The Charlotte News

Thursday, June 16, 1938


Site Ed. Note: We add these two letters to the editor from this date's page.

Gambling Does Involve Moral Evil, He Says

Represents Waste And An Effort To Get Something Without Paying For It

Dear Sir:

I read your editorial "The Law Is A Spoilsport" with interest. I don't much like the idea of attempting to force other people to conform to my moral ideas by law, either. I think I read between the lines of the editorial that you meant to suggest that there is no moral issue, or no great moral issue, involved in gambling on the horses at race tracks or and places where the race tracks wire in the names of the winning horses.

But isn't there one? I confess to being a Scotch Presbyterian, and read my Bible sometimes. And if I remember correctly, the book speaks strongly of the fact that the Prodigal Son "wasted his substance in riotous living." And that "wasting one's substance" is frowned on in many passages. Maybe gambling isn't always exactly "riotous living." But it is "wasting one's substance," isn't it--as a rule, anyhow? And besides, it is clearly true that it is an attempt to get something without giving labor in return for it. Do you think that's right? And do you think the State oughtn't to try to discourage it?



Site Ed. Note: The parable to which the letter refers is found in Luke 15. The "riotous living" in that parable, however, refers to spending all one's money on "harlots", viz., said the elder son, after learning of the feast prepared by the father for the prodigal son, returning after confessing his sins and unworthiness to his father:

And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

So whether one can by analogy easily insinuate into that mix of harlotry gambling and like activity, here in issue placing small bets on horse racing, is of course a little problematic. Probably anything, including the most demanding and otherwise honorable work and occupation, should it be consumptive of all one's energy and time, might be considered thusly wasteful of one's substance, especially if being so consumed alters one's judgment markedly, placing earnin' a livin' and giving the appearance to the community of being "hard working" above both efficiency in the pursuit of the toil and setting aside time for contemplation and quietude for restoration from the rigors of the toil to sound judgment. Many a television evangelist, we venture to say, has consumed his time in riotous living in our estimation, by going on television and spending more time soliciting money than preaching anything salutary. And perhaps, some of them, engaged a few harlots as well. Lo, but upon their general confession before man and a turning from that riotous living, we receive them back into the fold eventually anyhow and treat them even to the fatted calf again probably. So perhaps in that the parable is played out and satisfied. We make no judgment of the substance of the person, for the same Bible tells us not to do that and that, we believe, is one of the prime precepts from which all the rest flows rather easily and rationally.

But, to us anyway, "riotous living" means what it means, and while many a poker hand in the old West was won by the gun rather than the honest draw apparently, thus leading to riotous things certainly, it might be all in how one handles the game and to what degree one goes about it. Participation in any professional sport, or watching fanatically same, might be deemed a form of gambling, especially if bonuses are paid, which inevitably they are, by success in the sport; is it riotous living? Investing in a savings account might be deemed to a certain extent gambling, certainly investing in stocks; is it riotous living? Mowing the grass while there is lightning afoot might be deemed gambling, even with one's safety and life; is it riotous living? Going to the wilderness for forty days and forty nights might likewise; but is it?

One may become a fanatic about most anything, we think. Perhaps that is the worst of waste of one's substance to which the parable speaks in the end, as the salutary result was the giving of a feast for the prodigal and his friends, including the elder son, as a celebration of the return to sound reason of the younger.

But then, some might say, taking the whole thing a little too literally, that the feast itself sounded as gluttony, one of the seven deadly ones in fact, especially since the honorable number one son had no such feast for his steadfastness to principle.

Well, such conflict inevitably in the conduct of man leads us then back to our understanding of the poetic in resolution of it all, perhaps.

Maude Leads With Right; Dickson Groggy; Maude's Round

Dear Sir:

This is private and confidential and calls for nothing less than the front page. A prominent minister in Charlotte (I'm afraid to use his name) whose initials are W. G. C. just dropped the one searing question to me as to whether I had seen The Charlotte News of June 9 with my lines about the poet laureate of The News. In my youth, long since past, I greatly enjoyed the gentle art of pillow-fighting with the other children, which however came under parental ban. This made our watch-word "Fight Easy," and with due discretion many and long is the battle I have waged unheard and until now unsung.

