October 9, 2019

NBA Kowtows to China

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“An increasing number of U.S. lawmakers voiced anger on Monday over the NBA’s response to a Houston Rockets official’s tweet backing Hong Kong democracy protests… The National Basketball Association, which has built a huge following and burgeoning business in China, said in a statement it regretted the remarks by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey. A Chinese-language version seemed to go further, with the league saying it was ‘extremely disappointed’ in Morey’s ‘inappropriate’ remarks.” Reuters


Both sides are critical of the NBA:

“The NBA is well within its rights to take advantage of its privilege as a member of the greatest and freest nation in human history to criticize our president and use capitalism to show support or disdain for other states policies. But to bend the knee to China's dictatorship, while protesters in Hong Kong brandish the American flag in their last stand for freedom, is beyond embarrassing. It's disgraceful and disgusting and pathetic…

“As you read this from the comfort of your capitalist country, China holds millions of its Muslim and minority citizens in concentration camps, subjecting its prisoners to organ harvesting, forced abortions, effective slavery, systemic violence, torture, and even murder. The nation forcibly seizes the biometric data of its own citizens and executes thousands every year — at least officially speaking. In the minute you've taken to read this article thus far, Chinese have aborted three unborn baby girls thanks to the dictatorship's gendered social policing. And of course, all of this ignores the utter and complete absence of civil liberties enjoyed by China's 1.4 billion people.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“Of course, a lot of money is at stake… But that’s the point. China is attempting to enforce its version of the truth all around the world — bullying Chinese-language newspapers in Canada and the United States, patrolling the speech of its students abroad, demanding that foreign airlines and hotel chains wipe Taiwan off their maps. Some of its targets don’t have the wherewithal to stand up to this assault — which is why the NBA’s cravenness is so damaging. With all its financial muscle, its enormous popularity and its moral preening, if the NBA can cave so easily, who will resist the censorship of the Communist dictators?”
Editorial Board, Washington Post



Both sides also accuse the NBA of hypocrisy:

“You might assume that the wokest professional sports league — this is a business, after all, that pulled its all-star game out of Charlotte, N.C., in 2017 because of that state’s anti-transgender bathroom bill — would see human rights, representative democracy and freedom of conscience as core virtues. But you would be wrong…

“Is the issue of gender-neutral bathrooms really as morally urgent as a country that is, as Pete Buttigieg sharply put it, ‘using technology for the perfection of dictatorship?’ This is a worldview that encourages companies to take cost-free stands on the progressive cause of the moment and do absolutely nothing to uphold fundamental progressive values when doing so requires more sacrifice than the time it takes to write up a news release. A worldview that fails to force companies like the N.B.A., Apple, Google and Disney to account for the fact that they are serving as handmaidens to totalitarians is not one worth taking seriously.”
Bari Weiss, New York Times

“The NBA did not issue an apology when LeBron James said President Trump ‘doesn’t give a f---’ about Americans or when San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich called Trump a ‘soulless coward’… Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was not reprimanded for wearing a pro gun-control shirt to the arena last season reading ‘vote for our lives’... But expressing support for Hong Kong was a step too far, apparently. Opposing a country with forced abortions, organ harvesting, sweatshop labor, 1 million Muslims in concentration camps, a ‘social credit score’ tracking all of its citizens and no democratic elections for president is what makes the NBA queasy.”
Tom Joyce, Washington Examiner



Finally, many are calling for coordinated responses to push back against Chinese government demands:

“Public shaming of organizations such as the NBA helps raise the cost in the United States for its ignominy in China… The next step requires American businesses to coordinate responses to protect an organization when one of its affiliates voices an opinion that displeases Beijing. What’s bad for the NBA in China is bad for Google, too. The Trump administration has the political will — in May 2018, it called Beijing’s ordering U.S. airlines to change how they refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as ‘Orwellian nonsense’ — but lacks the discipline, attention and integrity… It falls to an American chamber of commerce or another nonprofit to teach the American business community that when an individual company doesn’t yield, it will afford them all more space to maneuver.”
Isaac Stone Fish, Washington Post

“This event is starkly clarifying. And it should give conservatives and progressives pause, because China’s model of imposing Xi Jinping thought is a direct and equal threat to us. If Chinese authoritarianism is able to spread into American life through corporate power, because corporations are set up to serve shareholders and have trouble thinking ethically beyond that, then perhaps it is the duty of the state to interrupt the exchange mechanism through which this corruption proceeds. If China is forcing American corporations to impose Xi Jinping thought, maybe it’s time to choose. No more basketball camps in the shadow of concentration camps… To hell with Chairman Xi, and to hell with every business venture that makes others too afraid to say likewise.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes Sanders’s chances have improved, but notes that obstacles still remain.

