Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow, 1955 - 2008. R. I. P.

Dallas Morning News and ABC talk show host Mark Davis paid tribute today to former White House press secretary and fellow talk show host Tony Snow, dead at age 53 following a long, courageous battle with colon cancer.

Drawing on his memories of Snow, his knowledge of Washington and the media, and an appreciation for what’s most important in all our lives, Davis began - - -

Looking ahead to the weekend, I was telling listeners Friday that Fox News Sunday and CBS' Face the Nation may experience a serious uptick in viewers as the election season plays out.

The reason: the decision to give Tom Brokaw the Meet the Press chair for the rest of the year, while heartwarming, is not going to work out well in actual practice.

This is not a job for an anchor or a reporter (sorry, Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory). It is a job for a host-- a creative and entertaining questioner respected along the political spectrum as fair and honest (sorry, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews).

So on Friday morning I asked rhetorically: "I wonder how Tony Snow is doing?" His was truly the only name of sufficient caliber that occurred to me.

Now I know the answer to that question, and another titan of modern American media has fallen.

Like Tim Russert before him, Tony Snow brought an infectious passion and likability to his craft. He brought those skills not only to his media jobs in print, radio and television, but to the White House, where he was a speechwriter for the first President Bush and press secretary for the second.

His 17 months at the White House press room podium made predecessor Scott McClellan look like the useless shlub history now reveals him to be.

When Tony Snow took over that post in Spring 2006, one of President Bush's key problems was the passionless ineptitude that poisoned the delivery of his message.

Snow fixed that in one day, establishing a style of addressing the press with conviction and humor. There had been no one like him before, and I don't see anyone equaling him again.

But there have been a lot of good White House press secretaries, and a lot of good TV hosts and writers. It was his radio show that proved from 2003 to 2006 that he was an even rarer breed-- someone who could move from print and television into the completely different world of talk radio.

History is littered with failed talk show attempts by people who seemed interesting at something else. But there is little if anything in writing, acting or government service that equips one to offer opinions compellingly for three hours while taking extemporaneous calls from the public.

Tony did it, and he was great at it. Just like everything else he did.

And by that I mean more than his very public jobs. He was a man of varied interests, wide and deep friendships and a master of many musical instruments. He also managed to navigate through a government and media career while maintaining his most important job-- his devotion to his wife and kids. . …

Continue reading Davis’ tribute here.

My appreciation to where I found Davis’ tribute.

Tony Snow, 1955 – 2008. R. I. P.

Do the Duke/Durham suits have a chance?

A recent commenter at More about the Addison Motion clanger thinks not, saying in part:

I am prepared to be shocked, SHOCKED, if the LAX team win any of the suits.

Each and every one of these INNOCENT young men were done in by the government - and now we hope and pray the same government will rule in our favor.
My response:

Governments in the U. S. sometimes do wrong and sometimes do right.

I have some knowledge of the careers of four of the lead attorneys in the three suits – Brendan Sullivan, Barry Scheck, Charles Cooper and Robert Ekstrand. They're outstanding attorneys, with the first three nationally known and respected within the legal community.

All four attorneys have had considerable success working within our legal system to secure right and justice for their clients.

Their successes to date give supporters of the Duke lacrosse players strong reason to believe the attorneys will be successful using the court system to secure some measure of justice for the players and their families, and some consequences for those who abused them, including those who abused police and prosecutor powers.

And keep something else in mind: Duke University has asserted the suits don’t have merit as far as it, its trustees and many of its employees, including President Brodhead, bearing any culpability for events related to the hoax, the frame-up attempt and the ongoing cover-up.

Yet in early February of this year, just weeks after attorney Ekstrand filed an amended complaint in federal court, Greensboro, we read in the Durham Herald Sun:
Court papers filed this week indicate that Washington, D.C., attorney Jamie Gorelick will assist two Greensboro litigators in representing the school.

They're also the attorneys of record for the Duke University Police Department, Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Steel, school President Richard Brodhead and numerous other university officials.

Gorelick was deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, and in that capacity was responsible for supervising the country's appointed federal prosecutors. …

She and the Greensboro lawyers, Donald Cowan Jr. and Dixie Wells, will help Duke try to fend off allegations made by current or former lacrosse players Breck Archer, Ryan McFadyen and Matt Wilson. …
The rest of the H-S story’s here.

In retaining attorney Gorelick, Duke was acknowledging that despite its public assertions it and the other Duke defendants bear no culpability for actions and inactions related to the hoax, frame-up attempt and ongoing cover-up, it knows a federal court could very likely find otherwise.

N&O's McClatchy downgraded; subscriber sues; editor tries PR

Yesterday reported :

Standard & Poor's on Friday lowered its corporate credit rating on McClatchy Co. (MNI ) to B+ from BB- on lower revenue. The rating outlook is negative.

"The downgrade reflects meaningful declines in revenue and EBITDA in McClatchy's newspaper publishing business and the likelihood for further declines over the intermediate term," said Emile Courtney, an S&P credit analyst, in a statement.
McClatchy's the parent company of the liberal/leftist Raleigh News & Observer whose biased, racially inflammatory and in significant instances false reporting launched the Duke hoax before the now disbarred prosecutor and N&O anonymous sourse Mike Nifong began speaking publicly about the case.

At market close yesterday McClatchy traded at 5.09, down almost 90% since March 2006 when it traded in the mid-40s.

Yesterday's S&P downgrade won't surprise those of you who’ve been following McClatchy’s sharp stock and operating revenue declines which some observers say will force MNI to seek bankruptcy protection before the year’s end.

On the thread of McClatchy stock: then and now are a number of very informative comments. Here are parts of two of them.

Archer 05 share's from news reports:

McClatchy sells its stake in at a loss

McClatchy's stake in ShopLocal was valued at $11.13 million--sold to Gannett for $7.875 million.

and adds:

This sale makes sense if McClatchy decided ShopLocal would not be a profit center.

But if the sale was a desperation move in response to McClatchy's crushing debt, that is a VERY BAD SIGN!

No justice, no peace provides this:

As of 3/31 Ariel Investments LLC owned approximately 18% of the outstanding shares. According to the Ariel semi-annual report their $217,503,439 investment had lost $164,406,829. If they still hold the shares they have lost another $25,000,000.

Yesterday's N&O ran a story which began - - -

A News & Observer subscriber is suing the newspaper for cutting staff and the size of the paper.

Keith Hempstead, a Durham lawyer, filed the suit last month in Wake Superior Court. He says he renewed his subscription in May just before the paper announced on June 16 the layoffs of 70 staff members and cuts in news pages.

The paper, he says, is now not worth what he signed up for and therefore the cuts breached the paper's contract with him.

"Plaintiff alleges fraud in that the newspaper announced changes in the coverage after procuring renewals from Plaintiff and other subscribers," Hempstead says in the complaint.

In a phone interview today, Hempstead, 42, said he could cancel his subscription but filed the suit to make a point.

"I wanted to get the newspaper's attention and the news industry's attention," said Hempstead, who is a former reporter at the Fayetteville Observer, adding that he loves The News & Observer. ...

John Drescher, executive editor of The News & Observer, said he's glad that Hempstead is a loyal reader and that the N&O has meant so much to him.

"We've had some really good papers recently, and they're worth more than the 36 cents a day that Mr. Hempstead is paying us," Drescher said.

"In fact, he owes me money," Drescher continued. "So when he gets a lawyer, he can work with my lawyer and figure out how much he's going to pay me for the excellent coverage he's been getting recently." ...

The entire N&O story is here.

My comments on it:

Drescher certainly sounds upbeat about the N&O. But you have to ask whether he's just engaging in - to put it nicely - a little PR work.

The N&O is covering fewer stories and, while some stories still represent satisfactory journalism, I hear most current and former N&O journalists are saying the overall quality of the paper's reporting is declining almost as fast as staff moral at 215 S. McDowell St.

