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.

“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

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