Later On

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Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

The Post Office Is Deactivating Mail Sorting Machines Ahead of the Election

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Aaron Gordon shows that Postal Service incapability is due to deliberate actions by the Trump administration: President Trump is deliberately breaking down the US.

The United States Postal Service is removing mail sorting machines from facilities around the country without any official explanation or reason given, Motherboard has learned through interviews with postal workers and union officials. In many cases, these are the same machines that would be tasked with sorting ballots, calling into question promises made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that the USPS has “ample capacity” to handle the predicted surge in mail-in ballots.

Motherboard identified 19 mail sorting machines from five processing facilities across the U.S. that either have already been removed or are scheduled to be in the near future. But the Postal Service operates hundreds of distribution facilities around the country, so it is not clear precisely how many machines are getting removed and for what purpose.

Even to local union officials, USPS has not announced any policy, explained why they are doing this, what will happen to the machines and the workers who use them. Nor has management provided a rationale for dismantling and removing the machines from the facility rather than merely not operating them when they’re not needed.

“I’m not sure you’re going to find an answer for why [the machines being removed] makes sense,” said Iowa Postal Workers Union President Kimberly Karol, “because we haven’t figured that out either.”

The postal workers Motherboard spoke to said having machines removed, replaced, or modified is nothing new, but this time it seems to be more widespread, include a larger number of machines at their respective facility, and potentially impacts the facility’s ability to process large numbers of mail, including ballots, in a short time span.

“Look at it this way: Your local grocery store was forced to cut 1/3 of its cash-out lines, but management expected the same productivity, quality, and speed for the customer,” said an employee at a Buffalo distribution facility, which they said is set to lose six out of 21 mail sorting machines. “It’s just never going to happen.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

A mail-sorting machine in action, including slo-mo:

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2020 at 12:08 pm

The pandemic shows that the US is broken: Postal Service warns 46 states their voters could be disenfranchised by delayed mail-in ballots

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Erin Cox, Elise Viebeck, Jacob Bogage, and Christopher Ingraham report in the Washington Post:

Anticipating an avalanche of absentee ballots, the U.S. Postal Service recently sent detailed letters to 46 states and D.C. warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted — adding another layer of uncertainty ahead of the high-stakes presidential contest.

The letters sketch a grim possibility for the tens of millions of Americans eligible for a mail-in ballot this fall: Even if people follow all of their state’s election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes.

The Postal Service’s warnings of potential disenfranchisement came as the agency undergoes a sweeping organizational and policy overhaul amid dire financial conditions. Cost-cutting moves have already delayed mail delivery by as much as a week in some places, and a new decision to decommission 10 percent of the Postal Service’s sorting machines sparked widespread concern the slowdowns will only worsen. Rank-and-file postal workers say the move is ill-timed and could sharply diminish the speedy processing of flat mail, including letters and ballots.

The ballot warnings, issued at the end of July from Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the Postal Service, and obtained through a records request by The Washington Post, were planned before the appointment of Louis DeJoy, a former logistics executive and ally of President Trump, as postmaster general in early summer. They go beyond the traditional coordination between the Postal Service and election officials, drafted as fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic triggered an unprecedented and sudden shift to mail-in voting.

Some states anticipate 10 times the normal volume of election mail. Six states and D.C. received warnings that ballots could be delayed for a narrow set of voters. But the Postal Service gave 40 others — including the key battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida — more-serious warnings that their long-standing deadlines for requesting, returning or counting ballots were “incongruous” with mail service and that voters who send ballots in close to those deadlines may become disenfranchised.

“The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works,” Martha Johnson, a spokeswoman for the USPS, said in a statement.

In response to the Postal Service’s warnings, a few states have quickly moved deadlines — forcing voters to request or cast ballots earlier, or deciding to delay tabulating results while waiting for more ballots to arrive.

Pennsylvania election officials cited its letter late Thursday in asking the state’s Supreme Court for permission to count ballots delivered three days after Election Day. But deadlines in many other states have not been or cannot be adjusted with just weeks remaining before the first absentee ballots hit the mail stream. More than 60 lawsuits in at least two dozen states over the mechanics of mail-in voting are wending their way through the courts. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2020 at 12:00 pm

I’m starting to think the US is not going to make it

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Remember, the House of Representatives passed a Covid relief bill in May, thanks to Democrats. Mitch McConnell did not allow the Senate to take up the bill. Now there is nothing but some ineffective and poorly written executive orders that will do nothing. The Republican party is destroying the US (with the help of Russia).

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today was another one for the history books.

This morning, in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump came out and said it: he wants to starve the United States Postal Service to destroy mail-in voting. Claiming that mail-in voting favors Democrats, he said: “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots… Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

The president’s acknowledgement that he is deliberately sabotaging an institution established in the Constitution to steal the election provoked outrage. He is tampering with an election by attacking mail-in voting even as he and Melania Trump have requested mail-in ballots for themselves. And the USPS does not simply handle ballots, it also handles many aspects of our lives: packages, medicines, and so on—things vital to our economy and way of life. “When the president goes after the Postal Service, he’s going after an all-American, highly approved-by-the-public institution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said.

The attack on the USPS dovetails with the push of the Trump administration to privatize the USPS, a push launched shortly after Trump took office. This week we learned that Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, retains at least $30 million in holdings of the company XPO Logistics, a private competitor to the USPS, and that on the same day in June that he got rid of a large number of shares of Amazon, he bought stock options at a lower price. Amazon would be hard hit by the disintegration of the USPS. “The idea that you can be a postmaster general and hold tens of millions in stocks in a postal service contractor is pretty shocking,” said former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub.

But the bottom line is that, until the Senate decides to do something about it, the House is powerless to fund the USPS to help it survive the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. In the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act the House passed in May, there was a $25 billion support for the USPS. But the Senate declined to take up the HEROES Act. When the Republicans could not agree on a new measure at the end of July, the Democrats began to negotiate directly with the White House, which proposed a more limited, $1 trillion bill. Democrats suggested a compromise at $2 trillion, but the White House has refused to budge. With this stalemate, Congress has gone on vacation for the rest of the month, while negotiators continue to try to reach a deal.

Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) noted that DeJoy’s new regulations are slowing the mail dramatically. He tweeted: “Here is the truth and I need you to spread it: the voters need to take control. Voters need to [vote by October 22] if using USPS.”