“The owner of the Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, raced for the traditional refuge of international capitalists — the insistence that business can be segregated from political considerations…

“But it should be perfectly clear that playing basketball in China is political. Last year, the N.B.A. staged a game in South Africa for the explicit purpose of celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela. When the N.B.A. goes to China, that’s a statement, too. It means that the N.B.A. has weighed China’s human rights abuses against China’s potential as a source of revenue, and it has decided that it can live with state policies like the detention of hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Globalization is exporting Chinese authoritarianism rather than American democracy… First, simply on a technical level, it turns out that utopian globalization proponents were massively understating the feasibility of building a censored version of the internet. Second, they underrated the extent to which the entirety of the modern technology industry would end up looking like a massive surveillance machine… the same mechanisms that let internet ad brokers know I’ve been considering buying a new wallet and planning a family beach vacation in Mexico this coming winter can (and are) used by authoritarian regimes for political purposes… this isn’t how globalization was supposed to play out.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

The NBA should leave China… If Hong Kong is nonnegotiable, there’s nothing to discuss. The subject will become more sensitive, not less, if the Hong Kong police move from tear gas and rubber bullets to the routine use of live ammunition, or if the People’s Liberation Army moves in. Would the NBA muzzle its employees then?... Why not take the stand before it gets to that?... China may have 1.4 billion people and $4 billion worth of a basketball market, but only the NBA has NBA basketball. That is nonnegotiable in its own way, if the league is willing to stand up for itself.”
Tom Scocca, Slate

At last night’s debate, Warren “called attention to a recent fundraiser Buttigieg held at a California wine cave. ‘The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine,’ the Massachusetts senator said…

Buttigieg responded with a slippery claim that he was the only one on stage who wasn’t a millionaire or billionaire. But that’s true only because of his youth. He’s likely to be quite wealthy when he’s the age of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. In fact, as the child of two university professors, Buttigieg grew up wealthier than almost anyone on the stage. Further, pointing to his relative wealth did nothing to address the issue that his fundraising is coming from wealthy donors… If the goal of the other candidates was to sabotage Buttigieg’s campaign, they might have succeeded.”
Jeet Heer, The Nation

“Yes, the Constitution states that public officials may only be impeached for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but that phrase had an expansive meaning when it was written into the Constitution… The impeachment power, Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, extends to ‘those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.’... As a member of Congress, James Madison argued that a president could be impeached for ‘wanton removal of meritorious officers.’… Trump’s claim that he was improperly impeached is simply wrong.”
Ian Millhiser, Vox

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right applauds Trump’s speech and argues that his Iran strategy has been successful.

From the Right

“When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn came to the U.S. after years of captivity in the USSR, he professed amazement at how U.S. journalists who had exhibited cowardice when in the Soviet Union were posing as courageous lions of the press in the more congenial setting of the United States. I get the same feeling about the National Basketball Association… There’s a difference, though, between the journalists Solzhenitsyn held in contempt and the NBA executives. The journalists feared for their physical well being in the Soviet Union (we can’t all be Solzhenitsyn). The NBA execs are fearful only of losing money.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“The list of corporations willing to toe the Chinese line is quite long… Marriott has fired staff who expressed support for Tibet. Delta apologized to China last year after listing Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries on its website. Versace apologized to China last month over a T-shirt that suggested Hong Kong and Macau aren’t part of China. (Versace not only stopped making the shirt, it destroyed all the ones it hadn’t sold.) Hollywood dares not make a big-budget film these days without clearing it with Chinese censors. Indeed, groveling before China has become commonplace in the corporate world…

“Given that reality, we need to rethink the relationship between economic power and national security, and consider adjusting national economic policy and corporate regulations accordingly.”
John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist

“It's easy for the NBA to be all sanctimonious about speech when it means a star player calling an unpopular American president a ‘bum.’ But when it comes to a general manager having the temerity to tweet ‘Fight for Freedom,’ suddenly [commissioner Adam] Silver cowers and a U.S. sports league has to impose totalitarian China's censorship rules on one of its executives. Since, clearly the NBA only values money, above all else, if you care about freedom and are incensed by this decision, then there is only one way to send a message to them — by denying them any of yours.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

“Did Bill Taylor deliver the smoking-gun testimony House Democrats need to justify their drive for impeachment? Or did GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe ‘destroy’ the former Ukraine charges d’affaires in two minutes flat, as Nunes claimed last night?… The only way to really know what happened is to see the transcripts, and the serial leaks out of the SCIF make Schiff’s security arguments a bad joke… No one should trust any of these reports until we see the transcripts. In fact, no one should put any confidence in this process until it gets conducted openly, honestly, and fairly. House Republicans might have been conducting a stunt this morning, but the purpose of that stunt is spot-on. The House Democrats’ star-chamber approach is an affront to justice and due process, and their conduct in using selective leaks to goose public opinion from these proceedings is nothing short of despicable.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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