The suit was first reported on July 2 by Courthouse News Service. On July 3 McClatchy Watch posted in detail on it.

One of those details: Hempstead filed his suit as a class action, something the N&O didn't report.

We can all understand why the N&O wouldn't want its readers to know Hemstead's suit was a class action one.

But readers should have been told anyway.

And why did the N&O wait almost 10 days before it reported the story?

More on McClatchy and the N&O tomorrow.

Hat tips to the commenters mentioned in the post and to AC, Ed in NY, and Locomotive Breath.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Churchill Series - July 11, 2008

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

Let's end the week smiling.

Here are two of Churchill's favorite stories I've told before in this series.

They concern Col. Sir John Brabazon, who commanded the Fourth Hussars, the cavalry regiment Churchill joined in 1895 following his graduation from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

Churchill was very fond of Brabazon, a war hero and by all accounts a fine officer. Churchill described him as "very strict, but fair." He also said what many of Brabazon's friends said of him: he was strong-willed, charming when he wished to be, and a bit of a dandy with a sense of entitlement. He was also a friend of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

Now to those Brabazon stories Churchill loved to tell:

Brabazon arrived at the station late for a train.

"Where is the London train," he asked the stationmaster.

"It has gone, Colonel."

"Gone? Then bring another one."

In Queen Victoria's army it was common practice to appoint as regimental colonels officers who'd served most of their careers in the regiments they were selected to lead. Appointing an "outsider" was considered a slap at the regiment, particularly its senior officers.

When Brabazon was appointed to lead the Fourth Hussars, he was an "outsider," having spent most of his career in the Tenth Hussars.

As Churchill explained it, "outsider" colonels usually did their best to win over the officers and men. And Brabazon did that in the cases of the enlisted men and the junior officers like himself.

But he gave the senior officers no quarter and, if anything, went out of his way to let them know that.

One evening in the midst of a formal regimental dinner shortly after he'd joined the Fourth Hussars, Brabazon turned to the officer who was president of the regimental mess and asked: "And what chemist do you get this champagne from?"

Churchill and Brabazon remained friends until Brabazon's death in 1922.

I hope you all have nice weekends and are back on Monday.


Ex-prosecutor on the Addison clanger

Throughout the Duke hoax, frame-up attempt and the ongoing cover-up of it, the Ex-prosecutor has commented from time-t0-time drawing on his law and prosecutorial background. His comments have always been thoughtful. He's often pointed to the form and direction matters would take with subsequent events proving him prescient.

With that in mind, I've moved his comment in response to In Addison's Motion: "a typo" or "a clanger?" to the main page so more of you will see it.

I also plan later this evening to respond on the main page to some or all of each of the comments currently on the post thread.

The rest of this post is the Ex-prosecutor's comment:

I cannot recall well all that went on between March 21, as of when the plaintiffs were not part of the investigation, and May 16, when Mr. Nifong said that no others would be charged. However, by making this claim as to the status of the plaintiffs on March 21, their lawyer may have been continuing a fiction often employed by police officers.

When police activities following a crime go from investigatory to accusatory, various rights attach to the suspect. If, for instance, a wife is found dead, officers often will avoid treating the likely killer, the husband, as a suspect, because they want to question him as a witness (so he won't have to be advised of his Miranda rights) rather than as a suspect (when he will) After being reminded that their statements can be used against them, that they have a right to counsel, and to refuse to answer questions, persons often will clam up.

So, to get a husband talking, officers will claim that he was not a suspect and could have left the police station at any time.

As to the March date set out in the Addison brief, it may have been a mistake or a use of police fiction as to the difference between a witness and a suspect.

However, even if the latter is the case, I don't think the defendants will be helped. As I recall, during the two months after the March date, the Durham police and Mr. Nifong continued an active but fruitless investigation of which these plaintiffs obviously were subjects. The officers just didn't want to recognize the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs.

Either explanation is untenable.

Can you believe Obama?

We know that many voters on the left can only vote for Senator BarackObama if they’re sure he’s lying. See, for example, Some Obama supporters hope he's lying. (July 9, 2008)

Now what about the rest of us who are unnerved by the idea Obama is lying to us?

Roll Call’s Mort Kondracke today takes up the question: “Obama's Changes Raise Issue: Can You Believe in Him?”

Kondracke excerpts follow in italics, with my comments interspersed in plain.

Maybe the biggest question of the 2008 presidential campaign is "Who is Sen. Barack Obama really?" Of late, the mystery is deepening. …

He has eloquently promised "change we can believe in," but lately he's changing his tune on so many issues it's becoming a legitimate question: Can voters really believe in him?

In a year when Democrats have everything going for them, I think the primary reason Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is trailing Obama by only 2 points in the Gallup Poll is that voters still have their doubts about Obama.

Some of the doubts are ridiculous or even pernicious -- such as whether Obama is a patriotic American, a Christian, a person who "shares your values."
(emphasis added)

I don’t think it’s “ridiculous or even pernicious” to consider whether Obama shares my values when the matters has to do with his sitting in Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years listening to racist and ant-American sermons and claimed Wright as an inspiring mentor and close friend, only disowning him when Wright told the public Obama was just another politician.

There are also the matters of Obama and his wife providing generous financial support to Wright’s church and bringing their two young daughters there for religious instruction.

I don’t see how Obama could’ve had a 20 year admiring, supportive relationship with Wright and still share some of my most important values which have to do with extreme disregard for racists and anti-Americans and those who support them.

He brought some of this on himself -- by saying that wearing an American flag lapel pin constituted "false patriotism" and by remaining for 20 years in the racially incendiary Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church.

The on/off/on again pin matter is telling, but not major with me. Wright as close friend and mentor for 20 years is both telling and major.

Something else: While Obama has flip-flopped on many important matters, including his assertion he could no more disown Wright than he could disown the black community, on the extremely important matter of explaining how he could've remained a member of Wright's church for 20 years, Obama HAS NOT FLIP-FLOPPED.

He’s been very consistent in telling us he heard none of what his fawning MSM flacks call Wright’s “controversial statements” nor did he hear any discussion of them by others in the congregation.

Both those claims are unbelievable in the original and primary meaning of the word.

Some of the rest of it -- such as that Barack Hussein Obama is really a Muslim -- is being spread on the Internet by haters.

I agree with Kondracke about that.

Kondracke’s entire column is here. It’s well worth a read if only for his ending:

It would convince me that he was a daring man of character if he went to Iraq, saw Gen. David Petraeus and the situation on the ground and came back saying: "This war was wrong at the start, but now we have to win it -- and we can win it, politically and militarily. We will withdraw -- but only under conditions of success."

Such a statement would finally show that he can buck the dominant attitude of the Democratic Party. If he added that he was wrong to oppose Bush's 2007 troop surge, so much the better.

Pending such an unlikely event, the question is open: Is this guy the real deal, or an eloquent phony?

A flip-flopper, a cynic, just an ordinary pol with a gift of the gab -- or a genuine center-liberal capable of tacking while steering a determined course?
There's time to find out before November, but the media have to help with intense, ongoing scrutiny and lots of tough questions.

Do any of you think news organizations will provide “intense, ongoing scrutiny and lots of tough questions” concerning Obama’s background and his positions on the critical issues?

I don’t.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Churchill Series - July 10, 2008

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

The Commons’ debate on whether to approve the Munich Treaty began on Oct. 3, 1938. The outcome was never in doubt. PM Neville Chamberlain had claimed the treaty would assure “peace in our time,” and that was firmly believed by most people, including the members of the House.

However, the member leading off the debate spoke in opposition :

The Prime Minister has believed in addressing Herr Hitler through the language of sweet reasonableness. I have believed that he was more open to the language of the mailed fist. …

We have taken away the defences of Czechoslovakia in the same breath as we have guaranteed them, as though you were to deal a man a mortal blow and at the same time insure his life.”
Was that Churchill speaking? It sounds just like him, doesn't it?

