The Charlotte News

Saturday, May 10, 1941


Site Ed. Note: Judge Frank Sims, the subject of the first piece, often appeared in the editorial column, especially during summer, 1939 as he took on corruption in the police department to great controversy--a courageous jurist to be sure, one from whom we would all profit for his like again and repeatedly. That saga, as well as some others, both local and otherwise, are chronicled in "Man Escapes Jail", March 31, 1939, "Take Cover!", June 26, 1939, "Man-Sized Job", June 30, 1939, "Oh", July 26, 1939, "Two Up, Two Out", July 30, 1939, "For Ourselves", and the links in its associated note, January 21, 1940, "Two in a Row", February 17, 1940, and the links in the note of February 2, 1940. As they say, all news is local.

With such in the seats as Judge Sims, neither any form of despotism nor any form of Gestapo Storm Troopers, the sine qua non for the despot's existence, will ever persist long in any society laying claim honorably to the form of government we term democracy--that which defines in a constitution certain rights, certain obligations and powers of government, leaves those unenumerated rights and powers to the people, and insures, both in word and action, consistently the enjoyment of those rights equally, daily, by everyone who is a citizen of that society, and without exception. For it is that single exception made in deference to money, power, or self-interest, or personal loyalty overriding principle, a decision made on high that one person is a threat or a thorn and therefore should be denied or limited in the enjoyment of some or all of those rights--it is that, characteristic of a despotic state, which starts the ball in motion to erode democracy in favor of despotism. For once a single exception is made, more exceptions follow more easily, until eventually there are few left but the exceptions.

"Trial Balloon" suggests the reasons of the Japanese for their twelve-point peace tenders of late, and as well why the United States continued to refuse them. Talks would continue along these lines, but in Washington with Secretary Hull, not in Tokyo with President Roosevelt, right up through the hour of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

As to who was playing who for a dupe, or whether both sides were equally disingenuous with one another, equally sincere, or bits of each, only the parties lost to history knew for sure; the rest is to a large degree speculation. But one must also realize that most--after agreement as to basic dates and names and places, the when-what-and-where--of that which finally passes for history, the how, is little more than speculation sorted from among various accounts of a given episode, sifted through memories which fade among competing allegiances, which in turn may color the objectivity of the rendition. Even that which is documented must be consistently checked with sound logic juxtaposed to the other known facts for self-serving, misinformed, mistaken or false statements and impressions, always initiated with awareness that history may view them and thusly filtered through the subjective lenses of the person or persons preparing them. Documents in history seldom provide grounds for absolute assertions of the truth of their contents as opposed to being merely pieces of evidence to be factored into the puzzle demonstrating the state of mind of the declarant and his or her orientation to the facts purportedly documented; that is, to provide the answer of whether it is generally thoughtful and creditable, setting forth a conceptual basis for its presentation with reason based on argument as its ultimate arbiter to wisdom, or generally illogical and without credit, selective and parsing of facts, nitpicking of others personally, dogmatic, plugging holes in facts and logic with sentiment and emotion, to prove ultimately nothing except the subjective prejudices motivating the proffer.

After all, documents are prepared every day and filed in courts under penalty of perjury, sometimes even by lawyers, and often contain little more than half-truths or just plain fabrications from wholecloth. The only reason more often than not no one is chastised or prosecuted for this crime is that there is simply no countervailing proof of the misstatements, the rare proof absolute of the negative, or because space and time limitations prevent full response to each and every lie or half-truth, not because all of them or any of them are necessarily true or even resemble any truth. Such a body of information forms therefore a poor source for determining any absolute factual history without first accounting for the motivations and interests of the parties asserting them on either side of an issue.

Similarly, it is so with the study of history in general.

All of which is why such a study, when conducted properly, seeking its truth, that is an allowance for comprehension of history in human terms, accounting for the entire panoply of emotional and intellectual interactions studied from all angles of the setpiece--that which includes the poetic, the posturing pompous, the grave, the sincere, the chicane, the sardonic, the ironic, the comedy, the pathos, the inevitable subjectivity of any story-teller seeking to impart it--to form a better understanding, for the sake of the future, of its lauds, its foibles, its baubles, is both a complicated and intriguing proposition. But when conducted with that consistent goal maintained, we contend, it may indeed lead to a better approximation of ultimate truth and afford that much better fend for each day's journey to avoid its worst fortuities, either those planned by human agency or those seemingly planned by something, not quite determinable, not quite evitable, in any ordinary sense, but with some nefandous conjuring external to the self and bent on untoward consequence incident to it, nevertheless. And along the way, one might come then to better appreciate also the simple things which afford the good of life, those which excite the humours to a smile or a laugh and thus reduce for a time the dolor which besets all human existence.

The rest of the page is here.

A Judge Judged*

And Found Worthy of Being Retained in His Place

There has been talk--although, to be fair about it, not from the Citizens Group as such--that Frank Sims would have to give way as City Recorder. There is something to this talk, we believe, even though it remains true that the Citizens Group has not yet considered any appointments and would not under any circumstances, let us say, bestow this place on one unqualified.

But why not keep Judge Sims?

The Judge may be somewhat opinionated and inclined to play himself against the field. But those are not uncreditable qualities. They are only idiosyncrasies, characteristics, personality.

As a judge, the lawyers give him a good name. As a citizen, he has earned a good name. As a square-shooter, which is the two-bit word for a just humanitarian, his customers at City Recorder's Court would testify for him in droves.

