Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Today -100: February 28, 1917: They probably did not think the Germans quite as murderous as I did

William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson’s former secretary of state, will fight his request for the power to arm ships and “other instrumentalities and methods.” It’s about Congress not surrendering its power, he says.

The NYT scoffs at congressional Republican demands for an extra session of Congress during this slightly dangerous time: “Their zeal for the constitutional powers of Congress and their dread of Executive despotism are but postures. In the extremity of their partisanship they care more for Republican tactics than for the protection of American shipping and lives. They are more jealous of the power of the President than of the honor of the country.”

Austin Hoy, whose sister and mother were killed when that German u-boat sank the Laconia, demands that Woodrow Wilson avenge them. AVEEEEEENGE THEEEEEM! He says if the US goes to war he’ll join the army. If not, he’ll join the British or French army (“If [the US] stultifies my manhood and my nation’s by remaining passive under outrage, I shall seek a man’s chance under another flag,” he manfully cables Wilson, and I was just going to comment about how dirty “seek a man’s chance under another flag” sounds, until I realized I’d written that Hoy “cabled” Wilson. He says he wired to his mother and sister not to risk the crossing, but they wanted to get back to London while the getting was still good and “They probably did not think the Germans quite as murderous as I did.”

The sinking of the Laconia is reportedly regarded by the Wilson administration as the “overt act” that constitutes crossing Wilson’s red line. This doesn’t mean Woodrow plans to declare war but to use the powers he asked Congress for “in a way that will make Germany realize that the United States means business.”

And Germany is evidently not releasing the prisoners (including Americans) seized from the Yarrowdale after all. Not still holding them hostage against the treatment of German sailors in the US, oh no, the Germans claim to have detected an unnamed infectious disease in their detention camp, necessitating a quarantine.

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg is not happy with the US’s position: “I cannot possibly consider it a vital question for the American nation to protect international law in a one-sided fashion, only against us.” He’s got a point, sort of. He says that unrestricted submarine warfare is totally working and will totally defeat Britain and will be continued.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Today -100: February 27, 1917: Armed neutrality

Woodrow Wilson asks a joint session of Congress to allow him to arm American merchant ships and “employ such other instrumentalities and methods as may in his judgment and discretion seem necessary and adequate” to protect those ships. Which is too vague and blank-checky for some Republicans, although Wilson claims “I am not now proposing or contemplating war or any steps that might lead to it.” So that’s okay then. The government would also be permitted to insure ships. “Armed neutrality” it’s called, in which a country is not party to a war but is prepared to defend its so-called rights with violence.

Literally as Wilson arrived at the Capitol (and once again he just kind of showed up, with only 3 hours warning), news came that the Cunard liner RMS Laconia was torpedoed by a German u-boat near Ireland.  12 are dead (6 passengers, 6 crew), including two Americans, Mary (58) and Elizabeth (33) Foy of Chicago, a mother and daughter (those ages are from the Chicago Daily Tribune; the NYT says 60 and 30).

(Actually, they’ve been living in London for 5 years but for purposes of outrage, they’re Chicagoans.) The lifeboats, at least those that weren’t smashed, were picked up 8 hours later.

The NYT claims that the pacifists and pro-Germans and even actual Germans it spoke to consider armed neutrality fantastic and likely to keep the US out of the war.

Because of lack of paper – a likely story – every newspaper in Hungary must cease production.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Today -100: February 26, 1917: In no essential degree

A NYT editorial asks whether pacifists would fight a band of hungry wolves or allow themselves and their families to be eaten up. “That contingency differs in no essential degree from that which many a nation has had to meet”. The Times fails to specify who the wolves are in this scenario.

The National American Woman’s Suffrage Association pledges the support of its 2 million members if the US is “drawn into the maelstrom” of war. It doesn’t actually ask those 2 million members if they want to have their support pledged for them.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Today -100: February 25, 1917: No man who is not a patriot is to be trusted with a woman’s welfare

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Supposedly, bands of armed Germans, possibly sailors escaping internment, crossed into Brazil from Argentina. There have also been stories about the Hamburg Colonization Company intending to establish a colony of Germans – and only Germans – in Brazil. Pretty sure this is an old plan that never got off the ground.

The proposed Mexican constitution is rather interesting.

Headline of the Day -100:

Congresswoman-elect Jeanette Rankin says she doesn’t feel bound to follow the Republican Party leaders. She denies that she plans to introduce a women’s suffrage measure, but says she’ll support one if someone else does. Ditto prohibition.

The State Department shows Woodrow Wilson the Zimmermann telegram.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Today -100: February 24, 1917: Of filibusters and food

Republicans in the Senate are objecting to Wilson’s plans to let Congress dissolve and then not convene the new Congress for 9 months (as was the custom), while whatever shit goes down goes down. They’re planning to filibuster everything, so a special session has to be called. Pacifist congresscritters are also worried that without anyone around in Washington to put a check on Wilson, he’ll will do something that will lead to war.

