Saturday, November 03, 2007

Profs Bad; Regents Worse

The Week section of National Review’s Oct. 8 print edition (not on Net) contained this editorial note:

You know you have a dim view of Larry Summers when even his Harvard-based persecutors think you’ve gone too far.

Such is the case with the professorial rabble at the University of California-Davis. Some of them recently circulated a petition asking the UC system’s board of regents to rescind its invitation to Summers to address a gathering of said board.

Summers, the petition claimed, “has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia.”

This was too much even for Judith Ryan, the Harvard professor who led the campaign to oust Summers as the university’s president. She told the Harvard Crimson that the UC professors “have fallen prey to a simplification that became wide-spread in media reports. . . .When all is said and done, we should be able to listen to views with which we don’t agree, and to debate them in a civil way.”

Well, obviously – though Professor Ryan didn’t follow her own advice in the first instance. And the UC regents haven’t either: They caved to their tenured herd and disinvited Summers. So, the UC system, always plagued by silliness, has just become a little more debased.
I’ll bet those profs who circulated and signed the petition will tell you that not only are they “passionate” about academic freedom, but that they welcome students who question what they say and call attention to their errors.

What’s more I’ll bet they'll tell you they never, never grade retaliate, no matter how outspoken a student is.

The profs’ actions were bad; the regents’ cave-in was worse.

Regents, trustees and alumni need to start standing up to politically and academically intolerant professors.

Coverage of Taylor’s Duke Talk

Under the headline:

Author: Lacrosse case will 'get uglier'
and the subhead:
Picture of political correctness, mob mentality unfolding
we read in today’s Durham Herald Sun:
Political correctness was to blame.

That was the message delivered Friday night by Stuart Taylor, co-author of a recent book on the Duke lacrosse case.

"It's spreading like cancer," he said, referring to the PC movement.

Taylor, who co-authored "Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case" with K.C. Johnson, a New York City-based history professor and author of the Durham-In-Wonderland Web log, was invited to speak by the student group Duke Students for an Ethical Duke.

In a Levine Science Research Center auditorium, readers of his book and followers of the lacrosse case hung on the author's every word.

And he detailed his involvement in the case from start to finish.
The rest of the H-S’s story (Monica Chen bylined) is here.

At this Liestoppers Forum thread there is more reporting as well as commentary on Taylor’s talk.

Scroll down to Locomotive Breath’s comment. (11/2 @ 9:35 PM. It’s about the 12th comment down)

LB begins:
ST remarked that he had intended to give a recap of events but after the number of previously read books he'd autographed, many of them earlier autographed by KC, he decided to give a personal story of how he got involved rather than try to recount the facts of the case.

Here's one interesting thing. He said that at a fairly early stage he'd talked to someone in the upper Duke administration who was 85% certain the charges were bogus.

During the question period he was asked who it was. He would not say other than to remark that it was someone who was behaving in public in agreement with the Duke administration position.
There’s more to his comment.

See also a comment by Righteous Thug (11/3 @ 7:49 AM) which is a paste-in of comments Debrah made at Durham-in-Wonderland.

I was there for Taylor’s talk. Chen’s H-S story is a good account.

LB and Debrah via RT “add to the story” and, in the case of Debrah, not just with reportage of the talk. She also reports/comments on an informal discussion she and others had with Taylor prior to his talk.

Raleigh News & Observer reporter Anne Blythe, who with Samiha Khanna reported the N&O’s fraudulent March 25 story about “an ordeal” which ended in “sexual violence,” was also at the talk but left about 10 minutes into it.

There’s no account of the talk in today’s N&O. I’ll look for one tomorrow and post on what I find.

Hat tips to the professional and citizen journalists.

And something else: Taylor’s prediction that the case will “get uglier” is, IMO, on the money. I feel sure it will also get more “Dukier.”

What do you think?

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 2, 2007

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

On Sept. 3, 1939 Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. That same day Churchill was invited to join the government as First Lord of the Admiralty.

Some days later an incident occurred which, if he knew of it, might've amused Churchill even as it reminded him of what he knew so well: the government had bumbled and worse for years.

Journalist and Member of Parliament Harold Nicolson recounted the incident in a letter to his wife, the poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West:

The Opposition are getting somewhat restive, especially about the Ministry of Information. The latter has been staffed by duds at the top and all the good people are in the most subordinate positions. The rage and fury of the newspapermen passes all bounds.

John Gunther [an American war-correspondent] for instance, told me that he had asked one of the censors for the text of our leaflet which we dropped over Germany. The request was refused.

He asked why.

The answer was, “We are not allowed to disclose information which might be of value to the enemy.”

When Gunther pointed out that two million of these leaflets had been dropped over Germany, the man blinked and said, “Yes, something must be wrong there.”
No doubt.

Now the weekend’s upon us. I hope there’s nothing wrong with yours.

And as for remembering to turn back the clocks, you’re on your own. I won’t be dropping leaflets.


The excerpt from Nicolson’s letter is found on pg. 164 of his Diaries and Letters: 1930-1964. (Atheneum, 1980)

What’s a private attorney general?

I didn’t know a person could be a private attorney general until I read W. R. Chambers’ comment on the thread of In Time, The Feds Will Come To Durham :

In the context of civil matters, there are some instances where the law recognizes the right of "private attorneys general" to play a role similar to that of an attorney general.

Does anyone know if the lawyers for the plaintiffs could act as private attorneys general?
Chambers' comment sent me to this Wikipedia entry where I read:
A private attorney general is a private party in the United States who brings a lawsuit that is considered to be in the public interest, i.e. benefiting the general public and not just the plaintiff.

The private attorney general is entitled to recover attorney's fees if he or she prevails. The purpose of this principle is to provide extra incentive to private citizens to pursue suits that may be of benefit to society at large.
That’s followed by a section titled:
Examples of application
Here’s the section’s first sentence:
Most civil rights statutes rely on private attorneys general for their enforcement.
Right now all I can say is “ always be cautious using a Wikipedia entry” and “thank you” W. R. Chambers.

I’m sure some of you can say more.

Mukasey & the Senate Dems

National Review editor Rick Lowry asks:

Would someone be fit to be attorney general of the United States if he had once said, "I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are stake"?
He then tells us:
By the standard Democrats are using to oppose the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey as attorney general, the answer would be "no." In fact, whoever endorsed torture so explicitly would be relegated to the moral outer darkness.

Lucky for him, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who made the above comment during a June 2004 Senate hearing on terrorism, is a member in good standing of the Senate Democratic leadership.

Mukasey is not so fortunately situated. He's only a respected federal judge whose hallmark is a painstaking commitment to the law. He would never, as Schumer did, endorse violations of U.S. law, the Constitution and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

Mukasey has been absolutely clear that torture is illegal and wrong.

But he won't say that the interrogation technique of waterboarding -- which simulates drowning and induces instant, resistance-breaking panic in detainees -- constitutes torture.

On this basis, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, fulminated against Mukasey, "Will we join that gloomy historical line leading from the Inquisition, through the prisons of tyrant regimes, through gulags and dark cells, and through Saddam's torture chambers?"
With respect for Lowry, a journalist I admire, Senator Whitehouse is doing much more than fulminating against Mukasey.

It’s the United States Whitehouse is talking about. And it’s America’s enemies and their enablers Whitehouse knows will use his words against us.

He knows that just as Senator Ted Kennedy knew at the time of Abu Ghraib his charge Saddam’s prisons had been re-opened under American management would help further inflame Middle East sentiment against America.

Lowry continues:
Reasonable people can consider waterboarding torture, defined by federal law as an act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Obviously if waterboarding weren't so horrifying, it wouldn't break detainees so quickly.

But common sense suggests that the practice belongs in a murky space short of unambiguous torture.

Journalists have volunteered to be waterboarded, something they would never do in the case of such infamous torture methods as pulling out fingernails. Both the Army and Navy use waterboarding in their survival and resistance training. […]

The Senate had a chance to settle the question in September 2006 when Sen. Ted Kennedy offered an amendment to declare waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques a violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. His amendment lost 46-53.

