Saturday, January 13, 2007

For Liestoppers pot luck

I'm looking forward to Liestoppers put luck. It looks likes a number of folks will be bringing some kind of cooked Nifong.

So I thought I'd bring something different. It's really a dish the folks at Liestoppers prepare often themselves: Roast Bob glazed with truth.

It's a very simple dish.

All you do is take fresh, false statements by Durham Herald Sun Editor Bob Ashley and add some truth. You prepare Bob’s statements just the way he makes them. Nothing artificial should be added. Just use all natural Bob.

You pour a truth glaze - use only facts - all over Bob and put him in a post. Then let him simmer there.

I must tell you, folks, when I first heard of this dish I didn't want to try it. Like so many others in Durham, I’ve been fed a lot of Bob; and whenever I am, I think back to my childhood when I was forced to eat fried liver.

But the addition of a truth glaze makes all the difference.

See you at the pot luck.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 12, 2007

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

I promised a post today concerning Churchill’s WW I service in the trenches. Because of some unexpected travel problems (now solved), I don’t have at hand the books I need to refer to.

But I have something I think you will find worth reading.

You may know of John “Jock” Colville who was Churchill’s Private Secretary during WW II, except for a time when he served with distinction as an RAF pilot. Colville again served as Private Secretary during Churchill’s second premiership. He remained a close friend and advisor to both Winston and Clementine for the rest to their lives.

In Winston Churchill and His Inner Circle Colville writes:

In nature most of the impurities cleave to the lower ground. The hilltops are bare of undergrowth; the tall trees stretch above the creepers.

Human beings obey another law. The higher they climb, the grosser the temptations they meet. Few who reach the summit can be acquitted of vanity or conceit, whatever other vices they are strong enough to resist.

I make a distinction between the two. Vanity is an infection suffered by those who care too much what others think of them. Conceit is self-satisfaction, the mark of people sufficiently sure of themselves to hold the opinion of others as of little account except insofar as it favors or impedes their progress.

Both vanity and conceit are defects, but neither need be destructive of personal charm or of zeal to serve the community. They are seldom fatal infections and they do not necessarily strangle virtues. They are more exasperating in some than in others.

Roosevelt was vain; Churchill was conceited. (pgs. 132-133)
I hope you all have a nice weekend and are back for Monday’s post.

Pot luck supper invite


There's going to be a pot luck supper at Liestoppers discussion board. Justice seekers are invited. Here’s the invitation:

We are busy planning a meal on the LS discussion board. All points bulletin out for large pots in Durham.

Appetizer - Crow

Nifong Stew consisting of onions, carrots, celery and Nifong -(Joe Cheshire assisted by Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Seligmann and Mrs. Finnerty will handle the chopping).

Dessert: Humble Pie

Care to join us for dinner??
The exact time is still to be determined but it could be before this Sunday morning when “the community’s” super vigilant, "slam them in jail, god I love Nifong" righteous citizens will discharge their weekly accumulation of "enormous outrage over all that's been done to her" while brandishing “Castrate” signs and “Vigilante” posters.

CAUTION: Internet invitations being what they are, some people with no taste and others who just want to make justice seekers look bad will “show up” and post phony "pot luck” comments.

They'll post stuff just as easily and falsely as I could post something like this:
Do you know who's the youngest person ever to be offered an endowed professorship by Duke University?

ANSWER: No, it’s not Houston Baker or Britney Spears.

It’s John in Carolina, who was eight at the time.

Since then, John's read all of President Brodhead's presidential announcements posted at the Duke News site.

John clips and saves Brodhead’s announcements in a large scrapbook in which he also keeps illustrations of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.
Speaking of Peter Rabbit and all that, can you believe what Duke administrators are telling us about how mean they think bloggers are to Duke faculty?

Don't they know all of us get "hate mail?" And haven't many Duke faculty members gotten a "boatload" of civil, informed questions and commentary that Duke's administrators should expect them to respond to civilly and fully?

Well, we won’t let what looks like administration cowering spoil our supper, will we?

We can get back to that matter another day.

Now, what are you thinking of bringing?

I don’t know what to bring.

If it was a formal dinner, I’d have no problem.

I’d serve as my main entrée Flambé Lubiano par KC.

As a side dish I’d go with diced, deep-fried Nifong stuffed in Brodhead turnovers.

Well, you all know I’m really just avoiding picking a covered dish, don’t you?

I’ll tell you what.

I’ll go upstairs now, and before I go to bed I’ll dig out my old copy of A Raleigh News & Observer Sampler.

The N&O covers up so much stuff they’ve got to have a section in the Sampler for covered dishes.

I’ll pick one dish and let you know about it this time tomorrow.

BTW – If anyone can tell me how to get to the LS place where the party’s going to be I’d appreciate it.

I often get confused when I travel the internet.



PS – Don’t believe that stuff about my being eight when Duke offered me an endowed professorship. I was really ten.

N&O editor stoops to slime

Readers Note: What follows is a 1, 2, 3 post

1 – A copy of a comment I recently made on the thread of this post at the Raleigh N&O’s Editors’ Blog;

2 – A copy of a response the N&O’s executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, made on the same thread in response to my comment;

3 – My response to Sill which I’ve just left further down on the thread.

I think reading my comments and Sill’s response will give you a good idea of how each of us treats facts and how we treat you, our readers.


1 - Comment from: John [Visitor] •
01/08/07 at 23:42

To other posters above,

This is a great thread.

