Sunday 23rd July 2017

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Even If You’re Not Charlie Gard… Look How Government Likes Having Its Hand At Your Throat

July 16, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

What a nice surprise. Walking home from Mass on my birthday morning in June, I found a package left at my front door by one of the major private delivery services. Gotta be a birthday present. Not at all. The house number on the address label was exactly right. But the street name was three streets south of mine, for a very different man.
No surprise gift for me, but a problem easily solved. I took the package to the stranger. No forms to fill out or judges’ approval needed to correct the misdelivery. It’s when power over the solution is removed from our hands, and fixing the problem doesn’t really matter to another individual or authority, that one aches.
Most of the time the Postal Service routinely does most of its deliveries correctly to me. When a problem arises, though, this independent agency of the federal government can show the same disregard as any other government stone-face. This is no longer the dutiful carrier you see making the rounds in the heat and cold. It’s distant forces and buck-passing indifference.
Something to keep in mind as we’re urged to let government take complete control of our medical care. That can portend the kind of needless crisis thrust before our attention by President Trump and Pope Francis in the United Kingdom, as that government’s National Health Service decided little Charlie Gard was better off dead, despite the desperate pleas of his parents.
If government medicine was just the nurse giving us aspirin on time, it might work as well as routine letter delivery. But because it’s more complex, and morally fraught, it’s putting your hospital bed on quicksand.
The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t screen and withhold your mail if you read material that disagrees with the ruling political party. But Barack Obama showed that if he got his way, medical bureaucrats who toed his line would force their twisted morals on you, and you’d either knuckle under or pay crippling fines.
Not at all to place my postal problems on a par with the medical distress of Charlie Gard and his parents. This is just to reinforce the reminder that when you have little or no option, government can revel in your defeat.
On May 25 I sent an important business communication as certified mail, with a return receipt attached. According to the USPS online tracker, on May 30 the letter was out for delivery from the branch in New York City to the recipient at 9:34 a.m., and that was the last time it was accounted for. It just, as it were, dropped off the face of the Earth.
You pay about 15 times the normal postage for the careful tracking that certified mail promises, and the verification that it was delivered. If the Postal Service defaults on the deal, prepare for the possibility of a lot more buck passing than $7.29 worth.
After futilely continuing to hope the letter would be delivered, I filed a complaint online with the Postal Service. I received a confirmation June 9 from associate supervisor William Smith Jr. saying, “After we review and investigate the information you have provided, we will contact you and work with you until the case is resolved.”
On June 12 Smith followed up to regret my inconvenience, and told me to call customer-service manager Jeff Fernandez if the item hadn’t been delivered. Smith’s note officiously said, “Your case has been investigated and a solution has been provided to you.” No, it hadn’t. Smith just told me to contact someone else.
Smith provided three different phone numbers for Fernandez.
It turned out the business I had mailed to wasn’t helpful for weeks, either, about whether it would or could confirm receiving my letter. I do know my postal return receipt never came back to me.
Finally, on June 30 I called one of the three numbers for Fernandez. No person answered but I was able to leave a voice mail. I also called the other two phone numbers but they only continued ringing until I hung up.
I called for Fernandez again on July 7, but only got a voice mail again. I left a message pointing out my June 30 call hadn’t been responded to. I also phoned those other two numbers again that Smith gave for Fernandez. This time after they rang repeatedly, a recording said a person wasn’t answering, and to try again later. Fernandez continued not to reply.
If this was a life-or-death letter, I wouldn’t want one of those United Kingdom judges deciding if I should suffocate under government oppression.
Although Smith’s June 12 email didn’t want me to contact him again, what the heck. I’m supposed to let him buck-pass this off into eternity?
I sent Smith an individual email July 10 that I would be mentioning this experience in a newspaper article. Said I: “Not only has the Postal Service still been unable to determine what became of a certified letter it charged me for on May 25; I cannot even find a resolution through the postal channels I have been instructed to follow.”
As I write on July 11, still no contact to me.
Does Nurse Ratched, the character famed for demonstrating the corrupting power of bureaucracies in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, mess with the Postal Service, too?
You think this is unique?
Earlier this year I received an unsolicited religious mailer hoping for a donation. A small crucifix once had been visible through a window in the envelope sleeve, but the envelope had been illegally opened and the Corpus and crossbar were broken off and missing, leaving a scar on the remaining wood. The crucifix’s INRI and vertical post were still in the sleeve when I received delivery.
Their material worth probably was only a few cents. But what kind of weirdo wants a little metal Corpus? For devil worship? Is this any kind of pattern?
I took the mailer to my postal branch, but the manager refused to take a report, citing some kind of conflict of interest with her workers, and instructing me to fill out a report online. And, no, she didn’t want to receive the opened mailer as evidence.
Might there have been fingerprints or something else useful for investigation? The Postal Service wasn’t curious.
The response to my online report was misrepresentation and hand-washing — though not to compare with Pontius Pilate — and once again the useless disclaimer, “Your case has been investigated and a solution has been provided to you.” No, the Postal Service had no answer, but, like words from some U.K. judge, whatever is said is supposed to count somehow, darn it.
The Postal Service has the responsibility to move billions of items of mail, regularly or irregularly. You’re just one of hundreds of millions of customers, and if there’s a problem, you’re reminded of how inconsequential you are. May U.S. medicine never descend to the level of a government anti-health monopoly!

