America: True Democracy, or Beholden to Power Brokers?

American identity is a composite of both the history provided in the archival record, and the stories authored by writers that now make up the corpus of American literature over the past three centuries. However, those in power in America were primarily the ones whose stories concretized the national memory that we now acknowledge to be our unique idea – the one that gives us “Americanness.” Those who have been in power in America for two and a half centuries have sought – and often succeeded – in crafting the legislature to suit their desires.

Power is obtained through two primary ways: the accumulation of wealth (be it through cash or landholding); or by force, which includes or implies the threat of death.

This paper will seek to develop the relationship by which wealthy – and most often landed – elites have leveraged this to empower themselves in ways that allow them to subjugate certain classes, to control the flow of information in various media, and explore how this has remained the status quo throughout much of United States’ history. Moreover, we will explore contemporary America and how these “upper casters” as I will term them, continue doing so to this day. Lastly, we will analyze how this affects and shapes American identity both within – and how our national character is viewed from without.

Truly, the wealthiest people in a society with different class systems truly can never be democratized, if by a democracy we mean “a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.” Yet, how is it that over the long course of American history these power elites have been able to wield so much influence over so many people? Those who are in power succeed in gaining what they want because they have the power to change the laws that codify how society is to act. The poor are rarely able to set the laws in their favor. The institution of early American debtor prisons was around for centuries, breaking apart families and leaving people locked up who certainly could not afford bailment or a lawyer. It took great reformers who helped persuade those in power that poorness was a condition, not a crime. Certainly today we know that it is not a crime to be poor – but the landholding forefathers in our country would not have agreed with you.

One question that must be asked is what truly is American identity today? And is it really much different today than it was 50, 100 or even 350 years ago following first contact? The identity is absolutely different; but the power structures of the upper-casters has changed very little. Certainly, dozens of wars have occurred, and these undoubtedly shape feelings of patriotism and American identity. Wars stir up patriotism, which is a major enabler of a cohesive national identity. Twain wrote of the residents of St. Louis thusly: “Their patriotism was strong, their pride in the flag was of the old-fashioned pattern, their love of country amounted to idolatry.” Wars always have been a great way to incite patriotic fervor, rouse the country around a particular symbol (frequently the American flag, as in the case of post-9/11 flag lapel pins, which are still en vogue seven years later).

Another way to help discern contemporary American identity objectively is to view it through the lens of an outsider. This was what de Toqueville did as the French author made his way to America, traveling across many cities exploring the young country and learning what he could about democracy in this country. Looking at the present, how do foreigners view American identity today, in this world of global communications, mass media and instant messaging?

In many regards, Europeans today chide our citizens as slothful, obese and lazy. In many European countries, where CEO’s of global corporations ride mass transit alongside their employees, business interests think of American CEO’s as contemporary “robber barons,” with $100 million golden parachutes and annual salaries often approaching more than 1,000 times that of their lowest-paid employees. Additionally, another defining characteristic of American is the encroachment of highly-organized, very conservative Christian religion upon the normally secular governmental systems. Contrast this to early America, however, and similarities already begin to appear. Puritan New England, where many pilgrims and other migrants settled to escape religious persecution back in Europe, was a hotbed of such extreme or otherwise right-wing religion. Europeans today are similarly alarmed by the rampant religiosity in America and how it is permeated not only our legislation and politics but our social systems as well. So what of these views of America, then? The inherent American identity is internally structured by our wealthy business and political leaders, and they still seek to portray our country as the only political heavyweight on the world stage; as the policeman of the world; and as the arbiters of the Global War on Terrorism.

As the landholding elite in America today – as well as big business and their associated lobbyists – increase in numbers, dollars and thus influence, the face of our nation has steadily evolved over the past several centuries. The elemental roots of this took hold as early as the seventeenth century, when titles to huge tracts of often hundreds of thousands of acres of land were granted by English Lourdes to their wealthy family members and other well-connected persons of the social elite. The headright system perpetuated this, and literature from the colonial period through the antebellum period reflects this. Hawthorne’s character Colonel Pyncheon is a paradigm of this behavior at its worst: co-opting Mr. Maule’s land through subversive tactics and questionable legislation by influencing town ordinances, Maule ended up “executed for the crime of witchcraft.”

