Monday, February 29, 2016

Today -100: February 29, 1916: Of armed ships, protectorates, non-slaves, and Henry James

The Canadian Parliament rejects women’s suffrage.

Germany tells the US it will only attack armed merchant ships without warning if it has “proof” they are armed, which it implies would consist of the ships actually shooting at them. That seems less like the clarification they’re pretending it is than backpedaling, since presumably subs were never required to warn ships that were already shooting at them that they would shoot back.

The US Senate passes the treaty establishing a de facto protectorate over Haiti, whose finances and police are now under American control. The US will also have the “right” to intervene militarily, just as in Cuba.

Headline of the Day -100:

Justice Clarence Shearn of the NY State Supreme Court. In this case, the Rev. Burton Lee, a former chaplain at Sing Sing, and his estranged wife had a separation agreement which said that each would get custody of one of their children. He broke the agreement, refusing to return the kid she got after a visit. He claims that under English Common Law fathers owned their children, so any such contract is void, citing Barry v. Mercein (1842), which said that husbands and wives couldn’t enter into contracts because wives had no separate legal existence (as English legal authority William Blackstone explained this principle in the 18th century, “The husband and wife are one, and that one is the husband”). However, Justice Shearn says that we have “emerged from the dark ages when women were the same as slaves and chattels.” Good to know.

Henry James (The Ambassadors, Wings of the Dove, The Turn of the Screw, The American, The Portrait of a Lady, etc), dies in London at 73.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Today -100: February 28, 1916: EXTRY!!!!!

Headline of the Day -100:

Otherwise known as not going to war.

For now.

Russia will now allow the wives and children of Jews who emigrated to the US to join them. They have been been banned from doing so since the start of the war.

Germany bans the importation of certain luxuries, including caviar, mandolins, pineapples, candy, perfumes, liquor, paintings, artificial flowers, feathers, etc.

Charlie Chaplin signs a contract with Mutual, giving him $10,000 a week for a year, with a $150,000 signing bonus, to direct and star in one movie per month. These will include The Rink, One A.M., The Floorwalker, and The Vagabond, which is pretty good value for money.

A NY magistrate refuses to hold two newsboys arrested for “selling papers in a loud tone of voice.”

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Today -100: February 27, 1916: Non

French-Canadians are threatening not to contribute funds or soldiers to the war unless their right to education in the French language is restored in Ontario.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Today -100: February 26, 1916: Wiggle, woggle, wump

British newspapers are pleased, indeed smug, about Woodrow Wilson’s rejection of Germany’s intention (“impudent demands” – Daily Chronicle) to sink armed merchant vessels. The Morning Post: “It is the fate of America, whether it will or not, to make a choice between her own gods and Germany’s idols.” The Times: “The President remains immovably true to his lofty, moral attitude.” Ain’t it the truth.

Austria responds to the US protest over its attack on the Standard Oil tanker Petrolite, claiming that the u-boat which fired on it thought it was under attack, that the American flag the Petrolite was flying was a fake, and that the Petrolite gave the u-boat provisions voluntarily, without any coercion at all, and refused to accept any payment. The US believes the facts are otherwise.

The second issue of the satirical trench newspaper The Wipers Times is out. It announces that its subscribers will receive, free, life insurance entitling them to 11s. 7d. in the event of death caused by a submarine anywhere in the Ypres district.

And here’s a poem from it, entitled “Stop-gap”:

Little stacks of sandbags,
 Little lumps of clay;
Make our blooming trenches,
In which we work and play.

Merry little whizz-bang,*
 jolly little crump;**
Made our trench a picture,
 Wiggle, woggle, wump.

* A shell.
** A loud thudding sound caused by a shell.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Today -100: February 25, 1916: We covet peace, and shall preserve it at any cost but the loss of honor

The New York section of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association holds a meeting of delegates to discuss how to pass the federal women’s suffrage amendment. A proposed memorial to Congress is read out, but there’s a bit of controversy over the bit saying that US women had become “subjects of men of alien races... often not speaking our language, not being able to read or write, knowing nothing of our institutions” and noting that “in November, 1915, men white, black, red, yellow, and brown were able to vote in New York State and the white women descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not.” The memorial is referred back to the Executive Committee for a less racist rewording, although some delegates protest that racist arguments are their most successful ones.

