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Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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  1. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    Once again, the astounding thing is the plausibility of the idea that the administration is deliberately trying to steal an election it knows it cannot win fairly.

    It is universally acknowledged that the President won’t win the majority of votes; No one anywhere disputes that fact.

    And the possibility that he is deliberately sabotaging the vote count to cheat is casually acknowledged as if it were just a normal occurrence in the world’s foremost democracy.
    If this were happening in a Third World country, Americans would demand that UN troops be sent in to safeguard the election, or even support a coup to overthrow the illegitimate government.

    ETA: This is not a criticism of the essay; Rather, it is an observation of how weak the support for a true representative democracy is among the American citizens who support the President.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      If we do vote by mail, there’s a good possibility that nobody will have any idea who won the election until December, or even later, and everybody knows that the press will lie and spin, as usual. Nobody will trust the result as truckload after truckload of ballots keep getting “discovered” in various campaign workers’ garages. The result will likely be a civil war which will go nuclear, resulting in the complete destruction of most large US cities, with most surviving urban dwellers turned into mutants whose distinctive hides will be used to feed a burgeoning mutant-leather industry. Is that the kind of America you want?

      *Looks at high-end boot prices on Amazon*

      Bring on the mail in ballots!

      Also, you may not be aware of the predictions that Trump’s victory will be similar to Nixon’s in 1972, after which Pauline Kael is claimed to have lamented, in astonishment, “Nobody I know voted for Nixon!”Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      Trumpistas don’t care and nothing is going to make them care. They are so utterly convinced that they represent the real America that they simply do not mind lying, robbing, and cheating to get power. It’s all for the good of the Republic and real true America in their mind. Its why they make these arguments that they should hold power because they have the most acres.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        And this, too, has become accepted, just part of the normal way that Americans conduct their affairs, where a minority demands to hold power because they view the majority as unworthy of full rights.

        And most of the major media outlets treat this as simply a petty partisan dispute, having equal moral and political consequence.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      “It is universally acknowledged that the President won’t win the majority of votes; No one anywhere disputes that fact.”

      Do you have a cite for that? I think he absolutely could win a majority, and that alone casts your whole premise in doubt. But we can look at times that the vote count has been altered and see that there are real reasons to be suspect of the process as it currently stands:

      Attorney General Morrisey Announces Charge Against Mail Carrier in Voter Fraud Case
      https://mailchi.mp/wvago/mail-carrier-charged-in-wva-voter-fraud-case

      1 in 5 Ballots Rejected as Fraud Is Charged in N.J. Mail-In Election
      https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/06/26/1_in_5_ballots_rejected_as_fraud_is_charged_in_nj_mail-in_election_143551.html

      Misprinted ballots with Democratic candidates mailed to Republicans in this N.J. town
      https://www.nj.com/somerset/2020/06/misprinted-ballots-with-democratic-candidates-mailed-to-republicans-in-this-nj-town.html

      Here is a handy database of voter fraud cases, and Your state has three pages alone!
      https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud/search?state=OR

      Add to these stories the very real and quasi-legal ballot harvesting in California and there is a serious problem. Many on the right feel that the left and Dems are trying to cast doubt on a very real issue. There have been polls coming out in the last few days that show Trump’s approval at 51% and voter enthusiasm 70% higher than for Biden
      ( https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/trump-approval-back-to-51-supporters-70-more-enthusiastic-than-bidens ) Trump very well could win a majority of votes.

      And when you couple that with the intensely destructive behavior of the left in the last 4 years of doing everything both fair and foul to delegitimize the very legal election of ’16, it is no wonder there is deep concern about the voting integrity of the nation. Between generic f-ups and deliberate attempts at vote fraud, saying the right “simply cannot win fairly” is laughable. One could just as easily say the left is deliberately trying to cast pre-emptive doubt on another legal election.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David
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        says:

        And yet, mail in voting is still more secure than in-person voting.

        The conservative Heritage Foundation, which has warned of the risks of mail voting, found 14 cases of attempted mail fraud out of roughly 15.5 million ballots cast in Oregon since that state started conducting elections by mail in 1998.

