Thursday, November 23, 2006

Blogging resumes Sunday night

There are many family and friends here for the weekend.

Blogging will resume Sunday night around 8 pm with another letter to The Chronicle's Editorial Board. This one responds to The Chronicle's concerns about how I and a few other bloggers' have reacted to statements by certain Duke faculty. I hope you'll be "listening" to what I say.

I'll also have a post concerning aspects of the Raleigh News & Observer's Duke lacrosse coverage that deserve more attention than they've received.

More posts will follow including a "look" at former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his chances of winning the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of Thanksgiving and the weekend.



I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

To our serving military, our veterans and their families goes a heartfelt thanks and prayer.

Without your sacrifices the rest of us wouldn't have the great blessings we enjoy.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 22, 2006

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

Today, something about a Thanksgiving Service: a bit of a mystery if you will.

On May 13, 1945, Winston and Clementine Churchill attended a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, for the victory over Germany.

As they came down the cathedral steps after the service, a breeze was blowing. Clementine put her hand to her head to keep her hat in place. Churchill held his hat in his right hand. He held something else in his left hand. You can see the Churchill’s descending the steps in the photo here.

For the life of me I can’t figure out what the object is. Do any of you know what the object is or have an educated guess?

Notice also that he appears to have lost some weight. While his buttoned jacket fits, his pants are very baggy.

The St. Paul’s photo was included in the Smithsonian exhibit “Churchill and the Great Republic.” I’ve included a link to the exhibit's website home page.

Perhaps Thanksgiving Day or over the weekend, you, family and friends will enjoy “visiting” the exhibit. It’s wonderful.

I plan to spend a lot of time with family this Thanksgiving, so I’ll be taking a break from blogging.

The Churchill Series will resume Monday, Nov. 27.

I wish each of you a blessed Thanksgiving and hope you're back on Monday.


Good signs from NAACP's McSurely

Liestoppers notes we’ve gotten "A Curiously Mixed Message" from North Carolina’s state chapter of the NAACP. Its President, Rev. William J. Barber II, has told us that “maintain[ing] community and do[ing] justice requires tenacity to seek the truth and willingness to face the truth.”

But at the state NAACP’s website, LS finds an essay by the organization’s Legal Redress Chair, attorney Al McSurely, that LS demonstrates contains “distortions” and what LS delicately calls “departures from the truth.”

JinC Regulars may recall McSurely was the subject of posts on June 3 (“Duke lacrosse letter: So bad it's a good sign for the indicted”) and June 4 (“Remember that Duke lacrosse letter? Here's a follow up”)

The posts commented on a letter McSurely wrote to the Raleigh News & Observer in response to a David Brooks column, "The Duke Witch Hunt," which first appeared in the New York Times.

In light of all the public had learned by late May about DA Mike Nifong’s “case,” Brooks said “simple decency” required that he and millions of others “correct the slurs” they’d uttered in March and April against the Duke Men’s lacrosse team.

McSurely didn't like that one bit. He went after Brooks with statements such as:

“Brooks conceded the team is ‘mostly white’ (46 out of 47). He cited favorably a National Journal essay [by Stuart Taylor] that estimated "an 85 percent chance" the men are innocent.”
I noted that “conced[ing]” a team is mostly white is no more a concession that “conceding” a team is mostly black. I also noted McSurely couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge what Brooks had actually said about Taylor :
“[Law journalist] Stuart Taylor has written a devastating couple of essays on the weak case of the prosecutor, Mike Nifong [citing] lack of DNA evidence, the seemingly exculpatory digital photos and the testimony of a taxi driver.”
McSurely’s letter was so weak I said “it had to be a good sign for the indicted players.”

Liestoppers' post shows us why McSurely's essay is another "good sign" for the players.

Patriotism and reporters

On Nov. 6 I posted “The Press at War.” It concerned James Q. Wilson’s WSJ op-ed on the role of press bias in undermining America’s efforts in Iraq now and in Vietnam during the 60s.