Other Democrats pushed back on Trump in their own way. In his interview, Trump said of New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat: “AOC was a poor student. I won’t say where she went to school, it doesn’t matter. This is not even a smart person, other than she’s got a good line of stuff. I mean she goes out and she yaps.” Ocasio-Cortez retorted: “Let’s make a deal, Mr. President. You release your college transcript, I’ll release mine, and we’ll see who was the better student. Loser has to fund the Post Office.”

The admission he is sabotaging the post office was not the only piece of news in Trump’s morning interview. He made it clear that he is eager to have Attorney General William Barr counter the story that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in Trump’s behalf. Trump wants Barr to reach a different conclusion based on a new Department of Justice investigation. When it became clear that the DOJ’s own inspector general would conclude that the FBI probe of certain of Trump’s campaign advisors was begun legitimately and without partisan bias—as he later did– Barr launched his own, separate investigation, placing U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham in charge of it.

This morning, Trump indicated he has great hopes that the Durham investigation will establish that former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spied on his campaign and lied to Congress about it. “Bill Barr can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy,” Trump said, depending on whether or not he produced a report that, according to Trump, is not tainted with political correctness. “We’ll see what happens…. It goes all to Obama, and it goes right to Biden.”

The president’s campaign has also . . .

Continue reading. There is much more.

It should be noted that the GOP is attacking Kamala Harris without knowing much about her. Tucker Carlson was attacking and he doesn’t even know how to pronounce her name, a clear sign of his ignorance regarding her.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2020 at 8:37 pm

Trump Admits He’s Starving the Postal Service to Sabotage Voting by Mail

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Ed Kilgore writes in New York:

If you have any doubt that Donald Trump is at least playing with the idea of tampering with the November 3 election by disenfranchising many voters using mail ballots, or perhaps by slowing down the count so he can claim an early victory based on early returns, check this out (via the Washington Post):

Trump said Thursday he does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the cash-strapped agency.

“Now, they need that money in order to make the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. He added: “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped.”

Here’s the video:

At issue, as Trump made clear in his Wednesday press briefing, are two items congressional Democrats have proposed in the coronavirus stimulus negotiations: $25 billion in emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service, which has been struggling to meet its traditional obligations, and another $3.6 billion in assistance to state and local election officials who have been struggling to staff polling places and process mail ballots. The latter money could be used to facilitate voting by mail, but there is no mandate for that; Trump-obedient Republicans could spend it all on Election Day voting if they wish. Senate Republicans included neither item in their HEALS proposal for much lower levels of stimulus assistance.

By singling out these two items as provisions he will block, Trump is making it clear he’s willing to degrade postal services for the entire country if it helps him in his war with perfectly legal voting by mail (to be clear, states, not Trump, get to decide which voting methods are deemed legitimate, and under what terms).

Slow mail service could serve the president’s purposes in two ways. First, many states (including battleground states Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — really all of them other than North Carolina) require that mail ballots be received by Election Day to be counted. Many could be thrown out due to no fault of the voter, particularly if slow mail service screws up the timetable for processing mail-ballot applications and sending out ballots well before Election Day.

Second, even if mail ballots aren’t actually invalidated, the later they are received, the longer it will take to count them. This could create a scenario that Trump himself has hinted at whereby he claims victory based on an early lead from Election Day in-person votes and attacks later-arriving mail ballots as “fraudulent.”

Pointing to Trump’s many signals that he intends to challenge the legitimacy of mail ballots despite COVID-19-related fears of voting in person, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes that USPS is already slowing down service:

It’s telling that after President Trump was widely rebuked for suggesting a delay of the election, he wasn’t remotely chastened. Instead, he floated another scenario that could help him accomplish the same goal of avoiding a free and fair election:

He suggested that only the votes that can be tallied on Election Day should count.

This may seem like Trumpian bluster. But it’s much more alarming in light of an important new exposé in The Post that reports on big backlogs in mail delivery due to “cost-cutting” by the new head of the U.S. Postal Service — who, by spectacular coincidence, just happens to be a top Trump fundraiser.

This is ballot-tampering in plain sight, folks, infinitely more significant than the extremely rare occasions of fraud in voting by mail. The ultimate position was betrayed by Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow: In a CNBC interview, he described voting rights as part of a “really liberal left wish list” that the administration and its party would fight. . .

Continue reading.

Note that many people get prescriptions by mail. President Trump’s deliberate destruction of US Postal Service is astonishing, but of course Congressional Republicans will support him in this, as they do in everything.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2020 at 3:26 pm

The campaign begins: The role and responsibility of journalists covering the campaign(s)

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Kyle Pope writes in the Columbia Journalism Review:

JOE BIDEN’S SELECTION OF KAMALA HARRIS AS HIS RUNNING MATE—a thrillingly historic choice, no matter your politics—has delivered a restart of the 2020 campaign cycle. Since March, election reporters have mostly been sitting on their hands, watching the pandemic subsume their beat. Now their instinct is to pick up where they left off—to wallow in the trivia of the candidates’ personalities and polls. My advice: don’t do it.

You could see the muscle memory kicking in on day one of the Harris coverage. First came the ridiculous speculation on media Twitter, based on flight data, about whose private planes were descending into Delaware. Once Biden made his announcement—which, notably, not a single political reporter scooped—the game was on. Did Harris apologize during the vetting for ripping Biden over his opposition to integrating schools through busing? How many candidates were interviewed and by whom? What would choosing Harris mean for the 2024 and 2028 presidential campaigns? In the New York Times, an examination of Harris’s policy stances was treated like a sidebar. CNN carried Donald Trump live as he gave his reaction to the press and, instinctively, used a sexist slur to describe Harris; more vileness is no doubt forthcoming. Acolytes of the president foreshadowed that the next three months would involve a radical takeover of the Democratic Party.

Must we go back to where we were early this year, before the coronavirus and Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, brutally killed a Black man named George Floyd? America is in the midst of a deadly pandemic and an uprising for racial justice—why should journalism act as if the spring and summer never happened?

