Thursday, July 27, 2017

Jared Kushner's Observer Takes Two Cheap Shots At Anti-Trump Rocker Roger Waters - Misses Both Times

Roger Waters U.S. Tour 2017

UPDATE: December 2017. Newsweek published this article JARED KUSHNER FAILED TO DISCLOSE HE LED A FOUNDATION FUNDING ILLEGAL ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS BEFORE U.N. VOTE as rumors swirled that Jared Kushner could be indicted in early 2018 for financial crimes related to his work for the Kushner Company as well as The Trump Organization and Campaign.

UPDATE JANUARY 7, 2018: New York Times: Kushner’s Financial Ties to Israel Deepen Even With Mideast Diplomatic Role

I've been wondering why the website (formerly the print newspaper The New York Observer) recently published not one but two hit pieces criticizing Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, currently on a major U.S. tour which features the British rocker and activist's nightly brutal lambasting of the Trump administration.

Rolling Stone: See Roger Waters Emasculate Donald Trump With 'Pigs' at Tour Rehearsal

Could it have something to do with the fact that Jared Kushner, Trump's advisor and son-in-law, owned and published Observer?

Related: New York officials seek to censor September Roger Waters concert

Related: Roger Waters Accuses Radiohead of Supporting Israeli Government in New RT Interview

When Observer's Tim Sommer posted a link on Facebook to the newest anti-Waters article in Observer (which he wrote), I challenged him on Observer's link to Kushner and Trump, he responded that "Jared hasn't had anything to do with Observer for ages".

That's simply not true.

Jared allegedly stepped down from the editorial board in January 2017 - and I wouldn't call that "ages" ago. Furthermore, Observer is still owned by the Kushner family, via a family trust, and the "new" publisher is married to one of Jared's sisters.

Not only did Observer officially endorse Trump in the New York primary in April 2016, but it's also worth noting that Jared, along with Ken Kurson (a former Giuliani flunky and then The New York Observer's editor) helped write Trump's 2016 pro-Israel speech to AIPAC, which was credited with securing major Jewish-American support for Trump.

Pigs (Three Different Kinds) - Trump Era version

Here's Tim's article:

Tim's article criticizes Roger Waters for his anti-Trump rhetoric in concert, condemning it as empty posturing and "grandstanding". To Tim, Roger is just an old, rich, out-of-touch liberal, spouting off about politics to look cool, but not even providing voter registration booths to affect real change. 

He states he would like to urinate on Waters' grave, which sounds very Trumpian to some.

Documentary on the Rise of Trump

Tim is free to state his case against Roger, but it is awfully suspect coming from a Kushner-owned business. It just so happens that Tim's boss also wishes Roger Waters would shut up.

The fact that Observer had published another anti-Waters hit piece earlier in the month really made it seem like overkill. (Although Tim's article doesn't mention the controversy over Roger Waters' anti-Israel activism, there is a link at the bottom of his article to the first article.)

Here's the first article:

It's an unfair and biased piece. Mostly it's about an equally unfair and biased documentary by Ian Hailperin. The documentary attacks Roger Waters' activism on behalf of Palestinians and against the Israeli government, military, and fanatic settlers, who deny Palestinian rights in the present day, as well as blocking a long-term, two-state solution, which would bring peace and justice to both Palestinians and Israelis. 

Roger Waters, both with Pink Floyd and as a solo artist, has never backed off political and social commentary. In recent times, he's become one of the most prominent spokespeople for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement which seeks to change Israeli policy by pressuring Western artists like Radiohead's Thom Yorke to boycott concerts in Israel, the same way artists and athletes boycotted South Africa to isolate it and pressure it to change. I was part of the anti-apartheid movement in the 80's. It worked.

According to Hailperin, "To me, an attack on Israel is an attack against the Jewish people.” That's obviously wrong. One can easily criticize the Israeli government while respecting the Israeli people and Jewish people in general, just as one can (and should) criticize the American and Russian governments, while still respecting the American and Russian people. When we protested South Africa, we were protesting against the South African power structure. We were not against the South African people. We wanted to stand in solidarity with them in their struggle for freedom.