The ability of one singular individual to wield so much power, and craft public policy so as to forcibly remove someone from their rightful land is truly astonishing – and yet it has happened probably tens of thousands of times, if not more, in our nation’s history. The ability of the aristocratic and “elite” to shape the history, present and past through information control empowered them to influence and shape the feelings, opinions and beliefs of those around them in their early settlements. In this fishing village it was no different. Pyncheon’s ability to set the agenda allowed him as one of the few “landed gentry” to obtain by false pretenses the land which he coveted.

Today’s landholding elite and corporate powerbrokers also seek to fashion legislation that will benefit the very few while enriching themselves. The current White House administration has repeatedly sought to abolish any sort of taxation on inheritance. Their carefully crafted strategy of preserving their wealth utilized the double sword: they use fear to keep money and hence power. Labeling it the “death tax,” politicians and lobbyists refer to how the death tax will usher in the demise of the family farm – even though no incidents of such can ever be cited. Nevertheless, the fear of this cultural institution being destroyed has pushed this plutocratic agenda further than anyone could ever imagine. Conservative legislators Truly prefer that as much wealth as possible be passed along, with the obvious intention and goal of preserving that wealth to maintain a majority for as long a period of time as possible. This was akin to the ‘great estates’ of the landed aristocracy that Toqueville was familiar with in the England and France of his era.

In de Toqueville’s work he also makes a point of focusing on the discernible differences between those who resided in New England versus those in the South. The landed gentry in the South, who frequently originated from the regions in England where the cavalier society was prevalent, continued to perpetuate their class-based, oligarchical beliefs in the new nation. If oligarchy is not the correct phraseology, then “nobleman” is certainly not correct, for many of these men – though wealthy representatives of the merchant class, for instance – were of money but not nobility. Toqueville furthers the distinction when he writes “their influence was not altogether aristocratic… since they possessed no privileges, and slave labor denied them tenant farmers and thus they had no patronage.”

During the antebellum period in the United States, we can note the earliest divergence in American identity taking place: the contraposition between North and South. While these two culturally distinctive regions within the United States were becoming more and more different in the antebellum period, there was also another parallel development occurring at this time in the South: the noticeable lack of development of a distinctive middle class in the southern states. As a blue collar society was elevating individuals in the North, yearnings for equality were growing amongst people of all stripes. In Mills’ On the Subjection of Women, his arguments for women’s rights were premised on the belief that women could do things they were forbidden to – if only they were allowed to try and give demonstrable evidence thereto. The albeit tiny middle class that was developing in the South did not espouse these beliefs of equality, and hence remained on a path divergent from their Northern counterparts. Conversely, it was the established belief of the “southern middle class… that industrial slavery would be the best way to modernize.” This put them at odds with both the Northern middle class, as well as the agrarian interests in the South, who still feared anything urban or industrial. The further and deeper South one went, the stronger this sentiment.

How do we reconcile this with national identity? John Gillis wrote, “The mere notion of identity comes from a national memory… shared by people who have never seen or heard of one another, yet who regard themselves as having a common history.” Some figures in American history immediately come to mind: Christopher Columbus, General George Patton, and Pocahontas/John Smith. All of these figures represent histories that have been intentionally miswritten order to perpetuate particular American myths. What is the point of such myths? Unquestionably to foster national cohesiveness, concretize common bonds and propagate the “American Story.” It is stories such as these that have framed our national identity through their telling and retelling, whether fictional or not.

The writers of history are the ones who create the memory – whether true or not. If historians are truly conservative in their analysis of history – and its presentation as fact – then they must thus sift through mountainous piles of primary source documents: journals, archives, letters, diaries, newspapers from the time and even books written at the time. While this may be a monumental task, it is up to historians to continually strive to separate the “stories” from the history. If history is written by the winners, than those with the most land, money and power will be apt to shape history in the way they want to be portrayed. This is an inherently dangerous way for our society to thrive, and yet it happens regularly.

