Friday, September 29, 2006

The Churchill Series – Sept. 29, 2006

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

During a bombing raid in May, 1941 much of the House of Commons was destroyed. Thereafter, the Commons sat in the House of Lords until the Commons could be rebuilt.

How to rebuild the Commons? The question got a lot of attention while the war continued and much more once the war ended and rebuilding could begin.

Some people saw the rebuilding as the perfect opportunity to improve the Commons. The “old Commons” didn’t even have room on its benches for every member to sit at the same time. Let's change that. And why not give each member a desk the way the American’s do in their legislative chambers?

Churchill was having none of that. He didn’t see how you could “improve” something that was already perfect. If every member showed up at a certain time for a critical vote, yes, some would have to stand in the aisles. But that would, he argued, only emphasize the seriousness of the occasion.

Although he was not Prime Minister at the time, his arguments carried the day. The Commons was reconstructed as nearly like it was just before the bomb fell as possible. It remains that way today.

In October, 1955 with rebuulding complete, the Commons sat once again in its own House. Prime Minister Clement Atlee, Churchill’s Deputy in the wartime unity government Churchill led, spoke about on the significance of the occasion. Then Churchill, as Leader of the Opposition, rose. He reminded members he’d first entered Commons as a member more than a half-century ago. He was, he said, “a child of the House of Commons and added :

The Prime Minister said – and said quite truly – that the House of Commons was the workshop of democracy.

But it has other claims, too. It is the champion of the people against executive oppression. I am not making a Party point; that is quite unfitting on such an occasion. But the House of Commons has ever been the controller and, if need be, the changer of the rulers of the day and of the Ministers appointed by the Crown. It stands forever against oligarchy and one-man power…

The House of Commons stands for freedom and law.
Churchill’s biographer, Martin Gilbert tells us:
Churchill was touched that Attlee decided to name an un-bombed arch in the Commons the "Churchill Arch."
You can see here a photo of the bombed Member’s Lobby and part of the Commons’ chamber beyond an archway.
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life. (pgs. 892-893)

Greensboro Powerline Locke sparks interest

Don’t you just hate headlines like “Phone Company rings up profit” and “Electric rate increase shocks customers?”

I thought I did to until I needed a title for this post plugging Carolina FreedomNet 2006, the blogger and reader conference scheduled for next Saturday, October 7, in Greensboro, NC.

Powerline’s Scott Johnson, who helped takedown Dan Rather and 60 Minutes for their phony TANG documents story, will be the luncheon speaker.

The John Locke Foundation is conference sponsor.

So now you understand why I grabbed as the post head: “Greensboro Powerline Locke sparks interest.”

You’ll forgive me, won’t you?

If not, than suppose we all immediately look at the conference program:

8:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.: Registration and Continental breakfast

8:30 a.m.-8:45 a.m.: Welcome session

8:45 a.m.-10:15 a.m.: Local vs. Global: What Should Be Your Blog’s Focus?

Panelists are Raleigh's Lorie Byrd of Wizbang, Greensboro's Sam Hieb of Sam's Notes, Charlotte's Sister Toldjah and Raleigh's Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee.

10:15 a.m.-10:45 a.m.: Break

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Panel: How Has The Blogging Phenomenon Affected Politics and Political Discourse?

Panelists are's Mary Katharine Ham (formerly of Durham), Jeff Taylor of Charlotte's The Meck Deck, Scott Elliott of Election Projection and Durham's Josh Manchester of The Adventures of Chester.

12:15 p.m.-12:30 p.m.: Break

12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m.: Luncheon and keynote speech.
The conference cost is $25. That includes lunch.

Details, including registration information, are here.

It should be some day!

Duke lacrosse: Johnsville’s Questions

Johnsville News has Nifong questions. JN starts off:

Durham has real problems - gang problems. How are Mike Nifong and the Durham Police Department able to justify in their minds expending the time and effort on prosecuting a hoax against three innocent lacrosse players, when gang violence is erupting in the Durham courthouse? ….

ABC reported:
The first-degree murder trial of 17-year old Calvin Nicholson is on hold. He is accused of gunning down an 18-year-old Hillside High School student on Bacon Street in 2005. Police say it was gang-related.

Tuesday's courthouse melee erupted on the fifth-floor, after key witnesses backed out of the Nicholson trial. They said they were being threatened.

"An incident occurred when information came up that caused people from one courtroom and gang to come to the other courtroom, where members of a rival gang were involved," said Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Durham police are investigating the threats, which are a major challenge in prosecuting gang-related trials.

"You can't really conduct trials in an atmosphere, where there is intimidation of witnesses, or where there is fear that something might happen," Nifong said. "The District Attorney's Office is not equipped to protect witnesses in any situation. There aren't any local witness protection programs, or anything of that nature. The fact is people are to some extent on their own, in terms of their protection." (bold JN)
People are on their own in terms of their protection? So that’s what DA Nifong has given us. Well, at least it’s more truthful than most of what he’s been saying.

