Saturday, January 20, 2007

This made me smile (A Repost)


This is one of my two favorite This Made Me Smile posts.


I loved Isaac Stern for his talent as a violinist, for his many public services (frequent charity concerts and leading the effort to save Carnegie Hall from the wreckers' cranes) and for not taking himself too seriously, as the following story illustrates.

Stern was being interviewed by Bill Moyers or some other supercilious NPR-type who kept mentioning his age, 72 at the time, and asking Stern questions like: "As you look back now over your career, what do ..." and "Do you have any one concert you'd like to be remembered for?"

Stern was very patient through it all until the interviewer asked him to sum up his "legacy in a few sentences."

Stern responded with a gentle rebuke and a little fun
poke at himself:

"Look, I may be 72," he said, " but I don't think my career's over. In fact, I feel like I'm just in the middle of my life and career. Of course, it would help if I knew someone who was 144."
Stern died in 2000 at age 80. You can read more about him here. The site includes a link to an interview with Stern (not the one I mention here)

Is Duke's Starn "typical?"

Readers’ Note: The number of op-eds by Duke faculty that contain misrepresentations continues to grow. Professor Orin Starn frequently writes such op-eds.

After reading his most recent one, I decided to send the following letter to his department chair. I’m also sending a similar letter to Duke's chief academic officer, Provost Peter Lange

I’ll keep you posted.


Anne Allison, Professor and Chair
Cultural Anthropology Department
Duke University

Dear Professor Allison:

Last July Sally Dalton Robinson Professor of Cultural Anthropology Orin Starn published an op-ed in The Raleigh News & Observer. It contained a very serious misrepresentation of remarks made by Coach Mike Krzyzewski concerning the racial aspects of the Duke lacrosse case.

I called Professor Starn's misrepresentation to his attention via email and said he should apologize to Coach K and provide a correction for N&O readers.

Professor Starn responded in a lengthy email in which, among other things, he denied misrepresenting Coach K.

I sent Professor Starn a second email in which I demonstrated how, by careful word and phrase omissions, substitutions and rearrangements of what Coach K had actually said, he created what it was hard to see was anything other than a false statement.

You can read the emails in this post which also contains links to the report of what Coach K actually said and Professor Starn's op-ed. (I’ve just tested all its links. They’re active.)

Here, between the star lines, is the portion of my second email demonstrating what Professor Starn did to create his misrepresentation.

Coach K said:

“The racial aspect of this, in some ways, has been the most sensitive thing and some people have tried to create something that isn’t there in our community.”
You presented to N&O readers the following as representing what Coach K had said:
“Those who see a ‘racial aspect’ to the lacrosse case have ‘tried to create something that isn't there.’”
Let’s look at what you had to do with Coach K’s statement in order to create what you presented to N&O readers.

First, you took Coach K's unambiguous acknowledgement of "The racial aspect of this" and substituted in its place something entirely different: "Those who see a 'racial aspect.'" (bolds mine)

Next, you withheld from readers the fact that Coach K had said the racial aspect was, in some respects, the case's "most sensitive" aspect.

Only by eliminating Coach K’s unambiguous acknowledgement of “The racial aspect;” substituting for his words your words that made it appear he was saying some people were merely perceiving a racial aspect (“Those who see…”); and withholding from readers the information that the coach had said the racial aspect was in some ways the case’s “most sensitive” aspect were you then able to present to N&O readers as what Coach K had said:
“Those who see a ‘racial aspect’ to the lacrosse case have ‘tried to create something that isn't there.’”
You misrepresented what Coach K said and it’s very hard, Professor Starn, to see how your misrepresentation could be anything other than deliberate.

After misrepresenting Coach K, you went on and falsely accused him of “not see[ing] a ‘racial aspect’ here.”

You owe the coach an apology and N&O readers a correction.

Is your treatment of Coach K’s statement typical of how you treat raw data when you prepare lectures, articles and books?

Is what you did accepted practice for Duke faculty?

If you can't speak for the broader faculty, than is what you did accepted practice in the Department of Cultural Anthropology?


I told Professor Starn I'd publish in full his response to my second email as I had his first, but he never responded.

When I was completing masters and doctoral study at Duke (mid-seventies to early eighties) what Professor Starn did - taking what a source said, rendering a judgment on it, distortion what the source said, and then claiming your distortion was what the source said - was unacceptable.

Freshmen and sophomores who did that would get a "sit down" with the professor or GA who’d explain why it wasn't done and request a correction. Juniors and seniors were more likely to see their misrepresentations circled and points taken off. If you were in a grad program and you did what Professor Starn did, you pleaded for mercy and promised never to do it again.

I intended last July to bring Professor Starn's misrepresentation to your and Provost Lange's attention.

However, faculty friends told me I’d be wasting my time. They said what Professor Starn did is now commonly done by many Duke faculty. “Really, John,” one faculty friend said, “Starn is typical of many of my colleagues.”

I decided to drop the matter.

However, because misrepresentations published by some Duke faculty are now receiving national scrutiny, I’m now calling Professor Starn’s very serious and carefully created misrepresentation to your attention as well as to the attention of others in positions of responsibity.

