Saturday, May 13, 2006

Talking with JinC regaulars - 4 - 13 - 06

(One of a series of posts in the original web log tradition: notes and "thinking out loud." These posts will be most easily understood by regular visitors here and are written with them in mind.)

I've tried to clean up the spam on the comment threads. I don't see any now for posts going back two weeks.

Let me know if you find some and it bothers you.

Spam comes through to me but I have a procedure to "erase" it. I hope it's working.

I promised to post on Churchill's defense in 1902 of a group of cadets at Sandhurst who were collectively punished without due process, including proof of guilt.

I did post on it at The Churchill Series. A newspaper editor picked up on it and asked me to work it into an op-ed.

If it flies I'll post on it.

If Cracker is still visiting here I hope he's now convinced that calling The N&O's Duke lacrosse reporting "prosecutorial" is accurate

On the Duke lacrosse case - - We never go wrong with presumption of innocence, "a charge is not proof," "wait till you have all the facts before reaching an absolute judgment," due process, and the rest. do we?

Those are all important but easily understood principles and practices our parents and teachers taught us. But how many forget or disregard them. The Dl case had reminded us of that.

N&O news columnist Ruth Sheehan wrote Thursday about how complex the Duke lacrosse case is. She's written two previous columns on Dl case.

One in late-March when she attacked Dl players who were only following advice of counsel; and one in early-April demanding Duke "dump" lacrosse coach Mike Pressler. Duke dumped him. A few weeks later we all learned a Duke faculty committee had said Pressler was one of only two people at Duke who had taken reports of unacceptable behavior by lax players seriously.

But no apology from Sheehan to players she helped stigmatize and who's physical safety she helped put at risk; no apology to Pressler, either. Just, gosh, this case is complex.

I plan to answer Sheehan this week.

Also look for more on The N&O's failure to report on the DTH story concerning UNC lacrosse players arrests, etc.

Also, I'm going to say some things about Duke, including the silence of so many of the faculty on matters they should be speaking about.

A number of you comment at other blogs.

I've seen comments by you and others at N&O exec editor Melanie Sill's blog. As you know, I also comment there often

Melanie often ignores fact-based reader questions and comments. Some people then get discouraged and move on. I don't blame them.

But people who stay with Melanie's blog (really a McClatchy Company blog) and continue to comment perform a very important function.

News editors' blog were supposed to be part of the "new journalism:" interactive with readers and transparent to all.

A reader could comment or question; and the editor would respond while, in theory at least, every other reader with net access could "read" the conversation.

Some media experts predicted news editor blogs would result in newspapers that were more in touch with readers and, because of reader comments, quicker to spot, acknowledge and correct errors.

For the most part, it hasn't worked out that way. Most editors have tried to use their blogs as PR vehicles and get huffy when readers point out errors. A while back Melanie referred to such readers as "people who just like to bash us."

Many editors have structured their blogs (again, really their companies' blogs) to limit reader response. Melanie recently did that.

So given all of that, why should readers continue to comment?

Because newspaper blogs really are interactional and transparent. When an editor ducks a question or dissembles when answering, every reader visiting the blog can see what's happening.

When a news editor avoids talking about her or his paper's coverage of an important story, readers can see that. When you think about it, that's a kind of interaction: The reader asked a question and the editor is still responding to it with silence.


After ducking many Duke lacrosse questions, Melanie Sill told blog readers: "I know I will post again on the Duke situation, thought probably not today."

But she's failed to answer a single reader question concerning The N&O's coverage of "the Duke situation" since April 24, when she made her "probably not today" statement.

That was over 3 weeks ago.

Who can't hear and understand the sounds of Sill's silence

Readers who "drop by" her Editor's Blog can see what's happening but only because other readers are making comments at the blog and leaving questions.

And that's as it should be. Blogs are meant to be interactional and what's said on them, provided it falls within wide boundries of tolerance and avoids commercialsim and threats, is there for all to see.

I like that. I hope you do too. And I hope we all keep commenting.

More soon. Sorry I ran on so long.


Can you spot Durham DA Nifong spin "reporting?"

In more than 60 public statements, Durham DA Mike Nifong has tried to spin facts, including DNA results, to support his charge that some Duke lacrosse players are guilty of raping a woman.

Below are the headlines and first three paragraphs of three newspapers' reports today of results of a second round of DNA testing of Duke lacrosse players.

Read the following headlines and paragraphs. See if you can't pick out which headline and paragraph are closest to DA Nifong type spin.

Number 1:

DNA ID'd: It didn't come from Duke player

Genetic material obtained from a vaginal swab of the accuser in the Duke lacrosse rape case conclusively matches a man who is known to Durham police but who is not a Duke lacrosse player, a defense attorney said Friday.

"In other words, it appears this woman had sex with a male," attorney Joseph Cheshire said. "It also appears with certainty it wasn't a Duke lacrosse player."

The finding could be significant because District Attorney Mike Nifong has said that one reason he believes the woman's claim of rape was that a nurse determined she had vaginal trauma consistent with her story. The Duke players have insisted they didn't have even consensual sex with the woman.

Number 2:
Second DNA rape test may help Duke athletes

A second round of DNA testing in the Duke University lacrosse rape case came back with the same result as the first — no conclusive match to any member of the team, defense attorneys said Friday.