It doesn’t have to be this way. On the eve of Trump’s inauguration, I wrote an open letter, with misguided optimism, about what to expect from a newly energized, independent White House press corps. We would set the ground rules, I wrote then. We would shape the narrative. We would decide which stories most needed telling. How naive I was. Within weeks of Trump taking office, the status quo of political reporting resumed and grew ever more insidious. For too many newsrooms, Trump’s Twitter feed became the assignment desk. Trump’s lies—and those of his lackeys (including at Fox News, which became the nation’s most-watched cable network)—were given credence they never deserved. Political reporting, especially on television, became an exercise in hate-watching. The spectacle reflected nothing about the experience of living in a torn, dysfunctional country.

By placing Trump at the center, the press was beholden to his whims and follies and cultivated distractions. He is a fount of misinformation; covering his every move is perilous. That is not a problem new to Washington, of course—as Michael Herr, who was the Vietnam correspondent for Esquire, wrote in his 1977 book, Dispatches, “It was inevitable that once the media took the diversions seriously enough to report them, they also legitimized them.” He went on, “The press got all the facts (more or less); it got too many of them. But it never found a way to report meaningfully about death.” His subject was a war; ours is the ongoing epidemic of police brutality against Black people and now the coronavirus.

Recently, when the pandemic froze the campaign and protesters filled the streets, we experienced a reprieve: officialdom was stripped of its agency. Journalists recognized the futility of reporting on an emergency from inside an administration that tells us the opposite of what we see happening in our hospitals. Police information—never all that worthy of trust—was deemed an unreliable source on the demonstrations. As five million people became sick, and more than 162,000 died, many reporters decided to focus less on stock-market analysis than on the human beings facing destitution. The disinformation streaming from officials was rightfully hectored, then ignored.

For those of us disillusioned by the status quo of political reporting, the past five months have been, in that one sense, freeing, as we’ve been spared the vacuous town halls and inane analysis and empty prime-time speculation. Instead, we have seen some magnificent journalism that takes America’s problems seriously. . . .

Continue reading for the examples (with links) he provides of journalistic excellence.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 August 2020 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Election, Media, Politics

Facebook fired an employee who collected evidence of right-wing pages getting preferential treatment.

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One reason journalists are so strongly attacked by corporations and corrupt politicians is that journalists make public the information and evidence those corporations and and politicians want to keep hidden. Indeed, corporations and corrupt politicians will try to destroy anyone who exposes what they’re doing (cf. President Trump’s many attacks on critics who point out (for example) his statements that he now wants to deny).

The “Daily 202” is a roundup of political new items that appears daily in the Washington Post. Among today’s items:

“Some of Facebook’s own employees gathered evidence they say shows Breitbart — along with other right-wing outlets and figures including Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, Trump supporters Diamond and Silk, and conservative video production nonprofit Prager University — has received special treatment that helped it avoid running afoul of company policy. They see it as part of a pattern of preferential treatment for right-wing publishers and pages,” BuzzFeed News reports. “On July 22, a Facebook employee posted a message to the company’s internal misinformation policy group noting that some misinformation strikes against Breitbart had been cleared by someone at Facebook seemingly acting on the publication’s behalf …

“The same employee said a partly false rating applied to an Instagram post from Kirk flagged for ‘priority’ escalation by Joel Kaplan, the company’s vice president of global public policy. Kaplan once served in George W. Bush’s administration and drew criticism for publiclysupporting Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination to the Supreme Court. … In one case, a senior Facebook engineer collected multiple instances of conservative figures receiving unique help from Facebook employees, including those on the policy team, to remove fact-checks on their content.”

Facebook is seriously out of control and IMO requires some strong regulation if not breaking up in some way.

Facebook’s action — firing the employee who exposed the problem rather than addressing the problem — is typical of how the powerful react (cf. Vladimir Putin’s assassination of critical journalists).

Written by LeisureGuy

7 August 2020 at 9:43 am

Jennifer Rubin proposes some questions to ask Republican candidates for Senator

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This list is from her column in the Washington Post:

  • Are you supporting the lawsuit to take away all Obamacare protections for people with preexisting conditions? If not, what have you done about it?
  • Couldn’t we have avoided Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States, if you voted to impeach him?
  • Isn’t refusal to confront Russia on bounties for killing U.S. troops a betrayal of our men and women serving overseas? If you had removed the president for betraying our national security regarding Ukraine, he wouldn’t be repeating that pattern now, would he? Do you regret your vote?
  • You voted for a $2 trillion tax cut on the promise it would pay for itself. It didn’t come close. Should we reverse it? How can you then oppose spending a similar amount on support for unemployed Americans, state and local governments, and voting by mail?
  • Will you denounce attempts to undermine mail-in voting? Will you pledge to recognize the results of the election and rebut efforts to delegitimize it?
  • Has the administration “succeeded” in fighting the coronavirus? Why haven’t you insisted on a national testing and tracing program?
  • Was it appropriate to send without the permission of the governor unidentified federal forces to gas and attack protesters in Portland, Ore.? What did you do about it?
  • Why did you vote to confirm Cabinet officials such as Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency (only Collins voted against him), Tom Price for the Department of Health and Human Services, Ryan Zinke for the Interior Department and Alexander Acosta for the Labor Department — all of whom left office under the cloud of ethics violations (including Acosta, for his participation in Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal)?
  • Is the economy in better or worse shape in January 2015, when your term began?
  • When have you condemned Trump’s racist rhetoric?
  • Have we “won” the trade war against China? If not, why haven’t you reclaimed Congress’s power over tariffs?
  • What reason do voters have to believe you would stand up to Trump if he is reelected?

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 2:04 pm

Trump goes postal

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Judd Legum has another excellent column at Popular Information:

In politics, things can change quickly. But, as of now, Trump is trailing Biden in the polls by a significant margin. And the president is lashing out, claiming mail-in voting will make November’s election “INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT” and suggesting it should be delayed until more people can safely vote in person.

Trump, however, lacks the authority to delay November’s election. He does, however, have the power to undermine the ability of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to facilitate mail-in voting. And that’s what Trump is doing.

It started in May when the Trump administration installed Louis DeJoy, a top Trump fundraiser and Republican operative, as the new Postmaster General. DeJoy has little familiarity with the USPS, but he has “given more than $2 million to the Trump campaign or Republican causes since 2016,” including “including a $210,600 contribution to the Trump Victory Fund on Feb. 19.” Before assuming the role of Postmaster General, DeJoy was “the finance chairman for the RNC convention.”

