The Charlotte News

Saturday, November 2, 1940



Site Ed. Note: Ah, "In the Middle" reminds us how much the art of polling has improved in the sixteen presidential election cycles since 1940, especially of course as exemplified in 1948, not to mention the landslide election supposed for one of the candidates in 2000 as predicted by most pollsters except Mr. Zogby who got it right.

And, the polls today, a little over four months until election day in 2004 are certainly as consistent as they were in 2000 in telling us precisely who is ahead at the moment and thus who is likely as not to win, viz. The Polling Report, aka, Pick Your Poll, North, South, East or West.

If you ever had the good fortune to take a course in sociology or statistics and can understand the science of sampling, sampling error and probability calculation, and how samples can be skewed by the politics of a particular pollster--for example, the Fox--one can of course eliminate some polls in favor of others and a picture does indeed begin to emerge with a fair amount of consistency.

The question must arise ultimately though as to why we like to see polls. Could we watch the gallop of the horses with greater concentration on the way they run the race without Mr. Gallup and the others chattering constantly to us as to who's in the lead? And does the poll itself tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, attracting some to the person of the moment in front simply because some people feel more comfortable running with the winner, just as they sought to curry favor from the most popular person in high school?

Ah well, it's one of those fine traditions by which we live. It doesn't cost anything at least to answer a poll when they tap you. But we swear we have never met anyone yet who has ever confessed to being tapped by one, at least for a presidential election. Where are these mysterious 1,000 or so people? Where do they hide them? We might assume they are in Guantanamo, but that wouldn't exactly make good sense given current results. Do they all congregate on the head of a pin in Dubuque, Iowa every month or so and raise their hands? Or is it the case that they float about off our coasts in little yellow submarines, being forced into isolation from others and to ingest all news from all networks and then render an opinion? And why oh why are they so damned fickle, changing sometimes on such nonsense as whether a candidate stumbles and falls, or swats a rabbit with a rowboat paddle, or wears a helmet atop a tank, or proclaims to have invented the internet when what was actually meant was that he stimulated interest in the internet and provided its first government endorsement, or fails the supreme test of leadership, knowing what a grocery store scanner does?

We don't know. Perhaps, they are truly just randomly selected samples based on historical voting patterns within states and precincts within those states, adjusted for various demographic changes and voter registration patterns. But then, who answers their hard-wired phones anymore? After all, it's bound to be either someone wanting to sell you a free trip to Belize if you will simply subscribe to a few dozen magazines for the rest of your life, or a pollster.

Consequently, we are left to conclude that many if not most of the 1,000 are people who are in the game for a free trip to Belize or who read a lot of magazines such as "Catch Bigger Fish With Our Lures" or "What, Me Worry? I'm Neutral" or "Oh, We Are Enlightened", publications of extremely limited distribution to which not many others of sound mind would ordinarily wish to subscribe. Or they simply like pollsters and love to talk to them and tell them whatever might be on their minds, theirs, that of the pollsters and most everyone else's.

So we think it sound advice to advise all pollsters that may all your samples be true and accurate reflections of the population being sampled and may your questions be phrased in neutral fashion, lest we be misled by you and you look a bit silly for the first time and all over again.

On Suspicion*

Littlejohn Verdict a Marvel Of Neither Yea Nor Nay

As best we can make out the verdict (2 to 1) of the Civil Service Commission in the Littlejohn case, it comes down to an expression of the conviction that where there is so much smoke there must be at least a trace the fire. Commissioners Davis and Lowe did not find him guilty of any of the seven counts against him. They found him guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer in connection with two of those charges.

A due regard for the reputation and character of an individual accused of venal crimes, and an understanding of the forces aligned against this man, would have forestalled any verdict except (1) guilty according to be evidence or (2) innocent.

The only excuse for the commissioners upholding the dismissal of Littlejohn on the basis of Chief Nolan's charges would be its desire to remand the case to Superior Court in the hope that there a clear spoken verdict might be reached.

But here again the commission should have been deterred by considerations of fair treatment. The frank interest of such men as Dr. W. E. Wishart in the humiliation of Littlejohn is itself enough to demand that the officer be proved guilty, guilty beyond doubt, or acquitted.

The commission, Chairman Moore dissenting, reached neither of these verdicts. It thereby left the whole matter as great a state of agitation as before, with only the right of appeal between Littlejohn and injustice, and only public opinion to challenge the little group of men who display so open an enmity for this agent of the law.


