The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Florida: The Last Refuge of Washed-Up Wannabe Strongmen?

I want to note that more than a thousand of the rioters in Brasilia were arrested on the spot. Our January 6 rioters were allowed to all go home that day, meaning they had to be tracked down later. I never got an explanation for that.

Jair Bolsonaro is in Florida. CNN is reporting that he was just admitted to a hospital for “abdominal ‘discomfort,’ related to injuries from a 2018 knife attack during a political rally, Michelle Bolsonaro said.” Yeah, right. Per the NY Post he’s in AdventHealth Celebration in Kissimmee outside Walt Disney World, if you want to send a card.

The Guardian is reporting that Bolsonaro went to Florida to avoid possible legal action in Brazil. Florida is “a US state much favoured by other anti-communist conservatives from Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America.” Is Florida the new Argentina?

Last week the Palm Beach Post ran a photo from 2020 showing Bolsonaro dining at Mar-a-Lago with Trump, but apparently no one has seen Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago lately. It would almost be odd if the two would-be Mussolinis were ignoring each other. Unless they are just pretending to be ignoring each other. Hmm. Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post continues,

But I propose we make an exception for deposed dictators who see Florida as a sanctuary from their failed criminal plots to thwart democracy and establish themselves as kings in perpetuity. 

We took in one of these dead-enders over the weekend. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro slipped out of Brazil and moved into a house in a gated community in Orlando — where he was seen taking a neighborhood stroll. 

Bolsonaro was supposed to be in Brazil, handing over the presidential sash to the man who beat him in the recent presidential election, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. 

But, instead, Bolsonaro hightailed it to Florida after saying, “We will not throw in the towel. We may have lost the battle but not the war.” 

He sounds like Trump, in other words.

It’s possibly significant that Bolsonaro entered the U.S. while he was still the head of state of Brazil. Reuters reports,

A U.S. consular official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bolsonaro had almost certainly entered on an A-1 visa, which are reserved for heads of state, diplomats and other government officials. A second source, a senior former U.S. diplomat, also believed it was almost certain that Bolsonaro had entered on an A-1.

Normally the A-1 is canceled after the recipient leaves office. But with Bolsonaro having left Brazil and entered the United States before his term ended, the official suspected his A-1 was still active.

The official, who has experience with the cancellation of visas for former heads of state, said there is no set time limit on how long someone can stay in the United States on an A-1.

I assume the U.S. State Department would honor any arrest or extradition requests from Brazil.

Even if Trump and Bolsonaro have avoided being in direct touch, there are reports that some of Trump’s entourage expressed support for the protests in Brasilia, and I want to know how much any of them may have been involved.

In other news: My so-called U.S. representative, Jason Smith, will chair the House Ways and Means Committee. No good will come of that. The last I heard from Smith was in a pre-election robocall, in which he was huffing and puffing that if Missouri legalized recreational pot it would lead to teaching Critical Race Theory in public school. He’s a MAGA-headed moron.

Republicans, including Jason Smith, want to defund the IRS. This would cost the nation, a huge amount of revenue.

See Paul Waldman, What the right’s war on ‘wokeness’ in the military is really about

Fani Willis’s Fulton County Grand Jury has concluded its work.

In a brief order issued Monday, Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote that the grand jury has fulfilled its duties to his satisfaction.

In addition, a majority of Superior Court judges who have reviewed the special grand jury’s final report agree, his order stated….

… McBurney also scheduled a hearing on Jan. 24, during which parties — including the Fulton District Attorney’s office that advised the jury, the news media and, presumably, investigation targets — will argue whether the grand jury’s report should be made public. Jurors recommended that their report be published, McBurney said….

… The grand jury’s final report, known as a special presentment, is expected to include a summary of its findings. It may also contain recommendations on whether anyone should be indicted, if a majority of jurors can agree.

Fani Willis will have the final say on whether there will be indictments.

Republicans Have Already Made a Mess in the House

So Matt Gaetz got his pound of flesh out of Kevin McCarthy and gave him the speakership. I missed the part where Mike Rogers had to be physically restrained from punching Gaetz in his smirking face. Too bad. That Rogers was restrained, that is. There are few faces on the planet more deserving of a good punch than Gaetz’s.

