The Charlotte News

Tuesday, January 4, 1938


Site Ed. Note: "Caught in a Void", on Mecklenburg's mental hospital, would forecast Cash's piece on the generally atrocious conditions, and racial inequality evident in those conditions as between segregated wards, present at the tuberculosis facility, reported in "A Visit to Mecklenburg Sanatorium", June 11, 1939.

"Neil and His Breed" calls up a series of questions regarding Cash's end: Was his own zest for the front lines of reporting,--after spending so many years behind a desk, both at The News for three and a half years, and for a decade before that in Shelby and Boiling Springs beginning the book, while writing occasional pieces for The American Mercury or The Baltimore Evening Sun--, summoned to duty when he found himself in Mexico in June, 1941, perhaps thrown somewhat to boredom by the sudden absence of the daily mill of editorial writing, and by turns encouraged to write again by the calls in Congress finally to engage war with the Nazi the day after the June 22 invasion of Russia? Did he, as we have before hypothesized, perhaps finding out that William Rhodes Davis, the slimy oil inveigler who arranged to sell expropriated Mexican oil to the Nazis between 1938 and the invasion of Poland in September, 1939, was in Mexico City in June, 1941, staying then at his usual haunt, the presidential suite of the Reforma Hotel, seek out an interview with Davis? a person already the subject of a couple of unfavorable Cash editorials, labeling him a quisling, in January, 1941. Did Davis, sensing an opportunity, instead seek out Cash to attempt to ameliorate his image in the vain hope of currying favor for his newest ventures he sought with Mexico involving banking? Did Cash then say something in such an hypothesized interview, as would have been characteristic response to such an individual, which conveyed his distaste for Davis's unconscionably gluttonous enterprise? A perceived à la bonne heure, said in a tone of hinted condescension which only one Southerner to another might readily comprehend as anything but a compliment?

Well, the questions have no firm answers. There are only the manifold circumstances of Davis, his presence in Mexico City, and at the Reforma in June, 1941, his own death under some questionable circumstances, ostensibly the result of heart attack, but thought by some to have been subtle elimination by British agents of MI-5, tired of his Nazifying shenanigans, on August 1, 1941; Cash's death, itself considerably enshrouded in manifold unanswered questions, on July 1 at the Reforma; Cash's own stated intent to become a war correspondent should the United States engage in the war in Europe; his general desire to view and report on Nazism in close proximity to its headwaters, as conveyed by his rejected 1936 Guggenheim Fellowship application to go to Germany to write about both Southern culture and Nazi culture, in comparison of origins; his dedication through the years in the column to enunciating the importance to the war efforts of the Axis nations of the complex of trade and trade embargoes, especially in commodities of oil and cotton, both of which Davis utilized, or in the case of cotton, at least sought to utilize, to perfect his enterprise; the unexplained request, ostensibly without apparent immediate reason, by Ambassador Daniels, communicated to Mexican Foreign Minister Padilla on July 11, 1941, for the arrest of three named Nazi spies in Mexico, the Nazi spy arrest in and around New York City on June 28, 1941, and its subsequent front page news of June 29-July 1; the shutting down of the spy facilities in Mexico on the assumption that they were next on the hit list of spy operations, and the consequently desperate need for passage back to Germany on scant financial resources; the 1940 plan, never put into operation, of harassing a Mexican journalist in Berlin should any compromise be made of Mexico's spy operations, and...well, the circumstances and coincidences go on, as we have detailed before.

So add "Neil and His Breed", and Cash's obvious enduring respect for the frontlines reporter it communicates, to that list of circumstances corroborative of the thesis that Cash did not die in such cowardly or life-effacing manner as by his own hand, but rather in the alacrious manner he revered--getting the story and getting the story even at peril of death. Indeed, The Mind of the South, itself, communicates no less a dedication.

Some may quibble that it all is merely hypothesis built on hypothesis, without hard proof. But so is the Cash suicide theory, not a whit more, and even substantially less.