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George tells Parliament that food stocks are dangerously low, in effect admitting that Germany’s submarine warfare is working, although he blames bad harvests. He will order imports cut back drastically (no tea!) and force farmers to use every inch of their land – or else – while guaranteeing them a minimum price. Newspapers will have to make do with a lot less paper.

France asks all schoolboys in the country to raise vegetables on vacant land. Just the boys, evidently, or maybe that’s a translation error.

New York City, facing its own food problems, wants the state to give the city the power to buy food during emergencies and sell it at cost.

Federal investigators who federally investigated whether food riots were caused by German secret agents decide that they were not.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Today -100: February 23, 1917: Of vaux bacon, colonies, yarrowdales, referenda, and telegrams

Headline of the Day -100:

Not a weird photography experiment, but Britain’s plans to hold a secret trial for alleged spy George Vaux Bacon.

The Allies announce that Germany won’t be getting any of its colonies back. Britain, France, Portugal, and Belgium also plan to redraw the map of Africa so the borders between their colonies are tidier.

The crews, including American sailors, on the Yarrowdale, have been released by the Germans. Which was reported a week ago, I guess wrongly. (Update: actually this report is wrong too).

American pacifists are divided on whether a referendum on war is a good idea or not.

British Naval Intelligence informs the US of the contents of the Zimmermann Telegram.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Today -100: February 22, 1917: Of helmets, food riots, and the great Bavarian-Prussian War of 1917

The Wilson administration is warning newspapers not to say that the threat of war with Germany has passed.

Congress has postponed replacing soldiers’ current helmets with steel ones.

The two baseball leagues are implementing military drill for their players.

There have been food riots in New York City, although you’d barely know it from the New York Times. Mayor Mitchel tells a deputation of women that they should complain to Albany and D.C., not to him. He has asked the commissioner of health to determine how many people have starved to death recently.

Minnesota’s lower house passes a bill for a referendum on women’s suffrage in 1918, Maine’s lower house for one in September of this year, while the Vermont House rejected women’s suffrage. And the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage objects to Puerto Rico possibly getting self-government before women get the vote.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: Supposedly, a huge fight between Prussian and Bavarian soldiers in Belgium has resulted in 32 deaths.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Today -100: February 21, 1917: A limit which makes civilisation impossible

Oxford introduces a PhD degree, because Americans like them.

Headline of the Day -100:

The bill to make spying illegal passes the Senate 60-10. Opponents say it gives the president dictatorial powers to suppress speech. There are differing penalties depending on whether the US is at peace or at war, ranging all the way up to the death penalty for communicating information about troop numbers and movements and suchlike to an enemy nation. It also makes it illegal to impersonate a foreign official.

The British War Office requisitions all stocks of leather in the country, denies it’s for anything kinky.

William Howard Taft says it’s not the time for pacifism and that George Washington’s warning against entangling alliances “was made when conditions were totally different than they are now and it was intended for that period.”

Headline of the Day -100:  

The u-boat, thought to be the same one that sank the Lusitania (it isn’t but is perhaps captained by that guy), sank the Thor II (and you thought it was Chris Hemsworth’s acting and a weak script), towing its lifeboats to shore but not releasing the ship master and his family, including 6-year-old Solveig, who they treat as a mascot, if you normally bring mascots into a war zone and military engagements. The sub is nearly destroyed when a French ship it torpedoes turns out to be carrying ammunition, resulting in a larger-than-expected explosion.

The Americans in charge of the Dominican Republic’s finances have fired a great many Dominicans from government no-show jobs. They’re also saving the Dominicans money by cutting the army, since the US has decided the Republic doesn’t need one.

In the British Parliament, pacifists Philip Snowden, Charles Trevelyan and Arthur Ponsonby make speeches accusing the government of pursuing a war of conquest (for example acquiring Constantinople for Russia) and failing to respond to German peace approaches. Chancellor of the Exchequer Bonar Law (Tory) claims to be shocked at such pacifism, especially at a time when the United States “has itself recognised that there is a difference between right and wrong – has itself recognised that the excesses of our enemy have reached a limit which makes civilisation impossible, and are intolerable even to any neutral State.” Read the whole debate here.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Today -100: February 20, 1917: It’s a war of inches

The US threatens the Cuban rebels again, saying it will hold them responsible for any property damage.

Albert Sander, drama editor for William Randolph Hearst’s Deutsches Journal, and Charles Wunnenberg, both Brooklynites, are arrested for supposedly sending fake newspaper reporters to England to spy for the Central Powers. With invisible ink and everything.

Gen. Frederick Funston, who had overall command of the expedition into Mexico and would have led any, you know, hypothetical expeditionary force to Europe, dies suddenly of a heart attack at 51.

Headline of the Day -100:

All Connecticut citizens (male citizens, I assume) over 16 are being registered for possible military service.

