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[Sep 19, 2017] Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trumps triumph: How a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues killed choice and destroyed people s faith in politics by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek . Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism . It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone. ..."
"... But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap. ..."
"... He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands. ..."
"... The general thrust is about the gradual hollowing out of the middle class (or more affluent working class, depending on the analytical terms being used), about insecurity, stress, casualisation, rising wage inequality. ..."
"... So Hayek, I feel, is like many theoreticians, in that he seems to want a pure world that will function according to a simple and universal law. The world never was, and never will be that simple, and current economics simply continues to have a blindspot for externalities that overwhelm the logic of an unfettered so-called free market. ..."
"... J.K. Galbraith viewed the rightwing mind as predominantly concerned with figuring out a way to justify the shift of wealth from the immense majority to an elite at the top. I for one regret acutely that he did not (as far as I know) write a volume on his belief in progressive taxation. ..."
"... The system that Clinton developed was an inheritance from George H.W. Bush, Reagan (to a large degree), Carter, with another large assist from Nixon and the Powell Memo. ..."
"... What's changed is the distribution of the gains in GDP growth -- that is in no small part a direct consequence of changes in policy since the 1970s. It isn't some "market place magic". We have made major changes to tax laws since that time. We have weakened collective bargaining, which obviously has a negative impact on wages. We have shifted the economy towards financial services, which has the tendency of increasing inequality. ..."
"... Wages aren't stagnating because people are working less. Wages have stagnated because of dumb policy choices that have tended to incentives looting by those at the top of the income distribution from workers in the lower parts of the economy. ..."
"... "Neoliberalism" is entirely compatible with "growth of the state". Reagan greatly enlarged the state. He privatized several functions and it actually had the effect of increasing spending. ..."
"... When it comes to social safety net programs, e.g. in health care and education -- those programs almost always tend to be more expensive and more complicated when privatized. If the goal was to actually save taxpayer money, in the U.S. at least, it would have made a lot more sense to have a universal Medicare system, rather than a massive patch-work like the ACA and our hybrid market. ..."
"... As for the rest, it's the usual practice of gathering every positive metric available and somehow attributing it to neoliberalism, no matter how tenuous the threads, and as always with zero rigour. Supposedly capitalism alone doubled life expectancy, supports billions of extra lives, invented the railways, and provides the drugs and equipment that keep us alive. As though public education, vaccines, antibiotics, and massive availability of energy has nothing to do with those things. ..."
"... I think the damage was done when the liberal left co-opted neo-liberalism. What happened under Bill Clinton was the development of crony capitalism where for example the US banks were told to lower their credit standards to lend to people who couldn't really afford to service the loans. ..."
Nov 16, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

The events that led to Donald Trump's election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table . "This is what we believe," she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek . Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism . It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, "is not an ultimate or absolute value". In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are "scouts", "experimenting with new styles of living", who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The progress of society depends on the liberty of these "independents" to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: "the idle rich", who don't have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing "fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs". Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but "aimless display", they are in fact acting as society's vanguard.

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is "an overwhelming case against a free health service for all" and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics .

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek's doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world's richest people and businesses , including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek's anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate . In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a "third way".

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy. Hayek's triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair's expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton's repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act , which had regulated the financial sector. For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn't possess a narrative either (except "hope"), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people's lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism's crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek's "independent"; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming .

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century. It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It's too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish . The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

justamug -> Skytree 16 Nov 2016 18:17

Thanks for the chuckle. On a more serious note - defining neoliberalism is not that easy since it is not a laid out philosophy like liberalism, or socialism, or communism or facism. Since 2008 the use of the word neoliberalism has increased in frequency and has come to mean different things to different people.

A common theme appears to be the negative effects of the market on the human condition.

Having read David Harvey's book, and Phillip Mirowski's book (both had a go at defining neoliberalism and tracing its history) it is clear that neoliberalism is not really coherent set of ideas.

ianfraser3 16 Nov 2016 17:54

EF Schumacher quoted "seek first the kingdom of God" in his epilogue of "Small Is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered". This was written in the early 1970s before the neoliberal project bit in the USA and the UK. The book is laced with warnings about the effects of the imposition of neoliberalism on society, people and the planet. The predictions have largely come true. New politics and economics needed, by leaders who place at the heart of their approach the premise, and fact, that humans are "by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish". It is about reclaiming our humanity from a project that treats people as just another commodity.


Filipio -> YouDidntBuildThat 16 Nov 2016 17:42

Whoa there, slow down.

Your last post was questioning the reality of neoliberalism as a general policy direction that had become hegemonic across many governments (and most in the west) over recent decades. Now you seem to be agreeing that the notion does have salience, but that neoliberalism delivered positive rather than negative consequences.

Well, its an ill wind that blows nobody any good, huh?

Doubtless there were some positive outcomes for particular groups. But recall that the context for this thread is not whether, on balance, more people benefited from neoliberal policies than were harmed -- an argument that would be most powerful only in very utilitarian style frameworks of thought (most good for the many, or most harm for only the few). The thread is about the significance of the impacts of neoliberalism in the rise of Trump. And in specific relation to privatisation (just one dimension of neoliberalism) one key impact was downsizing (or 'rightsizing'; restructuring). There is a plethora of material, including sociological and psychological, on the harm caused by shrinking and restructured work-forces as a consequence of privatisation. Books have been written, even in the business management sector, about how poorly such 'change' was handled and the multiple deleterious outcomes experienced by employees.

And we're still only talking about one dimension of neoliberalism! Havn't even touched on deregulation yet (notably, labour market and financial sector).

The general thrust is about the gradual hollowing out of the middle class (or more affluent working class, depending on the analytical terms being used), about insecurity, stress, casualisation, rising wage inequality.

You want evidence? I'm not doing your research for you. The internet can be a great resource, or merely an echo chamber. The problem with so many of the alt-right (and this applies on the extreme left as well) is that they only look to confirm their views, not read widely. Open your eyes, and use your search engine of choice. There is plenty out there. Be open to having your preconceptions challenged.

RichardErskine -> LECKJ3000 16 Nov 2016 15:38

LECKJ3000 - I am not an economist, but surely the theoretical idealised mechanisms of the market are never realised in practice. US subsidizing their farmers, in EU too, etc. And for problems that are not only externalities but transnational ones, the idea that some Hayek mechanism will protect thr ozone layer or limit carbon emissions, without some regulation or tax.

Lord Stern called global warming the greatest market failure in history, but no market, however sophisticated, can deal with it without some price put on the effluent of product (the excessive CO2 we put into the atmosphere).

As with Montreal and subsequent agreements, there is a way to maintain a level playing field; to promote different substances for use as refrigerants; and to address the hole in ozone layer; without abandoning the market altogether. Simple is good, because it avoids over-engineering the interventions (and the unintended consequences you mention).

The same could/ should be true of global warming, but we have left it so late we cannot wait for the (inevitable) fall of fossil fuels and supremacy of renewables. We need a price on carbon, which is a graduated and fast rising tax essentially on its production and/or consumption, which has already started to happen ( http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/SDN/background-note_carbon-tax.pdf ), albeit not deep / fast / extensive enough, or international in character, but that will come, if not before the impacts really bite then soon after.

So Hayek, I feel, is like many theoreticians, in that he seems to want a pure world that will function according to a simple and universal law. The world never was, and never will be that simple, and current economics simply continues to have a blindspot for externalities that overwhelm the logic of an unfettered so-called free market.

LionelKent -> greven 16 Nov 2016 14:59

And persistent. J.K. Galbraith viewed the rightwing mind as predominantly concerned with figuring out a way to justify the shift of wealth from the immense majority to an elite at the top. I for one regret acutely that he did not (as far as I know) write a volume on his belief in progressive taxation.

RandomLibertarian -> JVRTRL 16 Nov 2016 09:19

Not bad points.

When it comes to social safety net programs, e.g. in health care and education -- those programs almost always tend to be more expensive and more complicated when privatized. If the goal was to actually save taxpayer money, in the U.S. at least, it would have made a lot more sense to have a universal Medicare system, rather than a massive patch-work like the ACA and our hybrid market.

Do not forget that the USG, in WW2, took the deliberate step of allowing employers to provide health insurance as a tax-free benefit - which it still is, being free even from SS and Medicare taxes. In the post-war boom years this resulted in the development of a system with private rooms, almost on-demand access to specialists, and competitive pay for all involved (while the NHS, by contrast, increasingly drew on immigrant populations for nurses and below). Next, the large sums of money in the system and a generous court system empowered a vast malpractice industry. So to call our system in any way a consequence of a free market is a misnomer.

Entirely state controlled health care systems tend to be even more cost-effective.

Read Megan McArdle's work in this area. The US has had similar cost growth since the 1970s to the rest of the world. The problem was that it started from a higher base.

Part of the issue is that privatization tends to create feedback mechanism that increase the size of spending in programs. Even Eisenhower's noted "military industrial complex" is an illustration of what happens when privatization really takes hold.

When government becomes involved in business, business gets involved in government!

Todd Smekens 16 Nov 2016 08:40

Albert Einstein said, "capitalism is evil" in his famous dictum called, "Why Socialism" in 1949. He also called communism, "evil", so don't jump to conclusions, comrades. ;)

His reasoning was it distorts a human beings longing for the social aspect. I believe George references this in his statement about people being "unselfish". This is noted by both science and philosophy.

Einstein noted that historically, the conqueror would establish the new order, and since 1949, Western Imperialism has continued on with the predatory phase of acquiring and implementing democracy/capitalism. This needs to end. As we've learned rapidly, capitalism isn't sustainable. We are literally overheating the earth which sustains us. Very unwise.

Einstein wrote, "Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society."

Personally, I'm glad George and others are working on a new economic and social construct for us "human beings". It's time we leave the predatory phase of "us versus them", and construct a new society which works for the good of our now, global society.

zavaell -> LECKJ3000 16 Nov 2016 06:28

The problem is that both you and Monbiot fail to mention that your "the spontaneous order of the market" does not recognize externalities and climate change is outside Hayek's thinking - he never wrote about sustainability or the limits on resources, let alone the consequences of burning fossil fuels. There is no beauty in what he wrote - it was a cold, mechanical model that assumed certain human behaviour but not others. Look at today's money-makers - they are nearly all climate change deniers and we have to have government to reign them in.

aLERNO 16 Nov 2016 04:52

Good, short and concise article. But the FIRST NEOLIBERAL MILESTONE WAS THE 1973 COUP D'ETAT IN CHILE, which not surprisingly also deposed the first democratically-elected socialist government.

accipiter15 16 Nov 2016 02:34

A great article and explanation of the influence of Hayek on Thatcher. Unfortunately this country is still suffering the consequences of her tenure and Osborne was also a proponent of her policies and look where we are as a consequence. The referendum gave the people the opportunity to vent their anger and if we had PR I suspect we would have a greater turn-out and nearly always have some sort of coalition where nothing gets done that is too hurtful to the population. As for Trump, again his election is an expression of anger and desperation. However, the American voting system is as unfair as our own - again this has probably been the cause of the low turn-out. Why should people vote when they do not get fair representation - it is a waste of time and not democratic. I doubt that Trump is Keynsian I suspect he doesn't have an economic theory at all. I just hope that the current economic thinking prevailing currently in this country, which is still overshadowed by Thatcher and the free market, with no controls over the city casino soon collapses and we can start from a fairer and more inclusive base!

