The Charlotte News

Wednesday, September 18, 1940


Site Ed. Note: "A Yardstick" tells of the death of progressive House Speaker William Bankhead of Alabama. He had been Speaker since 1936. His daughter was actress Tallulah. His brother John was a Senator. The law for the aid of the tenant farmer to which the panegyric makes reference was the Cotton Control Act of 1934.

The reference to Thothmes III, also known as Thutmose III, is to the ruler of Egypt from 1468 until his death in 1436 B.C. He was a victor on the field at Megiddo, apocryphally the probable Armageddon, consolidating the Egyptian Empire from Palestine and Mesopotamia to the Euphrates River.

As to the inquiry of "Daily Reader" re the definition of "fat cat" and the response to it by "Definition", we add that Oxford defines the term simply to mean "political backer". It cites the following usage examples:

1928 F. R. Kent Pol. Behavior vi. 59 These capitalists have what the organization needs-money to finance the campaign. Such men are known in political circles as 'Fat Cats'. 1949 Sat. Rev. Lit. 16 Apr. 4 Hollywood celebrities, literary fat cats. 1960 Economist 8 Oct. 157/2 Methods of exhorting [sic] money which...harry so-called 'fat-cats'-rich supporters-to an extent which looks like cruelty to animals. 1966 New Statesman 21 Jan. 78/3 The kind of balance-sheet fat cats who characterise the worst side of ITV. 1971 Flying Apr. 34/1 Those who view the business jet as a smoke-belching, profit-eating chariot of the fatcat.

Mr. Champion, to whose letter "Daily Reader" ascribes his or her first viewing of the term, had used it a couple of days back with respect to Joe Kennedy, actually quoting its apparent usage in that context by Pearson and Allen in their Washington Merry-Go-Round column. Funny thing about that--we'd always thought of Mr. Kennedy as rather thin, but we suppose corpulence was not a necessary precondition for application of the term.

By applying the definition so broadly, however, one could say that virtually every major politician who ever lived was a fat-cat. We ourselves have always taken it to imply a particularly wealthy and oily business man or woman who greases the wheel for their own political advantage and haven't the skill, savvy or education to make it on their own merit in the political world without their raison d'être, money; indeed scarcely have any more than cunning to make it in the business world without it, usually inherited. So limited, we certainly wouldn't apply it to Joe Kennedy. He came with a Harvard diploma, which tends to exclude the would-be subject from the pejorative use of either "fat" or "cat".

The question has to arise: do the fat cats get fat by eating too many rats? Or is it just spoiled domestication?

In any event, Thothmes III was probably a fat cat. So was the Sphinx. You can tell by its grin.

"By the Record" offers more refutation of the Willkie charge that FDR supported and acquiesced actively in Munich, laying it instead to three successive Republican administrations over the course of twelve years, those of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, and to the obstructionists in Congress in the 1920's and early thirties, all of whom regularly supported disarmament after World War I and opposed U.S. entry to the League of Nations.

One has to wonder whether the fat-cats who supported these politicians realized quite consciously that by supporting such disarmament, they would thereby bait the idea to some ignorant fool somewhere in the world to get a load of himself in the mirror such that he'd fancy himself a general in a new army of nationalism within his land, set up as the new crusader with a slogan, something like "country first", and stand up before his like-minded countrymen, the Joe Sixpacks and Hockey Moms, to tell them how miserably downtrodden they were and wouldn't it be nice to have a revolution with the new order being led by the new generalissimo, ready to tell all the scapegoated troublemakers where to stick it. Then by creating this attack dog mentality, the savvy fat-cats know that the result in response to extra-territorial aggression will finally be war and that their fat-cat pocketbooks will thus grow the fatter, all as they sit back cozy as can be telling everyone how they love peace and passivity and good works for the little people.

