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Biden’s Bid to Diversify the Federal Judiciary Hits a High-Water Mark

The president has made the most of Democratic control of the Senate.

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As the second year of his presidency draws to a close, Joe Biden has nominated an impressively diverse array of judges.

As the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, since he took office in 2021, 97 lifetime federal judges have been confirmed under Biden, far outpacing his predecessor Donald Trump (85) and former boss Barack Obama (62). This is due mainly to the fact that Democratic Party control of the Senate has allowed the president to push through nominations.

Three out of every four of those confirmations were women. About two-thirds were people of color. Eleven Black women were appointed to the powerful circuit court, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black Woman to serve on the Supreme Court. They also have a wide range of experience, including public defenders or people with backgrounds in workers’ rights.

The diversity of nominations “says to the American people…if you wind up in federal court for whatever reason, you’re much more likely to have a judge who understands where you came from, who you are, and what you’ve been through,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told the AP. “Having a more diverse federal bench in every single respect shows more respect for the American people.”

The push for diversity should come as no surprise. Biden promised to counteract Trump’s judicial legacy, which saw the judiciary pushed to the right, as well as bringing new perspectives to the bench beyond the overwhelmingly white and male nominees seen under Trump.

Biden’s number two is Kamala Harris, the first Black and Asian vice president, and he boasts one of the most diverse cabinets in history. He also nominated Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Cook is the first Black woman to serve on the Board, and Jefferson is the fourth Black man.

But while he has done well in filling public-facing roles, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which focuses on issues related to Black equity, said he needs to do more to make sure internal positions are equally diverse.

Here’s Everything That George Santos Has Lied About (So Far)

This is an exhausting—but non-exhaustive—list.

George Santos in November
Alejandra Villa Loarca/Getty Images
New York Representative-elect George Santos

New York Representative George Santos has put on a clinic when it comes to building your own narrative. He has displayed inimitable will in showing that in politics, you don’t really need to “do” or “be” anything—you can just make it all up. That is, until The New York Times reports that you indeed, made it all up.

Since then, it’s been an unending cascade of revelations—each more bizarre than the last—showing that we can’t really trust anything that he has ever said. Poke around at practically any sentence he has uttered in public over the past few years, you’ll likely find something about it that isn’t quite right: lies, obfuscations, cover-ups, or simply absurd behavior kept under wraps. There’s so much—too much!—to keep track of. But we’ll give it a try. Here’s our exhausting, non-exhaustive list of all the yarn George Santos has spun.

Being a drag queen: A 2008 photo from Brazil depicts Santos, known at the time as Anthony, in a drag costume under the moniker Kitara Ravache. The photo comes from Santos’s old friend Eula Rochard, a Brazilian drag queen who has said she met Santos when he was a teenager, as they bonded over both being gay and enjoying drag.

Santos didn’t exactly lie about not doing drag, but he has vocally supported at least one anti-LGBTQ law and positioned himself among a political movement incredibly antagonistic toward drag queens and others who enjoy drag.

His mom’s death: In July 2021, Santos tweeted that “9/11 claimed my mothers life.” Santos’ campaign website explains that “George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded. She survived the tragic events on September 11th, but she passed away a few years later when she lost her battle to cancer.” Previously, the website wrote that she was also the “first female executive at a major financial institution,” and it did not include the detail that she had died from cancer.

Newly uncovered immigration records show that Santos’s mother was not even in the United States at all that day. She had applied for a visa to enter the United States from Brazil in February 2003, and on the application, she wrote that she hadn’t been in the United States since 1999.

Raising money for a homeless veteran’s dying dog through his “charity,” only to then steal the money and leave the veteran in the dust and his dog to die: In May 2016, Santos allegedly raised $3,000 for a homeless and disabled veteran’s service dog, Sapphire, who was suffering from a life-threatening stomach tumor. Santos claimed to have run a nonprofit called Friends of Pets United, and offered to help the veteran raise money for the dying dog through it. After Santos (who went by Anthony Devolder at the time) closed the GoFundMe, he took the $3,000 and was never heard from again. Sapphire died two months later.

