Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Today -100: March 29, 1917: No one can now contend that we are yielding to violence what we refused to concede to argument


Albert Staub, head of the Atlanta branch of the American Red Cross, calls for a purge of “disloyal” members because SOMEONE poisoned a batch of bandages and put ground glass in dressings in New Jersey. (Update: Staub will deny ever having said anything about poison).

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George declares himself in favor of women’s suffrage. Actually, NYT, he always claimed in the past to be in favor, even while plotting to undermine it. Rather more remarkable is former prime minister Asquith’s announcing his conversion, claiming that his previous vehement opposition was always based on “expediency” but that women’s war work has proved them worthy etc etc and “we have had no recurrence of that detestable campaign which disfigured the annals of political agitation in this country, and no one can now contend that we are yielding to violence what we refused to concede to argument.” Lloyd George also goes on and on about women munition workers. Parliament votes in favor of the Speakers’s Conference’s recommendations for changing the franchise, which include reducing the residency requirement, a complicated experiment in proportional representation in a few constituencies, and other provisions. Women’s franchise will be on unequal terms, with a minimum age that hasn’t been settled on yet, probably 30 or 35.

The Nebraska State Senate votes down partial women’s suffrage.

Headline of the Day -100: 
By “invading,” the NYT means “are looking for work.” Long Island businessmen are not happy about it.

German Food Dictator Adolf Tortilowicz von Batocki-Friebe says the state needs to seize the entire food supply of Germany.

Germany is threatening to intern American relief workers in Belgium for 4 weeks before letting them go home, to keep them revealing military news.

The witch hunt begins: Alexander Fichlander, a school principal in Brooklyn, is rejected for promotion because he’s a pacifist who refused to sign the loyalty pledge. George Wingate, a Civil War general who is on the Board of Education, leads the charge against Fichlander and wants to fire any teacher who expresses pacifist views, even if only outside the schoolhouse. Oh, and maybe make them take a loyalty oath.


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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Today -100: March 28, 1917: Of cobblers, Canadian concentration camps, literacy, and tango pirates


Alexis Korvanov, a former Russian general and political exile who has been working as a cobbler in New York, sails for home. I don’t think he’ll do did much when he gets there.

While the NYT doesn’t give the name of the ship Korvanov sailed on, it might well have been the Kristianiafjord, whose more famous passenger is Leon Trotsky. Certainly the date is right. The Kristianiafjord will dock in Halifax, where Canadian authorities will detain him for a month alongside interned German POWs, as he later described in the chapter of his memoirs entitled “In a Concentration Camp.” He spent the month trying – with some success – to convert the Germans to revolutionary socialism.

Forced by the law Congress passed over Wilson’s veto to make prospective immigrants take a literacy test, the Labor Department says it will use the Bible, not for religious reasons but because it has been translated into every language, including Klingon.

Former President Taft calls the Russian Revolution and the fall of the Romanovs “the first great triumph of this war.”

Headline of the Day -100: 



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Monday, March 27, 2017

Today -100: March 27, 1917: Of Russian Jews, declarations of war, Belgiums, and crying czars


Russia will grant full equality to Jews, eliminating educational, residential and other restrictions. Which also means that the passports issued by the US to American Jews will now be honored. Under Taft, the US abrogated its treaty with Russia over this issue.

The Wilson administration is debating whether to ask Congress, at its special session next week, to declare war rather than have it declare that a state of war is already in existence. Evidently in all US history, Congress has only ever done the latter. By directly declaring war, rather than saying that the war began, for example, with the sinking of the Housatonic on February 3rd, the US can later demand compensation for the ships sunk right up to the time the US declared war.

Secretary of War Newton Baker says Germans in this country won’t be interned. If they behave.

Germany will start administering Belgium as two separate countries.

Headline of the Day -100: 



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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Today -100: March 26, 1917: Of spy fever, redeployments, and of course polo


A Swedish man is arrested for sketching the Brooklyn Bridge. And a guest at the Hotel Majestic in New York is investigated by the police after a guest becomes suspicious that he is operating an illicit wireless transmitter. He is in fact testing electrical medical equipment before demonstrating it to doctors, which is his job.

Germany has been withdrawing troops from positions on the Western Front in order to mount a major offensive against Russia.

The head of the Polo Association says polo should not be stopped if war is declared.


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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Today -100: March 25, 1917: Everyone hates a finicky war


Woodrow Wilson orders the US ambassador to Belgium to leave Belgium along with all other consular officials and the Commission for Relief, since the Germans are sinking all the ships bringing relief supplies anyway.

Theodore Roosevelt says he can raise a division of soldiers and have it in France in 4 or 5 months. And then he went off to “hunt devilfish.”

Headline of the Day -100:


The Russian Provisional Government fires Grand Duke Nicholas as army commander-in-chief.

In the German Reichstag, socialist (SPD) deputy Fritz Kunert blames Kaiser Wilhelm and Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg for starting the war and says he’d be proud if Germany made such progress as Russia has.

