Sunday, July 23, 2017

Today -100: July 23, 1917: Criminal levity?

Russian troops are retreating. Which is not what their commanding officers ordered them to do. Germany has broken through the front lines, facilitated, the Provisional Government says, “by the criminal levity and blind fanaticism of some and the treachery of the others.”

The provisional government also lists a whole raft of progressive measures it intends to implement, including equal suffrage, the 8-hour day, restoring the land to the peasants, etc, and therefore asks the people to support the country, “which has ceased to be for those inhabiting it a cruel stepmother.”

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Today -100: July 22, 1917: Of deportations, champagne, the masses, and the long tentacles of Germany

The Bisbee, Arizona sheriff has resumed deporting unemployed men who haven’t applied to the Vigilance Committee for “clearance” to work.

Headline of the Day -100:

Champagne and bomb-throwing, what could go wrong?

Federal District Court Judge Learned Hand rules that the postmaster-general can’t ban The Masses for merely criticizing the government. While the government’s position seems to be that anything that might interfere with the war is unmailable, Judge Hand says if the writing isn’t prosecutable as treason, it can’t be banned. The US attorney specifically complained about some cartoons (I posted one of them on July 10th).

Kerensky blames the Leninist riots in Petrograd on the Germans, because of course he does.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Today -100: July 21, 1917: 258

The US selective service lottery has begun, with the ceremonial drawing of numbers from a big glass bowl. 10,500 numbers. It took 16½ hours. And one of them was blank, so they have to figure out which number wasn’t in the bowl (Update: 4,664). The first number, chosen by a blindfolded Secretary of War Newton Baker, was 258. The next number was drawn by Sen. Chamberlain, similarly blindfolded, then other officials, before the rest of the tedious work was done by blindfolded college students (fraternity hazing was pretty boring back then), interrupted every so often by Major Gen. Devel stirring the capsules containing the numbers with a long wooden spoon.

The new German chancellor, Georg Michaelis, described by the NYT as having a disproportionately large head, gives an introductory speech to the Reichstag. He follows the German line in blaming Britain for the war, because it didn’t dissuade Russia from mobilizing its army, which forced Germany to declare war purely in self-defense. That’s their story, and they’re sticking with it. Naturally, Michaelis fails to say what Germany’s war aims are, except “peace with honor” and secure borders (which is code for unspecified annexations). He supports the absolute right of the kaiser rather than the Reichstag to appoint officials.

After he’s done speaking, the Reichstag passes a peace resolution disavowing annexations of land and indemnities as contrary to a lasting peace.

Prince Lvov resigns as Russian prime minister and is replaced by Alexander Kerensky, who retains his post as minister of war. His ascension to power is celebrated, as was the custom, with an assassination attempt.

Australia bans the IWW.

Caesar Campus, president of the Sirio Match Company of Brooklyn, writes to the secretary of the navy with a cunning plan to defeat u-boats. Falcons! Carrying bombs! The details, which you can read in the article, don’t make the idea any more plausible, and in fact make me think this man shouldn’t be allowed to play with matches, much less own a match company.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Today -100: July 20, 1917: These misguided extremists don’t mind a little sedition

Headline of the Day -100:

But just in case, the Cabinet is thinking about moving the government to Moscow.

Russia’s minister of justice, named Perverzev if you can believe it, resigns in an argument over whether Lenin is a German agent. The offices of Pravda are raided.

Woodrow Wilson orders the imprisoned suffragist White House picketers released from the workhouse. They’re initially hesitant about accepting the pardon, but it was unconditional, so it doesn’t interfere with their ability to protest in the future. Also, can you actually refuse a pardon? Don’t they just kick you out of prison?

The NYT is its usual dickish self (I use the term advisedly) on the subject: “These misguided extremists don’t mind a little sedition. They gayly defy the law, pose as martyrs. .... Then, the prison one-piece dress is really coarse and unbecoming. One meets such vulgar people in one’s quest of excitement and martyrdom, and corned beef and cabbage is no congenial cate to a dainty stomach.”

The Corfu Declaration is signed by representatives of the Serbian government and various southern Slav nationalities currently subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to create a new country, the Union of Southern Slavs (Yugoslavia).

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today -100: July 19, 1917: Of pickets, martial law, tetanus, and war phonographs

Woodrow Wilson is upset by the jailing of the suffragists who protested outside the White House – probably a Southern male thing. He met with their lawyer, Dudley Field Malone, and has now met for 45 minutes with the husband of one of them, who says that Wilson may push for women’s suffrage as a wartime emergency measure. Meanwhile, in the Occoquan Workhouse, the suffragists are put in with black women, as degrading a thing as the authorities can think to do (the workhouse, you will be surprised to hear, is normally segregated).

