Sunday, May 31, 2015

Today -100: May 31, 1915: We know ourselves to be free of any blame

The German reply to Wilson’s Lusitania Note fails to offer reparations or give guarantees for American lives and ships in the future. It claims that the Lusitania had concealed cannon (it didn’t, but that’s Germany’s story, and it’s sticking with it).

Some German newspaper views on the Lusitania: The Berliner Tageblatt: “We pity their hard fate with sincere hearts, but at the same time we know ourselves to be free of any blame.” It blames the British Admiralty, and Winston Churchill in particular, for telling the Lusi to fly an American flag on a previous voyage.

Latest Italian spy scare: Spies in the catacombs under Rome!

9 of the 10 deputy sheriffs on trial for shooting strikers at the Roosevelt fertilizer plant in January are convicted of manslaughter. They may all be tried again for one of the other strikers they killed. (In a bit they will be sentenced to terms of 2 to 10 years.)

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Today -100: May 30, 1915: Of pledges, and spy scares

French President Poincaré takes the pledge to abstain from spirits. Funnily enough, he doesn’t say a thing about wine.

Germany finally replies to Wilson’s Lusitania Note. It’s just a statement of “facts.” They will wait for the US’s response to those facts before making any further statement. They insist the Lusitania was armed and had ammunition in its cargo in violation of US law. They justify the sinking of the Falaba because all merchant ships have supposedly been instructed by the British Admiralty to ram subs (there’s even a reward for sinking a u-boat) and fly false flags.

Italians believe that there has been a vast espionage operation against them that includes every Austrian and German tourist who has ever taken a photograph and billboards which are actually coded directions for airships, etc.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Today -100: May 29, 1915: Holy anger, Batman!

Next week, Woodrow Wilson will tell Mexicans to get their act together, or he’ll get it together for them. He’s specifically pissed off that Carranza’s men seized a relief committee shipment of corn intended for the starving people of Mexico City.

A surprise defense witness at the trial of those ten cops who shot up the strikers at the Roosevelt fertilizer plant in New Jersey in January: the secretary of the union, who turns out to be a police spy. The attorney general questions him: “You joined the union to sell it out, didn’t you? And in doing so, you sold your manhood, didn’t you?”

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg says “Italy has now inscribed in the book of the world’s history in letters of blood, which will never fade, her violation of good faith.” He says Italy could have gotten everything it wanted without going to war and that distrust of Austria didn’t enter into it, because Germany guaranteed the concessions and everyone (Belgium aside) knows Germany’s word can totally be trusted. He says that Germany wages this war “not in hatred... but in anger – in holy anger.”

Lots of Italian princes are joining the army. I look forward to many false dead-prince rumors.

A special correspondent explains in the NYT why Italy went to war: Italians really don’t like Germans.

Italy and Britain are each offering contracts for any company in the US that can manufacture 1,000 high-power airplane engines, but US factories aren’t up to it, in part because they’re busy filling contracts for trucks and planes. I can’t imagine why Germans keep saying the US isn’t really neutral.

Austrian Gen. Moritz von Auffenberg, who was fired after losing the Battle of Rawa at the start of the war, is arrested, the NYT says as a political criminal, but actually for helping a friend profit from insider (and top secret) information when he was minister of war in 1912. Embarrassingly, the government only just found out about this – four days after the Emperor made him a baron. He will be found not guilty by a military tribunal.

Headline of the Day -100 Which Is Not a Euphemism, Probably: 

The NYT calls the Austrian 42-centimeter gun an elongated version of Big Bertha, which the Times calls Thick Bertha, both of which sound like a Berlin cabaret act, but not as much as the name in German: Dicke Bertha. Anyway, a German correspondent claims that Russian troops go insane from fright during the 90 seconds between the gun firing and its shell arriving on target. The Austrians are very proud of their big gun (cough), and claim that they invented it all by themselves without copying Dicke Bertha, it’s just pure coincidence.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Today -100: May 28, 1915: This is, perhaps, the very time when I would not care to arouse the sentiment of patriotism

Headline of the Day -100: 

A ship, not the actual royal person. A mine-layer, it blows up while docked in Sheerness, England, killing 352 crew and dockyard workers. Pieces of the ship, severed heads and whatnot land up to 9 miles away. A boot, a collar and tie, and a pound of butter fall into the garden of a woman in Rainham, four miles away. A court of inquiry will suggest that maybe in the future the Royal Navy train people a little better before letting them prime mines.

Also hit by an explosion: the US steamer Nebraskan, off the coast of Ireland. It’s still not clear if it was an accident or a torpedo, but it was in fact a torpedo. A German one. The Nebraska is only damaged. It will be sunk for good by another U-boat in two years.

The Germans are now using poison gas on the Eastern front as well as the Western.

Speaking of poison gas, 18 French airplanes drop bombs on the BASF factories in Ludwigshafen, where explosives and poison gas are produced. This is the first ever strategic aerial bombardment. 12 are killed. The French say their planes all returned unharmed, the Germans say they captured 2 of them (later they’ll also claim to have shot down 4 more), and anyway their bombs did little damage.

King Alfonso of Spain offers the use of a palace to the pope if he has to flee Italy.

Woodrow Wilson has stopped giving any speeches, blaming the press for focusing unduly on the “There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight” line in his speech in Philadelphia two weeks ago. Why, he says, he didn’t attach any particular importance to that line at all, himself, and is surprised everyone else does. When asked whether he could just give a speech about patriotism (for Independence Day), he replies, “This is, perhaps, the very time when I would not care to arouse the sentiment of patriotism.”

Theodore Roosevelt falls off a horse and breaks a rib.

