Monday, September 30, 2013

I’ll have a chance to obviously speak more to this

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived at the White House yet again to give Obama his marching orders.

Obama: “I commended him for entering into good-faith negotiations with the Palestinian Authority”. Because nothing says “good faith” like Netanyahu pretending to negotiate with the PA.

“And we have a limited amount of time to achieve that goal [a two-state solution], and I appreciate the Prime Minister’s courage in being willing to step forward on behalf of that goal.” He doesn’t explain why time is so limited. If that’s not referring to the expansion of settlement activity that Netanyahu refuses to halt, then I can’t think what it refers to, in which case I don’t know why he’s praising Bibi’s “courage.”

Obama says we’ll be “consulting very closely” with Israel over the Syrian civil war, because of possible “spillover effects,” which is a great way of sabotaging the rebels.

“So we will continue to work with the Egyptian government, although urging them and pushing them in a direction that is more inclusive and that meets the basic goals of those who originally sought for more freedom and more democracy in that country.” Can you have “more” democracy without having actual, you know, democracy? Because I’m pretty sure the “basic goals” were actual freedom and actual democracy, not “just a little bit more freedom and democracy than we had under a fucking military dictatorship.”

Obama seems to have picked up an obvious verbal tic: “these are hectic times, and nowhere is that more true, obviously, than in the Middle East”; “discussing how we can resolve what has been, obviously, one of the biggest challenges for a very long time in the region”; “Obviously, we have a broad set of strategic concerns in Syria”; “Chemical weapons inside of Syria obviously have threatened Syrian civilians”; “And we had an opportunity, obviously, to discuss Iran”; “And I’ll have a chance to obviously speak more to this.”

“In all of this, our unshakeable bond with the Israeli people is stronger than ever.” Obviously not including any Palestinians who happen not to have been driven out of Israel. Our bond with the Palestinian people is very shakeable indeed.

Netanyahu: “I know that you know and the American people know that there is no better ally -- more reliable, more stable, more democratic -- other than Israel in a very raw, dangerous place.” Of course Israel’s policy, and to a large extent the US’s, is to ensure that other Middle East countries are unstable, undemocratic, or both.

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Today -100: September 30, 1913: Of derailed trains, race riots, and peace, ain’t it grand

A train is derailed somewhere between Baku and Batum (which doesn’t narrow it down much) in the Russian Empire because “brigands” tore up the rails for some reason. 40 dead.

In Harriston, Mississippi, scene of that race riot yesterday (death toll 11), today 2,000 blacks are forced to pass by the coffins of the two young black men lynched yesterday. “This had a remarkably quieting effect on the negro population.”

Turkey and Bulgaria sign a peace treaty ending, I guess, the last Balkan War but one.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Today -100: September 29, 1913: Of insulted flags, elections, and boys

Chinese Gen. Chang Hsun accedes to Japan’s ultimatum and personally goes to apologize at the Japanese consulate in Nanjing for the insult to the Japanese flag (and the deaths of some Japanese people), averting the threatened military occupation. For now.

General elections are called for Italy, under a new election law doubling the electorate to nearly universal male suffrage, including illiterates if they have served in the army or are over 30. So, illiterates, but no women (until after World War II). Deputies, previously unpaid, will now receive a salary. The Catholic Church will allow Catholics to vote for the first time (not that the ban ever stopped many people).

You can kinda tell when the NYT used local stringers for its stories from the South, as in this one, datelined Harriston, Mississippi: “A reign of murder, started early this morning by two negro boys who were crazed by cocaine, developed into a race riot which ended only after three white men, four negro men, and a negro woman had been killed, a score of persons wounded, and the two boys lynched.” They were 20 and 18, if you’re wondering what constitutes a “boy.” If the story is to be believed, the Walter and Will Jones did go on quite a shooting rampage before the mob got hold of them.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Today -100: September 28, 1913: Peace in Mexico is impossible until one party or the other has been exterminated

Democrats in the Tennessee Legislature successfully filibuster the anti-alcohol bills, and the special session ends.

11,000 Ulster Volunteers march in Belfast, as is the custom, to demonstrate their 1) loyalty to, and 2) willingness to go to war with, the British government. They carry dummy rifles, because carrying real firearms without a license would be illegal. So they’re threatening civil war but won’t break the Firearms Acts.

The response of the British government so far to all this has been confined to a threat not to send mail to any post offices run by a rebel Ulster government.

The NYT thinks “the whole Ulster situation is a species of political bluff,” as proven by the fact that the Ulster Volunteers are not concealing their preparations for civil war. Another interpretation is that they don’t have to conceal them, because there are no consequences. The Times complacently predicts that Home Rule will go into effect “with no serious disturbance.”

Mexican rebel leader and (spoiler alert) future president Venustiano Carranza warns that anyone elected president in the elections Huerta plans to hold next month will be considered a traitor, and if rebels capture him they’ll try him under an 1862 law allowing for the summary execution of traitors without trial, like the Emperor Maximilian (so I guess he would be tried without trial). “Peace in Mexico,” Carranza says, “is impossible until one party or the other has been exterminated.” (Little-known historical fact: Carranza was a Dalek).

