Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Today -100: August 30, 1916: Of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, jail breaks, and choo choo trains

Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg is appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff, a staff which is both general and imperial. This puts into place the comedy duo of Hindenburg ‘n Ludendorff, which will run the army and increasingly the country until the end of the war.

German saboteur Robert Fay busts out of the Atlanta federal prison along with an American prisoner in for mail fraud. They pretended to be electricians and a rather trusting guard let them out to repair a wire.

Before a joint session of Congress, Woodrow Wilson presents his proposals to prevent a rail strike: the 8-hour day, a ban on strikes and lockouts while a government board investigates disputes, letting railroads increase their rates to compensate for increased costs, and giving the president the authority to force railroad workers to operate trains transporting troops and military supplies. Congress is dubious, especially about rushing all this legislation through before it adjourns, or indeed before the strike is scheduled to commence. And some Republicans claim the 8-hour day is unconstitutional, because of course they do (the Supreme Court will rule otherwise). This will be the first federal law regulating hours of work in private industry. The unions consider the temporary ban on strikes to amount to slavery, but are mostly okay with the rest of it, you know, the non-slavery bits. Actually, Wilson is talking about giving arbitration decisions the force of law, which seems a little slaveryish, as does literally drafting train crews to run military-related trains.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Today -100: August 29, 1916: And still more war is declared

Romania declares war on Austria, Germany declares war on Romania, and Austria gets so excited it accidentally declares war on itself. That’s 15 nations/empires at war with each other (don’t forget San Marino!) and 26 or 27 declarations of war.

Romania sets out its reasons: ethnic Romanians in the Habsburg Empire (specifically in Transylvania) are exposed to the hazards of war; Romanian entry will totally shorten the war, possibly by hours; the Entente are best positioned to help Romania realize its national ideal (I think that means annexing Transylvania). Long expected, the declaration seems to have been delayed until the harvest was in.

This (combined with Italy’s declaration of war on Germany) is not good news for the Central Powers, stretching out their forces along an additional 900 miles of front. Also, Romania had been supplying a lot of their oil, as well as wheat and copper. And Germany had been paying them in ammunition, which will now be returned to Germany – at high speed.

The Berliner Tageblatt affects boredom with Italy’s move: “We have waiting for this declaration of war without impatience of unrest, with the same apathy with which one awaits a thunderstorm that is already visible in the sky. Our umbrella has long been raised. In Italy the declaration may be regarded as a great deed, and may be accompanied with the usual demonstration. In Germany it leaves the public ice-cold.”

Supposedly the Austrian authorities in the Chelm District of Poland have banned Jews from traveling. And if Jews keep “spreading for speculative purposes [that is, to affect the prices of goods] alarming rumors” about military conditions, the Jewish community will be fined.

The railroad unions have issued a strike order for September 4th, and Pres. Wilson is not best pleased.

Former President Taft says he walked four city blocks in Chicago and shopped in a store without anyone recognizing him. He says this convinced him that he is through in politics. Evidently he didn’t already know that he is through in politics.

A member of an exclusive London club (which the NYT does not name) breaks  the rule of silence (the Diogenes Club?) to tell a waiter, “Remove that member,” pointing to a member in the next chair who had been dead for three days.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Today -100: August 28, 1916: More war is declared

Italy declares war on Germany. Given that Italian troops in Greece are already facing German ones and that German troops are reportedly on the Italian borders alongside Austrian ones (which Germany denies), this is just acknowledging a state of war that already exists, and that it was pretty silly to declare war on Austria but not Germany to begin with.

Romania also joins the war on the Allied side, though too late for today’s paper.

The Allies are trying to force Greece to join their side by refusing to do anything about the Bulgarian troops which have invaded Greece. Greece thought playing both sides against each other would make Germany restrain the Bulgarians, but no such luck.

Headline of the Day -100:

Also herring.

Southern tobacco farmers arrive in Washington DC to lobby the State Dept to protest Britain’s embargo of tobacco shipments to the Central Powers. The growers say the British did this just to force down the price of the tobacco they buy from the US.

The Red-Headed League of America is formed. Someone alert Sherlock Holmes.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Today -100: August 27, 1916: Of sins against the Fatherland, lynchings, Polish relief, nettoyeurs, polio and altar boys, English eyes, and salt

German Food Dictator Adolf Tortilowitz von Batocki-Friebe asks the women of rural Germany to share their agricultural bounty with their urban sisters. “Any one living on the land who consumes even half a liter of milk or a quarter of a pound more of butter or even an egg more than is absolutely necessary sins against the Fatherland.”

A large mob in Vivian, Louisiana, lynch a black man, Jess Hammet, accused by a white woman of attempted rape. Her parents plead with the crowd not to lynch Hammet.

The railroad owners change their position, dropping even the theoretical 8-hour day. It’s almost like they want a strike.

Britain and France are refusing Woodrow Wilson’s request to allow relief supplies to be sent to Poland, unless Germany promises not only to take none of the supplies, but to take none of Poland’s agricultural products for Germany. Which Germany won’t.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Germany claims that the French Army has squads, called “nettoyeurs” (cleaners), whose sole job is to wander around war zones looking for wounded German soldiers to kill.

Deputy sheriffs on Long Island prevent polio victims entering a private isolation hospital in Woodmere, threatening to shoot anyone who tried to bring a patient into the hospital. Crowds of locals are threatening to burn it down.

NY state Supreme Court Justice Carr took over as altar boy at a Catholic Church since the regular altar boys are barred from church because of the polio epidemic.

At an inquiry of some sort in Dublin into the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington during the Easter Rising hears his widow Hannah deny that he was wearing a green uniform (he wasn’t). Her sister Mary Kettle (wife of former MP Tom Kettle, who will shortly die on the Somme) describes Capt. Bowen-Colthurst, who was found guilty but insane, which she obviously doesn’t buy for a minute, as one of the “cold, collected type of Englishman whose eyes showed the cruel, cold look which went with an unimaginative nature.”

A Polish immigrant Benny Niegodowsky, is rescued after 12 days lost in a salt mine in upstate New York. Which is what happens when you decide to take a nap on the job – in a fucking salt mine. He is very thirsty.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Today -100: August 26, 1916: Is Mr. Wilson a simple vacillator, or is he an old-fashioned political humbug?

New York City polio death toll = 1,785 and they think it’s nearly over and the schools can open in a month.

A national railroad strike is close. The owners are willing to accept an 8-hour day – “in principle” – but not for the same pay, with pay to be determined by the arbitration they love so much. And they want to be allowed to increase freight rates, which would require Congress’s approval, which is unlikely before Congress’s imminent adjournment. Rep. Augustus Gardner (R-Maine) plans to make a speech accusing Wilson of... something: “Is Mr. Wilson a simple vacillator, or is he an old-fashioned political humbug?”

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Today -100: August 25, 1916: It was part of the war and of our courage

The Women’s Social and Political Union, in its newspaper Britannia, says that the possibility of conscientious objectors voting is an insult to women, involving as it does the theory “that men do not vote on account of any service rendered to the state, but simply and solely because they happen to be males.” One can remember a time when the WSPU opposed the idea that men had the vote and women did not because only men could fight wars.

They should be happy that at the next election, women (some women) will vote but conscientious objectors will not.

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, until recently the head of the Germany Navy, has evidently issued a “manifesto” – issued in what form is not clear because of German censorship – demanding a return to unrestricted submarine warfare.

The upper house of the Danish parliament, the Landsthing, votes to postpone the sale of the Danish West Indies to the United States until after the war or a general election, whichever comes first.

