Friday, November 12, 2010

Truth is hard to refute!

How did Jefferson know?

John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the white House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement:
"This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe .
Thomas Jefferson

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
Thomas Jefferson

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
Thomas Jefferson

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the
pretense of taking care of them.
Thomas Jefferson

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
Thomas Jefferson

No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
Thomas Jefferson

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves
against tyranny in government.
Thomas Jefferson

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Thomas Jefferson

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

RCA Victor Puzzle Records

RCA Victor Puzzle Records

Puzzle records are odd, multi-track records that expose a different outcome depending on the random groove the needle enters.

I've heard rumors that a record like this existed but it seemed to far fetched to be real, but here it is! Each side has 3 songs recorded, not one after the other, but right beside each other! There are 3 grooves on each side and the song you get depends on which groove you start in. Each song is about 1 minute long. Pretty fantastic!

Haven't seen one of these until now. I think they are pretty rare. This was released by Victor records in 1931, the middle of the Great Depression. Probably not a lot were actually sold.

The Novelty Orchestra shown on the label is actually Ray Noble's orchestra.

Now just enjoy this amazing record! Both sides are shown in this video.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Carousels Were Invented By The Military

Depending on where you come from, you may call carousels by another name, perhaps: “merry-go-rounds”, “flying horses” or “roundabouts.”

They have been popular rides for the past 200 years, but they started off as military training machines. In fact, the word “carousel” comes from the Spanish word, carosella, which mean “little battle.”

This name was fitting because carousels were originally used to train knights to use their swords while riding on a horse that moves up and down. Objects were placed along the outside of the carousel; the knights tried to stab the objects or catch them on their swords.

Jousting competitors also trained on carousels, but, when Catherine de Medicis’ husband was killed in a sudden jousting accident (or “lost” as they called it back then), the carousel quickly became a safer form of entertainment. Crowds would watch as entertainers would catch objects on their swords and travel in circles until they got dizzy.

That sounds more boring than actually going to a mid-evil times restaurant, so spectators naturally wanted a shot at riding the carousel and even catching one of the objects on their sword. This is how it became the popular amusement ride it is today.

In fact, a small number carousels still exist that have an obstacle as part of the ride. On these carousels, riders will try to grab a brass ring as they ride around on the carousel. There are steel rings as well, and those are often thrown at a target to discourage people from keeping them as souvenirs. The brass ring can often be redeemed for a prize, which is usually a free ride on the carousel.

This is also where the term, “catch the brass ring” comes from.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What the Pill Gave Birth To

America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation by Elaine Tyler May, Basic Books, 224 pages, $25.95

Elaine Tyler May's new book begins by quoting the lyrics to Loretta Lynn's 1975 anthem, "The Pill," an overburdened housewife's audacious cry of reproductive independence. "Promised me if I'd be your wife/ You'd show me the world/ But all I've seen of this old world/ Is a bed and a doctor bill," Lynn croons. "I'm tearin' down your brooder house/ 'Cause now I've got the pill." No feminist theorist could have better captured both the emancipatory power of the pill and the threat it posed to patriarchy. The pill wasn't just a medical breakthrough; it was part of a social revolution, one that was messy, incomplete, sometimes disappointing, but ultimately life-altering for millions of women.

America and the Pill is a brief history of that revolution, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the first birth-control pill. The book covers a lot of ground very quickly; reading it is a bit like being a passenger on a bus tour glancing at the passing landmarks without time to explore any of them. It lacks the depth and richness of May's superb 1995 history of childlessness in America, Barren in the Promised Land.

Still, there are worse things one can say about a book than that it should be longer. May's material is fascinating, even when her treatment of it is cursory. Although America and the Pill is sometimes celebratory, it is actually most useful in illuminating some of the darker corners of the pill's history, a history that women's health activists ought to know.

The story begins with Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), a complex heroine who for decades personified the cause of birth control and family planning. A fiery socialist in her early days, Sanger saw the gruesome consequences of unsafe abortion while working as a nurse in New York's immigrant slums and, in defiance of federal law, called for access to birth control. Though genuinely motivated by a passion for women's liberation, Sanger also embraced eugenics, a more respectable cause at the time than sexual freedom or feminist self-determination; indeed, after World War I, as Sanger's biographer Ellen Chesler has written, "eugenics became a popular craze in this country -- promoted in newspapers and magazines as a kind of secular religion." Collaboration with eugenicists provided Sanger with powerful allies, but it wasn't just a matter of convenience for her; she became an ardent advocate of population control for eugenic purposes.

May quotes a letter that Sanger wrote to her friend and patron, the heiress Katharine Dexter McCormick: "I consider that the world and almost our civilization for the next twenty-five years, is going to depend upon a simple, cheap, safe, contraceptive to be used in poverty stricken slums, jungles, and among the most ignorant people." She went on to call for immediate "national sterilization for certain dysgenic types."

One of the central tensions in Sanger's work, then, was between her commitment to reproductive freedom and her willingness to sanction reproductive coercion. A similar tension is at work throughout the history May recounts. McCormick, a brilliant feminist who was the second woman to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bankrolled the pill out of a commitment to women's rights. But as May writes, the scientists and doctors who developed the pill never envisioned it as an agent of female emancipation. Rather, they "hailed it as a miracle drug that would solve the global problem of overpopulation, thereby reducing poverty and human misery, especially in the developing world." They also hoped it would improve marital sex and domestic harmony, strengthening the nuclear family. In other words, they saw it as a tool for preserving existing power relations, not shaking them up.

It's a bleak irony that if the pill's inventors had been more concerned with women's health, they might have taken much longer to develop it. One of the scientists involved, Gregory Pincus, tested a version of the pill on 15 psychiatric patients at the Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. Early pills used far higher doses of hormones than modern contraceptives do, and during large-scale clinical trials in Puerto Rico, the side effects were so severe that a female doctor tried to halt the study, to no avail. "Pincus claimed that many of the women's symptoms were psychosomatic," May writes.

As May makes clear, such abuses weren't specific to the testing of the birth-control pill -- they were common to all drug development. "By the standards of the day, the [Puerto Rico] studies were scrupulously conducted," she writes. Furthermore, the women in Puerto Rico were hardly coerced; so many women were so desperate to control their fertility that the scientists had waiting lists of volunteers. Nevertheless, it's undeniable that the creation of the pill often involved a cavalier attitude toward poor or sick women.

May's own father, Dr. Edward Tyler, actually held up federal approval of the pill because of concerns about its safety. The head of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Los Angeles, he had used the same hormonal compounds found in the pill to treat various gynecological disorders and discovered that they often caused weight gain, abnormal bleeding, swelling, and other problems. But eventually, Tyler assured an official of the Food and Drug Administration "that his earlier concerns had been addressed, and that he was now convinced that Enovid, as the pill was called, 'was safe.'" What changed his mind? May doesn't say.

In one of America and the Pill's most interesting chapters, May asks whether men would tolerate the sorts of side effects that women have regularly experienced. The prospect of a male pill has appeared on the horizon various times over the last 50 years, but the issue of side effects scuttled every effort. Scientists, May reports, "actually discovered an effective vaccine that completely stopped the production of sperm without interfering with sex drive." But it also made users' testicles shrink by a third, so the researchers abandoned it, concluding, "The psychological trauma of shrinking testes just cannot be overcome."

Yet for all this, as May demonstrates, the pill has been a tremendous boon for women, transforming sex and reproduction so thoroughly that it's hard for many to imagine what life was like before it. In the 1960s and 1970s, Black Power leaders denounced the pill as a tool of black genocide -- rhetoric often echoed by today's anti-abortion movement. But female civil-rights activists saw things very differently. "Although they were aware that some white proponents of the birth control pill and other forms of contraception hoped to reduce the numbers of black babies, they wanted the pill and saw it as essential to their reproductive freedom," May writes. For most women, the intentions behind the pill matter much less than its practical effectiveness.

Though May doesn't say it, right-wing opposition to the pill has probably helped temper earlier left-wing objections. As she points out, Our Bodies Ourselves, the feminist health bible, was deeply skeptical of the pill throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but by 2005, with new, low-dose formulations on the market and the culture wars in full swing, the book sang the pill's praises: "The advent of the Pill, probably more than any other event, has enabled women the world over to prevent or delay pregnancy and, in doing so, to complete our educations, choose our careers, and create more egalitarian relationships."

May herself doesn't go quite so far -- she sees the pill as much as a symbol of feminist gains as a cause. "Without the political and cultural upheavals of the last fifty years, particularly those brought about by the feminist movement, the pill would have been just one more contraceptive -- more effective and convenient than those that came before, but not revolutionary," she writes in her conclusion.

She's absolutely right. After all, the pill is widely available in Saudi Arabia, but it hasn't made a dent in that country's brutal patriarchy. Part of the problem with America and the Pill, though, is that it doesn't take the time to delve into the social maelstroms that made the pill so significant. The millions of women who, like Loretta Lynn's narrator, have used the pill to slip the bonds of biology, turning childbearing from an obligation into an option, have utterly reshaped our ideas about sex, marriage, and family. The furious, socially conservative backlash those women have engendered continues to dominate our politics. This slender book can only give us the contours of that tumultuous, still-unfolding story.

