Saturday, November 18, 2006


We’ve been reading in the American press that British PM Tony Blair said Iraq has been a “disaster.”

Well, that’s not quite the case. From Powerline:

"Triumphant headline from the BBC: "Blair accepts 'disaster' in Iraq." The Beeb's story begins :
Tony Blair has publicly agreed with the opinion that the violence in Iraq since the 2003 invasion has been a disaster.

But this is one of those "all headline, no story" episodes that we often see nowadays. What happened was that Blair was being interviewed on al Jazeera by David Frost:

Mr Blair was challenged by Sir David over the violence in Iraq, saying it had "so far been pretty much of a disaster".
Blair replied:

It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq?

It's not difficult because of some accident in planning.

It's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al-Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war.
That all seems clear enough.

As Powerline’s John Hinderaker points out:
: [That’s] what Blair, like President Bush, has been saying for a long time.

Blair didn't say that Iraq was a mistake; or that the war has been mishandled; or that our efforts there are doomed to failure. Those are the "admissions" the BBC desperately wants to hear, and tried to suggest through its coverage of Blair's inconsequential exchange with Frost.
Hinderaker has it right. "The facts on the ground” don’t support the BBC’s “story.”

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 17, 2006

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

A while back a post included a link to a Nazi propaganda cartoon intended for a British audience. It was produced in 1940 when America was still officially neutral and Britain “stood alone.”

The cartoon depicted "piggish" President and Mrs. Roosevelt seated at a table eating with their hands food overflowing large bowls. A few scraps had fallen to the floor. Churchill, in formal attire, stood in a doorway, bowl in hand, begging for the scraps. The Roosevelt’s were ignoring him.

The cartoon brought questions from some readers regarding other forms and topics of propaganda the Nazis used when targeting the British people.

One form was radio. It’s all but forgotten now but there were daily propaganda broadcasts from Germany to Britain throughout the war. The Churchill government could have “jammed” them but decided to let them through. Here’s one Brit's recollection of those broadcasts:

.Most people found the broadcasts humorous and entertaining although many took them seriously and were alarmed by them.

The hard news presentations were generally factual, quite accurate and often "scooped" the BBC in announcing important wartime events. The propaganda commentary was wickedly clever and aimed at demoralizing the British Home Front -- mostly seeking to foment public unrest, distrust of the British Government, a sense of hopelessness in opposing the Nazi war machine -- and anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Letters from captured British soldiers were frequently read at the conclusion of the broadcasts which generated a substantial listening audience.
You can read more about Nazi propaganda in general and propaganda aimed at the British at this Wikipedia site and this BBC site.

I hope you all have a nice weekend and are back on Monday.


Duke faculty duties

Readers’ note: If you’re not familiar with what people refer to as “the Duke faculty’s Group of 88’s ‘listening’ statement,” please read this post.


Karla FC Holloway
William R. Kenan Professor of English
Duke University

Dear Professor Holloway:

Since April 6 when you, other faculty, and various academic departments and programs sponsored a full page Chronicle ad called “the ‘listening’ statement,” I’ve read a number of your statements in media and your recent article, "The Cultural Value of Sport: Title IX and Beyond."

They’ve helped me understand what you see as your rights, your victimization, and the shortcomings of other people and Duke University.

But your statements and article say almost nothing about your duties as a Duke faculty member. Nor do they say anything about what you, as a faculty representative on President Brodhead’s Campus Cultural Initiative committee, see as your faculty colleagues’ duties.

I use duties in the common dictionary sense of things one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.

Concerning faculty duties, the ad says its faculty sponsors are “listening [to] the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism.” That’s followed by students’ statements, mostly anonymous, including this one:

“Being a big, black man, it’s hard to walk anywhere at night, and not have a campus police car slowly drive by me.”
It’s true that at night campus police cars drive slowly by big, black men. We’ve both seen them do it.

But we also know that at night Duke police cars drive slowly by small white women, elderly Asian couples, Hispanics and grandparents of every ethnicity holding their grandchildren’s hands.

Duke police are watching out for all of us regardless of our size, race, or gender. To do that, they need to see us and any threats that might be behind or about us. So they “slowly drive by” us.

Responsible adults would explain all of that to the “big, black man.” Who would leave him seeing a racial aspect in a police practice that has none? The student’s misperception doesn’t help him or the police who seek to protect him. In fact, it makes serious misunderstandings between them more likely.

Didn’t you, as a faculty member, have a duty to tell the student why the campus police drive slowly by him at night? Didn’t your “listening” statement colleagues have that same duty?

I hope you agree it was a failure of duty to advertise the student’s misperception in The Chronicle under any circumstances, but especially so at a tense time when some on campus were circulating “vigilante” posters targeting Duke students and others were encouraging them.

Reade Seligmann was one of the students targeted by the “vigilante” posters.

