The Charlotte News

Saturday, December 18, 1937


Site Ed. Note: "And Then--", speaking of silk stockings, though not something shocking, yet perhaps the hose, heaven knows, we have obtained that October 25 editorial, "Senseless, But Not Hopeless", on the problems with parole abroad the country, which J. Edgar Hoover saw fit to praise in a letter to the editor on November 24. It is of interest, in purple prose.

Well, Mr. Hoover, stroll around the grounds, until you feel at home, suh.

"No Magic in This" presents an enticing question: should we have a national referendum before going to war on foreign soil, and should it be incorporated as an amendment to the Constitution?

As long as drafted in such manner to exclude imminent nuclear attack, obviously, an emergent circumstance with which the populace in 1937 did not yet have to cope, or other form of genuine national emergency, we think it would be a good idea. Such an amendment ought also to provide that while a war thusly approved by national plebiscite is being waged, the people must also approve at least once annually its continued funding beyond an additional six months. Certainly, there is greater need for that sort of amendment than the more recent attempts by the last Congress, to ban flag burning and to define legal marriage.

Some might suggest that such an amendment would weaken the ability of the Executive Branch of government to effect diplomatic resolution of foreign conflicts by effectively turning over to the people the right to wage non-emergent war or not. But that drawback would be balanced out by the notion that a war thusly voted by the American people would have behind it the firm resolve to fight on the part of the majority, so communicated to the country against whom war is to be waged. It would also have the salutary concomitant that anti-war protests would be maintained at a minimum, morale maintained within the populace at a relatively high level, after a war was voted on with the citizenry thus able to speak their majority will in advance. And in the case of an unpopular or weak President, he or she would nevertheless, if the people supported and voted for a war, continue to carry the Big Stick.

That way, we would not need to rely on public opinion polls fueled by snapshot reaction to daily propaganda campaigns on the airways to establish, corroborate or attenuate the desire of the Executive to go to war.

While in the present scenario of Iraq, undoubtedly such a plebiscite would have, if one accepts the original 70% favorable polls in the spring of 2003, approved the original decision to go to war, it would have also long ago, certainly by mid-2005, pulled the plug on further funding, mandating a withdrawal of troop personnel within six months.

Again, some might argue that such would be a step toward direct democracy when everything else we do is within the context of representative democracy. But the representatives are not the ones typically who do the fighting when the country goes to war. And so, if in anything there should be direct democracy, it is going to war on a non-emergent basis on foreign soil. For it is the populace at large whose blood is at risk in such situations.

The rest of the day's editorials are here.

Another Unwritten Law?

Maybe Governor Hugh White had good and sufficient reason that we don't know about. But on the face of the matter, it seems impossible to reconcile his commuting the sentence of William Clark Mitchell, white man, from hanging to life imprisonment, with the concept of Mississippi justice as a perfectly even-handed goddess. For the crime for which Mitchell was convicted was the cold-blooded and deliberate killing of a Negro.

And does it seem at all likely that any Mississippi jury ever got around to convicting a white man of the cold-blooded and deliberate killing of a black man, to condemning him to hang for it, without having overwhelming good evidence that he had done just that thing? We ask you, ladies and gentlemen, does it seem likely? But our question, of course, is purely rhetorical. Even the little school boys and girls of Tibet can tell you the answer to that one.

Well, and hanging is the appointed penalty for cold-blooded and deliberate murder in Mississippi, isn't it? And if that's so, and it is, ought this fellow to escape because his skin happens to be white?

No Magic in This

That constitutional amendment to require a referendum for the declaring of war is on the whole alright by us. Its failure to take full cognizance of the Monroe Doctrine is a cause for some question. But otherwise its provisions seem to apply only to wars on foreign soil and not to the defense of our country from attack, and so it seems unlikely that it would unduly hamper the government in a crisis of the first importance.

Nevertheless, we think that only the incurably naive will believe that it can accomplish its purpose and actually forever keep us out of foreign wars. What lies behind it is a theory that wars are made by politicians and bankers--by the Woodrow Wilsons at the command of the J. P. Morgans--for the benefit of cold-blooded commercial interests in which the people have no stake. But that theory is much too simple to be true. The causes of war are, in reality, as complex as the human mind, as human motives, and human emotions. What happens is that over a period of time one factor after another steadily raises the level of the irritation in the national mind and steadily breaks down the normal individual inclination to peace. Then one day something suddenly sweeps the whole ferment into explosion. Wars come unpredictably, and they come, indubitably, at the spontaneous will of the people as a whole. A referendum will, at best, do no more than remove the inevitable action one step. For in war mood, the people will vote for war.