Negroes in Tuscon are boycotting the separate-but-equal schools. Not because they’re segregated schools, the LAT claims, but because they want better segregated schools.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Today -100: September 27, 1913: Do as I shall: deny it

Headline of the Day -100: “Lynched Negro, Condemned Deed.” Some Mississippians lynched a negro accused of attacking a farmer’s wife but “Opinion was divided as to the guilt of the negro, and at a mass meeting held later resolutions were adopted in condemnation of the lynching.” Sentence first, verdict after, as the Red Queen said.

Loopy Headline of the Day -100: “DOUBLE LOOP BY PEGOUD.” The French aviator is just showing off now.

Turkey and Greece seem to be threatening to start a third Balkan War. And Greece is letting Serbian troops use its railways in their fight with Albania. “The Belgrade newspapers urge the complete extermination of the Albanians,” as is the custom.

At the impeachment trial of NY Gov. Sulzer, several of his donors have testified, convincing no one, that their donations had been to Sulzer personally rather than to his campaign (thus Sulzer’s failure to report them as required by law). Today, ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau is recalled, and testifies that before his first appearance, Sulzer called him up and asked him to say that his $1,000 donation was purely personal. Duncan Peck, who was appointed state superintendent of public works by the previous administration, contributed $500 to Sulzer, not at all connected to his retaining his job. He too now says that Sulzer told him, “Do as I shall: deny it.”

The Huerta Junta in Mexico asks deposed dictator Porfirio Díaz to return from exile, maybe to head up the War College. Also, Huerta declares that the revolution is suppressed, except for occupying the rebellious northern states (which seems a fairly big “except for”) and elections can go ahead.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today -100: September 26, 1913: Of saloons, charming cities being charming, and parades

The Tennessee Legislature has more gunmen today, with Nashville cops sent by the mayor to protect Speaker Stanton from the prison guards sent by the governor to intimidate him over anti-alcohol legislation. However, Stanton orders the State House be searched top to bottom and any gunmen be expelled. Visitors were then excluded from the House chamber, except women and the press. “The explosion of a photographer’s flashlight created a small panic among the Representatives, several automatically reaching for their weapons.” The session is again abruptly adjourned due to “a sudden illness of the Speaker.”

Baltimore City Council passes an ordinance for residential racial segregation. People currently living on the “wrong” block will have to move. (The Maryland Supreme Court will strike this down next month).

A little civil war in Serbia, government v. Albanians, as is the custom.

Russia occupies Kobdo and Tchougoutchak in Western Mongolia.

Sir Edward Carson’s first act as self-proclaimed premier of Ulster is to take to his bed on doctor’s orders. There will be a parade of Ulster volunteers on Saturday, and the Unionists asked that a big football game be moved so as not to conflict with it.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Today -100: September 25, 1913: Of saloons, provisional governments, and automatic pilots

The Tennessee Legislature is still calmly considering anti-saloon legislation while prison guards sit in the galleries pointing guns at legislators they don’t like. Speaker Stanton abruptly adjourns the session.

The Ulster Unionist Council sets up the machinery for implementing a provisional government to “tak[e] over the province in trust for the British nation” if and when Home Rule is established. The premier will be Sir Edward Carson, who still hasn’t been arrested for treason.

French aviator Albert Moreau demonstrates an automatic pilot, flying 30 minutes without touching the control levers.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Today -100: September 24, 1913: A little was enough for me

Headline of the Day -100: “Not So Afraid of Germany.” In November, Britain will send a bunch of warships into the Mediterranean, in a change from its policy in recent years of keeping them nearby just in case Germany tries something.

A few days ago the Tennessee state senate passed bills banning the importation into the state of alcohol and defining the sale of any alcohol as a public nuisance, allowing courts to close saloons on the petition of ten taxpayers. The lower house of the Tennessee Legislature is now discussing the bills. Speaker Stanton complains that Gov. Ben Hooper has stationed armed guards in the House to force him to make rulings favorable to the bills. A state senator breaks down a door in the Capitol building behind which he finds seven guards (prison guards, probably) and a suitcase filled with revolvers.

Anthony Comstock, “in the role of a literary critic,” arrests a publisher and one of his employees who sold an allegedly immoral book, “Hagar Revelly” by Daniel Carson Goodman, which “deals with the problems of life as faced by two poverty-stricken girls in New York City.” You can sort of read it online, because it’s been “DoiizodbvCoogle” or “DolizodbvCoOglc” or “DolizodbyGoOgle”, which I think means Digitized Really Badly by Google. A quick skim suggests that Emile Zola didn’t have anything to worry about, but neither did it reveal what got Comstock so hot and bothered (Comstock admits that he didn’t read the whole book; “a little was enough for me”).

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Today -100: September 23, 1913: Of resentful hunchbacks and trains

Headline of the Day -100: “HUNCHBACK IS RESENTFUL.; Woman Strokes Him "for Luck" and He Throws Her In a Pond.”

Mexican rebels dynamite a passenger train, as was the custom, killing 50, 40 of whom were Federal soldiers.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Today -100: September 22, 1913: Of assassins, bloody Sundays, slaves, and airborne tea

The man alleged to have assassinated Mexican President Madero during the coup is himself assassinated.

