What Is Really Wrong With The Post Office?

You know, I don’t understand this:

If you don’t believe me, just watch how Congress and Barney Frank run the banks. If you thought they did a bad job running the post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the military, just wait till you see what they’ll do with Wall Street.

Ignoring the rest of the stuff, because I have no personal experience with Amtrak or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but I guess I don’t understand the post office hatred. I used to make the same cracks about the post office, but now I guess I just do not get it. For me, the post office works. Yes, the hours piss me off at times, but every time I put something in the mail, with exceedingly rare exceptions, it gets where it is going. And that includes the times that I, in a drunken stupor, put in the wrong zip code or scrawled the address in such a hasty manner that it was damned near illegible. Every day I go to my mailbox and find things addressed to me from all over the world. Sure, occasionally, my mailman accidentally includes a piece of my neighbor’s mail, but by and large, I would have to say the post office works. My sister, hundreds of miles away in another state, can mail something to me for a little more than a quarter, and the next day or two days later, I can walk to a box right outside my apartment in my underwear and slippers, sloshing coffee on the way, and there it is. How is that a bad thing?

So, if Barney Frank is in fact in charge of the Post Office, I guess my overall response is “Job well done.” Hell, unless I am mistaken, the Post Office is no longer even subsidized, right? Or if so, at a minimal level. If I could change anything, I would make it possible to have a mail version of the “No call list” so the idiots at the local newspaper could not send me their seemingly weekly trash, but overall, the post office seems to get the job done pretty well (the time it takes to get a passport pisses me off, but that is the State Department, most likely).

Am I just lucky with my service here in WV, or are USPS horror stories just another bit of lore?






179 replies
  1. 1
    Shinobi says:

    The USPS in Chicago, specifically 60657, can be a nightmare. It can take up to 10 days to get a letter (or it can take 2, depending on which post office it goes to.) It is extremely problematic, and there have been times when important mail that I was waiting for has just never arrived.

    However, considering the volume that they deal with and their failure rate I think they are doing quite well.

  2. 2
    Zifnab says:

    Please note.
    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac WERE NOT RUN BY THE GOVERNMENT. I know this is an easy mistake to make, so Republicans will take great delight in making it, but F&F were private companies who merely had assurances from the federal government that if they went belly up, taxpayer dollars would bail them out. No one in Congress or the Executive Branch had any direct or official say in the running of the business. CEOs were not nominated through the Senate. No federal beaurocrat served on the board. It WAS NOT RUN BY THE GOVERNMENT. I REPEAT – WAS NOT RUN BY THE GOVERNMENT.

    You may continue.

  3. 3
    nikkos says:

    I live in Chicago’s 60622 and can concur that we have the worst mail delivery in the country.

    But that’s not what Palin is talking about when she says "If you thought they did a bad job running the post office…"

    "They." To whom does "they" refer? The "they" does not refer to Congress or to Barney Frank. It’s a racial dog whistle. The "they" of which she speaks is black Americans.

  4. 4
    rmp says:

    USPS works great for me. Rarely does anything take more than a couple of days including the care packages I send my daughter in college (Madison). The only nit I’d pick with John is that if it wasn’t for junk mail, I don’t think they could generate the needed revenue.

  5. 5
    Don says:

    The problem with the post office is that it is a government agency that works. In Massachusetts (People’s Republic of) the service is much like what you describe in WV. To anti-government conservatives, government agencies like the post office, social security, or medicare are problematical from an ideological standpoint because they work pretty well.

    And I don’t think it’s Congress’ fault that the military is stretched thin.

  6. 6
    Mr Furious says:

    There had been times when I lived in Brooklyn when I was less-than-thrilled with the PO, but overall, I’ve got no complaints. When you think about it, it is a staggeringly efficient operation and costs its customers a pittance.

    Since I receive about 100 times more mail than I send, I am getting an awesome near-daily delivery service for, more or less, free.

  7. 7
    MNPundit says:

    USPS in Des Moines IA and Moorhead MN is fucking awesome. I will go to the mat for USPS.

  8. 8
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    You mean aside from announcing every 6 months that they’re going to raise stamp rates, while apologizing for the increase by saying that they wont need to raise them again for at least 3 years, or until 6 more months roll by, at which time they announce another increase?

  9. 9
    Zifnab says:

    Am I just lucky with my service here in WV, or are USPS horror stories just another bit of lore?

    Works just as fine for me. It’s not the quickest way to send a letter and its not always the cheapest way to send a package, but FedEx and UPS fill in those gaps nicely.

    What’s more, it is worth noting that junk mail wouldn’t exist at FedEx prices. The post office is dirt cheap and incredibly hard to beat. Getting a piece of paper from New York to LA just shouldn’t cost you under 50 cents.

    I mean, I’m with you John. Of all the businesses I have to deal with on a weekly basis, the US Postal Service is definitely at the bottom of my shit list.

  10. 10
    alecmcc says:

    The USPS has become a virtual model of efficiency compared to days long gone. Polite counter service, fast and accurate delivery. What’s to complain about?

    Besides (the) "post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac" are not run by Congress.

    Another BS distraction from the real issues.

  11. 11
    Jon says:

    The post office does botch stuff for me occasionally. However, I find that FedEx and UPS also botch stuff, and the frequency of botches is proportionally much higher than USPS – and for a hell of a lot more money, natch.

    The Post Office is, I believe, required to be self-sufficient, thus the seemingly monthly penny-rise in stamp costs.

    Funny thing is, growing up in Alabama, I never ever heard the Post Office berated as some sort of Platonic ideal of inept socialized public service until I got to college. The idea that this sort of zombie-Gingrich conservatism is the historic norm, even in the Deep South, is risible in the extreme, which fact should be even more readily apparent in a couple of weeks.

  12. 12
    Blue Raven says:

    I’ve been highly impressed by the USPS overall. Sure, the occasional thing shows up wrecked or takes forever, but there’s always a failure rate, and the USPS’s failure rate is still the lowest in the world the last I saw. If the USPS behaved like FedEx has when delivering to my house, I’d be ready to rip a few heads off about it (UPS, however, nearly matches the USPS in overall competence IME).

    So, what was all that about private industry doing it better?

  13. 13
    Kirk says:

    Note the author: Arthur Laffer, author of the Laffer curve, pusher of the "no government is good government" meme.

    The USPS has long been a punching bag of the anti-government groups. They say that FedEx, UPS, and so forth could do it all more "efficiently". When asked if they’d guarantee delivery to every address in the US for the same price and guarantee competitive roadside pickup for the same price the crickets chirp, however.

    There have been isolated problems with USPS service. There have been thousands of anecdotes and urban legends of the problems. When fully examined, however – especially in competitive analysis with the other delivery methods – they turn out to be overwrought. It turns out the USPS is the better choice over all.

  14. 14
    greynoldsct00 says:

    So, we have the visual of you doing the "Tony Soprano" walk down to the box (or in his case, to get the newspaper)?

    I have no complaint. Other than as mentioned above, trying to keep track of the stamp increases. Their Priority Mail is pretty damn speedy.

  15. 15
    Bitty says:

    @Don: "And I don’t think it’s Congress’ fault that the military is stretched thin."

    More or less what I was going to say.

    Re: USPS, I get phenomenal service from my home to the next town: usually next day.

    Unlike UPS and FedEx, they don’t take Saturdays off.

    And sometimes mail travels between my home and my son’s (east to west coast) in two days. I still haven’t figured out how they do that. I can barely make that trip in two days.

  16. 16
    mellowjohn says:

    back when i was in advertising, we had a client who sold gem-quality diamonds direct. deliveries worth thousands of dollars went usps for three simple reasons:
    a) you could send them registered mail
    b) they could be insured for total value
    c) the delivery record was superior.

    alas, in wingnut world, anything government=bad

  17. 17
    SBG says:

    Just about the only thing I actually mail anymore are a few bills and tax returns. These things always seem to find their mark.

  18. 18
    kth says:

    fwiw, the staff at the places the right-wing loves to hate (post office, dmv) seem a lot less surly than they were 20 years ago. Meanwhile, the quality of the service at the grocery, fast-food places, the airport has gone in the opposite direction as those entities sacrifice customer service to shave pennies off the price tag.

  19. 19
    Jeff says:

    The problem with the post office for some of these folks is that it occasionally loses money. Yet, these are the same folks who complain when the post office raises prices. What they don’t understand is that adjusting for inflation, postal rates are at the level they should be.

  20. 20
    Steve V says:

    Live in the middle of Los Angeles and think USPS is great. Also, I note the legal profession here still largely relies on USPS for formal communications and considering the volume of mail my firm alone generates and receives, I’m amazed that you can basically put money on a letter being delivered to or from anywhere in the country in 2-3 days.

  21. 21
    NonyNony says:

    The Post Office is a favorite whipping boy for a lot of anti-government folks because it’s a place where you stand in line and sometimes have to deal with someone who often doesn’t like their job and so has a bad attitude. That’s no different than a trip to the local supermarket, Wal*Mart, or McD’s, but because the Post Office has some government ties, it’s a zillion times worse. Or possibly a qua-zillion. Also, the Post Office delivers bills and junk mail, which no one likes.

    And of course there’s the myth that the market always does things better, so we should shut down the Post Office and let the market do it’s job (nevermind that there’s no way FedEx or UPS could possibly deliver those letters for a buck, let alone the ridiculously low price the Post Office charges – FedEx and UPS need to make a profit, the Post Office just needs to break even, and do some equipment upgrades every once in a while). The Post Office is the best and oldest example of a working government service we have in this country, so of course they hate it.

    Of course, I hear loony Republicans here in Ohio bag on public libraries almost as often as they do the Post Office. Because libraries are stealing money from movie rental stores (seriously) and if we didn’t have libraries the Free Market would provide some alternative that would make someone money and create jobs. So I’ve become kind of numb about complaints about the Post Office lately…

  22. 22
    Matt says:

    As a former postal employee, I can tell you that it works. It’s not always perfect, and we all have horror stories about it (especially us workers), but when you look at the ratio of problems to successes, there’s no realistic way you could look at it as being a failure.

    I lost IQ points because of reading that article, by the way. I blame you. Durr.

  23. 23

    Even if my father-in-law, his brother, and at various times his mother, his son and another brother weren’t employed by the post office, I’d still love them. Nowhere else in the world can you send a first class letter anywhere in a country this large for less than 50 cents. And to top it all off, they provide a solid, middle class wage for a large work force, while providing service to even the smallest, most out of the way places in the country.

  24. 24
    Evinfuilt says:

    The problem with the post office is that it is a government agency that works.

    Exactly…

    We could break it down further.

    1. Amtrak: Republicans remove most of its funding, deny it a chance to run on its own rail (must share with cargo, but at lower priority.) Then they decide it must be profitable or lose funding. Why don’t they make public roads lose funding if they’re not profitable? So yes, Amtrak is hurt by Republicans, and then they point to it as Government Failure.

    2. Fannie/Freddie: As already mentioned, the Government has no control over private enterprise outside of limited market regulation. 30yrs of Republican dominance gives us little regulation so it runs amuck.

