Commentary, Trump Administration

The Right’s troubling war on the Postal Service: three “must reads”

Image: Adobe Stock

With the fall election almost underway and President Trump trailing badly in the polls, there are growing concerns that Trump and his minions may attempt to interfere with the voting-by-mail option that millions of Americans plan to use to cast their ballots. What’s more, the recent appointment of a right-wing plutocrat and Trump loyalist from North Carolina named Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General is doing nothing to allay these concerns.

Here are three “must reads” from the past few days that caring and thinking people may want to explore in order to get a handle on this troubling situation:

#1 – Yesterday’s lead Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com — “Mail service critical to 2020 elections, Trump needs to end irresponsible attacks.” After explaining that DeJoy has taken steps to slow mail delivery by, among other things, cutting overtime as mail volume has increased, the editorial explains:

“As state and local election boards have been working to expand voting opportunities and shore up absentee voting by mail to accommodate our life-saving need to be socially distant, Trump’s postal service is making critical voting by mail and absentee voting less reliable. That is the REAL voter fraud here – not the phony scenarios the president has conjured up.”

#2 – An article by a veteran journalist with North Carolina connections, Alex Kotch, for the Center for Media and Democracy, entitled “Trump Megadonor in Charge of U.S. Postal Service Poses Grave Threat to U.S. Elections.” As Koch explains:

“As DeJoy slows down the Postal Service, the Republican National Committee is using $114,500 of DeJoy’s money, along with millions more from numerous GOP billionaires and multimillionaires, to sue states that have passed laws to expand mail-in voting, according to Sludge. GOP benefactors helped give the RNC’s legal proceedings account a $23 million budget to block vote-by-mail proposals in some states and fight enacted policies in others. Many of these states are swing states that could determine the result of the presidential contest.”

#3 – An article by North Carolina A&T professor and former Postal Service employee Philip Rubio for the progressive website The Baffler entitled “You’ve Got No Mail.” As Rubio puts it:

“DeJoy’s policies represent the latest and most aggressive cuts in what has been a disturbing trend since 2011. First-class mail is now being curtailed at mail processing centers and post offices, in violation of both labor agreements and Title 39. Postal workers have accused the USPS of getting Americans used to slowing service and accepting privatization. Before these “operational changes,” April 2020 poll results noted a steady 91 percent public approval rating for the USPS despite prior cuts, as more people apparently realize the USPS’s importance and object to its degradation.

…With postal workers now especially worried about mail-in ballots being delayed this November, how will they react to being ordered not to use overtime to transport those ballots—or coronavirus test kits and vaccines?”

All in all, it’s another disastrous mess perpetrated by the Trump administration and its enablers. All patriotic Americans should be speaking out against this attempted heist.

News, Trump Administration

Top Homeland Security official vows federal agents ‘will not back away’ from violent protests

A federal officer tells the crowd to move while dispersing a protest in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s Number Two at the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday defended federal law enforcement officers’ intervention in protests in Portland, Oregon, and other cities this summer.

Characterizing some of the protests as “mob rule,” Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told lawmakers  that federal agents could exert force in other cities if violent protests break out.

“DHS will not back away from our responsibilities to protect federal property, the people using those properties, and our brave law enforcement officers,” Cuccinelli said at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.

Many of the protests in Portland have centered around the Mark O.Hatfield Federal Courthouse. President Donald Trump dispatched Homeland Security agents to Portland in July to protect federal property and respond to demonstrations that he and Cuccinelli have characterized as stemming from violent extremist groups.

“This country cannot survive allowing mob rule to replace the rule of law… they are not just attacking a federal court house but they are attacking very foundations that make the enjoyment of our natural rights possible, the rule of law itself,” Cuccinelli said.

Cuccinelli’s remarks follow a wave of criticism from Democrats and local leaders in Portland about the presence of federal law enforcement

Ken Cuccinelli – Photo: Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury

in the city– where demonstrations escalated into nightly clashes between protesters and federal officers. Viral videos showed officers in military fatigues using pepper balls and forceful tactics to clear streets and grabbing protesters to drive them away in unmarked cars. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has blamed federal agents for escalating conflict.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the Trump administration reached an agreement last week for the federal agents to leave the city in phases, allowing local police to address the situation. Portland has seen weeks of demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in Minneapolis in police custody.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the committee, joined the hearing remotely and said she supports federal law enforcement. “They are protecting people who are coming peaceably to express their opinion and assemble, and at the same time having to deal with these rioters there to destroy property to harm people,” Blackburn said.

