Tuesday Reads: Democratic National Convention and Other News

Good Morning!!

I’m sorry to say that I saw very little of the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I wasn’t interested in watching a lot of Republicans and Bernie Sanders. I wanted to see Michelle Obama’s speech, but I fell asleep before she came on.

Here’s The Washington Post’s report on the first night of the virtual event: On Democratic convention’s first night, speakers blame Trump for America’s woes.

Democrats kicked off their virtual nominating convention Monday with a focused denunciation of President Trump, showcasing dozens of testimonials that culminated in lancing criticism from former first lady Michelle Obama, who cast Trump as incapable of meeting America’s needs and said Joe Biden would usher in racial justice and ease the coronavirus pandemic.

In the centerpiece speech of the night, a searing indictment of her husband Barack Obama’s successor, Obama declared that Trump has mishandled the pandemic and failed to respond to outcries over the deaths of Black Americans. She warned that the nation would suffer more if he is elected to a second term.

“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said, before quoting a line Trump used about covid-19 deaths in a recent interview: “It is what it is.”

She spoke passionately about protests over police brutality this year — and Trump’s response of declaring those in the streets to be anarchists.

“Here at home as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office,” Obama said, wearing a necklace that read “Vote.” [….]

Other testimonials against Trump’s stewardship ranged from democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Ohio’s Republican former governor John Kasich, both of whom have pleaded with the country to set aside ideological differences to defeat Trump. The daughter of a covid-19 patient angrily blamed her father’s death on Trump during the broadcast, which repeatedly showed victims of the coronavirus.

The unprecedented virtual convention program, without crowds, floor fights or sign waving, reflected the extraordinary limits of current public health guidelines, as the country continues to keep socially distant in the face of a pandemic that has killed more than 167,000 Americans this year. Occasional live shots of Democratic delegates watching at home were cut in throughout the night to replicate some sense of a normal event.

Here’s the full speech.

The Daily Beast on Michelle Obama’s speech: Michelle’s New Stance: When They Go Low, We Square Up.

Concluding the opening night of a Democratic Convention that until a few minutes earlier had felt overly platitudinous, centrist and bloodless, Michelle Obama delivered a speech that was the opposite—impassioned, uplifting and, at the same time, full of truths about America that this country rarely likes to acknowledge about itself. One of the most astounding moments in a speech filled with them came when the former first lady revisited a line that has been endlessly quoted since she uttered it 2016.

But this time around, the ex-FLOTUS—in tacit recognition of the toll that four years of Donald Trump’s bottom-feeding, “no low is too low” style of leadership has taken on the nation—necessarily amended her words to line up with the darkness of our times. It’s worth quoting her at length here: “Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else,” Obama stated. “But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty…. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.” [….]

She did not mince words, and instead spoke honestly about the cruelty of this president and his abettors with a full-throatedness we haven’t seen from her in the past. This was Michelle going after Trump, and to a certain degree, the voters that would prop up this president, in a way that was both eloquent and frank, relatable and empathic—all while showing how the current president lacks all of those traits.

In fact, a whole section of the speech was essentially a damning laundry list of the ways in which Trump’s endless narcissism and incompetence have damaged the country. She noted the 150,000 dead and the economic devastation that have resulted from “a virus that this president downplayed for too long.” She called out how Trump has tarnished America’s image abroad, destroying “alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.” And she went hard at Trump for the most overt characteristic of this presidency, its unchecked, vicious racism.

In other news and opinion . . .

A former Trump administration official endorsed Joe Biden yesterday.

Miles Tayor at The Washington Post: At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America.

After serving for more than two years in the Department of Homeland Security’s leadership during the Trump administration, I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions….
I wasn’t in a position to judge how his personal deficiencies affected other important matters, such as the environment or energy policy, but when it came to national security, I witnessed the damning results firsthand.

The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted on several times.

Miles Taylor

Trump’s indiscipline was also a constant source of frustration. One day in February 2019, when congressional leaders were waiting for an answer from the White House on a pending deal to avoid a second government shutdown, the president demanded a DHS phone briefing to discuss the color of the wall. He was particularly interested in the merits of using spray paint and how the steel structure should be coated. Episodes like this occurred almost weekly.

The decision-making process was itself broken: Trump would abruptly endorse policy proposals with little or no consideration, by him or his advisers, of possible knock-on effects. That was the case in 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, at the White House’s urging, a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. The agencies involved were unprepared to implement the policy, causing a disastrous backlog of detentions that ultimately left migrant parents and their children separated.

