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[The following is an opinion / editorial written by former Director of the CIA — John Brennan, titled:  “I will speak out until integrity returns to the White House
The editorial appeared in the Washington Post Newspaper on 1 June 2018.  It also appeared on the Post website:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/
The specific link to the editorial is: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/john-brennan-i-will-speak-out-until-integrity-returns-to-the-white-house/2018/05/31/afbccafa-64e8-11e8-a69c-b944de66d9e7_story.html?utm_term=.7a7512618b79
All rights are reserved by the Washington Post.  I am posting the editorial on my blog site in its entirety simply because I feel an urgent need to address (to “speak out” about) the problems with the Trump Administration.
For those not familiar with the name, John Brennan served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from March 2013 to January 2017.
  —  KMAB]
My first visit to the Oval Office came in October 1990, when I was a 35-year-old CIA officer.  Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait two months before, and President George H.W. Bush wanted to discuss the implications of a U.S.-led military coalition that would ultimately push the Iraqis out.
I remember the nervousness I felt when I entered that room and met a president of the United States for the first time.  By the time the meeting ended, his intellectual curiosity, wisdom, affability and intense interest in finding the best policy course to protect and promote U.S. interests were abundantly evident.
Over the next quarter-century, I returned to the Oval Office several hundred times during the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  The jitters that accompanied my first Oval Office visit dissipated over time, but the respect, awe and admiration I held for the office of the presidency and the incumbents never waned.  The presidents I directly served were not perfect, and I didn’t agree with all of their policy choices.  But I never doubted that each treated their solemn responsibility to lead our nation with anything less than the seriousness, intellectual rigor and principles that it deserved.  Many times, I heard them dismiss the political concerns of their advisers, saying, “I don’t care about my politics, it’s the right thing to do.”
The esteem with which I held the presidency was dealt a serious blow when Donald Trump took office.  Almost immediately, I began to see a startling aberration from the remarkable, though human, presidents I had served.  Mr. Trump’s lifelong preoccupation with aggrandizing himself seemed to intensify in office, and he quickly leveraged his 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. address and his Twitter handle to burnish his brand and misrepresent reality.
Presidents throughout the years have differed in their approaches to policy, based on political platforms, ideologies and individual beliefs.  Mr. Trump, however, has shown highly abnormal behavior by lying routinely to the American people without compunction, intentionally fueling divisions in our country and actively working to degrade the imperfect but critical institutions that serve us.
Although appalling, those actions shouldn’t be surprising.  As was the case throughout his business and entertainment careers, Mr. Trump charts his every move according to a calculus of how it will personally help or hurt him.  His strategy is to undercut real, potential and perceived opponents; his focus is to win at all costs, irrespective of truth, ethics, decency and — many would argue — the law.  His disparagement of institutions is designed to short-circuit legitimate law enforcement investigations, intelligence assessments and media challenges that threaten his interests.  His fear of the special counsel’s work is especially palpable, as is his growing interest in destroying its mandate.
For more than three decades, I observed and analyzed the traits and tactics of corrupt, incompetent and narcissistic foreign officials who did whatever they thought was necessary to retain power.  Exploiting the fears and concerns of their citizenry, these demagogues routinely relied on lies, deceit and suppression of political opposition to cast themselves as populist heroes and to mask self-serving priorities.  By gaining control of intelligence and security services, stifling the independence of the judiciary and discrediting a free press, these authoritarian rulers followed a time-tested recipe for how to inhibit democracy’s development, retard individual freedoms and liberties, and reserve the spoils of corrupt governance for themselves and their ilk.  It never dawned on me that we could face such a development in the United States.
On the international front, Mr. Trump pursues policies that are rooted in uninformed campaign promises, a determination to upend actions of his predecessors and an aversion to multilateral engagements.  His ad hoc and frequently impulsive approach to national security is short-sighted and dangerous, as allies and partners are left uncertain about U.S. strategy and objectives.
The impact of the Trump presidency will be felt for many years to come.  Most worrisome is that his use of falsehoods, his mean-spirited and malicious behavior, and his self-absorption will be emulated by many young Americans — indeed, young people globally — who look to the president of the United States as a role model.
