The Charlotte News
Wednesday, January 12, 1938
Site Ed. Note: We first note that "'Peace--It's Wonderful?'" probably was meant to be set forth as "'Peace'--It's Wonderful?" But we leave it as printed.
Second, the quid for the "pro", in "That Deal" was probably supposed to be, utilizing proper latin, anyway, quid for the quo. Unless the author was waxing a pun as a pro, that is--if so, thereby violating Rule No. II: Never pun in latin, for res ipsa non loquitur.
Third, one of the favorite domestic political editorial targets of the column, Frank Hague, loses the french for the English version of the title, the one which had been given him in the national press, at least in The New York Times, culled from one of his own fiats.
Fourth, the rest of the page yet be not here, (yet, sooner than later, 'twill be, we trust).
Fifth, speaking of the Department of Interior and corruption, and preventing corruption of the Albert Fall variety, therein,--what a reach this is going to be--last night we watched the 2005 Werner Herzog film--or, better put, a Timothy Treadwell film as expertly edited down from 100 hours, and with additional philosophical narration over-voicing it, by Werner Herzog, with musical accompaniment by Richard Thompson--titled "Grizzly Man". It is the story, self-captured on video, of the, nearly alone, crusade into the Kodiak, Alaska wilderness by a fortyish man-child, Mr. Treadwell, in pursuit of an understanding of the world of bears, and his survival for thirteen summers among them, the latter five captured in episodic video, until...
Until, finally, in the last summer, 2003, he and his girlfriend, who had joined him for parts of his last two summers, fatally returned, after a dispute with an airline over the validity of their return tickets, to the wilderness. After the regular summer season, they returned, to the beginnings of the winter hibernation and the dangerous incursion into the lost country where the older bears had to fight for the last vestiges of provender for the winter, that becoming Mr. Treadwell and his girlfriend, whose torn remains were found by the pilot who left them in their final trek into the wilderness, the rest of them being already inside one of the bears.
We found this film troubling and intriguing; we recommend it, with the reservation that it is at times so self-conscious in its presentation of this man's troubled inner world, deceptively innocent, that it is, at once with being ingratiatory to the senses for its splendid, unadorned footage of bears in their natural habitat, conveying also of the feeling of grave-digging, of peeking into his last remains and final resting place, to find in his life neither horror nor peace, neither a pastoral being at one with nature nor a thoroughly tormented soul seeking reclusively to abandon civilization for the natural confines of the wilderness, nor a naturalist doing a serious study of nature in the wild, but rather simply an extended hike by an adventuresome spirit fighting windmills largely of his own creation; not so much fighting for survival, for there is no conveying of teeth-gnashing hunger or want for anything other than companionship, even if set down in an ostensibly peaceful but always hostile preserve, one which he saw as being threatened by man, though few of mankind had trammeled it for long in any recent times.
He sought to befriend the bears, while recognizing their inherent danger and ferocity, no Gentle Bens among them, no vistas unperturbed by nature's frothings, a pristine landscape beset only by howls and mewings to inspire a romantic, poetic view of man versus the wild, the singular quest of survival against the climate, aided, not impeded, by the beasts in nature, as portrayed in "Never Cry Wolf" or in Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire"; not that, but merely predators of the wilderness trying, through the inertia of the genetic forces which impelled them by the forest and the stream and the cave to eat and reproduce and to continue on as a species for no other purpose, in man's terminology and consciousness, than to afford the precious balance in nature which has come about through the ages of their presence within it, to survive as an order.
He also befriended the foxes, gentle creatures whose carcasses he sometimes tearfully found after having been fed upon by either wolves or the bears, the latter when salmon were not to be found, when the rivers were low, from the absence of enough rain, from enough runoff from the winter's diminished snow pack.
He also talked to these animals, extensively, providing them with names, appearing to obtain by that a comfortable sense of domestication of the fauna habituating that which was not in fact his own backyard or playground as he tried to make it, perhaps only by way of easing his own fears of its acknowledged dangers.
