Yesterday, the White House announced that President Obama will not meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg as previously planned. From The Washington Post:
President Obama has canceled a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has exacerbated tensions with the United States over a number of issues:
“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Carney cited a “lack of progress” with Russia over the past 12 months on a broad range of issues including missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security and human rights and civil society issues. Carney added that Russia’s “disappointing decision” last week to grant Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to live and work in Russia for up to a year, was also a factor.
President Obama discussed some of his issues with Russia in an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday night.
Saying that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama criticized a law, enacted in June, that prohibits public events promoting gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples. A Russian official has promised that the law will be enforced during next February’s Sochi Games despite the International Olympic Committee’s contrary stance.
After the announcement, Russian-American journalist Julia Iofee wrote at The New Republic: Obama Bails on His Inevitably Awkward Date With Putin.
A week after Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia, President Obama canceled his bi-lateral September summit in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, though administration officials are at pains to portray this as something greater than pure tit-for-tattery. Rather, they say, it was an excuse to avoid what, even without Snowden, would have been “a pretty dreary affair.”
A few days before Snowden turned up in Moscow, Obama and Putin met on the sidelines of the G8 conference in Northern Ireland. The resulting photo-op—Obama looking forlornly into the distance, Putin slouched and sullen—said it all: they looked like the aging couple at the neighboring table, intently working on their food and eavesdropping on your conversation because they had nothing to support one of their own. Moscow and Washington had talked and talked, they’d gotten START and the transport route to Afghanistan and the sanctions on Iran, but now, the kids are out of the house and they were talking past each other on Syria, on Iran, on pretty much everything.
Lawrence O’Donnell asked Ioffe to appear on his MSNBC show last night to discuss the issues surrounding the decision; but instead of allowing her to express her opinions, O’Donnell interrupted Ioffe, lectured her about Russia and Putin, basically implying she is a liar. Ioffe responded at TNR:
Tonight, I went on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, and Lawrence O’Donnell yelled at me. Or, rather, he O’Reilly’d at me. That O’Donnell interrupted and harangued and mansplained and was generally an angry grandpa at me is not what I take issue with, however. What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand.
I was invited on the show to talk about Obama’s (very wise) decision to cancel his Moscow summit with Putin, about which I wrote here. I am an expert on Russia. In fact, it is how you introduced me: “Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker.” I’m not going to toot my own horn here, but I was there for three years, I’m a fluent, native speaker of Russian, and, god damn it, I know my shit.
Which is why I wish you’d let me finish answering your bullshit question…
You can watch the interaction at MSNBC and read the things she would have liked to say about Putin at TNR. Basically Ioffe tried to explain the Putin doesn’t control everything that happens in Russia anymore than Obama controls everything that happens in the US. She believes that once the Bolivian plane was forced to land because the US suspected Snowden might be on board, Putin really had no choice but to allow Snowden to stay in Russia, because public opinion there strongly supported him.
I have quoted Ioffe in previous posts, and she certainly is no Putin apologist–as she asserts in her piece. I think O’Donnell treated her shamefully.
In other NSA news, mainstream reporters continue to published far more stunning revelations than anything that has come from Snowden and Greenwald. This morning at The New York Times, Charlie Savage writes about surveillance of e-mails between people in the US and foreign countries without warrants, which is being justified by an interpretation of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.
The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.
The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.
While it has long been known that the agency conducts extensive computer searches of data it vacuums up overseas, that it is systematically searching — without warrants — through the contents of Americans’ communications that cross the border reveals more about the scale of its secret operations….
Government officials say the cross-border surveillance was authorized by a 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, in which Congress approved eavesdropping on domestic soil without warrants as long as the “target” was a noncitizen abroad. Voice communications are not included in that surveillance, the senior official said.
Read more at the NYT link.
And at Reuters, John Shiffman and David Ingram report that a DEA program that appears to use NSA data to target ordinary criminals in the and then require DEA officers to conceal the source of the information was also used by the IRS.
Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.
Just as a reminder that Russia’s treatment of journalists and whistleblowers is actually a hell of a lot worse than anything that happens in the US, Human Rights Watch reports on Russia’s Silencing Activists, Journalists ahead of Sochi Games.
(Moscow) – Local authorities have harassed numerous activists and journalists who criticized or expressed concerns about preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The six-month countdown to the Sochi Games opening ceremony is this week.
Human Rights Watch has documented government efforts to intimidate several organizations and individuals who have investigated or spoken out againstabuse of migrant workers, the impact of theconstruction of Olympics venues and infrastructure on the environment and health of residents, and unfair compensation for people forcibly evicted from their homes. Human Rights Watch also documented how authorities harassed and pursued criminal charges against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their legitimate reporting.
“Trying to bully activists and journalists into silence is wrong and only further tarnishes the image of the Olympics,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “One of the non-negotiable requirements of hosting the Olympics is to allow press freedom, and the authorities’ attempts to silence critics are in clear violation of that principle.”
