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

Dr. Anthony Fauci kicks some Dr. Rand Paul butt

The lies and politics in this are so deep, it defies explanation. How can someone defend Rand’s decision? I sit and listen to this and then I listen to McConnell say the Repubs will appoint a new SCOTUS Justice shortly disallowing a new president from doing so. There is no honor in these people. They would just as soon sell us into slavery if it allows them the status to maintain their position. How will history judge these liars?

Tags: Comments (3) | |

The 2020 Presidential and Senate polling nowcast: shift in the control of the Senate to democrats looks increasingly likely

The 2020 Presidential and Senate polling nowcast: shift in the control of the Senate to democrats looks increasingly likely

 

Here is my weekly update on the 2020 elections, based on State rather than national polling in the past 30 days, since that directly reflects what is likely to happen in the Electoral College. Remember that polls are really only nowcasts, not forecasts. They are snapshots of the present; there is no guarantee they will be identical or nearly identical in early November.

Let’s begin with Trump’s approval. After several weeks of improvement, last week Trump’s approval eroded very slightly, and this week was virtually unchanged – and remains right in its normal range for the past 3 1/2 years:

 

It is safe to say that Trump’s post-convention, “law and order” bounce has plateaued. There is no information yet as to how the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may impact the result.

Comments (2) | |

Jones v USPS September 21, 2020

Steve Hutkins of Save The Post Office updates us on the “Jones vs USPS” suit filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He has been live-blogging the events from Save The Post Office blog.

September 21, 2020

Big news today: The plaintiffs have won a second suit against the Postal Service. The judge in Jones v USPS, Victor Morrero of the SDNY, has ordered a preliminary injunction preventing the Postal Service from enacting changes that endanger voting by mail. The order is here. It’s the second such order for a preliminary injunction, following the order in Washington v USPS issued on Sept. 17. The Associated Press has the first article about the Jones decision, here, and CNN reports here.

The Jones order directs the Postal Service to “treat all Election Mail as First-Class Mail or Priority Mail Express” and to provide the court a cost estimate for doing so;  to “pre-approve all overtime that has been or will be requested for the time period beginning October 26, 2020 and continuing through November 6, 2020”; and “submit to the Court a list of steps necessary to restore First-Class Mail and Marketing Mail on-time delivery scores to the highest score each respective class of mail has received in 2020.”

The Jones order also directs the Postal Service to submit a proposed memorandum to all USPS managerial staff (the “Guidance Memorandum”) that explains all USPS policy requirements concerning the treatment of Election Mail and that clarifies late and extra trips are not banned, do not require pre-approval, and will not result in disciplinary action.

Judge Morrero has also ordered the Postal Service to provide not only the same weekly updates on service performance that the USPS is providing Congress but also more detailed reports that disaggregate 2-day and 3-5 day service reports and include variance data showing how many days late the mail is.

These are the same detailed reports that, at my request, the Postal Regulatory Commission asked the Postal Service to provide. The Postal Service said that it would take 56 weeks to prepare such reports, and it failed to submit them by the deadline, Sept. 18. It will be interesting to see how the Commission responds to this failure and what the Postal Service does in response to Judge Morrero’s order to produce these reports.

As a side note, we’re happy to report that Mark Jamison, regular contributor to savethepostoffice.com, submitted oral and written testimony in Jones, and his comments are cited several times in Judge Morrero’s order.

In Richardson, the plaintiffs have filed a Reply in Further Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. The Reply frequently cites the order for a preliminary injunction in Washington, and concludes with a request for a “special master”: “The grave constitutional harm that will result from USPS’s failure to implement any changes ordered, along with the extremely short time in which USPS must implement those changes, requires supervision to ensure that it is done. Therefore, Plaintiffs request that the Court exercise its discretion to appoint a master to assist in the implementation of the Court’s orders.”

