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

Wisconsin Supreme Court Blows Up Absentee Voting

Everything was running according to plan in Wisconsin. The state’s 72 county clerks print the ballots, mail them to voters, collect election results, and coordinate their canvassing boards, while 1,850 municipal clerks at the city, village, or township level operate the polling places and handle absentee ballots. The state had prepared for the national election after a tumultuous April election.

This last Thursday September 11th, Wisconsin was all set to have a smooth national election. The state’s 1,850 municipal clerks had printed at least 2.3 million absentee ballots in preparation of another surge in absentee voting (which occurred earlier this year – April) and had already mailed 378,482 of them. They were under way and would to meet the Sept. 17 deadline established by state law when ballots had to be mailed. A deadline by which the SCOTUS had mandated

A little history, this April, the municipal clerks were crushed by a last-minute surge of requests for absentee ballots  from residents who decided to vote by such due to a fear of the Covid pandemic. The resulting delays from not having enough ballots led to ballots being mailed later to voters and a delayed vote, with ballots being received after the state deadline.

On April 6th, SCOTUS in a 5-4 vote with the majority decision authored by Justice Kavanaugh “approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement.” The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect “the integrity of the election process.” In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself.”

State officials had learned their lesson, planned far ahead to have enough ballots available, and set the stage for the prompt and orderly mailing of millions of ballots to give voters enough lead time to vote on time.

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How Big Of a “Hoax” Is That “Dirty Dossier”?

How Big Of a “Hoax” Is That “Dirty Dossier”?

 In the wake of the Atlantic story by Jeffrey Goldberg about President Trump reportedly referring to the dead Americans lying in the Aisne-Marne Cemetery near Paris as “losers”  and “suckers,” along with a lot of other embarrassing things for him, Trump has called Goldberg a “slimeball” and that that this report is another “hoax” like “the dirty dossier” of Steele, along with “Russia, Russia, Russia” also being a “hoax,” of course, despite the recent bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report further verifying that there was even more Russian interference in the 2016 election than the Mueller Report verified (105 meetings between Trump campaign officials and various Russians, with several of those officials then lying under oath about their contacts).

Of course, Trump is on tape calling the late John McCain a “loser” because he was captured by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. I thought when he said that it would be the end of this then primary campaign, but it barely budged him a notch, the first sign of how he could get away with outrageous statements and actions that would do in other politicians.  But his base viewed McCain as a “RINO” traitor to their cause, so it was OK to diss him hard.  But now this new report is hitting Trump hard, especially given the widespread reporting of polls showing active military members supporting Biden over him and reports of retired Marines who has Trump signs in their yards throwing them in the garbage. The dead at Aisne-Marne did not run against Trump in a primary or contest for control of the Republican Party.  They died in a crucial battle that stopped the final German effort to conquer  Paris in the WW I.

So Russia was not a hoax, but what about that infamous Steele dossier?  Of course for those who get all their news from Fox, where Trump is also having a problem with their national security reporter supporting some of the Goldberg article, referring to the Steele dossier as “dirty” is a regular button to push to make the faithful sit up and bark their support.  It is like “Benghazi,” something pounded on so often the faithful are fully indoctrinated that there is something there. About every other night Hannity reminds the suckers that it “has been completely discredited” and “was bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton.”

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Trump and Antifa

No one seems to know what or who Antifa is; so far be it from me to pretend that I do. I did meet a self-avowed one once. Interviewed the young man for 30-45 minutes; even talked on the phone a few minutes with his parents who lived in Oakland. By way of providing context; this was during the Occupy Wall Street protests in Oakland, CA. Down from Portland, OR, he was looking for a place to stay for ‘up to a week’. Twitchy, desperate, and vague, …, fits the description. I encouraged him to talk on the premise that I would learn more from listening than from asking.

