Today's edition of The Scroll is edited by Armin Rosen\nThe Big StoryAs the first country on earth to vaccinate the majority of its adult citizens against COVID-19, Israel has been a leading indicator of what will and won’t work in fighting the virus. It’s apparent that even widespread vaccination can’t prevent spikes: Israel reported 8,500 cases yesterday, close to the country’s January peak. In response, the Jewish state has rapidly expanded the number of those eligible to receive vaccine boosters—as of today, Israelis over the age of 30 can get their third shot, which the country’s health authorities are sure will end this latest outbreak, at least as soon as 5 million of the boosters are administered. Israel’s health ministry has found that the third dose significantly reduces the chances of serious illness or death among people 60 and over. Optimistically, this shows that there’s a pharmaceutical fix to the world’s coronavirus problem. Pessimistically, it shows that even highly vaccinated societies can’t maintain some version of normal life without additional logistically and politically difficult waves of vaccination beyond the initial rollout. Israel may change its definition of “fully vaccinated”—and thus eligibility for a so-called Green Passport that allows for something like regular participation in society—to include only those who have received a third shot. It’s another sign, and probably not the last, that the first round of vaccination isn’t the magic bullet everyone hoped it would be. Read more: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-finds-covid-19-vaccine-booster-significantly-lowers-infection-risk-2021-08-22/ and https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-may-deny-green-passports-to-people-who-have-not-received-covid-booster-1.10147312The Rest-Just how many U.S. citizens are still left in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan? According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, even the U.S. government isn’t sure. Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-struggles-to-count-its-citizens-in-afghanistan-as-biden-weighs-withdrawal-delay-11629744179?mod=djemalertNEWS\n\n-This sure would’ve been a fun meeting to crash: CIA Director William Burns had a secret sit-down with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday. This face-to-face between the head of the lone superpower’s premier spy agency and the commander of a fundamentalist Central Asian tribal militia serves as the latest sign of just how excellently the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan is going. Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/burns-afghanistan-baradar-biden/2021/08/24/c96bee5c-04ba-11ec-ba15-9c4f59a60478_story.html\n\n-Andrew Cuomo is no longer governor of New York—mazel tov, I guess, to Kathy Hochul, the first woman ever to lead the Empire State. On his way out the door, Cuomo commuted the prison sentence of leftist militant David Gilbert, the driver in the deadly 1983 Brinks heist. Gilbert, the father of the controversial progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, will now be eligible for parole. Read more: https://twitter.com/TomPreciousALB/status/1429950623118733312\n\n-Spike Lee is one of the greatest of all chroniclers of contemporary New York City, and of contemporary America in general. How much his 9/11 “trutherism” matters in assessing his worth as an artist is entirely up to you. Anyway, “the amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt—that temperature’s not reached,” the director told The New York Times, in an interview plugging his new eight-hour HBO documentary about the tribulations of 21st-century New York. Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/23/arts/television/spike-lee-nyc-epicenters.html\n\n-Nine moderate Democrats are holding a budget resolution hostage in order to first secure a House vote on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, conditioning a range of progressive policy wins on the passage of a watered-down version of Joe Biden’s signature piece of legislation. This led to an acrimonious late-night meeting among Democratic lawmakers yesterday, in which “rank-and-file Democrats … stood up to speak, with each member ‘angrier’ than the last,” according to Politico. “F***ing assholes,” an unidentified legislator said of their colleagues. Read more: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/23/pelosi-budget-package-showdown-506589-Hackers have obtained security footage from inside Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, the facility where political prisoners and foreign hostages are held. Some of the videos depict abuse of inmates. The hackers also inserted anti-regime messages onto security monitors in the facility and obtained video of prison wardens looking at those messages with a combination of befuddlement and horror. It’s the latest embarrassment for Iran’s regime, which has had its infrastructure repeatedly sabotaged in recent months. Read more: https://apnews.com/article/technology-health-religion-iran-prisons-01dfade61d7a706d630bf83d30d8cb02\n\n-File this under “let’s see how this goes”: The New York Times reports that Israel’s new government is quietly softening a long-standing ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. At the same time, the story makes suspiciously little mention—in fact, no mention—of Har HaBayit being the holiest site in Judaism. Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/24/world/middleeast/israel-temple-mount-prayer.html and https://twitter.com/Yair_Rosenberg/status/1430155617348558853\n\n-In the latest sign of just how badly the response to the coronavirus pandemic is deranging societies that were apparently a lot less healthy than they appeared to be before this all happened, a local government in the Australian state of New South Wales is under fire for euthanizing 15 shelter dogs, including 10 puppies, amid concerns they might carry the virus. Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2021/08/23/australian-government-kills-rescue-dogs-covid/8246386002/\n\n-The fifth suspect in the killing of 18-year-old Shmuel Silverberg at a Denver yeshiva remains at large. Read more: https://kdvr.com/news/local/4-people-arrested-in-killing-of-student-outside-denver-jewish-school/The Back Pages A cancellation happens every 10 minutes or so these days, but the destruction of would-be Jeopardy! host Michael Richards reveals a notable evolution in the metaphysics of cultural grievance. Leaving aside the obvious differences, the reversal in Richards’ fate recalls that of Lord Horatio Nelson, the British admiral felled by enemy bullets at his moment of greatest triumph. But while Nelson’s fatal achievement at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar helped ensure over a century of global British naval supremacy, Richards has nothing but a ruined career to show for his brush with ultimate victory. As recounted last week in an article in The Ringer by Claire McNear, Richards spent over 15 years carefully plotting his way to the Jeopardy! hosting job, at which point his project met with immediate and spectacular failure.What doomed him? Before the Ringer article the list included: Richards’ alleged manipulation of the host selection process while working as executive producer for Jeopardy!; the show’s failure to select alleged fan favorite LeVar Burton as the permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek; and various rumblings about sex discrimination laswuits filed by former underlings at The Price Is Right that didn’t actually accuse Richards of anything but still, y’know, smelled bad. All combined to create the sufficient frisson of scandal to make a coup de grâce possible. The coup de grâce was lame even by the standards of journalism’s Cancellation Era. It consisted of the discovery of off-color remarks that no one would have considered all that odd or insulting at the time they were made, on a podcast from 2013 to 2014. Richards stands accused of such outrages as preferring bikinis to one-piece swimsuits, a perverse and unnatural thought that no American male has ever, ever had before, as well as thinking one of the hosts of The View is—a content warning may be warranted here—“good-looking.” He uttered the despicable R-word, along with a term for people with genetic height limitations that is too unspeakable for McNear to refer to even by euphemism, risking the confusion of readers who weren’t educated at Oberlin or Hampshire. “In another episode, after Gray makes a nonspecific comment about big noses, Richards jumps in. ‘Ixnay on the ose-nay,’ he says. ‘She’s not an ew-Jay.’” This lighthearted reference to one of the most joked-over American Jewish stereotypes by a man with absolutely no history of anti-Jewish animus, and no other history of caring about Jews in any way, was so serious that the ADL got involved. “Stereotyping is an entry point to hate,” announced an organization that may or may not have far too much time on its hands, “and his apology lacks acknowledgment of its harm.”Of course the ADL didn’t attempt to prove that any harm was caused. But the notion that Richards has made ghastly, unforgivable statements rather than innocent gaffes from an earlier and more tolerant time—which McNear strips of most context and interprets as ungenerously as possible—rests on a remarkable psychic and rhetorical stance that has little to do with anything Richards said or that McNear found.McNear strongly implies that hiring Richards would dishonor the departed Alex Trebek, whom she treats as a man of integrity and genius, a moral arbiter of the highest