Pandora’s Briefcase

Pandora’s Briefcase
It was a dazzling feat of wartime espionage. But does it argue for or against spying?
by Malcolm Gladwell May 10, 2010

In the months before the invasion of Sicily, British spies fooled German spies with a caper inspired by a detective novel.

In the months before the invasion of Sicily, British spies fooled German spies with a caper inspired by a detective novel.

On April 30, 1943, a fisherman came across a badly decomposed corpse floating in the water off the coast of Huelva, in southwestern Spain. The body was of an adult male dressed in a trenchcoat, a uniform, and boots, with a black attaché case chained to his waist. His wallet identified him as Major William Martin, of the Royal Marines. The Spanish authorities called in the local British vice-consul, Francis Haselden, and in his presence opened the attaché case, revealing an official-looking military envelope. The Spaniards offered the case and its contents to Haselden. But Haselden declined, requesting that the handover go through formal channels—an odd decision, in retrospect, since, in the days that followed, British authorities in London sent a series of increasingly frantic messages to Spain asking the whereabouts of Major Martin’s briefcase.

It did not take long for word of the downed officer to make its way to German intelligence agents in the region. Spain was a neutral country, but much of its military was pro-German, and the Nazis found an officer in the Spanish general staff who was willing to help. A thin metal rod was inserted into the envelope; the documents were then wound around it and slid out through a gap, without disturbing the envelope’s seals. What the officer discovered was astounding. Major Martin was a courier, carrying a personal letter from Lieutenant General Archibald Nye, the vice-chief of the Imperial General Staff, in London, to General Harold Alexander, the senior British officer under Eisenhower in Tunisia. Nye’s letter spelled out what Allied intentions were in southern Europe. American and British forces planned to cross the Mediterranean from their positions in North Africa, and launch an attack on German-held Greece and Sardinia. Hitler transferred a Panzer division from France to the Peloponnese, in Greece, and the German military command sent an urgent message to the head of its forces in the region: “The measures to be taken in Sardinia and the Peloponnese have priority over any others.”

The Germans did not realize—until it was too late—that “William Martin” was a fiction. The man they took to be a high-level courier was a mentally ill vagrant who had eaten rat poison; his body had been liberated from a London morgue and dressed up in officer’s clothing. The letter was a fake, and the frantic messages between London and Madrid a carefully choreographed act. When a hundred and sixty thousand Allied troops invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943, it became clear that the Germans had fallen victim to one of the most remarkable deceptions in modern military history.

The story of Major William Martin is the subject of the British journalist Ben Macintyre’s brilliant and almost absurdly entertaining “Operation Mincemeat” (Harmony; $25.99). The cast of characters involved in Mincemeat, as the caper was called, was extraordinary, and Macintyre tells their stories with gusto. The ringleader was Ewen Montagu, the son of a wealthy Jewish banker and the brother of Ivor Montagu, a pioneer of table tennis and also, in one of the many strange footnotes to the Mincemeat case, a Soviet spy. Ewen Montagu served on the so-called Twenty Committee of the British intelligence services, and carried a briefcase full of classified documents on his bicycle as he rode to work each morning.

His partner in the endeavor was a gawky giant named Charles Cholmondeley, who lifted the toes of his size-12 feet when he walked, and, Macintyre writes, “gazed at the world through thick round spectacles, from behind a remarkable moustache fully six inches long and waxed into magnificent points.” The two men coördinated with Dudley Clarke, the head of deception for all the Mediterranean, whom Macintyre describes as “unmarried, nocturnal and allergic to children.” In 1925, Clarke organized a pageant “depicting imperial artillery down the ages, which involved two elephants, thirty-seven guns and ‘fourteen of the biggest Nigerians he could find.’ He loved uniforms, disguises and dressing up.” In 1941, British authorities had to bail him out of a Spanish jail, dressed in “high heels, lipstick, pearls, and a chic cloche hat, his hands, in long opera gloves, demurely folded in his lap. He was not supposed to even be in Spain, but in Egypt.” Macintyre, who has perfect pitch when it comes to matters of British eccentricity, reassures us, “It did his career no long-term damage.”

To fashion the container that would keep the corpse “fresh,” before it was dumped off the coast of Spain, Mincemeat’s planners turned to Charles Fraser-Smith, whom Ian Fleming is thought to have used as the model for Q in the James Bond novels. Fraser-Smith was the inventor of, among other things, garlic-flavored chocolate intended to render authentic the breath of agents dropping into France and “a compass hidden in a button that unscrewed clockwise, based on the impeccable theory that the ‘unswerving logic of the German mind’ would never guess that something might unscrew the wrong way.” The job of transporting the container to the submarine that would take it to Spain was entrusted to one of England’s leading race-car drivers, St. John (Jock) Horsfall, who, Macintyre notes, “was short-sighted and astigmatic but declined to wear spectacles.” At one point during the journey, Horsfall nearly drove into a tram stop, and then “failed to see a roundabout until too late and shot over the grass circle in the middle.”

Each stage of the deception had to be worked out in advance. Martin’s personal effects needed to be detailed enough to suggest that he was a real person, but not so detailed as to suggest that someone was trying to make him look like a real person. Cholmondeley and Montagu filled Martin’s pockets with odds and ends, including angry letters from creditors and a bill from his tailor. “Hour after hour, in the Admiralty basement, they discussed and refined this imaginary person, his likes and dislikes, his habits and hobbies, his talents and weaknesses,” Macintyre writes. “In the evening, they repaired to the Gargoyle Club, a glamorous Soho dive of which Montagu was a member, to continue the odd process of creating a man from scratch.” Francis Haselden, for his part, had to look as if he desperately wanted the briefcase back. But he couldn’t be too diligent, because he had to make sure that the Germans had a look at it first. “Here lay an additional, but crucial, consideration,” Macintyre goes on. “The Germans must be made to believe that they had gained access to the documents undetected; they should be made to assume that the British believed the Spaniards had returned the documents unopened and unread. Operation Mincemeat would only work if the Germans could be fooled into believing that the British had been fooled.” It was an impossibly complex scheme, dependent on all manner of unknowns and contingencies. What if whoever found the body didn’t notify the authorities? What if the authorities disposed of the matter so efficiently that the Germans never caught wind of it? What if the Germans saw through the ruse?

In mid-May of 1943, when Winston Churchill was in Washington, D.C., for the Trident conference, he received a telegram from the code breakers back home, who had been monitoring German military transmissions: “MINCEMEAT SWALLOWED ROD, LINE AND SINKER.” Macintyre’s “Operation Mincemeat” is part of a long line of books celebrating the cleverness of Britain’s spies during the Second World War. It is equally instructive, though, to think about Mincemeat from the perspective of the spies who found the documents and forwarded them to their superiors. The things that spies do can help win battles that might otherwise have been lost. But they can also help lose battles that might otherwise have been won.

In early 1943, long before Major Martin’s body washed up onshore, the German military had begun to think hard about Allied intentions in southern Europe. The Allies had won control of North Africa from the Germans, and were clearly intending to cross the Mediterranean. But where would they attack? One school of thought said Sardinia. It was lightly defended and difficult to reinforce. The Allies could mount an invasion of the island relatively quickly. It would be ideal for bombing operations against southern Germany, and Italy’s industrial hub in the Po Valley, but it didn’t have sufficient harbors or beaches to allow for a large number of ground troops to land. Sicily did. It was also close enough to North Africa to be within striking distance of Allied short-range fighter planes, and a successful invasion of Sicily had the potential to knock the Italians out of the war.

Mussolini was in the Sicily camp, as was Field Marshal Kesselring, who headed up all German forces in the Mediterranean. In the Italian Commando Supremo, most people picked Sardinia, however, as did a number of senior officers in the German Navy and Air Force. Meanwhile, Hitler and the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht—the German armed-forces High Command—had a third candidate. They thought that the Allies were most likely to strike at Greece and the Balkans, given the Balkans’ crucial role in supplying the German war effort with raw materials such as oil, bauxite, and copper. And Greece was far more vulnerable to attack than Italy. As the historians Samuel Mitcham and Friedrich von Stauffenberg have pointed out, “in Greece all Axis reinforcements and supplies would have to be shipped over a single rail line of limited capacity, running for 1,300 kilometers (more than 800 miles) through an area vulnerable to air and partisan attack.”

All these assessments were strategic inferences from an analysis of known facts. But this kind of analysis couldn’t point to a specific target. It could only provide a range of probabilities. The intelligence provided by Major Martin’s documents was in a different category. It was marvellously specific. It said: Greece and Sardinia. But because that information washed up onshore, as opposed to being derived from the rational analysis of known facts, it was difficult to know whether it was true. As the political scientist Richard Betts has argued, in intelligence analysis there tends to be an inverse relationship between accuracy and significance, and this is the dilemma posed by the Mincemeat case.