Attorney Joseph Cheshire, who represents a team captain who has not been charged, said the tests showed genetic material from a "single male source" was found on a vaginal swab taken from the accuser, but that material did not match any of the players.

"In other words, it appears this woman had sex with a male," said Cheshire, who spoke at a news conference with other defense attorneys in the case. "It also appears with certainty it wasn't a Duke lacrosse player."

Number 3:
No firm link in test 2 of DNA

A second round of DNA tests shows no decisive match between the escort service dancer who says she was raped by three Duke University lacrosse players and any member of the squad, defense attorneys said Friday night.

However, the results show that genetic material found on a fake fingernail that the dancer says was ripped from her hand during the attack are consistent with the DNA of one unindicted player, whom defense lawyers declined to name. That means the player could not absolutely be eliminated as a suspect, defense attorneys said, but is a finding that falls short of ironclad proof.

"There is no conclusive match ... that ties any of these young men to this woman who has made these false accusations," said defense attorney Joseph B. Cheshire V, who represents Duke lacrosse co-captain David Evans, who has not been charged in the case. "There is no conclusive match of DNA."

Number 1 headline and paragraphs: The Durham Herald Sun

Number 2 headline: The Seattle Times. Paragraphs; The Associated Press

Number 3 headline and paragraphs: The Raleigh News & Observer

In contrest to the Durham HS and the AP, The N&O avoids mentioning in its lead paragraphs the important new news of vaginal semen and an ID of the fellow whose semen it is. But it does recycle for the umpteenth time the "ripped from her hand during the attack" claim.

You have to follow The N&O story from the front page to inside the paper before you find any mention of the vaginal semen.

That by reporters and a newspaper who just a few weeks ago told readers on page one a Duke lacrosse player was cited for having an open can of beer.

No wonder an attorney friend says some folks down at the Durham County courthouse have taken to calling N&O reporters "the Raleigh DAs."

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Churchill Series - May 11 & 12, 2006

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

Folks, Sorry to be late with this. I've been following and posting on developments in the Duke lacrosse case. John

Late on the evening of Friday, May 10, 1940 Churchill left Buckingham Palace with the King's charge to form a new government which would lead the nation in a fight for survival.

Upon his return to the Admiralty, Churchill immediately wrote his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, who'd just broadcast to the nation the news of his resignation and Churchill's appointment.

My dear Neville,

My first act on coming back from the Palace is to write and tell you how grateful I am to you for promising to stand by me and to aid the country at this extremely grievous and formidable moment.[...]

With your help and counsel and with the support of the great party of which you are the leader, I trust that I shall succeed. [...]
The letter was hand-delivered to Downing Street.

A few hours later Churchill phoned Chamberlain. He asked him to remain as leader of the Conservative Party in the Commons and to serve in the war cabinet.

Chamberlain agreed to both requests. He served loyally in those posts until his death from cancer five months later.

Churchill's second act was to write a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. He thanked Halifax, who had been his chief rival to succeed Chamberlain, for "the chivalry and kindness with which you have treated me." He asked him to stay on as Foreign Secretary and to lead the Conservative Party in the Lords.

Halifax agreed. He too served loyally as Foreign Secretary and later as Ambassador to the United States.

Chamberlain and Halifax were foremost among "the men of Munich." There were many who wanted "score-settling" with such men.

By his two gracious and wise letters as well as his invitations to Chamberlain and Halifax to assume important positions in his new government, Churchill made clear to friends and foes that they'd be no "score-settling." He would lead a government of national unity and get on with fighting the war.

Churchill's first meetings in the early hours of the 11th were with Labour and Liberal party leaders who agreed to serve in his government.

Shortly thereafter, Churchill was able to announce the names of the other four men who would serve with him in the war cabinet - Chamberlain, Halifax, and Labour Party leaders Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood - as well as the names of the new service ministers - A. V. Alexander (Admiralty, Labour), Anthony Eden (War, Conservative) and Archibald Sinclair (Air, Liberal).

Other cabinet offices would be filled during the next four days.

About 3 a. m. on the 11th, Churchill ended a "day" which had begun at 5:30 a.m. the previous morning when he'd been awoken and told of German attacks in the Low Countries and France.

Churchill later recorded his thoughts as he prepared for sleep. His words are familiar, imperishable, and always merit repeating:
I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had the authority to give directions over the whole scene.

I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.

Ten years in the political wilderness had freed me from ordinary party antagonisms. My warnings over the last six years had been so numerous, so detailed, and were so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me. I could not be reproached either for making the war or with want of preparation for it.

I thought I knew a good deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail.

Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams.

Martin Gilbert, Winston Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939 -1941, (chs. 15 & 16) and Winston S. Churchill, Their Finest Hour. (pgs. 3-27)

Raleigh N&O editor admits mistake. Just a teeny-weeny one

Do you think The McClatchy Company's Raleigh N&O exec editor for news, Melanie Sill, can't admit mistakes? Think again.

Sill's posted about:

A recent goof in which we referred twice in the same paragraph to utility "polls"
See that? The N&O said "polls" when it meant "poles." That's a mistake Sill won't stand for.

