Look carefully, and it is really the birth of the modern West that we see taking place here: snippets of news and sensation helped define a shared experience of the past and present, as political debates laid the foundations of democratic culture. If the Reformation is often credited with having turned the West toward the Enlightenment, another such force must be the growing taste for news and its multiple retellings. While other cultures were arguing over the interpretations of sacred texts, England’s was arguing over the nature of government in print. We are the beneficiaries.
The exhibition itself could have been much more clear in its chronological and thematic organization, particularly because the knotty politics of 17th-century England — centering on its civil wars — are treated as if they were far more familiar than is the case, but these documents repay the patience of careful reading.
When Sir Walter Raleigh was convicted of treason and executed in 1618, his eloquent speech on the scaffold was reported not by newspapers — which had not yet evolved — but in private written accounts. The real revolution came in the 1620s under the influence of “corantos” imported from Amsterdam, which provided the main news of the week. The corantos (which are still recalled in the names of newspapers, like The Hartford Courant) also inspired opposition from the government over their reports of troop movements during the Thirty Years’ War, leading to censorship and even imprisonment.
But the demand for news — and opinion — increased. Press censorship collapsed with the beginning of the civil wars of the 1640s, but the debates of this era were so intense and so much a part of public consciousness that news publications became instruments in the political battles between monarchists and parliamentarians. Newspapers were counterfeited, imitated, mocked and attacked. Parliament tried to reimpose censorship in 1643, and the poet John Milton wrote his famous speech demanding “Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing.” But newspapers, complained Sir Roger L’Estrange, an ardent monarchist, make “the multitude too familiar with the actions and counsels of their superiors.” He created The Observator, shown at the Folger — the “pre-eminent Tory journal of its day.”
Even as Madison, Wis., suffers arctic-like temperatures, there is a warm ray of hope for the commercial real-estate industry.
The city’s academic sector is seeing a building boomlet while developers in other parts of the country slam the brakes on new office buildings, stores and shopping centers.
A student-services hub at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is part of a larger mixed-use project called University Square.
About $600 million of new building projects are under construction on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and more than $450 million of additional projects are in the planning stage, said Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor of facilities planning and management at the university.
A student-services center will officially open to students this week in a larger mixed-use development called University Square. The 1.1-million-square-foot project developed by Executive Management Inc., of Madison, also includes a rooftop garden, rental housing and about 125,000 square feet of retail space that is about 55% leased. The project, on the edge of the campus, is on land previously occupied by a one-story retail property, Mr. Fish said. Also under construction is the $150 million Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, an interdisciplinary research complex scheduled to open in 2010.
The construction, part of a continuing effort to update the campus’s facilities since the 1990s, isn’t just changing the face of secluded ivory towers. “We’re smack dab in the middle of Madison,” Mr. Fish said. “Clearly the dynamism the campus has exhibited in the last five years has had a big ripple effect.”
Free-speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors. Welcome to the homeland security campus.
From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower in Fortress America. The terror warriors, having turned their attention to “violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism prevention”–as it was recently dubbed in a House of Representatives bill of the same name–have set out to reconquer that traditional hotbed of radicalization, the university.
Building a homeland security campus and bringing the university to heel is a seven-step mission:
1. Target dissidents. As the warfare state has triggered dissent, the campus has attracted increasing scrutiny–with student protesters in the cross hairs. The government’s number-one target? Peace and justice organizations.
From 2003 to 2007 an unknown number of them made it into the Pentagon’s Threat and Local Observation Notice system (TALON), a secretive domestic spying program ostensibly designed to track direct “potential terrorist threats” to the Defense Department itself. In 2006 the ACLU uncovered, via Freedom of Information Act requests, at least 186 specific TALON reports on “anti-military protests” in the United States–some listed as “credible threats”–from student groups at the University of California, Santa Cruz; State University of New York, Albany; Georgia State University; and New Mexico State University, among other campuses.
At more than a dozen universities and colleges, police officers now double as full-time FBI agents, and according to the Campus Law Enforcement Journal, they serve on many of the nation’s 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces. These dual-purpose officer-agents have knocked on student activists’ doors from North Carolina State to the University of Colorado and, in one case, interrogated an Iraqi-born professor at the University of Massachusetts about his antiwar views.
First off, I’m not excusing auto dealers. Or lenders.
They have a moral and business responsibility to try to stop their customers from doing something stupid, such as buying a vehicle with a sticker price that will stick them with an oppressive debt.
But customers have responsibilities, too. It is their purchase, their money and their car payments. It is up to them, more than anyone else, to know their financial limitations and not cross them.
Yet, so many consumers today buy too much vehicle. Then, when the financial squeeze becomes eye-popping, they look for someone to blame. The dealership and lender make nice targets. Seldom do the debt-ridden blame themselves.
