Big Tech’s Monopolistic Atrocious Behaviour

Big Tech’s Monopolistic Atrocious Behaviour. By Napoleon Linarthatos.

Example 1:

The Amazon abuse in question was about counterfeit PopSockets products sold on Amazon. The founder of PopSockets, David Barnett, “testified that ‘Amazon was aware that large quantities’ of counterfeit PopSockets products were selling on its platform, but that Amazon allowed the problem to continue until PopSockets agreed to spend nearly two million dollars on Amazon marketing services.” In a free market economy, Amazon would have readily apologized to PopSockets and got on with cracking down on the illegal products. But when 63 percent of the online searches for products start on Amazon, then PopSockets has to give in to what even Tony Soprano would call extortion. Basically, Bezos’s Amazon wanted a piece of the business if PopSockets wanted the problem to go away.

This, by the way, was not an isolated incident. The subcommittee had found that, in general, Amazon used the counterfeit products on its platform as leverage in order to force businesses to sell on its platform. Internally, those businesses were classified as “holdouts.” Even a large corporation like Nike had to cave in. Wall Street Journal reported that “Nike agreed to start selling some products directly to Amazon in exchange for stricter policing of counterfeits and restrictions on unsanctioned sales, according to a person familiar with the deal.” …

Example 2:

Lina Khan, recently appointed to the Federal Trade Commission, has documented the case of Quidsi, once “one of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce companies.” Quidsi was very successful selling many different products through its subsidiaries, like Diapers.com. Amazon wanted to buy Quidsi back in 2009 but the founders of the company declined. It was then that Amazon used its size, reach, and financial heft to start a price war against Quidsi.

Quidsi executives saw that Amazon’s pricing bots — software “that carefully monitors other companies’ prices and adjusts Amazon’s to match” — were tracking Diapers.com and would immediately slash Amazon’s prices in response to Quidsi’s changes. In September 2010, Amazon rolled out Amazon Mom, a new service that offered a year’s worth of free two-day Prime shipping (which usually cost $79 a year). Customers could also secure an additional 30% discount on diapers by signing up for monthly deliveries as part of a service known as “Subscribe and Save.”

It was not long before Quidsi was sold to Amazon for $545 million.

According to the congressional report, Amazon had identified Quidsi as its “#1 short term competitor” and “was willing to bleed over $200 million in losses in diapers in one month.” Since the acquisition of Quidsi, Amazon has significantly reduced the discounts and the benefits of the Amazon Mom service. …

Example 3:

This month it was the turn of Tile, a company that produces tracking devices, to feel the kill-zone heat from the Big Tech giants. Apple introduced its own tracking device, the AirTag. There was a lot of fanboy-journalism coverage about the new product. On Bloomberg, the CEO of Tile, C.J. Prober, said

If you look at the history between Tile and Apple, we had a very symbiotic relationship. They sold Tile in their stores, we were highlighted at WWDC 2019, and then they launched Find My in 2019, and right when they launched their Find My app, which is effectively a competitor of Tile, they made a number of changes to their OS that made it very difficult for our customers to enable Tile. And then once they got it enabled, they started showing notifications that basically made it seem like Tile was broken.

The Tile devices are not broken. But in the Apple ecosystem the Tile devices need to be broken because that is what Apple decided. …

Give us discounts or else:

Previously, as Amazon was a big client of delivery companies like UPS, it was estimated that it was able to get discounts up to 70 percent “over regular delivery prices. Delivery companies sought to make up for the discounts they gave to Amazon by raising the prices they charged to independent sellers, a phenomenon recently termed the ‘waterbed effect.’” …

Winners take it all:


In the year 2017, Facebook and Google captured “an astounding 99% of revenue growth from digital advertising in the US.” Thus, though astonishing, it is no surprise that, “due to Google and Facebook’s dominance, ‘the average growth rate for every other company in the sector was close to 0’.”

Obviously these are the companies we want in charge of public speech. They are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

What a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan Would Mean For Australia

What a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan Would Mean For Australia. By Greg Sheridan.

It is the Chinese themselves who repeatedly say they have not ruled out the use of force to take Taiwan.

It is the Chinese who have engaged in a massive military build-up, and it is the Chinese who, on one day in April, sent 28 warplanes into Taiwanese air space.

Americans at the highest level of military command have said there is a strong possibility of Chinese forces invading Taiwan. So have Taiwanese government ministers. So have countless strategic analysts.

That there is a real chance of military conflict is an undeniable given. …

Background on Taiwan:

It is an island democracy of 24 million, a 24-carat democracy that breaches nobody’s human rights. It has a different history from China but was generally part of China until 1895 when the Japanese took control.

It’s about 150 km from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan.

After World War II it reverted to mainland Chinese control in 1945. Beijing was then governed by the anti-communist Kuomintang party of Chiang Kai-shek.

The Chinese Communist Party defeated the KMT in the Chinese civil war, and Chiang and his forces fled to Taiwan where they set up a government, and a nation, in exile. The KMT was pretty autocratic in Taiwan but it democratised in the 1980s and Taiwan has been stable, peaceful and prosperous ever since, with a free media, hi-tech industries, the peaceful rotation of power and the stable rule of law.

So in the past 124 years Taiwan has been ruled directly by Beijing for just four years, the last time more than 70 years ago.

When the US established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979 it established a diplomatic formula to cover Taiwan. Both Washington and Beijing agreed there was “one China” but they also declared that Beijing would seek reunification through peaceful means.

