Could LeBron James Defeat Donald Trump?

hen the National Basketball Association’s players walked off the court en masse last week to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the move was so unprecedented that writers couldn’t decide on what to call it. Was it a “boycott”? A plain old “strike?” Or, more specifically, a “wildcat strike”?

The semantics are less important than the substance. As ESPN’s Domonique Foxworthy recently pointed out, “kneeling doesn’t make anybody uncomfortable anymore.” The NBA was already the league’s most overtly activist league, but the post-Kenosha climate forced its (predominantly Black) players beyond symbolic gestures to a standoff that’s rolled up corporate bottom lines, the largest social justice movement since the civil rights era, and a presidential election into a debate so hot-button it’s practically nuclear. The tense 48 hours that followed the beginning of the strike saw players threatening to end the already precarious playoffs, accosting the head of the players’ union, and consulting with former President Barack Obama on the uncomfortable realpolitik of social justice in Donald Trump’s America.
After all that, the players secured a series of concessions that include a new league-sponsored “social justice coalition,” an agreement that team and arena owners would work to convert their stadiums into “mass-voting locations” this November, and the production of new ads “promoting civic engagement in local and national elections and raising awareness about voter access and opportunity.”

Such measures aren’t just PR sops meant to placate the “shut up and dribble” crowd. The world of sports broadcasting is notoriously gun-shy when it comes to politics — even when those expressions of political belief are symbolic rather than electoral. All of which makes what NBA players have accomplished here unprecedented.

As the coronavirus pandemic and voter suppression tactics threaten to depress turnout in the very cities across America that have been rocked by the violence and injustice, the NBA will expand voting access and participation. The stadiums that will double as polling stations aren’t just in safely blue states, they’re in places with down-ballot and Electoral College ramifications—Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia.

In light of the strike’s shocking nature and its just-as-shockingly quick resolution, it’s easy to miss the elegant genius of what it accomplished. For all their carping about voter fraud, Trump and his Greek chorus in conservative media are hard-pressed to argue against measures to promote in-person voting. Or, now that players are back on the court, to complain about spoiled millionaires hypocritically shirking their duties while the poor, average fan suffers through quarantine with nothing to keep them company but Formula 1 on tape delay.

The NBA playoffs resumed seamlessly this week, but the decision wasn’t without its critics on the left—specifically with regard to the influence of Barack Obama, the Bernie-verse’s bugbear of perceived half-stepping. When the news broke that Obama counseled players to return to the court with concessions, responses ranged from “are you fucking kidding me” to jokes about Larry Summers and Richard Branson to the evergreen, sarcastic “thanks obama.”

Michigan secretary of state warns Election Day could be Election Week

Michigan’s secretary of state said on Sunday her state’s full results of the Nov. 3 elections won’t be available on Election Day, advising voters it could take a week for a final tally.

“We should be prepared for this to be closer to an election week as opposed to an election day,” Jocelyn Benson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The bottom line is we are not going to have the full results and a counting of all of our ballots on election night. We already know that. We’ve asked the legislature to make changes to the laws to give us more ability to be prepared and count those ballots more efficiently.”

But Benson added the legislature hasn’t acted on her requests, though her office has increased tabulators and capacity to count ballots. The most important aspect to this year’s elections, she said, is accuracy.

“If it takes a few extra days to ensure we have a full and accurate counting as a result of every race, that’s what it’s going to take,” Benson said. “We’re going to be transparent throughout that whole process to make sure every citizen knows exactly where we are in the counting process and how many more ballots we have to get through.”

She said yes when asked by NBC host Chuck Todd whether she was concerned over candidates being falsely declared as the winner on election night.

“To me, that’s just going to be another example of the type of misinformation and disinformation that we’re seeing multiple ways from multiple platforms and voices in this election cycle,” Benson said. “So, we are going to counter that misinformation with truth and accuracy.”

In Michigan, voters can vote early by mail or return ballots through drop boxes throughout the state. As well, she added voters can vote early in person at a clerk’s office and that every precinct will be open on Election Day.

“We’ve been able to hone this plan for November through three successful elections that we’ve had already this year where we’ve seen in every single one, turnout has doubled, putting us on track to have Michigan’s November election be the highest turnout ever in the history of our state,” Benson explained.

Benson noted she’s been in communication with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and postal leaders in Michigan. Along with working to amp up mail-in voting, Benson said she’s also dealing with the voter’s perception.

“The changes in the postal service, if nothing else, have created confusion and chaos where none existed prior,” Benson said. “So, the voter education and the confidence boosting we now have to do and will do to ensure voters feel confident that their vote is counted is a key part of our work moving forward.”

Hong Kong police arrest 90 at protests over election delay

HONG KONG — At least 90 people were arrested Sunday at protests against the government’s decision to postpone elections for Hong Kong’s legislature, police and a news report said.

The elections were to have taken place Sunday but Chief Executive Carrie Lam on July 31 postponed them for one year. Lam blamed an upsurge in coronavirus cases, but critics said her government worried the opposition would gain seats if voting went ahead on schedule.