But the speaker was Alfred Duff Cooper. He'd just resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty in protest of the treaty, the only cabinet member to do so.

During the war, Duff as he was called, served in Churchill’s National Unity government in a number of capacities including Minister of Information. From 1943 to the end of the war he held the very challenging position of Government Representative to the French Committee of Liberation (de Gaulle).

Note in Duff Cooper's remarks the word Americans spell "defenses" has the British spelling "defences." If you're a regular series reader you know British spellings appear often in the series.

And then there are my own spelling errors.

I hope you're back tomorrow.
William Manchester, The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill, vol 2, Alone:1932-1940. (pgs. 365-366)

In Addison's Motion: "a typo" or "a clanger?"

This post builds on these two post: A clanger in the Addison Motion to Dismiss (7/7/08) and More about the Addison Motion clanger. (7/8/08)

If you haven't already read them and their threads, I encourage you to do so.

Moving on - - -

Both posts include the following from attorney James Maxwell's Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of Durham Police Sgt. David Addison and three other DPD members (two sworn, one civilian) :

after March 21 (one week after the alleged events had occurred), none of these Plaintiffs were even considered a part of he (sic) ongoing investigation.” (emphasis mine)
A commenter asked whether “the 3/21 date [could] just be a typo -- and the intended date be after the Evans indictment -- when Nifong said something to the effect that there were no more suspects?"

That’s a fair question many reasonable people will ask.

I’ll respond to it here and hope I convince the questioner and other reasonable people that, while “the 3/21 date” may be a typo, it’s also a clanger: a conspicuous mistake whose effects reverberate beyond the immediate circumstances of the mistake.

Let’s begin by granting for purposes of this post the date was a typo and that attorney Maxwell really meant to state a date on or after Nifong said the Plaintiffs were not suspects.

Nifong made such a statement on May 16, 2006, the day he sought and obtained the indictment of David Evans whom he knew then was innocent of the charges brought in the indictment. This from on May 16, 2006:
Nifong said in a statement that there will be no more charges in the case.

"At the outset of this investigation, I said that it was just as important to remove the cloud of suspicion from the members of the Duke University lacrosse team who were not involved in this assault as it was to identify the actual perpetrators," Nifong wrote. "For that reason, I believe it is important to state publicly today that none of the evidence that we have developed implicates any member of that team other than those three against whom indictments have been returned."
Now let’s allow, again only for purposes of this post, that Maxwell files an Amended Motion to Dismiss in which he tells the court and all other parties to the suits something like this:
”I didn’t mean to say the Plaintiffs weren’t considered part of the ongoing investigation after March 21. I meant to say they weren’t considered part of the ongoing investigation after May 16.
There’ll be reverberations from that.

Consider just some of what Maxwell will be conspicuously acknowledging on behalf of his clients:

The Plaintiffs were considered suspects after March 28, the day Nifong learned from the state lab the DNA testing was negative for the Plaintiffs and the rest of the 46 lacrosse players tested (Clang!).

They were considered suspects after April 4 when none of the Plaintiffs were picked out in the rigged photo lineup by false accuser Crystal Mangum (Clang!).

The Plaintiffs were even considered suspects after DNA Securities' Dr. Meehan told Nifong and Durham Police investigators Gottlieb and Himan his testing produced positive matches for one of Mangum's "drivers" and four unidentified males, but NO positive matches for the Plaintiffs or any of their teammates. (Clang!)

With the hypothetical Amended Motion we're considering here, Maxwell will be reminding everyone that his clients, the Defendants, treated the Plaintiffs as suspects throughout the events we've just read.

And he'll be telling everyone, particularly judge Beaty whose duty it will be to read and rule on the Amended Motion, that Maxwell's clients didn't stop treating the Plaintiffs as suspects until the day Nifong and the Durham Police investigators secured David Evans indictment.

That was a shocking injustice judge Beaty has no doubt known about since April 2007 when NC attorney general Roy Cooper declared Evans and the two other Duke lacrosse players innocent.

An Amended Motion such as the hypothetical one we've considered will remind Beaty of the Duke lacrosse investigative travesties and injustices. So too will whatever response the Plaintiff's attorney, Bob Ekstrand, makes to Maxwell's March 21 reference

I hope you agree Maxwell dropped a clanger.

Jackson’s helping Obama

Rev. Jesse Jackson didn’t mean to, but he’s helping Sen. Barack Obama.

Here’s some of what the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass said today about Jackson’s latest, with my comments below the star line.

Kass begins - - -

So what part of Barack Obama will Rev. Al Sharpton want to chop off now? …

Sharpton's got to find something, now that his fellow racial crisis broker, Rev. Jesse Jackson, said something not even Don Imus would dare utter.Speaking into a microphone on Fox News, Jackson whispered he was tired of Obama talking down to black people. And he said he wanted to cut off Obama's special purpose. Both of them. …

The national media was stunned, as if they'd just found out Obama is a Chicago politician rather than a mythic hero of Kennedyesque proportions, who drew the great sword Axelrod from the cornerstone of Chicago's City Hall.

So stunned, they missed the truly freaky part, Jackson twisting his right wrist, as if he held a curved blade, giving a little pull, grunting for emphasis, like a butcher of the old school, if you will. (emphasis added)Blessed are the peacemakers.

Here in Chicago we're not shocked. Chicago was once the hog butcher for the world, so our politics is stuffed with meat metaphors and references to animal reproductive parts.

Our Machine Democrats who back Obama are constantly preoccupied with nuts of all kinds.

When our first king, Richard I, was elected, the hacks went around saying that "Daley is the dog with the big nuts," though they wouldn't dare say so in the presence of mob boss Paul Ricca.

And when Daley's son, Richard Shortshanks, began the restoration, his anatomy was also favorably described by trembling politicians who still act like puppies in his presence.

Our own Machine-backed governor, Rod "The Unreformer" Blagojevich, once made news by bragging he had "testicular virility" to make tough decisions, although now everyone's patiently waiting for him to get indicted without making a mess.

Rather than listen to Washington talking heads explain our town's politics, I called a friend, a prominent African-American activist of the far left persuasion. He considers me his token conservative buddy.

"All I want to know," he said, "is how much David Axelrod paid Jesse to say that @#$%! [rhymes with "it"].

He was speaking rhetorically, knowing that Obama/Daley strategist Axelrod wouldn't pay Jackson for such nonsense when he could get it for free.

Jackson's rhetorical castration—and the grunting—helps Obama with white voters. Even those Hillary Clinton voters who, in Obama's mind, cling to their guns and religion can see it.

"Jesse's got an ego. He can't stand it. He couldn't stand it when Harold ran things. He can't stand it now, watching Barack climb up the Daleys into the White House," said my friend.

He was talking about Chicago's first black mayor, the late Harold Washington. I covered Washington's opening announcement of his historic campaign.

The platform at the Hyde Park Hilton was ringed with large, tough, black police officers in plain clothes, their arms locked, letting no one up there with Washington.

The reason?Washington didn't want Jackson up there. He knew the Rev. would try to grab the limelight.

Once Washington was elected, Jackson was politically invited to leave Chicago for Washington, where he ultimately ran for the presidency.

That's what Chicago does with politicians who could threaten the mayor. We get them to run for the White House. …

Kass entire column’s here.


I enjoyed Kass’ humorous, insightful political punditry filled with local color.

I also admire his willingness to describe public and community leaders in his hometown just as they are. We need someone like Kass writing here for either the Durham Herald Sun or the Raleigh News and Observer.

Obama can only benefit politically from Jackson’s remarks and the Rev can only lose in the long run.

The best part for Obama is he doesn’t have to do anything to benefit from Jackson’s latest.

There must be millions of voters who a few days ago were expressing strong reservations about Obama who tonight are saying : “Well, if that’s how Jackson feels about Obama, maybe he’s better than I thought.”

What do you think?

