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Whenever we do something that fits in the general category of "fun," the e-mails we get break roughly 90% for "Hey! This was cool!" and 10% for "I hate this silliness." Obviously, those figures are skewed by the fact that we're only going to hear from people who feel strongly enough to write in, but we nonetheless take from this the lesson that injecting some levity, in various ways, meets with the approval of a sizable majority of readers.

In addition—and this is not a trivial consideration—it provides a change of pace for us, as writers. If we write the same kind of thing, over and over, it will lead to burnout. It is for this same reason that the weekend posts are Q&A and letters, excepting when major news breaks on a Friday/Saturday. We sometimes get letters urging us to convert the weekend posts to be the same as the weekday posts, but that's never going to happen, because it's just too much of the same thing for us. The weekends will either have the content they currently have, or nothing.

We'll have a bit more on this subject in the item about woke movies, but for now we note this because last week we used song titles in all the of the headlines; those song titles were all winners of the Academy Award for Best Song. This week, we decided to again choose songs that have something specific in common. This one's a little harder, albeit not impossible; there's a somewhat broad commonality that is certainly on target, and is undoubtedly true of thousands of songs. And there's a narrower commonality that hits the bullseye, and is true of exactly 101 songs. If you care to venture a guess, feel free. The 101-song commonality is pretty specific, and if you get the broader commonality, you're still doing pretty well.

Maybe we'll make this a regular bit on Fridays; this is far and away the best day for it because of the Freudenfreude and Schadenfreude headlines. Maybe we won't. We'll see, but for now, well... we're definitely doing it again this week.

Trump Legal News: In the Year 2525

If Donald Trump had his way, the year 2525 is when all of his various trials would commence. Actually, the song goes all the way up to the year 9595, which would surely be OK with him, too. In any event, as expected, Thursday was another day full of news and commentary on this subject, so here's a rundown of the 10 things we find most important and/or interesting:

  1. In the Year 2026: Trump was not so audacious as to ask for a 502-year postponement, but his lawyers did file a motion yesterday proposing that his Washington trial be scheduled for April 2026. That's almost as outlandish as April 2525, and it's hard to imagine that Judge Tanya Chutkan will take it as a serious counter-proposal to Jack Smith's suggestion of a January 2, 2024, start date, especially since she is known as a "rocket docket" kind of judge. Chutkan said she's going to decide on a schedule by August 28, so we won't have to wait long to see what she does.

  2. Cannon Fodder: Since we're talking judges right now, we'll hop over to Florida for a moment, and note that Judge Aileen Cannon postponed a hearing scheduled for next Friday, and intended to address a protective order for the handling of classified evidence. It will be rescheduled for... um, some day after August 25. Is Cannon trying to accommodate the fact that Trump has two co-defendants, both of whom acquired counsel only recently? Is she adapting to the reality that this question is more complicated than it seemed? Is she dragging her feet, in various small ways, to help the guy who appointed her to the bench? Could be any, or all, of these, or something else we didn't think of. Who knows?

  3. Putting the Pieces Together: Returning to Georgia, CNN's staff has managed to piece together the clues and figure out who most of the unindicted co-conspirators are. Number 20 can't quite be pinned down, 2 and 12-19 are fake electors, and 23-30 are participants in the Coffee County shenanigans. The CNN piece also says nothing whatsoever about number 7, though other outlets have figured out it must be someone who helped recruit fake electors. Here are the unindicted co-conspirators CNN was able to identify by name:
         1. Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch
         3. Boris Epshteyn, Trump adviser
         4. Robert Sinners, who ran Trump's Georgia operation
         5. Bernie Kerik, Trump adviser and friend of Rudy Giuliani
         6. Phil Waldron, GOP operative
         8. Lt. Gov. Burt Jones (R-GA), fake elector
         9. Joseph Brannan, former treasurer of the Georgia GOP and fake elector
         10-11. Carolyn Fisher and Vikki Consiglio, Georgia GOP officials and fake electors
         21-22. Conan Hayes and Todd Sanders, conservative activists
         25, 29. Doug Logan and Jeffrey Lenberg of Cyber Ninjas, participants in Coffee County chicanery
         28. Jim Penrose, cybersecurity expert and participant in Coffee County chicanery
    There are three possibilities when it comes to these people: (1) They're going to be indicted later, (2) Fulton County DA Fani Willis decided not to go after them for lack of sufficient evidence or some other reason or (3) they've turned state's evidence.

