Saturday, December 01, 2007

Take a Bow, Bill Anderson

On May 11, 2006 author and blogger Wendy McElroy told readers:

William Anderson, a valued friend and an astute social commentor, posted the following observation on the Lacrosse travesty, which I reprint in full...
On April 21, I wrote on this blog [] regarding an important witness for the defense in the Duke non-rape case:

"I would not be surprised if Mostafa starts finding himself harassed by authorities, and even receives a "friendly" visit or two from assistant DAs and the police. They will be desperate to force him to change his testimony, and if they cannot do that, they will try to trump up charges against him or, at the least, regulatory violations regarding his business."

That moment has arrived.
McElroy went on to link to a just published Raleigh N&O story which began:
A Durham police detective investigating the Duke University lacrosse case arrested an alibi witness Wednesday on a 2 1/2-year-old misdemeanor warrant.

Taxi driver Moezeldin Elmostafa said Investigator R.D. Clayton and another officer asked whether he had anything new to tell them about the rape case before driving him to the Durham County jail. He said no and was held for five hours, until a friend posted his bail on a shoplifting charge."[…]
What McElroy called to her readers' attention wasn’t Bill Anderson’s first or most important “on the money” Duke Hoax call.

Take a look at this with which Bill ended his Apr. 15, 2006 column:
If this situation were not so politically charged, I seriously doubt whether rape charges would follow.

Instead, we see something much worse, politics and government in action to railroad people into prison. What happened at the Duke party was ugly, but what has transpired since then is even uglier.
Two days after Bill’s column appeared, then DA Mike Nifong, with help from certain Durham Police officers and cheered on by many at Duke, obtained indictments of two Duke students – Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann - he knew were innocent.

And three days after the two students were arrested and charged, Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead told a Durham Chamber of Commerce audience “whatever they did was bad enough.”

It would be another nine months before Brodhead and Duke’s BOT Chair Robert Steel would calculate it was in their best interests for Brodhead to finally say something critical of Nifong.

Take a bow, Bill Anderson.

Presidential Primary Polling

Here, compiled by, are the latest presidential primary poll results for both parties.

What jumped out at me were the American Research Group’s Nov. 30 results on the Dem side for Iowa and South Carolina.

ARG reports in Iowa Senators Clinton and Obama are in a statistical dead heat, while in South Carolina Clinton leads Obama better than 2-1.

But if Obama wins Iowa’s Jan. 3 “caucus race” or even runs Clinton a close second there, he’ll get a big bounce, especially in South Carolina, with its large black population.

South Carolina Dems don’t vote until Jan. 26.

Things may get very tough for Clinton in the Palmetto state.

The Chronicle Should Be Asking

Would it surprise you to see Duke University's trustees, President Brodhead, his "senior team" and most of Duke's faculty driving vehicles with MoveOn.Duke bumper stickers?

Me neither.

Now what about all the MoveOn.Duke supporters at The Chronicle?

Why are Chronicle staffers so reluctant to report and comment on a series of disturbing and revealing events that are among the most important events in the Univeristy's history?

I thought about those Chronicle questions this morning when I reread a story it published Mar. 27, 2006:“Men's lacrosse team faces rape allegations”

Here are excerpts from The Chronicle story followed by commentary below the star line:

[President]Brodhead released a statement Saturday urging individuals "to cooperate to the fullest with the police inquiry while we wait to learn the truth."

"Physical coercion and sexual assault are unacceptable in any setting and have no place at Duke," Brodhead said. "The criminal allegations against three members of our men's lacrosse team, if verified, will warrant very serious penalties."

( The full text of Brodhead's March 25 statement is here.)

On March 25 Brodhead knew a great deal the public didn't know then. For example, he knew the lacrosse captains had given police on Mar. 16 extraordinary cooperation, including helping them locate students who were at the party, voluntarily submitting to hours of police questioning, signing statements and submitting to rape kit testing at Duke Hospital.

Brodhead also knew each of the 46 players ordered to submit to DNA testing and strip to the waist for lineup photos had the right to appeal the order, but not a single one did; and that all denied the many versions of the accuser’s “story.”

But Brodhead decided to mention none of that in his March 25 statement; and none of it is mentioned in The Chronicle's March 27 story.

When Brodhead read the Raleigh News & Observer's front-page, five column wide “anonymous victim” interview story in the early morning hours of March 25, he knew the N&O's report the players had formed a “wall of solidarity” to stymie the investigation was false.

But Brodhead decided to give the public no hint of that.

Instead he left his students twisting in the wind as hate-filled members of Duke's faculty and student body, together with progressives and activists in Durham, began rallying to the "CASTRATE" banner and circulating "Vigilante" posters.

Of course Brodhead would want to reach for a MoveOn.Duke bumper sticker. And gun the engine, too.

But Chronicle reporters and editors shouldn't be going along with him for the ride.

The Chronicle should be asking Brodhead why on March 25 he didn't mention the extraordinary cooperation the players had already provided police.

Nowhere in The Chronicle's news columns can I find where it asked Brodhead about his decisions not to disclose on March 25 the players' extraordinary cooperation with police.

Why didn't The Chronicle do that? If I'm wrong and it did, I'll quickly publish a correction.

In the meantime, I'll continue asking why it didn't.

Here's something else The Chronicle appears never to have reported on: Brodhead's refusal on March 25 and for months thereafter to meet with the lacrosse parents.

Why hasn't The Chronicle asked President Brodhead about his repeated refusals to meet with the parents of students accused of felony crimes, even as he met repeatedly with people accusing their sons of the crimes?

The answer to that question is an important story the Duke community should know.

Does The Chronicle expect anyone to agree with its editorial endorsing President Brodhead's continuation in office when we don't know the answers to the questions asked here and related questions that bear on Brodhead's forthrightness and judgement?

The entire Mar. 27, 2006 Chronicle story is here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Churchill Series - Nov. 30, 2007

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

Lady Mary Soames, speaking before the International Churchill Society of the United Kingdom on Nov. 30, 1994, the 120th anniversary of her father’s birth.[excerpts]:

Because it has fallen to my lot to be Winston Churchill’s child, and now of my parents’ five children, sadly the only survivor, I feel I have a unique testimony to give about Winston Churchill as a human being.

But I have made myself some quite stern rules: I am loath to stray beyond the frontiers of my daughterly knowledge; and I strenuously deny myself the luxury of imagined conversations or apocryphal jokes and anecdotes. I see my humbler, but perhaps not unnecessary task, as that of trying to keep focused my father’s personality and image. I sometimes feel that his character and personality have become embalmed in his fame and in the legend which already attaches to his hero-figure.

I know that his place in history is secure, but that I leave (though not necessarily without reservations) to the historians.

Tonight, as we celebrate the 120th anniversary of his birth, I would like to dwell on some aspects of my father’s vivid personality, on his long enduring zest for life, and on that warmth whose glow I still feel through the passing years.

Chartwell in Kent was the home of my parents for over forty years, and the scene of my own childhood and youth. . . .

Chartwell was a veritable factory for he kept us by his pen. The lights gleamed from his upstairs study late into the night as, padding up and down the long room with its high vaulted, raftered ceiling, he dictated to his secretary hour after hour his books, newspaper articles and speeches.

But there was playtime too—he always seemed to find time for what he called "my toys." The long high wall around the vegetable garden which he built, largely with his own hands, bears witness to his love of construction, and his skill as a bricklayer.

