Friday, December 09, 2016

Today -100: December 9, 1916: I have come to punish your felon of a King

Prospective and actual members of Lloyd George’s new government are being discussed, and everyone hates someone. The Northcliffe paper The Times complains that Arthur Balfour, the possible next foreign minister, would be misplaced in a post “where ruthlessness is needed.” The Daily Mail (another Northcliffe paper) warns against Robert Cecil, the under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, being too much a “sentimentalist” with “tenderness for neutrals” to be in charge of the naval blockade of Germany.

Asquith says pathetically that he can best serve the new government outside the Cabinet, with “the sole object of lending such help as I can to the new government in the great task confronting them.”

The Liberal Party is now strongly divided between followers of Asquith and Lloyd George, whose government therefore depends heavily on Conservative support. The Liberal Party will never recover.

Germany believes that the conquest of Romania, with its vast wheat fields, will win the war by defeating the British blockade. Some of that wheat was intended for export to Britain, which had already paid for it. Germans will be chortling about that little irony for some time to come. Who doesn’t love free wheat?

Germany says that it was necessary to deport all those Belgians to Germany for forced labor because they were all unemployed (actually, Germany has been going after specific categories of employed workers it needs, like miners, employed or not), which is totally Britain’s fault, and all those unemployed people were “degenerating” into drunkenness and social depravity, as was the custom.

Germany and Austria decree the creation of a provisional national council for their truncated Polish puppet state. Presumably all 25 members will be appointed by the Germans and Austrians, and they will be “conversant with the wishes and needs of the Polish nation and by reason of their position in life competent to represent all classes of the population.”

Headline of the Day -100:

King Ferdinand’s brother, who is unnamed in the article and could be either Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern or Prince Wilhelm, who renounced his right to succeed to the Romanian throne 30 years ago, issues a proclamation: “Compose yourselves. Go on with your business. I have come to punish your felon of a King.” (Update: Wilhelm, I’m pretty sure, though both brothers are serving in the German army).

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Today -100: December 8, 1916: Of masculine boldness and effrontery

The first National Anti-Suffrage convention opens in Washington DC. A letter from ex-Sen. Elihu Root is read out saying that a federal women’s suffrage constitutional amendment, imposing women’s suffrage on states that didn’t want it (that is, whose men voted against it), would constitute “intolerable tyranny” which would ultimately destroy the nation. Cardinal Gibbons also sends a message, saying suffrage would “rob woman of her grace of character and give her nothing in return but masculine boldness and effrontery.” And lots more horseshit along those lines.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Today -100: December 7, 1916: Of fallen capitals, prime ministers, généralissimos, and the greatest enemy of the home

Bucharest falls.

David Lloyd George becomes prime minister, although it is unclear if he’ll be able to form a government.

French Gen. Joseph Joffre is being kicked upstairs, promoted to Marshal (maréchal) of France, a title which hasn’t been given in decades (and not at all under the Third Republic) and given new responsibilities in control of, he will soon discover, nothing. Gen. Philippe Pétain is being considered to take over from Joffre as généralissimo, but he’s demanding authority over all Allied forces in France, which the British would never agree to. So instead the job will go to Robert Nivelle.

Evidently Germany is deporting Russian Poles for forced labor in Germany, and has been for some time, but a lot less is known about this than about the Belgians.

William Jennings Bryan says the Democratic Party has to support prohibition, it “cannot hesitate to choose the home against the greatest enemy that has arisen to menace it.” He warns against proposals by railroads to remove the power of states to regulate them and give exclusive control to Congress, as “lead[ing] to a centralization which would threaten the very existence of our dual form of government.”

Hans Richter, the foremost conductor of Richard Wagner operas and Brahams, dies in Bayreuth. He seems to have made no recordings, so we’ll just have to take the word of contemporaries that he was pretty good.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Today -100: December 6, 1916: Of asquiths, states of the union, babbling blackguards, dieting Chicagoites, and old princesses

Herbert Asquith, who has been prime minister of Britain since 1908, resigns in an ill-designed power play. He suggests that the king ask Tory leader Andrew Bonar Law to form a government, but refuses Bonar Law’s request to serve as Lord High Chancellor under him. Bonar Law concludes that without Asquith and the Asquithians (yes, that’s a thing) he would not have sufficient support in Parliament and so declines to be prime minister (he may also have assumed that Lloyd George would fail). Asquith thinks this means no one else but him can be prime minister. He is wrong.