In Vote Forward, defendants DeJoy and USPS have submitted a Response to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Expedited Discovery, arguing that “expedited discovery would impose an undue burden on USPS as its key personnel are consumed with assessing and coordinating the agency’s compliance with the injunction” in Washington. The defendants also argue that there is already a “wealth of available, relevant evidence” from the other cases so that additional expedited discovery would be duplicative and burdensome.

Tags: Comments (0) | |

“The US is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance:”

“The US is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance:” Donald Trump, James II, and the Glorious Revolution – by New Deal democrat

For the past year +, I have been reading about the History of Republics -really, a History of the Rule of Law – that has taken me through Ancient Rome, Venice, Genoa, Florence, Switzerland, the Dutch Republic, and currently the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in the UK.

There are enough parallels between that event and the US in 2020 that it is worth some more detailed comparison.

Recently I came across a quote attributed to FDR that I think perfectly encapsulates the current GOP view of the United States:

“The United States is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance.”

Now, FDR was a total political animal. He wasn’t necessarily stating his own deeply held view. Rather, more likely he was voicing his opinion of the most prevalent political ideology of the country.

I think that quote – variously reported as “Anglo-Dutch” or “white Protestant” is spot on. It encapsulates an idea that people of color and white non-Christians (including, arguably, Catholics, or at least those who aren’t “pro-life”) are second class citizens. They are de jure equal, but are only entitled to their voice so long as they don’t disturb the hegemony of the founding white Protestants. Hence why “real America” consists of the lily-white areas of the Midwest and West, and why Whites in the South are entitled to rule their States.

Both US political parties really agree with that divide. Think about it: are Blacks and Hispanics *relatively* worse off compared to Whites when the GOP is in control?  If that is true – and I certainly believe it is – then it necessarily also means that Whites are *relatively* worse off compared to  Blacks and Hispanics when Democrats are in control.  I actually think partisans of both parties agree with both of those statements. What they differ on is which outcome is “fair.” That certainly accords with dozens of quotes I have read from partisans and regular supporters on both side of the divide.

Comments (18) | |

COVID-19, Moderna Therapeutics mRNA Vaccine, and Crichton

I understood how some combinations of drugs work in attacking Covid-19 with one drug acting as an ionophore allowing another drug to enter a cell and attach to Covid RNA stopping its replication. I found this nice chart on National Geographic offering up an educational semi -medical and microbiologist depiction of how Moderna’s new vaccine mRNA gives the human body the ability to attack Covid.  I duplicated the chart with the original wording on Power Point. Click on either chart to make them larger.

Where we are today, Some history, and Where this is going

Morderna’s mRNA has moved into a Phase III Clinical Trial stage testing in the treatment of Covid-19. It is considered to be more successful than the other drugs and it is being fast-tracked (Operation Warp-Speed [or “Tribble Infestation”]) by the administration. On May 18 of this year, Moderna Therapeutics announced preliminary findings that healthy subjects had responded to mRNA vaccine by producing “neutralizing antibodies” which is how the vaccine works in the treatment of Covid. The antibodies made by the immune system prevent infection by the coronavirus.

When a virus infects a body, the immune system scrambles to recognize and create a response. The more traditional results of vaccine development is the introduction of an inactivated or weakened form of a virus or introduce one of the virus’s viral proteins to the body. The immune system responds to the introduction by producing antibodies to counter the vaccine, recognizing particular proteins of the virus. Those antibodies can fight future infections as long as the virus does not evolve.

Comments (9) | |

Jones v USPS

In Jones v USPS, the Postal Service provided weekly service performance data since the beginning of the year. This is the most complete picture of on-time performance that we’ve seen since the mail delays became an issue earlier this summer. The data set is discussed in this post. There was also a hearing today in the Jones case. We hope to have more on that later.

In the Washington case, an amicus brief was filed by the County of Santa Clara, the City of Columbus, and Thirty-Eight Local and Tribal Governments. The brief argues that the operational changes made by the Postal Service impede delivery and receipt of vote-by-mail, absentee, replacement, emergency, military, and overseas ballots, voter registration material, and outreach and education efforts. They also create significant burdens for officials administering elections and interfere with tribal government functions.