When officers put on their uniforms, “they don’t know if there are going to be peaceful protestors or if there are going to be the disruptors and destroyers that show up that they are going to have to deal with,” she said.

In late May, Memphis and Nashville both saw peaceful protests turn violent after dark, with damage to public and private property and police using  tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. In one outburst, people set Historic Metro Nashville City Hall on fire.

On July Fourth, thousands marched in Nashville in a Black Lives Matter demonstration. That night, Tennessee police arrested 55 violators for criminal trespassing. In both cases, organizers of the daytime protests said their groups were not connected with the destructive action at night.

Legislative proposals

Congressional Democrats have decried the Trump administration’s involvement in the Portland protests. Read more

Commentary, COVID-19, Trump Administration

Editorial: Trump and science

In case you missed it, be sure to check out this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com. In “Trump, magnificently incompetent,” the authors do a great job of exposing President Trump’s almost pathological aversion to science and its vital importance to the well-being of modern society.

As the editorial notes, we know what real science is, what it can do and what it can produce, and we witnessed it again in a powerful way this week when engineers launched a new mission to Mars.

“In real America, scientists and engineers used real facts, real math, to launch the Mars rover ‘Perseverance’ atop an Atlas V rocket early last Thursday morning on a 64 million-mile trip to arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021. It was a flawless launch. Watch the video here.

The mission Perseverance is about ambition, innovation and embracing the future. Exploration of the Jezero Crater located in a basin slightly north of the Martian equator will seek REAL evidence of past microbial life and test out conditions for possible human exploration.”

Unfortunately, as the editorial also points out, President Trump has given repeated indications that he just doesn’t get this basic reality. Instead of championing real science, Trump champions nonsense and fantasy. The latest example: his decision to lift up the COVID-19-related comments of a troubled/delusional doctor from Texas:

“Facebook, YouTube and Twitter removed several versions of another video that Trump re-tweeted about dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic because it violated policies on false data and misinformation. But there’s an archive of the video here and a transcript here.

The ‘very impressive’ doctor turns out to be Stella Immanuel of Houston, Texas. She is a doctor, who says that there is demon sperm and the uterine condition “endometriosis” is caused by sex with demons during dreams. She spouts fiction and myth.”

When Trump was asked about the Immanuel’s bizarre claims during a press conference, he simply walked out.

As the editorial noted in conclusion, we must do better as a nation:

“We reject backward thinking that embraces the false premise of the ‘good-old-days’ and where hunches, guesses, myth and phony facts lead to impulsive, dangerous unproductive actions.

We choose an ambitious and innovative America where technology, research, evidence and planning calculates risk to produce bold and decisive success.”

Amen to that.

News, Trump Administration

Tony Tata’s Pentagon appointment flames out; no comment thus far from either Burr or Tillis

Former NC DOT Secretary and Wake County schools superintendent Tony Tata

CNN reporting White House will withdraw nomination of controversial figure who once led NC DOT, Wake County schools

WASHINGTON — Bipartisan backlash against Anthony Tata, the former North Carolina government official who was President Donald Trump’s controversial pick for a senior Pentagon position, has thrown his nomination into doubt. Thursday evening CNN reported that Senate sources expect the White House to withdraw his name.

Tata’s nomination was already in doubt after Republicans abruptly cancelled plans for his nomination hearing earlier in the day.

Tata, a 61-year-old retired Army brigadier general, novelist and Fox News commentator, was scheduled for a vetting Thursday in the Senate Committee on Armed Services for the No. 3 position at the Pentagon. But Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced shortly before the hearing was set to begin that it would not go on.

Tata was superintendent of Wake County schools from 2010 to 2012, when the Democratic-majority board voted to fire him. He then led the North Carolina Department of Transportation until he resigned in 2015. While he worked at NC DOT, Tata wrote two action thriller novels, “Mortal Threat” and “Foreign and Domestic.”

Senators indicated this week that Tata may not have the support needed to make it through the confirmation process for the Pentagon job.

“There are many Democrats and Republicans who didn’t know enough about Anthony Tata to consider him for a very significant position at this time,” Inhofe tweeted Thursday morning.