Upon assuming office, DeJoy immediately took actions to degrade . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 10:36 am

Read this Twitter thread

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Clink the link (the date) to see the whole thread.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2020 at 5:51 pm

New USPS policies seem to pave the way to privatization

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Whenever the government spends a substantial amount of money on a service, private corporations work to privatize the service and thus get the money for themselves. Of course, the government runs the service without having to show a profit, and profits are what private corporations want. So when a government service is privatized, costs go up and service quality goes down, thus securing the profit the corporation wants.

If the USPS goes private, for example, Rural Free Delivery will very likely cease to be free. Small post offices will be closed. Deliveries will become less frequent and delivery times longer. All that so that the corporation owning the service can grow its profits.

Rachel M. Cohen reports in the Intercept:

JULY HAS BEEN a flurry of confusion and stress for postal workers, as a barrage of new measures are threatening to fundamentally overhaul and undermine the culture and operations of the U.S. Postal Service.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported on a memo from the new USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy urging postal staff to leave behind mail at distribution centers if they thought it would cause a delay for letter carriers. Another memo stated that the USPS would be looking to cut transportation and overtime costs, bringing about “immediate, lasting, and impactful changes” to the federal agency.

The following week, postal workers learned of yet another new pilot program called Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation, or ESAS, that would be rolling out in 384 delivery units nationwide beginning on July 25. The crux of this program, as outlined in an unsigned memo dated July 16, is to send letter carriers out to deliver mail more quickly in the morning by prohibiting them from sorting any mail in their offices before they go.

These changes could delay mail from getting to its final destination by at least one day, if not longer. While the USPS memo billed ESAS as an effort to “improve consistency in delivery time” to customers, reduce overtime, and increase efficiency, postal workers were alarmed and shocked by these new dictates, which appeared to directly undermine a core value of their work.

“These are changes aimed at changing the entire culture of USPS,” said Mark Dimondstein, the national president of the American Postal Workers Union. “The culture I grew up with, and of generations before me, is that you never leave mail behind. You serve the customer, you get mail to the customer. Prompt, reliable, and efficient.”

Dimondstein said the union is putting in place an ESAS monitoring and reporting plan to evaluate the impacts of these new changes to service. “We are definitely getting our members educated and we will fight this post office by post office, community by community,” he said. The union is also coordinating with members of Congress to discuss strategies, and Dimondstein said he’s hoping for oversight hearings in early fall.

“I think the best way to put it is we’re concerned,” said Arthur Sackler, manager for the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a postal industry advocacy group. “Maybe this will just delay mail delivery once, but we’re worried if there’s no real time to sort, and no overtime, then there could be a cumulative growing impact.”

Sackler said his group has still gotten no information or clarity about these new rules and their potential consequences from the federal agency. “We haven’t been told anything, we haven’t been consulted, and over the last three decades the Postal Service has had a good track record of talking to unions and industry groups if there are going to be changes.”

In a statement, USPS spokesperson David Partenheimer told The Intercept that the Postal Service “is developing a business plan to ensure that we will be financially stable and able to continue to provide dependable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail and packages to all Americans as a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. The plan, which will be presented to the Board of Governors when it is finalized, will include new and creative ways to help us fulfill our mission, and will focus on the Postal Service’s strengths to maximize our prospects for long-term success.” In addition to developing the broader business plan, Partenheimer said, “the Postal Service is taking immediate steps to increase operational efficiency by re-emphasizing existing plans that have been designed to provide prompt and reliable service within current service standards.”

Postal workers have been on high alert since May, when it was announced that the USPS Board of Governors had selected DeJoy to serve as the new postmaster general and CEO. DeJoy has been a top Republican Party fundraiser, including for the Republican National Convention and the president’s reelection effort, which prompted questions about how exactly he secured his new gig.

DeJoy previously worked as chair and CEO of New Breed Logistics, a massive warehousing and distribution company, and is the first postmaster general in over two decades to have never worked at USPS. He replaced outgoing postmaster general, Megan Brennan, who was appointed in 2015 and had been a career-long USPS employee, beginning as a letter carrier in Pennsylvania.

A bevy of worker violations and complaints have racked up at DeJoy’s old stomping ground. When he was CEO, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that New Breed’s hiring practices were “motivated by anti-union animus” when it avoided hiring any Longshore union members after it secured an Army contract in California. Between 2001 and 2015, New Breed and its affiliates paid more than $1.7 million for violations of labor law, wage and hour regulations, employee discrimination, and aviation regulations. In 2014, the New York Times reported on four women who worked in a Memphis warehouse for New Breed who suffered miscarriages after their supervisors refused their requests for light duties while pregnant. That same year New Breed merged with XPO Logistics, and since 2015, XPO and its affiliates have paid more than $30 million for a range of workplace violations. Last year, hundreds of drivers, warehouse workers, and intermodal drivers at XPO facilities worldwide protested against abuse and wage theft. Then when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, XPO offered to “lend” workers up to 100 hours of time off, but said they would have to repay that time.

DeJoy vowed to bring about change to USPS, criticizing the organization for having “an expensive and inflexible business model” that he said he looked forward to tackling head-on. “I did not accept this position in spite of these challenges, I accepted this position because of them,” he told USPS employees in a June 15 video address.

Postal service workers feel particularly unnerved by the new ESAS program and DeJoy’s appointment given the Trump administration’s announcement in 2018 that the president would like to restructure and privatize USPS. The White House suggested that USPS could save money by raising rates, ending door-to-door delivery, and cutting down days of mail service. This past April, Donald Trump called the Postal Service “a joke” and tried to force the agency to quadruple its package rates in exchange for Covid-19 relief.

Delaying mail delivery in the name of cutting costs and efficiency, Dimondstein argued, means that people will lose confidence in one of the most trusted federal agencies in the country, which, unlike its private competitors, delivers everywhere, including to unprofitable and rural areas. “Undermining and degrading the Postal Service helps frustrate the customer, which sets the stage to privatizing it,” he said. “The Trump administration is on record for raising prices, reducing service, and reducing workers’ rights and benefits. This [pilot] may be Trump’s first foray to try and actually accomplish some of those things.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., pointed to the implications denying   . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, it’s important, and it will affect you directly.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2020 at 11:20 am

Clear explanation of the forces driving the collapse of the US

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Reality is disrupting the ideology of today’s Republican Party.

