When Reputation Matters, Leaks Like the Pandora Papers Can Be Very Effective

Some reports on the Pandora Papers have featured colorful and scintillating headlines (“Secret money, swanky real estate and a Monte Carlo mystery”), but there is a drab, depressing familiarity to the nearly 12 million leaked confidential financial records that throw light on the opaque wealth of powerful public figures around the world.

We see the same ominous pattern as in the Panama Papers leak of 2016 and the Paradise Papers leak of 2017: legalized corruption at the highest levels, on an almost unimaginably vast scale. And it appears that the people most empowered to end this nightmare are the most heavily invested in prolonging it for their own benefit.

Each successive leak drives home the same message: Abandon any hope that government will serve the people or that the rule of law will be applied equally to all, the foundational premises of modern government.

Yet there is some cause for optimism, even if it’s not in the form we might expect. New laws aren’t coming to the rescue, because they probably can’t be created quickly enough or made comprehensive enough to effect meaningful change. But there is evidence that technology and public opinion are shifting the balance against elites’ use of the offshore financial services industry.

For nearly 15 years, I’ve researched that world from the inside, earning certification as a wealth manager and then traveling the globe to study practitioners at work. What I learned is that “tax havens” aren’t really for avoiding taxes: They exist to help elites avoid the rule of law that they impose on the rest of us. The offshore financial industry is generating much of the economic and political inequality destabilizing the world.

Many of the individuals exposed in the Pandora Papers are politicians — more than 330 of them, from 90 countries, including 35 current and former heads of state — and their lifestyles are made possible by exploiting the nations they purport to serve. The revelations highlight several politicians who campaigned on vigorous anti-corruption platforms, like Prime Minister Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

In 2016, Mr. Babis scolded the wealthy Czechs whose names appeared in the Panama Papers and, in a 2020 interview, proclaimed that a governing philosophy was to “cut off the heads of the ‘corruption-Hydra.’” Now he’s accused of using a string of offshore shell companies to purchase luxury real estate on the French Riviera, including a chateau worth $22 million. (Mr. Babis has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the report as politically motivated.)

That so little has changed after the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers is not lost on the public. By my count, there have been fewer than 10 convictions resulting from previous offshore leaks, and only one involved a politician.

People are angry and they know they are being ripped off, but watching successive iterations of public corruption on flamboyant display, followed by no consequences, is an affront to the spirit of democracy. As the economist Thomas Piketty noted even before the Panama Papers broke, many respond to the appeal of ethnonationalist politicians, who promise to crack down on elite corruption.

Yet we do see forms of accountability being imposed that are effective despite being outside the realm of the law. As my own and other recent research on high-net-worth individuals has shown, reputational costs weigh more heavily on them than the threat of fines or prosecution. The laws are no match for the legal armory that the wealthy individuals in this world can afford. And there is evidence that public opinion is changing quickly, in a way that imposes the reputational costs that matter most.

When Mitt Romney ran for president in 2012, many Americans — even on the left — shrugged at the news that his wealth (estimated at the time at $250 millionincreased through offshore investments. But in the wake of the Panama Papers, public opinion has grown significantly more negative toward tax avoidance, which, while often legal, is increasingly regarded as immoral and unpatriotic. This mirrors the rapid change that occurred earlier in the 21st century, in which public neutrality toward corporate tax avoidance turned to public outrage and successful pressure campaigns within a few short years.

The Pandora Papers’s reputational impact may deliver some instant karma to Mr. Babis. The Czech police say they will “act upon” his use of offshore shell corporations, and a much swifter public verdict could arrive this week in parliamentary elections that could dislodge the prime minister from power. He preaches water and drinks French wine,” the leader of an opposition party said.

Technology also offers more reason for hope. It has made it much easier to impose these costs, by facilitating the dissemination of vast troves of data to journalists and the public. The past five years have revolutionized the possibilities for whistle-blowers to maintain anonymity through the use of tools like PGP encryption, allowing them to deliver huge quantities of data from offshore while protecting themselves from retaliation. Five years on, we still do not know the identity of “John Doe,” who leaked the Panama Papers, nor of the person or people who leaked the Paradise Papers four years ago.

