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James Jay Carafano

James Jay Carafano is vice president of defense and foreign policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. He is the author of Wiki at War: Conflict in a Socially Networked World. Follow him on Twitter at @JJCarafano.
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5 Reasons to be Happy Bond is Back

Monday, October 5th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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There is a new Bond film. There is new Bond swag. There is a new Bond song.

It was on this day in 1962 that the first Bond film hit the theaters. When the latest movie makes theaters on November 5, it will be the 24th in the series to be served up on the big screen.

There is a reason Bond has never gone direct to video. Actually, there are five reasons.

#5. The Great Bond Films. Ignore all other opinions.There are three truly great Bond films. They are Dr. No (1962), Goldfinger (1964), and Thunderball (1965). Three were enough to set the formula that has proved enduring for half of a film century.

#4. The Great Entertainment. There are better movies about real spying. But, no movie spy has ever entertained us more. Even the worst Bond movie ever Casino Royale (1967) at least had a great soundtrack.

#3. The Spy We Love. Bond was far from the most over-the-top spy to ever to hit the silver screen.   But even in From Russia with Love (1963) when Bond was at his most serious, and most boring, Bond was better than the rest.

#2. The Reminder. With all the hoopla from no WMD to Edward Snowden sometimes it seems that it’s our spies that must be the bad guys.  Bond is only a movie character, but he was drawn from the real life experiences of author and spy Ian Fleming. Yes, there are people out there trying to protect the good guys from the bad ones. We need to do a better job remembering who the heroes are (Edward Snowden is not one of them).

#1.  The Spies are Here to Stay. Spy movies are bigger than ever. Live with it.


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6 Movies on Our Love-Hate Affair with Mars

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Somewhere there is a fist-pumping Hollywood suit. Just as the star-studded movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars is released, NASA drops breaking news that there might be life on this distant planet. That’s better than paid advertising.

Not that the highly-anticipated film, based on a bestselling book, needed more buzz. The real question is—are we now going to see a deluge of new Martian movies? Don’t be surprised. Hollywood has a long-standing relationship with our neighboring planet. These films are some of the most amazing and most forgettable sci-fi ever to come out of Tinsel Town.

Here are six highlighting the best and worst Martian movies ever to hit the silver screen.

#6. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) Might rival Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) as the worst science fiction movie ever. Yes. Ever. They share so much in common—bad sets, laughable acting, dreadful story. In this bomb, the Martians decide to kidnap Santa Claus to cheer-up their children. That tells you about all you need to know about the plot. The film was brilliantly lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000. This movie must be ranked the worst Mars movie of all times.

#5. Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) The trailer proclaims the film is “scientifically authentic.” Well, it might be if science was written by Hollywood screenwriters. Mostly its boring with cheesy special effects. When the aliens finally show up you wish you could leave with them. A much better take on this story is Enemy Mine (1985).  This trip to Mars is a complete disaster—and has well-earned a place at the bottom of watchable Mars movies.

#4. The Last Days on Mars (2013)  There could be a battle for which contemporary Mars feature deserves a spot on the list of the worst of the worst. The easy pick would be John Carter (2012), Disney’s disastrous take on the Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of Tarzan) novels of a Civil War veteran’s many adventures on Mars. But, at least the Disney dud had cool special effects. In this film a Martian virus turns a research crew into maniac killers. Seriously, I was rooting for the virus.

#3.  War of the Worlds (1953) No. We are talking the mediocre melodramatic 2005 remake with Tom Cruise. We are talking the awesome Cold War interpretation of the H.G. Wells novel where the tripods trample Los Angeles. This film has to be on the list of great Mars movies.

#2.  Ghosts of Mars (2001) It didn’t do that great at the box office (costing almost twice as much as the film made in ticket sales). Still, there is something compelling about this creepy story of a police space unit dispatched to a distant Martian mining settlement. Things don’t go well. Let’s just say it is not Mayberry. And, yes, all the critics were wrong. This is fun Martian sci-fi that should not be missed.

