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Archive for January, 2009

stampIn case you haven’t heard the Postmaster General has requested congress to lift the requirement to deliver mail six days a week.  The USPS is not an efficient machine, in fact it bleeds money, $2.8 billion loss last year and a projected $6 billion loss this year.  So they have decided that if they eliminate delivery on slow days (usually Tuesdays) they could save from $1.9 – $3.5 billion annually.  This all comes as they are prepared to raise first-class postage rates again in May by $.02 more.

But what can we do about this inefficiency?  Well, first it is important to note that our constitution (Article 1, section 8) gives congress the power “to establish post offices and post roads.”  I don’t take this to mean that they should be the only supplier of mail delivery though, but just that they provide it as part of their duty.  Just as we have public schools now, but you can choose private if you like, so I also think we should open up to private carriers.  If you say, “we already do with FedEx and UPS”, then you are right… to an extent.  Congress passed laws called Private Express Statutes that limit what private carriers can do, and a minimum they must charge – not exactly encouraging competition.  And yet FedEx and others have thrived I think, solely because there is a demand for reliable private delivery of not only parcels, but letters.  If we repealed the statutes, as expressed in this article from the Cato Institute, then we could see what that open competition would do.  The USPS could still exist to handle its constitutional duty, but would not have monopoly control.

Sweden disbanded their national monopoly for post in 1993, and 33 carriers have sprung up… but the semi-privatized Posten AB still dominates with 91% of the market because of their existing infrastructure.  This could be similar to what happens here, but at least we would have eliminated the barriers to entry and stoked the competitive fires that produce better service.  So if the USPS is the best method, then they will succeed, if not then someone else will.

I would also hope that along with repealing certain laws and creating the certification process needed for the private carriers, that something would be done to make junk mail a thing of the past.  Currently the USPS will not allow you to refuse bulk mail, mainly for the reason that the bulk mailers are huge, huge clients of theirs.  Bulk mailers are charged $.10 a piece, and the USPS delivers about 2 million tons of it a year.  Here’s a chance for government to follow through on their claim of environmentalism, since junk mail is a gross polluter.  We should all have the ability to refuse certain mailers, just like we can on email.  The steps to do it now, are annoying and not entirely effective.

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TED is holding their first conference in Long Beach next month after 20 years in Monterey, CA.  I was introduced to TED years ago when I ran across Bjørn Lomborg’s presentation at a conference.  It is an incredible organization designed to bring together innovative thinkers and doers to present their ideas on Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  Their motto is, “Ideas Worth Spreading”.

I encourage you to browse around the website, and listen to the many talks they have posted there.  They only last about 15 minutes each, so presenters are forced to focus their ideas and present well.  It’s filled with inventors, geniuses, scientists, and mathematicians you’ve never heard of, but also has Bono, and J.J. Abrams and other more well known speakers.

I would love to go to a conference, alas it is by invitation only, and also costs $6000 to attend.  Someday?  Anyway, I am pumped that Long Beach is now the home to this group.  Very cool.

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Drudge has a flash about the stimulus bill going through congress right now… the bill that is supposed to stimulate the economy and help us through this recession… the bill that is near $900 billion in spending.  Drudge’s flash points out one area of the bill that stipulates that:

not less than $335,000,000 shall be used as an additional amount to carry out domestic HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually-transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis prevention programs, as jointly determined by the Secretary and the Director;

Regardless of the merit of these programs, we must remember that this is an economic stimulus bill.  How is this justified as that?  In fact the whole section it fell under is entitled “Prevention and Wellness Fund”, and is budgeted at $3 billion ($2.35 of that to go solely to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  How again does this help the unemployed, or financially strapped?

Here is the heading of the bill itself:

Making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infra-structure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for other purposes.

Infra-structure is a core component of what government is already supposed to be doing with our money, not something to be thrown on the table during recession.  Where was infra-structure investment when they were establishing the NEA?  You know I love energy efficency and science, but they do not directly impact this current economic situation.  And “for other purposes” might as well be listed as number 1 on the bill statement, since we’ve already seen that will get a good chunk of change, but again, how does an std program help people who are out of work?

I know I constantly harp on the size of government and many of you disagree, but you must admit that when given the chance to spend money that isn’t theirs, the government is brazen about what it will do with it.  See Citizens Against Governement Waste for more info on unjustified spending by our government.

MARK ADDS:

Just found this tid-bit too:

None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.

Glad we got that straightened out… the swimming pool lobbyists just shat themselves!!

MARK UPDATES AGAIN: More from Powerline (pointing out that most appropriations don’t kick in until 2010).  And the Wall Street Journal chimes in.