character, rather than a man playing the television character of “Jeopardy! host.” “Richards’ podcast comments about the unhoused stand in contrast to the actions of his Jeopardy! host predecessor,” she writes. “One of Trebek’s last major gifts was $500,000 to the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, to which the show contributed an additional $250,000.” But Richards’ offenses go beyond the hosts’ allegedly contrasting sensitivity to the homeless. “In an online, socially conscious world, Richards has a tall task ahead of him in proving not only that he deserves the Jeopardy! job after a long and contentious process whose integrity many fans doubt,” McNear sermonizes, “but also that he can embody the qualities—intellectual curiosity, cultural open-mindedness, and reverence for the topics, both silly and serious, that appear on the board—that have made Jeopardy! into a beloved touchstone.” It wasn’t enough just for Richards to do a good job hosting a television show. He must be of a high moral and intellectual caliber, like the man he’s replacing, someone whose “mystique as host was tied to the perception that he could sidle up to a buzzer and defeat any of the day’s contestants in a battle of the wits,” McNear writes.She marshalls testimony from a former Jeopardy! contestant in support of the thesis that the next host of the show must embody the elevated qualities that McNear saw in Alex Trebek. “[Guests hosts Aaron] Rodgers and [LeVar] Burton were clear about how important Jeopardy! was to them personally,” Kristin Sausville, who won on Jeopardy! five times in 2015 and doesn’t know Richards—or, for that matter, Rodgers or Burton or Trebek—told McNear. “Given that he also was a candidate to host The Price Is Right, it looks like Richards just wanted to host a game show, any game show.”McNear has apparently written a book about Jeopardy! and surely knows that Trebek made a point of avoiding all contact with contestants. No matter; she gives Sausville the final word, closing the article with this quote: “There was something intrinsic to the show and Alex Trebek’s hosting of it that elevated it above other game shows … I think there’s a real danger of Jeopardy! becoming just another syndicated game show, and that makes me concerned for its longevity and standing.” It’s not clear why someone who appeared on the show a few times would have any deep insight into how Jeopardy! should be run. We’re just supposed to accept that Trebek was a superior being and that his moral excellence disqualifies a piggish professional climber such as Richards from having his old job. It's as if we’re supposed to picture Trebek’s rebbische punim, to feel the wonder of this pure, holy man who hosted a game show.Jeopardy! is often discussed with a solemnity totally disproportionate to the show’s actual stature. It is talked about as a sacred public trust, something akin to the Supreme Court or a Hasidic movement, rather than as a nightly source of entertainment, one where the action all but ceases 20 minutes in and whose final third is marred by a series of interminable commercial breaks. A Louis Menand essay in The New Yorker last year likened Trebek to Walter Cronkite, though to Menand’s credit, the comparison wasn’t uncritical: He noted that Cronkite and Trebek came to embody the very concept of truth simply by reading other people’s words on television convincingly enough. Inevitably, Menand wrote, Trebek was someone who made tens of millions of dollars a year in exchange for something like 50 days of annual work. The conflation of pedantry with character is our defect, not Trebek’s.The notion that the ghost of Alex Trebek should have a veto over who takes his job is an extraordinarily bizarre one, built on a series of questionable though psychologically revealing premises. It’s tempting to look at McNear’s thought process as another manifestation of the American crisis of meaning. Family and organized religion is withering away; the pandemic’s undermined the very idea of expertise. Labor unions are gone and colleges are all crap. Only a naïf believes anything or anyone anymore. What are we left with? We’re left with whatever sources of community or authority haven’t completely sullied yet. As absurd as it sounds, we’re left with Jeopardy!, which is too important to be treated as if it were merely a TV show, even though that’s precisely what it is.Jeopardy! answers to a higher authority—to unsparing contemporary standards of rectitude and to hopes and dreams and values that used to be read into bigger and worthier things than television trivia contests. “It’s not just a wholesome pop culture fixture. It’s a celebration of learning, an identity, a way of life,” McNear writes in the most petrifying sentence of her entire piece. A pity that Richards fellow never got the memo.