I recognize and am glad that Duke faculty members have freedom of expression.

But when a faculty member says something that’s demonstrably false and deliberately created; and subsequently refuses to correct the misrepresentation when it’s called to his or her attention, department chairs and the provost have a responsibility to at least note the misrepresentation and criticize the faculty member for refusing to correct it.

Surely we haven't come to a time at Duke when provost and department chair duties don’t include noting and criticizing faculty members’ misrepresentations.

I will publish your response (up to 600 words) at my blog,

Thank you for your attention to this letter.


John in Carolina


Members, Board of Trustees
Richard Brodhead, President
Peter Lange, Provost
John Burness, Senior Vice President
Orin Starn, Professor

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 19, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity historian Steven F. Hayward writes:

Churchill’s optimism and cheerfulness tend to be obscured by the accounts of his occasional depression, what he called his “black dog.”

There is no doubt that the pressures of office and the fearfulness of events often left Churchill profoundly discouraged – especially when he was out of office and powerless to affect events the he understood so clearly.

But these occasional collapses of Churchill’s spirit have probably been exaggerated (along with the popular image of his drinking), and in most cases they were short-lived. It is worth noting that Churchill often turned to his favorite hobby – painting – when he was discouraged, but that unlike serious manic depressives of brooding artists who paint dark scenes of write morose poetry, Churchill always painted in bright, vivid colors, a reflection of an underlying optimism and happiness of soul. (Regarding his choice of colors for painting, Churchill wrote: “I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.”) (pgs. 116-117)
Churchill’s love of bright, vivid colors is also reflected in his love for butterflies. He saw to it that much of the grounds surrounding the manor house at Chartwell were developed and maintained so as to be especially attractive to them.

Hayward observation is a nice example of an historian going beyond “mere facts” and helping us better appreciate Churchill.

I read once that Churchill’s favorite color (or as the British spell it “colour”) was a kind of salmon pink, but I don’t know that for sure. Do any of you know?

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 18, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

The Jan. 15 and 16 posts concerned Archibald Sinclair, who served as Churchill’s adjutant when he commanded a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the trenches during the winter of 1915/16. The two officers formed a friendship then that lasted for half a century until Churchill’s death in 1965.

From the outset Churchill admired Sinclair for his bravery, the quality he valued most in an officer. Sinclair, a graduate of Sandhurst who’d been commissioned into the Life Guards, was an experienced front-line officer who’d earned the respect of the battalion. Although Churchill was himself a Sandhurst graduate who’d fought in what is now Pakastan, Sudan and South Africa, there was much Sinclair taught him about trench warfare.

Following the war Churchill employed Sinclair as his private secretary when he served first as secretary of state for air and war and then as secretary of state for the colonies. While holding the later office Churchill visited Egypt and Palestine. Sinclair accompanied him.

Throughout the trip there were concerns for the safety of Churchill and his party. The Middle East was then as now wracked by political turmoil fueled by extremists. His car was twice surrounded by mobs who only backed off when Sinclair and Churchill’s bodyguard, Detective Walter Thompson, brandished guns.

During the 20s Sinclair entered politics and was elected to Parliament. In 1940 Churchill appointed him secretary of state for air. Sinclair served until 1945.

Sinclair subsequently lost two close parliamentary elections. When Churchill returned to the premiership in 1951 he arranged a peerage for him. In the mid-fifties, Sinclair suffered a series of strokes. He died in 1970.
This post drew on the Wikipedia entries for Sinclair and Churchill.

Skewering Duke's "new" 88

John Podhoretz gives Duke's "new" faculty group of 88 a well-deserved skewering. Here's part of it:

And lest you think [this new] Gang of 88 wants to express any sense of relief that the university which employs them had not admitted or housed a gang of rapists, you'd be wrong.

Instead, they wish to reiterate their gratitude to those terrified, cowed, oppressed students "who used the attention the incident generated to raise issues of discrimination and violence."

Hmm. This sounds strangely familiar? Where have I heard it before? Oh, yes! When the Tawana Brawley case fell apart in 1988 - when it became clear to everybody that she had lied about being raped by a gang of white men - then too did we hear that some good had come out of the whole business because it had cast light on a pressing social problem.

The Gang of 88 ends their latest letter on an eerily similar note: "We hope that the Duke community will emerge from this tragedy as a better place for all of us to live, study and work," they write.

No, what they should hope for - what we should all hope for - is that the three innocent men emerge from this ordeal able and ready to rise above their torment and make a glorious mark upon the world.
Amen to that.

Podheretz's column is a don't miss.

Anderson on Duke's liability

Duke University's President Richard H. Brodhead seemed nervous on 60 Minutes.Maybe he was worried Leslie Stahl would ask him why he refused to meet on Mar. 25 with the parents of the lacrosse players whose sons had just given DNA samples and were under investigation as suspected gang-rapists. Or maybe Brodhead had just read an advance copy of professor and pundit Bill Anderson's latest column. Excerpts:

Even though the criminal case against the three Duke lacrosse players has not yet been deep-sixed, the lawsuits against Duke University have begun.[...]

