Weekend Jolt: The Harm in Abiding Small Tyrannies

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The Olympics are drawing closer ...

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WITH JUDSON BERGER January 15 2022
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WITH JUDSON BERGER January 15 2022
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The Harm in Abiding Small Tyrannies

Dear Weekend Jolter,

The Olympics are drawing closer, and China is preparing for the occasion by doing what meticulous and well-adjusted hosts of global gatherings are wont to do — spraying penalties every which way in retaliation for the slightest offense to its international gaslighting project.

There's Lithuania (a tiny nation that is punching way above its weight in the human-rights and democracy department), which as Andrew Stuttaford reports invited China's ire by allowing a de facto Taiwanese embassy to open under the name "Taiwan." China downgraded diplomatic relations, started blocking Lithuanian imports, and even reportedly pressured a German car-parts company, among others, to stop using material from the Baltic state.

Let's see, who else hath offended? There's that known provocateur, that sinister disrupter of the global order, whose machinations are cleverly masked by the whir of Slurpee machines, 7-Eleven, which had the audacity to list Taiwan as a country on its website, among other purported offenses. Beijing's local government fined the company in response.

Then there's Intel.

Jimmy Quinn, who is diligently documenting China's grip on entities that should know (and act) better, this week detailed the case of the California tech company, which had issued the following letter after President Biden signed a law barring the import of goods from Xinjiang: "Multiple governments have imposed restrictions on products sourced from the Xinjiang region. Therefore, Intel is required to ensure our supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region."

The statement — a legal one as much as it was a moral one — did not stand for long:

That sparked an uproar in China, including an editorial by the Global Times, a party tabloid, criticizing the move as "arrogant and vicious." So Intel posted an apology to Chinese social-media platforms on December 23. "We apologize for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners, and the public," the statement read.

The company also reportedly removed the offending paragraph online. CEO Pat Gelsinger this week defended the backtrack, using this mealy-mouthed explanation: "We found that there was no reason for us to call out one region in particular anywhere in the world because there's many regions in the world that are having issues of such a matter."

It seems China considers no act of truth too small to rebuke and crush.

Why don't we consider China's small acts of tyranny — such as its corporate intimidation — to be similarly threatening? After all, they make space for the very large acts of tyranny, for instance the system of sterilization, internment, and forced labor inflicted on an entire culture in Xinjiang.

When Robert Noyce co-founded Intel in the late '60s, he was known for insisting on a moral culture.

"At Intel there was good and there was evil," Tom Wolfe wrote in "Two Young Men Who Went West," his account of Silicon Valley's early days. Noyce created an "ethical universe," leading it all from a position of absolutely-no-nonsense strength. "He somehow created the impression that if pushed one more inch, he would fight," Wolfe explained. And so, nobody dared find out.

Where's that Intel?

Gelsinger says that Intel does not source materials from Xinjiang. Still, it is a corporate sponsor of the Beijing Winter Olympics — and recently was accused of working behind the scenes to kill legislation meant to punish sponsors. China's theatrics aim to keep these enablers in line.  

Jim Geraghty writes:

The Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee want us to act like everything is normal and that this is just another winter games taking place in some far-off foreign capital. But nothing about the Chinese government is normal right now — from the ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs to the crackdown in Hong Kong to the military aggression toward Taiwan to the refusal to cooperate with the WHO on the investigation into the origins of Covid-19 to the sudden disappearance and subsequently odd, seemingly coerced statements from tennis star Peng Shuai, who accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her.

Mitch Daniels, over at Purdue University, provides a much better model for how to deal with small tyrannies from a known perpetrator of big ones. From Jay Nordlinger:

A Boilermaker named Zhihao Kong posted something in praise of the martyred students in Tiananmen Square. Other Chinese students harassed and threatened him over this. Also — prepare to be surprised — the authorities back in China paid a visit to his parents.

In a totalitarian state, this is how it goes.

The president of Purdue University is Mitch Daniels, the Reaganite who was once governor of Indiana (and budget director under President George W. Bush, etc.). In a letter to Purdue students, faculty, and staff, Daniels wrote the following about the treatment of Zhihao Kong: "Any such intimidation is unacceptable and unwelcome on our campus."

Daniels is the exception, as Jimmy notes, lamenting that most college administrators do not speak out about such intimidation, just as the most powerful corporate voices in the West tend to soft-pedal China's crimes.

Anyone who does speak out, of course, can expect to be labeled a racist by the uncreative defenders of the China gaslighting project. (See this incoherent petition, which hundreds have signed, posted in response to Daniels.) But it's a small price to pay for being clear about one's tolerance for small tyrannies.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The president's Georgia speech was a trifecta of terribleness: Biden's Disgraceful Voting Speech

Congressional hearings should pursue this question: How Deep Was Cardona's Role in 'Domestic Terror' School-Board Letter?

