Sunday, September 6, 2020

Last Call For Going Postal, Con't

According to a major story in the Washington Post today, current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy committed felony campaign finance violations by pressuring his employees at his business in North Carolina to donate hundreds of thousands to his GOP fundraisers, then committing fraud by reimbursing the money back to his employees as year-end bonuses in order to hide the money.

Louis DeJoy’s prolific campaign fundraising, which helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the U.S. Postal Service, was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees feeling pressured to make political contributions to GOP candidates — money DeJoy later reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.

Five people who worked for DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, say they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his 15,000-square-foot gated mansion beside a Greensboro, N.C., country club. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece.

Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.

“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party. He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses,” said David Young, DeJoy’s longtime director of human resources, who had access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013 and is now retired. “When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else.”

Another former employee with knowledge of the process described a similar series of events, saying DeJoy orchestrated additional compensation for employees who had made political contributions, instructing managers to award bonuses to specific individuals.

“He would ask employees to make contributions at the same time that he would say, ‘I’ll get it back to you down the road,’ ” said the former employee, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution from DeJoy.

In response to a series of detailed questions from The Washington Post, Monty Hagler, a spokesman for DeJoy, said the former New Breed chief executive was not aware that any employees had felt pressured to make donations.

After repeatedly being asked, Hagler did not directly address the assertions that DeJoy reimbursed workers for making contributions, pointing to a statement in which he said DeJoy “believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations.”

Hagler said DeJoy “sought and received legal advice” from a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission “to ensure that he, New Breed Logistics and any person affiliated with New Breed fully complied with any and all laws. Mr. DeJoy believes that all campaign fundraising laws and regulations should be complied with in all respects.”

It's easy enough to follow the money here, and in DeJoy's House hearing just a few weeks ago on his wrecking the USPS on Trump's orders, he was asked about these allegations by Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper of Nashville.

Cooper: (01:30:53)
Mr. DeJoy, here’s what your so-called reforms have done to my district in 70 days. A lady named Elena Roser paid $5 on July 22nd to send a certified letter to the Nashville, Tennessee social security office. The distance is 20 miles. The letter took 12 days to arrive. Just this morning, excellent reporting from Nashville’s Channel Five TV proves that Nashville’s mail trucks are being forced to leave on schedule even when completely empty. Imagine it: 53 foot trucks forced to travel hundreds of miles, completely empty, due to your so-called reforms. Here are the truck records. That’s not efficiency. That’s insanity. For anyone thinking of voting absentee, the effect of your policies is to unilaterally move up election day from November 3rd to something like October 27th. And if you force more empty trucks on the highway, you will be able to single-handedly move up election day even earlier.

Cooper: (01:32:06)
According to NPR, already 550,000 primary ballots, absentee ballots, were rejected in just 30 states, and one of the main reasons was late delivery. How dare you disenfranchise so many voters when you told the Senate committee just last week that you had a sacred duty to protect election mail. You know that it’s a felony for a postal service officer or employee to delay delivery of mail. A postal employee can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for delaying the mail. But somehow you can delay all the mail and get away with it? They can be prosecuted, but you can’t, even if your actions are a million times worse? Mr. DeJoy, do you have a duty to obey US law like every other American?

DeJoy: (01:32:58)
I do, sir.

Cooper: (01:33:00)
Well, previous postmasters general have been punished for much smaller conflicts of interests than yours. In 1997, the 70th postmaster general Marvin Runyon from Tennessee had to pay $27,000 because of a $350,000 conflict of interest. If your $30 million conflict of interest, a hundred times larger than Mr. Runyon’s, were treated like your predecessors, you would have to pay a $2.7 million fine and probably be ousted from being postmaster general. So Mr. DeJoy, are you above the law that applies to other postmasters general?

DeJoy: (01:33:45)
I don’t agree with the premise. I’m in full compliance with all ethical requirements that I need to have. And there’s an OIG investigation, and I welcome the result of that report.

Cooper: (01:33:59)
Well, Mr. DeJoy, as a mega donor for the Trump campaign, you were picked along with Michael Cohen and Elliott Broidy, two men who have already pled guilty to felonies, to be the three deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump’s campaign by bonusing or rewarding them?

DeJoy: (01:34:25)
That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it.

Cooper: (01:34:29)
I’m just asking a question.

DeJoy: (01:34:30)
The answer is no.

Cooper: (01:34:32)
So you did not bonus or reward any of your executives-

DeJoy: (01:34:36)
No. No.

Cooper: (01:34:36)
Or anyone that you solicited for a contribution to the Trump campaign?

DeJoy: (01:34:39)
No, sir.

So on top of the finance violations and the fraud, he straight up lied to Congress under oath.

