Saturday, August 19, 2006

Duke lacrosse: A Duke lax father speaks out

Readers' Note: I've just placed the post below on this thread at the Editor's Blog, where the Raleigh News & Observer's executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, blogs. The N&O's biased, inaccurate and inflammatory Duke lacrosse coverage was a major factor in turning what should have been a thorough and fair police investigation into a witch hunt that's inflicted grave harm on individuals and the community.

The post contains an extraordinary essay by a father of one of the lacrosse players.

The essay appeared this morning in Durham-in-Wonderland.


Dear Melanie,

You keep bringing us news interviews with the Duke hoax accuser’s father and comments and Q Section columns by members of the widely-discredited liberal/leftist Duke faculty Group of 88.

I'm OK with that so long as you give us balance.

But when was the last time you ran an extensive interview story featuring a Duke lacorsse parent or published a column by one of the DL parents ?

If Triangle area readers want to know what DL parents are saying, we have to go to publications such as Durham-in-Wonderland.

Please read the following column which DiW published today. Tell us why we don't see columns like that in your Q Section.

Thanks for giving the column a look. I hope you respond. And I hope other readers respond as well.


DiW publisher's note: Robert Wellington is a Duke lacrosse parent; he recently sent me the essay below, which I reproduce in its entirety - - -


In a world that has become complacent with respect to honesty--or more accurately stated, the lack thereof--two men have emerged as symbols of this new debased standard. One man is the president of the highly regarded Duke University, the other serves as District Attorney in Durham, North Carolina. One man prides himself on his intellectual capacity and erudite demeanor, the other on his newly won status and influence as the top law enforcement official within his community.

Both men relish in their power and positions of leadership and seemingly will do anything to maintain them, yet neither is a leader.

Both men seem to be motivated by fear—the fear of being pushed from the vaunted heights of their personal fiefdoms, the fear of criticism, the fear of admitting that they have made a mistake.

But most of all, they seem to fear being viewed differently than the way they see themselves when looking into a mirror. Neither has the courage to look deeply inside and see who they really are, to catch that glimmer of inspiration which might put them on the road to understanding the responsibilities as well as the hardships that come with the ordination to high office.

Both men have reacted to the Duke Lacrosse circumstances with one overriding impetus: their personal survival.

Neither looked more than one move ahead when they condemned the Duke team, its coach, and its players. Both followed an agenda laid out long before, in one case by those unhappy with the status quo and in the other by the almighty god to those in public office, the politics of reelection.

Neither looked at the facts as they related to the circumstances and players in the Duke Lacrosse travesty; neither cared much for seeking the truth.

One needed to quickly show his constituents that he was on top of his new position as president of Duke University, perhaps a reaction to criticism he had received while at Yale. The other needed to show his constituents that he was fair to people of all colors within his jurisdiction and quick to smite illegality in whatever form it presented itself. Ferreting out the facts and determining if a crime actually happened was secondary to showing the public how good each looked in their shining armor.

As a result, one man rushed to judgment, inflicting more harm on his institution and all associated with it than if a crime had actually occurred. The other ignored proper legal protocol, committing all sorts of procedural improprieties in the hope that the end would justify the means. In the end it appears that the only crimes committed were by these two men.

I fear that both men are well aware of their misdeeds. I fear that once again the actions of both men will be driven by their internal mantra of self-preservation. I fear that each man will never be able to admit that he has made a mistake, much less correct it.

One man hides behind his call for patience so that healing can take place. The other hides behind a fabricated conviction that he believes the boys are guilty no matter what the facts might show. Neither has the courage to say that he was wrong.

Both want to be seen as leaders of men, yet both lack the courage to be honest. Honesty in this case begins with admitting their errors and then correcting them. Perhaps we can forgive their early missteps as being the result of limited facts. But they know what is right now: 1800 pages of prosecutorial evidence, or more correctly lack thereof, have clearly laid out the right action to take.

It is time for these men to clean up the mess they have made. It is time for them to make reparations to those they have harmed. It is best that they fix things now while the power and ability to make amends is still in their hands. The wheels of justice turn slowly but they will not be denied.

This is more than a case of three boys falsely accused by a troubled woman. This is a case of doing what is right. What is right is helping the individuals involved; helping those indicted (and all who have been falsely tarred by these fabricated allegations) to be declared innocent before the world and made whole mentally, emotionally and economically; and also helping the accuser to get proper therapeutic and medical assistance so that she can get her life back on track.

This is not a case of black vs. white or privileged vs. underprivileged. This is a case of honesty, both legally and socially. I call upon these men to do what is right and I pray that they will find the wisdom to know what that is and the courage to do it.

Justice will be meted out eventually. The opportunity can be theirs or left to their inheritors. It is time for them to choose. -----

Second publisher's note: - - -

Wellington's son, Rob, was recently named for the second straight year to the ACC Academic Honor Roll.

After the two initial indictments--when the risk of being the third player targeted by Nifong hung over all other 44 players on the team--Wellington swore out an affidavit confirming that he was with Reade Seligmann throughout the period of the alleged crime. He did so before Seligmann produced, among other items, cellphone records and an ATM videotape confirming that Seligmann is demonstrably innocent.

By risking Nifong's wrath to tell the truth, Rob Wellington is one of the few heroes of this affair.

Duke lacrosse: A small step toward fairness (Post 1)

Readers’ Note: This is a 1, 2, 3 post.

The post reports on an action I took regarding an aspect of Duke University's handling of the "lacrosse story," really a vicious hoax; Duke's response to my action; and my response to Duke.

My initial action was an email to Duke's Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, John F. Burness. That email is Item 1.

If, when you start reading Item 1, you find yourself saying, “I remember this now,” skip right on to Items 2 and 3.

Items 2 and 3 are easily understood once you know the contents of Item 1.


Item 1: Email to Mr. Burness on 8/16.

Dear Mr. Burness:

I blog as John in Carolina and hold two degrees from the university. I've posted often on what's called "the Duke lacrosse case" (actually an extremely harmful hoax), typically on the biased and inflammatory media coverage, especially that of the Raleigh News & Observer.

