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Watchdog asks postal regulator to seek USPS data on mail delays

Steve Hutkins on Mail Delays. At the end of this post, Steve issues a call to action. Perhaps, You may be able to help?

Today I (Steve) filed a motion with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) asking it to ask the Postal Service to provide on-time delivery reports for the past several weeks. These reports would offer more transparency into postal operations and show just how much the mail has been slowing down since the Postmaster General implemented his transformation initiative.

The service performance reports show the percentage of the mail that met the Postal Service’s service standards, i.e., the expectations for how long it will take for each type of mail to be delivered. For First Class mail, the standard is 2 to 5 days; for third-class mail (Marketing Mail), the standard is 3 to 10 days. Generally speaking, about 85 to 95 percent of the mail meets these standards. The mail that fails to meet the standards is, by definition, delayed mail.

Due to changes at the Postal Service earlier this summer, on-time scores have declined significantly, as illustrated in this graph included in a USPS presentation to representatives of the mailing industry in August. On average, starting in July, on-time performance on First Class mail, for which the target is 96 percent, fell to about 79 recent. In some districts, scores fell to around 70 percent. (You can find more of these charts here and here. And a couple of days after this post was first published, even more charts were released; the official version on the House Oversight Committee’s website omits the Priority chart, perhaps because it’s considered more confidential.)


The service performance reports on which this chart is based contain scores for all the USPS districts in the country, so it’s possible to see where the most widespread delays are occurring. They also break down First Class mail into 2-day mail (local) and 3-5 day mail (regional and national). The reports also indicate how much mail was one day late, two days late, etc. In other words, they provide a fairly complete picture of mail delays.

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Former Deputy PMG Ron Stroman discusses mail delays and threats to the election

H/T: When I woke up.. blog. Everything you don’t know that you don’t know..

Former Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman was on MSNBC with Nicolle Wallace. His take on the Senate hearing yesterday, the delays going on at the Postal Service, and the risks for voting by mail is fantastic. Stroman believes that there is a ‘significant question’ whether delays in mail are intentional, and he expresses concerns over the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters in light of significant delays in mail delivery.

I had more to this and somehow deleted it. So, I am starting over with “why” I think we need to heed former Deputy Post Master General’s concerns.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) asked PMG Louis DeJoy, “Will you be bringing back any mail sorting machines that have been removed?” To which PMG Louis DeJoy answered, “There is no intention to do that, they are not needed.” This occurred during a Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee. I am not sure if Senator Peters pursued this further; but, I believe this needs a “Why” question and maybe 4 more until he has satisfied he has an answer to a potential problem such as a lack of capacity. PMG Louis DeJoy does not look like the type who would wander around a Postal Sorting facility such as located in Pontiac, Michigan from which 12 of these machines were removed. Pontiac, MI is a major sorting facility which might cause issues with ballots being delivered timely. There is more to DeJoy’s answer than we do not need them anymore.

And the old machines, what happened to them?

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Need proof changes at the USPS are slowing down the mail?

Here you go!

Save the Post Office is edited and administered by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor who teaches “place studies” at the Gallatin School of New York University. Prof. Hutkins (Steve) is the author of this commentary. (Angry Bear Blog has had a long relationship with both authors Steve Hutkins and Mark Jamison both of whom author the “Save The Post Office Blog.”)

Everyone knows the mail has been slowing down. News reports are filled with stories from postal workers and customers about delays. E-bay sellers are complaining about shipping problems with the USPS, and many say they have been switching over to private carriers. Talking Points Memo has an ongoing column based on reports from the field.  Ask anyone, and they can tell you about problems they’ve had getting a package or an important letter.

For a while, it seemed that the pandemic was causing these problems, and there’s no question that the surge in packages was a challenge for the Postal Service to keep up with.

But then came Mr. DeJoy, the new Postmaster General.

Within weeks of his taking office in mid-June, changes were being made at processing plants and post offices that appeared to be causing delays not just in parcel delivery but for letters and flats as well. In a memo to postal employees, DeJoy admitted it: “Unfortunately, this transformative initiative has had unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels.”

These “service levels,” aka “service performance,” refer to the percentage of the mail that is delivered on time, i.e., within the “service standard” for each type of mail. For First Class mail, the standard is 2 days for local mail and 3 to 5 days for regional & national mail. Marketing Mail has a service standard of 3 to 10 days. Typically, about 85 to 95 percent of the mail is on time, although in some cases the performance scores can be lower and the delays can go on for several days.

The Postal Service shares quarterly service performance reports on its website and with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which posts them here. The most recent reports cover the third quarter, April 1 – June 30. This table based on those reports compares the third quarter performance for single-piece First Class mail in 2019 and 2020. It shows declines in near every district. In some, the drop was striking. Nationally, performance on 2-day mail dropped from 93.9 percent to 92.4; for 3-5 day mail, from 86.5 to 81.4 percent. Presumably, these declines were due to the pandemic.

As for what happened after June 30, the Postal Service hasn’t provided any details about the delays. It knows, of course, exactly how bad the delays are and where they are occurring, as reported internally in weekly performance reports similar to the quarterly reports. But these weekly reports are not shared with the PRC or the public.

One can, however, get a good sense of what’s in those weekly reports by looking at some charts that appear in two USPS presentations given earlier this month that were published on PostalPro, a website where the USPS shares information with its business customers.

As seen in the following charts show the on-time performance for the Pacific and Eastern Areas on a weekly basis for the past few months.  The charts prove that it’s not your imagination. The mail has clearly been slowing down since the beginning of July — dramatically.

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Links to ponder

Is Trump a blip?

Kevin Drum argues that he is:

One of the key questions raised by Donald Trump’s 2016 victory has been whether he represents a new turn in American politics or merely a blip who will be quickly forgotten if he loses in 2020. Over the past four years I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing the evidence about this, and the conclusion I’ve come to is pretty simple: Trump is a blip.

Let’s back up a bit. For a very long time Democrats have believed that demographics were on their side. Republicans are acutely dependent on white voters, and every election cycle the share of white voters declines by a percent or two. Since voters of color largely support Democrats, this would someday make it all but impossible for Republicans to win the presidency.

But when would that day come? The Census Bureau projects that white voters won’t lose their absolute majority until 2044, but the Republican day of reckoning will come long before that. In fact, my take is that it’s already happened. It came in 2008, and ever since then it’s been close to hopeless for a Republican to win the presidency. This makes Donald Trump not a harbinger of things to come, but a final, feral howl of white reactionary politics as a ticket to the White House. He eked out one last victory for the Fox News set not because racism was broadly on the rise, but because of a string of remarkable happenstances: Russian interference; a backlash against eight years of a Black man as president; a woman as his opponent; a last-minute FBI letter; and an unexpected blurp in the Electoral College that placed him in the Oval Office even though he lost the popular vote by millions of votes.

. . . Trump obviously depends on the support of conservative white voters, but even among this group he’ll have a hard time winning because there are simply too many conservative white people who have become disgusted by Trump’s obviously racist appeals.

. . . In the same way that 2016 featured a white backlash against a Black man in the White House, 2020 is almost certain to feature a white backlash against an open racist in the White House. . . .

I agree with Kevin that Trump’s explicit use of racist messages may have reduced his support among decent people who would otherwise vote Republican.  But this suggests only that Trump’s overtly racist appeals may be counterproductive in a country that is slowly becoming more diverse and tolerant.  It does not show that the post-Eisenhower Republican electoral coalition of plutocratic economic conservatives and social conservatives will no longer be competitive if Republicans use less overtly racist messaging, especially given the tilt in the electoral college and the Senate in favor of conservative, rural voters.  Remember that Trump appeared to be highly competitive heading into the 2020 election until the COVID epidemic hit, notwithstanding his overt racism.  It is primarily Trump’s gross mismanagement of the epidemic that has endangered his presidency, not his racism.

I also agree the country is likely to become more progressive and tolerant over time.  The real question is how quickly this will occur, and how the Republican party reacts.  Will the Republican donor class accept some moderation on economic issues?  Will Republican media elites and primary voters allow the party to triangulate towards the center?  (Here is a pessimistic take by Drutman.)  Or can Republicans remain competitive by putting a bit of “compassionate conservative” lipstick on their plutocratic, intolerant pig?  Questions like these will determine how much of a blip Trump turns out to be.  And of course, all this assumes we remain a functioning democracy long enough to find out.

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Some of the Gilead Remdesivir Results from Recent Studies

Effect of Remdesivir vs Standard Care on Clinical Status at 11 Days in Patients With Moderate COVID-19A Randomized Clinical Trial, JAMA, Christoph D. Spinner, MDRobert L. Gottlieb, MD, PhDGerard J. Criner, MD, August 21, 2020

This is a freebie so you should be able to get into this article and pickup on additional detail. Those who were treated early on had a better result from remdesivir than those who were treated later after contracting Covid. This was already know,.

Results:  Among 596 patients who were randomized, 584 began the study and received remdesivir or continued standard care (median age, 57 [interquartile range, 46-66] years; 227 [39%] women; 56% had cardiovascular disease, 42% hypertension, and 40% diabetes), and 533 (91%) completed the trial. Median length of treatment was 5 days for patients in the 5-day remdesivir group and 6 days for patients in the 10-day remdesivir group.

On day 11, patients in the 5-day remdesivir group had statistically significantly higher odds of a better clinical status distribution than those receiving standard care (odds ratio, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.09-2.48; P = .02).

The clinical status distribution on day 11 between the 10-day remdesivir and standard care groups was not significantly different (P = .18 by Wilcoxon rank sum test). By day 28, 9 patients had died: 2 (1%) in the 5-day remdesivir group, 3 (2%) in the 10-day remdesivir group, and 4 (2%) in the standard care group. Nausea (10% vs 3%), hypokalemia (6% vs 2%), and headache (5% vs 3%) were more frequent among remdesivir-treated patients compared with standard care.

Some Limitations: This study has several limitations. First, the original protocol was written when COVID-19 cases were largely confined to Asia and the clinical understanding of disease was limited to case series. This led to a change in the primary end point on the first day of study enrollment as it became clear that hospital discharge rates varied greatly across regions and the ordinal scale had become standard for interventional COVID-19 studies. Second, the study used an open-label design, which potentially led to biases in patient care and reporting of data. Third, because of the urgent circumstances in which the study was conducted, virologic outcomes such as effect of remdesivir on SARS-CoV-2 viral load were not assessed. Fourth, other laboratory parameters that may have aided in identifying additional predictors of outcomes were not routinely collected. Fifth, the ordinal scale used to evaluate outcomes was not ideal for detecting differences in patients with moderate COVID-19, especially for a clinical situation in which discharge decisions may be driven by factors other than clinical improvement.

Conclusions: Among patients with moderate COVID-19, those randomized to a 10-day course of remdesivir did not have a statistically significant difference in clinical status compared with standard care at 11 days after initiation of treatment. Patients randomized to a 5-day course of remdesivir had a statistically significant difference in clinical status compared with standard care, but the difference was of uncertain clinical importance.

This is BS.

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Topical thread

Lifted from comments, reader likbez alerts us to this issue:

 

In the meantime happening live in the USA but hardly on this blog…

https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/why-us-lose-power-storms/

US has more power outages than any other !!! developed country. Our grid is outdated and rundown, but utilities aren’t willing to do much about it… oops (Generator-Industries bribes, lol ??!!)

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The UAE-Israel Deal

The UAE-Israel Deal

 Several days ago the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel have agreed to have diplomatic relations, with this being the third Arab nation to officially recognize Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. President Trump and his supporters are claiming that this is a great breakthrough to world peace, with Jared Kushner supposedly the key player on the American side.  But most observers think that this is an exaggeration, to put it mildly.  The standard summary is that this deal is a win-win-win-lose: a win for the US, UAE, and Israel, but a lose for the Palestinians.

Let me give the Trump people, including even the usually incompetent Jared Kushner, some credit.  They have managed to achieve only a handful of international agreements.  And given the long and difficult relationship between Israel and the Arab nations, it must be recognized that making such an agreement is difficult, so they deserve some congratulations, even if this is far less than what they claimed they were going to achieve, which was supposed to be a much broader agreement. But given the administration’s strong tilt to Israel from the beginning, supporting moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the annexation of the Golan Heights, and supporting a plan that would countenance annexation of territories in the West Bank, it is unsurprising that the Palestinians simply withdrew from any negotiations being pushed by the Trump administration. There simply was not going to be that more general agreement.

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Progressive politics and the pandemic

How will the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests over the police murder of George Floyd and other black people affect the political mood in the United States?  The libertarian-leaning economist Tyler Cowen suggested in March that the COVID-19 pandemic would mark the “death of the progressive left.”  It would erode support for key progressive goals, including redistributive economic policies and aggressive action on climate change.  He asked provocatively what we have heard about climate activist Greta Thunberg recently, and suggested that the pandemic will make protecting the climate “seem like another luxury from safer and more normal times.”

Cowen may be proved right, but progressives and Biden apparently did not get the memo.  Since Cowen wrote Biden has moved to the left and expanded his polling lead over Trump, and there are reasons to think the pandemic and the protests over police violence will shift the center of gravity in this country to the left.

There are some specific ways the pandemic is likely to increase support for the policy agenda of progressive Democrats.  The pandemic has highlighted gaps in our health care system that will likely increase support for universal health insurance.  The pandemic-induced recession may create an appetite for government spending to create jobs, including jobs to fight climate change.  Biden has proposed a massive green infrastructure program that polls well.  The plight of parents trying to balance work with the need to take care of children may increase support for childcare.  Covid-19 has revealed serious weaknesses in our aging unemployment insurance system, which seems ripe for a make-over.

These examples share a common logic that undermines the case for laissez-faire and may shift the mood of the country to the left in a fundamental and enduring way.

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The 2020 Presidential and Senate nowcasts: Positions are getting entrenched, and spreading down-ticket

The 2020 Presidential and Senate nowcasts: Positions are getting entrenched, and spreading down-ticket

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. There is nothing inherent in their current status which tells you they will remain in the same category in early November.

Which brings me to the matter of Nate Silver, who unveiled his “forecast” this past week.

Here are the two problems: (1) it is not falsifiable; and (2) it’s *not* a forecast! At best it is a forecast of what he currently expects his nowcast to be on Election Day.
Here are a few of his tweets that demonstrate the problem:

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