The Charlotte News

Thursday, February 17, 1949


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that European nations remained hopeful of obtaining, pursuant to the North Atlantic Pact, some assurance from the U.S. for military support in the case of aggression. They were urging inclusion of language which would at least acknowledge the possibility of military action in the event of attack on a member nation.

Secretary of State Acheson the previous day had said that the problem was largely a matter of wording rather than intent, that the provision had to recognize that in the United States, in accordance with the Constitution, only the Congress could declare war and that the Senate had to ratify the final North Atlantic Treaty.

In Jerusalem, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, 74, was inaugurated as the first President of Israel, as thousands of spectators cheered. Dr. Weizmann had been provisional President since the formal creation of Israel the previous May.

A brain trust to speed economic recovery was said to be forming in Paris between high level cabinet officers of each of Britain, France, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the Benelux countries, with Paul Henri Spaak, Belgium's Premier and Foreign Minister, heading the body. It was to be known as the Organization for European Economic Recovery and would represent all nineteen countries receiving Marshall Plan aid, to insure that the recipient nations did not simply lay back and take the aid without undertaking responsibility for establishing economic independence.

In Munich, the U.S. Army revealed that Frontisek Klecka, a 31-year old waiter on the Orient Express, had been sentenced to 20 years at hard labor for spying for Czechoslovakia, though the specifics of the charge were maintained in secret.

Senator Owen Brewster of Maine asked Congress to cut off aid to any nation which refused to obey orders or requests of the U.N., making specific reference to the Dutch aggression in Indonesia the previous December and the situation in Palestine.

The Senate delayed action for eleven days on a proposed rule change to enable cloture of filibuster at any time by a two-thirds vote. Presently, such a vote could only effect cloture when a bill, but not merely a motion, was pending. Southern Senators, led by Richard Russell of Georgia, had vowed to filibuster against the rule change.

The Hoover Commission recommended that the Post Office Department be removed from political patronage and that the Postmaster General should not be allowed, as traditionally, though not at present, had been the case in both parties, to be head of the party national committee. The present DNC chairman, as for the previous two years, was Senator J. Howard McGrath of Rhode Island.

Senator Harry Cain of Washington opposed former Washington Governor and Senator Mon Wallgren for the position of chairman of the National Security Resources Board, calling him "persona non grata" to Senator Cain. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that since 1932, Mr. Wallgren had prospered personally through politics.

At the Mayors Conference in Washington, several mayors, led by William O'Dwyer of New York, voiced the need for Federal help to establish low-cost housing and slum clearance.

The average cost of food for a family of three rose to a record high in 1948 of $687, seven percent, or $45, higher than in 1947.

CIO head Philip Murray urged expansion of steel production, saying that present production was inadequate for the country's needs.

The Foreman's Association of America asked the Senate Labor Committee to require employers to bargain collectively with foremen. A Ford Motor Company vice-president, however, testified that unionization of supervisors was unworkable.

In Pittsburgh, an eight-year old boy, born without ears, was going to receive two ears in two years, following six to eight operations, the ears to be grown from rib cartilage placed in his stomach in the meantime. He could hear normally and had all of the ordinary auditory organs, but simply lacked external ears.

Over Alaska, the previous day, a pilot reported having to do battle for fifteen minutes with a passenger as the plane dipped 7,000 feet above the Alaska Mountains. The pilot eventually knocked the man out with a fire extinguisher.

In Raleigh, the State House Roads Committee approved having a public referendum on Governor Kerr Scott's 200 million dollar, four-year rural road building program.

We still have not figured out conclusively who "Miss X" is this week, but we think that there may be a couple of clues included here regarding the identity of the New Jersey-born woman. It could have something to do with Dr. Kildaire.

We are still diligently seeking the identity of last week's "Mr. X", the former well-known football player, and will not rest until that mystery is resolved.

Meanwhile, as indicated by the caption below a photograph of one of hundreds of women in Jacksonville, Fla., beset by disintegrating hose, that previously amorphous mystery appears to have been defined by chemists at Du Pont as the result of atmospheric conditions causing bits of soot laden with acidic substances to cling to women's hosiery, producing the runs in the hose.

