Saturday, December 31, 2016

Today -100: December 31, 1916: less an offer of peace than a war maneuver

There is some dispute over the results of the Arizona gubernatorial election, and a recount is still going on, so Thomas Campbell (R) takes the oath of office. Aaaaand so does the incumbent governor, George Hunt (D). I foresee hijinks.

The Entente countries respond to Germany’s call for talks, saying that an end to the war at this stage would be to the advantage only of the aggressors (they mean the Germans, because we’re still playing the “But you started it” game). “A mere suggestion, without a statement of terms, that negotiations should be opened, is not an offer of peace. The putting forward by the Imperial government of a sham proposal lacking all substance and precision would appear to be less an offer of peace than a war maneuver.”

There is talk that Germany might disclose its war aims/peace terms in confidence to Woodrow Wilson, who would then act as go-between or something.

The meeting of the psychology section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Columbia, decides not to have a Serb, Prof. Paul Radosavljevich, read his paper on “The Psychology of the German People.” He’s going along with their story that it was cut because of length. (To be fair, it sounds like the sort of intellectual horseshit you’d expect from someone specializing in “race psychology”).

Eduard Strauss, Austrian composer of waltzes and polkas, conductor, and brother of Johann II and Josef, dies.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Today -100: December 30, 1916: Of mad monks, paper, and mail tubes

It’ll take a few days for the news to get out of Russia (indeed, for the body to be found), but Rasputin is assassinated today by a party of aristocrats at the Yusupov Palace. The official investigation was cut short by the tsar and the stories of the participants varied, but he doesn’t seem to have been as hard to kill as the legends suggest: a few bullets did it.

The Scandinavian countries support Wilson’s peace proposal.

Former French Prime Minister Joseph Caillaux is in Italy, trying to get it to join France in making a separate peace. He’s not getting very far. And the pope refused to see him.

Paper manufacturers refuse to answer questions from the Federal Trade Commission about why newsprint prices are suddenly so high.

NY Mayor Mitchel protests to Congress the plans to end pneumatic mail tubes, which he says would add to traffic congestion by increasing the number of mail trucks, and those things drive crazy, yo.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Today -100: December 29, 1916: Of conscription, progressives, and toddling

The US War Department claims that in the event of war, state national guards have the power under existing law to conscript any man aged 18 to 45.

In the November election, the Progressive Party failed to get the 10,000 votes required to stay on the New York ballot, so it’s closing up its offices and selling off the furniture.

Headline of the Day -100:

It’s a dance.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Today -100: December 28, 1916: Of failed negotiations and national registration

Carranza rejects the agreement made between US and Mexican negotiators. The protocols would have had the US expedition leave in 40 days unless something came up. Carranza believes this would just be an incentive for Villa to embarrass him by making something come up. Also, if Mexico agreed to a delay in the US leaving, it would amount to an affirmative agreement to the illegal US occupation. You can see his point.

Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden is proposing a system of national registration but says it’s not intended to lead to conscription, unless it does.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Today -100: December 27, 1916: Of nations in bondage, leagues of nation, birth control, and mad monks

Headline of the Day -100:

Arthur Henderson arguing against peace to the French socialists, who seem strangely interested. “If we enter into negotiations now we do so when Germany is not repentant for her wrongdoing and is glorifying in the success of her military efforts, in fact, in the victory of German imperialism. In my opinion, if France and ourselves were to enter into negotiations under existing conditions, with such a spirit, we should be nations in bondage. Nothing less than that is the price which our enemy would exact for peace today.”

Germany has responded to Wilson’s note, promising to talk about measures to prevent future wars – after Germany has won this one. It has not responded to his request to spell out its peace terms/war aims.

The White House is denying that Wilson’s idea of a league of nations would entail US involvement in a military force intended to intervene to stop wars & invasions. No, he’s thinking more along the lines of international arbitration and “moral force.” Still, it’s alarming enough to many in Congress that Wilson thinks he can unilaterally commit the US to arbitrating its disagreements with other countries. Why, Rep. John Rogers (R-Mass.) points out, we might even be forced to arbitrate our racist immigration laws.

The Medical Society of the County of New York votes 210 to 72 against calling for birth control to be legalized. There were only six women doctors at the meeting; they all voted in favor of birth control.

