Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Working towards the Frito Führer

Trump’s MuslimBan™ was implemented without advance notice and with what seems to have been few directions about how it was to be implemented. So it is instructive to look at how government officials did implement it.

Octogenarians were handcuffed. Social media logins were demanded. People were asked their opinions of Trump. They were kept without food or medicine for long periods. Their lawyers were turned away and court orders defied. They were snidely told to “Call Mr. Trump.” CBP officers tried to trick them into signing away their residency rights. Etcetera. Still, no one was kicked to death, so that’s good.

How much of that came from above, and how much of it was low-level officials taking it upon themselves to fill in the gaps in their orders with bullying tactics and casual cruelty, because that’s what The Donald would want them to do? In 1930s Germany, this sort of behaviour was referred to as “working towards the führer.”

In the coming months, we’ll see how many government officials act like Sally Yates  – who behaved admirably but wasn’t likely to survive Trump’s ideological purge of the Justice Department anyway – how many will keep their heads down and follow every unconstitutional order blindly, and how many will take the opportunity Trump’s offering them to let their worst instincts come into play.

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Today -100: January 31, 1917: Of notes, toys, sinkings, mature women, Rodins, and unashamed New Yorkers

Germany will evidently soon send the US a reply to Wilson’s note asking it to spell out its peace terms.

Or it might be something else entirely.

Headline of the Day -100:

Including $361 for toys. This is the accounting by his mother for his trust fund, left after his father died when the Titanic sank. 

The captain of a British civilian freighter Clan Robertson receives a £1,000 reward for sinking a u-boat in the Bay of Biscay a few months ago. The reward was offered by a shipowner for every u-boat sunk by a non-military ship. The German case for treating all British ships as military vessels is looking rather more plausible.

In Britain the Speaker’s Conference, a group formed to discuss changes to the electoral laws chiefly to ensure soldiers aren’t disenfranchised, but which is now considering all aspects, including proportional representation, decides that women should get some sort of parliamentary vote but with a minimum age so that the recently depleted ranks of British manhood aren’t outnumbered by women in the electorate. They’re thinking 30 or 35. Sylvia Pankhurst protests that “Women mature, if anything, earlier than men.”

The sculptor Auguste Rodin, 76, marries. The NYT thinks he was married to someone once before, when he was 23, but this is the same woman he’s been living with without benefit of clergy since then. Rose will die in a couple of weeks, Auguste by the end of the year.

“New Yorkers can’t be shamed into joining the army.” Some women, mostly wives of army officers, set up a recruiting tent on 42nd Street, and inspire exactly zero men to join the army.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Today -100: January 30, 1917: It is not a test of character, of quality, or of personal fitness

Woodrow Wilson vetoes the immigration bill over its literacy test. Congress had altered it since the last time Wilson vetoed it, exempting those fleeing religious persecution. Wilson really hates this, because it requires immigration officials to decide which countries are persecuting people. He says of the literacy test: “It is not a test of character, of quality, or of personal fitness, but would operate in most cases merely as a penalty for lack of opportunity in the country from which the alien seeking admission came.”

The Earl of Cromer, who ran Egypt on behalf of the British both before and after it became a formal colony – or as the NYT puts it

and then came home to write books about Egypt and fight against women’s suffrage, dies at 75.

Alfredo González Flores, the Costa Rican president who was just deposed in a coup, asks the US to intervene to restore him to power. Won’t happen.

Margaret Sanger’s trial for a speech about birth control is continued so that one of the justices can read her book “What Every Girl Should Know,” so she’s available to attend a meeting at Carnegie Hall after leaving the court, or the “vortex of persecution” as she refers to it. She notes that Theodore Roosevelt keeps telling people to have large families “and he is neither arrested nor molested” while in a single week she received 63 letters from poor women in Oyster Bay (where TR lives) asking for birth control information.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Can the revival of the rest of the Alien and Sedition Acts be far behind?

By a wacky coincidence, while researching the 1917 portion of this blog this morning, I came across a story about the round-up of suspected German spies during the day after the United States declared war on Germany. It was done without a court order using the president’s powers under the Alien Enemy Act of 1798, which authorized him to imprison males 14 years and older from countries with which the US is at war. As I was reading this, I suddenly realized that that was one of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which you might remember from AP American History. The others were repealed, but not the Alien Enemy Act, which FDR used to intern Japanese-Americans. It’s still the law of the land and available for Trump to use. Fortunately, there does have to be a declared war.

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Today -100: January 29, 1917: Of withdrawals, force-feedings, assassins, banned bloomers, and monkey murders

Gen. Pershing’s men are withdrawing from Mexico. Mostly on foot because they can’t use the trains without risking an attack from Pancho Villa’s bands, so not exactly returning covered in glory.

Ethel Byrne’s force-feeding meals will consist of eggs, milk and brandy. I don’t recall the British authorities trying to get suffragette hunger-strikers drunk. The Correction Commissioner Lewis says “Forcible feeding is nothing to cause so much comment.”