JVRTRL -> Keypointist 16 Nov 2016 02:15

The system that Clinton developed was an inheritance from George H.W. Bush, Reagan (to a large degree), Carter, with another large assist from Nixon and the Powell Memo.

Bill Clinton didn't do it by himself. The GOP did it with him hand-in-hand, with the only resistance coming from a minority within the Democratic party.

Trump's victory was due to many factors. A large part of it was Hillary Clinton's campaign and the candidate. Part of it was the effectiveness of the GOP massive resistance strategy during the Obama years, wherein they pursued a course of obstruction in an effort to slow the rate of the economic recovery (e.g. as evidence of the bad faith, they are resurrecting a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Obama originally proposed in 2012, and now that they have full control, all the talk about "deficits" goes out the window).

Obama and the Democratic party also bear responsibility for not recognizing the full scope of the financial collapse in 2008-2009, passing a stimulus package that was about $1 trillion short of spending needed to accelerate the recovery by the 2010 mid-terms, combined with a weak financial regulation law (which the GOP is going to destroy), an overly complicated health care law -- classic technocratic, neoliberal incremental policy -- and the failure of the Obama administration to hold Wall Street accountable for criminal misconduct relating to the financial crisis. Obama's decision to push unpopular trade agreements didn't help either. As part of the post-mortem, the decision to continuing pushing the TPP may have cost Clinton in the rust belt states that went for Trump. The agreement was unpopular, and her shift on the policy didn't come across as credible. People noticed as well that Obama was trying to pass the measure through the lame-duck session of Congress post-election. With Trump's election, the TPP is done too.

JVRTRL daltonknox67 16 Nov 2016 02:00

There is no iron law that says a country has to run large trade deficits. The existence of large trade deficits is usually a result of policy choices.

Growth also hasn't gone into the tank. What's changed is the distribution of the gains in GDP growth -- that is in no small part a direct consequence of changes in policy since the 1970s. It isn't some "market place magic". We have made major changes to tax laws since that time. We have weakened collective bargaining, which obviously has a negative impact on wages. We have shifted the economy towards financial services, which has the tendency of increasing inequality.

The idea too that people will be "poorer" than in the 1920s and 1930s is just plain ignorant. It has no basis in any of the data. Wages in the bottom quartile have actually decreased slightly since the 1970s in real terms, but those wages in the 1970s were still exponentially higher than wages in the 1920s in real terms.

Wages aren't stagnating because people are working less. Wages have stagnated because of dumb policy choices that have tended to incentives looting by those at the top of the income distribution from workers in the lower parts of the economy. The 2008 bailouts were a clear illustration of this reality. People in industries rigged rules to benefit themselves. They misallocated resources. Then they went to representatives and taxpayers and asked for a large no-strings attached handout that was effectively worth trillions of dollars (e.g. hundreds of billions through TARP, trillions more through other programs). As these players become wealthier, they have an easier time buying politicians to rig rules further to their advantage.

JVRTRL -> RandomLibertarian 16 Nov 2016 01:44

"The tyranny of the 51 per cent is the oldest and most solid argument against a pure democracy."

"Tyranny of the majority" is always a little bizarre, given that the dynamics of majority rule are unlike the governmental structures of an actual tyranny. Even in the context of the U.S. we had minority rule due to voting restrictions for well over a century that was effectively a tyranny for anyone who was denied the ability to participation in the elections process. Pure majorities can go out of control, especially in a country with massive wealth disparities and with weak civic institutions.

On the other hand, this is part of the reason to construct a system of checks and balances. It's also part of the argument for representative democracy.

"Neoliberalism" is entirely compatible with "growth of the state". Reagan greatly enlarged the state. He privatized several functions and it actually had the effect of increasing spending.

When it comes to social safety net programs, e.g. in health care and education -- those programs almost always tend to be more expensive and more complicated when privatized. If the goal was to actually save taxpayer money, in the U.S. at least, it would have made a lot more sense to have a universal Medicare system, rather than a massive patch-work like the ACA and our hybrid market.

Entirely state controlled health care systems tend to be even more cost-effective. Part of the issue is that privatization tends to create feedback mechanism that increase the size of spending in programs. Even Eisenhower's noted "military industrial complex" is an illustration of what happens when privatization really takes hold.

daltonknox67 15 Nov 2016 21:46

After WWII most of the industrialised world had been bombed or fought over with destruction of infrastructure and manufacturing. The US alone was undamaged. It enjoyed a manufacturing boom that lasted until the 70's when competition from Germany and Japan, and later Taiwan, Korea and China finally brought it to an end.

As a result Americans born after 1950 will be poorer than the generation born in the 20's and 30's.

This is not a conspiracy or government malfunction. It is a quirk of history. Get over it and try working.

Arma Geddon 15 Nov 2016 21:11

Another nasty neoliberal policy of Reagan and Thatcher, was to close all the mental hospitals, and to sweeten the pill to sell to the voters, they called it Care in the Community, except by the time those hospitals closed and the people who had to relay on those institutions, they found out and are still finding out that there is very little care in the community left any more, thanks to Thatcher's disintegration of the ethos community spirit.

In their neoliberal mantra of thinking, you are on your own now, tough, move on, because you are hopeless and non productive, hence you are a burden to taxpayers.

Its been that way of thinking for over thirty years, and now the latest group targeted, are the sick and disabled, victims of the neoliberal made banking crash and its neoliberal inspired austerity, imposed of those least able to fight back or defend themselves i.e. vulnerable people again!

AlfredHerring GimmeHendrix 15 Nov 2016 20:23

It was in reference to Maggie slapping a copy of Hayek's Constitution of Liberty on the table and saying this is what we believe. As soon as you introduce the concept of belief you're talking about religion hence completeness while Hayek was writing about economics which demands consistency. i.e. St. Maggie was just as bad as any Stalinist: economics and religion must be kept separate or you get a bunch of dead peasants for no reason other than your own vanity.

Ok, religion based on a sky god who made us all is problematic but at least there's always the possibility of supplication and miracles. Base a religion on economic theory and you're just making sausage of your neighbors kids.

TanTan -> crystaltips2 15 Nov 2016 20:10

If you claim that the only benefit of private enterprise is its taxability, as you did, then why not cut out the middle man and argue for full state-directed capitalism?

Because it is plainly obvious that private enterprise is not directed toward the public good (and by definition). As we have both agreed, it needs to have the right regulations and framework to give it some direction in that regard. What "the radical left" are pointing out is that the idea of private enterprise is now completely out of control, to the point where voters are disenfranchised because private enterprise has more say over what the government does than the people. Which is clearly a problem.

As for the rest, it's the usual practice of gathering every positive metric available and somehow attributing it to neoliberalism, no matter how tenuous the threads, and as always with zero rigour. Supposedly capitalism alone doubled life expectancy, supports billions of extra lives, invented the railways, and provides the drugs and equipment that keep us alive. As though public education, vaccines, antibiotics, and massive availability of energy has nothing to do with those things.

As for this computer being the invention of capitalism, who knows, but I suppose if one were to believe that everything was invented and created by capitalism and monetary motives then one might believe that. Energy allotments referred to the limit of our usage of readily available fossil fuels which you remain blissfully unaware of.

Children have already been educated to agree with you, in no small part due to a fear of the communist regimes at the time, but at the expense of critical thinking. Questioning the system even when it has plainly been undermined to its core is quickly labelled "radical" regardless of the normalcy of the query. I don't know what you could possibly think left-wing motives could be, but your own motives are plain to see when you immediately lump people who care about the planet in with communist idealogues. If rampant capitalism was going to solve our problems I'm all for it, but it will take a miracle to reverse the damage it has already done, and only a fool would trust it any further.

YouDidntBuildThat -> Filipio 15 Nov 2016 20:06

Filipo

You argue that a great many government functions have been privatized. I agree. Yet strangely you present zero evidence of any downsides of that happening. Most of the academic research shows a net benefit, not just on budgets but on employee and customer satisfaction. See for example.

And despite these privitazation cost savings and alleged neoliberal "austerity" government keeps taking a larger share of our money, like a malignant cancer. No worries....We're from the government, and we're here to help.

Keypointist 15 Nov 2016 20:04

I think the damage was done when the liberal left co-opted neo-liberalism. What happened under Bill Clinton was the development of crony capitalism where for example the US banks were told to lower their credit standards to lend to people who couldn't really afford to service the loans.

It was this that created too big to fail and the financial crisis of 2008. Conservative neo-liberals believe passionately in competition and hate monopolies. The liberal left removed was was productive about neo-liberalism and replaced it with a kind of soft state capitalism where big business was protected by the state and the tax payer was called on to bail out these businesses. THIS more than anything else led to Trump's victory.

[Dec 26, 2016] AT T To Cough Up $88 Million For Cramming Mobile Customer Bills

Notable quotes:
"... The matter with ATT was originally made public in 2014 and also involved two companies that actually applied the unauthorized charges, Tatto and Acquinity. ..."
Dec 26, 2016 | news.slashdot.org
(networkworld.com) 37

Posted by BeauHD on Thursday December 08, 2016 @06:25PM from the money-back-guaranteed dept. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World:

Some 2.7 million ATT customers will share $88 million in compensation for having had unauthorized third-party charges added to their mobile bills , the Federal Trade Commission announced this morning. The latest shot in the federal government's years-long battle against such abuses, these refunds will represent the most money ever recouped by victims of what is known as "mobile cramming," according to the FTC.

From an FTC press release :

"Through the FTC's refund program, nearly 2.5 million current ATT customers will receive a credit on their bill within the next 75 days, and more than 300,000 former customers will receive a check. The average refund amount is $31. [...] According to the FTC's complaint, ATT placed unauthorized third-party charges on its customers' phone bills, usually in amounts of $9.99 per month, for ringtones and text message subscriptions containing love tips, horoscopes, and 'fun facts.' The FTC alleged that ATT kept at least 35 percent of the charges it imposed on its customers."

The matter with ATT was originally made public in 2014 and also involved two companies that actually applied the unauthorized charges, Tatto and Acquinity.

[Dec 13, 2016] Learn to spot the telltale signs of debt-relief scams - The Washington Post

Notable quotes:
"... The real plan: Make money off desperate people. "For many consumers, more than half of their monthly payment went towards defendants' fees," the FTC said. "For consumers who were in the program longer than 18 months, defendants also charged a $49 monthly 'maintenance fee.' " ..."
Dec 13, 2016 | www.washingtonpost.com

People are so desperate to get out of debt that they will believe anything and anyone promising relief. They often turn to debt-relief companies promoting plans that can supposedly solve their problems. But for many, not only does the relief not come, but the steep cost of the plans - sometimes thousands of dollars - can also dig them in deeper.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission announced a $7.9 million settlement with one debt-relief operation that the agency said scammed people by making false promises. The company waived its rights to "challenge or contest" the charges, according to the settlement.

What the FTC found was troubling. And if the right knowledge is power, let's look at the anatomy of how this one scam worked.

The promoter: DebtPro 123. Unfortunately, this company is not alone. Just look for company names intended to lure you into thinking that they feel your pain and want to help eliminate your debt in just a few short years.

The pitch: According to the FTC complaint, DebtPro 123 told folks that its "debt resolution program would completely resolve consumers' credit card and other unsecured debts (including department store accounts, personal loans, medical bills, student loans, and accounts with collection agencies)."