On the editorial page, "Our Ham in Wonderland" criticizes local Congressman Hamilton Jones for having voted for the bill to provide a $90 per month pension at retirement for all veterans of both world wars, with a resulting six billion dollar annual tax burden.

It finds that there was no just basis for rewarding military service in such instances as mere retirement and non-service related incapacity. Service-related injuries and loss of earning capacity should, it offers, be the prime focus of benefits for veterans.

"A Tragic Reminder" tells of two recent tragedies having occurred in Gaston County in the wake of the ban on sale of wine and beer in that county, imposed the previous September. In one instance, a police officer and a bystander citizen died in a collision while the police were chasing a bootlegger. In the other, five men had died the previous Monday after consuming a lethal mixture of paint thinner and bay rum. The piece does not blame the deaths, per se, on prohibition, but suggests that such problems were always to be found where prohibition existed.

"New U.S. Personnel System" regards the Hoover Commission recommendations for overhaul of the Civil Service Commission, to give more latitude on hiring and recruitment practices and to make it a rule not to allow political favoritism, with the penalty of dismissal for doing so. The problems were that vacancies took too long to fill and efficient personnel could not be adequately recognized for advancement within the existing bureaucratic structures.

The taxpayers, the piece concludes, were not receiving their money's worth and should demand of their Congressmen that the system be revised.

A piece from the Fayetteville Observer, titled "Legal English", tells of a State legislator in Ohio proposing that bills be written in ordinary English. The piece agrees with the concept, citing as arcane the old practice of starting court in North Carolina with the phrase "oyez, oyez", Norman French for "hear ye, hear ye".

There might be reason, it suggests, for retaining archaic argot in the law, so that lawyers might protect the mysteries of their profession. One Justice of the Supreme Court had ventured that it could be a pernicious evil to interpret words too literally, as they were commonly understood.

It cites the Twenty-First Amendment repealing prohibition, however, as a lesson in plain-spoken English.

Bar association surveys had shown that American legalese was usually more complex than that employed in Canada.

It suggests that if the language utilized by courts could be simplified, then so, too, might laws written by legislatures.

We venture that the principal problem one finds in trying to simplify the language of the law is that the concepts themselves are not always amenable to easy simplification and expression in plain words without losing nuances of meaning vis-a-vis the established body of law in a given matter. For instance, it is easy to say that the standard of care employed in negligence law is generally that of a "reasonable person". But then one must study the entire field of negligence law, which consumes the better part of the first year study for law students in torts, to understand that such a simple statement is fraught with numerous exceptions and difficulties of application in determining just what that duty of care is and how it is established by evidence in various types of cases. What is "contributory negligence", "comparative negligence", "res ipsa loquitur", "negligence per se", "proximate and legal causation"? One would have to acquire a working understanding of all of these concepts, each, in itself, fraught with exceptions and difficulties, before one could begin to profess some understanding of that "reasonable person" standard.

Then, when one gets out into the practice of law, one finds out that the law learned in law school, while valuable, was primarily for pedagogical purposes to provide understanding of general categories and principles, that diligent research has to be performed to discern specific applications of those principles in a given case with particular facts in a given jurisdiction, with the ultimate determination finally left up to the finder of fact.

In all likelihood, the person who wrote this editorial had never darkened the door of a law school. It is easy enough to stand on the outside and carp. But it is better to carp after the study of the law for three years and the practice of it for awhile on top of that. And at the end of that time, most usually, the lawyer is not carping about complex language used in the law but rather using it for the benefit of his or her client, lest the lawyer be deemed an idiot by the court and find him or herself the object of ridicule for employing unduly loose language.

It may sound to the uninitiated, at times, like absurd gobbledygook, an idle exercise in circumlocution. Usually, however, it has precise meaning to lawyers, at least those practicing in a given area of the law. Real estate attorneys might walk into a courtroom wherein a criminal case is being tried and find it nearly as mystifying as would the general public, while an attorney practicing criminal law might experience the same confusion walking into a courtroom where complex real estate litigation is transpiring. It is the nature of the beast, relying as it does on both statutes and case precedent, all having ultimately to fit the framework of the Federal and state constitutions, as well to fit certain procedural requirements.

