Friday, October 31, 2014

Today -100: October 31, 1914: I am going somewhere where I think I can get more votes

The new British First Sea Lord, replacing Prince Louis of Battenberg, is Adm. Jacky Fisher, who previously held the job before retiring at age 70.  Now 73, he has been in the Navy since he was 12, which means he actually served during the Crimean War, when it was all wooden sailing ships.

Woodrow Wilson has some advice for the voters of New York: “an American citizen should never vote as a sectarian but always as an American citizen.”  In other words, he’s criticizing the anti-Catholic campaign against Gov. Glynn waged by the secretive but well-funded Guardians of Liberty.  Some of the people endorsed by the Guardians have repudiated them, but not Whitman.  (Update: Do NYT reporters ever talk to each other? Another article this issue has Whitman doing just that, although very belatedly).

Suffragists hold a meeting at Carnegie Hall.  Gov. Glynn drops by but doesn’t make a speech: “I am going somewhere where I think I can get more votes.”  Which kind of makes their point.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Russia Welcomes Turkey As An Enemy.”  The whole of the Balkans is now in play.  Neither side has declared war yet, and the Turkish ambassador to Russia claims to believe that Turkish military actions in the Crimea must be some sort of mistake, perhaps naval commanders – which means Germans on secondment – acting on their own.

A German newspaper in German-occupied Russian Poland quotes a supposed proclamation from Kaiser Wilhelm who calls a “miracle” his “decision to wage war with Russia and restore to Poland her saints and annex her most cultured land to Germany,” which he’s doing because the Virgin Mary came to him in a dream.  I don’t know if this story is real: the only Google hits for it are 3 contemporaneous news stories.

Meanwhile, Russia is allowing Poles to form legions under Polish commanders.  “Proclamations have been posted in all Polish towns and villages exhorting the people to join the legions and expel the enemy.”  I’ll bet the Russians are very careful to specify that when they say “the enemy” they mean Germans, to avoid any wacky but understandable mix-ups.

Today’s dead prince rumor: Prince Heinrich of Reuß.  You’d think that would be easy to fact-check on Wikipedia, but turns out there were two German micro-principalities named Reuß, ruled by two branches of the same family who evidently both named every one of their boys Heinrich and probably some of the girls as well and there’s also some weird numbering system, so if this article is about the one I think it is, it’s Heinrich XXXIV, son of Heinrich XXVIII (!) and he wasn’t killed but lived until 1956.  And yes, this will all be on the quiz.

Belgium is fighting the Germans with water, flooding the Yser River valley.

Rumors say the Allies have retaken Lille.

Germany warns Britain that if it doesn’t release German civilians from internment, Germany will do the same to British civilians in Germany.

Germany denies yesterday’s rumor that it made peace offers through the German Social Democratic Party.

Halloween 1914 Story: Britain claims German spies have been disguising themselves as Boy Scouts and Scout Masters.

The Lusitania is late.

It was just delayed by bad weather.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Today -100: October 30, 1914: Turkey has pronounced her own doom

Turkey starts war against Russia (without declaring war), attacking the Crimea and the Caucasus, making it the 10th combatant (if you don’t include Canada, South Africa, Togo and other colonies).  The London Times says: “By her foolish yielding to the instigations of Germany, Turkey has pronounced her own doom.”  Doom, I tell you!

Oh, let’s name the 10 warring countries, in case those of you playing the home game have forgotten any of them (Montenegro, you’ve forgotten Montenegro, admit you’ve totally forgotten Montenegro): Austria, Serbia, Germany, Russia, France, Montenegro, Belgium, Britain, Japan, Turkey.

Speaking of Canada, some Canadians along the border fear an invasion by Germans and Austrians living in the US.

Germany is said to be building new submarines four times as large as existing ones, able to remain at sea without resupply for 40 days.

The Comte de Chambrun, once the French military attaché in Washington but now an artillery officer, has had what he calls “the great pleasure” of having to bombard his own château, which the Germans are occupying.

A “League of Honour” is formed in Britain for educated girls to show lower-class ones how to be nice to soldiers – but not, um, too nice.

A politician asks Gen. Joffre what his plans are: “I’ll just keep nibbling at them for the time being.”

IWW activist Becky Edelstein is tried for making speeches against John D. Rockefeller.  She tells the jury that she has the right of free speech, and that whatever they do she will “come back here and harass John D. Rockefeller.”  She is acquitted.

Alice Paul, head of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, says no California woman should vote for a Democrat for any office because Wilson and congressional leaders haven’t supported the women’s suffrage amendment.

The Mexican convention continues. Zapata’s delegates have finally arrived.  They demand the break-up of the large landed estates.  “The convention for several minutes was in confusion.  The delegates reached for their revolvers, but finally yielded to the becalming speeches of their colleagues.”

Prince Louis of Battenberg resigns as First Sea Lord, in response to a xenophobic press campaign against him (he was born in Austria and raised abroad in Germany and Italy, but has served in the British Navy for 45 years, since he was 14).  The Battenbergs will change their name to Mountbatten later in the war in an attempt to avoid more of this sort of thing.

Woodrow Wilson asks his attorney general if he has the power to close the mines in Colorado (the White House will deny this story). Gov. Ammons says it’s perfectly safe to withdraw the federal troops, as the state national guard (now even more heavily infiltrated by mine-company guards) is perfectly capable of keeping order.

US business is booming because of the literal booming in Europe.  Belligerent nations have placed orders for 2.2 million pairs of shoes in New England.  The hob-nailed boots the French army wants have to be made by hand.  Also tinned meat, lots of tinned meat.  And 20,000 horses.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Today -100: October 29, 1914: All enthusiasm is dead

Gavril Princip, the assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, is sentenced to 20 years (lenient because of his age, which is also 20 years), while 4 of his convicted co-conspirators are sentenced to death, 1 to life, and the rest for terms ranging from 3 years to 20 years.  Several were acquitted. 

Wilson issues the annual presidential Thanksgiving proclamation, which mostly talks about the European war (one could be excused for thinking the proclamation is aimed more at next week’s election than Thanksgiving).  “It has been vouchsafed to us to remain at peace, with honor,” he says.  “Our crops will feed all those who need food; the self possession of our people amidst the serious anxieties and difficulties and the steadiness and resourcefulness of our businessmen will serve other Nations as well as our own.”  So... we’re giving thanks for the war because it’s good for business?

Kodak says it has developed a color film process easy enough for ordinary photographers to use.  But the photos can’t be printed, they can only be seen as transparencies.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Germany is explaining (in placards in Belgium) its recent retreat: Paris has cholera, so it’s just healthier for German troops to winter in Germany instead of capturing Paris.  Totally believable.

