Saturday, April 29, 2017

Today -100: April 29, 1917: Of separate peaces, conscription, and small nationalities

Austria has been putting out peace feelers towards Russia, suggesting that it has given up its plans to carve out Russia’s Polish territories. This is pissing off the German press, because it means that Austria and Germany may no longer have shared war aims.

Conscription (“selective service”) passes the House 397-24 and the Senate 81-8. Both houses vote to double the current pay of enlisted men. The Senate version would draft men aged 21 to 27, the House version 21 to 40. States will be responsible for providing a number of soldiers proportionate to their population. No sign-up bonus will be allowed, no paying for substitutes as in the Civil War.

200 members of Congress cable Prime Minister Lloyd George, asking him to “settle the Irish problem” in accordance with Woodrow Wilson’s principle of waging war “for the world-wide safety of democracy and of small nationalities.” They don’t mention, oh I don’t know, India, which to be fair is a fucking huge nationality.

Guatemala breaks relations with Germany.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Today -100: April 28, 1917: Of suspicious, surly, dangerous neighbors, conscription, and olde timey pasttimes

British Prime Minister Lloyd George says getting the Irish to support the war is essential to winning it quickly. “We must convert Ireland from a suspicious, surly, dangerous neighbour to a cheerful, loyal comrade.” Well if that doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will.

Congress is still working on conscription. Opposition to it is fading for no obvious reason. The House rejects an amendment authorizing Pres. Wilson to accept Theodore Roosevelt’s request to be allowed to raise a volunteer regiment to be sent immediately (if not sooner) to France. Actually, there’s nothing stopping Wilson doing this now if he wants; this amendment is TR’s attempt to do an end run around the opposition of Wilson and the War Department to his plan.

The New York State Senate passes a bill banning the past-time practiced at your classier recreational resorts of paying to throw baseballs at the heads of negroes.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Today -100: April 27, 1917: The world cannot exist half democratic and half autocratic

A German newspaper says Woodrow Wilson’s reported support for a Jewish state in Palestine (which if true I’ve missed) is “an English war aim against Turkey,” aimed at creating a land bridge between the British territories of Egypt and India.

Former senator, secretary of state and secretary of war Elihu Root, who will soon leave for Russia as part of a commission to coordinate war efforts, tells the American Society of International Law that the war against Germany is the great peace movement. “The world cannot exist half democratic and half autocratic. It must be all democratic or all Prussian.”

Woodrow Wilson writes the editor of the New York Evening Journal to deny any intention to use the broad powers of the Espionage Bill to suppress criticism. He almost sounds sincere. Well, until he adds a few adjectives, saying he wouldn’t want to lose “the benefit of patriotic and intelligent criticism.” “Unless it’s by that fucker Eugene Debs,” he doesn’t add, it’s just kind of implied, but then Wilson’s tolerance for patriotic and intelligent criticism of himself was never very high and declined steadily during the war.

Again, the Espionage Act is still in force and it’s the law Obama used to go after leakers. Or, as Glenn Greenwald would point out, to selectively go after only those leakers who damaged the White House politically.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Today -100: April 26, 1917: Some Americans have at last begun to hit

The US steamship Mongolia sinks a German u-boat. Theodore Roosevelt, on hearing the news: “Thank heaven, some Americans have at last begun to hit.”

In Congress, Speaker of the House “Champ” Clark speaks for an hour against conscription: “So far as Missourians are concerned, there is precious little difference between a conscript and a convict.” And it’s unnecessary because “There is not a scintilla of evidence that we are a race of cowards or mollycoddles.”

The Espionage Bill has been altered in Congress to make it a little less of a threat to the First Amendment. It would now outlaw collecting military information only if done with the intention of injuring the United States.

Russian peasants are seizing land.