A military coup in Costa Rica deposes Pres. Alfredo González Flores. He’d been trying for a second term. Presidents aren’t allowed second terms, but his argument is that that doesn’t count in his case because he was selected by Congress rather than by a popular presidential vote (which is what happens under the constitution when no one wins a majority).

In Russia, the Black Hundred terrorists planned to assassinate Constitutional Democratic Party leader Pavel Milyukov. At any rate according to a man who says he was chosen to do the deed but published a confession instead.

Headline of the Day -100:

Headline of the Day -100:  

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Today -100: January 28, 1917: We say it’s a long, long way to starvation

Ethel Byrne is force-fed in prison. There has been no regurgitation, which we know because the prison is telling the press an awful lot about Byrne’s medical condition. This is the first force-feeding of a female political prisoner in the United States. There will be more. Soon.

The British Navy declares part of the North Sea dangerous to shipping (i.e., they’re planning to mine the shit out of it) and off-limits, in what is totally a safety measure and not at all a tightening of the blockade on Germany.

German Food Dictator Adolf Tortilowicz von Batocki-Friebe says there is no starvation in Germany nor can there be. Hell, he tells an American reporter, there is less starvation in Germany than in US cities. He admits that there aren’t many potatoes around, but says there are plenty of turnips. “The English say it’s a long, long way to Tipperary; we say it’s a long, long way to starvation.” To the sweetest gal I know.

The Arizona Supreme Court decides that Thomas Campbell rather than George Hunt is the governor. Four weeks of dueling governors is over.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Today -100: January 27, 1917: Of Columbian islands, seas, private dicks, and 25¢ menus

People have been suggesting in letters to the NYT possible new names for the Danish West Indies. Today, “The Columbian Islands” is offered.

Russia endorses Wilson’s peace ideas, especially giving every nation access to the seas (Russia has, after all, been trying to seize the Dardanelles Strait from Turkey).

Although private detective supreme William Burns did uncover German espionage operations by breaking into a law office, it turns out that breaking and entering and making stolen private correspondence public is illegal, and he has been fined $100.

First it was members of the Chicago Board of Health eating for 40¢ a day, then New York cops for 25¢, now Woodrow Wilson is volunteering to try a budget menu – for one day. A Eula McClary of the Life Extension Institute has drawn up the menu:

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more?

Donald Trump was interviewed by ABC’s David Muir.

DAVID MUIR: Let me ask you, has the magnitude of this job hit you yet? 
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It has periodically hit me. And it is a tremendous magnitude. And where you really see it is when you’re talking to the generals about problems in the world. And we do have problems in the world. Big problems. The business also hits because the -- the size of it. The size.

On the Wall (and can I say how much I love that former Mexican President Vicente Fox is using the hashtag #FuckingWall on Twitter): “All it is, is we’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico.” It’s that clarity and precision of language that has served him so well in business.

HE HAS A BIG HEART LIKE HE HAS BIG HANDS: Says the “dreamers” “shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border,” but refuses several times to rule out deporting them.

I can’t remember, did George Bush refer to undocumented immigrants as “illegals” the way Trump does? Anyway, Trump says repeatedly that there could have been 3 to 5 million illegal votes cast in 2016 – “There are millions of votes, in my opinion.” Muir fails to ask what evidence he’s basing this on. Or indeed, how he penetrated the secret ballot to ascertain this: “I will say this, of those votes cast, none of ‘em come to me. None of ‘em come to me. They would all be for the other side.” Boy, the ability of the Democratic Party to manufacture millions and millions of illegal votes without leaving any material evidence beyond “my opinion” that Trump can point to, all while losing the election, they must be the greatest organizational geniuses and the greatest incompetents simultaneously, and we know only one of those two things is true of them.

On his threat against Chicago – and Muir once again failed to ask for specifics, like which “feds” Trump wants to send in – “Maybe they’re not gonna have to be so politically correct. Maybe they’re being overly political correct. Maybe there’s something going on.” Boy, that “something going on” Trump likes to talk about is always so mysterious. “You can’t have thousands of people being shot in a city, in a country that I happen to be president of. Maybe it’s okay if somebody else is president.” Um, what? “I want them to fix the problem. They have a problem that’s very easily fixable.” It’s the thick-crust pizza, isn’t it?

He says incoming Director of Central Intelligence Mike Pompeo is “somebody fabulous as opposed to the character that just got out who didn’t – was not fabulous at all.” I don’t know if the CIA can cope with all that fabulousness.

Muir asked him about torture and Trump said that he wouldn’t bring it back because Mad Dog Matthis doesn’t like it, even though unnamed “people at the highest level of intelligence” tell him torture totally does work. Unfortunately, Muir never asks him if waterboarding is torture. “You never saw heads chopped off until a few years ago. Now they chop ‘em off and they put ‘em on camera and they send ‘em all over the world. So we have that and we’re not allowed to do anything.” Jesus, don’t sound so fucking jealous.

“I will say this, I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don’t wanna do, that’s fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work for that end.” It’s nice to have a president who takes firm moral stands, isn’t it?

Will the ban on immigration anger Muslims throughout the world? “There’s plenty of anger right now. How can you have more?” That’s what we said about you, but there it is, every day.

