Thursday, April 30, 2015

Today -100: April 30, 1915: Of congresses of women, Ypring it up, donkey decoys, and resented terms

The International Congress of Women at the Hague passes resolutions in favor of nations solving their differences with arbitration rather than mass slaughter, opposing secret treaties, abrogating all existing secret treaties, and transferring territory between countries only with the consent of its inhabitants.

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan denies plans to recognize Carranza’s or any other government in Mexico.

Four Germans celebrate the German victories in Ypres. Unfortunately, they do it in Vancouver, and a lot of Canadians died at Ypres (indeed, a lot of Canadians were gassed at Ypres). The Germans, who are now under arrest, insist that their party was merely a housewarming.

Headline of the Day -100:

Don’t click on the link if you don’t want to read about 1,000 dead donkeys.

In Britain, an Anti-German League and a British Patriotic League have formed, both aimed at making sure anti-German sentiment doesn’t end with the war’s conclusion.

Samuel Pearson, an American citizen who served as a general for the Boers in the Boer War, files a discovery suit in Wisconsin to find whether Bethlehem Steel and other companies are secretly making shrapnel shells for the Allies in violation of Wisconsin law, which seems like an odd thing for Wisconsin law to cover. Pearson says such sales could hurt his investments in Germany.

Frances Blascoer of the Public Education Association writes a report on black children in New York public schools. There are two private schools for black children because the principals of the city’s public schools don’t want them.

One of those principals says black children’s class spirit is bad. Imagine that.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today -100: April 29, 1915: Of gas, u-boats, crucifixions, emotional people, and setting an example of self-sacrifice

The Prussian military newspaper Kreuz Zeitung says it was the Allies’ “behavior” that forced Germany to resort to poison gas. And the Frankfort Zeitung says poison gas is much more humane than artillery shells, producing a quick, painless death.

The French armored cruiser Léon Gambetta is sunk by an Austrian submarine commanded by Lt. Baron George von Trapp. They didn’t mention that bit in The Sound of Music. 684 of the Gambetta’s crew of 821 are killed.

Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times):

A report on the massacre of Christians in Urumiah, Turkish Persia, confirms that while local Kurds carried out the acts, they were assisted by Turkish soldiers. Who raped the women (which the NYT, surprisingly, states explicitly).

Hey, the very next article I read also has a rape reference. German suffragist leader Dr. Lida Heymann, VP of International Congress of Women at the Hague, says “Worse than death, yes, worse than hellish, is the defenselessness of women in warfare and their violation by the invading soldier!” The American delegates finally arrived at the Hague after the British navy held up their ship in the English Channel for four days. The NYT/Chicago Herald’s story is written by Jane Addams, who is the Congress’s president. 

Writing in the Boston Herald, Elizabeth Lowell Putnam, sister of the president of Harvard, says the Women’s Peace Party, which sent Addams and others to the Hague congress, “is one of the most dangerous movements which has threatened our emotional people for a long time,” appealing to “emotional women [she really doesn’t like emotions, does she?] whose hearts are so large that many people have mistaken them for heads.”

Greece offers to join the war on the Allies’ side, but are told they’re offering too little help and demanding too much in return.

The Church of England’s Convocation comes out against prohibition. The next day it voted to “invite” the church and laity to “set an example of self-sacrifice” re alcohol, only after being reassured that this did not mean total abstinence. The Dean of Canterbury says he tried not drinking once, “and found it a failure in that it impaired his health.”

Carranza claims to expect the United States to recognize him within a couple of weeks. He also plans to defeat Villa any day now.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Somebody white just has to face that emotion and say that we’re sorry

1968 after the Martin Luther King assassination, NY Mayor John Lindsay walked the streets of Harlem. He is credited for helpign prevent the riots that occurred elsewhere. He said, “Somebody just has to go up there. Somebody white just has to face that emotion and say that we’re sorry.”

Compare and contrast with the leadership style of would-be President Rand Paul: “It’s depressing. It’s sad. It’s scary. I came through the train on Baltimore last night. I’m glad the train didn’t stop.”