Johnsville continues with the usual smart commentary:
The District Attorney's Office is ill equipped to protect witnesses in any situation or protect the citizens of Durham from gang violence because the office is totally distracted by this lacrosse hoax. Until this hoax is dropped and Mike Nifong is removed from office the Durham District Attorney's Office will be fighting crime with one hand tied behind its back.

Who does not think that Mike Nifong is emotionally involved with this case? His obsession certainly impacts the performance of the entire DA's office.

Nifong is spending his time filing ridiculous legal motions in the Duke case about telephone surveys that involve his wife. Last Friday he spends basically the entire day at courthouse on his hoax. This doesn't count Nifong's countless hours of case related preparation, time obsessing about the case, and time spent dealing with at least seven outstanding defense attorneys.
There’s a lot more to the JN post. You can read it all here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Churchill Series – Sept. 28, 2006

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

On October 28, 1943 Churchill spoke in the House of Lords. But he didn’t address the Lords. He was speaking to Members of the House of Commons.

How did that happen?

The House of Commons was bombed and badly damaged during the Blitz. So it was arranged that the Commons would meet in the Lords.

Meanwhile, plans were afoot to restore the Commons once the war was over. And that’s what Churchill spoke about to the Commons in the Lords that October day in 1943:

"On the night of May 10, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again, and how, and when. We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. Having dwelt and served for more than forty years in the late Chamber, and having derived very great pleasure and advantage therefrom, I, naturally, should like to see it restored in all essentials to its old form, convenience and dignity."
The matter of how the Commons would be restored provoked considerable dispute. There were some who thought, for instance, that it should be enlarged and that there should be a desk in the chamber for every member.

Churchill wanted none of that. In tomorrow’s post, we learn how it all turned out.

Hint: Churchill was very pleased with the final result.

Duke lacrosse: Is this year's Chronicle serious?

Last Spring Duke student’s newspaper, The Chronicle, did some fine reporting on what was then called “the Duke lacrosse case;” something we now recognize was a vicious hoax that’s injured many innocent people and whose full damage we can't yet tally.

Now another year's news and editorial teams are at The Chronicle giving us their latest on the case/hoax. Beneath the headline, “Research reveals impact of lax scandal on Duke's image,” we read:

For months, allegations of rape surrounding the men's lacrosse team splashed across the headlines of the country's most prominent publications, from Newsweek to The New York Times.

But according to research recently acquired by The Chronicle, most alumni and the larger public have since rebounded from the negative impact of the controversy, giving Duke an overwhelmingly positive favorability rating.
Research acquired by The Chronicle? What could that be?

And how did The Chronicle acquire that research in time to publish it just as Duke’s trustees are arriving on campus for a weekend meeting?

The Chronicle doesn’t say, but it does disclose this:
Commissioned by the University's office of public affairs, the study was drawn from two sets of data collected in late April and mid-June to analyze the effects of the controversy on public impressions of Duke.

Researchers compiled data from 786 and 801 telephone interviews conducted in April and June, respectively.
OK, we now know the "research" was commissioned by the University’s office of public affairs.

But The Chronicle doesn’t say how it got its hands on the “research.” I guess journalists have to protect their sources.

Still, did The Chronicle uncover the “research” it reports as a result hard-nosed digging? Or was The Chronicle fed a selective leak from an “anonymous source high up in the Brodhead administration?”

The Chronicle leaves its faithful readers in what I've heard the University’s office of public affairs Senior Vice President John Burness call a “quandary.”

The Chronicle moves on and reports :
"The overall conclusion that we came to was that this ultimately was not an issue of Duke University's reputation," said Brian Hardwick, vice president for Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, the firm hired to conduct the research.

The study showed that as early as late April, alumni-and to a lesser extent, the public-displayed strong approval of Duke despite the negativity of March's media blitz.
Strong approval? What does that mean?

The Chronicle provides many statistical data of which these seem strongest and most relevant regarding Duke alumni:
Although there was a greater than 5 percent margin of error for some statistics, the "directional trends" in the data between the two months confirmed the study's conclusions, Hardwick added.

In the April results, 97 percent of alumni respondents rated Duke in the "Top 2 Favorability" choices-meaning they felt "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" toward the University.

By June, the Top 2 Favorability among alumni rose to 98 percent.
But alas, The Chronicle gives no breakdown between the percentage of alum “very favorable” and the percentage “somewhat favorable.”

Why not?

If The Chronicle “dug,” did it fail to uncover that information? If it relied on source “feeding,” did its source decline to provide the information? Did The Chronicle even ask?

We have no answers to any of those questions.

And what do "very favorable" and "somewhat favorable" mean in the context of Duke and the hoax?

I know many alum who are "somewhat favorable" about Duke and think Brodhead "threw the lacrosse team under the bus." They're "somewhat favorable" about Duke even as they're appalled by the faculty's failure to assert reason and wise leadership in the face of a wildly improbable hoax.