Obviously that doesn’t justify the Obama administration trying to influence media coverage of the NSA story, but we do need to keep things in perspective. In that vein, Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday: The Real-Life Stories of Legitimate NSA Whistleblowers (Snowden Isn’t One of Them). I hope you’ll give it a read.
In other news, Yemen has been hit by 6 suspected US drone strikes in the past 2 weeks–probably linked to the recently reported threat of an imminent terror strike that led the US to close a number of embassies last weekend.
An official in Yemen said Thursday that the sixth suspected U.S. drone strike in just two weeks had left six suspected al Qaeda militants dead in the group’s former stronghold in the center of the country. The official told The Associated Press that a missile hit a car traveling in the central Marib province, causing the fatalities.
CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that Yemen has long been a haven for al Qaeda leadership, and the country claimed Wednesday to have disrupted a major plot, which may have exposed potential targets.
Yemeni government officials say security forces are turning up the heat on militants from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the global terror network’s branch based in the nation, after foiling the plot to strike foreign embassies, gas and oil installations, and the country’s port cities.
The government has even given a shoot-to-kill order on anybody who looks suspicious and refuses to identify themselves.
The alleged plot appears to have been similar to the January attack in Algeria which saw gunmen storm the Amenas gas plant, killing more than three dozen foreign workers.
Yesterday in The Daily Beast, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported that information about the terror threats came from an al Qaeda “conference call,” involving top al Qaeda leaders and around 20 other people–a report that aroused quite a bit of skepticism on Twitter. Why would these guys risk talking on a conference call? Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Beast article:
The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.
Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.
To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.
Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.
Perhaps the call was encrypted in some way and the US had found a way to listen anyway? But then why would they blow future such operations by leaking the fact that they had listened to the call? This morning CNN’s Barbara Starr tweeted to Josh Rogin:
@joshrogin IT WAS NOT A PHONE CALL. IN FACT, AL QAEDA WENT TO EXTENSIVE MEANS TO SET UP WHAT YOU MIGHT SAY A VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE.”
I’m not sue how to interpret that either. I’ll update if I get anything more on this.
Once again, my morning post has gotten way too long. I have other news links, but I’ll put them in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with whatever stories you’re following today, and have a tremendous Thursday!!
<———— Look at that face?
Doesn’t this frog have a skeptical look about him…or maybe it is more of a look that says…don’t mess with me man! Don’t you bullshit me man.
When I look at this present day photograph of the little green dude below…I see that same look I admired so much from the Dutch illustration drawn 241 years ago.
Don’t you see the similarities echoing back to you through the eyes?
From Andrew Sullivan’s Face Of The Day « The Dish
This little guy has reason to keep his head down:
Amsterdam-based photographer Peter Lipton’s recent project is based around a research and conservation program at the Catholic University of Quito that was created in 2005 to address the growing number of endangered amphibians due to the country’s increases in logging, oil exploration, agriculture and climate change. Named ‘Balsa de los sapos’—Spanish for ‘Life raft of the frogs’—the program aims to collect, reproduce, and return endangered amphibians to their natural habitat. Lipton creates an exquisite showcase of these unique creatures, many of which are sadly the last known specimens.
I guess you could say I am starting this post off on a reflective note? These little amphibians are not the only species that have come to the few remaining of their kind. From the BBC News – Zoo seeks mate for last surviving ‘gorgeously ugly’ fish
Male mangarahara cichlids are distinguished from the females by their size and flowing fins
I don’t know, he ain’t so bad looking.
London Zoo is appealing to fish keepers to try to find a mate for a critically endangered, tropical species.
The Mangarahara cichlid is extinct in the wild but the three in captivity are all male.
The Zoo, which describes the fish as “gorgeously ugly”, is hoping to start a conservation programme if a fit female can be found for the captive males.
And with two of the males now 12 years old, the quest is said to be extremely urgent.
“I think there’s probably a very slim to no chance of this fish surviving” – Brian Zimmerman, London Zoo
These cichlids were named after the Mangarahara river in Madagascar where they were first found.
The construction of dams on the river caused the streams they lived in to dry up and the fish is now believed to be extinct in its natural habitat.
There are two males in captivity at London Zoo and another in Berlin. There had been a female in captivity at the German zoo but attempts to breed ended in disaster when the male killed her.
Which Zimmerman says is a common thing with cichlids…..well, that is one hell of a shame. This guy is going out with a dramatic twist, the only female of your species left in the world…and you kill her.
I’ve got one more fish tale to tell you, this is real fascinating: Navy dolphins discover rare old torpedo off Calif. coast near Coronado | McClatchy
In the ocean off Coronado, a Navy team has discovered a relic worthy of display in a military museum: a torpedo of the kind deployed in the late 19th century, considered a technological marvel in its day.
