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What Happened: November 10, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Shakespeare’s Richard II, Hasidic-style; Green new financial industry windfall; Rittenhouse trial; Yacht rock is back

The Scroll
November 10, 2021

The Big Story

The big news out of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow isn’t about clean energy or emissions targets; it’s the “green” windfall for the financial industry. Nicholas Stern, a professor of economics and climate change at the London School of Economics, called the policies outlined at the conference “the biggest capital reallocation since the Industrial Revolution” in a statement to the Financial Times. A draft agreement from the conference published Wednesday sets a goal to prevent global temperature rises over 1.5 degrees Celsius, but the terms are nonbinding and still have to be negotiated between the 200 participating countries. One may think that leaves things where they were three days ago, when a headline in the Financial Times declared, “U.S. set to wrap up COP26 with little to show on climate.” But the United Nations special envoy on climate action and finance, Mark Carney, announced last week that $130 trillion would be allocated from private sector assets under the umbrella of a new oddly named entity called the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). Carney’s pledge was endorsed by leading global investment firms such as Citigroup and BlackRock. As it turns out, GFANZ was formed in April as a conglomerate of 450 banks and insurers who have pooled their immense capital under the cause of climate change and have created a novel new financial instrument called a “Natural Asset Company” (NAC) as part of their efforts. 

Read it here:

Today’s Back Pages: Armin Rosen on The Indisputable Coolness of Alleged Yacht-Rockers Steely Dan

The Rest

→ The pace of inflation hit a 30-year high last month. The consumer price index for October 2021 was up 6.2% over October 2020, the fastest annual increase in prices since 1990, according to Labor Department data released Wednesday. October’s rate was up 0.9% over September’s and marked the fifth straight month with inflation above 5%. Price increases are being felt across the consumer market, with groceries, gasoline, electronics, and home sales all becoming markedly more expensive over the past year.

→ Kyle Rittenhouse broke down in sobs on the stand Wednesday after testifying in his own defense at a trial in which he’s accused of shooting three people, killing two of them, at a protest last August in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time and traveled to Kenosha alone armed with an AR-style rifle, said he came to the protest to protect businesses and provide first aid. Video taken immediately prior to the shooting shows him asking if any of the protestors need a medic. Rittenhouse testified that the first person he shot, Joseph Rosenbaum, had threatened to kill him and grabbed the barrel of his gun, prompting him to act in self-defense. He said the second person he shot, Anthony Huber, struck him with a skateboard and was trying to pull his gun away. The third and sole surviving shooting victim, Gaige Grosskreutz, admitted in court on Tuesday that he had lied to police about the fact that he was carrying a gun when he was shot and, in a crucial piece of evidence for the defense, also confessed that he had pointed his gun at Rittenhouse prior to being shot by him.
Read more:

→ Pharmaceutical company Moderna is battling it out with the U.S. government over patent rights to the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. The dispute boils down to the National Institutes of Health’s claim that three government scientists were involved in developing the vaccine, while Moderna—which received $10 billion in government subsidies for its work on the vaccine—says the NIH scientists should not be credited as co-inventors. Meanwhile, the governments of both France and Germany have issued warnings advising people under 30 not to take the Moderna vaccine due to the risk of heart inflammation.

→ A new Pew study suggests that the standard Democrat-Republican divide in American politics conceals a much more complex political typology in which both parties contain significant internal divisions. The survey breaks voters down into nine groups: Faith and Flag Conservatives, Committed Conservatives, Populist Right, Ambivalent Right, Stressed Sideliners, Outsider Left, Democratic Mainstays, Establishment Liberals, and the Progressive Left. The study finds that Republicans are most divided on “affinity for businesses and corporations, support for low taxes, and opposition to abortion,” while Democrats’ wedge issues relating to “woke” racial politics and cancel culture actually unify Republicans.
Read more: 

→ Iran’s state media, Fars News, claimed the Islamic Republic intercepted a U.S. MQ-Reaper and a global MQ-4 Global Hawk drone that tried to enter its airspace. The Global Hawk is a large U.S. surveillance drone estimated to cost between $100 million and $200 million. In 2011, Iran shot down a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel. In 2019, Iran shot down a Global Hawk, and in July of that year, the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone that was harassing the ship. In July 2021, Iran used a drone to attack a commercial tanker in the Gulf of Oman, killing two crew members.

→ A scandal under the chuppah!

In one of the absolute weirdest gossip items in Israel this year, haredi actor Shuli Rand married secular TV host Tzofit Granit today.
Plot twist: he’s still halachically married to his 1st wife, Michal, who refuses to accept a get and wrote a song about Tzofit set to “Jolene.”

— Amy Spiro (@AmySpiro) November 9, 2021

→ Rabbi Shaul Alter, the head of a breakaway faction of the Ger Hasidic dynasty, arrived in New York from Jerusalem this week, where he was greeted by thousands of supporters lining the streets in Brooklyn’s Boro Park neighborhood. Alter, who’s in town for a fundraising trip, is embroiled in a dynastic struggle that calls to mind that of Henry Bolingbroke, who later became Henry IV. While Shaul’s cousin Yaakov Alter is the official Grand Rebbe of the Gur Hassids, Shaul has his own hereditary claim to the throne. The split over succession started when the former Gur leader, Rabbi Israel Alter, died without leaving an heir. It was decided that his younger brother, Simcha Bunim, would succeed him—but then he died too. Instead of crowning Simcha’s son Yaakov, the group decided to crown the third brother, Pinchas Menachem, with a promise to the second brother’s son that the leadership would return to him after his uncle’s passing. (Are you following all this? If yes, mazel tov.) Anyway, Shaul, the son of the third brother, was made head of the yeshiva, where he became exceedingly popular. The reigning Rebbe tried to undermine him. For example, he decreed that the yeshiva would no longer study the Talmud in-depth, with all its classic commentaries, but would instead focus on “expertise”—i.e., consuming the entire corpus of the Talmud without spending excessive time parsing its depths. Alter’s renegade Gur movement is centered around his religious charisma and scholarship; his lectures and sermons are a hot commodity on the internet.