I also know many alum who are "very favorable" about Duke but think the trustees need to replace Brodhead because, among other things, he "threw the lacrosse team under the bus." They also worry about the faculty's failure to assert reason and wise leadership in the face of a wildly improbable hoax.

And what’s this The Chronicle tells us about favorability among alums rising from 97 to 98 percent?

In a “research study” The Chronicle reports has a “greater than 5 percent margin of error for some statistics,” was there any real difference between 97 and 98 percent?

Was “the [rise] to 98 percent” anything more than a source/PR hype point The Chronicle swallowed “whole hog and biscuit,” and afterwards “passed” to readers?

The Chronicle reports at least one top Duke administrator felt some sense of relief when he learned of the “research.” :
"I must confess, I felt some sense of relief," said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, of the earliest results. "On one level, you're encouraged, and on another level, I don't think you can ever feel, after what happened, complacent or confident."
The Chronicle goes on to report Duke President Richard H. Brodhead’s reaction to the “research” :
"People have voiced a wide range of feelings to me very candidly," President Richard Brodhead said. "I have found, however, a wide level of recognition that the University is taking this seriously and in a balanced way. And I was interested to see that reflected in the research."
”People have voiced a wide range of feelings to me very candidly.”

People have also asked Brodhead some very important direct questions, which he won’t answer. Here are a few of them:

Why, President Brodhead, did you say nothing on May 18 when racists repeatedly screamed “Justice will be done, Rapist” at a Duke student, Reade Seligmann, as he walked to the Durham County Courthouse?

Why, President Brodhead, did you say nothing on May 18 when racists in the courtroom shouted death threats at Reade Seligmann? You haven’t forgotten “Dead man walking.”

Why, President Brodhead, have you said nothing critical of the Raleigh News & Observer for its publication and distribution of over 200,000 copies of the “vigilante poster” containing face-photos of 43 white Duke lacrosse players; the distribution occurring after the N&O learned that the posters would add to the very serious physical danger the players faced?

Why, President Brodhead, your silence in the face of racism and danger directed at Duke students.

Why, President Brodhead, your silence now when you were so quickly and unconditionally apologetic to a 911 caller whose identity we were told you didn’t know; and whose accusations were disputed then as they are now?

What, President Brodhead, Vice President Burness and Chronicle staffers, are polls telling you about those questions?

Update: KC Johnson has another fine post today. KC looks at what Brodhead calls "the balance" he's shown when discussion lacrosse matters (KC refutes that claim). KC also demonstrates the imbalance in other aspects of Duke's response to the hoax

Duke lacrosse: Takedowns of Nifong and Brodhead

Whatever any of us think of Durham’s DA Mike Nifong and Duke’s President Richard H. Brodhead, we can agree on this: neither man has said a single public word critical of the other.

If you doubt that, just ask any member of either man’s staffs, any member of Brodhead’s Duke board of trustees or any member of Nifong’s campaign committee.

So who’s to object to my putting bloggers’ takedowns of each man in the same post?

First, the Nifong takedown from KC Johnson at Durham-in-Wonderland

It's almost as if Mike Nifong didn't read any of his case file before proceeding with indictments.


• March 23: Nifong’s office submits a motion to the court affirming, “The DNA evidence requested will immediately rule out any innocent persons, and show conclusive evidence as to who the suspect(s) are in the alleged violent attack upon this victim.”

• April 11: “DNA results can often be helpful, but, you know, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and most of the years I’ve been doing this, we didn’t have DNA. We had to deal with sexual assault cases the good old-fashioned way. Witnesses got on the stand and told what happened to them.”

Nifong apparently discovered it was useful to revise his opinion after the DNA tests he was certain would reveal matches to lacrosse players instead all came back empty.

Respect for Civil Liberties:

• Herald-Sun votebook: “Justice requires a level playing field, and it is the District Attorney’s responsibility to see that every defendant has one.”

• ESPN: “One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong.”
Nifong apparently discovered it was useful to revise his opinion about the importance of civil liberties after defense attorneys started objecting to his unethical behavior, such as his inflammatory public statements. …
KC provides much more about Nifong’s duplicity before he wraps up with:
If any justice remains in North Carolina, this case will end with the state bar citing his massive procedural misconduct to revoke Nifong’s license to practice law.
You can read the entire post here.

Well said, KC.

The Brodhead takedown can be found at Liestoppers. Most of the post is a carefully reasoned, lucid, and civil letter from a Duke alum to Duke English Dept. Professor Karla Holloway. The letter is a response to an article, “Coda: Bodies of Evidence,” Holloway recently wrote.

The letter writer exposes Professor Holloway’s manipulations of facts so they "fit" with what she “sees” when looking at the world through her all-purpose, Four-in-One race, sex, gender and privilege "prism."

