Thursday, December 31, 2015

Today -100: December 31, 1915: Of anconas, golf, and wardens

Austria responds to the US’s last diplomatic note about the sinking of the Ancona by an Austrian u-boat. It says it has punished the boat’s commander (punished in what manner, it does not say) and offers reparations, although the reply denies that the commander (who I notice they’re not mentioning happens to be German) fired on a stopped ship (he totally did), meaning his only crime that they’ll admit to was “miscalculating” how long it would take for the life boats to get away before sinking the Ancona. No one had predicted Austria would comply with all of the US demands like this; it was widely expected that they’d offer to arbitrate the issue and the US would refuse and break off relations.

A paparazzo with a movie camera is stopped by the Secret Service trying to film Woodrow Wilson playing golf.

Sing Sing’s reformist warden Thomas Mott Osborne is suspended forever after being indicted for perjury (failing to report confessions by prisoners) and neglect of duty and fucking the prisoners. The whole investigation was sleazy and an obvious political hit job – no one likes a prison warden who tries to treat prisoners humanely – and Osborne will be acquitted of all charges but won’t return as warden. Not at Sing Sing, anyway.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Today -100: December 30, 1915: Of boils, conscription, and emperors

The French socialist party congress votes to continue the war until victory, including getting Alsace & Lorraine back.

Front Page Headline of the Day -100: 

(Update: OK, a few days later it becomes clear that Berlin issued that boil announcement to counter French lies about him having throat cancer.)

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The Allies claim that Germany is shipping u-boats to Manila, in pieces. Hope they remembered to pack the Allen wrench.

The Indian National Congress asks Britain to admit Indians to military commissions on equal terms.

Prime Minister H.H. Asquith has finally come out in favor of conscription, so it’s definitely coming, and the Cabinet is currently battling out the details, with frequent leaks to the press. They’ll stick to conscripting unmarried men to start with, and leave Ireland out.

China’s Pres. Yuan, facing a rebellion caused in part by his attempt to become emperor – just like everyone told him would happen – is having difficulty putting it down because so much of China’s infrastructure is owned by foreigners. France, for example, won’t allow him to move troops over railroads they own.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Today -100: December 29, 1915: We Germans do not understand what you call your free press

A federal grand jury issues indictments on charges of conspiracy to prevent the manufacture and shipment of arms to the Allies for officials of Labor’s National Peace Council, including its president, Congressman Frank Buchanan (D-Illinois); H. Robert Fowler, a former congressman; former Attorney General of Ohio Frank Monnette; and German Navy captain Franz Rintelen, who was captured by the British when he sailed from the US to Germany under a false name. Oddly, they are being charged under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, I guess for conspiracy in restraint of trade. Ironic, because Monnette had a lot to do with the breakup of Standard Oil. That said, several of the charges amount to trying to persuade workers in munitions factories to strike or quit, which sounds like just free speech to me.

The Indian National Congress’s annual, er, congress, pledges support for the British war effort. Congress President Sir Satyendra Sinha says he hopes “the spontaneous outburst of loyalty had dispelled forever all distrust and suspicion between the Indians and their rulers.”

Secretary of State Lansing asks Britain and France for permission for the Red Cross to ship milk to Germany and Austria. For the children. For the children.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The German Overseas News Agency is claiming that King Vittorio Emanuele of Italy has been wounded by an Austrian grenade.

German Naval Attaché Karl Boy-Ed, recalled after US insistence because of his links to spying and sabotage – so much spying! so much sabotage! – leaves. On the dock he hands out a statement, mostly blaming the Providence Journal: “This paper, with its British-born Mr. Rathom [Australian, actually], has done its utmost to create an almost hysterical suspicion of spies throughout the country in order to prejudice public opinion against Germany.” Boy-Ed is not wrong there. “We Germans do not understand what you call your free press.” Boy-Ed is not wrong there.

