Big Man on Campus, Congressman Eric Swallow Swalwell (D-CA) has entered the 2020 presidential race!! Can he solve these BIGPROBLEMS??
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.
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. …
Acting director of ICE, Ronald Vitiello, and his boss up the food chain, DHS SecretaryKirstjen 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.
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!
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.”
[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 fewer …professionals 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.
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.
Just under 80 percent of people screened by ICE during the sponsorship process showed results that theywere not in the country legally.
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.
Other self-evident observations from the rabid media: [A]dmissions have […] surged because no one is collecting admission fees.
Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration [has left] parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs.
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. DeltaAirlines 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:
Premium Select (or First Class “if applicable”)
Sky Priority (the poor souls who use frequent flier “perks” at Delta Airlines)
Economy Main Cabin 1 and Delta credit card holders and Silver Medallion members
Economy Main Cabin 2
Economy Main Cabin 3
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
As usual, we’re a bit behind. Dysfunction in Washington and abroad continues.
Mark Zuckerberg‘s downfall: part 3! On the eve of his Senate testimony on tracking, profiling and possibly influencing unsuspecting minds post-Cambridge Analytica revelations, Facebook’s founder and CEO admitted the European Union‘s new “General Data Protection Regulation” requirements of the social behemoth to protect user privacy would not be extended to Western hemisphere social media slaves.
Specifically, COO Sheryl Sandberg grudgingly kowtowed to Europe’s modern socialism by “[arranging] the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for [European] people to manage their data” earlier this year.
46 of the 55 House members on the Energy and Commerce Committee (which apparently regulates the internet), who grilled Zucks on April 11, banked donations from Facebook. Perhaps appropriately, the outfit is Facebook’s biggest campaign cash recipient.
On the House [Energy and Commerce] committee, Republicans got roughly twice as much as Democrats, counter to the broader trend in Facebook campaign gifts. Of the $7 million in contributions to all federal candidates tied to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network, Democrats got 65% to Republicans’ 33%.
Zucks empathized with the average site user by removing his own sent messages (and those from a few privileged executives) from recipient inboxes. Once he got caught, Facebook tried to salvage public support, announcing an “unsend” feature will launch for the commoners later this year. Their oily boss will reportedly be restrained from manipulating others’ inboxes until then.
None of Facebook’s terms of service appear to give it the right to remove content from users’ accounts unless it violates the company’s community standards.
In 2010, Silicon Alley Insider aka Business Insider published now-infamous instant messages from a 19-year-old Zuckerberg to a friend shortly after starting The Facebook in 2004. “yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard . . . just ask . . . i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns” Zuckerberg wrote to a friend. “what!? how’d you manage that one?” they asked. “people just submitted it . . i don’t know why . . . they ‘trust me’ . . . dumb fucks” Zuckerberg explained.
Once they got caught (this is becoming a pattern), Facebook reassured the internet their sordid stealth operation was still in the “planning phase,” and anyhow paused as the company focused on “doing a better job of protecting people’s data and being clearer with them about how that data is used in our products and services.” This was a terse referral to the Cambridge catastrophe that siphoned 87,000,000 users’ data to help political ads better target voters.
The IRS gifted the little people an additional 24 hours to submit tax returns after their computers malfunctioned as the country closed in on the April 17 deadline for filing.
“Taxpayers do not need to do anything to receive this extra time,” the magnanimous agency soothed.
Trump reportedly asked for a six-month extension on his return; according to Reuters this option is also open to Washington’s disenchanted subjects. When the hundreds of billions of dollars confiscated for income tax annually covers only the interest on your existing national debt, and not any of the trillions of dollars spent by the government, time is not particularly of the essence.
Puerto Rico took another machete to its morale with an island-wide blackout last week, brought to you by a bulldozer from D. Grimm, a subcontractor of Mammoth‘s Cobra Acquisitions.
According to their website, the company is “women owned.”
