The Charlotte News

Saturday, January 31, 1948


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the body of Mohandas K. Gandhi was cremated on a funeral pyre of sandalwood in New Delhi this date, one day following his assassination, while tens of thousands of mourners looked on in tears. The Mahatma's ashes were to remain at the site for 36 hours before being taken to the River Ganges and cast upon the waters, a traditional rite among Hindus.

In Bombay, riots, in which 15 were killed, had followed the assassination but had subsided somewhat this date, while in Poona, home of the assassin, Nathur Ram Godse, and seat of reactionary activity, the office of an extremist newspaper was torched and property of those who opposed Gandhi, attacked.

Aviation pioneer Orville Wright,76, died in Dayton, Ohio, the previous night. He and his brother Wilbur, who had died in 1912, had made their first historic flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on the Outer Banks in December, 1903. Mr. Wright died in his sleep at a hospital after a bout with heart disease.

A meeting of Republicans agreed to propose a change to the Marshall Plan whereby the administrator of the program would approve or reject specific projects proposed by the 16 recipient nations. The Congress, with direct oversight of the administrator, would direct the administrator to withhold approval from projects which might lead to socialization of industry or military mobilization or expensive social security programs. Some Republicans thought the proposed program by the Administration would underwrite European trade deficits.

Congressman Harold Knutson declared that he expected the House to pass his 6.5 billion dollar tax bill, set to go to the floor for a vote on Monday.

The American Meat Institute declared to the Senate Banking Subcommittee that the fears of a meat shortage in the country were unfounded, saying that by spring and summer it would be only about a half ounce per person less than the previous year.

House Speaker Joe Martin told the National Association of Women Broadcasters that saboteurs existed in the United States who, if left unchecked, could orchestrate a campaign to take over the Government. For years, this group, he said, had existed and had infiltrated the press and radio. He urged the women broadcasters to counter their propaganda efforts.

Near Digne, France, in the French Alps, two military aircraft of the United States crashed, one a C-47, transport carrying wives and children to join their husbands in Trieste, and the other a B-17 rescue plane seeking to locate the crashed plane. Fourteen died, including ten passengers, in the C-47 and seven perished in the rescue plane.

Off Bermuda, planes searched for a missing and presumed lost British South American Airways four-engine airliner with 29 persons aboard, including Sir Arthur Coningham, retired British air marshal and hero of the North African air war.

In La Salle, Ill., a man who confessed to killing his schoolmate twenty years earlier, had been released from custody after investigation disclosed that the killing had actually been a hunting accident involving discharge of a weapon by the man's friend. The police recommended to the World War II veteran that he obtain psychiatric treatment.

The County Government of Mecklenburg County was preparing to establish a planning board modeled after that of the City of Charlotte, to be established when the city limits would be extended the next January.

More cold weather capped the coldest January on record in Charlotte since 1940, with freezing rain and sleet hitting the area and temperatures dropping to the low twenties. The 1940 average had been 31.6 degrees, 10 lower than normal. The 1948 average was 37.1 degrees.

The entire state was cold. A bus traveling from Asheville to Charlotte the previous night had skidded off the road at Hickory Nut Gap, fifteen miles west of Mountain City.

On the editorial page, "Gandhi's Way for All Men" finds that the assassin's bullet which killed Gandhi the previous day could not destroy his spirit, which would endure and increase with time.

It declares him a saint whose code of life had been the Sermon on the Mount, thus unassailable by worldly bullets, his treasure not requiring weapons for protection. Millions had so understood him in life, and many more millions would so view him posthumously. He had lived for all men, of all nations and backgrounds, regardless of color or creed. His passive, non-violent methods would lead the way into the future to contest and best the men who followed the way of violence.

And, for the most part, with a few stragglers around the world on a given day who continue to reach for the inarticulate weapon to make their unfathomable point, rather than a book and thought and debate reasonably divined therefrom, so it would.

"South Protests Against Change" discusses the meeting of the 49 Democratic legislators in South Carolina considering changing the course of the national Democratic Party for its championing of causes "flagrantly repugnant to the South", though not suggesting a bolt from it. The legislators acknowledged tacitly that they were revolting as much against the times as their party. The Old South and its traditions were crumbling, as surely as the old columns of Dixie's once proud manses left to lay in ruin in the back woods.

