Saturday, April 30, 2016

Today -100: April 30, 1916: But at least Spot is okay

The five-month-long siege of Kut (aka al-Kut, aka Kut-al-Amara), in which Turkish forces besieged a British garrison on the Tigris in Mesopotamia (Iraq), ends with the surrender of the British. One innovative feature of the siege: airdrops of food and ammunition, the first in aviation history. Several attempts to send troops to relieve the town failed owing to poor planning, insufficient supplies and bad weather (the same things that got Major-Gen. Charles Townshend and his men stuck in Kut for 143 days). An attempt to bribe the Ottomans (the emissary was Capt. T.E. Lawrence) was rejected. In the end, the British just ran out of food. The NYT remarks, “It seems almost fantastic that one prize of this modern war should be a very old, insanitary town, on a camel route to Persia, hundreds of hours away from the world”. Baghdad, that is, Townshend’s original objective.

The NYT says the surrendering forces include 2,970 British and 6,000 Indian soldiers; it was actually closer to 13,000 total, 70% of whom will not survive their prisoner-of-war experience. However – and this was Townshend’s main concern when negotiating the surrender – his dog Spot was sent back to England. He himself spent his captivity in relative freedom and luxury in Istanbul, which didn’t go over all that well back home.

But it’s not all bad news for the British Army, which has succeeded in burning out the Dublin General Post Office. Shelling has caused numerous fires in Dublin. The Easter Rising is nearly at an end.

Lots of photos of the Dublin devastation here.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Today -100: April 29, 1916: Would you put your mothers in breeches?

Field Marshal Sir John French says the “suppression of the rebellion in Dublin [is] proceeding satisfactorily.” The bombardment of Dublin by the armed yacht Helga from the Liffey, machine guns on the streets of Dublin, civilians summarily executed – you know, satisfactorily. However, the rebels still hold Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, which as we all know is the key to Dublin, or at least a nice tea. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland issues a proclamation blaming the “insurrectionary” movement on Germany.

The NYT is printing days-old reports from Ireland, thanks to British censorship. They seem rather taken by the leading role of Countess Constance Markievicz, wearing an Irish Volunteers uniform, who may or may not have shot and killed a cop (historians still aren’t sure about this). She is practically the only female fighter in the Rising – some leaders refused female participation, I’m looking at you future President De Valera – though women were used as couriers.

John Redmond, leader of the increasingly irrelevant Irish Nationalist Party, calls the rising a “wicked and insane movement” which threatens the progress made by his constitutional movement in “the short space of forty years.” He claims that “Germany plotted it, Germany organized it, Germany paid for it. ... it is German invasion of Ireland, and as brutal, as selfish, as cynical as Germany’s invasion of Belgium.”

Headline of the Day -100: 

The American Woman’s League for Self-Defense is still discussing the trousers-or-skirts question, although “there isn’t a uniform in sight or even a design for one that any two of the members can agree is really sweet and pretty,” according to the not-at-all-condescending New York Times. The new president of the League, Ida Powell Priest, is determined to force through skirts, asking the meeting, “Girls, would you put your mothers in breeches?” They would, they really would. One asked her mother, who was sitting next to her, if she would wear breeches, and she would.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Today -100: April 28, 1916: Passeront pas

Objections in Parliament force Prime Minister Asquith to withdraw a bill extending conscription to every single male aged 18 to 45 and extending until the end of the war the enlistment of those who enrolled for a limited period. Many consider this unfair for letting married men who never signed up voluntarily off the hook. MPs running the spectrum from Labour to Sir Edward Carson think “compulsion for all” is the only fair thing.

US Secretary of State Robert Lansing denies giving the British government the information they used to capture Sir Roger Casement.

The British say Sir Roger Casement is telling them the revolt will fail without the only person capable of leading it – himself. Pretty sure this is bullshit.

Martial law is extended to all of Ireland. The revolt seems to be spreading, and the army hasn’t managed to retake Dublin.

Irish Nationalist leader John Redmond and Ulster Unionist asshole Sir Edward Carson join in opposing the Rising and in hoping no one uses it to attack any political party. Redmond doesn’t know it yet, but he is pretty much done.

Headline of the Day -100: 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Today -100: April 27, 1916: Suicide camels, they’re using freaking suicide camels!

Britain declares martial law in Dublin, suspending the right of civil trial.

A “man prominent in Irish-American affairs in the United States” informs the NYT that Irish-Americans knew all about the plans for the Easter Rising at least 2 weeks in advance, including plans to capture the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (which didn’t happen). There are mutterings in Britain about the complicity of Irish-Americans in supplying the rebels with money and arms. On the other side, John Devoy of the Gaelic American (a major organizer of the Rising from the American side) accuses Woodrow Wilson of giving the British the information they needed to capture Sir Roger Casement, information found in the papers seized from Wolf von Igel. This is still a matter of debate.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Secretary of State Robert Lansing leaks a document on the US position on submarine warfare – it’s leaked because the US will no longer discuss its demands directly with Germany, even to clarify them; it’s up to Germany to comply or else. The document says that submarines shouldn’t attack even armed merchant vessels until they “determine absolutely that the merchantman possesses the character of a vessel of war.”

