Monday, December 22, 2014

Today -100: December 22, 1914: Of bombing and lunatics

A British plane bombs what the pilot hopes were German targets in Ostend, Belgium.  I say hopes because he did it at night, the first ever night-time aerial bombing raid, if you’re keeping track of historical firsts in the killing of other humans.

Harry Thaw, murderer of architect Stanford White, is ordered by the Supreme Court to return to New York from New Hampshire to face trial for his escape from Matteawan Asylum.  Thaw might plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which to be fair is a pretty good defense to the charge of escaping from a lunatic asylum.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Today -100: December 21, 1914: Of firing squads and baby killers

Russia is plans to teach Russian to elementary school teachers in Galicia.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Firing Squads Busy.”  Mexico, where former supporters of Huerta have been shot in large numbers since Villa and Zapata forces took over the capital.

Headline & Epithet of the Day -100: “‘BABY KILLERS,’ CRIES CHURCHILL TO RAIDERS; Says the Name Will Stick to the German Navy While Sailors Sail the Seas.”

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Today -100: December 20, 1914: That’s a lot of pudding

An article cribbed from an unnamed London newspaper about songs sung by British soldiers says they’re all sick of “Tipperary” already.  And it quotes this one, which I would have guessed came later in the war:

In New York, the lighting of the Tree of Light in Madison Square Park (still a tradition today, begun in 1912).  There will be songs, but foreign national anthems are banned this year.

Haiti’s National Bank has put all of its gold and silver coins on a US warship (or the US just pulled off a less-than-subtle heist)(more like the latter than the former, I believe).

Austria claims to have cleared Russian troops out of Western Galicia.

Sen. James Vardaman (D-Miss.), who is not fond of the negro race, plans to try to get the 15th Amendment repealed.

Occupied Lille is starving. The Germans blame the British blockade.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Prussia Appeals to Poles. Uses Their Language Officially for the First Time in Many Years.”  In the military mobilization proclamation.  What’s the Polish word for “swell”?

Hopefully they printed the proclamation in big print, because they German Army is also taking a lot more men who wear glasses than they used to.

Italy is trying to suppress anti-Austrian demonstrations tomorrow on the anniversary of the 1882 execution of Overdank, a deserter from the Austrian army who tried attempting to assassinate Emperor Franz Josef.  Overdank was from Trieste, which Italians think should be Italian rather than Austrian, so he’s been a martyr ever since.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Empress of India Sold.”  A ship, not an actual royal person.  Bought from the Canadian-Pacific Railway by the Gaekwar (prince) of Baroda for use as a hospital ship for Indian troops.

The Wisconsin Boxing Commission will not issue permits for matches with black boxers.

A court ruling establishes uniform speed limits in California (except in charter cities) of 30 mph in the country, 20 in built-up districts, and 15 in business districts, doing away with speed traps.

A Christmas Pudding Fund has ensured that everyone in the British military will have plum pudding for Christmas dinner.  That’s half a million puddings.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Today -100: December 19, 1914: Of sultans, lynchings and the usual verdict, spoils, and grungy Wobblies and Seattle coffee shops

The British have appointed Prince Hussein Kemal the Sultan of Egypt.  That sounds weird: sultan... appointed.  One might be forgiven for thinking the real power is the British (Acting) High Commissioner, the appropriately named Milne Cheetham.  Britain promises that after the war Egyptians will be allowed to participate in their own governance “in such measure as the degree of enlightenment of public opinion may permit.”  Which was more or less the Obama policy when it backed Sisi’s coup.  France, which since the 1880s has been hostile to such a move by the British, agrees to it now, while Britain confirms its rights to Morocco.

A negro, Will Jones, is lynched in Alabama, near Port Deposit, for supposedly trying to assault a (unstated but presumably) white girl.  The LAT headline says “Coroner Returns Usual Verdict,” which is death “at the hands of unknown parties.”

Pres. Wilson and Senate Democrats are in a fight over the appointments system.  A couple of days ago, the Senate unanimously rejected his choice for federal district attorney in New York because he was opposed by Sen. O’Gorman.  The Senate is fighting for the “principle” that appointments must be supported by the Democratic senator(s) from that state.  Wilson is fighting back with a whole bunch of appointments opposed by Democratic senators.  He’s also been using recess appointments.  The Senate is fighting back, rejecting an appointment for postmaster of Kansas City.

Mayor Hiram Gill of Seattle orders police to rid the city of Wobblies following mob attacks on a coffee house and a market.  Gills says, “as long as I am mayor of this city, it can be understood that Seattle is through fooling with a lot of anarchists, thugs, firebugs and worse who masquerade as the unemployed and fall in a faint when a bath or an hour’s work is mentioned.  And I don’t want any of the ruling Miss Nancy Goody-Goody outfit coming down here to tell me to be kind to my brother man.  In the first place the I.W.W.’s are not my brothers, and in the second place I’m through monkeying with them.”

