Meet the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity Ensuring “Democracy” in a Neoliberalized World Order

With more than 20 critical elections taking place in the next two years in the U.S., Mexico and Europe and with public sentiment running high against austerity, privatization and deregulation of Big Business, the neoliberals have decided to use the “Russia hacked us” story as cover for putting together an operation to ensure democracy doesn’t fail them again like it did in 2016.

“The Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity will aim to “fill a void in transatlantic coordination, identifying and plugging gaps and raising awareness from governments to citizens; and it will look into the level of risk exposure across Western countries and ask how technology can address the problem,” according to the news release.” CNN

The Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity has been formed with the expressed purpose being to develop systems that will produce “safer” election results for the entrenched powers that be.

More than 20 elections in North America and Europe over the next two years will provide ‘’fertile ground’’ for interference like that seen during the U.S. presidential election in 2016, former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters Friday in Washington. Bloomberg

The commission’s cast list looks like a who’s who of career neoliberal sycophants who just happen to be out of work and have lots of time on their hands. They will hold their first meeting in mid June at the Orwelllian-named Copenhagen Democracy Summit and from there they will decide how best to make sure America, Mexico and Europe “vote the right way” in upcoming elections.

Michael Chertoff – co-chair – former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary
Anders Fogh Rasmussen – co-chair – former NATO Secretary General
Felipe Calderon – former Mexican President
Nick Clegg – former U.K. deputy prime minister
Joe Biden – former U.S. Vice President under Barack Obama

This democracy-killing commission was first conceived by Joe Biden who called for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the whole “Russia hacking” thing and is being funded by various sources, not the least suspect of which being the Alliance of Democracies Foundation and Microsoft.

“Biden will attend the first commission meeting in Copenhagen in June as part of the Copenhagen Democracy Summit. Both efforts are funded through the Alliance of Democracies Foundation. Biden told me that the commission will work toward finding best practices and policies among the United States and its European allies to thwart subversive measures by Russia and any other countries that may want to interfere.” Washington Post

“The group aims to conduct studies on how to better reduce risks to elections from Russian cyber threats, including looking at new technologies, and share their findings with governments. Microsoft Corp. is providing the commission with technical expertise and $300,000 in funds. Rasmussen said other ‘’seed’’ funding has come from his consulting company, and the group will continue to raise money to back its work.” Bloomberg

Gee. I wonder if Microsoft will win the contract to produce the software for the hackable voting machines and if Michael Chertoff’s company will get the money to actually build the faith-based voting machines. Gee. I wonder.

The Alliance of Democracies was founded by pure neoliberal globalist Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who played a key role in the destruction of Libya (for French and British business interests) and on his “about” page, he makes his neoliberal economic agenda quite clear.

“The Alliance of Democracies Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2017 by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former NATO Secretary General and former Prime Minister of Denmark. The Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of democracy and free markets across the globe and runs three programs:”

One of the things the Alliance does is set up new businesses in nations we brought “democracy” to like Libya:

“The program supports successful entrepreneurial projects in emerging democracies and post-conflict areas,”

Josh Rogin over at the CIA’s Washington Post (which promises at the top of each page to kill democracy in the darkness cast by it’s shadow) makes it very clear why this commission of neoliberal globalist hacks has been formed. All you have to do is read between the lines.

“Russian interference is not new, but it is more aggressive and widespread than ever. By now there is evidence that the Russian government interfered in Brexit, the most recent French presidential election, the Catalonian independence vote in Spain, and even the recent Italian elections through a mix of propaganda, illicit funding and complex social media manipulation meant to promote Russian interests and sow chaos in democratic political systems.

Closer to home, there are signs Russia is interfering in upcoming elections in Mexico. Before the next U.S. presidential election, in 2020, which Biden may be involved in, there will be 20 major elections in European Union and NATO countries.

“You have a lot of examples of the Russians trying to stir up dissatisfaction, spur nationalism, in an attempt to weaken the confidence in our democratic institutions,” Rasmussen said.” Washington Post

Where ever a vote turned out to go against the neoliberal globalists’ agenda, THAT is where Russia interfered. That’s basically the gist of it.