On “taking” Iraq’s oil: “And if we took the oil you wouldn’t have ISIS. And we would have had wealth.” So it is actual looting for own enrichment that he’s advocating. As for his comment in Langley that maybe we’d have another chance, well, he never talks about military plans in advance. Something to look forward to, Iraq (a country he says has no government).

“It’s been our longest war. We’ve been in there for 15, 16 years. Nobody even knows what the date is because they don’t really know when did we start.” Yup, truly one of the great unknowables.

On replacing Obamacare: “We will unleash something that’s gonna be terrific.” Or a kraken. Probably a kraken.

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Today -100: January 26, 1917: A unity in war such as never existed before

Ethel Byrne, Margaret Sanger’s sister, is indeed hunger-striking in the workhouse to which she was sentenced for 30 days for disseminating birth control literature. She is also thirst-striking, but she has relented on her refusal to wash.

British Prime Minister Lloyd George invites the heads of the Dominions (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa) to join in an Empire War Council to deal with matters of war and then with the  peace negotiations. He hints at a more permanent change in the imperial structures. “The peoples of the empire will have found a unity in war such as never existed before”. The Empire that kills together chills together.

Sen. William Borah (R-Idaho) introduces a resolution opposing Wilson’s peace overtures, reaffirming the Monroe Doctrine and nonintermeddling (is that a real word? the Times uses it) in European affairs.

Japan’s Emperor Yoshihito dissolves the Diet, which was threatening a vote of no confidence against Terauchi Masatake’s government. An assassination attempt is made on opposition leader (and former minister of justice and mayor of Tokyo) Yukio Ozaki by two guys with swords, because Japan.

The US objects to changes Carranza wants to make in the Mexican constitution relating to land ownership by foreigners, the ability of the government to expel foreigners, exemptions of concessions from taxation, etc.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Today -100: January 25, 1917: So that’s something to look forward to

Irish types in the US have been trying to prevent the showing of the movie Whom the Gods Destroy, which depicts the Easter Rising from a pro-British viewpoint (the Roger Casement figure is pardoned by the king rather than, you know, not). The Vitagraph Company is not best pleased.

In the Cooper Union, Leon Trotsky (speaking in Russian), says “The Socialist revolution is coming in Europe.”

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Today -100: January 24, 1917: Of withdrawals, national self-determination, and women’s suffrage

The US government finally admits that it is withdrawing Pershing’s punitive force from Mexico, having failed to punish Villa.

Wilson’s support for national self-determination, fuzzy as it is, is prompting various ethnic groups to make their claims heard. A couple of days ago it was Poles in the US asking Wilson to recognize the Polish puppet regime. Now it’s Bohemians (Czechs) asking him to support Bohemian independence. Tomorrow it will be the Irish.

The governor of North Dakota signs women’s suffrage into law. Women can now vote for president and some municipal and county officials, but not for police magistrates, Congress or the state Legislature.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Today -100: January 23, 1917: Peace without victory

Woodrow Wilson makes a surprise speech to the Senate (text). He talks about the need for the US to join a league to enforce the peace after the European war – “It is inconceivable that the people of the United States should play no part in that great enterprise.” However, while he admits the US will have no role in peace negotiations, he does have some conditions before the US can join the League he’s advocating.

He proposes a world in which there are no alliances like those of the Entente and the Central Powers, but rather the adoption of the Monroe Doctrine “as the doctrine of the world,” whatever that means. He says that peace terms based on the victory of one side will not lead to a lasting peace (this speech is known as the Peace without Victory speech) because “it would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory, upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.” He has some ideas about what that peace would look like: Poland must be autonomous, full freedom of the seas for every nation, etc.

Why is he addressing the Senate? He’s not expecting any concrete action from Congress, he just needed a forum, and neither side of the war seemed that interested in receiving any more of his little notes. No president has appeared before the Senate to make a policy statement like this since George Washington, who did it once (and was so annoyed that they dared to ask him questions that he never returned).

Theodore Roosevelt, not surprisingly, prefers peace with victory to peace without victory.

Margaret Sanger’s sister Ethel Byrne is sentenced to 30 days in the workhouse for giving out birth control literature. She plans to hunger strike.

Franz Bopp, the former German consul in San Francisco, is sentenced to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for plotting to blow up ships and munitions factories. Also sentenced to prison are the former vice-consul Baron E.H. von Schack, Lt. Wilhelm von Brincken and other assorted spies and saboteurs. They were released in 1920.

Interestingly, Von Brincken stayed in the US after his release from Alcatraz and went on to an acting career in Hollywood, because why not. In the sound period he appeared as German baddies in a lot of war/spy movies. His last IMDB credit is “The Hitler Gang” (1944).

Headline of the Day -100:

Georgia harness-racing stewards, not Of The Apocalypse.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Today -100: January 22, 1917: The Wrongdoers’ League

Margaret Sanger gives a speech at the Institute Hall in Paterson, NJ. She doesn’t give birth control information, because the cops are taking notes, but says that in 1916 there were 250,000 ignorant and dangerous attempts to avoid family increases in the US, resulting in 50,000 deaths.