Dear Melanie,

Regarding the N&O journalism, can we agree that in just your Mar. 25 story the N&O:

1) Assured readers the woman we now know to be a false accuser was "the victim;"

2) That the false accuser identified the second dancer but you suppressed that news;

3) That the FA made statements the N&O suppressed that it now says it would have been libel had it reported them;

4) That you still refuse to publish a transcript of the interview;

5) That you've told readers you reported "only what was confirmed by the police report;"

6) That there were many police reports containing different accounts by the FA;

7) That a number of the police reports contained accounts by the FA that conflicted with the versions the N&O published and which DA Mike Nifong adopted as his version two days later when he spoke publicly about the case for the first time;

8) That in at least one of the police reports the FA said the second dancer, whom she called "Nicky," robbed her;

9) That in at least one of the police reports the FA said Nicky had assisted the lacrosse players who raped her;

10 Than in another police report the second dancer, Kim Roberts, had told the police that the FA's story of being raped, choked, beaten and robbed was a crock;

11) That the N&O has never told readers which of the police reports it claims to have used it in fact used;

12) That the police had on multiple occasions before your Mar. 25 interview told media of the cooperation the lacrosse players had given them;

13) And that the N&O, for reasons its never explained to readers, deliberately withheld from them the news that the players had been cooperating; and instead reported they had not been cooperating?

There's much more wrong with you Mar. 25 story and many other of your Duke lacrosse stories in which you worked so hard to frame the players.

I agree with others on this thread: You sound so much like Nixon at the time of Watergate.


John in Carolina

2 – Editor Sill’s response to my comment:

Comment from: Melanie Sill [Member] •
01/09/07 at 09:53
John, there are many misstatements of fact in your comment post here. I think you probably know that. We do not agree on your representation, but I think you probably also know that.

3 - My Response to Sill:

Dear Readers and Melanie:

Editor Sill stoops to slime when she tells readers she thinks I know what I'm saying are misstatements. Sill knows I've never said anything to indicate I doubt the truth of what I said in my comment above.

I'm reproducing part of it following the starline below. Following each of the first three points are supporting data that leave no doubt about the factualness of what I've said.

I could do the same for each of the other points but that would make this comment very long. I don't doubt that the truthfulness of what I'm saying is well known to most of you.

That puts you in a very good position to judge Editor Sill and what she's said about me.

It's not for nothing that her nickname is "The unbelievable editor."

Comment from: John [Visitor] •
01/08/07 at 23:42
To other posters above,

This is a great thread.

Dear Melanie,

Regarding the N&O journalism, can we agree that in just your Mar. 25 story the N&O:

1) Assured readers the woman we now know to be a false accuser was "the victim;"

On this post we find the follow two comments:

Comment from: Melanie Sill [Member] •
10/12/06 at 09:24

A factual note: The much discussed interview with the woman referred to her as "the accuser" or "the woman who reported the rape." Not sure how this has been twisted otherwise.

Comment from: Brian Johnston [Visitor]
10/17/06 at 17:58

Melanie, please actually read the article of March 25, and these quotes from it:

“It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify the VICTIMS of sex crimes.”

”Jason Bissey, who was on his porch next door during the party, saw the VICTIM that night.”

“He [Bissey] recalled the racially charged statements at least one man was yelling at the VICTIM.”

“Addison, the police spokesman, said that between receiving the call and searching the house, police were interviewing the VICTIM, residents of the house and other witnesses.”

2) That the false accuser identified the second dancer but you suppressed that news;

The following is part of Deputy Mangaging Editor Linda Williams "March 25 interview" post:
"Only two things the woman said at that time did not make publication. She provided a description of the then-unidentified second woman who had also been hired to dance at the lacrosse team party. She also offered an opinion about the other woman’s actions that night."
3) That the FA made statements the N&O suppressed that it now says it would have been libel had it reported them;

The following is from Williams' comment made at the EB's "Headline Saturday: DA Mike Nifong and the lacrosse case" post.
Comment from: Linda Williams [Member] •
12/24/06 at 17:17

[...] "As previously stated, the accuser offered a description of the second dancer hired for the party. The presence of a second woman at the party was already known, but she was not identified at that time. The description was withheld because it was irrelevant in the absence of any other available information about the second woman. The accusers' speculation about the actions of the second woman was also not printed.

If we had printed that utterance- an admitted speculation without the slightest foundation to suggest the possibility of truth-- it would have been a conscious act of libel." [...]
It's not for nothing that Melanie Sill is called "the unbelievable editor."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan 11, 2007

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

Yesterday I promised some comments about Churchill’s WW I experiences in the trenches. Here are a few thoghts from "the top of my head."

As many of you know he went to the battlefield after the collapse of the Dardanelles Expedition which he’d strongly backed. Had the expedition succeeded in capturing the Ottoman capital of Constantinople, the Allies would have been able to strengthen the Russians and keep them in the fight. They would also have outflanked the Germans.

Churchill received heavy, disproportionate and, according to many historians today, unfair blame for the expedition’s failure. Most people, including it seems Churchill for a time, thought his political career was over.

Churchill decided to join the active fighting for a complex of reasons. He felt he had a duty to contribute to the war effort. He recognized he had no influence at the time on decisions affecting the war. So by going into the trenches he was making his contribution. And being Winston Churchill, he could no more imagine himself standing by when his country was at war than we can.

Churchill, of course, was a graduate of the Royal Military College, had served as an officer under three sovereign, fought in the Empire’s was on three continents, had often been shot at, twice had horses shot out form underneath him, and been taking prisoner of war and escaped.