        The most prominent cases of mail fraud have involved campaigns, not voters. North Carolina invalidated the results of a 2018 congressional election after state officials found that a Republican campaign operative had orchestrated a ballot fraud scheme.

        https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-vote-by-mail-explainer/explainer-fraud-is-rare-in-us-mail-in-voting-here-are-the-methods-that-prevent-it-idUSKBN2482SA

        And aside from you just now, I don’t know if any serious pundit or forecaster suggesting that Trump could win a majority of votes.Report

        • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          And counter-point:
          28 Million Mail-In Ballots Went Missing in Last Four Elections
          https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/04/24/28_million_mail-in_ballots_went_missing_in_last_four_elections_143033.html#!

          And Rasmussen (who is the polling agency above that puts him at 51%) is a very serious forecaster. Many on the right feel he absolutely can get a majority of votes. Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean that no one else does. If you remember correctly, no one thought Trump could win in ’16, and yet here we are.Report

          • Avatar Michael Siegel in reply to Aaron David
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            says:

            1) Rasmussen is a joke. They’ve now hired far right political commentators for their website. They missed the last election by a mile.

            2) 28 million ballots gone missing sound suspicious until you realize that the problem is they weren’t turned in. To me, THAT’s the biggest concern here: that millions of votes will not be counted because people fail to mail them on time, fail to sign them properly, etc.

            Look, the GOP can bitch all they want. Mail-in voting is happening. And it’s happening in mass numbers. They can either work to make it as seamless as possible. Or they can obstruct and cause chaos. It’s pretty clear which path they are taking.Report

            • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Michael Siegel
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              says:

              The point wasn’t that Rasmussen is good or bad*, as that is a matter of opinion, but that Chip was making an unfounded assertion. One that is easily refuted, as I did. And I showed how the election process has been corrupted, which in my opinion is just as important.

              I agree that mail-in-voting is happening, but also that no matter who complains, there are real and serious issues with it. And no hand waving will cover that fact. And one of those issues is that of, as you mention, not signing, missigning, etc. And those issues would not be at the same level if we went to straight in-person voting.

              *I could care less if Rasmussen hired Hitler himself, as that shouldn’t matter in an ethical, well-run poll. Did they get the last election wrong? Sure, but we still look at a number of polls from firms that completely screwed the pooch in ’16. They could be wrong, but as so many have been over the last few years, it works for what I am trying to point out.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to Aaron David
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            says:

            Oh I wouldn’t so NO ONE thought he’d win (https://www.boston.com/news/politics/2016/11/10/here-are-3-people-who-correctly-predicted-donald-trump-would-win-the-election) BUt i will say even thought he wouldn’t win.

            And Rasmussen is as far right as (check’s 538’s ratings; https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/pollster-ratings/ ) Landmark Communication is left leaning. Whoever the heck they are.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Aaron David
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            says:

            In the 13-state western region, we know now that >90% of registered voters will receive a ballot by mail (up from 71% in 2018). The only state making a late big jump in the percentage handled that way is Nevada, who made statutory changes based on their neighbors’ experience, and threw a bunch of extra money into it. I anticipate the usual vanishingly small number of fraud cases.

            Prediction: in 2028, all 13 of those states will be vote-by-mail. The only people who will vote in-person will be those who have moved and not changed their registration in time, and a small group that will be generally regarded as quaintly traditional.

            That said, it’s entirely possible that states that simply attempt to scale up an existing absentee ballot system that’s been handling a small fraction of the ballots are going to have disasters. Eg, if 500,000 voters in Michigan wait until the last minute and drop their request for an absentee ballot into mailboxes during week of Oct 26-30, it’s going to be a nightmare.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Aaron David
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        says:

        Say what you will about Sam Wang, he explained how he got it wrong and talked about the mistakes he made in an effort to not only demonstrate that he understood he got it wrong, it communicated that he wanted to get it right next time.Report

  2. Avatar Philip H
    Ignored
    says:

    The purpose of the Post Office is not to make money — we have UPS and Fedex for that. It’s to provide a basic universal mail service to the entire country. It does waste money; but given the massive amount of waste in a $4 trillion budget, delaying mail deliveries seems an odd place to start reinventing government. And delays in mail seem a poor tradeoff for a savings that is less than 0.25% of the Post Office budget.