So Senate Democrats are now demanding that Mukasey declare waterboarding a violation of Common Article 3 when the Senate declined to do the same just a year ago.
What most Senate Democrats are now doing with the Mukasey nomination reveals their priorities: Put political interests first and use any opportunity that comes along to hurt the President.

America’s interests? Speaking responsibly about what our country does and stands for? Acknowledging they would support waterboarding in cases where it was their personal safety that was at great risk?

You know the answers to those questions.

I’m not an R, but I can’t be a D.

Lowry’s entire column is here at

Taylor on Duke's "Rogue's Gallery"

Stuart Taylor, regarded by many as America's finest legal journalist, recently co-authored with KC Johnson Until Proven Innocent, a gripping account of the attempted frame-up of three Duke students for gang-rape and other felonies.

Taylor will speak tonight, Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 PM in Love Auditorium on Duke's West Campus. A Q&A will follow his talk. Admission is free; the public's invited.

Directions and a map showing the location of Love Auditorium and a nearby parking deck are here.

And here's a Taylor column, In Duke Case, A Rogues' Gallery , published May 22, 2006:

My rogues' gallery does not (in all probability) include any Duke University lacrosse player. That's because the available evidence leaves me about 85 percent confident that the three members who have been indicted on rape charges are innocent and that the accusation is a lie. (Some evidence was in my April 29 column; some is below.)

Academics and journalists have joined in smearing presumptively innocent young men as racist, sexist brutes.

The gallery does include more than 90 members of the Duke faculty who have prejudged the case, with some exuding the anti-white racism and disdain for student-athletes that pollutes many college faculties.

The gallery also includes former Princeton University President William Bowen and civil-rights lawyer Julius Chambers. They went out of their way to slime the lacrosse players in a report on the Duke administration's handling of the rape scandal -- a report that is a parody of race-obsessed political correctness.

Many members of the national media have published grossly one-sided accounts of the case while stereotyping the lacrosse players as spoiled, brutish louts and glossing over the accuser's huge credibility problems.

Then there is Mike Nifong, the Durham, N.C., district attorney who is prosecuting the case. In addition to the misconduct detailed in my April 29 column, he has shielded his evidence (if any) from public scrutiny while seeking to keep the rape charges hanging over the defendants by delaying any trial until next spring.

Nifong and a certain Durham police officer should themselves be under criminal investigation, in my view, for what looks like possible intimidation of a disinterested defense witness, a cabbie who had been transporting one defendant at the time of the alleged rape.

Am I prejudging the case myself? Yes, in that I have not yet seen all of the evidence. And yes, in that there could be an innocent explanation for the recent arrest of the cabbie by rape-case investigators under a two-and-half-year-old, apparently frivolous shoplifting warrant.

But when a petty-tyrant prosecutor has perverted and prolonged the legal process without disclosing his supposed evidence, and when academics and journalists have joined in smearing presumptively innocent young men as racist, sexist brutes -- in the face of much contrary evidence -- it's not too early to offer tentative judgments.

I'll start with Houston Baker, a Duke professor of English and of African and African-American studies. In a public letter dated March 29, he assailed "white ... male athletes, veritably given license to rape, maraud, deploy hate speech" and "sport their disgraced jerseys on campus, safe under the cover of silent whiteness." He all but pronounced them guilty of "abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken white, male privilege loosed amongst us" against a "black woman who their violence and raucous witness injured for life."

And on he raved, oozing that brand of racism which consists of falsely smearing decent people as racists.

Baker was hardly alone. Three academic departments, 13 programs, and 88 professors at Duke took out a full-page ad in the campus newspaper on April 7. Treating the truth of the rape charge almost as a given, and applauding protesters who had put lacrosse players' photos on "wanted" posters, the ad associated "what happened to this young woman" with "racism and sexism," implausibly complained of "racist classmates," and falsely suggested that white lacrosse players were getting privileged treatment.

Bowen and Chambers were equally race-obsessed. A curiously unbalanced team to evaluate the handling of this case, both have spent much of their careers peddling preferential treatment of racial minorities and women at the expense of white males. Not to mention Bowen's two books blasting college athletic programs.

So what remedy did they prescribe in their May 4 report for wounds caused by what they had ample reason to know was a probably-false rape charge victimizing innocent white males?

You guessed it: more "diversity"! More racial and gender preferences in doling out top administrative jobs!

The report unsurprisingly commended Duke President Richard Brodhead, who had appointed Bowen and Chambers. They especially liked Brodhead's "eloquent" statements implicitly associating the lacrosse players with rape and "dehumanization," with "memories of ... systematic racial oppression," with "inequalities of wealth, privilege, and opportunity ... and the attitudes of superiority those inequalities breed."

The two did criticize some Brodhead subordinates -- for inadequate "sensitivities" toward minorities, of course. These sins included giving credence to the Duke campus police report that the accuser was not very credible because she had initially said she had been raped by 20 men and then revised it to three.

By the time of the Bowen-Chambers report, her credibility had been further battered by the revelations -- all unmentioned in the report -- that in 1996 she accused three other men of gang rape but did not pursue charges; in 1998, she told police that her ex-husband had tried to kill her; in 2002, she stole a taxicab and tried to run over a police officer after a high-speed chase; and this year, she told her father that the Duke rapists had used a broom, contradicting her story to police that they had used penises.

Bowen and Chambers were not asked to evaluate the lacrosse team. That did not stop them from implying that its members did not show "respect for other people." Or from criticizing Duke's athletic director for having called them "wonderful young men." Or from uncritically parroting unnamed "community" members' views that the lacrosse team is "a manifestation of a white, elitist, arrogant subculture that was both indulged and self-indulgent."

This last quotation might be an apt description of, say, William Bowen. As applied to the lacrosse players, it was an ignorant smear. Indeed, it flew in the face of the carefully researched May 1 report of the seven-member faculty committee that Brodhead had appointed to investigate the behavior of lacrosse players over the five years preceding the alleged rape.

To be sure, you would hardly know of the May 1 report's generally positive depiction of the lacrosse players from the coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and most other major news organizations. They highlighted criticisms of many team members' "deplorable" alcohol-related disciplinary records. The committee found the lacrosse team to be worse than other Duke teams in this regard -- but no "different in character than the conduct of the typical Duke student who abuses alcohol."

Alcohol aside, this report's findings are a stunning vindication of the characters of a group of kids who have been smeared from coast to coast as racist, sexist, thuggish louts.

Here are some conclusions of the committee -- chaired by James Coleman, a liberal, African-American law professor at Duke -- that the national media have largely ignored:

"None of the misconduct involved fighting, sexual assault or harassment, or racist slurs." There was no evidence "that the cohesiveness of this group is either racist or sexist."

The "current as well as former African-American members of the team have been extremely positive about the support the team provided them." The lacrosse players' "behavior on trips is described as exemplary." They are "respectful of people who serve the team, including bus drivers, airline personnel, trainers, the equipment manager, the team manager, and the groundskeeper." They are polite, nondisruptive students who have "performed well academically."

By the way, notes the Coleman report, most come from "middle-class, suburban families," with a few "from both very wealthy and from working-class settings."

Adds Kerstin Kimel, coach of the Duke women's lacrosse team, in an interview: "They made a very bad decision in hosting the party and hiring strippers. But I will tell you they are great kids. There is a strong camaraderie between our teams, and my players -- being smart, savvy young women -- would not associate with them if they felt on the whole, there was an issue of character."

Speaking of character, how likely is it that the more than 40 kids described by Kimel and the Coleman report could have maintained an airtight cover-up since March 14 of a gang rape in a small, crowded house, with not one heeding pleas by parents and lawyers to protect himself by fingering any guilty parties?