But don’t look for the primary discoverers to get a promotion or an invitation to meet the admirals at the Pentagon – although they might get an extra fish for dinner or maybe a pat on the snout.
The so-called Howell torpedo was discovered by bottlenose dolphins being trained by the Navy to find undersea objects, including mines, that not even billion-dollar technology can detect.
“Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man,” Braden Duryee, an official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific said after the surprising discovery.
While not as well known as the Gatling gun and the Sherman tank, the Howell torpedo was hailed as a breakthrough when the U.S. was in heavy competition for dominance on the high seas. It was the first torpedo that could truly follow a track without leaving a wake and then smash a target, according to Navy officials.
Only 50 were made between 1870 and 1889 by a Rhode Island company before a rival copied and surpassed the Howell’s capability.
Anyway, be sure to read more about the Howell torpedo at the McClatchy link above. For other Civil War weapons that did not perform as well as the Howell torpedo, check this blog post out that list: 10 Strange Civil War Weapons (My favorite is the Harmonica Pistol)
An attempt to create a multi-shot pistol by adding a horizontal magazine—some variations held up to 10 percussion cap or pinfire cartridges—the harmonica gun was probably invented and certainly patented by a Frenchman, J. Jarre of Paris, between 1859-1862. No musical instruments were involved. The name came from the shape of the magazine, and the weapon was also called the “slide gun.” An early manufacturer in the US was Jonathan Browning, father of firearms designer John Moses Browning. While looking like the sort of weapon a steampunk James Bond might carry, the harmonica gun proved too impractical for wide adoption. The user had to manually adjust the sliding magazine to center each cartridge under the hammer for every shot. Like VHS vs. Betamax, the much easier and faster shooting revolver finally won the day. The mechanism wasn’t limited to pistols—famed Texas Senator Sam Houston owned a percussion rifle (by Henry Gross) using a harmonica slide which is on display at the National Museum of American History.
Here is another list of things for you, take a look at this infographic: The 13 Worst Jobs of the Last 2,000 Years
Click on the image to see the larger graphic.
Now that will bring me to some articles dealing with history, these are fabulous! And since we have some nasty weather here in Banjoville, I am going to give them to you in link dump fashion…just in case the storms wreak havoc with my DSL service.
Eerie new images have emerged of a French apartment abandoned at the outbreak of World War II and left untouched in the seven decades since.
Other than a thick layer of dust covering the furniture, the room looks exactly as it would have done 70 years ago when its occupants fled Paris for the south of France as the Second World War erupted in Europe.
With Germany devising the Fall Gelb – a military sub-campaign later known as the Manstein Plan, with an objective conquering Northern France – the owner of the chic apartment decided that leaving the capital was the only way she could guarantee her safety.
The flat’s titleholder, a woman known only as Mrs De Florian, never returned to the apartment and never rented it out. Its existence only came to light in 2010, when Mrs De Florian died without issue at the age of 91 and experts were brought in to value the property.
The flat, which is close to the Pigalle red-light district in Paris’ 9th Arrondissement, was said to be like a “stumbling in to the castle of Sleeping Beauty” by one expert, as a room full of artworks and beautiful furniture was discovered behind its long-locked font door.
Plague is a fatal disease so infamous that it has become synonymous with any dangerous, widespread contagion. It was linked to one of the first known examples of biological warfare, when Mongols catapulted plague victims into cities.
The bacterium that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, has been linked with at least two of the most devastating pandemics in recorded history. One, the Great Plague, which lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries, included the infamous epidemic known as the Black Death, which may have killed nearly two-thirds of Europe in the mid-1300s. Another, the Modern Plague, struck around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries, beginning in China in the mid-1800s and spreading to Africa, the Americas, Australia, Europe and other parts of Asia.
Although past studies confirmed this germ was linked with both of these catastrophes, much controversy existed as to whether it also caused the Justinianic Plague of the sixth to eighth centuries. This pandemic, named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, killed more than 100 million people. Some historians have suggested it contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire.
To help solve this mystery, scientists investigated ancient DNA from the teeth of 19 different sixth-century skeletons from a medieval graveyard in Bavaria, Germany, of people who apparently succumbed to the Justinianic Plague.
They unambiguously found the plague bacterium Y. pestis there.
More at the link, go read it!
In other DNA news affecting history: Minoans Came From Europe, Not North Africa, Ancient DNA Suggests
When the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans discovered the 4,000-year-old Palace of Minos on Crete in 1900, he saw the vestiges of a long-lost civilization whose artefacts set it apart from later Bronze-Age Greeks. The Minoans, as Evans named them, were refugees from Northern Egypt who had been expelled by invaders from the South about 5,000 years ago, he claimed.
Modern archaeologists have questioned that version of events, and now ancient DNA recovered from Cretan caves suggests that the Minoan civilization emerged from the early farmers who settled the island thousands of years earlier.