Traveling now. Posting resumes

at 7:30 PM ET tonight with posts on Jesse Jackson's latest, McClatchy's continuing problems, the Addison clanger and a response to the N&O's public editor's recent comments.

I'll also post in response to some of your comments.

I hope you're back.


The Chronicle’s Ekstrand story: my comment

With the headline - “Students turn to Ekstrand, Law alum, for defense and counsel” - a story today in Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, begins - - -

When students find themselves in legal peril with the Durham Police Department and at odds with the University, they often turn to a local attorney who has gained a reputation as a student defender.

Bob Ekstrand, Law '98, founded Durham law firm Ekstrand & Ekstrand with his wife Samantha, Law '01, and offers services ranging from merely giving advice to students to filing a lawsuit on their behalf. He has worked with students on a number of high-profile cases over the last few years, including cases involving conflict between DPD and students. . . .

The rest of the story’s here.

I’ve left the following comment on the story’s thread - - -

I’d like to commend reporters Will Robertson and Emmeline Zhao and their editors for an informative, well-written report.

For students and parents the most informative part of the story may be attorney Ekstrand’s explanation of why it is often better to contest charges than accept a plea bargain.

Also of great value to students and parents is something made obvious by the report’s concise and accurate summary of the events surrounding the DPD raid at the W. Trinity Ave. and charges against Duke students which were later dismissed: When something comes up involving you and the police, seek first-rate legal counsel fast.

I was impressed by Robertson’s and Zhao’s legwork. They weren’t content to just interview Ekstrand but interviewed defense attorney Bill Thomas and sought interviews with president Brodhead and vice president for public affairs and government relations, Michael Schoenfeld, and former vice president for public affairs and government relations, John Burness.

I’m sorry, but not surprised, president Brodhead declined to be interviewed. Any news story which touches on fair treatment of Duke students by Durham police and proper legal representation for students reminds people of Brodhead’s disgraceful, self-serving abandonment of the Duke lacrosse players.

I’m sure if The Chronicle had asked Brodhead for an interview dealing with his vision of Duke in 2050, the president would have been happy to share it with reporters Robinson and Zhao and explain how we can all move on to helping him fulfill that vision.

Once more: well done, reporters and editors.

John in Carolina

Folks, I’ll be interested to hear your reactions to the story

The Churchill Series - July 9, 2008

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

A few years ago I began a post saying, "I mean to tempt you today."

Well, I mean to tempt you again today and with the same "bait."

Read on and see if your tempted:

Here's part of historian and museum curator Joseph B. Smith’s review of Churchill’s American Civil War history in The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. IV, Book XI, “The Great Republic.”

Throughout his book Churchill often surprised me. For instance, he did not say what almost all the history books do today - that West Virginia seceded from Virginia because of slavery - which is completely wrong.

He gave the true reason. The people in that region "had long chafed under the oppression of the state Government at Richmond which ignored its interests and exploited it for the benefit of the Tidewater section. It now seized the opportunity to secede from Secession."

How did Churchill learn that, when practically no one in the United States is aware of the true facts? It is also interesting to note that a large number of West Virginians then fought for the South, the most notable being Stonewall Jackson. […]

When Churchill came here, what battlefields did he want to see? What else but the battlefields of Virginia? I don't mean to say that he neglected the rest of the war because he definitely did not. However, in his book he certainly emphasized the war in the East.

And we have the evidence of his daughter Mary who, in a question/answer session at the 1990 ICS [International Churchill Society] Conference in San Francisco, identified President Lincoln and General Lee as two of the five most influential persons in her father's life - both of them spent the war years in the East.

Finally, on his visit in 1929, Churchill went over the Virginia battlefields with Douglas Southall Freeman, who was then working on his famous four-volume biography entitled R. E. Lee (sic).

Stonewall Jackson is obviously also a favorite of Churchill's. There is no doubt in my mind at all that Sir Winston had studied Colonel G.E R. Henderson's outstanding book, Stonewall Jackson, which is truly a masterpiece.

I don't know whether Churchill knew, but General Lee said later that if Jackson had been at Gettysburg he would have won that battle. I would assume that he did not know that fact. Yet Sir Winston ended his discussion of Gettysburg with the words, "Above all he had not Jackson at his side."

I personally agree with Colonel Henderson that Jackson was a genius in the art of war and feel sure that Churchill would agree.
I hope you now want to read Mitchell’s entire review, and that doing so will tempt to you delve into Churchill’s Civil War writings.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rasmussen Congressional Performance Poll Data

Some Democrats are questioning the most recent Rasmussen Congressional Performance poll findings which included only a 9% favorable rating for Congress.

Here’s a link to Rasmussen’s news release which contains a good bit of data.

I’m betting Rasmussen’s poll withstands scrutiny.

I have a lot of respect for Rasmussen.

Hat tips; Archer 05 and AC

Jackson's Obama attack not his first; also remember Jackson's "hymie" slurs?

This isn't the first time Rev. Jesse Jackson's gone after Sen. Barack Obama. What follows is a Sept. 21, 2007 post, Jesse Jackson, Obama & "Hymies."


Wednesday a South Carolina newspaper reported:

Jackson sharply criticized presidential hopeful and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for “acting like he’s white” in what Jackson said has been a tepid response to six black juveniles’ arrest on attempted-murder charges in Jena, La. Jackson, who also lives in Illinois, endorsed Obama in March, according to The Associated Press.
The entire story’s here.

Today we read that Jackson new denies saying Obama was “acting like he’s white,” but the newspaper that carried the original report is standing by its report. You can read that story here.

The above reminded me of 1984 and Jackson’s reference to Jews as “hymies” and his reference to New York as “Hymietown.”

When called out for making the anit-Semitic slurs Jackson at first vigourously denied doing that. Then when he learned there was a tape of his remarks, he decidiced to “have prayer” with his "Jewish bretheren."

Here’s the Washington Posts summerary of what happened:
Jesse Jackson's 'Hymietown' Remark – 1984

Rev. Jesse Jackson referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York City as "Hymietown" in January 1984 during a conversation with a black Washington Post reporter, Milton Coleman.

Jackson had assumed the references would not be printed because of his racial bond with Coleman, but several weeks later Coleman permitted the slurs to be included far down in an article by another Post reporter on Jackson's rocky relations with American Jews.

A storm of protest erupted, and Jackson at first denied the remarks, then accused Jews of conspiring to defeat him. The Nation of Islam's radical leader Louis Farrakhan, an aggressive anti-Semite and old Jackson ally, made a difficult situation worse by threatening Coleman in a radio broadcast and issuing a public warning to Jews, made in Jackson's presence: "If you harm this brother [Jackson], it will be the last one you harm."

Finally, Jackson doused the fires in late February with an emotional speech admitting guilt and seeking atonement before national Jewish leaders in a Manchester, New Hampshire synagogue.

Yet Jackson refused to denounce Farrakhan, and lingering, deeply rooted suspicions have led to an enduring split between Jackson and many Jews. The frenzy also heightened tensions between Jackson and the mostly white establishment press.
I've got travel connections now, but I'll say more about this post tomorrow.

Some Obama supporters hope he's lying

I’ve posted before on the phenomenon were witnessing of Obama supporters who for years have said they oppose President Bush because “he lies,” now saying they can support Senator Obama because they’re sure he’s lying on critical issues.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about provided by litigation attorney Armando Llorens who blogs as Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left.

His post is titled: My View: I Do Not Believe Obama On The FISA Capitulation Bill. It follows in full, with my comments below the star line.

Yesterday, Barack Obama said:

Obama blamed criticism from "my friends on the left" and "some of the media" in part on cynicism that ascribes political motives for every move candidates make. "You're not going to agree with me on 100 percent of what I think, but don't assume that if I don't agree with you on something that it must be because I'm doing that politically," he said. "I may just disagree with you."
I do not believe Barack Obama. I will go further. I do not want to believe him. Because the alternative is worse. Because if Obama believes the BS he said about the FISA Capitulation bill, then he is not fit to be President. More . . .

