Friday, February 20, 2009

The Churchill Series - Feb. 20, 2009

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

In June, 1950, Winston Churchill, age 76, was leader of the opposition Conservative Party.

On the 7th of that month a debate began in the Commons that lasted into the early morning hours of the 8th. In all, it lasted twenty-one hours. Churchill was there for all of it.

Harold Macmillan, a future Prime Minister and Churchill's Commons colleague and friend later recorded in his diary:

Conscious that many people feel that he is too old to form a Government and that this will probably be used as a cry against him at the election, he has used these days to give a demonstration of energy and vitality.

He has voted in every division, made a series of brilliant little speeches; shown all his qualities of humour and sarcasm; and crowned all by a remarkable breakfast (at 7.30 a.m.) of eggs, bacon, sausages and coffee, followed by a large whisky and soda and a huge cigar.

This latter feat commanded general admiration.
At the next election, the Conservatives won and Churchill was returned to Downing Street where we can be sure he enjoyed many full English breakfasts, whiskies and cigars.

I hope you all have a good weekend.

Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life. (pgs. 894-895)

Court Upholds Sexual Harassment Verdict Against Duke

Raleigh attorney Brent Adams has posted the following at All emphases in Adams’ post are mine. I offer a few comments below the star line.

Adams begins - - -

The North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld a $500,000 jury verdict against Duke University for ratifying a worker’s sexual harassment of another employee.

According to the evidence at trial the plaintiff began working at a division of Duke University’s medical center in 1991. She claimed that a co-worker embarked on an eight-month campaign of harassing behavior which included inappropriate sexual touching, graphic drawings, and obscene language.

Duke University never imposed any significant discipline on the sexual harasser even after the plaintiff reported the problem to her supervisor and personnel officials. A division head stepped in later and transferred the plaintiff to another department in March of 1992.

The plaintiff offered proof at trial that as a result of the harassment she suffered a variety of ailments including crying spells, vomiting, headaches, nightmares, and insomnia. She was diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

The jury found that Dixon, the harasser, committed a battery upon the plaintiff and that the plaintiff was entitled to recover $100 for that battery. In addition, the jury found that Dixon initially caused the plaintiff severe emotional distress and
that Duke University ratified Dixon’s actions. The jury awarded the plaintiff $100,000 in compensatory damages for her emotional distress claim.

On the plaintiff’s punitive damages claim the jury required the defendant Dixon to pay $5,000 and required Duke University to pay the plaintiff $500,000 in punitive damages.

Both defendants appealed and the issue of the punitive damages claim against Duke University was recently decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Duke University argued that the punitive damages liability against it, as an employer could not exceed the punitive damages awarded against Dixon, the employee.

The Supreme Court disagreed, writing “The objective of compensatory damages is to restore the plaintiff to his original condition or to make the plaintiff whole.” The amount of damages required to restore the plaintiff to his original condition or to make the plaintiff whole is the same, not withstanding ratification by the employer.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are not necessarily intended to restore the plaintiff to his original condition or to make the plaintiff whole. It may take a different amount of money to deter or punish an employer-defendant like Duke than it would to deter an employee-defendant like Dixon.

“An employer who has ratified an employee’s tortious conduct should not be allowed to use it’s employee-limited financial resources as a shield against additional punitive damages.”

The facts in this case occurred in 1992. If those same facts occurred today, the punitive damages against Duke University would have been limited to $300,300.

Under a new law enacted by the General Assembly, punitive damages cannot exceed three times actual or compensatory damages or $250,000 whichever is greater.

In this case, the victim’s compensatory damages were $100,100.


My thanks first to Brent Adams for a clearly written, organized account of the case and explanation of what the court decided and why.

Many of you following the federal suits brought against Duke by victims of the Duke/Durham frame-up attempt and its ongoing cover-up must be shaking your heads and thinking: “Duke Medical Center’s mishandling of this case is in at least one important respect identical to its mishandling in the lacrosse case: In both cases supervisory personnel acted in ways that made an already bad situation much worse.”

I agree.

