The Charlotte News

Friday, February 24, 1939


Site Ed. Note: "Understanding Mexico" provides the trumpeted premise on which Mexico seized British and American oil properties in March, 1938: the companies paid the Mexican workers too little and refused to hike wages. Cash thinks otherwise, especially since Mexico refused to pay for the expropriated property and only eventually made an offer of ten million dollars when the wells were estimated to be worth 450 million by the primary owners, British Petroleum, Shell, and Standard Oil. A boycott of the expropriated oil resulted with U.S. and British companies refusing to ship oil from Mexico, creating in turn the vacuum in the market which, starting in 1938, had led to the major oil deal with the Nazis, providing them fully a quarter of their reserve and the necessary means to invade Poland and to ward off the retaliation by the French and British likely to be provoked by such a move--in fact resulting in the September, 1939 British blockade preventing further oil from Mexico reaching Germany via the Atlantic approach.

"Conciliation It Is" tells of the refusal of Congress to fortify Guam in the face of treaty-breaking fortification of the Carolines by Japan, despite a committee recommendation in 1938 to do so. Guam, in U.S. possession since the Spanish-American War, served as a re-fueling station for ships headed for east Asia, as a relay for the trans-Pacific cable, and possessed a naval radio station. Its 173 defenders fell to the Japanese, along with the airstrip at Wake Island, three days after the attack at Pearl Harbor and was not recaptured until August 10, 1944. (For a first-hand account of the capture, see the immediate post-war report of the U.S. Naval officer acting as Governor of Guam at the time and held as a prisoner for the duration.) In hindsight, incidentally, it is difficult to see, other than for symbolic purposes, how the fortification of Guam would have had any direct impact on preventing the attack at Pearl, as the Japanese Fleet took the northern all-sea route out of the Kuril Islands, carrying their oil in tankers with them for about half the distance across, last refueling at a spot in the ocean 43 north by 170 east. On the other hand, fortification at Guam might have acted as an additional deterrent to the crucial southward heading diversionary fleet, which was known to be sailing at the same time toward the Dutch East Indies, thought by the allies to be the likely place of attack, along with the Philippines, taking attention from the vast reaches of the northern Pacific patrolled only by limited air reconnaissance.

Behind the scenes at this time in 1939, as indicated in a memorandum of February 6 summarizing a conversation between the Undersecretary of State and the British Chargé d'Affaires, Hitler was trying to forge a general alliance with Japan, one not finally achieved until September, 1940; (though Japan had joined Italy and Germany in the November, 1936 Anti-Comintern Pact against the Soviet Union, a relation with Japan strained by the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of August 23, 1939, designed to insure Soviet neutrality in the Nazi invasion of Poland, nevertheless unsettling to the Japanese who feared Soviet aid to the Chinese). The memorandum indicates Hitler's purpose in seeking the pact, to occupy the British navy in three theaters, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, thus diluting its effectiveness. It also indicates Mussolini's favoring the alliance as being conducive to develop French opinion the more in favor of granting the sought concessions to Italy in French Morocco and Tunisia, (see, "Ominous Resemblance" from the day before), thus to avoid war on potentially three French fronts, Spain, the Ardennes, and the Mediterranean, with a necessarily overly preoccupied British navy at its side. Japan, however, balked at this time, fearing that the alliance would provoke an embargo on raw materials by the U.S. and British, primarily oil, needed by Japan in its Chinese offensive--always the issue for Japan in allying with Hitler and Mussolini, right up through the days preceding Pearl Harbor. "Marking Time", February 16, 1939, generally explores this paradox from the British point of view.

The world situation at this time can best be summed by the O.E.D.'s example provided for the word apodosis: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him."

Also from the page this date comes the below from New York, a story on the event on which Cash made comment February 21 in "Ain't Humanity Grand?", with special emphasis on syndicated columnist Dorothy Thompson's unceremonious ejection from the rally for her unrestrained repeated shouting at the hate-baiters. Ms. Thompson's home newspaper was The New York Herald and so presumably this editorial from The World-Telegram came from another journalist.

A Good Look At Nazism In Action

New York World-Telegram

For more than three hours last night an audience of about 20,000 persons at Madison Square Garden had drummed into its ears the steady tom-tom of hatred.

They were gripped by the rhythmic appeal of competent speakers, practicing upon them the settled formula of the old Nazi system--whatever is wrong, curse the Jew for it.