    It is already known that some of them fit into the last category, including most or all of the unindicted fake electors. The Cyber Ninjas guys seem particularly likely to flip, as well, since they were left high and dry (and financially ruined) by Trump after the fiasco in Arizona. And if Epshteyn or Kerik have flipped, that's very bad for Team Trump, as they were both part of the inner circle and so they know things.

  4. Sweet Surrender: Trump has one week left to surrender, and his team is reportedly deep in negotiations over the circumstances, with the expectation that it will be Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of next week (in other words, a few days before the Friday deadline imposed by Willis).

  5. Look at Me!: Jonathan V. Last, of The Bulwark, points out that Wednesday is also the day of the Republican debate. If Trump surrenders on that day, and then follows that up with one of his rallies, he will significantly upstage the RNC event. And in his final "Truth" of the day yesterday, Trump strongly suggested that he's going to skip the debate:
    As everyone is aware, my Poll numbers, over a "wonderful" field of Republican candidates, are extraordinary. In fact, I am leading the runner up, whoever that may now be, by more than 50 Points. Reagan didn't do it, and neither did others. People know my Record, one of the BEST EVER, so why would I Debate?
    We'd say the chances of a Wednesday surrender, coupled with a debate absence, are pretty high.

  6. Unequal Treatment: Trump complains regularly that he is being treated differently from other people/defendants. This is true, albeit not in the way that he means it. There are many pieces out there right now (this is probably the best of them) pointing out that because of his status, and because of the desire to emphasize impartiality, "justice is blind," etc., the courts are bending over backwards to accomodate him, and to treat him with kid gloves. His ability to dictate the terms of his surrender—including, thus far at least, no mug shots—is a special privilege that is certainly not afforded to everyone. Similarly, he's already gotten away with pushing the limits of Chutkan's semi-gag order, and of the Georgia bail law, and he'll certainly be given more leeway in that regard over the next few weeks and months.

    With that said, Trump tends to push his luck to the breaking point, which is why he's now under indictment in four different jurisdictions. So, we think he might well eventually take it too far, and force either Chutkan, or Judge Scott McAfee in Georgia, or both, to throw the book at him.

  7. People Who Annoy You: There are only so many letter combinations in English (or any other language) that work well in terms of pronunciation. At the same time, there is a need for a LOT of words. And the predictable results of this are: (1) there are many, many words that have multiple meanings, sometimes dozens or hundreds of them, and (2) there are many, many words that are really close to some other word. And sometimes those "other words" are deeply problematic racial slurs.

    There have been enough high-profile incidents involving people misunderstanding the meaning/origins of the word "niggard" or "niggardly" that the subject has its own Wikipedia article. Similarly, one of the most famous South Park bits is rooted in this same basic linguistic dynamic:

    It turns out that Donald Trump has noticed this, too. Recall that, just yesterday, we wrote: "Trump does not like to be held to account by anyone, but he's particularly infuriated when the person doing so is Black, a woman, or a Black woman. The odds of him saying many outlandish and racist things are high." It wasn't a particularly profound prediction, but we're still surprised how quickly it came true. By early afternoon Pacific time (in other words, less than 12 hours after that post went live), readers J.G. in San Diego and M.B. in St. Andrews, Scotland, UK, gave us the heads up that Trump had gone there. Here's what he wrote on his boutique social media platform:
    A Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT on the Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia is almost complete & will be presented by me at a major News Conference at 11:00 A.M. on Monday of next week in Bedminster, New Jersey. Based on the results of this CONCLUSIVE Report, all charges should be dropped against me & others - There will be a complete EXONERATION! They never went after those that Rigged the Election. They only went after those that fought to find the RIGGERS!
    There is little question as to what Trump was going for with the "riggers" bit. That's been used by white supremacists, for years, as code to get around social media filters. Former Trump White House Director of Strategic Communications Alyssa Farah Griffin appeared on CNN and said: "With Trump, you don't need to look for a dog whistle—it's a bullhorn when it comes to race, and I do think that's deliberate." Or, if you like your evidence anecdotal, (Z) coincidentally had dinner last night with three Black friends, and they all instantly recognized what Trump was doing.