Today was my first visit to I was impressed. Here’s part of its self-description - - -

InjuryBoard is a growing community of personal injury law firms, attorneys, safety industry experts, and consumer advocates committed to making a difference by helping people avoid injury, and to helping those who are injured get the assistance they need to move on with their lives after an accident.

Along with its own national safety and injury news reporting team, provides visitors with up-to-date regional safety and injury news, along with legal analysis from its nationwide network of more than 500 injury attorneys at 100 different law firms.

You can read the entire description here.

Hat tip: Ed in NY

Iseman Suit Ourcome: NY Times Says It “Did Not Intend”

Yesterday the NY Times reported:

A lobbyist’s lawsuit against The New York Times over the newspaper’s account of her ties to Senator John McCain has been settled, both sides announced on Thursday.

The suit, filed by Vicki L. Iseman, the Washington lobbyist, was settled without payment and The Times did not retract the article. In an unusual agreement, however, The Times is letting Ms. Iseman’s lawyers give their views on the suit on the paper’s Web site.

Their opinion is accompanied by a joint statement from both sides and a note to readers, which is also appearing in Friday's edition of the newspaper.

The suit stemmed from an article published on Feb. 21, 2008, when Mr. McCain had become the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee.

The lengthy article, which started on the front page, said that despite his public posture as an ethics reformer, the senator had at times been blind to his own potential conflicts of interest.

The article dwelled in particular on his friendship with Ms. Iseman, a lobbyist for telecommunications companies that had business before the commerce committee, which Mr. McCain once headed.

The article said that in 1999, during a previous presidential run, some top McCain advisers were “convinced the relationship had become romantic,” warned Ms. Iseman to steer clear of the senator, and confronted Mr. McCain about the matter.

Mr. McCain, who is married, interrupted his campaign the day the article was published to state publicly that there had been no affair, and to deny that anyone had confronted him about Ms. Iseman. She, too, said there had been no affair.

The Times article drew harsh criticism, including from the paper’s own public editor, even as the paper argued that it was about public ethics, not sex. . . .

The entire Times story's here.


My Comments:

Both sides in the suit are claiming their position was vindicated and certainly each side has some cause to say that.

But the Times, as you’ll see in its readers note which below, says it did not mean to conclude what everyone who read the story concluded the Times story meant for them to conclude.

Is the Times being honest when it says didn’t mean for it readers to conclude Iseman and McCain had engaged in a sexual affair or that she and McCain had breached the public trust?

If so, then the Times must be totally blind to the gross bias that infects so much of its political reporting.

A Note to Readers

An article published on February 21, 2008, about Senator John McCain and his record as an ethics reformer who was at times blind to potential conflicts of interest included references to Vicki Iseman, a Washington lobbyist. The article did not state, and The Times did not intend to conclude, that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of her clients in breach of the public trust.

A “Don’t Miss” Post at Liestoppers Meeting

How much of what happened at Duke can be traced to the fault of the Trustees?

Quasimodo at Liestoppers Meeting asks that question and provides information about Dartmouth College and Boston College to provoke discussion of the question.

Here's the start of Quasi’s post - - -

Charles Sykes' book
The Hollow Men is a short history of Dartmouth College during the period running from 1971-1990.

The great movement toward "general education," which originated at Columbia in the 1920s and involved a reading of the books generally deemed essential, had influence across the country. Educational leaders recognized that there were certain books an educated person simply had to be familiar with, and all such programs were intended to bridge the gap between specialization and shared culture.
. . .

Mr. Sykes shows, did try to introduce a serious core" curriculum, but the faculty wasn't interested.

This brings us to the second of Mr. Sykes's major points: the shift of institutional power from the administration and the trustees to the faculty, which led inexorably to the politicization of the academy.

As Mr. Sykes documents, the Dartmouth faculty wrecked the McLaughlin administration, chiefly over the issue of ROTC. Actually, the substance of that issue was not the training of a few officers. It was Vietnam, in retrospect, and Nicaragua and El Salvador in the present tense, with the faculty solidly on the side of Third World Communist insurgencies.