A blog friend emails today with more by Wilson on the same subject. Excerpts from Wilson’s essay in City Journal with blog friend’s comments in italics.
Austin Bay posts on a James Q. Wilson piece about patriotism and reporters. Some excerpts:

We are told by careful pollsters that half of the American people believe that American troops should be brought home from Iraq immediately. This news discourages supporters of our efforts there. Not me, though: I am relieved. Given press coverage of our efforts in Iraq, I am surprised that 90 percent of the public do not want us out right now.

Between January 1 and September 30, 2005, nearly 1,400 stories appeared on the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news. More than half focused on the costs and problems of the war, four times as many as those that discussed the successes. About 40 percent of the stories reported terrorist attacks; scarcely any reported the triumphs of American soldiers and marines. The few positive stories about progress in Iraq were just a small fraction of all the broadcasts.

When the Center for Media and Public Affairs made a nonpartisan evaluation of network news broadcasts, it found that during the active war against Saddam Hussein, 51 percent of the reports about the conflict were negative. Six months after the land battle ended, 77 percent were negative; in the 2004 general election, 89 percent were negative; by the spring of 2006, 94 percent were negative. This decline in media support was much faster than during Korea or Vietnam….
Wilson concludes:
The mainstream media’s adversarial stance, both here and abroad, means that whenever a foreign enemy challenges us, he will know that his objective will be to win the battle not on some faraway bit of land but among the people who determine what we read and watch. We won the Second World War in Europe and Japan, but we lost in Vietnam and are in danger of losing in Iraq and Lebanon in the newspapers, magazines, and television programs we enjoy.
The MSM has a lot to answer for….

My blog friend has it right. But how do we counter the effects of a press that magnifies any American mistake or wrong action (Remember all those Abu Ghraib stories?)while seeking to "understand," not America's enemies, but "the insurgents."

In WW II the press routinely referred to American forces as "we" and "our" and German and Japanese forces as "the enemy." Katie Couric or Brian Williams would never make that "mistake," would they? That would be a bigger mistake than going on camera without their makeup.

Hat Tip: Mike Williams

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 21, 2006

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

Richard Langworth is a respected historian and editor of the Churchill Centre’s journal, Finest Hour. When he speaks, I listen.

I was delighted the other day when I learned he’d confirmed a remark I’d heard attributed to Churchill but was never quite sure he’d actually said. So I’ve hesitated to pass it on to you. Here from Langworth:

"It is established that in 1915 he wrote his brother Jack from Hoe Farm, where he was spending the summer, that he had all the necessities of life; ‘Hot baths, cold Champagne, new peas and old brandy.’”
BTW – I owe you all an apology. The other day I said Churchill’s Chartwell home is in Surry. An anonymous commenter correctly noted it’s in Kent.

I’m sorry for my error and thank Anonymous for pointing it out.

In a separate post I plan to use Anonymous’ comment to demonstrate that despite what some people think, bloggers have “editors” who review our work. Look for the post in the next week. It may take the form of a letter to an MSM editor.


To The Chronicle: Letter 4

Readers’ Note: On Oct. 27, Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, published an editorial, “Bloggers get point, miss complexity.” The editorial and its comment thread are here.

The Chronicle editorial leveled extremely serious charges at bloggers.

I’ve responded to The Chronicle with a series of electronic letters which I’m posting at JinC. Each letter is headed "To The Chronicle" and enumerated. Here are links to letters one, two and three.

Letter four follows.


Editorial Board
The Chronicle
Duke University

Dear Editorial Board Members:

This is my fourth letter responding to your Oct. 27 editorial, “Bloggers get point, miss complexity.” (Here, for reference, are letters one, two and three. ) The qualifiers I laid out in those letters apply to this one as well.

You say blogs have “villainized … major media [and made assertions] with little true reporting” but offer no specifics.

So I’ll move on and say some things about what's actually happened at my blog.

If you search JinC achieves, you’ll see I often write about the importance of good reporting and frequently recommend print stories and news programs. I encourage readers to bookmark many journalists and news organizations.

Most of what I’ve written about “major media” has been quite positive.

