US Post Office and other inefficiencies.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want the US Postal Service to run at a profit. See here. The profit is entirely in maintaining a cohesive country, and part of that is making sure that my cousin in Fort Benton, MT, can send a birthday card to my uncle in Carlsbad, NM, for the same price that my uncle in Sacramento, CA, can send a sample contract to his business associate in New York. (Sacto to NYC has efficiencies of volume that Ft Benton to Carlsbad will never have. Pure business practice would have people competing to mail between Sacto and NYC, but dropping the flow between small communities entirely, or making that sort of mail an inefficient cottage business. Small towns are already hurting enough, throughout the country.)

Yes, I think there is plenty of room to raise the price on first class mail. I also think that there is a large and sneaky group in congress who’re perfectly content to run the USPS into the ground legislatively, and claim that congressional ineptitude proves the the USPS isn’t effective, efficient or necessary. That is all founded on a lie, that makes a certain kind of reactionary voter happy, by enforcing a surreality in place of actually making sure that the country’s needs are met.

The US Army is also not run at a profit. I really don’t think that it should be, regardless of a Milo Minderbender‘s opinion. Like the US Army, the USPS may not be the best possible Post Office – just the best in the world, by a very large margin.

It’s time to stop screwing around with the things that make the US one powerful country instead of a whole bunch of city-states, which is exactly and precisely what the blind allegiance to teabagger protocols will net us. Us. One country, not 308 million countries of one.

Love the Service anthems.

Aside

Although I have to admit, I couldn’t figure out what the USCG emblem was supposed to be…  my daughter finally had to tell me it was a cutter, upside down to the screen.The West Virginia University Marching Band put on a show to be proud of here.

Fox News – The Fascist Fake News

Aside

With this charming piece, I finally realized that Fox News, in its network entirety, has taken on the anti-Jon Stewart mantle, and become entirely self-promotional, generating fantastical perspectives with absolutely no value except to get their audience up in arms. They’re so good at it that I find myself wondering if they even realize what a joke their “news reports” have become.

They have to know, don’t they? I mean, it’s like The Colbert Report, and O’Reilly was in on the joke, right?

Bought and Paid for

Gotta hand it to the Republicans on the supercommittee. Even the millionaires are coming out of the woodwork to tell us that they’re willing to pay more taxes in order to get the country moving, but the Republicans are going to hard line that one until they get thrown out for refusing to join the big-boys table.

Too bad, really. Before they started the lock-step dance, I used to vote for some of them. Now? Doesn’t matter what they look like, their going to vote as they’re told by the RNC. Who owns the RNC? Somebody does. It certainly isn’t making the Republican Reich vote for the public good. They’re voting directly against the public good when they screw the poor to protect the rich.

Whigs.

BAD Internet Laws Heading Your Way

Quote

Originally posted by lj user write_light at BAD Internet Laws Heading Your Way

Website Blocking The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.

Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.

Chaos for the Internet Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.

Read this analysis from boing-boing.net

Get on the phone and call your representative. Express your disapproval. Tell him or her exactly how you feel, and that you don’t support this. Tell your friends to call their representatives, their Congressperson, and complain. Mention that you are a registered voter that takes your civic responsibility seriously and that you will use that vote to express your feelings about this.

http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_60/Intwbr /ernet-Companies-Boost-Hill-Lobbying-2103wbr /45-1.html

“We support the bill’s stated goals — providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign ‘rogue’ websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting,” the Internet companies wrote in Tuesday’s letter. “Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action and technology mandates that would require monitoring of websites.” The chamber-led coalition in support of the bill includes Walmart, Eli Lilly & Co. and Netflix.

Google and other opponents of the legislation argue that restricting the Internet in the U.S. sets a bad international precedent and that the language defines infringing too broadly.

The loneliness of the long-distance panda

The “Loneliness of the Long-distance Panda”, written by my friend Jacey Bedford, is in the current Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. It’s a quirky piece and I had a lot of fun reading it. It’s available here. It isn’t a long tale, and I can’t think of a way to review it without giving away spoilers that you would not thank me for. Suffice it to say that it’s extraordinarily well written, fun in a dark way, and will be over much to soon. Takes about five minutes to read – longer to think about.

Taking a step back

Aside

I’ve decided to give up teaching in order to see my kids more, and work on my book more. I hate giving up the adjunct paycheck, but I have to keep some sort of balance. If Zook Country has a fan,she’ll probably be relieved to hear this, since it might mean that I’ll get the second volume out before the decade ends.

Republican Lockstep and punishing foreign investors

I’ve watched, in the least interested way, this story evolve.

US seeks record sentence for hedge fund boss in NY

What happened was that people have gotten together in such numbers to control the market that outsiders are increasingly disenfranchised. I’m about convinced that if you don’t have money and connections to invest through an insider trading specialist, you, like me, have watched your market investments rise up to nearly basis and crash back down repeatedly for the last decade. I no longer consider my mutual fund based IRAs a retirement fund. They’re a pseudo-scientific experiment in how long the market will attract small investors who don’t recognize that without a an insider in their corner, wall street is nothing but a pyramid or Ponzi scheme, and has been since 2000.

Doesn’t much matter in the end. Raj Rajaratnam has been sentenced to 11 years. He didn’t specifically defraud his customers. He simply defrauded everybody who was not inside on one of his trading scams.