On May 18 Seligmann was again targeted when racists twice shouted threats at him. The first threats occurred as he walked to Durham’s County Courthouse and included shouts of “Justice will be done, Rapist.” Then, within the courtroom and before the judge entered, there were more threats including: “There’s a dead man walking.”

The faculty, as far as I know, was silent at the time and has been so since. But surely you agree the faculty has a duty to speak out when something like the events of May 18 happen?

If the faculty remains silent about those events, what kind of campus culture can it provide students?

I’ve heard some of your colleagues say they believe President Brodhead had a duty to speak out at the time and should do so now.

I agree but that doesn’t lessen in any way the duty the faculty has to speak out as well, does it?

I hold two degrees from the University and blog at I’ve included this letter in a post. Here’s the link:

I look forward to your response. I will post in full a response of up to about 1500 words.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.


John in Carolina

A poem for Brodhead

They say Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead loves poetry.

Well, the Poet of the Piedmont, Joan Foster, just sent one his way. It's an intentional parody of the op-ed Professor Thomas Crowley published in last Sunday's Durham Morning Herald. Crwoley apparently meant the piece as an expression of his most serious thoughts concerning legal aspects of the Duke Hoax. Instead, it was more of an unintentional self-parody.

You can read some blog responses here, here, here and here.

Joan's parody begins:

Good Morning, President Brodhead.
Did you enjoy your Cheerios?
Ready for your morning briefing, Dick?
Everything you need to know!
Prof Crowley wrote to the Herald Sun.
Unfortunately, he signed his name.
He wandered off the talking points.
It really was a shame.
Time and again we've told them, Dick,
To avoid this consternation
The trinity is... "American Pyscho,"
Racial Slurs, and Urination!
It continues here.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 16, 2006

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

When Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, he "inherited" John (Jock) Colville.

Colville worked in Chamberlain’s Private Office and Churchill kept Colville on in order to assure a smooth transition in the PM’s office in those desperate days.

Colville had been a supporter of appeasement and no admirer of Churchill. But his view of Churchill gradually changed. He became not just an admirer but a friend. In Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship Jon Meacham includes this Colville description of Churchill :

He behaved in public just as he behaved in private. There were no two faces, no mask that would drop when the audience had retired….

If Churchill was not in the mood, he found it difficult, he found it difficult to put on an act of affability even when circumstances demanded it; and in so far as he had good manners (which many would have denied) they came from fundamental kindness of heart. They were in no way cultivated, and it was unnatural for him to display a sentiment he did not genuinely feel.(pgs. 9-10)
Most others who worked closely with Churchill have said things very similar to what Colville says about “no two faces, no mask.”

In that regard what a contrast we have between Churchill and FDR, almost all of whose intimates record, often with admiration, his ability to wear any number of “masks,” depending on the occasion and the people he was with. Historians are still uncertain regarding how many people FDR told in 1944 he’d like to have as his Vice-Presidential running mate. They also dispute whether Truman was really his preferred choice or "pushed" on him by party bosses.

Advice for Prof. Crowley

Concerning Duke University Professor Thomas Crowley’s Durham Herald Sun op-ed, “Don't be too quick to toss lacrosse case,” I said yesterday that Crowley had apparently fooled himself into believing he had “no preconditioned preference” on the critical issue of the players’ guilt or innocence. I then asked where Duke was finding professors like Crowley and others we’ve been hearing from since last March.

Today I want to comment on another part of his op-ed.

Crowley says :

”[Nifong’s] statements to the media at the beginning of the case are open to interpretation about motives. I think many people might have felt totally off guard and swept away by the tidal wave of media attention that so quickly came down after the event was publicized. I am hesitant to be totally critical of Nifong's response because I could not say for sure if I too might have been swept away by all that was happening.”
If before he sent those sentences off to the Herald Sun Crowley had asked my advice, I’d have told him something like the following:
“Thomas, I don’t think Nifong’s statements "at the beginning" are hard to interpret.

Between March 27 and 29 Nifong said such things as:

"I would like to think that somebody [not involved in the attack] has the human decency to call up and say, 'What am I doing covering up for a bunch of hooligans?' "


"And one would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong."


"My guess is that some of this stonewall of silence that we have seen may tend to crumble once charges begin to come out."

It's perfectly clear he was working to cast the players as villains.

And now that we know about the cooperation the captains gave police on March 16, the 46 players cooperation in the DNA testing and their attorneys trying to make contact with Nifong to discuss the case, it’s also clear Nifong’s “wall of silence” statements were lies.

You’re opening yourself up to criticism with your Nifong was “swept away by a tidal wave of media attention” claim. He’s a veteran attorney. He knows he shouldn’t ridicule people for retaining defense counsels. Average citizens know it. And then he goes on with that business of “why one needs an attorney.”