The NYT notes that “When Captain von Papen sailed on the Noordam, his friends in New York sent him coffee, cream, candy, fruit, champagne, and a keg of sauerkraut, but for some reason no presents found their way to Captain Boy-Ed’s cabin, and there was no friend at the pier to see him away.” How Boy-Ed will survive the voyage without a keg of sauerkraut, I just do not know.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Today -100: December 28, 1915: We are now asked to permit the militarists to have their way

With the British cabinet reportedly screaming at each other over conscription, Ernest Bevin, organizer for the Dockers’ Union, who is on a visit to New York, denounces Lloyd George’s call for conscription: “We are now asked to permit the militarists to have their way. But I tell you the trade unionists are against this. We stand foursquare against the militarism of Germany, but in the same sense we are opposed to militarism in Great Britain.” Bevin will be the British foreign secretary under Attlee. I just checked to see if this is his first mention in the NYT, but it’s his 3rd. It is, however, the first time they’ve gotten his first name right.

Pancho Villa’s family is now in Cuba, but his wife says that he’s going to stay in Mexico, despite rumors to the contrary. She brought her “Indian servants” with her to Havana.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Today -100: December 27, 1915: We are not out for friendly understandings with the enemy this Christmas tide

Oh, good, another day of the NYT Index being out of whack. The story “British Troops Feast While Shells Shriek,” for example, can helpfully be found if you just look up “Big Profits in Hosiery,” while clicking on the former headline in the index will give you the story of a Mrs Spofford Wyckoff of Stamford, Connecticut who has left her husband and taken their infant son in defiance of a court order.

The former story, if you can bloody find it, is reprinted from the Daily Chronicle (London), which says “We are not out for friendly understandings with the enemy this Christmas tide. For twelve months British soldiers have suffered too much to forget and forgive, and out beyond the trenches there are dead bodies across which our men cannot treat the enemy in the spirit of charity.” In other words, the generals on both sides ordered continual shelling in order to prevent another embarrassing Christmas truce.

Tory newspapers in Britain are attacking Prime Minister Asquith, chiefly over the failed Dardanelles campaign. There is a bit of a campaign to replace him with Lloyd George, which will happen, but not for a year.

A large mob which went to the Muskogee County (Oklahoma) jail to lynch two black men is tricked when they’re snuck out the back door dressed in militia uniforms.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Today -100: December 26, 1915: You cannot haggle with an earthquake

The NYT Index for this date is totally fucked up.

(Updated: and for the rest of the year. Grr.)

British Minister of Munitions David Lloyd George meets with trade union officials and shop stewards in Glasgow to guilt-trip them into diluting the rules on skilled labor that they fought so long and hard for: “Either we must tell the soldiers that we are sorry that we cannot get the guns to enable them to win throughout 1916, owing to the trade-union regulations... Another alternative is that we might tell the Kaiser frankly that we cannot go on. He might let us off with the annexation of Belgium, with the payment of indemnity, and with a British colony or two, but he certainly would demand that Great Britain surrender her command of the sea, and Great Britain then would be as completely at the mercy of Prussian despotism as Belgium is today.” He tells them, “All this chattering about relaxing a rule and suspending a custom is out of place. You cannot haggle with an earthquake.”

Henry Ford’s peace mission crumbles some more. Famous suffragist Inez Milholland Boissevain quits, saying the expedition is “a confused mass of amiably intentioned persons of vague thinking and no collective planning.” And Swedish peace groups aren’t interested in working with them on their vanishingly vague plans. They’ll be moving on to Denmark.

Sen. George Chamberlain (D-Oregon), chair of the Sen. Military Affairs Committee, will introduce a bill for compulsory military training for every male aged 12 to 23. But they don’t get to play with guns until they’re 14.

New automobile accessories are being sold, such as cigar shields, to prevent your cigar going out, and “baby holders,” which are not so much baby seats as hammocks.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Today -100: December 25, 1915: Of Christmas pudding and champagne

I guess Henry Ford didn’t get the troops home by Christmas. But he is leaving Europe and going back home himself, “on the advice of a physician,” according to his Peace Ship business manager – our Name of the Day -100 – Gaston Plantiff. The rest of the expedition, who were not told Ford was abandoning them, are expected to carry on.

Paris will be “silent and stern,” not exuberantly celebrating Christmas. “Even the victory in Champagne had no official celebration”. They probably just couldn’t think of an appropriate way to celebrate a victory in Champagne.

Every British soldier gets a Christmas pudding.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Today -100: December 24, 1915: Of sermons, beaten nations, and wills

Headline of the Day -100: 

Henry Ford is rumored to have already given up on his peace mission. Or he’s ill. Or both.

Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Trade in Britain, tells Parliament that “So far as commerce is concerned, Germany is a beaten nation, and it is for us to see that she does not recover” after the war.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The German press prints more reports of revolts in India, saying that native troops are refusing to put down the insurgents and are defecting in large numbers. Nope.

Publisher Mrs Frank Leslie, widower of publisher Frank Leslie (her real first name was Miriam, but for some reason after his death she legally changed her name to Frank Leslie, possibly because one of the periodicals she inherited from him was called Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper), died last year and her will, which left $1 million to Carrie Chapman Catt for the women’s suffrage cause, has been contested ever since by relatives of her long-dead husband. The surrogate deciding the case tossed out objections by the relatives, who have been claiming that she is a negro, the illegitimate daughter of a slave, which they contend was relevant for complicated inheritance law reasons that make no sense to me, even if it was true which it almost certainly is not. Ms Leslie, whose love life seems to have been turbulent to say the least, was also married to Oscar Wilde’s brother, briefly.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Today -100: December 23, 1915: Memphis?

The British colonial government in Egypt bans women from entering the country, for no obvious reason.

There were 8,000 murders in the US in 1914. Memphis had the highest murder rate (72 per 100,000; Detroit, the murderiest city in 2013, only managed 45 per 100,000), followed by Charleston and 6 more Southern cities – the article blames “negro fights.” 60% are committed with firearms.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Today -100: December 22, 1915: Every fit man

Henry Ford’s Peace Ship campaign fails to interest Norwegian peace activists in working with him. They cite the presence of Rosika Schwimmer as Ford’s lieutenant. Because she’s Hungarian, not because she’s difficult to work with. Which she is.

Prime Minister Henry Asquith tells Parliament he needs a million more men for the army, because he’s kind of broken a lot of the ones they already gave him. The army needs “every fit man,” he says. He still hasn’t come out in favor of conscription, but Irish Nationalist leader John Redmond takes the opportunity to inform him that the Nats will fight conscription by every means they have.

The NYC Board of Health will allow the sale of horse meat in the city. It will also now ban people with typhoid fever from handling food, which you’d have thought they would already have done, Typhoid Mary and all.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Today -100: December 21, 1915: Of collections, exiles, and shaken by vice

The Carranza government of Mexico bans churches from taking up collections.

It is also negotiating a peace with Pancho Villa’s followers that would see the latter given amnesty and brought into the Carranza army to fight Zapata. Villa would go into exile in the US.

Oh, elsewhere the paper says Villa is not going into exile after all, but he has split with his generals who are negotiating with Carranza, calling them thieves, traitors, and quitters.

Headline of the Day -100: 

The 1915 version of binge-watching The Wire.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Today -100: December 20, 1915: Of peace ships, grafters in collusion with crooks, and cudgeling and falling down stairs

Henry Ford’s Peace Ship arrives at Christiana (Oslo), in some turmoil. The hastily assembled bunch have been squabbling for most of the voyage, with bitter fights over whether to issue a statement opposing the military increases called for by Pres. Wilson in his State of the Union address and over details of how peace is going to be achieved, and some plain-old power struggles, from which Ford himself is largely absent, having retreated to his stateroom for most of the journey. They’ve also debated whether to expel several reporters.

Chicago Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson begins a campaign against corruption in the Chicago Police Department, which he says is “rotten and honeycombed with grafters in collusion with crooks.” He says some cops have been murdered by other cops. “Ish the Chicago way,” he adds, confusing onlookers with his impression of Sean Connery, who wouldn’t be born for another 15 years.

The NYT reviewer of the new film Don Quixote, played by DeWolf Hopper (husband of Hedda and father of William Hopper, who played Paul Drake in Perry Mason), finds the movie faithful to the original but a failure because “the nature of cinema precludes the transmission of anything so subtle as satire, which is the essence of the book.” Still, for better or worse, “There is much cudgeling and falling down stairs and rubbing of injured parts, after the familiar movie manner.”

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Today -100: December 19, 1915: It is no use

Pres. Woodrow Wilson marries Edith Galt. “In the background stood Mrs. Galt’s two negro women servants, giving a picturesque Southern touch to the scene.”

Supposedly, Pancho Villa’s war council tells him that his revolt has failed and Villa agrees, issuing a statement: “It is no use. For five years I have fought the enemies of our great republic, and I have lost.” He blames the US for backing Carranza, which could be awkward because he plans to leave Mexico and live quietly in the US. He legally marries Mrs. Villa in a civil ceremony (Mexico not recognizing their previous church marriage) to make sure the US can’t raise moral objections to their immigrating.