Sill's assured faithful N&O readers:
[W]e have stepped up training for N&O journalists to raise our skills and improve the quality of our work.
Do you believe it? Confusing "polls" with "poles" is what it took to get The N&O to "raise our skills and improve?"

No, you don't believe it, do you?

Neither do I.

I think what Sill is trying to do is look like she's "responsive" while she ignores readers outraged by The N&O's biased and inflamatory "reporting" on the Duke lacrosse case.

I left the comment below at Sill's post. You'll find my comment following one by Joan. Her comment is terrific and worth a "trip" to Melanie's blog. You can visit here.

JinC response to Melanie Sill's "Journalism training" post


Joan’s right: "polls" instead of "poles" is a very minor mistake.

I hope you weren't too hard on The N&O staffers who made it, especially as The N&O regularly makes much bigger mistakes.

For example, The N&O published Feb. 15 a page one, headline story saying a group of state employees had been “caught cheating.”

But they hadn’t. They were decent, honest state career employees who were only doing their jobs.

No other newspaper in North Carolina made the same false claim about them The N&O made.

So The N&O was forced to issue a “correction.”

But The N&O’s never offered an apology to the employees who had to face their neighbors, and whose children were taunted at school.

Yes, N&O fans don’t think an apology is necessary.

But most decent people do.

How about an apology?

You might frame your answer in the context of N&O reporting that the Duke lacrosse team “swaggered for years” and “was out of control.”

And why not explain some other important things?

For example, The N&O refused to publish any of the Danish cartoons. You said The N&O's decision had nothing to do with the fact that publishing even one cartoon would make it more likely that hate groups would target N&O staffers and your newsroom.

You told readers not publishing the cartoons reflected The N&O’s “sensitivity.”

What’s more, you told readers The N&O could report on all the threats and riots in response to the cartoons in such a way that N&O readers would have no need to see the cartoons in order to understand what all the arson, riots, killings and injury were about.

But when "reporting" the Duke lacrosse case, The N&O did something very different.

You published the "vigilante poster" with face-photos of 40 Duke lacrosse players and "WANTED" stamped on it, even as people warned you that publishing the poster would do nothing but stir passions and make it more likely the lacrosse players would be targeted by unstable individuals and hate groups.

Of course, The N&O made sure not to mention the names of any of the “good citizens” who designed and printed the “vigilante posters.”

Melanie, your talk about “polls" and "poles” is suitable for a junior high school audience.

Mostly adults visit this blog; and most of them care more about The N&O’s frequent failures to provide fair and informative reporting than about “polls” and “poles.”

So tell readers why it was important for The N&O to publish 'the vigilante poster" but not publish the Danish cartoons

After doing that, you could explain why, in a 2000 word, front page Apr. 9 story concerning Duke's reputation, every Duke student or alum you quoted was very critical of the university.

There were then as now thousands of undergrads and alums in the area who would have spoken positively of Duke. But not one appeared in your story. Why not?

And why does The N&O continue to refuse to tell readers anything about the man who drove the accuser to the party that night? The N&O knows quite a bit about him.

I'll say more soon, by which time I hope you’ll have answered my questions as well as questions other readers have asked and which you’ve still not answered.


Chicago Trib's Duke lacrosse DNA story bias.

Today headlines:

”DNA links 3rd player to alleged attack”
The Tribune news services' story begins:
Prosecutors believe they have DNA evidence to tie a third Duke lacrosse player to the alleged attack on a 27-year-old exotic dancer, news outlets in Durham reported Thursday.

The local ABC affiliate, citing sources, reported that the third player is the same person who was identified with "90 percent" certainty by the alleged victim in a photo lineup. That lineup was conducted by police weeks after the March 13 off-campus lacrosse team party where the alleged incident took place.

The potential evidence--a DNA sample found under a fake fingernail worn by the alleged victim and linked to the lacrosse player--was recovered from the off-campus home where the alleged attack took place. […]
The lead paragraphs certainly support the Tribs headline: “DNA links 3rd player to the alleged attack.”

But if you read down to the story's last two paragraphs, you learn:
The Durham Herald Sun newspaper reported Thursday that the tissue sample used for testing did not allow for a 100 percent match, but it was "consistent" with DNA of the third player. Because a complete DNA pattern was not obtained from the sample on the fingernail, it was impossible to match that sample with near certainty to the third player, the newspaper said.

Defense sources told the ABC station that results from this set of DNA tests are also inconclusive and that there is no match, and that to say otherwise is "very misleading." They also say it would not be unusual to find players' DNA in the bathroom or garbage can of a house where many spent time.
Given the information in the last two paragraphs, how can the Trib justify its headline, “DNA links 3rd player to the alleged attack,” or its lead paragraphs?

The Trib’s headline and its equally misleading lead paragraphs are further examples of MSM news bias directed against the Duke lacrosse players

When JinC regulars poked fun at themselves, I thought of Churchill

A few days ago a JinC post included advice to young men and women: Avoid drunks.

I added that really that was good advice fro all of us.

Well, that promted tongue-in-cheek reactions by some JinC regeulars.


"What????? John, do you really want me to have a solitary life? What did I ever do to you?"