    This is reprehensible, of course (and keep reading). However, as we noted yesterday, it's also stupid, since racist language might please the base, but it's not going to be helpful with jurors. It's also going to make it more likely that a judge in Georgia concludes that Trump is trying to foment violence, and thus that he does not qualify for bail.

    Oh, and for what it's worth, Trump has already backed off his promise to share this supposedly irrefutable report, saying instead he's going to include it in his court filings.

  8. It's Not Just a Hypothetical, Part I: The anger being vented by Trump and his allies, coupled with their utterly unsubstantiated claims that he's a martyr and a victim of deep corruption, is designed, in part, to spur acts of violence against the former president's supposed "enemies." And guess what? It's already working. Far-right websites are circulating what are allegedly the names, pictures and home addresses of some of the grand jurors who voted to indict Trump. Needless to say, the purpose of sharing someone's address is not so people can send them a nice Christmas card. The good news, such as it is, is that the kind of people who engage in this sort of hateful doxxing tend not to be the brightest bulbs. So, at least some (and possibly many) of the names and addresses are wrong. That said, it's very scary for those grand jurors who have been exposed, and even for the folks who aren't really grand jurors but whose names/addresses are now on some random yahoos' hit lists.

  9. It's Not Just a Hypothetical, Part II: Similarly, Chutkan and Willis have already been the target of countless threats and much racist abuse; in the former case, someone's already been arrested for making malicious threats. Both women have security details, and they are going to need them for the foreseeable future.

  10. Impeach Her!: And finally, the Trumpers' Trump card these days, if you will, is impeachment. And so it is hardly a surprise that we didn't even make it a week before a Trumpy member of the Georgia legislature has called for Willis to be impeached. We are not going to give this person's name, since we don't need to give him the publicity he so desperately craves. We will say that he is, by profession, an auctioneer, so he's used to selling loads of crap.

    Needless to say, if a DA conducts an investigation and then gets grand jury approval for indictments, there is no way that DA could plausibly be guilty of "high crimes and misdemeanors." No, the only thing they are guilty of is doing their job. That said, the mere suggestion that impeachment is called for helps to advance the narrative that Trump & Co. are victims of profoundly corrupt government officials, and so helps foment a climate in which violence is possible, per the two items immediately above this one.

And that's the latest. The day may come when we don't write 3,000 words on Trump's legal problems. But that day is not today. (Z)

DeSantis Debate Disaster: Everybody's Talkin'

Once again, everybody's talkin' about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), and once again, the subject is what a fiasco his campaign is. It's not a secret that candidates and super PACs have ways of "coordinating," even if doing so openly is a violation of campaign finance law. It's also not a secret that DeSantis and his main super PAC, Never Back Down, are pushing the rules to the limit, and perhaps beyond. As it turns out, however, there's a somewhat fine line between "help me out" and "humiliate me."

As we have noted multiple times already, DeSantis relies primarily on big donors. That means his PAC is well-heeled, since contribution rules for PACs are much more lenient than they are for candidates. The DeSantis campaign, on the other hand, is running short on cash. And so, the PAC is now, in many ways, effectively running the DeSantis campaign.

One of the tricks of the trade, as it were, is for a PAC (or a campaign) to post information to some obscure corner of the Internet that just so happens to be known to the campaign (or the PAC). Since the information is "public," it can be argued that the posting was for the benefit of the world at large, and the campaign (or the PAC) just happened to stumble across it. It's an obvious dodge, but one that allows candidates to just barely stay on the right side of the rules.

What happened yesterday was that Never Back Down decided to share some useful strategy tips with DeSantis as the Governor prepares for the Republican candidates' debate next week. Had the PAC stuck those documents somewhere obscure, then nobody but the PAC's staff and DeSantis' campaign staff would have been the wiser. But instead, the PAC posted the documents to the main page of its own website. That's not illegal, but it is unwise, since it means that outsiders are vastly more likely to stumble across the material. You know, outsiders like the staff of The New York Times.