Behind it all was a negative view of American power, and, implicitly, of America itself Intimidated by what Roger Kimball has called "tenured radicals," President McLaughlin dithered, tried to appease the faculty with perks, got nowhere, and ended up with no constituency.

The result of these developments can be put succinctly. Dartmouth no longer knows who or what it is. . . .

There’s much more to Quasi’s post including a comparison of what Dartmouth is offering with the core curriculum at Boston College.

I hope you give it a look here.

The Churchill Series - Feb. 19, 2009

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

Readers Note: I first published this post three years ago. Churchill looks as great and Ghandi as lacking in judgment today as they did then.


The other day I listened to a discussion, the outcome of which was this: the participants agreed Churchill wasn’t really a great man. He only seems that way, they said, because his ideas and actions are always being compared to people like Hitler and Mussolini. If he was compared to someone like – and here the discussants all agreed on Gandhi – well, Churchill wouldn't look so great matched against Gandhi.

I didn’t say anything, but I thought to share a reaction with you here in the series.

So I went home and got out some notes I made a few years ago about Gandhi.

Let’s compare Churchill and Gandhi positions with regard to what were then, and are always, literally life and death matters: our response to violence and the kind of governance we're prepared to accept for ourselves and others.

Churchill first.

On Oct. 29, 1941 Churchill told the students at his old school, Harrow:

“Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.''

Vintage Churchill!

Now Gandhi.

On Apr. 9, 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway. Four days later Gandhi urged Danes, Norwegians and others to adopt a passive, non-cooperative response to the Nazis, even if that meant mass slaughter. He told the Nazis victims:

“ The unexpected spectacle of endless rows upon rows of men and women simply dying rather then surrender to the will of an aggressor must ultimately melt him and his soldiery.”

That wasn’t a one-day only response. On June 29, 1940, with the Battle of France lost and the Battle of Britain about to begin, Gandhi advised the British Viceroy that Britain should:

“…fight Nazism without arms…invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of your possessions. Let them take possession of your beautiful island. If these gentlemen choose to occupy you homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself, man, woman and child, to be slaughtered.”

The Viceroy later described himself as “taken aback.”

The deaths of millions never softened the Nazis. If anything, slaughter seems to have energized them to even greater evil; something Churchill had predicted.

As long as people know some history, value Western freedoms, and understand those freedoms must always be defended, Churchill will rank among the Immortals.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Talking to Regulars and Recent Commenters

(A post in the old web log tradition of "informal notes at the end of the day" for those familiar with the material. Don't look for links and overlook speeling and grammer errors. - - JinC)

Sorry to be posting so little but travel and related matters are cutting into my blogging time.

I get and am reading all comments.

By Saturday I'll be home and able to do some decent posting.

First on the list will be that promised post re: your comments on Juan Williams and NPR.

I plan to post a brief "call out" of NPR for its liberal bias. I won't be doing the calling out. I'll be pasting in another's work.

Doing that (and giving credit, of course) is easier than responding to your commments which takes more time and thought.

I think Vaden's work at Duke is a clear conflict of interest no matter that the N&O may have given him an OK on it.

How do you serve as a public editor for the Raleigh N&O

which led the public framing of the Duke laxes,

which is supposed to report on Duke's role in that framing and in it's ongoing cover-up,

which is supposed to report on a series of major federal suits brought by Duke lacrosse victims and family members against Duke,

and still serve as N&O public editor without having a conflict of interest?

There's more I want to say but time presses.

Thanks for your understanding.


PS - - I am getting to do some reading this week that will contribute to blog posts in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Churchill Series - Feb. 18, 2009

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

Reading The Churchill Centre’s Action This Day report for June 10, 1944, we learn a bit about what happened when Churchill and other allied leaders visited the headquarters of the Allied ground commander, General Bernard Montgomery, four days after D-Day.

On June 10th, after Montgomery announced that "we have won the battle of the beaches" Churchill, Smuts, Brooke, General Marshall and Admiral King crossed the Channel where they were met by Montgomery.

After a beach welcome they drove through "our limited but fertile domain in Normandy."

