Month: June 2013

An Old Idea Whose Time Has Come Again

The idea that, in addition to having the US Post Office serve our letter carrier needs, that we have them supply basic retail banking services again:

On July 27, 2012, the National Association of Letter Carriers adopted a resolution at their National Convention in Minneapolis to investigate establishing a postal banking system. The resolution noted that expanding postal services and developing new sources of revenue are important to the effort to save the public Post Office and preserve living-wage jobs; that many countries have a successful history of postal banking, including the U.S. itself; and that postal banks could serve the 9 million people who don’t have bank accounts and the 21 million who use usurious check cashers.

The USPS has been self-funded throughout its history, but it has been recently driven to insolvency because in 2006, Congress required it to prefund postal retiree health benefits [3] for 75 years into the future, an onerous burden no other public or private company is required to carry. The USPS has evidently been targeted by a plutocratic Congress bent on destroying the most powerful unions and privatizing all public services, including education. Britain’s 150-year-old postal service is also on the privatization chopping block, and its postal workers have also vowed to fight. Adding banking services is an internationally proven way to maintain post office profitability.

Not only has it been done before, it was done in the United States in my lifetime:

The now-defunct U.S. Postal Savings System was also quite successful in its day. It was set up in 1911 to get money out of hiding, attract the savings of immigrants, provide safe depositories for people who had lost confidence in private banks, and furnish depositories with convenient hours. Deposits ranged from $1 to $2,500, and the postal system paid 2% interest on them. It issued U.S. Postal Savings Bonds that paid annual interest, as well as Postal Savings Certificates and domestic money orders. Postal savings peaked in 1947 at almost $3.4 billion.

The U.S. Postal Savings System was shut down in 1967, not because it was inefficient but because it became unnecessary after its profitability became apparent. Private banks then captured the market, raising their interest rates and offering the same governmental guarantees that the postal savings system had.

This is a good idea for a number of reasons

  • It would allow for an alternative to hit the ground running when (not if) the next time that the big banksters crash and burn.
  • It would allow for small depositors, who routinely take it up the ass from commercial banks, to have an alternative that is also national in scope.
  • It would help the Post Office out of its current Congressionaly generated financial crisis.

In order to take down the banksters, you have to do more than just regulate them: You need to create an effective state owned and operated alternative.



I was looking up some data on Loctite thread locking compounds and was perusing an online brochure (PDF).

And then I saw this.

Since the 1950s, Henkel has served the defense market. While taking a leadership role in supporting the U.S. Military’s efforts with dedicated resources, Henkel has developed products and specifications for high performance adhesives, sealants, coatings and surface treatments. Today, thousands of assemblies in military vehicle, ordnance and other device applications use Loctite®, Alodine®, Multan®, Bonderite® and Turco® products.

In isolation, the quote sounds pretty innocuous, until you examine the accompanying picture.

Isn’t that a Russian MiG-29?  Why yes, it is!

How does this have anything to do with, “taking a leadership role in supporting the U.S. Military’s efforts?”

Oh ……… Right ……… It doesn’t.

Live in Obedient Fear Citizen

Remember that you are the bankster’s property, and the Bill of Rights never applies:

Jeff Olson, 40, is facing a potential 13-year jail sentence for perhaps the world’s most costly sidewalk art. A former aide to the U.S. Senator from Washington, Olson used water-soluble statements like “Stop big banks,” and “Stop Bank” outside Bank of America branches last year to protest the company’s practices. He eventually gave up his protest but prosecutors later brought 13 charges against him. Now a judge has reportedly banned his attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial.” It appears someone associated with Bank of American could finally go to jail, but it will not by the bank officials in the financial scandal. It is the guy writing slogans in chalk in the sidewalk.

I have long been critical of the degree to which American judges are now barring parties from making defenses and arguments before juries. These rulings often have an outcome determinative impact on trials. In this case, free speech was the motivation of Olson, but he will reportedly have to defend himself as just a guy who walked up and started drawing in front of this bank.

Olson and his partner had been campaigning to get people to take their money out of the bank. This campaign led to a confrontation with Darell Freeman, vice president of Bank of America’s Global Corporate Security, who reportedly demanded action from local prosecutors. Olson stopped when contacted by the San Diego Gang Unit in 2012.

Yet, the bank insisted the chalk caused $6,000 to clean up, a rather suspicious claim. These were slogans written on the sidewalk. Prosecutors hit him with 13 counts of misdemeanor vandalism charges and $13,000 in restitution to the City and to Bank of America.

(emphasis mine)

This has gone viral, and the response of the judge was swift, to put a gag order on all the participants for a f%$#ing misdemeanor:

As reported in a Thursday evening, June 27, BuzzFlash at Truthout update to the chilling San Diego (SD) city attorney prosecution of Jeff Olson, an SD Judge placed an unprecedented gag order on a misdemeanor trial — in particular muzzling Olson. But it also apparently included witnesses, the jury and others.