Anyway, speaking of campaign rhetoric stretching facts, we hear that the now desperate McCain-Palin campaign, about 8 points behind in most polls in these early days of October, 2008, has resorted through Ms. Palin to associating Senator Obama with the founder of the Weather Underground, suggesting thereby "radical ties". The association is from the Senator's children attending school with the former Weatherman's children, and that the Weatherman, who lives in the Senator's neighborhood, sponsored a meeting some 14 years ago to meet the candidate when Obama first ran for the state senate.

And, true enough, Senator Obama used to be one of the Weathermen by proxy, but that was when he was seven and enjoyed radical tv, such as "The Bold Ones". You have to allow for the times. After all, Justice Thomas once wrote in praise of the Black Panthers.

We understand that Ms. Palin was an aficionado at age four of "Mod Squad" and in fact to this day patterns herself in private after the character known as "Link". Also, it has come to light that her strangely shaped glasses are that way because they provide three-dimensional effects and at once afford X-ray vision.

Palin's in the glass-tint mixin' up her medicine, we're on the wave-glint thinkin' 'bout Con Edison. Talk in your frip throes, don't take no-doz, better stay away from those who carry around the sheer hose, keep the ice froze, watch your stripped clothes, don't move the feather fan to know which way her mind goes.

The rest of the page, replete with bad sag hard-hat laid-back fat-cat Boss Tweed, crossed-kneed, twenty years of foolin' and they put you in the Shea lift, is here.


Liquor Car Case Must Be Bad News To Bootleg Ring

The Baker liquor car case will be appealed to Superior Court, it is stated, so that it has not been finally established that the lien on the car--caught a second time making liquor hauls--is an invalid lien and therefore no defense against confiscation and sale of the vehicle. But that Judge Howard believes the transaction to have a background of connivance is indicated not only by his judgment but also by the fact that he ordered the car held without bond.

(This was a thoughtful precaution inasmuch as it was brought out in a story published in The News the other day that it has been years since Mecklenburg Superior Court, under the direction of Solicitor John Carpenter, has ordered a seized liquor car to be sold or moved to collect bonds which were given to obtain the release of such cars.)

At any rate, it is reassuring to see that County Recorder's Court has had the curiosity to go behind the front of the duly-recorded lien and title and to take into consideration certain questionable circumstances which seemed to show that the bootleg ring was taking advantage of the law to dupe the law.

True, the solicitor of the court was prodded into action by the interest of State officials and the publicity that followed. There must have been half a dozen previous cases, differing only in detail, in which liens questionable on their face were allowed to operate against confiscation and sale of souped-up liquor cars.

It is to be trusted now, with this example to go by, that no local court will assume every mortgage on liquor cars to be valid--not, at least, without diligently inquiring into the circumstances and requiring the mortgagee to show that he is an innocent holder for value.

A Yardstick

His People Offer Measure Of Late Speaker Bankhead

The huge crowd that gathered in Jasper, Ala. to pay final tribute to the memory of Speaker William B. Bankhead--a crowd largely made up of the people called "common" or "plain"--was a good measure of the man.

He was by no standard a great statesman. But he was a man who commanded the unlimited confidence of his people. And with reason. For he was truly gentle of nature--one of those "men of good-will" we hear so much about sense a Frenchman popularized the phrase as the title of a long work of fiction.

To be a man of good-will is perhaps not enough in this hard and complex world which we now inhabit--a world almost as far removed from the old world which existed before 1914, and in which William Bankhead grew up, as it is removed from that of Thothmes III.

But for the people in general the possession of the genuine gentleness and humanity of heart, which the phrase implies, is certainly the primary qualification of leadership. Bankhead, a product of the classes, was clearly aware of the problems of the masses in the South. His law for the aid of tenant farmers hasn't accomplished a great deal; perhaps not a great deal can be accomplished by the law route. But it at least showed his interest in what is ultimately perhaps the most pressing problem of the South--that its yeoman farmer class is in process of disappearing. And the people seemed to have had no doubt of his sincerity in the matter.

