June 14, 2019

Hong Kong Protests

“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 is disappointed that Mueller did not bolster the case for impeachment and criticizes Republicans for downplaying the threat of election interference.

“The Epstein case is first and foremost about the casual victimization of vulnerable girls. But it is also a political scandal, if not a partisan one. It reveals a deep corruption among mostly male elites across parties, and the way the very rich can often purchase impunity for even the most loathsome of crimes.”
Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

“When most people get out of jail, they can barely get a job at a fast food joint. Not our man Epstein… Celebrities were still turning up at Epstein-hosted parties even after he was released from jail. The NYPD seemingly waived requirements that Epstein, a convicted sex offender, report in on a regular basis — [a] kindness the department doesn’t extend to the nonwhite or non-wealthy. More than a few charities and nonprofits continued to line up at the trough for a chance at his money… the Jeffrey Epstein scandal is something, I predict, that will come to be viewed in future years as one of the defining events that brings our age of excess to a close.”
Helaine Olen, Washington Post

“Health care spending makes up somewhere around a fifth of the U.S. economy. It affects every American, and is a life-or-death issue for millions of them every year. And here in the United States, where we spend more on care but die younger than in comparable countries, it’s a mess. So let us know how you’d fix it in 15 seconds

“Tapper attempted to corner Warren and Sanders into a yes/no answer on whether they’d raise middle-class taxes to fund their ‘Medicare for All’ plans. Tax increases, as an exasperated Sanders noted, are a GOP talking point, but they’re also only part of the equation of the personal finances of health care. Because if, as Sanders and Warren promise, your taxes go up some but your out-of-pocket costs go down by more, you’re better off. That’s an argument worth discussing, but it’s a discussion that one can’t have a quarter of one minute at a time.”
Ryan Bort, Rolling Stone

Many argue that “despite relentless Republican attacks, the benefits provided [by the ACA] -- guaranteed insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions -- are now seen by many as a benefit to which they're entitled. Moving to Medicare for those who want it is a logical next step toward a single-payer option, one that maintains choice for millions of Americans… 56% of Americans say they support full Medicare for All… [but] when voters are presented with the full details of the Sanders and Warren plans, support falls dramatically… I believe it's critical for Democrats to maintain their advantage on health care going into 2020, and the best way to do that is to reject Medicare for All and embrace Medicare for those who want it.”
Joe Lockhart, CNN

“Beijing is [also] looking to a seemingly unlikely place for support: Europe. In recent days, Chinese ambassadors across the continent have gone on the offensive to rally Europe behind Hong Kong’s government and against the protestors. As part of their campaign to promote Beijing’s line, China’s ambassadors are publishing op-eds in local papers and publicly criticizing European leaders for failing to denounce what they are trying to frame as violent protests…

“While Washington has been antagonistic, Beijing has been careful to strike all the right chords… [But] to uphold their shared values, both the United States and Europe need to collectively push back against China’s unfair trade and investment practices, its blatant human rights abuses, and the anti-democratic norms and practices it seeks to spread… Europe must realize where its long-term interests lie, and not let [the Trump] administration or the allure of economic gains prevent the right choice. The health of liberal democracy will depend on it.”
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Rachel Rizzo, Politico

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

“Cut through the spin, and the only debate Democrats are having is whether to eliminate private health insurance in one blow or on the installment plan… Mr. Biden supports a new government insurance plan that would ‘compete’ with private insurance. We use quotation marks since a government insurer with zero cost of capital and political backing starts with an unbeatable advantage. The public option would undercut competitors on price, stiff providers with low reimbursement rates, and crowd out private insurance over time…

“South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has called a public option a ‘glide path toward Medicare for All.’ Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said at a town hall this year that with a public option ‘over a couple years you’re gonna transition into single payer.’ Remember this as Mr. Biden says—and this may sound familiar—that if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“You could call the killer who shot up a Walmart in El Paso evil, a madman, or a lone wolf, if you like. But it would be an intolerable omission if we did not also call him a white nationalist terrorist. This ideology is a growing sickness in America, and President Trump has a duty to thoroughly and roundly denounce it. Trump ought to use the bully pulpit to become a leading crusader against white nationalism and racism… just as conservatives regularly call on our leaders to name and condemn the evil of radical Islamic terror when it is behind shootings and bombings, we call on Trump to name and condemn the evil of white nationalism.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“We will see a myopic focus on guns in the coming days, tied to a broader discussion of America’s ‘mass shooting problem.’ This will be a mistake — not because America does not have such a problem, but because to focus on limiting a certain tool in a country with half a billion of those tools in circulation and a constitutional provision protecting their ownership is to set oneself up for guaranteed failure…

“[Instead] the president should work with Congress to devote more resources to infiltrating, tracking, and foiling nascent plots… he should instruct the federal government to initiate an information campaign against white-supremacist violence in much the same way as it has conducted crusades against drunk driving, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Just as the government must not react to these incidents by abridging the Second Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, obviously the First Amendment’s crucial protections must also remain intact. But where action is consistent with the law — there is no prohibition on monitoring hotbeds of radicalism, nor against punishing those who plan or incite violence — it must be vigorously taken.”
The Editors, National Review

“Astonishingly, during our trade war, President Trump has been silent about Chinese human rights and political abuses…  Our media have reported some of the broad strokes of the protests and Chinese response, but hardly anything in depth. Too busy telling us about the damage done to U.S. soybean interests by the trade war to notice the economic and political meltdown happening in Asia? I’m not convinced that China can impose itself on Hong Kong if somewhere between 1 to 2 million people concentrated there remain determined not to cowed by them. At least not without doing incalculable harm to their economy. But can we at least get better reporting on this incredible conflict?”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

Regarding the decision to label China a currency manipulator, “traders may fear the tiny devaluation signals trade conflict spreading to currency. [But] this is highly unlikely, because a steep devaluation would be destabilizing for China… If an extended depreciation is encouraged or permitted, RMB holders can only guess what level the government truly wants. Last time around — four years ago — they chose large-scale capital flight rather than trusting the People’s Bank. China’s economy is slower, older, and more indebted than back then. Most importantly, it no longer has the foreign exchange to afford a repeat of 2015–6. That’s why the People’s Bank is likely to continue to defend the RMB near 7 to the dollar.”
Derek M. Scissors, The National Interest

“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

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

Outside Hong Kong, the silence Is deafening… Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations… Americans are preoccupied with fighting each other over political correctness, gun violence, Trump and the Democratic candidates for president. To be sure, those issues deserve plenty of attention. But they are soaking up far too much emotional energy, distracting attention from the all-important struggles for liberty around the world…

“It’s 2019, and the land of the American Revolution, a country whose presidents gave stirring speeches about liberty and freedom in Berlin during the Cold War, remains in a complacent slumber. It really is time to Make America Great Again — if only we could remember what that means.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

On the bright side...

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

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