Saturday, February 13, 2016

Today -100: February 13, 1916: No one wants to be needlessly nasty to Germans


Italy has been at war with Austria for nearly 9 months, but not with Germany, and only now breaks off trade relations with it. Italy will declare war on Germany in 6 months.

Canada, still in the midst of an anti-German panic following the burning of the Parliament buildings in what it pleases Canadians to think was an arson attack, is targeting Germans in government posts. August Kastella is asked to resign as Superintendent of Dredging. He refuses. So he’ll be fired, although they’ll pretend it’s not because of his German birth but because he’s, I don’t know, bad at superintending dredging.

The New York Symphony Orchestra cancels a planned Canadian tour because it fears hostility towards those of its musicians who are German. The Ottawa Journal applauds the decision: “No one in Canada wants to be needlessly nasty to Germans, we hope, but we have a right to insist on the safety of our soldiers and our interests of all kinds.” Yeah, I hear a German oboist once took down an entire battalion.

Boston upper crust types really don’t like Louis Brandeis. Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell and 54 Bostonians send the Senate a petition against Brandeis’s appointment to the Supreme Court, citing his lack of the proper “judicial temperament,” which may be their term for foreskin. The NYT lists the signers so readers at home can play “Who Has the Most Boston Brahmin Name?” For my money: Pierpont L. Stackpole.

That banquet for the Archbishop of Chicago where 150 guests got sick? Arsenic poisoning. The archbishop (and the governor of Illinois, the mayor of Chicago, etc) are ok. Police are looking for “Jean Crones,” the assistant chef at the University Club and an anarchist. An actual anarchist, I hasten to add, mindful of the Chicago PD’s propensity to describe anyone they don’t like as an anarchist. One of the guests, a Dr. J.B. Murphy, himself suffering from poisoning, directed the mixture of an emetic. That plus the fact that the soup (chicken soup, by the way) had been watered down at the last minute when extra guests showed up meant that no one died.

The police investigation of Crones (real name Nestor Dondoglio) will turn up such details as that he never associated with women and that he and his anarchist friends wore black ties with windsor knots. Crones escaped to New York and wrote badly spelled taunting catch-me-if-you-can letters to the NYT, helpfully including his fingerprints so they could confirm it was him. His third letter says he was radicalized by the Ludlow Massacre. After that letter, he disappeared forever, remaining in hiding the rest of his life, assisted by various anarchist and Wobbly types, until he died in 1932.


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Friday, February 12, 2016

Today -100: February 12, 1916: This new terror leaves us cold


Lindley Garrison says his resignation as secretary of war is not an attack on Wilson and he is now out of politics and no, he does not want to be governor of New Jersey.

A “special cable” to the NYT from Manila, Philippines, insists that “anti-independence sentiment is found everywhere” and that “The leaders of all the native parties are privately opposed to the Clarke amendment.” Privately.

Emma Goldman is arrested in New York for “having lectured on a medical question in defiance of Section 1,142 of the Penal Code.” Birth control, the NYT really can’t just say it was birth control? This may (or may not) be the first time someone is charged for speaking about birth control, as opposed to distributing written materials. Goldman will be sentenced to 15 days in the workhouse.

Just out: the first issue of The Wipers Times, a newspaper by and for British soldiers issued under various names as the front lines moved (“Wipers” being what Tommies called Ypres), containing poetry and satire. Some excerpts:
“May I through the medium of your valuable paper call attention to the disgraceful state of repair the roads are getting into.” 
“a German band was heard playing at about 11-30 a.m. This new terror leaves us cold, as we take it to be only another phase of frightfulness.” 
“For Sale, cheap. Desirable Residence.  Climate warm, fine view. Splendid links close by, good shooting. Terms moderate. Owner going abroad. –Apply Feddup, Gordon Farm, nr Wipers.” [Gordon Farm is a real place] 
The world wasn’t made in a day;
And Eve didn’t ride on a ‘bus,
But most of the world’s in a sandbag
The rest of it’s plastered on us.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Today -100: February 11, 1916: Of garrisons, eras of infinite prosperity, new frightfulness, and bad soup


Secretary of War Lindley Garrison resigns. He is upset that Pres. Wilson backed away from the plan for a “Continental Army” after it proved to be deeply unpopular amongst the general public and Congress, which didn’t want the state national guards superseded. Garrison also opposes Filipino independence, which Wilson supports. Assistant Secretary of War Henry Breckinridge (who is only 29, although he has the name of a 59-year-old) also resigns, out of loyalty to Garrison.

