Monday, April 27, 2015

Today -100: April 27, 1915: Of dardanelles, war babies, last shots, and funny fat men


Headline of the Day -100:


The Morning Post (UK) is already calling for Winston Churchill’s hide for the mishandled Dardanelles campaign. They say he ignored the military’s advice by insisting that the Dardanelles could be forced through naval bombardments alone, without landing soldiers. The London Times, however, complains that the UK is attempting too many military campaigns simultaneously, with side-shows like the Dardanelles drawing resources away from the main show on the Western front.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will head a committee to investigate “war babies” – who they are, where do they come from, what do they want, etc. No, really, it’s planning to determine “the steps to be taken if the problem proves a serious one”. What “steps” might those be? Harrumphing, I imagine. Lots and lots of harrumphing.

The British are blaming riots in India on Turkish propaganda to Muslims in the Raj. 

The Florida Legislature rejects a resolution for a women’s suffrage referendum.

The New York World takes a poll of “prominent” men about women’s suffrage. They’re against it.

Headline of the Day -100:  



Obit of the Day -100: John Bunny, the “famous funny fat man” as the LAT refers to him, who is considered the first major film comedian for such shorts as A Cure for Pokeritis, Bunny and the Twins, Bunny Buys a Hat for His Bride, Bunny Buys a Harem, The Pickwick Papers, etc. A few survive and can be seen on YouTube. “The name of John Bunny,” the NYT says, “will always be linked with the movies. ... at the time of his death his face was one of the best known in the world.”  This face.


There’s an article on Bunny in the next Sunday NYT Magazine written by Joyce Kilmer, who suggests that cinema has revived the art of pantomime.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Today -100: April 26, 1915: Of treacherous projectiles, massacres, and hat critics


Germany admits to using poison gas, although only, in the words of the Frankfurter Zeitung, “as a reply to the treacherous projectiles of the English and French.” Treacherous projectiles are the worst kind. The French report that the Germans are using chlorine gas. No shells, they’re just letting it loose when the winds are pointing in the direction of the French trenches, and hoping it doesn’t change direction.

Italy is still negotiating simultaneously with the Allies and with Austria, whose latest offer is that Trieste be given autonomy rather than be handed over to Italy outright. It’s almost like Austria doesn’t take seriously the threat of the mighty Italian military.

In fact, on this day Italy signed a secret treaty with the Allies. Italy would enter the war and in return get large portions of Austria, Albania (well, as a protectorate, but we all know what that means), some of Germany’s colonies, etc. Italy would only get some of this after the war, and threw a decades-long sulk over the slight to its (very minor) contributions to the Allied victory, a sulk which helped Mussolini take power.

Reports from Armenia say that the inhabitants of 10 Armenian villages have been massacred. One thing about the Armenian Genocide: everyone knew it was going on, right from the start, and knew many of the details, if they cared to.

Headline of the Day -100: 



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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Today -100: April 25, 1915: The free sea was not given by God to England to be rented out to various tenants


Bernhard Dernburg, a former German minister of colonies who has been in New York making semi-official but deniable statements about Germany’s positions, says that if Britain wants Germany to leave Belgium, it just has to agree to neutralized seas (“The free sea was not given by God to England to be rented out to various tenants”), free cable (meaning telegraphic communications, not free HBO, although Dernburg is a huuuuge Game of Thrones fan), a recodification of international law, and German expansion “in parts of the world where that expansion would not be objected to by the people of the lands to be settled,” wherever that might be.  “There will never be any universal peace,” he tells the University Club in Brooklyn, “until the German people have the same chance and the same right to branch out as have the people of other nations.” I believe there’s a word for that in German...

The Terra Haute city council impeaches Mayor Donn Roberts, evidently thinking he can’t continue to perform the job from his current location in Leavenworth Prison.

A play currently being performed in Frankfurt, Germany, “Wir Barbaren” (We Barbarians), is a musical comedy about Allied atrocity charges against Germany.

All the French feminist organizations are refusing to send delegates to the Hague peace conference (French feminists are perhaps the most blood-thirsty). Germany has banned German delegates and also Swiss ones from traveling through Germany.

