Refrigerators, ICE and Ex-Im Updates

Trump is under fire for his proclivity to keep food cold.

The Guardian tore into two new refrigerators slated for installation on Air Force One, replacing the current 1990 installations for $23.7 million.

The military apparently requires the jumbo 747’s five coolers to carry 3,000 meals.

Lost in the food fight is Boeing (the largest corporate welfare cow of the Export-Import Bank), who scored the culinary contract last year to install the fridges on their own 747 model and deferred reporters’ questions to Air Force One.

EXIM

As we have previously reported, the infamous Ex-Im backs loans for foreigners and sticks American taxpayers with the bill.

Ex-Im Bank Updates

According to this recent rosy budget request, the agency “operates at no cost to taxpayers,” “supports 180,000 jobs” in 2018, and generates $492.2 million in deficit-reducing receipts” (about half of 1% of fiscal year 2018’s projected deficit of over $1,000,000,000,000).

This apparently justifies their $95.5 million demand for operating expenses.

In Ex-Im’s defense, the 2018 request reduces their staff by 15 (fifteen!) full-time employees, and shrinks the operating budget 17.7% compared to fiscal year 2017. Which isn’t that difficult when you justify your existence with net income to the Treasury, then pocket a paltry (by Washington standards) budget.

But there are bigger fish to fry (cooling the leftovers in the president’s new refrigerators).

Ex-Im, which dodged dismantling in late 2016, still lacks a quorum on its board of directors to approve loans over $10,000,000. (Recall Ex-Im’s primary objective is to help small businesses actually located in America.)

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: June 29: Michigan Congressman Bucks Party on Ex-Im Bank

Scott Garrett is pictured. | AP Photo

Trumps’ pick to lead Ex-Im, former New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett (above) didn’t even make it out of the Senate Banking Committee vote in December, much less to full Senate confirmation. Garrett twice voted against reauthorizing Ex-Im while in Congress and faced opposition from U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Acting chairman and president, Obama appointee Charles Hall, left in December, lamenting the lapse in fee collections due to a backlog of bigger loans for lack of quorum (which Hall exacerbated by leaving): “If we don’t get a board, probably sometime in 2018 I would anticipate that we would cease to be self-sustaining.”

The government website shows three of the seven board positions currently filled. No quorum for you!

Image result for soup nazi

Interestingly, Delta Airlines spent millions lobbying against the Ex-Im reauthorization in recent years (though they were outspent 7 to 1 by Boeing). Apparently, European countries are tempted to buy Airbus (the only other double-wide jumbo jet manufacturer in the world) if U.S. taxpayer-backed loans are not offered for Boeing contracts.

Delta’s beef is the Ex-Im guarantees save international competitors like Air India enough on borrowing for jets that they can slash ticket prices and siphon Delta customers.

*

Meanwhile, NBC spotlighted Scott Daniel Warren, a volunteer at No More Deaths, who was arrested January 17 for allegedly lavishing a pair of illegal immigrants with food and shelter in Ajo, AZ.

Carlos Diaz, a division chief of ICE’s Customs and Border Protection, denied the arrest was related to a video the non-profit released earlier that day, which showed CBP agents dumping water jugs left in the treacherous stretch of desert for illegal immigrants to consume. Diaz alleges agents are instructed to leave water jugs intact.

Should immigrants evade death, their movements will be newly scrutinized in a fashion sure to violate the privacy of law-abiding citizens as well.

Vigilant Solutions

ICE recently inked a contract with Vigilant Solutions to tap into 2 billion license plate photos and recordings of 100 million “sightings” (including date, time, and GPS coordinates) monthly. The purpose? Better “law enforcement” of illegal immigrants. (Vigilant also contracts with smaller enforcement agencies, presumably to collar real, dangerous criminals.)

ICE agents would be able to query [the] database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.

