The Charlotte News

Saturday, March 16, 1940


Site Ed. Note: "Carnival" tells the story of the Pennsylvania jury who, while in the jury room deliberating on the guilt of a bootlegger, became so feverishly involved with their deliberations that they proceeded to drink up all the beer in evidence. No wonder they found the man not guilty: despite bending over backwards, they couldn't find the evidence on which to convict him.

Perhaps the judge refrained from sending them to the hoosegow for destruction of evidence, out of fear that they might also consume all the hoose.

"FBI Methods" suggests the preposterous notion that J. Edgar Hoover possessed less than willing respect for the niceties of the Constitution in gathering evidence. Everyone knows that is nonsense, and so we shall comment no further upon it, except to say that they weren't always crooks and creeps, especially by the 1950's. In fact, they were often prominent citizens--Senators, Congressmen, Presidents--upon whom the Director snooped. But no matter, for we mustn't question the needs of the almighty to snoop on the mere humans who are otherwise always just a step away from becoming nefarious creeps themselves.

The volume of mail on whether FDR should seek a third term was pretty stout, most favoring the third term prospect, a few favoring sticking to tradition. We are glad they didn't stick to those few sticking to tradition, or otherwise we might not be here sticking to tradition.

So, what do you think? Should our current President seek a third term?

Send your letters care of The News, P.O. Box 007, Muenstercheese, Wichita (which recently seceded from Kansas), or our alternate mailing address, Box O.P. 700 Eseehcretsneum, Imaim, (the newest state at the southern tip of Florida).

Well, we think everybody ought to get a decent chance, after all. And we have been pretty hard on him these seven years. So, in the spirit of fair play, and since it is March with all the madness going around already anyway, we think, well, why not?

What's that?

Oh, we didn't know that.

In any event, between the "Mother's Little Helper" on the hogs and chitlins in Lumberton and the piece recounting the Alabama Supreme Court's progressive decision anent mutual spousal rights to live in connubial bliss free from violence, we can report that it's getting better all the time.

We have to provide special kudos, incidentally, to the University of Georgia basketball team, who, having finished last, with a record of 4-12, in the Southeastern Conference during regular season, went to Atlanta this weekend and proceeded to win the conference tournament. Not only did they win it, but, because of the tornado which plowed into the Georgia Dome, they couldn't play their Friday night game with Kentucky and thus wound up having to play two games on Saturday within a span of ten hours, a first for college basketball in our memory. They obviously won them both yesterday and then won again today. We can't recall having ever known anyone who attended the institution, but we have to doff our hats to such a determined team of players as that in any sport.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Bulldogs of Georgia come to us in the same page with an editorial regarding J. Edgar Hoover.

You figure it out.

Whatever the case, the Bulldogs may wish to entertain changing their nickname to the Tornodoz.

Hold the tomatoes.

We are also glad our team won. Don't drink all the beer in Chapel Hill, at least not for three weeks.

And, we should be remiss were we to fail to tell you that a call via parallel and triangulated magnetic fields, across interstellar space, and bounced off the sun, back to our friend in the Caribbean, verified that which we already assumed, that in 1991 when he wrote that part of the story which we imparted to you last year in association with the pieces of February 25, 1940, he had never heard of the fire described below, believe it or not. Nor had he ever so much as viewed the newsprint from any of the dates on which the story appeared.

When we have figured out the relationship between "Guthery" and "Lavandula", we shall let you know. Or, for that matter, "Rogue's Fortune". (Note, however, that our friend insures that the latter was added just last year for spice, there having been, when the writing occurred to him in 1991, no name originally attached to the hotel which burned next to the Lavandula.) Or, you may let us know, should it occur to you first--that is the relationship.

And, strangely and sombrely enough, we should indicate also that our note in association with March 11, 1940 was uploaded March 11, 2008 and has not been changed since. It was therefore written four days before the construction crane tragedy yesterday which took the lives of four people on Second Avenue in New York City. Why we said what we said on cranes four days earlier is obvious, and we shan't belabor it. But it is, as we have indicated before, all very intriguing.

We should also indicate, for whatever it is worth, that among the four plays which we attended when first we visited New York City in 1972 was The Prisoner of Second Avenue.

Sometimes, though we do not suggest it happened in the instant case in New York City, building inspectors take money either to overlook things or to nit-pick where there is no real violation--the latter appearing to abound especially when there is a crooked mortgage company or other operative trying illegally to acquire a property on the cheap in foreclosure by pushing the owner off a cliff.

"I got a mule and her name is Sal..."

Well Done

We Look Down At Men Like Ants And Find Them Great

Yesterday was such a day as lets newspaper men go to sleep when bed time comes without being rocked. For the several News reporters and photographers who covered the fire throughout the early morning hours, it was a long and wearying and gruesome day. And for their colleagues it was a day of unremitting toil.

The tragedy of the event here yesterday excused nobody from trying to cope with its various phases. And on such an occasion, we up here in the ivory tower, buttressed with our books of philosophy and fortified by our feeling of detachment from it all, cannot escape the sort of sadness that we are no part of the force in the field: nor allow envy to restrain the expression of admiration for those who face a situation and measure up to it.

For all, then--for the brave firemen and policemen who saved dozens of lives in the Guthery fire, for the unknown private citizens who pitched in and did what they could, for the newspaper people who rounded up and speedily presented a complete report on the dead, the injured and the safe--for all these, this tribute. Well done.