Sir Edward Carson, the Ulster Unionist who is likely to come out of all this with a greater role, is said to be suggesting a deal for a Home Rule Parliament for Ireland, including Northern Ireland (although only for 3 years) in exchange for conscription in Ireland. Carson will deny this.

The British Board of Trade bans restaurants from serving dinners with more than three courses. War is hell. Slimming, but hell.

Woodrow Wilson’s State of the Union address is quite staid, ignoring any interesting subjects like anything relating to foreign affairs. He proposes increasing the size of the Interstate Commerce commission, compulsory investigations of industrial disputes before strikes (Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, says unions “will not tamely submit” to this), and authority for the president to control railroads and conscript, essentially, their workers for military purposes.

Suffragists of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage hang a banner from the public gallery asking “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?” It was visible briefly, right in Wilson’s eye-line (he is said to have smiled at it), before an assistant doorkeeper/banner-wrangler tore it down.

The president of the Russian Duma, Mikhail Rodzianko, resigns after Right-wing anti-Semite Nikolai Markov calls him a “babbling blackguard.” The Duma votes to exclude Markov for 15 sessions and then re-elects Rodzianko.

The “diet squad” of 12 Chicago Health Department employees complete the two-week experiment in living on 40¢ worth of food a day (everything was going so well that it was reduced to 30¢). They have collectively gained 45 pounds. With nutrition science in its infancy, that seems to be their only metric. Or maybe it’s just a Chicago thing.

Headline of the Day -100:

Worst. Disney. Movie. Ever.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Today -100: December 5, 1916: We are not winning the war

The Allies are putting the blame for skirmishes between Greek and French troops in Athens last week on King Constantine. To punish Greece, they freeze the movement of all Greek ships, and are considering other measures.

Headline of the Day -100:

German Foreign Minister Zimmermann feels nothing but sympathy for the rights of small nations.

Elsewhere, Germany bombards Bucharest.

The Manchester Guardian says “we are not winning the war and... with the present methods of waging the war, we shall never win it.”

The head of a board appointed by NY Gov. Charles Whitman calls for the 90-year-old Sing Sing Prison to be torn down.

Sing Sing is still in operation today.

The NYT has an editorial about the Dominican Republic, in which the US recently declared martial law. The editorial is titled “Unselfish Intervention,” because of course it is.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Today -100: December 4, 1916: Of yokes of Germanism and rinks

British Prime Minister Asquith will see the king about restructuring the government. David Lloyd George, Secretary of State for War, and several Tories including Andrew Bonar Law and Arthur Balfour, are threatening to resign if a small War Cabinet is not appointed, preferably without Asquith as a member even if he remains as prime minister. The wily Welshman is finally making his move, supported by a months-long vilification of Asquith by the Northcliffe press.

The French Parliament is in secret session, discussing god knows what.

Carranza’s forces re-take the city of Chihuahua from Pancho Villa. Or to put it another way, Villa’s forces looted the city and left (there was a story early on that his men “mistakenly” got the idea that looting was okay because he had some pharmacies broken into looking for medicine for his injuries, but he put a stop to it by executing a couple of his men, but c’mon, when has Pancho Villa taking a town ever not been followed by looting? I have now said the word looting too many times, and it just sounds weird. Looting. Looting. Looooooting.) Despite Villa’s talk about killing all foreigners, Americans were spared. Chinese not so much.

Russia’s new Prime Minister, Alexander Fyodorovitch Trepov, informs the Duma that last year its allies promised Russia it could keep the Dardanelles and Constantinople. Hostile members of the Duma prevented him speaking for 15 minutes, until 12 of them were voted expelled. He has plans to introduce compulsory education for the first time. He says, “The war must be crowned by victory, not only over the enemy without, but the enemy within. The war has opened the eyes of the people, and they realize now that Russian industry, education, science and art have been under the yoke of Germanism.”

Charlie Chaplin’s The Rink opens.

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Today -100: December 3, 1916: Peace cannot come so long as the destinies of men are determined by small groups who make selfish choices of their own

Pennsylvania bans films which show criminals at work, including safecracking, white slavery and tying women to tracks. Also prize fights.

Woodrow Wilson turns on the Statue of Liberty’s new exterior lights. Lady L is now lit up at night for the first time. Funding comes in part from Ralph Pulitzer and the readers of the New York World.

At the ceremony, Wilson talks about the European war, saying that “peace cannot come so long as the destinies of men are determined by small groups who make selfish choices of their own.”

After some amount of fighting, the Greeks agree to surrender most of their heavy artillery to the French.

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Friday, December 02, 2016

Mad Dog

Trump actually called James Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog” when introducing him as his nominee for secretary of defense because, let’s face it, when they handed him a list of possibles, he stopped when he got to the nickname, pointed a stubby finger at the page and shouted “That’s the guy!”

Much has been made of M.D. not being a torture advocate. His position on war crimes is another matter. In the Bush years he routinely intervened to stop trials of marines for murdering civilians and other atrocities and to overturn sentences. The case I particularly followed was that of a group of marines who decided to form a rogue death squad and sneak off base at night to go out hunting for a suspected insurgent. Well, he wasn’t home, so they decided that the next best thing was just to grab and kill any random Iraqi they could find, who turned out to be an invalided former cop (and grandfather of four) who happened to live next door, Hashim Ibrahim Awad or Awad the Lame as he was known. Mattis decided that this murder wasn’t worth more than 17 months in prison (including time awaiting trial).

There are other reasons Mattis would be a bad secretary of war (at least Trump isn’t bringing Rummy out of retirement), including the important principle for a democracy of civilian leadership of the military, but his repeated acts in support of impunity for war crimes should be quite enough to demonstrate his unfitness for the office.

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Today -100: December 2, 1916: Germany will not be deprived of the sharp weapon

The US attorney general orders an inquiry into whether recent food price increases are the result of illegal combinations. The government is trying to head off calls in Congress to ban food exports.

Germany will ignore Norway’s ban on armed submarines. Says the German ambassador, “Germany will not be deprived of the sharp weapon she possessed in the submarine.”

Supposedly, Villa gave a speech in Chihuahua City saying he intended to kill all foreigners and take their land.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The Morning Post (London) claims Germany offered peace in exchange for a free hand in Latin America. Minister of War Lord Cecil denies having heard of such a proposal.

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Today -100: December 1, 1916: Of disarmed armies, martial law, chihuahuas, and turkeys

King Constantine rejects the Allied demand that the Greek army turn over all its artillery and most of its weapons and ammunition.

The US declares martial law in the Dominican Republic.

Pancho Villa’s followers drive Carranza’s forces from Chihuahua City, possibly because the latter ran out of ammunition.

Headline of the Day -100:

Yes it does, yes it does.

After a long delay, the Wipers Times, now called the B.E.F. Times, has a new issue. Here’s a poem from it, entitled “The War Lord and the Chancellor (With apologies to the late Lewis Carrol),” the “war lord” being Kaiser Wilhelm and the chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg)

The War Lord and the Chancellor
 Were walking hand in hand;
They laughed like anything to see
 The devastated land;
“If this belonged to us,” they said,
 “It really would be grand.”

“If fifty Huns with fifty guns,
 Swept it for half a year;
Do you suppose,” the War Lord said,
 “That vict’ry would be near?”
“I doubt it,” said the Chancellor,
  And shed a bitter tear.

“You always were a pessimist,”
 The frowning War Lord said;
“Oh! Highest One it is because
 I always look ahead;
Before this War is finished you
 And I will both be dead.”

“Don’t talk like that I do beseech,”
 The War Lord wailed aloud;
“To win this War by any means,
 You know that I have vowed;
With Zeppelins and submarines,
 And waves of poison cloud.”

“Oh! chuck it Bill,” the Chancellor
 Said with a rueful air,
“You know quite well with ‘frightfulness’
 We’ve tried them everywhere.
And got it back with interest.”
 Bill glared and tore his hair.

He danced with rage, he howled and swore,
 And vowed that he would see
That Army so contemptible
 Would very quickly be
By every kind of “frightfulness”
 Sent to eternity.

The Chancellor spoke loud and long,
 With rhetoric inspired;
He spoke of love, and peace, and food,
 He spoke till he was tired;
And when he paused he turned around –
 The War Lord had expired!

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