About mediaconsumer

Just a guy, taking it all in, spitting out the things with sticking power.

The perils of passion

In this age of intense cultural polarization, one of the topics invoking the greatest amount of hot air is climate change. I’ll be up front in that I’ve always thought the idea of “global warming” was a farce but that we are likely to instead see climatic shifts as a result of our industrialization. The stakes are high and those who prophesy the coming change can resort to scare tactics that seem necessary in our over-informed, busy world.

The latest ‘More or Less: Behind the Stats’ features a story about what happens when such predictions fall flat. Norman Myers created a map in the mid-90s that showed regions of the world that would see a mass exodus as a result of climate change. His method of prediction was quite simple: he predicted areas hardest hit and then simply used their total census data. He then attached to it the year 2010.

On the face of it, this “study” isn’t more than a worse-case, alarming scenario that I would hope is presented to policy makers, among other more-realistic options. What made the map and prediction come to light was a blogger’s critique of it…and its hosting on the UN Environment Programme’s website and inclusion in IPCC literature. It turns out the very regions expecting emigration have seen steady increases in population.

After the critique, the UNEP quickly removed the map, but Dr Myers isn’t helping his case by refusing to retreat from his number or timeline, explaining that it’s difficult to count local migration that did not necessarily cross borders. And of course with his anecdotal reporting from refugee camps that his critics just weren’t passionate enough to visit as often.

The environmental movement is reaching the end of its adolescence, and for the first time a number of predictions from serious, respected figures can be compared to the actual outcomes. The fact that most stories on climate change simply quote the latest predictions without offering a perspective on what those experts previously forecast is disappointing. It’s like getting investment advice from the same guy who got burned in the tech bubble.

Failed predictions don’t necessarily mean the current batch are wrong, researchers have presumably spent the intervening time perfecting their models, collecting more thorough data, and exploring new ideas. Instead, journalist should take the time to cull extreme exaggerators of their pet experts. Michael Lewis does a superb job of providing sobering economic predictions in The Big Short by profiling the investors that made unholy amounts of wealth off of predicting the financial crisis, but then there’s no disputing whether that crisis occurred.

Media type: Podcast
From: BBC’s More or Less: Behind the Stats
Title: “More or Less looks at child poverty, climate refugees and Sir Henry Cooper’s left hook”
Ponder at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010xykh

Redrawing the map

I caught up on a lot of podcasts today, notable ones include Planet Money’s final Iceland report and the intriguing birther/Trump vs Obama political wrangling on both KCRW’s Left, Right and Center as well as the New Yorker’s Political Scene. Of course I was consumed, as much of the world was, by the news that Osama bin Laden was killed outside Islamabad early this morning.

What I find most interesting though is the stalemate that has developed in Libya. Last week’s Economist had an article about the siege of Misrata and the necessity for US drone and A-10 support for any real success to emerge for the rebels. It’s become clear though that Qaddafi is not likely to simply be overthrown by emboldened supporters turned against him (either the unwashed masses or those closest to him) nor by that rag-tag coalition loosely headquartered around Benghazi. As such, NATO stepped up its selected “strategic targeting” of military compounds that all just happen to be places where the Qaddafi family hangs out (but this is definitely not an assassination attempt). It seems we’re hoping that cutting off the head of the snake will dissolve the defenders of the status quo. This move succeeded in Iraq – after Saddam’s death no one remained to defend his government really – but it was a frying pan/fire situation at best.

Which is why I found an Economist online poll (http://www.economist.com/node/21256109) interesting. Is simply partitioning the country appropriate?

A simple look at the map of Africa reveals far too many straight lines, a sign of arbitrary colonial cartographers rather than national and ethnic association. Many of the current problems come from this awkward hodge-podge of countries, with Muslim sections fighting Christian regions (Sudan, Ivory Coast, Nigeria) or historical autonomous regions smarting from distant rule (Morocco). Letting these countries redraw the map wouldn’t promote the western liberal multicultural ideal (that few western countries practice despite their preaching, France being only the most recent example). But with each nationality firmly in control of their state, disagreements could be compromised in a meeting of equal heads of state, rather than in contentious, rigged elections for winner-take-all. As the AU gains power, a loose set of guidelines could become prevalent, deferring to an authority that normally would be rejected for internal matters.

Of course, nations wage devastating war and in this instance such a partition would only change the name of Libya’s war, and the end game would still be a unified Libya sans Qaddafi. But such a change might gain some breathing room for the rebels to learn how to govern and save some face for Qaddafi to promote a bloodless (relatively) transition from power.