[Afterwards] they lunched on the lawn at Montgomery's headquarters, looking towards the front which was only three miles away. Churchill enquired about the chances of German - armour breaking up their lunch.

Montgomery acknowledged that the chateau had indeed taken a pounding the night before.

The Prime Minister reminded him that "anything can be done once or for a short time, but custom, repetition, prolongation, is always to be avoided when possible in war."

Montgomery moved his headquarters two days later.

Duke Chronicle’s Racial Insensitivity

Duke University’s student newspaper, The Chronicle(TC), has an editorial board of a dozen or so students including the current and previous year’s editors. While TC editorials are unsigned, we’re told they represent the thinking of all board members unless a tag line following an editorial identifies one or more member as having recused her- or himself.

Monday, TC editorial board
noted the annerversary of the takeover of the Allen Building forty years ago by Duke African-American students demanding just treatment from the university.

TC called the takeover a “defining moment in the history of student activism at Duke [which] demands reflection on the current state of race at the University.”

I was with TC to that point. But the editorial reflection which followed was disapointing, most of all because of its smug racial insensitivity.

Here in italics are excerpts from the editorial after which I offer some comments concerning its racial insensitivity.

. . . Today, the problems of racial interaction on campus have little to do with overt racism. Instead, complacency, an unwillingness to engage with uncomfortable differences, are at the heart of the issue.

The students who occupied Allen were asking to be recognized as students in the first place: Today, the problem is a lack of interaction between segments of the student body.

Indeed, the University has made great strides since 1969. Our student body is at least as racially diverse as those of our peer institutions. Moreover, since the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative in 1993, and through the Faculty Diversity Initiative in 2003, the University has been at the forefront of nationwide attempts to find and retain minority faculty.

What racial tension there is on campus no longer derives from the slurs and public disrespect that the Allen students experienced.

But it is apparent to almost every student here that the self-segregation and easy complacency that characterize everyday life in America are reflected on this campus. . . .

[The] mission of a university is not only to grant degrees and force students to absorb knowledge in the abstract. As President Richard Brodhead announced when he arrived here in 2004, Duke should aim to be a community where students absolutely cannot shy away from "engagement." . . .

The University is a far cry from what it was on the day the Allen Building was taken, and for this we should be thankful. But we would be doing those students a disservice if we do not remember that their legacy is not only a few concrete changes. It is a call to give ourselves an honest look in the mirror and to always do better.

The entire TC editorial’s here.


My comments:

TC’s “reflection on the current state of race at the University” says nothing about African-American students on and about campus who were hounded and threatened by hate-full crowds waving CASTRATE and GIVE THEM EQUAL MEASURE and circulating VIGILANTE and WANTED posters.

The editorial says nothing about a group of 88 Duke faculty who took out a full-page TC ad which thanked angry crowds who hounded and threatened African-American students.

And there’s nothing in the editorial about a white hate-group which advocates violence shouting down at the Durham Courthouse threats, including death threats, at a black Duke student who was the victim of a gang rape frame-up attempt by a rogue DA abetted by others, including many at Duke.

No one can fault TC for failing to mention the banners, posters, crowds, faculty enablers, and a racist hate group which within the past three years all targeted African-American Duke students while most of Duke either joined in or said nothing.

TC didn’t mention any of the foregoing horrific events because none of them happened to African-American Duke students.

But everything I’ve described and much more happened on and about Duke within the last three years.

The Duke student victims of those horrific acts and the racism and hate which fueled them were, as TC's editorial board knows, white.

But that no excuse for TC’s editorial board treating their fellow students as invisible men and saying nothing about what happened to them in TC's relection on "the current state of race at the University.”

TC’s editorial was headed: Measuring The Good Of This Place

A more accurate head would have been: Revealing The Racial Insensitity Of This Editorial Board

No tag line naming any board member who recused followed the editorial.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Churchill Series - Feb. 17, 2009

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


Today I want to share some thoughts with those of you who’ve read the just completed six consecutive posts focusing on Churchill’s brother and only sibling, John (Jack) Strange Spencer Churchill (1880-1947).