Another bloody Sunday in Dublin, with police attacking strikers and vice versa.

Several US colonial officials in the Philippines have been asserting that slavery is widespread, though Rep. William Jones (D-VA) denies it.

The first airship tea party takes place aboard the Zeppelin passenger ship Sachsen somewhere above Berlin. But no cigarettes afterwards.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Today -100: September 21, 1913: Of impeachments, whimsical little bodies, general strikes, and mud

William Sulzer says he will not resign and will fight the impeachment to the end. Why, he would no sooner resign than commit hara-kiri. Or to put it another way, his feelers about whether resigning would stop the impeachment were rebuffed. “Mr. Sulzer thumped his interviewer on the chest and gave other evidences of being in a fighting mood,” writes a terrified NYT reporter.

The NYT returns in an editorial to the subject of Christabel Pankhurst’s recent writings, “a book so nasty that even the Pankhurst contingent of British suffragists is dismayed. Christabel has hitherto been looked upon as a whimsical little body, somewhat too fond of inciting riot, perhaps, but decent in speech and behavior.” But now she has “come to the conclusion that they can cause as great a rumpus by talking about things no decent woman used to discuss... as they ever did by smashing the hats of Cabinet Ministers.”

The annual conference of the German Social Democratic Party rejects the general strike as a political instrument, not even to achieve universal (male) suffrage in the state of Prussia (which has an insanely retrograde electoral structure).

Headline of the Day -100 (LAT): “Little Natalie Throws Mud.” In Kharkoff, Russia, the governor of the province was driving through a town when a little girl, aged 5, threw some mud at his car, and some of it... the horror... fell on his coat. Her parents were made to march 8 miles to the nearest police post, then back, where the entire village had been called to adopt a petition craving forgiveness. The police chief wanted the village to present it on their knees, but they refused. The governor came the next day, when the entire village was called out again; he looked ostentatiously in the other direction while they had to shout to get his attention. Eventually they were allowed to go home, but the mother was imprisoned for 15 days.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Today -100: September 20, 1913: Votes for Women and Chastity for Men!

Max Blanck, one of the two owners of the Triangle Shirt Waist Company, 146 of whose employees burned alive 102½ years ago because the exits were locked, is charged with... wait for it... locking the exits of his new factory. His lawyer, the same high-priced shyster who got him off last time, will argue that the locks are necessary to prevent theft. The judge will fine Blanck $20 and apologize to him for having to do that.

The family of Princess Sophia of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, still claiming that she died of heart disease (at 25) rather than from blowing her brains out, hurriedly cremates her, the first female royal ever to be cremated.

The Mexican Congress shows some cojones, rejecting Huerta’s nomination for minister of public instruction for being too Catholic.

Woodrow Wilson broke with the tradition of sending black ambassadors to Haiti, and the NYT claims that Haiti actually prefers it that way because many of the “better class of Haitians” have French as well as black blood, and therefore have “French sensitiveness to slights, real or apparent.” It’s all in the blood, you know.

Speaking of things found in the blood, the NYT notes that there is a debate within the British Women’s Social and Political Union, without making it clear what the hell it’s talking about. Christabel Pankhurst has been publishing articles in The Suffragette which “state in the plainest language facts not usually found outside medical works.” Were 1913 readers able to intuit that the words the NYT is unable to bring itself to print are venereal disease? I don’t know. The LAT says Christabel has been talking about “certain phases of the social problem” and “has been calling spades by something even more distinctive than the plain word spades,” but the last two words of the article are “white slavery,” which gets near the topic.

In Miss Pankhurst’s “Great Scourge” articles (here’s a link to the American edition of the book form of these articles), she ascribes the spread of VD entirely to male promiscuity, and asserts that there is only one cure: “Votes for Women and Chastity for Men.” Indeed, she is now charging that the real reason men oppose women’s suffrage is “sexual vice.”

Mary Winthrop Turner is being sued by Arthur Bender for $5,000 for libeling his dog, Countess Toots. Ms Turner contends her dog, Champion, the Dollar Princess (I don’t know if that’s a name or a title), is a better dog.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Today -100: September 19, 1913: Fundamentally incapable of efficient and decently just rule

What is it with deceased NYC Mayor Gaynor and ships? He was shot on board one ship in 1910, died on another one in 1913, and now his body is being returned on... the Lusitania.

Princess Sophia of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach commits suicide, shooting herself in the head after being refused permission to marry a commoner (and by commoner I mean Jew).

The NYT thinks the European Powers should make sure the Ottoman Empire doesn’t mistreat its Armenians. This can only be done, it says, by reducing the Empire’s power in the Armenian regions in favor of a governor nominated by the Powers, because “the Turks are fundamentally incapable of efficient and decently just rule... due to the inherent qualities of the race and to the religion by which for centuries they have been inspired.”

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Today -100: September 18, 1913: Of defamations, whale butts, and intractable tribesmen

The Anti-Defamation League is founded to fight characterizations of Jews on the stage, in textbooks, etc.

