Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Today -100: October 17, 1918: Hope for peace must be lowered a few pegs

German newspapers are rather disappointed with Woodrow Wilson. The Cologne Gazette says, “After President Wilson’s note, hope for peace must be lowered a few pegs.” The Cologne Volkszeitung says “The Germans must lower their hopes of a near peace of justice without humiliation.” The Pan-German Deutsche Zeitung is suppressed, evidently for declaring the note disgraceful and telling soldiers “You are unconquered by the enemy, but beaten by the crumbling home front.”

British troops occupy Tripoli and Homs.

Germany changes its constitution, stripping the kaiser of his power to declare war and make treaties, which will now require the consent of the Federal Council and the Reichstag.

Headline of the Day -100: 

The Allies have brought their fiercest weapons into play: geometric shapes.

Rumor of the Day: Lenin is shot, again.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda, Fake News and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Germany tells Turkey that its Black Sea Fleet will fire on Constantinople if Turkey shows any signs of leaving the war.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Today -100: October 16, 1918: Oh no, he’s ghosted Austria!

Headline of the Day -100: 

Evidently Wilson’s non-response is part of a cunning plan to split Austria from Germany.

Denmark, which is not a combatant, would still like to get back Schleswig, lost to Prussia in the war of 1866, and is annoyed that it wasn’t even mentioned in Woodrow Wilson’s peace program.

The Bolshevik government orders 63 new statues for Moscow, including ones of Tolstoy, Bakunin, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Marx, Engels, Bebel, Jaurès, Gracchus, Robespierre, Marat & Danton, Beethoven and Chopin.

The Bolsheviks tell Pope Benedict that they have no idea where the former Tsarina and her children are. The latest rumor is that they all died when a Red mob set their house on fire.

The most recent reported 24-hour period saw 4,925 new cases of Spanish Flu in New York City and 479 of pneumonia. Health Commissioner Royal Copeland is asking people with more than one servant to send one to the Health Dept to help out. He says their health will be protected, but then he said that about the city of fucking New York and look how that’s turning out. Gov. Charles Whitman and challenger Al Smith may cancel all their campaign speeches outside of NYC, most towns having closed their theatres and banned public meetings.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Today -100: October 15, 1918: Never mind the peace rumors

Woodrow Wilson sends another note to Germany. Evidently this note is not a “reply” but a “decision.” He says the terms of armistice will be up to the various Allied generals (Foch, Pétain, Pershing, Haig etc., which leaves a lot of vetoes in the hands of people with no interest in an armistice), that an armistice must maintain the present Allied military supremacy, and Germany must first stop the “illegal and inhumane practices which they persist in,” like torpedoing passenger ships and destroying the French and Belgian towns they’re evacuating. Also, autocracy must end and Kaiser Wilhelm must abdicate. Well, he doesn’t explicitly state the last part, but it’s clear enough.

The Wolff News Agency of Berlin denies that Kaiser Bill intends to abdicate.

The new Turkish cabinet, under Ahmed Izzet Pasha (the NYT is a few weeks premature about it being Tevfik Pasha), informs Austria that it will be seeking a separate peace.

Because of the Spanish Flu epidemic, no new prisoners will be sent to Sing Sing.

This is from a full-page ad for Liberty Bonds:

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Today -100: October 14, 1918: We bow our still undefeated heads for righteousness' sake

German newspapers are claiming that Germany is not offering peace terms because it is actually losing the war, no no. Rather, its offer is “founded on a decision for a righteous peace... We bow our still undefeated heads for righteousness' sake.” (Berliner Zeitung am Mittag) The papers are particularly concerned that an armistice not permit Allied troops to enter Germany.

Theodore Roosevelt issues a statement from on high, regretting that Wilson has begun negotiations and hoping that they will be stopped at once and Germany told to surrender unconditionally without any talks because we “refuse to compound a felony by discussing terms with felons.” Also he wants the US to declare war on Turkey. Also the Senate should repudiate the 14 Points, which are “couched in such vague language that many of them may mean anything or nothing and have merely a rhetorical value, while others [like freedom of the sea and disarmament] are absolutely mischievous.”

Every US senator interviewed by the NYT thinks Germany is not “sincere” in its acceptance of the 14 Points. They support a “dictated” rather than a negotiated peace.

Finland asks Germany to remove its soldiers from Finnish soil, please and thank you.