    3. Post-Office: Is fading in use, but still required for many poor and rural. Also forced to be self-sustaining, and as cheap as possible for its users. Also known to hire minorities, and well that chaps a few peoples side (remember they’ve blamed gays, blacks, hispanics for the economic troubles.)

    4. Military: WTF!! So I guess we should just privatize our Military because we didn’t win in Iraq… This one I just don’t get, and I’d love to see our money spent there dropped to maybe half of the rest of the world combined, you know something not completely insane, just mostly.

    But look who wrote that article. Arthur Laffer, inventor of the Laffer Curve. The one that says the Government gets richer with the less money it takes in. So insanity itself.

  25. 25
    comrade scott says:

    Also, the PO does it for less.

    Consumer Reports just did a report on overnight delivery comparing the PO, FedEx and UPS. All three had more or less the same delivery success rates.

    Guess who did it cheaper?

    USPS.

    And yet, most Repups, including this administration, would have you believe that when we outsource everything, it’ll be cheaper. As a federal employee in IT, I’ve watched this administration outsource IT. As you’d expect, service has gone waaaay done and costs waaay up.

    Who woulda thunk it?

    Also, USPS is unionized, thus offering a nice middle-class opportunity for a lot of people. Okay, so is UPS but FedEx sure as fuck ain’t. They’re about as bad as WalMart in terms keeping out unions.

  26. 26
    Blah says:

    I’m startled that Laffer included the military in his list of supposedly poorly-run government entities. Often conservative critiques of government mysteriously avoid mentioning the military, as if it were somehow less governmental than other state institutions.

  27. 27
    r€nato says:

    I also will vouch for the USPS. My mail carrier has repeatedly told me that she believes there are some who are deliberately trying to weaken the USPS’ service so that a case can be made for privatizing it.

    I have no idea how much of that is true and how much is union propaganda. She seems pretty sincere. What I do know is:

    a) we have fantastic postal service compared to other countries in the world. We pay far less for far better 1st class mail service.

    b) mail privatization would probably work about as well as electrical market deregulation.

    Is there really any business out there which could deliver simple first-class mail and junk mail as economically and efficiently as the USPS? Anybody who knew the ins-and-outs of electricity deregulation could have told you that the savings to residential customers would have been minimal to non-existent; it’s the cost of servicing individual households that makes it impractical. Low revenue and high overhead per customer.

    Even if it were theoretically possible to shave a couple pennies off the cost of mailing a first-class letter, it would surely be eaten up by the demand for dividends and profits.

    Leave the USPS alooooooooonnnnneeee!

  28. 28
    Jay B. says:

    I used to hate Amtrak, but not because they were subsidized, but because they were subsidized too little, they didn’t have rail priority over shipping lines and they didn’t have enough money to really invest in infrastructure.

    With adequate funding and bullet trains, there is no reason they can’t become a major transportation resource. That is unless the argument is that American government is specifically the problem (which is an idiotic assumption) because government-run passenger rail systems in Europe are remarkable. And when England went to de-nationalize their system, they began to suck.

  29. 29
    gil mann says:

    The post office is fine. They’ve been using that line for decades, so hey, maybe it’s got a kernel of truth to it. Like Republicanism.

    Oh, by the way, the goverment that "runs the post office" also "put a man on the moon," so maybe it’s time for a cliche-off. Winner gets to be overused by dullards.

  30. 30
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    The military? Haven’t they been telling us for years that the Commander in Chief Deciderer Guy runs the military? Has any military appropriations bill been trimmed in any meaningful way? Have any of the endless Supplementals been voted down?

    And how about the way Congress and Barney Frank run the weather? Hurricanes, floods, and it’s going to be over ninety today in my part of SoCal. Bastards!

  31. 31
    comrade scott says:

    So I guess we should just privatize our Military because we didn’t win in Iraq

    Um, they’ve tried to outsource large blocks of it, mainly damn near every non-combat element.

    And yes, service has gone down and costs gone up.

    This administration will go down as *the* most criminal in our history.

  32. 32
    Bitty says:

    I forgot to say my piece about Amtrak.

    I have traveled on it a number of times, although not extensively. I see its problems in this way:

    1. It can’t run on time because the passenger trains have to pull over and allow the right of way to the freight trains, who actually own the tracks. This can result in very long waits on the side of the main rail.

    2. It loses money because people would rather fly. If more people took the trains, it surely would be more cost efficient. (The trains up and down the west coast appear to have a high ridership, and I’ve heard that this is also true in certain corridors on the northeast coast.) However, because ridership in the middle of the country is low, the routes from point A to point B are nutty. If I want to go to San Diego/Lost Angeles, I have to go north first, then west, then southwest. And I have to pay for all those extra miles. So, why would people take the train instead of fly? It’s a circular problem.

    Maybe we should tack passenger cars on to the freight trains. But what do I know?

  33. 33
    bellatrys says:

    It’s the lack of knowledge of history combined with a lack of imagination combined with a knee-jerk authoritarian genuflection to conservative memery – they don’t know enough about the past to understand *why* the creation of national postal systems was so important back in the day, and they aren’t imaginative enough to be able to envision what the alternatives might be like. (Romanticized visions of the Pony Express don’t count.)

    Sure, it has problems, but I can (and have) spent much much more for privatized carriers and still had things end up in the wrong city, the wrong state, the wrong day. And many of the inconveniences I encounter with USPS and why I go UPS sometimes are due to overreaction to terrorism and security theatre in rx to the Unabomber.

    That for yea, a pittance we can send things anywhere in the world and pretty much be certain they’ll get there, in spite of the vast volumes and distances, in a very short time – that this doesn’t seem a wonder and something to be grateful for, it’s like taking water purification systems for granted and whinging that we should go back to the good old days when there was no city-govt-run water company…

  34. 34
    joeyess says:

    The United States Post Office. The best bang for your buck. Period.

    Anyone that doesn’t agree with that is a freemartketeer asshole that can firmly place their lips on my anus and suck hard.

  35. 35
    Bob says:

    I agree that the USPS is a fine operation and also have had good experiences with Amtrak. While the counter staff at Amtrak are not the model of polite civil servants you get at the USPS, I can say that in my experience the trains ran on time.

    On a trip from Ann Arbor to Boston, I could set my watch by nearly each and every stop along the route.

  36. 36
    Jeff says:

    @Evinfuilt: Don’t forget the post office employees are part of a union. Damn Socialists.

  37. 37
    Nylund says:

    I am seriously addicted to sending mail now. I love it. For mere pocket change, things "magically" go from my front door to the front door of my very distant friends remarkably quickly.

    I find it strangely more astounding than the modern miracle of instantaneous electronic transmission via the internet. I will be talking to my parents/friends about an object they are holding in their hand and when I get home from work a couple days later, all of a sudden its in my hand. There is something really cool about that. In this day of electronic information, its easy to forget we actually have a really good system for getting physical objects to someone really far away.

    This is an awesome link about a guy trying to make his mail undeliverable and failing. It seems like no matter how bad he ignores the rules, the mail still gets delivered. Keep clicking through to the next photo in the Flickr set to see the continuation of the story.

  38. 38
    eyelessgame says:

    We went through a memorable week, once, during which I

    a) went down to the USPS to mail a bunch of packages
    b) stood in line at the DMV to renew my drivers license
    c) got audited by the IRS
    d) called an insurance company regarding a misapplied medical bill

    By far the least pleasant of these experiences was the insurance company. In all three of the others, the people I had to deal with were businesslike, pleasant, and reasonably accomodating, even when working with me on my own mistakes or unusual situation.

    The insurance company, by contrast, told me blatantly false things, made promises they did not keep, failed to inform me of information they had and I didn’t, and did not correct their mistakes until actually threatened.

  39. 39
    r€nato says:

    Laffer was on Real Time last Friday and I was a bit dissatisfied with the interview, both with Maher who seemed to conflate Laffer’s theories with GOP spinning of them, and Laffer for not adequately clarifying the difference.

    There is some solid truth in the Laffer curve: if you tax people too much, it’s a disincentive to work and/or invest, and tax revenue decreases. This is the only part of the Laffer curve the GOP ever talks about.

    The other side of the Laffer curve is that if you tax too little… tax revenue decreases. So a rational government would seek to find that sweet spot which maximizes tax revenue, while simultaneously balancing the tax burden among the rich, the middle class and the poor.

    But, Goopers hate all taxes period so they push this insane nonsense that less taxation always equals more tax revenue. It makes me profoundly irritated that so many people don’t stop to think about this kind of logic.

  40. 40
    Will says:

    Yeah, I think you’re just lucky with your service. In Brooklyn, they’ve got one person manning a line of 30+ people, moving as slow as humanly possible. You might as well take the day off from work if you have to mail a package. Half of their time is spend chatting with people they know and letting everyone else wait, or just disappearing into "the back" for 15 minute breaks. I’m as liberal as they get, but the P.O. just sucks.

  41. 41
    Atanarjuat says:

    Of course you wealth-redistributing leftists love the U.S. Post Office.

    After all, with their slogan being "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," all of you Ayers apologists are guaranteed to have your packets of anthrax and letter bombs delivered without fail.

    By the way, on a more interesting note, Jack Murtha’s boneheaded comments are going to help deliver Pennsylvannia to John McCain and Sarah Palin, despite the public thrashing you leftists gave the poor, misguided young woman in Pittsburgh. The backlash against your sneering, elitist condescension (and brutal sexism, via the smearing of Ashley Todd) will certainly tip the scales in the Republican column come November 4th, so yes, keep it up, lefties.

    Country First.

  42. 42
    Calouste says:

    Try using Royal Mail in the UK. Semi-privatized, crappy service, 1-2% if the mail just disappears, and parts of it are on strike for a few weeks every year.

    There was a documentary a few years back by Channel 4 about postal employees opening and stealing mail, where for example if they sent a 10 Pound note in a birthday card, it would never arrive at certain addresses.

  43. 43
    Woodrowfan says:

    I would much rather trust the USPS than UPS or Fedex. I’ve had more trouble with the private services even though I’ve had far more packages delivered via the Post Office. I used to sell used books on Amazon and shipped a couple thousand books via the Post Office from 2001-2008 and in that time the Post Office lost exactly 1 (one) package. One package was placed in a wrong bag and went from DC to Philly via LA, and Media Mail to Guam was a nightmare. But in general the local counter staff was helpful and professional and the packages arrived in good shape, on time, for little money.

    As for Amtrak, the few times I’ve taken it to New York from DC and back again it was clean, inexpensive, and a nicer trip than flying. I wish it was expanded so I could take the train to places outside the NE urban corridor as well.

  44. 44
    jcricket says:

    What everyone else said x2. If we ever get working universal/national healthcare (even just "Medicare for all" as an option) expect the same response from the right wing. Government that works is government that must be hated and de-funded, because it exposes as a lie the core Republican belief that government can only be a problem.

    Plus the USPS is heavily unionized – another thing Republicans hate (because it forces corporate CEOs to share money a teensy bit with employees).

    Pretty much every government agency I deal with has been improving at a rapid clip in terms of use of Internet, efficiency, transparency, etc.

    Wish I could say the same for private companies.

  45. 45
    r€nato says:

    Atanarjuat, that’s a damned fine attempt at a Wingnut Grand Unified Theory of The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy™, but you left out the Clenis and ACORN. Please try again.