That’s remarkable in an era of digital surveillance and will encourage more whistle-blowing. As I found in talking with wealth managers all over the world, a significant number understand that their work has contributed to dangerous levels of economic and political inequality; they want to do something, and many understand that one of the most effective uses of their insider position would be to pull back the veil of secrecy that makes so much of offshore corruption possible.

Formerly, these potential whistle-blowers would have been deterred by the fate of figures like Hervé Falciani, who in 2009 brought forward evidence of widespread tax fraud by private individuals facilitated by his employer, HSBC in Switzerland. Mr. Falciani has been hounded by investigators and caught up in legal limbo ever since, including being convicted in absentia and given the longest sentence ever handed down by a Swiss court for violation of the country’s draconian bank secrecy laws.

But it’s now possible for insiders to act on their conscience without ruining their lives and careers, as well as those of their families. We already see momentum building in the form of the enormous size of the Pandora Papers, which is even larger than the Panama Papers — formerly the biggest data leak in history — and involves information from 14 offshore sources instead of one.

This suggests that whistle-blowers are not only emboldened now, but also may be cooperating internationally, to do what lawmakers cannot: holding accountable the most wealthy and powerful people in the world in the court of public opinion.

Brooke Harrington (@EBHarrington), a sociology professor at Dartmouth, is the author of “Capital Without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent.”

Adalah demands Israel cancel illegal ‘admissions committees’ enforcing segregation in dozens of communities across the country

Committees in Israeli Jewish towns can reject potential residents based on ‘social suitability’, essentially enforcing de facto housing segregation between Jewish and Arab citizens.

“Admissions committees” in dozens of Israeli Jewish communities across the country are operating in severe violation of the Admissions Committees Law and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel demands that the admissions committees in these communities stop their work and be prohibited from receiving state lands.

 

Admissions committees in communities of up to 400 households are authorized by Israeli law to reject applicants for residency residents based on the criteria of “social suitability” and the “social and cultural fabric” of the town.

 

This allows a de facto situation in which these committees reject interested residents who are Palestinian citizens of Israel – as well as other marginalized groups – solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, or other identity. The mechanism allows the effective implementation of housing segregation between Arab and Jewish citizens.

 

Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar is one of at least 24 Israeli communities illegally operating admissions committees designed to block the residency of Palestinian citizens of Israel and other marginalized groups, essentially implementing de facto housing segregation between Arab and Jewish citizens. (Photo: Google Maps)

 

Research conducted by the Knesset Research and Information Center reveals serious violations of the Admissions Committees Law: at least 24 communities in the Galilee and Naqab (Negev) regions of the country continue to operate admissions committees despite having grown larger than 400 households.

 

On 14 June 2019, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter to the Israeli attorney general, the Israel Land Authority, the Construction and Housing Ministry, the Finance Ministry’s Registrar of Cooperative Societies, the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee, and 24 communities, calling for an immediate end to these serious violations of the Admissions Committees Law.

 

The Knesset Research and Information Center report, published on 2 May 2019, revealed that admissions committees are operating illegally in at least 24 communities in the Negev and the Galilee because the number of households in those communities has exceeded 400, in violation of the provisions of Amendment 8 to the Cooperative Societies Ordinance, 5771-2011.

 

The Knesset’s data is only partial, since there are no official supervisory mechanisms to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law. Indeed none of the relevant authorities contacted by Knesset researchers actually had the relevant data. Further, seven regional councils did not even respond to official inquiries made by Knesset researchers.

 

In its letter, Adalah emphasized its principled and resolute opposition to the existence of admissions committees – in general – as a mechanism of discrimination and humiliation. Adalah also objected to the rationale that links the size of a community (up to 400 households) with the possibility of allowing discrimination and the exclusion of citizens from public resources.

 

However, as long as this discriminatory mechanism continues to operate, its terms must be guaranteed. The Knesset research clearly reveals that the authorities in these 24 communities are acting without authority and in violation of the rule of law. Further, there is no justification for operating admissions committees: the Tenders Law requires that land sales in these communities be open to all citizens.

 

Adalah demands that Israeli authorities:

 

  1. Order the 24 communities specified in the Knesset research to immediately shut down their admissions committees;
  2. Refrain from allocating any land in these communities until it is ensured that they are not operating admissions committees on an illegal basis;
  3. Order the cooperative societies in these communities to amend their regulations in a manner that will forbid them from operating an admissions committee in the future.
  4. Determine whether admissions committees are operating illegally in the regional councils that refused to provide data to Knesset researchers. If so, they must also be obligated to conform with the above requirements.
  5. The Israeli attorney general issue directives to all communities authorities clarifying their responsibility to abide by the law.

