Sunday, June 24, 2007

Better than building a tech park?

What a surprise. Here all these years I've been hanging out with people who think that closer ties between government and corporation in pursuit of high tech competitive advantage was the key to urban and region prosperity. It turns out that the best strategy may be that of encouraging gays to move into town. Shocked, shocked, I say!

From The Raw Story:

Study: 'Gay-friendly' cities enjoy more economic prosperity
David Edwards and Josh Catone
Published: Saturday June 23, 2007

Richard Florida, a professor from George Mason University and author of the book The Rise of the Creative Class argued that the more "gay-friendly" a city is, the more economically prosperous it will be.

In his March 2007 paper "There Goes the Neighborhood," Florida uses something he calls the "Bohemian-Gay Index" to demonstrate that "artistic, bohemian, and gay populations" have a "substantial effects on housing values across all permutations of the model and across all region sizes." He also found that more open and "gay-friendly" areas generally support higher income levels. . . . .

This morning on CNN's In the Money, Florida argued that educated kids are generally moving to the most "gay-friendly" cities after graduating from college because those cities tend to have the best job markets.

After realizing that the top 5 "gay-friendly" cities in the US -- San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Portland (Oregon), and Tampa -- are also prosperous centers of technological innovation, Florida decided to do a more thorough study. The results, he said, held up for other cities as well.

"Places that were open to gay and lesbian people were also the kind of places that could attract not only smart young people, but also Indian and Chinese immigrants who come here and start a lot of high tech companies," he said. "They were attracting people across the board, building up a talent base, and then innovating and starting these new enterprises."

The text of the paper in PDF is here.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Among peaceful nations: We're the number one! ...err, uh, make that number 96 !!!

On several ranking of nation states previously quoted on this blog -- environmental quality, strength of public education, health of democracy, etc. -- the good old U.S.A. has been significantly down in the ratings recently. Hence, I looked eagerly at a new study, "The Global Peace Index" prepared by the Vision of Humanity organization, a joint project of the Economist magazine and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, Australia. The study polled "an international panel of peace experts from Peace Institutes and Think Tanks" and rated the world's nations on several categories: measures of ongoing domestic and international conflict; measures of societal safety and security; measures of militarisation, etc.

The United States came in at number 96, just behind Yemen but a notch better than Iran. Will this study get much attention here? Probably not. Americans know that "We're Number One" in every way, including in our role the world's best hope for enduring peace.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More "Support the Troops"

It was the best of armies. It was the worst of armies. Two news stories paint a picture of the way the nation honors the defense of freedom on Memorial Day.

From The Daily Freeman (appropriately named)

Appeals court bars Cheney foes from West Point
Associated Press

WHITE PLAINS - The mere presence of Vice President Dick Cheney does not turn West Point into a public forum and is not an "open invitation" to protesters, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

Cheney is scheduled to deliver the commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy today, and about 1,000 people had hoped to march onto the campus for an anti-war demonstration. ....

The protesters' attorney, Stephen Bergstein, said the military gets too much respect.

"No other institution in our society enjoys the deference that the military establishment enjoys," he said. "There are things you can't do in our society, and protesting at a military institution is one of them. It's a shame because they invite Cheney and he can say whatever he wants."

Besides the constitutional issue, the court agreed with the Army that it had legitimate security concerns.
* * * * *

[In another story, some "legitimate security concerns" show up prominently.]

CNN: Young officers leaving service at 'alarming' rate

CNN reported on Friday about the "alarming number" of mid-level army officers leaving the military as soon as they complete their initial commitment, many of them citing family reasons and multiple deployments. The army has been forced to offer new incentives for re-enrolling, including bonuses and extra training.

The percentage of career officers deciding not to stay in the military is the highest it has been since the Vietnam War and includes many West Point graduates, "creating a brain drain in the top ranks." A general interviewed by CNN expressed concern that "we're losing the next generation of future combat leaders for the army."

