Thursday, January 04, 2007

I Wouldn't Mess With The Mail, If I Were You

I have a deep, abiding, sentimental love for the U.S. Postal Service. As I wrote in an early book review on this site:
The USPS is faster than the French Poste, cheaper than the German Post, and more consistent than any of the private delivery services in the US. The Postmaster [a character in Gregg Hurwitz's mostly mediocre novel The Program] points out that a 37-cent stamp will get you a letter from the Florida to Alaska--a vast continent of service--and a legally enforced contract between the sender and the post office that that letter will be delivered to the addressee. The mere fact that the Post Office bothers to maintain a dead letter office, sorry, Mail Recovery Center, instead of automatically chucking out mail that can't reach either an addressee or a sender, speaks volumes about the seriousness with which it approaches its task.
Did you know that you can send books overseas with the USPS in giant burlap sacks at $20 for 20 pounds? Did you know that you can send presents Priority Mail up to a week before Christmas and have them arrive on time? Did you know that the Post Office has its own investigatory unit dedicated to scammers, spammers, and mail thieves?

I especially love the mail carriers: people who have delivered mail correctly without last names or apartment numbers on the envelopes, people who have warned that my grandma's mailbox is getting pretty full and maybe someone should go around to pick the mail up, people who judge correctly when it is and isn't safe to leave a package with the neighbors. Sometimes I think it would be a fine thing to work for the post office, to go the Anthony Trollope route.

I do not think that the good people at the Post Office will be happy about this news:
President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the [New York] Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.
Everything he touches, he breaks, damages, or just smudges, doesn't he? I can only hope that the Postal Service employees show the kind of fight that the librarians did--and I think they might.

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