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What Happened: October 15, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Ivy League bullies; High-class problems; Weekend Reads

The Scroll
October 15, 2021


The Big Story

Administrators at Yale Law School tried to intimidate a student into issuing a public apology for what they deemed to be “triggering” and “oppressive” connotations in a party invitation. The student, who is part Cherokee and a member of the Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) and the conservative Federalist Society, invited people to a Constitution Day party co-hosted by the two organizations at NALSA’s new “trap house.” The invite promised attendees American food such as Popeyes chicken and apple pie. Shortly after it was sent out, other students complained that trap house—originally a slang expression for a house where drugs are sold that now colloquially refers to a party house—was evidence of “anti-black rhetoric” and black face. Less than a day later, the student was called into meetings with Yale administrators, including Director of Diversity Equity & Inclusion Yaseen Eldik, who once served in the Obama White House. The student secretly recorded the meetings, which were later obtained by The Washington Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium, who broke the story. The recordings capture Yale officials insisting that the email was offensive both for its reference to a “trap house” and fried chicken and due to its association with the Federalist Society. Though all six conservative Supreme Court justices belonged to the organization, Eldik told the student that mentioning the group was “very triggering for students who already feel like FedSoc belongs to political affiliations that are oppressive to certain communities.” When the student refused to apologize, the Yale officials moved onto intimidation tactics. Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove told the student that things “may escalate” if he didn’t apologize, and Eldik warned, “I worry about this leaning over your reputation as a person. Not just here but when you leave. You know the legal community is a small one.”

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Today’s Back Pages: Your Weekend Reads

The Rest

-Public concerns about inflation and supply chain shortages are really just rich people whining, according to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. On Wednesday, Klain used his official White House Twitter account to retweet a message by former Obama administration economist and current Harvard professor Jason Furman that calls inflation and supply chains “high-class problems.” As The Scroll reported yesterday, it’s heating costs that are set to rise significantly this winter, not the price of Soul Cycle memberships.

-At least 37 people were killed Friday in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, after an explosion went off in a Shia mosque. Last Friday, the bombing of a Shia mosque in the northern city of Kunduz that killed at least 50 people was claimed by the Islamic State group in Afghanistan known as IS-K. Afghanistan’s Shia minority has been a frequent target of violence by Sunni militants in the country.

-A White House commission formed by President Joe Biden to study possible changes to the Supreme Court advises against attempts to increase the number of justices. Adding more justices to the court, as some prominent Democrats were suggesting last year, would have “considerable” risks and could threaten the court’s legitimacy, according to the commission. 

-A Brooklyn rabbi, Moshe Margaretten, has helped dozens of Afghans who worked with U.S. and British forces to escape the Taliban. Working through his New York-based nonprofit organization, the Tzedek Association, Margaretten had originally helped a carpet salesman named Zablon Simintov, who was well-known and featured in dozens of articles as “the last Jew in Afghanistan” to flee the country. But with Simintov out, Margaretten decided to keep assisting. “Why is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi from Brooklyn helping Muslims in Afghanistan? The answer is very simple,” Margaretten told the BBC. “My parents and grandparents are all Holocaust survivors.”

-Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent roughly $419.5 million on “election administration” initiatives in the 2020 presidential race that decisively favored the Democrats’ candidate, Joe Biden. That unprecedented level of spending bypassed campaign finance laws because it was dispersed through nonprofit organizations that in turn awarded grants to local government election offices that came with specific stipulations about how the money was to be spent. 
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-At least seven people were killed Thursday at an armed demonstration in Beirut held by the country’s two main Shia parties, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. The target of the protest was the judge investigating the explosion at Beirut port last year that killed at least 215 people. Accounts of the violence are unclear on how it started and exactly who was involved, but the shooting broke out along a dividing line between Christian and Muslim areas. In response, the United States pledged an additional $67 million in funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces, supposedly to help them pacify sectarian tensions and keep a lid on Hezbollah. The problem with that approach, as Tablet’s Levant correspondent Tony Badran points out, is that Hezbollah is not just another party in Lebanon; it’s the state itself, and maintains the appearance of competing parties as a way to procure funding from countries like the United States.

Victoria Nuland met with the head of the militia that shot up the neighborhood, and pledged support to the regime he represents, and announced $67 mil in taxpayer money to the Hezbollah auxiliary force (LAF) that sat and watched.

“Lebanon policy” = obscene clown show.