And so it is that, instead of this being a matter between DeSantis and his closest advisers, it's now a matter between DeSantis and... EVERYONE. Far and away the most embarrassing part of the leak was the first portion of the "main" strategy memo, which instructs DeSantis to do four things:

  1. Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times.
  2. State GRD positive vision 2-3 times.
  3. Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response.
  4. Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.

It's only 34 words, but boy do those 34 words tell quite a story. Here are half a dozen implications:

  1. DeSantis' top argument for the presidency is not "I'm good" but "Biden bad."
  2. His "positive vision" is such a mystery that even the memo writer doesn't know what it is.
  3. His sure-to-come attacks on the media are pre-conceived and thus contrived
  4. He realizes that he's in danger of being overtaken by Vivek Ramaswamy
  5. He also realizes that he can't overtake Trump, and so must kowtow to him
  6. His team agrees with us that Trump is going to skip the debate

And that's just the first bit. You might want to consider reading the whole memo, as it's full of stuff making clear how phony the Governor's performance will be. For example, later in the memo, it calls for "a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey, showing emotion." As opposed to an anecdote non-story, we guess, or maybe an impersonal anecdote story.

It's not a secret that presidential debates are rather contrived, but it's pretty embarrassing to have the exact script out there for everyone to see. Plus, DeSantis is an absolutely terrible actor, one who can't effectively sell a personal anecdote story even when people don't know it's pre-planned. And when people are watching for it, along with the "emotion" called for by the script? We're talking Golden Raspberry time, here. Paul Begala is already calling him RonBot 2.0.

We don't know what it is with these Florida governors who want to be president, but boy howdy do they run terrible presidential campaigns. Indeed, of the 10 largest U.S. states by population, Florida is the only one never to have produced a U.S. president. Maybe Donald Trump will (technically) change that next year, but if not, it could be a while. (Z)

Can You Identify the Woke Movie?, Part V: Suspicious Minds

Time to bring it on home. We ran down five pairs of movies on Tuesday, and then we ran down another five pairs yesterday. Here's the final quintet, to be followed by a few concluding thoughts:

Matchup 11 (Amoral Tycoons): The Wolf of Wall Street vs. Citizen Kane

Reader Guesses

K.C. in St. Augustine, FL: In Citizen Kane, a young rich dude earns more money by selling false stories to the public. It's the American Dream. So far, so good. He's idolized, runs for office, is humiliated, and dies alone thinking of his lost youth. Bad guy gets a bad ending. What is this? Poetic justice? WOKE.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA: Citizen Kane is, of course, another black and white movie that Republicans have been told is a great film. They think it's about a beloved sled and not a character story of the corruption that vast wealth brings. The Wolf of Wall Street depicts the lewd excesses of the stock-market crowd, which most Republicans know is pure fantasy. To them it's a preachy liberal screed against unfettered capitalism, I mean, how commie can you get? Wealthy New Yorkers should be our God-Emperors and not shown as drug-taking perverts, so I guess that makes it The Woke Wolf of Wall Street. Plus if one in a hundred Republicans knows of William Randolph Hearst, who Kane was closely based on, I would be shocked.

The Answer

The Wolf of Wall Street (Woke): "Portrays capitalists on Wall Street as greedy self-absorbed criminals obsessed with sex, drugs and violence."

Citizen Kane (Conservative): "Conservative for its unflattering exposure of mainstream media moguls and the fall of an arrogant man."

55.9% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 12 (Sci-Fi): Star Trek Into Darkness vs. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Reader Guesses

A.M.S. in Silverdale, WA: Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Woke. Liberals think the aliens will be friendly and want to help us, when in fact we will have to fight back with everything we've got. We need to build a space wall to keep them out!

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY: Star Trek Into Darkness (anti-woke, aliens want to destroy us); Close Encounters of the Third Kind (woke, aliens want to be our friends).