Iliodor, the Mad Monk of Russia, well the other Mad Monk of Russia (little-known fact I just made up: the collective term for monk is a “madness of monks”), who fled to the US six months ago, says that his frenemy Rasputin now supports Russia making a separate peace, probably because of German bribery. Iliodor will publish articles next month in The Day, a Yiddish newspaper, and doesn’t seem to mind being bylined as The Mad Monk of Russia.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Today -100: December 26, 1916: Of infernal devices

Someone tries to blow up Utah Gov. William Spry’s home, but the device is discovered accidentally by a neighbor shoveling snow. Authorities suspect the IWW, as was the custom.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Today -100: December 25, 1916: Somewhere in France blood is flowing

The French Senate unanimously rejects peace talks as long as there are German soldiers still on French soil.

Opening today: Cecil B. DeMille’s Joan the Woman, the Joan being Joan of Arc, played by opera singer Geraldine Farrar, who is also currently signing Madame Butterfly at the Met. The movie has a framing story set in the trenches of the Great War in which a soldier – an English soldier, curiously – discovers a sword and has a dream about Joan, or something. In this version, Joan has a boyfriend!

Also opening today: Snow White, with Marguerite Clark in the title role. You can watch the rather gorgeously restored version here.

And it’s the Grand Xmas Double Number of the trench newspaper The Wipers Times (now the B.E.F. Times). “Between ourselves I think the least said about ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to man’ the better, when most of the inhabitants of this planet are trying to ‘put it across’ someone or other in the most unpleasant way that lies handy.”

The poem “Gone” commemorates the dead of the 73rd Brigade, the brigadier, transport officer, etc, with the refrain “We ne’er shall forget his cheery face, Tho’ we’ve got another to take his place.”

And here’s the poem “Shattered Illusions”

It may be love that makes the world go round,
Yet with the statement oft I disagree;
It was not love (on that I’ll bet a pound)
That, last night, made the world revolve round me.
I cannot bring my mind to realise
That love inspired friend Fritz, when he propelled
A Minnie* of a most terrific size
In my direction, so, I had him shelled.

*Minnie: trench mortar (Minenwerfer)

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Today -100: December 24, 1916: Of leagues and leagues

Secretary of State Lansing says that Wilson’s peace proposals might lead to the US joining some sort of league of nations to keep the peace.

Opening today: Stuart Paton’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a special-effects extravaganza, with Allen Holubar as Nemo. The ads say it’s “the ONLY photo drama actually photographed at the bottom of the ocean.” In the Caribbean, the exact same location used by Disney’s 1954 James Mason version.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Trump’s brain

The problem is that Trump is very clear about how he thinks, and we just didn’t believe him because it’s, you know, crazy. During the campaign he kept talking about how other candidates didn’t look “presidential” of have a “presidential look,” and we just thought it was a looks- or gender-based insult, but Trump actually thought he was making a logical argument, as we now realize when we read that he rejected certain cabinet choices based entirely on appearance – that said, I wouldn’t want to have to stare at John Bolton’s mustache across a conference table either. Many people are subconsciously swayed by appearance, of course, but Trump will just say it out loud like it’s a legitimate category of analysis.

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Today -100: December 23, 1916: Terror and savagery have become the very air we breathe

Rep. W.R. Wood (R-Indiana) wants an investigation into reports that Woodrow Wilson’s letter to the belligerent powers was leaked in advance to stock speculators.

The Germans have been rather pleased with Wilson’s letter, taking it as reinforcing their own call for peace talks, which the White House strenuously denies was the intention.

King George V gives a speech which is seen as a big No to Wilson, saying “The vigorous prosecution of the war must be our single endeavour until we have vindicated the rights so ruthlessly violated by our enemies and established the security of Europe on a sure foundation.”

Bertrand Russell evades British censorship by sending a letter by a mysterious female messenger to the American Neutral Conference Committee, which will pass it on to Pres. Wilson. Russell asks Wilson to intervene to stop the war before it destroys European civilization. He says that the Germans dominate on the mainland, the Allies on sea, and so neither can win a decisive, crushing victory. He says the war has lowered “the whole standard of civilisation. ... Fear has invaded man’s inmost being, and with fear has come the ferocity that always attends it. Hatred has become the rule of life, and injury to others is more desired than benefit to ourselves. ... Terror and savagery have become the very air we breathe. The liberties which our ancestors won by centuries of struggle were sacrificed in a day, and all the nations are regimented to the one ghastly end of mutual destruction.”