How can anyone truly say that in these contemporary times, America is anything but a democracy; rather, we live in a plutocracy that espouses some democratic ideals — a nation of corporate business interests and landholding elites. They are the ones who wield the power in America today, and the Millsian sentiment that he does not like anybody that doesn’t look like him — probably applies to most plutocrats today.

How to Read Binary Brokers Terms and Conditions

Let’s look at some Terms & Conditions in order to understand in practical terms.

In order to speed up and simplify the analysis, copy and paste the Terms in MS Word, and look for the keywords “withdraw” and “bonus”, and you will find the most delicate and important sections for you.

But first let’s look at how to understand the location of the legal office and the competent jurisdiction.

Broker’s legal head office

If you want to know where the legal office of the broker is located, not always the address indicated in the “contacts” section is the legal address, because for marketing purposes the address mentioned could be the one of the call center or, even more frequently, only the phone numbers, email addresses, IM and online chat tools are shown. In order to know without doubt the legal jurisdiction of the broker (and of the disputes arising between the broker and the customers), you have to look in the Terms & Conditions, and see if within the first clauses the corporate name and the address of the broker are published; if in the Terms & Conditions this information is not given, then it is necessary to look at the end of Terms & Conditions and find at least the legal jurisdiction competent in case of legal disputes arising between the broker and the customers: you won’t know the precise address but at least the country where the broker is located.

Here are a couple of examples.

In the first, the Terms & Conditions of the broker indicate precisely corporate name (that we have hidden) and legal address.

“1. This Agreement is entered into by [broker name] registered under the laws of _The British Virgin Islands having its registered office at [broker’s address] (hereinafter referred to as: the “Company”) and yourself (hereinafter referred to as: “you” or “Customer”) (In this Agreement the Company and you may be referred to collectively as the: “Parties”).”

In the second, only the jurisdiction competent for legal disputes is indicated (Cyprus), which means that the broker is legally located in Cyprus.

12 Law and Jurisdiction

The laws of the state of Cyprus shall govern the use of the Site and all its consequences including the Terms of Use. The competent court in Larnaca, Cyprus shall have sole jurisdiction over any matter involving use of the Site.”

Now let’s proceed with the two most delicate point of the Terms & Conditions: the withdrawal process and the restrictions attached to the bonus.

Withdrawal process

With “withdraw” you will get also “withdrawal”, “withdrawing” etc. In these sections you will find the conditions of the withdrawal procedure: documents to be submitted, data verification process by the broker for security purposes, number of days the broker reserves for the whole process, the ways and the fees of the money transfer from the broker to the credit card or the bank account of the trader. It is important to know that the data and personal documents controls are necessary for the anti-laundering laws, and that for the same reasons the broker will transfer to the credit card, from which the first deposit originated, an amount not higher that the deposits and will transfer the excess amount to the bank account of the trader. All this means that the broker must accurately control the trader identity and the bank account to be credited. Usually, from these sections you can see brokers who want a fair number of days to perform the security controls and brokers who take advantage of the need to control the data and require up to 15 to 20 days before transferring the money. Also the withdrawal fees differ a lot among brokers, and also this must be taken into consideration in selecting the broker.

Bonuses

The sections concerning the “bonus” keyword are even more important, because they list the conditions and the contractual limits binding the customers when they accept the bonuses.

Case 1

“8 SPECIAL OFFERS, BENEFITS AND BONUSES

8.2 Unless stated otherwise in the terms of the offer, a precondition for making withdrawals after using the bonus/benefit is to buy options of 15 times the amount of the bonus/benefit.

8.4 The bonuses/benefits must be used within the period defined in the details of the special offer. Should the bonus/benefit fail to be used within this time frame, the bonus/benefit will be withdrawn from the client’s account.

8.5 Once receiving the bonuses/benefits, the client has 3 (three) calendar months to complete the total amount of investments required as a precondition for withdrawal. If the required total amount of investments is not reached during this time period, the company will withdraw the bonuses/benefits funds from the client’s account according to its discretion.”

