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The Morning Grumpy – December 14th

14 Dec

All the news and views for you to consume during your “morning grumpy”.

1. The local post offices have averted a manufactured crisis which would have led to the closure of the local mail processing facility on William Street, and dozens (if not more) of branches.

The U.S. Postal Service announced it will delay closing those facilities until May 15 of next year in wake of pressure from 14 U.S. senators, including Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

The senators said they wanted time to work on postal reform legislation.

“In New York, more than 1,000 jobs, 100 post offices and seven area mail-processing centers will continue serving their communities while Congress works on reforming the Postal Service to ensure its survival,” Gillibrand said.

The national conversation about the need to reduce costs in the US Postal Service, shutter local offices, and change the business model has been focused on the reduced need to sustain regular physical mail delivery. Usage of private services like FedEx, UPS, and DHL has increased while more people utilize email, text messages, and social networks for communication. Makes sense, right? Well, somewhat. The USPS is a vital communications link for rural Americans and provides a regulated manner for distribution of government and personal communications. It might need some restructuring, but the closure of thousands of local offices and the reduction of nearly half the labor force is a manufactured crisis.

Though the USPS runs as an independent “business”, its finances are tied to the federal budget as postal employees participate in federal retirement plans. In 2006, Congress passed something called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA).

Under this legislation, the USPS was forced to “prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span” — meaning that it had to put aside billions of dollars to pay for the health benefits of employees it hasn’t even hired yet, something “that no other government or private corporation is required to do.”

The mandate has essentially set the postal service up for failure, which was obviously the entire point of the legislation.

I don’t know about you, but I like efficient, reliable, trustworthy mail delivery at competitive prices from the USPS.

2. Why don’t Democrats defend government?  While Tea Party ballbags scream like unhinged lunatics that government needs to be reduced, costs need to be eviscerated, and Americans left to fend for themselves in an austere darwinian world, where are the Democrats who fight for government? Who advance the case that government is inherently a good thing?

It is undeniably the case that all of our ideological battles in this country eventually come down to government. Its size and scope and legitimacy—that is to say, the questions of political philosophy—and then, even if one acknowledges some degree of legitimacy for it, the practical question of whether it can do anything right. Conservatives and Republicans have been, as we know, making mendacious but awfully effective arguments on both fronts for three decades. And it gets even worse: In a cruel and surreal and self-perpetuating farce, Republicans let government fail while they are in power (FEMA in New Orleans, financial regulators and the crash) by not executing the missions of the agencies in question, and then, after the failure, turning around and chortling: “See? Government can’t prevent these things!”

Oddly, no one on the liberal side really defends government much. In the progressive solar system there are groups devoted to every specific issue and cause you can name, but there is no group I’m aware of that is devoted to the simple premise of standing up in public and saying: Government does this, and it’s good.

Will someone ever make the case? If not, why not?

3. Is our cultural addiction to Facebook making us miserable?

Since our Facebook profiles are self-curated, users have a strong bias toward sharing positive milestones and avoid mentioning the more humdrum, negative parts of their lives. Accomplishments like, “Hey, I just got promoted!” or “Take a look at my new sports car,” trump sharing the intricacies of our daily commute or a life-shattering divorce. This creates an online culture of competition and comparison. One interviewee even remarked, “I’m pretty competitive by nature, so when my close friends post good news, I always try and one-up them.”

Analyzing my Facebook feed from the past couple of days, you’d think that my friends and family were some of the most successful, happy, well-balanced and organized people in the world. The thing is, I know most of them are struggling to maintain a balance between their responsibilities and find happiness, just like everyone in the world.

4. 2011, an incredibly eventful year

I don’t think this video, as robust as it is, captures everything. But, it comes close.

5. One of my favorite headlines of the year comes from Andrew Sullivan “Newt Gingrich Is A Dumb Person’s Idea Of A Smart Person”, as he links to this post,

I have been perplexed for some time why Newt Gingrich is routinely acknowledged even by his bitter enemies within the Republican Party as a “genius,” but the answer turns out is simple: he acts exactly like one of those obnoxious elitist intellectual know-it-alls that the right-wing no-nothings think is the hallmark of an intellectual. He is constantly reminding us of his doctorate in history; he routinely claims he understands issues more deeply than anyone else; he has made a career of denouncing or (when he had the authority) eliminating professional expertise that might challenge his own certain pronouncements; and he is a veritable fount of crackpot “big” ideas (mining minerals on the moon, protecting the United States from sci-fi doomsday scenarios, and “fundamentally transforming” everything as a first step to doing anything.

Fact Of The Day: On this day in 1979, “London Calling” by the Clash was released.

Quote Of The Day: “One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.” – Robert Kennedy

Song Of The Day: “Clampdown” by The Clash

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