Anti-government protests have been held in Hong Kong almost every weekend since June 2019. They erupted over a proposed extradition law and spread to include demands for greater democracy and criticism of Beijing’s efforts to tighten control over the former British colony.

On Sunday, one woman was arrested in the Kowloon district of Yau Ma Tei on charges of assault and spreading pro-independence slogans, the police department said on its Facebook page. It said such slogans are illegal under the newly enacted National Security Act.

The ruling Communist Party’s decision to impose the law in May prompted complaints it was violating the autonomy promised to the territory when it was returned to China in 1997. Washington withdrew trading privileges granted to Hong Kong and other governments suspended extradition and other agreements on the grounds that the territory of 7 million people is no longer autonomous.

Also Sunday, police fired pepper balls at protesters in Kowloon’s Mong Kok neighborhood, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

At least 90 people were arrested, most of them on suspicion of illegal assembly, the police department said on a separate social media account.

In the Jordan neighborhood, protesters raised a banner criticizing the election delay, the Post said.

“I want my right to vote!” activist Leung Kwok-hung, popularly known as Long Hair, was quoted as saying. The newspaper said Leung was later arrested.

Trump continues counterattack on military comments

Top administration officials on Sunday said they’ve never heard President Donald Trump make disparaging remarks about veterans or the military, a subtle attempt to dispute a report in The Atlantic. But the president’s top defender was the president himself.

Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, reported last week that Trump in November 2018 told senior staff that the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris was “filled with losers” and that in a separate conversation he called the 1,800 Marines who died at Belleau Wood “suckers” for getting killed.

Trump was also furious when the White House lowered flags to half-staff following Arizona Sen. John McCain’s death, Goldberg reported, and the president told senior staff that they wouldn’t “support that loser’s funeral,” adding that the war hero “was a f–king loser.” Goldberg reported that Trump made similar comments about President George H.W. Bush, whose plane was shot down during World War II.

The Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and Fox News all confirmed some elements of The Atlantic’s 1,500-word report, but Trump and his allies have denied since Thursday that he made such comments.

On Sunday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie credited Trump for what he called a “renaissance” at the VA and grouped the allegations with past stories citing unnamed officials that the president has dismissed as fake news and hoaxes.

“I think anonymous are the same people that brought you fake heart attacks, fake strokes, Russian collusion,” Wilkie told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

“I see the proof in the pudding,” he added. “The proof in the pudding is our military is stronger, and our Veterans Affairs Department is in a place that it has never been. This is the renaissance, and it’s all because of one man.”

Wilkie downplayed Trump’s past comments toward McCain, whom the president in 2015 said was not a war hero, as “politics” in the “heat of a campaign.” Trump, however, was running for president while McCain was seeking reelection in the Senate.

Harris: ‘We do have two systems of justice in America’

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr are “spending full time in a different reality“ when it comes to racism in the justice system.

“The reality of America today is what we have seen over generations and, frankly, since our inception, which is we do have two systems of justice in America,” Harris told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview that aired Sunday on “State of the Union” in response to Barr’s comments that there are not two systems of justice for Black and white Americans.
“I don’t think that most reasonable people who are paying attention to the facts would dispute that there are racial disparities and a system that has engaged in racism,” she added. “There’s no question that we have seen an unacceptable incidence for generations of unarmed Black men being killed. Nobody can deny that.”

In an interview Wednesday on CNN, Barr acknowledged “there are some situations where statistics would suggest” people of color are treated differently than white people but said the justice system was not inherently racist.

Harris, a former prosecutor who served as attorney general of California, also said charges should be considered for the white police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old unarmed Black man, in Kenosha, Wis.

“I am not in full position of the facts of the case,” Harris said. “But based on what I’ve seen, I think that charges very much should be considered and should be considered in a very serious way and that there should be accountability and consequence.”

When asked about the suspension of a group of police officers involved in the suffocation death of a 41-year-old Black man, Daniel Prude, in Rochester, N.Y., Harris said she expects the state’s attorney general to “review all of the evidence and make the appropriate decision.”

Rep. Demings slams Trump on racial equity training, protests

Rep. Val Demings condemned President Donald Trump on Sunday for an order to crack down on federal anti-racism training initiatives.

“We need a commander-in-chief who clearly understands and wants to address racism in all systems,” the Florida Democrat said in ABC’s “This Week. “Until we get to that point, we will continue to see the problems and be plagued by the problems that we’re seeing every day right now.”

In a White House memo from the Office of Management and Budget, Trump is cited for believing anti-racism training in the federal workforce is “divisive” and “anti-American.” Responding, Demings, a former Orlando, Fla., police chief said, “Racism has been the ghost in the room in this country for 400 years.”

“We got to deal with inequality in all things,” she said. “In health care, we see the effects of Covid-19 on Black and brown communities. In education … we know that [the] overwhelming majority of people in our prison systems, for example, are Black and brown, and a majority did not graduate high school. We’ve got to deal with injustices in education, in lending, in housing.”