"Quit telling people to avoid me."

"I'll drink to that!"

You get the idea.

I made the following response on the thread:

I like people who poke fun at themselves.

Since you're both Churchill admirers, I offer the following anecdote on the chance you don't already know it.

During May and June 1940, Churchill made a number of trips to France in an effort to keep her in the war. He was always accompanied by Cabinet colleagues and aides.

On the return from one such trip, Churchill and his party crossed the channel on a Royal Navy destroyer.

In mid-channel, debris from sunken ships floated past the destroyer. Churchill and some of his party went to the rail to have a look.

Within minutes they all saw a large door float by. Emblazoned in its center were the initials: WC.

All were silent until Churchill turned to the others and asked, "Do any of you think Hitler knew I would be here?"



Thursday, May 11, 2006

May 11 Churchill Series post will be combined with May 12 post


I plan a lengthy post on May 12. It will deal with Churchill's first hours as PM.

I will be up by Friday evening.


Schumer: “I worry” about Hayden. OK, but what about himself?

Senator Chuck Schumer (Dem.–NY) is worried by Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden’s nomination to head the CIA. Schumer says:

"I think Hayden's a fine man, but I think keeping the agency independent is really important so the president gets truthful and unvarnished information and I worry that having someone so close to the Defense Department could jeopardize that independence."
Well, yes, making sure the CIA gives the President “truthful and unvarnished information" is “really important.” In fact, many Americans want the agency to start doing that again. They'd also like the information to be more accurate.

Now about Senator Schumer:

According to The Center for Responsive Politics' website (It's slow loading - JinC), since 1989 Schumer’s raised more that $45 million in campaign contributions and spent just over $36 million.

Nine of Schumer’s 10 top corporate contributors since 1989 are commercial banks and financial service corporations, including Citicorp, Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch.

Schumer is a member of the Senate Banking Committee.


A large campaign war chest is one of the most effective means an incumbent has of discouraging able challengers.

From $45 million subtract $36 million and you see Schumer already has $9 million in a bank or banks; and he’s not even up for re-election until 2010.

What's that bankers tell us about nest eggs and investing for the long term?

Of course, under current campaign law, if Schumer decides not to seek re-election in 2010, he gets to keep the $9 million plus any other money the banks and financial service corporations give him between now and then that he doesn’t spend.

Does that help you understand why Schumer always looks like he's smiling?

I doubt Schumer ever worries about being “so close” to the banking industry he’s supposed to help regulate on our behalf.

But I do. What about you?

Good advice for young woman and men, and the rest of us too

On May 5 The Raleigh News & Observer reported a Duke undergad woman told police she met a man:

"at the party (after) drinking since the afternoon and that, although she was not used to taking drugs, she got a strong dose of the marijuana smoke."
According to The N&O, when the woman awoke the next morning, "she felt like something had happened."

Blogger and mother of two daughters, Betsy Newmark, subsequently posted some advice:
Ladies, don't get stinking drunk, inhale marijuana, hang out in a guy's room, and then spend the next day wondering if some guy did something to you.
That's such good advice I included it in a post and linked to Betsy's.

Now from Anonymous Commenter comes some more good advice:
Here's some advice to young men: Drunk college women are rattlesnake dangerous. You have no defense. If you see one, call the police.
Right on, Anon.

And here's more advice from JinC: Young women and young men should stay sober, avoid drunks of either gender and call the police to take care of drunks of either gender, something the police are trained to do.

Come to think of it, we should all stay sober and avoid drunks as much as possible.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Churchill Series – May 10, 2006

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

Readers’ Note: As most of you know May 10 is the anniversary of Churchill’s assumption of the Prime Minister’s duties. Today and tomorrow’s posts will tell something of Churchill’s actions beginning before dawn on the 10th and continuing into the early morning hours of the 11th.

At 5:30 am on May 10, 1940, Churchill was awoken in his bedroom at the Admiralty and told of reports that Germany had just launched air and ground attacks in the Low Countries and France. It was not certain whether they were probing actions or the start of a major offensive.

Churchill immediately began gathering intelligence. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he met at 6 am with the Secretaries of State for War and for Air to assess the situation and coordinate strategy. About an hour later he had another meeting with a special military planning committee. Afterwards, he left the Admiralty and walked to Downing Street to attend the first of three Cabinet meetings that day.

By the time of the third meeting, which began in the late afternoon, it was apparent the Germans had begun a major offensive. Most of the cabinet meeting was taken up with military questions but at the end Prime Minister Chamberlain informed his colleagues that he did not have sufficient support to form what the crisis called for: a national unity government. Therefore, after the meeting he would go to the palace and submit his resignation to the King. He did not say whom he would recommend as his successor.

The Cabinet was expecting Chamberlain’s announcement; they also knew he would give the King Churchill’s name.

Later that evening when Churchill was called to the palace the only person to accompany him was his principal bodyguard, Detective-Inspector Walter Thompson. Churchill did not say why he was going to the palace. Thompson later wrote that they made the trip back to the Admiralty “in complete silence.” Churchill didn’t speak until after he had gotten out of the car :

”You know why I have been to Buckingham Palace, Thompson?”

“Yes, sir,” I answered, and congratulated him. He looked pleased, but he was tense and strained.