 

Attorney Myssana Morany, coordinator of Adalah’s Land and Planning Rights Unit, commented:

 

“The purported ‘social and cultural fabric’ of these 24 communities is nothing more than a fiction designed to blur the main purpose of the admissions committee: the legalized implementation of racist segregation. The creation of communities off limits to Arab citizens is part of a comprehensive policy aimed at reducing the living space of Arab citizens in general and Judaizing the Galilee and the Naqab (Negev) in particular. Even worse, it has now been revealed that Israeli authorities are actually operating these discriminatory committees in violation of Israeli law”.

 

Icons of Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Theology for Women’s Ordination

The pastoral office is one of the most critical in Christianity. Historically, however, Christians have not been able to agree on the precise nature and limits of that office. A specific area of contention has been the role of women in pastoral leadership. In recent decades, three broad types of arguments have been raised against women’s ordination:

nontheological (primarily cultural or political), Protestant, and Catholic. Reflecting their divergent understandings of the purpose of ordination, Protestant opponents of women’s ordination tend to focus on issues of pastoral authority, while Catholic opponents highlight sacramental integrity. These positions are new developments and new theological stances, and thus no one in the current discussion can claim to be defending the church’s historic position.

Icons of Christ addresses these voices of opposition, making a biblical and theological case for the ordination of women to the ministerial office of Word and Sacrament. William Witt argues that not only those in favor of, but also those opposed to, women’s ordination embrace new theological positions in response to cultural changes of the modern era. Witt mounts a positive ecumenical argument for the ordination of women that touches on issues such as theological hermeneutics, relationships between men and women, Christology and discipleship, and the role of ordained clergy in leading the church in worship, among others.

Uniquely, Icons of Christ treats both Protestant and Catholic theological concerns at length, undertaking a robust engagement with biblical exegesis and biblical, historical, systematic, and liturgical theology. The book’s theological approach is critically orthodox, evangelical, and catholic. Witt offers the church an ecumenical vision of ordination to the presbyterate as an office of Word and Sacrament that justifiably is open to both men and women. Most critically Witt reminds us that, as all Christians are baptized into the image of the crucified and risen Christ, and bear witness to Christ through lives of cruciform discipleship, so men and women both are called to serve as icons of Christ in service of the gospel.

 

Review

Witt is to be commended for his groundbreaking methodology that exposes how both Catholic and Protestant theologians support male leadership by interpreting key passages in ways that esteem women as inferior to men―a view at odds with the entire canon. In doing so, Witt also reveals how this longstanding, but failed interpretative path also promotes a distorted worldview that devalues women simply because they are born female.

— Mimi Haddad ― CBE International

Theologian, ethicist, and skilled reader of biblical texts, William Witt sets forth a refreshing, intentionally theological defense of the ordination of women. One might have thought this question settled. Indeed in many churches of the enclave of Protestant bodies it is, either yea or nay. But Witt steps back to examine the scene and delineates a number of positions, kinds of approaches, and types of arguments. Witt’s ecumenical examination into the subject of the ordination of women is respectful, learned, and convincing. A creative step forward.

— Kathryn Greene-McCreight, author of Feminist Reconstructions of Christian Doctrine

Israel’s Jewish Nation-State Law

In 2018, the Israeli parliament approved the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law that enshrines Jewish supremacy over Palestinian citizens. The law has distinct apartheid characteristics and requires racist acts as a constitutional value.

The Israeli Knesset voted on 19 July 2018 by a margin of 62 to 55 to approve the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law, constitutionally enshrining Jewish supremacy and the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

 

This law – which has distinct apartheid characteristics – guarantees the ethnic-religious character of Israel as exclusively Jewish and entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality.

Despite the foundational nature and far-reaching scope of the Jewish Nation-State Law, however, it contains no commitment to democratic norms, or a guarantee of the right to equality, or a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, ethnicity or any other category for all people living under Israeli sovereignty.