The Truman Administration's proposals were but a few concessions to the forces who were working in the society for change. Recent Federal court decisions had served notice that time was running out on the old ways.

The Southern revolt came at a time when the Republicans were also divided between conservative and liberal factions.

As we know, what finally happened during the 1960's and 1970's was that the conservatives and reactionaries all got together within the Republican tent, slowly pushed out most of the liberals within their own party and then went to work on liberals throughout the country, seeking to denigrate anyone who dared to espouse liberal doctrine as a dissident or worse. Since that time, the society, in terms of the electorate, appears to vacillate between recognition of this state of affairs, naturally rejecting it, and forgetting that it exists, being swayed by caustic Republican and right-wing propaganda predominating in talk-radio and certain parts of talk-television, until again it sees the results in stark relief and re-awakens to its own economic self-interest after realizing that the litmus-test social issues sometimes championed by the conservatives are not going to be passed as contrary to the Constitution—over and over and over again.

"A Fine Choice for Supreme Court" lauds the appointment of Sam J. Ervin to the North Carolina Supreme Court, despite the fact that Mecklenburg County's choice for the vacancy was Judge William Bobbitt. Mr. Ervin had long stood as a leader, in the practice of law, in his term in the Superior Court in the Tenth Judicial District including Mecklenburg, and in his year in Congress, replacing his deceased brother, Joe, who took his own life at Christmas, 1945, after a year in Congress.

Mr. Ervin, born in 1896, had been an excellent student at UNC and a noted debater, excelling in history. He had gone on to graduate from Harvard Law School before returning home to practice law in Morganton. He had first been appointed to the bench in 1937 by newly elected Governor Clyde Hoey of Shelby—whose eventual death in 1954 would lead to the appointment of Justice Ervin to the Senate where he would finish his public career in 1974.

His legal skills, of course, were observed by the nation and, for the most part, greatly admired, during his brief tenure during the spring and summer of 1973 as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Watergate. It was those televised hearings, more than any other single factor, which led to the resignation of President Nixon in August, 1974, as it was those hearings which mobilized public opinion toward favoring impeachment and prompted the House Judiciary Committee to draw up and pass its articles of impeachment in 1974. No one, save the extremely partisan and purblind, at the time, ultimately defended Mr. Nixon for his many abuses of power, which went far beyond the cover-up of the break-in at the Watergate, as he clearly had tossed aside all consideration of law and order in his grotesquely twisted insistence that law and order prevail in the land, throwing out in the process most of the Constitution, except that part necessary and convenient to his own succor.

We do not consider Mr. Nixon necessarily to have been a bad man. But he was an unfortunate choice for public office from the very beginning of his political career and certainly should never have been elected as an occupant of the White House. Watergate and the abuses of power it revealed as the tip of the iceberg proved out that thesis. He was not dragged down by anyone, but was a victim of his own unremittingly tenacious desire, coloring his whole public career, to obtain perfect retribution from his most vehement detractors, a mean-spirited approach to politics born of the no-holds-barred Southern California political atmosphere in which he came of age and cut his political teeth, as well set forth by Theodore H. White in Breach of Faith in 1975, a book we still highly recommend over any other on the subject of Mr. Nixon and Watergate, for a thorough understanding of that about which it was in the whole of it.

That, of course, in no way detracts from the honest and diligently thorough reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post in 1972 and 1973, but for which the Ervin Committee might not have been formed to investigate the matter. But the substantial contribution to forming public opinion of which the Ervin Committee, not initially the national press, was sine qua non, is often overlooked historically. The two forces, the press and the Senate Select Committee ultimately worked in tandem to stop the Nixon express before it derailed the entire system of American democracy, well on its way by 1973 to the dump.

Those who think that Hubert Humphrey or George McGovern would not have made a far better President are living in a land of make believe. But, we shall never know. And, meanwhile, Mr. Nixon remains rightly the most disgraced of all of our 44 Presidents. We thank Senator Ervin for leading that effort to see that the Constitution, not partisan politics, was placed first and foremost as the final arbiter of the limits of executive branch power, not the Nixon Administration, which lived literally and expressly by the rule that an act, any act, including murder, was not illegal if the President authorized it, allowing for absolute power. We also thank Herman Talmadge for renouncing tacitly his old ways and coming into the modern era as a member of that Committee, as well its many Republican members, save in one instance, who honestly and fairly sought and obtained the truth in a bipartisan effort. It may seem to the casual student of history as a negative effort, but if one lived through those times or closely studies the period to understand what it was like to live through those times, one might quickly come to understand that these men and women of the Congress, in the Senate and the House, who stopped Mr. Nixon and his cadre of warriors against the law and the Constitution, were heroes, each and all.