The US rejects Germany’s proposed protocols interpreting the 1799 and 1828 US-Prussia treaties in ways that would allow all German nationals in the US (well over a million of them) to go about their business with no restrictions in the event of a war.

If war is declared, Princeton will immediately suspend all athletics. But they probably won’t shut down the whole university for the duration (or let in women).

Headline of the Day -100: 

Something about paprika, right?


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Today -100: March 24, 1917: Of recognition, safe czars and nervous kaisers, and humanity and good neighborship


Now that the US has broken the ice, Britain, France and Italy recognize the new Russian government.

Russia will abolish the flogging and chaining of prison inmates.

Headline of the Day -100: 



Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The British press reports, no doubt on the best authority, that Kaiser Wilhelm has had a nervous breakdown.

Headline of the Day -100: 


Fight fiercely, Harvard.

Germany will reduce the bread ration by one-fourth. The meat ration, however, will be increased (they’re killing animals to save on fodder).

Having sunk a bunch of Dutch ships, Germany offers, “on considerations of humanity and good neighborship,” to pay indemnities for the dead crew members and to help shipowners buy German ships after the war. The Netherlands tells them to go fuck themselves. It is also likely to ban US merchant ships when Wilson puts cannons on them.

The Nivelle Offensive is going well. For now.

The Justice Dept is taking a census of all Germans in El Paso, with an eye towards internment.



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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Today -100: March 23, 1917: And we’ve been friends ever since


The US recognizes the new Russian government, the first country to do so.

Russia says it will end the death penalty “in the near future.” Also, there will be women’s suffrage.

A u-boat sinks an oil tanker owned by Standard of New Jersey, the Healdton, off the Netherlands, its destination. No warning given. 7 Americans dead.

New York City’s Boy Mayor John Purroy Mitchel accuses State Senate minority leader (and future US senator) Robert Wagner of “working in the interest of Germany.” Wagner – and yes that is a German name – is not best pleased. This is part of a fight over how much the US government will pay the Rockaway-Pacific Corp (a subsidiary of Southern Pacific Railroad) for land on Rockaway Point which it intends to fortify.


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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today -100: March 22, 1917: Taking a man’s part


Woodrow Wilson calls Congress into an extra session for April 2nd, earlier than he’d previously announced, presumably to ask it to declare war on Germany.

It is expected that the US will not just independently start fighting Germany, but will operate in conjunction with the Entente nations, perhaps in a formal alliance, perhaps not. Okay, that may sound obvious, now, but the US hadn’t made a military alliance with another country since the War of Independence, and not getting into “entangling alliances” or interfering in Europe was kind of important to the US’s national self-image, the Monroe Doctrine and all that.

They’re talking about not being able to field an army for a year or so (although Theodore Roosevelt, naturally, wants to send an expeditionary force of whatever size as soon as possible), without anyone suggesting that the war might be over by then.

Henry Stimson, Taft’s secretary of war, demands that the US take “a man’s part” in the European war.

Lots of men, not just those in the military, are practicing military drilling, and would like the government to provide them with some rifles to play with. 600 had been drilling on Governors Island (Manhattan) with broomsticks, but have recently upgraded to wooden rifles.

Czar Nicholas and Mrs. Czar are under arrest.

New French Prime Minister Alexandre Ribot says “We are resolved to wage with the utmost vigor and to a victorious end the terrible war into which we were drawn by inexcusable aggression.” He will do so, he says, by giving a totally free hand to Gen. Robert Nivelle. This should go well.

Headline of the Day -100: 


I believe you mean “differently abled.”

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Today -100: March 21, 1917: Feeble war but war


Wilson’s Cabinet meets. They are virtually unanimous in favor of war, some of their penises fully erect in anticipation. Wilson is still hesitating, saying he abhors both Germany’s militarism on land and Britain’s militarism at sea.

Republican leaders give speeches at the Union League Club about the international situation, all saying the same thing. Charles Evans Hughes: “Germany is now making war upon the United States, making war with a ruthless barbarity.” (Ruthless barbarity is the worst kind of barbarity). Theodore Roosevelt: “Germany is making war upon us and we are not striking in self-defense. Armed neutrality under these circumstances is feeble war, but it is war.”

Headline of the Day -100: 


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Today -100: March 20, 1917: Any American citizen who is now pro-German is a traitor to this country


The Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote upholds the Adamson 8-Hour Act regulating railroad work conditions, including the enforcement of compulsory arbitration on RR companies and workers. Which gives the unions their 8-hour-day victory but introduces the worrying principle that the right to strike in such an industry is limited by the public interest. Some of the ruling seems to be railroad-specific, so Congress might not have quite so many powers over an industry whose functioning was not a vital “public service” affecting interstate commerce.

Theodore Roosevelt, you will be surprised to hear, wants war with Germany. “Any American citizen who is now pro-German is a traitor to this country”. He doesn’t like pacifists either, or armed neutrality, which “is only another name for timid war”. “Germany is already at war with us. The only question for us to decide is whether we shall make war nobly or ignobly.”

75-year-old Alexandre Ribot is the new French prime minister (again).