Rand Paul: Chicken shit leadership you can count on!

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Today -100: April 28, 1915: His hour of disgrace

The US asks Turkey to please stop massacring Armenians.

The British War Office is asking the women of Britain to make gas masks for the soldiers. Well, gauze things more like the face masks you might wear to protect against smog in downtown Beijing, which should be totally effective against chlorine gas. (Actually, worse: when dry, the cotton was just useless; when wet, the user couldn’t breathe at all.)

The British say their troops at Gallipoli are “thoroughly making good their footing”. The Turks say they’ve been beaten back to the coast.

The NYT piles on the First Lord of the Admiralty for the mistakes of the Dardanelles campaign: “Now Winston Churchill’s hour of disgrace has come.” But really it’s more the fault of Asquith for allowing him to keep the job after war began: “For nine disastrous months he has been trying to do work for which neither his training nor his temperament fits him.”

Germany plans to purchase food enough for four more years of war.

The governor of Georgia is receiving thousands of letters calling for Leo Frank’s sentence to be commuted.

Margaret Buckner Lytle files for divorce from William Lytle, a black dentist in Oakland, California she married seven years ago under the mistaken belief that she was also a negro. She was raised in a convent and didn’t know her parents but a recent blood test has proved that she is white. So she wants a divorce. Or an annulment since inter-racial marriages aren’t legal.

The pianist & composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin dies, at 43. From blood poisoning. Because he scratched a pimple. So don’t do that.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

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

Headline of the Day -100:

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

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

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

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

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

Headline of the Day -100:  

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

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

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Headline of the Day -100: 

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Genocide and the passive voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headline of the Day -100:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

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

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

Headline of the Day -100:

Sounds like some sort of internet sex thing.

Really sounds like some sort of internet sex thing.

Um, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

The Soldier

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Dickhead of the Day -100:

The Hungarian parliament refuses to vote for war credits.

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times):

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

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

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Monday, April 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Today -100: April 18, 1915: Of bosses, dungeons, and grand dukes

The German military governor in Belgium dissolves the Belgian Red Cross for not being cooperative.

“Boss” Bill Barnes, the “boss” of the NY Republican Party, is suing Theodore Roosevelt for $50,000 in a libel suit for calling him a “boss,” which is totally a “boss” move. It will be quite the media circus. I’ll probably mostly be ignoring it.

Headlines of the Day -100:

The Great War takes a decidedly 50 Shades of Grey turn. Hope everyone remembers their safe word.

At last, European countries are talking about their war aims. Former and future French prime minister Georges Clemenceau says it is France’s mission to be invincible but dominated by humanity. And German censors are allowing the publication of op-eds in favor of annexing Belgium while suppressing op-eds opposed to it.

Black people in Boston protest  “The Birth of a Nation.” They are led by William Monroe Trotter, the activist (whose name the NYT spells wrong) last seen here being thrown out of the White House by Pres. Wilson. They wanted to protest inside the theater, but whenever a black person attempted to purchase a ticket, they were told it was sold out. It wasn’t. The police are called to clear the theater lobby. Arrests are made.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Germany claims that Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich is not so much sick, as the royal family claims, as suffering from the effects of having been shot in the stomach by Gen. Baron Sievers after the latter was summoned to explain to Nicky, the commander of Russian forces, why he’d lost a battle. Supposedly, the grand duke hit the baron, who shot him and then himself.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Today -100: April 17, 1915: Of wasted lives, censorship, shrapnel shells, and excommunications

Headline of the Day -100:

Well, it’s refreshing to see one religious leader resist cheerleading for the war... wait, what now?


In censorship news, Austen Chamberlain MP (future leader of the Conservative party) says secrecy is detrimental to the war effort. But it’s the German government that takes his advice to heart, belatedly clearing for publication the news from last July that Russia is mobilizing its troops. Berlin newspaper readers must be wondering if some sort of war might develop out of that. “Ought we to be concerned?” they must be saying to themselves.