If Barack Obama really believes this about the FISA Capitulation bill, then he is as dangerous as George W. Bush:

[G]iven the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives -- and the liberty -- of the American people."
(Emphasis supplied.) Excuse me, but the Constitution does not work that way. Firm pledges from the President do not compensate for evisceration of the Constitutional right to privacy. As John Adams said:
There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
(Emphasis supplied.) Obama's "firm pledge," (given he pledged to filibuster any bill that contained telecom immunity, the irony of his new pledge is nauseating), IF HE WINS is worth nothing. His position here is nothing short of disgusting.

But politics is disgusting. And pols do what they do. I remind Barack Obama of the words of Louis Brandeis:

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
They tell me Obama is a Constitutional scholar. I assume he is familiar with Brandeis' words. So no, I do not believe he believes this FISA Capitulation bill is good or even acceptable. I believe he is acting out of political calculation (and bad political calculation at that.) Indeed, if that is not the case, then his position is unacceptable and he is not fit to be President.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only



If you find what you’ve just read hard to believe, go here to Talk Left and check it for yourselves.

Part of the problem many liberals and leftists are having with Obama’s FISA shift has to do with the position many of them took relative to President Bush and FISA. According to these liberals and leftists what President Bush did constituted impeachable actions. Now here’s Obama saying he’ll vote for FISA and will administer it as President.

But as Big Tent Democrat makes very clear in his post title and post, he and others view FISA as a capitulation allowing presidential action they hold is impeachable.

So how are they going to vote for Obama under those circumstances?

That’s when they resort to telling each other: “It’s OK. Our guy's lying.”

They have to do that because “if that is not the case, then [Obama’s] position is unacceptable and he is not fit to be President.”

Can Obama disown the Democratic-controlled Congress?

In 2006 Democratic news organizations and pundits were cluck-clucking over the Dems winning control of Congress and Sen. Harry (“The war is lost”) Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi promising they’d give us a Congress we could believe in.

But that didn’t happen as journalist and blogger Don Surber explains:

Remember [last year] when only 14% approved of the job Congress is doing? A year later, only 9% do.

Rasmussen reported that under the leadership of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, most people hate Congress.

It is not even close.

The congressional job approval is 9%.

Disapproval, 52%.

Among independents, only 3% approve of Congress. That’s within the margin of error, which means there is a chance no independent approves.
The rest of Surber’s post’s here.

In light of the Rasmussen poll findings, will Sen. Barack Obama now say:
“I could no more disown this session of Congress than I can the black community?"
Or will we hear the Senator say something like:
"I'm deeply saddened. That's not the Democratic Congress I knew."
Probably not.

But why isn’t MSM reporting more about the Rasmussen findings?

I’ll bet most of you know why.

Questioning a NY Times McCain story (Updated)

Readers Alert: After this post was published a commenter called my attention to a link to the ad referenced in the post.

If you go to the NYT story I linked to you'll see as the commenter said:

"there is a little box under the first paragraph of the story that says:

Video The Caucus: New G.O.P. Ad for McCain on Energy (July 6, 2008)

This appears to be the same ad referenced in the story."
I thank the commenter for pointing out something important I missed and helping make it available to all of us.

After viewing the ad, I stand by everything I say in the post. The ad confirms the concerns I had about what the Times was saying.

But you can read my post, view the ad and decide for yourselves.


On July 7 the Anything for Obama NY Times carried a story headlined: “New Group Linked to G.O.P. Unveils Ad Attacking Obama.”

Let’s take a closer look at the story which begins:
A newly formed Republican group broadcast its first commercial Sunday in four battleground states as part of a $3 million advertising campaign aimed at Senator Barack Obama.

The advertisement opens with images of gasoline prices flying upward at the pump as a narrator says, “Record gas prices, a climate in crisis.” It then highlights Senator John McCain’s differences with his own party on energy policy.

The commercial closes by summing up Mr. Obama’s positions on energy as “just the party line,” a reference to his opposition to suspending gas taxes or drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as he and other Democrats contend that a McCain presidency would represent a third Bush term.
It’s hard to judge the truth of what the NYT’s is saying because it didn’t provide a link to the ad video or even a print transcript.

Why not? How else can readers judge the ad for themselves and the NYT's story in light of the ad?

When the Times says the ad, “highlights … differences with his own party,” what does that mean?

Most, but not all, congressional Republicans favor offshore drilling in some form. So does Sen. McCain.

Sen. Obama opposes offshore drilling (at least he does as of noon today). So do most Dems. But not all Dems do.

Many Dems say they favor wind energy programs, But Sen. Ted Kennedy opposes such programs or at least the ones proposed near his oceanfront home in Hyannisport and oceanfront property other Kennedy family members own along the coast of Long Island's Hamptons.

So what’s a party position on energy policy?

And how did the Times determine the ad started with McCain's differences with his “party on energy policy.”

Did McCain's ad say something like, "I differ with the Republican Party on energy policy?"

That doesn't seem to be the way McCain would begin an attack ad on Obama.

We all need to see that ad. Or at least those of us who think for ourselves do.

The entire Times story's here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Churchill Series - July 8, ,2008

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

On March 7, 1936 Nazi Germany, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, remilitarized the Rhineland. Churchill urged Britain and France to order the Nazi's to withdraw or face military consequences. But the two nations did nothing with one British leader remarking, "The Germans are after all only going into their own back garden"

A little more than three months later, on June 20, 1936, Churchill, then 62 and viewed by many as a failed leader whose parliamentary career could end with a defeat at the next general election, made a passionate and deeply personal speech to his constituents. Here’s its conclusion:

I have done my best during the last three years and more to give timely warning of what was happening abroad, and of the dangerous plight into which we were being led or lulled.

It has not been a pleasant task. It has certainly been a very thankless task. I has brought me into conflict with may former friends and colleagues. I have been mocked and censured as a scaremonger and even as a warmonger, by those whose complacency and inertia have brought us all nearer to war and war nearer to us all.

But I have the comfort of knowing that I have spoken the truth and done my duty, and as long as I have your unflinching support I am content with that.

Indeed I am more proud of the long series of speeches which I have made on defense and foreign policy in the last four years than of anything I have ever been able to do, in all my forty years of public life.
Martin S. Gilbert, Churchill: A Life. (p. 559)

McCain, NY Times agree Obama’s broken pledges

This today at the very end of an AP story trying to downplay the extent of its presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s changing positions on critical issues:

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds argued Obama "put politics ahead of principle" on numerous issues and "has proven his rhetoric to be nothing but empty words and broken pledges that are at odds with his left wing partisan record. Barack Obama is wrong: everyone's been listening and still nobody knows what Barack Obama truly believes."
And this from a NY Times editorial July 4:
Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things.

He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics.

Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt.
There’s more like that before the Times pouts:
… Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games.
Yes, he was “the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics.” But that was then; and now is now.

But the Times shouldn't be too hard on Obama: he did signal he was a “change” candidate.

Something else: he promised to “unite America.”

He hasn’t done that yet, but he's made a start by bringing McCain and the NY Times together.

Here's the AP story, "Obama denies shifting to reach political center;" and here's the NYT editorial, "New and Not Improved."

This made us both laugh

My wife's away and I sometimes shut off the phones when I'm working at home.

A few hours ago I got an email from her. It included this:

I called you this AM...but put in a wrong digit, and some sweet young lady answered...really startled me.
We talked about it a while ago and both laughed.

More about the Addison Motion clanger

Yesterday I posted A clanger in the Addison Motion to Dismiss. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read it.