Woodrow Wilson tells a Chamber of Commerce dinner that if the US can keep out of the war, “an era of infinite prosperity is ahead of us.” His speech makes no mention of Garrison’s resignation.

Germany and Austria will announce that starting March 1st any merchant ships armed with guns will be treated as hostile and sunk without warning. Or, as the Daily Mail (London) puts it, “New U-Boat Murder Campaign to Start March 1.” Other British papers report “New Plea for Piracy” (The Times) and “Germany Prepares World for New Frightfulness” (the Express).

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: A Canadian doctor claims to have seen a German u-boat, caught in British nets, whose crew had all been shot in the head by the sub’s commander, who had then killed himself, and that the same thing happened in 3 other captured subs.

At Senate sub-committee hearings on the Louis Brandeis nomination of to the Supreme Court, C.W. Barron of the Wall Street Journal accuses Brandeis of various acts of professional malfeasance, including “procur[ing] the signature of an old and dying man to a deed of trust by questionable means.” He also accuses him of having tried to wreck the New York & England Railroad and of switching sides on cases (which is one way to interpret Brandeis’s insistence on following his conscience as a lawyer, usually refusing to take fees on public interest cases so that he could do so).

150 guests at a banquet in honor of George Mundelein, the new archbishop of Chicago, are taken ill. More will be heard of this.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Today -100: February 10, 1916: Wherein trousers are dropped from an aeroplane


Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes says he is “totally opposed” to the suggestion that he run for president and he is “entirely out of politics.” So I guess that settles that.

Name of the Day -100: the man to whom Hughes wrote those things, Rep. C. Bascom Slemp (R-Virginia).

Belgium rejects a German offer of a separate peace, passed through the papal nuncio to Belgium. Under the offer, they would get their king back and Germany would control Antwerp (and its port). (Follow-up: Belgium will soon deny that there was any such offer).

Elly Reuss, a 75-year-old Seventh Day Adventist in Germany, is sentenced by a military tribunal to 7 months for preaching that soldiers shouldn’t kill. On the sabbath. The other 6 days of the week, anything goes.

The US and Germany are still negotiating over the Lusitania.  It’s down to a single word. The US wants Germany to “recognize” its liability to pay indemnities for the deaths of Americans rather than “assume” that liability, in other words to make it a matter of international law rather than Germany paying up voluntarily out of the goodness of its heart.

Book of the Day -100: Theodore Roosevelt’s Fear God and Take Your Own Part. A collection of articles on subjects warlike,


it became a best-seller.

Another chivalric story of the Modern Day Knights of the Air™: A British aeroplane is brought down by a German plane and the captured pilot’s trousers are simply ruined. He makes such a fuss about it that the German pilot who shot him down gets back in his plane and drops a note over the British lines. An hour later a British plane drops a pair of trousers. Could this silly story possibly be true?

Following on from the panic (or whatever passes for panic in Canada) over the Germans who undoubtedly probably burned down the Parliament building comes a scare over just how many people of German parentage or even German birth there are in the Canadian government.

Headline of the Day -100:


That dude will eat anything. The former president tells a dinner of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs how when he was governor  of the Philippines he introduced baseball as a way to bore civilize the natives. He says it entirely converted mountain tribes from the Filipino National Pastime (head hunting) to the American one.