Who is going to believe Nifong got so swept away that he forgot the kinds of thing UNC Law School Professor Ken Broun was saying at the time:

"Their attorneys advise them not to talk to police even if they're totally innocent, because of the possibility that things that you might say even if you're totally innocent in the case might be viewed differently by the person hearing them than you meant them.” …

And I wouldn't draw any reflection on guilt or innocence based upon the failure to talk, particularly after a lawyer gets involved. That's pretty standard operating procedure?"

My advice is rework the part you just showed me. Or maybe throw it out altogether.

And if you have time, drop by Professor Johnson’s office and see what he has to say. Also, go over to the Liestoppers department building and talk to some of the people there.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 15, 2006

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

Today we go to a book store: Chartwell Booksellers.

If you’re not familiar with the store the first thing to know is it’s not near Churchill's Chartwell home in Kent, England. It’s in midtown Manhattan. The second thing to know about it you’ve already guessed: the shop deals in all kinds of books regarding Churchill.

Chartwell has rare first editions of some of Churchll’s own works, including ones signed by him. Many of them run into the thousands of dollars. But there are also some of his works still in print that are offered at the jacket price.

Then there are the “about” books. They number in the hundreds.

Chartwell has a good selection of “wit and wisdom of Churchill” books which will make nice holiday gifts. Kay Halle’s is one of my favorites. Kay was a long-time friend of Churchill’s and led the effort here to convince our government to award Churchill honorary American citizenship, which he received in April, 1963.

Chartwell sells only at full price; no discounts.

I’ve no connection to Chartwell other then I love searching its site and ordering from time to time.

Coleman seeks clemency for death row inmate

Duke Law Professor James Coleman met yesterday with North Carolina’s Governor Mike Easley to plead for clemency for convicted murderer Guy La Grande.

La Grande is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Dec. 1 if last minute court appeals and pleas to Easley for clemency fail.

From today’s Raleigh News & Observer, “Lawyers lobby for killer’s life:”

Convicted murderer Guy LeGrande's attorneys hope that Gov. Mike Easley will spare LeGrande's life because his case is similar to that of the only death row inmate to whom Easley has granted clemency.

On Tuesday, Easley listened to arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys about whether LeGrande should die by lethal injection or spend the rest of his life in prison.

LeGrande, 47, is scheduled to be executed Dec. 1 at Raleigh's Central Prison for the 1993 shooting of Ellen Munford in Stanly County, east of Charlotte.

While prosecutors depicted LeGrande as a calculating killer-for-hire, LeGrande's attorneys described him as a severely mentally ill man who was chosen to commit the crime and prosecuted capitally because of his race. The defense team hopes the racial parallels between LeGrande's case and that of Robert Bacon Jr. will sway the governor.

Bacon, who is black, was sentenced to death for the 1987 stabbing of his lover's husband. His co-defendant, Bonnie Sue Clark, a white woman who recruited Bacon to kill her husband, got a lesser sentence and is eligible for parole. In October 2001, Easley commuted Bacon's sentence to life in prison -- the only time he has granted clemency.

Since taking office in January 2001, Easley has denied clemency for 27 death row inmates, who have all been executed.

Tommy Munford, the victim's estranged husband, recruited LeGrande to do the killing in exchange for $6,500. Munford, who is white, is eligible for a parole hearing in January. Prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for his testimony against LeGrande.

Both Bacon and LeGrande were sentenced to death by all-white juries. In both cases, Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP's board of directors, wrote a letter to Easley asking for clemency.

In comparison to Bacon's clemency claim, "this is a much more deserving case," said Duke University law professor Jim Coleman, who was one of Bacon's attorneys and now represents LeGrande. [The rest of the story follows here.]
Coleman has represented pro bono many death row inmates. He serves as a faculty advisor to Duke Law School’s Innocence Project which gives students an opportunity to work of cases of convicted felons who likely are actually innocent.

Back on June 13 when Coleman’s letter calling for DA Mike Nifong to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take charge of the Duke lacrosse case was published, KC Johnson posted on the latter and also provided information about Coleman’s work on behalf of inmates thought likely to have been wrongly convicted.

Here's another Duke prof

Concerning the possibility that indictments in the Duke Hoax case might be dismissed because of massive investigative irregularities and the absence of sufficient evidence to warrant a trial, Duke University Professor Thomas Crowley tells Durham Herald Sun readers he:

“most certainly [does] not think the case should be thrown out just because of some half-baked and half-true legal opinions by people who don't know what they are talking about, and by a group of lawyers and advocates who seem to be doing their best to confuse the public."
Crowley assures readers:
”I do not know what happened that night. I have no preconditioned preference for whether the accused were guilty or not.”
But the professor with “no preconditioned preference” concerning guilt or innocence does want us to consider some important questions:
"Why are photographs available before and after the alleged event, but not during it? Is it possible that the photographer did not want to document what was happening during that time?"
Well, aren’t we lucky to have a Duke professor with “no preconditioned preference” regarding guilt or innocence point out there are what he calls "before and after" photos but none during “the alleged event , [ possibly because ] the photographer did not want to document what was happening during that time?”