At the DU website I just entered "duke lacrosse" in the search box.
Below are the first two "hits." Both took me to a main page - Duke .>>> News & Communications - which link to statements, articles, etc.

I've two questions I hope you'll answer:

1) Why was the head: Duke University Duke Lacrosse: Information on Sexual Assault... used in the first place?

2) Why does the university continue to use it now ?

Thank you for your attention to my questions.



Duke University | Duke Lacrosse: Information on Sexual Assault ...
... the year winner whose teams won eight conference championships at Hofstra University, was announced as the new head coach of the Duke's men's lacrosse team at ... - 19k - 2006-08-15 - Cached

Duke University | Duke Lacrosse: Information on Sexual Assault ...
... the year winner whose teams won eight conference championships at Hofstra University, was announced as the new head coach of the Duke's men's lacrosse team at ... - 19k - 2006-08-15 - Cached

Item 2: A response on 8/18 from Mr. David Jarmul on behalf of Mr. Burness.

John (or should I say "John in Carolina"?),

Hi from David Jarmul in Duke's Office of News and Communications. John Burness asked me to respond to your message, which I was glad to receive since it pointed out something that needed attention. You were right about what popped up if someone searched on the words "Duke lacrosse" on the Duke search engine.

The words that appeared after the colon, i.e., "Information on Sexual Assault," were part of a longer phrase that comprised the "title tag" in the page's underlying code. However, as you saw, the rest of the phrase got cut off on the search result.

The title tag was written in the days immediately after this incident became public, when the focus was squarely on the alleged sexual assault. We've now updated it to read: "Duke Lacrosse: Information on the March 13 Incident and Related Events."

Thanks again for alerting us to this.

-- David

Item 3: My response on 8/19 to Mr. Jarmul.

Dear David:

I don’t doubt that what’s been done in response to my inquiry represents a good-faith effort by the university. Thank you for that.

However, there is much more in this area that needs correcting.

As of 6:00 p.m. EDT, Saturday, Aug. 19, a search of Duke’s website using the entry words “Duke lacrosse” yeilded hits as troubling as the ones that prompted my initial email to Mr. Burness.

The following is the 10th hit :

Duke University | Information on Sexual Assault Charges Against ...
... also received numerous unsolicited emails and letters from many generations of Duke alumni and from parents and friends of Duke lacrosse players expressing ... - 76k - 2006-07-31 - Cached
A click on that hit's Information on Sexual Assault Charges Against took me to a copy of the Coleman Report.

Information on Sexual Assault Charges Against and The Coleman Report?

That's the sort of linkage sensible people would expect Mike Nifong, Raleigh N&O reporters and the faculty's Group of 88 to make.

But how did the university make such a linkage?

And why, David, is Duke still making that linkage?

The following is the 12th hit:
Duke University | Information on Sexual Assault Charges Against ...
... Senior Vice President John F. Burness issues statement on the indictment of Duke lacrosse captain David Evans by the Durham Grand Jury. Click here for more. ... - 18k - 2006-07-31 - Cached
A click on that Information on Sexual Assault Charges Against head took me to a page where the most recent in a series of announcements was President Brodhead’s June 5 announcement that the Men’s lacrosse team was being reinstated.

Why does that page have the head: Information on Sexual Assault Charges Against?

How did that happen given President Brodhead’s repeated assurances to the Duke community and the broader community that he and the university have taken great care to be scrupulously fair to the lacrosse players?

I didn’t go past the 12th hit.

But I suspect that in the remaining 3,038 hits the “Duke lacrosse” search yielded, there are very likely many more hits of the kind that fly in the face of President Brodhead's assurances.

How can that situation be changed?

To restate as regards your response to my initial inquiry: I don’t doubt good-faith was involved.

I look forward to hearing from you.

I’ve posted my initial email to Mr. Burness, your response, and this email in a new post.

I’ll send you a link to that post by separate email. I've titled it: "Duke lacrosse: A small step toward fairness (Post 1).



Duke lacrosse: Thank you, La Shawn Barber

I was surfing the net this morning and googled "Nifong campaign website"

Here's one of the first hits:

La Shawn Barber’s Corner » 2006 » July KC Johnson found Nifong’s campaign web site and dissects the heck out of it. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer calls for a special prosecutor to handle the ... - 109k - Aug 17, 2006 - Cached - Similar pages

From that one hit a surfer learns of KC Johnson's dissection and the Charlotte Observer's call for a special prosecutor. Terrific!

And so is the post to which "the hit" links.

La Shawn doesn't post often on Duke lacrosse but when she does it's usually major and always well-done.

If you haven't visited La Shawn's blog, you know to use the link above and look around. You'll find a nice mix of sharp, informed commentary, source material, and interesting visuals.

For great blogging: Thank you, La Shawn Barber.

And thank you Google and Internet.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Churchill Series – Aug. 18, 2006

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

In November, 1922 Clementine Churchill traveled from London to Dundee, Scotland with her seven week old daughter, Mary. Clementine went to Dundee to campaign in Churchill’s place for his re-election to Parliament. He was in London, recovering from a recent appendectomy.

With the election scheduled for the 15th, Churchill was still in a weakened condition when his doctor agreed he could make the trip to Dundee and campaign in the election’s closing days.

Churchill’s biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, tells us about what happened next:

On November 10 Churchill left London by sleeper for Dundee. On the following evening, at a meeting of his supporters, he was too ill to stand, and had to speak sitting on a special platform. …

[At one point Churchill stood to deliver] a message of good cheer to “suffering, struggling, baffled tortured humanity the wide world o’er.”

The effort of standing was extremely painful and left him exhausted. Two days later, before a hostile audience, he was booed, hissed and interrupted so frequently that he could not finish his speech.

“You will be at the bottom of the poll,” one heckler cried.

“If I am going to be at the bottom of the poll,” he answered, “why don’t you allow me my last dying kick?”

Two days later Dundee went to the polls. [Churchill was trounced and] out of Parliament for the first time in twenty-two years. …

As he left Dundee by the night train he was seen off by a crowd of [supporters. A local newspaper reported the next that Churchill told them] “he had always been a democrat, and had always believed in the right of the people to make their own institutions. He bowed to that now.”
Churchill’s remarks provide a fitting note on which to end this three-post series on the 1922 Dundee election.