But look at that quote from Rasmussen. “Spur nationalism” and weaken the confidence that the citizens have in their neoliberalized nations. That pretty much says it all right there, doesn’t it?

Josh Rogin gets it. That’s why he gets the big bucks working for the CIA… uh… I mean… the Washington Post:

“Absent that, Russia will continue to undermine our democratic systems, spur instability and fuel nationalism on both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum.” Josh Rogin

Absent some new means by which to undermine real democracy, people will undoubtedly vote in their own interests and against the One Party neoliberal globalist system that is struggling to keep itself afloat in nations where citizens are still allowed a vote. Hence, the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity has been formed and tasked with developing new ways to… how did Rasputin Rasmussen put it?

‘’I have no doubt that (we) and also other (neoliberal globalists) will continue to destabilize democratic societies,’’ Rasmussen said. ‘‘(So we) will (continue to) develop more and more sophisticated methods (to ensure the ignorant public vote the RIGHT WAY)” Bloomberg

Review of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”

Every once in a while, a book comes along that sets the liberals on fire. The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein is one such book. This volume has been hawked by such national liberal pundits as Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. There has been such a buzz over this book in the past two years that it behooves us to write a review of it. Overall, the writing style is quite friendly to those of us who are not political scientists. It is, so to speak, an easy read. The historical research that went into the book is respectable (for the most part). Naomi Klein’s title refers to the “shocking” ways in which unregulated free markets have been applied to many countries throughout the world, and how “disaster capitalism,” or capitalism that is a disaster for working people, has been put in power.

From the coup in Chile to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the “shock therapies” used in Poland, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and even the US and UK, this book lays out quite completely the pattern used by the Friedmanite capitalists of the Chicago School from their rise in the 1970s to their mastery over the IMF and World Bank in the 1990s and their control of WTO and GATT today. Overall, the pattern is the same between these different occurences in different countries at different times. It is a form of imperialism, which as we know is the necessary expansion of capitalism to capture more resources and more markets. Unless capitalism constantly expands it is subject to collapse. Klein is correct about this. That said, there are severe flaws with the ideology expressed in the book.

The “Shock Doctrine” of “Disaster Capitalism” Applied

The Friedmanite model of capitalism requires three things: social spending cuts (or even better the absence of a social support system), deregulation and extensive tax cuts for business ventures and the wealthy. In the instance of Chile and the Latin American countries (Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia) the start was a coup of the more independent-minded capitalist governments that pursued the European social-democratic style. The first to be subjected was Chile, which had elected Allende, and it was deemed prudent by the Nixon Administration to support a coup by Pinochet and to radically alter the Chilean state. According to Klein, the only way to successfully pull this off was through extreme psychological and cultural shocks to knock down the resistance of the Chilean people to these so-called reforms.

Klein mentions many of the “shocks” of the Chilean coup, such as tanks seizing government buildings, military police arrests, disappearances, murders and torture—all of which was developed by the CIA under the MKULTRA program and resulted in the creation of the “KUBARK” manual.* Pinochet, being a general who had no schooling in economics, needed economic experts. These were provided by Chicago School of Economics graduates, both Americans and Chileans. Even before the coup, they devised an economic plan called “the Brick” which called for the destruction of the Chilean social programs, massive tax cuts, deregulation and the removal of protective tariffs. The results of these political shocks, economic shocks and later shocks to individuals through torture as Klein’s “shock” metaphor goes, were economic disasters for the Chilean workers and massive profits for the capitalists in America and the Chilean bourgeoisie.

The “Shock Doctrine” at Home

Next in line were Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. Over the course of time, these methods were refined and redefined for use in so-called democratic countries like the US and UK. According to Klein, “Thatcher-ism,” as it was called in the UK, was pulled off by starting a war with Argentina over an archipelago in the South Atlantic called the Falkland Islands. Thatcher was able to use the war to whip up patriotic sentiment to enable her to bust unions and radically revise the social structure of the UK in the name of an “Ownership Society.” People thought that was a phrase coined by George W. Bush—the former President isn’t that smart, quite frankly.

