I used to enjoy flying Southwest airlines. They seemed to be kind of a cool, relatively relaxed, relatively friendly airline. That was until the holiday meltdown over the course of the last week.
Now, let me explain that I wasn’t personally affected by the holiday meltdown because I did not have to fly anywhere. In fact, I haven’t flown anywhere since the start of the pandemic. But Southwest canceled, since Christmas Eve, something akin to an unfathomable 13,000 flights.
Now, if each flight had an average of 100 passengers, that would mean that there would be something like 1,300,000 people who were affected by these cancellations. If I were any of these people, I would never fly Southwest again.
I have two questions about this whole Southwest debacle that I really don’t understand:
First, there were stories that flight crews from Southwest had to call in to their operations center to indicate their locations, and that some of them had to spend hours on hold.
Southwest doesn’t have a virtual private network into which flight crews can log in and indicate their locations?
I mean, isn’t that what computer systems are for?
You have a VPN, employees log in, and an AI system matches availability with needs. Simple.
My second question involves stories of baggage arriving at their destination without the people involved. My question is, how did the baggage get there?
If there weren’t any flights, how did the bags get there?
If anyone has any insight into these two questions, feel free to leave a comment.
In any case, aside from stranding their passengers for the holidays, these passengers frequently rang up enormous costs while they were trying to get home. People had to buy clothes and toiletries and get their medications renewed, and pay for hotel stays, and pay for rental cars or buses or trains in a valiant effort to get home.
Now we get the stories that apparently many of the other airlines were price gouging the cost of tickets as desperate passengers tried to rebook flights.
There simply is no way that Southwest can make this right. There will be a number of investigations, and probably fines and penalties, but at this point this airline probably deserves to go out of business. You can’t have this kind of epic failure without there being really severe consequences.
I don’t understand how this guy got elected. I’m talking about George Santos, the 34 year old fraudster who just got elected to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers part of northern Long Island and Queens.
Didn’t anyone do any opposition research on this guy?
This guy didn’t engage in a “poor choice of words” or a little bit of “resume inflation” (as he claimed in his defense). This guy lied like lying was going out of style.
He claimed to have graduated from Baruch College and New York University, and neither school has any record of him.
He claimed to have worked for Goldman Sachs and for Citigroup, and neither firm has any record of him.
He claimed to be Jewish, and that his grandparents fled persecution in Ukraine during WW II. Neither of those things turns out to be true.
He claimed that his family was wealthy and had extensive real estate holdings in the U.S. and Brazil, including 13 rental properties in New York alone. Neither of those things is true.
He claimed, in a legal proceeding in Brazil for embezzlement, that he was an “American teacher.” Needless to say, he never revealed the charges against him in Brazil.
He claimed to have been the founder of “Friends of Pets United,” but that also turned out not to be true.
He claimed to have worked for MetGlobal, and that he was a vice president for LinkBridge Investors, according to his campaign disclosure form. That also is not true.
He claimed, also through his financial disclosures, to be the sole owner and managing member of the Devolder Organization, a “family-owned company that managed $80 million in assets.”
He claimed that “employees” of his had died at the Pulse Nightclub shooting back in 2016.
Now some questions have arisen whether Santos, who claims to be a dual citizen of the United States and Brazil, is actually a citizen of the United States. Ah, finally a “birther” controversy with actual teeth.
In any case, this guy seems to have been in a competition with Donald Trump to prove that he could manufacture lies more quickly than anyone.
This whole web started to unravel when a New York Times investigation found inconsistencies in his background. The “embodiment of the American Dream” is really the embodiment of an American fraudster.
Again, doesn’t anyone do opposition research anymore?
Santos could have a serious legal problem explaining where he got the roughly $700,000 he says he “loaned” his campaign. Federal law prohibits candidates from misstating the source of campaign funds.
Otherwise, Republicans have been as quiet as church mice in condemning this man’s actions. Aspiring House Speaker Kevin McCarthy doesn’t want to touch this with a 10 foot pole, as he needs every possible vote if he wants to be Speaker.