The NYT continues to reprint reports from the eminently unbiased London Standard: “An evil spirit seems to have rendered the Austrian Army impotent from the very commencement of hostilities.”  It says that the wounded are so many that every hospital, barracks and school in Vienna have been converted into wards, as well as many theaters, museums and offices.  “Convalescent soldiers wander like vagabonds through the streets, clothed in uniforms and still bandaged, begging alms.”  The public are indifferent: “All enthusiasm is dead.”

Le Petit Parisien interviews a 12-year-old soldier.

Woodrow Wilson meets Mother Jones, who asks him not to keep the federal troops in Colorado, and says if the mineowners continue to reject Wilson’s proposed settlement he should just close the mines.

Belgian troops are finally winning against Germany.  OK, it’s in a battle between the Belgian Congo and German Tanganyika, but it still counts, sort of.

Prince Maurice of Battenberg, a grandson of Queen Victoria and the brother of Queen Victoria of Spain, is killed in action in France, at 23.  Er, fighting on the British side, despite the German-sounding title.

When Greece saw Italy invading and occupying Albania’s capital, it looked like such fun that it has invaded southern Albania.  Like Italy, Greece claims not to be acquiring territory but acting purely out of humanitarian motives.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Bomb Angers the Swiss.”

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Today -100: October 28, 1914: Please advise your government and my family that I died a traitor

Portugal has not entered the European war, although it frequently threatens to do so, but Germany goes ahead and invades its colony Angola anyway.  Probably preemptively, since the British navy is currently sailing Portuguese troops out to reinforce Angola and Moçambique.

NY Gov. Martin Glynn suspends the warden of Sing Sing, Thomas McCormick, for showing favoritism to prisoner David Sullivan, who was president of the Union Bank of Brooklyn until he wiped it out.  The warden made Sullivan his chauffeur, which gave Sullivan the opportunity to meet with his secretary and conduct business in Yonkers.  McCormick explained that he chose Sullivan, rather than any of the qualified chauffeurs who graced Sing Sing’s cells, because “he had the appearance of a gentleman”.  McCormick claims he bought the car with his own funds, expecting to be reimbursed by the state later, but the money actually came from Sullivan.  (I wonder what happens to the car now that McCormick has been suspended, shortly to be fired.)

Italy says it is occupying Avlona, the capital of Albania, but only for sanitary reasons.  Given the civil war or disorder or whatever you want to call the current situation in Albania, it’s getting a little stinky.

Pancho Villa has supposedly thwarted a plot to assassinate him, paid for by Gen. Pablo Gonzales, a supporter of Carranza.  The would-be assassin confessed, in front of a US consular agent: “Mr. Consul, please advise your government and my family that I died a traitor.”  Villa has him executed.

Russia and France are both considering giving soldiers steel breastplates, which they ultimately won’t do, because it’s a stupid idea.

No sooner has one rebellion ended in South Africa then another begins, led by Generals Christiaan De Wet and Christiaan Frederick Beyers.  The latter resigned as commandant-general of the South African army when war was declared on Germany.

Carranza submits his resignation – conditional on Villa and Zapata leaving public life altogether.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Today -100: October 27, 1914: The woman’s movement and war cannot flourish together

Prinzip and the other 23 alleged conspirators are convicted of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  The verdict was read over the sound of Serbian artillery.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Kaiser All Intent on War.”  What was your first clue?

Headline of the Day -100:  “Germans Suffocated in Great Forest Fire.”  Set by Russian troops, in Poland near the Vistula.

South African forces defeat Salmon Maritz’s rebellion.  Maritz is wounded and flees into German Southwest Africa.  He will return to South Africa in 1923, receiving no punishment (the sentences of his men who were captured will be commuted after just two years).  He will go on to form a small anti-Semitic fascist organization in the 1930s.  As one does.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Sends Kaiser Pictures of His Looted Chateau.” The French chateau of Jefferson Davis Cohn, publisher and horse-breeder, was commandeered by German troops during the Battle of the Marne.  Cohn is outraged that it was looted and vandalized, his tapestries and horses stolen, and the wine cellar drunk up.  He has sent photos of the damage to the kaiser, with whom, he says, he has drunk beer and whose sister he once hosted at this very chateau.

In other expatriate-owned-castles-in-France news, Gen. von Bülow is threatening to burn down a castle near Rheims owned by Prince Albert of Monaco unless he pays a fine which was imposed on a nearby village for what Albert calls “some insignificant mischief,” whatever that means. (Update: a later story says they are accused of scattering glass on the road.  The prince says he’s willing to pay... after the end of the war, if his château is intact.)

Headline of the Day -100:  “COURT SITS IN OVERALLS.”  The Mississippi Supreme Court.  Also cotton shirts.  In honor of Cotton Day, which supports the “wear cotton clothes” movement.

The Association of American Women of German Descent holds its first meeting at the Hotel Astor.  The speakers (the 3 official speakers quoted are all male) deplore the American press’s bias against Germany.  A Mrs Gerard Bancker of the Federation of Women’s Clubs interjects that American women should be neutral, just like the president asked, and anyway Germans are cutting the hands off Belgian children, her sister saw it.  She is hissed down.  The poet Hanns Heinz Ewers attributes American hostility to Germany to a misunderstanding of the term “pan-Germanism,” which he helpfully explains before reciting his poem “Tremble, Ye Britons.”  Ewers will be interned from 1918 to 1921. I had no idea the US interned Germans so long after the end of the war.

Another British suffragist arrives in New York. Christabel Pankhurst’s old colleague Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence will also speak at Carnegie Hall.  Her view of the war is quite different from Christabel’s: “The whole woman’s movement must be turned to the destruction of this monster, war. ... The woman’s movement and war cannot flourish together.”

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Today -100: October 26, 1914: Of delegates, doctrines, and man-killing devices

The 1916 Republican Convention will have many fewer delegates from the South, where the R’s don’t have any voters anyway.

There has been some silly discussion in the NYT lately over whether Germany has acknowledged the Monroe Doctrine or, on the contrary, might try to annex South America if it wins the European war.  Not helpful: Ambassador to the US and Mexico Count von Bernstorff says that Canada’s participation in the war exempts it from the Monroe Doctrine and therefore it would be perfectly proper for Germany to invade it.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Edison Won’t Invent Man-Killing Devices.”  Well, not on purpose anyway.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Today -100: October 25, 1914: Of too much man-governed countries

Congress adjourns, Southern congresscritters temporarily giving up on their filibusters over cotton.  Hoke Smith of Georgia has been particularly anxious to secure higher prices, having made a campaign promise that cotton would sell at 12¢ a pound; cotton farmers have been sending him bales of cotton and billing him at that price.

British Secretary of War Lord Kitchener asks the public to refrain from buying drinks for members of the military.

Columbia undergrads are suddenly interested in European history, for some reason.