Judge Howard Shore also chastised the Mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner. Filner apparently in the judge’s eyes had the temerity to call the trial of Olson a waste of time and taxpayer money. According to the San Diego Reader, Filner sent out a memorandum on June 20 that read in part:

This young man is being persecuted for thirteen counts of vandalism stemming from an expression of political protest that involved washable children’s chalk on a City sidewalk. It is alleged that he has no previous criminal record. If these assertions are correct, I believe this is a misuse and waste of taxpayer money. It could also be characterized as an abuse of power that infringes on First Amendment particularly when it is arbitrarily applied to some, but not all, similar speech.

Judge Shore, in essence, warned the mayor of San Diego, who happens to be a Democrat in a traditionally conservative city, to keep his comments to himself, and would likely have issued a gag order on the mayor if Judge Shore were able.

(Again emphasis mine)

Silly rabbit, free speech is for Banksters.

Adding Chris Hayes to the List

The list of People I Do Not Want to Piss Off, of course.

Here is an essay worthy of Keith Olbermann’s best special comments.

He notes that by any rational standard, the officially sanctioned leaks over the last few days are almost certainly more damaging to national security than anything that Edward Snowden has released to date.

He demonstrates how leaks, even potentially damaging ones, are acceptable, so long as they serve to glorify our state security apparatus:

H/t Digby.

If She is Not Running for Statewide Office Soon, The Texas Democratic Party is Stupid and Worthless

I am referring, of course to Wendy Davis, whose epic filibuster against the radical anti-abortion legislation proposed by the Texas Taliban Republicans was crucial to running out the clock on the special legislative session:

She was a state senator Tuesday morning. By Wednesday, she was a political celebrity known across the nation. But also hoarse, hungry and thirsty.

The leg-numbing filibuster by Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat — in which she stood and talked for more than 11 hours at the Capitol here, never sitting, eating, drinking or even using the bathroom to help block passage of an anti-abortion bill supported by the state’s top Republicans — was not the longest such marathon, by Texas standards.

But it didn’t matter.

Her feat of stamina and conviction gained thousands of Twitter followers in a matter of hours. Pictures of the sneakers she wore beneath her dress zoomed across computer and television screens. The press corps demanded to know her shoe brand. (Mizuno, it turned out.) Hundreds of men, women and children waited for hours at the Capitol to sit in an upstairs gallery and watch her in action, standing in lines that snaked around the rotunda. Even President Obama noticed, posting a Twitter message on Tuesday that read, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight.”

Ms. Davis, 50, has known long odds and, for Democrats, was the perfect symbol in a fight over what a woman can do. She was a teenager when her first child was born, but managed as a single mother to pull herself from a trailer park to Harvard Law School to a hard-fought seat in the Texas Senate, a rare liberal representing conservative Tarrant County. According to Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston, she had the second-most liberal voting record in the Senate in 2011.

They used some bogus rules of order to shut her down down two hours early, but parliamentary points of order made by Democrats, along with a remarkably raucous gallery, pushed the vote past the midnight deadline for the special section.

Of course, playing by the rules is not how the Republicans play, so they tried to reset the clock, in order to make it appear as if they had made the deadline:

That is evidence that someone changed the official record to backdate the vote, which took place beginning at 12:02 AM on June 26th to before 11:59 PM on June 25th.

That’s stealing the vote. Or cheating. Or being a Republican.

Social media is cruel to cheaters, though. There was a YouTube live stream, there was a paper record with a timestamp of 12:02 AM for the vote, there was this image of the date discrepancy, and there were plenty of reporters who put it together and deduced that hijinks were afoot.

Hundreds of thousands of people watched this online, and knew the time as well, so in the wee hours of the morning, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fessed up.

Rick Perry, who appears to still think that he can become President, is calling another special session in order to get another bite at the apple.

I think that the Democratic State Senators should leave the state to prevent quorum.

I also think that Wendy Davis should be the Democratic nominee for either Governor or US Senate in the next election, but I rather expect that the Democratic Party insiders will find a way to dismiss her, because, after all, she has the, “the second-most liberal voting record in the Senate in 2011,” and heaven forbid that you nominate someone from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

Talk About Irony

Glenn Greenwald lives in Brazil because DOMA does not recognize his partner for the purposes of immigration, and Brazil does.

With DOMA being overturned, it means that if he were to move back to the United States, his partner would get a spouse visa:

Glenn Greenwald has been living in Brazil (where he has a permanent visa*) for the past eight years with his partner, David Michael Miranda. Now that the Defense of Marriage Act has been struck down, Greenwald says they’re considering moving back to the United States.

