Sunday, January 10, 2021

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

The world's most dangerous malignant narcissist needs his adoration fix after getting kicked off social media Friday night, and confident that both Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell will prevent any plan to remove him from office and that the GOP will still do whatever he commands, the plan appears to be taking a victory lap on the media interview circuit and daring Republicans to try to run from the last four years.

According to two sources with knowledge of the matter, the president and several close advisers are now discussing the possibility of Trump sitting for multiple media interviews in the coming days, in an attempt to boast about his time in office, including with one potential interview they're hoping will focus on the Middle East deals he and his son-in-law, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, helped to strike.

However, various current and former Trump officials who don’t think he should resign immediately feel that he should just get out of the picture now before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Asked if the president should resign, Barry Bennett, who served as a senior Trump adviser during the 2016 campaign, said on Saturday, “No. But go to Florida and stay. This is not a time to escalate the boiling anger across the country. Smart leaders will understand that anger on both sides is the real threat to our country. Not Trump. Escalation is not unlike what he did. We can’t afford to go any further down this road…If it’s not too late.”

Apparently this is going to start at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday to brag about his wall, but I honestly hope this is all he does in the next ten days. Feeding his ego so that he doesn't lash out and incite another white supremacist insurrection is probably the best we can hope for since enough of Trump's enablers will remain in power to block any attempts to get rid of him, but at the most this will only occupy him for a day or two. If he mopes around Camp David or Mar-a-Lago for the rest of his term and just golfs and yells at the staff, we'll be lucky to escape with just the colossal damage to the Republic that we've already sustained.

Given the events of the last several days however, anyone who tells you they know for sure what's going to happen is lying to your face. His cultists aren't going away and regardless of what Trump says or does, his enablers in Congress, the hundreds of federal judges and thousands of executive agency loyalists that he's planted like landmines, the 6-3 Supreme Court, and his tens of millions of fanatical followers can still cause massive chaos and misery well into the Biden presidency, and even if we make it through the next ten days we still have a national pandemic that's killing 4,000 people a day and infecting 300,000 to deal with.

We could drag the country across the finish line on January 20th only to get run over by an oncoming truck, for sure. But my real fear is that we get hit by the truck before that date, and it's loaded with nitroglycerine, thermite, and napalm, and when the smoke clears there's not much of a republic left to try to piece together.

Just a blast crater from sea to shining sea.

Going Back To Move Forward

Democrats, to their credit, have now given up on the whole Obama-era "looking forward" plan and the proposed Biden "unity" plan and are finally facing the ugly reality that Trumpists will do whatever it takes to hold power, and that accountability and justice need to happen or that next time the coup will succeed.
Whether or not the House pursues impeachment charges against Mr. Trump for his role in inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol on Wednesday, many Democrats say that impeachment is not enough.

Once President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office on Jan. 20, wide segments of his party are eager to see investigations and prosecutions of an array of Trump aides and allies — an effort, they say, that would bolster the rule of law after a presidency that weakened it and serve as a warning to future presidents that there will be consequences for illegal actions taken while in office.

The rioting at the Capitol has only intensified that desire. More than a dozen Democrats interviewed in recent days said the president’s role in inspiring the mob violence had prompted them to change their positions: They now want the Biden Justice Department to investigate the president and his aides.

“I was not on the investigate-and-prosecute train before yesterday,” Kathleen Sullivan, a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said on Thursday. “However, undermining the very foundations of democracy and the Constitution is a crime that can’t be ignored.”

So far, Mr. Biden has not taken a position on impeachment, let alone the broader agenda of launching criminal investigations. He has said he would leave any decisions about it to his Justice Department, which he has promised will return to the pre-Trump norm of maintaining independence from the White House. His choice of Merrick B. Garland, a centrist judge, as his nominee for Attorney General is another indication of his more measured approach to pursuing investigations and indictments.

His stance reflects not only his politics but a natural inclination not to settle scores — much like Mr. Obama, whom Mr. Biden served for eight years as vice-president. Mr. Obama said shortly before his own inauguration that he believed the nation needed “to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

But interviews with more than 50 current and former Democratic elected officials, Democratic National Committee members and party activists found an overwhelming consensus across the party’s ideological spectrum toward holding Mr. Trump personally accountable and launching congressional and Justice Department investigations into him, his family and his top aides — not only for inciting last week’s violent mob at the Capitol but for a host of other actions during his presidency.

The transgressions they cite include collusion with Russia, tax fraud, illegal pressure on state elections officials, using federal offices for political activity and violation of the constitutional provision that prohibits a president from profiting from foreign governments.

A Georgia elections official on Saturday confirmed a third call Mr. Trump made to officials in the state trying to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory. The calls began with one to Gov. Brian Kemp in early December to berate him for certifying the state’s election results. The efforts to change election results could be construed as illegal attempts at election interference or other criminal violations, but legal experts said proving a case could be difficult.

Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, said Mr. Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr and others need to be investigated by Mr. Biden’s Justice Department, though he warned that Mr. Biden himself should keep his distance from any prosecutions to avoid the appearance of politicizing them.
“There’s a desire from me to never hear from Trump again, but I don’t think the issue should be ignored,” Mr. Reid said during an interview on Friday.

The push for accountability for Mr. Trump and his allies is starkest in the party’s liberal wing, especially among progressive people of color who have watched the Trump administration direct the use of tear gas against demonstrators for racial justice, and threaten them with long prison terms.

“Absolutely Trump should do jail time,” said Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York. A Justice Department investigation, Mr. Bowman said, “needs to happen on Jan. 20, as soon as possible.”

If Harry Reid, about as much as a Senate Emeritus "elder statesman" centrist that the Dems have, and Jamaal Bowman, the newly-minted Bronx BLM firebrand who kicked Eliot Engel out on his ass after 32 years, are both calling for Justice Department investigations of Trump, his family, and his regime, well that's just about as wide a spectrum on the Democratic side as you can get.

A majority of the country believes President Donald Trump should be removed before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20 and two-thirds hold him accountable for the violent insurrection on Capitol Hill, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday.

In the new survey, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, 56% of Americans think the sitting commander-in-chief should be removed from office before the official transfer of power in less than two weeks, while 43% say he should not. Among those who say Trump should not be removed immediately, nearly half (45%) nevertheless say his actions this week were wrong.

Ousting the current president before his term expires splits Americans along partisan lines, with 94% of Democrats and only 13% of Republicans supporting the move. A majority of independents -- 58% -- also back removing him.

Some thoughts, then:

Does Trump pardon himself, and will that hold up or will SCOTUS side with Trump?

Does Pence pardon a January 19th resigning Trump after Trump pardons everyone else (maybe including Pence?)

Since Dems only need 50 votes now (plus VP Kamala Harris) to confirm, what do Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, Kyrsten Sinema etc. want in return for appointing Garland to Justice?

We'll see just how right he is. As bad as 2020 was, folks...2021 is going to be worse.

Sunday Long Read: 12 Monkeys' Business

As the movie 12 Monkeys turned 25 last year, this week's Sunday Long Read is Eric Ducker's deep dive at The Ringer into the dystopian pandemic present that Terry Gilliam's film portrayed, and just how much the movie got right about where we were headed even back then.

There is a scene toward the end of 12 Monkeys in which James Cole sits in a 24-hour movie theater watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Cole, played by Bruce Willis, is not entirely certain whether he is a prisoner who “volunteered” to time travel from a future when 99 percent of the world’s population has been killed in a pandemic and the survivors live underground because the surface air is deadly, or whether he is just a man with a serious dissociative disorder. Next to him, applying a fake mustache to his face, is Dr. Kathryn Railly (played by Madeleine Stowe), his once doubtful psychiatrist who has become his coconspirator in investigating a group run by Jeffrey Goines (played by Brad Pitt) called the Army of the 12 Monkeys and their role in unleashing the virus on the planet.

Examining Kim Novak and James Stewart on screen, Cole is confused and agitated, his mind either scrambled by the effects of time travel or just in its natural state. He thinks he’s seen the movie before, maybe on TV when he was a kid, but something about it feels both familiar and unfamiliar. “It’s just like what’s happening with us,” he tells Railly. “Like the past, the movie never changes. It can’t change, but every time you see it, it seems different, because you’re different. You see different things.”

Arriving in select theaters at the end of 1995 before getting a wide release 25 years ago this week, 12 Monkeys was an immediate commercial success. Directed by Terry Gilliam, it was the middle installment of the three movies the iconoclastic filmmaker made for major American studios during the ’90s. But audiences quickly began to see 12 Monkeys differently.

In the midst of a wave of global natural disasters, film critic Elvis Mitchell wrote in a 2002 New York Times essay, “It’s as if the world has finally caught up to the lyric paranoid streaks in the imagination of the filmmaker Terry Gilliam.” In the ensuing decades, authoritarian-minded governments proliferated, environmental catastrophes continued, overpopulation went unabated, and the climate crisis neared the point of no return. More people started to feel like Cole, knowing witnesses to a civilization that seems destined to end during their lifetime. Writing for Vulture in 2018, Abraham Riesman called 12 Monkeys, “[O]ne of the most currently relevant pieces of science fiction ever committed to celluloid.”

And then came the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of this article’s publication, it’s estimated that COVID-19 is directly responsible for more than 1.8 million deaths, and that number is expected to continue to rise across the globe in the coming months, even as vaccines become more widely available. When lockdowns and restrictions were put in place during the first quarter of 2020, viewers started returning to 12 Monkeys or checking it out for the first time. “It had a whole new life,” says Charles Roven, one of the film’s producers. “It holds up really well.”