Mr. Treadwell never talked about global warming, never talked about global ecological concerns brought on by civilization, never talked at all in fact in macrocosm. Instead, he chose as his windmills smaller pursuits, unseen in his camera footage, poachers of the bears, against whom he secured himself by personal camouflage, but who, a biologist interviewed by Mr. Herzog in the film, indicated, constitute only a small problem in the Kodiak wilderness, permitted hunting and unpermitted poaching representing only a small portion, about a tenth, of the 6% annual rate of attrition in the bear population deemed tolerable at their normal rate of reproduction. A couple of Mr. Treadwell's smaller pursuits nevertheless became the poachers and the park service's failure to protect the bears and the land against these poachers, against whom he would rail and hurl obscenities occasionally in his lonely diatribes to the camera, seemingly possessed of the moment by the curse of loneliness and frustration at that loneliness, impelling him to lash out verbally at the unseen forces in society representing what little authority there was in this isolated realm where one real-life Grizzly Adams took on the entirety of the range as his yard and playground for a few summer months of each year.
One gets the feeling, however, in viewing some of this footage that the camera inevitably becomes his refuge from loneliness and affords a stage by which to escape both fear and depression of the moment in this retreat from people and the morass which is work-a-day life in the lower 48, more acting out a role than conveying anger based on any actual injustice, conveying in any event no more than a general frustration with civilization and using the unrestraining wilderness as an echo chamber in which to voice things he could not, or at least believed he could not, within the confines of society. The release afforded by the boundless expanse of field and plain, stream and rock, devoid of other humanity encompassed by the wiring instilled since birth and passed in varying degrees genetically in all humanity, that of consciousness, of civility, of sociability, of affect for and toward other parts of humanity.
To what extent Mr. Treadwell was near bears or living among them, as he claimed, when the camera was off, it is impossible to know. It is evident he did get very close to them, within arm's length in fact, even once swimming with one of them on camera.
He did not do it for money, as he received none for his adventure; he did not appear to be doing it for fame, though some minor fame came his way for it. He appeared instead to be doing it for a revivification of his own self-worth as a male, one emasculated by the confines of civilization. His excuse was to protect the bears and their habitat, and to better explain their "misunderstood" qualities, that they were not as dangerous to man as conventionally thought, while he warned, paradoxically, that they were, could in an instant become predatory and maim and kill a human when cornered or when no other food was available.
He appeared to pattern himself after the late Steve Irwin, even looking quite a bit like Mr. Irwin, with the moptop of blonde hair, and once even affecting an Australian accent (which a friend said sounded more like that of New England), and passing himself off as in fact having been raised in Australia. He was a college dropout, a failed aspiring actor in the 1980's, who then spiraled downward into drugs and alcohol, and by his own account, achieved his release from these demons in his summers in the wilderness, beginning in 1991 at age 34. There is no accounting for what he did during the other seven or eight months of each of the twelve years prior to his death, other than speaking to groups of young students about the bears and the wilderness of Alaska and his work in a self-founded organization to preserve the grizzly bear.
There is no sense of threat to survival conveyed in this footage, no sense of near-death experience, though death wish, or at least full resignation to same, appears to underlie much of his adventure; he speaks of near-death experiences, though in quite matter-of-fact manner, without any hint to the viewer of what he felt or thought about at these times for which he insists, self-pityingly, no one had any empathy or even recognition. One gets the impression of a weekend warrior out on a hike, insisting upon himself as primal man, yet civilized and gentle, not the least primordial, an amateur come to behave himself in the wilderness and impress and educate as a naturalist, but moreover to get some kicks, some adrenaline rushing, not so much either to enjoy nature for its beauty or even to preserve it necessarily, a quixotic figure dispossessed of the trappings of society, yet struggling not to miss it or its amenities for too long.
There is never presented any footage, though to what extent this was the editorial decision of Werner Herzog, we don't know, of how he survived those months in the wilderness, whether by fishing or other means; for never once are we presented with food, its obtaining, or its preparation or even discussion. Fresh water was no problem, though some provision for getting the microbes and parasites out of it would be necessary. So we are left with a question of how he survived. He carried no weapon, for he was a "gentle warrior". And if, as he insisted, he would never kill any animal even for preservation of his own life, we are left to muse on our own on that point. If provisions were ferried in by aircraft every so often, we are never told that, and it seems a rather expensive proposition for someone who had little.
