Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Going postal, yea verily

The USPS has announced the end of Saturday mail delivery starting in August. It's not clear that they can legally do this, since Congress has oversight of the Constitutionally mandated service, and they havn't approved such a move. The Republicans are loving it, so you know this is bad national policy on its face. The simple fact is that the Republicans want to destroy the postal unions and privatize still more of the public infrastructure.

The financial problems the Postal Service have were entirely manufactured by the Republican lame duck Congress in 2006 when they mandated 75 years worth of pension and medical benefits to be paid in just 10 years. Workers that are yet to be born are having their retirements paid for, otherwise the semi-autonomous agency would have been averaging a more than 2 billion dollar annual surplus.

The big lie is that the PO is suffering from lack of volume, they are still moving more mail than 25 years ago when they were making money. People who study these things aren't predicting volume to decrease by any substantial amount from this point. Some things simply need to physically delivered, why do you think the Republicans want to privatize it? Do you think they intend to lose money? Do you know where the big commission is for a car salesman? It's not from selling you a new car, it's from 'stealing' your trade-in (that's what they call it at the dealership, 'stealing'). The Republicans are telling you how bad your 'used' Post Office is, but they'll take it off your hands. You'll soon be driving a shiny new lemon you can't afford to buy stamps for.

Another lie is that Postal Service has a high cost of operations, in fact postage in the US is far lower than the rest of the world. Postage rates are set by a commission, but the Congressional restrictions on increases are making it impossible for the rates to be set properly.

There is a long list of goods and services that Post Offices could sell that would be beneficial to the public and make money, but Congress restricts what they can do by law. Privatized mail delivery would eventually mean no delivery in rural areas or even in so-called urban areas. We've got to run it like a 'business', don't you know.

Laying off the carriers who do Saturday deliveries, who are mostly part-time employees, will in theory save $2 billion. It will also create a $2 billion hole in the economy for no good reason and make life more difficult for the average citizen. There is a reason they put the Postal Service in the Constitution. Originally the framers wanted to encourage newspaper delivery as well as commerce, but it's already to the point where a newspaper can take two days to arrive, and weekly 'news' magazines are more like historical journals by the time they get to your mailbox. Further cuts are simply going to make that worse and bring the system crashing down.

If the Republicans get their way we will return to a period before the Constitution when there was no Postal Service. But that would be consistent with their goal of making everything 'pre-Constitutional', and 'pre-Manga Carta' for that matter. Habeas Corpus? 'Nay, I thinketh not'. Those English Common Law concepts in our legal system need to go too, those are so 400 AD. - Leviticus though, that's a keeper. Stoning for everything and we mean everything. Except witchcraft, then only burning will do. We are Republicans, and we know with certainty that a witch is heavier than a wooden duck. Yea verily.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Blue Ribbon, Grade AAA, Certified rancid crap, but it's good for you

The DOJ is finally going after Standard & Poors for falsely rating mortgage backed securities as AAA, the same as Treasury bonds, even though they knew them to be worthless. The government is asking for over $5 billion in penalties, but only after S&P refused to settle the civil charges out of court. Their lawyer is squawking very loudly that everybody said these things were gold. Treasury Sec Paulson, the the Federal Reserve (that would be Alan Greenspan) and just everybody said these things were absolutely fine.

Aside from the fact that Paulson and Greenspan should be cooling their heels in prison, this defense is a sham on its face. The government's case doesn't revolve around the concept of mortgage backed securities being good or bad, it's that S&P made a ton of money putting the AAA stamp on individual issues of these rancid creations. They claimed to be auditing the mortgages to see if they would preform as represented. They weren't doing any such thing, it's like your heart surgeon having his diploma made at the copy shop. Or as the AG put it, 'your butcher making sausage with meat he would have otherwise thrown out, and telling you it's just fine".

They simply assumed these 'Liar loans' (nothing down, no documents)  would preform like FHA qualified loans, when they knew the bulk of the 'tranches', that is a slice of ground up mortgages in these securities packages were doomed from the start. The huge spikes in interest, balloon payments and such nonsense down the road made the loans look profitable on paper. Even if the real estate bubble hadn't burst and people who had bought these mortgages been able to refinance them later, it would have taken the profit out of these securities. Huge commissions were taken off the top and a loan that was paid off early would be a money loser, making the securities a bad investment anyway. Something S&P certainly knew, if they bothered to look at all.

What S&P, the other rating agencies, and the mortgage companies they were being employed by, committed was more than simple fraud, it was a multi-trillion dollar criminal conspiracy. Everybody from top to bottom knew this was going on and they should all be in prison, but that isn't going to happen. The Obama Administration is afraid to move on these pirates for fear of collapsing the economy. This is not an unfounded fear, it's not a question as to whether there will be another banking collapse, but just how far into the future it will be.