The American Institute of Weights and Measures is formed in New York City to fight “an aggressive campaign” against the metric system.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Today -100: February 19, 1917: Of Jews, enemy aliens, potato wars, and zapatas

Russia plans to ease restrictions on Jews’ ability to enter certain professions, form companies, etc. and to ease up on residency restrictions. And wounded soldiers, including from the Russo-Japanese War, will get the same privileges as Christians, whatever that means. Prime Minister Prince Golitzin says “The experience gained in putting these reforms into practice will serve as valuable material for the final solution of the Jewish problem.” Um, right.

Rep. George Edmonds (R-Pennsylvania) introduces a bill requiring enemy aliens to register in time of war.

Headline of the Day -100:

The Food Controller has fixed a price for potatoes that retailers are refusing to sell at, and consumers are getting pissed at the prices.

Emiliano Zapata issues a manifesto renouncing all treaties the Carranza regime makes with foreign nations. And anything else the new Congress does.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Today -100: February 18, 1917: If one must go it will have to be you

Headline of the Day -100:

Or, as they’ll think of this in a quarter-century, the good old days.

Headline of the Day -100:

The nature of which is, shhh, a secret.

The US State Dept is “negotiating” a treaty with the Dominican Republic to put a US-nominated man in charge of the country’s finances, US officers in charge of its police, US engineers in charge of its public works, etc.

A bill is introduced in the South Dakota State Senate requiring that every appendix which has been surgically removed be sent to the state lab and if found healthy the surgeon will have to return their fee.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Today -100: February 17, 1917: Of cannons and prohibition

Wilson’s Cabinet still hasn’t decided whether to arm merchant ships, which would 1) give them some protection against u-boats, but also 2) ensure that u-boats would never give ships warning and allow crews to evacuate. Also, it 3) might lead to war.

The Minnesota Legislature votes for a referendum on prohibition in 1918 while the Texas Lege rejects a prohibition resolution.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump press conference: Russia is fake news

Trump held a surprise press conference today.

OUT OF CONTROL: “We have to talk about it to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control.  The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

TO BE HONEST: “To be honest, I inherited a mess -- it’s a mess -- at home and abroad.  A mess.” When he gets a word he likes, he really pounds it into the ground.

“Obamacare is a disaster, folks.  It’s a disaster.  You can say, oh, Obamacare -- I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they're not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.” Filling up our alleys? What even...?

“We’ve had great conversations with the United Kingdom -- and meetings -- Israel, Mexico, Japan, China, and Canada.  Really, really productive conversations.  I would say far more productive than you would understand.” That’s become his formulation for good news, hasn’t it? Things are going better than anyone knows, better than you’d understand, etc.

YOU GUESS WRONG. REALLY, YOU SHOULD STOP GUESSING; YOU’RE NOT GOOD AT IT: “I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.”

A FINE-TUNED MACHINE: “I turn on the TV, open the newspapers, and I see stories of chaos.  Chaos!  Yet, it is the exact opposite.  This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved, and they’re outstanding people.” You know, I don’t really have a handle on Trump’s thought processes yet; I can’t tell if he actually believes everything is going great.

A WALL THAT WORKS. AT, YOU KNOW, WALL STUFF: “And the wall is going to be a great wall, and it’s going to be a wall negotiated by me.  The price is going to come down, just like it has on everything else I’ve negotiated for the government.  And we’re going to have a wall that works.  We’re not going to have a wall like they have now, which is either nonexistent or a joke.”

The 9th Circuit is “in chaos” and “frankly, in turmoil.”

Going on (and on) about leaking, he says the press “should be ashamed of themselves.  But, more importantly, the people that gave out the information to the press should be ashamed of themselves.  Really ashamed.” Never having experienced it himself, I don’t think he knows how shame works.

On Michael Flynn: “when I looked at the information, I said, I don’t think he did anything wrong.  If anything, he did something right.  ... You know, he was just doing his job.  The thing is he didn’t tell our Vice President properly, and then he said he didn’t remember.  So either way, it wasn’t very satisfactory to me.” So, negotiating with Russia without legal authority to do so is okay, just doing his job (what job? Trump wasn’t president yet, so Flynn’s job was... nothing?), and the only problem was what he said to Pence.

“Russia is fake news.” Hell, there may not even by such a country. It just sounds fake, doesn’t it? Russia. Russsshhhhaaa.

Confronted about his false statements earlier about his massive Electoral College win: “Well, I don’t know.  I was given that information.  I was given -- actually, I’ve seen that information around.” Dude, it’s numbers, you can’t pretend that there’s some “information around” that changes numbers. Also, “I was given that information” is like he’s saying, “What can I do? If people tell me things, I have to believe them, don’t I, it’s not like there’s some way of checking to see if random things random people tell me are true or false.”

WHAT HE’S DEALING WITH: “So I don’t want classified information getting out to the public.  And in a way, that was almost a test.  So I’m dealing with Mexico.  I’m dealing with Argentina.” Dealing with Argentina? What’s going on with Argentina? The top Reuters story from the Argies today is “Argentina's rising grains production strands vessels in river traffic.” That’s probably what Trump’s dealing with, right?

