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

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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Preserve the People’s Post Office: Let Us Do Meaningful Postal Reform

It is said the Postal Service is mired in debt, that it is unsustainable, a burden to the American people. This is the position of the current postmaster general, supported by the board of governors who hired him and by a treasury secretary who seems to be the chief architect of the current assault on a cherished national institution, goaded by a president who cares little for governing or the public welfare.

These claims are a lie, one that has been pushed repeatedly for at least fifty years by those who would steal an American asset and convert its public benefits into private profits.

If the Postal Service has large unfunded liabilities, it is as much because they have been defined as such by those who seek to look at this most American of institutions in a way that lays the most burdens upon its shoulders. The truth is that the Postal Service has incurred its liabilities in the service of a greater and necessary good. Far from being onerous and intractable, they are evidence of a skewed perspective, a perspective bent on being intentionally blind in furtherance of an ideology that denigrates and denies the validity and necessity of government.

If one begins with the premise that government is only a creator of debt, then the normative assumptions underlying the accounting systems designed to measure government will be weighted towards finding liability, not value.

The Postal Service has employed as many as 800,000 Americans gainfully in jobs that paid living wage and provided life-sustaining healthcare and secure retirements. These benefits rebound and reverberate through local economies, spreading both wealth and security. They have lifted many whose options were otherwise limited into productive middle-class lives while bringing communities together. And this has been done in the service of a noble and useful purpose, creating an essential infrastructure whose uses are limited only by a failure of imagination and political will.

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It’s all on Trump

The Post Office is Trump’s responsibility.  He appointed the Postmaster General.  If he had asked for more funding, he would have gotten it.  If there is any delay in delivering ballots this November, it’s on Trump.
The integrity of the election is on Trump.  He runs the intelligence services and is responsible for preventing foreign interference.  With his leadership, Congress would have provided more funds to help states deal with the disruption caused by COVID-19.  Any delay in counting ballots is on Trump.
The continuing deaths and economic hardship caused by COVID-19 is now on Trump.  It has been 6 months now since it was clear that COVID-19 would kill tens of thousands of people and wreck the economy.  If Trump had led a federal effort to massively ramp up testing capacity, we could be testing 20 million people a day now.  Everyone with COVID would quickly be identified and quarantined.  The epidemic would be over and we could all go back to work and school and ordinary life.  Every death, layoff, and eviction that occurs now on is on him.
The looting and violence in American cities is on Trump.  If he acknowledged the legitimacy of the protests and supported a reasonable police reform bill, the country would come together.  There would be no opportunity for looters or violent counter-protesters.  The frustration, chaos, and violence in our cities is on him.
Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress can’t make Trump do his job, but at this point it doesn’t matter.  He’s President.  It’s all on him.  Call him out.

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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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