The Charlotte News

Thursday, January 30, 1941



Site Ed. Note: Hey, hey...

For more on Baron von Werra, the subject of "Gate-Crasher", see "A Prophecy", April 28, 1941. The notorious Luftwaffe airman was shot down in Canada, escaped to the then "neutral" United States, was imprisoned by the I.N.S., then made bail through the German consulate, eventually making his way to Veracruz and from there, back to Germany to be decorated by Hitler.

"An Error" contains a nearly verbatim passage from The Mind of the South, Book III, Chapter III, section 15, pages 396-397, then eleven days from publication. Cash referred to the practice in the early 1930's, after the New Deal made cotton growing profitable again, whereby absentee-owners of farm land, who gained control after the wholesale farm foreclosures of the twenties and early thirties, would either take the already infertile land "out of production" to earn government subsidies from it or have sharecroppers farm the still fertile land to turn a tidy profit for the absentee landlord, thereby depriving the intended primary beneficiaries of the farm program under the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the sharecroppers and tenants, from most of the benefits.

"Managers, overseers, gang bosses were either sent in from the North or were selected from among the hardest and most ruthless types of Southerners. Mechanization was extensively resorted to, the tractor and gang plow substituted for the old man-and-mule combination. And the tenants and sharecroppers who were still tolerated were dealt with as a sort of inferior machines on their own account--took what they were given, kept their mouths shut about it, or were thrown off the land.

"How extensive such holdings were is significantly shown by the fact that, early in 1940, Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia introduced a resolution in the Senate to limit the annual subsidies paid by the AAA to any one 'farmer' to $5,000, and raised the figure by stages to $50,000 without ever gaining any support from the senators from the cotton South, always well aware of the identity of the real powers in their states.

"Chiseling on the tenants and sharecroppers attached to such baronies was not always the work of the owners but often of the managers and other such understrappers, to whom the system gave a perfect opportunity. But, by one or the other or both, the practice was, as I say, very usual from the first. And despite the frequent changes in the law, no few of them have known how to go on seizing the great part of the subsidies intended for their dependents; sometimes by reducing them to the status, real or nominal, of mere wage-hands; sometimes by threat of dismissal and blacklisting; and sometimes by threat of violence or the police, who, in areas of the Deep South at least, are often pretty completely under the control of the local representatives of the absentees."

And one might reflect on the notion that even today, a not dissimilar set of circumstances may be seen, consciously in place or not, in the South and elsewhere, with regard to absentee ownership of business and large corporations, the absenteeism today often coming via international, not just inter-regional, financing.

Senator Harry Flood Byrd, incidentally, served in the Senate until 1966, a Democrat who was an opponent of most New Deal programs, and was the brother of Admiral Richard E. Byrd, known for his explorations in the late twenties through the mid-fifties of Antarctica. The Senator had opposed the 1938 Wagner-Van Nuys anti-lynching law. (Cash, too, had viewed it with suspicion, but on the basis that "force bills" would likely produce reactionary results.) Cash respected Byrd as someone with integrity but criticized him for showing little interest in the fundamental economic problems of the workers and farmers in the South, favoring instead a type of supply-side economics, from the landowners and mill owners down. Cash criticized him also for fighting all attempts to abolish the poll tax in Virginia, which, as Cash made a point of saying to what he believed would be his primarily white reading audience, had the effect of disenfranchising sixty per cent of the white people in the state. (Mind, Book III, Chapter III, sections 9 and 22, pages 373, 422-423) As Cash often proved with the power and subtlety of his arguments, there is more than one way to skin a cat, even a white one.

So far as we know, incidentally, Senator Harry Byrd is no relation to former Senate Majority and Minority Leader, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, born incidentally in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The latter Senator Byrd, who was welding Liberty Ships together in the shipyards of Baltimore and Tampa when the former Senator Byrd held sway in the Senate in the early 1940's, has, in our opinion, greatly distinguished himself in that body generally as someone unafraid to take a stand on controversial issues. And his eloquent speeches during latter 2002 through early 2003, standing nearly alone among his colleagues in the Senate, against the current Administration policy of pre-emptive warfare and in favor of more time for weapons inspections, may long set him apart in history as a prophet of his time and, at very least, distinguish him as a new profile in courage.