Regardless, we are left by the film, by its end, feeling a bit hollow, impressed by the film essay afforded us by Werner Herzog in coordinating this footage into a montage of seamless examination of humanity, beast, and civilization in ways which drama and stagecraft, or even more sterile, low-key nature films, can only approximate, yet neither impressed by Mr. Treadwell and his venturesome spirit, for its foolhardiness, nor convinced that there was in fact anything against which for him to rail or protest in this protected environment meant to be cautiously viewed from without and at a reasonable distance by occasional hikers within, but not lived in.
The film leaves us with a sense of pity, not admiration, a sense of pity not so much for Mr. Treadwell or his girlfriend who lost their lives in nature, while being foolhardy, nevertheless taking the risk not naively but knowingly and by mature judgment, seeking thereby the rush of danger of imminent death, which inescapably couples the death wish, not altogether hiding it behind a rationale of trying to educate to both the beauties and paradoxes of nature, and indeed doing that to some extent. The pity we feel is rather for the lost sense of the wilderness generally, the sense embracing much of modern man born of the twentieth century, after the agrarian age of the country had largely receded to the past, after the old frontiers of the west had been conquered and civilized for the most part, the pity for the creation in this creature of the need to escape civilization employing the very product of civilization to do so, being the sine qua non indeed for the means to the escape and its capture in this instance in part on video tape, to find only the confinement of the paradox which led to civilization in the first instance--that paradox which it takes most of us only a weekend or two in the wilderness divorced from the incidents of civilization to find or rediscover, that it is a nice place to visit, this wilderness, but not a fit place to live daily or for long. For the paradox is that the wilderness is a predatory environment, not free in the ultimate sense at all, any more than civilization may afford freedom in the absolute sense of the word. In this form of freedom comes a penalty, a prison of a sort; as surely as the rules of society bind, so too do the rules of nature. And Mr. Treadwell and his girlfriend did not finally escape application of those rules to themselves.
Mr. Treadwell's great personal paradox, aside from this grander one common to all, as we sit and listen to him in his deceptively youthful falsetto voice, struggling with his inner demons at times, at times tempting fate physically, with sniffing and slavering bears encircling his every avenue of escape, while telling us he is not afraid, was not that he sought some salvation in the wilderness and failed to find it, for he did find his salvation in the wilderness, at least so he insists, or that he sought and failed to discover in it his inner peace, free from the confines of civilization, for that he did, too, he insists; but rather that he was unable in so doing to free himself from the demons which haunted him from civilization even into this wilderness preserve ostensibly free from man's controlling hand, that he could not escape civilization mentally even in his escape from its primary constraints physically, that he had to have the nursemaid of the camera to capture himself, that he had to have the crutch of excuse for his adventure, not just for the clean and clear air, not for the pure thrill of escape, but for some other motive, to save the preserve from the obscure forces behind the camera seeking to destroy it, the fact that he could not let go even in this wilderness of the anger he harbored against civilization or that which was wired in him perhaps, or to channel that expression of anger toward anything more creative than vituperation at times against his favorite bogeys, the poacher and the park service, or the unidentified "them" who could not understand him or his ways or the ways in fact of the bears and the wilderness with which he was seeking perpetual alignment and union, so much so that he found pleasure in photographing and even touching the recent defecation of one of the bears--whether doing this for shock impact on the viewer or for any true expression of inner camaraderie with the bears, being hard to fathom: but, we venture, love does not mean an irresistible desire to touch the love object's discharge thusly.
This was his paradox: he obviously found no peace in fact, despite his insistence to the contrary, in this place so far removed from the trappings of humanity; he discovered no truth hidden there illuminating mankind. He could not even divorce himself from the radio he carried with him. He was still as much a part of civilization as before; he was just displaced physically into a wilderness for an escape which was no more than physical, but never, insofar as the video he filmed, and that included by Mr. Herzog in this final editing of it, shows on its face anyway, breeding in him any philosophical wisdom, any poetry, any evident real understanding of the environment of which he sought to become a part. He offered us no studied information about the bears' lifestyle, only kitsch talk by analogy to human behavior, courting responses, and petty jealousies and lovers' quarrels, that sort of thing. He never escaped. This is part of both the paradox and the pity essentially conveyed to us by the film.