In any other administration, DeJoy would be made to resign over this and would lawyer up to face the numerous federal investigations that would almost certainly result in prison time and a hefty fine. We know this because a fundraiser for Al Gore was convicted in March 2000 over an extremely similar scheme.

Maria Hsia, a longtime political fund-raiser for Vice President Al Gore, was convicted today of all five felony counts against her for her role in arranging more than $100,000 in illegal donations to the Democratic Party and its candidates in 1996.

Of that amount, $55,000 was contributed to the Democratic National Committee in connection with the vice president's much-criticized visit to a Buddhist temple in the Los Angeles area. The event, at the Hsi Lai Temple in the community of Hacienda Heights, has shadowed Mr. Gore throughout the current political season, with a variety of his opponents referring to it in efforts to remind the public of the Clinton-Gore organization's fund-raising embarrassments.

As her federal jurors filed in today, Ms. Hsia (pronounced shaw), a 48-year-old Taiwan-born American citizen who works as an immigration counselor in Los Angeles, consulted a Chinese fortune-telling book to try to divine her fate. She then sat impassively as the jury delivered its verdicts for what the government had described as her masterminding an evasion of election laws by disguising the true source of campaign contributions.

The five counts against Ms. Hsia, who did not testify at her three-week-long trial, charged her with causing finance officials of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic campaigns to file false contribution statements with the Federal Election Commission. Although conviction on these counts can mean a years-long prison sentence, federal sentencing guidelines make it more likely that she will serve only a brief term, if any.

In the case of the Buddhist temple, Justice Department prosecutors charged that Ms. Hsia had arranged for nuns and monks there to write checks to make it appear that they were the donors to the Democratic National Committee. In reality, they were only ''straw donors,'' reimbursed by the temple itself, which, as a religious, tax-exempt institution, is prohibited from making political donations.

In other cases, the $1,000 limit on contributions to presidential campaigns was evaded by wealthy Chinese-Americans who testified at the trial that Ms. Hsia had helped them find straw donors for contributions to the Clinton-Gore re-election committee.

This is pretty much exactly what DeJoy is accused of doing. In the Trump regime, DeJoy will get kudos, will keep his job, won't be investigated at all, and would be pardoned anyway if he was actually convicted.

The Trump regime is intrinsically corrupt.

The Country Could Go Even More Viral

As the US is now coming up on 200,000 COVID-19 deaths with no end in sight and a Trump regime that could not care less about the death toll other than to blame Joe Biden for it somehow, the medical community is sounding the alarm that flu season could bring another 200,000 deaths by the end of 2020.

The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could triple by year’s end, with an additional 1.9 million deaths, while a fall wave of infections could drive fatalities in the United States to 410,000, according to a new forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

The estimate reinforces warnings by many experts that cooler, drier weather and increased time spent indoors could boost viral transmission in the Northern Hemisphere surge this fall and winter — something typically seen with other respiratory viruses.

The institute’s forecasts were influential earlier in the pandemic in guiding policies developed by the White House coronavirus task force, but they have been criticized by some experts as projecting further into the future than can be done reliably.

The U.S. death toll from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, now stands at 183,000, according to health data analyzed by The Washington Post. The IHME model projects that under the most likely scenario, 410,451 people in the United States will have died by Jan. 1.

The best-case scenario is 288,381 deaths and worst-case is 620,029, that model forecasts.
The scenarios pivot on human behavior and public policy. The best-case scenario would result from near-universal mask-wearing and the maintenance of social distancing and government mandates limiting the size of indoor gatherings. The worst-case scenario assumes that people and their communities stop taking precautions.

“It’s easy given the summer lull to think the epidemic is going away,” Christopher Murray, director of IHME, said Friday on a conference call. But there are “bleak times ahead in the Northern Hemisphere winter, and unfortunately we are not collectively doing everything we can to learn from the last five months.”

I'd actually dispute that last paragraph: the Trump regime has already learned the only applicable lesson from the last five months, and the lesson is "America becoming a white fascist ethnostate has already been worth the cost of 200,000 lives".

The fact that Trump still has a real shot at victory is precisely because of tens of millions of voters who are 100% okay with the last four years as long as Black and brown America is relegated to second-class citizenship, beneath even the poorest, least-educated, least-powerful white Trump supporter.

And the fact of the matter is when the electorate is still 70% white, and the population is far more so  in battleground states like Wisconsin (87%), Michigan (80%), Pennsylvania (82%) and Florida (78%), it's up to white voters in mostly white states to decide the presidency and it always has been.

We got lucky with Obama because white voters figured he was one of the "good ones". In 2014, that ended permanently with Trayvon Martin and Obama's support for Black Lives Matter.  It helped cost Hillary the election, with nearly six percent of voters choosing a third party.

Remember, your Trump-supporting friends are okay with this.

Those of us who are left have to try to save ourselves.

And another 200,000 of us aren't going to be saved, frankly.

Sunday Long Read: It's Still About Suppression

In Harper's Bazaar, Grammy award-winning musical artist, activist and Atlanta native Janelle Monáe interviews Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on her book, voter suppression and how Black America can overcome it in this week's Sunday Long Read.

JANELLE MONÁE: In your book Our Time Is Now, you write about what you call the New American Majority—the people of color, young people, moderates and progressives, who galvanized behind you and your race for governor of Georgia in 2018. You believe these folks are a key force in the upcoming federal elections. In the time between when you wrote the book and when it was published in June, we saw our country gripped by this pandemic. We’re all in the middle of Covid-19 right now, and we’re in a reckoning with racial justice and the stark and tragic effects of inequality. How do you feel this New American Majority has evolved or changed over the past six months?

STACEY ABRAMS: The full title of the book is Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, and I think that there has been nothing in our recent memory that has crystallized that subtitle more than the last six months. We are in a pitched battle driven by a public-health crisis, an economic collapse, and a reckoning with structural racism and systemic inequities, and the battle is not simply against those things. It is understanding that this New American Majority, because of how many of us there are and because of the proof points of our capacity, we have to know we’ve got the power to influence what happens next. We have to know we have a purpose, which has been revealed by what the pandemic has shown us about what is happening to Black and brown communities that are being decimated by Covid-19 and the economic inequities that are not only being visited upon our country writ large but upon those essential workers, who, by law or by practice, don’t have the ability to take care of themselves and have to stand on those front lines. And then a fair America—we have the right to demand equal justice under the law. We have the right to believe that Ahmaud Arbery should not have been murdered in the streets and that Rayshard Brooks should not have been killed by police. I wrote this book in 2019. I finished it up the first few days of 2020. I had no idea this is what was to come. But what I’ve learned from my parents and my grandparents and from the long sweep of history is that we have been waiting for this moment where our desires can be met with our capacity. That is this moment, and the New American Majority is how we do it.

JM: At one point in your book, you recount protesting emblems of the Confederacy while you were in college at Spelman [in Atlanta] in the early 1990s. I saw video footage of you burning the Confederate flag [at the time, the Georgia state flag contained a Confederate battle emblem]. How does it feel, 28 years later, to watch as names are finally being taken off buildings, flags are being burned, people are removing statues by themselves, and paintings depicting Confederate figures are coming down slowly but surely? Why do you think it took so long?

SA: In 2018, when I had the temerity to say that I did not believe in the public veneration of traitors to our country, which is what the Confederacy was, or that I didn’t believe that Stone Mountain should be a state monument—that we should have again a reckoning—I was vilified for it. And when I burned the Confederate flag, I had a permit for it, but when we burned that flag, it was because I grew up in Mississippi in the shadows of Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, where I watched people celebrate a man who tried to keep my people enslaved. And that’s just wrong. So I am grateful that we’re having this moment. But again, it goes back to this inflection point, this demographic change. The New American Majority is not simply a title—it’s a capacity issue. There are enough of us now who have known this for years, but our voices have come together as a chorus and we’re loud enough to be heard. I think that’s why we’re seeing this action. But I don’t want to dismiss the fact that we had people like Bree Newsome, who scaled that pole and took down that flag. [In 2015, Newsome was arrested after removing a Confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina State House.] Even though people were trying to give [then Governor] Nikki Haley credit in South Carolina, it was Bree Newsome who risked her freedom to do that. So we have had people who’ve been fighting this battle. But I think for the first time people believe that the battle can be won.

JM: Let’s talk about voter suppression. You’ve described voter suppression as a means of denying people “the most profound currency of citizenship: power.” What does American power look like to you today? And what should it represent?

SA: In a democracy, our ability to select those who speak for us comes from the right to vote. That’s what we have to remember. We live in a representative democracy. We don’t ask everyone to vote on everything. We say, “Pick some folks and let them focus on it so you can go about your life.” But if you can’t choose representation that sees you, that hears you, and that speaks for you, then the democratic part doesn’t really work. So my mission has been to ensure that the representation part meets the democracy part. We have a president who does not want democracy to work. He is a wannabe authoritarian populist who believes that his edicts should be law, that his incompetence should be unchallenged, and that accountability is for others. We have this responsibility to fight back against voter suppression because suppression is all about maintaining power for a small cadre of folks who have been afraid of sharing it from the beginning of our country. This is a nation built on voter suppression. When we started, white men who owned land could vote. If you were Black, you were a slave. If you were a woman, you were supposed to be silent. If you were Native American, you were invisible. Then in 1790 we decided to shut the gates and say no one else can come in. So we’ve spent 230 years trying to reclaim the promise that was in our Declaration of Independence, this promise of equality. But we can only reclaim it if we have the power of the vote. I know it can sound like a slogan or a really pale solution to all of these challenges, but in a democracy, you can’t give up the power you have trying to get the power you want.

JM: In many ways, it seems like we’re in a moment that is demanding change. How do we take advantage of that opportunity to actually bring about change?

SA: One thing I’ve always loved about your music is that you’re a truth-teller, and I think that’s got to be the approach we take to leverage this moment: We’ve got to tell the truth about what’s happening and tell the truth about how we fix it. I become frustrated when I hear people, in response to protesters in the streets, saying, “Just go vote,” because that’s not the only answer. I was a protester in the streets, and I protested at the ballot box—my parents raised me to understand you have to do both. They were activists because they knew that was the only way they would get the right to vote. And once they had the right to vote, they took us with them to vote and to protest because they wanted us to understand that it’s not enough to say what you want—you’ve got to demand that it be made true. So we have to be willing to stop simplifying this by pretending that we can elect a savior who will change the world or change the country. It won’t happen. We can elect people, who, if we hold them accountable, can make progress. But we’ve got to connect the dots.

I'm a big fan of Stacey's politics and of Janelle's music.  It's excellent to see two Black women discuss politics like this and I find myself agreeing with the entire conversation, particularly Abrams's observations on white America putting the onus on Obama to be the savior in 2008.

When Obama responded with "We all have work ahead of us", something Black America was used to hearing and doing, but white America was not -- they thought merely electing Obama would "fix things" and they were off the hook for the results and it was Black America's responsibility now -- that's when white America turned on Obama and the Democrats in three straight federal elections. It was only because Mitt Romney was a terrible candidate and that Obama's charisma and the recovery was strong enough that he won in 2014 but Democrats across the country were wiped out in the backlash, leading to Trump.

That wasn't Black America's fault.  We didn't elect Trump. But it apparently falls upon us to save the country from him now.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Labor Day weekend this year means 100 days of protest since Memorial Day weekend and George Floyd's murder at the knee of police changed America, and it looks more and more like this time it will be different and remain so.

After 100 days of dissent in Washington, the boundaries between cities, states and even countries have dissolved as protesters from Hong Kong to Portland to D.C. swap tactics, share strategies and ping from one demonstration to the next.

The protests after the police killing of George Floyd have developed a language and shared culture as daily demonstrations become a fact of life in cities across the country. Enraged by the backdrop of police violence and racial inequality that plays out in graphic videos depicting police brutality against Black citizens, protesters have developed new means of resistance experts say may change protests in America forever.

Marches have grown more confrontational — cornering politicians in their homes and heckling strangers as they go about their lives. Protesters have embraced mobility and taken to participating in demonstrations far from their hometowns. Some fly, some drive — some have walked for days.

Online tutorials about crafting homemade shields to protect against rubber bullets and stinging pepper ball pellets using plywood, foam pool noodles, trash can lids and other household wares have spread like wildfire.

What were once considered obvious markers of troublemakers looking to break things have become muddled as demonstrators scramble to protect themselves from rubber bullets and chemical irritants police use to disperse crowds.

Influenced at first by the longevity and intensity of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, then by the evolving tactics of protesters in American streets, experts say the mainstreaming of ideas and tactics once considered radical reflects a political sea change spurred by a youth-led uprising.

“This is bringing people into a different way of being,” said Mark Bray, a Rutgers University historian and former organizer of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “Things are happening now at a profound level.”

While the nation’s capital braces for protests in the days and weeks ahead, months of unrelenting demonstrations, mass arrests and standoffs with police have changed D.C. protesters in ways big and small: Their tools, their tactics and their tolerance for behavior once decried as antithetical to peaceful protest have shifted.

On recent nights, as smoke and explosions ripped through the night air and police advanced on a line of demonstrators while shouting, “Move back,” it became clear that the flash bangs just don’t work like they used to.

Longtime demonstrators in D.C. have stopped sprinting for cover. They kick sparking canisters back toward police, walk steadily away from the rapid pop of rubber bullets and strap on respirators and gas masks when the threat of tear gas hangs in the air.

The protests have also given first-time demonstrators an up-close look at munitions, controversial crowd control tactics like “kettling” — when police surround a group of demonstrators and arrest them en masse — and the use of chemicals that make people cough, gag, cry and burn.

But images captured at these events also serve a tactical purpose: With every video of a protester disarming a tear-gas canister or volleying a smoking stun grenade back at law enforcement, demonstrators are learning skills that may have otherwise taken months to acquire on their own.

America is now in this for the long haul.  This time really is different. At the minimum these protests are going to continue through January's inauguration, and should it be a Trump second term, all bets are off how long they go.

Let's hope that it becomes a Biden administration world party in January instead.

Black Lives Still Matter.
Related Posts with Thumbnails