Santos has previously claimed he ran his nonprofit, one “able to effectively rescue 2400 dogs and 280 cats, and successfully conducted the TNR [which stands for “trap neuter and release,” not “The New Republic”] of over 3000 cats,” according to his website. Axios found no evidence of this organization in either IRS filings or ProPublica’s nonprofit database. CNN found that he instead also ran a campaign for a pet charity under the alias “Anthony Zabrovsky,” on a GoFundMe page that no longer exists.

Leading a ponzi scheme company: Santos worked at Harbor City Capital Corporation in 2020 and 2021. In a 2021 complaint against the company, the SEC called it a “classic ponzi scheme.” Santos’s attorney told CNN that Santos was “completely unaware of any illegal activity” at the company. Santos himself told The Daily Beast that he was “as distraught and disturbed as everyone else” to learn about the complaints against Harbor City.

But CNN found a since-removed tweet from Santos’s since-deleted account (for which his name was George Devolder), showing him communicating with a customer complaining about potential fraudulent activity at Harbor City. “I’m sorry I’m not following you. Could you please send me an email at and we can go over this together,” Santos responded, showing he indeed became aware of complaints against the company. Santos also called himself “the head guy” at the company’s New York office and the company executive. In one 2020 clip, Santos claimed to manage a $1.5 billion fund for the company. So Santos is lying either about how much responsibility he had at the company, or whether he knew about the allegations against the “ponzi scheme” company—or some combination of both.

Being a volleyball star: Santos allegedly told the Nassau County Republican Chair that he was a volleyball star who helped lead the Baruch College team to a “league championship.” There is no record of Santos attending Baruch, and none of the team rosters include Santos.

Getting Covid and his general medical history: The Daily Beast reported a series of inconsistencies in Santos’ portrayal of when and how he got Covid. He has cited several different dates for when he tested positive for the virus and portrayed various different experiences of having it—sometimes saying the virus is overblown and “just [the] flu,” other times describing his time as “the worst two weeks of my life as an adult.”

He has also claimed underlying conditions—including immunodeficiency, acute chronic bronchitis, and a prior brain tumor—left him more susceptible to the virus. He has seldom mentioned these conditions elsewhere, nor has he provided further substantiation on them since.

Stealing all his friend’s money and pawning off her jewelry: Brazilian outlet Fantástico reported on a woman who was allegedly swindled by Santos over a decade ago. Adriana Damasceno said she met and befriended Santos at bingo in Niterói, a Brazilian city part of Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area. In 2011, they allegedly traveled to the United States together, where Santos used her identity to go shopping, withdrawing all the money she had in the bank and even pawning jewelry. Fantástico says Santos did not respond to requests for comment.

His voting record and when he even joined the House: As of early January 4, one day after his first day, Santos’ website claimed he voted “nay” on the House omnibus bill, a vote that took place on December 23, 2022. The vote has since been scrubbed from the website. It is unclear why a newly-elected member of Congress would choose to do this.

The lie comes after Santos also posted a press release January 3 announcing his swearing in to Congress, something that actually hadn’t happened given that the House had yet to select a speaker. The mis-announcement could readily be chalked to an accidental posting or staffer mistake. Actively marking down a vote that simply never happened is also erroneous, but much less likely to be an honest mistake.

Animal charity: Santos claimed he ran a nonprofit called Friends of Pets United, “able to effectively rescue 2400 dogs and 280 cats, and successfully conducted the TNR [which stands for “trap neuter and release,” not “The New Republic”] of over 3000 cats,” according to his website. Axios found no evidence of this organization in either IRS filings or ProPublica’s nonprofit database. CNN found that he instead ran a campaign for a pet charity under the alias “Anthony Zabrovsky,” on a GoFundMe page that no longer exists.