For a generation, Republicans have tried to unravel the activist government under which Americans have lived since the 1930s, when Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and invested in infrastructure. From the beginning, that government was enormously popular. Both Republicans and Democrats believed that the principle behind it—that the country worked best when government protected and defended ordinary Americans—was permanent.

But the ideologues who now control the Republican Party have always wanted to get rid of this New Deal state and go back to the world of the 1920s, when businessmen ran the government. They believe that government regulation and taxation is an assault on their liberty, because it restricts their ability to make money.

They have won office not by convincing Americans to give up their own government benefits—most Americans actually like clean water and Social Security and safe bridges—but by selling a narrative in which “Liberals” are trying to undermine the country by stealing the tax dollars of hardworking Americans—quietly understood to be white men—and redistributing them to lazy people who want handouts, not-so-quietly understood to be people of color and feminist women. According to this narrative, legislation that protects ordinary Americans simply redistributes wealth. It is “socialism,” or “communism.”

Meanwhile, Republican policies have actually redistributed wealth upward. When voters began to turn against those policies, Republicans upped the ante, saying that “Liberals” were simply buying Black votes with handouts, or, as Carly Fiorina said in a 2016 debate, planning to butcher babies and sell their body parts. To make sure Republicans stayed in power, they suppressed voting by people likely to vote Democratic, and gerrymandered states so that even if Democrats won a majority of votes, they would have a minority of representatives.

This system rewarded those who moved to the right, not to the middle. It gave them Donald Trump as a 2016 candidate, who talked of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists and treated women not as equals but as objects either for sex or derision.

And, although as a candidate Trump talked about making taxes fairer, improving health care, and helping those struggling economically, in fact as president he has done more to bring about the destruction of the New Deal state than most of his predecessors. He has slashed regulations, given a huge tax cut to the wealthy, and gutted the government.

If the end of the New Deal state is going to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, it should be now.

Instead, the gutting of our government destroyed our carefully constructed pandemic response teams and plans, leaving America vulnerable to the coronavirus. Pressed to take the lead on combatting the virus, the administration refused to use federal power, and instead relied on “public-private partnerships” which meant states were largely on their own. When governors tried to take over, the Republican objection to government regulation, cultivated over a generation, had people refusing to wear masks or follow government instructions.

As the rest of the world watches in horror, we have suffered more than 4 million infections, and are approaching 150,000 deaths.

The pandemic also crashed the economy as businesses shut down to avoid infections. It threw more than 20 million Americans out of work. Republican ideology says the government has no business supporting ordinary Americans: they should work to survive, even if that means they have to take the risk of contracting Covid-19. Schools should open, businesses should get up and going, and the economy should rebuild. As Texas’s lieutenant governor Dan Patrick said to Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson in March, grandparents should be willing to contract coronavirus for the U.S. to “get back to work.”

The coronavirus has brought the Republican narrative up against reality. Just 32% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, and only 38% of the country think the economy is good. Americans believe that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2020 at 10:26 pm

Trump’s authoritarian endgame is now underway

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Trump is shifting his reelection pitch, and it has frightening implications for the country.

Over the weekend, the federal crackdown in Portland, Oregon continued, with people in unmarked camouflage uniforms arresting peaceful protesters and taking them away in unmarked vehicles. And then, they appeared—for now—to let them go. The administration appears to be constructing a scene of violence and disorder for the news media to show to viewers.

It seems clear that the Trump campaign—which got a new director last Wednesday– is going to make its case for reelection on the idea that there is violence in America’s cities that must be addressed with federal force, and that only Trump is willing to do so.

This is an apparent attempt to overshadow the increasingly alarming news about the coronavirus, which is now burning across the country with renewed vigor. Even as Republican governors are backtracking and asking people to wear masks, Trump continues to insist—falsely– that our spiking numbers are because of increased testing and that the virus will eventually disappear.

In an interview tonight with Chris Wallace on the Fox News Channel (remember, Wallace is an actual reporter, not an entertainment personality like Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity), Trump claimed—again, falsely—that some of the states are rolling back their reopening not because of the ravages of new coronavirus infections, but because they are trying to hurt his chances of reelection. “Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day. They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test. Many of them — don’t forget, I guess it’s like 99.7 percent, people are going to get better and in many cases they’re going to get better very quickly,” he said.

When Wallace asked him how he would “regard your years as President of the United States,” Trump said: “I think I was very unfairly treated. From before I even won I was under investigation by a bunch of thieves, crooks. It was an illegal investigation.” Wallace tried to steer him back on track: “But what about the good—” Trump interrupted: “Russia, Russia, Russia.”

Wallace: “But what about the good parts, sir?

Trump: No, no, I want to do this. I have done more than any president in history in the first three and a half years, and I’ve done it through suffering through investigations where people have been—General Flynn, where people have been so unfairly treated….”

He went on, rehashing his grievances, until Wallace finally bade him goodbye.

From this wreckage, the campaign is trying to find a new, winning issue in law and order.

The footage from Portland shows what looks like a war zone, but the Department of Homeland Security’s own list of the actions of the “violent anarchists” in the city consists of graffiti, torn down fences, and fireworks, all situations the local police insist they can handle. The mayor, both senators, and the governor of Oregon have all asked for the federal troops to be removed, but the administration refuses. Yesterday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said the protests were winding down before the federal troops came in and escalated the situation.

In an interview today on the Fox News Channel, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said that Trump is working with Attorney General William Barr and Acting Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to roll out a new plan to “go in” to make sure communities– like Chicago and Milwaukee—across the country are safe. People are assuming that means more federal troops in those– and other– cities, but Meadows did not, in fact, say that explicitly.

The Trump campaign immediately retweeted Meadows’s interview. Trump himself tweeted: “We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it. Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!” The argument appears to be that we should not pay attention to the administration’s failure to protect us from coronavirus because it promises now to protect us from “violent anarchists.”

On Friday, The US. Attorney for the District of Oregon, Billy Williams, recognized that the administration’s tactics in Portland had gone too far. He stated: “Based on news accounts circulating that allege federal law enforcement detained two protesters without probable cause, I have requested the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General to open a separate investigation directed specifically at the actions of DHS personnel.”

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum didn’t wait for an investigation. On Friday, she sued the Department of Homeland Security and the Marshals Service in federal court to try to get a court order to stop federal agents from arresting people in Portland. The complaint blames the federal agents for “the current escalation of fear and violence in downtown Portland.”