Question: Besides fooling himself regarding having "no preconditioned preference," do you think Professor Crowley fooled anyone else except perhaps colleagues like Professors Starn, Holloway, Rosenberg, Lubiano, Wood, etc, etc,?

Where does Duke find such professors?

Liestoppers does a great takedown of Crowley's "offeriings." Don't miss the last paragraph.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 14, 2006

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

Lord Randolph Churchill died on January 20, 1895 convinced that his son Winston would be a failure and bring no honor to the family name.

Four weeks later, on February 20, 1895 Winston began his life of service to his country. As his biographer, Martin Gilbert, tells it:

”Churchill entered the cavalry. … His commission was made out, according to custom, from Queen Victoria to ‘Our Trusty and well beloved Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Gentleman,’ and was signed by the Secretary of State for War, Campbell-Bannerman, who less than eleven years later was to give Churchill his first Ministerial office, as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.
During the next half-century, Churchill would serve four Kings - Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI - and another Queen - Elizabeth II - in a number of Ministerial offices.

Churchill’s last day of Ministerial service was April 5, 1955, on which day he resigned as the Queen’s Prime Minister.

In his later years, Churchill often expressed regret that his father, whom he loved and admired, had not lived long enough to see the course his life was taking. He died on January 20, 1965, seventy years to the day of his father’s death.
For this post, I drew from Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Life. The passage quoted is found on pg. 51 of the Henry Holt & Co’s 1991 American Edition.

Concerning Collin Finnerty and his family

At Friends of Duke University's website (not affiliated with Duke), I just read a warm, informative and poignant profile of Collin Finnerty and his family: three generations of them.

It's Joan Collins’ “Profile in Courage – My Meeting with the Finnertys”

If I said more, I’d only be holding you up from reading it. So go on.

But when you finish, please come back and comment.

In a few days I’ll do what I did today with the Bob Harris thread: pass on your comments.

Two “88” classic posts

Johnsville News provides a very valuable service with it’s recent post: “Duke case: The ‘listening’ statement.”

JN’s post could have been subtitled: “A history and analysis of an irresponsible and exploitive document that a large group of Duke University faculty rushed to sign.” The post has many links, including one to a recent Chronicle article on the growing ridicule and scorn faculty who signed the listening statement are enduring and their various attempts to avoid responsibility for what they did.

Be sure to read The Chronicle article’s comment thread. Readers really sounded off when one of the 88 signers posted what I’m sure he thought would be a dismissal of his critics. O boy! Was he ever wrong.

JN’s post includes the full text of the 88’s statement as well as a link to it.

Another of JN’s links is to an April 23 KC Johnson post at Cliopatria: “The Duke 88.” That post was my first “contact” with KC.

Was I ever impressed? I kept asking myself, “Why isn’t faculty at Duke saying what this guy’s saying?” I still ask that question. There are many decent people on the A&S faculty who should be speaking up and countering the 88’s exploitations of students and misrepresentation of the University.

KC ended his April 23 post with these questions:

How many of the Duke 88 would affix their signatures to a public affirmation that they are “listening” to the exculpatory evidence of a student at their own institution, and expressing concern that local authorities could be veering toward a miscarriage of justice regarding Seligmann? Or do they “listen” only to versions of events that conform to their preconceived worldview, like the student at North Carolina Central, seeking “justice for things that happened in the past”?
So far he answer to KC’s first question is: “at most a few.” The answer to his second question seems to be: “Yes, they do quite a lot of that.”

I’ll be posting often in the next few weeks on the “88” and their “listening statement.” I’ll use this post as a reference for those needing background to my posts.

Congrats to JN and KC for their “88” classic posts.

St. Pete Times: Drop it, Nifong

Florida’s St. Petersburg Times is the latest newspaper calling on Durham DA Mike Nifong to turn the Duke case over to a special prosecutor who can bring some “sense of fairness to the prosecution.”

The Times says [excerpts]:

[It’s no surprise] the rape charges emerging from a team party in March that included underage drinking and strippers performing became a national cause and have riven the Durham, N.C., community along racial, gender and class lines.

The surprise has come from the irresponsibility of the district attorney. Michael Nifong first tried the case in the media, fanning the flames of social discord, and has refused to reconsider the case as evidence emerged that strongly pointed to the innocence of the accused.

Nifong has behaved irresponsibly and significantly compromised this case. He should hand it off to an impartial prosecutor.

From every vantage it appears that Nifong grandstanded this tragic case as a way to build voter support in Durham's African-American community. …

The CBS News show 60 Minutes recently did a thorough review of the evidence available and found that there is little to corroborate the accuser's story.