Women may not yet have the vote in New York, but they can and are running as candidates for the 1915 constitutional convention.

Former impeached NY Gov. William Sulzer’s American Party, which is basically just him, has a rather simple, not to say simplistic platform: 1) Beat the bosses. 2) Stop the stealing.  3) Get the grafters.  Etc.  He is also running as the candidate of the Prohibition Party, whose candidate for lieutenant governor is Charles Welch, the grape juice king.

In South Africa, rebel leader Lt. Col. Salomon Maritz offers to surrender if his followers are pardoned and the German soldiers with him are allowed to return to South-West Africa.  South Africa ignores him.

Christabel Pankhurst gives a speech at Carnegie Hall.  She contorts herself to present her support of the war as analogous to the now suspended militant suffrage movement, or as an extension of it: “Now, I am a militant. That is not to say that I prefer war to peace; but it is to say that when people want to govern me by physical force and not by the moral force of justice, then I am prepared to defy their physical force to the very death.”  (Or give orders from Paris, as the case may be.)  “I maintain that we are fighting for democratic government. We are fighting for the right of the different peoples of the world to govern themselves. And I maintain that the victory of the Allies will, as a matter of fact, be a victory for the German people themselves.”  And I’m sure they’ll be properly grateful.

“When the women of the world are enfranchised, then indeed we may hope to see the reign of universal peace.”  An odd claim from a woman making a pro-war speech.

She genders the war (which is hardly unique to her), calling Belgium “the suffragette country” for its resistance to the mighty German Empire, which she portrays as “a male nation, a country in which the counsels of women emphatically do not prevail,” and if it succeeds, “then you will have the peace-loving nations always on the defensive, always compelled to be arming and preparing to meet the armed aggression of that too much man-governed country in which women are not free.”

My favorite line, about Germany’s claim to need more land: “We cannot be bullied by birth-rates.”

People in America, she says, have asked her why Britain was so unprepared for war.  “Some of us think that the British Government would have been better employed in preparing to defend the country against the German enemy than in fighting so hard against the Suffragettes. If, instead of searching our Suffragette literature for alleged illegalities, the British Government had been reading more carefully the enlightening works of General von Bernhardi; if, instead of watching the offices of the W.S.P.U., they had paid more attention to spies and to the fortresses disguised as factories which Germany was erecting in our midst”.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Today -100: October 24, 1914: Yet you’re still alive

Headline of the Day -100:  “GERMAN WOMEN SPIES MEET DEATH BRAVELY; Allies Shoot Many Suspects Whose Accent Betrays Their Teutonic Origin.”  Which doesn’t really sound like they’re shooting actual spies.  “So many spies have been caught in France recently that the possession of papers apparently in good order avails a man or woman nothing once an accusation has been made or suspicion aroused.  It is asserted that no German tongue can ever pronounce certain French words without betraying itself.”  Um, right.

There are demands in India that the British do more to protect Indian shipping from German attacks.  The Times of India calls for convoys and “alludes to the possible effect on the crude native mind of the [cruiser] Emden’s successes, which will seem to their humble intelligences an indication of German success in the naval war.”

Carranza says he’s willing to resign as chief executive, provided Pancho Villa doesn’t come to power - or get any of the credit for Carranza leaving.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Kaiser Wilhelm supposedly rebukes one of his generals, who retreated from the Marne, for not going down fighting: “You fell back, and yet you’re still alive.”

Haiti now has two people claiming to be president, Orestes Zamor and Davilmar Théodore.  Which are both fantastic names.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Today -100: October 23, 1914: Got it by a mile

Former Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz is reported dead.  He isn’t.

The round-up and internment of German- and Austrian-born men in Britain is, not surprisingly, creating hardship among the wives and children left behind.  So it’s up to the US embassy, which is responsible for looking after those countries’ interests in Britain, to deal with them, dispersing funds from the German and Austrian governments.

Italy invades Albania.

The Constitutionalist military Convention names a cabinet, or five cabinet members anyway, but Carranza may ignore them.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Lille a Ruined City.”

In the NY governor’s race, District Attorney Charles Whitman accuses Gov. Martin Glynn of putting a convicted forger on the payroll in the Audit Bureau of the State Controller’s office on behalf of Tammany Hall, one Thomas Torpy.  Whitman’s campaign is very prosecutorial, talking about rooting out the various Tammany crooks, with as little discussion of actual governance issues as he can get away with.

Here is Whitman’s campaign song:
    Who is, who is, who is he?
    He is, he is, he is he
    He is in it, I should smile
    Whitman’s got it by a mile.
The NYT claims that the whispering campaign against Gov. Glynn for his religion (he’s the first Catholic governor of NY) is strictly a rural business – they’d never think of asking a man’s religion in the Big Apple.

In the first income tax returns, just 44 people declare themselves to have an income over $1 million, 91 between $500,000 and $1 million, out of 357,598 tax returns filed.  The income tax produced much less revenue than expected, and the Internal Revenue Bureau will start going after the tax dodgers – they estimate there are 140,000 of them.

Now the fun begins: guessing who the 44 plutocrats are.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Today -100: October 22, 1914: Mud, mud, inglorious mud

With artillery playing a dominant role in the Great War, armies are finding an obstacle: mud. All that tromping of armies, with their horses and motor vehicles, has turned roads to shit.  Add rain and you’ve got mud, which bogs down the movement of artillery.

NY Gov. Martin Glynn, running for re-election, bravely comes out in favor of playgrounds.

Germany makes more complaints about France violating the rules of war: killing or mutilating wounded German soldiers, sniping at ambulances, etc.

Headline of the Day -100:  “German Ban Put on Hostile Poets; Outer Darkness for D’Annunzio and Maeterlinck as Lacking ‘Particular Genius.’”

Congress rejects a measure to support the cotton industry, whose exports have been hit badly by the war.

Italy is threatening to occupy Albania.

Russia ends the exemption of high school and university students from conscription.

A rather brief insurrection is suppressed in Portugal.

Another dead prince: Maximilian of Hesse-Kassel, the kaiser’s nephew, just before his 20th birthday. The Daily News (London) says his body was stripped and just left there and that he was shot in the back, possibly by his own men.

The US protests the British seizure of an American oil ship, the John D. Rockefeller.

Britain will intern all unnaturalized German- and Austrian-born males age 17-45, evidently in response to last week’s anti-German riots.  Hundreds of arrests of “enemy aliens” have been made.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Today -100: October 21, 1914: The Germans want to conquer what now?

Le Matin says that 35 French army cooks tricked 140 Germans into surrendering by pretending to surround them.

Tageblatt (presumably the German newspaper rather than the Luxembourger one) says that when the French took 3 German envoys prisoner, the kaiser threatened to kill 300 POWs unless they were released, which they were.