The Answer

Star Trek Into Darkness (Woke): "[T]he film has several anti-War on Terror messages."

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Conservative): "Makes this list because of a hilarious, anti-mask scene in which the actor Richard Dreyfuss is riding on a bus where everyone is complying with a government order to wear a mask, whereupon he rips off his mask and declares that there is nothing wrong with the air."

60.4% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 13 (Supernatural): Ghost vs. Ghostbusters

Reader Guesses

E.B. in Seattle, WA: Ghost co-stars teh woke Whoopi Goldberg, who is also on woke talk shows and woke Star Trek: The Next Generation. By the Wokeness Transitive Property, the entire movie is woke.

C.R. in Vancouver, BC, Canada: Ghost is too "woke": female protagonist. Ghostbusters—well—who doesn't like Ghostbusters? (Unless it's the woke, all-female-cast Ghostbusters.)

The Answer

Ghost (Woke): "The Bible claims ghosts don't exist. Still this film toys with idea [sic] that they do, also it has liberal actress Whoopi Goldberg as a psychic medium."

Ghostbusters (Conservative): "The film fittingly satirizes an unfair (and likely liberal) professor, senseless academic research, paganism, and a villainous EPA regulator."

64.8% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 14 (Indiana Jones): Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark vs. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Reader Guesses

J.M.R. in Muncie, IN: Raiders has to be the woke movie because in that one Indy fights Nazis, while in Crystal Skull he fights communists.

R.D. in San Diego, CA: Nazi bad guys versus a widely-panned sequel. This could go either way, but my guess is that woke won't tolerate a loser, so Crystal Skull would be the woke one. It's easier to focus on "Indy is being generally heroic" and overlook "... by opposing the Nazis."

The Answer

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Woke): "Although the film does depict the Communists as bad guys (to such an extent that the Russian Communist Party in Moscow was angered by the decision), and implies that Indiana Jones is a Republican or at the very least an [sic] Dwight D. Eisenhower fan, the film also depicts McCarthyism in a negative light, with one character implying that the American Government was simply being paranoid and denies there being a sizeable Communist infiltration in America."

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (Conservative): "During the Great Depression, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones searches the world for artifacts of untold power and, along the way, combats some of America's most infamous enemies, in particular Nazis. The first and third films contain Christian themes since they are centered around the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail respectively, while the second film condemns paganism due to its main villain being a pagan priest."

83.5% of readers got this one right.

Matchup 15 (James Cameron Ocean Movies): The Abyss vs. Titanic

Reader Guesses

T.J. in Columbus, OH: Titanic. An artist radicalizes a wealthy woman into standing up to the patriarchy by outsmarting an arrogant, entitled rich man. The wealthy capitalists in the film are shown to be nasty, misogynistic jerks who truly don't care at all about the poor people on the boat, especially when the ship is sinking. Anti-capitalist and pro-women's rights, this is a woke film.

E.B. in Seattle, WA: In Titanic, the girl chooses the poor artist over the far more eligible rich stuffed shirt. Sure, she doesn't make space on her door (sharing is socialism!), but she feels sad about that later. The anti-woke celebrate their survival while the unworthy perish.

The Answer

The Abyss (Woke): "From liberal atheist James Cameron, this film pushes the absurd claim that global warming is real and that the military is evil."

Titanic (Conservative): "Every life had value and the most powerful men gave up their seats on lifeboats to women and children first; the media and a young RINO are rightly criticized."

39.7% of readers got this one right. We have no idea who the young RINO is. Probably Caledon Hockley, though we cannot think of what he does or says in the film to justify the INO part of that.

Out of roughly 2,300 responses, there were 15 readers who got 13/15 (86%, B) or better. The 13s were:

There were two scores of 14:

And there were two perfect scores:

The mean (average) score was 7.69, which is dangerously close to what the median would have been if every respondent had just flipped a coin 15 times. The median (50th percentile) score was 8, which is also basically a coin-flip result. The mode (most common) score was also 8.