It’s been a while, memory fades, but here’s what I recall: There was some connection to Guy Fox (Fawkes). His parents told me that they were estranged from their son, that he was involved in activities they didn’t approve of, would not allow their son to stay in their home, and couldn’t recommend that I do so. Joining a protest movement in progress was obviously nothing new for him. He was a bit of a Peter Pan; having no visible means of support. Others from Portland had come down at the same time. He talked vaguely about radioactive materials. For sure, he wasn’t down to sit in a tent on Broadway. I came to conclude that the young man was an anarchist, sought to somehow bring the Occupy Wall Street protest to a boil, to get a real revolution going, and, that somehow, he thought that doing so was a good thing. He intimated that he may have somehow been tangentially involved in the WTO riots in Seattle; not sure those numbers worked.

There is little evidence that Trump knows or cares what Antifa is other than a word that spits well. He does seem to believe that it would be good to associate such a mysterious sound with liberalism. Here in the US, it seems that no one is clear on what or who Antifa is. I hear that there is a more defined Antifa Movement in Europe. But anarchists abound. Some of the right-wing armed militia groups advocate Civil War which would certainly lead to anarchy. Many of Bernie’s Bros wished to pull the house down.

What is the appeal of tearing the house down and starting all over again? For the Right, it appears to be a wish to erase all changes to the nation since 1950; 20-30 years before most of the militiamen were born. For Bernie’s Bros, a wish to somehow impose their political philosophy on us all; something straight out of the bowels of 1950s Brooklyn, NYC. Seems 1950 was a very good year.

In the breast of every good anarchist beats the heart of one who sees themselves coming out on top in the end. All takers of shortcuts to the top of the mountain they would reduce to rubble. Hard to think of the armed right-wing militia groups separate seeing them as white supremacists wishing to return us to those good old days when blacks and browns knew their place. Cases of arrested development the both. Fantasies of Anarchism are common to teenage boys; fantasies fortunately most outgrow. What are the odds that these fantasies would persist so long in so many into middle age and beyond? Our times.

What of those who would employ these lost souls for their own purpose? Trump, no doubt saw right-wing, white supremacist, armed militias as part of a coalition allowing him to attain and retain the reins of power. In case of anarchy, Trump would do his fail-up trick to come out on top. Bernie must have thought that he could somehow leverage his <30% of about 30% into his gaining control of those very same reins. As to how Bernie was planning to ascend to the top in the advent of anarchy, don’t know.

In Trump’s case, they did follow. Alas, for Bernie’s, we will never know. Is America a land of sheep, or only a land of half sheep?

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DeJoy’s Fix for the Post Office: The Wrong Time, the Wrong Plan, the Wrong Man

PMG Louis DeJoy’s Fix for the Post Office, Mark Jamison, Save The Post Office, Aug. 29, 2020

After years of being a journalistic backwater the Postal Service is all over the news. From the usual contextually vacant reports about financial losses, we shifted to meaty and sometimes sensational coverage about the removal of Blue collections boxes and mail processing equipment at plants. There’s also the entrance of a new villain on the scene, Louis DeJoy, a wealthy Trump and Republican contributor with business interests and investments that coincide with the Postal Service.
Mr. DeJoy began his tenure as Postmaster General in June of this year after being named to the post by the Postal Board of Governors, which oversees postal operations. The Board is populated by a former RNC chair, a couple of investment bankers, the CEO of a public affairs and corporate advocacy consultancy, and a former CEO of various logistics and transportation companies that also specialized in mail consolidation, a form of outsourcing of mail processing.

Mr. DeJoy’s first couple of months have been eventful to say the least. His comments to the BOG at his first open session of the board on August 7th make clear that his intentions are to transform the Postal Service. Early in his remarks he says, “We are at the beginning of a transformative process. Our goal is to change and improve the Postal Service to better serve the American public, and I am excited about the opportunities ahead.” He proceeds to offer the usual professions of fealty to the ethic of service to the American, followed by the even more usual assertions about the dire straits the institution finds itself in.