The DNA of the three accused men failed to match that found on the accuser's body.

One of the accused, Reede Seligmann, has cell phone records that show he made nine phone calls when the crime was alleged to have been committed. He was also photographed by a bank security camera at an ATM machine about that time.

The other exotic dancer at the party that evening says that she didn't see an attack and was with the alleged victim nearly the entire time.

The accuser has apparently changed her story a number of times and reportedly went back to performing even while going to hospitals to say she was racked by pain from the attack.

The lives of the three young men accused, Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, are on hold until their trial next spring.

Yet Nifong, the man who has upended their lives, seems increasingly uninterested in the facts of the case. He recently said that he has not ever talked with the alleged victim, and he has refused to consider the alibi evidence from one of the accused.

Nifong has a prosecutor's obligation to be open to new evidence that might challenge original conclusions. His primary goal should be to seek justice, not keep his job by fanning public outrage and playing on racial and class bias.

Only an outside, independent prosecutor can bring some sense of fairness to a prosecution that has been terribly mishandled from the beginning.
The St. Pete Times is right on every point.

I’m sending copies of the editorial and this post to Durham Herald Sun editor Bob Ashely and Raleigh News & Observer editorial page editor Steve Ford.

To the list of reasons the St. Pete Times gives for Nifong stepping aside, I can add two more:

1) Nifong’s claim that he hasn’t been able to get the accuser to talk to him about the alleged crimes is a very strong argument for a special prosecutor taking over the case. Surely, whoever is going to prosecute the case needs to talk to the accuser and assess first-hand what she is saying. Eight months have passed since the alleged events.

2) If a trial is held, jury selection is expected to take several weeks and the trial that will follow is expected to take many months. During all that time, the legal proceding will necessarily absorb almost all, if not all, Nifong’s professional time and attention, including as always happens with major trials the need to work weekends.

Durham has a very serious crime problem, made much worse be the recent rapid growth in gang activity. By stepping aside and allowing a special prosecutor to take over the case, Nifong will free himself to do what he promised during the campaign to do: fight violent street crime and the gang problem

KC Johnson reports The Charlotte Observer, The Rocky Mount Telegram, and The Winston-Salem Journal have all called for Nifong to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take charge of the case.

I hope we can soon add the N&O and the H-S to that list.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 13, 2006

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

The Blitz began on September 7, 1940. London was bombed for the next consecutive 57 days. The Blitz did not end until May 11, 1941, when a very severe raid killed over 3,000 Londoners.

As you know, The Blitz presented Churchill and the government with enormous and complex problems. Evacuate the children? Yes, but where and with whom would they stay? Families is rural areas were volunteering to take in children but would they be suitable families. Was a family prepared to take in six brothers and sister ranging in age from 2 to 14, two of whom were what were then called "problem children?"

What about parents who refused to send their children to the countryside?

How to you keep public morale high under the extreme duress of daily bombing? How do you convince people that when the "all clear" is sounded, they must not go to their homes to see if they are still standing and their families and neighbors all right, but instead stay at their jobs until their shifts have ended?

And then there was the matter Churchill felt compelled to deal with after almost two weeks of German bombing:


Prime Minister to Postmaster-General,

There are considerable complaints about the Post Office service during air raids. Prehaps you will give me a report on what you are doing.
I’ve been accused of making the memo up but you can find it in Churchill’s Their Finest Hour, vol. 2, pg 671 (Houghton Mifflin, 1949)

As for what was done with the children, initially plans were made and orders given for their evacuation to safer areas. Some children even came to the States and lived out the war here.

But there was much resistance to evacuating the children and many problems settling them in new locations. The government soon adopted a “What the parent thinks best; HM's government will help provide options” approach that was followed throughout the remainder of the war.


Durham Herald Sun readers had to be shocked this morning when they turned to the editorial page.

Right there below a Bob Ashley editorial was an Other Voices column. H-S readers are used to seeing Other Voices columns on the page opposite the editorial page. Seeing an OV column in “precious” space usually occupied only by editorials was a shocker. But it was only the first.

Shocker two? The OV column was given as much space as the H-S editorial that preceded it.

And what H-S reader would have believed the next shocker?

The OV column was headed :

Nifong’s many victims

Talk about a shocker! Number three was the biggest of all.

For weeks leading up to last Tuesday’s election, Ashley and his H-S “news team” were telling their dwindling but faithful readers that DA Mike Nifong had protected them and the community from wild Duke students and just about everything else bad in the world except maybe this season’s latest flu strain.

But today, less than a week after the H-S’s “campaign reporting” helped elect Nifong, Ashley turned around and gave H-S readers that awful third shock:
Nifong’s many victims
Why? Does Ashley worry that after opening his paper, readers will start snoozing?

