Saturday, March 31, 2007

An excellent book review

Readers Note: Commenter Cliff picked up my misspelling of "pedantic" as "pedentic."

I corrected it and said, "Thank you, Cliff."

Then, a few hours later I received from TombZ this:

Umm, now it's 'padantic'.

Damn gremlins.


I wish it was gremlins; but it was me.

Thanks, TombZ, for having the kindness to offer me an "escape route."

DA Mike Nifong needs someone like you.

And thanks for your many comments here (or is it "hear?”) at JinC. I always appreciate them.

John
________________________________________

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Sure

But don’t judge a book review unless you’ve read the book? That’s not the same thing.

Yes, you really need to read the book to decide if the reviewer “got it right,” at least from your perspective.

But a book review can be a well-written essay that conveys a good deal of information with ease and grace.

And that’s what Thomas Pavel does in his excellent Mar. 29 WSJ review of Hugh Brogan’s just released biography, Alexis de Tocqueville (Yale University Press). Pavel begins:

In France, people on both sides of the political spectrum generally agree that a strong central government is the best means of achieving two lofty purposes: national grandeur and job security. True, French politicians, often just before elections, talk about the need for drastic change, yet few of them are ever willing to oppose the state's long habit of intervening everywhere in France's economy and culture.


As it happens, the greatest French political thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59), had no great sympathy for this statist mind-set. He was a passionate champion of freedom -- society's freedom from state control, the citizen's freedom from government interference.

Little surprise, then, that Tocqueville's work, although well known and tirelessly quoted in America, is less influential in his own country. Hugh Brogan's superb biography helps to explain why.

The reality of French politics, throughout Tocqueville's career, seemed almost willfully at odds with his ideals.

The French Revolution turned upside-down the life of his father's and mother's families, both aristocratic and sympathetic to Louis XVI. Several close relatives were guillotined. Alexis' father was given a reprieve from his own death sentence only because Robespierre was beheaded a few days before, stemming the Terror's blood tide.

Napoleon's dictatorial empire, a few years later, wasn't much more hospitable to the members of Tocqueville's family. They vainly hoped that constitutional monarchy, established in 1815 with the restoration of the Bourbons, would solve France's problems. The young Alexis, in the meantime, read the Enlightenment philosophers, studied law and served, in the 1820s, as a legal apprentice at Versailles.
Are you struck by how easily and concisely Pavel conveys information without seeming at all pedantic?

Pavel continues:
At another time, Tocqueville might well have gone on to become a politician of some influence, but his class was rapidly losing relevance. Ultimately, he had more opportunities to think about public life than to participate in it. He was lucid enough to see that the world was changing irreversibly -- that the aristocracy of which he was a part could no longer presume its supremacy -- but he was too proud to join in any of the groups that were seizing on these changes for their own advantage.

The violent July Revolution of 1830, ending Bourbon rule, left him with divided feelings. He made the decision, fateful in politics, to keep himself independent of a particular sect or party.
I admire that last sentence: “He made the decision, fateful in politics, to keep himself independent of a particular sect or party.”

There’s not a needless word in it; and Pavel uses just the right word, “fateful,” to describe Tocqueville’s decision to remain free of sect or party.

Here’s the rest of Pavel’s review:
In the early 1830s, Tocqueville traveled to America, discovering there a stable and peaceful democracy unlike anything that he had seen in France. The U.S. hadn't experienced revolutionary terror, military adventurism, monarchic restorations and a sequence of turbulent regime changes.

Tocqueville attributed this happy situation to the American form of political liberty: From town meetings to federal elections, it dispersed power. Citizens had a wealth of opportunities to participate in their own democracy and to check those who might abuse it.

Tocqueville's admiration for America was nevertheless qualified by his suspicion of equality. For Tocqueville, human diversity is always present and always desirable, but it is also vulnerable, especially in democratic societies, to a withering quest for uniformity.

The future belonged to democracy, he concluded, but it was unclear whether it would evolve toward liberty or a new kind of despotism.

When in 1848 France overthrew the July Monarchy and became a republic once again, Tocqueville did all he could to help his country create a lasting democratic regime. His career as an independent deputy in the National Assembly, and his short stint as a minister of foreign affairs, came to an end, however, when the republic's new president, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon I, abolished parliamentary rule and appointed himself emperor.

Mr. Brogan narrates with great verve this stormy period, which forms the principal subject of Tocqueville's "Memoirs" (published posthumously), probably the smartest, cruelest and most accessible description of French political mores.

The Second Empire turned out to be less oppressive than the first. Nonetheless, in Tocque-ville's eyes, Napoleon III's coup d'├ętat was a criminal act. Shockingly, the new emperor, who put an end to democratic representation, enjoyed wide popular support. To Tocqueville's grief, France seemed to like being ruled from above and to care little about freedom.

