Aug 21: The Postmaster General vows before a Senate Committee that the US mail can handle mail in voting securely for the election. Paul Alexander criticizes the NIH’s use of randomized, controlled trials, known as RCTs, which are considered the best way to study the efficacy of new treatments. “Consider this as a philosophical sharing and debate to spurn discussion,” he continues. “All this to say that if the NIH’s position is that RCT evidence is your standard, then this must change.”
Aug 22: The House passes legislation that would provide $25 billion to the United States Postal Service, while also banning any operational changes to the agency like the removal of mail-sorting machines and collection boxes. Trump claims that the “deep state” is keeping the FDA from having enough people for vaccine trials. Big protests continue in Portland.
On the freeway, I pass a postal truck being towed, the wind making a humming sound as it whips through the truck’s open side doors. Seconds later, a story about the steady de-funding of the US Postal Service comes on the radio. There have been abundant reports lately that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is cutting back overtime for workers and removing blue post boxes across the nation. Yet, just four days ago, DeJoy said in an official statement that Post Office retail hours were not going to change, that blue collection boxes will remain where they are, that no mail processing facilities will be closed down, and that overtime for workers will continue to be used “as needed.”
It is difficult to know what is actually happening with the Post Office. Their statistics show that their mail volume has been decreasing steadily over the last ten years, as have their employee numbers. Their annual operating revenue has remained steady for the last decade at around $70 billion, all while their expenses continued to grow. The last time the Postal Service recorded a profit was in 2006. According to the Pew Research Center, their cumulative losses since then have totaled $83.1 billion. The experts agree that the Postal Service has failed to generate revenue because it is delivering less mail, particularly less first-class mail (down by 33.6%) and fewer periodicals (down by 41.3%).
So, what should we make of the tow truck I saw today and the photos that are splashed across twitter and facebook of postal boxes stacked like Legos behind chain link fences? On the one hand, there is cause to worry. We know that the USPS has been reducing its workforce over the last decade, which disproportionately affects minorities, women, and veterans. We have heard Trump claim that the Post Office will not be able to deliver election ballots in a reliable way, spawning fears that he will sabotage the USPS in order to prevent mail-in voting and undermine the legitimacy of the election. We have also seen people like Larry Kudlow, who is the current Director of the United States National Economic Council and a man with no formal training in economics, declare openly that Republicans are not interested in defending “voting rights” for citizens. “That’s not our game,” he said cynically today.  Indeed, if you wanted to stop populations from voting in the middle of a pandemic, your first step might be to undermine the postal service.
On the other hand, it seems pretty clear that the photos of the postbox graveyards are not what they appear to be. The photo evidently started as a post on Reddit, made its way to Twitter, got retweeted by some celebrities, and has become a standard cause of panic across the country. In truth, the photo is not of a graveyard, but of a refurbishing yard. And while some postboxes have been removed, that process started years ago when the quantity of delivered mail began to drop.
This moment may not say much about the real status of the Postal Service. But the fact that we are in such a panic over its precarious fate does say a lot about who we are as a nation right now.
In 1964, the philosopher and writer, Hannah Arendt, wrote in a letter to one of her detractors, “It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never “radical,“ and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. That is its banality.” Small acts that by themselves seem shallow and meaningless can accrue power over time. Right now, as thousands die, as racial injustice continues, and as the ability of citizens to cast their vote seems increasingly precarious, we are concerned that the banality of evil could overwhelm whatever aspirations to democracy we might still have.
 Jordan Weissmann and Aaron Mak, “How Much Should You Panic Over the U.S. Postal Service?,” Slate Magazine, August 22, 2020, https://slate.com/business/2020/08/usps-mail-slowdown-dejoy-trump-election.html.
 USPS, “Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Statement – Newsroom – About.Usps.Com,” August 18, 2020, https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2020/0818-postmaster-general-louis-dejoy-statement.htm.
 USPS, “A Decade of Facts and Figures,” Postal Facts – U.S. Postal Service, n.d., https://facts.usps.com/table-facts/.
 Drew Desilver and Katherine Schaeffer, “The State of the U.S. Postal Service in 8 Charts,” Pew Research Center, May 14, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/05/14/the-state-of-the-u-s-postal-service-in-8-charts/.
 Sam Levine, “Trump Admits He Is Undermining USPS to Make It Harder to Vote by Mail,” The Guardian, August 13, 2020, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/13/donald-trump-usps-post-office-election-funding.
 Letter from Hannah Arendt to Gershom Gerhard Scholem, Dec. 12, 1964, The Hannah Arendt Papers, Library of Congress, p. 5. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mharendt_pub&fileName=03/030170/030170page.db&recNum=36
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It’s masking the Alien Ship that used to hide in the Hale Bopp Comet. It’s here for all the MAGAs! It’ll whisk them away to Alternate Earth. Isn’t that great?! We need them to do us a favor tho.#HeyMAGAts #YourUbersHere pic.twitter.com/KO73ErcXWM— Arthur Malraux (@UnRapporteur1) August 22, 2020
The total population of the sites being tested that tend to vote Democratic was 17,368,620.— Bryan (Papoo) 90% could have lived… (@PapooTx) August 23, 2020
The largest site slowed down mail for 1.3 million people in heavily Democratic Los Angeles. 2/#OVElections
Imagine being the only 2 white people, on this plane full of white people, being kicked off by other white people, and then calling it racism. The cognitive dissonance with these anti-maskers is truly astonishing.— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) August 22, 2020
POST OFFICE RALLY | Today outside the Post Office on Congress Street in Portland protestors gathered to stand up for their right to vote and for people to receive their mail on time.— Blair Best (@BlairWGME) August 22, 2020
“When the mail slows down, everything slows down.” @WGME @FOX23Maine pic.twitter.com/L2nmrvB3MQ
Am I the only ass hole that still believes the whole covid thing is total bs. And the democrats are still running with it. I believe 100% election fraud is what it’s all about, just like the post office. Were I live only a libtard wears a mask.— USA Trump Man 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@USATRUMPMAN1) August 22, 2020
Should Pelosi House decide who is your president? Vote by mail chaos and fraud could lead to Nancy Pelosi getting to decide who is the next President. Or the chaos could even lead to Pelosi serving as “acting’ President.@RealDonaldTrumphttps://t.co/6qocY5a2aU https://t.co/QNKeslzlAZ— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) August 22, 2020
No "V" (sorry Kudlow), but no "W" (yet) pic.twitter.com/eSfrHL2vHd— Menzie Chinn (@menzie_chinn) August 22, 2020
* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020), the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (https://www.justsecurity.org/69650/timeline-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic-and-u-s-response/), the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (theweek.com), as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.