The Grazer Tagespost (Austria) reports the death of a man who was sentenced to hang early in the war for “highly treasonable utterances” after his son was executed. His sentence was commuted to 15 years, but then he went insane, and has now died in an asylum at... wait for it... 106 years old. BELIEVE IT OR NOT!

Helen Keller appeals to people to buy bonds: “The air is tremulous with the soundless feet of the new day.”

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Today -100: October 13, 1918: Of imperial governments and mustard gas

The US hasn’t officially received the German reply to Wilson’s note yet, but based on what’s been heard about it via German wireless, politicians are saying that it only SEEMS to be complete acceptance of his terms.

It’s pointed out that the note refers to “the German Government” seven times, instead of the usual “Imperial German Government.” British newspapers are speculating about what this means.

Theodore Roosevelt, speaking at a Liberty Loan rally, says there should be no discussion of peace terms with the enemy, and that allowing Germany, Austria and Turkey into the League of Nations would be like letting all the burglars and gunmen into the NYPD.

Corp. Adolf Hitler is mustard-gassed, temporarily blinding him.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Today -100: October 12, 1918: Brutes they were... brutes they remain

A u-boat torpedoes the US cargo ship Ticonderoga, killing 213, capturing 2. The ship had fallen behind its convoy. After a lengthy battle the ship was sinking and, as its crew tried to escape to lifeboats, a white flag (ok, blanket) was raised, but the dirty Germans continued to fire.

British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour says Germany changing its constitution is not enough, there has to be “a change of hearts whereby that Government is to be directed and animated.” He doesn’t explain how this change is heart is to be verified. And war certainly hasn’t improved the Germans: “Brutes they were when they began the war. As far as I can judge, brutes they remain at the present moment.”

NYC Health Commissioner Royal Copeland says there are 4,293 new cases of Spanish Flu and 394 new cases of pneumonia and there STILL is no cause for undue alarm. The Red Cross plans to go house to house looking for women willing to act as nurses, for money.

Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles issues a manifesto for the unification of Croatia, Slavonica, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Dalmatia into one state. Too little, too late.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Today -100: October 11, 1918: Of kaisers and nurses

Rumor of the Day -100: Kaiser Wilhelm has abdicated!

NYC Health Commissioner Royal Copeland suggests drafting nurses. Actually, on re-reading, it says “eligible women be drafted to serve as nurses,” which is not the same thing.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Today -100: October 10, 1918: Of notes, peace traps, provisional governments, and Spanish Flu at the movies

Headline of the Day -100: 

His birthday’s in a couple of weeks (happy 60th! and last! spoiler alert!) and he just hates having to write thank you notes. Hates it I tell you.

Actually, TR is annoyed with Woodrow Wilson for writing that note to German Chancellor Prince Max and more annoyed that there might be further exchanges, rather than just fighting until Germany is totally beaten.

Fortunately for him, 

Ousted Russian prime minister Kerensky is in London trying to get Britain to recognize the new “Russia Provisional Government.”

The National Association of Motion Picture Industries decides to discontinue all new releases of movies until after the Spanish Flu epidemic abates. Which makes sense since theaters are closed in many parts of the country. That’s still not the case in New York City, but cops will be stationed in cinemas to make sure the windows are kept open.

Mexico closes its border with the US (or at least with Texas) to prevent the Spanish Flu entering the country. Too little, too late.

I was going to make a joke about onions replacing popcorn in movie theaters, then asked myself when popcorn was actually first eaten at the movies. Evidently the 1930s.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Today -100: October 9, 1918: He deems the answer to these questions vital from every point of view

Woodrow Wilson sends a reply to German Chancellor Prince Max. Oops, sorry, “It is not a reply, it is an inquiry,” says Secretary of State Robert Lansing. Specifically, Max is asked if Germany accepts the 14 Points (as opposed to negotiating over them) and whether he speaks “merely for the constituted authorities of the empire who so far have conducted the war.” As opposed to who?

The NYT doubts the sincerity of German moves towards peace and democracy, moves which the Stuttgarter Neues Tageblatt says were authorized by the Military High Command. Is the NYT (and indeed Woodrow Wilson) expecting an election in Germany before it’s allowed to ask for peace?

Kaiser Wilhelm a couple of weeks ago told German soldiers in Alsace that “we” would defend with the last drop of “our” blood Alsace-Lorraine, “which belong to us and which the Almighty has intrusted to us to administer as his stewards, and we shall keep them for the benefit of their inhabitants and the glory of God. ... Our enemies cannot and will not succeed. We are under Divine protection.”