Just so I had hoped under no fiercer light than your own kind eyes as a referee to lay a barrage down on what this minister has termed the "Poet Laureate" of The News. I mean "whom" the minister has termed the laureate. Why you put this secret in the largest afternoon paper in the Carolinas I do not know. Or whether you held aloft John Dickson's hand as victor I do not know. But of course you know your mistake if you did.

City Editor Dickson, just as I said, has hung around the idea that he could write poetry as long as Grant hung around Richmond with just about as devastating results. All of this would have been kept secret, just as the many editors have helped Mr. Dickson keep secret his compositions, but for the error of his ways. As a leading member of the Fourth Estate, his manners, like the heathen of Kipling fame, are child-like and bland but his questions are his trouble.

For instance, the information he sought when he asked me if poets wrote about any minor little happening such as a mosquito biting him. Someone did, calling the poem "Virus" and relating the sad tale of the mosquito which died of blood-poisoning. Also it is said that someone asked John Dickson if he had ever read "To A Field Mouse," and he said, "No, how do you get them to listen?"



Explaining an Irony

It is a striking irony that the one measure before this session of Congress on which the President has had utterly to surrender is the reorganization bill. On the question of the capital gains and undistributed corporate income taxes he has had to recede a good deal, but he succeeded in having the principle retained at any rate. And even on the question of a wage-and-hour law, which a few months ago looked to be dead for good and all, he has won a complete victory. Yet his position on taxes and on the wage-and-hour law are certainly open to most serious question, whereas we have little doubt that the reorganization bill, as finally drawn, was a genuinely good one--one which represented a decided step toward the introduction of the merit system in the government service, and one which had no possibilities of upsetting business in the country.

Yet the irony is explicable enough. Both the tax and the wage-and-hour bills had powerful advocates--labor and all the baiters of business--who represent and control vast numbers of votes. And this is an election year with all the members of the House and one-third of the Senate needing votes badly. But the reorganization bill--the reorganization bill, with its civil service provisions, gravely threatened the patronage by which Congressmen and Senators build their machines and keep their jobs. And--in all the country it had no determined and organized advocates.

Lobbyist De Luxe*

There seems, after all, to be something to these stories that power has gone to Boss John Lewis's head. Certainly he showed no part of his native Welsh canniness when he charged into Washington Tuesday to support a bill he wanted. For he put on the first lobby de luxe that, so far as we know, anybody has ever attempted there. That is, according to the AP, "he established himself in Speaker Bankhead's office and had the legislators brought to him!" And told them peremptorily that he wanted that bill "with a vengeance." Wherefore, the statesmen immediately responded by tying the bill up tight in committee and refusing even to consider it.

That was an inevitable response, of course. It would have been true even with only normally vain people. The mildest of Americans is sure to get his back up at the spectacle of anybody trying to play the oriental nabob. But with Congressmen, of all people! It is impossible to believe that John Lewis, when in his right mind, doesn't know better than that. However gruff and dogmatic his habitual front may be, he obviously has not got where he is without having a considerable tact and knowledge of elementary human psychology in his make-up. And his present place, even in the labor movement and certainly in politics (cf., Pennsylvania), is much too insecure to excuse any such rough-riding tactics.

Quandary of the Cops

When the Sheriff's officers went charging out on South Boulevard yesterday to grab Mr. Robert Taylor, Charlotte's chief liquor importer, and found only an empty filling station, it all sounded simply killing, of course. Everyone knows that Mr. Taylor is a myth or a stooge. And many little boys of six can tell you the real name of the man who calls himself Taylor.

Don't the cops know, then? Sure they do, and have all along. But it is one thing to know who Mr. Taylor is, and another to secure legal proof against him. And getting legal proof on Mr. Taylor, who is a canny soul, is no cinch. He doesn't, it seems, cooly haul that liquor into Charlotte in the trucks bearing the license numbers Mr. Cutlar More reports. Rather, he sends it around through other states into South Carolina, where it can be stored with perfect legality. Then his runners bring it into the city in small consignments.