I pondered that while reading a Los Angeles Times article headlined, “New Cars That Are Fully Loaded – With Debt.”
The story tells how some Americans of average means roll over an existing loan on an expensive vehicle in order to get another expensive vehicle. They end up with two loans in one, when they couldn’t afford one.
From the LA Times article:
Americans haven’t just been taking out risky mortgages for homes in the last few years; they’ve also been signing larger automobile loans for significantly longer terms than they used to.
As a result, people are slipping into a perpetual cycle of automobile debt that experts think could lead to a new credit crunch extending from dealerships to driveways and all the way to Wall Street.
Should executives make decisions based on what their “gut” tells them? Lately that idea has lost some favor, as technology’s ability to accumulate and analyze data has rapidly increased — supplanting, according to some accounts, the high-level manager’s need to draw heavily on intuition. But intuition needs some rescuing from its detractors, and the place to start is by clarifying what it really is, and how it should be developed.
Intuition is not a magical sixth sense or a paranormal process; nor does it signify the opposite of reason or random and whimsical decision making. Rather, intuition is a highly complex and highly developed form of reasoning that is based on years of experience and learning, and on facts, patterns, concepts, procedures and abstractions stored in one’s head.
In this article, the authors draw on examples from the worlds of chess, neuroscience and business — especially Austria’s KTM Sportmotorcycle AG — to show that intuitive decision making should not be prematurely buried. They point out that although the study of intuition has not been extensively explored as a part of management science, studies reveal that several ingredients are critical to intuition’s development: years of domain-specific experience; the cultivation of personal and professional networks; the development of emotional intelligence; a tolerance for mistakes; a healthy sense of curiosity; and a sense of intuition’s limits.
IN AN AGE OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD, identifying the most useful information in a timely fashion isn’t easy — and it may be some comfort to know it never was. Yet by studying the adaptive skills of earlier captains of commerce, entrepreneurs in even the most cutthroat businesses can learn how to smack down the competition.
The key: Embrace invention — even that of your competitors — and use it better and faster than they do.
In the 1870s, John D. Rockefeller had a telegraph line run to his Euclid Avenue home in Cleveland. When he came home for lunch, he could stay in touch with his Oil City, Pa., contacts for updates on gushers and dry holes. He could then telegraph his brother in New York to adjust the price of kerosene for the European market, and his brother could pass the price on to Europe by trans-Atlantic cable.
Although Standard Oil employed telegraphers, John D. Rockefeller sent and received his own “e-mails.” Sending and receiving Morse code at commercial speeds were not easy skills to master, but Rockefeller was “computer-literate.” He had to be skilled in the current technology to have the best information and act on it.
The oil business of that day was not a fuel business. Standard Oil sold illumination. Tallow and whale-oil concerns were its competitors. Kerosene lamps, especially with mantles that burned white-hot, were a great advance in technology. Standard Oil produced a lamp-fuel kerosene of such purity that explosions were greatly reduced. Its five-gallon branded blue tins became known around the world. (Meanwhile, the byproduct of kerosene distillation, gasoline, was discarded as a nuisance.)
Life isn’t fair. Many of the most coveted spoils–wealth, fame, links on the Web–are concentrated among the few. If such a distribution doesn’t sound like the familiar bell-shaped curve, you’re right.
Along the hilly slopes of the bell curve, most values–the data points that track whatever is being measured–are clustered around the middle. The average value is also the most common value. The points along the far extremes of the curve contribute very little statistically. If 100 random people gather in a room and the world’s tallest man walks in, the average height doesn’t change much. But if Bill Gates walks in, the average net worth rises dramatically. Height follows the bell curve in its distribution. Wealth does not: It follows an asymmetric, L-shaped pattern known as a “power law,” where most values are below average and a few far above. In the realm of the power law, rare and extreme events dominate the action.
For Nassim Taleb, irrepressible quant-jock and the author of “Fooled by Randomness” (2001), the contrast between the two distributions is not an amusing statistical exercise but something more profound: It highlights the fundamental difference between life as we imagine it and life as it really is. In “The Black Swan”–a kind of cri de coeur–Mr. Taleb struggles to free us from our misguided allegiance to the bell-curve mindset and awaken us to the dominance of the power law.
This column by Tom Stills, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, ran in the Stevens Point Journal:
A joint proposal was filed Feb. 1 by the UW System, UW-Madison and Michigan State University to open a federal energy research lab in Madison. Molly Jahn, dean of the UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has described the proposal as a strong fit with faculty, staff and student projects related to bio-energy. Those projects are taking place in disciplines that encompass biology, agriculture, engineering, natural resources and the social sciences. . . .
It will be months before the next phase of the federal selection process begins, but the collaborative effort should merit a hard look in Washington. If Wisconsin is successful, it could mean several hundred jobs and tens of millions of dollars within five years.
Washington Post. Fabulous.