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Jared Kushner Appeals to the NBA’s Taste for Luxury

White House adviser Jared Kushner applies the same logic he used to secure peace in the Middle East to maintaining the NBA’s truncated season.
Jared Kushner news, Jared Kushner, Kushner news, NBA, National Basketball Association, African Americans, black Americans, deal of the century, Middle East peace process, Peter Isackson

Jared Kushner in Brussels, Belgium on 6/4/2019 © Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

August 31, 2020 08:53 EDT

When Donald Trump took office in 2017 as president of the United States, he delegated the responsibility of solving most of the nation’s and the world’s knottiest problems to his talented son-in-law, Jared Kushner. From ending the opioid crisis at home and solving the conflict in the Middle East to modernizing a sclerotic administration and reforming the criminal system, no challenge was beyond the capacity of this young real estate hustler who had the good taste to marry the new president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.

Before that historic moment, the most serious problem Kushner had had to deal with was seeking the means to extricate his family enterprise from the mountain of debt incurred by the purchase of an overpriced piece of real estate at 666 Fifth Avenue. Kushner never quite managed to solve that one, but it didn’t deter him from stepping up to the new challenge.

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In March 2017, Kushner officially accepted to play the role of viceroy of the neocolonial American empire Trump was now intent on remodeling. Focusing on America’s wealth, the almighty dollar and its military might, Trump set about imposing on the rest of the world his new idea of “America First.” The empire Trump inherited had been enfeebled by the actions of the “weak” Barack Obama, the previous president.

Kushner, the White House senior adviser, took his role seriously. His most talked-about feat, besides managing to squeeze himself into the diminutive pocket of Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman’s kandora, was his famous “deal of the century” that — according to Eric Trump — created the conditions of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In his speech last week at the Republican convention, the president’s son revealed, to the surprise of most observers,  that there is now “peace in the Middle East” and “never-ending wars were finally ended.”

Now, Kushner has a new crisis to deal with. The disorder that broke out last week at the NBA threatened to cancel a basketball season rebooted after having been truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic. NBA players refused to play in protest after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black American male, by a police officer in Wisconsin.

Interviewed by CNBC, Kushner offered his analysis of the root of the problem: “The NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially. They have that luxury, which is great.” 

Here is today’s 3D definition:


For privileged Americans, the ultimate goal of all human activity, which, once achieved by any individual, defines that person as a member of the reigning elite, who is expected to identify with the elite and support it in its continual effort to parry all challenges coming from outside, duplicating the logic of a gated community

Contextual Note

Like most Americans, Kushner is impressed by the exorbitant salaries that professional athletes earn. He is even more impressed by the fact that a majority of those athletes are black. With that kind of money, they should be happy and self-satisfied because, as Joe Biden recently revealed, black is supposed to be synonymous with the poor. During the presidential primary campaign, the Democratic candidate explained that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” 

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Kushner may find it hard to believe that players who are so “fortunate” would be interested in anything other than wallowing in their luxury. The luxury he refers to consists of not having to fear the flogging their ancestors were sure to receive if they refused to work on the plantation. 

Kushner believes black kids should be rewarded for working hard. With the reward comes the obligation of respecting the rules of society. This obviously includes allowing the police to enforce those rules in any way they deem appropriate. Thanks to that understanding, as many as 50 black youngsters in any given year might be drafted into the NBA. With such an opportunity extended to a population of nearly 50 million people, there can be no justification for riots, protests, boycotts or cancellations. The prospect of joining the elite is open to everyone, even to a poor black kid in the ‘hood.

Once again, Biden seems to agree. It’s the point he made in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention when he announced what defines America. “I have always believed you can define America in one word: Possibilities. That in America, everyone, and I mean everyone, should be given the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them,” he said.

Kushner and Biden are clearly on the same page. Biden’s message might even be reframed as the “possibility of luxury.” The justification of creating an elite to rule over a democracy requires accepting that even poor black people can scratch their way to the top and become a bonafide member.

Kushner is a political realist, not a dreamer like Biden. “Look, I think with the NBA … they’ve put a lot of slogans out. But what I think we need is to turn that from slogans and signals to actual action that’s going to solve the problem,” Kushner said to CNBC.

He may have learned something from his “deal of the century” in the Middle East, generally acknowledged to be a failure, despite Eric Trump’s glowing evaluation. To devise his deal, Kushner avoided engaging with the Palestinians, preferring to let Saudi and Emirati leaders negotiate in their name. This time, he is proposing to “reach out” to basketball superstar, LeBron James to “agree on what we want to accomplish and … come up with a common pathway to get there.”

This should be an easier task than dealing with Palestinians. After all, James has an estimated net worth of $480 million, placing him among the American elite, practically at the level of President Trump’s Florida buddy, the late Jeffrey Epstein. So far, however, the Los Angeles Lakers’ star has shown no interest in joining Kushner’s conversation. Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce explained very clearly why the admittedly “privileged” players would remain focused on changing the system with no input required from the White House.

Historical Note

Donald Trump’s policy of “America First” relies on two distinct notions. The first represents the realpolitik approach maintaining that a nation’s foreign policy should privilege its own interests before considering the point of view of other nations. But “America First” also implies that the rest of the “free world” must recognize the US as their uncontested leader entrusted with both setting the rules of the global game and enforcing them. Every nation that respects those rules qualifies for two essential services: the protection afforded by the mightiest military force in human history and access to markets in which the means of payment is the dollar. 

That idea of “America First” was present in Jared Kushner’s failed elitist Middle East peace plan. It promised dollars for the Palestinians (mainly Saudi and Emirati petrodollars), complemented by the protection afforded conjointly by Israeli and American military might. In other words, a life of luxury for the Palestinians, with plenty of beachfront hotels in Gaza.

The system of dollars plus nuclear might lies at the core of the “rule of law” that was put in place at the end of World War II. One key component is the role of the dollar that provides a permanent incentive for local elites to engage in a system of global corruption. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank — accompanied by powerful multinational companies focused on extracting resources — funnel dollars to local elites. This puts the international elite in control of local economies. The local elites then assume the responsibility of distributing those dollars through their economy, according to need. 

A good part of that “need” is naturally the funding of the members of the elite themselves, who can then place the dollars they receive in banks and holdings elsewhere in the world, with a special affection for tax havens. Some of the manna does trickle down to local populations, but never too much to upset the system.

Kushner and others in Washington have been surprised that some elites — from Hamas to LeBron James — are less eager to join their international club. But armed with powerful central banks and nuclear warheads, the Washington elite still believes history is on its side. Who isn’t interested in luxury? And they are probably right, at least for a few more years.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Read more of The Daily Devil’s Dictionary on Fair Observer.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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