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Today -100: December 18, 1914: Of protectorates, imperial swearing, cows, and lions

Britain declares Egypt a protectorate, ending the very nominal suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire.

Votes for Women (London) complains that the number of places from which women are excluded under wartime regulations is growing daily, including public houses during certain hours, the streets of Cardiff (but only for “certain women”), and St. Paul’s Cathedral after 9 p.m.

Germany and France are exchanging interned civilians.

After being told of the losses in Serbia, Austrian Emperor Franz Josef is said to have “swore like a trooper.”

In a lawsuit case of breach of promise of marriage in which the man broke off his engagement when the woman, after consulting a physician and a fortune-teller, told him that she probably wouldn’t have children, NY Supreme Court Justice Benton told the jury that eugenics demands they rule against her, because “Civilization itself demands not only that children be born, but that they may be born to a proper heritage mentally and physically.”  The jury agreed.

Herbert Hoover asks for donations of canned milk to Belgium, all of the country’s cows having been seized by the Germans.

The British military censors plan to close their office for a day and a half for Christmas, so there will be no war news whatsoever.

The official British report on yesterday’s German bombardment of coastal towns says that 108 people were killed.  Hartlepool’s gas works were destroyed.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Five Lions Loose in Theatre Throng.”  They escape after performing their “man-eating lion” act at the Eighty-Sixth Street Theatre, while the quartet was playing, because of course you follow lions with a quartet (barbershop quartet, I think).  One, named Alice, Alice the lion, was cornered by police on the fourth floor of a tenement and shot dead.  The others never left the theater – it’s cold outside in New York in December – and were herded back into their cage.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cutting loose the shackles of the past

Obama spoke today about Cuba policy.

OUTDATED: “we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests”. What date was it when this approach actually did work? Outdated seems to be the word Obama uses when he wants to change a policy without admitting it was stupid.

“year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries”. Funny how that happened all about itself.

“this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions”. Killing Castro, subjugating the Cuban people to the will of American politicians and corporations, you know, the best of intentions.

“no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.” Oh, and worsening the living conditions of millions of Cubans for decades, you know, “little effect.”

“While I have been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way –- the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years.” Because one white American guy is more important than... oh, that’s just too silly. Along with the “wrongful imprisonment” thing and the “USAID sub-contractor” thing.

Then he pretended that Gross was released “on humanitarian grounds,” because Gross was important enough to keep the US’s Cuba policy in limbo for 6 years, but not important enough that we’ll admit to having bargained with Cuba for his release. Our release of 3 Cubans was, purely coincidentally, in exchange for a super-secret US super-spy no one’s ever heard of (and still haven’t, since no name of this alleged super-spy has been released). “This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few...” Or, you know, none. “Having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country...” Wait, I thought you said Gross wasn’t a spy?

“Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.” Except Congress will never fund an embassy, much less confirm an ambassador.

“But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.” How about not trying to promote “our values” (a phrase he uses three times) at all? Maybe Cuba’s seen enough of our values over the last 116 years and maybe Cubans don’t need to be taught values by us.

“After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.” Or 5 years, really. Also, it’s not really isolation if we’re the only country not interacting with Cuba. But look at that word “worked.” He’s not saying that the goal of changing Cuba’s government for it is wrong, just that we need to find a “new approach” to accomplishing it.

“I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.” Not that such designations aren’t entirely objective, of course.

“With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island. Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people”. Except for MasterCard.

US companies will be allowed to sell them the Internet now. Everyone send any extra cat videos you have lying around to Cuba.

Talking about the Summit of the Americas: “Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections.” You’ll notice he doesn’t mention anything bad the US has done except direct colonization (unless by sham elections he meant Bush in 2000).

“Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami -- on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts.” And with hope on their back and a shirt in their hearts, but they never lived very long.

“Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future”. And I’m sure the Cuban people will be profoundly grateful that you’re cutting those shackles that we put on them in the first place.

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Today -100: December 17, 1914: We fully expect the German ships to come again, until they come once too often

German ships fire on the English seaside town of Whitby. Some houses are hit and one man killed. Dracula was uninjured. Hartlepool and Scarborough are similarly bombarded, with more deaths. The London Times notes that attacks on unfortified towns are illegal under international law, but Germany has “jettisoned alike all the principles of international law and all the dictates of society.” Further, “The raid had no genuine military or naval significance, and its objects could only be to relieve the prevalent depression in Germany and create panics in these islands. The second object has entirely failed. The raid was received with complete calmness. We fully expect the German ships to come again, until they come once too often.”

The LAT reports that Albania – or at least tribes in northern Albania, since it’s not like Albania has a real central government – declare war on Serbia.

Serbia’s King Peter triumphantly returns to Belgrade.

Gen. Tasker Bliss threatens the Mexican sides fighting each other across the border from Naco, Arizona that he will use “extreme measures” if any more bullets cross the border. (Tomorrow he will deny that he issued the ultimatum.)

The US Senate is debating the literacy requirement clause in the proposed immigration bill, and specifically discussing how to exempt Jews fleeing persecution from it. One suggestion is to exempt anyone fleeing from a country whose laws explicitly discriminate against their religion.

Well? Will there?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In case you did not know this already, Americans kind of suck

Separate Pew and CBS polls released yesterday showed that a majority of Americans interviewed believe waterboarding and “aggressive interrogation tactics” (the term used by the CBS poll) are justified. The CBS poll also tells us that 69% believe that waterboarding is a form of torture. Unfortunately, through some combination of poor questionnaire design (waterboarding and “aggressive interrogation” should not have been lumped together like that) and poor reporting of the polls, we don’t know how many people both 1) believe waterboarding is torture, and 2) believe it is justified. Even Dick Cheney won’t say in so many words that he believes torture – a word he barely admits exists in the English language – is justified, but many ordinary Americans... did I mention that we kind of suck?

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Today -100: December 16, 1914: On all sound and sensible lines

Turkey returns the British consul they removed from the Italian consulate in Yemen and apologized (to Italy).

Henry Stimson, who was Taft’s secretary of war and would hold the job again during World War II, says the US is militarily “a great, helpless, unprepared nation.” He wants more ammunition and a bigger navy.

Pres. Wilson writes to the University Commission on Southern Race Questions that “I know myself as a Southern man how sincerely the heart of the South desires the good of the negro and the advancement of his race on all sound and sensible lines... It is a matter of common understanding.”

Michigan Gov. Ferris paroles a prisoner sentenced to life in 1904 for stealing a couple of hams.

Pancho Villa’s men are said to have executed 100 to 150 people in Mexico City.

Pancho Villa drinks alcohol for the first time in his life, with Zapata. Mescal, which the NYT informs its gringo readers is not a beginner’s drink.

Turkey orders every Palestinian to support the war effort by supplying one sack and one tin can.

Women car salesmen. Whatever was the world coming to?

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Today -100: December 15, 1914: Let our hearts beat to God, our fists beat the enemy

Serbia takes Belgrade back from the Austrians, who now hold only a tiny amount of Serbian territory.

Headline of the Day -100: “Ducks Used as Decoys Trap 17,000 Serbs.” Serb spies in Mitrovica manipulated the number of ducks on the River Save (I’m not sure how) to signal the numbers and movements of Austrian troops, until the Austrians figured out the system and used it against them.

A Berlin newspaper asks people how Germans at home should keep Christmas this year. Berlin Police Chief von Jagow: “Let our hearts beat to God, our fists beat the enemy.” Ho ho ho.

The French army asks the families of soldiers not to send so many Christmas packages to the front.

The provincial council of Iceland (still a colony of Denmark) has resigned after refusing to agree to a new constitution which would give the Danish State Council the right to discuss Icelandic affairs.

The US again demands that Mexicans stop shooting at each other where the bullets might cross the border. Naco, Arizona has been getting a little bit shot up lately. Both sides say it’s the other side whose bullets are going astray.

Some humorist put up a sign in a cemetery in Croatia: “Fifth levy of conscripts. Arise ye dead! The Emperor Franz Josef has need of you!”

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Today -100: December 14, 1914: Of stamps, raids, and tabernacles

The French Post Office announces that stamps to certain parts of Alsace will now cost only ten centimes. In other words, France has re-annexed part of the Lost Provinces. Or the post office has.

There are reports that Turkey is hanging some Armenians in the streets.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Supposedly, Turkish naval crews have mutinied against their German officers, who were behaving like, well, German officers.

The Turks stormed the Italian consulate in Hodeidha (in Yemen, then part of the Ottoman Empire) to grab British Consul G.A. Richardson. The Italians are not best pleased and neither, I assume, is Mr. Richardson.

Collier’s Weekly sends an investigator to Atlanta to look into the Leo Frank case. He reports what everyone else has: Frank is innocent, unfair trial, etc.

Frank Cannon, the first US senator from Utah in the 1890s and now an anti-Mormon activist, comes to New York City to warn against Mormon plans to build a tabernacle in the city and send in 2,500 missionaries. Now that they can’t proselytize in Europe, out-of-work missionaries figure New York City is the next best thing.

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