Dance for your Renminbi, NBA

In contrast to the Kaepernick-free NFL, the National Basketball Association and its players are outspoken about pressing social issues. Unless it’s about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, when it breaks like a cheap toy purchased on AliExpress.

The controversy erupted after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, one of the most popular U.S. basketball teams in China, appeared to support Hong Kong demonstrators in a tweet late Friday. While the message was deleted and both Morey and the National Basketball Association tried to distance themselves from it, the damage reverberated across both China and the U.S.

[…]

The NBA tried to limit the damage, saying in a statement that Morey’s comments were “regrettable.”

“We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together,” the NBA said.

In the Chinese version of the statement, it added a further comment: “We are deeply disappointed about Morey’s inappropriate comment and he undoubtedly has hurt Chinese fans’ feelings severely.”

The NBA’s response echoed the cautious approach other companies have been taking in an effort not to offend China, but it immediately generated protests from U.S. politicians.

Cruz, a Texas Republican and longtime Rockets fan, tweeted that the NBA “is shamefully retreating” and said he was “proud” to see Morey’s original comment. Both Democratic presidential candidates from Texas also blasted the NBA, with Beto O’Rourke calling the apology “an embarrassment” and Julian Castro saying the U.S. can’t allow American citizens “to be bullied by an authoritarian government.”

Stand by for the inevitable Trump tweet about this, even though he’s done his own rolling over for China behind closed doors.

Flashback: Canada’s Cirque du Soleil boycotted North Carolina because of its homophobic “bathroom bill,” but kept performing in Russia and Dubai.

Chinese democracy endorsed

Between Rudy Giuliani’s babbling idiocy, Bill de Blasio running for President despite lower approval ratings than Trump in his deeply Democratic home state , and now this, I can only conclude that being mayor of New York City inevitably fries your brain.

China is literally carrying out a genocide at the moment, but they aren’t a dictatorship because they’re moving their coal-fired power plants further away from the cities or something.

There was a time not too long ago when I actually wanted Bloomberg to run for President of the United States. I knew he was a nanny-stater, but at least a competent nanny-stater. But this goes far beyond regulating the size of soft drinks you can buy.

The office of President is far too important and powerful to be occupied by someone who would praise China’s political system.

Oh, right.

Trudeau’s Arabian Nightmare

I was even more right-wing in 2001 than I am now, and even then I knew wearing blackface was horribly racist. (I still remembered the very special “Gimme a Break!” episode about it from when I was a kid.) Our woke Prime Minister, on the other hand, had no idea.

To be fair, he was just a callow youth of (checks notes) 29 years old.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident.

The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.

[…]

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”

Trudeau said he wore “makeup” in high school to sing “Day-O,” a Jamaican folk song famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “I deeply regret that I did that,” he said.

The temptation to hold Trudeau to his own side’s extremely woke standards, and demand that his political career come to an end over this, is overwhelming. And yet, I think the better course of action for Andrew Scheer (who hasn’t weighed in yet, as of this posting) would be to take the high road.

Scheer didn’t step aside after his own 2005 comments attacking same-sex marriage came to light, and he should say Trudeau doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this. His policies and performance in office, sure, but not something stupid he did 18 years ago.

Conservatives should hold to the principle that people shouldn’t be judged, cancelled and denied a chance at redemption because of one mistake, and let the voters think about whether Liberals would do the same. Frankly, seeing Trudeau’s supporters make excuses for this is far more devastating than anything Scheer could say about it.

If everyone with skeletons in their closet was forced out of politics, we’d have no politicians left.

But there would be bad things about that, too.

Incoming!

Yes, some people have predicted twenty of the last three recessions. But CNBC has a long list of warning signs:

Perhaps the most talked about recession indicator is the inverted yield curve.

Amid falling interest rates in the broader U.S. bond market, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note has fallen below the 2-year yield several times since Aug. 14. In a healthy market, long-term bonds carry a higher interest rate than short-term bonds. When short-term bonds deliver a higher yield, it’s a called an inversion of the yield curve. The bond market phenomenon is historically a trusty signal of an eventual recession: It has preceded the seven last recessions. A recession occurs about 22 months after an inversion on average, according to Credit Suisse.

[…]

Gross domestic product in the U.S. is slowing. The economy expanded by 2% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said in its second reading of GDP on Thursday.

Two percent is the lowest growth rate since the fourth quarter of 2018 and down from 3% growth in the first three months of this year.

[…]

U.S. manufacturer growth slowed to the lowest level in almost 10 years in August. The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers’ index) was 49.9 in August, down from 50.4 in July.