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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Today -100: February 9, 1916: Of settlements, bopps, anthems, and spies


The US and Germany seem to have reached an arrangement over the Lusitania. They will agree to disagree on whether Germany’s policy of reprisals (against the British blockade) is legal, but Germany will admit that the attack on the Lusitania was unjustified in that it involved the lives of citizens of neutral nations, and they won’t do it again.

Spoiler Alert: They will totally do it again.

A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicts German Consul General Franz Bopp for conspiracies to blow up ammunition factories and ships and for having a silly name. 31 others are also indicted, including the Turkish consul.

Kaiser Wilhelm has, in his copious free time, written a new national anthem. The one they’ve got has the same tune as the British “God Save the King.” Willy wants Richard Strauss to compose the music. You know, I don’t think he ever did.

The House of Representatives fires a telephone operator at its switchboard after he is accused of being a “Republican spy.”


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Monday, February 08, 2016

Today -100: February 8, 1916: Phew


The Mexican consul to the US denies reports that he has documents (among those left when Pancho Villa’s regime hastily retreated from Juarez) proving a plot between Villa and the Japanese to invade the United States.


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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Today -100: February 7, 1916: You can civilize the Mexicans without massacring them


Henry Ford, preparing a new, mysterious peace project, says that those calling the loudest for preparedness are also trying to get the US to invade Mexico. “In Mexico the problem easily can be solved by educating the people of that country to industry. ... You can civilize the Mexicans without massacring them.”


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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Today -100: February 6, 1916: The finger of God is beckoning us to go in and possess that land


Germany gives the US its “final” answer on the Lusitania. It complies with most of the US’s demands (reparations, not sinking civilian ships without warning in the future and letting the passengers and crew get to safety), but it won’t use the word “illegal” to describe the Lusitania sinking.

The NYT denounces the bill to give the Philippines independence as “a violation of the trust imposed upon them [the Senate] when possession of the Philippines was taken over from Spain by the McKinley Administration.” It does not explain who “imposed” that “trust” on them. That trust included “teach[ing] them the principles of free government,” because nothing teaches the principles of free government like colonial rule based on right of conquest. “The Filipinos themselves will in time protest against the withdrawal.” Any... day... now...

The Republican Club hears a talk by Ralph Ely, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Committee, calling for the US to annex Old Mexico: “The finger of God is beckoning us to go in and possess that land, for we are the chosen people of today.” The next speaker is W.E.B. Du Bois, who “made a rapid review of what he called injustices to the negroes in the South, and gave statistics of lynchings.” I love the NYT’s “what he called injustices.” So... balanced.

Former president Taft says that primaries are a terrible idea. “From a boss-ridden convention with deliberation you will get better candidates than you will through the primary.”

Inventor Maximilian Weil says battleships could deflect torpedoes with electro-magnets.

Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is performed at the Met on its 100th anniversary. AndrĂ©s de Segurola sings Don Basilio and Maria Barientos is Rosina. Rossini banged out the opera in a couple of weeks when he was 24, which is just plain annoying.


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Friday, February 05, 2016

Today -100: February 5, 1916: They put me in a cell with a murderer, a drunken man, and a white slaver


The Providence Journal, which is basically an arm of the British Secret Service’s propaganda branch at this point, claims to have given the US Justice Dept warning about a plot to burn down the Canadian Parliament Building. Justice denies this.

Canada arrests a suspect in that fire (which was not actually arson). Charles Strony, a Belgian classical violinist and conductor, will be quickly released. The only reason he fell under suspicion was that he happened to be leaving Ottawa for another gig. And he happened to have a postcard picture of the Parliament houses. At the time the fire started, he was performing at the Russell Theatre. “They put me in a cell with a murderer, a drunken man, and a white slaver and made me stand up for nine hours while they told me that I was a liar,” says Strony.

The Senate follows the House in voting for Philippines independence by 1921.

John Griffith, the passenger on the SS Appam with the pet leopard, is worried that the cat (whose name is Pompey), who is still aboard the ship, is moping.

Not sure what happened to Pompey. He may have wound up in a US zoo.


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