Perhaps there was more of which the film does not reveal, something when the camera was off, or something more in the 100 hours of video not included in the film, which demonstrates what Mr. Treadwell could not verbally express. That thing which came across clearly with Mr. Irwin, for example, a genuine understanding of and enthusiasm for the work at hand, not a faux attempt at trying amateurishly to imitate someone else's adventure into understanding. It does not come across in Mr. Treadwell's footage of himself. Just a troubled man seeking escape from his troubles in a wildlife refuge in Alaska. Nothing evident beyond that. There is no philosophy conveyed by Mr. Treadwell, no cohesive thinking, or great elucidation given us. He is not without the ability to express things, but it is mostly a subjective landscape, one more characteristic of adolescence than a man in his mid-forties, as he was by the end of his days--concerned, as we say, not with the macrocosm of the world, but with tedious and petty transitory peccadilloes and failings, with why women don't seem to like him, for instance, when he is, by his own account, a fun-loving and affable fellow, yet without any sense of humor or self-irony in the self-evaluation, or that it would be a simpler life, he opines, were he homosexual rather than heterosexual, that the animals were his best friends, etc.--perhaps all mere ramblings the result of being too long enmeshed within the solitude of the wilderness and the realization that there was no one there with whom to reflect, but still never any satisfactorily poignant statement by which we might find the sense that Mr. Treadwell truly saw and experienced something in his adventures in human solitude that the rest of us have failed to grasp. There was nothing of that, not one single thought divorced from the civilization he sought to escape.
When "poachers" happen along in a boat, unarmed with anything but a camera themselves, and throw a couple of rocks at an approaching bear, Mr. Treadwell, hiding among the trees and brush, only photographs them while inveighing against their presence and rock-throwing, does not venture out to greet them or to make his presence known, a singularly disturbing moment in the film, when the viewer begins to realize that Mr. Treadwell's worst enemy and problem is not man at all but rather himself and his disturbed, paranoid, or at least unduly suspicious, interior intruding against the presence of other humanity. His consistent statements to the camera that no one else has ever done what he has done and lived for so long among these bears and survived, negating the migratory native civilization of the past in the process, conveys a self-serving vanity which heightens the tension and discomfort of the experience and dissipates further the notion that he had, hidden in his complexities, any technique or philosophical underpinning to his basic adventurous spirit. There is only Mr. Treadwell, an assumed stage name to boot, as if a great magician conquering the wild beast in the wilderness and befriending it, against all odds and against all human intrusion to his experiment in showmanship.
There is in all of that an unkindness to the viewer, a sense that the somewhat hapless narrator is nevertheless the Man among charlatans and, by implication, that the rest of us, for not being able to endure what he is enduring, are merely pretenders to the throne held by the Man, and, by being willing to peek into his world, however unwanted by him we are, admitted to his secret environs, but that to which we must first confess an inferior relation; for to profess to be able to endure, or even to empathize by imperfect analogy with enduring that which he endures, would be to deprive him of his sole claim to fame, his sole claim to individual accomplishment and purpose, unique in all "modern" history and among all mankind, as he would have it.
Yet, in all of it, there is only evoked in us that pity, not anger or disgust, nor awe or wonder, as we initially expected to find in reading of Mr. Treadwell's self-imposed task, pity, even distrust, again not so much for Mr. Treadwell per se, though he is involved in it, for he found his purpose, not pity for the rest of us who trek mainly only through civilized country and need only the wilderness as a break and reminder of why we naturally seek civilization for all its pitfalls, but pity for the failure in most of us ever fully to recognize that human paradox, that to preserve the untrammeled wilderness, to create or attempt to re-create Eden, is to spoil Eden and trammel it by our very presence, just as the animals fight among themselves for precious food and sometimes kill each other, eat each other, when food becomes scarce, or when reproduction becomes scarce, when survival is at issue instinctively.