German-Americans are sending tens of thousands of telegrams to Congress opposing any break in US-German relations. A couple of senators demand an investigation, because they think so many telegrams, at 50 to 75¢ each, must have been paid for by someone. Certainly someone prepared telegrams for people to send, 7 from which you can choose depending on which one best represents your views. The NYT says this shows “German industry, faculty of organization, docility to command, belief in formula”.

The New York City Board of Education opposes the proposed state law requiring military training in schools. One board member says the only countries that have that are Australia and Japan.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today -100: April 26, 1916: In the name of God and of the dead generations

The NYT plays catch-up with rather sketchy reports of the events of Easter Monday (the 24th) in Dublin. Irish republicans rise up against British colonial rule and British colonial mail delivery. They take the General Post Office as their headquarters and issue a proclamation, read out by Pádraig Pearse (also known by his slave name Patrick; he signs the proclamation as P. Pearse) announcing the establishment of “the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State,” with equal rights for all. Actually, announcing the establishment of the Poblacht na hÉireann – an Irish word for “republic” having to be coined for the occasion.

It begins, “In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.” “In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.” The key word here is “sacrifice,” since the rising is more gestural than practical, a “performance of rebellion” as a historian whose name I didn’t catch put it on the RTE documentary on the Rising. It’s as doomed as a bayonet charge in the Somme, and most of them knew it. In fact, the 7 men who sign the Proclamation will all be executed. Um, spoiler alert.

The rebels occupy various locations in Dublin including, most importantly given its control of telegraph and telephone communications, the General Post Office. However, there are simply not enough fighters (thanks in large part to Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers, having gotten cold feet last week and calling off the parading that would have served as cover for the bringing together of men) to occupy Dublin Castle or strategic Trinity College or shut down the telegraph wires completely. There are a few actions outside of Dublin, mostly isolated attacks on army and police barracks, but much more faith was placed than turned out to be warranted on the power of symbolic actions to rouse the Irish people to spontaneous rebellion.

It’ll take a couple of weeks to make the NYT, but on this date Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was murdered. Frank was a mild nationalist, a pacifist, and the co-editor of The Irish Citizen, a feminist newspaper (his double-barreled last name is a combination of his name and that of his wife Hanna, the most prominent Irish suffragist.

Sheehy-Skeffington was out on the street yesterday trying to prevent looting when soldiers arrested him. The next day he and other prisoners were used as human shields/hostages by soldiers during raids on suspected Sinn Fein sites. When a captain shot a prisoner, a boy, Frank objected and was in turn put against a wall and shot. He was 37.

Realizing that this murder was going to cause them trouble, soldiers raided his house and used a key taken from his body to open his desk to look for documents that might retroactively justify Sheehy-Skeffington’s murder. All this without informing Hannah, who was standing right there with their 7-year-old son while this was going on, that she was now a widow (indeed, she was never officially informed). This is what’s known in Ireland as a dick move.

Henry Morgenthau resigns as US ambassador to Turkey. From the start of the Armenian Genocide, he has been loud and detailed in his criticism of the Turkish government and active in organizing relief activities.

Theodore Roosevelt loses the Massachusetts presidential primary. Well, technically, delegate candidates pledged to him lose to unpledged (i.e., Anyone But Roosevelt) delegates. It’s weird that so many primaries happened in 1916 before candidates had declared themselves.

New York Mayor John Purroy Mitchel calls for New Yorkers to put out flags on May 13 for “Preparedness Day.”

The new planes arrive for the Mexican incursion, but most of them are the same models that keep crashing into mountains. The pilots are not best pleased.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Today -100: April 25, 1916: Casement captured

There’s just one Irish story in the NYT today (British authorities are censoring other news, especially to the US): the capture of Sir Roger Casement, which actually occurred on the 21st, after the Germans infiltrated him into Ireland from a u-boat. A ship accompanying the u-boat, the Aud, carrying arms for Irish rebels (20,000 somewhat antiquated rifles and 1 million rounds of ammunition), was intercepted and ordered to shore, but the crew scuttled it instead (contrary to the NYT story, it is not sunk). The interception was assisted by British Naval Intelligence’s reading of cables between the German Foreign Office and the embassy in Washington. What Room 40 (the code-breaking arm of Naval Intelligence) did not bother doing was to tell Dublin Castle that an uprising was coming, at least not in enough detail to be convincing, because they were more concerned with protecting their sources. Consequently, many civil and military leaders were in England for the Easter holiday.

