Michigan ex-pat in Brooklyn, web nerd, banjo novice, loves food, mildly abrasive
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Ford employees move their offices into the Fairlane Mall

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When considering adaptive reuse spaces, Ford has come up with a way to creatively utilize a vacant space in a busy mall. For the next ten years, 1,800 Ford employees are working from 240,000 square feet of converted unused mall space, formerly occupied by as many as 26 retailers, including Lord & Taylor.

A year ago, we told you about Ford’s ten year plan to redevelop its Dearborn campus. The transformation will colocate 30,000 employees from 70 buildings into primarily two campus locations. In the meantime, larger groups of employees needed a place to work.

Welcome to the Fairlane Town Center Mall!

 Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

According to Ford, the new offices focus on collaboration, wellness, and sustainability. This includes:

  • Lounge space, wellness rooms, cafés, reflection rooms, and lactation rooms for nursing mothers.
  • Walk-up stations with treadmill desks
  • Ergonomically designed workstations with adjustable-height desks for a custom fit, along with the ability for employees to change posture throughout the day.
  • Materials to foster employee wellness and sustainability, including an accent wall in the lobby made from reclaimed wood, zero volatile organic compound paint, and carpet made from recycled content.
 Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
 Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
 Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

According to Ford, Rita Nelson, Fairlane Town Center general manager, says that in addition to retail, dining, entertainment, and mixed-use opportunities, malls offer campus and office space solutions for nontraditional tenants.

“Retail has shifted so much over the years and Fairlane is no different,” said Nelson. “We have more than 125 stores and restaurants but like much of the industry, we have expanded to include other opportunities.”

As shopping malls struggle to stay open, could we see more uses like this in the future?

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sstrudeau
3 days ago
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Brooklyn, NY
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The Portlandification of Pot

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When pot was legalized in Oregon in October 2015, I joked that it wouldn’t be long before we started seeing artisanal, small-batch collaborations with other Portland mainstays.

It took a little over a year before local artisan chocolatier Woodblock Chocolate teamed up with Serra Cannabis to make the most twee edible you’ve ever seen.

It’s no surprise that this product came from Serra. Walking into their store is like stepping into an Apple Store, but where every product gets you high. Even their website is immaculately designed, with branding and identity work from OMFGCO, the same design agency we used for XOXO 2013.

The legalization of marijuana was a godsend for the local newsweeklies in Portland. In addition to new editorial sections, a huge chunk of their advertising is now cannabis-related: dispensaries, edibles, accessories, merchant services, and events. We’ve had a multi-course marijuana pop-up brunch (called “Wake and Bake,” of course), wine and weed pairings, and a cannabis-infused six-course meal by Noble Rot’s head chef.

Today’s issue of the Portland Mercury announced Toke Talks, “an evening of TED Talk-style presentations by some of the best minds in Oregon cannabis.

I don’t even smoke pot, only rarely eating a tiny edible to help me sleep, but I’m fascinated by the rapid gentrification of weed and how it became instantly mainstream here.

Partly, it’s because I grew up in a time when pot was still vilified—”I learned it from watching you, dad!”—so seeing it marketed as a high-end item with gorgeous branding in fancy stores is a novelty.

And partly, it’s because of Portland’s innate ability to turn anything into a hand-made, artisanal, farm-to-table experience.

But increasingly, my interest in the Portlandification of pot is with the deep racial and economic disparity that it represents. It’s criminally unfair that an entire industry appeared overnight to cater to mostly white, middle-class Portlanders—while 137,000 people, predominantly black and Latino men, sit in prison for drug-possession charges. In 2015, more people were arrested for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined.

But here in Portland, after 18 months of legalization, the lack of any negative impact on the economy or crime is a stark reminder of how absurd, and systemically racist, our federal drug policy is.

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satadru
15 days ago
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New York, NY
sstrudeau
17 days ago
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Brooklyn, NY
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Making Sense of the Spicer's Tale

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Let's review a few key points.

1: Fast Not Slow. Spicer said that President Trump first heard about Flynn's deceptions on January 26th, after Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the White House Counsel about it. Spicer says there was a slow erosion of trust which led over almost three weeks to Flynn's ouster on February 13th. This makes no sense at all. Flynn appears to have maintained all his access to the center of the national security process right up until the day he was fired. Mere hours before his ouster top administration officials were still saying he had the full confidence of the President. And the White House had no replacement at the ready when Flynn was fired. These and many other reasons point overwhelmingly to the conclusion that Flynn's firing was a sudden decision, triggered by leaks which confirmed both his deceptions (2/9) and the DOJ warning (2/13).

