Belabored Podcast #41: Can Postal Banking Deliver Us from Wall Street? With Dave Dayen

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In light of the budget problems facing the postal service, many conservatives have called for mass layoffs and privatization as a way to “modernize” the institution. But one alternative reform proposal challenges stereotypes of the postal service as a creaky old bureaucracy–and highlights its potential to challenge Wall Street’s hegemony: Postal banking. By offering basic, low-cost financial services like savings accounts, small loans, and money transfers, post offices could help bring economic equity to underbanked low-income communities, save vital civil service jobs, and drive a real public option in a sector long dominated by banking behemoths. We speak with Dave Dayen about the idea and the rising political prospects for instituting financial services in the postal system.

We also discuss the latest news on teachers and nurses organizing for workplace rights, how Wal-Mart’s anti-labor actions may be undermining its bottom line, a legal victory for immigrant guestworkers, and the crowdsourced sweatshop.


Strike action in schools:

St. Paul Teachers Take Strike Vote Feb 24

St. Paul Teachers Prepare for Possible Strike

Subs in Classes during Medford Teachers Strike

Portland Public Schools Hiring Replacement Teachers on Craigslist

Union Warns of School Bus Strike


Nurses strike in Altoona, PA

Nurses Stand Up to UPMC Over Frivolous Spending


Wal-Mart’s self-sabotaging labor practices

Walmart’s Labor Practices Backfire

Understaffing is hurting Walmart, says equities research firm


Court ruling on prevailing wage rules for guestworkers:

Court of Appeals Hands Victory to U.S. Workers

Michelle: A New Door for Guestworkers?

Michelle: Immigrant Supply-Chain Labor Struggles Galvanize Walmart Activism

Senate Democrats Block Funding for Guest Worker Protection Rule

Michelle: Court Okays Labor Department Rule: Guestworkers Must Earn Prevailing Wages

Conversation with Dave Dayen:

Dave Dayen: The Post Office Should Just Become a Bank: How Obama can save USPS and ding check-cashing joints

Dave Dayen: Obama’s Partly to Blame for the Postal Service’s Backward Ways

Dave Dayen: Signed, Sealed, Deposited

US Postal Service Office of the Inspector General: “Providing Non-Bank Financial Services for the Underserved”

Felix Salmon: Why the Post Office needs to compete with banks


Argh, I Wish I’d Written That!:

Moshe Marvit, The Nation: How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine

Jennifer Pan, Jacobin: The Labor of Social Media

The Last Great Strike - UC Press [Advertisement]

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The Kurds

[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it’s very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, “Rojava vs. the World,” February 2015

The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi’ite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.  

Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.

Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples; this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the “mountain Turks”—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers; a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names; and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.

Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned; its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad’s allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.