As Macintyre observes, the informational supply chain that carried the Mincemeat documents from Huelva to Berlin was heavily corrupted. The first great enthusiast for the Mincemeat find was the head of German intelligence in Madrid, Major Karl-Erich Kühlenthal. He personally flew the documents to Berlin, along with a report testifying to their significance. But, as Macintyre writes, Kühlenthal was “a one-man espionage disaster area.” One of his prized assets was a Spaniard named Juan Pujol García, who was actually a double agent. When British code breakers looked at Kühlenthal’s messages to Berlin, they found that he routinely embellished and fictionalized his reports. According to Macintyre, Kühlenthal was “frantically eager to please, ready to pass on anything that might consolidate his reputation,” in part because he had some Jewish ancestry and was desperate not to be posted back to Germany.

When the documents arrived in Berlin, they were handed over to one of Hitler’s top intelligence analysts, a man named Alexis Baron von Roenne. Von Roenne vouched for their veracity as well. But in some respects von Roenne was even less reliable than Kühlenthal. He hated Hitler and seemed to have done everything in his power to sabotage the Nazi war effort. Before D Day, Macintyre writes, “he faithfully passed on every deception ruse fed to him, accepted the existence of every bogus unit regardless of evidence, and inflated forty-four divisions in Britain to an astonishing eighty-nine.” It is entirely possible, Macintyre suggests, that von Roenne “did not believe the Mincemeat deception for an instant.”

These are two fine examples of why the proprietary kind of information that spies purvey is so much riskier than the products of rational analysis. Rational inferences can be debated openly and widely. Secrets belong to a small assortment of individuals, and inevitably become hostage to private agendas. Kühlenthal was an advocate of the documents because he needed them to be true; von Roenne was an advocate of the documents because he suspected them to be false. In neither case did the audiences for their assessments have an inkling about their private motivations. As Harold Wilensky wrote in his classic work “Organizational Intelligence” (1967), “The more secrecy, the smaller the intelligent audience, the less systematic the distribution and indexing of research, the greater the anonymity of authorship, and the more intolerant the attitude toward deviant views.” Wilensky had the Bay of Pigs debacle in mind when he wrote that. But it could just as easily have applied to any number of instances since, including the private channels of “intelligence” used by members of the Bush Administration to convince themselves that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

It was the requirement of secrecy that also prevented the Germans from properly investigating the Mincemeat story. They had to make it look as if they had no knowledge of Martin’s documents. So their hands were tied. The dated papers in Martin’s pockets indicated that he had been in the water for barely five days. Had the Germans seen the body, though, they would have realized that it was far too decomposed to have been in the water for less than a week. And, had they talked to the Spanish coroner who examined Martin, they would have discovered that he had noticed various red flags. The doctor had seen the bodies of many drowned fishermen in his time, and invariably there were fish and crab bites on the ears and other appendages. In this case, there were none. Hair, after being submerged for a week, becomes brittle and dull. Martin’s hair was not. Nor did his clothes appear to have been in the water very long. But the Germans couldn’t talk to the coroner without blowing their cover. Secrecy stood in the way of accuracy.

Suppose that Kühlenthal had not been so eager to please Berlin, and that von Roenne had not loathed Hitler, and suppose that the Germans had properly debriefed the coroner and uncovered all the holes in the Mincemeat story. Would they then have seen through the British deception? Maybe so. Or maybe they would have found the flaws in Mincemeat a little too obvious, and concluded that the British were trying to deceive Germany into thinking that they were trying to deceive Germany into thinking that Greece and Sardinia were the real targets—in order to mask the fact that Greece and Sardinia were the real targets.

This is the second, and more serious, of the problems that surround the products of espionage. It is not just that secrets themselves are hard to fact-check; it’s that their interpretation is inherently ambiguous. Any party to an intelligence transaction is trapped in what the sociologist Erving Goffman called an “expression game.” I’m trying to fool you. You realize that I’m trying to fool you, and I—realizing that—try to fool you into thinking that I don’t realize that you have realized that I am trying to fool you. Goffman argues that at each turn in the game the parties seek out more and more specific and reliable cues to the other’s intentions. But that search for specificity and reliability only makes the problem worse. As Goffman writes in his 1969 book “Strategic Interaction”:

The more the observer relies on seeking out foolproof cues, the more vulnerable he should appreciate he has become to the exploitation of his efforts. For, after all, the most reliance-inspiring conduct on the subject’s part is exactly the conduct that it would be most advantageous for him to fake if he wanted to hoodwink the observer. The very fact that the observer finds himself looking to a particular bit of evidence as an incorruptible check on what is or might be corrupted is the very reason why he should be suspicious of this evidence; for the best evidence for him is also the best evidence for the subject to tamper with.

Macintyre argues that one of the reasons the Germans fell so hard for the Mincemeat ruse is that they really had to struggle to gain access to the documents. They tried—and failed—to find a Spanish accomplice when the briefcase was still in Huelva. A week passed, and the Germans grew more and more anxious. The briefcase was transferred to the Spanish Admiralty, in Madrid, where the Germans redoubled their efforts. Their assumption, Macintyre says, was that if Martin was a plant the British would have made their task much easier. But Goffman’s argument reminds us that the opposite is equally plausible. Knowing that a struggle would be a sign of authenticity, the Germans could just as easily have expected the British to provide one.

The absurdity of such expression games has been wittily explored in the spy novels of Robert Littell and, with particular brio, in Peter Ustinov’s 1956 play, “Romanoff and Juliet.” In the latter, a crafty general is the head of a tiny European country being squabbled over by the United States and the Soviet Union, and is determined to play one off against the other. He tells the U.S. Ambassador that the Soviets have broken the Americans’ secret code. “We know they know our code,” the Ambassador, Moulsworth, replies, beaming. “We only give them things we want them to know.” The general pauses, during which, the play’s stage directions say, “he tries to make head or tail of this intelligence.” Then he crosses the street to the Russian Embassy, where he tells the Soviet Ambassador, Romanoff, “They know you know their code.” Romanoff is unfazed: “We have known for some time that they knew we knew their code. We have acted accordingly—by pretending to be duped.” The general returns to the American Embassy and confronts Moulsworth: “They know you know they know you know.” Moulsworth (genuinely alarmed): “What? Are you sure?”

The genius of that parody is the final line, because spymasters have always prided themselves on knowing where they are on the “I-know-they-know-I-know-they-know” regress. Just before the Allied invasion of Sicily, a British officer, Colonel Knox, left a classified cable concerning the invasion plans on the terrace of Shepheard’s Hotel, in Cairo—and no one could find it for two days. “Dudley Clarke was confident, however, that if it had fallen into enemy hands through such an obvious and ‘gross breach of security’ then it would probably be dismissed as a plant, pointing to Sicily as the cover target in accordance with Mincemeat,” Macintyre writes. “He concluded that ‘Colonel Knox may well have assisted rather than hindered us.’ ” In the face of a serious security breach, that’s what a counter-intelligence officer would say. But, of course, there is no way for him to know how the Germans would choose to interpret that discovery—and no way for the Germans to know how to interpret that discovery, either.

At one point, the British discovered that a French officer in Algiers was spying for the Germans. They “turned” him, keeping him in place but feeding him a steady diet of false and misleading information. Then, before D Day—when the Allies were desperate to convince Germany that they would be invading the Calais sector in July—they used the French officer to tell the Germans that the real invasion would be in Normandy on June 5th, 6th, or 7th. The British theory was that using someone the Germans strongly suspected was a double agent to tell the truth was preferable to using someone the Germans didn’t realize was a double agent to tell a lie. Or perhaps there wasn’t any theory at all. Perhaps the spy game has such an inherent opacity that it doesn’t really matter what you tell your enemy so long as your enemy is aware that you are trying to tell him something.

At around the time that Montagu and Cholmondeley were cooking up Operation Mincemeat, the personal valet of the British Ambassador to Turkey approached the German Embassy in Ankara with what he said were photographed copies of his boss’s confidential papers. The valet’s name was Elyesa Bazna. The Germans called him Cicero, and in this case they performed due diligence. Intelligence that came in over the transom was always considered less trustworthy than the intelligence gathered formally, so Berlin pressed its agents in Ankara for more details. Who was Bazna? What was his background? What was his motivation?

“Given the extraordinary ease with which seemingly valuable documents were being obtained, however, there was widespread worry that the enemy had mounted some purposeful deception,” Richard Wires writes, in “The Cicero Spy Affair: German Access to British Secrets in World War II” (1999). Bazna was, for instance, highly adept with a camera, in a way that suggested professional training or some kind of assistance. Bazna claimed that he didn’t use a tripod but simply held each paper under a light with one hand and took the picture with the other. So why were the photographs so clear? Berlin sent a photography expert to investigate. The Germans tried to figure out how much English he knew—which would reveal whether he could read the documents he was photographing or was just being fed them. In the end, many German intelligence officials thought that Cicero was the real thing. But Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister, remained wary—and his doubts and political infighting among the German intelligence agencies meant that little of the intelligence provided by Cicero was ever acted upon.

Cicero, it turned out, was the real thing. At least, we think he was the real thing. The Americans had a spy in the German Embassy in Turkey who learned that a servant was spying in the British Embassy. She told her bosses, who told the British. Just before his death, Stewart Menzies, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service during the war, told an interviewer, “Of course, Cicero was under our control,” meaning that the minute they learned about Cicero they began feeding him false documents. Menzies, it should be pointed out, was a man who spent much of his professional career deceiving other people, and if you had been the wartime head of M.I.6, giving an interview shortly before your death, you probably would say that Cicero was one of yours. Or perhaps, in interviews given shortly before death, people are finally free to tell the truth. Who knows?

