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

PRC busts the price cap, lawsuits sure to follow

Fact: Contrary to what President Trump claims, the Postal Service can’t solve its financial problems by raising “the price of a package by approximately four times.”

Steve Hutkins at Save The Post Office discusses the financial issues facing the United States Postal Service and why the Postal Regulatory Commission  new plans to increase prices may be problematic. By no means is this a new topic. It has been brought up repeatedly by members of Congress and this administration as well as earlier administrations. The USPS was not meant to be profitable and its present situation is the result of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.

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The Postal Regulatory Commission has spent the past four years working on a revision of the rate system for Market Dominant products. Yesterday the Commission issued its final rule on the changes. The order is here. The PRC’s press release is here. The media kit contains a useful FAQ.

The process of reviewing the rate system involved the Commission, the Postal Service, and an extensive list of stakeholders and commenters.  And even though it’s been going on since December 2016, it’s not over yet, not by a long shot. Given that many of the mailers have fought the changes that were finally approved, it’s widely expected that some stakeholders will appeal the PRC’s order to the D.C. Circuit.

Don’t Pay Your Rent? Go to Jail in Arkansas

Arkansas is the only state where landlords can file criminal charges rather than civil complaints against tenants for falling behind on rent. Gee, whata surprise! As picked up from Crooks and Liars and originally reported by ProPublica – When Falling Behind on Rent Leads to Jail Time, ProPublica.

An Arkansas prosecutor has been fired after speaking out against a 119 year old law jailing people who are behind on rent and mostly impacting female, Black, and low-income renters. Garland County deputy prosecutor Josh Drake was let go from his position on Oct. 31 by Michelle Lawrence, the prosecuting attorney.

Josh Drake told ProPublica:

I hate that law. It’s unconstitutional. It constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, echoing other Arkansas legal experts and advocates across the political spectrum.

Under the law, which dates to 1901, if a tenant’s rent is a day overdue, they forfeit their right to be in the property. If they don’t leave their homes within 10 days of getting a notice from their landlords, they can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined for each day they overstay.

Evictions in the state can snowball from charges to warrants to arrests to jail time, leaving people with criminal records that hinder their ability to find a new home or get a job. In civil evictions, by contrast, landlords can pursue unpaid rent and other additional fees from tenants, but the process doesn’t include daily fines for staying in the property without paying or put tenants at risk of jail time.

ProPublica found that since 2018, more than 1,000 cases have been filed under the criminal eviction statute. During that time, judges have sentenced at least 37 renters to jail after charges stemming from the law, which is officially known as “failure to pay rent, failure to vacate.” Women and people of color have disproportionately been charged.

And yes, not even the pandemic (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s) national moratorium on evictions can stop Arkansas courts from jailing people.  Approximately 49 people have been charged, with more than two dozen cases filed since September 4. And landlords?  Landlords preferred the criminal statute to civil evictions because the criminal process is cheaper. In criminal cases, taxpayers shoulder the cost when county attorneys pursue tenants in Arkansas while in in civil eviction hearings, the landlords have to cover their attorney fees.

Yemen: More Damage To World Peace And Security Due To Trump Wrecking Everything As He Exits

Yemen: More Damage To World Peace And Security Due To Trump Wrecking Everything As He Exits

Michigan certified its vote results for Biden, and now crucially Emily Murphey at the GSA has agreed and now recognized officially that at least Joe Biden should be allowed to transition properly as has always happened in the past normally.

But in his lame duckery, still denying his obvious loss, Donald Trump is trashing everything in sight.  Very serious matters of foreign policy are part of this. One of these has been discussed in comments here previously, the removal from the Open Skies Treaty, which right now I am watching Rachel Maddow report that DOD is destroying the planes US used for this. Ack!!!
But for this post I am noting another awful thing they are doing along a bunch of others.  This involves Yemen, long one of the worst humanitarian disasters on the planet, horrible, but so in place for so long that most people pay no attention anymore because, bore, been there done that snore. But it continues to be a place of ongoing civilian deaths from bombs and economic deprivation.
So, just to make things “better,” the Trump admin has decided to declare that the Houthi group who rule not only most of northern Yemen, but also its capital, Sana’a, to be officially a “terrorist group.” The immediate result of this ruling is that all kinds of humanitarian aid that has been going to people in the parts of Yemen they live in will no longer receive it.  This is morally awful and just plain stupid.
So this is part of Trump frustrated in his anti-Iran policy.  He exited the Iran nuclear treaty, leading to a massive increase in enriched uranium there.  Ooops! He killed a top general from there to stop attacks on US forces in Iraq by Iranian militias.  But those continue, with more political support in Iraq. Duh.

John Locke: decisionmaking by standing rules set in advance is a foundational requirement for civil government

John Locke: decisionmaking by standing rules set in advance is a foundational requirement for civil government

John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government,” published in 1690 just after and in support of the Glorious Revolution, is the founding philosophical document of modern liberal representative democracies.
In it he anticipates John Rawls’s “original position.” Locke argues that in order to protect their property, over time all groups of humanity form “civil societies” by agreeing *in advance* to rules that will be applied to public and private controversies, civil and criminal; and by establishing a legislature which will make further laws – again, *in advance* – to govern new controversies which may arise.
The essence of this argument is found in Sections 87, 88, 89, 94, 124, 131, and 142, which I have abridged below (advance warning: Locke writes in *extremely* long and convoluted sentences!)(bold emphasis is mine):

Sect. 87. … [B]ecause no political society can be, nor subsist, without having in itself the power to preserve the property, and in order thereunto, punish the offenses of all those of that society; there, and there only is political society, where every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. And thus … the community comes to be the umpire, by settled standing rules, indifferent, and the same to all parties; and by men having authority from the community, for the execution of those rules, decides all the differences that may happen between any members of that society concerning any matter of right; and punishes those offenses which any member hath committed against the society, with such penalties as the law has established…

 

Is Trump Going To Attempt A Coup?

Barkley Rosser, Econospeak Blog, “Is Trump Going To Attempt A Coup?

I realize that Joe Biden just held a press conference where he basically dismissed the refusal of Trump and a lot of other Republicans to concede the presidential election to Biden as “embarrassing,” laughing at Secretary of State Pompeo who earlier today talked about a transition to a second Trump term, and said it will all be over and fine by Jan. 20. Maybe, but I am somebody who has taken seriously for a long time words from people like Michael Cohen and more recently Mary Trump who have said he simply will not go willingly and will continue to refuse to accept defeat. I have watched various commentators supporting him from time to time thinking, “Will they support him if he declares martial law?” Unfortunately, I think a lot of them will.

He certainly is laying the groundwork for making an attempt. The obvious such sign was yesterday’s firing of SecDef Esper, reportedly because Esper made it clear in June he would not order US troops to move on peaceful civilian demonstrators in Washington. Rumor has it he is about to replace the FBI and CIA directors also. And the Undersec of DOD is also out. It certainly looks like he is trying to stock the top levels of the military and intelligence establishment with total toadies who will do his bidding. If he makes the move and invokes the Insurrection Act or simply declares a National Emergency, which, frankly, is in his legal power. Will these newly installed flunkies stand up to him? Who will?

I am seriously worried about this, and the more I see people like Mitch McConnell and Sean Hannity just spouting rank lies about the election, my concern grows. I hope I am wrong, but I am now afraid we may be facing a very serious showdown over this, and I see the refusal of certain foreign authoritarian leaders friendly to Trump, such as Putin, not accepting the result, as a sign that they would support him if he made such a move, and we know he really likes and admires those guys. This is a very bad situation.

Barkley Rosser

SCOTUS ACA Update

This update from XPOSTFACTOID showed up in my inbox. If Roberts and Kavanaugh continue on the same path they have started out on initially, it appears the case brought about by Texas may fail. Briefly, here are some points made.

November 10, 2020 in oral argument; California v. Texas  Roberts appears equally skeptical about this argument from intent. In oral argument yesterday, Kyle Hawkins, arguing for Texas, made the case:

“I think it’s critical that, in 2017, Congress could have excised the legislative findings in 18091 [the assertion of severability], but it chose not  to do so. It could have excised —

Roberts interjected:

Well, but I mean — I — I certainly agree with you about our job in interpreting the statute, but, under the severability question, where — we ask ourselves whether Congress would want the rest of the law to survive if an unconstitutional provision were severed. And, here, Congress left the rest of the law intact when it lowered the penalty to zero. That seems to be compelling evidence on the question.

In Roberts’ King v. Burwell decision: Congress repealed the individual mandate penalty, not the entire law.

Erwin Chemerinsky Explains Severability

2020 Voter Fraud

First, look at the political make up the states from where all the noise of voter fraud is coming. These states have:

  • Republican legislatures as determined by Gerrymandering.
  • A trifecta (possibly) which is a Republican Governor and legislature.
  • A historical turnout of voters in 2020.
  • A higher turnout of Democratic voters than Republican.
  • A reversal of votes from Repubs to Democrats historically or from 2016 to 2020 (MI, WI, and PA)
  • Had a normal percentage of votes for Others, Libertarian, etc. candidates in 2020 as compared to 2016.

Enough people woke up to the tyranny of trump and Republicans. It is rich that each one of the states trump is complaining about is either 100% controlled by Republicans or at least has a Repub controlled legislature. Michigan has its Republican controlled legislature.  Georgia has a trifecta (Republican legislature and governor) as does Arizona. Pennsylvania has a Republican Legislature, as does North Carolina and Wisconsin. These were the states in play this election.

Nevada has had a Democratic  legislature since 2008 and has a Dem Gov. for the first time since 1994.

Distribution

These days, the nation, the world, is faced with the problem of how to distribute wealth, wealth that is being created using less and less labor input? How to distribute the profits from highly capitalized, highly automated, production? Unions, that had been much a part of the solution to the distribution problem in the early 20th century, are becoming more and more irrelevant. A new economic model is desperately needed.

Since the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, wealth has been created by the production of manufactured goods. To date, the sharing/distribution of this wealth has been by way of exchanging labor for wages. Except for the brief period from around 1940 to 1970 when union jobs commanded good wages, this method never really work all that well; much of the time, the god awful of Zola, Dickens, and Sinclair Lewis. In this, the age of technology, for a price, many task can be, have been, partially or completely automated using a combination of computers, servo motors, sensors, and programming. Now, many tasks, once performed by well paid union workers, are being performed by ‘robots’. Today’s work force tends to be either professional, highly technical, or service, with the professionals and technicians being well paid and the service workers often being paid less than a living wage. Good paying blue collar union jobs have become rare. In the heydays from around 1940 to 1970, the wealth created from the production of manufactured goods was distributed via the good union salaries to the economy as a whole. As a consequence, merchants thrived, towns thrived, schools thrived, farmers thrived, contractors thrived, … Much of society, including municipal governments, was premised on this model.

We now need an economic model that will somehow directly distribute the profits from production to the population in a somewhat equitable manner that doesn’t rely on the exchange of labor for wages. If, somehow, sufficient numbers of the population shared in the profits from automated manufacturing, and distributed their share into the community at large by consuming goods and services, thus giving others the means of consuming, such a model wouldn’t look a great deal different than the one existent from 1940 to 1970. If, for example, in exchange for the federal monies granted corporations during the COVID pandemic, the government had demanded corporate shares in return, in a sense, the public, via the government, would now be part owners in these corporations. The federal government could then distribute any future returns from this ownership to the public. In another example, a government, federal, state, or local, could exact a share of a corporations profits by way of taxes, then distribute those revenues to the populace. Governments can nationalize corporations. And, no doubt, there are, will be proposed, other ways of accomplishing distribution going forward.

There has to be another way. Not changing isn’t an option. It makes no sense to continue doing something that does not, cannot, work.

Processing Center Percentages are “Not” On Time Delivery Percentages

Steve Hutkins of Save the Post Office has been live blogging and providing updates to the 12 federal district court cases filed. In the November 6, 2020 Update Steve discusses the delivery updates being filed in court and which are being used by some news outlets to show the USPS has been delivering ballots late and not on Election Day. Steve cautions against the use of this data as actual delivery dates are different than processing dates.

November 6, 2020 Update

The Postal Service’s daily reports on service performance, election mail, and late/extra trips (submitted as part of the Joint Order from the courts in RichardsonVote Forward, and NAACP) can be found here.

Steve Hutkins: One note about these daily reports on election mail. Some news reports are looking at these reports and misinterpreting the data and saying things like this:

“The data based on scans of ballot envelopes that were filed in Sullivan’s court Wednesday suggested that in South Florida, just 85.12% of the mail-in-ballots were delivered on Election Day and in central Pennsylvania, just 61.3% of the mail-ballots in the postal system were delivered on time both of which were based on the scan data in the court filing shown. In Philadelphia, slightly more than 66% of the mail-in ballots had been delivered on Election Day. In Atlanta 82.2% percent of the mail-in ballots were delivered on Election Day, the court filing shows.”

The daily numbers being reported do not indicate how much of the mail was delivered on time, i.e., within the service standard of two or three days. These numbers are  processing  scores, i.e., the percent of the ballots that went through the processing network on time. They do not encompass;

the “first mile” (the step between a voter dropping a ballot in the mail and its arrival at a processing center) or the “last mile” (from post office to letter carrier to destination).

USPS Court Case Updates – Election Ballot Delays

Steve Hutkins on-line live blogging at Save the Post Office has been updating the progress of the “Lawsuits against DeJoy, USPS & Trump with relation to mail delays and election mail. This is the sweep ordered by the court for the USPS to perform to discover and report via the  “sweep of facilities”  how many ballots (were) are being delayed due to the USPS. The twitter link in the Afternoon Update has numerous comments on the delay by the USPS delaying the Sweep. In the Morning Update (below) there are multiple various commentary by news outlets.

More to come.

November 5, 2020

Afternoon Update: Judge Sullivan presided over another hearing today. One of the questions on the table was how many ballots may have been delivered late or are still in the system and not delivered yet. The Postal Service shared some specific numbers, as reported in a great “live” twitter thread on the hearing by @USPostOffice911.

Looking a ballots without a destination scan, the Postal Service says that in the Central PA district, there are 1524 total, and of these USPS has confidence that 979 were expedited, while 545 require further investigation.  In Greensboro, 3087 total, 1752 expedited, 1335 to investigate. In the Carolina district, 2404 total without destination scans, 1204 confidence they were expedited, 1200 to investigate. In Philadelphia, 2496 total, 1682 expedited, 814 to investigate. The Postal Service said that there is no evidence yet that the ballots in the “investigated” category were not delivered.

In a separate filing, the Postal Service provided a list of the number of ballots that were delivered Express in each district over the three days Nov. 1- Nov. 3. The total appears to be about 10,655.

The plaintiffs have presented two proposed orders, which Judge Sullivan appears to have ordered.