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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

About two weeks ago, my son asked me how a team with an imposing lineup like the New York Knicks could possibly have a losing record. “Because they have no point guard,” I said. They played like strangers. Either nobody wanted the ball or everybody did. Long intervals would pass without the Knicks putting up a decent shot—although being NBA players they often made enough bad ones to stay close.

Well, as the world knows, they have a point guard now. The feel-good story of Jeremy Lin, the underdog Chinese-American player from Harvard, has made NBA fans of millions who scarcely know the 24-second clock from a goaltending call. Here’s hoping they stick around, because it’s a heck of a show. Meanwhile, how about if we dialed down the ethnic sensitivity meter until the kid settles in?

As a lifelong basketball guy married to a coach’s daughter, I’m bewildered by people who say they the love college game but dislike the professionals. Around our house, the end of the NBA owner’s lockout was cause for celebration. It was going to be a long winter without “Da lig” as ESPN’s Hubie Brown pronounces it.

Does my sainted wife ever wish I didn’t watch a NBA game most nights? Absolutely. But I’d also bet you $20 she can name the Boston Celtics starting five. As for my sons, well freeloading off dad’s NBA Season Pass helps keep us together. Some families argue about politics and religion; we bicker about LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Anyway, from a strictly basketball perspective, what’s not to like about Jeremy Lin? The kid’s got a nice all-around game and an ideal point guard’s temperament; he’d sooner pass than shoot. He’s aggressive, but rarely forces plays that aren’t there. He’s got terrific court awareness and tactical smarts. He makes adjustments.

If Magic Johnson says Lin’s the real thing, that’s good enough for me. Magic’s always diplomatic, but he doesn’t lie.

However, Lin also commits too many turnovers. His on-ball defense is suspect. The New Jersey Nets’ Deron Williams recently lit him up for 38, shooting threes over him at will. Lin’s no Derrick Rose, Steve Nash or Rajon Rondo yet. We’ll see how his stamina holds up through a full NBA season; he’s wondered aloud about it himself. The Knicks need to find a backup; if Lin keeps playing 46 minutes every game, he’ll get hurt.

As for the hype, if the Knicks had Ricky Rubio, the brilliant 20 year-old Spanish point guard for Minnesota, Spike Lee would be sitting at courtside in a bullfighter costume, and people would be writing dopey articles about the link between flamenco rhythms and basketball. It’s just New York being New York.

“Linsanity” ain’t necessarily good for its object. There may be days when Lin wishes he could change places with Rubio.

Few NBA fans are astonished at an Asian-American player achieving stardom. It’s been an international league for years. (Ivy Leaguers aren’t unknown in the NBA either. Remember Bill Bradley? He ran for president.) There are NBA players from all five continents and Australia. One could put together an all-star team from Spain, Germany, Turkey, France, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Serbia and Great Britain that could compete against an all-American squad.

All racial and ethnic theories of basketball are bunk.

Religious ones too. Maybe the most absurd commentary came from the New York Times columnist David Brooks, who pronounced Lin an “anomaly” as “a religious person in professional sports.” Brooks, who evidently doesn’t own a TV set, has somehow missed all those jocks thanking their Lord and personal savior for hitting home runs and throwing touchdown passes, silly boys.

Look, Jeremy Lin is a fellow fortunate enough to make a handsome living putting an inflated rubber ball through an iron hoop, as millions of his clumsier brethren dreamed of doing in our youth. Watching him gives the rest of us a playground break, sometimes with adult beverages and cute cheerleaders. It has no transcendental meaning. It’s a ballgame.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady probably said it best.

“Look at the attention I get,” he said. “It’s because I throw a football. But that’s what society values. That’s not what God values. God could give a [bleep]…He didn’t invent the game. We did. I have some eye-hand coordination, and I can throw the ball. I don’t think that matters to God.”

Meanwhile cueing up the MSNBC fake-outrage machine over a dumb ESPN headline about “a chink in the Knicks’ armor” doesn’t advance racial harmony. It impedes it. The phrase is what we pedants call a “homonym”—two unconnected words with identical pronunciation. It’s a hoary sports cliché having nothing to do with ethnicity.

The dope who wrote it in a 2:30 AM haze has apologized, and Lin was gracious enough to accept. So should everybody else.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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