The Charlotte News

Sunday, December 17, 1939


Site Ed. Note: The editorial by Mr. Clapper references the decision in Nardone v. U.S., 308 US 338. The case held that the Federal statute enacting the Exclusionary Rule, prohibiting the introduction into evidence of any matter gathered by the Government by illegal means, in contravention of the Fourth Amendment bar to unreasonable searches and seizures, that is evidence which is therefore "fruit of the poisonous tree", (not limited just to apples, but also including oranges, nuts, ships, shoes, and many other things), here involving information obtained from illegal wiretaps, is also applicable to all other uses, direct or indirect, of such illegally obtained information by the Government, not just limiting its use therefore as evidence in a criminal prosecution; that the only way around such absolute prohibition to use would be by obtaining the same underlying information, garnered from the illicit wiretaps, from some other, legal means.

The other case mentioned is Weiss v. U.S., 308 US 321. It held that the statute barred not only use of illegally wiretapped interstate, but also intrastate, communications, as for all intents and purposes the two could not be distinguished; and that the use of paid witnesses, who otherwise would have been at risk of prosecution or more severe penal consequences than they received, to testify that they did in fact send or receive the tainted messages, did not attenuate the taint of evidence gathered by illegal government wiretapping, as the supposed authorization to the wiretap provided after the fact by the admission of participation in the conversation was obtained only by coercive means, the threat otherwise of prosecution or more severe penalties from prosecution. In short, you can't get around the Constitution, pal, by providing witnesses bribes, monetary or otherwise, to try to fit their testimony into a statute's exceptional recesses.

Well, while all that Mr. Clapper opines probably did ring true in 1939 with the climate of the world, and the daily newsprint about it, rife with Fascism and Nazism steadily encroaching on and otherwise indirectly chilling the freedoms enjoyed by democracy, we beg to differ with him as we look around at the climate which abounds in the United States at the beginning of 2007 and, in varying degrees from time to time, for the past two and a half decades or so, and especially in the last six years or so: one does not really need travel very far, certainly not to Europe, to experience that of which Mr. Clapper writes as then being characteristic of the totalitarian countries of the 1930's.

Take a poll today, and for at least the last couple of decades, and most people appear to say: "Sure, use the evidence on the scumbags, no matter how you get it. Too many technicalities. Just get it and we shall say nothing. In fact, let's do away with all of those expensive trials. Guilt by accusation. That's the rule we like."

Which lousy, despicable, undemocratic, and quite unconstitutional attitude, when considered a little, is precisely why ultimately we are standing in line now at the airport for long periods waiting to be frisked, after they mark that curious "SSS" code (what mean that, "Super Secret, Stupid"?) on your ticket at the corporatista airline which has it in for you because 16 years ago you may have complained politely to them that, well, after all, it really doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference, now does it?, what your damned insurance policy may say as to its limits on company thievery by company employees, after you've entrusted them with your locked bag which, after going on its own little day-long excursion, free of charge, to Florida instead of its intended destination with you, its owner, to North Carolina, was returned to you still locked but absent your Nikon, after which the Sunday night program, the one which lasts for sixty minutes, explained to you that this was not the result of Harry Houdini come about to haunt, but instead that at the time many airline employees in the baggage area often were wont to accumulate, for odd and unknown reasons, said the airlines employing them, dozens of the uniform suitcase keys, by which presumably they could accomplish their Herculean feats of derring-do upon re-routing your luggage, with a little help from their friends at the front desk obviously, who no doubt gave the passengers special codes then as well, such as "T/A", meaning "Travelling Alone (and therefore a good mark for an involuntary contribution to our employee Christmas fund, we of the destitute airlines who charge $400 a head to harass, serve little packets of soda crackers, barely edible cheese spread, and soft drinks, show lousy second-run movies, strip of all semblance of constitutional rights, at the mere mention of which we act non-plussed and summon up airport cops to straighten out the recalcitrant cattle, and of all dignity, too, and then have the undaunted temerity to say, 'Thanks for flying with us and have a pleasant day, now'--ha-ha-he.)"