The US passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which commits it to maintaining Taiwan’s security and holds that neither side — neither Beijing nor Taipei or Washington for that matter — can change the status quo by force.

The Taiwanese democracy has absolutely zero interest in being absorbed into China’s increasingly harsh Leninist totalitarian system.

China’s President Xi Jinping has declared that it must be absorbed and the issue cannot pass “from generation to ­generation”.

Australian involvement:

There is no chance at all, zero, that Australia could sit out such a conflict. Depending how serious the conflict became, Australia affords a raft of attractive targets for a Chinese military seeking to hurt the US and its military capability.

The Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap is the most obvious. It is a critical link in Indo-Pacific signals intelligence. At a time of US-China conflict it would be focused overwhelmingly on operational intelligence about China.

It is also through Australian facilities that the US gets early warning of ballistic missile firings in this part of the world.

In a serious conflict, Beijing may want to blind the US, which would make Australian communications facilities high-priority targets. The same probably applies to our over-the-horizon Jindalee Operational Radar Network, which has a long range and would certainly be militarily relevant. …

Our most important capability would be our Collins-class submarines. These would be out and about for intelligence gathering purposes but might well play a direct role in combat. The Chinese military might think it worth knocking out the Stirling submarine base south of Perth. …

An alliance is a two-way street. The US alliance is the single most important factor of Australian security.

As legendary former US deputy secretary of state Rich Armitage once told an uncomfortable Australian audience: an alliance means I’ll fight and die for you, and you’ll fight and die for me. An alliance is a two-way street or it’s not an alliance at all.

In any kind of US-China conflict that went for more than a couple of weeks, say one around a Chinese blockade of Taiwan, it is very likely that Australia would contribute F-35 fighters, Wedgetail command and control aircraft, or electronic warfare Growler aircraft to work as part of the American force. These presumably would operate out of Guam or some other US-allied base. …

Economic consequences (over 30% of Australia’s exports go to China):

Few countries in the world would suffer more severe or immediate dislocation than Australia in the event of any conflict. …

The global economy would probably shatter into two rival systems, a US system and a China-dominated system. Even if this happened a little less fully than we might forecast, the consequences for Australia would be huge.

For a start, all of our exports to China would stop immediately. Whether that was Beijing’s decision or Canberra’s wouldn’t matter. It is completely inconceivable that we could export iron ore to a nation that was at war with the US. It just wouldn’t happen. ….

Who would win a conflict?

Beijing is trying to win the Taiwan conflict without firing a shot by convincing the world that its triumph is inevitable and would be swift, and that resistance is futile.

In fact this is not remotely true. Taiwan is 130km from mainland China. It is difficult water to cross and Taiwan is a difficult island to invade. In World War II, US commanders decided Okinawa would be easier to invade than Taiwan.

It is true that China has an overwhelming military superiority against Taiwan and that Taiwan has not done enough to make itself an unbearably costly prize. But Taiwan could do this relatively cheaply. Just as Beijing has adopted an asymmetric military strategy against the US, so other nations need to adopt asymmetric strategies against Beijing.

If Taiwan deployed several hundred smart sea mines, these would make it all but impossible for Beijing to transport the vast numbers of troops it would need across the Taiwan Strait.

Read it all.

hat-tip Stephen Neil

Language has been corrupted and conscripted into the Left’s political project and forced to create narratives in service of power instead of the truth

Language has been corrupted and conscripted into the Left’s political project and forced to create narratives in service of power instead of the truth. By Deion Kathawa.

To state the obvious, our culture’s elites no longer conceptualize language as a way to understand reality and apprehend truth. Rather, they conceive of it only as an instrument and have cynically weaponized it to propagandize and terrorize the populace for the purpose of cementing and expanding their power. Language is now deployed, not to pursue the common good, but, rather, to fabricate increasingly asinine narratives, to serve the interests of those who hold positions of dominance. …

To say all of that in a way that risks cancellation: Our elites are akin to rapists who daily press a rhetorical knife against reality’s throat to force it to submit to their twisted lust for power.

As commentary goes, “The media is biased!” is pretty tired. Frankly, it’s a lukewarm, 2008-era take. …

I understand that the media has moved on from “biased” and to “actively opposed to the loves and interests of everyday Americans.” They don’t even try to hide it anymore.

Yep, well articulated.

Caitlyn Jenner’s punchy anti-Newsom ad is a preview of a big challenge for Dems

Caitlyn Jenner’s punchy anti-Newsom ad is a preview of a big challenge for Dems. By Glenn Reynolds.

In the California governor’s race, candidate Caitlyn (née Bruce) Jenner has landed the first blow, and it’s a telling one.

This week, the former Kardashian paterfamilias’ campaign released a three-minute ad that might as well have been titled “Make California Great Again.” It’s a killer ad because every Californian knows that under one-party Democratic rule, the Golden State isn’t so golden anymore. …

The commercial has gotten rave reviews from people on the right and garnered predictably hateful responses from the left. Those who cheered Jenner as a pioneer for trans rights a few years ago now say she’s “horrible.”

It’s rare for a single ad to determine the outcome of an election. But this Jenner spot has one enormous strength: It’s true.