If you missed any or all of the posts here are links to them: April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, and May 1.

I set out to do a three post series. It ended up six; and I struggled to keep it at that. There's so much of interest about Jack in his own right as well as his relationship with his famous brother.

Jack Churchill was a substantial person whose life is extremely interesting. Add to that the fact that he was one of Winston’s closest, if not closest, confidants from the time Winston was a boy until 1947 when Jack died.

Jack Churchill deserves a multi-volume biography by a biographer of the caliber of Martin Gilbert or David McCullough.

I’d planned to just mention Mrs. Everest in passing. What a mistake! How did I think I could talk about the bond between the brothers and just mention in passing the woman who gave them both love and attention of the kind they would later each give to the other?

Goonie came along and had to be part of the brothers’ story. And from 1908 on, you can't leave Clementine out of anything important in Churchill’s life.

So the series certainly didn’t keep a “tight focus” and stick to just three posts.

But I'm not sorry about that and I hope you're not either.

Travel isn't going well so

there'll be no blogging tonight.

It's nothing serious; just trouble connecting from here to there.

But I'm told all will soon be well, so I expect to have posts up by Noon tomorrow.

Thanks for your understanding.

And keep your fingers crossed.


Traveling now. Blogging will resume

about 8 PM ET tonight.

I'll post first concerning yesterday's Chronicle editorial looking at current race relations at Duke and follow that with a post responding to comments some of you have made regarding Juan Williams and NPR.

I hope you come back.


The Churchill Series - Feb. 16, 2009

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

Reader’s Note:
Previous posts dealing with John(Jack) Strange Spencer Churchill (1880-1947) and his relationship with his only brother and sibling, Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965), are here, here, here, here. and here.

Chartwell guest books for the 1920s and 30s reveal Jack Churchill, his wife Goonie, and their children were Winston and Clementine’s most frequent overnight guests. In 1929 Winston and his son Randolph, and Jack and his son John, toured Canada and the American West coast together, visiting among other places William Randolph Hearst’s castle home at San Simeon (Churchill used the occasion to arrange with Hearst to write a series of articles for his papers).

During the years between the wars Jack worked as a financier. He was a man “in the City”, a British expression that conveys much the same thing as “she works in Wall Street” conveys here.

It must have been extremely difficult for Jack to be Winston’s brother and not fall to saying at least a few indiscreet things or get drawn into deals where others are hoping to take advantage of your contacts. Or worst of all, to use those contacts fro your own gain. But Jack avoided all of that, while still serving as serving as confidant and sounding board for his powerful brother.

In 1940 Goonie’s health became a concern. She was subsequently diagnosed with cancer, and moved to the country, which was thought better for her health. Jack remained to work in London and come out on weekends. Goonie died in 1941.

Jack continued to work in the City. His house was bombed and thereafter he moved in with Winston and Clementine at 10 Downing Street and in the Annexe, the nearby bomb shelter Churchill and other government leaders and their principal aides used. He was often the last person Churchill spoke to at night.

In 1945. Jack suffered a heart attack. Thereafter his health deteriorated. He died on Feb 23, 1947, at age 67. He was buried next to his parents in the Bladon Churchyard a mile from Blenheim Palace. Eighteen years later, his brother Winston was laid to rest beside him.

At the time of Jack’s death The Times of London noted he'd remained throughout his life “on the closest terms with his elder brother.”
For background I've relied on
Speaking for Themselves: The personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill (Mary Soames, Editor), Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Life and Richard Hough’s Winston and Clementine: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Churchills.

Monday, February 16, 2009

N&O Public Editor Vaden's Leaving

McClatchy’s liberal/leftist Raleigh News & Observer announced today:

Ted Vaden, The News & Observer's public editor, is ending his 32-year career at the newspaper to take charge of communications at the state Department of Transportation.

Transportation Secretary Gene Conti announced Vaden's appointment today as deputy secretary for communications, a new post at DOT.

DOT announced a hiring freeze last fall, but Conti received Gov. Beverly Perdue's approval for the new hire.

