All posts by darthfrank99

Game of Federal Government Drones

2019 is scheduled to deliver more rough times for the uninvited purveyor of your junk mail. USPS‘ first quarter report reveals a $2.08 billion loss, which is even worse than fourth quarter 2018, which noted a net loss of “$1.5 billion, an increase […] of nearly $1.0 billion compared to the same quarter last year.”

In February’s report for October through December 2018, Megan Brennan, Postmaster General Extraordinaire (below), helms an already sinking ship whose Marketing Mail (which comprises the following tree-destroying garbage “non-first class” items: printed matter, flyers, circulars, advertising, newsletters, bulletins, catalogs and small parcels) explosion of $553 million to the bank was more than negated by “increases in compensation and benefits of $657 million”…

CFO Joseph Corbett, oblivious to basic math, bemoaned the “increases in transportation costs due to these higher volumes.” Fortunately (?), quarter one of 2019 saw marketing mail revenue fall by 3.9%.

Trump’s “Task Force on the United States Postal System,” chaired by entitled Treasury thug Steven Mnuchin, reported last year that “ USPS has been losing money for more than a decade and is on an unsustainable financial path.” The recommendations knocked Brennan for her apparent micromanagement deficiency, noting “USPS suffers from a lack of institutional governance. […] Between December 2016 and August 2018, the USPS Board of Governors (the Board) had no Governors [;] […] the Postmaster General managed the USPS’s financial and operational challenges without strategic direction and guidance, exacerbating management’s limited power to effect needed organizational change[.]”

Interestingly, according to CBS News, the report, which we did not read in its entirety, suggests a “new pricing model that [TRIGGER WARNING: CAPITALIST IDEAS AHEAD] would remove current price caps and charge market-based prices for mail and packages that were not deemed to be ‘essential postal services[,]’ [which] could raise costs for Amazon […]”

The evil e-commerce empire itself, incidentally, contributed to the report.

For the Bernie Sanders enthusiasts, the report also warned against any misguided foray into banking by the ailing office: “[G]iven the USPS’s narrow expertise and capital limitations, USPS should not pursue expanding into new sectors, such as postal banking, where the USPS does not have a demonstrated competency or comparative advantage [.]” [our emphasis]

The USPS website fancies the organization as “at the core of the $1.4 trillion U.S. mailing industry that employs more than 7.5 million people.” Their self-reported $70.6 billion in revenue (which, again, fails to cover USPS’ expenses) comes out to about 5% of that $1.4 trillion.

Citizens Against Government Waste reports USPS has lost $70 billion in since 2007.

In January, the price of a “forever” stamp for first class mail was hiked by 10%, to $0.55.

*

A pulmonary function lab at Duke University admitted to violating the False Claims Act by defrauding the federal government and is paying heavily. After canning a lab technician, Erin Potts-Kant, for embezzlement from Duke (that they’ll be sure to notice; gotta maintain the bottom line. for the children), the institution “discovered possible research misconduct in 2013[.]” The “misconduct” consisted of Potts-Kant’s lab bagging millions in NIH and EPA grants based on falsified data.

Erin Potts-Kant was supposed to certify the validity of the unit’s work and ensure that it fulfilled government requirements. But instead, the suit state[s], “Potts-Kant engaged in systematic and near-universal research fraud,” including, in some cases, making up data outright “in lieu of actually performing experiments.”

NPR reported in March that 17 scientific papers building on the bogus findings were forced to be retracted. The ruse also helped Potts-Kant co-author and publish 38 articles in scholarly journals with her fellow Duke researchers — which were, in turn, cited in 417 other articles when the suit was filed in 2013.

The university must pay the federal government
$112.5 million to settle the suit, but apparently not on the Feds’ initiative. They declined to tangle with the $8.5 billion endowed non-profit, a grateful participant in the federally subsidized higher education empire.

Former Duke lab analyst Joseph Thomas (above), who first reported the fraud in 2013, took it upon himself to sue the university where the government wouldn’t; he will pocket an additional $33.75 million under False Claim Act whistleblower stipulations–a cool 30%.

Thomas’ attorneys say he stuck with the case after the government opted not to mount its own investigation after he reported his allegations and filed suit.

Duke released a statement reassuring everyone that Potts-Kant
eventually pled [sic] guilty to two counts of forgery and paid restitution to Duke .

The ordeal has allowed Duke to give Geeta Swamy the new role of
“vice dean and associate vice provost for scientific integrity.” And hers is not the only new role!

Duke’s new Advisory Panel on Research Integrity and Excellence, to be chaired by pediatric microbiologist and former research dean of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, Ann Arvin, will examine ways of “improving the structure and function of research administration, with a focus on promoting research integrity[.]” 

Job creation!

*

To give San Francisco credit where due, the city’s 11-member Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 with two absences to usurp the police state’s facial recognition capabilities. It is the first American city to respect this invasion of privacy.

The board’s rules committee unanimously advanced the law last week, noting it would also require city departments to get approval from the Board of Supervisors before purchasing other surveillance technology ― including license plate readers, body cameras and biometrics technology, among other items.

None of the 53 city departments may use the technology beginning next month. According to CNN, the police department dabbled with the faulty, Orwellian techniques between 2013 and 2017. It’s anyone’s guess how many stills they have stockpiled.

Related:

The airport and seaport are exempted, however, so check your makeup before getting groped by their TSA.

*

Vanessa and Keana Rodel, Filipino refugees lost in the legal limbo of Hong Kong and threatened with deportation for temporarily housing Edward Snowden, achieved Canadian asylum at the end of March.

But five others remain stateless in Hong Kong after that government rejected their asylum claims in 2017. You can donate to support them here:

fortherefugees.com, the legal charity that is navigating asylum options for Snowden’s 2013 protectors

Related:


*

The already flimsy legal proceedings into Robert Kraft‘s alleged postseason porking (see our previous post) continue to crumble. NFL.com reports Florida Judge Leonard Hanser has blocked prosecutors from screening hidden camera footage of Kraft honing his craft in the courtroom.

When taping the New England Patriots owner’s January jaunts at
Orchids of Asia Day Spa, the authorities“did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of customers who did not commit crimes.”

Thanks to our sources:

https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2019/0208-usps-reports-first-quarter-fiscal-2019-results.htm

https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/USPS_A_Sustainable_Path_Forward_report_12-04-2018.pdf

https://www.cagw.org/thewastewatcher/usps-losses-deepening-bold-postal-reform-wallows

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/01/09/forever-stamp-price-increase-among-us-postal-service-2019-changes/2510932002/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-task-force-proposes-major-postal-service-overhaul/

https://www.npr.org/2019/03/25/706604033/duke-whistleblower-gets-more-than-33-million-in-research-fraud-settlement

https://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2018/11/in-wake-of-prior-misconduct-allegations-duke-creates-new-research-integrity-position

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/910922

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/03/duke-university-settles-research-misconduct-lawsuit-1125-million

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/san-francisco-ban-facial-recognition_n_5cd1d01ce4b0e4d757395587?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGWc9Rug7mgmzTrivqESDIDht56BzY9AdzzdYmiilhNfeF_wUuqJc5wtBqJJPsgXMYPs0AiHYnqHWIfpfgiAz3xh3UiBzubrX0p75KdX2rbHrYsVqYHY10AZw4toYYcRbE31FzH6Ql3DS-uZwoAp_1W8PuDtsSDcaUZktjD_pRdd

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/14/tech/san-francisco-facial-recognition-ban/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/25/asia/edward-snowden-refugees-canada-intl/index.html

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001030680/article/judge-prosecutors-cannot-use-video-in-robert-kraft-case

Security!!

Big Man on Campus, Congressman Eric Swallow Swalwell (D-CA) has entered the 2020 presidential race!! Can he solve these BIG PROBLEMS??

The Department of Defense recently misplaced (at least on paper) over $2,000,000,000 designated for F-35 fighter jet parts. An inspector general at the Pentagon dug into the books on America’s $400 billion effort to produce “next‑generation strike fighter aircraft for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and international partners.”

The Hill notes that neither the F-35 program nor a separate, billion-dollar federal agency that administers Defense contracts (creatively named Defense Contract Management Agency) can account for these “3.45 million pieces of government property” and must rely on the supplier, super-contractor Lockheed Martin, to detail for Defense if and when they purchased the engine parts GOING BACK TO THE YEAR 2002.

Politico reported in 2015: [t]he F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is $163 billion over budget, seven years behind schedule, and will cost taxpayers about twice as much as sending a man to the moon.