In the United States, high rates of interest imposed by the Federal Reserve (also known as the Fed) were putting economic pressure on America. It was during this time that Ronald Reagan began his campaign of union-busting, starting with the air traffic controllers.

International Implications

During the 1980s expansion of the Freidmanite “shock treatments” in the developing world were imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. They demanded privatization, social austerity and deregulation as conditions to give loans, which were usually take out to pay debt incurred from previous loans for economic development. The end result of course, was a disaster for the working people of Africa and Asia.

In the 1990s, the “shock doctrine” was expanded to Eastern Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact states. The prime examples—Poland and Russia—were exposed to so-called shock therapy almost immediately. In 1990, the Solidarity group were used by the West to call for privatization, deregulation and asset sales from the Polish state-operated infrastructure. Naomi Klein does her best to whitewash Solidarity, using frivolously high numbers for their membership and neglecting to mention their ties to the West, instead portraying them as victims. Russia followed much the same pattern as Poland, although at an accelerated rate. This netted huge profits for Western capitalists and worsening conditions for the Russian and Polish workers.

Friedman-ism also worked its way into the People’s Republic of China, which was already undergoing the construction of a capitalist society under Deng Xiaoping. Deng’s policies of course had the result of growing inequity in China, and also an increase in unemployment, as capitalism, in order to maximize profit, requires the presence of surplus labor to drive down wages. There were also severe cuts to the social programs in the PRC at the time.

This leads us to Klein’s next subject – the use of pressures for deregulation by the West to cause capital flight in the so-called “Asian Tigers,” namely South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia. These societies had extremely high tariffs, huge public infrastructure in state-capitalist companies as well as in social goods like education. By pushing for the deregulation of their capital controls, the Asia Crises was engineered by the WTO and the IMF.

Modern-Day “Shock Doctrine”

All of this leads to the final frontier for capitalist penetration, namely, the economies of the Middle East and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. In the Middle East these states, usually with large oil reserves, did not have loans to pay off and were mistrustful of foreign influence. To the superpowers, the only solution was invasion and occupation by an outside force. What better outside force than America, which spends more on its military than anyone else? There was only one problem—the American people did not want to start a war. In short, a “shock” to the system in the United States was necessary and the bourgeoisie was more than willing to allow the plans of Osama Bin Laden to go through, since it would open up opportunities for the military-industrial complex and the creation of a new market – “Homeland Security Solutions.” Needless to say, Bin Laden was more than willing to oblige, and the outsourcing of everything from cooking and military construction to companies like Halliburton went through unabated.

As we mentioned, there are deep flaws to this book. Naomi Klein seems to believe that a form of capitalism can be devised which is not a “disaster” for working people when capitalism by its very nature is contradictory to the interests of all those who lack capital. Throughout the book, the author repeatedly hammers home her view that Keynesian capitalist economics is some how better for working people. Such a view is patently untrue. Regulated capitalism, which is the basis of Keynesian economics, as we know, only places rules and regulations on a system imposed by and supported by the very people who have the means to destroy, subvert and work against those very regulations. Keynesian economics is at best a temporary solution to a crisis in capitalism which will be replaced eventually by the most abusive forms of capitalism precisely when the capitalists think they can get away with it.

Indeed, despite the bourgeois liberal-leaning of Naomi Klein, and despite her whitewashing of social democracy and Keynesian economics, she has managed to show that that the current War on Terror is nothing more than the latest manifestation of imperialism, which must ultimately culminate in one of two outcomes: capitalist dictatorship or socialism.

10 Must-See Buildings of the Modern Era

Every era has its giants, but when the world moved out of the Victorian age, architecture reached new heights. From soaring skyscrapers to dramatic innovations in engineering and design, 20th century modern architecture transformed the way we think about building. Architecture enthusiasts the world over have picked these top ten buildings, naming them the most beloved and revolutionary structures of the recent past. This list may not include the choices of scholars and historians — you can read expert opinions in books like the 2012 Phaidon Atlas. These are the people’s choices, important architecture from around the world that continues to awe and influence the lives of ordinary citizens.