Mr. Treadwell displays this raw, callous world of the bear sometimes in his footage, artfully and beautifully so, but finds in it only sorrow for the bear, evincing ultimately his conclusion of duty to protect them--but, again, we ask, from what? Certainly not the "poachers" as there really is no evidence that there were many, surely not the park service who act as honest stewards of this preserved environment against man's otherwise uncontrolled will to exploit and develop it for his own self-gratifying exploits, certainly not from each other, as he admits of the recognition of nature's need to balance itself at times, present in his presentation and commentary on the fight of two bears for the ability to mate with a third, etc.
There was of course no duty, there was of course no calling, there was of course no need to educate on the supposed misunderstood nature of bears while cautioning of their predisposed predatory aspect. Others had done that, and with far greater understanding and explanation of the bear and its habitat than was apparent in Mr. Treadwell. It was instead simply a lark of Mr. Treadwell, bred in his case probably from a too close childhood emotional attachment to animals, an extended summer hike in nature which he enjoyed, a retreat to innocence. Fine. We like that part. He did what he wanted to do, and on a recurring and extended basis, and purely for the pleasure of it, no excuse needed. And he harmed no one and harmed no part of nature in so doing. Fine again. The perfect tourist in nature. There is absolutely nothing on which to quibble with that either, notwithstanding the criticism by some of the locals that he unwittingly harmed the environment by habituating some of the animals to human contact, thus making them more pre-disposed to seek out human contact and possibly harm or be harmed thereby--the extent of this impact being so miniscule when offered by one individual as to be negligible if not non-existent, speculative at best. We don't envy him either, even had he lived on to go back, for we know that even hikes of only a few days' duration are exhausting and test the limits of human beings accustomed to the comforts of modern life. It is a great escape, but no place in which to live for very long.
Unfortunately, like Mr. Irwin who would by three years follow him, Mr. Treadwell had to die to afford the discovery or reminder of same to the rest of us, the one thing which comes of this film which is poetic and philosophical, that afforded through the exceptional vision of Mr. Herzog's eyes, though unexpressed in the film itself--that human consciousness rebels against this sort of thing, and that humanity's predatory quality then reveals itself in ultimately splenatic contravention of it, to shape the situation which precipitates the end with vengeance, here, the airline ticket fiasco, to move the rebellious streak in Mr. Treadwell, to return him and his girlfriend to the wilderness at the most dangerous time of the year, and finally to their deaths? A stupid rule of a stupid corporation, refusing to honor a ticket after a certain length of time had passed, at least so we assume, with no exception for exceptional circumstances, no human discretion allowed, the very mindlessness Mr. Treadwell sought to escape--probably being the rule, or one like it, to which ultimately Mr. Treadwell succumbed.
For we are ultimately jealous creatures at our basest levels, and perceptive as well, even if our perceptions are possessed at times by so many emotionally subjective refractions as to be colored in tainted shades beyond the redemption of all deduction or induction, depending on the percipient's understanding, beyond all reason generally, even into the realm of purely subjective conclusion by emotion and prejudice--irrationality. And no airline employee stuck behind a mindless counter punching keys all day, stuck with viewing the vacation wanderings of travelers all day and all night, coming and going, complaining and asking questions, the same questions over and over, yet stuck behind that counter never coming and going, day in and day out, no such person is going finally to be challenged by someone emerging from the wilderness with a big, broad smile, as if to say, "You're a loser for not being me," no such person is going to allow that, as surely as the two bears fought on the plain before Mr. Treadwell's camera for the right to mate. No--the ticket is invalid; that is the inflexible rule; either pay a new fare or it's back to the wilderness for you and your girlfriend, Mr. Treadwell, and we shall see if you can truly make it much longer on your own like that, without our rules to which we tenaciously cling for our salvation. That is the Eden you bargained for, Mr. Treadwell, when you left us, and we shall tolerate it no more, your cautious returns; that is where you shall go now permanently. --We speak from our own prejudices, perhaps, certainly not those communicated expressly by the film, in reaching this purely subjective conclusion. But it is an unspoken bit of philosophy and poetry which we take from it nevertheless.
