Friday Reads: The Choice is between Continuing Chaos and a Return to Stability

Suryani’s Letter by Dominique Amendola

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I fell asleep before the key note speeches again last night for the DNC convention.  The heat and just the overall level of chaos in the country is just exhausting me.  I’ve really cut back on my TV consumption.  Stuff still comes across the phone though.  Every day, we get Corona Virus updates from the Governor and now we’re staring at two tropical storms heading towards the Gulf Coast.  It doesn’t look we’ll get the eye but will be on the sloppy side of one of them.  It’s been since 1959 there’s been two storms like this at once so it’s quite an oddity in terms of weather history.

Then, there’s the entire Post Office episode. I’m seeing days where I don’t get anything, which is unusual.  This is especially true since I’m being bombarded with stuff about choosing a Medicare plan in the next few months. I remember one of my Dad’s friends was a letter carrier during WW2 during his stint in the army.  He would tell us he was the most popular person in France because every one wanted their letters and packages from home.  I remember when we would get mail and newspapers twice a day too. It sure is a different time but there’s always something of anticipation about the mail arriving even if you’re not a teenage me waiting to hear from her pen pal in France or get her latest issue of Teen Magazine.  There’s always a bit of daily wonder in the mail.

Frank Morrison – Love Letter

So, what exactly do Republicans have against the Post Office?  What on earth is Steven Mnuchin’s role in this wholesale destruction of mail delivery and what’s his agenda? We’re hearing all kinds of interesting things today at the Senate Hearing and from a Congressional Forum. The Hill reports this headline: “Ex-Postal Service board member testifies Mnuchin tried to politicize agency.”

The former vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service board of governors and inspector general accused Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of trying to politicize the independent agency during testimony before lawmakers on Thursday.

David Williams, a former Postal Service inspector general who resigned in April as the vice chairman of the agency’s board of governors, said that he stepped down from his role because he felt the Treasury Department was trying to make the traditionally apolitical agency a “political tool.”

“I resigned from the board of governors because I was convinced that its independent role had been marginalized and that representations regarding an independent Postal Service for the nation were no longer truthful,” Williams said during a forum hosted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“By statute, the Treasury was made responsible for providing the Postal Service with a line of credit,” Williams said. “The Treasury was using that responsibility to make demands that I believed would turn the Postal Service into a political tool, ending its long history as an apolitical public infrastructure.”

Williams said that Mnuchin “insisted” that all GOP appointees to the Postal Service board of governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission “kiss the ring” before confirmation and kept close tabs on labor agreements, price increases and volume discounts given to customers like Amazon and UPS.

Williams, one of the board’s designated Democratic members, served on the board of governors for nearly two years until his resignation and before that was the agency’s inspector general for 13 years.

Williams said that an executive hiring firm was contracted to recommend a candidate for the position of postmaster general, but the GOP donor who ultimately got the job, Louis DeJoy, was instead introduced late in the process by John Barger, another member of the Postal Service’s board of governors who was appointed by President Trump.

Williams said that DeJoy “didn’t strike me as a serious candidate” and that Barger helped him finish a number of sentences during the interview process.

 

From the NBC Link written by Heidi Przybyla: “The treasury secretary held a series of one-on-one meetings with members of the Postal Service Board of Governors before Louis DeJoy’s appointment.”

Because Mnuchin’s meetings were private one-on-one discussions, they were not subject to the Government in the Sunshine Act, which requires that federal agency meetings be disclosed to the public. Yet many on the board were aware of the get-togethers, one person said. Mnuchin was requesting briefings before a decision was made, which the person called “unusual.” There was also discussion with Mnuchin about the “need to move quickly” on a selection, the person said.

Any White House or Treasury involvement with the Postal Service would be a breach of its charter as an independent, nonpolitical public entity, said Tim Stretton, a policy analyst for the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight. The Postal Service operates on its own revenues separate from any federal appropriations process.

Trump has railed against the Postal Service while openly nursing grievances against Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whose giant online retail operation relies on the Postal Service for many of its deliveries.

Mnuchin’s undisclosed meetings with Postal Service board members add to a broader narrative about financial and political conflicts of interest by DeJoy and some newly appointed board members, as well as White House influence over the Postal Service.

Dave Williams, a former vice chair of the board who resigned in May, told members of the House Progressive Caucus on Thursday that Mnuchin had been actively engaged in the activities of the board.

Before they were confirmed, Republicans nominated to the board had to meet with Mnuchin and “kiss the ring,” Williams said.

Young Girl Reading a Letter by Candlelight by Jean Baptiste Santerre

BB pointed this out to me yesterday from the LA Times: “‘Like Armageddon’: Rotting food, dead animals and chaos at postal facilities amid cutbacks.”

Six weeks ago, U.S. Postal Service workers in the high desert town of Tehachapi, Calif., began to notice crates of mail sitting in the post office in the early morning that should have been shipped out for delivery the night before.

At a mail processing facility in Santa Clarita in July, workers discovered that their automated sorting machines had been disabled and padlocked.

And inside a massive mail-sorting facility in South Los Angeles, workers fell so far behind processing packages that by early August, gnats and rodents were swarming around containers of rotted fruit and meat, and baby chicks were dead inside their boxes.

Accounts of conditions from employees at California mail facilities provide a glimpse of what some say are the consequences of widespread cutbacks in staffing and equipment recently imposed by the postal service.

The old man reading a letter - Fyodor Bronnikov So, now, of course (via Vice):  USPS Warns Employees Not to Speak to Press.  Memos obtained by Motherboard warn USPS employees that nosy customers could be sneaky reporters.”

