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 supports eliminating the electoral college, arguing that all votes should count equally regardless of which state they're from.

“Employees gave up a lot to keep the [auto] companies afloat [in 2009]. The union and its members agreed to let new hires earn less than half of the base salaries and allowed GM to hire temporary workers for even less pay and fewer benefits. But four years and an economic rebound later, employees are no longer okay with that… While temporary workers were earning as little as $15 an hour, GM CEO Mary Barra made nearly $22 million dollars last year. That’s 281 times the median GM worker…

“Trump told reporters outside the White House that ‘federal mediation is always possible’ between GM and the UAW. ‘Hopefully, they’ll be able to work out the GM strike quickly,’ he added. ‘We don’t want General Motors building plants outside of this country ... We’re very strong on that.’ For now, GM workers and executives are not taking him up on his mediation offer. Instead, employees are hoping the $50 million their strike is costing the company each day will accomplish what the president has not.”
Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox

“All of the defects Trump’s critics see in the president’s character — his venal transactionalism, his mob-esque worldview, his lack of concern for the national interest, his own pseudo-authoritarian instincts — are on display in the Ukraine call, and it paints a damning indictment of a man unfit for the country’s highest office… despite the new developments… the scandal remains straightforward.”
Zack Beauchamp, Vox

“It is barely credible that politicians of a governing party in the 21st century could think it is constitutionally right and proper to suspend parliament in the manner of a Stuart king because MPs are frustrating a political misadventure… Brexit is becoming a religion in the Tory party, the fundamental tenet of which is that no deal will do no harm, so no safety net is required. For its adherents, the prize of remaking Britain in a reactionary mould was worth dispensing with legislative scrutiny altogether… [Tory] Ministers toy with underhand political devices such as recommending the Queen does not enact legislation, or questioning why ministers need to abide by the law… The supreme court’s decision is the culmination of a long and socially useful process of judicial review.”
Editorial Board, The Guardian

Former secretary of state John Kerry states, “The need for leadership has never been more urgent; certainly the destruction from Hurricane Dorian and the fires in the Amazon should have refocused everyone’s minds on the fragility of our global carbon sinks. Most wars start with a bomb dropped, a leader killed or a line crossed. But today we stand on the precipice of the greatest battle humanity has ever faced, precisely because no one has done enough… In the temporary absence of U.S. leadership, we need other major emitters to step up… now is the time for China, India and other countries to prove just what we are missing.”
John Kerry, Washington Post

“The summary, released this morning, is a wild look into the president’s mind-set and approach to his job. It shows a commander in chief consumed by conspiracy theories, strong-arming a foreign government to help him politically, and marshaling the federal government in his schemes… The call is bizarre on several levels. First, the United States has legitimate interests in Ukraine, but Trump is using his conversation with that country’s president to pursue his pet, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Second, Trump appears—as has been alleged—to be engaging in a quid pro quo, asking Zelensky to assist him in pursuing those conspiracy theories, in exchange for help to Ukraine. Trump never puts it in plain terms—he’s too smart, and too experienced in shady business, to do that—but it requires willful blindness to miss what Trump is asking… Third, the call shows how Trump enlists the might of the U.S. government in his weird, personal, political schemes.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

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

“Democrats have had an impeachment itch that they’ve been desperate to scratch ever since Donald Trump took office. For them, Ukraine is equal parts a genuine outrage and an excuse, the release valve for nearly three years of fear and loathing

“Presidential-level diplomacy always involves horse-trading, and this, surely, is not the first time a president has prodded an ally to do him a favor in his political interest. The risk of Trump’s heavy-handed request — an aid package to Ukraine was being held up at the time — was that the Ukrainians would have felt compelled to manufacture damaging information on the Bidens. That didn’t happen, and the aid, thanks to congressional pressure, was released in short order…

“Ukraine lacks the hallmarks of other presidential scandals. There’s been no cover-up. Trying to keep a transcript of a presidential call from leaking in the absence of any congressional or criminal investigation doesn’t qualify. And once the controversy became public, the White House rapidly released key documents. Nor is there any violation of law. Trump’s ask of Zelenskiy wasn’t extortion or a campaign-finance violation under any rational interpretation of our statutes. If it was, practically every president in our history would have had criminal exposure.”
Rich Lowry, National Review

“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

Regarding Warren’s call for Facebook to ban the allegedly misleading ad from the Trump campaign, “Warren is wrong, and Facebook is right. Asking tech companies to police the truth of paid political ads opens a Pandora’s Box of potential bias and censorship. Moreover, it’s completely inconsistent with the general practice of television and radio advertising. As NBC’s Dylan Byers pointed out, the ad has also run on NBC, ABC, CBS, Google, YouTube, and Twitter. Asking corporations — including corporations who attempt to outsource fact-checking to independent fact-checkers — to referee the contents of political ads would result in an increased corporate thumb on the scales of American politics. It’s also inconsistent with American constitutional principles…

"Yes, the ad is misleading… But misleading ads are hardly new in American politics, and the answer for a bad ad is a better ad.”
David French, National Review

“If the situation were reversed, and if a corrupt Republican ex-vice president were running for president, no Democrat would ever hesitate to ask every foreign government in the world for help in investigating that person. Nor do Democrats hesitate to ask for foreign help in investigating sitting Republican presidents. The 2018 letter to Ukraine (!) by Senate Democrats asking for an investigation of Trump is illustrative… This is not about substance. This is about Pelosi losing control of her caucus should she continue to resist impeachment, and Pelosi sensing a looming electoral disaster of monumental proportions should impeachment be launched outside the parameters she defines.”
George S. Bardmesser, The Federalist

Regarding her candidacy as a whole, “Warren seems to have concluded that if a rule-breaking candidate like Donald Trump can be elected president, then the old political rules don’t apply any more. So she has endorsed Medicare for All and backs eliminating private health insurance; she has said she’d ban fracking for oil and natural gas; she supports decriminalizing illegal border crossing, health care for illegal immigrants who get across, and paying reparations to the descendants of slaves…

“Warren obviously hopes that her calls for federal oversight of large corporations and her call for a 2% wealth tax on multimillionaires will resonate with non-affluent Trump voters. But those voters seem more concerned with elites’ political correctness than convinced that Warren’s proposal will send their way any money somehow mulcted from corporations…

"This is not to say that Warren is a sure loser. Any Democratic nominee has a serious chance of beating Donald Trump. But it says something interesting about the Democratic Party that its current top three are in their 70's and all from overwhelmingly Democratic states.”
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

“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

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

On the bright side...

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

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