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Feb. 9 2016 11:59 AM

Hong Kong’s #FishBallRevolution Is About Much More Than Fish Balls

A violent clash between street vendors and police that broke out in central Hong Kong on Monday night has been jokingly called the “fish ball revolution” on social media. It was the city’s largest unrest since the mass pro-democracy protests of 2014.

The clash broke out when police tried to clear street food vendors who had set up in the central shopping district of Mong Kok for Monday night’s Lunar New Year celebration. Authorities usually turn a blind eye to these unlicensed vendors but this year tried to take a tougher line. When the police moved in, the vendors started throwing bottles and paving stones. Police used pepper spray and batons and at one point fired warning shots. While Hong Kong cops are usually armed, gun violence is very rare and it’s unusual for them to fire their weapons.

Rioters in the Mong Kok district on Feb. 9, 2016.

Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Police clash with protestersin the Mong Kok district on Feb. 9, 2016.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

An injured protester receives help in the Mong Kok district on Feb. 9, 2016.

Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Demonstrations are common in Hong Kong, but the violence of this one, which led to 90 people injured and 54 arrested, was not. The incident also comes at a time of heightened tensions over what pro-democracy groups view as Beijing’s attempts to undermine the city’s political independence and civil liberties. There have been a number of demonstrations over the apparent abductions of the owners and employees of an anti-Beijing book shop by mainland Chinese authorities. 

Twitter users mocked the police’s use of overwhelming force against hawkers selling fish balls and contrasted it with the police’ blasé attitude toward the alleged abductions of the booksellers:  

While Monday’s clash had no direct link to Hong Kong’s Occupy movement, which shut down much of the city in the 2014 pro-democracy protests that became known as the Umbrella Revolution, the BBC reports that some anti-Beijing activists went to Mong Kok to support the vendors. Vendors’ rights might seem like an obscure cause for activists to take on, but the use of force against a local tradition that had long been tolerated by the city’s relatively easy-going political system, is just the sort of thing to push the buttons of those who see Hong Kong’s culture and freedoms now threatened. Things seem to have returned to normal in Mong Kok for now, so this may all blow over. But it wouldn’t be the first time that anger over the treatment of a street vendor by the police has sparked something much larger.   

Feb. 9 2016 11:19 AM

At Least Nine Killed in Head-On German Train Crash

Two commuter trains somehow collided head on at an estimated 60 mph near Munich on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and injuring many others. From CNN:

The trains collided at a bend on the Mangfall Valley Railway, a single-track regional rail line between the towns of Rosenheim and Holzkirchen, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said.
"There's a curve there, so we must assume that the train drivers must not have been able to see each other beforehand," he told reporters at a news conference.

The crash occurred at 6:48 a.m. local time. Both drivers are believed to have been killed.

It's not yet known whether it was a technical or human error that led to both trains being on the same track; the Guardian says both were equipped with automatic brake systems that should have kicked in when/if their drivers failed to stop at a red light signal. 

Feb. 9 2016 9:44 AM

OK, Yeah, Donald Trump Referred to Ted Cruz as a “Pussy” on Monday

The idea that Donald Trump will reverse the "pussification" of America has been one commonly repeated by his supporters during the presidential campaign. Monday night at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump made this theme literally explicit by calling Ted Cruz a pussy.

Here's New York magazine quoting the remark, which involved Trump repeating something that an audience member was shouting while Trump complained that Cruz apparently isn't aggressive enough about torture policy:

"You know what she said? Shout it because I don’t want to say it,” he said. “OK, you’re not allowed to say [it], and I never expect to hear that from you again. She said—I never expect to hear that from you again! She said he’s a pussy.” 

(The approach of merely repeating someone else's crass remark about an opponent fits generally with Trump's theme of framing obnoxious comments as criticisms he's not making.)

The woman in the audience later told Mic that she supports Trump because he has large, watermelon-sized testicles.

Trump defended the remark on an MSNBC appearance: "We were all just having fun. It was a great moment—I got a standing ovation, the place went wild."

You know, if this paunchy real estate heir who can't even own up to his own crass remarks is America's best hope for restoring a bold masculine character to our metaphorical genitals, we actually might be in trouble.

Feb. 9 2016 6:44 AM

What I’ll Be Watching for at the New Hampshire GOP Primary

Was Donald Trump’s failure to win the Iowa caucus a sign his polling performance was nothing more than a media-fueled fantasy? Can Marco Rubio rebound from Saturday’s embarrassing debate performance to remain on his narrow path to the Republican nomination? Can Jeb Bush, John Kasich, or Chris Christie live to fight another day? Can Ted Cruz find the momentum in New Hampshire that he somehow missed out on in Iowa? We’ll soon find out.