By the way, is it actually illegal to leak what a president-elect and his people are doing?

“But I am having a good time.  Tomorrow they will say, Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.  I’m not ranting and raving.” [Ron Howard voiceover: “But he was ranting and raving.”]  “I’m just telling you, you’re dishonest people.  But -- but I’m not ranting and raving.  I love this.  I’m having a good time doing it.  But tomorrow the headlines are going to be:  Donald Trump Rants and Raves.  I’m not ranting and raving.” Well, I wasn’t convinced that you’re not ranting and raving the first 3 or 4 times you said it, but...

BETTER THAN ANYBODY: “I don’t mind bad stories.  I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true.”

WORKING HARD, OR FAKELY WORKING? “you take a look at Reince, he’s working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires.” I’m picturing a fake fireman’s helmet and a fake fire extinguisher.

“Putting out fires that are fake fires” may be my favorite thing today, and I just had ice cream.

WHY YES, WE DO KNOW WHAT URANIUM IS, BUT WE CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR WHAT YOU THINK IT IS: “We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country.  You know what uranium is, right?  It’s this thing called nuclear weapons and other things.  Like, lots of things are done with uranium, including some bad things.  Nobody talks about that.”

NO ONE CAN BELIEVE IT. “I can’t believe I’m saying I’m a politician, but I guess that’s what I am now.”

Bart Simpson book report time: “If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along -- and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they.  There’s no upside.  We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they.  I’ve been briefed.  And I can tell you, one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it:  Nuclear holocaust would be like no other.  They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we.”

In response to a question about how he’d deal with the rise of anti-Semitic attacks in the US since the election, which he cut off and pretended to be mortally offended by: “Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.  Number two, racism -- the least racist person.” He says the reporter should take Netanyahu’s word for it that Trump isn’t anti-Semitic. Funny thing was, the reporter, Jake Turx of Ami Magazine, a Hasidic magazine I guess for teens, who is identified in the White House transcript as “(inaudible) from (inaudible) Magazine,” hadn’t actually accused him of being anti-Semitic himself, and in fact had prefaced his question by saying he wasn’t doing so. So Trump showed his philo-Semitism by calling a Jewish reporter a liar and telling him to be quiet and sit down.

He asked a black reporter to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus when she sees them at the meetings all black people attend.

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Today -100: February 16, 1917: Of wolves, pflugs, election conspiracies, prohibition, and the ideals of representative government

Somewhere in Poland, a fight between German and Russian soldiers is interrupted by a pack of wolves. Both sides stop to shoot wolves, and then go their separate ways. It’s a weird war.

As former US ambassador to Germany James Gerhard, making his way back to the US, is crossing the French border, he has French authorities arrest an embassy employee traveling with his party, one Oscar Pflug, of whom Gerhard has become suspicious. With no evidence of wrong-doing, Pflug will be released in three weeks.

Germany releases the crew of the Yarrowdale.

The Indianapolis police chief, five captains and sergeants, and the city sealer (whatever that might be) are charged with election conspiracy.

The House Judiciary Committee favorably reports out a constitutional amendment for prohibition, while the Senate moves to ban the importation of liquor into dry states (the “bone dry” measure) and exclude liquor ads and periodicals containing such ads from the mails in states which ban such advertising.

Germany is proposing to the US that in event of war neither side will intern the other’s citizens resident in their country in concentration camps or seize their property or disregard their patents, and that those citizens have freedom to return home. Ships should also be able to leave the other country’s ports but can’t be forced out without a guarantee of safe conduct from all enemy powers.

Germany has reversed itself and will allow Herbert Hoover’s Relief Commission to continue its work in Belgium and northern France.

The Prussian Diet discusses possible reform of Prussia’s insanely retrograde system of representation (there are three tiers, determined by the total amount of tax paid by the tier, so the small number of rich people in tier 1 elects the same number of MPs as the vast majority of the population in tier 3) (for god’s sake no one tell Trump about this).

The Ohio Legislature passes women’s suffrage, though only for presidential elections. Mrs. Arthur Dodge, president of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, referring to the previous failures of women’s suffrage referenda in the state in 1912 and 1914, accuses the Legislature of being “false to the ideals of representative government.”  Mrs. Dodge is a little unclear on the concept of representative government (she also doesn’t point out that Ohio legally, though not in practice, restricts its electorate to “white males”). She calls on the governor to be “man enough” to veto it. The governor’s name is Cox. Just saying. There is already an effort to collect signatures (in saloons, mostly) for a referendum to reverse this.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why are Jews called Jews?

Trump and Netanyahu held a press conference at the White House today.

According to Trump, “America and Israel are two nations that cherish the value of all human life.” Imma just gonna leave that one sitting there.