Theodore Roosevelt objects to the very idea of a League to Enforce Peace (which is supported by William Howard Taft) since forcing both sides in a dispute to arbitrate rather than go to war would be unfair to the wronged nation. Therefore “It is a league in the interest of the wrongdoers”.

The National Board of Review bans nude figures from films, even artistic ones.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today -100: January 21, 1917: Because who doesn’t like lions?

Tsar Nicholas postpones the convening of the Duma, which is likely to come into conflict with his government.

The US Army announces that 15,000 to 20,000 national guards will be withdrawn from the Mexican border.

Theodore Roosevelt’s uncle S.M. Roosevelt holds a dinner party at which roast lion cub is served.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

We will shine for everyone to follow

Today Trump delivered the first speech of the Failed Trump Administration.

I WASN’T AWARE IT HAD BEEN UNBUILT... DEBUILDED? “We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country”.

OH GOOD, HE HASN’T HEARD ABOUT RE-ELECTIONS. NOBODY TELL HIM. “Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power”.

VERY SPECIAL MEANING: “Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” Has no one told him he IS Washington DC now? Because this could be a loophole. “Sorry, Mr. Trump, you can’t do that because the people have that power now.” “Which people?” “Oh, you know, the people.”

YOU BROKE IT, YOU BOUGHT IT: “That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment, it belongs to you.”

SOMEHOW, I DON’T THINK THIS IS ACTUALLY WHAT JANUARY 20TH, 2017 WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR: “January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.” This isn’t just rhetoric, it’s an attack on previous governments as lacking democratic legitimacy, but which ones? What was the date when they stopped being the rulers of this nation? Be specific.

THE TWITTER EGGS? “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

OH, I THINK IT HAS. “You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.” Tens of millions, but still 3 million less than...

THERE HE GOES WITH THE “INNER CITIES” AGAIN: “But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities”.

FLUSH WITH CASH: “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge”. And that’s just Trump University.

AMERICAN CARNAGE: “and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” Well, it is a Friday.

“We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams. And their success will be our success.” It’s a sign of poor editing that nobody noticed they removed the bit saying who the they are that those “their”s refer to.

WELL IT’S OUR FAULT FOR BUILDING AMPHIBIOUS FACTORIES IN THE FIRST PLACE: “One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores”.

ONLY AMERICA FIRST: “We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”

“America will start winning again, winning like never before.”

WHERE DID OUR BORDERS GO? CHINA? IT’S CHINA, ISN’T IT? “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.” The Chinese got those too, didn’t they?

There’s something so obnoxiously entitled about the use of “our” in that paragraph, isn’t there?

AND I THINK WE KNOW WHICH AMERICANS WILL BE BOUGHT AND WHICH AMERICANS WILL BE HIRED. “We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.”

SHINY: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.”

HEY, FOLKS, IT’S THE 21st CENTURY AND WE’RE STILL TALKING ABOUT THE “CIVILIZED” WORLD: “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.”

GOD’S PEOPLE: “The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

SO THIS IS ALSO YOUR RESIGNATION SPEECH? “We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it.”

“A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions.” A new national pride will stir ourselves? That’s just really bad writing.

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Today -100: January 20, 1917: But is it good for the Jews?

Gen. Pershing’s expeditionary forces in Mexico seem to be pulling out, following the failure of talks with Mexico, but no official announcement has been made.

The TNT in a munitions plant in Silvertown, near London, blows up, killing 73. Fortunately, it was in the evening, just before 7 pm, so the factory had relatively few workers, and it was also too early for people in nearby houses to have gone to bed, many of those houses losing their upper floors.

Headline of the Day -100:

Well, Jewish bankers anyway, who will be needed to aid in reconstruction. Taft may think all Jews are bankers. Anyway, he thinks Russia, Germany, Austria and Romania will definitely be treating Jews much better than they have.

World War I still lacks a name. One member of the French Chamber of Deputies, Jules Roche (a former commerce minister), suggests it be called “the German invasion.” And by “suggests” I mean he wants to impose legal penalties on anyone who calls it anything else.

Another issue of The Wipers Times, under its current nom de trench The B.E.F. Times, is out, and it has a pressing concern. The editors have heard a “terrible rumour” that whiskey will soon be na-poo*   “[A]s the sub-editor crudely puts it ‘No whiskey, no war.’”

*No more; from the French “il n’y a plus”.

An Appeal
There are various kinds of courage, there are many kinds of fear,
There are many brands of whiskey, there are many makes of beer,
There is also rum, which sometimes in our need can help us much,
But ’tis whiskey – whiskey – whiskey! hands the courage which is “Dutch.” ....

’Tis Scotland’s best which helps me rest, ’tis Mountain Dew which stays me
When Minnies* rack my wearied soul, or blatant H.E.* flays me,
’Twas by its aid that I endured Trones Wood and such-like places.
In times of stress my truest friend accelerated my paces.

*Minnies = trench mortars.
*H.E. = high explosives.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Today -100: January 19, 1917: The glory of the Polish sword

Switzerland is worried that Germany is about to send troops through it into Alsace.

