Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blogging begins Sunday afternoon


I said blogging would resume Saturday night.

But I won't get any blogging done until tomorrow, Sunday.

If you want to blame someone, don't blame me.

Some wonderful friends who "showed up" are the cause of the delay.

Blame them.

I hope you're back tomorrow afternoon.


Blogging resumes Saturday evening


There's a family lunch and some travel today.

But I'll put up two posts about 8 PM tonight I hope you come take a look at.



Friday, November 23, 2007

The Churchill Series - Nov. 23, 2007

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

Today's post is a rerun from September 2006. It's an amusing story about a group of men who gave thanks after enjoying some port and the fine officer who made their thanks possible.

Churchill tells the story in My Early Life. He recalls "one day in the winter of 1915 when I was serving [at the front] with the Grenadier Guards."

Churchill continues:

Our Colonel, then the well-known 'Ma' Jeffreys, a super-martinet and a splendid officer utterly unaffected by sixteen months of the brunt, deprecated the use of alcohol (apart from the regular rum ration) on duty, even under the shocking winter weather and in the front line. It was his wish, though not his actual order, that it should not be taken into the trenches.

In a dark and dripping dug-out a bottle of port was being consumed, when the cry, "Commanding Officer," was heard and Colonel Jeffreys began to descend the steps.

A young officer in whom there evidently lay the germs of military genius instinctively stuck the guttering candle which lighted the dug-out into the mouth of the bottle. Such candlesticks were common.

Everything passed off perfectly.

However, six months later this young officer found himself on leave in the Guards' Club, and there met Colonel Jeffreys.

"Have a glass of port wine?" said the Colonel. The subaltern accepted.

The bottle was brought and the glasses emptied: "Does it taste of candle grease?" said the Colonel; and they both laughed together. (p.50)

To Thank Our Troops

Army Chaplain Capt. James Key writing today in USA Today:

Last month, a generous couple reminded me that there are still a few people left in our society who haven't forgotten how to say "thank you."

I was sitting in a restaurant enjoying my lunch when the waitress returned to my table to inform me that a couple in another booth, who asked to remain anonymous, told her to put my bill on their credit card.

She told me that they saw me in my uniform eating alone and wanted to show their appreciation by paying for my meal. She said, "It's no big deal. It's just their way of thanking you for serving our nation."

While this gesture of kindness might have been no big deal to the waitress, it was certainly a big deal to me. It restored my hope and assured me that no matter how people feel about the war — good, bad or indifferent — they appreciate the sacrifice and selfless service of our young men and women in uniform. And, based on the comments of other soldiers I know, such generosity is a quite common occurrence.
I’m glad Captain Key reports other man and women in our armed forces are reporting similar experiences. That’s the least we owe them.

There’s more to Key’s column before he closes with:
That couple who paid for my meal did more than simply provide my nourishment. They reaffirmed to me that we still live in a society that has not forgotten how to say "thank you" — including to our troops, many of whom will be working this holiday or celebrating it half a world away from their families so that the rest of us can have more reasons to be thankful.
Key’s column is inspiring. Be sure to read it.

And follow that couple’s example if you don’t already do such things.

Durham Parking Deck Problems: Comments

On Wednesday I posted Durham Parking Deck Problems: Who Knew When?

The Durham Herald Sun had reported that City Manager Patrick Baker had failed to inform the public that “a city-owned West Chapel Hill Street parking deck was in danger of collapse despite learning about its structural weakness in late August. “

I took Baker to task for his failure but an anon commenter said I was just making myself “look petty.”

Ol’ JinC “petty?”

When I read that, I almost collapsed.

If anything, I thought I was being too easy on Baker.

I still want to know when he told Mayor Bell, what they said to each other and why the public wasn’t told about the danger before the recent election.

There were two other comments I want to call to your attention. They come from Insufficiently Sensitive who self-IDs as an engineer and has often commented on other topics, always in a very informed manner.

IS’s first comment:

As an engineer myself, I wonder at the advice that Baker got from the City's engineer.

Unless there's something missing from the story, the news Baker had from the engineer wasn't just casual.

"The engineers' initial warning, relayed to the city in June, said the weakened beams could shear without warning. A follow-up report in August said one or more beams could fail near their connection points with the decks' walls, causing "a localized floor collapse."

But between engineer and City, it seemed sufficient to keep some - not all - traffic off the upper floors. That doesn't seem to square up with the initial June warning, nor with the August report.

Is the engineer so confident in his ability to predict the behavior of an obviously damaged structure under load that she can just recommend that heavy vehicles go elsewhere, and it's free-for-all time for the small fry?

Not to natter on and on, I'd worry myself sick about such a recommendation - think major liability exposure to both City and Engineer in case of injury or damage following this knowledge. In fact an Errors and Omissions policy may have an exclusion of any coverage for such a judgment and recommendation.

But I don't have all the facts (it IS the H-S after all), and greater minds than mine no doubt rule the roosts at the City of Durham and its consultants. I still cringe while thinking of what's being said at their respective insurance agencies, though.