#1. The Angry Red Planet (1959) The 1950s were the halcyon days of great Martian sci-fi with memorable B-movies like Invaders from Mars (1953) But, the best of the best has to be this film made in “cineMagic” in ten days for $200,000. Yes, everything, from the misogynistic acting to the drooling spider-bat monster, is super hokey. Still, this movie has the “so bad it is great” feel to it. Not putting this film on the must-see Martian movie list would just be a crime against humanity.

After watching these six movies you will know that all the people that want to go to Mars and stay there may be on to something, or at least smart enough to get far away from Hollywood.

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Why are Cars so Last Century?

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

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Okay, likely no one remembers the film Tucker, The Man and His Dream (1988) about the maverick automaker who, in the 1940s, failed to get Detroit to adapt anything new—even seatbelts. Well, it looks like not much has changed. That’s the bottom line of a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group.

Today, we are all waiting for the greatest technological innovation since the invention of the horseless carriage—our self-driving robot cars. Recently, Google (a pioneer in autonomous driving technology) created some real buzz when it hired a real-life car executive. Alas, don’t go looking for the Google car lot. Excitement quickly faded. A company suit declared Google would likely partner with existing car companies.

That makes sense, but it is also a little frustrating—car makers have a sad record at adopting disruptive technology.

Boston Consulting Group points out  “every year, more than 3.9 million people are injured in motor vehicle accidents in the US—and more than 33,000 are killed. The cost to society totals roughly $910 billion.” Their study found there is already a lot of technology out there that could provide “advanced driver assistance systems” that could “sharply reduce the toll that vehicle accidents take on society.”

But–it is not happening.

The big debate, as always, is how to drive the industry to move faster? More regulations? Tax bail outs?

What about the marketplace?

What we really need are disruptive consumers. Based on survey results, car buyers might be willing to fork over as little as 25 percent of the cost.

That might be true—but it might not.

Nobody thought average consumers would spend hundreds of dollars on phones, watches, and wireless services—but they do.

It is time to stop thinking about cars as transportation and start imagining them as frames where consumers have the choice to bolt on the technologies they want—like they load the apps they crave on their digital device.

When car makers stop being so last century they will inspire and engage the consumers of the 21st century.

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8 Films to See Before ‘The Hateful Eight’ Hits the Screen

Monday, September 21st, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

One of the most anticipated movies this December is Quentin Tarantino’s take on the American Western. In his last family-time Christmas outing, the writer, director and producer graced us with Django Unchained, a bitter and bloody look at the Deep South before the Civil War. This holiday season finds him presenting story lines from the Old West in The Hateful Eight.

Tarantino films are famous for their derivative characters who absorb movie pop culture from other eras and regurgitate them on screen as a remixed homage.

Here are the movie roots of the Tarantino Western.

#1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948): Since the days of Edison, Westerns have been big movie business. Audiences couldn’t get enough of films like John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939). John Huston’s drama delivered something new and different. In the fading days of the Old West, a group of down-on-their-luck prospectors strike gold, and greed proves to be their undoing. No cowboys and Indians, no white or black hats. Everybody dies. This movie introduced audiences to the anti-hero and places in the Old West where virtue was as scarce as an honest gambler.

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Google Exec Says No Google Car Anytime Soon

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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There is always-uber cool stuff at the annual Frankfurt auto show. But there is no Google car for sale. Philipp Justus, the managing director for Google’s central and eastern Europe operations, says don’t look for one anytime soon.

Google got some attention when it hired a real-life car executive to oversee its self-driving car project. But Justus declared in an interview at the auto show that that doesn’t mean the company will be building cars. Likely, it will partner with existing car makers.

That’s a distinction without a difference. As we enter the age of the Internet of Things, everything from toasters to town homes is going to come with an operating system. In many cases, we’ll be buying cyber-enabled stuff where the hardware and software are built by different companies.

That’s a big deal. The Internet of Things promises great possibilities with machines that plug us into the cyber universe.  But those devices will also raise all kinds of safety, security and privacy concerns.

So “systems integration,” the process that binds all the bits and pieces together, is going to be the most important part of making new things. We’ll want engineers, software designers, and manufacturers to pull all this stuff together in a way that delivers all the benefits and none of the downside of surfing cyberspace.

Good luck, Google.

Democrat Kills Driverless Car Because….