Headline of the Day -100: 

Turkey may or may not also be asking for peace, but part of Turkey, the province of Smyrna, definitely is, sending emissaries to Athens with some sort of offer.

The NYT is disappointed that NY women aren’t registering to vote in large numbers. On the first day of registration, 31,000 men registered in Manhattan and only 10,000 women, with similar numbers in the other boroughs. The Times admits it was opposed to women’s suffrage, but now it is a duty to vote: “The women who refuse to vote should recognize that by staying at home they actually increase the vote of the unintelligent or the vicious... Every woman who has the public welfare at heart should vote, whether it is distasteful to her or not, and every man should urge this as a positive duty upon the women he can influence.” Trust the NYT to end an editorial about women voters with a call to the mighty power of mansplaining.

This is a recording made on this day and released as a gramophone record before the end of the war of the Royal Garrison Artillery firing gas shells near Lille. Not all that exciting, but it is the only known sound recording of World War I. Recording engineer Will Gaisberg dragged his equipment to the front and breathed in some of the poison gas himself, which may have contributed to his death next month from Spanish Flu.


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Monday, October 08, 2018

Today -100: October 8, 1918: RUSH RUSH RUSH RUSH

France captures Beirut.

“Black Jack” Pershing cables the War Department: “RUSH RUSH RUSH RUSH.”

2 hours of speeches about the war in the US Senate. No one wants anything other than unconditional surrender. By the other side, I mean. Porter McCumber (R-ND), for example, proposes a resolution that there be no armistice until the Central Powers... no, wait, just Germany, huh... disband its army and hand over its arms and navy, pay massive indemnities, etc etc.

Also: there was a US senator named “Porter McCumber.”

The Whites form a Russian Provisional Government at a self-styled National Convention at Ufa. It claims to be the “sole possessor of supreme power over the whole territory of Russia.” It is devoted to overthrowing the Bolsheviks, getting back all Russia’s breakaway regions/countries, and rejoining the war.

The latest (false) rumor: Field Marshal von Hindenburg resigns after a fight with Kaiser Wilhelm over the necessity of a retreat.

The NY Sanitary Police are fighting the Spanish Flu by arresting dozens for spitting. The spitters are being fined $1 to $20 (or jail if they can’t pay). The magistrate says starting tomorrow it’ll be 5 days in jail without the option of a fine.

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Sunday, October 07, 2018

Today -100: October 7, 1918: Of not peace, not epidemic, not nobility, and not able to see Theda Bara as Vampire Salomé

No one in the US or the European Allies seems especially interested in Austria & Germany’s offers of peace talks, which they see as a ruse to allow the Central Powers to regroup behind a shorter front line, and anyway they’re only offering negotiations not unconditional surrender, and anyway there shouldn’t be talks while they’re occupying any part of France, Belgium etc. Lots of excuses to continue the killing.

NYC Health Commissioner Royal Copeland still insists that the Spanish Flu is not epidemic in NY, but Dr. Sigismund Goldwater, director of Mt. Sinai and a previous health commissioner, begs to differ, saying there are many more cases than have been reported because doctors are too busy fighting the flu to fill out paperwork. Copeland says Goldwater’s view from Mt. Sinai is “provincial.”

Hara Takashi is the new Japanese prime minister. He is the first non-nobleman ever to hold the office, and the first Christian, getting the job (this is also a first) because he is the head of the largest party in the legislature. He will be assassinated in 1921.

Now Playing: Theda... Bara.... IS.... Salome! The NYT says she is “every minute the vampire”. Lots of stills here. Looks wild. But it’s (sigh) another lost film.

The War in Duty-Free:

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Saturday, October 06, 2018

Today -100: October 6, 1918: Of negotiations, mistrials, flu & explosions, and ex-armies

Austria again proposes peace talks, on the basis of Wilson’s 14 Points (or 23, because he keeps adding points). Austria’s offer, which has to be translated and go through Sweden and then I think Switzerland, hasn’t officially reached the US yet. Note that “negotiating on the basis of the 14 Points” is not the same as accepting them and negotiating at all is not the same as surrendering.

