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?

 


Monday Mash Up: WTF were They Thinking Edition

Image result for famous paintings on thinking

Portrait of Dr Gachet. Vincent Van Gogh,1890

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Ever have one of those days where you’re so lost in your head that even the most menial daily tasks wind up all wrong?  Well, today, I managed to start the coffee pot without putting the coffee pot in the machine, went out to walk Temple, and came back to a steaming pile of wet grounds all over the kitchen cabinet and floor. I’m just exhausted.  That’s my excuse.  I’ve spent several weeks watching a building that shouldn’t have been built to begin with tumble down towards beautiful historic buildings and people  on the street and then spent a 3 day vigil hoping US engineers could accomplish a demolition feat which it appears they mostly did.  Three people died for some one’s profit maximization exercise.

I also have a houseful of guests that should be gone by now and work and bills keep piling up. I’m overwhelmed.

I know I’m distracted but this and watching genocide in Syria on TV knowing full well we had a hand in it although We the People don’t like it.  And, that we’re being grifted by a bunch of Thugs passing themselves off as a Political party while the economy is falling apart and we’re picking up the bills for stuff we really shouldn’t be.

Oh, and did I mention all roads from the White House lead to a very happy Vladimir Putin?

What’s an American Girl to do?

So, what the Fuck was Mitt Romney thinking when he did this?

thinking of him 1963 POP Artists Oil Paintings

Thinking of him, Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

Yes, Mitt Romney has a sock puppet that evidently represents his conscience or his manhood or something …  This is by

Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, former Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor, is also, apparently, the man behind a Twitter account that uses the moniker “Pierre Delecto.”

Mr. Romney on Sunday admitted to McKay Coppins, a writer at The Atlantic, that he was responsible for the social media account, which he uses to covertly monitor political discourse and occasionally defend himself. It’s unclear what, if anything, Pierre Delecto is a reference to.

Several events preceded the admission.

First, The Atlantic published on Sunday a profile of Mr. Romney, one of the few prominent Republican lawmakers to criticize President Trump over his efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. Those efforts form the basis of an impeachment investigation by the House.

Mr. Trump lashed out in response this month, calling the senator on Twitter a “pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning.” In one tweet, the president used the hashtag “#IMPEACHMITTROMNEY.”

I wonder if Pierre Delecto chats up Carlos Danger. Oh, and why do these names sound like sleazy characters from bad pulp fiction?  This is from Ashley Feinberg writing for Slate ” This Sure Looks Like Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter Account (Update: It Is) Meet “Pierre Delecto.”  So there’s a difference between a sleazy sock puppet sending Dick picks trying to prop up Weiner’s manhood and a sleazy sock puppet trying to prop up Mitt Romney’s, right?

Earlier today, the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins published a lengthy profile on Mitt Romney, apparently part of Romney’s effort to set himself up as the noble Republican foil to an out-of-control president. These sorts of pieces, which are more about narrative setting than anything else, typically don’t contain a lot of new information, but this had one notable exception. About midway through, the usually guarded senator revealed that, just like fellow lone-voice-of reason-haver James Comey, he was the owner of a secret Twitter account.

At one point, as Coppins asked him about the #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY hashtag Trump tweeted into being earlier this month, Romney said this:

“That’s kind of what he does,” Romney said with a shrug, and then got up to retrieve an iPad from his desk. He explained that he uses a secret Twitter account—“What do they call me, a lurker?”—to keep tabs on the political conversation. “I won’t give you the name of it,” he said, but “I’m following 668 people.” Swiping at his tablet, he recited some of the accounts he follows, including journalists, late-night comedians (“What’s his name, the big redhead from Boston?”), and athletes. Trump was not among them. “He tweets so much,” Romney said, comparing the president to one of his nieces who overshares on Instagram. “I love her, but it’s like, Ah, it’s too much.”

In other words, a wealth of information that would be highly useful to anyone hoping to track down the senator’s supposedly secret Twitter hideout— or more specifically, to me. The chances seemed high that Romney, a known family man, would want to keep close tabs on his offspring. And as luck would have it, Romney has plenty of offspring . 

Not all of his five sons have public Twitter accounts, and some of them, like the dreaded Tagg, have too many followers to possibly dig through. Romney’s oldest grandchild, Allie Romney Critchlow, however, has just 481 followers, making digging through them an annoying-but-not-impossible feat. As I scrolled, while focusing on the ones that appeared to make an effort to conceal their real identities, one in particular caught my eye.

Reader, meet Twitter user @qaws9876, otherwise known as Pierre Delecto.