How does that lousy, undemocratic, unconstitutional attitude lead to all that, you ask?

Because, silly, if they hadn't been so busy doing all that stuff to you, the hapless passenger just trying to get from one place to another as best you can while having your dignity stripped, they would have easily caught the box-cutter people before it happened.

Or, don't you understand the connection yet?

So now--now, 16 years later, the same airline, the one which started at the mouth of the Miss., marks you as "SSS" along with two others, a roughly late teenaged Caucasian girl and an elderly African-American lady, thus all included in one giant cabal, forming a most unholy appearing terrorist cell for sure, such that you are frisked and humiliated in front of a hundred people lined up like cattle.

But--Yeah, yeah. Get 'em! They deserve to die, the pigs! Better them than me. Right on.

The other day, about a week ago, we were in the airport at Hartsville, laying over a couple of hours. Our flight was set to depart at 5:25. We happened to be in a slot, Gate 25, where we could see the tv. The Conversationally Neutral Network was broadcasting, of course, it being Hartsville.

Some somber, quiet voices, reminiscent of those voices broadcasting that last critical putt on number 18 at Augusta, were doing the play by play of the removal of the casket of President Ford. (As we have stated before, we always liked President Ford, and so we mean no disrespect. But we did pray that during his procession there would be no pratfall by the Honor Guard such as occurred with the Director's lead-lined casket, (made in Venice, we understand), in May, 1972. Though the Chase would have been complete and formed the perfect full circle thereby, we nevertheless thought that would have been out of place, in poor taste. And from what we gather, though we did not see all of it, there was no stumble this time. (At the funeral of our own papa, who passed away at 92 and was energetic to the end, we were hardly surprised when, as the pall bearers placed the casket onto the catafalque for loading onto the cart, the thing took off a little ways on its own; humor is good at the funeral of the life which has ended after its natural complement of years, and ended only from that disease which finally gets us all should nothing else have beaten it to the draw. And it told us that our papa, who always enjoyed a good joke, was not there in the casket but rather walking right alongside us wondering what all the long faces were about.) So, maybe, after all, a good pratfall or two would have been appropriate anyhow.)

And, so, as we sat wondering why they were being quite so sentimentally somber, suddenly the scene shifted to the impending hanging of Saddam Hussein, as eager voices announced the waiting of the word that the hanging was a go, unless the Court of Appeals would intervene to stop it at the last minute pending an appeal. (Must have been the little voice in the ear saying, "Come on. We're losing 'em. Let's get some blood and guts on the screen.")

Then, no sooner than we had adjusted ourselves to that exciting transition, as the anxious tension over whether to stretch or not to stretch was piling headlong upon itself, up popped yet a third story on the screen in sequence. Naturally. The President and First Lady were being harried by a threat.

Oh, goodness. What is this about, here? Let's all watch.

They were being rushed from the ranch house in Texas to an armored vehicle, also on the same ranch, for their safety from an approaching whirlwind, heading for the ranch.

"Wow," we thought to ourselves. "This is exciting. The funeral of President Ford, the hanging of Saddam Hussein, and the President and First Lady running from a tornado into an armored vehicle on their ranch out in Texas, all in the same hour, while we sit here at Gate 25 in Hartsville watching the Conversationally Neutral Network. We sure are getting our 400 bucks worth on this trip."

Needless to say, it was an existential revelation to ourselves, one whose entire meaning we have yet entirely to fathom and so must wait some length of time before elucidating further for you our fuller thoughts on it.

Yet the faces of those enamored of these events and locked with eyes on the screen there at Gate 25 seemed not the least bit phased or amazed at this rapid transition from story to story--or was it all just one continuous story, at that? They merely sat there, watching, expressionless, as this world milieu passed before them, over thirty years of our history crammed into the course of an hour.

All the while, too, believing in multi-tasking, especially while in Hartsville, we read through our New York Times--on such things as the international support offered the farmers in Transylvania, whose land, Dracula-like, is being sucked away by a company seeking to take advantage of and plunder Roman gold mines two thousand years old in those hills of Romania, underneath the farmers' land.

Suddenly, just as we were anxious to hear some more news about the hanging, we were reminded to look at our watch.

