Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

RFL: Mark Jamison, Trump vs. The USPS & the Importance of Mail-In Voting

Contributor to Save The Post Office and Angry Bear blogs, Mark Jamison was interviewed and featured on Richard French Live, also can be seen on Meet the Press hosted by Chuck Todd, and later CNN. In this RFL YouTube, Mark gives all the reasons why we should be concerned with trump and Louis DeJoy tampering with the USPS and mail-in ballots.
President Trump has been attempting to sow the seeds of doubt before Election Day without evidence of issues resulting from mail-in voting which has been used successfully for absentee voting and other state voting. Suggesting ballot fraud and voting irregularities trump, republicans, and their followers claim it will result in a “rigged” by mail election if mail-in voting is used extensively now.

Meanwhile, we witness an overhaul of the USPS administration taking place with a new trump-politically-selected-PMG and new senior staff being put in place, the removal of additional resource to secure on-time delivery of ballots, mailboxes being removed from service in some states which use mail-in voting, OT being cut at the USPS office, etc. all done within ninety days of a national election. One has to wonder who is rigging the election and taking action to deter citizens from voting in a safe manner during a pandemic and making their vote count.

Former USPS Postmaster Mark Jamison discusses how and why Trump is attempting to destroy the Postal Service.

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Trump ally Louis Dejoy Making ‘high-risk’ changes at USPS

Trump ally making ‘high-risk’ changes at USPS, says former postal service deputy,” The Guardian, Sam Levine, August 12, 2020

I received a message from former NC Postmaster Mark Jamison and Angry Bear contributor about a brief interview he did with The Guardian for part of its story on the changes being done at the USPS by the new Postmaster General.

A former top official at the United States Postal Service (USPS) has warned about recent Louis DeJoy mandated changes being implemented just months ahead of the election which could “disenfranchise” Americans just as a record number of them are expected to vote by mail. Ronald Stroman, who stepped down earlier this year as the second in command at USPS, said “he was concerned about the speed and timing of changes that appeared to be implemented after Louis DeJoy took office in June.” Also, due to decreased business and a congressional manufactured liability of prefunding decades of future postal worker retirement now, the USPS faces a financial crisis. Ronald Stroman adds, “while every Postmaster General is interested in cost savings and efficiency, the question is how to balance those risky changes with the public’s needs.

As a supply chain and logistics consultant and manager, I find the timing of these changes to be unnecessary and incredibly dangerous. Processing and delivering mail during a pandemic is difficult enough due to workers becoming ill. Tossing functional changes in on top of the pandemic which people will have to learn is incredibility ignorant when much of the management has been let go or has left due to the politics of the management change. Furthermore, I doubt we will see “Louis” with sleeves rolled up on the line somewhere making sure the mailed-in ballots are clearly postmarked and delivered on time to their destinations. He has spent far too many decades sitting in an office issuing mandates elsewhere.

Angry Bear contributor and retired NC Postmaster Mark Jamison also contributed to The Guardian article stating the idea of leaving first class mail behind for latter processing, as proposed by DeJoy to reduce OT costs, which includes letters with a regular stamp – was anathema to the culture of USPS.

“The rule has always been you clear every piece of first-class mail out of a plant every day, period. There has never been, never, in the 30 years I worked for the post office . . . there has never been a time when you curtail first class mail.”

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Lebanon’s Leaders Resign over deaths of 200, but Trump refuses Accountability for 163,462 Deaths

Prof. Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is also the founder of the blog Informed Comment. Professor Cole writes on international issues. Angry Bear has featured Prof. Cole from time to time.

Lebanon’s Leaders Resign over deaths of 200, but Trump refuses Accountability for 163,462 Deaths;” Informed Comment, Juan Cole, August 11, 2020

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – On Monday, the prime minister of Lebanon and his entire cabinet resigned en masse, reports Bassem Mroue at the Associated Press. Last week an enormous explosion destroyed Beirut’s port and part of the city, killing over 200 persons and wounding thousands, and leaving 300,000 homeless. The explosion came about after volatile ammonium nitrate was stored at the port carelessly for seven years, despite expert warnings that it could flatten the city. Government corruption and neglect were at the root of the tragedy.

Hassan Diab, a former engineering professor at the American University in Beirut and former minister of education, became prime minister in December after massive protests ousted his predecessor, Saad Hariri. By custom, the prime minister in Lebanon is a Sunni Muslim, but Diab joined a government dominated by the Shiite Hezbollah and its allies. He is a technocrat rather than an old-time sectarian, machine politician, as were most of his cabinet ministers, and became prime minister because he was the sort of leader the crowds seemed to be demanding.

