Sunday, September 17, 2023

Last Call For A Stone Rolled Out

Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner managed to roll his nearly six-decade music journalism legacy off a cliff over the the space of 24 hours because he decided that white men were the only people who mattered in the history of rock 'n' roll.

Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, has been removed from the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, which he also helped found, one day after an interview with him was published in The New York Times in which he made comments that were widely criticized as sexist and racist.

The foundation — which inducts artists into the hall of fame and was the organization behind the creation of its affiliated museum in Cleveland — made the announcement in a brief statement released Saturday.

“Jann Wenner has been removed from the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation,” the statement said. Joel Peresman, the president and chief executive of the foundation, declined to comment further when reached by phone.

But the dismissal of Mr. Wenner comes after an interview with The Times, published Friday and timed to the publication of his new book, called “The Masters,” which collects his decades of interviews with rock legends like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Bono — all of them white and male.

In the interview, David Marchese of The Times asked Mr. Wenner, 77, why the book included no women or people of color.

Regarding women, Mr. Wenner said, “Just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” and remarked that Joni Mitchell “was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll.”

His answer about artists of color was less direct. “Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” he said. “I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.”

Mr. Wenner’s comments drew an immediate reaction, with his quotes mocked on social media and past criticisms unearthed of Rolling Stone’s coverage of female artists under Mr. Wenner. Joe Hagan, who in 2017 wrote a harshly critical biography of Mr. Wenner, “Sticky Fingers,” cited a comment by the feminist critic Ellen Willis, who in 1970 called the magazine “viciously anti-woman.”

In a statement issued late Saturday by a representative for Little, Brown and Company, the publisher of his book, Mr. Wenner said: “In my interview with The New York Times I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and women artists and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks.

“‘The Masters’ is a collection of interviews I’ve done over the years,” he continued, “that seemed to me to best represent an idea of rock ’n’ roll’s impact on my world; they were not meant to represent the whole of music and its diverse and important originators but to reflect the high points of my career and interviews I felt illustrated the breadth and experience in that career. They don’t reflect my appreciation and admiration for myriad totemic, world-changing artists whose music and ideas I revere and will celebrate and promote as long as I live. I totally understand the inflammatory nature of badly chosen words and deeply apologize and accept the consequences.”

Robert Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard, Ray Charles, B.B. King, James Brown, but OK there Jann.

Hey, if the consequences are that his book crashes and burns, he's off the Rock 'n' Roll Hall board for good and he gets to live alone with his ghosts, I'm fine with that. Sadly, he's probably going to be booked by Tucker Carlson or Ben Shapiro and he'll be fine little martyr for the "we're just asking questions" set.

Still, it may be the most Jann Wenner thing ever to distill six decades of music down to Bono, Spingsteen and John Lennon. Never did like the guy.

Unionized, Ionized, And Galvanized

NY Times business reporter Jack Ewing figures that targeted walkout by UAW members over pay and conditions in the Big Three automakers are really the fight over whether or not the auto industry can survive against Tesla and foreign, non-union automakers like Hyundai and still stay in business after converting gas-guzzling fleets to electric vehicles.

Nearly 13,000 U.A.W. workers walked off the job at three plants in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri on Friday after talks between the unions and the companies in three separate negotiations failed to result in agreements before a Thursday deadline. Pay is one of the biggest sticking points: The union is demanding a 40 percent pay increase over four years but the automakers have offered roughly half as much.

But the talks are about more than pay. Workers are trying to defend jobs as manufacturing shifts from internal combustion engines to batteries. Because they have fewer parts, electric cars can be made with fewer workers than gasoline vehicles. A favorable outcome for the U.A.W. would also give the union a strong calling card if, as some expect, it then tries to organize employees at Tesla and other nonunion carmakers like Hyundai, which is planning to manufacture electric vehicles at a massive new factory in Georgia.

“The transition to E.V.s is dominating every bit of this discussion,” said John Casesa, senior managing director at the investment firm Guggenheim Partners who previously headed strategy at Ford Motor.

“It's unspoken,” Mr. Casesa added. “But really, it’s all about positioning the union to have a central role in the new electric industry.”

Under pressure from government officials and changing consumer demand, Ford, G.M. and Stellantis are investing billions to retool their sprawling operations to build electric vehicles, which are critical to addressing climate change. But they are making little if any profit on those vehicles while Tesla, which dominates electric car sales, is profitable and growing fast.

Ford said in July that its electric vehicle business would lose $4.5 billion this year. If the union got all the increases in pay, pensions and other benefits it is seeking, the company said, its workers’ total compensation would be twice as much as Tesla’s employees.

Union demands would force Ford to scrap its investments in electric vehicles, Jim Farley, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview on Friday. “We want to actually have a conversation about a sustainable future,” he said, “not one that forces us to choose between going out of business and rewarding our workers.”
How automakers get to the finish line when the course and the vehicles are rapidly changing to an all-electric future is a major question. But screwing over UAW workers definitely means the automakers are going to collapse and require billions in taxpayer bailouts again. 

For workers, the biggest concern is that electric vehicles have far fewer parts than gasoline models and will render many jobs obsolete. Plants that make mufflers, catalytic converters, fuel injectors and other components that electric cars don’t need will have to be overhauled or shut down.