In the case of Operation Mincemeat, Germany’s spies told their superiors that something false was actually true (even though, secretly, some of those spies might have known better), and Germany acted on it. In the case of Cicero, Germany’s spies told their superiors that something was true that may indeed have been true, though maybe wasn’t, or maybe was true for a while and not true for a while, depending on whether you believe the word of someone two decades after the war was over—and in this case Germany didn’t really act on it at all. Looking at that track record, you have to wonder if Germany would have been better off not having any spies at all.

The idea for Operation Mincemeat, Macintyre tells us, had its roots in a mystery story written by Basil Thomson, a former head of Scotland Yard’s criminal-investigation unit. Thomson was the author of a dozen detective stories, and his 1937 book “The Milliner’s Hat Mystery” begins with the body of a dead man carrying a set of documents that turn out to be forged. “The Milliner’s Hat Mystery” was read by Ian Fleming, who worked for naval intelligence. Fleming helped create something called the Trout Memo, which contained a series of proposals for deceiving the Germans, including this idea of a dead man carrying forged documents. The memo was passed on to John Masterman, the head of the Twenty Committee—of which Montagu and Cholmondeley were members. Masterman, who also wrote mysteries on the side, starring an Oxford don and a Sherlock Holmes-like figure, loved the idea. Mincemeat, Macintyre writes, “began as fiction, a plot twist in a long-forgotten novel, picked up by another novelist, and approved by a committee presided over by yet another novelist.”

Then, there was the British naval attaché in Madrid, Alan Hillgarth, who stage-managed Mincemeat’s reception in Spain. He was a “spy, former gold prospector, and, perhaps inevitably, successful novelist,” Macintyre writes. “In his six novels, Alan Hillgarth hankered for a lost age of personal valor, chivalry, and self-reliance.” Unaccountably, neither Montagu nor Cholmondeley seems to have written mysteries of his own. But, then again, they had Mincemeat. “As if constructing a character in a novel, Montagu and Cholmondeley . . . set about creating a personality with which to clothe their dead body,” Macintyre observes. Martin didn’t have to have a fiancée. But, in a good spy thriller, the hero always has a beautiful lover. So they found a stunning young woman, Jean Leslie, to serve as Martin’s betrothed, and Montagu flirted with her shamelessly, as if standing in for his fictional creation. They put love letters from her among his personal effects. “Don’t please let them send you off into the blue the horrible way they do nowadays,” she wrote to her fiancé. “Now that we’ve found each other out of the whole world, I don’t think I could bear it.”

The British spymasters saw themselves as the authors of a mystery story, because it gave them the self-affirming sense that they were in full command of the narratives they were creating. They were not, of course. They were simply lucky that von Roenne and Kühlenthal had private agendas aligned with the Allied cause. The intelligence historian Ralph Bennett writes that one of the central principles of Dudley Clarke (he of the cross-dressing, the elephants, and the fourteen Nigerian giants) was that “deception could only be successful to the extent to which it played on existing hopes and fears.” That’s why the British chose to convince Hitler that the Allied focus was on Greece and the Balkans—Hitler, they knew, believed that the Allied focus was on Greece and the Balkans. But we are, at this point, reduced to a logical merry-go-round: Mincemeat fed Hitler what he already believed, and was judged by its authors to be a success because Hitler continued to believe what he already believed. How do we know the Germans wouldn’t have moved that Panzer division to the Peloponnese anyway? Bennett is more honest: “Even had there been no deception, [the Germans] would have taken precautions in the Balkans.” Bennett also points out that what the Germans truly feared, in the summer of 1943, was that the Italians would drop out of the Axis alliance. Soldiers washing up on beaches were of little account next to the broader strategic considerations of the southern Mediterranean. Mincemeat or no Mincemeat, Bennett writes, the Germans “would probably have refused to commit more troops to Sicily in support of the Italian Sixth Army lest they be lost in the aftermath of an Italian defection.” Perhaps the real genius of spymasters is found not in the stories they tell their enemies during the war but in the stories they tell in their memoirs once the war is over.

It is helpful to compare the British spymasters’ attitudes toward deception with that of their postwar American counterpart James Jesus Angleton. Angleton was in London during the nineteen-forties, apprenticing with the same group that masterminded gambits such as Mincemeat. He then returned to Washington and rose to head the C.I.A.’s counter-intelligence division throughout the Cold War.

Angleton did not write detective stories. His nickname was the Poet. He corresponded with the likes of Ezra Pound, E. E. Cummings, T. S. Eliot, Archibald MacLeish, and William Carlos Williams, and he championed William Empson’s “Seven Types of Ambiguity.” He co-founded a literary journal at Yale called Furioso. What he brought to spycraft was the intellectual model of the New Criticism, which, as one contributor to Furioso put it, was propelled by “the discovery that it is possible and proper for a poet to mean two differing or even opposing things at the same time.” Angleton saw twists and turns where others saw only straight lines. To him, the spy game was not a story that marched to a predetermined conclusion. It was, in a phrase of Eliot’s that he loved to use, “a wilderness of mirrors.”

Angleton had a point. The deceptions of the intelligence world are not conventional mystery narratives that unfold at the discretion of the narrator. They are poems, capable of multiple interpretations. Kühlenthal and von Roenne, Mincemeat’s audience, contributed as much to the plan’s success as Mincemeat’s authors. A body that washes up onshore is either the real thing or a plant. The story told by the ambassador’s valet is either true or too good to be true. Mincemeat seems extraordinary proof of the cleverness of the British Secret Intelligence Service, until you remember that just a few years later the Secret Intelligence Service was staggered by the discovery that one of its most senior officials, Kim Philby, had been a Soviet spy for years. The deceivers ended up as the deceived.

But, if you cannot know what is true and what is not, how on earth do you run a spy agency? In the nineteen-sixties, Angleton turned the C.I.A. upside down in search of K.G.B. moles that he was sure were there. As a result of his mole hunt, the agency was paralyzed at the height of the Cold War. American intelligence officers who were entirely innocent were subjected to unfair accusations and scrutiny. By the end, Angleton himself came under suspicion of being a Soviet mole, on the ground that the damage he inflicted on the C.I.A. in the pursuit of his imagined Soviet moles was the sort of damage that a real mole would have sought to inflict on the C.I.A. in the pursuit of Soviet interests.

“The remedy he had proposed in 1954 was for the CIA to have what would amount to two separate mind-sets,” Edward Jay Epstein writes of Angleton, in his 1989 book “Deception.” “His counterintelligence staff would provide the alternative view of the picture. Whereas the Soviet division might see a Soviet diplomat as a possible CIA mole, the counterintelligence staff would view him as a possible disinformation agent. What division case officers would tend to look at as valid information, furnished by Soviet sources who risked their lives to cooperate with them, counterintelligence officers tended to question as disinformation, provided by KGB-controlled sources. This was, as Angleton put it, ‘a necessary duality.’ ”

Translation: the proper function of spies is to remind those who rely on spies that the kinds of thing found out by spies can’t be trusted. If this sounds like a lot of trouble, there’s a simpler alternative. The next time a briefcase washes up onshore, don’t open it. ♦

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Sex Scholar

Decades before Kinsey, Stanford professor Clelia Mosher polled Victorian-era women on their bedroom behavior—then kept the startling results under wraps.
By Kara Platoni
DOING HER PART: Mosher served with the American Red Cross in France during World War I.

In 1973, historian Carl Degler was combing the University archives, gathering research for a book on the history of the family. Sifting through the papers of Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher, who taught in Stanford's hygiene department around the turn of the 20th century, he came across a mysteriously bound file. Degler nearly put it aside, figuring it was a manuscript for one of Mosher's published works, mostly statistical treatises on women's height, strength and menstruation. But instead, he recalls, "I opened it up and there were these questionnaires"— questionnaires upon which dozens of women, most born before 1870, had inscribed their most intimate thoughts.

In other words, it was a sex survey. A Victorian sex survey. It is the earliest known study of its type, long preceding, for example, the 1947 and 1953 Kinsey Reports, whose oldest female respondents were born in the 1890s. The Mosher Survey recorded not only women's sexual habits and appetites, but also their thinking about spousal relationships, children and contraception. Perhaps, it hinted, Victorian women weren't so Victorian after all.

Indeed, many of the surveyed women were decidedly unshrinking. One, born in 1844, called sex "a normal desire" and observed that "a rational use of it tends to keep people healthier." Offered another, born in 1862, "The highest devotion is based upon it, a very beautiful thing, and I am glad nature gave it to us."

The survey's genesis—like its rediscovery—was a fortuitous accident. Mosher started it in 1892 as a 28-year-old biology undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin; she had been asked to address a local Mother's Club on "the marital relation" and as a single, childless woman seems to have used data collection to fill gaps in her knowledge. Afterward, Mosher continued conducting surveys until 1920, using variations on the same form and amassing 45 profiles in all. Yet Mosher never published or drew more than cursory observations from her data. She died in 1940, and the survey was entirely forgotten when Degler unearthed it.