The American Locomotive Company of Schenectady is making a deal with Russia to supply $65 million worth of shrapnel shells.

The pope lifts the excommunication of Bulgarian King Ferdinand, which was imposed because his son the crown prince, his son mind you, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Today -100: April 16, 1915: Written by the old

The latest atrocity charges are contained in an Austrian “Red Book” accusing Britain, France, Russia and Serbia of war crimes.  One section accuses the first three countries of bringing “uncultured and barbaric troops” (meaning Indians, Senegalese and other non-European colonials) to Europe and letting them commit uncultured and barbaric acts. Also, Serbian women and children are said to have tortured wounded Austrian prisoners. Plus the usual fictional atrocities (“in one case Serbian civilians cut off the forearms and legs below the knees of a Hungarian hussar and placed him on a horse, which was chased round amid the applause of the people”).

Killed in action: Lt. William Glynne Charles Gladstone. He was 29, and had been a Liberal MP since he was 26. Shot by a sniper in France, as was the custom. His father, grandfather (Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone) and great-grandfather were all MPs; he was the last parliamentary Gladstone. His uncle Herbert Gladstone, another MP and home secretary, will write a memoir of him in 1918. Here is the first line of the The Spectator’s review: “It is one of the strange features of the war that, by a tragic inversion, the Lives of the young should have to be written by the old.”

Headline of the Day -100:

Well, whatever floats your boat, or in this case...  The Katwijk, a government-owned ship, was carrying corn from Baltimore to Rotterdam.

A bill to legalize professional baseball games on Sundays fails in the New York State Assembly. Assemblyman Arthur McElroy, the sponsor, says he will try again. “It’s sunshine, outdoors and peanuts against dives, gambling and vice.”

Former Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta says the only thing that can save Mexico is not an outlaw but a strong Mexican. Which strong Mexican, he is too modest to say. Honestly, you’d think Mexico would have had enough of strong Mexicans by now, including all 823 self-proclaimed presidents of the republic.

Huerta also says he had nothing to do with the murder of President Madero, and someday the real culprit will be known. He could say, but it’s a “soldier’s secret.” Whatever that means.

Germany claims that public buildings in Paris are being used as military observation posts. Paris denies this, and thinks Germany is laying the ground-work for zeppelin attacks on, for example, the Louvre.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Today -100: April 15, 1915: I think President Lincoln wouldn’t like this play

Headline of the Day -100:

At the Liberty Theatre in New York City. Several negroes protested, yelling variously that the film was a libel on the negro race, that it was inappropriate on the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, and, indeed, that “I think President Lincoln wouldn’t like this play.”

By the way, in describing the scene at which the eggs were thrown, that article demonstrates that the “spoiler alert” had not been invented yet. Also that the protesters patiently watched the movie for more than two hours before that eminently protest-worthy scene arrived.

Dr. Harry Plotz of Mt. Sinai, who is 24, announces that he has discovered the typhus bacillus and developed a vaccine. So a rather unamusing disease is caused by the rather amusingly named Plotz bacillus.

The Women’s Social and Political Union’s newspaper The Suffragette appears for the first time since the start of the war, mostly, it seems, to carry on Mrs Pankhurst’s campaign against the Hague International Women’s Peace Congress. She says the British delegation won’t be representative because the WSPU won’t be sending anyone, nor will the moderate National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (which is seriously split over the war). The Suffragette notes that Russia has no peace movement at all, not even a women’s peace group: “The Russian women know that the very idea that we want peace heartens the German, prolongs the war, and causes more death and destruction.”

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Today -100: April 14, 1915: That is enough of neutrality

Headline of the Day -100:

“This is a measure which is usually adopted on the eve of war.”