According to Lockheed Martin’s 2017 annual report, the F-35 manufacture comprises 25% of their sales.

Defense’s F-35 office Fed-splained away the OIG findings in a comment to The Hill: “There were no surprises in the report and the items mentioned are well known to the F-35 Enterprise. [somewhat ironic, as the billions of dollars in “items” themselves are not known at all] […] [F-35 office] will continue to inventory, track and contractually account for all [government furnished parts] associated with the F-35 system.”

The phrase “continue to” now means “start to” in gov-speak.

“Remember that $2.1 billion we’ve sent you over the past sixteen years? Can you just real quick confirm that was actually used to make planes because we don’t know lol.”

*

The Trump administration’s Secret Service has shown a real talent for ineptitude, as we have documented.

On Monday, Secret Service director Randolph Alles was on his way out quietly (a scheduled sayonara, according to Randolph Alles) before someone leaked the plan to the press and Trump had to unceremoniously ax the two-year Secret Service and 35-year Marine Corps veteran.

Secret Service officials have been caught by surprise with the news and are only finding out through CNN, according to the source.

[…]

A source familiar with the director said his ouster was not related to the recent scrutiny the Secret Service got after a Chinese woman illegally entered the President’s Mar-a-Lago club carrying Chinese passports and a flash drive containing malware. Just five days ago, Trump said he “could not be happier with Secret Service” following the Mar-a-Lago incident.

The “incident” involved Yujing Zhang (below) entering Trump’s Florida country club on the pretense of swimming some laps while carrying “a thumb drive with malicious software on it, four phones, a laptop and a separate hard drive[,]” but no bathing suit.

She is being held without bail and is charged with lying to a federal agent and entering restricted property without permission. There is speculation of espionage after more thumb drives, cash and a “hidden camera detector” were recovered in a raid of Zhang’s apparently off-Largo hotel room.

Court sketch artists: many are either mean-spirited or should have [trigger warning] learned to code instead of draw.

Samuel Ivanovich, Secret Service agent extraordinaire, neglected to use a Mandarin-speaking agent for the first “hours” of interrogation, although the club staff who let Zhang into reception (and through a metal detector with all her gadgets) blamed a “language barrier.” He also forgot to record audio of the first four hours of footage, so when the raw tape is played for the jury it will be slightly less realistic than a Law & Order episode (New York Times reported Mr. Clouseau didn’t realize that the agency’s office in Palm Beach didn’t have that capability.

Washington Post had more:

Ivanovich also testified that when the thumb drive they recovered from Zhang at the club was inserted into another agent’s computer, “a file immediately began to install itself.” The agent, Ivanovich said, had never seen that happen before. …

[our emphasis]

*

Acting director of ICE, Ronald Vitiello, and his boss up the food chain, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, also recently left the Federal terror security business.

Maybe the Feds should study counter-espionage from local police in nearby Jupiter, who lied about a bomb in the building to execute a secret (“delayed notice”) warrant and plant secret cameras in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is criminally charged with getting his dick wet.

USA Today notes the Florida Department of Health, which buttressed a human trafficking investigation into the spa, used some sloppy techniques, including answering “N/A” to a qualifier as to why such intrusive and Constitutionally-shady techniques were required for surveillance, and citing two beds (in a massage parlor), bottled water and ranch dressing as evidence of people being sold.

Kraft’s lawyers [argued] in their latest motion to suppress video evidence [that] the Jan. 20 traffic stop after Kraft allegedly exited the spa […] had the “sole purpose of identifying Mr. Kraft – a passenger in the car – in the absence of any traffic violation or reasonable suspicion of one by the driver.”

Ironically, the warrant did not allow audio recording, so Kraft’s jury, like Zhang’s, will have to watch in awkward silence if the tapes are allowed into evidence. And be spared the stipulations of hidden valleys into which to pump that Ranch.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/f-35-fighter-plane-costs-103579

https://thehill.com/policy/defense/434280-watchdog-pentagon-doesnt-know-where-21b-was-spent-on-f-35-parts

https://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/dam/lockheed-martin/eo/documents/annual-reports/2017-annual-report.pdf

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/mar-a-lago-intruder-had-cash-and-additional-electronics-in-her-hotel-room-prosecutors-say/2019/04/08/2edd875a-5a22-11e9-a00e-050dc7b82693_story.html?utm_term=.5bd0f521f621

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/08/politics/randolph-tex-alles-secret-service-director/index.html

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/10/ronald-vitiello-ice-leaves-post-1342090

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/04/12/Chinese-woman-formally-charged-for-entering-Mar-a-Lago/7941555111827/?rc_fifo=1

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/08/politics/mar-a-lago-yujing-zhang/index.html

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/espionage-is-supposed-to-be-more-difficult-than-this/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2019/04/03/robert-kraft-sex-spa-case-fake-bomb-threat/3354549002/



Pop Fizz Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is back to harassing the majority to pander at interest groups.

Related:

Starting in July, the mayor has decreed that cash, consisting of cotton with no intrinsic value and subject to the whims of an unconstitutional, unaudited Federal Reserve that is appointed to manipulate the money supply, must be accepted at all* city businesses or they will be fined as “discriminatory.”

Perhaps because they gave more money to his campaign, certain industries are exempted, of course:

[P]arking lots, garages, and businesses who sell goods through a membership model – such as gyms – [are] able to continue operations as normal.

And guess who’s back under the microscope by daring create jobs from the efficiency of cashless transactions??

Councilman Allan Domb said Amazon issued a warning that they would re-consider implementing an Amazon Go store in the city if the bill passed.

[…] Amazon Go stores have no cashiers and only accept digital forms of payment.

Admittedly, the jobs will be for filthy, NSA-style behavior monitors leering at you through surveillance cameras as you negate your cashless Planet Fitness workout with a cheesecake cupcake. WE SAW YOU BRENDA GET BACK ON THE TREADMILL.

According to Tech Crunch, the store’s 100ish cameras track your body movements, but employ no facial recognition. Yet.

How is Philly’s recent push for “universal pre-K built by soda drinkers” shaping up, anyway? Likely, with generous curves.

MarketWatch reported in January on a four-year Stanford University study of Philadelphia beverage sales (including two years prior to the start of the shake down). Scanning the paper turns up some good nuggets, from the mayor’s spokesperson admitting the main objective was to raise cash, not improve health (justifying the taxation of diet drinks, but not sugar-laden juices), to the mayor’s initial demand of $0.03/ounce that was trimmed to $0.015.

While the tax successfully moved some sales to just beyond the city limits, [t]he 46% reduction in quantity sold of taxed beverages [in city limits] leads to an equivalent percentage reduction in tax revenue relative to the case where consumers continue to consume at pre-tax levels.

Also, there was no increase in the city’s sale of untaxed beverages (like water), and the artificial drop in consumption (since people just stepped outside the city to buy soda or Gatorade merely hit by sales tax, not an additional sweetened beverage tax) was decrease[d] less in low income (and high obesity) neighborhoods.

[…]

After taking into account cross-shopping, the total demand reduction is equal to only 22%. We do not detect a significant reduction in calorie and sugar intake.

Read more here:

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/residents-of-philadelphia-found-a-novel-way-around-the-citys-unpopular-soda-tax-2019-01-11

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3302335

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The California Bullet Train has been delayed again by governor Gavin Newsom (below, left). Perhaps to preempt bad publicity that his family was too good for the historic California governor’s mansion in Sacramento (which Newsom reportedly ditched after holing up there for three weeks so $4.1 million in renovations could wrap on his new crib in Fair Oaks), the newly-minted Democrat, via a “State of the State” publicity appearance, bemoaned that completing the $100 billion disaster, begun during the George W. Bush administration under outgoing governor Jerry Brown, “would cost too much and take too long.”

Newsom and ex-wife Kimberly Guilfoyle

California will complete just the leg between Merced and Bakersfield (for now?). The original plan to link San Francisco and Los Angeles with a “bullet” speed locomotive was sabotaged from the beginning by pressure to slow down and stop in politicians’ backyards, as even far-left Vox pointed out:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/15/18224717/california-high-speed-rail-canceled

Also,

[California] set about to construct the segment connecting Bakersfield and Merced, two smaller cities in the middle of the state, as the initial segment. The idea was basically that a Bakersfield-Merced high-speed rail was so obviously ridiculous that nobody would be content to build just that and end the project, so future governments would go find billions of extra dollars somehow.

Did Newsom intend to cut his losses?

“Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it […] And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump.”

Guess what. The evil orange man has attempted to cut off massive federal funds ($929,000,000, which is actually a fraction of the tens of billions the completed slog would consume) towards finishing the train.

Trump tweeted that California owed the federal government about $3.5 billion for the canceled project. “We want that money back now,” he wrote. “Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”

The Department of Transportation indeed announced they seek to recoup $2.5 billion granted for fiscal year 2010. (The 3.5 billion figure comes from 929 million + 2.5 billion = way too much to spend on a vanity project.)

“I can’t recall of any precedent,” [sic] said Art Bauer, a longtime state Senate Transportation Committee staffer who was deeply involved in the early planning on the high-speed rail. “They never claw back money. They are saying you are not getting money we committed to you.”

[our emphasis]

Incidentally, CNN argues Trump cannot repossess the funds appropriated to California High-Speed Rail Authority by Obama’s
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They need only
complete a 120-mile high-speed train track for the “initial central valley section” by the end of December 2022.

No actual trains required! Not unreasonable expectations for thirteen years of heavily-subsidized “reinvestment” in a failing industry.

Newsom bitched that Trump pulling the project plug after the Governor indicated he, himself was mostly pulling the plug constituted retaliation.

“It’s no coincidence that the Administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the President’s farcical ‘national emergency,’” Newsom said in a statement, referring to Trump’s emergency declaration to secure funding for his wall on the Mexican border. “The President even tied the two issues together in a tweet this morning. This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by. This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it.”

Earlier in the day, Trump had declared on Twitter, “The failed Fast Train project in California, where the cost overruns are becoming world record setting, is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!”

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The Governor continues to lay down some statist policies. According to Inside Higher Ed,

Newsom is calling for a $10 million investment into a data collection system that will track Californians from kindergarten all the way into the work force.

[our emphasis]

According to Ed Source reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn, the governor’s January budget proposal publicly proposed a new layer to the state choke hold on young citizens’ prospects:

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6788865/Philadelphia-city-ban-discriminatory-cashless-stores.html

https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/21/inside-amazons-surveillance-powered-no-checkout-convenience-store/

https://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/Gavin-Newsom-Sacramento-Fair-Oaks-home-13556456.php#photo-16816028

https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickgleason/2018/12/14/jerry-brown-leaves-california-with-100b-train-debt-as-texas-pursues-its-own-rail-boondoggle/#7bbfc012b65d

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-gavin-newsom-high-speed-rail-train-scale-back_us_5c632372e4b0a8731aeae3d0

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/19/politics/california-high-speed-rail-cancel-grant/index.html

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-high-speed-rail-20190219-story.html

https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/just-visiting/dont-do-it-gavin-newsom

$22,000,000,000,000 and Counting

The Trump Defense Department should be taking fire for presumed upcoming abuse of the Overseas Contingency Operations fund.

The account is separate from the Pentagon’s mere $576,000,000,000 budget for fiscal year 2020. But unlike the “defense” budget, OCO funding is exempt from budget caps.

The Trump administration is seeking roughly an additional $150 billion (possibly as much as $174 billion, which would bring the overall budget for defense to $750 billion) for the war fund […] Entire programs, such as the U.S. Army’s accounts for ammunition and training, will be moved to this war account, according to multiple sources.

[our emphasis]

OCO spent just $90,000,000,000 last year.

Is the President’s request a harbinger of an upcoming endless war that need not be bound by a budget, as Trump’s batshit crazy, warmongering national security adviser John Bolton (who Wall Street Journal reported in January started drafting plans to bomb Iran after an explosion near the American embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, a completely different country, last year) would prefer?

The funds can be shoveled to less nefarious purposes, such as a troop pay raise as the waning days of the Obama administration brought us in f.y. 2017’s bloated National Defense Authorization Act. We reported:

But it’s ultimately another venue for the Dirty Dems and Rotten Republicans to come together and skirt the budget caps that were supposed to curtail federal spending over the past decade in exchange for short-term increases to the debt ceiling, succeeding in achieving only in the latter.

For example, in 2016 the Government Accountability Office reported the vast majority of these “emergency war” funds in the f.y. 2017 appropriations supported our decades-long, unconstitutional occupation of Afghanistan.

In fact, according to this January https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R44519.pdf report from Congressional Research Service, fighting abstract “terror” outside of legislators’ purse string control is so ingrained in the “emergency war” fund, terror has entered the acronym:

“Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has appropriated approximately $2 trillion in discretionary budget authority designated as emergency requirements or for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism (OCO/GWOT) in support of the broad U.S. government response to the 9/11 attacks and for other related international affairs activities.”

[our emphasis]

Extra budget wiggle room certainly can’t solve the recruiting woes of the most expensive defense force on the planet. The Army missed its goal enrollment by over 6,000 last year, “despite pouring an extra $200 million into bonuses and approving some additional waivers for bad conduct or health issues.”

Heritage Foundation recently reminded us that just 29% of 17-to-24-year-old Americans are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces. Wall Street Journal reported in 2014 [t]he ineligible typically includes those who are obese, those who lack a high school diploma or a GED, convicted felons, those taking prescription drugs for ADHD and those with certain tattoos and ear gauges[.]

*

Disgraced FEMA director Brock Long has resigned, boasting that “[d]uring my tenure, the Agency worked more than 220 declared disasters[,]” which is slightly greater than the number of days on the job he spent getting chauffeured to and from North Carolina.

*

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering making the rest of the Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 look more palatable. Politico reported the large-headed enforcer kicks off a tour of early primary state New Hampshire this week, continuing a trend of quality candidates from the Empire State.

Probably good to start self-promoting in a state with fewer citizens viscerally offended by the phrase “c.p. time” :

Politico suggested Bombastic Bill is already floating slogans:

“There’s plenty of money in this city. It’s just in the wrong hands,” [de Blasio] declared at his State of the City address last month.

De Blasio seized the occasion to pitch socialist policies including ten mandatory paid vacation days annually for everyone working in the city.

“I’m not aware of any other state or city that requires [paid vacation],” said Rick McGahey, an economist at the New School for Social Research who served as an assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Labor Department during the Clinton administration.

Puerto Rico does mandate paid vacation days, McGahey said[…]

Puerto Rico recently went bankrupt.

The part-time mayor, full-time Red Sox fan’s travel bill is covered by his federal political action committee…Fairness PAC.

De Blasio did not, that we can find, characterize the devil the “richest man on earth” Amazon‘s sudden decision Thursday to scrap plans for its New York City location as “unfair.” Instead, he found the move “disappointing” and “disrespectful.”

“Working people are very smart and very discerning. They want jobs, they want revenue, they want the kinds of things that government can do for them,” the mayor lectured WNYC’s radio audience, explaining that industrious New Yorkers would have valued the opportunity to work hard so their earnings can be redistributed. Working people can’t be trusted to responsibly spend their own money. They’re smart, but not that smart.

This would put de Blasio at odds with hometown social justice warrior, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,(D-NY), (below), who according to CNN had publicly railed against the tech company’s incentives extended from New York’s layer cake of municipal regulators to build in Long Island City, Queens. New York Post reported these included $2.5 billion in tax credits, a $500 million state construction subsidy and the ability to sidestep the city’s laborious zoning process.

[our emphasis]

Apparently, that pot of honestly confiscated taxes was not worth sacrificing for an estimated 25,000 jobs with wages averaging 150,000 [sic].

Ocasio-Cortez announced on Twitter:
“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”

The first-term representative also recently proposed legislation to eliminate the country’s airplanes, which are only used by those making $150,000 or more annually.

New York governor and family mobster Andrew Cuomo (D) (below, jowls), desperate to brand his third term with something besides the murder of Eric Garner, a decrepit subway, and millions of dollars of illegal state-sponsored street signs, was nearly as angry as de Blasio.

Syracuse.com reports Cuomo blustered that “[t]he New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.”

Amazon said Thursday that local opposition was the main reason it is dropping its New York City plans, despite 70 percent of Empire State residents supporting the investment.

While he apparently didn’t single out Ocasio-Cortez, the governor’s spokesperson noted Democratic State Senator Todd Kaminsky (below, squinting) “tanked the Amazon plan by placing a stalwart Amazon opponent on the government approval board to pander to the local socialists.”