"I remember I was so surprised when I first opened it and saw what was there," recalls Degler, 89, the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History, emeritus. "I said to the librarian there, 'Did anyone ever use these papers before?' I was sure that they'd been used before. [The subject] was something that was so instantaneously interesting at this point. And they said no, no one ever had looked at any of the papers, and certainly not at that survey. That's one of the great experiences of my life as a historian."

Degler alerted the world to the survey's existence in 1974 by analyzing it in the American Historical Review, concluding that although in the Victorian era "there was an effort to deny women's sexual feelings . . . the Mosher Survey should make us doubt that the ideology was actually put into practice." The survey was a sensation. Degler recalls feminist historians coming to the archives to make copies, and in 1980 it was printed as a book that soon hit college classrooms.

Mosher's survey, says Stanford historian Estelle Freedman, co-author of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, was "a goldmine" for scholars. In an era when "the public ideal was that women should be very discreet, if not ignorant, about sexuality," says Freedman, Mosher was "asking very modern questions. She's opening up an inquiry about what is the meaning of sexuality for women." Mosher's survey, like her life, gave poignant testimony to the complex desires of women who were caught between traditional feminine norms and 20th-century freedoms.
Courtesy Stanford University Archives

Born in 1863 in Albany, N.Y., young Clelia had a scientific bent encouraged by her father, Dr. Cornelius Mosher, whom she idolized. He took her on his medical rounds and taught her to love botany and literature. Yet he couldn't bear to let his beloved—and somewhat sickly—daughter attend college, then considered a strain on young women's health. He tried to distract Clelia by helping her set up a small florist shop, but she squirreled away tuition money and off she went.

Mosher's college career was somewhat nomadic. In 1889, she entered Wellesley as a 25-year-old freshman but struggled academically and with ill health. She spent her junior year at the University of Wisconsin, where she conducted her first surveys, and in 1892 transferred to Stanford, enrolling in its second class of students. She received a physiology degree in 1893 and her master's in physiology in 1894, while working as an assistant in the department of hygiene teaching health, physiology and exercise to female students.

Thanks to a steady supply of young female research subjects, Mosher's scholarly aim soon became clear: to prove that women were not inferior to men, and that frailties chalked up to sex were really the effects of binding garments, insufficient exercise and mental conditioning. Her master's thesis, for example, showed that women breathe from the diaphragm, as men do, rather than from the chest, as was believed at the time. She concluded that this so-called biological difference was really due to tight corsetry.

She also began tracking students' menstrual periods, hoping to upend "functional periodicity," the idea that menstruation debilitated women. It was a canny subject choice for an ambitious female investigator. "That was not research that men could do easily, so she definitely claimed an area that was not accessible to men for her own research," says Elizabeth Griego, who wrote her 1983 dissertation on Mosher for an education doctorate at UC-Berkeley and spent most of the early 1980s in the Stanford archives sifting through Mosher's papers. (Griego is now vice president for student life at the University of the Pacific.)

But it wasn't until after 1896, when Mosher had moved on to Johns Hopkins to obtain her MD, that she analyzed her data. Again, she blamed nurture over nature: Painful menstruation, she concluded, was in most cases caused by inactivity, poor muscular development and the very idea of "inevitable illness." Sending girls to bed to dwell upon their discomfort, Mosher wrote, "produce[s] a morbid attitude and favor[s] the development and exaggeration of whatever symptoms there may be." Mosher was not subtle about her motivation for seeking to discredit functional periodicity. "Equal pay for women means equal work; unnecessary menstrual absences mean less than full work," she wrote. Convinced that women should stay active throughout their periods, Mosher even invented abdominal exercises—dubbed "moshers"—to counteract menstrual pain.

‘The skirt, as modified by the vagaries of fashion, has a direct bearing on the health, development and efficiency of the woman. In 1893-96 I made a series of observations on the clothing of ninety-eight young women. The average width of skirt was then 13.5 feet. The weight of the skirt alone was often as much as the entire weight of the clothing worn by the modern girl.’
–Clelia Mosher, Strength of Women (c. 1920)

By the time Mosher received her MD in 1900, there were approximately 7,000 female doctors and surgeons in the United States (almost 6 percent of the total), but they still faced discrimination. Mosher turned down a job as an assistant to a gynecological surgeon when told that men would refuse to work under her. She returned to Palo Alto and opened a private practice, but struggled to get patient referrals from male colleagues or win grants to fund her menstruation studies. In 1910, Stanford offered her an assistant professorship in personal hygiene as the medical adviser for women, and Mosher eagerly returned to academic life. "I think she started out thinking she would like to be a doctor and perhaps a surgeon, but she found the doors closed to her very quickly," muses Griego.

Instead, Griego says, Mosher found what mattered to her: a living wage, intellectual freedom and access to research subjects. Mosher restarted her menstruation research and completed a study showing that the average height of Stanford's entering female students had increased 1.5 inches in 20 years, a change she attributed to better exercise and comfortable clothing. Mosher became a full professor in 1928, one year before she retired.

Despite the increasing prevalence of professional women, Griego says Mosher was an "intellectual loner." She didn't join women's professional groups or bond with many female academics. (Her Stanford research collaborators were male.) "She was really not very interested in the kinds of things that even faculty women—certainly faculty wives—were interested in," says Griego. "She wasn't interested in teas, she wasn't particularly interested in nurturing or mentoring women. She was really a researcher and she wanted to be accepted for her scientific approach to subjects."

She cut an odd figure on campus, Griego says, in her habitual "mannish suit." In her writings, Mosher railed against fashion: Sewing dainty clothing wasted women's study time; a young girl "making tatting to decorate her clothes or knitting or embroidering while her brother is playing ball" would grow feeble and sedentary.

Mosher never married and had few close relationships, although her mother lived with her on campus. Mosher felt this anomie deeply. A diary entry from 1919 laments: "I am finding out gradually why I am so lonely. The only things I care about are things which use my brain. The women I meet are not so much interested and I do not meet many men, so there is an intellectual solitude which is like the solitude of the desert—dangerous to one's sanity."
TOUGHEN UP: Stanford women, c. 1917, try their strength using a device of Mosher and physiology professor Ernest Martin.
Courtesy Stanford University Archives

Some archival scraps hint at her longing for connection: an unfinished novel whose heroine chooses career over the man she loves, musings on the mother-daughter bond and, the most poignant, a series of letters to an imaginary friend. "I get the sense of companionship and you are spared the boredom of reading them," Mosher wrote impishly in 1921. But in 1926, her tone was more despairing. "Dear 'Friend who never was,'" she wrote, "I have given up ever finding you. I have tried out all my friends and they have not measured up to my dreams."

Mosher's biggest scientific splash also eluded her during her lifetime.

Because it was hidden so long, her sex survey had little influence on her contemporaries, but today it's a valuable historic document that gainsays the stereotype that Victorian women knew little of sex and desired it even less. Granted, it is small and nonrepresentative, favoring well-educated, middle-class white women, and only those willing to disclose intimate matters. Mosher took care to obscure their identities—names and residences were not recorded—but it's likely the group included Stanford faculty and wives, the Mother's Club members from Mosher's Wisconsin days and other women she knew. Of those surveyed, 34 had attended a university or teachers' college. Nine were Stanford alumnae, six from Cornell; other alma maters included Wellesley, Vassar and the University of California. Thirty respondents had worked before marriage, mostly as teachers.

Slightly more than half of these educated women claimed to have known nothing of sex prior to marriage; the better informed said they'd gotten their information from books, talks with older women and natural observations like "watching farm animals." Yet no matter how sheltered they'd initially been, these women had—and enjoyed—sex. Of the 45 women, 35 said they desired sex; 34 said they had experienced orgasms; 24 felt that pleasure for both sexes was a reason for intercourse; and about three-quarters of them engaged in it at least once a week.

Unlike Mosher's other work, the survey is more qualitative than quantitative, featuring open-ended questions probing feelings and experiences. "She's actually asking these questions not about physiology or mechanics—she's really asking about sexual subjectivity and the meaning of sex to women," Freedman says. Their responses were often mixed. Some enjoyed sex but worried that they shouldn't. One slept apart from her husband "to avoid temptation of too frequent intercourse." Some didn't enjoy sex but faulted their partner. Mosher writes: [She] "Thinks men have not been properly trained."

Their responses reflected the cultural shifts of the late 19th century, as marriage became viewed as a romantic union, not just an economic one, and as people began to dissociate sex from procreation, says Freedman. One woman, born in 1867, wrote that before marriage she believed sex to be only for reproduction, but later changed her mind: "In my experience the habitual bodily expression of love has a deep psychological effect in making possible complete mental sympathy & perfecting the spiritual union that must be the lasting 'marriage' after the passion of love has passed away with the years." Wrote another, born in 1863, "It seems to me to be a natural and physical sign of a spiritual union, a renewal of the marriage vows."

‘A great responsibility rests upon us as physicians and teachers of physical training to lead women to ideas of health, to hold out to each one an attainable physical ideal, to teach the mechanism of our wonderful bodies so that she obeys the laws of her body, laws learned so perfectly that they are obeyed automatically.’
–Clelia Mosher, The Relation of Health to the Woman Movement, 1915

Anxieties about unwanted pregnancies are also clear. This was a hot topic during the 19th century, when the marital fertility rate fell by half despite the criminalization of abortion and contraception, Freedman says. At least 30 respondents reported attempting birth control anyway. Many mentioned using douching, withdrawal or the rhythm method; a few had tried a "womb veil" or male condoms.