Thursday's split decision at the Court represents a victory for the separation of powers: Supreme Court's Welcome Rejection of Biden's Covid-Vaccine Mandate

ARTICLES

David Harsanyi: Biden's Big Elections Lie

Charles C. W. Cooke: There Can Be No Filibuster 'Carve Out'

John McCormack: What Is Biden Thinking?

Kyle Smith: The Graveyard of False Covid Claims

Seth Cropsey: Is the U.S. Military Actually Ready for a War?

Kevin Williamson: Toward a Politics of Charity

Kevin Williamson: The Rent-Policy Debate Is Too Damn Stupid

Rich Lowry: The Idiocy of Covid-Vaccine Mandates for Kids

Will Swaim: California Is a Menace II Society

Mailee Smith: Chicago Students Suffer When the Chicago Teachers Union Flexes Its Muscles

Jim Geraghty: Empty Shelves Disprove Biden’s Supply-Chain Boasts

Dan McLaughlin: The 1619 Project Book Puts George Washington in a Time Machine

Caroline Downey: Fauci and Collins Dismissed Prominent Scientists Who Endorsed Lab-Leak Theory, Emails Show

Alexandra DeSanctis: New Jersey Is Set to 'Codify' Unlimited Abortion

Philip Klein: Biden Shouldn't Get Any More Covid Money

Michael Brendan Dougherty: Trump without Trumpism

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith is here with the fact check we've all been waiting for: Did Soylent Green Get It Right?

Armond White answers the question: 'What Is the Worst Film of 2021?'

Brian Allen finds the bright spot on a campus that's in love with lockdowns — and adds "sprezzatura" to our collective vocabulary builder: Yale Women Artists Star in a New Exhibition

CAPITAL MATTERS

Gabriella Hoffman warns about the potential return of an Obama administration alum: Imperiling Worker Freedom at the Department of Labor

Dominic Pino responds to one CEO's call for government intervention in the supply-chain crisis: Port Congestion Is Not a Market Failure

CONFIRMED: THERE'S MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM

It's been a helluva week for Joe Biden. First he allowed himself to deliver a speech that invented domestic enemies and existential crises that didn't exist the day before and still don't; then he watched his plan, which ironically would have caused an existential crisis, fall apart within hours; then he was dealt a rebuke from the Supreme Court over his administration's expansive vaccine mandate (one of them, anyway). From the editorial:

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court acted swiftly to block the enforcement of President Biden's attempt to impose a sweeping Covid-vaccine mandate on large employers that would have impacted 84 million Americans. This is welcome news.

Biden, in an effort to coerce holdouts into getting vaccinated, tried to claim OSHA emergency powers to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to force workers to take the Covid vaccines or submit to weekly testing. The rule would have applied to two-thirds of private employers, making it unprecedented in scope. . . .

Citing this standard, the majority concluded that Congress had not given OSHA such broad authority to enact a de facto vaccine mandate. While OSHA has the authority to regulate workplace safety, justices reasoned, in this case, it was attempting to use that authority to issue a sweeping rule to address a public-health issue in which the threat is not limited to the workplace.

"Although COVID–19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most," the majority wrote. "COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather."

The justices went on to write that, "Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA's regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization." . . .

The Court's decision to block the vaccine mandate on large private employers should be considered a victory for the separation of powers and another defeat for Biden's clumsy attempt to subvert the rule of law.

Charles C. W. Cooke convincingly explains why Biden's call for a filibuster "carve out" is no such thing and would be exercised for all manner of "must-pass" legislation by both parties:

Biden can characterize the move however he likes, but he cannot hide the uncomfortable fact that, in practical terms, he is endorsing the wholesale abolition of the filibuster, for all legislation, in all circumstances, and under majorities held by either party. Simply put, there is no such thing as a "narrow exception" to this rule. If the Democrats proceed, they will alter the Senate forever. . . .

Pick your poison. I daresay that the Democratic Party has genuinely convinced itself that there is a meaningful threat to the right to vote in the United States, but it must understand that there is no good reason that the Republican Party cannot do the same thing on another deeply felt matter. Maybe it would be reforming federal entitlements, so as to fix the existential threat posed by a debt crisis. Maybe it would be nationalizing concealed carry, so as to ensure that the Second Amendment is incorporated in the manner anticipated by the privileges-or-immunities guarantee within the 14th Amendment. Maybe it would be protecting the sanctity of the franchise by demanding voter-ID requirements and eliminating same-day registration. Who knows? The point is that no party has a monopoly on use of the it's-too-important clause, which is why our system does not tend to feature it's-too-important clauses, and why, on the rare occasions that they are invoked, they have a bad habit of destroying the institutions to which they have been attached and backfiring on those who wielded them.

Caroline Downey reports on new evidence about the concerns scientists had early on that the Covid pandemic started with a lab leak:

Early in the pandemic, multiple scientists urged NIAID director Anthony Fauci and NIH director Francis Collins to seriously consider the theory that Covid escaped from a Chinese laboratory, arguing that the lab-leak theory, which Fauci and Collins have downplayed since the pandemic began, was more plausible than the natural origin explanation.

Mike Farzan, an immunology researcher and the discoverer of the SARS receptor, Bob Garry, a virology expert, and Dr. Andrew Rambaut, a British evolutionary biologist, all observed that a particular feature of the virus, the "furin cleavage site," was peculiar and suggested gain-of-function engineering. Their comments were made during a February 2020 conference call of experts, the notes of which were presented to Fauci and Collins and obtained by congressional Republicans.

One month later, in March 2020, Collins said the lab-leak hypothesis was "outrageous." Similarly, in May 2020, Fauci told National Geographic that Covid "could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated."

In his summary, Farzan stated that SARS-CoV-2 had the marking of laboratory experimentation that resulted in a virus that immediately proved highly infectious to humans. . . .

"I really can't think of a plausible natural scenario where you get from the bat virus or one very similar to it to nCoV where you insert exactly 4 amino acids 12 nucleotides that all have to be added at the exact same time to gain this function – that and you don't change any other amino acid in S2? I just can't figure out how this gets accomplished in nature," [Garry] said.

Here's something of a sequel to the Joel Kotkin story on California we ran last week, courtesy of the always incisive and often entertaining Will Swaim. He traces the fallout from a series of state policies. This, from his section on Xavier Becerra's pursuits:

Becerra learned about "harm-reduction policies" while climbing California's political ladder. Designed to address the problem of drug addiction, these initiatives have turned San Francisco, to take the most obvious example, into an open-air drug market and transformed significant numbers of its citizens into zombies — if they're lucky enough to survive an overdose. "San Francisco is engaged in an unethical refusal to mandate proven medical treatment to drug addicts that is no different from the denial of medical treatment to syphilis sufferers by U.S. government researchers in Tuskegee, Ala., between 1932 and 1972," writes San Fransicko author Michael Shellenberger. "Of the approximately 600 men enrolled in the Tuskegee experiment, 128 died of syphilis, over a 40-year period. Six times more people died of drug overdoses and poisonings in San Francisco last year alone; 178 of them were black." Immune to science, Becerra declared the Biden administration ready to implement San Francisco's failed policies nationwide: "We are willing to go places where our opinions and our tendencies have not allowed us to go before," he told NPR — except, of course, we have been there before, in California.

Shout-Outs

Jonathan Kay, at Quillette: We're All Going to Get Omicron

Peggy Noonan, at the Wall Street Journal: Biden's Georgia Speech Is a Break Point

Chuck Ross & Matthew Foldi, at the Washington Free Beacon: What the Puck? Chinese Gov't Propagandists Promote Olympics at Washington Capitals Game

Daniel Beekman, at the Seattle Times: Seattle police faked radio chatter about Proud Boys as CHOP formed in 2020, investigation finds

CODA

And now for something completely different. The quirky, catchy, sometimes silly but rarely boring British rap project The Streets — which is the work of a guy named Mike Skinner — shows little loyalty to any particular sound or style. His first album, Original Pirate Material, at times bears faint resemblance to his second, A Grand Don’t Come for Free, a concept album of sorts about a girl and about losing a thousand quid, then (spoiler) finding it behind the TV. Even within the latter album, each track makes its own stylistic statement, while veering from juvenile to profound in a kind of reverse-bathos trick that only Skinner can execute.

Consider these closing lyrics, set against a suddenly sublime chord progression, which follows the story moments earlier of a slapstick fight scene. Childish no more, he finds clarity:

No one's really there fighting for you in the last garrison 
No one except yourself that is, no one except you
You are the one who’s got your back ’til the last deed's done.

But it's this song, "Blinded by the Lights," which is not the same as this song, that remains my favorite. The way the chorus gently washes in, the unsettling placement of the pulse . . . they combine to simulate the sensation of what the song is about, which is clubbing and drugging. Not my scene. But it's funny the way a song that is very much somebody else's experience can project itself onto your own. This song always takes me back to a night in Bombay, killing time drinking at a club in 2006 with my then-fiancée and her friends — the soundtrack fits, even if our vices were different.

That's all TMI, most likely. Got a tune to share with this list, maybe a story about that tune, probably one that's more interesting than mine? Shoot an anecdote to jberger@nationalreview.com. Have a great weekend.

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