He enjoyed directing outdoor works: tree clearing, digging operations, or channeling the meagre trickle from the Chartwell stream through various courses and cascades to fill the lake-like swimming pool, his own creation too, which gleamed like an aquamarine set in the meadows.

The lovely dining room with its arcaded windows reminds me of the long hours passed round its table with his family, friends and colleagues when conversation, repartee and argument flashed to and fro; or long remembered lines of verse and prose poured forth like a torrent from the store of his prodigious memory.
The remainder of Lady Soames’ remarks are here.

On this 133rd anniversary of Churchill’s birth, let us bring to mind Westminster Abbey's nave and the large memorial stone set in its center aisle which enjoins the passing throngs: REMEMBER WINSTON CHURCHILL

The link and hosting of Lady Soames' remarks are courtesty of The Churchill Centre.

If Sheehan Writes Two More

The N&O’s Ruth Sheehan’s column today begins:

How did Alan Gell, North Carolina's poster boy for the wrongly imprisoned and nearly executed, end up serving time for getting a 15-year-old pregnant?

Maybe, after being sent away at age 19, he is stuck in a teenage time warp. Maybe he just couldn't keep his trousers zipped. Maybe the State Bureau of Investigation is out to get him.

I'd say it's a combination of the three. This week, Gell was sentenced to five years for taking indecent liberties.

If that seems harsh for indecent liberties, it is.

Department of Correction data show that Gell got a longer sentence than 75 percent of the people convicted of the same crime this year -- nearly half of whom got only probation.

This, even though there were no aggravating circumstances in the Gell case.

This, even though the Gell case involved a consensual relationship and neither the victim nor the victim's mother wanted Gell prosecuted.

Rather, they want him out, to be a father to his year-old son.

The refreshing thing is that Gell admits that what he did was wrong.

That's something the state has never done, even after fabricating and withholding evidence that nearly led to his execution for a 1995 murder.

Instead the state spent untold thousands retrying what a jury quickly decided was a bogus murder charge.

The original prosecutors got a little scolding from the N.C. State Bar. And the local police department paid Gell $93,700.

An SBI agent, however, is still being sued by Gell.

And guess what? It's that agent's boss who pursued this sex case against Gell.
Sheehan goes on to report details that make it obvious law enforcement officials are treating Gell in a manner they’d treat few others in similar circumstances involving indecent liberties.

You really ought to read her entire column if you’ve not done so already.

Sheehan concludes:
Gell is paying a heavy price for his mistakes.

But it seems to me that we, the taxpayers, and Gell are paying for the state's mistakes as well.
I think Sheehan got it right in today's column.

I’ve just sent her the following email:

Dear Ms. Sheehan:

I know we’re both sorry for the latest mess involving Alan Gell.

Those portions of your column which detailed facts concerning the case served an important public information purpose.

Those portions which discussed issues raised by the state’s handling of Gell’s latest case were informed and on the mark.

Your column illustrates how a news column can serve the public interest.

I hope you write two other columns which will also serve the public interest.

The first would remind the community of the threats, including death threats, Reade Seligmann endured from racists on May 18, 2006; the community’s silence in response to them; and the responsibility and pressing need for Duke's and Durham’s leaders to come together to determine why they were silent and how they can now speak and act most effectively in response to what the racists did that day at the Durham courthouse.

Such a column would be a service to every decent person at Duke, in Durham and in the wider community.

The second column I hope you write has to do with a small bathroom: the one Crystal Mangum falsely claimed she was gang-raped in.

People who've been in that bathroom tell me it’s so small they don’t see any way Mangum and the three young men could have fit inside, gotten the door closed and then participated in the acts and struggle Mangum described.

I know of no reporter who’s looked at the bathroom and described it for readers.

Do you know of any reporting or commentary on why the public has never seen photos of that bathroom? Has Duke denied the press and TV access to it? If so, why?

When the public learns more about the size of the bathroom, that will help the community reconcile.

It will also lessen the onus that will, unfairly, nevertheless follow the innocent young men all their lives, and place them at risk of other false accussations from the same sorts of people who first trashed them, and then tried to send them to prison.

I hope, Ms. Sheehan, you agree you should write those columns.

Here’s a link to a post containing this email:


John in Carolina

Spilbor, Brodhead & "uglier and Dukier"

I recently posted Attorney Spilbor Knew; So Did Duke

It contains a link and excerpts from attorney Jonna Spilbor’s Findlaw column published Apr. 14, 2006.

That was four days after the public learned the first round of DNA test results in the Duke Hoax case were all negative, and three days before then DA Mike Nifong secured the first two of three indictments of Duke students he knew were innocent.

Spilbor laid out the reasons why Nifong needed to drop the case. She also noted some of his conduct that would later lead the NC State Bar to disbar him. You can read her column here.

Since by mid-April Spilbor was one of a number of attorneys not connected with the case saying such things; and since Duke and its, President Richard Brodhead, had accesss to many outstanding attorneys yet never said anything critical of Nifong until late December 2006, I said things would get “uglier and Dukier” once we learned why Brodhead and Duke went silently along with Nifong all those months.

Among comments on the post was the following:

KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor are very critical of Brodhead in their book, but they don't go so far as to say that he wanted the charges to be true, no facts reported in the book would sustain a reasonable suspicion that he wanted that.

I was an early and persistent critic of Nifong & co. in the TalkLeft blog's discussion forum, but I don't agree with those who say that Brodhead should have publicly rebuked Nifong or opined that the defendants were innocent early on.

It would have been imprudent and unseemly for him to issue a public pronouncement on the merits of the case back in April or May 2006, for instance, when it wasn't clear what incriminating evidence Nifong might have and before the trial judge had ruled on any defense motions.

It would have been widely perceived as an attempt to exert undue influence and would have exacerbated the strain in town-gown relations.
The commentor is right that Johnson and Taylor never say Brodhead wanted the charges to be true. And neither have I. Ever.

And like just about all Brodhead critics, I don’t think he should have proclaimed the players innocent “early on.” As a matter of fact, I can’t recall ever criticizing Brodhead for failing to declare the players innocent.

But there is much Brodhead could and should have done out of simple decency, respect for his office and in pursuit of justice.

Brodhead spoke at a Durham Chamber of Commerce meeting less than a week after Spilbor’s column appeared; and three weeks after Nifong began publicly ridiculing the students for obtaining lawyers, asking why they would need lawyers if they were innocent and refused to meet with defense attorneys seeking to provide him with evidence they said was exculpatory for the students.

Brodhead knew all that.

He could have said to the Chamber members and to the media reporting his remarks something like:
”I continue to urge everyone with information about the crimes alleged to cooperate with the investigation. Duke has been doing that and will continue to cooperate with DA Nifong and Durham’s Police Department.

If the crimes alleged occurred, those who committed them should be punished to the full extent of the law.

I think all of you will agree with what I’ve said, just as I’m sure you’ll agree that suspects should not have been ridiculed for exercising their constitutional right to counsel – a right all of us want for ourselves.

I must also tell you I’m concerned by press reports that Mr. Nifong says he won’t meet with defense attorneys to look at evidence they say they have of their clients' innocence.

As those of you in this room who are attorneys know, the law requires him to look at that evidence."
Instead of something like that, WRAL reported:
"This has been such a difficult issue for our campus and throughout the community," Duke University President Richard Brodhead said during the Centennial Durham Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday. . . .

"If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn't do it, whatever they did is bad enough," he said.
Is it any wonder Brodhead and his Chronicle and Group of 88 supporters keep telling us not to “look back” but to MoveOn.Duke?

