Monday, February 19, 2018

Today -100: February 19, 1918: Of Kiev, dentists, old privates, divorces, and lynchings

Dispatches from Russia have been restored, and the NYT is playing catch-up. Anyway, Kiev was captured by Bolsheviks on the 8th after days of fighting between the forces of the Ukrainian Republic, which was negotiating peace with Germany, and Russian-backed local reds.

Arthur Newton Davis of Piqua, Ohio leaves Germany. He was Kaiser Wilhelm’s personal dentist. He says the kaiser thinks the US contribution to the war will be small because he is being told that so many US transport ships have been sunk that only 30,000 soldiers have arrived in France.

Germany resumes military operations in Russia. Germany is playing up stories of anarchy and crime in Livonia and the Baltics, which are surely crying out for some good old-fashioned German order.

Russia claims to have intercepted a message from Gen. Dowbor-Muśnicki of the Polish 1st Corps, which broke away from the Russian army some time back, offering complete obedience to Germany. That seems unlikely, but the Poles don’t have a lot of room for maneuver (when do they ever?).

A Canadian private is sent home because he’s 73 years old (he does get to meet the king first).

A black man is lynched near Fayetteville, Georgia.

The Bolsheviks have simplified the divorce process. Many people are now getting divorced.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Today -100: February 18, 1918: Will you co-operate or will you obstruct?

Soldiers maraud through the streets of Petrograd, looting and robbing.

Pres. Wilson ends a shipyard strike by telegramming the head of the union (with whom he refused to meet) the question “Will you co-operate or will you obstruct?” and telling him that the strike gives aid and comfort to the enemy. He says the government will decide on their demands.

John Reed won’t be consul for Russia in New York after all, I’m not sure why. Evidently the idea of the appointment was to protect Reed’s notes from being censored by US authorities.

Attorney General Thomas Gregory says 500,000 (or possibly 300,000; the article has both figures) American volunteers are helping fight espionage. “I give this information to be set at rest the German spy hysteria that fills the nation.”

Headline of the Day -100: 

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Today -100: February 17, 1918: Of hostages and cholms

The German press is claiming that Russia is rounding up German nationals to use as hostages and that Russian troops are not demobilizing as was promised.

The German-Ukraine peace agreement gives Ukraine some of Poland’s territory (Cholm). The Polish “cabinet,” puppet government though it is, resigns in protest.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Today -100: February 16, 1918: Camarade république

Russian Foreign Minister Leon Trotsky says that Russia has indeed withdrawn from the war, and from its alliance with the Entente. Trotsky’s idea seems to be No War, No Peace, in which there is no fighting but also no humiliating peace treaty. But will Germany abide by that?

Spoiler Alert: No.

Russia has blocked news reports to London (and presumably elsewhere) for a week, except for official announcements. No one’s sure exactly why.

A mob in Mount Olive, Illinois, rounds up alleged pro-Germans, beats them up, and forces one of them to kiss every star in the flag. If that doesn’t teach them to love America, I don’t know what will.

France is smuggling instructions on how to surrender to German soldiers – in sausages. The codeword is “camarade république.”

Vernon Castle, the dancer played by Fred Astaire in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), dies in an aviation accident; he was a captain in the Royal Flying Corps killed while training another pilot in Fort Worth, where there have been a bunch of crashes recently.

The Canadian government says women’s suffrage will be in place by the next election.

Headline of the Day -100: Lunatic right-wing Member of Parliament Noel Pemberton Billing publishes an article in his journal Vigilante implying that dancer Maud Allan, currently appearing in a private production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome (private because Wilde’s plays are still banned in Britain), is a lesbian who is associated with pro-German homosexual conspirators or something. The article is titled “The Cult of the Clitoris,” because of course it is. Pemberton Billing has previously claimed that there are 47,000 perverts in Britain being blackmailed by German agents. This article says that if the police seize the names of ticket-holders, they’ll have identified many of the 47,000. He says the wives of many men in high office (he implies former prime minister Asquith’s wife Margot is one) reveal state secrets in a state of lesbian ecstasy. Allan will sue Billing for libel but will lose. Allan’s lawyers will say that the term “cult of the clitoris” could only mean lesbian, while Pemberton Billing will claim that only a lesbian would even know the word. An expert medical witness Dr. Serrell Cooke will say that clitoris is a Greek term which “has nothing to do with ordinary language; nobody but a medical man, or people interested in that kind of thing would understand the term”. You know, perverts. When “unduly excited or overdeveloped, [the clitoris] possessed the most dreadful influence on any woman.” Pemberton Billing says the public could not be corrupted by his use of the term because the word was known only to doctors – and people who were already corrupted. I’m barely scratching the surface of the craziness of the trial: Bosie! sex murders!