Anyway, H-S readers who were awake and alert after reading the H-S’s first two shockers, and were still on their feet after reading the headline, “Nifong’s many victims,” know the headline was followed by a Joseph V. Cheshire column.

Cheshire is lead attorney for David Evans, one of three former Duke lacrosse players indicted following what attorneys across America and millions of citizens view as a series of travesties.

Cheshire's column is a response to remarks the H-S attributed to Durham attorney Kerry Sutton in a H-S post-election story, “Lawyers: Nifong right pick for DA.”

Here first are Sutton’s remarks in full as reported by the H-S:
"I believe the right person won," attorney Kerry Sutton said of the local campaign. "While I disagree with Mike's handling of the lacrosse case, he had a right to take the stance he did, and he is doing his job. If I ever mess up a case myself, I hope people won't judge my entire career based on that case alone."

Sutton, who has done some work for lacrosse rape defendant David Evans and who also represents an unindicted Duke lacrosse player, said she thought outsiders had meddled too much in the district attorney race.

"The fact that people from around the nation put their noses and money into the politics of Durham kind of skewed people's perspectives on what goes on here and what should go on here," Sutton added. "I don't think that's appropriate."
To those remarks, Cheshire responded (excerpts):
As David Evans' attorney, I feel it is my duty to respond to comments attributed to Kerry Sutton. …

[While Sutton] did render substantial assistance to us in the logistics of Evans' surrender, Sutton does not represent Evans, nor is she authorized to speak for him or on his behalf. …

I understand the need for lawyers whose livelihood and clients' fates are often governed by the whim of the elected district attorney to remain as close as possible to that DA no matter what he does.

But it must be noted that Nifong's only "right" and "job" as a prosecutor in this or any other case is to satisfy his oath to see that justice is done. …

Justice is not done in any criminal prosecution when a DA who assumes the role of chief factual investigator and does not bother to talk with the chief prosecuting witness about her allegations to assess her credibility, and instead lets forth a stream of pure speculation about the "facts" of the case to conform to the evolving investigation: speculation that, in fact, contradicts materials in his own case file and sworn statements made by his own investigators and assistants in the investigation.

Those actions are hardly a prosecutor's "right" or "job" as defined by his oath.

Sutton also takes exception to the people from around the country who have taken an interest in this case, who include the parents of the scores of young men whose lives have been unalterably affected by the ongoing miscarriage of justice in this case.
These people are victims of Nifong's actions in the same way that the people of Durham are, and their interest in this case is just as real and proper. …
Cheshire said much more. It’s all here.

I wonder what Attorney Sutton thought when she looked at today’s H-S editorial page and saw not only shockers one, two and three but shocker four as well.

Shocker four, for those of you who don’t get a hard copy of the H-S, is this: Ashley chose to highlight in bold in a sidebar the words Cheshire used as his "hammer of Thor:"
“I understand the need for lawyers whose livelihood and clients' fates are often governed by the whim of the elected district attorney to remain as close as possible to that DA no matter what he does.”
Now there’s an editor playing rough with someone who just appears to have given an H-S reporter the kind of pro-Nifong quote Ashley’s been peddling for weeks.

What’s changed? Does Ashley think the Feds are coming to town to investigate Nifong and his cronies?

Stay tuned. There’s more to be told about this story.

More on The N&O’s Ford

Yesterday I posted, “N&O still for Nifong,” a response to on Raleigh News & Observer’s editorial page editor Steve Ford’s Nov. 12 column, “No gong for Mike Nifong ---Yet.”

A few principal points from my post:

On March 28 The N&O editorialized: Shut down the lacrosse team; the woman, by making her allegations, had engaged in “an act of courage; and echoing DA Nifong’s statement to the court, the N&O said DNA testing “can clear the innocent.”

The N&O’s editorial page was supporting Nifong then, it supported him when the DNA results came back negative and he said, in effect, “So what. We’ll just have a trial anyway;” and it supports Nifong today, which is why Ford was so upset by the Durham DA election results.

Ford was so put out yesterday he actually said :

We have trials to settle such things, and we insist that matters of guilt or innocence be decided according to very specific rules meant to safeguard the rights of both accusers and defendants. What we don't do in this country is decide the merit of criminal charges at the polls.
It seems all of us except Ford know: Of course we don’t decide the merits of criminal charges at the polls which is why a trial(s)of David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann could have gone forward if Nifong had lost and a successor DA choose to continue the prosecution.

The Durham DA election, Ford’s opinion to the contrary, was about Durham’s citizens doing what citizens everywhere else in North Carolina can do: vote for the person they think will do the most to give them fairness and justice in the DA’s office.

I said a lot more but let’s move on and take a look at an excellent KC Johnson post today in which he responds to the same Ford column.

KC starts off with a “roll call” of eleven N&O news stories concerning Nifong’s misconduct and travesties that ought to have any self-respecting editor demanding Nifong’s removal from office. Here’s the first of the eleven:
That after Nifong ordered the police to perform a photo lineup that violated Durham procedures in multiple ways, “every choice contained flaws or contradictions . . . The woman recognized 15 players at one viewing but didn’t recognize them at another. She picked out only one player with certainty at both the March and April viewings. He, however, was in Raleigh, not at the lacrosse party. She wrongly identified the player who made a rude comment about a broomstick.” (Neff, October 8)
KC ends his “roll call” with this:
That Duke Law professor James Coleman, after urging appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the case, said, “I don’t think [Nifong is] showing detached judgment. I personally have no confidence in him.” (Blythe and Neff, June 13)
Well, to paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentson: “We know James Coleman. He’s a Duke Law professor we respect. And you, Steve Ford, are no James Coleman.”

A little further on KC says:
Does Ford even read his own newspaper? He does, obviously, although his column suggests his skepticism of its reporting. If a trial occurs, Ford writes, the accuser would “have to explain embarrassing evidence such as the video that supposedly shows her performing an exotic dance at a strip club during the same time frame, just days after the alleged attack, when she was telling doctors and nurses she was in severe pain.” [emphasis added]
There’s a lot more in KC’post which you can read here.

In a few days I’ll say some more about Ford’s continuing support for Nifong.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Michigan Prefers Equality

That’s the lead of Abigail Thernstrom's WSJ op-ed today which begins:

A striking 58% of Michigan voters gave the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative a thumbs up; only three counties voted against it.

The language of the MCRI … amends the Michigan Constitution to "ban public institutions from using affirmative-action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes."

The political and business establishments, pressure groups like the AARP, labor-union leaders, religious spokesmen, the professoriat, the major Detroit newspapers--all were opposed to MCRI. But a substantial majority of ordinary voters were thinking for themselves.
Well, there! It’s happened again. Ordinary voters thinking for themselves. Don't you like that?

How did the MCRI pass if all the smart and powerful people were against it? Thernstrom explains:
Patty Alspach was perhaps a typical supporter. A Democrat, she signed the petition putting the proposition on the ballot. Meanwhile, opponents loudly claimed that the measure was misleading, that voters were being duped, that it should be tossed off the ballot. "I read it," replied Ms. Alpach. "I understood it. I signed it. Now let me vote on it."

While [Ward] Connerly is the father of the civil-rights initiatives, in Michigan his role was that of mentor and fund-raiser; Jennifer Gratz, MCRI's executive director, was in charge.

She'd been the lead plaintiff in Gratz v. Bollinger, one of the University of Michigan cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2003. The Court agreed that race-driven admissions policies were okay as long as they remained a bit subtle--but no naked point system for the color of an applicant's skin.

The drive for the MCRI was launched immediately after the Gratz and Grutter decisions were announced.
Thernstrom describes what happened in Michigan after the court ruling, including why the campaign to ban race preferences was successful. She notes that the president of the University of Michigan has promised to fight the amendment.

But Thernstrom closes with this:
The modern-day survival of racial preferences depends on sympathetic judges willing to spin dubious arguments and ignore widely available data on the pernicious impact of such preferences.

But, this time, the University of Michigan may find itself without judicial recourse. The Supreme Court has never said that universities are constitutionally obligated to institute "diversity" policies. Public universities are funded by taxpayers. And those taxpayers have spoken.
Thernstrom is always worth reading. She has her facts straight and "puts it right out there."

I hope you read her column here.

N&O still for Nifong

Steve Ford is The Raleigh News & Observer’s editorial page editor. While readers are told a board makes N&O editorial decisions, Ford is regarded as its “controlling voice.”

Back on March 28 The Raleigh News & Observer editorialized on “the Duke lacrosse case.” (subscription req'd)

The N&O demanded Duke cancel the Men’s lacrosse season. It praised the woman for “an act of courage” in coming forward and reporting the alleged crimes.

And then there was the matter of the DNA testing.

We now know something we didn’t know on March 28: For days following the alleged gang-rape, the accuser hadn’t been able to provide a reliable ID of even one of her alleged attackers.

How was Nifong to get around that problem? He decided to DNA test all white lacrosse players and hope something turned up positive.

But casting such a broad net has traditionally been questioned, if not outright opposed, by rights groups and bar associations. Many courts won’t grant permission for such broad net “fishing.”

To get past those objections, Nifong offered the court and public what sales people call a “sweetener:” the DNA results will “immediately rule out the innocent.”

