On the menu today: So much for the idea of easing into the weekend. The world of tennis stands up to China in a way that the National Basketball Association did not; Kevin McCarthy tries to filibuster Build Back Better; and Joe Biden finally goes to get checked out by a doctor.
China vs. Peng Shuai
Joseph Stalin reportedly said that, “If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.”
That may illustrate why it is so hard to create and maintain sustained anger about genocide and systemic human-rights abuses in other countries. The scale of the horror is almost too big to get our heads around.
There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslims, living in Xinjiang, China. About one to two million are currently in “political reeducation” labor camps, where they’re used as forced laborers. There’s a good chance that the construction process for your solar panel used Uyghur slave labor in China. The long-term goal of the Chinese state is for there someday to be no more Uyghurs; Uyghur women are subjected to “forced pregnancy checks, medication that stops their menstruation, forced abortions, and surgical sterilizations.” Traditionally, we call a systemic effort to kill off an entire ethnic group genocide, and usually, we don’t let regimes that intend to commit genocide host the Olympics. (Yes, usually. Nazi Germany hosted the 1936 games and intended to use the event to demonstrate the inherent physical superiority of Aryans, but a black American by the name of Jesse Owens torched that plan.)
Hong Kong is a city of 7.4 million people that, as popular as it is, most Americans will never visit. A brutal crackdown on free speech and other basic rights owed to Hong Kongers is horrific, but most Americans don’t know what, if anything, they can do about it. Certainly, the National Basketball Association prioritizes its business relationships in China over any criticism of China’s oppression.
NBA stars only worry about police brutality in this country, apparently. As LeBron James put it back in October 2019:
With this particular situation it was something that not only was I not informed enough about, I just felt like it was something that not only myself of my teammates or the organization had enough information to talk about it at that point in time. And we still feel the same way. . . . Yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, and you’re only thinking about yourself.
I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say, and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
LeBron James really didn’t get enough grief for that statement. It wasn’t just that James didn’t think he had any obligation to speak up on behalf of Hong Kong’s democracy protesters; it’s that he believed former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was morally wrong for speaking out about the oppression.
“So many people could have been harmed, not only financially. . . .” In LeBron James’s mind, Morey is the villain in this story.
It’s hard for people to get their heads around the scale of the harm inflicted upon millions of people in reeducation camps, or a city of 7 million people turning into a police state.
But Peng Shuai? She’s an individual, one particular young woman, and one who is famous in the world of professional tennis. A woman who offered an all-too-believable, some might say all-too-familiar story of sexual exploitation. A powerful and politically connected man saw an attractive young woman, wanted her as his plaything, and didn’t care about her consent. He managed to leverage that initial sexual assault into an on-and-off consensual affair, according to her account. And then, when she told the world about it earlier this month . . . she disappeared. At this point, the rest of the world has no idea whether she’s dead or alive. One way or another, she’s been silenced for alleging that she was victimized by former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli.
That’s not a story that involves big, abstract numbers. That’s a story we’ve heard a lot of versions of lately — Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, etc. And even though most Americans haven’t heard of either figure, it’s hard to overstate their fame in their native country. This is like Monica Seles accusing Al Gore of sexual assault and then suddenly disappearing.
And perhaps because this is so horrific, or because so many people in the world of professional tennis feel they knew Peng Shuai personally, they’re not emulating the NBA’s instinct to look the other way. Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Billie Jean King tweeted about her disappearance. The World Tennis Association is considering canceling all events in China.
A spectacularly implausible message, purportedly from Peng, appeared earlier this week, suddenly claiming that her original allegation of rape “is not true. I’m not missing, nor I am unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”
Allahpundit thinks that the unconvincing nature of the message is the point: “The CCP doesn’t want you to believe that Peng actually wrote this. They want to make it obvious to you that she didn’t, to drive home the fact that they can disappear people and speak for them whenever they like.”
One other point: Can anyone in good conscience participate in an Olympic Games being hosted by a regime such as this? Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post contends that U.S. participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing is now morally untenable:
There should be no considering, no half-measures of sending athletes and sponsor dollars but no politicians. There should be only a hard boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Games — and total commercial extrication from this regime. China’s president is on a concerted campaign to enforce a worldwide gag order over his murderous, rapacious, club-whacking policies. He very much would like to insinuate his power into your phone via surveillance, and he will continue to export his tyranny through trapping market entanglements. The WTA resembles nothing so much as that woman in “Jaws” who alone sees the Great White gliding toward the estuary pond. Everyone else engaged with Beijing seems either inattentive, afraid or compromised and immobilized to the point of tacitly condoning crimes against humanity. . . .
