The Charlotte News

Thursday, October 27, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Unfortunately, we cannot provide you readily with the text of the speech, a nine-minute radio address, of President Roosevelt, discussed in "For Foe and Friend", as it is not available online at present. We shall endeavor in a bit, however, to do some old-fashioned research at the library, rather than online, and provide some of FDR's public thoughts during this critical period. He would make a speech at Woollen Gymnasium in Chapel Hill on December 5, 1938, and so we will wish to provide you with the text of his bouncing remarks on that occasion for sure.

We did, however, in looking for the speech online, run across an article from the October, 2005 issue of Harper's Magazine, by its editor, Lewis Lapham, whose opinion and intelligence we respect, waxing philosophic, and acerbically ironic, at least by our read of it, with regard to the notion of "fascism" in America, something on which we have commented recently, before reading Mr. Lapham's piece, in association with the Herbert Agar article in The News from September 30, 1938 and the associated Virginia Quarterly comments of Jonathan Daniels of that time. Mr. Lapham's current comments begin with a forceful quote from FDR of November 4, 1938, just before election day for the midterm elections that year:

"But I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, then Fascism and Communism, aided, unconsciously perhaps, by old-line Tory Republicanism, will grow in strength in our land."

Our own view, without literary adornment, is that we must always recognize the prospect that our system, no matter how free we regard our election process to be, is ripe nevertheless for such fascism to become the vogue, by a fabian process, quite without our realizing it, quite by the time-stemmed stealth of corporate advertising and slow ingratiation, generationally, brainwashing our gradual enslavement to its tempt of "comfortability", until its foothold is so strongly entwined with our economic and social framework as to be nearly impossible to shake from ourselves without such discomfort as to seem not worth our while to loose it from us.

But, we must loose it, and we must do so at once, we posit. For if we don't, Nature itself will seek its mighty retributive recompense, as we are witnessing this very record-setting hurricane season of 2005.

Not related, you say? Spiritual mumbo-jumbo.


Burning off our carbon every day to and from our places of work, from suburb to city or town and back again, and to and fro the vacation spots for escape from that dreadful tension unwittingly capping us by the commute--carbon monoxide emissions, colorless and out of sight, out of mind, going somewhere up there and repositing themselves to form a nice warm insulating blanket, slowly to smother us to death, heating the atmosphere, melting the polar cap at an increasing rate, already 20% gone in just 25 years, warming the ocean water, causing the warmth-inspired storms viciously to attack our coasts, while the ice-melt fills our Big Tub of water, threatening to flood the coastlines with just a few gradual inches at a time of rising sea level--which objects of threat just happen to include our most valuable port cities in the East and Southeast--New York, Boston, Baltimore, Norfolk, New Orleans, Miami, even the seat of government itself up along the Potomac. All gone soon, in a great flash, as surely as New Orleans nearly drowned completely this year?

You bet they're related. You bet your life every time you consume another gallon of fossil fuel needlessly.

So we either respond and end our dependence on oil, not just foreign oil, but oil, or we likely die off as a human species in due course, and that course is coming due faster and faster.

This is not a new thought. The more prescient geologists and ecologists have been warning us for nearly four decades that we are slowly ruining the planet with the industrial revolution in its present configuration. Indeed, some of these rumblings were going on earlier than that among the more foresighted. Oil is not an inexhaustible commodity. We have known that for a long time. But, likely, we will be exhausted as a species by its effects on our world before the supply runs out, at current arithmetic rates of increased consumption by population flow and increase, and by arithmetic deterioration of our world environment which is, as long as we use the stuff, inexorably apace.

Hybrid vehicles will help. But that is not enough. And they are only a stopgap at best. A hybrid still relies on fossil fuels.

One hundred and twenty years ago, the Daimlers took some existing concepts, borrowed by analogy from steam technology from the hundred years before that, and built the first internal combustion engine powered by petrol, formerly a fairly useless commodity, used primarily in gas lighting. It took less than twenty years, without computers, without the accumulated knowledge of the last 100 years, to perfect that concept into a viable working automobile fit for the family to drive around. That engine, save for fuel injection and other computerized accessories adorning its inner castings, has not fundamentally changed since that time. It is still based on a crank, balance, oiled bearings, cooling of the inevitable heat, i.e. wasted energy, from residual friction and combustion, by appropriate venting and water or air, with power from a piston compressing air into a chamber, lighting with a spark a vaporized injection of gasoline, or some other distillate of the fossilized crude--ka boom, then out the other end of the pipe to the atmosphere and--wheee, away we go.