Can't the cops catch these runners? They can and do catch some of them: but to catch them all would mean to guard practically all the roads into town 24 hours a day for many months, and to stop nearly every car and truck. And when they do catch these runners, they never catch Mr. Taylor, who is much too wise to ride with his runners. More, the runners rarely squeal. With plenty of money for their defense and the court docket chronically in hopeless congestion, they can hope for delays or a fine which Mr. Taylor will pay. They can get out on bond and take it on the lam. Even if there is a rap, they are men hand-picked and probably paid to take it with tight lips. And if one should squeal--his unsupported word obviously would be the poorest sort of evidence.

Nice (Relief) Work*

 One of the provisions of the wage-and-hour bill, we think, called for a minimum relief wage of $40 a month. That's a good bit higher than the average Messer Harry Hopkins is paying currently in North and South Carolina and other Southern states, and it meets in part our strenuous and oft-repeated complaint against Messer Harry for discriminating, in favor of the Yanks. At the same time, it will raise complications.

It certainly will. Our staff woman Mrs. Bingham has done a "Reporter On Assignment," which appears elsewhere in the paper today, on the Household Service Demonstration Project, the domestic service training school for young Negro women. WPA pays them while they are learning, pays them at the rate of approximately $6.40 a week for five days of six hours each. But $40 a month would be at the rate of better than $9 a week, and we assume that the hours will remain the same. Very few domestic servants in private employment earn as much as $9 a week, and virtually none of them, except part-time helpers, works as little as 30 hours a week. The average is closer to 70 or 75.

Obviously, these novice cooks and maids would have a great deal better, an infinitely better, job while they were training than they could hope to get after they had finished. And if they showed a decided preference to continue their training as long as possible and to dread actually going to work, who could blame them? It is perfectly natural to want to work less and make more money, and that, precisely, is what they can do on WPA.

Taken at His Word

Mr. Neville Chamberlain yesterday got his answer with a vengeance. The day before he had stood up in the House of Commons and told Englishmen that he proposed to abolish the "my right" from the Dieu et mon droit which figures on the great seal of England and do nothing at all about the sinking of British ships and the killing of British sailors by Italian and German airmen masquerading under the Spanish Insurgent flag--except to go on talking and talking and talking. And so yesterday the said Italians and Germans proceeded gleefully to take him at his word and to spit in England's face by destroying two more British ships and three ships of her unhappy and fuming ally, France.

We have got used to it by this time, but if you try to realize that this is happening to old Every Man to Do His Duty, Don't Tread On Me, Nemo me impune lacessit John Bull, it is beyond belief. Moreover, it seems quite utterly stark mad. Analogies between domestic and international affairs are often dubious. But this is plainly as though an American city, say Chicago, should inform its gangsters: "Boys, you shouldn't do it. But all the same, we aren't going to sick the cops on you. We know it might make you mad and start you to shouting harder. And then, we'd have a riot. And we are determined not to have a riot even though you strip us of our last dime and bump off our great aunt Mathilda herself."

Eh, Pat?*

The bill to award life-terms to 15,000 first-, second- and third-class postmasters was undergoing a final discussion in the Senate before its passage, when up rose Senator McKellar of Tennessee, whom it pleases us to call "Pat" as a short title for Patronage. Senator Pat made a little speech in opposition to this bill. He didn't believe it provided at all for a merit system, but that, plainly, wasn't the reason he opposed it, for he has opposed any and all extensions of the merit system. He said he was as devoted to his brother, "who happened to be postmaster in Memphis," and yet he had frankly told his brother that he did not support the bill. He would vote against it and he did.

[Come, come, Pat; get down to cases. Tell the boys and girls, in simple words that make sense, what's on your mind, why it is that, in spite of your brother and all the other Democratic postmasters you helped put in office, you don't want to make that office permanent. You won't, Pat? Then we shall.]

This is a bad law in the sense that, at one sweep, it arbitrarily gives civil service status to a whole crowd of Democrats who got their postmasterships because they had talent for politics and not, necessarily, for postmastering. Even so, it relieves them from the compulsion of continuing to play politics in order to hold their jobs, and it deprives Congressmen of that whip hand over them. And that, precisely, is why Senator McKellar, our old friend Pat, disliked the bill and refused to join with his colleagues in making it law.

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