"My husband and I . . . believe in intercourse for its own sake—we wish it for ourselves and spiritually miss it, rather than physically, when it does not occur, because it is the highest, most sacred expression of our oneness," wrote one woman, born in 1860. "On the other hand there are sometimes long periods when we are not willing to incur even a slight risk of pregnancy, and then we deny ourselves the intercourse, feeling all the time that we are losing that which keeps us closest to each other." A woman born in 1862, who felt that without "a strong desire for children" marriage was no more than "legalized prostitution," nevertheless wrote: "I most heartily wish there were no accidental conceptions. I believe the world would take a most gigantic stride toward high ethical conditions, if every child brought into the world were the product of pure love and conscious choice."

So if not all Victorian women scorned sex, why do we think of them as prudish? First, says Freedman, the notion of passionlessness wasn't universal, it was a class privilege, a way for wealthier women to claim respectability that more sexually vulnerable slave, immigrant and working-class women couldn't. "To some extent it's a protection of women from the sense of availability, and in other ways it's a limitation on them and denying their sexuality," Freedman says. Virtue was also a way for women to demonstrate good citizenship—men expressed this in the public sphere, and women in the home.

Also, some historical sources are misleading. As Degler pointed out in his 1974 article, until the Mosher Survey, much information about Victorian sex lives came from health advice books, like those of Dr. William Acton, who wrote in 1865: "The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind. What men are habitually, women are only exceptionally." But these books, wrote Degler, designed to urge temperance to young women, were prescriptive rather than de-scriptive: "The so-called Victorian conception of women's sexuality was more that of an ideology seeking to be established than the prevalent view or practice of even middle-class women."

More accurate portrayals of women's lives likely were confined to diaries and letters. Similarly, Griego says, women probably unburdened themselves to Mosher as a well-credentialed female physician. "They wouldn't have responded to just anyone with that confidential information, but her own self-image as a researcher and scientist encouraged them to be honest and factual." Although the survey's size means we can't draw broad conclusions about Victorian life from it, Freedman says, it's still a remarkably telling document, "a lens on a moment of transition."
Courtesy Stanford University Archives

We may never know what Mosher made of her own survey. Her brief introduction merely notes that it provided "a priceless knowledge for a practicing physician and teacher; a background sufficiently broad to avoid prejudice in her work with women." A comment on the era's falling birthrate contains her only analysis: "The maladjustments in marriage occasionally occur at the first consummation of the marital relation. The woman comes to this new experience of life often with no knowledge. The woman while she may give mental consent often shrinks physically. Her slower time reaction deprives her of all physical response, or (2) too often her training has instilled the idea that any physical response is coarse, common and immodest which inhibits proper part in this relation."

Ultimately, Mosher's story is deeply ironic: She was a staunch feminist who remained aloof from sisterhood, a woman who rigorously researched sexuality and marriage yet probably experienced neither, a pioneering scholar who longed for recognition but did not live to enjoy it. Today there is an often well-rewarded place in our society for awkward overachievers, but Mosher struggled her entire life with her ungainly intellect and with being a woman in a man's research world.

"We need people to go before us, and she was certainly a way-shower for a generation that followed her," Griego says. "Even though she was not the kind of person that women of her time wanted to emulate, still she held out the possibility that women could be intellectuals, they could be scientists."

In her own writings, Mosher was acutely aware of her foresight, and of the possibilities that lay ahead for women once sex became less of a secret and gender less of a burden. "Born into a world of unlimited opportunity, the woman of the rising generation will answer the question of what woman's real capacities are," Mosher wrote in 1923. "She will have physical, economic, racial and civic freedom. What will she do with it?"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Packing the Supreme Court

With Justices for All

Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court

By Jeff Shesol

Illustrated. 644 pages. W. W. Norton & Company. $27.95

In 1937, a few months after his landslide re-election to a second term, Franklin Roosevelt set out on one of the boldest and most dangerous courses of his presidency. The conservative Supreme Court had already struck down a series of New Deal programs. Roosevelt feared that the mostly aged justices would go on to destroy the rest of his legislative achievements before he would have a chance to make any new appointments. As a result, he proposed a “reform” of the courts that would, among other things, have added an additional justice to the Supreme Court for every current justice over the age of 70. It became the most controversial proposal of his presidency — so much so that it nearly paralyzed his administration for over a year and destroyed much of the fragile unity of the Democratic coalition.

Jeff Shesol (the author of “Mutual Contempt,” an account of the relationship between Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy) is not the first to chronicle what became known as the “court-packing” controversy, but “Supreme Power” is by far the most detailed — and most riveting — account of this extraordinary event. Shesol provides a revealing portrait of the “nine old men,” as opponents of the court described them. At the same time, he presents in great detail Roosevelt’s own anguish over what he considered the court’s reactionary views. Both sides of the controversy were the products of deep conviction. The court was on a mission to combat what the justices viewed as a great danger to the basic principles of American democracy. The White House was on its own mission to save not just the New Deal, but also its restoration of the nation.

Within the Roosevelt administration, the proposal to enlarge the court seemed eminently reasonable. There was no constitutional bar to expanding the number of justices. All other measures — constitutional amendments, legislative remedies, mandatory retirements and similar proposals — seemed far more radical and far less likely to succeed. Court packing seemed the most moderate and cautious of the paths available — but still, they realized, a tremendously risky one.

Both the court and the White House paid a considerable price for their insularity and secrecy. The justices, of course, were isolated by design. But the White House and the Justice Department created their own insularity, pursuing their goals with such surprisingly successful secrecy that they gave few people, even within the administration, the opportunity to warn Roosevelt of the dangers he faced. Shesol recounts these miscalculations on both sides with particular skill.

And the dangers, it quickly became clear, were much greater than Roosevelt and his advisers had imagined. It was not surprising that the court-packing controversy would arouse the rage of the right, which already detested Roosevelt and the New Deal and believed the White House was building a dictatorship. More startling to the president was the outrage from within his own party — even among many staunch progressives — and the lukewarm loyalty he received even from those who agreed to support him. Many opponents of the proposal shared Roosevelt’s dismay at the court’s conservatism, but tampering with the institution seemed even to many liberals to represent excessive presidential power and a threat to the Constitution.

The justices of the Supreme Court were as sharply divided in the 1930s as they often seem to have become in the 21st century. Five of them (George Sutherland, James McReynolds, Willis Van Devanter, Pierce Butler and Owen Roberts) were largely opposed to the New Deal measures they were asked to consider. Four others (Louis Brandeis, Harlan Fiske Stone, Benjamin Cardozo and, somewhat precariously, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes), mostly supported the New Deal. In 1937, when the court-packing fight began, most of the justices had been on the bench for well over a decade, and none had been appointed during Roosevelt’s first four years. Hence the president’s frustration, and his belief that the court had become out of touch with the realities of the time.

During the first months of controversy, the likelihood of success, given the huge Democratic majorities in Congress, seemed high, despite the ferocity of the opposition. But gradually the president’s position eroded — a response to growing opposition and to the resentment of what many considered Roosevelt’s duplicity in proposing what he claimed to be court “reform” rather than what many people considered naked political pressure. In July 1937, the court proposal died in the Senate, by now undefended even by the White House and unlamented by most of the public. It was widely described as the most devastating defeat Roosevelt had ever experienced.

But how devastating was the defeat? In West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, a 1937 case contesting a minimum wage law in Washington State, Owen Roberts voted with the liberals to sustain the law. (Only one year earlier he had joined the conservatives in voting down another minimum wage law.) Over the following months, Roberts continued to vote mostly with the liberals. And beginning in mid-1937, a number of conservative justices retired, providing the president with the opportunity to appoint several new justices who transformed the ideological balance of the court.

Shesol does not engage directly with the scholarly debate over whether the court-packing controversy was responsible for the shift in the court’s behavior. The traditional story, supported by some of the leading historians of the New Deal, maintains that the pressure from Roosevelt persuaded Roberts, and perhaps others, to shift positions. Other historians — mostly legal scholars — argue that the court-packing fight had little or nothing to do with the court’s shift, that it represented instead a slow and steady evolution of constitutional law that long preceded the controversy. But even without taking an explicit stand, Shesol suggests a plausible argument that falls somewhere between these two interpretations.

One of Shesol’s many important contributions to an understanding of this controversy is his powerful description of the extraordinary opprobrium the court confronted as it began to overturn New Deal measures in 1935. Indeed, it was the deep unpopularity of the court that helped embolden Roosevelt to challenge it in 1937. In those first years of the New Deal, Shesol suggests, the conservative justices were stunned by the boldness and, they thought, radicalism of the New Deal; their opinions seemed to reflect their alarm and caused them to take positions even more conservative than they had in the recent past. Two years later, similarly stunned by the criticism they were receiving, the justices began to slowly back away from their most conservative views. Roberts’s shift occurred even before Roosevelt announced his court-packing plan; but that does not mean that the political furor played no role in his decision.