Headline of the Day -100: “Whale Butts a Steamer.” A whale runs into a ship in the middle of the Atlantic. It is NOT a reference to whales farting.

An Italian general and a bunch of other soldiers are killed by “a body of intractable Arab tribesmen” in Libya.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Close bonds

The White House responds to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s cancellation of her visit to the US.

The statement says that the invitation was “a reflection of the importance he places on... the close bonds between the American and Brazilian people.” Granted, one of these close bonds, the NSA’s reading of the Brazilian people’s emails, was one the Brazilian people were not aware of, but it was a very close bond nonetheless.

“As the President previously stated, he has directed a broad review of U.S. intelligence posture, but the process will take several months to complete.” Presumably this review is to determine if the allegations in the Snowden infodump were true, something which Obama claimed not to know when he met Rousseff at the G-20.

“the presidents have agreed to postpone President Rousseff’s State Visit to Washington”. That’s after Rousseff said she wasn’t coming. Obama graciously “agreed” to let her not come, as opposed to sending in Seal Team Six to rendition her to the White House State Dining Room.

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Today -100: September 17, 1913: Of dynamite miscreants, axe & pistol duels, rebellious loyalists, and impeachments

Someone sends a bomb through the mail to the owner of the L.A. Times, reactionary asshole Gen. Harrison Gray Otis. The package looked suspicious, so it wasn’t opened and the police safely detonated it. Gen. Otis blamed it on “certain dynamite miscreants”. He thinks it’s unionists, but the cops think it’s someone opposed to Otis’s support of the Mexican Huerta Junta.

Headline of the Day -100: “Two Die in Duel of Axe and Pistol.” H.F. Hendricks, a timber magnate, had the revolver, and pulled it on his old foe Mississippi State Senator Dr. H.F. Broyles. Broyles was working on a dam and threw the axe at Hendricks, slicing through his skull. Hendricks fired as he fell, hitting Broyles in the heart.

Irish Unionists claim to have an army of 100,000 prepared to resist Home Rule with violence.

The impeachment of NY Gov. Sulzer is underway, and the impeachment managers are claiming to have found another large campaign donation that Sulzer failed to report, but Hugh Reilly, a railroad contractor (in Cuba) (historical trivia: the first railroad line built in the Western Hemisphere was in Cuba), says it was actually a personal loan of $10,000 he made to Sulzer after he was nominated for governor, and that Sulzer owes him that plus $16,500 from earlier loans, which Sulzer has failed to pay back; Reilly says he’s “kissed the money goodbye.”

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Today -100: September 16, 1913: Of menacing defectives and ugly men

Headline of the Day -100: “15,000 Defectives Menace New York.” A Dr. M. G. Schlapp of the Post-Graduate Hospital, the “clearing-house for defectives,” says there is only enough room to institutionalize 6,000 mentally defective New Yorkers. He wants them all put away, because “almost every defective child is a potential criminal.”

More from 1913 science: anthropologists at the British Association meeting say that women don’t mind marrying ugly men, while men prefer to marry hot women. And by anthropologists, I mean male anthropologists. It all has to do with evolution. For example, all women used to have beards, but men didn’t like them, so they were bred out.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Today -100: September 15, 1913: A sex problem that women alone can solve

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage issues a press release claiming that the National Association of Chiefs of Police says that women’s suffrage does not cure prostitution. They quote just one chief of police, that of Plainfield, NJ, who says that the consensus of the police chiefs is that “the social evil is a sex problem that women alone can solve.” Evidently women aren’t nice enough to prostitutes.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today -100: September 14, 1913: Of ultimata, vivisection, and big Tims

China gives in to Japan’s ultimatum. (Update from a later issue: not all of it, such as the demand that the governor of Kiang-Su province be fired).

An anti-vivisection movement has been developing in Britain (in the US, not so much). The Home Office releases a report saying all animals being cut open or experimented upon by Dr. Moreau and the other 598 licensed vivisectors (vivisectionists?) in the UK are “suitably lodged and well cared for,” so that’s okay then.

“Big Tim” Sullivan, NYC Tammany leader/organized-crime boss/former state legislator/US congresscritter (he wore many hats, straw ones if Google Images is anything to go by), dies at 51. He had escaped from his brother’s house, where he was confined due to syphilitic insanity, and was hit by a train. So thank you, NYT, for saying that for the last 13 days he “had been lying in the Morgue – in three Morgues, in fact” BEFORE explaining that that was because they moved his body around, not because different body parts were in different morgues. There are theories that he may have been murdered and his body placed on the train tracks. It took 13 days to identify the body because no one tried, despite its having good clothes and diamond & gold cufflinks with his initials, and despite his face being untouched, and despite the fact that the coroner was a friend of his. He was about to be buried in Potter’s Field when a passing cop recognized the corpse. In November 1912 he was elected again to Congress (he had served 1903-6 before resigning to spend more time with his graft) but never re-took his seat, given the, you know, tertiary syphilis. Since he was declared mentally incompetent, his congressional pay went to his conservators. I can think of a few members of congress...

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Today -100: September 13, 1913: Of martial law in where now?