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George will move a parliamentary motion of congratulations to the Russian Duma for the new revolutionary government, which was formed, he says, “for the express purpose of carrying on the War with increased vigour.” He is heckled throughout by Irish MPs.

Russia announces home rule for Finland.


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today -100: March 19, 1917: They are war itself


Germany sinks the City of Memphis. A ship, not the actual city. An American ship. Also the Illinois and Vigilancia.

The NYT declaims: “By the repeated acts of Germany a state of war exists between that country and the United States. No declaration has preceded it. The acts of Germany are not to be looked upon merely as a provocation to war, they are war itself.”

Pres. Wilson has not resubmitted his Cabinet members for re-confirmation by the Senate for his second term, as previous presidents have done as a matter of custom if not law.

The new Russian foreign minister, Pavel Milyukov, instructs Russian diplomats to tell anyone who’ll listen that Russia intends to stay in the war until the bitter, bitter end. He also explains to them, tsarist holdovers as they all are, that the Revolution was a good thing.

Maj. Gen. Frederick Maude issues a proclamation to the people of Baghdad, which British forces captured last week, saying they’ve come not as conquerors but as liberators, so that’s good.


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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Today -100: March 18, 1917: Gracious! What does all this mean?


Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich did not abdicate after all. But he says he will only accept the czarship if offered by an elected body representing the will of the people. Don’t hold your breath, Mike.

French Prime Minister Aristide Briand and his cabinet, the third during this war, resign. Mostly caused by disagreements over military strategy.

The railroad unions postpone their strike 48 hours (although by the time that order is received in some places, the workers are already striking). The Supreme Court may issue their ruling on the constitutionality of the Adamson 8-Hour Act during that period, which matters to the owners but not so much to the unions, which say that their demands are the same regardless.

A dispute between a teacher, Marie Siebert, and a 14-year-old student, Harry Roper, at Central High School in D.C., goes public. She hangs a picture of Kaiser Wilhelm in her classroom, and he keeps turning it to the wall.

There were 3,541,738 motor vehicles registered in the US at the end of 1916, up more than a million from 1915.



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Friday, March 17, 2017

Today -100: March 17, 1917: How do you say “Buh bye” in Russian?


Czar Nicholas formally abdicates, not in favor of his son (he also abdicates his son), but his brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. Who then abdicates after nearly 15 hours. The Romanov dynasty is now over, after three centuries of “the greats,” “the terribles,” and “she fucked a what?”s.

The new Russian government (specifically the new Justice Minister, Alexander Kerensky) promises universal suffrage, amnesty for all political prisoners, freedom of speech and the press, abolition of religious & national restrictions (Jews can be lawyers now), etc.

Woodrow Wilson sends representatives to appeal to the “patriotism” of railroad companies and unions to avert a strike over the former’s refusal to obey the Adamson 8-Hour Act.

Tomorrow -100 is Sunday, and churches will be asking parishioners to sign pledges of loyalty to the president.


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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Today -100: March 16, 1917: Revolution


Headline of the Day -100:


From a confluence of bread rioting, strikes, military mutinies, some of it the results of plots, some of it not, and a regime that had lost all legitimacy through its inability to feed its population, prosecute the war effectively or keep its soldiers supplied with food, clothing, and ammunition, plus the suspected pro-German sympathies of various members of government and the incompetence and/or batshit craziness of others (plus the influence on the tsarina of the late Rasputin).

Czar Nicholas II finally resolves the whole tsar/czar dilemma by becoming just plain Nick, abdicating in the face of a revolution about which the world outside Russia has heard so few concrete details. In theory, he will go into exile, leaving behind his 12-year-old hemophilic son Alexei as the new tsar, with his brother the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich acting as regent. Or, you know, not.

The NYT is reporting that Interior Minister Alexander Protopopov (a follower of Rasputin, who Protopopov thinks is still giving him advice from beyond the grave) has been killed, which he hasn’t. He has, in fact, turned himself in to the Duma in order to escape being killed by the revolutionary mob. The Bolsheviks will execute him (the syphilis probably would have done for him fairly soon anyway).

The new prime minister appointed by the Duma to head the provisional government is Prince Georgii Lvov, who is associated with the Constitutional Democrats (Kadets).

The British government is said to be pleased at the overthrow of the weak tsar and the ouster of various allegedly pro-German officials, and expects that Russia will now fight Germany much more effectively. Andrew Bonar Law tells Parliament that Russian discontent was not caused by opposition to the war but to it not being carried out “with that efficiency and energy which the people had expected.”

The NYT also welcomes “The New Birth of Russia”: “The Russian people, through trusted leaders in the Duma and men of loyalty and enlightenment outside the Duma, have assumed the direction of affairs in the Empire.” They say the Revolution is mainly aimed at “Germanophile treason and conspiracy,” because everything is about German “plots” for the NYT now.

The Russian ambassador to the US, George Bakhmeteff, can shed no light on events in Russia (a country he will not, I believe, ever see again).