Under these conditions, in the presence of a bonus, if the value of the transactions do not reach 15 times the value of the bonus within 3 calendar month, only the bonus value is at risk and can be canceled by the broker from the account, but the investor is free to withdraw the available money on the account; clearly he will not be able to withdraw the value of the bonus, or part of it.

Case 2

Special Offers, Benefits & Bonuses

PLEASE READ ALL TERMS & CONDITIONS BELOW BEFORE ACCEPTING A BONUS. YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO ACCEPT A BONUS. A TRADING BONUS IS OPTIONAL FOR ALL ACCOUNT HOLDERS. EVERY BONUS REQUIRES A TRADING TURNOVER BEFORE ANY WITHDRAWAL IS MADE BY THE ACCOUNT HOLDER. BY ACCEPTING A BONUS YOU ARE AGREEING TO THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BELOW. ALL BONUS INSERTIONS ARE FINAL.

Special Offers, Trade Refunds, Benefits and Bonuses

Please read carefully before accepting a special offer, trade refund, benefit, or bonus.

2. Unless stated otherwise in writing from [broker name] and only [broker name], the terms of the offer, a precondition for making withdrawals after using the bonus/benefit is to buy options of 20 times the amount of the bonus/benefit plus the deposit amount. Example: (deposit + bonus x 20 = required turnover for withdrawal)

4. The bonuses/benefits must be used within the period defined in the details of the special offer. Should the bonus/benefit fail to be used within this time frame, the bonus/benefit will be withdrawn from the client’s account.

5…

By accepting a bonus into your account, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions above. NOTE: If the required turnover is not met when making a withdrawal request – the withdrawal request will be automatically canceled. NOTE: [Broker name] DOES NOT RECOMMEND TAKING A BONUS UNLESS YOU KNOW HOW MAKE IT WORK IN YOUR ADVANTAGE AS LEVERAGE. BY ACCEPTING A BONUS YOU ARE AGREEING TO THE ABOVE TERMS.

Dormant Accounts Procedure

1. [broker name] client accounts in which there have been no transactions (trading / withdrawals / deposits), for a set period of 12 months, will be considered by [broker name] as being dormant accounts. 2. Dormant accounts will be charged an annual maintenance fee of US$25 or the full amount of the free balance in the account if the free balance is less than US$25. There will be no charge if the free balance is zero. Consequently, all accounts with a zero free balance will be closed.

Before making a withdrawal in the presence of a bonus, there must be a number of trades for a value of 20 times the value of the bonus plus the deposit, which means:

Required transactions value = (deposit) + (bonus x 20).

The broker can also set deadline within which these transactions must be performed, otherwise the bonus can be canceled.

There is no limitation in the absence of a bonus: this might be an obvious assertion but there are certain brokers which impose a minimum value of trades also with no bonus given to the trader before the he/she can withdraw, even partially, his/her money (case 7).

The accounts inactive for 12 months are charged $25 or, if the balance is less than $25, an amount equal to the balance, therefore in this last case set to zero and then canceled.

Case 3

Bonus conditions:

Bonuses are only available for withdrawal after trading X times the volume of the bonus value.

For example if a bonus of 100$ is granted, the trader must complete a total trading volume of x times 100$ before the bonus is available for withdrawal (subject to account balance).

In the event that the entire or part of the deposit on which the bonus is given is withdrawn before X times the bonus has been traded, then the following shall apply:

1. The bonus shall be canceled.

2. In the case of trading losses, all the trading losses will be deducted from the original deposit and the remaining balance may be withdrawn.

3. In the case of profits, the trading profits shall be canceled and the original deposit may be withdrawn.”

If the trader receives a bonus, the minimum turnover in transactions required is equal to “X” times the value of the bonus before the investor is able to make any kind of withdrawal from his account, even out of the original deposit. The multiplier is not specified in the general Terms & Conditions, but it is set for each specific bonus. If the trader would like to withdraw even partially from the account after having received the bonus and before reaching the minimum required value of transactions, the bonus is canceled together with the profits generated while the bonus present on the account; the losses instead remain and charged to the account and the trader can only withdraw the original deposit less the losses incurred; in the best scenario then, the trader will withdraw no more than the original deposit.