There’s a story that Gaetz was offered the chair of an Armed Force subcommittee in exchange for a “yes.” This is from WaPo:

Then Mike D. Rogers of Alabama, who expects to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on which Gaetz serves, stormed toward the huddle, enraged. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), a member of the leadership, walked with Rogers, aware of how angry he was.

Video and photographs show Rogers beginning to yell at Gaetz, when Hudson grabbed Rogers, including across his mouth, and physically yanked him back and sent him away from the group.

A gasp went up across the entire House chamber, as lawmakers realized how close they were to something that could have turned into a physical altercation.

Rogers’s outburst stemmed from an offer floated by GOP leadership that would give Gaetz the gavel of one of his subcommittees, according to two people familiar with the dynamics. According to a fellow lawmaker, Rogers believed there are more qualified members to take on the role.

There are no end of vertebrates more qualified to take on the role, I say, but let’s go on.

“Might give you some perspective on why Mike Rogers blew up on the floor,” they said.

When the drama ended, McCarthy denied any such offers. “I mean, we ended up with a tie and he was able to get the others there to go ‘present,’” he said. As for whether Gaetz would get a subcommittee chairmanship for his vote, McCarthy said: “No one gets promised anything.”

Yeah, we’ll see what Gaetz gets when the smoke clears. And why isn’t Gaetz in jail yet? His buddy Joel Greenburg got eleven years for sex trafficking over a month ago. He was expected to flip on Gaetz. There are a lot of news stories from last September or so saying that charges against Gaetz were “unlikely.” But maybe that can change.

Gaetz wants to be in charge of the Armed Forces so he can weed out all the “wokeism.” See this Vanity Fair column by Bess Levin from April, Matt Gaetz Narrowly Avoids Being Called a “Smug Little Shit” in Official Congressional Record.

Last June, Florida representative Matt Gaetz used his allotted time during a congressional hearing to attack military leadership over the Republican–manufactured claim that the U.S military has become a bastion of wokeism by teaching critical race theory. Unfortunately for Gaetz, the stunt clearly didn’t pan out as he’d hoped, and he essentially had his ass handed to him on live TV. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him: “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke,’ or something else, because we’re studying [things like critical race theory] that are out there.… I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read…and it is important that we train and we understand.”

You might have thought that after that experience, Gaetz—a member of the party that talks a big game about its respect for “law and order”—would subsequently avoid churlishly attacking military leaders in general, let alone repeat that the armed forces have been infected by “woke” ideology. But you‘d have thought wrong!

On Tuesday, the conservative lawmaker used a House Armed Services Committee hearing about the Defense Department’s 2023 budget to berate Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the military’s supposed failures, which he pinned on the Pentagon’s alleged embrace of “wokeness.”

Referring to a February article in the conservative Washington Free Beacon that reported that Thomas Piketty, an economist whose work focuses on inequality, was slated to give a lecture at the National Defense University titled “Responding to China: The Case For Global Justice and Democratic Socialism,” Gaetz asked Austin why taxpayers should be funding talks that “embrace socialism.” When Austin said he was unaware of the lecture, Gaetz snarkily responded that it was “widely reported,” and asked the defense secretary if he agreed that “embracing socialism” would be an effective strategy. Naturally, as Austin began to reply, Gaetz cut him off, moving on to a line of questioning no doubt tailored specifically to appear in a clip on Fox News hours later.

“While everyone else in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic, we got time to embrace critical race theory at West Point, to embrace socialism at the National Defense University, to do mandatory pronoun training,” Gaetz said, to which Austin informed him that the U.S. military remains “the most capable” and “the most combat critical” force in the world and “will be so going forward.”

But Gaetz, who loves himself a camera, obviously wasn’t done. Sounding like a bratty teen yelling at his parents, the lawmaker lectured Austin: “You guys said that Russia would overrun Ukraine in 36 days. You said that the Taliban would be kept at bay for months. You totally blew those calls. And maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism.”

To this Austin asked him, “Has it occurred to you has Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done? And what our allies have done?” Gaetz, who undoubtedly believes he could lead the military if necessary, shot back: “That was baked into your flawed assessment,” before claiming that the Obama administration “tried to destroy our military by starving it of resources, and it seems the Biden administration is trying to destroy our military by force-feeding it wokeism.”