We are both teachers, of course. And given the nature of the job, one is always looking for ways to allow the students to think through the material for themselves, ideally in a way that's somewhat fun and engaging. That's obviously what we were going for here. Several readers sent in comments making clear that they understood the general pedagogical idea. Among them:

M.W. in Austin, TX: My guiding light in making my selections was to put myself in the shoes of the anti-woke moviegoer, who cares not for understanding any of the ideological content of a movie, but rather reacts intuitively to a sense of whether a movie is "for" them, in a culture war sense, or alienating to them... Of particular interest to me was the conundrum of The Passion of the Christ vs. Braveheart. Since both films could easily be considered Great Conservative Films, it's necessary to dig deeper into exactly what flavor of conservative is making these designations in order to pick between them. The quiz contains a clue in the form of The Da Vinci Code. From my Catholic upbringing, I know that to a hugely Catholic conservative, The Da Vinci Code is a woke movie about how the secular mainstream wants to make being Catholic illegal, whereas a Protestant conservative is less likely to care about the movie. I therefore theorized that its inclusion on the list indicates a Catholic influence, and tips the scales ever so slightly in favor of The Passion of the Christ, which is beloved by evangelicals but not so much by Catholics, being the woke movie.

J.M.R. in Muncie, IN: I had a good time with the quiz because I don't know the answers. When I was in ninth grade I sat for a statewide (Ohio) science achievement test and, as I flipped through the first questions, realized I was out of my depth. I had never been taught what an amp, an ohm, or a volt were, and other things like that. I skipped the questions and kept flipping through the test book. Several pages in, I found a question with a drawing of a circuit. The question said one part of the circuit had X ohms and the other part had Y ohms; how much total resistance is in the circuit? I kept flipping and found other questions that revealed previous answers, and only after reading all the questions I started filling in answers, making sure none of my responses conflicted. I ended up being recognized at my school for having the eighth-highest score in the state and the highest in Southwest Ohio. I like my trivia the same way—facts I don't necessarily have but might figure out based on what I do know about the subject of the question. I doubt I'll have a merit-worthy score this time, but your quiz did hit that sweet spot.

Meanwhile, the specific "lesson" of this exercise was pretty plain: "Woke" vs. "Conservative" is a largely meaningless distinction. Indeed, just about any great film (and even most films that are merely good) create enough layers and enough ambiguity that they can be interpreted in either way. Is Patton about the martial spirit (conservative) or about a U.S. Army run by crazies (woke)? Is The Shawshank Redemption about a savvy businessman putting one over on his opponents (conservative) or about an oppressive prison system run amok (woke)? Is The Godfather about the awesome power of capitalism to allow someone to rise from poverty to great wealth (conservative) or about the crushing burdens faced by immigrants, forcing them to break the law in order to survive (woke)?

The readers who wrote in certainly grasped the point. A few of those comments:

B.G. in Atlantic Highlands, NJ: I generally picked the newer film. I don't claim to know what "woke" means but I'm pretty sure it fits entirely within the genre of manufactured outrage and I'm guessing it is both easier and more effective to manufacture outrage about the artists of the present instead of the past.

R.D. in San Diego, CA: So, for a film to be woke, it has to: (1) make well-known Republicans, men, Nazis, cops, and/or rich people look bad; (2) glorify academics/lefties/minorities, or (3) skimp out on the American value of excessive violence.

C.R. in Vancouver, BC, Canada: This quiz was harder than I thought it would be. I think that is, in part, because conservatives and progressives can watch the same movie and take away something completely different from it. It has also dawned on me that there are different kinds of conservatives: there are the Mike Pence types who focus on traditional values and notions of decency; and there are the Trump/DeSantis types who are paranoid, insecure about their masculinity, have misogynistic tendencies, and are obsessed with government conspiracies and protecting their "freedoms," but seem to be okay with taking away other people's freedoms.

C.R.'s comment, specifically about how much of this wokeness is driven by paranoia, was the inspiration for the song title in the headline.

Incidentally, reader K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, submitted the quiz to ChatGPT, and even the AI figured it out: "Remember that movies are complex works of art with multifaceted themes, and their interpretation can vary widely."