The reading is below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the first time since September 2009, according to IHS Markit. Any reading below 50 signals a contraction.

Because Donald Trump lives rent-free in our heads now, most people are wondering about whether the recession will start in time to sink his already shaky re-election chances. But I’m wondering how it will affect politics on this side of the border.

A recession will not start in time for the next federal election, but there’s a good chance we’ll be in one not long afterward. And, fairly or not, whoever’s in charge will take the blame for it.

In other words, whoever wins the federal election in 2019 may come to regret it in 2023. Or sooner, if – as looks increasingly likely – we have a minority government.

A very British witch-hunt

The headline of this jaw-dropping Washington Post story says it all: “A child advocate’s tale of a murderous pedophile ring launched a $2.5 million probe. It found he was the pedophile.”

When he was a boy, Nick told police and the press, he was “handed over” by his abusive stepfather to a powerful group of men who repeatedly raped, tortured and traumatized him and countless other boys for life. Some of the most powerful men in British Parliament and the military — including the former prime minister and chief of the armed forces — were part of the ominous gang, operating from 1975 to 1984, Nick remembered. How could he forget? he said.

They would send cars to pick up Nick and the other boys at random locations — the train station, a street corner — and take them to luxurious apartments and hotels all over London. There, one by one, or sometimes all at once, the boys would endure unthinkable sexual abuse and torture, sometimes so brutal that the beatings resulted in young boys’ deaths, Nick said. He said he witnessed the murders of three boys, two of whom he claimed were killed for sexual pleasure by a Conservative member of Parliament at the time.

The lurid tale shocked the nation, launching an enormous investigation by the United Kingdom’s largest police agency. In December 2014, a homicide detective for the Metropolitan Police Service described Nick’s allegations as “credible and true” and begged any other victims to come forward. Nick appealed to the public too, appearing in videotaped interviews as a black silhouette with a disguised voice, saying to the other abused boys he hoped were listening, “It’s important that they come forward too. . . . It’s something that stays with you forever.”

But month after month — as the sensational allegations remained under investigation by police, as the accused high-ranking former government officials watched their reputations disintegrate into scandalous tabloid fare — no other boys came forward. In fact, nobody did.

For years, the public would have no idea who “Nick” was — until finally, after a 12-week trial that ended this week, the full picture has emerged. Nick was Carl Beech, a fabulist who invented the entire story, a jury concluded on Monday — and a pedophile masquerading as a child sex abuse advocate and charity volunteer, managing to fool police and captivate Britain.

It’s a lot like “Satanic Ritual Abuse” hysteria that gripped the United States in the eighties, except that one staggeringly depraved individual started the whole thing.

Just in case you weren’t convinced that absolute evil exists in human form:

When [Beech] was charged with possessing child porn, the Guardian reported, he at first tried to frame his teenage son, pleading not guilty.

Some days it’s hard to be opposed to capital punishment.

The coming Epstein apocalypse

This week, hundreds of pages of documents related to a civil suit against Epstein may be released – and many of his rich, famous and powerful enablers named.

…A judge could decide on July 24 how and when to unseal a trove of documents — some 2,000 pages worth — in connection with a civil lawsuit filed by an Epstein accuser against his one-time companion Ghislaine Maxwell. The papers may reveal allegations of sexual abuse involving people described in court filings as “prominent individuals.”

That civil suit and its remnants have been in the courts for four years. But, in a startling coincidence of timing, an appeals panel ruled just three days before the wealthy financier was taken into custody on July 6 that the documents should be unsealed. The long-running Epstein saga entered a new chapter.

“It’s what everyone is betting — that it’s going to get interesting,” said an investment banker who asked not to be identified. “Like the rest of New York, I’m waiting.”

[…]

The civil proceeding involving the sealed documents is related to a defamation suit filed in 2015. The plaintiff was Virginia Giuffre, a Floridian who claimed Epstein sexually abused her for two years starting in 2000, when she was 16, and that Maxwell participated. Giuffre sued after Maxwell publicly called her a liar. The documents in question were filed in connection with a summary-judgment motion in the case, which was settled.

Giuffre first accused Epstein in December 2014 when she attempted to join a suit by two other of his accusers who sought to nullify the federal non-prosecution agreement in Florida. In her request, Giuffre included descriptions of abuse by Epstein and other prominent individuals “including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders,” the three-member appeals court panel said in ordering the unsealing.

Maxwell wants the full appeals court to reconsider the unsealing order. “The media have shown an insatiable appetite for any shred of information/speculation to publish and broadcast since Mr. Epstein’s arrest,” Maxwell said, and that interest could result in “due process concerns” for Epstein and other potential prosecution targets and witnesses.

