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The Rise of the Kleptocrats and the Possible Fall of Democracy

Flawed Democracies Great Britain United States Russia Capitalism Kleptocrats Donald Trump Republican Party Voter supression Brexit

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#1
caltrek

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  • Item:  Vladimir Putin has arguably become the richest man in the world. This, despite having an official salary that would only barely place him in the upper middle class in the United States.  

 

  • Item:  Evidence has emerged that the Russian government may have meddled in the U.S.election.

 

  • Item:  Donald Trump gets elected president. He proceeds by stonewalling the country on the question of whether he may be violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.  He also pursues policies encouraging the privatization of public resources through such policies as promoting vouchers in public education.

 

  • Item: Elements of the Republican Party have long been advocating the privatization of Social Security.  This has obvious implications in regards the potential for kleptocrats to move in on the Social Security fund and for unscrupulous investment managers to exploit naive investors.  

 

  • Item: According to a Forbes article  I have also just linked in the Post-Brexit New and Discussion thread:

 

 

Brexit has meant a change in the terms of trade for the UK economy. As is normal with flexible exchange rates a change in said terms of trade leads to a change in the foreign exchange rate. The pound has fallen. And now for the little not so secret about British share prices. Some 75% of the revenues of the FTSE100 (and about 50% of the next set of companies down in size, the FTSE250) are from overseas. That is, they are not earned in sterling. A fall in the pound means that those profits are now worth more in sterling. And the stock market has been largely shadowing, in the inverse, the pound exchange rate since the Brexit vote. That's just the way it works. The pound falls a bit, the stock market goes up a bit. The pound rises a bit, the stock market falls a bit.

 

Add in that most of these billionaires have most of their fortunes outside the UK. That is, most of their assets are denominated not in sterling but in those other currencies which have risen against sterling and there we go.

 

Which raises the question: could the Conservative Party support for Brexit be in part tied to this result, or is this all just an unexpected side effect of Brexit?

 

If it helps explain Brexit support, then that is another example of public policy being manipulated for private gain. An essential ingredient to what I am calling kleptocracy. 

 

If there is a rise in such kleptocratic practices, what implications doe that have for democracy?

 

In Russia, we see the kleptocrats supporting Putin.  The Russian government has in turn been implicated in some decidedly undemocratic measures of repression. 

 

In the United States, we see not only a possible alliance with the kleptocrats of the Russian government, but also tactics aimed at suppressing the vote of minorities that tend to provide electoral opposition to the Republican kleptocrats.

 

How long will it be before Great Britain is affected?

 

We already have seen recent hacking of Parliament and its members by persons and entities unknown.  One wonders: to what end?

 

Capitalism run wild combined with the benefits of control over public policy has erected an elite that seems to care little about democracy. Not exactly a new development, but one in which voters in the United States seem to be increasingly complacent about abetting.  The rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders style populists has also raised the stakes.  One wonders, to what extremes will this capitalist elite go to stop such populists?

 

Your thoughts?

 

Any articles you know that are relevant to the theme of this thread? 

 

Edit:  Changes to format per BasilBerylium comment.


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The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#2
BasilBerylium

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Not related, but: You can make items with "Insert/Remove Bulleted List" (Seventh icon of bottom list)

  • Example1
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  • Example3...


#3
Sciencerocks

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It's sicking and sad how an mixture of liberterianism and religious fascism is handing the rich a perfect storm to take all from the people and transform our country into an Kleptocracy. Pretty much a nation ruled by its rich and the little guy has little say.


To follow my work on tropical cyclones


#4
Alislaws

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With the Uk Brexit billionaire thing, the one thing to note is that, while the rich are now richer in comparison to the rest of British society, their wealth compared to other rich people globally would not have changed much, if anything it will have dropped at least slightly against other billionaires with no holdings in the UK.

 

Being a very rich person in a weak economy, is better in some ways than a rich person in a strong economy. Your money goes further, people are more desperate, and will do more and put up with more in exchange for financial security which you can provide. As the story mentions, they have lots of international holdings, so if Britain's economy collapses completely they'll be fine. 



#5
Mike the average

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I dont really think it is a rise. The rich were worse before, such as kings and queens running the show.