2: No Mention of the President. Spicer awkwardly asserted a few key claims - that President Trump did not authorize the sanctions conversation with the Russian Ambassador and that he did not know about it until the DOJ warning. These were not categorical denials. But Spicer found his way to denying them. But throughout, Spicer conspicuously did not say that the Flynn misled the President. This is not an accident. It's a key to the story. It simply makes no sense and most likely means the President knew what had happened all along.

3. Trump Knew It Was Okay. Spicer repeatedly stated that President Trump "instinctively" knew that what Flynn had done was okay and that Trump's chief lawyer later confirmed this. (Spicer used the term "instinctively" at least three times.) No one thinks this was okay. Whether it violated any statutes is highly uncertain. It's not okay. If it were, why would Flynn have lied about it repeatedly? This is a highly odd statement which seems to allow for the President to acknowledge later either knowing about or authorizing the conversation.

4: And Trump Was Definitely Right. The consistent theme of Spicer's argument was that there was no legal or substantive problem with what Flynn did. Indeed, the President "instinctively" knew it was okay. The only issue was that Flynn misled the Vice President and others. In other words, there's no "Russia" issue here at all, simply an internal White House issue of the President losing confidence in the honesty of a key staffer. This is demonstrably not true. The need to insist it is strongly suggests that others in the White House, namely the President, is implicated in the Russia issue. Otherwise, it would make political sense and be eminently fair to toss Flynn to the wolves.

5. Desperate Not Serious. Handling a White House briefing in this climate would be a challenge for anyone. But Spicer is palpably not up to the challenge. This was clear in awkward pauses, pained attempts at humor, etc. But he made a number of claims that were clearly pre-planned. The most glaring instance of this was blaming the Department of Justice for not informing the White House soon enough. This isn't just ridiculous. It's not simply a typically Trumpian effort to shift blame, often in nonsensical ways. It shows panic and desperation.

Everything about this story suggests that the White House has many secrets to hide and little of the time to prepare, the competence to execute or the cooperation of the President to hide them effectively.

The story makes no sense. That's because it's not true. They didn't even have enough time to concoct a tight cover story.

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sstrudeau
68 days ago
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Brooklyn, NY
satadru
68 days ago
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New York, NY
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Are Cities Too Small or Too Big?

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The Electoral College’s bias against American cities has spurred some liberal commentators to suggest that left-leaning urbanites should venture out of their coastal bubble cities and head toward the smaller cities and metros of the heartland and the Sunbelt, where their votes could make much more of a difference.

Another way of saying it is that our big, successful cities are already too large (not just too liberal) and the nation would be better off, and better balanced politically, if educated and talented people spread out across the country.

But others contend our cities are not big enough. A growing chorus of economists argue that out-of-date zoning and building codes create artificial limits on our biggest and most productive cities, driving up housing costs, and making inequality even worse—at a substantial trillon-dollar-plus cost to the economy as a whole.

A recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by economists David Albouy, Kristian Behrens, Frédéric Robert-Nicoud, and Nathan Seegert frames the issue in terms of a simple question: What is the optimal distribution of U.S. cities?

You can think of this in terms of two sets of trade-offs. Cities generate costs and benefits. Larger and denser cities benefit us by generating innovation and improving productivity, but they can also be plagued by costs—such as congestion, crime, pollution, and disease.

Then there is the trade-off between individual versus social benefits. Left to their own devices, people might choose to form and occupy a bunch of small cities geared to their own individual needs and desires. In other words: suburbs. When this happens, individuals do not pay the full cost for inefficient development of lots of small places.

The dotted lines demonstrate the benefit to large and small cities when they constrain their population growth to maximize private gain. The solid curve shows an increased social average benefit when all cities increase their population and consolidate. (Albouy et. al)

The study finds that large American cities might in fact be undersized by as much as a third. Furthermore, we may have up to two times as many cities as we need, causing up to half the U.S. urban population to live in places that are too small.