The post includes a statement attorney James Maxwell made in his dismissal motion filed on behalf of Durham Police Sgt. David Addison and three other DPD employees (2 sworn, 1 civilian). Regarding the Plaintiffs, three unindicted members of the 2006 Duke Men’s lacrosse team, Maxwell said:

“In this instance, none of these Defendants (sic) were even subjected to arrest or indictment and after March 21 (one week after the alleged events had occurred), none of these Plaintiffs were even considered a part of he (sic) ongoing investigation.”(emphasis added)
I want to share here parts of three of the comments I’ve received in response to Maxwell’s clanger. Respondents are in italics; I’m in plain.

An offline commenter said - - -

All the lacrosse players were very much part of the investigation for many months.

In addition to the NTO, Nifong threatened to go after all the players at the party for aiding and abetting with potential punishment of up to 30 years in prison.

In April, 2006 the DPD entered campus, without warrants, and attempted to interrogate players and search their rooms even though DPD knew the players were represented by counsel.

In June, 2006 Nifong subpoenaed Duke for players' key card information even though Duke had provided this information to DPD two months earlier in violation of FERPA.

Even after Dave Evans was indicted in May, 2006 and Nifong said he expected no further indictments, his statement left the door open. More importantly the parents and players did not believe him since he had lied so many times already.

You’re right on every point. I’m guessing the Plaintiff’s attorney, Bob Ekstrand, will point out all that and more in his response to the motion. And what can Judge Beaty but wonder as we do why Maxwell dropped such a significant clanger.

Now from the post thread - - -

That filing is so dishonest that one wonders if the attorney is in need of being disciplined or even disbarred. First, Addison made his statements AFTER March 21, and the NTO came after that as well, something you pointed out.

The very point of the NTO was that ALL of the white lacrosse players were official suspects, something that is true on its face. One cannot get a court order to take DNA from someone WHO IS NOT A SUSPECT.

When the defense makes statements such as we have seen, and those are filed as official documents, then we have an attorney who knowingly is filing false information. However, why should we be surprised if the attorneys for the defense are lying? After all, they are representing defendants who lied from the first day and still are lying.

As regards the statement at issue here, I don’t know if Maxwell was being dishonest or just unintentionally disclosed his belief the Plaintiffs weren’t really suspects on or about March 21 and thereafter, but were instead simply pawns in a developing and extensive frame-up attempt?

Wouldn’t you and the rest of us like to know what Maxwell has or will say to the other defense attorneys about his clanger?

You comment really hammers home critical points which Maxwell ignored but Ekstrand surely won't.

Another commenter said this - - -

It does make one wonder about the quality of the attorneys hired by Addison and others in this case. One would think that Addison and his compatriots would:

1.) hope that their attorneys would know the difference between defendants and plaintiffs;

2.) have attorneys who would hire someone to proofread what they submitted for spelling errors or at the very least employ spell check since they (unlike me who quite often dashes something off and forgets to proofread for spelling and grammatical errors) are charging their clients big bucks for what one would hope would be top quality professional services:

3. ) once again have attorneys who would have taken a logic course so as to see the fallacies in the arguments that they presented in their responses.

However, given that this is Durham in wonderland, I suppose that they figure that the judge is in their pocket and so any response, no matter how illogical, how poorly spelled, or even incorrectly worded will still fly.

This wouldn’t be the first time Durham City has spent public money and not gotten much, if anything, in return.

If it turns out the attorneys Durham’s hired to protect itself from accountability for the frame-up attempt and the ongoing cover-up are not very helpful, wouldn't that be poetic justice?

I thank all three of you for your comments, as I do others who’ve commented.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Churchill Series - July 7, 2008

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

Before he battled Nazis and other Fascists, Churchill had to battle appeasers in his own country. It was, for much of the 30s, a lonely fight against some of the most prominent and powerful people in England.

One of those people was Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times of London and arguably England’s most influential journalist in the years leading up to the war.

About Dawson, William Manchester offers this revealing anecdote:

A young [Oxford] Fellow asked him why the [Foreign Office], with The Times’ approval, devoted so much space to Mussolini and other Fascists when “It isn’t they who are the danger. It is the Germans who are so powerful as to threaten all the rest of us together.”

Dawson revealed the depth of the void left when honor had been abandoned: “To take your argument at its own valuation – mind you, I’m not saying I agree with it – but if the Germans are so powerful as you say, oughtn’t we to go in with them?”
Churchill sometimes spoke of people who “fell beneath the level of events.” Dawson holds a front rank place among such people.
William Manchester, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill; Alone:1932-1940. (p.252)

N&O’s McClatchy stock: then and now

Readers” Alert: I’ve checked and rechecked the following McClatchy Company stock data drawn from

However, if any data reported here don't agree with what's at, the fault is mine.

Data are presented for their associative interest. No suggestion of a causal relationship is made in this post.


Using's Historical Quotes tool produced the following stock price and volume data for the McClatchy Company (symbol MNI), parent company of the Raleigh News & Observer:

On 3/24/06 – the day the N & O “broke” the Duke lacrosse story which turned out to be a hoax followed by a frame-up attempt and a still very active cover-up of the frame attempt – MNI closed at 48.10 on volume of 412,500.

On 3/29/06 – the day the N&O first reported then Durham DA Mike Nifong’s public slanders of the Duke lacrosse team along with its own trashing “priors story” on its front page - MNI closed at 49.32 on volume of 425,900.

On 4/12/07 – the day following NC attorney general Roy Cooper’s announcement the three young men indicted in the frame-up attempt led by Nifong and enabled by many at Duke and in “rights groups” and “progressive political organizations” were innocent - MNI closed at 31.57 on volume of 616,700.

Today, 7/7/08, MNI closed at 5.47 on volume of 1,167,544.

A clanger in the Addison Motion to Dismiss

In response to a suit brought by attorney Bob Ekstrand on behalf of three unindicted Duke lacrosse players, attorney James Maxwell last week filed a Motion to Dismiss on behalf of four members of the Durham Police Department: Sgt. David Addison, two other officers and an unsworn employee.

As you read Maxwell’s motion you come on page 22, line 8 to the following:

The Court there held that such allegations do not “allege a
deprivation of any right guaranteed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” where the Plaintiff had not been subjected to trial. In this instance, none of these Defendants were even subjected to arrest or indictment and after March 21 (one week after the alleged events had occurred), none of these Plaintiffs were even considered a part of he (sic) ongoing investigation.(emphasis in original)
In Maxwell’s sentence beginning “In this instance, …” he surely didn’t mean to say “these Defendants.” They’re Plaintiffs. Maxwell gets that right in the sentence's final clause.

I don’t see his mistake as a big deal.

But Maxwell really drops a clanger when he says:
”after March 21 (one week after the alleged events had occurred), none of these Plaintiffs were even considered a part of he (sic) ongoing investigation.”(emphasis mine)
If none of the Plaintiffs were considered a part of the “ongoing investigation” after March 21, why did DPD’s principal Duke lacrosse case investigators on March 23 request the Plaintiffs be court ordered to submit to police DNA testing and photographing?

Weren't the Plaintiffs termed "suspects" in the papers requesting the NTO?

Why did Durham’s then Assistant DA David Saacks (now DA) agree on March 23 to ask the court to issue the NTO?

And why did Judge Stephens sign the NTO papers that day?

A sharp attorney like Bob Ekstrand is going to pounce on Maxwell’s statement. I'll be very interested to read Ekstrand's response.

What do you think Judge Beaty will think when he reads Maxwell’s clanger?

Finally, I wonder whether Maxwell’s mistake was an unintentional disclosure of what he thinks may be true: on or about March 21 and thereafter, the Plaintiffs were not really suspects in an “ongoing investigation;” they were pawns in a developing frame-up attempt.

KC Johnson posted on the Addison and other Motions to Dismiss.

I’ve had my say. It’s your turn.

Hat tip: Walter Abbott

N&O responds to “Double standard: Obama’s and the Guv’s wives’ promotions, pay raise”

On July 3rd I posted Double standard: Obama’s and the Guv’s wives’ promotions, pay raise.