So Churchill by temperament in 1915 wanted to serve his country; and if it could do that nowhere else but at the front, he was on his way to France.

When he got there he was received as a politician. But he was a most unusual politician for he was also a trained, smart, experienced, battle-hardened and brave warrior.

Time is pressing. I’ll continue this tomorrow with a look at another reason Churchill want to the front: he thought service there might help him recover politically and once more be a force in government.

I look forward to seeing you

Statistician help wanted.

I need a statistician’s help.

But before any of you consider helping me, you deserve to know:

1) Trolls and some reporters and editors at the Raleigh News & Observer say I’m a pretty bad guy. I don’t believe them, but I could be fooling myself;

2) There’ll be no fee for your services

3) Be prepared. I’ll check anything you say with others. I’ll even question your credentials.

Now, are you still interested in “the job?”

You are?

OK, here’s what’s involved: As many of you know, back on Mar. 24 the N&O published on its front page the story it claims “broke the Duke lacrosse story.” (“DNA tests ordered for Duke athletes”)

In it, the N&O referred seven times to the False Accuser as “the victim” or with the possessive “victim’s.”

The N&O never once used standard journalism qualifiers such as “alleged” or “reported” which alert readers to the fact an accuser’s claim(s) is disputed and unproven.

By leaving out qualifiers in the story in which the public and media first learned of “the Duke lacrosse case,” the N&O cast the False Accuser as the victim and framed the Duke students as her victimizers.

Most of the blame for that travesty of honest and accurate journalism has fallen on Samiha Khanna and Anne Blythe, the two reporters bylined on the story.

However, a number of N&O editors worked on the story. Regardless of their particular editorial assignments, all of them were, as the N&O’s exec editor for news Melanie Sill often tells readers, responsible for identifying and correcting errors.

Now here’s where I need statistical help.

Journalists familiar with how a paper like the N&O operates have given me their best estimates of the number of editors who likely worked on the Mar. 24 story. The lowest number given was six; the highest was ten.

I'll use six as a "working number."

If six editors each fact-check seven items, each of which has an error, and none of the editors note any of the errors, that makes a total of forty-two errors that weren’t noted.

My question for statisticians: What is the probability that all six newspaper editors would miss by chance all seven instances in the N&O story where the N&O failed to use a qualifier such as “alleged” or “reported?”

Folks, I believe the N&O made a deliberate decision to not use qualifiers in its Mar. 24 story; and instead tell the public and media the False Accuser was a victim of sex crimes.

Whether reporters Khanna and Blythe were part of that decision we don’t know for certain. Editors often change reporters’ copy.

I doubt editors would “pencil out” qualifiers but with the N&O we can’t always be sure. Who would have thought the N&O would have withheld from its Mar. 25 story all the news it had of the players cooperation with police and instead promulgate the lie that the players were stonewalling and refusing to cooperate with police?

What we do know for sure is that editors, even N&O editors, are supposed to identify and correct errors. I believe forty-two or possibly more errors of the type we’re talking about here didn’t happen by chance or because of “deadline pressure.”

Exposing the N&O’s deliberate errors in its Duke lacrosse coverage is the essential first step to getting the N&O to eventually correct and apologize for what it did in its Mar. 24 story, “DNA tests ordered for Duke athletes.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 10, 2007

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

Historian and public policy analyst Steven Havward tells us in Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity:

When Churchill went off to France [in 1915] to take a battalion command in the trenches in World War I, he knew that as a disgraced politician [following the collapse of the Dardanelles expedition which he had conceived and advocated], he might not get a warm welcome from the troops in the line. One of his subordinates described Churchill’s first meal with the officers’ mess:
It was quite the most uncomfortable lunch I have ever been at. Churchill didn’t say a word: he went right round the table staring each officer out of countenance. We had disliked the idea of Churchill being in command; now, have seen him, we disliked the idea even more.

At the end of lunch, he made a short speech: “Gentlemen, I am now your Commanding Officer. Those who support me, I will look after. Those who go against me, I will break. Good afternoon gentlemen.”
Nonetheless, Churchill quickly won over the affection and respect of his fellow officers and soldiers. Contrary to the initial impression that he would be a “tough guy,” he gained a reputation for leniency and generosity with his troops. He forgave minor offenses that other commanders punished strictly. He was especially indulgent of infractions by troops who had seen hard fighting. (p. 145)
I hope you’re back tomorrow when I’ll post further on Churchill’s WW I service in the trenches.

N&O editors cover-up

Melanie Sill, executive editor for news at The Raleigh News & Observer, frequently praises herself and her news staff for what she tells readers is the N&O’s devotion to the very highest standards of full, accurate and ethical journalism.

Melanie recently posted at the Editors’ Blog “Journalism AND blogs.” She low-rated bloggers and puff-puffed herself and journalists like herself. Here’s some of what she said:

Journalism involves a discipline of accuracy, verification, fairness, public-mindedness and truth-telling.

As part of democracy it empowers citizens by informing them, holds people in power accountable to the rest of us and, conversely, takes responsibility for its own actions.

Good journalism is labor-intensive, which means it's often expensive to produce. This kind of journalism is practiced mostly at newspapers and magazines, and among some broadcast sources.
And how did Melanie’s blog readers respond to what she said?

Here’s the first comment on the thread:
And the stonewall continues. Dick Nixon could not have said it better with the American flag and a Republican cloth coat in the background.