Media type: Online poll
From: The Economist
Title: Would the partition of Libya be a bad thing?
Ponder at: http://www.economist.com/node/21256109

Space: The final frontier?

So much great media today, it’s a real difficulty to choose, but I have to say the idea that’s stuck with me most today is Ian Morris’ talk to the Long Now Foundation ‘Why the West Rules – For Now.’

The Long Now Foundation puts on regular seminars called Seminars About Long-term Thinking (SALT), which is one of many reasons I’m looking forward to my upcoming move to San Francisco. They’ve had notables like Neil Ferguson, J Craig Venter, Ray Kurzweil and others in the business of creating great ideas come and speak their piece, all under the hospitality of Stuart Brandt, 10,000 year planner.

Ian Morris focused his talk on his theory of why certain civilizations have become dominant and later fallen away. He starts the talk by contrasting the two primary camps in history: the ‘accident’ group, which believes that it is only random chance that moves some societies into and out of prominence; and the ‘determinism’ group, which believes the West has dominated due to the superiority of our ancestors, the ancient Greeks. As is standard these days, Morris tosses aside both ideas as wrong and suggests that it is geography that picks the winners, and then the winners that reshape meaningful geography thus restarting the cycle.

His examples do well to prove his point. Forgive me for paraphrasing here but…

Initial geography led to an ease of domestication by some cultures, while others like Mesopotamia were unable to take advantage of steady rains. Eventually though, Mesopotamians and Egyptians figured out irrigation which led to even greater growth and sophistication. As the world focused on these regions, the fringes of the world were able to leverage the transport possibility of rivers and later seas like the Mediterranean to create greater prosperity. As the Greeks and then Romans rose, power became focused on the Med and Europe, leaving obscure Britain and Spain out. But studies to improve sea travel continued until ocean-travel was possible, and being least-invested in status quo and most able to take advantage of the ocean, these powers found greater wealth in expanding trade. But as their manufacturing was being supplanted by slaves in other countries, Britain focused on improving productivity leading to the Industrial Revolution. As America adopted these new technologies with its natural wealth, they became able to take advantage of the Pacific Ocean’s potential for trade, surpassing the European powers in trade abilities. This opening of the Pacific has pulled the East back into the equation, allowing them to adopt the best commercial and industrial practices of the world with none of the associated baggage, to begin its move to eclipse the West.

In short, at every stage, it is the group at the fringe, with the least invested in the current power-generating strategy, that turns a geographical barrier into a bonus (often a trade route). Whether it be learning to navigate open waters or using rivers as highways, these fringe societies quickly become the new centers of the world.

In my opinion, he does a poor job contrasting the parallel evolution of East and West. Why did China reach a zenith during the river/sea navigation and not increase scientific study to create ocean travel? Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel did a much better job of both explaining the origin of these societies but explaining the importance of small barriers that allow trade but prevent united societies. Further along this criticism, why did Britain and not Spain remain committed to its ocean empire, is that just random? Why did Germany upgrade their industry to surpass the British instead of Italy or the Ottoman Empire? All of three were out of the spotlight, what barrier favored German ingenuity?

This is not to say that I did not enjoy or do not agree with Morris’ thesis, merely that I find it wanting for answering the very questions he asks. In one sense, he is correct that technology rapidly spreads and creates a destabilizing force, allowing forgotten groups to turn obstacle into stepping stone. His prediction that the East’s ability to adopt the good parts of Western capitalism/industrialization and surge ahead seem realistic as most nations when left with nothing but the will to modernize make staggering leaps given the lack of established interests (witness Germany and Japan’s triumphs after WWII devastated the countries).

I was sad nobody brought up the internet, an astonishing new mode of commerce and idea exchange! America’s dominance of this information frontier surely was driven by the same forces that drove British industrialization: a need for greater productivity in light of cheaper, outside entities.

It all leads me to wonder what’s really next. There are no more physical oceans. In the Q&A of the talk Morris responds to thoughts on adjusting to climate change and dodges a space question. It is my opinion that space is our next ocean in this context. The forgotten nation with no interest in defending the status quo will ultimately take advantage of the great resources. The resources are everything from mining rights on asteroids to technological advances that come with increased experience navigating this realm. Five or ten years ago I would’ve thought China the leading candidate, but increasingly they are seeking not to redefine the world but merely to claw their way to the top of the status quo. Perhaps an energy-rich and resource-conscious power like Brazil or Australia will start reaching out to mine the closest asteroids. An offer of a tax-free yield to the first company that mines ore from a near earth object within X years would certainly be a huge incentive as many of these asteroids contain more gold than currently in circulation (as well as other minerals).

