Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Churchill Series - Jan. 7, 2006

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

One of the best of the recent, one volume studies of Churchill's life is Lord Jenkins', Churchill: A Biography, published in 2002. Historian John G. Plumpton began his review of Jenkins' work with:

"There are times," wrote the great Cambridge scholar, Sir Geoffrey Elton, "when I incline to judge all historians by their opinion of Winston Churchill - whether they can see that no matter how much better the details, often damaging, of man and career become known, he still remains, quite simply, a great man."

Sir Geoffrey would have likely judged the new Churchill biography by Roy Jenkins favourably. The octogenarian Jenkins, a biographer of Attlee, Asquith, Baldwin and Gladstone, among others, and a political colleague of Labour leaders since World War II, concludes with a startling admission: "When I started writing this book I thought that Gladstone was, by a narrow margin, the greater man...I now put Churchill, with all his idiosyncrasies, his indulgences, his occasional childishness, but also his genius, his tenacity and his persistent ability, right or wrong, successful or unsuccessful, to be larger than life, as the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street."
Plumpton's entire review is here. (Scroll down)

Jenkins's biography is still in print and available at many book stores, on the net, and in decent public libraries.

Dems chicken out on anti-Alito witness. Now what?

I was looking forward to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Alito confirmation hearings once I heard the Democrats’ final witness would be journalist and animal rights activist Stephen Durjack.

Then Matt Drudge blew the whistle and reported that in 2003, Durjack wrote in the Los Angles Times:

“Like the victims of the Holocaust, animals are rounded up, trucked hundreds of miles to the kill floor and slaughtered.”
Durjack didn’t stop there. He went on and said :
“To those who defend the modern-day Holocaust on animals by saying that animals are slaughtered for food and give us sustenance, I ask: if the victims of the Holocaust had been eaten, would that have justified the abuse and murder?”
With all that public, Senators Leahy, Kennedy and the rest got a little nervous and decided they could do without Durjack even though he was ready to join them in -- what else? -- calling Alito sexist and racist.

So the Dems pulled Durjack's name from their witness list.

Question: Can Republicans add Durjack to their witness list?

Let’s give some attention to Durjack, so the American people will notice and denounce him and the Democrats who tried to pass him off as a credible Senate witness.

Friday, January 06, 2006

How and why did The Raleigh News & Observer get it wrong?

A little after midnight, Jan. 4, I looked at Yahoo's news site and read the AP story on the miners.

I called out to my wife," There's a report they've found 12 of the miners alive, but the mine's owners are not confirming it."

"Let’s pray it's true," she said.

I'm sure about that time and during the next few hours very similar conversations took place between hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who wanted to believe the men were alive but knew the AP had said the reports were unconfirmed.

Recalling how much of MSM Katrina reporting on victims and survivors later proved false no doubt helped many to be extra cautious in what they said about the miners’ fate.

Yet The Raleigh News & Observer used the AP story to produce its Jan. 4 front page, headline story, W. Va. families rejoice as 12 miners found alive.

That The N&O would do that is very troubling; and not excused by the fact that many other MSM news organizations did something similar.

Of course, The N&O didn’t want to get the story wrong; that only makes it more troubling that it did.

This was not a hard story to get right. By right I mean adhering to the old journalist adage: Report only what you know and how you know it.

Example: In answer to my questions this morning, Jan. 6, The Fayetteville Observer’s executive editor for news, Brian Tolley, told me his paper’s Jan. 4 Home edition reported the AP story under the headline, 12 Alive, Families Say. He also said The Observer’s story included the AP statement that the mine owners had not confirmed the men had been found alive.

Contrast that with The N&O’s Jan. 4 story (West edition) that not only headlined as fact that the men were found alive, but also failed to tell readers the mine owners had not confirmed that.