When he resigned, he said of the old political class of warlords and elite sectarian families, “They should have been ashamed of themselves because their corruption is what has led to this disaster that had been hidden for seven years. I have discovered that corruption is bigger than the state and that the state is paralyzed by this clique and cannot confront it or get rid of it.”

Diab had hoped to stay on for two months to arrange for new elections and a smooth transition, but three of his ministers resigned this weekend after demonstrators massed in downtown Beirut and briefly took over government buildings, declaring one of them the “HQ of the Revolution,” and he saw the writing on the wall.

Still, while president Michel Aoun accepted Diab’s resignation, he would ask him to stay on in a caretaker role. Protesters remain in the streets and are demanding new elections under a new electoral law. It is not clear how a new electoral law would be crafted in the absence of a government, nor is it clear that parties such as Hezbollah would allow significant changes in the rules of the game.

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Tiny Homes – A ‘Fundamental Shift is Occurring’

Site Plan. Escape Tampa Bay Village, Tiny Homes, Dan Dobrowolski

A recently purchased, rundown, 1 acre mobile home park is redesigned by a tiny house manufacturer into a site for tiny homes. Dan Dobrowolski of “Escape” has been building tiny houses and giving them a place to go for a while.

Now during the Corona epidemic Dan Dobrowolski has opened a new development and naming it Escape Tampa Bay Village. It is a real demonstration of how tiny houses have come of age and utilize a smaller footprint than what is found in subdivisions today. The one acre former trailer park is home to ten tiny homes. Rather than asphalt pavement occupying much of the park, shrubbery and trees add to the landscaping creating a natural area. Occupancy is limited to the tiny homes manufactured by Escape.

With the advent of the Corona virus epidemic, Everything changed overnight. The people who would never consider living in a Park Model mobile home in a trailer park suddenly are seeing a tiny home in a community of like-minded people to be an attractive proposition.

Dan: The trend is so strong now for 1) escaping crowded housing and 2) just escaping major metro areas like NYC, LA & SFO, it is almost overwhelming. This is a major shift  .   .   .  we’re seeing this all over the US with buyers.

If this sounds like a commercial, it really is a commercial, a commercial for smaller homes which can be moved from place to place when needed or if desired. I believe this is the mode which may better suit up and coming younger generations who do not have the funds to acquire a traditional home like their parents did in suburbia. It is also gives them an option of not living in crowded cities and away from today’s virus. So, what doe the floor plan look like?

Their are floor plans on site.

 

A ‘Fundamental Shift is Occurring’ as People Flock to Tiny Homes,” Treehugger, Lloyd Alter, August 5, 2020

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Can A President Appropriate Funds for a Program?

With regard to Trump’s three memos and one Executive Order.

We did go through this one time before with the ACA and funding for the Risk Corridor Program as I wrote “Risk Corridor, Healthcare Premiums, Companies Leaving the Exchanges, and Republicans.” The GAO said the President can not appropriate funds for funding of programs. Only congress can do so as stated in a letter to then Senator Jeff Sessions. However, a president can transfer funding from one program to another.

“Questioning whether the Risk Corridor payments were being appropriated correctly, the Appropriations Panel forced the HHS to make changes in how they appropriated funds allowing Congress to stop all appropriations. As stated in this letter, the PPACA could no longer appropriate the funds as they were subject to the discretion of Congress. The GAO issued an opinion on the legality of what the HHS was doing with funds.

GAO Letter to Senator Jeff Sessions. September 30, 2014: Discussion; “At issue here is whether appropriations are available to the Secretary of HHS to make the payments specified in section 1342(b)(1). Agencies may incur obligations and make expenditures only as permitted by an appropriation. U.S. Const., art. I, § 9, cl. 7; 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1); B-300192, Nov. 13, 2002, at 5. Appropriations may be provided through annual appropriations acts as well as through permanent legislation. See, e.g., 63 Comp. Gen. 331 (1984). The making of an appropriation must be expressly stated in law. 31 U.S.C. § 1301(d). It is not enough for a statute to simply require an agency to make a payment. B-114808, Aug. 7, 1979. Section 1342, by its terms, did not enact an appropriation to make the payments specified in section 1342(b)(1). In such cases, we next determine whether there are other appropriations available to an agency for this purpose.”

Further down in the GAO letter, the GAO leaves the HHS an out of using other already available appropriations for the Risk Corridor payments to insurance companies. Classifying the payments as “user fees” was another way to retain the authority to spend other appropriations already made by Congress. Otherwise if revenue from the Risk Corridor program fell short, the administration would need approval for addition appropriations from Congress. As it was, the HHS could no longer appropriate funds to make Risk Corridor payments unless the funds were already appropriated by Congress or Congress approved new funds which was not going to happen with a Republican controlled House.”