Does anyone doubt that as we learn more about how the witch hunt and the attempted frame-up played out things will get “uglier and Dukier?”

Does anyone doubt that as we learn more about the on-going cover-up of the Hoax travesties and conspiracies things will get “uglier and Dukier?”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Churchill Series -- Nov. 29, 2007

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

Readers Note: The following was first posted Nov. 9, 2006. It's one of my favorite posts and I'll be most of you have either never read it or have forgotten most of it. So I'm reposting it.


With the help of Wikipedia, let’s recall F. E. Smith, the man Churchill biographers consider to have been his closest friend. I’ve planned the post so we'll end doing what Churchill and Smith often did when they were together: laugh.

From Wikipedia:

Frederick Edwin Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead, GCSI, PC (12 July 1872–30 September 1930) was a British Conservative statesman and lawyer of the early 20th century. He was a skilled orator, noted for his staunch opposition to Irish nationalism, his wit, pugnacious views, and hard living and drinking.

He is perhaps best remembered today as Winston Churchill's greatest personal and political friend until Birkenhead's untimely death at age 58.
After Birkenhead’s death, Churchill said he’d never once been with him without leaving better informed or wiser on at least one important matter. That’s quite a tribute coming from one of the best informed and wisest men of the time.

Now to the laughter: again from Wikipedia:
About Bolshevism Smith observed:

"Nature has no cure for this sort of madness, though I have known a legacy from a rich relative works wonders."

On Winston Churchill:

"He has devoted the best years of his life to preparing his impromptu speeches." (When Churchill heard the remark he laughed, and afterwards would quote it to others. - JinC)

And in court as a barrister:

Judge: "I have read your case, Mr Smith, and I am no wiser now than I was when I started."

Smith: "Possibly not, My Lord, but much better informed."

Judge: "Are you trying to show contempt for this court, Mr Smith?"

Smith: "No, My Lord. I am attempting to conceal it."

Judge: "Have you ever heard of a saying by Bacon — the great Bacon — that youth and discretion are ill-wedded companions?"

Smith: "Yes, I have. And have you ever heard of a saying of Bacon — the great Bacon — that a much-talking judge is like an ill-tuned cymbal?"

Judge: "You are extremely offensive, young man!"

Smith: "As a matter of fact we both are; but I am trying to be, and you can't help it."

Judge: "Mr Smith, you must not direct the jury. What do you suppose I am on the bench for?"

Smith: "It is not for me, your honour, to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence."

Smith to witness: "So, you were as drunk as a judge?"

Judge (interjecting): "You mean as drunk as a lord?"

Smith: "Yes, My Lord."
Smith's Wikipedia biography is here.

Should the economy scare you?

I wish I’d kept count the past few months of all those MSM gloom and doom stories about the economy.

It seems a very serious recession is just about to begin. Tomorrow, right? Or is it next Monday?

Meanwhile from blogger Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quearters:

As the presidential election continues to draw nearer, we keep hearing about our collapsing economy from the usual media hysterics. The housing market is near collapse! The credit crunch! The subprime markets are melting, melting, I say!

Well, what about the actual economy?

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 4.9 percent in the third quarter of 2007, according to preliminary estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In the second quarter, real GDP increased 3.8 percent. The GDP estimates released today are based on more complete source data than were available for the advance estimates issued last month. In the advance estimates, the increase in real GDP was 3.9 percent ...

The increase in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from exports, personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, equipment and software, federal government spending, nonresidential structures, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by a negative contribution from residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

It appears that we're growing our way into a panic on the economy. It may be the first recession in history initiated by a 5% annual GDP growth rate.

It won't be the first attempted by scare tactics in the run-up to an election.
The rest of Morrissey’s post is here.

No one can be certain what the economy will do. But data Morrissey cites and much other data suggest we’re not on the verge of a major recession, or even a moderate one despite what you read in the New York Times, whose own stock has keeps hitting record lows.

Duke Fundraising

Only a few years ago a college or university fundraising drive with a $1 billion goal was a rarity. Now we’re seeing “$3- and $4-billion megadrives at top-tier universities,” says Chronicle columnist Kristin Butler. ( Duke Pays, part deux )

The mega-billion growth in fund-raising will certainly impact Duke. Butler, with her usual carefully researched and thoughtfully critical approach, considers what the impact might be. She also has a message about values at Duke.

Here’s some of what she says:

An important part of [adapting to a changing fund-raising] process entails learning from past mistakes. Among the most egregious were the excesses and abuse that occasionally characterized former Duke President Nan Keohane's pursuit of $2 billion.

One of the more shocking examples during this era was the University's willingness to sell acceptance letters to the under-qualified children of wealthy non-alumni, called "development admits."

At its height during the Keohane administration, this policy encouraged administrators to auction up to 5 percent of our freshman class off to families willing to pledge six- or seven-figure donations.

As I argued last fall, policies that reward the rich for being privileged have no place at a University that espouses meritocratic values.

This next time around, Duke should refuse to accept such tainted money.

Less alarming (though no less frustrating) is the University's ongoing failure to articulate a coherent vision for its fundraising projects.

Take, for example, the $300-million Financial Aid Initiative, which will save Duke the cost of supporting needy students with funds from its operating budget. Although officials insist that this will insure the long-term viability of the University's need-blind policy, it won't directly benefit current undergrads.

At a time when peer institutions are replacing loans with grants, officials' refusal to explain what will happen to the tens of millions of dollars in savings the FAI will create remains profoundly unfortunate. A larger campaign will require a much greater level of transparency and candor.
Transparency and candor?

Polite people at Duke’s Development Office and similarly polite Alumni Association officers have told me transparency and candor are hallmarks of Duke’s fundraising process.

But many Dukies tell me that's not been their experience.

Butler continues:
Little about that process will come easily, especially for Duke's notoriously tight-lipped administrative culture.

And yet for a University that has historically relied on endowment gains (in fact, the 10-year returns on our $5.9-billion endowment are the highest in the country) and support from the Duke Endowment for its wealth, this growing emphasis on fundraising could even work to our advantage by encouraging long overdue cultural changes.

Put differently, when faced with a sink-or-swim situation, I'm counting on administrators to keep us afloat without jettisoning our institutional values. Let's hope they're up to the task.
Kristin Butler’s entire column is here. It’s well worth a read, if you haven’t done so already.

Duke insists it needs your money.

The Chronicle thinks you should give as much as you can.

Well, that’s all good to know.

Now, how do you feel and what do you think?

Barnes on CNN-You Tube “Debate”

Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes gets right at it with an assist from his wife:

When the CNN-You Tube debate among Republican presidential candidates began with a guy named Chris Nandor playing a guitar and singing, my wife Barbara exclaimed, "This is humiliating. This is really bad."

Of course she was right. And then things got worse.

This debate not only was mortifying to the candidates. It also should have been embarrassing to the viewers, especially Republican voters who might have been watching.

I don't know if the folks who put the debate together were purposely trying to make the Republican candidates look bad, but they certainly succeeded.

True, the candidates occasionally contributed. For the first few minutes, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney continued their debate over their records on immigration and did so with the kind of intensity that this trivial matter didn't warrant. These are two fine candidates who have only themselves to blame for looking petty.

But it was chiefly the questions and who asked them that made the debate so appalling.

By my recollection, there were no questions on health care, the economy, trade, the S-chip children's health care issue, the "surge" in Iraq, the spending showdown between President Bush and Congress, terrorist surveillance, or the performance of the Democratic Congress.