IS’s second comment:

Baker's casual approach to a public safety issue is at the opposite end of the spectrum from another example in the State of Washington.

The ferry Quinault was found in drydock to have pits (probably from saltwater corrosion) in its steel hull. The State Transportation Secretary removed it from service immediately, just in time for the Thanksgiving traffic.

For good measure, she did the same for three other ferries in Quinault's class, with no evidence reported of their hull condition.

By her standards, Baker should have shut down the whole parking garage, and without further inspections, all others of the same sort of construction.

Newspaper reports of public works problems, of course, are plagued by the sort of journalists who rarely understand the vulgar physical details of building or boat construction - so we have to take them with a grain of salt.

Folks, can we all agree those engineer reports should be made public as well as all communications City employees and officials had concerning them?

Does anyone think the public doesn’t have a right to know?

Is the Herald Sun going to take action on the public’s behalf to force the City to make those reports public?

With tongue in cheek

I offer thoughts that may help you give thanks for some of the things that did and didn’t happen as the injustices of the Duke Hoax played out:

Duke President Richard Brodhead did say “the facts kept changing,” but David Evans cleared things up for scientists and philosophers: “Facts don’t change.”

N&O columnist Ruth Sheehan did write those terrible columns attacking the players and Coach Pressler, but at least she wasn’t then named a Duke visiting professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Cultural Anthropology and Women’s Studies and the School of Law.

N&O columnist Barry Saunders did write that he’d go to Durham City Hall and slap officials if they gave the three innocent men indicted during the Hoax more than a fish sandwich and a bus ticket out of town, but at least Gov. Easley didn’t appoint him DA.

The Chronicle’s editorial board declared Brodhead “must” remain Duke’s president, but at least it didn’t add: “and whatever they did was bad enough.”

And after he wrote a letter Provost Lange rightly called “a form of prejudice,” the bilious bigot Houston Baker did depart Duke after receiving what he termed an “unrefusable” offer from Vanderbilt University. (Thanks, Vandy.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I want to wish each of you a safe and blessed Thanksgiving.

Like most of you, I'll be offering thanks today for our serving military and their families. They’re the protectors of our blessings and the world's greatest human rights organization.

And again like most of you, I'll also give thanks for our veterans, those who made the supreme sacrifice and their families. They made our inheritance of freedom and bounty possible.

Blogging resumes tomorrow.

"Being thus arived in a good harbor"

From the journal of William Bradford, Pilgrim leader and second Governor of Plymouth Colony (spellings as in the original):

"Being thus arived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast & furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye periles & miseries therof, againe to set their feete on ye firme and stable earth, their proper elemente. And no marvell if they were thus joyefull, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on ye coast of his owne Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remaine twentie years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious & dreadfull was ye same unto him.

But hear I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amased at this poore peoples presente condition; and so I thinke will the reader too, when he well considered ye same. Being thus passed ye vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembred by yt which wente before), they had now no friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weatherbeaten bodys, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for succoure. ..

Let it also be considred what weake hopes of supply & succoure they left behinde them, yt might bear up their minds in this sade condition and trialls they were under; and they could not but be very smale. It is true, indeed, ye affections & love of their brethren at Leyden was cordiall & entire towards them, but they had litle power to help them, or them selves; and how ye case stode betweene them & ye marchants at their coming away, hath already been declared.

What could not sustaine them but ye spirite of God & his grace? May not & ought not the children of these fathers rightly say : Our faithers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this willdernes; but they cried unto ye Lord, and he heard their voyce, and looked on their adversitie…"

Churchill Speaking Thanksgiving Day 1944

From Britain's greatest living historian Martin Gilbert's Churchill and America (Free Press, 2005)

In 1944, as victory came closer, Churchill saw a bolder and brighter future for the Anglo-American relationship than victory alone.

In a speech in London at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 November 1944, in celebration of American Thanksgiving Day, he spoke of how “in three or four year the United States has in sober fact become the greatest military, naval, and air power in the world – that, I say to you in this time of war, is itself a subject for profound thanksgiving”

But he also spoke of “a greater Thanksgiving Day, which still shines ahead, which beckons the bold and loyal and warm-hearted.”

That future Thanksgiving Day would be “when this union of action which has been forced upon us by our common hatred of tyranny, which we have maintained during these dark and dreadful days, shall become a lasting union of sympathy and good-feeling and loyalty and hope between all the British and American peoples, wherever they may dwell. Then, indeed,” Churchill declared, “there will be a Day of Thanksgiving, and one in which all the world will share.” (Forward, p. xxiii)
During the 20th century the Anglo-American alliance led the fight against two of the greatest evils in history: Nazism and Communism.

Today America and Britain are in the forefront of the fight against terrorism.

Let us give thanks for the Anglo-American alliance and for Winston Churchill, who did so much to sustain and strengthen it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Durham Parking Deck Problems: Who Knew When?

Following the headline:

Baker defends silence on garage
the Durham Herald Sun reported today
City Manager Patrick Baker is defending his decision not to alert the public that a city-owned West Chapel Hill Street parking deck was in danger of collapse despite learning about its structural weakness in late August.