* * * * * *
Perhaps what our intelligent career officers have figured out is that the current and future wars of Bush and Cheney have had a negative effect upon the defense of freedom in "Homeland" (formerly known as the U.S.A.). In years to come perhaps Memorial Day will become a time to remember the wisdom of avoiding the kinds of unjust, futile slaughter that cynical old "leaders" often impose on American youth. In this mode, Memorial Day could start by asking: What kind of war is it that will not permit photographing coffins of our fallen soldiers?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Support the troops with censorship: military brass unplugs MySpace and YouTube

The military has taken another brilliant move in Iraq. From Wired:

"Fresh from its battle against blogs, the U.S. military now appears to be going after video and social networking sites (at least those it doesn't control). Effective Monday, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be allowed access to websites like MySpace and YouTube using military networks, Stars and Stripes reports."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wally Shirra, astronaut, dies at 84

From an article in the Guardian

``Mostly it's lousy out there,'' Schirra said in 1981 on the occasion of the first space shuttle flight. ``It's a hostile environment, and it's trying to kill you. The outside temperature goes from a minus 450 degrees to a plus 300 degrees. You sit in a flying Thermos bottle.'' . . . .

In one of his last interviews, last month with The Associated Press, Schirra said he was struck by the fragility of Earth and the absence of borders.

``I left Earth three times. I found no place else to go. Please take care of Spaceship Earth,'' he said.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bush spying on the citizenry continues (without warrant)

From the New York Times story:

"Senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January.

Rather, they argued that the president had the constitutional authority to decide for himself whether to conduct surveillance without warrants."

* * * * *
I suppose this is a policy that "conservatives" in the Republican party would endorse. But what in the world are they "conserving"? Certainly it can't be rights and liberties specified in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.

America's Reichstag fire continues.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Duty, Honor, Country: The long grey line gets smart!

From the Boston Globe comes an interesting story about the mass exodus from military service of recent graduates from West Point.

"Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army's top young officers.

According to statistics compiled by West Point, of the 903 Army officers commissioned upon graduation in 2001, nearly 46 percent left the service last year -- 35 percent at the conclusion of their five years of required service, and another 11 percent over the next six months. And more than 54 percent of the 935 graduates in the class of 2000 had left active duty by this January, the statistics show."

Several years ago I visited West Point with a boy scout troop. I was fascinated by the rhetoric of General Douglas MacArthur's farewell speech to the military academy, words engraved in marble at a memorial in the middle of the campus.

"The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country."

I wonder what the million ghosts would say about the deranged, dishonorable debacle George W. Bush requires our troops to endure in Iraq.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The demise of community radio

It has been sad to watch the demise of WRPI, the once great college/community radio station. The Albany Times Union has the lamentable story. (Note the pungent political metaphors, something the university might worry about showing up on Google.) Here are some excerpts:

* * * * * *

Operating on different wavelengths
Host's departure latest sign of conflict between WRPI's student leaders, community

By MARC PARRY, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Monday, April 9, 2007
TROY -- One of the country's oldest college FM radio stations is approaching its 50th anniversary racked by static between students who run the station and community members who host many shows.

The upheaval at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute station, WRPI (91.5), has driven at least five community members off the air, including a 19-year station veteran who was ousted last month.

At one level, the problem is a narrow clash of personalities and competing interests. But the conflict also raises broader questions about the role of college radio.

And its impact is supercharged by the 10,000-watt signal -- stronger than many commercial stations -- that lets WRPI broadcast to listeners over a 75-mile radius that touches New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Over the past few months, critics have accused the young leaders of WRPI, a student club, of muzzling diverse voices and targeting older community hosts who help fill air time by broadcasting as their guests. In a published newspaper interview, one went so far as to compare the students to Nazis.

Some of the most recent drama at WRPI's sticker-splattered basement studios began March 1. That's when the seven-student Executive Committee that manages the station, known as the "E-Comm," revoked the membership of 19-year veteran Mickie Lynn.