Driverless Cars Should Scare Insurance Industry

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Forget the Adultery, Check Out the Cyber-Practices on Ashley Madison

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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When a group of hackers called CynoSure Prime cracked over 11 million passwords for the dating web site for adulterers they made national news. Now as more information comes out about users of the Ashley Madison service one of the top conclusions is—most of them must be cyber-stupid.

The passwords chosen by many could be cracked by a kindergarten class. The #1 password used was “123456.” Number  two was the even lazier “12345.” Number three was the ever popular password “password.” Other clever combinations included “DEFAULT” and “AshleyMadison.”

Seriously people?

Maybe adulterers get what they deserve, but for the rest of Americans (who are equally guilty of stupid cyber-security practices) it is time to learn the meaning of the term “cyber hygiene.”

There are simple and practical steps that everyone can take which will significantly reduce the likelihood of getting hacked, identity theft, and other common malicious cyber activity.

One of the most basic steps is to not pick a password that any idiot can figure out.

There may be a day in the near future when passwords are passé. Until then—learn how to pick a strong password.

Unless you really don’t care who gets into your account.

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Where Do I Get My Robot Car?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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There is more going on at Google than a new logo.

Google just hired John Krafcik as chief executive of its self-driving car project.

Krafcik was president of Truecar.  He is also a former CEO of Hyundai Motors America.

The fact that Google is hiring a real car guy suggests that Silicon Valley is getting ready to make a move from science project to serious business.

But, before the auto industry starts making money from auto-cars, it has a long way to go to address public acceptance of new disruptive transportation technology.

Concerns over the safety and security are growing. Stories about everything from hacking into car computers to hijacking the whole auto are rampant.

The auto industry needs to get smarter about smart cars, if it expects to be putting robot autos on the showroom floor anytime soon.

The Automotive Security Research Board is an initiative by Intel to promote “best practices.”  The board put out a white paper making a number of recommendations.

Whether Intel has all the answers or is just doing marketing is debatable. What’s not up for debate is the need for the industry to up its game before it takes the great leap into the cyber future.

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8 Great Gangster Films

Friday, September 11th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

On September 18, 2015, expect to witness another iconic gangster performance from Johnny Depp, who plays Boston’s meanest gangster ever, Whitey Bulger, in Black Mass. He’ll add his name to a distinguished list of actors who delivered murder, blood lust, betrayal, greed and terror on film. With so much drama, ruthless hoods have been a Hollywood staple since the 1930s.

Here’s a list of the eight greatest gangster films in history:

Scarface 1932-001

#8. Scarface (1932). No, this is not the horrible, cringe-worthy 1983 film starring Al Pacino about a coke dealer with a bad accent and terrible fashion choices.  This is the black-and-white classic with Paul Muni, one of the greatest actors ever, playing a fictional version of the gangster Al Capone. Since the movie snuck into theaters in the pre-Hollywood ratings days, it’s loaded-up with plenty of sex and violence. It set the standard for every gangster film that followed.

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Going to the Big Apple? Your Phone Will Get Hacked

Friday, September 11th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Remember the guy who hacked digital billboards on Times Square with a cellphone? That was a fake.  But, turns out the city isn’t safe after all.

Skycure surveyed the world’s most popular tourist attractions. The company that markets protection against malicious cyber-activity identified the sites where mobile devices are most at risk. Topping the list is Times Square.

“When you’re in a high-traffic area like these famous destinations,” warns Adi Sharabani, CEO of Skycure,  “you’re a target for hackers. Unlike your computer, your phone is always on, even when you’re taking in the sights. Mobile tourists are a lucrative target for cybercriminals.”

In addition to the dangers of the Big Apple, other targets on the list are:

2 .Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

3. Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallee, France

4. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.

5. Ocean Park, Hong Kong

6. Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, Nev.

7. Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, Calif.

8. Union Station, Washington, D.C.

9. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, Mass.

10. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, Calif.

11. Navy Pier, Chicago, Ill.

12. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

13. Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

14. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Fla.

15. Pike Place Market, Seattle, Wash.

The safest wonder of the world? According to Skycure—it’s the Taj Mahal.  Sorry India. There is just not that much Internet and wifi in Agra.

The best advice?