Maurice Benjamin Medbury, a rich antique jewelry dealer who died on the Lusitania, leaves behind two wives, one in California and one in London.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Today -100: May 27, 1915: But born they are

Headline of the Day -100:

Interesting to see the Times using the term “birth control,” coined by Margaret Sanger just the year before. Anyway, this is a public meeting at the Academy of Medicine at which “The terms used were as frank as those of the lecture room of the medical schools in spite of the fact that the men and women present in about equal proportions were not of the profession”. Dr. Abraham Jacobi (a pioneering pediatrician and former president of the AMA who was a political prisoner in Germany after the 1848 Revolution and a friend of Marx and Engels) calls for elimination of the NY law making it illegal for anyone (including doctors) to give out birth control information. He makes the case on eugenic grounds, saying that hereditary epileptics, idiots, etc “should not have been permitted to be born.” Also, children of poor people, who get insufficient feeding, coarse clothing, and live in congested, cold or overheated tenements. “Would it be wise on the part of the children not to be born? Surely, but born they are”.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Edward Whitaker bans the Commissioner of Licenses from preventing the showing of the 1914 movie The Ordeal, which the National Board of Censors thought might upset German-Americans. Whitaker says there’s no such thing as German-Americans, there’s just Americans: “What has lately become known as hyphenated citizenship has no color or standing.” He also says the commissioner should ignore the self-appointed National Board of Censors.

New York state’s Committee on Elementary Schools rejects Major Sidney Grant’s complaint about the students of PS 165 in Brooklyn singing “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier.”

In an editorial entitled “For Liberty and Democracy,” the NYT finds it significant that Italy entered the war because the people clamored for it and forced the government to respond, while the German and Austrian emperors didn’t even consult the people. “Italy’s war is an Italian war; Germany’s war is a Potsdam war. ... Aside from Russia [!], the war is one between autocracy and democracy; between the peoples and the Kings”. I call bullshit.

Unfortunate Headline of the Day -100:


Headline of the Day -100: 

150 lepers have been secretly (and presumably forcibly) removed from a Manila hospital from which they’ve taken to coming and going as they please, to the leper colony on the island of Culion.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Today -100: May 26, 1915: Of cabinets, neutrality, and bitter Germans

The new British cabinet is formed. Asquith remains as PM, Grey as foreign secretary, and Lord Kitchener as hapless minister of war. Lloyd George moves from the Exchequer to the new post of Minister of Munitions, temporarily until he gets the shells shortage sorted (say that three times fast). He will be replaced by Reginald McKenna. Tory leader Bonar Law is brought in as colonial secretary and Austen Chamberlain (brother of Neville, son of Joseph) gets India. Churchill is replaced at the Admiralty by former PM Arthur Balfour. Churchill will be the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancashire, which is the equivalent of a waiter being tipped a nickle, or maybe it’s the equivalent of being sent to the naughty step. Ulster leader and pre-war treasonist Sir Edward Carson will be attorney general; Irish Nationalist party leader John Redmond refuses to take any Cabinet position. Lord Haldane is out as Lord Chancellor because rabid newspapers and idiots have been attacking him as supposedly pro-German. And there’s a member of the Labour Party in government for the first time, Arthur Henderson as president of the Board of education.

Portugal’s prime minister João Chagas resigns for health reasons – being shot in the head last week seems not to have agreed with him.

Italian troops invade Austria.

Headline of the Day -100:

Wilson’s special commissioner, Duval West, who has returned from investigating conditions in Mexico, reports that he has no idea who’s going to win power down there and recommends just doing more of the same – watching and waiting and selling arms to anyone who can afford them – because that’s working out so well.

Headline of the Day -100: 

They seem to think that US neutrality isn’t really very neutral, what with all the munitions being sold to Germany’s enemies.

I’ve noticed an increase in the use of the word Teutons when describing Germans + Austrians.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Today -100: May 25, 1915: Perfidy whose like history does not know

Italy declared war on its own schedule, but most of the initial military moves seem to have been initiated by Austria, including aerial bombing of Venice.

Italy seizes $20 million worth of Austrian and German ships in Italian ports (even though they’re not at war with Germany?).

Germany declares war on Italy, the NYT claims, incorrectly.

The Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph issues a manifesto to his troops, calling Italy’s forsaking of its previous allies “perfidy whose like history does not know.” I dunno, history knows a lot of perfidy. And Franz Joseph knows a lot of history. He actually led troops against the Habsburg Empire’s rebellious Italian subjects during the 1848 revolutions and was emperor when Italy finally won its independence in 1860, because he is just that fucking old.

Sidenote: We don’t use the word perfidy enough any more.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Britain says the Germans are now chaining artillerymen to their machine guns.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: 50 Italians are supposedly shot as spies in Trentino after a railroad bridge is blown up.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Today -100: May 24, 1915: Of wars, Saxons, crimes against humanity, beards, and telescribes

Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary (it won’t declare war on Germany until August 1916).

On paper, the Italian military looks pretty strong and likely to break the stalemate in the war. 3.3 million soldiers, a surprising number of airplanes, a reasonably good navy. In practice, though, they will kind of suck and won’t significantly affect the outcome or duration of the war.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The British claim that Prussian troops fired on Saxons trying to surrender. The official report says “The fact that the victims of this slaughter were Saxons was a source of regret to us, since Saxons always have proved more chivalrous and less brutal than either Prussians or Bavarians.”

Headline of the Day -100: 

Britain, France and Russia tell Turkey to stop massacring Armenians, and say they will hold members of the government responsible. They term Turkish actions “mass murders” and “a crime against humanity and civilization” – this seems to be the origin of the term “crime against humanity.”

French soldiers are complaining about an order that soldiers at the front must be clean-shaven (because of lice, presumably).

Thomas Edison invents the telephone answer machine, which he calls a telescribe, although he thinks the primary function of this telephone-with-a-recording-phonograph thing will be for businessmen to have an accurate recording of their business conversations.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Today -100: May 23, 1915: Of bikes, war & legs, Georgia matters, bossism, and Charlie Chaplin vs The Dancing Girls

Germany bans all bicycle-riding in Belgium.