The NYT has “certain information” from “an authoritative source” that Germany is building 200 extra-large airplanes, each capable of carrying 1,000 pounds of bombs to drop on London.  The bombs will still have to be dropped by hand.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Villa Threatens to Seize Chiefs.”  While the Constitutionalist’s Convention of Military Chiefs meets to work out Mexico’s future, Pancho Villa moves troops worryingly close to where it’s being held.

Actual dead prince: Wolrad of Waldeck and Pyrmont, 22, killed in action in Belgium.

At the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, former Pres. Taft calls for making US treaties the supreme law of the land.  At present, the federal government can’t force states to abide by treaties, for example California’s discrimination against Japanese.

The upper house of the Prussian Diet debates German hat fashions (or maybe it’s just a meeting in the Diet building?)  One speaker (all of whom are unnamed, dammit) says it is the job of those who cannot fight to prepare for the consequences of war and the newly awakened German national feeling as it affects, you know, ladies’ hats.  “He predicted that the first consequences of the war would be a tendency to simplicity and a suppression of individuality.  Other speakers did not seem satisfied with this and declared that Germany must make fashions capable of conquering the international market.”

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Today -100: October 20, 1914: Of oaths, Latin, and riots

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: new Austrian soldiers are said to have to take an oath to the German kaiser as well as the Austrian emperor.  Seems unlikely.

The Haitian government has fled as rebels take Cape Haytien.  US Marines land, as was the custom.

Charles Taft, son of the former president, takes first prize in Latin in his Yale entrance exams, and if that doesn’t set you up to be... (checks Wikipedia)... mayor of Cincinnati, nothing does.

More anti-German riots in the London ‘burb Deptford. “The Prosecutor said that he regretted the necessity of appearing against citizens the object of whose attack had been German shopkeepers, but he explained that great damage had been done to English property as well.”  So do be more careful next time, rioters.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Today -100: October 19, 1914: Hasn’t been kissed in forty years

Evidently there used to be a ban in international law on dropping explosives from balloons etc, but this expired in 1905.

France has recaptured Armentières.

In a letter to House Majority Leader Oscar Underwood, Woodrow Wilson expresses confidence about the November elections: “The voters of the United States have never failed to reward real service.”  He don’t know us very well, do he?

Anti-German riots in London, with attacks on bakeries, butcher shops, saloons etc owned by Germans.

The new Constitutionalist governor of Chiapas, Mexico bans confession, restricts mass to once a week, and orders priests to wear non-clerical clothes.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Today -100: October 18, 1914: Of assassinations, murder, war taxes, and the World League for the Peace of Righteousness

Gen. Uribe-Uribe, the head of the Liberal Party in Colombia, is assassinated. With an axe.

The German Social Democratic Party newspaper Vorwärts is banned again.

France is expropriating German-owned businesses, including a department store.

The insurance industry newspaper The Spectator says that the murder rate in the US is increasing. 6,500 last year.

Rumor of the Day: The airplane flown by British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey’s brother is shot down and he is taken prisoner by the Germans.  I couldn’t confirm that Grey actually had any brothers still alive (following the unfortunate lion and buffalo incidents).

The “war tax” passes the US Senate, with no Republicans voting in favor, and a minor revolt amongst the cotton Southern Democrats.

Theodore Roosevelt has an article in the Sunday NYT about how silly Woodrow Wilson’s arbitration treaties are, and what would really preserve the peace is a tribunal of the great powers, a World League for the Peace of Righteousness, all pledged to militarily back the decision of a world court.

Major Clarence Wiener offers to leave Harvard University $10 million in his will if they fire psych professor Hugo Münsterberg, a prominent advocate of Germany’s position in the war.  Wiener is remembered at Harvard for a rather brief undergraduate career and for once getting drunk and shooting a stuffed lion he kept in his rooms.  Münsterberg offers his resignation but Harvard refuses to accept it.  Also, they correctly disbelieve that Wiener actually has $10 million (he’s also not really a major) despite his invention of an expandable boot-tree.  Wiener in fact left nothing but debts when he hanged himself in 1932.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Today -100: October 17, 1914: Vot you mean, you Gott dam fool?

Herbert Gladstone, son of William and until recently the governor-general of South Africa, tells the NYT that Salmon Maritz’s rebellion is insignificant.  One reason he gives why the Boers would never ally with Germany is the lesson of the Herero, who the Germans slaughtered in next-door Southwest Africa.  Gladstone doesn’t mention that the British sent soldiers to help the Germans put down the Herero.  Including Maritz.

War comes to Nyassaland (Malawi).  A British steamer, the Guendolen, is sent to capture a German steamer Von Pismann.  Except no one had informed the Germans that there was a war on, so when the Guendolen fired at it, missing the first three times, the skipper yelled, evidently in music-hall German, “Vot you mean, you Gott dam fool? If you fire again, you will hit the ship.”

The Germans are demanding that Antwerp, many of whose occupants have fled, provide the occupying troops every day with 21,000 pounds of potatoes, 1,000 pounds of meat, 2,000 bottles of wine and 85,000 cigars.

Or maybe Carranza hasn’t resigned.

Germany claims two British prisoners have admitted that dumdum bullets were issued to them.  They even have a photograph of two bullets, so it must be true.

The Russian Governor-General of Galicia plans to annex Eastern Galicia to Russia, while West Galicia will be part of a Kingdom of Poland, which will be part of the Russian Empire.  He says there is no need for compulsion in religion, “for the peasants pass over very easily to Orthodoxy.”  Fighting is said to be within 8 miles of Warsaw.

Press hysteria has forced London hotels to fire Germans and Austrians (there were a lot of German waiters).

Santa Rosa, California considers helping Belgian refugees immigrate and settle in Santa Rosa.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Today -100: October 16, 1914: Of contagious diseases, submarines on choo-choos, arson in arsenals, buxtons, and spies

The Watch Committee of the navy town of Plymouth, England recommends reestablishing the old Contagious Diseases Acts requiring compulsory examination of prostitutes (and anyone the police suspected of being prostitutes) for venereal diseases, to preserve the health of sailors.  Women’s suffrage groups oppose this (as feminists and evangelicals and evangelical feminists did in the 19th century).

Louis Botha, South African prime minister, will personally lead commandos against Salmon Maritz’s rebellion.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The rumor in London is that the Germans plan to move submarines by rail to the French and Belgian coasts.

More fog, probably: a fire in the Austrian arsenal is said to have destroyed a just-completed dreadnought and six torpedo-boat destroyers; the fire is believed to have been set deliberately.

German troops occupy Bruges.

A British newspaper claims that German estimates of losses (killed, wounded, missing and POW) in France and Belgium at 700,000 men, and maybe 150,000 on the Russian front; Austrian losses are 500,000.