Let’s look at parts of the alum’s letter and then discuss why it’s a very effective Brodhead takedown. The letter begins:
Dear Professor Holloway:

My wife and I both graduated from Duke. I have been following the lacrosse investigation very closely and have corresponded with numerous individuals about the events and Duke's response. I was very sad to read your article "Coda: Bodies of Evidence."

The lacrosse scandal has been painful for all of us in the Duke community.

What is particularly painful is the degree to which members of the Duke faculty have labored to condemn the lacrosse team with what at times appears to be a cruel disregard for the likelihood that no rape occurred.

You address this in your "Coda: Bodies of Evidence" article by saying:
"The appropriate presumption of innocence that follows the players, however the legal case is determined, is neither the critical social indicator of the event, nor the final measure of its cultural facts."
This statement appears strange for a number of reasons.

First, the presumption of innocence obviously doesn't follow a defendant "however the legal case is determined." A defendant found guilty is treated as guilty. Michael Peterson is not presumed innocent while he serves a life sentence for the murder of his wife.

Your statement suggests that you are equating someone charged with someone convicted.

Second, whatever else happened at the party, I struggle to see how anything other than whether or not a rape occurred can be the "critical social indicator of the event."

If there was a rape, the players committed a heinous act.

If there wasn't a rape, they have been the victims of a vicious lie.

Third, the support for the lacrosse players from people like me is not based on a presumption of innocence. It is based on the facts of the case.

We are arguing that the players are actually and demonstrably innocent. The timeline of events is wholly inconsistent with the accuser's story, the medical evidence doesn't support the claim, and no witnesses corroborate the accuser's version of events.

One of the defendants, Reade Seligmann, has produced conclusive evidence that he wasn't even there during the only time any assault could have possibly occurred.

Yet, [Professor Holloway,] you dismiss the evidence no rape occurred out of hand and …
Folks, you can read the rest of the alum’s letter here and more about Prof. Holloway here at KC Johnson’s Durham-in-Wonderland.

Prof. Holloway is very comfortable with Four-in-One prismatic views but they leave reasonable people asking serious questions not just about Holloway but about Brodhead

Why, for instance, Brodhead select Holloway from among hundreds of faculty to head the committee he charged to assess Duke’s Campus Culture?

Wasn’t it clear to everyone at Duke, including Brodhead and the trustees, just what Holloway “sees” when she looks at Duke through her prism?

I have no problem with Holloway sharing her "visions" of Duke, criminal justice et al with the Campus Culture Committee. But by what standard is she the right person to chair the committee. What was Brodhead thinking of?

How does Brodhead, who himself overturned a foundation stone of American justice with his “proved innocent” remark, justify selection of Holloway who says, “ however the legal case is determined, is neither the critical social indicator of the event, nor the final measure of its cultural facts?"

Selecting Holloway to lead a committee charged with assessing Duke’s Campus Culture is a lot like selecting Ward Churchill to determine whether there’s too much patriotism on your campus.

Nice work, Liestoppers.

Hang in there, folks. It’s going to be a long struggle.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Churchill Series - Sept. 27, 2006

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

Both Churchill and FDR had great physical courage. Churchill had proven his in battles on three continents. Roosevelt's heroic struggles to overcome the effects of polio are legendary. Less well-know, really now all but forgotten, is the extraordinary courage he displayed on Feb. 15, 1933 when, while still President-elect, a would-be assassin fired five shots at him just as he finished delivering a speech. They all missed FDR but one killed the Mayor of Chicago whose hand Roosevelt was shaking. Throughout the ordeal, Roosevelt never ducked; and he sought to comfort others afterwards.

All of that is background to a small incident that occurred in January, 1943 in Casablanca where Churchill and FDR were conferencing. They were staying in villas near each other. Their villas’ grounds were, as you can imagine, very heavily guarded.

Both men were amused by the extensive security their staffs insisted on providing. So you can imagine their mutual laughter one morning when Churchill told Roosevelt about something that had happened the night before to Mike Reilly, the head of Roosevelt's Secret Service detail. As Jon Meacham tells it in his book, Franklin and Winston,

"Mike Reilly was on patrol one evening when he glimpsed someone walking in the darkness near Roosevelt's villa. 'The old bloodhound in me took charge and I stalked the intruder,' Reilly recalled. ‘I stepped from behind a bush, directly in his path, only to have Winston Churchill look up and inquire blandly, ‘What’s the matter, Mike, did you think I was some person of evil Design?'"
You can read more on the assessination attempt on FDR here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Churchill Series – Sept. 26, 2006

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

Reeaders’ Note: A few of you have made nice comments. Thank you. I appreciate them very much. John

In a 1954 book, Churchill by His Contemporaries, edited by Charles Eade, then President Eisenhower recalled Churchill as a wartime ally “of extraordinarily strong convictions and a master in argument and debate.”