Memos are trickling down the United States Postal Service bureaucracy warning employees that they should not speak to the press and any customer asking lots of questions may be a journalist sneakily trying to get information out of them.

The memos outline what employees should do if contacted by the media, and are titled “Guidelines for Handling Local Media Inquiries.” Motherboard obtained two separate memos from postal employees in two districts. The memos are nearly identical, with different language only about who employees should contact if they receive a media inquiry. They were sent to employees in the last few days, following a spate of articles about the changes Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has made that have put the post office under major scrutiny.

“The Postal Service continuously strives to project a positive image, protect its brand, and present a unified message to the customers and communities it serves,” the memo begins. “It is imperative that one person speaks on behalf of the Postal Service to deliver an appropriate, accurate and consistent message to the media.”

“Avoid the temptation to ‘answer a few questions,'” the memo advises. “Keep in mind that, while most media representatives will identify themselves up front, sometimes they do not. If you are dealing with a customer, especially one who asks a series of questions, it is perfectly appropriate to ask, ‘Are you a member of the media?’ Asking this specific question will help ensure your interaction is not used as the basis for any kind of ‘official’ Postal Service statement or position.”

The memo misleadingly frames identifying oneself as a reporter when seeking information as a choice most reporters make but others don’t. It is broadly regarded across the journalism industry to be unethical to conceal one’s identity as a reporter when seeking information in a professional capacity except in extreme cases where it is otherwise not possible to gather information in the public interest, a condition which obviously doesn’t apply to the USPS.

WAPO has live updates on the hearing today as Dejoy testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday that the agency will continue to prioritize ballots over other mail, as it has in past elections, expressing support for the practice of voting by mail.

It was the first time the embattled leader of the U.S. Postal Service has publicly answered lawmakers’ questions about mail slowdowns attributed to his cost-cutting policies that have spurred worries about the delivery of ballots for the November election.

>DeJoy, a former logistics executive and an ally of President Trump, announced he would suspend those policies — including cutting overtime and prohibiting extra mail-delivery trips — and would halt the removal of mail-sorting machines and public mailboxes before Nov. 3. But DeJoy is also considering a massive overhaul of the agency after the vote, The Washington Post reported Thursday, in which the Postal Service would implement geographic pricing, reduce mail-delivery standards and increase prices.

Reporting clearly shows that much of what Dejoy is saying is simply not true.  The thing about this that is really confusing to me is that Republican’s tend to represent rural voters.  These are the very people that would be hurt most by destruction of the USPS.  My post office is about 6 blocks down the street.  Rural voters sometimes are miles from theirs. The only thing I can think is that the people making these decisions see themselves making money from investments in FedEx and UPS.

This NPR piece was written by Kirk Siegler:

Todd Troyer retired as an ironworker in Milwaukee and moved to rural Wisconsin 15 years ago. The Vietnam veteran has diabetes and heart conditions and gets his prescriptions and insulin through the mail.

When his supply runs low, Troyer, 69, phones in an order to the pharmacy at the nearest VA hospital, in Madison more than an hour’s drive away. He depends on the mail especially now during the pandemic, as cases in his region are continuing to rise.

“That’s the thing I’m worried about: Is it going to make it here or isn’t it? I don’t know,” Troyer says.

As if things weren’t already stressful enough, he says, now mail deliveries could be further delayed amid a standoff over the Postal Service’s future.

“What’s the deal with screwing over the mail?” Troyer says. “I mean, mail has been running since we had horse riders bringing it.”

In fact, you can trace the agency’s roots back some 245 years, when Benjamin Franklin became the country’s first postmaster general.

A Girl reading a Letter with an Old Man, c.1767
Joseph Wright of Derby

It’s still the same old economic rationale for public goods.  You can’t provide universal delivery and turn profits.

Anyway, I keep writing on and on about the Post Office but it just seems some of the real great institutions of this country set up at its founding are just being trashed.  I just really want some stability for awhile.  Here’s another one of those crackpots.  The Secretary of State is off on another anti-Iran rage. This is from Reuters: “U.S. will aim to block Russia, China from violating Iran sanctions: Pompeo”

 The United States is prepared to block Russia and China from any attempts to violate sanctions on Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, one day after Washington moved to restore sanctions imposed on Tehran by the United Nations.

Pompeo, in an interview on Fox News, also said Washington was disappointed that its allies did not support the U.S. effort to push for a “snapback” of U.N. sanctions, including an arms embargo, after what the Trump administration said was Iran’s violation of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Read this to see how crackers he really is.

What on earth is that all about?

So, I could spend all day on more incredibly chaotic stuff the Trumpist Regime keeps pulling but I think that’s enough for now.

Be safe!  Be gentle and kind to yourself!  Check in!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


20 Comments on “Friday Reads: The Choice is between Continuing Chaos and a Return to Stability”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Hope you have a peaceful weekend!

    And another Republican cracker with extra nuts!

  2. dakinikat says:

    And here are the two cones of hell pointed at us:

    • Enheduanna says:

      Wow those storm tracks have really moved since yesterday. And hitting at roughly the same time. Just wow.

      Stay safe, Dak and anyone else in those areas.

    • quixote says:

      Never ever ever ever have I seen that pattern before. I know they’ve said climate change will make big storms more frequent, but somehow I didn’t realize they’d be coming in on top of each other!

      I hate to think what two sets of very strong wind — coming from opposite directions! — are going to do to poor old New Orleans right under them. The time stamps show they expect near-synchronized landfall.

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