Instead there were questions - ones moderator Anderson Cooper kept insisting had required a lot of time and effort by the questioners - on the Confederate flag, Mars, Giuliani's rooting for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, whether Ron Paul might run as an independent for president, and the Bible. The best response to these questions was Romney's refusal to discuss what the Confederate flag represents. Fred Thompson discussed it.

The most excruciating episode occurred when Cooper allowed a retired general in the audience to drone on with special pleading in favor of allowing gays in the military.

This was a setup. The general had asked a question by video, then suddenly appeared in the crowd and got the mike.

The aim here could only have been to make the Republican candidates, all of whom oppose gays in the military, squirm. As it turned out, they didn’t appear to.
The general turns out to be a Clinton supporter, by the way.
In its report of “the debate” the NY Times mentioned the general and his question, but didn’t report he’s a Clinton supporter.

Are you surprised?

Barnes entire post is here at Campaign Standard, a Weekly Standard blog.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 28, 2007

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

Stephen F. Hayward in Churchill on Leadership (Forum, 1997):

[Churchill] complained regularly that reports and memoranda were too verbose.

“This paper,” he complained in cabinet one day, “by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read.”

“A daily report should be limited to one page, and the weekly report should be a well-digested summary," he instructed in the fall of 1940.

Two months later, he wrote in exasperation to his senior aides: “Please look at this mass of stuff which reaches me in a single morning . . . More and more people must be banking up behind these different papers, the bulk of which defeats their purpose. Try now and simply, shorten and reduce.” . . .

He lived by what he called “the commandment” to “Say what you have to say as clearly as you can and in as few words as possible.”

An example of his inclination to brevity can be found in an editorial change he made in the Conservative Party platform of 1950. Churchill shortened “It is our intention to initiate consultations with the Unions” to “We shall consult with the Unions.” (p. 106)
The end. Good-bye.

Is Kingsolver Right For Duke (Post 2)

Yesterday I posted Is Kingsolver Right For Duke (Post 1)

Many at Duke believe President Richard Brodhead’s stumbled yet again.

This time it’s his selection of prize-winning novelist, Bush-basher and ardent leftist Barbara Kingsolver as Duke’s 2008 commencement speaker.
I linked to pieces pro and con Kingsolver’s selection. I also followed Brodhead’s advice to his selection critics: read more.
That led me to a Washington Post op-ed Kingsolver wrote a few months after 9/11.

Quoting extensively from President Franklin Roosevelt’s January 6, 1941 State of the Union address, Kingsolver compared what she said FDR was advocating in his address with how she viewed what President Bush was doing at the time.

Of course, Bush fared badly.

But FDR fared even worse as Kingsolver completely misunderstood what he was saying. ***

Example: Kingsolver said FDR:

"instead of invoking fear of outsiders he embraced their needs as our own and called for defending, not just at home but on all the earth, what he called the four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, freedom from want."
Near the end of his speech FDR did invoke the four freedoms but the main thrusts of his speech were to warn in graphic detail of the threat posed by “outsiders” (the Axis nations) and to insist America immediately alter its economy from a peacetime to a wartime footing.

In today’s post I want to return to another part of Kingsolver’s WaPo op-ed and again ask you whether she’s “right for Duke?”

Kingsolver’s op-ed appeared Nov, 23, 2001 just as our troops were displacing the brutal Taliban regime. That led her to declare:
”Freedom from fear, freedom from want -- these clearly aren't meant just now for the millions of Afghan civilians placed at risk of starvation because of the war.”
But it wasn’t the war that was placing millions of Afghan’s at risk of starvation, something Kingsolver surely knew.

For months before 9/11 reports of an impending famine in Afghanistan had been widely reported in the Western press.

From a July 2001 UN World Food Program (WFP) report:
A third successive year of drought has left Afghanistan teetering on the brink of widespread famine and placed the lives of millions of people at risk.

A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment mission sent to Afghanistan in May has returned from the field warning that the almost total failure of the 2001 harvest means some five million people will require humanitarian food aid to survive.

With worsening economic conditions undermining Afghanistan's own capacity to fill the hunger gap with imports, WFP estimates a cereal deficit of one million tonnes.

"Given the scale and magnitude of the food crisis facing Afghanistan, the mission urges the most urgent international response to avert an imminent catastrophe," warned the report. […]
By the time Kingsolver wrote her op-ed she also knew of the extensive and heroic efforts of America’s military to avert the famine.

Excerpts from the Oct. 20, 2001 NY Times:
The C-17 cargo plane was 10 minutes from its drop zone when the rear door opened onto the night sky high above Afghanistan. Frigid air burst into the cabin, washing over food boxes that stood like soldiers at attention before an American flag.

Crouching before the door, his oxygen mask pressing hard against his face, a staff sergeant named Paul signaled that the plane was one minute from its target.

Suddenly, with a rush like a powerful freight train gathering speed, 42 boxes flew out the door, opening in midair and raining their contents -- bright yellow packets of food -- on the countryside below.

Within seconds, the C-17 and two sister planes had spilled 51,000 plastic packages, each containing two ready-to-eat meals, over a remote valley in northern Afghanistan. Each wrapper bore a message, ''Food gift from the people of the United States of America,'' in English.

Thus went the 10th mission of the Pentagon's war on hunger in Afghanistan, where cargo planes scatter boxes of lentil stew and rice-and-beans near famine-stricken villages even as jets shower bombs on Taliban positions. . . .

Western relief organizations have also criticized the Pentagon food program as inadequate for a nation where as many as 7.5 million people could be at risk of starving by the end of the year.

The relief organizations assert that the food drops are blurring the line between relief efforts and the military campaign and thereby jeopardizing the safety of truck drivers and others who are hauling the vast bulk of food overland from Pakistan. . . .

The crews working on these missions say their drops have been right on target, though they acknowledge it is hard to know whether many people are finding, much less eating, the food. For that reason, a photograph of gaunt Afghans collecting the yellow packets this week was a soul-lifting sight for them.

''It helped my daughter understand why I'm over here and can't come home,'' said Bill, 31, a captain and C-17 pilot with the 437th Air Lift Wing from Charleston, S.C. . . ..

For all the apparent simplicity of tossing food from a plane, the air drops are complex missions. To begin with, the State Department needs permission to fly over half a dozen countries, including the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Each flight requires a large supporting cast, including KC-135 tankers, Awacs command and control planes and fighter jets to protect the C-17's over hostile territory. . . .

The planes fly at unusually high altitudes -- typically over 25,000 feet -- to avoid Taliban antiaircraft fire. But at those heights crews run the risk of decompression sickness, caused by the bubbling of nitrogen out of the blood, when the cabin is depressurized so the cargo door can be safely opened.

In extreme cases, those bubbles can clog veins, causing severe pain and even death. Flight surgeons or physiologists have been assigned to the crews to watch for early symptoms of the illness.
By Jan. 4, 2002 the State Department was able to report:
U.S. and U.N. efforts in Afghanistan appear to have averted starvation in the country, U.S. State Department officials said Jan. 3.

Aid organizations have moved more than 200,000 tons of food into Afghanistan since Oct. 1, according to U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios and Alan Kreczko, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

"Of that 200,000 tons, 64 percent of it came from the United States," Natsios said. "So almost two-thirds of the food that went in came from America."

Natsios forecast earlier that more than 1.5 million Afghans faced starvation unless help could flow into the war-torn country.

