Quote of the Day: Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union

"These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation's mail system and put it on a path to privatization."

Look, these days I hate mail.  If I can get one extra day a week where I don't get bills, credit offers, or letters from George Soros asking me help to him out with a couple of bucks - you know, for the children - I'm fine with that.

And lots of people don't much care for the post office.  But most people don't realize that the things we hate most about the post-office are mandated by dictate of a Congress that evidently hates mail service far more than any of us normal, rational human beings.   Sure it's kind of a dinosaur.  For instance, why don't individuals and businesses have a USPS email address, with the legitimacy of being attached to their verified physical addresses and absolutely 100% spam free, at a low-low reasonable monthly rate?   Which is to say, how has the post office completely missed out on the tech advances of the past few years?  Much of it's because of a 2006 measure that put all kinds of restrictions on how the USPS conducts business that the organization is stuck in the late 20th century.  It's a bad bill.  It mandates that the postal service fund their pensions 75 years in advance.  The effect of this mandate is to tie up the bulk of their revenue, and make it nearly impossible to compete with UPS and Fed-Ex.  You know, the ones who actually wrote the bill.

Were it not for this monstrosity the postal service, with able management, could very well run at a surplus.  They could actually contribute to the Treasury, thus lowering taxes for all those tax-fighting zealots and anti-arithmetic hardliners.  But that's exactly what corporate interests with so much influence do not want.  Name one action of Congress in the past 10 years that has not moved money from the Treasury into the private accounts of banks, corporations and wealthy individuals.  Even the Affordable Care Act represents in part a massive buy-off to private insurers - a bribe to convince them to actually fulfill their contractual obligations to patients.  It's a strange world we're living in.  Perhaps I should have featured the Onion's take on the matter instead (NSFW).


News & Notes

- Hey, it looks like I'm staying on ChicagoNow! A couple days ago a really virulently racist post popped up on ChicagoNow and I asked that it be removed in a post I called, "Redwhitneblack & Mystical Racism: Not Enough Room on ChicagoNow for the Two of Us".  I was feeling a bit Eastwood at the time.  Anyway, the post has been taken down.  It's regrettable that the author didn't take it down himself and lost his blog over it.  But I'm very happy with the resposiveness of the ChicagoNow staff.  This isn't a free and open forum despite the guidelines of common decency.  It is and continues to be a free and open forum BECAUSE of the guidelines of common decency.  Which is why I won't tell you my opinion of the 17 people who "liked" the article before it got pulled.  Too busy winning.


- Penny Pritzker is part of one of Chicago's cornerstone families, an avid Obama fundraiser, and now reportedly a leading candidate for Secretary of Commerce.  The White House is hedging a bit though:

But Pritzker is under consideration to serve as Commerce secretary or perhaps in another senior position involving relations between Obama and business leaders, according to officials close to the process who spoke anonymously to comment on internal deliberations.

It's probably a good idea to have a plan B considering President Obama actually suggested he wanted to eliminate the Commerce Department and about 9 others in favor of a Secretary of Business.  And who would that Secretary of Business be?  I don't know.  But I'm in a cynical mood so my money's on this guy.

I know President Obama is the Commander-in-Chief.  But Penny's folks ran a military library.  Bayonets.  That's all I have to say about that.

(By the way, I'm not really in a cynical mood.  It's actually a pretty good day for geeky non-profit wonks when we get to run with a Pritzker joke.)


- Michelle Obama will attend a memorial service for Hadiya Pendleton.  The White House says she'll be accompanied by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett.  Young Hadiya was actually a niece of a friend of mine.  My condolences to the entire family.


- I'm not sure I believe the story of the new book from Patricia Crisafulli; Rwanda, Inc I can tell you that the excerpt reads like Tom Friedman, who I actually like for the most part, just not when he's on his trade-libertarian-technological-way-of-the-future happy pills.  With Crisfafulli, those pills also seem to produce the odd side effects of corporate apologism and mild racial cluelessness.  From the chapter, "The Skyscraper and the Chicken":

Self-determination and self-reliance propel this nation forward, making it the ultimate turnaround story on a continent better known for broken promises and unfulfilled potential.


In order for Rwanda to continue to feed itself and improve its economy, it must continue to develop its agricultural sector, which accounts for more than a third of that economy. Agriculture must become more mechanized, and tiny individual plots of land must be joined together in cooperatives to reap economies of scale on inputs such as fertilizer and seed, as well as cultivation and harvesting. In addition to staples such as beans and sorghum, Rwandan agriculture continues to emphasize crops such as coffee and tea for export, which reap badly needed foreign exchange. The country is always investigating new export crops.

I guess things might be better for them if they weren't on such a disappointing continent.  Luckily, Cargill and Monsanto have all the tools you need to make it better now.  I'm wary of any "self-determination" that results in a rush to meet the approval of outside observers.

New singer, old song.  I'll pass.


Favorite writers' section:

- Also in the New York Times, David Brooks is backing the hypothesis that the "zone" that an athlete gets into when they're performing at peak level is really just an illusion when you look at the data.  Michael Miner at the Chicago Reader disagrees.  And the Bulls got their tails handed to them last night by the Nuggets, making the entire argument moot anyway.

- If you're not reading historian Rick Perlstein's foray into the blogosphere I highly recommend following him.  It's fun to read a library athelete like Rick go into slice-of-life territory for moment here and there before he gets back to telling us why there's really nothing new under the political sun.

- Phil Rosenthal is also one of my favorite columnists although his write-up on the Justice Department's lawsuit against Standard & Poor's (may need registration) is a bit lukewarm.  Embrace the rage, Phil.  We don't need them.

- Finally - Queer crusader and all around rockin' chick, Achy Obejas is in irony sugar shock over Pres. Bush & Karl Rove's plan to get moving putting the tea party in their place.  Story comes complete with photo of Rove & President Voldemort looking suitably gangster.





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