If you're asking how and why The N&O got the story wrong, here’s a sample of what its executive editor for news Melanie Sill is telling readers:

In hindsight, always 20-20, what I think we could have done better was make clear in the headline that this information was preliminary. The story noted that the mine company had not confirmed the reports, but the headline did not. ( JinC readers' note - As stated above, The N&O ( West edition) failed to tell readers "that the mine company had not confirmed the reports.")

We're sorry for putting out an incorrect story, but I think the summary in my post shows that The N&O was working hard to give its readers the news. And I have no apology for that.

Folks who look for any opportunity to bash us can see this as another, but there's a difference between getting bad information from credible sources and being irresponsible.
You can read more of what Sill is telling N&O readers at her blog post,The mine story: From good news to bad.

Not all editors whose papers got the story wrong are giving readers the “bad information from credible sources” excuse. Nor are they saying readers who ask how and why questions are folks “who look for any opportunity to bash us.”

Take a look at what Wichita Eagle editor Sherry Chisenhall said to her readers in her Jan. 4 column, Here's why The Eagle got it wrong:
I'll explain why we (and newspapers across the country) went to press last night with the information we had at the time. But it won't excuse the blunt truth that we violated a basic tenet of journalism today in our printed edition: Report what you know and how you know it.

We published what we believed to be true at the time. But unfortunately, we failed to make clear exactly where those reports were coming from and that they were not confirmed. Instead, our story and headline reported them as certainty.

Many newspapers and TV stations reported exactly what we did today. But being wrong in crowded company is still being wrong.

Our commitment to our readers is to tell you exactly what we know and how we know it. Today, we fell short.
I respect editor Chisenhall for acknowledging her newspaper’s mistakes instead of shifting blame onto others. I doubt it was easy for her to write that column. But I think it was very important she did. I’ll soon say why I believe that.

I’ll also be posting more often concerning N&O news reporting.

Meanwhile, we still have the questions of how and why The N&O got the miner story wrong.

Please continue to visit.
Raleigh N&O editor wants to discuss the weather

Raleigh News & Observer post later today

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Raleigh N & O editor wants to discuss the weather

Many Raleigh News & Observer readers have had back-and-forth today with N&O editor Melanie Sill concerning the paper's erroneous report that the 12 miners had been found alive. I'm one of those readers.

You can read some of what we said at Sill's blog post, The mine story: From good news to bad. I hear many other readers phoned or emailed Sill.

If you go down the comment thread, see if you think Sill answers readers' questions about how The N&O took the AP story that clearly said the mine's owners were not confirming the men were alive, and then produced its Jan. 4 headline story: "W. Va. families rejoice as 12 miners found alive."

Yes, many other MSM news organizations made the same mistake(s) The N&O made. But not all did.

So questions about how The N&O came to make its mistake are important for the paper and its readers.

BTW - Sill now wants to change the subject and talk about the weather.

Don't laugh. I'm not kidding. See for yourself here, Change in the weather.

I'll post again later tonight.

Raleigh News & Observer post later today

Here in North Carolina many people are asking how The N&O got the miners story wrong.

I have meetings now, but later today I'll be posting some thoughts, including linking to previous JinC posts pointing to other important stories The N&O "got wrong."

Meanwhile, visit N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill's blog where The N&O's miners story is being discussed at this post: The mine story:From good news to bad.

I left a question on the thread which so far Sill hasn't answered.

See you later today.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Churchill Series - Jan. 4, 2006

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

In Summer, 1975, a certain Dr. Merry informed London Daily Telegraph readers that Churchill drank too much. What's more, the good doctor said he felt sure Churchill's drinking influenced his judgement and led him to make decisions which lengthened WW II.

Well, as you might guess, many readers were unwilling to swallow Dr. Merry's concoctions. Here's what two of them said in letters to the editor:

"The inappropriately named Dr. Merry is undoubtedly correct when he says that Sir Winston Churchill was responsible for lengthening the war. Had it not been for Churchill the war would have ended much earlier in Britain's defeat."