Suffragist women in New York are planning to respond to the failure of this year’s suffrage referendum by emigrating to more progressive lands – like Kansas.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Today -100: December 18, 1915: Of anconas, the permanent interest of the people of the Philippine Islands, canals, and comestibles

Pres. Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing will refuse Austria’s request that the US provide the information it used in deciding that the Ancona sinking by an Austrian u-boat was illegal and “wanton.” The two countries disagree on the facts of what happened, most especially whether the Ancona had already halted when it was fired upon.

The Senate Philippines Committee, as Gen. Frank McIntyre, chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, requested, changes the preamble of the Philippines Bill from saying the US would grant independence when the Philippines people “shall have shown themselves to be fitted therefor” to when “it will be to the permanent interest of the people of the Philippine Islands,” because implicit insults are so much nicer than explicit ones. And the bill won’t ban polygamy outright, just ban all future polygamous marriages.

The security chief of the Hamburg-American Line, Paul Koenig, is arrested for masterminding a plot to blow up the Welland Canal in Canada, along with two other plotters. The greatest penalty available for waging war against another country from within the US is 3 years and a $3,000 fine. The government is leaking that Koenig is the head of the German Secret Service in the US, which isn’t far off. His day job at Hamburg-American largely consisted of tracking down goods stolen off the company’s ships, so he had many useful shady contacts on the docks. The cops have been following him for months. He won’t be charged for the canal plot, but next June he’ll plead guilty to buying stolen information from a clerk at the National City Bank detailing the financing of Allied munitions purchases. He’ll get a suspended sentence after the DA praises his good reputation in the business community (i.e., City Bank didn’t want the embarrassment). Don’t know what happened to him after that, I’m afraid.

Carrie Chapman Catt is elected the new president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, replacing Anna Howard Shaw.

Margot Asquith, wife of the British prime minister, sues The Globe for printing letters accusing the “wife of a prominent Cabinet Minister” – unnamed but with enough cumulative detail to identify her, her lawyers say – with, among other things, “sending a large and choice selection of comestibles” to German POWs.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Today -100: December 17, 1915: Of credible commanders, big navies, raids, war taxes, and Uncle Toms

Austria responds to the US note on the sinking of the Ancona by its u-boat with a request for more information, and asks for the names of those witnesses “to whom [the US] apparently believes it may attribute a higher degree of credibility than to the [u-boat] commander of the Imperial and Royal Fleet.”

Adm. George Dewey, famed of the Spanish-American War and evidently still employed by the Navy at 77, warns that the US needs a really big navy to prevent an invasion. An invasion by whom, he does not say.

The Pankhursts’ newspaper Britannia (formerly The Suffragette) is raided by police, presumably because of last week’s attack on the foreign secretary (front page headline: Sir Edward Grey plays the German Game!).

The House of Representatives extends the war taxes (passed to make up for lost revenue due to the war-related decline in foreign commerce) another year.

Hungarian opposition leader Count Károlyi demands that the government – the Hungarian government, mind, not the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s – make peace proposals to the enemy, since Hungary has already achieved all its war aims. And in return for Hungarian soldiers having made Austrian successes possible, he wants a reward in the form of greater Hungarian independence. He accuses the government of hiding its many mistakes in its conduct of the war through censorship. Not surprisingly, this speech too is banned from the newspapers.

Daniel Worcester, the actor who first played Harriet Beecher Stowe’s character Uncle Tom on stage in 1851, dies. Was he a white man wearing blackface? The obit doesn’t say, but I’m going to guess that he was.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Today -100: December 16, 1915: French kiss-off

Gen. Sir Douglas Haig is made commander-in-chief of the British forces in France and Belgium, replacing Sir John French. This should go well.

French supposedly asked to be relieved after 16 months of stress, but really he’s been given the push because it’s increasingly been felt that he’s not up to the job.

US Gen. Frank McIntyre, chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, tells the Senate Philippines Committee that it should remove from the forthcoming bill for greater self-government a provision banning polygamy, which could only be enforced on the Moros with great bloodshed.