Asked about the nationwide protests on racism and police brutality, Demings urged peaceful protesting and accountability for looting and violence.

“Our job is to make sure that peaceful protesters are able to exercise their right guaranteed under the First Amendment,” Demings said. “But we also have to make sure that those who break the law, those who exercise violence, regardless of what side of the political aisle that they’re on, must be held accountable.”

Demings slammed Trump for “throwing fire” at protests, agreeing with a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll that most Americans say Trump is making protests and unrest worse.

“While America was going through civil unrest in all 50 states, quite frankly, America was on fire, we had a president, a commander-in-chief, who with us walking around with a gasoline can, not trying to sow peace and calm, but actually throwing fire on an already volatile situation,” Demings said in her interview.

Jacob Blake speaks out for first time since police shooting

MILWAUKEE — Jacob Blake has spoken publicly for the first time since a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer shot him seven times in the back, saying he’s in constant pain from the shooting, which doctors fear will leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

In a video posted Saturday night on Twitter by his family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, Blake said from his hospital bed that, “Twenty-four hours, every 24 hours it’s pain, nothing but pain. It hurts to breathe, it hurts to sleep, it hurts to move from side-to-side, it hurts to eat.”
Blake, a 29-year-old father of six, also said he has staples in his back and stomach.

“Your life, and not only just your life, your legs, something you need to move around and forward in life, can be taken from you like this,” Blake said, snapping his fingers.

He added: “Stick together, make some money, make everything easier for our people out there, man, because there’s so much time that’s been wasted.”

Blake, who is Black, was shot in the back by a white police officer on Aug. 23 after walking away from the officer and two others who were trying to arrest him. The officer, Rusten Sheskey, opened fire after Blake opened his own SUV’s driver-side door and leaned into the vehicle. The shooting was captured on video and posted online, sparking several nights of protests and unrest in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Sheskey and the other officers who were at the scene were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. None of them have been charged.

Blake, who had an outstanding arrest warrant when he was shot, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges accusing him of sexually assaulting a woman in May and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Blake appeared remotely via video conference from his Milwaukee hospital bed, wearing a dress shirt and tie. He spoke only to respond to the judge’s questions.

The state Justice Department has said a knife was recovered from Blake’s vehicle, but it has not said whether he was holding it when officers tried to arrest him.

The man who made the widely seen cellphone video of the shooting, 22-year-old Raysean White, said he saw Blake scuffling with three officers and heard them yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.

The Kenosha police union said Blake had the knife and refused orders to drop it. Blake fought with police, including putting one officer in a headlock, the union said. Police twice used a Taser, which did not stop Blake.

Too soon for Census Bureau to stop counting, judge rules

ORLANDO, Fla. — A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Census Bureau for the time being to stop following a plan that would have had it winding down operations in order to finish the 2020 census at the end of September.

The federal judge in San Jose late Saturday issued a temporary restraining order against the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department, which oversees the agency. The order stops the Census Bureau from winding down operations until a court hearing is held on Sept. 17.

The once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident helps determine how $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed and how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment.

The temporary restraining order was requested by a coalition of cities, counties and civil rights groups that had sued the Census Bureau, demanding it restore its previous plan for finishing the census at the end of October, instead of using a revised plan to end operations at the end of September. The coalition had argued the earlier deadline would cause the Census Bureau to overlook minority communities in the census, leading to an inaccurate count.

In her order, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh wrote that previous court cases had concluded that it’s in the public interest that Congress be fairly apportioned and that the federal funds be distributed using an accurate census.

“Thus, the balance of the hardships and public interest tip sharply in Plaintiffs’ favor,” Koh said.

In a message emailed to regional offices and headquarters, the Census Bureau said the statistical agency and the Commerce Department “are obligated to comply with the Court’s Order and are taking immediate steps to do so.” Further guidance would be provided later, the bureau said.

Boris Johnson: Britain will move on if there’s no Brexit deal

If London and Brussels don’t reach a deal by October, the U.K. will be ready to accept this and “move on,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to say Monday.

The two sides aim to agree a deal on trade and future relations by the time of an October 15 meeting of EU leaders so that the agreement can be ready by the time the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.

“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free-trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” Johnson will say Monday, according to a statement released to the press ahead of this week’s round of negotiations, which begins Tuesday in London.

“We will then have a trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s,” Johnson added. “I want to be absolutely clear that, as we have said right from the start, that would be a good outcome for the U.K. As a government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it.”

He also reiterated his call for the EU to offer the U.K. a trade deal similar to the one it has with Canada. The EU has countered, however, that given the U.K.’s geographical proximity and close ties with the bloc, such a deal is not possible.

“Even at this late stage, if the EU are ready to rethink their current positions and agree this I will be delighted,” Johnson said. “But we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it.”

The future relationship negotiations have hit deadlock as neither the EU nor the U.K. want to give in on state aid or fisheries — the two biggest sticking points preventing them from signing a deal. The prior round of talks ended in Brussels with almost no progress, boosting pessimism on both sides of the Channel.