    I hope you’ll stick around after November 4 so you can explain to us how the Obama landslide was the result of homeless people filling out voter registration forms for Mickey Mouse and Tony Romo.

  46. 46
    Scott H says:

    And who doesn’t love the "Forever stamp?"

  47. 47
    Brian J says:

    I don’t think any organization as big as the USPS is going to be perfect, but I’ve never had any issues. I’m not particularly sure what conservatives are complaining about, either, aside from some sort of aversion from any government involvement in, well, anything.

    I also think it’s nuts to say that Barney Frank has any sort of control over the military or Fannie and Freddie, let alone Wall Street. He’s a member of congress, sure, but it’s not like his is the only vote that counts. It’s just baffling that someone would say that, particularly since Laffer was on Bill Maher’s show this past Friday and seemed like a decent, not crazy person.

  48. 48

    @Scott H: My father-in-law freaked out some old people on his route when he joked with them about the forever stamp. When they asked him what is was, he said "you put it on the letter and we take forever to deliver it." They didn’t get it at first. That’s what you get in retirement communities in south Florida sometimes.

  49. 49
    r€nato says:

    There was a documentary a few years back by Channel 4 about postal employees opening and stealing mail, where for example if they sent a 10 Pound note in a birthday card, it would never arrive at certain addresses.

    I send mail regularly to Italy and my mother – born and raised in Italy – educated me a long, long time ago that you NEVER send cash, a check, or any goods worth more than a nominal value in hte mail, if Poste Italiane is going to get their grubby paws on it.

  50. 50
    bellatrys says:

    Addendum: IMO it’s one of those mindless slogans like "tax & spend Democrats" which also makes no sense if you think about it for half a second – where is the government *supposed* to get its budget from? Highway robbery? Shall we put out fleets of privateers to intercept Treasure ships on the Spanish Main? Pluck it off of money trees, which grow in vast orchards in Oleana, as everyone knows?

    And once the government – that is, the people and systems we have put in charge to administer our organized society – *have* the money, what are they supposed to do with it? Sit on it like dragons? Let the bills go unpaid, the infrastructure unmaintained? It’s like saying "billpaying householder!" as an insult – do they just not think of what the alternative is, "Loot & Hoard Republicans"–?

    FYI: altho’ I’m sure it doesn’t mean a thing to you, I *am* impressed by the ongoing self-critical efforts, as one ex-wingnut to another. The total inability to stop and say "If this is what conservativism is, then I can’t be part of it," or to say, "what we are doing is wrong/crazy" which has come out in the wake of the Ashley Todd Affair is *highly* illustrative of the widespreadness of the problem.

  51. 51
    Comrade Stuck says:

    The article was just one long metaphoric code from those who believe "The Market" is a much better governing force than Congress or Government, at least when it’s populated by democrats in charge. It’s the same fantastical thinking that brought on the "market meltdown", and the incompetence and thievery from the likes of Haliburton, KBR, and Erik Prince’s little shop of Blackwater horrors.

    Shorter WSJ – We loves us some Dog Eat Dog and them demorats just git in the way.

  52. 52
    DougJ says:

    My post office is terrific. They’re easier to deal with than DHL or UPS.

  53. 53
    gbear says:

    If the postal service went into private hands it would cost $1.85 to mail a letter unless you joined their Preferred Mailer’s Club for $60 a year. You’d also have to drop it off and pick it up at their local outlet after finding that they couldn’t make enough profit on home delivery.

    I can barely go onto the internets without ordering a CD from Amazon Marketplace before I sign off, so I get packages via USPS all the time. I know that the post office my mail goes thru has a reputation for being a day later than most, but I usually have my CDs within a week, and if the seller puts it in a bubble envelope, it’ll arrive without damage.

    I’m a big fan of the USPS.

  54. 54
    Svensker says:

    Post Office is flippin’ fantastic. We do home based retail business, and in 7 years USPS has not lost or damaged a single package. We’ve sent thousands.

    Have you dealt with Canada Post? Oy. Rude, expensive, and they deliberately lose mail if they don’t like you, I kid not. (I think it’s the one place where Canadians allow free-floating anger issues/rudeness to slip past their native politeness. Everybody needs an outlet!)

  55. 55
    bellatrys says:

    (Further Addendum: I know that Ataninny is a troll of some degree, but I must say that I do find it amazing but also illustrative of the attitude that women are not and can never be full persons, that so many people on both sides think that Ashley Todd is not and necessarily *cannot* be responsible for her actions, not though she is old enough to vote, to marry, and to go to war, and as old (if not older than) Alexander the Great was when he succeeded Philip and called the Hellenic League together against Persia…)

  56. 56
    DN says:

    @Evinfuilt: Military: WTF!! So I guess we should just privatize our Military because we didn’t win in Iraq…

    Rumsfeld already did. It’s called Halliburton.

  57. 57
    Comrade Dread says:

    The Postal service used to be bad, but has gotten better. The only problem I generally still see, which I see at a lot of government offices, is that if I have to go in to an office, there are generally too few employees working to handle the customer demand, so we all stand in line for a while.

    The fix for this, of course, would be to either cut waste or increase revenue (i.e. price hikes) which would let them hire more people and bring down demand.

    Of course, generally speaking, the very people complaining about how inefficient the post office is would probably scream the loudest if the prices were hiked to increase efficiency.

  58. 58
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Add me to the chorus of non-RealAmerica USPS lovers. From my experience they are far friendlier and more helpful than any of the commercial package carriers and with a noticeably lower loss/damage rate to boot.

    This anti-USPS canard is a perfect example of how the GOP is intent on fighting the battles of the 1970s, because in today’s world, they got nuthin’.

  59. 59
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Amtrak has been a Republican punching bag for years. You never hear them calling for the highways, the airports or the seaports to run without Federal subsidies but, by Fud, that ol’ Amtrak is a drain on our resources.
    The only thing the Republicans hate worse than government that fails is government that succeeds.

  60. 60
    SamFromUtah says:

    @Evinfuilt: 1. Amtrak: Republicans remove most of its funding, deny it a chance to run on its own rail (must share with cargo, but at lower priority.) Then they decide it must be profitable or lose funding. Why don’t they make public roads lose funding if they’re not profitable? So yes, Amtrak is hurt by Republicans, and then they point to it as Government Failure.

    Thank you – exactly what I wanted to say. Amtrak seems to be, like public education, one of the whipping-boy things the Pubbies like to say "You can’t fix it by throwing money at it" about. Unlike, say, SDI or the financial industry.

  61. 61
    r€nato says:

    I’m not particularly sure what conservatives are complaining about, either, aside from some sort of aversion from any government involvement in, well, anything.

    Thomas Frank (What’s The Matter With Kansas?) is of the opinion that conservatives get elected and then deliberately seek to ruin the quality of service provided by government agencies, because if government does some things well then citizens will ask the government to do more things and that path inevitably leads to communist enslavement (slight exaggeration but not much). In other words, Katrina was a feature not a bug of GOP rule.

    That comes across as a bit tinfoil-hattish to me. I know that there is a faction of hardcore free-market conservatives who think this way, but I’ve never believed that they were actually in charge by-and-large and actually working this way deliberately.

    But… the more you find out about the various fuck-ups on the GOP’s watch, the more this makes sense. The current market meltdown is proof of that theorem. It’s true that the GOP deliberately gutted various government agencies tasked with regulating and prosecuting Wall Street excesses, and the current disaster in the markets is the result of that.

    Capitalism must be regulated to protect itself from itself; FDR saved capitalism, something which many conservatives to this day refuse to believe. During the Great Depression, many in this country were ready to try alternate modes of governance, including communism, socialism and fascism. Some European countries did in fact try fascism, and WW2 was the result.

  62. 62

    I find it laughable that Governor Palin would choose to single out Barney Frank. Frank might be one of the smartest people in Congress and is very well respected by people actually who understand the economy and financial markets. But he is a [homophobic term] AND a liberal so what could he possibly be but a Marxist piece of shit? What is most galling about this is that it is that same Governor Palin who increased taxes on Big Oil and gave the money to the citizens of Alaska. But THAT isn’t socialist because Alaskan resources belong to the people and not private enterprise. Go figure. I’m fucking lost when it comes to that logic. (BTW I think she was right to do so. I just find it more than ironic that SHE of all people would call Obama a socialist.)

    If the mouth breathers would take a few minutes to reflect on the position our country is in right now they might realize that after the last eight years the Republicans might be the ones to at least take SOME of the blame. But we just went through all that in a previous thread.

    Basically the rump that’s now remains in the Republican party is a reactionary lot who are either unwilling or unable to think critically.

    The lack of self-awareness and inability to find fault in ones own is why we are in the position we are in. Bush and his deadenders have gutted this country.

  63. 63
    chopper says:

    my post office sucks to go to for anything. then again, this is brooklyn, the dudes who work at the target nearby have the same shitty attitude.

    the local letter carriers are a great bunch tho. they’re wonderful folk.

  64. 64
    Brian J says:

    But, Goopers hate all taxes period so they push this insane nonsense that less taxation always equals more tax revenue. It makes me profoundly irritated that so many people don’t stop to think about this kind of logic

    The problem with the theory that it always increases revenue isn’t that it sometimes fails. It’s that it always fails. As you said before this paragraph, there’s definitely something to the ideas about taxing, working, and investing. But the idea that a tax cut can increase revenue more than the tax cuts were for hits a brick wall because it’s never, ever happened. Ever.

  65. 65
    Scott H says:

    I also keep ZIP+4 bookmarked.

    My mileage is putting a legible zip+4 is Priority mail for the price of a first class stamp.

  66. 66

    He’s just pissed off fewer people will repeating the term "Laffer Curve" after Obama takes office. Soon enough, about the only people who might remember it are those who recently saw Ferris Beuller’s Day off. And even they won’t understand or care.

  67. 67
    Joey Maloney says:

    Yeah, what everyone else said about USPS vs. other countries. This is the exception (heh) that proves the rule about American exceptionalism. I guess because the PS was started by that exceptional cockhound, Ben Franklin.

    But really, I’ve dealt with postal services across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and for quality of service and price, no one beats the USPS.

  68. 68
    cleek says:

    so many people on both sides think that Ashley Todd is not and necessarily cannot be responsible for her actions

    people actually think that?

  69. 69
    sistermoon says:

    Complaints about the post office… Wow.

    The 2008 Rethugs have turned grasping for straws into an art form.

  70. 70
    Jaq~ says:

    An earlier post said: alas, in wingnut world, anything government=bad

    This wingnut disagrees. The Fed and State governments do many things well; conversely would I want Barney Frank & Chris Dodd running the national economy? Hardly. Wasn’t that part of JC’s point?

  71. 71
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    people actually think that?

    Wha’? Did you just fall off of the turnip truck? Sheesh! Republicans, those receiving the benefits of their largess, and those acting on their behalf are never to be held responsible for anything.