Platitudes and truisms do not substitute for honesty and accountability. Break the stonewall, Ms. Sill.
The stonewall the reader refers to is the N&O’s refusal to publish a transcript of its interview with the False Accuser.

The interview was a major part of the N&O’s now discredited Mar. 25 front page story from which, among other shameless acts, the N&O withheld the critically important news that the FA, whom the N&O said was “the victim,” had identified the second dancer and provided some information which N&O Deputy Managing Editor Linda Williams now says it would have been libelous for the N&O to report.

Melanie claims the N&O withheld only “details” so there’s no need to release the transcript. She accuses people who ask why she won’t release the transcript of being “conspiracy theorists.”

So much for verification and the empowerment of citizens.

The next reader comment included:
… As a blog hooligan, I like to visit blogs to find the nuggets of truth that are mined through much effort and from a variety of news sources and provide a clear, concise and chronological picture of the issue at hand.

And the retrospective viewpoints found on blogs also tell a very clear tale on which media source sought to provide accurate information thoroughly investigated before printing. Rare, but they do exist and unfortunately I don't see the N&O in the top 10 of those.

Even more telling, is when a media source gets it wrong, how quickly do they issue statements to their readers that they made a mistake. No, no, no, not a "correction" but a true statement of their errors.

Still waiting to read anything of the sort in the N&O, better late than never would seem to be applicable here.
Sill has offered no corrections for the N&O’s Mar. 25 story.

The next comment included:
"Journalism involves a discipline of accuracy, verification, fairness, public-mindedness and truth-telling."

Manipulated pictures raise ethical questions
Updated: 1/5/2007 9:17 PM
By: Heather Moore

CHAPEL HILL, NC – The News and Observer ran a photo illustration of embattled North Carolina Speaker of the House Jim Black wearing an apron from the International House of Pancakes in it's Thursday and Friday editions.

The N&O modified the picture of Black to add the apron and published it on two consecutive days in two different sections without labeling it as an altered illustration. The paper admitted it should have been labeled as a photo illustration in its corrections section Friday.
OUCH, if you believe what you read in the N&O.

Melanie jumped in at this point and made comments that were quickly responded to. For example:
Ms Sill: There has been an unexpected but welcome benefit to the shoddy, biased and agenda driven performance by you and your brethren.

We, true liberals and true conservatives, watched in amazement, as you self righteously ignored the violation of basic fundamental rights to which all citizens are entitled.

Then, it got worse as the Duke President and faculty joined forces with you.

Just think how, but for the blogosphere, you, the H-S, Group of 88, etc. would have really poisoned the minds of the people with your prejudiced reporting and commentary.

Instead you made the blogosphere grow up in a hurry, in a quantum leap. What you, the 7 dwarfs and your ilk have done is to make all of us who respect truth and justice come together in a hurry.

Daily, numerous blogs , headed by KC, JinC, Liestoppers, Johnsville, LaShawn, Gaynor , Right Angles, and more provide far more comprehensive information on this case than you. Their analysis is more objective, their insight and conclusions are so clear and concise, and they follow the evidence and lack of it, to a logical end.
I think the last reader makes some excellent points but is too kind, at least to me.

And I bet Melanie agrees the reader is too kind, way too kind in fact, to ol’ JinC.

Well, I won’t disagree with Melanie. In fact I’ll give her the next to last word:
Journalism involves a discipline of accuracy, verification, fairness, public-mindedness and truth-telling.

As part of democracy it empowers citizens by informing them, holds people in power accountable to the rest of us and, conversely, takes responsibility for its own actions.
Last word goes to JinC on behalf of millions who want to know what the N&O withheld from the story that began the public frame-up of 46 Duke students:


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 9, 2006

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

Many of you know about the WW II British code-breaking work done at Bletchley Park. Breaking the Germans’ Enigma communication system was only one of the successes achieved by those working at Bletchley. They did something else that I think was colossal. Read on and see if you don’t agree.

Bletchley's role in breaking the German, Italian and Japanese signals codes is held by many historians to have been the paramount factor in the Allied victory of 1945.

Some have argued that the valuable intelligence garnered by the Ultra team probably shortened the war by at least two years, saving thousands of lives on both sides. But code-breaking was not Bletchley's only success.

In seeking the means to unpick the codes the Government had assembled probably the largest and most talented team of scientists ever to work together on a single project. It has been suggested that Bletchley was selected to be Station 'X" because of its location exactly half-way between Oxford and Cambridge.

The highly technical nature of the work led to the development of "Colossus," the world's first programmable electronic computer. By the end of the war ten Colossus computers were operating, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Each was up to sixteen feet long, twelve feet wide and eight feet high, with up to 2500 valves.
A modem micro-chip the size of a matchbox is capable of performing the tasks for which Colossus was developed fifty years ago!
I knew a great deal of theoretical work that contributed to the development of computers had been done Bletchley but was unaware of “Colossus.”

Churchill surely knew about “Colossus” but we don’t have, as far as I know, any comments from him on it because during his lifetime almost all the activities conducted at Bletchley remained secret.

You can read more about Bletchley and its contribution to our victory in WW II here.

Brodhead ducked this draft

At Liestoppers’ message board poster Quasimodo rang my bell by posting in full from a Chronicle message board the following letter Duke alum Ed Rickards drafted for Duke’s President Richard H. Brodhead.

Brodhead didn’t use Ricards’ draft but instead signed his name to something that was much more in keeping with his character. Sad!