Pope Benedict asks Austria to stop bombing Italy, please and thank you.

Woodrow Wilson writes to Sen. William Stone (D-Missouri), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, saying he “cannot consent to any abridgment of the rights of American citizens in any respect,” specifically, the “right” to travel on armed civilian vessels from belligerent nations without being sunk by German or Austrian submarines. “The honor and self-respect of the nation are involved. We covet peace, and shall preserve it at any cost but the loss of honor. To forbid our people to exercise their rights for fear we might be called upon to vindicate them would be a deep humiliation indeed. It would be an implicit, all but an explicit, acquiescence in the violation of the rights of mankind everywhere, and of whatever nation or allegiance. It would be a deliberate abdication of our hitherto proud position as spokesman, even amidst the turmoil of war, for the law and the right.” Quite the slippery slope, there.

In the Senate, Thomas Gore proposes a sense-of-the-Congress resolution (not requiring the president’s signature) asking citizens not to travel on armed vessels, the resolution saying “The right of American citizens to travel on armed belligerent vessels rather than upon unarmed vessels is essential neither to their life, liberty, or safety, nor to the independence, dignity, or security of the United States”. Put that way, it does seem like kind of a stupid thing to go to war over.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Today -100: February 24, 1916: Still less does it want Congress to announce to the world that we are a nation of cowards

First NYT coverage of Verdun.

Headline of the Day -100:

Congressional Democratic leaders threaten that if Pres. Wilson doesn’t warn American citizens not to travel on armed merchant ships, which Germany will start sinking without warning on March 1st, then a Congressional resolution will do so. They’re afraid that Wilson’s obstinate insistence on what he considers American rights will result in war when a German sub, inevitably, kills Americans. Worse, a war over an issue many in Congress don’t consider war-worthy. This revolt is entirely a Democratic thing, with Republicans much more willing to go to war over stupid shit (I KNOW!) and backing the position of their supposed presidential front-runner Elihu Root. And if they happen to pick up the German vote, so much the better. One unnamed Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says, “The country doesn’t want war, but still less does it want Congress to announce to the world that we are a nation of cowards.”

Headline of the Day -100:  

King Nicholas of Montenegro has not been responding to “inquiries” from Austria, and they’re threatening to start treating Montenegro as a conquered country rather than a surrendered one.

Portugal seizes 36 German and Austrian merchant ships lying in the Tagus River. It will say that this is not an act of war, just a measure in the public interest. Germany will not be impressed.

Headline of the Day -100:  

In Berlin, supposedly. Not much point in having ration tickets if you don’t ensure the availability of the goods being rationed.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Today -100: February 23, 1916: Russia’s better future is coming

Tsar Nicholas attends the opening of the Duma. This has never happened before because tsars liked to pretend that they’d never even heard of the Duma. Prime Minister Boris Stürmer tells the Duma, “Russia’s better future is coming.” The great prophet Boris Stürmer will die in prison next year.

The British government will create a new cabinet post, which will be held by Lord Robert Cecil: Blockade Minister. Which is a weird thing to put on your resumé.

Dr. David Allyn Gorton, founder and president of the Eugenic Society of America, dies at 83. At 78 he married his 38-year-old secretary as “a practical test of his eugenic theories”; when he was 80 they had twins. He planned to experiment on them to prove that old fathers are the best fathers, eugenically speaking.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Today -100: February 22, 1916: Of rubber plotters, somber garb, and colonial troops

Headline of the Day -100:

This is a scheme to smuggle rubber from the US to Germany.

Aren’t you glad I deleted my joke about not letting them pay by check because it would bounce?