Charles Evans Hughes, who resigned from the Supreme Court for his failed run for the presidency, is back before it,  as a lawyer for the Corn Products Company, something about stock dividends. I’m sure it was in no way awkward.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Today -100: December 22, 1916: Of camels, borahs, POWs, and shylocks

First flight of the Sopwith Camel. After being consistently outflown by German planes, the British finally have a decent fighter, or will have when they’re introduced into battle in a few months (although they are a pain in the ass to learn to fly).

The Allies demand that Greece give them control of its telegraphs, posts and railroads, release all Venizelos prisoners, and ban all meetings of army reservists.

Sen. William Borah (R-Idaho) blocks a Senate vote of support for Wilson’s letter to the belligerents. He says the Senate just hadn’t had enough time to consider it. Evidently they’re just hearing about this whole “war” thing for the first time and don’t have an opinion on it yet.

Germany gets Russia to stop using German POWs to build a railroad under harsh conditions by the simple expedient of reprisals against Russian POWs, as was the custom.

Sarah Bernhardt plays Shylock at the Empire Theatre in NYC.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Today -100: December 21, 1916: They seem the same on both sides

Woodrow Wilson writes to leaders of the European belligerents asking them to state their peace terms. “The leaders of the several belligerents have, as has been said, stated those objects in general terms. But, stated in general terms, they seem the same on both sides. Never yet have the authoritative spokesmen of either side avowed the precise objects which would, if attained, satisfy them and their people that the war had been fought out. The world has been left to conjecture what definitive results, what actual exchange of guarantees, what political or territorial changes or readjustments, what stage of military success even, would bring the war to an end.” He not so subtly hints that they ask him to mediate.

Chicago psychic Elmira Brockway is in jail in England, the victim of a recent crackdown on fortune-tellers preying on soldiers’ families. Which I only include so I can mention a similar case in 1944, in which Helen Duncan became the last person sent to prison in Britain for witchcraft.

France asks Cuba to see if any part of the island is being used as a secret German submarine base.

Headline of the Day -100:

A NY Supreme Court justice rules that movie theaters can remain open on Sundays because the NY blue law was enacted before the advent of moving pictures and so can’t apply to them.

And a NY magistrate refuses to issue arrest warrants for some actors who danced on Sundays. “What harm is there in a little dancing?” asks Magistrate Murphy. “The women wear abbreviated costumes, which are varicolored,” answers Detective Turk, but to no avail. “This is New York, and not Hohokus [New Jersey]” observes Magistrate Murphy.

A lawyer named Albert Reese sues his West 160th Street apartment building for its rule that babies are only allowed to use the freight elevator and the freight entrance (which is down 3 steps) rather than the main entrance, although dogs may use the main entrance, as is only right and proper.

(Update: Supreme Court Justice Nathan Bijur agrees with Mr. Reese).

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Today -100: December 20, 1916: No one is duped by Germany’s manoeuver

French Prime Minister Aristide Briand says the Allies will offer a united rejection of Germany’s proposal for peace talks. “No one is duped by Germany’s manoeuver,” he says. He rejects the idea that the war was imposed on Germany, insisting that Germany, in fact, decided on this war 40 years ago, it’s on their Google Calendar and everything.

David Lloyd George has been prime minister for a while but he’s been too ill for public appearances. Now makes a speech to Parliament pissing on Germany’s offer of peace talks. “There has been some talk about the proposals of peace. What are those proposals? There are none.” (He’s not wrong). And going to a conference without having seen German proposals in advance would be “putting our heads into a noose with the rope end in the hands of the Germans.” He says Britain’s terms are “restitution, reparation, guarantees against repetition,” which is a B- attempt at alliteration.

Lloyd George will set up a registration for national non-military service under Birmingham mayor Neville Chamberlain, possibly leading to industrial conscription if enough volunteers do not come forward.