If anything we have much more transparency than ever before. Younger generations can see what is happening much easier than every generation they supercede. It makes the democratic process easier to review, even if difficult to change.

Even if 90% of the world suffers from retarded leaders, the youth are steering the direction of humanity more than ever before. The only advantage the old have is having accrued more money. Money that becomes even more false by the decade.

I am not as worried about the ordinary old world rich as rich tech gods going bad.
'Force always attracts men of low morality' - Einstein
'Great spirits always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds' - Einstein

#6
BasilBerylium

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the youth are steering the direction of humanity more than ever before

Not when they are distracted



#7
Erowind

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Along side the increasingly complacent side of the population many people at least in the US are radicalizing to one side of political spectrum. The I.W.W. has seen a 1000% increase in membership since last winter for example. (That's an internal source from a person I know IRL btw, you won't find it on the web)


Current status: slaving away for the math gods of Pythagoras VII.


#8
Guyverman1990

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A future such as this is a disturbingly realistic likelihood.


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#9
caltrek

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Betsy DeVos’s ‘School Choice’ Is Really Crony Capitalism

 

https://ourfuture.or...rony-capitalism

 

Extract:

 

(U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy) DeVos also pivoted reporters’ questions to talking about her support for the Van Andel Education Institute, which she had visited earlier in the day. The Van Andel Education Institute also provides career development programs for teachers, more specifically on preparing and supporting educators in teaching science, technology, engineering, and math, commonly called STEM education.

 

….Jay and Betty Van Andel founded the Van Andel Institute after amassing a huge sum of money in creating the Amway corporation with Richard DeVos, Betsy’s father-in-law. “Amway went on to become one of the largest privately held companies in the world, making both of its founders billionaires,” writes a progressive blogger based in Michigan.

 

….At nearly every turn, DeVos favors private and powerful entities over the public and the least empowered in our society, Weingarten notes, “fighting for the predatory lenders rather than the borrowers in terms of student loan debt,” siding against marginalized students such as transgender children and victims of college campus sexual assaults, and weakening enforcement of federal government anti-discrimination laws in private schools that receive vouchers.

 

…DeVos claims her proposals are intended to provide more “choice” in the education system. If that were true, she would be proposing to raise funding levels for all options. The fact she boosts education options in the private sector at the expense of public options shows her real intention is to tilt the playing field toward the choices she wants – privately owned institutions.

 

The fact those private options sometimes have personal connections to her family and its fortunes make it look all the more like this isn’t about education at all. It’s about making money.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#10
caltrek

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I originally posted this in the Post-Brexit News and Discussion thread, then realized it is also very appropriate for this thread.

 

Brexit Is Hurting the Fight Against Corruption

 

https://www.nytimes....side-nyt-region

 

Extract:

Quote

 

Even while the (Brexit) referendum loomed, and Britain’s fate teetered on the thin margins of opinion polls, Mr. Cameron maintained his focus on this global problem. In May last year, the month before the Brexit tsunami capsized his premiership, he hosted an anticorruption summit in London and won commitments from dozens of countries to do more to open up their economies and combat financial crime.

 

But then the Brexit referendum happened, Britain turned inward and all that stopped. The Cameron government had promised to publish its anticorruption strategy by the end of 2016. No strategy has yet emerged. As Jon Benton, who headed the National Crime Agency’s International Corruption Unit and worked in the cabinet office in the months before the summit in May 2016, told me earlier this month: “When Theresa May took over, the anticorruption phone just stopped ringing.”

 

 

Instead, we had the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the entirely unnecessary election that Ms. May fluffed earlier this year. It does not mention the word “corruption” once, and contains just a few bromides about tax avoidance. It also pledges to strip the Serious Fraud Office of its independence, which is an inexplicable response to that office’s winning some of the biggest victories against corporate corruption in British history and pushing for more, largely thanks to a legal reform introduced by Mr. Cameron’s government.

 

 

Brexit didn’t just doom the prime minister’s career, it also doomed the campaign he was leading to improve the world.

