Have a Happy New Year: privatize @USPS

December 31, 2013
Poor, trusting fool

Poor, trusting fool

This is a bit of a personal rant to end the year on, but a recent experience with the US Post Office and trying to get a package delivered has lead to the conclusion that one of the best “little things” a new Republican Congress could do in 2015 is privatize the danged thing. First, my recent travails:

On Christmas Day I received some Amazon (1) gift cards. Being a good little consumer, that afternoon I ordered some goodies, including a highly-rated electric skillet (This one, in fact. It’s a great price.) that Amazon promised to deliver for free by the 28th. Great!

So, on the 28th I stayed home to wait for the delivery. By that afternoon, I was curious, so I checked Amazon; “delivery attempted.”

“Really?” I thought. So I checked the USPS site: “Delivery attempted at 9:37 AM. Notice left.”

By now a bit concerned, I went down to the front of our apartment complex to check the mailboxes: no package, no notice, no nothing. Like I said, I had been home all day. My cell phone was on, the ringer set to “loudest.” At 9:37 AM, I was letting in my writing partner for a day’s work. In other words…

I WAS HOME!

Apparently the schmuck carrier couldn’t be bothered to actually try to contact me. I understand he couldn’t come to my door (it’s a large, winding complex), but… he could have called. I’d have come right down. But, I guess he didn’t want to make the effort. Maybe he was tired.

Checking the USPS site again, I saw a redelivery option (2) held out the promise of delivery Monday (yesterday). So, I filled out the form and printed the receipt. Problem solved — yay!!

You can guess what’s coming.

I waited at home all Monday, not daring to leave my apartment lest I miss the carrier and my new toy. By 5PM, I went downstairs to check and found the regular mailman. I asked her about the package — she’d never heard of it. “What about redelivery,” I asked.

Jay Carney gives more informative answers.

Finally, she helpfully suggested the other carrier might have left it with the building managers. Nope. Not on on their list.

So, this morning, I walked to the post office, waited for the lone clerk at the counter to finally call me forward only to tell me to go to “the door on the left.” After a half-hour or so, I was beginning to fear my package was really “out for delivery” this time, probably to the wrong address. But, no, I was rewarded at the end, the package was mine. Happy New Year, indeed. I then trudged the 1.5 miles home, this time carrying a bulky box and swearing eternal vengeance on the Post Office.

Okay, so, as far as horrible experiences with the USPS goes, and as maddening as it was, that was fairly minor. I’m sure any of you reading this could come up with far worse. But the whole experience had me wondering…

Why do we put up with this garbage?

Private companies have a much harder time getting away with poor service. Not only are there irate customers who can go elsewhere, but angry shareholders to wonder why they’re not making money. And, at the end, a poorly run, money-losing company goes out of business.

The USPS, which lost over $20 billion from 2007-2010 –and $5 billion in FY 2013, goes chugging on. This report from the Cato Institute well-documents their problems. For example:

A key driver of mail delivery costs is the congressionally mandated obligation to serve virtually every mailing address, regardless of volume, six days a week. Fulfilling this “universal service” obligation results in the USPS having large fixed costs, including the costs of more than 36,000 postal outlets, 215,000 vehicles, and 600 processing facilities.

However, even given the universal service obligation, the Government Accountability Office and USPS officials believe that more than half of these processing facilities aren’t needed. Why aren’t they closed down to save money? The GAO notes that the USPS faces “formidable resistance” from members of Congress and postal unions when attempting to close or consolidate facilities.

The USPS is required to provide services to all communities, including areas where post offices have low traffic and are not cost effective. Before closing a post office, the USPS must provide customers with at least 60 days of notice before the proposed closure date, and any person served by the post office may appeal its closure to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The USPS cannot close a post office “solely for operating at a deficit.”

Members of Congress whose districts would be affected by a post office closure often raise a big fuss. Last year, for example, the USPS proposed consolidating 3,200 postal outlets, but following a congressional outcry, the number under consideration was reduced to a paltry 162. That is no way to run a business.

No, it’s not. Labor costs are also a problem:

While the USPS has been able to eliminate a substantial number of employees through attrition, the USPS’s predominantly unionized workforce continues to account for 80 percent of the agency’s costs despite increased automation. The USPS estimates that, in the absence of changes, its total workforce costs will soar from $53 billion in 2009 to $77 billion in 2020.

And at the root of these costs are restrictive union contracts:

Another factor that reduces postal service efficiency is that union contracts inhibit the flexibility of USPS leaders in managing their workforce. For example, most postal workers are protected by “no-layoff” provisions, and the USPS must let go lower-cost part-time and temporary employees before it can lay off a full-time worker not covered by such provisions.