“Your Claim Is Denied”

As it happens, back in 2011 I was able to provide a dramatic illustration in these pages of the jarring difference between private business and government. That was on the front page of the June 9, 2011, Wanderer, headlined, “When TSA Doctors The Results, Can Obamacare Be Very Far Behind?”
Some small items had been stolen from my suitcase in December 2010 between the time I checked it at the San Diego airport counter and picked it up from the carousel at the Phoenix airport. I promptly reported the crime on the phone to both the TSA and U.S. Airways, then filled out their respective paperwork.
I estimated the loss at between $16 and $17. Within a couple of weeks, privately owned U.S. Airways mailed me a check for the higher amount, $17. The government TSA took more than four months and sent me an accusatory-sounding notice in May that — surprise, surprise — absolved itself of any blame.
The government sounded like it would have liked to put me on trial!
“Your claim is denied,” huffed the TSA. Huh, my claim that my bag was stolen from is denied? Despite all the invasive security cameras at airports, the government still had no idea who stuck their hand into my bag?
I’d reported that security had failed somewhere between check-in and pickup. But all that TSA cared about was ducking blame.
Moreover — and this was especially laughable — TSA added: “After careful evaluation of all the evidence, we have determined that there are no legally sustainable grounds upon which a finding of liability can be based on the part of TSA.”
As a matter of fact, a few days after the theft, a couple of Christmas cards in an envelope from a monastery that had been in my suitcase were mailed back to me, as if the thief was too ashamed to have kept this part of the haul. Might there have been fingerprints?
I notified both the airline and TSA by phone and mail of the mysterious return of the cards. Of course, TSA never asked to examine them before proclaiming it had carefully evaluated “all the evidence.”
The airline quickly wanted to make things right with an offended customer. Big Government was all legalese and blame-shifting, taking months to sneer at me for daring to bother it.
Makes me think back to the 1970s, when I was a writer for Arizona’s largest daily newspaper. Without my household making any complaint about home water service, the City of Phoenix one day monkeyed in the yard with the system, claiming the water pressure was too low.
Actually it had been fine, but after city workers finished their hijinks, the pipes served a mixture of water, sand, and muck. And newly lowered pressure.
It took three days to get this corrected. After suggesting that we should hire a plumber to fix Phoenix’s misdeeds, the water department got worried and got to work only after being informed that I wrote for the daily newspaper.
No wonder bumbling government prefers having power and making people defenseless. Pray for all the Charlie Gards of the world, even those who don’t need mechanical ventilators to live.

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Today . . .

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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