Duke lacrosse: Johnsville is asking questions

At Johnsville News, a blog that's done so much to help the public understand the Duke lacrosse hoax and the injustices it's spawned, staffers are reporting tonight that North Carolina Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III:

has been tossed the Duke Lacrosse hot potato.
But Johnsville reporters, in their typical "get to the bottom of Sgt. Gottlieb's beer glass" fashion, aren’t letting the story rest there.

They’ve begun asking the kind of tough questions Raleigh News & Observer reporters only whisper to themselves when they're having a nightcap at Blinco's.

Questions like:
So Judge Smith doesn't like his first name and prefers Osmond? What is he trying to hide?

Good lord, there goes the local North Carolina media again, dropping the damn ball. What the heck does the "W" stand for please? Can someone in Durham please start investigating these mysteries.
Now, I don't have the answer to any of Johnsville's questions. But I did hear something down at the courthouse that hasn't been reported.

It seems the other day a fellow went into Durham Superior Court and petitioned for a name change. The court later ruled :
Petitioner Bob Ashley comes before this court and begs relief, seeking approval for a name change.

Petitioner Ashley’s claim is that having the same name as the current editor of the Durham Herald Sun is a "burden and extreme embarrassment."

This court is sympathetic to Petitioner Ashley's claim and in most circumstances would grant the petitioner relief.

However, the court fails to see how the "burden and extreme embarrassment" of the name, Bob Ashley, will be relieved by a name change to that of the current editorial page editor of the Raleigh News & Observer, Steve Ford.

Petition denied.
Visit Johnsville for updates.

Duke lacrosse: The Raleigh N&O is reportedly “fair and accurate”

Readers’ Note: “Fair and accurate” is the McClatchy Company’s Raleigh News & Observer’s favorite promo line. It pops up all the time in the N&O’s advertising.

I'll bet most of you are laughing or groaning now.

But most news reporters, columnists and editors at the N&O can deliver the "fair and accurate" line without so much as a grin or a blush.

Well, if they can say it, why can't they do more fair and accurate news reporting and news columns?

To help them do that, I just left the following comment at this post at the Editor's Blog where Melanie Sill, the N&O exec editor for news often praises herself and her staff for news reporting and news columns she tells readers are - you know - "fair and accurate."


Dear Melanie,

I noticed in a comment concerning an alleged assault you referred to the “reported victim”

But in the N&O’s Mar 24 front-page story that “broke” what was then called “the Duke lacrosse case” (something we now know began with a hoax hyped by the N&O’s biased, inaccurate and inflammatory coverage) you seven times referred to the accuser as the “victim” or with the possessive “victim’s.”

You never once used a conditional qualifier such as “reported.”

Why did you label the accuser “the victim,” without a conditional qualifier?

Your story reporters and editors did that deliberately. What was their reason(s)? How do they justify doing that knowing that what they were doing was framing the lacrosse players as the accuser’s victimizers?

You’ve told readers what the N&O did is “common practice.” But that’s not true where rape is concerned as you know. Your own N&O news archives make that clear

I’ve completed and double checked a customized review of N&O news archives for all of January and February, 2006.

I used a single input word: “rape.” That yielded many hits.

Reading the news stories I found hundreds of instances in which an accuser was referred to, but in none of those instances did the N&O call the accuser “the victim” or even “the alleged victim” or “the reported victim.”

Why, then, in your Mar. 24 story in which the rest of media and your readers first learned about “Duke lacrosse,” did a group of your reporters and editors deliberately identify the accuser as the “victim,” knowing that by doing so they were framing the lacrosse players as her victimizers?

In the N&O’s Mar. 25 front-page interview with the accuser you told other media and readers:

“It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify the victims of sex crimes.” (bold added)
The N&O couldn’t have said it more definitively: It doesn’t “identify the victims of sex crimes.”

But look at how the N&O explained its policy on granting anonymity in the three instances I found in your archives for February, 2006:

2/2 - “The News & Observer does not identify those reported to be victims of sexual crimes.”

2/9 - “The News & Observer does not release the names of people reported to be victims of sexual assault.”

2/21 - “It is the policy of The News & Observer not to release the identity of people reported to be victims of sexual assault. “(bolds added)

In all three instances in February the conditional qualifier "reported" was used.

But in the N&O's Mar. 25 story the N&O decided to eliminate the conditional qualifier and tell readers it was granting the woman anonymity because that's what it did for "victims of sex crimes."

Why did your reporters and editors working on the Mar. 25 interview story decide to do that; and thereby further frame the lacrosse players as the victimizers of the woman the N&O was repeatedly calling "the victim?"

What you did in those Mar. 24 and 25 stories isn’t really standard McClatchy Company practice, is it?

Now, Melanie, will you please finally answer my questions?

And will you please stop telling readers things like this:
Using the word "victim": Readers of The N&O and most print publications, and online for that matter, know that it's common practice to describe people listed as victims in criminal reports as victims. What is unusual in this case isn't that we used that term, but that we and most other media have stopped using it.
Even your public editor, Ted Vaden, doesn’t want to have to try to justify what the N&O did and what you’ve been saying. He sent me back to you when I presented him with the information above and more like it.

The N&O should make a front-page, public apology to the players and their families for much of what you did in the Mar. 24 and 25 stories and many like them that followed.

N&O readers and the ethical news colleagues the N&O misled also deserve apologies.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Churchill Series – Aug. 17, 2006

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

In November, 1922 Clementine was in Dundee, Scotland with her seven week old baby, Mary, campaigning to help Churchill retain his parliamentary seat in the general election scheduled for November 15.

Churchill was unable to be in Dundee; he was in London recovering from a recent appendectomy. His doctors would not allow him to go to Dundee until the 11th and even at that he was still so weak he delivered most of his speeches in the closing days while sitting down.

Just before Churchill left for Dundee on the 11th he received a letter from Clementine. You’ll see her inform him of the situation he’ll face and tactfully suggest how he should respond :

The situation here is an anxious one …

Of course I feel the minute you arrive the atmosphere will change & the people will be roused – If you bring Thompson [a Scotland Yard detective who often served as Churchill’s bodyguard. – JinC] etc tell him to conceal himself tactfully, as it would not do if the populace thought you were afraid of them. The papers are so vile, they would misrepresent it & say you had brought detectives because you were afraid of the rowdy element – They are capable of anything.