At a City Council work session Tuesday, Baker said he didn't think it was essential to go public about the problem when he first learned of it because engineers, while cautioning the deck was vulnerable to a partial collapse, weren't recommending its immediate closure.

"We were told to limit access of vehicles to the upper portion, and that's what we did," he said. "We didn't feel the need to make a larger disclosure based on what we were already doing."

City Council members on Tuesday authorized $783,900 worth of emergency repairs to the parking deck, which is across Mangum Street from City Hall.

Officials say an examination earlier this year turned up cracks in 35 of the beams that hold up the deck's upper floors.

Administrators responded to the find in August by quietly imposing restrictions on the use of the top-most levels of the 280-space structure. They discouraged large vehicles -- anything over 4,000 pounds -- from parking there at all and recently posted more signs advising truck and sport utility vehicle drivers to use an adjoining surface lot.

Meanwhile, engineers went to work designing a repair. The plan now is to reinforce the beams with special high-strength carbon-fiber panels manufactured by a Swiss company. Installation should begin next month and be completed by March.

The engineers' initial warning, relayed to the city in June, said the weakened beams could shear without warning. A follow-up report in August said one or more beams could fail near their connection points with the decks' walls, causing "a localized floor collapse."

Baker said he decided against closing the 37-year-old deck after talking to the engineers, who work for the Houston-based Walter P. Moore engineering firm.

The conversation occurred only weeks after a bridge in Minneapolis carrying an interstate highway over the Mississippi River collapsed, killing 13 people.

Baker said he asked the engineers whether the city had "Minneapolis across the street, yes or no," and whether officials needed to close the deck immediately.
"The answer was, 'You don't need to close the deck now, but we do need to engineer the repairs for the deck quickly,' " he said.

The need for repairs of some sort was no surprise. Officials hired Walter P. Moore over the winter to begin designing a renovation they'd figured on conducting in 2009, and had previously secured voter approval for a bond issue that's supplying the necessary funds.

The discovery of the cracked beams occurred as Walter P. Moore staffers were getting started on their design. The engineers submitted their initial report in June, but city officials didn't review it until August.

The delay came because the General Services Department project manager assigned to supervise the renovation resigned in March. Officials decided to put the project on hold until a replacement project manager joined the city payroll at the end of July.

The replacement, Chad Humphrey, was assigned to the deck project in mid-August and learned of the engineers' warning as he was getting up to speed. Baker said he first learned of the problem on Aug. 24.

The contractor hired to oversee the repairs, Beatty Balfour, initially balked at the idea of using the carbon-fiber reinforcement plates because the technology is proprietary and it is difficult to secure competitive prices for it.

But to ensure that the work gets done quickly and is done the way engineers want it, city officials elected to waive both the usual bidding requirements and Durham's own insistence that a share of all its construction work goes to minority-owned firms.

Elected officials had no trouble on Tuesday reaching consensus on the need to order the repairs, although they alluded to the possibility that the find might affect the as-yet theoretical possibility of selling the deck to a private-sector developer.
That’s the H-S story in full.

I posted the full story because it gives you an idea of what Durham City government is like.


Why is the public only being told of this extremely serious and costly problem after the election?

When did Durham’s Mayor Bill Bell first learn of the parking deck problems?

Did he know about them during his recent re-election campaign and tell the public nothing?

What did Baker and Bell say to each other when Baker disclosed the problems to Bell?

When did the other members of the City Council learn about the problems?

Baker, on the one hand, claims there’s so little risk of a collapse that there was no need to disclose the problems to the public until now. On the other hand “city officials elected to waive both the usual bidding requirements and Durham's own insistence that a share of all its construction work goes to minority-owned firms.”

Is anyone fooled by Baker’s claim?

The Raleigh News & Observer also reported on the story leading off with a headline that must have pleased Baker:
Durham to fix cracks in deck
The N&O’s story really adds nothing to the H-S story except for this by Baker:
Asked why he didn't tell the public about the problems with the deck, Baker said, "There was nothing to disclose. We didn't feel the need to make a larger deal out of it than it was."
If there’s a city managers association that gives a Contempt for the Public Award, I nominate Patrick Baker.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the editorial writers at the H-S and N&O, say about the latest example of how Durham City government works.

It's very likely one or both papers will not ask tough questions about who knew what when and why the public wasn’t told of the danger, so individual citizens could make their own decisions on whether to risk using the parking deck instead of Baker making in for them.

Final item: I wonder what thought Baker gave to the safety of city employees, including fee collectors and janitorial staff, who work many hours each day at the parking deck?

A Thanksgiving Lesson

John Stossel at

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. "Isn't sharing wonderful?" say the teachers.

They miss the point.

Because of sharing, the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen.

The failure of Soviet communism is only the latest demonstration that freedom and property rights, not sharing, are essential to prosperity. The earliest European settlers in America had a dramatic demonstration of that lesson, but few people today know it.

When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.

They nearly all starved.

Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. Some ate rats, dogs, horses and cats. This went on for two years.

"So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented," wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, [I] (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. ... And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."

The people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

"This had very good success," Bradford wrote, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. ... By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many. ... "

Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623
Near the end of his column Stossel says:
What private property does -- as the Pilgrims discovered -- is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there's a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.
Now what about countries that don’t have free market economies?

Well, Cuba and North Korea are the two I’ve read the most about.

I often give thanks I don’t live in either of them.

Even Princeton professor and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman, for all his advocacy of government solutions, doesn't want to live in either place.

Stossel’s entire column is here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Churchill Series - Nov. 20, 2007

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

Those of you are rushing about doing last minute Thanksgiving shopping may be asking:

What was his favorite whiskey?

It was Johnnie Walker Red.


Claret or as we say in America, Bordeaux.




Pol Roger.

And from time-to-time he enjoyed a beer.


More "Romney effect"

Back on September 19 I posted The AP & "the Romney effect."

The AP was running a story that began:

A former follower of a polygamous-sect leader sobbed on the witness stand Friday as she described the terror and despair she felt on the eve of her wedding at age 14, and said she became intensely depressed after having sex. "I kept thinking I felt like I was getting ready for death," she testified on the second day of the trial of Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Jeffs is charged with two felony counts of rape as an accomplice. Prosecutors contend he used his religious authority to coerce the ceremonial marriage and pressure the teen bride to have sex with her 19-year-old cousin against her objections.[...]
I commented:
Independent of what the court determines to be the facts of this case, I strongly object to child marriage and forced marriage anywhere and polygamy in this country. (Many Muslims believe polygamy is fundamental to their religion. If they live in a Muslim theocracy, I’m not going to object unless Muslims in polygamous marriages come to America. At that point my position is: leave all the wives home but one and don’t stay too long.)
I then told JinC readers:
But I didn’t cite this story to talk about marriage or polygamy.

I cited it because the AP and other news organizations have given it so much attention. Yahoo had it prominently featured on its main news page. The story included photos of Jeffs alone and Jeffs with his attorney. There was also a link to a video clip.

For as long as I can remember I’ve read stories from time-to-time of cults in America engaging in the practices reported here. But it’s unusual one gets so much attention and is filled with so much heart-wrenching, graphic detail.

And why do you think the AP mentioned in the first paragraph that Jeffs was leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and then referred throughout the rest of the lengthy 19-paragraph article to “the FLDS,” and only said the following in the last two sentences of its story:
Members of FLDS, which broke away from the Mormon church, believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.The Mormon church disavowed polygamy in 1890 and excommunicates members found to be practicing plural marriage.?
My answer is “the Romney effect.”

The Democrats who control news reporting at the AP work hard for their party. The entire story is here.
Now tonight, November 20, the lead story at AOL Breaking News is from the AP and headlined:
Judge Sentences Polygamist Leader
The AP's story is graphic, lengthy and accompanied by four color photos.

More "Romney effect."

SNL Fringe Candidates Debate

If you missed Saturday Night Live's Fringe Candidates Debate with "moderator Dan Rather," the URL follows. SNL's debate is fun.

Will the Dems Give Thanks?

Christopher Hitchens at Slate:

A few weeks ago, in Britain's Prospect magazine, the paper's foreign editor, Bartle Bull, published a bold essay saying that the high tide of violence in Iraq was essentially behind us and that the ebb had disclosed some interesting things.

First, the Iraqi people as a whole had looked into the abyss of civil war and had drawn back from the brink.

Second, the majority of Sunni Arabs had realized that their involvement with al-Qaida forces was not a patriotic "insurgency" but was instead a horrific mistake and had exposed their society to the most sadistic and degraded element in the entire Muslim world.

Third, the Shiite militias had also come to appreciate that they had overplayed their hand. There remained, according to Bull, an appalling level of criminal and antisocial violence, but essentially Iraq was agreed on a rough new dispensation whereby ethnic and social compromise would determine events and where subversive outside interference would not be welcomed.

I read the article and admired its nerve, but I didn't really choose to believe it. It didn't appear to me that things had yet bottomed out, and it didn't seem believable that the essential sectarianism of the Maliki regime, illustrated so graphically by its crude execution of Saddam Hussein, could be explained away.

Worst of all, the exodus of so many secular or qualified or educated Iraqis (perhaps as many as 2.5 million exiles living in Syria or Jordan or farther away) seemed to threaten a long period of social and cultural decline, a sort of Road Warrior situation in which only the parties of God would benefit.

Keeping all this in mind, it nonetheless does begin to look as if Iraqis may in fact have started to recover command over their own destiny, and also as if America may have helped them to do so. The surge is only a part of this story.
Hitchens goes on to provide more of “this story” before he ends with:
As I began by saying, I am not at all certain that any of this apparently good news is really genuine or will be really lasting.

However, I am quite sure both that it could be true and that it would be wonderful if it were to be true.