Headline of the Day -100:  

The US clothes-dyestuffs industry is expanding, but not enough to make up for the drop in European imports.

The military correspondent of the London Times suggests that Britain and France need to use way more African and Indian troops. He doesn’t explain why Africans and Indians would care to fight to preserve the British Empire, but then it probably never occurred to him that they might not.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Today -100: February 21, 1916: Futurist music?

The Battle of Verdun begins. The Germans attack, as was the custom.

Denmark is again trying to sell the Danish West Indies to the United States, motivated in part by a recent strike by the natives. Next year it will sell the colony to the US, lock stock and ungrateful black people. It will be renamed the US Virgin Islands.

At the Hippodrome in New York, Charlie Chaplin takes over as conductor from John Philip Sousa “with apparent knowledge of how to do it and with a great variety of gestures,” conducting his own composition “The Peace March” (he’s just started a music business sideline, which won’t last long - did you know his first Academy Award was for composing the music for Limelight in 1952? I did). The program also features pianist/composer Leo Ornstein, who “played some real and some futurist music.”

Rosa Luxemburg is released from prison. She won’t be out very long.

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Today -100: February 20, 1916: Of dog sleds, lynchings metaphorical and otherwise, and doras

The US plans to replace dog-sled mail delivery in parts of Alaska with airplanes.

Georgia is a little upset that everyone’s noticed that one-third of the lynchings in the US last year took place in Georgia. Some are saying that the open defiance of the state’s prohibition laws has led to a disregard of the law in the form of lynching, which is just plain logic. I can’t help noticing that there are people who are referring to the ouster last year of Atlanta Police Chief James Beavers, because of his too-zealous enforcement of prohibition, as a lynching. Beavers took part in the investigation of Leo Frank and presumably others who were actually lynched in 1915, so maybe ixnay on the inchlay alktay, guys.

The British government charges Thomas Rees of the London District Engineers’ Society under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) for calling a strike, the first such prosecution under the act, but not the last. The workers were being under-paid for night work.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Today -100: February 19, 1916: Joy-riding with the jingoes

In his newspaper The Commoner, William Jennings Bryan says Woodrow Wilson, with his advocacy of military preparedness, is “joy-riding with the jingoes”.

Members of the Oklahoma state legislature throw inkwells and paperweights at each other during heated discussion of what measure of negro voter suppression they can get away with to replace the grandfather clause which the US Supreme Court struck down last June. The NYT gives a blow-by-blow of the fight but fails to mention any details of the proposals.

The Virginia Legislature rejects a resolution for a referendum on women’s suffrage.

The federal government drops the prosecution of Margaret Sanger for her birth control periodical “The Woman Rebel.” She has spent much of the time since the indictment in 1914 in exile in Europe, where she learned about more forms of contraception (namely, diaphragms).

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: France claims to have foiled a German plot to get native Malagasy to overthrow the French colonial regime in Madagascar and massacre French officials and settlers.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Today -100: February 18, 1916: Even handshaking!

French General Dubois issues an army order: “The Army Commander has learned with indignation that at several places on the front conversations and even handshaking with the Germans have taken place. I am at a loss to understand how a Frenchman can sink so low as to shake hands with such bandits, who spread incendiarism and destruction, assassinate women, children and old men, treacherously kill prisoners, and kill our wounded by tortures.”

France and Germany agree to pay the salaries of POWs (that is, Germany will pay French prisoners and France will pay German prisoners). Not full salaries, but the pay given to officers on leave.

The Lusitania negotiations between the US and Germany, so nearly concluded, are reopened because of the German declaration that it will sink armed merchant ships. The US now wants additional assurances, while Germany says it won’t sink armed ships if the US can get Britain to guarantee that their guns will only be used defensively and not to attack u-boats.

The New York Athletic Commission does not, after all, rescind its ban on mixed-race boxing matches, despite the ban being in violation of the NY constitution.

