WSJ Historically Speaking: A Century of Russian-Run Traitors

Photo: HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Photo: HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

August marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, when the Austro-Hungarian army shelled Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, in retaliation for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian nationalists.

What the Austrians did not know at the time was that their war campaign had been fatally compromised. Their own head of counterintelligence, Col. Alfred Redl, had been selling the Russians information about the intelligence networks in the U.S. and Europe. Worse, he had given them all of Austria’s military secrets, including the attack plan against Serbia. Nor did the Austrians realize, until it was too late, that Col. Redl had been feeding his own side a diet of false information about the size and strength of the Russian Army.

Redl’s actions contributed to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Austrians. But he was not around to witness his handiwork. After his surprise exposure in 1913, his superiors allowed him to commit suicide rather than face arrest—a piece of supreme folly that left the Austrians completely in the dark about the full extent of his betrayal.

 

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The Sunday Times: Marshmallows and a toasting fork: the insignia of high office

Photo: Jeremy Ricketts

Photo: Jeremy Ricketts

August 1963. Little Stevie Wonder (as he was then) had the No 1 spot on the US Billboard Top Tunes chart with his song Fingertips Part II. The second spot belonged to Allan Sherman, a singer-songwriter who remains almost unknown outside America.

Sherman was an enormously talented parodist who rose to fame on the back of his first album, My Son, the Folk Singer, a collection of humorous songs about Jewish life in America.

It was his 1963 hit Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh that made Sherman a national hero. Americans from all walks of life could relate to his song about a boy’s first experience of summer camp. Set to the melody of Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours, it begins:

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh

Here I am at Camp Granada;

Camp is very entertaining,

And they say we’ll have

some fun if it stops raining.

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The Sunday Times: Feckless, spoilt, lazy . . . now where did our millennials learn that?

Photo: Jan Vašek

Photo: Jan Vašek

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most narcissistic, entitled and lazy of them all? In America there’s no contest: it’s the Millennial Generation — those 18 to 35-year-olds who text instead of talk, who have a shorter concentration span than my dog Max, who believe that rules are just guidelines and who know beyond all doubt that they are unique and special human beings.

Millennials certainly get blamed for a great deal: for taking up space in their parents’ basement, for turning up late (again) and for thinking that a hoodie is appropriate work attire. A YouTube spoof, “Millennials in the workplace training video”, advises managers that millennials require heaps of meaningless praise to put in the bare minimum effort.

They also need plenty of “me time”, which can’t be counted towards the regulation two-week annual holiday. The trainer ends with the line: “It’s your civic duty to employ them. Trust us, we want to fire them all, too. But we can’t.”

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WSJ Historically Speaking: A Brief History of Media Muckraking

Photo: THOMAS FUCHS

Photo: THOMAS FUCHS

Forty years ago this week, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. Never comfortable with the media, Nixon made no attempt to hide his true feelings about reporters (especially Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post) or where he thought the blame belonged for his downfall: “It’s the responsibility of the media to look at the president with a microscope, but they go too far when they use a proctoscope.”

Many U.S. presidents have shared Nixon’s exasperation with the press. Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “muckraker” during a speech in 1906. He compared investigative reporters to the narrow-minded figure in John Bunyan’s 17th-century religious fable, “The Pilgrim’s Progress”: the “man that could look no way but downwards, with a muckrake in his hand.”

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PORTER Magazine: Are we ready for the most powerful person in the world to be a woman?

Are we ready for the most powerful person in the world to be a woman?In 1974, the possibility that a woman could lead one of Britain’s political parties, let alone become Prime Minister, seemed so remote that bookmakers set the odds at 50-1. Since the woman in question was Margaret Thatcher, those brave enough to gamble a large wager walked away with a fortune.

Today, when there are 19 female world leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye, the shock and awe provoked by Thatcher’s election victory seems almost quaint. Which makes it all the more surprising that the two countries with the world’s largest economies – America and China – have yet to follow suit. There have been more than 400 US cabinet secretaries since women won the vote in 1920, but only 27 have been female. As for China, no woman has ever been admitted to the ruling Politburo Standing Committee.

For America, at least, that anomaly could be about to change with the allbut-declared candidacy of Hillary Clinton for the White House race in 2016. The timing of her new book – a memoir of her years as the US Secretary of State – is surely no coincidence. For Clinton to secure the prize that eluded her in 2008, she must first persuade Americans that she is somehow different from the woman they rejected six yeas ago.