Casement, a former British diplomat but at heart an Irish nationalist and at penis a homosexual (that will become significant later), who hitherto was most famous for exposing Belgian atrocities in the Congo in the 00’s, was in the US when the war broke out and instead of returning home went to Germany to lobby for support for just such a rising as this and to recruit men from amongst the Irish prisoners of war. However by now he has realized that Germany wasn’t going to offer enough assistance for the rising to succeed and was hoping to persuade the Dublin plotters to postpone the plan.

There’s shooting at the Westinghouse Electric strike in East Pittsburgh. Factory guards at a plant making shells hit the strikers with hot water from a fire hose.

Seven of the Mexicans who participated in Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico are sentenced to death. Six will be hanged in June.

The House of Representatives passes a bill on the District of Columbia’s juvenile court after defeating amendments requiring racial segregation of juvenile prisoners and indeed guards.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Today -100: April 24, 1916: Of giants and cork legs

Slow news day in this Easter Monday newspaper, but events are a-brewing.

Headline of the Day -100: 

“Cork leg” is a term for any artificial leg. Lt. Theodore Marburg Jr. lost a leg flying for the British Aviation Corps over France. He is the son of the pre-war US ambassador to Belgium. Since his amputation he’s married a Belgian countess, as one does.

Barnum & Bailey’s giant, “Hugo,” who was 8’4” and 536 pounds (just a week ago we reported he was best man at a midget wedding), dies at 47. He is actually a recent hire, replacing a previous 8-foot  “Hugo,” actually his brother, who returned home to Italy. You have to rotate your giants or they get uneven. Hugo II’s best friend in the circus, supposedly, was another Italian, Count Paucci, who is... you’re way ahead of me, aren’t you?... the world’s smallest man, at 24 inches.

Also dead, George Pilson, the last survivor of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859. Oh, I’ve looked him up, and he was there but wasn’t not a raider himself like the obit says. That from this list of last survivors of historical events, which is fun. Although, seriously, the “last suffragette,” however they’re defining that, was called Ruth Dyk? And the last witness to Robert E. Lee’s surrender, as well as the last surviving Confederate soldier (d.1951), was named Pleasant Crump?

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Today -100: April 23, 1916: Of suicide machines, lost mail, and sinking Portugals

The Mexican venture is not going well for the US air force (which is still a sub-division of the Signal Corps). Of the 8 planes sent down to Mexico, only 2 survive, barely (the pilots call them “suicide machines” given their condition). Even a little service reduced them to junk and their weak engines (less than 90 horsepower) did not stand up to air currents in mountainous regions. The engines of wrecked or otherwise unflyable planes are removed and sent back to the US by truck; the rest of the plane is burned. The US is way behind Europe in producing warplanes (and I believe none will be used in World War I, American pilots flying French planes).

Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels gives the Senate the letter sent him in November 1914 by then Aid for Operations Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske saying that the Navy was too small to fight a war. Daniels says he never saw the letter, it was just kind of filed & forgotten, but he blames Fiske for never mentioning it to him.

Headline of the Day -100: 

A Russian hospital ship sunk by a Turkish submarine, not the Iberian country.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Today -100: April 22, 1916: Of train robbers & watches, footpads, red crosses, and movies

Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers, cancels plans for maneuvers scheduled to begin Easter Sunday, in a unilateral decision not to go ahead with the other... activities planned alongside them. Not everyone gets the word.

A train robber – yes, that’s still a thing – sticks up a Union Pacific train in Wyoming, all by himself, although he did have two revolvers, as was the custom. He gives the conductor a watch he says he took at his last robbery and promises that at his next robbery he’ll return one of the watches he’s taken this time, for some reason. He’ll be caught tomorrow.

Elsewhere in archaic-criminal news, a “footpad” is shot by a cop in the Bronx.

The American Red Cross says people should stop sending in relief supplies for Germany and Austria, as the Entente won’t let any of them in.

An American motion picture company pays a cardinal in Rome to let it film the Holy Week activities, but the pope vetoes the project. Pope Benedict has grave objections to the twentieth century.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Today -100: April 21, 1916: Up shit creek in Chihuahua

The US military in Mexico has halted its hunt for Villa. They figure that if Villa is still alive, he is now in a part of Mexico into which it would be too dangerous to follow him. The embedded NYT reporter reveals some of what army censorship previously prevented him reporting: there has been no cooperation from the Carranza regime or from the locals, who have been unwilling to serve as guides or sell them supplies and have been taking potshots at them. The expeditionary force is just way out of its depth.