That said, I’ve also been very critical of certain individuals and news organizations. Let's look at some of that and you decide whether I’ve really "villainized …with little true reporting” or simply reported things as they are and offered reasonable commentary.

Concerning the Duke lacrosse case, I’ve been sharply critical of much of the coverage of the Durham Herald Sun and the Raleigh News & Observer.

For example, these links take you to posts (here and here) concerning a H-S story claiming it was reporting “previously undisclosed [DNA] matches” to David Evans. I cited and linked to three month old news stories that had reported on the H-S's “previously undisclosed [DNA] matches” and made clear the DNA matches didn’t link Evans to the alleged events of the night of Mar. 13/14.

I asked H-S Editor Bob Ashley for an explanation of what appeared to be a "fake" story. Ashley said he wasn’t interested in a “debate.”

This post links to the H-S's Oct. 17 editorial commenting on the Oct. 15 60 Minutes episode generally regarded as having effectively exposed numberous travesties in the investigation and indictments of Duke lacrosse players. The H-S editorial recycled the false claim that Collin Finnerty had attacked a gay man. The H-S claim had been refuted five months previously. (scroll down on post)

On Mar. 24 the Raleigh N&O first “broke” the lacrosse story with an article that seven times referred to the accuser as either the “victim” or with the possessive “victim’s,” never once using the customary qualifies “alleged” or “reported.” In doing that, the N&O effectively cast the accuser as “the victim” and your classmates as her “victimizers.

Since Mar. 24 I’ve reported frequently on what the N&O did, revealing that it was not standard practice for the N&O to refer to the accuser in the preadjudication phase of a disputed rape case as “the victim.” I asked why, on Mar. 24 and again on Mar. 25 the N&O would make an exception to its standard practice, since doing that had the effect of framing the Duke players as a team composed of three gang-rapists and their teammates who were covering up for them.

What I did was what many bloggers do:digging, fact-checking and publically reporting the facts.

Yet for seven months the N&O mislead the public and denied it had done anything wrong in its use of “victim.”

Finally, on Oct. 20 before a “blog-smart” audience at Duke Law School which knew what the N&O had done, the paper’s managing editor, John Drescher acknowledged, as reported by the N&O, that the “ alleged rape has not been proven, and thus it isn't clear whether there is a victim.”

That’s not a full, frank acknowledgement of error but it’s a small first step. It's a pity the N&O took seven months to begin to acknowledge some of what it did to frame the players as “victimizers?”

For months I’ve asked N&O editors and reporters when the N&O first learned of the extensive cooperation the players provided police. Here’s the most recent and detailed response I’ve received. It’s on the thread of a post at the N&O’s Editors’ Blog. Melanie Sill is the N&O's executve editor for news:

Comment from: Melanie Sill [Member] •
10/26/06 at 17:04

John, as to your specific question about "when we knew the players had cooperated," I believe our information about the level of cooperation of various players was gained over days and weeks after the initial story and in bits and pieces from police and from lawyers and other people speaking for the players or for Duke

Your editorial comments regarding blog treatment of "major media and true reporting" don't apply to my blog or the blogs of any responsible blogger, many of whom have provided outstanding Duke lacrosse reporting and commentary.

In a few days, I’ll respond regarding blog criticisms of the A&S faculty, individual faculty and President Brodhead.

In the meantime, I wish you all and your families a blessed Thanksgiving.



Monday, November 20, 2006

The Churchill Series – Nov. 20, 2006

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

FDR, Ike, Harry Hopkins, George Marshall, Joe Kennedy and Bernard Baruch. Those are just some of the Americans Churchill was eager to meet and learn more about. Today we’ll add two other Americans to that list: William Cody and Ulysses S. Grant.

In the summer of 1887, “Wild Bill” Cody was bringing his “Wild West Show” to London. Naturally the twelve year old Winnie Churchill, considered by some teachers and relatives “wild” himself, was eager to see the show. Biographer Martin Gilbert tell us about what happened next:

[Cody’s] advertisement in The Times trumpeted its attractions in capital letters.” GRANDSTAND FOR 20000 PEOPLE. BANDS OF SIOUX, ARAPAHOES, SHOSHONES, CHEYENNES, AND OTHER INDIANS, CCOWBOYS, SCOUTS AND MEXICAN VACQUEROS.”