On Sunday, the chairs of the House Judiciary Committee, the House Homeland Security Committee, and the House Oversight Committee, wrote a letter to the inspectors general of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice asking them to investigate “the Trump Administration’s use of federal law enforcement to violate the rights of our constituents.” They tied the events in Portland to the larger story of the attack on protesters at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., and to the deployment of cold water cannons, pepper spray, and tear gas on those protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Standing Rock Reservation.

But, they noted, they had an even broader concern. “The legal basis for this use of force has never been explained—and, frankly, it is not at all clear that the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary are authorized to deploy federal law enforcement officers in this manner. The Attorney General of the United States does not have unfettered authority to direct thousands of federal law enforcement personnel to arrest and detain American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. The Acting Secretary appears to be relying on an ill-conceived executive order meant to protect historic statues and monuments as justification for arresting American citizens in the dead of night. The Administration’s insistence on deploying these forces over the objections of state and local authorities suggest that these tactics have little to do with public safety, but more to do with political gamesmanship.”

The letter went on: “This is a matter of utmost urgency. Citizens are concerned that the Administration has deployed a secret police force, not to investigate crimes but to intimidate individuals it views as political adversaries, and that the use of these tactics will proliferate throughout the country. Therefore, we ask that you commence your review of these issues immediately.”

It is not just officials who are objecting to the administration’s authoritarian demonstrations. There was a new force on the Portland streets this weekend: moms. Dressed in yellow shirts, wearing helmets and masks, several hundred women are forming chains between the officers and the protesters. They call themselves the Wall of Moms, and are chanting: “I don’t see no riot here; take off your riot gear,” and “Feds stay clear, moms are here!” Officers tear gassed them last night, but they came back tonight in bigger numbers.

Tonight’s protest was one of the largest this month.

That is Trump’s strategy. You can see reflected in these actions Trump’s admiration (and envy) of admires Robrigo Duterte, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and other dictators.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 July 2020 at 8:31 am

Trump’s shenanigans, cont’d.

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Heather Cox Richardson writes in her July 13 recap:

Media coverage of Trump’s commutation of his associate Roger Stone’s prison sentence has pushed the Russia bounty story out of the headlines. Knowing Trump’s skill at distraction, it’s hard to believe this is a coincidence.

It’s a big story. In late February, Trump’s Presidential Daily Brief (the “PDB”) informed him that Russia’s military intelligence unit, the GRU, had offered cash payments to Taliban-linked fighters to kill American and allied soldiers in Afghanistan. The willingness of a foreign power, with whom we are theoretically not at war, to pay to have our soldiers killed is a huge deal.

But instead of retaliating, Trump actually worked more closely with Russia after he learned of the bounties, issuing a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin about cooperation between the nations, trading coronavirus supplies, and urging that Russia should be readmitted to the G7, from which it was excluded after it invaded Ukraine in 2014.

When the story leaked two weeks ago, Trump first called it a hoax, then said he had not been “briefed,”—apparently suggesting that the report had not been delivered orally, so as far as he was concerned he had not been told—then said the information had not been verified, then went on a hunt for the leakers. But what he hasn’t done in all this time is denounced Russia for putting a bounty on U.S. soldiers.

On Sunday, Douglas London, a CIA veteran of 34 years who was the CIA chief for counterterrorism in south and southwest Asia from 2016-2018, wrote that Trump steadfastly refused to push back on Russian aggression in Afghanistan when London oversaw operations there. London noted that Trump retaliated against both Iran and Pakistan when they supported the Taliban… but he did nothing about reports that Russia was similarly involved.

“As any observer of Russia knows, neglecting aggression inevitably invites more of it — to expand Russian influence and power at American expense,” London wrote. “The president must explain to the American people, and especially to those who risk their lives for their country and our families, why he continues to abide Russian threats to our troops, our security and our democracy.”

London is not the only one worried about Trump’s defense of Russia. On Saturday, July 11, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally broke his silence about his investigation into the efforts of Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Mueller said he felt “compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office.”

These charges are coming primarily from Trump and his aides.

Mueller revisited the findings of the Mueller Report, which proved that Russia hacked and dumped emails from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as well as managing an on-line social media campaign to hurt Clinton and help Trump. It found that a number of officials from the Trump campaign—including Stone– had links to the Russian government. While it did not establish that the campaign conspired with Russian spies, it did conclude that the Russian government worked for a Trump victory. And the Trump campaign expected the stolen and leaked emails would help Trump win. (The actual report notes that if Mueller felt he could exonerate the Trump campaign from conspiring with the Russians, he would have.)

A jury later convicted Stone of lying to Congress. He lied about his contacts with an intermediary to Wikileaks, and lied when he denied telling the Trump campaign about the Wikileaks release of emails. Stone also demanded a witness lie to Congress. “Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes,” Mueller explained. “He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”

Today, the judge in Stone’s case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, received the Justice Department’s documentation on Stone’s clemency. Trump’s commutation of his sentence not only wipes away his 40-month jail term, but also his two years of supervised release and his $20,000 fine. Stone told reporters today that he will do everything he can to get Trump reelected in November.

It feels like we are also seeing presidential distraction on the coronavirus pandemic. We learned today that 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance. At the same time, Trump has continued to insist that our spiking numbers of infections are due to more testing, and that guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) are “impractical” and “very tough & expensive.”

While undermining Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has been one of the administration’s key advisors on the pandemic, Trump today retweeted a post from gameshow host and commentator Chuck Woolery saying that “Everyone is lying…. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”

Not all Trump’s loyalists buy this: former . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2020 at 10:02 am

What Keeps America Divided?

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Franklin Foer reviews a book in the NY Times:

LET THEM EAT TWEETS
How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality

By Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

This book makes its appearance in the thick of a golden age of political journalism. Each Oval Office tantrum has been recounted in graphic detail, every booking at the Trump Hotel given close scrutiny. Never have we known more about inner-sanctum happenings in the White House or about the corruption that can pervade power. Yet such a gusher of scoops makes this a good moment to counterprogram with a solid work of political science.

One might expect inside-the-room reportage to be more melodramatic than a careful study of structural forces. But with “Let Them Eat Tweets,” the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson have constructed a portrait of the Trumpian moment that, in the book’s professorial way, is as terrifying as those Page 1 accounts of presidential ravings. They meticulously show how the president isn’t a singular presence, but a thoroughly representative one.