How could this be the case, he wondered, in a country that had risen up so spectacularly against monarchy in 1789, 1830 and 1848? What if, in fact, the French Revolution was less a fight for liberty than an appeal for a powerful centralized state? From this angle, the Revolution could be seen as an effort to continue rather than challenge monarchy's long struggle to bring France under full control.

Tocqueville's last (unfinished) book, "The Old Regime and the Revolution," is the work of a disappointed man who had hoped that liberal democracy could make its way in France during his lifetime but now had to admit that the urge to control from the center had prevailed.

It did so, he argued, because the monarchy had created a set of political habits that permeated the French mind. Although Tocqueville still believed that democracy would win out in the end, he realized that the centralizing impulse was not going to vanish soon.

Mr. Brogan's book is wonderfully learned and intelligent. He emphasizes Tocqueville's humanity, his attachment to his family, his lifelong friendships and, in particular, his love for his wife, Mary Mottley, an Englishwoman and a commoner who did not enjoy the approval of Alexis' family when he first met her in his 20s. Since according to French law at the time a man before the age of 30 could not marry without the consent of his parents, the story of their romance is a moving example of patience and mutual devotion.

By contrast, Mr. Brogan shows only limited sympathy for Tocqueville's political thought, too often missing its depth and prophetic character.

The strength of the book comes from Mr. Brogan's narrative talent and remarkable knowledge of Tocqueville's life and times.

The biography reads like a novel, combining humor and urbanity with erudition and insight. It should be translated into French.
The tag identifies Pavel as a member of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Churchill Series – March 30, 2007

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

That night “stands out in my memory," Churchill would later say. He was speaking of October 14, 1940, when London was in the fifth week of the Great Blitz which would last until the following May:

We were dining in the garden room of Number 10 when the usual night raid began.

The steel shutters had been closed. Several loud explosions occurred around us at no great distance, and presently a bomb fell, perhaps a hundred yards away, on the Horse Guards Parade, making a great deal of noise. …

The kitchen at Number 10 Downing Street is lofty and spacious, and looks out onto one of the courts of the Treasury through a large plate glass window about twenty-five high. The butler and parlour maid continued to serve the dinner with complete detachment, but I became acutely aware of this big window, behind which Mrs. Landemare, the cook, and Nellie, the kitchen maid, never turning a hair, were at work. …

[I] ordered the cook and other servants into the shelter, such as it was.

I had been seated again at table only about three minutes when a really very loud crash, close at hand, and a violent shock showed that the house had been struck.

My detective, [Inspector Thompson,] came into the room and said much damage had been done. The kitchen, the pantry and the officers on the Treasury side were shattered.

We went into the kitchen to view the scene. The devastation was complete. The bomb had fallen fifty yards away on the Treasury, and the blast had smitten the large, tidy kitchen, with all its bright saucepans and crockery, into a heap of black dust and rubble. The big plate glass window had been hurled in fragments and splinters across the room, and would, of course, have cut its occupants, if there had been any, to pieces.
Everyone in Number 10 survived the night but three members of the Home Guard on duty at the Treasury were killed.

Churchill's account of the night is found on pages 346 & 347 of Their Finest Hour (The Riverside Press), the second of his six volume history of WW II.

Many of us have had close calls. Some of us have had severe and depressing shocks, as when a house is destroyed by fire or storm. Or perhaps we’ve had our homes broken into and robbed.

And, of course, we’ve all witnessed via media people struggling the day following Katrina.

Recalling such events in our own lives, and recalling how tough it is in such circumstnaces to carry on with our normal activities, gives us some appreciation for the magnifcent determination, psychological strength and courage Churchill and the people of London displayed as they endured and fought on during the nine months of the Great Blitz.

BTW – Re: The first sentence that begins the paragraph: “I had been seated at table only …”

I didn’t leave out a “the” between “at” and “table.” Churchill was speaking in the form the Brits will often use as when they say: “She’s now in hospital.”

Have a very nice weekend. On Monday, I hope you're all seated here at blog.

John

Grin Or Groan (Updated)

The March 29 USA Today contained an article concerning the price of corn.

It seems the price of corn has recently risen sharply.

USA Today even had a ten-year price chart illustrating the recent sharp price rise.

The graph was headed: Corn Prices Pop
_________________________________________________

The above post was first titled: "Grin or Grown"

A few hours after posting, I received this comment:

Shouldn't that be "Grin or Groan"?

DukieInKansas


Oops! Sorry about that.

I've updated.

Thank you, DukieInKansas.

DUPD and “Vigilante” questions

Readers Note: For background to the letter below, see these posts and other posts to which they link:

"Duke's Silence on 'Vigilante' and 'Wanted' posters"

"Letter to DUPD Director Dean"

"To DUPD Director Dean - 3/28/07"

John
_______________________________________

Dear Director Dean:

This letter contains questions concerning DUPD and the false and inflammatory “Vigilante” poster which last spring circulated on campus, directly targeting and endangering Duke students on our Men’s lacrosse team, and also placing at greater risk students who could have been unintended victims of unstable individuals and hate groups incited by the poster to target white members of the lacrosse team.