Here’s how he described his reason for moving in an interview with Out Magazine in 2011:

Brazil recognizes our relationship for immigration purposes, while the government of my supposedly “free,” liberty-loving country enacted a law explicitly barring such recognition.

Does Wednesday’s ruling mean Greenwald will move back? Here’s what he said in an email to Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon today:

 It’s certainly something we’ll consider. It’s a huge choice with many complicated factors, and it’s not the kind of thing you seriously evaluate when the option isn’t available to you. We haven’t made up our minds in the 90 minutes or so since the decision was announced!

 We’ve lived here together for 8 years and built a life. My partner is finishing school. All of his family is here. So it’s something that will take time to resolve. But it’s definitely something that we both have a desire at some point to do, and will now spend the time figuring out how and when we can do it.

What is also clear is that, at least until Barack Obama leaves office, is that he, and his partner, would be mercilessly targeted by the authorities if they would set foot back in the United States because of their roles in exposing the NSA spying on US citizens.

So now, because he has effectively been declared an enemy of the state, he cannot safely exercise he new rights his partner got today.

Welcome to the United States of Kafka.

I Hope That This is Sincere

It might also just be a realization that it’s political poison to piss off minorities even more.

But in either case, the fact that Eric Cantor is calling for speedy legislation to fix the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Voting Rights Act is a positive development:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) reacted late Tuesday afternoon to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that overturned a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act.

“My experience with John Lewis in Selma earlier this year was a profound experience that demonstrated the fortitude it took to advance civil rights and ensure equal protection for all,” Cantor said in a statement provided to TPM. “I’m hopeful Congress will put politics aside, as we did on that trip, and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected.”

It should be noted that the proverbial devil is in the details here. 

If the teabagger caucus is allowed to get its teeth into this, whatever come out of the house will be deeply ugly.


The Supreme Court ruled much of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, and also ruled that the bigoted ratf%$#s challenging a lower court had no standing to sue in support of the anti-gay Proposition 8 after the state of California threw in the towel.

Both of these rulings are less broad than I would like, there was no ruling on the constitutional right to gay marriage per se, just that the Federal government could not choose which marriages to determine which marriages are real, that this was up to the states, and the ruling on the H8 amendment (Proposition 8) was limited to the issue of standing.

I expect to see a Loving v. Virginia type ruling in the next decade, either legalizing gay marriage, or requiring all states to recognize gay marriages from other states.

Barack Milhaus* Obama

Yes, Barack Obama has stepped it up a notch in his war against transparency in government by requiring federal employees to snitch on each other, and declaring both leaking and investigative journalism as tantamount to treason:

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

The Obama administration is expected to hasten the program’s implementation as the government grapples with the fallout from the leaks of top secret documents by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the agency’s secret telephone data collection program. The case is only the latest in a series of what the government condemns as betrayals by “trusted insiders” who have harmed national security.

(emphasis mine)

This really is chilling and truly evil.

Mr. Obama is truly the worst constitutional law professor ever.

Who Knew that Sarah Palin was the Smart Republican in 2008?


Because, in support of spending billions on border security, John McCain just compared the border fence to the Berlin Wall:

“I think that, first of all, the legislation concerning beefed up border security removes any validity to the argument that border security is not sufficient,” McCain said during an appearance on CNN. “I mean, this is not only sufficient, it is well over sufficient. We’ll be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall so that’s why I think this amendment was very important.”

Seriously, you are comparing border security measures to the Berlin f%$#ing Wall, and you are supporting this measure, you are too stupid, or too senile, to cut your own meat.

Props to Gary Gensler………

He’s been canned by the Obama administration for being too hard on the banksters, but on the way out, is implementing the meaningful derivatives reforms for which he was fired:

US regulators are likely to close a crucial loophole in Dodd-Frank rules in the next few weeks, in a move that will cost US banks many millions of dollars of revenues in the US$640trn derivatives market.

Several sources familiar with the internal discussions at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission say that the current exemption – which allows US banks executing derivative trades outside the country to bypass tougher capital holding and reporting requirements – will be allowed to expire on July 12.

CFTC chairman Gary Gensler, the only person with the authority to call a vote on extending the exemption, is said to oppose any extension and a spokesman confirmed that no vote had been scheduled.

“He’s determined not to extend,” said a lawyer familiar with discussions between lobbyists and the chairman. “And if it’s true that Gensler is leaving, maybe he wants this to be his final act before leaving.”

This is clearly a very large f%$# you to Barack Obama, Jack Lew, and (particularly) Timothy Geithner, and it is a well deserved f%$# you.

Obama and his and His Evil Minions have been determined to subvert meaningful banking regulations, and it’s nice that someone is standing up to him.