We strongly suggest that before accepting a bonus you must know precisely the Terms of the same bonus.

Case 4

11. Withdrawal Procedure

For bank wire transfers, [broker name] covers the withdrawal fee for the first withdrawal of a given month, any subsequent withdrawal using bank transfer will accompany a processing fee of $30, which covers the transfer fee.

Once a withdrawal request has been submitted, it can take [broker name] up to 3 business days to process the request. Once the request has been approved please allow an additional 5-7 days for the funds to show in your account.

12. Investment Reward and Bonus Policy

… Unless stated otherwise on specific promotions the default promotional terms apply to all bonuses as shown below:

Withdrawal of funds which have received additional rewards, bonuses, or promotions, require a trading volume fulfillment of 30 times the bonus or in the even of a refund bonus 20 times the bonus amount. The trade volume requirement begins upon receipt of the bonus in the traders account. Upon receipt of the bonus, the trading requirement must be fulfilled prior to withdrawing funds from the account… “

Apart from some redundant concepts, also in this case without any bonus there are no limitations to withdraw.

Binary Broker Terms & Conditions to refuse

Case 1

7. Specific Conditions of Use

Withdrawals:… § 30 active trading days are necessary in order to ask for a withdrawal.§15 times the trading volume is required in order to make a withdrawal and also withdraw the Bonus § Processing the withdrawal request takes a period of 3 to 5 business. if the conditions are fulfilled and the request is approved, the sum will be paid within a period of 7 to 10 working days. § You will be charged a penalty fee of 45€ for any withdrawal of sums less than or equal to 300 Euros. § A fee of 15% will be charged for all withdrawals above 300 Euros.§ [broker’s name] authorizes withdrawals up to a maximum value of 5000 USD or Euros per month. In the event that a trader wishes to withdraw earnings of a value greater than 5000 USD or Euros, they will be forced to spread out the withdrawal over several months.

Bonus:

… There is never any obligation to accept these bonuses… “

Three are the constraints quite burdensome:

  • the need to carry out trading activities for 30 days before you can withdraw,
  • the obligation to make operations for a value of 15 times the initial deposit regardless of the presence of the bonus,
  • the excessive fee of 15% of the value of the withdrawal, with a minimum fee of €45.

It does not matter that much if within the bonus section the broker underlines that there is no obligation to accept the bonus: the constraint of the minimum turnover in binary operations is valid even without the bonus.

And incredible is also the condition for those willing to withdraw more than €/$ 5.000; apart from the fact that the wording of the article seems to refer only to withdrawals of profits, therefore excluding the case of withdrawals of funds deposited, limiting the withdrawal to $5,000 and divide the surplus in withdrawals to be made in “several months” without even indicating how many months of delay seems too unfair.

Not to mention the English style, quite approximate and superficial.

For all the above reasons, these Terms & Conditions seem unfair and unjust, and for that not be accepted at all.

Case 2

“19… Withdrawals shall be made according to the site procedures and will take up to fourteen (14) banking days or as determined by the billing services provider of the site, the longer between the two.

21. The Company, at its sole discretion, may decide (but not be obliged to do so) to offer bonuses, promotional offers or any other kind of benefits to the Client, to set its conditions, and/or change them without prior notice to the Client. The Company shall not be subject to reason its decision nor to be forced to do the same in future transactions of the Client. Once a bonus has been awarded/accredited to a clients account, they will be subject to execute transactions in an amount of at least ten (10) times the deposit amount and might also subject to minimum deposit and/or minimum volume of trading and/or a certain time limit. Furthermore, the Company may, at its sole discretion, credit the Client with up to Thirty five Percent (35%) bonus for each deposit made by the Client up to a maximum of one thousand five Hundred ($1500). “

The important and unfair conditions are:

· the delay of 14 days before transferring the money is quite long and unjustified even for all possible controls for identity security and anti-laundering purposes;

· the broker reserves the right to credit on the customer’s account a bonus up to 35% of the deposit, with no possibility for the customer to reject it, which means that the broker has the right to artificially create the bonus and to impose the subsequent bonus conditions of the minimum turnover of transactions, which could mean that the broker can avoid any request of withdrawal by simply crediting the bonus!