Avoid “free” wifi like the plague.

Make sure your operating system is updated.

Turn-off data roaming.

If your phone starts acting weird—shut it down.

Don’t look into the light. (okay, I made that last one up)

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7 Movies About Nuclear Nightmares

Friday, September 4th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Kids from the Cold War remember what it was like to worry about atomic warfare. How could they forget? The movies kept reminding them. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, we worried less about messing with mushroom clouds.  That might have been a mistake.  Now, as the Iran deal heads towards a thumbs-up from Congress, some are worried that the prospects for a nuclear-armed Iran (and war) are more — not less — likely.

For those who want to get ahead of the hysteria and brush up on their nuclear night sweats, here are seven films that fill the bill. While there are many famous and infamous Cold War-era nuclear scare movies, from Dr. Strangelove (1964) to the TV drama The Day After (1983), these lesser-known efforts are even more terrifying.

#7 Duck and Cover (1951) Bert the Turtle paired with happy music explains to school children how to survive a nuclear blast. Generations of young Americans were traumatized by this Cold War classic.

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4 Takes Explaining Why Spy Movies Move Us

Friday, August 21st, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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There is a hot new spy movie coming to a theater near you.  In Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks will go from winning World War II to whipping the Cold War. Odds are the film will do very well—in part because the nation that loves liberty also appreciates a little espionage.

Nothing says more about us and spies than our love affair with the movies.  Hollywood reflects both our lust for winning (even if that requires a little under-the-table spying on our part) and our fears that others are out to get us.

Nothing brought out these conflicting passions more than the Edward Snowden affair. In part the public fascination with Snowden’s revelations “panders to our dark desire to peer into the ugly side of intelligence work.”

Indeed, the debate over how to bring Snowden’s story to the silver screen shows bipolar American tastes are when it comes spies who are us.

All this spy stuff must be particularly unnerving to millennials. After all, they were supposed to grow in a post-Cold War world where nobody had any enemies.

But, now they are finding themselves like the unsettled generation that went to the movies in the 1960s-seeing spies all over the place.

Back in the 1960s even as everything seemed to be falling apart, spy movies were mostly escapist fare—all sex, tech, and cool.

Over the years, however, Hollywood has also exposed us to the serious side of spying.

Contemporary audiences are finding themselves broad-sided with both serious films, like the forthcoming Bridge of Spies from Steven Spielberg, and very unserious movies, like the soon to be released Ultra with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.

Get used to it.

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6 Not to Be Missed Serious Spy Movies

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Hollywood has fallen in love with spies—again. Films are everywhere from Mission Impossible to The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the new James Bond film and well—Spy.

These are all the kinds of secret agent celluloid we have seen before. Films that tell us more about our phobias than America’s enemies or movies where spying is just for fun—all sex, tech and cool.

What we are not seeing are movies that have much to tell us about spying. So here are six films that have something to say about spy craft.

#6. Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939).This film is loosely based on real life efforts by the Third Reich to recruit American agents. G-Man Edward Renard (Edward G. Robinson) tracks down fifth columnists in the fifty states. The film is just good old-fashioned Hollywood. In the real world, the FBI made the case that it should be the primary agency responsible for battling spies inside the United States. FDR agreed with the FBI. That’s why today, the bureau spends as much, if not more time, dealing with national security matters than playing cops and robbers.

Edward G. Robinson publicity shot

–Image: Wikipedia

#5. The Man Who Never Was (1956). Based on a true story of World War II espionage, Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu (Clifton Webb) devises a scheme to confuse the Nazis over where the allies planned to launch D-Day. While some of the plot is made up, it is still a remarkable account of the kind of real hijinks that went on during the war. The film holds up well and is still fun to watch.

Robert Lansing and Dana Wynter The Man Who Never Was Film

–Image: Wikipedia

#4. The Ipcress File (1965).  Spying was all the rage during the Cold War. In 1947 Truman signed the law establishing the CIA. In this fictional tale, Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) navigates the criminal underworld and tortuous spy networks (including the CIA) to uncover the secret behind the brainwashing of top scientists. The film was billed as a serious alternative to all the James Bond silliness with sex and gadgets. The movie received critical acclaim, but a mixed reception from audiences. Still, it’s a spy movie classic.