 

 

The irony here is that the very problems Mr. Cameron was seeking to cure helped drive the movement that dethroned him. A powerful pro-Brexit poster featured thousands of brown-skinned people queuing to enter the European Union, along with the words “Breaking Point.” Mr. Cameron’s anticorruption campaign was supposed to help improve these immigrants’ home countries so that they could stay put. Instead, anti-immigrant sentiment and public distrust of politicians’ financial integrity won the day. A populist insurgency delivered Brexit, and that is now scuttling efforts to clean up Britain’s tax havens, perhaps indefinitely.

 

 

20bullough-inyt-master768.jpg


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#11
Zeitgeist123

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In the Philippines, this is nothing new. And we simply cannot do anything about it. This is the reason why many Filipinos would much rather immigrate than deal with this injustice. A regular household cannot fight an institution, it would take them more than a lifetime. So they simply just immigrate to a fairer country and make efforts to integrate with their host country. The downside of that is they become an invisible and underrepresented minority.


“Philosophy is a pretty toy if one indulges in it with moderation at the right time of life. But if one pursues it further than one should, it is absolute ruin." - Callicles to Socrates


#12
caltrek

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^^^This is a very good point.  In what used to be called the third world, kleptocracy was (and is still) business as usual.  What is so disturbing and alarming now is the regression the U.S. and Great Britain seems to be experiencing.  Kleptocracy in the U.S. is not unprecedented.  The old city bosses were essentially kleptocrats.  What is alarming is how the presidency has become a kleptocratic institution. In the past, one could count on the federal system to be relatively free of corruption (except the extent to which it cooperated with the old party bosses).  This feature of the federal system is now disappearing.  So that is another way of saying that U.S. (and Great Britain) exceptionalism is coming to an end.  The bright and shining ideal of democracy is now heading to the trash heap, at least in the U.S. and possibly Great Britain.

 

For the future of democracy, it is good that other countries such as Germany, France, and the Scandinavian polities remain democratic.  Still, the potential loss of the U.S. (and possibly Great Britain) from their ranks cannot be considered good news.   

 

One sad aspect of this is the way conservatives are enabling this to happen.  One would think that conservatives would be the ones most keen on protecting democratic institutions.  Yet, they are the ones supporting Trump and dragging their heals on impeaching him for clear "high crimes and misdemeanors".  This is doubly ironic in that it use to be conservatives that were positively paranoid about Soviet influence on undermining U.S. institutions.  Now that Russia is a kleptocracy, all is forgiven. A blind eye is turned.  Apparently, such folks equate kleptocracy with capitalism and are therefore not alarmed.  A mistake that may prove fatal to democracy in our countries and perhaps even world wide.

 

That the U.S. was indifferent to corruption in countries such as the Philippines  should have been taken as clear warning.  Instead, this warning sign was ignored.  Ironically, largely because of the anti-communist orientation of kleptocrats in those countries.  It was not understood that the Soviets were nationalist first, and socialist in name only. That oversight is now coming back to bite us big time.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#13
caltrek

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Let’s Stop the GOP ‘s Biggest Grift of All

 

https://ourfuture.or...st-grift-of-all

 

Introduction:

 

Republican leadership isn’t subtle with their looting of the public treasury these days.

 

Last Friday, Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, resigned for sticking the public with a more than $1 million bill for his personal use of private charter and military planes.

 

This bit of malfeasance surprised no one. Price’s brazen trading of drug corporation stocks while pushing legislation on their behalf as a congressman should have derailed his confirmation. It didn’t.

 

Yet Price is far from alone. Plenty of other Trump administration officials, not least Trump himself, have been lining their pockets with perks – if not cash outright. It now seems that more government appointees have been riding high on the public dime: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke all face similar allegations.

 

This abuse of the public’s trust – and resources – is outrageous and enraging, but pretty skimpy compared to the right’s years-long raiding and dismantling of public services to the benefit of private profiteers.

 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#14
caltrek

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File this one under "we should have seen it coming when...."

 

It is a complicated story with many angles.  So the introduction I have extracted below does not really cover all of the interesting angles.  It just suggests the nature of the story.

 

Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. Were Close to Being Charged With Felony Fraud

 

https://www.propubli...ed-felony-fraud

 

Introduction:

 

In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included emails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.

