From TPM Reader JF …
As someone who has lived in Hong Kong for 15 years and what passes here for a passing familiarity with Chinese politics (but would probably be a more than passing familiarity for the average American), I agree with you about COVID and the PRC secrecy culture. It’s especially strong around things that make China look bad, and the instinct to censor and clamp down has only gotten stronger since Xi consolidated power. His shift from a term-limited supremo to a for-life supremo is underappreciated in the US, where I think most people just see a the same generic dictatorship, but it was a major change. The Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin served two five-year terms, in and out, and then retired after a decade (both are still alive).
The last supremos to wield power until at or near death were Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. By the time of Deng’s departure, China had moved to a system where, power was negotiated among the party elite. There was rotation at the top, governed by the incumbent leader, other politburo members, aspiring leaders, etc, and there were constitutional term limits (of course the PRC constitution can be changed, and was to allow Xi to stay on). All this constrained Hu and Jiang. They made all the real decisions, but their decisions could be overridden by the next guy, who everyone understood would be in power eventually.
I hope you’ve enjoyed or at least feel you’ve learned more about this lab leak controversy from the emails I’ve published over the last couple days. I very much have. I now see a lot more of the complexity of the topic. But at the end of the day I come away with the conclusion that we really don’t know because we don’t have a lot of data.
And that brings us back to a recurrent point: if the Chinese authorities wanted to they could clear a lot of this up by granting access to the records of the Wuhan laboratory, perhaps the medical records of the staff and interviews with the relevant scientists. To China skeptics this is an obvious sign of guilt, a sign of something to hide. Many people from the sciences have a reaction that is a mix of anger and puzzlement. Science is about transparency, so what’s the problem exactly? Many biologists and virologists have years of experience working collaboratively with Chinese scientists or even some of the very scientists in question. So seeing them all go silent just seems odd or inexplicable.
But of course it’s not the scientists. It’s the Chinese government.
From TPM Reader MN …
First of all, for credibility’s sake, I am a computational biology postdoc at [*******]. I’ve done some research on the SARS-CoV-2 genome but it hasn’t been my main focus the way it has for many people. Nonetheless, I’m acquainted with at least the discussion of genomic mutations and evolution, although the nitty gritty web lab virology is not my area.
Remember, our 2nd annual drive for The TPM Journalism Fund starts next week. I’ll get into all the details and the pitch next week. But it’s really important for our operation. So please keep an eye out and if you can give a glance to our posts about it we would really appreciate it.
From TPM Reader JB …
For what it’s worth, I think most of the discussion in the US political world about the origins of COVID-19 has been about ephemera, driven by Republicans flopping around like fish in a boat as they try to devise a winning post-Trump (but Trump-friendly) political issue and media people fretting about whether media coverage is giving adequate weight to the things Republicans claim to be upset about today.
If you’re following the infrastructure negotiations, you’ll know the various bipartisan deals involve funding infrastructure with no new taxes. As Josh Kovensky explains here, when you look at the details, the demand is to get the money by cannibalizing the Covid relief bill Biden pushed through Congress in March.
From TPM Reader AJ …
While in general I agree with your take on the Lab Leak hypothesis, I would point out that the evidence is not as balanced as you suggest.
There are strong empirical suggestions that this is a natural event – specifically to do with genetic structure and the distribution of initial cases.
Yesterday I reminded everybody that it’s important to keep up on the right wing media ecosystem to understand what Republican politicians are saying. In this instance, Republicans have galloped far past the possibility that a lab leak may have been the origin point for the COVID. They’re now pushing the idea that Anthony Fauci was involved in the experiments which created COVID and has conspired with the Chinese to cover-up the lab leak which created COVID.
As you can see from this tweet this morning, Sen. Marco Rubio is pushing just that idea.
From TPM Reader MT …
I have been following your conversations on the lab leak theory for Covid, and how the perception has changed in the near absence of the facts changing. I am a biomedical scientist (soon to be retired!) and my reaction to the lab leak possibility when I first heard about it early during the pandemic was to dismiss it out of hand. But I quickly changed my mind when I realized what the Wuhan labs had been doing with bat viruses and that the Chinese government was, at best, not being forthcoming with information.
Over the past two months of infrastructure talks, there’s been a constant refrain from Republican negotiators: why not just use all the unspent COVID aid money to pay for the bill?
Oregon State Rep. Mike Nearman (R) became the first person ever expelled from the Oregon House of Representatives on Thursday, with all 59 of his colleagues voting to vacate his seat over his decision to let a mob into the state Capitol last year.
A 22-year old Pennsylvania man raked in thousands of dollars by impersonating various members of the Trump family, Manhattan federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
As a lifelong novel consumer who enjoys throwing myself into other worlds for hours on end, it probably won’t come as a surprise that I don’t read too many short stories.
Months before Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance announced that he would not seek reelection for a role in which he oversees a criminal investigation into Trump and his company, a public defender and former reality TV star who had already been angling to replace him was tweeting about the DA office’s investigation into Trump.
“First of All, James Ball III, you are full of poop,” wrote one Republican Party functionary to another in a bitter, paramilitary-tinged rift over the future of the GOP in Multnomah County, Oregon.
“That is a legal term used by bible believing Christians,” the email continued, “who want to say something much much stronger but err on the side of caution.”