If you feel strong enough, I think besides the Drill Hall Meeting which is pretty sure to be broken up, you should address one to two small open meetings. Every rowdy meeting rouses sympathy & brings votes & will especially as you have been so ill. Even in the rowdiest foulest places of all the people tho’ abusive were really good-natured. …

I am longing to see you & so is Dundee. … I shall be heartbroken if you get in. … I find what the people like best is the settlement of the Irish Question. So I trot that out & also your share in giving the Boers self government. The idea against you seems to be tht you are a War Monger. But I am exhibiting you as a Cherub Peace Maker with little fluffy wings round your chubby face.

I think the line is not so much “Smash the Socialists” as to try with your great abilities to help in finding solution of the Capital & Labour problem & I tell them that now that you are free from the cares & labours of office you will have time to think that out & work fro it in the next Parliament.
Doesn’t Clementine do a wonderful job of lettering Churchill know what a tough fight he’s in; the issues on which he’s vulnerable; and how best to respond. It’s a smart and politically experienced person wise in the ways of human beings who’s writing that letter.

Tomorrow we’ll see Churchill campaign, be soundly beaten at the polls and leave Dundee with grace.
Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Edited by their daughter Mary Soames. (p. 264-265)

Duke lacrosse: KC Johnson “moves” to Durham-in-Wonderland

Historian, professor and blogger Robert KC Johnson has moved to Durham-in-Wonderland where he’ll continue the outstanding Duke lacrosse blogging he began at Cliopatria.

Here’s part of KC’s first Duke lacrosse post, Duke News (April 16):

In the latest in what has seemed a poorly managed investigation, the Durham police gained entry, without warrants and apparently without the assistance of the Duke police, to Duke dorms and attempted to interrogate several lacrosse players, who all sides knew had lawyers.

When asked about the matter Friday, Brodhead said he didn't know enough about the issue to comment, and hasn't said anything since.
With his concerns about “a poorly managed investigation” and President Brodhead’s silence, KC was ahead of most people.

Back on April 16 hardly anyone on the Duke faculty was expressing any concern about what Nifong and the police were doing. And few have publicly expressed any concern since, although many now want me to know when we talk face-to-face that they had “grave concerns very early.”

Back on April 16 the editorial writers at the Raleigh News & Observer and the Durham Herald Sun had no problems with the investigation. In fact, they still don’t.

Both papers continue to support Nifong in his determination to prosecute three Duke students whose indictments were the results of investigative travesties that included a photo ID procedure in which the accuser was told she would be looking only at pictures of students who had been at the party.

Duke Law Professor James E. Coleman, Jr understood the purpose of that travesty: “Any three students would do; there could be no wrong choice.”

President Brodhead has found nothing critical to say about Nifong. Brodhead hasn’t questioned any of the investigative travestes that included a photo ID that most people would see as a frameup. Throw the indictments out? Brodhead’s told the Friends of Duke University that he’s looking forward to the students having a chance to prove their innocence at trial. (Yes, it is supposed to work the other way.)

Brodhead may be silent but KC has continued to speak out on many aspects of the Duke lacrosse hoax. His posts are carefully researched, organized, and literate.

There’s something I especially like about KC’s posts: He can skewer hypocrites, especially ones from the academy. Look how KC responded to Duke’s Professor Karla Holloway when she recently indulged in some PC preening in a letter to the Herald Sun :
Holloway, who is currently chair of the Race Subcommittee of President William Brodhead’s Campus Cultures Initiative, complained about “the athletic spaces of Duke where it has become painfully clear that for some, the rules of the game are different.”

Duke, she proclaimed, is a campus beset by the “problematic issues of race, respect, and equity” (it’s worth remembering, as I’ve noted before, that Group of 88 members are talking about a campus where a department chair could jokingly explain away the faculty’s overwhelming ideological imbalance by noting, “If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.”)

It might be that the Duke Chronicle was wrong when it chastised the Group of 88 for "listening" to a handful of students while ignoring the "several thousand others of us” undergrads who disagreed that “Duke breeds cultures of hate, racism, sexism and other forms of backward thinking.” But at this stage, the campus newspaper has more credibility on this issue than someone who signed the Group of 88's statement.

Holloway continued on how difficult this entire process has been for her. “Of course you want a chance to make your campus better,” she recently told the Herald-Sun, "but at what cost? When you are serviced to fix the problem and you are also the victim, it’s a double duty.”

Holloway holds an endowed chair in English. Moreover, I’m a bit dubious about how anyone who joined what David Brooks has termed Durham’s “witch hunt” by signing the Group of 88’s statement defines “victim.”

Holloway also informed Herald-Sun readers that “her committee has been working hard all summer, fully informed by many documents, including those from the President's Council on Black Affairs, the Duke University Black Alumni, as well as students, administrators and faculty members.”

Yet today, when people e-mailed Holloway to ask about her letter, they received the following reply:
Thank you for your message. However, I will be away from the office and will not be reading email regularly until August. Until that time, the most reliable way to reach me is to post your correspondence . . . If your message is urgent or time sensitive, please contact the English Department Office.
Perhaps Holloway’s subcommittee isn’t working all that hard on campus this summer. (But then again, it doesn’t need to do so, since its conclusions appear to have been laid down by the Group of 88's statement.)

Or perhaps Holloway is simultaneously toiling away on campus this summer while she’s out of her office and not answering her email until August—just as one of Nifong’s targets, Reade Seligmann, was simultaneously committing a crime while he was videotaped at an ATM machine a mile away. The last three months have shown that the law operates differently in Durham; perhaps physics does as well.
Keep it up, KC. You do great work.

And welcome to Durham in Wonderland. Our town needs more folks like you.

Ruth Sheehan helped me learn today

A friend sent the following one-word comment on Raleigh News & Observer news columnist Ruth Sheehan's latest:

Dreck? I knew it couldn't be good, but just what did it mean?