I went on: “I am very pleased that you have at last become Prime Minister, sir, but I wish that the position had come your way in better times, for you have undertaken an enormous task.”

Gravely he replied: “God alone knows how great it is. All I hope is that it is not too late. I am very much afraid it is, but we can only do our best.” Tears came into his eyes, and as he turned away he muttered something to himself.

Then he set his jaw, and with a look of determination, mastering all emotion, he entered the side door of the Admiralty and began to climb the stairs.”
Martin Gilbert’s, Winston S. Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939-1941, provides a detailed account of the events mentioned here. See especially Chapters 15 & 16. Thompson's recollection is found in Tom Hickman’s Churchill’s Bodyguard. (pgs. 90-91)

Calling Carter "to task" happened twice. MSM even reported it both times

Today blogger Betsy Newmark did what all sensible Americans should regularly do: She teed off against former-Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former President Jimmy Carter.

A commenter supported Betsy but expressed regret that Carter had never "been called to task."

I responded with this comment (Slight changes made for clarity. - JinC):

Carter and his failed presidency were called to task in 1980 when the American people elected Ronald Reagan President.

Carter and his crowd were again "called to task" in 1984 when President Reagan defeated Carter's Vice President, Walter Mondale, in a landslide election in which Reagan carried 49 states.

Those elections were won in face of fierce opposition, not just from Carter, Mondale and the Democrats, but from their MSM allies who, then as now, dominate “news reporting” in America.”

All in all, that’s an impressive and appropriate calling to task of one of our most incompetent Presidents.

I rank Carter right up there with William Jefferson Clinton as one of our two Presidents most eager to apologize for America while praising themselves.

Now, if you want to argue that since 1984 the Democrats/ MSM have given Carter "cover" for the kind of President he was and the kind of former-President he is, you'll get no argument from me.


al Qaeda in Iraq says it's losing except with media


I missed this when it was released by Centcom, but our friend Ed Morrissey is on top of it:
CENTCOM announced today that they had captured al-Qaeda correspondence in Iraq that discusses the state of the insurgency, especially around Baghdad but also around the entire country. Far from optimistic, the documents captured in an April 16th raid reveal frustration and desperation, as the terrorists acknowledge the superior position of American and free Iraqi forces and their ability to quickly adapt to new tactics.

This quote from a captured document, for example, supports Ed's characterization:
[T]he Americans and the Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad.
So the terrorists say we're winning in Iraq. Why is this fact so little recognized in America? Because the terrorists have been successful in one sphere only:
The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other words, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the Americans and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.
Or, again, Centcom quotes a translated document:
Al Qaida in Iraq attacks Mosques and other public places to draw media attention and is having difficulty recruiting members because the people of Iraq do not support its cause.
So, put it all together: al Qaeda in Iraq is failing. It has little military strength, and the Iraqi people "do not support its cause." It has succeeded in one arena only: the American media.

Yet, despite the despair manifested by the authors of the captured documents, that one success may be all that al Qaeda needs. Because the perverse negativity of the American press is the only view that most Americans get of the conflict's progress. And, because of their shoddy coverage of the war, our reporters and editors provide the terrorists with their only gleam of hope.

And spare us the hate mail: I didn't say it. al Qaeda did.
There's been nothing about this story in my leftist Raleigh News & Observer. But The N&O gives us lots of Iraq=Vietnam stories.

I loved the title of the Powerline post: "Who's Winning? They Say We Are."

Thank God for bloggers, especially bloggers in Iraq, who are letting the rest of know what's really going on there.

If we had to rely solely on MSM for news about Iraq, we'd only have its skewed, defeatist view of things.

Centcom links to the full document in English and Arabic.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Churchill Series – May 9, 2006

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

When on May 7, 1940 Harold Macmillan, a member of the Commons and future Prime Minister, told Churchill, “…[we]must have a new Prime Minister, and it must be you,” he was expressing the feelings of the majority in the Commons and the country. But Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain didn't share those feelings.

Despite chants from both sides of the aisle that he, “Go, go, go, …” Chamberlain spent much of May 8 and 9 maneuvering to remain in office. He sought to lead a coalition government, but Labour and the Liberals refused to serve under him.

Their refusals and rebellion within Chamberlain’s own Conservative ranks doomed his premiership.

Faced with helping select a successor, Chamberlain was determined it should not be Churchill.

He invited Churchill and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax to a meeting at Downing Street on the afternoon of May 9. Halifax was seen as the only possible alternative to Churchill as Chamberlain’s successor.

Some realized then, as most do now, that Chamberlain intended the meeting to be a kind of trap. He would propose telling the King to send for Halifax to form a government, and count on Churchill’s patriotism and sense of colleagueship to induce him to say he’d support whatever decision the PM made.

Friends had cautioned Churchill to say as little as possible at the meeting. Events were running in Churchill’s direction and beyond Chamberlain’s control. Martin Gilbert tells us what happened at the meeting:

Chamberlain told the two contenders that Halifax was the one being “mentioned as most acceptable.” (That was not true of Commons or the public. – JinC)

Halifax explained, however, that he was reluctant to try to guide the fortunes of war from the House of Lords. He would be held responsible for everything, he said, but would not have “the power to guide the assembly upon whose confidence the lift of every Government depended.” Not being able to lead in the Commons, Halifax said, “I should be a cypher.”