The short of it: The Raleigh N & O gave front page coverage to a substantial pay raise and promotion N. C. State University granted Mrs. Mary Easley, wife of Gov. Mike Easily. In the case of Mrs. Michelle Obama, the N&O’s reported extensively on her but, as far as I know, hasn’t mentioned the much more substantial pay raise and promotion she received from the Chicago University Medical Center (CUMC) about the time her husband was elected Senator. Both stories are worth reporting. I criticized the N&O for a double standard.

I sent N&O public editor Ted Vaden an email and link to the post and invited him to respond.

I’ve received the following reply from Vaden:

Let's see: You're accusing the N&O of coddling the Democratic presidential candidate's wife but trashing the Democratic governor's wife?

The Michelle Obama reference was a single sentence, deep inside the Washington Post story about her husband's home loan. The N&O ran an edited version of the story Wednesday, and it properly focused on questions about Barack Obama's loan deal. The Mary Easley story focused on the first lady herself and included plenty of comment about the propriety of her raise. It came in the context of previous stories about her high-dollar travels.
Where to begin?

First, I encourage all of you to take another look at my post and email to Vaden.

You’ll see I never accused “the N&O of coddling the Democratic presidential candidate's wife but trashing the Democratic governor's wife.”

I began the email:
Regarding today’s lengthy, front page story concerning Mrs. Mary Easley’s hefty pay raise awarded by N. C. State University, I’ve no problem. Easley’s pay raise, which the university says is justified based on new duties, involves public money. And Mary Easley's the governor’s wife.

It’s important for citizens to know about the situation; and it’s appropriate for the N&O to ask questions and report prominently what it learns.
That’s certainly not accusing the N&O of “trashing the Democratic governor's wife.” Just the opposite: I explicitly told Vaden “it’s appropriate for the N&O to ask questions and report prominently what it learns.”

How can he so misrepresent what I said?

I plan to email Vaden tomorrow and ask him that.

I’ll also note something else I said in the email:
But I’m concerned there’s a double standard evident in the N&O’s treatment of Mary Easley’s situation and a strikingly similar one involving Mrs. Michelle Obama which, as far as I know, the N&O has not reported in any detail. (emphasis added)
That was the main point of my post and email.

I continue to object to the N&O’s double standard evident in its reporting on Mary Easley while remaining silent about Michelle Obama’s comparable situation.

In a follow-up to the July 3rd post I discussed issues relating to the two women’s pay raises and promotions. I encourage you to read that follow-up post - More on N&O coverage of Obama, Easley spouses (July 5th ) - if you’ve not done so already.

Some of you have provided information regarding Michelle Obama’s promotion and pay raise in 2005 as well as some of her work for CUMC. That information (see posts’ threads) strengthens the case for news organizations reporting more fully on Michelle Obama’s career at CUMC. I thank those of you who provided it.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: both women are entitled to their careers and, absent evidence to the contrary, the presumption they and the institutions employing them did nothing wrong. Political influence is a fact of life which, in some job situations, can benefit both the employing institution and a broader public.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A WaPo editorial: journalism at its best

This post concerns a Washington Post editorial (“Supreme Slip-Up,” July 5, 2008) regarding a recent Supreme Court ruling that is factually flawed.

The WaPo editorial documents the error. It explains how it occurred. Then it argues persuasively why it’s in the court’s and the country’s interests that the justices act to correct the error. Here’s the editorial, after which I offer a few comments:

When a newspaper gets its facts wrong, it's supposed to publish a correction, and, if someone's reputation has been harmed, a retraction and apology. It can be embarrassing, but the occasional taste of crow probably does more good than harm to the media's credibility.

But what if the Supreme Court not only blows a key fact but also bases its ruling, in part, on that error?

There was quite a goof in the court's 5 to 4 decision on June 25 banning the death penalty for those who rape children. The majority determined that capital punishment for child rape was unconstitutional, in part because a national consensus had formed against it.

As evidence, the court noted that "37 jurisdictions -- 36 States plus the Federal Government -- have the death penalty. [But] only six of those jurisdictions authorize the death penalty for rape of a child."

Actually, only two years ago, Congress enacted a death penalty for soldiers who commit child rape, as part of an update to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Irony of ironies: The court has cast doubt on the constitutionality of an act of Congress based on the erroneous claim that the statute did not exist.

This is not the court majority's fault alone. In his dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. did not spot the error. Neither party in the case -- the state of Louisiana and convicted rapist Patrick Kennedy -- raised it. Nor was it mentioned in 10 friend-of-the-court briefs on both sides.

The Justice Department, which normally weighs in on cases affecting federal statutes, has admitted that it should have noted the 2006 law. (Blame the media, too; only after a legal blogger, Col. Dwight H. Sullivan, had pointed out the mistake did a newspaper, the New York Times, take note.)

The UCMJ change was quietly tucked into a huge defense authorization bill. Still, it passed both houses and President Bush signed it, so it enjoyed the same presumptions of validity and constitutionality as any other law.

The Supreme Court's legitimacy depends not only on the substance of its rulings but also on the quality of its deliberations. That's why we think the court needs to reopen this case -- even though we supported its decision.

The losing party, Louisiana, still has time to seek a rehearing, which the court could grant with the approval of five justices, including at least one from the majority. The court could limit reargument to briefs on the significance of the UCMJ provision.

We doubt the case will come out much differently; we certainly hope not. But this is an opportunity for the court to show a little judicial humility. Before the court declares its final view on national opinion about the death penalty, it should accurately assess the view of the national legislature.



Almost all of you who visit here will recognize WaPo’s editorial as journalism at its best.

I’ll just say two things:

1) The WaPo editors provide a fair and balanced assessment of who bears responsibility for the error. They avoid the partisan bashing we’ve seen from news organizations who’ve blamed only the Justice Department. In truth, as WaPo makes clear, all parties to the case and the justices bore a responsibility to know about the UCMJ provision.

2) I was very impressed – really moved – when the editors said:

The Supreme Court's legitimacy depends not only on the substance of its rulings but also on the quality of its deliberations. That's why we think the court needs to reopen this case -- even though we supported its decision.
When the editors said that they were putting the integrity of the judicial process ahead of any immediate gain they might wish for.

That’s just how the Founders wanted us all to act. In this instance they would surely have been pleased to see editors using so well their First Amendment rights to inform the citizenry and tell the highest court in the land that it should correct an error.

When I finished "Supreme Slip-Up," I wanted to cheer.

This made me smile

In July 1944 President Roosevelt made a trip to Hawaii to discuss Pacific strategy with General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz.

As historian William Manchester tells it in American Caesar, Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964, after greetings aboard the ship that brought FDR to Hawaii:

...they all went ashore, agreeing to meet the next morning for a six-hour tour of Oahu's defenses. FDR said he wanted a convertible and he wanted it to be bright red.

Nimitz found there were only two such cars on the island, one of them belonging to the fire chief and the other to the madam who owned Honolulu's biggest house of prostitution.

The madam begged the officers to use hers, but it would have been quickly identified by the spectators, so they chose the other.
Manchester doesn't say whether Nimitz told FDR and MacArthur about the other red convertible.

Dems' convention flubs; attacks on McCain's military service; and more

It's all in another excellent letter from the best non-blogging blogger I know, Mike Williams.

Mike begins - - -

The Dems are having a tough time getting their upcoming convention in Denver out of the ditch. Ed Morrissey can barely contain himself:

…who could have hoped for a better demonstration of Democratic mismanagement? First, the host committee overspends while at the same time struggled to raise money for the convention. For a party that rails about deficit spending, they certainly don’t have a problem running up bills they cannot pay. Next, they let the nanny-state extremists in the party dictate the available food, rather than let the delegates and the guests make their own decisions on their diet, driving off private enterprise. They failed to reckon with the states when dictating environmental requirements, which sounds quite familiar indeed for those opposed to federalist principles. Most notoriously, they issued eco-friendly specs for fanny packs that demanded a product that didn’t exist.