What I care about, and what worries me, is that the hedge fund manager isn’t an American. Does the attorney’s office hope that they can set an example of longer sentences by picking up somebody who’s clearly a foreigner, and who won’t have a hometown following from one of the major political parties? (He isn’t really a Republican or a Democrat; he’s one o’ them dirty ferinners.)

Or, was the prosecutor’s office aware that the same mental picture that the Republicans and their lockstep cousins, the Tea Party, use to justify consistently filibustering against every piece of jobs legislation the president proposes will go insane if charges are pressed against one of their own? Maybe the insider trading schemes are so political party centric that any attempt to throw double decade penalties at an American who got caught with his hands in that particular cookie jar would be seen as a cheap political attack on a particular party? Maybe it is only safe to chastise foreigners for breaking the securities exchange laws. Maybe it would look bad if nine of ten inside traders turned out to be lining the pockets of one particular party. Which party would be tarred most heavily with that insider trading brush?

It’s very likely that the billionaires the Republican Party protects from higher taxes with one voice are simply not as emotionally invested in the tax argument as the bought and paid for politicians are in protecting their investors. Ah, I mean their staunch Republican Party contributors. The billionaires’ club can call this growing likelihood of a voters’ rebellion off by dropping some money on the Republicans to back off of this filibuster thing. Yes, the billionaires (and the millionaire auxiliary) bought and paid for their politicians, and their politicians have stayed bought (even the tea-partiers). It’s already become so obvious that the Republican hardline attitude is caused by loyalties that lie beyond voters and in the hands of the contributors who have bought and paid for that blind loyalty that every filibuster threatens to destabilize the voting blocks that keep the red state politicos useful.

Scrapping the national safety net

I’m proud to announce that seeing this picture brought tears to my eyes. I was so touched that I went back online to see if I could track down the story. Apparently, it’s true.

The gentleman whose grave is so righteously decorated was a part of the Greatest Generation. That generation brought in and supported social security, national welfare programs, and the first federal intervention through business subsidies to ameliorate the catastrophic economic collapse that was in progress during the 1930s.

Right now, there is a big political fracas brewing about cutting welfare, social security, and any other obvious government programs. Those programs were used to set our nation back on its feet after an entirely laissez faire economic meltdown led to mass starvation in this country.

A lot of people want to deny that Americans were dying of malnutrition during the great depression. When I went to high school in the 1970s, I had teachers that remembered classmates in their U.S. elementary schools who had quit coming to class because they STARVED TO DEATH. Yes, Americans starved to death in the 1930s because their local charities and local governments and local social organizations fell down — because the local folks were all poor. It’s just that some of them were a little poorer than others. We want to deny that today, but my teachers in the 1970s still remembered their dead friends. American friends. If we follow down this line of “reducing government” far enough, and if this stupid economic meltdown continues to stretch the difference between the richest and the poorest of us, we’ll start to see starvation deaths again.

I’m agin it.

Turning it all over to private industry or to the fed? Are these really the only choices?

There are seven billion people on Earth this year or next, and although the demographers think that that growth rate will slow in upcoming years, they’re banking on an ahistorical trend when they make such predictions. Whether the rate of population increase slows or not, barring a die back that makes the Black Death look like a summer cold, Earth will double in population over the next century.

Lots of folks are using the internet to complain that the US Government has never done anything good for the country, and that everything good that has happened in America is purely the result of individual initiative.

The internet they complain about the Gubmint on was developed using both private and public funding. The auto industry is a good example of private development that then turned to the gubmint to protect themselves from brash interlopers taking control of their industries.

And lots of them, of private businessmen making this country a better place, but you can also find lots of examples of the government making this country a better place, and from Queen Isabella to JFK, you can find examples of governments financing exploration, technical development, and good science that no private agency would be likely to fund, because the chances of success couldn’t be easily calculated, or the source of profit would not be immediately identifiable.

I’m not trying to argue that the government isn’t full of self interested people, I’m pointing out that, regardless of venue, self-interest and power seeking are a part of the human condition. Publicly funded science has paid off for the country, and so has private research and industry. We, as a culture, can poorly afford to argue that either side of that equation can be done away with. You can complain about the U.S. Government and force it to shrink. But Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon, BP, Microsoft, and AT&T keep growing, and shrinking the government simply cedes power away from something that the tea-party can influence, and invests it in corporations that don’t care what you and I think, and often aren’t even American.

I think that the government has to stay large enough to maintain control over our corporate entities, which involves remaining large enough to oversee them.

I also think that the issue at argument shouldn’t be size of government, or how prophetic the founding fathers were when they framed the constitution, but how to put the voters in control of the country. Actual control, not just shifting the liar in the seat back and forth between two parties that aren’t answering the need. Our government has been getting smaller in relation to our population for fifty years, but I don’t think things are any looser, or that we’re getting adequate bang for our buck. And I do think that there is an effort afoot to define the country’s economic health without referring to unemployment, the millions of people who lost their retirement nest-eggs in the latest stock market crash, or the fact that a growing percentage of the GNP rests in corporate coffers, doing individual citizens no good at all.

The citizens of this country, whom I consider the only important part of the country, are ceding stakeholder status in the running of the nation when we call for deregulation and ignore the elephant in the room. The corporations grow more powerful and less responsible for their actions with every deregulation. They don’t give a fig about illegal immigration, which is profitable to them, or our opinions, which are absolutely insignificant to Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon, BP, Microsoft, or AT&T, even if several million like-minded people give up their phones or cars and boycott. They do care when we, as a people, force them, through our government, to play fair by our standards, rather than their own.