Speaking of dull scabbards, the pope will definitely be on Italy’s side if and when it enters the war, according to the Daily Mail (UK), the news leader in bullshit.
It reports that a bishop told Pope Benedict that priests in Italy near the Austrian border were preaching to soldiers that they should prepare themselves to fight bravely, and should really be told to stop that because it violated the spirit of neutrality. “No, no, that is enough of neutrality,” the pope supposedly said. “Why, we are all Italians and must speak to our soldiers with an Italian heart.”

Headline of the Day -100:  

Something to look forward to. A bunch of new zeppelins will be built by then. Also, says the military-secrets-leaking secretary, “We shall employ a new process causing atmospheric perturbations, which will make it impossible for enemy machines to cross the German lines without dropping like flies.” No idea what he’s talking about.

“Darkie” dialect in the always racially sensitive LA Times:

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Today -100: April 13, 1915: War is inevitable

Italy’s former alliterative Prime Minister (4 times, and he’s not done yet) Giovanni Giolitti says that Italy’s entry into the war, which he opposes, is now inevitable.

Germany retaliates against British POWs for the treatment by Britain of German submarine crews. They picked out soldiers and officers from prominent families.

Thomas Edison is equipping US submarines with apparatuses allowing them to remain submerged for 100 days without poisoning the crew with chlorine gas from their batteries.

Former Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta arrives in New York. At the pier a messenger boy hands him a box. After he gets to his hotel, the Ansonia, he decides that it looks kind of like a bomb. He calls the reception desk and they send up the hotel dick, who agrees that it looks kind of like a bomb, and sends for an explosives expert and explorer, Russell Hastings Millward who happens to be staying at the hotel. Millward agrees that it looks kind of like a bomb and wants to open the box and see, but Huerta stops him. The box is taken to a police station, where Inspector Dwyer agrees that it looks kind of like a bomb. Millward opens it up anyway and it turns out to be a roll of writing by some crazy person.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Today -100: April 12, 1915: Of national programs, grand duchesses, neutrality, and barks

Bulgarian Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov says there is a new situation in the war, and Bulgaria will soon abandon neutrality “to realize its national program.”

The “daughter of the Tsar” who recently inspected a hospital is actually the 16-year-old daughter of a fruit dealer. She charmed everyone by being quite down-to-earth for a, you know, princess. In a few years, the real grand duchess would no doubt be quite willing to be mistaken for the daughter of a fruit dealer.

A fight between striking fur finishers and scabs in Newark, NJ results in the deaths of two of the strikers. The strikers were mostly Russians, the strike-breakers Greeks.

The German ambassador to the United States, Count von Bernstorff, makes public a memorandum he sent the US government complaining about it allowing sales of munitions to the Allies while not protecting food shipments to Germany from British seizure. It’s almost like he thinks Wilson isn’t being as neutral as he proclaims himself. Bernstorff explains that, yes, Germany did sell arms to belligerents during the Balkan Wars, but that was totally different, because someone would have sold arms to those countries, but in this war, every country that manufactures arms is already at war, except the US. The US is rather annoyed that Bernstorff leaked his memo to the press.

The French newspaper Temps reported that before the war started an artist’s model prophesied that it would begin on August 2nd and end 5/22/15 and that he would be murdered in November – and he was! The Journal des Débats reports that the Virgin Mary appeared to a 7-year-old girl on Palm Sunday, telling her that her father had been wounded and the news would arrive in 3 days, then she would die (the girl, not the Virgin Mary), and the war would end in May – and the news did come and the girl did drop dead!

Weird Nautical Headline of the Day -100:

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Today -100: April 11, 1915: The chase for the almighty dollar has come to a halt

In a “private” letter that somehow sees its way into print, Theodore Roosevelt denounces pacifists as a “menace to the future welfare of the United States.” He calls a peace society “silly and base,” and says many pacifists are really just cowards who “like to hide their fear behind high-sounding words.”

Headline of the Day -100:

He tells the YMCA in Yonkers, “The chase for the almighty dollar has come to a halt. We are living, I am glad to say, at a time when the fraternal spirit and the brotherhood of man is spreading.” Um, yay?