Here’s where things stand heading into Tuesday’s Republican primary in New Hampshire (all numbers are specific to the state):

Donald Trump
RealClearPolitics rolling average
: 30.7 percent—up 4.2 points since the start of the year, but down 2.5 points since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
based on the polling: 75 percent.

Marco Rubio
RealClearPolitics rolling average
: 14.4 percent—up 1.6 points since the start the year, and up 4.9 points since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
based on the polling: 11 percent.

John Kasich
RealClearPolitics rolling average
: 13.0 percent—up 4.0 points since the start of the year, and up 1.5 points since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
based on the polling: 6 percent.

Ted Cruz
RealClearPolitics rolling average
: 12.4 percent—up 0.9 points since the start the year, and up 0.9 points since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
based on the polling: 5 percent.

Jeb Bush
RealClearPolitics rolling average
: 11.3 percent—up 3.5 points since the start of the year, and up 1.0 point since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
based on the polling: 3 percent.

Chris Christie
RealClearPolitics rolling average
: 5.4 percent—down 6.1 points since the start of the year, and down 1.1 points since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
based on the polling: <1 percent.

No other candidate has averaged higher than 5 percent support over the past month, making it hard to imagine a Granite State surprise from the likes of Carly Fiorina or Ben Carson.

Is Trump a Loser or Did He Simply Lose Iowa?

The Donald was branded a loser after coming in second in Iowa because of his pre-caucus predictions of complete and total victory. But despite how badly his rivals would like to convince themselves that the results prove Trump was never the threat the media made him out to be, his performance in Iowa should have them preparing for the worst in New Hampshire. Yes, his final share of the Iowa vote was about 4 points below his polling average, but he still won roughly a quarter of the vote in a state that was never as friendly to his candidacy as he seemed to think, and in the process garnered more total votes than either of the two previous GOP caucus-winners. Even if it turns out that Trump’s polling numbers really are inflated across the board, he has a double-digit cushion to work with in New Hampshire and remains the overwhelming favorite to post a victory on Tuesday night.

As I’ve written before, a Granite State victory would fundamentally alter the race. In one fell swoop, Trump would have bested the best the Republican establishment has to offer in a state where they have no excuses given primary voters there are considerably more moderate and establishment-minded than Iowa’s GOP caucusgoers. Trump would still have his work cut out for him to win future primaries, but his rivals would wake up on Wednesday morning to discover that their Trump nightmare remains a reality.

And if Trump comes up short? It depends on how he loses. If his final primary numbers are only a fraction of his support in state surveys, he’d be fairly dismissed by his rivals and the media as a pre-voting novelty. But if, as in Iowa, he underperforms his polling only slightly while being edged out by a surging rival, he’d remain a force heading into South Carolina, where he’ll get his rematch with Cruz in a contest with a friendlier voting process than Iowa’s caucus and a less establishment-minded electorate than in New Hampshire’s primary.

The Establishment Heat

Regardless of whether Trump wins, the contest within a contest between Rubio, Kasich, Bush, and Christie in the so-called insider lane will be crucial. Kasich has conceded that a poor performance in New Hampshire would mean an end to his campaign. Christie claims he’ll press on regardless—but it’s hard to imagine he’d be able to succeed in South Carolina if he comes up short in New Hampshire, or that he’d have the resources to even try. Jeb remains much more likely to solider on since he has the resources to survive a middling performance in New Hampshire, if not necessarily the establishment support to weather a blowout loss. Given how tightly this group is bunched together, each candidate has reason to dream and to worry. (Even Christie—who’s down in the polls—has reason to be optimistic given how badly he roughed up Rubio during Saturday’s debate.)

Rubio, meanwhile, is doing his best to recover from his debate hangover. A strong performance on Tuesday will help the GOP establishment forget that its would-be savior was stuck on repeat this past weekend. A surprise victory (possible, although not probable) or a clear second place would cement Marco’s status as the establishment’s best hope to defeat Trump and Cruz, and would start to clear the insider lane ahead of Super Tuesday. If Rubio finishes in third or fourth, though, he’d open the door for his rivals to fight on, while also prompting plenty of hand-wringing from the chattering class about how his malfunction on the debate stage was illustrative of a larger—and perhaps insurmountable—problem.

The Forgotten Man

With all the talk of how Trump left Iowa a loser and Rubio left a winner, it’s easy to forget that Cruz actually won the first nominating contest of the year. He’s a long shot to make it 2-for-2 on Tuesday, but he could steal the runner-up spotlight by topping Rubio and the rest of the establishment field in the final standings. The Texan benefits the longer the establishment heat remains contested, and it’s hard to imagine that it will be settled in favor of a candidate who can’t finish better than third place. Cruz, then, has little to lose on Tuesday night and plenty to gain. Bizarrely enough, beating expectations in New Hampshire could produce the bounce he failed to receive from actually beating the competition in Iowa.