That “good Christian” Abott couldn’t even give it a rest on Christmas Eve.
It was bloody cold in D.C. on Christmas Eve, and the migrants arrived without adequate clothing and, of course, no shelter. The Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network, a local grassroots organization, sprang into action, as they have done before, and took care of these people.
In the last year, Texas has bussed about 8700 migrants to Washington D.C., and another 6520 or so to New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Plus the ones that ended up in Martha’s Vineyard.
Okay, we get it Abott, you hate migrants. Of course, they’re coming for a reason. Maybe we should investigate why so many migrants are showing up on our borders right about now. But that would require actually being interested in solving the problem instead of just scoring political points.
Scoring political points seems to be about the only thing today’s GOP is interested in these days.
But they couldn’t give it a rest for a single day, not even on Christmas Eve.
We haven’t gotten too much of the War on Christmas hysteria this year. Maybe Fox News is too busy defending themselves from defamation claims that could take quite the financial bite out of their operation. We haven’t had too much discussion of whether either Jesus (a historical figure) or Santa Clause (a fantasy figure) are white, or some other color.
For the “War on Christmas” zealots that are still out there, fighting their latest skirmish in the culture wars, I’ll just point out that there is no way that any American could escape Christmas, even if they wanted to. Christmas is everywhere, in every store, in every restaurant, on television, even on the Internet. If you work in a retail establishment, from Thanksgiving through New Years, you have to hear a never-ending parade of Carols and other sappy Christmas ditties, until your brain is ready to fall out of your head.
No, what the War on Christmas is really about is not having to share equal billing with other, “un-American” religions, like Judaism, or Islam, or Hinduism, or Buddhism. To be fair, each of those religions only has a few percentage point adherents in the United States, compared to the approximately 40% protestants, 21% catholics, and 2% mormons, as well as the 29% or so that are religiously “unaffiliated.”
So why do these poor bastards have to say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” when the majority of Americans are some kind of religious affiliation?
Maybe just out of respect.
Maybe to just acknowledge that there are people here who are not Christian.
I mean, it doesn’t really matter, because no matter what religion you are, you can’t escape the wall-to-wall coverage of Christianity in the month of December anyways.
So just chill War on Christmas zealots. As long as we have retail establishments, we will always have Christmas. All month long. From Thanksgiving to New Years, at the very least.
On Thursday the January 6th Committee gave us an early Christmas present by releasing its 845 page final report. Unlike the preliminary report they had released on Monday, this one has a detailed six page index, as well as 152 pages of appendices.
The Committee made five overarching recommendations in the report, including the following:
That Trump should be barred from holding federal or state office ever again, based on the 14th Amendment’s prohibition on previous office holders having “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”
That Congress enact stronger criminal penalties for those who obstruct the peaceful transfer of power.
That Congress enact stronger criminal penalties for those who threaten election workers.
That Congressional authority to enforce their subpoenas be clarified, and that House subpoenas be enforceable in federal court.
That there be strengthened oversight over the Capitol Police (including additional joint hearings with testimony from the Capitol Police Board).
Other key findings of the report, many laid out in previous hearings, include the following:
That Trump planned to declare victory regardless of the outcome of the election. The committee lays out how Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election was not spontaneous, but premeditated.
That Trump was aware of the risk of violence when he called on his supporters to march on the Capitol. The report demonstrates how extremist groups like the Oathkeepers and the Proud Boys banded together for the insurrection.
That Trump was aware of violence at the Capitol for more than three hours before he agreed to intervene ( the so-called “187 minutes of dereliction” in which Trump gleefully watched the insurrection happen in real time on Fox News).
That all of Trump’s top aides were aware that no “election fraud” investigations would change the outcome of the election.
Hope Hicks, Trump’s long-time trusted aide testified as to the reason Trump was so insistent that the election was stolen: when she suggested to him that his refusal to concede the obvious was “tarnishing his legacy,” he replied to the effect that “Nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. The only thing that matters is winning.”
And there you have it, my friends.
The only thing that matters is winning.