As with the Justinianic Plague article, this one is detailed…so go take a look at the article.
Here is another thing you can spend some time on: 38,000 historical maps at DPLA | History News Network
More than three decades ago, David Rumsey began building a map collection. By the mid-90s he had thousands and thousands of maps to call his own — and his alone. He wanted to share them with the public.
He could have donated them to the Library of Congress, but Rumsey had even bigger ideas: the Internet. “With (some) institutions, the access you can get is not nearly as much as the Internet might provide,” Rumsey told Wired more than a decade ago. “I realized I could reach a much larger audience with the Internet.”
Bit by bit, Rumsey digitized his collection — up to 38,000 maps and other items — along the way developing software that made it easier for people to explore the maps and 3D objects such as globes online. Today, the Digital Public Library of America announced that Rumsey’s collection would now be available through the DPLA portal placing the maps into the deeper and broader context of the DPLA’s other holdings…
Enjoy that site…David Rumsey Historical Map Collection | Collection History
These next few links are not about history…specifically.
Looking at old, abandoned belongings can be quite a moving experience, and if there’s a sad history attached to the objects, we might well feel a measure of melancholy. Still, at the same time, we’re all fascinated by the lives of others – especially if their stories and experiences are very different to our own. That’s why these suitcases, which once belonged to patients at the Willard Psychiatric Center, New York, make such captivating photographs.
What is science revealing about the nature of the criminal mind? Adrian Raine, a professor at the university of Pennsylvania, is an expert in the expanding field of “neurocriminology.” He has written The Anatomy of Violence, a sweeping account of crime’s biological roots, including genetics, neuro-anatomy and environmental toxins like lead. He spoke with Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.
Scientists working 2.4 kilometres below Earth’s surface in a Canadian mine have tapped a source of water that has remained isolated for at least a billion years. The researchers say they do not yet know whether anything has been living in it all this time, but the water contains high levels of methane and hydrogen — the right stuff to support life.
The 1950s were apparently a terrifying time to be a child. If a train wasn’t coming out of nowhere to decapitate you, a seemingly harmless and endlessly fun game of “hide in a pile of leaves!”* ended when you were run over by city workers.
Buzzfeed’s Copyranter got a hold of this amazing manual, and you have to see the whole thing. Titled “It’s Great to Be Alive!”, it was written by someone who knew how truly careless children can be. I’d encourage you to print it out and pass it around at your local elementary school but STRANGER DANGER. (Actually, that one is just good advice.)
And if we are talking about scaring the bejeebeez outta kids, check this out: 11 Terrifying Images of Old Soviet Playgrounds | Mental Floss
Actually, they’re playgrounds from the former Soviet Union, where people were good at making a lot of things — tanks, rifles, factories to make tanks and rifles — but cheerful playground statuary clearly wasn’t one of them.
Go to the link to see the freaky pictures.
From childhood to growing old: 100 Years is Enough For Me, Pal by Tom Purcell
Here’s one potential advance in science that has me worried: human beings may eventually live a really long time.
According to the World Future Society, we are in the early phases of a superlongevity revolution. Thanks to advances nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation, scientists may eventually learn how to keep humans alive from 120 to 500 years.
Which prompts an important question: Do we really want to live that long?
We move on to the writing/words part of the post…that is links to do with language written and spoken.
When I needed an article from the February 1963 issue of the defunct travel magazine Holiday, I never questioned where to search for it. I picked up the phone and dialed. “Cameron’s,” said the voice on the other end.
Always afraid of saying something stupid and offending the store’s gruff owner, Jeff Frase, I described the item I needed in as few words as possible. In his dry, distant growl, Frase said, “One minute. Let me check.” He sounded annoyed. He put down the phone. When he returned moments later, he said, “Yeah, we have it.” How much? “Five dollars.”
Back in its heyday, big names wrote for Holiday: Steinbeck, Kerouac, Hemingway, Michener. Holiday was the magazine that commissioned E. B. White’s famous 7,500-word essay, “Here Is New York,” in 1948, an essay later published as a best-selling book. It still stands as some of the best prose on one of the world’s most written-about cities.
Five dollars was a bargain. I asked if I could pick up the magazine on Saturday since I worked all week. Frase said, “It’ll be under the counter in the hold box, under your name.”
Go read about a place that will one day become as extinct as that ugly fish you read about at the beginning of this post…
Founded by a stamp collector named Robert Cameron in 1938, Cameron’s Books and Magazines is Portland, Oregon’s oldest used bookstore, and it’s one of the largest vintage magazine dealers in America. Cameron’s might be the largest. When asked for the store’s size, Frase said, “Oh, I don’t know. We could eyeball it, but—” He squinted and leaned forward against the counter. “Maybe forty to eighty foot wide at least, about twice that deep. That’s just the front room. There’s the upstairs.” He waved a finger overhead, tracing the seam where the ceiling meets the south wall. A long passage runs there, its dusty wooden boards lined with mid-century crime, sci-fi, and romance mass markets. He pointed to the room behind him. “And then there’s the magazines.”