To gain a picture of what the Duke University lacrosse players experienced last spring as they walked through a literal gauntlet on their way to class, envision the following things:

Students holding signs declaring: "Castrate";

Speakers at regular rallies calling for their expulsion;

Students screaming slogans at them;

The New Black Panthers came to Durham and said they were going to the Duke University dorms where lacrosse players lived in order to get "confessions" from them. [...]

Duke University ... has a contractual obligation to its students, and that includes keeping them from being physically and verbally harassed by faculty and students. Assume that the objects of this wrath are homosexuals, and they are met with signs that mock them and have anti-gay slurs, or call for their sexual organs to be cut off. Furthermore, assume that the protest is not against homosexuality in general, but rather aimed specifically at certain males on campus who are gay.

The liability that Duke would face in the previously-mentioned example is the same liability the university undoubtedly faces now.[...]
Bill has a lot more to say. As always, he uses facts and careful reasoning to reach sound conclusions.

His full column is here and well worth reading.

Comments erased at N&O

The Raleigh N&O, the paper that said Precious was a "victim...of sex crimes," is now in Watergate cover-up mode.

Just as Nixon and his top aides refused to release full, unedited transcripts of the Oval Office tapes, the N&O is refusing to release a full transcript of its Mar 25 anonymous interview, significant portions of which the N&O now admits it deliberately withheld from readers and media back in March.

However, yesterday Drescher did respond at the Editors' Blog to a reader’s question about the N&O’s ampersand. He detailed its history, usages and colorations in various sections of the newspaper. I posted on what Drescher did ("The N&O precious ampersand")and linked to his post.

Readers, including now retired North Carolina journalist Bob Wilson and myself, commented on the thread. Bob's and my comments were erased. Melanie said they were erased because they off point to John's ampersand opus.

You can read my comment in this JinC post. Here’s Bob’s comment:

Surely this is a joke. Drescher wastes electrons on the color of the N&O's ampersand, yet ignores calls for the paper to come clean in the Duke lax affair. Nero would understand.
Yes, Drescher’s fiddling while he and Melanie should be coming clean on why the N&O set out to frame the players.

If Melanie and Drescher did that, Bob wouldn’t have had to make his comment, and they wouldn’t be feeling so burned.

Anyway, I’ve left another comment on the same thread. Let’s see if this one is approved by the Editors’ Blog’s Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice:
Dear Melanie and John:

What a colorful post you two MSM journalists created out of just about nothing! Who says Journalism School is a waste?

And it was nice of you, John Drescher, to tell the inquiring reader the history of the N&O's ampersand and its many colorations.

What should we look for next?

Should we expect a story reporting on the N&O's use of ampersands when it suppressed the news of the players’ cooperation with police?

Is there any chance N&O readers will see the headline below with three ampersands in three different colors:


What colors do you think would be appropriate for the ampersands in this headline:


I hope you two MSM "First Amendment" journalists don’t decide you have to delete this comment.

I’ll check in tomorrow.

John in Carolina

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

No Churchill Series post - Jan. 17, 2007

Sorry, folks, it's a workload problem.

But I'll be back tomorrow to finish what's evolved into a three-part series concerning Archibald Sinclair and Churchill.

I hope you're back.


The N&O's precious ampersand

Readers’ Note: If you’re not familiar with the kinds of things that can happen at the Raleigh News & Observer’s Editors’ Blog, you may not believe that at the same time the editors are doing a “Nixon/Watergate” routine by refusing to release a transcript of the anonymous interview, one of them actually posted in detail on the history and color shadings of the N&O’s ampersand.("Black and white and red all over")

Managing editor John Drescher said he posted in response to a reader's question.

I’m not making this up.

I left the following comment on the thread. Don’t miss another reader’s comment I’ve placed here after mine.


Dear Editor Drescher:

Well, you gave us quite a detailed explanation about the N&O’s ampersand.

Now, will you tell us why you repeatedly reported the False Accuser was the victim;

why for many days you failed to report the players had cooperated with police;

why you instead promulgated the lie they were stonewalling and covering up for three team members who gang-raped a frightened young mother;

why you published the False Accuser's unsubstantiated claims she was gang-raped, beaten, robbed, and strangled by lacrosse team members;

why you covered-up the news that the FA had identified the second dancer;

why you covered-up the news that Precious made statements during the interview the N&O first, covered-up; then told us were “only details;” and now said it would have been libelous to report;

why you won't explain who led you to the FA and why that person(s) did it;

why, when Nifong charged the players were stonewalling, you didn't ask him about the players' cooperation with police;

why, when reporting on Mar. 28 on Nifong's attack on the players, you continued to withhold from readers the critically important news of their cooperation;

why you published on page one what you called the players "criminal records" (underage drinking, carry open beer cans, etc) on Mar 28, but didn’t report until Apr. 7 the FA's far more serious criminal record (car-jacking, attempting to run down a public safety officer);

why, when you finally reported the FA's record, you buried it at the bottom of a story the headline of which made no mention of her criminal record;

why you published the "vigilante poster" after Duke told media doing so would only further endanger the players;

why you blame the players and their parents and attorneys for your grossly biased, inflammatory and false coverage, which provided “the script” the Hoax enablers used to launch the witch hunt and inflict monumental injustices on innocent people and the community;

and why did the N&O decided to trash and frame a group of college students you surely knew were innocent?