As a deputy secretary, Vaden will direct communications policy and oversee about 20 employees including DOT's public information staff, at a salary of $117,000.

The new position was recommended by a consultant as part of a department reorganization aimed at making DOT more efficient, transparent and accountable to the public.

"DOT is an agency that has had its problems, and I see it as an interesting challenge to take on the communication function in addressing those problems," said Vaden, 61. "[Conti] has made it very clear he wants the department to be more open to the public, more accessible."

"He is a fine, fine human being, and he's done a really good job as public editor and before that as publisher in Chapel Hill," N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III said of Vaden. "I'm going to miss our conversations. He's a really smart man."

Quarles said he had not decided whether to appoint a successor after Vaden steps down as public editor at the end of the month. He said recently that a prolonged revenue slump will force staff reductions at The N&O later this year. . . .

The entire N&O announcement’s here.


My comments:

Who can blame Vaden for bailing from the N&O and McClatchy which have been eliminating positions?

He’s lucky to have landed a government job that sounds like it was set up for him.

Vaden’s taken heat from N&O readers for his prominent role in “fogging over” and justifying the N&O’s racially inflammatory, biased and often fraudulent Duke lacrosse coverage.

For instance, except to say he agreed it “skirted the edge fairness,” Vaden endorsed the N&O’s notorious, deliberately fraudulent and now discredited Mar. 25, 2006 story the N&O said was about a night of “sexual violence.”

Vaden's refused readers’ requests that he ask the N&O to cite the police report it claims to have used to confirm the false accuser's false statements it published in its Mar. 25 story in which it said she was granted anonymity because of the N&O's policy of granting anonymity "to victims of sex crimes."

After reviewing the entire case file, North Carolina’s attorney general found no such police report.

Police reports in NC are public records and easily cited and confirmed when they exist.

Vaden’s never cited the “police report” he told readers the N&O used as part of its story the public later learned was instrumental in framing the Duke lacrosse players as the perpetrators of what the N&O falsely called a night of “sexual violence.”

In fact, Vaden’s never mentioned in his print columns or at his blog that in the almost three years since the story ran across five columns on the N&O's front page, no one’s found the N&O’s “police report.”

Such is what informed readers have come to expect from their self-described “readers' advocate” who also likes to tell readers about his and the N&O’s watchdog role. (See “The Watchdog still barks - - and bites”)

Look for more soon about Vaden’s work as public editor and what I think the N&O should consider when deciding whether to hire another public editor.

Hat tip: Journalist friend

Anniversary of McClatchy news exec’s “cannot win” Iraq speech

An outstanding post at McClatchy Watch today begins - - -

Two years ago today, John Walcott delivered a speech predicting the US would not win the Iraq war. To commemorate Walcott's moronic speech I'm re-running this post I originally ran in November, 2007:

In a 2007 speech, John Walcott, McClatchy's Washington bureau chief, predicted the US would not win the Iraq war. Walcott gave the speech February 16, 2007 to the World Affairs Council of Hilton Head, South Carolina. You can read the speech here on Bill Moyer's PBS web site.

Check out this little gem in the speech:

"But still we are not winning, and
we cannot win."

I emailed John Walcott and asked if he stood by his prediction. Walcott emailed me back, saying the quote was accurate as written, but he modified the statement when he delivered the speech. Walcott told me he told the audience the Iraqi people had to win, not the US military. He denied saying the US cannot win.

I have trouble believing Walcott's email denial. Scan farther down in Walcott's speech and you see he repeats the same prediction: "But I think that we're in the mess we're in Iraq - can't win and can't afford to lose...."

There’s more to McClatchy Watch’s post including a listing and links to others who said the war was lost. Give the post a look for that information and for its closing sentence that says what so many in MSM can’t bring themselves to say.

As I’ve said before: a stable, democratic Iraq is by no means a sure thing.

But the war wasn’t lost.

That was because of the persistence of President Bush, the strategy of Gen. Petraeus, the magnificent performance of our military, the critical help of allies, and the refusal of most Iraqis to knuckle under to the terrorists who’ve attacked civilians there at every turn, even in schools and at prayer.