 

In one email, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the emails, they worried that a reporter might be onto them. In yet another, Donald Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the email.

There was “no doubt” that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales,” one person who saw the emails told us. “They knew it was wrong.”

 

In 2010, when the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.’s office opened an investigation of the siblings, the Trump Organization had hired several top New York criminal defense lawyers to represent Donald Jr. and Ivanka. These attorneys had met with prosecutors in the bureau several times. They conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct. Still, the case dragged on. In a meeting with the defense team, Donald Trump, Sr., expressed frustration that the investigation had not been closed. Soon after, his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz entered the case.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#15
caltrek

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Federal Grants Feed Charter School Gravy

 

https://ourfuture.or...n-in-new-mexico

 

Introduction:

 

When the U.S. Department of Education recently announced its list of recipients of over a quarter billion dollars in federally funded grants to charter schools, charter management organizations, and charter development agencies, charter skeptics cast a suspicious eye at some of the grantees, and for good reason.

 

Previous targets for federal charter grants have resembled a “black hole” for taxpayer money with little tracking and accountability for how funds have been spent spent. In the past 26 years, the federal government has sent over $4 billion to charters, with the money often going to “ghost schools” that never opened or quickly failed.

 

In 2015, charter skeptics denounced the stunning selection of Ohio for a $71 million federal chart grant, despite the state’s charter school program being one of the most reviled and ridiculed in the nation.

 

This year’s list of state recipients raises eyebrows as well.

 

One of the larger grants is going to Indiana, whose charter schools generally underperformthe public schools in the state. Nearly half of the Hoosier state’s charters receive poor or failing grades, and the state recently closed one of its online charter schools after six straight years of failure.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#16
caltrek

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One aspect of the rise of kleptocracy is the manner in which public property versus private property gets defined.  At its root, kleptocrats are those that have seized control over that process of defining.  That is why "privatization" fights are worth watching.   

 

Nestle Is Sucking the World's Aquifers Dry

 

https://longreads.com/2017/10/04/nestle-is-sucking-the-worlds-aquifers-dry/

 

Introduction:

 

At Bloomberg BusinesweekCaroline Winter visits Nestlé’s bottling plant in Mecosta County, Michigan to analyze how the multinational corporations targets small communities with promises of jobs, and buys up public land to gain control of water resources. Nestle sold $7.7 billion dollars worth of bottled water last year, making it the world’s largest bottled water company. It made that money partly by paying a pittance for its product. Nestlé pays the U.S. Forest Service only $524 a year to draw 30 million gallons of public water in San Bernardino, California, and Nestlé pays the city of Evart, Michigan just $250,000 a year for its water. Consumers drink bottled water because they assume it’s safer than tap, but that makes us complicit in what many analysts and activists warn is the gradual privatization of water. These multinational corporations don’t have the public’s best interests in mind, activists warn. If anybody should own water, it’s the public.

 

Nestlé has been preparing for shortages for decades. The company’s former chief executive officer, Helmut Maucher, said in a 1994 interview with the New York Times: “Springs are like petroleum. You can always build a chocolate factory. But springs you have or you don’t have.” His successor, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who retired recently after 21 years in charge, drew criticism for encouraging the commodification of water in a 2005 documentary, saying: “One perspective held by various NGOs—which I would call extreme—is that water should be declared a human right. … The other view is that water is a grocery product. And just as every other product, it should have a market value.” Public outrage ensued. Brabeck-Letmathe says his comments were taken out of context and that water is a human right. He later proposed that people should have free access to 30 liters per day, paying only for additional use. 

 

Compared with the water needs of agriculture and energy production, the bottled water business is barely responsible for a trickle; in Michigan, it accounts for less than 1 percent of total water usage, according to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). But it rankles many because the natural resource gets hauled out of local watersheds for private profit, not used in the service of feeding people or keeping their lights on. 

ap_1603190047508317.jpg?w=1200

 

Nestle takes about 25 million gallons of water a year from the San Bernardino National Forest under a permit that expired decades ago.

(Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun via AP)


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Flawed Democracies, Great Britain, United States, Russia, Capitalism, Kleptocrats, Donald Trump, Republican Party, Voter supression, Brexit

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