This next link is about an author: Her editor published her work for several years before realizing she wasn’t a man | Appalachian History
Tennessee author Mary Noailles Murfree (1850-1922), better known as Charles Egbert Craddock, was born in Murfreesboro, TN. For fifteen years she spent her summers in the Tennessee mountains among the people of whom she writes.
About that typing keyboard: The Lies You’ve Been Told About the Origin of the QWERTY Keyboard -The QWERTY configuration for typewriters can be traced, actually, to the telegraph.
With all the fuss lately over the IRS and AP scandals, it seems this next bit of information will come in handy: History and origin of the phrase: Spill the beans World Wide Words Newsletter: 18 May 2013
Q From Martin Schell: An Indonesian friend fluent in English asked me what spill the beans means and how it originated. It’s easy to understand spill as revealing a secret, but why beans?
A The key word is indeed spill, which has always had a negative aura about it. In Old English it meant to kill and in the twelfth century to shed blood (which is why we still have the fixed phrase to spill blood). By the fourteenth century it had softened to mean causing damage or waste, from which evolved the specific idea of letting a liquid accidentally escape from a container. Much later it took on a figurative sense of being thrown out of a moving vehicle.
Spill the beans starts to appear in the US early in the twentieth century. In its first decade it varied in its meaning and settled on our current one only in the 1920s.
Early examples are in reports of horse racing. This is the first example that I’ve so far come across:
KINGSTELLE SPILLED THE BEANS
Everyone fancied that the fifth race was a two-horse one between Nearest and Audiphone, who were held at 4 to 5 and 8 to 5 respectively. Kingstelle, a 10-to-1 shot, broke it up. She laid away from the pace and came along in the stretch, and won, handily, a real nice race.
St Louis Republic (St Louis, Missouri), 6 May 1903.
Since the horse did better than expected, this might seem to challenge the idea of a spill being a bad thing, but the headline writer is saying that expectations have been upset, a figurative extension of spill. In the following years the idiom spread beyond racetracks, by 1908 being used of boxing and by 1910 of baseball. In that game it came to mean a blunder that leads to defeat:
In the eighth it looked like Vernon surely would overcome the Seals’ lead and win the game, but some boneheaded base running and poor judgment on the coaching lines spilled the beans.
Los Angeles Herald, 3 Jun. 1910.
An article in the Tacoma Times in March 1913 defines it like this: “If we descend to the vulgar language of the street … ‘Spilling the beans’ has much the same meaning as ‘upsetting the apple cart.’” Being considered slang may explain why it took some time to become mainstream. Most appearances were confined to the sports pages, which had a licence to adopt language that was considered unsuitable for other parts of the paper.
So the sports section could get away with a little more vulgarity, hmmmm... you remember that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski backed David Ortiz when Ortiz told the Red Sox crowd: “This is our fucking city and no body is going to dictate our freedom.” Anyway, sports wasn’t the only area that had a use for the phrase “spilling the beans.”
Politics being a rough old game, it’s in news reports of events in that domain that we start to see a broader public use of the idiom. It was widely publicised in a comment from a witness during a famous court case of January 1914 about corruption and this seems to have broken the implicit ban on its use outside sport.
To answer the original question — if you can still remember what it was — there doesn’t seem to be anything special about beans and no good reason why it should have been adopted. That is, apart from the obvious consideration that spilling useful beans is a bad move. The idiom has appeared in various other forms since, including spill the dirt, spill the dice, spill the dope and spill the works. There’s also spill it by itself, with the sense “tell me your sensational gossip immediately”. These confirm that the key word is spill and that the other noun is a mere embellishment. We may guess that some bean-spilling accident led to stable boys using it, but, as with most idioms, history is silent on what that might have been.
Spill the beans may not be the same as the f-bomb, but this will be interesting to you: The modern history of swearing: Where all the dirtiest words come from – Salon.com
As society evolves, so do our curse words. Here’s how some of the most famous ones developed — and a few new ones.Excerpted from “Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing”
The 18th and 19th centuries’ embrace of linguistic delicacy and extreme avoidance of taboo bestowed great power on those words that broached taboo topics directly, freely revealing what middle-class society was trying so desperately to conceal. Under these conditions of repression, obscene words finally came fully into their own. They began to be used in nonliteral ways, and so became not just words that shocked and offended but words with which people could swear.
Okay, if that little taste of swear words wasn’t enough for you language nerds: Exhaustive computer research project shows shift in English language
University of Illinois English professor Ted Underwood recently wrapped up a research project involving more than 4,200 books. Since that work revealed dramatic shifts in the English language between the 18th and 19th centuries, he’s now expanding his research to include more than 470,000 books – almost every English language book written during that era and preserved in a university library.