Of course, the people who don't get it are the people who made the lists. A few readers knew the right-wing mediasphere well enough to realize that the reviews came from the right-wing Wikipedia clone Conservapedia, specifically the pages "Essay: Greatest Conservative Movies" and "Essay: Worst Liberal Movies." That site is both brainchild and personal fiefdom of Andrew Schlafly, son of anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly, and himself a far-right conspiracist, anti-feminist, anti-abortionist and anti-vaxxer. Oh, and M.W. in Austin is right, Schlafly is Catholic.

Even though they don't apparently realize it, Schlafly and his minions provide, in a couple of ways, the best proof of all that "woke" is arbitrary and void of meaning. First, if you click on the two links above, it's actually not too hard to find films that appear on both lists. Second, part of the reason that we chose Conservapedia is that it's kind of famous as a target of vandalism by left-wingers. Some of the capsules on those two pages weren't written by Schlafly & Co., but instead by liberal parodists disguising themselves as conservatives. That neither we nor the right-wingers can distinguish between actual conservative talking points and faux talking points cooked up by left-wing infiltrators is just about the best illustration of Poe's Law we can imagine. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Games People Play

We've talked about the Republican candidates' debate a fair bit today, so let's keep that subject going. Donald Trump is keeping people guessing about his debate participation, while Ron DeSantis is keeping people laughing about his. Also making headlines yesterday was Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND). He appeared on Fox, and the hosts held his feet to the fire, observing that he gamed the system in order to make the debate stage:

You did a deal. You were successful in business. Yes. You lived the American dream. You came to politics to make a change, but you also kind of did a deal to get the unique donors to back you up. And it was like, go ahead and give me a dollar and I'll give you $19 back, essentially—screen guys, You mean you spent $760,000? What would you say to those who say you bought your way for a place on the stage?

Burgum responded to this by making two points. The first is that he's an entrepreneur, this is how entrepreneurs solve problems, and so this is a preview of how he would solve problems as president. There's something compelling about this, though we'll note it's still just a nicer way of saying "I used money to avoid putting in the hard work that others had to put in." Also, have we not learned yet that the U.S. government is not U.S.A., Inc., and that you can't run the executive branch like it's just another big business?

Burgum's second point was that the scheme not only got him on stage, it also allowed him to connect with 40,000 enthusiastic supporters of his campaign. That is where we have to call shenanigans. Some readers will recall a story that we've recounted a couple of times, about the first time (V) and (Z) ever communicated. Back in 2008 (?), (V) wrote an item about online pollsters, and how they were desperate for respondents from certain demographics. (Z) decided to conduct an experiment, and to see if he could successfully pass himself off to YouGov as an 80-year-old Black woman living in Colorado. It worked, (Z) reached out to (V) to report that result, and the rest is history.

We repeat this story because we now have something of a sequel. On hearing of Burgum's scheme, (Z) decided to see if the $20 gift cards would really come to fruition, particularly for someone donating $1 from the pinko commie state of California. And while it took a couple of weeks to come through, the $20 gift card was indeed delivered. Here's the "success" screen:

It says: 'CLAIM YOUR $20 BIDEN
ECONOMIC RELIEF CARD BELOW! We hope that you can use this $20 Biden Economic Relief Card to help relieve some of the
burdens created by the Biden economy.'

Below that is a bunch of stuff, and then eventually a picture of a credit card with a unique and usable number for purposes of claiming the $20. The only reason that we don't include a picture of the whole thing is that it ends up being about three screens long, which is too much for an image.

In any event, while we understand that Burgum is just playing the game as it was designed by the RNC, there's still a fair bit here that rubs us the wrong way. Again, a rich guy buying his way onto the stage, as opposed to earning his place, is a little skeezy. On top of that, the fundamental argument here—that the Biden economy is bad, and that only Burgum can fix it—is pretty dishonest. We have an upcoming item on the Biden economy (preview: The economy's actually pretty good), and to the extent that there are problems, we think it's dubious that Burgum can do anything about them. Not only because the entrepreneur-president model doesn't work, but because there are many macroeconomic forces that are beyond the control of mortal man, even if that mortal man is President of the United States.