His mom’s death: In July 2021, Santos tweeted that “9/11 claimed my mothers life.” A few months later, in December, he honored his mother with a tweet that read “December 23rd this year marks 5 years I lost [sic] my best friend and mentor. Mom you will live forever in my heart.”

Santos’ campaign website explains that “George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded. She survived the tragic events on September 11th, but she passed away a few years later when she lost her battle to cancer.” Previously, the website wrote that she was also the “first female executive at a major financial institution,” and it did not include the detail that she had died from cancer.

There have been deaths attributed to 9/11-related illnesses. Santos’ mother could indeed be among those, but the details are mucky, given his initial suggestion that Santos’ mother lost her life on the actual day.

Being a Brazilian criminal: Santos allegedly stole two checks belonging to an 82-year-old man his mother was taking care of, and used them to buy shoes and clothes. Santos was charged with embezzlement, and the case is actually still open.

An undisclosed marriage: Santos became the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. But the Daily Beast reported that Santos did not disclose a previous marriage he had to a woman—one that ended just 12 days before he began his first congressional campaign. “I’m very much gay…People change,” Santos has said. “I’m one of those people who change.”

His heritage: Santos, who has called himself “half Jewish” and a “Latino Jew” had repeatedly claimed his maternal grandparents “survived the Holocaust.” His website described them first fleeing Jewish persecution in Ukraine and settling in Belgium before again fleeing persecution during World War II. He has even claimed they changed their Jewish last name from Zabrovsky. But records show those grandparents were born in Brazil—with no indication of them having a Jewish background. And there is no evidence of his family changing their supposed last name.

In the manner of an amateur Dad-joke, Santos has in the past joked that he is “Jew-ish.” In an interview with Fox News host Tulsi Gabbard, he doubled down on that very normal defense.

Santos also claimed that his “White Caucasian mother, an immigrant from Belgium” fled “socialism in Europe.” Records show his mother, like her parents, was born in Brazil.

Santos has also claimed to be biracial—“Caucasian and black”—to be specific. In a statement responding to first reports from The New York Times into his lies, Santos only claimed to be a “Latino,” (before falsely attributing a quote to Winston Churchill). This does not preclude Santos from being biracial—but clarity on any part of his background has been hard to come by.

His professional background: Santos claimed to have worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup as a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor.” Both Goldman Sachs and Citigroup told The New York Times they had no record of his employment. Santos subsequently admitted he “never worked directly” for the companies, instead saying he interfaced with the companies while serving as VP at a company called LinkBridge.

He has also claimed to be a landlord, complaining on Twitter about people not paying their rent during Covid. The Times found no rental property-owning records associated with him.

His educational background: Santos has claimed that he obtained a degree from Baruch College. The school could not confirm that to be the case. “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning,” Santos later admitted. “I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume.”

He also has repeatedly claimed to have attended Horace Mann, an elite New York City preparatory school. CNN reported the school did not have evidence of him ever attending.

His campaign funding: In 2020, Santos reported holding no assets and having a salary of $55,000 from his position at LinkBridge. The Daily Beast reported that just two years after that, Santos claimed a net worth as high as $11.5 million—all of it coming from the newly-formed Devolder Organization, from which Santos claims to have received $750,000 in salary and between $1 and $5 million in dividends. Some $700,000 of the organization’s money funded Santos’ campaign, in what looks to be a potentially illegal laundering of big-money donations.

The Pulse shooting: In an interview with WYNC, Santos said that four people who worked for him were killed during the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016 that left 49 people dead. The New York Times did not find any evidence for that claim.

Of course, tons of politicians exaggerate, embellish, and stretch the truth. But in the party of Herschel Walker, Donald Trump, and company, it seems “George Santos”—if that’s really even his name—will fit right in.