Everyone who has been paying attention knows that Newsom has blown it. Despite his draconian lockdowns, California has done worse than Florida, where GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has displayed a much lighter touch. And refugees from Newsom’s California are driving up real-estate prices all over Texas and the Southeast, as they flee a calamity caused not only by terrible COVID policy, but also by terrible economic policy, pooh-poohing of urban violence and mismanagement of forests and wildfires. …

Democrats, of course, will try to change the terms and pretend that a vote against Newsom is a vote for racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, with that last being a little more difficult where Jenner is concerned, but they’ll no doubt rise to the challenge. But it’s going to be an uphill battle, even with the prestige press doing its best to help blue pols, as it always does. No matter how you spin the discarded needles and human feces littering the street, they’re still there.

Jenner’s ad will also help set the tone for the 2022 elections nationally. The Democrats’ national program is basically just Newsom’s agenda writ large … Generally an approach that treats the middle class as disposable while catering to the poor and dysfunctional and the ultrarich (who are also often dysfunctional).

US Democrats Can’t Quash the ‘Big Lie’

US Democrats Can’t Quash the ‘Big Lie’. By Julie Kelly.

Six months later, the “Big Lie” won’t die.

The Left and NeverTrump have tried everything in their collective power to punish critics of the 2020 presidential election: Social media accounts, including those belonging to Donald Trump, have been deplatformed. Republican lawmakers have been cut off by longtime donors, threatened with legal recourse, and worse.

Nonviolent Trump-supporting Americans who traveled to the nation’s capital on January 6 to protest dubious election results in swing states now face criminal charges. Nearly 75 million Americans are considered potential “domestic violent extremists” by their own government and nearly half their countrymen agree.

Lives and careers are being destroyed …

And yet.

Tens of millions of Americans still refuse to submit to this endless bullying campaign. According to recent polls, the percentage of Republicans who still view the 2020 election as illegitimate is the same as it was six months ago.

Now, as then, nearly three in four Republicans do not think Biden won the election; 70 percent of Republicans in a CNN poll taken late last month said Joe Biden “did not legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency.”

Election integrity remains a top priority for Republican voters. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just signed a bill preventing the very COVID-justified election rules that benefited Joe Biden and Democrats last year. “We’re making sure we’re enforcing voter ID,” DeSantis, a 2024 presidential frontrunner, said in an interview Thursday morning. “We’re also banning ballot harvesting. We’re not gonna let political operatives go and get satchels of votes to dump them in some dropbox. We’re also prohibiting mass mailing of balloting.”

Similar measures are in the works in several Republican-controlled states. Texas and Arizona have passed several proposals that will tighten election requirements; Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a massive election reform bill in March that enraged Democrats across the country including Joe Biden.

Which is why Democrats, the media, and NeverTrumpers like Liz Cheney must keep the “Big Lie” taunt alive. The cowardice of congressional Republicans notwithstanding, political leadership at the state level and rank-and-file Republicans are working to ensure a redo of the 2020 election doesn’t happen again — most would rather be considered liars than craven bystanders while the country burns. …

Joe Biden’s Justice Department is poised to use its power to halt election reform in advance of the 2022 election. During a congressional hearing this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland made clear he would use the agency’s Civil Rights division to fight Republican-backed election laws in court, especially those requiring photo identification. …

The “Big Lie,” of course, isn’t that the 2020 election was stolen; the “Big Lie” is that it was fair and lawful. The Left can keep weaponizing that phrase all it wants but Republicans aren’t buying it.

It’s pretty obvious that, at the 2020 US election, the left cheated, lied, and are acting guilty.

Labelling Israel an apartheid state is lazy and uninformed

Labelling Israel an apartheid state is lazy and uninformed. by Alan Howe.

Labelling Israel an apartheid state is lazy and uninformed, but seems to be gaining favour among the Western supporters of BDS, despite Arabs living in Israel having rare democratic rights.

Nevertheless, BDS supporters portray Israel as racist and adrift from international norms, as white-ruled South Africa was some 40 years ago. …

One in every five Israelis is Arab, and they vote, sit in parliament, are on the Supreme Court, and since 2004 it has been law that every state-run company must have at least one Arab citizen on the board. There are Arab generals in the Israeli Defence Force, there are senior Arab Israeli police officers, road signs there are in Hebrew and Arabic, and some are even in English, which can be handy for those of us who visit from Australia.

When Nelson Mandela — who knew more about apartheid than most — was president of South Africa, that country had ­robust ties with Israel.

Martin Luther King knew a great deal about racism and discrimination. Ten days before he died, he had this to say about ­Israel: “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist … Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvellous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy.

Chinese military scientists discussed weaponising SARS coronaviruses

Chinese military scientists discussed weaponising SARS coronaviruses. By Sharri Markson.

Chinese military scientists discussed the weaponisation of SARS coronaviruses five years before the COVID-19 pandemic, outlining their ideas in a document that predicted a third world war would be fought with biological weapons.

The document, written by People’s Liberation Army scientists and senior Chinese public health officials in 2015, was obtained by the US State Department as it conducted an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 …

The paper describes SARS ­coronaviruses as heralding a “new era of genetic weapons” and says they can be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human ­disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.

The origin of COVID: Who is Culpable?

The origin of COVID: Who is Culpable? By Nicholas Wade. At last, a real reporter has investigated in depth and written it up without fear or favor.

Its death toll will soon reach three million people. Yet the origin of pandemic remains uncertain: The political agendas of governments and scientists have generated thick clouds of obfuscation, which the mainstream press seems helpless to dispel. …

As many people know, there are two main theories about its origin. One is that it jumped naturally from wildlife to people. The other is that the virus was under study in a lab, from which it escaped. It matters a great deal which is the case if we hope to prevent a second such occurrence. …

It was initially blamed on natural causes by a self-interested group of likely miscreants:

From early on, public and media perceptions were shaped in favor of the natural emergence scenario by strong statements from two scientific groups. …

It later turned out that the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”

Peter Daszak: “I have no conflict of interest”. Hard to imagine a more brazen lie.

