This week, we’re sharing stories from Eli Hager, Bryan Curtis, Terry DeMio and Dan Horn, Alexander Nazaryan, and Ellie Shechet.
The house in eastern Queens where Donald Trump spent his first four years of life is now an Airbnb, but a night costs more than a bed at the Trump-owned Plaza Hotel, and the $816 doesn’t get you a fraction of that lavish experience. For Newsweek, Alexander Nazaryan spent a night at the house, exploring the land of Trump’s birth and searching the environment for insights into what shaped him. He finds decor that’s the “raison d’être of Donald Trump, which is the endless veneration of Donald Trump.” Nazaryan shows how Trump likes to frame himself as an outsider from Queens who made his money in Manhattan — but how he is in fact a provincial creature with daddy’s money, born into the genteel suburbs of Long Island.
In the late 1950s, a thriving Mexican-American neighborhood was bulldozed to build Dodgers Stadium. Not far away, a half a century later, that same process continues, except the process now has name: gentrification. The socio-economic forces of gentrification are creating activists everywhere from Queens to London. At Newsweek, Alexander Nazaryan reports from the front line in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, where activists are fighting art galleries, which they believe are the first wave of gentrification and real estate redevelopment that lead to the inevitable the predictable displacement of people of color. This process is called “artwashing.” In this historically Latino community, where 89% of residents rent and 5% have college degrees, activists have drawn a line in the Los Angeles sand, and if some of them get squeezed out, they will do so with their voices carrying news of this problem to the world.
The above process is known as artwashing, which has come to widely describe displacement efforts in which the artistic community is tacitly complicit. The term appears to have first been used in mainstream media in 2014 by Feargus O’Sullivan of The Atlantic, in an article about a tower in once-destitute East London that had been redeveloped for high-paying tenants. They were being enticed, in part, by suggestions that they wouldn’t be gentrifiers but, rather, original members of a new artistic community. “The artist community’s short-term occupancy is being used for a classic profit-driven regeneration maneuver,” O’Sullivan wrote. He labeled the process “artwashing.”
Yet for many the notion of artwashing is no less urban myth than alligators in the sewers of New York. Several studies have concluded that art galleries do not displace low-income residents, but Defend Boyle Heights and the Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement (BHAAAD, pronounced “bad”) don’t care about academic urbanists’ peer-reviewed studies. They know the galleries are a cancer that must be eradicated, for they are “enemies of the people,” as Luna called them. “I want these galleries to get the fuck out of Boyle Heights,” he said, finally managing a bite of food.
The course of chemotherapy recommended by Defend Boyle Heights is relentlessly aggressive. Someone shot a potato gun at the attendees of an art show, and someone spray-painted “Fuck white art” on the walls of several galleries. Like the Battle of Stalingrad, this is a furiously contested, block-by-block affair. Both sides have suffered painful losses: the closure of Carnitas Michoacan #3, a 33-year-old eatery beloved for its nachos, the shuttering of PSSST, one of the Anderson Street galleries.
While inspecting the property, Carver noticed that the fence posts were oddly shaped. Jacobsen said this was because they came from a boat he’d found on his property. Jacobsen promptly left for Los Angeles, and his wife invited Carver to stay in the main house, because she was afraid of a “crazy Swede” who was prowling the area. Carver asked her about the ship. “We had a bad windstorm awhile back, and it blew a lot of sand off of one of the dunes near the back of the house,” she said, according to Grasson. “When the storm was done, Jakie noticed what looked like the front of a boat coming out of the ground, so he went to investigate. It took Jakie quite some time to get through all the sand, but when he did he found a small chest full of gems. But when he tried to lift the chest out it fell completely apart.” Jacobsen used a sifter to retrieve the spilled jewels.
On that recording, Carver says he saw the ship protruding from the ground. He also says that, during his trip to Los Angeles, Jacobsen met with a lawyer named Levi and a pawnbroker named Barney, presumably to trade some of the treasure he’d found.
In Newsweek, Alexander Nazaryan recounts one man’s search for a Spanish galleon that legends say traveled up the Sea of Cortez into California’s desert interior and never got out. Or maybe it’s a Viking ship. Even in that bright desert sun, the facts are hazy.
California’s best weapon if war does come might be one beloved by Trump: the lawsuit. The man who would likely do the suing is a relatively unknown Los Angeles congressman: Xavier Becerra. He was not among those who won an election on November 8, but with Harris leaving for the Senate, the state attorney general’s seat was open. Brown chose Becerra, effectively making him the top law enforcement officer in the nation’s largest state.
Becerra, who is of Mexican heritage, wasted no time in letting his constituents know where he stood on the results of the presidential election. “If you want to take on a forward-leading state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us,” Becerra said. “I believe with this nomination I have a chance to let California know I got their back.” That kind of confrontational rhetoric quickly led to suggestions that Becerra would become the national leader of the movement against Trump, with The Nation calling him “the most important appointment since the election.”
In Newsweek, Alexander Nazaryan details the many ideological and legal fronts on which California and President Trump clash, and the ways Californians are resisting and preparing for future federal incursions.