And what of various team members' handing over evidence sought by police three long days after the alleged rape, such as the accuser's fake fingernails? And of offers to take polygraph tests (which Nifong spurned)? And of other conduct inconsistent with any cover-up?

"Being at an elite university," adds Kimel, "where every side of every issue is debated, my kids were shocked, disillusioned, and disappointed that their professors and the university community were so one-sided in their condemnation of the lacrosse players."

Something is rotten at Duke, as at many universities. I don't think it has much to do with lacrosse.


That's a great column, especially when you recall the time in which it was written.

Back on May 22, 2006 David Evans had just been indicted, and most people were expecting then DA Mike Nifong to produce “a smoking gun any day now.”

The editorialists at the Raleigh News & Observer and the Durham Herald Sun were fulsome in their praise for Nifong.

KC Johnson wasn’t yet a familiar name to many people following the case.

Professor Coleman’s letter wouldn’t appear for another three weeks.

And seven months would pass before Brodhead would calculate it was in his best interests to finally say something critical of Nifong.

I commented further on Taylor's column in A Duke "Rogues' Gallery" (Dec. 8, 2006)

I hope you're able to make tonight's talk.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 1, 2007

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

I want to share with you something I’ve just stumbled upon. It’s a document in which Churchill’s grandson and namesake describes his use of the Internet to search his family tree. Here’s an excerpt, after which I make a few brief comments below the star line:

While compiling The Great Republic I read that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormons, had made available thirty years of their researches on both sides of the Atlantic ( ), dumping on the Internet the records of some 300 million individuals who had been born, been married or had died on either side of the Atlantic.

The system is somewhat quirky, in that it refused to recognise my grandfather's name, but when I punched in the name of Jennie Jerome and her parents, suddenly an amazing family tree sprouted forth, detailing some 255 ancestors on the American side of my family, of whose existence I had previously been unaware.

Many of the branches run back to before the time of Columbus, one even through twenty-eight generations to the West Country to one Gervaise Gifford born in 1122 at Whitchurch, Dorset.

That particular branch of the family barely moved fifteen miles in the space of fifteen generations before William Gifford, born in 1614 at Milton Damerel, Devon, and who married at St. Martins, London, on 4 March 1683, sailed for America, dying soon afterwards at Sandwich, Massachusetts in 1687.

Of these 255 ancestors I discovered no fewer than 26 who were born in England but died in America. To me they are true heroes‹for these were the men and women who founded the America of today.

In the course of my researches, I suddenly stumbled on the fact that one of my ancestors, John Cooke, who died in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1694, had been born in Leyden, Holland, in 1607.

Aware that nearly half the Pilgrims on the Mayflower had been known as the "Leyden Community"‹Walloon Protestants escaping religious persecution‹I was prompted to wonder if any of my forebears had made that momentous voyage.

Within seconds, using an admirable Internet search engine straight out of P. G. Wodehouse, appropriately named, I was able to call up via the Mayflower website the full manifest of all 102 passengers and was fascinated to discover (assuming the Morman (sic) database to be correct) that Winston Churchill, ten generations removed, had not one but three ancestors who sailed on the Mayflower and who, more importantly, were among the mere fifty who survived the rigours of that first cruel winter on the shores of Massachusetts.


As I read his grandson’s account of using the Internet, I thought of how much Churchill would have loved using it.

The Churchill genealogical information is fascinating, isn’t it?

Churchill’s spellings of “recognize” and “rigours” are neither wrong nor quirky. They're the British form of those words.

I know you know that. I just mentioned it to but I wanted to let you know I do too.

Churchill’s entire document is here.

In Time, The Feds Will Come To Durham

The last two days I’ve posted here and here on Raleigh N&O stories concerning a letter attorney Jim Cooney, representing Reade Seligmann and his family,addressed to Craig S. Morford, acting U.S. deputy attorney general in Washington; Christopher J. Christie, U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, and Anna Mills Waggoner, U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina.

The N&O reported it obtained the letter through a freedom of information request and that Cooney could not comment on his letter. (see here)

The letter disclosed North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has asked the federal Justice Department to assist in an investigation into “the events of this prosecution” during what’s known as the Duke Hoax.

The letter also disclosed the unexplained, last-minute cancellation of a meeting set for Raleigh which was to include representatives of the state’s AG’s office and JOD officials, including some who’d come to Raleigh from Reade Seligmann’s home state of New Jersey.

The letter doesn’t identify who was responsible for the cancellation. But since only higher ups in the DOJ could have directed the New Jersey-based JOD officials not to attend the meeting; and since the letter is addressed to Morford, who’s currently acting Attorney General because that office is currently vacant, it’s obvious where Cooney thinks responsibility lies.

It certainly sounds like someone with a lot of clout didn’t want that meeting to happen.

If you don’t believe that's the case, just ask deputy secretary of the treasury and Duke BOT chair Bob Steel.

Does the meeting's cancellation mean the Feds aren’t coming to Durham?

Here’s what a commenter, Jack, says:

There will be no Federal investigation. We all toss around the ideas that politicians are corrupt, that they want to cover their back sides, etc.

I believe that the conduct of the public officials in the Lacrosse case is just the tip of the iceberg. An in-depth, legitimate, thorough and unbiased investigation could undermine the legitimacy of many governmental entities, not to mention Duke University.
There’s a lot of truth in what Jack says. And he may turn out to be right about the Feds not coming in.

But I think eventually they will.

Yes, this Justice Department under President Bush has shown itself to have just what the DOJ under previous administrations for more than forty years have had: a two-race policy whereby DOG’s quick to get involved when there’s any suggestion blacks might have been victimized (look at how quickly DOJ got involved in Jena), but very slow to get involved where whites are concerned, even when they’ve clearly been victimized and the state’s attorney general is asking DOJ to get involved, as is the case now.

And we all know the very wealthy and powerful Duke University, which often speaks out on public matters and routinely lobbies the federal government, has said nothing to encourage the Feds to come to Durham and investigate possible crimes committed against its students.

Still, I think the Feds will come.

They’ll be forced to.

The injustices committed during the Duke Hoax are too massive and too terrible to be ignored.

We know only something of those injustices now.

We’ll learn much more about those injustices in the future.

A police-state frame-up attempt which was carried out over many months, involved dozens of co-conspirators and sought to put three innocent young men in prison for decades is a horrible thing to learn about. It makes decent people angry and concerned for their safety when in the hands of the law.

But we don’t know a quarter of all that was done to first trash the lacrosse players and generate public anger against them; and then to pick three of them for a frame-up that would send them to prison for most of the rest of their lives.

When the public learns more of what happened, especially the many lies we were told and the deliberate crimes that were committed, all that won’t mean much to the sort of people who go to pot banger rallies and circulate “Vigilante” posters.

But decent people are going to be angry and they’re going to demand something be done.

Public awareness followed by public pressure will, at some point, force the Feds to come to Durham, something they should have done long ago.


Stuart Taylor, co-author with KC Johnson of the acclaimed Until Proven Innocent, will speak at Duke this Friday at 7 PM. The public is invited. Admission is free.

Until Proven Innocent is a riveting account of the attempted frame-up of the Duke lacrosse players by a rogue DA and others with the enablement of media, academics and "rights groups" the public had a right to expect would instead tell us the truth.

Taylor's 7 PM talk will be in Love Auditorium in the Love Science Research Building on West Campus. It will be preceded by a book signing at 6 PM

An excellent map, which locates Love SRB as well as Duke Chapel and the Bryan Parking deck is here. From the Bryan Parking Deck it's an easy, five-minute walk to Love. That area of campus is well-lit and has a good deal of foot traffic.

I've heard Taylor speak a number of times. He's been informed, engaging and to the point.

Taylor interacts well with his audiences so I hope there'll be a Q&A. I suspect there will be, but I'm not sure at this point. I'll let you know what I find out.

Taylor's talk is sponsored by Duke Students for an Ethical Duke.

Final word: You notice that once you leave the parking deck, it's an easy five-minute walk to Love?