Japan Retreats

Retirement From Nanning Involves Loss of Face

It has been buried on the inside pages because of the news from Europe, but is potentially, at least, the most important news to come out of China in a long time. Japan has abandoned Nanning and the whole province of Kwangi, adjacent to Indo-China. Seven thousand troops have already been withdrawn by way of Haiphong. The Japanese claim that it means nothing, that they got out of the province only because it was no longer worth holding after they had succeeded in getting bases in Indo-China.

The Chinese claim that it was the result of a crushing defeat. Nanning, they say, was ready to fall, and the campaign in the province has cost the Japanese 74,000 men.

Of the two tales, the Chinese is the more probable, though it may be exaggerated. For in retiring from the province without achieving the crushing victory which they had promised, the Japanese inevitably lose "face," at least at home, in China, and throughout the East. And, of course, "face" is the most important thing for a would-be military conqueror in the East to maintain.

Japan unquestionably had her pressing reasons before she consented to lose it.

Fit Medicine

Young Vandals Stir Us To Recall Whipping Post

By and large we have no enthusiasm for schemes, occasionally proposed, for the return of the whipping post as a punishment for certain kinds of criminals. The thing smacks of the Middle Ages, and it would certainly be open to great abuse. Its indiscriminate use would be calculated to do more harm than good, and the only guarantee against that would be the fallible human judgment of judges--who sometimes owe their dignity purely to political reasons.

Nevertheless, there are occasions when we are tempted to go all out for the whipping post. As, for instance, when we read those stories in yesterday's News about the young hoodlums who careered around town in automobiles and, under the pretense of celebrating Halloween, smashed street lamps and left the jagged and dangerous remains dangerously for unsuspecting motorists to run over as well as those who showered the cars of other motorists with rocks.

Most of the offenders, it appears, were of high school age. At least those arrested were. And what happens when a high school boy is arrested is that somebody comes along--usually his father--and begs him off by paying a fine. That way the boy gets off scot-free, unless the outraged father tans his hide when he gets him home. And few of them are up to that these days.

But if such louts could be taken out in a public place, tied up to a post and given a good thrashing, it would certainly be calculated to strip them of the idiotic idea of themselves as great dashing blades which is apparently their motive for vandalism. Maybe the brutalizing effect of the thing would outweigh the advantage. But whenever we read stories like that, we are sadly tempted.


Marking Time

Turks Reflects Stalin's Hope At Dodging a Decision

The Turkish decision to stay out of the war unless the Germans attack Greece by way of Bulgaria is ultimately a Russian decision, of course. And it undoubtedly embodies some confidence that the Greeks can actually hold the Italians, with British aid.

What the British are doing in the case is shrouded in the silence with which they habitually clothe all their movements. For all they announce, they may be doing almost nothing, indeed. The Athens report that they have the occupied Corfu has had no confirmation from London, though it was not denied as the reported occupation of Crete was. And it is quite possible that the bombing of Naples was launched from that island rather than from Malta, which is so exposed that the British have not hitherto made any attempt to use it as a bombing base.

There are also rumors that the British are landing troops at Salonika. One source even reported that there are 30,000 Austrailians already on the battle front, but this seems to have been a Fifth Column story designed to justify the Italian invasion rather than a factual report. However, it is reasonable to suppose that troops are being brought in from Palestine and Egypt--probably in relatively small numbers but with mechanical equipment to combat the Italians should they succeed in breaking the Mataxas Line and reaching country where their tanks could come into play.

The poor showing of the Italians today suggests that, in such case, the confidence of the Turks and Russians may be well founded. However, the reports of the rapid movement of Nazi troop trains into Rumania indicates that Stalin may be forced in short order to the decision that he is obviously trying to dodge.

In the Middle

Poll Takers Catch It From Both Party Camps

The boys who take the opinion polls are coming in for the toughest going of their careers.

A few weeks ago their findings said that Mr. Roosevelt was in for a landslide. And that set off an ample avalanche of dead cats from the Willkie side of the fence, with our columnist, General Ironpants Johnson, leading the charge.

According to Ironpants, they were all infidels in the pay of Moscow, out to stampede the band-wagon vote and grossly to cheat Mr. Willkie of his otherwise certain victory. That is, all save one of them--Dr. Dunn, whose report Ironpants found to his liking and so reckoned him to be honest.

But now the tide has turned. All these polls have been showing for the last two weeks that Mr. Willkie was rapidly gaining ground in the Middle West and the northeastern states. And so now it is Edward J. Flynn, Democratic National Chairman, who is hollering.

These polls, he opines darkly, are all bought by Republican money and are out to defeat the will of the people by convincing the gullible among them that a vote for Roosevelt is a bet on a losing horse.

The boys, in short, are damned if they do and damned if they don't. However, they can take comfort in one thing. Ironpants these days is busily saying nothing about them.


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