Headline of the Day -100: 

To be clearer than that headline is, this is her attempt to get him a pardon (for second degree murder). I don’t think it worked.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Today -100: April 20, 1916: Tragedy has followed tragedy on the seas

Woodrow Wilson addresses a joint session of Congress, informing it that he has notified German that if it doesn’t abandon submarine warfare against passenger and cargo ships, the US will break off relations. And he wants a response “immediately.” He says such warfare is “incompatible with the principles of humanity, the long-established and incontrovertible rights of neutrals, and the sacred immunities of noncombatants.” “Tragedy has followed tragedy on the seas in such fashion, with such attendant circumstances, as to make it grossly evident that warfare of such a sort, if warfare it be, cannot be carried on without the most palpable violation of the dictates alike of right and of humanity.” Wilson says he is willing to negotiate with Germany, but they have to end sub warfare first as a sign of good faith. Which won’t happen, obviously.

The Kaiser reportedly decorates the commander of the u-boat which sank the Sussex. This may be wrong, since the story seems to be premised on the belief that it was the U-28, which has since been wrongly reported sunk, which did for the Sussex, but it was actually the U-29.

Congress is almost uniformly supportive of Wilson, although a few Republicans grumble that there was no need for him to come and address them in person, which they see as a campaign move.

Headline of the Day -100:

After some fuss about a recent Stop the War demonstration that was permitted to go ahead in Trafalgar Square simply because there wasn’t actually a law against it, the British government issues a new regulation under the Defence of the Realm Act allowing any government minister, mayor, magistrate or chief of police to ban a meeting in a public place if it might lead to disorder.

Soap is now rationed in Germany.

Rose Pastor Stokes, a Socialist activist (later Communist), speaks about birth control at a public meeting at the Hotel Brevoort in NYC. For some reason, the NYT uses the term “birth control” this time; its coverage of Emma Goldman’s arrest in February studiously avoided explaining the subject she was arrested for speaking about.

Mexicans are digging up the area they think Pancho Villa’s corpse was buried in. No one seems to be talking anymore about Villa’s, um, other corpse, the one that Carranza’s nephew was supposed to have.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Today -100: April 19, 1916: In which somebody actually says “This means war!”

Henry Ford is currently way ahead in the vote count in the Nebraska Republican presidential primary, even though he says he is not a candidate and didn’t even know his name was on the ballot (in the final count, many days from now, he’ll be defeated by Sen. Albert Cummins). The paper says his name was put on the ballot as a joke, but doesn’t say by whom, so take that for whatever it’s worth. On the Democratic side, everyone supported by William Jennings Bryan failed, including his brother Charles, who was running for governor, a job he’ll win in the ‘30s. Bryan’s loss of influence in his home state came from some combination of his focus on prohibition and his attacks on Wilson. He himself badly loses in the election for at-large delegates to the Dem. convention.

The US arrests Wolf von Igel. Following the expulsion of Franz von Papen, von Igel is now the head of Germany’s espionage and sabotage operations in North America. Von Igel fights the arrest “like a tiger,” yelling that he is an attaché and has diplomatic immunity and his Wall Street office is a branch of the German Embassy (it was cunningly disguised as an ad agency), so “this means war!” The US will say that even if he is currently an attaché, he wasn’t at the time of the attempt to blow up the Welland Canal in 1914, which is what he’s being arrested for. The case against von Igel will be repeatedly postponed and will still be pending when he leaves the country in 1917 with the rest of the Embassy staff, forfeiting his $25,000 bond.

The German Embassy seems less concerned about von Igel than about all the papers seized from his office. As well it might be, since they contain details not only of all of Germany’s covert activities in North America but also in India and Ireland. The US will quietly share those details with Britain, which will use them in the trial of Sir Roger Casement. The German Embassy will demand the papers back, but only in general terms. The State Dept will invite them to inspect the papers and claim as official any of them they like, but considering what those papers prove, the Germans will refuse the kind offer to implicate themselves in bombings and whatnot.

By the way, “igel” is German for hedgehog, which makes for an amusing Google Translate version of Wolf von Igel’s German Wikipedia page.

The Mexican government officially asks the US to withdraw its troops. So the US is sending 2,300 more.

Harvard will not follow Yale in putting numbers on its football players’ jerseys.

The New York State Senate fails, by a tie vote, to pass a bill requiring daily Bible readings in public schools.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Today -100: April 18, 1916: Of prisoners of not-war, and diplomatic immunity

The US Army is building a stockade in New Mexico for the Villaist prisoners they plan to capture, any day now, in Mexico. I guess they’ve decided to just ignore that whole thing about having no legal authority to hold prisoners. Current captives include 6 prisoners who “confessed” to the raid on Columbus, New Mexico.

A federal grand jury indicts former German military attaché (and future chancellor of Germany) Franz von Papen for conspiracy to blow up the Welland Canal in Canada. Also indicted are the former naval attaché Capt. Boy-Ed and others. And yes, both attachés have diplomatic immunity (and are back in Germany). Assistant US District Attorney Roger Wood doesn’t think that matters, because while they had immunity when they allegedly committed the acts, they don’t now. Someone should probably tell him that’s not how diplomatic immunity works.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Today -100: April 17, 1916: Byzantine bombing

British planes drop bombs on Constantinople.