You're not going to pass up an opportunity like that, are you?

Feds, Durham & Duke

Tuesday evening I posted on a story headlined: “AG asks for federal investigation of lacrosse case.” The post contained the N&O’s story full text and my comments.

Yesterday, the N&O reported more on the same story.

What follows is first, the money grafs from Tuesday’ night’s N&O story and a bit of my commentary that night. Following that, there’s some of Wednesday’s news report after which I comment further.

The “money grafs” from Tuesday night’s story:

The state attorney general has asked federal prosecutors to help conduct a criminal probe into former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong and other government officials involved with the Duke lacrosse case, according to a lawyer representing one of the three exonerated players.

Charlotte lawyer Jim Cooney outlined the request in a three-page letter sent to three high-ranking U.S. Justice Department administrators.

The letter was copied to Jim Coman, a special prosecutor for the state who led the criminal investigation that led to the exoneration of the three lacrosse players, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

"On behalf of Reade Seligmann and his family, I respectfully request that the government of the United States grant the request of the North Carolina Attorney General and participate in a joint investigation into the events of this prosecution," Cooney wrote in his Oct. 9 letter.

The letter was addressed to Craig S. Morford, acting U.S. deputy attorney general in Washington; Christopher J. Christie, U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, and Anna Mills Waggoner, U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina.
My comments Tuesday night included:
All of you who are justice seekers are happy knowing Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s Attorney General, has asked the Feds to finally come to Durham, and join with his office to investigate the attempted frame-up of three young men Mike Nifong, the DPD, Brian Meehan, the Raleigh N&O and Duke’s Dike Brodhead and Bob Steel all knew were innocent.

But before anyone breaks out the champagne, remember at this point it’s only a request.
Now part of Wednesday’s N&O report adding news to Tuesday night’s story:
[Cooney’s] letter also describes the mysterious cancellation of a meeting that had been set for early September with assistant U.S. attorneys from New Jersey, representatives from the Greensboro office and the N.C. Attorney General's Office.

On the eve of the meeting, Hardin, the interim Durham district attorney, requested an SBI investigation into the government officials involved with the Duke lacrosse case.

"Despite repeated inquiries by my clients, they are still unclear as to why these prosecutors -- after having traveled to Raleigh -- were denied permission to even meet with representatives of the attorney general of North Carolina," Cooney said in his letter.
Comments on Wednesday's N&O report:

The N&O made Cooney’s letter available online here. (pdf. form)

The N&O reported Cooney said he can’t comment on his letter but the N&O gave no reason why he couldn’t.

The N&O also reported it obtained the letter through a freedom of information request.

But it doesn’t say whether it made the request after it was tipped to the letter’s existence.

I’m guessing it was.

But that doesn’t mean I necessarily think Cooney or someone acting for him was the tipster.

Lots of people had to know about the letter; and there are many reasons why a person would want Cooney’s letter to become public.

One reason that comes to my mind: it’s right and proper for the public to know our attorney general had made such a request.

Who wouldn’t want the public to know about the request?

That reminds me of some other things I said in my commentary Tuesday night:
A word to [Duke’s President] Dick Brodhead: You said last December you wanted Mike Nifong to explain what he’d been doing all those months you were endorsing his plan to put David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann on trial.

How about you and Duke BOT Chair Bob Steel demanding the Feds investigate what Nifong and others were doing all that time?
Brodhead and Steel have so far refused to request a Department of Justice investigation.

Why haven’t Brodhead and Steel joined with law professors, attorneys, pundits and now North Carolina’s attorney general in calling for such an investigation?

Until they do, people can fairly ask whether Brodhead and Steel fear the consequences of a full and fair federal investigation into possible criminal violations of the civil rights of Duke students and others in Durham.

Wednesday's N&O story is here.

I plan to follow this story. I hope some of you will contact people at Duke and in the community to urge them to support a federal investigation into the attempted frame-up and its ongoing cover-up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Churchill Series – Oct. 31, 2007

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

Tuesday, 6 Feb. 1940.

The destroyer HMS Boadicea waits at a quay in France to take British government leaders back to England following a meeting with their French counterparts.

The British leaders, including the First Lord of the Admiralty, soon appear.

We learn some of what happened next thanks to First Lieutenant Hubert Fox, Boadicea's Gunnery Officer, who wrote his father the following day:

We lay at the quay at Boulogne waiting to take them back.

Presently the neat figure of Neville Chamberlain approached, surrounded by his retinue like a popular master at a preparatory school conducting the Sunday walk. One or two of the boys preferred to trudge along by themselves. Among these was Winston Churchill.

They came on board, most of them going up to the bridge where they watched all that happened with great animation. The Prime Minister got chill so we had some soup brought up to him.

Warm in the wardroom, Churchill growled, “Tell the Prime Minister to come and have some gin.”

Churchill sat in the wardroom at the long polished table drinking port and sucking a cigar. He was flicking over the pages of “Blighty,” a popular magazine with pictures of ladies without clothes.

Later we lost him altogether for a time and eventually found him on the stockers’ mess deck, sitting on a mess table swapping yarns.
The stockers’ mess deck would have been in one of the lowest and smelliest parts of the ship. Very few VIP’s would more than stick their head down there. But there was the First Lord telling yarns.

No wonder the tars always loved having him on board.
The extract of G.O. Fox’s letter is found on pg. 148 of Martin Gilbert’s Finest Hour, volume VI of Winston S. Churchill. (Houghton Mifflin, 1983)

The Times & Sharpton: Some Couple

The politically partisan New York Times tells readers today:

Vice President Dick Cheney is embroiled in yet another hunting-related controversy.

The vice president made a daylong hunting trip on Monday to the Clove Valley Rod and Gun Club, an exclusive mountainside establishment on 4,000 acres in Union Vale, N.Y., about 15 miles east of Poughkeepsie, in Dutchess County.

Only members and their guests may hunt on the property; an annual membership is said to cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Reporters who covered Mr. Cheney’s visit on Monday — including Fernanda Santos of The Times — were not permitted to enter the grounds of the hunting estate.

But at least one eagle-eyed photographer captured images of a Confederate battle flag — about 3 feet by 5 feet in dimension — hanging in plain view in a garage attached to the club’s headquarters.[…]
A Confederate battle flag hanging in plain view?

We know we’re in for a “firestorm of controversy” when that sort of thing happens even if the Vice President, as his staff has reported, never saw the flag.

Further along in its story, one of the Times’ favorite “go-to” guys, Al Sharpton, appears and is gvien plenty of "ink.":
The Rev. Al Sharpton issued a statement last night that read, in part:

I call on Vice President Cheney to leave immediately, denounce the club, and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate, and murder to black people.

In this age of Jena, La., events and hangman nooses all over the country, for the Vice President to relax under the flag of the hangman nooses is an unpardonable insult to all Americans, particularly blacks. He ought to leave immediately, call for the flag to be brought down at once, and apologize for being connected to an institution that would be insensitive enough to fly it in the first place.

What is interesting to me is that this is not even in the South that it is flying. The club owners must identify with the philosophy of the Confederacy because they can’t say that they are a historic club that 200 years ago was a part of the Confederacy since New York was never a Confederate state.

In a phone interview today, Mr. Sharpton elaborated a bit further.

He expressed incredulity that Mr. Cheney’s security detail would not have noticed — or been bothered by — the presence of the flag.

“It is hard to believe, with a security team and detail searching everywhere the vice president goes in advance, that he would not want to know how this was there or how the security team could not have seen this as inappropriate and insulting,” he said, adding, “You either have security incompetence or security insensitivity.” […]
Just in case a few readers aren't sure how they’re supposed to feel after reading the story, the Times provides a color photo of a halloween mask of Cheney along with hunting outfit and gun and this photo caption:
A Dick Cheney hunting costume for Halloween on display in Manhattan. Since Vice President Cheney’s infamous 2006 firearms accident, his hunting hobby has provided fodder for many jokes.
The entire Times story is here.