Headline of the Day -100:

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Today -100: February 17, 1916: Of hearings and letters

The confirmation hearings for Louis Brandeis’s nomination to the Supreme Court are set to drag on and on. That group of Boston Brahmins headed by A. Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard, have even hired a lawyer to question witnesses before the Senate Sub-Committee, which will allow him to do so. The US Attorney for Boston will do the questioning on behalf of Brandeis. This is very unusual, there usually being no hearings at all, much less public hearings.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s letters are being auctioned off. One written when he was two sells for $5.50. One written in the Samoan language to the King of Malie sells for $195.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Today -100: February 16, 1916: We have been brave in words and irresolute in action

Elihu Root gives a speech to the unofficial NY Republican state convention which marks the opening move in his attempt to win the nomination for president. He attacks Woodrow Wilson for, I don’t know, not going to war with Germany when it invaded Belgium 18 months ago, or after it sank the Lusitania. “Our diplomacy has lost its authority and influence because we have been brave in words and irresolute in action.”

Headline of the Day -100:

According to an unnamed French Army surgeon, “They have become hardened and developed indifference to danger and insensibility to pain without losing civilized feelings of gratitude and obedience.” He may be thinking of dogs. 

As is New York Commissioner of Health Dr. Haven Emerson, who would like to ban all dogs from the city. Cats are okay, though. “Dogs are not necessary to a cultured existence,” says the asshole. He says there were 3,000 dog fights in the city in 1915, and I’d really like to know how he came up with that figure.

British bans the importing of paper, periodicals, tobacco, furniture woods, and stone.

Austria orders restaurants, cafes, and other public food-providing establishments to turn over all kitchen utensils made of bronze, copper, brass, nickel or aluminum.

Headline of the Day -100:  

The Senate Health Committee is told that only 1/3 of lepers in the US are locked up, while the rest, including 50 in New York City and 80 in Chicago, are running loose, threatening an epidemic. Witnesses declare that a national leprosarium is needed.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Today -100: February 15, 1916: There are only two things Mr. Wilson is afraid of

Woodrow Wilson’s plans to remain coy about his plans for reelection are foiled by the Ohio electoral law, which requires that candidates to be party convention delegates name their first and second choices for president and have the written permission of those choices to do so. So Wilson writes to the Ohio secretary of state that while he’s “entirely unwilling to enter into any contest for the Presidential nomination,” he is willing to let his name go forward.

Speaking of coy, Theodore Roosevelt says he will support any Republican candidate who can beat Wilson. “He has deadened the conscience of the American people by his foreign policy. ... There are only two things Mr. Wilson is afraid of – the Kaiser and myself.” Does that mean Teddy is running for president? Or, indeed, for kaiser? He does not say.

Britain will recruit 400,000 women for farm work. They’ll get an armlet and a special uniform (including trousers, which will be quite controversial, because how can you tell the Land Girls are girls? HOW CAN YOU TELL?)

British newspaper magnate and asshole Lord Northcliffe rejects suggestions that he be made Minister of Aviation, saying that others are more suited to the role and anyway he couldn’t join a government fighting a defensive rather than an offensive war.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Today -100: February 14, 1916: But votes are better

Germany, unhappy with Romania’s definition of neutrality (they’ve been selling wheat to Britain but not to Germany), makes what sounds like a threat, demanding not only strict neutrality but the dispersal of Romanian troops away from its borders. The NYT quotes a British paper quoting an Italian paper quoting a Romanian paper which says Kaiser Wilhelm personally threatened King Ferdinand when they met recently, reminding him of the fates of Belgium and Serbia and that Bucharest is only 37 miles from the Danube and WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE.

The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage is sending the president and members of Congress “valentines with more or less appropriate verses” regarding women’s suffrage. To Edward Pou (D-North Carolina) they write:
The rose is red, the violet blue,
But votes are better, Mr. Pou.
And that’s about the best of the ones quoted in the Times.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Today -100: February 13, 1916: No one wants to be needlessly nasty to Germans

Italy has been at war with Austria for nearly 9 months, but not with Germany, and only now breaks off trade relations with it. Italy will declare war on Germany in 6 months.