A TV adaptation of 12 Monkeys debuted at the start of 2015 and ran for four seasons on the Syfy network. Though the show is far different from the movie, it too has become a streaming favorite, even finding an audience for the first time in countries like India. “I certainly don’t love how topical our show has become,” says cocreator Terry Matalas, who estimates he saw Gilliam’s film in the theater three or four times when he was a student at Emerson College.

The movie Outbreak came out several months before 12 Monkeys, and journalist Richard Preston’s 1994 book The Hot Zone about lethal filoviruses was a national bestseller. Still, for most of the world’s population, a massive pandemic had not been a pressing concern since the Spanish Flu killed 50 million people between 1918 and 1920. Now there is a rising feeling that the next one won’t come a century from now. It could arrive much sooner and could be far worse. “I think the very first spoken words that aren’t voice-over in our show are, ‘It’s never been about if. It’s always been when,’” Matalas says. “When you start to really dissect that data, it’s terrifying. Right now we’re on the precipice of a vaccine, but are we truly ready for the next [pandemic]? I don’t think so.”

In 12 Monkeys, Railly has written a book called The Doomsday Syndrome and gives a lecture at a museum about madness and apocalyptic visions. She discusses the Cassandra complex, the idea taken from Greek legend about figures who know the future but whose warnings aren’t heeded, leading to what Railly describes as, “[T]he agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it.” In the 25 years since its release, 12 Monkeys is increasingly seen as a Cassandra of its own kind.

“We told you so,” Gilliam says.
Watching Outbreak and reading The Hot Zone in college scared the crap out of me, but 12 Monkeys is the movie that made me uncomfortable around the idea of a pandemic, not about a virus itself, but how the world would utterly fail to respond to it.  The bad guy in the movie isn't the virus or even the Arm of the 12 Monkeys, but the people who made sure that the pandemic overwhelmed the world, and did it for their own selfish reasons.

And wouldn't you know it.

Here we are 25 years later.


You'll find the movie running on Hulu, HBO Max, or Amazon Prime if you have a subscription. It's worth watching again just to see how relevant it remains to today.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Back on Tuesday I noted that US Attorney for Northern Georgia, Byung "BJ" Pak, abruptly resigned for "unforeseen circumstances." Now we know why: Trump crucified him because he couldn't take out his rage on others by firing GOP Gov. Brian Kemp or GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

White House officials pushed Atlanta’s top federal prosecutor to resign before Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs because President Trump was upset he wasn’t doing enough to investigate the president’s allegations of election fraud, people familiar with the matter said.

A senior Justice Department official, at the behest of the White House, called Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak and told him he needed to step down because he wasn’t pursuing vote-fraud allegations to Mr. Trump’s satisfaction, the people said.

Mr. Pak resigned abruptly on Monday—the day before the runoffs—saying in an early morning email to colleagues that his departure was due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

The pressure on Mr. Pak was part of Mr. Trump’s weekslong push to try to alter presidential election results favoring President-elect Joe Biden, which included his win in Georgia. Mr. Trump this week, following the U.S. Capitol riot, said he would leave office on Jan. 20 when Mr. Biden is inaugurated.

Recently departed Attorney General William Barr has said the Justice Department hadn’t found evidence of widespread voter fraud that could reverse Mr. Biden’s victory, including claims of fraud, ballot destruction and voting-machine manipulation.
 Surprise, right?

Everyone other than Donald Trump is expendable to Donald Trump. I don't know how much clearer than that I can be.

President Trump urged Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud” in a lengthy December phone call, saying the official would be a “national hero,” according to an individual familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversation.

Trump placed the call to the investigations chief for the Georgia secretary of state’s office shortly before Christmas — while the individual was leading an inquiry into allegations of ballot fraud in Cobb County, in the suburbs of Atlanta, according to people familiar with the episode.

The president’s attempts to intervene in an ongoing investigation could amount to obstruction of justice or other criminal violations, legal experts said, though they cautioned a case could be difficult to prove.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had launched the inquiry following allegations that Cobb election officials had improperly accepted mail ballots with signatures that did not match those on file — claims that state officials ultimately concluded had no merit.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, Raffensperger confirmed that Trump had placed the Dec. 23 call. He said he was not familiar with the specifics of what the president said in the conversation with his chief investigator, but said it was inappropriate for Trump to have tried to intervene in the case.

“That was an ongoing investigation,” Raffensperger said. “I don’t believe that an elected official should be involved in that process.”

The Post is withholding the name of the investigator, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, because of the risk of threats and harassment directed at election officials.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Again, I was willing before Wednesday's events at least to entertain the notion that not making a martyr out of Trump would be better for the country in the long run, and that I still don't think Trump would be even indicted, let alone face actual justice.

But now, well, I have to be wrong, because Trump needs to absolutely be perp-walked into prison somewhere and we have to make it clear that these treason-happy assholes will be shown the door into the nearest jail cell.
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