The National American Woman’s Suffrage Association asks the Congressional Union to stop working for a federal suffrage amendment in New York until after the referendum on a state amendment in November. NAWSA is complaining that “War has been declared upon the National by a new militant organization which enjoys autocratic leadership and a philosophic irresponsibility to the suffrage movement in the various States.” By “the suffrage movement,” they of course mean themselves, evidently expecting to be able to issue orders to the CU even after kicking it out.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Were those her only two options?

Nat Harris, governor-elect of Georgia, says that the issue of Leo Frank and clemency “is entirely a Georgia matter”. Isn’t that what you guys used to say about slavery?

Theodore Roosevelt wins the libel suit brought against him by the alliterative “Boss” Bill Barnes. TR claims his victory is the death-knell of political bossism.

Coney Island opens for the summer. Live dancing girls have been replaced as attractions by Charlie Chaplin movies.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Today -100: May 22, 1915: Of welcomed wars, eastern passes, gas attacks, tea & typhus

Headline of the Day -100:

Oh, of course they bloody do.

Headline of the Day -100:

Admittedly, I initially read that as “Eager to Hold Easter Passes,” which is a more interesting headline.

Scotland Yard is warning that future zeppelin attacks on London might feature gas attacks, so be sure to close your windows. In fact, aerial gas attacks will remain well beyond German capabilities.

The Northcliffe newspapers in Britain are attacking Lord Kitchener in the hopes of seeing him removed as secretary of war in the reshuffle, mostly on the perfectly correct charge that he was sending ordinary shrapnel shells to the front, which are completely ineffective against German fortifications, rather than high-explosive shells.

Germany is now calling up men up to 45.

French soldiers will now be issued tea during warm weather. And will continue to get their half-liter of wine ration, because French people.

Headline of the Day -100:

Typhus sounds bad, Urumiah sounds worse. “He had a bad case of Urumiah.”

Woodrow Wilson’s daughter Eleanor Wilson McAdoo has a daughter, Woodrow’s second grandchild, named after the president’s late wife Ellen. This Ellen will marry actor Rafael Lopez de Onate (aka Ralph Novarro) while still in her teens (and he was 38). Her parents objected and tried to get the marriage stopped as violating California laws against interracial marriage, forcing Novarro to prove that he was of Spanish rather than Filipino blood. The marriage lasted two years. She died at 31.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Today -100: May 21, 1915: Wow, war, what a surprise

The Italian Parliament votes 407 to 74 to allow the government to declare and wage war.

Emmeline Pankhurst calls for martial law in Britain and conscription for men and women.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Today -100: May 20, 1915: Short people got no reason to live

Prime Minister Asquith announces that Tories will indeed be brought into the government, but gives no details except that he and Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, who is rapidly going blind, will retain their jobs. Everyone is speculating about who will get what job, and asking whether it is allowable for Lord Reading to become Lord Chancellor, because the lord chancellor is the “keeper of the king’s conscience” and Lord Reading is... a Jew.

Asquith gives a speech, in which he thanks the colonies for all the cannon fodder, saying “It is safe to say that there is no part of the British Empire but would suffer annihilation rather than become subject to any other sovereignty.” The colonies respond, “Sure, any time, wait, did you say annihilation?”

Britain reduces the minimum height for soldiers to 5’2” (from 5’5” before the war) and raises the maximum age to 40. The maximum height (6’2”) was abolished at the start of the war.

Germany ends prisoner exchanges with Britain, because German submarine crew prisoners are supposedly being mistreated.

It’s been the practice of every country in this war to publish a book, named after a color, justifying its position. Now, in preparation for joining the fun, Italy publishes a Green Book with documents about its negotiations with Austria, although the point they seem to be trying to make is that the Austro-Hungarian negotiators “failed to realize that Italy was firmly determined to enter the war if she was unable to obtain satisfactory territorial concessions by diplomatic action.” The monsters! They must be crushed at any costs!

Italians in Rome are expressing their displeasure with Austria and Germany by playing their phonographs pointed towards their consulates. Heavy metal, one assumes.

Headline of the Day -100:

Did this really happen? Did the Germans really hang the mayor of Jaslo for flying a Russian flag? Who knows?

Suffragists have been going to places Woodrow Wilson is visiting and trying to talk to him about women’s suffrage. Other suffragists think this is very rude. The NYT contributes a rather predictable editorial.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100:

They’re still recovering Lusitania corpses from the sea, 12 days later.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Today -100: May 19, 1915: Of u-boats, pernicious practices, fishers, and independent pumping

Germany suspends submarine attacks on civilian merchant ships. For now.

A NYT editorial points out that there are huge meetings and petitions against Leo Frank being executed everywhere in the country – except Georgia.

Pancho Villa’s brother, who served under him, is killed by some drunken soldiers in a bull ring, as was the custom.

British Secretary of War Lord Kitchener calls for yet another 300,000 men. If he weren’t so careless with his toys, he wouldn’t keep needing new ones. He refers to the German use of poison gas as “diabolical” and a “pernicious practice” and says Britain and France will soon also use poison gas. He says the news from the Gallipoli campaign is “thoroughly satisfactory.” He doesn’t say to whom.

“Jackie” Fisher, the First Sea Lord, resigns, tired of fighting with Churchill over Gallipoli (which Churchill pushed as a strategy as an alternative to “sending our armies to chew barbed wire in Flanders,” and to which Fisher gave in against his better judgment) and for supreme control of the Admiralty. There are strong rumors that this will set off a reshuffle to create a “National” government of Liberals and Conservatives.

Austria’s last offer to Italy to prevent war: a bit of the Tyrol, the part of the western bank of the Isonzo inhabited entirely by Italians, not Trieste, which will just be made a “free imperial city,” etc. Couldn’t sound more grudging, or more like Austria intends to use the caveats to avoid implementing any of it.

Italian socialists declare a general strike against the war. Some of them are shot in Turin.

The Italian army commandeers the automobiles of every member of the cabinet except the prime minister.