Prohibition fails in the Boston elections, by a larger margin than last year. And the Senate deadlocks on whether to hold a referendum on prohibition in Washington DC. Before the measure failed, an amendment was accepted to let women vote in the referendum.

Headline of the Day -100:

French flying ace Louis Robert de Beauchamp, who died a couple of weeks ago, is said to have done this last year.

Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington arrives in New York. She plans to tell the American people all about how the Brits murdered her husband during the Easter Rising in Dublin. The authorities refused her a passport, but she got here anyway. “I used my experience as a suffragette, and as one who has been in jail and knows the stupidity of the English policemen, to elude the spies and come to New York City”.

Australia bans the Industrial Workers of the World.

Stanley Millstein and Charles Kumrow, young men (19 and 20) convicted for murder (separate murders) insisted on being executed early so their funerals could be held before Christmas.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Today -100: December 19, 1916: Of high treason, press conferences, conscription and prohibition

The Greek king’s government issues an arrest warrant for Eleftherios Venizelos for high treason and libeling the army’s general staff.

Woodrow Wilson will resume his weekly meeting with reporters, which he suspended after the Lusitania sinking. However, reporters will not be allowed to ask about the war.

Wilson celebrates the first anniversary of his second marriage.

The chief of staff of the US Army, Maj. Gen. Hugh Scott, and Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood tell a Senate sub-committee that there should be a universal (male) draft and universal (still male) military training. They say that the mobilization of the national guards on the Mexican border was a shambles and shows that any program of national defense can’t rely on state militias. Walter Fisher, who was Taft’s interior secretary, says military recruit problems could be solved by paying soldiers more, but Scott and Wood dismiss that as crazy talk: forced labor is so much cheaper. In fact, Wood objects to paying anything at all, because that just destroys the feeling of national obligation. He also thinks universal suffrage would cut the murder rate to one-tenth its current level, I think by integrating immigrants.

New York Governor Charles Whitman (R) comes out in favor of prohibition. Democrats are expected to respond by demanding an audit of the expenses of Whitman’s junket to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco on a train said to have seen its fair share of drinking (at public expense).

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Today -100: December 18, 1916: Of peace talks, scabs, and police stations

The Frankfurter Zeitung says that the Central Powers’ proposal is simply for a conference at which all sides state their peace proposals. This is something everyone’s been notably unwilling to do.

Cuba is deporting scabs who were hired in Chicago to work on the Cuban railroad. They were evidently not told they were to be strikebreakers, and many are now stranded in Cuba.

A Boston police station is dynamited, possibly in retaliation for police actions against labor meetings.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Today -100: December 17, 1916: Of Christmas candy and ivy offspring

Italy bans the making of candy or cake for two weeks and the sending of candy or cake through the mails or by rail, because they don’t want people sending them to soldiers for Christmas, because they’re mean.

The birth rate among Harvard and Yale male graduates (which are the only kind they have, of course) is declining.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Today -100: December 16, 1916: Of adjustment by peaceful means

The Russian Duma votes unanimously to reject Germany’s offer for peace talks (not that the Duma has any say about that).

Former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan asks Lloyd George to agree to the talks. “All international disputes are capable of adjustment by peaceful means,” he says.

Britain bans the manufacturing of hairpins. The metal is needed for war stuff.

The Mexican Constitutional Assembly votes to re-legalize clergy teaching (in private schools only). (This will be reversed in a couple of days, or maybe this story is just wrong).

Pancho Villa offers to leave foreigners in Mexico alone in exchange for the US Army leaving him alone.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Today -100: December 15, 1916: Of virgin islands

The Danish people vote almost 2 to 1 to support the sale of the Danish West Indies to the United States.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Today -100: December 14, 1916: Of regents and picture brides

The Teutonic states have picked Austrian Archduke Karl Stephan as regent for their Polish puppet state (PPS) and presumably its eventual king. He speaks Polish, so he’s totally qualified.

An amendment to the Senate’s immigration bill banning “picture brides” is defeated  (that’s a Japanese mail-order, arranged marriage thing, with the actual marriage conducted in Japan before they’ve met, which is a legal form of marriage in Japan but not in the US, but the picture brides have been sliding past immigration, then very quickly doing a second wedding ceremony here).