It’s unclear whether that board had a representative in Wednesday’s [trigger warning] powwow in Cuomo’s office. Amazon’s people were hammering out the proposed employees’ ability to unionize, aided by representatives of AFL-CIO and Teamsters. Union bosses directly determining the fate of corporate satellite headquarters must be a key element of de Blasio’s declaring New York “the greatest city in the world” while pouting on WNYC.

According to Bloomberg, the meeting was productive, and one of the AFL-CIO affiliate’s presidents was about to deploy his–this is the actual self-important term for union regulatory writers–*wordsmiths* to solidify union influence in the deal when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pulled the plug the following day.

*

Mr. Bezos, by the way, alleges National Enquirer publisher David Pecker–again, his actual name–is using a subordinate to blackmail Bezos into dropping his investigation of the sources behind the tabloid’s article, “Jeff Bezos’ Raunchy Text Messages That Prove Illicit Affair.”

Dylan Howard, an Australian national and VP of Pecker’s AMI‘s National Enquirer, (below), reportedly has damning images of Bezos, some involving a Lauren Sanchez. These include a fully-clothed “selfie,” a “selfie” in which Bezos wears“just a pair of tight black boxer-briefs or trunks,” and
“Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.”

https://medium.com/@jeffreypbezos/no-thank-you-mr-pecker-146e3922310f

https://www.nationalenquirer.com/celebrity/jeff-bezos-lauren-sanchez-text-messages-affair-scandal/

As we reported earlier, Pecker himself, whose empire Vanity Fair describes as “Trump’s most powerful media ally next to Fox News,” rolled on the president last year, corroborating Cohen’s “hush money to Trump mistresses” scheme in exchange for federal immunity. Howard, an Australian national, has also been protected by the deal.

*

Delta Airlines‘ latest scandal has also dragged soft drink giant Coca-Cola into the gutter.

Getting an early jump on the Valentine’s Day festivities, the soon-to-be-Green-New-Dealed-Into-Obscurity carrier apparently tried to spark in-flight stalking while reminding passengers to keep it trim by sucking down Diet Coke. Twitter went peanuts nuts, and the inflammatory line of napkins was pulled starting last month:

Thanks to our sources:

https://nypost.com/2019/02/15/de-blasio-rips-into-aocs-amazon-opposition-working-people-want-jobs/

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/14/politics/amazon-aoc-democrats-future/index.html

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2018/10/02/love-ny-signs-removed/1496503002/

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/7/18215314/green-new-deal-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-resolution-climate-change

https://www.syracuse.com/politics/2019/02/cuomo-blames-other-dems-for-amazon-exit-as-aoc-celebrates.htmlhttps://www.theverge.com/2019/2/7/18215314/green-new-deal-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-resolution-climate-change

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-14/amazon-was-holding-talks-wednesday-to-make-nyc-deal-happen

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2019/02/06/delta-airlines-apologizes-creepy-diet-coke-flight-napkins/2796432002/

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/08/donald-trump-national-enquirer-allies-defect-david-pecker-michael-cohen

https://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/australian-journalist-dylan-howard-reportedly-granted-immunity-could-give-info-on-trump-payments/news-story/14439dc2474d2971cde68851b5e6b85c

https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-68

https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-sought-options-to-strike-iran-11547375404

http://www.newser.com/story/264957/us-army-falls-short-of-2018-recruiting-goal.html

https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/the-looming-national-security-crisis-young-americans-unable-serve-the-military

http://time.com/2938158/youth-fail-to-qualify-military-service/

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/13/politics/brock-long-fema/index.html

http://www.fox5ny.com/news/mayor-progressive-agenda-paid-vacation

https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/new-york-mayor-bill-de-blasio-explained-his-loyalty-to-the-red-sox-on-the-jonah-keri-podcast/

https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2019/02/11/de-blasio-heads-to-new-hampshire-as-he-contemplates-run-for-president-848323

State of Discontent

INFECTED!!! The holier-than-thou Pacific Northwest is battling a measles outbreak that has triggered a state of emergency declaration in Washington (State, not cesspool).

All of the 35 confirmed patients suffering from the rarely fatal virus (which according to the CDC was eradicated from America in 2000) were either unvaccinated or have not had their vaccination status verified. We need to investigate that latter group so Twitter can attack the appropriate side.

NPR reports:
Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963 measles was the single leading killer of children in the world. To this day, it still kills 100,000 children a year worldwide, most under the age of five.

Popular locations to pick up this outbreak: if you picked someone up at
Portland International Airport in neighboring Oregon; attended a pick up NBA game featuring the Portland Trailblazers; picked up groceries at Wal-Mart in Vancouver; patronized the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry; or stumbled upon any of the other “four dozen locations” teased by Associated Press.

*

It’s still a terrible time to live in Chicago. Although thug mayor Rahm Emanuel (below, duck face) mercifully realized last month he would be the city’s first mayor in generations unable to buy his reelection if he didn’t step aside, the “Windy City” will still be frozen in hardship, namely due to dangerous winds this week from the polar vortex.

Specifically, the high temperature Wednesday of -13 degrees F will drop to a “feels like” of -50 when wind is factored in.

ABC7 of Chicago spotlighted our next online outrage mob victim, Jane Bozym, who whined from O’Hare airport:
“I am going to Phoenix [AZ], where I live now, I moved there a year ago. I am a little bit sad that I am actually going to miss the cold, just to say that I lived it.”

The Metra train service has deploy[ed] crews to set fires on switchers to keep the tracks from contracting.

Related: https://www.techspot.com/news/73061-all-20000-boring-company-flamethrowers-have-sold-out.html

Reportedly, “several inches” of snow fell on the city Monday.

But the race to replace burned-out ballerina Rahm won’t be smooth sledding. USA Today noted the four top-funded candidates, including reported frontrunner and current Illinois comptroller Susana Mendoza (above, gesturing), have all been forced to explain away associations with city council member/ “alderman” (since 1969) Edward “Ed” Burke (below, mafia costume).

The wizened former police officer and attorney, accused of extortion (maximum penalty: 20 years of prison or 5 months of forced residence in Chicago) earlier this month, allegedly [tried] to steer business to his private law firm [Klafter & Burke] from a company seeking to renovate a fast food restaurant[Burger King] in his ward. Burke denies trying so brazenly trying to have it his way.

[T]he FBI found 23 guns in raids on Burke’s City Hall and ward offices. As a condition of his bond, [he] was ordered to surrender the firearms and any others he may own within 48 hours of his release.

Mendoza was married by Burke’s wife Anne, a judge on the state Supreme Court (who was quietly sworn in to a second 10-year term on Nov. 29, the same day her husband’s offices were raided), in the Burke house. She is donating to the Montford Point Marines veterans group $141,550 in campaign contributions banked from alderman Danny Solis, and organizations run by him and his family (including, ironically, this being Chicago–see below–a debt collection firm). Why should we take solace in her dissociation from a different career criminal?

The Sun-Times noted Mendoza’s decision came one day after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Solis, retiring chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, has spent the last two years wired up to help federal investigators build their corruption case against Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th). Normally, elected officials agree to go undercover only after they themselves have been caught in corruption scandals.

The suddenly-virtuous comptroller blasted rival mayoral candidate,
Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle, demanding she likewise relinquish $116,000 Preckwinkle bagged from a 2018 fundraiser with Establishment Ed:

“By waiting until the end of March to return this tainted money, [Preckwinkle] is choosing to use dirty money to get her through this mayoral election. That’s shameful.”

Preckwinkle (above) has called on Burke to resign from the City Council [and] proposed prohibiting council members from holding outside employment.

Preckwinkle said later in the month she would return the money, and characterized Burke as “Susana Mendoza’s mentor.” More problematic may be her advocacy for Ed Burke, Jr.’s (below, mugshot) most recent employment.

[D]espite the fact that Burke Jr. was under investigation on allegations he made inappropriate sexual comments to co-workers at his prior job *in* the Cook County sheriff’s office, Preckwinkle forwarded his resume to the Department of Homeland Security for a promotion to their Cook County Emergency Management Department. Sun-Times reported Preckwinkle admits the recommendation came after she personally met with Burke Sr.

[our emphasis]

A Preckwinkle official said her office was not aware of the investigation when Burke was hired for the homeland security job.

Sun-Times notes a $10,000 contribution from Burke Sr. to Preckwinkle is mentioned in the extortion charges. Burke Jr. retired from the $110,000/year gig last year prior to a June domestic battery arrest in which all charges were “swiftly” dropped (sort of like his pants, as the arresting officers found him “extremely intoxicated, naked, acting violently, and destroying furniture inside [his] residence” not three hours after police originally escorted him there earlier in the evening), according to Chicago Tribune.