The self-described retired environmental educator, Reiki practitioner and peace activist from Delmar said the program she produced, a feminist music show called "Face the Music," has since left the airwaves after nearly 29 years.

Lynn's banishment led another community host, human rights activist Judith Brink, to deliver a March 18 resignation speech that opened with these words: "To remain silent is to be complicit."

"I don't know why community members are being picked off one by one," Brink, 67, said in an interview. "I don't understand what's going on. And I don't understand why the atmosphere in the station was making me sick."

WRPI President Trent Gillaspie called Brink's comments a misunderstanding of the situation.

Yes, Gillaspie said, his No. 1 goal is increasing participation and listenership among the Troy institute's 7,400 students. But student leaders are not -- repeat, not -- targeting non-student broadcasters.

When members have been kicked out, the RPI junior said, it was for legitimate policy violations. Lynn's ouster arose from "a persistent lack of cooperation with the E-Comm," both in disrespecting students and trying to manipulate time slots behind their backs, he said.

"If any of these things we've kicked out community members for in the past had been done by students or an E-Comm member, the same actions would be taken," Gillaspie, 21, said in an e-mail. "We're not targeting community members, that's just where the problem has shown because of ongoing conflict."

Though the particular circumstances of WRPI and the Albany-area radio market are unique, in general conflicts over radio time are not. There just aren't that many independent, community-centered radio stations today, said Eric Klinenberg, a New York University sociologist and author of a book about media consolidation called "Fighting for Air."

"One trend I've observed in cities across the country is that, as those kinds of stations have become rare -- as air time for locally engaged programming has diminished -- that leaves a lot of people and groups fighting for what remains," Klinenberg said. "Sadly, I think that the structure of the radio industry today makes it more likely that groups whose interests are probably very similar wind up going after each other. This is a fairly familiar phenomenon." . . . .

Its money comes both from RPI's student union and a nonprofit group that raises funds on its behalf. Its reach is huge. It has turned over more of its air time to community hosts -- about 28 shows right now -- who have kept the station going when student interest has waned. And it's gained a following for airing progressive shows like "Democracy Now!"

Gillaspie says managing WRPI has taught him more than attending RPI. His grasp of its details was evident on a recent tour of the basement station.

Moving through its 11 rooms, the former College Republican rattled off figures about everything from the cost of the soundproof carpeting to the height of the wood-paneled console.

Gillaspie carried a black binder that laid out his 21 station goals. The mission: "To increase recognition of and participation in WRPI by the student membership of RPI."

"This is a student-run radio station, so we're primarily here for the student participation," he said. "The community members have done such a phenomenal job in helping when we're in times of need, and they've added a lot of diversity to our station."

That diversity has eroded over the past two years. Student interest has surged, while conflicts have pushed out community hosts.

Elonge Ekalele, a Cameroon native who hosted the call-in talk show "Africa in Motion," was kicked out. So was Dennis Karius of "The Portside." Judith Brink of "Voices from the Prison Action Network" and Bonnie Hoag of "Necessary Radio" both quit.

All of this worries people like RPI media arts professor Branda Miller. She feels devaluing the community role in WRPI is wasting a tremendous resource.

"I think that WRPI not only gives this incredible real-world experience for the students, but it also serves as an important outreach opportunity for Rensselaer, a real bridge between town and gown," she said.

That bridge was damaged late last year, when a Metroland article about WRPI quoted Hoag comparing the E-Comm to "Brownshirts," a reference to Nazi storm troopers. The executive board of the student union subsequently issued guidelines that, by May 15, non-RPI-affiliated members should amount to no more than 30 percent of station membership.

* * * * * *

The idea that these developments stem from a misunderstanding is ludicrous. While the students have a legal right to run the station, the pattern of recent decisions is clear. Folks from the community who are women, activists and people of color are being drummed out.