This post was updated.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Ready to Give George Santos a Chance

Having backed Kevin McCarthy's bid for the speaker's gavel, she needs all the votes she can get.

John Bazemore/Getty Images
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene

Embattled Representative-elect George Santos has been taking fire on numerous fronts as the steady drip of lies and fabrications continues to churn in the newscycle. But he has at least found one ally willing to look past all of his problems: Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Santos has admitted to lying about his professional background and education. He maintains he merely claimed to be “Jew-ish” despite previously claiming he was descended from Holocaust refugees. He has yet to explain how he went from reporting having no assets or earned income in 2020 to declaring he was worth millions in 2022. It apparently took 15 years for his mother to die in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

He now faces calls to resign and an investigation by the Nassau County district attorney. Fellow Republican New York Representative-elect Nick LaLota has called for Santos to be investigated by the House Ethics Committee. But the most prominent House Republicans have remained silent…until now.

Greene, one of the most vocal MAGA Republicans in Congress, came out swinging in Santos’s defense Tuesday night.

“I think we Republicans should give George Santos a chance and see how he legislates and votes, not treat him the same as the left is,” she said on Twitter, noting she believes “actions and words are extremely important.” Therein, of course, lies the rub: Greene is a conspiracy theorist who has lied to her constituents about the outcome of the 2020 election, Covid, and climate change. She has voted against major legislation that would improve the lives of the people she represents.

And all of her latest words and actions are likely nothing more than a power play. Greene has been an avid supporter of Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speakership. With Republicans holding only a razor-thin majority in the chamber, McCarthy will need every vote he can get to take the gavel—and that includes Santos.

Santos won his district by only eight points. If he is recalled, there is no guarantee the district—which went for Joe Biden in 2020—will send another Republican to Congress.

Greene has tried to rally her colleagues behind McCarthy. If she succeeds, then the new speaker will owe her—and perhaps Santos—big time.

What Are You Doing for New Year’s Eve, Jair Bolsonaro?

Brazil's losing presidential candidate might be ditching his wife and skipping Lula’s inauguration to hang out at Trump’s resort.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro joins President Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago in March of 2020.

The past few years have been rough on all of us. Many have lost jobs, homes, loved ones. In these uneasy times, we have been able to look up to the select few who have persisted anyhow—but even our heroes need a break too.

Such is the tale of authoritarian former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose loss to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in this year’s presidential election may lead him to seek refuge at … Donald Trump’s Florida resort? It’s a very on-trend move, anyway.

According to Brazilian outlet UOL, Bolsonaro plans to skip out on officially handing over the presidential sash to Lula, and instead cool his jets at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. The venue is familiar territory for Bolsonaro; he and Trump shared a meal there in March 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic which both leaders famously bungled (the U.S leads the world in Covid deaths at nearly 1.2 million; Brazil is right behind at nearly 700,000).

A future Zagat guide might describe the resort as the perfect sanctuary for serially-criminal and basically off-putting guys who just cannot fathom that people simply might not want to vote for them again. However, some Bolsonaro insiders claim that his New Year’s Eve destination will actually be an Orlando condominium—a home offered to Bolsonaro by a supporter.

La Nacion’s reporting affirms the ambiguity of Bolsonaro’s exact plans, but confirms preparations are indeed in motion for the former President to travel to Florida. He will likely depart in the coming days, as access to the presidential plane only lasts through his term, which expires Saturday. So, while Bolsonaro will ring in the new year retreating from his home country, the revival of Lula will mark the new year in Brazil.

It remains unclear whether Bolsonaro will be joined on holiday by his wife, Michelle. Earlier reports indicated she would not be traveling, but recent updates report her planning to travel to Miami while her husband embarks on his solo venture.

Regardless, Bolsonaro—who has still refused to concede the election—now may be skipping his successor’s inauguration and ditching his wife to sojourn in Florida for up to two months. Perhaps we just found our Loser of the Year.

Biden’s Covid-19 Cupboard Is Growing Bare

As the funding that helped turn the tide of the pandemic dries up, a dire burden mounts on the backs of uninsured Americans.

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Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are on the rise once more in the United States, but government funding to fight the disease is on the decline—permanently.

Existing funds to battle the coronavirus are running out, and the White House has been asking Congress for months to include billions of dollars for testing, vaccines, and treatments in the omnibus spending package that just passed the Senate. But the massive $1.7-trillion federal budget bill includes no mention of federal Covid funding.

In June, Joe Biden’s administration began using funds previously earmarked for coronavirus tests and protective equipment to buy more antiviral pills and vaccines. Eventually, that money will run out, too. Once government funding ends, paying for Covid testing, vaccines, and treatments will be bounced back to health insurance companies, which will make it “incredibly hard to deal with COVID, to get tested for it, to get treated,” Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care doctor in Washington, told Marketplace.

For a few years, the coronavirus forced the U.S. government and health care system to actually work. Testing centers dotted street corners; treatments were free; and vaccines were smoothly rolled out on a massive scale. But when government funding dries up, that is all going to change for the worse.

More than 27 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2021, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, meaning they and anyone else who has since lost coverage would have to pay out of pocket for Covid supplies. And many of them will likely be unable to afford to do so. As a result, more people are likely to forgo getting the latest booster shot or even getting tested, raising the probability of increased community spread and the likelihood of new variants emerging.

Biden has declared the pandemic over (except for people who have chronic illnesses or autoimmune issues, or are disabled). But if people are forced to do without the latest vaccine, it may very well come surging back.

The Latest January 6 Revelation About Mark Meadows Is Both Literally and Figuratively Incendiary

Score one for everyone who thought the Trump administration was like the Coen Brothers movie “Burn After Reading.”

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Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the House January 6 investigative committee that she saw her erstwhile boss, Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, regularly burn documents in his office fireplace.

Hutchinson was a star witness for the committee over the summer, providing bombshell details about Donald Trump’s level of knowledge of and involvement in the attack on the Capitol. She also made a series of fiery revelations when she initially testified in May, according to transcripts the committee released Tuesday.

Hutchinson said that Meadows burned multiple batches of documents about a dozen times in his office fireplace between December 2020 and January 2021, including after two meetings with Representative Scott Perry. Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, has been linked to efforts to make the Justice Department overturn the 2020 election.

Meadows has been ordered to testify about efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia. Talking Points Memo also reported in early December that a laundry list of election deniers in Congress had texted Meadows multiple times about subverting U.S. democracy in Trump’s favor.

Hutchinson also testified that Representative Marjorie Taylor Green discussed the QAnon conspiracy group multiple times with Meadows and Trump; during one of those conversations, she told Meadows that her QAnon supporters would be attending the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, which eventually turned into the Capitol Riot.

Her testimony comes a week after the revelation that Trump’s former ethics attorney advised Hutchinson to lie to the January 6 committee.

Supreme Court Orders the U.S. to Keep Violating Its Own Laws and Reject Asylum Seekers

The Calvinball court is at it again with its recent Title 42 decision.

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted to keep Title 42—a Trump-era policy that expels asylum seekers—in effect, overriding a district judge’s November decision that would have ended the policy last week. The Supreme Court will now entertain arguments in February, with a decision expected months from now, in June.

The 5-4 decision went in favor of the 19 Republican state attorneys general who had filed an emergency request in response to a ruling from U.S. district judge Emmet Sullivan, who ruled that Title 42 was “arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.” Sullivan’s ruling described how the Center for Disease Control hadn’t evolved the policy alongside the changing state of the pandemic, failing to make adjustments as wider availability of vaccines, testing, and treatments became the norm.

The majority’s decision flicked at the court’s conservative bloc’s tendency to play Calvinball with the law; having previously allowed the Trump administration the leeway to act as it willed in illegally rejecting asylum seekers, it thwarted the attempts of the executive branch to remediate those policies once it became “the Biden administration.”