Lenin has split from the Social Democrats and formed a Communist party.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Today -100: April 25, 1917: The disgrace of a draft

Speaker of the House “Champ” Clark says he doesn’t think conscription will pass. “I am for letting the flower and youth of this country volunteer before we fasten the disgrace of a draft upon them.”

The NYC Mayor’s Recruiting Committee asks the police to protect recruiting posters, which are being torn down and defaced.

Earlier this month Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia’s plane was shot down and he was shot and captured as he tried to get back to his lines. The French are claiming that when he was dying he asked for his wife to be allowed to visit him and the French and British authorities gave permission but Germany refused it – in handwriting Freddy recognized as that of his second cousin Kaiser Wilhelm. He raged, the French say, that the kaiser wouldn’t let the princess leave Germany because she would tell the truth about the hunger and discontent in Germany, even in the Imperial court.

Lenin leads a march on the American Embassy in Petrograd in protest at the death of anarchist Thomas Mooney, who is not in fact dead but in prison for the bombing of a preparedness parade in San Francisco last year, which he did not do.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Today -100: April 24, 1917: Of turkeys, plots, and glass bullets

Turkey breaks diplomatic relations with the United States because the US is now at war with its ally, though it refrains from declaring war at this time (and indeed for the rest of the war). US Ambassador Abram Elkus is too sick (with typhus) to leave Ankara at the moment.

The NYT hears from “sources intimately familiar with Central American men and affairs” that the Germans plotted to start revolutions in Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador and create a united country under Julián Irías of Nicaragua, and maybe get Colombia to join in with the promise of getting Panama back. But the plot was thwarted last December by “countermeasures.” Yeah, no.

Germany is using glass bullets on the Russian front. Yeah, no.

(I made a late addition to yesterday's post: Buster Keaton's first movie).

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Today -100: April 23, 1917: Of commissions and war-mad pastors

A British “commission” headed by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour arrives in the US for consultations.

Headline of the Day -100: 

The Rev. Dr. Robert Berry of the Armour Villa Park Chapel in Yonkers decides that God wants all Prussians killed. Including his wife. Especially his wife.

Now playing: The Fatty Arbuckle movie “The Butcher Boy,” featuring one Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton in his first role.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Today -100: April 22, 1917: Of khaki, neutrality, and German food talk

Sen. Frank Kellogg (R-Minnesota) pressures Canada into ending its advertisements in US newspapers for farm laborers which promised high wages (and escape from the US draft) if they came to Canada.

Before the war, Germany led the world in chemical-based industries like dyes. US companies have had to step in, which is just as well now that it’s going to war, as the only pre-war source of khaki dye was German.

Spain has a new government, and it will maintain the country’s neutrality too.

Greece’s King Constantine is cajoling/threatening the Allies: he’ll allow the formation of a pro-Entente government only if they agree to let him keep being king and not invade Greece. If not, he’ll take Greece into the war on the other side.

Argentina threatens that if Germany doesn’t take responsibility for sinking a sailing ship, it will break off relations and arm its ships.

Headline of the Day -100: 

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Today -100: April 21, 1917: Of reasonable censorship and outrageous monarchies

After days of pissing off every newspaper in the country by persisting with provisions in the Espionage Bill so broad and so vague as to put every reporter covering military matters in jeopardy of prosecution, the White House backs off a bit, and the bill is altered so that the president’s regulations must be “reasonable.” And rules against gathering information or asking questions about national defenses are removed. The bill now specifically says public discussion and criticism of government policies won’t be illegal. So that’s good.

H.G. Wells writes to the London Times suggesting it is time to dump the monarchy and establish a republic to set a good example for other countries, He is especially thinking of Greece, joining the chorus of Allies trying to get rid of King Constantine. “A King has always been an outrage upon the ancient Republican traditions of Athens,” Wells says. The Times does not agree with Wells’s support of republicanism in Britain, nor will it publish George Bernard Shaw’s letter noting that “The fundamental case against monarchy is that it rests on a basis of idolatry that can no longer be maintained.”

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