1905 to 1910, Casa Mila Barcelona, Spain

Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi defied rigid geometry when he designed Casa Mila Barcelona. Gaudi was not the first to build “light wells” to optimize natural sunlight — Burnham & Root designed Chicago’s Rookery with a light well in 1888 and the Dakota apartments in New York City had an inner courtyard in 1884. But Gaudi’s Casa Mila Barcelona is an apartment building with a fanciful aura. Wavy walls seem to undulate, dormers spring from the roof with a comical array of chimney stacks dancing nearby. “The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God,” Gaudi has asserted.

1913, Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Designed by architects Reed and Stem of St. Louis, Missouri and Warren and Wetmore of New York City, today’s Grand Central terminal building in New York City features lavish marble work and a domed ceiling with 2,500 twinkling stars. Not only did it become part of the infrastructure, with roadways built into the architecture, but it became a prototype for future transportation hubs, including the one at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.

1930, The Chrysler Building, New York City

Architect William Van Alen lavished the 77-story Chrysler Building with automotive ornaments and classic Art Deco zigzags. Soaring 319 meters / 1,046 feet into the sky, the Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world…for a few months, until the Empire State Building was finished. And the Gothic-like gargoyles on this Art Deco skyscraper? None other than metallic eagles. Very sleek. Very modern in 1930.

1931, The Empire State Building, New York City

When it was built, the Empire State Building in New York City broke world records for building height. Reaching into the sky at 381 meters / 1,250 feet, it rose above the newly built Chrysler Building just blocks away. Even today, the height of the Empire State Building is nothing to sneeze at, ranking within the top 100 for tall buildings. The designers were architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, who had just finished the Reynolds Building — an Art Deco prototype in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but about a quarter of the height of New York’s new building.

1935, Fallingwater – The Kaufmann Residence in Pennsylvania

Frank Lloyd Wright fooled gravity when he designed Fallingwater. What seems to be a loose pile of concrete slabs threatens to topple from its cliff. The cantilevered house is not really precarious, but visitors are still awed by the improbable structure in the Pennsylvania woods. It may be the most famous house in America.

1936 – 1939, Johnson Wax Building, Wisconsin

Frank Lloyd Wright redefined space with the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin. Inside the corporate architecture, opaque layers of glass tubes admit light and create the illusion of openness. “Interior space comes free,” Wright said of his masterpiece. Wright also designed the original furniture for the building. Some chairs had only three legs, and would tip over if a forgetful secretary did not sit with correct posture.

1946 – 1950, The Farnsworth House, Illinois

Hovering in a green landscape, the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is often celebrated as his most perfect expression of the International Style. All the exterior walls are industrial glass, making this mid-century home one of the first to meld commercial materials into residential architecture.

1957 – 1973, The Sydney Opera House, Australia

Maybe the architecture is popular because of the special lighting effects every year during the Vivid Sydney Festival. Or maybe it’s the feng shui. No, Danish architect Jorn Utzon broke the rules with his modern expressionist Sidney Opera House in Australia. Overlooking the harbor, the venue is a freestanding sculpture of spherical roofs and curved shapes. The real story behind designing the Sydney Opera House, however, is that building iconic structures is too often not a smooth and easy road. After all these years, this entertainment venue is still a model of modern architecture.

1958, The Seagram Building, New York City

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson rejected “bourgeois” ornamentation when they designed the Seagram Building in New York City. A shimmering tower of glass and bronze, the skyscraper is both classical and stark. Metallic beams emphasize the height of its 38 stories, while a base of granite pillars leads to horizontal bands of bronze plating and bronze-tinted glass. Notice that the design is not stepped like other skyscrapers in NYC. To accommodate an “international style” of modern design, the architects built the entire building away from the street, introducing the corporate plaza — the American piazza. For this innovation, the Seagram has been considered one of the 10 buildings that changed America.