In the Washington case, the Postal Service filed a brief in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. As noted on Law360,”Between arguing that the states’ concerns were overblown and pointing to regulations that say the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Washington D.C. Circuit Court have exclusive jurisdiction over such complaints, the USPS said the court should not grant the proposed injunction to undo changes that have already been made.”

“This case is now about plaintiffs’ attempts to have this court oversee the day-to-day operations of USPS, based on a claim that courts have analogized to a ‘Hail Mary,’ to right wrongs that do not exist,” the brief said. “Plaintiffs’ legally deficient claims, arising from unsupported fears about the potential actions of USPS, do not warrant the extraordinary relief it seeks.” See the Law360 article for more details.

Lawsuits against DeJoy, USPS & Trump over mail delays and election mail, Save The Post Office, Steve Hutkins, September 16, 2020

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

The Seven-Percent Solution: The Not-So-Secret Plan to Downsize the Postal Service

Steve Hutkins authors Save the Post Office on issues affecting the Post Office.

First, a disclaimer. The following analysis is largely speculative. It’s not based on insider information. The evidence comes from news articles, government reports, legal filings, and a few leaked internal USPS documents that were published on postal news sites. The analysis could be totally wrong.

The hypothesis is simply this: The Postal Service has embarked on a plan to reduce labor costs by about 7 percent. That represents approximately 67 million workhours, or the equivalent of about 33,000 jobs.

The analysis will also suggest that all the things we saw earlier this summer — the removal of blue collection boxes, the decommissioning of over 700 sorting machines, trucks leaving plants partially loaded or empty, letter carriers heading out on their routes with mail left behind, a presentation saying that overtime was being eliminated, post offices closing for lunch or earlier in the day, rumors of post offices closing completely — were not, as the Postal Service claimed, isolated incidents, business as usual, or the result of miscommunication between headquarters and local managers.

Rather, they were part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate tens of millions of workhours and downsize the Postal Service in significant ways.

The Seven-Percent Solution

According to its 10-K financial report, in FY 2019 the Postal Service experienced a total “controllable” loss of $3.4 billion. That doesn’t include another $5 billion or so in losses related to pension and retiree health care costs that the Postal Service didn’t pay.

To balance the books, the Postal Service can increase revenues, raise prices or cut costs. Revenue increases are difficult, since First Class letter volumes are falling and Congress has limited what new forms of business the Postal Service can expand into.

The Postal Service has already introduced a temporary rate increase on commercial parcels through the holidays, and it will raise rates again next year. But price increases on letters and flats are limited by law and increases on parcels are constrained by competition in the marketplace. In the past, increasing rates has basically helped the Postal Service keep up with rising costs but done little to reduce the losses.

That leaves cutting costs as the only way to make significant inroads. Given that nearly 80 percent of the Postal Service’s expenses are related to labor, cost cutting means one thing, reducing workhours.

In FY 2019, compensation and benefits costs totaled $47.5 billion. To offset a loss of $3.4 billion, the Postal Service would need to reduce these costs by about 7 percent.

Back in July, District Managers and Plant Managers around the country began sharing Standup Talks in which they outlined the downsizing plan to employees. The talks identify exactly how many workhours need to be eliminated in each district in the three areas of postal operations: mail processing, delivery, and post offices.

The talks indicate that there is a comprehensive plan to reduce workhours across the board by about 7 percent. Even though it hasn’t been stated outright, that goal appears to be a key element of the Postmaster General’s transformative plan for the Postal Service.

Tags: , Comments (9) | |

Is Mail Delivery Taking Longer?

Is U.S. mail delivery becoming slower for First Class mail? A New York Times analysis of more than 28 million pieces of mail found that on-time delivery declined noticeably in July and August. This comes after PMG Louis DeJoy put cost-cutting measures in place. Delivery has sped up slightly since the summer but remains slower than earlier this year. Twenty-eight million pieces of first-class letters were tracked by SnailWorks. The results of the analysis shows how on-time delivery declined noticeably in July after the arrival of the new and politically aligned PMG Louis DeJoy and the start of his mandated policies to trim transportation costs.