  72. 72
    Simsarah says:

    I’m sort of in love with the USPS lately. Our post office here in Rego Park (Queens), NY is undergoing renovations and has been closed since July, so recently I thought that I would have to find another local post office at which to mail my absentee ballot (Commonwealth of Virginia, baby!) but no! They’ve cleverly parked three trucks on the street right in front of the post office, one with package pickup, one with retail transactions and one to serve the PO box customers. It’s brilliant! And the division of labor makes it faster than the actual post office ever was. Of course, it must suck when it rains…

    I’ve been really happy with the post office all over the country really.

  73. 73
    tavella says:

    I live about equidistant between a UPS center and a post office. When I get a pickup notice for a package, I hate when it is UPS because the *only* time I can pick up is from 9 to 5 on weekdays. The USPS? I can turn up at 6 freaking am and there will be a polite person ready to hand me my package. Saturdays, even.

  74. 74
    Jay C says:

    I guess one’s experience of the USPS varies with locations: we have a house in the Scenic Berkshires ™ – lovely 01258, -and the local PO is a pleasure to deal with: small town, few people, few lines, the PO folks know you (and you them): and they are straightforward and honest about delivery times, etc. No probs.

    But we actually live in NYC: hellhole ZIP 10024: – God Forbid you should have to actually go to a Post Office: dirty, inconvenient, huge lines; dealing with ignorant surly personnel obviously hired thru a Federal Hire-the-Hapless Program: the pits.

    It probably all balances out, though: Republicans mostly just bitch about "government" services as a sort of Pavlovian response – either that, or they’re being lobbied by FedEx and UPS…

  75. 75
    Jon H says:

    I’m a bit annoyed at the Post Office.

    I had some internet meds mailed to my apartment. The package tracking says it reached my town (Somerville, MA) post office last Thursday morning. I haven’t seen any sign of it.

    Either it’s taking a long time to process, or it was swiped at the post office, or the mailman left it on my building’s steps and it was stolen before I got home from work.

    So, I’m a bit annoyed.

    On the other hand, they were coming from Vanuatu which I still find amazing even though I’ve been buying from this site for over 5 years.

  76. 76
    rob! says:

    Post Office = Letter Redistribution

  77. 77
    Mark Adams says:

    I don’t think they’re referring to the USPS, rather the House of Reps Post Office which was the center of the check kiting scandals in the early 90’s and abuse of the Franking privilege.

    Carry On.

  78. 78
    Doug H. (Comrade Fausto no more) says:

    @Brian J: The Laffer Curve has morphed into the Laffer Diagonal Line.

  79. 79
    Jon H says:

    I will say this: there’s nothing better than a convenient 24 hour big-city post office.

  80. 80
    forty2 says:

    My only gripe is that in my area of MA there appears to be a staffing shortage, and sometimes the carrier who does my apt building has shown up as late as 6:30pm. Turns out that time it was the same guy who does my office building, and he was subbing for TWO carriers.

    Amtrak, though… well, it’s always worked for me, even though the lifer employees could use the occasional motivation grand latte high colonic…

  81. 81
    liberal says:

    @jcricket:

    If we ever get working universal/national healthcare (even just "Medicare for all" as an option) expect the same response from the right wing.

    But see, that’s the thing—IMHO the postal service and health insurance are both natural monopolies.

    Postal service: if mail is pretty frequent and you have competition, it means that each company’s mail carrier has to visit each house much of the time, so you’re unnecessarily duplicating labor costs. This might not be the case with package services, because packages aren’t delivered so frequently to residences.

    Health insurance: one insurer means biggest risk pool possible, no adverse selection effects, etc.

    Of course, this analysis implies that there are plenty of things which are not natural monopolies, which we wouldn’t want socialized. Though that kind of nuance is too great for small wingnut minds to comprehend.

  82. 82
    r€nato says:

    tavella mentions something nobody else did up to that point: the USPS freaking delivers on Saturday, at no extra charge (except special services like Priority Mail)!

    My postal carrier – a nice lady – also tells me they don’t particularly care for having to work Saturdays. I like her, so I withheld my opinion that she’s got a pretty smokin’ deal for a job, and working Saturdays is a relatively small price to pay.

    If the USPS was privatized, those people would make a pittance.

  83. 83
    elmo says:

    Meh. Right now my mail service (in rural East TN) is great. But for eight years, I lived in the Place with No Mail Service, the Eastern Sierra in California. Every local resident has to get a post office box, because the USPS does not deliver mail there.

    Worse, you could go days without anything in your PO box, only to get stuck with a box-cramming deluge on a Monday. Mail from one address in the town to another (town two miles wide, population 7000) had to be trucked 250 miles down to Mojave to be postmarked, and then back. Took at least a week. But woe betide if you put your own, unpostmarked envelope in somebody else’s PO Box, that’s against the law.

    I don’t think I ever received mail from anywhere less than a week after it was postmarked, and in most cases 10 days to 2 weeks was the norm. I moved away five years ago, and to this day I hesitate to send something in the mail that is supposed to get there within 2 weeks.

  84. 84
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    I don’t like the service at the post office. You know, it’s all rush rush! Get’cha in, get’cha out! Then they’ve got those machines in the lobby, they’re even faster, no help there. You might even say, I hate the post office.

    That, and my parents. Lousy beatniks.

  85. 85
    Scott H says:

    The media ought to take that young woman’s face and name out of the news, because she is clearly sad.

    However, I am enjoying every minute of Rick Sanchez (CNN) tearing up McCain’s PA campaign and KDKA (whom I depend to deliver my Monday "Big Bang Theory").

  86. 86
    El Cid says:

    Amtrak has been fine for me, except in being massively underfunded and set up with stupid schemes to benefit private companies while handcuffing government efficiency. The main problems to me have been its lack of routes and runs, and the older trains I used.

    On one winter trip overnight the back door wouldn’t close, so I was in a 50 degree breeze the whole night.

    That’s Republican anti-public service under funding, for you.

  87. 87
    Brian J says:

    @Brian J: The Laffer Curve has morphed into the Laffer Diagonal Line.

    What?

  88. 88
    Evinfuilt says:

    Um, they’ve tried to outsource large blocks of it, mainly damn near every non-combat element.

    And yes, service has gone down and costs gone up.

    This administration will go down as the most criminal in our history.

    I realize they have, they just want some excuses to finish the job. Outsourcing feed/housing for 10x what it would cost in reality has only wet their appetite.

  89. 89
    The Moar You Know says:

    Seems to be a fair amount of complaints re: Chicago post office deliveries. 10 days! The horror!

    Pardon my sarcasm, but until you have spent any time in Europe you have no idea how bad a post office can be. No fucking clue. 10 days? If you were in Italy and their post office got a letter to your next-door neighbor in only 10 days, it would be grounds for a national celebration and holiday. The average time between neighboring towns is six weeks.

    The rest of Europe isn’t much better.

    So the rightards can cram it sideways. The USPS is, hands down, the best service on Earth and almost the cheapest as well.

  90. 90
    Atanarjuat says:

    bellatrys said:

    that so many people on both sides think that Ashley Todd is not and necessarily cannot be responsible for her actions, not though she is old enough to vote, to marry, and to go to war…

    Ashley Todd is a seriously misguided young woman who did something very foolish. I realize that the Liberal Lynch Party went into spasms of ejaculatory ecstasy when she confessed to the hoax she had perpetrated, but ultimately Ms. Todd needs compassion and serious therapy, not more gratuitous condemnation.

    By the way, Ashley Todd owned up to her crime, unlike Crystal Mangum who is now going to PROFIT from her anti-white male calumny with the memoir she’s now "penning." Talk about a literal night-and-day difference with the outcomes of two race-based hoaxers.

    Country First.

  91. 91
    Martin says:

    You guys are missing the point completely. Every mailman I’ve ever seen driving around has his steering wheel on the right. If that isn’t european-socialist, I don’t know what is. Right-hand drive mail trucks are a threat to our left-hand drive society. Next they’ll be teaching kids to right-hand drive in schools and car dealerships that only sell left-hand drive vehicles will lose their tax status. People will be sued for their left-hand drive beliefs. Protect left-hand drive!

    And whatever happened to free trade? In a Republican government, the USPS would be illegal and people would fling their outgoing mail onto their driveways where passing cars could stop and pick it up if the destination was on their way and they could then steam off the stamp as their payment. People heading to the airport would pick up all out-of-town mail and split the stamps with someone heading out on vacation. People would be lining up to take you to the airport for all the money they would make with mail delivery. This would be the most efficient mail system on earth because it wouldn’t require hiring anyone nor would it require brick-and-mortar buildings. Mail would arrive faster because people are busy and have to get places (unlike lazy-fuck mailmen with their 7 hour civil service lunches), so they’d drop that mail off right away.

  92. 92
    ppcli says:

    a) Anyone who has grown up in a different country, as I have, is amazed when they hear Americans slight the post office. The USPS is absolutely astonishing compared to the unreliable, snail-paced Canadian one. And don’t even start on places like Italy. You have no idea how good you’ve got it.

    b) Jokes about the post office really are Henny Youngman vintage. It reminds me of people who still complain about how prisoners have "air conditioning and color TV". As if anyone has had black-and-white TV for twenty years.

    c) Another maligned institution is the VA. (Too many people fail to realize that Walter Reed is not a VA hospital.) Full disclosure: my wife is a physician at the local VA hospital.
    They are under orders from the Bush administration not to publicize the VA’s high quality of care, as it would undercut the privatization message.

  93. 93
    Phoebe says:

    I LOVE the post office. I’m going there today to mail a package.

    I used to live in a small town in AK [Kenai, not that foul hellhole Wasilla], and one day I went to mail a package to my friend Brooke, who had moved to another town in AK, and the post office woman sees the address and goes, "Oh! How IS Brooke?" and I told her how Brooke was. I say this because: duh, this federal office is run by local people who live where they work, know their customers, and are not suddenly robots because they work for the federal govt.

    Also, while on the topic of Palin [which I always am] and the feds, remember Obama’s Keynote speech where he talks about how the Red Staters don’t like the feds poking around their libraries? HA! Sarah Palin must not have heard that one, since she tried to ban books from Wasilla’s library and failed. Which you all know, I know, but I heard that snippet of the speech again for the first time finding out about Palin, and it cracked me up.

  94. 94
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Ashley Todd Sarah Palin is a seriously misguided young woman who did something very foolish.
    Fixed.

  95. 95
    Svlad Jelly says:

    Maybe no one has heard this:

    Amtrak officials said the system’s fiscal 2008 ridership increased to 28.7 million passengers, marking the sixth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since it started operations in 1971.

    The riders brought in $1.7 billion in ticket revenue for Amtrak, a 14.2 percent increase over last year’s $1.5 billion.

  96. 96
    Fwiffo says:

    The post office works great for me. Apparently there are a number of things you can do to cut down on junk mail… One of the things I’ve heard is that you can declare anything to be pornography, then the post office will stop sending it to you. So if you don’t like getting Val-Pak coupons or whatever, you can just tell the post office "I think these coupons are porn, please stop delivering them to me" and your wish will be granted.

  97. 97
    rob! says:

    That, and my parents. Lousy beatniks.

    You are so diddly-do-RIGHT!

  98. 98
    Phoebe says:

    I also love Amtrak, and would love it more if it had more money, and love Joe Biden for loving it.