Editor Drescher, fair-minded readers don't care much about your precious ampersand.

We want answers to the "whys" about your Precious "victim" and all the N&O and she did together to enable the witch hunt.

Answers, please!


John in Carolina

I hope many of you will leave your own comments on the thread.

For those of you who don’t go to the thread, here’s a wonderful comment from it:

Comment from: Erik Blome [Visitor] •
01/17/07 at 10:06

I have a dream that someday, editors won't judge themselves by the color of their ampersand, but by the content of their newspaper.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 16, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Yesterday’s post mostly concerned the young Guards officer, Archibald “Archie” Sinclair, who served as Churchill’s adjutant when he commended a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front during the winter of 1915/16. Churchill and Sinclair formed a friendship in battle that lasted until Churchill’s death in 1965. Sinclair survived him for another five years.

In Winston Churchill and His Inner Circle John Colville, Churchill’s Private Secretary during both his premierships, describes Sinclair and his relationship with Churchill:

Sinclair had an air of distinction. With his fine features, black hair and swarthy complexion he resembled a Spanish grandee rather than the Highland chieftain that he was.

His delivery as a speaker was slow. He had a stammer which attracted attention and lent emphasis. His oratory was not of the first order, but his words were carefully chosen and he has a gift for imagery and allusion. …

He was more a nineteenth-century Whig, like Churchill himself, than a twentieth-century Liberal. Starting his career in the fashionable Second Life Guards, he became in due course second-in-command of the battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers that Churchill commanded in the trenches during the winter of 1915-1916. For both of them this brotherhood in arms, short thought it was in time, was an unbreakable link, forged in war but maintained in peace.

Sinclair followed Churchill first to the War Office and then to the Colonial Office as his military private secretary in the years following the Armistice of 1918. He accompanied him on his travels to the Arab countries and elsewhere. Then he went into politics himself.

The two friends were briefly of the same party, for Sinclair was elected Liberal M. P. for his own county of Caithness in 1922; but Churchill soon crossed the floor, back to the Conservative benches where his parliamentary career had begun. They parted at political crossways, their personal relationship remaining undisturbed.(pgs. 219-220)
They remained friends throughout the thirties. They both opposed appeasement, Sinclair, if anything, a more passionate opponent of appeasement than Churchill, if such a thing is possible.

When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he asked Sinclair to serve as Secretary of State for Air. Sinclair served in that office until 1945.

I’ll post further on Sinclair and Churchill tomorrow.

If you like to “read ahead,” Wikipedia has what looks to me to be a reliable Sinclair bio entry.

Apologies are owed


Here'a another column by journalist Bob Wilson. Now retired, Bob's career includes thirty years of reporting and editing in the "old Tar Heel State."


Now that the North Carolina Democratic Party is reportedly mulling an
apology for its seminal role in the 1898 armed overthrow of the
Wilmington city government, and The News & Observer and The Charlotte
Observer already having issued apologies for their sins in that bloody
episode, isn't it time for the state's major dailies to do the same in
the Duke lacrosse case?

After all, they led the charge against the lacrosse team from the get-go, viciously condemning the team even as evidence of a world-class hoax emerged.

In fact, one North Carolina newspaper has apologized. Susan Ihne, editor of The Asheville Citizen-Times, published a mea culpa on Jan. 7, but her remorse got little attention outside western North Carolina. Asheville is 250 miles from Durham.

Ihne wrote, "Did we jump the gun with an April 8 editorial about the
Duke lacrosse incident?"

Her answer, of course, is yes. Here's how Ihne described her paper's
rush to condemn:

"Near the end of the editorial, we said: 'We hope to see a thorough police investigation into this matter so that the guilty -- the
attackers and those who covered for them -- can be punished.'

Our mistake was in saying 'the attackers and those who covered for them.' That phrase assumed there was a rape, even though earlier in the editorial we referred to it as an 'alleged rape.'"
Ihne continued:
"Letter writers called for an apology, and one is due.

We apologize for assuming there was an attack."
Make no mistake: I admire Ihne's courage to admit a serious error in judgment. You can read The Citizen-Times' apology here.

There are two assertions in Ihne's apology column with which I disagree.

First, Ihne implies the Citizen-Times acted under pressure from letter
writers, not from a Damascus Road experience on the part of the
editorial staff. I would like to think the impetus for the apology came
straight from Ihne or the paper's editorial pages editor.

Second, Ihne says Nifong used the media: "We allowed ourselves to be
used as every drab and dribble about the case came to light."

To some extent, Ihne's excuse is understandable. She and her editors
were in the position of Plato's cave dwellers, looking at shadows on the
wall and thinking they are reality. But the shadows are approximations
of reality, and so are news accounts, especially at long distances from
the source.

Newspapers really don't allow themselves to be used by an unscrupulous
prosecutor or other public office. No, they trip themselves when they fail to probe the provenance of a story, especially one fraught with the stench of
corruption and political correctness.