For his part, Burke Sr. has endorsed former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico to succeed Emanuel.

Klafter & Burke reportedly helped Trump do his taxes until last year.

*

Last November, Chicago caught up with Sony to enforce a new 9% cloud tax. PlayStation streaming services just became more costly. The 2015 job-discouraging measure was already kowtowed to by other gaming platform streamers like Xbox. (This is in addition to special Chicago taxes on movies, bottled water and cell phones, according to Fee.) Apparently,

A spokesman for the city’s Law Department, Bill McCaffrey, recently said,”If a business is not collecting the tax where we believe it applies, the city takes the necessary steps and works with the company to ensure compliance with the law.”

[…]

When Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel approved the additional tax on streaming services, it was done so with the explicit purpose of helping to fund the $530 million increase given to Chicago’s police force

[our emphasis]

Homicides? No, we need more resources to harass people binging Storage Wars.

But wait. Illinois Policy reported:

The city’s amusement tax used to mostly apply to purchases of concert and sporting event tickets. However, the Chicago Department of Finance ruled in 2015 that the tax covered streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Spotify. This expansion of the amusement tax is commonly dubbed the “Netflix tax” or the “cloud tax.” In addition to being regressive, it is also likely illegal.

Liberty Justice Center has sued the city, but lost the first round. They are currently appealing to First District Court of Appeals. Labell v. City of Chicago argues the city is violating the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which
prohibits states, counties and municipalities from levying taxes that discriminate against electronic commerce.

LJC notes the mendacious metropolis takes the tax from everyone with a Chicago billing address, not necessarily only from those watching Netflix in Chicago.

Apple (who have reportedly refused to confiscate the tax from users) sued with a similar suit.

*

The best reason to steer clear of the Midway surfaced earlier this month, when the city was (again) exposed for confiscating and selling for scrap the vehicles of unfortunate denizens violating the city parking sticker system.

The eventual sale of scofflaw-related cars — 8,000 cars in 2017 alone — doesn’t wipe out any tickets, towing costs, or storage fees. […]

Here’s what the city’s own website says regarding the seizure of cars for ticket debts: “The signing over or involuntary surrender of your vehicle to the City does not waive or decrease any outstanding debt you owe the City.”

The city tickets aggressively for sticker noncompliance […], and at rates far higher in low-income neighborhoods, a WBEZ/ProPublica Illinois investigation found.

[…]

The city faces a class-action lawsuit over fine increases; plaintiffs accuse the city of exceeding legal caps on parking and compliance tickets.

Interestingly,

After Mendoza’s candidacy became official, [fellow candidate,
former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul] Vallas issued a statement slamming her for presiding over increases in vehicle sticker fees and penalties as clerk during Emanuel’s administration.

*

No word yet if the sinking ship SS Chi-town will try to pull what California did in the news-ignorant haze of the holidays. Their Public Utilities Commission briefly tried to tax text messages after voice call revenue plummeted 33% since 2011. They circulated some sob story that “Public Purpose Programs” now have less confiscated wealth to subsidize low-income residents.

But the Federal Communications Commission forced the state to abandon their latest shakedown, ruling that text messages are an “information service” (like internet and phone) that cannot be discouraged by additional grabbing from a revenue-drunk government. Probably because poor people relying on government subsidies for their phones would be regressively raped by a text tax.

Also (duh):


The wireless phone industry argue[d] added fees would put carriers at a higher disadvantage since messaging services like Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger would not be charged under the proposed legislation.



Thanks to our sources:

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/28/689549375/washington-state-officials-declare-state-of-emergency-as-measles-outbreak-contin

https://apnews.com/88fde6e095424d348d1321cf41a6d9b0

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/09/04/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-wont-seek-re-election/1191517002/

https://abc7chicago.com/weather/live-temps-chicago-weather-wind-chill-advisory-in-effect-tuesday/5110996/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/01/23/chicago-federal-political-corruption-scandal-mayor-election-alderman-ed-burke/2581411002/

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-alderman-ed-burke-charges-20190103-story.html

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/state-comptrollers-susana-mendozas-announcement-of-chicago-mayoral-run-leads-to-barrage-of-political-attacks/ar-BBPK11A

https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/mendoza-contributions-solis-doyle-burke-investigation-montford-point-marines-preckwinkle-chicago-mayor-election-2019/

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-ed-burke-jr-domestic-battery-charge-20190125-story.html

https://fee.org/articles/chicago-s-new-playstation-tax-shows-how-greedy-politicians-can-be/?fbclid=IwAR0Xed22MouRFRqFqQ6GkalQGh_WBicreIiqqLMkBa_7eGabolCZoT2q7xQ

https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicago-slaps-playstation-users-with-expansion-of-9-percent-amusement-tax/

https://www.wbez.org/shows/wbez-news/chicago-seized-and-sold-nearly-50000-cars-over-tickets-since-2011-sticking-owners-with-debt/1d73d0c1-0ed2-4939-a5b2-1431c4cbf1dd

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/california-considers-charging-residents-tax-190318852.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/16/tech/california-text-tax-vote-canceled/index.html

Shutdown Updates

Above: Senate Minority “Leader” Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi deliver a bombast response to Trump’s “Prime Time Border Wall” speech January 8, a political theater duel utterly distinct from the annual “State of the Union” and choreographed response (both traditionally scripted later in the month). 

The Trump Shutdown continues and according to NBC reporter Kelly O’Donnell, even newly crowned repeat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not anticipate the stalemate becoming so stale.

Pelosi’s “I thought you would have caved by now” subtext in denying Trump a national platform for the constitutionally-mandated State of the Union show likely masked fury at the president’s pulling the plug on her multi-representative jaunt to (per Trump) Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan last week. A spokesperson advised NBC News of the trip’s ambitious aims:
“to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines.”

Alas,
The itinerary included a required stop in Brussels to allow the pilot to rest, the statement said, adding that the delegation planned to meet NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies […] The trip did not include a stop in Egypt.

We’re supposed to have copilots and planes that basically fly themselves to avoid these costly layovers, but after again collecting record income tax last year, the Filthy Feds still ran a deficit. And Pelosi’s posse was scheduled to fly…military aircraft.

Trump normally allows liberal use of the costly planes.

Pelosi last week requested Trump deliver State of the Union in writing so certain security workers wouldn’t have to work without pay that night, as they (and the rest of DHS who haven’t quit yet) have been doing for four and a half weeks. After turning the Speaker’s trip around right after they boarded the bus, Trump proceeded to fundraise off the squelched speech.

And, after stopping the bus, the president or someone in the administration is now accused of chucking Nancy under it. After suggesting she mix with the heathen masses and catch a commercial plane to Afghanistan, it was apparently broadcast to that particular war zone (we are still avenging a terrorist attack from 18 years ago by violently rebuilding the Middle East) that the Speaker’s delegation was, in fact, planning to travel to Afghanistan on a commercial plane. Pelosi cast the move as “inexperience[d]” on the part of the accused, and fingered the now-woke “bad actors” in Afghanistan obliging her to again cancel the trip.

As a country, we know how to throw a classy shutdown. Or at least a classically inept rendition. The Independent noted one of the myriad, bumbling, unaccountable Federal agencies that is still burning bread in times of “we haven’t borrowed a budget yet”
mistakenly paid about 30 employees at the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

The culprit Interior Business Centre [sic], an IT division of Department of Interior, blamed a “clerical error.”

The leaders of the chemical safety board quickly sent out an urgent email asking employees not to spend the money. 
“PLEASE DO NOT ACCESS THE FUNDS,” the email read. […]
Three years ago, the Interior Business Centre became a source of ire for federal employees after it failed to pay 40,000 of them on time.

The logical conclusion is the pay error rate is much higher when the IBC (which, to their credit, siphons taxpayer dough to 240,000 employees) is actually up and running.

Although the nation is mostly worried about overpaid bureaucrats and private sector drones with cushy contracts (see below), PBS pointed out a few thousand food stores cannot accept SNAP (food stamp) government benefits starting February 1 because they missed the deadline to renew their license for processing the payments.

