Hong Kong protesters teach China a thing or two, but they need their own history lessons, too

Pencils sharpened. Check.

Lunches packed. Check.

Yellow helmets and gas masks. Check.

Students in Hong Kong may be skipping the American trend of hauling bulletproof backpacks to school, but they have prepared themselves for both an education and further police confrontation at the start of the school year. This year’s school gear is meant for struggle and survival.

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They have chosen to strike against their classrooms to strengthen the ongoing demand for peace and freedom. Some would argue they are protesting for survival. Adorned in their school uniforms — dress whites with ties — they stand out in contrast to the all-black clothing and black face masks donned by the daily street demonstrators. Umbrellas and tennis rackets are optional attire, used both to shield from water cannons and to volley back tear gas canisters toward the police.

Gearing up for a continuing fight is a necessity. These students — and all Hong Kong protesters — are on their own. Hong Kongers need to plan on self-sufficiency because the world mostly has taken a pass at supporting their fight to preserve their rights and democracy. READ MORE

In a world of populist tyrants, this still was a good week for democracy

Democracy goes through ups and downs, even experiencing recessions like the stock market. This is a particularly tough time for democracies around the world, with some places once judged to have turned the corner on their authoritarian past coming back as bigger, badder, anti-democratic governments. Hungary, Poland, Italy, Russia, the Philippines and several other countries are riding on the edge of populist electoral sentiment.

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This week, however, was a particularly good one for people yearning to be free. It was an especially good week for those wanting to keep or to take back their government. Three nations showed us the way: Turkey, Ethiopia and the Czech Republic.

Let’s face it, democracies around the world are getting challenged by dictators and demagogues. My Hoover Institution colleague Larry Diamond’s new book, “Ill Winds,” assesses this abysmal global state of democracy, finding that these ill winds are whipping up “Russian rage, Chinese ambition, and American complacency.” READ MORE

Under Trump’s “sovereignty doctrine,” foreign tyrants have nothing to worry about

Jamal Khashoggi’s horrific murder was a message to journalists, dissidents and regime critics everywhere. You are never safe. Anywhere, anytime.

Khashoggi was guilty of practicing journalism. He mistakenly bet he would be safe traveling to a NATO member nation to take care of personal business. Why? Because nations generally follow both international law and formal diplomatic practices that respect foreign laws and sovereignty.

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Increasingly, however, more nations are exporting fear and practicing lethal intimidation with a new form of global vigilantism. They go abroad to get outlaw revenge.

The Khashoggi case is the latest example of exceptional and perverse murderous state-related behavior that targets and takes out perceived opponents living in exile. It’s not just journalists abroad practicing their profession that are singled-out for murder. Turncoats living in other countries are targets, and killing them, too, is a clear warning to future defectors and detractors. READ MORE

Russia’s got the gas and is ready to set fire to our system of democracy

Every morning I wake up to the smell of fresh brewed coffee from my Moscow-manufactured coffeemaker and commute in my Russian car while making hands-free calls on my latest Siberian smartphone.

Just kidding.
 

Russia makes nothing I own. Nothing I need. Nothing I consume. I don’t watch Russian movies and don’t use Russian software. Look around your own home. How many Russian appliances, food stuffs, or clothes are made in the world’s largest landmass nation? Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

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If you’re worried that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is poised to take over the world, rest assured. It is not. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, once called Russia “a gas station masquerading as a country.”

He’s right. Russia today is mostly a great big oil and gas conglomerate. Energy resources make up around 70 percent of Russia’s total exports and more than half its budget revenues.

Russia also has a lot of bombs. Really big bad ones. Weapons of mass destruction.  READ MORE

Trump’s ideal America: More Norwegians, less Norway

Donald Trump admires “winners” and his favored immigrant group, the Norwegians, are winning so much at the Winter Olympics that they are probably getting tired of hauling around medals. If the president were to take a closer look at the Scandinavian nation, however, there is little else beyond athletic success he would personally find appealing.

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Pyeongchang is exposing the world to fun-loving, towheaded Norwegians killing it on snow and ice. Mostly hidden from public view is the state that helped nurture these successful young athletes. The Kingdom of Norway is a rich country that has long contradicted the American approach to social welfare. Like tripped-up skaters, its policies on Russia, guns, healthcare, international aid, refugees, trade, education, the correctional system, and fiscal responsibility are entirely out of sync with Trump.

They don’t even agree on what defines a “s---thole” country. After Trump’s infamous comments about Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, Norwegians said they weren’t interested in emigrating to the USA, suggesting American decline and Trump had turned the USA into a “s---hole”.  MORE HERE

Christmas comes early for Vladimir Putin

Christmas came a little early for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin this year. Russia usually celebrates the holiday on January 7th, but President Putin’s present arrived a month early when he announced his intention to remain in office via a national voting process. He has unofficially already won.

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“Election” formalities are scheduled for March 18, 2018 and the legitimizing process will cost $300 million. The leading opposition candidates are already dead or disqualified. The handful of colorful and credible also-ran candidates will do their best, but be left in the dust. Putin losing the Russian presidential election is as likely as Siberian palm trees and banana plantations. Merry Christmas, Vlad.

If there is one global leader who has been winning so much he should be sick and tired of winning, it is Putin. He will enter his next term as the longest serving Russian head of state, winning his fourth non-consecutive six-year presidential term. Putin has already surpassed previous record holder Leonid Brezhnev’s 6,602 days in office, but unlike Brezhnev seems fit and in fighting form.  READ MORE