What to Make of the Age of Trump by Thomas Frank

The day after Donald Trump was elected president, The New York Times recommended six books “for those trying to understand the political, economic, regional and social shifts that drove one of the most stunning political upsets in the nation’s history.” Among them: Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? Frank, a Kansas City native, has followed up, embarking on a 13-city barnstorming tour to talk to Trump voters, union leaders, and progressive activists across the Midwest in conjunction with Listen Liberal’s release in paperback. On his last stop¬in Kansas City¬he discusses what he has learned. This event is co-presented by Rainy Day Books. Frank discussed Listen Liberal at the Library in March 2016; you can view the video on YouTube, and you can find the book in the Library Catalog.

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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.”