  99. 99
    ppcli says:

    "Ashley Todd is a seriously misguided young woman who did something very foolish. I realize that the Liberal Lynch Party went into spasms of ejaculatory ecstasy when she confessed to the hoax she had perpetrated, but ultimately Ms. Todd needs compassion and serious therapy, not more gratuitous condemnation."
    .
    OK, Atanarjuat, I realize that you are actually a spoof-troll; one of the regulars posting under a different name, but this is a serious point. Ms. Todd does need compassion and therapy. But what she did was not trivial. I was living in Boston (my wife was working at Brigham and Women’s hospital, as it happens) when Charles Stuart claimed his wife was killed by a passing black guy when they were parked at BWH. The resulting hysteria was long-lasting and had very serious effects on the poor black men caught up in the net, including the luckless guy who was arrested for the "crime". Fanning the flames of race hysteria is not a victimless crime.
    .
    But Todd is certainly to be pitied as well as blamed. The same cannot be said for the McCain staffers who breathlessly plugged and embellished the story to news outlets without waiting the short time it would take to see if the story checked out. They are just slugs.

  100. 100
    DonnaInMichigan says:

    Antanarjaut said:

    "Ashley Todd is a seriously misguided young woman who did something very foolish. I realize that the Liberal Lynch Party went into spasms of ejaculatory ecstasy when she confessed to the hoax she had perpetrated, but ultimately Ms. Todd needs compassion and serious therapy, not more gratuitous condemnation".

    My reply:

    And what makes this sick, is that these type of people are the type McCain/Palin are preying/feeding on. Those that have deep seeded bigotry, hate and are mental cases.

  101. 101
    Cris v.3.1 says:

    Recently I was sent a FedEx package, whereon the sender had my address wrong. Instead of "800 Maple Street" it was addressed to "1800 Maple Street" which doesn’t exist.

    FedEx didn’t know what to do with it. So they sent a postcard, via USPS, to that incorrect address. The Post Office promptly delivered the postcard to my door.

    Put that in your pipe.

  102. 102
    r€nato says:

    If you were in Italy and their post office got a letter to your next-door neighbor in only 10 days

    something quite astounding has happened relatively recently with the Italian post office.

    For many years, it was routine for a simple airmail postcard to take about 6 weeks to arrive at a US address from an Italian postal box.

    The last two or three times I have been in Italy, it has taken four or five days… sometimes faster than it takes a postcard to get from the US to Italy.

    The people who wait on you at the windows are still generally rude (unless they know you) and waiting in line can be hell (especially on hot muggy summer days), but at least in this one area it seems someone has gotten their butts in gear. My guess is perhaps postcard handling has finally been fully automated (I’d love to know how they beat the unions on that one). I can imagine no other reason for the Italian post office to suddenly become highly efficient, and not on one isolated occasion.

  103. 103
    Jacob Davies says:

    I read that and had the same reaction – I LOVE the post office! For 42c you can send a letter to someone thousands of miles away AND they’ll actually get it!

    The other scary one is supposed to be the DMV, but here in California even that is not that bad of an experience – they have a very efficient system in place in the offices to deal with an enormous number of people every day on obviously tight budgets, they get everyone’s registration paperwork mailed out… the system works.

    No reason at all that bureaucratic organizations have to be dysfunctional as long as they’re well-run and, you know, don’t have incompetent noobs installed to run them according to bizarre wingnut ideas of how things ought to work.

  104. 104
    Comrade Stuck says:

    Ashley Todd is a seriously misguided young woman who did something very foolish.

    Yep, she became a wingnut and then a wingnut became her. Misguided, foolish, stop it now, your describing our current president. Why do you hate America, Ahkbar?

    Therapy, maybe–Exorcism is the ticket, me thinks

  105. 105
    Jon H says:

    MOAR: "Seems to be a fair amount of complaints re: Chicago post office deliveries. 10 days! The horror!"

    Well, Chicago was the location of several mail-hoarding postal workers in the 90s, I seem to recall.

    Here’s one from 1994:

    On Feb. 4, co-workers found that letter carrier Willie Lucas’ postal delivery truck, parked outside the Lakeview station, was stuffed with 40,000 pieces of undelivered mail, some of it more than two months old.

    Here’s one from 1999:

    The retired mail carrier found dead last month after fire swept his mail-littered home had been arrested by Chicago police in 1977 when his car trunk was found stuffed with old, undelivered mail, police records show.

    "How could the Post Office have let this guy go on delivering the mail after we busted him like that 22 years ago?" asked William Frapolly, one of two Chicago police officers who arrested Ralph Horvath.

  106. 106
    Phoebe says:

    Not to mention, what does Crystal Magnum have to do with anything? Is she Obama’s fault too?

  107. 107
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Not to mention, what does Crystal Magnum have to do with anything? Is she Obama’s fault too?

    Obama failed to renounce her. I’m voting for Bob Barr as a result.

  108. 108
    r€nato says:

    Todd is certainly to be pitied as well as blamed. The same cannot be said for the McCain staffers who breathlessly plugged and embellished the story to news outlets without waiting the short time it would take to see if the story checked out. They are just slugs.

    Indeed.

    I alternate between feeling intense pity and a moderate amount of anger towards her.

    Pity – because surely she had no idea what she was in for. Her 15 minutes of ‘fame’ will be spent as an object of national ridicule. I can’t imagine how she thought she could get away with it. I guess the answer is that she did not think it through very much.

    Anger – as you wrote, this business of blaming imaginary assaults on swarthy negroes is incredibly damaging to the progress we’ve made on race issues. It simultaneously shows how far we have to go.

    As for the McCain campaign scumbags who tried to exploit this… besides being slugs (that’s a generous assessment…), they are so beyond fucking stupid that the closest they should be allowed to a political campaign for the rest of their lives, is exercising their right to vote. If you’re going to try to ratfuck the opposition with something like this, for pete’s sake make sure the story is going to hold up longer than 24 hours before using it to smear your opponent. Or, do it anonymously. It’s the same lack of vetting which led to the Palin pick.

    Not at all surprising that our troll didn’t see fit to criticize those guys who tried to exploit this poor woman. Imagine if she had been more competent in faking the attack. Imagine if her tale had held up for a week before becoming debunked. She would have suffered infinitely worse national embarrassment. This is the kind of shit that can lead unbalanced folks to commit suicide.

  109. 109
    Cranky in AZ says:

    So off topic…..

    RNC paid $900 for a spray-on tan for Sarah Palin

    It turns out Tracy Thorp was brought in exclusively to apply a spray-on tan to the future Veep. Yup, that’s what Tracy’s specialty is: According to her MySpace page, she runs a company called “tans n lashes by tracy” (that’s Tracy in the picture, and the spray-on tan shot is from her MySpace page, too). Apparently, Sarah had what’s affectionately called an “eskimo tan” when she showed up at the Convention. They needed to brighten her up, and even out her tan for all the new cleavage and leg-baring fashions. And given John’s history with melanoma, he insisted on a spray-on for Sarah. Thorp was paid $900 plus expenses to come into town for the job.

    http://www.eisenstadtgroup.com.....palin-too/

  110. 110
    Norsecats says:

    No one’s yet mentioned Netflix as another reason to like the Post Office. I put my Netflix DVDs back in the envelope, put the return envelope sticking out of the letter slot in my house, and within 4 days at the latest, the next video in my queue shows up.

    I have never known them to lose a package.

    I like e-mail, but I used to be a prolific letter-writer in college and afterwards, before e-mail became widespread. I hardly ever write a real, honest-to-god letter anymore. That’s kind of a shame.

  111. 111
    Calouste says:

    Btw, does anyone know of a wingnut argument why "economy of scale" is all the win when it applies to the private sector but apparently completely sucks with regards to government services?

    I don’t expect it to be logical, but I would like to see more than just "Government doesn’t work. Elect us and we will prove it."

  112. 112
    Julie says:

    If I could change anything, I would make it possible to have a mail version of the “No call list”

    http://www.41pounds.org/ — It’s around $40 for three years of service and is one of the best things I’ve ever bought myself. No more pre-approved credit card offers or random catalogues — but you can choose to continue to get stuff that you actually want.

  113. 113
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    RNC paid $900 for a spray-on tan for Sarah Palin

    If the RNC could only find someone to do spray-on gravitas.

  114. 114
    Polish the Guillotines says:

    @sistermoon:

    Complaints about the post office… Wow.

    The 2008 Rethugs have turned grasping for straws into an art form.

    Post Office jokes are so 1977. In fact the entire GOP is like a hack comedian whose act consists exclusively of "Airline food — what’s up with that!?" and "women drivers" jokes.

  115. 115
    Joshua says:

    No problems with the post office here in Northern NJ. Why, just last month I accidently put an old stamp on my rent check, which I sent a few days later than I should have, and was worried I would get socked with the late fee when my check got returned. But nope, just fine.

    All USPS haters, please consider that it takes just 42 cents to mail a letter from any address in the United States to any other, and it will receive in a reasonable amount of time 99.9% of the time. And no, I do not think FedEx or UPS could do a better job, either for more or less money.

  116. 116
    burnspbesq says:

    @Atanarjuat:

    Thanks for my daily comedy fix.

  117. 117
    Comrade Rick Massimo says:

    It depends. My mom can put a letter in the mailbox outside her house in Boston at 3 pm and it’s in my mail the next morning. On the other hand, I’ve played postal chess with several guys in Florida and transit time of 10 days was not at all unusual. (Obviously, those are two very different distances, but still.)

  118. 118
    Tsulagi says:

    Why do they hate Joe the Mailman?

    I’ve used the mail systems in other countries and haven’t found any to be better and faster. Know a lot of expats, a lot of them South American as the wife is Argentine, and to a person all would say the USPS is either the best or none better.

    A lot the SAs have said they couldn’t pay all their bills using their postal service as either it could take a month or longer for delivery or it just wouldn’t get there at all. Home delivery of mail is far from universal too. For some, especially to the poorer SA countries that typically have even slower mail service, if they wanted to send Xmas presents from here they’d have to get them sent just about now. But generally they don’t send presents through the mail as it’s not uncommon for them to get “lost” once they get to customs or the postal service on that end. Almost always they’ll use DHL, FedEx or UPS.

  119. 119

    Okay, so here’s what we do:

    Socialize the Post Office, Amtrak, and medical insurance.

    The Post Office is teh win, there’s no question about that.

    Amtrak should get way more money, more trains, more routes, and priority over commercial freights at all times, because it’s tough to find routes to certain places and it’s such a nice way to travel. The more people travel by trains, the fewer will travel by SUVs, and we’ll consume less oil. Plus you can make trains go really fast- we should have bullet trains just for coolness value alone. Put people to work for the government building trains, we’ll get a great infrastructure that will support our country’s growth.

    And doctors will be happier not having to fight with private insurance companies to get paid. The overhead for a socialized system is way less than for many competing private firms, and the point is like with the post office- the job is delivering mail, not figuring out how not to deliver mail and still get paid.

    Let’s take advantage of the public pwning of freemarket conservatives (and the way that, say, Wall Street, is humiliating them by even now using the bailout money for executive bonuses) to set up a solid infrastructure for appropriately socialized industries, and find a way to draw a bright line between that and the ones we want working competitively. And remember, most competitive business fails- that’s the point, there are winners and losers.