The case will be the first ever discussion of lesbianism in the British popular press (the judge, who is called Justice Darling because of course he is, begged the press, in vain, not to report the details) and the first appearance of the word clitoris in the London Times.

Oh, and Maud Allan actually was totally a lesbian.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Today -100: February 15, 1918: Of rows and living color

Headline of the Day -100: 

Last week at Brest-Litovsk.

Leon Forrest Douglass, an inventor responsible for numerous innovations, past and future, in photography and phonography, including the Victrola, exhibits a device for making motion pictures... in color! His test film features bathing girls and Indian scenes, forest fires, waterfalls, and other metaphors.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Today -100: February 14, 1918: Idle no more

Idle Mondays are suspended. I guess because the weather has been better than expected?

German newspapers are rather confused about whether the war with Russia is actually over.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Today -100: February 13, 1918: It is no use crying peace when there is no peace

Headline of the Day -100: 

Headline of the Day -100:  


Lloyd George says the recent speeches by German Chancellor Count Georg von Hertling and Austrian Foreign Minister Count Czernin show no prospect of peace: “it is no use crying peace when there is no peace.”

Lithuania declares itself independent of Russia.

A black man is lynched in Estill Springs, Tennessee, burned at the stake after being tortured with hot irons into a confession or, as they call it in Tennessee, due process.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Today -100: February 12, 1918: One party in Germany is apparently willing and able to send millions of men to their death to prevent what all the world now sees to be just

Germany announces that peace has been made with Russia, whose army will now stand down, or would if it were still standing up. The NYT, which is not at all pleased with Mr. Trotsky, calls this an “unconditional surrender.”

Headline of the Day -100: 

And wet in cheerful trenches.

Woodrow Wilson addresses Congress in a speech framed as a response to German Chancellor Georg von Hertling’s own speech last month, you know, a tweet war. Wilson says the US won’t “recognize” the Brest-Litovsk peace deal. How does that even work? Can you tell 2 countries, No, we’ve decided that you’re still at war. Anyway, the US also won’t recognize any other separate peace because “All parties to this war must join in the settlement of every issue anywhere involved in it, because what we are seeking is a peace that we can all unite to guarantee and maintain, and every item of it must be submitted to the common judgment whether it be right and fair, an act of justice, rather than a bargain between sovereigns.” He says the principles of the 14 Points (still not called that) are “already everywhere accepted as imperative except among the spokesmen of the military and annexationist party of Germany. ...The tragical circumstance is that one party in Germany is apparently willing and able to send millions of men to their death to prevent what all the world now sees to be just.” Wilson also suggests that Austria’s interests are not the same as those of the German “military and annexationist party.” So, really, the US is at war with, like, just 6 or 7 guys.

He concludes, “The power of the United States is a menace to no nation or people. It will never be used in aggression or for the aggrandizement of any selfish interest of our own. It springs out of freedom and is for the service of freedom.” And Wilson actually believed this shit.

Speaking of delusions of grandeur, Kaiser Wilhelm thinks that “Our Lord God wishes us to have peace, but a peace wherein the world will strive to do what is right and good.” “The Lord pointed out to us by a hard school the path by which we should go. The world, however, at the same time has not been on the right path. We Germans, who still have ideals, should work to bring about better times.” “We desire to live in friendship with neighboring peoples, but the victory of German arms must first be recognized.”

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Today -100: February 11, 1918: Of ultimata and ghost-writing

German newspapers claim that the Romanian government responded to a German ultimatum for peace talks within 4 days by resigning. Not true. Well, the ultimatum part probably is.

Mark Twain’s daughter Clara is suing to prevent publication of a book said to be written by her dead father from beyond the grave and helpfully brought to the public by of two mediums working with Prof. James Hyslop, a psychical researcher whose day job is psychology professor at Columbia. Hyslop himself will continue “writing” books for years after his death, published by his research assistant, and Name of the Day -100, Gertrude O. Tubby.

Incidentally, the British Library and the Library of Congress list this sort of book alongside books by the living author. So the last-written book by Shakespeare (spirit) in the British Library was written in 1920.

To one of God's who writes this down for me, who cannot reach the world from my stage today except it be through her, do I offer here more than a tribute of gratitude, a soul's praises.
No harp could play a spirit's tune were it not strung for the purpose through spirit's application. Ay, my fingers, mind as well, made this one perfect concert pitch before we e'er began my work for me. To hold a wire and pipe a lay were easy for one of earth's composers. But ye'll know the truth some day from spirit where I do now play hereon, of spirit's compositions. 
Not to be hyper-critical, but being dead 300 years did not improve his writing skills.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Today -100: February 10, 1918: Peace!