Perplexed Governor Richard Rossello sternly “suggested” that the island’s energy monopoly, PREPA, cut ties with D. Grimm. Apparently, two weeks before this Grimm vehicle tagged a live wire and cut the power of basically all 3.4 million Puerto Ricans, the subcontractor was also blamed for a tree [falling] on a major electric transmission line and shorting out 870,000 citizens’ power, according to ThinkProgress.
The culprit, completely preventable by D. Grimm.
The timing was inopportune for PREPA’s move toward [trigger warning] privatization, which the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis maintains would exacerbate award of cushy contracts to government insiders, such as (to all appearances) the island’s first foray into unproven contractors with the Whitefish fiasco.
The pension reform is apparently fallout from 2016’s increased Federal oversight of Puerto Rico by a Financial Oversight Management Board as stipulated in the PROMESA bailout. The new management of $120 billionin debt was recently slammed by Rossello as “truly disturbing“, “anti-democratic” and showing “reckless disregard“.
The FOMB reportedly voted last week for a five-year freeze on public sector wages and deep cuts to the University of Puerto Rico to help stop the financial bleeding.
ICE continues to terrorize undocumented citizens. Their new focus appears to be those who have served time for wrongful conviction.
Ricardo Rodriguez, a lawful permanent resident with two marijuana possession convictions, spent 20 years in prison for murdering Rodney Kemppainen. That conviction was overturned in March, the tenth such mistake linked to disgraced former Detective Reynaldo Guevara (below), formerly of Chicago police, who allegedly beat confessions out of suspects and created eyewitnesses.
Upon his March release, Rodriguez was picked up by ICE. Apparently, he lost permanent resident status with his erroneous arrest in 1995. It is unclear where they stuck him.
Cook County is a favorite haunt for ICE. Last December, Mexican nationals Gabriel Solache and Arturo Reyes (below, left and right) were cleared of a double murder (including confessions orchestrated by Guevara via brass knuckles) that had kept them jailed since 1998. Both were collared by ICE before they even left prison.
Solache spent another 41 days incarcerated before he came up with bond money in February.
Tellingly, both men expressed a desire to return to Mexico voluntarily. For Reyes, ICE has appealed this “request,” favoring a forced removal that will make a future return to America more difficult.
Reyes filed a civil suit against Guevara and the Chicago police. Solache is also suing, alleging Guevara beat him to the point of hearing loss.
As we have extensively reported, Trump’s unapologetic VA secretary, David Shulkin (below), set a new precedent for personal perks while disregarding ailing veterans.
Shulkin was fired at the end of March (the White House maintains he resigned). Trump nominated his personal physician, Rear Admiral Ronny L. Jackson (below)(his actual, adult name is “Ronny”) to fill the vacancy.
The solution was short-lived. According to The Hill, the Navy doctor, 50, didn’t even get a vote. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Jon Tester (D-MT) yesterday dropped damning allegations including Jackson’s passing out Percocet, prescribing opioids to himself, showing up to work drunk and crashing a government vehicle while leaving a Secret Service retirement party. Also drunk.
It is unclear from the whistleblower report if that was the same Secret Service retirement party where agents Mark Connolly and George Ogilvie also left drunk and caused a security lockdown with their vehicle:
Several Republican senators were previously concerned Jackson was unqualified for the position. Jackson, denying the car incident, withdrew from consideration April 26.
Trump did get his way with new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (above). Despite the porky Kansan’s probable complicity in torture cover-up as Trump’s CIA director, Pompeo cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote (which is just a recommendation to the full Senate, but would have been a historic humiliation for the oval office) after committee member Senator Rand Paul caved and accepted Pompeo’s admission that America’s 17-year nation building exercise in Afghanistan should end.
Pompeo was confirmed 57-42.
Incidentally, Senator Tester opposed Pompeo. Several Democrats up for re-election in November, such as Bill Nelson (FL), voted “yes.”
Alex van der Zwaan (below, hair) became the next casualty of the Mueller probe, receiving 30 days of hard time and $20,000 in fines after pleading guilty to making false statements.