Hacker and Pierson are two of the most reliable and reliably creative thinkers in their discipline. Over the past 15 years, they have collaborated on a series of important books (especially “Off-Center: The Republican Revolution and Erosion of American Democracy”) that have charted inequality’s distorting influence on politics. (Several of their essays were published in The New Republic when I was editor.) This book reads like a culmination of their work, since the presidency of Donald Trump is the culmination of the trend they have so closely studied.

In essence, “Let Them Eat Tweets” revisits the title question of Thomas Frank’s classic “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Sixteen years after the publication of Frank’s book, the question he raised remains the most important one in American politics: namely, how has the Republican Party achieved so many victories when its economic policies are so unpopular? Or as Frank posed it: How has the Republican Party persuaded so many working-class voters to support a plutocratic agenda that they often don’t especially like, and that often undermines their own livelihoods?

Hacker and Pierson’s answer to this question isn’t revelatory, but it is persuasively and meticulously argued. They begin with a central conundrum of trans-Atlantic politics, what they call the “conservative dilemma.” From their 19th-century inception, political parties of the right have faced an electoral disadvantage since, for the most part, they emerged as vessels for the wealthy, a definitionally small coterie. Their growth seemed further constrained by the fact that they could never match their opponents’ enticing promises of government largess because their wealthy backers steadfastly refused to pay higher taxes.

This state of weakness forced an unpleasant choice on any conservative party: Plutocrats could reconcile themselves to the center by agreeing to tax hikes and governmental expansion. Or they could attempt to win ugly by stoking resentments. According to Hacker and Pierson, the British Tories are an example of a party that has flourished over the centuries by gracefully shifting to the middle (although I doubt the coal miners of the Margaret Thatcher years would agree with this description). And then there were the German aristocrats and industrialists who, in the 1930s, sought to salvage their power by aligning with the darkest of forces.

Wisely, the two authors don’t dwell on any incendiary parallels between the present-day Republican Party and Germanic antecedents, but they demonstrate how the wealthiest Americans have devised an antidemocratic politics that does echo Germany’s grim past. Greed is the root of the problem. Never content with the last tax cut or the last burst of deregulation, American plutocrats keep pushing for more. With each success, their economic agenda becomes more radical and less salable. To compensate for its unpopularity, the Republicans must resort to ever greater doses of toxic emotionalism.

For a long stretch, the wealthy controlled the party. When George W. Bush stared at a well-heeled audience in 2000, he quipped, “Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.” But that elite ultimately owed its smashing policy successes to the handiwork of evangelicals and the National Rifle Association, who were able to mobilize large numbers of voters. And from the start, Hacker and Pierson show, these groups riled their followers with racism. In the late 1970s, evangelicals surged as a political force after the government ordered the desegregation of private Christian academies. Meanwhile, the N.R.A. titillated its membership with images of urban criminals.

This racism often hid behind code words, and Hacker and Pierson admit that their previous books underrated its importance. But with the arrival of Trump, as the Republicans struggled with their diminishing numbers, that racism has emerged in full view. As the authors put it, “The ‘dog whistle’ invoking racialized themes has given way to the bullhorn.”

In the spring of 2016, the moneyed backers of the Republican Party proclaimed their horror at Trump’s emergence as a presidential contender. But whatever genuine anguish they may have felt was quickly suppressed. They had already acclimated themselves to the populist rage that prevailed in their party. This rage would occasionally destroy the careers of their favorite politicians, like the congressional leaders Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. But such ritualistic sacrifices — and a little distasteful rhetoric — were nothing compared with the lucrative rewards that the populists supplied them in the form of tax cuts.

None of this analysis will astound a reader of journalists like Paul Krugman, Jane Mayer or Jonathan Chait. But there’s value in a calm overview that relentlessly traces the biggest themes of the era.

This academic detachment lends credibility to the authors’ grim prophecy. The Republican populists and plutocrats may be defeated at the polls, but that won’t stop their continued success. . .

Continue reading.

Republicans do not depend solely on supporting and promoting racism to win elections. They also work actively — and increasingly overtly — at suppressing votes: cutting polling places in Democratic precincts, restricting voting times as much as possible to work hours, fighting voting by mail, removing potentially Democratic voters from voter roles, and simple intimidation.

Republicans have to resort to lies, voter suppression, and racism because their policies are not popular.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2020 at 11:24 am

In the words of the national anthem, “Home of the brave…” Or maybe not.

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Kevin Drum has a brief post that hits the nail on the head. Enablers gotta enable.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2020 at 3:03 pm

A black man makes a good point about Joe Biden

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2020 at 8:33 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Facebook removes Trump ads with symbol once used by Nazis to designate political prisoners

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Trump and his supporters are showing their true colors and bedrock beliefs. Isaac Stanley Becker reports in the Washington Post:

In its online salvo against antifa and “far-left mobs,” President Trump’s reelection campaign displayed a marking the Nazis once used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.

A red inverted triangle was first used in the 1930s to identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, Freemasons and other members of opposition parties. The badge forced on Jewish political prisoners, by contrast, featured a yellow triangle overlaid by a red triangle.

In response to queries from The Washington Post, Facebook on Thursday afternoon deactivated ads that included the inverted red triangle.

The red symbol appeared in paid posts sponsored by Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as by the “Team Trump” campaign page. It was featured alongside text warning of “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups” and asking users to sign a petition about antifa, a loose collection of anti-fascist activists whom the Trump administration has sought to link to recent violence, despite arrest records that show their involvement is trivial.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

But the ads on the president’s page alone, which began running on Wednesday, gained as many as 950,000 impressions by Thursday morning. Identical ads on Pence’s page gained as many as 500,000 impressions. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Facebook is increasingly a problem, an infectious site in a democracy.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 11:14 am

Shameless in Iowa

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Republicans simply do not want people to vote. Judd Legum reports in Popular Information (scroll down — it’s the third report at the link):

Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, Paul Pate, sent absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state in advance of the June primary. The result was record participation in the election, even though it took place during a global pandemic. In Iowa’s Linn County, for example, “nearly 85% of all votes cast came in via absentee.”

Now, Iowa Republicans in the state legislature want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. They have attached a “30-page amendment” to a “one page bill dictating the use of county seals.” Among other provisions, the amendment would bar the Secretary of State from sending absentee ballot applications to anyone who did not specifically request one. That means Pate could not send ballots to every voter before the November general election.