Like people, newspapers are loathed to admit their mistakes. But the
sooner they do, the better for them and their readers.

Ihne's apology is, I suggest, a starting point for apologies from the
Raleigh News & Observer, its news columnist Ruth Sheehan who wrote the "Team's Silence is Sickening" column, and the Durham Herald Sun. They all have much more to account for - conscious, deliberate prejudicial publicity so ably cataloged by the defense and many bloggers - than the Citizen-Times, which did no original reporting on the hoax and its unraveling.

To admit mistakes and learn from them is not capital punishment in journalism. Apologies are the ethical (and sometimes legally preemptive) means of righting grievous wrongs.

The editors at the N&O and the H-S and Sheehan are fully aware of their transgressions in the lacrosse hoax. They, too, should apologize and move on, resolving never to be suckered again by their own ideological predispositions and a flawed, ambitious prosecutor riding injustice to election.

Hoax mythbuster post 2

This second post in the mythbuster series targets three of the many myths now peddled by enablers of the Duke lacrosse witch hunt and the monumental injustices it’s spawned.

Those myths are:

1) “It’s all Nifong’s fault. No one else is to blame. Certainly not me.”

Number one is the enablers' 24/7, “default” myth.

2) “It was such a really, really confusing time. And the issues were so complex.”
Number two seems to be Duke’s President Richard H. Brodhead’s favorite.

3) The Raleigh News & Observer’s favorite Hoax myth was explained recently by managing editor John Drescher:

“[O]ur reporting was hampered by the unwillingness of the Duke players, their parents and their lawyers to speak to us.”
Keeping the Hoax myths in mind, let’s review some of what the N&O, the largest news organization in the Duke/Durham area, reported and commented on beginning on Mar. 24 when it “broke” the story.

We’ll use as the end date for our review Sunday, Apr. 9, the day the N&O’s executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, praised the N&O for its Duke lacrosse coverage and lamented the fact that DA Nifong was no longer giving public interviews.

After a look at some of what the N&O reported between Mar. 24 and Apr. 9, we'll look at what some intelligent N&O readers and other people learned for themselves by Apr. 9, and shared with the N&O and blog readers.

Beginning on Mar. 24 and for days thereafter the N&O repeatedly told readers the False Accuser was “the victim.” The N&O granted her an anonymous page one interview which N&O editors headlined without qualification as her account of a night that ended in “sexual violence.”

The N&O told readers on Mar. 25 the False Accuser was a victim of “sex crimes.”

On Apr.2 the N&O published its infamous “Vigilante” poster despite Duke’s plea that doing so would endanger the 43 white students whose face photos were on the poster.

By Apr. 9 the N&O had twice reported in page one, above the fold stories the “criminal records” of Duke lacrosse players, their crimes including underage drinking and carrying open beer cans.

But it had never reported on page one or in headlines the False Accuser’s far more serious criminal record that it knew about on Mar. 25. Before Apr. 9 the N&O only reported her criminal record in three brief paragraphs at the end of a story not directly related to the False Accuser’s record.

Editorially the N&O twice before Apr. 9 expressed strong support for DA Nifong handling of the case and President Brodhead’s handling of the players and their coach, Mike Pressler. The N&O also praised “the victim” for her “courage” in coming forward.

That’s a brief review of how the N&O covered the case.

Now let’s look at some of what intelligent and fair-minded people were learning and telling the N&O.

Here are excerpts from readers’ comments on the thread of the N&O’s Arp. 3 Editors’ Blog post, “Our Coverage Was Fair.” Reader comments all pre-date Apr. 6:
The only thing that is clear is that the woman had sex. It has not been established who she had sex with or under what conditions, or that it even occurred at the party at all.

Yet the News and Observer, both through your columnists and biased reporting, continues to inflame the community.

The players are castigated and defamed merely for exercising their constitutional rights to follow their attorneys’ wise council.

As a journalist, would you treat exercising the first amendment with the same contempt? (bold added)[…]

After Duke wisely removed the players’ photographs from the website for their own safety, the News and Observer published them so that anyone not getting to the website in time would still have names and faces. Most, if not all, of these young men may not have been involved in any way, but the News and Observer has lead the way in making them all targets in an emotionally charged and racially divided community. […]

People are curious to know even the most simple aspects of this story such as, did the reporter that met with the accuser notice any signs of bruising or injury such as a limp.
There are more such comments on that tread as well as on other blog threads from that time and in letters to the N&O questioning and exposing the N&O’s coverage along with Nifong’s deceits.

An Apr. 9 JinC post, “Duke lacrosse rape allegation: Important questions,” cited a Durham Herald Sun report that Nifong had talked about “if” the accuser could ID suspects. That led me to ask the kind of obvious questions most of you would ask:
Was there a lineup? And if there was, what was the outcome?

If there's been no lineup, why not?

The alleged attack is said to have occurred the night Mar 13. That's almost four weeks ago.

Has there been any effort to make positive IDs from face-photos? If yes, DA Nifong's statement [reported by the H-S] would indicate the woman wasn't able to make any positive IDs.
Now that’s nothing.

