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Delanceyplace is simply a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history,

Updated: 2017-11-10T14:40:59.862-05:00


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Having trouble viewing this email? Click here In today's excerpt - by 1890, 80 percent of New York City's population was either foreign-born or of foreign parentage. Joseph Pulitzer, an immigrant himself, bought and also-ran New York World newspaper and transformed it into the most widely read and influential paper in the world by using sensational headlines and short sentences to attract his audience:"The paper abandoned its old, dull headlines. In place of BENCH SHOW OF DOGS: PRIZES AWARDED ON THE SECOND DAY OF THE MEETING IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN on May 10 came SCREAMING FOR MERCY,HOW THE CRAVEN CORNETTI MOUNTED THE SCAFFOLD on May 12. Two weeks later the World''s readers were greeted with BAPTIZED IN BLOOD, on top of a story, complete with a diagram, on how eleven people werecrushed to death in a human stampede when panic broke out in a largecrowd enjoying a Sunday stroll on the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge. In a city where half a dozen newspapers offered dull, similar fare to readers each morning, Pulitzer's dramatic headlines made the World stand out like a racehorse among draft horses."If the headline was the lure, the copy was the hook. Pulitzer could write all the catchy headlines he wanted, but it was up to the reporters to win over readers. He pushed his staff to give him simplicity and color. He admonished them to write in a buoyant, colloquial style comprising simple nouns, bright verbs, and short, punchy sentences. If there was a 'Pulitzer formula,' it was a story written so simply that anyone could read it and so colorfully that no one would forget it. The question 'Did you see that in the World?' Pulitzer instructed his staff, should be asked every day and something should be designed to cause this."Pulitzer had an uncanny ability to recognize news in what others ignored. He sent out his reporters to mine the urban dramas that other papers confined to their back pages. They returned with stories that could leave no reader unmoved. Typical, for instance, was the World's front-page tale, which ran soon after Pulitzer took over, of the destitute and widowed Margaret Graham. She had been seen by dockworkers as she walked on the edge of a pier in the East River with an infant in her arms and a two-year-old girl clutching her skirt. 'All at once the famished mother clasped the feeble little girl round her waist and, tottering to the brink of the wharf, hurled both her starving young into the river as it whirled by. She stood for a moment on the edge of the stream. The children were too weak and spent to struggle or to cry. Their little helpless heads dotted the brown tide for an instant, then they sank out of sight. The men who looked on stood spellbound.' Graham followed her children into the river but was saved by the onlookers and was taken to jail to face murder charges."For Pulitzer a news story was always a story. He pushed his writers to think like Dickens, who wove fiction from the sad tales of urban Victorian London, to create compelling entertainment from the drama of the modern city. To the upper classes, it was sensationalism. To the lower and working classes, it was their life. When they looked at the World, they found stories about their world."In the Lower East Side's notorious bars, known as black and tans, or at dinner in their cramped tenements, men and women did not discuss society news, cultural events, or happenings in the investment houses. Rather, the talk was about the baby who fell to his death from a roof-top, the brutal beating that police officers dispensed to an unfortunate waif, or the rising cost of streetcar fares to the upper reaches of Fifth Avenue and the mansions needing servants. The clear, simple prose of the World drew in these readers, many of whom were immigrants struggling to master their first words of English. Writing about the events that mattered in their lives in a way they could understand, Putitzer's World gave these New Yorkers a sense o[...] 11/12/10 - the myth of mass panic


In today's excerpt - the myth of the mass panic. In disasters, rather than descending into disorder and a helpless state, people come together and give one another strength:"The image of the panicked deeply ingrained in the popular imagination. Hardly any self-respecting Hollywood disaster movie would be complete without one scene of people running wildly in all directions and screaming hysterically. Television newscasters perpetuate this stereotype with reports that show shoppers competing for items in what is described as 'panic buying' and traders gesticulating frantically as 'panic' sweeps through the stock market."The idea of mass panic shapes how we plan for, and respond to, emergency events. In Pennsylvania, for example, the very term is inscribed in safety regulations known as the state's Fire and Panic Code. Many public officials assume that ordinary people will become highly emotional in an emergency, especially in a crowded situation and that providing information about the true nature of the danger is likely to make individuals panic even more. Emergency management plans and policies often intentionally conceal information: for ex- ample, event marshals may be instructed to inform one another of a fire using code words, to prevent people from overhearing the news - and overreacting."Mathematicians and engineers who model 'crowd dynamics' often rely on similar assumptions describing behaviors such as 'herding,' 'flocking' and, of course, 'panic.' As the late Jonathan Sime (an environmental psychologist formerly at the University of Surrey in England) pointed out, efforts to 'design out disaster' have typically treated people as unthinking or instinctive rather than as rational, social beings. Therefore, more emphasis is placed on the width of doorways than on communication technologies that might help people make informed decisions about their own safety."These ideas about crowd behavior permeate the academic world, too. For many years influential psychology textbooks have illustrated mass panic by citing supposed examples such as the Iroquois Theater fire of 1903 in Chicago in which some 600 people perished and the Cocoanut Grove Theater fire of 1942 in Boston in which 492 people died. In the textbook explanations, theatergoers burned to death as a result of their foolish overreaction to danger. But Jerome M. Chertkoff and Russell H. Kushigian of Indiana University, the first social psychologists to analyze the Cocoanut Grove fire in depth, found that the nightclub managers had jeopardized public safety in ways that are shocking today. In a 1999 book on the psychology of emergency egress and ingress, Chertkoff and Kushigian concluded that physical obstructions, not mass panic, were responsible for the loss of life in the infamous fire."A more recent example tells a similar story. Kathleen Tierney and her co-workers at the University of Colorado at Boulder investigated accusations of panicking, criminality, brutality and mayhem in the aftermath of Hurricane Ka- trina. They concluded that these tales were 'disaster myths.' What was branded as 'looting' was actually collective survival behavior: people took food for their families and neighbors when store payment systems were not working and rescue services were nowhere in sight. In fact, the population showed a surprising ability to self-organize in the absence of authorities, according to Tierney and her colleagues."Such work builds on earlier research by two innovative sociologists in the 1950s. Enrico Quarantelli - who founded the Disaster Research Center at Ohio State University in 1985 and later moved with it to the University of Delaware - examined many instances of emergency evacuations and concluded that people often flee from dangerous events such as fires and bombings, because usually that is the sensible thing to do. A fleeing crowd is not necessarily a panicked, irrational crowd."The second pioneering sociologist, Charles Fritz, was influenced by his ex- periences as a soldier in the U.K. during[...] 11/11/10 - andalusia, the caliphate, and tolerance


In today's encore excerpt - in the middle ages, a vast portion of what is now Spain was ruled by Muslims, who were a model of religious tolerance, and who provided Europe with the knowledge and technology that was one of the keys to its resurgence in the Renaissance until they were finally driven from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella. Their territory is in part remembered today as Andalusia - "Al Andalus":

"After the Moorish conquest of Spain in the eighth century, the emir of Al Andalus had been a vassal of the caliphs of Damascus and Baghdad. But this western outpost of Islam was the first of the Muslim provinces to break free of its Oriental masters. When the Mongols destroyed the caliphate in Baghdad in 1258, the independence of Al Andalus was solidified, and the Spanish Moors began to relate more to Europe than the Middle East.

"In arts and agriculture, learning and tolerance, Al Andulus was a beacon of enlightenment to the rest of Europe. In the fertile valleys of the Guadalquivir and the Guadiana rivers, as well as the terraced slopes of the Alpujarras, agriculture surpassed anything elsewhere on the continent. Moorish filigree silver- and leatherwork became famous throughout the Mediterranean. In engineering, the skill of the Spanish Moors had no parallel, and the splendor of their architecture was manifest in the glorious mosque of Cordoba, the Giralda and Alcazar of Seville, and the Alhambra of Granada. Its excellence in art and literature, mathematics and science, history and philosophy defined this brilliant civilization.