The NYT says the recall of Capt. Karl Boy-Ed, the German naval attaché in Washington, was demanded a few days after it was discovered that he’d received a top secret naval report prepared for Woodrow Wilson even before it reached Wilson’s desk. Boy-Ed’s American secretary ratted him out to the government.

Americans will no longer be allowed to leave the country by ship without a passport.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Today -100: December 15, 1915: Of anconas, saboteurs, land grabs, and Koolbergen and Bopp

Austria thinks the US note about the sinking of the Ancona is unfair because Austria wasn’t officially aware of the American position about sinking civilian ships without warning (that position: against it). I mean, yeah, the US explained that position to Germany after the Lusitania, but it’s not like Germany ever tells us anything, all we know is what we read in the newspapers and you know how unreliable they are.

The federal investigation of German plotting in the US discovers that military attaché Franz von Papen discussed how much it would cost to destroy an explosives plant in Pinole, California (these being Germans, there are detailed itemized expense reports, and Papen once objected to one item, reducing the check paid to the saboteur-in-chief by 50¢).

The US protests to France about its cruiser Descartes, which has been stopping US passenger ships heading to Puerto Rico and seizing German and Austrian passengers and crew members. France will (eventually) release the captives and apologize.

The important takeaway from that story, of course, is that France had a military cruiser named the Descartes.

Woodrow Wilson receives deputations from both sides of the women’s suffrage issue, regarding a possible federal constitutional amendment. He commits himself to neither side.

Bulgaria’s government claims that the country is now 31,000 square miles larger.

The Providence Journal, reliable purveyor of questionable news, reports that a German agent who was part of the ring attempting to blow up munitions plants in the US, Johannes Hendrikus von Koolbergen, has implicated the German consul general in San Francisco, Franz Bopp. I’m assuming after the war “Koolbergen and Bopp” formed a soft jazz band that performed just once at the hungry i, to poor reviews and an unprintable heckle from Lenny Bruce.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Today -100: December 14, 1915: Of wreaked spite, and waiting for a zeppelin

Headline of the Day -100: 

The NYT says Pancho Villa has reverted to his bandit ways, extorting foreign-owned stores in Chihuahua.

You know, “wreaks spite” is a phrase you just don’t hear that often these days. Use it in a sentence today.

Recalled German military attaché Franz von Papen is heading to Mexico rather than home. That’s not worrying at all.

Some German-language newspapers in the US are claiming that unrest in India is being stirred up by Japan (not Germany), while the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung quotes an unnamed Afghan khan as saying that Afghanistan will rise up when signaled by the sight of a zeppelin.

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Today -100: December 13, 1915: Of anconas

The US sends a note to Austria about last month’s sinking of the Ancona, using much harsher language – “inhumane,” “barbarous,” “wanton slaughter” – than that used in the notes sent to Germany over the Lusitania. It requires Austria to admit that the sinking was “illegal and indefensible,” punish the U-boat captain, and pay reparations to the families of American victims. Austria claims not to have responded to previous requests for information because it is unable to communicate with the U-38.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Today -100: December 12, 1915: Of fraught vessels, emperors, passports, and war votes

The Earl of Rosebery, a former Tory prime minister, calls Henry Ford’s Peace Ship “a vessel fraught with peace”.

Pres. Yuan Shikai graciously accepts the Council of State’s offer to make him Emperor of China. I predict a long and prosperous reign.

The US State Department is chatting with the Austrian embassy about evidence that Austria was helping its citizens here to fraudulently obtain US passports in order to return to Austria to fight.

Two IRS employees are arrested for selling lists of income-tax payers. Undisclosed is who bought the lists or why they’d want them.

Sen. Robert Owen (D-Oklahoma) proposes a constitutional amendment allowing the US to go to war only after a vote by the majority of voters in a majority of congressional districts.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Today -100: December 11, 1915: Of personae non gratae, cranks, Model T’s, menaced rears, and Hydes

Germany finally recalls attachés Karl Boy-Ed and Franz von Papen, as the US demanded, and asks the US to arrange with Britain and France for their safe passage back to Germany.

Objective Headline of the Day -100: 

Ford manufactures its one-millionth Model T. They’re now selling for $440; when introduced in 1908 they were $850.

Headline of the Day -100:

Again I have to ask: is this a war or an extended alcohol-fueled orgy? Indeed,

I think we all know what “into Greek territory” means.