    Socialized: medicine, mail, mass transport, certain types of energy, certain types of food and housing. Fund HUD and USDA housing.

    Competitive: consumer products, entertainment, gambling (including the stock market), technology. Games, fun, bling- the non-boring stuff.

  120. 120
    burnspbesq says:

    OT, but extremely reassuring:

    Stevens found GUILTY!!!

  121. 121
    Annette says:

    Turbulence warning fro your friendly sysadmin: inbound referrals from Kos are creating some logjams.

  122. 122
    KRK says:

    I’ll join the party. I’m a big fan of both the USPS and Amtrak. Others have mentioned how astounding it is that for less than 50 cents you can move a physical object thousands of miles in about 48 hours, without even having to put shoes on. When the folks at my office started referring to this mechanism for transporting actual objects (as opposed to images of objects) as "snail mail," I had to fight the urge to start slapping all of them.

    In the early 1990s I was living in a small town in the hinterlands of Slovakia and sent a postcard to a old friend in Seattle. I wrote a return address on the postcard in letters that could best be measured in millimeters. A few weeks later, the postcard dropped back through my mail slot with "No longer at this address" stamped in official USPS red. For a ridiculously small amount of money and in an amazingly short period, that postcard had traveled across half of Europe, the Atlantic, and all of North America, and then all the way back to me.

    Amtrak’s Empire Builder line from Seattle to Chicago is my absolute favorite route. On one trip a few years ago, during a watering stop in Wenatchee, one of the conductors told me that by picking up a carload of apples and hauling them east with the passenger cars, Amtrak could cover the costs of the run. Given recent apple markets and increased costs for just about everything, I doubt that would be true today.

  123. 123
    Catherine says:

    Gee, as a former USPS employee, this thread has really warmed my heart -maybe I left too soon; no, I had things I wanted to do…

    A couple of things I can say –
    yes, the post office is now self-subsidized (since postal reorganization in 1970 actually -you know, when the price started going up a lot?), and no one ever asks what became of the $$ that USED to go to the Post Office Department do they? There’s the really good question.

    And yes, while some of us at the PO did accept passport apps, we needed to have a signature with and approved by the Dept of State, so yeah, you need to talk to them about the time it takes to get a passport -of course, if you don’t have the hotline number, good luck trying to get them on the phone.

    We all hate "junk" mail, also known as bulk business mail, but you have to realize this-there is NO SUCH THING as a piece of mail that is NOT important; we might say it’s junk, but to the people who paid to have it printed and mailed, it’s very important.

    Lastly, while I am on great terms with my UPS guy and he works hard, UPS delivery people make on straight time what your letter carrier makes on overtime, so cut the carriers some slack, I never wanted to be out in the weather and probably, neither to you. Remember, you DON’T want privatized mail service, because there goes delivery to EVERY house, 6 days a week, and there goes the price. By the way, UPS and FedEX give a TON of $$ to the RNC and Republican candidates -think about it.
    The wingnuts do always hate the post office, and most of them still think it’s tax subsidized -one once did actually say to me, "I pay your salary!". "No", I said calmly, "but I am paying property taxes to send your brats to school." The funny thing is, when they do something air-headed, like sending a check for $40K to an address they didn’t keep track of and then losing the mailing receipt, guess who they come to to save their little butt?

    It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.

  124. 124
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    Um, they’ve tried to outsource large blocks of it, mainly damn near every non-combat element.

    And yes, service has gone down and costs gone up.

    Sgt. Smith screws up the chow, the Colonel puts a rifle in his hand and sends him to the front.

    Mr. Smith, middle manager of Halliburton screws it up, tough shit.

    Or do I oversimplify?

  125. 125
    SPG says:

    One more thing I’d like to point out about the USPS… They deliver just about everywhere for the same price. Live out in the middle of nowhere? You got mail. Live even further from nowhere? You got mail too. It doesn’t cost more to mail a letter across country to a remote mountaintop village in the Sierras than it does to mail it to the other end of Second Ave.
    I had a PO box at my little PO from years ago which was staffed by a small group of older ladies who I could ask to keep a lookout for say a package or an important letter and would call me as soon as they saw it. Try that with just about any other business.

  126. 126
    binzinerator says:

    Ashley Todd is a seriously misguided young woman who did something very foolish.

    And criminal. It wasn’t just foolish. It could have touched off a major real racial incident — the kind of fucktard goopers whom you spoof were just champing at the bit for someone to hand their violent racist base an excuse to go on a lynching binge.

    By the way, Ashley Todd owned up to her crime…

    Like hell she did. She made up lie after lie and as each of them was shot down by evidence to the contrary she changed her story. Finally it took security cam footage at the ATM at which she claimed she was attacked, interviews by dectectives to run down her bullshit fantabulations, and finally a frikkin’ lie detector test before she began to admit that, um, she might have just made it up. She didn’t own up to it, the police boxed her in with the proof until it was patently impossible she could be telling the truth.

    You also have skipped the part where her race-baiting story was nursed along by the College Republicans, then accelerated by the McCain campaign who funneled the most incendiary and unverified parts to Drudge and Fox News and other sundry wingnuts where they promptly blasted it across the network airwaves and the blogs, hoping for exactly the kind of racial backlash she tried to provoke.

    None of these accomplices have owned up.

    Not responsible for her actions? Bullshit. She is. She is not by any stretch of the imagination insane, not any more in the legal sense than the wingnuts at Red State or sicker than Dan Riehl (love to see her try that as a defence). It is laughable that the Party of Personal Responsibility® insists no one’s responsible here. Just move along, nothing to see.

    Only a fool wouldn’t wonder how much the College Republicans and the McCain campaign involved in this. It’s not whether they were involved, it’s now a question of how much.

    And no, this has nothing to do with the USPS, but apparently only goopers think it’s an emblem of gubmint gone wrong. Idiots.

  127. 127
    PeakVT says:

    The USPS has always worked for me. Don nails the true issue way upthread.

    On Amtrak – it should be divided into three parts. The Bos-Wash Northeast Corridor works well and comes close to break-even on operating costs (capital costs are another issue). Note that the track in this corridor is all publicly owned. The (mostly) state-funded and Amtrak-operated regional services (like the Downeaster) work OK, though not great because of track ownership issues. The third part, the long-distance trains, is the real disaster. A lot of the trains exist due to Congressional interference – rural-state congresscritters refuse to vote for funding the rest of Amtrak unless they get a train through their state. These services, while perhaps enjoyable for train fans and useful for those who are afraid of flying, are huge money-losers (except the Autotrain) and always run hours late. If the long-distance part of Amtrak was killed, it would look much better as whole

  128. 128
    Warren Oates says:

    Spirit of Bukowski alive and well in the modern USPS

    I live in Los Angeles, where decades ago a struggling writer and part-time postman named Charles Bukowski sometimes decided he’d had enough of his day job and either dumped all the rest of his to-be-delivered mail in the next available mail slot or just threw it in the trash. And I have to say that when I resided in 90046, home of the infamous postal hell named Cherokee Station, the delivery was about at the Bukowski level. More than once I got a package slip with my name and address, waited in line forever at the P.O. gave them my ID and had them hand me a package that was for someone else entirely at a completely different address. Once I got a letter that was exactly one year late. Sometimes I got my mail–late and clearly opened. Sometimes just all my neighbors’. The delivery is somewhat less terrible now that I’ve moved to a different zip code.

  129. 129
    Fatherflot says:

    Barney would give the term "Franking Privileges" an entirely new meaning, or set of gloriously suggestive meanings.

  130. 130
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Will UPS/FedEx deliver at the same price and schedule if you live in Teh ♥Land of Real America? I mean, seriously, it’s 42¢ to send a letter to Alaska.

  131. 131
    Bill H says:

    We had a mailman two years ago who was visibly drunk and/or high every day. Read our mail and pocketed coupons, dropped mail on the ground and left it there, put mail in boxes pretty much at random… When we complained to the postmaster we were told to just live with it because he only had one year to go until retirement and the problem would be solved.

    Present mailman puts stuff in my box not addressed to me, not even in my zip code. I put a note on it "delivered to wrong address" and he leaves it in box and puts more mail on top of it. I add additional note on it "please pick this up and deliver it to the right place" and he comes to my door and cusses me out. I say something about being a customer and he says, "You’re not my fucking customer, I work for the Postal Service."

    Yeah, they’re doing a great job.

  132. 132
    Woodrowfan says:

    Bill H. Keep complaining. Find your regional office and bitch to them,.

  133. 133
    bobsy says:

    I love my post office, and when I get to choose my delivery option, I’ll always pick USPS. It may not always be the fastest option (although it’s usually fast enough), but it is the option most likely to get the package into my grubby little hands and not dumped in the parking lot somewhere. (And signed by "F. Rontdoor." FedEx sucks.)

  134. 134
    KRK says:

    PeakVT,

    I have to disagree about long-distance routes. It’s not just fear of flying that generates demand; and it’s definitely not just train fans. For lots of folks along the northern border (and elsewhere in the West, I’d imagine), it’s a LONG haul to any kind of airport. The train moves lots of people who would otherwise be pretty stuck. And based on my last few trips, it seems they juggle the cars around enough these days to keep things pretty full.

    And I’ve almost always had great experience with the Seattle-Chicago train running on time. In my experience it’s flooding that seems to throw schedules off the most, but there’s not much they can really do about that.

  135. 135
    bellatrys says:

    If I could change anything, I would make it possible to have a mail version of the “No call list”

    BTW, the reason we can’t in the US – unlike my friends in Godless Contracepting Old Europe who can put "no junk mail please" stickers on their mailboxes – is that the larger players in the US printing industry pay lobbyists to fight for them in Congress against any such thing ever happening. They even boast about this in printing trade journals, it’s not terribly secret. Government of/by/for big business.

  136. 136
    Ecks says:

    Not only is USPS rock solid out here in the middle of the mid west, but it’s better than Canada Mail and Royal Post (UK version) to boot.

  137. 137
    Ranson says:

    If the people who keep insisting that Amtrak be financially self-sustaining would look at history and at the experiences of other countries with actual first-world passenger railroads, they would find:

    1) Amtrak was formed specifically because passenger rail stopped being self-sustaining after the advent of car and air travel. Penn Central went out of business for a reason.

    2) Those fantastic European and Asian bullet train systems are all heavily subsidized by their national governments.

    But as plenty of other posters have pointed out, since there’s no general Republican cry to stop public funding for roads, airports, etc., there are other, hidden issues at work. Probably revolving around the fact that Republicans don’t ride trains (too Socialist and too European for real Americans, no doubt). And imagine the railroad network we’d have if we’d put all the money we’ve wasted on the Iraq war into building rail infrastructure. But no, George had to avenge his dad instead.

  138. 138
    Justme says:

    1. Will UPS or Fedex deliver a letter from your house (pick it up for you) and deliver it to podunk USA for less than 50 cents? I didn’t think so.

    2. UPS drops packages at your front door – if you’re out of town for a week, the crooks will know by the unclaimed (wet, snowy) package on your porch. The USPS will knock to deliver the package to a live person; if no one answers, they deliver a notice that they have your package and you can either pick it up at the PO or return the slip and tell them which day to re-deliver the package to your house. I refuse to use UPS – their customer service is non-existent.

