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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.

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To Do I, II, & III

The COVID-19 Pandemic, the inadequate response thereto, and the incompetency of the Trump Presidency in general, combined, have exposed our nation’s weaknesses and failings to an extent unknown since at least the Great Depression. This is likely a do or die moment for America. Recovery will be difficult. Improbable unless we are careful in our choice of goals and daring in our efforts to achieve them. The margins for error do not allow for dawdling. Attempting to just return to a time before Trump and The Pandemic would be disastrous. A time like this should also be seen as a time of opportunity.

First, we must rid ourselves of denominational economics such as Capitalism, Socialism, Hayekism, Free Marketism, … These, but ideologies, dogmas, that some would impose on economics, on the rest of us; have done the Nation great harm. They are, at their very best, reasonings of a time past. As likely to be the answer to today’s problems as Adam Smith is to rise from his grave.

As a first step toward becoming again competitive in today’s world; we must stop blindly paying twice as much for inferior healthcare, internet, and cellphone service,… as is being paid in other developed nations; and while we are at it, we need to solve our homeless problem. These are all essential services that should be provided to all. In the grand competition of things; we’re losing. Have been for a while. Were before the pandemic. Ideology is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done, and help with our wealth distribution problem, too, by taxing the piss out of the too rich and too profitable. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Sheldon, Warren, …; fun and games are over guys, time for you to pay up.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done by cutting the ‘Defense’ Budget in half. Halve the number of Generals, the number of Admirals, the number of Aircraft Carriers, the number of Missiles, …; and full-stop attacking other nations. Half of $720+Billion is $360+Billion; $360+Billion is aplenty for Defense, nothing for Attack, and about right for expanding Medicare to Medicare For All. Ike was right about that and Harry was right about health care.

I. Internet Access and Cellular Networks

All those fireman who died because of poor communication on 9/11/2001 should have taught us the need for an ubiquitous cellular network. Mobile radio networks separate cellular networks should have shown us the need for one network. A police car with a half dozen radio antennas on the roof is ridiculous.

So, too, the fact that our cell phone uses a cellular network, our computers use a cable based internet service, and that we need a WIFI router to use our laptops. What’s now the cellular network should be the WIFI router and these routers should be all over our homes, all over every floor in every building, everywhere on our streets, and all across and over rural America. Ubiquitous. Today, thousands and thousands of teachers across America are trying to remotely teach kids, many of whom have very limited internet access, over an internet system that is not reliable. When the fires struck Santa Rosa, the cell towers went down. The internet w/ phones must work at all times during normal times and during times of emergency; needs to be bullet proof. This new inclusive internet is too critical to be trusted to the ‘Market’. Cell phone and Internet should be one and that one should be regulated as a public utility; a service, as a service application, and, as always, the application dictates. Not the ‘Market’.

As a Post Office service, maybe?

In order to fully utilize our Nation’s productivity, better fulfill our personal lives, and assist in times of emergency, the Internet needs be ubiquitous and bulletproof. We should be able to access the internet from our backyards, on a hike, in the mountains, in transit, …; from anywhere we are or can be. It was a big mistake letting cable companies have the internet and the cell phone companies the phone towers. Let the cable companies have Cable TV. Internet and cell phone transmission should be one and the same; should be a Public Utility. It isn’t about ideology, it’s about how it should be; what should be. Half-arsed won’t get it. If we continue to stick with ideology and dogma, China, Japan, and the EU will continue to eat our lunch.

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Tone Deaf

Working-class Black and Latino Americans, more likely to be paid lower wages, less likely to own significant assets; feel that they are being deprived of a fair share; see this as a consequence of white privilege. Meanwhile, white working-class American’s see themselves as less than privileged, barely hanging on; feel that such demands by Blacks and Latinos amount to a threat to their meager share, their livelihood. Neither group is the other group’s problem, the two groups have a common problem; America’s wealth and income distribution problem.

In a prosperous nation with more than 800 billionaires, no one should have to work for low wages, work multiple jobs, in order to survive. Yet, not enough is coming down to the working class for sharing. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer. It is because of America’s unfair income distribution that the two groups are being pitted against one another in their struggle to eke out a living. More needs to come down to the working class in toto. Less needs to go up to the already wealthy.

While the Democratic Party seeks to attract the vote of working-class Blacks and Latinos, Republicans have made significant progress in attracting votes from the white working-class; thus splitting, thereby negating, the working-class vote. Choosing sides is not the answer. These are the same group with an artificial distinction being made on the basis of race and ethnicity. There is only one side here – that’s the side of the working class; the side of a majority of Americans.

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Trumpian by Ken Melvin

Let’s take a look at the ‘Greatest’ Trump Economy. The first graph shows the BLS Civilian Unemployment rate from 2000 t0 2020. Use the link for a better look Civilian unemployment rate

If you look really close, no you have to look a little closer yet, you can see the Trump effect.

The second graph is the FRED Gross Domestic Product Gross Domestic Product . By clicking on the link you can shorten the period to 2000-2020. It might help find the Trump Effect (the graph, not an abstract of the graph, too).