Inhofe said some documents that usually come in before hearings begin did not arrive to the committee until Wednesday.

“As I told the president last night, we’re simply out of time with the August recess coming, so it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose to have a hearing at this point, and he agreed,” Inhofe said.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the committee, said members of both parties raised “serious questions about this nominee” in a closed-door session earlier this week.

“Chairman Inhofe did the right thing here, and it’s clear this nomination isn’t going anywhere without a full, fair, open hearing,” Reed said in a statement about the cancelled hearing.

North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis, who is in the midst of his own tough re-election campaign, sits on the committee and would have been called on to vote on the confirmation. His office did not immediately reply to requests for comment on whether he supported Tata’s nomination.

Sen. Richard Burr’s office declined to comment and referred all questions to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The North Carolina Republican has already said he’s not running for re-election.

Inflammatory remarks 

Trump nominated Tata earlier this summer to be the undersecretary of defense for policy. The influential position serves as the principal policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense and leads the coordination of national security policy.

The position oversees the policy team, which comprises military and civilian members and provides “responsive, forward-thinking and insightful policy advice” to the Secretary of Defense, according to the Defense Department.

The prominent position has been vacant since former undersecretary John Rood resigned in February at Trump’s request. Rood had warned the administration it should not withhold military aid to Ukraine — an issue that was at the center of Trump’s impeachment controversy.

James Anderson, a former vice president at Marine Corps University, has held the post in an “acting” role since June.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is one of the more bipartisan committees, and Reed said he usually waits to make a decision on nominees until after their hearing. But in this case, he and six other Democrats on the committee made the rare decision to publicly oppose Tata  not long after he was nominated in June.

Tata came under fire for inflammatory remarks he made in the past. CNN reported in June that he had called Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” on Twitter in 2018. Tata later deleted the tweet. He also called Islam “the most oppressive violent religion” and said the Iran nuclear deal came about because of Obama’s “Islamic roots.”   Read more

News, Trump Administration

Common Cause files court challenge against Trump’s new order to “rig the 2020 census”

In what figures to be the first of several efforts to block President Donald Trump’s recent order on how electoral districts will be drawn after the 2020 census, the national good government group Common Cause filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, DC yesterday.

As NPR reported:

Filed on Thursday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the complaint was released two days after Trump issued a memo calling to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country that is used to redistribute seats in the House of Representatives.

The Constitution — which empowers Congress, not the president, with final authority over the census — requires a once-a-decade count of the “whole number of persons in each state” in order to determine how to reapportion congressional seats and, by extension, Electoral College votes.

Trump, however, has ordered information to be produced that would allow him to exclude the number of immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization from the latest state population counts that the president is legally required to deliver to Congress after the census is complete.”

This is from a news release from Common Cause:

Common Cause v. Trump seeks a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the President, as well as the Department of Commerce, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The four-count complaint alleges violations of several different Constitutional protections and federal statutory requirements related to the census count and the apportionment of congressional districts. The complaint makes clear that the President’s memorandum “is the culmination of a years-long effort to transfer political power en masse from voters of color—chiefly, but not exclusively, Latino voters—to ‘Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.’”

…The complaint charges the Administration with violating the U.S. Constitution – specifically, Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution as amended by Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and related statutes requiring that every resident be counted in the census and  included in the basis for reapportioning congressional districts. Further, the complaint outlines the Administration’s violations of the Equal Protection guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by diluting a voter’s vote based on where they live and by taking an adverse action against residents on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin.

In addition to Common Cause, the plaintiffs include the cities of Atlanta, Georgia and Patterson, New Jersey, the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (a nonprofit refugee advocacy group), and individual Latino, African American, Asian American and other voters.

Earlier this week, Common Cause issued a statement decrying the Trump order and tying to ongoing GOP efforts here in North Carolina to engage in partisan gerrymandering. As the statement put it:

This memorandum by President Trump is a blatant attempt to skew how electoral districts are drawn, instill fear and chaos in immigrant communities, and send a message to his white supremacist base. Based on records uncovered by Common Cause v. Lewis litigation, the memorandum is part of an ongoing partisan effort led by the Trump Administration to whitewash political representation, by removing and silencing the fastest growing populations of color – Latinx and Asian Americans and other immigrant populations.

According to the NPR story, other advocacy groups are lining up to file court challenges to the Trump order, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Click here to read the Common Cause complaint.