June 14, 2019

Hong Kong Protests

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!

“Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through Hong Kong [last] Sunday to voice their opposition to legislation that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China where they could face politically charged trials.” AP News

“Scuffles broke out between demonstrators and police in Hong Kong on Thursday as hundreds of people kept up a protest against a planned extradition law with mainland China, a day after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up big crowds. Protests around the city’s legislature on Wednesday forced the postponement of debate on the extradition bill, which many people in Hong Kong fear will undermine freedoms and confidence in the commercial hub.” Reuters

Despite the odds, both sides are cheering the protestors in their fight against China:

“For any protest anywhere, a million marchers would be extraordinary. In Hong Kong, it means 1 out of every 7 people. Yet unlike in 2003, this time the government has reaffirmed it intends to ignore public opinion. In any halfway representative society, Chief Executive Carrie Lam would have to resign… It’s a clarifying moment. China has been moving the goal posts on Hong Kong’s freedoms ever since laying its hands on the territory in 1997. Ms. Lam has now shown the world that the interests her government serves aren’t Hong Kong’s but Beijing’s.”
William McGurn, Wall Street Journal

“The rise of Beijing has been the major global story of the new century. But the very breadth of that ascent and the bland labels of the areas where it has edged toward dominance — trade, infrastructure, finance, tech — have served to mask the nature of the system China brings with it. That system is control… Now it appears to be Hong Kong’s turn to feel the heat of a greater power forcing it into conformity — but China’s freest city won’t give in without a fight.”
Feliz Solomon, Time

“Only a fool would predict a happy ending to the Hong Kong story, but it is also foolish to assume that history will follow a predictable course. And just as Michnik’s most famous statement in Letters From Prison was that Poles should practice acting ‘as if they were free’ even while living in an unfree land, there is much to be said for the people of Hong Kong now acting, despite all the logical reasons to feel hopeless, as if there is hope. As I watch the inspiring images coming out of the city right now, that seems to be just what they are doing.”
Jeffrey Wassertrom, The Atlantic

Both sides also see the timing as problematic for China:

“This is not a good time for Xi Jinping to have to put down a revolt of his own making. The US is fighting a trade war with China, and a brutal suppression of democracy activists might swing even Trump’s opponents into supporting tariffs as a rebuke. Both the US and Europe are isolating Huawei, a Chinese telecom giant… a new fight over Hong Kong will remind everyone as to what’s at stake in that fight, too. If Xi orders another Tiananmen-style assault on civilians, it might cut China off from the markets it needs.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“The Chinese government maintains it is not afraid of a trade war but there are already signs that the economy is continuing to slow. As more US businesses begin to look at investments outside of China, Hong Kong's role as the country's most economically liberal city is more important than ever.”
Ben Westcott and Steven Jiang, CNN

Many are urging President Trump to take a stand, and warning of the erosion of liberal democratic principles globally:

“With all the pressing foreign policy challenges already on its plate, it would be easy for the Trump administration to look the other way on Hong Kong’s plight, especially given the fraught relations with China on trade, Taiwan, the South China Sea and more. But, aside from the moral and legal reasons for supporting the Hong Kong people’s cause, there are strategic considerationsas well. The fates of Hong Kong and Taiwan have been inextricably linked ever since Deng promulgated his ‘one country, two systems’ formula for both… Taking a strong stand in support of Hong Kong’s people, even without a formal legal obligation, would greatly reaffirm Washington’s commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and other congressional declarations of deep U.S. ties with Taiwan. And it is surely the right thing to do for Hong Kong.”
Joseph Bosco, The Hill

“The world owes these people its attention. The State Department and some in Congress have spoken up. But Donald Trump has so far said nothing, though the U.S. has considerable investment in Hong Kong. Speaking the truth about Hong Kong won’t jeopardize a trade deal with Mr. Xi, who will only sign something in his own interests. Mr. Trump might even improve the chances of a good deal by calling out China’s failure to keep its commitment to Britain and Hong Kong. Mr. Xi wants to expand China’s influence by narrowing the space for democratic self-government across the globe. An American President’s duty is to push back and expand the scope for liberty.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Throughout the 1980s the free world was politically united and morally confident: It believed in its liberal-democratic values, in their universality, and in the immorality of those who sought to abridge or deny them. It also wasn’t afraid to speak out. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union ‘the focus of evil in the modern world,’ one prominent liberal writer denounced him as ‘primitive.’ But it was such rhetoric that gave courage to dissidents and dreamers on the other side of the wall…

“Why does Trump have next to nothing to say about the robbery of rights in Hong Kong? Because, as far as he’s concerned, it’s a domestic Chinese affair… All this means that Xi can dispose of the Hong Kong demonstrators as he likes without fear of outside consequences. Under Trump, Uncle Sam might be happy to threaten tariffs one day and promise to make a deal the next. But he no longer puts up his fists in defense of Lady Liberty.”
Bret Stephens, New York Times

“Freedom is not merely the ability to buy and sell goods at minimum regulation and a low tax rate, variables that are readily picked up by economic freedom indices. Freedom is also about the narratives people live by and the kind of future they imagine for themselves. Both of these are greatly affected by the legitimacy and durability of their political institutions… Circa 2019, Hong Kong is a study in the creeping power and increasing sophistication of autocracy… What will happen next in Hong Kong, I do not know. But right now, I would bet on the Chinese Communist Party over the protesters. That too is a statement about liberty in the modern world.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

Residents of Hong Kong write:

“In the past, Hong Kong had distinguished itself on the basis of wealth: Hong Kong was rich, while the rest of China was struggling to bring its population out of poverty. However, over the twenty years since the handover in 1997, as Hong Kong’s economy has drifted and China’s boomed, that distinction has failed to hold. Pride rooted in materialism has been replaced by a deeper pride among Hong Kongers, based around the notion of ‘Hong Kong Core Values’, those rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong that distinguish it from the rest of China…