It also told consumers: "DebtPro will reduce a client's total debt by 70 to 80 percent on average including all fees" and "With settlements as low as 10 percent, this means when all is said and done, a client's savings could be as much as 20 cents on the dollar including our fees."

Now really, doesn't that statement sound too good to be true?

And it was.

What would you say if you were told this? "With honest and informative advice, outstanding customer service, and a proven debt settlement process, we can ensure our clients become debt-free quickly and comfortably and get back on the path of financial freedom."

I homed in on two words: "quickly" and "comfortably."

Unless you come into some big bucks, the process of paying down your debts is long. It is painful. And if someone tells you different, don't believe it.


Oh, and there was the debt calculator to help the unbelievers. It was designed to back up the ridiculous claims of a quick debt reduction.


The two phases of the program: In phase one, customers put money in a "Creditor Fund/Settlement Account." They were told they needed this pot of money for negotiations with their creditors. In phase two, customers were assured that the company was working on their case to get all their debt terms changed.

During these phases, customers were advised to stop paying their bills and to stop all communications with their creditors. Bad move. Often in these cases, people find out later that nothing had been done on their behalf and that fees, interest and penalties had been piling on while they waited on relief.

The FTC complaint said DebtPro made reference to its "legal department." And, in phrasing that's mimicked by other such companies, DebtPro told its clients: "The attorneys will communicate directly with your creditors and debt collectors via the mail and telephone. They will audit your bills and the collection methods being used by the creditors to determine if your consumer rights have been violated."

Other promises: Your credit will be better because the firm will work to remove negative information from your credit files. Except it failed to make clear that if the information was true - that you didn't pay your bills as agreed - this information can't be removed. By law, most negative credit information can stay on your reports for seven years.

The real plan: Make money off desperate people. "For many consumers, more than half of their monthly payment went towards defendants' fees," the FTC said. "For consumers who were in the program longer than 18 months, defendants also charged a $49 monthly 'maintenance fee.' "

The failed promises

Debts weren't reduced quickly. In fact, in many instances, the debt-relief company didn't start settlement negotiations until after the client had received letters from creditors warning of an impending lawsuit for failure to make debt payments.

Settlements weren't significantly less than what was owed. Negative information was not removed. And there was "no legal department, 'legal in-house counsels' or any attorneys on staff," the FTC found.

People ended up with more debt, some lost their homes, and others had their wages garnished or had to file for bankruptcy protection.

Now that you know the inside deal, don't get suckered into this type of debt-relief scam.

Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@washpost.com. Questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary .

fisher1

10/19/2015 7:08 AM EDT

How about a column on the D-list celebrities which tout questionable sites like debt-relief companies, reverse mortgages and so on - do they do any online research before pocketing their fees?

Vic Martinsons

10/18/2015 8:23 PM EDT

There are companies, like Settle4Less, that do not charge the consumer any fees and doesn't require them to deposit money into a special account. The consumer is never told to stop paying their debts during the settlement process. No claims are made regarding credit score improvement or that the process will be successful.

fraseriver

10/17/2015 1:55 PM EDT

Collection companies buy your debt at auction for as little as two cents on the dollar. They then use Robo calls to harass you forever...If you are unable to pay the debt go to the nearest library and research ways and means to get these vultures off your back .


acepaperman

10/17/2015 11:03 AM EDT [Edited]

Depending on what state you live in, making the people who hold unsecured debt come after you is the least expensive route. Small claims court is the one they will try if they try at all, and that usually has severe limitations. Most of these companies are headquartered in some "business friendly" state which means they have to hire attorneys from your state to pursue you, which will make it prohibitively expensive and Superior court is ludicrously expensive for the creditor. If you can ride it out, you might not have to pay anything,. Hiring a debt relief company is probably the most expensive way to do it.

jgl707

10/17/2015 8:43 AM EDT

if it sounds too good to be true......


mickT

10/16/2015 11:23 PM EDT

Sounds like a Washington Post neo-con scam. "For only a few trillion dollars, if you help us take out Saddam, the world will be better."

If only you support our policy of "taking out Bashar, and the freedom loving Salafists will turn Syria into a liberal haven".

I guess the debt relief people are invading their turf on b.s.ing the American people and they are mad.

[Dec 10, 2016] Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Notable quotes:
"... Interestingly, white collar cases (like fraud, embezzlement and corruption) usually do not result in as steep a sentence as one might get if prosecuted for the same offense in state court. ..."
"... For the most part, however, the mandatory minimum penalties and federal sentencing guidelines usually result in very lengthy sentences for people convicted of federal crimes. That's one of the main reasons it is so important to retain a lawyer with a record of success in federal court if the case is being prosecuted by the federal government. ..."
"... In order to have jurisdiction over a crime, the alleged criminal activity must somehow involve the federal government or some instrumentality of interstate commerce. ..."
Dec 10, 2016 | www.pagepate.com
Are federal criminal cases different than state criminal cases? Yes!

Federal criminal investigations and prosecutions are handled very differently than similar criminal cases in state courts. First of all, the law enforcement agencies that investigate federal crimes are generally well-funded and staffed by the most experienced agents and investigators. The federal prosecutors who conduct federal criminal trials and sentencing hearings are also usually very experienced, and have virtually unlimited resources at their disposal. The judges who preside in federal courts have lifetime appointments and their dockets are generally not as crowded as those of most state court judges who handle many different types of criminal offenses.

More importantly, federal crimes generally carry stiffer sentences than state crimes, especially in the areas of drug trafficking and conspiracy. Federal criminal penalties are also more severe in cases involving child pornography and other sexual offenses prosecuted in federal court.

Interestingly, white collar cases (like fraud, embezzlement and corruption) usually do not result in as steep a sentence as one might get if prosecuted for the same offense in state court.

For the most part, however, the mandatory minimum penalties and federal sentencing guidelines usually result in very lengthy sentences for people convicted of federal crimes. That's one of the main reasons it is so important to retain a lawyer with a record of success in federal court if the case is being prosecuted by the federal government.

Of course, not all crimes can be prosecuted in federal court. The federal government has limited jurisdiction over criminal offenses and can only prosecute those crimes that are specifically defined in the federal criminal code. In order to have jurisdiction over a crime, the alleged criminal activity must somehow involve the federal government or some instrumentality of interstate commerce. Federal courts have generally been very expansive in their definition of what constitutes interstate commerce. As a result, the federal government now prosecutes many crimes that were traditionally prosecuted only in state court. And this trend is likely to continue.

Given the severity and complexity of federal criminal investigations and prosecutions, anyone charged with a federal crime should retain a lawyer who has extensive experience in federal criminal defense. If you need a federal criminal defense attorney with decades of successful results, contact our firm and discuss your case with Page Pate in complete confidence. You will not find a law firm with more recent successful results, better credentials, or a deeper commitment to pursuing justice for people who need help in federal court.

[Dec 10, 2016] Mail Fraud Conviction - Criminal Defense Lawyers

Notable quotes:
"... According to The Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The National Registry of Exoneration, a project of the University of Michigan, lists 18 wrongful convictions of mail fraud in the last 23 years-and this is only of the cases they've been able to examine. ..."
"... Of the 18 wrongfully convicted persons, nine were exonerated in the last five years, having already served between three to five years of their sentences. Factors contributing to the wrongful convictions ranged from perjury, misleading forensic evidence, official misconduct and most importantly, lack of adequate legal services. ..."
Dec 10, 2016 | www.pravatinetworks.com
1-844-454-4895 Mail Fraud Lawyers

Mail fraud refers to the use of the U.S. Postal Service or other mail carrier to commit a crime. Because of the proliferation of electronic communications, mail fraud has been expanded to include wire fraud-which is the use of wire communications (such as email) to commit crimes.

According to The Wall Street Journal , in 2013 there were 3,923 cases of wire fraud. For one to be convicted of mail or wire fraud, the court must establish that there is intent on the part of the accused to defraud a person or institution as part of a scheme that uses mail and wire communication. Convictions can also be made on the basis of intent alone. When found guilty, a defendant may face as long as 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

REPORTS ON EXONERATION The National Registry of Exoneration, a project of the University of Michigan, lists 18 wrongful convictions of mail fraud in the last 23 years-and this is only of the cases they've been able to examine.

Of the 18 wrongfully convicted persons, nine were exonerated in the last five years, having already served between three to five years of their sentences. Factors contributing to the wrongful convictions ranged from perjury, misleading forensic evidence, official misconduct and most importantly, lack of adequate legal services.

Last year, two people were exonerated. One of them was forty-year-old Leean Shantelle Thain from Berrien County, Michigan. Thain was accused of embezzling funds from her mother by diverting her mail. The National Registry of Exoneration lists inadequate legal services as a major factor contributing to her wrongful conviction. A court of appeal ruled that both the trial lawyer and defense lawyer erred by not conducting proper investigations into the matter, a factor that would have been avoided had the accused had good legal representation.

Lawyer Referral For Mail Fraud Lawsuits

If you've been accused of mail or wire fraud, don't take chances on your legal representation. Work with Pravati Networks and you'll be matched to a mail fraud lawyer who has in-depth experience working with other cases just like yours. Our mail fraud lawyers can help you avoid wrongful conviction and overly harsh sentences. With just a small retainer, you can get started with your defense today.

[Dec 10, 2016] Mail Fraud - Convictions - Punishments

Dec 10, 2016 | www.lawyershop.com
Mail Fraud Convictions

To be convicted of mail fraud, one must do all of the following:

Previous Mail Fraud Cases Case #1

According to the USPS, prosecutors proved in 2002 that a Texas man sold roughly $6.5 million in fraudulent certificates of deposit (CDs) via the U.S. Mail to close to 80 investors - most of whom were senior citizens. The man, who never purchased the CDs, used portions of the money to pay earlier investors and used the rest for personal expenses. More than 45 investors are still owed a total of $3.5 million.

Case #2

The USPS states that two employees of the company that publishes Business Week were charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud when they revealed confidential information about publicly held companies. The pair allegedly stockpiled thousands of dollars in kickbacks (through the U.S. Mail) after giving two co-defendants insider trading information from an issue of Business Week the day before the issue hit newsstands. Armed with their tips, the co-defendants bought various company stocks on a reported 43 occasions and sold it when the magazine was released-after which stock prices soared. The trades were valued at more than $2 million, while profits totaled $450,000.

Case #3

An Arizona man was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to five years of supervised probation, nine months of home detention, and $1 million in victim restitution after executing the age-old envelope-stuffing scam. The man ran ads in national magazines, promising to send stuffing materials to everyone who mailed money for supply costs ($18 to $36) to his fictitious company. He mailed instructions on how to run an envelope-stuffing business but no actual materials.

Possible Punishments for Mail Fraud Crimes

Mail fraud, a felony, carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000 when individuals are involved and up to 30 years in prison and/or $1,000,000 in fines when a financial institution is involved.