Canada, still in the midst of an anti-German panic following the burning of the Parliament buildings in what it pleases Canadians to think was an arson attack, is targeting Germans in government posts. August Kastella is asked to resign as Superintendent of Dredging. He refuses. So he’ll be fired, although they’ll pretend it’s not because of his German birth but because he’s, I don’t know, bad at superintending dredging.

The New York Symphony Orchestra cancels a planned Canadian tour because it fears hostility towards those of its musicians who are German. The Ottawa Journal applauds the decision: “No one in Canada wants to be needlessly nasty to Germans, we hope, but we have a right to insist on the safety of our soldiers and our interests of all kinds.” Yeah, I hear a German oboist once took down an entire battalion.

Boston upper crust types really don’t like Louis Brandeis. Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell and 54 Bostonians send the Senate a petition against Brandeis’s appointment to the Supreme Court, citing his lack of the proper “judicial temperament,” which may be their term for foreskin. The NYT lists the signers so readers at home can play “Who Has the Most Boston Brahmin Name?” For my money: Pierpont L. Stackpole.

That banquet for the Archbishop of Chicago where 150 guests got sick? Arsenic poisoning. The archbishop (and the governor of Illinois, the mayor of Chicago, etc) are ok. Police are looking for “Jean Crones,” the assistant chef at the University Club and an anarchist. An actual anarchist, I hasten to add, mindful of the Chicago PD’s propensity to describe anyone they don’t like as an anarchist. One of the guests, a Dr. J.B. Murphy, himself suffering from poisoning, directed the mixture of an emetic. That plus the fact that the soup (chicken soup, by the way) had been watered down at the last minute when extra guests showed up meant that no one died.

The police investigation of Crones (real name Nestor Dondoglio) will turn up such details as that he never associated with women and that he and his anarchist friends wore black ties with windsor knots. Crones escaped to New York and wrote badly spelled taunting catch-me-if-you-can letters to the NYT, helpfully including his fingerprints so they could confirm it was him. His third letter says he was radicalized by the Ludlow Massacre. After that letter, he disappeared forever, remaining in hiding the rest of his life, assisted by various anarchist and Wobbly types, until he died in 1932.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Today -100: February 12, 1916: This new terror leaves us cold

Lindley Garrison says his resignation as secretary of war is not an attack on Wilson and he is now out of politics and no, he does not want to be governor of New Jersey.

A “special cable” to the NYT from Manila, Philippines, insists that “anti-independence sentiment is found everywhere” and that “The leaders of all the native parties are privately opposed to the Clarke amendment.” Privately.

Emma Goldman is arrested in New York for “having lectured on a medical question in defiance of Section 1,142 of the Penal Code.” Birth control, the NYT really can’t just say it was birth control? This may (or may not) be the first time someone is charged for speaking about birth control, as opposed to distributing written materials. Goldman will be sentenced to 15 days in the workhouse.

Just out: the first issue of The Wipers Times, a newspaper by and for British soldiers issued under various names as the front lines moved (“Wipers” being what Tommies called Ypres), containing poetry and satire. Some excerpts:
“May I through the medium of your valuable paper call attention to the disgraceful state of repair the roads are getting into.” 
“a German band was heard playing at about 11-30 a.m. This new terror leaves us cold, as we take it to be only another phase of frightfulness.” 
“For Sale, cheap. Desirable Residence.  Climate warm, fine view. Splendid links close by, good shooting. Terms moderate. Owner going abroad. –Apply Feddup, Gordon Farm, nr Wipers.” [Gordon Farm is a real place] 
The world wasn’t made in a day;
And Eve didn’t ride on a ‘bus,
But most of the world’s in a sandbag
The rest of it’s plastered on us.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Today -100: February 11, 1916: Of garrisons, eras of infinite prosperity, new frightfulness, and bad soup

Secretary of War Lindley Garrison resigns. He is upset that Pres. Wilson backed away from the plan for a “Continental Army” after it proved to be deeply unpopular amongst the general public and Congress, which didn’t want the state national guards superseded. Garrison also opposes Filipino independence, which Wilson supports. Assistant Secretary of War Henry Breckinridge (who is only 29, although he has the name of a 59-year-old) also resigns, out of loyalty to Garrison.