    3. Every time the USPS seeks a postage increase, they have to apply to a commission, which takes up to 1 year to determine if the increase is appropriate, and then the increase goes into effect. The MSM reports on the (a) request, (b) determination of the commission and (c) the actual date of the rate increase, as if these were 3 separate increases, rather than 3 steps in the process. Naturally, when the increase actually goes into effect (1 to 1 1/2 years after the initial request), people say "They just raised the rates!!" Stupid media, stupid people – this is 1 increase which is implemented only after a statutorily mandated 3 step process.

    4. People who complain about the USPS are generally severely challenged intellectually. To wit, on Friday at 7 pm, they drop a letter into a mailbox which clearly states that the last pickup of the week is Friday at 5 pm and the next pickup is Monday at noon. Then they wonder why the letter didn’t get to you by Monday morning. Alternative: they use a postage meter and backdate the mailing date; then they blame the post office because you didn’t get your check in a timely manner.

    5. Try to mail a letter when you are in another country (Canada will do) and see how much it costs you there.

    The USPS is a success story, given that they have to service EVERYONE EVERYWHERE, regardless of whether this makes economic sense for the USPS. I do wish they could stop doing the mass delivery of junk advertising. However, that would result in an increase in the cost for first class mail. I would be happy to pay more for my mail in such a trade-off, but most people (including those who claim to be environmentally concerned) would complain and BLAME THE POST OFFICE.

  139. 139
    Debs says:

    Well said. I get pretty tired of hearing people complain or joke about how awful the United States Postal Service is. Hello?!? Anyone sent mail to or from other countries in this world? We have the best postal service in the world. Most of us don’t even think twice about putting something in the mail. We just assume it will get to its intended location. And, it almost always does. Hell, we even VOTE by mail. I don’t work for the USPS, but I think they do a great job. There may be a bad apple here and there, but, for the most part, the postal workers do a great job.

  140. 140
    Doctor Jay says:

    I think the Post Office used to be a target because there was no alternative. So if something went wrong, you couldn’t take your business elsewhere. And a little competition can be motivating, too.

    So FedEx has made USPS better. And vice-versa. They have different niches, and function well within those niches. And I’ve had more stuff lost by FedEx or UPS than by the USPS.

  141. 141
    The Populist says:

    My business is one that ships products to customers. I find, for the money, the USPS is much more efficient than UPS and Fed-Ex. A 7 pound box costs me $11 for a shipment to San Bernadino at Fed-Ex and about the same at UPS. For the USPS it cost me (depending on where it goes) $7.20 and got there faster than either of those two could guarantee.

    I send loads of packages and USPS gets it done worldwide. I trust them implicitly. People are just mad when they have to stand in line but reality is most of the people wasting time bring in unboxed packages as if the USPS is supposed to pack it for them too.

  142. 142
    Kilkee says:

    The USPS, in addition to its other deficiencies, has been laying the groundwork for years for the Grand Obama Socialist takeover. What could be more socialistic than the notion that I have to pay, say, 43 cents to send a letter to my brother three blocks away, but for the same amount these jackbooted thugs will deliver the same letter to them there cliff-dwelling Merkin Indians in Arizona. To each according to his needs, indeed.

  143. 143
    tigrismus says:

    Indeed Barney Frank is the most powerful man in America. But I thought these guys thought the US of A was the best EVAR, and that they loved the military? Shouldn’t they be a little more respectful of the man in charge of all that awesome?

  144. 144
    Steve S. says:

    Sarah Palin can stumble out to her mailbox and insert an envelope containing some small keepsake that will be delivered to her son on the other side of the world within a couple of weeks. Cost: 43 cents.

  145. 145
    bellatrys says:

    Ashley Todd is a seriously misguided young woman

    Duh, she’s a Republican!

    who did something very foolish.

    Yeah, she went to work for the College Republicans.

    Then she did something very wicked, and got caught.

    Fortunately for the country, she was seen through at once by the Pittsburgh PD and many others. But no thanks to her, nor to her employers and colleagues, nor to Matt Drudge and 98% of the rightwing blogosphere., nor those of the SCLM who repeated the "attacked and ZOMG MUTILATED!" claim without the least bit of skepticism.

    unlike Crystal Mangum

    Are you alleging that Ms. Mangum is/was an employee of the Obama campaign? Or are you saying that you believe that all black people are interchangeable? Or are you making a typically-conservative incoherent playground-logic "tu quoque" attempt regardless of any facts in the matter?

    Obviously in your case the choice is not between "stupid" and "wicked" but between "stupid" and "stupid AND wicked" because the exclusive-or is clearly not an option. But perhaps you are so dense that you really don’t understand what you’re saying – I’m not entirely convinced you’re just a troll, you sound too much like Amber Pawlik of Sadly, No! infame who I also believed for a long time was a performance artist because no one could be that dumb IRL, I thought. But I was wrong.

  146. 146
    bellatrys says:

    but reality is most of the people wasting time bring in unboxed packages as if the USPS is supposed to pack it for them too.

    Populist, this was the rule for a long while as part of the post-Unabomber security theatre, which was why I stopped using the PO to send packages larger than a Priority envelope except internationally. Packages over an inch thick were required to be brought in to be checked, even during the Christmas rush, which was insane. Has it changed? If it has it hasn’t been well-publicized compared to the original security theater rules change, which is why people are "wasting time" bringing them in unboxed.

  147. 147

    a typically-conservative incoherent playground-logic "tu quoque" attempt regardless of any facts in the matter

    whoa! this Balloon Neocon juice is the shiznit

    I heard the USPS just came out with a stamp honoring the George Papanicolaou who invented the Pap smear, but I just can’t bring myself to lick it.

  148. 148
    Marie says:

    I run a small internet store and I rely heavily on the post office. I have yet to complain about the service. I get my packages picked up for free and the cost is half that of UPS or FEDEX and I get confirmation when it is delivered. I actually prefer the post office vs. UPS or FEDEX. Their priority mail is far superior to the ground service of these carriers.

  149. 149
    HyperIon says:

    i skipped to the end; sorry if i am repeating someone else’s point.

    i get good, cheap service from the USPS.
    compare US postal rates to those of any other country.
    ours are significantly lower.
    i wish there were less junk mail but that’s about it.
    well, ok, more sunday pickups at POs.

  150. 150
    dead souls says:

    I’m with norsecats. The postal service gets high marks from me. I love opening the mailbox and seeing a Netflix envelope in it. The workers at my local Post Office have always been nice on the rare occasions that I have to mail a package.

  151. 151
    Nicole says:

    I’m sending a link to this thread to a friend who works for the USPS. :) I think it runs very well, too. And must remember to tell the postal worker behind the counter the next time I go to mail something.

  152. 152
    dang says:

    "’They.’ To whom does ‘they’ refer? The ‘they’ does not refer to Congress or to Barney Frank. It’s a racial dog whistle. The ‘they’ of which she speaks is black Americans."

    I don’t know about that. Where I live, Filipinos pretty much rule the USPS.

  153. 153
    Woodrowfan says:

    Belltrys: You can use the USPS website to do the address label and postage at home, then ask the USPS to pick it up for you free at your home or office. Not only that but the rates are lower online. All you need is a decent, inexpensive postal scale. We bought ours at Office Depot and it paid for itself in time and saved gas. Only downside, it doesn’t do Media Mail.

  154. 154
    KLG says:

    Several years ago I sent a book to a friend. The package was mangled and the USPS sent the return address label back to me with instructions as to how to track the contents of what I sent. I described the book to the contact person, and it was delivered to my friend the next day. I still have things floating around in the UPS/FedEx/DHL aether.

  155. 155
    Jon H says:

    " Only downside, it doesn’t do Media Mail."

    Um, how so? (I don’t know anything about Media Mail, I’m just wondering why a scale would be unable to ‘do’ it, as I’ve been meaning to start selling my old books on Amazon.)

  156. 156
    Comrade Darkness says:

    The USPS is cutting edge on any number of technologies, such as handwriting recognition and parcel sorting. There are some great legends out there about the USPS like the December that people suddenly started sending christmas cards on dark red envelopes addressed with blue ink, which the system was incapable of reading. In startlingly short order, they had a massive technological shift in place to take care of the problem. They really are a very effective mix of old stalwart reliability and innovative problem solvers. A very rare mix.

    Sure, once you are in with a job the benefits are very good and the job security high, usually that’s a red flag, but really, anyone who says they are comparable to F&F is out of their minds. They are the poster child for successful government controlled monopoly. Sure, there are issues such as slow customer updates for package tracking (which is a mainframe batch job issue) and the liberty-ship-melted-down trucks they can’t seem to upgrade to something like hybrids, but honestly those are more likely their bloodymindedness over maximizing their initial investment and cult-like adherence to standardization.

    Anyone who includes them in a blanket list of failed government programs can safely be ignored as ignorant.

  157. 157
    bellatrys says:

    Woodrowfan, thanks for the tip. I don’t ship very much (my mail experience is mostly ordering things by mail, being too poor for a car) and most of what I send out can fit in a Priority envelope, but that’s good to know!

  158. 158
    CIRCVS MAXIMVS MMVIII says:

    I used to make the same cracks about the post office, but now I guess I just do not get it.

    John, did you get it then or are you admitting you used to echo talking points with no knowledge of the reason why you were doing so?

    I’ve never had problems with the post office that I would blame on any government officials. I don’t get it either. I’m just curious about why you used to make those statements previously.

  159. 159
    BikingViking says:

    I don’t have many complaints about the postal service, but recently more packages are getting lost.

    The adverts, while despised, are a source of revenue. I’m sure allowing people to not receive (things they don’t want) would result in lowered revenue.

    My old mailman (who retired) said he thought the lowered service was intentional. They keep wanting the mail carriers (and I’m sure other workers) to do more and more with less and less. Not long ago they got edicts to not even look at the name on mail because it slows them down; accuracy be damned. Of course if service gets real terrible it will be easy for small government types to make the case for privatization of mail delivery.

  160. 160
    Marshall says:

    I like Amtrak. It’s the best way to get from DC to New York City, and the medium haul service can be pretty efficient. As an example, the DC to Atlanta service leaves the station near my house at about 8:00 PM and arrives in Atlanta at 8:40 AM. (The timing is similar on the return.) Now, that is a long trip, but I can get a room on the train, have diner and breakfast, and arrive in Midtown at a time that would be brutal for a morning flight (and, if I went the night before, I would have to get a room and probably a car). I find that this type of travel is much less draining than the plane and I wish I could do more of my business trips by night train.

  161. 161
    Shalimar says:

    I’ve had problems with USPS before, but then again, I sell books online and have shipped 15000+ packages so a few problems are bound to arise. Overall, I would say USPS does an excellent job.

  162. 162
    Comrade The Other Steve says:

    I think John just admitted to being a TFM.

    Total Fucking Moron.

  163. 163
    Sasha says:

    USPS-is-inefficient is one of those dearly held narratives, like liberals-weak girly-men/conservatives-potent-in-everything-especially-economy-and security, that doesn’t hold, hasn’t held, and deserves to die.

    Amtrak is actually pretty good and, frankly, if your schedule allows, is definitely better than driving or flying.

  164. 164
    Church Lady says:

    Getting past your going outside to get your mail wearing only underwear and slippers (probably frightening your neighbors), I think my branch Post Office absolutely sucks.

    Twenty years ago, we were considered rural delivery; probably rightly so, given the population of the area at that time. Now, we’re still under rural delivery rules, even though the population of two zip codes (small in area square miles) covered by this post office is now over 50,000.

    What do rural delivery rules mean? Well, if you have a package that will not fit inside your mailbox, they are supposed to stop in front of your house and honk, and then give you time to get outside to pick up your package. Ten years ago, they did so. Now, they just throw a notice in the box (which I have ascertained must be filled out before they ever make their rounds, given the speed with which the deliveryman blows past my mailbox) and you have to go to the post office to pick it up. I have never, ever, no matter what time I go, stood in line for less than 30 minutes to pick up a package. The dead giveaway that your package is not even on the truck is that your notice says that you can pick your package up at the post office on the same day the notice is dated.

    At our post office, you have to have an appointment to even pick up the forms to fill out in order to apply for a passport. That requires a stand in a line for 30 or more minutes to actually make the appointment to come back another day, at which time you will again wait, because they are running behind on their appointment schedule.

    There can be 20 or 30 people standing in line for various services, but if it’s someone’s breaktime, well, heck, they just can’t be late taking their scheduled break. Yes, instead of three employees to handle the crowd, for the next half hour there are only two. Meanwhile, everyone standing in line has steam coming out of their ears.

    So yes, I hate my local post office. What amazes me, however, is none of the other post offices in town I have visited have these waits. In others, I don’t think I’ve ever waited more than ten minutes to take care of business.

    I guess it’s a management problem.

  165. 165

    My podunk zip,97814 covers a lot of a county of 3500 sq mi. Mail is reliable and generally 3dys within state. Our PO is generally well thought of. Nearest town of similar size is 45 mi of mountain Interstate drive & the distribution center.

    Not so good – we’d managed to avoid a murder in this 10K town for over 20 yrs until the year before last when my mailman shot his supervisor dead in the parking lot. Shit. He was a good mailman, a little different but not weird, always a friendly word and well sorted mail. A lot of things went bad for him in fairly short order – home & work. His super was well liked in the community and his legally blind and newly further disabled wife and new baby now have this. shit.

    Amtrack used to stop here, Salt Lake City line, doesn’t run any more. Republicans put an end to that one. IIRC Inland Empire, I think Chicago – SLC – Portland.

    Funny one, Gus – 150# Pyrennese hates square trucks, especially mail & UPS/FedEx, every driver in town thinks it’s funny as hell that he goes nuts. He doesn’t care an iota about the drivers, just those damn trucks. If a mail truck is a Suburban he doesn’t even notice, just the square ones.

  166. 166
    Adam P. says:

    r€nato gets it right. The Laffer curve, although controversial in itself, gets a bad rap in progressive circles due to its association with the conclusions that right-wingers have drawn from it, and turned into a rigid dogma.

    In brief, the Laffer curve indicates that there is a point at which an increase in the tax rate will net lower overall revenue receipts to the government, due to its chilling effect on investment. That’s all, and insofar as we are not socialists, that should be uncontroversial. If the government takes (for instance) 100% of income, capital investment cannot occur; the economy cannot grow organically, and revenue declines.

    Under certain circumstances, I suspect that the chart of revenue over tax rate does indeed resemble the Laffer curve. Those circumstances would have to include: investors are likely to re-invest their income in the taxable economy so as to grow the tax base — that is, the economy must be receptive to the marginal increase in disposable income; and the infrastructure must support growth of the tax base without increasing government services — that is, the likely growth must be self-funding.

    It is certainly possible that at times in U.S. history, these circumstances obtained AND the tax rate was so high that receipts were to the right of the curve. It is not the case that these circumstances always obtain, and it is impossible that the tax rate is always to the right of the curve. The appropriate response to the Laffer curve is not to automatically lower taxes on the assumption that it is correct, but to consider empirically whether conditions are such that a decrease in the tax rate will likely cause enough reinvestment in the taxable economy to increase total receipts.

    Sadly, that doesn’t fit as neatly on a bumper sticker as "Government is not the solution to your problems; Government is the problem."

  167. 167
    bvac says:

    I received a package from the Netherlands in two days, sent by USPS international mail. It cost me 5 dollars (not sure if the people I ordered from eat some of the cost on shipping, but thats all I paid at least.)

    That is all.

  168. 168
    Comrade grumpy realist says:

    Also would like to point out to all you inventors that if you submit your patent application in to the Patent and Trademark Office and send it by Express Mail, the day it gets stamped at the post office is the day it is considered to be received by the PTO.

    Works for all patent correspondence with the USPTO and has saved the asses of patent lawyers and agents everywhere. Yeah, and we have been crazy enough to email forms to a fellow lawyer in Hawaii, just so he can print them out and hike them down to the local post office so they get the magic priority date.

  169. 169
    Lesley says:

    I’ve never understood the post office hatred either.

    At my local understaffed-to-save-bucks Safeway, people wait patiently in long tedious check out lines at all hours of the day and night and few complain because it’s private enterprise. But get any one of these dimbulbs waiting five minutes at the local post office and they start bitching about how the government fails to provide service and rips them off. These would be the same people who bitch about having to pay taxes. Sometimes I humour myself in such lines by reminding these jackasses that tax reductions and the desire for small government means fewer workers can be available at the counters to serve them.

    I’m so sick of hearing people say government is inferior when a) it’s often as good or better and more economical than private enterprise; and b) private enterprise demonstrates an equal or greater capacity for incompetence and lousy service (while it makes a hefty profit). Jesus. The stupid gives me third degree burns sometimes.

  170. 170
    charlotte says:

    Remember Clinton’s awesome speech after the Oklahoma City bombing? "You cannot love your country and hate your government." Actually, under W that turned out NOT to be the case for me and mine, but one sees Bill’s point–and it was certainly good to hear at the time.

    USPS provides great service. Infallible? No, of course not. People who complain about stuff like this are folks who’ve not experienced true inconvenience, much less hardship in their lives. Or haven’t lived abroad and experienced some really harrowing bureaucracies. I believe this kind of self-pitying complaining is called, ah, whining?

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    Frank says:

    A US First Class stamp is one of the great bargains of the world. If the person the letter is addressed to has moved, the USPS, for no extra charge, will either chase down the addressee or send the item back to you.

    In my over half a century, I have had one piece of mail lost, to my knowledge, and four arrived in those little plastice envelopes they use when the processing equipment malfunctions out of what be thousands, if not tens of thousands, pieces of mail.

    I think that’s a pretty good record.

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    I suspect USPS H8 began when the August issue of some knuckledragger’s Goat Blower Monthly wound up at the wrong address and all his neighbors started avoiding him.

    The USPS is a problem? Compared to what, phone service providers? [Snort]

  173. 173
    grendelkhan says:

    Bill H: Present mailman puts stuff in my box not addressed to me, not even in my zip code.

    I had a similar problem; mail that was supposed to go to "4 Other Street" was going to "123 Street Apartment 4" (my address). I collected it, brought it to my local post office, and haven’t received any more misaddressed mail since.

    I think you hear a lot of kvetching about the Post Office because people don’t really think about it when it works. It’s like being grateful that your sink dispenses water instead of deadly deadly bees, or that traffic lights don’t send everyone into head-on collisions.

    The thing is, I’m pretty sure that some company could figure out how to deliver mail within a city for less than the USPS does it. Or between any major cities, maybe. But the reason the USPS has an enforced monopoly is to provide universal service at a flat rate. Urbanites subsidize rural folk; the point is to make the country figuratively smaller and more tightly knit; that is what we pay postage for.

    Folks with a hard-on for deregulation don’t deny this; they just argue that it’s a good thing, that people who choose to live in rural areas should buck up and pay the true cost, or use FedEx, or telephones and faxes, and besides, the Magic of the Market will make it all okay in the end anyway.

  174. 174
    grendelkhan says:

    r€nato: Thomas Frank (What’s The Matter With Kansas?) is of the opinion that conservatives get elected and then deliberately seek to ruin the quality of service provided by government agencies, because if government does some things well then citizens will ask the government to do more things and that path inevitably leads to communist enslavement (slight exaggeration but not much).

    Hey, it was enough to justify cheering on Pinochet’s authoritarian nightmare in Chile. To quote Henry Kissinger:

    The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on-an even precedent value for-other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.

    Mmm. Where liberty dwells, there is my country, right?

  175. 175
    TR says:

    Conservatives love to hate on the Post Office as an example of how the private sector is so much better than the public sector in terms of reliability and efficiency.

    I can’t remember who it was, but in the last election cycle or so, a Republican smugly asked, "if you had to be sure to get a letter delivered to someone, would you use the Post Office or Federal Express?"

    Sadly, the Democrat didn’t give the correct answer: "If I had to mail one letter? I’d probably spend the extra cash to use Fed Ex, sure. But if I were a country of 300 million people and needed to send millions and millions of letters each and every day, well, I’d probably want something more cost effective."

  176. 176
    DrB says:

    I live in a DC ‘burb. My parents live on the Big Island in Hawaii. I’m progressive, they’re conservative. We all have recently experienced repeated problems with mail not being delivered: Priority Mail envelopes, parcels, magazines. As far as we can tell all the USPS does is make a note of it, *if* they even do that much (they have actually advised my parents to stop reporting undelivered mail).

    I want the USPS to be good and reliable, but they’re not. It actually seems to me almost like they’re trying to go out of business.

  177. 177
    KXB says:

    I know within the city of Chicago, mail delivery can sometimes be slow. Recently, in the poor town of Harvey, several miles south of Chicago, the mailman needed a local police escort to try and deliver mail during a gang turf war. But in the NW suburbs of Chicago, the mail is fine. We get the mail in our office usually before 10 AM, all the local post offices have machines where you can weigh and print postage without waiting in line. If I mail back my Netflix DVD on a Monday, they get it Tuesday (in a neighboring suburb), and I get my next DVD on Wednesday. The USPS is far cheaper for overnight mail. I’ve had far fewer issues with the post office than I do with phone, cable, airlines, etc.

    Several months ago, when our company was considering moving our shipping needs exclusively to a private company like UPS, FedEx, or DHL, I was adamantly opposed to the idea. I use those companies from time to time, but no way would I use them for everything – the costs would break us. And this was before the oil price surge earlier this year.

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    bartkid says:

    The USPS does NOT send me 70 pieces of mail about v1agra each and every day, compared to another form of messaging I use.

  179. 179
    Daughter says:

    My experience with regular USPS mail is great. Overnight mail via USPS, not so good. At least with FedEx and UPS, you can specify the time of day you want a package delivered. The post office has a tendency to try to deliver overnight mail at 6 AM, which, if it’s a place of business, usually means no one is there. Then they try to redeliver the next day, or leave a note for the recipient to go to the post office to pick it up. All this results in the person not receiving the overnight package until two or three days after it is sent – a waste of the additional cost spent to send it overnight.

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