Many new battery and electric vehicle factories are springing up and could employ workers from the plants that have shut down. But automakers are building most aggressively in the South where labor laws are tilted against union organizers, rather than in the Midwest, where the U.A.W. has more clout. One of the union’s demands is that workers in the new factories be covered by the automakers’ national labor contracts — a demand that the automakers have said they can’t meet because those plants are owned by joint ventures. The union also wants to regain the right to strike to block plant shutdowns.

“We are at the dawn of another industrial revolution and the way we’re going is the way we went in the last industrial revolution — a lot of profit for a few and misery and not good jobs for the many,” said Madeline Janis, executive director of Jobs to Move America, an advocacy group that works closely with the U.A.W. and other unions.

“The U.A.W. is really taking a stand for communities across the country to make sure this transition benefits everybody,” Ms. Janis added.

Automakers have been racking up record profits during the last decade, but they cannot afford to lose time from work stoppages in their race to compete with Tesla and foreign automakers.
And there's the answer, of course. With new cars rolling off the line with a median price of 40 grand, automakers are indeed still making massive, record profits even in the pandemic era and work from home growing across the country. Even with last year's massive semiconductor shortages and the shift to EVs, the big three still made a combined $25 billion plus so far in 2023.

The money's there to pay the UAW. Whether or not the Big Three want to pay the piper, well.

Sunday Long Read: Ore-Gone Next Door

Conservatives in Oregon, a state founded as a white supremacist sanctuary, are finding that in 2023, the 86% white state isn't white supremacist enough, so they want the eastern part of the state to leave and become part of significantly more racist Idaho. WaPo's Scott Wilson takes a look at the white hot new imports into the Gem State in our Sunday Long Read this week.
The Snake River has formed the border of Oregon and Idaho for more than a century and a half, slicing through fields of onions, sugar beets and wheat that roll out for miles through Treasure Valley.

Here on the Oregon side, where Bob Wheatley has lived his entire life, are a collection of high-end cannabis shops, a new Planned Parenthood clinic, and gas prices a dollar higher than those just over the river.

Across the river in the town of Fruitland, in western Idaho, new housing subdivisions stretch out for miles from the main streets. Agriculture, bottling and construction businesses that just months ago were based in Oregon are thriving. One of Fruitland’s new problems is building enough schools to accommodate the out-of-state arrivals, many of them from Oregon.

“Things have changed,” said Wheatley, who retired recently after five decades as a local pharmacist. “And it’s the politics that have changed fastest.”

So far 12 counties in central and eastern Oregon have voted in favor of local ballot measures that compel county leaders to study the idea of moving the border about 270 miles west. The movement envisions 14 full counties joining Idaho, along with parts of others.

A 13th county is scheduled to take up the question on the May 2024 ballot. The region accounts for less than 10 percent of Oregon’s population, but most of its territory.

The push to change the border is rooted in policy differences and a sense that, in Oregon, there will be no way for conservatives to influence the laws and regulations made by the elected representatives of the far more numerous Democratic voters who live on the western side of the Cascades.

Idaho offers a much more comfortable political home for eastern Oregon’s conservatives, who live in many of the most racially homogenous counties in the state. In nearly every county that has voted to explore joining Idaho, White residents account for more than 80 percent of the population.

The political contrast between the states is stark.

Oregon Democrats have a more than 30 percent edge in voter registration over Republicans, and Joe Biden won the state by 16 percentage points in 2020. Idaho offers a mirror image: Republican voters outnumber Democrats more than 5 to 1, and Donald Trump defeated Biden by 30 percentage points. Both states have sent two senators from the same party to Washington — Democrats in Oregon, Republicans in Idaho.

At 74, Wheatley has been considering a move across the river for years, returning his wife, Chrystine, a retired nurse, to the state where she grew up. But he could not sell his home for enough money to buy something comparable in Fruitland, where prices are rising because of the Oregon arrivals.

So, in late 2020, Wheatley, never before a political activist, volunteered to gather signatures to place a measure on the May 2021 ballot compelling Malheur County commissioners to study joining Idaho. It passed easily.

“I told Chrys, ‘I can’t move you, but maybe I can move the border,’” Wheatley said. “So that’s what we’re trying.”
These twin towns across an old border straddle a seam in the nation’s deepening political polarization, neighboring opposites living under starkly different laws. The river separates states that, perhaps more than in any other part of the nation, embrace the two parties’ most extreme positions on gun control, abortion rights, environmental regulation, drug legalization and other issues at the center of the American political debate.

The result in eastern Oregon, from the volcanic Cascade Range to this border town, is a sense of profound political alienation. The disaffection among conservatives has spawned a movement to change the state’s political dynamic in a novel if quixotic way — rather than relocate or change the politics, which seems impossible to many here, why not move the border and become residents who live under the rules of Idaho?

This is no small task.

Both the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures, which are controlled by Democrats and Republicans respectively, would have to approve a border shift, which in this case would be the most significant geographically since western states began forming in the mid-19th century. The issue would then go to the U.S. Congress.

But, as more than two dozen interviews across the state made clear, there is momentum behind the cause among a lightly populated region of ranch land, swift rivers, and vast pine forests. It is known formally as the Greater Idaho movement.

The whole area along the Snake River and Willamette Valley is a powder keg. I hope the feds understand this.

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