The Charlotte News

Monday, December 13, 1937


Site Ed. Note: "The Gathering Cloud" tells an ominous story which would end in "East Wind Rain" and an even harder rain, one harder than man before had ever perceived, one unknown as to immediate consequence, as to whether even a chain reaction might be set up instanter to envelop and destroy the atmosphere of the entire earth, one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days after East Wind Rain.

If the United States, as a people, not just as an Administration or a Congress--for the will of the people must be solidly behind such an effort for it to have any chance to succeed in a democracy--had chosen to act on the basis of the Panay incident, would the outcome have been swifter? Would World War II have been averted, for all of its worst consequences, had Japan early on been taken from the equation as the third leg of the fascist-feudal triumvirate bent on empire? Would fewer lives have been lost to the blood sacrifice which Mars always exacts in the offing?

Perhaps, a more salient question than these, for purposes of adjusting hindsight to history and thereby taking a lesson for future leaves, is whether Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, in August, 1964, when confronted with the Maddox incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, acted as good students of prior historical sloth and historical hypothetical, whether they should not have predictably behaved, given the times, precisely as they did, in stepping up immediately the troop mobilization to Vietnam, albeit not fully engaged until the following February.

Or did they act too precipitously to engage warfare?

Was the prospect, though in fact dim, of nuclear exchange with Red China by then so firmly entrenched that the thought of any potential domino incursion further into Indochina was no longer acceptable, either practically or politically, given the mood to fight in the country, without the unsettling specter that such a nuclear exchange could become manifest, especially so, after all, with the Cuban missile crisis still fresh in everyone's minds, less than two years past? Wasn't there now, adding to the disturbing thought, the belief that a Communist, albeit diminished in the press to a lone nut seeking self-aggrandizement, in the vein of that which the piece below suggests as being of the second category, had killed our President?

When one considers it in that light of history as it occurred, isn't it the case that there was very little way for Johnson to avoid the troop build-up in Vietnam? He had, after all, just achieved no minor revolutionary change in the domestic order of things by sweeping through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law July 2.

There was a mood in the country to fight, plainly evidenced in increasing violence in the streets, first in the dogs of the South's summers of 1961 to 1964, finally boiling over into the race riots of the summer of 1965. Could that violent temperament, the hotspur Southerner, the urban desperado locked in the dimly lit abyss of the ghetto, not be channeled into more utilitarian pursuits, to fight Communism on the other side of the globe?

But all of that also, in light of known history, leads to the notion as to whether a cadre of particularly bellicose generals, desiring a head-on confrontation with Communism, the neo-MacArthurites we might dub them, did not set up the Gulf of Tonkin incident deliberately to bring on this confrontation, generals in practical accord with the Southern segregationists, none too friendly to Johnson's will exerted on them, even if a will which was only an extension of that of a heartsick country despairing of the violence resultant from racism, capped intolerably by the assassination in such a Southern haven for Birchism as Dallas. Seven Days in May, essentially, that is, not just a thing of fiction, but the thing actually brought to life, with its credulity as a pattern for realization challenged from the start within the popular mind, dismissively turned agley, if suggested, by the very fact that it was first a thing of fiction and then a movie, only a movie after all, a thing of fiction--starring as President, of course, none other than...

Well, read through these pieces below, of this day of December 13, 1937, and see what you can see.

We posit that it is often as hard, even with perfect hindsight of past conflict, to predict the outcome of matters of war and the proper casus belli, should there be one at all beyond direct attack by a sovereignty on sovereign territory of another, either one's own or that of some other country, the basic extended doctrine of self-defense and defense of others, analogized to international relations, as it is to forecast the economy, always a rather stupid thing, equally as stupid as warfare. Supply and demand--adjust one and the other starts amiss in retaliation for the adjustment.

But, we posit again, it all runs together, of a piece. Society, economy, warfare, whether interpersonal, internecinal, intranational, international. People, as individuals, as collective enterprises, do not usually behave in accord with theory, as taught in university classes as pedagogical models for learning, but rather in accord with how their self-interest propels them to behave on a given set of precipitant stimuli. The question then becomes whether a society may collectively instill in its populace a sufficient sense of value and fairness and realization of commonality of purpose and enterprise to survive amid nature's cruelest forces waging war constantly on it, sufficient to realize that without cooperation in that enterprise, that which we term society, there may be no economy, and that we shall know only war as its best and most lasting boon.

The other pieces of the day are here. We beg to differ, incidentally, on that word Mr. Ripley offers as the proper solution for his puzzle. Fiend is not necessarily the opposite of friend, for if a fiend is one's friend, he is not the opposite of friend, though a fiend he may still be. Cf. Poe. Rather, the solution is, properly, we think, amoral. (And that is not to say Balmoral.) Oh, the linguist will inveigh, perhaps, amoral, though, is still not the precise opposite of the unlettered word. We beg to differ.