"But Without a Pouch" communicates another lifelong frustration of Cash, persevering even into the last of his pieces known to have been written, dodging the vagaries and vicissitudes of wild traffic. Cash would live long enough to see traffic far worse than Charlotte's, however: that of Mexico City and its unregulated roundabouts where it's fend for yourself and go with the flow 'til there's blood on your face, as if the statues interceding as centerpieces to these rotaries communicate to the motorists el toreador, while they, los toros de la corrida, challenge the cape de la rosa and the Excalibur it veils--or at least such was our experience with it some 35 years ago.

And, we'll say it again, as we said Christmas Eve last--Cash's prophetic wisdom must have extended even unto U.N.C. basketball, mid 1960's and onward... Which brings us to a pair of riddles: How many circles were evident in a Four Corners game? How many circles did the Kangaroo without a pouch protect in a given trip down the floor?

Should in 2040 there come a center named Kang Rue Centaur, or even one they call "Hoss", our point will be once and for all proven.

The rest of the page is here.

Smoot's Law*

In a candid moment some years ago, the late Senator Reed Smoot said,

"I care not which party is in power, the cost of government will always rise."

This is what The Baltimore Evening Sun delights in calling Smoot's Law, and in that it has never failed to work since it was promulgated, law it would seem to be. The Hoover Administration cost more than the Coolidge Administration: the Roosevelt Administration in turn cost more than the Hoover Administration. And insofar as the Roosevelt Administration can set the sights of future administrations, the country is to be called on to support henceforth a seven-billion-dollar Federal Government.

According to the President's estimates, "the expenditures of the national government cannot be cut much below seven billion dollars a year without destroying essential functions or letting people starve." And what in case of prosperity's return, so that people may feed themselves by their own initiative? Why, "Congress and the Executive should use every effort to hold the normal Federal expenditures to approximately the present level, thus making it possible...not only to balance the budget but to reduce the debt."

But this is where Smoot's Law comes in. The cost of government is a steadily-increasing, not a constant, factor. Once having established a seven-billion-dollar scale, the next step is bound to be upward.

Caught in a Void

Insanity is of different types, some curable, some incurable. It is, however, a disease, a disease of the mind just as much as tuberculosis, say, is a disease of the lungs and other organs. Patients at the Mecklenburg Sanatorium for tubercular diseases receive most constant care and skilled medical attention, with the result that cures are made and well patients discharged to make way for others. But away in his cell in the detention quarters of the Mecklenburg County Home sits one mentally diseased Negro who has been there for 22 years.

Curable? Who knows. In all probability, no effort has been made to cure him or the other present 20 inmates awaiting removal, some of them for years, to a State hospital for the insane. Crazy derelicts, caught between indifference and divided authority, they sit gibbering, cackling days and nights without end or beginning. "You gonna sen' us a picture?" they implored The News cameraman. By now, possibly, their impaired minds do not retain the knowledge that they had their picture taken. Forgetting and almost forgotten, they sit by the hour in nauseating filth, uncomprehending, hopeless, unhelped. And responsibility for their care and treatment is primarily the State's but the State has not the facilities to care for or treat them.

Neil and His Breed

To Edward J. Neil, dead in Spain as a war correspondent for the Associated Press, a salute. He died in obedience to as rigid and absolute tradition as any of the celebrated battle corps of the world ever boasted. A tradition whereunder the reporter worth his salt goes and gets a story when ordered to get it, and as fully and vividly as is humanly possible. A tradition that will not allow that there are any hazzards which should make him give up the getting of that story. He likes danger for itself? By and large, probably no more than any other man with a high zest for life. Under fire he is as certainly afraid as is, say, you and we would be, dear readers.

But there! In our desire to honor poor Neil as he deserves to be honored, we shall be getting mawkish and seeming to lend our support to the romantic twaddle about the reporter peddled by Hollywood. As a matter of fact, it is only the occasional reporter who ever makes a profession of danger. Thousands of the breed live their thirty years in the trade without ever facing real danger more than twice or thrice. And thousands more without ever facing it at all. By and large, indeed, it's a pretty prosaic and safe business, so prosaic and safe, in truth, that the insurance companies rate it almost in the class of a "sedentary occupation!" The reporter takes a little greater risk than the man on the copy desk, though not much greater. But say this for them--that when the time comes, they will take it and willingly.