The foundations of our democracy have teetered this year, election-denialism has become common-place (like with Kari Lake in Arizona) because of one man’s obsession with winning at all costs.
Trump — as has been painfully obvious for some time — doesn’t have anything that he wants to accomplish for America. (We’re still waiting for his “amazing” health care plan.) He just can’t tolerate being seen as a loser.
More than two years after he lost (by more than 8 million votes, by the way) he’s still running his election denialism racket from down south.
In a separate story this week, Fox News’ Sean Hannity — when he was finally put under oath in the defamation lawsuit being prosecuted by the Dominion voting machine company — had to admit that he never believed the lie that Trump was cheated of victory in the 2020 presidential election “for one second.”
Not for one second.
Of course, that didn’t stop him from promoting the election lie for months and months and months on Fox News.
Can’t wait to see what the jury award will be in the defamation lawsuit against Fox News — now that Alex Jones has been ordered to pay more than a billion dollars in damages in the three defamation lawsuits against him — when that one is over.
 This is hardly news to anybody who followed the 2016 campaign where Trump, who expected to lose, laid all of the groundwork for claiming a stolen election.
When it comes to the war in Ukraine, we should really all be thanking our lucky stars that Joe Biden is our President, and not for example (checks notes) Donald Trump! We’re now 300 days into the war against Ukraine, and yet, we (1) don’t have World War III and (2) Ukraine is still independent. And a lot of the thanks for that can go to Joe Biden.
Some Repuglicans, like Lauren Boebert and even Kevin McCarthy, are asking why we continue to support Ukraine. And the answer is clear: Ukraine is now the firewall between democracy and autocracy.
It’s the Ukrainians, not us, that are sacrificing their lives.
It’s the Ukrainians, not us, that are sitting in freezing conditions without electricity.
All that we’re doing is supplying armaments and some other funds.
It is, frankly, the least we can do.
On Wednesday, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky made the trip to the United States, and made an address to the joint session of Congress, to make sure that we don’t pull the plug on our financial support. And to remind us that they really are what stands between us and autocracy.
Some Repuglicans seem to be with Vladimir Putin because they apparently think he’s with them in the culture wars. Mostly that means that Putin is not in support of LGTBQ rights. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that conservatives hated the Russkies. What a turn-around we’ve done since Trump became President.
In any case, Biden has walked the fine line between not dragging us into World War III and giving the Ukrainians enough support to successfully defend themselves. And they’ve defended themselves with honor.
Who knew that Ukrainians were so serious about democracy?
In all the time that he was running for president and subsequently that he was president, Donald Trump claimed that he could not release any of his taxes because they were all being “audited” by the IRS.
Well — and I know this is a shocker — that turns out to be a lie.
Trump fought them at every turn, including appealing cases all the way up to the Supreme Court.
There were two theories about why Trump was so desperate for the American people not to see his returns: first and foremost, that he was not really as rich as he claimed to be; second, that it was scandalous how little he paid in taxes, and how fraudulent his taxes are.
It turns out that Trump paid no taxes in 2017, paid $5.3 million in 2018, paid $558,000 in 2019, and again nothing in 2020. His taxable income in these years was also a roller coaster ride. Trump had no “taxable” income in 2017, $23 million in 2018, $3 million in 2019, and once again nothing in 2020.
How is that possible?
It depends on the strategic distribution of business losses from year to year, which soak up income levels and tax liability.
It’s a shell game.
His taxes also indicate that Trump was making his money through investments, not through his businesses. His real estate ventures and other businesses consistently lost money, while most of his actual income was coming through interest earned on his investments.
For example, in 2020, Trump made more than $10.6 million in taxable interest while reporting a $15 million loss from his rental real estate properties and similar ventures.
To be sure, you have to be damn rich to have that much in investment income. If you assume a 10% return on investment, it suggests that Trump may be worth closer to $100 million (still not chump change), but certainly not the billions that Trump has always claimed to be worth.
In any case, the House Ways & Means Committee — which is now in possession of six years of Trump tax returns — voted to release them to the public. Tax experts will have the chance to go through them with a fine-tooth comb, and will be able to ascertain how much chicanery Trump has been engaging in.