Martial law is declared in New Lexington, Ohio. A former Catholic priest was scheduled to make an anti-Catholic speech at the Opera House. A mob of Catholics threw eggs at his followers. Hilarity ensued.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Today -100: September 12, 1913: Of assassinations, votes for Northern Irish women, and cocaine

Remember how New York City Mayor William Jay Gaynor was shot in the throat three years ago as he was about to sail for Europe? Well, a few days ago he finally started on that belated vacation, and has now dropped dead in a deck chair onboard the ship as a result of the bullet fragment that was never removed.

Gaynor’s assassin died in prison a few months ago.

The Women’s Social and Political Union announces that it will hold Sir Edward Carson, leader of the Ulsterites who is now threatening to go to war, literally, with the British government over Home Rule, responsible for giving votes to women in Northern Ireland. Christabel Pankhurst writes in The Suffragette that Carson has appealed to women to share the risks and penalties of rebellion, and that every excuse he could give for denying women’s suffrage would be a negation of his own arguments against Home Rule.

Carson replies, and very promptly too, by including votes for women in his draft Ulster constitution.

Japan issues an ultimatum to China regarding the deaths of three Japanese citizens and the mistreatment of others: it wants an apology for insults to the Japanese flag, punishment of those responsible (including the commander of Chinese government forces in Nanking), and an indemnity.

The War on Drugs, 1913 version: a black drug dealer, convicted in New York of selling cocaine to children, is given the maximum: 1 year in prison and a $500 fine.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Today -100: September 11, 1913: Of vaudeville, thaws, and souls

Woodrow Wilson sees his first vaudeville show. He liked it.

100 Japanese marines land in Nanking. Oh good, that always ends well.

The Canadian government throws escaped lunatic murderer Harry Thaw out of the country, suddenly and in defiance of the Quebec courts, which were to hear a habeas corpus appeal on Monday, and literally pushed over the border into Vermont. He is caught by authorities in New Hampshire.

Sir Oliver Lodge, a major inventor in the field of electromagnatism (radio telegraphy, that sort of thing), says science has nearly proven the existence of the human soul and its survival after death. Also telepathy.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks

Obama addressed the nation on Syria.

UM, IRAN? “My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria, why it matters and where we go from here.”

“But I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force”. Now he tells us.

“Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them.” Nothing disqualifies you from intervening in the affairs of a Third World country so quickly as using a phrase like “the civilized world.”

“On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons”. Then he mentioned gas attacks in World War I (noting that American GIs were exposed to it but neglecting to add that the United States also used chemical weapons in that war) and the Nazis’ use of it in the Holocaust (but not the execution of nearly 600 people in US gas chambers, most recently in 1999).

“When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory.” In democracies, we just wait until a new president says we need to look forward, not backward.

He did the slippery slope thing: if we don’t bomb Syria, Syria will keep using chemical weapons, then other tyrants will, then they’ll use them on our troops, then terrorist groups will get them, then George Zimmerman. Then they’ll be used against Israel, because everything is about Israel. Then everyone will acquire other prohibited WMDs and Iran will build nukes, and we’re back to Israel. Smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud.

“After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them.” It’s nice of Obama to remind us, as he’s starting another war, that he’s taken longer “working to end wars” than it took to fight entire world wars.

He reassures us that this won’t be “an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan” or “a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo,” even though the authorization he sent to Congress included no such limitations. Funny, that.

“Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.” Is the military’s inability to do anything that isn’t violently destructive on a large scale something to brag about?

“Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.” Er, why no other nation?

“I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next.” Bombing without responsibility is so much more fun.

“It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists. But al-Qaida will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death.” Can’t say I see the logic here.

“And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.” So his argument is that if you have a large military, it’s just silly not to crush a few small countries from time? We really do have to switch the name of the DOD back to War Department.

“To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor, for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.” Bombing for freedom and dignity, what leftie couldn’t get behind that?

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Today -100: September 10, 1913: If you sit through the story about tariffs, there’s one about a zeppelin. No fair skipping.

The Democrats’ Tariff Bill passes the Senate 44-37, nearly along party lines. Many tariffs have been reduced or eliminated altogether (free items include sugar & raw wool, livestock, wheat, gunpowder, pig iron, art antiquities more than 50 years old and books in foreign languages)(but the tariff on modern paintings and statues goes up, because those are considered rich people’s luxuries, or something), an average reduction of 28%. Goods produced largely by child labor don’t get the reduction. There is also an income tax to make up for all that, which will have to be negotiated with the House.

A German marine zeppelin is destroyed by a hurricane and falls into the North Sea, killing 15, including the commander of the Marine Airship Division.

Everyone complained about Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan going off on paid lectures, but just half an hour after he left to give a lecture in Pennsylvania, his office blew up. Gas explosion. “It probably will be necessary to redecorate the room.”

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Today -100: September 9, 1913: Of yodelers and secretaries of state

British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst is coming to the US for a speaking tour, but will immigration officials bar her as a dangerous criminal? The NYT thinks she’s “not likely to do much harm. If she attempts to lecture on white slavery she will probably be checked by the will of a people who have tolerated too much filth on the platform and have been brought to realize that no good has come of open discussions of such subjects. If she urges the American women to smash windows and assault officials her advice will not be heeded, and she will lose whatever influence she may possess.” The Times light-heartedly (I think) suggests a deal with Britain in which the US hands Mrs P over to them in exchange for Harry Thaw, the escaped murderer still fighting extradition from Canada.

