October 1, 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!

Hong Kong was in lockdown on Tuesday, with barricades in the city center, shuttered stores and a heavy riot police presence, as authorities scrambled to ensure protests do not overshadow China’s National Day festivities in Beijing. The former British colony has been wracked by nearly four months of street clashes and demonstrations.” Reuters

Both sides are applauding the protestors and calling on world leaders to support them as much as possible:

“Hong Kong’s protesters are outfoxing Beijing worldwide… From Oslo to Osaka, Congress to the United Nations, Taiwan to Twitter, Hong Kongers have taken their DIY approach to protest to a global audience. Celebrity supporters testify in high-profile settings; highly targeted, crowdfunded media campaigns aim to keep the issue in the spotlight; and viral videos, catchy slogans, and even a movement anthem and flag help magnify the message on social media… [In the] battle over international public opinion, it is Beijing and its minions that are outgunned.”
Chris Horton, The Atlantic

“Until now, Hong Kong enjoyed much freedom and democratic rule. That was a precondition for its return to China from Britain in 1997. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed by the UK’s then-prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and then-Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, guaranteed Hong Kong’s autonomy. The Beijing-selected local government is fundamentally violating that pact. Residents fear they’re losing the political system they inherited from Britain, a system they know and trust…

“The people of Hong Kong have been sending the Chinese government a loud message: We don’t want what you’re peddling. We want freedom and democracy… America should answer that call with all the moral and diplomatic support we can muster — and work double-time to ensure democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.”
Elisha Maldonado, New York Post

“At the time of the British handover, there was optimistic talk about how an emerging China’s growing global economic integration would encourage a political transformation and, with it, Beijing’s gradual embrace of western values and international rules-based systems. Such hopes now appear largely misplaced. What Hong Kong shows clearly are the limits to China’s adaptability – and the Communist party’s undying attachment to political uniformity, not plurality…

“As a legal guarantor of Hong Kong’s freedoms, Britain has a duty to stand up to China’s repressive behaviour. But aside from a few carefully phrased diplomatic whinges, it has signally failed to do so. Such weak shilly-shallying is contemptuously dismissed in Beijing. The US counts itself a champion of global democratic values, or did so before Donald Trump took office. Congress has made threatening noises but the White House has taken no substantive action… In Washington, London and other capitals, it’s plain that money and power speak louder than democratic ideals, broken umbrellas and bloodied heads. Perhaps it was always thus. Yet if Hong Kong is permanently, definitively lost to democracy, it will be, at least in part, because the west failed to fight for it.”
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian

“Over the last year, millions of people have risked their lives to challenge tyrannical regimes around the world. Venezuelans have poured into the streets to protest socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro, who has bankrupted a once-wealthy country. Demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria have forced longtime despots from power…

“Thirty years ago, we watched the Chinese government lead a brutal crackdown against peaceful protestors in Tiananmen Square. Thousands were killed and many more were wounded. We know the nature of this communist regime and it is not afraid to use violence against its own people… The protestors in Hong Kong understand this history and still choose to stand in the street and fight for their future. They are not afraid. Nor are the Venezuelans, Sudanese or Russians who are risking their lives to demand more from their governments. The opportunity to turn the tide against tyranny is one that we cannot squander. As people from every corner of the world fight the global assault on democracy, America must fight with them.”
Michael McCaul, Fox News

“The United States should immediately pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. This legislation proactively enshrines American support for Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy into law and would send a powerful symbolic message to the people of Hong Kong: that American support for Hong Kong is more than just empty words. Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets earlier this month to call for the act to be passed into law… It [would send] a signal to China that it cannot erode the city's autonomy while reaping the benefits…

“Hong Kong is at a historic watershed. Its people are on the frontlines of the global fight for liberal democratic values. The passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would not only be a momentous symbolic statement that the world still cares about the people of Hong Kong, it would help incentivize the Hong Kong government to respect people's freedoms. It is time for the act to be passed.”
Johnny Patterson, The Hill

“Leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle have made strong statements condemning the Chinese and Hong Kong governments' exploits – but now is the time to attach action to words

“[The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019] requires the State Department to annually certify and report to Congress whether Hong Kong’s status of autonomy, and the government’s adherence to protecting civil liberties and upholding of the rule of law justify its continued special status. The Commerce Department would also submit an annual report to Congress that determines if China is exploiting Hong Kong to circumvent U.S. sanctions and export controls. This important bill also would ensure that violators of human rights in the region are held accountable by applying sanctions and banning entry to the U.S… [and] send an important signal that the United States will act to protect the rights of the people of Hong Kong – and continue to be a leading advocate for freedom in the world.”
Newt Gingrich, Fox News

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

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