It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are facing more catastrophes than you can count. Where do you even begin?
This disagreeable sensation, once confined to an unlucky few, is now widespread among those who read the news. Our policy for staving off catatonia: expect the worst, hope for the best, and deal with one thing at a time.
At the moment, because it’s dear to our ink-stained heart, let’s consider the U.S. Postal Service [U.S.P.S.]. Because it certainly qualifies as a catastrophe.
Incredibly, there’s good news on this front. The District Court in Washington, D.C. ruled August 17th that the U.S.P.S. must turn over documents about potential conflicts of interest involving Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
Sworn in on June 15, 2020, DeJoy immediately implemented a 10-year plan which purported to “fix” the Postal Service. Congress had previously “fixed” the Postal Service in 2006, by requiring it to create a $72 billion fund to cover health care costs of retirees for the next 75 years—a unique burden faced by no other enterprise. DeJoy’s “fix” ignored that problem, though, while creating others—so many, in fact, that there’s a Wikipedia page titled, “2020 United States Postal Service crisis.”
“There is controversy and speculation,” the page says, “about whether the delays are unintended consequences of restructuring operations, or if they were intentionally created for political and/or financial gain. DeJoy has supported and donated to former President Donald Trump, who has publicly linked his opposition to emergency funding for the Postal Service to his desire to restrict voting by mail in the 2020 elections.”
The U.S.P.S. has a month to turn over the documents to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW].
CREW noted on August 18th that, “Over the past seven years, the U.S.P.S. has reportedly paid approximately $286 million to XPO Logistics, DeJoy’s ex-employer, and has ‘ramped up its business’ with the company since DeJoy’s appointment as Postmaster General. After his appointment, DeJoy continued to hold financial interests in XPO totaling between $30 and $75 million. DeJoy also held a significant amount of stock in Amazon, a major U.S.P.S. competitor.”
If there’s any justice in this world—yes, we know: a long shot indeed—CREW will be able to make a case that will force the hand of the Postal Board of Governors, and they’ll hit DeJoy’s “Eject” button without further delay.
On August 13th, the Washington Post reported, “Postmaster General Louis DeJoy purchased up to $305,000 in bonds from an investment firm whose managing partner also chairs the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board, the independent body responsible for evaluating DeJoy’s performance.”
Seriously—what the hell? Is there some kind of Corruption Olympics under way, that nobody told us about?
In other postal news, rates are being jacked up August 29th, well beyond the rate of inflation. “U.S.P.S. will raise rates for regular, First-Class mail by 6.8 percent and for package services by 8.8 percent,” according to GovExec.com. “A standard stamp will go from $0.55 to $0.58. Large-scale mail users are suing the Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission, arguing the authority postal management used to implement the rate increase is unlawful.”
Finally, here’s this:
On August 13th, with a 2:24-minute video featuring Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the U.S.P.S. proclaimed “its first Ethics Awareness Week from Aug. 16-22, aiming to educate employees about the importance of conducting themselves with integrity.”
[Catatonia sets in….]
Paul McEachern Park, dedicated August 22nd, is now complete. A large stone sign bears the name of the honoree, in remembrance of a long lifetime of service to his community. A flagpole has been erected behind the sign. The Flag Police are pleased to see that the arrangement is properly illuminated—by solar power, no less. As a finishing touch, future generations will no doubt have fond memories of riding this fine two-seater codfish.
The Mixed Legacy of Teddy Roosevelt
We’ve had Teddy Roosevelt on the brain lately. It’s a little weird, but it could be worse. Better T.R. than The Former Guy.
Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard. William Loeb III, the bullet-headed publisher of the Manchester Union Leader—of whom John F. Kennedy said, “I believe that there is a publisher who has less regard for the truth than William Loeb, but I can’t think of his name”—was a huge fan of our 26th President.
Loeb had a personal reason, though, for idolizing the man: T.R. was his godfather—the President had once bounced baby Bill Loeb on his knee. His papa William Loeb Jr. was Roosevelt’s private secretary throughout his presidency.
Patrick Buchanan, the Union Leader’s favorite Presidential candidate, was also in thrall to the famous Rough Rider. Did Loeb influence Buchanan, or did these two authoritarians naturally come to worship at the feet of their idol? Who can say?
And, who cares? Buchanan and Loeb are insignificant pawns compared to Roosevelt. He built the board on which we now struggle—by unconstitutionally evading Senatorial advice and consent.
In 1905, T.R. cut a secret deal with Japan that ultimately led, 36 years later, to the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. This disconcerting fact is thoroughly documented in James Bradley’s eye-opening The Imperial Cruise, published to considerable acclaim in 2009. The book would have forever altered how Americans view recent history, if we Americans were capable of learning anything.
We are who we are, though, “[s]o we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past.” This is one reason why we publish Admiral Fowle’s Piscataqua River Tidal Guide (Not for Navigational Purposes)—so we’ll always remember that we never learn anything. Also, it keeps the Admiral out of the pool halls and gin mills, and consequently the hoosegow.
A far better side of T.R. is revealed by an item which made its first appearance in our Tidal Guide in our paper of August 13th: “[August 20,] 1907—While laying the cornerstone of the Pilgrim Memorial in Provincetown, President Theodore Roosevelt accuses ‘malefactors of great wealth’ of causing ‘as much financial stress as possible’ in order to discredit the government trying to rein them in.”
Stephen Kinzer recently elaborated on that event in the Provincetown Independent, in a piece headlined “Teddy Roosevelt’s Prescient Denunciation of Corporate Power.” Kinzer is, according to the Independent, “a Truro Central School graduate and former New York Times foreign correspondent.”