"Among its finest achievements was its tolerance. Jews and Christians were welcomed, if not as equals, then as full-fledged citizens. They were permitted to practice their faith and their rituals without interference. This tolerance was in keeping with the principles of the Koran, which taught that Jews and Christians were to be respected as 'peoples of the Book' or believers in the word of God. Jews and Christians were assimilated into Islamic culture, and occasionally, Moorish leaders helped to build Christian houses of worship.

"In 1248, work began on the colossal Alhambra in Granada. With its thirteen towers and fortified walls above the ravine of the Darro River, the river of gold, the red palace took shape over the next hundred years. The extraordinary rooms of its interior - the Courtyard of the Lions, the Hall of the Two Sisters, the Court of the Myrtles - were finished at the end of the long process under the reign of Yusef I in the mid-fourteenth century. With their arabesque moldings and gold ornament and vegetal carvings, these rooms became the wonder of the world. Most stunning of all was the Courtyard of the Lions, whose Oriental feel was more reminiscent of Japan than the Middle East and whose vision was to replicate the Garden of Paradise."

Author: James Reston, Jr.
Title: The Dogs of God
Publisher: Anchor
Date: Copyright 2005 by James Reston
Pages: 7-8 11/10/10 - teenage love


In today's excerpt - in the now classic epistolary novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a high school freshman named Charlie gets advice from two upper classmen, Patrick and Sam, regarding girls in general and his new girlfriend Mary Elizabeth in particular. This book had the distinction of being third on the American Library Association's list of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009, for reasons including the book's treatment of drugs, homosexuality, sex, and suicide: Patrick then explained some things to me, so I would know how to be around girls ... "Charlie, has anyone told you how it works?" "I don't think so." "Well, there are rules you follow here not because you want to, but because you have to. You get it?""I guess so." "Okay. You take girls, for example. They're copying their moms and magazines and everything to know how to act around guys. ... I mean it's not like in the movies where girls like assholes or anything like that. It's not that easy. They just like somebody that can give them a purpose." "A purpose?" "Right. You know? Girls like guys to be a challenge. It gives them some mold to fit in how they act. Like a mom. What would a mom do if she couldn't fuss over you and make you clean your room? And what would you do without her fussing and making you do it? Everyone needs a mom. And a mom knows this. And it gives her a sense of purpose. You get it?" "Yeah," I said even though I didn't. But I got it enough to say "Yeah" and not be lying, though. "The thing is some girls think they can actually change guys. And what's funny is that if they actually did change them, they'd get bored. They'd have no challenge left." [Later a female friend of Charlie's, Sam, gives him advice on his first date - which happens to be with a girl named Mary Elizabeth.] Sam told me how to treat a girl on a date, which was very interesting. She said that with a girl like Mary Elizabeth, you shouldn't tell her she looks pretty. You should tell her how nice her outfit is because her outfit is her choice whereas her face isn't. She also said that with some girls, you should do things like open car doors and buy flowers, but with Mary Elizabeth (especially since it's the Sadie Hawkins' dance), I shouldn't do that. So, I asked her what I should do, and she said that I should ask a lot of questions and not mind when Mary Elizabeth doesn't stop talking. I said that it didn't sound very democratic, but Sam said she does it all the time with boys. Sam did say that sex things were tricky with Mary Elizabeth since she's had boyfriends before and is a lot more experienced than I am. She said that the best thing to do when you don't know what to do during anything sexual is pay attention to how that person is kissing you and kiss them back the same way. She says that is very sensitive, which I certainly want to be. [But after a few dates, things are not going very smoothly with Mary Elizabeth.] Mary Elizabeth has been acting completely different. She's nice all the time, but it doesn't feel right. I don't know how to describe it. It's like we'll be having a cigarette outside with Sam and Patrick at the end of the day, and we'll all be talking about something until it's time to go home. Then, when I get home, Mary Elizabeth will call me right away and ask me, "What's up?" And I don't know what to say because the only thing new in my life is my walk home, which isn't a lot. But I describe the walk anyway. And then she starts talking, and she doesn't stop for a long time. She's been doing this all week. That and picking lint off my clothes. At one point two days ago, she was talking about books, and she included a lot of books I had read, And when I told her that I had read them, she asked me very long questions that were really just her ideas with a question mark put at the end. The only thing I could say was either "yes" or "no." There was honestly no room to say anything else. After that, she started talking about [...] 11/9/10 - chinggis khan


In today's excerpt - when declining temperatures created a climate crisis in Mongolia, it started Chinggis (Ghengis) Khan and his heirs on campaigns of conquests that ultimately grew to include most of China, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe - the largest contiguous land-based empire in history:"In the late twelfth century [the Mongolian steppe] region was facing a subsistence crisis because a drop in the mean annual temperature had reduced the supply of grass for grazing animals. The man who saved the situation by gaining access to the bounty of the agricultural world for them was Chinggis (Ghengis, c.1162-1227). "A brilliant and utterly ruthless military genius, Chinggis proudly asserted that there was no greater joy than massacring one's enemies, seizing their horses and cattle, and ravishing their women. His career as a military leader began when he avenged the death of his father, a tribal chieftain who had been murdered when Chinggis was still a boy. As he subdued the Tartars, Kereyid, Naiman, Merkid, and other Mongol and Turkic tribes, Chinggis built up an army of loyal followers. In 1206 the most prominent Mongol nobles gathered at an assembly to name him their overlord, or great khan. "He then fully militarized Mongol society ignoring traditional tribal affiliations to form an army based on a decimal hierarchy, 1,000 horsemen in the basic unit. A new military nobility was thus created of commanders loyal to Chinggis. They could pass their posts to their sons, but the great khan could remove any commander at will. Chinggis also created an elite bodyguard of 10,000 sons and brothers of commanders, which served directly under him. To reduce internal disorder, he issued simple but draconian laws; the penalty for robbery and adultery, for instance, was death. He ordered the Uighur script to be adopted for writing Mongol, seeing the utility of written records even though he was illiterate himself."His organization in place, Chinggis initiated one of world history's most astonishing campaigns of conquest. He began by subjugating nearby states. First he would send envoys to demand submission and threaten destruction. Those who submitted without fighting were treated as allies and left in power, but those who put up a fight faced the prospect of total destruction. City-dwellers in particular evoked his wrath and were often slaughtered en masse or used as human shields in the next battle. In the Mongol armies' first sweep across the north China plain in 1212-13, they left ninety-odd cities in rubble. When they sacked the Jurchen's northern capital at Beijing in 1215, it burned for more than a month."Chinggis's battle-hardened troops were capable of enduring great privation and crossing vast distances at amazing speed. In 1219 he led 200,000 troops into Central Asia, where the following year they sacked Bukara and Samarkand. Before his death in 1227, Chinggis ... ruled from the Pacific Ocean on the east to the Caspian Sea on the west."Chinggis's death created a crisis due to the Mongol tradition of succession by election rather than descent. In the end the empire was divided into four sections, each to be governed by one of the lines of his descendants. Ogodei, Chinggis's third son, got control of Mongolia. In 1234 he crushed the Jin and became ruler of north China. By 1236 he had taken all but four of the fifty-eight districts in Sichuan, previously held by the Song, and had ordered the total slaughter of the one million plus residents of the city of Chengdu, a city the Mongols had taken easily with little fighting. Even where people were not slaughtered, they were frequently seized as booty along with their grain stores and livestock. Ogodei's troops also participated in the western campaigns begun in 1237. Representatives of all four lines ... campaigned into Europe in 1237, taking Moscow and Kiev in 1238 and striking into Poland and Hungary in 1241 and 1242. Although they looted citie[...] 11/8/10 - newborns