Read the whole thing at the link if you haven’t already. Here’s video of Taylor’s endorsement:

Louis DeJoy, the man Trump handpicked to destroy the U.S. Postal Service will testify before House and Senate committees. That means Kamala Harris will have an opportunity to cross examine him.

Politico: DeJoy agrees to testify amid Dem fury over Postal Service changes.

On Sunday, Democrats moved up a request for DeJoy to testify to Monday, Aug. 24, calling it an “urgent” matter. The Oversight and Reform Committee hearing is likely to be tense, with Democrats loudly objecting to changes that have slowed mail delivery in numerous parts of the country amid President Donald Trump’s calls to restrict the use of mail-in ballots for the November election.

A number of Democrats have called on him to resign, and moderate House member Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), even said that he wanted DeJoy, a major Republican Party fundraiser, arrested by the House sergeant at arms if he didn’t agree to testify.

“Over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote to DeJoy on Sunday, giving him a deadline of Monday to respond to the testimony invitation.

“Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country—as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November.”

The Washington Post: Senate will hold Postal Service hearing with DeJoy on Friday, as mail delay fears grow.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Friday with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on the U.S. Postal Service’s vote-by-mail financial requirements, according to two people familiar with the decision.

It will be DeJoy’s first opportunity to publicly answer lawmakers’ questions about the nation’s embattled mail service, which is experiencing delays as a result of policies DeJoy implemented cutting overtime and eliminating extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery….

Democrats have alleged that DeJoy, a former Republican National Convention finance chairman, is taking steps that are causing dysfunction in the mail system and could wreak havoc in the presidential election….

The Postal Service is in the process of removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines nationwide this month, a process that will eliminate 21.4 million items per hour’s worth of processing capability from the agency’s inventory.

On Thursday and Friday, it began removing public collection boxes in parts of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. The agency said Friday that it would stop mailbox removals, which it said were routine, until after the election.

Lawsuits are also being prepared. ABC News: Multiple states ready suit against Trump admin over mail-in voting fears.

A group of Democratic state attorneys general are now in the final stages of preparing legal action against the Trump administration for recent cost-cutting changes made to the United States Postal Service, a lawsuit that one official said could demand a halt to any cutbacks that could impede mail-in voting.

As many as 10 state attorneys general are now involved, two state officials involved in the effort told ABC News. Among them is New York’s Letitia James, who called recent changes at the postal agency “deeply disturbing” in a statement released Monday.

The suit is expected to mount two major constitutional challenges to the recent cutbacks, according to one of the officials, a state government attorney. States will assert that the federal government is trying to impede their constitutional right to oversee their own elections. And they will argue that the Trump administration is interfering with every American’s individual right to participate in the election.

The lawsuit will also argue that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy failed to follow administrative procedures when he made cuts to overtime and decommissioned equipment – steps the states will ask the courts to halt, the attorney said….

The attorneys general from Connecticut and New York have joined a growing list of state leaders including those from Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota and Washington — all Democrats — in discussing how to sue the administration, sources said. Those conversations remain ongoing.

I’ll add more news links in the comment thread. I hope you all have a nice Tuesday!


Lazy Caturday Reads: Outrage Builds Over Trump’s Attacks on the U.S. Post Office

Good Morning!!

On Thursday and Friday, Dakinikat and I wrote about Trump’s assault on the U.S. Postal Service, in  hopes of suppressing Democratic votes in November. Last night the story began building into a five alarm fire of public outrage. Rachel Maddow focused on the story on her show last night.

Media columnist Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service deserve sustained, red-alert coverage from the media.

Listen to President Trump long enough, and, despite his penchant for falsehood, you’ll eventually hear some unvarnished truth.

That happened Thursday when he stated his intentions clearly in an interview with Fox Business Network. He doesn’t want to approve billions in emergency funding for the cash-strapped and struggling U.S. Postal Service for a simple reason: Democrats want to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic.

His words were stark: “Now, they need that money in order to have the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” He added that holding back funding means “they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

In other words, he doesn’t want American citizens, fearful of exposure to the coronavirus, to have every opportunity to vote in November.

It’s not his first effort to cripple the Postal Service, one of the most essential — and popular — institutions in America. His statements Thursday came after he installed a Republican megadonor, Louis DeJoy, as the new postmaster general. In turn, DeJoy has unseated dozens of veteran postal officials. He and his minions have banned overtime and told carriers to leave mail behind at distribution centers, letting it pile up for days. Sorting machines that speed mail processing have been removed.

“Things are already going wrong,” Philip F. Rubio, an expert on the Postal Service and history professor at North Carolina A&T State University (and a former letter carrier himself), told Politico. There are “widespread mail slowdowns of all kinds of mail — first-class, marketing mail, parcels. Even the Veterans’ Administration has complained that veterans are not getting their medications on time.”