About that no one would disagree with Ike who went on to say:

Completely devoted to winning the war and discharging his responsibility as Prime Minister of Great Britain, he was difficult indeed to combat when conviction compelled disagreement with his views. …

He could become intensely oratorical, even in discussion with a single person, but at the same time his intensity of purpose made his delivery seem natural and appropriate. He used humor and pathos with equal facility, and drew on everything from the Greek classics to Donald Duck for quotation, cliché and forceful slang to support his position. (p.159)
Ike nicely captures the essential Churchill arguing his case. I especially liked his reference to Churchill drawing “support for his case from Greek classics to Donald Duck.” I recall reading an aide’s recollection that Churchill within a few sentences cited Gibbons and Gilbert & Sullivan. And, of course, he most often cited his favorite source of quotes: Yes, you guessed it, himself.

I hope you’re back tomorrow.

Posting delayed - Will resume by this evening


In the past few days, I've had some heavy, urgent "day job" responsibilities to meet.

So I didn't get a few planned posts up on schedule.

I hope to have them up by this evening, Sept. 26.

Thank you for your understanding.


Monday, September 25, 2006

The Churchill Series – Sept. 25, 2006

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

This from Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Commander of the U.S.A.A.F. Eighth Air Force in England during WW II:

My first meeting with Winston Churchill occurred at Chequers, his country residence, in the fall of 1942. Air Marshall Harris, the R.A.F. Bomber Commander, telephoned me one evening and said the P.M. would like us at a conference at 8:00 p.m.

Shortly after our arrival it was clear that the purpose of the meeting was to brief Harry Hopkins and Gen. Jos. McNarney prior to their flight to Moscow. After the conference we were invited to join the P.M. for a spartan dinner.

At the conclusion of the meal, over brandy and cigars, our host pointed to each of us in turn and called us by the name of his opposite number on Hitler’s staff.

"You are Hermann Goering," he said to me. He then berated me in typical Hitlerian fashion, concluding, "Your miserable Luftwaffe was not able to defeat the pitiful little package of R.A.F. Spit-fires in the Battle of Britain, to clear the way for my cross-Channel invasion."

Then he beat his chest and said, "I am Der Fuehrer, Now what do we do?"

"Hitler’s" pantomime staff spent the next several hours advising him how to win the war. When daylight arrived, the P.M. pushed back his chair and said, "Well, gentlemen, if I have been correctly informed, we now know what the devils will do, the better to circumvent them. Good night, or rather, good morning."
As Eacker's recollection remiinds us, many British and American WW II leaders who worked closely with Churchill complained that he kept them up past the time they should have been in bed.

For such behavior, Churchill has been rightly criticized. He knew better and should have shown more consideration.

I don’t have a good explanation for why he didn’t. What about you?
Ira C. Eaker, "Some Memories of Winston S. Churchill," Finest Hour (52)

Reincarnation and Michael Barone

If we’re reincarnated and we get three wishes before we come back, mine will be :

1) I’m married to the same woman I’m married to now

2) We have the same grandchildren we have now

3) And I’m half as smart and talented as Michael Barone.
Like so many of you, I’ve known for years Barone is a wise person and a fine columnist.

But lately, I've learned what a terrific blogger Barone is.

Just look at Barone's Sept. 15 post, “What a load of Armitage!”

Barone begins ---

That's the headline on Victoria Toensing's dynamite column on the Plame case in today's Wall Street Journal. In it she raises several uncomfortable questions about Joseph Wilson, Richard Armitage, and Patrick Fitzgerald.

About Wilson, a serial liar, there is not really much more to say, and Toensing simply notes that Wilson confirmed that his wife, Valerie Plame, returned to the United States from a foreign assignment in 1997–which means that disclosure of her identity in 2003 could not have been a crime under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, since that 1982 law covers only disclosures of the names of covert agents stationed abroad within five years of the revelation.

Toensing also clears up any ambiguity as to whether Plame could have been a covert agent:
As the Senate negotiator for this 1982 act, I know a trip or two by Ms. Plame to a foreign country while assigned to Langley, where she worked in July 2003, is not considered a foreign assignment. I also know covert officers are not assigned to Langley.
As to Armitage, she notes that he has said he did not disclose that he was the source of the disclosure of Plame's name publicly because he was asked not to do so by special prosecutor Fitzgerald.

But Armitage learned that he was the source on Oct. 1, 2003, and Fitzgerald was not appointed special prosecutor until Dec. 30, 2003.(bold mine)

And "any witness is free to talk about his or her testimony." She puts the responsibility for the controversy squarely on Armitage's silence:
Put aside hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds squandered on the investigation, New York Times reporter Judith Miller's 85 days in jail, the angst and legal fees of scores of witnesses, the White House held siege to a criminal investigation while fighting the war on terror, Karl Rove's reputation maligned, and "Scooter" Libby's resignation and indictment. By his silence, Mr. Armitage is responsible for one of the most factually distorted investigations in history.
I think the most troubling questions she raises are about Patrick Fitzgerald, who "knew from the day he took office that the facts did not support a violation of the act."