In today's excerpt - the invention, and reinvention, of incubators for newborns:"Sometime in the late 1870s, a Parisian obstetrician named Stephane Tarnier took a day off from his work at Maternite de Paris, the lying-in hospital for the city's poor women, and paid a visit to the nearby Paris Zoo. Wandering past the elephants and reptiles and classical gardens of the zoo's home inside the Jardin des Plantes, Tarnier stumbled across an exhibit of chicken incubators.Seeing the hatchlings totter about in the incubator's warm enclosure triggered an association in his head, and before long he had hired Odile Martin, the zoo's poultry raiser, to construct a device that would perform a similar function for human newborns. By modern standards, infant mortality was staggeringly high in the late nineteenth century, even in a city as sophisticated as Paris. One in five babies died before learning to crawl, and the odds were far worse for premature babies born with low birth weights. Tarnier knew that temperature regulation was critical for keeping these infants alive, and he knew that the French medical establishment had a deep-seated obsession with statistics. And so as soon as his newborn incubator had been installed at Maternite, the fragile infants warmed by hot water bottles below the wooden boxes, Tarnier embarked on a quick study of five hundred babies. The results shocked the Parisian medical establishment: while 66 percent of low-weight babies died within weeks of birth, only 38 percent died if they were housed in Tarnier's incubating box. You could effectively halve the mortality rate for premature babies simply by treating them like hatchlings in a zoo. ..."Modern incubators, supplemented with high-oxygen therapy and other advances, became standard equipment in all American hospitals after the end of World War II, triggering a spectacular 75 percent decline in infant mortality rates between 1950 and 1998. ..."In the developing world, however, the infant mortality story remains bleak. Whereas infant deaths are below ten per thousand births throughout Europe and the United States, over a hundred infants die per thousand in countries like Liberia and Ethiopia, many of them premature babies that would have survived with access to incubators. But modern incubators are complex, expensive things. A standard incubator in an American hospital might cost more than $40,000. But the expense is arguably the smaller hurdle to overcome. Complex equipment breaks, and when it breaks you need the technical expertise to fix it, and you need replacement parts. In the year that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Indonesian city of Meulaboh received eight incubators from a range of international relief organizations. By late 2008, when an MIT professor named Timothy Prestero visited the hospital, all eight were out of order, the victims of power surges and tropical humidity, along with the hospital staff's inability to read the English repair manual. ... "Prestero and his team decided to build an incubator out of parts that were already abundant in the developing world. The idea had originated with a Boston doctor named Jonathan Rosen, who had observed that even the smaller towns of the developing world seemed to be able to keep automobiles in working order. The towns might have lacked air conditioning and laptops and cable television, but they managed to keep their Toyota 4Runners on the road. So Rosen approached Prestero with an idea: What if you made an incubator out of automobile parts?"Three years after Rosen suggested the idea, the team introduced a prototype device called the NeoNurture. From the outside, it looked like a streamlined modern incubator, but its guts were automotive. Sealed-beam headlights supplied the crucial warmth; dashboard fans provided filtered air circulation; door chimes sounded alarms. You could power the device via an adapted cigarette lighte[...] 11/5/10 - election day


In today's excerpt--Election Day, 1968. The Democrat Lyndon Johnson had won the presidency in 1964 in a historic landslide, but only four years later the Republican Richard Nixon eked out a victory over Hubert Humphrey. What accounted for the shift? A lot, most notably civil rights legislation, race riots, and the specter of busing that had given rise to Southern demagogues such as George Wallace. Nixon had won in part by subtly and deftly adopting some of the Southern message:

"The stroke of midnight: Hubert Humphrey was ahead by a point in the popular vote, with four of ten returns counted. In Nixon's familiar old suite at the Waldorf, ... [Nixon was] scribbling on yellow pads, working the phones, puzzling out the nation's precincts, the labyrinth that he knew better than any other man alive, as the nation's will slowly, agonizingly revealed itself.

"He knew it by 3:15 a.m.

"The networks weren't sure until well into the 9 a.m. hour.

"Humphrey didn't concede until eleven thirty. In fact, the victory wouldn't be certified for weeks. ...

"[Nixon won] with something no other Republican presidential candidate, with minor exceptions, had ever had before: electoral votes from the South. Wallace took Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana. But Nixon got Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina--and Strom Thurmond's South Carolina.

"George Wallace sent a congratulatory telegram. Nixon never acknowledged it. It spoke to the agony of victory. For it was barely a victory. 301 electoral votes for Nixon and 191 for Humphrey, 46 for George Wallace--and, in the popular vote, 43.42 percent, 42.72 percent, and 13.53 percent. Nixon had received only five or so points more than Barry Goldwater's humiliating share in 1964. With George Wallace claiming that symbolically the victory belonged as much to him as to Nixon: 'Mr. Nixon said the same thing we said,' he declared. If he hadn't, was Wallace's point, Nixon wouldn't have won. And indeed, a few thousand more votes for Wallace in North Carolina and Tennessee, a shift of 1 percent of the vote in New Jersey or Ohio from Nixon to Humphrey, and the election would have been thrown into the House of Representatives, because Nixon wouldn't have won an electoral college majority."

Author: Rick Perlstein
Title: Nixonland
Publisher: Scribner
Date: Copyright 2008 by Rick Perlstein
Pages: 353-354 11/4/10 - cognitive misers


In today's encore excerpt - the human brain is a "cognitive miser"- it can employ several approaches to solving a given problem, but almost always chooses the one that requires the least computational power:

"We tend to be cognitive misers. When approaching a problem, we can choose from any of several cognitive mechanisms. Some mechanisms have great computational power, letting us solve many problems with great accuracy, but they are slow, require much concentration and can interfere with other cognitive tasks. Others are comparatively low in computational power, but they are fast, require little concentration and do not interfere with other ongoing cognition. Humans are cognitive misers because our basic tendency is to default to the processing mechanisms that require less computational effort, even if they are less accurate. Are you a cognitive miser? Consider the following problem, taken from the work of Hector Levesque, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto. Try to answer it yourself before reading the solution.

Problem: Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married, but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Cannot be determined

"More than 80 percent of people choose C. But the correct answer is A. Here is how to think it through logically: Anne is the only person whose marital status is unknown. You need to consider both possibilities, either married or unmarried, to determine whether you have enough information to draw a conclusion. If Anne is married, the answer is A: she would be the married person who is looking at an unmarried person (George). If Anne is not married, the answer is still A: in this case, Jack is the married person, and he is looking at Anne, the unmarried person. This thought process is called fully disjunctive reasoning - reasoning that considers all possibilities. The fact that the problem does not reveal whether Anne is or is not married suggests to people that they do not have enough information, and they make the easiest inference (C) without thinking through all the possibilities. Most people can carry out fully disjunctive reasoning when they are explicitly told that it is necessary (as when there is no option like 'cannot be determined' available). But most do not automatically do so, and the tendency to do so is only weakly correlated with intelligence.

"Here is another test of cognitive miserliness, as described by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Shane Frederick.

"A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

"Many people give the first response that comes to mind - 10 cents. But if they thought a little harder, they would realize that this cannot be right: the bat would then have to cost $1.10, for a total of $1.20. IQ is no guarantee against this error. Kahneman and Frederick found that large numbers of highly select university students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton and Harvard were cognitive misers, just like the rest of us, when given this and similar problems."

Author: Keith E. Stanovich
Title: "Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking That IQ Tests Miss"
Publisher: Scientific American
Date: November/December 2009
Pages: 35-36 11/3/10 - american english