Read Sullivan’s commentary on the media coverage and why they need to “turn up the heat” at the WaPo link.

Today the news is full of stories about Trump’s attempted sabotage of a beloved American institution that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. As Maddow said last night, “pressure works.

CNN: USPS will stop removing letter collection boxes in Western states until after the election, spokesman says.

In a statement Friday night, Rod Spurgeon — a USPS spokesperson for the service’s the Western region — told CNN that the service will stop the removal of letter collection boxes in 16 states and parts of two others until after the election.

That means, according to Spurgeon, the USPS will stop collecting the letter collection boxes only in: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Alaska, Nebraska and small parts of Wisconsin and Missouri.

It’s not clear if the removal freeze would go into effect across the nation. Kim Frum — a spokeswoman for USPS based at headquarters — could not say if the freeze would go into effect across the country and would not comment on the freeze in the Western region.

Officials say that in the last week the USPS has removed letter collection boxes in at least four states: New York, Oregon, Montana and Indiana. The USPS has also begun notifying postal workers in at least three states — West Virginia, Florida and Missouri — that they will start to reduce their retail operating hours, according to union officials.

Montana Senator John Tester appeared on Maddow’s show last night to discuss the removal of mailboxes in his state. KLUR 8.com: Montana officials ask for answers from USPS Postmaster General following removal of blue mail drop-off boxes.

BIG SANDY, Mont. – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Greg Gianforte and Gov. Steve Bullock asked for answers from the U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, after the USPS removed blue mail drop-off boxes in some Montana towns.

Sen. Tester confirmed the reports of the U.S. Postal Service’s removing of the blue mail drop-off boxes throughout Montana on Friday, releasing the following statement:

“Since ringing the alarm on the removal of collection boxes from communities across Montana, it has become clear that these reports are accurate. These actions set my hair on fire and they have real life implications for folks in rural America and their ability to access critical postal services like paying their bills and voting in upcoming elections. Postmaster General DeJoy must immediately provide Montanans with an explanation for the actions of the USPS, or he can do it under oath before a Senate Committee.”

Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines also sent out statements saying the USPS has paused its removal of mail collection boxes in towns across Montana.

New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. made a criminal referral to the New Jersey Attorney General last night. Pascrell appeared last night on MSNBC’s The Eleventh Hour with substitute host Ali Velshi.

The Daily Beast: NJ Rep, Inspector General Investigate What the Hell Is Going On With USPS.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) made a criminal referral to the New Jersey Attorney General on Friday night, asking him to impanel a grand jury to look at possible breach of state election laws by President Trump, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and others for “their accelerating arson of the post office,” he said. Alarming headlines have emerged in recent days as many states prepare to facilitate widespread mail balloting due to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump openly admitted he was withholding federal aid from the postal service to prevent mail-in voting, and USPS has notified 46 states and D.C. that it will struggle to deliver some mail ballots on time.

Pascrell’s announcement came after USPS’s internal watchdog said it would review policy changes and potential ethical conflicts under DeJoy, a Trump donor who owns a $30 million stake in a competitor to USPS. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other Democratic lawmakers requested a review into DeJoy’s actions, like eliminating overtime and slowing certain types of mail delivery, and whether he “met all ethics requirements.”

Attorneys General from several other states, including Washington, Connecticut, Arizona, and Maine, are considering taking action on the issue and the Post Office inspector general is getting involved. CNN: Exclusive: Postal service inspector general reviewing DeJoy’s policy changes and potential ethics conflicts.

The internal watchdog at the United States Postal Service is reviewing controversial policy changes recently imposed under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and is also examining DeJoy’s compliance with federal ethics rules, according to a spokeswoman for the USPS inspector general and an aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who requested the review.

Lawmakers from both parties and postal union leaders have sounded alarms over disruptive changes instituted by DeJoy this summer, including eliminating overtime and slowing some mail delivery. Democrats claim he is intentionally undermining postal service operations to sabotage mail-in voting in the November election — a charge he denies.
Agapi Doulaveris, a spokeswoman for the USPS watchdog, told CNN in an email, “We have initiated a body of work to address the concerns raised, but cannot comment on the details.”

Last week, Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and eight other Democratic lawmakers asked the inspector general to launch an inquiry into DeJoy on a number of fronts, including the nationwide policy changes he’s made since taking over in June, as well as whether DeJoy has “met all ethics requirements.” [….]

It’s unclear if the inspector general has launched a full-scale investigation into possible politicization at USPS by DeJoy, a Trump ally and Republican donor, or if it’s just reviewing the matter for Congress.