'Youth' photocall, 68th Cannes Film Festival, France - 20 May 2015–Image Credit: Associated Press

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From Cars that Kill to Hijacking Your Treadmill

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

At a security conference this week, hackers showed they could shut down the brakes on a corvette. That’s far from the first auto-hacking story.  What makes this incident particularly noteworthy was that the hackers didn’t go after the uber-cool 2015 corvette. No, they hacked a 2013 model.

The greatest cyber threats we may face in our everyday lives is “old” tech. Engineers race to patch problems with the latest software.  Recently, Chrysler announced an unprecedented cyber-recall of new Jeeps.  But, most of us common folks don’t buy new tech every year.

Online Trust Alliance, a non-profit advocacy group, recently warned “devices that may have been secure off the shelf will become more susceptible to hacking over time allowing hackers to remotely control these devices.” Well, that’s unnerving because increasingly manufactures are hooking everything up to the World Wide Web from baby monitors to home security systems. All these will be at risk. Even innocuous tech like fitness equipment could be hacked to “spy on health vitals.”

The Trust wants to set up rules for “manufacturers, developers and retailers” for better cyber practices. But, this is not just an industry problem.  Nor is it all government’s responsibility. Safe tech is not a human right.

Further, the greatest tech threat is us. For example, more pedestrians are being run over than ever.  The reason? Distracted driving and walking. Texting kills.

Acting responsibly in how we use tech is the real first line of defense.

On the old frontier, Americans survived storms, wolves, famine and wildfires by taking personal responsibility for their lives. If modern Americans want to survive maybe they need to start taking personal responsibility for their tech.

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Debate Wars: the William Buckley-Gore Vidal Debacle Revisited

Monday, August 10th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Way back, when ABC News was a distant third in a three-horse race for ratings, there were only three national broadcast television stations in 1968, and the news team truly had nothing to lose. So while CBS and NBC opted for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the presidential conventions, the suits at ABC performed a programing backflip. Their convention coverage would feature nightly analysis and commentary from two prominent intellectuals—one on the right (William F. Buckley), and one on the left (Gore Vidal).

During the course of the nightly discussions, the conventions and the candidates did occasionally come up. Mostly, however, Buckley and Vidal went after each other. The result was a blood-sport spectacle more akin to entertainment in the Roman Coliseum, but with just two mean and angry lions and no Christians.

Robert Gordon’s new documentary, The Best of Enemies, revisits the historic war of ideas between two of the age’s most powerful culture critics.

This is an engaging, enlightening and (yes) entertaining film.

The smartest move Gordon made in making the movie was not picking sides. He allows National Review editor Bill Buckley (the most well-known conservative of the day outside of Barry Goldwater) to make the case for freedom and free-markets. Meanwhile, the controversial novelist Gore Vidal gets to cheer-lead for the liberal state. Viewers can pick their ideological wing of the theater, cheer for their champion, and throw popcorn at the other side.

Beyond the serious history lesson and the hilarious histrionics, the film also offers an insightful perspective on our current times. In our mind, the word “debate” conjures up the epitome of democratic discourse.  That’s so 19th century. The Lincoln-Douglas debates—those were debates. Indeed, they were more than debates. They were conversations—a long and intricate exchange of ideas. In contrast, Buckley and Vidal are exchanging penalty shots. Like a pro-hockey game, television debates are mostly about high-scoring entertainment—not public discourse to inform and enlighten an electorate. Today’s candidate debates are the descendants of Buckley and Vidal, not Lincoln and Douglas.

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with intellectual warfare on the air. Indeed, this documentary reminds us that smart people can be as entertaining as a Kardashian.

But entertaining is not always the same as educating people on issues and options. Buckley had so much more to offer the debate of great ideas than what could be gleaned from the ABC debates. Likewise, today Americans need something better than the cable news version of Hollywood Squares. There has to be a better way to learn about the people that want to lead the country.

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Forget ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E,’ Here Are 6 Unforgettable, Forgotten Spy Films from the Swinging ’60s

Monday, August 10th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. came out this week. The story follows the adventures of two agents working for a super-secret international organization.