The US military forces occupying the Dominican Republic are now deciding who represents the country abroad, firing its ambassador to the United States, claiming it is to reduce expenses, which would be more believable if they hadn’t also just fired the chargé d’affaires in Cuba, who has been protesting the American occupation (and who refuses to accept the authority of the US to fire him).

The Polish Provisional Council (aka the puppet regime named by Germany and Austria) say they’ll get around to a constitution and elections and a king, but the first order of business is to create “a numerous, well disciplined Polish Army, true to our great chivalrous traditions and the glory of the Polish sword”. But they realize conscription for a servile army is not possible, at this time. Germany has graciously provided Poland with a viceroy, Prince Wacław Niemojowski.

New York State plans to create the country’s first prison for “feeble-minded criminals,” not counting the Texas Legislature.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Today -100: January 18, 1917: Of notes, u-boat agitations, and POWs

Britain sends a new note to Woodrow Wilson, providing justifications for the Entente’s peace conditions. Basically, to prevent the horrible, aggressive countries who are of course solely responsible for starting the war from acting up in the future, the map of Europe needs to be changed to neuter them.

Headline of the Day -100:

Germany claimed France is holding German POWs near the front lines and warned that if France didn’t move them at least 30 kilometers from the front, French POWs would be moved to the front. Its deadline has passed, so it is now doing so.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Today -100: January 17, 1917: A silent invitation to the assassin

Admiral George Dewey, who took Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War, dies.

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage says that the suffragists picketing the White House are “a menace to the life of the President - a silent invitation to the assassin.”

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Today -100: January 16, 1917: We cannot afford to give the impression that we are chasing peace at all costs

The US-Mexican Joint Commission dissolves after four months of discussions which were never going to accomplish anything, and which didn’t.

German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann says that the Entente’s reply to Wilson’s note has made it impossible for Germany to name its own peace conditions. See if you can follow the logic: the peace terms that the Entente named in response to Wilson were so extreme that if Germany now named its terms, their very mildness and reasonableness would be taken as a sign of weakness, which would just encourage the enemy to keep fighting. “We cannot afford to give the impression that we are chasing peace at all costs.” He suggests that if England’s goal is, as it says, liberation rather than pillaging, it should set an example by freeing Ireland.

The Supreme Court upholds the Mann Act, which is supposed to regulate commercialized prostitution (“white slavery”), but is often used to prosecute any couple who cross state lines for sexual escapades. Since Congress only claims the power to enact this law under the Inter-State Commerce Clause, it’s hard to see the Court’s logic in counting sex where no money exchanges hands as “commerce.”

Boston financier Thomas Lawson, testifying before the House Rules Committee’s investigation of the rumor that cabinet member(s) leaked Wilson’s peace proposals to stock speculators names names, including Treasury Secretary (and Wilson’s son-in-law) William Gibbs McAdoo and his banker brother Malcolm (who wants William to punch Lawson’s head), Wilson’s secretary Joseph Tumulty, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, and financier Bernard Baruch. The witness names as his source the – hey, wait a minute! – chairman of the Rules Committee, Robert Lee Henry (D-Texas). Henry denies this. Lawson says he talked to journalists about their conversation immediately after it occurred and shouts, “I’ll make good here, and I won’t go to jail as the goat.”

The New York City Health Department’s campaign against spitting continues. 174 men (no women) appear in court. 2 have acceptable excuses, the rest are fined $1 or $2.

German Foreign Minister Zimmermann sends a telegram to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, informing him that Germany intends to resume unrestricted warfare on February 1st and instructing him that if the United States looks like declaring war in response, Eckhardt should propose an alliance with Mexico against the US – “make war together, make peace together” – promising Mexico the return of territories lost in the Mexican-American War. Well, some of them, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. California would go to Japan, which Mexico should ask to join (Zimmermann thought Japan might be amenable due to annoyance at racist immigrant and land ownership laws in the US). The Zimmermann Telegram will be intercepted and decrypted by British Naval Intelligence as it wends its way through transatlantic cables that fortuitously pass through Britain, the British will pass it to the Americans, and away we go.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Today -100: January 15, 1917: Welcome, Leon

Du Pont insists that the explosion of their Haskell, New Jersey munitions plant was not the result of a plot. No, just us being incompetent as usual, they say reassuringly.

Czar Nicholas fires a bunch of (relative) liberals from the Council of the Empire, replacing them with reactionaries, as was the custom.

Headline of the Day -100:

Leon Trotsky arrives in New York, having been successively expelled from Russia (technically he escaped from Siberia – twice), Austria (not Germany) at the start of the war, France (for publishing an anti-war newspaper) and Spain. This is almost certainly the first time the NYT has mentioned Trotsky, presumably prodded by the big deal that Russian-language and socialist newspapers in the city are making about his arrival. Interesting that the NYT keeps mentioning his Jewishness; “pacifist” is also a funny way to describe Trotsky.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Today -100: January 14, 1917: A series of tubes

A letter from Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, gives anecdotal evidence for her claim that corruption and vote-buying were responsible for the defeat of women’s suffrage in state referenda.