M. A. Wicking
Tunbridge Wells.

"What did Lincoln say when it was reported to him that Grant was getting through a bottle of whisky a day? 'Fine, find out what brand and send a case with my compliments to all the other generals.'"

Leon Drucker
If we met them, I bet we'd all say to Wicking and Drucker, "Cheers."
The Churchill Centre: Action This Day, Summer, 1975, page.(Scroll down)

Castro’s Killing of Thousands Exposed

In his Boston Globe column today, Jeff Jacoby writes about , an organization dedicated to documenting Castro’s brutal treatment of innocent people. Over 9, 000 such people have been killed since Castro came to power.

THE LONGEST-RULING despot in the world is Fidel Castro, who seized power in Cuba 47 years ago this week. Like most dictators, Castro is a brazen liar, especially about his own regime. This, for example, is what he told an international conference in Havana in April 2001:
"There have never been death squads in our country, nor a single missing person, nor a single political assassination, nor a single victim of torture. . . . You may travel around the country, ask the people, look for a single piece of evidence, try to find a single case where the Revolutionary government has ordered or tolerated such an action. And if you find them, then I will never speak in public again."
One would have to be willfully blind -- a useful idiot, in Lenin's phrase -- to believe such a reeking falsehood. But when it comes to Castro, useful idiots have never been in short supply. From Norman Mailer to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Jesse Jackson to Ted Turner, a long line of admirers has swooned over the bearded tyrant, lavishly praising his wisdom and charm -- and never showing the slightest interest in his real record: cruelty, repression, and a death toll in the tens of thousands.

But Castro's mocking challenge -- "try to find a single case" -- is not going unanswered. The Cuba Archive project ( is working to document the cost, in human life, of more than five decades of Cuban dictatorship.

The New Jersey-based archive's tiny staff has set itself the monumental task of identifying every man, woman, and child killed by Cuba's rulers since March 10, 1952, the day Batista ousted the island's last democratically elected president. Meticulously, impartially, the archive's researchers are assembling the evidence that Castro claims doesn't exist -- victim by victim, one death at a time.

It is heartbreaking work. The revolution's victims have died in front of firing squads and been beaten to death by government goons; they have been sunk while at sea and shot down while flying; they have been killed for resisting communism at home and killed when sent to fight for communism abroad. In the hands of Castro's jailers, some have been driven to suicide; many more have disappeared.
There is much more in Jacoby's column. It's such a powerful, fact-based exposure of Castro's dictatorship that it should shame his many liberal and leftist supporters here in America. But I doubt it will.

You can read the column here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Churchill Series - Jan. 3, 2006

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

Following the attacks of September 11 Finest Hour, The Churchill Centre's quarterly, republished an essay by his official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert. The Centre had first published the essay, "Churchill For Today," a decade before. It said it was republishing it “because of its particular relevance in 2002”

Gilbert’s essay has as much “particular relevance” at the start of 2006 as it did in the aftermath of 9/11. Here are selected portions, followed by a link to the entire essay.

"Why study Churchill?" I am often asked. "Surely he has nothing to say to us today?" Yet in my own work, as I open file after file of Churchill's archive, from his entry into Government in 1905 to his retirement in 1955 (a 50-year span!), I am continually surprised by the truth of his assertions, the modernity of his thought, the originality of his mind, the constructiveness of his proposals, his humanity, and, most remarkable of all, his foresight.

When, in 1919, Churchill called Lenin the embodiment of evil, many people thought it was a typical Churchillian exaggeration. "How unfair," they exclaimed, "how unworthy of a statesman."

From the first days of Communist rule in Russia, Churchill did not doubt for a moment that the Communist system would be a blight on free enterprise and a terrible restraint on all personal freedoms.