Your Circus-Folk Vocabulary Word of the Day -100: zingzing - someone whose antecedents in the circus world are so feeble that they stretch back less than 100 years.

The New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage issues a statement that Socialism is behind the upcoming proposed suffrage amendment to the state constitution. 

The Sunday NYT Magazine is filled with stories about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Lincoln.

I ordinarily ignore the automotive pages of the Sunday New York Times, but um...

This design is Italian, because of course it is. Designed, in fact, by a Count Marco Ricotti.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Today -100: April 10, 1915: Wisdom’s flame springs from your cannon

Harvard student C. Huntington Jacobs wins a Harvard prize for, I guess, best war poem, “Gott Mit Uns.” Here it is, in all its glory:

Imagine how bad the poems that didn’t win must have been.

Germany complains that the US’s response to the British blockade of Germany was so anemic that it amounts to taking sides with the Allies. It further complains about all the arms sales from the US to the Allies. They’ve got a point.

Britain complains to Germany over its treatment of British POWs.

Another British response to German submarine warfare: confiscating German mail from Italian ships.

The State Dept refuses to issue a passport for Jack Johnson, because he is a fugitive from what is laughingly called justice.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The London Daily News claims that German troops have been sent into Hungary not to fight off the Russians but to prevent the Hungarians from revolting.

Mexico’s former dictator Victoriano Huerta says his return to the Western Hemisphere is just a “pleasure trip.”

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Today -100: April 9, 1915: Of salvarsan and tugboats

France and Britain are now manufacturing salvarsan, which they had been importing from Germany. Salvarsan was used in the treatment of syphilis and, well, there’s a war on...

Collector of the Port of New York Dudley Field Malone says those tugboats being hired to illegally supply British warships was actually a plot, just like the Providence Journal said 2 days ago, by a detective agency probably employed by the German embassy to make it look like Britain was violating Pres. Wilson’s neutrality policy. Malone isn’t quite prepared to admit he was made a fool of, though.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Today -100: April 8, 1915: Dying with ecstacy and suffering with happiness

Headline of the Day -100:

William Jennings Bryan wants the Democratic Party to take the prohibitionist side wherever prohibition is a political issue, because “it cannot ally itself with the liquor interests without losing its moral standing.”

Emmeline Pankhurst condemns the International Women’s Peace Congress which will be held at the Hague later this month. And her daughter Sylvia for supporting it. She says the whole thing is a German plot.

Unlikely Headline of the Day -100:  

According to Henri Jules-Bois (author of Satanism and Magic), giving a talk in New York City, “The French on the battlefields are dying with ecstacy; in the hospitals they are suffering with happiness.”

A bill to abolish the death penalty passes the New Jersey Senate 11-1 but fails in the lower house 29-20.

George Llewellyn Davies, the adopted son of J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan), is killed in action.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Today -100: April 7, 1915: The crooks had better move out of Chicago

Belgium’s Prince Leopold, joins the army. He’s 13½.

Headline of the Day -100 (Chicago Daily Tribune):

Big Bill Thompson is elected mayor of Chicago in a landslide. The last ever Republican mayor of Chicago. It will not go well. “The crooks had better move out of Chicago before I am inaugurated,” he says. “Because that’s my job now,” he doesn’t add, but should have. Republicans also sweep the city council, including Oscar DePriest, the first black person ever elected to the city council, which will lead to a graft trial, as is the custom in Chicago. Defended by Clarence Darrow, he was acquitted. DePriest was a US congressman 1929-35, the first African-American elected to Congress in the 20th century.

Women, whose votes were counted separately, voted exactly the same way as the men.

German-Americans tried to make the mayoral race about the war, saying that a vote for Robert Sweitzer (whose grandparents immigrated from Baden) would “save the Fatherland.” Also, Sweitzer is Catholic and Thompson Protestant, which was the cause of some debate and indeed rioting, as was the custom.

Ambrose Bierce turns out not, in fact, to have enlisted in the British army, and is still missing.

France claims to have caught three German submarines in nets.