    This is because business interests – which DeJoy very much represents – want to take over ALL government functions that can be privatized so as to increase profits and rents. This is why Republican politicians keep backing schemes to privatize Social Security and Amtrak. McKIinsey called for it back in 2010 (https://about.usps.com/future-postal-service/mckinsey-usps-future-bus-model2.pdf)

    A big part of their expense is funding retirement benefits. That is, contra the Left, not unusual for an ostensibly self-sufficient service. What is unusual that they must fully fund retiree medical coverage rather than letting Medicare take over.

    Almost got it – its that the USPS must fully pre-fund retiree health benefits out 75 years in the span of ten years—a cost of approximately $110 billion. Although the money is intended to be set aside for future Post Office retirees, the funds are instead being diverted to help pay down the national debt. (From Cong. Pete DeFazio’s website)

    “In 2019, the Postal Service reported a net loss of $8.8 billion, but the shipping and packages segment of its business increased revenue by $1.3 billion, or 6.1%, over 2018.

    Amazon and other bulk suppliers do get a special rate, as the Postal Service provides discounts to companies for which it does last-mile delivery. But it’s at least a break-even venture. That’s because the same 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — the law responsible for the retiree health benefit requirement — made it illegal for the Postal Service to price parcel delivery below its cost. One study said the Postal Service could be charging more, however. ” https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/apr/15/afl-cio/widespread-facebook-post-blames-2006-law-us-postal/

    Your call on motive,but from the left it APPEARS that Trump wants to diminish the USPS capacity before an important mail-heavy election, and make it so ruinously ineffective that it can be eliminated as a government function.Report

    • Avatar Michael Siegel in reply to Philip H
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      says:

      Yes. The Forbes article I linked gets more in depth into this. The retirement thing is pretty standard and only accounts for about half of the USPS’s deficitReport

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Michael Siegel
        Ignored
        says:

        Who else is forward funding their retiree healthcare 75 years at the expense of operating revenue?

        Ad even if it only accounts for half of the deficit, its still a half that Congress created and no one is addressing. Seems to me if you want to run it “more like a business” – which is ludicrous for government services – you start with the biggest deficit problem, not the smallest.Report

  3. Avatar Troublesome Frog
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    says:

    Queuing theory is pretty clear that if you’re leaving mail unprocessed at the end of every shift on average, your backlog will grow without bound and evenually a letter dropped in the mail might as well be dropped into a shredder.

    In the limit you’ll be spending more money on warehouses to hold mail that you’ll never get around to delivering than you would have on the overtime. So that’s not a super healthy trend to be on without a plan.

    I’m also pretty skeptical that any operation that’s constantly paying a large percentage of its wages as overtime is operating at peak efficiency, but maybe the burdened cost of additional employees is so high that it’s cheaper just to run existing ones longer. But that also might be something to look into if you were the type of executive who occasionally dabbles in managing stuff.

    I’ll grant that just not doing the one thing you’re supposed to do is an out-of-the-box solution to a resourcing problem.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Troublesome Frog
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      says:

      Its only a resourcing problem because too many on the right want government to be efficient and profitable like businesses when government should be effective. There is no profit motive in government nor a fiduciary responsibility to return profits.

      Remember – up until last month you could send a letter from NYC to LA in 5 or 6 days for $0.50 or less. That’s incredibly effective. No, its not profitable, and no, its not currently breaking even. But it could break even and still be that effective. That’s not what these folks want however.Report

  4. Avatar fillyjonk
    Ignored
    says:

    I live in a ruralish area that is apparently at the end of a sorting chain. Mail I have sent out has arrived a month plus after I sent it (a friend in NC got a greeting card I mailed from OK six weeks previously – I could have WALKED it to her house in that time). I very rarely receive personal mail any more – junk mail still makes it, I guess it’s “privileged” – and packages have slowed to a crawl (and a couple gone missing)

    this is, for me, just another tiny despair in a time too full of them. Ruralish area, right? So little access to in-person shopping, so I do a lot of mail-order.