Spy-movie popularity has come and gone in Hollywood. Basically, there are two types of espionage films. One chronicles our angst.  The other family of spy movies feeds our craving for escapism. This new film honors the tradition of smug and sharp super-spies.

The original Man from U.N.C.L.E  television show was, of course, inspired by the successful James Bond film series.

Bond had more than his share of imitators. The most outrageous rip-off of all was the incomprehensible comedy version of Casino Royale (1967), but there were so many others. Here are six forgotten films worth remembering from the era when spying was all sex, tech, and cool.

#6. Our Man Flint (1966)  The first of a series of films starring James Coburn as master spy Derek Flint. He was America’s answer to Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

#5. The Silencers (1966)  Not to be outdone, the Americans also recruited Dean Martin to make four Matt Helm films starting with this spy-spoof. Being a successful spy was mostly a combination of cocktails and making out. In each movie, Helm is accompanied by a suitably beautiful babe (Stella Stevens, Sharon Tate, Ann-Margret, Elke Sommer, Janice Rule, and Tina Louise).

#4. Deadlier Than the Male (1967) Terrance Young (who had been the original choice to play James Bond) plays Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond, an international man of mystery who is recruited to solve a series of assassinations of prominent international businessmen. There was also a sequel, Some Girls Do. Drummond probably most resembles the model for the 1997 homage to the swinging-sixties spy movies, Austin Powers.

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Grand Theft Auto, Cyber-style

Thursday, August 6th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Scientists are seriously trying to prove evildoers can do some mighty malicious stuff to your auto. Some of it sounds straight out of a James Bond movie, like taking control of your car while it’s speeding down the highway. In response, auto-makers have promised to beef-up cyber-security for your dashboard.  A new study, however, hints at what the real problem really is—auto theft.

The London police, for one, have documented a surging cyber-crime spree. “Last year,” the London Metropolitan Police reported, “over 6,000 cars and vans across London were stolen without the owners’ keys.” The most common technique, the police explained, was using “a device which bypasses the vehicle’s electronic information as the owner locks it, or they break into the vehicle and connect a device to the OBD port, downloading the vehicle’s information onto a blank key in a matter of seconds.” Their “key” disables the car’s security system. Then, the thieves just drive away. It couldn’t be simpler.

One solution to thwart cyber-car thieves is to outfit your auto with an on-board diagnostic lock. The London police also produced a short video with some other suggestions.

But hey, this is the new normal: if you can put a computer on it, someone will figure out how to mess with it—and someone else will have to figure out how to mess with them.

Welcome to living in the everyday cyber-world.

Cyber-Hack Shows Baseball Worse than Beijing

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Auto-Hacking: Car Wars Continue

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Detroit took notice when two researchers demonstrated they could hack into a Jeep Cherokee’s radio and take over control of the vehicle. In response, Chrysler announced an unprecedented cyber-recall, calling on 1.4 million owners to turn in their cherished chariots so the automaker could fix a software vulnerability.

There is a serious debate over how seriously to take the threat of auto-hacking. On the one hand, it is hard to make a case that criminals will find auto-hacking worth all the effort. There are far simpler ways to make money from car crime.  On the other hand, malicious actors might come up with some exotic reasons to ruin the ride in your Lexus.  Privacy issues may be an even bigger concern.

Car makers are moving to beef-up cyber security on their products. In part, they hope to preempt more proposed regulatory red tape from Congress.

Anyway, as long as the cars don’t start coming after us like they did in movies such as Christine  and Maximum Overdrive there is probably some time to figure this out.

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Navy Tests Drones Launched From Submarines

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Think Skynet, but under water. According to the media, “the US Navy has reportedly launched and recovered an underwater drone from its USS North Dakota submarine, which is said to be its first such mission.”

Like the rest of the armed forces, the Navy has been taking a hard look at employing drones.

The traditional missions for drones are the dull, the dirty, and the dangerous. No military environment includes more of those missions that operating undersea.

While employing underwater terminators seems to make perfect sense, it is not as easy as it looks.  There are few places more difficult for machines to operate than deep under the ocean—corrosion, pressure, power and communications requirements–almost nothing is as effortless as it was in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

It remains to be seen whether the Navy’s latest test is an interesting science fair experiment or the shape of things to come.