1970 – 1977, The World Trade Center Twin Towers

Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, New York’s original World Trade consisted of two 110-story buildings (known as the “Twin Towers”) and five smaller buildings. Soaring above the New York skyline, the Twin Towers were among the tallest buildings in the world. When the buildings were completed in 1977, their design was often criticized. But the Twin Towers soon became a part of America’s cultural heritage, and a background for many popular movies. The buildings were destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Local Choices

Local architecture is often the people’s choice, and so it is with San Francisco’s TransAmerican Building (or the Pyramid building). The 1972 futuristic skyscraper by architect William Pereira soars in beauty and certainly defines the local skyline. Also in San Francisco is Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1948 V. C. Morris Gift Shop. Ask the locals about its connection with the Guggenheim Museum.

Chicagoans have a lot to brag about in their city, including the Chicago Title & Trust Building. The beautiful all-white constructivist style Chicago skyscraper by David Leventhal of Kohn Pedersen Fox is not the first building visitors think of in Chicago, but the 1992 structure brought postmodernism to downtown.

The locals in Boston, Massachusetts still love the John Hancock Tower, the reflective 1976 skyscraper designed by Henry N. Cobb of I. M. Pei & Partners. It’s massive, but its parallelogram shape and blue glass exterior make it seem light as air. Also, it holds the complete reflection of the old Boston Trinity Church, reminding Bostonians that the old can live nicely next to the new. In Paris, the Louvre Pyramid designed by I.M. Pei is the modern architecture the locals love to hate.

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the pride and joy of the Ozarks. Designed by E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, the chapel in the woods may be the best example of modern architecture’s ability to innovate within a valued historical tradition. Built of wood, glass, and stone, the 1980 building has been described as “Ozark Gothic” and is a popular wedding venue.

In Ohio, the Cincinnati Union Terminal is most loved for its arch construction and mosaics. The 1933 Art Deco building is now the Cincinnati Museum Center, but it still takes you back to a simple time when there were big ideas.

In Canada, Toronto City Hall stands out as the citizens’ choice for moving a metropolis into the future. The public voted down a traditional neoclassical building and, instead, held an international competition. They chose the sleek, modern design by Finnish architect Viljo Revell. Two curved office towers surround a flying saucer-like Council chamber in the 1965 design. The futuristic architecture continues to be breathtaking, and the entire complex at Nathan Phillips Square remains a source of pride for Toronto.

People around the world are proud of their local architecture, even when the designs are not by locals. The 1930 Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic is a Mies van der Rohe design filled with modern ideas for residential architecture. And who would expect modernism at the National Parliament building in Bangladesh? The Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban in Dhaka opened in 1982, after the sudden death of architect Louis Kahn. The space Kahn had designed became not only the pride of a people, but also one of the greatest architectural monuments of the world. The people’s love of architecture should be listed at the top of any chart.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – Movie Review

I shall open with a claim that is non-standard, and probably a bit daft: I think that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the film out of all 12 Star Trek features that comes closest to the spirit of the TV show it’s based on (okay, so Star Trek: Insurrection probably comes even closer, but for a much more dubious reason. ETA: And now that there are 13 Star Trek features, I have to give some credit to Star Trek Beyond). “Are you mad? The time travel comedy with culture-shock jokes and whales? Is closest to the original series?”, I could almost imagine you sputtering, if I thought you were an insane person who challenged the sanity of a blogger by shouting at your computer screen. Or if I didn’t expect you to understand rhetorical gambits.

But yes, that’s exactly the one I’m referring to, and I think I can make it stick. Firstly: The Voyage Home is the only Star Trek movie where nobody dies (onscreen), and is the first in four tries that ends with the “hurray!” feeling that so many episodes of the show did: no dead Spocks, no exploded starships, just a big happy send-off. Secondly, comedy wasn’t as rare in the TV series as it is in the movies: there were only two outright comic episodes that I can immediately recall, but the comic byplay between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy was much more an integral part of all but the most arch, serious episodes than it is in most of the films that aren’t trying to make an active point of it; and the specific nature of the humor in this film bears quite a resemblance to the scattered moments of comedy in “The City on the Edge of Forever” (a time-travel episode that is largely not funny at all) and the overarching comedy in “A Piece of the Action” (one of the two overt comic episodes, set in a planet modeled after ’20s gangland Chicago).