Woodrow Wilson tells a Chamber of Commerce dinner that if the US can keep out of the war, “an era of infinite prosperity is ahead of us.” His speech makes no mention of Garrison’s resignation.

Germany and Austria will announce that starting March 1st any merchant ships armed with guns will be treated as hostile and sunk without warning. Or, as the Daily Mail (London) puts it, “New U-Boat Murder Campaign to Start March 1.” Other British papers report “New Plea for Piracy” (The Times) and “Germany Prepares World for New Frightfulness” (the Express).

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: A Canadian doctor claims to have seen a German u-boat, caught in British nets, whose crew had all been shot in the head by the sub’s commander, who had then killed himself, and that the same thing happened in 3 other captured subs.

At Senate sub-committee hearings on the Louis Brandeis nomination of to the Supreme Court, C.W. Barron of the Wall Street Journal accuses Brandeis of various acts of professional malfeasance, including “procur[ing] the signature of an old and dying man to a deed of trust by questionable means.” He also accuses him of having tried to wreck the New York & England Railroad and of switching sides on cases (which is one way to interpret Brandeis’s insistence on following his conscience as a lawyer, usually refusing to take fees on public interest cases so that he could do so).

150 guests at a banquet in honor of George Mundelein, the new archbishop of Chicago, are taken ill. More will be heard of this.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Today -100: February 10, 1916: Wherein trousers are dropped from an aeroplane

Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes says he is “totally opposed” to the suggestion that he run for president and he is “entirely out of politics.” So I guess that settles that.

Name of the Day -100: the man to whom Hughes wrote those things, Rep. C. Bascom Slemp (R-Virginia).

Belgium rejects a German offer of a separate peace, passed through the papal nuncio to Belgium. Under the offer, they would get their king back and Germany would control Antwerp (and its port). (Follow-up: Belgium will soon deny that there was any such offer).

Elly Reuss, a 75-year-old Seventh Day Adventist in Germany, is sentenced by a military tribunal to 7 months for preaching that soldiers shouldn’t kill. On the sabbath. The other 6 days of the week, anything goes.

The US and Germany are still negotiating over the Lusitania.  It’s down to a single word. The US wants Germany to “recognize” its liability to pay indemnities for the deaths of Americans rather than “assume” that liability, in other words to make it a matter of international law rather than Germany paying up voluntarily out of the goodness of its heart.

Book of the Day -100: Theodore Roosevelt’s Fear God and Take Your Own Part. A collection of articles on subjects warlike,

it became a best-seller.

Another chivalric story of the Modern Day Knights of the Air™: A British aeroplane is brought down by a German plane and the captured pilot’s trousers are simply ruined. He makes such a fuss about it that the German pilot who shot him down gets back in his plane and drops a note over the British lines. An hour later a British plane drops a pair of trousers. Could this silly story possibly be true?

Following on from the panic (or whatever passes for panic in Canada) over the Germans who undoubtedly probably burned down the Parliament building comes a scare over just how many people of German parentage or even German birth there are in the Canadian government.

Headline of the Day -100:

That dude will eat anything. The former president tells a dinner of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs how when he was governor  of the Philippines he introduced baseball as a way to bore civilize the natives. He says it entirely converted mountain tribes from the Filipino National Pastime (head hunting) to the American one.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Today -100: February 9, 1916: Of settlements, bopps, anthems, and spies

The US and Germany seem to have reached an arrangement over the Lusitania. They will agree to disagree on whether Germany’s policy of reprisals (against the British blockade) is legal, but Germany will admit that the attack on the Lusitania was unjustified in that it involved the lives of citizens of neutral nations, and they won’t do it again.