Shesol also draws attention to a more mundane but nevertheless considerable factor in the shift of the court. In 1937 Roosevelt supported, and Congress approved, a bill to assure retired justices that they would continue to receive their judicial salaries even after retirement. The absence of such benefits had deterred some aged justices from retiring; once the pensions were assured, several of them resigned.

“Supreme Power” is an impressive and engaging book — an excellent work of narrative history. It is deeply researched and beautifully written. Even readers who already know the outcome will find it hard not to feel the suspense that surrounded the battle, so successfully does Shesol recreate the atmosphere of this great controversy. There are many ways to explain what become known as the “Constitutional revolution of 1937,” but Shesol’s book is — at least for now — the most thorough account of this dramatic and still contested event.

Alan Brinkley, the Allan Nevins professor of history at Columbia University, is the author of “The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monopoly--Amazing History !!!

(You'll never look at the game the same way again!)
Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape...

Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map, one showing not only where stuff was, but also showing the locations of 'safe houses' where a POW on-the-lam could go for food and shelter.

Paper maps had some real drawbacks -- they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush.
Someone in MI-5 (similar to America 's OSS ) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It's durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads, and unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise whatsoever.

At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort.

By pure coincidence, Waddington was also the U.K. Licensee for the popular American board game, Monopoly. As it happened, 'games and pastimes' was a category of item qualified for insertion into 'CARE packages', dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.

Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddington's, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany or Italy where Allied POW camps were regional system). When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.

As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington's also managed to add:
1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass
2. A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together
3. Useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian, and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!

British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first mission, how to identify a 'rigged' Monopoly set -- by means of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square.

Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets.. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war.

The story wasn't declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington's, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony.

It's always nice when you can play that 'Get Out of Jail' Free' card!
I realize most of you are (probably) too young to have any personal connection to WWII (Dec. '41 to Aug. '45), but this is still interesting.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Golden Touch

Banker J. P. Morgan rescued the dollar and bailed out the nation
By John Steele Gordon

On February 5, 1895, the Jupiter of American banking, J. P. Morgan, took the train from New York to Washington to see the president. He had no appointment but came to discuss matters of grave national interest. The crash of 1893 had thrown the country into deep depression, exposed a schizophrenic monetary policy, and now the nation’s gold standard stood on the brink of collapse.

The origin of the crisis lay more than two decades earlier, when Congress had decreed a return to the gold standard, which had been abandoned during the Civil War. (The gold standard effectively restrains inflation by requiring that a nation anchors its currency to gold at a set price.) In 1878 Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act, which ordered the Treasury to buy the silver then pouring out of Western mines in ever increasing amounts, at market price and to coin it at a ratio to gold of 16 to 1.

In 1878 the market price of silver was indeed close to the 16-to-1 ratio. But as silver output continued to swell, it dropped to about 20 to 1 by 1890. In that year Congress passed the Sherman Silver Act, requiring the government to buy even more bullion, 4.5 million ounces a month, and coin it, still at 16 to 1. This policy guaranteed inflation, favored by the poorer areas of the country, such as the South and, of course, the silver-rich West.

Anyone who knew Gresham’s law (“bad money drives out good”) could have predicted what happened next. With silver worth one-twentieth the price of gold in the marketplace but declared to be 25 percent more when coined into money, people began to spend the silver and hoard the gold.

With the government running big surpluses in the prosperous late 1880s and early 1890s, the effect of this monetary policy was masked. But when the crash of 1893 rolled in, bringing deep depression, the trickle of gold out of the Treasury became a flood. By early 1895 bets were being taken on Wall Street as to exactly when the Treasury would run out of gold and default. Two bond issues were sold to replenish the Treasury’s gold supply, but the gold just cycled out again. Congress, with many free-coinage-of-silver members, refused to authorize another issue. That’s when the deeply alarmed Morgan traveled to Washington in early February.

President Grover Cleveland at first refused to see him, but Morgan replied, in his best imperial manner, “I have come down to see the president, and I am going to stay here until I see him.” Cleveland saw him the next morning.
By early 1895 bets were being taken on Wall Street as to exactly when the Treasury would run out of gold and default

Cleveland, his attorney general, and the secretary of the Treasury all still hoped that they could persuade Congress to float another bond issue and thus avoid the embarrassment of having the gold standard rescued by the very symbol of Wall Street. A telephone call from New York informed them that the New York Subtreasury had only $9 million worth of gold left in its vaults. Morgan informed them that he knew of $12 million in drafts that might be presented at any moment. Cleveland’s back was up against the wall.

“What suggestions have you to make, Mr. Morgan?” he asked.

Whereupon Morgan made an extraordinary offer: he and the Rothschilds, the two most powerful forces in international banking at that time, would purchase 3.5 million ounces of gold in Europe in exchange for 30-year gold bonds. (Morgan had uncovered a forgotten Civil War-era statute that allowed the Treasury to issue bonds in exchange for coin.) He also guaranteed that the gold would not flow back out of the Treasury, at least for a while.

In effect, Morgan was offering to act as the nation’s (otherwise nonexistent) central bank, insulating the Treasury from market forces. And it worked. The bonds sold easily in both Wall Street and London, and Morgan and the Rothschilds, using a full battery of foreign exchange techniques, bolstered the dollar, keeping the gold in the Treasury.

Morgan’s rescue of the dollar, despite intense criticism from the Left, changed the country’s economic mood, and a strong recovery from the depression began. The next year the 36-year-old William Jennings Bryan would win the Democratic nomination with a promise that the moneyed classes “shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” It was one of the most famous speeches in American history, but his far less eloquent opponent, William McKinley, trounced him by running on a slogan of “sound money, protection, and prosperity.”

The election proved to be the start of the revival of Republican dominance in American politics that would last until 1932.

—John Steele Gordon, author of An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power (HarperCollins 2004), writes about economic history for the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

1906 San Francisco Street Car filmed 4 days before the 06 earthquake

This is well worth viewing and filmed 4 days before the '06 earthquake.
You'll appreciate the research that it took to date this film so be sure
to read this first.....

Here's a neat opportunity to enjoy some time travel. The film is
from a streetcar traveling down Market Street in San Francisco, four
days before the big earthquake/fire that destroyed the area. You
can clearly see the clocktower at the end of the street at the
Embarcadero wharf that's still there... The quality & detail is
great, so be sure to view it full screen.

The film, was originally thought to be from 1905 until David Kiehn
with the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum figured out exactly when
it was shot. From New York trade papers announcing the film showing
to the wet streets from recent heavy rainfall & shadows indicating
time of year & actual weather and conditions on historical record,
even when the cars were registered (he even knows who owned them and
when the plates were issued!).

It was filmed only four days before the quake and shipped by train to NY for
processing. Amazing but true!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Creating a Postwar World

Hour by hour with Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt.


Sixty-five years ago this week, as Soviet and Allied forces headed toward Berlin in the final months of World War II, three political leaders remade the modern world. Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met near the city of Yalta, on the coast of the Black Sea, to determine the fate of postwar Europe.

The decisions they arrived at, and the agreements they made, proved so momentous that Yalta soon became a symbol of the political failures that led to the Cold War. The captive nations of Eastern Europe in particular blamed Yalta for putting them under the control of the Soviet Union. In communist Poland, where I grew up, one often heard about naïve and sickly FDR—only two months away from death—delivering the motherland into Uncle Joe's clutches. Countless Estonians, Hungarians and Czechs felt the same way.

The end of the Cold War has given scholars a chance to step back and take a more dispassionate look at those eight consequential days in February 1945. It is hard to imagine anyone doing so better than S.M. Plokhy in "Yalta: The Price of Peace." A historian from Ukraine who teaches at Harvard University, Mr. Plokhy has produced a colorful and gripping portrait of the three aging leaders at their historic encounter. He does not shy away from making judgments about the deal they struck there.

We first meet Roosevelt the month before, on Jan. 20, 1945, delivering a memorable promise in his fourth inaugural address—to "work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war." Two days later he boarded the U.S.S. Quincy and headed for Europe to realize this vision. It is clear that FDR's goals at Yalta were to win the Soviet Union's support for the United Nations and its help in the war against Japan. All else was secondary, thus setting the U.S. up for concessions to Moscow.

Churchill, for his part, came to Yalta looking to restore an independent and democratic France and Poland—part of a balance-of-power calculation that he deemed critical to the future of Europe—and to limit the reparations required of Germany, lest Europe face of a repeat of the Versailles treaty after World War I. Stalin's plans were imperial: to get back the territory that the Russians lost from Poland in 1920 (and briefly regained in the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Hitler) and to subordinate Eastern Europe to Soviet rule.

Mr. Plokhy takes the reader through the conference hour by hour, making it apparent that the outcome at Yalta was very much up for grabs. Over and over again we see one leader or another blithely pushing pet ideas or haggling over details of agreements that would affect millions of people for generations to come. The material from Soviet archives, along with Western accounts, enables Mr. Plokhy to reconstruct conversations among the participants and to tell us what informed their thinking.
Yalta: The Price of Peace

By S.M. Plokhy
Viking, 451 pages, $21.95

The undereducated son of a Georgian cobbler, Stalin emerges early in this portrait as a savvier negotiator than either the patrician Churchill or Roosevelt. His charm wins FDR over, leading the American on numerous occasions to side with him against Churchill. Stalin was also the best informed of the three, thanks to British spy Kim Philby and the rest of the "Cambridge Five" who had for months provided the Soviets with Allied position papers, sometimes even before Churchill or Roosevelt saw them. Stalin masterfully exploited the divisions his intelligence told him about among Western leaders over what should happen to Germany or Poland after the war.

