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kottke.org posts about Nancy Pelosi

It’s Very Hard to Tear Down a Bridge Once It’s Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

Many people inside and outside the USPS have raised concerns over the past few weeks about changes implemented by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that could be interpreted as an attempt to sabotage the delivery of the expected surge in mail-in ballots this November. Two days ago, DeJoy issued a statement addressing these concerns:

I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.

He also promised that “mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are” and “and we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed”. During a call with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi yesterday, DeJoy stated that “he has no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other infrastructure that have been removed”. Vice’s Aaron Gordon shared internal USPS emails that say sorting machines already removed or disconnected should not be reconnected:

Shortly after USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a public statement saying he wanted to “avoid even the appearance” that any of his policies would slow down election mail, USPS instructed all maintenance managers around the country not to reconnect or reinstall any mail sorting machines they had already disconnected, according to emails obtained by Motherboard.

“I will not be setting that building on fire in the future,” says the arsonist as the building burns behind him. This reminds me of a story that Robert Caro told about Robert Moses in this interview.

I remember his aide, Sid Shapiro, who I spent a lot of time getting to talk to me, he finally talked to me. And he had this quote that I’ve never forgotten. He said Moses didn’t want poor people, particularly poor people of color, to use Jones Beach, so they had legislation passed forbidding the use of buses on parkways.

Then he had this quote, and I can still hear him saying it to me. “Legislation can always be changed. It’s very hard to tear down a bridge once it’s up.” So he built 180 or 170 bridges too low for buses.

We used Jones Beach a lot, because I used to work the night shift for the first couple of years, so I’d sleep til 12 and then we’d go down and spend a lot of afternoons at the beach. It never occurred to me that there weren’t any black people at the beach.

So Ina and I went to the main parking lot, that huge 10,000-car lot. We stood there with steno pads, and we had three columns: Whites, Blacks, Others. And I still remember that first column — there were a few Others, and almost no Blacks. The Whites would go on to the next page. I said, God, this is what Robert Moses did. This is how you can shape a metropolis for generations.

The situation here is reversed — e.g. “it’s very hard to rebuild a bridge once it’s torn down” — but the lesson is the same. If you take mailboxes off the streets and junk sorting machines, it’s difficult to put them back, particularly when everyone’s baseline shifts over the next few months and the decreased capacity and delays are normalized (and then exploited for political advantage). Destroying the United States Post Office would be far easier and cheaper than rebuilding it.