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Go to the website passiveaggressivenotes.com.  Start reading… and if you are like me, you will find it hard to stop reading the notes.

microwave-ocd

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I found this to be a very interesting article from the Washington Post.  It seems the technology is severely limited in the White House.  I’ve read reports of this before where people from the private sector are shocked at what is available to use when they become employed in government, but this will be an especially interesting transition since Obama and his staff are much more tech-savvy than their predecessors.  Maybe only the CIA and FBI get the good computers… I’ve seen the Bourne movies, I know what gov’t computers can do if only given the chance!

  • Also check out the new White House website.  If you ever browsed around the old version, you will find this one much cleaner and functional.

[courtesy of Drudge]

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Andrew Breitbart started a conservative blog called Big Hollywood just a short while back, and I have enjoyed reading it as a former member of that secret cabal of conservatives working in entertainment.  It is filled with people talking about the struggles of that double-life in Hollywood, but also as a sort of news post where the writers can point out the hypocrisy of the liberal entertainment elite.

Breitbart wrote a great post the other day about how Hollywood liberals have seemed to turn a corner in their love of America now that a democrat is President.  The brunt of the article is in reference to a video (viewable in the post) of several liberal actors and actresses pledging to do great things for Obama.  Things such as: “Being a better person”, “Turning the lights off”, “freeing people from slavery.”  Breitbart rightly questions why it needed an Obama presidency to pledge these things:

Yet, hating the president doesn’t mean one can’t still help out the country in a great time of need. But many went to foreign countries and demeaned it instead. Called those that disagreed with them rubes and hicks. The elitism of the celebrities against flyover country America could not have been more pronounced. They made a boat-load of movies that affirmed this narrow and patronizing world view.

And now they want us back.

We’re all Americans — NOW

And as one of his readers helpfully commented:

Reminder to liberal celebrities: It’s time to set your Fluctuating Patriotism Clock from “Hate America” to “Love America” on Jan. 20th. Remember, it’s “Springsteen Ahead – Falwell Behind.

It’s a curious thing about politics that the supporters of a party are all ready to “help” America, but only when things are going their way.  This is true of both republicans and democrats.  I anxiously hope that conservatives do not just complain about this and then end up doing the same thing.  We’ll see.

Anyway, it is a great post, but also a great website that provides a look at Hollywood and it’s practices from a different perspective.  You might enjoy it.

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Change

The “historic” nature of this inauguration was not the thing I am most stoked about…but it’s something signficant fo sho.obama-on-presidents-chart

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To Sir, With Hope

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to watch any of the inauguration ceremony… so hopefully I can catch some good clips tonight.  I must say that I am very hopeful (to borrow a phrase) for Obama’s presidency.  Not because I agree with his philosophy or his political leanings… but because, what is the alternative?  I know a good many conservatives who are probably wishing for the worst for Obama’s tenure, as if that somehow makes their support of McCain, or whoever, right.  But all that means is that America has suffered if the worst happens under Obama, and why would you hope for that?  I certainly have trepidation (and maybe some fear) for what could happen to us under certain policies… which is why I didn’t vote for Obama, but my hope is that they don’t happen.

So, here is to our new President on a truly historic day.  I wish you and our country the best, sir.

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Body Image

There is an ever-growing concern among American parents, sociologists, and educators regarding the way that dolls (like Barbie) negatively impact the way that young girls perceive their own bodies.  I found this report fascinating:


PS. I apologize for the Michael Bannon’s closing remarks.

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I’m surprised that our blog hasn’t featured much (if any) discussion regarding the current troubles in Gaza (though we are being assured of a ceasefire by Israeli leadership).  I have rather strong views in opposition to the many of the actions of Israel (both presently and in the past), but I understand that as a group of people the Israelis desire a place to call their own (understandably so) and many of their surrounding countries would have them stripped of self-governance (if not even wiped out entirely).   I am certain that great deal of heated discussion would follow if I listed out my criticisms both of Israel and the various Palestinian groups who oppose them, but in this time of intense suffering I desire to write a prayer—something we’ve yet to do on this blog—and I hope it is not out of bounds.

God, the holy creator and sustainer of all things in this universe, we ask that you would exercise your will, particularly with regard to peace and the preservation of life on this planet.  We know that the tensions of war and strife are part of our lot as a result of disobedience, but we also know that you are abounding in grace and love.  Please guide the leadership of these conflicting peoples and—though this seems a near impossible task given the state of affairs in the Middle East—provide a lasting peace.  As a result of this current crisis we ask that you would please heal those who have been injured, provide shelter for those who have been displaced, and provide comfort for those who have lost their loved ones.  We boldly ask that this world would be transformed by the immense power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit.   Use us to pray and provide practical assistance in this situation.  Give us wisdom to see where we can work for your kingdom.  In all of these things may you be glorified.  Amen.

Who neither believes that war is tragic nor peace beautiful?

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