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What Happened: November 8, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Assassination attempt; Vaccine mandate blocked; Rittenhouse trial

The Scroll
November 08, 2021

The Big Story

One day after the leader of an Iranian-backed militia group threatened Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Kadhimi’s house was attacked by explosive-packed drones on Sunday in a failed assasination attempt. Shortly after the attack, Kadhimi wrote on Twitter that he was fine and called for “restraint from everyone, for the sake of Iraq.” Several members of his security detail were injured in the attack. No militia groups have yet claimed responsibility, but Iraqi security officials told Reuters that it was carried out by Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the two most powerful Iranian-aligned militias in Iraq, operating in concert. Iranian control over Iraq’s political and security infrastructure has been a continual source of conflict in Iraqi politics and the source of popular protests going back to 2019. In parliamentary elections last month, Iranian-backed parties linked to militia groups lost a substantial number of seats. The power of the pro-Iran groups led some Iraqi security officials to refer to the attack on the prime minister’s house as an attempted coup.

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Today’s Back Pages: The Trial of Kyle Rittenhouse Takes a Turn

The Rest

→ The Biden administration’s mandate for private companies to require their employees to get COVID-19 vaccines was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court on Saturday. The judges on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans cited “grave statutory and constitutional issues” with the rule, which would apply to all businesses with 100 or more employees, as the basis for their decision. The Biden administration was expected to provide its reply to the motion by Monday afternoon.
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→ After 20 months of restrictions, the United States finally lifted its COVID-19-based travel ban on Monday, allowing visitors from 30 countries to enter the United States with both proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of travel.

→ The House of Representatives passed the $1.2 trillion White House infrastructure bill on Friday—“the largest public works bill since Dwight Eisenhower created the Interstate System,” according to The New York Times. That’s an impressive achievement—and a much-needed win for the Democrats after taking a drubbing in last week’s elections—but in this case, it’s overshadowed by the looming fight over the roughly $2 trillion social welfare spending bill that is the real centerpiece of the Biden legislative agenda. 

→ New York City’s soon-to-be mayor Eric Adams said in a radio interview Sunday that he wants to end mandatory masking in schools when he takes office on Jan. 1. “Not being able to see the smiles of our children has a major impact,” Adams said, who added that it “must be done with the science so we don’t go back to closing our city down.”

→ Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez repeats the increasingly popular claim that wokeness—the term used to refer to a sweeping set of doctrines and policy demands around race and gender identity—is merely a way to discredit a standard civil rights agenda.

“Woke” is a term pundits are now using as a derogatory euphemism for civil rights & justice.

Making up a “woke” problem results in putting civil & voting rights on the backburner. In a year state legislatures are planning out GOP majorities & voter suppression, that’s dangerous

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 8, 2021

→ It’s almost as if the messaging about wokeness reflects a coordinated effort to scare people away from talking about a divisive ideological agenda that they would rather be able to mandate as a matter of law without any public scrutiny.

If you’re not black and started using “woke” pejoratively sometime post-2018 or so (or worse, don’t know anything about the earlier iteration of the term), I think it’s fair to consider it a racial slur.

— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) November 8, 2021

→ And here is a perfect example of some not-at-all woke, very normal liberal civil-rights stuff, like a California public school curriculum citing a professor who claims that math education is a project of “violent white supremacy and racial capitalism.”

There are so many extreme voices in the CA curriculum. The standards cite Prof. D. B. Martin to claim a colorblind approach to math promotes inequality. If you look up Martin, he believes math education is a project of “violent white supremacy and racial capitalism.”

— Lee Fang (@lhfang) November 6, 2021

→ The last time Tesla stock took a dive like this, CEO Elon Musk was smoking weed on the Joe Rogan podcast and posing for photographs with a flamethrower. On Saturday, Musk tweeted out a poll to his nearly 63 million Twitter followers asking whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock and promising to abide by the results. The context for the poll was the debate over billionaires using unrealized financial gains to avoid paying taxes. Musk has also been saying for more than a year that Tesla stock is overvalued—a statement that causes share prices to drop every time he says it. The current results of his poll are 58% voting yes to sell and 42% against.