[Dec 09, 2016] Guide to Preventing Mail Fraud U.S. Postal Inspection Service 9781484827451 Amazon.com Books

www.amazon.com

What Is Mail Fraud?
Sweepstakes and 'Free' Prizes
'Free' Vacatons
Government Look-Alike Mail
Solicitations Disguised as Invoices
Foreign Lotteries
Cham Lottors
Charity Fraud
Insurance Fraud
Medcal Fraud
internet Fraud
Phony Inheritance Sc homos
Home Improvement and Home Repair Fraud
Investment Fraud
Fees Charged for Normally Free Services
Advance-Fee Loans
Credit Rcpar and Credit Card Schemes
Work-at-Home Offers
Distributorshp and Franchise Fraud
Phony Job Opportunities
Unsolicited Merchandise
Rcshippmg Fraud
Fake Chock Scams
How to Contact the Postal Inspection Service

Advance-Fee Loans

Have you had difficulty obtaining a personal or business loan through normal sources? If so, you may become the target of
an advance-fee loan scheme, where a con artist offers you a "guaranteed' loan for a foo paid n advance.

The swindler dams to be able to obtain a loan for you with ease from a legitimate lending institution, such as a savings and loan association. However, the swindler has no ability to secure a loan for you. Instead, the swindler steals your fee and either disappears or remains n the area to lureother unsuspecting victims while stalling you with excuses as to why your loan has not been funded.

[Dec 09, 2016] Does Hillary Know Chelsea Clintons Felon Father-In-Law Accused Of Violating Plea Deal By Unpaid Restitution - Owes His Victim

Notable quotes:
"... The National ENQUIRER ..."
Dec 09, 2016 | radaronline.com
With Hillary Clinton 's White House run on the horizon, RadarOnline.com has learned that the skeletons in her husband, Bill 's closet are the least of her worries. Daughter Chelsea 's father-in-law, convicted felon Ed Mezvinsky , is under fire from his former fraud victims . According to the unlucky dupes, Mezvinsky stole more than $10 million - and has yet to pay it back!

Mezvinsky, the father of Chelsea's husband, Marc , served five years in federal prison after pilfering $10 million from investors. He was released in April 2008, but a special investigation by The National ENQUIRER uncovered the fact that he's currently accused of being in violation of his plea agreement - because he hasn't paid back his victims!

"It's a little irritating that he brags about his son's [$10.5 million] apartment when his son should loan him the money to pay back his debt!" one angry victim, Dr. Jason Theodosakis , told The ENQUIRER . "He could borrow [the restitution] from his son's in-law

[Nov 13, 2016] Consumer Watchdog Sues Debt-Relief Firm Connecticut Consumer Advocate Protector Watchdog Ct Consumer Complaints Ct consume

Notable quotes:
"... The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed suit against a debt relief firm that has challenged the constitutionality of the consumer watchdog, alleging the company charged illegal fees and deceived customers. ..."
"... The CFPB lawsuit against Morgan Drexen Inc. and its CEO, Walter Ledda, alleges the firm overcharged 22,000 of its customers millions of dollars in upfront fees tied to debt-relief services. ..."
Aug 27, 2013 | ctwatchdog.com
By LowCards.com

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed suit against a debt relief firm that has challenged the constitutionality of the consumer watchdog, alleging the company charged illegal fees and deceived customers.

The CFPB lawsuit against Morgan Drexen Inc. and its CEO, Walter Ledda, alleges the firm overcharged 22,000 of its customers millions of dollars in upfront fees tied to debt-relief services.

The agency said Morgan Drexen advertised its customers would not be charged any up-front fees, but ended up collecting them by disguising the fees as costs for bankruptcy-related services.

"This company took advantage of people who were struggling. The company charged consumers illegal fees and deceived them about the services provided," CFPB director Richard Cordray said in a statement.

Story by Michael Crittendon for the Wall Street Journal.

[Nov 13, 2016] Debt-Relief Scheme Cost Consumers $67 Million in Illegal Fees by Jonathan Floyd and David N. Anthony

Notable quotes:
"... The CFPB alleges that "Defendants' marketers lure consumers into signing up for debt settlement services by falsely promising that consumers will be represented by local attorneys and that they will negotiate with consumers' creditors to settle their debts. Defendants are debt settlement veterans who joined forces after federal law changed to prevent fraud by banning the taking of up-front fees before settling consumers' debts. In an apparent attempt to circumvent that new law, Defendants began claiming that they provide legal representation," but continued charging consumers up-front fees for debt relief services. ..."
"... The CFPB estimates that 21,000 consumers across the country have paid more than $67 million in unlawful advance fees to World Law, who ultimately provide little or none of the services promised to consumers. According to the agency, 99 percent of World Law's customers were made to pay illegal upfront fees, including a $199 initial fee, a monthly attorney service fee of $85, and other "bundled legal service fees" that ranged from 10 to 15 percent of the consumers' outstanding debt. ..."
Sep 30, 2015 | www.consumerfinancialserviceslawmonitor.com

On September 2, the United States District Court of the Southern District of Florida granted multiple motions for temporary restraining orders (TROs) by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the matter of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Orion Processing, LLC, Bradley James Haskins, World Law Debt Services, LLC, and World Law Processing, LLC. The CFPB originally filed a Complaint under the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act based on Defendants' violations of the CFPA and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The TROs include an asset freeze, injunctive relief, and other equitable relief against both World Law and its principals.

The CFPB alleges that "Defendants' marketers lure consumers into signing up for debt settlement services by falsely promising that consumers will be represented by local attorneys and that they will negotiate with consumers' creditors to settle their debts. Defendants are debt settlement veterans who joined forces after federal law changed to prevent fraud by banning the taking of up-front fees before settling consumers' debts. In an apparent attempt to circumvent that new law, Defendants began claiming that they provide legal representation," but continued charging consumers up-front fees for debt relief services.

The CFPB estimates that 21,000 consumers across the country have paid more than $67 million in unlawful advance fees to World Law, who ultimately provide little or none of the services promised to consumers. According to the agency, 99 percent of World Law's customers were made to pay illegal upfront fees, including a $199 initial fee, a monthly attorney service fee of $85, and other "bundled legal service fees" that ranged from 10 to 15 percent of the consumers' outstanding debt.

According to the CFPB, World Law and its affiliates made false representations about the quality and level of service World Law purported to provide. Consumers rarely, if ever, met or communicated with actual lawyers and, "[a]s a result, consumers paid millions of dollars in illegal fees and suffered additional harms, including being subjected to collection calls, lawsuits, late fees and lower credit scores," the agency said.

According to court documents, World Law, Orion Processing, and Family Capital have all entered into bankruptcy.

[Nov 13, 2016] CFPB Wins Final Judgment Against Morgan Drexen for Illegal Debt-Relief Scheme Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Mar 18, 2016 | www.consumerfinance.gov
Court Rules that Morgan Drexen and Walter Ledda Charged Illegal Upfront Fees and Deceived Consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. -

At the request of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal district court entered a final judgment this week against debt relief company Morgan Drexen, Inc., resolving a lawsuit filed by the CFPB in August 2013. The Bureau's lawsuit against Morgan Drexen alleged that the company charged illegal upfront fees and deceived consumers. The court found that the company violated federal law, prohibited Morgan Drexen from collecting any further fees from its customers, and ordered it to pay $132,882,488 in restitution and a $40 million civil penalty. This decision follows a stipulated final judgment against Morgan Drexen's president and chief executive officer, Walter Ledda, that the court approved in October. The court found that Ledda violated federal law, banned him from providing debt relief services, and required him to pay restitution and a civil money penalty.

"The CFPB's victory sends a strong message that debt relief companies break the law when they defraud struggling consumers, and those actions have consequences for which we will hold them accountable," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "The court's orders against Morgan Drexen and Mr. Ledda ensure that they will never again violate the rights of consumers, and the significant penalties imposed reflect the severity of this illegal conduct."

Debt Relief Scheme

Morgan Drexen is a nationwide debt relief company that was founded by Walter Ledda in 2007. The CFPB sued Morgan Drexen and Ledda in 2013, alleging that they had violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by charging illegal upfront fees for debt relief services and misrepresenting their services to consumers.

The Telemarketing Sales Rule prohibits deception in telemarketing and generally prohibits debt relief providers from charging a fee for any debt relief service until they have actually settled, reduced, or otherwise altered the terms of at least one of the consumer's debts.

When consumers signed up for Morgan Drexen's services, the company presented them with two contracts, one for debt settlement services, and the other for bankruptcy-related services. Based on its investigation, the Bureau brought suit alleging that consumers who signed up sought services for debt relief and not bankruptcy, that little to no bankruptcy work was actually performed for consumers, and that the bankruptcy-related contract Morgan Drexen presented to consumers was a ruse designed to disguise impermissible upfront fees for debt relief work.

Falsifying Evidence

In January 2015, weeks before trial was scheduled to start, the Bureau learned that Morgan Drexen had created and altered bankruptcy petitions that it submitted to the court as evidence of having provided bankruptcy services.

The CFPB informed the court of its findings and filed a motion seeking the sanction of default judgment against the company. After hearing testimony from Ledda, other Morgan Drexen representatives, and a whistleblower who exposed the company's conduct, the court issued an order in April 2015 finding that Morgan Drexen misled the court and "acted willfully and in bad faith by falsifying evidence." On the basis of its findings, the court sanctioned Morgan Drexen by entering default judgment against the company.

Shortly thereafter, in June 2015, the court issued a permanent injunction against Morgan Drexen in which it deemed that the company had charged consumers illegal upfront fees for debt relief services and violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and Dodd-Frank Act by deceptively describing its services. The court prohibited the company from collecting any more money from customers and banned it from charging upfront fees for debt relief services. Morgan Drexen sought bankruptcy protection the day after the court issued its order, and a trustee was appointed to administer the company's shutdown and to maintain proper communication with affected consumers.

Final Judgments Against Ledda and Morgan Drexen

The court's March 16, 2016 final judgment against Morgan Drexen memorializes its June 2015 conclusion that the company violated federal law, and its ruling that the company may not collect any more advance fees for debt relief services, or any more fees at all from its customers. The final judgment also orders Morgan Drexen to:

Because Morgan Drexen has declared bankruptcy, any payment of this judgment will occur through the bankruptcy process.

The court's October 2015 final judgment against Walter Ledda contains similar findings and injunctive and monetary relief. In that judgment, the court found that Ledda and Morgan Drexen violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Dodd-Frank Act by charging consumers illegal upfront fees for debt relief services, and by making deceptive statements about the company's services. Under the terms of the final judgment, Ledda will:

The court also imposed a $99 million equitable money judgment and $20 million civil money penalty against Ledda, both of which are in large part suspended based on Ledda's inability to pay. If Ledda fails to make any of the required payments or turn over his assets, or if the CFPB discovers Ledda misrepresented his financial condition, the full $99 million judgment and $20 million penalty will become due immediately.

Attorneys Found In Contempt

After the court's June 2015 order prohibiting Morgan Drexen from charging fees for debt relief services, two attorneys, Vincent Howard and Lawrence Williamson, took the reins of Morgan Drexen and continued the company's unlawful conduct. Among other things, Howard and Williamson:

When the CFPB learned of Howard and Williamson's actions, it filed a motion requesting that the court hold the attorneys and their law firms in contempt of the court's order. In October 2015, the court found that the attorneys' conduct had violated the court's order, and held the attorneys and their law firms in contempt. The court ordered the attorneys to return all payments they had received from former Morgan Drexen consumers since the court's June 2015 decision to ban Morgan Drexen from receiving such fees. The court also ruled that the attorneys will be fined $10,000 a day for each day they continue to accept fees from former Morgan Drexen consumers. The attorneys have appealed this order.

A copy of the court's final judgment against Morgan Drexen and Walter Ledda can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201603_cfpb_final-judgment-against-defendant-morgan-drexen-inc.pdf

A copy of the civil minutes regarding the judgment can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201603_cfpb_civil-minutes-regarding-the-final-judgment-against-defendant-morgan-drexen-inc.pdf

A copy of the court's contempt order concerning the attorneys can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201603_cfpb_order-holding-vincent-howard-lawrence-williamson-howard-law-pc-the-williamson-law-firm-llc-and-williamson-howard-llp-in-contempt.pdf

Important information for customers of Morgan Drexen is available at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/debt-settlement-company-morgan-drexen-is-no-longer-in-business-what-you-should-know/

###

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov .

[Nov 13, 2016] Mail and Wire Fraud An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Law by Charles Doyle

It is available as PDF on Internet from fas.org
Nov 13, 2016 | www.amazon.com

This is an abridged version of CRS Report R41930, Mail and Wire Fraud: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law, by Charles Doyle, without the footnotes, appendix, quotation marks, or citations to authority found in the longer version. Related CRS reports include CRS Report R40852, Deprivation of Honest Services as a Basis for Federal Mail and Wire Fraud Convictions, by Charles Doyle.

[Nov 13, 2016] Debt Elimination Schemes

Using a debt negotiation, debt settlement, debt consolidation, or debt elimination company is usually not a good idea.
www.nolo.com
  • If you are experiencing financial difficulty, you may be tempted to use a debt relief company to help take care of your bills. Often times, settling with your creditors is a good alternative to filing bankruptcy. However, before you hire a company to help with your debts, you should first understand the differences in services that debt relief companies claim to offer, as well as the potential risks involved. This article discusses three basic types of debt relief schemes.

    Debt negotiation, or debt settlement, programs work by modifying your existing credit cards, loans, or other debts, in the following ways:

    Lump sum settlements and payment plans are frequently accepted by creditors. You can directly negotiate with them yourself, without having to use a debt relief company.

    Disadvantages to Using a Debt Settlement Company

    If you do decide to hire a debt relief company, use caution. Here's why.

    Large Up Front Fees

    Debt settlement companies often charge large fees up front for its services.

    Companies Take the Money and Run

    While it is not uncommon for debt relief companies to charge upfront fees, some disreputable companies will then disappear and never perform the promised services. Or companies promise to use some or all of the fee it charges you to pay your debts, but then pocket the money instead of paying your creditors.

    Go with a company that provides detailed disclosures on how the fee is charged and spent. Some debt settlement companies agree to defer their fee until after a settlement or payment plan has been reached.

    Payment Defaults

    A debt relief company may tell you to stop making payments to your creditors. If you have already fallen behind on payments, then this is not an issue. But if you are current on your payments, this poses a dilemma.

    Some creditors won't give you the best deal if you are a "good consumer." They have a policy of refusing to reduce balances or interest rates below a certain amount unless a borrower is in default, the theory being that you are in good financial shape if you are current on your payments. They will not agree to major reductions of balances, finance charges, or payment plans unless you show a financial hardship by way of a default, often of 90 days or more. Creditors sometimes call this being "90 days out."

    A debt relief company may exploit this industry secret by advising you to default on all of your debts for 90 days, and then use this money to pay the debt settlement company instead. But by intentionally defaulting, you risk damaging your credit history and incurring default-rate finance charges and late fees.

    If you are already having financial trouble, then this might not be a big issue for you. However, if you are not already in default, you should avoid this strategy. Here are some tips to effectively maneuver the default tango using a debt relief company:

    Related Ads Communication Shut Down

    Unfortunately, some debt relief companies will take the money and run, never once speaking with the creditors that they agreed to negotiate with on your behalf. A debt relief company may make you feel so comfortable that you stop communicating with your creditors. Don't. Stay in close communication with your creditors during the negotiation process.

    (Learn more about debt negotiation firms and debt management companies .)

    Debt Consolidation

    Some debt relief agencies offer to consolidate your debts for you. They promise to pool all of your debts together so that you make a single payment, to be shared by all of the creditors. While a consolidation of your debts can potentially save you a lot of money, there are many disadvantages.

    Debt Elimination

    Treading into fantasy territory, there are some companies that claim to completely eliminate your debts. Not to be confused with debt elimination plans that provide for controlled spending and a structured payoff of your debts, a debt elimination scheme usually involves an upfront fee for a document that purports to be a legal declaration that the debt is eliminated. Unless the person advising you is an attorney or there is some legitimate legal basis for not paying a particular debt, you should immediately walk away from any such promises.

    Consider Other Debt Relief Options

    Getting the right kind debt relief is not easy. It involves time, careful planning, and full consideration of your legal rights and financial abilities. Many debt relief schemes, even if done perfectly, may not fully address all of your problems. Despite the allure of their promises, you could wind up in worse legal and financial shape than when you started. Instead, consider other options for getting your debts under control, including:

  • GLOBALIZATION and 9-11

    If you look back on past American wars, like the Spanish-American war in Cuba that also seized the Phillipines, that was a war for Corporate Globalization. President McKinley even said so. It as a war to "open up markets", including China, which was closed to American business. So were wars and many occupations in Central and South America, from the earliest beginnings of America on through today. Revolutionary movements of peasants and campesinos would sometimes try to overthrow the mostly-Spanish European oligarchs and their dictators, and American would come in and repress the peasants, or in the case of a truly democratic government that supported the will of their people, they would overthrow or kill their leaders or actually send in Marines. This is what Marine Commandant General Smedley Butler was explaining, when he wrote "I was a gangster for capitalism" and "War is a Racket".

    World Wars One and Two also had their geo-political and geo-strategic factors for America, in terms of dominating global trade with fractured Europe, and beating back the British Empire. Hitler beat back BOTH Britain and France, as well as Belgium and ... well ... about ALL of Europe, some of America's biggest imperial competitors. Hitler and Mussolini also crushed communism and labor activism growing in popularity in Germany and France, and Hitler nearly destroyed the newly founded USSR. (Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler only after Britain refused to sign a mutual defense pact with Stalin, and some in British govt and Intell were covertly helping the Nazis. Wall Street heavily helped the Nazis.)

    Even the invasion of North America and annihilating the native population was to find new sources of raw capital for European corporations, and the American Revolution was to get rid of unfair taxes and control over American corporations by what was being seen as a foreign power, Britain.

    By the way, it's not about "liberals hate corporations". Every corporation is a quasi-government entity. It's not simply a "large company". Someone could incorporate a solo lemonade stand.

    The point is, it's a contract or "charter" that a company takes, via a relationship and agreements with government, for protection against personal liability, elimination or limitation of personal responsibility. This relationship is defined by mountains of Corporate Law precedents and rules. There is really no such thing as a "private corporation". The Corporation is a legal tool for growth of capitalism, but "no legal responsibility" is dangerous for society, because "society" is excluded.

    Yet at the same time, every US corporation is considered a "person" due "equal protection" under the the 14th Amendment in the sense of "civil liberties" -- these legal instruments can claim all the protections that the Bill of Rights guarantees to humans, but this "equal protection" gives corporations far more power than human beings. "Treaties" and "Agreements" have been in process for many years, setting up non-democratic institutions that manage global corporatism. They place the "divine" right to profits over any rights of human beings. We've been trumped. So getting back on track ...

    To summarize a long point, in the Military-Industrial-Finance-Corporate-Media-Security-Infotainment complex, the heads of many of the largest corporations and conglomerates include former military intelligence officers, bankers, and former/future govt appointees. Most govt. appointees are not lifetime politicians, they're corporate officers, chiefs, lawyers, bankers. The Central Intelligence Agency, which has never been about collecting information but 80% covert ops, according to retired agents, it's directors are typically Wall Street bankers and lawyers, not military intelligence.

    Most people know that Pepsico owned both Taco Bell and KFC, and many more companies.
    Most people have heard about "holding companies" and "corporate shells", giant conglomerate umbrellas, like Altria Group, previously known as Philip-Morris (Marlboro, other tobacco), that has owned Miller Beer, Kraft Foods, Nabisco, and more. But not just smokes and food.
    Philip-Morris Directors consist of a former Secretary of Defense and Wall Street bankers. Read some of these biographies: Govt positions, Airline deregulation, Aerospace, SALT II treaty, Brookings Institution, Neuro medicine, UK politics, Fox Entertainment, Travellers, US Airways Group, Lehman Brothers Private Equity, Federal Reserve, U.S. Treasury, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (govt), Marriott International, National Geographic Society, Citigroup, New York Stock Exchange, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC (Wall St), etc.

    Get it? This financial shit is interlocked and layered, with subsidiaries and shells and cross-linking. Corporate CEOs, lawyers, and bankers run the government. Govt officials support multi-national corporations. It's a revolving door.

    The Boards of Directors of most major Fortune 500 companies are cross-linked with other companies, often with competitors.

    Since the average Corporate Director sits on 14 Boards, these boards include people from across Industry, Media, Food, Medicine, Military Contractors, and more. This is called "interlocking Boards of Directorate", a financial and control infrastructure. Approximately the top 1% (or less) of America basically owns or controls the entire country, 99% of corporate property, including land. This is simply an economic fact.

    This is how the world is really organized. The White House, Congress, Cabinet, Departments, Judiciary, CIA is just one more set of players.

    Then there's high military intelligence, what some call "Shadow Govt".

    As a matter of fact, most CIA directors do not come from a military background, but rather Wall Street lawyers and bankers.

    As Thomas Friedman said, "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist" of the U.S. military. (Why is that? Why does buying and selling and free trade require armed force? Isn't it just like shopping? Doesn't everyone want to make money? Who brandishes heavy weapons to go shopping ... except for a robbery?)

    "What we in America call terrorists are really groups of people that reject the international system..." - Henry Kissinger

    Charles Townsend, former CEO of Avis, wrote a critical guide for successful corporations called "Up the Organization". He mentioned that a mere 5000 people control the "commanding heights" of the US economy, and that this ruling elite "regard this country as their own whore house and they treat each president as their private towel boy." So there ya go.

    Neoliberalism, Anomie, and Interpersonal Violence Normlessness Leads to Criminality " Sociology Lens

    Increasingly, there appears to be a connection between neoliberalism and the development of anomie. Such an association is unsurprising considering that neoliberalism encourages individuals to achieve ever greater success even though such a goal is unrealistic. In response to being blocked from realizing their never-ending aspirations, Merton (1968) argues that people in success-driven societies will feel deprived and frustrated as a divide forms between idealistic ambitions and factual reality. While such a divide has traditionally been the widest in developed capitalist states like the U.S., Passas (2000) contends that the growth of neoliberalism has exacerbated this problem in countries throughout the world. As a result, anomie, or the "withdrawal of allegiance from conventional norms and a weakening of these norms' guiding power on behavior" has increased on a global scale (Passas 2000:20). Oozing with the anomie brought about by constant strain, neoliberalism can intensify the occurrence of violence as frustrated people struggle to live and to succeed in an unequal society. In response to this idea, it appears that as neoliberalism becomes more prominent in a country, it can be expected that anomie and, as a result, interpersonal violence within that country will increase.