The Wrights took from 1903 until about 1910 to perfect their aircraft from glider, to flyer to viable machine, based on hoisting one of those analogously conceptualized internal combustion engines stuck onto a bicycle with a couple of wings, a few springs and pulleys to manipulate its lift in the Kittyhawk wind dunes.

From Von Braun's Nazi V-1, V-2 to Wellsian rocket ship of the 1950's, to manned space missions beginning in 1961, took a little more than 20 years, another eight to go to the moon and back safely--also without more than rudimentary computer technology, far less computer technology, in fact, than that with which you have right now reading this online, even if you are reading it via an ancient 1992 model.

Why, pray tell, then, should it have taken us 40 years and counting to come up with some replacement for fossil fuels to power our engines of the future?

It should, we predict, take about two or three years at most, with proper ingenuity and leadership, incentives placed out there to enable transition of the economy otherwise rendered obsolete, to come up with a suitable replacement for fossil fuel burning engines, one which does not put carbon into the atmosphere. It starts with balance, gyroscopic balance and proceeds from there, most probably.

Now is the time of fruition of those black predictions we heard back around 1970, that dependency on oil would ultimately undo us if not checked and checked soon. That was then. Instead, we chose to forget about it, ignore the leadership in that direction, and go on burning the fossil fuel, even finding ways to get around E.P.A. standards by buying--gas-a-hog trucks, for those who need a truck about as much as they need a platypus as a pet in their bathtub. It is no longer 30-40-50 years from now. It is now.

Now may be our last gasp hope of doing something about it before the acerebral engine of commerce steers us off the edge of our ovate planet. We cannot afford the luxury of slow transition now. That should have been done 30 years ago. Too late for that, now. For this is not the changing from L.P. records to C.D.'s, black and whites to color. This is survival.

The United States is the chief offending nation when it comes to gasoline consumption for transportation and for carbon emission per capita, and also the great world example for peace and freedom and democracy and individual human action and responsibility, as well as the world leader in economic resources, especially as concern the automobile; we either take the lead and act as a collective now and do so, fight a proper war for a change, to save ourselves, and by the same token, the planet itself, or we choose suicide and will die, all of us on the planet--and maybe sooner than later.

And, as it is not now, the word must "go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike" likewise.


Ammunition Issued

We have indulged from time to time, and not without malice, the hopeful speculation that perhaps the family squabble between Democrats in the Eighth Congressional District would cost them in the election and teach them a thing or two about honesty's being the best policy. The absentee ballot law has been called North Carolina's Public Enemy No. 1, and it would be a rare case of poetic justice if the thing should turn on and bite its masters.

But, alas, that's a naive wish. A paragraph in yesterday's story from Raleigh, about the Deane-Burgin affair brought us back to reality with a jerk. Listen:

Secretary Raymond Maxwell of the State Elections Board said that absentee ballots would be mailed into the district this [Wednesday] afternoon.

So it goes. If Democrats in this or that county do not hesitate to use the absentee ballot fraudulently in intra-party contests, what they'll do to the Republicans with it is too horrible to think about.

A One-Day Sensation

The shortest-lived sensation of our long experience is that which The News heralded Monday with the screaming line--


These charges, it is true, were made in connection with another case and were looked into only for their bearing on that case. But it so happened that the examination of them took an entirely different tack. Chief Littlejohn's morning on the stand brought forth most astonishing intimations of false affidavits, prejudiced jurymen and political connivance. One got the very decided impression that smoldering under the surface of the Chief's testimony was enough black powder to blow the roof off of our municipal placidness. Extraneous to the case being heard, this was not the time to go to the bottom of them. But the Judge on the bench, the Solicitor within earshot, the Grand Jury that has been functioning in so aggressive a manner--surely these would not let such intimations pass in court without taking cognizance of them.

A Deserved Spanking

The Dies Committee roundly deserves the rebuking handed it by the President.

One of the most dangerous things that can be done in times like these is to confuse terms. And this committee has been engaged industriously in doing just that all along. Before it have appeared all sorts of irresponsible persons to make irresponsible charges designed to smear this person or that, this organization or that, as Red. And when people, irresponsible enough to charge Governor Frank Murphy with "treason" are allowed to appear before it and get their charges plastered on the front pages on the eve of a hard-fought election, it is time a halt was called.