Those who try still to characterize the whole matter as a tempest in a teapot, a stew about a "third-rate burglary" whipped insatiably by a press corps out "to get" Mr. Nixon, need to return to third grade elementary school history and relearn how to comprehend better that which one reads and hears, or at least reacquaint with the actual facts of the matter and its surrounding territory.

There is no doubt, incidentally, that had Mr. Nixon proceeded to trial in the Senate, he would have been convicted and removed from office. That was the reason he resigned, being told of that inevitability by Senator Barry Goldwater, among other Republican Congressional leaders of the time, and by his own adviser, Alexander Haig, following the House passage of the articles of impeachment.

If you view that history otherwise, you are simply ignoring the bulk of it and accepting instead propaganda purveyed by hucksters with a political axe to grind on your head. Go back and study it again more closely, as it actually transpired, not the way the hucksters wish it had transpired in their fictional accounts.

Thus, we count Senator Ervin among our political heroes, a true profile in courage, for preservation of the Constitution, that despite some of his less progressive views to which he allowed himself to be wedded, along with many others, during the 1950's and early 1960's. One cannot simply go down a checklist of positions, however, in accord with one's own wishes and conclusions, to determine who ultimately had the better of the broad argument through time.

A piece from the Christian Science Monitor, titled "AFL Gets on the Beam", tells of AFL shifting from the CIO line of needing increased wages from increased profits to keep up with the cost of living increase, to one favoring a curb by the Federal Reserve on loans by raising interest rates, the relatively free availability of loans being, as AFL saw it, the root of inflation. The piece finds the AFL approach to show statesmanship and commends it.

Drew Pearson provides an account of the secret debate in the House Banking & Currency Committee anent extension of the moratorium on usage of grain by the nation's distillers, the 60-day moratorium on such use set to expire this date. In the end, the committee voted not to let the bill go to the floor, with all Republicans, save one, so voting.

Senate Republicans had discussed behind closed doors that the most which could be trimmed from the President's 40-billion dollar proposed budget was actually two billion. Senator Taft had suggested setting a goal and then trying to meet it. Senator Styles Bridges proposed that two billion was the most which could be cut from Government housekeeping expenses. Others protested that Government departments were still full of wartime personnel who should be cut. The conference ended with no definite figure set.

Four House Democrats, including past Ways & Means Committee chairman, Robert Doughton of North Carolina, and future Ways & Means chairman, Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, had bolted from the President in a session of the Ways & Means Committee considering the tax cut, by refusing to go along with the President's proposed lower-bracket cut, the $40 credit for individuals and dependents, and the restoration of an excess profits tax on corporations, totaling 3.2 billion dollars, to pay for the individual cut. Mr. Doughton defended a cut for the taxpayer in the higher bracket equivalent to that of the lower bracket.

Joseph & Stewart Alsop tell of the devaluation of the French franc being of grave concern to the men in Washington keeping track of the world economic situation, as it could become prefatory to other troubles in Europe, beginning with competitive devaluation and consequent diminution of trade. The Belgians appeared to be considering devaluation in train to the French. The British were contemplating making requisite French trade in scarce dollars. The U.S. Treasury and the IMF were acting to avert the worst of these effects.

The real value of the British pound had been undermined by the devaluation of the franc, as the pound was worth 862 francs at the Bank of France, whereas the dollar was worth 350 francs, the pound, a little over four dollars. By converting the dollar to francs, one could obtain .4 pounds at the Bank of France, the quotient of 350 divided by 862, rather than the .25 pounds by direct exchange.

With the pound thus devalued, so would be all other European currency. The sort of crisis might transpire which created the depression in Europe in the Twenties, ultimately leading to the emergence of the popularity of Fascism and Nazism. It was the reason why the IMF had pleaded with France not to devalue the franc.

The Treasury, however, had failed to act promptly when alerted prior to the devaluation that it would occur, hint having been provided to Treasury Secretary John W. Snyder as early as the previous September. By the time the Treasury protested, France was committed to the devaluation plan.