It was a revolting exhibition to eyes and ears bred in the tolerance of American tradition. It was a complete desecration, chanting this hate with American flags for a background and a ceiling-high picture of George Washington looking down on the stage. It was a perfectly shocking appeal to the most degrading poisons in the human temper.

And never, it is fair to say, has any person or any classification in all the pugilistic history of the Garden taken such a pushing around as the Jews received from Bund speakers last night. Whatever is wrong--whether unemployment, debt, war scares, declining business indexes, Communism, modern art, religion--damn the Jews for it.

One speaker achieved a special depth in bad taste in combining hate of Jews and hate of President Roosevelt into the single shopworn slur, "Franklin Rosenfeld," spoken with a ham-like leer at the crowd. He was greeted by the loudest approval of the evening except that given the name of Father Coughlin.

Here in New York last night was Nazism full blast. Here were Nazi salutes and the strong-arm Nazi boys in uniform itching to swing into action.

Democracy furnished the rope, and it seemed to us this weird, malignant mummery rushed pell-mell to hang itself. The Nazis staged their show and had their say. No New Yorker can pretend now that he doesn't know it. The more we see, the less we want. Nazism revealed its face, and Germany is welcome to it.

The speakers one after the other sneered heavily at democracy, free speech and a free country. The meeting was their answer. Nothing could give the lie to them so utterly as the very rights which they enjoyed--rights which their own dogma would deny to everyone else. Democracy worked last night with health and self-respect, to the refutation of the Bund and the contradiction of short-sighted Americans who felt that the demonstration should be prevented.

It couldn't have happened in Berlin, Tokyo, Rome or Moscow, but today New York has seen the bogey man and can laugh at it. And an army of policemen who could be trusted almost unanimously to loathe the meeting itself did a splendid job of preserving order and upholding the rights even for those who wished to deny them.

The crowning irony was the studied effort of these hate-spreaders to wrap themselves in the vestments of Americanism. Believe it or not, this was billed as a "Pro-American Rally."

The Awful Alternative*

Senator Umstead gave the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee something to think about when, to fill the gap of a million dollars or so between appropriations and revenue, he proposed an increase of one-sixth in income taxes. Nicely calculated to jar the most numerous taxpayers in the lowest bracket with a 33 1-3 per cent boost, he also h'isted the top rate from seven per cent up to eight, which would be bad news to the big boys.

Undoubtedly the mere possibility of higher income taxes caused a great many people to say whew or damn, according to their vocabularies. They were hiked only last session, and even to those who don't qualify for this exquisite ordeal it must be plain that the constant raising of income tax rates is a poor way to attract new capital and new settlers to the state.

Senator Umstead knows that, we may be sure. And perhaps he really didn't mean that income taxes should be raised. Perhaps, that is, he was only holding forth the specter of an increase in order to compel his colleagues to give their attention to the one painless and productive source of untapped revenue remaining in all North Carolina. That, of course, would be the liquor traffic in dry counties, a part of which a bill by Senator Umstead would divert from the bootleggers to the State.

Understanding Mexico

Baez Carmargo, former Commissioner of Education in Mexico, made a speech here this week to a couple of women's organizations in which he asked for a sympathetic understanding of his country. He explained away the oil well expropriations by saying that it was all perfectly legal, that the Mexican Labor Board had ordered the oil companies to raise the pay of their workers, that the Mexican Supreme Court had upheld the board, and that when the companies still refused to obey the law, there was nothing left for Cardenas but to do as he did.

Put that way, a fairly plausible case is made for Mexico. But we trust that the good ladies who heard it put that way made a mental note to look into the other side of the controversy. Fact is that the Mexican Labor Board and the Supreme Court put on a show which strongly resembled the frame-up, all to the end that President Cardenas might grab outright the oil wells which he had been gradually drawing into his clutches.

And there remains besides the niceties of international law, about which Señor Camargo said nothing at all. A nation possesses the right of expropriating the property of foreigners to be sure, provided that payment is made for it. The more Secretary Hull reminds Cardenas of payment for steals, the more our bad neighbor talks about social justice.

Easy Money

Representative Rankin (Dem., Miss.) is an exponent of helping the farmer by making it easy for him to borrow money. He has introduced a bill to set aside a billion bucks for farm loans at 3% interest, limited to $15,000 for each borrower.