ICE will get email alerts when a plate they’re watching pops up anywhere Vigilant is installed–on local police dash cams, traffic cams, who knows.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson reportedly killed a similar program in 2012, presumably because it’s unconstitutional.

Related:

Air Surveillance of Baltimore Little People

Homeland Security reassured the horrified public that while ICE gets flags for anything tagged by Vigilant, none of ICE’s ham-handed enforcement terrorizing of non-citizens will flow back to Vigilant. (Probably convenient for ICE.)

How this private-sector database of citizens and non-citizens’ movements will be shared or disseminated with other Federal thugs remains to be seen.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/26/donald-trump-refrigerator-air-force-one

http://www.defenseone.com/business/2018/01/air-force-one-needs-new-refrigerators-they-cost-24-million/145457/

http://fortune.com/2017/12/19/scott-garrett-rejected-export-import-bank/

http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2017/12/depleted-export-import-bank-hit-another-vacancy/144272/

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/volunteer-arrested-after-giving-food-water-undocumented-immigrants-arizona-n840386

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/26/16932350/ice-immigration-customs-license-plate-recognition-contract-vigilant-solutions

NSA’s FISA Festivities Extended with Bipartisan Support; Rest of Government Fights for Funding–Updated with Related FBI Dereliction of Duty

In a two-hour marathon vote January 16,  a visibly humiliated Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell scraped together 60 votes to vote on the six-year re-authorization of FISA Section 702 without allowing amendments.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 gives the NSA authority to ignore the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and collect phone logs of all Americans, as revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, because they could all be terrorists.

Claire McCaskill (D-MO), up for re-election this November, fought flu symptoms to cast the sixtieth vote to forgo any debate of the re-authorization and advance to a final vote.

That January 18 vote exceeded the simple majority required, flipping four senators who had advocated debate to “yea”–Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jerry Moran (R-KS),  Chuck Schumer (D-NY)–and picking up Dan Sullivan (R-AK), who missed the filibuster vote:

Trump signed the bill January 19, proclaiming on Twitter: “Just signed 702 Bill to reauthorize foreign intelligence collection. This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election. I will always do the right thing for our country and put the safety of the American people first!”

This represented quite a reversal from his January 11 tweet, in which he quoted a headline: “[‘]House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.[‘] This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

In an exclusive Fox News interview, chief of staff John Kelly assumed credit for changing his boss’s mind:

“I see a man who can change his mind when the facts and data and staff … bring him to a different conclusion.”

The House had passed the matching version of the bill on January 11 by 256-164, after rejecting an amendment by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) to add the barest of privacy protections for American communications “incidentally” caught up in the surveillance of foreign agents for which the secret FISA court that now allows stockpiling all American communications by the Federal Government was originally established.

*

On January 19, Politico reported NSA was sitting on some surveillance data pertaining to pending lawsuits, “accidentally” destroyed that data, and misled a federal court about their actions.

Related:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 12: NSA, “Exploits,” WannaCry and Whistleblowers

Apparently, in addition to hoarding all our phone logs, NSA is obligated to preserve their ill-gotten, privacy-destroying goodies from our internet traffic, since 2007 when George W. Bush was slammed for warrantless wiretaps of foreigners. How far we’ve come.

But Dr. Mark O. and Elizabeth B. (they’re your employees and they watch you, but you’re not allowed to know their real names) revealed–apparently hours before the above-detailed FISA renewal–that legally-mandated logs of intercepted internet traffic from years 2001 through 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2016 were all deleted. And the backup tapes. Oops.

“The NSA sincerely regrets its failure to prevent the deletion of this data.”

In 2014, Miriam P. reassured the court that legally-must-be-retained data was safe:

The NSA is “preserving magnetic/digital tapes of the Internet content intercepted under the [PSP] since the inception of the program,” she wrote, adding that “the NSA has stored these tapes in the offices of its General Counsel.”

The agency now says, “regrettably,” that the statement “may have been only partially accurate when made.”

