The smell of “access journalism”


Fayez Nureldine/AFP

In 2018, as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman embarked on a cross-country, getting-to-know-you tour of the United States, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi sent me a warning on WhatsApp: “I think America is brainwashed.”

The idea behind the visit — during which MBS, as the crown prince is known, met with everyone from President Donald Trump to Oprah Winfrey, with stops at media outlets, including The Post — was to present MBS as the modern, youthful face of reform in Saudi Arabia. But as he smiled for the cameras and dined in the Hollywood hills, Saudi Arabia was jailing critics, had started a destabilizing spat with Qatar and was bombing Yemen.

Seven months later, Jamal was murdered by a Saudi hit squad in Istanbul.

MBS was swiftly condemned and ostracized — but something told me this wouldn’t last long.

It hasn’t.

Remember electric mail trucks?


MELISSA MATHIESON

Mail trucks, which mostly drive short and predictable routes, are perfect candidates for leading the electrification revolution. But the USPS, as an institution, is not

But what began as mostly good-natured celebration over a cute, much-needed truck went downhill fast. It increasingly became clear the massive order was utterly unfit for the modern age. In a legally-mandated environmental review, the USPS revealed the gas version of the truck will get essentially the same miles per gallon with the air conditioning on as the current truck gets, or about 8 mpg, worse than the RAM ProMaster, which the USPS also uses, which gets roughly 14 mpg. It also revealed the truck’s weight was selected to be precisely one pound heavier than the “heavy duty truck” cutoff which frees it from various environmental regulations, including getting better gas mileage. And, most controversially of all, only 10 percent of the trucks will be electric, even though the USPS itself said in the environmental review that 95 percent of its routes are fit for EVs…

The USPS’s responses to this criticism have only yielded more questions. On February 6, the USPS released a lengthy statement defending its decision. The USPS said it would buy more electric vehicles if it could afford them. But, it also said its own calculations found more electric vehicles would be more expensive and not be fiscally responsible (an assertion its critics vehemently reject as based on fundamentally flawed analyses, citing a 2021 Atlas Public Policy study that found the USPS could save as much as $4.3 billion over the lifespan of the vehicles, or almost the total cost of the vehicles themselves, by going electric)…Despite the criticism, the USPS finalized its environmental review and says it will move ahead with the procurement.

It is easy to conjure theories of corruption or politically motivated decision making…What these theories—and much of the commentary about the new delivery trucks in recent weeks—miss is not just the history of the lengthy procurement process itself, but the context of the USPS‘s recent history. That recent history is of an organization that considers innovation a synonym for risk, and risks a prospect that it cannot afford to take. The USPS doesn’t want to be anywhere close to the cutting edge of anything, up to and including leading an electric revolution.

Just about every single reason, analysis and process our incompetent bureaucracy might muster to blockade progress which included the word, “electric”, was brought into play throughout the decision-making process. Read this and weep for simple, material reasoning.