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Smithsonian Magazine: The British View the War of 1812 Quite Differently Than Americans Do

Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS

Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS

As we look forward to celebrating the bicentennial of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key, I have to admit, with deep shame and embarrassment, that until I left England and went to college in the U.S., I assumed the words referred to the War of Independence. In my defense, I suspect I’m not the only one to make this mistake

For people like me, who have got their flags and wars mixed up, I think it should be pointed out that there may have been only one War of 1812, but there are four distinct versions of it—the American, the British, the Canadian and the Native American. Moreover, among Americans, the chief actors in the drama, there are multiple variations of the versions, leading to widespread disagreement about the causes, the meaning and even the outcome of the war.

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The Sunday Times: The American dream keeps rolling in a camembert chuck wagon

Photo: Daryn Bartlett

Photo: Daryn Bartlett

Call us a nation of fatties, lard-lovers and super-sized seat-hoggers. But it’s hard to stay lean when the greatest food revolution since the invention of the sandwich is parked enticingly on every street corner.

So excuse me while I hoof it over to the Korilla BBQ food truck to grab my lunchtime Porkinator: a taco filled with pulled pork, bacon, kimchi slaw, shredded cheese and barbecue sauce. Last week we had the Taim Mobile in the neighbourhood offering a kind of Middle-Med falafel fusion. The week before it had been Palenque, a Colombian-themed food truck that had sent out its siren call of beef-stuffed arepas. For us New Yorkers it’s the American dream on a paper plate.

Millions of people eat from food carts and trucks every day. Behind the beef short rib, marmalade-glazed onion and camembert grilled flatbread that I had last Thursday lies one of the key reasons why this country is still a better economic bet than Europe. In a word (well, three words actually): market-driven innovation.

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The Sunday Times: The ‘mad as hell’ brigade stir to wobble the Washington bubble

Photo: Marko Berndt

Photo: Marko Berndt

In the 1976 film Network, a crazed news anchor becomes so disgusted with the venal idiocy of American television that he refuses to say his lines. During a meltdown on air he encourages audiences to follow his lead and shout: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” Instead of laughing at him the nation grinds to a halt as millions of Americans join in, screaming their frustration from the rooftops.

Last week 65,000 Republican voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District offered their own version of “I’m as mad as hell”. Only instead of screaming in frustration they used the primary race to get rid of Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives. Instead of being good little followers and ticking the Cantor box, they voted for an economics professor, David Brat.

As the US media gleefully reported: Brat won by a whopping 56%-44%, despite having no name recognition and minuscule financial support. His campaign raised just $122,793; Cantor’s election headquarters spent $168,637 on steak dinners alone.

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The Sunday Times: Let them eat cannabis cake: a great social experiment has begun

Photo: Martin Vorel

Photo: Martin Vorel

In 1992 American TV audiences were amazed when the presidential hopeful Bill Clinton admitted on air that he had smoked cannabis while at Oxford. He managed to save his campaign by adding: “But I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale and didn’t try it again.”

Back when Clinton was covering up his pothead years, there was no one in America — at least no one sober — who would have predicted that marijuana was going to become legal in a generation. The 1990s weren’t only about millions of schoolchildren being encouraged to “just say no” to drugs; they were also the decade when law enforcement agencies switched from chasing crack-cocaine dealers to focusing on cannabis possession.

Between 1992 and 2002, marijuana went from being a mere 28% of all drug arrests to 45%. As Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas said about prohibition in 1930 (three years before its repeal): there appeared to be as much chance of legalising cannabis as “there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars — with the Washington Monument tied to its tail”.

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WSJ Historically Speaking: Famous Lost Words

Famous Lost Words“Trigger warning” used to be a clinical phrase in psychiatry. Nowadays, the term has gone mass-market. It is often used in blogs and humanities departments to highlight a text that might upset an unsuspecting reader.

In the not too distant past, going to college meant being exposed to all kinds of subversive, rude and downright shocking literature. This often caused the authorities great unease. Plato (c. 429-347 B.C.) was the first educator to denounce the pernicious effects of the written word on impressionable minds. In “The Republic,” he argued that literature was a breeding ground for immoral behavior. The solution was to keep fiction out of the hands of children (ignorance being the sincerest form of protection). A century and a half later, in 213 B.C., the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang put theory into practice and ordered the mass burning of all books save those on medicine, prophesy, agriculture and a few other topics.

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