What Happened Today: September 15, 2022
Ethereum overhauls its crypto network; Ford issues EV ultimatum to 3000 dealers; Federer to retire from tennis
The Big Story
Late Wednesday night, during an online viewing party, entrepreneur Vitalik Buterin announced the successful software upgrade to the blockchain he launched in 2015, Ethereum, which now provides the underlying architecture for the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency. The network’s “Merge” to the new blockchain protocol was “the crypto world’s most-ambitious software upgrade to date,” according to Bloomberg. The Scroll’s crypto correspondent, Ben Samuels, breaks down the impact of the update for the crypto industry.
Bitcoin and Ethereum have historically made use of a system called Proof-of-Work, which uses the energy expended by a network of specialized machines to cryptographically lock transactions, making the network unhackable. This all changed over a tense few minutes last night, during which Ethereum’s young founder Vitalik Buterin struggled with his microphone and appeared generally dazed in a messianic sort of way. Before the critical moment, someone asked him for his thoughts, and he appeared on a shaky iPhone camera walking around an apartment. “Philosophically,” he said, “I like to think of Proof-of-Work as bound by physical laws, where the new Ethereum is a universe unbound, where we create the laws of physics anew.” Then he changed his Zoom icon to a panda and seemed to leave the room.
Ethereum’s new convoluted Proof-of-Stake (PoS) protocol leverages a user’s stake of Ether—Ethereum’s native crypto token—to lock transactions the same way that energy expenditure does for Proof-of-Work. Ethereum proponents and the general media have emphasized the projected 99.95% decrease in Ethereum’s post-Merge environmental impact, while Bitcoiners and other crypto-anarchists lament the web of automated punishments that PoS introduces in the name of security.
Bitcoin and Ethereum are already coming to represent the crypto space’s major poles of thought: Bitcoin, a currency, with zealously orthodox support for the vision of its anonymous founder; and Ethereum, a marketplace, with its pale Jeremiah mediating a coalition of artists, developers, and establishment types. In the coming years, this new rift has the potential to develop into a major theater of the Bitcoin-Ethereum debate, which looks only to intensify as the two begin contending for real economic power.
In the Back Pages: Disinvited
→ Following one of the closest elections in Sweden’s history, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, a member of the Social Democrats Party, conceded to the country’s Moderate Party candidate, Ulf Kristersson, who has assembled a coalition that includes the country’s growing nationalist party, the Sweden Democrats. “I am now starting the process to form a new, forceful government for all of Sweden and all citizens,” Kristersson said. “There is a large frustration in society: fear over violence, worries about the economy. The world is very uncertain, and the political polarization has become too large, even in Sweden.” Like Andersson before him, Kristersson will now preside over a narrow majority and a fraught coalition of parties.
→ A potential strike by some 115,000 freight rail workers has been averted—for now, at least—after President Biden said Thursday that workers and rail operators had come to a last-minute agreement, preventing what would have been a major disruption to the nation’s supply chains. “Together we reached an agreement that will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruptions of our economy,” Biden said at a Rose Garden press conference, following a call he made late Wednesday night to the various parties after several members of his administration had overseen some 20 hours of negotiations. The rail workers, represented by a dozen unions, were prepared to strike on Friday if railway operators didn’t agree to changes in strict attendance policies that rail operators aggressively enforced to lower their labor costs. Railroad analysts say the dominant way of doing business began to shift roughly two decades ago, when rail owners moved away from increasing the number of rides they sold for higher profits to a model that saved expenses by tightening labor practices.
→ Some 3,000 Ford dealers have until the end of October to respond to the ultimatum the car maker announced Wednesday: If they want to sell Ford’s growing line of electric vehicles (EVs), they have to spend anywhere from $500,000 to $1.2 million to upgrade their operations.
Those dealer fees will mostly go toward EV charging stations built by Ford, but dealers who agree to the deal will also have to upgrade their digital sales offerings and employee training and, above all else, publish non-negotiable pricing online for the EVs they’re selling.
Dealers will be able to set prices above what Ford recommends, but it’s unlikely dealers will make it so easy for customers to go elsewhere.
The move by Ford is a clear attempt to compete with the direct-sale model of EVs popularized by Tesla, and it follows similar efforts by other car makers to shake up their legacy dealer businesses.
Last year, GM made a push for its Cadillac dealers to optimize their dealerships for EVs. Roughly 30% of Cadillac dealers choose instead to give up their franchises.
→ As the country makes its uneasy peace with COVID-19, now endemic and here for the long haul, “one mandate remains,” Ross Barkan points out in Crain’s: that all workers in New York City be vaccinated. “No other city in America conditions employment, in both the public and private sectors, on vaccination,” Barkan writes. “Not Chicago, not Boston, not Los Angeles. New York stands alone, with a policy that has lost all public health rationale.” New York City now has a vaccination rate just under 90%, and those vaccines have drastically reduced the deadliness of the virus, but not its transmissibility. “The high rate of vaccination did not keep New York from becoming ground zero for the Omicron surge in the winter or the BA.5 offshoot a few months later,” Barkan writes. “Vaccination status, in the late summer of 2022, is almost irrelevant when it comes to whether you will spread Covid or test positive for it.”
→ Ivan Pechorin, the manager of Russia’s Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, was found dead on Monday, drowned in Cape Ignatyev in Vladivostok, making him the ninth Russian businessman to die under mysterious circumstances since January. Of those nine, six were connected to Russia’s two largest energy companies: four with Gazprom, the Russian-owned company, and two with Lukoil, the largest privately owned energy company in the country. Senior executives from both companies have spoken out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this month, Lukoil’s CEO fell to his death from a hospital window in Moscow, Russia’s state-owned media company claims.