Churchill made no comment.

Halifax then said that he thought “Winston would be a better choice.”

Churchill did not demur. He was, Halifax noted a few hours later, "very kind and polite, but showed that he thought this was the right solution.” …
Late that evening Churchill received a call from his son, Randolph, who was in the Army training in northern England. Gilbert continues
What, asked Randolph, was the latest news?

“I think I shall be Prime Minister tomorrow.”
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life. (p. 637-643)

"Income inequality." Here we go again.

A while back I read in the WSJ :

A distinguishing feature of the U.S. economy of the past quarter-century is a sharp increase in economic inequality. No matter how you slice the data, very well-paid folks have done better than the rest.
True enough.

Also true but not often mentioned is that incomes of those at the lower end of the income scale have, in inflation adjusted terms, increased significantly in the past quarter century.

But that’s not good enough for some who are "troubled by income inequality.” The WSJ says their “analysis” has led them to propose two “solutions:”
If their analysis is right, the only way to restrain inequality is to tamper with the market by raising the minimum wage or lifting taxes at the top (which isn't to say all these scholars advocate either).
Raise wages and tax “the rich” until everyone's income is about the same.

Didn’t Britain try that in the late 40s, 50s and 60s?

Isn't income leveling what the Communists always promise to do?

And today, the governments of Cuba and North Korea proclaim it as state policy, don't they?

Time for better ideas.

One of the best Duke lacrosse columns

Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock has plenty to say about the Duke lacrosse case, including the outcome he thinks his fellow blacks should work for. Excerpts:

If the Duke lacrosse players were black and the accuser were white, everyone would easily see the similarities between this case and the alleged crimes that often left black men hanging from trees in the early 1900s.

That is not written to exonerate the lacrosse players of the rape allegations they face. I don’t know what happened inside that house.

But I do know that the investigation, the posturing by black activists and the political gains by the district attorney — Mike Nifong won his democratic re-election bid on Tuesday — make me uncomfortable.

Seriously, this case seems like an updated re-enactment of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Just imagine it is 1940 (or 2006), and two white escorts/strippers with criminal records have a run-in with a group of drunken black college students. One of the strippers calls the police — with the other stripper present — and complains that the drunken black college students called her names. Ninety minutes later, without further interaction with the college students, the second stripper tells police that three of the students raped her.

Immediately, the district attorney announces that the college boys — who all probably vote well outside the DA’s district or don’t have the right to vote — are guilty and they have a history of rowdy behavior.

If this were 1940, an angry white lynch mob would then gather at the scene of the alleged crime and promise to dole out justice to anyone they suspected of playing a role in the crime. In 2006, mixed-race prayer vigils and protests were held, and black community activists pressured the district attorney to dole out justice to anyone they suspected played a role in the alleged crime.

The fact that one of the arrested suspects seems to have an airtight alibi — a cabbie, cell phone records, an ATM receipt and record of entrance into his dorm room — is completely ignored.

So is the fact that the other stripper clearly has questionable motives and is interested in seeing if she can “spin” this tragedy to her advantage and possibly make a little cash.

If this were 1940, a well-meaning white group would take sympathy on the alleged victim, a mother of two, and promise her a job. The KKK would promise to protect her from those black animals. In 2006, Jesse Jackson promised the accuser an academic scholarship, and a group purporting to be the Black Panther Party promised to protect her from those white animals. ...
Whitlock closes with this:
But I do know that Martin Luther King Jr. and many, many others of all races did not die so that the poor, black and oppressed could surrender the moral high ground and attempt to inflict injustice on the privileged.

If that is indeed the game, someone needs to warn Jesse and the good people of Durham, N.C., that it’s a game that the poor, black and oppressed cannot win.

When it comes to American justice, it is foolish for black people to choose sides based on race. We’re far better served being on the side of justice at all times and complaining when it doesn’t arrive at our doorstep rather than rooting for injustice to befall the privileged.

If the Duke lacrosse players are innocent of sexual assault and are somehow forced into a plea agreement or conviction, it’s a mistake to believe that the middle income or wealthy will somehow grasp that the poor of all races face similar injustice on a daily basis. Well, let me restate that. They’re well aware of it. The deeper understanding of it won’t cause them to readjust their attitudes or take action to enact change.

To the contrary, if anything, what is happening in Durham is further polarizing the haves from the have-nots, white from black. It’s justifying racism. It’s justifying a mind-set that states: Do it to them because they’d do it to you.

No one can deny the effectiveness of the high road. Martin Luther King Jr. drove it, and his drive created the freedoms and opportunities that too many of us take for granted now.

It takes real courage to maintain the moral high ground, to avoid resorting to self-destructive violence or revenge, to hold on to your dignity, ethics and principles.

Do we understand that? Do we, black people, understand the brilliance and necessity of Martin’s dream any better than the people who despised him when he was alive and claim to love him now?

If we do, then we need to be pressuring the authorities to pursue justice in the Duke lacrosse case regardless of where that pursuit leads.
Whitlock's is one of the best-written and wisest columns I've read on the Duke lacrosse case.