Carranza’s nephew, a colonel, claims to have dug up Pancho Villa’s two-week-old corpse. He died (except he didn’t) from complications from having his leg amputated (which didn’t happen either).

A more detailed report on the Parral skirmish indicates that the people who attacked the US soldiers were actually Carranzaist soldiers. Gen. Funston complains that Major Tompkins retreated instead of slaughtering even more Mexicans.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Barnum & Bailey’s was maybe not the most tasteful entertainment enterprise.

A new issue of The Wipers Times is out, although the editors have moved on from Ypres so it is now titled The “New Church” Times with which is incorporated The Wipers Times.

“Are you going over the top? If so be sure to first inspect our new line of velveteen corduroy plush breeches. Be the fashion and look like a soldier. ... Thousands of testimonials from all fronts. Send for these and illustrated brochure entitled: ‘Breaches and Their Wearers’ Or ‘Legs make the officer.”
Farewell Ypren!* Ypren farewell!
Long have I known thee, and known thee well!
Thy stony streets, thy shell-pitted square,
Looted thy houses for dug-out ware,
Looking for cellar cool and deep,
With a shell-proof roof where I could sleep.
* “Ypren – The Belgian name for Wipers, used here to baffle the enemy.”

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Today -100: April 16, 1916: I could have blown the White House and Capitol off the map

Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing reports on the Parral battle. He says US soldiers entered the town unarmed in order to buy food and the attack on them was unprovoked. He says 2 US soldiers and 40 Mexicans were killed.

DeLloyd Thompson, an aviator who once held the altitude record, flies over Washington DC, trailing pyrotechnics of some sort, and drops fireworks on the Washington Monument, to demonstrate American vulnerability to air attack and the need for anti-aircraft guns, of which the US has none. “I could have blown the White House and Capitol off the map had I been armed with the most deadly explosives instead of fireworks bombs”.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Today -100: April 15, 1916: Dresses have been the curse and burden of women

Headline of the Day -100:

That’s not his actual name – although he is French... Sgt Auguste Bernard, age 69, a veteran of the 1870 war with Prussia, re-enlisted for this war and insisted on serving in the front line.

Cardinal Mercier of Belgium responds to Governor-General Moritz von Bissing’s letter instructing him to shut up now: “Allow us, then, even smitten as we are by admiration before the war-like pomp surrounding you and the brilliant staff which, like King Saul, you have attached to your person, to retain, nevertheless, our full liberty of judgment.” There’s no sarcasm quite like Catholic sarcasm.

The Wilson administration, not interested in withdrawing its troops from Mexico, is pretending that Carranza’s message was just an invitation to begin discussions about when the US forces might leave, not an actual demand that they do so.

The Mexican sub-secretary of foreign relations, Juan Neftali Amador, says the US expedition must be limited to 1,000 cavalry, no infantry and no heavy artillery, which make no sense for a chase anyway, not go more than 40 miles into Mexico or stay longer than 5 days. He releases details of secret negotiations between the two governments on details like those, negotiations which failed to reach an agreement.

The British claim Germany has arrested the wayward Anglo-Irish former diplomat Sir Roger Casement. Not even close to true, but Casement will resurface soon.

New Jersey Republican primary voters won’t be able to vote for president because no one filed to be on the ballot.

The NY State Senate votes 40-1 to require military training for boys age 15 to 19, or at least those still in formal education. Gov. Charles Whitman told the Senate that the state needs to “provide its citizens with the advantages of physical and elementary military training and to impart to its youths the principles of discipline and the spirit which yields to the commands of duly constituted authorities.”

Headline of the Day -100: 

Not actual women soldiers, of course, but members of the American Woman’s League for Self-Defense, who have a long debate about what sort of uniform they might wear when practicing military-type drills. Anna Higgins proclaims, “This is the age of the New Woman. Get rid of your dresses. Dresses have been the curse and burden of women. ... Think no longer of husbands and sweethearts. Think about ditches and barb fences.  Think of the work you will have to do when your husbands and sweethearts go to the front. You will have to remain behind to guard your home against marauders and when they come you will have to pepper them down.” Miss Higgins said all this while wearing a riding habit, in front of God and everyone.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Today -100: April 14, 1916: Necessity is the only limit of Gen. Funston’s authority

A column of US soldiers enter the town of Parral, Chihuahua, 500 miles inside Mexico. They are informed that the town is heavily pro-Villa and are in the process of marching out again when townsmen attack them. The soldiers turn a machine gun on them, killing a few dozen as they retreat.

Secretary of War Newton Baker instructs Gen. Funston to take all steps to protect US troops in Mexico. “Necessity is the only limit of Gen. Funston’s authority.”

Carranza demands the US withdraw its troops from Mexico.