Media type: Podcast
From: Seminars About Long-term Thinking
Title: “Why the West Rules – For Now”
Hear it at: http://longnow.org/seminars/02011/apr/13/why-west-rules-now/

AT&T keeps taking it

A week or so ago I talked about the Economist running full-page AT&T ads in the very same issue in which they bashed the announced AT&T purchase of AT&T.  (For anyone keeping track, I’ve yet to find any more AT&T ads there)  Tonight, while watching Traffic Lights (there’s literally nothing else in my TiVo) I caught one of those ubiquitous T-mobile ads mocking AT&T’s service on the oh-so-trendy iPhone.

Chances are you’ve seen the ad, they’ve been running for months, and I have to admit raised my interest enough to get me to look into their service.  In an homage to Apple, they star two people who declare themselves either an iPhone (a young, good-looking guy with a balding accountant-looking companion) or a T-mobile myTouch 4G (a fetching, girl-next-door, purple-dress wearing Carly Foulkes) in front of a plain white background, who then go on and dialogue about the failings of the former and the superiority of the latter.  The ads vary, but the theme is always that everything you love about the iPhone is weighed down by AT&T (and Verizon in one ad).  T-Mobile is smart in not attacking Apple, cultishly adored for their products’ abilities, but instead the reviled telecoms.  Given T-mobile’s history of winning awards for customer service and customer satisfaction, it’s a good strategy.

Which makes me wonder, why exactly are these ads still running?  The buyout is not a hostile takeover bid, T-Mobile seems to be accepting it (rather Deutsche Telekom, their parent, is eager to offload its poorly placed subsidiary and focus on stronger markets).  If I’m a T-mobile customer, the ad seems to tell me to start looking at Sprint or Verizon, which is bad no matter whether the buyout succeeds.  If I’m a savvy consumer looking for a new phone and carrier (which I am), this ad only cements that it won’t be AT&T and thus it won’t be T-mobile, again lose-lose.

My only idea is that the ads were produced, airtime purchased, and placement approved well before the merger talk.  With nothing else in the stable to replace it with, T-mobile might have thought that the airtime is a sunk cost and the ads might boost their image (and thus the eventual combined value of the AT&T).  The ad certainly isn’t new, so it’s not like this is a new strategy or even an update.  Or maybe there still is internal struggle to remain independent and this is one internal faction’s move to signal the non-inevitableness of the deal.  But maybe it’s just a hedge that the deal will ultimately be blocked by regulators.  Either way, it’ll be interesting to see just how long the ads stay on air.

Media type: TV commercial
From: T-mobile (watched originally on FOX)
Title: not sure
Watch it: 

The lovable archvillain

I have to confess I haven’t consumed too much media today, so my pick of “Krusty Gets Busted” is a little out of left field.

This is the first Sideshow Bob caper in the Simpsons’ universe and despite the early animation and lack of history in many of the characters (Apu and Chief Wiggum seem so generic!) it has all the lovable elements from a Sideshow Bob episode.  Kelsey Grammar’s voice-acting is superb, putting the snobbish lilt to well-written dialogue in sharp contrast to the outlandish clown outfit.  While the crime is not overly-complicated like later (“Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” being my personal favorite), the Simpson children are characteristically overly-astute (House anyone?).

Villains are always much more interesting characters in most stories, think Darth Vader or Ben Linus and Charles Widmore on ‘LOST’, but rarely is a villain both intriguing and flat-out humorous.  Apparently the writers purposely molded Sideshow Bob’s later exploits and themes on Wile E. Coyote (of Road Runner fame), so the absurdity only heightens the fun.

While some of the joy in this episode draws from knowing the later adventures, on its own “Krusty Gets Busted” is a decent watch.  Fans of the show will enjoy seeing major characters before their personalities were built up and the well-worn pattern of a Simpsons mystery.  Casual watchers may not find as many funny moments in the show, but a Yale-educated, devious clown sidekick is always good for a few laughs; throw in the typical oafishness of Homer that defines the first few seasons and you’ll have yourselves a great 20+ minutes.