The Providence Journal says Collector of the Port of New York Dudley Field Malone’s investigation of tugboats supplying British warships (which the British consul-general denies and which officials other than Malone aren’t even sure is illegal because Congress endorsed Wilson’s neutrality proclamation but didn’t make any provision for enforcement) was spurred by intel given him by German Naval Attaché Capt. Karl Boy-Ed, the not-so-secret head of the German sabotage campaign in the US & Canada. Malone denies this.

Terre Haute, Indiana Mayor Donn Roberts is convicted for election conspiracy.

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Monday, April 06, 2015

Today -100: April 6, 1915: Every white man should be happy

Headline of the Day -100:

A ship, not the actual Napoleonic War admiral.

The US demands $228,059.54 in compensation from Germany for the sinking of the William P. Frye (a ship, not the actual United States senator) in January.

Jess Willard knocks out Jack Johnson in the 26th round. Billy Sunday says “Every white man should be happy.” The US has sent secret service agents to Havana to try to arrest Johnson.

The US’s letters of protest to Britain and Germany over their respective naval blockades of each other are made public. Basically, the US insists on a right to sell stuff to belligerent countries, which should be respected by both sides, because making money is more important than their silly little spat.

Germany officially denies that the crew of the U-28 laughed as passengers from the Falaba drowned. It also blames merchant ships like the Falaba for attacking innocent U-boats, claiming that merchants are now under orders to ram U-boats, which are just delicate things so torpedoing ships is really just self-defense.

Dudley Field Malone, Collector of the Port of New York, says there is a widespread conspiracy to violate Wilson’s neutrality proclamation by tugboats supplying British warships beyond the 3-mile limit with fuel and food. Malone has been darting up and down the New York and New Jersey docks for weeks in a torpedo boat investigating and having a fine old time.

The US Commission on Industrial Relations is looking into the working conditions of sleeping car porters and conductors. The general manager of the Pullman Company, L.S. Hungerford – which is exactly the name the general manager of the Pullman Company would have in a 1930s movie – is asked whether $27.50 a month is really enough pay for a porter. “We can get all the men we want at that rate,” the capitalist pig replied. Out of that (plus tips), the porters have to buy their uniforms in their first year of service (a mere $36.50) and their own shoe polish, and they’re fined when passengers steal the linens. And their work day seems to start at 3 a.m. and end at 11 or 12 at night.

A Capt. Edouard Anselme Jean Herail of the 11th Regiment of French Hussars is about to undergo court-martial. Last November, his overly devoted wife joined him where he was stationed. His superiors ordered him to get his wife to go back to Paris. She refused, and he faced being disciplined, so naturally he shot her. Spoiler alert: he will be acquitted.

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Today -100: April 5, 1915: Of bribes, falabas, dye, pencil cases, and spats & hats

Prince Bernhard von Bülow, the former foreign minister and chancellor of Germany who is now ambassador to Italy, is trying to mediate between Austria and Italy to keep Italy out of the war. Austria has been saying it’s willing to cede territory (no it’s not, or at least the emperor is not) but that in order to assure Italy’s continued neutrality it would only hand it over after the war is victoriously concluded. Von Bülow is suggesting a compromise by which Switzerland would occupy the territory until the war is over. I don’t think anyone’s asked Switzerland what they think about this. (A version of this proposal later in the month would have the Pope rather than Switzerland do it, although again I don’t think anyone asked the pope first).

The London Morning Post claims there was much celebrating in Germany over the sinking of the Falaba, but that the German censors banned mention of it because it would look bad to the neutral countries.

The archbishop of Canterbury agrees with the king that British workers should really stop drinking. Independent Labour Party leaders Keir Hardie and Fred Jowett call this dissing of working class drinking habits insulting.

The New York constitutional convention opens tomorrow. Lawyers want imprisonment for debt abolished.

Thomas Edison is getting into the dye business, to take advantage of the disruption to German trade.