There would be riding, shooting, lassoing and hunting, attacks on a stagecoach and on a settler’s cabin. […]

Churchill, then at boarding school in Brighton, wrote several times to his mother, urging her to write to the two sister who ran the school to let him go up to London.
In the beginning Jennie said no, but Churchill, always a persistent campaigner, kept at it until he got a “Yes.” Needless to say, he enjoyed the show hugely and talked about it into old age.

Ulysses S. Grant? That Christmas, Churchill, having just turned 13, told his mother that one of the gifts he most wanted for Christmas was Grant’s recently released 2 volume memoirs. What an extraordinary request from any 13 year old, but particularly from one who was seen by many schoolmasters as not very bright and a problem student.

I’ve always found the following a good predictor with young students who “have school problems:” If they’re independent readers of serious material there’s a very good chance theyll turn out OK in the end even if they’re always failing spelling tests and not turning in many homework assignments.
Martin Gilbert, Churchill and America (pgs. 8-9)

A Duke student misses

Duke senior Shadee Malaklou, a double major in women’s studies and cultural anthropology, has just published an op-ed in the Durham Herald Sun, “Lacrosse players far from innocent." (Her Nov. 19 op-ed is not yet online. I'll link when and if it becomes available. – JinC).

Malaklou begins:

Joseph B. Cheshire’s Nov. 11 angry words did not go unnoticed. For every smug remark by a smug, white attorney representing a smug, white lacrosse player, there is a woman cringing. This time that woman was me.

Not only was Cheshire’s guest column unprofessional, but it was also completely insensitive to the multitudes of women who have been victim, in one way or another, to the lacrosse players actions. […]
Folks, I hope you appreciate what you’ve just read. Look at all Ms. Malaklou did in two brief paragraphs.

She told readers she’s a victim (“woman cringing”) of an “angry …smug, white attorney representing a smug, white lacrosse player.” What's more Attorney Cheshire is “unprofessional (and) completely insensitive to ... multitudes of women.”

O horrors! Cheshire not only victimized Malaklou but he's also been insensitive to “multitudes of [other] women.”

Imagine that! Until now I’d thought the worst thing Cheshire did was wear a goatee.

If you read Cheshire’s Nov. 11 op-ed, you’re probably wondering how anyone could see what he said as “victimizing” a woman. “It’s just not there,” you say.

No it's not, but in the "PC world" it doesn't have to be. What matters is that you cast yourself as a victim and call whomever you disagree with a victimizer. Make charges; avoid facts. If the other person introduces facts, they're further victimizing you. Highlight that.

Remember, if you live in the “PC world" you are able to see things others don't see. Duke’s Professor Wahneema Lubiano, a signer of the "Group of 88’s" “listening” statement, explains :
” In everyday life, people are unable to easily see structural racism, sexism and class divisions.”
So, folks, we shouldn’t feel badly about not seeing what Lubiano and Malaklou see. We don't have the specialized training Duke’s faculty "Group of 88" provides its devoted students.

Malaklou goes on to say:
Much of the emphasis on this “innocence” has ignored the gender and racial prejudice of the March 13 party. If nothing else, Nifong is holding the lacrosse players accountable for that; and as a woman at Duke who knows just how much these men get away with, I’m thankful.
Let's wind it up here, folks.

Are there any of you “in everyday life” who can’t easily see in those two sentences Malaklou’s sexism, major factual error, smugness and her willingness to embrace a DA who will ignore innocence and act instead to satisfy her prejudices?

It's sad to think Malaklou is no doubt sincere and unaware of her actual thought processes and values.

Sadder still is the fact that many Duke faculty, such as the "Group of 88", will reinforce Malaklou instead of trying to educate her.

Liestoppers has an excellent, extensive post on Malaklou's op-ed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Re: "Duke faculty duties"

I appreciate reader comments regarding my “Duke faculty duties” letter to Professor Karla Holloway, a signatory of the Duke faculty “Group of 88’s” “listening” statement advertisement and a member of the Campus Cultural Initiative committee.