Trump demonstrated his deep understanding of the complexities of Middle East politics: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.  (Laughter.)  I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two.  But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians – if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Netanyahu made this cogent argument in favor of the Jewish people having a historical right to occupy Israel: “why are Jews called Jews?  Well, the Chinese are called Chinese because they come from China.  The Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan.  Well, Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea.” Boy, you can’t argue with that logic.

No reporter asked him why Palestinians are called Palestinians.

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If there’s better verbiage out there, I will gladly use better verbiage

Sean Spicer called the Canadian prime minister “Joe Trudeau” today, so that’s his name now. Sorry, Joe. Sorry, Canada.

Anti-abortion Oklahoma state legislator Justin “Joe” Humphrey (all Justins are now officially Joe) is sponsoring a law to require that “hosts,” as he calls pregnant women (“I think I used the proper verbiage. When I used the term host, it’s not meant to degrade women. If there’s better verbiage out there, I will gladly use better verbiage. I just couldn’t find it.”) (I’m sure there are many things “Joe” can’t find: his ass with both hands; a clitoris; an ounce of human decency) name the father of their fetus and get permission from him before an abortion.

By the way, does “Joe” Humphrey wear a stupid cowboy hat and a stupid string tie? What do you think?

I assume it has little chance of becoming law, but just in case, I will advise what I have with previous coercive anti-abortion laws: lie. If this passes, every woman seeking an abortion in the state of Oklahoma should name the same (pro-choice, obviously) man. An ACLU lawyer, say, or Joe Biden. Sorry, “Justin” Biden.

(Update: A lot of the response to this bill has been of the “What about rape?” variety, and... no. Raising the worst-case scenario for giving men control over women’s bodies implies that there might be a best-case scenario, an acceptable type of forced pregnancy and just no.)

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Today -100: February 15, 1917: Of Lyman laws, contraband, and revolts

An Austrian u-boat sinks an American schooner the Lyman Law – seriously, they’re going after sailboats now? – in the Mediterranean. It probably didn’t break international law, though since the u-boat gave warning, let the crew evacuate, and then placed a bomb on the boat rather than using torpedoes, for some reason. Or maybe it did: the Lyman Law was carrying lumber, which Austria considers contraband but the US does not.

Speaking of contraband, the British plan to hold the ship the Frederik VIII for a week or two when it arrives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to check for rubber and other contraband. Which should be awkward since the ship will contain the former German ambassador to the US, Count Johann von Bernstorff, who is returning home.

The German people are being told that Wilson is hesitating, as seen by his reluctance to arm private vessels. They’re also happy that his appeal to the neutral nations to follow his lead failed. Another sign: former US Ambassador Gerhard is in Switzerland, evidently not planning to return to the US and leaving open the possibility of returning to Germany.

The US informs Cuban rebels that it won’t recognize any government they form and will intervene militarily to protect the existing regime. The British, naturally, are pretty sure the Germans are behind the revolt.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today -100: February 14, 1917: Of submarine grips, conchies, impertinence, psychiatrists, and field marshals

Headline of the Day -100:

I just can’t keep up with all these early-20th-century sex terms.

A by-election is held in Rossendale in the north of England. The Liberal Party candidate Sir John Henry Maden, a cotton baron who represented the constituency in Parliament once before, beats Albert Taylor, an independent who runs the Slipper Operatives Union when he’s not in prison as a conscientious objector, which is where he is now. The vote was 6,019 to 1,804.

The NYT finds Carranza’s note to the neutral nations suggesting an embargo of food and munitions exports to the European belligerents “impertinent” and poor repayment for the great favor the US just did Mexico of removing Pershing’s soldiers from its soil. The Times says it would like to see the “German original” of Carranza’s note, which it sees as “fresh and convincing evidence of active and persistent German intrigue in Mexico.”

Headline of the Day -100:  

Imagine, a psychiatrist in New York! Actually, Dr. Mortimer Raynor has just been hired to shrink heads in the city’s various penal institutions.

Germany reportedly drafts all the officials of trade unions and socialist organizations who were previously exempt.

Kaiser Wilhelm meets new Austrian Kaiser Karl and makes him a field marshal in the German Army, which sounds like an alpha-male power game to me.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Today -100: February 13, 1917: Of sailors, u-boats, embargoes, and spies

Germany orders American relief workers working under Herbert Hoover out of occupied Belgium and northern France.

Germany says it will hold 72 American sailors (or 64 according to tomorrow’s paper or 59 next month) who were taken off the British freighter Yarrowdale in December ago as hostage until the US promises not to hold German crews stuck in US harbors (Germany was getting false reports about the treatment of its sailors, which the US thought had been debunked but evidently not to Germany’s satisfaction).

The US rejects Germany’s offer to negotiate modifications to Germany’s submarine warfare, saying it must rescind the January 31st proclamation resuming unrestricted warfare and there will be no discussion on the subject.

Mexico’s Carranza proposes that all neutral countries stop exporting munitions and food products to belligerent nations. If you’re wondering what commerce Mexico would have to give up, it does supply oil to British ships.

Wilson gives Panama Canal Zone governor Chester Harding authority to deport anyone he wants without appeal, suspected spies presumably.