I hope it encourages all of us of every color to speak up for due process and true justice.

As for those of every color who are part of the "Justice Now!" and "No justice; no peace" crowd, their actions since the case became public on Mar. 24 haven't surprised anyone, have they?

I've given you almost all of it but please read the entire column.

I hope you'll pick out a few friends and send them links to it.

Hat Tip: Signifying Nothing.

The Churchill Series - May 8, 2006

On May 19, 1935, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin admitted to the Commons that previous government estimates of German air strength had seriously underestimated its strength. Churchill recalled Baldwin’s announcement in his war memoirs. He quotes Baldwin telling Commons:

“First of all, with regard to the figure I gave in November of German aeroplanes, nothing has come to my knowledge since that makes me think that figure was wrong. I believed at that time it was right. Where I was wrong was in my estimate of the future. There I was completely wrong. We were completely misled on that subject. [Italics Churchill’s.] …

I think it is only due to say that there has been a great deal of criticism, both in the Press and verbally, about the Air Ministry, as though they were responsible for possibly an inadequate programme, for not having gone ahead faster, and for many other things. I only want to repeat that whatever responsibility there may be—and we are perfectly ready to meet criticism—that responsibility is not that of any single Minister; it is the responsibility of the Government as a whole, and we are all responsible, and we are all to blame.”[Italics Churchill’s.]
Churchill went on to share with readers his thoughts as he listened to Baldwin:
I hoped that this shocking confession would be a decisive event, and that at the least a Parliamentary Committee of all parties would be set up to report upon the facts and upon our safety.

The House of Commons had a different reaction. The Labour and Liberal Oppositions, having nine months earlier moved or supported a Vote of Censure even upon the modest steps the Government had taken, were ineffectual and undecided. They were looking forward to an election against “Tory armaments.”
Five years to the day Baldwin made his speech, the German air force was dominating the skies over the Low Countries and France while the German Army drove toward Paris and the Channel Coast. A month later, Britain stood alone.

In his May 1935 speech, Baldwin had assured the Commons :
“I would repeat here that there is no occasion, in my view, in what we are doing, for panic.
Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm. (p.97)

Monday, May 08, 2006

V-E Day remembrance

I would have let V-E Day slip by if an internet friend hadn't reminded me of the day.

As a V-E Day remembrance, I'm posting something below. It's a comment I left earlier this evening at another blog, David

David had picked up on a Churchill Series post I did comparing Churchill to Gandhi. David's post is here.

One of those commenting at David's blog said, "Pacifism only works when your enemy has a conscience."

That led me to make the response below which I want to serve as a V-E Day remembrance and an appreciation to all who have served in the American military and their families.

The comment follows.

Re: "Pacifism only works when your enemy has a conscience."

You often need a lot more, most especially a strong military willing to fight and die to protect a country that gives rights to pacifists.

Do you know anything about the town close to where I live, Chapel Hill? If not, just think about your town.

Imagine Chapel Hill or your town without a military whose members are willing to defend and, if necessary, give their lives to protect our country.

Without our military, what would life be like for pacifists, gays, lesbians, transgender and “traveling" people, anti-war groups, Democrats supporting Hillary, Republicans supporting Rudy, and all the rest of us?

It's something we should all think about today, V-E Day, and later this month on Memorial Day, May 29. And every other day of our lives.

When I was young, the pacifists I knew understood the importance of America’s military. Because they did, many of them agreed to serve in the military on condition they would be non-combatants. One of them, Desmond Doss, even won the Congressional Medal of Honor. You can read about him here.

Doss died recently at age 87. RIP.


Raleigh N&O fails to report lacrosse players’ arrests, charges

In addition to reporting on charges against two members of the Duke Men’s lacrosse team following an allegation of gang rape at a party attended by many team members, The Raleigh News & Observer has searched courthouse records in Durham and adjacent Orange County looking for arrests and charges involving current members of the team as well as former team members as far back as 1999.

The paper’s featured what its found in many stories, including some front-pagers, one of which included a photo of players pictured on a “wanted poster.”

N&O’s executive editor for news Melanie Sill says the charges, all misdemeanors with alcohol frequently involved, constitute a very important story separate from the rape allegation investigation. Sill calls it a story of ” the lacrosse team's behavior in the context of larger student life issues at Duke.”

With all that reporting by The N&O, you might think the paper’s told you everything it knows about arrests and charges involving lacrosse players. But it hasn’t

In the Apr. 26 Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we find a front page story, "UNC men's lacrosse team sees own spell of legal fits.”

The DTH reports:

Eight members of the 43-man North Carolina men's lacrosse team have been arrested or cited in Chapel Hill during the past two-and-a-half years. Two - Billy Staines and Ben Mark - have had more than one incident with local law enforcement.

The records search, requested by The Daily Tar Heel, did not search former team members or jurisdictions outside of Chapel Hill.
The arrests and charges include “underage consumption of alcohol and possession of drug paraphernalia,” “damage to real property, one count of damage to personal property and one count of failure to report an accident,” “being intoxicated and disruptive after slapping the back of a police patrol car,” and “failing to appear [for] a court date.”