You can read Brodhead’s letter here along with some of my comments (I’ll have more tomorrow). You also find there a link to KC Johnson’s comments.

Thank you Liestoppers and Chronicle for providing the sites.

Thank you Quasimodo for passing Rickards’ letter on.

And most of all, thank you Ed Rickards. Is there any chance when President Brodhead leaves you’d interview for a senior staff position with his successor?



Dear President Brodhead,

I have read your January 8, 2007 letter to the Duke Community and have written a better version for you to send out:

As we begin the Spring Semester, the lacrosse crisis has quickly moved in several new directions and I want to review them with you.

First, a recent graduate is suing a professor and the University, alleging he was flunked because he is a member of the lacrosse team. This is a most serious allegation, going to the heart of academic integrity. While the legal process is engaged, we are suspending the professor involved.

This incident is not alone. We are investigating another with the same professor, plus as some of you know the Dean of Arts and Sciences issued warnings to a number of professors soon after the crisis enveloped our campus about advocacy of their position in the classroom.

Members of the economics department faculty have written a letter to the Chronicle, which has been distributed even though the newspaper has not resumed publication after the holiday break. I regret the atmosphere is such that these professors felt impelled to assure all students that they are welcome in their classes and would receive fair treatment. I want to add my personal assurance -- that is the standard at Duke and we will tolerate no less.

Second, Duke University took a number of actions immediately in March and April that are not warranted:

A) We fired Coach Pressler, compounding our error by putting out a news release that he quit. I personally stated that his resignation was "highly appropriate. Coach Pressler did not walk away from his team, and as the special commission I appointed reported, the actions Duke took and the comment I made are not supported by the facts. We offer to Coach Pressler our apology. We made a colossal mistake. As inadequate as it is, we have asked him for an economic accounting of any financial loss, and will indemnify him. In doing so, we will not require a release from any legal action he might take.

B) We inflicted group punishment on the lacrosse team, cancelling its season. As Chairman Steel has stated, we did so for public relations reasons to cut off the flow of video. This was wrong. As our own investigation established, the team may have had rough edges, but it conducted itself even better than other teams that we field. I apologize to the team members, an apology even deeper because their destination might well have been a national championship.

C) We suspended lacrosse team member Ryan McFadyen. His parody on a movie that was being studied last semester in three different classes was inappropriate; but so was the punishment we enacted. He committed no crime, he violated no university policy. And the circumstances under which Duke secured from him a waiver of his federal right to privacy as a student were also inappropriate.

D) I have criticized in strongest terms the nature of the team party last March 13 -- even if a rape did not occur. I was in error in suggesting the party itself and the rape allegations were equal. In fact the party violated no law and was not against university policy, although we have since modified policy.

To many my criticism of the party smacked of blaming the victim, and I understand their point.

The Campus Culture Initiative is underway to study how we treat each other in all circumstances; while spurred to action by the lacrosse crisis, in no way do we believe that a crime that did not occur teaches us anything about ourselves.

E) Just before Christmas, I issued a call for the replacement of prosecutor Nifong. Many of you reached the same conclusion earlier; I may have been slow. We all stand together now.

F) Similarly we will welcome Reade and Collin back anytime they want to return -- as students and as athletes -- and will take special steps as appropriate to insure their experience at Duke is all they expected it to be. Many of you who saw the compelling evidence accumulate reached this conclusion earlier than I did. But we all stand together now: no rape, no sexual misconduct by any team member, no kidnapping, no dancer as victim.

These two important decisions -- calling for the replacement of Nifong, and welcoming back Reade and Collin because it is the right thing to do -- I hope you see in these two actions new leadership and new fortitude that you have not received before.

G) I want to make it clear that the legal process should embrace anyone who was untruthful -- anyone -- prosecutor, DNA lab director, and the accuser. Justice requires no less.

I recognize our campus is divided; I hope the coming months see a resolution of many of these issues, so we all shout together again, GO DUKE!!!

Drafted for Richard Brodhead
by Ed Rickards, Class of 63 and Duke Law 66.

Will Davidson help JinC?

Readers Note: I’m sure most of you know Duke University Professor and Group of 88 member Cathy N. Davidson has just written one of those error-filled and preening op-eds which seem to be the only kind Group of 88 members can write.

Many, including some of you, have called attention to her errors and quite properly ridiculed her preening.

Therefore, when I wrote Davidson the letter you see below, I didn’t feel any need to mention her errors and preening. Well, at least not much.

Instead, I discussed a problem I have and asked for her help. I included a link to this post.

I’ll let you know if I hear back.


Cathy N. Davidson, Ruth F. DeVarney professor of English and interim director and professor of interdisciplinary studies, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute
Duke University

Dear Professor Davidson:

I hold two degrees from Duke and blog at

I post often on the Hoax Case, including the injustices Nifong and his enablers at Duke and elsewhere have inflicted on innocent Duke students, their families and others such as Moezeldin Elmostafa.

But I don’t want to get into any of that today.

I’m writing to ask you to help undo the great harm that’s befallen me as a result of your op-ed, but certainly not through any deliberate intent on your part.

Please allow me to explain.

In your op-ed you say, “[M]ost of my e-mail comes from right-wing ‘blog hooligans.’ These hateful, ranting and sometimes even threatening folks don't care about Duke or the lacrosse players.”

The distinguished historian and blogger Robert KC Johnson refuted your remarks about “right-wing ‘blog hooligans,” in the process mentioning by name a number of blogs he thought you might have had in mind.