In today's excerpt - American culture in the late 1700s and early 1800s was more homogeneous than in European countries. In England, France and Germany, villagers on one part of the country could not understand the dialect of those in another part (a condition that was still true in China in the early 1900s), and the upper class spoke differently from them all. Americans, however, all spoke a mutually understandable dialect, and also had fewer religious customs, which created a more uniform culture, with all the attendant advantages in commerce and governance:"Americans thought that they were less superstitious and more rational than the peoples of Europe. They had actually carried out religious reforms that European liberals could only dream about. Early Americans were convinced that their Revolution, in the words of the New York constitution of 1777, had been designed to end the 'spiritual oppression and intolerance wherewith the bigotry and ambition of weak and wicked priests' had 'scourged mankind.' Not only had Americans achieved true religious liberty, not just the toleration that the English made so much of, but their blending of the various European religions and nationalities had made their society much more homogeneous than those of the Old World. "The European migrants had been unable to bring all of their various regional and local cultures with them, and re-creating and sustaining many of the peculiar customs, craft holidays, and primitive practices of the Old World proved difficult. Consequently, morris dances, charivaries, skimmingtons, and other folk practices were much less common in America than in Britain or Europe. The New England Puritans, moreover, had banned many of these popular festivals and customs, including Christmas, and elsewhere the mixing and settling of different peoples had worn most of them away. ... Since enlightened elites everywhere in the Western world regarded these plebeian customs and holidays as remnants of superstition and barbarism, their relative absence in America was seen as an additional sign of the New World's precocious enlightenment."America had a common language, unlike the European nations, none of which was linguistically homogeneous. In 1789 the majority of Frenchmen did not speak French but were divided by a variety of provincial patois. Englishmen from Yorkshire were incomprehensible to those from Cornwall and vice versa. By contrast, Americans could understand one another from Maine to Georgia. It was very obvious why this should beso, said John Witherspoon, president of Princeton. Since Americans were 'much more unsettled, and move frequently from place to place, they are not as liable to local peculiarities, either in accent or phraseology.' With the Revolution some Americans wished to carry this uniformity further. They wanted their language 'purged of its barbaric dross' and made 'as pure, simple, and systematic as our politics.' It was bound to happen in any case. Republics, said John Adams, had always attained a greater 'purity, copiousness, and perfection of language than other forms of government.'"Americans expected the development of an American English that would be different from the English of the former mother country, a language that would reflect the peculiar character of the American people. Noah Webster, who would eventually become famous for his American dictionary, thought that language had divided the English people from one another. The court and the upper ranks of the aristocracy set the standards of usage and thus put themselves at odds with the language spoken by the rest of the country. By contrast, America's standard was fixed by the general practice of the nation, and therefore Americans had 'the fairest opportunity of establishing a national language, and of giving it uniformity and perspicuit[...] 11/2/10 - social darwinism


In today's excerpt - social Darwinism. The greatest U.S. economic crisis prior to the Great Depression itself was "the Panic of 1873," a depression that lasted from 1873-1879. It brought unprecedented unemployment to the country, and unloosed a nationwide hysteria known as "the Tramp Scare." Thousands unemployed "tramps" crossed the country looking for work that wasn't to be found. Instead of reacting with aid and compassion, cities and states passed harsh "anti-Tramp" laws and labeled the unemployed as morally inferior. Conveniently, Charles Darwin's brand new theory of evolution was available could be freely adapted to the social world to provide justification for this scorn:"Impressed with what they took to be the hard, scientific fact of natural selection, many prominent American intellectuals, politicians, and businessmen followed [leading intellectual] Herbert Spencer in wanting to extend Charles Darwin's insights on nature to society. To those who enjoyed the benefits of American prosperity, unrestrained capitalism appeared a law of nature, and one that should be obeyed by all and not altered, as to do so would undermine social progress. Daniel S. Gregory's popular Christian Ethics argued that 'The Moral Governor has placed the power of acquisitiveness in man for a good and noble purpose,' so that interfering with greed was actually a sin. Not surprisingly, the rich and their acolytes crafted an ideology from this perception that equated wealth with morality and poverty with a defective character. No one gave voice to this belief system better than the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the most famous - and highly paid - minister in America: 'The general truth will stand, that no man in this land suffers from poverty unless it be more than his fault - unless it be his sin.'"Though it had its origins in England with Spencer's writings, social Darwinism became an obsession among educated Americans in the late 1870s. While scholars place the first use of the phrase 'social Darwinism' in Europe in 1879, it is telling that the phrase actually first appears in the public press in the United States in 1877 - and then in the context of the tramp menace. The Nation converted to social Darwinism in 1877, its editor, E.L. Godkin, declaring that nothing of value 'is not the result of successful strife.' Those who are successful in life deserve their wealth, while trying to lift up the weak undermines this natural struggle and thus social progress. ..."So popular had evolutionary theory become in 1877 that The Congregationalist complained that too many 'preachers seem to think it their duty to give their congregations dilutions of John Tyndall and Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer,' the leading promoters of Darwin's work. They noted with concern that Harvard students are now expected to read Spencer. Later in the year, Harvard's professor John McCrary, who held the chair in geology, resigned in opposition to this cult of Herbert Spencer. But his was a lonely voice, as readings of Spencer became common at high school exercises throughout the country, even in Milwaukee. Despite their rejection of evolution, most Protestant ministers and intellectuals were entranced by social Darwinism. The Reverend William A. Halliday used Darwin to point out that progress is certain, but that not everyone advances together; 'the survival of the fittest is nothing the unfit can cheer about.' ..."[Yale professor] William Graham Sumner found in Spencer scientific justification for his extreme version of laissez-faire. Sumner could thus claim it was a fact, 'fixed in the order of the universe,' that government intervention threatened to disrupt the workings of natural selection - from the eight-hour day to public education, protective tariffs to the post office, they all thwarted prog[...] 11/1/10 - land and war


In today's excerpt - we all know the causes of the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, they are enshrined in our national consciousness: the Revolutionary War was fought to end taxation without representation, and the Civil War was fought to end slavery (or, if you have Southerner sympathies, it was fought over the issue of states' rights). These reasons, though true in part, may be insufficient to fully capture the causes of these wars. The colonists had lower tax rates than their English brethren, more independence on many matters, and an equally high standard of living. Parliament removed taxes from the colonists quickly after it imposed them, and left a token tax in place as a face-saving maneuver. And in the 1850s, the abolitionist movement was a tiny fraction of the U.S. population. Historians Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton point out that those two wars both started roughly twelve years after the acquisition of control over vast news areas of land, and thus put in play huge potential shifts in the balance of power within the newly controlling governments. The Revolutionary War started shortly after the British and their colonists wrested control the remainder of the continent east of the Mississippi away from the French in the French and Indian War. The Civil War started shortly after the U.S. wrested half of Mexico's territory away from it in the Mexican American War, and thus gained effective control of the continent west of the Mississippi: "Unlike the three previous wars between Britain and France, the vast conflict known in Europe as the Seven Years' War (1756-63; its North American phase, 1754-60, is sometimes called the French and Indian War) ended in a decisive victory, as a result of which the North American empire of France ceased to exist and Spain (France's ally in the final year of the war) was compelled to surrender its imperial claims east of the Mississippi River. This left Britain (in theory at least) the proprietor of the eastern half of North America. ... "The victorious British ... so alienated their colonists by attempted reforms that just a dozen years after the Peace of Paris that ended the Seven Years War, the thirteen North American colonies took up arms against the empire. In their efforts to mount resistance to a sovereign king in Parliament in the decade before war broke out, colonial leaders used arguments that stressed what had usually been called the rights of Englishmen, stressing the centrality of political freedom and the protection of property and other rights. Because the colonists were a chronically divided lot, however, the leaders of the resistance movement took care to couch their explanations and appeals in universalistic language: as defenses of natural rights, not merely the liberties of Englishmen. "The War for American Independence (1775-83) shattered the British empire and made those universalized ideas the foundation of American political identity. It took another dozen years after the end of the war in 1783, however, to produce the complex of agreements and understandings we callthe Revolutionary Settlement. ... Great Britain and the United States ceased to compete militarily after 1815, leaving Mexico, which declared its independence from Spain in 1821, as the last remaining obstacle to the dominion of the United States in North America. ... The Mexican leaders' fears of revolution and racial war, along with the rich geographic diversity of their nation, inhibited the emergence of an American-style revolutionary settlement and created a fertile field for caudillos, violence, and local rebellions. One of the latter, on the remote northeastern fringe of Mexico, created the Republic of Texas in 1836. A decade later, the United States annexed Texas, provo[...] 10/29/10 - life in the royal court


In today's excerpt - the 1700s saw the last gasps of court life for kings with any true overriding authority in Britain and France, and during this period court life evolved to exaggerated extremes. Lords, ladies and the hundreds of court employees that swirled around them were required to be present at court and strive for the attention and favor of the regents. Their status, land, titles, and livelihood were at stake, and the least faux pas could have real and devastating consequences. In this excerpt we see the court of King George I of England at Kensington Palace in the early 1700s. The fawning within these courts finds its echoes in the capitals and large corporations of today:

"The Great Drawing Room, crammed full of courtiers, lay at the heart of the Georgian royal palace. Here the king mingled most evenings with his guests, signaling welcome with a nod and displeasure with a blank stare or, worse, a turned back.