The transfer of funding from another healthcare program to the PPACA Risk Corridor Program was blocked by the insertion of Section 227 of the 2015 Appropriations Act (dated December 16, 2014) which escaped notice by Congressional Representatives Kingston and Upton. In the 2015 Appropriations Act (Cromnibus), the sentence inserted said no “other” funds in this bill could be used for Risk Corridor payments. See: Risk Corridor

What is reprehensible is the total alliance by Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and his sycophants’ who have locked stepped in accordance with a psychotic president in the White House blocking any economic help to the citizens of this nation during a catastrophic event. It remains to be seen if the Senate comes back to reality to stop this president. And McConnell? McConnell shall definitely be remembered in history as something.

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An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Make Election Mail Free

Mark Jamison’s commentary on USPO matters have been featured at Angry Bear Blog a number of times over the years. A retired postmaster, Mark Jamison serves as an advisor, resident guru, and a regular contributor to Save the Post Office. Mark’s previous posts concerning the USPO can be found here at “Save The Post Office” or by doing the search function at Angry Bear.  Mark can also be contacted on USPO matters markijamison01@gmail.com

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A common thread that runs throughout the history of the United States is the expansion of the franchise.

Early in our history the right to vote was limited to white males, often with strict property qualifications. By the time of Andrew Jackson, the franchise had extended to white males generally. While the primary reason for the Civil War was the elimination of slavery, the logical conclusion of that conflict was the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited denial of the franchise based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Nineteenth Amendment extended the franchise to women, and the Snyder Act of 1924 extended the vote to Native Americans by granting them full citizenship rights. The Twenty-sixth Amendment extended the voting age to eighteen-year-olds, acknowledging that if one was old enough to fight and die for their country they were old enough to exercise the franchise.

The fundamental premise of our Constitution is that sovereignty lies within the entity known as We the People. Voting, the exercise of our basic right to choose our leaders, should be our most cherished right because it enshrines voice and participation granting the dignity of self-government.

And yet for all its acknowledged value and importance there have still been reactionary and revanchist powers that sought to limit and confine the franchise. The powerful and elite rarely willingly share their wealth and power.  Each step in extending the franchise was met with resistance.

Ninety-five years after passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, the 1965 Voting Rights Act finally enshrined mechanisms to fulfill the vision of participation that is the cornerstone of American Democracy. The VRA was renewed by Congress several times, most recently in 2006 when it passed in the House by a vote of 390 – 33 and in the Senate unanimously. And yet elements, small recalcitrant elements of our society, still begrudge this most fundamental and basic of rights. In an infamous decision that stands with Dred Scott as among the most unjust acts of the Supreme Court the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision eviscerated key parts of the VRA. Predictably the same bad actors who have fought voting rights took the opportunity to find new and effective ways to suppress voting, especially among minority communities.

Now we have a president who, fearing he will lose an honest and fair election, takes every opportunity to call into question the integrity of our elections and voting practices. While we struggle as a nation with a deadly pandemic, this president has done everything in his power to call into question an obvious solution that will make voting safer, easier, and more accessible. That solution is voting by mail.

Several states already vote exclusively by mail and every state has some provision for mail voting even if limited to excuse-required absentee ballots. In this time of pandemic, voting by mail makes sense and we should make every effort to assist states in providing vote by mail.

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Healthcare Workers Union Pushing Medicaid Expansion in States

Oklahoma
If you remember, I wrote about Oklahoma squeaking through its own initiative to expand Medicaid for low-income people. In theory, the state will be in the driver’s seat (mostly) in deciding how much money it will allocate to the program rather than the Federal government. Political interests will have a difficult time killing Medicaid without another ballot initiative to override what The State Question 802 initiative was passed by a margin of less than 1 percentage point amongst voters.

Missouri
This last week, Missouri approved the expansion of Medicaid for many of the state’s poorest adults up to 138% FPL (which is 90% funded by the Federal Government. The expansion under Missouri Amendment 2 makes their conservative state the second to join the ACA through a ballot imitative changing the Missouri constitution during the pandemic.

The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. If you are unemployed you may qualify for Medicaid if you have income less than 138% FPL. Medicaid looks at current income and not annual income. The Medicaid expansion measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

Fairness Project and the United Healthcare Workers Union West
Backing these initiatives is a nonprofit organization called the Fairness Project which grew out of the frustration of healthcare strategists with 19 states, governed by Republicans, refusing to pass the Medicaid Expansion . . . which from the start of the ACA covered Medicaid expansion costs at 100% up till the end of 2016 and then gradually decreased to 90%.

A memo written by a California union leader in 2014, warned of steep declines in union membership potentially could leave workers unprotected with fewer benefits.

Dave Regan, president of United Healthcare Workers West, a union of 95,000 hospital workers; “Unionism is in decline, and there is no end to that in sight. We still need to give regular people the opportunity to have positive change in their lives.”