Tempus fugit.

It said 5:35.

But where was the flight call?

We walked over to the podium to take a closer look and the flight listed for departure was not ours at all--some other destination entirely.

"Oh goodness, no, no. Our world has gotten the better of us," we thought placidly.

We went over to the big board with all the lights. Our flight, we discovered, was leaving from Gate 35.

"Oh no, we have surely messed up now," we mused to ourselves quietly.

We rushed along to Gate 35. "Has the flight left?" we inquired.

"No. The flight has been delayed for thirty minutes."

"Oh. Thank you," we responded.

That gave us time even to return to Gate 25, as we forgot and left behind our Times.

It was quite an adventure. But then, so were the middle 1970's.

Nothing much happened, as we recall it.

Just the Bicentennial.

Oh sure, there was the fall of Saigon, Squeaky and Sara Jane (both still in lock-up), and the fellow who knocked her arm away at just the critical moment, propitiously, but who, being different, did not receive a personal thank you, and the S.L.A. in Safeway, the kidnapping, the chase, but all of that happened in California, except for Saigon, that is, and thus is understandably off the norm, akilter of center; and there was the withdrawal of the White House invitation to Mr. Solzhenitsyn for his criticism of American materialism during his cross-country tour, the Mayaguez, and, ah yes, W.I.N.

But, nevertheless, despite all that tumult, we remained pretty much at peace and had the Bicentennial.

That was fun with all of the fireworks. (Though it was fogged in where we were and thus we couldn't see any of it.)

We preferred it, W.I.N., fog, and all, however, to what we see today, candidly.

But out of all of that we do have one question: Is an armored vehicle really safer in a Texas tornado than the ranch house?

The reason we inquire is that we have yet to see a tornado with a gun, even in Texas.

Well, next time we lay eyes on Toto, we shall put the question to him.

Freedom Rings

By Raymond Clapper

Washington.--No one can appreciate what it means to live in a free country until he tries out the other kind. Those who have had that experience will appreciate the decisions by the Supreme Court this week, rejecting use of evidence obtained by wire-tapping.

Two years ago I spent a few weeks in Russia and Germany. Always present was the feeling that someone was listening in. The silent, unseen presence hovered everywhere. Friends living in the spy-ridden capitals, Moscow and Berlin, unconsciously glanced over their shoulders as they talked, as if to be sure no Government eavesdropper was about. We were constantly warned that the telephone wires were tapped, that any room in which we might be probably was wired with dictaphones.

Even the American Embassy buildings in Moscow and Berlin were not considered immune. Members of the American Ambassador's family in Berlin claim to have been told by Germans themselves that records of conversations within the Embassy were taken by the Gestapo. I recall how Joseph E. Davies, then American Ambassador at Moscow, warned me to say nothing inside the Embassy that would not be said in the presence of a Soviet spy. He said the only place in the house that probably was not wired was his wife's bathroom. While I was there the Embassy butler found a spool of fine, almost invisible microphone wire which had been accidentally dropped outside the dining-room window by a Russian workman who that day ostensibly was repairing the telephones, which had not been out of order.


Only one who has been through the experience can understand the sense of freedom and release of the spirit which came over us when we crossed the frontier into peacetime France. We knew that we were once more in a land where one could say what he pleased, read what he pleased, and nobody cared. The experience is indescribable, something beyond the sensation of coming from a stifling room into the fresh, free air.

Thus all of those who have been through such an experience appreciate the priceless right of privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure which prevails in America under the Bill of Rights, adopted 148 years ago this week. Because of this anniversary, the two Supreme Court decisions against wire-tapping come with particular timeliness. Especially, too, because as a result of nation-wide revulsion against Moscow's recent conduct the crusade against Communism in America is on the point of spilling over into a wave of general intolerance against anything that has not been sanctified in a Republican political platform. Even the efforts of housewives to shop around for the lowest prices seem to be viewed with suspicion by the Dies Committee.