The French Army orders soldiers to shave off their beards. A general claims that the aggregate weight of those beards is 120 tons – “it is natural that the staff should think of relieving the army of this considerable and useless weight.” I suspect the order had more to do with poilu fitting into gas masks. French intellectuals have weighed in, as is the Gallic custom. Edmond Rostand (author of the play Cyrano de Bergerac) says the beard is a symbol of “all the beauty of all of France, a soul, a jewel, a torch, a prod,” whatever the fuck that means. Henri Bergson (philosophe): “the visage is matter, while the beard is mind.” Maurice Barrès (novelist, righty politician) says the beard is “a heritage of long ago in which the dead lived again and which bound us mysteriously to the soil. ... It was part of the war and of our courage.” Henri Bataille (playwright, poet) calls the beard “a nest of souvenirs [and baguette crumbs], dear and tender, somewhat timid, and a little shivery.” I may have added the bit about baguette crumbs – it was implied. Auguste Rodin (sculptor and the only one of these dudes with an actual beard, which I know because research): “Men without beards, women without sex, statues without heads, bodies without arms, humanity without weakness, that is my opinion.”

As it happens, none of the above was true, although the NYT correspondent was thoroughly taken in. It’s from Le Fuse, a trench paper along the lines of the Wipers Times.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Today -100: August 24, 1916: Of rationing, war treason, polio, and Jews

Germany will extend meat rationing to the entire country. 250 grams per week. Reports in Britain claim that there are hunger riots in Hamburg. In Berlin a woman who stole two loaves of bread because she was hungry is found not guilty of failing to leave behind ration coupons, the court ruling that coupons are only required for legal commerce. She still goes to jail for the theft.

Karl Liebnecht appeals his sentence for “war treason,” so his sentence is increased to 4 years, with deprivation of civil rights for 6 years.

New York department stores are refusing to accept returns of children’s clothes, toys, etc, because of polio.

Russia plans to give Jews equal rights when the Duma reconvenes in November.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Today -100: August 23, 1916: In the dim distance we can see the end

In Parliament, War Minister Lloyd George says “I think in the dim distance we can see the end” of the war. He says criticisms of the Allied performance at the Battle of the Somme are unjustified because they never really intended to break through German lines (false), they succeeded in drawing German troops away from Verdun and relieving the situation there (true), and German losses are much higher than those of the Allies (false).

Winston Churchill says Britain should prepare for a long war and the government should take over food supplies and prices as well as shipping, which has seen scandalous increases in rates.

Prime Minister Asquith, responding to a parliamentary question about whether he would recall Parliament from its forthcoming adjournment if peace proposals are made, says no.

Headline of the Day -100:

Unless, of course, you consider war to be itself a form of insanity.

The NYT notes that Republicans have stopped referring to their presidential candidate as “Justice Hughes” in favor of “Governor Hughes.” The Times, which seems to have more than a few resentments left over from his period in Albany, castigates Hughes for his support of direct primaries then and the women’s suffrage amendment now, “another instance of the same precipitate and complete absorption in a single unripe idea, the same ignoring of practical facts, the same lack of plain common sense.”

The US will ask Turkey politely not to massacre the Armenian survivors of its previous massacres who are now refugees in Persia, where Turkey is conducting military operations. Spoiler Alert: Turkey will totally massacre Armenian survivors of its previous massacres.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Today -100: August 22, 1916: Of fines, battle cries, teachers, philanders, and protectorates

German occupation forces rescinds the fine they imposed on Brussels for celebrating the Belgian national holiday.

The British military warns Irish newspapers not to criticize the government. The government has also given itself power to prevent people entering Ireland from overseas (i.e., the United States) and deport those who entered after March 1, even British (including Irish) citizens.

The movie company Vitagraph sues Henry Ford for accusing their 1915 film “The Battle Cry of Peace” of being part of a campaign for military preparedness in the interests of munitions manufacturers. Vitagraph demands $1 million in damages. The film itself cost $250,000. And is now lost.

Speaking of lost movies, there were plans for a meeting of the British Cabinet to be filmed, but Parliament put the kibosh on it because the whole idea is vulgar. So very vulgar.

Although New York City will delay the new school year because of polio, teachers will still be paid, but they will have to sit through lectures and conferences.

Remember Philander Knox, Taft’s hilariously named secretary of state? His son is in Reno preparatory to filing for divorce. Philander Knox, Jr.

Woodrow Wilson is trying to turn the Dominican Republic into the sort of protectorate Haiti is, with the US running all its finances for it. The current American general receiver of customs in the DR is threatening to withhold payments to Dominican officials until they cave.

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