"The winners and the losers of the Georgian age could calculate precisely how high they'd climbed - or how far they'd fallen - by the warmth of their reception at court. High-heeled and elegant shoes crushed the reputations of those who'd dropped out of favor, while those whose status was on the rise stood firmly in possession of their few square inches of space.

"In the eighteenth century, the palace's most elegant assembly room was in fact a bloody battlefield. This was a world of skulduggery, politicking, wigs and beauty spots, where fans whistled open like flick knives. Intrigue hissed through the crowd, and court factions were also known as 'fuctions'. Beneath their powder and perfume, the courtiers stank of sweat, insecurity and glittering ambition.

"The ambitious visitors crowding into the drawing room were usually unaware that they were under constant observation from behind the scenes. The palace servants - overlooked but ever-present - knew of every move made at court. ...

"The Georgian royal household was staggeringly vast and complicated. The highest ranking of its members, the courtiers proper, were the ladies- and gentlemen- in-waiting. These noblemen and women were glad to serve the king and queen in even quite menial ways because of the honor involved.

"Beneath them in status were about 950 other royal servants, organized into a byzantine web of departments ranging from hair-dressing to rat-catching, and extending right down to the four 'necessary women' who cleaned the palace and emptied the 'necessaries' or chamber pots. ...

"While the monarchy was slowly sinking in status throughout the eighteenth century, the glamour of the court still attracted the pretty, the witty, the pushy and the powerful.

"But although Kensington Palace teemed with ambitious and clever people in search of fame and fashion, it was also a lonely place, and courtiers and servants alike often found themselves weary and heart-sore. Success in their world demanded a level head and a cold heart; secrets were never safe, a courtier had to keep up appearances in the face of gambling debts, loss of office or even unwanted pregnancy.

"Thousands longed to be part of the court, but John Hervey [a courtier in the Georgian court], knew all too well that danger lay hidden behind the palace walls. 'I do not know any people in the world,' he wrote to a courtier colleague, 'so much to be pitied as that gay young company with which you and I stand every day in the drawing-room.' "

Author: Lucy Worsley
Title: The Courtiers
Publisher: Walker
Date: Copyright 2010 by Lucy Worsley
Pages: 3-5 10/28/10 - adultery and romance


Having trouble viewing this email? Click here In today's encore excerpt - in the chivalrous twelfth century, relationships and sex, viewed as dutiful and dispassionate under the Church, begin to emerge as rapturous and transcendent. The new age of courtly love sweeps through the courts of Europe and engenders a new genre of songs and poems. Aiding in this transformation are Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) and the troubadors:"The [new] game of courtly love is an elaborate blueprint for the building of desire, as opposed to the quenching of it. The higher it builds without fulfillment, the more perfect a lover the knight proves himself to be. ..."Consummated or not, courtly love is by definition adulterous. The knight who jousts on horseback, sword in hand, competes against other knights for a highly desirable lady. But they're not fighting for her hand in marriage, or even for the privilege of courting her. She already has a husband. Initially, at least, they're not even fighting for the privilege of sleeping with her. They're fighting for the privilege of loving her - synonymous with serving her. ... "In 1154, Henry, Duke of Normandy, captures the English throne as Henry I, making his wife Eleanor [of Aquitaine] a queen for the second time - and [through her] bestowing upon the English court a resident expert on the rules of the game. From there the ideal of love ... will be converted into the middle-class ideal of marriage: the melding of two minds, bodies, and hearts into one. ... Eleanor and her kin would find it next to unimaginable that the heady quality of adultery would one day converge with the dutiful, dispassionate quality of marriage as they experience it."Maybe that's what finally enables the convergence: Love enters marriage through the extramarital back door. As [Christian author] C.S. Lewis noted in his study of courtly doctrine, Allegory of Love, 'Any idealization of sexual love, in a society where marriage is purely utilitarian, must begin by an idealization of adultery.' ..."What troubadors bring about is the reinvention of love. They make its pursuit desirable, even admirable. Previously, epic tales of sexual desire ended in mutually assured destruction for all concerned. ... [Now], to gamble all you have, even your life, on romantic rapture becomes the route to transcendence. The most memorable romantic lovers of courtly literature - Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevere, Troilus and Cressida - meet tragic ends, but noble ones. They martyr themselves for the glory of the faith. The new religion of love is a wedge to the future."Author: Susan SquireTitle: I Don'tPublisher: BloomsburyDate: Copyright 2008 by Susan SquirePages: 151-159Tags: Love  About UsDelanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.  To visit our homepage or sign up for our daily email click here To view previous daily emails click here.To sign up for our daily email click here. Forward email This email was sent to by Update Profile/Email Address | Instant removal with SafeUnsubscribe™ | Privacy Policy. Email Marketing by | | Phil[...] 10/27/10 - spartacus


In today's excerpt - ancient Rome was built on slavery, and slaves constituted as much as forty percent of the population. This slavery could be unspeakably gruesome, whether it was the tens of thousands of slaves that died in the Roman mines in Spain, or those that were condemned to die as gladiators, and so Rome was left to ruthlessly crush innumerable slave rebellions:

"Spartacus, who was born north of Greece, in Thrace, received training in the Roman army as a barbarian 'auxiliary' (ally) before becoming a slave in 73 BCE. It's not clear why he was enslaved after serving Rome. However, his combat skills made him a natural candidate for the gladiator school at Capua, about one hundred miles from Rome.

"Here Spartacus and his fellow slaves learned how to entertain a Roman audience with dramatic hand-to-hand combat. Knowing they were going to their certain deaths, however, about eighty gladiators followed Spartacus into rebellion - using kitchen utensils as weapons. Before long they armed themselves with real weapons, slaughtering Roman soldiers who tried to stop them. Then they escaped to the countryside, where Spartacus incited a general slave uprising, attracting thousands of field workers to his cause. He led the rebel slaves to a mountaintop, where they built a fortified encampment.

"At first the Roman Senate viewed the uprising as a minor threat, but they soon learned better, and dispatched two commanders (praetors) to besiege the mountain and starve the slave army into submission. Spartacus launched a daring counterattack, ordering his soldiers to use vines to rappel down the side of the mountain.

"Of course the Roman Senate couldn't allow the slave rebellion to succeed, as the Roman economy was increasingly based on slavery. So they dispatched a new commander, Crassus, with twelve legions - a huge force - only to have the advance force of two legions annihilated by the slave army.

"Spartacus now led the rebels south, to Sicily, where he planned to
rendezvous with pirates he'd hired to take them to safety. But the pirates never showed, and the slaves found themselves trapped on a narrow peninsula. ... Desperate, Spartacus decided he had no choice but to fight the Romans head on. Here the Romans finally defeated the rebel army, showing no mercy as they butchered sixty thousand runaway slaves, including women and children. Sixty-six hundred survivors were crucified along the Appian Way connecting Capua to Rome. However, the body of Spartacus was never found."