As to old Stony standing under the oak tree there by the Rappahannock, as W. B. Franklin under Burnside assailed the nigh impregnable heights held by Lee and Longstreet, letting loose a missile to within inches of Stony's unflinching head, perhaps old Stony was deef and could not perceive the imminence of the warning, or perhaps so jaded to war that he was truly by then oblivious to any danger which man could then offer him, or, by turns, so sick of the field of carnage about him, at every turn of the hillside, every damnable, deadly crack of the branch in the forest, every conceivable shallow shoal in the river, all for some cause nobody now much remembered but darkly in night visions enshrouded in prospect of morning's death raid, that he didn't much care anymore to be within the land of the living, that indeed he had already begun his crossing to the realm of the dead, the forgotten down river, those steadily grasping for his soul at every watery step further into the ford.

For his end would come soon enough, as he would indeed cross the old Rappahannock at Chancellorsville, just four and a half months hence, May 2, 1863, thirty-seven years to the day before Cash's birth, 109 years to the day before J. Edgar Hoover's death, not quite a year after the Seven Days' Campaign of June 26 through July 2, 1862, and Second Bull Run, shortly afterward. He was, of course, shot by his own Confederates, sentries in the dark, firing on what they thought to be Yankee reconnoiter, in the dark--all in the dark.

Also, the previous day*, Cash contributed to the bookpage "Babel in the South". We have before several times linked to "Ca'lina Indeed", February 4, 1940, which in turn backlinks to this related piece on the South's several languages; and so, for a change of pace, we shall link instead forward to that latter day's pieces, as we didn't link from the "Babel" piece originally, as we first discovered it in spring, 1999 and the February 4, 1940 piece only in March, 2002, as we first view this day's pieces this day, December 12, 2007--all for your edification, that is, should you have not yet had the opportunity to explore broadly.

And, there is Oggler again, as he would make another appearance later in the summer of 1938, commenting favorably at the latter time on the hiking of women's skirts, contra the old fogy who offered his despair on same a few days back, something, said the old fogy, about the unbeauteous exposure of knock-knees.

Candidly, we've never bothered to notice that problem ourselves in the trade-off. As we eruditely commented earlier, a year and a half back, on Oggler's summer, 1938 offering: Boom-a-locka-locka-locka, boom-a-locka-locka-locka...

Better to oggle than to go to war, wouldn't ye say, 'ey, Jody?

And, by sheerest of coincidence, last night, for the first time in some 25 years, we watched "Help!", again and for the first time, now nicely refreshed in its colours, rather as when we saw it first in August, 1965 at the Ca'lina Theater, you know, where Elvis once appeared in person, before he hit it big, just a block from where Jim Farley announced his bid there in 1940, at the Robert E. Lee Hotel, wherein, just a few months earlier, our ma and pa spent their first night of marriage. We recommend it, even if, with time, it all becomes nigh on a little surreal, in the aftermath. Candidly, we had forgotten that our favorite character in the film surfaces first during the curling match and surfaces last only in an otherwise mute scene in which all of them are sung.

Now where's that ring given to us by Brother Starkey and that fellow MacLeod, with which we saw the dog playing a few minutes ago?

"...The Truth just twists, its curfew gull, it glides..." "...That evening's empire has returned into sand..."

Escape Made Good*

Six prisoners in the South Carolina penitentiary may rest fairly sure of one thing. They wanted to escape from serving out their years behind bars--and they have made it fairly certainly certain that they will. Yesterday they seized the captain of the guards, locked themselves in the warden's office, threatened to stab their prisoner to death unless they were given an automobile and free egress, defied an appeal of Governor Olin Johnston, and eventually made good their threat of killing the guard captain in cold blood.

Then tear gas got them, and they are back in their cells now. They may take comfort. They won't have to serve out their sentences. For even in a country where the vengeance of the law is ordinarily as uncertain as in this one--well, we fancy that they are already tuning up the electric chair at Columbia.

Excellent, Regardless

Handed a Government check for $109.20--his share of the $220,000 appropriated by this Congress to cover the mileage allowance of the members at 20 cents a mile--Senator Bailey handed it back. "My traveling expenses," he said, "couldn't be over $20, and I'll waive that."

Call his motive political if you will--still we say we like the action. Whatever the motive, it is consistent with the Senator's professions in favor of economy in government and of integrity in public affairs. And consistency in a Congressman is no common jewel. Integrity--well.

Take, for instance, that great foe of graft, that champion of integrity and economy in government, Hi Johnson. Hi gets $1298.80 for his allowance, though the fare to California and back is only $217.50. But has he ever once in the thirty years of his sitting in Congress handed back the difference of $1,081.30? He hasn't.

Take Tydings, take William E. Borah, take George Norris, take Harry Flood Byrd, take even Glass--take any and all the great champions of integrity and economy in government, and has one of them ever felt it necessary to hand back the velvet? If so, we've never heard it. So far as we know, Senator Bailey is the only member of the present Senate who has taken the step, though there was a freshman Representative from out West somewhere who got on the front pages that way last year. Let Bailey have the credit that is properly his: that his action squares with his professions.

