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What Happened: November 17, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Rivian; Bush family scion sponsors event with blacklisted Chinese company; FBI investigates parents in disputes with local school boards

The Scroll
November 17, 2021

The Big Story

An internal FBI email appears to show the agency using tactics designed for counterterrorism operations to track and investigate parents involved in disputes with local school boards. The Oct. 20 memo from the Criminal Investigative and Counterterrorism divisions of the FBI instructs local offices to apply the “threat tag” EDUOFFICIALS to “threats specifically directed against school board administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” The FBI email was sent out a few weeks after Attorney General Merrick Garland called on the agency to take an active role in policing local school board quarrels. Garland’s directive came less than a week after the National School Boards Association sent a letter to the White House—for which it later apologized—that compared parents to domestic terrorists. The leaked FBI email, released Tuesday by House Judiciary Committee Republicans, appears to show the agency and the Justice Department employing a highly politicized definition of threat to justify using federal law enforcement authorities to silence and discourage legal complaints from parents opposed to government educational policies.

Read it here:

Today’s Back Pages: American Political Prisoners

The Rest

Neil Bush, the son of one former president and brother of another, is co-sponsoring an event with a Chinese military contractor that U.S. companies are banned from doing business with due to its ties to China’s government. The space technology symposium scheduled for Nov. 18 in Beijing is being chaired by three officials from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), “a state-controlled contractor that builds China’s military and space equipment,” according to reporting in the Free Beacon. The hypersonic missile tested by China in August was reportedly developed by a CASC subsidiary.
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→As closing arguments were taking place Monday in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, lawyers for the 18-year-old, who was charged with shooting three people and killing two of them, filed for a mistrial, alleging that the prosecution had withheld a key piece of evidence in the case. Rittenhouse’s lawyers claim that they were only given access to low-quality video footage of the shooting incident and not informed by the state until after evidence was presented that it had higher-quality video of the same events. The motion, which accuses the prosecution of acting in “bad faith,” asks the judge to dismiss the case with prejudice, which would prevent Rittenhouse from being tried again.Though it’s unlikely to have any effect on the current trial, the motion could become important after a verdict is reached if the case moves to appeals.

→After electric car maker Rivian went public in the stock market last week, the company—which hasn’t earned any real revenue yet and as of October had produced only 56 pickup trucks—became the third most valuable automaker in the world, topped only by Tesla and Toyota. Rivian had cooled off by this Wednesday, with shares down 14%, but its incredible valuation reflected a larger booming market for electric cars—the luxury electric car maker Lucid was up 24% Tuesday, and even Tesla was up 3% Wednesday after CEO Elon Musk sold off roughly $6.9 billion in Tesla stock. Demand is being driven by high gas prices and government stimulus in the form of $7.5 billion set aside in President Biden’s recently signed $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that could go to funding roughly 400,000 new charging stations for electric vehicles.

→The collapse of Canada’s Green Party followed an all-or-nothing conflict over the party’s stance toward Israel and the resignation of Annamie Paul—the first Black and Jewish party leader in Canadian history. A Jewish Insider article recounts the party’s breakdown from the perspective of a former senior aide to Paul named Noah Zatzman, who predicts that the party will be Corbynized. Zatzman, a 37-year-old Toronto resident, describes his problem with Green activism: “It’s very much a community of people who are motivated more by an anti-Israel bias than they are anything related to the climate, anything related to the environment or what you would ostensibly think would be what the Green Party would be about.”

→ The Pentagon is threatening to revoke federal status from the Oklahoma National Guard if it doesn’t comply with the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. While Oklahoma leaders, including the governor, have refused to enforce the mandate, the Pentagon’s threat to take away the guard’s “national recognition” would also jeopardize all federal funding and support and would eventually see the force revert to a state militia. The two sides have until June 30, the deadline for members of the guard to get vaccinated, to reach a resolution.

→ The race-first worldview.

I find the NYT prism so odd. The Cross Bronx X-way displaced 10,000s. I believe the majority were white (often Jewish) and Puerto Rican. So how does the NYT summarize? “The Robert Moses-era highway displaced Black families.” That’s really all they can see.

— Peter Moskos (@PeterMoskos) November 16, 2021

→Jury selection has begun in the federal sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Maxwell is accused of acting as a procurer for Jeffrey Epstein, luring young women and grooming them to be abused, and sometimes participating in that abuse herself. Epstein, a convicted sex offender and confidant of the rich and powerful, killed himself last year while in jail awaiting trial.

The Back Pages

backpagesAmerican Political Prisoners

As I was finishing up today’s Scroll, the news came in that Jacob Chansley, better known as the QAnon Shaman, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. That’s a travesty. Chansley, a Navy veteran who committed no violence, has already served 10 months in solitary confinement for crimes that amount to trespassing and vandalism. Is that really a crime that someone should spend years in prison for?

The breach of the Capitol building was a disgraceful event, but for largely symbolic reasons. What was in reality a ritual desecration has been transformed by a concerted propaganda campaign, supported by the highest levels of government, into a terrorist act on par with Sept. 11, 2001. If you think that’s an exaggeration, go back and reread The New York Times op-ed written by a former CIA station chief calling for a counterinsurgency campaign against Trump supporters. That was a call for civil war, which is not far off from what we already have.

So it bears repeating that the only person who died violently on Jan. 6 was a Trump supporter, shot as she tried to breach the Capitol building. For months, government officials such as Nancy Pelosi, echoed by leading media organs, asserted that a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, had been beaten to death with a fire extinguisher by Trump supporters even as the testimony from his family and medical examiner made clear that no such thing had happened.

It is no defense of what took place at the Capitol to point out that the facts bear no resemblance to the hysteria about organized insurrectionists. Do I even need to mention that the majority of people who participated in last summer’s demonstrations , which turned into the most destructive riots in the United States in 50 years, had their charges dropped?

A wild-eyed, pagan, QAnon-spouting Capitol rioter will hardly be a sympathetic figure to most Scroll readers. But do we really want a class of political prisoners in this country? People sentenced for their beliefs rather than the crimes they committed? The unsympathetic deserve justice as much as everybody else, and they may need it more.

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