Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Farewell Douchebags!

The Best Addresses

The New Republic  

by Nathan Glazer

Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy is Making Where You Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life

By Richard Florida

(Basic Books, 374 pp., $26.95)


In 2002, with The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida launched one of those terms or categories or ideas--there have been many--that try to structure our contemporary societies into something more complicated than the Marxian conflict between the owners of the means of production and those who are exploited as proletarians working on them. His "creative class" has become more than a concept and something like a commercial enterprise, with its own website, its consultation services for cities and enterprises, its large research undertakings. According to the jacket of his new book, Florida is the creator of the Creative Class Group, located in Washington, D.C., Toronto (where Florida is now director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and professor of business and creativity in the business school of the University of Toronto), Pittsburgh (where he was for many years a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University), and Europe. He is, his publisher tells us, "one of the world's leading public intellectuals."

The "creative class" includes those who work in occupations and industries that call upon some measure of creativity. Florida divides them into a "super-creative core" consisting of computer and mathematical occupations; architecture and engineering; life, physical, and social sciences; education, training, and library occupations; arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media--a grouping that seems rather too capacious to merit the term "super-creative"--and a larger, wider group of "creative professionals," which includes management, law, health care, and some in sales and sales management. Together the two categories make up a large part of the American labor force. Florida tracked the rapid rise in the numbers of this creative class, contrasted it with the decline of workers in manufacturing, and posited its significance for innovation and economic growth. More interestingly, he argued that the growth and decline of urban areas is dependent on their ability to attract the members of the creative class--that it was more important for cities to have a "people climate" than a "business climate."

The "people climate" that attracted the creative class was not simply the natural amenities we think of to explain the growth of the Sunbelt and the decline of the industrial heartland. In Florida's view, a climate that would attract the creative class is within the powers of imaginative local communities to, well, create. "Neither sunnier weather nor warmer climates are systematically associated with regional growth," Florida wrote, adding: "University of Chicago sociologist Terry Clark finds that natural amenities, including sun and temperature, are not associated with location decisions of high human capital individuals. [They] are more likely to be drawn to cities that offer 'constructed amenities,' from arts and culture to highquality restaurants."

All Hail the Apple Maggot!

Next Monday — Nov. 24 — is the 149th anniversary of the day that Charles Darwin's masterpiece, "On the Origin of Species," was first published. In honor of that, I thought I'd look at a remark that a friend recently made: "We spend so much time wailing about extinction, but we never celebrate new species."

Hand-colored lithograph of passenger pigeons from J. J. Audubon's Hand-colored lithograph of passenger pigeons from J. J. Audubon's "The Birds of America." (The New York Public Library)

Good point. But there are several reasons for the asymmetry. The most obvious is that extinction is easier to see. In the 18th century, the passenger pigeon was one of the most numerous birds on Earth. Flocks of birds several miles long would fly over, blocking out the sun like an immense cloud. Some observers said the effect was like an eclipse. But by 1880, the numbers had plummeted; by 1915, the passenger pigeon had gone.

The appearance of a new species is not so dramatic. The first members of a new species will typically be indistinguishable — to us — from the species they have evolved from. And while extinction has a clear final moment — the last member of a species dies — the formation of a new species does not usually happen in a single recognizable instant. Which is why we haven't yet raised our glasses to celebrate, say, Rhagoletis pomonella, the apple maggot fly.

Rhagoletis pomonella, the apple maggot fly. (Wikimedia Commons)

This species is in the process of splitting into two. Until the mid-1800s, R. pomonella was a hawthorn fly: adults met at hawthorn fruits to mate and lay eggs. But then apples were introduced to North America. Some haw flies found these fruits attractive places to gather, and began to mate and lay their eggs on apples instead.

Today, flies that like apples have become genetically distinct from those that like haw. There are a couple of reasons why. First, flies meet each other at fruits. Since most flies have a preference for one fruit over the other, haw-preferring flies tend to meet other haw-preferring flies, and ditto for apple flies.


GOP not playing "Minnesota nice" with Franken

Republicans have flooded the airwaves with baseless propaganda to discredit the Coleman-Franken recount in advance.

By Joe Conason

Rebuked and humiliated by American voters on Election Day, the right-wing noise machine continues to blare as loudly as ever, currently devoting special attention to the Minnesota Senate recount. From the Wall Street Journal editorial page to Fox News Channel, the message echoes the post-election strategy of incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman by discrediting the recount in advance. The National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a disgusting, McCarthy-style press release that sought to connect Mark Ritchie, the state official who will oversee the recount, with the Communist Party -- not exactly Minnesota nice. 

Evidently Coleman and his allies fear that his notional lead of less than one-tenth of one percent will evaporate if all the votes are counted. The stakes are high, of course (although perhaps not quite as high as conventional wisdom insists). That is why the barrage of propaganda about the aftermath of the Minnesota race has intensified and expanded far beyond its borders. 

Coleman's opponent Al Franken, the writer, comedian and former radio personality also happens to be a friend of mine. So readers should take that acknowledgment into account as they assess the facts and views presented here. Certainly I don't see any reason to stand by and let the likes of Sean Hannity bulldoze Franken and the voters of Minnesota when my perspective is no more slanted than theirs. 