Noel and Charles Buxton, brothers from a political family, Noel a Liberal MP, are both shot by a Turk in Bucharest, on their way back from a mission to preserve Bulgaria’s neutrality in the war and planning to attend King Carol of Romania’s funeral.  Noel is shot in the leg, Charles in the lung.  Charles will be a major player in the sort-of-anti-war Union of Democratic Control.

Russia says that many of the German civilians in Poland have turned out to be spies and have been dealt with accordingly.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today -100: October 15, 1914: Of aerial assassinations, recaptured lycks, provisional prezzes, and rosy cheeks

While Boer leaders in South Africa aren’t openly joining Maritz’s rebellion, they aren’t denouncing it either.

While French President Raymond Poincaré was visiting Gen. Joffre at Romilly-sur-Seine last week, a German aviator tried to assassinate him from the air.  He missed and was shot down by a French plane.

Portuguese troops are mobilizing, possibly to fight Germans in Africa.  Yesterday there were false reports that it had declared war on Germany.

Headline of the Day -100 That is Not a Euphemism:  “Germans Recapture Lyck.”

The Austrians have Sarajevo locked down tight for the trial of the 22 alleged conspirators in the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

France says Germany took 4,000 French boys aged 15 to 17 from occupied territories and sent them to Germany, to prevent them eventually joining the French army.  I guess this counts as long-term thinking.

Carranza resigns as provisional president and is replaced by Gen. Antonio Villareal.  Which is what Pancho Villa wanted, so he’ll be totally satisfied now, probably.

The bill to give the Philippines greater autonomy and a more representative government, leading to very eventual independence, passes the House 211-59.  The Senate is not expected to get to it this session.

French and British troops drive the Germans out of Ypres.  It just occurred to me that the English pronounced it Wipers but I don’t know how the Germans pronounced it.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The Germans claim to have found papers left behind by the Belgian General Staff in its hasty retreat from Brussels that show a 1906 agreement for British troops to be invited into Belgium in the event of a war between France and Germany, which justifies the German invasion because Belgium never intended to keep its vaunted neutrality.  Britain denies there was ever any such agreement.  There wasn’t.

The Georgia Supreme Court denies Leo Frank a new trial.

Christabel Pankhurst shows up in New York, her first visit to America, to help the suffrage cause here.  The NYT says she has “rosy cheeks and she looked very pretty as she came off the boat yesterday.”  Do they describe her clothing in great detail? Of course they do.  They think she’s about 23, which would mean she started her suffrage activism when she was 12.  She tells the Times that “The suffragettes in England are in favour of the war.”  However she does find the timing of the war unfortunate, coming when the British government couldn’t have “held out” against her much longer.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Today -100: October 14, 1914: Of bayonet battles, governments-in-exile, universities-in-exile, dead princes, bombs, and miscegenation markets

Headline of the Day -100: “SERBS WIN BAYONET BATTLE.”  Not a euphemism (probably).

The Belgian government moves to Le Havre, France.

The University of Louvain, which the Germans burned, will operate out of Cambridge for the time being.

German troops capture Ghent, Belgium.  The American vice consul lends his car to get wounded Belgian soldiers to the train station to be evacuated before the Germans arrive, something the Belgian authorities hadn’t bothered to provide for.

There’s a rebellion in South Africa, in northern Cape Province, bordering on German South-West Africa, led by Lt. Col. Salmon (or Salomon) Maritz, who was a Boer military leader in the Boer War and until this week was in the South African army.  Maritz and many of the officers and men under his command go over to the Germans (who promote him to general).  He will proclaim a provisional government for an independent South Africa and invite South Africans to take up arms.  Well, white South Africans.  The government declares martial law.

German troops are expected to capture Warsaw soon.  As was the custom.

Finally: a story of a prince dying in battle that’s actually true.  Prince Oleg, son of the Grand Duke Konstantine.  A Romanov.  21.

And another! The Vossiche Zeitung of Berlin says that both Crown Prince Alexander and Prince George of Serbia have been shot, the latter receiving a mortal wound.  I don’t think Alexander was ever shot, but George definitely was, seriously but not fatally (he died in 1972).

Bombs explode in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St Alphonsus’s Church.  Since the latter is where Frank Tannenbaum, the IWW leader, was arrested last spring, it is assumed the Wobblies are responsible.

The LA Times has an expose of the “San Pedro miscegenation market.”  White women and Japanese men have taken to being married by a ship’s captain outside the 3-mile limit to evade California’s law against inter-racial marriage, which it doesn’t because marriages performed by ship’s captains don’t count, according to the California Supreme Court.  Better would be going to Washington state or Canada, which don’t ban such marriages.  California law banned banning whites from marrying blacks or mulattos in 1850; “Mongolians” were added in 1880, and Filipinos in 1933, days after the state supreme court ruled that Filipinos were Malays rather than Mongolians.  The law was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 1948 (on a 4-3 vote).  Note that Hispanics counted as white under the law (in fact, the 1948 case was of a Latina woman married to a black man).

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Today -100: October 13, 1914: Of internment, re-election, and horses

The Belgian army has successfully retreated to Ostend.

The Netherlands is interning the Belgian and British soldiers who fled across the border.  The Morning Post blames First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill for the disaster of Antwerp, for sending in too small and too under-trained a force, and says Churchill shouldn’t be interfering in military decisions anyway.

It comes out that in February 1913, President-elect Wilson wrote to Rep. A. Mitchell Palmer, getting Palmer & the D’s to block consideration of a constitutional amendment, passed by the Senate, to restrict presidents to a single six-year term (even though that was a plank in the party platform he supposedly ran on).

Austrians, facing high food prices, are eating a lot of horse meat.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Today -100: October 12, 1914: Your turn will come

The Germans inform the residents of Antwerp who fled that they have two days to return to their homes (and live under German rule) or their houses will be seized for billets and their furniture removed.

The scalawags in the German Luftwaffe (or whatever it was called in 1914) drop a pennant on Paris, “We have taken Antwerp; your turn will come.”  Also incendiaries which set the roof of Notre Dome on fire.

The US and Panama agree that warships from belligerent countries taking on supplies or coal in Panamanian waters will be banned from doing it again for 3 months.

The Carranza-Villa fighting spills across the border.  Some of Villa’s men accidentally crossed into Arizona at night and were interned by the US Ninth Cavalry, a negro unit (“dusky troopers,” the NYT calls them).  In the ensuing battle between the Mexican factions, bullets and shells accidentally-on-purpose hit Naco, AZ, and some American soldiers are shot.

The US missed its own deadline to evacuate Vera Cruz, and is now placing conditions on Carranza (they say asking questions, but Mexicans will know gringo commands when they hear them), including guarantees for the safety of refugees, foreigners, and priests, and handing over the customs money the US has been collecting since occupying the customs house to France to settle the debts of previous regimes.