The latest NSA filing says the ongoing investigation indicates that officials did a “physical inspection” in 2014 to confirm the tapes’ presence in the counsel’s office storage space. However, “those tapes largely concerned metadata,” not the content of communications the NSA intercepted.

[our emphasis]

*

The continued collection of all Americans’ communications without a warrant (despite petty assurances from McConnell, after dragging the bill over a bipartisan filibuster, that the six-year renewal “does not allow the targeting of American citizens”) took precedence over shielding DACA participants from deportation. And funding the government itself, which shut down all “non-essential functions” on January 20.

Obama Proposes Addressing Debt After He’s Gone and Collecting Pension in Hawaii

Image result

Members of Congress, hiding behind the 27th Amendment, will continue to cash paychecks.

The House passed a band-aid bill to fund the government for four weeks and renew CHIP, a recently-expired insurance program for children ineligible for Medicaid, but the Senate rejected it, largely at the behest of of Democrats, leading to many Republicans, including Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, dubbing the debacle the “Schumer Shutdown,” despite the minority leader (below) offering Trump two bipartisan deals Friday morning (after assuring all citizens’ phone and email data was still open for Federal probing).

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after meeting with President Donald Trump on Friday.

Schumer even admitted on the Senate floor he had offered to entertain Trump’s border wall in one proposed bill in exchange for the DACA protections.

Priority one: taking. Priority two: watching.

BuzzFeed, incidentally, spoke with a former NSA employee, who lamented that the agency’s contractor morale will suffer, because they could be vacationing in nicer weather if not for the uncertainty of furlough. The headline literally used the word “suffering.”)

*

UPDATE 1/21/18:

It was quite a weekend for government security dropping the ball. Reuters noted the FBI lost some text messages probing Hillary’s Secret Server.

Agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page reportedly dragged on a text convo from just after Trump’s election through last May. The FBI fingered its “technical system” for “failing to preserve” missives that may have focused D.C. on the newly-inaugurated president–and away from the criminal behavior of his rival.

Republicans have said the texts, which referred to Trump as an “idiot” and a “loathsome human,” raised concerns the FBI is biased against Trump and may have given Clinton favorable treatment after deciding not to recommend criminal charges in connection with the probe into her use of a private email system while she was secretary of state.

Page and Strzok (below) both did time on Robert Mueller‘s squad to investigate Trump’s possible collusion with Russia to win the White House. Strzok was reassigned as soon as Mueller learned of the texts; Page finished work for the probe in July. It’s unclear whether either was vetted for impartiality to work for the Special Counsel.

peter strzok, lisa page

Fox News reported Page texted Strzok following Loretta Lynch‘s sleazy meeting with Hillary’s husband during the investigation:

“It’s a real profile in couragw [sic], since [Lynch] knows no charges will be brought.”

Days later, Hillary was cleared by then-FBI director James Comey.

BREAKING NEWS

According to Heavy:

“God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0,” Strzok wrote to Page, according to one message obtained by Politico. “Also did you hear [Trump] make a comment about the size of his d*ck earlier? This man can not be president,” Page responded, Politico reported.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article195420669.html

https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=2&vote=00011#top

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/20/16913534/president-donald-trump-signed-fisa-amendments-reauthorization-act-of-2017-section-702

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/18/senate-votes-to-approve-reauthorization-controversial-fisa-surveillance-provision.html

http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/12/politics/fisa-surveillance-weird-politics/index.html

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/19/nsa-deletes-surveillance-data-351730

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/20/16912726/trump-shutdown

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/369889-schumer-says-he-offered-to-discuss-wall-as-part-of-trump-deal

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-fbi-clinton/senator-says-fbi-lost-crucial-texts-tied-to-clinton-probe-idUSKBN1FA15O?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/21/newly-released-texts-between-ex-mueller-team-members-suggest-knew-outcome-clinton-email-probe-in-advance.html

Peter Strzok’s Texts & Emails to Lisa Page Revealed: READ

Irma Survivors Murdered

A Federal Government contractor killed two men in a botched robbery.

