May the (Insidious) Force Be With You

detroit alter rd.jpg
Google Earth pic to the left of the boundary between Detroit and suburban Grosse Pointe Park, MI. Alter Road (cutting from upper left to lower right) is the boundary between the two. Take note of the differences in vacant land between Detroit (on the left) and Grosse Pointe Park (on the right).
 read more »

Ukraine Watch: Kiev in the Media Center Spotlight


This spring I traveled from St. Petersburg to Kiev, by way of southern Russian and eastern Ukraine. The newspapers were filled with reports of American policymakers gushing over how mobs in Kiev deserved the inalienable rights of freedom fighters and self-determination. Mobs of Russian mercenaries in Eastern Ukraine, who set up automobile tire and sandbag roadblocks, were condemned for threatening world peace.  read more »

The Hyping of “Big Data”


Worship at the altar of what is labelled big data is rampant in both corporate and large not-for-profit settings. And while there is some general sense that big data arrives at warp-speed and involves huge datasets from very diverse sources and methodologies, there is no consensus and little discussion of what comprises meaningful and valid “big” datasets.  read more »


Fracking, Youngstown and The Right to the City

oil tanks in Ohio.jpg

What happens when the Chamber of Commerce, labor leaders, and government officials, most of whom live outside the city, are pitted against a small yet influential group of community and university activists?  read more »

Why Some Nations Succeed

Renaissance for Reform cover.jpg

Why is it that some nations, such as Switzerland, respond quickly to the need for reform – improving railroads, health care systems and schooling – even before the systems break down? And why do other nations, such as Italy and France, wait until major crises are upon them before introducing institutional change? Some, such as Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, take a deterministic stance. The acclaimed writers of  Why Nations Fail  believe that cultural and geographical differences, or even historical accidents, put countries on to different trajectories of institutional development which are more or less conducive to growth. Although clearly relevant, this view is incomplete.  read more »


Don't make big-city mayors regional rulers


Given the quality of leadership in Washington, it’s not surprising that many pundits are shifting focus to locally based solutions to pressing problems. This increasingly includes many progressives, who historically have embraced an ever-more expansive federal government.

In many ways, this constitutes an extraordinarily positive development. Political decentralization is built into the very framework of American democracy, as Alexis de Tocqueville, among others, recognized.  read more »

Leadership and the Challenge of Making a City Visible


Cities of varying sizes struggle with two related, but seemingly opposing, global and local forces. At one level, every city would like to benefit from the global flow of capital and the emerging landscapes of prosperity seen in “other” places. At another level, to be a recipient of such attention, a city has to offer something more than cheaper real estate and tax benefits.  read more »

Crimea and Ukraine: What Putin Could Learn from Yugoslavia


While American government officials respond to the Russian Anschluss in Crimea by mobilizing their Twitter feeds and making the rounds of the Sunday morning meetings of the press, the Moscow government of Vladimir Putin reinforced its occupation forces around Simferopol and Sebastopol, perhaps at some point passing out small Russian flags to local sympathizers, who can wave them gratefully when the symbolic gates between Russia and Crimea are thrown open.  read more »

Freedom and its Fruits: Fertility Over Time in Estonia


Estonians and Latvians are the only independent nations in Europe with fewer people now than at the beginning of the 20th century. It is written in The White Book, 2004, about losses inflicted on the Estonian nation by occupation regimes. During the whole period (1940-1991) nearly 90,000 citizens of the Republic of Estonia perished, and about the same number of people left their homeland forever. It happened in a nation with a population number of about one million. Another nation, through centuries, gradually perished and disappeared from this territory: the Livonians.  read more »

Era of the Migrant Moguls


Southern California, once the center of one of the world's most vibrant business communities, has seen its economic leadership become largely rudderless. Business interests have been losing power for decades, as organized labor, ethnic politicians, green activists, intrusive planners, crony developers and local NIMBYs have slowly supplanted the leaders of major corporations and industries, whose postures have become, at best, defensive.  read more »