You know that firsthand because of the work you and DUPD did last spring under very difficult circumstances to provide as safe an environment as possible for students and others on campus, even as vice president for student affairs Moneta was alerting students with a campus-wide email concerning their safety and President Brodhead was adding his name to full-page newspaper ads calling on the public to remain calm and let justice take its course.

Most people admired and were grateful for DUPD’s fine work. I’m one of them. Thank you.

My questions are information seeking only; they imply no criticism of DUPD.

While I’m a tech dummy, tech knowledgeable people say it’s a relatively simple matter to ID the computer used to pull from GoDuke.com the face photos of the 43 white lacrosse players which appear on the “Vigilante” poster.

Has DUPD done that? If yes, what can you say publicly about what you learned? If not, can you say why not?

What has DUPD done to investigate the production and distribution on campus of a poster that targeted a particular group of students while heightening the risk for all?

Concerning the March 29 Take Back the Night rally on the Chapel steps, most participants spoke and acted in ways we would both affirm. But there were, as you know, a good number of “activists” there who engaged in actions described by one of the TBTN organizers, Geoffrey Lorenz, in an April 2 letter to the Raleigh News & Observer in which he said in part:

As one of the organizers of the March 29 Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and speak-out at Duke University, I want to clarify that we did not plan, nor do we endorse, the distribution of names and pictures of members of the Duke men's lacrosse team.

The distribution of the pictures, the targeting of the lacrosse team, and the violence implicit in the defacement of the pictures are nothing less than violations of the space that TBTN exists to create. The event is neither a protest of the kind we've witnessed recently, a forum for accusation nor a place to target and defame.
What was DUPD’s role with regard to TBTN?

I have one final question, but I want to be as clearly understood as possible when I ask it. So this brief, italicized preface:

I usually avoid getting into matters in the “rumor” category. But the question I’m about to ask has been so frequently talked about on campus, in the community, and at blogs that I don’t think I’m spreading a rumor by asking it.

I’d be surprised if you and most others at Duke and elsewhere who have followed the Hoax and frame-up haven’t heard the rumor already, perhaps many times.

It is that a Duke employee, “free-lancing” and with no University foreknowledge whatsoever, is the prime producer of the endangering “Vigilante” poster; and that the employee did so, at least to a significant extent, using University IT resources, in particular for pulling the students’ face photos from GoDuke.com.


My question: Has any senior Duke administrator asked DUPD to determine whether there's any truth to the rumor?

My hope is that Duke will refute the rumor.

If it turns out part or the entire rumor is true, the University can take appropriate action.

As I did with your response to the “Wanted” poster questions, I’ll publish your response to the “Vigilante” questions in full and leave it free of my commentary for at least a day.

Once more in closing: I’m asking questions for information with no imputation regarding DUPD, whose professionalism I’ve admired as a Duke student, parent, contract employee and Durham resident.

Sincerely,

John in Carolina.

Cc: Robert Steel, chair, board of trustees, D U
Richard Brodhead, president, DU
John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, DU
Larry Moneta, vice president for students affairs, DU
Aaron Graves, associate vice president for campus safety and security, DU
David Jarmul, associate vice president of news and communications

Home safe and sound

We got home from California about 1 AM this morning after of day of flight cancellations and rerouting due to weather.

We hadn’t been home for five weeks. The place sure looked good.

We loved Australia and California. (San Diego for four days on the way to Brisbane, and Santa Barbara for six days on the return.)

In the coming days, I’ll post a few more times about my experiences in Australia.

John

Thursday, March 29, 2007

No posts on Thursday, Mar. 29

I have a very long travel day today.

Posting will resume tomorrow, Friday, Mar. 30.

Thank you.

John

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Talking to Regulars & Readers - 3/28/07

(A post in the old web log tradition: notes for those who understand the material. Don't look in this post for background information or links. John)

This will be brief. I've a very long travel day tomorrow, starting before dawn.

My response to DUPD Director Dean's letter is posted.

I didn't say anything in it by way of response to his answers to my questions because I thought: 1) his answers were "to the point," regardless of whether one, some or all of us agreed with what Director Dean said; and 2) many commenters said just about everything I could say by way of response.

If you read my response post, you’ll see I’m going to continue to press Dean with questions, now including ones concerning the “Vigilante” poster.

Some of you may question whether I was “tough enough” in my response to Dean.

That’s reasonable.

But looking back on the post, I wouldn’t change it because I was “too light” in response to Dean.

Regarding comments per the March 25 parent meeting.

I’ve noted them all.

Thanks for the correction: “Duke Dad” instead of “Duke Mom.”

And for the other information.

I’ll post with questions to Dean on Friday.