These conditions must be considered unfair and unjust and for that not acceptable.

To conclude, looking at the Terms & Conditions of the different brokers, it is clear that there are brokers which are highly professional and serious, as well as brokers which take advantage of the fact the potential customers do not read the contract between them and the broker and chose the broker on the basis of marketing campaigns, advertising, promotion activities in general.

It is therefore necessary to carefully read both the T&C regulating the trading account and the relationship between broker and customer, and the specific conditions of the trading bonuses that brokers offer constantly to attract new customers.

We hope that this article has been of your interest.

How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft in Stock Trading?

Stock trading involves transactions of millions of dollars every day. Even a slight lapse in online security of personal information and financial transactions may cost the stock traders heavily.

When your personal information such as your user ID and password is taken away without your knowledge and used to defraud you, it is called identity theft.

You must make yourself aware of the various identity theft tactics that are used by the identity thieves or hackers on the Internet. You must remain vigilant about such possibilities and protect your account by taking suitable measures. Some of the schemes used for stealing your identity are:

Phishing

Phishing is the process of sending apparently legitimate emails, pop-up messages or building phony websites to hoodwink the users into parting with their personal account access information. Phishers send these messages to collect data that includes name, account user IDs, passwords, address, date of birth, social security number and so on.

Then these thieves open false accounts in your name or access your existing accounts. Imagine being defrauded of your earnings from your online stock trading account soon after you have received money after selling a stock!

The stock ploy used in the email message is to create a sense of urgency under the threat of account closure if the personal information sought in the message is not made available to the sender.

The reason offered is that your account information needs to be verified or that your account has suffered a security breach. The email appears almost identical to the ones you usually receive from your stock broker, banker and so on. They carry the same logo, name and feel as the original mails.

How to protect yourself from phishing?

1. Use security software with anti-phishing features, which are offered by many companies. These software programs help you to identity the junk mails and filter them from the incoming mails.

2. Never reveal your personal information especially passwords and social security numbers through emails or pop-ups. This vital information should only be revealed through the legitimate formats in the websites of your stock brokerages.

3. Beware of call to action emails asking you to urgently provide your personal information under threats of account termination and so on.

4. Be careful when you type the website address of your stock broker. If you mis-spell the URL, you may possibly be taken to the fake website set up to phish your information.

5. Use spam detectors which most of your email account services provide free of cost.

6. Regularly update your Windows operating system and other security software to ensure the blockage of phishing threats.

7. Use the latest version of your internet browser which contains the current security features.

8. Never seek your account information through the emails or pop-ups.

If you ever suspect the genuineness of an email or message, contact your stock broker via a secure channel or call them on telephone.

Pharming

The advanced version of phishing is called pharming. Members are directed to a malicious website that is almost similar to your stock broker’s website in appearance and feel. Once there, you are asked to upgrade or update your account information or change your passwords.

How to protect yourself from pharming?

When you visit a website for a purchase or a financial transaction, ensure that the website contains the SSL protection. SSL or the Secure Socket Layer is a communication protocol which is used to protect your vital data transfers over the Internet.

Most stock brokerages use the industry leading 128-bit VeriSign SSL encryption technology on their sites to ensure that your personal data protected from eavesdropping, tampering, and forgery.

An authentic website contains a clickable VeriSign Certificate Icon located at the bottom of each page.

Trojan Horses

A Trojan horse is a software program that installs malicious code on your computer. Trojan horses usually remain inactive till you take an action such as clicking on a link or an email. As you hit the link, the code is activated and the hacker can capture your keystrokes and collect your user ID, password and other sensitive data. Trojan horses often come with free downloads such as screen savers or spyware.

How to protect yourself from Trojan horses?

o Use security software from reputed companies that block the Trojans and key loggers.

o Regularly update your security system, which is the best form of defense again the Trojans and spyware installers.

o Use the latest version of your Internet browser as it contains the latest security features.

o Be cautious while sharing peer-to-peer files. Trojans are often found in such file sharing programs waiting to be downloaded.