Three types of cities

The authors paint three broad scenarios for the distribution of American cities and the people who call them home. The table below outlines the different possibilities for cities, which play out in wildly different ways.

The first is what they call “optimal,” where cities essentially make optimal use of the best locations, extracting the most amount of benefit for the most amount of people with the least amount of cost.

The second is based on “free mobility,” where individual households make the decisions that best suit them.

And the third reflects “local politics,” where city sizes reflect local policies and regulations—for example where land use regulations artificially limit the size of cities.

Additional models consider whether the economies of cities have higher agglomeration, higher congestion, or whether there is more or less heterogeneity in how the land in a hypothetical city can or cannot be used.

(Albouy et al.)

On the extremes, the study finds, we could end up with as few as nine giant cities, each housing 50 million people, or 20,000 small cities with between 3,000 and 58,500 residents.

The study generates a wide swath of best- and worst-case scenarios. As a baseline, the authors note that under the “optimal” scenario we would end up with 100 cities that range between 230,000 and 30.5 million people in size; “free mobility” would mean roughly 400 cities of between 25,000 and 15 million people; and “local politics” gives us a whopping 17,500 cities between 13,300 and 58,500 residents.

For simplicity’s sake, take look at the baseline estimates at the bottom left corner of the table. The optimal scenario creates an average benefit of $28,977 per person and costs $22,200 per person across cities. The free mobility scenario creates a similar output of $27,002 benefits per person to $21,960 per person. The local politics scenario creates only $19,649 per person and costs of $18,148 per person. NIMBYism is expensive.

The upshot of this exercise: We probably have too many cities. People may want to live in smaller towns and those who live in urban neighborhoods may want to protect themselves against certain kinds of growth or density, but doing so brings substantial costs to the economy as a whole. This does not mean that everyone needs to congregate in a big dense city like Manhattan.

Behind this thought experiment is a serious consideration: How should we live? Creating a denser and more efficient distribution of cities cannot happen overnight, but this theoretical framework should help steer wonky discussions about zoning, land use, and development toward a more lofty territory.

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sstrudeau
75 days ago
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"NIMBYism is expensive."
Brooklyn, NY
HarlandCorbin
75 days ago
I live in a town of a little less than 30K residents, very close to a city of a little over 2.3M residents. I hate it here and will move to a much less densely-populated area as soon as I can. I can't imagine what kinds of policies would have to exist to make me move into an even denser area. I think it would have to be coercive, perhaps even threatening my existence.
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The Information War Has Begun

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Yesterday, Steve Bannon clearly articulated what many people have felt and known for quite some time when he told journalists, “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party… The media’s the opposition party.” This builds on earlier remarks by Trump, who said, “I have a running war with the media.”

Journalists have covered this with their “objective” voice as though it was another news story in the crazy first week of WTF moments. Many of those who value the media have looked at this with wide eyes, struggling to assess which of the many news stories they should be more horrified by. Far too few are getting the point:

The news media have become a pawn in a big chess game of an information war. 

News agencies, long trained to focus on reporting information and maintaining a conceptual model of standards, are ill-equipped to understand that they may have a role in this war, that their actions and decisions are shaping the way the war plays out.

When Kellyanne Conway argued that they were operating with “alternative facts,” the media mocked her. They tried to dismiss her comment that the media has a 14% approval rating by fact-correcting this to point out that this was only a Gallup poll concerning the media’s approval rating among Republicans. But they missed her greater point: there’s no cost to the administration to be helpful to the media because the people the Trump Administration cares about don’t trust the media anyhow.

CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0-licensed photo by Mark Deckers.

How many years did it take for the US military to learn that waging war with tribal networks couldn’t be fought with traditional military strategies? How long will it take for the news media to wake up and recognize that they’re being played? And how long after that will it take for editors and publishers to start evolving their strategies?

As I wrote in “Hacking the Attention Economy,” manipulating the media for profit, ideology, and lulz has evolved over time. The strategies that hackers, hoaxers, and haters have taken have become more sophisticated. The campaigns have gotten more intense. And now many of the actors most set on undermining institutionalized information intermediaries are in the most powerful office in the land. They are waging war on the media and the media doesn’t know what to do other than to report on it.