Trump has been arguing that mail-in voting facilitates widespread fraud. “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed,” Trump tweeted last month.

This is contradicted by the data, as the Washington Post reported Monday:

[A] Washington Post analysis of data collected by three vote-by-mail states with help from the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) found that officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent.

The figure reflects cases referred to law enforcement agencies in five elections held in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, where all voters proactively receive ballots in the mail for every election.

A database maintained by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which opposes expanding mail-in voting, shows 204 instances of potential absentee ballot fraud over the last 20 years. During that time, more than a quarter-billion ballots were cast by mail. That is “one six-millionth of one percent of all votes.” To put that in perspective, “[o]n a 100-mile road, a six-millionth of a percent is less than half an inch.”

There is no evidence any fraud occurred during Iowa’s June primary. But . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2020 at 11:31 am

Why Wisconsin Republicans Insisted on an Election in a Pandemic

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Reid J. Epstein writes in the NY Times:

Tuesday’s mess of an election in Wisconsin is the culmination of a decade of efforts by state Republicans to make voting harder, redraw legislative boundaries and dilute the power of voters in the state’s urban centers.

The Republican-dominated state legislature, which has held a majority since 2011, due in part to gerrymandered maps, refused to entertain the Democratic governor’s request to mail absentee ballots to all voters or move the primary. Then the State Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservative justices, overturned the governor’s ruling to postpone the election until June.

Now Wisconsin is conducting an election that the state’s largest newspaper — which previously endorsed Republican leaders including former Gov. Scott Walker — called “the most undemocratic in the state’s history.”

Here’s a look at how it came to this point.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders are on the ballot in Wisconsin, but the main event is the State Supreme Court race between the conservative incumbent justice, Daniel Kelly, and a liberal challenger, Jill Karofsky.

The winner will be in position to cast a deciding vote on a case before the court that seeks to purge more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls — in a state where 2.6 million people voted in the last governor’s race. When the matter was first before the court in January, Mr. Kelly recused himself, citing his upcoming election. He indicated he would “rethink” his position following the April election, which comes with a 10-year term.

But the election proceeding on Tuesday is not just about the voter purge case. It is the latest example of what many in the state see as a decade-long effort by Wisconsin Republicans to dilute the voting power of the state’s Democratic and African-American voters.

Since 2011, when Mr. Walker led a Republican takeover of the state government, the G.O.P. has enacted one of the nation’s strictest laws requiring government-issued identification to vote. In 2020, a voter must have a photo ID with a current address, or an ID and acceptable proof of residency — often a hardship for poorer black Milwaukee residents who live in neighborhoods with some of the highest eviction rates in the country. A 2017 study by the University of Wisconsin found nearly 17,000 registered voters were unable to cast a ballot during the 2016 election, and untold more were deterred from voting.

The Republican majority also drew legislative and congressional boundaries that are widely considered the most gerrymandered in the country. During the 2018 election, Democratic candidates won 190,000 more votes for State Assembly seats, but the G.O.P. held a 64-35 advantage in the chamber.

Forty Republican lawmakers on Monday wrote to Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, asking him to reopen the state’s golf courses.

If Mr. Kelly wins, it would cement the conservative majority’s ability to block any future Democratic efforts to change voting laws and litigate an expected stalemate over congressional and state legislative boundaries during redistricting that will follow the 2020 census.

Wisconsin is, by many projections, a key state for clinching an Electoral College victory. And in the last four years it has seen some of the closest statewide races in the country.

In 2016, President Trump won the state by less than 23,000 votes.

In 2018, Mr. Evers ousted Gov. Walker by less than 30,000 votes.

In 2019, a State Supreme Court race was decided by just 6,000 votes.

In a state so closely divided, any adjustment to voting procedures or voter eligibility has the potential to swing enough votes to tip the state.

This is truly a mystery that has consumed Democrats both inside and outside Wisconsin.

For weeks Gov. Evers insisted . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2020 at 4:01 pm

A World Without Partisan Gerrymanders? Virginia Democrats Show the Way

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Note what Democrats do. Jesse Wegman writes in the NY Times:

Politicians rarely give up power voluntarily. They never give it up when they have free rein to lock it in for at least a decade, and exact long-overdue revenge against their political opponents.

But a group of Virginia Democrats did just that earlier this month, when they voted in favor of an amendment to the State Constitution stripping themselves of the power to redraw legislative district maps in 2021, after the decennial census.

Last fall, Democrats won majorities in both houses of the Virginia Legislature; with a Democratic governor already in office, they took full control of the state government for the first time in a generation. They had unlimited power to fashion the new maps in their favor, cementing their own grip on power just as Republicans around the country have done since the last redistricting cycle in 2011. Some Republican maps are so biased that they have given the G.O.P. legislative supermajorities even when the party loses the statewide popular vote, which happened in Wisconsin in 2018. So it’s entirely understandable for Democrats who regain power to want payback — now.

And yet nine Virginia Democrats agreed to put down their partisan swords and join Republicans to support the new amendment, which would require that the state’s district maps be drawn by a bipartisan commission made up of lawmakers and regular citizens. Voters must ratify the amendment in November before it will take effect.

The Democrats’ vote was a display of integrity and selflessness by members of a party with unified control of government. It placed long-term interest in the health of representative democracy over the shorter-term partisan benefits that both parties have been happy to exploit when they control redistricting.

The Virginia amendment’s passage is all the more important in the present moment, when voters everywhere have been left at the mercy of self-serving state lawmakers, thanks to the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene to stop even the most extreme partisan gerrymanders. The ruling last June, by a 5-to-4 vote, asserted that redistricting was a political matter to be resolved by the states, not the federal courts. The justices thus enshrined one of the most corrosive and anti-democratic practices in American politics.

Virginia’s new amendment would establish a 16-member commission, made up of eight lawmakers and eight citizens, divided evenly between the two major parties. A supermajority of both lawmaker and citizen commissioners would have to agree on a proposed map to send it to the Legislature and governor for approval. If they can’t, the job shifts to the State Supreme Court.

The amendment, which under the State Constitution had to pass the Legislature twice in a row before going to the voters, was first approved in 2019 by overwhelming bipartisan margins . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2020 at 8:57 pm

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