The Yaqi Indians declare war on Mexico. They have captured a pumping station, and if that doesn’t say independence I don’t know what does.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Today -100: May 18, 1915: Of sea lords, captured wigs, and derbies

Riots in Trieste (part of Austria, wants to be part of Italy). Troops allegedly shoot dead 47 women attacking the governor’s palace.

There are rumors about conflicts between the civilian head of the British navy, Winston Churchill, and the Sea Lords (Aquaman’s nemeses, probably)(which isn’t to say that Churchill is secretly Aquaman, although it is true that you never see them in the same ocean at the same time). The rumors are very true, and due to the failure to swarm over Turkish defenses in Gallipoli as predicted (“Where are the gentle slopes?” a soldier says in the Australian mini-series Galliopoli), some heads are about to roll, or float I guess.

Headline of the Day -100: 

That of Corp. Frederick Jagger of the King’s Royal Rifles, a recently exchanged POW. The Germans who captured him kept his wig as a souvenir. He originally lost his hair in the Boer War, and I’ll spare you the explanation of how that happened. Anyway, this war he’s lost a leg, and King George saw him in hospital. After a conversation about his baldness, the king ordered him a new wig.

Portugal’s prime minister João Chagas is dead after being shot four times by a senator! Actually, And every bit of that story is true, except the parts about Chagas being prime minister (he didn’t accept the post) and being dead.

Austrian and Hungarian newspapers are claiming that the Lusitania provoked the attack on itself by showing its guns. The Lusi in fact had no guns, but the Germans have made a big deal about the fact that the ship was an “auxiliary cruiser” in the Royal Navy – the Navy subsidized the ship and had some say in its design and in return could have activated the ship during war as a troop carrier (but when the war started, they decided it was too much of a coal hog).

Bernhard Dernberg, Germany’s former minister of colonies who’s been the sort of unofficial official voice of the German government in the US since the war began, has been finding the atmosphere in New York distinctly unfriendly since he justified the sinking of the Lusitania, saying passengers who ignored German warnings had “committed suicide,” so he’s thinking about going home (or anywhere, really, but Cuba has already said he’s not welcome). Ironically, if he sailed back to Europe he’d face a very real chance of being seized by the British Navy.

King George removes two of his horses from the Derby, out of respect for the war. Or possibly he’s hiding that he cut off their manes to make a wig.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Today -100: May 17, 1915: Of gas, hoovers, and funny juries

The archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London publicly oppose Britain using poison gas.

Interesting article about how Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium had to set up a whole financial and banking structure to support its relief efforts, since the Belgian currency had literally disappeared. It really was an impressive and complex achievement by Hoover, who’s obviously a great guy to have in charge during a financial crisis.

Colorado miners’ unions complain to the US Commission on Industrial Relations that Colorado coal companies are packing the juries trying union members for alleged offenses during the recent coal strike, using open venire, meaning the sheriff chooses the jury, in this case picking coal company doctors, managers, etc. The judge himself is a coal company lawyer, funnily enough. In one case, the unions claim, he allowed in a juror who had a bet on the verdict.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Today -100: May 16, 1915: Of real republics, generals, and smelly opium

Another revolution in Portugal. Something about restoring a “real republic.” Warships are bombing Lisbon.

King Victor Emmanuel of Italy asks a couple of different people to form a new government. They refuse and he has to beg Antonio Salandra to come back. There’s some confusion about whether Italy has renounced the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria (it has).

In response to the Lusitania sinking and the subsequent interest of passengers in sailing on non-British ships, the American Line is raising its rates. Among those booking on the over-crowded ship New York are 30 Lusitania survivors. And some bodies of Lusitania non-survivors.

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels sends marines to guard naval ammunition depots, for reasons which he is not making public. There have been a couple of explosions recently, which I believe are actually the result of German sabotage.

France fires Gen. Albert D’Amade, who was in charge of the French ground forces in the Gallipoli campaign.

Headline of the Day -100:

“You got your opium in my pickled herring!” “You got your pickled herring in my opium!”

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Today -100: May 15, 1915: A naked and unashamed monster, simulating humanity, but in fact a reversion to prehistoric barbarism

The State Dept screws up in sending Wilson’s note to the German government, so it winds up in the newspapers before the Germans receive it officially.

Headline of the Day -100 (Daily Telegraph):  

Kaiser Wilhelm and other German and Austrian royalty are struck off the roll of the Order of the Garter. British lords were threatening to resign from it and turn in their garters, and you know how British peers love their garters.

Likewise, Theodore Roosevelt has been dropped as an honorary member of both the League of Old German Students and the General German Language League.

The king of Italy refuses the Salandra government’s resignation.

The German Admiralty says the Lusitania was only hit by one torpedo. “The second explosion must be traced to the ignition of quantities of ammunition inside the ship.”

Vice President Marshall says that when a person boarded an English vessel like, say, the Lusitania, he was virtually on English soil and must expect to take the consequences. The general consensus is that Marshall should shut up now.

Charles Eliot, the retired president of Harvard, says that the German attacks on civilians “raise the fundamental question – how is the civilization of the white race to be carried forward?” He worries about how carrying out such attacks “brutalizes” German soldiers and sailors. See, British, French and Russian soldiers can fight “with the utmost fierceness from trenches or in the open, use new and old weapons of destruction, and kill and wound each other with equal ardor and resolution, and yet not be brutalized or degraded in their moral nature, if they fight from love of country or with self-sacrificing loyalty to its spiritual ideals,” but Germans can’t attack civilians, destroy towns, murder captives etc “without falling in their moral nature before the brutes.”

A meeting in London calls for Kaiser Wilhelm and his advisers to be put on trial. Colonial Secretary Lewis Harcourt says Germany “stood at the bar of the world a naked and unashamed monster, simulating humanity, but in fact a reversion to prehistoric barbarism.” I’m guessing he’s met a lot of German tourists on vacation at beaches in Spain.

