Two years ago, the renowned graffiti artist Revok moved from LA to Detroit. Josh Harkinson"Warning! This city is infested by crackheads. Secure your belongings and pray for your life." So reads a hand-scrawled sign just off I-75 in Detroit, where a post-apocalyptic cityscape of looted and charred homes has come to represent a sort of sarcophagus of the American Dream.
But beyond simply fueling murders and bribery scandals, decades of hard times have finally birthed new signs of life here in the Motor City, as its gritty neighborhoods attract a burgeoning community of artists, hipsters, and socially minded entrepreneurs. "With a little bit of motivation, you can make anything happen here," says Jason Williams, a.k.a. Revok, a renowned Los Angeles graffiti artist turned Detroiter, whose lively murals adorn walls not far from the crackhead sign. "It's all about the reality that you create for yourself."
For those willing to brave the nation's most dangerous major city, Detroit offers a tight-knit and successful creative community. The birthplace of Motown and techno still manages to turn out chart-busting artists like Eminem and Jack White. And growing numbers of bohemians have found that a few thousand dollars will buy them a classic brick townhouse or a loft in an art-deco skyscraper. Where old buildings have fallen, hundreds of urban gardens sprout.
Seasteading Institute Senior Director Randy Hencken aboard the Merlot: Josh Harkinson
We're sitting in the sleek lounge of San Francisco's Infinity Towers around a granite coffee table inexplicably stacked with unopened cans of wild sardines: one reporter and a handful of adherents to obscure political philosophies, flirting over cocktails.
"I can go either way on the caning," says a guy I'll call MH, a thirtysomething tech entrepreneur in an expensive suit who recently returned from a jaunt to Singapore, "but I have no fundamental problem with harsh punishment for people who deserve it."
Kate Herrick, a teacher with an online school promoting the views of the late author and libertarian demigoddess Ayn Rand, smiles appreciatively and tosses her curly hair. "And I think they should go further with torture," she offers. "When you read about these serial killers…"
Among the 15 top donors to outside political groups this election cycle, only two happen to work for the same company: James Simons, the billionaire founder and chairman of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies is a prominent Democrat. RenTech's co-chief executive, Robert Mercer, is a Republican backer of right-wing tea party candidates. In all, they've given $3 million to political groups and candidates that often seem to be diametrically opposed.
In an election year in which the Democratic Party's Wall Street donors have threatened to jump ship, RenTech's approach may provide a roadmap for the financial sector's evolving political strategy. By all appearances, the notoriously secretive hedge fund approaches politics as it approaches investing: by hedging its bets.
Bank of America, which last fall announced plans to lay off 30,000 workers, is about to go on a hiring spree—overseas.
America's second-largest bank is relocating its business-support operations to the Philippines, according to a high-ranking Filipino government official recently quoted in the Filipino press. The move, which includes a portion of the bank's customer service unit, comes less than three years after Bank of America received a $45 billion federal bailout.
Roman Romulo, deputy majority leader of the Philippine House of Representatives, bragged to the Manila Standard Today earlier this month that the Philippines "has secured its place as the world's fastest-growing outsourcing hub." Romulo pointed out that BofA is the last of the "big four" US banks to move their business-support network to his island nation, where the average family makes $4,700 a year.
A spokesman for Bank of America, Mark Pipitone, was unable to provide additional information about the bank's offshoring plans on Friday. "We have employees and operations where we can ensure that we best serve our customers and clients," he told me in an email.
A Working Families Party table at the Winston Melon Festival in southern Oregon
In recent years, Oregon state Rep. Mike Schaufler spent some $6,000 from his campaign coffers on more than 90 separate visits to Magoo's Sports Bar in Salem. A five-term Democrat known around the capitol as "Bud Man," Schaufler was tight with Republicans and corporate donors, who helped him raise 60 percent more money than progressive challenger Jeff Reardon in the lead-up to last Tuesday's Democratic primary. So Schaufler must have awoken with an epic hangover on the morning after the election, because he somehow managed to lose his seat.
Reardon, a high school teacher with limited resources and minimal political juice, says he never could have dispatched such a powerful incumbent were it not for the help of a relatively new political force in Oregon: the Working Families Party. Since its founding in New York 14 years ago, the WFP has expanded into four other states and logged a string of high-profile political victories—from reforming New York's drug laws to providing the extra votes needed to clinch the election of Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, a liberal leader in a fairly moderate state. Many progressives believe the WFP could eventually become the left's answer to the tea party.