Take a look at what a JinC Regular, Straightarrow, said on the Apr. 9 thread:
Sounds to me like the prosecutor is alerting the alleged victim that he doesn't believe in the strength of the case and forewarning her that she may have to testify falsely against the accused if they both are to reap the benefits.[...]

We don't know that the evidence will exonerate the suspects. It may well incriminate them. But surely conspiracy to commit a crime if it does not [incriminate the players], is a crime of its own.

I think a lot more questions should be asked of a prosecutor that says he could pursue a conviction against the evidence.
Questions: By Apr. 9, both the N&O and the H-S had repeatedly praised Nifong’s handling of the case.

What if instead of unqualified praise, the N&O and H-S had on Apr. 9 expressed editorially the concerns and asked the questions you’ve just read?

Tens of thousands in the Duke/Durham area were concerned and asking questions. But they didn’t have the “bullhorns” the N&O and H-S editorial writers have.

What if, instead of sticking with their approval of Nifong, the papers had continued to express concerns and ask questions of the kind many people were asking on Apr. 9?

If the N&O and H-S had done that during the three weeks that remained before the May 2 Democratic primary, would Nifong have won that primary? He won by less than 900 votes.

And what if before Apr. 9 the Duke students had received something close to fair treatment by media instead of being trashed and targeted by so much of it?

What if on Apr. 9 President Brodhead publicly criticized DA Nifong for ridiculing Duke students who were just following the advice of their parents and exercising their constitution right to counsel?

What if on Apr. 16, instead of telling the Durham Chamber of Commerce that “what ever they did is bad enough,” Brodhead had told the Chamber something like:
“I’m really, really concerned about a DA who tells us DNA will immediately exonerate the innocent; and then he turns around and says they’re all still suspects?”
If Brodhead, most media and others had done what they should have done, would they need to peddle myths to cover-up their enablement of Nifong and certain Durham Police officers who conspired with him?

I don't see any basis in fact for the theee myths. Can you?

Tomorrow, and for a few days following, I plan to challenge the N&O’s blaming of the players and their parents and attorneys.

The N&O’s shameless blaming of the innocent is as abhorrent and false as the accuser and N&O’s stories about the night they said ended in “sexual violence.”

Previous mythbuster posts:

Post 1 (1/14/07)

Posting resumes at 7 pm eastern

It's a travel day.

I hope you're back after 7 pm.

I'll post a mythbuster, Bob Wilson's latest column and my second take on 60 Minutes' episode.


Monday, January 15, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 15, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In March, 1916, Churchill was at the front commanding a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. His adjutant, Archibald Sinclair, was due for leave. Churchill arranged for Sinclair to stay in London with Clementine and the children in the house they were sharing with his sister-in-law, Gwendeline (always called “Goonie” in the family) and her children. Goonie’s husband, Jack, was Churchill’s younger brother and serving overseas at the time.

On March 22 Clementine wrote Churchill to tell him of “Archie’s” arrival. She had just started the letter when the Editor of the Manchester Guardian (now called The Guardian) arrived. He had some advice for Churchill which Clementine passed on before telling Churchill about Archie:

My Darling,

Your letter announcing Archie’s immediate arrival has just come and I have been hastily arranging things for his reception – I am so glad he is coming here especially as he will bring more immediate news of you ----

I was interrupted by the visit of [Manchester Guardian Editor] Mr. C. P. Scott.

While he was here Archie arrived & was therefore able to deliver your letter in person.

Mr. Scott is glad that you still feel that your proper sphere is in the House of Commons, but is very anxious that your return should not make an unfavourable impression – He thinks the right opportunity should be waited for and then seized at once. ….

I am struck by Archie’s appearance – He looks pale and careworn. He cares for you much & takes your affairs to heart I think.

He seems to me to need rest and distraction.

He has gone to have a Turkey [Turkish bath] & is returning to dinner – I will write again later – Keep a level mind my Darling & a stout heart.

Your loving,

I’ll comment further on this letter tomorrow.

For now, these few items: Churchill and Sinclair formed a deep friendship that lasted until Churchill’s death.

During WW II Sinclair served as Secretary of State for Air.

Sinclair was 24 when he visited Clementine.
Clementine’s letter is found on page 192 of Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill, Edited by their daughter Mary Soames.

Church-State separation for one, not both

Most Democrats and their pals at major news organizations are very concerned about Church-State separation when Republicans are involved.

Let a Conservative Christian minister shake hands after a church service with a member of the congregation who’s running for the Senate, and Democrats and their media pals howl: “The wall of separation between Church and State is being torn down.”

Questions are asked: "Shouldn't the church lose its tax exempt status because the minister was engaged in political activity?"

But something like the following is no problem for Dems and their media pals. In fact, Dems work hard to schedule such events and their media pals report them with a kind of reverence.

From a CBS News report:

…In New York on Sunday, some politics mixed in with the King Day observances as Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards addressed about 1,200 parishioners at Riverside Church, a multiracial, politically active Manhattan congregation where King delivered his famous "Beyond Vietnam" speech on April 4, 1967.