Unfortunately, KC failed to mention John in Carolina. I’m sure it was just an innocent oversight on his part.

Nevertheless, his oversight has caused me great personal embarrassment and has the potential to damage the reputation of John in Carolina among decent people who value justice.

You know how some people can be.

If KC’s oversight isn’t corrected, a month from now people could be saying that I don’t abhor what you and your 87 colleagues did on April 6.

Or that I never pointed out that the “listening statement” made an already dangerous situation on campus even more dangerous; and that it was exploitive of the very students it claimed to be listening to.

I have no doubt, Professor Davidson, that I’m precisely the kind of blogger you had in mind when you said “right-wing ‘blog hooligans.'”

Now, of course, I could call all this to KC’s attention. He’s a very kind man despite what you might have heard from some of your colleagues and Durham Police Sgt. Mark Gottlieb.

I'm sure KC would issue an immediate acknowledgment of his oversight and a full apology.

But I don’t want to bother KC for two reasons.

First, KC would be upset to realize all the harm he’s caused me. His upset might detract from the wonderful work he does exposing academic frauds. I would never want to do anything to interfere with that work

I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not but exposing academic frauds requires the same kind of calm, careful attention to detail that a gastroenterologist needs in order to perform a thorough colonoscopy.

In fact, sometimes in the midst of reading one of his posts I’ll call out to my wife, “KC’s got another one of his ‘colonoscopy posts’ up. This time it’s Professor ….”

My second reason for not contacting KC is that if people find out I did that they might think KC made the correction only to be nice, and that JinC isn’t really a hooligan blog.

But if you say JinC is a hooligan blog, people will know you mean it. I’ll be relieved of my present embarrassment, and the good name of John in Carolina among decent people who value justice will be safe.

So will you please attack my blog by name?

I don’t expect you to do anything as elaborate as taking out a full page ad in The Chronicle or even writing a letter to the Ashley/Nifong Durham Herald Sun.

A brief email response to this letter will do; and I will post it on the main JinC page.

All I need is something like the following:

Dear John in Carolina:

You’re a right-wing blog hooligan.


Cathy N. Davidson
Etc, etc, etc.
If you’ll do that, Professor Davidson, the sun will shine at JinC.

Thank you in advance.


John in Carolina

PS - Are you planning to write an op-ed any time soon explaining why you were silent last May 18 when a Duke student, Reade Seligmann, was subjected to racists’ threats, including death threats?

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jan. 8, 2006

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

Just fun today: two examples of Churchill’s wit.

From Steven F. Hayward’s Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity:

Concerning Arthur Balfour [,Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905,] Churchill remarked: “If you wanted nothing done, Arthur Balfour was the best man for the task. There was no one equal to him.” …

[When Clement Attlee was Prime Minister and Churchill was Leader of the Opposition, Attlee was preparing for a trip abroad. Churchill said that] “no doubt [Attlee's] afraid the when the mouse is away the cats would play.” (pg. 5)
Sorry to be so brief but duty calls.

Brodhead reveals himself

An Anon commenter sent me a copy of the following letter that went today to all Duke faculty.

My comments follow the letter.

I'll say more in a few days.

For now, thank you, Anon. I didn't post immediatly because I was working on my comments.


From: President Richard H. Brodhead []
Sent: Monday, January 08, 2007 11:52 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: A Letter to the Duke Community

January 8, 2007

Dear Members of the Duke Community:

I write to greet you at the start of a new year. I also want to address some important developments that have taken place while the University was on break, and to offer some thoughts as we go forward.

Last spring, this community became embroiled in a major controversy arising from a party held by members of the men's lacrosse team. It is universally acknowledged that the behavior at the party was inappropriate and unacceptable. Several factors came together to intensify the emotional response to this event. Though vehemently denied by team members, the accusations that resulted from the party raised deeply troubling questions about sexual violence and racial subjugation, issues of fundamental concern to any decent community. Passions were further intensified by a series of statements by the Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong that a rape had indeed taken place. Intense media coverage heightened these passions, promoting an air of instant certainty about rapidly changing "facts."

In the confusion of this situation, the University's response was guided by two principles: that if true, the conduct that had been alleged was grave and should be taken very seriously, and that our students had to be presumed innocent until proven guilty through the legal process.

As perceptions of the story changed, the University continued to maintain the need for broad deference to the legal process. If this case has taught us anything, it is our need for a legal process based in fairness, the rule of evidence, and withholding judgment until the truth is established.

In an interview with "60 Minutes" last fall, I noted that given the concerns that had been raised, when the case came before a judge and jury, Mr. Nifong's case would be on trial as much as the students would. But as that comment recognized, the road to a resolution necessarily involved going through legal process, not outside or around it.

In mid-December, there were important developments as the legal process entered the courtroom. These included the revelation, in sworn testimony, that the district attorney had not shared with the indicted students potentially exculpatory evidence from the DNA tests. Also, on December 22, the Friday afternoon before Christmas, the district attorney announced that he was dropping the rape charge because the accuser was no longer certain about her claim. After Christmas, the North Carolina State Bar announced that it had reviewed concerns about the district attorney's public statements and found grounds to file a formal complaint. Days later, the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys also called on Mr. Nifong to recuse himself in this case.

