TV Review: Good Omens (2019) (No spoilers)

This six-part mini-series based on the book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is superb. The 1990 book of the same name is very good but this TV adaptation is even better. It definitely benefits from being made into a miniseries that lasted a total of nearly six hours, rather that a shorter feature film. It enabled the screenwriter Gaiman and the director to provide a much richer texture to an already complex story. The series is available on HBO which I do not subscribe to but I happened to be staying at my daughter’s place and they do subscribe so I took the chance to watch it. I can strongly recommend it. In fact, I plan on seeing it again because the dialogue and acting are so good that it is the kind of thing that benefits from a second viewing, where one picks up on gags that one missed the first time around.

The story is based on the impending Armageddon that will climax in a major battle between the forces of Good and Evil that will be triggered by the Antichrist, who is boy named Adam, soon after his 11th birthday. The TV series expands the roles of Aziraphale (an angel) and Crowley (a demon). Aziraphale was the angel guarding the gate of the Garden of Eden who took pity on the banished Adam and Eve and even gave them his flaming sword to protect them from the wild creatures they would encounter in the hostile world outside. Crowley initially appears in the form of the serpent who tempted Eve. The angel and demon are supposed to be on opposite sides in the war but over thousands of years of crossing paths at various major events in human history have developed a sort of friendship that is grudging at first but becomes stronger when they realize that they both do not see the point of destroying the Earth and all its inhabitants and decide to try and thwart the grand plan. This puts them in the bad books of their two organizations, who try to pull them back into line.
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The neoliberals’ last defense against Sanders: Barack Obama

It is clear that Bernie Sanders is worrying the Democratic party that he might win the nomination. While the stated reason for their concern is that he is too ‘left’ to be elected, I think it goes further than that. I think they are more concerned that if he does become the nominee, he will dislodge the entrenched neoliberal control of the party. It seems like the establishment sees Barack Obama as their main weapon to stop them and are waiting for the right moment to ask him to stop progressives from gaining ascendancy, a skill that he has displayed in the past. Back in November of 2019, when Sanders’ campaign seemed to be waning, Obama seemed willing to stay out of the picture.
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The Bolton bombshell

The news that Donald Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton says that Trump definitely wanted the military aid to Ukraine withheld until he got a public declaration of an investigation into Joe Biden’s son has fallen like a bomb on Republicans who had been claiming, against all evidence, that there was no such attempt at extortion and that all the charges were based on hearsay and suppositions. It was pretty obvious that Trump has been lying and that the Republicans were covering it up. But Bolton’s charge is hard for them to ignore because his is first hand testimony and by someone with unimpeachable right-wing credentials.
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Support for Bernie rises just before Iowa

As we enter the last week before the Iowa caucuses on Monday, February 3rd, the first event in which actual voters get to indicate their preferences, the Bernie Sanders campaign is telling its volunteers to dial back the phone calls and instead focus more on talking to friends and neighbors. This may be due to their feeling that given the rising enthusiasm of the their supporters, this may be a more effective tactic of persuasion.

In the final week leading to caucus day in Iowa on February 3, Democrats there are bombarded with phone calls from pollsters, campaigns, and outside advocacy groups. That, in addition to baseline spam, creates a cacophony that is hard for campaigns to break through. It is far more effective, campaign leaders have argued, to have friends and relatives urge those close to them to come out to caucus than to carpet bomb phone lines, what is known as relational organizing. The campaign’s original goal for phone calls before Iowa was 5 million, but volunteers have already surpassed 7 million. The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One sign of enthusiasm is the packed event held in Ames yesterday, even though Sanders himself could not attend, since he was attending the impeachment hearings in Washington. The event featured Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former congressional candidate Brent Welder, but the absence of the candidate did not seem to dampen attendance or enthusiasm.

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Jules Ffeiffer on Nixon and Trump

The great cartoonist, whose is now 91 and whose wordy cartoons were less gag-driven but more mordant, was a must-read during the Nixon era. In a recent interview, he shows that he has not lost his bite and says that Donald Trump has dispensed with the illusions that Americans have about themselves and revealed what many of them are really like.

“The president affected much more than the politics of the country,” Feiffer says. “And you see it with Trump. He created a social style of what was acceptable and not acceptable in all forms, not just political, but social, interpersonal behavior. The way we react to one another, whether we’re kind or the way we’re paranoid or suspicious. Somehow it’s all centered in the White House and spreads out.”

As for the current president, “He’s bringing us back the real America. That’s it. Making America great again is making America openly bigoted again. You had to hide the bigotry during the liberal years. Now we don’t have to hide it. And that’s what you see in the Trump rallies. That’s what you see with his crowds… He’s licensing his followers to behave as badly as they once fantasized but didn’t dare. And he’s saying, ‘Let’s stop fucking around, this is who we always were.'”

Feiffer recalls what he considered the callous response of many Americans to the news of the My Lai massacre-comparable to the widespread acceptance today of the forced separation of families at the Southern border. It’s not due to any lack of information, as Feiffer told Studs Terkel in 1974. It’s just “the process of denial, over and over again.”

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A critique of Jim Lehrer and the PBS NewsHour

Rhiannon from over at Intransitve alerted me to the fact that Jim Lehrer, long-time cohost with Robert McNeil of the McNeil-Lehrer Report that debuted on PBS in 1975 and became the McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour in 1983, died yesterday at the age of 85. After McNeil retired in 1995, the show became The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and then in 2009 it became what it is now The PBS NewsHour.
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Can Mike Pompeo get any more ridiculous?

The secretary of state was being interviewed by NPR All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly (who is, by the way, one of the best interviewers on NPR and no shrinking violet) and when the interview did not go to his liking, he did the typical power moves that men often do with women to cow them but it did not work with her. Furthermore, he and his aides did not say that the interview had shifted to being off the record, so she of course recorded it. Peter Wade describes what happened.
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The list of old-style Republican conservative defections grows

The list is growing of old-style Republican conservatives, people who used to think that the party stood for certain conservative principles, who are appalled at what it has become, a lawless cult focused on pleasing a clearly deranged leader. Charles Fried, the person who served as Solicitor General in the administration of Ronald Reagan, is the latest to decide to speak his mind and in an interview with Newsweek, has some utterly brutal words for the current president and for his Attorney General Bill Barr for enabling the worst excesses of the president.
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Samantha Bee on the impeachment trial

If one wanted evidence of how degraded the US political system has become, look no further than the current impeachment process against Donald Trump. Supposedly a process where possible wrongdoing by a president that might require removal from office comes under careful scrutiny, it retains all the formal trappings that hide a hollow core, now a cynical charade where the Republican party has taken a determined ‘See no evil, hear no evil” approach, indeed extending it to “See nothing, hear nothing” approach by refusing to allow any witnesses or new information or testimony, and the accused Trump even boasting that he refuses to release the information that he has.

It is a symptom of a degenerate system, one whose foundations are tottering because of the willful ignoring of basic democratic norms.

Samantha Bee walks us through the opening day.