As soon as the initial election results came in, showing that the race would be close enough to trigger the automatic recount mandated by Minnesota law, Coleman began campaigning to stop that normal and fair process. He claimed to be concerned about the cost of the recount and publicly asked Franken to "let the healing begin" by waiving the recount and conceding the election. 

The recount has yet to begin, but the ordinary post-election precinct canvassing has already reduced Coleman's putative lead from more than 700 votes on Election Night to 206 votes as of yesterday. It remains to be seen whether Coleman will follow his own advice should Franken take the lead when the canvass is complete -- or whether his worries about healing and expenses were pure smarm. 

In any case, the Coleman camp is clearly worried and has turned up the noisemakers to discredit both the canvass and the recount. Nearly every movement of a few votes into Franken's column has elicited shrieks of "fraud" from the incumbent's friends. In each case, those shrill complaints have been thoroughly discredited by independent observers.

Texas grand jury indicts Cheney, Gonzales of crime

PhotoHOUSTON - A grand jury in South Texas indicted U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and former attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday for "organized criminal activity" related to alleged abuse of inmates in private prisons.

The indictment has not been seen by a judge, who could dismiss it.

The grand jury in Willacy County, in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, said Cheney is "profiteering from depriving human beings of their liberty," according to a copy of the indictment obtained by Reuters.

The indictment cites a "money trail" of Cheney's ownership in prison-related enterprises including the Vanguard Group, which owns an interest in private prisons in south Texas.

Former attorney general Gonzales used his position to "stop the investigations as to the wrong doings" into assaults in county prisons, the indictment said.

Cheney's office declined comment. "We have not received any indictments. I can't comment on something we have not received," said Cheney's spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.

The indictment, overseen by county District Attorney Juan Guerra, cites the case of Gregorio De La Rosa, who died on April 26, 2001, inside a private prison in Willacy County.

The grand jury wrote it made its decision "with great sadness," but said they had no other choice but to indict Cheney and Gonzales "because we love our country."

Texas is the home state of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Al-Qaida leader releases new tape warning Obama against Bush policies

Osama bin Laden, left, with Ayman al-Zawahiri, in one of al-Qaida's propaganda videos. Photograph: AP

Al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has urged Islamists to continue attacks against "criminal America", in an audiotape published online today.

He has also accused US President-elect Barack Obama of betraying his Islamic roots.

Al-Zawahiri warned Obama not to continue the policies of his predecessor, George Bush, on Iraq or he would "face failure".

Osama bin-Laden's right-hand man called on Islamists to continue attacks against "criminal America", and the message appeared to be aimed at convincing Muslims that Obama does not represent a change in US policies.

Al-Zawahiri attacked Obama for supporting Israel and "turning his back on his Islamic roots".

Limbaugh/Hannity form Central Conservative Cigar Party–CCCP

Wayb'lowdabelt, VA —BobZaguy    In an exclusive interview with this reporter, both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity agreed to answer my questions about the dysfunctional Republican party and what became a kick-ass defeat for the McCain/Palin campaign on November 4. Limbaugh and Hannity say they have officially resigned from the GOP ranks and will convene their new political party, the CCCP or Central Conservative Cigar Party.

They feel that the election was lost, and lost big-time, because all the lobbyists on the GOP payroll strayed from the true conservative creed — outsource government, stop taxing the rich, send the f-ing immigrants home — then rally the new troops and put Gingrich and Wasilla Barbie in the White House in 2012.

"After all," said Sean Hannity, "at the end of the day, its the conservative core ideas that work. Ignore the issues, paint the opposition as Commie pinkos or fags — whichever works, and plunder the hell out of the budget for personal gain." Limbaugh nodded in agreement.

As the most prominent voices of what used to be the alliance of The Old Guard, they were visibly pleased that the election wiped out the last dregs of the GOP's creepy moderates. "Tell Dubya not to let that door knob hit him on the way out," said Rush, as he choked partly from laughing and partly from inhaling his cigar smoke. "Damn, I gotta quit breathin' in when I got this in my mouth." Then he grinned knowingly at Hannity who was playing with the zipper on his corduroys.

"Fuck reform," said Sean. "Who cares that some American voters don't want a party whose main idea is slashing government? Fuck 'em if they think the country has changed. They all think global warming is serious. Who cares about younger voters? Who the hell wants to live on the East or West Coast anyway?"

Palin publicity blitz: No signs of slowing

Complaint says she crossed line between job, self-promotion

Click to enlargeShe's a national political figure and one of the world's most famous people.

She's also governor of Alaska.

As Sarah Palin settles back into her job as the state's chief executive, a new ethics complaint filed Tuesday says she's already improperly mixing her official duties and broader political ambitions.

The charge: That Palin broke state ethics rules by holding national television interviews about her run for vice president from the governor's office.

The complaint comes as Palin's personal life, her prospects as a future presidential candidate and everything she says and does continues to draw headlines.

Zane Henning, a North Slope worker from Wasilla, said he filed the complaint with the attorney general. He says Palin is promoting her future political career on state property, pointing in particular to the governor's Nov. 10 interview with Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren.

"The governor is using her official position and office in an attempt to repair her damaged political image on the national scene," Henning wrote.

Atheists Reach Out -- Just Don't Call It Proselytizing

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Monty Python on YouTube