Virologists like Daszak had much at stake in the assigning of blame for the pandemic. For 20 years, mostly beneath the public’s attention, they had been playing a dangerous game. In their laboratories they routinely created viruses more dangerous than those that exist in nature. They argued that they could do so safely, and that by getting ahead of nature they could predict and prevent natural “spillovers,” the cross-over of viruses from an animal host to people. If SARS2 [covid-19] had indeed escaped from such a laboratory experiment, a savage blowback could be expected, and the storm of public indignation would affect virologists everywhere, not just in China.

A second statement that had enormous influence in shaping public attitudes was a letter (in other words an opinion piece, not a scientific article) published on 17 March 2020 in the journal Nature Medicine. Its authors were a group of virologists led by Kristian G. Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute. … [Their arguments,] grounded in nothing but two inconclusive speculations, convinced the world’s press that SARS2 could not have escaped from a lab.

The media are easily fooled by authority figures, if it meets their political bias. Like in climate change. And like in climate change, other scientists dare not speak up:

Science is supposedly a self-correcting community of experts who constantly check each other’s work. So why didn’t other virologists point out that the Andersen group’s argument was full of absurdly large holes? Perhaps because in today’s universities speech can be very costly. Careers can be destroyed for stepping out of line. Any virologist who challenges the community’s declared view risks having his next grant application turned down by the panel of fellow virologists that advises the government grant distribution agency.

The Daszak and Andersen letters were really political, not scientific, statements, yet were amazingly effective. Articles in the mainstream press repeatedly stated that a consensus of experts had ruled lab escape out of the question or extremely unlikely. …

Virology was an accident waiting to happen:

Why would anyone want to create a novel virus capable of causing a pandemic? Ever since virologists gained the tools for manipulating a virus’s genes, they have argued they could get ahead of a potential pandemic by exploring how close a given animal virus might be to making the jump to humans. And that justified lab experiments in enhancing the ability of dangerous animal viruses to infect people, virologists asserted.

With this rationale, they have recreated the 1918 flu virus, shown how the almost extinct polio virus can be synthesized from its published DNA sequence, and introduced a smallpox gene into a related virus.

These enhancements of viral capabilities are known blandly as gain-of-function experiments. …

Virologists started studying bat coronaviruses in earnest after these turned out to be the source of both the SARS1 and MERS epidemics. In particular, researchers wanted to understand what changes needed to occur in a bat virus’s spike proteins before it could infect people.

Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, led by China’s leading expert on bat viruses, Shi Zheng-li or “Bat Lady,” mounted frequent expeditions to the bat-infested caves of Yunnan in southern China and collected around a hundred different bat coronaviruses. …

Shi returned to her lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and resumed the work she had started on genetically engineering coronaviruses to attack human cells. How can we be so sure?

Because, by a strange twist in the story, her work was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). …

The grants were assigned to the prime contractor, Daszak of the EcoHealth Alliance, who subcontracted them to Shi. …

Shi set out to create novel coronaviruses with the highest possible infectivity for human cells. …

The approach could have generated SARS2-like [covid-19 like] viruses, and indeed may have created the SARS2 virus itself with the right combination of virus backbone and spike protein.

It cannot yet be stated that Shi did or did not generate SARS2 in her lab because her records have been sealed, but it seems she was certainly on the right track to have done so. …

Weak safety:

Daszak was possibly unaware of, or perhaps he knew all too well, the long history of viruses escaping from even the best run laboratories. The smallpox virus escaped three times from labs in England in the 1960’s and 1970’s, causing 80 cases and 3 deaths. Dangerous viruses have leaked out of labs almost every year since. Coming to more recent times, the SARS1 virus has proved a true escape artist, leaking from laboratories in Singapore, Taiwan, and no less than four times from the Chinese National Institute of Virology in Beijing. …

Before 2020, the rules followed by virologists in China and elsewhere required that experiments with the SARS1 and MERS viruses be conducted in BSL3 conditions. But all other bat coronaviruses could be studied in BSL2, the next level down. BSL2 requires taking fairly minimal safety precautions, such as wearing lab coats and gloves, not sucking up liquids in a pipette, and putting up biohazard warning signs. Yet a gain-of-function experiment conducted in BSL2 might produce an agent more infectious than either SARS1 or MERS. And if it did, then lab workers would stand a high chance of infection, especially if unvaccinated.

Much of Shi’s work on gain-of-function in coronaviruses was performed at the BSL2 safety level, as is stated in her publications and other documents. …

“It is clear that some or all of this work was being performed using a biosafety standard — biosafety level 2, the biosafety level of a standard US dentist’s office — that would pose an unacceptably high risk of infection of laboratory staff upon contact with a virus having the transmission properties of SARS-CoV-2,” [says Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University and leading expert on biosafety]. …

Three people working at a BSL3 lab at the institute fell sick within a week of each other with severe symptoms that required hospitalization. This was “the first known cluster that we’re aware of, of victims of what we believe to be COVID-19.” Influenza could not completely be ruled out but seemed unlikely in the circumstances, he said. …

The natural emergence theory simply has no supporting evidence. While technically possible — by a long series of mutations and coincidences — it is incredibly unlikely.

The two closest known relatives of the SARS2 virus were collected from bats living in caves in Yunnan, a province of southern China. If the SARS2 virus had first infected people living around the Yunnan caves, that would strongly support the idea that the virus had spilled over to people naturally. But this isn’t what happened. The pandemic broke out 1,500 kilometers away, in Wuhan. …

When you look for the fingerprints of a similar transition in SARS2 [from animal, adapting to human], a strange surprise awaits. The virus has changed hardly at all, at least until recently. From its very first appearance, it was well adapted to human cells. …

The uniform structure of SARS2 genomes gives no hint of any passage through an intermediate animal host, and no such host has been identified in nature. … Proponents of a lab leak have a simpler explanation. SARS2 was adapted to human cells from the start because it was grown in humanized mice or in lab cultures of human cells, just as described in Daszak’s grant proposal. Its genome shows little diversity because the hallmark of lab cultures is uniformity. …

Conclusions:

Neither the natural emergence nor the lab escape hypothesis can yet be ruled out. There is still no direct evidence for either. So no definitive conclusion can be reached. …

But it seems to me that proponents of lab escape can explain all the available facts about SARS2 considerably more easily than can those who favor natural emergence.

It’s documented that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were doing gain-of-function experiments designed to make coronaviruses infect human cells and humanized mice. This is exactly the kind of experiment from which a SARS2-like virus could have emerged. The researchers were not vaccinated against the viruses under study, and they were working in the minimal safety conditions of a BSL2 laboratory. So escape of a virus would not be at all surprising. In all of China, the pandemic broke out on the doorstep of the Wuhan institute. The virus was already well adapted to humans, as expected for a virus grown in humanized mice. It possessed an unusual enhancement, a furin cleavage site, which is not possessed by any other known SARS-related beta-coronavirus, and this site included a double arginine codon also unknown among beta-coronaviruses. What more evidence could you want, aside from the presently unobtainable lab records documenting SARS2’s creation?

Proponents of natural emergence have a rather harder story to tell. The plausibility of their case rests on a single surmise, the expected parallel between the emergence of SARS2 [covid-19] and that of SARS1 and MERS. But none of the evidence expected in support of such a parallel history has yet emerged. No one has found the bat population that was the source of SARS2, if indeed it ever infected bats. No intermediate host has presented itself, despite an intensive search by Chinese authorities that included the testing of 80,000 animals. There is no evidence of the virus making multiple independent jumps from its intermediate host to people, as both the SARS1 and MERS viruses did. There is no evidence from hospital surveillance records of the epidemic gathering strength in the population as the virus evolved. There is no explanation of why a natural epidemic should break out in Wuhan and nowhere else. There is no good explanation of how the virus acquired its furin cleavage site, which no other SARS-related beta-coronavirus possesses, nor why the site is composed of human-preferred codons. The natural emergence theory battles a bristling array of implausibilities.

The records of the Wuhan Institute of Virology certainly hold much relevant information. But Chinese authorities seem unlikely to release them given the substantial chance that they incriminate the regime in the creation of the pandemic. Absent the efforts of some courageous Chinese whistle-blower, we may already have at hand just about all of the relevant information we are likely to get for a while. …

Who is responsible?

There are two obvious levels of responsibility: the first, for allowing virologists to perform gain-of-function experiments, offering minimal gain and vast risk; the second, if indeed SARS2 was generated in a lab, for allowing the virus to escape and unleash a world-wide pandemic. Here are the players who seem most likely to deserve blame.

  1. Chinese virologists. First and foremost, Chinese virologists are to blame for performing gain-of-function experiments in mostly BSL2-level safety conditions which were far too lax to contain a virus of unexpected infectiousness like SARS2. If the virus did indeed escape from their lab, they deserve the world’s censure for a foreseeable accident that has already caused the deaths of three million people. …
  2. Chinese authorities. China’s central authorities did not generate SARS2, but they sure did their utmost to conceal the nature of the tragedy and China’s responsibility for it. They suppressed all records at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and closed down its virus databases. They released a trickle of information, much of which may have been outright false or designed to misdirect and mislead. They did their best to manipulate the WHO’s inquiry into the virus’s origins, and led the commission’s members on a fruitless run-around. So far they have proved far more interested in deflecting blame than in taking the steps necessary to prevent a second pandemic.
  3. The worldwide community of virologists. Virologists around the world are a loose-knit professional community. … virologists knew better than anyone the dangers of gain-of-function research. But the power to create new viruses, and the research funding obtainable by doing so, was too tempting. They pushed ahead with gain-of-function experiments. They lobbied against the moratorium imposed on Federal funding for gain-of-function research in 2014, and it was raised in 2017. The benefits of the research in preventing future epidemics have so far been nil, the risks vast. You might think the SARS2 pandemic would spur virologists to re-evaluate the benefits of gain-of-function research, even to engage the public in their deliberations. But no. Many virologists deride lab escape as a conspiracy theory, and others say nothing. They have barricaded themselves behind a Chinese wall of silence which so far is working well to allay, or at least postpone, journalists’ curiosity and the public’s wrath. Professions that cannot regulate themselves deserve to get regulated by others, and this would seem to be the future that virologists are choosing for themselves.
  4. The US role in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology. From June 2014 to May 2019, Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance had a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to do gain-of-function research with coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Whether or not SARS2 is the product of that research, it seems a questionable policy to farm out high-risk research to unsafe foreign labs using minimal safety precautions. And if the SARS2 virus did indeed escape from the Wuhan institute, then the NIH will find itself in the terrible position of having funded a disastrous experiment that led to death of more than 3 million worldwide, including more than half a million of its own citizens.

So now what?

If the case that SARS2 originated in a lab is so substantial, why isn’t this more widely known? As may now be obvious, there are many people who have reason not to talk about it. The list is led, of course, by the Chinese authorities. But virologists in the United States and Europe have no great interest in igniting a public debate about the gain-of-function experiments that their community has been pursuing for years.

Nor have other scientists stepped forward to raise the issue. Government research funds are distributed on the advice of committees of scientific experts drawn from universities. Anyone who rocks the boat by raising awkward political issues runs the risk that their grant will not be renewed and their research career will be ended. Maybe good behavior is rewarded with the many perks that slosh around the distribution system. And if you thought that Andersen and Daszak might have blotted their reputation for scientific objectivity after their partisan attacks on the lab escape scenario, look at the second and third names on this list of recipients of an $82 million grant announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in August 2020.

The US government shares a strange common interest with the Chinese authorities: Neither is keen on drawing attention to the fact that Shi’s coronavirus work was funded by the US National Institutes of Health. One can imagine the behind-the-scenes conversation in which the Chinese government says, “If this research was so dangerous, why did you fund it, and on our territory too?” To which the US side might reply, “Looks like it was you who let it escape. But do we really need to have this discussion in public?”

To these serried walls of silence must be added that of the mainstream media. To my knowledge, no major newspaper or television network has yet provided readers with an in-depth news story of the lab escape scenario, such as the one you have just read, although some have run brief editorials or opinion pieces. One might think that any plausible origin of a virus that has killed three million people would merit a serious investigation. Or that the wisdom of continuing gain-of-function research, regardless of the virus’s origin, would be worth some probing. Or that the funding of gain-of-function research by the NIH and NIAID during a moratorium on such research would bear investigation. What accounts for the media’s apparent lack of curiosity?

The virologists’ omertà is one reason. Science reporters, unlike political reporters, have little innate skepticism of their sources’ motives; most see their role largely as purveying the wisdom of scientists to the unwashed masses. So when their sources won’t help, these journalists are at a loss.

Another reason, perhaps, is the migration of much of the media toward the left of the political spectrum. Because President Trump said the virus had escaped from a Wuhan lab, editors gave the idea little credence. They joined the virologists in regarding lab escape as a dismissible conspiracy theory.

Many of the same dynamics as in climate change.

Lies, incompetence, ambitions — and now 3 millions are dead. It’s over a year, and only now is the truth emerging, via persistent individuals blocked at every turn by government.

A reader:

Very cogent and well-argued.

If Bhopal was an industrial accident that killed 16,000 and blinded 3,900 people, and Union Carbide had to pay $400M to settle that, how much does the CCP owe the world for their industrial accident?

Indeed. No wonder the Chinese Government is doing its utmost to prevent proper inquiry and is so vigorously punishing Australia for suggesting a proper international investigation into the origins of the virus. It’s obviously very sensitive, and now we know why.

Then there’s the darker possibility that some Chinese spooks deliberately caused the leak, then arranged for the people of Wuhan to flee across the world. All so plausibly deniable.

Steven Quay, a physician-researcher, has applied statistical and bioinformatic tools to ingenious explorations of the virus’s origin, showing for instance how the hospitals receiving the early patients are clustered along the Wuhan №2 subway line which connects the Institute of Virology at one end with the international airport at the other, the perfect conveyor belt for distributing the virus from lab to globe.

Big government greatly slowed vaccines without improving safety

Big government greatly slowed vaccines without improving safety. By Nick Gillespie.

Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines were produced far faster than any expert expected.

Yet almost all of the time that it took to bring the vaccines to market was due to safety testing and other governmental mandates that could have been sped up without endangering anyone.

By January 13, 2020 — only two days after the Chinese researchers shared the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus and before most Americans had heard of the disease — the biotech company Moderna had devised the formula for its vaccine.

BioNTech launched its COVID-19 vaccine program in January and had partnered with Pfizer to manufacture it by mid-March of last year.

The first volunteer was injected with Moderna’s vaccine on March 16, 2020, yet it was only approved by the FDA last December 17th, a week after Pfizer’s vaccine met the agency’s approval.

Had the agency been faster off the mark and used human-challenge trials and other innovative testing techniques, the vaccines could have been brought to market months earlier with no compromise in safety. That would have conceivably saved hundreds of thousands of lives globally.

China Is a Paper Dragon

China Is a Paper Dragon. By David Frum.

As Biden said to the nation from the well of the House of Representatives, the authoritarian President Xi Jinping is “deadly earnest” about China “becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others—autocrats—think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies.”

So this might be a useful moment to hear a contrary voice. In 2018, the Tufts University professor Michael Beckley published a richly detailed study of Chinese military and economic weaknesses. The book is titled Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower.

The book argues that China’s economic, financial, technological, and military strength is hugely exaggerated by crude and inaccurate statistics. Meanwhile, U.S. advantages are persistently underestimated.

The claim that China will “overtake” the U.S. in any meaningful way is polemical and wrong — and wrong in ways that may mislead Americans into serious self-harming mistakes.

Above all, Beckley pleads with readers not to focus on the headline numbers of gross domestic product. China may well surpass the United States as the largest economy on Earth by the 2030s. China was also almost certainly the largest economy on Earth in the 1830s. A big GDP did not make China a superpower then — and it will not make China a superpower now, or so Beckley contends. …

Beckley is a voracious reader of specialist Chinese military journals and economic reports. And, he argues, many of the advances cited as Chinese strengths don’t hold up to close scrutiny. …

Worried about Chinese students’ high scores on comparative math tests? You’re looking at the curated outputs of highly selective groups of students.

Whereas public school is free through high school in the United States, China’s government only covers the costs of elementary and middle school. At many Chinese high schools, families have to pay tuition and other expenses, and these outlays are among the highest in the world. Consequently, 76 percent of China’s working-age population has not completed high school.

Things don’t improve at the college level.

Many Chinese college students describe their universities as “diploma factories,” where student-teacher ratios are double the average in U.S. universities, cheating is rampant, students spend a quarter of their time studying “Mao Zedong thought,” and students and professors are denied access to basic sources of information, such as Google Scholar and certain academic journal repositories.

Surely China is winning the industries of the future? Not really.

Chinese firms’ total spending on R&D as a percentage of sales revenue stalled at levels four times below the average for American firms. … Chinese firms remain dependent on foreign technologies and manual labor and have a rudimentary level of automation and digitization: on average Chinese enterprises have just nineteen robots per ten thousand employees; U.S. firms, by contrast, use an average of 176 robots per ten thousand employees.

But isn’t China sprinting to overtake the United States? Yes, but it’s stumbling badly in that pursuit.

China now leads the world in retractions of scientific studies due to fraud; one-third of Chinese scientists have admitted to plagiarizing or falsifying results (versus 2 percent of U.S. scientists); and two-thirds of China’s R&D spending has been lost to corruption.

Undergirding these examples and dozens more like them is Beckley’s clarifying theoretical insight: Repression is expensive.

Comparing China’s military spending to that of the United States, for example, doesn’t make much sense. The Chinese military’s first and paramount mission is preserving the power of the Chinese Communist Party against China’s own people. The U.S. military can focus entirely on external threats. …

Beckley dramatizes this point with historical context. The concept of GDP did not exist in the 19th century, but economists have retrospectively reconstructed those figures backward into time. They have found that in the 1800s, the Chinese empire had a GDP much larger than that of Great Britain. The Chinese army of 800,000 men also enormously exceeded Britain’s troop numbers. Yet when the two states clashed in the two Opium Wars, from 1839 to 1842 and again in 1858, China was crushingly defeated. Why?

A great part of the answer, then as now, was the cost of repression.

Nineteenth-century China faced an average of 25 local uprisings a year. Most of its troops had to be deployed to suppress rebellions and control banditry, leaving few available for war-fighting. …

I spoke with Beckley shortly before Biden’s address to ask whether he had revisited any of his assessments since finishing his book early in Donald Trump’s presidency. He said that he had become more alarmed by China’s aggressive and repressive intentions, but remained as dubious as ever about Chinese capacities. …

[We need] to appreciate the tremendous capabilities of this country, and the very real limits besetting China: a fast-aging population, massive internal indebtedness, and a regime whose worsening repression suggests its declining popularity. …. It’s about to be home to a lot of old people, and trust in the state is very low, and for good reason. …

China misallocates capital on a massive scale. More than a fifth of China’s housing stock is empty — the detritus of a frenzied construction boom that built too many apartments in the wrong places. China overcapitalizes at home because Chinese investors are prohibited from doing what they most want to do: get their money out of China. Strict and complex foreign-exchange controls block the flow of capital.

More than one-third of the richest Chinese would emigrate if they could, according to research by one of the country’s leading wealth-management firms. The next best alternative: sending their children out. Pre-pandemic, almost 1 million young Chinese attended Western universities. Pre-pandemic, only about 10,000 Americans were studying in China; single thousands were from other Western countries — and almost all of them were in the country to study language, not any academic specialty.

Hope he’s right.

After the Soviet Union dissolved, it was found that the West had been systemically overestimating Soviet strength and capabilities. In some cases, like the CIA and US military, it was a self-serving bias that led to higher budgets.

hat-tip Stephen Neil

Are Americans Becoming Sovietized?

Are Americans Becoming Sovietized? By Victor Davis Hanson.

Here are 10 symptoms of Sovietism. Ask yourself whether we are headed down this same road to perdition.

1) There was no escape from ideological indoctrination — anywhere. …

2) The Soviets fused their press with the government. Pravda or “Truth” was the official megaphone of state-sanctioned lies. Journalists simply regurgitated the talking points of their Party partners. …

3) The Soviet surveillance state enlisted apparatchiks and lackeys to ferret out ideological dissidents. …

4) The Soviet educational system sought not to enlighten, but to indoctrinate young minds in proper government-approved thought. Currently, cash-strapped universities nationwide are hiring thousands of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” staffers and administrators. Their chief task is to scan admissions, hiring, curriculum, and administration of universities. Like good commissars, our diversity czars police compliance with the official narrative that a flawed America must confess, apologize, and renounce its evil foundations.

5) The official Soviet was run by a pampered elite, exempt from the ramifications of its own radical socialist ideologies. So too woke Silicon Valley billionaires talk socialistically but live royally. Coke and Delta Airlines CEOs who hector Americans on their illiberality respectively make over $16 million a year.

What unites current woke activists like Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Obamas are their huge estates and their multimillion-dollar wealth. Just as the select few of the old Soviet nomenklatura had their Black Sea dachas, so our loudest top-down revolutionaries prefer living in Martha’s Vineyard, Beverly Hills, Montecito, and Malibu.

6) The Soviets mastered Trotskyization, or the rewriting and airbrushing away of history to fabricate present reality. Are Americans any different when they indulge in a frenzy of name changing, nighttime statue toppling, monument defacing, book banning, and “cancellation”?

7) The Soviets created a climate of fear and rewarded stool pigeons to root and rat out all potential enemies of the people. …

8) Soviet law, state prosecutors, and courts were weaponized according to ideology. In America, where and for what reason you riot determines whether you face any legal consequences. Politically correct sanctuary cities with impunity defy the law. Jury members are terrified of being doxxed and hunted down for an incorrect verdict. The CIA and FBI are becoming as ideological as the old KGB.

9) The Soviets doled out prizes on the basis of correct Soviet thought. In America now most concede that Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and Oscar awards or Pulitzer Prizes do not reflect the year’s best television show, song, play, movie, or book — rather than the most politically correct production from the most woke.

10) The Soviets offered no apologies for extinguishing freedom. Instead, they boasted they were advocates of equity, champions of the underclass, enemies of privilege, and therefore could terminate anyone or anything they pleased.

It’s as if the US and much of the West is drunk on Chinese propaganda taught at our universities. They have exported their Cultural Revolution to us!

Pandemic paves the way for elected Marxist in Peru

Pandemic paves the way for elected Marxist in Peru. By Daniel Hannan.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the past year, globally, has been the way in which our brain chemistry has been altered by a common threat.

Behavioral psychologists have long known that wars and natural disasters make people more wary, intolerant, collectivist, and demanding of the smack of firm government. Voters become likelier to back interventionist policies, less interested in process than in outcome, more sympathetic to the idea of a strong leader.

Marxist regimes are often the product of mobilization and its associated psychology. World War I made possible Russia’s 1917 revolution, and World War II paved the way for communist takeovers in Eastern Europe. It is often claimed that no Marxist has ever taken office through a democratic election. This claim depends on how we define a Marxist.

But one thing is indisputable: Authoritarian, revolutionary, and anti-capitalist parties do best after wars and secessionist campaigns. …

A year of being told what to do by the authorities has made us much readier to look to the state for a lead. We are in for another bout of big government, with all its associated costs, inefficiencies, and petty constraints.

Peru is about to elect, by a clear majority, a real, genuine Marxist as President — which would be a first. Hannan’s point is that this can only happen after a pandemic or war.

‘Dangerous Faggot’ Milo Yiannopoulos is now a dangerous heterosexual Christian who wants to help others become ‘ex-gay’

‘Dangerous Faggot’ Milo Yiannopoulos is now a dangerous heterosexual Christian who wants to help others become ‘ex-gay’. By Jani Allan.

Yiannopoulos, the conservative author, philosopher and now the world’s most famous ex-gay, has outraged his detractors by going to Hawaii to cast into the ocean what he calls the Sodomy Stone — a four-carat diamond worth $150,000 which he bought as an engagement ring for his marriage to another man.

In a piece to camera, he is seen on a chartered boat holding a Cartier jewellery box. He tells us that he “prayed and drank an enormous amount of vodka” — only Milo could say that — and reminded himself that “nothing beautiful or true can be made or grow on a foundation of wickedness” before tossing the ring into the sea.

The wickedness was a union that Milo now regards as “infernal.” The trappings of his former life (he once did a speaking tour under the title ‘The Dangerous Faggot’) had to be gotten rid of — accompanied by a Celine Dion soundtrack. …

Not since Coco Chanel was on the Duke of Westminster’s yacht and tossed overboard a ruby as big as a hen’s egg that he had given her, has there been such speculation and outrage. In Milo’s case, it is coming from the left. It seems that one can aspire to any of the one hundred sexual identities on offer so long as it is not heterosexual.

Social media has been electric with disapproval at Milo’s opinions, in which he states unapologetically that God created us male and female. He says: “‘Born this way’ is a slogan invented by the gay lobby. It is basically PR and has no basis in science ‘Born this way’ is a lie. It is not a lifestyle. It is a set of symptoms. We don’t have a healthy and proper respect for the family. We are not drilling people that the nuclear family is the best engine of healthy, happy people.

“If you tell people that this is who you are and what you are and send them messages that there is something morally good about it, then homosexuals are celebrated as though there is something intrinsically preferable about being gay. This is just one of the sick things that culture does. These lifestyles will suck you into misery, into drug-taking, prostitution, pederasty and promiscuity.” …

He is moving to Florida to open a clinic for people who want to be cured of same sex attraction, saying he has been overwhelmed with messages from people wishing to follow his example of declaring himself to be an ex-gay. “The reason people aren’t opening clinics for gays to come out of this lifestyle is because the cultural pressure is horrifying,” he says. “These ideas aren’t permitted.” …

Thousands of gay men are writing to him. They feel that they have buried their true feelings about their sexual choices and want to talk to him. …

Milo has been in “enforced retirement” because he has been cancelled countless times. Rioting mobs have prevented him from speaking at, amongst other places, Berkeley. …

He is writing a book which will be called ‘Make America Hate Again.’ … Groups on the left such as The Southern Poverty Law Center and The Anti-Defamation League claim to be dedicated to defeating hate. So do Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ movements and Antifa. In truth they are more about wiping out the people THEY hate.

hat-tip Stephen Neil