Squeezed between hurricanes Harvey and Maria last year, Hurricane Irma laid as much as $190 billion of damage on America, destroyed large parts of Caribbean islands like Barbuda, and killed at least 72 Floridians (including, for example, victims of a nursing home without power and carbon monoxide poisoning from emergency generators).

FEMA to the rescue!!!

Gerjuan Jackson (below, left), 18,  dispatched by the Feds to perform the work they take your taxes to ostensibly perform themselves, assessed the Polk County, FL home of William Reiss (below, right) for Irma damage last year and apparently returned two weeks later to purchase a pair of pistols from the 68-year-old for $800.

Gerjuan Jackson, 18, was arrested for killing Reiss, whose home he assessed after the devastating storm.  

After he was collared in Alabama for traveling strapped without a gun permit last November, Jackson brought Kenley Campbell (below), 22, and Darril Rankin (below), 22, back to the Florida residence to lift the rest of Reiss’s firearms on January 3.

Campbell and Rankin are accused of helping boost up to 25 firearms from Reiss' home.

Reiss and his roommate Kenneth Maier (below), 57, were home. So Jackson (who has already confessed) plugged Reiss four times and wounded Maier. Maier, loaded with at least three bullets, reportedly flagged down a passing motorist in the driveway to save his friend. Both men eventually died.

Jackson and his friends loaded 25 guns and a flat-screen TV into Reiss’s truck, which they promoted for extra capacity. Most of the guns were sold on the street in Alabama and later recovered by the Feds.

The Polk County sheriff alleges Jackson told the friends en route that he intended to kill Reiss.

The three suspects are from Mobile, AL. Campbell and Rankin were pinched on January 6 and sold out Jackson, who was captured January 9.

*

FEMA, a $14 billion behemoth bureaucracy best known for mismanaging the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, offered a “not our fault” statement, according to WFLA:

“FEMA is aware of an alleged incident that occurred in Polk County, Florida, and are looking into additional details on this matter. Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims.

FEMA’s Inspection Services are handled by contracted firms, and not FEMA employees. Currently, FEMA contracts with two private sector companies for disaster survivor home inspections. Questions about individuals employed within those contracted companies, or those companies’ hiring practices, must be pursued through their individual contractors. FEMA works closely with law enforcement on a regular basis, and will provide appropriate coordination with law enforcement on this incident.”

FEMA logo.svg

Contracting out work to others who then contract to fourth parties to ensure your disaster rebuild since 1979!

The FEMA contractor is Vanguard Emergency Management, who blame-shifted by citing Jackson’s successful FEMA background check. They confirmed his contract with Vanguard ran from September 14 through November 13.

Jackson and company are expected to be extradited to Florida for first degree murder charges. First, though, Jackson was in Mobile on Tuesday to get charged with: carrying a pistol without a permit, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and promoting prison contraband. It’s unclear if these all stem from the November incident.

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.vox.com/explainers/2017/9/18/16314440/disasters-are-getting-more-expensive-harvey-irma-insurance-climate

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41182991

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/weather/hurricane/fl-reg-hurricane-irma-deaths-20171120-story.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-storm-irma/about-1-5-million-mostly-in-florida-without-power-in-irmas-wake-idUSKCN1BQ1C6

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/fema-contractor-charged-killing-irma-vic-befriended-article-1.3756358

Sheriff: Alabama FEMA contractor traveled to Polk City, murdered man he met after Hurricane Irma

2nd victim dies after being shot by FEMA contractor in Polk City

Polk County mother shocked to learn man who helped family file FEMA claim arrested for murder

http://www.theledger.com/news/20180112/2nd-victim-of-polk-city-shooting-dies

http://www.fox10tv.com/story/37279080/polk-county-murder-suspect-appears-in-mobile-county-court

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Observed

Jorge Garcia, 39, of Lincoln Park stands at the ticket counter at Detroit Metro Airport checking his bags on Jan. 15, 2018. He was to be deported to Mexico.

Jorge Garcia, 39 (above), a landscaper from Lincoln Park, MI, was removed by ICE to his native Mexico despite the Federal holiday. The undocumented immigrant, brought to America at age 10, leaves behind a wife and two children, all citizens. He has reportedly never committed a crime, and because he paid taxes, Washington will lose some revenue as President Trump encourages removal of law-abiding non-citizens.

Related:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: July 18: Crime and Punishment

A spokesman for ICE said he could not immediately comment Monday since it was a federal holiday, and their offices are closed.

Supporters of Jorge Garcia hold up signs that read "Stop Separating Families" at Detroit Metro Airport on Jan. 15, 2018. Garcia was being deported to Mexico after living in the U.S. for 30 years.

(But apparently he was still at the office?)

The day of rest and reflection for non-deporting government paper pushers shortened the time frame the Feds are entertaining to pass the next short term spending fix. The cancerous central government’s credit card runs out January 19, and Democrats are pushing to include protections for 800,000 beneficiaries of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the last-minute meltdown to continue confiscating.

DACA is scheduled to expire March 5.

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) told ABC the DACA provisions, which shield certain young immigrants from deportation, must be included to earn his vote on the spending bill.

Meanwhile, Trump is pushing for inclusion of $18 billion to construct a “Great Wall” on the Mexican border.

Yesterday the President tweeted, “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military.”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) reportedly pitched a plan to include border wall funding and extension of DACA at a meeting on January 11, where Trump made a holiday weekend news cycle-dominating remark characterizing African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as “all these shithole countries” that do not contribute useful immigrants to America. Negotiations apparently collapsed shortly thereafter.

While Durbin confirmed Trump’s words, Republican senators at the meeting obscured the story. Tom Cotton of Arkansas denied the remark on Sunday, and seems to currently maintain he does not recall. Lindsey Graham (SC) half-halfheartedly confirmed the president’s words.

Rand Paul (KY), who was not present, lamented the media for blasting Trump as a racist, because it “destroy[ed] the setting…for immigration compromise.”

“I don’t think the comments were constructive at all, but I also think that, to be fair, we shouldn’t draw conclusions that he didn’t intend,” Paul said.

Trump told Twitter today: “Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t be made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our military.”

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/wayne/2018/01/15/jorge-garcia-daca-deported-mexico-immigration/1033296001/

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/local/detroit/after-30-years-in-us-metro-detroit-immigrant-deported-to-mexico/508218873

https://nypost.com/2018/01/14/john-lewis-says-he-wont-vote-for-government-funding-without-daca-deal/

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/15/trump-dicky-durbin-shithole-dreamers-340621

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rand-paul-donald-trump-racist_us_5a5b839ee4b03c4189669449

http://abc7chicago.com/politics/trump-tweets-sen-dicky-durbin-totally-misrepresented-daca-comments/2948444/

Puerto Rico Updates

Governor Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico sicced his Justice Department on Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (logo, below), the beleaguered island’s government-owned electric authority. They’re looking for possible crimes against the public interest.

PREPA, who hold a monopoly on the U.S. territory’s electricity, may have hoarded electrical repair supplies as nearly half the island continues without power following Hurricane Maria last October.

Puerto-rico-electric-power-authority-authority-emblem.jpg

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and heavily-armed guards raided a PREPA warehouse in Palo Seco last week.

“Critical materials” were reportedly distributed to contractors immediately.

PREPA denied to Associated Press it failed to spring the warehouse contents. The agency is reportedly reneging on its earlier decision to forgo mutual aid agreements with other power authorities to hasten the rebuild. These new partners include utility companies from New York and Florida, according to The Intercept.

Related:

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! November 6: Whitefish Revisited; Bronze Star LLC Bungles Tarps for Puerto Rico

PREPA holds $9 billion of the island’s estimated $120,000,000,000 debt from its 2016 bankruptcy.

Related:

I PROMESA You We’ll Default on National Debt

Besides the questionable deals through the mainland Federal disaster assistance we previously uncovered, The Intercept speared another big tuna in the race to profit from government incompetence: Cobra Acquisitions.

Cobra doesn’t have a cool logo to go with its name, but its Oklahoma-based parent oil company, Mammoth, does.

Unlike the [failed] [$300 million] Whitefish contract, the Cobra deal [for $200 million] involved heavy input from the Federal Emergency Management Agency[.]

[our emphasis]

CNN reported in November the cash-strapped PREPA dropped $15 million up front for Cobra’s services, noting the “pay first, get reimbursed by FEMA later” practice is commonplace in disaster cleanups.

Mammoth CEO Arty Straehla reportedly signed the deal to secure “stable cash flow” for his larger company.

Intercept suggests the Cobra deal undermines Puerto Rico’s previous goal to decrease dependence on imported oil, as the private company’s rebuild will further stymie the switch to renewable energy.

Cobra (like Whitefish) was formed just months before the storm hit.

*

According to Intercept, some of the island’s mayors have given up on the island government and started rebuilding their cities’ grids out of the local budget, through coalitions such as the new Pepino Power Authority–made up of volunteers and retirees. It remains to be seen if Federal overlords will pull the plug.

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-puertorico-storm-energy/puerto-rico-governor-orders-probe-of-discovery-of-hurricane-recovery-materials-idUSKBN1F02VU

https://theintercept.com/2018/01/10/puerto-rico-electricity-prepa-hurricane-maria/

https://theintercept.com/2017/10/31/puerto-rico-electric-contract-cobra/

http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/06/news/economy/cobra-power-deal-puerto-rico/index.html

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! December 12: Kansas Lawsuit Settled

The University of Kansas paid out a combined $395,000 to Daisy Tackett, whose alleged rape we reported (below) and another KU rower, Sarah McClure.

Tackett got $95,000 more.

Campus Sexual Assault–UPDATED

$165,000 (over 40%) was pocketed by Brown and Curry Law Firm of Kansas City, who represented the women in separate suits.

McClure alleged the same football longsnapper who raped Tackett in his room in 2014 groped McClure in her apartment in 2015. Both assaults reportedly occurred in the Jayhawker Towers dorm. Tackett’s lawsuit sued KU for false advertising in claiming its dorms were safe.

The longsnapper, Jordan Goldenberg Jr. (below), left KU in 2016. In an interesting twist, his KU coach, Gary Hyman, was hired by Indiana State University in February of that year. Goldenberg transferred onto the ISU team, but was removed before the season started.

Tackett and McClure alleged in their lawsuit that as members of KU rowing, they were required by the university to attend football games and encouraged to “party” with football recruits.

Douglas County District Attorney’s office found insufficient evidence in McClure’s complaint to charge Goldenberg. Tackett reported her assault after hearing McClure’s story.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article188879754.html

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/college/big-12/university-of-kansas/article98208707.html

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! December 8: Pentagon Audit

2,400 auditors will be unleashed on the financials of our bloated Defense Department, as the deadline for the inaugural Pentagon Audit stipulated by the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act has arrived, according to NPR.

Defense has heretofore evaded requirements of other federal agencies to report to their employees how they burn cash (almost $700,000,000,000 for this fiscal year, even though Trump only requested an increase to $639 billion).

This will be the first audit of the Defense Department in the nation’s history, led by David Norquist (below), brother of Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist.

David L. Norquist, official portrait.jpg

Related:

December Disaster: Stories We Missed!

Whether evidence of the inherent waste of the self-proclaimed world’s largest bureaucracy sees the light of day remains to be seen. We’ll be waiting.

Thanks to our source:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/08/569394885/pentagon-announces-first-ever-audit-of-the-department-of-defense

Soda Tax Update

It’s shaping up to be quite a year for government confiscation. Seattle has joined the rush of ravenous localities dipping further into poor peoples’ pockets under the guise of improving their health.

A $0.0175 per ounce levy on every sugared beverage (including Gatorade) sold in the city kicked in on January 1.

Emerald City denizens may develop some bottled up rage over the endeavor, forecast to [stupid phrase alert] make it rain $15 million for the progressive utopia.

(Presumably before the additional 9.6% sales tax.)

Kshama Sawant (below), a Socialist Alternative member of the Seattle City Council, was absent for the 7-1 vote last June to enact the tax.

Kshama Sawant Portrait (24588157130).jpg

The full use of the new cheddar is unclear. Ricochet reports:

Since this was sold as a health initiative, $2 million of that will expand a city program that gives fruit and vegetable vouchers to low-income families [Fresh Bucks]. Of course, only $400,000 will go to actual vouchers; the other $1.6 million stays with the government for “administrative costs.”

[our emphasis]

This includes job creation for five (5) well-connected Seattle residents to get in good with local government, according to Seattle Times.

As with any government initiative, there are exemptions. Diet soda drinkers (whom Ricochet notes are more likely white, wealthy and/or campaign contributors) will escape the tax. 100% fruit juice (metabolically identical to soda) is exempt.

Distributors are also exempt if they post less than $2 million in annual sales. ($2 to $5 million in sales? You pay just $0.01/ounce.)

Any coffee with sugar that is not milk-based is subject to the tax.

And Forbes reported disgraced ex-Mayor Ed Murray initially wrote in an exemption for sugary coffee prepared onsite, meaning you could choose between paying more at the grocery store for a bottle of Starbucks brand sugar or standing in line with insufferable Starbucks customers. Seattle Times noted this exemption was killed just before the vote.

Washington state-based Costco risked retaliation from lawmakers by encouraging consumers to buy outside the city.

Since distributors are officially paying the tax, public shaming will no doubt follow for any price increase (like Costco’s “recovery fee” intimated above). That’s not fair to the struggling citizens!

*

Death Capital of America, Chicago, similarly tried to Band-aid its remaining residents’ health with a $0.01/ounce confiscation from August 2 through December 1 of 2017. Cook County officials scrapped the blatant budget-shoring measure, backed by big-government billionaire–and failed New York City soda tax perpetrator Michael Bloomberg–after the public noticed the measure penalized consumers of diet soda, but not sugar-laden juice. And that nearly 1 million consumers purchased soda with food stamps, so they were exempt from the tax. And that restaurant soda sales tanked. And that nearly 90% of citizens were opposed to the shakedown, according to anti-soda tax lobby Can the Tax.

Cook County Against Beverage Taxes

How’s Philadelphia‘s trampling of lower-income consumers going?

Proponents of the soda tax shut down Harrisburg-led hearing in City Hall.

Pennsylvania state Representative Mark Mustio and state Senators Mario Scavello and Scott Wagner (all Republicans) introduced memos attempting to remove the sugared beverage distributor measure, which took effect in January 2017, six months after Philly started spending the predicted revenue on “universal pre-kindergarten”.

Wagner is challenging Tom Wolf (below) for the Governor’s mansion this November.

Image result for wolf

Philly Me Up…Philadelphia Beverage Distributors to be Taxed by the Ounce “For the Children”

As we noted above, the skimming started mid-fiscal year 2017 (July 1-June 30). Projected profit for that period was $47 million, but the city realized just $39 million. They are projected to fall short of the FY 2018 “goal” of $93 million as well. City communications lackey Mike Dunn (below) gushed that the $66 million squeezed from Philly residents (as of December) is “a significant sum in a city where more than a quarter of residents live below the poverty line.