For, it is suggestive of the paradox, the line which we cannot cross without being confined to the wilderness, even against our will finally. Not by our own contrivances, therefore, our efforts at understanding the wilderness,--for which again we find praise, tempered by disenchantment, for Mr. Treadwell's journey--, but rather by the jealousies of those confined by their own contrivances to that boring counter which they have convinced themselves is necessary to their survival. Too bad Mr. Treadwell did not pull out his video camera and show us the bears of the airport as well. But that is life and its paradoxes.
In any event, an interesting film presented by one of the world's more interesting filmmakers, even if playing in this one primarily editor and analyzer, and even critic at times, rather than creator, even if supplementing the raw footage of Mr. Treadwell with some interspersed interviews of Kodiak locals and relatives and friends of Mr. Treadwell. It intrigues us the more perhaps because bears intrigue us, though we have never met one up close, at least not in such light that we could see it, and hope that we never do--especially having heard one or two within too close proximity late in the witch-owl's time of night on an occasion or so in the past. As we have said before, just make a lot of noise and keep walking away. They do not understand the word "peace". You might sometimes talk a human down from his agressive posture turned suddenly predatory for want of provender or mating; you have no chance in doing so with a wild animal.
The 64,450,005 little brown men and women who acknowledge the emperorship of Hirohito, 124th of his sun-lit line, were told when he was crowned in 1928 that "Peace" was the watchword of the new regime. And "Peace" it still is, and you might think it would embarrass even a race of poker-faces.
They got around it easily enough. The rape of China is not a war. No war has ever been declared. The attack on the little yellow men and women is brilliantly called "a chastisement." With this in mind, we await with nothing more than idle curiosity the formal announcement of policy the Japanese will soon make about China. We know the policy. Everybody knows the policy. The only thing we don't know is just what the Japs will call it.
This Is Serious
And now we begin to be troubled. Empires have trembled and dynasties have collapsed, our Constitution was rocked to its foundations and the vast inertia of China has gone up in uproar and carnage. Mankind has surged and upheaved in a blind effort of incredible force to work itself into new conceptions of what is right, and has spilled and is spilling lakes of blood in its manifestations of change. But through it all certain fundamentals have remained serenely unaffected.
As long as these bed rocks of the old order remained unaltered, then it was not over-optimistic to view the confusion calmly and let the storms rage, knowing full well that our foundations were unshook. But now we are really troubled. The Presbyterians have begun to tinker with Predestination.
Fighting Fire with Fire
Mayor Frank ("I Am The Law") Hague of Jersey City is not a candidate for appointment to the Senate to succeed Senator Moore, who will be sworn in this month as Governor of New Jersey. "He would rather be Mayor of Jersey City than President of the United States," says the Governor-elect.
Well, it suits us, too; but if the Hague should take it into his head to want the Senatorship, New Jersey owes it to the rest of the country to see that he doesn't get it. There is a comity which ought to, but doesn't always, prevail among the states in not sending certain types of men to Congress. Alabama, for instance, in return for not inflicting old Tom Heflin on New Jersey Senators, is entitled to cry aloud when the mere possibility develops that New Jersey might inflict old Frank Hague on Alabama Senators. In fact, it might be an excellent idea for Alabama to keep old Tom in reserve to rush into the game if New Jersey should put in old Frank. That'd fix 'em, but Heaven help the other 93 Senators and Bob Reynolds, too.
What looks to be a double play for economy in government was started by the House yesterday when it passed the session's first appropriations bill with--
(1) An increase of only $150,000, a mere bagatelle, over the sum recommended by the Appropriation's [sic] Committee; and
(2) Authority for the President to reduce or eliminate entirely any items in the bill without detailing it as a whole.
