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Or, Is He Trying to Steal the Election only to Escape Indictment?

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DOES HE NOT WANT TO BE PREZ ANY MORE . . .

by Selvam Canagaratna

“The efforts which we make to escape from our destiny only serve to lead us into it.”

– Emerson, ‘Fate’, The Conduct of Life, (1860)

“The thought has probably crossed your mind more than once: Does Donald Trump even want to be President anymore?” asked William Rivers Pitt in his August 4 column in Truthout magazine. “The man certainly does not act like it. He looks and sounds bored, defeated and disengaged. Every time he is presented with an opportunity to do something, anything, to help his re-election campaign and his standing in the polls, he will immediately do the exact opposite and damage himself even further.”

Appalling COVID-19 death toll? Deny it’s real. A massive racial justice awakening in the US? Embrace the Confederate flag. Just the other day, Trump was fed one of the squishiest softball questions ever to float across the plate: How will history remember the late Rep. John Lewis? Trump replied, “I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration.” Dude, really? Sarah Palin could have parked that in the cheap seats, but Trump let it sail right by because praising a Black man is bad for his brand.

Is Trump running for President of the United States, or would he prefer to host the White Power Hour on the One America News Network? When all he does is aim to please the latter with his endless bilge tide of racism and denial, achieving the former becomes exponentially more difficult. His fraction of the population, the ones who disdain masks because someone told them Hillary Clinton runs child sex-trafficking factories out of pizza parlours, may be loud and proud. They are not a winning coalition by themselves, full stop, and that math is making itself increasingly evident by the hour.

Rest assured, friends and neighbours: Donald Trump wants to win re-election in November pretty much more than he wants anything else in his shabby, grasping little life. How can I be sure of this? Like any political wizard worthy of the pointy hat, I know this by way of a magic incantation that reveals all.

Say it with me now, three times fast: Cyrus Vance! Cyrus Vance! Cyrus Vance!

Properly, the name with title is Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. The Manhattan DA, you will recall, has been investigating Trump and his organization over hush money allegedly paid prior to the 2016 election to a pair of women who claim to have had affairs with him.

If that money was handed over, the crime committed would have been filing false business records. Vance needs Trump’s financial records to prove it, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, where he recently won a historic victory in the face of Trump’s astonishingly broad claims of presidential immunity.

According to new court filings made the other day, however, Vance appears to be hunting for bigger game than hush money payments:

Documents filed on Monday in a high-profile legal case centered on President Donald Trump’s taxes revealed that the investigation is likely searching for evidence of banking or insurance fraud performed by the former business mogul.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is seeking eight years of the President’s tax filings in order to discern whether funds were illegally used or obtained by Trump in the past. While the prosecutor’s office doesn’t state outright the specific allegations made against the President, they do make mention in a court filing made the other day of “undisputed” news reporting in 2019 regarding Trump’s former business practices as a legal basis to subpoena his tax records.

“These reports describe transactions involving individual and corporate actors based in New York County, but whose conduct at times extended beyond New York’s borders,” Vance wrote in the filing seeking Trump’s taxes, further describing the President’s actions as “possible criminal activity.”

DA Vance is pressing for a hasty resolution to this issue. “Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court,” his office argued. US District Judge Victor Marrero, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled arguments in the matter to be fully submitted by the middle of this month.

“This is just a continuation of the witch hunt,” Trump told reporters. “It’s Democrat stuff. They failed with Mueller. They failed with everything. They failed with Congress. They failed at every stage of the game. This has been going on for three and a half, four years.”

The penalty for bank fraud in New York State is up to 30 years in prison and as much as a $1,000,000 fine, plus full restitution of any fraudulently acquired gains. The top penalty for first-degree insurance fraud in New York State is a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.

Presidents do not have the power to pardon state-level crimes, even if they try to pardon themselves. If Trump were to resign tomorrow, a newly minted President Pence would not be able to pardon him for whatever charges Vance may have in the hopper down in Manhattan.

Yeah, he wants to stay President.

The safest place for Donald Trump is in the White House, as sitting Presidents cannot be indicted by state-level officials. Unless Trump dramatically rights his badly listing re-election ship, that clock runs out on January 20 of next year, five scant months from now. Is he capable of such a correction? And if he cannot salvage his campaign even though he still wants to win re-election, what is the next logical option?

Steal it!

Trash the United States Postal Service, which will be vital to the November election amid the ongoing pandemic. Scream “Fraud!” at every opportunity. Threaten to remain in office even if he loses. Lean hard on the voter suppression tactics that are already well-established in many states. Deploy armed federal officers to cities run by Democratic governments in order to intimidate the populace. Do everything possible to make an election impossible, then shrug and blame it all on someone else.

It can’t happen here? Well, it IS happening here!

Trump is no all-powerful overlord. He’s escaping felony charges in a good hiding place, for now. He means to keep it that way for as long as he can.

If that frightens you, remember: The uprising this summer showed once and for all who is running this country. It ain’t the cops, and it ain’t Trump.

It’s YOU, and your two feet, and your upraised voice, and your fist in the air, and the street laid out before you, and the mass of people beside you, forever and ever, Amen!

Remember that as this thing unfolds. It IS the most important truth!



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Features

Strong on vocals

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The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.

 

 

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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year

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Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.

 

 

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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations

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Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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