Gee, the Secret Service had committed either security incompetence or security insensitivity.

It’s true. I read it in the Times. Reverend Sharpton talked about it.

My goodness, what’s going on?

Does Speaker Pelosi know the level the Secret Service has fallen to?

If the Secret Service can’t do its job, that’s just one more reason the government should give her that jetliner.

That way, when she flies back and forth between Washington and San Francisco on the weekends, her staff and Democratic House colleagues flying with her can protect her from any incompetence or insensitivity the Secret Service might commit in mid-flight.

And the members of the MSM-Dem news organizations flying along to “cover the Speaker” can immediately report what’s happening.

Speaking of what’s happening:

Did you know that during the last five years, the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq have all risen more than 50%?

And did you know that during the same five years, the Times’ Class A stock has fallen more than 50%

You can check both statistics here.

Sharpton’s stock remains very high at the Times and other liberal/leftist news organizations.

But it appears to be falling among sensible people, his desperate “Confederate flag” bid for public attention being one sign of that.

There’s a certain appropriateness to the Times teaming up with Sharpton on this media hyped, not really a story “story.”

Ever since Sharpton and the Times worked together on the Tawana Brawley rape hoax, they’ve become more like each other. They’re now like a married couple who over the years have taken on more and more of each other’s habits and attitudes.

How about Al Sharpton for NYT publisher? He can’t do worse than Pinch Sulzberger.

Meanwhile, does anyone know whether the Times’ Bill Keller is still telling people: “We report straight down the middle?”


The Raleigh N&O’s’s just posted: “AG asks for federal investigation of lacrosse case.”

Here’s the story in full, followed by comments:

The state attorney general has asked federal prosecutors to help conduct a criminal probe into former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong and other government officials involved with the Duke lacrosse case, according to a lawyer representing one of the three exonerated players.

Charlotte lawyer Jim Cooney outlined the request in a three-page letter sent to three high-ranking U.S. Justice Department administrators.

The letter was copied to Jim Coman, a special prosecutor for the state who led the criminal investigation that led to the exoneration of the three lacrosse players, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

"On behalf of Reade Seligmann and his family, I respectfully request that the government of the United States grant the request of the North Carolina Attorney General and participate in a joint investigation into the events of this prosecution," Cooney wrote in his Oct. 9 letter.

The letter was addressed to Craig S. Morford, acting U.S. deputy attorney general in Washington; Christopher J. Christie, U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, and Anna Mills Waggoner, U.S. attorney for the middle district of North Carolina.

In January, Seligmann and his father filed a complaint with Christie, according to Cooney's letter.

By that time, the case against the three players had crumbled in court. What began with an escort service dancer's allegations of gang-rape at a lacrosse team party in March 2006 ended with Nifong, the Durham prosecutor who brought the case forward, losing his law license and his job.

In September, Jim Hardin, the acting district attorney appointed to succeed Nifong, asked the State Bureau of Investigation to consider a criminal probe. Cooney's letter said that it was "my clients' understanding that since the time of that referral... the Attorney General's Office has transmitted a written request for federal involvement in a joint investigation into the events of this case."

Such an investigation would almost certainly target Nifong. It was not clear from the letter whether others connected to the case might also be involved. Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said she could not comment on the letter or whether a request for federal assistance had been made.

In the past, Talley said, the state attorney general has sought power from the state legislature to convene investigative grand juries that could help with corruption probes.


All of you who are justice seekers are happy knowing Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s Attorney General, has asked the Feds to finally come to Durham, and join with his office to investigate the attempted frame-up of three young men Mike Nifong, the DPD, Brian Meehan, the Raleigh N&O and Duke’s Dike Brodhead and Bob Steel all knew were innocent.

But before anyone breaks out the champagne, remember at this point it’s only a request.

What’s more, where violations of citizens’ civil rights are concerned, the federal Justice Department, like most government agencies, has two standards.

The DOJ’s standards are as easy to distinguish as telling black from white.

There's no doubt if the Duke Hoax victims had been black, the DOJ would have been in Durham long ago, very likely about the time Judge Ron (“Whatever Mike wants”) Stephens ordered 46 citizens, based solely on their race, to submit to police DNA testing and photographing.

But the people the Hoax criminals attempted to frame are white.

So the Feds may yet hesitate to step in and bring some measure of justice to Durham.

I’m betting the Feds won’t be able to leave things in the hands of Durham’s “civic leaders” because there's been too much public attention and outrage.

But they could.

So a word to the wise: Let’s keep the pressure on the Feds to come on in. Letters, phone calls. You know what’s needed.

A word to Dick Brodhead: You said last December you wanted Mike Nifong to explain what he’d been doing all those months you were endorsing his plan to put David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann on trial.
How about you and Duke BOT Chair Bob Steel demanding the Feds investigate what Nifong and others were doing all that time?

A word to all of you who’ve been active in trying to bring the Feds in: Thank you. Your work may yet pay off to the benefit of us all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Churchill Series – Oct. 30, 2007

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

In yesterday’s post we looked at one, extracts from a letter Churchill wrote May 11, 1940, the day after he’d assumed the premiership to his predecessor Neville Chamberlain seeking to set up a meeting with Chamberlain and the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax; and two, a memorandum Churchill dictated on Nov. 8, 1940 directing the Cabinet Secretary, a civil servant, to inform him how best Churchill could authorize that when conflicts involving statistic-based claims arose, the statistical unit directly answering to him and headed by his good friend, Oxford physicist Eric Lindemann, would have the final say.

The May letter is very courteous and cautious. (Churchill even explains why he would like the meeting to be in his office, then at the Admiralty, rather than at Downing Street.) The Nov. memorandum is “do this now without consulting the Cabinet Ministers.”

Why the change in tone and method in six months? Why can Churchill be so imperial in the memorandum?

Because he’s proven his mettle as leader and events have played out to strengthen his political standing within the Cabinet and with the people.

From the time he took office he succeeded in blocking any consideration of German peace offers realizing that entertaining them would start a slide down a slippery slope which would sap the nations resolve to fight on under any conditions. Deservedly or not, he received much of the credit for “the miracle of Dunkirk.” The fall of France, which could have discouraged people and thereby weakened his leadership, he turned to advantage with “Very well, alone.”

The invasion didn’t come in the Summer or Fall of 1940. By November the British realized they’d won the Battle of Britain.

On Nov. 5 President Roosevelt had been re-elected.

On May 11 Churchill was confident of his political skills, but he knew his political power was weak; on Nov. 8 he was rightly confident of both his political skills and power.

N&O’s Hoax Editors Promoted

The McClatchy Company’s Raleigh News & Observer “broke” what was then called “the Duke lacrosse rape story” with a front-page "news report" on March 24, 2006 that repeatedly told readers the then anonymous Crystal Mangum was the “victim.”

The N&O followed that the next day with another front-page "news report" about what it said was “an ordeal” that ended in “sexual violence.”

The N&O withheld from that story the critically important news Mangum had given the N&O: Directly contradicting what Mike Nifong claimed, Mangum told the N&O the other dancer at the lacrosse party had also been raped, but didn’t report it for fear of losing her job.

The N&O sat for thirteen months on that news, disclosing it only the day after the NC AG had declared the players innocent.

Now tonight the N&O is telling readers:

John Drescher, the managing editor of The News & Observer, became the newspaper's top editor today. He succeeds Melanie Sill, who was named editor of sister paper The Sacramento Bee. […]

Both newspapers are owned by the California-based McClatchy Co.

Drescher, 47, becomes the newspaper's seventh executive editor. He also became a Senior Vice President of the News & Observer.

"I cannot think of anyone more qualified to lead our newsroom," N&O president and publisher Orage Quarles III said in a prepared statement. "He brings all the necessary skill sets needed to help us navigate through the challenging environment that we face."[…]

Sill hired him as managing editor six months after her promotion to the top N&O editing job in 2002. […]

Sill has been at The N&O for just shy of 25 years, rising through the ranks from feature writer. She edited a series of stories including the hog waste project that won the Pulitzer gold medal for public service in 1996.
Tonight's entire N&O story is here.