Austin, who clearly has more class than Gaetz, obviously did not use the time between questions from lawmakers to mutter something under his breath about the congressman being a smug little shit, or something to that effect. But it would’ve been hard to blame him if he had!

Let’s be clear that Gaetz has no experience whatsoever in military service. He really is just a smug little shit.  But I’m sure Gaetz has grand plans to be highly visible in similar televised hearings so he can get on the teevee a lot.

So McCarthy got his speakership, but to close the deal he had to give critical committee assignments to the most narcissistic, the dumbest, and the most Trumpy nitwits in his caucus. This crew is going to form a huge bottleneck that will stop anything from getting done in Washington. It won’t just piss off the Democrats. I suspect a lot of Republicans are going to be just as sick of these people in no time, if they aren’t already.


Republicans in Charge, the Series

Sorry I missed some of the action today. I had to go out for a bit. I see that a number of the nutso faction flipped their votes to McCarthy, leaving him just five votes short of 218. Since a few members-elect had to leave for personal business, he may not need all 218.

Update: So they’re in the 13th vote, and five Republicans (so far) have reverted to voting for Gym Jordan. Make that six.

Update: The 13th vote is now history, and I assume the 14th will happen soon. The word is that McCarthy got some holdouts to flip by promising that he would support their plan to hold the debt ceiling hostage to get spending cuts. Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill:

Conservative rebels who blocked McCarthy’s election as Speaker on six consecutive ballots say the Speaker must insist on using the debt limit as leverage to enact major spending reforms — something that Senate Democrats have dismissed as a non-starter over the past decade.  

“Us 20 want changes, and we’re going to stay here until we get it,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday. “Could McCarthy all of a sudden morph into a fiscal conservative? We’ll see.” 

“Is he willing to shut the government down rather than raise the debt ceiling? That’s a non-negotiable item,” he added.  

Here is my obligatory reminder that if the U.S. defaults on its debts it will hurt the U.S. economy for a very long time to come and probably the global economy as well. But you know that.

A group of seven conservatives opposed to McCarthy’s bid to become Speaker circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter last month demanding that the next Speaker “commit to not raising the debt ceiling without a concrete plan to cap spending and operate under a budget that balances in 10 years.” 

Of course, these same people won’t consider adjusting taxes on the wealthy. The budget will be balanced on the backs of the poor and middle class.

Senate Republicans, however, warn that debt ceiling legislation with spending caps isn’t going to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, setting up the two chambers for a stalemate that could put the nation’s credit rating at risk or the federal government on the verge of default.  

“That’s not going to get 60 votes. That’s math,” said a Senate GOP aide, who predicted that “it’s going to be a challenge” to pass legislation to raise the debt limit later this year. 

Alexander Hamilton put the nation on the path of deficit spending, and since then the majority of economists have admitted Hamilton had the right idea. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with balancing the budget, but history shows us that there’s no correlation between the few times there was such a thing in the U.S. and prosperity for everyone. Indeed, the kinds of spending cuts the Right wants to do to balance the budget would probably dump the nation into recession if not depression. But to the Right, a balanced budget has become an object of faith, a kind of mythic totem that cannot be questioned. No matter what the economists say.

Update: They’re adjourning until 10 pm? Are they planning a pajama party? Or are they just going to meet at 10 pm and vote to adjourn for the weekend?

Update: Well, McCarthy loses again. Now they’re fighting over adjourning. I’m not going to stay up watching this.

Republicans in Charge, Day 3

I’m reading that McCarthy has made more concessions to the wackjob caucus, meaning he’s not giving up. I fear we’re in for more of wash, rinse, repeat. Well, it’s just past noon EST, so I assume they’re starting up again …

Annie Karni at the New York Times points out that at no time all week has Kevin McCarthy bothered to address the House to make a case for himself.

Update: Matt Gaetz just voted for Donald Trump for speaker.

Update: Some Republican reps were missing from the seventh vote, but it’s still pretty much the same as the last vote, and McCarthy falls short.

Update: In the seventh vote McCarthy gained not a single vote from previous votes. He’s stuck at 201 votes. Nobody is budging.

Update: Here comes the eighth vote.

Update: In the Ss. No movement toward McCarthy yet.

Update: I’m getting behind. Now they’re in the ninth vote. When McCarthy loses this one, it will break the 20th century record for speaker votes, I believe.