It appears mail delivery did slow down in July and August.

As you already know, timely mail delivery has become a key part of the 2020 election outcome due to an unprecedented number of Americans who are likely to vote by mail to avoid visiting a polling place during the pandemic.

Tags: Comments (5) | |

Covid Vaccine Tracker

In a  recent conversation with one person who I would consider knowledgeable, I was led to this site. COVID-19 Live Vaccine Tracker. This is an initial rundown of various Covid vaccines being worked on by international companies and the phase they are in today. I will attempt to update this from time to time.

“A compilation of the active vaccine candidates being studied for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) cures. This tracker will update periodically and will have the latest news and information.” The COVID-19 Live Vaccine Tracker, ContagionLive

Phase 3

Vaccine Name: mRNA-1273
Company: Moderna
Moderna’s phase 1 trial, mRNA-1273 vaccine: Results of treating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were published July 14, 2020 in The New England Journal of Medicine. The NEJM reported on the results of potential vaccine induced protective responses in 45 adult participants receiving doses of 25, 100, or 250 μg (micrograms) throughout March and April 2020.  Antibodies did occur and correlated with higher doses of the mRNA-1273 vaccine as by anti–S-2P antibody GMT (geometric mean titer) ; 40,227 in the 25-μg group, 109,209 in the 100-μg group, and 213,526 in the 250-μg group.

With the second vaccination on day 57, the titers  had again showed increased antibody GMT when tested; 299,751, 782,719, and 1,192,154 μg. Serum-neutralizing activity (antibody that defends a cell from a pathogen or infectious particle by neutralizing any effect it has biologically) was detected by two methods in all participants evaluated, with values generally similar to those in the upper half of the distribution of a panel of control convalescent serum (blood serum containing antibodies  from disease or inoculation) specimens.

Adverse effects, includes half of the participants were fatigued, exhibiting chills, headache, myalgia, with pain at the injection site. Systemic adverse effects occurred after the second vaccination  particularly with the highest dosage. Three participants (21%) in the 250-μg dose group reported one or more severe adverse events.

The mRNA-1273 vaccine had induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 impact with an immune response in all participants of varying intensity with no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified.

mRNA-1273 vaccine was given a  Fast Track designation enrollment for a phase 2 trial at the end of May with an enrollment of 600 in 2 cohorts of those aged 18-55 years and those over 55 years.

A phase 3 trial involving 30,000 volunteers is receiving funding from BARDA and Operation Warp Speed. Participants in the study will receive either an injection of 100 μg mRA-1273 on Days 1 and 29 or a placebo.


Vaccine Name: Inactivated Vaccine
Company: Wuhan Institute of Biological Products; China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm)

The project involving Sinopharm and the Wuhan Institute of Virology are funded by the China Ministry of Science and Technology to achieve a goal of developing a vaccine utilizing inactivated vaccine. Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials with individuals of ages 6 and up are underway. As of June 16th, 1,120 volunteers participated in the phase 1 and 2 trials. The volunteers have received two injections of the vaccine at low, middle, or high dosing strengths or a placebo scheduled 14 days, 21 days or 28 days apart as reported by China National Biotec Group (CNBG). The seroconversion rate (time period during which a specific antibody develops and becomes detectable in the blood) for the 14-day and 21-day schedule of the mid-dose was 97.6%. At 28 days, it was 100%.

The Inactivate Vaccine appears to be working best at the middle strength when given 28 days apart. All participants in middle strength dosing regime developed neutralizing antibodies.

Sinopharm has initiated a phase 3 trial to evaluate their vaccine candidate in the United Arab Emirates. The country has authorized up to 15,000 participants aged 18 to 60 years to enroll.

China’s Sinopharm touts 100% antibody response for COVID-19 vaccine with workers

Tags: , Comments (4) | |