The House Puts Its Comically Large Foot Down

The TikTok ban, and Today in Despair.

Four hundred thirty two members of the U.S. House of Representatives pulled up to the Capitol building this morning in one tiny car and piled out one at a time over the course of nearly an hour, each doing a humorous cartwheel, honking a bulbous red nose, squirting water out of a trick lapel flower, etc, etc. Then they hitched up their voluminous barrel-shaped trousers, tucked their long floppy shoes under tiny Congressional desks, and got to work, voting three hundred fifty two in favor to sixty five opposed to require the Chinese company ByteDance to sell TikTok, or have it banned from American app stores.

Why? Because America can no longer ignore the real and ongoing threat this app poses to our red blooded youth by convincing them to face baste with butt paste. “Butt paste belongs on butts!” proclaimed House Commerce committee chair Dr. Gigglesworth (R-La.) in a fiery floor speech in support of the measure. “We cannot permit the Red Chinese menace to propagandize our youths into face basting with butt paste. It’s against God and it’s against the American way. Our forefathers intended face paste to be for faces and butt paste for butts!”

The senior member from Maine, Representative Chuckles Laffington (D), in somber frowny makeup with bowtie spinning emphatically, reminded the legislative body that if the Chinese government wants American childrens’ digital data, they should simply purchase it from one of our many legal and deeply invasive data brokers, the way car insurance companies or anyone who wants to scam our military heroes do.

“I don’t know what TipTop is,” said ninety eight year old Rep. Dandy D. Doodlebug (R-Mo.), “but I know this legislature isn’t about to let Chairman Mao get on ‘tip top’ of our American steel industry.” Sadly, Rep. Doodlebug passed away shortly before voting Yes on the bill. He was truly a giant of the House, and his commensurately large shoes will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda for the rest of the week. To his constituents, friends, and loved ones, we offer a heartfelt sad trombone.

So what happens now? Probably nothing. Asked about the bill’s chances in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer coughed up dust and ashes for nineteen minutes and then locked himself in the men’s room. Ryan Broderick gamed out the possibilities if ByteDance is actually forced to sell or shut down the app, which are generally: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But before any of that could happen, would this law survive judicial review? Who knows. Is there anyone who could plausibly buy TikTok without impossible antitrust conflicts? Who knows. Do any of the Representatives who just voted for this even care? Who knows!

Another thing that no one seems to know is why we’re doing this at all. John Herrman explored three plausible theories, but all of them are surprisingly speculative to be the root of this sudden burst of bipartisanship and alacrity by a legislature that has been for months now laboriously trying to decide whether the U.S. Government should continue to exist at all. I don’t know what prompted them to bring the bill up, but I think today’s lopsided vote is mainly a response to the overwhelming constituent feedback they’ve received against banning TikTok, which seems to have incensed our Congressional clowns on both sides of the aisle. In Politico the calls were described as “a barrage of not well-informed people expressing outrage” by a former aide to Kevin McCarthy, who apparently never met the American electorate.

In a New York Times guessay today, Bryce Covert writes:

It’s a riddle that economists have struggled to decipher. The U.S. economy seems robust on paper, yet Americans are dissatisfied with it. But hardly anyone seems to have paid much attention to the whirlwind experience we just lived through: We built a real social safety net in the United States and then abruptly ripped it apart…

…In the pandemic, the country created the most robust safety net we had seen in decades, buffering people against eviction, poverty, hunger and other suffering. Americans’ lives were materially and appreciably improved. Then we took it all away.

The message received is that the government could have done these things all along but had chosen not to — and has chosen once again to withdraw that kind of security.

It’s infuriating to live in a country where the government seems hopelessly log-jammed and fundamentally unable to meet the needs of a population getting sicker and poorer every day. But once in a while—in early 2020 for example, or today—they get either sufficiently scared or sufficiently indignant at the temerity of their subjects and demonstrate that they are perfectly capable of legislating, they just choose not to.

I don’t know about you but I already feel terrible today so it’s not going to get any worse if I read Brad Johnson on the “fracking to AI pipeline” and our hideous future of fossil fuel companies and A.I. teaming up to turn “methane gas into intellectual gray goo.”

Also Today in Despair:

When [parenting influencer Veronica Merritt] made a TikTok comparing two of her daughters, the younger felt embarrassed because Merritt called her the “weird kid at school” in contrast to her older sister, who was labeled “popular” and “bubbly.” But Merritt says they decided not to take the video down because it was doing well and making money through TikTok’s monetization program, which pays creators for qualified views.

Ernie Smith tried to figure out who Deadspin‘s new owners are, and it’s probably an online gambling thing.

In a drastic attempt to protect their beachfront homes, residents in Salisbury, Massachusetts, invested $500,000 in a sand dune to defend against encroaching tides. After being completed last week, the barrier made from 14,000 tons of sand lasted just 72 hours before it was completely washed away, according to WCVB.

SXSW Is Going Just Great: Musical acts have quit en masse to protest South By’s “cozying up to 'war profiteers.',” and Texas governor Greg Abbott is telling musicians to stay the hell out of Austin. Meanwhile SXSW film audiences are loudly booing this grotesque A.I. promo pre-roll screening before the movies. And I thought 2012’s Homeless Hotspots would go down as South By’s darkest moment.

stuflemingnz posted: “The King of England lies dying and one of his sons has been exiled. A princess has vanished. Plague stalks the land and the Treasury has been plundered. NOW is the time for strange women lying in ponds to distribute swords to form the basis of government.”

LiveScience: “1,100-year-old Viking sword pulled from UK river by magnet fisher.” All hail the new King, Trevor Penny, long may he reign!

Today’s Song: Maggie Lindemann, Jasiah, “Taking Over Me”

Honk, honk. A heartfelt sad trombone to us all.