The Charlotte News

Saturday, October 19, 1940



Site Ed. Note: For another Cash editorial stab at abuses of contempt powers by courts for criticism of their decisions similar to "New Role", see "Contempt", February 4, 1940. In the former instance, Cash did not have the facts clear from the wire service reports and came to the wrong conclusion as a result. But confirming in this instance Cash's opinion articulated in "New Role", in a 5-4 decision in Bridges v. State of California, 314 U.S. 252, authored by Justice Hugo Black, issued December 8, 1941, the United States Supreme Court reversed the contempt conviction of Bridges, finding his telegram to Francis Perkins not tending to interfere with the administration of justice and stating, in conclusion: "The words of Mr. Justice Holmes, spoken in reference to very different facts, seem entirely applicable here: 'I confess that I cannot find in all this or in the evidence in the case anything that would have affected a mind of reasonable fortitude, and still less can I find there anything that obstructed the administration of justice in any sense that I possibly can give to those words.' "

Unfortunately, Cash never got to follow up with a wee bit of pride on this editorial, for by December 8, 1941 he was five months in his grave in Shelby.

The short story of Guy de Maupassant, "Mademoiselle Fifi", to which Cash makes reference in "Nazis Dine" is set during the Franco-Prussian war of 1866 during the Prussian occupation of Normandy. No doubt, the description of the commandant, "Fifi", suggested to Cash a precious image of the Commandant of the whole of Germany in 1940, then occupying France once again:

"Since he had been in France, his comrades had called him nothing but 'Mademoiselle Fifi.' They had given him that nickname on account of his dandified style and small waist, which looked as if he wore stays, from his pale face, on which his budding mustache scarcely showed, and on account of the habit he had acquired of employing the French expression, fi, fi donc, which he pronounced with a slight whistle, when he wished to express his sovereign contempt for persons or things."

Fifi goes on to suggest to his drunken, bored soldiers that they should have women and so requisitions from a local bordello several, including Rachel, a Jewish woman, to whom Fifi takes a liking. Then: "The captain, who no doubt wished to impart an appearance of gallantry to the orgy, raised his glass again, and said: 'To our victories over hearts!' Thereupon Lieutenant Otto, who was a species of bear from the Black Forest, jumped up, inflamed and saturated with drink, and seized by an excess of alcoholic patriotism, cried: 'To our victories over France!'

"Drunk as they were, the women were silent, and Rachel turned round with a shudder, and said: 'Look here, I know some Frenchmen, in whose presence you would not dare to say that.' But the little count, still holding her on his knees, began to laugh, for the wine had made him very merry, and said: 'Ha! ha! ha! I have never met any of them, myself. As soon as we show ourselves, they run away!'

"The girl, who was in a terrible rage, shouted into his face: 'You are lying, you dirty scoundrel!'

"For a moment, he looked at her steadily, with his bright eyes upon her, as he had looked at the portrait before he destroyed it with revolver bullets, and then he began to laugh: `'Ah! yes, talk about them, my dear! Should we be here now, if they were brave?' Then getting excited, he exclaimed: 'We are the masters! France belongs to us!' She jumped off his knees with a bound, and threw herself into her chair, while he rose, held out his glass over the table, and repeated: 'France and the French, the woods, the fields, and the houses of France belong to us!'

Then, Fifi made the mistake of adding, " 'All the women in France belong to us, also!' "

Rachel protested, " 'I! I! I am not a woman; I am only a strumpet, and that is all that Prussians want.' ''

Whereupon, she pierced Fifi's vitals and escaped through a window. Fifi died. The Prussians pursued Rachel but failed to find her. She hid in the steeple of the church, where she constantly rang the bell until after the Prussians departed France.

"A short time afterward, a patriot who had no prejudices, who liked her because of her bold deed, and who afterward loved her for herself, married her, and made a lady of her."

And in many respects, so it went from the spring of 1940 until the Liberation in the fall of 1944--and while Fifi's avatar never had the appropriate justice of a knife in the neck from a Jewish woman of France, as he cheated the act with his own hand deep in his bunker on Walpurgis Night, 1945, in respect to unearthly things, the story runs true perhaps even to the end as well.

Casus Belli

Why a Ship Cannot Sail To Rescue U. S. Evacues

In San Francisco the President Taft, American President Line ship, assigned to evacuate Americans from the Far East, was loading army supplies at her pier.

Then appeared 200 scalers and painters to form a picket line and halt the loading of the vessel. Angry sailors formed a wedge and beat their way through the picket line with flying fists and flashing knives. Four men were taken to the hospital.

But the ship remained unloaded, the pickets held on. The supplies which might conceivably be crucial for the American Armed Forces in China could not move. American people in the East stayed in jeopardy.

What, then, was this all about? The desperate, pathetic protest of men exploited beyond bearing, a wild demonstration of the underdog against intolerable wages and hours, brutal oppression by brutal bosses?

Well, hardly. The trouble is reported as "purely a jurisdictional dispute between CIO scalers and AFL sailors." Some involved question, probably incomprehensible to the layman, as to who should be top dog, which almost certainly came down to the question of who should collect dues and which union bosses should wield power.