So, there is some schadenfreude in Burgum appearing on the ostensibly Republican-friendly confines of Fox, and being called to account for his approach. However, we want to amp up the schadenfreude a bit. Again, the application for the $20 was just a thought experiment. We don't want to profit from it, or to be beholden to any political candidate, even in small measure. So, we are trying to figure out how to expend the $20, perhaps in a manner that implicitly pokes Burgum in the eye a bit. If you have a suggestion, send it along. We'll pick out the dozen or so we like best, and then put it to a vote. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Hot Fun in the Summertime

Actually, more like "not fun in the summertime." Today's posting starts with "In the Year 2525," and the last verse of that song (the one that takes it into the tenth millennium) reads thusly:

In the year 9595
I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
He's taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain't put back nothing

That song is more than half a century old, and yet they already knew that Houston, there might just be a problem.

We had some eco-optimism in this space last week. And today we will have some more, with two news stories that speak to how (essential) change just might happen on the environmental front.

First up is an item brought to our attention by reader M.P. in Fort Worth, TX. Climate change is already doing enormous harm, of course, as folks in Hawaii, Canada, the American Southwest, etc. can particularly attest right now. But the folks who are going to really bear the brunt of it are those who are currently in their teens or twenties, and who may have 50-70 years left on the planet. If there's anything left of the planet, that is.

Undoubtedly, many young people are frustrated that their elders don't see a crisis, and are either doing nothing to help, or are in denial. The frustration is surely increased in cities, counties and states where the only climate-change-denying major political party in the world holds power. States like, say, Montana, which is not only quite red, but also has an economy built on fossil fuel extraction.

There is one fly in the Big Sky ointment, however. For a very long time, Montana was run by environmentalists, following in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt. And when the current constitution was adopted, it included this clause: "The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations." The emphasis is ours.

A dozen young Montanans, none of them old enough to have graduated college yet, took note of this passage. Recognizing they weren't going to get anywhere with the politicians, they joined with environmental groups to file suit in Montana's First District Court. And this week, Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in the plaintiffs' favor. Specifically, the decision strikes down a new Montana law forbidding consideration of global warming when permitting new fuel extraction projects.

Politicians in the thrall of Big Oil are pretty good at finding ways to serve the needs of their masters, by hook or by crook. So, this presumably isn't over yet. And while the ruling may slow the implementation of new extraction projects, it won't shut down those that already exist. Still, the ruling is surely a step in the right direction, and, as the first-ever "constitutional climate" verdict, is expected to inspire similar suits in other (mostly Western) states that have similar passages in their state constitutions.

Moving along, there is also this story out of Central California. That's large-scale agriculture territory, which means it's large-scale water use territory, and also that it's pretty red, politically. For quite a few years, however, there hasn't been enough water. Donald Trump campaigned very little in California, but when he did, he promised to bring the water back. He didn't do that any more than he built the wall or brought coal mining jobs back.

After years of this, the Central Valley is in a state of crisis, and a generational gap has emerged. Older farming interests want to find a way to replace the lost water, whatever it takes. Californians do have a long history of stealing water from other people, including from other Californians, so you can see why they think this way. Younger folks, however, are resigned to drought-level water supply as the new normal. And so, at their instigation, roughly 100,000 acres of Central Valley land are going to be converted to solar farms. That's only one-third of the 300,000 acres that have lain fallow for years; the thinking is "better to get something out of the land as opposed to getting nothing."

The whole situation is fraught with tension, and with maneuvering and counter-maneuvering. But the fact is that the younger faction is eventually going to win out; the only question is how long it will take, and ultimately how much land will be given over to power generation. At the same time, the pro-solar forces can't help but notice that Trump and other Republicans have done little for them, while Joe Biden and the Democrats have facilitated investment in green technology. So, over the next 10-15 years, it's possible that one of the last remaining red portions of the California map (an area that includes the home district of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA) will turn purple, or even blue.

Tomorrow, we'll have readers' thoughts on the climate crisis, and what can be done, if anything. Some of those letters are optimistic, others definitely aren't. So, tune in tomorrow if you want a broader variety of opinion. But for today, well, this feature is not about pessimism. And so, we share the good news.

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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