But the decision didn’t entirely break along partisan lines. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Kentanji Brown Jackson in dissenting. Gorsuch wrote that “the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis,” and accordingly, “courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency.”

Gorsuch’s thoughts in a losing opinion can only provide so much comfort. After all, just as the 19 Republican attorneys general sought to use Covid as a justification for draconian asylum restrictions, the Supreme Court played a similar round of Covid Calvinball last year when deciding to reject administrative action for workplace safety. Arguing that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Covid testing mandate for workers overstepped the boundaries of the agency’s authority by issuing a “public health” edict instead of a “workplace safety” rule, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to block the mandate.

In that instance, the court’s six conservative justices argued that Covid presented a “universal risk” and not just a specifically occupational hazard; the dissenters rightly pointed out that “[the OSHA statute] is indifferent to whether a hazard in the workplace is also found elsewhere.… That provision authorizes regulation to protect employees from all hazards present in the workplace.… It does not matter whether those hazards also exist beyond the workplace walls.”

With the conservative-led Supreme Court’s incoherence on overseeing Covid-inspired policy, it’s no surprise that Republican members of congress—particularly those who have been on the front lines of Covid denialism—have cited the pandemic as a justification to skip votes (and sometimes end up instead happily attending CPAC).

The United States continues to disregard its own laws and principles on accepting asylum seekers. Halfway through the Biden administration, the Trump-era policy tweak has been allowed to continue while Biden has sought to quietly neutralize the border as an issue. In response to the Court’s decision, the administration says it is still preparing to manage the border while the Court reviews Title 42, and challenges Republicans “to move past political finger-pointing and join their Democratic colleagues in solving the challenge at our border.” But such bland messaging might not be up to snuff in confronting a Supreme Court that seems to want to make up the rules of the game as it goes along.

Tesla’s Share Value Losses Reached a Sexy Low in 2022

Perhaps the only good news about the firm's precipitous stock plunge is that it gave Twitter's meme-knowers a chance for laughs.

Mark Maketa/Getty Images

Elon Musk’s year just went from bad to … nice.

The value of Tesla’s stock plunged a whopping 69 percent over the course of 2022, on track to be its worst annual performance ever. That drop has also cost the electric carmaker its position as one of the 10 biggest U.S. public companies.

When Twitter users saw that Tesla stock had lost a pretty sexy amount of value, they couldn’t resist commenting on it.

Tesla has really struggled this year. The company had to suspend work at its massive Shanghai factory, and demand for the cars is so low that Tesla began offering $7,500 discounts for new vehicles, while the price of used ones dropped sharply, reported Popula, which is tracking how much Tesla’s value has dropped.

Already plagued by supply chain snarls, legal suits, and PR issues, Tesla was sent into a tailspin when Musk took over Twitter at the end of October. It hasn’t helped that Musk lied to Tesla investors about selling off company stock and seems more interested in letting Nazis back onto Twitter than running the electric car company.

The Deep Roots of Southwest Airlines’s Winter-Weather Meltdown

The carrier’s holiday-season omnishambles can't be completely attributed to the snow.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Southwest Airlines has canceled thousands of flights due to a variety of issues including this year’s historic winter storm and scheduling complications involving crew members.

The massive winter storm that battered the country over the weekend hasn’t just snowed under half of the United States. The airline industry is also on ice: Thousands of flights have been canceled, and although air travel is slowly returning to normal, one carrier in particular—Southwest Airlines—is struggling hard to unmuddle itself.

Southwest canceled 63 percent of its scheduled Tuesday flights and has already canceled 62 percent of its flights for the following day, according to flight tracker FlightAware. Reports abound of hours-long waits in customer service lines, people sleeping in airports waiting to get rerouted, and suitcases piling up at the airline’s desks.