Pasquale Amato, the Metropolitan Opera baritone, just returned from the Continent, was detained by Austrian officials at the border because he had contraband – Italian newspapers.  He gave an impromptu acapella performance of the prologue to Pagliacci to convince them he was who he said he was.  Spy or singer? You be the judge:

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Today -100: October 11, 1914: Those who come after us shall be free from such terror

Antwerp surrenders, following a 40-hour bombardment.  The Belgian army is fleeing, headed by King Albert.  It hopes to reach Ostend.  Refugees are streaming into Holland, including inmates of insane asylums.

To some extent, the capture of Antwerp shows the failure of German strategy.  The whole point of invading Belgium, following the Schlieffen Plan, was to sweep through it on the way to capture Paris.  Since Antwerp was a fortress which would take some work and time to destroy and since it wasn’t blocking their transportation and communications line, they could simply bypass it.  But the push to Paris has halted, so the Germans are stuck in Belgium and have to deal with it now.

The German Governor-General of Belgium, Field Marshal Baron von der Goltz, orders Belgians to accept German currency.  “This is causing trouble at Brussels.”

Portugal is rumored to be about to join the war on Britain’s side.

Romania might be as well, following the removal of one major obstacle: King Carol I of Romania dies, at 75. His nephew Ferdinand will be the new king.  Ferdinand is a Catholic, and was only allowed to become the heir-presumptive (after his father and older brother demurred) after agreeing that his children would be raised Orthodox.  The Catholic Church excommunicated him for that, but later relented.

Annie Robinson, who was a stewardess on the Titanic, jumps to her death from a steamer in heavy fog.  Better to have taken the hint and stayed off boats.

Headline of the Day -100 That’s Probably Not a Euphemism:  “British Admire German Gunnery.”

Lord Haldane, the Lord High Chancellor (and former secretary of war), declares Britain’s war aims: “The terms of peace will be that the dominant spirit of militarism, which has perverted every talent of the German nation, will be crushed and broken, so that those who come after us shall be free from such terror.”  In case you thought Britain didn’t have concrete war aims.

The German Army has more than 150 Jewish officers now, compared to none before the war.

House Republican leader James Mann of Illinois wants to force every congresscritter onto the record on women’s suffrage.  He is a recent convert to the cause.  His attempt quickly turns into a slanging match, much of which is subsequently expunged from the record, between Mann and Thomas Heflin (D-Ala.), whose sexism is matched only by his racism.  Mann introduces an amendment to the Philippines Bill to introduce women’s suffrage in the Philippines; it loses 84-58.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Today -100: October 10, 1914: That’s a lot of shells

Germany captures Antwerp (update: maybe).  They can now use it as a base for zeppelin attacks on London.

A couple of doctors in the Philippines discover the mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria.  The doctors aren’t mentioned in malaria’s Wikipedia page, though.

Supposedly, French President Poincaré’s country house in Sampigny has been hit by 48 German shells.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Today -100: October 9, 1914: Of schoolboy soldiers, loyal Poles, and name changes

Headline of the Day -100:  “German Schoolboys Enrolled for Army.”  16-year-olds.

Austria indicts 25 for the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The German Anti-Polish Union says that Polish soldiers in the German army have been so loyal that it will dissolve itself at once.

One of Pancho Villa’s generals, Maclovio Herrera, revolts against him, claiming Villa had his brother, another Constitutionalist general, executed.

The director of the Berlin Royal Museums says that all those looted artworks are being moved to Germany only temporarily for their safety.

Britain bans German and Austrian residents of the UK from changing their names, as many have done, to something less likely to get their shops burned down.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Today -100: October 8, 1914: Of shootouts, yaps, peripatetic governments, and submarines

Barney Bertsche, politician and gangster, convicted last year of fraud in connection with a “clairvoyant trust” – picture the criminal underground portrayed in Fritz Lang’s “M” but with fake clairvoyants and wiretapping and blackmail instead of fake crippled beggars – engages in a gun-battle in Chicago with some cops trying to take him in.  Bertsche, two cops, an arsonist and another friend of Bertsche are all shot.  The cops may have been trying to kill Bertsche to shut him up about the cops on his payroll.  For more, see here (pdf).

Japan captures an island with the obviously made-up name Yap, in the Caroline Islands, which Germany bought from Spain in 1899 for about $5 million.  The astonishing thing is that the LA Times didn’t use the headline “Japs Take Yap.”

The Belgian government, which moved from Brussels to Antwerp at the start of the war, now has to flee to Ostend.  The next step may be to London.

A few days ago an Italian retired naval lieutenant commandeered one of his country’s submarines, saying he’d explain later why he needed it. He landed it at Corsica.  A letter he left behind has been found saying that it was a protest, or something, against Italian neutrality.  The French will give the sub back.

Ivor Novello publishes the first great World War I song, “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” Here’s a 1915 recording by James F. Harrison and below that the Oh What a Lovely War version.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Today -100: October 7, 1914: Of clocks, fun & suicide, jaluits, mines, and monticellos

An ill wind etc: American clockmakers are poised to take over the hole in the British clock market left by the loss of German imports.

Theodore Roosevelt and Republican candidate for governor of New York Charles Whitman dispute over whether, during the NYC mayor race a year ago, while Whitman, who ultimately lost, was  negotiating a deal with other candidates not to run for governor if elected mayor, he was simultaneously secretly negotiating with Roosevelt for TR’s support for Whitman as a fusion candidate for governor.  I’d have thought that made Roosevelt look just as sneaky and under-handed as Whitman.

Pancho Villa imports 10,000 rifles through the port of San Antonio.  The Carranza side is also buying up arms in the US.  Swell.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Children’s Fun Causes Suicide.”  A porter in a London hotel kills himself after children taunt his daughter – fun! – for being German.

The Japanese seize Jaluit, an island or atoll or something in the German colony in the Marshall islands, which is part of German New Guinea.  Japan claims it doesn’t intend to keep Jaluit.

France has begun mining the Adriatic, because Austria is mining the Adriatic.

The French government will return to Paris from its Bordeaux sojourn. (Er, eventually.)

A district court judge removes Lewis Duncan, the socialist mayor of Butte, Montana, and Sheriff Tim Driscoll, from office, supposedly for inadequately reacting to the miners’ strike (and the various accompanying dynamitings) earlier this year.  I’m going to speculate that Anaconda bought itself a district court judge, as was the custom.

There has been talk for years about the nation acquiring Monticello.  Pres. Wilson approves the idea, but not necessarily the idea of presidents using it as their summer home.

Joseph P. Kennedy, the 26-year-old president of the Columbia Trust Bank, marries Rose Fitzgerald.

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Today -100: October 6, 1914: Of eyes and dyes, underwear, searchlights, and moltkes

Britain is running out of glass eyes – the best ones came from Germany.  Another opportunity for American business.

American textile firms, however, are being hurt by the German ban on the export of chemicals, which includes dyes.

While Woodrow Wilson wants presidential primaries to be held in every state on the same day, he admits there won’t be time enough to put this into effect for 1916.

Headline of the Day -100:  “TAKES OVER ALL UNDERWEAR.; War Office Forbids Leicester Makers to Sell Goods Privately.”  So to speak.

For some reason, British royal proclamations about the war, which at first described the war as being with the German and Austrian empires, now talk about a war with the German and Austrian emperors.

I think I mentioned notices going up in London saying don’t shoot at the airships, they’re ours.  We now know that what was going on was experiments in detecting airships.  It seems that searchlights can illuminate them even in the heaviest London fog.

Kaiser Wilhelm fires Helmuth von Moltke as chief of the army general staff because of some combination of incompetence, a nervous breakdown, and lack of sufficient obsequiousness to the kaiser (or as the NYT puts it, “the Kaiser wished to subordinate sound strategy to his spiteful desire to attack England”).  He will be replaced by Erich von Falkenhayn, the Prussian Minister of War.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Today -100: October 5, 1914: Of red eagles, aloof Romania, peace prize winners, and fires in crowded theaters

Kaiser Wilhelm supposedly offers to award the Order of the Red Eagle (second class) to the first aviator who drops explosives on London, with lesser prizes to those who bomb other cities or battleships.

Essad Pasha arrives in Albania’s then capital Durrës with a small army, so he’s probably totally the king now.  Or the puppet of Serbia and Italy, as the case may be.  He’ll take what he can get.

Aloof Headline of the Day -100:  “Rumania to Hold Aloof.”  Won’t enter the war just yet.  There are reports that Bulgaria and Turkey have agreed to attack Romania if it does enter the war, and to divide up large slices of Romanian and Serbian territory (Romania and Serbia both gained a lot of territory in the Balkan Wars).

France says the German story about wounded German soldiers having their noses and ears cut off is a fabrication to distract from their ruthless destruction of Orchies.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Peace Leader Urges a War to the Finish.”  French senator Baron Paul-Henri-Benjamin d’Estournelles de Constant, winner of the 1909 Nobel Peace Prize for his work at the Hague peace conferences, wants Prussian militarism crushed, crushed I tell you!

Yesterday was Sunday, the day for the prayers for peace Pres. Wilson called for.  At St Patrick’s in New York, Cardinal Farley sort of prays for peace, which he says can only come if Christianity triumphs.  The only real cause of this war, he says, was the neglect of the Church and of Christianity by the nations of Europe.  “Almost every nation in Europe was persecuting the Church, trampling on its rights, driving it into the corners of the land.  And now they are paying the penalty.  They are suffering for their sins against God.”  Especially France.

He seems nice.

The NY state fire marshal bans the use of explosives in movies, because they might start fires in theaters.  Wait, what?  Well evidently they were creating sound effects in movie theaters synched to the film (war scenes being popular just now).  Yes, I could see how that might start a fire.

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Today -100: October 4, 1914: Were it not for German militarism, German civilization would long since have been extirpated

Oct. 4 was a Sunday, which Woodrow Wilson had designated a day of national prayer for peace, the eighth such day in US history, and the first for a war not involving the US.

Headline of the Day -100:  “European War Sure to Harm Future American Type.”  Frederic Clemson Howe, the new commissioner of immigration at the Port of New York, says the European war will reduce the moral and physical quality of immigrants to the US.  And more of them will be girls.  And the men will be more self-reliant, which is a bad thing, since many of the miners who went on strike in Colorado last year were veterans of the Balkan Wars.  Worse, the women might be made “more self-reliant and more venturesome” by their experiences of the war.

The real murderer of Mary Phagan was not Leo Frank but Jim Conley, says... Conley’s lawyer.

Gen. Lothar von Trotha, who ten years ago was in charge of the first genocide of the 20th century, that of the Herero in German South-West Africa (Namibia), is reported dead in fighting in East Prussia.  Not true, I’m afraid.

Mexico: a conference of generals rejects Carranza’s resignation as First Chief.  No civilians were allowed to speak.

King Carol of Romania is said to be really sick; most Romanians don’t believe it, but think he’s faking to end the popular agitation to join the war against the Central Powers.  Spoiler Alert: he’s not faking it.

A large women’s suffrage parade is held in Cleveland.

93 of Germany’s scientists, artists and other intellectuals sign an “Appeal to the World of Culture” that basically repeats every bit of German propaganda about the war (attacks on helpless German soldiers by vicious Belgian women and children, denial of atrocities, etc).  Mostly it’s about upholding the superior civilization of Germany against claims of barbarism: “Those who have allied themselves with Russians and Serbians, and present such a shameful scene to the world as that of inciting Mongolians and negroes against the white race, have no right whatever to call themselves upholders of civilization” [the NYT, which catches up with this a few days later, mis-translates that bit as “mongrels and niggers” – “Neger” can have that connotation, but “Mongolen” means Mongolian not mongrel, presumably a reference to troops from India).  “It is not true that the combat against our so-called militarism is not a combat against our civilization, as our enemies hypocritically pretend it is. Were it not for German militarism, German civilization would long since have been extirpated.”  The appeal is signed by no fewer than 14 past and future Nobel Prize winners including Paul Ehrlich, Engelbert Humperdinck, Max Planck (the inventor of quantum theory), Felix Klein (the inventor of the Klein bottle), Wilhelm Roentgen (the inventor of x-rays), Albert Neisser (the inventor of gonorrhea), the painter Max Liebermann, and Max Reinhardt.

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Friday, October 03, 2014

Today -100: October 3, 1914: Of advice, mines, and noses and ears

Pancho Villa executes two supporters of Felix Díaz who try to join his revolt.  A simple no would have sufficed.

Headline of the Day -100:  “Drop Advice From Air.”  German planes drop leaflets on Russian troops, “advising” them that the Russian Army has been routed by Austria and is in retreat, that there is a revolution in Moscow and a revolt in Poland and that, contrary to what they might have heard, Germany does not torture prisoners: “If this were true where could we take the huge army of tormentors and hangmen to kill and torture the hundreds and thousands of Russian prisoners already in our midst?”  In fact, Russian prisoners “are all without exception very happy and comfortable.”

Britain says it will start mining the North Sea to destroy U-boats.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100:  Germany accuses French irregulars of torturing German soldiers at a field hospital in northern France.  The Foreign Office official report: “Their noses and ears had been cut off and they were suffocated by inserting sawdust into their mouths and noses.  Correctness of the evidence taken was authenticated by two French priests.”