Back in 1934, when that amazing Economy Act passed in the first heroic weeks of the New Deal had begun to chafe the politicians, Senate amendments to the Independent Offices Appropriations Bill ran up the cost by $228,000,000 over the President's budget recommendations. Most of the increase was accounted for by the restoration of benefits to veterans of the World War and the Spanish-American War, as well as 10 per cent of a 15 per cent salary cut for Federal jobholders. The House concurred, and sent the bill to the President. Lacking authority to veto the objectionable items in the bill, he vetoed the whole thing, and sent it back. There was a curious struggle among the Congressmen between personal loyalty to the President and political self-interest, and the latter won. The bill was passed over the veto, and the President had suffered his first defeat.
With effective veto power, the President could have ordered the objectionable items deleted, and Congress would have been put upon the spot. Instead of voting again upon the entire bill in which were lumped all sorts of appropriations, many of them essential, it would have had to vote item by item to restore those appropriations which the President had objected to. Perhaps the net result, in this case, would have been the same: but those overriding the veto of the disputed items would have had considerable explaining to do.
The old adage that it takes a crook to catch a crook doesn't hold true in Secretary Ickes' Interior Department. His super-sleuth Glavis, no crook himself, hasn't caught any crooks to speak of. He didn't catch E. K. Burlew, whom the President has named First Assistant Secretary of the Interior, in any crooked work, much as this would have delighted subordinates in the department who resent Burlew's high-handedness in his own right. And speaking of high-handedness, it came out yesterday before a Senate committee holding hearings on Burlew's nomination that what they've been saying in Washington about the OGPU ways of the Interior Department is entirely true.
Wire-tapping, simple eavesdropping, an overall system of espionage--these have been the methods by which Secretary Ickes has "prevented any unfortunate occurrences" like the Fall scandal of the Harding Administration. At one time there were 300 "investigators" looking into the department personnel and contractors on PWA jobs. And it all has been done in a good cause, that of protecting the Government from graft and double-dealing, but if anybody cares to make the point that the treatment is about as bad as the suspected ailment, he may find high authority in a recent decision of the Supreme Court on wire-tapping, which read:
"Congress may have thought it less important that some offenders should go unwhipped of justice than that officers should resort to methods deemed inconsistent with ethical standards and destructive of personal liberty."
Signs of Fight*
Some 30 claim agents of the city, representing insurance companies mainly, have formed the Charlotte Claim Men's Association. One of the chief purposes of the organization is set forth in its constitution and by-laws:
"... the co-operation in vigorously resisting collusion, deception and false or fraudulent claims, and promptly to discourage and expose dishonest, unscrupulous and unethical practices, whether indulged in by professional men or laymen."
This is something all persons who carry liability insurance ought to be in favor of, inasmuch as the payment of unjustified claims comes out of their pockets. The City of Charlotte has shown what can be done by challenging claims for damages instead of settling them. Last fiscal year, the City paid out in claims only a little more than ten per cent of the amount it had budgeted. And over and above the intrinsic saving was the discouragement of a nuisance. People won't be half so ready to take advantage of easy marks, which both insurance companies and governments are, if the easy marks rise up and show fight.
The New York Times' Washington man, Felix Belair, Jr., has a strong suspicion that the seven Southeastern Governors who had a conference with President Roosevelt last week struck up a trade. The story goes that in return for the President's promise of a re-examination of the Southern freight rate structure, they agreed to come out for the wage-and-hour bill, always provided it would preserve a differential in favor of the South. And the Governors did come out for the wage-and-hour bill, though whether as a quid for the pro of lower freight rates one can only speculate.
We hope it isn't true, for if there is validity to the South's claim for equal freight rates, it ought to be allowed independently of extraneous legislation. And by the same token, if the enactment of the wage-and-hour bill is desirable, freight rates have nothing to do with it.
But if it is true that a deal was put through, the Governors apparently got the best of it. The Interstate Commerce Commission, despite its quasi-judicial nature, is a unit that is more or less responsive to the suggestions of the President, by whom appointments to the commission are made. But Congressmen from these Southeastern States are a diverse and rambunctious lot, noted for wearing no man's collar. Besides, there's an election coming off this year, and if any Governor is so brash as to believe that he can even foretell, much less dictate, a Congressman's vote in an election year, he has another think coming.
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