Woodrow Wilson speaks at the Jefferson Day banquet, and for some reason lists the conditions under which the US would enter the European war. US interests would have to be “coincident with the interests of mankind”. He keeps calling the Republicans “provincial.”

Theodore Roosevelt dictates a little impromptu speech to the press, ending “We stand for peace, but only for the peace that comes as a right to the just man armed and not for the peace which the coward purchases by abject submission to wrong. The peace of cowardice leads in the end to war after a record of shame.” He agrees with the Republican policy of a high protective tariff, which many in the party think will be the main issue this election year, but he doesn’t try to hide that the issue bores the crap out of him.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Today -100: April 13, 1916: Of saboteurs, u-boats, and rears admiral

The NYPD arrest 4 more members of Franz von Papen’s sabotage squad, for placing firebombs on ships carrying munitions to the Allies. 33 ships, the police rather unbelievably claim.

Germany still denies that one of its u-boats sunk the Sussex, but it will admit having sunk another ship in the same location in the English Channel, 5 minutes later. But the sketch the u-boat captain made of the ship he sank doesn’t match the one of the Sussex in the Daily Graphic, they say, so the Sussex probably just hit a British mine.

The Senate demands to see correspondence between Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels and then Aid for Operations Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske from 1914 in which Fiske said the Navy was unprepared for war. Daniels says Fiske’s resignation a year ago was not over that disagreement but because he hadn’t been promoted to Commander of the Atlantic Fleet and because he strongly objected to the order ending the navy officers’ wine mess.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Today -100: April 12, 1916: Of kiongas, dead villas, driver’s licenses, and primaries

Portugal, which supposedly entered the war a month ago, finally does something warlike, occupying Kionga, a long-disputed area between Portugese East Africa (Mozambique) and German East Africa (Tanzania). And they’ll keep it, until Mozambique becomes independent anyway, so it’s not like Portugal didn’t get something out of World War I.

Rumors have Pancho Villa dying of blood poisoning. Nope.

Rumors have Kaiser Wilhelm’s car blown up by a shell at Verdun while he was visiting the front, but he’s okay. Probably not true.

Automobile manufacturers are protesting NY Police Commissioner Arthur Woods’s proposal that drivers be required to have licenses. Education, not legislation is what will make streets safe, they say.

Another Chinese province, Zhejiang, declares independence.

The Illinois presidential primaries are won by Woodrow Wilson and Sen. Lawrence Yates Sherman of that state. One point of confusion: women in Illinois can vote for most offices but not for delegates to the national conventions. It’s somewhat unclear whether they can vote for their presidential preference, so some do and some don’t.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Today -100: April 11, 1916: Of governments controlled by military castes, and flour sacks

British Prime Minister Asquith, responding to German Chancellor Theobald Bethmann Hollweg’s Reichstag speech, clarifies his stated war aim of destroying Prussian militarism. It is “not to strangle Germany or wipe her off the map of Europe, not to destroy or mutilate her national life.” Rather, “we intend to establish the principle that international problems must be handled by free negotiations on equal terms between free peoples, and that this settlement shall no longer be hampered or swayed by the overmastering dictation of a Government controlled by a military caste. That is what I mean by the destruction of the military domination of Prussia – nothing more, but nothing less.”

The Greek government seems to have clandestinely given 37,000 empty flour sacks belonging to Russia to Bulgaria, and the Allies are complaining about it (such sacks can be used for sandbags in the trenches).

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Today -100: April 10, 1916: There’s nothing worse than a racist bordello

A fight between negro soldiers of the 24th Infantry and the cops in Del Rio, Texas ends with a Texas Ranger killing one of the soldiers, Priv. John Wade. The soldiers had been “refused admission to a house in the restricted district” – by “house” the NYT means brothel – and returned to break all its windows with stones and bullets, then resisted arrest. The story the Texas authorities are putting out is that Wade grabbed the Ranger from behind and was then hit in the neck by a lucky shot. This doesn’t quite match the multiple bullet wounds in Wade’s torso, but hey, it’s Texas. Locals will clamor for the removal of the 24th from Del Rio, supported by their congressman, John Nance Garner (FDR’s vice president). The Army, which never conducted its own investigation into the death of one of its privates, quickly acceded.

An anti-conscription demonstration in Trafalgar Square led by Sylvia Pankhurst is broken up by thugs, including colonial soldiers. Speakers are pelted with red and yellow ochre. The police were for some reason missing. “The Government had obviously given orders to leave us to the violence of the mob,” Pankhurst writes in her book about the war years, The Home Front (1932). Her mother Emmeline, in the US, will send a cable to the press repudiating her.

The British government issues a report accusing Germany of torturing POWs.

Mormon Pres. Joseph Smith complains about women’s fashions which are “shameful, suggestive and humiliating to the modesty of honorable men”.

