They're never going to get rid of the Postal Service because then who would deliver the scorpions?

The White House reportedly rejected a recent funding request from the US Postal Service, which predicted that it would soon run out of cash flow, thanks in part to coronavirus. Based on a quick glance at my Twitter feed, there are lots of people who are understandably concerned that this is all part of a larger GOP plot to destroy USPS, along with all other public institutions.

Considering that the Post Office would actually be a successful business if not for the GOP-sponsored Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, sometimes known as "one of the most insane laws Congress ever enacted," this is a valid concern. When people say that USPS is not a profitable business, it's specifically because of that law, which legally forbids them from making a profit, and also requires the Postal Service to fully refund its retirees' benefits 75 years in advance. No other company or organization — public or private — has ever done something that absurd. And it was clearly a deliberate move.

But here's the thing: they're never going to get rid of the Postal Service, not entirely. Because USPS is the only entity that will ship live scorpions. And that's an important public service. (Yes, they technically say that it has to be "for the purposes of medical research use or the manufacture of antivenin" but that's easy to get around.)

There's also the fact that FedEx and UPS rely on the US Postal Service for about a third of their services — particularly for "last mile" deliveries. Read the rest

Federal court rules that Scott Pruitt’s sham EPA can’t ban scientists from its scientific advisory board

Back in 2017, the new EPA Director Scott Pruitt -- a fantastically pampered shill for corporations whose income is proportional to the noxious effluvia they eject into our air, soil, and water -- passed a policy barring scientists from participating on the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board if they had ever received a grant from the EPA.

This sneaky-clever move was clearly designed to create the illusion that it was “draining the swamp” by preventing any potential conflicts of interest between scientists and money. Except that most academic scientists rely on EPA (and other) grants. Which limited the pot of scientific advisors on the scientific advisory board to scientists who worked for corporations. Who … somehow … didn’t have any conflicts of interest between their money and their science?

It was, as the NRDC put it, a “pernicious scheme to stack the deck in favor of big polluters by trying to shut out the voices of scientists—all to pump more pollution into our lives.” They added:

Pruitt claimed that his 2017 directive reduced bias on the EPA’s nearly two dozen advisory panels, which offer scientific expertise that then guide policy decisions on environmental pollutants, such as industrial chemicals or airborne particles from power plants. But unsurprisingly, Pruitt’s rule was not extended to scientists and consultants with ties to chemical or fossil fuel companies, allowing the agency to soon fill some open seats with industry insiders who disputed the known harm of pollutants, like ozone and PFOA.

Fortunately, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. Read the rest