An amendment to ban people who intend to work here temporarily and then return home passes.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Today -100: December 13, 1916: The empire is not a besieged fortress

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg announces proposals for peace talks. And, er, that’s it. No proposed date, no proposed truce, no proposed peace terms. Germany is making a big deal of this. The Central Powers believe this is a good time for it, what with the conquest of Romania upsetting the Entente’s strategy on the eastern front. B-H says, “The spectre of famine, which our enemies intended to appear before us, now pursues them without mercy” thanks to the u-boat campaign. This is what the war has come to: bragging about starving out civilian populations. “The empire is not a besieged fortress, as our adversaries imagined, but one gigantic and firmly disciplined camp with inexhaustible resources.”

No one thinks this is much more than a PR stunt aimed at neutral nations, or that anything will come of it. One theory: when it’s rejected by the Entente, Germany will pretend to be justified in removing all restrictions on submarine warfare. Another theory: Austria’s new emperor is behind this.

Headline of the Day -100:

Well, there’s nothing Germans enjoy more than a good death grapple. Except maybe a Snapple.

France names a war council, consisting of Prime Minister Aristide Briand, Finance Minister Alexandre Ribot, War Minister Hubert Lyautey (former governor of Morocco - he’ll have to get to France by submarine – and born in the Lost Province of Lorraine), Marine Minister Rear Admiral  Marie-Jean-Lucien Lacaze, and Minister of Armaments Albert Thomas (a socialist).

The US Senate alters the wording of the immigration bill to ban Japanese and Indians without mentioning race or nationality, only geographic origin, in order not to insult Japan and provoke it into ending the “gentlemen’s agreement” whereby Japan prevents emigration to the US. Sen. James Reed (D-Missouri)’s amendment to ban African negroes loses 37-32.

The Postmaster General wants to discontinue the use of mail tubes in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and St Louis. Those cities object because “mail tubes are fucking awesome, dude!”

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Today -100: December 12, 1916: Of traitors, dark forces, offended Japanese, and controlled meat

Pierre Brizon, a socialist deputy in the French Parliament, tells it that France should not fight just so Russia can acquire Constantinople. Shouts of “Traitor” follow and accusations of being paid by Germany and Brizon throws a glass at some deputies. Which isn’t the most pacific act a pacifist could do.

The Russian Duma demands a new government responsible to it rather than to the czar, and a purging of “dark forces” such as pro-Germans, Rasputin and oh so many dark forces.

Germany levies a $10 million “tax” on Bucharest.

The Senate is again discussing a literacy requirement for immigrants (which Wilson promises to veto). It went behind closed doors “to prevent giving offense to Japan through anything that might be said in debate” because the Senate is just classy like that. James Vardaman (D-Mississippi) offers an amendment for the Supreme Court to be asked whether the 14th and 15th Amendments were properly adopted.

Dirty-Sounding Headline of the Day -100:

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Today -100: December 11, 1916: Of cabinets and kings and movies on Sunday

Lloyd George’s Cabinet is announced. The leaders in the Commons and Lords will be Bonar Law and Lord Curzon, both Tories, respectively. They will be joined in the War Cabinet by Arthur Henderson (Labour) and Lord Milner (C). Balfour will be foreign minister, the Earl of Derby war secretary. Curzon and Milner are both former colonial governors (and prominent opponents of women’s suffrage). When Brits talk about the need for men who know how to get things done, they’re often talking about men with experience keeping natives in their place.

The Entente powers have been putting all the blame for Greece not meekly rolling over for them on King Constantine and are talking about deposing him and replacing him with 8-year-old alliterative Prince Pierre. And pro-Germans in Romania are talking about replacing King Ferdinand with his brother, Prince Wilhelm.

Movie theater owners in Schenectady, New York are resisting the Sunday closing law. 9 owners have been arrested.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Today -100: December 10, 1916: Of war cabinets, evening clothes, and tanks

The French are considering following the Brits and establishing a small war cabinet.

France bans women wearing evening clothes in public.

Germany is using something like tanks in Romania. But much better than those shabby British tanks, the Germans say. They sound more like armored cars than proper tanks to me.