How did he find time to read 4,000 books, let alone 400,000? He didn’t, of course. Underwood, who teaches 18th- and 19th-century literature, worked with the U. of I.’s Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS) and the HathiTrust Research Center (a collaboration of the U. of I. and Indiana University) to develop computer programs to crawl through digitized copies of the books, counting words and sorting genres.
Graphs and other goodies at that link, check it out.
Well…getting towards the end of this thread. I’ve got some film links for you to look over.
One morning in 1972, Nixon chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman gave press secretary Ron Ziegler some big news: Nixon had just gone to meet with Mao Zedong, head of China’s Communist Party, marking the first thaw in a quarter century of US-China relations. In his shock, Ziegler bit into an unpeeled clementine without realizing it. This obscure clip is one of many you’ll experience in Our Nixon, a curated collage of 500 Super 8 film reels shot by Haldeman and Nixon aides Dwight Chapin and John Ehrlichman—ambitious men who obsessively documented their lives in the West Wing. The footage, seized by the FBI after Watergate, offers an intimate glimpse into a notoriously secretive administration. “It was a very unnatural kind of life,” Ehrlichman reveals. “You had the feeling you were in the middle of a great big, brilliantly lighted, badly run television show.”
For those who love a good laugh, by David Kalat via: MovieMorlocks.com – Mission critical Harold Lloyd
This week TCM debuts some super-rare Harold Lloyd shorts from the early years of his career. I cannot overstate the significance of this find.
I was asked by TCM to write some material for the web site to introduce Harold Lloyd in general and some of these shorts in particular, but the specific remit of that assignment was kind of limiting, so I have a lot else to say about these films that didn’t fit into the website content. But hey—I have a blog!
So—the first order of business is to ‘splain just why these shorts are so all-fired important.
You see, most histories of silent comedy tend to focus on two major turning points in the lives of each of the major slapstick comedians: a) the moment when they transitioned out of two-reel shorts and into features, and b) the moment they transitioned out of silent films and into talkies. Our understanding of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and their various contemporaries has largely drawn from how they navigated these crucial turning points.
That is a long post, so go take a look at the link.
Finally, I have mentioned the film The Dam Busters many times before…
The Dam Busters (1955) is a British Second World Warwar film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd and directed by Michael Anderson. The film recreates the true story of Operation Chastise when in 1943 the RAF’s617 Squadron attacked the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany with Barnes Wallis‘s “bouncing bomb“.
The film was based on the books The Dam Busters (1951) by Paul Brickhill and Enemy Coast Ahead (1946) by Guy Gibson. The film’s reflective last minutes convey the poignant mix of emotions felt by the characters – triumph over striking a successful blow against the enemy’s industrial base is greatly tempered by the sobering knowledge that many died in the process of delivering it.
Well, can you believe it is the 70th Anniversary of the Dam Busters mission! Look at this image from the Guardian:
A Lancaster bomber flies over Ladybower reservoir in the Derbyshire Peak District to mark the 70th anniversary of the world war two Dambusters mission in Derwent, England. Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs were used by the RAF’s 617 Squadron in 1943 to test Sir Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb before their mission to destroy dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley.
Wow. Look at that huge plane flying low over the dam, I just think that is cool as hell, and tell me, isn’t it a kick ass way to end a massive Sunday afternoon reads…
We start with one image of a frog that was drawn years and years ago, and compare it to an image of an amphibian of today, both of the little boogers featuring the same expression…and end with the image of a movie poster based on a real life WWII bombing mission and a photograph of a 70th Anniversary fly over celebrating that same event depicted in the movie.
Y’all have a great Sunday evening…
Thursday Reads: Villagers Turn On Obama, Texas Tornadoes, West TX Investigations, and Boston Bombing NewsPosted: May 16, 2013
It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.
What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.
Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.
Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?
Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:
Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.
(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)
Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”
Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.
Man, I can’t seem to get my solid together today…
Anyway, here are your cartoons for your Friday Funnies!
A whole lotta cartoons tonight! Have a lovely evening, and of course this is an open thread….
We certainly have created a lot of ways to destroy each other haven’t we? We also seem to breed a lot of individuals that are capable of doing great harm without reservation. This week has brought the carnage once again into our back yard. It is important to remember that we have brought and are bringing worse carnage and that we are not alone in our experience.
We have sophisticated drones that appear to take out as many innocents as they do bad guys. Just yesterday in Baghdad, a suicide bomber killed 26 in a crowded cafe. Less than a month ago, 2 blasts occurred in a busy shopping district of Hyderabad, India. These twin blasts killed 14 people and injured 119. Seventeen were injured today in Bangalore in a car bomb blast. Neither India or Boston are war zones. Baghdad was not a war zone until we invaded it. We left it to whatever it is today.