But these recent snafus can’t be entirely pinned on the inclement weather—it’s the absolutely shambolic state of Southwest’s inner workings that are actually to blame. Many airlines lacked sufficient staff for the holiday weekend, but Southwest also hurt itself by not blocking out enough turnaround time between flights, a FlightAware spokesperson explained to CNN.

The president of the Southwest flight attendants’ union also told CNN that they have not been able to get in touch with their bosses at the airline. Both Southwest’s manpower and internal communication issues are partly due to its outdated crew scheduling system, according to a member of the flight crew on a British Airways plane, who goes by the Twitter name @JustAnother_Ben.

An aviation watchdog that goes by the Twitter handle @JonNYC shared an internal memo from Southwest’s vice president of ground operations Chris Johnson. In the memo, Johnson declared a state of operational emergency at the Denver International Airport and said employees would be fired for calling in sick without a doctor’s note, requesting personal time off, or refusing to work now-mandatory overtime.

The president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, Casey Murray, told CNN that these problems have been going on for nearly two years. Winter Storm Elliot appears to be merely the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

“These sorts of meltdowns occur on a much more regular basis and it really just has to do with outdated processes and outdated IT,” Murray said. “It’s phones, it’s computers, it’s processing power, it’s the programs used to connect us to airplanes—that’s where the problem lies, and it’s systemic throughout the whole airline.”

Air Disasters

Four Washington Power Substations Attacked, Knocking Out Power for 14,000+

These most recent incidents are part of an alarming nationwide trend.

Peter Zay/Getty Images
Tens of thousands were left without power in North Carolina earlier this month after power station were targeted with attacks.

Four power substations in the state of Washington were attacked on Sunday, knocking out power for more than 14,000 customers. The Christmas Day station attackers damaged equipment at each station and set a fire at one.

These most recent attacks join an alarming trend of vandals, trespassers, and domestic terrorists who have targeted power substations across the country. From North Carolina and Oregon, Washington to Florida, intruders have disabled equipment and even struck stations with gunfire. Tens of thousands have lost power as a result; North Carolina residents were recently without power for four days.

Attacks on the power grid are not unheard of—but they’re soaring compared to previous years. Documents obtained by Politico showed that “the past three years have been the most active for reported attacks on the grid in the past decade,” with “101 reported this year through the end of August” after a previous peak of 97 attacks for the entire year of 2021.

There have been numerous warnings, but stakeholders just don’t seem prepared for the onslaught. Nearly a year ago, The Daily Beast obtained a DHS intelligence report that warned of extremist groups identifying the “electric grid as a particularly attractive target given its interdependency with other infrastructure sectors.” And CNN recently obtained a 14-page document circulating on Telegram that included a white supremacist instruction guide for how to conduct low-technology attacks that foment chaos, including attacking a power grid with firearms.

“When the lights don’t come back on … all hell will break lose [sic], making conditions desirable for our race to once again take back what is ours,” the document reads.

In February, three men pleaded guilty of plotting to attack substations with firearms. The trio were alleged white supremacists who had for years strategized how to incite civil unrest, hoping to touch off a potential race war, and the second Great Depression.

Such attacks are disturbing in their own right. But the broader context behind the ideological underpinnings of the attackers only causes more concern. The January 6 Capitol Riot demonstrated the extent to which right-wing radicalization has deepened the resolve of fringe actors to attack the institutions that keep this country running. And in terms of pure mayhem, the attacks on power substations are arguably a lower risk-for-higher reward pursuit compared to mounting an attack on the U.S. Capitol: Literally fatal power outages from New York to Tennessee reveal how keenly vulnerable our country’s infrastructure—and citizens—are to power mishaps.

Politicians gleefully throw support behind brutally reckless over-policing; perhaps they could consider still satisfying their itch for vigilance by at least shifting their focus to protecting our crucial power infrastructure from those who’ve clearly been targeting it in increasing numbers.