Speaking of suspected spies, Margaretha MacLeod (stage name = Mata Hari) is arrested in Paris.

There’s been some sort of baseball strike.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Today -100: February 12, 1917: We are no barbarians

Germany has evidently approached the US, using Switzerland as an intermediary now that the countries no longer have diplomatic relations, asking for suggestions from the US for how to modify its submarine warfare to not kill so many Americans.

Before finally allowing US Ambassador James Gerhard to leave Germany, the Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann tried to get him to reaffirm old treaties between the US and Prussia dating back to 1799 about the treatment of nationals (and their businesses) stuck in each other’s country during a war. Gerhard replied that he was no longer ambassador so suck it Fritz.

The NYT Germany reporter says Germans are being very polite to American acquaintances and even strangers just now and being very helpful. “‘We are no barbarians’ is the phrase often repeated.”

The elections in Cuba are marked by mass arrests of Liberals and rebellions by soldiers, as was the custom. There was a plot to kidnap President García Menocal and force him to resign, or quite possibly that’s a story to justify arresting lots of people.

Remember how early last year a mob in Sylvester, Georgia seized five black men from the jail and lynched them, even though none of them was Jim Keith, the man they were looking for, who had supposedly killed a sheriff? Funny story. Keith was convicted of complicity in the murder, but a second trial just exonerated him and the other 5. Whoops.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Today -100: February 11, 1917: 8 weeks tops

Headline of the Day -100:

Secretary of State Robert Lansing says the US in on the verge of war but may still avoid being “forced into” it. He inserted this into a speech at Amherst on college spirit, which he says is just like patriotism in that it is not based on material interest or selfish motive.

The initial rush of Germans and Austrian immigrants applying for US citizenship is falling off. One notable aspiring American is Ladislaus Majphenje of Hungary, 32, who is an elevator operator in New York City. And a baron. He’s willing to give up his title.

Headline of the Day -100:  

One of the many British ships sunk this week is the steamer Japanese Prince, whose crew included 25 American muleteers, and this time they’re white so they actually count (we know this because the NYT was careful to point out their race; I think muleteers were generally black).

The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage is not happy about stories that pacifists are quitting the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association and joining the CU.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Today -100: February 10, 1917: Because the difference between a citizen and a slave is $5 a month

The US Army is working on a plan for universal male military service at 19. For a year at $5 a month. Or as they call it, a “citizen army.”

Germany is saying that its decision to take US Ambassador James Gerhard hostage when the US broke diplomatic relations (well, to refuse to let him leave the country) (and cut off his telephone and mail) was the US’s fault for not letting the German ambassador send coded telegraph messages home. They only heard about Wilson breaking off relations from Switzerland.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Today -100: February 9, 1917: Of turinos, cumulative casus belli, forts, ships, and reservists

One of the ships sunk by the Germans, who are on a ship-sinking tear, is the British steamer Turino. An American crew member named George Washington, no less, is killed, and if that doesn’t make the US go to war... oh, you say he’s negro? Guess not then.

The NYT’s unnamed source says that the Wilson administration’s case against Germany (and for war) will be “cumulative.” “For the present the Government is paying no particular attention to sporadic cases of the deaths of Americans through German submarine attacks.”

But they are totally building a fort. On the New York coast at Rockaway Point.

The other neutral nations are not following the US’s lead in breaking off relations with Germany. Not the Netherlands, Spain or Sweden (which after all have to share a continent with Germany) nor the South and Central American countries, although the latter do call the German blockade illegal.

The US government has been particularly unhelpful to shipping lines wondering whether they should cancel sailing plans or arm their ships. The American Line has decided to send the St Louis to Liverpool, but only if it can find a cannon, but it seems that these are only available from the Navy. They also have to decide whether to use their running lights or run dark.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: The Providence Journal, presumably in its role as disseminator of British Secret Service propaganda, says that German reservists in the US are heading to Mexico, along with German POWs who escaped from Siberia and made their way through China to Mexico, as one does, in order to direct operations against the US from Mexico in event of war.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Today -100: February 8, 1917: Of lighthouses, internment, Parisian nightlife, and women’s suffrage

The Senate votes 78-5 to approve Wilson’s breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.

The US Coast Guard and lighthouse services are firing all German employees who are not US citizens.

Germany is sending Romanians from occupied Romania to internment camps in Germany, in retaliation for Romania sending Germans to Siberia, which Romania says it didn’t do.

Germany is refusing permission for Americans to leave Germany, even US Ambassador James Gerhard, who will be kept along with his staff until German Ambassador to the US Count Johann von Bernstorff makes it back to Germany and maybe crews of German ships sequestered in the US as well. Gerhard is also not being allowed to send cables in code. For a country supposedly trying not to get into a war with the US, the hostage-taking seems rather ill thought-out.

A German u-boat sinks the British steamer California without warning.

The French government orders Paris theatres to close 4 days a week and suspends public transportation after 10 pm, which is the most un-French thing I’ve ever heard.

The New Hampshire state senate rejects women’s suffrage 16-7.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Today -100: February 7, 1917: Of seamen, naval appropriations, and Texas women

The Wilson admin does not plan on treating the killing by a German u-boat of American seaman Richard Wallace on the British steamship Eavestone as a casus belli. Which probably really has nothing to do with the fact that we’ve now learned that Wallace was black. Probably.

The Naval appropriations bill is amended to give Wilson the power to seize shipbuilding yards and munitions factories in event of war or national emergency. And $150 million is added for ship-building and $1 million to acquire the patents for warplanes. Money is also appropriated for machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, etc etc. $500 million all told.

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

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Today -100: February 6, 1917: When Johnny comes marching home

US pacifists (the term tends to be used interchangeably for both those opposed to this war and those opposed to all war) agree to coordinate.

Germany is indeed escalating its naval warfare, sinking, for example, the British steamer Eavestone and shelling its lifeboats. One American seaman is killed.

It’s almost like the Germans aren’t taking the threat of conflict with the United States seriously. Because they’re not. They think that well before the US could build up a real army and bring it into play, submarine warfare will have brought England to its knees.

Speaking of the US’s small army, the last of it just exited Mexico, with Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing at its head – on foot? on horseback? in a car? it doesn’t say. I’m guessing on a horse. No one seems to be making speeches declaring victory. Sure, there wasn’t any victory, but when has that ever stopped anyone?

The US government is refusing to tell shipowners whether they should avoid war zones. It also won’t provide convoys, because that would be admitting that Germany might do what it has said it will do and because an attack on a convoy that including ships of the US Navy would be an act of war. So shipowners are being told to just use their best judgement.

German and Austrian immigrants in the US are hurriedly taking out citizenship papers in large numbers.

Congress is working feverishly on legislation to provide real criminal penalties for spies.

The Senate follows the House in overriding Wilson’s veto of the immigration bill with its literacy clause. It’s Wilson’s first veto override.

Margaret Sanger is sentenced to 30 days for disseminating birth control information. There is an option of a fine, but only if she will stop doing what she does. She won’t hunger strike like her sister because she is not in great health.

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Sunday, February 05, 2017

Today -100: February 5, 1917: We are a moral people and are willing to make a sacrifice to establish a moral principle

Many Americans believe that even if the US enters the war, its role will be “merely passive,” providing the Allies money and munitions and that’s it. The US Navy is small and the army almost non-existent, these people say.

Wilson asks other neutral nations to follow him in breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.

Guards are placed at docks, bridges, aqueducts, and the White House gates. Crews of German and Austrian steamships (31 of them) are told to stay onboard their ships (or go through Ellis Island immigration inspections), although the government denies that it has seized the ships.

Former President Taft suggests conscription begin now and be made permanent. “Conscription is needed to discipline our native young men and to teach them respect for authority. It is needed to teach our millions of newly created citizens loyalty.” He says the country will rally behind Wilson: “We are going to do everything that any country can do to vindicate its rights and show that we are a moral people and are willing to make a sacrifice to establish a moral principle.” Because nothing says “moral” like mass slaughter.

A Keep Out of the War meeting at Carnegie Hall will call for a national referendum before entering the war, as does former Wilson Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. Bryan suggests the US temporarily waive its rights of free travel on the high seas.

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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Today -100: February 4, 1917: We do not desire any hostile conflict with the German government

Woodrow Wilson breaks diplomatic relations with Germany. But, Wilson tells a joint session of Congress, “We do not desire any hostile conflict with the German government.” He says he “cannot bring myself to believe” that Germany intends to do what it says it will do; “I cannot bring myself to believe that they will indeed pay no regard to the ancient friendship between their people and our own... Only actual overt acts on their part can make me believe it even now.” SPOILER ALERT: Believe it, dude.

Later in the day a note arrives from Austria saying it would be following Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare policy, so Wilson breaks relations with them too (this may be an inaccurate report) (or possibly Wilson changed his mind; one difference between the two Teutonic nations is that Germany’s change in policy violates a promise it made to the US but Austria never promised the US anything). The new ambassador has only just arrived too, and hasn’t even taken up his post.

Congressional support for Wilson is nearly unanimous, although it’s unclear (to me, anyway) how many of them share his belief that they’re not actually on the road to war.

A German u-boat sinks the US steamer Housatonic off the Skilly Isles a couple of hours after Wilson sent Ambassador Johann von Bernstorff packing (“I expect to retire to my farm and raise potatoes,” Bernstorff says). The u-boat gives the ship a one-hour warning to evacuate and even tows its lifeboats towards shore, so this is not the overt act that Wilson doesn’t believe will happen. Housatonic, by the way, is also the name of the first ship ever sunk by a submarine, during the US Civil War.

William Jennings Bryan issues a statement to the American people asking them to tell their president and congresscritters that they don’t want the US to enter the war.