The good news is that Obama has been making incremental change, the bad news is the banks are on another expansion spree buying up hundreds of smaller banks. The already too big to fail banks that were bailed out by Bush became even bigger at the time. The first few months of the Obama Administration, when anything could possibly have been done, were wasted as Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm any sub-cabinet appointments (the people who actually run the government). You might recall that they only confirmed people to run the CDC in July after it looked like we might all die from the Swine Flu. So day to day operations were carried out by Bush appointees that were shifted to civil service jobs in the last few months of the Bush disaster. The actual managers were let go, so when Obama people can in they were still stuck with Bush cronies. They hung around until they went to work for the same corporations they failed to prosecute.

Some of these positions still haven't been filled. There is nobody running the ATF for example, you know the people in charge of catching terrorists with bombs. There is a huge shortage of Federal Judges which makes it harder for the government to bring cases against Wall Street, even if they had the budget to do it. The Republicans have made sure that they don't.

There is a collapse coming, the Republicans and the billionaires that own them will do everything they can to make it happen. If you're too big to fail, well, you make tons of money in good times, and even more when times are bad.

Monday, February 4, 2013

... and God changed his mind

One of the big hits among the Super Bowl commercials was a Dodge truck spot that hardly showed the product or the company logo. Instead it showed nostalgic pictures of a bucolic American farm life while the late Paul Harvey laid on the platitudes like a 40 ton John Deere liquid manure wagon.

"...And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said I need a caretaker - So God made a Farmer". This speech was delivered by Harvey in 1978 at the behest of his Agri-business sponsors to a convention of high school students that belonged the FFA (Future Farmers). Few if any of the 1000 or so boys who were there that day, and would be now be about 50 years old, likely have farms.

Harvey, who was one of the most glib radio talkers ever, went on and on about what ridiculous hours farmers work, making it sound like they did it because it was the 'godly' thing to do, or the American way. The only reason they needed to literally work themselves to death was the extremely low prices the five dominant corporations enforced on the farmers.
"God said I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk the cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board – So God made a Farmer". Today much of that hard work is being done by NAFTA refugees who do the milking 24 hours a day at 10,000 cow corporate operations. These people who are now economic refugees were 'made by God' to have their own farms, or rather they got land via the Mexican revolution, but have been driven off their land by cheap corn provided by American agribusiness under NAFTA.

In fact the American farmer didn't get his land from God either, he got it, or least was able to keep it because of 'land reform' during the New Deal. The states also had laws that broke up the giant farming operations that had sprung up during the gilded age of the 19th century. And these regulations remained in place until they were universally and simultaneously struck down across the country by Appeals Court Judges appointed by George Bush. Remember the Republicans didn't allow Clinton to fill any vacancies on the Appeals Courts. The Supreme Court simply ignored a hundred years of precedent, not to mention 'states rights', and allowed these 'surprisingly' identical rulings to stand.

Harvey also liked to talk about how piously religious farmers were. Actually the so-called 'piety' came from one the worst of his Agri-business sponsors, a massive privately held company owned by a secretive family of Christian Dominionists rumored to be one of richest in the world. These people carry the cross around the world and beat farmers to death with it anywhere they can, and that's just about everywhere.

Then God changed his mind, drove all the farmers from the land and replaced them with slave plantations – and he saw that it was good. [pause] and now you know, the rest of the story.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nothing scarier in the dark than the sound of a pump aciton

I heard a guy on the radio the other day argue the case for being able to buy those extended clips for your semi-automatic guns. It was the one you've been hearing lately that's based on the idea that even experienced shooters have a hard time hitting a moving target, and you really need the extra 20 rounds. He actually presented his case in a way that I couldn't disagree with. You see he is blind. You have to acknowledge that no amount of practice or training is going to make him a good shot.

Really, this puts the lie to the case the gun nuts make for their paranoid delusion that the only thing keeping them safe is that gun under their pillow. If that were true at all, blind people would be extinct. (sure the blind are victims more than the sighted, so don't write me) The fact is that competent, sane people should keep a defensive weapon in the house with a trigger lock. If unlocking it is going to take too long, you should spend your money on better locks and plant some thorn bushes under your windows.

A short barrel 12 gauge pump is your best choice, but even that requires a lot of practice. Join a skeet club if you don't go to Camp David on weekends. A handgun is really way beyond the skill level of most people. Do you own one, have you fired 10,000 rounds for practice? For most people it's just a much needed penis extender. The assault rifle isn't any better for somebody with no real training, but a load of bird shot will take down any lawyer criminal, just ask Dick Cheney, and that wasn't even a 12 gauge.