Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Today -100: December 12, 1917: Of short shrifts, great futures, and military justice at its finest

Russian officials stranded in London are quite sure that an alliance of the Don Cossacks and the non-Bolshevik parties will “make short shrift of the Bolsheviki.”

According to Wikitionary, a short shrift was originally “a rushed sacrament of confession (shrift) given to a prisoner who was to be executed very soon.” I feel like I should have known that before now.

Headline of the Day -100: 

That’s Col. Sir Mark Sykes of the secret Sykes-Picot agreement recently made not-so-secret by Trotsky, on how swell Zionism is gonna turn out.

13 black soldiers are hanged for the race riots in Houston in August. 41 more are sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Today -100: December 11, 1917: It’s on. Oh, IT IS ON.

Panama declares war on Austria-Hungary.

Jerusalem surrenders to British troops in this, the 822nd year of the Crusades. Gen. Edmund Allenby enters the city on foot to show respect for the holy sites of the city he’d been respectfully besieging.

Portuguese coup leader Sidónio Pais reassures the Allies that Portugal will stay in the war, doing whatever it is that Portugal is doing in the war. Ousted Prime Minister Afonso Costa is arrested. The war minister and the commander of the fleet seek sanctuary on British warships.

The Supreme Court rules that there is no 14th Amendment right to possess alcohol.

The Supreme Court rules that employers may impose an open shop, that is make a condition of employment that employees not join a union. It says attempts to unionize, in this case a mine, may be illegal even if they’re completely peaceful, for example by “persuading man after man to join the union, and having done so, to remain at work, keeping the employer in ignorance of their number and identity, until so many should have joined that by stopping work in a body they could coerce the employer and the remaining miners to organize the mines, and that the conduct of the defendants in so doing was unlawful and malicious.” Forcing the mining company to accept unionization through “fear of financial loss” is thus illegal. What power do they think a union has, if not a threat of financial loss? Loud tutting? And how does the Court think the mine got miners to agree not to join the UMW in the first place, if not a threat of financial fucking loss? This is just terrible supreme courting.

The government now regulates bakeries, requiring standard 16- and 24-ounce loafs of bread using less milk and sugar and animal fat.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Today -100: December 10, 1917: Of civil wars, armistices, and swear words

The Bolshevik government announces that Gens. Kornilov and Alexey Kaledin of the Don Cossacks have started a revolt in the Don region “against the people and the revolution.” The counter-revolution and civil war begin here.

The Russian and German positions in the armistice negotiations seem quite far apart.

Headline of the Day -100: 

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Saturday, December 09, 2017

Today -100: December 9, 1917: Of coups, enemy aliens, and armistices

A revolution in Portugal (actually more like a coup) led by Sidónio Pais forces the government to resign. Pais will exercise increasingly dictatorial powers for a year until he is assassinated.

One consequence of the US declaring war on Austria: newly enemied aliens from the Empire have to be weeded out of the US military.

Trotsky informs the Allies that Russia will only sign an armistice with Germany on condition that it not move troops to the western front (a condition Germany has been scoffing at). On the 7th, for the first time since the war began, not a shot is fired on the Russian front. Trotsky is suspending negotiations a week to give the Allies time to say whether they will join an armistice and, if not, to state what their war aims are.

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Friday, December 08, 2017

Today -100: December 8, 1917: In matters of war I am a teetotaler

The US is at war with Austria. The declaration passes the Senate unanimously (La Follette is not present, claiming later he didn’t know the vote was going on) and the House by 363 to 1, the 1 being Meyer London (Socialist-NY), who says Socialists oppose war. “In matters of war I am a teetotaler. I refuse to take the first intoxicating drink.” Walter Chandler (R-NY) asks him to cite one instance in which Karl Marx denounces war.

Jeanette Rankin (R-Montana) says war is a “stupid and futile way of attempting to settle international difficulties” and this one was caused by “commercial and selfish interests,” but this time votes for war, saying it’s not a real declaration of war but a “technicality” arising from the previous declaration of war on Germany.

No one pushes for Bulgaria and Turkey to be included, grumpily accepting Wilson’s argument that, like Austria, “They too, are tools of Germany. But they are mere tools and do not yet stand in the direct path of our proposed actions.” The US will end the war without having declared war on the two countries, or vice versa.

Halifax, hundreds of its houses in ruins after the munitions ship explosion yesterday, now faces a blizzard, because of course it does. Rescue work halts. “Many of the injured necessarily died of neglect.”

Finland declares independence from Russia.

Romanian troops who were fighting alongside Russians join the cease-fire, because what choice do they have? Austria starts releasing Russian prisoners even before Russia begins releasing Austria’s.