...And, in total dissociation, we get from Cretin the following limerick. We have no idea what it means but we thought we would pass it on anyway as it has a clever kind of Cretinesque rhythm to it. Cretin describes it as "a kind of a--well, it's a railroad song, about this sort of detective dog I knew once who worked on the railroad, a sayin' he was educatin' ever'body on the higher morals, and to that end was always goin' about sniffin' around to see what he could dig up, kind of a folk-tale or fable, you might say, about the dogs that sniff too much". Cretin had that old wild look in his eyne as he imparted this to us with his paws hung willy-nilly in the air.

Make of it what you will. Cretin is always perplexing to us. It's counter-ontologically titled, "I've Been It, But Now I'm Damned". It goes:

Oh, Willy he was a gambler
His slick virtues were non-pareil
He was the cloaken rambler
But alas, was somewhat unreal

Oh, Willy he was quite obese
But no one called him "glutton"
He was ol' Dutch's showpiece
But Willy really liked mutton

So when he saw all the little sheep
Go into the Vegas casino
He went in to get his middle suite
And then carped at Janet Reno

But Willy did not risk his milk money
Eight million was enough for him
He only spun the wheel for silk honey
Off his tongue was no less a skim

When they line up at Gethsemane
To tell tales of woe and awe
Willy will tell his of parsimony
As he mixes in Poe and Shaw

For Willy he now knows much better
He's writing a new Book of Virtues
Chapter One is "Don't Be a Better"
'Cause betters will surely curse you

--"And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

Cure For Crime

The Remedies Are Divided Into Immediate and Ultimate

If anybody counts on Negro policemen to have any instantaneous and considerable effect on the murder rate in this friendly city, we think he is mistaken. Negro policemen would help, not only by patrolling the more murderous districts but by being able to find out who killed whom and under what circumstances. But they aren't likely to be a cure-all.

The same thing is true of the separate Court district. That too will help a great deal. But alone it will work no miracles. How could it when a great many homicide cases--ten out of 29 in one period examined by The News--are disposed of by the coroner without their being heard in court, even in police court?

No, the habit of ready violence, without much fear of the awful vengeance of the law, has too secure a hold on the Negro people of this community to be broken by any single factor. What is going to be required is a comprehensive, many-sided attack on the evil, with the full co-operation of all agencies concerned.

This divides itself into immediate and ultimate steps to be taken. The immediate steps, as The News sees them, are:

1. Better policing of the murderous district, either with or without the aid of Negro officers.

2. More thorough investigation by the Police Department of homicide cases.

3. The delimiting of the coroner's assumed authority to sit as a trial judge.

4. Vigorous and prompt prosecution in Superior Court.

5. More representative juries.

6. Enforcement of the law against carrying concealed weapons, with adequate penalties, and perhaps the enactment of laws calling for the registration of all firearms.

7. Passage of the bill against fortified wines.

The ultimate steps, the things which in time will abate much of the tendency to do murder, outline themselves less sharply, but in general these improvements would help:

1. Better lighting in Negro districts.

2. More surface streets and sidewalks.

3. The relief of congestive living conditions through better housing.

4. Day nurseries for the children of working Negro women.

5. Education, both religious and secular.

6. The continued economic progress of the Negro.



Since He Came Uninvited He Should be Asked To Stay

His courage and resourcefulness are admirable even if he is a Nazi. But the United States should not on that account show Baron Franz von Werra undue favors, and if it is legally possible it should not allow him to return to Germany until the war is over.

By his own boastful confession, he escaped from his Canadian prison to the United States in the full expectation that he would be deported to Germany--and he would be enabled to shoot down more English planes in addition to the fourteen he already claims.

However, he may have reckoned without his host in two respects. The English charge that he stole a boat to cross the St. Lawrence, and they have a warrant out for him.

In any case, deportation is not the only punishment specified by the United States for illegal entry into this country. It is merely the one usually employed because it best fits the interest of the United States itself. Deportation plainly can do that in this case, and a stay in a nice, comfortable Federal prison seems to be the best thing for the Baron if he is not returned to Canada. There is no sense in this country trying to help England win a war with one hand and with the other turning loose an ace hawk to bring down Spitfires.


