The Charlotte News

Thursday, September 12, 1940


Site Ed. Note: "No Question" tells of the President's message to the Teamsters in 1940. His message to the organization in 1944 during the election cycle is here, replete with the comment about the Republican carping anent Fala having supposedly been left behind inadvertently in the Aleutian Islands and, when discovered, a convoy dispatched immediately by the President to retrieve him.

Hugh Johnson's piece on the page today discusses the method of conducting the draft lottery in World War I--that being the placing of 10,000 gelatin capsules filled with serial numbers inside a large goldfish bowl, continually stirring it with a wooden spoon, as the drawing took place before assembled press and dignitaries at the War Department. One capsule slipped into the heel of a woman's shoe and she headed home to Chevy Chase. Startled by her find, she returned in time to enable a clever general to sneak the number back into the bowl. Someone may have died in the trenches in France over a woman's heel. Maybe he was your relative; maybe ours. Then again, maybe you wouldn't be here but for it; maybe we wouldn't.

Such are the vicissitudes of life when a draft is in place.

But does it render life itself little more than a crap shoot on the sidewalk?

By the time of Vietnam, the method of choice in the lottery had changed. Instead, 365 (or 366 if the year of birth of the selectees was a leap year) dates were thrown into a large clear drum and, televised, the numbers were drawn out, each being assigned a number in order of selection. So if January 1 was the third number drawn, that was the order of selection. All men turning 19 in the year for which selection was being made, whose birthday was January 1 would thus be the third in rank in the lottery. The lower the number, the greater the likelihood of call-up. It was quite a thrilling tv show through which to sit, if it happened to be your year or that of a relative or friend. Better even than "The Twilight Zone".

Speaking of which, that full page of yesterday, with the two letters to the editor and the R. L. Stevenson quote, all eerily dovetailing our note, was not in our possession until February, 2008. And we never read it until the wee hours of this morning, September 12, 2008. We wrote the note accompanying the pieces in September, 2004. We inevitably glanced momentarily at the full page as we copied only the editorial column from the microfilm reader in the Charlotte Public Library, probably sometime in early 2001, no later than sometime in early 2002. Whether such a glimpse could account for subconscious retention to that degree, we can't tell you. It certainly wasn't conscious retention.

Whatever the case, it does not account for the further coincidence of the release of "Sad and Lonesome Day", September 11, 2001.

And when you figure that out finally, try not shooting the piano player this time, as during the last four years, repeatedly.

Our opinion is that it has nothing at all to do with the wisdom of the Roosevelt third term, though for the President himself, however, not acceding to the draft of the convention for the nomination would have likely extended his life.

Our opinion is that it has to do with more contemporary events.

"After Hague", regarding the head-banging attempts by Boss Crump to keep organized labor out of Memphis, reminds again that it was in this city in April, 1968 that Martin Luther King was present when assassinated April 4 trying to effect a resolution to the garbage strike there. Of course, the reason for his assassination went far beyond this particular, but the reputation of Memphis as being a city fixed from within undoubtedly contributed at the time to its choice as locus for a crime against humanity.

A Rare Sight*

Only the Extraordinary Brings These Citizens Out

The appearance at City Hall yesterday of a number of prominent citizens, there to exert all the weight they could in the interest of fair treatment for an accused man, was both comforting and an unusual sight. Some of them may have been there before when Blue Laws were up for discussion or when they had special business to transact with the Council, but for the most part it is likely that they were total strangers to the surroundings and to the members of their City Council.

We suspect that there was a good deal of whispering going on among them, after this fashion: "Who is that man second from the left?" "Which one is Councilman Brown?" "What's the dark-haired fellow's name?"

Yet it is comforting to think that something will bring them out in force to exert what influence they have. But they don't have much influence and don't seem to care a great deal about exerting any influence in municipal politics. They are too busy.

But politics, whether we like it or not, is the means by which men get into office and become possessed of authority. And when the best citizens and the great body of citizens in a town are apathetic to politics, it is almost inevitable that the wrong crowd will take control.

So far, the citizens of Charlotte have been lucky. They've been lucky that as an astute a politician as Ben Douglas has made an excellent and honorable mayor; that the City Council, for all its errors and factionalism and lack of forcefulness, has done as well as it has; that the City Managers of its selection have been able.

But with a little ring of men actively interested in politics and the composition of the City Government for purposes that appear to be exceedingly unwholesome, if not downright sinister, the time has come to depend no longer on luck. The citizens who bestir themselves only on extraordinary occasions had best endeavor to reassert their political influence, if any, before lasting harm is done.