Well, off to the dictionary to learn.


n : merchandise that is shoddy or inferior [syn: schlock, shlock]

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

I'll bet there are already speech therapists out there thinking to use the following exercise with patients working on the sibilant s sound.

On Southport's sandy, sunny, sloping shores, she saw Sheehan's schlock in the Raleigh N&O.

So it's possible some good can come from a Ruth Sheehan column, but we have to work pretty hard to make it happen, don't we?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Churchill Series - Aug. 16, 2006

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

Churchill lost a good many political battles. One of his defeats occurred in November, 1922, when he lost his parliamentary seat in Dundee, Scotland in the November 15th General Election.

The reasons for Churchill's defeat were many and complex. I'll say something about them tomorrow. Today I’ll mention only one of them: Churchill's inability to actively campaign until the last few days before election because he was recovering from an appendectomy, a surgical procedure which in those days required an extended convalescent period.

While he convalesced in London, Churchill’s banner was carried in Dundee by Clementine and some friends. Churchill wrote to Clementine on November 6th. He mentions Sarah , their fifteen year old daughter, and “your kitten,” their seven week old baby, Mary.

[Dr.] Hartigan examined Sarah this morning and said she had had a little cold behind the nose which would naturally cause a certain irritation in the ear, and that there was no connection whatever between this and the glands. [Sarah suffered from tubercular glands. – JinC] Her temperature is normal and she is quite all right. We are, however, keeping her indoors for a day or two as a precautionary measure. …

I do hope you were not too tired by your long journey. I felt it was a great effort for you to cart yourself and your kitten all that way last night.

Jack [Wodehouse, a friend. – JinC] telephoned this morning that you were all right and were addressing a meeting this evening. Do take it easy. The mere fact of your presence will I am sure be highly beneficial. …
Clementine was quite a woman. That train trip to Dundee with a seven-week old must have taken about 12 hours. And look what her daughter Mary would later tell us happened once she got there :
Clementine flung herself into the front line, making spirited speeches at packed rowdy meetings. General Spears reported to Winston on the bitterness and violence of the campaign: At one meeting, Clementine, wearing a string of pearls, had been spat upon by women. Spears commented admiringly: “Clemmie’s bearing was magnificent – like an aristocrat going to the guillotine in a tumbrel.”
Quite a woman, indeed.
Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill, edited by their daughter, Mary Soames. (p. 264)

Duke lacrosse: Is 60 Minutes planning a “blockbuster?”

Yes, says attorney, columnist and blogger Michael Gaynor:

"60 Minutes" premiered on September 24, 1968. Its website promotes the show as "the CBS News magazine providing a blend of hard-hitting investigative reports, interviews, feature segments and profiles of people in the news" and "the most successful broadcast in television history." The current plan is for its thirty-ninth season to begin with a blockbuster expose on the Duke case.

Mike Nifong, make a note: as of now, on September 24, 2006, an inevitable hour of infamy finally will follow your undeserved and disgraceful fifteen minutes of fame and you will realize that your short-term political gain from your deplorable (political) decision to prosecute (and persecute) the Duke Three was NOT worth it.
Gaynor suggests issues, actions and motives 60 Minutes could very likely explore (well, really, expose) before he closes with a strong statement of what he thinks will be the outcome of the 60 Minutes “blockbuster” he’s predicting:
Politics has been defined as the art of the possible, and few politicians are saints. When one party dominates [as it does in Durham], the local establishment may do some despicable things in the arrogant belief that it can get away with it. Often, unfortunately, that turns out to be true.

Sometimes, fortunately, it doesn't. It finally will be obvious to all but the oblivious that there was no kidnapping, or rape, or sexual offense, but there was a false accusation and an opportunistic prosecutor fighting for his job.
Michael gave me a heads up on his column, which he posted a few hours ago.

I emailed Michael asking for more information that will confirm that 60 Minutes is planning the story.

Right now, the 60 Minutes report needs to be in our “Unconfirmed” column.

But I sure hope what Michael’s reporting is true.

The more people learn about “the Duke lacrosse case,” the more they realize it began with a wildly improbable, vicious hoax that was hyped to the point of hysteria by the Duke area’s major news organization, The McClatchy Company’s Raleigh News & Observer.

On March 24, the N&O “broke” the story with a front-page report that seven times referred to the accuser as “the victim” or with the possessive “the victim’s” without ever once preceding any of them with a conditional qualifier such as “alleged.”

For weeks thereafter, the N&O and much of the rest of MSM which “lazed along” with its biased, inaccurate and inflammatory “reporting,” savaged the Duke students and shamelessly exploited race, class and gender issues.

With a few honorable exceptions, Duke’s trustees, its President, Richard H. Brodhead, his loyal “administrative team” and the faculty have remained silent as injustice after injustice has been inflicted on Duke students, and the community has been endangered by hateful people and groups emboldened by Nifong, the N&O and the Duke-Brodhead profile in cowering.

The N&O was so emboldened by April 2 that it published and distributed that day a version of the infamous "vigilante" poster. It did that just weeks after it refused to publish any of the Danish cartoons that were upsetting to its Muslim readers.

By April 17, the situation had become so dangerous that even Brodhead realized something needed to be done. He joined with NC Central University Chancellor James Ammons and Durham Mayor Bill Bell to take out full-page newspaper ads calling for community calm and asking people to allow the law to take its course.

If a 60 Minutes “blockbuster” is, in fact, a go for September 24, it will appear not just on 60 Minutes’ 40th Anniversary program, but also on the 6th month Anniversary of the N&O’s March 24th “seven times she’s a victim” story.

It’s hard to see how 60 Minutes, on September 24th, could ignore what the N&O did in its March 24th story and avoid discussing the effect such "reporting" could have on someone like Nifong, who was then in the midst of a hotly contested election.

A final thought:

On September 8, 2004, CBS, Dan Rather and 60 Minutes ran the phony Texas Air National Guard story; and then for days afterwards told everyone how the bloggers were getting it all wrong,

Two years later, if 60 Minutes runs a Duke lacrosse story, I don’t know how much it will get right.

But I know 60 Minutes knows if it runs the “blockbuster,” the bloggers will be sitting out there in their pajamas, watching and ready to report.

Stay tuned for updates.

And don't forget to take a look at Gaynor's column.