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Friday, December 09, 2016

Today -100: December 9, 1916: I have come to punish your felon of a King

Prospective and actual members of Lloyd George’s new government are being discussed, and everyone hates someone. The Northcliffe paper The Times complains that Arthur Balfour, the possible next foreign minister, would be misplaced in a post “where ruthlessness is needed.” The Daily Mail (another Northcliffe paper) warns against Robert Cecil, the under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, being too much a “sentimentalist” with “tenderness for neutrals” to be in charge of the naval blockade of Germany.

Asquith says pathetically that he can best serve the new government outside the Cabinet, with “the sole object of lending such help as I can to the new government in the great task confronting them.”

The Liberal Party is now strongly divided between followers of Asquith and Lloyd George, whose government therefore depends heavily on Conservative support. The Liberal Party will never recover.

Germany believes that the conquest of Romania, with its vast wheat fields, will win the war by defeating the British blockade. Some of that wheat was intended for export to Britain, which had already paid for it. Germans will be chortling about that little irony for some time to come. Who doesn’t love free wheat?

Germany says that it was necessary to deport all those Belgians to Germany for forced labor because they were all unemployed (actually, Germany has been going after specific categories of employed workers it needs, like miners, employed or not), which is totally Britain’s fault, and all those unemployed people were “degenerating” into drunkenness and social depravity, as was the custom.

Germany and Austria decree the creation of a provisional national council for their truncated Polish puppet state. Presumably all 25 members will be appointed by the Germans and Austrians, and they will be “conversant with the wishes and needs of the Polish nation and by reason of their position in life competent to represent all classes of the population.”

Headline of the Day -100:

King Ferdinand’s brother, who is unnamed in the article and could be either Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern or Prince Wilhelm, who renounced his right to succeed to the Romanian throne 30 years ago, issues a proclamation: “Compose yourselves. Go on with your business. I have come to punish your felon of a King.” (Update: Wilhelm, I’m pretty sure, though both brothers are serving in the German army).

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Today -100: December 8, 1916: Of masculine boldness and effrontery

The first National Anti-Suffrage convention opens in Washington DC. A letter from ex-Sen. Elihu Root is read out saying that a federal women’s suffrage constitutional amendment, imposing women’s suffrage on states that didn’t want it (that is, whose men voted against it), would constitute “intolerable tyranny” which would ultimately destroy the nation. Cardinal Gibbons also sends a message, saying suffrage would “rob woman of her grace of character and give her nothing in return but masculine boldness and effrontery.” And lots more horseshit along those lines.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Today -100: December 7, 1916: Of fallen capitals, prime ministers, généralissimos, and the greatest enemy of the home

Bucharest falls.

David Lloyd George becomes prime minister, although it is unclear if he’ll be able to form a government.

French Gen. Joseph Joffre is being kicked upstairs, promoted to Marshal (maréchal) of France, a title which hasn’t been given in decades (and not at all under the Third Republic) and given new responsibilities in control of, he will soon discover, nothing. Gen. Philippe Pétain is being considered to take over from Joffre as généralissimo, but he’s demanding authority over all Allied forces in France, which the British would never agree to. So instead the job will go to Robert Nivelle.

Evidently Germany is deporting Russian Poles for forced labor in Germany, and has been for some time, but a lot less is known about this than about the Belgians.

William Jennings Bryan says the Democratic Party has to support prohibition, it “cannot hesitate to choose the home against the greatest enemy that has arisen to menace it.” He warns against proposals by railroads to remove the power of states to regulate them and give exclusive control to Congress, as “lead[ing] to a centralization which would threaten the very existence of our dual form of government.”

Hans Richter, the foremost conductor of Richard Wagner operas and Brahams, dies in Bayreuth. He seems to have made no recordings, so we’ll just have to take the word of contemporaries that he was pretty good.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Today -100: December 6, 1916: Of asquiths, states of the union, babbling blackguards, dieting Chicagoites, and old princesses

Herbert Asquith, who has been prime minister of Britain since 1908, resigns in an ill-designed power play. He suggests that the king ask Tory leader Andrew Bonar Law to form a government, but refuses Bonar Law’s request to serve as Lord High Chancellor under him. Bonar Law concludes that without Asquith and the Asquithians (yes, that’s a thing) he would not have sufficient support in Parliament and so declines to be prime minister (he may also have assumed that Lloyd George would fail). Asquith thinks this means no one else but him can be prime minister. He is wrong.

