Nothing Sucks Worse Than The Post Office — Except for Kinko’s

NATE SILVER IN FIVE THIRTY-EIGHT

Paul Krguman compares his experience at the Post Office to that at FedEx and UPS:

Art Laffer (why is he, of all people, on my TV?) asks what it will be like when the government runs Medicare and Medicaid.

But I’d raise a further question: he warns that when the government takes over these, um, government programs, they’ll be like the Post Office and the DMV. Why, exactly, are these public functions unquestioned bywords for “something bad”?

Maybe I’m living a sheltered life here in central New Jersey, but I don’t find the Post Office a terrible experience — no worse than Fedex or UPS. (Full disclosure: I worked as a temp mailman when in college.) And nobody likes going to the DMV, but the one on Rt. 1 I go to always seems fairly well managed.

Maybe things are different in New Jersey, but my couple of experiences at the Post Office since moving to Brooklyn a few months ago have been really awful. The first time I went, to mail out my tax forms on April 15th, I had to stand in line for the better part of 20 minutes to buy a couple of stamps. The second time, when I had to mail out some forms for a passport renewal, the clerk “serving” me decided literally without warning or apology half-way through processing my forms that it was time for her break; it took a good 15 minutes, with most of my personal documents slid conspicuously under her window, before someone came to relieve her. The third time, when I had to send some corporate documents to Albany for my consulting business, things were going smoothly enough — until I actually had to fill out the shipping receipt, and discovered that there were literally no working pens available in the entire building. I had to go across the street and buy one.

There’s probably only one customer service experience that is routinely as bad as the Post Office: FedEx Kinko’s.

The last time I went to FedEx Kinko’s, the black & white printer was broken, the fax machine was broken, and the “high-speed” Internet connection — which I was being charged for by the minute — was about as fast as a dial-up line in Ulan Bator. And then I had to stand in line for 15 minutes to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege of having my time wasted. The clerks at the Court Street Kinko’s are actually quite sweet — but the location is chronically understaffed and undermaintained on one of the busier commercial thoroughfares in the Five Boroughs. There are also the simple things that FedEx Kinko’s doesn’t get right: why do I have to fill out shipping forms by hand — invariably transposing the ZIP+4 or something and having to start over again — instead of by computer, when the clerk has to key in everything I’ve written down anyway? This is the nineties 21st Century, damnit. FedEx does an admirable job of delivering packages — but the retail experience is a real black eye for the company.

And apparently, I’m not alone in these experiences. Yelp.com has compiled 237 ratings for a total of 67 distinct USPS locations throughout the New York City area. The average rating, on a scale of 1 to 5, is a 2.29. As Yelp raters tend to be fairly generous with most things, this is really bad. But the ratings for FedEx Kinko’s are even worse: an average rating of 2.07 (n=78). The UPS Store, at least, gets somewhat more decent marks (an avergae rating of 2.70), which matches my experiences, although UPS has a somewhat hipper brand and Yelp is notorious for having a pro-hipster bias.

All kidding aside, I do think the Post Office creates some small, residual level of disdain for the idea of government-run services. The level of funding seems manifestly suboptimal and probably ought to be increased. But if every private-sector business were run as badly as FedEx Kinko’s, we’d all be frickin’ Communists in no time.

Ana Marie Cox – Media Whore: “I Think That It’s a Wonderful Expression of Democracy – I’m Not Sure If They’re AstroTurfed or Not Myself”

RELIABLE SOURCES

CNN TRANSCRIPT AUGUST 9, 2009

Teabag-Cox

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Thanks, John. It’s one of the oldest rituals of democracy. Election officials getting an earful from the voters, but a handful of high decibel critics at a spate of town hall meeting on health care reform have turned out to be a magnet for the media. You know how it works. The meeting might be dull, 99 audience members might be civil, but one screamer draws the cameras. You have probably seen some of this footage constantly replayed on television and across the Web.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cash for clunkers program is —

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You’re lying to me!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s right!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you waiting for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t have sophisticated language. I recognize a liar when I see one.

CROWD: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: When they could no longer ignore the anti-Obama voters, Democrats began to dismiss them and demonize them as the hired guns of the insurance companies or Brooks Brothers protesters.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the AstroTurf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Now the press trying to unravel allegations that the Republicans have planted some of these protesters and countercharges that the Democrats are trying to discredit legitimate dissent.

Joining us now to talk about the coverage of President Obama’s health plan and whether he’s getting a bit overexposed on television, in New York, Mark Halperin, editor-at-large and senior political analyst for “TIME” magazine, and author of the blog “The Page.” S.E. Cupp, blogger and the co-author of “Why You’re Wrong About the Right.” And here in Washington, Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America Radio and a columnist for “Playboy” magazine.

Mark Halperin, are the media playing up the loudest and the angriest of these protesters to the point where it distorts what’s what’s going on at most of these town hall meetings?