Normally we’d shit on the Federal prerogative to coerce communities into expensive programs, then literally regulate them to extinction, but…

https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-cuyahoga/westlake-man-indicted-for-food-stamp-fraud-and-running-unregulated-slaughterhouse-from-home

But oh, no, the parks. Remaining rangers deplored that their skeleton crews would be unable to keep control over the past holiday weekend, because
“visitors are not enjoying the parks they way they should be[.]” (John Lauretig, former National Park Service ranger and executive director of Friends of Joshua Tree) [our emphasis]

More importantly, The Hill bemoaned this missed opportunity. Holiday weekends typically are big revenue generators. Lauretig estimated that a three-day weekend at Joshua Tree could generate close to $100,000.

[our emphasis]

(Putting land under federal control GENERATES money out of thin air. It’s also JOB CREATION for rangers…if the children running Washington can shit out a budget on time.)

Fortunately, Interior gave its blessing for subagency National Park Service to bring back some staff using the revenue fees. Some essential Parks employees have been ranging without pay until now.

The Democrats have not forgotten about government contractors, drafting some ideas for the 3.7ish million who are not only missing paychecks now, but (unlike Federal employees) won’t get that cheddar in backpay when (if?) the behemoth resumes its meddling. Add in a dash of class warfare, of course:

Lawmakers say they want to help low-wage workers who are shut out of work while doing so in a way that doesn’t pad the pockets of higher-wage contractors who can more easily withstand the financial strain of a shutdown.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) introduced a bill that would provide back pay for any “retail, food, custodial, or security services” contractors put on leave due to a shutdown. But so far Democratic leaders have not included it in their legislation aimed at fully reopening the government.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/08/pelosi-schumer-trump-response-immigration-1088722

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/pelosi-jabs-trump-maybe-he-thinks-it-s-ok-not-n959841

https://nypost.com/2018/07/18/whats-behind-the-governments-record-income-tax-collection/h

https://thehill.com/homenews/house/426032-pelosi-accuses-trump-of-outing-trip-to-afghanistan?userid=115887

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/us-government-shutdown-furloughed-federal-workers-paid-by-mistake-trump-a8724511.html

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-many-stores-cant-accept-food-stamps-during-the-shutdown

https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/426102-national-parks-cautiously-brace-for-long-weekend-amid-shutdown

https://thehill.com/policy/finance/425015-dems-struggling-to-help-low-wage-contractors-harmed-by-shutdown

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]

*

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

Wild Turkey

“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (below).

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

The Pentagon wrapped its first-ever audit and the results were apparently so humiliating they were not released.

Defense News does note the year-long endeavor consumed $413 million […] [another] $406 million was spend [sic] on addressing issues found by the department, with another $153 million on “financial system fixes,” per a DoD factsheet — a total […] of $972 million.

While shoveling Federal Reserve-weakened cash toward improving the system is an honorable step, we won’t hold our breath for any legitimate proposals to more efficiently administer what Reuters characterizes–in perhaps the rosiest pro-big Government euphemism of the year–numerous military bases of various sizes at home and abroad and troops deployed in far-flung locales.

Meanwhile, the Federal Deficit packed on an additional 17% in preparation for holiday hedonism. Fiscal year 2018 saw a $779 billion shortfall, and, to their credit, CNN admitted the gap could not be blamed on the recent Republican tax cut, which was more than offset by increased revenues from individual and self-employment taxes.

[Why tax cuts are so maligned when they apparently lead to more tax revenue, we’ll never understand.]

Rather, [s]pending rose 3% over the previous year, fueled in part by increases to the defense budget agreed upon in September 2017 as part of a deal between Republicans and Democrats to head off a government shutdown. Social Security and interest on the federal debt also contributed to the increase.

[our emphasis]

Related:

FEMA Withdraws Aid Withdrawal Amid Backlash, Raises Stakes with Seedy Power Provider and Drops the Ball on Puerto Rican Food Delivery; Congress Shits on Taxpayers Again; Your Location and Face Broadcast to More Federal Agencies

When your national debt is a record $21,000,000,000,000-plus, and even ultra-left wing NPR cautions merely covering the interest on that monstrosity will outstrip defense spending in a few years, the obvious solution is to spend more on defense. It’s all about winning.

*

Another example of winning: the lame-duck GOP majority snuffed out a bipartisan effort to end our unconstitutional Yemen carnage with a 201-187 procedural ploy.

This greased the wheels for the Manage Our Wolves Act, whose passage will reportedly strip “endangered species” status from American gray wolves. And, according to The Intercept, incidentally block a floor vote on whether to direct President Donald Trump to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi- and UAE-led intervention in Yemen.

A September resolution by Ro Khanna (D-CA) mandating the end of America’s unconstitutional interference in the conflict had the standing for a floor vote without the blessing of the Establishment-controlled Rules Committee under the War Powers Act. Not anymore.

Even the Humane Society of the United States implored Congress for mercy towards the ferocious mammals. And, perhaps unbeknownst to them, the shell-shocked, cholera-stricken Yemeni, with whom we are not at war.

Spring Break Blitz: Stories We Sat On!!! January 29: Two Americans Killed

Just twelve Republicans, including Justin Amash (R-MI), had the stones to oppose the final bill (although a combined 54 members chose not to show up), which passed by a mere 16 votes.

*

Trump’s election year fear mongering over the migrant caravan got a little-noticed boost from the “law and order” angle when NBC revealed the DHS has infiltrated the estimated 4,000 Central American asylum seekers by paying moles to monitor their progress. Namely, the new Federal employees are tapping the WhatsApp communication of the refugees.

Trump, according to CNN, deployed 6,000 American troops to the border just prior to his party’s somewhat muted shellacking in the midterms, because you need 1.5 heavily-armed Americans to safely deny each starving homeless Honduran access to the country. Or for a more nefarious purpose:

“If [the troops] have to, they’re going to use lethal force. I’ve given the OK,” Trump said. “If they have to — I hope they don’t have to[…] I have no choice[;] [y]ou’re dealing with a minimum of 500 serious criminals[,] rough people.”

[our emphasis]

Defense’s top dog James Mattis had other ideas: “[T]here has been no call for any lethal force[.]”  CNN has him on record that any troops backing up customs personnel would not be carrying firearms but could be equipped with shields and batons.

Trump fired back: “[If]our people are going to start getting hurt, we will close entry into the country for a period of time until we can get it under control […] [t]he whole border. I mean the whole border.”

*

Forbes reported the Federal Government is successfully prying innocent Americans’ locations from technology companies via warrants demanding details on anyone essentially using a phone within a certain radius of the coordinates of alleged crimes.

Those users could be Android phone owners, anyone running Google Maps or any individual running Google services on their cell [phone].

[…]

Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department in Minnesota said it wasn’t just Google that could furnish cops with a startling mount [sic] of detailed location data. Facebook and Snapchat [had also] proven useful.

[our emphasis]

Fortunately, the ham-handed FBI might have struck out in this instance, which featured a location sweep for the time frames surrounding five (5) armed robberies of the same Hernico, VA Dollar Tree earlier this year (four at the store, one of their manager at the local bank deposit box):

[F]or unknown reasons, no records were returned. Forbes couldn’t find any charges against individuals named as suspects in the document. Forbes also contacted the prosecutor who signed off on the search warrant, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

[our emphasis]

*

Not to be outdone, Facebook is weathering scrutiny for siccing right wing researchers Definers Public Affairs on those who would bring the social decay giant scrutiny: with intent to smear [Facebook]’s critics by linking them to the billionaire liberal donor George Soros.

The Hill notes Facebook has seen more than a quarter of its value wiped out this year amid data privacy issues, strict regulations in Europe, the threat of regulations in the U.S. and stagnant user growth.

[…]

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. adults say that social media platforms hurt democracy, according to a recent poll by Axios and SurveyMonkey

The oven gloves were off on Thanksgiving eve, as Facebook quietly admitted to asking an opposition-research company to investigate billionaire George Soros over his public criticism of the social network.

Mashable reported soon-to-depart policy pusher Elliot Schrage (below) will take the kitchen heat for head Q-tip Mark Zuckerberg, stammering the tech giant used “public information” to determine Soros was funding the heretofore “grassroots” organization Freedom from Facebook, whose ambitious call to action can be found here.

 

COO Sheryl Sandberg (below) was also on the carving block, and to her credit assumed responsibility for using Definers, despite her recent duplicity as the scandal unfolded. Like Obama, she hears about her own operations from the news.

Sandberg said she did not initially remember Definers when she read a New York Times story that detailed how Facebook had employed the firm. She subsequently asked her staff to look into the matter to “double-check whether anything had crossed my desk.”

 

The silver lining for Facebook: their failure to swiftly deploy speech restriction policies as photos and discussions of a 17-year-old South Sudanese child bride being auctioned off from a reportedly unrelated platform sprouted on the social media site was largely ignored over the holiday weekend.