Headline of the Day -100:

The US sends two warships to Mexico to “awe” the Yagui Indians, despite early reports of their attack on an American colony having been somewhat overstated.

All the ads in the NYT for straw hats lately really make me want a straw hat.

Ad in today’s NYT:

Would you like to hear the record that made England laugh, and sold a million copies? “Cohen on the Telephone” is just like Bob Newhart if he were doing a Yiddish accent and wasn’t funny.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Today -100: May 14, 1915: I live wherever the workers are fighting the robbers

Yesterday there were rumors that Italy’s Cabinet would punt the issue of whether to go to war to the Parlamento. Today, the Salandra government resigns. While the dominant feeling is for war, there is also strong anti-war sentiment in Parliament led by former four-time prime minister Giovanni Giolitte.

Torpedoes from a Turkish destroyer sink the British battleship HMS Goliath, killing 570 men.

More anti-German rioting in Britain. Several hundred of yesterday’s rioters are sentenced (prison sentences of up to 4 months for the men, and mostly just fines for the women, as was the custom), with men of military age also getting lectures about what to do if they really wanted revenge on the Hun. Since these are riots within the meaning of the Riot Acts, localities will have to compensate those whose property was damaged. But while a few actual Germans are man-handled a bit – thrown out of the London Stock Exchange, for example – few if any are actually hurt, and none killed.

Prime Minister Asquith changes his mind, and will intern all male German and Austrian nationals aged 17 to 55 after all (but not naturalized aliens, who are “to be regarded as innocent until proved guilty”). All other citizens of those countries will be deported to... somewhere.

American Legion membership has doubled since the Lusitania sinking.

Turkey is sending 50 British and French civilians to the Gallipoli Peninsula as human shields in response to Allies (allegedly) bombarding civilians and undefended places. Only 4 were actually born in Britain or France, Turkey being full of people born in Turkey but holding other countries’ valuable passports.

At the Industrial Commission hearings, Big Bill Haywood of the IWW denounces socialism, noting that the German socialists have “gone in for war.” He admits that his idea of organizing people along industrial rather than geographic lines “may not come for one hundred years.” Mother Jones also testifies. Asked her residence: “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong. I live wherever the workers are fighting the robbers.” (Yes, we’re all thinking Henry Fonda right now). The NYT rather stints on quoting from her testimony.

South African troops capture Windhoek, the capital of German Southwest Africa, which is German no more. So now South Africa has a colony. It always wanted one.

Yaqi Indians attack a colony of Americans in Sonora, killing 3 or 4.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Today -100: May 13, 1915: Murder, lust, and pillage prevailed

Boats are still out looking for Lusitania corpses. Will be for the next couple of weeks.

Headline of the Day -100: 

This is the Bryce Report, the result of an “investigation” of German war atrocities in Belgium headed by Viscount James Bryce, 77, former British ambassador to the United States, chief secretary for Ireland, etc, distinguished Liberal politician, jurist and historian who, with his equally distinguished colleagues, no one would even suspect of putting his name to a piece of out-and-out propaganda because Jesus Christ was it a more innocent time. It’s all here: rape (including a mass rape of 20 Belgian girls by many soldiers in the Liège market square, from the “eyewitness” testimony of a Belgian soldier), mutilation (breasts cut off women, hands cut off children, that kind of thing), baby-bayoneting, and so on. The committee interviewed no one, just repeated as fact any atrocity story peddled by Belgian refugees, then sold the whole lurid thing to the great British public at a penny a copy but it was also obviously aimed at an American audience and was rushed into print as soon as the Lusitania news came. It concludes that all the atrocities were not done by a few bad apples but as part of official policy. The report concludes: “There were in many parts of Belgium deliberate and systematically organized massacres of the civil population, accompanied by many isolated murders and other outrages. ... in the conduct of the war generally innocent civilians, both men and women, were murdered in large numbers, women violated, and children murdered. ... Murder, lust, and pillage prevailed over many parts of Belgium on a scale unparalleled in any war between civilized nations during the last three centuries.” I guess that makes the 30 Years’ War the previous standard for brutality. The report includes 500 depositions (none taken under oath) detailing these mostly made-up outrages. The NYT has three full pages of it.

A NYT editorial on the Bryce Report says that US newspapers in the past refused to publish some of these stories because they were “too horrible for belief” and, you know, entirely unsupported by evidence. But now this report has totally proven everything because of how trustworthy the commission is.

Pres. Wilson sends a note to Germany about the Lusitania as well as the German attacks on the Falaba, the Gulflight, etc. He asks Germany to “correct the unfortunate impressions which have been created and vindicate once more the position of that Government with regard to the sacred freedom of the seas.” If that doesn’t show ‘em, I don’t know what will.  “The Government and the people of the United States look to the Imperial German Government for just, prompt, and enlightened [!] action in this vital matter with the greater confidence because the United States and Germany are bound together not only for special ties of friendship but also by the explicit stipulations of the treaty of 1828 between the United States and the Kingdom of Prussia.” So basically: please stop killing Americans, kthxby.

No doubt purely coincidentally, German and Austrian ships docked at Hoboken are thoroughly inspected just in case they’re smuggling explosives.

There have been riots and looting in London, Liverpool, Manchester and elsewhere aimed at German nationals, not to mention Russians suspected of being German nationals, Americans with cameras suspected of being German-American spies, and shops and other businesses owned by Germans or Austrians. The first Lusitania riots start in the Liverpool neighborhoods in which sailors live. 150 Germans in Liverpool ask to be interned for their own protection. 500,000 people petition Parliament for the internment of all male enemy aliens. Asquith says they’ve already interned all the Germans they need to intern.

The St Paul Pioneer Press thinks the Lusitania sinking had to have been aided by spies in New York.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Today -100: May 12, 1915: There are worse things than war

Theodore Roosevelt says the US should ban all commerce with Germany while encouraging commerce of every kind (i.e., munition sales) to France, Britain “and the rest of the civilized world.” “I do not believe the assertion of our rights means war, but we will do well to remember there are worse things than war.” He says following Wilson’s “too proud to fight” policy would lead to the US being as impotent as China. He says that arms sales are moral if they help restore Belgium.