Spoiler Alert: They will totally do it again.

A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicts German Consul General Franz Bopp for conspiracies to blow up ammunition factories and ships and for having a silly name. 31 others are also indicted, including the Turkish consul.

Kaiser Wilhelm has, in his copious free time, written a new national anthem. The one they’ve got has the same tune as the British “God Save the King.” Willy wants Richard Strauss to compose the music. You know, I don’t think he ever did.

The House of Representatives fires a telephone operator at its switchboard after he is accused of being a “Republican spy.”

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Today -100: February 8, 1916: Phew

The Mexican consul to the US denies reports that he has documents (among those left when Pancho Villa’s regime hastily retreated from Juarez) proving a plot between Villa and the Japanese to invade the United States.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Today -100: February 7, 1916: You can civilize the Mexicans without massacring them

Henry Ford, preparing a new, mysterious peace project, says that those calling the loudest for preparedness are also trying to get the US to invade Mexico. “In Mexico the problem easily can be solved by educating the people of that country to industry. ... You can civilize the Mexicans without massacring them.”

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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Today -100: February 6, 1916: The finger of God is beckoning us to go in and possess that land

Germany gives the US its “final” answer on the Lusitania. It complies with most of the US’s demands (reparations, not sinking civilian ships without warning in the future and letting the passengers and crew get to safety), but it won’t use the word “illegal” to describe the Lusitania sinking.

The NYT denounces the bill to give the Philippines independence as “a violation of the trust imposed upon them [the Senate] when possession of the Philippines was taken over from Spain by the McKinley Administration.” It does not explain who “imposed” that “trust” on them. That trust included “teach[ing] them the principles of free government,” because nothing teaches the principles of free government like colonial rule based on right of conquest. “The Filipinos themselves will in time protest against the withdrawal.” Any... day... now...

The Republican Club hears a talk by Ralph Ely, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Committee, calling for the US to annex Old Mexico: “The finger of God is beckoning us to go in and possess that land, for we are the chosen people of today.” The next speaker is W.E.B. Du Bois, who “made a rapid review of what he called injustices to the negroes in the South, and gave statistics of lynchings.” I love the NYT’s “what he called injustices.” So... balanced.

Former president Taft says that primaries are a terrible idea. “From a boss-ridden convention with deliberation you will get better candidates than you will through the primary.”

Inventor Maximilian Weil says battleships could deflect torpedoes with electro-magnets.

Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is performed at the Met on its 100th anniversary. Andrés de Segurola sings Don Basilio and Maria Barientos is Rosina. Rossini banged out the opera in a couple of weeks when he was 24, which is just plain annoying.

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Friday, February 05, 2016

Today -100: February 5, 1916: They put me in a cell with a murderer, a drunken man, and a white slaver

The Providence Journal, which is basically an arm of the British Secret Service’s propaganda branch at this point, claims to have given the US Justice Dept warning about a plot to burn down the Canadian Parliament Building. Justice denies this.

Canada arrests a suspect in that fire (which was not actually arson). Charles Strony, a Belgian classical violinist and conductor, will be quickly released. The only reason he fell under suspicion was that he happened to be leaving Ottawa for another gig. And he happened to have a postcard picture of the Parliament houses. At the time the fire started, he was performing at the Russell Theatre. “They put me in a cell with a murderer, a drunken man, and a white slaver and made me stand up for nine hours while they told me that I was a liar,” says Strony.

The Senate follows the House in voting for Philippines independence by 1921.

John Griffith, the passenger on the SS Appam with the pet leopard, is worried that the cat (whose name is Pompey), who is still aboard the ship, is moping.

Not sure what happened to Pompey. He may have wound up in a US zoo.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Today -100: February 4, 1916: I recognize no Collector

The Canadian Parliament Building in Ottawa is on fire. Naturally everyone thinks it was caused by a bomb. A German bomb. It wasn’t. The chief Liberal whip Frederick Forsyth Pardee is missing (he’s fine), several MPs were burned, and some of the building’s workers are dead.