Loring Cross of Elizabeth, New Jersey, an engraver, is arrested for terrorizing women and girls in the streets (the details are a bit vague). His excuse: he’s been in a state of mania ever since he read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Today -100: December 10, 1915: I love America first, then I hate England and then I love Germany

Headlines of the Day -100: 

Is this a war or an extended alcohol-fueled orgy?

German Chancellor Dr. Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg tells the Reichstag that “if our enemies make peace proposals compatible with Germany’s dignity and safety, then we shall always be ready to discuss them,” but he won’t make any himself because that would just give them the wrong idea. In fact, he says they’ve already gotten the wrong idea because of the parliamentary question on this subject, to which he is now responding, posed by Social Democratic Party leader Philipp Scheidemann. That question, he says, “has attracted great attention in the hostile countries, mostly of a joyous nature. The question regarding the German terms of peace is interpreted as a sign of the diminution of German strength or the beginning of the end of the unanimous will of the German people.” He assures the Reichstag that Germany is totally gonna win this thing and that Germany can’t be starved into submission because it has enough food, the only problem is working out distribution (Germany never will manage that). “Against the logic of facts even our enemies can do nothing. Our calculation shows no flaws, and there are no uncertain factors to shatter our firm confidence. If our enemies are not yet inclined to yield to facts they will have to do so later.”

Alphonse Koelble of the United German Societies of Greater New York announces the creation of a fund to produce literature refuting Wilson’s accusations of German-American disloyalty. He says Wilson is unduly influenced by information given him by Secret Service officers working with British detectives. Koelble says he hates traitors to the US. “I love America first, then I hate England and then I love Germany.”

Hopewell, Virginia, a boomtown created by DuPont to house a gunpowder plant servicing the burgeoning European market, burns down. Which is followed by looting, as was the custom. One of the looters is lynched, as was also the custom. Although a suspected saboteur was arrested inside the plant a few hours before the fire, the fire actually started in a Greek restaurant, as was the custom. Ironically, pretty much every structure in town burns down except the gunpowder plant.

War Secretary Lindley Garrison issues his annual report, supporting his plan for an increased military augmented by a Continental Army. Much of the report is devoted to a philosophical defense of military preparedness and a refutation of the notion of passive non-resistance. “So long as right and wrong exist in the world there will be an inevitable conflict between them. The rightdoers must be prepared to protect and defend the right as against the wrong.” He rejects the idea of passive resistance to evil, because if you can use mental force or moral force to repel evil, surely physical force is just the same thing. He also denies that establishing what amounts to a standing army would lead to militarism, because 1) the US can absolutely be trusted as a nation to possess force without misusing it – “Why should it be presumed that a just man or a just nation will cease to be just because it has the power to be unjust? We must either trust others or trust ourselves.” 2) if the US were defeated in a war because of lack of preparedness, the public reaction would be far worse, more militaristic.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Today -100: December 9, 1915: Nothing doing in Christianity at present

Kaiser Wilhelm postpones Prince Joachim’s wedding from this month to February, because of course the war will be over by then.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The Daily Telegraph reports that Germany and Turkey plan a massive invasion of India.

A bill is introduced in Congress to ban false advertising for goods sold across state lines.

In Parliament, Robert Outhwaite (Lib-Hanley) asks the under-secretary for war whether clergy shouldn’t enlist in the army, “as there is nothing doing in Christianity at present”.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Today -100: December 8, 1915: Great democracies are not belligerent

Woodrow Wilson gives his State of the Union Address. Most of the speech is devoted to military “preparation.” He wants to increase the size of the army from 108,008 to 141,843 plus 400,000 trained reserves and increased production of battleships, paid for largely by income tax increases aimed mostly at the rich rather than by issuing bonds. “Great democracies,” he says, “are not belligerent. They do not seek or desire war.”

However, despite all this talk of preparedness, “We are at peace with all the nations of the world, and there is reason to hope that no question in controversy between this and other Governments will lead to any serious breach of amicable relations”.