An Alien Registration Bill is introduced in the New York Legislature permitting the governor to require aliens from a country with which the US is or might soon be at war to register and requiring hotels, boarding houses etc to tell the police about any alien guests.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Today -100: March 15, 1917: Of quasi-civilization, loyalty censuses, algonquins, conscienceless rascals, and boy scouts


China breaks diplomatic relations with Germany and seizes German ships.

Hubert Lyautey resigns as French minister of war after 3 months in the job. He refused to discuss the production of war planes, even in a closed session of the Chamber of Deputies, and deputies shouted at him until he resigned, or something like that. Lyautey had been the colonial governor of Morocco, where he “brought the Moroccans into a state of quasi-civilization,” which it turns out wasn’t really the best background for running a modern war.

New Yorkers are signing pledges of support for the president in the present crisis in a highly organized “loyalty census.”

A German u-boat sinks the American steamship Algonquin. It fired without warning, but all the crew escaped, no doubt while making lacerating witty comments about the experience and not spilling even a drop of their martinis.

The NYT has no news about anything that might be happening in Russia, and is reduced to quoting a Swedish engineer just returned home from Petrograd who says that reports of outbreaks are exaggerated. Phew.

Netherlands, scared of its large neighbor, sentences the editor of the Amsterdam Telegraaf for endangering the Netherlands’ neutrality by writing “In Central Europe there is a group of conscienceless rascals which caused this war.”

Germany says it is halting the deportations of Belgians to Germany.

The Boy Scouts will not take part in actual military operations in event of war, says the National Council of the Boy Scouts after, presumably, considering it.


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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Today -100: March 14, 1917: If we sink an American ship, we shall get war


War Paranoia of the Day -100: The NYT claims that Germany is trying to “involve [South America] in a general war as well as to infuse into the countries there a distrust for the United States”. Uruguay would “play the role of Serbia” in this all-out war.

Headline of the Day -100: 


Johann von Bernstorff, the expelled German ambassador to the US, asked by a reporter whether there will be war between the US and Germany, says “If we sink an American ship, we shall get war. If not, I suppose we can avoid it.” He thinks it’ll be okay if Germany sinks a British ship (like the Laconia) with Americans onboard. He says it was just silly of the US to have gotten so worked up about the Zimmermann telegram, since Mexico would only have been approached if the US declared war on Germany. Actually, the instructions to the ambassador to Mexico said to talk to the government if it looked like the US would declare war, i.e., in advance. And there was a second telegram ordering immediate contact.

The Navy “guards” that will be put on American commercial ships to operate the cannons will work on the assumption that any German u-boat they see will sink them without warning; they are authorized to shoot at u-boats without warning. War by “wacky misunderstanding.” The guards will be placed even on ships carrying munitions.

Railroad workers’ unions are arranging a strike to get the RR companies to follow the Adamson 8-Hour Law (the owners say they won’t obey the law until the Supreme Court rules on it), and to resolve this before any war is declared. Both sides will now accuse the other of being unpatriotic, as was the custom.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Today -100: March 13, 1917: Odious yokes are the worst kind


The US announces that merchant ships whose owners ask for guns will be given them, and Navy crews to operate them, crews under their own orders rather than those of the ship captain. The US pretends that this arrangement preserves those ships’ status as civilian and not belligerent under international law. Germany, of course, disagrees.

Cuban police search the house of a former secretary of justice and find – hidden in the hollow base of a statuette, no less – documents supporting the recent failed rebellion and proclaiming “Germany has promised your freedom from the odious yoke which weighs on the country,” by which is means the Platt Amendment which the US forced on Cuba giving the US the right to intervene militarily in Cuba whenever it feels like it.

Tsar Nicholas the Last suspends both the Duma and the Council of the Empire.


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Today -100: March 12, 1917: Is it a Menshevik blizzard or a Bolshevik blizzard?


The British capture Baghdad, and that part of the world never gives anybody any trouble ever again.

Yesterday was Sunday, and jingoism issued forth from many flag-bedraped pulpits across the land. Dr. Charles Aubrey Eaton of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, for example, denounced “poor pussy pacifists.” I don’t understand Christianity.

Headline of the Day -100: 


Newspapers have been banned. Because a lack of information will totally assuage the worries of a starving populace.


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Today -100: March 11, 1917: Of Nissen huts, armed ships, poison darts, and food riots


The NYT has a short article about Nissen huts, those pre-fabricated portable semi-circular buildings usually associated with the Second World War, but which were put into use by the British Army in 1916.

Austria says it has granted autonomy to occupied Albania. In other words, it plans to conscript Albanians.

If Wilson arms private commercial ships, and he seems to have decided that he can just ignore the 1819 law, they will be authorized to fire on German u-boats without warning even if those subs haven’t done anything hostile. The administration says this still counts as self-defense since the German government has said its subs can do the same. And Germany said that armed ships are not civilian ships with the rights that would go along with that status It’s almost like both these countries want to go to war with each other.

The official British investigation into the Dardanelles campaign is made public, and it’s surprisingly honest about the incompetence of military leaders, although it places a lot of blame on the conveniently late Lord Kitchener.