The dashing Dutchman reportedly worked with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates to put out positive propaganda for Viktor Yanukovych’s Ukrainian government in 2012.
The Department of Homeland Security will be “monitoring” about 300,000 journalists, news stations and “media influencers” worldwide. The resulting database will compile coverage of the DHS “or a particular event.” [????????]
A sneering spokesperson tweeted:
“Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”
This is apparently so innocuous that the spokesperson, Tyler Q. Houlton, took out an op-ed in USA Today the following week defending the Maoist move.
And Noor Salman was found not guilty of assisting her late husband Omar Mateen‘s ISIS-inspired assault on Pulse nightclub in 2016. She had served 14 months in prison after signing a confession handwritten by FBI agents after a marathon interrogation that was not recorded.
Another problem with the Feds’ case: the Orlando-based jury was presumably more sympathetic to the deaths of 49 predominantly gay and lesbian clubbers–just as the government intended. They presented Mateen as targeting the LGBT community and “casing” locations for his massacre with Salman. Data from security cameras and phone records show Mateen googled “downtown orlando nightclubs,” not “gay nightclubs” as the public was led to believe.
Salman’s signed confession that she had driven by Pulse with Mateen was proven false.
It didn’t help that the prosecution purposefully concealed the fact that Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, is a longtime FBI informant.
A chief counsel at ICE, Raphael Sanchez, resigned Monday after his four-year scheme of stealing seven immigrants’ identities and spending $190,000 on credit cards and Amazon accounts opened in their names was exposed.
This required forging social security cards and drivers licenses from the ICE database. Not to be confused with the Vigilant database ICE now accesses for new prey:
(Accolades are in order for Alameda, CA, whose residents recently nixed a $500,000 contract for a Vigilant license plate reader network.)
The 44-year-old Seattle-based lawyer, whose job description is “immigration removal proceedings in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon andWashington”, claimed three illegal immigrants as dependents on his tax returns with impunity, but got pinched when he used a Chinese national’s permanent resident card to pay his electric bill.
Through his own lawyer, Sanchez offered “sincere and immense regret” and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. His recommended sentence is four years.
Despite Pentagon comptroller David Norquist echoing military leaders’ “pleading” with Congress to save $2,000,000,000PER YEAR by closing “tens of thousands of excess military bases around the world” [our emphasis], our entitled representatives have so thoroughly refuted the move that Defense didn’t even broach the subject in their 2019 budget request. According to Washington Times, the improbable decision to conduct a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is out of the question this election year.
The last BRAC round occurred in 2005 and took a decade to complete. It is estimated to have cost $24 billion and the Pentagon estimates it will save about $4 billion per year.
The House Armed Services Committee dismissed the Pentagon’s request last year, because America was founded on the basis of a stifling cent Federal government whose chief objective is to provide military and contracting jobs indefinitely.
As the IRS gears up for tax season, they’re dogged by the independent Taxpayer Advocate Service‘s damning details of last year’s effort to recover $920 million that was mistakenly not confiscated. Private collection agencies and IRS itself were allowed to pocket 25% commission—each–of what they scored for the Feds.
IRS’ target group unfortunately included many struggling taxpayers. The 4,100 targets had a median household income of $41,000 (national median last year was $59,039, according to the Census Bureau); 28% made less than $20,000, and some received Social Security, making them ineligible for shakedown by IRS ground rules.
19% were below the federal poverty level.
Of those bullied into “installment agreements” by the collectors, 45% could not afford to make the payments because they had income that was less than their allowable living expenses.
According to the report obtained by ThinkProgress, the agencies got paid for accounts actually settled by IRS:
The IRS is aware that it is paying commissions to [collection agencies] with respect to work done by the IRS, but has no plans to change its procedures to attempt to identify payments that were clearly not attributable to [agencies]…
Also, the initiative cost $20 millionbut recovered just $7 million.
A revenue-neutral FairTax, collected with every purchase to punishe consumption rather than production, eliminating the IRS, is still out of the question.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is back under the microscope.