→ The first fully driverless trucks are making deliveries for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas, where the company’s headquarters are located. Gatik, the company that built the drone trucks, said Monday that it had removed the human safety driver for two trucks operating on a 7.1-mile circuit between a Walmart fulfillment center and a local market.

→ The Royal Court Theatre in London came under fire this weekend for the naming of the lead character in its latest play. Al Smith, the playwright, had named the character “Hershel Fink,” despite the fact that the character, a Silicon Valley billionaire, was based on the non-Jewish Elon Musk, according to Smith’s own account. “The Royal Court claims they didn’t realise ‘Hershel Fink’ was a Jewish name. Hmmm,” Jewish comedian David Baddiel wrote on Twitter. “Somehow it just sounded so right for a world-conquering billionaire.” Smith has since changed the character’s name for future productions of the play.
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The Back Pages

backpages The Trial of Kyle Rittenhouse Takes a Turn

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse is not going the way that prosecutors or national media would have liked.

Rittenhouse was the 17-year-old untrained paramedic and volunteer peacekeeper who showed up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August shortly after a police shooting touched off protests and riots in the city. In an incident that was caught on video, Rittenhouse was chased by a group of protestors disturbed by his presence and ended up shooting three of them—two of whom, Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, died from their wounds. The third person, Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, survived and on Monday took the stand in court where, for the first time, he admitted that he was holding a pistol when he was shot—a detail he had omitted in his initial reports to police.

That doesn’t mean the shooting was necessarily justified, but it certainly complicates a popular narrative in which Rittenhouse has been painted as a white supremacist, a violent domestic extremist, and a militiaman who had gone to the protests looking for trouble and out for blood. Just two weeks ago, The New York Times accused Rittenhouse of “flashing white power signs” based on nothing more than the fact that he was photographed making the “OK” hand gesture—a charge so absurd that it could only catch on among the moral hypochondriacs who make up the American media class. (In related “OK” news, don’t miss this hilarious disclaimer from PolitiFact last month: “Joe Biden didn’t flash a white power sign at a Black man during CNN’s town hall on Thursday. He was making a zero with his hand (and the man he was addressing told us he’s white, not Black.”)

In the end, what does seem clear is that Rittenhouse has made for a convenient distraction from the wanton destruction that took place in Kenosha, for which no one has been held accountable. The responsibility for deaths that occured at the protests falls on the same government and law enforcement officials, who allowed more than 100 buildings to be burned Kenosha, leaving $50 million in damages and 40 businesses destroyed for good. 

Here is what I wrote about the incident last August during the Republican convention:

All I could think of on the last night of the Republican convention was the violence and rioting and deaths in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Three people were shot Tuesday night, two of them killed by a 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, who traveled to the city to act as a lawman and general do-gooder. He walked the streets presenting himself for interviews and documentary footage before the livestreaming cameras with a rifle and medical kit slung crosswise on his underdeveloped frame, ready to prevent looting and render first aid.

The police were not out in force in Kenosha and so the streets belonged to whoever claimed them. Ownership reverted to the young multi-hued and sporadically armed demonstrators and insurrectionaries protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the general injustice of society, and the far smaller group of young, mostly white, and uniformly armed militiamen belonging to organizations like the Kenosha Guard or the Boogaloos or to no organization at all. The militiamen like 17-year-old Rittenhouse were not exactly counterdemonstrators so much as they were attempting to be the law in those places from which the law had retreated or been strategically withdrawn by local government. Of course Rittenhouse had no right to be on those streets but neither did the people lighting fires and attacking elderly business owners.

Rittenhouse has been charged with murder and prominent Democrats have labeled him a white nationalist and white supremacist. There is, as yet, no evidence this is true.

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Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel.

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