Thomas Crozier, foreman of a lumber company in New Jersey, wants to get bail so he can attend Billy Sunday’s services (he made the sawdust for Sunday’s tabernacle) after he shot a black man. He doesn’t get it.

Queen Mary will give every man in the Royal Navy a pencil case made out of a used cartridge.

Headline of the Day -100:

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Saturday, April 04, 2015

Today -100: April 4, 1915: Of peaces, libel, election riots, and critics

Austria denies those stories that it’s seeking a separate peace with Russia.

A priest in Metuchen, NJ swears out warrants against 94 (102 in a later story) of his congregation for criminal libel. Some dispute over a duck dinner of which Father Csimadia (Csmadia in the later version) disapproved (the later story says he may have disapproved in sermons but at the actual duck dinner he got roaring drunk, started singing and hitting people in the street, according to the petition his congregants sent to the bishop. It is the petition that is supposedly libelous.

Election riots in Chicago, as was the custom. Women participated, because they have the vote now, and also the legal right to riot, because feminism, probably.

NYT theatre critic Alexander Woollcott gets an injunction stopping the Shuberts excluding him from their theaters. Last month they put ads advising theater-goers to ignore the critics’ reviews of the German farce “Taking Chances” in the same issues in which those reviews appeared.  In other words they took out the ad before they’d seen the reviews. And indeed Woollcott wrote that the play “is not vastly amusing.” So they issued the ban and he went to court. He was therefore able to review “Trilby” (the Svengali story), which he finds “well worth going to see – even if you have to get in by the aid of an injunction.”

Woollcott’s lawyers will argue before the NY Supreme Court that the Shuberts’ banishment of him amounted to an invasion of his civil rights as a critic and a citizen. The Shuberts will respond that they don’t hate all critics, just Woollcott, who has it in for them, with “rancor and malice and venom.” They’ll quote his reviews of their productions – “The White Feather” was “funny without meaning to be,” “Apartment 12-K” “is quite vacant,” etc. Woollcott’s lawyers read out reviews by other reviewers to show that those plays were just crap. The Court will decide in 1916 that the state Civil Rights Act applied only to discrimination based on race, creed or color, not profession or dickishness.

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Friday, April 03, 2015

Today -100: April 3, 1915: Of zeppelin failures, daring Lusitanias, offenders against the law of nations and common humanity, colon riots, and wiener dogs

Headline of the Day -100:

Germans really want London to be bombed (according to an anonymous source in the London Times).

Headline of the Day -100:  

Germany hears that Britain is keeping captured submarine crews segregated from other POWs. Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey says that those crews were engaged in sinking innocent merchant ships and killing non-combatants, so they can’t be considered honorable opponents but rather as “offenders against the law of nations and common humanity.” Germany threatens that if those prisoners receive worse treatment than other captives, one British POW will also receive harsh treatment for every German submariner POW.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The British press claims that there is a reign of terror in Austria-Hungary, especially Prague, with ordinary citizens who make even slightly critical remarks about the war being arrested. Also, Czech troops are said to be in mutiny.

Headline of the Day -100:  

Those are the worst kinds.  The soldier, who was drunk, got into a fight with a Panamanian cop, who shot him. The LA Times calls it a “race riot,” without offering any details that suggest race was a factor.

The West Virginia Legislature adjourns without appropriating funds for the government. So the governor isn’t getting his salary, schools are closed, and if I’m reading the story correctly, there aren’t funds to pay for the Legislature to come back and pass the appropriation bills.

The daughter of Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared in Mexico in December 1913, never to be seen again, receives a (fake) letter from him. Fake Ambrose Bierce is supposedly in England (or France) right now, working for Lord Kitchener.

A writer (or possibly a letter) in the Daily Mail (UK) complains about the “cruel and senseless manner” in which people are now treating dachshunds in Britain because of the German name (yeah, this was a real thing). The writer claims that dachshunds, rather than being German, are good old-fashioned English turnspit dogs. I happen to know from an episode of QI that turnspit dogs were extinct, but nice try.

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