A few readers said Holloway very likely will not respond. I hope she does, but I know she may not. In fact, she may not even read the letter. She could hit “delete” after the first few words.

I hope she doesn’t and instead responds. But even if she doesn’t respond, writing and publishing the letter has been useful.

In theory everyone at Duke can read the letter and the comment thread; and some certainly will.

They can then judge the letter and comments against remarks attributed to Holloway in a recent Chronicle article [excerpt]:

Holloway wrote in an e-mail that misreadings of the advertisement have attracted the most attention.

"It was extraordinarily telling that these respondents displaced the actual content of the ad for the fiction of their own meagerly articulated agendas," she wrote.

She added that she would sign the petition again "in a heartbeat."

Both [Professor] Kaplan and Holloway said they have received hate mail from strangers.

"The often vicious, frequently racist and generally poorly composed responses I have received speak for themselves," Holloway said.

"Those who cower under the cover of anonymous e-mail and who find their life's blood in producing unending streams of blogged nonsense are probably better left to these subaltern spaces," she added.
The letter and readers’ comments constitute a civil and on-point rejoinder to what Holloway told The Chronicle. They’ll leave sensible people wondering if perhaps Holloway hasn’t gotten other similarly civil and on-point comments.

People who want to find out whether Holloway responds can check with her or at JinC from time to time in the next few weeks.

If Holloway doesn’t respond, people can make their own judgments as to why not. And they’ll have a better basis on which to judge what Holloway told The Chronicle than just Holloway’s statements.

The letter also gave me another opportunity to raise the matter of the University's silence regarding the racist attacks on Reade Seligmann on May 18. I plan to raise that matter as often as I can.

I’ve left replies to reader comments on the duties post.

Sowell: Right early and now

One of my favorite pundits is syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell. He almost always “gets it right;” usually before most others.

He’s been that way with the Duke lacrosse case. Back in April “righteous townies” were banging pots, Duke faculty were demanding to know “why they haven’t been expelled?’, and the Raleigh News & Observer was running the “Swagger” story and publishing the “vigilante” poster. In that atmosphere Sowell offered this:

People who were not within 1,000 miles of Duke University have already taken sides in the case of a stripper who has accused Duke lacrosse players of rape. One TV talk show hostess went ballistic when a guest on her program raised questions about the stripper's version of what happened.

Apparently we dare not question accusations of rape when it involves the new sacred trinity of race, class, and gender.

Media irresponsibility is one thing. Irresponsibility by an agent of the law is something else -- and much more dangerous. Prosecutors are not just supposed to prosecute. They are supposed to prosecute the right people in the right way. In this case, prosecutor Michael Nifong has proceeded in the wrong way.

Having an accuser or a witness pick out the accused from a lineup is standard procedure. That procedure not only serves to identify someone to be charged with a crime, it also tests the credibility of the accuser or witness -- or it should, if the lineup is not stacked.

A lineup should include not only people suspected of a crime but also other people, so that it tests whether the accuser or witness can tell the difference, and is therefore credible. But the stripper who claimed to have been raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team was presented with a lineup consisting exclusively of photographs of members of the lacrosse team.

In other words, whoever she picked out had to be a lacrosse player and would be targeted, with no test whatever of her credibility, because there was no chance for her to pick out somebody who had no connection with the team or the university.

Apparently District Attorney Nifong was no more wiling to test the accuser's credibility than was the TV talk show hostess who went ballistic, though credibility is often crucial in rape cases
To put a bit more perspective on Sowell’s column, he wrote it more than seven weeks before Duke Law Professor James Coleman wrote his excellent letter calling on Nifong to step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take charge of the Duke lacrosse case because the public had lost confidence in Nifong’s handling of the case.

The rest of Sowell’s column is here. I hope you read it; and ask yourself whether, with the benefit of seven months of hindsight, there is anything Sowell said in that column that hasn’t stood up.

Sowell's Nov. 17 column is here.