Use of wire-tapping to gather evidence for criminal trials is a matter of policy. Congress has enacted a flat prohibition against all wire-tapping, and the cases before the Supreme Court this week involved secondary questions. The Court refused to sanction even indirect use of evidence obtained through wire-tapping and held that the Congressional prohibition extended as well to intrastate telephone conversations. In other words, the court refused to permit any evasion of the general intent of Congress to prohibit wire-tapping. The need to facilitate gathering of evidence is recognized. Yet we saw a few years ago how Justice Hugo Black, then a Senator, seized bales of telegrams in a fishing expedition to get something on opponents of the Administration. In other countries, we see the ease with which the right of confidential communication can be infringed for political purposes.

These Supreme Court decisions, plus the recent invalidating of municipal handbill ordinances which were indirect suppressions of free speech, emphasize the protections which are still thrown around the individual in America. The spirit of the Bill of Rights is being maintained. If sometimes we are maintaining it to a fault, as respects criminals, it may be worth that price in order to hold fast to a priceless heritage which is almost unique to America.

Stanly Gives In

Deciding, Evidently, That It Was Useless To Hold Out

Stanly County, perhaps as much as any of her 99 sisters, typifies self-sufficiency. She was slow to catch on to the Federal relief idea when first it was put into effect in the darker days of the depression: not that she can't use the money, for Stanly is no wealthy county even as wealth goes in North Carolina.

But her people, being predominantly farmers, still could eat and get along somehow. They had done it before, and they were expecting nothing more than to tighten their belts and do it again.

When it came to cotton quotas, Stanly farmers always went to the polling places and turned the proposition down. Always, that is, until this last election. For the first time, with only about half the usual number of farmers taking part, they gave their approval.

The editor of The Stanly News & Press suspects that they have not changed their minds about the unwisdom of growing only a specified quota of crops. He doubts that they feel themselves entitled to reimbursement from the Federal Government for doing what is obviously to their advantage and good farming practice along with it.

No, he believes that they are "just discouraged." That they see the futility of holding out against the inducement proffered by the Department of Agriculture and the readiness of farmers everywhere to submit themselves, for a price, to the orders of Washington. Why should they hold out?

Grey Holiday

A Man Who Wrote Beautifully Of Christmas Lies Ill

The illness of anyone at the Christmas season is a sad thing. But the illness of Heywood Broun is somehow a particularly sad one.

Broun's political and social arguments, often expressed in an undulant manner that made it pretty hard sometimes to say exactly where he did stand, have, in recent years, got him a great deal of hatred, both from the right and the extreme left. The Liberty Leaguers, etc. view him as a dangerous Red out to destroy the Republic, men in the middle of the road from him as a parlor Pink, but, comically enough, the Communists proper lambast him from morning till night as a traitor and a turncoat, who hasn't the courage to go the whole hog.

But there is another Broun--the Broun of the beautifully whimsical essays and the love of sports and the theater. And still another Broun, even, over and beyond that. The Broun who has written as beautifully of Christmas as any American newspaper man ever did--any American at all, for that matter.

The world smiled when Heywood joined the Catholic Church in May of this year. Heywood, said the knowing, was apparently determined to try on every shade of opinion in sight before he was through, and would probably end by joining the Union League Club on his own account. Didn't the record show plainly that piety was not precisely Heywood's metier?

As a matter of fact, there has always been a vein of reverence in Heywood before the ultimate mystery, a sense of the beauty of the universal design. It is that which got into his Christmas columns and made them so genuinely moving and which now adds to our distress at his illness.

New Lesson

Which Everybody Knew All The Time They Flouted It

The nations seem to have found out too late how to deal with aggressors. The United States got tough with Japan, and now the latter is vigorously asserting her overwhelming desire to fix things up. England and France take decisive action toward Russia in the League of Nations, promise aid to Finland, and Russia is whining instead of threatening.

We know, from official Italian correspondence, that if England had really set herself to block the Ethiopian adventure, it would never have happened.

And if the Ethiopian adventure had not happened, it is as nearly certain as anything speculative can be that Hitler's march into the Rhineland wouldn't have happened either--that the Hitler Government would have folded up for lack of the nerve to make good on the promises to the Germans.