The Russian government puts Petrograd under martial law to deal with outbreaks. Cossack patrols, men in trucks firing machine guns into the crowds on Nevsky Prospect, what could go wrong? The Bolsheviks disingenuously blame counter-revolutionaries for the demonstrations, but refuse to condemn them.

Three men, probably Germans, are arrested in Kansas for supposedly trying to spread tetanus through infected sticking plasters.

Never one to miss an opportunity to cash in, Thomas Edison introduces a new “war phonograph,” a sturdy iron model that can stand up to army life, designed to be listened to outdoors.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today -100: July 18, 1917: Of picketers, prohibition, and windsors

The 16 suffragists who were arrested in front of the White House are sentenced to a $60 fine or 60 days in the workhouse, and choose the latter. Up till now, the sentences have been 3 days.

Puerto Rico votes for prohibition.

5 members of the Russian Cabinet resign in protest over plans to grant autonomy to Ukraine.

In a British Cabinet reshuffle, Winston Churchill is brought back in, as Minister of Munitions. Sir Edward Carson, who just three years ago was openly plotting treasonous revolt in Northern Ireland, has been added to the War Cabinet, another sign of the Coalition government’s rightward shift.

King George V changes his last name and that of all his relatives from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to “Windsor.” He’s naming his family after the castle. Or possibly the necktie knot.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Today -100: July 17, 1917: Tool or man?

The NYT front page is a little confused

about the new German chancellor, Georg “Tool-Man” Michaelis.

Mostly tool, by the way. Or at least increasingly irrelevant as Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff usurp more and more civil governmental functions.

Some Northern senators are complaining that the Census Bureau’s methods of calculating the numbers of men to be drafted in each state is unfair, disadvantaging northern states where there are high numbers of immigrants.

Greece considers itself to now be at war with the Central Powers. But doesn’t plan to actually declare it, for some reason.

German Crown Prince Wilhelm calls submarine warfare “the last argument of Kings.”

Resistance to the introduction of conscription is increasing in Quebec. Many are taking their money out of banks to pressure the government. 

The Justice Department fails to find any evidence of German financial backing for the IWW.

Novelist Upton Sinclair quits the Socialist Party, saying it’s become too pro-German.

Sen. Ben Tillman (D-South Carolina) says the race riots in East St. Louis were caused by white prejudice against the negro. “The more the Northern people know of the negro the less they like him. ... The white blood, becoming once aroused, grows savage and very cruel.” He thinks that white Northern men being trained in military camps in the South will improve their understanding of the negro problem. I shudder to think what Pitchfork Ben’s solution to the negro problem might be.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Today -100: July 16, 1917: The end of the war is not nigh, but...

A corporal smuggles his wife, disguised as a soldier, onto a military transport ship heading for France. She is discovered after 3 days at sea. I’ll be very annoyed if there’s no follow-up story.

(Hey, there is one. She’s Hazel Carter and claims her husband knew nothing about it. If she had landed in France, she planned to offer her services as a nurse – which the American Red Cross already rejected. She must be thrilled that the articles keep mentioning her “masculine features.”)

A Rev. Dr. J. B. Phillips was arrested in Tennessee for discouraging men from enlisting in the military, since the world is going to end before the war will, so why bother?

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Today -100: July 15, 1917: I would not endanger the lives of loyal American citizens in attempting to protect the I.W.Ws

The new German chancellor is Georg Michaelis, described by the NYT as “a bureaucrat of the old type.” He was the Prussian under-secretary of finance and the German food commissioner. And no “von” in his name; he’s the first commoner to hold the office. Other than that, the only interesting thing about him is that he spent several years in Japan. The ouster of Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg is being blamed by many on Crown Prince Wilhelm, who never liked him, but it’s really more like a right-wing coup against the prospect of the “parliamentization” of the Reichstag, i.e., making the German government responsible to the elected Reichstag rather than the crown, as the majority in the Reichstag becomes increasingly critical of the war, the way it’s being waged, and the lack of stated war aims. Kaiser Wilhelm did not bother consulting with any member of the Reichstag before appointing Michaelis.

The IWW men and other Bisbee deportees say they won’t return to Bisbee unless accompanied by US soldiers. Evidently they actually believe the US government will support their right not to be kidnapped from their homes and deported. Spoiler Alert: It won’t. Sheriff Harry Wheeler, replying to Arizona Gov. Campbell’s request for an explanation of his actions, says “I can protect law abiding and peaceful citizens, but I cannot guarantee the technical rights of lawbreakers and criminals. I would not endanger the lives of loyal American citizens in attempting to protect the I.W.Ws.”

American-born lead miners in St. Francois County, Missouri force foreign miners out of the area at gunpoint. The Western Federation of Miners blames the IWW, but it would.

16 suffragist picketers are arrested at the White House, celebrating Bastille Day with banners reading “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

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