On December 22, I issued a statement saying that, given the certainty with which the district attorney made his public statements regarding the rape allegation, his decision to drop that charge must call into question the validity of the remaining charges. I added that the district attorney should now put this case in the hands of an independent party, who can restore confidence in the fairness of the process. That last phrase is, for me, the heart of the matter. We entrust our conflicts to the law to provide a path to a fair resolution. But to earn this faith from the public,

those who work in the legal process must behave with elemental fairness and regard for the rights of those involved. We need and deserve for that faith to be restored.

In the wake of these new circumstances, I concluded upon the recommendation of Vice President Moneta that we should offer reinstatement to Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann so that they can return to Duke and resume their studies. (David Evans graduated last spring.) Interim suspension, the policy measure that had been invoked last April, is not a disciplinary measure or judgment of guilt. It is a temporary measure taken when a student is charged with a violent crime, and its use must balance a variety of factors, including the gravity of the charge, the presumption of innocence, the possibility of danger to the student or the community, and the need of students to continue with their education. Although the two students still face serious charges, in the changed circumstances, it seems only right to strike the balance at a different point. The fair
thing is to allow the students to continue with their studies.

We all pray that the legal matter will be resolved in a fair and speedy fashion. But as a university, we also need to look to the future and see how we can learn from this chapter of history. By facing the lessons of this painful episode, we can make Duke a better place. Let me outline a few specifics.

First, we still have work to do on this campus. One thing that has made this event so difficult is that particular charges against individuals have tended to be conflated with larger community issues of race, gender, privilege, and respect. During these hard months, some have seemed to imply that if you insist on the students' innocence, then you must not care about the underlying issues. Others have seemed to suggest that if you insist on the underlying issues, then you must not care about fair treatment for the students.

But it is essential that we separate the legal case from the larger cultural issues and give each its separate, appropriate response. The Campus Culture Initiative, begun last year and due to report this spring, is not a referendum on the party last March. It is an effort to visualize the best community we could make for students to grow and learn in, a community of mutual respect and vibrant mutual engagement. It will be all of our work to advance toward that goal. I see this as a chance to build on existing strengths in our educational experience and to press toward higher ambitions: the latest chapter in Duke's long history of self-

Just as important, we must work together to restore the fabric of mutual respect. One of the things I have most regretted is the way students and faculty have felt themselves disparaged and their views caricatured in ongoing debates, often by individuals - sometimes anonymous - outside the Duke community. In the age of instantaneous worldwide media coverage, members of the lacrosse team were judged around the world on the basis of highly selective, highly prejudicial coverage last spring. A number of them were subjected to vile abuse. More recently, a group of Duke faculty members (including a number of African American faculty) have been widely attacked in blogs and emails - and in some cases personally attacked in highly repugnant and vicious terms - based on caricatured accounts of their statements on the lacrosse event.

We want to see an end to these destructive assaults. We cannot change the nature of modern communications, but we can make an effort on this campus to promote more constructive dialogue and a more charitable atmosphere for exchange. This does not mean that troublesome issues should now be avoided.

It's the mark of maturity in a university when hard issues can be freely and vigorously engaged, and this past year has shown us many areas in need of discussion and debate. But it does mean that we need to be less quick to take offense at the words of others, and work harder to understand what others are actually trying to say - even if we then disagree with it.

In its very difficulty, this moment gives us a chance to strengthen the climate of respectful engagement in this community, and it is crucial that we come together to seize the chance. Turning conflict among divergent points of view into the basis for mutual education is at the core of the university's work.

Last, in the heat of recent debates, there's been a danger that we will lose sight of something fundamental, and I want to say it on all of our behalf. This is a great university, one of the greatest in the world.

The vigor, intelligence, and devotion of each member of this community - faculty, students, and staff - are what make Duke great. This place needs all of us. And all of us are incalculably lucky to be part of this place, and to have the others who surround us for partners and colleagues.

Duke can and will become better yet, and it's our business to make it so.
This is the season of the New Year - a time for new starts and fresh beginnings. Let's work together to make our university as great as it can be.

Richard H. Brodhead
Brodhead’s letter is mostly more of the "same old, some old" we’ve been getting since last March, with now some "It's Nifong's fault" added to conform to Brodhead's recent decision to abandon his longstanding support for Nifong's plan to bring David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann to trial.

Brodhead invokes the familiar themes of race, gender, and privilege that he and others have used to justify their savaging the Duke students and their enablement of Nifong and certain Durham Police officers’ frame-up of David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

People who understand Brodhead’s character will not be surprised to learn he doesn’t explain why he's never criticized the racists who shouted threats, including death threats, at Reade Seligmann on May 18 or invited his friends who lead North Carolina’s NAACP to join him in criticizing those racists. Perhaps he thinks the faculty doesn’t care.

Brodhead doesn’t give a hint as to whether he thinks the faculty should have shown at least some pro forma support for Seligmann on May 18 or since. His silence is likely to win “huzzahs” from Duke’s Arts & Sciences faculty, renowned for guarding its independence as fiercily as it protects its entitlement to preferred parking spaces.

Brodhead’s unquestionably firm and clear about one thing: no looking back. It’s a New Year, he informs Duke’s “community of scholars,” and we must all look to the future.

The letter should play well with all those on campus who rushed to judgment last Spring and still wake at night, aroused by dreams of Mike Nifong waving a smoking gun on the steps of Duke Chapel.

But the letter will, I’m sure, only further lower the already low esteem in which a large majority of undergraduates hold Brodhead.

Brodhead says:

One of the things I have most regretted is the way students and faculty have felt themselves disparaged and their views caricatured in ongoing debates, often by individuals - sometimes anonymous - outside the Duke community.
It's just "the rush to judgment crowd" that feels disparaged.