In short, we empathize with this editorial but understand also why it is pleading a largely hopeless case. Lawyers are not trying deliberately to obfuscate but rather must write and speak in a certain shorthand manner to avoid prolixity and to seek to inform the court, in short order, that they speak or write with authority. The same tends to be true of legislation, the language of which must be crafted carefully not only to reach consensus for initial passage but moreover to try to fit legal constraints imposed by the state and Federal constitutions or a pre-existing statutory scheme, or effect remedy of unduly vague or overbroad language previously found by a court to be in a particular statute.

It also suggests why non-lawyers are not properly capable of sitting in adjudicatory functions, as still persists, for instance, in North Carolina probate, a holdover from the horse-and-buggy era, rendering those proceedings nothing less than buggy.

Sine die.

We also note that while in 1949 and earlier, the use of language and expression of substantive ideas with that language by journalists was, daily, save for that in the gossip columns and other trivialities, on a par of excellence, today, routinely, even the best newspapers suffer, even in their most serious journalism, from the malady of the dumbing down of the language to the point where one wonders, as often as not, whether the journalist has gone beyond the third or fourth grade, both in terms of the general complexity of ideas being expressed on a given subject and the facile language employed to express them. Simplification of expression often leads to simplification of substance, to the point where emotional expressions supplant reason.

The use of language is too often atrocious, breathlessly hurried, in journalism these days, increasingly so in the internet generation, where good writing and self-editing should be far easier than in the old, laborious typewritten form. The stress appears to be on getting the story out in any old frame and not in how it is expressed, which, at the end of the day, to anyone who has ever thought more than superficially about the interactive process of writing to a reader, is half the story. The use of the split infinitive, for instance, "to not" do something, is one glaring example which we observe nearly every day, along with the use of jejune phrases and words, and plain kitsch, which has no place in formal reportage, unless the subject is kitsch.

Journalists ought lead the charge against the decay of proper English, insisting on something beyond that of the adolescent and younger, rather than following the cutesy-wootsies who abound on tv in the cable news generation, regularly sounding as adolescents reaching dotage. Instead, it is the tv cutesy-wootsies, with their cutesy-wootsy language, who have been leading the way for the past 25 years or more, to everyone's gradual mental disintegration.

Expressing ideas in forms consistently alternating between vacuous happy-talk and funereal morbidity, as the subject might dictate, uttered, as most of it is, at a loquacious mile a minute, winds up with listeners, or readers, alienated and disinterested at the end of the day, connected as they are to nothing more thought-provoking than empty air, without substance, emotional outpourings of a superannuated adolescent mind devoid, for disuse of the cognitive mental faculty, of the ability to analyze logically, with facts in tow, any given subject of more than slight complexity.

Sumner Welles, former Undersecretary of State until August, 1943, discusses the Russian threat to Scandinavia, including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. A threat to any one of those countries would destabilize the others. Norway was seeking to join the North Atlantic Pact, provided the U.S. could defend it during the crucial interim period before the Pact went into effect.

Finland, in the shadow of the Soviet Union, had in its recent elections thrown the Communists out of the Government, and the Government was presently busy eliminating Communist influence in the country. But if Russia decided to move on Finland, it could overrun the country and reach the Swedish border within two days. That prospect had the rest of Scandinavia worried.

While the Russian threat to Norway could likely backfire, with the lesson of Nazi Germany fresh in the Norwegian mind and the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia a year earlier even fresher, the policy of the U.S. had blundered so in not adequately assuring Norway of security that it tended to offset the Russian threat. The U.S. policy had not sufficiently taken into account the exposed position of Scandinavia.

Mr. Welles recommends that the Congress act in such a way to permit the President to assure the partners in the Pact that they would be protected in the event of Soviet aggression.