 

This law denies the collective rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise 1.5 million people or 20 percent of the population Israel and constitute a homeland minority group under international human rights law.

Click below to read the full text of Israel’s Jewish Nation-State Law

Click below to read Adalah’s short summary of the law

Press NAILS Biden Admin on WEAK Response to Israeli Crisis

State Department spokesperson Ned Price refuses to effectively engage with the press over the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur discuss on The Young Turks. Watch LIVE weekdays 6-8 pm ET. http://youtube.com/tyt/live

Read more HERE:  https://www.commondreams.org/news/202… “Pressed repeatedly by reporters during a briefing on Monday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price refused to condemn Israel’s killing of children with airstrikes on Gaza, offering evasive and mealy-mouthed responses that members of Congress slammed as unacceptable.”

Bitcoin’s Inequality: 40% owned by 0.2%

Bitcoin is one of the most unequally distributed assets in the world, with just under half a percent of all bitcoin investors owning more than 80% of all bitcoins, and should they liquidate, the market could see a substantial sell-off, said Ryan Giannotto, director of Research at GraniteShares ETFs.

0:00 – Bitcoin is ‘cornered’

5:50 – Bitcoin’s volatility

8:17 – Bitcoin ETF coming soon?

11:44 – Economy, inflation, and gold

Krystal and Rachel: Nancy Pelosi’s Inequality Commission Is A Joke

00:00
[Music]
00:00
speaker pelosi with a big announcement
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about her major commitment to fighting
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inequality because that’s something she
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definitely really really cares about
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rachel
00:08
um here’s the announcement she’s
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creating a committee
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a select committee in fact on economic
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inequality
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you see there her official press release
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on the website and this was actually
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something that really jumped down as you
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at you as like part of a normal
00:24
system that is employed here in
00:25
washington to make people
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feel like things are happening and make
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activists feel like they’re really
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engaged in the process but really it’s a
00:33
way of sort of stiff-arming their
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demands and concerns
00:36
yeah it’s all theater here in washington
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but this one in particular is something
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i call the hamster wheel
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right it’s designed to put her most
00:44
activist members the members most likely
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to cause her problems on this issue
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she’s gonna put them on this commission
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they are going to run on this hamster
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wheel and feel like they’re doing
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something really important
00:54
when in reality they’re just being kept
00:56
uh busy away from the house floor the
00:59
only place that actually matters for
01:01
actual change on anything
01:02
they’re gonna be running on the hamster
01:04
wheel of this commission which will
01:05
eventually put out a report that no one
01:07
will read and it will accomplish nothing
01:09
avoid these things like the plague if
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you are someone who cares about change
01:12
and i say this to conservative activists
01:14
i say it out let me say here to
01:15
progressive activists
01:16
don’t do this yeah well i mean it
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reminds me very much
01:20
of the biden sanders task forces
01:24
that you know was the only thing
01:27
that bernie managed to extract from joe
01:29
biden before exiting the race that you
01:31
knew from the jump like
01:33
it didn’t matter who you put on those
01:34
committees it didn’t matter how good the
01:36
recommendations were that were coming
01:38
out of them
01:38
like here we are days away from the
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biden administration and i’m not hearing
01:43
anything about the recommendations that
01:45
came out of the task forces
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whatsoever what pelosi says in this
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press release she says we’re creating
01:51
the select committee
01:52
to be a resource to the congress to make
01:54
policy related
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to economic fairness access to education
01:57
workforce development
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working with the committees of
02:00
jurisdiction the select committee will
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study and recommend
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proposals to make our economy work for
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everyone powering american economic
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growth
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while ensuring that no one is left out
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or left behind in the 21st century
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economy
02:11
all fancy way of saying like like you
02:14
said
02:15
they’re gonna study it they’re gonna put
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on a report and that’ll be the end of
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that so basically your point is here
