The Charlotte News

Tuesday, June 3, 1941


Site Ed. Note: The oil pipeline mentioned in "Pipe Line" eventually did get built. The huge field of petroleum storage facilities near Greensboro, which we used to pass on I-40 on the way to Pulpit Hill as a small child and wonder at their contents and whereof its origins, is the only visible evidence of this 700-mile conduit to the Gulf. The project was not completed, however, until after the war. Before that, as the piece implies, all long-range shipments of petroleum had to be shipped via rail, not only at substantially greater cost, but also with some degree of danger to public safety.

Likewise, as the piece also suggests, strict gas rationing did go into effect. Not dissimilar to the days of the OPEC crisis in 1973, when consumers were given certain days, based on license plate digits and the like, on which they could purchase gas, and lines formed around the block for hours on end in the faint hope of being able to grab a few gallons of the finite quantity available at the neighborhood station, there were stickers issued to the public during World War II indicating the days on which they could purchase gas. Food items were likewise rationed. The civilian population living within a 50-mile radius or so of military bases, such as Fort Bragg, had to obey blackouts at night in certain times to avoid detection by potential bombing raids. The population was encouraged to be mum with one another with regard to any military information they might have by the fortuity of a friend or relative in the military, call-up orders, maneuvers, sudden troop transport, etc. Mum was the word. They even wrote songs about it.

It was a strange time for democracy. And, unfortunately, even when the war ended, certain individuals sought deliberately, to achieve political power through the coign of vantage produced by instilling fear in others, to continue those strange times with regard to the Communists in an effort to have a common enemy against which to inveigh, from which unity in division it was assumed that the electorate would then run to the umbrella afforded by these pols of the night. Not unlike the way the Nazi movement itself slowly, from rude beginnings, took hold in Germany after World War I--about which you may read from a first-hand account in Jan Valtin's Out of the Night, installment 2 of which is here. (Our apologies, incidentally, to young Miss Annie Lee Gurley: even after all these years, Red Ryder is still violently holding forth in the comic section. They appear to have gotten rid of old Superman for you, though. We'll see.)

Elsewhere in this day's News, the Associated Press reported that, after the coldest spring in more than a century, snow fell at Archangel, Leningrad, and Moscow in Russia. Muscovites reported that it was the first time in their memory that snow had fallen in June. Hitler, obviously, did not pay any attention to the weather reports. By October, he would wish that he had.

Yesterday, it comes to mind for some reason, we happened to be in the Airport in Houston, on a layover awaiting a flight. Over the intercom came an announcement several times, one which we have not heard before at any other airport. "Inappropriate jokes," the lady said, "may result in your arrest. We thank you for your cooperation while this policy is in effect." We laughed so hard when we heard it that we suspect we nearly got arrested.

In any event, we suggest to the entire population of the flying public that you save up all your inappropriate jokes and fly non-stop, Trans-Comedic Airways, to Houston and there tell them all to the lady on the loudspeaker.

Hey Lady, did you hear the one about the President who tried to set himself up as a dictator of a banana republic by trying to scare the entire country with an endless war on terrorism to supplant the vacuous policy he had otherwise, all in an effort to line the pockets of his family's rich oil sheik buddies in Saudi Arabia? It's hysterical. And did you hear the one about the third world President who promised lower gas prices after the war was won against another third world country, competitor to his family's Saudi oil sheik buddies, only to see gas prices triple during his term of office, all to the enrichment of his family's Saudi oil sheik buddies? Or the one about the detainees who will be detained in the Soviet satellite for as long as the war lasts, that being as long as the President of the satellite says it will last, that is until his family's Saudi oil sheik buddies tell him the coast is clear and they are sufficiently rich and the planet sufficiently damaged that they may all co-exist in Hell together? One poor fellow laughed so hard at these jokes, we are told, that they sent him incommunicado to Gitmo for the duration of the war.

Anyway, Pilgrim, they can't arrest you legally for jokes, "inappropriate" or otherwise. For who is to deem the joke appropriate or not? What is the standard? It is void for vagueness and overbreadth from the get-go, even in Gitmo. Moreover, the very fact that they know it's a joke beforehand belies the effort, undermines the very reasonable and good faith basis required for their probable cause for arrest as required under even the strictest interpretation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution--even if that itself is a joke now, so long at least as the "policy" is in effect, that is so long as El Presidente is in office.

Thus, if you wish grounds for a lawsuit--even under the tortured Reaganissimo standards erected by "common sense" judges in the 1980's to deter "frivolous", i.e, meritorious, lawsuits against the government for abuses of civil liberties--then tell inappropriate jokes, en masse preferably, at the Houston airport, loudly, so that others may hear.

We encourage and advocate openly this dastardly temerarious abuse of the laws of the land--against telling Jokes. So arrest us, Stupid.

But, caveat comedeus, if you should crack a joke, or even joke a-crack, first, record the announcement playing at the Houston airport, so that you may play it in court to prove their prior understanding that what you were saying was in fact a joke from a cracker. And be sure, recording your own conversation also in the process of course, to preface your joke with a proper disclaimer.

For example: "Here's a joke: What's the name of this airport?"

"No, Hoover would be wrong, but equally close."

And we are happy to report, as elucidated to-day for us, that Bob was not akin to Dick, though Dick he may have been akin to.

Good night, Gracie.

Good night, George.

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