Recent German air raids on London show that Germany has switched completely from zeppelins to airplanes.

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Thursday, December 07, 2017

Today -100: December 7, 1917: Of Halifax, baby factories, and contested elections

In the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, the SS Mont-Blanc, carrying a big ol’ load of munitions, collides with a Belgian relief ship, drifts to land and goes boom. 2,000 or so dead. The largest explosion (not counting volcanoes) before 1945. Bits of the ship including the anchor are found miles away. The blast wave takes out every window in the city and a pretty good chunk of the city. Naturally, many assume it was a German plot.

The Croydon (UK) conscription tribunal upholds the plea of a widow that her, I believe, youngest son not join his 10 brothers in the military.

There will be a 10-day cease-fire between Russia and Germany.

In Parliament, Chief Secretary for Ireland Henry Duke says that Éamon de Valera’s election as MP for East Clare can be challenged by any elector in the constituency because he may not actually be British (the future president of Ireland was born in New York).

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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Today -100: December 6, 1917: Lords of Looseness?

The House Committee on Foreign Relations passes the declaration of war on Austria with no dissenters. Everyone except Clarence Miller (R-Minnesota) falls in line behind Wilson’s decision not to include Bulgaria and Turkey.

Incidentally, this is another of those “recognizes that a state of war exists” declarations of war.

Rudyard Kipling has a new bad poem out. Evidently Bunyan predicted World War I, or something:
Likewise the Lords of Looseness
  That hamper faith and works,
The Perseverance-Doubters,
  And Present-Comfort shirks,
With brittle intellectuals
  Who crack beneath a strain--
John Bunyan met that helpful set
  In Charles the Second's reign.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Today -100: December 5, 1917: This is a war of high principle, debased by no selfish ambition of conquest or spoliation

Woodrow Wilson, in his State of the Union address (as they didn’t call it yet) to the new session of Congress, asks it to declare war on the Austria-Hungarian Empire but not Bulgaria or Turkey. He says his goal is not to “impair or rearrange” the Empire. Oh, it so is. He portrays the populations of Austria, Turkey and the Balkans as in need, just as much as those of Belgium and northern France, of liberation from the “impudent and alien dominion of the Prussian military and commercial autocracy”.

Impudent and alien dominions are the worst kind.

So really, declaring war on Austria is for the benefit of Austria, which these days is “simply the vassal of the German Government.” This great act of charity extends even to Germans: “We are in fact fighting for their emancipation from fear, along with our own”. But do we ever get a thank you? no, we do not.

Wilson responds to critics of the war: “I hear the criticism and the clamor of the noisily thoughtless and troublesome. I also see men here and there fling themselves in impotent disloyalty against the calm, indomitable power of the nation. I hear men debate peace who understand neither its nature nor the way in which we may attain it, with uplifted eyes and unbroken spirits. But I know that none of these speaks for the nation. They do not touch the heart of anything. They may safely be left to strut about their uneasy hour and be forgotten.”

Gen. Nikolay Dukhonin, who refused to give up his self-designated title of Supreme Commander of the Russian military, is removed from office with extreme prejudice by “infuriated members of the Bolsheviki.”

Hey, Apocalypse Now was nearly 40 years ago, do people still understand “extreme prejudice” references?

Siberia and Ukraine have declared themselves independent republics.

Secretary of War Newton Baker denies that there is any discrimination against negroes in the (segregated) army and says any complainants are suffering from “overworked hysteria.”

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Today -100: December 4, 1917: Of armistices, debauched soldiers and sailors, legations, rustlers, and teachers

A new session of Congress opens. Everyone wants to declare war on Austria, and maybe Bulgaria and Turkey as well. They’re weirdly excited by the prospect.

Germany says there are local armistices in place with the Russian army at the division and corps levels.

New Rochelle, NY saloon owners are indicted for conspiracy to debauch soldiers and sailors. Which I guess just means letting them buy booze.

Russian Foreign Minister Leon Trotsky fires 160 Russian legations and consulates abroad who don’t recognize the Bolshevik government.

American troops invade Mexico and have a pitched battle with some cattle-rustlers, killing 35 of them.

The High School Committee puts on “trial” the 3 suspended De Witt Clinton High School (Bronx) teachers. Samuel Schmalhausen is accused of not rebuking one of his students for an essay calling Woodrow Wilson a murderer in such a way as to force the student to perceive the “gross disloyalty involved in his point of view” and even saying he didn’t think it was his job to “develop in the students under his control instinctive respect for the president of the United States as such”. They drag in the student, who says he didn’t get the ideas from Schmalhausen but from books and his own thinking. He was then hanged as a witch, probably.

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