Edwards called on Americans to resist President Bush's planned troop escalation in Iraq, echoing King's plea 40 years ago to end the Vietnam War. Edwards spoke from the same wooden pulpit King used and was introduced by one of King's sons, Martin Luther King III. …
That old double standard is alive and well.

Pundit: In Duke case, facts trampled

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarance Page says t in the Duke case “emotions over race trample facts” He continues:

Too many facts can ruin a good story for folks who already have made up their minds.

The Duke players should be prosecuted "whether it happened or not," a student at North Carolina Central University, a mostly black college, told Newsweek a few weeks after the March incident. "It would be justice for things that happened in the past."

No, it wouldn't. It would be racial reparations run amok and morphed into mob justice.[…]

However the Duke case plays out, it offers some valuable lessons about rushing to judgment. Nifong's questionable statements and actions should remind law-and-order hardliners that prosecutors are not always right.

Our long history of injustices has made black Americans particularly sensitive to the rights of the accused black, but we also can't forget the rights of suspects who are not black. After all, if institutional racism still holds any power at all, then rights that are denied to whites today can just as easily be denied to blacks tomorrow.

And, while the accuser's media image doesn't look very sympathetic these days, she too has rights. We can still feel for her. What we don't know is all of the facts.
I often disagree Page but he’s informed and reflective. Unlike columnist such as Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman who are predictable, partisan, and frequently wrong on their facts, Page is a centrist with an independent steak who gets the facts right. He often points our things other pundits miss. He’s got a nice writing style, too.

Page's entire column is here.

Hat Tip: Duke News

Sunday, January 14, 2007

First take on 60 Minutes

Quick first take.

If I were a sports editor headlining the 60 episode, I'd go with something like:

and subhead:
Nifong, Precious hit with justice questions. Duke, too.
Brodhead played his usual game
My color commentary?

Have you noticed Mike Nifong keeps wearing that prison jump-suit orange tie?

He wore it again tonight of all nights.

Doesn't his wife or defense attorney dress him?

I wish Dr. Sigmund Freud would explain why a DA who perpetrated multiple conspiracies wears a tie that leaves us all cheering:
Two, four, six, eight
To prison, Nifong. We'll slam the gate.
What about Meehan?

I thought: "A big, soft grapefruit; the feds will easily squeeze him."

Some of what Meehan said tonight may have bothered fair-minded people because under Leslie Stahl's questioning he backed off somewhat from the obvious conspiracy statements he made in court.

That didn't bother me.

I think he's been counseled by his attorney. He's looking to cut a deal with the feds.

If the feds come in (I think they will) Meehan will, to use a line from those old George Raft, Edward G. Robinson gangster movies - "Sing like a canary."

"Grapefruit" followed by "canary?"

My goodness, I did mix my metaphors.

Let's talk about that after Nifong goes into the bird cage -- O, dear -- I meant prison.

Anyway, what kind of tunes do you think Sgt. Gottlieb and Inv. Himan will sing?

Now just to leave the 60 program for a minute (no pun intended), the CBS network has a big problem; and it's not those bloggers who so upset President Brodhead and DA Nifong.

It's that news anchor Katie Couric's ratings are down.

What to do?

No problem, CBS; just make Duke Law Prof Jim Coleman her co-anchor.

Coleman's soft-spoken, free of affectation, focused, informed and concise. He uses language simply and powerfully. He's creditable, tough and gentle.

Wouldn’t you love a news anchor like Coleman?

Weren't the players and their families, for all the injustices they've suffered, blessed that he came their way?

The players, parents and justice seekers who've rallied to them have for many months been outnumbered. But with Coleman and others like him on their side, they've never been outgunned or outclassed.

The most powerful line in the whole episode?

"This has never been about the evidence."

How appropriate it would be if tomorrow people like President Brodhead, most Duke A&S faculty, the Raleigh News & Observer and Durham's Herald-Sun editorial writers, news editors and reporters, and almost all Durham's elected officials, civic and religious leaders and "community activists" met in say - Trinity Park.

There they could bang pots and pans while chanting: "This has never been about evidence. It's about race, gender, class. No evidence needed."

I want to say more but I’ve a plane to catch in the morning.

More tomorrow afternoon.

Sheehan's safe at the N&O

Readers' Note: Raleigh News & Observer news columnist Ruth Sheehan helped lead the media attack on the Duke lacrosse players even before DA Mike Nifong spoke publicly about the case.

Sheehan now tells readers: "It was all Nifong's fault."

I don't buy Sheehan's myth-making.

I sent her the email below.

I'll keep you posted if I hear anything from her.


Dear Ruth,

Do you plan to tell readers why you wrote your vicious 3/27 column ("Team's Silence is Sickening") attacking the Duke students for only following the advice of their parents and attorneys?

You know why you wrote that column. You know you know.

You know you're not telling us why you wrote such a malicious column.

Please tell us why you did it.

The only people I know who believe your "Who knew Nifong would deceive me" excuse are people who say the N&O didn't frame the players, and that they wish Nifong was still “on the case.”

How about telling the truth, Ruth?

Give it a try.

It won't get you fired like Coach Pressler, will it?