I’ll post on related matters Sunday.

Meanwhile, you may find this post from last September of interest.

More soon.

John

To DUPD Director Dean - 3/28/07

Readers Note: If you're new to the subject matter concerning this post, be sure to use the links.

I just sent the following electronic letter to Duke University's Police Director Robert Dean.

John
_________________________________________
Dear Director Dean:

Thank you for your response to my questions concerning: 1) the Durham CrimeStoppers “Wanted” poster written and distributed last March; 2) your involvement as CS board chairmanship at the time of it’s production and distribution; and 3) your perceptions concerning senior Duke University administrators’ awareness of the “Wanted” poster.

Once more for ease of reference, here are links to the JinC post where I posted in full your responses to my questions as well as a link to the Liestoppers.com post containing facsimiles of both the Durham CS “Wanted” poster and the so-far anonymous “Vigilante” poster, as well as links to posts which provide background concerning the posters.

As I’m sure you know, subsequent to our useful letter exchange, Durham CS’s board met to discuss the “Wanted” poster with Durham Police Major Lee Russ in attendance.

I need to learn more about that meeting and would like to get a copy of its minutes before asking current Durham CS board chair Pat Ellis some questions.

I’ll also, as you suggested, ask Ellis where citizens can obtain copies of Durham CS’s 2006 IRS Form 990.

I’d appreciate your sending me Ellis’ contact phone number and email address.

Some people are now claiming the CS “Wanted” poster really isn’t a CS product.

I want you to know I refer to it as “the Durham CS ‘Wanted’ poster” because to date almost everyone, including Durham Police and Durham City, has been emphatic that it was written by Durham CS Coordinator Corporal David Addison under authority granted him by the CS board.

So what else to call it?

Also, the poster contains detailed CS contact information and an offer of a cash reward from CS for anyone's help in solving “this horrific crime,” which Cpl. Addison said in the text occurred at the party hosted by the Duke lacrosse players.

If the time comes when there’s general agreement that the poster is, in fact, not really a CS document, I’ll promptly change my wording.

At least two CS board members have said that with regard to the “Wanted” poster, Cpl. Addison was “overzealous.”

Overzealous?

We both know a police officer can be overzealous but still be acting properly within the law.

We can surely agree, for instance, an officer who reads a brief witness statement 100 times to see if there’s any information in it that’s been overlooked, is overzealous. But the officer hasn't done anything wrong from a legal or moral standpoint.

The problem with what Addison did , and now, according to what two CS board members say Maj. Russ said at a recent CS board meeting a DPD commander did regarding the distribution of the CS “Wanted” poster, has nothing to do with overzealousness.

It has to do with the false claim an “horrific crime” had been committed at the Duke lacrosse March 13 party when the evidence DPD had at the time overwhelmingly indicated it hadn't. It has to do with claims innocent citizens were libeled.

Cpl. Addison, Durham CS, DPD and Durham City should all explain fully, publicly, and in written statements just what happened with regard to the “Wanted” poster, why and how it happened, and at whose behest it happened.

It's very disturbing to realize that a year after the CS "Wanted" poster's production and distribution, they've failed to do that.

Now to the “Vigilante” poster.

I want to ask you questions concerning what DUPD’s done to learn about the who, when, where and why of the poster’s production and distribution on campus and wherever else it put students and others at risk and spread libel; and what it’s done about what it’s learned.

But I don’t want to ask those questions in this post which is already long. I merely want to outline them now as a way of letting you know what I’ll be asking.

Besides asking what actions DUPD took concerning the poster’s production, I’ll ask what actions DUPD took with regard to the “Vigilante” poster’s placement on West Campus buildings the night of March 29, 2006, and in response to the defacements of the players images on the posters and the threats made against them that night. Also, I’ll ask what DUPD has done since to identify those who created a poster which you know better than anyone increased the threat level for the players and all others who might be unintended victims of violence by unstable individuals and hate groups.

I’ll put the “Vigilante” poster questions in more precise form and send them on to you Friday.

I’m traveling tomorrow, Thursday.

Please know my purpose is to help put before the Duke and Durham communities information the University and City should have provided the public many months ago.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Sincerely,

John in Carolina

Cc: Robert Steel, chair, board of trustees, D U
Richard Brodhead, president, DU
John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, DU
Aaron Graves, associate vice president for campus safety and security, DU
David Jarmul, associate vice president of news and communications
Lee Russ, major, Office of the Chief, DPD
David Addison, corporal, Durham CrimeStoppers coordinator, DPD

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Churchill Series - Mar. 27, 2007

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

Readers: When I'm extrememy busy I sometimes repost a "golden oldie." So today we have an "oldie" in slightly modified form. It first ran on Jun. 12, 2006.

There'll be a new post tomorrow.

Thanks for your understanding.