Media type: TV show
From: The Simpson
Title: “Krusty Gets Busted”
Watch it at: http://www.watchcartoononline.com/the-simpsons-episode-112-krusty-gets-busted

The power of hype

First, a quick nod to Nigeria which has begun its relatively successful elections this week. Here’s hoping that the term “relatively” will be dropped over time. Also, I’m keeping an eye on developments in Yemen, to see which way the army breaks as the GCC seeks to peacefully remove Saleh. As I mentioned previously, it looks like elements of the army are lining up for reform so we may see more-or-less peaceable transition. Finally, it appears Gbagbo is captured and the democratically elected leader of the Ivory Coast can start governing fully. And all without a single NATO no-fly zone.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about today. Instead, I’d like to call your attention to Steven Pinker’s My Genome, my self article from the New York Times Magazine. I came across it in the book I’m currently reading: The Best American Science Writing of 2010. The article is by no means succinct but it is an immensely readable detailing of the current state of human genomic research.

He lays out the potential and limits of current understandings as well as the hype surrounding the “personal genomics” movement over the past decade. As a genomics researcher these past few years, I came in right when grand ideas were becoming actual projects and have watched as they stumbled across the always-unexpected hurdles. It is a pleasure to read Pinker’s layman’s guide to narrow band that is actually revealed from current academic and commercial testing.

Basically, the big labs and companies can tell you with decent accuracy whether you have certain known, popular mutations. Of course, you may realize this means they can’t reveal whether you have less common mutations or even unique ones! The companies will also quickly let you know that this mutation (really a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP) is associated with this disease/trait/ethnic group. But what they fail to mention is that the strength of that association is almost always extremely weak.
Pinker’s example is height. Long discussed at academic conferences, height is the perfect trait: quantitative and highly heritable. Looking for common SNPs in tall or short people has revealed a host of associations. But when you look at all the known ones, they account for only 2% of the heritability! This means that while it’s almost automatic that tall couples make tall kids, tall kids don’t always inherit the known “tall” mutations from their parents. Since it’s easier to find SNPs with strong effects (think Huntingdon’s disease, where the SNP explains 100% of the heritability), and we’ve found dozens of SNPs associated to height, that means there are at least hundreds other SNPs that are contributing. So maybe tall kids inherit 50 from one parent and 50 from another, but we only are looking at 2.

What’s worse is that different studies don’t always find the same SNPs. Studies looking for associations in thousands of papers often come up with different, non-overlapping lists of SNPs. So which ones are right? Well, right now, we just say they’re all correct. But of course the studies are done in different ethnicities, and given that genes are highly interactive, what may be height-enhancing in Scandinavians is meaningless in Japanese.

We “finished” the human genome project a decade ago but really are not much closer to that heralded age of personalized medicine. It’s my opinion that we’re never going to get to that predicted moment where you submit a DNA sample and get an ideal drug-cocktail and health-warning. There’s simply too much genetic individuality that will never be understandable. Sure, we’ll be able to sequence genomes for pennies soon, but if you’re the only person in the history of the world with a set of specific mutations who can possibly predict whether that makes you more or less susceptible to statins or HIV or skin cancer or poor inhibition control.

That’s not to say this research is useless. It would be better applied to things like agriculture and biotech. Herds of cattle and rows of corn have less genetic differences so we can make conclusive findings that tie SNPs with trait differences. Indeed companies like Monsanto are gobbling up the biotechs that make just these finds. These natural polymorphisms should calm those afraid of genetically-modified crops as they can just be bred into the next generation and are entirely native.

Media type: Book
From: The Best American Science Writing 2010
Title: My Genome, My Self
Read it at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11Genome-t.html

Triumphant Women

Sorry for the drought of postings, I’ve been tied up watching the NCAA finals for basketball. Per usual I’m in a pool for both the men’s and women’s brackets, and though I had no shot at winning the men, I could’ve won the women (and the combined score pool) if my alma mater, Notre Dame, had triumphed over Texas A&M. Spoiler alert: they did not.

It was a great game, including a come-from-behind run at the bottom of the first half where the Irish clawed their way back from double digit deficit to ending with the lead. Back-and-forths through the second half saw the Aggies end up on top when it counted.

I bring this up because both the Notre Dame men’s and women’s teams were two-seeds in their respective tournaments, yet while the women made it to the championship game, the men were embarrassingly upset in the second round. I’m not a fan of Mike Brey (men’s coach) but a big fan of Muffet McGraw (women’s coach), so this wasn’t surprising.