Sir Edward Carson, the Ulster Unionist who is likely to come out of all this with a greater role, is said to be suggesting a deal for a Home Rule Parliament for Ireland, including Northern Ireland (although only for 3 years) in exchange for conscription in Ireland. Carson will deny this.

The British Board of Trade bans restaurants from serving dinners with more than three courses. War is hell. Slimming, but hell.

Woodrow Wilson’s State of the Union address is quite staid, ignoring any interesting subjects like anything relating to foreign affairs. He proposes increasing the size of the Interstate Commerce commission, compulsory investigations of industrial disputes before strikes (Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, says unions “will not tamely submit” to this), and authority for the president to control railroads and conscript, essentially, their workers for military purposes.

Suffragists of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage hang a banner from the public gallery asking “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?” It was visible briefly, right in Wilson’s eye-line (he is said to have smiled at it), before an assistant doorkeeper/banner-wrangler tore it down.

The president of the Russian Duma, Mikhail Rodzianko, resigns after Right-wing anti-Semite Nikolai Markov calls him a “babbling blackguard.” The Duma votes to exclude Markov for 15 sessions and then re-elects Rodzianko.

The “diet squad” of 12 Chicago Health Department employees complete the two-week experiment in living on 40¢ worth of food a day (everything was going so well that it was reduced to 30¢). They have collectively gained 45 pounds. With nutrition science in its infancy, that seems to be their only metric. Or maybe it’s just a Chicago thing.

Headline of the Day -100:

Worst. Disney. Movie. Ever.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Today -100: December 5, 1916: We are not winning the war

The Allies are putting the blame for skirmishes between Greek and French troops in Athens last week on King Constantine. To punish Greece, they freeze the movement of all Greek ships, and are considering other measures.

Headline of the Day -100:

German Foreign Minister Zimmermann feels nothing but sympathy for the rights of small nations.

Elsewhere, Germany bombards Bucharest.

The Manchester Guardian says “we are not winning the war and... with the present methods of waging the war, we shall never win it.”

The head of a board appointed by NY Gov. Charles Whitman calls for the 90-year-old Sing Sing Prison to be torn down.

Sing Sing is still in operation today.

The NYT has an editorial about the Dominican Republic, in which the US recently declared martial law. The editorial is titled “Unselfish Intervention,” because of course it is.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Today -100: December 4, 1916: Of yokes of Germanism and rinks

British Prime Minister Asquith will see the king about restructuring the government. David Lloyd George, Secretary of State for War, and several Tories including Andrew Bonar Law and Arthur Balfour, are threatening to resign if a small War Cabinet is not appointed, preferably without Asquith as a member even if he remains as prime minister. The wily Welshman is finally making his move, supported by a months-long vilification of Asquith by the Northcliffe press.

The French Parliament is in secret session, discussing god knows what.

Carranza’s forces re-take the city of Chihuahua from Pancho Villa. Or to put it another way, Villa’s forces looted the city and left (there was a story early on that his men “mistakenly” got the idea that looting was okay because he had some pharmacies broken into looking for medicine for his injuries, but he put a stop to it by executing a couple of his men, but c’mon, when has Pancho Villa taking a town ever not been followed by looting? I have now said the word looting too many times, and it just sounds weird. Looting. Looting. Looooooting.) Despite Villa’s talk about killing all foreigners, Americans were spared. Chinese not so much.

Russia’s new Prime Minister, Alexander Fyodorovitch Trepov, informs the Duma that last year its allies promised Russia it could keep the Dardanelles and Constantinople. Hostile members of the Duma prevented him speaking for 15 minutes, until 12 of them were voted expelled. He has plans to introduce compulsory education for the first time. He says, “The war must be crowned by victory, not only over the enemy without, but the enemy within. The war has opened the eyes of the people, and they realize now that Russian industry, education, science and art have been under the yoke of Germanism.”

Charlie Chaplin’s The Rink opens.

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Today -100: December 3, 1916: Peace cannot come so long as the destinies of men are determined by small groups who make selfish choices of their own

Pennsylvania bans films which show criminals at work, including safecracking, white slavery and tying women to tracks. Also prize fights.

