always feel equally about them. Admittedly, I often find I loathe most the minority party, because they are trying to unseat the majority and behave in undesirable ways. I couldn’t vote for a Republican at the end of the 1990s because I so detested the political way they went to impeach Clinton. And I despised Democrats most when they beat up Justice Thomas in his confirmation hearing and acted as if George W. Bush stole the election. I also thought the Republicans, in the majority, were idiotic in their Javert-like persecution of Hillary Clinton over Benghazi – although, admittedly, interesting and worthwhile facts came out really not related all that much to Benghazi.

               But, nothing has so irritated me as the behavior of the left in their recent minority status. A few things that they have done are among the most heinous I’ve seen in politics since the political assassinations of the ‘60s. One seems innocuous enough, but for the fascism abounding – and that is their silence in the face of the list of heinous acts I mentioned above. Many on the left simply see nothing wrong with those things I’ve listed above, while denying they are done by those on the left at all (anarchists some claim – without the slightest proof – one wonders why the anarchists are directing themselves against conservatives).

               Another thing poo-pooed by the press was something I thought one of the worst things I have ever seen in politics during my lifetime – the taking over of congress’s floor by Democrats in the minority because they didn’t get their way. They should have been arrested, as taking over the floor of congress is protected speech under the constitution any more than beating up someone because you wish to make a political point is protected. Amazing to me, these “protesters” acted as if they were on some kind of 1960s freedom ride, when they were just the bullies they used to detest.

               If anything would break down our system of government, it is the minority taking over the congress. It’s called a putsch. You can imagine if the Republicans in congress did that to a Democratic majority, how the NYTimes would have reacted. The words fascists and putsch would have been all over the home page.

               Two things that happened during the campaign which the Democrats have remained silent about speaks volumes to me of the corruption of their party. Where is the hysteria and anger over the cheating that went on in the Democratic primary? They are so worried about the Russians (and I have no idea if Russia was Wikileaks’ source – but there’s zero proof known to the public) but seem complacent that the fox was in the henhouse during Clinton’s defeat of Sanders? No one on the left even seemed to be outraged over Donna Brazile abusing her position with CNN to steal a debate question (although she was fired by CNN – what choice did they have?) The other heinous act though was Bill Clinton’s brazen interference with the investigation of his wife by the Justice Department. They are incensed that Donald Trump was irregular in his behavior with his own subordinates, but it is fine with them that a private citizen who still had tremendous clout and might be the next “first spouse” went to see the Attorney General on her airplane, away from all ears and with incredible timing – just before the decision on his wife’s investigation.

               But, with the press on your side, these things blow over quickly, and they did. And that is one of the problems the Republicans have always had – the media has always been on the side of the left in my lifetime – generally speaking - and now is really part and parcel of it. More than anything else that has developed since the 2016 campaign is the fall from grace of the press – not that it was ever on a pedestal. But, in the past two years it has become so one-sided, it has lost almost all political credibility with me and many people I know, including some liberals (almost mostly older ones). Let me give one example. The past week, despite there not even being a leak to base it on, the press has been full of warnings that Trump would use executive privilege to prevent Comey to testify before the Senate on June 8th, 2017. I watched mirthfully, certain that if it would have happened, it would have happened already. That is only common sense. The press knows this as well. It did not deter them at all. Today (6/7/17) I am watching the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee grill the heads of the FBI, Justice, U.S. Cyber Command and National Intelligence. All were asked whether they had discussions with the White House concerning executive privilege. All said no. I expect Comey to testify likewise, although I may not post that before he testifies. [In fact, I didn’t – but I left that as is]

               But, what of Russia and the whole election? To be honest, I don’t get it. As far as we have been told, there is no – none – zippo – evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And though Alan Dershowitz is not someone I have often agreed with (though he’s not as obnoxious as he once was), he has been outspoken that whatever rumor is leaked about the WH and Russia – even if true – none of it is criminal.   Most of the things we learn in the media about it turn out to be false, so I’m completely skeptical until I see a smoking gun. In fact, the only crimes we know of seem to be that one of a few officials or intelligence officers are leaking classified material to try to harm the president.

               Don’t get me wrong. Is collusion more likely with a knucklehead like Trump? Intuitively, I would say absolutely it does. He might not even have realized it was a crime. Of course, I say this because of my poor opinion of him – it is not objective at all and history teaches us that predictions or intuitions are frequently wrong.  And, as with all potential crimes, I like to see or hear some actual evidence before I condemn. I’d be pleased to do so here, if there was evidence.  
   
