Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Last Call For Mail Pattern Badness

Trump holdover Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before Congress today about his plans to wreck the Post Office, with Biden unable to directly fire him due to federal laws he sneeringly told lawmakers on Capitol Hill to "get used to" him being in charge of the USPS.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told a House panel Wednesday that his forthcoming strategic plan for the U.S. Postal Service may include slowing first-class mail and removing a significant amount of mail from air transportation.

His remarks come as members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee press him and Postal Service board of governors chairman Ron Bloom about delivery service and financial crises at the nation’s mail provider, and as Democrats in Congress push President Biden to install new board members that could reshape the agency and oust DeJoy.

Republicans on the committee have largely used the hearing to defend DeJoy from attacks from Democrats about how the Postal Service handled ballots and election mail ahead of the November election, sparking tense exchanges between Democrats who voted to impeach former president Donald Trump, and Republicans who attempted to baselessly overturn the election the election that removed him from office, citing falsehoods about mail-in voting.

The Postal Service bill would cut retiree health care pre-funding requirement and set on-time delivery targets. Lawmakers’ proposals seek to answer one fundamental question: How can the Postal Service continue to sustain itself and deliver to every American household and business six days a week, while the country increasingly sends less mail?

The U.S. Postal Service will buy as many as 165,000 electric delivery trucks over the next 10 years, spending $482 million to replace its 30-year-old vehicle fleet. Defense contractor Oshkosh will produce trucks with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains. The first vehicles will appear on the street in 2023. 
President Biden has very limited authority to oversee U.S. Postal Service operations — or Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. DeJoy was hired by, and reports to, the Postal Service’s governing board, a nine-member, bipartisan, Senate-confirmed panel. Only six of the nine seats on the board were filled by President Donald Trump, leaving Biden significant sway over the future of the agency.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced three nominees to fill most of the vacancies on the US Postal Service Board of Governors, fulfilling a promise that the administration would make the board and the agency a priority in the early days of his presidency. 
The nominees include Ron Stroman, the former deputy postmaster general who resigned under the previous administration; Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of American Postal Workers Union; and Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute.

The nominations come amid public outcry over delayed mail and increased pressure on Biden from Democratic lawmakers and postal service unions to take action to improve the USPS.

On Tuesday, the American Postal Workers Union called on Biden to swiftly fill the board's four vacancies. Some Democratic lawmakers have gone further, calling on Biden to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

If confirmed, his nominees will answer calls to diversify the board and alleviate concerns of the unions, who have complained that the current Trump-appointed board had no one with previous postal service experience serving on it.

"I encourage you to ensure your appointees are reflective of the 600,000 dedicated workers they will lead," Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley wrote in a letter Biden last week. "We need a Board of Governors that includes women, people of color, and individuals who have direct experience working for the USPS and serving our communities."
Hopefully Bernie Sanders won't block the appointments like he did with Barack Obama, which caused all the mess in the first place.

Suriving A Neera Miss, Con't

With the scheduled respective House and Senate committee votes on Neera Tanden's nomination to head the White house Office of Management and Budget being pulled this morning until further notice, it's a near-certainty at this point that her bid is sunk, and I can't help but think she was the Biden administration's sacrificial lamb all along.

Just about everyone in Washington, D.C., could see that Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget was beleaguered from the beginning — everyone, that is, except the White House.

At the time her nomination was announced, Democrats didn’t even control the Senate and Tanden’s history of sharp-elbowed politics and highly personal Twitter attacks had made her enemies on the left and right. But Biden and his team, headed by White House chief of staff Ron Klain, felt strongly that they could sway Republicans to back her. When Democrats won the runoffs in Georgia, their gamble looked more prescient.

Today, the White House can’t even get all Democrats on board. And Mitch McConnell is urging the GOP to band together to take Tanden down.

Biden and his aides insist that Tanden’s prospects are not doomed. But her fate now hinges on Sen. Lisa Murkowski swooping in to save the nomination. Even if the independent-minded Alaska Republican were to do that, the saga would still mark one of the biggest missteps of Biden’s still-young presidency, one that raises questions about the White House’s political acumen and its ability to manage relations on the Hill. The president himself on Tuesday seemed to accept that the Tanden nom could end in defeat.

“We’re going to push,” Biden said on Tuesday. “We still think there’s a shot, a good shot.”

Tanden’s nomination became imperiled last Friday when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced his opposition, a development that took Democrats by surprise. But the seeds of her rocky reception on the Hill were planted with White House miscalculations weeks beforehand — among them, that moderate Senate Democrats would rally behind the president’s slate of nominees and that Republican resistance would soften.

“Around here the opposition is always looking for the person that they can put a fight up about. And she would be the obvious one to cull from the herd,” said one Senate Democrat, referring to the wall of GOP opposition Tanden faced from the beginning.

For a while, the White House felt Tanden would avoid her current fate. She atoned for her now infamous Twitter behavior and put forward her personal story of a hardscrabble life, living on food stamps and raised by a single mother. And allies like former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who consults frequently with the White House, predicted that both parties would get on board due to the historic nature of her nomination: Tanden would become the first South Asian woman to head up the agency. Inside the White House, endorsements from the Chamber of Commerce and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — an ex-OMB chief himself — were pushed out in hopes that they would give Republicans cover to back her.

Elsewhere, there was a belief that the Trump years, in which the Senate confirmed Mick Mulvaney and Russ Vought as OMB directors after long careers in conservative politics, would make it difficult to oppose a nominee because of the tenor of her tweets.

“The truth is that she’s been critical of the left and the right. What the hell? I actually know her, I think she’s a good person,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “I don’t think the fight’s over with. Not ‘til she’s either pulled or the vote is negative.”

But those bets weren’t supplemented by an aggressive lobbying effort on Tanden’s behalf. One senior Democratic Senate staffer complained that even early on in her confirmation fight, the White House was lackluster in its advocacy for her and tone-deaf to the chillier reception she was getting on the Hill. There were questions about how many champions she even had at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Who does she have? Ron Klain. That’s her constituency,” the staffer said.
The reality is I think her nomination was always going to be the goat staked out for the T-Rex, and of course it's a woman of color being served up to appease both moderate white Democrats like Manchin and the GOP. Maybe I'm just cynical, maybe Biden needs a reality check, maybe politics is bad.

Or maybe Manchin's just an asshole because Tanden dinged his CEO daughter for price gouging on Epipens back in 2016.


At this point it looks like a combination of all of the above. We'll see if she survives but my feeling is that she'll be pulled next week and that he replacement, who will almost certainly be another woman of South Asian descent, will also be viciously attacked by the GOP. 
Tanden is more than qualified, and has worked with and for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but she's not good enough.
Or maybe she's too good.

California Goes Anti-Viral, And Racist

In the end our healthcare system is just another example of systemic racism, where poor Black and brown folk always get worse results as a whole, and COVID-19 vaccination rates are no different, even in California

A California program intended to improve COVID-19 vaccine availability to people in hard-hit communities of color is being misused by outsiders who are grabbing appointments reserved for residents of underserved Black and Latino areas.

The program to address inequities in vaccine distribution relies on special access codes that enable people to make appointments on the My Turn vaccine scheduling website. The codes are provided to community organizations to distribute to people in largely Black and Latino communities.

But those codes have also been circulating, in group texts and messages, among the wealthier, work-from-home set in Los Angeles, The Times has learned. Many of those people are not yet eligible for the vaccine under state rules.

Some people able to make appointments have been driving to Cal State Los Angeles to get the shots.

It’s unclear how the codes got into the hands of outsiders, but the situation has forced the state to scramble to protect the integrity of an equity program that Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials have been hailing. The state canceled appointments made with at least one of the access codes after The Times inquired about it last week.

Establishing fairness in the vaccine distribution process has loomed large over California’s vaccine rollout. Newsom has often spoken about the importance of administering vaccines “through an equity lens.” But deep inequities have still emerged in vaccine administration in the state, with white and Asian residents in affluent areas being inoculated at much higher rates than Black and Latino people in poorer areas.

Under the plan, the state aims to set aside a block of appointments every day at Cal State L.A. and the Oakland Coliseum, according to an email sent to community partners from the director of the Office of Access and Functional Needs at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The block of appointments are only accessible with a specific code, which will change periodically based on usage, according to the email.

The codes are intended for use by people in communities of color who are vaccine eligible, including healthcare workers and those older than 65, but who might otherwise struggle to get an appointment.

State officials have been contacted by over 2,000 community groups interested in participating in the program, according to Cal OES spokesperson Brian Ferguson.

But problems with the program emerged early last week, shortly after the codes became available.

Three separate access codes intended for vulnerable populations in Los Angeles strayed far from their intended recipients, making their way into more affluent professional and social networks, The Times found. In all cases, the origin of the access codes remained unclear. Those circulating the codes did not seem to be aware that they were intended for hard-hit communities. In several cases, people thought they had stumbled upon a pilot program that was open to all.

A person who shared an access code with The Times on Thursday said several of the person’s friends who were otherwise ineligible were able to make vaccine appointments at the Cal State L.A. site using the code. As of Sunday night, several of those people had been vaccinated, said the person who asked not to be identified because they didn’t want to offend friends who had shared the code. The individual, who is white, described their friends as also being white and “in a bracket where they’re very protected.”

Another person who spoke to The Times said they received a screenshot of a message with a seven-digit access code and a link to the My Turn website Tuesday morning. A doctor friend sent the link for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, the original sender wrote. “Apparently it’s a new testing site that is ‘testing out their system’ for a few days before they open up appointments for the elderly and sick, etc. Anyone can sign up if there are appointments available. Give it a try!”
All it would take is one health official deciding that Black and Latino folks didn't want, or didn't deserve, having vaccine appointments set aside, and you see how quickly wealthy white folks decided that getting the vaccine was more important than the rules...because rules are for those people and not me.

It upsets me of course, Kentucky I expect will have the same problems once Phase 1C vaccinations open up on March 5. When I say racism is systemic, this is what I mean: systems enable and reinforce racism because the people running them don't take preventing it into consideration. Technology can't solve everything, folks.



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