This made me smile

I told my wife: "One of the reasons I love you is you put up with so much of my nonsense."

She arched an eyebrow and said: "I put up with all your nonsense."

She's right.

Duke lacrosse: Inquiry to a Duke Vice President

Readers' Note: John F. Burness is Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations at Duke University. According to his bio description Burness "oversees the coordination and management of communication programs and strategies with the university's various publics."

I just sent him the following email. I'll let you know what I hear back.


Dear Mr. Burness:

I blog as John in Carolina and hold two degrees from the university.

I've posted often on what's called "the Duke lacrosse case" (actually an extremely harmful hoax), typically on the biased and inflammatory media coverage, especially that of the Raleigh News & Observer.

At the DU website I just entered "duke lacrosse" in the search box.

Below are the first two "hits." Both took me to a main page - Duke .>>> News & Communications - which link to statements, articles, etc.

I've two questions I hope you'll answer:

1) Why was the head: Duke University Duke Lacrosse: Information on Sexual Assault... used in the first place?

2) Why does the university continue to use it now ?

Thank you for your attention to my questions.



Duke University | Duke Lacrosse: Information on Sexual Assault ...
... the year winner whose teams won eight conference championships at Hofstra University, was announced as the new head coach of the Duke's men's lacrosse team at ... - 19k - 2006-08-15 - Cached

Duke University | Duke Lacrosse: Information on Sexual Assault ...
... the year winner whose teams won eight conference championships at Hofstra University, was announced as the new head coach of the Duke's men's lacrosse team at ... - 19k - 2006-08-15 - Cached

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Churchill Series – Aug. 15, 2006

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

In July, 1888, as the thirteen year old Winston Churchill was ending his first term at Harrow, his housemaster, H. O. D. Davidson, wrote a report letter to Winston’s mother. Davidson said Winston was not :

in any way willfully troublesome; but his forgetfulness, carelessness, unpunctuality, and irregularity in every way, have really been so serious, that I write to ask you, when he is at home, to speak very gravely to him on the subject.

When a boy first comes to a public school, one always expects a certain amount of helplessness, owing to being left to himself so much more in regard to preparation of work &c. But a week or two is generally enough for a boy to get used to the ways of the place.

Winston, I am sorry to say, has, if anything, got worse as the term passed. Constantly late for school, losing his books and papers and various other things into which I need not enter – he is so regular in his irregularity that I really don’t know what to do; and sometimes think he cannot help it.

But if he is unable to conquer this slovenliness (for I think all the complaints I have to make of him can be grouped under this head, though it takes various forms), he will never make a success of a public school. …

As far as ability goes he ought to be at the top of his form, whereas he is at the bottom. …

I have written very plainly to you, as I do think it very serious that he should have acquired such phenomenal slovenliness. …
Well, we know how it all turned out, don’t we?

Two items:

A hat tip to Housemaster Davidson for seeing past the problematic behavior and recognizing Churchill’s inherent ability: “he ought to be at the top of his form.” During Churchill’s childhood and youth, many people wrote him off as a dullard, the most important of them being his father, Lord Randolph.

Were you thinking as you read the letter: “Today, a teacher would be telling Jennie Churchill, ‘I think Winston may be LD. You ought to have him evaluated. We’re probably expecting too much of him?’”
Ted Morgan, Churchill: Young Man in a Hurry, 1874-1915. (p.45)

Duke lacrosse: A major post at Johnsville News

Today Johnsville News posted a detailed analysis of the accusser's claims of robbery and Nifong's treatment of them.

The post, "Duke Case: Poof...the Grubby Thievery Disappears," on first reading looks to be another example of Johnsville's suburb attention to detail and reasoning.

I've noted only one small error so far which I'd have emailed Johnsville about if I knew an address. Johnsville a couple of times refers to statements the accusser made in the N&O's Mar. 25 interview as being made in a Mar. 24 story.

I urge you to give the post a look.

I plan to comment on it further tomorrow.

The Raleigh News & Observer made me an offer

Readers’ Note: What I’m about to say will shock many of you who know I’m often critical of the McClatchy Company’s liberal trending left Raleigh News & Observer.

I’ve been invited to join the N&O’s editorial staff.

The offer came from the N&O’s executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, who wrote:

If you'd like to take part in our front-page meetings, held weekdays at 4:30 p.m., contact Becky Beach at or 829-8949.
Melanie placed her offer at the bottom of her column in Sunday’s paper, so that it could be delivered directly to my driveway.

Although I’m eager to help the N&O and believe improving the paper will be easy, I think I should ask Melanie some questions before accepting her offer.

I’d hate to get a few weeks into the job and find out that my ideas for improving the N&O didn’t fit with what the editors wanted to offer readers.

So I decided to write Melanie a letter, which is below this note. I welcome your comments.

I posted the letter on the thread of a post at the Editor Blog where Melanie also made her offer.

A final item: I’m under the impression that many of you may also have been invited to join the N&O’s editorial staff.

I hope you’ll give your offers some thought and perhaps write your own letters asking Melanie any questions you may have. I’ve put a link to the Editor's Blog post and thread at the end of my letter.


Dear Melanie:

Thank you for your offer of a position on your front-page editorial staff.

Before accepting, I want to ask a few questions:

We’re just a little more than a week away from the five-month anniversaries of the N&O’s publication on Mar. 24 of the story which “broke” what was then called “the Duke lacrosse case” (really an extraordinarily harmful hoax) and your Mar. 25 publication of the interview with the accuser who the N&O said was granted anonymity because that was what the N&O did for “victims of sex crimes.”

Both stories were, as you know, front-pagers.

Would you and the other editors agree if I suggested that on Aug. 24 we run a front-page story explaining why in our Mar. 24 story we seven times referred to the accuser as “victim” or with the possessive “victim’s” never once preceding them with a conditional qualifier such as “alleged?”

I know you’ve told readers what we did was “common practice”, but it's not, as evidence from our own N&O archives and reference to other newspapers make clear.

And while we’re explaining to readers why we cast the accuser as “the victim” and framed the lacrosse players as her victimizers, what would you and the other editors say to a front-page apology to the players, their families, and our readers?