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan is off on his Chautaugua lecture tour, and says he has no objections to the circulars announcing that he will appear on the same bill with jugglers, magicians, yodelers and other vaudeville-type performers.

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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Today -100: September 8, 1913: The protests have been emphasized by bombs

Some Japanese people have been killed in Nanking, and there is a loud jingoistic clamor in Japan for an invasion.

Riots in Lisbon. The Daily Telegraph correspondent reports “the Royalists have protested energetically against the holding up of telegrams to ex-King Manuel, congratulating him on his marriage, and that the protests have been emphasized by bombs.”

Mexican dictator Huerta wants to buy a dirigible from a Nevada firm. The State Dept has to decide if it constitutes a “munition of war” banned for sale to a combatant under the Neutrality Acts.

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Saturday, September 07, 2013


The worst part of Obama constantly invoking an “international norm” against chemical weapons is that when I hear it I feel an irresistible urge to yell “Norm!” Too many episodes of Cheers, I guess, if there could be such a thing. He used the term no less than 16 times in today’s press conference. There is evidently an “international norm [Norm!] on banning chemical weapons.” Remember how Assad has lost his “legitimacy,” according to Obama and Hillary? That was another measure which could be defined and enforced by Obama personally.

The problem is that a “norm” does not exist in concrete terms unless its terms are specified by international law or treaty. There is no such law, and no treaty signed by Syria. So Obama can certainly make a moral case for stopping Syrian use of such weapons, but there is nothing to “enforce” or “breech.” Or even unravel: “when there’s a breech this brazen of a norm this important [Norm!], and the international community is paralyzed and frozen and doesn’t act, then that norm [Norm!] begins to unravel. And if that norm [Norm!] unravels, then other norms and prohibitions start unraveling.” I hate those unraveling norms, you wind up picking threads out of the furniture for weeks.

“There are a number of countries that, just as a matter of principle, believe that if military action is to be taken it needs to go through the U.N. Security Council.” And by “as a matter of principle,” they mean as a matter of international law.

He says he would “greatly prefer working through multilateral channels and through the United Nations to get this done,” but he’s gotta protect that norm. And Assad would probably prefer to win his war without chemical weapons (if he did order the use of chemical weapons), but Obama and Assad will disregard those preferences in order to get their way.

“As I said last night, I was elected to end wars, not start them.” Funny how that happened, huh?

“And what I’ve tried to explain is we may not solve the whole problem, but this particular problem of using chemical weapons on children, this one we might have an impact on, and that’s worth acting on.” Way to set a nebulous goal to which he can’t be held.

“that experience with the war in Iraq colors how people view this situation not just back home in America, but also here in Europe and around the world.” It’s called learning from past mistakes.

“Now, is it possible that Assad doubles down in the face of our action and uses chemical weapons more widely? I suppose anything is possible, but it wouldn’t be wise.” And if Assad has proven himself to be anything, it’s wise.

“I think it would be pretty hard for the U.N. Security Council at that point to continue to resist the requirement for action, and we would gladly join with an international coalition to make sure that it stops.” Gladly. With a song in our heart and a cruise missile in our pants.

“These kinds of interventions, these kinds of actions are always unpopular because they seem distant and removed.” Yes, it’s not like the Civil War, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

“I want people to understand that gassing innocent people, delivering chemical weapons against children is not something we do.” We have drones for that.

He met with the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, both of whom ae pissed off that the NSA has been spying on them (personally, as well as their countries). “I said that I would look into the allegations.” You’d have thought he’d have “looked into” them before actually meeting the two presidents. You can tell it wasn’t Obama that McCain was losing to at phone-poker, because Obama sucks at bluffing.

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Today -100: September 7, 1913: Of phonetics, taxidermy, and jaywalking

The NYT is perplexed by reports of George Bernard Shaw’s next play: “‘Pygmalion’ has no sex interest, and it is literally a play on phonetics.”

Headline of the Day -100 (I think this is the NYT’s Sunday magazine section): “One Calling Which Has Not Yet Been Invaded by Women.” Taxidermy.

Woodrow Wilson, out for a walk, is nearly run down by a street car as he jaywalks. A cop jumps in front of the trolley and gets it to stop in time.

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Friday, September 06, 2013

Today -100: September 6, 1913: Of shotgun weddings, or something

This story raises more questions than it answers:

(click on image to see, you know, the rest of it)

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Thursday, September 05, 2013

High confidence

Oops, just found a post I forgot to post yesterday about Obama’s press conference in Stockholm.

On NSA snooping, he suggested that “it may be that the laws that are currently in place are not sufficient to guard against the dangers of us being able to track so much.” Oh, a narrower law would certainly be a help, but just because something isn’t technically legal does not make it obligatory. Just fucking stop snooping on everything and everyone. Just. Stop.

On chemical weapons, “I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line.” But did the world name the United States sole judge, jury and executioner? Because if not, don’t pretend to be acting on the world’s behalf.