Another article about British feminists and the conference quotes Emmeline Pankhurst accusing daughter Christabel of being influenced by the German propagandists she claims are behind the conference. That would be Sylvia, NYT: Sylvia was the anti-war firebrand, Christabel the pro-war one. Forgotten daughter Adela, now in Australia, is also anti-war. Anyway, the Home Office has given passports to 20 women it will allow to go to the Hague (out of c.120 who wanted to go), which is a charade because they also stopped all passenger ships going there.

The LAT reports that there are only a few doctors remaining in Glasgow, and people have been asked to call doctors only in an emergency. School authorities are being asked to do without school medical officers. The doctor shortage, evidently hitting Glasgow earlier than elsewhere in Britain, is of course related to the war and will continue throughout, leading, as you might guess, to greatly improved general health among civilians.

235 Armenian political, religious, and intellectual leaders are arrested in Constantinople overnight, and murdered.


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Friday, April 24, 2015

Genocide and the passive voice


It’s the 100th anniversary of the genocide that dare not speak its name. Or at least whose name American presidents dare not speak. Thee Armenian Genocide. Barack Obama issued a statement.

He doesn’t use the word genocide, but he does call it “the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century.” I assume in the hierarchy of violence to which all leaders subscribe, the mass atrocities inflicted in the many 20th century wars that preceded 1915 don’t count as mass atrocities because they are the legitimate acts of governments, just as drone strikes don’t count as murder.

Also, the Armenian Genocide was not the first mass atrocity of the 20th century, it wasn’t even the first genocide. Hello, Herero people of Namibia! Sorry we keep forgetting you!

“the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths.” All that passive voice. Deported by whom? Massacred by whom? Did they march to their deaths because they really enjoyed marching?

Also note the use of the archaic-sounding “Ottoman Empire” rather than Turkey.

“Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides...” Wow, even Bush didn’t straight up adopt Turkey’s everybody-was-doing-it narrative.

Then he sort of skips past the specifics of mass atrocity to celebrating Ambassador Henry Morgenthau for collecting information about what was going on and making it public, and the American people for relief work. All of which is worth celebrating, but really, dude, everything that happens is the world is not all about us.

“I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.” You haven’t used the word “genocide” since 2008, so don’t trumpet your consistency.  “Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past.” Like remember that time I had to admit blowing up some hostages “accidentally” with a missile shot from another thing whose name I don’t use? Good times.

Now go read today’s Jon Schwarz post on the subject.


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Today -100: April 24, 1915: Of incidental gases, and tourists


Headline of the Day -100:


I’m not sure what the point of lying about it is. If your poison gas is effective, which admittedly it isn’t yet, your lie is going to be rather easily disproved. I think they’re just lying out of habit now.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: 500 French soldiers have been blinded by some sort of German chemical hand grenades, according to some woman who heard it from some guy.

A Tory newspaper listed all the British Cabinet members it claims failed to follow the king’s example in turning teetotal. The 1st Lord of the Admiralty isn’t in the cabinet, is he? I can’t really imagine Winston giving up champagne and whiskey for the duration.

Allied troops land on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This will go well.

Britain is now also blockading Germany’s Africa colony Kamerun.

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan is refusing to issue passports to Americans who want to visit the battlefields of the Great War as tourists. Evidently a party of potential sightseers had written the State Dept asking how close they might be allowed to the trenches, whether they’d be able to get good pictures of ruins, how much have food prices risen, and “What papers ought one to be sure to carry to be sure to avoid the inconvenience of spy mania?” State has now created a form letter for such inquiries saying that the Dept “believes that the presence of American tourists in and about the places where military operations are being carried on is most undesirable”.


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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Today -100: April 23, 1915: Some corner of a foreign field


Britain stops all shipping between the UK and the Netherlands for unspecified reasons that certainly have nothing to do with preventing delegates going to the peace congress at the Hague.

Headline of the Day -100:


Sounds like some sort of internet sex thing.


Really sounds like some sort of internet sex thing.

Um, yeah.

Danish explorer Algot Lange writes the warden of Sing Sing, asking him to supply Lange with any soon-to-be-released prisoner willing to go with him to Brazil. The prisoner would have to want a fresh start in life (if your idea of a fresh start involves tropical diseases) and be willing to spend three years wandering around the Amazon for no pay. I don’t know how it went – I can find no record of Lange after 1915.

The French government will make war orphans wards of the state.

Adèle Hugo, the mentally ill daughter of novelist Victor Hugo (played by Isabelle Adjani in Truffaut’s The Story of Adele H.), dies at 84.

Killed in action: Rupert Brooke, Bloomsbury Group poet, 27, described by Yeats as the handsomest young man in England. Drink him in:


Well, I say he was killed in action, actually it was an infected mosquito bite. His war poems express the early, optimistic phase of the war, and not the fun depressive, angry, ironic war poems of the later war, but all the better to cement his posthumous image as symbol of all the idealistic pretty young men sacrificed by cynical and/or incompetent old men.

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a foreign field
 That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
 A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
 A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
       Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
 Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
       In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.


Greece, by the way: the foreign field he’s buried in is in Greece.

Update: Nice article on Brooke by Joanna Scutts on the New Yorker website today.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Today -100: April 22, 1915: A day at the circus


The California Legislature rejects a bill to abolish the death penalty (retaining it only for prisoners who assault guards or other prisoners and who are already serving life terms), 38-30.

It also rejects a bill making women eligible for jury duty.

Lloyd George says there are 750,000 British soldiers currently in France. He also says that more ammunition was expended in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle than in the whole of the Boer War.

Leo Frank wants his lawyers to ask for a pardon, given that he’s not actually guilty of anything, but they will ask only for a commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment. Can they do that?

Dickhead of the Day -100:


The Hungarian parliament refuses to vote for war credits.

Glasgow is hiring women as street car conductors to replace men who left for the war.

The British government has decided to cancel the elections that were supposed to be held by the end of the year. Life is so much easier without a real constitution: one law says you have to hold an election, so you pass another law that says you don’t have to hold an election. It will be nearly 8 years between the 1910 election and the 1918 one (the Parliament elected in 1935 sat for 10 years).

The US responds to the German ambassador’s note complaining about US arms sales to the Allies. The US note worries that Amb. Bernstorff’s language “is susceptible of being construed as impugning the good faith of the United States in the performance of its duties as a neutral,” which obviously can’t be what he intended (it’s totally what he intended). The US insists again that it would be a violation of neutrality if it stopped arms sales to one side in the war. The argument goes that since the government currently lacks the legal power to stop such sales, changing the law to give it that power would be un-neutral.

The NYPD conducts simultaneous raids on 24 “free medical museums” and arrest 43 quack “doctors.” The museums feature wax figures showing the effects of cancer, TB, etc. The visitor is then asked if they’d like to see a Viennese doctor (they’re mostly pretending to be Viennese) who will tell them that they in fact have cancer, TB, etc, and sell them cures, such as a $300 bottle of “magic water” supposedly containing radium sold to a widow to cure her baby’s stiff shoulder.

Barnum & Bailey’s Circus performs at Madison Square Garden before 5,000 spectators, who all get to see horseman Otto Kline, whose thing is jumping between racing horses, miss. “The crash as his head struck the boards was heard all over the Garden.” The show went on as doctors worked on Kline backstage, to no avail.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Today -100: April 21, 1915: If any man wants a scrap that is an interesting scrap and worth while, I am his man


Austria is rushing troops to its border with Italy. Just in case.

A few days ago, German zeppelins flew over Britain, got a little lost, dropped some bombs more or less at random, and flew away again. German newspapers, naturally, are thrilled. The Hamburger Fremdenblatt says “Britons have learned that between heaven and earth there are things undreamed of in their philosophy, and they are German things.”

Lloyd George says the British government won’t be introducing conscription.

In retaliation for the Austrians supposedly cutting out the tongue of a Russian scout, Austrian officers taken prisoner by Russia will no longer be allowed to keep their swords, which is evidently humiliating.

Woodrow Wilson gives a speech calling for a policy of “America First,” because one day all those European countries will come to us begging for our “cooler assessment” and help in settling their little differences because “We are the mediating nation of the world.” Because the US is a melting pot, he says, we can understand all nations. Further, the US has no “hampering ambitions” as a world power, or at least no colonial ambitions: “We do not want anything that does not belong to us.” Cough. His desire for neutrality, he says, is not from a “petty desire to keep out of trouble. ... I do not want to walk around trouble. If any man wants a scrap that is an interesting scrap and worth while, I am his man.” But nations, like people, are most respected not when they fight at the drop of a hat, “whether he knows what the hat is dropped for or not” (he doesn’t utter the name Theodore Roosevelt here, but he doesn’t have to, does he) but those with “absolute self-control and self-mastery.” Didn’t George Costanza win that one? “Now, I covet for America this splendid courage of reserve moral force”.

Speaking of hampering ambitions, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan criticizes Rear Admiral Peary (the Arctic explorer)(did someone call him Shnorrer?) for proclaiming, “We cannot stand still. A hundred years hence we shall either be obliterated as a nation or we shall occupy the entire North American world segment.”

Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times):



The Wisconsin Legislature rejects a resolution for a referendum for women’s suffrage. The New Jersey Legislature votes for a special election on women’s suffrage (and other constitutional amendments), but sets it for October 19, so that if it passes it will be too late for the November general elections.

A mob attacks the Louisiana, Missouri jail, attempting to lynch a black man under arrest for stabbing a white man, but are driven off by police gunshots.




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Monday, April 20, 2015

Today -100: April 20, 1915: Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury


The Supreme Court denies Leo Frank’s habeas appeal, ruling 7-2 that his rights were not violated by his not being in court when the verdict was read. It was perfectly valid, the Court says, for Frank to waive his right to be present after being informed that he’d probably be lynched if he were present. They deny that the guilty verdict was in any way influenced by the baying mobs outside the court. Oliver Wendell Holmes dissents, with Charles Evan Hughes concurring: “The argument for the appellee, in substance, is that the trial was in a court of competent jurisdiction, that it retains jurisdiction although, in fact, it may be dominated by a mob, and that the rulings of the state court as to the fact of such domination cannot be reviewed. ... Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury.”  The subtle clue Holmes spots that the jury “responded to the passions of the mob” is, to repeat, that the trial judge thought it prudent that Frank not be in court when the verdict was read, because an acquittal would result in his lynching. “It is our duty... to declare lynch law as little valid when practised by a regularly drawn jury as when administered by one elected by a mob intent on death.”

Frank thinks he won’t be executed, that “Truth and justice will eventually prevail.” Yeah, that’s probably what’ll happen.

A municipal court judge in Chicago dismisses charges against two men who refused to pay for their drinks in a saloon Sunday, because saloons are not allowed to be open on Sunday. Sounds logical to me.

The British government decided not to withhold the passports of the dozens of women who intended to go to the women’s international peace congress at the Hague, because that might look bad. Preventing any ships traveling to the Continent, however... (The article suggests this was just a coincidence. It wasn’t.) Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence will be there only because she’s arriving from the United States.

Theodore Roosevelt tries (and fails) to get William Barnes’s libel suit against him dismissed, saying he didn’t intend any libel against Barnes, just against the boss system of which he and Tammany’s Boss Murphy were the two heads.

Yesterday was “King’s Pledge Sunday,” in which Britishers were encouraged to pledge not to booze it up until the war ends.


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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Today -100: April 19, 1915: Of Constantinograd, pillage, unfortunate accidents with torpedoes, and poison gas


Pavel Milyukov, leader of Russia’s Constitutional Democratic party (the Kadets), says that Russia has the permission of France and Britain to annex Constantinople. He also thinks Austria will be dismembered as a result of this war. And Russian Jews will get equal rights.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Pillage in Smyrna District.” And by pillage, they mean Armenian genocide, now in full swing.

Carranza claims the civil war in Mexico is just about over and Villa defeated.

Germany says it will apologize and pay compensation for torpedoing the Dutch ship Katwijk – if its own investigation determines that “owing to an unfortunate accident, the Katwyk has been torpedoed by a German submarine.”

And it did indeed apologize four weeks later, saying it was unintentional. So that’s okay then.

A German POW “voluntarily” admits that Germany is using poison gas attacks, or is about to. Germany has indeed started doing so, but obviously not very effectively or the Allies wouldn’t require oral confirmation.

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