FDR and his advisers underestimated Stalin and the threat he posed, although it is also true that the Red Army's already deep advance into Central Europe limited their leverage over him. Once FDR had secured Stalin's backing for the U.N.—and had presumptively handed Japan's Kuril Islands over to the Soviets in exchange for their promise to enter the Pacific war—the U.S. seemed to lose interest. To Churchill's annoyance, Washington caved in to the Soviet demand for domination over Poland (and, by extension, over the rest of Eastern Europe) and to the division of Germany. Churchill mused to an aide that the next war would be "ideological" and a year later declared that "an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." But he could claim half a victory: Stalin signed off on a French sector in occupied Germany, restoring Paris as a serious Continental power, a British goal throughout the war. And German reparations were indeed limited.

Mr. Plokhy is forgiving of FDR. The president played his own hand skillfully, he says, and acted as a broker between the quarrelsome Stalin and Churchill. Though called naïve, the British and Americans knew that Yalta set the stage for a quisling Poland and for the transfer of millions of people across the redrawn borders between Poland, Germany and the Soviet Union. FDR and Churchill tried to comfort themselves by believing that Moscow would honor its promise to allow free elections in its soon-to-be satellite states.

At the end of the Yalta conference, the mood was even upbeat. Roosevelt compared the atmosphere "to that of a family." The Americans and British thought that they got the best result possible. During the signing ceremony, the Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, noticed the lemon tree that Stalin had ordered put in FDR's room after the president remarked that martinis tasted better with lemons, and the minister suggested that his American and British peers each pluck a branch from it as a souvenir. They did. "The Allies returned home from the peace conference with branches of lemon instead of palm," writes Mr. Plokhy. "For the time being, they did not see the irony in their gesture."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Brewing Up a Civilization

By Frank Thadeusz

Did our Neolithic ancestors turn to agriculture so that they could be sure of a tipple? US Archaeologist Patrick McGovern thinks so. The expert on identifying traces of alcohol in prehistoric sites reckons the thirst for a brew was enough of an incentive to start growing crops.

It turns out the fall of man probably didn't begin with an apple. More likely, it was a handful of mushy figs that first led humankind astray.

Here is how the story likely began -- a prehistoric human picked up some dropped fruit from the ground and popped it unsuspectingly into his or her mouth. The first effect was nothing more than an agreeably bittersweet flavor spreading across the palate. But as alcohol entered the bloodstream, the brain started sending out a new message -- whatever that was, I want more of it!

Humankind's first encounters with alcohol in the form of fermented fruit probably occurred in just such an accidental fashion. But once they were familiar with the effect, archaeologist Patrick McGovern believes, humans stopped at nothing in their pursuit of frequent intoxication.

A secure supply of alcohol appears to have been part of the human community's basic requirements much earlier than was long believed. As early as around 9,000 years ago, long before the invention of the wheel, inhabitants of the Neolithic village Jiahu in China were brewing a type of mead with an alcohol content of 10 percent, McGovern discovered recently.

McGovern analyzed clay shards found during excavations in China's Yellow River Valley at his Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

The bearded archaeologist is recognized around the world as an expert when it comes to identifying traces of alcoholic drinks on prehistoric finds. He ran so-called liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry on the clay remnants from Asia and found traces of tartaric acid -- one of the main acids present in wine -- and beeswax in the shards' pores. It appears that prehistoric humans in China combined fruit and honey into an intoxicating brew.

Clever Survival Strategy

Additionally, plant sterols point to wild rice as an ingredient. Lacking any knowledge of chemistry, prehistoric humans eager for the intoxicating effects of alcohol apparently mixed clumps of rice with saliva in their mouths to break down the starches in the grain and convert them into malt sugar.

These pioneering brewers would then spit the chewed up rice into their brew. Husks and yeasty foam floated on top of the liquid, so they used long straws to drink from narrow necked jugs. Alcohol is still consumed this way in some regions of China.

McGovern sees this early fermentation process as a clever survival strategy. "Consuming high energy sugar and alcohol was a fabulous solution for surviving in a hostile environment with few natural resources," he explains.

The most recent finds from China are consistent with McGovern's chain of evidence, which suggests that the craft of making alcohol spread rapidly to various locations around the world during the Neolithic period. Shamans and village alchemists mixed fruit, herbs, spices, and grains together in pots until they formed a drinkable concoction.

But that wasn't enough for McGovern. He carried the theory much further, aiming at a complete reinterpretation of humanity's history. His bold thesis, which he lays out in his book "Uncorking the Past. The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverage," states that agriculture -- and with it the entire Neolithic Revolution, which began about 11,000 years ago -- are ultimately results of the irrepressible impulse toward drinking and intoxication.

"Available evidence suggests that our ancestors in Asia, Mexico, and Africa cultivated wheat, rice, corn, barley, and millet primarily for the purpose of producing alcoholic beverages," McGovern explains. While they were at it, he believes, drink-loving early civilizations managed to ensure their basic survival.

A Hybrid Swill

Archaeologists have long pondered the question of which came first, bread or beer. McGovern surmises that these prehistoric humans didn't initially have the ability to master the very complicated process of brewing beer. However, they were even more incapable of baking bread, for which wild grains are extremely unsuitable. They would have had first to separate the tiny grains from the chaff, with a yield hardly worth the great effort. If anything, the earliest bakers probably made nothing more than a barely palatable type of rough bread, containing the unwanted addition of the grain's many husks.

It's likely, therefore, that early farmers first enriched their diet with a hybrid swill -- half fruit wine and half mead -- that was actually quite nutritious. Neolithic drinkers were devoted to this precious liquid. At the excavation site of Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of northwestern Iran, McGovern discovered prehistoric wine racks used to store airtight carafes. Inhabitants of the village seasoned their alcohol with resin from Atlantic Pistachio trees. This ingredient was said to have healing properties, for example for infections, and was used as an early antibiotic.

The village's Neolithic residents lived comfortably in spacious mud brick huts, and the archaeologist and his team found remnants of wine vessels in the kitchens of nearly all the dwellings. "Drinking wasn't just a privilege of the wealthy in the village," McGovern posits, and he adds that women drank their fair share as well.

A Mysterious Inscription?

In Iran of all countries, where alcohol consumption is now punishable by whipping, the American scientist found vessels containing the first evidence of prehistoric beer. At first he puzzled over the purpose of the bulbous vessels with wide openings found in the prehistoric settlement Godin Tepe. Previously known wine vessels all had smaller spouts.

McGovern was also perplexed by crisscrossed grooves scratched into the bottoms of the containers. Could it be some kind of mysterious inscription?

But back in the laboratory, he isolated calcium oxalate, known to brewers as an unwanted byproduct of beer production. Nowadays, breweries can filter the crystals out of their brew without any difficulty. Their resourceful predecessors, working 3,500 years B.C., scratched grooves into their 50-liter (13-gallon) jugs so that the tiny stones would settle out there. McGovern had discovered humankind's first beer bottles.

The ancient farmers in Godin Tepe harvested barley from fields near the village and mashed the crop using basalt stone. Then they brewed the ground grain into a considerable range of varieties, enjoying a sweet, caramel-flavored dark beer, an amber-hued lager-like concoction, and other pleasant-tasting beverages.

Around the same time, the Sumerians were paying homage to their fertility goddess Nin-Harra, whom they considered to be the inventor of beer. The creators of Mesopotamian civilization scratched instructions for brewing beer onto small clay tablets in Nin-Harra's honor. The main ingredient in their variety of beer was emmer, a variety of wheat that has since nearly disappeared.

Thus the human project that started with the first hominids to stumble around under fruit trees reached completion with these prehistoric beer drinkers. "Moderate alcohol consumption was advantageous for our early ancestors," McGovern speculates, "and they adapted to it biologically."

It is a legacy that still burdens humankind today. The archaeologist, however, sees himself as reasonably balanced in this respect. Ancestors on one side of his family, the McGoverns, opened the very first bar in their hometown of Mitchell, South Dakota. On the other side, however, an especially puritanical branch of the family originated from Norway and strictly avoided alcohol consumption.



Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CBS Holocaust

This story was aired on CBS on "60 MINUTES" ** about a long-secret German archive that houses a treasure trove of information on 17.5 million victims of the Holocaust. The archive, located in the German town of Bad Arolsen, is massive (there are 16 miles of shelving containing 50 million pages of documents) and until recently, was off-limits to the public. But after the German government agreed earlier this year to open the archives, CBS News' Scott Pelley traveled there with three Jewish survivors who were able to see their own Holocaust records. It's an incredibly moving piece, all the more poignant in the wake of the meeting of Holocaust deniers in Iran and the denial speeches in the UN. We're trying to get word out about the story to people who have a special interest in this subject.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russia peoples looking the other way! Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be "a myth," it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.