John
_____________________________________

Sunday, September 6, 1941

The Prime Minister journeys to Buckinghamshire. He enters a gated, fenced and heavily guarded area in the center of which is a Victorian mansion surrounded by a many small, recently constructed buildings.

Before the war the mansion and its grounds were known as Bletchley Park, but now the government owns them and the place is called Station X.

This place holds secrets. Even John Martin, one of Churchill's principal aides who accompanies him on the visit, doesn't know it is here at Station X that a most unusual group including mathematicians, chess players, crossword specialists, linguists fluent in languages ancient and modern, and even debutantes and an actress has broken German codes. Their success has enabled Churchill and a select few to read in almost real time many of the enemy's communications.

Years after the war the world learned about Station X, the heart of the Enigma Project.

On this Sunday as Churchill tours Station X he meets many people we would call "unusual.” Some stare silently as he approachs and introduces yourself. They're mentally calculating extraordinarily complex math problems and can't allow an interruption. So they stare past him. Another was once so engrossed in explaining a theory to a colleague that he reached without looking for tobacco to fill his pipe. Instead, he picked up and packed in his pipe with some of his lunch: tuna salad.

Some ways through the tour, Churchill turns and says to the officer who'd recruited many of the staff: "I know I told you to leave no stone unturned to get your staff, but I didn't expect you to take me literally."

Later in the day Churchill addresses the staffers and expresses his appreciation for their work.

He's very sincere in that. As the principal consumer of their intelligence, Churchill knows better than anyone the enormously important contribution the codebreakers are making to the war America will enter three months and one day following his visit to Station X.
__________________________________________________________
Michael Smith's Station X: Decoding Nazi Secrets (pgs. 106-107) contains all of the material found in this post except that concerning John Martin. That reference is found in Martin Gilbert, Finest Hour: 1939-1941. (pg. 1189)

Sheehan's opportunity

A year ago today Raleigh News & Observer news columnist Ruth Sheehan wrote a column (“Team’s Silence is Sickening”) attacking 46 Duke students for doing nothing more than following the advice of their parents and attorneys. Even worse, Sheehan told N&O readers the players were guilty of terrible crimes. Her column began:

Members of the Duke men's lacrosse team: You know.

We know you know. …

And one of you needs to come forward and tell the police.

Do not be afraid of retribution on the team. Do not be persuaded that somehow this "happened" to one or more "good guys."…
Later that same day, DA Mike Nifong spoke publicly about the case for the first time. He attacked the students in terms very similar to Sheehan. Like Sheehan, Nifong assured the public the players were guilty of concealing a crime and its criminals.

Many people initially bought into what Sheehan and Nifong were saying. But soon the case started falling apart. By June sensible people recognized the truth of what Duke Law professor James Coleman said in a letter to the N&O:
According to the police account of the identification, however, the police officer who presided over the proceedings told the alleged victim at the outset that he wanted her to look at people the police had reason to believe attended the party. […]

This strongly suggests that the purpose of the identification process was to give the alleged victim an opportunity to pick three members of the lacrosse team who could be charged. Any three students would do; there could be no wrong choice.
Coleman was describing a frame-up and Sheehan was “catching it” from readers who realized her March 27 column was a McCarthyite screed reeking of prejudgment and disregard for citizens' basic rights.

A few days after Coleman’s letter appeared, Sheehan wrote a column blaming Nifong for her March 27 column. Sheehan said:
To think that for a brief moment I actually pitied Nifong for the attacks on his handling of the case. What a joke.

Nifong is the one who described this thing in such incendiary terms from the start that it was impossible to ignore.
But as Sheehan knew, her March 27 “Team’s Silence is Sickening” column appeared BEFORE Nifong started publicly attacking the students. It went online shortly after midnight; and a print version was delivered to Durham driveways around 5 A.M. Nifong had plenty of time to read it before he spoke to the press later that day.

That leads to some questions we should all be asking and Sheehan needs to answer.

So I’m sending Sheehan a link to this post and asking her to answer the following questions:

1) Considering Nfong didn't speak publicly until after your column appeared, aren’t you misleading readers when you tell them all the slimes in your Mar. 27 were based on what he said?

or

2) Did Nifong or someone you trusted would tell you what he was saying provide you with “background information” BEFORE you wrote your Mar. 27 column?

In that case, while you’d still bear the heaviest responsibility for the column, you’d have some grounds for telling readers Nifong was also to blame for it.

Sheehan knows the answers to those questions. She demanded the players answer questions and tell the truth. They’ve done that even as, innocent, they’ve suffered terribly because of the actions of Nifong, certain Durham Police officers and enablers like Sheehan.

Now Sheehan needs to answer questions honestly.

To be clear about Nifong: he should be disbarred and tried. But he shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of Sheehan and many others who helped make the frame-up possible.

Sheehan has a chance to do some things that will be very important and helpful to many innocent people who’ve suffered great injustices.