Update: McCarthy lost a vote in the ninth round. He’s down to 200.

Update: It has been noted that since Gaetz has voted for Trump twice, Trump now ties John Quincy Adams for most speaker votes cast for a former president.

Update: They’re discussing whether to do another vote today, I believe.

Update: Yep, they’re doing a tenth vote. The 20th century record is broken. I sincerely hope they aren’t going for an all-time record. The 1855-1856 speaker election lasted for 133 ballots over nearly two months.

Republicans in Charge, Day 2

I understand the Congress critters are all assembled in the House chamber again and will begin a fourth vote soon. It’s not clear that anything has changed from yesterday.

Emily Cochrane wrote in the New York Times,

Nancy Pelosi of California, walking to the House floor, chided reporters for asking about whether Democrats would help pave the way for Kevin McCarthy: “This is a problem of their own making. This is called leadership. They should be able to work it out. Don’t put this at the Democrats’ doorstep.”

John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker,

Over the past few decades, the G.O.P. has gone from being a ruthless and disciplined party of limited government and trickle-down economics to a party of anti-government protest to, now, a party of performative verbiage—in which the likes of Gaetz and Boebert (and, of course, Trump) are far more interested in boosting their follower count, raising money, and appearing on “The Sean Hannity Show” or Newsmax than they are in governance.

This gradual substitution of theatric self-promotion for serious politics has been ongoing ever since Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, and Tuesday’s events merely represented its logical culmination: a newly elected House Republican majority reduced to a rabble incapable of performing the basic function of selecting a leader. 

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

After several hours of blustering and “we’ll see what happens,” Trump finally issued a statement calling for “all good Republicans” to get behind Kevin McCarthy. Matt Gaetz responded, “Sad!” Now the anti-McCarthy faction is preparing to vote for Byron Donalds of Florida.

And the fourth vote has begun.

Update: They’re in the Gs and Byron Donalds already has eleven votes.

Update: Annie Karni writes at the New York Times,

For those looking for a Trump-DeSantis proxy battle angle, our colleague Matt Flegenheimer just texted to remind me that Donalds is a DeSantis ally who may have helped set a campaign finance precedent for the governor to repurpose state re-election funds for a presidential race.

Update: They’re in the Ss, and Donalds has 20 Republican votes.

Update: Final tally, McCarthy 201, Donalds 20, Jeffries 212. One Republican who voted for McCarthy yesterday voted “present” today.

Update: I’m losing track. Fifth vote no change, and they’re about to start a sixth vote?

Update: Sixth vote, no change. The House is adjourned now, but not without protests. They are adjourned until 8 pm this evening.

The Embarrassment Is the Point

I thought the Speaker vote in the House was supposed to happen at noon EST. I think they are in the preliminary stages of the procedure now, just past noon. I’ve been cruising through commentaries about what could happen. Even right-wing pundits are using terms like “train wreck” and “sh*t show.”

If Kevin McCarthy isn’t elected on the first vote, this will make him a weaker speaker even if he is elected on the second vote, the pundits say. But the hard right caucus in the House seems to want to weaken Kevin McCarthy for the sake of weakening Kevin McCarthy. Brendan Buck writes in the New York Times,

A small band of Republican misfits has vowed to vote against Kevin McCarthy, the party’s nominee for speaker. With a razor-thin majority, just five Republicans voting against him could deny Mr. McCarthy the gavel. This would be no small event. The House last failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot in 1923, and it’s only happened once since the Civil War. …

… A failed vote would badly weaken Mr. McCarthy or whoever the new speaker will be. The House is a majoritarian institution, and a speaker’s power is ultimately derived from the ability to produce the 218 minimum votes needed to do business. If Republicans are unable to muster the votes for a speaker, it will make very clear from the outset they cannot be counted on to fulfill the body’s basic responsibilities, such as funding the government and preventing a credit default by lifting the debt ceiling, both of which will be required this year.

It’s supposed to be a big embarrassment for the Republicans if they fail to elect a speaker on the first vote. I doubt they care. Brendan Buck concludes,

But the agitators’ objective isn’t to win the speakership for one of their own; it is to weaken Mr. McCarthy or whoever emerges as the next speaker of the House. The embarrassment indeed may be the point.