    When it comes to success-driven societies, both Durkheim (1951[1897]) and Merton (1968) argue that such environments can lead to the development of anomie as a result of the imbalance between societal expectations and realistic opportunities. Both scholars agree that the occurrence of means-ends discrepancies can cause to people to feel highly strained and frustrated. And, as people become increasingly aware of power and economic asymmetries, especially as globalization and neoliberalism become more prominent in a country, this sense of strain and frustration can grow. In response, some may choose to either partially or fully disregard previously internalized societal norms that no longer seem useful. As Passas (2000) explains, this means that conventional norms may lose much of their meaning and/or that they may lose their ability to guide pro-social behavior. Such a loss of norms results in anomie, or normlessness. Unfortunately, individuals dealing with anomie typically have limited options when it comes to turning to the state for help. This is because neoliberal policies have often already done away with many of the welfare programs, forms of assistance, and safety nets that had previously kept individuals afloat (Passas 2000). The loss of the state as form of relief can then further encourage the evolvement of anomie within a society.

    Considering that anomie results in the full or partial loss of social norms, it is not surprising that anomie can lead to deviance. As Passas (2000) points out, normlessness almost necessitates deviance when legitimate means to success are blocked. Individuals facing such a reality feel less of a need to follow previously internalized social norms and more of a need to engage in deviant activities in order to reach their goals. This desire to succeed at all costs paired with a disregard for social rules can easily result in violence. As an example of this idea, Fullilove et al. (1998) found that the occurrence of a violence epidemic in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in New York City, was the result of growing anomie as the neighborhood disintegrated in the midst of social disarray. Braithwaite et al. (2010) further contend that recent violence in Indonesia was the result of societal-level anomie. Other studies (e.g., Messner and Rosenfeld 1997; Savolainen 2000), too, have indicated that there exists a strong relationship between anomie and violence. These findings are not counterintuitive. It makes sense that when people are feeling strained that their frustration (and the loss of previously held norms against deviance) can transform into acts of violence.

    Source: Microsoft

    In an effort to more clearly articulate this overall premise, consider the case of Russia. As explained by Passas (2000), Russia began to slowly embrace neoliberal policies in the 1980s. By the mid-1990s, these policies had resulted in lifting import and export tariffs, liberalizing prices, removing domestic trade restrictions, minimizing the role of government, and privatizing public property. Hungry for freedom, the Russian populace lapped up these neoliberal ideas as consumptionist ideals replaced previously held socialist goals. Unsurprisingly, this zealous transition from socialism to capitalism brought about many consequences including severe and growing social inequality. Unable to overcome structural obstacles and unable to attain success, Passas writes that strain and frustration resulted in many Russians becoming increasingly anomic. Simultaneously, deviance began to increase as old social norms fell out of favor and the Russian government lost much of its autonomy. In response, rising anomie and deviance resulted in a criminal explosion. Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, already high levels of homicide have increased dramatically, making Russia one of the world's hotspots for murder (Pridemore 2002). Chervyakov et al. (2009) further note that, unlike in the USSR, murders in Russia are now much more likely to involve aggravating circumstances like rape or robbery. Bringing these findings together, Collier's (2005:111) research suggests that violence in Russia after the transition to capitalism "resulted from inequitable distribution of wealth, rapid privatization, [and] a fall in real income" as well as the loss of the social safety net and an increase in organized crime. Altogether, Russia is a prime example of how the strain and frustration induced by neoliberalism can lead to anomie and, eventually, to violence.

    By briefly evaluating the case of Russia, it is hopefully clearer how neoliberalism can directly contribute to anomie and indirectly contribute to violence. By creating incredible amounts of stress for those blocked by society's goals (Durkheim 1957[1897]; Merton 1968), neoliberalism increases the amount of anomie found within a society. This anomie, research has indicated, can then manifest itself in frustration, deviance, and violence (Messner and Rosenfeld 1997; Fullilove et al. 1998; Savolainen 2000; Braithwaite et al. 2010) just as it has done in Russia (Pridemore 2002; Collier 2005; Chervyakov et al. 2009). Without a doubt, the occurrence of violence furthers the development of anomie in a society. This thus suggests that there exists a non-recursive relationship between anomie and violence in that each variable can exacerbate the negative effects of the other. In an effort to dismantle this relationship, Fullilove et al. (1998) argue that communities need to be improved from within while having structural problems addressed from the outside. Doing so, of course, would require very anti-neoliberal policies which, realistically, seem very unlikely to occur in the near future.

    For further reading:

    Braithwaite, John. 2010. Anomie and Violence: Non-Truth and Reconciliation in Indonesian Peacebuilding. Canberra, Australia: The Australian National University.

    Chervyakov, Valeriy V., Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, William Alex Pridemore, and Martin McKee. 2002. "The Changing Nature of Murder in Russia." Social Science and Medicine 55(10):1713-1724.

    Collier, Paul. 2005. Understanding Civil War: Europe, Central Asia, and Other Regions. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank.

    Durkheim, Emile. 1951 [1897]. Suicide. New York: Free Press.

    Fullilove, Mindy Thompson, Veronique Heon, Walkiria Jimenez, Caroline Parsons, Lesley L. Green, and Robert E. Fullilove. 1998. "Injury and Anomie: Effects of Violence on an Inner-City Community." American Journal of Public Health 88(6):924-927.

    Merton, Robert K. 1968. Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: The Free Press.

    Messner, Steven F., and Richard Rosenfeld. 1997. "Political Restraint of the Market and Levels of Criminal Homicide: A Cross-National Application of Institutional-Anomie Theory." Social Forces 75(4):1393-1416.

    Passas, Nikos. 2000. "Global Anomie, Dysnomie, and Economic Crime: Hidden Consequences of Neoliberalism and Globalization in Russia and Around the World." Social Justice 27(2):16-44.

    Pridemore, William Alex. 2002. "Vodka and Violence: Alcohol Consumption and Homicide Rates in Russia." American Journal of Public Health 92(12):1921-1930.

    Savolainen, Jukka. 2000. "Inequality, Welfare State, and Homicide: F

    Crisis, Populist Neoliberalism and the Limits to Democracy in Mexico Global Research

    Organized Crime, Militarization and Populist Neoliberalism in Mexico

    Recently, the outreach of organized crime linked to drug cartels has spread throughout the country, even to Mexico's Southern border with Guatemala. Right after the dubious and contested 2006 presidential election, Calderón tried to gain legitimacy by imposing an iron fist policy on organized crime through mobilizing the military. Since 2006, fifty thousand federal soldiers have been deployed throughout the country. This was partly seen by many sectors of the population as a positive step toward decreasing the levels of violence, particularly in states where it is widely believed that organized crime has infiltrated police forces and local institutions. This has become Calderón's strategy to gain popular support in order to increase his bargaining power vis-à-vis the opposition while controlling organized crime to maintain the political stability necessary for the functioning of markets.

    The PRI claims that political stability was ensured under its presidential administrations and blames the PAN for the rising levels of violence in the country. At the same time, the PRI is evoking rosy political images of the past, which recall its clientelistic practices through which the party used to allocate a small proportion of illegally appropriated funds to subordinated classes in order to maintain the legitimacy of the party outside democratic mechanisms. These practices have been maintained at the state and local level, resulting in a growing support for the PRI at the local level from those sectors of the population increasingly marginalized in the past years by neoliberal policies.

    Both the PAN and the PRI have been carrying out campaigns of fear to stay in power. On the one hand, Calderón is trying to increase his party's strength by stressing that his policy of militarization is the only way to fight organized crime and disrupt alliances between drug cartels, police forces and some state and local authorities. And that this policy can only be maintained if the PAN wins the 2012 presidential election. On the other hand, the PRI is stressing that voting for the PAN has only increased marginalization and violence. Thus, the PRI depicts itself as the only political option for the 2012 presidential election. The disillusionment with the PAN over economic hardship and growing violence can be seen in the 2009 mid-term elections for seats in the lower house, six state governments and about 500 mayors in 11 states – the PRI won 36.7 percent of the seats in the lower legislative house as well as most state and local posts. Thus both parties are employing populist strategies to gain popular support around issues of violence and insecurity. At the same time, they both have demonstrated their commitment to domestic austerity, on the one hand, and discretionary government spending, on the other, to empower those groups that can maintain the neoliberal agenda.

    Austerity from Within: the 2010 Mexican Budget

    The 2010 Budget Initiative proposed by Calderón contradicts his previous rhetoric regarding the counter-cyclical response to the crisis through more government spending and less taxes for the majority of the population. The initiative he sent to Congress included a 0.5 percent of the GDP deficit and a two percent rise in the goods and service tax, from 15 to 17 percent. While Calderón argued that this two percent would be channeled to social programs to fight poverty, the aim of expanding regressive taxation was in fact to increase state funding to prevent a credit-rating downgrade of the country's debt. Interestingly enough, the measures contained in this initiative differ from some of the prescribed policies of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which suggested avoiding regressive taxation and a temporary deficit of 2.5 percent of the GDP to encourage state spending.

    When the initiative was first sent to Congress, the PRI and the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) opposed the Executive's proposal. As negotiations between the president's party and the PRI progressed, a new consensus around the budget was evident. The budget passed by Congress kept a one percent increase in regressive taxation and included a request to the Executive to elaborate an austerity program by March 15, 2010.

    The alliance between the PRI and the PAN and the failure of the PRD to oppose the budget shows the limits of electoral liberalization, a liberalization that has allowed the PRI and the PAN to monopolize power in the Legislative and Executive branch in order to favour particular forces within their parties. In this alliance, the PRI, which holds the majority of seats in the Lower House, supported an expansion of regressive taxation as long as the PAN agreed to channel more funds to state governments, which are mostly controlled by the PRI, as well as to remove transparency and accountability mechanisms on state and municipal spending and cut federal social programs. In fact, the states that received large benefits from this budget were the Estado de México, whose governor is considered the main contender for the presidential candidacy of the PRI in 2012, and Oaxaca, whose governor was found guilty of human rights violations by the Mexican Supreme Court. This budget allows PRI governors to use public money in a discretionary way to gain support in their own states, increase their clientelistic networks and enhance the party's position in the forthcoming 2012 presidential election. Both the PRI and the PAN, along with other parties such as Convergencia and the Green Party and some factions of the PRD, also agreed to the creation of an austerity program provided that the big budgets of the political parties and the Legislative, which include personal expenses and private medical insurance for legislators, would not be decreased.

    The budget negotiations reveal two limits to the democratization of economic decision-making in the country. First, Congress' request for an austerity program shows that austerity has not necessarily been imposed from abroad, but rather it is Mexico's domestic balance of forces, particularly its 'representative institutions,' that have internalized capitalist discipline within the country. Second, the 2010 budget negotiations illustrate how societal demands have been isolated from economic decision-making and partisan politics. The marginalization of popular demands only benefits a small group, particularly financial capital, whose investment in government debt and the Mexican peso is guaranteed by the funding available in next year's public budget.