Facebook said the post was taken down as soon as the company learned of it, but that wasn’t until after the girl involved was married.

 

Thanks to our sources: 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pentagon-audit/pentagon-fails-its-first-ever-audit-official-says-idUSKCN1NK2MC?fbclid=IwAR1qfSDx_O6JTkGFclgSzEnWmRo2MrC3fSzbTAZXwN9J1MJqjhdMnNIeukE

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/15/economy/us-budget-deficit/index.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/feds-have-paid-undercover-informants-migrant-caravan-n938416

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/22/politics/trump-us-troops-lethal-force-closing-border/index.html

https://theintercept.com/2018/11/14/yemen-war-wolves-bill-congress/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2018/10/23/feds-are-ordering-google-to-hand-over-a-load-of-innocent-peoples-locations/?fbclid=IwAR1JfPp2p2fgKwv-xc6KEOMiS_buWrfRFlcjJO_AZkhnZpn7DYvXtl3Z7LU#3ff529b95a0d

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/417933-facebook-faces-calls-for-new-leadership?userid=115887

https://mashable.com/article/facebook-admits-attack-billionaire-george-soros/#mwRhi7bERsOB

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/11/21/zuckerberg-says-he-wont-step-down-sandbergs-job-is-safe-even-after-facebooks-scandals/?utm_term=.604b29fe555f

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/20/africa/south-sudan-child-bride-facebook-auction-intl/index.html

Zinkes! Buy Me a New Job. Or at Least an Umbrella

Midterm Musings

One suspect consequence of the Dirty Dems’ recapture of the House of Representatives Tuesday: disgraced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke [below, hat]’s oversized neck on the subpoena chopping block, according to Huffington Post.

Related:

Defendant, Doors, Drew, Drama, Debt and Disgrace

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

A priority of both [House Natural Resources Committee–yes, your tax money pays for a committee to save the trees from their own cabinet department amidst partisan division–member Raul] Grijalva [D-AZ] [above, close-set eyes] and [House Oversight Committee vice ranking member and man with a hard-on for titles that are apparently meaningless unless your party holds the majority Jerry] Connolly [D-VA] [below, pedophile garb and ‘stache] will be getting to the bottom of what Connolly called an “abortive attempt” to replace the head of Interior’s office of inspector general with a Trump political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The OIG has several ongoing investigations into Zinke’s conduct.

[our emphasis]

Emails from Ben Carson [below, wide shot] at Housing and Urban Development, obtained by The Hill, indeed reveal the Trump ally’s intention to install his subordinate at Interior, in a covert move linking the agencies we will dub Operation Tree House:

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce that Suzanne Israel Tufts [below Carson, tufted feather pin on sweater], our Assistant Secretary for Administration, has decided to leave HUD to become the Acting Inspector General at the Department of Interior,” Carson wrote in his email with the subject line “Fond Farewell.”

More on Tufts’ predecessor’s departure:

Trains, Cranes and Blame Games

Interestingly, Think Progress spoke to an Interior spokesperson who noted since a deputy had been serving in the acting role […] Tufts’ appointment to oversee Zinke’s investigations [does] not require Senate approval.

Convenient!

The public outcry was swift. Within one week, Tufts cashed out, perhaps to employ her former Federal connections by returning to  consulting:

“Ms. Tufts is not employed by the (Interior) Department and no decision was ever made to move her to Interior,” spokeswoman Heather Swift said.

[our emphasis]

[An] HUD official on Friday blamed the announcement on a “miscommunication at the staff level,” suggesting Carson was given bad information.

How Interior’s OIG is investigating the big brass at peak efficiency despite, as confirmed by Federal News Networknot having an inspector general for nearly a decade, is unclear. But they are still running investigations (below).

The number of federal probes into alleged misconduct by Zinke as of August of his second year at Interior, according to Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, was 17. Three had cleared him of wrongdoing. Five were closed for “lack of cooperation or records,” including Zinke “not provid[ing] complete information” on charter flights; and demonstrating he was “unable” to explain pulling the plug on a $1 million federal study, instigated under Obama in the waning days of his administration, on the health impact of “mountaintop removal” coal mining.

[Interior’s OIG] added the cancellation “wasted” some $455,110 that had already been spent on research and that the remaining $548,443 would be returned to the Treasury in 2021.

[our emphasis]

*

Speaking of slow-walking accountability entreaties to Federal miscreants…

Chase Bishop: Back in Court

The butterfingered fibbie has pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault for allegedly accidentally blowing a hole in a fellow bar patron in June. On January 17,  however, we will reportedly learn if a plea deal has been reached.

Scott Pruitt Loves Chik-fil-A and Lotion–UPDATED

*

Let it Rain

Amid astonished reports that Trump skipped an observation ceremony at Belleau for fallen Americans in World War I  after a light steady rain and a low cloud ceiling prevented his helicopter from traveling to the site,  former national security adviser and career prick Ben Rhodes deftly took to Twitter, explaining to the little people that he “helped plan all of President Obama’s trips for 8 years. There is always a rain option. Always.”

Rhodes failed to realize Trump’s “rain option,” flawlessly executed, was to send in his stead Chief of Staff John Kelly, who does not matter as much.

The president (below, with Melania and German Chancellor Angela Merkel) did make it to Arc de Triomphe Sunday morning for the 100-year commemoration of Armistice Day.

USA Today flexed, however, that several world leaders (it’s unclear if this included Trump), arrived, “rain-soaked,” a few minutes beyond the official 11:00 AM mark at local time for the exact 100-year anniversary of the 1918 cease-fire. Because that’s what’s important.

*

I Will Note be a Party to This

And current Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) pulled further ahead of Republican rival Martha McSally in her quest to replace retiring GOP Senator Jeff Flake.

Sinema’s 28,000-vote lead as of Saturday evening is an interesting illustration of third party effects on national races. Green Party candidate Angela Green (her actual name) (below), despite ending her bid and endorsing Sinema five days before the election, collected at least 43,000 votes as of Friday. News outlets such as CNN continue to breathlessly update results including only Sinema and McSally.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ryan-zinke-democrats-house-investigation_us_5be48602e4b0dbe871a8a02c

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/19/politics/doi-inspector-general/index.html

Trump administration replaces independent oversight of Zinke investigations with Trump appointee

A Guide to the 17 Federal Investigations into Ryan Zinke

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-interior-coal/u-s-interior-department-axed-health-study-on-coal-without-clear-reason-watchdog-idUSKBN1J82Z5

FBI agent who accidentally shot man in Denver nightclub pleads not guilty

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-france-memorial/trump-cancels-ww1-memorial-at-u-s-cemetery-in-france-due-to-rain-idUSKCN1NF0NU

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/11/11/world-leaders-miss-exact-armistice-day/1966857002/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/10/politics/arizona-senate-race-sinema-mcsally/index.html

https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/414439-arizonas-green-party-candidate-drops-out-of-senate-race-and-endorses

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/green-party-candidate-spoiler-tight-arizona-senate-race/story?id=59071399

Here Come the Midterms!!!

Sometimes Federal agencies actually justify their existence. After over 350 firearms were lifted from a Memphis distribution facility owned by UPS (who recently fell victim to the incompetence of Federally-subsidized rival USPS)

Pruitt: In Memoriam

, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) made a quick recovery.

Roland Jackson, 24, and Taveyan Turnbo, 18 (below) were both captured after fleeing on foot from the complicit U-haul in Midlothian, IL two days after UPS reported the theft.

Caught red-haired.

CBS did not explain how the passenger window got bashed in, but notes the duo fenced three of the guns prior to capture.

*

Some thieves are more successful. Rishi K. Sharma, (below) allegedly ordered $927,000 worth of cable service from Time Warner using multiple fake accounts under Ohio and New York corporate addresses.

The 28-year-old Florida man reportedly exploited the “service for 90 days until Time Warner realizes you haven’t paid the bill” feature on 68 different occasions in 2015 and 2016. He is now charged with wire fraud.

*

The FBI may have difficulty investigating Sharma because their new headquarters has been held up after $20 million in planning was disregarded. While we normally detest lavish upgrades to federal facilities, government watchdog Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington notes the overdue “renovate or relocate” dilemma regarding the FBI’s crumbling crib was punted by Trump–and his hotel interests may have factored in.