Seated Harlequin, 1901, Pablo Picasso

Yeah, you can go see what he’s been up to as his super hero alter ego that he undoubtedly costumes in superhero jammies while tweeting away.
And we’re still watching Trumpists wiggle worm their way out of the idea of a Quid Quo Pro that’s been verified and something speculative.  You would think a Secretary of State with that much education would have something better to do on a Sunday that make a fool of himself. But then, he’s a Trumpist and a Fundie and a fool

This is from Peter Wade writing for Rolling Stone:  “Stunned Into Silence, State Department Chief Recalls Manafort at His Guiltiest. Sec. Mike Pompeo’s attempts to deflect questions about the president’s Ukraine quid pro quo scandal died a horrible death on Sunday.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s attempts to deflect and avoid giving honest and straight answers about President Donald Trump’s Ukraine quid pro quo scandal died a horrible death on Sunday during his appearance on ABC News’ The Week.

Host George Stephanopoulos asked the secretary if it was appropriate to withhold military aid to Ukraine until they pursued an investigation into the president’s political rivals. Stephanopoulos was referring to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitting to the quid pro quo earlier this week. Pompeo said, “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals and secondary things based on what someone else has said.”

Stephanopoulos responded, “Except it’s not a hypothetical.”

um,,, cue the video

That was a poignant pause worthy of Captain James T Kirk of the USS Enterprise!

That is the moment when you could almost see Pompeo start to sweat and one could imagine the memes starting to multiply that would include the intro of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” playing in the background as Pompeo went quiet for a prolonged period of time. Then the secretary eventually awoke from his coma and, with a gravelly voice, righted himself and continued to insist that the question was a hypothetical.

As national security editor for the New Republic Adam Weinstein pointed out, the scene was reminiscent of Trump’s former campaign manager and now-jailed felon Paul Manafort’s infamous 2016 viral moment when he was stumped and stuttered through his answer when asked about Trump’s relationships with Russian oligarchs.

Image result for famous paintings on thinking mattise

Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937 by Henri Matisse

So, we also have this from the Philadephia Inquirer: by Julia Terruso:  “No one shows up to Joe Biden debate-watch parties in Philly. Does that matter? ”  Personally, I’ve been invited to both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris down here in New Orleans and both were held in very crowded bars, well attended, and not the only watch parties in town.

David Bradford set up a bowl of chips, salsa, and some grapes in the common room of his Center City apartment building.

He was hosting a presidential debate-watching party for Joe Biden supporters just blocks from the former vice president’s national campaign headquarters. He didn’t expect a big crowd, but in the end only one other person showed up.

The two men watched in silence and both left before the three-hour debate ended. A reporter turned off the TV on her way out. Bradford’s was one of three watch parties within a 20-mile radius of Center City registered with the campaign. None drew more than seven people.

Elsewhere in Philadelphia, fans of Sen. Elizabeth Warren pinned on buttons and wore “Philly for Warren” T-shirts. They gathered in six different locations from South Philadelphia to Wynnefield cheering at Warren’s responses and jeering when her opponents took shots. Local supporters of Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have also had well-attended watch parties here.

It makes for quite a contrast. But does it matter?

Biden draws from an older, less progressive, often less-educated crowd. That’s not the demographic that often gathers for watch parties. Polling shows his support is more pragmatic than passionate. His campaign has pushed back on the idea he has an “enthusiasm gap” before, arguing it’s something political operatives and journalists obsess over that means little to most Democratic voters.

“The Twitter Democrats are a very small subset of the Democratic Party,” said U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D.,Pa.), who supports Biden. “They are a much younger, more educated, wealthier, whiter subset — they’re important but let’s not make the mistake of extrapolating that they are the party.”

On the other hand, the kind of grassroots momentum that begins in bars and homes can turn into organization: Volunteers canvassing can have a tangible impact. And if some of Biden’s support is less enthusiastic, which polls suggest, there’s the risk it fractures.

Excuses! Excuses!  Sounds like something Pierre Delecto would say!  And then, here’s when the President got corrected by a Science GRRLLL up there in Space like a real Super Hero!

Seems like a lot of things are just not going as planned … and I’ll provide you with something that only slightly went awry when the entire project was a clusterfuck from the get go.  The Great Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans Crane Implosion.  We know have a huge crane body stationed like a metal christmas tree impaling Rampart Street.  Fortunately, it only took out a sewer and not the main gas and electric lines into the French Quarter.  So that was a win because of that and only a few historic buldings like the Saenger Theatre and the Old Roosevelt Hotel where my parents honeymooned in the late 40s lost a few windows.

From TV station WDSU “City: Demolition at Hard Rock went ‘as good as it could have’; next phase is search and extraction”.   Also, the next phase is just wait until we learn more about how a crooked developer got this pass the city council and mayor a few years back and managed a go round the planning commission and the master plan and undoubtedly got it through a crook in the city permits office.

Well, it’s a long post already and I’ve only covered a few things in the domestic news. Don’t ask me to look abroad today. Please don’t!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?