She can retract both her March 27 (“Team’s Silence is Sickening”) and April 3 (“Lacrosse team out of control” ) columns.

She should apologize to the students, their families, Coach Pressler and his wife and young children. An apology is also owed her readers.

If Sheehan does all of that, she will have made a major contribution to correcting some of the wrongs that have been committed against so many innocent people, most especially David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

She will have done what she often tells readers she wants her three young sons to do: the right thing.

Kirk Osborn: A Tribute

Kirk Osborn had a well-deserved reputation as a skilled lawyer and fighter for justice. My sympathies are with his family and friends.

Obituaries have noted that Osborn represented on appeal Dawn Wilson, one of those falsely accused in the notorious Little Rascals case, which was marked by police and prosecutor abuses.

Wilson had been sentenced to life in prison based on the testimony of children that they had been sexually abused by her and others when the children were three and four year olds at the Little Rascals preschool, where Wilson worked as a cook.

The prosecution “helped” the children “remember what happened to them” by having a
“counselor” and the children’s parents do “homework” with them so they would “recover their memories.”

As with the Duke lacrosse frame-up, the Little Rascals case began to fall apart when fairly examined.

During the appeal process, the State of North Carolina offered Wilson a number of plea deals, the last one of which would have set her free based on time served. She refused, protesting her innocence and running the risk the she might remain in prison the rest of her life.

A lot of attorneys would have “leaned” on Wilson to take the state’s offer. Osborn didn’t. He respected and believed in Wilson, and was ready to “fight it out” with her.

She and he were successful on appeal for dismissal of her conviction. The state later dropped all charges against her.

You can read more about the case here and about Osborn’s involvement here.

Bill Anderson has written for years about the injustices of the Little Rascals case. I feel sure he'll write something about Osborn.

KC Johnson posts a number of tribute comments from friends, colleagues and readers at Remembering Kirk Osborn

I know others have and will update this post this evening.

This made me smile

A friend sent this on from Kim du Toit’s blog, The Other Side.

From an anonymous friend, when asked whether his wife knew he was a blogger:

“Good Lord, no. She’d kill me if she knew. She thinks I’m just surfing the Internet looking at smut.”

There you have it.

Blogging: lower than smutty pictures.

_______________________________________

I think I'll send du Toit's post on to Raleigh N&O editors Melanie Sill and John Drescher.

They'll likely run the post as a straight news story.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Churchill Series - Mar. 26, 2007

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

From Beside the Bulldog, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Walter Thompson's recollections of his years serving as Churchill's principal bodyguard:

In Egypt in 1921 Winston decided that he would like to paint a picture of the Pyramids.

He and I set off together and soon he was settled happily at this task. A small group of British tommies gathered at his back and watched him at work. Even though they were somewhat free with their remarks, I saw no reason to move them on, particularly as Winston seemed to be enjoying their conversation

Suddenly a young Cockney called out, "You don't half use some paint. Lucky for you, you ain't an 'ouse painter with me old boss. You'd soon get the sack."

Winston chuckled and looked around. The lad got the shock of his life. "Gawd! It's Churchill," he burst out.

This was followed by an embarrassed silence. Winston finished what he was doing, and then got off his stool and talked to the boys about their homes and their families for some considerable time.

He gained their confidence and, before he returned to his easel, everyone had a memorable experience to write home about. (pg. 52)
BTW - Thank you to Corwin for confirming Churchill took his beloved nurse, Mrs. Everest, to Harrow. More about that in a week or two when I'm home and can do some research.

Talking to Regulars & Readers – 3-26-07

(A post in the old web log tradition: notes for those familiar with the material. Don’t look for hyperlinks or background explanations in this post.)

Thank you for your affirming comments. I appreciate them and bring them to mind whenever I hear from trolls.

And thank you for comments that point out my errors and/or “add to the story.”

Many of you have done a great deal of “adding to the story.” It’s all on the threads.

There’ve been a number of stories at JinC recently. In this post, I’ll focus only on the “poster stories.” In a few days, I’ll respond to some of the other JinC stories.

One of you self-ID’ing as a Duke lax Mom who attended the March 25 lax parents’ meeting with Duke administrators ( President Brodhead did not attend that meeting and, to the best of my knowledge, has refused since to met with the lax parents) says she asked at the meeting that the players’ face photos be removed from the GoDukeGo site.

That was a very wise request given the hate speech that was already circulating among certain Duke University and Durham “activists,” and the fact that on the morning of the 25th the Raleigh N&O, for reasons its never explained, published what it knew was a false, racially inflammatory story about what it said was a night that ended in “sexual violence.”

Within a few days of Brodhead's refusal to meet with the parents and the N&O's racially inflammatory story, unstable and hateful individuals and groups at Duke and in Durham were circulating the notorious Vigilante” poster, which targeted the players, and which the N&O then published on a Sunday (Apr. 2), its largest circulation day.