What worries me about the reaction of liberals and Democrats is not the skepticism, which is pardonable, but the dank and sinister impression they give that the worse the tidings, the better they would be pleased. The latter mentality isn't pardonable and ought not to be pardoned, either.
I have the same worry as Hitchens about the Democrats. What about you?

I also agree with Hitchens about what ought not to be pardoned.

I hope you read Hitchens’ entire article which includes a link to Bartle Bull’s Prospect essay.

Hitchens and Bull have each produced "don't miss" articles.

Hitchens’ article is titled: "Something To Give Thanks For"

If things get better in Iraq, all decent Americans will give thanks.

Thanking JinC "editors"

With Thanksgiving approaching, it's an especially appropriate time to thank all the talented JinC editors who are on the job 24/7/365.

They make JinC a better place.

Recently editor TombZ noted I'd three times misspelled Dr. Alvin Poussaint's last name in just one post.

Thank you, TombZ

Sceptical does a wonderful job of getting my "copy" spread around the Net. I should say "thank you" more often. But I never take it for granted.

BTW, Sceptical, give my best to your colleagues at LS forum; and tell them they are some of the best citizen journalists I know.

There are a good many "editors" on the JinC threads who provide helpful criticisms that make me less dense. Those "editors" have a really hard job. It a wonder they haven't given up by now. I'm glad they keep "coming to work" here.

There are more I want to recognize and I'll be doing that during the Thanksgiving period.


N&O, Sheehan Give Warning

Neither the Raleigh News & Observer nor N&O columnist Ruth Sheehan meant to warn us.

But warn us they did with a Nov. 16 N&O headline:

We won't tolerate nooses
followed by a Sheehan column which included:
It was little over a week ago that a toilet paper noose was found in a bathroom on the N.C. State University campus.

Officialdom has had plenty to say about the noose at N.C. State. Students gathered Thursday night on campus. And busloads of residents from our area are heading to Washington today to rally for a federal intervention.

But what about the rest of us? What about a world, on campus or off, where a noose might be considered a joke?

There is nothing funny about this old racist symbol. Nothing cute. Nothing clever.

In small ways and large, this is a time for the community to make that clear. In individual conversations, in water fountain chats and in community gatherings, we need to reiterate that racism is not tolerated here in any form.

There is no audience here for a noose of any sort, even a pathetic one made of toilet paper.

That is not what we're about.
Sheehan and her N&O editors meant for her column to let us know they are such righteous people that they won’t tolerate even a toilet paper noose in Raleigh.

But Sheehan and the N&O said nothing a while back when a hate-filled, angry crowd in Durham rallied under a large “CASTRATE” banner and shouted threats against a group of males.

Sheehan didn't say there is “nothing funny” about a "CASTRATE" banner. “Nothing cute. Nothing clever.”

Neither Sheehan nor the N&O said anything critical of the clergy, Duke faculty, staff and students, and Trinity Park pot bangers who milled and shouted that Sunday morning in front of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.

As a matter of fact, the N&O story reporting the hate-filled rally didn’t even mention the “CASTRATE” banner; and it described the angry crowd in very sympathetic, almost admiring, terms.

Of course, the N&O would never have reported that way if the “CASTRATE” crowd had targeted males identified as gay.

If the crowd had targeted gays, there’d have been N&O headlines and news stories about “homophobia” and “a mob bent on violence.” Sheehan and the N&O’s editorial page would’ve demanded Duke fire staff members who attended the rally and provide counseling and gender awareness training for faculty and students who were there.

But the targeted males were not identified as gay and they were white.

So Sheehan and the N&O had no problem with what the crowd was doing or with its “CASTRATE” banner.

And that’s why Sheehan’s “We won’t tolerate nooses” column is a warning.

It’s not about tolerance. It’s just one more instance of the dangerous double standard at the N&O and elsewhere that made possible the Duke Hoax witch hunt and its massive injustices.

Sheehan and the N&O have never condemned the ‘CASTRATE” rally or the “Vigilante” poster or the racists who shouted death threats at Reade Seligmann or the craven leadership of Duke University who stood silent in the face of it all.

But if someone finds a piece of toilet paper in the shape of a noose on a bathroom floor, it’s time for the community to speak out and say, “We won’t tolerate nooses.”

After doing so much to launch and sustain the Duke Hoax you’d think Sheehan and the N&O would’ve learned something and would be trying to do better.

But Sheehan's column makes clear they haven’t and they’re not.

We’ve been warned.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 19, 2007

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

I said I'd post today concerning anti-British feeling in America.

I’ll start with something that might have happened to one of you or to someone you know.

Somewhere in England during WW II a large contingent of American troops are standing at attention as England’s King George VI inspects them. Every so often His Majesty stops in front of a soldier, tells him to stand at ease and asks a few questions.

The questions are always simple ones meant to put the soldier further at ease and spread good will among his buddies who’ll later hear all about what the King said to the Private.

The King would often ask where the soldier was from. If he heard, “Chicago, Your Majesty,” he'd typically smile and respond: “I believe my father used to help one of your mayors win elections.”