Last week’s Office of Inspector General report scrutinized VA secretary David Shulkin (below) for attending the Wimbeldon tennis tournament–and stopping in Copenhagen, Denmark–last July in conjunction with the London Ministerial Summit on Veterans’ Affairs.
The Obama-appointed Undersecretary is the only Trump nominee to wield unanimous 100-0 consent from the Senate from his 2017 confirmation to head VA.
Washington Post, who apparently got the story first in September, noted Shulkin previously denied reaching out to Prince Harry’s 2016 Invictus Games head Victoria Gosling to poach the tennis tickets (worth thousands on the street). It turns out Shulkin did exactly that, and got servedwhen OIG found Gosling could not come up with the first name of Shulkin’s wife, Dr. Merle Bari. This did not matchShulkin’s story that Gosling was a friend, so the exchange did not require ethics clearance.
Dr. Bari proved to be a very expensive add inadd on to the delegation, adding $4300 in plane tickets alone to the $122,000, 11-day European extravaganza funded by the VA’s taxpayer-provided budget. Her status as “invitational traveler” cleared the VA ethics office just two weeks after her husband directed the agency to determine “essential” travel to “decrease employee travel and generate savings.”
Shulkin (2016 net worth: $17 million) repaid the government for Bari’s ticket.
A member of the security team’s expense voucher included “an inexplicable $3,825 overpayment for airport parking and a $2,718 overpayment for lodging.”
The report mentions another unusual expense: VA had official “Trip Book” itineraries printed for the entourage, 15 copies at a cost of $100 each.
The best part? Shulkin’s chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson (below) resigned Friday after altering emails to VA’s ethics lawyer to suggest Shulkin received an award on the trip’s Denmark leg (which would have justified his wife’s traveling at taxpayer expense). OIG, of course, found Shulkin had no idea of the malfeasance.
(Wright Simpson flew in economy class, but changed her connecting city, adding $2900to the cost of her ticket.)
Two other staff members indulged in the trip, with six (6) security employees requiring “several additional days of advance travel.” So several of the trip itinerary booklets were apparently extras.
It’s unclear if Shulkin has yet rewritten VA hiring guidelines as he promised last December when USA Today found the agency has routinely–in violation of Federal law–employed physicians with revoked medical licenses for the past 15 years.
Besides Shulkin, four other Trump officials are under investigation for lavish travel using government funds. EPA head Scott Pruitt, for example, traveled from Cincinnati to New York on a military plane at a cost of $36,068.50 to catch his first-class flight to Rome, according to CNBC. Pruitt, according to the EPA, is awarded first or business class (for his frequent travel on jumbo jets to spread environmental protection) to avoid repeating past “security threats.” The Hill:
Pruitt has a “blanket waiver” to federal standards that limit officials’ ability to book first-class flights on the taxpayer dime.
Paul Manafort‘s release from house arrest looks even less likely, as Robert Mueller‘s long awaited Russia probe turned up evidence of his “additional criminial conduct…[including] a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”
It’s unclear if the still-pending$10 million bail deal will proceed for Manafort’s alleged overstatement of income by his company DMP International to secure a $9.5 million mortgage for his other venture, Summerbreeze LLC. No additional charges are yet filed, and D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (below)has everyone under gag order as her office aims for an October trial.
On February 16, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein indicted 13 Russian citizens and 3 Russian entities for spreading anti-Hillary and pro-Trump propaganda during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election via (according to Politico) identity theft, fake accounts, carefully orchestrated trips and outreach, a concerted social media strategy and even real live rallies across the United States secretly planned from Russia.
Specifically: Russian “specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump—we support them)[.]”
According to The Hill, the Russians sought to suppress support among black voters for Hillary Clinton, creating fake accounts on social platforms including Facebook and Instagram with names like “Blacktivist” and “Woke Blacks” — and suggesting that she was not strong enough on issues germane to African-Americans.
Trump is under fire for his proclivity to keep food cold.