New German Chancellor Max the Prince talks about peace to the Reichstag. He wants Germany to join a League of Nations. He accepts the 14 Points too, but with conditions, like Germany getting its colonies back and Alsace-Lorraine getting autonomy rather than being reattached to France.

France says if Austria carries out its threat to execute captured pilots who dropped leaflets, it will execute twice as many captured Austrian officers, so there.

A second mistrial in the trial of Max Eastman, John Reed et al.

That NY Health Dept plan to stagger opening hours to reduce Spanish Flu infection by relieving crowding on public transportation was screwed by that shell-loading plant explosion in New Jersey, which resulted in the closing of bridges and subways in NYC (authorities thought the fire might reach and set off 80,000 pounds of TNT, destroying East River bridges and the under-river subways). This created greater congestion than ever, as, for example, thousands stood around trying to get on ferries to get home to Brooklyn. The plant continues to be ripped by explosions every half hour or so for hours.

Boris III, the new Bulgarian king, orders the army demobilized.

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Friday, October 05, 2018

Today -100: October 5, 1918: The only way to make a Hun feel friendly is to knock him out

The T.A. Gillespie Co.’s shell-loading plant in Morgan, N.J. blows up. It is (or was before it, you know, blew up) the largest such plant, loading 32,000 shells per day. Enough ammunition is destroyed to supply the Western Front for 6 months. More than 100 people are killed. There would have been more, but the first explosion was small and the workers on the night shift were mostly able to get out.

Bulgarian King Ferdinand abdicates, 2 days shy of 10 years in power – doesn’t even get a cake in the shape of Bulgaria – in favor of his eldest son, now Boris III.

The new German cabinet of Prince Max will include Philipp Scheidemann, the first Socialist (SPD) in a German government, and Adolf Gröber and Matthias Erzberger of the Catholic Zentrum (Center) party, all as ministers without portfolio. The idea is that a government unencumbered by the militarist and pan-German policies of the past will be acceptable to the Allies as an interlocutor for peace talks.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Theodore Roosevelt tells an audience which came to see him at a Nebraska railroad station, “The only way to make a Hun feel friendly is to knock him out. ... Put this war through right, so that no other nation will look cross-eyed at us.”

NYC Health Commissioner Royal Copeland orders stores to open at 8 am and close at 4 pm, offices 8:30 to 4:30, textile factories 9-5. He isn’t closing theatres and cinemas, but orders their hours staggered. All this to prevent over-crowding on public transport, which he considers the chief danger. “We believe it is proper to keep the theatres and churches open if we can eliminate the sneezers, coughers, and spitters.” Ushers should remove those gross people by “force if necessary.” And he won’t close the schools because “in some homes there is careless disregard of modern sanitation” but children from those homes are washed and their teeth brushed before they’re sent to school, where they can be inspected.

In January the War Dept banned people in military service being paid for writing (and for writing for publication even unpaid, I think?). They have now rescinded  this.

Headline of the Day -100:  

A letter from a G.C. Hall of Montgomery, Alabama takes issue with Pres. Wilson’s assertion that the Susan B. Anthony Amendment is a war matter. If proving our democracy is so important, why not abolish the Electoral College? And if it’s so important, why not just proclaim it by executive edict? Continuing, Hall writes,

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Thursday, October 04, 2018

Today -100: October 4, 1918: Of flu, evacuations, betrayals, and reconstruction

King Alfonso of Spain has the Spanish Flu, which seems only fair (in Spain it’s called the French Flu). Actually, I’ve been meaning to explain the etymology: in the belligerent countries, censorship is tamping down stories about the extent of the influenza outbreak. Spain had no such restrictions and its newspapers reported honestly (including about what was going on in France and elsewhere), thus the name. There’s some debate, but the Spanish Flu originated, depending on which theory you believe, in France or Kansas.

Spanish Flu is now reported in 43 states. All theatres, dance halls, schools, etc in D.C. are ordered closed (ditto Philadelphia, which adds churches) and office hours in government departments are being staggered to cut down on street car crowding. The Chicago health commissioner orders the police to arrest anyone sneezing or coughing without a handkerchief. There are epidemics in most or all army training camps.

Austrian troops are evacuating Albania.

Turkish troops are evacuating Persia.

Kaiser Wilhelm says he wanted a government of “men who enjoy the confidence of the people,” so he chooses as his new chancellor... Prince Maximilian of Baden. Max von Baden to his friends. Prince Max. The Princinator. Maximus Princius.... The NYT says he was once put in an insane asylum after being jilted by the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna in 1895 because of his philandering. No he wasn’t, and I’d love to know where that story came from. Also, the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna would have been 13.