An Error

Which, However, Is Perhaps Not So Funny as It Looks

Mr. Andrew Paananen, cranberry seller of Carver, Massachusetts, thought at first he was seeing things when he opened the letter from the Treasury and out came an AAA check for $1,000,015.35. But then other persons said they saw the same figures on the check, and Mr. Paananen figured the whole town of Carver couldn't be down with the pink elephants all at once.

So, being an honest man, he sent it back to the Treasury. After all, Mr. Paananen had only been expecting a check for $15.25.

In Washington the Treasury laid it on two girl clerks. One of them, it appeared, had accidentally touched a wrong key on a check-writing machine. And the other, who is supposed to check the checks, took a second look at it but decided it must be correct because it was so big!

That will set a lot of people to chortling or growling that after all the poor girl only took the Roosevelt Administration and Henry Wallace policies at their face value. But in fact it has an even more plausible justification than that.

Senator Byrd of Virginia once made a curious proposal in the upper house. Maybe the Senator had been prowling around in agricultural statistics and had discovered that the years of the AAA benefit payments had been accomplished by the rise of farm units, often including lands of extremely dubious productive value, of unprecedented size--particularly in the deep South and the Middle West. Anyhow, the Senator proposed to bar all benefit payments to a single "farmer" of more than $5,000 annually, then gradually raised the ante to $50,000 annually. But he got no response from his colleagues, either from the South or the West, all the way up the line.

So maybe the unfortunate young woman's error wasn't so funny or so remarkable at that. 1


Strike Bill

Contains Perilous Proposal And Warning To Labor

The anti-strike bill introduced into the House yesterday by Chairman Benson of the Naval Affairs Committee will have a lot of popular backing--from people exasperated by the unbecoming wave of strikes. But it has very great dangers.

There is nothing wrong, we think, with the provision that there shall be no strike on naval projects until 30 days after a neutral arbitration board has turned in a report on conditions, save that the time allowed the arbitration board clearly ought to be sharply delimited. Without amendment it simply duplicates the railroad arbitration act.

But the provision that there shall be no pressure for men to join unions or not to join them--ostensibly a device to make the employers behave--actually suspends the Wagner Act. And when labor gets wise to that, as it will not be long in doing, the uproars are going to be unprecedented. The proposal has potentialities for splitting the nation wide open, tying production into knots, and destroying morale.

Chairman Benson, we suspect, has been listening too much to the naval brasshats. It always has to be remembered of naval officers that in general their idea of the relationship of mastering men is based on the military system, that they have no patience with the rights of labor under any conditions. That is natural, but it does not make them wise guides in these matters.

On the other hand, labor should take warning from the proposal. Labor has a right to expect a rational system for hearing its complaints to be set up. But the growing tide of strikes in defense industries is intolerable.

More than that, there is reason to suspect that, without the knowledge of the rank and file, the Communists, particularly in CIO, are engineering many of the strikes--which are often and even generally called in defiance of the highest ranking union officials.

In this war the Communists are the full allies of the Nazis, and for seventeen years the Communists have deliberately been building an organization designed to tie up and paralyze the industry of the "plutocratic" nations when war came. Their effectiveness is all out of proportion to their numbers, and it is a part of the technique not to allow the rank-and-file to suspect what they are being used for.

The labor unions will do well to root out the Communists as they have never done before, to hold their horses, and support a rational scheme for arbitration. Else some such plan as this one Benson proposes, however irrational it may be in the last analysis, will certainly be the result. It may wreck the country but, let it not be forgotten, it is also likely to wreck labor.

1 And if you were taking a law school examination on this part of the analysis, you would realize something readily--that the answer is not only that sad-eyed lady Erma Drumm, Cash's faithful and long-laboring typist on the final manuscript of the book--laboring for payment which mainly consisted of the honor of being among the first to read it--most probably hit a few wrong keys in this passage. Or was it the typesetter at Knopf? Cash and his strained late-night eyesight? No matter. There is more to it than that, we think. Remember it next time you need an attorney to figure out something for you or at least to render a second opinion. The price of understanding doesn't come cheap or easy. Sometimes, 'tis far, far nobler to do things the hard way. Part of your shined-up fable is in Faust; part's the witches' phrases in Macbeth; the rest is locked away in an old, old chest with some books in the attic... "Liar, liar, pants on fire"? Not really. If you think so, anyhow, you best look to your own business, burley boy. And while you're about it, check your pantaloons. The fire department's right around the corner.

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