The Guardian tore into two new refrigerators slated for installation on Air Force One, replacing the current 1990 installations for $23.7 million.
The military apparently requires the jumbo 747’s five coolers to carry 3,000 meals.
Lost in the food fight is Boeing (the largest corporate welfare cow of the Export-Import Bank), who scored the culinary contract last year to install the fridges on their own 747 model and deferred reporters’ questions to Air Force One.
As we have previously reported, the infamous Ex-Im backs loans for foreigners and sticks American taxpayers with the bill.
According to this recent rosy budget request, the agency “operates at no cost to taxpayers,” “supports 180,000 jobs” in 2018, and “generates $492.2 million in deficit-reducing receipts” (about half of 1% of fiscal year 2018’s projected deficit of over $1,000,000,000,000).
This apparently justifies their $95.5 million demand for operating expenses.
In Ex-Im’s defense, the 2018 request reduces their staff by 15 (fifteen!) full-time employees, and shrinks the operating budget 17.7% compared to fiscal year 2017. Which isn’t that difficult when you justify your existence with net income to the Treasury, then pocket a paltry (by Washington standards) budget.
But there are bigger fish to fry (cooling the leftovers in the president’s new refrigerators).
Ex-Im, which dodged dismantling in late 2016, still lacks a quorum on its board of directors to approve loans over $10,000,000. (Recall Ex-Im’s primary objective is to help small businesses actually located in America.)
Trumps’ pick to lead Ex-Im, former New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett (above) didn’t even make it out of the Senate Banking Committee vote in December, much less to full Senate confirmation. Garrett twice voted against reauthorizing Ex-Im while in Congress and faced opposition from U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Acting chairman and president, Obama appointee Charles Hall, left in December, lamenting the lapse in fee collections due to a backlog of bigger loans for lack of quorum (which Hall exacerbated by leaving): “If we don’t get a board, probably sometime in 2018 I would anticipate that we would cease to be self-sustaining.”
The government website shows three of the seven board positions currently filled. No quorum for you!
Interestingly, Delta Airlines spent millions lobbying against the Ex-Im reauthorization in recent years (though they were outspent 7 to 1 by Boeing). Apparently, European countries are tempted to buy Airbus (the only other double-wide jumbo jet manufacturer in the world) if U.S. taxpayer-backed loans are not offered for Boeing contracts.
Delta’s beef is the Ex-Im guarantees save international competitors like Air India enough on borrowing for jets that they can slash ticket prices and siphon Delta customers.
Meanwhile, NBC spotlighted Scott Daniel Warren, a volunteer at No More Deaths, who was arrested January 17 for allegedly lavishing a pair of illegal immigrants with food and shelter in Ajo, AZ.
Carlos Diaz, a division chief of ICE’s Customs and Border Protection, denied the arrest was related to a video the non-profit released earlier that day, which showed CBP agents dumping water jugs left in the treacherous stretch of desert for illegal immigrants to consume. Diaz alleges agents are instructed to leave water jugs intact.
Should immigrants evade death, their movements will be newly scrutinized in a fashion sure to violate the privacy of law-abiding citizens as well.
ICE recently inked a contract with Vigilant Solutions to tap into 2 billion license plate photos and recordings of 100 million “sightings” (including date, time, and GPS coordinates) monthly. The purpose? Better “law enforcement” of illegal immigrants. (Vigilant also contracts with smaller enforcement agencies, presumably to collar real, dangerous criminals.)
ICE agents would be able to query [the] database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.
ICE will get email alerts when a plate they’re watching pops up anywhere Vigilant is installed–on local police dash cams, traffic cams, who knows.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson reportedly killed a similar program in 2012, presumably because it’s unconstitutional.
Homeland Security reassured the horrified public that while ICE gets flags for anything tagged by Vigilant, none of ICE’s ham-handed enforcement terrorizing of non-citizens will flow back to Vigilant. (Probably convenient for ICE.)
How this private-sector database of citizens and non-citizens’ movements will be shared or disseminated with other Federal thugs remains to be seen.