You’ve heard of “No good deed goes unpunished?”

Tonight I’m thinking: “At the McClatchy Co., no biased, racially inflammatory and deliberately fraudulent story goes unrewarded.”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Melanie Sill and John Drescher do.

By all means contact them. Ask for their explanation of the N&O's Duke Hoax coverage.

But be sure to read also the following three posts which are only a few of the many JinC posts documenting the N&O’s roles in first, launching the witch hunt and then, enabling and sustaining the attempted frame-up for thirteen months.

Did the Raleigh N&O withhold news of the Duke captains' cooperation? (7/12/06)

Duke Lacrosse: N&O's Mar. 25 story implodes (10/8/06)

AJR's Hoax article's biggest failing? (7/19/07)

Hat tip: Louisiana Wise Man

Sharpton’s Latest (Post 1)

From the AP a few hours ago:

Vice President Dick Cheney spent about eight hours hunting Monday at a secluded Hudson Valley gun club where well-heeled enthusiasts shoot ducks and pheasants.

Vice President Dick Cheney, an avid hunter, spent most of Monday at a New York gun club. The trip became controversial after a photographer snapped a photo of a small Confederate flag hanging in a garage at the club.

It was Cheney's second visit to Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club in Dutchess County, about 70 miles north of New York City. The previous trip was in fall 2001.

Although a heavy police presence kept the media and curious local residents at a distance, Cheney's visit did stir up a bit of controversy when a New York Daily News photographer snapped a picture of a small Confederate flag hanging inside a garage on the hunt club property.

The photo was shown to New York City civil rights activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who issued a statement demanding that the vice president "leave immediately, denounce the club and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate and murder to black people."

Sharpton's statement was issued hours after Cheney departed the club at 3:45 p.m. for a flight out of the Stewart Air National Guard Base. In a statement issued Monday evening, Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said neither Cheney nor anyone on his staff saw such a flag at the hunt club.

It's not clear whether the door of the garage that contained the flag was even open at the time the vice president was in the area.
There’s more. You can read it here.


I’ll wait until this evening before I make any detailed comments.

I’d like to hear first what Tawana Brawley, Jesse Jackson, Nancy Pelosi, and Pete Stark have to say.

N&O Ignores Suggestion, Questions


You may remember the post below from Oct.10. By way of update, no one at the N&O has responded to the questions I asked.


In a recent Sunday column, Raleigh News & Observer Executive Editor for News Melanie Sill asked readers to suggest how the N&O could better serve them. Here’s part of what Sill said:

Suggestions help serve our community in all kinds of ways, from major coverage themes to useful information. Keep 'em coming.
Sill's question isn't really a tough one, is it?

I’ve just left the following comment on the thread of Sill’s column posted at the Editors' Blog.


Dear Melanie,

I suggest N&O editors at the Editors’ Blog answer readers’ questions.

Here’s a copy of a comment with questions I asked Deputy Managing Editor Linda Williams which she’s never answered. Following my comment and questions to Editor Williams, I say a few more things to you.


Dear Editor Williams:

Historian and blogger KC Johnson, co-author of Until Proven Innocent has said this about Columnist Barry Saunders:

"The reaction from some quarters [to impending civil suits against Durham] was predictable.

The N&O’s Barry Saunders penned a race-baiting column falsely asserting that Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty had “hired themselves a stripper.” This false claim, and Saunders’ other taunts, only bolstered the falsely accused students’ case against Durham, by showing the continuing harm to their reputations—something Saunders might have wanted to consider before he wrote.

And Saunders, hyper-sensitive to the slightest of perceived slights against African-Americans, appeared to be unconcerned with his own perceived slight against the religion of the falsely accused players.

But, of course, this is the same Barry Saunders who previously eviscerated media coverage of a gang-rape allegation—when the defendants were black NCCU students. Their accuser (whom Saunders mocked) didn’t show up for a probable cause hearing, prompting dismissal of charges.

But the mere filing of charges, according to Saunders, caused long-term damage to the students’ reputation: ‘I saw the two dudes’ pictures in the paper. I’m not saying they looked guilty, but let’s face it. It’s hard to look innocent when your mug shot is splashed on television or in the paper in connection with some horrific story.’ (To remind Saunders, the mugshots of Seligmann and Finnerty were “splashed”—over and over and over again—on national television and on the cover of Newsweek.)”

(end of Johnson blog quote)

I'm sure you know, Editor Williams, that Executive Editor for News Melanie Sill says Saunders meets N&O standards.

And I don't know anyone who disputes that he does.

But what many people are asking is why a race-baiter like Saunders “meets N&O standards?”

Just a few years ago the N&O made what it said was a sincere apology for its long history of race-baiting. The N&O promised readers it would no longer race-bait.

But soon after that, the N&O launched its deliberately false, racially-inflammatory Duke lacrosse coverage.

By withholding relevant news and promoting the lie that white lacrosse players hadn’t cooperated with police, the N&O helped bring about the indictments of three innocent white men.

But the N&O knew the white men had cooperated with police.

I don’t believe you would have promoted the falsehood that the players hadn’t cooperated with police if they’d been black men instead of white men.

I’m not wrong about that, am I?

The N&O withheld for over a year the exculpatory news that Mangum told you on March 24, 2006 that Kim Roberts had also been raped at the party, but didn’t report it for fear of losing her job. You also withheld the news that Mangum said Roberts would do anything for money.

You wouldn’t have withheld such critically important news for over a year if Mangum had been a white woman and David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann had been black men indicted by a white DA like Mike Nifong using grand jury testimony by two white cops like Benjamin Himan and Mark Gottlieb, would you?

After Duke University expressed concerns that publishing the “Vigilante” poster with face photos of 43 white Duke students on it would add to the danger those students were already facing, the N&O published the poster anyway. The N&O didn’t even tell readers what Duke had said.

If, in similar circumstances, NC Central University expressed concerns that publishing an anonymous “Vigilante” poster with face photos of 43 of its black students the DA and cops were saying were involved in the brutal beating and gang rape of a young white mother who was a student at Duke, would you have gone ahead and published the poster anyway?

I think the answer is obvious. Of course not. The N&O would never do something like that to a group of black males. Even your worst critics don’t believe you’d do such a thing to a group of black men.

But suppose you had.

And suppose people like Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Community Activist Victoria Peterson, Professors Houston Baker, William Chafe, Karla Holloway, Irving Joyner and Tim Tyson. Mayor Bill Bell, Journalist Cash Michaels and NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber reacted to what you did.

Imagine they issued a statement denouncing the N&O for doing something which “reeked of racism every bit as ugly and dangerous as the racism often found in Southern newspapers in the last century.”

What would you have said in response?

What if those people – all of whom often proclaimed their commitment to civil rights – demanded the N&O apologize to the players, their families and the community and fire the people responsible for publishing the racist “Vigilante” poster?

What would you have told your fellow N&O editors they should do?

Who were the N&O journalists who decided to publish the “Vigilante” poster? Do any of them still work for the paper? If any do, what does that tell the community about the N&O?

I know what my answer is but I’d like to hear yours first.

Editor Williams, I hope you don’t have any problem agreeing with this: At the N&O, race still matters.

I also hope you agree with this: Whites have been too passive in accepting “back of the bus” treatment from the N&O. We should demand the N&O once-and-for-all stop playing one race against another and treat people of all races fairly.

Thank you for your attention to my comment. I look forward to your response.


John in Carolina


A veteran MSM news editor like yourself, Melanie, knows I’ve asked Williams very important questions which are on the minds of many N&O readers.

For more than 18 months, readers have been asking when did the N&O learn of the extraordinary cooperation the players provided police; why was there no mention of the players’ cooperation in your March 25 story; and when and in what detail did the N&O finally report the players’ cooperation?