We’ve built an information ecosystem where information can fly through social networks (both technical and personal). Folks keep looking to the architects of technical networks to solve the problem. I’m confident that these companies can do a lot to curb some of the groups who have capitalized on what’s happening to seek financial gain. But the battles over ideology and attention are going to be far trickier. What’s at stake isn’t “fake news.” What’s at stake is the increasing capacity of those committed to a form of isolationist and hate-driven tribalism that has been around for a very long time. They have evolved with the information landscape, becoming sophisticated in leveraging whatever tools are available to achieve power, status, and attention. And those seeking a progressive and inclusive agenda, those seeking to combat tribalism to form a more perfect union —  they haven’t kept up.

The information war has begun. Normative approaches to challenging the system will not work. What will it take for news media to wake up? What will it take for progressives to start developing skills to fight back?

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sstrudeau
77 days ago
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Brooklyn, NY
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The Beginning of the Trump Years

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And for this one I’ll use the Q&A format I’d used in some earlier pieces about the incoming Trump administration.

I knew you’d be back!

Yes, fine. Let’s get to it.

How do you feel about Trump taking office on Friday?

I’m sort of relieved.

Bwuh?

Look, we’ve known this day was coming for two and a half months and in all the time people have maintained a certain level of freakout I’ve ultimately found wearying. I’m pretty much like: He’s going to be president? Fine, let’s get to it, because this waiting shit is boring the fuck out of me. I mean, we’re gonna fight, yeah? Then let’s fight, already.

What do you think will happen?

To the extent that the Trump administration has a strategy at all, which is honestly an open question, I think it will be a hundred-day dash to gut the infrastructure of government in the hopes of overwhelming everyone who would complain — a sort of Gish Gallop of bad governance, if you will.

Will it work?

It might! I think a lot of people opposed to the Trump administration are still in oh shit oh shit oh shit mode, as opposed to fuck you, let’s do this thing mode. Trump and his agglomerated assemblage of assholes are hoping the left (which in this case would include large swaths of the middle) are still shell-shocked and/or content to be a circular firing squad rather than focusing fire on them. On the other hand, those marches on Saturday are a very nice declaration of intent, and people certainly seem to be burning up their congresspeople’s phones. So we’ll see.

Be that as it may, Trump will be president and his administration will basically get to make all the opening moves. That’s what happens when you win the presidency. No matter what, some damage will be done. People are going to have to push back against that damage, not move forward with other things.

And how do you feel about that?

I mean, it is what it is. Trump won the presidency. He’s an incompetent. There’s nothing to be done about that now, so we have to get on with keeping the damage to a bare minimum. I don’t feel good about that, but I don’t feel bad about making the decision that for the next few years, some portion of my life will be spent loudly opposing bad governance and pissant authoritarianism. In fact, I feel just fine about that. I would be ashamed to do otherwise.

What would you say to the people who are still in oh shit oh shit oh shit mode? 

Leaving aside the folks who are genuinely depressed and focusing on the ones who are just merely wringing their hands at this point: Time to get over that shit now. I think there’s still a bit of a “somebody do something” mentality, in which the hand-wringers are somewhat passively hoping someone else will solve this problem.

Thing is: There is no someone else. No one is coming to save us from Trump and his merry band of egregious nincompoops. If there is saving to be done, it comes from us, or not at all. Be the “someone else” you want to see in this world. Because otherwise you’re leaving it to the horde of racists and bigots following in Trump’s wake. And that’s not acceptable.

At the very least, if you can’t get out of oh shit oh shit oh shit mode, then make goddamn sure you’re not making things harder for the people who are stepping up. I think it’s time to realize that we’re in a “perfect is the enemy of good” situation.

What do you mean?

Well, for example, right about now there are a lot of politically and socially conservative folks who are aghast at the fact of a Trump presidency and who recognize that he represents a clear danger to the Republic. What do I think about these conservatives, who I might otherwise have almost no political overlap with? I think: Hello, ally. In this fight and in this moment they and I have a common goal — making sure our system of governance isn’t completely tubed by an insecure vulgarian — and I’m okay with focusing on that goal right now. After that’s done, then we can get back to yelling at each other on every other topic. Heck, we can yell at each other while we focus on our common goal! They are important topics. But holding the line against Trump is more important.

Hello I am a Trump supporter!

Yes?

Isn’t it possible that Trump could be a good president and bring back jobs and make people happy and be popular?