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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Today -100: April 9, 1916: Of hips, u-boats, helpless and ignorant housekeepers, and hardings

The US is now claiming that Villa has a hip wound, rather than an amputated leg. Or maybe it just grew back.

Britain denies a Dutch report that a captured German u-boat was spotted in the Thames.

During a Senate discussion on military preparedness, Sen. Reed Smoot (R-Utah) calls for spending on Home Ec to bolster women’s preparedness to be good housekeepers. “Tens of thousands of homes are ruined by helpless and ignorant housekeepers”. Why, do you know that women’s colleges don’t even teach domestic science? Latin yes, but how to manage a home, “the one thing every girl should be taught,” no.

Sen. Warren G. Harding gives a preview of the keynote address he will give as temporary chairman of this year’s Republican convention in a speech at the Appomattox Day dinner at the Hamilton Club. He says the key issues in the presidential race will be tariffs, preparedness, and Americanism. Some people think that the RNC’s choice of Harding as chair signals the determination of the party old guard to keep control of the convention and thwart Progressives and Roosevelt. I think they just want to hear another speech like Harding’s hilariously alliterative one at the 1912 convention. In fact, his talk now of “the protective policy and preparedness” is reminiscent of that speech’s... oh, I just have to repeat it: “Progression is not proclamation nor palaver. It is not pretense nor play on prejudice. It is not of personal pronouns, nor perennial pronouncement. It is not the perturbation of a people passion-wrought, nor a promise proposed.”

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Today -100: April 8, 1916: You don’t want to see how cranky Germany gets without its morning coffee

Germany is running out of coffee.

Chancellor Theobald Bethmann Hollweg’s speech to the Reichstag a couple of days ago has proven popular in Germany, in part because everyone’s interpreting it as supporting their own positions, especially those who take opposing views on whether to annex Belgium and other territories. While he denied any policy of conquest, his language about keeping Germany’s borders secure and about “those political and economic guarantees which we must demand for Germany’s safety” suggest he plans to retain... well, who knows? Lithuania? most of Poland? part of France?

The Guangdong province declares independence from China.

Illinois State’s Attorney Maclay Hoyne claims to have discovered a massive international anarchist plot to assassinate the monarch of every country in the European war. Hoyne’s informer says he was personally at a meeting in Chicago at which lots were drawn to choose one of the assassins.

Henry Ford says his victory in the Michigan presidential primary was an anti-war protest against “military preparedness and the exploitation of the workingman by the moneyed munitions interests.”

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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Today -100: April 7, 1916: There are few things as horrifying as German jubilation

Congress allowed for the expansion of the US Army to meet the Mexican “crisis” and Gen. Frederick Funston wants every one of the new recruits sent to guard the border to free up even more soldiers to go into Mexico, despite the fact that Villa’s men have scattered to the winds, making it unclear what the expeditionary force’s objectives even are anymore.

Headline of the Day -100:

An anti-military meeting at Carnegie Hall.

Speaking of unpreparedness, Henry Ford wins the Michigan primary for president, defeating Sen. William Alden Smith (R-Mich.) Ford isn’t even running.

It is now illegal in New York to manufacture, sell or possess a gun with a silencer.

Headline of the Day -100:  

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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Today -100: April 6, 1916: If our adversaries want to continue the slaughter of human beings and the devastation of Europe theirs will be the guilt, and we shall have to stand it as men

Theodore Roosevelt tells a prospective Republican Convention delegate his “terms” for accepting a Republican nomination: “don’t you do it if you expect me to pussy-foot on any single issue I have raised.” No hyphenated Americans, build up the military, etc. Nothing particularly new, but the strongest statement yet that Roosevelt intends to run. Tomorrow, the NYT will write this about the performance:

The Dutch government clarifies the reasons for its military mobilization orders. It was because of “certain information” which it won’t for the present make public.

German Chancellor Theobald Bethmann Hollweg tells the Reichstag that Germany does not intend to attack the United States or annex Canada or Brazil after it wins the current war. Which should be soon, because Germany is totally winning. Even if the Allies succeed in creating food shortages, which they totally aren’t, Germany will rely on its “moral reserves” to lower its standard of living, which after all has risen sharply in recent decades. So maybe meat consumption gets reduced to the level of the 1870s, no biggee. “I should think our adversaries would remember how strong was the German race of those days.” When Prussia kicked France’s ass, he means.

This speech is the closest Germany has come to setting out peace terms. The chancellor says that after the war there must be a “new Belgium,” which can’t be a Franco-British vassal or a fortification against Germany. “Also here Germany cannot sacrifice the oppressed Flemish race, but must assure them sound evolution which corresponds to their rich natural gifts, which is based on their mother tongue and follows their national character.” And all the lands in Poland and the Baltic “freed” by Germany won’t be returned to “reactionary Russia.”