A British court finds Alice Wheeldon, her daughter and son-in-law, guilty of a plot to assassinate Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson. With poison darts, no less. Her other daughter is acquitted. Sentences of 10, 5 and 7 years, respectively, are imposed. Their lawyer tried to suggest that the government’s failure to produce as a witness the “mysterious secret government agent known as Gordon” was somehow suspicious. And indeed, “Gordon” was in fact a paid government agent, had made it all up, was a convicted blackmailer, had been committed for insanity, all of which might have been seen as a little suspicious by the jury, had they known about it. The lawyer probably didn’t help anything by suggesting that in Gordon’s absence, the defendants should be subjected to trial by ordeal. Since Wheeldon was a suffragette before the war, Emmeline Pankhurst is allowed to testify, not because she has any evidence, just to deny that the WSPU ever plotted to assassinate Lloyd George (although they did blow up his house that one time). Indeed, now, Pankhurst says, “The Women’s Social and Political Union regards the Prime Minister’s life as of the greatest value in the present grave crisis, and its members would if necessary to do so, take great risks themselves to protect it from danger.”

In response to food riots, the Petrograd municipal government is given control of all food supplies in the district. What’s the Russian for “too little, too late”?


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Friday, March 10, 2017

Today -100: March 10, 1917: Of fats, quarantines, censi, and Joan II: this time it’s personal


Woodrow Wilson calls a special session of Congress for April 16th.

Headline of the Day -100: 


Germany finally releases the American crew members of the Yarrowdale, which they’ve been holding since December (except for 4 or 5 they say are sick). And we finally hear what disease they’ve been “quarantined” for – spotted fever.

New York Gov. Whitman supports a bill for a census of the military resources of NY, including women who might be conscripted into war work as well as men.

Emmeline Pankhurst repudiates another of her daughters – that’s the word she uses, “repudiates,” in a letter to the prime minister of Australia, where Adela has been organizing anti-war meetings.

Headline of the Day -100:


Oh good, because that sort of thing always goes well. The unnamed Joan wannabe is invited to visit the bishop at Poitiers, who tries to expose her as a fraud by exchanging robes with an ordinary priest, but she sees right through the ruse, and... this is beginning to all sound made-up, isn’t it? The Church now has her “in a religious home in Paris under ecclesiastical surveillance.”



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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Today -100: March 9, 1917: Of wirelesses, plots, pacifists, boy disloyalists, war crimes, and zeppelins


In the continuing ostracization of senators who filibustered the Armed Ships Bill, Sen. Moses Clapp (R-Minnesota) is disinvited from addressing a men’s Bible class.

The US government leaks to the press that there exists a secret wireless connection between Mexico and Germany, free of the benevolent censorship the US imposes. Actually, it seems that the Mexican wireless station, which was intended to keep the Mexican government in touch with its far-flung armies, isn’t strong enough to transmit to Germany but it can receive.

Headline of the Day -100:


In the pro-war propaganda campaign in the US, the Zimmermann Telegram is portrayed as just one strand in a complex, insidious web of German plots. That word gets used a lot. Too much, really, when you consider how quickly it loses meaning when you repeat it: plot plot plot plot plot plot. It should also be noted that the Zimmermann thing only came into play if the US declared war on Germany, in which case, Germany asks, were we not supposed to seek allies? it’s kind of what you do in war. Of course “it’s what you do in war” is also their excuse for invading Belgium, using poison gas, and sinking ships without warning, but I think they are genuinely puzzled that other people refuse to see these things through the same “pragmatic” lens they do.

Another “plot” mentioned in that story, which as far as I know is fictional, was a German attempt to persuade Mexico to annex Guatemala.

Headline of the Day -100: 



400 US Marines land in Santiago, Cuba, allegedly at the request of its Civil Governor and at the orders of Commander Belknap on his own authority, without orders from the Navy.

The NYT welcomes Columbia University’s un-American activities committee, saying every school and college should have one: “We do not charge that such doctrines are taught in Columbia or elsewhere, but where does the noisy brood of boy disloyalists, anarchists, pacifists, come from?”

Irish Nationalists in the British Parliament respond to Lloyd George’s statement that Ulster won’t be coerced into joining a Home Rule Ireland. They say this “would involve denial of self-government to Ireland forever.”

Russia complains about violations of the rules of warfare by its enemies, including poison gas, explosive bullets, poisoned wells, the misuse of Red Cross flags and flags of truce, throwing bombs at sanitary trains, and the sinking of a hospital ship by a Turkish sub.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Bulgarian Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov is said to be planning to pull Bulgaria out of the war if it isn’t over by summer.

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, inventor of the you-know-what, dies at 78.



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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Today -100: March 8, 1917: I will never go to war for a capitalist government


There are bread riots in Petrograd today, mostly women. The Cossacks are called in, as was the custom.

Austria will start drafting 17-year-olds. And probably men up to 61.

The Wilson administration is thinking about using the Navy to convoy merchant ships, since arming them to shoot at u-boats seems to be illegal, but it’s still hopeful that the Senate will curb the filibuster and reverse the 1819 law in the special session.