Going back to my proposal that one can best understand the Right if one imagines them all to be ten-year-old boys … yeah, pretty much. They’re all in a state of pubescent rebellion.

Well, the votes have begun. I’ll comment more when there’s a result.

Update: They’re still in the Hs, and there have been ten Republican votes for someone other than McCarthy. I think this means McCarthy doesn’t have a prayer.

Update: Yeah, McCarthy is way short of the votes.

Update: Rolling Stone has the list of Republicans who voted against McCarthy.

  • Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)
  • Dan Bishop (R-N.C.)
  • Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.)
  • Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.)
  • Michael Cloud (R-Texas)
  • Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.)
  • Eli Crane (R-Ariz.)
  • Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)
  • Bob Good (R-Va.)
  • Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
  • Andy Harris (R-Md.)
  • Ana Paulina Luna (R-Fla.)
  • Mary Miller (R-Ill.)
  • Ralph Norman (R-S.C.)
  • Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.)
  • Scott Perry (R-Pa.)
  • Matt Rosendale (R-Mt.)
  • Chip Roy (R-Texas)
  • Keith Self (R-Texas).

Rolling Stone continues,

Biggs received several votes, as did Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who himself voted for McCarthy. Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) each received a vote, as did former Rep. Zee Zeldin. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) received 212 votes. McCarthy finished with 203.

The opposition to McCarthy is centered in the far-right Freedom Caucus, whose chair, Rep. Scott Perry, bashed McCarthy in a statement just hours before the voting was slated to commence.

Update: I understand they’ll have another vote soon.

Update: Second vote is underway.

Update: McCarthy is going to lose the second vote also. The anti-McCarthy vote is coalescing around Gym Jordan.

Update: Off topic, but here’s a tidbit from the January 6 committee transcripts. Kellyanne Conway told the committee that the only person Trump fears is Melania.

Update: The anti-McCarthy voters all voted for Gym Jordan this time. Jordan himself voted for McCarthy and Jordan gave the speech nominating McCarthy for the second round of voting. Maybe Jordan can work out a deal between his voters and McCarthy that would break the impasse. Otherwise this could go on for days.

Update: They’re about to start a third vote. I’ll check back in later.

Update: Still no sale. This could go on a while. From what I am reading the holdouts are being difficult purely for the sake of being difficult. Ten year old boys, etc. Democrats could step in and give McCarthy the votes he needs, but from what I’m hearing they aren’t planning to do that anytime soon. The House is adjourned, and there will be more votes tomorrow.

Here Comes Another Year

I am hopeful for the new year, but I was hopeful about 2020 also. So don’t go by me.

Here’s some stuff to read. I’m sure you remember the gun totin’ lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey. Back in 2021 they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and harassment for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. As part of the plea deal they surrendered an AR-15 rifle and a .380-caliber pistol and paid some fines. Then the governor, Mike “Absolutely Useless” Parson, pardoned them. The McCloskeys sued to get their guns and money back, but this week a circuit judge said nope. They get no guns and no refund.

The best thing I’ve read so far about Trump’s taxes is this bit by David Cay Johnston at Daily Beast. There’s a lot of useful information about why the IRS operates as it does and useful suggestions for reform. So do read the whole thing. And then he closes with this,

Perhaps most glaring in the tax returns is that they include 26 Trump businesses—or imaginary businesses—with zero revenue and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductions for expenses.

Unless Trump can produce records showing the expenses are real and meet other standards to be deductible, that’s fraud. That Trump did it 26 times as a candidate and as president is powerful evidence that he qualifies for prosecution by the federal government and New York State for criminal tax fraud.

Watch to see if Attorney General Merrick Garland, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg pursue what looks to me like a slam-dunk prosecution—or continue to enable Trump’s lawless conduct.

Here’s another one from the Daily Beast, by Matt Lewis. The MAGA Right Would Have Called Winston Churchill a ‘Welfare Queen.’

RIP Barbara Walters and Pope Benedict.

By a bunch of people at the New York Times, no paywall, The ‘Red Wave’ Washout: How Skewed Polls Fed a False Election Narrative. This is about how the news media still get sucked into right-wing narratives that are flatly nonsense, and also how the fake right-wing polls predicting a “red wave” caused Democrats to waste campaign dollars on campaigns that were already way ahead.