Washington Post: Nassau County legislator seeks to bar Roger Waters concert from county-owned theater, because of Waters’s pro-Israel-boycott views

It's understandable that Jewish people would have strong sentimental feelings about Israel. (Both Hailperin and Kushner are Jewish.) The Jewish people have been victims of many of the most horrible crimes ever committed and we need to "never forget" those crimes. (The Kushner family was directly affected by the Holocaust. Charles' mother escaped a Nazi siege in Poland, but her mother, brother, sister, and other relatives lost their lives to Nazi terror. For more info see here...)(After reading Jared's grandmother's tragic story, I had to wonder what she would think of him working in the White House with the Neo-Nazi S.S. - S. Bannon and S. Gorka.) However, that does not mean that individual Jewish people are eternally immune from criticism, much less institutions like the Israeli government, the Israeli military, and the vicious Israeli settler movement. 
The Kushner family supports the status quo in Israel. Waters and his allies support radical change to bring about a two-state solution and full Palestinian rights.

Roger has been criticized for having a floating pig with a Star of David, and I agree that it should have been absolutely clear he was referring to the State of Israel's flag (a Star of David with a blue and white background) and not the Jewish faith or the Jewish people. He could have also written other things on the pig, such as: "IDF" (the Israeli Army) or "ILS"/"₪" (the Israeli currency), which would have been better signifiers for the Israeli power structure. Even better, why not an image on the pig of the ultimate Israeli pig, corrupt Prime Minister "Bibi" Netanyahu? Any ambiguity on this issue is unacceptable and Waters, to his credit, made changes to the show in response to such concerns.

and also...

and while you're at it...

Jared has owned and published Observer since 2006. It was allegedly a $10 million "graduation gift" from his father, disgraced New Jersey real estate developer and Democratic Party powerbroker Charles Kushner. 

If you think people like the Trumps and Kushners, and especially Ivanka and Jared, are such special, sophisticated people, consider that Charles hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and sent a videotape of the encounter to his own sister, after relations soured with the brother-in-law, a former business partner.

                                                                         Roger Waters on CNN, July 2017

The lead prosecutor in the case against Charles (for witness tampering, tax fraud, and illegal campaign contributions) was none other then current New Jersey Governor (then U.S. Attorney) Chris Christie. At the time, Christie said this about the case:

"It shows that no matter how rich and powerful you are in this state you will be prosecuted for crimes you commit. This sends a strong message that when you commit the vile and heinous acts he has committed you will be caught and punished".

I wait for the day Mr. Mueller makes a similar speech to Jared and his father-in-law.

Charles Kushner, Jared's Dad, on trial

Indeed, Charles Kushner is one of the richest men I have heard of who actually went to jail for his crimes (he served 14 months in federal prison before being released to a half-way house to finish his two-year term).

That surely got Jared's attention at the time and probably gives him nightmares to this day. 

Of course one of the main reasons Christie went after Charles Kushner is that Charles was a major donor to the Democratic Party and heavily linked to soon-to-be-disgraced Jim McGreevey. (After Jared married Ivanka Trump, he jumped ship to Team GOP... and must have had several very cringe-worthy awkward moments with Christie during the 2016 campaign - which may be the reason Christie was never given a position in the administration despite being a key ally, advisor, and surrogate during the campaign. Charles Kushner, after a lifetime of being a Democrat, gave a large donation to the Trump campaign in 2015.)

The long and twisted tale of Charles Kushner, his dramatic rise and fall, and the deep Shakespearian hatred for his brother and brother-in-law, which directly led to his downfall, is detailed in a fascinating 2009 "New York Magazine" article you can read here...

Daddy buying The New York Observer for Jared was a way to try to rehabilitate the family's reputation and establish Jared in Manhattan as a major player, economically, culturally, and socially.

In April 2016, Observer officially endorsed Trump for the New York Republican primary.

The paper stopped publishing a print edition in November 2016 (the month of the U.S. presidential election), as it seemed Jared would be busier in the immediate future, and became more of a digital enterprise.

In January 2017, with Jared set to enter The White House as a key advisor, it was announced that he would be stepping down from Observer and placing the assets in a "family trust".

This is a dodge, also used by Trump himself, very different from traditional "blind trusts" that other politicians have used.