[Indiscernible word], back of that now is more wishful thinking, so far as practical results go. But it is an inexorable part of the record by which the "statesmen" of this age will be judged.

Jezebel's Man

The Ways Of His Kind Are Not To Be Taken Lightly

Jezebel Wheeler weeping in her cell for "jest one mo' look" at her leman, Boyce Wheeler, he of the hundred or half a hundred scars, half of them inflicted by Jessie's knife--Jezebel and Boyce in and out of court, in and off the gang, for all these years--these are picturesque characters, and Tim Pridgen wrote them up artfully. But they are appalling, too.

Boyce is dead, the 30th black man killed by the hand of other blacks in this town during the current year. It is Jezebel and Boyce and their kind who immediately explain that great eminence of the city in murder to which we have often called attention and which led to Judge Burgwyn's vigorous remarks before the Exchange Club Thursday--to explain the fact that Charlotte is one of the two or three most murderous cities of more than 50,000 people, in many recent years the most murderous, on earth. Not a white man was included among the victims or their executioners this year. And always they represent only a small portion of the total.

But before we start dismissing it as "race" and the "heritage of savagery," we had best look around a bit.

White men figure often in the lesser crimes of violence, such as assault with intent to kill, assault with firearms, knives, beer bottles, etc. Merely, their aim seems poorer.

Certainly, not much is explained by race, and even less than that by the hypothesis of inheritance from savagery. The Negro is perhaps more emotionally unstable than the white man, but even that is quite possibly, even probably, an environmental factor rather than one of race. And as for savagery--savages and barbarians (many of the most valuable Negroes brought to this country were in the barbarian stage of culture) have the most rigid codes on earth. Outbreaks of violence as between individuals is generally taboo, and any violation of the code is promptly and always punished by death.

The Negro, as we see him today, is largely the white man's handiwork--like it or not. The conditions and interests of the slavery system perhaps explain something. More is explained by the fact that Southern courts have generally refused, ever since the Civil War, to treat crimes and offenses of Negroes against Negroes as of serious import. The execution in 1937 of a Negro for the murder of another Negro was a sensation in North Carolina. Moreover, justice is too costly for Negroes when they feel themselves wronged, and--distrusting and fearing any contact with the Law, anyhow--they take the settlement of their grievances in their own hands. Inadequate policing, brutal police methods, play their part, too. And of course there is a direct relationship between Negro poverty, with the darkness and squalor and the desperate carelessness of life which go with poverty, and the Negro murder rate.

But how does it happen that Charlotte generally leads the South in these Negro murders? Other cities with a far greater proportion of Negroes have much smaller Negro murder rates. We recall that last year Jackson, Miss., a half-black town not much smaller than Charlotte, had only eight murders, Columbia, S. C., had only six, Winston-Salem thirteen. In the first nine months of this year, New Orleans had just about half as many murders in proportion to population as Charlotte. Charleston, which swarms with Negroes, has a negligible murder rate as compared with ours. In estimating that our murder rate is from six to eight times that of Chicago, it is to be remembered that, next to New York, Chicago is the greatest Negro city on earth.

We have before this hazarded the guess that the waste of so much of our energies on the picayune "moral causes" such as putting down organized petty gambling and attempting bootlessly to enforce prohibition, had a whole lot to do with it. Judge Burgwyn seems to suspect the same thing. Yet that does not seem adequate to explain the whole of our eminence. But if it doesn't, what does? The whole question deserves a thorough going-into. For ultimately, it is a matter which touches the safety and the pocketbook of every man, woman, and child, white or black, who lives here.

Site Ed. Note: Here's a little song automatically written, not however by automatic writing, at the tail-end of the piece while the stereo played its music to us as the dictagraph continued taking down notes. We offer no further comment.

"Have you for the A-you, for a seam to you, for a yeah-hymn in an inherent in, the A-hymn in the A-hymn today, in the hymn and we hem in him, hem in him, A-boom, you can in the, uh, yeah, uh, uh, hem in..."

We added a little punctuation and changed the spelling of "him" a few times and changed "a" to "uh" but still not a bad song for a machine, don't you think?

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