The Senate is indeed working on restricting the filibuster for the first time in the history of the republic. It is proposed that a 2/3 vote can limit debate to one hour per senator.

While the state legislatures of some of the senators who filibustered the Armed Ships Bill have repudiated them, those of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Colorado, and Iowa refuse.

Supposedly, the amputated arm of a British soldier (the son-in-law of an MP, no less) is successfully surgically reattached.

The Australian Senate votes 28-2 for a resolution asking Britain to give Ireland Home Rule without undue delay. And in the British Parliament, Irish Nationalist leader John Redmond presents a resolution for immediate Home Rule. The government says sure, but Northern Ireland won’t be “coerced” into joining.

Germany orders almost all Belgian industry shut down.

Hsuan Tung, the 11-year-old former emperor of China, will be educated in the United States, it is announced. He won’t be, actually no doubt because of the attempt later in the year to make him a puppet emperor again.

Eugene Debs tells the workers of the United States they should declare a general strike in the event of war (“for Wall Street”) being declared. “When the working people own this country and other countries there will be no war.”

The Cuban rebellion seems to be over with the capture of its leader, Gen. José Miguel Gomez.


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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Today -100: March 7, 1917: Of unusually bright Orientals, women’s suffrage, submarines, and sangers


The NYPD arrest a Bengal, Chandra Chakraberty, and a German, Ernest Se Kunna, for a plot to invade India and stir up uprisings there. The NYT article contains this sentence:


Women in Arkansas are given the vote. In primaries only, but Arkansas’s a one-party state anyway. This is the first suffrage victory below the Mason-Dixon line.

The Women’s Peace Party ousts Carrie Chapman Catt as honorary vice chair because as president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association she offered Woodrow Wilson the services of suffragists in the event of the US going to war (without asking the suffragists).

Austria follows Germany in responding to US demands regarding submarine warfare. It says it totally agrees with the US about the protection of neutrals, but this applies to neutral ships, not to neutral persons on enemy vessels. Austria’s rejection of Wilson’s doctrine that American citizens do act as inviolable human shields may well lead to a break in diplomatic relations. Austria also agrees with Germany that all ships have been given a general warning to stay away and therefore a specific warning before sinking them is not required. Also, England started it.

Margaret Sanger went into prison for a month as a birth-control campaigner and came out as a prison-reform campaigner. She is especially critical of the “studied cruelty and heartlessness” of Katherine Davis, chair of the Parole Board, who rejoices in refusing to tell prisoners when they will be released, removed knives and forks so prisoners have to eat with their hands, installed screens so prisoners can’t see their visitors, etc. Sanger also describes the guards’ two-hour failed attempt to forcibly take her fingerprints.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Today -100: March 6, 1917: We are provincials no longer


Woodrow Wilson gives his second inaugural address. Its clear aim is to prepare the American people for war, while exonerating them, and himself, from the charge of actually wanting war.

To be indifferent to it [the war], or independent of it, was out of the question.
And yet all the while we have been conscious that we were not part of it. In that consciousness, despite many divisions, we have drawn closer together. We have been deeply wronged upon the seas, but we have not wished to wrong or injure in return; have retained throughout the consciousness of standing in some sort apart, intent upon an interest that transcended the immediate issues of the war itself.
As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready to demand for all mankind – fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live and to be at ease against organized wrong.
It is in this spirit and with this thought that we have grown more and more aware, more and more certain that the part we wished to play was the part of those who mean to vindicate and fortify peace. We have been obliged to arm ourselves to make good our claim to a certain minimum of right and of freedom of action. We stand firm in armed neutrality since it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself. ...
We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.
“The more active assertion of our rights”!

While the Wilson administration reconsiders whether that 1819 law really prevents the arming of merchant ships and the Senate considers neutering the filibuster, there are calls of “traitor!” and “hang them!” as the names of the filibusterers are read out at a meeting in Carnegie Hall, which passes a resolution supporting Wilson and condemning “so-called ‘pacifists’” as un-American, and Oregonians initiate recall procedures against Sen. Harry Lane (D). He will die in May before that goes anywhere (and yes, in Oregon it was possible to recall a US senator). Robert La Follette is barred from Wheeling, West Virginia, where he has a lecture scheduled (the horror) and is hanged in effigy by University of Illinois students. And the trustees of Columbia University, the largest university in the country, appoint a committee, headed by former chief justice of the New York Supreme Court George Ingraham, to investigate any “disloyalty” among the faculty. The country’s not even at war yet.

However, the Metropolitan Opera denies that it will ban German opera in event of war.

German newspapers are portraying the Zimmermann telegram revelation as some sort of trick by Wilson to stampede Congress against Germany, even though they’re not denying the authenticity of the telegram.

Headline of the Day -100:  


Sounds like a missed opportunity.


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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Today -100: March 5, 1917: Of helpless and contemptible governments


Woodrow Wilson is inaugurated for his second term, the oath administered by the chief justice in the President’s Room in the Capitol, in front of a couple of Wilson’s friends, his wife, the Cabinet, and “such public officials as happened to be in the room transacting official business when the hour of noon arrived.” Actually, it was 12:04, so the country was without a president for 4 minutes, if it had but known it.