Regan proposed creating a nonprofit to promote the ballot initiative process to secure policies that would benefit workers, like increased access to health coverage and a higher minimum wage.

“Ballots are an opportunity to put a question, in its undiluted form, in front of millions of people as opposed to traditional legislative work, where things get watered down to get out of committee. You end up with what you actually want when you use the ballot.”

The Fairness Project came into existence in 2016 with initiatives to increase the minimum wage in both California and Maine. The following year it returned to Maine to work on healthcare and Medicaid. Five times, the Maine legislature passed bills to expand Medicaid and each time they were vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Efforts to override the veto failed by a vote or two each time.

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Not To Be Forgotten Today

Not To Be Forgotten Today

August 6th a US bomber escorted by 5 other planes drop a lone bomb which exploded over the city of Hiroshima at 8:15 AM, creating a firestorm destroying an estimated 70 percent of the city and killing an estimated 70,000 Japanese. Today is that day when what is left of the hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as they are known in Japan, gather at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to mourn the city’s destruction by the American military during World War II, and to serve as a living testament to the abiding dangers of the atomic bomb.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the nuclear assault and the remaining hibakusha were diminished, victims of the twin forces of the coronavirus pandemic and advancing age. Despite the health risks, a relatively small number of survivors attended this year. They believed that “they’ve come this far” and “can’t quit,” the chair of the Hiroshima branch of the Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations, Kunihiko Sakuma said. City officials and peace activists had envisioned a series of grand events to commemorate what will most likely be the last major anniversary of the bombing for almost all of the hibakusha still living.

Hiroshima 75th Anniversary: Preserving Survivors’ Message of Peace, New York Times, Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno, August 5, 2020

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“Preserve Our Post Office, Before It’s Too Late”

The Postal Service is under assault and it is time to do everything we can to protect the integrity of one of our greatest national assets. Retired U.S. Postmaster Mark Jamison writes at Save The Post Office Blog . Mark serves as an advisor, resident guru, and regular contributor to “Save the Post Office.” His previous posts on Angry Bear and Save The Post Office can be found here. Mark can be contacted at markijamison01@gmail.com or you can ask him questions on his post here at AB.

The United States Postal Service is an essential national infrastructure. That simple and indisputable fact has never been more evident than during the current pandemic. A network that has the capability to serve every address in the United States, almost all of them daily, is a lifeline and a necessity.

It’s no secret that the Postal Service, like much of the infrastructure in this country, has been under assault by those who are ideologically predisposed to dismiss the necessity of a functioning, well-managed government. They would like to privatize the postal system, the national parks, the schools, the railroad, even roads and bridges. For them, these public infrastructures are merely targets of opportunity, another way for the few to profit at the expense of the many. By disregarding and undermining the value of public infrastructure at the expense of domestic tranquility and the promotion of the general welfare, they do a great disservice to the country

The postal system has been a target for generations. The privatizers and those who could not discern the fallacy inherent in trying to run government as a business when their ends and purposes were very different have repeatedly sought to turn the postal system into something much less useful than a nationwide infrastructure. Over the last fifteen years, since the passage of PAEA, the capacity and institutional strength of the USPS have been compromised by a succession of Postmasters General who substituted empty rhetoric and misguided plans for the very real value of a broad and robust network dedicated to universal service.

The current president came into office with lots of grudges and fury but no knowledge or understanding of the Postal Service. For the last three and a half years he has overseen the corruption of our institutions, the debasement of our bureaucracies, and the hollowing out of our ability to serve our citizens. The administration has acted with malice and ignorance, failing at its most basic task of governing. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the mismanagement of the Postal Service.

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Just Some Conversation

Republicans finally get “death panels,” Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan, July, 26, 2020

Dr. Jose Vasquez, the health officer for Starr County, Texas located on the US-Mexico border “The situation is desperate.” At the only hospital in the county, over 50% of patients are testing positive for the COVID-19 virus — 40 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday. Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City made plans to set up a committee to decide which patients to send home to die. The hospital will ration its resources to patients with the best chances of surviving  (CNN).

Texas
Fri, July 24, 2020
126 died this day
5 002 total deaths
391 609 tot. confirm cases
7 947 new confirmed
2.1% daily growth

The hospital quickly filled the eight beds in its Covid-19 unit, so it expanded to 17 and then 29 beds, Vasquez said. About 33 medical workers, including medical practitioners and lab technicians, were deployed by the state to assist the hospital.

“Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “This is what we did not want our community to experience.”

Republicans screamed about ACA death panels  deciding whether citizens could have treatment under its regime.

Does Gun Ownership and Concealed Carry Deter the Frequency of Mass Shootings and Firearms Homicide?,” Justice Quarterly, Emma E. Fridel, July 23, 2020

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