Then he turned to The Danger Within™: “I am sorry to say that the gravest threats against our national peace and safety have been uttered within our own borders. There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit, born under other flags but welcomed under our generous naturalization laws to the full freedom and opportunity of America, who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life... America never witnessed anything like this before. It never dreamed it possible that men sworn into its own citizenship, men drawn out of great free stocks such as supplied some of the best and strongest elements of that little, but how heroic, nation that in a high day of old staked its very life to free itself from every entanglement that had darkened the fortunes of the older nations and set up a new standard here, that men of such origins and such free choices of allegiance would ever turn in malign reaction against the Government and people who had welcomed and nurtured them and seek to make this proud country once more a hotbed of European passion.” At which point half the assembled members of Congress started discretely masturbating under their desks. Wilson wants new laws, about which he’s rather vague, to be used against these “creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy [who] must be crushed out.”

Speaking of creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy, Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t like any of the speech. He says the military buildup is insufficient, Wilson likes peace too much (“He has met a policy of blood and iron with a policy of milk and water”), and the reserves system puts the patriotic volunteers who abandon their jobs for a couple of months a year at a competitive disadvantage (he wants to make it compulsory, because of course he does). Most damningly, he says “Mr. Wilson’s elocution is that of a Byzantine logothete [a functionary – basically he’s saying WW sounds like an accountant] – and Byzantine logothetes were not men of action.” How far our political insults have fallen in our Age of Trump.

Headline of the Day -100: 

So maybe not by Christmas. New Year’s, he suggests. Or Easter. Or the 4th of July.

Two deserters from the German Army arrive at Ellis Island as stowaways. They claim they ran more from starvation than fear. Were they deported back to Germany? I can’t find a follow-up.

Headline of the Day -100: 

Some sort of electricity-propelled, hypersonic, trans-continental... you know, I’ve just realized he may be describing a drone. Tesla says it’s not yet time to explain the details. He does trash-talk a California electrical engineer who thinks the US could be surrounded by “an electrical wall of fire” during time of war. Tesla thinks this is impractical.

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Monday, December 07, 2015

Today -100: December 7, 1915: It does not look like peace, and so Germany cannot sheathe her sword

King Constantine of Greece explains to an AP reporter his policy of neutrality in the war. He’s also obviously trying to undercut former prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos. He insists the Greek people re-elected Venizelos as a man but rejected his policy of joining the war, which seems like kind of a big thing to overlook.

Field Marshal von Hindenburg says the war may have to go on for a while longer. If France wants Alsace-Lorraine back, “they should come and get it.” Oo, German smack talk. He thinks Britain will be seriously weakened by the forthcoming revolt in India. I don’t know if German military leaders genuinely believe that will happen or if they’re pretending they do to bolster German morale. He pretends surprise that Russia and France haven’t figured out yet that in continuing to fight “they are only sacrificing themselves for Great Britain. It does not look like peace, and so Germany cannot sheathe her sword.”

Germany asks the US to state its reasons for declaring Boy-Ed and von Papen personae non gratae, but the US, which under international law and custom doesn’t have to provide reasons, won’t.

Secretary of War Garrison says West Point is not anti-Semitic. He also says he has no idea how many Jews are at West Point.

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Sunday, December 06, 2015

Today -100: December 6, 1915: And if the belligerent nations know for what they are fighting, why not tell the world?

Headline of the Day -100: 

Jacob Schiff, banker and important leader of Jewish Americans, expects a mass immigration of European Jews after the war, but he says US cities are kinda full.

William Jennings Bryan calls on Pres. Wilson to ask the warring European nations what their peace terms are. “Each of the governments at war certainly knows what it is that it demands – otherwise it could not justify a continuation of the slaughter.” Um, right. “And if the belligerent nations know for what they are fighting, why not tell the world?”

News about a newly discovered comet reaches the US from Copenhagen, although some details are suppressed by military censors because why not.

A federal grand jury in New York is investigating Labor’s National Peace Council, which may or may not be a German front and which works for an embargo on the export of war materials. What is illegal about any of this that brings it within the purview of the grand jury remains unclear.

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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Today -100: December 5, 1915: Of peace ships, money well spent, and French contempt

The Oscar II, Henry Ford’s Peace Ship (the NYT is calling it Peace Ark) is under way, with over 150 passengers, of whom 1/3 are reporters. The passengers include suffragist Inez Milholland Boissevain and the poet Berton Braley and his new wife – who marry on board the ship before it sails. The ship is seen off by William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Edison, and a band playing “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier.”

US government investigators report that since the start of the war Germany has spent $27 million in the US on various nefarious projects, including $3 million on propaganda and subsidies to newspapers and $12 million to foment a Huerta-led counter-revolution in Mexico.