More recently, informed readers have asked why the N&O withheld for thirteen months critically important news exculpatory for the indicted players? I'm talking about what Crystal Mangum told you on March 24, 2006: that Kim Roberts had also been raped at the party but hadn't reported it for fear of losing her job.

Whose interests were served by the withholding of that news?

And then there are all the questions growing out of Ruth Sheehan’s admission that Nifong served as an anonymous source for her March 27 column, “Teams Silence Is Sickening.”

I hope you and the other editors will accept my suggestion and start answering questions. Even Public Editor Ted Vaden thinks you ought to answer them.

I look forward to an honest and substantive response instead of either the usual name-calling or silence.

Thank you for your attention to this comment.


John in Carolina

PS – Did Joe Neff ever retract the false statements he made May 22, 2007 at the National Press Club?

Politicians and their “solutions”

“It is remarkable how many political ‘solutions’ today are dealing with problems created by previous political ‘solutions.’”

Thus begins another carefully reasoned and informative Thomas Sowell column.

Sowell continues:

Three examples that come to mind immediately are the housing market crisis, the wildfires in southern California, and the water shortages in the west.[…]
I’ll link to the entire column at the end of this post. Here I’ll just offer and comment on the wildfire and water shortages portions of it.

Sowell says:
As for the flames sweeping across southern California, tragic as that is, this has happened time and again before -- in the very same places in the very same time of year, just like hurricanes.

Why would people risk building million-dollar homes in the known paths of wildfires?

For the same reason that people choose to live in the known paths of hurricanes.

Because the government -- that is, the taxpayers -- will get stuck with a lot of the costs of dealing with those dangers and the costs of rebuilding.

Why is there such a huge amount of inflammable vegetation over such a wide area that fires can reach unstoppable proportions by the time they get to places where people live?

Because "open space" has become a political sacred cow beyond rational discussion.
The same severe government restrictions on building that drive home prices sky high also lead to vast areas with nothing but trees and bushes. Where it doesn't rain for months, that's dangerous.

No matter how much open space there is, it is never enough for environmental extremists, who will make political trouble if anyone is allowed to break up those miles and miles of solid vegetation with buildings, even though pavement and masonry don't burn.

In other words, government preserves all the conditions for wildfires and subsidizes people who live in their path. (emphasis mine)

As for water shortages, they are as endemic to California as wildfires. But when an economist hears about a shortage that persists for years, the first question that comes to mind is: Why doesn't the price rise until supply and demand are equal?
If you said, "the government," go to the head of the class.

The federal government's water projects supply much of the water used in California that enables agriculture to flourish in what would otherwise be a desert.

The government sells this water to farmers at prices artificially lower than the cost of providing it -- and at a tiny fraction of what people pay for water in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Is it news, at this late date, that people waste things that they get cheap? It's been happening for centuries.

But none of the political "solutions" through drastic water rationing schemes will touch the cheap prices of water that lead farmers to grow crops requiring huge amounts of water in a desert.
There you are: politicians and some of their solutions.

And they're just a few of the many government “solutions” Sowell could have mentioned.

The agricultural price support program comes to mind. That “solution” was put in place during the 1930s to shore up falling farm prices and preserve “the family farm.”

The American people were told it was only a “temporary solution.”

Now, almost three-quarters of a century later, it remains in place, a yearly, multi-billion dollar give-away to mostly agr-business corporations.

Does it scare you that the same people who brought us the Post Office and the IRS tax code are working hard to “give” us health care?

Sowell’s entire column is here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Churchill Series - Oct. 29, 2007

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

Today begins a two post series within the series. We'll look today at extracts from a letter Churchill wrote to two Cabinet members on May 11, 1940 and a memorandum he dictated to the Cabinet Secretary almost exactly six months later on Nov. 8. We'll see the two documents are very different in tone and treatment of Cabinet members.

Having set them out today, tomorrow we'll consider why they're difference in tone and treatment.

On May 11, 1940 Churchill began to carefully, sensitively and skillfully assert the powers of the Prime Minister’s office to which he’d been appointed the previous day as the Germans began their blitzkrieg attack in the West. During the first weeks of his premiership there were many who questioned his fitness to hold the office. They were ready “at the instant” to join in plotting to replace him.

Knowing that, on the morning of May 11 Churchill wrote a letter to the man he had just succeeded, Neville Chamberlain, a proud, really vain, man who had not resigned willingly and still commended considerable support within the Party as did Churchill’s rival for the premiership, Lord Edward Halifax, at the time Foreign Secretary.

After giving Chamberlain an account of meetings he’d just had, Churchill told Chamberlain that he had directed that no Cabinet officer would give up any housing quarters that came with the office for 30 days.

This was a break with customary practice which was that outgoing Cabinet officers vacate their housing quarters within a day or two of giving back their seals of office. In the case of Chamberlain, Churchill’s directive meant he could remain in the housing quarters at 10 Downing Street.

The letter continues and we see Churchill, still sensitive, begin to exercise his powers more forcefully but so carefully and wisely there’s nothing those who might challenge him that day can do but go along with him.

”I do not think there is any necessity for a Cabinet today, as the Armies and other Services are fighting in accordance with pre-arranged plans.

I should be very glad, however, if you and Edward [Halifax] would come to the Admiralty War Room at 12:30 P.M. so that we could look at the maps and talk things over.”
Well and good. Now prepare for a 180-degree turn.

Here's the Nov. 8, memorandum Churchill sent to Sir Edwards Bridges, a career civil servant who help the position of Secretary to the Cabinet.
Many of the executive departments naturally have set up and developed their own statistical branches, but there appears to be a separate statistical branch attached to the Ministerial Committee on Production, and naturally the Ministry of Supply’s statistical branch covers a very wide field. I have my own statistical branch under Professor Lindemann [An Oxford physicist, Churchill’s science advisor and close friend].

It is essential to consolidate and make sure that agreed figures only are used. The utmost confusion is caused when people argue on different statistical data. I wish all statistics to be concentrated in my own branch as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, from which alone the final authoritative working statistics will issue. The various departmental statistical branches will, of course, continue as at present, but agreement must be reached between them, and the Central Statistical Office.

Pray look into this, and advise me how my wish can be most speedily and effectively achieved.
No invitation in that memorandum to "talk things over."

What changed? Was it Churchill? Had he grown more confident of his abilities? Did events convince him that his hand was strengthened to the point where he could summarily say, in effect, "We'll play with my deck and according to my rules?"

Don't feel you have to wait until tomorrow to offer your answer(s). Feel free to comment on the thread here. There's an awful lot that can explain the difference in tone and treatment between the two documents.
Excerpts of the letter can be found in Their Finest Hour, vol.II of Churchill's The Second World War (Houghton Mifflin, 1949)(pgs. 10-11)

The full text of the memorandum can be found on pg. 684 of Their Finest Hour, vol. II of Churchill’s The Second World War. (Houghton Mifflin, 1949)

Duke Now Quiz #3

(Another quiz testing your knowledge of Duke now.)

Dr. Alvin Poussaint is Professor of Psychiatry and Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Harvard Medical School. He’s considered one of America’s preeminent child psychiatrists.

Now our quiz:

At Duke News you’ll find a link to a document which refers to Poussaint as a “Harvard psychologist.”

The document is:

a) “Things To Avoid When Writing Your ‘Why I Want To Come To Duke’ Essay,” a pamphlet prepared by Duke’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

b) “Come on, Cosby: Lay off talk about race,” an op-ed written by Karla FC Holloway, arts & sciences professor of English and professor of law at Duke. It was recently published in the Orlando Sentinel.
Did you pick “b”?

Then you know something about Duke now.

This made me smile

A friend passed this on:

A recent study found that the average American golfer walks about 900 miles a year.

Another study found American golfers drink, on average, 22 gallons of beer a year.

That means American golfers get about 41 miles to the gallon.