The House votes to ignore the postmaster-general’s recommendations and restore pneumatic mail tube deliveries, because they’re awesome.

The US Justice Dept has heard that one person might be responsible for the explosions last week at two different New Jersey munitions factories. The evidence is pretty thin.

War is Hell, Sunday New York Times Magazine Edition:

The New York City Health Department is undertaking a crackdown on people who spit, issuing summonses to 206 alleged spitters in a single day.

Headline of the Day -100:  

Yeah, it’s a swim meet between the Princeton and University of Pennsylvania teams, but for a moment there...

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Today -100: January 13, 1917: Our enemies have dropped the mask

Kaiser Wilhelm responds to the Entente’s rejection of his feeble peace feelers: “Our enemies have dropped the mask, admitted their lust of conquest and their aim to crush Germany and enslave Europe and the seas... but they will never achieve their aim. ... Burning indignation and holy wrath will redouble the strength of every German. God, who planted the spirit of freedom in German hearts, will give us the full victory.”

Enslave the seas?

The Canadian Car and Foundry Company says it will rebuild its Kingsland, New Jersey munitions plant after all that exploding. Kingsland, New Jersey would prefer that it didn’t. While only a few houses burned down, most of them were perforated by projectiles. The company is beginning to insinuate that the fire was deliberate.

And there’s another massive explosion at another munitions plant in New Jersey, the Du Pont powder plant in Haskell. 2 dead. At this point a Du Pont plant blowing up hardly even qualifies as news.

The New York State Bar Association decides to allow women lawyers to join.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today -100: January 12, 1917: Of lubes and lynchings, picketers, fireworks in the Meadowlands, and not exterminating the German people

Gov. Augustus Owsley Stanley of Kentucky personally prevents the lynching of a black man, Lube Martin (that can’t be his correct name, can it?), after his trial for killing a white man is postponed. Hearing of the threats to kill the judge if he didn’t order Martin returned to Murray (that’s a place), Gov. Stanley charters a special train, saying he’d give the mob “a chance to lynch the governor of Kentucky first.”

The Senate passes a measure to ban from the US mails printed matter – including newspapers – containing liquor ads.

Pres. Wilson invites the suffragist picketers inside to get warm because, well, January might not have been the best time of year to start picketing the White House. The invitation is not accepted.

Explosions destroy the Canadian Car and Foundry Company, a munitions factory in Kingsland, New Jersey (the Meadowlands), going on and on for four hours as hundreds of thousands of shells, intended for export to Britain and Russia, detonate. No one will ever be sure whether sabotage was involved, although West Germany will be coerced into paying some compensation in the 1950s. There is a hero: Tessie McNamara, who ran the telephone switchboard and made sure every department evacuated before barely making it out herself. There were no casualties, not even the police chiefs of Kingsland and Rutherford, who were in an automobile when a shell fell on it and wrecked it. Not helping: the idiots, not all of them children, who decide that unexploded shells make good souvenirs.

After last July’s explosions in New York Harbor, NY and NJ tightened their rules for the handling of explosives. One of the companies fighting local safety measures was, you guessed it, the Canadian Car and Foundry Company, which went to court to preserve its ability to ship explosives by rail through Jersey City.

The Entente finally responds  to Wilson’s letter sent 4 weeks ago asking both sides to set out their objectives, and they actually do: evacuation of foreign occupation forces from Belgium, Serbia, France, Russia, Montenegro, Romania with reparations, the “reorganization of Europe,” return of Alsace-Lorraine to France and some territory to Italy, “liberation” of Slavs, Romanians (they mean Transylvania), Italians, Czecho-Slovaks (i.e. the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), enfranchisement of subject populations in the Ottoman Empire and the removal from Europe of that Empire, “decidedly alien to Western civilization.” They are positioning themselves as “not fighting for selfish interests, but, above all, to safeguard the independence of peoples, of right, and of humanity.” They do say that they do not aim for “the extermination of the German people and their political disappearance,” so that’s nice of them.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Today -100: January 11, 1917: So petty and so monstrous

The suffragist picketing of the White House (“silent sentinels”) begins. A new tactic in the US, though in Britain the Women’s Freedom League picketed Parliament in 1909 and have just resumed while the Speaker’s Conference discusses various possible changes to the electoral system. Pres. Wilson, returning from golf, ignores them. Carrie Chapman Catt denounces the sentinels, because of course she does. The NYT says “no one can imagine the Socialists, the Prohibitionists, or any other party conceiving of a performance at once so petty and so monstrous”. The Times thinks this tactic shows the essential difference of the female mind which would make granting women the vote a political danger.

New Russian Prime Minister Prince Nikolai Golitsyn says his government is responsible only to the will of the tsar, not to the Duma (not to mention the Russian people.  Because he doesn’t. He doesn’t mention the Russian people).

The federal court in San Francisco finds the German consul, the amusingly named Franz Bopp, the vice-consul and 3 employees of the consulate, guilty of conspiracy to blow up ammunition factories in the US and Canada as well as ships, railroad bridges, and military trains (the latter coming under the legal heading of conspiring to restrain interstate and international commerce).