The soldier knew what the King meant. Chicago’s Prohibition-era Mayor, William “Big Bill” Thompson, was legendary for promising voters of Irish and German extraction that if the King of England ever came to Chicago, Thompson wouldn’t welcome him but instead would “punch him in the nose,” a "pledge" which always drew loud cheers.

Thompson’s “campaign promise” is a reminder that for much of our history, anti-British sentiment was a fact of life in America.

Anti-British feeling was so strong throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century, that politicians in trouble with voters often resorted to “twisting the lion’s tail.” Almost anything would do, as Mayor Thompson knew.

World War II changed that so completely that many Americans today don’t know there was intense anti-British sentiment here even after Hitler had invaded the West and everyone who cared to know knew what the Nazis were like.

Throughout his career Churchill struggled to counter the anti feeling that many British and American people had for each other. That he did so is a mark of his greatness.

Brawley $$$: Anyone Surprised?

Last evening I posted Brawley Comments & Predictions.
The AP was reporting:

Twenty years after her allegations of a racially charged rape became a national flashpoint, Tawana Brawley's mother and stepfather want to reopen the case, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Glenda Brawley and Ralph King want to press Gov. Eliot Spitzer and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to re-examine the November 1987 incident, which a state grand jury ultimately concluded was a hoax, the Daily News reported.[…]
I made some “easy predictions” of public reaction to the news, including this one:
Many people will wonder, as I do, whether Glenda Brawley and Ralph King have been reading about all that money the parents of the Jena 6 received.
Today at Betsy’s Page she posted on the story and linked to a NY Daily News report that included this:
Glenda Brawley and her husband have not spoken publicly since a grand jury in 1988 decided there was no evidence their daughter was raped, yet they agreed to talk to The News for one reason: They are adamant that their daughter was raped and the men who did it were never punished.

"I could be looking at the television any day and they say the 'Tawana Brawley hoax,'" King said. "What hoax?"

"How could we make this up and take down the state of New York? We're just regular people," Glenda Brawley said to her husband. "We should be millionaires." (I don't really need to add any emphasis here, do I? )
Who’s surprised Glenda Brawley and Ralph King think they should be millionaires?

Disclosure: The NY Daily News story was online when I posted last evening but I hadn't read it.

Also, there's no evidence Glenda Brawley and Ralph King are in any way influenced by the $$$ the parents of the Jena 6 got.

All I said was many people including me will wonder; and that that was an easy prediction.

Here’s another easy prediction: The “civil rights activists” who'll take up Glenda Brawley and King’s “cause” will insist $$$ has nothing to do with “the cause.”

The Daily News goes on to report:
They say they decided to speak publicly for the first time in more than 15 years to beg (New York) Gov. Spitzer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to unseal the files and reopen the case.
Questions: Has Senator Hillary Clinton’s office announced how many positions she has on reopening the case?

Glenda Brawley is a fugitive from NY State. That being the case, has Gov. Spitzer said whether he favors issuing her a NY driver's license if she comes to NY illegally?

Do we know yet whether Clinton and Spitzer will be attending any of the rallies?

What’s a newspaper column for?

Last Saturday I posted What "lynch mob" at Duke?

The post concerned a quote attributed to Duke professor Michael Gustafson published in a column in The Chronicle (TC), the school’s student newspaper. ( Physician, Heal Thyself )

That post and conversations I’ve had and overheard since the TC column appeared prompted me to revisit an October 29 post, Duke Now Quiz # 3.

In this post I want to tell you a bit about the Oct. 29 post and some follow-up I did concerning it. I’ll end this post with some comments

In the Oct. 29 post I noted an error Duke professor Karla Holloway made in an op-ed (Come on, Cosby: Lay off talk about race ) published Oct. 25 by the Orlando Sentinal.

Holloway referred to Harvard Medical School professor Alvin Poussaint as a “psychologist.” He’s in fact one of America’s preeminent child psychiatrists.

I thought to send Holloway a link to my Oct. 29 post which contained links confirming Poussaint's a psychiartist.

But Holloway’s never responded to any email I’ve sent her. I don’t know if she even reads them.

So I called the Sentinal’s public editor, Manning Pynn, to ask about a correction.

I got Pynn’s VM, left the information in my post so he could fact check, and asked for a call back.

When Pynn called he’d already fact checked. He apologized for the error and said the Sentinal would ask Holloway to make a correction.

Fine. But what if a columnist/op-ed writer declines to make a correction? Then what?

Pynn said the Sentinal then goes ahead and makes the correction anyway because – and this is not an exact quote but a close paraphrase of what Pynn said – a column is a place for opinions; not a place to misstate facts.

Pynn went on to say just about all newspapers take very seriously their responsibility to get the facts right and to quickly admit errors when they make them.

I politely disagreed with that but commended Pynn for the Sentinal’s standard. We ended the conversation with good words for each other.

I didn’t do anything further about the correction until today when I went to the Sentinal’s online Corrections Section. Among the Nov. 1 corrections I found:

Commentary on Page A15 Oct. 25 about Bill Cosby's book Come On People misidentified his co-author, Alvin Poussaint. He is a Harvard University psychiatrist.

Message to editor Pynn and the Sentinal ( a Tribune Co.): Thank you for the correction, and thank you, Manning Pynn, for the time you spent with a blogger from outside the Sentinal's circulation area.

Folks, I plan to send Pynn a link to this post along with good wishes for Thanksgiving.

There are two letters in TC today.

One is by Ken Larrey of Duke Students for an Ethical Duke (DSED), the organization which was referred to in the quote about which I posted last Saturday.

Larrey deals with matters that are very important but which I didn’t touch on in my Saturday post.

I mention his letter simply to call it to your attention. At some future time I may comment on its contents but not now.

The second letter is from Professor Michael Gustafson clarifying the quote which appeared in TC column. I urge you to read it and commend Professor Gustafson for clarifying.

We all know there are few things a professor could say about a student group more derogatory and inflammatory than to call it “this lynch mob.”

But we still don’t know why TC editors published a quote attributed to Gustafson referring to DSED as “this lynch mob.”

Out of respect for its readers and in simple decency to Duke Students for an Ethical Duke, The Chronicle needs to explain why it failed to fact check the “this lynch mob” quote.

And it shouldn’t be too much to expect The Chronicle to apologize for not doing so.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brawley Comments & Predictions

The AP reports:

Twenty years after her allegations of a racially charged rape became a national flashpoint, Tawana Brawley's mother and stepfather want to reopen the case, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Glenda Brawley and Ralph King want to press Gov. Eliot Spitzer and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to re-examine the November 1987 incident, which a state grand jury ultimately concluded was a hoax, the Daily News reported.

"New York State owes my daughter. They owe her the truth," said Glenda Brawley. She reiterated her stance that her daughter was indeed raped by a group of white men who smeared her with feces and scrawled racial epithets on her body.

A message left at Cuomo's office by The Associated Press on Sunday was not returned.

A spokesman for Spitzer said his office was not aware of any formal request from the family. The governor's office is not normally involved in investigating crime.

Brawley was 15 when she went missing for four days from her home in Wappingers Falls, about 75 miles north of New York City. After being found, she made the shocking allegation that she had been abducted and raped by six white law enforcement officials.

The case quickly made headlines and drew the attention of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who became an outspoken advocate for the teen.

But a special state grand jury found evidence Brawley had fabricated her story. A former Dutchess County prosecutor who had been implicated in the case later sued Brawley, Sharpton and other Brawley advisers for defamation, winning a $345,000 judgment against the advisers and a $185,000 judgment against Brawley.

A spokeswoman for Sharpton, who was held liable for $65,000 in the case, did not immediately respond to an e-mail message early Sunday. The former prosecutor's lawyer did not immediately return a telephone message.

Brawley has changed her name and become a nurse, the Daily News reported.

I hope Tawana Brawley’s made a decent life for herself.

It will be interesting to hear what Rev. Al Sharpton has to say.

I doubt Sharpton wanted this to happen now while he's so busy with the Jena 6 hustle and has only recently finished with the Cheney hunting trip/Confederate flag hustle.

And it wasn't so long ago that he was working hard to help pull off the Duke Hoax.

The man must want a little down time.

As you’d expect, the AP’s “reporting” on Sharpton’s role in the Brawley Hoax is sanitized.

Example: The AP makes no reference to Sharpton’s endorsement of Duke hoaxer Crystal Mangum’s and Mike Nifong’s lies.

Did you notice in this story the AP didn’t do what it usually does: call Sharpton “ a civil rights leader?”

Easy predictions:

Many people will wonder, as I do, whether Glenda Brawley and Ralph King have been reading about all that money the parents of the Jena 6 received.

People who wonder about that will be called racists by people like Sharpton.

Attorneys for the three men fraudulently indicted in the Duke Hoax will use this latest in the Brawley Hoax to bolster their contention the three men will all their lives be subject to people seeking to exploit them.

“Civil rights activists” supporting Glenda Brawley’s and Ralph King’s demands will say that’s not true.

But we all know it is.

Hat Tip: NYC blog friend

Attorney Spilbor Knew; So Did Duke

Duke President Richard Brodhead and his supporters use Duke Hoax myths to excuse the University's bungled and shamelful "throw them under the bus" response to Crystal Mangum's and Mike Nifong's lies and the prejudices of many of its faculty.

The myth they most frequently use goes something like this:

It was a really, really confusing time. The facts kept changing. The issues were so complex. Who could have known?
But the truth is very many people knew within a few days or weeks that what the Raleigh News & Observer said on March 25, 2006 about a young mother’s “ordeal” the N&O claimed ended in “sexual violence” was “a crock,” and very possibly part of something much worse.

I’ve posted before on a few of those people. Remember, for instance, citizen journalist McClancy, blogger Barber, and columnist Sowell?

Today I want to recongnize attorney and FOX News consultant Jonna Spilbor for what she posted at Findlaw on April 14, 2006; and for what it helps us understand about Duke University's Hoax response then and now.

April 14 was four days after the public announcement the first DNA testing had come back negative, and three days before Collin Finnerty's and Reade Seligmann's fraudulent indictments.

What follows are excerpts from Spilbor’s April 14 posting ( “The rape that never was” ) after which I comment below the star line.

Spilbor excerpts:

From the beginning, attorneys for several team members were clear: "They didn't do it."

It was a gutsy defense -- especially since, at such an early stage in the investigation, the only evidence supporting it was their clients' wholesale denial of the accuser's account.

A safer strategy might have been for the attorneys to wait to see how things played out, and consider whether to argue, instead, that the evidence indicated the victim had consented.

But when the DNA tests came back, the attorneys were vindicated. . . .

Yet the Durham, North Carolina District Attorney, Mike Nifong, has vowed not to drop the case.

In this column, I will explain why he's wrong: In the absence of DNA, he should, indeed, drop the case - both because the evidence strongly indicates the players' innocence, and because it means he will never be able to prove their guilt.

Is "Conclusive Evidence" of Guilt Also, If Reversed, Conclusive as to Innocence?

The D.A.'s written request for a court order to obtain those forty-six DNA samples stated that DNA testing would provide "conclusive evidence" as to which three lacrosse players allegedly assaulted the accuser.

This phrasing poses a compelling question: If DNA can be considered convincing evidence of guilt in sex crimes, as the DA himself argues, shouldn't the absence of DNA evidence provide equally convincing proof of innocence?

D.A. Nifong argues, instead, that the lack of DNA "doesn't mean nothing happened. It just means nothing was left behind." He has pointed out, in addition, that rape prosecutions can go forward - and convictions can result - without DNA evidence. According to Nifong, in 75 to 80 percent of all sexual assault cases, there is no DNA to analyze.

But those cases aren't like this one - for several reasons.

Why, In This Case In Particular, the Absence of DNA Indicates Innocence

Often, women do not report sex crimes for days or weeks - washing much, or all, of the DNA evidence down the drain long before police and prosecutors can collect it. But not in this case. Here, the victim submitted to a "rape kit" examination only hours after what she said was the time of the alleged attack.

Often, rape is accomplished by fear, not force. But in this case, the crime alleged was brutal and barbaric. The accuser said, for instance, that her acrylic fingernails were torn off as she tried to defend herself.

And often, an attacker will use a condom precisely to destroy the chance that he will be caught via DNA.

But here, the alleged victim made no mention of any of her attackers using a condom. (Also, while a condom might prevent organic DNA from being deposited on or around the accuser, it would have left its own trace evidence, especially if coated with spermicide. Here, it appears that no such evidence was found.)

For all these reasons, it seems very unlikely that if the attack alleged occurred, none of the attackers' DNA would have been collected from the accused's body or clothing - or from underneath her fingernails.

D.A. Nifong has pointed out that the accusers' clothing could have protected them - but their hands, face, and necks likely remained exposed. What is the chance that the accuser would not have made contact with any of their hands, faces or necks if a brutal attack truly occurred?

Another Problem with the Prosecution: Apparent Failure to Identify the Alleged Attackers

Of course, the D.A. is technically correct that a rape prosecution may proceed upon an accuser's word alone. Indeed, sex assault cases often boil down to an accuser's word against that of the accused.

But there's a second problem here, besides the lack of DNA evidence: It appears - from news reports, and from the testing of all forty-six white players - that the accuser is unable to identify her alleged attackers. (It also appears that the other stripper who attended the event did not witness the alleged attack - for the prosecution has not cited any witness in its favor besides the accuser herself.)

The accuser's inability to identify any one of her three alleged attackers is very strange.

Reports indicate that she arrived at the party, was paid in part for her anticipated services, and may have performed, at least for a short while. It seems that she should have had ample opportunity to eyeball many of the guests before the alleged attack, including the three who allegedly committed it.

Also, even if the three attackers were initially lost in a sea of forty-plus faces, shouldn't she have seen them during the attack itself - said to have occurred in a room no bigger than a closet? . . .

Spilbor's entire Findlaw post is here. See also this post: Duke Lacrosse: A good attorney and a lousy DA. (6/8/06)



Spilbor is an intelligent, able and experienced attorney. Duke University had access to a great many such attorneys.

How is it possible then, that President Brodhead, Duke's trustees and "Dick's senior team" didn't know and understand everything Spilbor posted on April 14, 2006?

Duke knew, didn't it?

Yet as late as mid-December 2006, Brodhead had still said nothing critical of Nifong and was supporting Nifong's scheme to put the three obviously innocent Duke students on trial.

Spilbor's post makes glaringly obvious the failure of Duke's leaders - trustees, administrators, faculty with few exceptions - to act responsibly in the face of obvious lies and threats against its students.

Does anyone doubt that as we learn more about the Hoax case, it will get uglier and Dukier?

Given that, it's easy to understand why Duke's BOT chair, former Wall Street whiz Robert Steel, keeps urging us to buy into MoveOn.Duke.

There's more I could say but I want to give you a chance after I end with: Congratulations, Jonna Spilbor.