    It might seem puzzling that Calderón and the PAN legislators decided to negotiate a budget with the PRI that increases the latter's authoritarian power at the state level, at a high political cost for the PAN in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. One reason for this generous gift to the PRI was that the austerity budget could not pass without the votes of PRI legislators. Also, Calderón needs the PRI support in the Senate for the confirmation of Agustín Carstens as the new president of the central bank, who is one of Calderón's closer collaborators and orchestrator of the new regressive tax, in order to increase the president's hold over economic policy. The other reason is that both parties agree on the continuation of the neoliberal agenda and the exclusion of progressive forces from the political realm. And both are being pressured to move forward in this direction by the big business associations. The two parties, with some exceptions, have supported the sudden closure of the public electricity company, Luz y Fuerza del Centro, and the attack on the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) while protecting other unions that support the current neoliberal agenda such as the Teachers' National Union (SNTE). The PAN might even be willing to allow the PRI to enhance its power as long as it leaves the neoliberal agenda intact and does not allow progressive social forces to participate in policy-making. While there seems to be a consensus between the PRI and the PAN regarding the neoliberal trajectory of the country, such consensus remains fragile because of internal conflict within each of the parties of Mexican neoliberalism.

    The Fragmentation of the Mexican Neoliberal Political Project: Spaces for Resistance

    Mexico's current conjuncture has produced growing tensions among the supporters of the neoliberal project itself. While previous administrations constructed a consensus around the neoliberal agenda, disagreement on these policies have become evident during Calderón's presidency. The 2010 budget disrupted the PAN's unity when PAN Senators, in particular, resented Calderón's pressure to move forward on the tax increases and grant more leeway for state governors' discretionary spending. Also, the close relations between Calderón and the business sector have become strained after the 2010 budget negotiations. In the most recent Mexican Business Summit in Monterrey, some of the largest Mexican corporations not only expressed their disapproval of Calderón's budget but also of the "government-promoted model of the past 25 years, which has only generated slow rates of growth and low levels of employment."

    The tensions between big business and the PAN as well as within both the PAN and the PRD have combined with popular discontent to open spaces of resistance for opposition forces at the local, state and national level. However, divisions within the Mexican Left need to be overcome in order to take advantage of these spaces. The electoralist focus and the internal conflicts within the PRD have not allowed this party to forge close alliances with labour and grassroots organizations at the national level. Also, there are regional differences regarding the issues that are considered relevant to an alternative agenda to neoliberalism. For instance, people in Northern Mexico, including progressive social organizations, which are mostly concerned with drug-related violence and maquiladora issues, might not necessarily identify themselves with the struggles in Central and Southern Mexico such as the mobilization of the Mexican Electrical Workers and the Zapatista movement. In general, it is necessary to find commonalities among Mexican progressive socio-political movements and organizations at the national level in order to create consensus around a democratic agenda that can gain momentum in the current conjuncture.

    Hepzibah Muñoz-Martínez is a researcher and writer living in Mexico.

    [Sep 26, 2016] War as a Business Opportunity

    Highly recommended!
    Notable quotes:
    "... As General Smedley Butler, twice awarded the Medal of Honor, said: War is a racket . Wars will persist as long as people see them as a "core product," as a business opportunity. In capitalism, the profit motive is often amoral; greed is good, even when it feeds war. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is willing to play along. It always sees "vulnerabilities" and always wants more money. ..."
    "... Wars are always profitable for a few, but they are ruining democracy in America. Sure, it's a business opportunity: one that ends in national (and moral) bankruptcy. ..."
    Sep 24, 2016 | www.antiwar.com
    A good friend passed along an article at Forbes from a month ago with the pregnant title, "U.S. Army Fears Major War Likely Within Five Years - But Lacks The Money To Prepare." Basically, the article argues that war is possible - even likely - within five years with Russia or North Korea or Iran, or maybe all three, but that America's army is short of money to prepare for these wars. This despite the fact that America spends roughly $700 billion each and every year on defense and overseas wars.

    Now, the author's agenda is quite clear, as he states at the end of his article: "Several of the Army's equipment suppliers are contributors to my think tank and/or consulting clients." He's writing an alarmist article about the probability of future wars at the same time as he's profiting from the sales of weaponry to the army.

    As General Smedley Butler, twice awarded the Medal of Honor, said: War is a racket . Wars will persist as long as people see them as a "core product," as a business opportunity. In capitalism, the profit motive is often amoral; greed is good, even when it feeds war. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is willing to play along. It always sees "vulnerabilities" and always wants more money.

    But back to the Forbes article with its concerns about war(s) in five years with Russia or North Korea or Iran (or all three). For what vital national interest should America fight against Russia? North Korea? Iran? A few quick reminders:

    #1: Don't get involved in a land war in Asia or with Russia (Charles XII, Napoleon, and Hitler all learned that lesson the hard way).

    #2: North Korea? It's a puppet regime that can't feed its own people. It might prefer war to distract the people from their parlous existence.

    #3: Iran? A regional power, already contained, with a young population that's sympathetic to America, at least to our culture of relative openness and tolerance. If the US Army thinks tackling Iran would be relatively easy, just consider all those recent "easy" wars and military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria

    Of course, the business aspect of this is selling the idea the US Army isn't prepared and therefore needs yet another new generation of expensive high-tech weaponry. It's like convincing high-end consumers their three-year-old Audi or Lexus is obsolete so they must buy the latest model else lose face.

    We see this all the time in the US military. It's a version of planned or artificial obsolescence . Consider the Air Force. It could easily defeat its enemies with updated versions of A-10s, F-15s, and F-16s, but instead the Pentagon plans to spend as much as $1.4 trillion on the shiny new and under-performing F-35 . The Army has an enormous surplus of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, but the call goes forth for a "new generation." No other navy comes close to the US Navy, yet the call goes out for a new generation of ships.

    The Pentagon mantra is always for more and better, which often turns out to be for less and much more expensive, e.g. the F-35 fighter.

    Wars are always profitable for a few, but they are ruining democracy in America. Sure, it's a business opportunity: one that ends in national (and moral) bankruptcy.

    William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views . He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu . Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author's permission.

    [Sep 04, 2016] Guardian comments to George Monbiot article Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

    Notable quotes:
    "... So we have two problems now. One like the author points out, there is no coherent alternative from the left ..."
    "... since is so diffuse a target it becomes a boogey man rather than actual target to be loathed. ..."
    "... one area where neo-liberalism is dominant is that of 'welfare reform', a key component of the ideology, In this sphere the lack of interest and action by the left, civil society, etc, has been shameful, I can recall here in the UK that at one weekend during the New Labour reign at a Labour Party Conference 60,000 people protested anti-war issues while only about 80 were there for the Monday event against N/L's nascent Welfare Reform Bill which created the policy architecthure for all the coming changes.. ..."
    "... New Labour was a con trick. JC's version will, imho, reverse a lot of the damage done - that's if the Blairites will stop throwing their toys out the pram. ..."
    "... neoliberalism is so wide spread that those that are actual neo-liberals don't even know they are. neoliberalism is core of The Conservatives and New Labour ..."
    "... In the 20th century more people were killed by their own governments than in war. But to the left the real threat to people comes not from a concentration of power wielded by governments but of concentrations of wealth in private hands. ..."
    "... This is pretty much the only reason why I still read the Guardian. Monbiot and the quick crossword. ..."
    "... Monbiot is the best journalist the Guardian has, he can actually make a logical fact based argument unlike the majority of Guardian journalist. ..."
    "... 'The Invisible Hand' is not an ideology or dogma. It's just a metaphor to describe those with problems grasping abstract concepts: when there are a large number of buyers and suppliers for a good, the 'market finds a price' which is effectively the sum of all the intelligence of the participants, their suppliers, customers etc.. ..."
    "... You clearly haven't read Wealth of Nations. The only mention of an invisible hand is actually a warning against what we now call neoliberalism. Smith said that the wealthy wouldn't seek to enrich themselves to the detriment of their home communities, because of an innate home bias. Thus, as if by an invisible hand, England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality. ..."
    "... Your understanding of the 'invisible hand' is a falsehood perpetuated by neoliberal think tanks like the Adam Smith institute (no endorsement or connection to the author, despite using his name). ..."
    "... I read, cannot remember where, that with neo liberalism the implementation is all that matters, you do not need to see the results. I suppose because the followers believe when implemented it will work perfectly. I think it's supporters think it is magic and must work because they believe it does. ..."
    "... Yes, a high priest of neo-liberalism, Lord Freud, was given only 13 weeks to investigate and reform key elements of the the UK's welfare system, it hasn't worked and Freud is now invisible. ..."
    "... Failed neoliberalism and not restricting markets that do not benefit the majority are the cause and we stand on the brink of falling further should the Brexiter's have their way. If there's one thing the EU excels at it's legislating against the excesses of business and extremism. ..."
    [Apr 15, 2016] theguardian.com

    The article in question: Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

    MoreNotLess 7d ago

    Part of the problem is that Neoliberalism isn't as clearly defined as communism. This also means that anything bad that happens in society today can be hung on to neoliberalism whether warranted or not. Zika causes microcephaly? another consequence of neoliberalism to be sure!

    So we have two problems now. One like the author points out, there is no coherent alternative from the left (interestingly the Canadian NDP party tried and your much beloved Naomi Klein was part of a group who sabotaged the effort and produced a neo-stalinist proposal instead that went nowhere) and second, since is so diffuse a target it becomes a boogey man rather than actual target to be loathed.

    vastariner , 2016-04-15 14:38:19

    Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty.

    Are they though? Even ignoring trade subsidies, it's a bit difficult to compete in e.g. politics, the media, the law and many other areas unless you have money behind you. It's more a self-perpetuating protectionist oligarchy. And therefore as much neoliberalism as North Korea is communism.
    dreamer06 , 2016-04-15 14:38:54
    Another incisive article by George, one area where neo-liberalism is dominant is that of 'welfare reform', a key component of the ideology, In this sphere the lack of interest and action by the left, civil society, etc, has been shameful, I can recall here in the UK that at one weekend during the New Labour reign at a Labour Party Conference 60,000 people protested anti-war issues while only about 80 were there for the Monday event against N/L's nascent Welfare Reform Bill which created the policy architecthure for all the coming changes..

    Now there are suicides, misery for milllions, etc, it was left to a few disability groups, a few allies, Unite Community, UkUncut, etc to challenge the behemoth. The Left has a hierarchy of oppression which often means it operates in a bubble aloof from wider concerns.

    Owlyrics dreamer06 , 2016-04-15 14:48:54
    People have been set up for decades to respond offensively to some words like unions, unemployed, sole parents, Greenies (environmentalists), female leaders, you name it, anyone they don't like. There is white trash, bogans, bludgers like trained pets they repeat the mantra as soon as anyone opposes them and people go against their best interests.
    umopapisdn -> dreamer06 , 2016-04-15 16:45:04
    New Labour was a con trick. JC's version will, imho, reverse a lot of the damage done - that's if the Blairites will stop throwing their toys out the pram.
    Shelfunit umopapisdn , 2016-04-17 07:46:11

    New Labour was a con trick. JC's version will, imho, reverse a lot of the damage done

    Yup, no more of this getting elected rubbish. Protests now and forever more.

    KellySmith81 , 2016-04-15 14:39:03
    neoliberalism is so wide spread that those that are actual neo-liberals don't even know they are. neoliberalism is core of The Conservatives and New Labour , Lid Dem even Green Party could be classed as neo-liberals, so the alternative is the communist party who are actually against staying in the EU or the idiots on the the right like UKIP and so on.

    We need common sense party instead of the terrible state of politics we have all over the Globe. The rise in the far-left and the far-right the non-platform anti free speech left with their phobia labels or the neanderthals of the far-right like rise of Golden Dawn and the anti-Muslim rhetoric by Trump.