“On account of its federal status [as a Schedule I drug], most big law firms don’t want to touch weed,” [attorney Amanda] Connor explains. “Ethically, lawyers aren’t supposed to give advice about illegal activities. Major firms are afraid to lose clients.” Her boutique firm may be the only one in the country that takes marijuana providers through the entire byzantine process, from licensing to opening a shop.
Another renegade is Boulder, Colorado-based marijuana tax law attorney Rachel Gillette. She recently sued the IRS—and won—on behalf of a client who was denied an abatement of a 10 percent penalty for paying his taxes in cash. But cash was the only option: Because of federal law, marijuana enterprises deal only in cash, as banks shun them. “It’s a difficult situation for many marijuana businesses, with regard to banking,” says Gillette. “Most banks do not take marijuana business accounts, even in states where it is legal. They can’t afford the compliance cost. It’s too risky.” So far, Gillette has been the only marijuana attorney to beat the IRS on this issue.
—Gogo Lidz, writing in Newsweek about how female medical personnel, scientists, strategists and investors are advancing America’s booming weed business and rapidly shifting it from a male dominated industry.
And it has predicted a remarkable rise in juicy, first-person writing on the Internet. Consider the success of xoJane, which launched in 2011, or of The Washington Post’s “PostEverything” blog. On Medium.com and Jezebel, memoirish personal essays win big. CNN ramped up its “First Person” project in 2013. And Vox.com just recently followed suit. As of press time, the Ezra Klein-run explainer site is hiring a deputy editor for “Vox First Person.”
But Thought Catalog takes the self-expression emphasis a step further. Tellingly, staffers like senior writer/producer Kovie Biakolo don’t take the title Editor because, as she puts it, “I don’t actually perform edits to people’s work.” Biakolo says that the lack of editing can encourage writers to improve on their own. “My kind of attitude to that, especially because of how I allow my contributors to publish and how I deal with them, is that it’s going to make you a better writer if you are embarrassed by what you see,” Biakolo says. “Because you always want your name to be attached to good things. And you don’t want people to be humiliated. So I will edit for them after the fact, but I always tell them, ‘I’m not going to edit your work because I want you to do work.’ Like after it’s published, when they’re like, ‘Oh, could you please change this sentence, it’s really bad.’” She adds, “I think that writers should get in the habit of [editing their own work] again. I think the pen is being spoiled by the Internet.”
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“Editors File Story; Girls File Complaint”
On March 16, 1970, Newsweek magazine hit the newsstands with a cover story on the fledgling feminist movement titled “Women in Revolt.” The bright yellow cover pictured a naked woman in red silhouette, her head thrown back, provocatively thrusting her fist through a broken blue female-sex symbol. As the first copies went on sale that Monday morning, forty-six female employees of Newsweek announced that we, too, were in revolt. We had just filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that we had been “systematically discriminated against in both hiring and promotion and forced to assume a subsidiary role” simply because we were women. It was the first time women in the media had sued on the grounds of sex discrimination and the story, irresistibly timed to the Newsweek cover, was picked up around the world:
• “‘Discriminate,’ le redattrici di Newsweek?” (La Stampa) “Newsweek’s Sex Revolt” (London Times)
• “Editors File Story; Girls File Complaint” (Newsday)
• “Women Get Set for Battle” (London Daily Express)
• “As Newsweek Says, Women Are in Revolt, Even on Newsweek” (New York Times)
The story in the New York Daily News, titled “Newshens Sue Newsweek for ‘Equal Rights,’” began, “Forty-six women on the staff of Newsweek magazine, most of them young and most of them pretty, announced today they were suing the magazine.”
Inside the group’s 50th anniversary reunion tour: How the legendary group fell apart and came back together, and how Brian Wilson gets along with his old bandmates:
The vibe in Burbank is collegial, but each Beach Boy is locked into his own orbit. Wilson and Love tend to communicate through the musical directors they’ve retained from their respective touring bands; Jardine, Johnston, and Marks hover on the margins. Over lunch, Jardine tells me he’s been urging Love to open the second half of the set with ‘Our Prayer,’ the hushed choral prelude to Smile, but so far, Love has been brushing him off. ‘With him, you never know if it’s confrontational or uncomfortable because he’s able to mask any kind of negativity,’ Jardine says. ‘You never know if you’ve fucked up or not.’ When I mention ‘‘Til I Die,’ a stark Wilson solo composition from 1971, Johnston, who’s sitting nearby, insists that it was ‘the last Brian Wilson recording. Ever. The career ended for me right with that song.’ But why? ‘Because he was still 100 percent,’ Johnston explains. ‘Now, he’s … you know, a senior guy.’
Resuscitating a battered newsweekly in 2011 is a tough bit of business. Last year, The Daily Beast and Newsweek lost a combined $30 million. Ad page numbers tell how difficult it is, too: Newsweek’s ad page performance between April to September was down 18 percent, according to the Publishers Information Bureau quarterly report. This is easy to dismiss (what isn’t down these days!) — but Time is up 4 percent for the year, The Economist is flat and Newsweek is competing, year-over-year, against a version of itself that had an ownership change, a lame duck editor and a very uncertain future.