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 . . . .