The Charlotte News

Wednesday, January 25, 1939


Site Ed. Note: The expectation for stasis between birth and death rates in the United States by 1965, as set forth in "Cancel Those Desk Orders", was woefully misplaced. In 1965 there were 1.8 million deaths compared to 3.7 million births. The relative ratio declined between 1965 and 1985 as deaths reached 2 million compared to the same number of births as in 1965. At the crest of the post-war baby wave in 1955, the number of births were 4 million compared to 1.5 million deaths in the country. The number rose to 4.1 million births in 1956 and 4.2 in 1957 where it remained steady through 1961. In 1950 the ratio had been 3.5 to 1.4. Although no statistics are currently available for years since 1986, one would expect the death rate to gradually increase as those from the high birth period of the 1950's reach middle age and beyond. Provided birth rates remain relatively stable, then perhaps that 1939 prediction might eventually be reached somewhere down the line in about the year 2035.

And speaking of 1965, it wasn't until then that a comprehensive medical care program for the aged and poor was finally enacted into law, as proposed in early 1939, discussed in "Some Other Time"; still, of course, there is not a comprehensive medical care program for all.

Of course, in a republic which can't even count its votes, and still has places arguing over whether the theory of natural selection is competent, what would one truly expect?

In 1950, there was 88% literacy in the United States; in 1980, the literacy rate was 97%. One might begin to think, however, that there is an inversely proportional relationship between these statistics and actual ability of the society to get along in any rational manner. Perhaps, in the old days, when literacy rates were lower, those who weren't literate at least listened some of the time to those who were. And those who were had a tendency to take their gift of literacy rather seriously and actually exercise it occasionally on something more stimulative of thought than the scroll of the available tv programming on for the night. Today, those who might claim to the census takers to be able to read may, in some cases, judging by what we observe occasionally in society anyway, have outrun their capacities for thinking or listening with any qualitative discernment. Viewing the print, reciting the print, and understanding the print, are often three different exercises, not necessarily with a common result.

As to "Passage in the Dark", though nothing appears to be listed from this period among the mysterious disappearances within the Bermuda Triangle, the editorial below suggests a scenario which hath a familiar ring to it, even if flying north of Bermuda quickly removes the plane from the area of whatever mysterious gravitational pull or whatever it is which gobbles up planes and ships within its arc. Perhaps therefore, in this instance, it wasn't anything so esoteric as devil waves or Martians but something as simply explained as that the Mercury Theatre swallowed the craft whole and spit it out somewhere off the middle coast of California.

But when flying around out there somewhere and suddenly a dark cloud envelops the aircraft, static replaces the headphone play, and the plane starts whirling like a washing machine, at once to reveal the Tinman off the right wing tip--well, we might reach surcease then perhaps and at least pause, agape, if only momentarily, from our cynical and jaded view of things. After all, simply because we have seen it preposterously presented in the movies doesn't mean it doesn't exist, even if bad acting and worse writing will often of us cynics make, even about the most real and provable of phenomena in the universe.

Incidentally, there was medium high sunspot activity in this period, occurring in the high phase of the recurrent eleven-year cycle of sunspot activity in 1938-39; since high sunspot activity causes interference with radio transmissions, perhaps that explains the sudden and terrific static on the plane's radio. This was also a time of the new moon, when wave activity is highest at high tide. So maybe it was the devil wave, supercharged radio and sea at once freakishly combining to form a hellish sol dark-side luna turbescency where all acquires shape only in fractals.

Passage in the Dark

It is a strange story--that one suggested by Captain Alderson and Radio Officer Chapman of the sunken Bermuda-New York plane, Cavalier. "It is all a mystery to me," says Captain Alderson. "Unseen force," suggests the radio man. "Just before I sent out the SOS, I saw a dirty patch ahead, and I started getting static... It was not normal static, such as you get on your radio. It was a terrific rush..."

Did the static somehow close down upon and silence all four of the great engines of the ship? Something did, certainly, and contrary to the first impression, it does not seem to have been the weight of the ice. There was no ice. Strange, almost unearthly, that vision of the mighty ship beating powerfully upon its way, unmindful of the high winds off the Atlantic, without serious known motor trouble, and, as it appears now, suddenly and without warning faltering, growing silent, and slapping helplessly down upon the sea. A thing that, if the static were really responsible, passes beyond our knowledge of the behavior of the fantastic electronic flood that wraps us about.

But it is a strange world in which we live. A hundred years ago the wisest man of his age, Goethe, pompously and sententiously told his secretary, Eckermann, that the universe was a mystery and would remain one. And so it does. Always our knowledge extends outward. But always it remains no more than a candle gleam in an ocean of darkness.

Ready-Made Park

By comparison, the city spends far less than the average city of its size on parks and playgrounds. [About 16 cents per capita against 74 cents.] And as these facilities stand by themselves, it is easy to see either that not enough money is appropriated for their upkeep and improvement [$17,000-$18,000] or that too little of what is appropriated is expended on the properties themselves. [About three-fourths of the total revenue.]

In any case, there is no doubt at all that our park system is undernourished, and it is highly probable that if a special election were called, in accordance with a bill to be submitted to the Legislature, the people of the city would lose no time in increasing the tax rate for parks and playgrounds from its present 2 to 5 cents. Certainly the park board can use the money.

