Cory Doctorow Thinks the USPS Is “Fully Self-Supporting”

Was browsing Cory Doctorow’s blog Pluralistic.Net which I highly recommend. While I think Doctorow is wrong about a lot of things, there is no denying his skill at curating Internet contact.

Alas, he also tends to write things like this,

The USPS is amazing. A fully self-supporting federal agency that provides universal service as well as good, well-paid jobs with benefits and pensions. It’s also a vital lifeline during crises.

The US Postal Service hasn’t been “self-supporting” in more than a decade. Between 2007 and 2016 it lost $62.4 billion.

There are a lot of reasons for that: the rise of email, increasing competition from private firms, and the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (which requires the USPS to set aside billions of dollars each year to pre-fund its retirement health care benefit obligations).

But the fact remains that the USPS is not self-supporting and is unlikely to be anytime soon without the sort of changes that folks like Doctorow would likely complain about (significant increases and rates, reduced service to rural areas, etc.)

TIL Banks Don’t Have Credit Ratings

On June 3, 2018, Cory Doctorow tweeted a link to a post on the Boing! Boing! website titled America is the world’s first poor rich country. Cory doesn’t seem to have a very good grasp of economics, so I typically ignore these kinds of posts, but the title was intriguing so I took the bait.

The post is a summary and then an extended quote from a Medium post of the same name by Umair Haque. Near the end of the portion that Cory excerpted is a stunning, obviously false claim (emphasis added),

Well, what happens if the average American steps over the line? Misses a mortgage payment, gets ill and is unable to pay a few bills on time, can’t pay the costs of healthcare? Then they are punished severely and mercilessly. Their “credit rating” (note how banks and hedge funds don’t have them) is ruined.

Of course banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions have credit and similar ratings. Companies like Moody’s, Standards & Poor, and Fitch all produce such ratings. And, unlike most personal credit, many of these ratings are generally publicly available.

For example, I do most of my banking with PNC. Here’s a full run-down of PNC’s various credit ratings from different agencies.

Yet both Haque and Doctorow felt qualified to make sweeping claims about the economy without having even a basic grasp that links like Standards & Poor exist to rate financial institutions.

It was both surprising and unsurprising to see Doctorow suggest an essay by Haque. Haque is clearly a bit of a nutcase, as exemplified by another Medium rant of his, The Breaking of the American Mind.

A large part of the essay deals with a minor kerfuffle created around the status of 1,500 minor immigrant children who arrived in the United States during the Obama administration. The children applied for asylum, and in many cases were placed with family members (often themselves in the United States illegally), while their asylum cases were adjudicated.

As Politifact summed it up,

From October to December 2017, the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement attempted to reach 7,635 unaccompanied minors and their sponsors, said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families within HHS in April.

Of the 7,635 children:

• 6,075 remained with their sponsors;

• 28 had run away;

• 5 had been deported;

• 52 relocated to live with a non-sponsor;

• 1,475 could not be reached.

. . .

“These children are not ‘lost’; their sponsors — who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them — simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made,” HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said in a May 28 statement.

Here’s how Haque frames this issue,

Yet shortly before all this took place, a lawyer of some sort took to Twitter(First, she remarked that the kids are OK?—?Schrodingers’ kids, remember?But she cannot have interacted with all of them, and didn’t claim to have talked to a single one. So are we to simply take her word for it? That is what most people appeared to do. Critical thinking, remember? But I digress.) She went on suggest that disappearances are good for the disappeared?—?better for the government not to able to keep track of people. Maybe vulnerable people can vanish and escape into thin air that way. Liberals cheered. How wonderful! Disappearances are not a bad thing after all! Hooray!!

Only a cursory glance at history suggests none of this is true in any way whatsoever. Disappearances in Argentina, Iraq, the Soviet Union, Maoist China and Nazi Germany did not mean that the disappeared had escaped. It meant that quite the opposite. Almost never in history have disappearances been good for the disappeared?—?usually, they have been very bad. It’s true that should an authoritarian government not be able to track you, that may well be a benefit to you. But that is not what a disappearance is, is it? A disappearance is the erasure of a person who already exists?—?not the failure to record a person’s existence in the first place. Surely the difference is obvious enough. And yet no one questioned any of this?—?because no one appeared to be thinking much at all.

This is little more than word salad of the variety that the Trump serves up on a regular basis.

Cory Doctorow: How Stupid Laws & Benevolent Dictators Can Ruin the Decentralized Web

Excellent presentation by Cory Doctorow from the Decentralized Web Summit.



So, as you might imagine, I’m here to talk to you about dieting advice. If you ever want to go on a diet, the first thing you should really do is throw away all your Oreos.

It’s not that you don’t want to lose weight when you raid your Oreo stash in the middle of the night. It’s just that the net present value of tomorrow’s weight loss is hyperbolically discounted in favor of the carbohydrate rush of tonight’s Oreos. If you’re serious about not eating a bag of Oreos your best bet is to not have a bag of Oreos to eat. Not because you’re weak willed. Because you’re a grown up. And once you become a grown up, you start to understand that there will be tired and desperate moments in your future and the most strong-willed thing you can do is use the willpower that you have now when you’re strong, at your best moment, to be the best that you can be later when you’re at your weakest moment.

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