End mail delivery?

The U.S. Postal Service is having financial problems again and is proposing higher postage feeds and cutting out Saturday deliveries.  What, though, do you get in your mail these days?  In an age of e-mails and electronic banking, do we even need snail mail anymore?  Yes, we need delivery of packages for what we order online–something done profitably by Fed-Ex and UPS–so why not make that the business of the USPS, with those who still send paper correspondence paying for them as little packages?  Or why not let the government-subsidized post offices go out of business and let the private companies do it all?  Here is a proposal and rationale:

The Postal Service projects deficits of $238 billion — roughly the current gross domestic product of Portugal — through 2020. Raising rates slightly and reducing delivery would make tiny dents — and that’s the best possible outcome; in the worst, the changes would accelerate the service’s problems. Meanwhile, the debate obscures the fact that digital communications are fast eliminating the need for mail delivery.

To understand what could happen to the Postal Service, look at Kodak, whose 130-year history includes the kind of dominance that USPS long enjoyed. Even as the long-term threat from digital photography became clear in the 1990s, Kodak temporized. It tinkered with its traditional film, paper and chemicals businesses, never acknowledging that digital would all but eliminate them. Kodak continually predicted growth, even as it fell from being one of the most profitable companies in the world to one that’s essentially worthless.

The Postal Service, too, is looking at the future as a variant of the present. USPS, convinced of the long-term need for physical mail delivery, has been relying on increases in volume, according to a Government Accountability Office report published in April. Yet delivery volume for first-class mail fell 22 percent from 1998 through 2007, tumbled an additional 13 percent last year and was down 3 percent in the first half of this year despite heavy mailings from the Census Bureau.

Step one in avoiding Kodak’s fate is for the Postal Service to acknowledge that its future will have almost no connection to the present. Anything that can be conceived of as information will, in time, be sent electronically. The Internet is faster, cheaper and more convenient for the sender and the receiver.

E-mail has already supplanted letters, but that’s just the start. More people will send money via PayPal or other electronic services rather than mail checks. As is increasingly the case, people will download their movies and books, check their bills online, receive information about their investments electronically, and so on.

USPS’s future lies in things that need to be delivered physically: shoes, computers and other objects. On those items, the Internet can’t compete, and USPS has assets that could let it take on UPS and FedEx (which, unencumbered by USPS’s declining business, are in splendid shape; UPS reported Thursday that its second-quarter profit had nearly doubled, to $845 million, from a year earlier).

via Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui – How the U.S. Postal Service can save itself.

How Amazon.com funds this blog

Speaking of buying that Bo Giertz novel through this blog reminded me to thank all of you who are using Cranach as your Amazon portal.  Going to that site from here, using the Amazon search box in the sidebar, gives this blog a commission on whatever you buy.  The commission starts at 4% (though I’m getting 6% because of how much I’ve sold).  That’s not much, but you all really buy a lot of books.  And since Amazon.com now sells about everything, some of you are buying major appliances, such as ovens, through my site, giving my earnings a big boost!  I’m making from $25 to $100 every month, which more than covers the expenses of this little hobby.  (Cranach readers buy more books than click Google ads.  Those are making me nothing.  But that’s a sign of your sophistication.)  So thanks to everyone who has been patronizing my virtual department store. And for those of you who haven’t, if you ever need a book. . . or an oven. . .I’d be much obliged if you would start your Amazon search from that widget below the Lucas Cranach information.

If you want to get in on this action on your own blog or website, go here.

No more secrets

Last week the Washington Post outed thousands of top-secret security agencies, to the point of publishing an on-line map so that they can be located.  Now an online group WikiLeaks has released thousands of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan:

U.S. and Pakistani officials are condemning the publication of leaked documents that are said to be secret U.S. military files about the Afghanistan war.

The website WikiLeaks posted tens of thousands of documents online Sunday, and said it has another 15,000 documents that will be released “as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.”  It says the files cover the period between January 2004 and December 2009.

White House National Security Advisor James Jones issued a statement calling the leaks “irresponsible,” saying they not only put the lives of Americans and their partners at risk, but also threaten national security.

The leaked documents are said to include records detailing raids carried out by a secretive U.S. special operations unit against what U.S. officials call “high-value” insurgent and terrorist targets.  Some of the raids are said to have resulted in unintended killings of Afghan civilians.

Also included are documents allegedly describing U.S. fears that Pakistan’s intelligence service was aiding the Afghan insurgency.

Jones said WikiLeaks made no effort to contact the U.S. government, which learned about the release from news organizations.  Those include The New York Times, London’s Guardian newspaper and the German weekly Der Spiegel.

via Thousands of ‘Secret’ Afghan War Files Released on Internet | News | English.

It is certainly difficult to keep secrets in the age of the internet.  Should we just accept all of this “transparency” and embrace a totally free marketplace of information?  Of course, the exposure of government secrets simply follows the exposure of personal secrets that the internet also makes possible.  Do we need to find a way to allow for both individual privacy and national security secrets, or do we just need to find a way to live with the new information environment?

War games are “on” in Korea

Despite North Korean threats to go nuclear, the U.S. and South Korea are going on with their naval exercises.  See S. Korea, U.S. stage anti-sub exercises in 2nd day of joint naval drills.

Power outage

Our electricity went out yesterday from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. Was it the North Koreans? Our area’s top-secret agencies? An infrastructure attack on our area’s top-secret agencies? No. Apparently it was just trees that blew over because of a quick storm we had. But how fragile we are. I couldn’t get on the internet, watch television, watch movies, play games, write, read. We cooked out on the grill, lit some paraffin lamps we have, and visited. I guess that’s what they did in the 19th century. But no air conditioning! Anyway, we are way too dependent on technology. And yet, I don’t know what can be done about it at this point.

North Korea threatens nuclear response

The naval exercises are set to begin on Sunday.

North Korea said it would counter U.S. and South Korean joint naval exercises with “nuclear deterrence” after the Obama administration said the government in Pyongyang shouldn’t take any provocative steps.

North Korea will “legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces,” the National Defense Commission said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The maneuvers, which involve 20 vessels and 200 aircraft from the U.S. and South Korea, pose a threat to the country’s sovereignty and security, Ri Tong Il, an official with North Korea’s delegation to the Asean Security Forum, told reporters in Hanoi yesterday.

via North Korea Warns of Nuclear Response to Naval Exercises – Bloomberg.

Should we cave, just to make sure, or call their bluff, risking South Korea?