The Senate fails to pass Wilson’s Armed Ship Bill before the 64th Congress’s session expires. 11 senators (5 D’s, 6 R’s) filibuster the bill to death. 75 senators sign a manifesto saying they would have voted for it. Robert La Follette has a long speech he’d like to filibuster with, but the other side conspires to use the rules to prevent him speaking, just to be dickish. He is not best pleased. Other bills and nominations got lost thanks to the filibuster.

Pres. Wilson, says “A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.” He demands that the Senate change its rules to prevent filibusters, and then he’ll call a special session.

Until recently, the White House had been saying that, while it would prefer to have Congress’s consent, the president has the inherent power under the Constitution to order the Navy to put cannon (and sailors) on private commercial vessels. However, they’re now discovered an 1819 law which says merchant ships may be armed but may not shoot at ships of countries with which the United States is not at war. So what were the cannon for? Pirates, of course.

The Chinese cabinet decides to join the US in breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany. Pres. Li Yuan-Hung refuses, saying that that power is his and his alone. So the prime minister and Cabinet resign. And leave Peking.


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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Today -100: March 4, 1917: The most important part of the plot is its conditional form


German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann admits that the Zimmermann Telegram is authentic, but says that it’s not a “plot,” because Germany only proposed to ally with Mexico and Japan against the United States if the United States declared war on it. “The most important part of the plot is its conditional form.” (Or he may have said “condition and form.”)

Mexico’s foreign minister denies (finally) that Mexico ever received an alliance proposal from Germany. He is lying.

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg promises to make Flanders a separate country from Belgium.

The US Department of Justice has discovered a culprit to blame for high food prices: two pro-German bankers and a commission merchant who plotted to keep vegetables out of New York in order to provoke demonstrations against exporting food to Europe.

A public meeting in St Thomas in Danish (for now) West Indies, decides in favor of “the American Virgin Islands” as the colony’s new name, rather than, say, the Dewey Islands after the late Admiral Dewey. Did no one suggest as a compromise the Dewey Virgin Islands?

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, responding to accusations that he likes German music too much, publishes an entire book, Germanophilie, to refute that premise. In it, he calls for a French boycott of German music, especially Wagner. He says French people only think they like Wagner. “Wagnerism, in the guise of art, was a machine marvelously adapted for sapping French patriotism. It was the German soul creeping little by little into our public.” He says the French should try to appreciate French composers, except that fucker Debussy. Okay, he doesn’t say that, but Saint-Saëns really didn’t like Debussy.

Texas Gov. James E. Ferguson (D), invited by the Legislature to come and discuss his possible impeachment, calls State Sen. W.A. Johnson a “nigger-lover from the North,” then informs Johnson that “you look like a nigger, you are a nigger.” Johnson, the Times notes, is of Swedish extraction. Gov. Ferguson is accused of misappropriating public funds and violating banking laws. This all started when Ferguson vetoed funding for the University of Texas because it refused his order to fire certain faculty members, including the former lieutenant-governor who ran against him in the gubernatorial primary. Ferguson will be removed from office later this year and barred from holding office in Texas. He will attempt to run for governor again, then president, then senator, and while never holding office again, his wife will be elected governor twice. Miriam “Ma” Ferguson will be the second female governor in the US, in 1925, closely following Nellie Tayloe Ross, who succeeded her late husband in Wyoming after a special election. The third, decades later, was George Wallace’s wife Lurleen (George was term-limited out). So the first non-spouse female governor in the United States was only elected in 1974, Ella Grasso of Connecticut. We really are a backwards country.


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Friday, March 03, 2017

Today -100: March 3, 1917: Of armed ships, warnings, citizens, and flags


Headline of the Day -100:


About time, they’ve been painting penises on them for years.

Sen. Bob La Follette (R-Wisconsin) is holding up the bill to allow the arming of ships. Aside from him, senators are happy to avoid going to conference by passing the House bill intact. The House version strips out Wilson’s demand for vague “other instrumentalities and methods,” and its provision of insurance for merchant ship cargoes excludes ships carrying munitions.

Japan denies having been approached by Germany to join against the US, but Mexico ain’t talking.

Germany responds to the claim that the Laconia was sunk without warning: the warning was the declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare on Feb. 1st.

A new law makes Puerto Rican residents citizens of the United States (which they have the power to renounce within a year). Since annexation nearly 20 years ago, Puerto Ricans have not been citizens of any country (this was not an uncommon phenomenon at the time for people in colonies). And just for the hell of it, Congress also imposes prohibition on the island, although that could be reversed if wets organize a referendum.

The Iowa Department of Justice rules that newspapers containing images of the American flag are breaking the law.