Author: Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand
Title: The Mental Floss History of the World
Publisher: Harper
Date: Copyright 2008 by Mental Floss LLC
Pages: 83-84 10/26/10 - william penn


In today's excerpt - William Penn's utopian vision enabled him to establish one of the most successful colonies in the New World, but he died deep in debt and a broken man, despite having received a generous charter which made him the world's largest private (non-royal) landowner with over 45,000 square miles of land. He left his estate in such shambles that it took thirteen years to untangle, but his heirs and his personal representative, James Logan, did far better financially after his demise: "[Late in his life], Penn was arrested for debt [incurred in developing Pennsylvania] and confined from January to October 1708 in debtors' prison. Ultimately, he and [his lender] settled out of court for a payment of £7,600, a sum that Penn borrowed (of course) from nine wealthy Friends, including his father-in-law. Lacking any other asset, the proprietor mortgaged the province to them as security for the loan. "Early in 1709, Penn, now sixty-four years old, [attempted] the sale of Pennsylvania's government to the crown for £20,000. The province had become, in Penn's view, no more than the cause of 'a Sorrow, that if not Supported by a Superior hand, might have overwhelm'd me long agoe': a place that for its inhabitants had 'prov'd a Land of Freedom & flourishing,' but which for him was 'the cause of Grief Trouble & Poverty.' "Penn was in the midst of negotiations with the crown in April 1712 when he suffered the first of a series of strokes. The one that finally incapacitated him came in October while he was writing to James Logan, pleading for him to send money and 'deliver me from my present thralldom ... for it is my excessive expenses upon Pennsylvania that sunk me so low, & nothing else, my expenses yearly in England ever fal[I]ing short of my yearly income.' ... He lived on in increasingly frail health for another five years, losing first the ability to write, then the capacity to speak intelligibly, then the ability to walk unaided, and finally the ability to recognize friends and relatives. He died in his sleep on July 30, 1718. "Although his efforts had given him little but years of frustration and ultimately left him a broken man, William Penn died as the most successful agent of imperial expansion that England had yet produced. In 1700, Philadelphia's customhouse annually yielded revenues to the Exchequer that exceeded £8,000; yet the expenses of provincial administration and Indian diplomacy were still borne almost entirely by [Penn himself]. ... "[Upon Penn's death his estate,] tangled beyond recognition, was consigned to the Court of Chancery, where it disappeared under a mountain of pleadings and counterpleadings. The case remained unresolved for another seven years. [His second wife] Hannah herself did not live to see the case settled; she died, worn out with grief and worry, in the spring of 1727. "The chancery decision, rendered in July of that year, assigned the entire proprietorship to the sons of [his second wife] Hannah Penn, but that judgment, in the time-honored way of actions in chancery, did not resolve the issue. It was not until 1731, thirteen years after the death of William Penn and nearly twenty after he had lost the capacity to exercise his proprietary powers competently, that the children (and grandchildren) from the first marriage renounced their claim to the proprietorship in return for a cash payment from the children of the second marriage. Without this out-of-court settlement, another set of suits would in all likelihood have kept the ownership of the province tied up in chancery for at least another decade. ... "When Richard, John, and Thomas Penn took over the administration of [...] 10/25/10 - henry clay


In today's excerpt - wars with Spain, divorce, veteran aid, wolf pelts, gerrymandering, roads, billiard tables, and the location of the state capital. New state representative Henry Clay and his colleagues wrestled with the issues of the day in the Kentucky state legislature during that state's earliest days. Clay, hero to Abraham Lincoln, later served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and was part of the "Great Triumvirate" or "Immortal Trio," along with his colleagues Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun: "Speeches backed by pluck won (Democratic-Republican) Henry Clay election to the Kentucky House in his first bid for public office, and in November 1803, he took the seat he would hold for the next six years. In his first session, the legislature gathered on the second floor of the stone capitol in Frankfort abuzz with rumors of looming war with Spain. "The purchase of Louisiana from Napoleonic France had set off celebrations only months before, but soon disturbing reports began circulating that the deal was hardly certain. Spain was insistent that it had ceded Louisiana to Napoleon only on the condition that France not sell it to the United States. Cash-strapped Napoleon, however, sold the province to Thomas Jefferson's administration so quickly that Spain was still in possession of it. Now Spain threatened to block its transfer to the United States. The entire West rose up in arms. Clay arrived in Frankfort that November as Kentucky militiamen were assembling with fight in their eyes, and he was quickly caught up in the war fever. He certainly knew that political laurels would likely result from participating in a campaign against the Spaniards, and he immediately signed on as an aide to the militia's command-in-general, Samuel Hopkins. The militia's preparations had hardly begun, however, before word reached Kentucky that Spain would turn over Louisiana after all. The excitement died down as quickly as it started, disappointing more than a few boys who were spoiling for a fight, especially against Spaniards. Nobody liked Spaniards. "The distraction of a possible war removed, the legislature began its work in earnest. Most of the session's business was routine. Divorce petitions took up a fair amount of time, because a marriage could be dissolved in Kentucky only after an act of the legislature allowed the suit to be brought in the courts. Voting aid to veterans of the Revolution and Indian wars was a high priority, while placing bounties on wolf pelts answered farmers' complaints about losing livestock to predators. But there was also residual rancor over old disputes with Federalists. ... Clay's first important legislative initiative was a proposal to gerrymander Kentucky Federalists out of presidential politics. Four of Kentucky's six electoral districts would be eliminated to swallow up Federalist enclaves and prevent even a single Federalist elector from being chosen in the 1804 presidential election. ... "Clay urged that Kentucky finance internal improvements to boost commerce in all parts of the state, foreshadowing his life's work on the national scene. He demonstrated an ability to bring together seemingly irreconcilable factions through compromise, and he became wedded to the idea that the key to political success was to promote the possible and avoid the unattainable ideal. Often that was accomplished through sleight of hand, sometimes with the simplest solutions. When he chaired a select committee on raising revenue, for example, a bill was proposed to tax billiard tables at $200 each. It was likely that such a measure would not generate much revenue but would i[...] 10/22/10 - abraham lincoln


In today's excerpt - twenty-eight year old Abraham Lincoln's speech to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois. Titled "The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions," Lincoln's 1838 comments addressed the rampant lynchings that followed the Emancipation Act of 1833, and his belief that America's greatest dangers came not from abroad but from within:"We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. ... At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years."At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. ..."I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive minister of justice. ... Accounts of outrages committed by mobs form the everyday news of the times. ... "When men take it in their heads to day, to hang gamblers, or burn murderers, they should recollect, that, in the confusion usually attending such transactions, they will be as likely to hang or burn someone, who is neither a gambler nor a murderer as one who is; and that, acting upon the example they set, the mob of to-morrow, may, and probably will, hang or burn some of them, by the very same mistake. And not only so; the innocent, those who have ever set their faces against violation of law in every shape, alike with the guilty, fall victims to the ravages of mob law; and thus it goes on, step by step, till all the walls erected for the defense of the persons and property of individuals, are trodden down, and disregarded. But all this even, is not the full extent of the evil. By such examples, by instances of the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished, the lawless in spirit, are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to restraint, but dread of punishment, they thus become, absolute unrestrained. ... Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocratic spirit, which all must admit is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed ... [and] this Government cannot last. ..."The question recurs, 'how shall we fortify against it?' The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty. ... In short, let it[...] 10/21/10 - bureaucracies


In today's encore excerpt - if you happen to work for a bureaucracy, you'll need to know the subtleties of "officespeak":"This section deals with the technical aspects of officespeak, such as passive voice, circular reasoning, and rhetorical questions. These are the nuts and bolts of the Rube Goldberg contraption that is the language of the office. Obscurity, vagueness, and a noncommittal stance on everything define the essence of officespeak. No one wants to come out and say what they really think. It is much safer for the company and those up top to constantly cloak their language in order to hide how much they do know or, just as often, how much they don't know. ...Passive voice: The bread and butter of press releases and official statements. For those who have forgotten their basic grammar, a sentence in the passive voice does not have an active verb. Thus, no one can take the blame for 'doing' something, since nothing, grammatically speaking, has been done by anybody. Using the passive voice takes the emphasis off yourself (or the company). Here [is an] few example of how the passive voice can render any situation guiltless: 'Five hundred employees were laid off.' (Not 'The company laid off five hundred employees,' or even worse, 'I laid off five hundred employees.' These layoffs occurred in a netherworld of displaced blame, in which the company and the individual are miraculously absent from the picture.) ...Circular reasoning: Another favorite when it comes time to deliver bad news. In circular reasoning, a problem is posited and a reason is given. Except that the reason is basically just a rewording of the problem. Pretty nifty. Here are some examples to better explain the examples:'Our profits are down because of [a decrease in revenues].' 'People were laid off because there was a surplus of workers.' ...Rhetorical questions: The questions that ask for no answers. So why even ask the question? Because it makes it seem as though the listener is participating in a true dialogue. When your boss asks, 'Who's staying late tonight?' you know he really means, 'Anyone who wants to keep their job will work late.' Still, there's that split second when you think you have a say in the matter, when you believe your opinion counts. Only to be reminded, yet again, that no one cares what you think. ...Hollow statements: The second cousin of circular reasoning. Hollow statements make it seem as though something positive is happening (such as better profits or increased market share), but they lack any proof to support the claim.'Our company is performing better than it looks.' 'Once productivity increases, so will profits.' ...They and them: Pronouns used to refer to the high-level management that no one has ever met, only heard whispers about. 'They' are faceless and often nameless. And their decisions render those beneath them impotent to change anything. 'They' fire people, 'they' freeze wages, 'they' make your life a living hell. It's not your boss who is responsible - he would love to reverse all these directives if he could. But you see, his hands are tied.'I'd love to give you that raise, you know I would. But they're the ones in charge.''Okay, gang, bad news, no more cargo shorts allowed. Hey, I love the casual look, but they hate it.' ...Obfuscation: A tendency to obscure, darken, or stupefy. The primary goal of the above techniques is, in the end, obfuscation. Whether it's by means of the methods outlined above or by injecting jargon-heavy phrases into sentences, corporations want to make their motives and actions as difficult to compre[...] 10/20/10 - flies, elephants, cities, and ideas