In a blind trust, usually the assets of a politician are sold and new investments are managed until the person leaves office. Under the aegis of this "family trust", the asset (Observer) was not sold, and Kushner's family members are beneficiaries of the trust (although Kushner says he, his wife Ivanka, and their children are not currently beneficiaries) so it is in Jared's interest for Observer to succeed. Indeed, the new publisher, Joseph Meyer, is married to Jared's sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, the same sister who recently got in trouble boasting about her connection to Jared and The White House to potential Chinese investors in a Kushner project.

Jared and his sister Nicole

Roger Waters, Jim James, Neil Young Sing Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" at Bridge School 2016

UPDATE: Tim has communicated to me that he had absolutely no discussion with Jared Kushner about this article or any other article and I take him at his word. I still disagree with what he said, and suggested he include a disclaimer (in the interest of full disclosure, stating that Observer is published by the Kushners) on all "political" articles. Of course, I think it would be best if he completely cuts the cord with Kushner and Observer altogether. As long as he is connected with Observer, any criticism of Trump/Kushner critics, and any lauding of Trump/Kushner allies, will be suspect.

I can believe that Jared was "hands off" at Observer, especially as he got more involved in the presidential campaign. I worked for a newspaper in Mexico which had a similar family in charge and they were definitely hand off... unless it was about publishing something harmful to their family, friends, or political allies. That's reality. (I tried to speak to The Boss one time at a company Christmas party and he didn't respond at all, just looked at me as if to say, "Don't you know you're not supposed to talk to me?"... We couldn't ride the elevators the same time as he or his  family, always accompanied by security, always fearful of kidnapping. After seeing a story killed from The New York Times which implicated some of the publisher's friends in possible corruption, and an incident where a co-worker was fired and escorted from the building on a whim, I walked out and never went back.)

If you work for Satan and then criticize an anti-Satanic artist, even if it is for different, better, or cooler reasons than Satan criticizes said artist, the fact is you work for Satan and you are helping Satan marginalize the critical artist, and I think it's ok for me to call you out on that.

Through the 70's, I listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals extensively. My local radio station WSAN in Allentown, PA. played them all the time. 

When Pink Floyd's "The Wall" came out in 1979, I was more interested in The Clash, Patti Smith, and The Dead Boys, and didn't come back to listening to Pink Floyd until I met some Mexican hippies while living in Mexico City in the 90's who were WAY into Pink Floyd. They introduced me to early Pink Floyd (enthusiastic shout out here to Syd Barrett's early work with Pink Floyd and his subsequent solo stuff!) and Roger Waters' solo albums, which I had never heard before.  "Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking" and especially the amazing "Amused To Death" are great, and I enjoyed seeing him perform Pink Floyd classics and some solo stuff at Madison Square Garden in 2000. I also saw him last year at the (sadly final) Bridge School Benefit with Neil Young in Northern California.

I like Roger's new album too, and am so glad to see him out there fighting Trump and Israeli apartheid.

I remember being into punk rock in 1980 and laughing at the boring classic rockers but I later came to appreciate them again (and lately listen to a lot more music from 1927 - 1977 than 1977 - 2017).

It might be easy or tempting to put down Roger Waters, Bono, or Green Day's Billie Joe as people more interested in talking about politics to look cool than actually doing something, but I know for a fact that all three of these people have done countless things to help people, not all of them well-publicized. There are right-wing artists who should be criticized. Why criticize anti-Trump artists instead?

Bono is low hanging-fruit at best, and I haven't been a fan since shortly after seeing him perform at the US Festival in 1983 (they were good there when they were young and hungry and not yet full of themselves). But many of us appreciated the gesture when he came to the Beastie Boys benefit show in NYC right after 9/11 and sang (unannounced) with Moby and Michael Stipe.

And who didn't love Billie Joe trashing Trump and leading the crowd in a chant of "NO TRUMP! NO KKK! NO FASCIST USA!"

We need our artists to speak out now more than ever. 

I'm glad Roger Waters speaks out and hopes he continues to do so. He deserves our support, not our criticism. We should focus our criticism instead on Trump, Kushner, and others who make the world a worse place, not the artist who dream of a better dream. 

First the dream, then the work, then the change...

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