DoD played a major role in averting a humanitarian disaster even as the attack against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan was fully engaged.

DoD dropped 2.2 million humanitarian daily rations from Oct. 7 to Dec. 13, said Mike McNerney, a foreign affairs specialist with DoD's Humanitarian Affairs office.
Those dates covered the startup of operations against the terrorists and when DoD ended the "flutter drop" of the rations.

Also, DoD contributed greatly to solving the humanitarian crisis simply by driving off the Taliban government. In December, as Taliban control was ending, aid organizations were able to ship in 116,000 tons of food, double what they were able to deliver in November. Before that, Taliban officials had confiscated aid organizations warehouses, vehicles and supplies. They also limited distribution of food to certain areas of the country.

DoD helped in other ways. For example, military transport aircraft bulk-dropped wheat, blankets and foodstuffs during the fighting.

And DoD has coordinated the logistics behind the aid. The department "'deconflicted' the airspace so humanitarian operations wouldn't conflict with combat operations," McNerney said.

U.S. Central Command also coordinated what coalition partners could help airlift supplies to the region. Officials said Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy were among the countries helping get supplies to the area.

Finally, DoD helped clear and operate airfields. "What really helped there was getting personnel in place to distribute food," McNerney said. While trucks have delivered most , getting U.N. and non-governmental organization personnel in place made the distribution go that much quicker.

Natsios said the world should congratulate the international organizations that did the primary distribution into the country and the NGOs that did the distribution from Afghan warehouses to the remote villages and to the cities. […]
Is Kingsolver right for Duke?

Here’s another look at what she said in Nov. 2001 concerning the military effort to displace the Taliban and starvation in Afshanistan:
”Freedom from fear, freedom from want -- these clearly aren't meant just now for the millions of Afghan civilians placed at risk of starvation because of the war.”

A Chronicle Double Standard

NY Times columnist Paul Krugman, who recently published The Conscience of a Liberal, spoke at Duke University last evening. The school’s student-run newspaper, The Chronicle, gave his talk prominent coverage in today’s paper. (Krugman shares liberal 'Conscience' )

Fair enough.

But a few weeks ago when National Journal columnist Stuart Taylor, co-author with KC Johnson of Until Proven Innocent, spoke at Duke The Chronicle imposed a news blackout on Taylor’s appearance.

I posted on the blackout here and here.

I also sent Chronicle editor David Graham two emails. The first included this:

A talk at Duke by a nationally known columnist and editor who’s recently co-authored a widely-acclaimed book detailing the Duke Hoax and its enablement by many at the University is a news event The Chronicle should report to the Duke community.

But The Chronicle failed to tell readers Until Proven Innocent author Stuart Taylor would be speaking in Love Auditorium on Nov. 2 and that the Duke community and the public were invited.


I understand The Chronicle was given nine days notice of Taylor's appearance.

How does The Chronicle justify not informing the student body and others of Taylor’s appearance, especially as he had offered, if any Duke professor cared to, to change his talk format to a debate with the professor?

And why did The Chronicle decide to not report a single word of Taylor's talk and the Q&A which followed? Other media reported on them.
Today I left the following comment on the thread of The Chronicle’s Krugman story:
I'd like to do two things:

First, commend reporter Lisa Du and her editor(s) for an informative and well-organized news report of columnist and author Paul Krugman's appearance at Duke.

Second, ask why The Chronicle imposed a news blackout on the recent appearance at Duke of columnist and author Stuart Taylor?

I've twice written Chronicle editor David Graham and asked that question. I offered to post his response in full at my blog. But I never heard back from him.

I hope Graham or a Chronicle news editor will answer the question on this thread.

There are a great many people in the Duke community who look to The Chronicle for fair and balanced news coverage.


John in Carolina
The double standard evident in The Chronicle’s treatment of Krugman’s and Taylor’s appearances is very disturbing and brings into question The Chronicle’s objectivity as a news source.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 27, 2007

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

Derek Lukin Johnston, for years archivist of The Sir Winston Churchill Society of Vancouver, Canada, ended an article, “Master of the English Language”, published in The Churchill Centre’s Finest Hour, as follows:

I conclude with a report of the speech with which Churchill, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in April 1926, wound up the debate on the Budget. This is extracted from Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s daily letter to King George V:

Mr. Churchill was in his happiest mood and imparted that happiness to the House in full measure. Obviously revelling in his task, he delivered a joyous and slashing attack on his opponents.

The debates, he said, had revealed the hopeless insincerity of the Liberal and Socialist platitudinous pleas for economy. As a matter of fact the Socialists did not wish for economy—their policy had always been in favour of prodigality of expenditure.

Mr. Churchill then set the House rocking with laughter with an analysis of the epithets which had been used by Opposition speakers during previous debates.

The words robbery or robbed had been used 67 times, confiscation 10, plunder 10, steal 3 — it had been used once more since by Mr. Thomas but that addition had arrived after the list was closed—theft 2, filch 1, grab 1, cheat 1, breach of faith 19 and so on.

He himself had also received the following compliments: the villain of the piece, robber, marauder, cat-burglar and artful dodger.

As, however, the Labour Party had for some years saluted him with the expression murderer, the title robber seemed to him to be a form of promotion.

Having set the House in a thoroughly good and exhilarated humour by this extremely amusing analysis Mr. Churchill, taking full advantage of the atmosphere which he had thus created, delivered a first rate fighting speech in justification of the Government’s policy, and, having dealt devastatingly with the. . . . Opposition’s arguments, wound up on a note of defiance by declaring that the Government would be judged not by the violence of their opponents’ language but by the consequences of their own actions.

It was a crushing rejoinder delivered in Mr. Churchill’s best manner, with all the rhetorical power and devices which make him one of the most formidable debaters in the House of Commons.
Johnson’s entire article is here.

Morris: Hillary Will Go Negative

After former Clinton insider and pollster Dick Morris broke with the Clintons he began writing for the NY Post. Today he predicts:

As her once-formidable lead in national polls dwindles and Barack Obama moves ahead of her in the all-important Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton will likely intensify her negative campaign against her rivals.

The Clintons' political MO has always had a good dose of negative campaigning, especially when the going gets rough. There's no reason to assume that they will alter their game plan now.

I remember Bill's race for re-election as Arkansas governor back in 1990, when he found himself falling behind Hal McCrae, his unknown Democratic primary opponent. After Clinton's 10 years as governor, McCrae's attacks - featuring Daliesque stretched-out clocks tolling the time for him to go - were hitting home.

Hillary decided to attend McCrae's next press conference and engage him in a public, impromptu debate about his attacks on her husband. She gave as good as she got - and her foray marked the start of a four-week campaign of negative ads that brought McCrae down.

The Clintons used negative ads and attacks in each gubernatorial campaign - and, of course, in Bill's two races for president.

Until now, the '08 Democratic contest has been a referendum on Hillary: The basic decision facing voters has been: Would you vote for her? The Clintons need to get people thinking about whether they like her rivals any better.

Negative ads would do the trick - but at a price: By attacking an opponent, they'd concede that Hillary isn't inevitable. That would give Obama (or John Edwards, should they decide to aim at him instead) added credibility - and perhaps more access to funding and contributions.

Historically, such considerations have never deterred the Clintons - who are always ones to anticipate their adversaries' strength rather than to belittle it.
How will they do it?

Their favored method of getting out negative material about their foes is to hire private investigators to dig up dirt, which they then release through feeds to friendly journalists.

Consider the Lewinsky scandal. When Linda Tripp got to be a danger, the Clinton people released her Pentagon personnel file to Jane Mayer (then a reporter for The New Yorker). A federal judge later reprimanded two Clinton operatives for this violation, and the government had to pay Tripp more than $600,000 - but the damage was still done.
And what made Linda Tripp such a danger to the Clintons? What made them so angry at her?

I’ve a hunch it had a lot to do with Tripp advising Lewinsky not to have “your blue dress cleaned.”

If Lewinsky had her blue dress dry cleaned, there’d have been no sperm stain from which to take DNA material and President William Jefferson Clinton could’ve gone right on telling everyone: “I never had sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”

Morris continues:
Meanwhile, Clinton staffer (and Hillary favorite) Sidney Blumenthal peddled the line that Monica was a stalker to journalist Christopher Hitchens. And White House operatives told ABC News' Linda Douglas of incoming [Republican] House Speaker Bob Livingstone's infidelity scandal before it was made public.
Did you read the news that Blumenthal has just joined Hillary’s team as a “senior advisor?”

More from Morris:
In the '92 presidential campaign, the Clintons openly disclosed their use of private detectives to dig up ammunition on women who had accused the presidential candidate of having affairs with them, disclosing that they paid detective Richard Palladino over $100,000 in campaign funds. But, of late, they avoid such embarrassing disclosures by hiding their detective bills in their legal expenses.[…]
Morris’ entire column is here.

Question: Can you remember the last time Dick Morris was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered?

I can’t.

Why doesn't NPR, which claims it has no news bias, consider asking Morris about the Clintons?

Is Kingsolver Right For Duke? (Post 1)

Many at Duke believe President Richard Brodhead’s stumbled again.

This time it’s his selection of prize-winning novelist, Bush-basher and ardent leftist Barbara Kingsolver as Duke’s 2008 commencement speaker.

A Chronicle editorial critical of her selection is here; a Duke professor, in a letter to The Chronicle, defends it here.

Brodhead’s told critics of Kingsolver’s selection they should “read more.”

I took his advice.

I read a Washington Post op-ed Kingsolver wrote shortly after 9/11 and a presidential speech she references throughout the op-ed: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Jan. 6, 1941 State of the Union address.

What follows are excerpts from Kingsolver’s op-ed and FDR’s address, after which I make a few comments and invite yours.

From Kingsolver’s Nov. 23, 2001 WaPo op-ed :

I found a speech made by Franklin D. Roosevelt on Jan. 6, 1941, that made me wonder where we have mislaid our sense of global honor. "At no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today," he said, as he could have said this day.

But instead of invoking fear of outsiders he embraced their needs as our own and called for defending, not just at home but on all the earth, what he called the four freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, freedom from want.

"Translated into world terms," he said, the latter meant "economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants."

He warned that it was immature and untrue "to brag that America, single-handed and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the whole world" and that any such "dictator's peace" could not be capable of international generosity or returning the world to any true independence. "Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We seem to be contriving a TV-set imitation -- the look with no character inside -- in our new wartime of flags flapping above shopping malls and car sales lots, these exhortations to purchase, to put down a foot and give not an inch. There's a rush on to squash the essential liberties of others and purchase some temporary safety for ourselves.

The four freedoms are not much in evidence. Faith and speech have taken hard blows, as countless U.S. citizens suffer daily intimidation because their appearance or modes of belief place them outside the mainstream of an angry nation at war. Any spoken suggestions about alternatives to violent retaliation are likely to be called an affront against our country.

I struggle to find some logical path that could lead to this conclusion, that free speech is un-American, and find as its only source our president's statement: "Either you're with us, or you are with the terrorists." He was addressing nations of the world, but that "us" keeps getting narrower.

If FDR's words were published anonymously today, especially those about force leading only to a "dictator's peace," FDR would get hate mail.[…]
Now excerpts from FDR’s address:
I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world -- assailed either by arms or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace. . .

Armed defense of democratic existence is now being gallantly waged in four continents. . . .

In times like these it is immature -- and, incidentally, untrue -- for anybody to brag that an unprepared America, single-handed and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the whole world.

No realistic American can expect from a dictator’s peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion -- or even good business. Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

As a nation we may take pride in the fact that we are soft-hearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed.

We must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal preach the "ism" of appeasement. We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.

I have recently pointed out how quickly the tempo of modern warfare could bring into our very midst the physical attack which we must eventually expect if the dictator nations win this war.

There is much loose talk of our immunity from immediate and direct invasion from across the seas. Obviously, as long as the British Navy retains its power, no such danger exists. . . .

The first phase of the invasion of this hemisphere would not be the landing of regular troops. The necessary strategic points would be occupied by secret agents and by their dupes -- and great numbers of them are already here and in Latin America.

As long as the aggressor nations maintain the offensive they, not we, will choose the time and the place and the method of their attack.

And that is why the future of all the American Republics is today in serious danger. That is why this annual message to the Congress is unique in our history. . . .

The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily -- almost exclusively -- to meeting this foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency.

Our national policy is this:

First, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to all-inclusive national defense.

Secondly, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to full support of all those resolute people everywhere who are resisting aggression and are thereby keeping war away from our hemisphere. . . .

Third, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the proposition that principles of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers. . . .

Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving increase in our armament production. Leaders of industry and labor have responded to our summons. . . .

[But] today's best is not good enough for tomorrow.

I am not satisfied with the progress thus far made. . . .

To change a whole nation from a basis of peacetime production of implements of peace to a basis of wartime production of implements of war is no small task. . . .

The Congress of course, must rightly keep itself informed at all times of the progress of the program. However, there is certain information, as the Congress itself will readily recognize, which, in the interests of our own security and those of the nations that we are supporting, must of needs be kept in confidence.(emphasis added)

New circumstances are constantly begetting new needs for our safety. I shall ask this Congress for greatly increased new appropriations and authorizations to carry on what we have begun.

I also ask this Congress for authority and for funds sufficient to manufacture additional munitions and war supplies of many kinds, to be turned over to those nations which are now in actual war with aggressor nations. . . .

In fulfillment of this purpose we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators that they will regard as a breach of international law or as an act of war our aid to the democracies which dare to resist their aggression.

Such aid -- Such aid is not an act of war, even if a dictator should unilaterally proclaim it so to be.

And when the dictators -- if the dictators -- are ready to make war upon us, they will not wait for an act of war on our part. . . .

No one can tell the exact character of the emergency situations that we may be called upon to meet. The nation's hands must not be tied when the nation's life is in danger.

Yes, and we must prepare, all of us prepare, to make the sacrifices that the emergency -- almost as serious as war itself -- demands. Whatever stands in the way of speed and efficiency in defense, in defense preparations of any kind, must give way to the national need.

A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from all groups. A free nation has the right to look to the leaders of business, of labor, and of agriculture to take the lead in stimulating effort, not among other groups but within their own group.

The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble-makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example, and if that fails, to use the sovereignty of government to save government. […]
A link to Kingsolver’s op-ed is here; one to FDR’s address here.

Contrary to what Kingsolver says, FDR did “invoke fear of outsiders.”

FDR said threats from “outsiders” were so grave America needed to immediately “change . . . from a basis of peacetime production of implements of peace to a basis of wartime production of implements of war.”

Kingsolver also misunderstands FDR’s warning of a "dictator's peace."

He didn’t mean something America might choose to do but something that would be forced on us by our enemies if we remained weak.

Everyone understood then, and people today with a minimal understanding of the history of that time know FDR was warning us that if we remained militarily weak and didn’t become “the arsenal of democracy” for nations fighting the Axis, we would someday be forced to accept an Axis “dictator’s peace;” just as happened when Germany invaded France and dictated an armistice; and when it invaded Norway and dictated the installation of the puppet Quisling government.

In future posts, I’ll say more about Kingsolver’s selection as commencement speaker.

For now, if you love Duke, you can at least be grateful Kingsolver wasn’t named to an endowed professorship and granted tenure.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 26, 2007

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

The address below will take you to a wonderful You Tube clip of Orson Welles reminiscing on The Dick Cavett Show about some “encounters” he had with Churchill.

The clip runs about four minutes. I bet you smile and laugh throughout.

Can we blame Hillary?

Michael Goodwin in the NY Daily News:

Way back in 1992, when Hillary and Hubba Bubba first burst onto the national scene, many Americans expressed doubts about their honesty and integrity. Clintonesque, parsing, the definition of "is" - those and other phrases became polite shorthand ways of accusing a Clinton of lying.

Fast forward to last week, to fresh proof that the charge is still political dynamite. If Sen. Clinton loses the nomination because of the honesty gap, she can't say she wasn't warned.

Indeed, one of the mysteries of the Democratic race so far is why she fell into a predictable trap. She and her team, including the former President, are addicted to polls the way some people are addicted to crack. They had to see the red flags on basic character questions, yet they did nothing to confront them. And so Hillary has been Hillary, to a fault.

Now she is starting to pay the price. Winning the nomination, which seemed inevitable for nearly a year, is becoming a serious challenge. Suddenly, she looks neither invincible nor inevitable.

Polls that show Sen. Barack Obama picking up support at her expense in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally perfectly illustrate Clinton's weakness.

Asked which candidate is most honest and trustworthy, Clinton came in fourth in New Hampshire and third in Iowa. Only 13% rated her tops in that category in New Hampshire, with Obama getting 27% and both John Edwards and Bill Richardson doing better than her. In Iowa, Clinton got only 15% on the same question.

In both states, Obama gained ground she lost. He now leads for the first time in Iowa, 30% to her 26%, according to the ABC/Washington Post survey, with Edwards at 22%. And her 23-point lead in New Hampshire shrunk by 9 points in a month, according to the CNN/WMUR survey, which put her ahead by 36%-22% over Obama.

Given her relative strength across the board, the results hardly qualify as a great unraveling, but neither are they incidental. Less than a month after Obama and Edwards began making more direct attacks on her candor, cracks began showing. That's not a very long time under the gun to suffer such damage and the quick results will only encourage more attacks. [...]

What Obama and Edwards are doing is just reminding voters of Senator Clinton's background.

Have they said anything that isn't factual?

And yes, they’ve only just begun.

Neither Obama nor Edwards has reminded voters, for instance, that Hillary’s Rose Law Firm billing records "disappeared" for a few years, only to be “discovered” on a table in the Clinton White House.

How about that?

Goodwin ends with:
But even if she prevails in the primaries, the damage her rivals are inflicting is likely just beginning.

Most of the GOP field is already attacking her along the same lines, so the general election would follow a similar script. Tellingly, she accused Edwards and Obama of echoing "Republican talking points."

Well, yes, that's true - because there is bipartisan agreement she has an honesty gap. And she has only herself to blame.
Goodwin’s entire column is here.

Just one blogger’s opinion but Hillary’s “honesty gap” seems more like a wide chasm.

What do you think? Gap? Chasm? Or should we blame everything on “the “vast right-wing conspiracy?”

Hat tip:

Brodhead listens to only some students

The following letter appears in today's Chronicle. I left a comment on the thread which you'll find here below the star line.


To the editor:

As frustrating as it is to have another commencement speaker who's most relevant experience appears to be her connection to Duke University, far worse is the total disregard for student opinion demonstrated by President Richard Brodhead in his comments to The Chronicle.

Not only did the administration never bother to seek student input about possible speakers, but, according to Brodhead, those students who don't agree with the speaker selection (approximately two-thirds of those students who took The Chronicle's admittedly unscientific online poll) have just not read enough books to know better.

That kind of condescending attitude needlessly undermines students' trust and support of the University administration and further displays the University's unwillingness to seriously engage students in substantive conversation about what kind of a school we want to have.

I hope that Brodhead will reconsider his comments and work to include students in a meaningful way in the decisions that affect their life at Duke in the future, but, given the dismissive attitude exhibited by the administration in the past to student requests, I'm not holding my breath.

Sam Howe

Trinity '08


President Brodhead and "Dick's senior team" pay attention to some student groups while ignoring others.

They respond to some things students say while ignoring others.

Thus, President Brodhead met in March 2006 to hear the concerns of students critical of the lacrosse players but he refused to meet with the lacrosse parents as many students thought he should.

Some students thought Brodhead should issue an apology to the then anonymous "first 911 caller" even though her claims were unproven (The caller, Kim Roberts, later admitted she'd made the first racial slur to which one Duke student responded; and that much of what she said during the call was false.)

Without knowing the facts of the matter, Brodhead made a full apology on behalf of the University "to the woman and her friend."

Many students thought Brodhead and other Duke administrators should condemn the racists who made threats, including death threats, against Reade Seligmann in May 2006.

But Brodhead and his “team” said nothing.

It seems they only listen to students when what the students say fits their agendas.

John in Carolina

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Could H-S Editor Ashley Do Worse?

Under editor Bob Ashley’s directorship the Durham Herald Sun has gone from being a well-respected community newspaper that looked after the public’s interest to cheering on Mike Nifong and certain Durham police officers for months after it was obvious they were engaged in a criminal frame-up.

Any decent newspaper would’ve called foul and cried shame at what Nifong and his crew were doing.

But Ashley and the H-S praised those working the frame-up and said they deserved our support.

That, IMO, is the worst Ashley’s done at the H-S.

But his influence is manifest in every H-S edition.

This morning in a letter to the editor, Steed Rollins Jr, a member of the Durham family which owned the H-S for generations before they sold it to Paxton Media Group which put Ashley in charge, called attention to just how bad Ashley’s H-S now is: It didn't even report the Duke-Marquette basketball score while the Raleigh N&O reported the game and the final score.

You can read Rollins’ letter and some background here.

You’ll quickly see his letter is about a lot more than just reporting a basketball score.

After Rollins’ letter appeared I heard from Bob Wilson who was the H-S’s editorial page editor back when the paper took on Durham’s power brokers.

Bob’s letter, really an editorial of the kind he used to write, follows in full. In a day or two I’ll say more about the H-S.

In the meantime, your comments are welcome.

Now Bob Wilson:

In his stinging Nov. 25 letter to The Herald-Sun, Steed Rollins Jr., son of one of the paper's most revered editors, chastised the paper for failing Nov. 22 to report even the score of the Duke-Marquette basketball game when on the same day the Raleigh N&O reported on the game.

"It is hard to be taken seriously as Durham's newspaper," said Rollins, "if you can't get the Duke score in the paper."
Rollins' criticism is a good example of the broken-window theory at work at the H-S: failures that were excused when editor Bob Ashley first took over the H-S’s news and editorial sides have grown under his leadership to the point where the H-S “missed” a Duke basketball game the Raleigh N&O reported.

Frankly, I thought Ashley would do better when Paxton Media Group brought him in as editor in January 2005. I was a reporter for The News & Observer in the early 1970s, and Ashley was a writer and columnist for the afternoon Raleigh Times. I respected his work then and later, when he went to The Charlotte Observer for 10 years, so I was willing to give him time to put his stamp on the H-S.

He did, and it’s been a disaster.

Anyone who has read KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor's masterly account of the Duke lacrosse hoax, Until Proven Innocent, can cite Ashley's failures chapter and verse. For reasons that can only be ideological, Ashley's editorial policy buoyed renegade district attorney Mike Nifong's attempt to falsely convict the Duke Three almost to the end, justifying Nifong's actions with biased editorials and reporting.

Not since the Dr. Sam Sheppard affair in 1954, when a Cleveland newspaper brazenly convicted the physician in print during his trial for allegedly killing his wife, has an American newspaper failed so miserably to live up to accepted standards of journalistic conduct. Even The New York Times, which also took Nifong's side despite glaring holes in the lacrosse hoax, has to take second place in this race to the bottom.

The H-S had the opportunity of a lifetime, and squandered it. Ashley could have led the paper to national recognition and respect once it became clear, in late March 2006, that something was badly amiss with Crystal Gail Mangum's allegation of gang rape by three Duke lacrosse players at an off-campus team party.

Instead, Ashley chose the politically correct route, joining the chorus of leftist Duke faculty members and Trinity Park liberals in denouncing the Duke Three not only for what they were alleged to have done, but also because of who they were: The privileged scions of affluent, Northeast families.

For them, equal justice under the law did not apply. At least not at Ashley’s H-S.

If Ashley and the HS learned anything from the lacrosse hoax debacle, there’s no public evidence of it.

No one expects Ashley to objectively assess the paper's manifold failures, though that would be the prudent course toward restoring some measure of the paper's credibility.

Meanwhile, H-S circulation continues to fall as longtime Durham subscribers vote with their dollars.

Cozying up to Mike Nifong was a fundamental mistake. At some level, Ashley knows that. Presumably his bosses at Paxton Media Group in Paducah, Ky., know that, too.

Yet, he continues to make errors in editorial judgment. Among his latest: Endorsing political candidates, a move that no doubt delights the left in Durham while alienating moderate and conservative readers.

Despite some inroads by the N&O, Durham remains a one-newspaper town with the most fractious politics in North Carolina.

Ashley should have kept the H-S above Durham's political brawls, reporting and editorializing on all sides without fear or favor. That policy stood firm for decades under the ownership of the Rollins family.

The basic qualities that make a good newspaper, and all great ones, can be summed up in the phrase “without fear or favor.”

Alas for Durham, the day Bob Ashley became editor of The Herald-Sun was the day "without fear or favor" went out the front door with some of the most principled journalists and executives in the news business.

What was left behind speaks for itself.

Previous Owner Criticizes Durham H-S

For generations during which it was a respected community newspaper, the Durham Herald Sun was owned by members of the Rollins family, most of whom lived in Durham.

It 2005 the family completed the sale of the H-S to Paxton Media Group which put the current editor, Bob Ashley, in charge.

Since Ashley took over the H-S's circulation, advertising revenue and news reporting and editorializing have all plummeted.

Today, in a letter to the H-S, a member of the Rollins family, Steed Jr, whose dad was for many year its publisher, gave readers a very clear idea of what he thinks has happened to the H-S.

Most of you will quickly surmise Rollins' letter is about a lot more than reporting on a Duke basketball game.

I plan a follow-up post that will offer more background concerning Rollins' letter. For now I'll just put it out there.

To the editor:

It was very disappointing to open The Herald-Sun on Thursday and discover that the Duke-Marquette men's basketball final was missing. Not so in my copy of the N&O.

It is hard to be taken seriously as Durham's newspaper if you can't get the Duke score in the paper.

Somebody in charge made the conscious decision not to update the front page or the sports page with either a late score or the AP story during the press-run.

It's bad enough that you depend on the AP to write your story, at least take the effort to put it in the newspaper.

Your readers and your advertisers deserve better on one of your most profitable advertising days of the year.

Steed Rollins Jr.
November 25, 2007

Durham Deck; H-S editorial both weak

An editorial in today’s Durham Herald Sun begins:

In August, City Manager Patrick Baker decided not to tell the public about an engineer's report that warned a city parking deck was in danger of collapsing. Given the possibility, however remote, of a calamity, we have to question that judgment. And we also question why the report, first submitted to the city in June, didn't reach Baker until August 24. . . .

Earlier this year, an inspection revealed cracks in 35 beams supporting the deck's upper floors. In June, the engineers' initial report said the beams could shear without warning.

You might think that would be scary enough to grab someone's attention, but it was not. City officials now say that because a General Services project manager resigned in March, the report wasn't fully reviewed until August. By then, the engineers had issued a follow-up, saying one or more beams could fail near their intersection with the walls, causing "a localized floor collapse." . . .

He said he was told the deck didn't need to be closed, but that repairs needed to occur quickly. Administrators responded by closing off the highest levels of the structure. Recently, signs advised trucks and SUVs to use adjacent surface parking.
On Tuesday, City Council authorized $783,900 to repair the deck.

It seems clear that the city needs to review its procedures so that such serious matters make their way quickly to decision-makers. And we think that once Baker learned of the problem, he should have alerted his bosses on City Council.

One more point: If the city thinks it isn't such a good idea to park SUVs in the deck, why is anyone allowed to park there.
The entire editorial is here.

The H-S’s question about whether it’s a good idea to park any car in the deck is on the money. It’s also important to ask why the city is requiring parking fee collectors and janitorial staff to work there and allowing citizens to use it.

But excepting the H-S’s one on the money question, its editorial is as weak in its way as the parking deck is in its way.

The H-S doesn’t demand the public release of the engineer report and all communications relating to it: both between the outside engineers and city officials and the correspondence, including emails, city officials had among themselves.

That public has a right to read those reports and related correspondence.

Why didn’t the H- S demand the city disclose whether the engineering firm agreed there was no need to immediately inform the public?

Why didn’t the H-S ask whether the city had informed the insurance company which covers such contingencies as a collapse of part or all of a Durham City owned parking deck?

Assuming the city has coverage for such a catastrophe (Mind you, I’m not saying it has. This is Durham we’re talking about.), was the insurance company informed of the engineer’s report? If so, was the company satisfied the parking deck remain open?

The H-S makes no mention of Mayor Bill Bell whose reelection it recently endorsed.

When did Baker first tell Bell of the engineer’s report? What did they say to each other? Why was the public only told of the danger after Bell’s reelection?

The H-S editorial doesn’t ask those questions. But a newspaper that was looking out for the safety and other interests of Durham’s citizens would've.

Baker’s first public disclosure of the parking deck danger came last Tuesday on the eve of Thanksgiving when the news was guaranteed to get the least amount of public attention.

Five days later the H-S has not reported on any public statement Mayor Bell has made regarding the parking deck problems.

In fact, today’s editorial doesn’t even mention Bell.

Tomorrow is a regular business day. It would have been in the public’s interest for the H-S to ask today that Mayor Bell immediately issue a statement saying whether he encourages citizens to use the parking deck tomorrow.

But do you expect editor Bob Ashley’s editorials to be in the public's interest when the public’s interest conflicts with the interests of Durham’s power brokers?

Previous posts on the parking deck danger:

Durham Parking Deck Problems: Who Knew What When?
(Nov. 21, 2007)

Durham Parking Deck Problems: Comments (Nov. 23, 2007)