Because all citizens are criminals who exist only to feed the Federal government, the FBI workforce is expanding. GAO and GSA have agreed the current building, constructed from 1965 to 1975 at a cost of over $120 million (over $500 million in today’s Federal Reserve-eroded dollars and $60 million over budget), according to Wikipedia, must be renovated at enormous cost if a new site is not chosen, because some staff would have to lease other locations during such a renovation.

(GSA’s Inspector General found in August that the Public Building Service of GSA has neglected to report on $21 million in annual Federal lease payments for buildings that sit half-empty. This is an intriguing waste of revenue, as many of the underutilized buildings, under noncancelable lease, contain IRS employees. 

PBS blathered that since the agencies continue to make rent payments on the unused space, they are not required to report it as unused–or attempt to recover the loss to taxpayers by “backfilling” with other tenants.)

The cheapest play was therefore a new building at a different location–$1.2 billion on the face, but with $1 billion in savings promised absent the leasing employees.

Last year, GSA determined that moving forward without full funding would put the Government at risk for project cost escalations.

[…]

In February 2018, the FBI announced that instead of moving, it will build a new headquarters on the old site. The plan is estimated to cost $3.3 billion and will require 2,300 staff to move to other locations — a costly plan that does not address the needs that prompted the project.

[our emphasis]

CREW notes the newly-renovated Trump International Hotel, which opened just before election day 2016, would face competition if any of the multiple luxury hotel chains succeed in their bids to GSA for the old FBI building.

Establishment thug Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) had ensured the $390 million new digs for the FBI would land in her state just before leaving office in 2016. It’s the Feds’ money, not yours. Baltimore Sun reported early last year:

Virginia and Maryland officials have been competing for years to land the proposed the 2.1 million-square-foot FBI headquarters, which would house roughly 11,000 employees, making it one of the largest federal facilities in either state.

[…]

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said in November [2016] that Trump’s victory should make it a “slam dunk” for Maryland to land the FBI facility. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has long been closely allied to Hillary Clinton.

*

Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley (below) is resigning in December. Depending on your political leanings, she either ordered $50,000 curtains for her state residence or merely allowed their [TRIGGER WARNING] hanging:

The New York Times reports that the curtains, installed last year in UN ambassador’s New York residence, cost $29,000, while a motorized opener for the curtains cost another $22,801.

While the installation occurred during Haley’s tenure as ambassador, a spokesman told the Times, which later updated its story, that the purchase decision was made during the Obama administration in 2016.

[our emphasis]

Who justified Haley’s upholding the purchase during hard times? Left-wing prince Patrick J Kennedy (below, sober six years) (the former Rhode Island representative, not undersecretary at the State Dept Patrick Kennedy who defended Hillary’s Secret Server because she “[did] not know how to use a computer to do email [sic].”)

Hillary Email Updates

“All [Haley]’s got is a part-time maid, and the ability to open and close the curtains quickly is important[.]” 

But the more damaging story appears to transcend such window dressing. CREW cried foul on seven private jet trips Haley disclosed from last year. Unlike the cushy flight accommodations disgraced ex-Trump associates Tom Price, David ShulkinScott Pruitt, and current perk-indulger Steven Mnuchin banked from the public, Haley’s travels were provided by South Carolina business executives, which could be construed as purchase of influence from the administration:

Jimmy Gibbs, CEO of textile machine company Gibbs International Inc., paid for four of the flights. Others were paid for by Smyth McKissick, CEO of his family’s Alice Manufacturing,  and Mikee Johnson, then-CEO of Cox Industries, his family’s wood business, according to Haley’s report. 

She also estimated the jaunts’ value at $3,200, while CREW contends it was more like $24,000.

We won’t be calling curtains on the former SC Governor’s political career just yet.

*

FEMA is back in the crosshairs as hurricane season winds down. The latest Federal success in rebuilding Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria was on display on a Ceiba tarmac.

On the water’s surface, these pallets of undrinkable water may not represent a complete collapse of the embattled agency’s routinely underwhelming efforts. Seven months ago, FEMA moved the water outside to save $300,000 in daily storage costs.

Now neither the agency nor Puerto Rico will take ownership of the undrinkable bottled water, which saw a limited distribution in May to very poor reviews.

[Ottmar] Chávez [Puerto Rico’s General Services Administration chief] said […] the agency plans to “return those waters [sic] to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) inventory.” FEMA told HuffPost in a statement that after the ASG requested and accepted the bottles, “the water became property of the government of Puerto Rico.”

Meanwhile, FEMA faces criticism of administrator Brock Long (below), who is reportedly reimbursing taxpayers for using public vehicles to commute between North Carolina and D.C.

Apparently, Long is under investigation for dragging aides along for weekends in NC and lodging them at taxpayer expense. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (her actual name) noticed Long’s routine absences from the office due to frequent six-hour drives.

The [Inspector General]’s interest was drawn after one of the vehicles — a black Suburban — was involved in an accident, according to one of the officials.

Long could have tried the Steven Mnuchin defense:

[A] former DHS official said Long, as administrator, is entitled to have a contingency aide accompany him so he can have secure communications in case of a national emergency.

Politico noted Nielsen raised the issue with Long months before they broke the story. It’s unclear if she asked him to resign. Long committed to cooperate with the IG investigation, which already found he often travel[ed] with a caravan of federal workers and has spent roughly 150 days in North Carolina since taking the job in June 2017. 

HuffPost also noted Trump moved $9.8 million from FEMA’s budget to fund immigrant detention and deportation as hurricane season kicked off. This enable DHS to perform at peak efficiency, exemplified by Border Patrol agent Juan David Ortiz, 35, (below), who stands accused of killing at least four women.

County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said Ortiz sought out vulnerable addicts and sex workers near Laredo, shooting them all in the head with a pistol in a “cold and callous way,” the AP reported.

[…]

Ortiz’s fifth alleged victim escaped on Sept. 14 and alerted authorities.

*

Hillary Clinton requested the Feds end her security clearance, as well as that of henchwoman Cheryl Mills.

According to USA Today, Mills and four other, redacted individuals had retained access to classified information after Hillary’s State Department designated them “researchers.”

ABC News reports the “researcher” designation allowed the Hillary allies to keep clearances after she resigned from State.

The 4.3-ish million Americans with security clearances are “reviewed” by the Defense Department every five to fifteen years. However, Defense has decreed “[t]o preclude excessive clearances, the Facility Security Officer should continually review the number of employees with the personnel security clearances and reduce the number of clearances whenever possible.”

Clinton associate Nick Merrill whined on Twitter that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley should not have publicly flashed the honoring of Hillary’s clandestine request from August 30, submitted after Trump [TRIGGER WARNING] stripped Brennan last summer. Merrill suggested Grassley was dunking in a fashion as politically motivated as Trump’s reactionary move to the cretinous Brennan, who had criticized the president.

Grassley’s office released the letter Friday night despite a warning from the State Department not to do so.

Merrill also maintained State’s former secretaries retaining clearance was “customary.”

Incidentally, the failed 2016 presidential candidate recently announced she and Bill will conduct a self-promotion tour, squeezing sympathists for between $70 and $699 for a “conversation” with (between?) the power couple in 13 U.S. and Canadian cities through 2018 and part of 2019.

A Clinton spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on how much the Clintons will be paid for the tour.

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/atf-400-guns-stolen-ups-facility-tennessee-182600581.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hundreds-of-guns-stolen-from-tennessee-ups-facility-recovered-outside-chicago/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/guns-firearms-theft-ups-facility-uhaul-truck-taveyan-turnbo-roland-jackson-custody-arrested-today-2018-10-03/

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-fbi-headquarters-20170310-story.html

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/406659-state-dept-spent-more-than-52k-on-nikki-haleys-apartment-curtains

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/watchdog-group-calls-for-probe-of-gift-flights-for-nikki-haley_us_5bbc3517e4b0876edaa12d30

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fema-bottled-water-hurricane-maria_us_5b9ab22ae4b0b64a336cfb3b

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/13/trump-fema-administrator-under-investigation-821231?nname=playbook&nid=0000014f-1646-d88f-a1cf-5f46b7bd0000&nrid=0000014e-f115-dd93-ad7f-f91513e50001&nlid=630318

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/406819-white-house-considering-replacements-for-fema-administrator-report

https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2018/09/26/navy-investigators-join-texas-serial-killer-case/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/10/12/hillary-clinton-security-clearance-withdrawn/1620250002/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/06/who-has-security-clearance/102549298/

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/hillary-clintons-security-clearance-withdrawn-her-request-011003338.html