→ Number of the Day: 14
The number of inmates who have committed suicide or been murdered at Rikers Island since January, putting 2022 on pace to be the deadliest year in the jail complex’s history. The latest death—the suicide of a 35-year-old who arrived to the prison last week—comes as New York City struggles to make good on promises to improve the facility: Mayor Eric Adams and Louis Molina, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, submitted a 30-page action plan in June that was approved by a federal judge, which allows the city to maintain control of the troubled jail if things turn around. Come November, Adams and Molina will need to show that their plan is doing just that—a case that will be difficult to make—or else the jail’s management will be taken over by the federal government.
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→ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has announced a bill—sure to run aground in a Congress controlled by the Democrats—that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, save for cases involving rape, incest, or risk to the life of the mother. The move comes as reproductive rights have emerged as a rallying cry for the Democratic Party, with one recent poll showing that 63% of Americans were less likely to support a candidate that sought to restrict abortions, and with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wary of any moves that might keep the issue in the headlines.
→ Quote of the Day:
Roger Federer is showing that the speed and strength of today’s pro game are merely its skeleton, not its flesh. He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years the game’s future is unpredictable. … Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform—and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled.
David Foster Wallace writing in 2006 about Roger Federer, who announced on Thursday he will retire from professional tennis. Over 24 years, Federer accumulated a long list of improbable achievements, including the record-setting streak of 237 consecutive weeks as world No. 1 and the claim to being the only player to win five Grand Slam titles across three different Slams. His run between 2005 and 2010, when Wallace went to see Federer play at Wimbledon, will be the best way to remember the man from Switzerland with the one-handed backhand who could seemingly do anything. Over that five-year period, Federer appeared in 18 of the 19 Grand Slam finals, ending with the Australian Open. His last professional match will be next week in London, at the Laver Cup.
→ With President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act now law, businesses are racing to make the most of the new green tax initiatives, creating an increasingly competitive market for these subsidies. The Inflation Reduction Act expanded existing green tax credits—that is, tax reductions awarded to companies who invest in green products or in greening their operations, with the aim to stimulate investment in the green economy—and, perhaps most significantly, made them tradable, with companies now “discussing arrangements in which credits would be sold at discounts from face value,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, there are opportunities for savvy investors to turn these new tax benefits into lucrative investment instruments. “Within a year or two,” the Journal writes, “it could be easy for a corporation with no direct renewable-energy investment—a profitable retailer, pharmaceutical maker or high-tech company—to purchase tax credits. Because of the expected discounts, companies could earn an instant profit, paying $90 or $95 for a $100 coupon off their income-tax liability.”
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman
TODAY IN TABLET:
Kurt Eisner, Gustav Landauer, and Adolf Hitler
Michael Brenner writes how Munich became the world capital of antisemitism and the birthplace of the Nazi Party.
The Minyan: Non-Jewish Spouses
Abigail Pogrebin leads a roundtable discussion about interfaith marriages, raising Jewish children, navigating Jewish and non-Jewish holidays, and where people do—and don’t—feel welcome.
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The leadership of New York’s West End Synagogue is too committed to the ever-changing progressive party line to suffer a radical feminist like me.
By Phyllis Chesler
As we know, a virulent, often vicious, increasingly intolerant “cancel culture” has permeated our campuses and much of the media—but it has also infested some of our synagogues. I now have firsthand experience of what this means.
Being disinvited is not a new experience for me. I’ve been disinvited from engagements before because my radically feminist views were not politically correct; because I dared to expose feminist hypocrisy among the sisterhood; and because I defended the truth, and thus defended Jews, Judaism, Israel, and post-Enlightenment values. I’ve also been disinvited because my academic studies about and activism against honor killing, face veiling, female genital mutilation, Islamist terrorism, and an Islamist version of cancel culture (think Salman Rushdie) was seen as “Islamophobic.”
Here’s the story. In early May, retired City University of New York professor Susan Prager (a woman whom I do not know and have never met) invited me to deliver a lecture about antisemitism and feminism to the West End Synagogue (WES), a Reconstructionist congregation near Lincoln Square, possibly via Zoom, perhaps in person.
And now I’ve been disinvited. Why? Apparently, my alleged views on transgender and LGBTQIA people are key; even though this wasn’t the topic of my lecture, such views rendered me unacceptable as a speaker on any other subject. I was also accused of possibly being a racist as well.
Are we living in the 1950s, and is this yet another version of McCarthyism? Have we plunged into Huxley’s Brave New World?
What would someone’s views about the transgender issue have to do with antisemitism and the survival of a demonized Israel? Moreover, are differences in opinion more important than freedom of thought and speech? Intellectual and political diversity? I guess they are in some circles.
Of course, the Talmud preserves both majority and minority opinions. For centuries, in fact, totally opposite views have lived side by side, a glorious example of tolerance and civility among those who take ideas seriously.
The good news: A number of WES congregants have written letters to the synagogue’s president, Harvey Weiner, and to the board of directors demanding that I be allowed to speak. I’ve been told that a handful of couples have already exited the synagogue; others have promised not to donate money to the annual appeal on Yom Kippur.
This is certainly not what I had in mind.
Read the rest on Tablet: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/disinvited-west-end-synagogue-phyllis-chesler