I’m working up a post that asks when Duke began “pulling” its students photos from GoDukeGo.

Based on the information I have right now, the post won’t offer a definitive answer to the “when” question, but it will provide some important “connect the dots” information to which I’ll add commentary.

Meanwhile, if the lax Mom or someone else who was at the meeting reads this post, a few questions:

At what time of day was the meeting held? To which (one or more) administrator(s) was the “remove” request made?

Did the administrator(s) explicitly acknowledge the request?

If yes, how?

Was a statement made by any Duke administrator that the students photos would be removed by a certain time?

Did any administrator (my understanding is there were four there) say he or she would step aside for a few minutes and cell call Duke’s IT system person on duty and request the removal of the photos?

At what time did the meeting end?

I’ve already confirmed with Jon Jackson, Duke’s SID, what media reported last March 29: Duke pulled the photos out of concern for the players’ safety.

That’s why the “Vigilante” poster has only the photos of 43 of the 46 white Duke lacrosse players the “vigilantes” were targeting. Jackson told me Duke learned of the photo “pulling” in time to take down the photos before the “vigilantes” got all 46.

But when did Duke pull the photos? I didn’t ask Jackson that question when I first reported on the “Vigilante” poster almost a year ago.

I think the Duke Mom wants to know when Duke pulled the photos. So do I.

I'll be calling Jackson tomorrow and asking him when the photos were pulled.

If I’ve misunderstood the Mom’s question, I hope she sets me straight.

I’ll keep you posted. But if you read this thread, you may know before I know.

About DUPD Director Dean, and his response to my “Wanted” poster questions:

I’ll respond to Dean tomorrow.

In that post I’ll reference the “main point” comments on the thread. Then I’ll ask where citizens can view the minutes of Durham CS board meetings held during 2006 when he was chair.

I’ll also ask Dean if he’s still a CS board member as well as for contact information for Pat Ellis whom Dean said was the current Durham CS board chair, and to whom Dean said I could refer for a copy of the 2006 IRS form Durham CS is required to file and make easily available to the public.

I’ll follow those questions with some brief, initial questions concerning the “Vigilante” poster.

I’ll say more about all of that tomorrow.

I hope you’re back.

John

Note to Regulars and Readers

I'll be back online tonight with a post about DUPD Director Dean's comments on the "Wanted" poster.

I'll also have some comments regarding KC Johnson's report of his interviews with two CS board members.

Also, some extensive comments on the "Vigilante" poster.

And a few more items.

Since I'm in California and will be posting close to midnight here, those of you in the Eastern time zone won't see the post until ....

BTW - I got 12 hours sleep last night so I'm finally back on this side of the dateline after a wonderful three weeks in Auatralia

I hope you visit tomorrow.

This in haste and unproofed.

John

Hat tips to "skeptical," Liestoppers and ABC News

The ABC News story under the headlines:

Obama: Investigate Duke Lacrosse DA Nifong

Presidential Hopeful Says an 'Independent Inquiry Is Needed' into Durham, N.C., District Attorney Mike Nifong's Conduct
contains this paragraph:
Obama's comments were first posted on "Liestoppers," an online blog and forum on the Duke Lacrosse case. The user who posted them, known on that forum by the alias "sceptical," was the constituent who corresponded with Obama about the case.
Hat tips:

First, to citizen journalist “skeptical” for getting the story and getting it “out there.” If you “read the blogs,” you know this is just one more example of skeptical’s work on behalf of justice.

Second, to Liestoppers for providing the means for getting the news “out there.”

Third, to ABC News for being alert, picking up the story, and crediting skeptical and LS.

ABC News has given the rest of MSM and citizens an example of how an MSM news organization should function, and how blogs and MSM can together serve the public interest.

It was a pleasure to write this post.

Will the Feds come to Durham?

ABC News reports:

Another voice has joined the call for a federal investigation into the handling of the Duke Lacrosse case — this one with the punch of presidential politics.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in a written response to a constituent, said that an "independent inquiry is needed" into the conduct of Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Nifong prosecuted and led the investigation into the alleged sexual assault of an exotic dancer at a lacrosse team party in March 2006.

Obama cited the fact that Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has already asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for a federal investigation into Nifong's conduct. ABC News has learned that similar requests have been made by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla.
Reps. Jones, Franks, and Feeney aren’t the only House members calling for a federal investigation. By my count more than a dozen members have made that request.

Will the Feds come to Durham and investigate Nifong?

I believe they will.

The need for a federal investigation becomes more obvious almost by the day, and the demand for an investigation is building in strength and breadth.

Not only are there bipartisan calls by members of congress for a federal investigation, but the NC State Bar has now on two occasions said Nifong has violated citizens' constitutional rights.

Some weeks back I asked in a post what the special prosecutors could do if they found Nifong had committed criminal acts.