The Entente forces the pope to send his First Acting Private Chamberlain, who is German, out of Rome.

A private in the New York National Guard’s Second Field Artillery is punished by being tied to the wheel of a gun carriage (“tricing” or “spreadeagling”), which is old-school discipline. There will be an investigation. The private had been arrested for returning to the Bronx armory drunk, and then refusing to do prison-type work unless fed. The unit, just returned from Texas, has not been paid for weeks and hasn’t been fed in a while either.

Ibsen’s Wild Duck (1884) is performed for the first time in the United States. In German.

William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, slaughterer of bison and Indian alike and mythologizer of the Old West through his cowboys & Indians touring show, dies at 70.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today -100: January 10, 1917: Of silent sentinels, trepovs, and prohibition

Suffragists plan to picket the White House.

Alexander Fyodorovitch Trepov resigns as Russian prime minister, figuring that almost 7 weeks in that job is enough for anyone. Next up: Prince Nikolai Golitsyn, who is appointed over his own objections by the tsar, who wants an extremely reactionary prime minister, and an extremely reactionary prime minister he will have. For now.

The Senate passes a bill for prohibition in the District of Columbia, 55-32. A proposal to let the actual people of DC vote on it fails by a tie vote.

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Monday, January 09, 2017

Today -100: January 9, 1917: Wars of murder and rapine are the worst kind

A British court in India sentences 17 Indians in the 1915 “Lahore conspiracy” to overthrow the Raj (aka the Ghadar Mutiny). 6 are sentenced to death (actually a lot more than that were executed). The court says the movement originated in the United States in conjunction with the German consulate in San Francisco (which is actually true). “The enemy’s plan was to bring about a war of murder and rapine.”

Sen. Robert Owen (D-Oklahoma) introduces a joint resolution to remove the Supreme Court’s power to declare federal laws unconstitutional. In a speech a couple of days ago, Owen said that the Court is an “antiquated institution” which has outlived its usefulness. He objects to their getting to rule on the Adamson 8-Hour Act.

Chicago Police Superintendent Charles Healey and several others are arrested for taking payoffs from brothels, thieves, gamblers, etc. A raid ordered by the state attorney grabs up bagman Thomas Costello, who has on him a book detailing which places could be raided and which could not. At his trial in October, Healey was represented by Clarence Darrow, who put the blame on Costello, on Mayor Big Bill Thompson, on anyone other than Healey. Darrow had him come to court practically in rags and called him “old, weary, feeble, and broken” (he was c.61, but would live to c.103) and got him acquitted.

The Supreme Court upholds the ban on liquor shipments from wet states to dry ones.

The AP is suing Hearst’s International News Service for stealing its stories through bribery and other nefarious means.

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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Today -100: January 8, 1917: Why, the trenches are almost like a health resort, what with the mud baths and everything

Lord Northcliffe claims that the average death rate among British soldiers is 3 per thousand per year and their rate of illness is less than among civilians in London.

Former Greek finance minister Alexandros Diomidis, who has defected to the Venizelos side, says that King Constantine is only waiting for German orders before declaring war on the Entente.

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

Today -100: January 7, 1917: Of hitherto unsuspected peoples, leaks, and boards of education

The various statements made by the Entente in favor of the protection of small states (Belgium, Serbia, etc) and peoples, as well as similar statements from the Central Powers (Poles, the Flemish), cynical and instrumental as they are, have “brought to the surface the claims of many peoples whose very existence has been hitherto unsuspected.” Lithuanians, Croats, Ukrainians, etc in the United States have been putting forward claims to independence. Also “Jugoslavs” (southern Slavs), a term I don’t think I’ve seen in the NYT before.

Oh, Congress is serious about investigating the rumor that Wilson’s peace note was leaked to Wall Street in advance. There’s no real evidence to date that there was a leak.

NY Mayor Mitchel appoints a negro, E.P. Roberts, to the Board of Education. Roberts is a doctor who has been a medical inspector for the Board. There was a negro on the Board once before, in the 1890s. It’s unclear how many members the board has; more than 10 anyway. Mitchel has 10 seats to fill and appointed Roberts first, presumably in case other choices objected to working with a black man.

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Friday, January 06, 2017

Today -100: January 6, 1917: The mystery of Rasputin and the wolfhound

Everyone in Russia is still talking about Rasputin’s mysterious death and related mysteries like Who killed the dog in Prince Yusupov’s house? Was he given a revolver (Rasputin, not the dog) and told to kill himself but instead he shot at one of the conspirators and hit the dog?

The Senate votes to endorse Wilson’s note to the belligerents. Well, to support the part calling on them to state their war aims but not the bit about creating an international agreement to keep the peace, which might involve the United States actually doing something. Some Republicans propose a substitute hoping for peace without mentioning Wilson at all; it fails 36-27.

Pres. Wilson nominates a woman to the United States Employees’ Compensation Commission: Frances Axtell, a Republican former state legislator in Washington.

The appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court orders the dismissal of a supervising nurse in the NYC health Department for being an alien (a German), despite the fact that she has the most supervising-nursey name ever, Eugenia S. Prengel.

NYPD Patrolman Hugh McKiernan dies, supposedly as the result of a disease contracted from being bitten six months ago by a man he was arresting.

Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, says that women’s suffrage has been thwarted by fraud in at least 5 states, noting that the majority of states make no legal provision for challenging fraud in referenda or forcing recounts, so that even proof of rampant corruption wouldn’t overturn a rigged election result. She doesn’t name the 5 states or as far as I can tell offer any evidence of actual corrupt ballot practices.

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

Today -100: January 5, 1917: Wherein is named a blessing of war

Germany promised to return some of the Belgians it deported to Germany for forced labor. If they’ve done so, I haven’t heard about it, but they are returning 70 tuberculosis cases. In a slow cattle car.

Russian censorship is relaxed to allow newspapers to “publish all conceivable versions” of the death of Rasputin.

Headline of the Day -100:

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Today -100: January 4, 1917: Of romantic killings, brutal Senegalese negroes, princes, consuls, and improper promotions

Headline of the Day -100:

Germany complains that its POWs in Africa are being over-worked, mistreated and “are guarded by colored troops with brutality characteristic of the Senegal negroes.” German prisoners are even whipped by negro guards, they claim.

Pancho Villa supposedly shot his secretary for sending out a manifesto, I guess in Villa’s name.

There sure are a lot of German princes, although there’s now one less. Prince Friedrich zu Fürstenberg, 18, was killed in the fighting in Romania late last year.

Mexico’s consul general in New York, Juan Burns, is arrested in the US for arranging arms shipments to Mexico.

Mary Cornwallis-West, who is a former under-aged mistress of Prince Edward, the wife of  the lord-lieutenant of Denbighshire, mother of a princess (in someplace called Pless, in Silesia)(Princess Daisy, she’s called) and also mother of Winston Churchill’s step-father (who may or may not have been Prince Edward’s biological son), is censured by a military Court of Inquiry for interfering to secure the transfer and promotion of a soldier, presumably her boy-toy. The British press will eat this up with a spoon. She sounds like her life would make an excellent book, although evidently the actual book about her life is not that book.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Today -100: January 3, 1917: Of mad monks, governors, and generals

Headline of the Day -100:

This is not the first time Rasputin’s been reported murdered nor the first time somebody’s actually tried to kill him, so the Times is treating the report with cautious scepticism. 

Arizona Gov. George Hunt refuses to give up his office to the other Arizona governor, Thomas Campbell, so Campbell rents a temporary office in which to attempt to govern. The Post Office has decided that any mail addressed to “the governor of Arizona” will go to Campbell.

The new French Minister of War Hubert Lyautey fires 11 generals, replacing them younger men with experience in this war.

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Monday, January 02, 2017

Today -100: January 2, 1917: The man who has come to regard the ballot box as a juggler’s hat has renounced his allegiance

Headline of the Day -100:

Turkey abrogates the Treaty of Paris (1856) and the Treaty of Berlin (1878). I think that means they’re restarting the Crimean War. Turkey says the promises of the signatories to guarantee her sovereignty were always ignored anyway. Turkey will also abolish the semi-autonomous status of the Christian province of Liva in the Lebanon.

The news of Grigori Rasputin’s murder is out. He is said to have been “assassinated under dramatic circumstances,” as opposed to the usual humdrum, boring assassinations.

Arizona still has two governors. Thomas Campbell takes the oath. In his “inauguration” speech, Campbell says “The man who has come to regard the ballot box as a juggler’s hat has renounced his allegiance.” Yeah... what? “My office is the saddle; I am the governor of Arizona.” Unfortunately, he is then refused entrance into his saddle in the Executive offices, supposedly because it’s the New Year’s holiday and everything’s closed.

Berlin, Ontario changed its name to Kitchener last year. First there was a referendum on whether to change the name, in which a name change won by a very low turnout, then a second low-turnout referendum chose between Kitchener, Brock, Corona, Adanac (Canada spelled backwards), Benton, and Keowana. But not everyone was happy with the idea, and the Citizens’ League has just been voted into power in the city, with a mandate to change the name back, provoking a riot by soldiers.

Police in Long Island City disrupt New Year’s Day festivities, namely cock-fighting. The organizer, a Simon Flaherty, says the birds were sent to him for reshipment and he had no idea about the fighting part. Which doesn’t quite explain what 40 roosters were doing in a second-story hotel room.

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Today -100: January 1, 1917: Of dark forces, enduring Newfoundland sober, idiots, field marshals (fields marshal?), and vehicular slaughter

The Russian Duma deplores the “dark forces” undermining the war effort.

Prohibition goes into effect in Newfoundland.

Politically Correct Headline of the Day -100:

Douglas Haig is promoted to field marshal to reward his many achievements in senseless slaughter.

In 1916, 729 people died in automobile accidents in New York State (a record), 392 of those in NYC.  248 of those were children. Another 78 people were run over by trolleys in the City and 74 by horse-drawn wagons.

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