“Keep in mind, I’m somebody who opposed the war in Iraq and not interested in repeated mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty intelligence. But having done a thoroughgoing evaluation of the information that is currently available, I can say with high confidence chemical weapons were used.” George Bush had high confidence about Iraq. Cheney had high confidence. Rumsfeld had high confidence. Condi had high confidence. God save us from politicians with high confidence.

“But I do have to ask people, well, if, in fact, you’re outraged by the slaughter of innocent people, what are you doing about it?” Not bombing Syria, that’s what I’m doing about it.

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Today -100: September 5, 1913: Of refugees, the basest impulse of crooked politics, train crashes, and hotel jurists

The House appropriates $100,000 to help Americans get out of Mexico.

Theodore Roosevelt (a former governor of New York, it should be remembered) writes to semi-deposed NY Gov. Sulzer, telling him that “there is no question that all of your assailants are the enemies of the public and that their aim is to acquire the evil domination of the State Government, and that the conspiracy against you has not one saving impulse behind it that can in the remotest degree be ascribed to patriotism or civic spirit, or to anything save the basest impulse of crooked politics.”

Meanwhile, the Fawley Committee is now accusing Sulzer of spending $8,000 on printed matter promoting direct primaries, when the executive department’s entire printing budget was only $1,000.

The engineer of the train that crashed in Connecticut two days ago is arrested after a closed-door coroner’s inquest in which the coroner allowed the railroad company to review and edit all the evidence, so that looks totally above board.

NYT Index Typo of the Day -100: “HEHRY B. BROWN, HOTEL JURIST, DIES.” That should be Henry B. Brown, Noted Jurist. In fact, former US Supreme Court Justice Brown (1890-1906), who wrote the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, which is not mentioned in his obit.

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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Today -100: September 4, 1913: Of coal wars and little coteries of men who follow politics as a dishonest trade

H.T. Davis, President of the Paint Creek Consolidated Coal Company, testifies to the Senate special committee investigating the West Virginia coal wars that coal miners were contented with their ill-paid, brief lives before “outsiders” from the United Mine Workers’ Union came. He defends the use of guards to keep union organizers away from miners and says that the mineowners didn’t bring in machine guns until they heard that the miners were bringing in guns.

Foiling Tammany Hall’s attempt to deny him re-election by giving the Democratic nomination to someone else, NYC Mayor William Jay Gaynor is re-nominated by petitions from independent voters. Gaynor, still unable to speak much after his recent illness caused by being shot in the throat three years ago, has a speech read out attacking Boss Murphy and Tammany, “a little coterie of men who follow politics as a dishonest trade, and have no other visible means of support,” picking the next mayor at a table at Delmonico’s. Gaynor adds that the people of NY “are going to shovel all of these miserable little political grafters into one common dump heap”. He had a shovel with him and play-acted “burying his enemies.” Everyone loves a prop comic.

Ex-prez Taft is elected president of the American Bar Association.

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Never means never

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for welcoming Teresa. This is her first public event since early July, so we’re all happy she’s here.” Sure, who doesn’t bring their wife along to watch them try to start a war.

“[The world wants] to know if America will rise to this moment and make a difference.” And by make a difference, I mean make a crater. Well, craters.

“The President and the Administration appreciate that you have returned quickly to the nation’s capital to address it and that you are appropriately beginning a process of focusing with great care and great precision”. Because nothing says great care and great precision like the United States Senate.

Obama is coming to the Senate for a vote because “We are stronger as a nation when we do that.” Sure, remember how strong as a nation the Tonkin Gulf Resolution made us?

“the Assad regime - and only, undeniably, the Assad regime - unleashed an outrageous chemical attack against its own citizens.” There’s that word again.

“Now, some people here and there, amazingly, have questioned the evidence of this assault on conscience. I repeat here again today that only the most willful desire to avoid reality can assert that this did not occur as described or that the regime did not do it.” You can always tell how much someone “welcomes a debate” when they open by being amazed at the willful desire to avoid reality of anyone who questions them.

“Now, I remember Iraq. Secretary Hagel remembers Iraq. General Dempsey especially remembers Iraq.” Also the Alamo. And the Maine.

“our intelligence community has scrubbed and re-scrubbed the evidence.” It just sounds dirty when he says it like that.

“Within minutes of the attack - 90, I think, to be precise, maybe slightly shorter” Well then you’re not being precise, now are you? “the social media exploded with horrific images of the damage that had been caused”. And things that explode in social media have never been wrong, or manufactured. “Those scenes of human chaos and desperation were not contrived. They were real. No one could contrive such a scene.” Says a man who hasn’t seen a new movie in several decades.

He claims Syria kept inspectors out for four days, which is not true. (By the way, did you know that when either side makes a claim of a chemical weapons attack, both sides are required to stop fighting until the UN is done inspecting the area? It’s totally true.)

Over 180 countries joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, he says, without mentioning that Syria isn’t one of them.

“Now, some have tried to suggest that the debate we’re having today is about President Obama’s redline. I could not more forcefully state that is just plain and simply wrong. This debate is about the world’s redline, it’s about humanity’s redline, and it’s a redline that anyone with a conscience ought to draw.” It just sounds dirty when he says it like that.