Theodore Roosevelt fully supports Wilson, for once, and volunteers his own services and those of his four sons in the event of war, in a Rough-Riders-type unit he just asked the War Department permission to allow him to raise.

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George calls Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare policy “only a development and advance along the road to complete barbarism which is crushing out of that country the last shreds of civilisation” and says it reveals the “Goth in all his naked savagery.” Sounds like he had a bad experience dating a goth chick. He says that Wilson’s “peace without victory” would just be a rest period for the Central Powers. The prime minister speaks in his constituency of Carnarvon, Wales to an audience that was carefully screened because of the fake assassination plot against him. Organizers planned to exclude women, just like in the good old pre-war suffragette days, but decided to let in a handful of wives and daughters of local notables.

The NYT says there are maybe 10,000 foreign spies (German, Austrian, Turkish, Bulgarian) in the United States, half of them in New York. That’s a lot of spies.

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Friday, February 03, 2017

Today -100: February 3, 1917: I just came to swap views

Woodrow Wilson confers with senators and the Cabinet about what to do about Germany. There seems to be consensus about breaking diplomatic relations, with differences only over whether to wait for Germany to carry through on its threats to sink ships without warning. Wilson reassures the senators that he doesn’t think Germany will actually do it, because he never tires of being wrong about things.

Wilson has a weird idea of conferring with Congress. He just went over without warning, after the Senate recessed for the day, and talked only with Democrats, because that’s all he could find. He tells reporters, “I just came to swap views.”

Bills to ban Japanese people owning land are withdrawn in the Oregon and Idaho legislatures after strong pressure from the federal government not to complicate the US’s international relations at this precarious time.

The prime minister and cabinet of Montenegro resign because King Nicholas refuses to abdicate in favor of Serbia’s crown prince in a preliminary move towards a union with Serbia.

Margaret Sanger is convicted in a non-jury trial. She says if sent to the workhouse, she will hunger strike like her sister Ethyl Byrne. Commission of Correction Lewis says Byrne was released in better physical shape than when she arrived, thanks to all that forcible feeding and received medical services – for no charge – that would have cost $1,000 a day on the outside. I’m sure Byrne will send him a thank you card or something.

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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Today -100: February 2, 1917: We have been challenged to fight to the end

Woodrow Wilson has evidently given Germany 24 hours to rescind its unrestricted submarine warfare decree.

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg tells the Reichstag Ways and Means Committee, “We have been challenged to fight to the end. We accept the challenge, we stake everything, and we shall be victorious.” He says Germany is ready to accept the consequences of sub warfare.

The NYT says the federal government is drawing up names of German-Americans and sympathizers with Germany, just in case.

War is hell: the Paris police ban the sale of pastries on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Ethel Byrne accepts NY Gov. Charles Whitman’s offer to pardon her for distributing birth control literature if she promises not to do it again. Actually, her sister Margaret Sanger made the promise on her behalf, Byrne being too sick from the hunger-striking and force-feeding.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Today -100: February 1, 1917: A benefit to mankind

Headline of the Day -100:

Germany announces that it will reverse the pledge it gave to the United States 9 months ago to limit its use of submarine warfare (not sinking commercial ships, especially those of neutral countries, not sinking ships without warning, attempting to rescue evacuees, etc), and resume unrestricted sub warfare starting at midnight, with the goal of stopping all shipping to Britain. One US ship a week will be allowed through a safe passage, if it is promised not to carry any contraband. Since Germany made that pledge last year in response to a US ultimatum to abide by international law or face a break in relations with the US, such a break now seems inevitable.

Germany presents its decision as a response to the perfidious British plot to starve Germany and the United States’s failure to get it to alter that plot, and as a measure to bring the war to a rapid conclusion: “Each day of the terrible struggle causes new destruction, new sufferings. Each day shortening the war will, on both sides, preserve the lives of thousands of brave soldiers and be a benefit to mankind.”

The Legal and Literary faculties of Stamboul University (Turkey) suggest the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to Kaiser Wilhelm, the “forefighter for the peace idea.”

Theodore Roosevelt thinks the US should respond by seizing every interned German ship and banning trade with Germany.

British Colonial Secretary Walter Long says Germany will never be given its colonies back.

In Britain, Alice Wheeldon, her two daughters Hettie and Winnie and her son-in-law are charged with a plot to assassinate Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson, the Labour member of the War Council. With poison darts, no less. Wheeldon was a suffrage activist before the war and has been smuggling conscription resisters out of the country. In fact, they’ve been framed by an MI5 agent provocateur, a convicted blackmailer who had been twice committed for insanity. Which was not known at the trial, because the government refused to produce him.

The Senate passes a bill for prohibition in Alaska.

There’s a new Mexican constitution. Presidencies are one term only. 8-hour day, anti-trust laws, land reform, preference for Mexicans in acquiring lands and concessions (mining etc). The US is not happy about the last part. All clergy must be Mexican citizens and can’t teach in public schools or private elementary schools.

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