Tik Tok

Hats off to TikTok for finding a way to end the bitter partisanship that has tied the US Congress in knots.

The Chinese-owned video app staged a ridiculous stunt on March 7 that all but guarantees that it will be split from its corporate parent Bytedance Inc.

As the House Energy and Commerce Committee began debate on a measure that would require Bytedance to either sell TikTok to a US company or face a ban, TikTok’s crackerjack communications team jumped into the fray.

They thought it wise to urge its users to: “Let Congress know what TikTok means to you and tell them to vote NO,” a pop-up message on the app said.

The over-the-top message said Congress wants to strip more than 170M Americans of the Constitutional right to free expression.

The bill would result in “damaging millions of businesses, destroying the livelihoods of countless creators across the country and denying artists an audience.”

TikTok’s message overwhelmed the phone lines of Congress and enraged lawmakers voted 50 to 0 to advance the bill for a floor vote that is scheduled next week.

President Biden has said he will sign the bill into law, though the measure may find tough going in the Senate.

Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), the driving force behind the bill, has denied that Congress wants to put TikTok out of business.

The chairman of the “House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party” just wants China out of the picture.

“This is not a ban. Think of this a surgery designed to remove the tumor and thereby save the patient in the process,” he said at a March 6 press conference.

His message is break up with the CCP or lose access to American users.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) agreed: “TikTok has been used by the CCP to silence free speech and dissent in the US and abroad, to undermine democracy and our values, and to promote propaganda that is favorable to autocratic rulers like President Xi.”

The huge response to TikTok’s untimely message against the bill showed how much influence that it has in the US. It also made the House’s case.

Bytedance has 14 lobbyists representing TikTok. The company shelled out $8.7M for lobbying DC in 2023.

They must have been sleeping on the job when the “Let Congress Know” message went out.

CEOs expect economic recovery to take hold… The Business Roundtable reports that its Q1 composite index of CEO plans for capital spending, employment and sales expectations for the next six months rose above its historic average for the first time since 2022.

Plans for capital spending and sales jumped by double digits from the previous quarter, while hiring rose by five points.

“This quarter’s survey results underscore the resiliency of the U.S. economy and suggest accelerating economic activity over the next six months,”said BR Chair & Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.

The trade group, of course, said the way to ensure good times are ahead is by slashing “excessive regulation and overreaching antitrust actions that are eroding the foundation of free enterprise and the benefits it provides,” according to CEO Joshua Bolten.

BR's forecast is a good one for Biden’s re-election campaign.

Do you want to get a power placement in The Economist? Send an email to Ann Wroe, obituaries editor at the magazine since 2003.

Ken Cukier, deputy editor of the magazine, told a March 7 webinar that the obituary is one of the most popular articles in the Economist. “Many of our readers go to it first and then read the magazine from the back forward,” he said.

Wroe said she likes to “take readers on an adventure” by featuring someone who was off the beaten path.

She had profiled Rosemary Smith, a Dublin dress designer and model, who found her calling as a race car driver in the male-dominated sport.

The “queen of world rallying” finished 21 of the 24 races that she drove in. These included eight Monte Carlo rallies, the 17,000 km London to Sydney Marathon and the 27,000 km rally in 1970 from London to Mexico City. Smith and her co-driver won the 1965 five-country 3,000 km Tulip Rally, which is the oldest race in the Netherlands. They raced through blinding and heavy snow. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor sent her flowers after the rally.

Wroe also featured Tom DeBaggio, who ran a greenhouse in Chantilly, VA and was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease at age 57. His initial reaction was to rage and cry. But the one-time journalist then decided to chronicle the progress of the illness to provide insights to other patients and the medical profession.

In the four years after his diagnosis, DeBaggio “gave four interviews to National Public Radio; appeared on Oprah Winfrey's TV talk show; was filmed for an HBO documentary; and produced two books, “Losing My Mind” and “When It Gets Dark,” according to the obit.

Wroe begins writing the 1,000-word obituary each Monday at 11 a.m, and finishes it the next day at 5 p.m. The 73-year-old likes to “commune” with her subject, and believes “there is no such thing as an uninteresting human being.” She is at [email protected].