The Cabinet meets, finally, to discuss the Lusitania affair. After three hours it decides on the proper response to Germany, which is, wait for it, “vigorous language.” They do not want a war with Germany, unless Germany wants one. Everyone is aware, though, that as Roosevelt likes to point out, when Germany first announced its new submarine warfare policy Wilson warned that it would be held to “strict accountability” for its actions.

British soldiers now have gas masks. Crap ones, of course.

Punch cartoon:

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Today -100: May 11, 1915: There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight

Woodrow Wilson gives a speech in Convention Hall in Philadelphia to an audience of newly naturalized citizens, finally speaking about the Lusitania. Sort of, because he doesn’t actually utter the word Lusitania, but talks instead about how the US’s nature as a nation of immigrants gives it a special place in the world: “Americans must have a consciousness different from the consciousness of every other nation in the world. ... America must have this consciousness, that on all sides it touches elbows and touches hearts with all the nations of mankind. The example of America must be a special example. The example of America must be the example not merely of peace because it will not fight, but of peace because peace is the healing and elevating influence of the world and strife is not. There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.” He tells the new citizens that they can’t think of themselves by their former nationalities. “My urgent advice to you would be, not only always to think first of America, but always, also, to think first of humanity. You do not love humanity if you seek to divide humanity into jealous camps. Humanity can be welded together only by love, by sympathy, by justice, not by jealousy and hatred.”

An inquest held in Ireland into five of the Lusitania deaths rules the u-boat captain and crew guilty of willful murder. Also Kaiser Wilhelm. And the German government. At the inquest, Capt. Turner is asked whether the Admiralty had informed him of the sinking of another ship in the same patch of sea a couple of days before (by the same u-boat, as it happens). No, it did not. He refuses to say what instructions he had from the Admiralty, which obviously needed to be kept secret, but we know that they did order him to go as fast as he could and to zigzag, and he did neither.

The German ambassador to the US, Count von Bernstorff, offers Germany’s “deep regret that the events of the war had led to the loss of so many American lives”. Which, as apologies go, is a step up from “I’m sorry you were offended,” barely.

The German Foreign Office’s dispatch to Bernstorff was even worse, putting the blame on the British for attempting to starve Germany, forcing it to retaliate by sinking passenger liners.

A letter to the NYT explains:

British Tory party leader Andrew Bonar Law calls the sinking “simply murder, most foul, most unnatural.”

In Parliament, Winston Churchill says the Royal Navy doesn’t have the resources to escort every passenger ship. What, not even one carrying the largest number of passengers since the war began?

Leo Frank’s execution day is set for June 22nd.

Headline of the Day -100:

A Brooklyn judge lets Nicola Chiangone, charged with stealing jewelry from his fiancé, who he then jilted, go free so long as he marries her: “I have seen the girl since then and I have also seen you. I am going to leave your punishment to her. You are going to get all that is coming to you from her – that is, after you marry her. ... I am going to let you marry this woman, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Stock prices briefly crash due to a rumor that Pres. Wilson had been assassinated.

He wasn’t.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Today -100: May 10, 1915: Of bayonets, calm consideration, and lynchings

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The London Times reports that some Canadian soldiers wounded at Ypres say that they heard (you know, from a guy who heard it from a guy) that German soldiers crucified a Canadian officer with bayonets – lots and lots of bayonets. This made-up story will spread through the Canadian ranks like a cute-kitten video.

Once again, the contrasting temperament of the two presidents is on view.

Although maybe less to Wilson’s credit than I first thought. He still hasn’t spoken to Bryan or any cabinet member about the Lusi, because he’d rather not be distracted by other people’s views while formulating his own.

China has given in to almost all of Japan’s demands, shelving for now a couple of them, including the opening of China to Shintoist missionaries and requiring China to buy the majority of its arms from Japan. The Japanese Embassy in the US explains that Japan’s ultimatum was intended to “strengthen the friendly relations subsisting between Japan and China, and thus to insure permanent peace in the Orient.” It says that Japan should occupy Shantung province because China isn’t strong enough to prevent Germany taking it back.

A mob in Noble, Oklahoma lynches B.E. Ward, a doctor who stabbed his wife. Ward was white.

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Today -100: May 9, 1915: The fortune of war

Headline of the Day -100:

The NYT reports that at least 50 New Yorkers in first class cabins on the Lusitania are dead.

Most of the first-class passengers died “due to the calmness they displayed in the face of danger.” They thought the ship wouldn’t go under so fast and didn’t rush for the lifeboats.

Capt. William Turner: “Well, it is the fortune of war.”

Woodrow Wilson has made no statement, but went golfing and driving after getting the news yesterday, in an attempt, the NYT speculates, to set an example of calm. In fact, he’s keeping his out-of-town appointments, is not calling a Cabinet meeting, and hasn’t even spoken with Secretary of State Bryan.

Bryan’s one rather unfortunate public statement is that “This is no time to rock the boat.”

German newspapers hail the sinking of the unarmed passenger vessel as a great triumph.

An article quoting various British people on the sinking sees the word “dastardly” utilized four times by my count. You don’t see the word dastardly much any more. I think cartoons ruined it for us. Also, “despicable.”

In a case of unfortunate timing, a concert to benefit the German Red Cross was held at the Met yesterday. At the Opera House’s insistence, though, German bunting was not hung from the building, the song Deutschland über Alles was not performed, and committee chairman Theodor Sutro was forbidden from making a speech expressing sympathy for the Lusitania victims. The Vanderbilts are heavy contributors to the Met.

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Friday, May 08, 2015

Today -100: May 8, 1915: Of averted wars, doctors, and lepers

Cockeyed Headline of the Day -100: 

I’m not sure how much credit Japan should get for “averting” a war it was threatening.