Drew Pearson tells of the Norwegian Foreign Minister meeting with Congressional leaders in Washington and gaining reassurance that if Norway joined the North Atlantic Pact, the lag time of about five months until aid could begin would, if the Russians began moving against Norway, be accelerated by the Congress.

The President was getting a kick still out of reading about the mistakes of the press and pollsters in the late campaign, had particularly liked the book by Morris Ernst, The People Know Best. When Mr. Ernst visited the White House, the President asked him to autograph his copy of the book.

The Franco Government of Spain had managed to obtain a 25 million dollar loan from Chase Manhattan Bank, with the blessing of the American charge d'affaires in Madrid, Paul Culbertson. Mr. Culbertson had convinced the State Department that the aid was necessary to prevent Franco from refusing to cooperate in the defense of Western Europe. The State Department had hesitated out of concern of American protest but finally agreed, ingratiating Mr. Culbertson to dictator Franco.

The American representative in the London Big Four conference regarding the Austrian peace treaty had indicated his desire to come home after only three days, as he assured that the Russians had no intention of cooperating in reaching an agreement. The State Department, however, wanted him to remain in the hope that enough concessions could be obtained from Russia to warrant a session in New York in April.

Business leaders had met with President Truman and Vice-President Barkley to complain about Federal Reserve Board limits on installment buying, threatening to impact especially automobile purchases and thus rippling through the economy to the steel industry. The President promised to take the matter up with Fed chairman Thomas McCabe.

Marquis Childs finds a twelve-point proposal made during the week by the American Medical Association as an alternative to the Truman Administration national health insurance proposal to be too little, too late. He suggests that the AMA could have made a proposal earlier which could have been a viable alternative, but that the offered proposal was inadequate.

The AMA had decided to assess each of its 140,000 members $25 each for a propaganda campaign against the national health insurance plan, but many member doctors were objecting to the assessment. Propaganda distributed previously by the AMA had bordered on the un-American, in one instance appealing to "Christians" and claiming that the President's plan would result in Government agencies determining the birth rate by quotas.

Millions of Americans could not afford proper health care and the AMA had condemned group insurance plans to lower costs as well as a plan submitted by Governor Earl Warren in California. As long as the AMA was going to attack every plan, it had a duty to come up with a reasonable alternative, given the state of affordable medical care. Republicans were preparing their alternatives and it was to be hoped that they would reach a middle ground between complete Federal control of health care and doing nothing, leaving in place the present system which was not working for the average American.

Joseph Alsop, in London, finds that the new Soviet drive in the Far East, in China and Indonesia, was aiming toward Australia, much as the attack plan had proceeded by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. With China conquered, the attack would now move southward.

In Indo-China, the French had failed to deal adequately with the Communist threat posed by Ho Chi Minh. They had not provided concessions for a nationalist movement or used sufficient force to combat the Communist guerrilla efforts there, wasting men and materiel. London had warned the French to get on with their resistance as the Communists would begin to move across the northern border from China in the near future.

In Malaya, the British were having trouble with a small but elusive band of Communist guerrillas. The situation in Burma was even worse, where there were two Communist factions and all except one Rangoon Government leader of consequence had been murdered, leaving the Communists as the only organized group.

The danger therefore was palpable in the Far East. Burma and Indo-China provided rice for the Orient. Malaya provided tin and rubber to Britain. Japan also depended on these countries for trade. If the rest of Asia fell under Soviet domination, then India would also be placed at risk.

No similar Soviet drive had begun in the Middle East, but the recent attempted assassination of the Shah of Iran had been one of a series of destabilizing efforts, with several incidents having occurred along the Iranian border with Russia. A government-in-exile for the northern Iranian province of Azerbaijan had been set up in Russia. An effort was being made to infiltrate Israel with Communist "refugees" from Eastern Europe. Communists were also seeking to capitalize on the disparity between Arab pashas and the peasants.

Any destabilization of the present balance of power would lead inevitably to war.

It was thus clear that even after the job of rebuilding Europe was complete, there would be another job left to do in these troubled areas. Mr. Alsop warns against viewing recovery by Britain as a turning point in the world struggle, as the Communist movement was, in actuality, expanding geographically and intensifying.

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