Kinzer quotes Roosevelt at some length, interspersing a few summaries in his own words:
“When the Constitution was created, none of the conditions of modern business existed,” Roosevelt reasoned. “They are wholly new, and we must create new agencies to deal effectively with them.” He went on to demand limits on working hours, compensation for job-related injuries, an income tax, an estate tax, and the breakup of monopolies. He said government should place corporations under “more efficient control” and lamented that existing laws were too weak.
“What wonder that gigantic corporations employ their enormous wealth and the highest legal talent to strain the laws to their upmost!” he railed. “What wonder that ill-gotten fortunes menace the liberties of the people!
“There is unfortunately a certain number of our fellow countrymen who seem to accept the view that unless a man be proved guilty of some particular crime, he shall be counted as a good citizen, no matter how infamous the life he has led, no matter how pernicious his doctrines or his practices,” he said. “Many men of large wealth have been guilty of conduct which from the moral standpoint is criminal, and their misdeeds are particularly reprehensible because those committing them have no excuse of want, of poverty, of weakness and ignorance to offer as partial atonement.”
In his own mind, Roosevelt continued, “there is a growing determination that no man shall amass a great fortune by special privilege, by chicanery and wrongdoing, so far as it is in the power of legislation to prevent; and that a fortune, however amassed, shall not have a business use that is antisocial.”
Roosevelt contained multitudes. Sadly the one on display here, putting the bully pulpit to proper use, had, in the end, but little effect.
After a couple more decades of abuse, though, ordinary Americans achieved some of what T.R. called for in Provincetown. They did it by forming unions, and fighting the powers Roosevelt had condemned.
By the 1950s, it was possible for working families to live a decent life.
Some people, though—like a certain future Justice of the Supreme Court—saw that as a bug, not a feature.
50th Anniversary of the Powell Memo
We went whole hog on T.R.’s Provincetown speech in part because it resonates with another anniversary—a far more disconcerting one, also published in the Tidal Guide on August 13th:
[August 23,] 1971—The Powell Memo is published: a future Supreme Court Justice explains that billionaires can use propaganda to nullify the New Deal.
In a memo prepared for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Lewis Powell wrote, “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.”
Epitomizing its assailants, according to Powell, was the dreaded Ralph Nader, “perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business.”
Powell quoted Fortune, which wrote, “The passion that rules in him—and he is a passionate man—is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison—for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. He emphasizes that he is not talking just about ‘fly-by-night hucksters’ but the top management of blue chip business.”
For the record, we’ll note that Nader’s charges were consistently accurate. He and his “crusaders” saved untold thousands of lives by forcing carmakers to adopt seatbelts and other safety measures—all of which the manufacturers fought against vehemently. Nader was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2016.
To defend corporate America against such perfidy, Powell offered a slate of recommendations:
• corporations should designate executive vice presidents charged with combatting the likes of Ralph Nader;
• the U.S. Chamber of Commerce should coordinate the activities of individual corporations;
• capitalists should fund positions on college campuses, to subsidize stooges who will peddle the corporate line;
• textbooks should be scrutinized for anti-capitalist heresies, and dealt with accordingly;
• the FBI’s annual list of on-campus speeches by Commies should be matched with counter-propaganda;
• all of the above, but for high school;
• the above, a warm-up, has now been applied to the public at large.
“It is still Marxist doctrine,” Powell wrote, “that the ‘capitalist’ countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.
“Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of ‘lobbyist’ for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the ‘forgotten man.’”
Looking back, one has to wonder about Powell’s mental stability. One can easily picture him, like Nixon a couple of years later, drunk as a loon, overcome with self-pity, and talking to portraits on the wall.
Perhaps, though, that’s only because so much has changed in 50 years. Clearly his program was adopted, and with huge success. Maybe his lugubrious self-portrait was more accurate that we think.
All we know for sure is, it’s past time to reverse the effects of the Powell Memo.
Senator Rick Scott [R-Fla], Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tweeted on Sunday—shouldn’t he have been in church?—“It was great to be in New Hampshire for @heritage_action’s #SaveOurPaychecks event with @NHGOPChairman and the wonderful people of the Granite State. We will continue to fight back against the weak and harmful policies of @JoeBiden and @SenateDems.” Before swallowing any of this poppycock, readers are advised to consider the note which follows.
About This Rick Scott Person
Senator Rick Scott [R-Fla.], above, swung by this swing state Sunday in hopes he could help dislodge Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, from the U.S. Senate.
Scott, as a co-founder of Hospital Corporation of America, made hundreds of millions of dollars while presiding over a corporation that ended up paying the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history.
Google “Why wasn’t Rick Scott sent to prison for fraud,” and you will learn that all the legal wrangling took place in civil court.
The next question, we suppose, is “why wasn’t Rick Scott charged in criminal court?”
RIP, John Russo
We were sorry to read in the local daily that John Russo has died.
Since the day we resumed regularly-scheduled publication, on May 1, 1999, John graciously allowed us to distribute our paper in his barber shop on Daniel Street, where he had been cutting hair and making cutting comments since about the second Cleveland administration. Graciously doesn’t really seem like the right word, though…acerbically allowed us, perhaps?
Some might find it surprising that he would allow us in—and that we would go in. In fact, delivering the paper to John’s was an enjoyable challenge. Like fencing, but without all the protective gear. What the hell—it’s a barber shop. A little nick here or there is nothing to get upset about. It was all in fun…we think.
Upon reconsideration, we’ll stick with, “he graciously allowed us….”
Thank you, John. It was good to know you, and we will miss you.