— Tony Badran (@AcrossTheBay) October 14, 2021

-Former Boeing chief technical pilot Mark Forkner was indicted and charged with six counts of fraud. Forkner allegedly deceived federal regulators who oversaw the MAX 737 jetliner before two crashes involving the model in 2018 and 2019 killed 346 people. The company itself got off fairly light: Boeing admitted to fraud and criminal misconduct but did so as part of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in which the government exonerated senior officials at the company and declined to pursue a criminal conviction, which could have cost Boeing its lucrative contracts with the Defense Department.
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-Roughly $1 billion in New York City funds remain unaccounted for after being allocated to mental health programming under the auspices of ThriveNYC, an initiative run by the wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray. New reports show that roughly $100 million went to building out “diversion centers” that are supposed to provide the mentally ill with treatment as an alternative to jail. But those centers sit “empty or barely used,” according to a report in The City. In one example, $52 million was spent to renovate a 14,000-square-foot “diversion center” in the Bronx that now sits empty.
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The Back Pages

Your Weekend Reads

—After an acclaimed debut novel, why was the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud’s follow-up treated with near silence? What would drive Daoud to declare that he was turning his back on journalism? Morten Høi Jensen provides the answers along with a discussion of that overlooked new novel, which he calls “an exuberant work of imagination, profuse with literary references and religious allusions, as well as page after page of shimmering prose” that is also “a fierce quarrel—with death, religion, and patriarchy—and a lyrical defense of fiction’s secular powers.”

Maybe it wasn’t prudent of Daoud to write the things he did. Maybe he was wrong. But if he was, so what? Surely an Algerian-born writer and journalist, who in his youth held orthodox Islamic beliefs (he is an ex-Islamist) and who still lives and works in Algeria, should be permitted to write openly and candidly about his former religion and his native country—without being lectured by bien-pensant intellectuals in Brooklyn or Paris? Too often, the message to Black or brown writers, especially those from Muslim countries, appears to be something like this: “Remember that you do not speak merely for yourself but for all Muslims, wherever they may be. We will judge your views not on their merits but on the degree to which they align with the views of conservatives, reactionaries and other right-wingers. If there is any convergence, no matter how tenuous, we will condemn you.” It goes without saying that no white novelist is ever held to such an absurd standard.

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—No one had to explain to me that margarine stinks compared to butter. Sure, you can get used to it after squeezing enough of it out of those little pleated paper cups onto diner pancakes, but there’s no confusing it with the real thing. What I did not know is just how fascinating the history of the margarine vs. butter wars would be.

In the then United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the anti-margarine cause was enthusiastically taken up by Irish politicians and farming associations. “Butterine”—margarine admixed with small, varying proportions of butter (a sort of nineteenth century prelude to the “spreads” of the 1990s)—was a source of acute concern. It gained traction among the English working class and was reportedly selling double the quantity of Irish butter in London. Traders of butterine often copied the exact colour, shape, and wrapping of Irish butter. It became common for butterine to be sold as pure butter, the market incentive being that traders could gain a higher profit by buying butterine, which was much cheaper than butter, and selling it for the same price. By 1885 Cork butter exporter W.J. Lane attributed his industry’s woes more to “the produce of the butterine factories than to the butter shipped from France, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.”4 The Irish media railed against the fraudulent tactics of the butterine peddlers. The Cork Examiner in an editorial expressed outrage that British customers were being inadvertently duped by dishonest labelling and protested the displacement of Irish butter to counterfeit imitations

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—A new book documents the history of foundation money flooding into the arts starting in the 1950s. That money warped contemporary music. Just imagine! What kind of effect must the foundations be having in other domains they fund like education and racial justice.

The Rockefeller Foundation prioritized university music centers that espoused serialism and other “advanced” non-tonal styles—what Winthrop Sargent, in The New Yorker, caustically dubbed “foundation music.” This music’s scientific patina resonated with the Rockefeller ethos. It was male and modern, insular and self-perpetuating. To Cold Warriors, including some in the Central Intelligence Agency, it signified artistic freedom in contrast to lockstep Soviet socialist realism—in retrospect, a risible claim because serialism exerted its own tyranny. Uy names names: Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss, and Milton Babbitt repeatedly appear as Rockfeller “experts.” “It is “difficult not to pause and note,” Uy writes, “the gender and racial background of these ‘wise men’ who essentially served as gatekeepers.” He adds that “by ‘the arts,’ what the Rockefeller Foundation … had in mind were the high arts of the Western European tradition, and those located primarily in New York.

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