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.
Speaking of loathsome, misogynist creeps, former Bishop of Rome Joseph Ratzinger died this morning, as groundbreaking journalist Barbara Walters did yesterday.
In other news showing that 2022 refuses to go quietly:
And just a couple of blocks from me, Uncharted Books will reopen next week after the state closed it down for failing to file a required sales-tax form. For months. They might want to fire their accountants for this, as the state requires every business that has taxable sales to file the "quarterly sales tax report" every 3 months. I hope their soon-to-be-former accountants also filed their income taxes...
One of the most loathsome, talentless personalities on the Internet self-pwnd yesterday after going 0-for-2 against 19-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, and it was beautiful. Actor George Takei sums it up:
Oh my, you have that right, George. MSNBC has the details on the accusations against Tate:
On Thursday, [Romanian] prosecutors said that they found evidence that six women had been sexually exploited “using physical violence and mental constraint” by members of the group.
The women had been forced into making pornographic content for distribution on social media for financial gain to the group, they said.
And the New York Post enlightens us about how Tate got caught:
Tate and his brother Tristan were detained on kidnapping and rape charges Thursday after the controversial social media star tweeted a video response to one of Thunberg’s tweets.
In it, Tate asks someone off-camera to bring him pizza and “make sure that these boxes are not recycled” as he’s handed two pies from Jerry’s Pizza — a local chain in Romania.
The video was all authorities needed to pinpoint the former kickboxer’s location and make the arrest.
The back-and-forth between Tate and Grunberg just adds to the Schadenfreude one feels at his arrest. Tate on Wednesday:
And then yesterday evening, after Tate's arrest:
Chef's kiss, Ms Thunberg.
Oh, by the way, you can't recycle pizza boxes—at least not in Chicago, unless you do it very carefully. The oils from the pizza ruin the cardboard.
This moment in the January 6th committee proceedings was total Daily Parker bait (h/t George Conway). It came as the committee interviewed Max Miller, former senior adviser to the XPOTUS and as of next Tuesday the US Representative for Ohio's 7th district. He wanted to establish that no one called his White House office for hours after the insurrection began, pointing to the phone logs as evidence.
I'll let the J6 lawyer explain it:
MILLER (p 120 line 15): I want you to pull up the time from when I left the White House, there's a period of time, there was about 4 or 5 hours, of no phone calls.
J6 LAWYER: And I think what you're referring to is, if we look here...you have a call from Mr. Caporale at 10:40 am.
A: Uh huh.
Q: And the next call that's reflected on your records is 6:40 p.m. on January 6th, so, as you said.
A: So I wanted you to to bring that up is to show you, look, no one called me, right, when things were going wrong....
Q (p 121 line 8): No, I appreciate your perspective, and actually my colleague just corrected me. I need to point something out about how the phone records is—
A: —it's 5 minutes, isn't it?
Q: No, no, no, no. So what that is, is a sign of Greenwich Mean Time. I don't know if in the military you know what that is. So each line reflects whether the time is either Greenwich Mean Time or off of Greenwich Mean Time by some amount. And, at that time of year, the East Coast is 5 hours off Greenwich Mean Time. So, when you see the 6:40 calls on January 6th, the one after Mr. Caporale, you have to take 5 hours off. So that would be...1:40 pm.
A: ...Time is not important...
Congratulations to the anonymous committee lawyer understanding that "18:40Z" is actually 13:40 -0500. Although, now that you mention it, maybe the phone log actually said "18:40 -0500" which would be the time Miller said it was? Too bad we can't see the exhibit.
The world continues to turn outside the Chicago icebox:
Finally, dog biologist (?) Alexandra Horowitz explains how dogs tell time with their noses.
What a delight to wake up for the second day in a row and see the sun. After 13 consecutive days of blah, even the -11°C cold that encouraged Cassie and me to get her to day care at a trot didn't bother me too much.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast says a blizzard will (probably) hit us next weekend, so I guess I'll have time to read all of these stories sitting on the couch with my dog:
Finally, one of my college music professors died this month. Herbert Deutsch co-created the Moog synthesizer and taught at Hofstra University for 40-plus years.
Argentina just won the 2022 World Cup by lining up and taking free kicks at a French goalie in a fitting end to one of the most corrupt and deadly sporting events in history. At least the 2026 World Cup will take place in countries with (reasonably) strong institutions and existing infrastructure.
All the expense, the hype, the scandal, the drama...and in the end, it came down to penalty kicks. It's like having track meet decided by guys jumping one hurdle at a time, or by putting a guy on 2nd base at the top of the 10th inning in a desperate attempt to make baseball more exciting. (Oh, wait...)
France didn't win, but Argentina didn't either, really. Nor did the 6,500 dead construction workers, the athletes, the gay fans, or the 90% of the people living in Qatar who will never have citizenship because, like most petro-states, the Qataris have a form of Apartheid that FW de Klerk could only dream of.
So who really won this evening? FIFA officials, of course. The Qatari elite (for now; in 10 years they will look upon their works, and despair). The bribed European officials who didn't get caught. And probably Lionel Messi, who gets a better send-off this evening than Zidane did, I suppose.
The only appropriate response to FIFA is not to watch. Even John Oliver conceded as much, before admitting he'd watch. Everyone's individual choices make corruption on this scale work. I just wish people would internalize that.
But in Qatar, the lone and level sands stretch far away.
I mentioned this in passing earlier this week, but I wanted to highlight this story of the American automobile fetish and how much it costs us. On Wednesday, the city officially opened an $800 million rebuild of the Jane Byrne Interchange, which started after the Union Pacific Railroad began rebuilding a single train station that still hasn't reopened:
The original Circle Interchange was built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and had no major overhaul until the reconstruction project began in 2013. The project took nearly a decade to complete.
After eight years, the project to overhaul the entire interchange, where three expressways meet, is now substantially complete. It was slated to be complete in 2017, with a price tag of $535 million. It will end up costing $806 million.
Prior to its reconstruction, the interchange struggled to perform under its original 1958 design, resulting in congestion for the majority of the day and frequent unsafe conditions, according to the governor's office.
The American Transportation Research Institute and the Federal Highway Administration at one point rated the interchange the country's No. 1 bottleneck for freight.
I've previously reported on the excruciating wait for the Ravenswood station's east platform to open. But the Jane Byrne rebuild cost two orders of magnitude more and, in my opinion, should never have existed in the first place. Notice, in this 1961 Chicago Tribune photo, the complete destruction of the eastern half of Greek Town plus the flattened West Loop neighborhood between the river and Halsted, all in service of cars—even though Chicago back then had more railroad track per capita than any other city in the world:
Photo: Chicago Tribune
So, wonderful, after spending nearly a billion dollars, the "improvements" will once again induce demand that obviates them, probably within ten years. And that's one interchange. Imagine if we'd spent half that money on regular road maintenance and another half on, oh, the CTA?
The 75-year experiment of dispersing low-density housing over a wide area connected by dangerous, high-pollution roads failed almost as soon as it began. But we still can't accept that building a hundred train stations at $8 million a pop will have better long-term outcomes than rebuilding one road interchange—especially if we build them in one year rather than 10.