Thirdly, and this is actually the most important part, The Voyage Home is a message movie unlike anything that the other eleven films even thought about touching, and that’s something that happens a lot in the TV show; it being one of the most touching elements of Gene Roddenberry’s rose-colored worldview that he could use his sci-fi adventure show not merely to comment on society (a privilege of science fiction above nearly all other genres), but to actively agitate for improving society. How many episodes of Star Trek were nothing but little morality plays in disguise! Frequently not even that much disguise; the planet of half-white, half-black people warring with the half-black, half-white people leaps to mind, what I’d refer to as an allegory about racism if the word “allegory” didn’t imply at least a surface-level attempt to hide the subtext.

So yes, The Voyage Home is the environmentalist Star Trek movie, the plea to stop and think about what we’re doing to our planet: subjecting to the wrath of an alien probe 300 years hence that will destroy us for making humpback whales go extinct. Which, in a long line of profoundly silly bits of scientific nonsense peddled by the Star Trek franchise over nearly half a century, I’m not certain if anything is quite as boldly loopy as “a race of alien whales is in communication with terrestrial whales, and that is what whalesong is for”. But the film means it so darn earnestly, and there had to be some way of getting us back to the Earth of 1986. Anyway, the film’s environmental themes are woven into the script so cleanly, and tied so tightly in with more message-neutral dramatic concerns, that even at is most overt, the film never feels like it’s giving up storytelling in order to lecture us. Take note, Stanley Kramers of the world! You can get just as much mileage and a whole lot more entertainment out of a laugh line like “Judging by the pollution content in the atmosphere, I believe we have arrived at the latter half of the 20th Century” as you can from breast-beating monologues.

Anyway, The Voyage Home: after the events of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the crew of the late U.S.S. Enterprise merely waits on the rehabilitation of the resurrected Spock (Leonard Nimoy) to head back to Earth and face trial for their acts of insubordination and sabotage; but as they idly cool their heels on Vulcan, Earth is under a strange kind of attack from a strange alien probe, a huge black cylinder with a small blue protuberance uttering an otherworldly noise and blanking out power in every station and ship it passes. Having set up shop above Earth’s atmosphere, the probe is now vaporising the oceans, turning the planet into a cloud-locked hell. As the Enterprise crew returns on their commandeered Klingon Bird of Prey, they’re able to determine that the probe’s message is in fact identical to the songs of humpback whales, and from there it’s easy to deduce that the probe is searching for a species that has been extinct for two hundred years. Obviously, then, the best solution is to go back to the 20th Century, when such animals were reasonably plentiful and bring a mating pair back to the 23rd Century to communicate with the alien vessel; obviously. But once arrived in Starfleet’s future hometown of San Francisco in the film’s release year of 1986, just getting around in a wholly alien culture proves to be challenge enough, to say nothing of using primitive technology to repair their horribly damaged ship (trips through time aren’t a cakewalk, you know), and to build an enclosure for the whales that, at this point, haven’t yet been found.

Given its reputation as a fish-out-of-water comedy, broadly accessible to just about anybody (a reputation that made the film the highest grossing in the series, and the only one to break $100 million in box office receipts, until 2009’s Star Trek; adjusted for inflation, it’s still the series’ third-highest grosser, and likely to remain that way), it’s a little shocking to realise how long it takes until The Voyage Home finally warps to 1986, or starts to be funny. A full quarter of the movie is dedicated just to setting things up on Earth and re-introducing the characters – poorly; this might be the first Star Trek movie that baldly requires you to have seen at least the preceding two movies if not the whole show to have even vaguest idea of what’s going on with this talk of katras, and mind-melds, and large portions of the first and third-act narrative. And this at least has the benefit of moving quickly and getting the stakes escalated fast. Almost too fast, and too escalated, perhaps, for the series’ most self-consciously comic entry. But I am not one of the movie’s five credited writers (including Nimoy, and Nicholas Meyer, the latter returning the franchise’s bosom after being offended at the mere existence of The Search for Spock), and they undoubtedly would not care about my opinion.

Frankly, the 23rd Century parts of the movie are fine, nothing more, though Nimoy’s directing is a great deal more focused than it was in the last film. It’s quite apparent that what the filmmakers cared about most, and what they expect us to care about the most, was the central time-travel comedy; time-travel comedies being big business in the mid-’80s, what with the previous year’s Back to the Future and all. And to the film’s immeasurable credit, the 1986 sequences are all pretty great. Funny as heck, with its humor rooted (like nearly all great humor is) in the truth of the characters: funny to see Spock badly mangling an attempt to swear and use slang like a human, funny to see whiz-bang engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan, easily the best he is in any of the features) being sniffy and superior about 20th Century technology; funny to see Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) being the same way about medicine. Some of the jokes are lost to the Cold War; the bit about Chekhov (Walter Koenig) asking in battered English, “Where are the nooklear wessels” isn’t nearly as clever when you have to remind yourself that a Russian asking about nukes in ’86 would have a much different connotation than in the 2010s.

The other, much less predictable reason that the 1986 material works is that it finally solves – for the only time in the film series – the consistent problem that Star Trek had with its ensemble: giving them all something to do. It’s still, unquestionably, driven by Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock, hunting for whales and getting entangled with a local marine biologist (Catherine Hicks) – whom Kirk, in best Kirk fashion, promptly starts to hit on (the only time that happened in the movies, really, until the younger, sexier Kirk of the reboot). But every single character has at least one small chance to shine, to get a little comic moment all their own, even if it’s just a few well-timed reaction shots in Uhura’s (Nichelle Nichols) case.

Nimoy, as director, is on much surer footing here: his instinct to let his castmates feel their way into the script rather than demanding they hew to it pays off substantially better than in The Search for Spock, and he’s infinitely better at shaping comic moments than tragic ones (the shape of the rest of his limited directorial career bears that out). The tender moments that are here still work, but they’re mostly Spock’s own moments, suggesting that Nimoy was better at acting that kind of emotion than bringing it out in others.

Anyway, there’s not much room for sincerity; The Voyage Home is consciously a lark, trivialising its world-threatening conflict, ending with the happiest conclusion of any of the movies that point, and cramming in broad laughs along the way. Happily, its also a completely effective and well-made lark, a bit flimsy to be legitimately counted as “great” Star Trek, but aware enough of its characters and their attachments to each other and the audience that it’s completely, undeniably “fun” Star Trek.

Spider-Man 3 (2007) – Cool Peter Parker Scene (5/10) | Movieclips

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) enjoys his newfound confidence and exhibits a new spring in his step.

Your friendly neighborhood web-slinger is back, only this time his sunny outlook has become partially overcast in the third chapter of director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man saga. Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco return to reprise their roles from the previous two installments, with Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, and Bryce Dallas Howard making their first appearances in the series as Flint Marko (aka Sandman), Eddie Brock (aka Venom), and Gwen Stacy, respectively. Peter Parker (Maguire) has finally leaned to walk the middle ground between being the superhero that his city needs and the man that Mary Jane (Dunst) loves. All is well in New York City until one night, as Peter and M.J. sit gazing at the stars, a falling comet streams across the sky and crashes into the ground close by. But this isn’t any ordinary shooting star, and upon impact the mysterious space rock is split open to reveal a shape-shifting symbiote with the power to overtake anything that it comes into contact with. Later, as Harry Osborn (James Franco) acquires his late father’s flying board, engineers a powerful new Goblin outfit, and takes to the sky to avenge dad’s death, the mysterious space sludge infects both Peter’s Spider-Man suit and ambitious street photographer Eddie Brock (Grace). Peter’s strange new suit gives him a newfound sense of power as it gradually overpowers his personality, and he discovers that escaped convict Flint Marko was in fact the man responsible for the death of Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson). Unfortunately for Peter, Marko has recently acquired the power to morph at will and quickly completes his transformation into the dreaded Sandman. As the Sandman gives in to his darkest criminal instincts and the slithering space symbiote transforms Eddie Brock into the nightmarish fanged villain known as Venom, the citizens of New York City must once again call on Spider-Man to fend off destructive forces that are far too powerful for the likes of mortal man.