Paul Krugman, no paywall, How to Destroy a Brand, Musk Style. See also Fidelity slashes Twitter value by 56%.

The Last of Trump’s Taxes Are Released

Trump’s tax returns for the last six years have been set free. Here are top numbers. The numbers show more losses than gains. Also,

In the two years before he became president, Mr. Trump suffered heavy business losses, the records showed. In his first three years as president, he had an adjusted gross income of $15.8 million.

Mr. Trump’s tax bills, after deductions, were based on his income when it was above zero, as well as the alternative minimum tax in four of the six years. The A.M.T. limits deductions that would have otherwise helped to erase his tax burden. He reduced his resulting tax bills with a mix of tax credits that included incentives and givebacks to business owners.

I’m sure a great many news outlets and other organizations have numbers people going through these returns with a fine-tooth comb, and we’ll be hearing from them over the next several days.

The Meltdown of Southwest Airlines

Awhile back I wrote a post about 737 Max plane crashes and the management culture at Boeing that was responsible for them. Well, the Southwest Airline meltdown is looking like about the same story. Although right-wing media and David Sirota are blaming Pete Buttigieg, this is really another installment of how bean counters are destroying America.

A full analysis of why Southwest failed so spectacularly the past few days isn’t out yet, but after reading through a number of articles today it appears to come down to Southwest simply failing to invest in its own company.  Instead it prioritized paying the largest possible dividends to stockholders. People within the industry are blaming Gary Kelly, who became Southwest CEO in 2004 and since 2008 has been the Chairman of the Board of Directors. He’s still chairman, although he stepped down as CEO in January 2022. Kelly’s background is strictly in accounting, with no hands-on experience in airline operations. Long-time Southwest employees today are saying that Kelly put other bean counters in charge of everything. The company for the past several years has been very good at squeezing out profits by cutting corners in technology, infrastructure and staffing. And it caught up to them these past few days, big time.

Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times writes,

“Our internal scheduling software can’t handle massive cancellations,” Michael Santoro, vice president of the Southwest pilots union, told my colleague Margot Roosevelt in an interview. “The company hasn’t invested the money into scheduling infrastructure to support the network they have developed.”

The outdated system is unequipped to handle rerouting involved in hundreds of cancellations, Santoro said. “So pilots are calling in asking, ‘I’m done with this flight — where do I go next? Am I running another plane? Do I spend the night here?’ And pilots are on hold for hours trying to figure out what to do next.”

When the weather is perfect, the software matches crews to planes. “But when there’s a disruption like this storm, our system can’t handle it,” Michael Massoni, first vice president of Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents Southwest flight attendants, told Roosevelt.

“Southwest loses control because we don’t have 21st century technology. So what happens is chaos. Southwest starts to deal with the problem manually, which is incredibly tedious.”

The scheduling infrastructure, which some say hasn’t been updated in more than 20 years, seems to be the primary cause of the recent debacle, although not the only one.

Matt Stieb, New York magazine:

The main reason that their service collapsed and other companies held on was that Southwest runs what is called a “point-to-point” system, offering more direct flights to smaller destinations without returning to a home base between flights. After the pandemic and its huge shock to demand and labor in the aviation industry, many other airlines switched to the hub-and-spoke model: Airlines route the bulk of their traffic through major cities like Houston or Atlanta, then link out to smaller, final destinations. When demand is normal, the weather is good, and airlines are fully staffed, the point-to-point model is competitive because people love direct flights. But when a polar vortex hits the country on one of the biggest travel weeks of the year — amid ongoing staffing shortages — point-to-point becomes a huge mess.

While hub-and-spoke carriers were able to communicate easily with centrally located crews and cancel individual routes in order to control the damage from the storm, Southwest got snowed in. Crews were scattered at airports throughout its map of destinations; these teams use an antiquated phone system to get their flight assignments and could only wait so long for instructions without running into limits on how long they could go without a significant break — a problem that industry unions have been pointing out for years. “The catalyst was the big storm,” Michael Santoro, the vice-president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told the Los Angeles Times. “But our internal software can’t handle massive cancellations. The company hasn’t invested the money into scheduling infrastructure to support the network they have developed.”