It will cost the banks some money, but I do not care:

If the exemption expires, all swaps deals involving US banks would be subject to the Dodd-Frank rules. Banks would have to set aside significantly more capital against each trade, which would eat into profits and potentially even drive clients to other banks.

Such deals would also become subject to much more onerous reporting requirements and would have to be cleared through an exchange – which could also reduce profitability and push away custom.

Figures from the US Treasury show that US financial institutions reported derivatives trading revenues of US$4.4bn in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 73% increase on the previous year.

There is an old saying about people who are inconvenient, “It’s better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

I thank Gary Gensler for pissing in.  On the matter of financial regulation, it is a very well deserved smack down.

H/T Naked Capitalism.

By a 5-4 Vote, the Supreme Court Says, “Silly N*gg*rs, Votes Are For Whites!”

The Supreme Court just castrated the Voting Rights Act:

Handing Congress an assignment with profound political risks, a divided Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a key part of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act and left it to Congress to try to salvage the law as the effective ban on racial bias at the polls that it has been for nearly five decades. It appears that the future of the Act’s core depends on members of Congress being willing to impose heavy new legal burdens on their own states.

Before the Court in Shelby County v. Holder (docket 12-96) were constitutional challenges to two of the main sections of the 1965 law; the Court nullified one and left the other formally intact but perhaps in deep peril, too. The dissenters complained that, without the invalidated part, the other will be “immobilized.”

If the full potential impact of the ruling does occur, what would mainly be left to authorize challenges to racial discrimination in voting would be other parts of the law not under review Tuesday, but those parts require a potentially time-consuming process of one lawsuit at a time, persuading a court to give a remedy that applies to one state or local government per case.

See also here.

BTW, less than 2 hours later, the Texas AG unleashed their minority voter suppression plan:

Just two hours after the Supreme Court reasoned that discrimination is not rampant enough in Southern states to warrant restrictions under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is already advancing a voter ID law and a redistricting map blocked last year for discriminating against black and Latino residents. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a statement declaring that both measures may go into effect immediately, now that there is no law stopping them from discriminating against minorities.


In the case of the new electoral map, a panel of federal judges found that “substantial surgery” was done to predominantly black districts, cutting off representatives’ offices from their strongest fundraising bases. Meanwhile, white Congress members’ districts were either preserved or “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” The new map was also drawn in secret by white Republican representatives, without notifying their black and Latino peers. After the court blocked the map, the legislature approved small changes to appease Democratic lawmakers last week. Now that they are free to use the old maps, however, Gov. Rick Perry (R) could simply veto the new plan and use the more discriminatory maps.

The strict photo ID requirement blocked by the DOJ and a federal court would require Texans to show one of a very narrow list of acceptable photo IDs. Expired gun licenses from other states are considered valid, but Social Security cards and student IDs are not. If voters do not have an ID — as many minorities, seniors, and poor people do not — they must travel at their own expense, produce their birth certificate, and in many cases pay a fee to get an ID.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, the DOJ no longer has any power to block these laws, even with the backing of federal judges who found blatant discrimination. Under the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, individuals may sue to kill these measures, but only after they have gone into effect and disenfranchised countless Texans of color.

BTW, if you think that this sucks, I think that David Kaiser is right when he predicts a return to a property requirement for voting rights:


It occurred to me this morning that the solution to Republican electoral problems is, when you think about it, obvious, and a friend of mine from a red state pointed out that a Tea Party leader has already mused about it, back in the heady days of 2010. The solution, which has a rich tradition in western and US history, is a property qualification for voting. And what is rather shocking is that there does not seem to be anything in the Constitution to prevent it.

We are going to be seeing the teabaggers lobbying for this, the only question is which is the first state where this actually is formally submitted by a state legislator.  (My money is on it being Texasissippi)

Bush Obama Nominee for Commerce Secretary Approved

Sorry about the headline, but Penny Pritzker who was just approved by the Senate as Secretary of Commerce, with only Bernie Sanders voting no:

Senators pick their battles, and by Tuesday, members in both parties had decided not to have one with President Obama over his nomination of Penny Pritzker, the billionaire hotel heiress, to be commerce secretary. In a 97-to-1 vote, they confirmed her to join the cabinet.

The lone dissenter was Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the socialist independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats.

When Mr. Obama announced in May his choice of Ms. Pritzker, 54, to join his second-term economic team as head of the eclectic Commerce Department — its responsibilities vary widely and include federal business programs and weather forecasting — rumblings from the right and left suggested trouble.

Yes, virulently anti union, a bought/looted a bank, dove into subprime mortgages, and left the taxpayers holding the bag, and keeps her fortune in overseas tax havens. (Background here.)

But the is a friend of Obama, and was his his first big buck donor, so she gets to be commerce secretary.

I guess that it’s the new motto of the Obama administration cabinet, “Not quite as lame as Alberto Gonzalez.”