Whatever he may say, it’s clear that Mr. DeJoy has entered the scene like a bull in a china shop. Within weeks of his taking office, there have been widespread reports of delays and service failures (which are backed up by internal USPS documents), news stories about Blue box removals, reports of mail processing equipment being removed, employee reports of mail left on docks or at carrier cases, and actions that seem to violate basic contractual provisions with the unions, causing the initiation of grievances as well as the breakdown of normal lines of communication between the APWU and L’Enfant Plaza. Mr. DeJoy seems to be moving full steam ahead at executing the expressed desires of the president for dismantling the USPS.

It’s fair to say that under DeJoy the Postal Service has lost any sense of urgency with respect to delivery of the mails. DeJoy seems to be taking his cue from the Wall Street manipulators who populate the BOG and hired DeJoy. He is in paring mode, sacrificing service and performance for operational reductions with questionable or at least unproven financial payoffs. This is especially damning during a pandemic and economic slowdown and certainly before an election, times when the postal network is more necessary and important than ever.

An article earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal suggests that DeJoy is actually doing the right things “to make the U.S. Postal Service’s operations more efficient,” but he may have picked the wrong time to get started on them.

But the problem is bigger than the timing. It’s always the wrong time for any plan that sacrifices service for “efficiency.” DeJoy’s plan is the wrong plan for saving the post office, and DeJoy is simply the wrong man for the job.

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“Be Ready to Distribute Vaccines on Nov. 1”

CDC tells states: Be ready to distribute vaccines on Nov. 1, Modern Healthcare, September 2, 2020

The federal government told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1; from which the declaration of the early timeline raised concern among public health experts about the  “October surprise” of a vaccine approval and use being driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.

The planning  documents here and here sent to governors Aug. 27 by CDC Director Robert Redfield advises states they will receive permit applications “in the near future” from the authorized distributor, McKesson Corporation, to distribute vaccines to places which include state and local health departments and hospitals. Dr Redfield wrote in an accompanying  letter,

“CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020,”

There is not even a hint or a suggestion of partial Phase 3 testing being given beforehand which causes me to wonder if the extent of this is allowed under the 21st Century Cures Act passed in 2018. The act allowed for the skirting of some testing and the use actual data outside of the normal testing protocol to show a drug works? I believe the Cures Act only allowed a partial go-live on new drugs during a phrase 3. We must be following Putin lead. He gave the vaccine to his daughter. Perhaps, Trump will have Ivanka inoculated ?

Any volunteers at AB?

C.D.C. Tells States How to Prepare for Covid-19 Vaccine by Early November, New York Times, September 2, 2020

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What is Looting?

“Looting is a natural response to the unnatural and inhuman society of commodity abundance.” — Guy Debord, “The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy.”

The photograph used in Andy Warhol’s 1964 print, “Race Riot” was taken by Charles Moore and was published in LIFE magazine in May of 1963. Warhol used it without permission and Moore sued. Eventually there was an out-of-court settlement. The scene depicted was not a “Race Riot” as Warhol’s presumably ironic title claimed. It was a police attack ordered by Police Commissioner “Bull” Connor on a nonviolent demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama.

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A Carrier Named Stennis

That’s Stennis as in John C. of Mississippi. An Aircraft Carrier as in a really big ship that cost $4.5 Billion in 1995. John C. Stennis was a renowned segregationist who rose to power in the US Senate on the basis of seniority which means that he was very popular in Mississippi; US Senate from 1947-1989. Senator Stennis was always generous with northern states’ money when it came to the Defense Department Budgets. Never met an aircraft, tank, or ship that he wasn’t in favor of; sort of Mississippi’s entitle. So it isn’t surprising to learn that the Navy named a Carrier after him; excepting for the segregationist part, that is.

Modern US Navy Aircraft Carriers are huge and powerful. The Stennis is more than 1,000 feet long, displaces (weighs) more than 115,000 tons, and is very powerful. With 260,000 shaft horsepower she has a top speed around 40 knots; she can throw a rooster tail. Just guessing, I would say that each of her 4 screws is about 27 feet in diameter and that at full speed there is 2 and 1/2 turns torque in her number two shaft. US Navy Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers were once designated CVA(N)s. The A stood for Attack. Now CVNs without the A, attacks in faraway places is still what they are built for. They go all around the world, are known by their names, are seen by millions in faraway places.  At any given time, some 3,000 sailors have the Carrier’s name on a shoulder.

Mississippi is in the process of changing her state flag because of the old flag’s racial connotations. The US Navy needs to change the name of the USS John C. Stennis to something more in-tune with the 21st Century.

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250B

We have a President who tells us that he has an education in economics from an Ivy League School who doesn’t know what per capita means; who doesn’t understand doubling. Inescapable: Our president is not educated. Most of our high schools turn out a better product. This President is on track to be the very worst President ever. So why does he want to remain in office another 4 years? What is this guy really after?

It might be that financially he lives in a house of cards; that behind all the facades are cardboard walls and ceilings propped up with sticks. As President, he has $Billions and legions at his command, planes, helicopters, and armored cars at his disposal.  If reelected the charade can go on another 4 years. If he loses office, the tax collectors will take his couch and he won’t even have a place to sleep. Homelessness is a big step down.

It might be that this President is a criminal, that losing office could mean certain imprisonment; too, a long way to fall. It now appears that the Russian connection may go way back, involve loans that were not financially justifiable. Maybe Putin literally does own him. Having something on someone is something he could relate to, could understand, something he had learned at the knees of Father Fred, Roy Cohn, and Robert Moses. Something like this with someone like Putin could be a matter of life or death.

Might be that this President is a would-be Hitler. There are many similarities. He has managed to co-opt Departments of Justice, State, Health and Human Services, …; has his own armed militia of volunteers. And, there’s that kept at the ready nightstand copy his First tells of.

Maybe this President wants to be the richest man in the world. That he, like any good father, he wants to give each of his children $Billions and a Crown, and maybe each a small nation of their own. The richest man in the world would have to be very rich; at least $250B, and there are the children. Should we try to make our best deal now?

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When a post office is not a post office: USPS celebrates 130th anniversary of the Bellville GA post office by closing it

Steve Hutkins USPS celebrates 130th anniversary of the Bellville, GA Post Office by closing it

I’ll tell you all a story that I think you’ll understand
Traveling through Georgia, rambling across the land
I passed the Bellville Depot and something said to me
Stop here son, there’s something you should see.
— Tom T. Hall, “God Came Through Bellville Georgia”

Bellville is a very small town (pop. 123 in 2010), but it was once a thriving railroad community. Established in 1890, it was “named for James Bell Smith’s mother, who was Miss Fannie Bell before her marriage. The railroaders called it BELLEVILLE, supposedly named to honor the lovely ladies of the town.”

Bellville is the hometown of writer/director James Kicklighter, and it’s the home of Pinewood Christian Academy, a school with alumni like ET’s Brooke Anderson (@BrookeAnderson), actor Michael Moncrief, Comedy Central’s Drew Tarver (@drewtarver), Drew’s sister, singer Katelyn Tarver (@katelyntarver), and tennis pro Al Parker. They probably all had occasion to visit the post office as students.

There’s a great song named after Bellville by Country Music Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall entitled “God Came Through Bellville Georgia” (on Youtube). It’s also performed by bluegrass star J.D. Crowe and the New South band (on Pandora or Amazon).

A few weeks ago, the Postal Service informed residents of Bellville that their post office would be closing on August 31. Services, including PO boxes, will be relocated to another facility a couple of miles away.

Bellville has appealed the decision to close its post office to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Postal Service wants the appeal dismissed on the grounds that the post office is not a post office. I’m not joking. Here’s the story.

On July 24, Bellville’s City Attorney Dylan Mulligan filed an appeal with the PRC based on the claim that the Postal Service “has failed to adhere to the applicable laws and regulations governing the discontinuance of post offices, in particular the requirements of 39 U.S.C. § 404(d) and 39 C.F.R. § 241.3.”

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