According to this easy-credit theory of relieving the farmer, rural life in America ought to have been growing steadily more hot-cha by the year since 1919. For it was then that the Government began earnestly teaching the farmer to put his name on a note. He was an apt pupil, as the figures show, and in less than twenty years Federal farm loans outstanding had climbed from a measly 158 millions to 2,064 millions, not including foreclosed loans, Land Bank Commissioner loans, loans to farm co-operatives, Federal Intermediate Credit Bank loans or emergency and drought loans.

And by the Hon. Rankin's easy-credit theory, the farmer ought to be about fifteen times as prosperous under this debt as he used to be before he was introduced to Federal mortgages. There is some doubt of it, however, even with the subsidy which the farmer is getting direct from the Treasury. Indeed, the farmer needs all his subsidy, and more besides, to meet interest payments on his loans.

Conciliation It Is

The House yesterday enunciated a policy of considerably greater importance to the nation than the island of Guam which it refused to fortify. Guam lies well over in the Pacific, 3,300 miles from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and within hailing distance of the Philippine Islands. Guam also lies between Tokyo and the Caroline Islands, which Germany used to own but which came under Japanese mandate after the World War. Likewise, the Caroline Islands lie on the course between Pearl Harbor and Guam.

Both the United States and Japan agreed in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 not to fortify these points, but Japan denounced that treaty several years ago and is understood to have preceded boldaceously to fortify the Carolines. This gives her naval and airplane bases intervening between U.S. possessions in the Pacific and effectively cutting off the Philippines. At the same time, while the Carolines are far south of Tokyo and the insular empire, they and Guam are more in the Japanese sphere of domination than in the U. S. One thing else: they are in range of Singapore, Britain's great naval base in the East Indies.

The questions the House had to decide were grave. Was an outpost of national defense to be flung out in the Pacific almost in Japan's backyard? Was the United States to retaliate for Japan's fortifying of the Carolines or to pull in its horns? Was the very obvious hint to be given to the bustling Japs that this country was prepared to stand upon its rights, or cautiously to renounce those rights to avoid the appearance of belligerence? To all these questions the House gave a conciliatory answer.

(C)-Type Legislation*

Legislation is supposed to be responsive to (a) the necessity of the State or (b) the will of the people. The sales tax, now, is strictly (a)-type legislation. That is, the people didn't want it and still don't. Anything but. The Legislature didn't want it. But the money had to be gotten from somewhere, and the Legislature exercised authority and got it from the sales tax.

An illustration of (b)-type legislation is the public school system. The people willed that there should be a public school system and, lo! it materialized and has been materializing ever since. In this case the Legislature has been acting perennially under a mandate, which is to say it had to.

The absentee ballot law, however, comes under neither of these classifications. There is no necessity for it. The voice of the people can be heard quite as well, even a little better, without it as with it. And as for popular demand, have you ever seen a crowd of people bearing banners and marching on the Legislature chanting, "We want the absentee ballot! We want the absentee ballot!"? You never have and you never will. The people don't give a dang about it.

No, the absentee ballot law is purely a device of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians. Some of them have quite frankly admitted as much. And that, boys and girls, is why the House Elections Committee voted yesterday to eliminate it in primaries, which is to say as between Democrats, and to retain it in elections between Democrats and Republicans.

Some Day, Somehow...

A queer trustfulness has come over the money world, mates. Even those marvelously astute creatures, the hard-headed business men, seem to have been affected by it. All these deplore, as a matter of course and upbringing, the New Deal's loose way with money and the public debt, and sometimes when they have eaten something that disagrees with them, they wring their hands and mournfully wonder what we are coming to. But when the same New Deal issues more bonds on top of all the multiplied billions it is making no effort to retire, who buys them? Right. The self-same hard-headed business men.

Something of this blithe trust in the ability of governments to pay their debts, no matter how sorry their current financial statements, seems to work in the case of Japanese bonds. Now, it is a struggle of unlooked for duration and terrific expense that Japan has let itself in for with China. Those endless lines of soldiers, their supplies and ammunition, cost of money beyond imagination, and the longer China holds out, the less money Japan will have for meeting its obligations.

But the Japanese bonds go down and down in the appraisal of the hard-headed business men who buy them? They do not. As a matter of fact, they went down shortly after hostilities commenced in July, 1937, but more recently they have been coming back up, until now they are selling at nearly twice their lows last year. All, you see, on the confident assumption that some day, somehow, somebody will pay.


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