Yesterday the January 6th Committee had its final, choreographed hearing, and dropped a preliminary 145 page report. One can get a PDF version of the report here. (The full, 1000+ page is scheduled to drop later this week, with various bookhouses scheduled to publish the whole thing. I pre-ordered my copy back in March.)
The preliminary report was in a kind of narrative format, not quite as organized into chapters and subchapters as I had expected. No matter. As is by now well known, the Committee recommends that Trump be prosecuted for four particular violations of federal law. These are:
Acting to “Incite,” “Assist” or “Aid and Comfort” an Insurrection , 18 U.S.C. § 2383
So now there is finally a little “meat” on that bone.
But that’s not all.
The Committee also recommended the prosecution of John Eastman, a former professor and dean at the Chapman University School of Law who became one of Trump’s preferred legal advisors. (Eastman, it turns out, also tried to edit his own Wikipedia page to put a more positive spin on his work, but was exposed for that as well.)
And if that’s not enough, the Committee also recommended referring four sitting members to the House Ethics Committee: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Representative Jim Jordan, Representative Scott Perry, and Representative Andy Biggs.
Needless to say, none of these four will actually be referred to the Ethics Committee. McCarthy is, after all, the incoming House Speaker (assuming he can get his caucuses’ vote in line to actually deliver for him); Jordan is about to become the chair of the Judiciary Committee; and the other two are House “Freedom Caucus” members who will be immune from an ethics investigation as long as Republicans are in charge.
In addition, as many other commentators have already noticed, making a “referral” to the Department of Justice does not obligate the DOJ to undertake any particular prosecution.
House Republicans have already been saber-rattling about how they are going to investigate the January 6th Committee and how the Committee had better preserve their documentation — which they are already legally obligated to do — but that’s mostly because this is very bad for the GOP. Not so much with their own voters, but mostly with independents, the voting bloc that everyone needs to get to be President, as well as for many other federal offices.
The committee’s work — and how deliberately and carefully they went about it — is definitely not good news for Republicans, no matter how they try to spin it.
Tonight, there were massive numbers of Argentinians celebrating the win of their team in the World Cup, and the coronation of their king, one Lionel Andrés Messi.
Myself, I have a complicated relationship to patriotism and sports allegiance, some of which is resurfacing during the World Cup. When it comes to basketball, for example, I root for my adopted country of the USA, the country which created and perfected basketball. But when it comes to soccer (or “football,” as the rest of the world knows it), I root for Germany, the country of my birth.
Americans don’t care about soccer. Germans are passionate about it. And back in 1954, at the “Miracle of Bern,” this was the tournament where the Germans were essentially let back into the international community. Against the “magical Magyars” of Hungary, the Germans managed to surprise with a 3:2 victory.
I can only imagine how the rest of the world felt about the Germans beating the Hungarian golden generation. The f**king Germans! But it was the first thing that brought Germans any joy at all in the decade since the end of the war. Germany has been resurgent about every 20 years since then, winning further World Cups in 1974 (against the Netherland’s “golden generation”), 1990, and 2014 (beating the Brazilians 7:1 along the way).
So my relationship to “patriotism” is complicated at best. On the one hand, the United States is still considered to be the hub of scientific and business innovation, and of course, during WWII essentially saved the world from fascism against the country of my birth. But the United States also has the legacy of slavery, and racism, and meddling in the affairs of other countries. And gross inequality. And the country of my birth? Well, there’s the holocaust. A thousand years from now, that is still what Germany will be remembered for. It doesn’t matter that the country also produced Bach, and Beethoven, and Freud, and Einstein, and Marx, and Goethe, and Gutenberg, and Johannes Kepler (many of whom were Jewish, of course). We will be known for the holocaust. I’m not complaining about it, I’m just stating a fact.
It makes cheering for either of my countries, my adopted country or the country of my birth, a complicated affair. I’ve always detested the “we’re #1” jingoism of American sports fans. We’re not #1. When it comes to most measures of a society’s welfare, we’re well down in the pack. We’re not even #1 in terms of economic mobility, where there are other countries that do much better on this score.