The N&O, which in the past has strongly objected to broad net DNA testing, decided that in the Duke lacrosse case it would make an exception and support it. The N&O used Nifong’s “sweetener” when explaining to readers why it was supporting broad net DNA testing :

”DNA testing can help build a case, but it also can clear the innocent. That's a greater good justifying a compromise of the whole group's privacy when lacrosse team members had to report to a crime lab for DNA sampling.”
Well, you know how the DNA results came back; and you know Nifong announced they really didn’t “immediately rule out the innocent” after all; and they’d be a trial for sure.

At the point, The N&O’s editorial board said no more about DNA evidence “clear[ing] the innocent.” Instead, The N&O told readers Nifong was the right man to leave in charge of the case and to prosecute it at trail. The N&O’s editorial page continues to support Nifong to this day.

In his column today, editorial page editor Steve Ford tells readers:
Does it amount to some kind of travesty, then, that Nifong is set to continue as D.A.? Not in my book.

That's not to say anybody should be comfortable with Nifong's performance in the case that has drawn scads of unwanted attention to Durham, Duke University and their uneasy co-existence.

But to throw him out of office on the sole basis of that performance would have had the effect of substituting the judgment of voters for the judgment of jurors. That's no way to settle the question of whether a crime occurred and, if so, who was responsible.

We have trials to settle such things, and we insist that matters of guilt or innocence be decided according to very specific rules meant to safeguard the rights of both accusers and defendants. What we don't do in this country is decide the merit of criminal charges at the polls.
Yes, we have trials and, of course, we don’t decide the merits of criminal charges at the polls.

That’s why, Editor Ford, even if Nifong had lost, the trial(s) of David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann could have gone forward if a successor DA choose to continue the prosecution.

The law also permits a reelected DA Nifong to drop all charges at some point or even to do what Duke Law Professor James Coleman has recommended he do: step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take over the case.

So the Durham DA election wasn’t about, as Ford says, “substituting the judgment of voters for the judgment of jurors.”

It was about Durham’s citizens doing what citizens everywhere else in North Carolina do: vote for the person they think will do the most to give them fairness and justice in the DA’s office.

Ford’s never had any problem with citizens doing that before. Why does he have a problem with Durham’s citizens doing it last Tuesday?

The answer’s obvious: Ford’s still with Nifong.

Ford supports Nifong today with “the last refuge” argument. Most of you know it by heart: “Mike’s been a fantastic public servant for 27 years. Yes, he spoke too much early on and his handling of the case has been a little ‘slipshod.’ But you can’t throw a man out of office on ‘the sole basis of that performance.’”

It’s hard to judge those 27 years. A lot of what Nifong did then was outside the public spotlight. Most of it was plea bargaining, which many attorneys say is a necessary part of our legal system but also one of its least just.

What about the attorneys who’ve “cut deals” with Nifong, hope to do so in the future and tell us: “We’re lucky to have someone like Nifong?” I listen to them with the proverbial “grains of salt” in mind.

Now the “one case” refuge is another matter. The “one case” began eight months ago. There is much Nifong has done during it that we can easily judge. And what Nifong has done during the last eight months tells us a great deal about what sort of person and public official he is.

On March 27, he used the “players aren’t cooperating” falsehood that first appeared in the N&O’s now discredited March 25 “anonymous interview” story to slime the players. He said he wished someone at the party had “the human decency” to call up and say what happened there.

When Nifong said that, he knew a lot of things we didn’t know then.

Nifong knew that on March 16 the three captains who rented the house where the crimes were alleged to have occurred had answered all police questions, voluntarily signed statements, given DNA samples and in many other ways helped police understand what had really happened that night.

Nifong also knew every one of the 46 players ordered to submit to DNA testing could have appealed the order, including the ones who weren’t even in Durham the night of the alleged crimes. But not one of the 46 exercised his right of appeal.

Do you need a bar association ruling or an N&O editorial to tell you what Nifong was doing on March 27? Or to tell you what he was doing later in the week when he ridiculed the players and their parents for hiring attorneys.

Ridiculing people for hiring attorneys when they’re accused of serious crimes is something the late Senator Joe McCarthy used to do.

And then Nifong went on to ask why the players would need attorneys if they were innocent.

During just that one week in the eight month old case, Nifong lied about the suspect’s cooperation, engaged in blatant McCarthyism and, although an officer of the court sworn to uphold justice, wondered why citizens would exercise their right to counsel if they were innocent.

Nifong’s actions that week may not have meant much to Steve Ford and his editorial board. But for many Durham citizens, Nifong’s actions were “enough.” Regardless of the players’ guilt or innocence, Nifong had already displayed enough contempt for his sworn duties to have lost their votes.

What those citizens have since learned about Nifong’s actions further confirmed their belief that he is unfit to hold the DA’s office. And as the months pasted, thousands of others in Durham came to agree with them.

Back on March 28 The N&O’s editorial was doing its best for Nifong. Today, Steve Ford does his best for Nifong.

Will we ever see an N&O editorial or Steve Ford column that does what’s best for justice and Durham?