Jorge Garcia, 39 (above), a landscaper from Lincoln Park, MI, was removed by ICE to his native Mexico despite the Federal holiday. The undocumented immigrant, brought to America at age 10, leaves behind a wife and two children, all citizens. He has reportedly never committed a crime, and because he paid taxes, Washington will lose some revenue as President Trump encourages removal of law-abiding non-citizens.
A spokesman for ICE said he could not immediately comment Monday since it was a federal holiday, and their offices are closed.
(But apparently he was still at the office?)
The day of rest and reflection for non-deporting government paper pushers shortened the time frame the Feds are entertaining to pass the next short term spending fix. The cancerous central government’s credit card runs out January 19, and Democrats are pushing to include protections for 800,000 beneficiaries of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the last-minute meltdown to continue confiscating.
DACA is scheduled to expire March 5.
Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) told ABC the DACA provisions, which shield certain young immigrants from deportation, must be included to earn his vote on the spending bill.
Meanwhile, Trump is pushing for inclusion of $18 billion to construct a “Great Wall” on the Mexican border.
Yesterday the President tweeted, “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military.”
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) reportedly pitched a plan to include border wall funding and extension of DACA at a meeting on January 11, where Trump made a holiday weekend news cycle-dominating remark characterizing African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as “all these shithole countries” that do not contribute useful immigrants to America. Negotiations apparently collapsed shortly thereafter.
While Durbin confirmed Trump’s words, Republican senators at the meeting obscured the story. Tom Cotton of Arkansas denied the remark on Sunday, and seems to currently maintain he does not recall. Lindsey Graham (SC) half-halfheartedly confirmed the president’s words.
Rand Paul (KY), who was not present, lamented the media for blasting Trump as a racist, because it “destroy[ed] the setting…for immigration compromise.”
“I don’t think the comments were constructive at all, but I also think that, to be fair, we shouldn’t draw conclusions that he didn’t intend,” Paul said.
Trump told Twitter today: “Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t be made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our military.”
From 2015 to 2017, over 9,100 guests’ names, birthdates, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers and room numbers were handed to Federal authorities without a warrant by four Seattle-area corporate-owned Motel 6 locations. At least six individuals were arrested as a result.
Fifteen additional Washington locations, all franchises, are under investigation.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing the chain for violating state consumer protection and anti-discrimination law. He alleges Motel 6 trained employees to hand over lists of all guests (without a warrant presented) when the Feds regularly stopped in.
Agents then allegedly combed the lists for guests with “Latino-sounding names” to attempt to link them to immigration violations.
Motel 6 told Associated Press they specifically prohibited employees from surrendering guest lists to government agents back in September, when two Phoenix locations got 20 guests arrested in similar secret police-style raids.
The Department of Homeland Security was all over the news for (more than usual) disgraceful reasons.
First, ABC reported on a trio of Customs and Border Protection (2016 budget: $13.5 billion) agents who apparently dry-humped their co-workers in Newark, NJ‘s Liberty airport.
CBP is the largest subdivision of DHS.
Tito Catota, Parmenio Perez and Michael Papagni “pinned” two anonymous males in their “unit” to a “rape table,” subject[ing them] (according to court documents) to senseless physical abuse… while on duty.
The abuse included “grinding” and the simulation of a sex act.
The special squad incidentally, was responsible for “identifying and intercepting” passengers who might be carrying contraband. Just in case the regular TSA guys insufficiently groped a testicle on the passenger’s initial humiliation, perhaps.
ABC reports that eleven CBP thugs were put on leave when the agency learned of the grinding, and three supervisors among them were fired.
Each charge of the forcibly assaulting, impeding, intimidating, and interfering of which the trio stand accused carries a potential eight years in prison.
Two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix, AZ appeared to cozy up with Immigration and Customs Enforcement ($5.3 billion budget).
Phoenix News Times found at least 20 ICE arrests between February and August between the 4130 North Black Canyon Highway and 1530 North 52nd Drive Motel 6 locations.
