Friday, March 20, 2015

Spam, Junk Mail, and the Defeat of Public Enterprise (28 June 2014)

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      It looks like I have a Spam-bot of some sort either buried so deep on my computer that my virus scans can't get at it — or them — or some similar bit of milicious mischief is on my account with Miami University, which their highly competent IT people haven't been able to root out. Anyway, I can't complain about junk e-mail, since what I'm getting in my Junk File isn't exactly mail, but I can offer a numerical update on paper Spam going through the US Postal Service.

      I just got back from a trip, and would ordinarily be going over to my local post office to collect and throw into the recycling bin there most of my mail, definitely losing count. But my local post office no longer holds mail (or helps issue passports): for such service I have to go to the nearest real city and pick my mail up there. When I mentioned this, though to my letter carrier, she said she'd just drop off my held mail, which I needed to agree to since there's no way in hell it'd all fit into the little mail pigeon-hole assigned to my apartment, and she'd need to leave it at my door.

      Which she did, leave the held mail; so I could sort it at my desk and keep count. For a nine-day hold I got 62 pieces of mail, of which I kept eight, or maybe seven out of 61, if you count as one piece of mail the two Netflix discs for Sergio Leone's "sprawling crime epic," ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, which runs three hours and 46 minutes and spills over onto a second DVD. Of these pieces of mail I didn't just chuck unopened, four are pieces of mail I'm sure I want (or three, if you combine the Netflix mailing); the others I'm going to look at sort of "on spec": they might have something of interest.

       That works out to about 13% of my "mail" being actual mail, with only two of those in the 13% bearing first-class postage, and that is of the pre-sorted, metered variety of "first class."

       I would not have been happy with driving forty minutes or so, depending on traffic, to pick up such a load, and I suspect that's a typical reaction. Now most Americans are  mentally healthy enough to shrug off such minor annoyances: it's an urban legend that post offices get shot up more than most places of business (although the data seem to indicate that it's the employees who aren't all that violent, with little said about customers ...). Still, the reduction in postal service and the mail's being flooded by political campaigns and more directly capitalist junk-mailers makes for a problem.

      Or a set of problems: the Spam deluge is one minute contribution toward the coarsening of everyday life in America and the decreases in mail service is part of degeneration of our infrastructure, plus part of the spiral in which those who would privatize everything in America starve a US government agency for resources, which leads to bad service, which leads to calls for more cut-backs since, clearly, government can't get things done. To overextend a quote from Ronald Reagan, "[...] government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem"; and, like the IRS — and unlike, say, the Bureau of Mines or even Amtrak — the postal service is a govenment agency that most American voters will encounter.