The Ukraine signs a peace agreement with the Central Powers. Boy that “independence” thing didn’t last very long. Ukrainian wheat could alleviate the food situation in Germany and Austria.

Glad I caught my typo “Central Posers.”

Mayors from towns in the Rhineland travel to Berlin to ask Hindenburg & Ludendorff to stop ordering air raids on enemy open towns that will bring reprisals on their towns. Hindenburg tells them the damage from air raids is exaggerated by both sides, he will continue the aerial war, and they should go fuck themselves.

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Friday, February 09, 2018

Today -100: February 9, 1918: Of German agents, Wobblies, and meat

The Petit Parisien publishes papers, which were not at all forged by anyone’s secret service but were “brought to France by a prominent scientist, who obtained them from a Russian revolutionary paper,” showing that Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, etc were funded by the Germans.

55 IWWers are indicted in Sacramento for hindering the prosecution of the war. And accused Wobblies in Chicago file suit for the return of their dynamite, which they say was illegally seized in a raid on their hq in September.

A lunch is held at the Natural History Museum to demonstrate to local food administrators that whale meat is a perfectly acceptable substitute for the meats Americans are now being told to conserve (humpback is the best eatin’, evidently). The head chef of Delmonico’s explains the many ways in which whale can be prepared.

Sen. Reed Smoot has an alternative suggestion: a monthly national fast day.

Brits are now restricted to a ration of one pound of meat a week. Which is more than Germans are getting. Neither country seems to be considering whale meat.

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Today -100: February 8, 1918: Fungus among us

Headline of the Day -100:

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Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Today -100: February 7, 1918: We might as well abdicate

The SS Tuscania, carrying 2,013 US soldiers to Europe, is sunk by a German u-boat. 200+ crew and passengers are killed.

7 Berlin newspapers – conservative papers for once – are suppressed for publishing details of the court-martial of Independent Socialist Reichstag deputy Wilhelm Dittmann. Evidently it was supposed to be a secret.

The Brest-Litovsk talks seem to have broken down again, this time over the German wish to include reps from the regime in Poland. Trotsky says he’s ready to recognize Polish independence, but military occupation makes recognition of the puppets impossible. Also, a state without boundaries or a king is neither a state nor a kingdom.

The Russian government is not in contact with its negotiators because the telegraph wire from Brest has been “accidentally” damaged by the Germans. So Lenin “accidentally” damages the line between Petrograd and Berlin used by the Austro-German delegation.

King George V says the US’s entry into the war has “united practically the whole civilised world in a league of nations against unscrupulous aggression”.  Unscrupulous aggression is the worst kind.

Woodrow Wilson is pushing a bill to allow him to “co-ordinate and consolidate” all governmental activities as a war measure, disregarding the laws organizing government agencies and creating or shutting agencies without further congressional input. “We might as well abdicate,” say some senators.

Theodore Roosevelt has surgery for an abscess on his... well, the NYT says thigh. It is not his thigh. You do not want to know where it really was. Also a fistula. Also more abscesses in his ears, one of which will never work again.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Today -100: February 6, 1918: This work is the work of Satan

Britain: The Representation of the People Act passes into law. It tinkers with the electoral system in all sorts of ways: changing registration requirements, expanding the suffrage (men in the military as young as 19, women over 30 for Parliament, people receiving poor relief, adult sons living with their parents, etc), reducing it (convicted conscientious objectors), redistributing seats, proportional representation (the alternative vote system) here and there, etc. The big news is of course women’s suffrage.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Germany claims that Polish forces have seized the Russian military’s commander in chief, Ensign Nikolai Krylenko and the entire general staff. They haven’t.

9 Germans and 2 Americans are convicted in federal court in New York for attempting to blow up a British ship. At one point during the trial the jury’s foreman became faint and it was agreed that he might benefit from a stimulating beverage, so the DA went to the courtroom next door where someone was being tried for selling alcohol to soldiers, and grabbed Exhibit A, some of the good stuff, which stimulated the foreman sufficiently for the trial to continue, which it did, quickly before any of the other jurors became suddenly faint. The defendants only get 18 months, the maximum possible at the time the crime was committed, although the law has been toughened up since the war started.

Headline of the Day -100: 

The Bolshevik government decrees the separation of church and state and seizes all church property. Congregations can continue using churches, except I guess where they can’t. When the government seizes Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Petrograd, Patriarch Tikhon issues an anathema threatening to excommunicate the Bolsheviks, which, yeah.