A rumor from immigration lawyer Denise Aguilar suggests ICE offered Motel 6 clerks a $200 per “referral” bounty. When you look at the prices on the motel’s soda machines, that’s an easy decision for your average employee.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe did not provide many details, noting the “knock and talk” (which accounted for one-third of the arrests in question) method of uprooting peoples’ lives is perfectly justified: if you open your hotel room door for a Federal badge that “just happens” to be harassing hotel guests and can’t provide papers, they have every right to take you in.
She refused to share ICE’s sources of intel on the dangerous non-citizens who must be taken, but apparently did not deny desk clerks were bribed to turn in their customers.
“We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in,” one front-desk clerk explained. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.”
AZ Central reported Arizona’s Latino leaders in the state legislature held a protest/press conference outside a Motel 6 location on September 15.
Motel 6 pleaded ignorance, casting the systematic sellout as a local franchise mistake.
[According to their 9/15 statement, t]he company will send a directive to 1,400 locations stating employees are prohibited from voluntarily providing guest lists, and conduct a review of current practices that could lead to new company-wide guidelines.
“Protecting the privacy and security of our guests are core values of our company. Motel 6 apologizes for this incident and will continue to work to earn the trust and patronage of our millions of loyal guests,” the statement read.
Mohamed Noor (above) offered condolences via his defense attorney to the family of Australian/American dual citizen Justine Damond (below), who Noor fatally capped on July 15.
(Ms. Damond’s actual surname was Ruszczyk, but she reportedly took her fiancé Don Damond’s name before their marriage–scheduled for August 2017. We’re going with “Damond.”)
The 40-year-old yoga instructor reportedly called “9-1-1” (twice!) that Saturday evening to notify police of a suspected assault behind her home.
Apparently, Damond ran up and “slapped” the back of the patrol car, whose lights were off as it moved through the alley looking for the assailant. (Noor’s partner, one-year veteran Matthew Harrity, was driving, and described being “startled” by the noise.)
At that point, Noor fired from the passenger seat, across Harrity’s body and into the abdomen of Damond, who was at the driver’s side window.
According to Associated Press,
Noor was one of several Somali-Americans hired by the department in recent years as part of the city’s public effort to diversify so it better reflects the city.
On July 25, Minnesota Public Radio obtained a search warrant (???) from Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that revealed:
“Upon police arrival, a female ‘slaps’ the back of the patrol squad … After that, it is unknown to BCA [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] agents what exactly happened, but the female became deceased in the alley.”
Interestingly, Minnesota is the only state that requires a two-year college degree of all police officers. (Most departments prefer a four-year degree, according to Associated Press.)
Noor, 31, with a four-year degree in business administration and economics from Augsburg College, completed the certificate program recommended for non-criminal justice degree holders looking to get into law enforcement (see below).
According to the Star Tribune,Noor completed a seven-month “accelerated police cadet program” in 2015.
James Densley, criminal justice teacher at Metropolitan State University, told the Star Tribune: “The cadet program is rigorous, no doubt, but it is also an immersive paramilitary experience, taught by practitioner faculty without advanced degrees, and I suspect it leaves students with a limited view of the profession.”
Minneapolis Police Department has reportedly run into difficulty filling police officer slots after (darthfrankthetank.com fully recognizes there are plenty of outstanding “public servants” across the country that do not necessarily take government jobs solely for the benefits, especially those that will presumably be paid to their families should the applicant lose their life in a riskier “public service” job such as police officer) [a] pension change that spurred a wave of retirements among peace officers statewide in 2014.
According to Star Tribune, advocates commend the “fast-track” cadet program as “a way to attract more diverse people with broader life experiences.”
Critics believe it is lackingin instructing common sense approaches to slowing down confrontations and defusing hostile situations.
Nate Grove of the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board maintains the fast-track curriculum includes “teaching and modeling de-escalation techniques.”