While those outcomes made me appreciate our women more, I was doubly surprised by the entertainment difference in the championship games. Butler/UConn was like watching a middle school pick up game on a slow day: shooting percentages were abysmal and defense was not exactly stifling. Both teams seemed off their game, and it was one of the more boring games of the tournament, lacking passion. Considering the buildup of this Cinderella taking on one of the hottest teams in basketball of the past decade (especially after the miracle run of VCU), the game was anticlimatic. As I mentioned, the women’s game was much more watchable with all the elements of sports drama including larger-than-life leaders on both sides and a spirited audience that had every reason to get into the game (unlike the men’s fans who were quite calm as UConn built an ever-wider lead the whole night). The talent was greater, the enthusiasm more evident.

While I’m sure the men’s game drew a larger audience, they missed the real action. I’m not saying WNBA season ticket sales will skyrocket, I used to regularly attend our lady Irish games and can attest they lack some of the emotional adrenaline of a well-matched men’s game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the gradual gain of women’s basketball starts to pick up and let the sport stand on its own soon. While most major women’s programs are add-ons to successful men’s programs, we should start to see some schools build an independent program soon. Small schools with successful programs could place them at the center of their athletics’ portfolio much as lacrosse dominates John Hopkins or hockey at Minnesota-Duluth. Students will flock to successful programs when the main sports aren’t present or compete on a lower level, so now’s the time for the sport to expand outside into the mid-majors.

Media type: Sporting event
From: ESPN2/NCAA
Title: Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship

Ads versus content

I’ve had an iPhone for just over two years now, so you can imagine how eager I am to switch carriers and phones.  In my early research I was leaning towards a smart new up and comer: Samsung’s Galaxy.  The phone itself has some nice features (automatic wifi music sync, no cords necessary) and has been highly reviewed by all the right techies.  Even better was that it was being heavily promoted by T-Mobile, so the discounts would be decent on a cheaper network than the abysmal AT&T.

Assuming you’ve turned on a radio/TV/website in the past week you know where this is going.  I could talk about the crappy state of American telecoms if 4 became 3, the pathetic auctioning of cellular frequencies that will surely be repeated for the 4G services that managed both to not raise much money and to exclude new entrants  (especially compared to Britain’s awesome auction proceeds AND new companies), or the lack of handheld tech innovation we’ll see when Apple et al can only shop their wares at two companies.

Instead I’m going to talk about the Economist.  They wrote a two-page brief on the negative effect this acquisition would have, focusing mainly on rebuffing AT&T’s claims that it would bring infrastructure investment (it didn’t as the Ma Bell monopoly, after a similar promise) and that there still would be regional competitors (consumers focus on national plans, hence AT&T’s marketing campaign about covering 97% of Americans).  As if the Economist wasn’t clear, they dedicated one of their leaders stating just how much they condemned such a deal.  And then, they printed two full-page ads AT&T had bought.

My first thought was: bully for the Economist, not letting advertiser dollars purchase editorial influence.  Afterall, how many of us are brave enough to tell our boss they’re a moron and not to be trusted?  But my second thought was: I wonder if AT&T will buy space in next week’s edition, and why did the Economist take the money?

I know why they took the money, the advertising section is assuredly separate from the editorial staff, I doubt they ever talk (as it should be, to allow independence).  But it would be foolish for AT&T to continue plowing money into a publication that will devote equal copy to their competitors for free.  Of course, that’s not really true, the Economist isn’t arguing that we as consumers shouldn’t buy AT&T, just that their business strategy is harmful.  But in the end, readers of the Economist are going to be more influenced by the articles than the ads, and the telecom’s brand will diminish.  I’d think it’d be better for the company to advertise on more neutral ground: Wired, Foreign Affairs, the Atlantic, etc.  While each of these has published something nasty about AT&T, they do not frequently keep up on on-going stories like the Economist, which surely will carry the AT&T story at every stage.

Case in point: Bahrain.  For months I saw successive ads touting the pro-business, politically-free environment of the Gulf emirate.  And then the Arab Spring started and it wouldn’t matter how many ads King al-Khalifa took out when the Economist covered the riots and editorialized against the government.  AT&T is better served getting its house in order.

Media type: Magazine
From: the Economist
Title: An audacious merger with a poor reception
Read it at: http://www.economist.com/node/18440903?story_id=18440903

Democracy’s nooks and crannies

I’ve been as riveted as the rest of the world as the Arab Spring continues, spilling out in north Africa before hitting the first storm breaks in Tripoli and now Bahrain.  I’ve written earlier about the nearly-neglected democratic crises in Haiti and the Ivory Coast, but today I was caught totally unaware by the recent presidential election in Niger, a country geographically centered between Libya and the Ivory Coast.