So why did [Fitzpatrick]continue the investigation? I think he has a responsibility to answer that question. And why didn't he find out that Armitage had disclosed Plame's name to Bob Woodward a month before he disclosed it to Robert Novak?
Mr. Armitage, who came forward after Mr. Libby was indicted, was told in February 2006, after two grand jury appearances, he would not be indicted.

Mr. Rove, however, after five grand jury appearances, was not informed until July 2006 he would not be charged. Mr. Fitzgerald made the Rove decision appear strained, a close call.

Yet of the two men's conduct, Mr. Armitage's deserved more scrutiny. And Mr. Fitzgerald knew it. Each had testified before the grand jury about a conversation with Mr. Novak. Each had forgotten about a conversation with an additional reporter: Mr. Armitage with Mr. Woodward, Mr. Rove with Time's Matt Cooper.

However, Mr. Rove came forward pre-indictment, immediately, when reminded of the second conversation. When Mr. Woodward attempted to ask Mr. Armitage about the matter, on two separate occasions pre-indictment, Mr. Armitage refused to discuss it and abruptly cut him off. To be charitable, assume he did not independently recall his conversation with Mr. Woodward. Would not two phone calls requesting to talk about the matter refresh his recollection?

Now we also know Messrs. Armitage and Novak have vastly different recollections of their conversation. Isn't that what Mr. Libby was indicted for?
To be charitable: Armitage has an honorable record of public service, and we should not assume he intentionally concealed the Woodward conversation.

But, really, how likely is it that he forgot about it for all that time? Novak's most recent column on the subject makes it clear that Armitage was not a regular Novak source, as I had assumed he was; Novak says he never talked to Armitage before Armitage's office summoned him to the interview in which Armitage disclosed Plame's name.

But Armitage surely was a regular Woodward source. Any fair reading of Woodward's books on the Bush administration shows that Armitage and the boss to whom he was fiercely loyal, Secretary of State Colin Powell, were Woodward sources. Would you forget that you had been interviewed by Bob Woodward?

I think Victoria Toensing has made a powerful case that Fitzgerald should have ended his investigation before it was begun, that Karl Rove was unjustly brought before a grand jury five times, and that Scooter Libby was unjustly indicted. But, as Glenn Reynolds says, read the whole thing.

Thank you, Michael Barone.

You can read the whole Toensing op-ed here.

More about Barone's post and Toensing's op-ed tomorrow.

Nifong’s enablers and their back stories – (9/24/06 Post)

Readers’ Note: The post below is the first of a series concerning aspects of the Duke lacrosse case.

Before beginning the series, I want to tell you something about it and what I hope it helps accomplish.

Informed, fair-minded people who respect the Constitution are revolted by Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong’s conduct in the Duke lacrosse case.

Nifong has been the central and essential agent in creating what Brooklyn College Professor Robert KC Johnson has rightly called “monumental injustices.”

I think, at the least, Nifong should be disbarred.

But Nifong didn’t act alone. He had many enablers; most of whom are still enabling him.

I count as prime among Nifong’s enablers certain Durham police officers; Duke University’s trustees, its President, very many of Duke’s top administrators and its faculty; those at the Raleigh News & Observer who produced, beginning on March 24, Duke lacrosse coverage that was so recklessly biased, inaccurate and inflammatory that it helped launch a witch hunt and endangered many innocent people; and finally, organizations that claim to advocate justice for all, but in reality are interest groups for those they favor.

Among Nifong’s primary enablers, the series will pay most attention to those at the N&O and Duke. That’s because I know more about them and how they’re supposed to function than I know , for instance, about the legal/ethical responsibilities and constraints of NC’s elected and appointed officials and its bar association officers.

Legal/investigative/ethical aspects of the case are very well covered by journalists, academics and bloggers such as Stuart Taylor, KC Johnson, Liestoppers, Johnsville News, William Anderson, Wendy McElroy and Jason Trumpbour who occasionally comments at Friends of Duke University.

My focus on the N&O and Duke as Nifong enablers is intended to help push each organizations’ Duke lacrosse back story out before the public.

Doing that will help those pursuing justice for the lacrosse players and make the public better informed about how the monumental injustices were created and how we can undo as much of their damage as possible.

If you are not familiar with “back story,” it’s a term journalists use. It doesn’t have as precise a meaning as “everything” or “next Wednesday,” but journalists find it useful.

Asked to provide a definition for this post, a journalist friend laughed and said, “The back story is whatever we know about a story and don’t tell the readers.”

In September, 2004, when bloggers exposed the phony 60 Minutes Texas Air National Guard “documents” and how Dan Rather got them, they were making public back story parts of 60 Minutes’ on-air story.