Feb. 9 2016 5:45 AM

What I’ll Be Watching for at the New Hampshire Democratic Primary

Bernie Sanders nearly managed to battle Hillary Clinton to a draw in Iowa last week, a result few could imagine when he jumped in the race last year. Sanders now appears poised to secure something on Tuesday far more valuable than a moral victory: an electoral one. Here’s where things stand heading into the New Hampshire primary (all numbers are specific to the state):

Bernie Sanders
RealClearPolitics rolling average:
53.9 percent—up 4.6 points since the start of the year, but down 1.6 points since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
: >99 percent.

Hillary Clinton
RealClearPolitics rolling average
: 40.7 percent—down 2.8 points since the start of the year, but up 3.2 points since the day of the Iowa caucus.
FiveThirtyEight chances of victory
: <1 percent.

Those numbers suggest Clinton has almost no shot at leaving the Granite State with anything looking like a victory, moral or otherwise. Still, while Sanders is the clear favorite, I will note that eight years ago state surveys showed Barack Obama with an 8-point lead on Hillary in the days before the New Hampshire primary. When the counting was over, though, Clinton came out on top by 2.6 points. There’s a reason they count the votes.

I’ve seen no evidence that Hillary is due for a repeat performance this year, but if she does pull the victory out of nowhere, it could be a fatal blow to Bernie’s candidacy. He has the money and motivation to fight on, but if he can’t win in Iowa or New Hampshire—where the Democratic electorate skews white and liberal—it’s unclear where he can, with the exception of his home state of Vermont. Clinton’s rewards, meanwhile, would be maximized, given this is the one contest on the map where she looked the most vulnerable to Sanders’ particular charms. If she can beat Bernie in New Hampshire, she can beat him everywhere.

If we believe the polls, though, the real question isn’t whether Bernie will win, but instead by how much. Team Clinton has done everything it can to downplay her chances in the state, reminding anyone who will listen of Bernie’s near-native-son status there and the electorate’s history of siding with fellow New Englanders. That she hasn’t been reliving her 2008 performance on the stump every chance she gets suggests she’d rather keep expectations low to limit the political damage of a loss than try to energize her supporters in the hopes of an upset. That makes sense, since she remains the favorite in the next two contests—Nevada on Feb. 20 and South Carolina on Feb. 27—where the Democratic electorate is more diverse and moderate than in the first two contests, and given how much the media loves to play the expectations game.

Still, while Bernie would benefit more from a blowout and less from a close call, ultimately the margin of victory is likely to matter far less than the victory itself. Assuming Clinton can’t deny Sanders a clear-cut win in New Hampshire like he did to her in Iowa, Hillary should prepare for a rough few days—regardless of whether she loses by 7 points or 17. Bernie will spend the next week and a half before Nevada with the momentum and the media’s attention. He’d still need to make inroads with the black and Hispanic voters that give Hillary a major advantage in the contests to come, but a New Hampshire victory would give him a bigger platform from which to make that pitch. Clinton, meanwhile, would have to deal with talking heads, everywhere from Fox News to MSNBC, wondering aloud whether she is doomed to relive her 2008 nightmare.

That’s not to suggest that winning New Hampshire will make Bernie the favorite to win the Democratic nomination—it wouldn’t. But Bernie’s path to the nomination was always going to be incredibly narrow. The most important thing for him on Tuesday is that he stays on that path.

Feb. 8 2016 10:12 PM

After Another Glitchy Stump Speech, Rubio Advisers Ponder Turning Him Off and Back On Again

Someday, Elon Musk assures us, there will be self-learning, self-improving robots that will be able to live and learn, love and laugh and annihilate us all, just like a real boy; but, until that day comes, it appears we’re stuck with this janky Atari version of Marco Rubio. After a rocky debate outing over the weekend, where the Florida Republican got roughed up by rival Chris Christie for a strange, Small Wonder-like repetition of Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing talking points, Rubio came into the new week looking to regain his mojo, which hit peak-levels during his strong third-place *victory* in Iowa.

Rubio, however, appeared to get his wires crossed again in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Monday, giving this glitchy, repetitive portion of his stump speech:

“We are taking our message to families that are struggling to raise their children in the 21st century because, as you saw, Jeanette and I are raising our four children in the 21st century, and we know how hard it’s become to instill our values in our kids instead of the values they try to ram down our throats.
“In the 21st century, it’s becoming harder than ever to instill in your children the values they teach in our homes and in our church instead of the values that they try to ram down our throats in the movies, in music, in popular culture.”

Ram down our… throats… jeez, is it getting hot in here? While it’s not the worst stump blunder by any stretch, coming on the heels of Saturday’s record-scratch of a performance, it’s not a great look for Rubio, who’s now facing growing calls to release his birth certificate to quiet claims he was constructed from the ground up in the basement of a Miami-Dade County Best Buy.

It will be interesting to see how the Rubio folks try to spin the new speaking style, but here are a few tried-and-true options the campaign may wish to employ before hitting the panic button:

  1. Turn the Marco Rubio off and then back on again.
  2. Take Marco Rubio’s cartridge out and blow on it.
  3. Clear Marco Rubio’s cache and delete his browser history.

If the Marco Rubio’s still not working, make sure he’s plugged in before calling customer service for help. It’s always embarrassing when the not-plugged-in thing is the right answer.

Feb. 8 2016 7:53 PM

Federal Judge Denies Texas Lawmakers’ Attempt to Block Resettlement of Syrian Refugees

A federal judge in Texas denied Monday the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers in the state to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees there. This is the second time U.S. District Judge David Godbey has thwarted Republican efforts to bar refugees being sent to the state; he denied an emergency order filed in December. On Monday, Godbey denied a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee, the nonprofit coordinating the resettlement program.

Godbey, a Republican appointee, however, didn’t make the case that the Obama administration and others have made that the refugees are just that, not ISIS-affiliated terror threats; rather, Republicans in the state, he says, are asking the federal judiciary to do what conservatives regularly complain about by overruling another branch of the government, in this case the executive branch.

Here’s more of what Godbey had to say in his 11-page order from the Dallas Morning News:

“The court does not deny that the Syrian refugees pose some risk,” wrote Dallas-based U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey in his 11-page order. “That would be foolish. In our country, however, it is the federal executive that is charged with assessing and mitigating that risk, not the states and not the courts… Somewhat ironically, Texas, perhaps the reddest of red states, asks a federal court to stick its judicial nose into this political morass, where it does not belong absent statuary authorization.”

"The Commission is unlikely to succeed on the merits," Godbey wrote of the suits prospects for success, "because it has no viable cause of action against the Federal Defendants."

Feb. 8 2016 6:25 PM

Breakfast-Eating American Hero Ignores Presidential Candidate, Continues Eating Breakfast

Elections are important for The Future of Our Republic, I guess. But sometimes you just want to watch TV, check social media, or eat your god dang eggs, bacon, and home fries without coming across presidential candidates and/or their supporters shouting nonsense at you/each other, right? Unfortunately for the woman above, an uninterrupted meal was not on the menu today in Manchester, New Hampshire as Carly Fiorina (currently polling at 2.5 percent) rolled into Blake's Restaurant for an event. But this hero of breakfast fortitude didn't let that bother her.


Darren McCollester/Getty Images

This angle, from the Manchester Union Leader, is even better:

Unidentified Woman is a new American icon.


Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Painting by Edward Hopper, photo by Darren McCollester/Getty.

Unidentified Woman/Diner Eggs 2016!

Feb. 8 2016 5:06 PM

The Monday Slatest Newsletter

Hillary Clinton is refusing to release transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs, and her stated reason for not doing so—because no one else releases their corporate speech transcripts—might just play right into Bernie Sanders' argument about the insidiousness of money in politics. In other news:

Have a good day out there.

Feb. 8 2016 4:43 PM

Michigan Board Approves Snyder Recall Petition Effort, but It’s Not Related to Flint

Michigan's Board of State Canvassers has approved the wording of a petition to recall Gov. Rick Snyder, MLive and the Detroit News report. Caveat: While the governor has been in national headlines because of the Flint lead-poisoning crisis and specifically because of decisions made by emergency managers he appointed to run that city, the petition that was approved on Monday actually cites an executive action Snyder took regarding the emergency state takeover of certain schools.

The petition's backer now has 60 days to collect 790,000 signatures; if he's successful, a measure to recall Snyder would appear on Michigan's ballot in November. The Board of Canvassers has rejected a number of Flint-related petitions on the grounds that they were not specific enough about why Snyder should be recalled from office.

The Detroit Free Press reported on Jan. 28 that while 58 percent of Michigan residents believe Snyder is doing a poor job as governor, only 29 percent believe he should resign; that poll, however, was released before the publication of March 2015 emails alerting the governor's office that some public health officials believed Flint River water was responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the city. Snyder said he wasn't told about the link until this January; perhaps even more problematically, some of the Snyder administration officials who learned about the Legionnaires' outbreak last March were involved in downplaying and outright denying the existence of problems with Flint River water in summer 2015.

Snyder has been Michigan governor since 2011; he won re-election in 2014 and would be prohibited from running again in 2018 by term limits.