In today's excerpt - flies, elephants, cities, and ideas: "Scientists and animal lovers had long observed that as life gets bigger, it slows down. Flies live for hours or days; elephants live for half-centuries. The hearts of birds and small mammals pump blood much faster than those of giraffes and blue whales. But the relationship between size and speed didn't seem to be a linear one. A horse might be five hundred times heavier than a rabbit, yet its pulse certainly wasn't five hundred times slower than the rabbit's. After a formidable series of measurements in his Davis lab, [Swiss scientist Max] Kleiber discovered that this scaling phenomenon stuck to an unvarying mathematical script called 'negative quarter-power scaling.' If you plotted mass versus metabolism on a logarithmic grid, the result was a perfectly straight line that led from rats and pigeons all the way up to bulls and hippopotami. ... "The more species Kleiber and his peers analyzed, the clearer the equation became: metabolism scales to mass to the negative quarter power. The math is simple enough: you take the square root of 1,000, which is (approximately) 31, and then take the square root of 31, which is (again, approximately) 5.5. This means that a cow, which is roughly a thousand times heavier than a woodchuck, will, on average, live 5.5 times longer, and have a heart rate that is 5.5 times slower than the woodchuck's. As the science writer George Johnson once observed, one lovely consequence of Kleiber's law is that the number of heartbeats per lifetime tends to be stable from species to species. Bigger animals just take longer to use up their quota. ... "Several years ago, the theoretical physicist Geoffrey West decided to investigate whether Kleiber's law applied to one of life's largest creations: the superorganisms of human-built cities. Did the 'metabolism' of urban life slow down as cities grew in size? Was there an underlying pattern to the growth and pace of life of metropolitan systems? Working out of the legendary Santa Fe Institute, where he served as president until 2009, West assembled an international team of researchers and advisers to collect data on dozens of cities around the world, measuring everything from crime to household electrical consumption, from new patents to gasoline sales. "When they finally crunched the numbers, West and his team were delighted to discover that Kleiber's negative quarter-power scaling governed the energy and transportation growth of city living. The number of gasoline stations, gasoline sales, road surface area, the length of electrical cables: all these factors follow the exact same power law that governs the speed with which energy is expended in biological organisms. If an elephant was just a scaled-up mouse, then, from an energy perspective, a city was just a scaled-up elephant. "But the most fascinating discovery in West's research came from the data that didn't turn out to obey Kleiber's law. West and his team discovered another power law lurking in their immense database of urban statistics. Every datapoint that involved creativity and innovation - patents, R&D budgets, 'supercreative' professions, inventors - also followed a quarter-power law, in a way that was every bit as predictable as Kleiber's law. But there was one fundamental difference: the quarter-power law governing innovation was positive, not negative. A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn't ten times more innovative; it was seventeen times more innovative. A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town was[...] 10/19/10 - mark twain, his mother, and slaves


In today's excerpt - Samuel Clemens attempted to write his autobiography over several decades but never finished, and instructed that the draft not be made available for 100 years. In just-released manuscripts, Clemens wrote of his early schoolboy friendships with black slaves, including characters that appeared later in his most famous fictional works: "All the negroes were friends of ours, and with those of our own age we were in effect comrades. I say in effect, using the phrase as a modification. We were comrades, and yet not comrades; color and condition interposed a subtle line which both parties were conscious of, and which rendered complete fusion impossible. We had a faithful and affectionate good friend, ally and adviser in 'Uncle Dan'l,' a middle-aged slave whose head was the best one in thenegro-quarter, whose sympathies were wide and warm, and whose heart was honest and simple and knew no guile. He has served me well, these many, many years. I have not seen him for more than half a century, and yet spiritually I have had his welcome company a good part of that time, and have staged him in books under his own name and as 'Jim,' and carted him all around - to Hannibal, down the Mississippi on a raft, and even across the Desert of Sahara in a balloon - and he has endured it all with the patience and friendliness and loyalty which were his birthright. It was on the farm that I got my strong liking for his race and my appreciation of certain of its fine qualities. This feeling and this estimate have stood the test of sixty years and more and have suffered no impairment. The black face is as welcome to me now asit was then. "In my schoolboy days I had no aversion to slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it. No one arraigned it in my hearing; the local papers said nothing against it; the local pulpit taught us that God approved it, that it was a holy thing, and that the doubter need only look in the Bible if he wished to settle his mind - and then the texts were read aloud to us to make the matter sure; if the slaves themselves had an aversion to slavery they were wise and said nothing. In Hannibal we seldom saw a slave misused; on the farm, never. "There was, however, one small incident of my boyhood days which touched this matter, and it must have meant a good deal to me or it would not have stayed in my memory, clear and sharp, vivid and shadowless, all these slow-drifting years. We had a little slave boy whom we had hired from some one, there in Hannibal. He was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and had been brought away from his family and his friends, half way across the American continent, and sold. He was a cheery spirit, innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing - it was maddening, devastating, unendurable. At last, one day, I lost all my temper, and went raging to my mother, and said Sandy had been singing for an hour without a single break, and I couldn't stand it, and wouldn't she please shut him up. The tears came into her eyes, and her lip trembled, and she said something like this - " 'Poor thing, when he sings, it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still, I am afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older, you would understand me; then that friendless child's noise would make you glad.' "It was [...] 10/18/10 - rutherford b. hayes


In today's excerpt - the deadlocked presidential election of 1876, during the nation's centennial, pitted New York Democrat Samuel Tilden against Ohio Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. At stake was enough autonomy for Southern states to disenfranchise blacks - and massive voting fraud in states like South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana gave Tilden the electoral edge. President Grant armed Washington against rumored attacks, and the crisis was not resolved until March of 1877 in a deal that gave Hayes the presidency in trade for the tacit authority these Southern states sought: "As the new year of 1877 dawned, the nation appeared hopelessly deadlocked.Officially Tilden had 184 electoral votes and Hayes 165, leaving 20 votes up forgrab. Hayes needed them all; Tilden required only a single vote to be president. The framers of the Constitution had not considered such a situation, simply stating that the electoral votes should be 'directed to the President of the Senate,' typically the vice president of the United States, who 'shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates and the votes shall then be counted.' But who decided which votes to open and read if there were two [different sets of votes] - or, as with Florida, three sets? ... "Congress struggled to find a solution, remaining in continuous session into March. In January, each house appointed a committee to investigate the election. The House committee, dominated by Democrats, discovered thatcorruption in the three questionable states meant that all three should go toTilden; the Senate committee, dominated by Republicans, concluded that fraudand voter suppression in the three states meant that all should go to Hayes. This was not helpful. The House judiciary Committee then suggested the appointment of a joint special commission, which, after some very careful negotiation, led to a commission of five House members, five senators, and five Supreme Court justices. Originally the five justices were to be drawn from a hat, but Tilden killed that plan with the bon mot, 'I may lose the Presidency, but I will not raffle for it.' While Tilden and many other political leaders doubted the constitutionality of the commission, a consensus emerged that there were so many recipes for disaster that some resolution was required as quickly as possible, no matter how tenuous the legality of the process. Hayes and Tilden reluctantly accepted the commission in order to avoid a civil war. When one of Tilden's advisers suggested publicly opposing the commission, Tilden shot back, 'What is left but war?' "Tilden's fears found validation in the increasing calls for violence circulatingthrough the country. It was a time of rumors, disturbing and bizarre - and occasionally true - as well as loud demands for violence. Reportedly, President Grant was planning a coup, while Confederate general Joseph Shelby supposedly announced in St. Louis that he would lead an army on Washington to put Tilden in the White House. Hearing this latter story, Confederate hero Colonel John S. Mosby, the 'Gray Ghost,' went to the White House and offered Grant his services to help ensure Hayes's inauguration. ..."Troubled by the professed willingness of his fellow Americans to take up armsso soon after their devastating Civil War, President Grant prepared to defend the capital. Grant could call on only 25,000 unpaid troops, most of them in theWest, and had to tread lightly. He could not afford to alienate the De[...] 10/15/10 - start-ups