In terms of the Duke lacrosse case, consider this question: When did Duke and the N&O each first learn of the extraordinary cooperation the lacrosse captains provided Durham Police investigators on March 16; and when, and in what detail, did Duke and the N&O each first report the captains’ cooperation to the public?

That’s a very important back story question both organizations should have answered many months ago. I hope this series helps force them to do so now. Why shouldn’t Duke and the N&O answer the question?

That completes my explanation for the series. Now the first post.

On March 25, 2006, Durham DA Mike Nifong was locked in a tough election battle for the Democratic DA nomination in November. He was paying very close attention to everything media were saying about him and whatever he was connected with.

For Nifong, the previous day had been a fine one as far media coverage went. The Raleigh News & Observer, the region’s largest circulation newspaper and dominant news organization, had broken that day what would come to be called “the Duke lacrosse case.” Nifong knew it might be the most important case he’d ever been connected with in twenty-seven years as a Durham prosecutor.

The N&O’s Mar. 24 story was very “prosecutor friendly.” One journalist would later say, “I’ve seen newspapers jump in the pool with prosecutors but what the N&O did in that story and the interview story the next day was dive from the high board and do back-flips on the way down.”

Among other things, the journalist noticed that seven times in its Mar. 24 story the N&O called the accuser either “the victim” or used the possessive “victim’s” without once qualifying them with “alleged” or “reported.” Thus, the N&O had, in the very first story media and the public would read about “Duke lacrosse,” effectively begun the process of framing the lacrosse players as criminal victimizers.

Mike Nifong noticed that, too. He no doubt remembered two brief news items in the N&O’s Mar. 18 and 19 editions concerning alleged rapes at a party on N.Buchanan Blvd, Durham. "Duke lacrosse" was never mentioned.

In its Mar. 18 and 19 stories, the N&O was careful to refer to the accuser as “a woman” or with the pronoun “she;” and never as "the victim." Nifong knew that was standard practice for ethical newspapers.

The N&O’s Mar. 24 story was indeed “prosecutor friendly” as was a large "perp-walk" color photo of lacrosse players with jackets over their heads which the N&O "splashed" across page one. But in its Mar. 25 story, the N&O went well beyond prosecutorial “friendship.” It all but took on the prosecutor’s role.

( The next series post will analyze the N&O’s Mar. 25 story. You may recall that was the hugely sympathetic interview with the anonymous “victim.” The next post will also ask the N&O a set of back story questions concerning its Mar. 24 and 25 stories.

I hope to have the second post up by 10 p.m. tonight.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Raleigh N&O's public editor punts

Readers' Note: Yesterday, September 24, was the six month annivsary of the Raleigh News & Observer's publication of the story the "broke" the Duke lacrosse case.

The N&O's football coverage.

We now know that the three Duke lacrosse captains who rented the house at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. voluntarily gave the police statements; submitted to “rape kit” testing; offered to take lie detector tests; and even helped police identify and locate others who were at the party.

But the Raleigh News & Observer’s Mar. 24 story reporting the lacrosse players had submitted to DNA testing - the story the N&O says “broke” the Duke lacrosse case - made no mention of the captains’ cooperation.

The N&O's Mar. 25 front-page, hugely sympathetic, anonymous “victim” interview story also said nothing about the captains’ cooperation. In fact, the N&O told readers authorities had "vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity."

The N&O followed that with a statement that it granted anonymity to “victims of sex crimes," dispensing altogether with any qualifying “alleged," just as, in its Mar. 24 story, it said seven times the woman was "the victim" or used the possessive "the victim's," never qualifying any of the seven with “alleged.”

The N&O's Mar. 24 and 25 stories captured the nation's attention. People bought into its portrayal of the accuser as a hard working student and mother who was brutally gang-raped, beaten and strangled as she sought to earn money to support her two small children. They also bought into the N&O’s portrayal of the Duke students as her victimizers who were even then refusing to cooperate with police.

The N&O’s reporting in those and similarly biased and inflammatory stories it published the next few days so poisoned the public’s mind that when Ruth Sheehan's Mar. 27 N&O column ("Teams' silence is sickening") appeared, it was seen by many people as a righteous expression of "community outrage," instead of what we now know it to have been: a McCarthyite screed attacking the students for doing nothing more than following the advice of their counsels.

But what if the N&O had reported at least something about the captains’ cooperation with the police?

If the N&O had done that, would that have reduced the "community outrage" that reached such a pitch that the Mayor of Durham, the Chancellor of NC Central University, and the President of Duke University felt compelled to take full page ads in newspapers, including the N&O, calling on the community to remain calm and allow the justice system to work?

Certainly any news report about the captains’ cooperation wouldn’t have made any difference to people like Duke faculty's Group of 88, the Trinity Park pot bangers, the New Black Panthers, and most people who call themselves "victim's rights" and "civil rights" activists.