    Josh Phillips -> KellySmith81 , 2016-04-15 14:45:36
    Greens are neo-liberals? Mate, we're left of labour even now. We believe economic growth is fundamentally incompatible with a sustainable future, for example
    (academic research beyond the faulty national statistics supports this), and the only way to tackle this is a wholesale redistrbutive system. The poor would be hit hardest by radical cuts in consumption and carbon limits. Enough to impoverish millions in this country alone. So we need to be redistributive in a far more radical way than even corbyns labour would be.
    Luminaire -> KellySmith81 , 2016-04-15 14:54:54
    Agreed, it feels like there's a HUGE gap in politics that simply isn't being filled at the moment. The false starts for real 'multi-party' politics that were the Lib Dem gains, Green Party and UKIP have all turned out to be more of the same, damp squibs or total mess.

    People are sick of politics, they're sick of bizarre single-issue parties and they're sick of even the language of politics. Such opportunity and yet nothing is appearing.

    zolotoy -> Josh Phillips , 2016-04-15 14:59:26
    Depends on which Greens. The German Greens, for instance, after some initial party, are now just another corporate-friendly party that will compromise with anyone and anything.
    BarbecueAndBullshit , 2016-04-15 14:39:15
    Good article apart from the schoolboy error of characterizing the USSR as Communist. No advanced Communist State has yet existed. For clarification of the theory, try reading Etienne Balibar's On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

    ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dictatorship-Proletariat-Etienne-Balibar/dp/0902308599/ref=la_B000APFJLA_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460727417&sr=1-16 )

    also available online ( http://www.marx2mao.com/Other/ODP77NB.html ).

    bobthebuilder2017 BarbecueAndBullshit , 2016-04-16 13:56:16
    Yes, Lenin's attempt at implementing the abstract theories of Marx (he believed he found a way to short circuit the stages of socioevolution by skipping the Capitalist phase by jumping from Feudalism.to Socialism - the goal of the USSR.

    The people were the eggs in the theoretical omlet that was made.

    The fact that so many were brutally murdered in the pursuit of and ends propagandized as 'liberation' can never be a allowed to be forgotten.

    The next time will not be different, nor the time after that or the one after that.

    NietzscheanChe , 2016-04-15 14:39:15
    The world has been written off and fucked into the shite heap to rot.
    Pratandwhitney , 2016-04-15 14:39:52
    Well said.
    But I think we are too far in it and cant see any opposition for this.
    Big corpos will try to keep status quo or even push harder their own agenda. They have easy job as they only have to buy (already done this) few politicians.
    platopluto , 2016-04-15 14:39:55
    We haven't failed to come up with an alternative- we've been shouting it at you. Its name is socialism. Thankfully we have Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn et al to represent our cause yet still it falls on deaf ears with the press and the political establishment.

    Power to the people!

    countyboy -> platopluto , 2016-04-15 14:49:48
    Unfortunately power requires money and socialism does not provide it.
    zolotoy -> countyboy , 2016-04-15 15:02:42
    Power . . . or guns. And of course the servants and dupes of capitalism have most of the guns.
    MoreNotLess -> platopluto , 2016-04-15 15:11:38
    He meant an alternative that has a track record of working.
    bithoo , 2016-04-15 14:40:00
    In the 20th century more people were killed by their own governments than in war. But to the left the real threat to people comes not from a concentration of power wielded by governments but of concentrations of wealth in private hands.
    koichan bithoo , 2016-04-15 14:54:30
    The problem is that concentration of wealth leads to the buying of government power.

    It's not simple government bad, wealth good or indifferent. It's the wealthy using said wealth to buy government power to further enrich the wealthy.
    Government is just a tool, who drives it matters.

    septicsceptic -> bithoo , 2016-04-15 17:52:11
    This comment is predicated entirely on the assumption that history repeats itself in identical form.
    bobthebuilder2017 -> septicsceptic , 2016-04-16 14:02:22
    No, history doesn't repeat: it rhymes.
    Cornus -> PaulBowes01 , 2016-04-15 18:05:19
    In addition to neoliberalism being adopted by the Democrats and Labour, another distinct ideology has the traditional parties of the left tied in knots.

    One YouTuber has called it 'Neoprogressivism' - the creed underpinning identity politics.

    Above Monbiot describes how neoliberalism was in large part born as Hayek's alternative to the early twentieth century nationalism/communism clash; worryingly it seems a century later our politics is again hamstrung by two pernicious ideologies as the world blindly races towards another disaster.

    Whereas neoliberalism is now widely recognised and eviscerated, light is just starting to be shone on 'Neoprogressivism'. I recommend the YouTube video of this title for an account of the second 'rock' around which contemporary politics navigates.

    brovis -> Cornus , 2016-04-15 18:55:17

    One YouTuber has called it 'Neoprogressivism'

    So we can safely dismiss it as the ramblings of a disgruntled attention seeker who is too dumb to realise that s/he isn't an overlooked genius.
    Good.

    Whereas neoliberalism is now widely recognised and eviscerated

    No, it's not. That's the point.
    Anarchy4theUK PaulBowes01 , 2016-04-15 20:56:56
    That's not what happens in Venezuela, Chavez was the big hero of the left, now look at Venezuela, how's it working out for them?
    amberjack Osager , 2016-04-15 14:56:41

    this is why I read the guardian

    This is pretty much the only reason why I still read the Guardian. Monbiot and the quick crossword.
    Shanajackson Osager , 2016-04-15 15:07:42
    Monbiot is the best journalist the Guardian has, he can actually make a logical fact based argument unlike the majority of Guardian journalist.
    qzpmwxonecib , 2016-04-15 14:40:53
    Any ideology will cause problems. Right wing and left wing. Pragmatism and compassion are required.
    Tad Blarney -> qzpmwxonecib , 2016-04-15 15:17:22
    'The Invisible Hand' is not an ideology or dogma. It's just a metaphor to describe those with problems grasping abstract concepts: when there are a large number of buyers and suppliers for a good, the 'market finds a price' which is effectively the sum of all the intelligence of the participants, their suppliers, customers etc..

    The Socialists, who have difficulty grasping this reality, want to 'fix' the price, which abnegates the collective intelligence of the market participants, and causes severe problems.

    Capitalism is freedom, Socialism is someone's ideology.

    brovis -> Tad Blarney , 2016-04-15 18:38:35

    'The Invisible Hand' is... a metaphor to describe those with problems grasping abstract concepts: when there are a large number of buyers and suppliers for a good, the 'market finds a price' which is effectively the sum of all the intelligence of the participants

    You clearly haven't read Wealth of Nations. The only mention of an invisible hand is actually a warning against what we now call neoliberalism. Smith said that the wealthy wouldn't seek to enrich themselves to the detriment of their home communities, because of an innate home bias. Thus, as if by an invisible hand, England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality.

    Your understanding of the 'invisible hand' is a falsehood perpetuated by neoliberal think tanks like the Adam Smith institute (no endorsement or connection to the author, despite using his name).

    'The Invisible Hand' is not dogma.

    You definitely know a lot about dogma (and false dichotomies):

    Capitalism is freedom, Socialism is someone's ideology.

    unheilig , 2016-04-15 14:41:23

    A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century

    All very well, but how? Did anyone hear the screams of rage when Sanders started threatening Hillary, or when Corbyn trounced the Blairites? The dead hand of Bernays and Goebbels controls everything.
    EricBallinger , 2016-04-15 14:42:51
    There is no alternative on offer by the left.
    The socialist/trade union package is outmoded.
    The failure to describe reality in a way that concurs with what ordinary people experience has driven off much support and reduced credibility.
    There is no credible model for investment and wealth creation.
    The focus on social mobility upwards rather than on those who do not move has given UK leftism a middle-class snobby air to it.
    Those entering leftist politics have a very narrow range of life experience. The opposition to rightist politics is cliched and outmoded.
    There is a complete failure to challenge the emerging multi-polar plutocratic oligarchy which runs the planet - the European left just seeks a comfy accommodation.
    There is no attempt to develop a post-socialist, holistic worldview and ideology.
    oreilly62 EricBallinger , 2016-04-15 14:52:26
    The trade union package, gave us meal breaks, holidays, sickness benefits, working hours restrictions, as opposed to the right wing media agenda, that if you aint getting it nobody should, pour poison on the unions, pour poison on the public sector, a fucking media led race to the bottom for workers, and there were enough gullible (poor )mugs around to accept it. You can curse the middle class socialists all you like, but without their support the labour movement would never have got off the ground.
    Paidenoughalready -> oreilly62 , 2016-04-15 14:59:02
    Okay, so you've described the 1950's through to the 1980's.

    So what have the unions done for us isn the last two decades ?

    Why is it all the successful, profitable and productive industries in the Uk have little or no union involvement ?

    Why is it that the least effective, highest costs and poorest performing structures are in the public sector and held back by the unions ?

    Here's a clue - the unions are operating in the 21st century with a 1950's mentality.

    oreilly62 Paidenoughalready , 2016-04-15 15:18:26
    During the industrial revolution, profitability and productivity were off the scale because the workforce were just commodities, Unionisation instigated the idea that without the workforce, your entrepreneurs can't do anything on their own, Henry Ford wouldn't have become a millionaire without the help of his workforce. 'Poorest performing structures' Guess what! some of us are human beings not auto- matrons. I hope you dine well on sterling and dollars, cause they're not the most important things in life.
    countyboy , 2016-04-15 14:43:30
    It's the only way. It's not perfect but it achieves the best ( not ideal ) possible result.

    What if in the end there's no where left to go ?

    What if the highest possible taxes, zero avoidance / evasion and high employment still equals deficits and increasing national debt ?

    What then ?

    fumbduck countyboy , 2016-04-15 14:54:56

    What if the highest possible taxes, zero avoidance / evasion and high employment still equals deficits and increasing national debt ?

    The paragraph written above neatly describes the post WW2 years, where the UK was pretty much in perpetual surplus. High employment does not equate to national debt/deficit. Quite the opposite, the more people in gainful employment the better. Increasing unemployment, driving wages down while simultaneously increasing the cost of living is a recipe for complete economic failure.

    This whole economics gig is piss easy, when the general mass of people have cash to spare they spend it, economy thrives. Hoard the cash into the hands of a minority and starve the masses of cash, economy dies. It really is that simple.

    makirby -> countyboy , 2016-04-15 15:23:23
    Public deficits exist to match the private surplus created by the rich enriching themselves. To get rid of the deficit therefore we need to get rid of the private wealth of the rich through financial repression and taxation
    CoobyTavern , 2016-04-15 14:43:38
    I read, cannot remember where, that with neo liberalism the implementation is all that matters, you do not need to see the results. I suppose because the followers believe when implemented it will work perfectly. I think it's supporters think it is magic and must work because they believe it does.
    dreamer06 CoobyTavern , 2016-04-15 15:20:42
    Yes, a high priest of neo-liberalism, Lord Freud, was given only 13 weeks to investigate and reform key elements of the the UK's welfare system, it hasn't worked and Freud is now invisible.
    tonyeff , 2016-04-15 14:43:45
    Hopeful this is the start for change through identifying issues and avoiding pitfalls.

    Failed neoliberalism and not restricting markets that do not benefit the majority are the cause and we stand on the brink of falling further should the Brexiter's have their way. If there's one thing the EU excels at it's legislating against the excesses of business and extremism.

    Let's make a start by staying in the EU.

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