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.

“‘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

“What’s clear is that Buttigieg is doing well in Iowa mostly because Iowa voters are exactly the kind of people who love Pete Buttigieg: aging, mostly white voters with midwestern sensibilities. The South Bend Mayor is about twice as popular with voters over 65 as he is with voters under 30, according to a recent New York Times/Siena poll, and overwhelmingly favored by white voters over voters of color. Many midwestern moderates are also drawn to his brand of hopeful liberalism… But those strengths don’t necessarily translate outside Iowa… It’s not that black voters in South Carolina necessarily dislikePete Buttigieg—they just don’t likehim. The most typical reaction from the black voters I spoke with during Buttigieg’s most recent swing through South Carolina was resounding indifference: not a sneer, but a shrug.”
Charlotte Alter, Time

But “the biggest question is whether $20.5 trillion is actually a plausible estimate of how much her plan would cost… Estimates from the nonpartisan Rand Corporation, the conservative-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and the center-left Urban Institute have each placed the 10-year cost of a single-payer plan at $31 trillion to $34 trillion… Reimbursement-rate cuts as big as Warren is envisioning would be extremely politically difficult to pass through Congress—and could lead to hospital closures or service cutbacks if they do… The reality remains that most countries around the world have established and maintained quality universal-health-care systems that cost less than even Warren’s proposal… The problem, of course, is that Warren and other single-payer advocates are not writing on a clean page, but rather seeking to reconfigure an enormously complex structure that consumes one-sixth of the national economy and employs hundreds of thousands of people.”
Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

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 sees Buttigieg and Biden as the winners of the debate, and criticizes the answers on housing and foreign policy.

“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

“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

“Even if you think the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was legal… it was not enacted through the notice-and-comment process mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act for issuing regulations — it was just a memo from then-DHS secretary Janet Napolitano ostensibly outlining prosecutorial-discretion guidelines to her three subordinates who handled immigration matters. The idea that a subsequent administration can’t issue a superseding memo without going through notice-and-comment is ludicrous…

Assuming the Court rules in favor of the administration in, say, June 2020 — what then?…

“One possibility might be to stop issuing renewals immediately but let existing work permits continue until they expire, at an average rate of about 1,000 a day. Then call on Congress to finally pass a targeted package that gives DACAs green cards in exchange for, say, mandatory E-Verify (to make it less likely we’ll have DACA situations in the future) and ending the visa lottery (to partly offset the extra legal immigration represented by the amnesty). Alternatively, the White House could punt until after the election: announce that renewals will continue to be processed, but only through the end of 2020, after which work permits will begin expiring, leaving it to the new Congress and the new (or incumbent) president to work out a deal.”
Mark Krikorian, National Review

“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

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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

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