But a lot of normally sensible people who got swept up in the witch hunt hysteria would have paused if they'd known of the captains' cooperation. I think they’d have said something like the following to themselves and other sensible people: "Maybe there's more here. Let's hold off on judgment. The media are so often wrong. And the N&O has a terrible history of inflaming race, gender and class issues."

With what you’ve read so far in mind, let's turn now to Duke's student newspaper, The Chronicle.

On Mar. 21, three day before the N&O claims it "broke" the Duke lacrosse story, The Chronicle reported :

[Durham Police Sgt. Mark] Gottlieb said any man that attended the party March 13 would be a viable suspect but refused to go into further detail.

The residents of the house have been cooperative with DPD in locating any suspects, he added.
(Readers, You may be wondering how The Chronicle could report on the Duke lacrosse story on Mar. 21 if the N&O, as it claims, “broke” it on Mar. 24. I’ll deal with that question at the end of this post. Right now I want to get back to the matter of whether the N&O withheld from readers news of the captains’ cooperation. John)

A customized search of the N&O’s archives for the period 3/13/2006 through 3/24/2006 reveals that twice before Mar. 24 the N&O reported on events alleged to have occurred in the Buchanan Blvd. house the night of Mar. 13/14.

The first story appeared on Mar. 18; the second story appeared the following day. They are both brief, and they both report on statements by Sgt. Gottlieb.

Here’s the N&O's Mar. 18 story:
Woman reports sexual assault

Police were investigating a report of a rape on Buchanan Boulevard near the Duke University campus Friday. .. A young woman told police she visited 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. about 11:30 p.m. Monday and was assaulted by three men, according to police Sgt. Mark Gottlieb... Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator B.W. Himan at 560-4582, ext. 229
Now here's the N&O's Mar. 19 story:
Alleged rape was at party, police said

Police offered more details Saturday in the investigation of a young woman's report she was raped by three men at a party Monday near the Duke University campus.

The woman told police early Tuesday morning that she had gone to a house at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. about 11:30 p.m. the night before for a party, said Sgt. Mark Gottlieb.

While at the party, she was raped by three men, she reported to police.

Gottlieb described the party as a mix of college students and non-students. In total, there were about 30 people there at the time, he said.

"It was an act where alcohol was involved," Gottlieb said.

It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify victims of reported sexual crimes.
Like its Mar. 24 and 25 stories, the N&O’s Mar. 18 and 19 stories say nothing about the captains’ cooperation.

Yet The Chronicle reported on at least some of that cooperation on Mar. 21 and cited Sgt. Gottlieb as its source; the same Sgt. Gottlieb the N&O cites as a source in its Mar. 18 and 19 stories. Why no mention in the N&O of cooperation by the captains?

I'll bet you agree it's fair to ask:
Didn’t Sgt. Gottlieb say anything about the captains’ cooperation to N&O reporters before the Mar. 18 and 19 stories?

And don't reporters routinely ask about the cooperation of people in whose homes crimes are alleged to have occured?

When did the N&O first learn about of the captains’ cooperation?

What was it the N&O learned?

When did the N&O tell readers what it learned?
What’s more, we should be asking:
When did the N&O first learn the captains had voluntarily given the police statements; voluntarily submitted to rape kit testing; offered to take lie detector tests; and helped identify and locate others who were at the party?

Whne did the N&O report that news to readers?
Those questions need answering, just as questions about the N&O’s publication of the infamous “vigilante poster” need answering.

I hope readers ask them at the Editor’s Blog where the N&O’s exec editor for news, Melanie Sill, is supposed to answer questions but has mostly been misleading readers when she's not ignoring there questions.

Sill should answer the questions asked here and others like: Who was the source of the "vigilante poster" the N&O published? Why did the N&O publish it only a few weeks after it refused to publish any of the Danish cartoons? Why was it OK to endanger the lacrosse players?

The N&O’s Apr. 2 story which accompanied the “vigilante poster” doesn’t even mention the poster. So what news purpose was served by publishing it? Many readers think it was just intended to slime the players.

Is the N&O ever going to apologize to the players and their families for publishing a poster that endangered the players?

The N&O’s executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, says she’s “proud” of the N&O’s Duke lacrosse coverage which she’s called “fair,” “accurate,” and “deep.”

But for all of that puffery, Sill’s refused to answer many questions readers are asking at McClatchy’s Editor’s Blog, the site where she supposed to answer those questions.

I hope readers keep asking questions at the Editor's Blog including :
When did the N&O start learning about the captains’ cooperation?

What did it learn?

And when did it report what it knew to readers?
Full disclosure: I no longer comment at the Editor's Blog following months of threats by Sill to bar me from the blog.

I don't think she had cause to bar me; I believe she was just bothered that I keep asking the sort of fact-based, evidence-supported questions I asked in this post.

But her repeated threats reached the point where they became harassment.

My hat is off to the many people at the Editor's Blog who are asking tough, informed questions.

I hope they keep it up.