Heather Cox Richardson reviews the efforts to dismantle the Post Office before the November election in her August 14 letter, along with the illegal tenure of the acting secretary and acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security.
1. Preserving the Post Office: We did the math
Outrage around the overt assault on the Post Office has begun to have an effect. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says that he will stop removing mailboxes until after the election, according to the Daily Beast. Several issues around this situation reported by Business Insider (and many other sources) deserve highlighting.
- Trump himself has been very open about the fact that the changes being made right now at the USPS are being made in order to interfere with mail-in voting in the November presidential contest: “They want $25 billion—billion—for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said, adding, “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
- 19 mail sorting machines (most in swing states), each of which could process some 35,000 pieces of mail an hour, have been dismantled and removed. If we do the math (our math, not Business Insider’s) we can see that the loss of just those 19 machines will reduce the daily mail processing capacity in the U.S. by almost 8 million pieces of mail. The calculation: 19 machines x 35,000 pieces processed per hour x [this is a guess] 12 hours of operation a day = 7,980,000 pieces of mail daily that just those machines could have processed.
- The Washington Post (and many other sources) notes that the administration has now advised 46 states that their ballots many not arrive in time to be counted due to slower service and lower capacity.
Law and Crime has noted that the Inspector General of the USPS is launching an investigation into these changes, as a result of queries made by Elizabeth Warren. Also per the Washington Post ( and many other sources), Congressional Democrats are trying to launch investigations of the changes at the USPS. The sad fact is that those investigation simply won’t have teeth, regardless of what is discovered. The only people, besides Trump, who have the power to remove DeJoy and see that these changes are reversed are the USPS Board of Governors. S-HP
If you want to add your voice to the discussion, ask the USPS Board of Governors to remove DeJoy in response to his clearly demonstrated intention to hinder U.S. elections. Their addresses are here (maybe they’d like a postcard?), as are their email addresses. You can also join MoveOn’s campaign to get the Post Office funded through the stimulus bill.
2. Black lives at risk from COVID-19
The uneven impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) continues to wreak havoc on these communities. We•News provides an update on the virus’s impact on women of color. Through August 4, COVID-19 had killed one in every 2,800 white Americans. In contrast, for Black Americans, that number is one in every 1,250; for indigenous Americans, it’s one in 1,500; for Pacific Islander Americans, it’s one in 1,700; and for Latinx Americans, it’s one in every 2,200. These numbers are particularly problematic because women of color are more likely than white women to be the primary breadwinners for their families. Women of color also make up a disproportionate slice of many occupations—manicurist, skin care specialist, cashier, and health aids of many types—that involve greater possible exposure to the coronavirus. All this is complicated by long-standing discrepancies in basics like housing and healthcare for women of color as compared to white women.
The Washington Post reports on a CDC finding that Hispanic and Black children have much higher rates of COVID-19-related hospitalization as compared to while children. A Hispanic child with COVID-19 is eight times more likely than their white peers to require hospitalization; Black children are five times more likely than their white peers to require hospitalization. The article goes on to explain that “[t]he report calls for improved understanding of the broader social forces that affect health so that racial and ethnic disparities in pediatric hospitalization rates can be mitigated.”(S-HP)
You can inform your Congressmembers, Congressional leaders, and administration figures negotiating COVID-19 relief of these immense discrepancies and insist that COVID-19 relief funding reaches the communities being most hard-hit be the disease and that the underlying causes of these discrepancies be studies and addressed. Addresses are here.
3. Company collecting coronavirus data instead of the CDC won’t disclose its process of tracking information
The New York Times reports that TeleTracking Technologies, the private company that’s now aggregating COVID-19 data since Trump took this responsibility out of the Centers for Disease Control’s purview, has refused to answer Senate Democrats’ questions about its $10.2 million contract because of a nondisclosure agreement it signed with the Department of Health and Human Services. The information TeleTracking is refusing to provide includes “its process for collecting and sharing data; its proposal to the government; communications with White House staff or other officials; and any other information related to the award.” A Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson has told the Senators to request this information from the administration, instead. The New York Times quoted Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s reaction that “The Trump administration’s decision to hire a private vendor and then cloak that vendor in a nondisclosure agreement raises numerous questions about their motivations and risks the ability of our public health experts to understand and effectively fight this virus.” S-HP
You can demand that HHS honor rules for transparency in government contracting and that it provide all requested information to the Senators. Write or call Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Ave. SW, Washington DC 20201, (877) 696-6775. Secretary@HHS.gov.
4. Women assaulted in immigrant detention
Immigrants being held at an immigration detention center in El Paso have been sexually assaulted by ICE guards, an investigation by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune reported. Women are attacked areas that cannot be viewed by cameras, and are threatened and bribed, one woman told ProPublica in a telephone interview. One woman who was assaulted was deported, according to other detainees, and another woman is scheduled for deportation, meaning that witnesses in the case that has been brought by Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center will likely be unavailable. According to a complaint filed by Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) with the Department of Homeland Security, these assaults are not a fluke. CIVIC notes that between 2010 and 2016, 14,700 complaints regarding sexual and physical abuse were filed against ICE. RLS
5. GAO confirms that acting secretaries are serving illegally.
We’ve known that the appointments of Chad Wolf as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Ken Cuccinelli as Acting Deputy Secretary did not meet with current regulatory guidelines. Now, Politico reports that the Government Accountability Office (GAO)—Congress’s investigative arm—has confirmed that fact. Wolf and Cuccinelli took on these positions while Kevin McAleenan restructured the agency’s order of succession while he was serving as Acting Director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The GAO has determined that McAleenan did not have authority to makes these changes. Congressional Democrats are calling for the two to resign, but the Department of Homeland Security has refused to respond to Congressional queries and calls the GAO finding “baseless,” according to the Washington Post. However, assuming the GAO finding is correct, points out Raw Story, Wolf did not have the authority to order changes that would limit and ultimately lead to the end of the Dream Act and the use of DHS officers for riot “control” (by which we mean “incitement”) in Portland. Both men have also been serving in these positions beyond the legal maximum terms of service for “Acting” department leadership. S-HP
You could demand the resignations of these men holding leadership positions illegally and insist to your Congressmembers that these men be removed from their positions and that policies developed under their leadership be cancelled. Addresses are here.
6. Campaign to stop prosecutors from accepting campaign contributions from police
National Public Radio reports that a group of current and former District Attorneys have launched a campaign asking California’s bar association to ban prosecutor candidates from accepting police union and other law enforcement donations due to conflict of interest this creates. CBS SF Bay Area goes on to explain: the group [of DAs] argued that prosecutors cannot ethically investigate and prosecute police misconduct when police unions, sheriff’s offices and correctional divisions offer their endorsements and financial support. That conflict of interest also erodes public trust in law enforcement, they said. “I think it’s apparent to all of us today that America has a crisis of trust in law enforcement,” San Francisco DA, Chesa Boudin said. “It’s a crisis that you can see unfolding on the streets all across this great country.”
If you are in California, you can join current and former DAs in asking the California Bar Association to ban prosecutor candidates from accepting police union and other law enforcement donations and point out the way current practice creates a conflict of interest and betrays the public’s trust in law enforcement.
7. Clearview to claim first-amendment rights?
The New York Times reports that prominent First-Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who worked on Citizens United, has a new client: the facial recognition company Clearview AI. Clearview has been assembling its facial recognition database using billions of photos available on the internet, without requesting or receiving permission from any of the people in those pictures. Law enforcement can then give Clearview a photo of a person of interest and its database tries to match that photo to images online. Basically, at any moment Clearview can use online images of you for a virtual “perp walk,” which is particularly problematic given the high inaccuracy rates for facial recognition software identifications of people of color. Lawsuits against this use of online photographs, using privacy protection arguments, have been filed in California, Virginia, Illinois, Vermont, and New York. Clearview’s hope, apparently, is that it can convince the courts that its use of online photographs can be seen as a form of speech (or pre-speech), which would make their use of these photographs protected under the First Amendment. S-HP
You might tell Clearview that their use of images of our faces without our permission is an invasion of our privacy, regardless of the source of those images. You can also for legislation on the national and state level to protect us from this use of online photographs that include us. Addresses are here.
8. Felony to assault workers who ask customers to wear masks
You likely haven’t missed the stories of customer service workers being screamed at, spit on, assaulted, and threatened with guns for asking customers to wear masks. Finally, though, there is a strategy: The state of Illinois has enacted legislation that makes it a felony to assault retail workers who are enforcing mask requirements, reports USA Today. S-HP
You can tell your state legislators and Governor that you’d like to see them take similar action. Find your state legislators’ addresses here, and your governor here.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
9. Tracking the dead
An anesthesiologist, Claire Rezba, couldn’t bear it that no one was keeping track of health care workers who died from COVID-19. She began to search for the obituaries, looking for lessons learned. Instead, she found heartbreaking patterns, as ProPublica reported: “men and women who worked two or three jobs but had no insurance; clusters of contagion in families; so many young parents…The majority were Black or brown. Many were immigrants. None of them had to die.” By the end of July, Rezba had 900 names. Rezba connected with a doctor who had had COVID and who had started a Facebook page, Physicians Memorial. Both doctors are commited to preserving not only data but life stories. RLS
- The Americans of Conscience Checklist is focusing on actions you can take to encourage voter participation.
- If you missed our elections correspondent’s roundup on the most recent primaries, you can find his comprehensive report here.
- If you postcard, see Sarah-Hope’s full list.
- Martha says that the newer proposals inviting public comment involve more environmental assault – on energy efficiency, air quality (ozone) and critical habitat; see her list for details. You might also want to comment on the government’s proposal to expand the options for conducting executions, including moving them to another state if the state in which the sentence is imposed prohibits the death penalty.