Then, there is the daily amount of gun violence in the country. Let me return to Boston for this perspective.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said today that he hopes to cut gun crimes in half this summer during Boston’s most violent months: July and August, when the city typically sees between 37 and 48 shootings each month.
The department’s ranks were boosted as 28 members of the force were promoted and one new officer was named during a ceremony this morning.
Davis said those promotions represent the department’s efforts to fill vacancies in preparation for the summertime.
“We’re going to have a full court press on those months this year,” said Davis. “We’re gonna do a lot of preventive work leading up to those months. There’s gonna be a significant amount of attention paid to the impact players in the city. We want them to put their weapons down.”
Nationally, we experience 88 gun deaths a day. There have been about 3,524 gun deaths in this country since the Sandy Hook Slaughter. As you carefully read that sign made by the youngest victim of the Boston Bombs above, consider this:
… a child in the U.S is about 13 times more likely to be a victim of a firearm-related homicide than children in most other industrialized nations.
Firearms were the third leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the sake of comparison, in 2010 there were more than twice as many firearms deaths in the U.S. than terrorism-related deaths worldwide.
Then consider how completely ignorant most people are of our violent legacies to other countries. Think of mass murderers of the 20th century, and then read this.
Mr. Kissinger’s most significant historical act was executing Richard Nixon’s orders to conduct the most massive bombing campaign, largely of civilian targets, in world history. He dropped 3.7 million tons of bombs** between January 1969 and January 1973 – nearly twice the two million dropped on all of Europe and the Pacific in World War II. He secretly and illegally devastated villages throughout areas of Cambodia inhabited by a U.S. Embassy-estimated two million people; quadrupled the bombing of Laos and laid waste to the 700-year old civilization on the Plain of Jars; and struck civilian targets throughout North Vietnam – Haiphong harbor, dikes, cities, Bach Mai Hospital – which even Lyndon Johnson had avoided. His aerial slaughter helped kill, wound or make homeless an officially-estimated six million human beings**, mostly civilians who posed no threat whatsoever to U.S. national security and had committed no offense against it.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a staunch supporter of the U.S. drone wars, Wednesday become the first government official to put a number on the estimated drone strike death toll.
“We’ve killed 4,700,” Graham said during a speech at a South Carolina rotary club, reported on by the local Easley Patch and flagged by Al Jazeera.
“This is the first time a US official has put a total number on it,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations told Al Jazeera, but Graham’s office stated that the senator was only repeating “the figure that has been publicly reported and disseminated on cable news.” Graham’s figure aligns with estimates from groups included the U.K.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), which has calculate that between 3,072 and 4,756 people have been killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Graham’s figure did not distinguish between “combatant” and “civilian” casualties — a distinction which has, in the War on Terror, prompted debate. But the senator did reportedly say, “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al-Qaida.”
I’d like to know why some acts of violence attract so much attention and outrage? Tons of folks have been out in their virtual scooby vans warping into the witch hunt version of Encyclopedia Brown trying to finger the ‘dark skinned’ individuals that could’ve set the bombs on the Boston Marathon route. Have any of these idiots ever looked at the gun death rate in their own town or state? Have they ever concerned the morality of bombing wedding celebrations? Are they still taking Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld seriously? Have they possibly cracked a paper to find out exactly how many bombings happen on this planet and how many of them we commit? For that matter, why aren’t they looking for guys that look like Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph? Ever been to London and tried to find a trash can?
In London, public trash cans are hard to come by, as they’re an easy receptacle for bombs. Which makes it hard to throw things away properly! Now, the city is going to bring trash cans back, but they’re going to be big, hulking masses, totally bomb-proof and equipped with LCD screens to tell you the days news as you throw away your coffee cup.
Traveling to Europe–especially London–in the 1970s and 1980s included an introduction to basic instructions on what to do if a bomb went off and what to do to avoid being in an area that was likely subject to bombing. There are still Basque separatists bombing Spain. We’re coming up on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. I was in Europe a lot in 1972 and it was like the year of the bomb over there. But, again, there was Kissinger too. It was the year I learned not to look or sound overly American.
Hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were forced to live in holes and caves, like animals. Many tens of thousands were burned alive by the bombs, slowly dying in agony. Others were buried alive, as they gradually suffocated to death when a 500 pound bomb exploded nearby. Most were victims of antipersonnel bombs designed primarily to maim not kill, many of the survivors carrying the metal, jagged or plastic pellets in their bodies for the rest of their lives.
Then, riddle me this. What is the difference between setting bombs on the street filled with crowds, or a bomb in a cafe, or a drone that hits a wedding or having one Texas “Job Creator” callously killing an entire city and a lot of its inhabitants because he just doesn’t want to be bothered with work place safety regulations or say, proper placement of a dangerous plant to start out with? I mean what exactly do you call a guy that runs a business that blows up an entire town and kills–at this point in time–35 people including 10 first responders? (That’s a link to CNN and USA Today so consider it with care.)