In today's excerpt - the extraordinary entrepreneurial culture of Israel:

"[Israel boasts] the highest density of start-ups in the world (a total of 3,850 start-ups, one for every 1,844 Israelis), [and] more Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ exchange than all companies from the entire European continent. ...

"In 2008, per capita venture capital investments in Israel were 2.5 times greater than in the United States, more than 30 times greater than in Europe, 80 times greater than in China, and 350 times greater than in India. Comparing absolute numbers, Israel - a country of just 7.1 million people - attracted close to $2 billion in venture capital, as much as flowed to the United Kingdom's 61 million citizens or to the 145 million people living in Germany and France combined. And Israel is the only country to experience a meaningful increase in venture capital from 2007 to 2008 [in the face of a global financial crisis.]

"After the United States, Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country in the world, including India, China, Korea, Singapore, and Ireland. And Israel is the world leader in the percentage of the economy that is spent on research and development. Israel's economy has also grown faster than the average for the developed economies of the world in most years since 1995.

"Even the wars Israel has repeatedly fought have not slowed the country down. During the six years following 2000, Israel was hit not just by the bursting of the global tech bubble but by the most intense period of terrorist attacks in its history and by the second Lebanon war. Yet Israel's share of the global venture capital market did not drop - it doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. And the Tel Aviv stock exchange was higher on the last day of the Lebanon war than on the first, as it was after the three-week military operation in the Gaza Strip in 2009.

"The Israeli economic story becomes even more curious when one considers the nation's dire state just a little over a half century ago.

"[The importance of start-ups and venture capital in any country is hard to overstate.] According to the pioneering work of Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow, technological innovation is the ultimate source of productivity and growth. It' s the only proven way for economies to consistently get ahead - especially innovation born by start-up companies. Recent Census Bureau data show that most of the net employment gains in the United States between 1980 and 2005 came from firms younger than five years old. Without start-ups, the average annual net employment growth rate would actually have been negative."

Author: Dan Senor and Saul Singer
Title: Start-Up Nation
Publisher: Twelve/Hachette
Date: Copyright 2009 by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
Pages: 11-19
Tags: Israel, Business, Venture Capital, Start-ups, Jobs 10/14/10 - oklahoma!


In today's encore excerpt - in 1942, in spite of over twenty years of success on Broadway, primarily in songwriting partnership with Larry Hart, Richard Rodgers and his sponsor, The Theater Guild, found themselves struggling and groveling to raise the $83,000 ($1,000,000 in today's dollars) needed for his new play Oklahoma!, in part because of his new and lesser known songwriting partner, Oscar Hammerstein. Oklahoma!, of course, went on to be one of the greatest financial successes in Broadway history, and Rodgers and Hammerstein went on to be its most successful songwriting team, with a long string of triumphs including South Pacific, The Sound of Music, and Carousel:"Oscar Hammerstein's first choice of title for the musical, Oklahoma!, was discarded lest backers assume the show was about 'Okies' in the Depression. Cherokee Strip, an alternative suggestion was likewise abandoned for fear people would think it was a burlesque show. So, although no one really liked it, the safer Away We Go! - borrowed from square dancing lingo - became the working title. ..."At first, the Guild's lack of funds did not worry the composers; they had a half-century of experience between them, a string of great successes behind them. The money would come. But no matter how industriously [director Terry] Helburn tried, the major producers would not touch the show with a ten-foot pole, and it was not difficult to see why. Apart from Rodgers, none of the principals involved had much to commend them to investors. Hammerstein hadn't written anything successful for a decade. ... Choreographer Agnes de Mille, a niece of the film director Cecil B. de Mille, had choreographed only two shows in the past half-decade, neither successful. Nothing there to attract the money men."Feeling that established stars might encourage investment, Terry Helburn had suggested Shirley Temple for the role of Laurey and Groucho Marx for the part of the leering peddler, Ali Hakim. Rodgers and Hammerstein held out for singers and actors who would be right for the parts, regardless whether their names had box-office appeal. Innovative, perhaps, and courageous, certainly, but not the stuff to attract an $83,000 investment. Do another show with Larry Hart, Rodgers was urged. Give us another [hit], but not, for God's sake, a musical about two cowboys competing to take a farmer's daughter to a box social."These reactions forced Rodgers and Hammerstein into what must have been one of the most humiliating experiences of their lives. With half a century of hits behind them, a formidable record of writing successfully for both stage and screen, they were reduced to working the 'penthouse circuit' cap in hand, trying to raise money for the show. It was no fun, as Hammerstein recalled. 'It was hard to finance, all right. We didn't have any stars, and those who were putting up money for plays felt you had to have stars. Dick and I would go from penthouse to penthouse giving auditions. Terry Helburn would narrate the story. Dick would play and I would sing 'Pore Jud Is Dead,' We weren't hugely successful.' ..."Even when they augmented their penthouse performances with the singers, the process of raising money remained totally unreliable and painfully slow. Often, they would provide an evening of music and story for the beautiful people in their glittering palaces - and raise not a penny. ..."Through producer Max Gordon, the Guild approached the forceful, leather-tongue[...] 10/13/10 - suicide bombers


In today's excerpt - the cause of suicide terrorism: "Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but there is great confusion as to why. Since many such attacks - including, of course, those of September 11, 2001 - have been perpetrated by Muslim terrorists professing religious motives, it might seem obvious that Islamic fundamentalism is the central cause. This presumption has fueled the belief that future 9/11's can be avoided only by a wholesale transformation of Muslim societies, a core reason for broad public support in the United States for the recent conquest of Iraq. "However, the presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading and may be encouraging domestic and foreign policies likely to worsen America's situation and to harm many Muslims needlessly. "I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 - 315 attacks in all. It includes every attack in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while attempting to kill others; it excludes attacks authorized by a national government, for example by North Korea against the South. This database is the first complete universe of suicide terrorist attacks worldwide. I have amassed and independently verified all the relevant information that could be found in English and other languages (for example, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil) in print and on-line. The information is drawn from suicide terrorist groups themselves, from the main organizations that collect such data in target countries, and from news media around the world. More than a 'list of lists,' this database probably represents the most comprehensive and reliable survey of suicide terrorist attacks that is now available. "The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions. In fact, the leading instigators of suicide attacks are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion. This group committed 76 of the 315 incidents, more suicide attacks than Hamas. "Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts in service of the broader strategic objective. "Three general patterns in the data support my conclusions. First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks occur as part of organized campaigns, not as isolated or random incidents. Of the 315 separate attacks in the period I studied, 301 could have their roots traced to large, coherent political or military campaigns. "Second, democratic states are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists. The United States, France, India, Israel, Russia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decades, and each country has been a democracy at the time of the incidents. "Third, suicide terrorist campaigns are directed toward a strategic objective. From Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya, the sponsors of every campaign have been terrorist groups trying to establish or maintain politica[...]