Congress rejects an amendment to the Philippines bill to neutralize the country after autonomy but before independence.  This would have required negotiating that neutral status with Britain, Germany, France, Russia, etc, because that worked out so well for Belgium.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

California proposition recommendations for November 3, 2014

Voter pamphlet here.

As is so often the case with California propositions, it’s the details that’ll get you. Even where the general principle of a prop is good, their authors often throw in a poison pill. Sometimes it’s distasteful enough to make me unable to vote for it. I’ve explained my logic below, see if you agree.

Proposition 1: Jerry Brown’s water bonds.  I am opposed to bonds, all bonds, 1) on pragmatic grounds because they’re an expensive form of funding, and the interest paid on them is money just flushed down the toilet, 2) on fairness grounds because they are regressive, allowing bond purchasers undeserved tax deductions, and 3) on principled grounds because they place tax obligations on the future generations that have to pay them off, which amounts to taxation without representation.  Also, I have no way of knowing – and neither do you, admit it – if these water projects are the right water projects to be funding – are they the most effective use of the money? do they overly favor agribusiness? are all those dams bad for the environment?  No on 1.

Proposition 2: “Rainy day” budgeting.  The idea is to put aside money in good years so that budgets aren’t cut in bad economic times when the need is greatest.  But this version of that idea seems more concerned with paying down debts than with preserving services.  The real goal seems to be, as the LA Times is quoted in the Yes argument, “to promote a culture of savings in Sacramento.”  In other words, it’s a way to impose an institutional straitjacket on the Legislature’s ability to make choices, to put in place budgetary policies for which conservatives could not get a mandate at legislative elections.  No on 2.

Proposition 45: Regulating health insurance rates, giving the insurance commissioner the power to determine if insurance company claims about why they need to raise rates are actually true.  The only good argument against this is that it gives too much responsibility to one person, but, again, in a democracy we have elections to keep the commissioner honest.  And it’s kind of worked – the insurance companies haven’t been able to buy a commissioner election since Chuck Quackenbush was forced to resign, narrowly escaping corruption charges.  Dude thought he was going to be the next governor, wound up forced to leave the state entirely and start a new career as a cop in Florida.  No candidate for the office since then has dared to take insurance company money.  Yes on 45, insurance companies need someone in government looking over their shoulder.

Proposition 46:  Drug testing of doctors, controlling controlled substances, malpractice suits.  The No side complains that the drug testing thing is a Trojan horse for raising pain and suffering awards in malpractice cases.  They’re right, but the motivation of the backers is irrelevant to the question of whether the prop. is any good.  The maximum pain & suffering award has been stuck at a measly $250,000 for 40 years.  Which might be all the victim gets – you don’t get compensation for lost wages, for example, if you’re six.  And the awards are now so low that decent lawyers won’t bother taking malpractice cases.  It needs to be raised (to $1.1 million, with increases matching inflation in the future) not just to properly compensate victims and survivors of bad doctoring but also to prevent malpractice in the first place.  I’m actually a little dubious (though not a lot dubious) about the drug testing provision, which only applies to doctors affiliated with hospitals and would be paid for by the doctors themselves, who could be harassed with frequent tests by administrators who don’t like them.  And the provision disproportionately affects doctors who deal with difficult cases – perform open-heart surgery on a 75-year-old who dies, pee into a cup.  Actually, as I write I'm getting more annoyed at the drug-testing provision. The third provision, having doctors prescribing addictive narcotics check to see that patients don’t already have prescriptions from other doctors, seems like something they should be doing anyway.  And that database already exists, so the worries the No side raises about data security aren't affected by 46 one way or the other.  Yes on 46.

Proposition 47: Drug offenses and minor property crimes treated as misdemeanors rather than felonies.  And if they’d just left it at that, I’d have voted for it, happily.  But they had to keep those crimes as felonies for people with past convictions for violent or sex crimes.  What does a previous criminal history have to do with whether you should go to prison for drug possession, shoplifting or check-kiting?  Nothing, but they wrote 47 the way they did so there wouldn’t be alarmist ads from the No side about letting rapists and murderers roam our streets.  I wish they’d written a better proposition, but there’s a fairness issue here, a matter of principle: all potheads should be equal before the law.  So I’m going to have to say No on 47.

Proposition 48: Indian gambling.  Is a slot machine really a “game,” by the way?  The ballot book doesn’t use the word “gambling” even once.  Honestly, I couldn’t care less about this, except for two things: 1) It costs the state a fair amount of money to administer a proposition, and I resent that being spent to ratify a deal between the state and two Indian tribes (one of which is called the Mono Indians – just saying), 2) The projects are exempted from California environmental laws in ways which are not explained.  Which is enough for me to say No.

Berkeley and San Francisco voters: Remember how smug and condescending Chris Christie sounded when he said that the nurse he had quarantined for non-existent Ebola would thank him for it if she just thought about it a bit more? Picture yourself standing in the soda aisle of Safeway saying the same thing to customers who will have to pay the sugary beverages tax. Democracy does not mean that our diets are subject to a vote of the people, even if it is "for our own good."

Elsewhere in the voter pamphlet, I notice that none of the candidates for governor or lite guv bothered to pay for candidate statements this year.  Kind of tacky, guys.

The candidate statement for the Republican candidate for insurance commissioner says he’s “been the ultimate consumer advocate for more than 30 years.”  He’s an insurance salesman.

The Republican running for District 1 of the Board of Equalization seems to think that not properly taxing the underground economy promotes human trafficking.  The R in District 2 wants you to know “I drive a pickup truck to work each day”.

Comments, rebuttals, and lame jokes about water bonds & rainy day budgets are welcome in comments.

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Today -100: October 2, 1914: Of mines, trees, the inevitable conflict of the races, and spies

Austria apologizes for sinking Italian ships with its mines and promises not to do it again.

Villa and Carranza agree a truce.

The US consul at Chemnitz, Germany, resigns because of threats and insults made against his wife for speaking English.

The US and Russia sign a peace treaty, to replace the one abrogated by Pres. Taft because of Russian failure to honor the passports of American Jews.  The terms of this one are not yet known.

Belgium is systematically cutting down the country’s trees to reduce cover for the German occupiers.

House Minority Leader James R. Mann (R-Ill.) speaks against the bill giving eventual independence to the Philippines, because an independent Philippines “would be used against us in the inevitable conflict between the races.”

Carl Lody, a Germany traveling under a stolen American passport, is arrested by the British authorities as a spy.  He’d spent the pervious weeks traveling around harbors, taking sketches and reporting back to Germany in badly coded telegrams.  After the first telegram, MI5 blocked the rest, except for one passing on the false rumor that Russian soldiers (you know, the ones with snow on their boots) were passing through Britain on the way to the Western Front.  After writing a very polite letter of thanks to his jailors for their considerate treatment of him, he is executed by firing squad.

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