A DTH editor told this blogger the paper had no plans to conduct searches as extensive as those conducted by The N&O.

There’s much more in the DTH story. I’ll report and comment further on the story soon.

UNC athletic director Dick Bardour told the DTH that the arrests and charges “raise your antenna." The DTH quoted Babbour at length and reported on an electronic letter he wrote to all members of the current UNC Men’s lacrosse team after he learned the personal sites of 24 team members contained photos of them posed with what appeared to be alcohol. The DTH reported 14 of the players are underage.

Why no reporting by The N&O on any of this? It’s certainly important. Many of those arrests are news stories in their own right to say nothing of the added news importance they have in the current circumstances.

The N&O is ideally situated to report on every aspect of this story. It has a news bureau in Chapel Hill. It has many connections to administrators and faculty at UNC. That should help with newsgathering. Many N&O reporters and editors have extensive background knowledge of UNC because they’re alums and parents of current and former UNC students.

So why is The N&O not reporting this story?

I’m going to email its public editor, Ted Vaden, and ask him.

I’m also going to contact journalists, bloggers and media critics to learn what they think about The N&O’s failure to report on the current UNC lacrosse players’ arrests and charges.

Stay tuned.

The Raleigh N&O editor and the prison warden

For weeks now most reader comments at Raleigh News & Observer executive editor for news Melanie Sill's blog have been critical of the paper’s Duke lacrosse coverage.

Many readers were upset, for instance, by The N&O's decision to publish a photo of the infamous "vigilante poster" despite warnings that doing so would only further encourage hate groups to target the players pictured on the poster.

Many readers were shocked when they learned The N&O ignored a statement NCCU Chancellor James Ammons issued on one of the tensest days in Durham's recent history. Ammons called for calm and urged people to let the legal process take its course. The Durham Herald Sun printed Ammons' statement in full.

Even The N&O's public editor, Ted Vaden, usually very supportive of the paper, has been critical of its Duke lacrosse coverage (here and here).

Sill feels The N&O's coverage has been excellent. She's praised it often.

Sill usually dismisses specific, fact-based criticisms with the old "we get it from both sides so we're doing just fine" line. In her most recent column, she told readers, "[O]ur focus has been on journalism, not on trying to appease critics."

Sill's dismissal of The N&O's critics reminds me of the old political hack who got himself appointed warden at the state penitentiary.

The place started going downhill fast, and pretty soon there was a big riot.

The governor was forced to appoint a commission to investigate things.

The commission naturally wanted to know what the warden had to say.

"Well," he told the commissioners. "You have people saying the guards and I are too strict; and others saying the guards and I are too easy. That tells me we're doing about right. So I ignore the critics; and I hope you commissioners will do the same."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A critical look at Duke faculty response to the lacrosse case

At Brooklyn College professor of history KC Johnson looks at how Duke faculty members are reacting to the lacrosse case.

Here’s some of Johnson's comments:

[If] as Duke officials have claimed, [President] Brodhead seriously desires to use this event as a “learning opportunity,” he needs to explore why voices among the faculty urging local authorities to respect the due process rights of Duke’s students seemed so overpowered by professors exhibiting a rush to judgment.

In early April, [88] Duke professors [signed] a public statement about the scandal. Three academic departments and 13 of the university’s academic programs also endorsed the statement, which was placed as an advertisement in the student newspaper, The Duke Chronicle, and is currently hosted on the Web site of Duke’s African and African-American Studies program. …

The 88 signatories affirmed that they were “listening” to a select group of students troubled by sexism and racism at Duke. Yet 8 of the 11 quotes supplied from students to whom these professors had been talking, 8 contained no attribution — of any sort, even to the extent of claiming to come from anonymous Duke students.

Nonetheless, according to the faculty members, “The disaster didn’t begin on March 13th and won’t end with what the police say or the court decides.”

It’s hard to imagine that college professors could openly dismiss how the ultimate legal judgment would shape this case’s legacy. Such sentiments perhaps explain why no member of the Duke Law School faculty signed the letter.

More disturbingly, the group of 88 committed themselves to “turning up the volume.” They told campus protesters, “Thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.”

These demonstrators needed no encouragement: They were already vocal, and had already judged the lacrosse players were guilty. One student group produced a “wanted” poster containing photographs of 43 of the 46 white lacrosse players. At an event outside a house rented by several lacrosse team members, organized by a visiting instructor in English Department, protesters held signs reading, “It’s Sunday morning, time to confess.” They demanded that the university force the players to testify or dismiss them from school.

The public silence of most Duke professors allowed the group of 88 to become, in essence, the voice of the faculty. In a local climate that has featured an appointed district attorney whose behavior, at the very least, has been erratic, the Duke faculty might have forcefully advocated respecting the due process rights of all concerned. After all, fair play and procedural integrity are supposed to be cardinal principles of the academy.

In no way would such a position have endorsed the players’ claim to innocence: Due process exists because the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition has determined it elemental to achieving the truth.
Yes, due process is about achieving truth, which is one reason ideologues despise it.

But why the silence by so many faculty members who find the beliefs and actions of the 88 repugnant?

That's a question I want to discuss but not in this post. Soon though.

You can read Johnson's entire comment here. The thread is very interesting too.