“the world wonders whether the United States of America will consent, through silence, to standing aside while this kind of brutality is allowed to happen without consequence.” Yes, not bombing Syria is exactly like consent.

“And I think all of you know that history holds nothing but infamy for those criminals” Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy “...and history reserves also very little sympathy for their enablers.” Oh, now not bombing Syria has slipped from consent to active enablement.

“we cannot overlook the impact of chemical weapons and the danger that they pose to a particularly volatile area of the world in which we’ve been deeply invested for years, because we have great friends there, we have allies there, we have deep interests there.” Israel and oil, oil and Israel, Israel and oil.

Oh lord, I am so getting GeeDubya flashbacks now: “but to avoid the creation of a safe haven in Syria or a base of operations for extremists to use these weapons against our friends.”

He calls the authorization for Obama to use whatever military force he wants pretty much wherever and however and for as long as he wants “this very limited request the President has put before you.”

“We need to send to Syria and to the world, to dictators and to terrorists, to allies, and to civilians alike the unmistakable message that when the United States of America and the world say ‘Never again,’ we don’t mean sometimes, we don’t mean somewhere. Never means never.”

“Norms and laws that keep the civilized world civil mean nothing if they’re not enforced.” The civilized world, really, that’s the expression we’re using? Maybe he meant to say that he wanted to keep the civil war civil. Actually, that pretty much is what he’s saying: that the mass slaughter was perfectly acceptable and, to use the word he definitely used, I heard him, “civil,” until someone had to ruin it.

“We all agree there will be no American boots on the ground.” They will be manufactured in China.

“The President has made crystal clear we have no intention of assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war.” So,
“accountability” for Assad, but no responsibility for us. How convenient.

“Some fear a retaliation that leads to a larger conflict. Well, let me put it bluntly: If Assad is arrogant enough, and I would say foolish enough, to retaliate to the consequences of his own criminal activity, the United States and our allies have ample ways to make him regret that decision without going to war.” Um, even if you don’t call it a war (which won’t stop it being a war; ask the people under the bombs we drop whether it’s a war, they’ll be pretty clear on the subject), that is exactly the “ample ways to make him regret decision” is precisely the “larger conflict” he’s reassuring us against.

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Today -100: September 3, 1913: Of train wrecks and pardons

Headline of the Day -100: “Wilson Sees Wreck Pyre.” By coincidence, his train follows a route where a train, the White Mountain Flyer, crashed in Connecticut a few hours before, killing 21. The New Haven railroad is notorious for crashes, collisions and wrecks. The NYT lists 17 in the previous 27 months, with 66 deaths.

Guy-Who-Thinks-He’s-Still-Governor-of-New-York William Sulzer pardons bank embezzler extraordinaire Joseph Robin. The warden of the prison holding Mr. Robin plans to ignore the pardon. Sulzer’s idea is to force a court to rule on just who is governor of New York pending his impeachment trial (a court will rule against him, and Robin will go back where he came from).

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Monday, September 02, 2013

Today -100: September 2, 1913: Of rebellions, holidays, crippled tsareviches and big cossacks, and loop-the-loops

Oh yeah, there’s been a rebellion in China for a while now, hasn’t there. Well, Nanking (Nanjing) falls to government forces, as the NYT explains in the two sentences it devotes to the subject. Its coverage of China often resembles a Zen koan in its brevity and allusiveness.

John D. Rockefeller explains why he doesn’t give the workers on his estate Labor Day off: “Instead of spending money on amusements my employees will have an opportunity to add to their savings. Had they been given a holiday, money would have been spent foolishly.” He gave this explanation whilst playing golf on Labor Day, because of course he did.

Headline of the Day -100: “CZAR'S SON STILL CRIPPLED.; Looks Robust, But Has to be Carried About by a Big Cossack.” Oh, we’ve all been there.

Other Headline of the Day -100: “FLIES UPSIDE DOWN QUARTER OF A MILE.” French aviator Adolphe Célestin Pégoud flies the first ever loop-the-loop (except Wikipedia says it was the second; a Russian flew one 12 days before). This is the same guy who parachuted from a plane last month. Pégoud will achieve a more dubious first: he was the first “ace” to shoot down another plane (during World War I, not for, you know, sport). He will himself be shot down in 1915, by one of his old German aviation students.

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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Today -100: September 1, 1913: Of refugees and bloody Sundays

Although Pres. Wilson told Americans in Mexico that they should leave, he didn’t actually have any preparations in place. Those who obeyed are being dumped in New Orleans and handed $5, so now many Americans still in Mexico are refusing to leave.

Bloody Sunday in Dublin (yes, there have been other Bloody Sundays in Ireland; it’s just that kind of place). James Larkin, president of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, holds a public meeting that the police had banned. Larkin, on bail on a charge of seditious conspiracy, had burned the proclamation banning the meeting on Friday and an arrest warrant was issued. He evades the police, sneaks into a hotel in disguise and addresses the crowd from a balcony for a while before being arrested. The police beat strikers, injuring hundreds and killing one.

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