Headline of the Day -100: 

And the New York Times is ON IT!

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Friday, December 04, 2015

Today -100: December 4, 1915: Fight preparedness

The US asks Germany to recall Karl Boy-Ed and Franz von Papen, its naval attaché and military attaché in Washington respectively, because of their “improper activities.” They are personae non gratae. Although both have been involved in espionage, sabotage and the like on US soil since the start of the war, there’s no clear reason why the Wilson administration is acting now. Papen says “I have no regrets. I have simply done my duty as a soldier and have obeyed instructions”. He will be Hitler’s vice-chancellor.

Germany retaliates by saying that US ambassador to Belgium Brand Whitlock, currently visiting home, will not be returning, although they’re claiming he has retired. Which is news to him.

Henry Ford and William Jennings Bryan meet at the Biltmore, where Bryan explains that he can be more useful working against military preparedness in the US than by joining the Peace Ship (or Ship of Fools, as some of the British press have taken to calling it). He endorses Ford’s mission without quite saying that he expects anything to come of it. A reporter asks Ford about accusations that “some people” are making that he has German blood. Ford says he investigated that today and no he doesn’t. His last word to the US before leaving: “Fight preparedness.”

Carranza says US recognition of his government isn’t enough, he needs the US to enforce its supposed embargo against non-Carranza groups.

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Today -100: December 3, 1915: We should not marvel at an occasional fire or blow up

Gen. Joseph Joffre is named commander-in-chief of all the French armies in Europe (excluding north Africa).

DuPont denies rumors that the explosion at its Wilmington gunpowder plant was caused by saboteurs. “We should not marvel at an occasional fire or blow up,” says one company official about the deaths of 30+ of his employees.

The head of the Hamburg-American Line, Karl Buenz, and 3 of his underlings are found guilty for defrauding the US government (filing false papers in order to supply and fuel German Navy ships from US ports early in the war).

Headline of the Day -100: 

A French soldier (a piou-piou – young chick – which is slang for a young soldier), Priv. Lucien Tapie Bellocq, writes to the NYPD asking them to track down his wife, who he believes absconded here, to let her know “I forgave her before I died for my country,” adding, “I still feel friendly to her, in spite of her act of folly.” What’s the French for “guilt trip?” He thinks she can be found working in a hospital or infirmary “or maybe in a much worse place”. There is no follow-up story in the NYT index.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Today -100: December 2, 1915: Of sentimental war talk

Henry Ford responds to his critics: “There has been a lot of talk of attack on ‘sentimental peace talk’ by people who want us to have sentimental war talk instead.” The State Dept is restricting the scope of his mission by only issuing passports for Peace Shippers to enter neutral countries (Ford’s proposed conference would be held in the Netherlands). Several people who want to go are having difficulty getting passports in time, which may be deliberate State Dept obstruction, confusing new passport rules, or Ford’s almighty rush.

Gen. Obregon, commander of Carranza’s forces, says Pancho Villa has gone insane.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Today -100: December 1, 1915: Worst Christmas tree decorations ever

A gunpowder explosion at a DuPont plant near Wilmington, Delaware kills 31. For some reason the workers in the packing plant were all aged 16 to 21. The Western Newspaper Union News Service reports: “From every tree left standing in the neighborhood there was hanging either pieces of flesh or parts of clothing worn by the unfortunate men.” The remaining workers had to pick up all those bits and bobs.

Does this explosion have anything to do with a poster campaign to get German & Austrian workers at the plant to quit? It would be irresponsible not to speculate. DuPont says the cause may never be known, since everyone in the packing plant was, you know, blown to tiny pieces. In fact, DuPont’s powder plants have explosions of a pretty regular basis.

Kaiser Wilhelm is visiting Vienna and it would be irresponsible not to speculate that he’s there to persuade the ancient Austrian emperor not to make a separate peace with Italy.

IWW organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is acquitted on a charge of inciting violence during the Paterson silk strike of 1913. The jury disbelieved police witnesses about Flynn’s language (the cops all remembered the same words about forcing scabs out of the factories by force but somehow failed to remember anything else at all from her speech) and believed her witnesses.

British newspapers are now refusing Ford automobile ads because of Henry F’s anti-war activism.

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