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When Autos Attack

Friday, July 24th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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A couple of months ago, DARPA Dan made news during a 60 Minutes profile when he showed how scientists could hack into a car’s computer, making it move independently of the driver. Senator Ed Markey got so worked up that he announced new proposed legislation to set standards for “protection against digital attacks and privacy.”

Well, this ought to get Markey excited. It has happened again. “Former National Security Agency hacker Charlie Miller, now at Twitter, and IOActive researcher Chris Valasek,” Reuters reports, “used a feature in the Fiat Chrysler telematics system Uconnect to break into a car being driven on the highway by a reporter for technology news site Wired.com.”

Whether this is a real threat that requires more red-tape regulations from Washington is a hot debate topic. There is an argument that hacks like these are more publicity stunts than real science.

That said, there are already folks out there peddling cyber security for sedans. A grassroots cyber advocacy group recently published its Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program.

Serious or silly, this is an issue that is likely going to get more attention as the auto and cyber worlds collide.

Robotic Sex Slaves: Will AI Robots Have Consciousness, Rights, Souls?

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Nicer Than the Terminator—But That is not Saying Much

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Meet Buddy, a “family-oriented household robot…. inspired by robots from pop culture like R2-D2 from “Star Wars” and Disney’s “WALL-E.”  A French tech start-up is marking a machine that can hang around the house and make itself semi-useful or at least amusing.

Buddy has more to do with movie killer-robots such as the Terminator than one might imagine.  War machines (like all the other kinds of autonomous technologies that are likely to be part of future) will evolve based on designs informed by the experiences of our everyday interactions with robotics. Robots such as Buddy are going to teach us lessons in how humans and robots work side-by-side. That in turn will help us think through the human-robot future.  In peace and war the sooner we start living with robots, the sooner will we figure out how to live with robots.

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Minority Report? It’s Not Science Fiction in NYC

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

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In the future, top cop Tom Cruise uses sci-fi technology to single out and arrest violent criminals before they commit a crime. The 2002 hit movie seemed like such a super cool idea that Fox is bringing the concept back as a series starting in September. But the cautionary tale, originally penned by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick in 1956, may be more than science fiction after all.

According to news reports, “The New York Police Department is embarking on a new experiment with ‘predictive policing.’” The department will study “neighborhood-specific data like weather, time of year, school calendars and past criminal activity to create statistical models that forecast where and when certain crimes are likely to occur.”

Intelligence-led policing (trying to figure out where the crimes are going to be) is a controversial but increasingly more common tactic of metropolitan police departments.

The NYPD is taking the task to the next level through sophisticated software that merges predictors together and kicks out probabilities that certain kinds of crimes are more likely to occur. The Big Apple actually isn’t the first to try out this approach. It has also been used in cities in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska.

If that sounds one step closer to the Minority Report, “that’s not happening,” said the CEO of the company that developed the software.

We’ll see if the ACLU agrees.

7 Most Lethal Killer Robots in Movie History

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How Twitter Can Get You Killed

Friday, July 10th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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The war being waged online is breathtaking. Not only are the likes of ISIS running wild in cyberspace, there are all other kinds of hijinks as well.  The Saudi government is bogged down in a hashtag war with allies of ISIS recruiting suicide bombers.  Meanwhile, Russian hackers are posing as a “cyber caliphate” to cover their online mayhem.

While the online world is on fire, the White House is acting like it has got everything under control. “We are in touch with these [social networking] companies on a regular basis,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey told the Washington Examiner, “and have a constant, constructive dialogue on the question of freedom of expression versus security and incitement.”  The FBI, on the other hand, sounds a lot less confident. Just the other day, FBI Director James Comey  testified before the  Senate Judiciary Committee that “[t]here’s a group of tweeters in Syria, and their message is two pronged: Come to the so-called caliphate and live the life of some sort of glory or something, and if you can’t come, kill somebody where you are. Kill somebody in uniform, kill anybody, if you can cut their head off, great. Videotape it. Do it, do it, do it….They’re pushing this through Twitter.”