Yesterday, there were two very sad stories dealing with guns and mental health. The first was the ten-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shootings; the second was the suicide of Steven “tWitch” Boss.
Anniversary of Sandy Hook
Ten years ago, on December 14, 2012, a 20 year old kid named Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, and then went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed 27 more people, including 5 teachers and administrators and 22 kids (almost all of them in the 4th grade). Obama was President at the time. I remember thinking that if this doesn’t produce some actual gun reform, nothing ever will.
And nothing ever did.
In the aftermath of the shooting, nothing happened. No gun laws were changed. Nothing was done to protect students and teachers and schools. Instead, we got ludicrous ideas from NRA apologists, like that we should be “arming teachers” (as if they were a branch of law enforcement).
The solution is simple: ban the private sale of assault weapons.
We had a ban before, and it worked. It was allowed to expire, and things have been much worse ever since.
Republicans identify the completely unregulated sale of firearms with their political “freedoms.” In the United States, we now have 120 guns for every 100 people, which is more than any other country in the world. In fact, the next closest is Yemen (that’s right, Yemen!) — where they only happen to be fighting a civil war — where there are about 52 guns per one hundred people in the population.
Gun ownership has actually declined since the 1970s, but now there are far more guns in fewer hands: a study in 2017 showed that about half of US guns are owned by about 3% of the population. (That was before Americans launched a new gun-buying spree after 2020, based on the alleged fear that liberals were going to come and get their guns.)
I always laugh, by the way, when commentators intone about a school shooter that they “appeared” to have mental health problems.
The fucker just shot up a school!
You don’t shoot up a school if you don’t have mental health problems.
Or shoot up a black church or a Jewish temple or a gay nightclub.
Have you ever noticed that no black gunman shoots up an all-white church, no lone Jewish gunman shoots up a Christian church, no gay person shoots up a straight nightclub.
That shit only happens on one side of the ideological spectrum.
Steven “tWitch” Boss
Also yesterday came the news that Steven “tWitch” Boss — perhaps best known as the “dancing DJ” on the Ellen Degenris show — had committed suicide at the age of 40.
I don’t watch the Ellen show, but I had gotten to know Boss a few years earlier when he was one of the featured competitors on So You Think You Can Dance, Season 3. The man was a hell of a dancer.
Since then, his career trajectory appeared to be upward, especially his stint on the Ellen show. He married fellow dancer Allison Holker, and they had two kids. He also adopted Holker’s daughter. He was, according to her, the “the backbone of our family, the best husband and father, and an inspiration to his fans.”
But he wasn’t a good enough husband and father to stay alive for his family.
The moral of the story here is, once again, that you just don’t know what someone else is living through. Here’s a guy who appeared to have it all. He was very talented, very charming, and seemed to be completely at ease in front of the camera and in his life.
And now he’s dead.
I don’t know anything about the personal demons that must have haunted Steven “tWitch” Boss. I’m just very sad for him and his family. Maybe he couldn’t figure out what he would do as a follow up to the Ellen show. Maybe he was in over his head financially. Maybe he had a chemical depression. The man obviously had resources, so he could have gone to counseling. Maybe he was in counseling. Maybe he was on medication. Who knows?
All I know is that he decided to end his own life, but at least he didn’t decide to take out a school, or a church, or a temple, or a grocery store along the way. He just made life a lot tougher for his family, but he didn’t hurt anyone else.
Maybe we should have made it tougher for him to commit suicide by making it harder for him to acquire the gun he used to kill himself.
These are the ramblings of a disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
About this Blog
This blog tackles the two bête noire of dinner-table conversation, politics and religion. What politics and religion have in common these days is the almost complete absence of critical thinking. Religion is mostly characterized by wishful thinking, whereas politics is mostly characterized by increasingly polemicized rhetoric designed to inflame instead of inform. If nothing else, I want people to wake up and stop being seduced by deluded thinking.