HALPERIN: Yes, it distorts it and it’s also bad for America. I’m embarrassed about what’s going on as an American. I’m not an advocate for any position on the president’s proposals, but I think this is, Howie, something you have written about and seen for years, the lowest common denominator, people taking video that is meaningless.

Yes, there should be discussion. Dissent is fine. I don’t care why the protesters are showing up, but this is a horrible breakdown of our political culture and our media culture to allow people who are going in with the intent to disrupt to become the story. The biggest issue in the health care debate, things like, should there be a public plan, completely ignored by all media and crowded out the discussion by stunts and gimmicks, and the White House has exacerbated it by attacking back on the same style.

KURTZ: Ana Marie Cox, Mark Halperin says this is a breakdown in the media culture, but we couldn’t not cover these people, and they do have a right to be heard, don’t they?

COX: Right, they do. And I actually do not think it’s a breakdown of democracy. I think that it’s a wonderful expression of democracy. I’m not sure if they’re AstroTurfed or not myself. I think they probably aren’t, but I think that’s almost a worse sign for the Republican Party.

I think this is actually the death throes of a dying Republican Party, or at least in this forum, and the not sort of the start of something new.

KURTZ: S.E. Cupp, you have to admit, if you want to look at the media’s performance here, that the various outlets, and particularly television, are giving these critics ample air time. [Read more…]

What’s Not to Love About Having Our Healthcare Decisions Made by Insurance Company Accountants?

hcttTOM TOMMORROW in Salon [Read more…]

Glenn Greenwald Waterboards Chuckie Todd

S A L O N

Glenn Greenwald


roveyYesterday, I voiced several criticisms of comments made earlier this week by NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd regarding potential torture investigations by the Obama Justice Department.  Shortly thereafter, he emailed me to say that he wished I had contacted him before posting.  In response, I invited him to participate in a podcast discussion with me of the issues raised by his remarks and my analysis of them, and, to his credit, he accepted.

This morning, I spoke with Todd for roughly 30 minutes about the relative significance of torture investigations, the implications of failing to prosecute high-level political officials when they break the law, the role of the media in these matters, and whether Todd was expressing his own views or merely repeating what the White House believes (the polling data I reference, along with the media’s routine distortion of it, is documented here and here).  The discussion can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below (it can be also downloaded by MP3 here or by ITunes here).  A transcript will be posted later today.

UPDATE:  The transcript is now available here.

The Newly Released Secret Laws of the Bush Administration

Tuesday March 3, 2009 06:31 EST

The newly released secret laws of the Bush administration

(updated below – Update II – Update III)

Reviewing yesterday’s front page of the print edition of The New York Times prompted this observation from Digby:

I looked at the front page of the paper this morning and wondered for a moment if I was looking at one of those historical documents about which scholars would wonder if those who read it in real time had a clue about the scale of what was happening.

There’s a run on the banks in Ukraine, the world’s biggest insurer suffered the highest quarterly losses in corporate history, Europe is starting to come apart — with Germany being the lead player. Major change seems to be rumbling in a bunch of different ways right now — with echoes of the past overlaid with things we’ve never seen before. Maybe it’s just a blip.  But maybe not.

Various universal perception biases always make it difficult to assess how genuinely consequential contemporary events are:  events in the present always seem more important than ones in the past; those that affect us directly appear more significant than those that are abstract, etc. (though powers of denial — e.g.: all of those bad things I’ve read about in history can’t happen to me and my country and my time — undercut those biases).  Whatever else is true, it seems undeniably clear, at the very least, that the extreme decay and instabilities left in the wake of the Bush presidency will alter many aspects of the social order in radical and irrevocable (albeit presently unknowable) ways.

One of the central facts that we, collectively, have not yet come to terms with is how extremist and radical were the people running the country for the last eight years.  That condition, by itself, made it virtually inevitable that the resulting damage would be severe and fundamental, even irreversible in some sense.  It’s just not possible to have a rotting, bloated, deeply corrupt and completely insular political ruling class — operating behind impenetrable walls of secrecy — and avoid the devastation that is now becoming so manifest.  It’s just a matter of basic cause and effect.

Yet those who have spent the last several years pointing out how unprecedentedly extremist and radical was our political leadership (and how meek and complicit were our other key institutions) were invariably dismissed as shrill hysterics.  As but one of countless highly illustrative examples, here is a November, 2004 David Broder column scoffing at the notion that there was anything radical or unusual taking place in the U.S., dismissively deriding the claim that there was anything resembling an erosion of basic checks and safeguards in the United States:

Bush won, but he will have to work within the system for whatever he gets. Checks and balances are still there. The nation does not face “another dark age,” unless you consider politics with all its tradeoffs and bargaining a black art.

That was (and still is) the prevailing attitude among our political and media elites:  it was those who were sounding alarm bells about the radicalism and damage of the Bush administration — not Bush officials themselves — who were the real radicals and, worst of all, were deeply Unserious.

* * * * *

[Read more…]

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