If you can’t say how the other editors would feel about an apology, I can understand that.

But are you OK with making an apology?

I’ll help you write one and we can show it to other editors. If they won’t go along with it, you can always make the apology here at the Editor’s Blog.

What if I suggested that on Aug. 25 we publish the full, unedited transcript of the Mar. 25 interview with only the accuser’s ID material removed? Many readers have said doing that could help with our credibility problems.

You know that Mike Nifong didn’t start speaking publicly about Duke lacrosse until Mar. 27. I'd like to interview Nifong and ask him what he thought of our Mar. 24 and 25 stories?

Nifong was campaigning for office then, and I’m sure he read those stories and gauged their effect on public opinion in Durham.

I could also ask Nifong what he thought of Ruth Sheehan’s “Shut down the team” column. We published Ruth's column on the morning of Mar. 27.

I’ll bet Nifong read it before he gave his first interviews later that day. Political candidates always want to know what's in the morning papers before they meet with media.

I’ll ask Nifong if his ridiculing of the players and calling them hooligans for doing no more than following the advice of their counsels in his Mar. 27 interviews wasn’t influenced by Sheehan’s savaging of them that morning for doing the same thing.

Somehow, Melanie, a lot of the public is getting the idea that Nifong started the witch hunt. We need to let the public know about all the N&O did before Nifong began his part of the witch hunt.

What about a front-page series:"THE N&O LED AND NIFONG FOLLOWED?"

Thank you for your attention to my questions.


Editor's Blog post thread.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Churchill Series – Aug. 14, 2006

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

In Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship Jon Meacham provides a beautifully written account of Churchill’s March, 1946 visit to the grave of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The grave is in a small garden a few hundred feet from the Hyde Park house where Roosevelt was born, and which remained his home throughout his life.

Meacham (pgs. 361-362):

Eleanor met Churchill and Clementine, and they walked to the garden. The former prime minister stood, hatless, staring at his friend’s grave. Watching Churchill, Eleanor “felt sure that he was thinking of the years when he and my husband had worked in such close cooperation to win the war.”

Only the clicks of newsmen’s cameras capturing the scene broke the silence as Churchill contemplated the white tombstone and the flowers before it. “I think it was a day of great emotion for Mr. Churchill,” Eleanor wrote. “Besides the respect he had for my husband as a statesman, which made it possible for them to work together even when they differed, he also had a real affection for him as a human being, just as my husband had for him.”

For three minutes Churchill said nothing, his hands in his overcoat pockets. Franklin Roosevelt had been perhaps the most complex human being he had ever known – difficult and demanding and frustrating, but compelling and warm and sparkling. Dark and light, mixed up together.

This made me smile

At the Raleigh News & Observer public editor Ted Vaden’s misnamed Readers’ Corner blog we find this amusing and true comment by Daryl Baker:

Getting an accurate story at the N&O seems to be akin to winning the big prize in the "North Carolina Education lottery".

Duke lacrosse: N&O columnist makes false statement, slimes players

Readers Note: Dennis Rogers is a news columnist for the Raleigh News & Observer, the newspaper whose biased, inaccurate and inflammatory coverage of the Duke lacrosse story did so much to turn what should have been a fair, thorough police investigation into a witch hunt that's included investigative and legal travesties that have harmed innocent people and the community.

Some people believe the N&O has now ceased its outrages as the public has begun to realize "the Duke lacrosse case" is based on a hoax that certain individuals and groups have used to advance their interests and agendas.

But while the N&O has cut back on the frequency of its outrages, it still engages in them.

A very recent example is Rogers’ Aug. 12. news column in which he made a statement about the players that he and his editors had to know was false. Rogers immediately followed his false statement with an outrageous slime of the players.

I decided to write the following electronic letter to the N&O’s executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, who says news columnists “are under my watch.”

Sill has also told readers (scroll to seventh comment dated 9/21/05 at 12:32):

News section columnists are held to the same standards as news reporters in terms of ethics, news gathering and so forth. They could be fired for the same reasons reporters could be fired -- violating N&O standards in any of a variety of areas, ranging from plagiarism to professional behavior lapses.


August 14, 2006

Melanie Sill
Executive editor for news
Raleigh News & Observer
Raleigh, North Carolina

Dear Melanie:

In Dennis Rogers’ Aug. 12 news column he tells readers :
The lacrosse players say, nope, they don't remember a thing. I can appreciate that, having been to college parties where the details are still hazy. Unless something happened. In that case, I clearly recall being in a Laundromat at the time in question, your honor.
Rogers’ statement, “The lacrosse players say, nope, they don’t remember a thing.,” is false.

Rogers, his editors, you and I all know the statement is false.

The three indicted players have provided detailed accounts of their actions the night of March 13/14.

David Evans voluntarily provided a statement to police on Mar. 16 when he also voluntarily agreed to go to Duke Hospital to submit to rape kit testing. He also volunteered to take a police administered lie detector test. There are many witnesses ready to substantiate his detailed statement.

Reade Seligmann, through his attorney, has provided cell phone records, a time-stamped ATM receipt, a time-stamped ATM photo, a time-stamped food purchase receipt, a cab driver witness, teammate witnesses, and timed Duke dorm entry card data. That evidence, along with a statement by Seligmann, establishes a minute-by-minute account of what he was doing during the only time in which the alleged brutal gang-rape, beating, robbery and strangulation claimed by the accuser could have taken place.

Collin Finnerty’s attorneys say they have documentation and witnesses to his actions during the time in question that provide evidence as detailed and strong as that of Seligmann’s.

Other lacrosse players who were at the party have provided and signed detailed statements.

The lacrosse players have even provided, through their attorneys, numerous time-stamped photos of the party, including ones of the accuser.

However, everything the players have done to detail their actions that night didn’t stop Rogers, his editors and the N&O from making what you all knew was a false statement :
The lacrosse players say, nope, they don't remember a thing.
Rogers, his editors and the N&O weren’t satisfied with making a deliberately false and malicious statement.

They went on to deliberately and maliciously slime the Duke students by insinuating they are not truthful regarding their activities during the critical time the evening of Mar. 13/14 when the alleged felony crimes would have to have occured :
I can appreciate that, having been to college parties where the details are still hazy. Unless something happened. In that case, I clearly recall being in a Laundromat at the time in question, your honor.
Do Rogers and the N&O offer any evidence for their insinuation the players are lying? Of course not! N&O standards don't require any.