→ Here’s a helpful explanation of the mysterious “Natural Asset Company” from the left-wing environmentalist writer Robert Hunziker: 

First, NAC identifies a natural asset, like a forest for example, which is quantified using special protocols that have already been developed by various coalitions amongst multinational corporations, which in and of itself is remarkably terrifying. The NAC decides who has the rights to the natural asset’s productivity and how it is to be managed. It is then monetized via an IPO on the stock exchange. Thus, the NAC becomes “the Issuer” to potential buyers of the natural asset that the NAC represents. Essentially, NAC is a real estate agent of Mother Nature. The buyers are institutional investors, or the occasional billionaire, that want to own the rights to the benefits of wetlands or rainforests or natural water springs or rarified mountainous air or hot springs or whatever they want to own. The world is their oyster to buy, own, enjoy, and profit by.

→ Igor Danchenko, identified as the main source for the debunked Steele dossier by Special Counsel John Durham’s inquiry into the Trump-Russia investigations, has pleaded not guilty to making false statements to the FBI. Danchenko is accused of lying to the FBI concerning the source of information he provided them. The Steele dossier, despite containing known falsehoods and being paid for by the Clinton campaign, was part of the packet used by U.S. intelligence agencies to secure surveillance warrants on Trump campaign officials to investigate claims of Russian collusion.

→ Progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin will face a recall election in June. As previously noted here at The Scroll, two former San Francisco prosecutors joined the recall efforts, which needed only 51,325 signatures to force a recall but ended up collecting 83,000.

The Back Pages

backpagesArmin Rosen on The Indisputable Coolness of Alleged Yacht Rockers Steely Dan

The alleged yacht rockers of Steely Dan dwelled in a purgatory of cringe for much of the past 30 years, only to ascend to undisputed coolness more recently, in a time when no band really sounds like them. See them live, and it’s clear that no band ever sounded like them. At the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester on Tuesday night, there were over a dozen people onstage, including a four-man brass section, three backup singers accompanying the 73-year-old Donald Fagen, and Keith Carlock, introduced plausibly as “one of the greatest drummers of all time.” The song “Bodhisattva” can indeed be re-created live, but it requires a platoon of top-flight musicians, among them a rhythmic genius who can harmonize and even transcend the song’s potentially warring elements, holding together its hard-bop tempo and its Big Band ostentation; propelling its exuberantly weird lyrics and creating that intangible and thus easily squandered sense of scale and momentum that places the 1973 scorcher in the category of “rock.” The horns on “Home at Last” seemed to bend in midair, something they never did for me when I listened at home on Spotify. Even the more familiar classics change direction every few bars in ways you don’t necessarily remember from their studio versions. Instruments enter and leave in a controlled vortex. Fagen sits ensconced within a console of synthesizers, black-clad and white-haired behind thin-framed sunglasses, smiling and rocking from side to side.

Fagen’s voice is now in the Dylanian realm of the only-sometimes recognizable. Who cares—the whole package sounds impossibly good. Nothing was phoned-in and nothing melted together. “I just don’t want to be alienated from my labor,” Fagen told the writer Paul Grimstad in a recent interview for Tablet, explaining his principled opposition to reverb. He was true to his philosophical convictions Tuesday night, rejecting aural muckiness and leading a vast ensemble whose every sound was uncannily clean and clear.

It’s the sonic dryness that makes Steely Dan both a throwback and a touchstone in the present day, several decades into the Death of Rock, long after much of the precision and jazziness have been beaten out of the genre. Within our present aural swamp, where the audio is never better than streaming quality and where a sensibility of parochialism and diffidence marks the vast majority of what’s now considered rock music, the ascension to the chorus in “Aja” sounds like it’s being piped in from the distant future, even when it’s being played right in front of you. In 2021, the “dry” sound denotes purpose, self-confidence, the rejection of self-pitying irony, and virtuosity—things audiences would like to hear in rock music again, going by the current Dan revival.

The future is still an odd thing to contemplate at a Steely Dan concert these days. The show at the Cap wasn’t just seated but also phone-free, a rule that was, to my delight, actively enforced. The Dan’s growing critical and popular status notwithstanding, this was the first time in a while I had the experience of being nearly the youngest person in the house. “Bit of a smoky room, audio-wise,” Fagen observed between songs. Ludicrous, I thought; the Cap has some of the most highly lauded acoustics in the entire New York metro area. But then, for some musicians, maybe every room starts to sound a little smoky as life advances—perhaps there comes a point when anything short of impossible, angel-choir-like perfection feels like a waste of a rapidly telescoping life span.

Fagen just looked too content on Tuesday to be worrying about mortality, his or anyone else’s. His delight at bringing these songs to life was present in every moment, even with his eyes behind tinted glasses. The fragility of it all still couldn’t have been far from Fagen’s mind, though, and not only because of the COVID-19 era’s long and unexpected pause in live performance. Walter Becker, the other official member of Steely Dan, died in 2017, and while his live contributions had waned in recent years, Becker had still been half the band, or maybe something more. “[T]he fact that he simply isn’t there is kind of frightening,” Fagen told Grimstad. “He’s in my body. We’ve been together for so long.” Concertgoers on Tuesday were left with a lingering reminder that they had seen something incomplete. “I’d like to thank my partner Walter Becker for writing these songs with me,” Fagen said after the encore, a supernova-level “Reeling in the Years,” before walking offstage.

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