There’s a lot more in this report, which makes a great case that the postal service should be privatized and its monopoly on first-class mail ended. The benefits would redound to the benefit of taxpayers and customers, providing the service the Founders had in mind when they gave Congress the power to “…establish Post Offices and post Roads.” In this day and age, that does not require a government-run, inefficient, and monopolistic postal service.

It’s time to privatize the USPS.

I might then get my packages on time.

Footnote:
(1) By the way, if any Amazon employees are reading this, tell your boss, Jeff, to stop using USPS for deliveries. It’s your two-day guarantee to Prime customers they’re breaking and your reputation they’re harming. Fire them.
(2) The page for which apparently works as well has the healthcare.gov payment system — not at all. I sense a trend in government-built web sites.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Don’t we hold our officials accountable, anymore? Updated.

December 30, 2013
"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”

The answer in too many cases, sadly, is “no.” Via The Campaign Spot, here’s a summary of the fiasco that is Oregon’s Obamacare exchange, probably the worst in the nation (1):

In Oregon, the state exchange still couldn’t enroll anyone online at the end of December. The state is relying entirely on paper applications and had to hire an additional 400 workers to process them. Some patients scheduled to go on dialysis next month are still waiting for answers from the exchange about what plans are available. The advertising campaign, directing people to the dysfunctional web site, was pulled down after spending $21 million. The exchange’s board extended a deadline by a week, announcing the decision one hour before the deadline. The $178,992-per-year chief information officer, who helped design the $160 million site, resigned for “personal reasons” earlier this month . . . citing the death of her mother-in-law. This CIO lived in Sacramento, California. Rocky King, the state exchange’s director, resigned for “health reasons.” (Hopefully he won’t have to rely on the exchange to get insurance in whatever new job he starts.)

The state’s already spent over $40 million on the site, itself, on top of the $21 million for advertising. So, one would think, Governor Kitzhaber, who’s been a big supporter of Obamacare, would be in trouble for reelection next year, right? Right?

Yeah, right.

According to an article quoted later in the piece, Kitzhaber is almost a shoe-in for reelection. After all this, voters won’t turn to even another Democrat?

Not that I’m laughing and pointing at Oregonians. Far from it. In California, we continually reelect or elect to other offices pols who do terrible jobs, yet time and again they escape accountability for their performance. It’s indicative of a more fundamental problem: too few people pay attention to the jobs their elected officials are doing, or perhaps even care at all. Elections and politics, though we trust the winning candidates with vast sums of money and essential public services, are just a bother to too many people, who just tick a box on the ballot rather than take seriously the responsibilities of a citizen. Increasingly literally, they just “mail it in” and, for the public, the public’s business is an afterthought.

I know we all have a lot that demands our time and that state, local, and national issues can be mind-numbingly complex, but the pols are not the only ones with “job responsibilities.” We have them, too, as citizens: the duty to pay attention, so that we can audit and judge our officials performance when an election rolls around.

Otherwise, we get the Kitzhaber we deserve.

Footnote:
(1) Though Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont are finalists for that honor, too.

UPDATE: And here’s a similar example at the federal level. One of the bureaucrats charged with overseeing the Obamacare rollout is retiring, with pension intact. Naturally, we should celebrate her career.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Shocker: Syria to miss deadline on Obama WMD deal

December 30, 2013
Not again?

Wishes he’d never heard of Syria

Hey, didn’t the Assad regime get the message that Obama really meant it when he said he was really, really serious about getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons? Keep this up, and he’ll go tell Putin on them:

Syria’s failure to move part of its chemical weapons arsenal to a Mediterranean port has prompted warnings that the disarmament deal struck with the country is falling seriously behind schedule.

A Norwegian navy frigate sent to escort a convoy carrying Syria’s mustard gas and sarin stockpile has said it has been advised to expect a substantial delay.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body in charge of the UN-backed plan to destroy 1,300 tonnes of Syria’s chemical weapons, said it had put in place all the necessary “logistical and security” arrangements.

However, it added that tomorrow’s deadline for the shipment of the weapons-grade munitions cannot be met and could only proceed if President Bashar al-Assad’s government “intensified efforts” to move the material.

I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

Of course, everyone knew this would happen: Obama leapt at the deal brokered by Russia because he had stupidly opened his mouth and laid down an ultimatum he wasn’t prepared to back up. In the meantime, Assad has gained more time to defeat the rebels, his Iranian paymasters keep Syria as a client state and bridge to their proxies in Lebanon, and American influence in the region sinks lower as Obama can’t even enforce the minimum terms of a fig-leaf agreement he and Secretary Kerry touted as a major breakthrough.