Nothing is going to change China’s behavior. That illusion departed with the extinguishing of the flame in the 2008 Olympics. But Western bloc countries better change theirs. One of the things that has happened since the ’08 Games is the slow gathering of a disturbing imperviousness, and the disappearance of Peng is an all too ominous indication that this regime has a sense that it can get away with anything. Does anyone really think that, if this autocratic handshake isn’t broken, anything will get better from here?
These Winter Olympics are going to be the “Genocide and State-Sanctioned Rape and Kidnapping Games.” Any second thoughts, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, P&G, Toyota, Visa, Airbnb, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Allianz, or Alibaba?
Build Back Better’s Hard Pass
Credit House minority leader Kevin McCarthy for trying; he spoke for more than eight hours, attempting to delay passage of the gargantuan Build Back Better legislation.
But sometime early today, probably before you read this, the U.S. House of Representatives is going to pass BBB, and then it’s going to go to the Senate, where Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are extremely likely to demand a slew of changes. It will probably be a party-line, or near-party-line, vote. The House currently has 221 Democrats and 213 Republicans, with one vacancy. If four Democrats vote no, it’s a 217-217 tie, but House speaker Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t call the vote if she weren’t 100 percent sure she had the votes to pass the bill.
All of those so-called “moderate” or “centrist” House Democrats who said they were so worried about the bill’s effect on the deficit that they couldn’t vote for it until the Congressional Budget Office ran the numbers are going to sign on to pass a bill that the CBO says will add $367 billion to the deficit over ten years. If you believe that throwing a ton of money to the IRS will make people pay more in taxes, the deficit “only” increases by $160 billion. Our Dominic Pino observes that despite the CBO’s numbers, Biden tweeted last night that, “My Build Back Better Act is going to reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion over ten years.”
Those deficit numbers are going to show up in GOP attack ads in the coming year, as well as the fact that every or just about every House Democrat will vote to “give a bigger tax cut to millionaires than wealthy Americans” — because that’s what happens when you expand the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center ran the numbers:
Despite what its promoters say, raising the cap to $80,000 would provide almost no benefit for middle-income households. It would reduce their 2021 taxes by an average of only $20. Even those making between $175,00 and $250,000 would get a tax cut of just over $400 or about 0.2 percent of after-tax income. By contrast, the higher SALT cap would boost after-tax incomes by 1.2 percent for those making between about $370,000 and $870,000 (the 95th to 99th percentile).
Republican challengers will contend that House Democrats voted to raise taxes — the tobacco-tax hikes are enormous and will largely hit the working poor — and increase the deficit while giving a big tax break to millionaires.
Biden Goes to Get His Checkup
President Biden is scheduled to get his annual physical at the Walter Reed Medical Center today, to beat his “before the end of the year” pledged deadline. As this newsletter periodically reminds you, it has been two years since the public was given any updates on the president’s health. Biden turns 79 tomorrow.
Now the question is: How many details are the White House willing to reveal about the president’s health? Back in early 2020, Bernie Sanders said that requests to see his health records constituted a “smear campaign.” (Sanders had suffered a heart attack in October 2019.) The standard comparison here for candidates’ health secrecy is Paul Tsongas.
ADDENDUM: Remember, years and years back, when lots of people thought Kim Kardashian was just a shallow, self-absorbed bimbo who was only famous because of a sex tape?
Never forget that people can grow, change, and surprise you:
Members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development soccer team arrived in Britain early Thursday after being flown from Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a U.K. soccer club and Kim Kardashian West.
A plane chartered by the reality star and carrying more than 30 teenage players and their families, about 130 people in all, landed at Stansted Airport near London. The Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting new lives in Britain.
This comes after Kardashian helped push the passage of criminal-justice-reform legislation and nudged U.S. policymakers to denounce the Armenian Genocide. Compassion, generosity, and an interest in public policy . . . as I said, people can grow, change, and surprise you.