This judge has been little more than a judge, and this judgeship in his hands has been something more than a power of judgment. To a lot of unadmirable, unlovely and generally miserable people, City Recorder's Court is an impressive contact, and one of their few contacts, with what might be called Organized Society. Over them it holds the authority of punishment or acquittal, of freedom or imprisonment, and to the select among them this minor court is a drastically important institution.

Judge Sims has exercised his authority in that spirit and consistently with that restraint upon it. The Citizens Group should do no less with this, one of its truly major appointments.

Sure Sign

These Claims Indicate That Italians Have Suffered

The Italians, we may safely surmise, have recently taken a terrific lambasting of some sort. What its nature may be the British have not yet indicated. But there is no reasonable doubt that the thing has taken place.

The evidence consists in the fact that the Italian High Command yesterday was claiming bomb hits on two British battleships, an aircraft carrier, two cruisers, a destroyer and three merchant ships under convoy of the said warships.

That is a very large claim and indicates that whatever happened to the Italians was strictly terrific.

All this on the established principle, to which we have directed attention before, that whenever the Italian High Command issues a communique claiming great successes against the British Navy it invariably means that it is the Italians themselves who have taken a shellacking.

It was so last Fall when an Italian heavy cruiser was blasted and sunk by destroyers in the Western Atlantic, when five Italian destroyers got it in the Red Sea, when two Italian cruisers and three destroyers went down under British gunfire off Sicily. It was so at Tarranto, when British bombers put about half the Italian big ships out of commission. And it was so in the Battle of Marspan Cape, when three heavy cruisers died without the British losing a man.

The British are so confoundedly slow about announcements that the Wops always rush in with these claims first. It may serve somewhat to relieve their frustrate wrath and wounded pride, but it has also become the standard tip-off on the new Italian losses.

The Blame*

Respectables, However, Have No Excuse in This Case

Respectable business establishments and householders who, like The News, find themselves suddenly placed in "restricted areas"--as fixed by Air Base officials--are naturally irritated about it. Nobody likes to find himself lumped with bawdy houses and bootleg joints even in the most indirect fashion, though of course that is not to blame the Army. Moreover, business houses may suffer a loss in trade as a result of the restriction, and residential property is increasingly depreciated in value.

However, these business houses, including The News, and citizens can protect themselves. They ought plainly to have done something about what was notorious knowledge long ago.

Nobody suggests, of course, that it is the business of respectable people to go about spying on prostitutes and pint-peddlers and to report them to the police.

But the decent people could and should have, as a matter of immediate self-interest if nothing else, continually and incessantly demanded that the police do something about matters which the police knew about even better than the rest of the town.

But there is one excuse for these respectable elements which now must foot the bill. It is that they knew all along that, however much they insisted, the police, if they followed the pattern which had got to be established would really do exactly nothing about it.

Why Not 85?*

County Tax Rate Can Safely and Conservatively Be Lower

If the Board of County Commissioners fixed a tax rate of 90c for the coming year, the assumption may be made that the rate is not only reasonable but about as low as can be. For Mecklenburg is a well-governed county, and the present board, like its predecessor, is composed of frugal men who abhor waste and extravagance.

Nevertheless, that tax rate of 90c could easily and safely be reduced to something like 85c.

The rate is fixed on an estimated 81 per cent of tax-collections during the fiscal year, which means that instead of budgeting $1,350,000 (the full 100 per cent collections) only $1,093,500 will be budgeted. To put it the other way, when the County estimates that it will collect only 81 per cent of taxes due, it takes a 90c rate to raise the money that is required.

Nobody, of course, expects the full 100 per cent of taxes to be collected within the fiscal year. But it is an odds-on bet that more than 81 per cent will be collected. Why, already this current fiscal year, with two more months to go, 84.03 per cent of 1940 taxes has been collected.

An expectancy of 85 per cent is clearly justified. And 85 per cent collections on an 85c tax rate would produce almost exactly as much budgetable revenue as 81 per cent on a 90c rate.

Besides, it is the wise policy to budget the maximum revenue and then set out to collect it. That would be a boon to the taxpayers who pay on time.

Trial Balloon

Mr. Matsuoka Seems a Bit Less Anxious To Fight

Mr. Matsuoka handed the United States a studied insult when he suggested that Mr. Roosevelt come to Tokyo to talk things over with him--apparently on the basis of the Twelve Points promulgated by his Times-Advertiser. For the head of a great nation to go to another to talk with an inferior Cabinet official would be an intolerable loss of face even in the West. Indeed, to go to such a nation even to talk with its head would involve grave loss of prestige--as witness Chamberlain at Munich.

In the Orient it would be equivalent to crawling on hands and knees.

Mr. Matsuoka undoubtedly knew well that Mr. Roosevelt would not consider such a proposition, and was simply putting out propaganda material for our appeasers. Nevertheless, it does begin to appear that he is anxious to avoid actually fighting the navy of this country.

He is certainly responsible for the hints put out by his and other papers in Tokyo to the effect that the good offices of the United States in negotiating a peace with China would be appreciated. His paper even says candidly that the hope of reducing China by force is very slim.

He hopes, probably, that if he can get the United States interested in a China peace, he would as result find her ready to go further and talk terms about the East in general. In any case, a China peace would leave his hands free to deal with the South Pacific.

There is little chance that Washington will be interested. A total victory for the Chinese is quite as desirable as a total victory for England. But the evidence does suggest that Mr. Matsuoka is increasingly concerned about the risks of being a partner in the Axis Plunderbund.

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