Monthly Archives: January 2009

Say it Ain’t So!

Stolen from Natalie Dee

This story makes this seem like an OK idea.

Postmaster General: Mail days may need to be cut

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID

WASHINGTON (AP) — Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday, in asking lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week. If the change happens, that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to Saturday mail delivery. Previous post office studies have looked at the possibility of skipping some other day when mail flow is light, such as Tuesday.

Faced with dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year. “If current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year,” Potter said in testimony for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

Total mail volume was 202 billion items last year, over 9 billion less than the year before, the largest single volume drop in history.

And, despite annual rate increases, Potter said 2009 could be the first year since 1946 that the actual amount of money collected by the post office declines.

“It is possible that the cost of six-day delivery may simply prove to be unaffordable,” Potter said. “I reluctantly request that Congress remove the annual appropriation bill rider, first added in 1983, that requires the Postal Service to deliver mail six days each week.”

“The ability to suspend delivery on the lightest delivery days, for example, could save dollars in both our delivery and our processing and distribution networks. I do not make this request lightly, but I am forced to consider every option given the severity of our challenge,” Potter said.

That doesn’t mean it would happen right away, he noted, adding that the agency is working to cut costs and any final decision on changing delivery would have to be made by the postal governing board.

If it did become necessary to go to five-day delivery, Potter said, “we would do this by suspending delivery on the lightest volume days.”

The Postal Service raised the issue of cutting back on days of service last fall in a study it issued. At that time the agency said the six-day rule should be eliminated, giving the post office, “the flexibility to meet future needs for delivery frequency.

A study done by George Mason University last year for the independent Postal Regulatory Commission estimated that going from six-day to five-day delivery would save the post office more than $1.9 billion annually, while a Postal Service study estimated the saving at $3.5 billion.

The next postal rate increase is scheduled for May, with the amount to be announced next month. Under current rules that would be limited to the amount of the increase in last year’s consumer price index, 3.8 percent. That would round to a 2-cent increase in the current 42-cent first class rate.

The agency could request a larger increase because of the special circumstances, but Potter believes that would be counterproductive by causing mail volume to fall even more.

Dan G. Blair, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, noted in his testimony that cutting service could also carry the risk of loss of mail volume. He suggested Congress review both delivery and restrictions it imposed on the closing of small and rural post offices.

The post office’s problem is twofold, Potter explained.

“A revolution in the way people communicate has structurally changed the way America uses the mail,” with a shift from first-class letters to the Internet for personal communications, billings, payments, statements and business correspondence.

To some extent that was made up for my growth in standard mail — largely advertising — but the economic meltdown has resulted in a drop there also.

Potter also asked that Congress ease the requirement that it make advance payments into a fund to cover future health benefits for retirees. Last year the post office was required to put $5.6 billion into the fund.

“We are in uncharted waters,” Potter said. “But we do know that mail volume and revenue — and with them the health of the mail system — are dependent on the length and depth of the current economic recession.”

He proposed easing the retirement pre-funding for eight years, while promising that the agency will cover the premiums for retirement health insurance.

At the same hearing the General Accounting Office agreed that the post office is facing an urgent need for help to preserve its financial strength. But the GAO suggested easing the pre-funding requirement for only two years, with Congress to determine the need for more relief later.

Potter noted that the agency has cut costs by $1 billion per year since 2002, reduced its work force by 120,000, halted construction of new facilities except in emergencies, frozen executive salaries and is in the process of reducing its headquarters work force by 15 percent.

Aretha Franklin’s Understudy

Child! This had me laughing for a solid four minutes.

Gran Torino, 4/5

Rated R. Click here to view the trailer.

Have you ever seen that old Clint Eastwood flick, The Outlaw Josie Wales? Gran Torino is pretty much the same movie sort of in reverse, complete with Olympic-caliber spitting, gang violence, copious racial epithets and pantomime gunplay. Gran Torino is set 140 years later and Mr. Eastwood has only gotten older*, wiser and more grizzled. Do I have to tell you he’s still mad-dog mean?

Eastwood is Walt Kowalski, a retired Ford assemblyman who recently lost his wife and he’s pissed off at the world. Well, I guess his wife’s death didn’t have anything to do with it – he’s been pissed off since at least the 50s. Walt – excuse me, Mr. Kowalksi – doesn’t take much crap from anybody, so you can imagine that his lazy children don’t have much use for him, and he has even less use for them. He also doesn’t have much use for minorities of any kind, including but not limited to “Wops, Krauts, Eyeties, Gippos, Bubbles, Froggies, Chinks, Yidds, Jocks, Paddies, Dagoes, those dirty, dirty Belgians”** and especially the Hmong that have “taken over” his neighborhood. It doesn’t help matters when Tao – “Toad” as Walt calls him – tries to steal his cherry 1972 Gran Torino Sport. At the insistence of his sister, Soo, Tao will gradually work off the offense doing chores under Walt’s critical eye. Wouldnjaknowit, Soo and Tao also gradually work their way into Walt’s crusty old heart.

The problem is that the old neighborhood has also been taken over by gangs. “Spook” gangs, “Wetback” gangs, Hmong gangs, etc. etc. and trouble is a-brewin’. Luckily, Korean War vet Walt knows how to deal with a bully. He keeps a cool head and a lot his strategy revolves around pointing his finger at them and saying BANG (much like Chuck Norris, who shot down a German plane in a similar fashion). Don’t worry, he uses his fists and plenty of real fire arms too. To watch Eastwood walk around being pissed off is always fun, regardless of which variation of tough guy he’s playing, and it’s very fun in Gran Torino. You will root for this loveable racist old codger.

Gran Torino is pretty good. It’s also pretty funny. Marketing for the film hasn’t touched on that aspect of the script, but there are more than handful of genuinely funny moments, not the least of which is a series of scenes in which Walt teaches Tao to “man up.” I also enjoyed Walt’s banter with rookie priest Father Janovich (Christopher Carley): “I heards there was some trouble in the neighborhood. Why didn’t you call the police?” “Well, Father, I prayed for them to come, but nobody answered.”

So yeah, it’s pretty good, but there’s a reason it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. It’s no The Good, The Bad or the Ugly or The Outlaw Josie Wales. It’s also not Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby. The script is very well-written (its author clearly had Eastwood in mind) and it never gets boring. Despite many many many racial slurs, the movie is not offensive nor is it overly preachy in its message seeing past racial boundaries. It stumbles a little in Soo’s dialog. The ending is telegraphed from frame one, but hey, it’s a good ending so why gripe?

Bee Vang who plays Tao and Ahney Her’s Soo are fine. Just “fine.” It’s not Vang’s fault, but I very much wanted to give his character a haircut. He kinda reminds me of my cousin, Kyle. But of course, this is Eastwood’s movie. His character is so crotchety it flirts with caricature, but he’s just so darn fun to watch! I’d like to see Eastwood and Samuel L. Jackson in a contest to see who can get pissed off the most in a 2-hour feature.

Did I mention Eastwood sings over the closing credits? Oh yeah. Worth the price of admission right there.

*His old-man pants are creeping higher on his waist as well. Check out the poster.

**I don’t even know what people group half of these slurs are referring to. Where have I been?

www.Raahe.Fi

What, exactly, is the modern, cosmopolitan hippo-about-town wearing to this season’s formal dinner parties and premiers? I’m glad you asked.

Reasons #36,421, #36,422 and #36,423 why Oklahoma Rocks

National Average (via BoLS): 7.2 percent

Oklahoma’s 2009 Budget Deficit: $0
National Average: $821 million per state (California alone: $13.8 billion)

Oklahoma’s Foreclosure Rate: 2.12 percent
National Rate: 2.31 percent

So So Awesome!


What could possibly make this cheeseburger any cooler? Mate it with a bed.

God Bless America!

Psalm 20

Psalm 20
For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.

3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
Selah

4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

9 O LORD, save the king!
Answer us when we call!