He says any peace predicated on the destruction of Prussian militarism is a no go. “If our adversaries want to continue the slaughter of human beings and the devastation of Europe theirs will be the guilt, and we shall have to stand it as men.” He says that when the Allies talk of eliminating Prussian militarism, they really want the annihilation of united Germany. This war, he says again, is a war of pure self-defense. And definitely not territorial aggression: “Who can readily believe that greed of land inspires our columns at Verdun and makes them accomplish ever day new deeds of heroism?”

Any peace, he says, must be a lasting peace, “It must not bear the germs of new wars”. So that all worked out.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Today -100: April 5, 1916: All armor plate and no brains

The Netherlands calls its furloughed soldiers back to duty, setting off fears that the country is about to enter the war. On which side, is not clear. One theory is that they’re trying to scare off a German invasion while also reassuring Germany by reinforcing the country’s shores against the possibility of British troops landing to attack Germany.

Daniel Hoan is elected mayor of Milwaukee, its second Socialist mayor. He will be mayor until 1940, implementing socialist reforms such as public housing (the first in the nation), public buses, and municipal ownership of sewage works.

There will be a meeting in Carnegie Hall tomorrow to oppose Wilson’s military Preparedness program. To advertise it, the organizers are wheeling a papier-maché dinosaur around the city. Called Jingo, it is “All Armor Plate and No Brains. This animal believed in Huge Armament – He is Now Extinct.”

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Monday, April 04, 2016

Today -100: April 4, 1916: Sorry!

Germany apologizes for bombing Switzerland last week. The pilots thought they were over France.

American military technology is proving rather disappointing in Mexico. Wireless equipment has failed, so the two camps of soldiers can only communicate by airplane courier, but the planes’ engines are too weak to be trusted in mountainous regions or indeed to reach altitudes above the range of rifle fire. On a more mundane level, all the marching means the soldiers’ shoes are falling apart.

They’ve also only just realized that they can’t keep captured Mexicans as prisoners of war because there’s no officially declared war, and they can’t take them back over the border into the US either.

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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Today -100: April 3, 1916: What difference does war make?

Kapitanleutnant Joachim Breithaupt, commander of the Zeppelin L15 which was shot down over England, defends the bombing raids, after a NYT correspondent tells him that the only damage done by them is killing women and children: “Women and children become the victims of our operations, but not because we kill them intentionally. It is war.” So that’s okay then. Breithaupt says that he visited London before the war and had many friends there. Asked if he still thought of them as friends: “Why not? What difference does war make?” Each Germany officer POW will have a sitting room and a servant, and anyway the Germans all think the war will be over within three months.

I don’t have a sitting room and a servant. If I dropped bombs on Britain from an airship would they give me a sitting room and a servant?

France has rounded up 200 German spies, or at least waiters and hotel porters it thinks are German and hence probably spies. It is illegal now to speak any other language than French on the telephone.

Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the 63-year-old English actor and theater manager, who specializes in Shakespeare, is in New York and has just seen, evidently for the first time in his life, Othello played by an actual black man (Edward Sterling Wright).

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Saturday, April 02, 2016

Today -100: April 2, 1916: Of Pancho Villa’s leg, zeppelins, military executions, and emancipated women

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Local Mexican officials claim that Pancho Villa was so badly injured in that skirmish that his leg had to be amputated. And yet the American forces still can’t catch up to “Stumpy” Villa.

The Senate Judiciary Committee votes 3-2 in favor of Louis Brandeis’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The vote is on party lines, even though the 2 Republicans are supposed to be Progressives.

The Germans have stepped up their Zeppelin raids on the east coast of England. One zep is brought down in the Thames estuary and most of the crew rescued/captured by a trawler.

Headline of the Day -100:

So touchy, the Swiss. Germany keeps “accidentally” dropping bombs on them.

There’s an article on the secrecy of French courts-martial. In fact, France executed more of its own soldiers during this war than any other country. They would inform the families that the soldier was dead, without saying how, and then 3 months later bill them for the expenses of the execution.

Headline of the Day -100:

This is an actual news story, in the Sunday New York Freaking Times, about “an aggressive little woman” who registered at a hotel as “Mrs. Sarah Hawkins and husband, Boston, Mass.”

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Friday, April 01, 2016

Today -100: April 1, 1916: It looks as though they have him

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The US Punitive Expedition has reportedly engaged with Pancho Villa, who they’ve definitely wounded, badly, but somehow failed to capture. Says Gen. Pershing, “It looks as though they have him. But Villa is no fool, and I won’t predict.”

An Ohio judge rules that iron and steel companies that colluded with each other to keep wages down can’t be prosecuted under the state’s anti-trust laws because labor is not a commodity – why, we had a whole Civil War about that – and therefore it’s not illegal to conspire to fix labor costs.

Headline of the Day -100:

Oh boy! Is it lasers? I’ll bet it’s lasers on giant steampunky blimps with...


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