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Off-Roading with the FDA

It appears the FDA is now willing to deviate from its “bedrock mission” of guiding the public with accurate science-based information to a different road emphasizing variable political interests.

“The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult  .  .  .   @SteveFDA“, addressing you directly with your Twitter handle (trump). 

FDA is endorsing twitter as a mechanism to broadcast actions with and by Commissioner Dr. Hahn. Tweeting:

I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction.” SteveFDA.

It would appear the FDA is now under direction of trump who is taking it down roads not traveled by the FDA in the past with the medical profession in the back seat. Some are not so willing to go along for the ride.

“We cannot entrust the health of 330 million Americans to a person who is subservient to President Trump’s whims, unprecedented promotion of unproven therapies, outrageous lies, and political motivations.” Dr. Eric J. Topol, MD, the editor-in-chief of Medscape

Medscape has three interesting articles critiquing the FDA. The first article reviews the  expansion of remdesivir usage, the second covers FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn actions, and the last is questioning the FDA’s Covid decisions.   The first two articles were published on August 31st and the last on September 2nd. Typically, I read the articles and then go on to the comments section to see what medical practitioners have to say. I would suggest you too read the articles and then read the comments which can reveal a different perspective.  The comments can be useful and insightful.

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Testimony of Mark Jamison; Jones v. United States Postal Service Part II

Testimony of Retired Postmaster Mark Jamison in law suit against the USPS and DeJoy filed Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Save The Post Office

Jones vs Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service and Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Declaration of Mark Jamison, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Election Mail

Angry Bear added this chart to depict how people are voting by mail. There are 44 million voters in nine (4 just added) states + D.C. voting by mail only, 118 million voters in 34 states where absentee voting is allowed for all, and 46 million voters in seven states where an excuse is required for absentee voting. The chart above reflects this pattern although some states changed how they vote by mail with some going to all mail, etc.  The purpose was to depict how big the mail-in voting is.

Mark: In the 2018 election there was an audit of election mail that showed that only 96-98% of ballots were delivered on time; in some areas these percentages were worse. The current on-time percentage for the USPS is somewhere closer to 95% right now (again, much worse in some areas). If we applied that number to election mail, that would be like throwing out 5% of the ballots. I do not think that you can deliver 100% of 1st class mail to all of the various addresses that they go to nationwide; there will always be a few problems with deliveries. However, 100% on time delivery of BALLOTS should be the goal for the USPS. There are many articles related to election mail concerns and suggestions that are being published in the leadup to the 2020 election and in response to nationwide concerns about holding free and fair elections, including one that I wrote.

A simple lack of institutional attention could noticeably slow down mail. For the most part ballots originate and are processed within a local area serviced by one or possibly two plants. This takes some transportation issues out of the equation. There are some areas, e.g. Florida where a significant portion of residents have second homes and may be mailing ballots from a distant location. Otherwise the concern is processing and on-time performance within a local area.

Not all first-class mail receives a postmark since some of it does not run through the machines that the USPS uses to cancel mail. Marketing mail would not normally receive a postmark. As recently as the 2018 election, the USPS typically treated ballots and other election mail as 1st class mail, even if it was sent at marketing mail rates.23 The letter sent by Thomas Marshall to 46 states’ secretaries of state and that is referenced above indicated that the USPS would not be able to guarantee on-time delivery of ballots (at least eight days out in the case of Washington state). Marshall’s letter suggests that election mail (ballots or requests for ballots) that is entered at marketing mail rates will be handled as marketing mail, which receives the least preferential handling.

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Testimony of Mark Jamison; Jones v. United States Postal Service Part I

Testimony of Retired Postmaster Mark Jamison in law suit against the USPS and DeJoy filed Wednesday, September 2, 2020, Save The Post Office

Jones vs Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service and Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, US District Court, Southern District, New York

Declaration of Mark Jamison, US District Court, Southern District, New York

“Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Introduction

Those were the stirring words of President Lincoln during his first inaugural address. The nation had come to a crossroads or perhaps it was a dead end, we could no longer go on without facing our original sin, what some euphemistically called “that peculiar institution.”  After four years of the bloodletting, we finally put aside the evils of slavery, but rather than finish the job we stopped half way.

It took a century to bring the hope of healing to the next step with the Civil Rights laws of the 1960’s. And still we hid from our responsibilities and the hopeful destiny that could have been our course. Some clung to hate and privilege, resisting and rejecting the idea that all of us were created equal and had a role to play as citizens in this experiment of self-government.

Today we have the opportunity to starkly face and solidly put to rest the sins of our past. Even now when the chance to make amends is within our grasp there are those who choose anger and dissension, hate and separation, obfuscation and obstruction over opportunity.

There is no right more sacred than the right to vote, to exercise one’s choice in free and fair elections. Through the Civil War, World Wars, the 1919 flu pandemic and all matter of natural disasters, we have made it a point to hold elections. In these troubled times, faced with another pandemic, there are those who would obstruct our ability to vote for purely partisan reasons. There are those who are too cowardly to stand before the electorate and seek an honest count.

We can and must do better. Every citizen who wants to vote should be able to vote and there should be no question or impediment that prevents that or the counting of their ballot. Every voice must be heard.

The U.S. Postal Service is a treasured institution. It has been around in one form or another since before our country was founded. The mandate of Title 39 gives the Postal Service a mission — binding the nation together. Those words are reminiscent of Mr. Lincoln’s mystic chords. The idea of binding the nation together also implies a healing and a connection. For our entire history the Postal Service has bound this nation together.

Today there are at least ten lawsuits seeking to ensure that the Postal Service does not become another casualty in our age where our most cherished norms and even basic truth itself are rejected for fear mongering, conspiracy theories, financial  advantage, and the exposition of ugly hate that tarnishes any notion of our better angels.

I had the privilege of testifying in one of those suits.

The following testimony was submitted to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case of Mondaire Jones, et al., v. United States Postal Service, et al, on Sept. 2, 2020. The testimony in its original legal format is here.

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Markets and Entrepreneurs

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

That’s easy, First, there had to be a market. Without a market, no matter how good the idea, how well capitalized the enterprise, how competent the management team, or how skilled the workforce; there can be no business.

So, where do markets come from? Markets seem to come in three forms. They may be found in plain sight, they may be hidden in a forest of commerce, or they may be foreseen and realized only by people of exceptional vision. All three forms are available in a wide range of sizes.

Existing businesses, facing things like changing taste, obsolescence, … are obliged to always be looking for ways to expand their share of an existing market or for different markets to enter, and to always be on the lookout for new markets.

Entities and individuals considering starting a business might have a plan for capturing a share of an existing market, think that they have spotted a market not being well served, or have a new product idea that they believe will create a market.

So, how does this search for markets go down? Who are the diviners? A well-capitalized start-up will do market research; have a formal market survey done by professionals. Market Research is a highly developed science. The report will probably be highly confidential, provide great detail, and get really close to getting it all right. A Mom and Pop start-up may be more of the snoop, pry, and mostly dream type of survey. We see the Well-Heeled, the Mom and Pop, and everything between.

What do we call these entities and individuals, and everything between, that start up a business? If they start up another Mom and Pop Pizza Shop; maybe Pizza Shop Opener? Or foolish? Round Table Pizza Restaurant; Franchisee. What if they start up a business that no one had ever heard of before? One that will provide lots of new jobs and save the Nation’s economy?

What’s that sound? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an Entrepreneur! The Nightly News Readers on Cable TV casually toss off the word while affecting their knowledgeable airs. High School Business Academy Teachers always speak the word with a little excitement in their voices. Entrepreneur — a french word loosely translated — describing either a contractor or someone who undertakes doing something, or both…

Webster says: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.

Wiki says:

a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. … is a term applied to the type of personality who is willing to take upon herself or himself a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome.

And, yes, the two are not the same.

Or, … Jean Baptiste Say said, “one who undertakes an enterprise, especially a contractor, acting as intermediatory between capital and labour.” Or, … choose a level of personal, professional or financial risk to pursue opportunity.

Well that settles that.

Innovator, from Latin, not french, a term less often heard, might be easier to get a handle on.

Webster says, to innovate is to:

intransitive verb: to make changes: do something in a new way

transitive verb: to introduce as or as if new

Wiki says:

Innovators are the persons or organizations who are one of the first to introduce into reality something better than before.

An innovator innovates. Someone like an inventor, a researcher, a futurist, an idea man, … Got it!

Most Business Academy teachers don’t tell their students that SRO Hotels are full of entrepreneurs.; that being an entrepreneur is an extremely high-risk venture. That if the odds are one in a million of making a $million; don’t invest your life. In fact, don’t invest more than $1. That Jobs and Wozniak had a really big idea was much more important to Apple’s success than any willingness to risk it all. Musk has taken tremendous risks starting up Tesla, risk based on the considered conviction that electric cars were the future. Gates and Allen didn’t take the risk of starting Microsoft for the thrill of it. They did it because they, like Jobs, Wozniak, and Musk, were sure that they had glimpsed a future market. They saw the odds of success as being pretty good.

Which came first, the idea or the market?

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August jobs report: continued slow incremental progress

August jobs report: continued slow incremental progress

HEADLINES:

  • 1,371,000 million jobs gained. The gains since May total about 48% of the 22.1 million job losses in March and April. The alternate and more volatile measure in the household report was 3,756,000 jobs gained, which factors into the unemployment and underemployment rates below.
  • U3 unemployment rate fell -1.8% from 10.2% to 8.4%, compared with the January low of 3.5%.
  • U6 underemployment rate fell -2.3% from 16.5% to 14.2%, compared with the January low of 6.9%.
  • Those on temporary layoff decreased 3.1 million to 6.2 million.
  • Permanent job losers increased by 534,000 to 3.1 million.
  • June was revised downward by -10,000. July was also revised downward by -29,000 respectively, for a net loss of -39,000 jobs compared with previous reports.

Leading employment indicators of a slowdown or recession

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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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