Nevertheless, Churchill was always an optimist with regard to human affairs. One of his favourite phrases, a Boer saying that he had heard in South Africa in 1899, was: "All will come right." He was convinced, even during the Stalinist repressions in Russia, that Communism could not survive. Throughout his life he had faith in the power of all peoples to control and improve their own destiny, without the interference of outside forces.
(In 1950), at the height of the Stalin era, these were Churchill's words, in Boston: "The machinery of propaganda may pack (peoples') minds with falsehood and deny them truth for many generations of time, but the soul of man thus held in trance, or frozen in a long night, can be awakened by a spark coming from God knows where, and in a moment the whole structure of lies and oppression is on trial for its life."

Once a war had been thrust on any nation, Churchill was a leading advocate of fighting it until it was won, until the danger of subjugation and tyranny had been brought to an end. He was equally certain that, by foresight and wisdom, all wars could be averted: provided the threatened states banded together and built up their collective strength.

This is what the Western world failed to do in the Chamberlain era: Churchill always regarded the Second World War as the "unnecessary war" that could have been averted by a united stand of those endangered by Hitler. Forty years later, in the Reagan-Thatcher era, Churchill's precept was followed. The result is that under their successors the prospects for a peaceful world were much enhanced.

In every sphere of human endeavour, Churchill foresaw the dangers and potential for evil. Many of those dangers are our dangers today. He also pointed the way forward to our solutions for tomorrow. That is one reason why his life is worthy of our attention.

Some writers portray him as a figure of the past, an anachronism, a grotesque. In doing so, it is they who are the losers, for he was a man of quality: a good guide for our troubled decade and for the generations now reaching adulthood
The essay is here.

On Abramoff: Is the NY Times serving readers or the Dems?

Today's New York Times report of the Jack Abramoff plea agreement is headlined: G.O.P. Lobbyist to Plead Guilty in Deal With Prosecutors

The Times story twice refers to Abramoff as a "Republican" lobbyist and, off course, it brings in Rep. Tom DeLay. The story never mentions the word "Democrat” or names any of the Democrats who received money from Abramoff's lobbying firm

But a June 3, 2005 Washington Post story reported:

Abramoff didn't work just with Republicans. He oversaw a team of two dozen lobbyists at the law firm Greenberg Traurig that included many Democrats. Moreover, the campaign contributions that Abramoff directed from the tribes went to Democratic as well as Republican legislators.

Among the biggest beneficiaries were Capitol Hill's most powerful Democrats, including Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) and Harry M. Reid (Nev.), the top two Senate Democrats at the time, Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), then-leader of the House Democrats, and the two lawmakers in charge of raising funds for their Democratic colleagues in both chambers, according to a Washington Post study.

Reid succeeded Daschle as Democratic leader after Daschle lost his Senate seat last November.

Democrats are hoping to gain political advantage from federal and Senate investigations of Abramoff's activities and from the embattled lobbyist's former ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). Yet, many Democratic lawmakers also benefited from Abramoff's political operation, a fact that could hinder the Democrats' efforts to turn the lobbyist's troubles into a winning partisan issue.
Yes, information about the Abramoff-Democratic connections could make it hard for the Dems to turn Abramoff's actions into "a winning partisan issue." Count on the New York Times to do its best to make sure it doesn't.

Sheehan- NY Times race "too close to call"

Over at Little Green Footballs, Cindy Sheehan and the New York Times are locked in a tight battle for the Idiotarian of the Year Award.

Sheehan had been ahead in early voting, but the Times has now taken a small lead with votes still being cast. Experts say the election is still too close to call.

The Times may have gained some momentum following disclosure Sunday that publisher Pinch Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller are refusing to answer written questions concerning their decision to breech national security by publishing the NSA domestic surveillance story. The questions were put to them by their own public editor.

You can vote here until Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 11:59:59 pm Pacific.

Don’t wait. Click and go to the “voting booth” now. Let your voice be heard.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Storms here. Posting delayed

I'm down on the Carolina coast today. We're experiencing severe thunderstorms.

I've got a few posts partly finished but I'm shutting down now.

I hope to be back up later.

Keep your fingers crossed.