December Doom! Walls and Wall Street Weasels

Cohen Cooperates

Disgraced ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen (above, caught with phone in class) picked up 36 months’ hard time in a (presumably) white collar facility for paying off Trump’s mistresses–amounting to campaign finance violations–as the 2016 presidential contest heated up. 

While the desirable deal also hit Cohen for nearly $2 million in restitution and fines, he apparently caught a break for singing to Robert Mueller regarding the Russia Investigation.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for [Cohen] to face between 51 and 63 months — four to five years — in prison for the tax fraud, false statements and campaign finance violations he pleaded guilty to in August.

Assuring his return to the “public villain with oversized head” section of the Halloween costume inventory for 2019, the high-rolling Cohen, according to NPR, observed, “Today I get my freedom back.” That’ll look great on a Starbucks cup!

*

New Beginnings

Rather than leave the Senate gracefully, deposed lawmaker Claire McCaskill (D-MO) accused her colleagues who actually won their re-elections campaigns of forgoing “tough votes.” Presumably these include her decisive decision to continue unconstitutional surveillance of Americans.

The 65-year-old bemoaned the office that will launch her lucrative lobbyist or consultant career for its preponderance of “embarrassing uncles,” blissfully unaware Joe Biden has now been gone for ten years.

Immigration Situation, CBP Improvisation, Park Defecation and TSA Implication

As detailed by Trump’s bluster of a “Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border,” the Federal Government is enjoying a partial shut down after the Senate refused to vote on a House funding bill that allocates $5.7 billion for Trump’s Border Wall. National focus is trained not on the fact our inept employees who failed to write their own budget now can’t begrudgingly provide mediocre services on which they hold a monopoly, but on the paychecks they cannot collect:


Some 800,000 federal workers across the country find themselves in financial uncertainty as the government shutdown crawls into its 12th day. Some 420,000 employees are considered “essential,” and are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home.

Our muckraking the laughable TSA is old news. The bumbling seem to be on the “essential” list, as “88% of [parent agency] Department of Homeland Security” is working for IOUs. But according to Huffington Post, TSA agents first ducking their unpaid assignments by calling out sick are now just quitting.

CNN reported a 200-300 percent increase in agents calling out sick at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and also claimed that throughout the first week of January, as many as 170 agents called out at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport each day.

Via their union, the remaining TSA agents threatened a
“massive security risk for American travelers […] there are problems that will arise – least of which would be increased wait times for travelers.”

Also,


[TSA employee union American Federation of Government Employees] launched a lawsuit against the federal government for forcing federal employees to show up to work uncompensated, calling the demands “inhumane.” 

The logic here is that every day we don’t borrow more money to reopen the government, there are fewerprofessionals to cup our genitals before we’re allowed to fly. Aren’t you motivated to call the Congress and complain?

Big brass at TSA got defensive when news of the “people who root through innocent peoples’ dirty laundry all day without changing gloves are sick but more than usual” stats broke:

Trump joined the fight, and CNN promoted their “bananas are the devil” analogy in response:

This comes on the heels of a monumental shift in TSA air marshal policy: starting December 28, the undercover agents moved–to the back of the plane. Good luck picking them out now!

Not everyone was PUN ALERT on board with the change:


“The TSA wants to change the way operations are carried out, and the men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service do not support these changes,” Brian Borek, representative of the air marshals to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “The TSA, riddled with their own organizational issues, should allow the air marshals to do what they have continued to do best — fly operationally sound missions to protect the integrity of the aircraft, its crew, and passengers in the manner that they have been training and perfecting for the last 17 years.”

Borek also noted implementing the change amidst the madness of the tail end of Christmas travel was an idiotic move does not pass the common-sense [sic] test.”

John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said it appears that DHS and TSA are making important decisions arbitrarily.

“Changes to security routines on planes and at airports are serious and should not be enacted haphazardly […] And there is clearly a perception that is what is going on here.”

Interestingly, Boston Globe reported just last month the TSA had pulled the plug on Quiet Skies (see above link), following widespread criticism that federal air marshals were spying on thousands of unwitting fliers who are not suspected of any crime or on any terrorist watch list.

[…]
TSA administrator David Pekoske 
acknowledged in a congressional hearing in September that Quiet Skies has not foiled any terrorist threats or led to any arrests.

But back to the real domestic security crisis: starving homeless people.

First, ICE helped deal with undocumented children flooding into the country by arresting those who volunteered to shelter them. Apparently, Trump made a rule that every adult in a volunteer household must surrender “biometric data, including fingerprints” to the Federal Government.

Nearly two thirds of those arrested — 109 in total — had no criminal record, the agency said.

However,

Just under 80 percent of people screened by ICE during the sponsorship process showed results that they were not in the country legally.

[our emphasis]

It’s important to protect the immigrants from other immigrants. Our solution is to continue warehousing them in government facilities. So far only two (that we know of) have not survived.