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when you see these committees purporting
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to be about
02:25
fighting inequality or fighting into
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whatever it is left or right
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what they’re really doing is putting up
02:30
a roadblock putting up like
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a sort of obstacle course to jump
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through rather than actually taking
02:37
issue on that issue
02:39
this commission has two goals the first
02:41
is to make pelosi look like she’s doing
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something and the second
02:44
is to distract you know the act the
02:46
members who actually want to do
02:47
something
02:48
from taking any meaningful action and
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this goes back to something we talked
02:52
about earlier in the week which is
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look the only thing that matters in the
02:55
house is action on the house floor
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progressive activists can learn a lot
03:00
from the freedom caucus who presented
03:01
themselves as a political power block
03:04
by really only focusing on action on the
03:06
house floor they could deliver a block
03:08
of votes or they could withhold them
03:09
and that is where their power came from
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was hanging together on these issues
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they didn’t get distracted
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by commissions they didn’t get
03:15
distracted by other promises because
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this is just one
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tool political leaderships have to
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distract you know their problem members
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my favorite one is the and we’ll vote on
03:25
that at some point or hey
03:26
this bureaucrat will call you or hey can
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we just talk about it on the house floor
03:30
the only thing that matters at the end
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of the day is voting
03:34
and the more you can pressure and push
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action on that front
03:37
the more effective you’re going to be
03:39
because as we’ve learned from this whole
03:40
2000 check
03:41
2 000 check debacle the thing that they
03:45
hate most is going on the record for
03:46
anything because it’s a very
03:47
very powerful tool and can be used
03:49
against them or for them
03:51
uh in any number of ways and your point
03:53
is so well taken
03:54
that progressives really fall prey to
03:56
these types of tactics like they really
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feel like when they get put on the task
04:00
force they
04:00
because there’s this like idealism there
04:02
of like they’re really listening to my
04:03
concerns and they really mean it and
04:05
these are my friends how many times we
04:06
hear bernie sanders they’re like joe my
04:08
friend joe biden you’re like
04:09
ugh um so it reminds me of
04:13
you know the forced to vote debate
04:15
that’s have it happening on the left
04:16
right now because on the one hand you
04:18
have a faction of people who are saying
04:19
we need a vote on this key issue that is
04:22
important to us that’s important to the
04:23
country in the middle of pandemic
04:25
medicare for all like let’s take a vote
04:27
and put everybody on their record
04:29
and what you’re hearing from at least
04:31
some in the progressive wing of the
04:32
party here in dc is like
04:35
let’s not do the voting that voting
04:37
doesn’t really matter that much any
04:38
we’re working behind the scenes to get
04:40
on key
04:40
leadership posts and committees etc etc
04:44
and all of that is ultimately just a way
04:47
to sort of
04:47
make them feel like they’re being heard
04:49
make them feel like they have some
04:51
sway and influence and power within the
04:53
system but ultimately to
04:55
crush them and keep them quiet and keep
04:57
them from causing trouble
04:59
everyone wants to feel like they’re a
05:00
cool kid right that’s how this town runs
05:03
and these positions you know these
05:05
acceptance on these commissions
05:07
everything always feels like oh i’m
05:08
getting invited to the table
05:10
you have to be comfortable not being
05:13
invited to the table because it’s the
05:14
only way you’re actually going to be
05:16
able to force
05:17
you know that kind of political action
05:18
on the floor which is the
05:20
again i’m going to be a broken record on
05:22
this but the only thing that matters at
05:23
the end of the day
05:24
is what you do on the floor it’s voting
05:26
so so true rachel
05:27
rachel thank you so much for being with
05:29
us all week it’s been phenomenal having
05:31
you here
05:32
um always you have such incredible
05:34
insight so thank you so much for that
05:35
and happy new year to you my friend
05:37
happy new year to you as well
05:39
and to all of you risers thanks for
05:40
having me sagar will be back next week
05:42
to talk about aliens i know there’s a
05:44
lot to say
05:44
yeah there’s an alien update we missed
05:46
an epstein update this week as well
05:48
without sauger here so we have been
05:49
falling down on the job a little bit
05:51
but don’t worry friends because sagar
05:53
will be back next week with all of those
05:55
important stories and more
05:56
we’re going to kick off the new year
05:57
with friends of the show chuck rocha
05:59
kyle kalinski brown and joy gray and so
06:01
many more ben smith is going to join us
06:02
to talk about what biden can expect from
06:05
the media versus what trump got from the
06:07
media
06:08
remember to hit that subscribe button so
06:10
you don’t miss any of our videos also
06:12
don’t forget to like and share as well
06:14
happy new years guys appreciate you all
06:17
so much
06:18
you made it you survived 2020 on to
06:21
what’s next
06:21
enjoy everybody