John in Carolina

A note to Cash Michaels

Readers' Note: Cash Michaels is a columnist for The Wilmington Journal. He comments often on the Hoax Case, particularly its racial aspects.

I just sent Michaels the email below.


Dear Cash,

I was very sorry to read in your recent column ("DUKE THREE BLOGGERS ATTACK ACCUSER'S BABY") that some people have made racist and otherwise disgusting remarks about the accuser's newborn child.

You can't get much lower than those folks have placed themselves.

I was glad to read that many people have condemned such remarks.

There's certainly plenty of racism, indiffference to children's well-being and other forms of pathology in this world. But I hope and believe most people who've learned of the baby's birth are wishing the child a long, productive and satisfying life in a world that grows better as the child grows older.

In a few days I'll drop you a note and post on other aspects of your column.

While we disagree on many things, I'm sure tomorrow we'll both remember Dr. King's life with gratitude, and regret that his assassination robbed America of his leadership, which we needed then and could surely use now.


John in Carolina

Hoax mythbuster post 1

Blogger Betsy Newmark, among others, has said that some folks are creating Duke Hoax myths.

She’s right.

“It’s all Nifong’s fault. No one else is to blame. Certainly not me.”

That’s the most popular myth right now, and I suspect will remain the most popular myth until most of Nifong’s enablers in media, at Duke, in Durham and elsewhere have left the scene.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not excusing Nifong. I’ve said for many months I think he should be disbarred and prosecuted.

But he didn’t act alone.

Another popular myth is “It was such a really, really confusing time. And the issues were so complex. Gee, who could have known?”

That myth is a particular favorite of Duke University’s President, Richard H. Brodhead.

Then there’s the “It was really the players, their parents and attorneys’ fault” myth.

If you’re a regular visitor to The Raleigh News & Observer’s Editors’ Blog you’re very familiar with that myth. Here’s how John Drescher, N&O managing editor, recently explained it:

[O]ur reporting was hampered by the unwillingness of the Duke players, their parents and their lawyers to speak to us. We first put this story on the front page March 24 when 46 members of the team gave DNA under an unusual court order. Bob Ekstrand, a lawyer for some of the players, declined to speak with us and told the players, “Don’t answer any questions.”

In our story the next day, in which the accuser gave her account, players declined to return phone calls and parents and Coach Mike Pressler declined comment. Looking back, we could have put those “no comments” higher in the story but it would not have changed the fact that no one was speaking for the players.
But it was the N&O’s decision to tell readers and the rest of media the False Accuser was granted anonymity because she was “a victim of sex crimes.”

It was the N&O’s decision to withhold for days the critically important news that the players had cooperated with police.

It was the N&O’s decision to instead promulgate the lie the players were stonewalling and covering up for three teammates who were gang-rapists.

It was the N&O’s decision to publish news columnist Ruth Sheehan’s “Team’s Silence is Sickening” column.

When DA Nifong first began speaking publicly about the case on Mar.27 he attacked the players just as Sheehan had earlier that morning for not speaking to police. The public now knows Nifong was lying; the N&O knew it them. But it made no mention of that when it reported his remarks the next day.

Now we’re told:
[O]ur reporting was hampered by the unwillingness of the Duke players, their parents and their lawyers to speak to us.
That pernicious myth serves only the interests of N&O reporters and editors who now want to escape responsibility for the enormous contribution they made to the witch hunt and the monumental injustices it spawned.

If the N&O and other major enablers succeed in their myth-making, great harm will befall individuals and the community.

Innocent people, most especially the Duke students and their families, will be further victimized by the Hoax, the witch hunt and the injustices. They’ll have less chance to get some degree of restorative justice in the form of meaningful apologies, story retractions, financial compensations and the relief that will come from seeing institutions and organizations which victimized them begin to make changes to assure they will never again in similar circumstances victimize innocent people.

If those who enabled Nifong escape responsibility for what they did, they and others like them will be more likely in the future to enable another hoax. They’ll know there are no consequences for what they do.

If the myth-makers succeed we will be left with a grossly distorted account of how injustices, including crimes, and great harm to innocent people and the community came about.

What can we learn from a grossly distorted account? Mostly gross distortions.

If that happens we’ll be less able to recognize and respond properly to highly charged false witness and its enablement the next time they occur, as surely they will.

Who wants to see our community ever again brought to the point where the Mayor of Durham, the Chancellor of NC Central University and the President of Duke University agree they need to take full-page ads in area newspapers calling for community calm?

This post is the first in a series meant to expose Hoax myths, especially the three myths I cited above.

Tomorrow I’ll put up the second post in the series. It’s built on a post I put up on April 9, the same day the N&O ran its “Swagger” story and three days after Duke University’s faculty Group of 88 published its exploitive and irresponsible full-page “listening statement” ad in The Chronicle.

The Apr. 9 post makes clear how far the three myths are from the truth. I think it also shows how easily most of the witch hunt and its injustices could have been avoided if the N&O, the major news organization in the Duke/Durham area and the leader of the media pack that went after the players, had reported the story with reasonable adherence to the standards of fair and accurate journalism.

For those of you who want to “read ahead,” here’s a link to the Apr. 9 post.

I hope you’re back tomorrow.