It really bothers me that we–as a nation–appear to have selective attention on what kind of violence gets our shock and attention and what kinds of violence we choose to ignore every day, every year, or in the case of the atrocities of Kissinger, every decade or four. We have had some horrific carnage recently. We’ve had children slaughtered in their classroom. We’ve had folks standing on the street celebrating a holiday ending up in hospital with wounds severe enough to warrant the kinds of amputees soldiers need in Afghanistan. This is horrific, but it does not operate in a vacuum or a world where we have done no wrong or where these kinds of events are rare.
So, call me Debbie Downer and tell me to get my unpatriotic ass out of the country or call me insensitive. I want to see a consistent and strong level of outrage, shock, and trauma displayed for all innocent victims of unspeakable violence. The hometowns of all of these victims should be our hometowns.
Here is a great question from a great writer, Juan Cole. Can the Boston Bombings increase our Sympathy for Iraq and Syria, for all such Victims?
The idea of three dead, several more critically wounded, and over a 100 injured, merely for running in a marathon (often running for charities or victims of other tragedies) is terrible to contemplate. Our hearts are broken for the victims and their family and friends, for the runners who will not run again.
There is negative energy implicit in such a violent event, and there is potential positive energy to be had from the way that we respond to it. To fight our contemporary pathologies, the tragedy has to be turned to empathy and universal compassion rather than to anger and racial profiling. Whatever sick mind dreamed up this act did not manifest the essence of any large group of people. Terrorists and supremacists represent only themselves, and always harm their own ethnic or religious group along with everyone else.
The negative energies were palpable. Fox News contributor Erik Rush tweeted, “Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon!” When asked if he was already scapegoating Muslims, he replied, ““Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.” Challenged on that, he replied, “Sarcasm, idiot!” What would happen, I wonder, if someone sarcastically asked on Twitter why, whenever there is a bombing in the US, one of the suspects everyone has to consider is white people? I did, mischievously and with Mr. Rush in mind, and was told repeatedly that it wasn’t right to tar all members of a group with the brush of a few. They were so unselfconscious that they didn’t seem to realize that this was what was being done to Muslims!
Indeed, sympathy for Boston’s victims has come from around the world from places like Iraq that we’ve plastered with bombs not that long ago. Condemnation for this act came from elected officials in Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood which has been absolutely slathered with the mark of satan by the likes of our elected officials like whacko Michelle Bachmann. This part of Cole’s essay really got to me and I was already teary eyed hearing about Jane and Martin Richard from their school’s headmaster on Last Word.
Some Syrians and Iraqis pointed out that many more people died from bombings and other violence in their countries on Monday than did Americans, and that they felt slighted because the major news networks in the West (which are actually global media) more or less ignored their carnage but gave wall to wall coverage of Boston.
Aljazeera English reported on the Iraq bombings, which killed some 46 in several cities, and were likely intended to disrupt next week’s provincial election.
Over the weekend, Syrian regime fighter jets bombed Syrian cities, killing two dozen people, including non-combatants:
What happened in Boston is undeniably important and newsworthy. But so is what happened in Iraq and Syria. It is not the American people’s fault that they have a capitalist news model, where news is often carried on television to sell advertising. The corporations have decided that for the most part, Iraq and Syria aren’t what will attract Nielsen viewers and therefore advertising dollars. Given the global dominance by US news corporations, this decision has an impact on coverage in much of the world.
Here is a video by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) on the dilemma of the over one million displaced Syrians, half of them children:
So I’d like to turn the complaint on its head. Having experienced the shock and grief of the Boston bombings, cannot we in the US empathize more with Iraqi victims and Syrian victims? Compassion for all is the only way to turn such tragedies toward positive energy.
Perhaps some Americans, in this moment of distress, will be willing to be also distressed over the dreadful conditions in which Syrian refugees are living, and will be willing to go to the aid of Oxfam’s Syria appeal. Some of those Syrians living in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey were also hit by shrapnel or lost limbs. Perhaps some of us will donate to them in the name of our own Boston Marathon victims of senseless violence.
Terrorism has no nation or religion. But likewise its victims are human beings, precious human beings, who must be the objects of compassion for us all.
It is absolutely true that the shortcomings of our press this week were on parade this week. They basically spent hour-after-hour in what seemed like a glorified witch hunt. But there is a bigger injustice and short coming. Other people around the world–suffering and dying–deserve to have their stories told also. Every innocent victim of violence deserves justice and recognition. This is true of those 88 who die every day in this country from guns. It is true of all those killed by state violence be it ours or Bashar al-Assad or the crazy jerks that set of bombs on streets all over the world or fire military style weapons in our schools and movie theaters. All of this should cause the press to do its job and it should cause our hearts to grieve equally. Why obsess minute by minute on one act when there is a world full of them to choose from? Why not give all of the victims of violence their due?
So, what is on your reading and blogging list today?