Woodrow Wilson turns on the Statue of Liberty’s new exterior lights. Lady L is now lit up at night for the first time. Funding comes in part from Ralph Pulitzer and the readers of the New York World.

At the ceremony, Wilson talks about the European war, saying that “peace cannot come so long as the destinies of men are determined by small groups who make selfish choices of their own.”

After some amount of fighting, the Greeks agree to surrender most of their heavy artillery to the French.

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Friday, December 02, 2016

Mad Dog

Trump actually called James Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog” when introducing him as his nominee for secretary of defense because, let’s face it, when they handed him a list of possibles, he stopped when he got to the nickname, pointed a stubby finger at the page and shouted “That’s the guy!”

Much has been made of M.D. not being a torture advocate. His position on war crimes is another matter. In the Bush years he routinely intervened to stop trials of marines for murdering civilians and other atrocities and to overturn sentences. The case I particularly followed was that of a group of marines who decided to form a rogue death squad and sneak off base at night to go out hunting for a suspected insurgent. Well, he wasn’t home, so they decided that the next best thing was just to grab and kill any random Iraqi they could find, who turned out to be an invalided former cop (and grandfather of four) who happened to live next door, Hashim Ibrahim Awad or Awad the Lame as he was known. Mattis decided that this murder wasn’t worth more than 17 months in prison (including time awaiting trial).

There are other reasons Mattis would be a bad secretary of war (at least Trump isn’t bringing Rummy out of retirement), including the important principle for a democracy of civilian leadership of the military, but his repeated acts in support of impunity for war crimes should be quite enough to demonstrate his unfitness for the office.

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Today -100: December 2, 1916: Germany will not be deprived of the sharp weapon

The US attorney general orders an inquiry into whether recent food price increases are the result of illegal combinations. The government is trying to head off calls in Congress to ban food exports.

Germany will ignore Norway’s ban on armed submarines. Says the German ambassador, “Germany will not be deprived of the sharp weapon she possessed in the submarine.”

Supposedly, Villa gave a speech in Chihuahua City saying he intended to kill all foreigners and take their land.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The Morning Post (London) claims Germany offered peace in exchange for a free hand in Latin America. Minister of War Lord Cecil denies having heard of such a proposal.

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Today -100: December 1, 1916: Of disarmed armies, martial law, chihuahuas, and turkeys

King Constantine rejects the Allied demand that the Greek army turn over all its artillery and most of its weapons and ammunition.

The US declares martial law in the Dominican Republic.

Pancho Villa’s followers drive Carranza’s forces from Chihuahua City, possibly because the latter ran out of ammunition.

Headline of the Day -100:

Yes it does, yes it does.

After a long delay, the Wipers Times, now called the B.E.F. Times, has a new issue. Here’s a poem from it, entitled “The War Lord and the Chancellor (With apologies to the late Lewis Carrol),” the “war lord” being Kaiser Wilhelm and the chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg)

The War Lord and the Chancellor
 Were walking hand in hand;
They laughed like anything to see
 The devastated land;
“If this belonged to us,” they said,
 “It really would be grand.”

“If fifty Huns with fifty guns,
 Swept it for half a year;
Do you suppose,” the War Lord said,
 “That vict’ry would be near?”
“I doubt it,” said the Chancellor,
  And shed a bitter tear.

“You always were a pessimist,”
 The frowning War Lord said;
“Oh! Highest One it is because
 I always look ahead;
Before this War is finished you
 And I will both be dead.”

“Don’t talk like that I do beseech,”
 The War Lord wailed aloud;
“To win this War by any means,
 You know that I have vowed;
With Zeppelins and submarines,
 And waves of poison cloud.”

“Oh! chuck it Bill,” the Chancellor
 Said with a rueful air,
“You know quite well with ‘frightfulness’
 We’ve tried them everywhere.
And got it back with interest.”
 Bill glared and tore his hair.

He danced with rage, he howled and swore,
 And vowed that he would see
That Army so contemptible
 Would very quickly be
By every kind of “frightfulness”
 Sent to eternity.

The Chancellor spoke loud and long,
 With rhetoric inspired;
He spoke of love, and peace, and food,
 He spoke till he was tired;
And when he paused he turned around –
 The War Lord had expired!

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