            Republicans are, of course, capable of all the chicanery and bad acts that Democrats are. I have long felt that tactically the two parties and ideologies are the same, relying on hyperbole, appeal to emotion and character assassination.  But, since the advent of Trump, the Rs haven’t had opportunity to display it. At least most don’t. In fact, because Trump took no prisoners in the campaigning, even many Republicans loathe him, and clearly a good number of them are deeply embarrassed by him. On account of that, they have not given the cover to him they afforded to George Bush. In fact, they seem happy to go along with Democrats on many specifics and don’t seem to have a lot of heart to fight back.

COMEY

               I want to get to Comey, because he is the news of the day and I am just stunned at what he said (AGAIN – the first time was when he described what Clinton did regarding her server as a crime and then said, of course, no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute it – claiming there was a bad intent aspect that no one else seems to have heard of before).

               Today, with the press and his adversaries ravenous and even Republicans seemingly tepid about defending him, Comey testified. If demeanor and personality count, he hit it out of the park. He is eloquent and humble and good looking guy.

               But what he said was shocking and NO ONE I can see, even Alan Dershowitz, who immediately posted, saying see – no crime, picked up on this.

               Comey said, that Trump said to him, that he “hoped you can see your way clear,” to letting go of Flynn because he was a “good guy.” Comey took that to be a direction – that is, an order to end the investigation into Flynn. But, he also said:
-       
      That Trump could lawfully order him to stop an investigation in various ways.
-         That he never reported what Trump said to him to the AG or WH counsel, or his own leadership  team.
       That he did not obey the order. 
       That if an FBI agent knows a crime has been committed, he must report it.
-        That Donald Trump was not under investigation by the FBI.
-        That Trump never followed up about it.
-        That rather than report it, he kept notes about his meetings with Trump.
-         That e did not offer to resign as he did after he refused to sign the intelligence order and blocked others from getting Ashcroft to do it while he was in the hospital.
-        That after being fired, he gave the notes to an unnamed friend (but a friend who is a professor at Colombia University, to leak to the press (NY Times).
      
      I still don’t understand how people missed what I am about to say –

If Comey believed, as he said, that Donald Trump that Trump was giving him an order – why didn’t he follow it? He simply disobeyed an order given to him by the president. He never even told anyone about it. That’s what he’d have you believe.

Frankly, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that Trump saying “I hope you can see your way” would be taken by a directive by Comey. If he wasn’t sure, why wouldn’t he ask? If it was true, why didn’t Trump follow up? And why didn’t Comey? It looks more like to me that Trump said exactly what he thought – his hope, and it was not an order.

Comey has lowered the bar for himself by describing himself as cowardly for not answering Trump about Flynn or for speaking with him alone (which he continued to do on the telephone). But, cowardly is not a good excuse. Remember, this is the same guy who rushed to the hospital to stop top presidential aides from getting to his weakened boss. That doesn’t sound cowardly. Same guy who handled organized crime and terror cases?

Several people asked him why he simply didn’t speak up. He answered that he wasn’t Captain Courageous and was cowardly. What an excuse.

Comey settled a lot of hash today. Maybe he was just telling the truth. He said the press got a lot wrong about the Russia Russia (Nooooo, really?), he said he went public about the Clinton email scandal result because he thought AG Lynch’s tarmac meeting with Clinton made her not credible. He also said she asked him to call it a “matter” rather than an investigation, which he noticed was what the Clinton team wanted it called.

And he also helped Trump by confirming that Trump did not try to squelch the Russia investigation, even suggested that he'd be interested in knowing if anyone of his own people had done something wrong. And also by knocking the press.

And there were a lot of things he could not answer – why he didn’t speak up, why the only thing not leaked about the investigation was that Trump wasn’t being investigated, why he didn’t resign?

In the end, I know that people who hate Trump and need him to fail will see this testimony as damning, because he called Trump a liar (Nooooo, really?) and said he defamed the agency. And because he said that Trump “directed” him to let go of the Flynn matter (and, again, but never followed up?)

I like Comey. Despite his failures in judgment in my view (which, frankly, until today, most politicians seemed to agree with) I like him a lot better than Trump. I think he’d be a lot better president than Trump. But, that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. And his failings the past year, have been “Huuuuge.” One of them is not really telling the truth at this hearing. I'm just not buying it.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .