By Dave Lindorff
Okay, I have to vent here. We all get a little crazy sitting alone
at our keyboards in this business, and it's finally gotten to me.
I know there are serious signs of a complete mental breakdown in the
US, with polls reporting that millions of people are actually excited
at having a low-rent religious fanatic who consistently mispronounces
pundit as "pundint" (shades of Dubya!), pilfers state funds for her
family's personal use, lies about her alleged opposition to Washington
pork, claims the bloody war in Iraq is "God's will," forces her
17-year-old daughter to make a momentary mistake into a lifetime one by
marrying the kid who got her pregnant, and refers to blacks as "sambo"
and to Alaska's indigenous people as "arctic arabs," running for vice
president on the ticket with a man who is a walking medical disaster
waiting to happen.
These are probably the same people who still give the worst
president in the history of the Union a 30 percent approval rating, who
keep watching reality TV shows (perhaps thinking they're real), and who
still think having 180,000 US troops indiscriminately slaughtering
Iraqis, Afghanis and Pakistanis is making the US "safe."
But right now I want to talk about Homeland Security and the US Postal Service, two small examples of domestic insanity.
I tried to mail a book to my father last Saturday for his 86th
birthday. In order to make sure it would get there by Tuesday, I sent
it in one of those flat-rate Priority Mail envelopes--the ones that
promise two-day delivery. It cost me $4.80 (five 90-cent stamps, one
24-cent stamp and two 3-cent stamps). I drop the little package off
after hours into the mail slot in the lobby of my local post office.
Yesterday, my envelope was in my mailbox, though, with a blue
sticker attached headed: "Important Customer Information: We regret
that your mail was not collected or is being returned to you due to
heightened security requirements. All mail that bears postage stamps
and weighs more than 13 ounces MUST be taken by the customer to a
retail service associate at a Post Office."
Okay, so dad won't get his present on his birthday.
I called the local PO to ask what was going on, and was told that
any package over 13 ounces with stamps has to be handed in person to a
"With stamps?" I asked. "What if I had worked at a company and had a
metered stamp put on it and then dropped it in a mailbox or mail slot?"
"Then it would go," I was told. "Because we'd have a meter number to trace who mailed it."
Let's see. The meter would trace the package to whatever big company
I might have worked at, but I don't see how that would help them trace
it to the actual mailer.
Now, what about if I brought my package to the counter? Would it be
opened and checked? No, I was told. I would simply be asked by the
counter clerk whether the package contained any banned substances, like
bodily fluids, liquids or bombs. If I said no, it would be accepted for
mailing. ("I know this sounds silly," the postal worker on the phone
told me, "but I don't make the rules. It's Homeland Security.")
Wow. The Post Office and the Department of Homeland Security are
sure keeping our mail trucks and our airlines safe with this clever
I mean, we can be sure that those stoopid Ayrabs wouldn't think to
put a metered stamp on the bomb they send through the mails. And that
asking at the counter thing, that would sure catch anyone trying to
slip some deadly substance into the mail stream. The clerks are
probably trained to look for certain kinds of markers of suspicious
behavior--a tic, a shifty look, or some reticence in the answer given.