Best of all, they put the demonstrators next to the media….

The Dems are also back after John McCain’s military service:

Bill Clinton is speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and he said just now, apropos of almost nothing (actually, during a long peroration on Nelson Mandela): “Every living soul on this planet has some highly-justified anger. Everyone. If you know anybody who was a P.O.W. for any time, they can be going on for years and all of a sudden something will happen that will trigger all those bad memories.”

Not too subtle.

Nope. Last week it was General Clark, and

In May, it was Bill Gillespie, another Obama backer in Georgia and a candidate for the House. In the same month, Senator Tom Harkin questioned McCain’s mental state for having willingly served in the military. In April, Jay Rockefeller accused McCain of being more or less a coward for being a military pilot, and again in May the New York Times quoted unnamed Senate colleagues of McCain suggesting that he didn’t understand the Vietnam War because he didn’t fight on the ground and spent most of it lounging around Hanoi in a POW camp.

Just don’t question their patriotism.

In Iraq:

American and Iraqi forces are driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror….

That’s from Marie Colvin, reporting in Mosul for the UK Times Online. She has a really excellent piece here that would never see the light of day in a US rag. Strategy Page’s take is a little more sobering:

Although al Qaeda has officially abandoned Iraq, not everyone got the memo, or bothered to pay attention to it. Over the last two months, Iraqi and American forces have gone after the remaining 1,200 al Qaeda members, who have fled to the northern city of Mosul. Over half of the al Qaeda members have been killed or captured.

The problem is that a lot of the money, and foreign volunteers, coming into Iraq was for the purpose of "defeating the Iranians". Many Sunni Arabs in the Persian Gulf region see Iran as their most dangerous foe, and believe letting the Shia majority in Iraq run the government as nothing but a front for actual Iranian control of Iraq. The result is that nearly all the remaining terrorists are Iraqi Sunni Arabs, and are determined to fight to the death (theirs, and as many others as they can take with them). They have the will, and they have the money (and plenty of venal Iraqis willing to supply them with what they want, for a fee.) Most of their fellow Sunni Arabs have turned on the terrorists, so a lot of the terrorist activity is against Sunni Arab leaders. The Sunni Arab leadership knew this would happen when nearly all of them openly agreed to renounce terrorism last year.

There's a further complication in that some of the criminal gangs, who have long done big business providing services for the terrorists, are not willing to give up this business....

A very good read if you have some time. Let’s end it for today with this WSJ Online editorial. It starts off:

Here's a thought experiment: Assume that Iraq's democratic government declared it was nationalizing its oil industry, a la Venezuela or Saudi Arabia, while excluding American companies from the country. How do you think U.S. politicians would react? With angry cries of "ingratitude" and "this is what Americans died for"?

Of course they would, led no doubt by that critic for all reasons, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. So it is passing strange that Mr. Schumer and other Senators are now assailing Iraq precisely because it is opening up to foreign oil companies, especially to U.S. majors like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. For some American pols, everything that happens in Iraq is bad news, especially when it's good news for the U.S.


Worth repeating: Don’t drill! Sue OPEC! Badmouth the second biggest source of oil on the planet! Swiftboat McCain! Are you liking what you’re seeing so far in the politics of change?


The “not improved” NY Times editorial board

chose July Fourth, one of the days the fewest readers would be looking at its editorial page to express its upset with Sen. Barack Obama’s recent repudiation of promises he made while battling Sen. Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination of the party of George Sores’ money. ( “New and Not Improved,” July 4, 2008)

Here’s some of the Times’ opining, with my commentary mixed in.

The Old Grey Lady began:

Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things. He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics.

Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt. …

The new Barack Obama has abandoned his vow to filibuster an electronic wiretapping bill if it includes an immunity clause for telecommunications companies that amounts to a sanctioned cover-up of Mr. Bush’s unlawful eavesdropping after 9/11.

In January, when he was battling for Super Tuesday votes, Mr. Obama said that the 1978 law requiring warrants for wiretapping, and the special court it created, worked. “We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend,” he declared.

Now, he supports the immunity clause as part of what he calls a compromise but actually is a classic, cynical Washington deal that erodes the power of the special court, virtually eliminates “vigorous oversight” and allows more warrantless eavesdropping than ever. …
There’s more like that before the Times closes by saying none of that matters much: the Times is going to support Obama anyway, although it doesn’t say it quite that way.

Here’s the Times’ version of “Don’t worry, Barack. None of that stuff matters:”
We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games.

There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.
The Times wants to have it both ways. Express surprise and upset Obama’s not “the man of passionate convictions who [does] not play old political games,” while letting Obama and everyone else know “vital differences” between him and Sen. McCain over “big questions” assure him of the Times’ continuing support on the editorial and news pages.

The Times throws in “[w]e don’t want any ‘redefining’ on these big questions” to make us think its really standing by what it calls its “principles.”

But who’s fooled by that? It will go with Obama no matter what.

The entire editorial’s here.

A nice Duke lacrosse story

This afternoon I was at Liestoppers Forum reading Joan Foster’s excellent post, The Big Sleep of the Duke Faculty, and it’s thread on which Locomotive Breath provides a link to Duke Professor of Chemistry Steve Baldwin’s Chronicle letter of Apr. 17, 2006.

I decided to use the link to go to The Chronicle and reread Baldwin’s letter which began:

At the risk of arousing the wrath of the righteous, I would like to offer my impressions of Mike Pressler, recent coach of the Duke men's lacrosse team. I have known Coach Pressler and his family for at least ten years. Our children played together when they were younger and our families have done things together socially. Coach Pressler is humble, reserved, thoughtful and honest to a fault. He has great integrity. …
And concluded:
I am troubled by the lack of support for Coach Pressler from the athletic department. He was hung out to dry by an athletic administration that neither understood the issues nor appreciated Mike Pressler the man. Long before we learn the truth about what happened that night, and long before we learn the conclusions and recommendations of the several committees formed by President Brodhead to address the situation, the athletic department convulsed and threw the baby out with the bath water. …

For Athletic Director Joe Alleva to accept the resignation was wrong. Mike Pressler deserves better; so does Duke.
There were only two comments on the thread.

Here in full is the first one dated and timed 4/17/06 @ 8:29 PM EST
You cheerlead for the coach (and, indirectly, the players) yet appear to be oblivious to the longstanding reputation (let alone arrest record) of the Pressler-led lacrosse team.

Let's hope that this can be ascribed to your myopic devotion to your research rather than to your lack of judgment or to the impurity of your motives. In any case, as a judge of right and wrong, and of who 'doesn't understand the issues,' and of what would 'be a credit to Duke University' . . . I'm sure you are a wonderful chemist.
Would you believe that for almost a year that was the only comment on the thread?

April 17, 2006 was the day Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were indicted in what we now know was a frame-up attempt. It was also about the time Duke President Richard Brodhead pronounced before the Durham Chamber of Commerce that “whatever they did was bad enough.”

In those circumstances I wouldn’t have expected much support for Baldwin’s decent, sensible and gutsy letter. But not even one supporting comment for almost a year?

Now about the second comment:

Attributed to Steve Nation, it’s dated and timed 4/11/07 @ 5:16 PM EST. Earlier that day N. C. Attorney General Roy Cooper had dismissed all charges in the case and declared the players innocent.

Here’s the comment in full:
I would say that you have a Chemistry Professor to apologize to regarding his "myopic devotion" and the fact that he obviously does understand the issues. He stood by a man he personally knows and believes to be a person of integrity. Based on the latest findings, he is correct in that assessment.
It’s too bad the first commenter, an Anon, hasn’t offered an apology yet.

Still, Steve Nation’s recalling Professor Baldwin’s letter on that day and providing the comment he did makes for a nice Duke lacrosse story.

Professor Baldwin’s entire letter’s here; The Big Sleep of the Duke faculty post and thread are here.