Monday in Trumpland

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It was a rough start to the week for the president. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, a Trump loyalist who is one of the few staff members who has not left the administration, announced that she is leaving her position. The resignation comes after Conway’s teenage daughter blasted her mother on Twitter and claimed that she was seeking emancipation from Kelly and her husband, GOP anti-Trumper George Conway. This is yet another tragic story of how Trumpism has negatively affected an American family. I wish the Conways well.

While the Conway story unfolded, we learned that Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Trump’s most loyal evangelical defenders, was involved in a sexual tryst that included his wife Becki and a Miami pool boy. Falwell Jr. resigned late last night, but this story is not going away. I am guessing we will know more when former Trump fixer Michael Cohen releases his tell-all book.

Trump continues his efforts to stop the use of mail-in ballots for the November elections. Watch Trump yesterday at the GOP convention in Charlotte as he accepts his party’s nomination. My “favorite” part of this off-script rant in the video below is when Trump claims that this is the “greatest scam in the history of politics, I think, and I’m talking beyond our nation.” Well, I am sure Hitler, Stalin, and others, wherever they are right now, are glad that they are off the hook as the worst political scammers in world history.

Almost all of what Trump says in this clip is either misleading or untrue. Meanwhile, Trump’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told Congress yesterday that the U.S. Postal Service should have no problem handling mail-in ballots.

And then came the evening session of the Republican National Convention. Over and over again we heard Trump’s supporters say that he cares about America and all Americans. Unfortunately, this entire first night seemed more like a Trump rally–a direct appeal to the president’s political base. There was very little effort to expand the Trump coalition. And anyone who suggests that Trump is for “all Americans” has had their head in the sand the last four years. He has demonized all his enemies–even dissenters within the Republican Party.

Court evangelical Charlie Kirk started off the night by claiming that Trump is the “bodyguard of Western Civilization” who will protect our families and neighborhoods from the “vengeful mob.” We should all be afraid. He also praised Trump for cultivating a “civil society” in the United States. But if the young court evangelical’s bombastic rhetoric is any indication, I am not sure if he understands the meaning of the phrase “civil society.”

At the beginning of his speech, Kirk identified himself as the leader of Turning Point USA. Why didn’t he mention his role as the founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center? Can there be a Falkirk Center now that Jerry Falwell Jr. is gone?

At one point, Kirk surprisingly acknowledged “the complexities of the past.” But there was nothing complex about his speech, nor do we see complexity in anything Kirk writes every day on his Twitter feed.

Here is Kirk’s idea of “complexity”:

 

And then there was this piece of COVID-19 revisionism. Pick it up at the 56:18 mark:

This video looks like something that might have run on state television in the Soviet bloc. There was a lot propaganda last night. This was the worst.

And let’s not forget the former Fox News host and Donald Trump Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. I haven’t seen anything like her speech since Howard Dean in 2004. Actually, Guilfoyle’s speech made Dean sound like an academic historian reading a paper at a professional conference.

Watch:

I doubt many people noticed, but former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker praised Donald Trump’s ownership of the New Jersey Generals, a team that was part of the short-lived United States Football League (USFL):

Walker said that when Trump became owner of the Generals in 1984 he “learned about the history of the team.” I am not sure what to make of this claim since the USFL and the  Generals were founded in 1983. But it is good to know that Donald Trump is such a sports historian.

There were really only a few speeches that could have been delivered at a non-Trump GOP convention. Two of them came from former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina governor Tim Scott.

The show continues tomorrow.

Today in Trumpland

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The Democratic National Convention starts tonight. Even if we just considered what happened today, the speakers at the DNC will have a lot to work with. So what did happen in Trumpland today?

Miles Taylor, who was a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Trump, endorsed Joe Biden. According to Taylor, Trump used the DHS “for his political benefit.” Taylor says that “years of DHS planning” for something like the coronavirus “have been largely wasted. Meanwhile, “more than 165,000 have died.” He adds: “It is more than a little ironic that Trump is campaigning for a second term as a law-and-order president. His first term has been dangerously chaotic. Four more years of this are unthinkable.”

In North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to move all undergraduate classes online after 130 students tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of classes. Meanwhile, a Kansas teacher has created a national database of school closings, quarantines, cases and deaths.

As more people die everyday from Covid-19, Trump is getting medical advice from the My Pillow guy. Yes, you read that correctly. In the midst of a pandemic that most experts say is going to get worse in the next several months, Trump is spending his time entertaining a miracle cure promoted by a pillow salesman.

Trump continued his assault on a nearly 250-year-old institution. As Paul Krugman wrote today, the United States Postal Service (USPS) brings “Americans into better contact with one another and the world at larger….it has a universal service obligation,” “binding the nation together” and “facilitating citizen inclusion.” He calls Trump’s attempts to defund the Post Office as “the unbinding of America.”

Nancy Pelosi has asked the members of the House of Representatives to return from recess to consider a Postal Service bill that will prevent Trump from using the USPS to manipulate the November presidential election. Initial reports suggest that the bill will provide billions of dollars in funding to the Postal Service in an attempt to strengthen it in preparation for November.

Earlier today, after repeating five times that he signed an emergency declaration to help Iowa after the state got hit by a massive storm last week (and adding that he is doing well politically in Iowa), Trump again blamed Amazon for the post office losing money. It is a dubious claim.

By the way, Fox News is countering all this with reports that Barack Obama removed mailboxes during his presidency.

Who is Going to Deliver All Those Relief Checks?

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Here is Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier:

…look, wave to your mailman or mail person today. You might not have many more chances. As volume is down more than 30% with the coronavirus, the Postal Service won’t be solvent much longer, and an administration eager to bail out airlines and cruise lines is telling the Post Office to go sort itself.

This hasn’t been brought up once that I know of at the daily Trumpapalooza, but Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, has learned in conversations with Postmaster General Megan Brennan that the United States Postal Service will collapse without urgent government intervention.

And soon.

Maybe June.

Mr. Connolly says he’s pleaded with the White House, which kept emphasizing to Congress that President Donald Trump would not sign off on any stimulus package if it includes a bailout for the Post Office.

Already on record with his brilliant idea to defund the World Health Organization in the middle of a pandemic, the Buffoonatic-in-Chief’s next stroke of genius is to choke off one of the country’s primary lifelines.

Those COVID-19 relief checks scheduled to be mailed beginning this month and through September? Who’ll deliver them after June? Those 1.2 billion deliveries of prescription drugs, many to rural seniors with no other means of getting them, who’ll be bringing them, Jared? All the correspondence needed to complete the census, what of that? All the pandemic’s critical personal protective equipment, is that Jared too? And all those ballots America needs to vote by mail this year . . .

Oh, I see.

No mail, then no ballots by mail, then, welp, no election. Is that where we’re going? Smells like another episode in the president’s raging pyromania of American institutions, the Post Office being just another provision in the Constitution that he finds an inconvenient encroachment on his authority.

Total authority.

Read the entire piece here.

The Walking Mail Carrier

The other day I was thinking about the changes in the dissemination of information and news that have occurred in my lifetime.  Sunday was my birthday and, as has been the case for the better part of the last four decades, I received a birthday card in the mail from my mother and my aunt.  These were actual birthday cards–not virtual cards or Facebook birthday greetings.  I could hold them in my hand, open them, and read them.  They were delivered by a mail carrier working for the United States Post Office.

I am grateful for all of my Facebook friends who wished me a happy birthday on Sunday, but I also wondered how many more of these cards, delivered by a mail carrier, I will receive during the rest of my lifetime.

I thought about my birthday cards again after reading Wayne Curtis’s essay “Flash!: Information at the Speed of Foot.”  He begins with a very entertaining story about a mail carrier named Martha Cherry:

16 years ago a mail carrier with the cheerful name of Martha Cherry was fired. She was 49-years-old, and had been with the U.S. Postal Service for 18 years, delivering mail by foot in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in Westchester County.

Cherry was let go after her superiors determined that she walked too slowly. “You were observed on June 9, 1997, to walk at a rate of 66 paces per minute with a stride of less than one foot,” the condemning report charged, adding the detail that her “leading foot did not pass the toe of [her] trailing foot by more than one inch.” The upshot? She took 13 minutes longer than necessary to walk her route.

The flap was, essentially, over whether mail — that is, information — should move at three miles per hour or three-and-a-half miles per hour. And it all seems tremendously quaint now — post offices are being shuttered almost daily, regular Saturday mail delivery may cease next August, and the postal service is hemorrhaging staggering amounts of money — last year it posted a deficit of $16 billion. Mail moving a half-mile per hour slower was not responsible for this.

Curtis goes on the discuss the role that walking has played in the history of information.  He concludes:

Information today moves at the speed of light. And while we thrill at the idea of boosting our home data connections to 60 MBPS, I don’t think it would be a bad thing if more of us embraced slow information, and continued to convey it by foot. This would have the benefit of allowing information time to cool down as it traveled, making it less scalding upon arrival, while granting us sufficient time to digest what we’ve learned.

The postal carrier is one the great figures in our national development, like the Minute Men or the Doughboys. But they are increasingly an anachronism, soldiers on the front lines with bayonets rather than lasers.

So, as the post office continues its gradual slide into irrelevancy, I’d like to propose a memorial to Martha Cherry, the mail carrier with the one-foot stride. Perhaps a nice bronze statue. She represents not only what’s sure to be a fading sight along our streets and boulevards in the years ahead, but recalls an era when information moved with an appealing lack of urgency, and a time when information was conveyed by superheroes.

I think I will go out and take walk. 

A Little Post Office History

With Saturday mail delivery on its way out, historian Richard John, author of Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse, provides us with some Post Office history. He argues that the Post Office “is a public service with a civic mandate central to American business, society, and civic culture–not a business.”

Here is a taste of his recent piece in The New York Times:

Relatively few city dwellers go to the post office to pick up their mail, but in countless hamlets and small towns, the local post office remains a vital community center. For millions of workers, including veterans and African-Americans, a job at the post office has been a ticket to the middle class and has provided a pension and medical care to retirees. The Postal Service is the country’s second largest civilian employer, after Walmart.
Postal correspondence is far more secure than e-mail and far less vulnerable to cyberattack. By capitalizing on its expertise in scheduling and high-volume sorting, the Postal Service has the potential to become a big platform for digital commerce. It helped pioneer optical character recognition, now a widely used technology. But Congress and regulations have frustrated the post office from issuing secure e-mail addresses and expanding by providing same-day service for digital retailers, for example, while obliging it to bankroll money-losing operations like six-day delivery.

The Post Office as a Site of Women’s Liberation

In light of the news that the United States Post Office will no longer be delivering the mail on Saturdays, I thought a post-office post was in order.

Over at the blog of Lapham’s Quarterly, Angela Serratore has a fascinating post on the way the antebellum New York City post office (located in the Middle Dutch Church at the intersection of Nassau and Liberty Streets) provided a place for women to send and receive personal letters without being monitored by male authority figures.  Here is a taste:

Communication of and by women has always struck fear into the hearts of men (see: novels; epistolary), but until the middle of the nineteenth century it was largely manageable—husbands and fathers, even servants, monitored a lady’s letters, and the wild fluctuations in cost of mail kept all but the wealthiest of girls and women from taking pen to paper on a regular basis. That changed with the standardization of postal prices in 1845. The cost of mailing a letter was reduced to three cents, making the mail accessible to working women, middle-class housewives, and schoolgirls with pocket money. Suddenly, wide swaths of women had access to two dangerous things—the mail and the post office. Anthony Trollope’s 1852 invention of the pillar-box had given British girls a chance to subvert the authority of their scandalized parents by mailing letters in secret, but their New York counterparts who visited the post office could both send and receive mail almost entirely unmonitored by those who might want to regulate their epistolary lives. 

Located in the Middle Dutch Church at the intersection of Nassau and Liberty Streets (below), New York City’s original post office branch had previously played host to a Revolutionary-era prisoner-of-war camp as well as multiple religious congregations. It was, upon becoming a post office in 1845, an immediate disaster. Newspapers complained of its locational inconvenience, its rude staff, and its general wildness. What place was this for a lady?