Newport News, Virginia: All of the SS Appam’s crew and passengers have now left the ship, despite objections by their German captors and by the British ship’s owners, who would have preferred their employees to maintain a presence on the ship to support their claim that it doesn’t belong to the Germans because they brought it to a neutral port. My favorite moment: Lt Berg, in command of the German prize crew, asks the British vice consul, who wants to board, by whose authority he comes. “By that of the United States Collector of Customs.” “I recognize no Collector.”

Some of the British sailors aboard the Appam were from other ships attacked by the Möwe. One of them, First Engineer Gow of the Dromonby, has now survived three close encounters with the Germans, having previously been on two ships that were sunk. “I’ve had almost enough of this business of trying to make a living on the seas.”

Also on board the Appam: someone’s pet leopard, which he’s trying to get returned to him.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Today -100: February 3, 1916: Of child labor and Philippines independence

The House passes a bill to ban interstate shipping of products produced by child labor (that is, children under 14 in factories, 16 in mines, or 16 if they work at night or more than 8 hours a day). The chief opposition comes from Southerners, since cotton mills are a major employer of minors. The Keating-Owen Act will become law, only to be overturned in 1918 by the Supreme Court, which ruled that, while the interstate commerce clause allows Congress to regulate inherently immoral products like liquor and whores, cotton is not immoral and Congress doesn’t have the power to overrule states with crappy child labor laws.

The Senate votes 41 to 41 for independence for the Philippines in 1921. VP Marshall casts the deciding vote in favor.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Today -100: February 2, 1916: Of appams, le suffrage des morts, trains, and busy intersections

A British steamship, the SS Appam, which was captured off the coast of Africa by a German cruiser while making a run from Dakar to Liverpool and is now under the command of a small German prize crew, arrives at Hampton Roads, Virginia, where they’ve brought it because they couldn’t take it back to Germany through the British blockade. (Ah, perhaps there were only 22 Germans because they expected to be interned for the duration of the war in the US. The Appam’s crew won’t be interned because they were not combatants. International law is weird). They’re hoping the US will recognize their claim that the Appam is now an auxiliary of the German navy, subject to internment, because if it’s ruled a prize of war it will be ordered to leave, at which point the British navy could easily recapture it. In fact, the case will wend through the courts and the Supreme Court will rule in 1917 (before the US entry into the war) that belligerents had no right to just deposit spoils of war in US ports, beyond the time necessary to make them seaworthy. The Appam’s passengers include Sir Edward Meriwether, the governor of British Sierra Leone.

Britain denies that it’s secretly negotiating a separate peace with Germany. It’s funny how often one country or another has to deny having any interest in peace.

Right-wing French journalist Maurice Barrès calls for votes for women. Actually, he calls for widows and mothers of dead soldiers to get the vote to represent them, which he calls “le suffrage des morts.”

Headline of the Day -100:

In Grinnell, Iowa, Woodrow Wilson stops his train from backing over five girls.

Supposedly, one of the Montenegrin generals who signed the surrender has been assassinated.

The Fifth Avenue Association claims that the intersection of 5th Ave and 42nd Street in NYC is the busiest highway crossing in the world, surpassing Charing Cross in London. They counted 1,149 vehicles going south in a one-hour period (in the afternoon). The Association says that 92% of 5th Ave’s vehicles are now motorized as opposed to horse-propelled.

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Monday, February 01, 2016

Today -100: February 1, 1916: Loyalty is first

The Packard Motor Car Company announces that in future only American citizens (or foreigners who are in the process of applying for citizenship) will receive promotions to positions of responsibility and trust. “Loyalty is first” is the Packard motto.

At one of his “preparedness” talks, in Chicago, Woodrow Wilson says the army currently “is not large enough even for the ordinary duties of peace.” The navy is great, though.

The number of automobiles in New York City has increased to 60,000 from 40,000 in the previous registration year.

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