In a story dated more than 2 weeks ago, a newspaper editor says he told Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg that there will be no food in Germany by May. Hindenburg replied that by April he will be in Paris.

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Monday, February 05, 2018

Today -100: February 5, 1918: Of strikes, matzoh, and upholstered seats

The German military breaks the strikes. A military court-martial sentences Reichstag deputy Wilhelm Dittmann (Independent Social Democrats - USPD) to 5 years for treason.

The Manischewitz Company (I think) asks Food Dictator Herbert Hoover to lift the restrictions on flour to meet Jews’ Passover matzoh requirements.

Glad I caught my typo “Good Dictator.”

A reporter catches up to Rep. Fiorello La Guardia, currently serving in France, and informs him of the petition got up in December to unseat him because he is in the military rather than doing his job in Washington. Evidently he’s just now hearing about it. He says “if any signers of the petition will take my seat in a Caproni biplane, I shall be glad to resume my upholstered seat in the House.”

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Sunday, February 04, 2018

Today -100: February 4, 1918: Of strikers’ choices and hymns of hate

Headline of the Day -100: 

After a proper court-martial, of course; they’re not animals.

Strikers are actually shot in St. Louis. 3 street-car workers. Shot by whom the NYT does not say. And the police raid the local IWW hq on general principles (this is not an IWW strike).

The US government informs the 20,000 speakers it’s using to explain the war to the masses that they should avoid giving “hymns of hate.” The government says soldiers are too busy to hate the enemy and the best soldiers are “good sports.”

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Saturday, February 03, 2018

Today -100: February 3, 1918: Of reason in Ulster, the spirit of 1776, and red armies

A couple of weeks ago, Sir Edward Carson resigned from the British War Cabinet. He explains that this was because the Irish Convention might break down and he didn’t want to be bound to support whatever action the British government took in response. He always wants to hold the treason card, does Sir Edward. He suggests that any agreement is likely to be a surrender and Northern Ireland wouldn’t be unreasonable to resist: “Ulster alone in Ireland has shown any reason at all.” Because when you think pure, dispassionate reason, you think Northern Fucking Ireland.

A Federal District judge in Los Angeles rules that the movie “The Spirit of 1776” can be seized by the government because its scenes of British atrocities during the War of Independence (which was evidently fought because King George III wanted to make his half-Native-American mistress Queen of America, or something; also, King George is seen beating up Benjamin Franklin) would create dissension between the people of the US and Britain, which is evidently illegal now. The film’s author Robert Goldstein will soon be sentenced to 10 years under the Espionage Act solely for writing this screenplay. The film is now lost.

The Espionage Act is also being used to ban a Sinn Fein newspaper from the mails.

Name of the Day -100: the Chicago chief censor, who seized “The Spirit of 1776” when it played there last May, is one Metallus Lucullus Cicero Funkhouser.

Germany declares martial law in 7 striking factories in Berlin.

With peace talks going badly, Russia gingerly works at re-establishing a military, consisting only of people who volunteer and support the ideals of the Revolution. A Red... Army, if you will.

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Friday, February 02, 2018

Today -100: February 2, 1918: Of prisoners of war, strikes, grand dukes and ex-czars

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: American soldiers claim to have captured German military documents ordering that American POWs should be kept for 4 days in cages without food, standing at all times.

The German military is cracking down on the strike movement, conscripting strike leaders, censoring news of the strikes, banning meetings, and threatening to fire on any “disorders.” Needless to say, Chancellor Herdling refuses to meet with representatives of the workers. The London Daily Mail thinks the whole thing is a plot by the German government to stimulate copycat strikes in Britain and France, at which point Germany will pounce, POUNCE I tell you!

Some deputies in the Baden Landtag ask the Grand Duke of Baden to kindly pay some fucking taxes because there’s a war on. He says no. Must be nice to be a grand duke.

Not so nice to no longer be a czar. A New York state Supreme Court judge rules that Nicholas Romanov can be sued now that he is just an ordinary person. The Maritime Transportation Company is suing him for breach of contract.

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Today -100: February 1, 1918: The real terror has yet to come

At Brest-Litovsk, Germany has been holding parallel talks with a delegation from the Ukraine Rada (parliament). Now there will also be a delegation from Ukrainian Bolshevik soviets. The problem for Russia is that it’s trying to split Austria from Germany and come to a separate peace, but the Austrian section of the eastern front is not with Russia but with now-sort-of-independent Ukraine, so if Austria comes to an arrangement with Ukraine, it doesn’t have to deal with Russia at all.

Did Lenin really boast “the real terror has yet to come”?

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