Actually, I’m quite sure: none, it should get no credit.

The Tennessee Legislature passes a law requiring people applying for medical licenses to have gone to medical school. The only state still not requiring medical education of its doctors is Massachusetts.

Headline of the Day -100:

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

Today -100: May 7, 1915: The Lusitania

Headline of the Day -100: 

The Cunard liner Lusitania is sunk off the coast of Ireland by the German submarine U-20, which gave no warning. 1,198 die, of whom 128 were Americans. 761 are rescued. The Lusitania was fast enough to outrun any u-boat (thus that “Safety in Speed” ad I posted on the 1st), or it would have been had it not slowed due to fog and the captain being an idiot and ignoring orders to go full-speed and to zigzag near Britain.

The newspapers are reporting that the Lusi was hit by two torpedoes. In fact it was (probably) just one, but that torpedo set off a much larger explosion, possibly because it hit a boiler just right or possibly because of all the munitions in the cargo hold. Which is already public knowledge: the Chicago Tribune reports [p.3] that “most” of the cargo consisted of munitions. Also cheese. 5,470 cases of ammunition and 217,157 pounds of cheese. There seems to have been more contraband, possibly explosives, than was admitted at the time, and the Germans may have doctored the logbooks of U-20’s Capt. Walther Schwieger to cover up a second torpedo, as both sides were anxious to blame the other for the ship going under so quickly (18 minutes, compared with the Titanic, which took well over two hours), with so few people able to make it off. So it all remains a mystery.

The ship quickly tilted to one side, so half the lifeboats were useless, as were some of the rest due to lax maintenance and a badly trained crew (all the experienced ones having joined the Navy) who didn’t really knew how to launch them.  Lifeboat drills for the passengers would also have been helpful, but there were none. A Royal Navy escort for a ship entering waters where three ships had been torpedoed in recent days would also have been good. There’s a lot of blame to go around.

The cruiser Juno was sent out to pick up survivors, but was recalled when it was nearly there, in fact when it was visible to screaming passengers on life boats, after someone belatedly realized it could be torpedoed too. Some of the survivors were rescued by the tugboat Stormcock, which is also the name of Thor’s penis.

What strikes me about accounts of the evacuation and the hours in the sea awaiting rescue is how many of the passengers and crew murdered each other for places on the lifeboats and on floating wreckage. Beat each other to death, threatened each other with guns, drowned each other.

Among the dead:

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius. A professional rich fuck, Vanderbilt was heading to England to inspect his stables (he was a “sportsman,” i.e. fox-hunter and coacher), who died (with his valet) after giving his life-vest to a woman with a baby, despite not being able to swim. Between the fox-hunting thing and the saving-the-mother thing, you don’t know what to think of him now, do you?

Theater dudes Charles Frohman, Broadway producer (including the first American production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest), and Charles Klein, actor-playwright, who were going to check out the war plays in London to see which ones they wanted to bring to Broadway. Frohman died quoting Peter Pan (which he had produced – Maude Adams, the play’s star, will be forced this week to deny that she and Frohman were married), “Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure in life,” at least according to stage and screen actress Rita Jolivet, who survived (although her brother-in-law, George Vernon, drowned, which will lead his grieving widow to kill herself in July).

Justus Miles Forman, 39, novelist and playwright, trying to bring his war play The Hyphen (an attack on German-Americans who still feel loyalty to Germany) to London.

Sir Hugh Lane, 39, an art collector who founded the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin and may or may not have had some Monets and Rembrandts with him.

Elbert Hubbard, writer and publisher, founder of the Roycroft Press and of the Roycroft Arts & Crafts Movement community in East Aurora, New York, author of Jesus Was An Anarchist, etc. Hubbard had been convicted in 1913 of sending objectionable material through the mails, specifically this joke in his magazine The Philistine:
The bride of a year entered a drugstore.  The clerk approached.  “Do you exchange goods?,” she asked.  “Oh, Certainly!  If anything you buy here is not satisfactory we will exchange it.”  “Well,” was the reply; “here is one of those whirling-spray [some sort of contraceptive] affairs I bought of you, and if you please, I want you to take it back and give me a bottle of Mellin’s [baby] Food, instead.”  And outside the storm raged piteously, and the across the moor a jay-bird called to his mate, “Cuckoo, cuckoo!”

For that joke he was fined $100 and lost his rights of citizenship, so when he wanted to go to Europe to report on the war, he was refused a passport because they were afraid he might make mildly salacious jokes in Europe, I guess. He went to the White House and got Wilson, Bryan and the attorney general out of a cabinet meeting to issue him a pardon on the spot, allowing him to get a passport and sail on the Lusitania. Hubbard coined the phrase (rather better than the lame contraceptive joke) “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive” and the first version of the thing about when life hands you lemons. He also said, “There are only two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, the other is by accident. All disease is indecent.” He and his wife Alice refused a seat in the life boats. He was 58, Alice 53.

Survivors: Margaret Haig Thomas Mackworth, the future Viscountess Rhondda, a Welsh suffragist, head of the Women’s Social and Political Union’s Newport branch, who went to prison for trying to burn a letter box and went on hunger strike. At one point or other her cousin, both sisters, her aunt (who broke a shop window and later returned to buy a hat to make it up to them) and even her mother were arrested for the cause (her mother waiting until her father was no longer in Parliament). Rhondda will gleefully point out in her memoirs that just 8 years after her prison sentence, she was made a magistrate. Oh, her father, David Thomas, was also onboard and also survived. He was on a munitions-buying trip on behalf of the British government. He had extensive business interests (coal, insurance, publishing), which she took over on his death in 1918. But not his seat in the House of Lords, although she did apply for it – and then sued when she was refused. She started the influential magazine Time and Tide in 1920.

The captain, William Turner, survived. He remained with the ship until it went under, then climbed a ladder until he was above water, grabbed an oar that was floating by, then a chair, and was pulled out of the sea after two hours, when the yellow braid on his waving arm was spotted. He will also survive having another ship torpedoed out from under him two years from now. And he was also on a boat that sank in Scotland when he was 8. Dude did not know how to take a hint.