The leaders of the new world which is making will have to have the qualities of Bankhead, along with some others, if that world is not to be as bleak as Adolf Hitler dreams it.


Concerning the Origin and Development of a Phrase

In a letter published in the letter column to our right today, "Daily Reader" wants to know the meaning of the term, "fat cat." "Daily Reader" does not sign his name, which is cause in this office to throw his letter out. However, his query is interesting, so for once we waive the rule.

"Fat cat" is a phrase which has undergone rapid modification. It was originally coined to describe rich men who had developed a sudden yen to round off their careers with high political office and who contributed heavily to party campaign chests for the purpose of getting themselves in line for an appointment to say, the Senate when somebody suddenly popped off. Or who frankly went out to buy themselves a nomination with huge gifts to the party.

More recently, however, it has got to mean the sort of man who considers his own interest as greater than that of the nation to which he belongs. Pierre Etienne Flandin was a fat cat when, as premier of France, he allowed Germany to re-arm and re-militarize the Rhineland because he had large holdings in the German arms cartel and so stood to gain by disregarding the obvious interests of France. And both he and Laval are fat cats now in their efforts to use the Vichy Government to save their own skins and the fortunes of themselves and their friends at the expense of France.

By the Record

Mr. Willkie Is Very Wide Of the Mark in This Charge

The dwindling of Wendell Willkie which most of the columnists have been announcing for the last ten days, and which is now shown up to be true by the opinion polls, is undoubtedly due primarily to the fact that the Battle of Britain has him in its shadow, and that in relation to it the President has overwhelming advantage.

But it is hard to escape the feeling that it is also due to the fact that the man himself is failing to live up to his advance notices. He offered himself to the nation as one serene and confident of the future, above all candid. But his attempt to lay the blame for Munich on Mr. Roosevelt was unbecoming. Likewise, it was about as uncandid as it well could be.

Consider, again, the speech he made last night, in which he charged that the President was responsible for the fact that, after seven and a half years of Hitler, the United States is still unprepared for war.

The facts here are plain and clear. The party which Mr. Willkie represents is the party which disarmed the United States in 1921 and kept on increasingly disarming it down until 1933. Since 1933, the President has repeatedly sought to arouse the nation to the danger of Hitler, the need for arms. He has almost universally been denounced by the leaders of the Republican Party, as well as some of those of his own, as a warmonger for his pains.

More than that, the Congress has consistently scaled down all the most recent of his requests for military and naval expenditures. And--the Republican members of Congress have voted almost as a solid block in favor of every proposed reduction.

These are the facts, open to anyone who cares to look at the record. If Mr. Willkie is making his charge without looking at the record, he is certainly a good deal less than serene. If he is making them after looking at the record--then his score for candor is as poor as any Mr. Roosevelt has ever hung up.

No Lightning

Signor Mussolini Approaches His Task Very Cautiously

The Italian attack on Egypt has so far failed to develop any lightning quality.

Es Sollum, around which most of the fighting has been in progress, is a mere frontier outpost, and its seizure by the Italian armies will mean little.

First serious defense of the land will probably take place at Mersa Matruh, which is the railhead of the line to Alexandria. By the time that point is reached, however, the Italians will have a hundred and fifty miles of desert behind them. The burning heat which now hampers the Italian advance will moderate in a few weeks more, but that advantage will be largely canceled out by the increasing distances over which water will have to be transported.

At Mersa Matruh, too, the Italians should begin to encounter the British army proper. Most of the fighting so far has been done by native troops on both sides. But when the Italians actually come up against the British, they will be facing some of the toughest soldiers in the world--old troopers long hardened to battle in the hills of India and Australians who, if they have ever been in battle, are made of such stuff as makes a first-class fighting man in record time.

Altogether, Signor Mussolini has his work cut out for him. And he may well be moving straight into disaster.

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