For many Southwest flights, it was not the weather on Monday that caused the sweeping cancellations as much as the fact that the weather the previous week had dispersed its crews all across the country. Planes that may have been ready to go couldn’t find a full team, resulting in canceled flights; because the point-to-point system is dependent on previous flights getting in on time, the canceled flights multiplied until the system reached the brink of collapse.

The fact that other big airlines didn’t make this same mistake suggests this outcome was foreseeable.

It’s also rich that right-wing media (and David Sirota) blame Pete Buttigieg for not doing enough to prevent this disaster, since the Right is usually blaming government regulation for all the sins of the world. Lax oversight of the airline industry is arguably a bipartisan failure, since it has persisted too long to blame entirely on one party. But then came the Trump Administration, which basically told industrial America to “do whatever you want.” Enforcement fines against major U.S. airlines dropped by 88 percent between 2017 and 2019, it says here, an article published in 2019. So we’re looking at long-term systemic issues here and an FAA that has long has its hands tied. Maybe someday someone will make a persuasive argument that Pete Buttigieg could have done something to prevent the Southwest debacle, but I haven’t seen that argument yet.

You’ve probably also heard that Southwest has not been exactly generous in issuing refunds or giving stranded people meal and hotel vouchers. I expect Secretary Buttigieg to step up on this issue and make Southwest do right by its passengers. If he still has any presidential ambitions, this is his moment to be a hero.

Self-Destruction on the Right?

A couple of days ago I assumed the newsmakers wouldn’t do anything alarming before today. Well, I was mistaken. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had busloads of migrants dumped in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’s house on Christmas Eve, in below freezing weather. A group called the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network swooped in and got the migrants food and shelter. They say they’re used to it, no big deal.

The nonprofits that have organized to take care of the humanity Abbott has been dumping on them say it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, if only Texas (and Florida) would be willing to coordinate what it’s doing with federal and local authorities instead of just randomly dumping busloads of people in northern cities with no advance notice. But of course this is all about Abbott showing off what an asshole he is to amuse the home folks and “own the Libs,” who are not in fact “owned.” So that’s not going to happen.

Speaking of assholes, a number of Republican office holders show are at least going through the preliminary steps of challenging Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024. Trump’s early declaration is not going to clear the field.

Even better, some circular firing squads are forming. Pillow Guy Mike Lindell is floating the theory that Ron DeSantis is guilty of election fraud. “On his show Tuesday, Lindell indicated that he’s going to turn his crack team of voter-fraud investigators on DeSantis’s win in the 2022 midterms,” it says here. Lindell is suspicious because DeSantis’s margin of victory looked too big, and because DeSantis is now considered the real front runner for the 2024 GOP nomination.

And then a few days ago a cat fight broke out between Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. They are no longer allies. I take it the basis of the rift has to do with Greene’s continued unwavering support for Donald Trump and for Kevin McCarthy to be Speaker of the House. Boebert refuses to commit to Trump in 2024 and to McCarthy ever.

And the Daily Beast reports that the Far Right has turned on MTG as a “faker.”

As for why fellow extremists are upset? That’s three-fold—and it involves Greene’s vocal support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy to be the next Speaker of the House, her public spat with onetime friend Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and the finalization of her divorce.

“MTG wants to protect McCarthy from being removed if he is elected Speaker,” Jan 6th organizer Ali Alexander wrote on Telegram, seething over Greene. “There is something so odd about what is going on between McCarthy and MTG. I’ve only ever once before seen anything like it. It may be time for me to intervene.”

The “Stop the Steal” leader—once an ally of Greene’s—subsequently returned to Telegram to tear into the Georgia Republican, who he referred to as a “trailer park hoodrat,” for “attacking” Boebert earlier this week after the Colorado congresswoman ignited a public feud with Greene. …

… Likewise, former Right Side Broadcasting Network host-turned-failed Republican congressional candidate Mike Crispi suggested that Greene was being “blackmailed” by McCarthy, which he called the “only logical explanation” for her fervent support.

“All she does is bully and try to discredit,” he continued of the Georgia Republican.

White nationalist leader-turned-Kanye West informal campaign associate Nicholas Fuentes additionally turned on Greene earlier this month after she denounced him in late November, despite speaking at Fuentes’s annual AFPAC conference months earlier in March.

Fuentes—who now refers to Greene as “Large Marge”—has since encouraged his white nationalist “groyper” followers to heckle Greene at her campaign events.

Next year may not be that awful.