Cold Evening

Notes On the Fair as Seen Under an Autumn Moon

On the midway occasional couples stroll with their arms around each other's waist. It was always the fat, unprepossessing women who walked that way... Girls in pants, proving that Schopenhauer was right... A long country fellow with the sad face of an old hound inquired what time were the fireworks. That was two hours away. He looked disconsolate. He wanted to go home but had to wait on the folks, he explained mournfully.

The man in the beer joint barked it for what it was. "Come on in folks, we got a back room where you can hide and drink it."

The pitch joints had few customers and the faces of their keepers were pinched. A fine Negro buck of thirty or so hurled balls at the pins with energy and concentration. All fell but one. He put his coat back on, took it off again, tried another time. Again they all fell but one. His face clouded. "I usta hit 'em all," he complained.

In the flesh shows the little naked-legged girls looked small and cold and unhappy through their fixed smiles. In the monkey pen the simians hugged themselves closely or ran rapidly around their pins beating their arms to get warm. One philosopher calmly counted his fleas. A chicken fluttered about the cage of a python in the snake show. The snake was sleeping, and what had probably been wild fright in the chicken had turned to a sort of eager questioning.

In the sky the fireworks exploded, raining color. There was laughter and the name of Hitler. A country boy with another and two girls grinned proudly. "Boy, you better get used to that sound," he said. You could see that he just registered for the draft. The girls beamed on him. Somebody shouted for no plain reason. That inspired several other shouts. The crowd was beginning to thin out now, and markers were growing lackadaisical. The people passed out to the gates smiling, their faces tired. Behind a neon pylon the moon, a little get gibbous, looked on. The man in it was plainly smiling. On the American, as he grows in Mecklenburg County, enjoying himself--a little, anyhow.


Serious Side

Dr. Gordon's Fair Fits in With the City's Ambitions

So much (above) for the atmosphere of carnival, or as close to carnival as people of Scotch extraction can hope to approach without artificial aid. And now something for the prosaic mind.

This Southern States Fair is really something of a feather in the town's cap. Bigger and better in its second year, it presented not only one headliner in Lucky Teter but another and comparable one in Clyde Beatty and his miraculous act with the cats that walk like lions and tigers.

And how the fair does get out the crowds. The merchants, to be sure, may dislike it, on the ground that it takes a lot of money out of local circulation. And the moralists may contend that it is purely frivolous, has a negative contribution to our well-being.

Maybe so. But everybody seemed to be having a mighty good time. And what if the agricultural and educational side of the fair is only so much top dressing to conceal its basic carnival nature. The agricultural and educational exhibitors get their benefits out of it and have as good a time as anybody else, even as the ladies of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church had in their blue-plate emporium. And all in a good cause, too.

But in a civic way the fair remains a feature of first importance. Anything that draws people to Charlotte from miles around, entertains them while they are here and sends them home tired, happy and broke, is calculated to strengthen the city's reputation as the worthy center of its territory.


New Role

Harry Bridges Appears As Challenger of an Abuse

Harry Bridges, the West Coast labor leader, bobs up in the news again--for once without any connection with efforts of somebody to deport him as an undesirable alien. Even in circumstances which will win him what he rarely has--a good deal of newspaper sympathy.

In California a judge appointed a receiver to administer a labor hall. Bridges wired Madame Francis Perkins, Secretary of Labor, call[ed] the decision "outrageous." The judge promptly cited him for contempt. Another judge found him guilty, sentenced him to five days in Los Angeles jail or a fine of $125. Bridges appealed to the California Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction. Now the Supreme Court of the United States is to pass on the case.

Bridges was entirely right in appealing this conviction. The right to criticize a judge's decision is inherent in the right of free speech and a free press. And attempts to use the contempt power to suppress such criticism is rank usurpation of the power. The contempt power is rightly used only to prevent interference with the orderly process of a trial or hearing. If criticism made before such a trial or hearing is complete clearly interferes with the administration of justice, then the critic may be justly cited for contempt. But If criticism after a decision has been made is to be construed as contempt, then free speech and free press are mere phrases, and every little stuffed-shirt on any bench is a full-fledged tyrant in his own right.


Nazis Dine

Rumanians Learn the Habits Of Their New Masters

One odd-sounding prohibition clapped on the Rumanians by their new masters is against "spreading rumors" about what the German soldiers in the land are eating, how much, when and where.

That may set you to hoping that maybe the Germans aren't faring well for food these days. But you are almost certainly wrong. What it is is a commentary on the character of the German. What it says is that he is grabbing off the fat of the land without any regard to what happens to the Rumanian peasants whom he robs.

That is what invariably happens when a German army moves into another country, and even though it is done under pretense of friendly co-operation. De Maupassant's story "Madame Fifi," opens with the German major with his boots propped up on a fine marble mantelpiece, pitted with holes from his spurs. The scene will do well for a portrait of the German nation when it is in power.

Formerly, the German armies simply seized what they wanted, shot anybody who protested. Nowadays they pay for it in perfectly worthless paper. But the essential fact remains. When the German comes in, robbery is at hand.

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