Even if the materials remain sealed, we already know about many of the people in Epstein’s circle, including Presidents Trump and Clinton and even Prince Andrew. This New York Times story lists many more, including some you may not have expected. (Chelsea Handler?)

The Trumpissist’s Prayer

I’ve seen several variations on the “Narcissist’s Prayer,” but it basically goes like this:

That didn’t happen.

And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

And if it is, that’s not my fault.

And if it was, I didn’t mean it.

And if I did…

You deserved it.

I suspect that’s what Jonathan Last, whose daily newsletter The Triad is an essential read, had in mind when he wrote about how Trump and his supporters rationalize what he has unleashed:

The perfect spin cycle for Trump and his media quislings:

Of course he didn’t mean that.

You can’t prove he meant it.

It’s totally reasonable, why are you carrying on about it?

It actually means this other thing why are you stupid and dishonest?

You’re damn right he meant that first thing. MAGA, bitches!

They do this over and over. With Charlottesville. With “fire and fury.” With the Access Hollywood tape. With the Mueller report. With Trump’s saying that George W. Bush committed treason and that Ted Cruz’s father helped kill JFK.

At this point, there aren’t even any questions to be asked, except for this:

Where is the country supposed to go from here?

Does anyone believe this is going to get better before Election Day, 2020?

Update: see the Narcissist’s Prayer, above:

President Donald on Thursday disavowed the “send her back” chant that broke out at his rally on Wednesday night.

“I was not happy with it. I disagree with it,” Trump said to reporters about the chant, which began after the president again went after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as part of his ongoing attack on four progressive freshman congresswomen.

This is n̶o̶t̶ now normal

What a difference three years in power makes:

When a tape surfaced in 2016 of Trump boasting about grabbing women’s genitals, top Republican officials briefly pulled their endorsements, disinvited him from events and even sought to remove him from the ticket.

When, as president, Trump equivocated on condemning white supremacists in a deadly Virginia rally, top business leaders disbanded White House advisory boards in protest.

But on Monday, a day after Trump posted tweets promoting the racist trope that four minority congresswomen should “go back” to their countries of ancestry, the president waltzed onto the South Lawn of the White House with the confidence of a man fully supported by his party and by much of the corporate world that had once kept him at arm’s length.

[…]

Even as a few Republican lawmakers spoke out against Trump’s language, with some specifically calling it racist, most stayed quiet or sought to soften their admonishment of the president by mixing it with criticism of the women he attacked.

“They’re just terrified of crossing swords with Trump, and they stay mute even when the president unleashes racist tirades,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who has been critical of Trump. “Republican leaders are now culpable for encouraging this kind of rank bigotry. By not speaking out, by staying mum, they are greenlighting hate rhetoric.”

Trump is Trump. The man cannot help being an ignorant, racist oaf any more than the scorpion can resist stinging the frog.

But his enablers? They know better. And years from now, when they’re saying how awful they knew Trump was all along, don’t let them forget it.

The secrets of Jeffrey Epstein’s island

This is the kind of thing Alex Jones or David Icke would have rejected as too ridiculous and sinister:

When INSIDER consulted James Both, a contractor and engineer based in Chicago, he first pointed to the wooden door. “It’s styled like what you might see on a castle, with what appears to be a reinforcing lock bar across the face,” he said. “What makes it peculiar is that if you wanted to keep people out, the bar would be placed inside the building, [but the] locking bar appears to be placed on the outside … as if it were intended to lock people in.”

By the way, former prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy thinks Epstein’s 2009 deal, negotiated with now-former Trump cabinet secretary Alex Acosta, will protect Epstein from federal prosecution this time around. Have a nice day.

I believe Tom Arnold

The guy who was once married to Roseanne Barr and was surprisingly good in True Lies says he’s heard tapes of the President using racist slurs while filming his reality show:

This week, Arnold went a step further, repeating his claim (this time to widespread media attention—try googling it) that he has seen a secret “outtakes” reel made by Apprentice staff showing the now Republican president-elect saying “every racist thing ever,” and then some.

“I have the outtakes to The Apprentice where he says every bad thing ever, every offensive, racist thing ever,” Arnold told Seattle radio station KIRO. “It was him sitting in that chair saying the N-word, saying the C-word, calling his son a retard, just being so mean to his own children.”

What made me think about that years-old story today? Oh, nothing…

President Donald Trump referenced Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in a series of posts that literally urged the freshman congresswoman to go back to Africa.

Side note: I wish I had a time machine so I could go back to 1999 and tell people, “Tom Arnold is looking for tapes of President Trump saying the N-word on his reality show.”