German newspapers are finally reporting that Bulgaria is out of the war, after a few days of the government hoping that it was just Prime Minister Malinov’s initiative and he would be overthrown or the people would rise up and demand more war. The word “betrayal” is frequently used to describe Bulgaria’s act.

Senate Democrats, on the urging of the Wilson Administration, introduce a bill for a post-war Commission on Reconstruction, giving the president vast powers to organize the economy.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Today -100: October 3, 1918: Of auxiliaries, evacuations, good progress, and reforming Prussia

Gen. Edmund Allenby captures Damascus. The Allies recognize Arab forces as official auxiliaries with the Allies. The Turks are supposedly putting out informal peace feelers.

Germany is preparing to evacuate Belgium, and the Allies are considering telling it that if it does its usual thing of destroying towns (as it leaves poor St. Quentin, poor Cambrai), they will do the same when they enter Germany.

Austrian Prime Minister Baron Max Hussarek von Heinlein tells the lower house of Parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus) that even with Bulgaria’s withdrawal from the war, the situation is not critical and “we are making good progress”. Also, Austria won’t give up its “right” to Bosnia-Herzogovina. Czech deputies heckle him throughout the speech.

In a textbook example of too little too late, the Prussian parliament finally agrees to almost equal suffrage, the almost being that people over 50 would get an extra vote. I’ve forgotten whether this abortive reform includes women’s suffrage and the NYT either doesn’t know or doesn’t think it important enough to inform us about. Kaiser Wilhelm, in his letter accepting Chancellor Count Georg von Hertling’s resignation, claims to be moving towards democracy: “I desire that the German people cooperate in a more effectual manner than hitherto in the task of deciding the destiny of the country.” He suggests that his new cabinet will include some actual Socialists, you know, the largest party in the Reichstag, and you know how much Willy must haaaaaate that.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Today -100: October 2, 1918: Soap costs less than medicine

Headline of the Day -100: 

The Susan B. Anthony Amendment gets 53 votes in the Senate (26 D’s, 27 R’s), with 31 opposed (21 D’s, 10 R’s), short of the necessary 2/3. John Williams (D-Mississippi) offered an amendment to enfranchise only white women (did he use the n–word? Yes he did), but this was defeated 61-22.

The NYT says everyone should now shut up about women’s suffrage for the duration of the war.

A large ad by the Colgate Company on p.10 of today’s NYT:

Naturally, the best form of prevention involves buying Colgate products. Remember, kids: Soap costs less than medicine.

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Monday, October 01, 2018

Today -100: October 1, 1918: Without their counselings, we shall be only half wise

Bulgaria surrenders. Under the terms of the armistice, it will have to remove its troops from Greece and Serbia, demobilize its army and give up its arms and ammunition. The Allies will take control of Bulgarian railroads and navigation on the Danube. This leaves the various Central Powers armies cut off from each other. The Turks are now on their own. The occupation of Albania is now untenable. King Ferdinand pardons all political prisoners, but who will pardon him for getting Bulgaria into this stupid war? No one, that’s who.

Following German Chancellor Count Georg von Hertling’s resignation, foreign minister Paul von Hintze is fired.

Woodrow Wilson goes to the Senate (without advance notice, as was his custom) to make a speech in favor of the women’s suffrage Amendment, which he says is “vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the great war of humanity in which we are engaged,” just as important as soldiers voting (did no one tell him that his own War Dept just blocked NY soldiers voting?), and it will be important after the war. “We shall need their moral sense to preserve what is right and fine and worthy in our system or life, as well as to discover just what it is that ought to be purified and reformed. Without their counselings, we shall be only half wise.” The speech doesn’t seem to have swayed anyone, least of all the next speaker, Sen. Oscar Underwood of Alabama, who lost the Democratic nomination for president in 1912 to Wilson and who just wants to get this “trying and vexatious question” “disposed of.” By which he means rejected. “It is because we are a democracy that I oppose it. Do we want Government by mob? Do we want Government by the unrestricted and unresponsible majority?” By which he means putting black and white women on a parity, which would surely, he says, destroy the South’s future.

NY Health Commissioner Royal S. Copeland says the Spanish Flu has been halted and checked, if by halted and checked he means 694 new cases.

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