Of note, Noor is obliged to offer any information possible to the internal investigation if he wants to keep his job. And that information will by definition never make it to the courtroom, according to Daily Mail:
[Under] the Garrity Warning in Minnesota […] public employees under internal investigation are given the option to provide information or face disciplinary action.
‘Because you are being required to provide information under the threat of disciplinary action, the information you provide, and any evidence resulting from the information you provide, cannot and will not be used against you in any subsequent criminal proceeding,’ the warning reads.
Department records indicate [Noor] had three complaints filed against him, the details of which are not public. One was closed without any disciplinary action and two are still open.
Police Chief Janee Harteau (above, center), reportedly the first female, first lesbian and first Native American head of Minneapolis Police Department, resigned at the request of Mayor Betsy Hodges.
Harteau said of Noor’s credentials the day before she was forced to resign: “We have a very robust training and hiring process. This officer completed that training very well, just like every officer. He was very suited to be on the street.”
On July 24, CNN reported Damond’s fiance and other family hired Robert Bennett to sue the city. Mr. Bennett most recently negotiated a settlement for the family of another Minnesota resident killed by a local government employee: Philando Castile.
Also on July 18, an otherwise law-abiding father of four was wrenched from his Ohio home and deported to Mexico. Crime: not a citizen.
Jesus Lara Lopez, 37, had been in America for 16 years, working and paying taxes. Immigration authorities got their opening to harass him through a police tip in 2008 after [Lopez] was stopped by police for driving without a license.
Lopez was then allowed to remain in America and authorized to work, despite a federal judge ordering his removal in 2011.
However, federal authorities dribble out favors to maintain a veneer of benevolence: Lopez scored a stay in 2014.
“[I]n a further exercise of discretion, the agency has allowed [Lopez] to remain free from custody to finalize his departure plans. The agency will continue to closely monitor his case to ensure compliance.”
—ICEspokesperson Khaalid Walls. [our emphasis]
Many Americans should be able to relate to Lopez, if only through their kitchen cabinets:
The New York Times reported in June that Lopez worked “the graveyard shift packing Milano cookies and Goldfish crackers” at Pepperidge Farm.
Lopez’ work permit came through third-party company Spherion, who hired him for Pepperidge Farm in October 2016.
His wife and children set up a Go Fund Me page to support the family Lopez left behind in Willard, OH.
Washington Post brought us a profile on a suspected Montgomery County killer. Oscar Delgado-Perez, 28, reportedly directed the stabbing death of a Maryland teenager on June 16. The incident was meant to resolve “a dispute over gang bragging rights,” according to WP.
Delgado-Perez (above) had been deported twice back to his native El Salvador, according to prosecutors.
Cristian Villagran-Morales, 18, was stabbed to death in a Gaithersburg park, allegedly by Delgado-Perez and two other members of the MS-13 gang.
Police caught up with Delgado-Perez September 7 in Rockville at the Red Roof Inn. A car with Texas tags was in the parking lot, apparently ready to spring Delgado-Perez out of Maryland that same day.
Mr. Villagran-Morales was born in Guatemala and came to Maryland to live with relatives.
After officers apprehended Delgado-Perez, he allegedly told them they’d caught a break. “He said to police: ‘If I hadn’t been drunk this morning, you guys would never have caught me,’ ” [police] said.
Delgado-Perez was working on roofs in Montgomery County to support his 6-year-old child, according to his attorney. He was charged with first-degree murder, reportedly because his two associates (below) fingered him as the trigger man knife man. However, police allege Villagran-Morales was stabbed over 40 times by Delgado-Perez and at least two other MS-13 members.
Vanesa Alvarado, 19, has been arrested in the case. Police are still looking for Jose Coreas Ventura, also known as Josue Corea, 20.
Mr. Coreas Ventura (above, right) is considered armed and dangerous, and may use the name Josue Corea.
Delgado-Perez was deported to El Salvador in February 2014 and again in September 2015, according to Immigration Customs and Enforcement.
Police officials ask that anyone with information about Ventura or the slaying call 301-279-8000. To be eligible for a reward, tipsters should call 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Callers may remain anonymous.