And, yet, we dunno. The town's most acute need in the park line is an uptown park, a place where the stranger within our gates and the home folks too may repair to sit and rest awhile. And there is available, at no cost, the perfect site for such a park, which would require almost no work or expense for conversion into precisely the sort of park it ought to be. It is, of course, the old cemetery in the block behind the First Presbyterian Church.

Until the people of the city and the City Administration itself rid themselves of their ghoulish superstitions and their silly sentimentality over this burial ground, which is badly tended as it is, we feel anything but inclined to vote more money for other parks.

Frivolous Impeachment

We trust that Congress hastens to give Madam Perkins the hearing she demands and summarily to dispose of the foolish impeachment resolution introduced by the Hon. Thomas, of Boss Hague's satrapy and the raucous Dies Committee.

The lady is not precisely our chosen heroine. But in her conduct of the Harry Bridges case, her course has been exemplary. The question of whether Bridges is a Communist has never been settled. And what is far more important, the question of whether Communism is legal ground for deporting him hasn't been settled, either. Two cases involving that question are now before the Supreme Court, and Madam has quite reasonably elected to await the decision there instead of putting the country to all the trouble and expense of making a new case in the instance of Bridges. What the Hon. Thomas and his backers, the Dies Committee, generally seem actually to be charging is that Madam is guilty of a crime in having obeyed the law and her oath of office, and of being "Un-American" for not having illegally seized Bridges and dumped him from these shores in flat defiance of his probable right to remain here.

Some Other Time

Ordinarily it is our wont, when the President conveys his recommendations to Congress, to read his message with care and to say about it what occurs to us to say. A day or so ago, the President made, at some length, proposals to Congress regarding a public health program painstakingly worked out by a Presidential committee on health and welfare. And, truly, as the President said, "good health is essential to the security and progress of the nation;" and the expenditure of public money for good health (a cost which, under the program, would attain nearly billion-dollar proportions in and by 1949) "represents a sound investment which can be expected to wipe out, in the long run, certain costs now borne in the form of relief."

All this may be precisely so, and yet we think the Congress can be excused, as we excused ourselves, from bothering to go into it just now. For the simple, unavoidable fact is that the country cannot afford a public health program at this juncture, no matter how good an investment it might be. On the very day that the President communicated his recommendations to Congress, the Treasury's auditors cast up the books for the first six and two-thirds months of this fiscal year and reported--

Receipts of .......................................... $3,138,193,766.25
Expenditures of ...................................   5,034,384,934.13

And what is worse, a huge armament program is getting underway and will begin to be felt in the Treasury statements. And you can't, no matter how adroitly the President may contend that these perennial deficits are investments in national security, invest a deficit more than once. Ours are already hocked for prosperity and defense.

Marvin Will Fix It

Mr. Marvin L. (Philly) Ritch has gone and succumbed all the way to the temptation that assails every novitiate legislator. That is, seeing something that just ain't right, he up and devises a law to fix it.

First hint that Mr. Ritch was about to be carried away with a solon's plenipotentialities came when, troubled because some old people were getting pensions who didn't deserve them and others who deserved them weren't getting them, he proposed that everybody get them and those who didn't need them give them back. This was a fine idea except for one basic flaw: nobody ever gives back anything to the government these days. They can't afford to.

Comes now Mr. Ritch, casting his eye around to see what needs fixing up, with a couple of brand-new schemes. The first is a bill aimed at criminal syndicalism, the genius of which is that it would impose stiffer penalties on law-breakers, such as the operators of butter 'n' eggs lotteries, whom the cops are unable to catch up with. Under Mr. Ritch's bill, it would go harder still with these fellows if they were ever caught.

The second bill is a proposal to cement the family circle. It seems that the young people have been kicking out the old folks, saying, "Go thou and live on the bounty that flows from Washington." Mr. Ritch would put a stop to this by making it a misdemeanor (60 days or $300) for a son or daughter to drive a parent from the house or to prevent a parent from returning to his established home. This is good Mosaic law, to be sure, but with a new twist. Honor thy father and mother that thy days... shall not be spent in the hoosegow.

Cancel Those Desk Orders

If the figures for school enrollment in Charlotte mean anything, then the Southern people is at length beginning to get to be an older people. The total number of pupils, white and black, is only 95 more this year than it was last year. That out of an enrollment of 18,366. All of which seems to indicate that the population, in both races, is approaching the stationary point.

The rest of the nation has been approaching that stationary point for a long while--so long, indeed, that it is generally estimated that deaths will exactly equal births by 1965 at the latest and perhaps earlier: with the natural result that the average age of the living population will be higher than has been the case in the past. But not the South. Its birthrate has been falling, indeed. But as late as 1930 there were 576 children under five years of age for every thousand white mothers in the eleven Southern states, and in North Carolina there were over 800! The national average was over a hundred less than the Southern average, and the Far Western average was only 376! Furthermore, the Negro rate outran even the Southern white rate.

But, of course, we cannot really generalize about the South on the basis of Charlotte figures for one year. The South's general birthrate still far outruns its death rate. What the figures do show is simply that in this one town, at least, the population is apparently moving toward the stationary point far more rapidly than is the case with the rural population surrounding it.


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