Will It Function?*

Whether the Southern-Policy Association which the talented Brooks Hays has been talking about in these parts will ever function to any purpose among the individualists and traditionalists of the Southeast--eleven states and 500,000 square miles--is a question.

The need for a policy is obvious enough. The need for regional planning, for regarding the Southeast as economically and socially a peculiar unit just as deftly as it was regarded in 1861: for seeing that we are citizens of a colonial economy that exploits natural resources, sells them cheap and buys them back [indiscernible word]; for seeing that the one-crop [indiscernible word]-crop makes us prey to world markets, and starves our tenants and sharecroppers because they cannot afford to grow decent foodstuffs; and for seeing that the black mark [indiscernible words] across a thousand miles of cities in the South is the greatest threat of distress and crime in the modern community ever endured.

But by and large the policies of the South are determined by the magnificent and costly and useless puttering of the New Deal in cotton (plow-up and bribe without diversification) and housing (building "slum clearance projects" in which no slum dwellers can afford to live); and by pipsqueak politicians, most of them our own.

......Once the little streams of the Catawba Valley ran blue and clean, once the warm lands of the South were rich and fresh. Now the rivers run tan, and the lands are wounded with the wounds of soil erosion.

.......Once the Southeast with tragic wrongheadedness, perhaps, stood solid and tried to be what it should be, a region dictating its own policies. It seems reasonable to assume that if we tried again now, we might know more about how to go about it.

High Cost of Giving*

Last October 19, Mr. Harvey Firestone, the tire man, bestowed upon members of his family a princely gift of 48,450 shares of common stock in the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. At the price of $19 on that day, the value of this gift was, $945,000; and since gifts in excess of $1,000 are taxable to the giver, this beneficence cost Mr. Firestone about $160,900, which he must pay to Uncle Sam.

That's a pretty heavy tariff on generosity; but, ah! suppose Mr. Firestone had looked at the rising stock market along about last January, and decided that he had better distribute his wealth before it became worth more and cost him more in taxes. At that time Firestone common was quoted at 35, which would have brought the value of the 48,450 shares in the benefaction to $1,675,750,and would have increased Uncle Sam's toll on the transaction to $332, 645, or nearly twice as much as a tax on the gift at October stock prices.

From all this, the computations of which are believed to be accurate but are not guaranteed, we derive two large conclusions:

1. That now is a good time to make gifts;

2. That Uncle Sam, too, is losing great wads of money because of the "recessed" stock market.

Reflections Inspired By An Earnest Lady

There was a lady who called us on the telephone and wanted us to launch a movement in these parts for a boycott on the silk which comes from Japan, and for the wearing of cotton stockings by our Carolina women. Only yesterday it was, and she was very earnest about it. It was, she said, our duty. Besides, it would help the Southern cotton farmer.

But, we had our doubts, and the longer we look at it, the stronger they grow. We know very well how the lady feels. We feel that way, too, when we look at pictures of Chinese babies murdered by Japanese bombs. And yet, and all the same--

Observe: One of the things the matter with the Southern cotton farmer is that Japan, from being his best foreign customer, has now become his seventh best. In the four months ending November 30, 1936, she bought 622,772 bales from him, valued at $43,798,000. But in the four months ending November 30, 1937, she bought only 83,907 bales, valued at $5,050,000. Maybe that market is lost forever, anyhow. But certainly, a boycott isn't going to help us get it back.

Again: Supposing that a sufficient number of women can be persuaded to wear cotton partly to balance out this loss, what about the numerous plants manufacturing silk stockings in the state? Most of them could not well change to making cotton hose. If the boycott worked, they'd simply have to close up shop, and throw a considerable army of people out of work. And we can see little percentage in aiding the cotton farmer at the expense of the industrial order.

And Then--

Moreover, to shift the ground of our reflection, we observe that the American Federation of Labor and the British trades unions have been promoting a boycott of Japanese goods for some months now, but apparently without seriously incommoding the Nipponese. And it seems to us that a boycott which does not work can be good for nothing save further to exacerbate the feelings of all sides and make an already tense situation tenser still.

But on the other hand, suppose that it actually worked? Suppose it really began to slow down the industrial machine in Japan, to throw people out of employment, to hinder the production of war materials, and to hamper the Japanese army and navy? Do you seriously suppose that the little brown man wouldn't strike back at us? And if he struck back with retaliatory measures, we'd be likely to strike back in our turn, harder than ever, wouldn't we? And after that had gone on for a few times, what chance do you think we would have to avoid open war with him?

No, we don't think we will launch that movement for a boycott quite yet.

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