Sure, although bluntly there’s nothing he’s done since the election that indicates that. Yelling at businesses on Twitter isn’t ultimately likely to be a viable domestic strategy, and so far his foreign strategy is to goatse himself so that Vladimir Putin can slide his arm up to the pits and operate Trump’s mouth with his hand. Likewise his cabinet choices don’t inspire confidence; they largely either don’t seem to understand what job they’re up for, or they seem to approach the positions like they were corporate raiders, or both. Meanwhile, the GOP congress is beavering away at their plan to punt millions off of medical insurance immediately, and make it more difficult for everyone else to keep the insurance they have.

But, hey, as a member of the 1% at least I will get a big fat tax cut! Thanks, guys!

Now, Trump does seem to have a rudimentary jobs plan, which calls for building out the country’s infrastructure, and you know what? I think creating jobs by fixing our crumbling roads and bridges and such is a very fine idea, in principle. I don’t suspect that Trump’s version of it at the moment is that great — by all indications it’s mostly a call to the trough for corporations — but I will allow that a massive jobs bill, suitably tuned, could put him in good stead with the average voter.

Will this make him a good president? Not likely, unless other aspects of his administration (and his personality) changed greatly. But I’m not going to deny there are ways he can be popular, which for him might be enough.

So do you really think Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin?

No, if we’re talking like a Russian version of a Manchurian Candidate, or a captive of salacious pee videos. But do I think Russia (under Putin’s orders) went all in to attempt to influence the election, and Putin, who is manifestly smarter and more manipulative than Trump, is happy to flatter the incoming president and maneuver him in such away that Trump’s own predilections, in terms of personality and temperament, serve his needs. Trump is being used by Putin, certainly. And I also think it’s likely that Trump’s own self-interest, which includes lots of Russian money flowing through his properties and accounts, is inclining him toward Russia and Putin.

Note well this is bad enough — in my opinion we have an incoming president who seems prepared to severely hobble our alliances because of his own personal financial interests, and has picked for his cabinet several people with similar issues. The technical term for such a situation is “a real shitshow.”

Is it treason? Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh, I don’t think so? But I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if eventually it becomes the core of an impeachment proceeding.

(Update: And then there’s this, which if anything comes of it, does not look great for Trump.)

Hello I am not a Trump supporter!

Yes?

How do I oppose him? 

That’s up to you. For myself, I’m planning to give a whole lot of money (possibly from that tax cut I will now almost certainly get) to organizations that will gum up the works for the Trump administration and/or help to protect people who his administration will put at risk (pretty much anyone who is not a well-off straight white person), and do a lot of writing, because rumor is, I have an audience. There are other things I’m considering as well.

For other folks, aside from giving money, calling representatives and protesting and volunteering and voting for fuck’s sake and making sure everyone you know is registered and votes too all help. One suggestion I’d offer people is not to spread yourself too thin — per above I think the Trump administration is going to make pushes into all sorts of areas: Free speech, women’s health, public education, minority voting, LGBT+ rights and so on. They want you to be dazed and thinking there’s too much to focus on. Pick one as your main focus and drill down on it, hard. Others will take up the other categories. Help them when you can but push hard on the one area you know and care most about. If enough people do that, everything will get covered and energy won’t dissipate. It’s going to be a long four years. Best to keep focus.

Okay, seriously, what do you think is going to happen in the next four years?

I have no idea. But I know a couple of things. One, where I stand, and with whom. It’s not with racists and bigots and the people who would hurt the lives of others just for a goddamned tax cut. I don’t believe every Trump voter intended to enable racists and bigots and the greedy (even if that’s what they ended up doing), and I think in time some of them will regret their vote. At this point, I’ll take regret over a double-down, and welcome them when and if that happens. And in the meantime, I’m happy with where I’m standing.

Two, you know what, if I’m going to resist for the next four years, I’m gonna have fun doing it. I mean, come on: Thumping on racists and bigots and greedy assholes, and shoving sticks into the spokes of their shitty little plans? That’s holy work, that is, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. Opposing Trump and his pals is serious business, but I think if you can approach the work with some joy, it will help. I’m going to take pleasure in sticking up for my country. I hope you will, too.

So let’s get to it.

(P.S.: Today I’ve also written about the end of the Obama years, here.)


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sstrudeau
94 days ago
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Brooklyn, NY
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