Brodhead Review Letter

On October 1 Duke’s Board of Trustee Chairman Robert Steel announced the formation of a Presidential Review Committee charged with assessing “the effectiveness of [President Brodhead] in leading this complex and ambitious University and in articulating a vision for its future among leading universities” during his first three years in office.

A similar review process occurred at the end of Brodhead’s predecessor Nan Keohane’s first three years in office.

Steel invited comments.

I’ve just sent the following electronic letter to Trustee Dan Blue, who heads the review committee.

Dear Chairman Blue:

I commend the trustees for undertaking a review of President Brodhead’s leadership and for inviting comments concerning it.

I'm sure thousands of other alumni have already commented, some in great detail.

I'll therefore keep my comments brief and limited to a few “main points.”

You and the other trustees must be asking yourselves:

Knowing what we've learned these past three years, would we have selected President Brodhead in the first place?

Is he the best person to lead the University now and in the foreseeable future?

It’s hard to see how either question can be answered with anything but “No.”

Why retain in office a president who refused to meet with the lacrosse parents last March and for months thereafter; and who to this day refuses to explain why he didn't?

President Brodhead said nothing when Reade Seligmann was threatened by racists.

He said nothing a few weeks later when the members of the Women’s lacrosse team were trashed by many in the national media for saying the three Duke students were innocent.

Duke students deserve a president who'll speak out when racists threaten them and when journalists trash them.

The Duke community deserves a president who’s willing to explain h/her actions fully and openly; and who welcomes questions concerning those actions.

President Brodhead’s proven he’s not that person.

He frequently urges us not to “look back,” but just “move on.”

His invocation of those mantras is a damning indictment of his failed leadership.

In 1970, at a time of extraordinary anger and division within the University, the trustees had the care and wisdom to give us a new president, Terry Sanford.

We need another such president now.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.


John in Carolina

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Favorite Duke Hoax Video

Since yesterday afternoon I've look three times at what's now my favorite Duke Hoax. The background music is Locomotive Breath and the citizen journalist named Locomotive Breath is the video's creator.

The video is like a large, multi-stage rocket that begins slowly, then picks up speed and keeps accelerating.

Give it a look. I'd love to hear what you think.

Video may take a few seconds to load.

Above here is the video. There’s nothing after this.

Our Great Service Academies

Readers Note: I've been researching regarding Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's speech in which he excoriatied journalists and news organizations for reporting from Iraq with such bitter partisanship and gross bias that they're costing the lives of American servicemen and women.

I've found so much that supports what Sanchez said that it angers me.

As a way of cooling down, I took a look at this simple tribute post I first put up in May 2005.

I was glad to see it and use the links to make virtual visits to our service academies.

What an uplifting change from spending time with MSM.

Make a few visits yourself. You'll know what I mean if you don't already.



If you saw any part of today's graduation ceremony at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, including President Bush's graduation address, you may have noticed some of the graduates wore white jackets while others wore blue.

Navy and Marine Corps buffs know those in white will serve as Navy officers; those in blue as Marine Corps officers.

The graduation was an inspiring reminder of how fortunate we are to have Annapolis and three other great service academies which train leaders to defend America and the civilized world.

Here are links to the four service academies' websites.

Air Force


Coast Guard


God bless them all.

Sharpton Now Irrelevent?

That’s what Ta-Nehisi Coates says in a WaPo column today:

When the news broke last week that the rapper Nas intended to use a racial epithet as the title of his next album, it was no shock that a television reporter immediately thrust a microphone toward the Rev. Al Sharpton for a response.

People who use the N-word in their music "wouldn't put out a record against whites or cops or Jews because they ain't got the guts to do that," the longtime activist declaimed, warming up for the killer sound bite. "They only got the guts to beat up on their own."

Toss another one onto the pile of headlines. It has been a banner year for Sharpton. Whether he's mixing it up with Don Imus, harassing Sen. Barack Obama, raising a ruckus over legal discrimination in Jena, La., or urging a boycott of the New York Knicks because of how they treated a female employee, Sharpton seems to make news every time he opens his mouth.
And we shouldn’t forget the Duke Hoax case. The Rev was out there for months before the camera’s hustling what ever Mike Nifiong, Durham Police and Duke faculty members were saying.

Coates continues:
His presidential run in 2004 landed him far afield of the White House, but it succeeded in perhaps its only real aim: convincing the national media that in all things black, Sharpton is a one-stop shop.

Journalists thus follow the good reverend's every move as though galaxies hang in the balance. At night, he routinely accrues even more face time, matching wits with the squawking chickens of cable news.

So potent is Sharpton's visage that in its recent puff piece on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, "60 Minutes" needed only to unveil decade-old footage of Sharpton to show the vast numbers of blacks who opposed Thomas's nomination.

Some black intellectuals cried foul, arguing that the news magazine used a wild-eyed Sharpton to trivialize legitimate criticism. But the black pundits are missing the point.

To much of white America, and much more of the white media, Sharpton isn't a front man for black America. He is black America.

It should be said that Sharpton has the support of some African Americans. Even those of us who question his methods are happy to see someone take an aggressive stand against white racism. In an April poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, almost half of black Americans said they had a positive opinion of Sharpton.

But Sharpton's overstatements and overexposure have rendered him a divisive figure in the black community. The remaining half of blacks polled either had no opinion, a negative opinion or didn't know who he was.
Still, once upon a time, to qualify for the title of "black leader," you had to actually lead and, more important, have a following. Harriet Tubman was the paragon: Black people quite literally followed her out of slavery.

W.E.B. Du Bois helped create the NAACP, then godfathered the Harlem Renaissance. More than any single figure, Malcolm X arguably rebuilt black America's collective self-esteem, eliminating "brown bag tests" (the color caste system among blacks) and making the rest of the world safe for dreadlocks.

Sharpton . . . even in the same pile. His list of misses includes backing Tawana Brawley's fraudulent accusations of rape and his shilling on TV for predatory lenders. His 2004 campaign was a farcical remix of Jackson's. According to published reports, Sharpton's campaign was backed by Roger Stone, a controversial Republican political operative.

And when the votes were counted, Sharpton came up lame. In South Carolina, where African Americans made up almost half of the Democratic primary electorate, he not only lost overall but lost among blacks. He finished third among his alleged followers, outdone by Sens. John F. Kerry and John Edwards.

Any other public figure with such a comic . . . and dubious traction among his constituency would find himself swiftly jettisoned from the Rolodex of reporters and network anchors. […]

Memo to everyone everywhere: Al Sharpton isn't a black leader, he just plays one on TV.
There’s a lot more to Coates’ column including statistical data suggesting Sharpton doesn’t have much standing in the black community.

So why do so many MSM news organizations have Sharpton’s cell number on speed dial? Why does he get so much face-time on the network news and cable talk shows?

For one thing, Al’s always there for those speed dial calls; and ready for the interviews.

He’s predictable. Reporters pretty much know in advance what he’s going to say: “It’s about race.” So if that’s how a reporter is spinning a story, Sharpton’s an easy interview.

In the first six or eight weeks of the Duke Hoax, Shapton was an easy interview because he was peddling the frame-up as were almost all MSM news organizations.

Outstanding, independent-minded blacks such as Stanford Scholar Thomas Sowell, Harvard Physician and Professor Alvin Poussaint, and Columnist and Blogger LaShawn Barber weren’t on many reporters speed dial lists. Why not?

Because Sowell and Barber had the Hoax figured out within a few weeks and were publicly challenging the now disbarred Mike Nifong. I bet Nifong and Duke’s Dick Brodhead didn’t fool Poussaint for very long either.

But if MSM gave much voice to what people like Sowell, Poussaint and Barber were thinking, the Hoax would have been exposed. Most MSM didn’t want that to happen in April 2006.

Anyway, Sharpton does a lot of harm to America. Most MSM helps him do it by giving him media attention and refusing to call him on his falsehoods, both those he makes out of ignorance and those he makes deliberately.

Read more about Sharpton here, here and here.

Hat tip: