JUST AS ARROGANT & AS INCOMPETENT AS DONALD . . .
by Selvam Canagaratna
“The qualities we have do not make us so ridiculous as those which we affect.”
– La Rochefoucauld, Maxims (1665).
There`s a lot of sport made on social media over the fact that Donald Trump Jr., in his desperation to be more like his sociopathic father, is dating his stepmother’s doppelganger, in both age and looks. But spare some palace-intrigue armchair psychoanalysis for the fact that Trump’s daughter Ivanka grew up to marry a man who is startlingly like her daddy, wrote Amanda Marcotte in a recent piece in Salon.
“Jared Kushner’s softer voice and ability to dress himself fooled many political observers into thinking he would be a moderating presence on his father-in-law in the early days,” added Amanda. But by now even the most appearance-bamboozled pundits must accept that in all ways that matter, Jared is virtually identical to Papa Trump: He’s as arrogant as he is incompetent, he’s assured of his own expertise on matters he has barely paid attention to, he’s shameless in his lying, and he’s fully confident he can bulldoze his way past his myriad failures simply by declaring himself successful!
“This is a great success story, and I think that’s really what needs to be told,” he said, struggling to hold back a smile. And yes, he really was talking about the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic! Seriously.
Kushner bragged about how the “federal government rose to the challenge” and “achieved all the different milestones that are needed” and then, to make the whole thing even more of a rhetorical nightmare, predicted that by July “the country’s really rocking again.”
He said this on the week that a certain “milestone” had, indeed, been achieved: The United States surpassed one million confirmed coronavirus cases, more than four times the number in Spain, which has the second-highest official case count. (No one is quite sure how badly China has been hit, with a government that is notoriously secretive, and a population several times larger than ours.) The US death toll has already topped 60,000, which is no doubt a significant undercount, as analysis of overall death rates in the country suggest a lot of people are dying of COVID-19 and not getting officially counted.
Another “milestone” for the “great success story” Kushner is touting: More than 30 million unemployment claims filed in six weeks, which is nearly one in five American workers.
Kushner, like his father-in-law, comes from the sleazier corners of the real estate world and so no doubt has developed the same habits of smoothly lying about serious problems with properties and wildly exaggerating the value of his assets while bamboozling investors. Kushner is, after all, a notorious slumlord.
Now he’s just doing to the entire country what he did to his unfortunate tenants. But instead of ignoring rats and cockroaches and leaky plumbing while posing as a real estate mogul, Kushner is now shrugging off thousands dead and millions infected or unemployed, while trumpeting his “great success story.”
That Trump would let anyone as boastful as himself come so close has always been a surprise — narcissists don’t like competition — but ultimately, it appears he’s so flattered that Ivanka wanted to marry someone like Dear Old Dad that he keeps Jared around as a constant reminder.
Kushner’s preening is all the more disturbing because there’s good reason to believe that he’s second only to Trump in causing this crisis to spiral as badly out of control as it has.
In a piece headlined “Inside Donald Trump and Jared Kushner’s Two Months of Magical Thinking,” Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman reports that Kushner “shared Trump’s view that the media and Democrats were hyping the crisis for political purposes,” and spent months encouraging the President to ignore more than a dozen warnings, dating back to last year, from intelligence officials and health agencies about the virus and its likely economic impact.
One White House official even went as far as to tell Sherman that Kushner “is running everything” and is the “de facto President,” an accusation that is entirely believable in light of reports that Trump is too lazy and self-obsessed to do any work besides tweeting, watching TV to “monitor” his own press, and ranting at reporters in daily press conferences that were originally supposed to be opportunities for serious public officials and health experts to share news about the coronavirus.
Not that Kushner getting involved and running things has helped the situation. If anything, it appears to be making things worse. Sherman reports that Kushner’s “famously unshakable belief in his own judgment” led him to repeatedly tell federal officials that there was no need to take the coronavirus too seriously. Kushner simply assumed his desire to believe this wasn’t a real problem constituted a stronger understanding than that provided by actual experts in epidemiology.
Like Trump, Kushner has spent his life surrounded by people who, because his family has money, are willing to pretend his failures were successes. Kushner famously didn’t have the grades to get into Harvard, so his father paved his way in with a generous donation. He’s been failing up ever since, from annoying the harried journalists at the New York Observer with his mansplaining after he bought the paper with Daddy’s money to finding himself as de facto White House chief of staff for no other reason than that he married well.
Kushner’s “great success story” is being compared to George W. Bush’s infamous “Brownie, you’re-doing-a-heck–of-a-job” line, uttered to FEMA director Michael Brown in the wake of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster that left bodies floating in the streets and people camped for days in hellish conditions in the Superdome. That line was memorable because “Brownie” had failed so utterly, for which he eventually resigned, but also because Bush’s frat-style nickname was a reminder that Brown had gotten his position not because of any expertise or relevant experience, but because Bush liked giving cushy jobs to Republican loyalists.
This situation with Kushner is arguably even worse. Unlike with a hurricane, which can only be predicted a few days in advance (and not with much precision), Kushner had months of warnings that the pandemic was coming, and blew it off because the preparation needed to minimize its impact would have taken hard work and expertise of the sort that Kushner has spent his life avoiding. Instead, it was clearly easier for him to ignore the problem in hopes that it would go away.
In fact, as this interview shows, Kushner is still ignoring the problem, choosing to assure the public that things will be back to normal in July, even though that is literally impossible. Even if we already had the testing and tracing protocols needed to begin considering a return to normal life (which we don’t), the process would be gradual. The economic impact of what will likely be a 20% unemployment rate, if not higher, doesn’t vanish overnight, but will reverberate for years to come.
But even talking about this alternate universe where we have sufficient testing is a joke. Trump, with Kushner at his side, made damn sure that the testing was slowed down because he wanted to artificially deflate the official coronavirus caseload. The President clearly continues to believe that we don’t actually need mass testing, and that simply lying to the public and claiming we have tests when we don’t will suffice.
All the White House gift-shop commemorative coins in the world — surreal and delusional as they are — can’t hide the dead bodies and the lost jobs, concluded Amanda. “Jared Kushner may have failed upward his entire life, no amount of self-congratulation will fool people into seeing this coronavirus disaster as anything but the epic fuck-up it truly is.”
Development after the elections
By Jehan Perera
Many years ago, former Government Agent of Jaffna, Dr Devanesan Nesiah, explained the northern sentiment when elections were taking place. He said there was apprehension about the possible turn of events over which they had no control. The minority status of the Tamil people would invariably mean that their future would be determined by the outcome of the power struggle in the south of the country. I was reminded of these words of Dr Nesiah during discussions organised by the Civil Society Platform in the northern towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna on the democratic challenges arising from the forthcoming elections.
The main theme, at the present elections in the south, and most of the country, has been the need to elect a strong government and to give it a 2/3 majority to change the constitution, accordingly. The response in Vavuniya and Jaffna, by the members of civil society, was that a strong government would not heed the wishes of the people. Like people in other parts of the country, they felt let down by the political leaders and said they did not know for whom to vote. The issues that they highlighted as being their concerns were economic ones, such as the lack of jobs for youth and the harm to families caused by an unregulated micro credit scheme that made them vulnerable to the predatory actions of money lenders.
The civil society members, in the towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna, did not take up the issue of the 19th Amendment and the possible threat to civil society space that the speakers from the south put before them. This indicated a longer term need to have educational programmes on the importance of the rule of law and judicial independence, in particular, to ensure justice and non-discrimination. But they also did not comment or discuss the manifesto put out by the main Tamil political party, the TNA, which addressed longstanding issues of the Tamil polity, including self-determination, federalism, the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces or the newer post-war issues of missing persons and accountability for war crimes.
The absence of public debate, at the civil society meetings in the north on the political dimension at the forthcoming elections, may reflect a wariness about speaking publicly on politically controversial matters. Civil society groups throughout the country have been reporting there is more police surveillance of their work. The fear of falling into trouble and being seen as anti-government may have restrained the participants at the civil society meeting in the north from expressing their true feelings. On the other hand, there is also the reality that existential issues of jobs, loans and incomes are of immediate concern especially in the context of the Covid-induced economic downturn. The short term concerns of people are invariably with economic issues.
One of the salient features of the present elections has been the general unwillingness of even the main political parties to address any of the issues posed by the TNA. This would be due to their apprehension of the adverse fallout from the electorate. It could also be due to their lack of ideas regarding the way forward. Apart from the 19th Amendment, another impediment to a strong government, that is identified by its proponents is the 13th Amendment. In the run up to the elections, there have been calls for the abolition of the 13th Amendment, which created the devolved system of provincial councils, along with the 19th Amendment that directly reduced the power of the presidency and increased the independence of state institutions. The provincial councils have been emasculated by denying them of both resources and decision making power and are condemned for being white elephants.
It has been noted, by the political commentator D B S Jeyaraj, that the TNA’s choice of focusing on issues of transitional justice, in dealing with war time violations of human rights, led to the TNA aligning itself with Western powers. This did not yield the anticipated benefits as the previous government failed to implement many of its commitments in regard to transitional justice. It would have been better to have focused instead on getting the provincial councils in the north and east to engage in more development-oriented work which would have met the existential needs of the people.
Jeyaraj has also surmised that if the TNA had chosen the path of utilising the provincial council system for development work, it could have obtained support from India, which had been the co-architects of the provincial council system, in 1987, along with the then Sri Lankan government. India has a moral obligation to contribute to developing the north and east of the country where the war raged in full fury and led to immense destruction. India’s role in destabilising Sri Lanka and enhancing the military capacity of the Tamil armed groups, including the LTTE, is a bitter and abiding memory which the journalist Shamindra Ferdinando has written extensively about.
A creative suggestion made during the civil society discussion in Jaffna was for the provincial councils to implement what governments have promised to implement but have failed to do. An example given was that of reparations to war victims. The previous government pledged to set up a system of reparations in terms of the UNHRC resolution in 2015. But, although an Office for Reparations was established, very little was done. The question was whether the provincial councils in the north and east could not have utilised their resources for the purposes of instituting schemes of reparations as it would be clearly within the policy framework of the government.
While the issues in the TNA’s manifesto will remain perennial ones to the Tamil polity, the people are looking for political leaders who will deliver them the economic benefits in the same way as in the rest of the country. The civil society meetings in the north suggests that the northern people are not showing priority interest in political issues as they believe these are non-deliverable at the present time. Instead of using its majority status in parliament and seeking to abolish the 13th Amendment, and the provincial council system, and creating a crisis with the Tamil polity and India, the new government would do better to work through them to meet the material needs of the people. They need to also realize limits of the constitution, and focus on social, economic and political pluralism and promote values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise, and consent of the governed.
A blazing story!
The local showbiz scene is ablaze with a story about the members of a particular band, who indicated that they are undergoing a tough time, abroad, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a video, showing the members pouring forth their difficulties, and earnestly requesting the authorities concerned to bring them back home, that got others to move into action…and the truth has come out.
After having looked into their situation, extensively, knowledgeable sources say that the video contained a load of lies and, according to reports coming our way, the band has now been blacklisted by the authorities for lying about their situation.
These guys have, apparently, gone on Holiday Visas and have, thereby, contravened the Visa conditions.
The story going around is that they have had problems, within the band, as well.
The authorities, in Sri Lanka, are aware of the situation, in that part of the world, but there are many others who are waiting to get back home and, they say, musicians can’t get into the priority list.
So, it’s likely to be a long wait for these guys before they can check out their hometown again!
Top local stars to light up ARISE SRI LANKA
Richard de Zoysa’s brainchild, ARISE SRI LANKA, is going to create an awesome atmosphere, not only locally, but abroad, as well.
This telethon event will feature the cream of Sri Lankan talent, said Richard, who is the Chairman of Elite Promotions & Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd.
Put together as a fund-raiser for those, in the frontline, tackling the coronavirus pandemic, in Sri Lanka, ARISE SRI LANKA will bring into the spotlight a galaxy of local stars, including Noeline Honter, Damian, Mahindakumar, Rukshan, Melantha, Jacky, Ranil Amirthiah, Mariazelle, Trishelle, Corinne, Sohan, Samista, Shean, Rajitha, Umara, April, Shafie, Dr. Nilanka Anjalee Wickramasinghe, Kevin, Ishini, and Donald.
Mirage is scheduled to open this live streaming fun-raiser, and they will back the artistes, assigned to do the first half of the show.
Sohan & The X-Periments will make their appearance, after the intermission, and they, too, will be backing a set of artistes, scheduled to do the second half.
The new look Aquarius group, led by bassist Benjy Ranabahu, will also be featured, and they will perform a very special song, originally done by The Eagles, titled ‘There’s A Whole In The World.’
The lyrics are very meaningful, especially in today’s context where the coronavirus pandemic has literally created holes, in every way, and in every part of the world.
Aquarius will be seen in a new setting, doing this particular song – no stage gimmicks, etc.
The finale, I’m told, will be a song composed by Noeline, with Melantha doing the musical arrangements, and titled ‘Arise Sri Lanka.’
The programme will include songs in Sinhala, and Tamil, as well, and will be streamed to many parts of the world, via TV and social media.
Richard says that this show, scheduled for August 29th, is in appreciation of the work done by the frontliners, to keep the pandemic, under control, in Sri Lanka.
“We, in Sri Lanka, can be proud of the fact that we were able to tackle the Covid-19 situation, to a great extent,” said Richard, adding that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the fact that we have handled the coronavirus pandemic, in an exceptional way.
The team, helping Richard put together ARISE SRI LANKA, include Noeline Honter, Sohan Weerasinghe, Donald Pieries, from the group Mirage, Benjy Ranabahu, and the guy from The Island ‘Star Track.’
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