An Echo

A Lot of People Have Voiced This Plaintive Protest

The Associated Press dispatches from Berlin yesterday quoted a German spokesman as saying:

"The British are already licked and don't know it."

Which must have moved the shades of Von Moltke, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and Napoleon, not to say some thousands of others through the centuries, to chuckling grimly.

The British, as everybody agreed, were soundly licked in 1914. But they did not know it. They were licked in 1915. They were licked in 1916. They were horribly licked in 1917. And still more horribly in the Spring of 1918. But they never found out.

And for fifteen years Napoleon whipped them almost continually. Sometimes there seemed absolutely no hope for them. But they hadn't the faintest notion that they were licked as badly as they were.

They are obtuse like that, the British. If they are licked, that is only the beginning of it. Hitler's job is to make them know they are licked. And if he can't, well, there isn't much he can do about it but fume and bite his nails, and remember St. Helena.

After Hague

Memphis Obviously Wants His Crown for High-Handedness

The city government of Memphis seems set on taking the crown of a high-handed action against civil liberties away from Boss Hague of Jersey City.

Now it is Mayor Chandler who demands that CIO organizers, who have been trying to set up a union in the Firestone tire plant there, get out of town "for the interest of peace and order."

Chandler is a stooge of Boss E. H. Crump, whose pocket borough Memphis is. Boss Crump doesn't like union labor. He likes it so little that back in 1937, when the Wagner Act was new, his labor commissioner served notice that no CIO organizer would be allowed in the city. One came in anyhow, was beaten up and thrown out. Memphis police made no secret of the fact that they knew who was guilty and why. But nothing was done.

Now the CIO men are back. They have a perfect legal right to be in Memphis. They have a perfect legal right to attempt to organize the Firestone workers by all legal and peaceful means. And it is the business of Memphis police to protect them in these rights. They have no right at all to resort to intimidation or violence.

But they maintain that it is themselves who have been beaten up, and that Mayor Chandler told them that there was nothing he could do to protect them. Moreover if the CIO men are guilty of any violence or intimidation, there are laws to deal with them. The fact that no attempt has been made to indict them suggests strongly that they have been circumspect. Nor does Mayor Chandler charge that they have broken the law.

Merely, he demands that they get out of town. In short, the evidence seems pretty conclusive that Memphis is out to hog Hague out of his crown.

No Question

President Need Have Had No Doubt About This One

Mr. Roosevelt was too, too coy in his speech to the teamsters last night. He was, he said, undecided as to whether the speech was political or not. He needn't have been. Political it was.

The country generally will applaud the rough-riding way in which he came out flatly for conscription of balky manufacturers along with men to be soldiers. That, too, had its element of politics--constituted an effective thrust against Wendell Willkie who first came out flatfootedly against the draft for wealth, then hastily climbed upon the fence.

The President cannot justly be accused of making political capital out of this stand in other respects. He indulged in no demagoguery about manufacturers in general, but made it explicitly clear that it is not the rule but the exception who refuses to co-operate with the needs of national defense.

He said two things, however, which are open to question. One of them was the flat assurance to the teamsters that it will not be necessary to surrender any of the advantages labor has gained under the New Deal. There may be and probably is a good deal of truth in his suggestion that the repeal or suspension of the labor laws at present would have the effect of snarling up the defense program instead of speeding it. Silent and bitter labor is certainly not likely to increase production.

No sane man in this country wants to destroy labor's advantages for the benefit of fat cats or for manufacturers generally. Nevertheless, the plain fact is that hard days are ahead, quite possibly harder days than we have ever known in this republic. It is conceivable that within a year we may be fighting for our existence, against heavy odds. And under those circumstances, the production of arms will have to be pushed to the last possible limit. And it is highly probable that it cannot be done without at least the temporary surrender by certain groups of skilled labor of some of their gains, particularly in the matter of hours. Labor may justly demand that all such concessions shall be entirely for the benefit of the nation, not for individual employers. But it ought not to be told that such concessions will under no circumstances be required.

Finally, Mr. Roosevelt solemnly promised absolutely to stay out of war save in this hemisphere and then only when attacked. There he was only matching Wendell Willkie, who has been trying to appeal to the isolationist vote with like assurances. But such promises are exceedingly dubious. Not because there is any prospect of sending troops to Europe. We probably aren't going to. Nevertheless the President's hands ought always to be completely free to meet unforeseen developments. Military considerations ought to be the sole arbiter of where we shall fight. Hitler ought not to be given the aid and comfort of being assured beforehand that he has nothing to fear from us. And above all, such utterances are calculated to mislead the people and to give them the comfortable feeling that after all, the war is very far away from us.

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