Legal, But Hardly Equitable

Down in Greenwood County, South Carolina, where is the site of the proposed Buzzards Roost power plant, they are getting up a celebration for tomorrow night. And with excellent reason, for by the Supreme Court's decision yesterday against the Duke Power Company, Greenwood County is to receive an outright gift from PWA Administrator Ickes equal to about $18 for every man, woman and child of its 36,078 inhabitants. In addition, a loan a $2,195,000 is to be made on no security save the power plant it is to build.

And there is no doubt as to the legality of the transaction, not in the mind of the Supreme Court, anyhow, which is what counts. Mr. Justice Sutherland, one of the right-wingers, read the opinion to which there was no dissent, not even from the characteristic dissenter Mr. Justice McReynolds. But if it is legal for the Federal Government to make a combination gift and loan to Greenwood County for the purpose of enabling it to enter into direct and unequal competition with a private power company, the desirability of the transaction still eludes us. Honestly, now, isn't it in flagrant violation of the American sense of fair play for a dominant government to siphon off taxes from the public, including power companies, and to make donations to a lesser government that it may compete with taxpaying power companies?

It would seem so to us, clearly, and all the more when it is done under the fictional premise of relieving unemployment. The real reason for it, as everybody knows, is Mr. Ickes and his determination to chastise the power companies.

But Without a Pouch

Last night we started across the intersection at Seventh and Tryon with the green light, and having taken a dozen steps had to leap for our lives to escape from the fenders of automobiles which started zooming across before the yellow light was well up. The cop at the corner only gave us a dirty look. That started us to reflecting on many other such narrow escapes and to the somewhat pointed-up conclusion that of the towns of this earth we have seen--and we have seen more than two--Charlotte is that town where the pedestrian gets least consideration from motorists and the least protection from the police. And a poll among various acquaintances establishes that the belief seems to be pretty general.

Still, we reflect, the practice may have its uses. Charlotte pedestrians who succeed in living against odds will have to be a supple and agile lot. And their progeny will undoubtedly be particularly blessed with those admirable qualities. Indeed, if the Remarckian theory of evolution holds, it may be possible that eventually the very form of the fellow will undergo change to adapt him for leaping. Long ago in Thessaly, Mr. Kuester, there was a legendary creature called a centaur, half man and half horse. And so maybe in 2040 the pedestrian in Charlotte may be a creature, man from the neck up and kangaroo from the neck down.

Mr. John Grows Plaintive

We envy Mr. John Carson his job less than ever now. Mr. John, as you may not remember, is Consumers' Counsel to the National Bituminous Coal Commission. Which is to say that it is Mr. John's job to go before that commission and make a convincing noise like a government anxious to see that the coal prices it has already announced its purpose to raise will not mean that the consumer has to pay more.

Mr. John himself, indeed, so far from seeing his job in that light, seems actually to believe that he was hired to see that the consumer got a real break. In November last he was proudly and confidently inviting all and sundry to come to Washington and aid him in presenting his case in what he apparently expected to be an open-minded hearing. But now a plaintive and querulous note has crept into the communications with which he favors us. Came December 21, when the hearing was to be held, says Mr. John--and had the commission furnished him with the data he had requested, as it is required to do by law? On the contrary, he replies, he had been furnished with only what the public generally had been furnished with. As matters stand, he avers, there is "not one scintilla" of evidence in the record that coal prices ought to be raised, and still, with another hearing set for January 4, he can't come by any information on which to base his case. The commission in short not only hasn't bothered to enable Mr. John actually to defend the consumer, but, sitting on its mandarin hunkers, hasn't even been accommodating enough to let him make a noise like a man seeing that the consumer was defended.

Poor Mr. John! His education in bureaucracy has just begun.

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