Here’s part of a response comment from Jason Trumpbour, a University of Maryland law professor whom Nifong, in typical Nifong fashion, has blamed for his State Bar ethics troubles:
Keep in mind that the most likely and most obvious criminal violations would be violations of federal law which makes it a crime to violate the civil rights of a citizen or to conspire to violate the rights of a citizen.

The special prosecutors could and should turn over the results of their investigation to the local United States Attorney if any possible violations of federal law are revealed.
Trumpbour cautioned that he thought the possibility the special prosecutors would do that wasn’t high but a lot has changed since he made his comment. And what’s changed has made clear the need for a thorough federal investigation into not only Nifong’s conduct, but that of his coconspirators.

Attorneys tell me the State Bar also could and should turn over to the federal authorities any evidence it uncovers of Nifong violating citizens constitutional rights and/or conspiring to do so.

What are your thoughts on the possibility the Feds will at some point enter the case?

BTW – Nifong blaming his troubles on Trumpbour and the outstanding organization for which he’s spokesperson, Friends of Duke University, is a lot like Nixon blaming his troubles on the people on his “enemies list.”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Introduction to a fraud

March 25, 2007 is the first anniversary of the false, inflammatory and deliberately malicious story The Raleigh News & Observer headlined across five columns on page one above the fold:

Dancer gives details of ordeal
A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence
On March 24, as the N&O prepared its story of the night of “sexual violence,” Durham DA Mike Nifong and certain police officers helping him frame a case against Duke lacrosse players faced a major problem: there was overwhelming evidence that the charges made to support the “sexual violence” claim were false and the players innocent.

A reasonably fair, honest and accurate news report the next day by the N&O, the largest and most influential news organization in the Duke/Durham area, would expose the shallowness of “the case” Nifong and his helpers had tried to put together.

Yes, the public would wait for the results of DNA testing that Nifong’s old friend and mentor, Judge Ron Stephens, had ordered all 46 white members of the lacrosse team to submit to.

But with a fair, honest and reasonably accurate news story before them on March 25, the public would immediately begin asking why, almost two weeks after the “sexual violence” was alleged to have occurred, there were no descriptions of the woman’s attackers other than “Duke lacrosse players?” And why were there no computer generated composite face-images of the woman’s three attackers?

Detailed descriptions of alleged rapists are routinely reported by the N&O and composite face-images published.

In this case the accuser, whom the N&O told readers was “the victim,” had ample opportunity to view her attackers if you believed her story.

So why were there no descriptions and no face-images?

Reasonable citizens would be especially likely to ask those questions if the N&O itself reported on them. But it didn’t. In fact, the N&O didn’t even mention the absence of any attacker ID information other than “Duke lacrosse players.”

Instead of reporting on such important questions, the N&O, for reasons it’s never disclosed, told the public and the rest of media a story it knew was substantially false.

The N&O published on March 25, 2006, a racially charged story from which it withheld critically important information and reported what it knew was false information about a young black woman who’d been brutally beaten, gang-raped, robbed and strangled over a thirty minute period by three white Duke lacrosse players; after which the white gang-rapists’ white teammates covered up for them by refusing to tell police who they were.

To appreciate how necessary to the subsequent frame-up and how deliberately malicious the N&O’s March 25 story was, bear in mind the following:

The N&O knew on March 24 of the extensive cooperation the players had provided police. But it chose to make no mention of their cooperation in its story.

Instead, the N&O promulgated what it knew was a false “wall of solidarity” claim that within a few days gave rise to the Durham CrimeStoppers “Wanted” poster and the “Vigilante” poster which, alone among major North Carolina newspapers, the N&O would publish in large photo form.

On March 24 the N&O knew the players had asserted their innocence, but it decided to make no mention of that in its story.

False accuser Crystal Mangum told the N&O during an interview who the second dancer was and made accusations about her.

The N&O withheld that critically important news from the public and the rest of media. To this day, it won’t say what Mangum accused Roberts of.

It’s hard to understand why the N&O remains silent now on what Mangum told them last March about Roberts, other than it’s in the N&O self-interest to continue to hide that important news, much as it was in Nixon’s self-interest to hide the contents of certain Watergate tapes.

For more than 30 years I’ve had a very low opinion of the N&O’s honesty and accuracy where news stories concerning social and political issues are concerned.

But I still find it hard to understand why last March N&O reporters and editors decided to say nothing about the critically important charges Mangum leveled at Roberts during the interview.

If the N&O had reported Mangum’s charges as well as her inability to ID her attackers and the players’ extraordinary cooperation, would Nifong and his helpers have gone as far as they did with the frame-up?

Would we have had the witch hunt?

The massive injustices?

Would the players have been directly endangered and the rest of us who live in the Duke/Durham area placed at greater risk as unintended victims of unstable people and hate groups such as the New Black Panthers who came to Duke and Durham?

I think about those questions and others every time I read the N&O’s fraudulent March 25 story:
Dancer gives details of ordeal
A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence