We finally have a real May-appropriate day in Chicago, with a breezy 26°C under clear skies (but 23°C closer to the Lake, where I live). Over to my right, my work computer—a 2017-era Lenovo laptop I desperately want to fling onto the railroad tracks—has had some struggles with the UI redesign I just completed, giving me a dose of frustration but also time to line up some lunchtime reading:
Finally, today marks the 30th anniversary of Aimee Mann releasing one of my favorite albums, her solo debut Whatever. She perfectly summed up the early-'90s ennui that followed the insanity of the '80s as we Gen-Xers came of age. It still sounds as fresh to me today as it did then.
US Representative George Santos (R-NY) surrendered to Federal authorities this morning, charged with 13 counts of fraud and related offenses:
Prosecutors said the charges resulted from “fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations” designed to mislead donors, enrich Mr. Santos and win a seat in Congress as a Republican from Queens.
- The bulk of the charges relate to what prosecutors said was a 2022 scheme in which Mr. Santos solicited at least $50,000 in donations from political donors for a fake super PAC and then pocketed the money for personal expenses, including luxury goods and designer clothing.
- As part of that arrangement, prosecutors accused Mr. Santos of committing five counts of wire fraud when the candidate and an unnamed political consultant he directed told potential donors in emails and text messages that their contributions would “exclusively” support the Republican campaign and pay for TV ads.
The charges leave some tantalizing questions unanswered. For example, prosecutors say that he falsely certified that he earned $750,000 from his company, the Devolder Organization, and that he had received between $1 million and $5 million in dividends from Devolder. In their news release, prosecutors note: “These assertions were false. Mr. Santos had not received from the Devolder Organization the reported amounts of salary or dividends.”
The Times has a posted copy of the indictment, as have other news sources.
Rep. Santos has already announced his re-election campaign. Only two of his fellow Republicans have called on him to resign.
I'm on hold with my bank trying to sort out a transaction they seem to have deleted. I've also just sorted through a hundred or so stories in our project backlog, so while I'm mulling over the next 6 months of product development, I will read these:
And my bank's customer service finally got back to me with the sad news that the thing I wanted them to fix was, and we are so sorry, it turns out, your fault. Fie.
In a form of enlightened laziness, I often go into my company's downtown Chicago office on Friday and the following Monday, avoiding the inconvenience of taking my laptop home. It helps also that Fridays and Mondays have become the quietest days of the week, with most return-to-office workers heading in Tuesdays through Thursdays.
And after a productive morning, I have a few things to read at lunch:
Finally, National Geographic digs down to find explanations for the disappearances of five ancient cities, and what that might tell us about our own culture.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has lost his seventh bid for Speaker—nope, eighth—while Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has amassed more cumulative votes for the office than anyone except Sam Rayburn. Things in the House have become surreal, even without a bad lip reading for levity. As Tom Nichols puts it,
What all of these GOP members do seem to have in common is a shared belief that they should be in Congress in order to make other people miserable. Usually, those “other people” are Democrats and various people on the generic right-wing enemies list, but lately, the targets include the few remaining Republicans who think their job in Washington is to legislate and pass bills and other boring twaddle that has nothing to do with keeping the hometown folks in a lather, getting on television, and getting reelected.
And yet, the XPOTUS remains absent from the proceedings, with both sides of the Republican Party basically ignoring him. His "wishes, feelings, threats, anger and really anything else about him are just completely absent from this entire drama. In a way that is the biggest story here."
Meanwhile, back in the real world:
Finally, the most recent defense authorization bill the outgoing Congress passed last week included a provision promoting Ulysses S Grant to General of the Armies. Only George Washington and John J Pershing have held that rank (O-11).
Six times in the last two days, the House has tried to elect a Speaker. In each attempt, no fewer than 19 right-wing crazies refused to vote for Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), meaning that Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries has gotten a plurality of the vote every time. Naturally, they'll try again in a few hours. Naturally, they'll fail again soon after.
Make no mistake: the right-wing crazies have no problem with the richest country in the history of the world operating without a functioning legislature.
In a completely unrelated story, researchers discovered an ant colony trapped in an abandoned Soviet nuclear bunker in Poland that has no queen and no hope of escape:
The wood-ant ‘colony’ described here – although superficially looking like a functioning colony with workers teeming on the surface of the mound – is rather an example of survival of a large amount of workers trapped within a hostile environment in total darkness, with constantly low temperatures and no ample supply of food. The continued survival of the ‘colony’ through the years is dependent on new workers falling in through the ventilation pipe. The supplement of workers more than compensates for the mortality rate of workers such that through the years the bunker workforce has grown to the level of big, mature natural colonies.
Sounds so familiar, and yet...
The House will probably elect a Speaker before the end of March, so we probably won't set any records for majority-party dickery before the Congress even starts. (We might for what the 118th Congress does, though.) But with three ballots down and the guy who thought he'd get the job unable to get the last 19 votes he needs, it might take a few days.
Finally, a ground crew worker at Montgomery Airport in Alabama fell into a running jet engine on Saturday; the NTSB is investigating. Yecch.
The Republicans in the House of Representatives made an own-goal just now as they failed to elect a House Speaker on the first ballot for the first time in over a century:
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California lost his first vote for speaker on Tuesday and was in a pitched battle for the top job in the House, amid a rebellion among hard-right lawmakers that left the post up for grabs and prompted a historic struggle on the floor at the dawn of the new Republican majority.
The Republican mutiny, waged by ultra conservative lawmakers who for weeks have held fast to their vow to oppose Mr. McCarthy, dealt a serious blow to the G.O.P. leader and laid bare deep divisions that threaten to make the party’s majority ungovernable. But it did not end the California Republican’s bid for speaker, which he has vowed to continue, forcing multiple votes if necessary until he wins the top post.
What was supposed to be a day of jubilation for Republicans instead devolved into a chaotic display of disunity within the party as it embarks on its first week in power in the House. And it all but guaranteed that even if Mr. McCarthy eked out a victory — an outcome that appeared remote, given the stalemate at hand — he would be a diminished speaker beholden to an empowered right flank.
With Democrats holding together behind their leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York won more votes than Mr. McCarthy did for speaker — 212 to 203 — a symbolic victory since Mr. Jeffries did not have the support to claim the top job, but an embarrassing metric for the California Republican who has been campaigning for the post for years.
Because the whole House votes for Speaker, the winner needs a majority of all representatives to win. With 435 seats, that means 218. So the Democrats' 212 occupied seats will not win unless 4 Republicans actually cross the aisle, which none of them will do.
And until the House has a Speaker, the House can't conduct any business. Which, as far as extremist Republicans care, works just fine.
Still, the Democratic candidate for House Speaker winning the plurality on the first ballot has to sting. It's a pity the right-wing arsonists in the GOP have no shame.
With tomorrow night having the earliest sunset of the year, it got dark at 4:20 pm—two hours ago. One loses time, you see. Especially with a demo tomorrow. So I'll just read these while devops pipelines run:
Finally, John Seabrook takes a few pages to explain how to become a TikTok star. Hint: do it before you turn 22.
Clearly, I have to get my priorities in order. I've spent the afternoon in the zone with my real job, so I have neglected to real all of this:
Finally, because only one guy writes about half of the songs on top-40 radio, modulations have all but disappeared from popular songs.