Any resulting European monetary crisis limiting trade would quickly impact other world markets, including the United States.

Samuel Grafton tells of IBM having developed an electronic calculator, with 12,500 vacuum tubes aboard, operated from a large electronic console, which could swiftly solve mathematical problems. He finds it emblematic of the times, a machine which could provide answers to questions which no one even understood how to formulate. He finds the calculator likely to be sporting a smirk. He suggests a machine which would ask intelligent questions.

Have no fear, Mr. Grafton. As we have come to find out quickly enough in the computer age, as daily proven by the internet and the web of computers interlacing the world, they are only as smart as the collective programming and input of data by all of us providing the information, the conglomeration of which requires as much human skill and discernment to eliminate, by reason, the chaff from the wheat, as it ever did in the age of the printed page. And those given to fluff and frill and tinsel will migrate, as usual, to that which is facile and most easily accessible to their dim wits. As news of both the grave and frivolous travels to the mind faster than it ever has, so, too, is it, save for the most grave and most frivolous, quickly forgotten and displaced by the equally forgettable story of the next hour or day. Most of it, however, which ever impacted the past, consciously and unconsciously, is now preserved for the diligent inquirer, wanting to find out what the frivolous and grave of yesterday and yesteryear might have been. That is the principal change, that it is now available in the home rather than requiring the more laborious and time-consumptive task of dedicatedly plowing through card catalogues at the library to find particular material, rarely undertaken in the past by those other than the most determined of scholars. The sad part is that the old, slower process also provides a foundation for understanding how things work as one goes, whereas the modern method skips a lot of necessary intermediate steps to glean that understanding of the zen of the thing, that which, once firmly established, becomes as easily accessible again to the mind as the attainment of the skill to guide the flying ride on a bicycle without the assistance of training wheels or the sled.

Mr. Grafton finds that in this new age, everyone knew that Universal Military Training was the answer, but that no one understood the question. He wants a machine to which one could feed the answer and then receive the question.

One answer was that the West wished to form a military union of all nations which hated Russia. But the question was how the world could establish peace. The two, he says, did not appear to match.

We recommend, quite seriously, to anyone desiring a better understanding of how to read material and discern nuances, amid a variety of opinions and competing theories, to reach the best and most reasonable answer, that one take a trial version, available online, of the law school admission test, as it does not test for any legal understanding, but rather the ability to read carefully, in a compressed time frame, and comprehend distinctions, logical and factual, to reach the best answer out of several distinct possibilities, rather than achieving the "correct" answer. For that is the way the law works in a general sense. Unless one is actually contemplating entering the law, one need not mind the clock, although it does tend to impel, as a practical matter, reaching a conclusion in faster heat than the slow track might afford. Some nuances otherwise to be missed may be gleaned by the slower approach, but sometimes, a too slow process may devolve to an absurdity and result in ferreting out little more than nonsense from what might be a practical exercise in rational thinking.

Mr. Grafton concludes: "And so we shudder, longing for peace, but not knowing even how to ask for it, until finally, in quiet desperation, we beg the answer machine to tell us where is fancy bred, in the heart or in the head, or how does the moon stand? It is not what we want to know exactly, but it is the best we can frame up to keep the apparatus busy."

A letter from the vice-president and sales manager of Piedmont Steel Buildings registers objection to unintentional insult suffered at the hands of The News by its reporting that the City was weighing relative costs in determining whether to purchase a Quonset Hut or construct a concrete-block structure for the Teenage Club. He says that the term "Quonset Hut" seemed to imply the wartime structures used by the military, made of steel of inferior tensile strength, that the new hut being considered for use as the clubhouse was much stronger.

A letter writer thanks the newspaper for apprising of the dangerous bridge on Dowd Road in the city, one of the most heavily traveled arteries during morning and evening commute hours. He predicts that unless the bridge were repaired, there would be a dangerous accident on its pedestrian walkway at some time in the future.

A Quote of the Day: "Out in California it's so dry they are praying for rain. They ought to live right, like we do." —Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press

Because we unfortunately live in times where the nuances of even blatant irony are missed or misunderstood, we stress that the above statement obviously was so meant. Californians need not be insulted, even if some in Florida might have so felt.

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