Murphy is no traitor. Murphy is a very good man, who Summer before last found himself up against a difficult decision. Many thousands of men were on strike in Detroit for the right to unionize guaranteed them by the Wagner Labor Act. These men were violating the law by seizing the factories in which they worked. But if Murphy ordered out troops and undertook to enforce the law by brute power, there was every prospect that it would end in bloodshed and maybe a wholesale riot.

Murphy chose the way of argument and conciliation, and in the end won. The strikes were settled without the loss of life. And if all has not been perfectly lovely in Detroit since, it is certainly likely that there has been less disorder and bitterness than would have been the case had Detroit been turned into another Homestead. Sometimes, of course, the use of force is necessary in order to preserve society from chaos. But events have pretty well borne out Murphy's view that it was wiser not to use it in Detroit in 1937.

For Foe and Friend

The President's speech last night perhaps had several purposes. Plainly it was a warning to Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese warlords to change their foreign policy in toto--the policy of the open conquest carried on under the threat of making a world war and wrecking civilization. Plainly it was a warning to these new barbarians to change their domestic policy also--such as the persecution of the Jews and the wholesale dumping of goods at cutthroat prices, which created disturbances and difficulties in other nations. And plainly he intimated that the penalty of their ignoring the warning would be an arms race with the United States, which is to say an arms race they cannot win.

But it is probable that the President's speech was also addressed to Britain and France. And particularly the parts having to do with the necessity of standing fast for law and decency in international affairs, and the reassertion of our intention to defend the Monroe Doctrine in all cases whatever. The whole Chamberlain-Daladier policy is based on the assumption that it is necessary to tolerate international lawlessness in order to preserve peace. And according to the correspondents, both governments have lately been buzzing with the notion of drawing the United States into a conference for the arranging of a pact with Italy and Germany, under which the United States would agree to abandon the Monroe Doctrine and give the two dictator nations a free hand in South and Central America, by way of persuading them to lay off the British and French empires. The coming visit of George VI and his queen is supposed to be a move to prepare the way for such a program. But the President plainly served notice last night that all such hopes are vain and may as well be abandoned out of hand.

And finally, the President was perhaps also speaking to a great many people at home--to the people who pooh-pooh the idea that Germany and Italy are attempting to penetrate South and Central America in defiance of the Monroe Doctrine. It is quite true that an open naval attack on any of these countries is unlikely, since the American Navy is superior to the combined Italian and German fleets. But the attempt will be made, as it has already been made, by fomenting revolution within, and establishing Nazi and Fascist governments which will be directed from Berlin and Rome. Moreover, the Japanese have their eyes on South America, too--are already very active in Chile. In case of open conflict, they might easily join Germany and Italy and seize a naval base along the Central or South American coast. And against that combination we would be in a pretty hot spot. The President made it quite plain that such a possibility is being taken seriously in the highest military and state quarters, and so struck a powerful blow for the rearmament program he is preparing to present to the next Congress.

The Wrong Judge

Some years ago Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Pitchette, of Dollar Bay, Mich., paid a Gypsy fortune-teller $2,000 for certain supernatural powers she professed to be able to impart to them. A few weeks ago, Mrs. Pitchette went to visit her mother. While she was gone, Mr. Pitchette, who has been working for the WPA, hired a 19-year old girl as a house-keeper. Then Mrs. Pitchette came back and last week Mr. and Mrs. Pitchette killed the girl, telling their seven-year old daughter that they were using their supernatural power "to cast out a devil." Last Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Pitchette went to church, where their mumblings aroused the suspicions of a priest, with the result that the crime was discovered.

And now in Houghton, Mich., the local prosecutor gives us his considered opinion that these people are sane and says he proposes to try them for first-degree murder without bothering to have their sanity examined by competent doctors. Maybe they are sane. They sound precisely like a pair of sadistic crackpots who ought to have been locked up in padded cells a long while ago. But maybe they are only cleverly faking near-idiocy for the purpose of escaping from the consequences of their crime--though what the motive would have been in that case does not appear. But in any case whatever the prosecutor plainly isn't the man to pass on that question. There is no greater and most costly mistake than the attempt to substitute bluff ignorance, calling itself "common sense," for specialized knowledge in dealing with crime.

Site Ed. Note: All of which goes to show that such Frailty and Front, intermixed in the Crucible of Life, are not just the product of a fiction writer of a movie. Pitch that, Pilgrim.


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