That “smart power” sure has paid off, no?

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Antarctic ‘research’ fiasco – ‘would you, could you, in a boat’?

December 30, 2013

The climate change movement is falling apart and ending in farce, as this “scientific expedition” shows. BTW, click through for photos of ships sunk in the Antarctic in recent years. Maybe we should worry about the ecological damage incompetent visitors are doing.

Watts Up With That?

This will be a top “sticky” post for awhile since interest is high – new stories will appear below this one – Anthony

UPDATE:Josh channels the boat people

UPDATE2: Another irony is discovered, this one doubly deep.  See update 2 below.

UPDATE3: see WUWT and Weatherbell help KUSI-TV with a weather forecasting request from ice-trapped ship in Antarctica Akademik Shokalskiy

UPDATE4:AMSA: Helicopter rescue of Akademik Shokalskiy likely to commence shortly

(It’s off again, then now its on again, with report the helicopter has landed)

UPDATE5: All the passengers (tourists and scientists) are off the ship

UPDATE6:Tough questions need to be asked

UPDATE7: Trouble on the rescue ship – reaching open water not so easy

As we reported previously on WUWT here and here, the saga of the “climate scientists/tourists trapped in ice” continues to fascinate many. Now a second ship has given up on rescue, after the Chinese…

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Heh: Obamacare advocate Richard Blumenthal says UPS should refund customers for late deliveries

December 28, 2013

Dickie Blumenthal also lied about his “service” in Vietnam. Glad to know that such an honorable man of unquestioned probity is willing to go after a private company for errors in service. And speaking of “service,” Senator…


Americans held in Libya, head-meets-desk quote. Update: released?

December 27, 2013

There’s breaking news tonight that four Americans, likely military, are in the custody of the Libyan government, having been taken during a visit to the Roman ruins at Sabratha. As of this writing, no information has been released as to any charges, and the State Department has issued no statement. (Probably wise, until we learn more.)

Reading the NYT article, I did a double-take when I read the following:

Since the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens on Sept. 11, 2012, employees of the American Embassy have operated with extraordinary caution. Rigorous security rules preclude any movements outside the heavily fortified embassy compound without advance planning and an armed guard. The compound is locked at night, and no one is permitted to enter or exit. Counterterrorism has become a central focus of the work there, and the compound brims with well-armed security officers.

Just brilliant. It takes the needless deaths of four US personnel, including an ambassador, at the hands of our sworn enemies for us to finally start providing anything resembling adequate security. Hillary Clinton’s legacy is secure, and I’m sure the souls of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods are ever so relieved.

Meanwhile, I would suggest to the Libyan government that it remember who put them in power in the first place and that, if any of these men are hurt in any way, we have long memories, and Barack Obama won’t always be president.

UPDATE: Per CNN via KCCI, the four have been released. No confirmation yet, nor any word on their condition or why they were held in the first place.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama’s top-ten constitutional violations of 2013

December 27, 2013
"Ignored"

“Violated”

From a list compiled by Forbes. Like they wrote, it’s tough limiting yourself to just ten, and a lot of those chosen come under the rubric of “general lawlessness.” Here’s one example:

10. Mini-DREAM Act. Congress has shamelessly failed to pass any sort of immigration reform, including for the most sympathetic victims of the current non-system, young people who were brought into the country illegally as children. Nonetheless, President Obama, contradicting his own previous statements claiming to lack authority, directed the Department of Homeland Security to issue work and residence permits to the so-called Dreamers. The executive branch undoubtedly has discretion regarding enforcement priorities, but granting de facto green cards goes beyond a decision to defer deportation in certain cases.

This is typical of the Obama administration: unable to get want they want through Congress, Obama abuses prosecutorial discretion and the regulatory powers granted by Congress to rewrite or even abrogate the law itself. And this has happened time and again, especially in the last year with regard to Obamacare. These are not the actions of a president under a constitutional republic, but those of a Peronist-style presidente, who only needs the legislature to rubber-stamp his decisions and carry out his directives. Not that I’m saying Obama is another Hugo Chavez or even Juan Peron (though I’ve snarkily referred to him that way, before), but his attitudes and predilections are both lazy and authoritarian. Why should he not do whatever he wants, if he thinks something needs doing? Why should he go to the effort of dealing with Congress, when he already knows what’s right?

Other presidents have tested the limits, of course, and some have gone beyond them. But the prior gentleman had some sense of limits, of boundaries they couldn’t cross, because “that’s not the way we do things.”

I don’t think Obama knows any such limits.

via Allahpundit

EDIT: Deleted a section that, on further review, didn’t fit.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)