What’s lost in all the hysteria over terrorists tweeting online is what is making all this terror talk so terrifying.  ISIS has the capacity to link its social networks with human networks – real humans on the ground willing to turn into ideas into action. That is what makes the terrorist talkers so dangerous.  Tweeting is just a symptom of the problem. The best way to take the terrorists offline is start taking down ISIS in the field.

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Second Shooter Scare in a Week Has D.C. Jumpy

Monday, July 6th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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The staff at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, were recently put on “lockdown” after reports of shots fired on the grounds.

That’s the second time in less than a week a military site in the Metropolitan area has jumped to high alert. Right before the 4th of July there was a report of shots fired at the Washington Navy Yard prompting a massive law enforcement response.

It’s no surprise law enforcement rushed to the scene.  In 2013, employees at the Navy Yard were terrorized by a shooting incident. Further, authorities were jumpy over a warning of possible terrorist attack over the holiday weekend.

Not only were authorities right to rush to the report of shooters at a public place. The rest of us ought to take this stuff seriously as well. Tragedies happen. Here is the advice I dispensed in my book Surviving the End.

If you suspect that you are trapped in the middle of these scenarios, you must be prepared to act if you plan to survive.  You can’t be a passive bystander.  The FBI has a pretty good video explaining what to do. Here is a simple summary of the best advice.

Don’t panic. Remember the basics of survival—faith, health, and good common sense. If you are armed with these things, you are as equipped as anyone to deal with the situation. Have trust and confidence in your own judgment.

Take cover. You don’t want to be out in the open where an assailant has a line-of-sight to you. If you are in the proximity of an incident, the safest bet might be to get to a secure location (just like Dick Cheney)—a room with brick or block walls, the fewer windows the better (pull down the shades or close the curtains if there are windows), and a solid door that you can lock. Barricade the access points with whatever is available.  Stay calm and quiet (take precautions like putting cell phones on vibrate). Stay out of sight.

Contact for help. Hopefully you can call, text, email, or safely signal to someone for help. We have already talked about the importance of knowing how to make an effective 911 call or use an emergency app on your digital device. In an active-shooter scenario, you won’t just be asking for help, but you’ll be sharing critical information that may help authorities at the scene. You should be prepared to share: a) your specific location, b) the number of people with you and their conditions (i.e. injuries),  and c) critical information about the assailants—numbers, description including race and gender, physical features (height, weight, facial hair, glasses), clothing, types of weapons they are using and their current activities (e.g., have you heard explosions or gunshots?).

Treat the injured. Remember the advice about being an expert at first aid.  You might have to put that into practice—stemming blood loss or treating for shock.

Evacuate. You want to evacuate when it is safe.  Hopefully, the authorities will arrive and establish safe corridors for passage, directing where and when to go. Most likely, if you are trapped in the middle of an active shooter scenario, you will be escorted out of the danger area by law enforcement personnel. You should cooperate with safety or security officials and follow their directions explicitly.

Fight back. If you are trapped and can’t escape, take the battle to your assailant. Fight back with whatever you have. Your only chance of survival is to incapacitate or deter your would-be murderer.

And then I added this one.

Get a gun. You know what’s weird?  Go through all the advice from FEMA, the Red Cross and so on.  Did you find any information about arming yourself as a means of protecting your home and hearth? Me neither.  How dumb is that?  Being armed is a perfectly appropriate response for everyday Americans concerned about the safety of themselves and their family—not just for an active-shooter scenario, but any of the disaster situations that threaten the life and property of your loved ones.

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Killer Robot Actually Kills Somebody

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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There is more than one news report  of a tragic accident in Germany. A technician died after being struck in the chest by an assembly robot. What does that tell us about a future where robots run around taking matters into their own metal hands?

This isn’t close to the first incident of unintentional robotic mayhem, where the machines came after us. Over four million, for example, have watched the You Tube video of a self-parking car demonstration gone horribly wrong.

Incidents like this, however, are more akin to industrial accidents (like being run over by a forklift) than anything like the challenges of the killer robots we see in the movies.

Still, people are already panicking. There is a groundswell against autonomous operating robotics, including wanting to ban them from the battlefield.

Well, the doubters are going to have to get over their robot-phobia.

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