Melanie, at the Editor's Blog on the thread of this post you told N&O readers:
News section columnists are held to the same standards as news reporters in terms of ethics, news gathering and so forth. They could be fired for the same reasons reporters could be fired -- violating N&O standards in any of a variety of areas, ranging from plagiarism to professional behavior lapses.(bold added)
As a regular N&O reader who’s followed closely your Duke lacrosse coverage, I don’t question that Rogers’ false statement and sliming meet N&O standards.

Nevertheless, I think the N&O owes its readers a correction and explanation for what Rogers, his editors and the N&O did.

Also, as a matter of minimal decency the Duke students are owed the correction and explanation as well as an apology for Rogers’ column and so much else the N&O has done to harm their lives.

Finally, Melanie, I want to make a suggestion. Raise the N&O’s standards for reporters, news columnists and editors, including you. At present, your standards are disgracefully low as Dennis Rogers’ column demonstrates.



cc: Dennis Rogers

Ted Vaden, public editor

Sunday, August 13, 2006

These made me smile

Coming back to North Carolina, home and my family.

Also, a question another traveler asked:

”Have you read 'Into the Deep, Dark, Mysterious Forest' by Hugo First?”
Well, no, I hadn’t.

But I definitely plan to read First’s book, which I think is either his second or third.

Meanwhile, I’m reading other very scary stuff by Raleigh News & Observer editors Melanie Sill and Ted Vaden.

See you tomorrow.


Duke lacrosse: Raleigh N&O’s public editor’s double copout

It was widely expected Raleigh News & Observer public editor Ted Vaden would follow the N&O company line regarding a single dating error in reporter Joe Neff’s excellent 3,700 word story, "Lacrosse files show gaps in DA's case."

Neff’s story detailed procedural irregularities and very likely “forced” evidenced that were part of DA Mike Nifong’s pursuit of indictments against three Duke lacrosse players. (“Any three studentswould do; there could be no wrong choice.” as Duke Law Professor James Coleman has said.)

As blogger such as KC Johnson and Liestoppers have demonstrated, once the dating error is corrected, Nifong’s investigative conduct actually looks even more suspect.

But the N&O has ignored all of that. It’s spent the last week trying to convince the public Mike Nifong isn’t such a questionable fellow after all, and the single dating error is a huge deal.

The N&O’s been acting like it was March and April again when it was telling readers the accuser was “the victim” and distributing more than 160,000 copies of its infamous “vigilante” poster.

Vaden’s column today will gladden the hearts of all the reporters and editors who have worked so hard to cast the accuser as a young dancer, student and mother brutally beaten, gang-raped and strangled by three lacrosse players while their teammates stood by and then later refused to help principal investigator Sgt. Mark Gottlieb identify their rapist teammates.

But Vaden’s column will disappoint people who agree with Coleman that Nifong needs to step aside and let an ethical special prosecutor take over the case, something that would allow for a review of the actions Neff reported on in his story.

Vaden ignores the issues Coleman has raised and that Neff’s story substantiated. Vaden ignores the information KC and Liestoppers provided.


And it’s not Vaden’s only copout this week. He did a double copout this week as you'll see when you read the following comment which I’ve just left at his blog.

I also plan to leave the comment of the thread of Vaden’s Sunday column once he posts it.

Dear Ted,

I just finished reading your Sunday column. I made some initial comments in this post:

I plan to post further on your Sunday column in a few days. I’m traveling now so blogging is difficult.

However, it’s important you look at the following again. It does not relate to Neff's excellent story.

Instead it relates to a part of the N&O's biased, inaccurate, and inflammatory Duke lacrosse coverage which helped turn what should have been a thorough and fair police investigation into a witch hunt followed by investigative and legal travesties.

In the Mar. 24 story in which the N&O "broke" the lacrosse case, the N&O seven times referred to the accuser as "the victim" or with the possessive "victim's," never once preceding any of them with the conditional qualifier "alleged."

Why did the N&O make the deliberate decision to tell readers seven times that the woman was the victim?

Doing that cast the people she was accusing - the Duke lacrosse players - as those who victimized her by gang-rape, assault, robbery, and strangulation.

Why did the N&O decide to frame the players that way?

I’ve asked you these questions before, Ted, but you refuse to answer. And I’m not aware of a single word of criticism you’ve made in your column about the N&O seven times referring to the accuser as the victim.

Exec editor for news Melanie Sill has told readers the N&O’s calling the accuser the victim is routine practice.

That’s not true.

Ted, I did a customized search of the N&O’s archives for the month of January, 2006, using only the entry word “rape.” I found many articles but not one in which a rape accuser was ever just called “the victim” during the investigative or pre-adjudication phase of a case in which the rape charge was disputed.

I’ve now read in the NY Times stories totaling over 7,000 words concerning the Duke lacrosse matter. Not once did the Times refer to the accuser as victim, even with a conditional qualifier such as “alleged.”

No doubt the Times is doing what a newspaper editor told me his paper does in cases where a rape is alleged: “We try to use ‘the accuser’ or “the woman.’” He went on to say avoiding the use of “victim” when a rape charge is disputed pre-adjudication was a matter of fairness to the accused.

Just the other day, Ted, I sent you another post containing all of the information in this email and more.

I invited your reply and offered to publish it in full at JinC.

Recall I ended the post:

Please speak to the N&O's exceptional and deliberate treatment given both the accuser and the lacrosse team in your Mar. 24 article.

Please also tell us how Editor Sill’s statement fits with those journalistic ethics you often write about.

I'll publish your response in full.
Here for JinC readers’ information is the email response you sent me:

As you note, Melanie Sill is the person here who made the comment about "victim" being used routinely. I don't believe I have done so. I suggest you take up your inquiry with her.

Ted Vaden
You copped out, Ted.

Your copout to my questions is similar to your copout today in your Sunday column.

What happpens now, Ted?

Do you write a column saying you won't comment further on Duke lacrosse matters until you've "heard all the evidence at the trial?"