On December 7, Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, of Guatemala, apparently went into septic shock just after boarding the bus with her father to get from her point of entry (Antelope Hills, NM) to the “processing” hub at Lordsburg, NM. She reportedly had a medical screening and “observation,” as well as access to food and water, in the 6ish hours before the bus came. However, after she started seizing, got airlifted and died, government records indicated she had gone “several days” without food or water.

Then Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8, also of Guatemala, died on Christmas eve despite receiving Amoxicillin for his 103-degree fever, diagnosed as “common cold,” at an Alamogordo, NM hospital earlier in the day.

Felipe and his father were detained by CBP for about a week, an unusually long time that the agency did not fully explain[.]


Perhaps under scrutiny after burying news of
Maquin’s demise for a week, Custom and Border “Protection” promptly released the following sensitive Christmas day headline:
“An eight year-old Guatemalan national previously apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection was died [sic] shortly after midnight on December 25 at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. “

According to Washington Post, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the agency’s holding cells are “incompatible” with the new reality of parents with children coming across the border to surrender to agents en masse, requesting asylum.

“Our Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody, not families and children[.]”

The shutdown will not curtail the border-crossers getting caged. Associated Press reports CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain on the job despite the shutdown.

*

The other government tentacle attracting attention is the parks, because we all prefer our government to take control of the Grand Canyon and charge $35 for parking.

CNN had to fill some space and noted on Monday:

In the 16 days since the government shutdown began and more than 21,000 National Park Service employees were furloughed, seven visitors to national parks have died.[…] [T]he tally of deaths is not out of the ordinary for the expansive National Park Service, which sees an average of six deaths per week[:] accidents like drownings, falls, and motor vehicle crashes, as well as medical incidents such as heart attacks.

[our emphasis]

Other self-evident observations from the rabid media:
[A]dmissions have […] surged because no one is collecting admission fees.

(Huffington Post)

Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration [has left] parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs.

(USA Today)

“US military war veterans visit the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2013. The US Park Service opened the area to the veterans who are brought to Washington to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top through the efforts of Honor Flight, a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. The US government shut down Tuesday for the first time in 17 years after a gridlocked Congress failed to reach a federal budget deal amid bitter brinkmanship. Some 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed in a move reminiscent of two previous shutdowns — for six days in November 1995 and 21 days from December that year into early 1996. AFP Photo/Karen BLEIERKAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images (Newscom TagID: afplivefive358687.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]”

And if there’s one necessary government function exposed out of all this, it’s human waste disposal. Joshua Tree had to close its campground:

“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” the park service said. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.” Signs at Joshua Tree informed campers this week that the grounds would close “for the safety of visitors and park resources” due to a “lapse in federal appropriations.” Handwritten signs urged visitors: “Pack out your trash. There are no trash services at this time.”

Human beings are incapable of picking up their own trash. Perhaps that’s why the Feds took control of the parks.

*

Even when the government reopens, don’t expect your travel difficulties to end with a soft molestation at the xray machine. Delta Airlines hopes to board passengers faster by rolling out eight boarding groups, color coded, starting later in January.

This is the actual (reportedly “more complicated“) new boarding order, according to CNN, which should send you running for an actual good airline:

  1. Preboarders
  2. Delta One
  3. Premium Select (or First Class “if applicable”)
  4. Comfort+ 
  5. Sky Priority (the poor souls who use frequent flier “perks” at Delta Airlines)
  6. Economy Main Cabin 1 and Delta credit card holders and Silver Medallion members 
  7. Economy Main Cabin 2
  8. Economy Main Cabin 3
  9. Basic Economy

CNN notes that the cheapest ticket holders get to make everyone else board and wait for them, so you can save money and spend less time in a cramped seat next to a stranger. Maybe they have to deplane last.

Delta wasn’t done. As of December 18, all animals in Delta cabins must be at least four months old. Also, “emotional support animals” (greatest country in the world, everyone) are banned from flights eight hours or longer. Because if you’re too fragile to fly without your platypus, Delta believes you can suck it up if only the flight is longer.

Notably,

Service and support animals fly free on Delta — unlike regular pets, which cost passengers $125 each way.Delta says the number of service animals on its flights has increased nearly 150% since 2015. 

So either travelers are replicating the “put all my shit in a carryon bag because Delta started charging to check suitcases” workaround with their animals, or we just need much more emotional support when flying with the dirty Delta.

Refresh the ‘Feed

Facebook closed the year on a high note by revealing that between 5 and 7 million users were over-exposed for nearly two weeks in September, courtesy of a “bug.”

The bug allowed apps users had approved to pull their timeline photos to also receive their Facebook Stories, Marketplace photos, and most worryingly, photos they’d uploaded to Facebook but never shared. 

In January, CNBC interviewed the diaspora of ex-Facebook employees to investigate the company’s performance evaluation system. Apparently, given the cap on highly graded employees, you have to suck ass starting on orientation day to survive semiannual reviews.

Is Zuckerberg’s camaraderie, like the advertised health benefits of his piss-colored Gatorade, dubious??

Many former employees blamed the cult-like atmosphere partly on […] [the] peer review system [, which] pressures employees to forge friendships with colleagues at every possible opportunity, whether it be going to lunch together each day or hanging out after work.

Also, when promotions come up in December,
employees[…] focus on short-term goals and push out features that drive user engagement and improve their own metrics without fully considering potential long-term negative impacts on user experience or privacy, multiple former employees said.

We’ve all realized you can’t delete a Facebook account, but are those who never enrolled in the public tantrum train safe? No.

UK Charity Privacy International found 34 Android apps upload user data to Zuckerberg’s machine upon launch. Known culprit apps include
Pregnancy+, MigraineBuddy, Bible+ and Muslim Pro.

Regardless of an unsuspecting Android owner’s PUN ALERT status with the social media giant, any app running Facebook’s Software Developer Kit (SDK) provides a window to your soul:

A Facebook spokesperson told Yahoo News, “Facebook’s SDK tool means that developers can choose to collect app events automatically, to not collect them at all, or to delay collecting them until consent is obtained, depending on their particular circumstances.”

[our emphasis]

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Technology Tangle Continues for Manafort

God bless Paul Manafort. As we previously reported, the convicted tax cheat helped pen his own prosecution by virtue of inability to convert a Word document to PDF.

The Trump associate’s shenanigans were further exposed Tuesday when his defense team contested–with a sloppily-constructed document–Mueller’s charge that Manafort blew his plea deal by lying to the Feds last year.

[W]hile portions of the filing were supposed to be redacted and shielded from the public, court watchers were able to view the filing in its entirety by copying and pasting the redacted sections.

Oops. The dirty details, reportedly shielded on the court docket within an hour, showed additional accusations from Mueller that Manafort dealt 2016 US election polls to Konstantin Kilimnik, and met the suspected Russian intelligence operative (and fellow Mueller indictee) during the 2016 campaign.

Interesting tidbit, courtesy of The Hill: Mueller’s middle name is “Swan.”

Thanks to our sources:

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/421004-cohen-sentenced-to-three-years-in-prison?userid=115887

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/12/676040070/michael-cohen-sentenced-to-3-years-in-prison-following-plea-that-implicated-trum?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2042&fbclid=IwAR2MsX_fPHlwM7XIKuPcCxNAqvIHQz5AvmKUnnGcV549JtAG9wJ9SoBquUk

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/senate-has-too-many-embarrassing-uncles-mccaskill-says-in-farewell-remarks-2018-12-13?siteid=yhoof2&yptr=yahoo

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/white-house/trump-to-deliver-primetime-address-on-national-security-crisis-at-the-border

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-shutdown/trump-threatens-to-use-emergency-power-to-build-wall-end-shutdown-idUSKCN1P416X

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/21/679073393/trump-warns-of-very-long-shutdown-unless-senate-approves-border-wall-funds

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/09/shutdown-highlights-that-4-in-5-us-workers-live-paycheck-to-paycheck.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heres-what-shuts-down-in-a-government-shutdown/

https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/tsa-union-warns-apos-massive-130215466.html

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/homeland-security-denies-hundreds-tsa-225049079.html

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/exclusive-tsa-planning-major-shift-air-marshal-operations-212505199–abc-news-topstories.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2018/12/15/curtails-quiet-skies-passenger-surveillance/2lRAv2AwjGpUcgq08mHaPM/story.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/ice-arrested-170-immigrants-seeking-sponsor-migrant-children-n946621?cid=sm_npd_ms_tw_ma

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/7-year-old-migrant-girl-taken-into-border-patrol-custody-dies-of-dehydration-exhaustion/2018/12/13/8909e356-ff03-11e8-862a-b6a6f3ce8199_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d18bffbf4190

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/14/us/guatemalan-girl-death-ice/index.html

https://apnews.com/0a7e7ec16cd743e4840c321a99e005ef?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=AP&utm_campaign=SocialFlow

https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/12/25/guatemalan-national-passes-away-gerald-champion-regional-medical-center-alamogordo

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/07/us/national-parks-deaths-trnd/index.html

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/heartbreaking-government-shutdown-causing-garbage-162718272.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/01/01/free-all-national-parks-overrun-garbage-other-bad-behavior/2456757002/

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/01/us/government-shutdown-national-parks-toilets-services/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/11/business/delta-new-boarding-process/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/12/us/delta-airlines-bans-support-animals-trnd/index.html


https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/08/facebook-culture-cult-performance-review-process-blamed.html

https://www.yahoo.com/news/android-apps-sending-data-facebook-even-dont-account-105540553.html

https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/424380-redaction-error-in-court-filing-reveals-manafort-shared-polling-info?userid=115887