The damage also will be felt by the millions of Americans who believe in Mr. Trump because of their concern about being left behind in a rapidly changing globalized world.  These Americans have a legitimate gripe that politicians and political parties of all stripes have failed to deliver on the promise that America is the land of opportunity for all, irrespective of race, creed or place of residence.  At a time when deep-seated fears of socioeconomic and cultural change need to be addressed honestly and without prejudice, Mr. Trump grandstands like a snake-oil salesman, squandering his formidable charisma and communication skills in favor of ego, selfishness and false promises.
Many have condemned my public criticism of Mr. Trump, arguing that as a former CIA director, I should bite my tongue.  My criticisms, however, are not political; I have never been and will never be a partisan.  I speak out for the simple reason that Mr. Trump is failing to live up to the standards that we should all expect of a president.
As someone who had the rare privilege of directly serving four presidents, I will continue to speak out loudly and critically until integrity, decency, wisdom — and maybe even some humility — return to the White House.
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On This Day In:
2017 To Laws, Not Office Or Individuals
Beast / General / Civil
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start

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Andrew McCabe was the Deputy Director of the FBI under Director James Comey.  Director Comey was fired by President Trump, who then appointed McCabe to replace Comey as Director.  Comey refused to “pledge” his loyalty to Trump and when McCabe supported Comey’s statements in Congressional testimony, Trump subsequently forced McCabe from his position, too.  McCabe “fell on his sword” to protect the FBI after an Inspector General’s report of improper handling of the Hilary Clinton’s e-mail investigation during the 2016 Presidential campaign.  The result of the “improper handling” was to the benefit of Trump and hurt Clinton’s campaign.  I am not aware of any evidence this effect was intentional by Comey, McCabe or the FBI.
I have heard some Republican supporters / Conservative analysts offering up the suggestion Attorney General Jeff Session fired McCabe in order to maintain his own (Session’s) position and thereby “protect” Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.  In essence, Session has fired a man with over 20 years of distinguished FBI service for personal and political reasons to punish McCabe and satisfy President Trump’s vindictive personality.  Session is himself a pitiable (if not tragic) figure in this drama because he has been subject to Trump’s “personality” and diminution, but that still (in my opinion) does not justify his actions in this matter.
My reaction to the Session’s firing of Andrew McCabe from the FBI at 10PM on a Friday night less than two days before his scheduled retirement can be summarized by a few quotes from the movie “Judgment At Nuremberg”  (1961)…  (in these quotes Janning represents Session and McCabe is the “one” man.)
Judge Dan Haywood:  Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure.  We believe he loathed the evil he did.  But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and death of millions by the government of which he was a part.  Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial.  If he and the other defendants were all depraved perverts – if the leaders of the Third Reich were sadistic monsters and maniacs – these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake or other natural catastrophes.  But this trial has shown that under the stress of a national crisis, men – even able and extraordinary men – can delude themselves into the commission of crimes and atrocities so vast and heinous as to stagger the imagination.  No one who has sat through this trial can ever forget.  The sterilization of men because of their political beliefs…  The murder of children…  How easily that can happen!  There are those in our country today, too, who speak of the “protection” of the country.  Of “survival”.  The answer to that is: survival as what?  A country isn’t a rock.  And it isn’t an extension of one’s self.  It’s what it stands for, when standing for something is the most difficult!  Before the people of the world – let it now be noted in our decision here that this is what we stand for: justice, truth… and the value of a single human being!
Later in the movie…
Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood…  the reason I asked you to come:  Those people, those millions of people…  I never knew it would come to that.  You must believe it, You must believe it!
Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it “came to that” the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.
Also:
The following is the reaction of the former head of the CIA to President Trump’s mocking Tweet about this firing:

Former CIA Director John O. Brennan’s reaction to Trump’s mocking of McCabe firing.

History will be a harsh judge of Trump and those in Congress who protect his Administration by trying to halt an unhindered and complete investigation of Russian interference in our last Presidential election and Trump and his campaign’s collusion with Russia in their efforts to get him elected and undermine our country.
America will triumph over Donald Trump and Vladimir Putkin.
Please do not take anything above as a defense of AG Session.  I did not like him as a Senator and did not support his nomination to Attorney General because I did not (and do not) believe Session is able to defend the laws of the United States independent of his own opinions – particularly laws supporting Civil Rights or Equal Justice under the law.  I also believe he knew early on that the Trump campaign was involved with Russia.  I am not (yet) convinced Session was personally involved in the collusion with Russia, but I feel it is highly probable based on his “selective memory” and failures to recall (29 times) during his testimony before Congress.
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On This Day In:
2017 Odds Are
2016 Prayer, Too
2015 History, n.
2014 See It Sometime
2013 Precious Friend
2012 It Couldn’t Be Done
Feeling Surrounded?
2011 Surprise!

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Today’s post will be a long one, so if you’re not interested in my reviews, please come back another day…
The three series being reviewed are “Pride And Prejudice“, “Stranger Things” and “The Punisher“.  P&P is on DVD and the other two were both viewed on NetFlix.
Pride And Prejudice  (1940) —  movie review;  (1995)  —  series / movie review
Starring Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet, this is the black and white version which appears on cable channels periodically – which is where I caught it one afternoon while casually channel surfing.  Because I enjoyed the 2005 version, so much and the 1995 version, too, I thought I’d give it a view.  The story is essentially: small village with landowner family of five female daughters is thrown in a tizzy over the arrival of a very “suitable” bachelor.  Even better, the bachelor comes with a friend, who is also a very suitable bachelor (Darcy).  Lizzy takes an immediate dislike to Mr. Darcy while the oldest sister (Jane) falls madly in love with the first bachelor (Mr. Bingly).  Blah, blah, blah, happy ending.
In this version, I was left with a “satisfied” grin.  It was enjoyable to watch, and, because I’m so familiar with the story, I’m looking for my favorite parts.  Unfortunately, while Olivier and Garson “seemed” good in their roles individually, to me, they lacked the chemistry to make the story believable.  There are also a couple of changes in the film which I found curious.  For one, the costumes seemed more modern and more American than British.  This impression may be just in comparison to the 1995 version.  Another difference was that Darcy’s aunt refuses the marriage to Lizzy as a test of her love, whereas in the other versions, the aunt is doing it for reasons of societal class difference and because the aunt believes Darcy to be “given / promised” to her own daughter since childhood.  Basically, it makes the aunt a redeemable character, which I don’t believe she was meant to be.  I guess, I’ll have to read the book to find out ultimately.
Final recommendation:  moderate.  It’s okay.  I guess anything with Olivier is considered a “classic”.  I say it has historical interest, just as I enjoyed “Bride And Prejudice” (2004) because of the Indian / Bollywood interpretation.  (Review here.)
Having watched the 1940’s version, I decided to re-watch the 1995 BBC version.  Starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, this is widely considered one of the great BBC television productions of all time.  Running time is not quite 5-1/2 hours long and therefore this version has the time to flesh out the characters more than the more recent 2005 film version which I have seen multiple times.  My daughter (Rebecca) says she considers this the “definitive” adaptation of the novel to film.  I beg to differ with my favorite being the 2005 version.  I would put this a very close second though.
With this second viewing and having seen some of his other works, I am thoroughly a Colin Firth fan.  He kills this role.  Even though I’ve seen this version before, I must admit, I didn’t really remember it.  It has time to add a lot more to the story and IMHO, this makes the whole version better.  There is a “famous” scene of Darcy approaching a lake on his property.  If you know much about England, you know that even on the warmest of days, open water is rarely warm.  This is actually one of the reasons accidental drowning is so common there (several hundred each year).  Anyway, Darcy is despondently approaching a lake and my first instinct was “plot twist, this isn’t going to end well”.  But then, of course, we get the now famous and career making wet T-shirt (ok, it’s a cotton long-sleeved pullover) scene of Darcy stumbling upon Lizzy on his way to the house to dry off.  Ladies still swoon…  LOL
Final recommendation:  Highly!!  I struggle to find things to criticize about this version.  Okay, it’s longer than the 2005 movie and Mrs. Bennet and Kitty are much more annoying in this version, but this slight comment is simply evidence of how good the whole is.  Well, worth re-visiting!
Stranger Things  (2016 / 2017)  —  series review
Stranger Things is a two-season (so far) science-fiction, horror, coming of age made for NetFlix series.  There are 17 episodes.  Eight in the first year and nine in the second.  The series occurs in the 1980’s, in a rural / sub-urban town in the mid-west (Indiana).  The series has lots of references and homages to earlier works of music and film from that period.  The series was recommended to me by my son (James), who advised me it was “MUST” see.  Even more than THOR, the (at that time) up-coming Justice League, Punisher or Longmire…  So, okay.  I watched it.  The series is very much an ensemble cast so I’m not going to bother listing all fifteen to twenty of the “main” actors.
Absolutely, terrific!!  The series has adults, older teens, younger teens, nerds, jocks and just regular folks.  It also has hell-hound aliens, extra-dimensions, mind-control, telekinesis and X-mas lights!  My son said, he hopes I don’t scare easily at night or I’ll have to watch all 17 hours straight through.  It wasn’t anywhere near THAT intense, but it is very good.  Basically, I’m (again) late to the party and this was the smash hit for NetFlix last year.  I’m jumping in here, one month after the release of the second season.  As per normal for NetFlix, the whole series for the year is released on the same day to encourage binge watching.  So, I did.  Season 1 on day 1 and Season 2 on the following day.
But, what is the show about?  Well, there’s a government experiment gone wrong.  They are developing children into “X-men”, with various abilities.  Season one is mostly about a girl with telekinesis abilities.  Season two brings in her “sister”.  Not really her sister, but they grew up together.  So, girl escapes and meets young boy from town.  Fall in love, blah, blah, blah.  In the meantime, the government agency has accidentally opened a gate into another dimension, which is a lot like ours, but it has been conquered by an alien (large spider-like shadow) which controls a bunch of little flesh eating aliens.  At the end of Season one, the girl saves her friends and the world by closing the portal.  Season two opens a year later and girl is still missing and the original abducted kid knows the aliens are coming back.  Blah, blah, blah, teen angst, blah, blah, blah, child angst, blah, blah, blah, adult angst.  Big finale, the kids kick alien butt and the girl saves the world.  Afterwards, smoochy, smoochy at the Winter Ball.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly.  This is a well made combination of practically every kids science-fiction movie you’ve ever seen.  Some of the references are almost (but not quite) tongue in cheek, but they work and this is a series well worth the time to watch it.  I’m not sure if I’ll watch it again soon, but I’m almost certainly up for another binge before the release of season 3, next year.  I would caution that although kids play predominant roles in this series, this is NOT for below age-12 viewing.  Some scenes can be intense and there is a moderate amount of alien violence.
The Punisher (2017)  —  series review
This series is a spinoff from the DareDevil series also on NetFlix.  The Punisher appeared in season two – and pretty much took it over – so, now he has his own show.  Basically, the family of a military expert is killed and he takes revenge against the killers.  In DareDevil, he does most of the work.  In this series, he almost finishes the job.  He leaves one guy, who he promises to come back for.  Blah, blah, blah.  Segue to season two…
Does it work and is it any good?  If you like this kind of thing (explosions, excessive violence, gratuitous sexual scenes, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, lots and lots of guns and gun fire, and did I mention explosions), and I do, then you’ll enjoy this series.  And, I did.  So, I enjoyed it…  The question was is it any good?  As a comic book adaptation, it is very good.  As an action / adventure / who-dun-it, it’s pretty good.  As a realistic portrayal of armed and unarmed combat, uh, it’s a comic book…
The series stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as his partner David Lieberman / Micro, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo (Frank’s wartime friend who ends up being a bad guy), Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani (Homeland Security Officer), Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson (a confused Vet who becomes a domestic terrorist), Paul Schulze as William Rawlins (the main gov / CIA bad guy from “the war”), Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle (the Vet “do-gooder” medic), Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman / Micro’s wife, and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (a carry over from Daredevil).
The series is mostly dark, in the same vein as the DareDevil series, the Chris Nolan / Batman movie trilogy, and the recent John Wick movies.  It deals with a host of issues, from right and wrong, free press, privacy, vigilantism, friendship, personal loss, and a rather bizarre attitude that “justice” almost always ends with violence – particularly gun violence.  While the depiction of violence is pretty accurate, the depiction of physical recovery is essentially: “and then a miracle happens.”  There are scars, but recovery is almost instantaneous.  Like I said: comic book…
Final recommendation: moderate.  This series would be rated higher if they had let the actors simply act more and kill / maim less.  It is definitely for mature audiences ONLY.  It feels strange to say (admit) it, but I enjoyed the acting and the story more than I did the violence.  Go figure…
Final comment: I was not a follower of “The Punisher” character in the comic reading days of my youth.  I was reading them when he was introduced in DareDevil and Spiderman, but the character never “really” captured my pre-teen and teen imagination.  During my Army days though, I was an avid follower of “The Executioner” book series written by Don Pendleton, which was the basis for the comic character.  The monthly book series currently runs to over 400 episodes and is being ghost written since Pendleton’s sale of the series and subsequent death.
Thanks to any who managed to make it through the entire post.  Let me know if you agree / disagree with my reviews…
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On This Day In:
2016 Feeling Warm Yet?
Four Documentaries
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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Today’s post is reviewing four movies – one re-review and three new reviews.  The movies are: (old) “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016); (new) Immortals (2011); (new) Jason Bourne (2016); and, (new) Moneyball (2011).  Because this post is for four movies, it will be longer than normal.  If you’re not interested in my movie reviews, move along…  So, in alphabetical order…
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)  —  movie review
My original review can be found here from back in April.  Back then I gave it a “strong” recommendation as “entertaining”.  That review stands.  If anything, I might raise it to high.  I think I actually liked it more.  The plot still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as previously stated: it’s a marketing gimmick to get three super-heroes together so DC can start a franchise.  Even given that, I still liked the movie a lot – more so than the first viewing.  I particularly liked Ben Affleck (Batman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman).  And, while Superman is never going to be my favorite super-hero, Henry Cavill owns the role like no one since Chris Reeves in the original “Superman – the Movie”.  The movie worked for me.  Bring on the Justice League of America!
Immortals (2011)  —  movie review
Okay, so in ancient Greece, some beefcake named Theseus (Henry Cavill aka Superman) is blessed / cursed by Zeus (Luke Evans) to protect humanity (well, at least the Greeks) from a mad tyrant – King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).  Phaedra (Freida Pinto) plays the love interest, an Oracle of Delphi.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah, Theseus finds a magic bow (“The Epirus Bow”) and saves the world from the Titans.
Since I’d never heard of this “legend” tale, I looked it up on Wikipedia and it is completely made up.  The names of the characters appear in Greek history or mythology, but this myth / story does not.  Still, it’s a good tale.  The movie is from the same producers as “300“, so if you like that kind of bloody action, fights and special effects (and I do), you should find this movie to your visual taste.  Final recommendation: strong.  I picked this movie to see if Cavill can act in any other role beside Superman.  That didn’t work out so well as he plays a “minor” superman / hero here, too.
Jason Bourne (2016)  —  movie review
This is a movie I really wanted to see at the theater, but never got around to.  It’s the fifth in the series and the fourth with Matt Damon in the title role.  Matt skipped number four which starred Jeremy Renner.  (Wow.  Now I’ve got to go back and see that one again.)  While it was nice to see Matt back in the saddle, this movie makes absolutely no sense.  The plot is the same as the others (the first three), the CIA wants Jason Bourne dead and he fights back.  The special effects technology is upgraded, but it’s used badly and adds to the “huh?” factor.
I never thought I’d say this, since I much prefer Matt to Tom Cruise, but Ethan Hunt is now better in the Mission Impossible series than Jason Bourne is in this series.  And it’s not Matt’s acting.  It’s the story telling.  This movie is what it is: Matt / Jason fighting and running around and being super clever.  Other than that, it’s an extremely average action movie.  I’m sure Hollywood will try to string this out for another couple of sequels, but it’s running out of air and there’s a DNR on the patient’s chart.  Time for a better re-boot than we got with Jeremy.
Moneyball (2011)  —  movie review
What can I tell you?  It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Cubs won the World Series and I’m missing baseball…
This is one of those movies “based on a true story”.  Basically, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has to make a small market (ie “poor”) baseball team competitive.  He does it by introducing “Sabermetrics” to baseball.  Here, Sabermetrics is renamed as “moneyball”.  The baseball team is the Oakland Athletics (better known as the “A’s”).  The A’s lose three of their best players to teams with more money and in the struggle to replace them, Beane tries to redefine how you evaluate players using statistics instead of experienced baseball “eye-balls” (veteran scouts).  What happens is he turns the “rebuilding” team into one which not only makes the playoffs, but sets an American league single season consecutive winning streak.
The movie gives a fascinating look into the “business” of modern baseball, and, yes, I did get caught up in both the streak and the “romance of baseball”.  I liked Brad Pitt in Troy, but most of his stuff is just kind of “so-so” for me.  He is excellent in this role!  Final recommendation: High!!
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On This Day In:
2015 More Prejudice
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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