Mike Dunn

BillyPenn suggests soda sales are down in Philly and somewhat less outside the city limits. A study concocted by Bloomberg himself found overall revenues at major grocery chains had not dropped in Philadelphia, even though sugary drink sales had declined 57 percent.

[our emphasis]

While Mayor Kenney predicted a maximum 27% decline in consumption (which is, hopefully, the ultimate objective of policing peoples’ diets), Health Department data recorded a 31% decline through November.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.king5.com/article/money/consumer/dont-like-seattles-sugary-drink-tax-costco-invites-you-to-shop-outside-the-city/281-505360199

http://www.king5.com/article/news/local/seattle/seattles-new-tax-on-sugary-drinks-kicks-in-jan-1/281-501869514

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/promoting-health-at-a-hefty-price-seattles-soda-tax-starts-jan-1/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ronaldholden/2017/02/22/starbucks-wont-face-a-sugary-drink-tax-inside-its-seattle-stores/#4f67e7ff3c42

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/is-seattles-proposed-soda-tax-also-a-latte-tax/

https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/10/fizzled-0

http://www.stopthecookcountytax.com

Philly soda tax year one: The finances, fights and its future

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! November 23: Another Naval Disaster

sailors-lost-chialastri-combs-grosso.jpg

The U.S. Seventh Fleet was performing a joint training exercise with the Japanese 500 miles from Okinawa when a C-2A Greyhound plane carrying eleven American service members crashed in the Philippine Sea. Eight were quickly rescued and moved to the carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which the plane had been aiming for.

Airman Matthew Chialastri, Lt. Steven Combs and Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso (above) were all presumed dead after a two-day search.

According to CNN, this was the Seventh Fleet’s sixth major non-combat “incident” in 2017.

This count includes the deadly crashes of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S McCain, which we covered earlier in the year, as well as  the USS Antietam running into the ground of Tokyo Bay in January; the USS Lake Champlain crashing into a South Korean fishing boat in May; and the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold getting pegged by an out-of-control Japanese tugboat on November 18,  just days before the Greyhound crash.

BREAKING: USS John S. McCain Collision

By our count, the Seventh Fleet, which fired Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin in August, has suffered 20 non-combat American deaths this year. The McCain and Fitzgerald commanders were also removed. CNN cited a Navy report casting those fatal incidents “avoidable [and due to] numerous failures […] on the part of leadership.”

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-navy-plane-crash-sailors-missing-named-pacific-ocean-okinawa-japan/

http://time.com/5030829/uss-benfold-tug-boat-collision/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/22/politics/navy-aircraft-crash/index.html

Delta Updates

New year, same Delta Airlines.

Image result for delta airlines

The Atlanta-based monstrosity sent flight 284 out of Hartsfield-Jackson International at 8:15 PM on Tuesday. The London-bound 737 jet was back by 9:45 PM after (per passengers), a loud “bang” was heard on board.

Related:

Delta Drops the Ball Again

Delta Out-Winged by Unidentified Bird Species

Delta initially blamed the return on “emergency engine trouble,” and, indeed, emergency vehicles were captured meeting the plane at the gate on return.

(Courtesy: Bill Sengstacken / Twitter)

A different 737 was enlisted to get everyone to London. They took off just after midnight…and came right back after another “bang” was reportedly heard.

Passengers told Fox both times the planes took off it was reported that someone had left an unclaimed coat in the gate area, and that both flights’ pilots said there were no mechanical problems.

The Heathrow hopefuls were placed in hotels and reportedly scheduled to try a third time Wednesday evening. All bags remained in the custody of Delta for the overnight stay.

FlightAware.com reports Delta #284 (the same physical plane from the second attempt early Wednesday morning) successfully landed at Heathrow at 8:25 AM on Thursday.

Fox got a statement Wednesday evening in which Delta admitted to returning in an abundance of caution when an abnormal noise was observed in the aircraft, and again when a similar observation was made on the replacement plane.

Thanks to our source:

http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/emergency-landing-at-atlantas-airport