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Thursday, March 02, 2017

Today -100: March 2, 1917: I see no yellow stripe in that flag


Headline of the Day -100:


Yup, the NYT is in full war-monger mode: “Militant Americanism was dominant in Washington today – in those quarters of the capital where action counts in this perilous time. By one bold strike President Wilson had emboldened the timid, scattered his enemies, and brought honest critics to his side.” Dishonest critics presumably including Sen. William Stone (D-Missouri), who offers an amendment asking whether the Zimmermann Telegram came into Wilson’s hands from any government engaged in the war. Which it totally did. So far, the administration is willing only to say that it’s definitely authentic and that disclosing sources ‘n methods “might be dangerous for some people.” But it is, as Henry Cabot Lodge points out, evidently willing to ask Congress to act based on unconfirmed Associated Press stories rather than official reports. Stone is attacked from all sides for implying that the Wilson administration did, well, the thing it actually did. And Sen. Albert Fall (R-New Mexico) says that Democrats who imply that Wilson released the telegram to influence public opinion are “accusing the president of the veriest trickery and impossible practices.” Which, in fact, were precisely the trickery and impossible practices Wilson had, er, practiced. Socialist Congresscritter Meyer London says “We have reached a stage where sentiment rules and reason has been dispensed with.” He says members of Congress talking about how much they love the flag “make as big fools of themselves as the man who tells how he loves his wife.” William Patterson Borland (D-Missouri, campaign slogan: “He grew up with Kansas City”) responds, “I see no yellow stripe in that flag, and I’ll never put one in it.”

Anyway, after this exposure of German perfidy, the House votes 403-13 to give Wilson the authority to arm merchant vessels.

Secretary of State Robert Lansing says that the Mexican and Japanese governments are totally innocent in all this and that they may not have even been approached by Germany. The Zimmermann telegram did say that such an approach should only be made by the German ambassador to Mexico if war between Germany and the US became certain. Another (false) theory going around, however, is that Carranza told the US about being approached by Germany, and this is the “proof” Wilson claims to have that the telegram is not fake.

Cuban rebels are setting fire to the sugar cane fields, as was the custom.

France will start rationing bread.

We all just pictured a man with a striped shirt and beret riding a bicycle, carrying a baguette, didn’t we?


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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Today -100: March 1, 1917: Conduct war jointly, conduct peace jointly


Headline of the Day -100:


The note, which is being leaked to the press on Woodrow Wilson’s personal orders, is from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the ambassador to Mexico ordering him to propose to Mexico, if the US declaring war on Germany in response to its resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare seems imminent, that it join in fighting the US and in return receive Texas, Arizona and New Mexico – “conduct war jointly, conduct peace jointly” – and ask Mexico to ask Japan to break with the Entente and join Germany.

Actually, the headline is a lie: it was actually British Naval Intelligence which intercepted and decyphered the Zimmermann Telegram and passed it to the US, which pretended publicly that it had cleverly discovered it all on its own. In fact, British Naval Intel’s head, Admiral William “Blinker” Hall, lied to the Americans about how he got it since he’d actually retrieved it from the US State Dept’s channels, which the US had allowed Germany access to to communicate with its embassy in Washington in the hopes that Germany would ask Wilson to mediate a peace deal. Hall didn’t want the Americans to figure out that he was also reading all their (weakly encrypted) communications, even going to the trouble of intercepting the telegram a second time, as it was transmitted via Western Union from the German embassy in Washington to the embassy in Mexico City. The British role won’t become public until the 1920s. None of today’s newspaper stories say how the telegram came into the hands of the US government, although there’s speculation that it came from a search of expelled Ambassador Bernstorff’s baggage. The AP broke the news, and the AP ain’t talking.


Mexico will deny that the offer was ever made. It was but Carranza never seriously considered it, correctly calculating that Germany would provide minimal assistance, as it had with the Easter Rising in Ireland, and obviously Mexican forces, which haven’t been able to put down Pancho Villa, would be crushed by the US. In truth, the German Foreign Office just sort of half-assedly jotted this idea down on the back of a napkin, fired off the telegram and then more or less forgot about it. They will actually be a bit surprised that the US is making such a big deal about this “plot.”

The NYT says that Huerta’s attempt to return to power in Mexico in 1915, which was thwarted by his arrest by US federal agents, was bankrolled by Germany. It wasn’t.

The Japanese embassy denies any knowledge of such a German proposal and says Japan would never betray its Entente allies. Which it wouldn’t, because it already seized Germany’s Far East possessions at the start of the war, so Germany doesn’t really have anything to offer them.

Speaking of the Japanese, the Idaho Legislature derails the Alien Land Bill, but may still outlaw marriages between whites and “Mongolians.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee reports out Pres. Wilson’s bill giving him the authority to arm merchant ships, but strikes out the clause allowing him to use “such other instrumentalities and methods as may in his judgment and discretion seem necessary and adequate”. Also, the US government will not be insuring cargoes of munitions.

Wilson orders Admiral Mayo to land 250 marines on Cuba to protect American and other foreign lives and property. Mostly sugar mills.

The House votes to impose prohibition on the District of Columbia.

Opera singer Eleanore Cochran goes bankrupt due to the influx of European opera singers who have come to the US since the start of the war.


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