    The whole “We’re gonna force in-person voting by destroying the mail so if you fear COVID maybe you just won’t vote because we think people who worry about COVID are more likely to vote D” is another worry in this – right now my worry is about “will the few bills I still pay with a physical check (my homeowner’s insurance) get there in time”

    I can’t believe they’re fishing up what is literally the one government agency most people like, but these are cursed times we live in.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to fillyjonk
      Ignored
      says:

      Far too often my mail goes to one street down, as I live in a numbered street area. In other words, my address of XXX SW 5th often goes to XXX SW 6th or to XXX SE 5th. Part of this is due to the rather idiotic street numbering system of my town, but this is a known problem and should be accounted for. Further, I have a few customers in semi-rural Washington who the post office refuses to deliver too for some reason, even though they have physical addresses. And these problems long predate the Trump administration.

      But the postal workers union (of which my MIL was once a member) has come out in support of Biden and there are instances such as this that many of us see and deplore:

      In other words, the system was already fished up and has destroyed its trust.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Aaron David
        Ignored
        says:

        Except every time we see a story that starts that way, we then see a story later about said person being prosecuted . . . . which is usually considered a trust restorer. It’s worth noting that he’s a Republican running against a Republican in this race, so this is most likely not a lefty sabotage operation. Plus he’s the only one who seems to have reported this (https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2020/06/27/postal-worker-caught-on-camera-dumping-fort-bend-county-sheriff-troy-nehls-campaign-fliers-he-says/)

        There’s also a big difference between campaign flyers (which are advertising mail) and ballots. But sure, its all corrupt and we should just FORCE everyone to vote in person.Report

        • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Philip H
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          says:

          I don’t care whether or not it’s a left or righty doing this!

          That this is happening is the whole of the matter!

          I don’t care if they are advertising, SS checks or letters from my mom, the postal workers are not supposed to pull crap like this! There is no post hoc trust restorer right now. If people feel that the ballots they trusted to the Post Office can get tossed, they will feel that the election has been tossed.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to Aaron David
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            says:

            Then lets all go with our pitchforks to get the Postmaster to restore OT. Because absent that a lot of advertising is likely to get tossed in favor of other mail just so they can keep up.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    $200 million? Seriously? When Trump just gave away $600 *B*illion in untraceable graft?Report

  6. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    The post office has always struck me as a curious target. It is clearly constitutional. It seems to function well enough as long as no one expects too much. And in the realm of things driving our fiscal problems it barely registers. If people are worried voting by mail has problems the answer in a time like this is to invest in improving the system not sewing chaos.Report

  7. Avatar Slade the Leveller
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    says:

    The USPS ought to be considered by Americans as the NHS is considered by Britons: an inefficient marvel that works for the greater good of the nation and its people.

    A functioning government would look at its inefficiencies and the almost sure increase in mailed in ballots and say to itself, we better get busy and start getting the post office ready for the increased volume.

    It’s tough to look at the constant fight over mailed in ballots, instigated by just one side, as anything other than what it is: a naked power grab. It’s in no American’s interest for anyone to cast doubt on the outcome of any election, but here were are, arguing on this very page about whether allowing our fellow citizens to vote in a safe manner in a pandemic year is a good idea or not.

    We have allowed one party, which rails against the evils of government, yet seems curiously interested in leading said government, to cast doubt on the very core of democracy – voting. It will not end well for the citizens of this country if we continue to allow them to poison this well.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    Anecdotes are not data, but… My prescription refill, sent as a first-class USPS package, was given to USPS in California sometime on Sunday Aug 2 and arrived in my mailbox around 12:00 pm today Aug 6.

    In reading various stories about how bad first-class service is already, before DeJoy’s changes kick in, they all seem to be in old cities. That is, the stories about first-class taking eight to twelve days on average to get from one place in a metro area to another in the same metro area seem to be about Detroit or Philadelphia. I don’t see stories about it taking a week for first-class mail to get across, say, the Salt Lake City metro area.Report

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