People who were supposed to travel on the Lusi, but didn’t, include conductor Arturo Toscanini, composer Jerome Kern (who overslept), Isadora Duncan, actress Ellen Terry (whose creditors were holding her luggage), future congresswoman Lacey Davenport Millicent Fenwick, talent agent William Morris, and actor William Gillette, the first stage Sherlock Holmes (who gave us Holmes’ curved pipe, because it was easier to talk around).

Headline of the Day -100 (Chicago Tribune):

The NYT editorializes that the State Department must “demand that the Germans shall no longer make war like savages drunk with blood, that they shall cease to seek the attainment of their ends by the assassination of non-combatants and neutrals. ... Germany must be called upon to bring her practices into conformity with the usages of civilized warfare.”

Theodore Roosevelt calls it an act of piracy and says “It seems inconceivable that we can refrain from taking action in this matter, for we owe it not only to humanity but to our own national self-respect.”

Some recruiting posters which made use of the Lusitania:

Regular readers please note that there are two Today -100 posts today, of which this is the second. Collect them all.

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Today -100: May 7, 1915: We must fight gases with gases

The Daily Chronicle (London) says the Cabinet is considering responding to German use of poison gas. “[W]e must fight gases with gases.” But it will still be the Germans’ fault, because they introduced it, so “an account must be duly exacted at the end of the war,” even if Britain does exactly the same thing, because if there’s one thing this war has taught us, it’s that “But they started it” is a valid excuse for war crimes.

The Chronicle also prints a letter from an officer describing the effects of poison gas on the human body in lovingly gory detail, if you’re into that sort of thing

Prime Minister Asquith describes the Gallipoli campaign as “highly satisfactory.” To whom, he does not say.

Normally the Lusitania news would show up here tomorrow, 100 years after it appeared in the papers, but I’ll make an exception and run a Lusitania-only post today at 4 a.m. PST.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Today -100: May 6, 1915: Of helmets, dalmatians, and POWs

British soldiers are selling captured German helmets to collectors at high prices, but haven’t been able to get many, dead Germans and their helmets tending to be located in hard-to-reach no man’s land.

Serbia is worried that if Italy enters the war, it will demand the Dalmatian Coast, which Serbia considers its future war prize. Serbia hasn’t been told that its French and British allies already made that deal with Italy.

The British government opens all departments to women, so young male officials can be pressured into enlisting.

Headline of the Day -100: 

That treatment of course, was in retaliation for British segregation of prisoners captured from u-boats. Lord Cecil reports that those British prisoners are kept locked in cells and are not even allowed to smoke.  NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO SMOKE. Tory Party leader Bonar Law suggests confiscating all German property throughout the British Empire. Asquith says “The maltreatment of prisoners is a form of cruelty which was not even common in the Dark Ages, and it appears to have been left, as so many other fiendish devices in this great war, to one of the Christian nations to invent and elaborate.”

Tennessee Governor Rye vetoes a bill abolishing the death penalty, saying it would just lead to more lynchings.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Today -100: May 5, 1915: Of acts of piracy, gas, programs for solidifying peace, annexations, and non-candidates

The responses of Pres. Wilson and former Pres. Roosevelt to the German u-boat attack on the oil tanker Gulflight illustrate their respective characters.

It’s just like Obama and McCain, isn’t it?

The London Morning Post reports that France is ready to respond to German poison gas attacks with its own gas, which supposedly doesn’t kill, just paralyzes temporarily. Britain is also considering using poison gas. It points out that a week before Germany launched its first gas attack, it falsely accused Britain of using asphyxiating gases, as a pretext.

It is believed that the decision of Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel not to attend the unveiling ceremony for a monument to Garibaldi indicates that Italy will not enter the war quite yet. An uprising in recently colonized Libya might also have contributed to a decision not to attack Austria. Yet.

The Japanese are complaining about the “tone” with which China rejected its polite demands to surrender much of its sovereignty. It is likely to re-express those demands in the form of an ultimatum, to make China realize that Japan “is determined upon the acceptance of its program for solidifying the peace of the Orient.” There’s a lot of this Orwellian shit from Japan just now, with the Japan Times calling for Japan to occupy several Chinese provinces, saying it would not be a violation of Chinese sovereignty “since its sole aim would be to insure the integrity of the country,” adding “You’re welcome,” probably.

A German airplane sinks a British submarine.

There’s an ad in the NYT (p.9) from Columbia Records for the complete opera Aida on 17 records at 75¢ each. It fails to say who the singers, conductor or orchestra are, only that they are “renowned Italian artists.”

It is leaked that a while ago the Allies offered Greece 140,000 square kilometers of Asia Minor if it entered the war on their side. The king refused and the prime minister, who wanted to take the deal, resigned.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Antwerp journalists were supposedly summoned to German occupation hq and told to prepare Belgian public opinion for an announcement of annexation by Germany. Since then, German troops failed to achieve a breakthrough at Ypres and the annexation plans are shelved, for now.

John Lawson, head of the United Mine Workers in Colorado, is convicted for the murder of a deputy sheriff during the Colorado coal strike. A general strike is being considered in response to a verdict which is largely considered to be, to use a legal term, bullshit.

Pres. Wilson refuses to give the Federal Industrial Relations Commission investigating the coal strike his correspondence with Colo. Gov. Ammons about it.

Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes “wholly disapproves the use of his name in connection with the Presidential campaign. ... He is not a candidate in any sense”.

German tailors are having to rename the English words they use for some of the products of their trade, such as ulster, cutaway, reglan, smoking, and knickerbockers. So will German prostitutes, who use the exact same terms for some of the products of their trade, probably. The new terms for smoking, ulster and raglan will be abendjacke, wettermantel and haengemantel, which you’ll no doubt be surprised to notice are longer words with more syllables.

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