Genesis of Parlor Pinks

Frederic March, the movie actor, is accused by a former officer of a longshoremen's union, himself fired on a charge of swiping $774 of the treasury, of devoting a large part of his earnings to advancing the cause of Communism "by guile and subterfuge" and interesting national celebrities in that radical cause.

Without regard to the truth or falsity of the allegations against Actor March personally, we do not find it impossible to believe that a high-salaried movie star might be playing around with Communism, paradox though it may seem on the face of it. Communists in the United States, indeed, fall almost wholly into three groups:

1--The well-meaning but more less balmy people who think with their emotions.

2--The disgruntled underdogs who think the world has not given them a fair break, and who hate their betters with personal spleen.

3--The parlor pinks, invariably wealthy or well-educated or both, and in nearly all cases enjoying very pleasant berths in the world.

What explains these last? Well, maybe they have some kinship with the first group. They often do--often exhibit a genuine if misty and unrealistic sympathy with the plight of the underdog. But more than anything else, we suspect, it's simple human vanity. The notion of Communism is associated in their minds with the ideas of advanced thought and penetrating insight. And by embracing it they can give themselves a pleasant sense of intellectual superiority without actually possessing it.

The Gathering Cloud

We fought a war back in 1898-99 because our battleship Maine was blown up in Havana harbor. Yet to this day it has never been proven that the nation we fought, Spain, had anything to do with blowing it up, or even indeed that it was not blown up by the bursting of one of its own boilers.

The case of the destruction of the gunboat Panay by the Japanese is a far more perfect casus belli. For there is no question that the Japanese destroyed it and, with it, in all probability, the lives of at least one of our sailors. And in international law, Japan has no status whatever as against neutrals, since her war in China is undeclared. Literally, the destruction of the gunboat in the Yangtze is precisely as though the Japanese had steamed into our naval bases at Pearl Harbor, San Pedro, Balboa, or Newport News, and destroyed it there!

And yet--the chances are against our going to war this time. We have learned restraint since 1898, and as a people, remembering the Great War, we are very determined not to fight. Still, the fact becomes increasingly plain that we are going to have need of all our restraint and all our determination--and that perhaps in the end they will not suffice. For when we add up the Japanese destruction of our gunboat, the Japanese shelling of a British gunboat and killing of a British sailor, Mussolini's and Hitler's increasing aggressiveness, the sum becomes clearer and clearer that force is the only thing the new bandit nations are prepared to respect.

Dividing the Blame*

The blame for this sharp "recession" Assistant Attorney General Robert H. Jackson places directly at the door of Big Business. Addressing a consumers' project meeting in New York Saturday night, he said:

"Big Business jerked prices up as soon as volume began to go up. It acted on the theory that under the competitive system, business had the right to charge what the market could bear. Results showed that Big Business misjudged the market and charged more than the traffic could bear."

We believe this is an accurate appraisal, as far as it goes: but it doesn't go far enough. Take the case of the railroads, for instance. There is one Big Business which didn't raise its rates, for the very good reason that the Interstate Commerce Commission stood in the way. Even now, in the midst of recession, the railroads are petitioning for higher rates: and they make out a pretty good argument.

They say that materials and supplies have gone up 40 per cent, which substantiate Mr. Jackson's contention. But they also show that taxes have gone up 25 per cent: that they are paying 2% of their payrolls for unemployment insurance and that, come January 1, the rate will go up to 3%. They are paying an additional tax on payrolls of 2 3/4% on account of the Railroad Retirement Act, and they are paying it on payrolls that have gone up about 18 per cent as a result of the impetus for higher wages applied by the Federal Government.

With this additional information in hand, Mr. Jackson's theory of what caused the recession can be made alright. It was: (1) Big Business's excessive charges and (2) Government's excessive charges.

They'll Need Furniture*

If the current housing agitation results in the actual large-scale construction of houses, two important problems will face that part of the population which moves into the new homes. One of them will be the paying of the installments or rental charges. And the other will be that of obtaining furniture and equipment for the house.

But that last brings the furniture manufacturing industry into the picture, and these manufacturers lately have shown by word and act that they are aware of the possibilities that the housing drive may run into serious maladjustments. More specifically, the Southern division of this industry last week, in convention at High Point, took a position in opposition to the proposed Federal wages and hours regulation, stating several basic reasons.

One of these reasons was: "Arbitrary fixing of wages would increase living costs without increasing farm income or professional incomes, which would ultimately result in a reduction of goods consumed."

The big trouble with the country now is under-consumption. The furniture men are talking good economics--not politics.

*Site Ed. Note: The date of this day's pieces is labeled in error on the column header as December 12. It is instead December 13, the 75th anniversary of the crushing loss of the Union Army at Fredericksburg, from the bloodied gullies before the stone wall--at the expense of 9,000 lain dead by the miniés and cannonade.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i>--</i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.