CNN first reported earlier this week that DeJoy still owns at least a $30 million equity stake in his former company — a USPS contractor — and that he recently bought stock options for Amazon, a USPS competitor. These holdings likely create a major conflict of interest, ethics experts told CNN, though DeJoy and USPS maintain that he has complied with all federal requirements.

At The Week, Ryan Cooper writes: Trump’s Post Office meddling is plainly illegal.

Trump now openly admits he is sandbagging the Post Office to prevent Americans from voting by mail. Obstructing the ability to vote of the American people is a crime at the federal level and in every state. Not for the first time, the president has confessed to criminal acts on television.

First, the president does not get to prevent certain kinds of voting just because he alleges there is fraud happening. Election administration is largely governed at the state level, and several states — like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah — have had universal mail-in voting as the foundation of their systems for years (where it has worked just fine). Trump’s throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of the Post Office is a likely unconstitutional infringement of state authority to run their own elections, in addition to being directly criminal (see below).

Second, Trump is lying. We know he’s lying because countless studies have found mail-in voter fraud to be virtually nonexistent compared to the number of ballots cast, because it doesn’t even make sense as a way to commit election theft, and most of all because Trump himself has voted through the mail repeatedly — in 2017 and 2018 in New York, and just this week for the primary election in Florida. His argument is a scam and obviously so.

Third, we can also see what the game is by how new postmaster general Louis DeJoy, who met with Trump last week and is undeniably a partisan lackey, is slashing the Post Office’s baseline capacity. As David Dayen argues at The American Prospect, even 100 percent mail-in voting would barely burden the agency at all, given that it delivers 182 million pieces of mail every day (or used to, anyway), and most ballots have a very short transit route — from county election offices to homes and back again. That is why DeJoy is ending postal carrier overtime, destroying automated letter-sorting machines that cost millions of dollars, and pulling up hundreds of outdoor mailboxes. Voting by mail is so trivial for the USPS that it is necessary to seriously damage the agency to render it incapable of carrying it out. Sure enough, the agency has already warned that mail-in ballots could fail to be delivered in time in nearly every state….

The point of hamstringing the Post Office is to prevent as many people from voting by mail as possible, because 72 percent of Democrats say they are likely to vote by mail, as compared to 22 percent of Republicans. Trump and his stooge are using their federal power to forcibly disenfranchise American citizens. We have it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Let’s compare that behavior to 18 U.S. Code § 594, which states: “Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose” in a federal election faces fines and up to a year in prison. (By the way, someone who “knowingly and willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail” also faces fines and up to six months in prison.)

Cooper writes that there are also state laws against “stealing elections.” Read the whole thing at the link.

Charles Pierce writes that Trump is violating his oath of office:

Let’s all not sprain something pretending that this is simply some “sweeping organizational and policy overhaul” wha-dee-doo-dah. It’s ratfcking under color of law, pure and simple—a more complicated version of the “accidental” Election Day water-main break in front of the mayoral challenger’s headquarters. (Hi, Jim Curley!) Except, of course, this little monkey-wrenching keeps veterans from getting their prescription medicines, and rural customers from sending or receiving their packages. It also is a clear violation of the president*’s oath of office. He promised to take care that even the postal laws are faithfully executed. That doesn’t mean having your fat-cat apparatchik slow-walk the U.S. Mail to get you re-elected. Impeachable offenses are exhausting to carry around.

Read the rest at Esquire.

Protesters were outside DeJoy’s home this morning, according to WUSA9.

A group of protesters staged a “noise demonstration” Saturday morning outside of United States Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s home in Northwest D.C. amid allegations of limiting mail-in voting for the 2020 Presidential election.

The demonstration was organized by the direct action group Shut Down D.C. They gathered in Kalorama Park in Adams Morgan on the corner of Kalorama Road and 19th Street and marched towards DeJoy’s home.

Members of the group came together to protest against DeJoy’s leadership ahead of mail-in voting for the 2020 Presidential election.

The organization believes DeJoy is “dismantling” the U.S. Postal Service in favor of President Donald Trump’s re-election. They said his actions contribute to voter suppression.

“DeJoy has fired or reassigned much of the existing USPS leadership and ordered the removal of mail sorting machines that are fundamental to the functioning of the postal service. Meanwhile, mail delivery is slowing down under other decisions made by DeJoy, such as eliminating overtime for postal workers,” the group said in a statement.

Let’s hope all this outrage will continue until Trump and DeJoy are forced to back down and/or are prosecuted. Of course that won’t stop Trump from trying to steal the election. Democrats are going to have to fight back like never before.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!! Take care and be kind to yourselves, other people, and animals.