“Hong Kong Core Values include: a lively and unfettered media, the right to participate in the electoral and governing process, freedom to criticise the government, rule of law and due process, an independent judiciary, and, of course, the right to protest. ‘Hong Kong core values’ has become the answer to the question: ‘What does it mean to be a Hong Konger?’ The current proposed extradition law, by blurring the line between the Hong Kong and mainland justice systems, is seen as another attack on Hong Kong core values… And by taking to the streets, they were expressing their dissatisfaction by exercising of one of those key rights and freedoms: I am a Hong Konger, therefore I protest.”
Antony Dapiran, The Guardian

“In a city where so much is still named after Queen Victoria, Hong Kong was a pawn in the 19th-century struggle between China and the conquering powers of the West. Its people embody all the harmonious contradictions that have made Hong Kong what it is: a place that forged its own path in the shadows of colonial history and China’s imperial ambitions… From Hong Kong’s most recent protest, a rallying cry has emerged. It is a unified shout to safeguard Hong Kong’s unique identity and position in the modern world, to not let forces beyond its borders shape its destiny anymore. As the noose tightens around Hong Kong, what is at stake is more than anything politics can define. The people are fighting to preserve the essence of what it means to be a ‘Hongkonger’… As the protests this week and the ongoing fight for human rights have proved, this ‘Hong Kongness’ is a fiery identity that will not be silenced without noise.”
Hana Meihan Davis, Washington Post

See past issues

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

“‘Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.’ Those are the damning words of President Trump’s handpicked ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who on Wednesday morning directly implicated not only Mr. Trump, but also several top members of his administration…

“Mr. Trump claims that he did nothing wrong, yet the White House refuses to let most of these people appear under oath. (Mr. Sondland himself defied orders not to testify from the White House and the State Department.) It’s worth emphasizing this point: All the witnesses whose testimony has been damaging to Mr. Trump have given that testimony under oath. All of those who we are led to believe would exonerate the president have so far refused to testify… If Mr. Trump truly believes he insisted on no conditions for the White House meeting and the aid for Ukraine, he has a clear choice: Let people testify. At this point it’s hard to see what reason they have for continuing to refuse.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“The slaughter of the 1940s, in which civilians bore the brunt of much military force, notably through aerial bombings, led nations to recommit themselves to vigorous enforcement of rules on the conduct of war — rules that drew sharp distinctions between combatants and noncombatants, protecting the latter. The goal was to avoid total war at all costs and to ensure that professional soldiers bore the brunt of war’s horror. Trump apparently rejects the combatant-noncombatant distinction as a pointless quibble. Yet such a stance could have dangerous implications, including for both U.S. soldiers and American civilians

"If the chivalric code breaks down and legal restrictions evaporate, there will be no grounds for objection when U.S. service members and civilians fall victim to unrestrained killing and brutality. In total war, civilians on both sides always lose.”
Jens David Ohlin, Washington Post

“Republicans have successfully maneuvered around the evidence that already exists for removing Donald Trump from office. Their ability to do so probably wouldn’t change even if damning new information came out, but it’s nevertheless in their interest to keep anything new from coming out. That’s why 13 hours were spent on Tuesday rejecting Democratic amendments to subpoena new witnesses and documents at the outset of the trial… The strategy was to block Democrats from obtaining new material, and then to mock their presentation for failing to present any new material. In judging it that way, they elide the crucial question: Whether Donald Trump had admirably discharged his duties as president in the Ukraine affair.”
Jim Newell, 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

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

“For many, [this election] represented a second referendum on Brexit — a chance to say, ‘we really meant it the first time.’ For others, many of whom were not enthusiastic about Brexit in 2016, last night represented a chance to move on. One does not have to have been an ardent Leaver to have been appalled at the way in which the will of the people has been thwarted. Boris Johnson’s promise to ‘get Brexit done’ resonated… Then there was Corbyn himself. It should have come as no surprise that Corbyn was most unpopular with Britons who remember the dark days of the 1970s. Britain has tried Corbyn’s ideas before, and they resulted in disastrous inflation, economic stagnation, high unemployment, routine power-cuts, industrial strife, a reduction in national prestige, and a penchant for nationalization that led to scarcity, abysmal customer service, and a virtual end to innovation.”
The Editors, National Review

“Journalists are offering sophisticated-sounding arguments for why political speech should be controlled by tech companies. One popular argument is that Facebook’s algorithm rewards appeals to emotion so legitimate debate can’t take place. Yet political advocacy in the U.S. has always included emotional appeals… Politicians have been lying about one another for hundreds of years, and dragging Facebook into the election circus will damage the company’s credibility in the eyes of millions and undermine faith in the electoral process… Others resent the way the platform has upended news delivery in a way that takes power from the press… It’s an unfortunate conceit of some in the media that they ought to have a monopoly on free expression to the exclusion of ordinary people and their elected representatives.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Some argue that “with war on the horizon, we must demand a clear objective for staying, fighting, spending taxpayer dollars and most certainly sending some of our young men and women to their deaths… Iran’s strength is its use of insurgent and terror tactics. America’s strength is our ability to project power. We are fools if we stay in striking distance of Iran, playing to its strengths. U.S. forces are fully capable of striking from afar and crippling Iraq and Iran economically if that become necessary until Iraq decides it wants to join the rest of the world and detach itself from Iran’s axis of ruin. If we keep our roughly 5,000 troops in Iraq – or add more troops – we are likely to be drawn into a war with Iran that will be impossible to withdraw from.”
Joe Kent, Fox News

“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

On the bright side...

Meet the Miller Lite Cantroller, a gamepad that's also a can of beer.

PC Magazine

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.