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 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

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