Just over a year ago, Niger’s president attempted to amend the constitution in his favor resulting in an eviction notice from the military.  Now, the military is holding to its promise to hand power back to civilian control, specifically to the winner of what looks like a mostly free run-off election.  General Djibo is quoted as being thrilled to return to his post as a humble soldier.  Importantly he has also “appeal[ed] to the two candidates that they respect the outcome…and the loser accepts his defeat.”  No Ivory Coast shenanigans here.

So here we see yet another example of my earlier stated thesis that a focus on divorcing the military from civilian leaders allows for successful evolutions into democratic governance.  To add more support one only need to look at Yemen where the top general, Ali Mohsen, has declared his support for the protesters despite personal and tribal ties to President Saleh, prompting the prognosticators to move his retirement date up.  Saleh is by no means out, he and his family still directly command various elite, well trained Republican Guards and his role in the War on Terror guarantees some awkward shuffling by western leaders.  Still, it seems his tenure is nearly up with tanks ringing the protesters in his capital pointing out rather than in.

When the top leader does not have personal control over the dogs of war, they are less likely to slip the leash.  Countries like Bahrain, Syria and Iran (as well as China, North Korea, Myanmar, and even it seems Gaza) are unlikely to truly see change due to mass uprisings so long as their generals do not feel independent.  It is in democracy-loving peoples interest to focus less on pushing top-down government reform and instead urge independent military control.  While an independent military may not be a sign of stability, such as in Thailand’s numerous coups or Turkey’s tumultuous past, they are able to respond as a counter-weight to any great accumulation of power.

Media type: Online news
From: al-Jazeera
Title: Niger votes in presidential run-off
Read it at:  http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/03/201131216474436974.html

The vanishing city

We live in an increasingly urbanized age.  For the first time in the history of man, more people live in cities than not.  China’s meteoric economic growth has been fueled by the large rural migrants taking city factory jobs, while gentrification and revitalization has transformed downtowns into livable areas, New York being the most obvious case.  A housing bubble collapse has made suburbs and exurbs less fashionable while the environmental movement sees more and more young people flocking to “green” living in cities.

So when the numbers came out today that Detroit had lost 25% of its population, I was stunned.  To clarify, the difference between the 2000 and 2010 census for the city of Detroit (not its metro area) shows a 25% drop.

If any city epitomizes this recession it’s the Motor City.  A city that bet it all on its hometown auto industry, it’s seen foreign competitors and entrenched unions chip away at that prosperity.  Being one of the largest cities in land area, Detroit has had to stretch its infrastructure and utilities budget further than most.  But to think one-quarter of its population got up and simply abandoned their neighbors is shocking.

Part of this was purposeful.  The mayor, Dave Bing, made a conscious decision not to spend money assisting in the census.  Usually, cities spend a decent amount of money encouraging their citizens to fill out the forms and meet with census workers.  The motivation is clear: more people mean more federal dollars and greater representation (which means even more dollars).  For the 2010 census, Detroit had only its churches and community groups putting the extra effort, so its likely the loss is only slightly less dramatic.

I admire mayor Bing and that tough decision.  He believes federal funds aren’t going to be what saves Detroit, even though two of its major employers found solace in bailouts.  Instead, Bing has used the opportunity to be frank about the need to cut services and redevelop an inner core, to build a new Detroit rather than wait to be rescued.  Wild ideas like urban farms have become serious national talking points and encouraged innovators to at least look at the area.  Taking a cue from its mayor, we are beginning to see the city and its state find an inner strength and pride in these trying times.

In an urban world, we may start to see the rise of the city-state governing structure with mayors gaining increasing control.  Cities like Detroit will have to play fast and loose and give daring yet competent mayors new powers to break the institutionalized impediments that have slowly drained them.  He can take a cue from Bloomberg’s deft touch on New York, bringing innovative ideas to education; DC’s former mayor Fenty who took on the teacher’s unions and won; and Chicago’s Daly who’s heavy handed decades-reign transformed Chicago from another rust-belt city into a city in the ranks of New York and San Francisco.

Media type: Podcast
From: NPR 7AM News Summary
Title: NPR News: 03-23-2011 7AM ET
Listen at: NPR