Most undergrads last Spring adopted either a "wait and see" attitude or refused to fall for the Hoax and believed their classmates innocent.

They now feel vindicated; not disparaged. And they have little sympathy for those who do feel “disparaged:” faculty like the Group of 88 and students like those who put up the Vigilante posters and demanded: “Who will protect us from the lacrosse rapists?"

Those undergrads, a growing number of whom are now blog readers, will quickly spot the pandering in “One of the things I have most regretted is the way students and faculty etc, etc.”

Brodhead tosses a bone to those sympathetic to the lacrosse players. He allows as how the players were subjected to “vile abuse” by media. But, as even Brodhead’s supporters would expect, he has nothing to say about the vile abuse the players and their families were subjected to by many Duke trustees, administrators and faculty.

For those of you who are wondering where’s “the gutter” in Brodhead’s letter, it’s here:
More recently, a group of Duke faculty members (including a number of African American faculty) have been widely attacked in blogs and emails - and in some cases personally attacked in highly repugnant and vicious terms - based on caricatured accounts of their statements on the lacrosse event.

No intelligent person - and Brodhead’s very intelligent – who’s followed events at Duke these past months can deny that many Duke faculty have said and written things that were foolish, ignorant and mendacious. In some cases - Professors Holloway, Lubiano, Starn and Wood come immediately to mind - faulty have done so repeatedly. For specific examples, see here, here, here, here and here.

Rather than offering caricature accounts of the statements and writings of such faculty, the critics I've read - KC Johnson, Liestoppers, Johnsville News, La Shawn Barber, Betsy Newmark (a Duke parent, by the way), William Anderson, Thomas Sowell, Jon Ham, Mary Catherine Ham and others – have used specific actions and statements of those faculty to expose their folly and mean-spiritedness.

Recently a number of bloggers expressed their upset that the full text of the "88's" "listening statement" was removed from the African and African American Studies Department's website. The bloggers wanted to link to it.

I wish Brodhead had explained what he found in the “listening statement” that lead him to conclude that critics who wanted to link to it are “repugnant and vicious.”

The most self-revealing and disgusting part of Brodhead’s letter involves his claim that “critics,” none of whom he bothers to name, attacked “a number of African American faculty." Not only does Brodhead fail to name any critics, he fails to cite a single example of what he calls the critics’ attacks in “repugnant and vicious terms.”

Did you ever think you’d see the day a President of Duke University would so shamelessly play the race card?

Did you ever think you’d see the day a President of Duke University would play the race card in a letter to the faculty?

What’s your estimate of the percentage of faculty which has any idea what Brodhead’s letter is telling them about what he really thinks of them?

What’s your estimate of the percentage of trustees who realize major changes are needed at Duke, starting with a new President?

What’s your estimate of the percentage of trustees who’ll either speak up and begin the change process or resign in the hope someone willing to speak up will take their places?

Those of us who want to make Duke better have a lot of work to do.

Let’s stay at it.
KC Johnson offers his take on Brodhead’s letter here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Maggief and Dowd suit comments

Who’s Maggief? And what’s her connection to the suit Duke alum Kyle Dowd and his parents have brought against Duke Professor and faculty Group of 88 member Kim Curtis and the University?

Maggief, as far as I know, has no direct connection to the Dowd suit but when the news first broke that the Dowd’s are alleging Curtis unfairly gave Dowd, a member of Duke’s lacrosse team, a failing grade Maggief reminded readers at Free Republic that a commenter here at JinC had some weeks back said her son had been a victim of grade retaliation by Curtis in 2004, and that Duke had mishandled the matter.

A JinC Regular alerted me to Maggief’s Free Republic comment. I then found the comment the parent made here and included it in this post: "Duke’s first lax suit."

I acknowledged the Regular’s help but failed to mention Maggief’s comment had started the chain that led to the parent’s comment’s inclusion in my post.

I’m sorry for that, Maggief. Thank you for your help.

And thanks also to every one of you out there who continually do things that make JinC a better blog.

Moving on –

KC Johnson has a “don’t miss” post: “Dowd and Duke.”

In “Duke’s first lax suit” I noted that the Dowd’s attorney, Joseph E. Zeszotarski, is a very well regarded, experienced litigator who, as a result of his peers’ assessments, has earned listing since 2003 in The Best Lawyers in America. I also noted Zeszotarski’s law firm, Poyner & Spruill, is large (over 100 attorneys) and one of the most respected in the Southeast. (links for Zeszotarski, P&S and BLinA are in "Duke's first lax suit")

Attorneys in Zeszotarski's position and law firms like P&S are careful about the cases and clients they take on. They also knew before filing that the suit would be a very “high visibility” one that will be closely watched by other attorneys and potential S&P clients. So it’s a safe bet they believe they have a very strong case and confidence they’ll be successful.

That leads to something KC said in his post: “It’s unclear to me why Duke allowed this case to progress to a stage where a lawsuit would be filed.”

Why, indeed?

It’s standard practice for claimants’ attorneys to try to resolve claims before resorting to the courts, especially when the defendant is one such as Duke, with all its access to first-class legal talent and the resources to pay for it.

I don’t doubt that Zeszotarski made a strong effort to settle matters before bringing suit. And I don’t doubt Duke made some kind of response. But, of course, I don’t know the particulars of what went back and forth.

I sure wish I did.

I’ll be interested to hear what you think.