An Argument Which Seems To Prove A Whit Too Much

Remarking on the Guthery fire State Fire Marshal Sherwood Brockwell yesterday observed among other things:

"The trouble with fires like this one is not that there are inadequate means of leaving the building but that smoke makes people panicky. A person in a fire is just like a person who is drowning. He loses his self-control."

That hardly seems to fit with the facts about this fire. The universal report of the survivors, some of whom certainly did not lose their heads, is that the smoke in the halls was too thick for them to get through it. Grant that they were mistaken--should they have attempted to run through it, anyhow? All the fire experts warn against precisely that. The reasonably clear fact seems to be that many persons on the third floor had good ground for supposing that the stairs were too far away to be reached through the smoke and flames--that they were trapped--and that it was this which produced the panic.

But assuming that Mr. Brockwell states the case about panic accurately, isn't that to argue a circle? If panic is a standard reaction to fire in cases of this kind, shouldn't that fact itself be taken into account in making provision for fire exits? If it is panic, and not the smoke and flames themselves, which leads people to jump rather than to try to reach a distant staircase, isn't that pretty good evidence that there are not in reality "adequate means for leaving the building?"

We still think that there is good reason for re-examination of the safety standards specified by both the North Carolina and the City codes.


Some Reflections Inspired By A Lamentable Action

At Washington, Pa., the jury drank up the evidence. Five men and seven women, they retired to the jury room to ponder the case of a man charged with transporting beer illegally, carrying the case of beer which was the evidence with them. A while later they emerged with beer inside their skins to report a verdict of not guilty.

It was lamentable morally and judicially and from all other viewpoints, north, east, south, and west, and straight up and straight down. As they themselves confessed by bowing their heads when the judge raked them over the coals with angry words. Far be it from us to defend them. The judge should have sent them to the hoosegow to reflect on things.

And yet--and yet--and yet--. Even in Pennsylvania there were signs of Spring. Outside the jury room window the sunlight was almost certainly beginning to wax palpably softer and more languorous, and the silly little robins were chirping increasingly amorous chirps. The silly little birds, too, were popping out on the boughs.

And in the streets silly young men were undoubtedly beginning to let their silly young fancy lightly turn, and silly young women to go about starry-eyed. The silliest of all the silly seasons was marching northward again with the great central luminary, and the blood of the earth was beginning to stir in its sleep. And at such times the human creature has always wanted to put on cap and bells and thumb his nose at all proper authority, to play the frisking goat.

A hard and cold world, in reality, masters, and in a hard and cold world the jurors got somewhat less than they deserved. And still, perhaps it was not wholly inexplicable in the descendants of creatures who only on the mere yesterday of a few thousand years ago left off living in caves and actually dancing on the hilltops to hasten the coming of Spring.

FBI Methods

They Should Be Examined With Strict Watchfulness

When Senators like Ellender of Louisiana and Pepper of Florida roar about the Federal Bureau of Investigation and charge that it is developing OGPU or Gestapo tendencies, most people are inclined to shrug and charge it up to pique over its effective attacks on the crooked or shady machines which rule in those states.

But when Senator Norris comes forward with a similar charge, it puts another face on the matter. Norris charges that the FBI agents used third-degree methods on the man arrested in Detroit for recruiting for the Spanish Loyalists--a purely technical offense, and demands a Senate investigation into the methods of the agency.

Perhaps it might not be a bad idea at that. J. Edgar Hoover is a real trash-mover and the FBI, under his energetic direction, has rendered the nation great services. Nevertheless, he has before now shown, in his public utterances at least, that he suffers from a limitation common to nearly all law-enforcement agents--a great impatience with the loopholes in the law which, while they are often taken advantage of by known criminals, are necessary if the rights of the innocent are to be safe--an inclination to believe that the apprehension and conviction of all criminals is a good which transcends all other goods.

To charge that the FBI is now an OGPU or a Gestapo, or about to become one, is hysterical nonsense. Nevertheless, some of its activities are certainly open to question--as for instance its concern with gathering information about people who have committed no crime but merely expressed this or that unpopular opinion.

At any rate, a little inquiry now and then is good for all public agencies.


But Chamberlain Is Not The Only Guilty Man

Mr. Hore-Belisha made a telling point when he pointed out that Chamberlain's defense of Britain's failure to come to Finland's aid in time to save her was only a technicality.

It is nothing that, under the law of the League of Nations, Finland had first formally to present a request for aid against an aggressor so that Sweden, as a member of the League, could legally be forced to allow the troops to pass.

Britain has shown before this that she knows well enough how to slash through the red tape of neutrality, to violate it boldly, when she has made up her mind that it is to her interest to do so. And the Finnish case is merely another instance of the bumbling vacillation of the Chamberlain Government. It becomes plainer that if England is to win this war, the first step is going to have to be the removal of Chamberlain and the appeasers, who surround him. None of them have the stomach necessary for the vigorous action which alone can win.

But it hardly becomes us to be too self-righteous in this instance. The isolationists in the Congress of the United States, plus the flabby-willed champions of Finland, betrayed the little country as certainly as did England's Government. As the loudest denouncer of aggression in the world, we were probably morally bound to aid the little nation effectually--had given her good reason to believe that we would. Actually, we did nothing but stand around and make pious speeches and busily aid Russia by selling her war materials. You cannot neutralize power or evade its responsibilities. If you decline to use it for your friends, it inevitably aids your enemies.

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