Now Iraq and its people have a chance at a decent future.

Allen Bldg Takeover & Race At Duke: Reflections

A Chronicle editorial today recalls:

Forty years ago last week 50 to 75 black Duke students walked into the Allen Building and refused to leave. They had with them a set of very specific demands for the University. . . .
I want to share with you three outstanding reflections by members of the Duke community.

The first two, written in response to TC’s Feb. 13 article – "Alumni Reflect On A Defining Moment In Duke History" – are posted on that article’s thread. The third reflection is in response to today's TC editorial and is posted on its thread.

First from Fact Checker - - -

Perhaps we can understand taking over Allen Building if we know a few facts of what Duke's black students in that era faced:

1) - - Douglas Knight arrived to be president of Duke University at the exact same time as the first black freshmen (the graduate and professional schools had admitted a couple blacks two years earlier).

Mr Knight -- who had a background surprisingly similar to Brodhead's with Yale degrees and Yale English department pedigree -- promptly joined the Hope Valley Country Club.

The club was a notorious segregated institution that many at Duke University -- for example, the entire health system then led by Dr Barnes Woodhall -- had refused for some years to patronize. In fact Dr Woodhall tearfully begged Knight not to join.

2) - - Though the first black students arrived in 1963, Duke U refused to recruit any blacks for its basketball team for several years. When the first black did arrive, it is because he walked on, and surprise, he made the team. Forget what opponents did; his teammates proceeded to taunt him with the N word for his entire career. At the end of his first year, he was not even invited to the team's banquet.

Also in sports, there was a sign at Duke Stadium (not yet called Wade) announcing a "Negro section" way by the goalposts three seasons after black students arrived. The athletic director refused to remove this sign; a few years later Duke named its indoor stadium after him.

3) - - For many years Duke U refused student suggestions and demands to invite Dr Martin Luther King Jr to speak. When Dr King won the Nobel Peace Prize, he could be denied no longer. But Dr King was relegated to Page Auditorium, refused the pulpit in Duke Chapel.

4) - - When Ray Charles performed on the quad, he was denied use of a university apartment and had to sleep overnight across the railroad tracks on the third floor of a walk up "hotel."

Class dismissed.

From Duke in the 1990s - -

American history teaches us that progress in in civil rights and racial reconciliation is indeed painful. The kind of progress Duke has undergone over the last 40 years is indeed painful, given that it was a school every bit a part of the tobacco and cotton picking South from which it had its birth.

I graduated from Duke in the 1990s and I was the first black student ever to have attended college from my family, and for that matter, to attend Duke from my high school in North Carolina.

At that time, Duke was still seen by blacks and whites as a Southern (Gothic) playground for rich white kids. Many questioned why I would ever consider attending.

Well, I attended because the school embraced me and while I did struggle at times financially, the school did not forsake their commitment to helping me finish, as long as I was able to my part.

For that very reason, I make sure I contribute financially to the school every year and I now look forward to the day when my own son will attend the school as well.

In 2009, I still see some obvious stumbles at Duke. For one, the school continues to do a terrible job at recruiting Hispanic students, the fastest growing segment of the US population.

Again, true progress is not the same as perfection and it is also sometimes painful, but what's most important is that it does come.

And Willow Wind today responding to TC editorial - - -

As an African-American, I was disappointed that so few, if any, of the AA faculty at Duke chose to join fellow AA James Coleman in denouncing the prosecutorial misconduct of the former Durham DA.

In fact, many of Duke's AA faculty seemed to be particularly susceptible to manipulation by the DA's deceptions into leading the rush to accuse the innocent Duke students.

It always seemed to me that African-Americans are the most vulnerable to corrupt DA's, and have the most to gain by demanding the following of proper procedure. Who knows how many innocent AA's in Durham have been railroaded into prison through the use of bogus evidence and faulty procedures.

But because those accused by the former Durham DA were white, and not black, many AA professors at Duke appeared to abandoned their principles of civil liberties, in favor of tolerating the very abusive practices, conducted in plain sight, that led to the DA's eventual disgrace and disbarment.

Until there is some process by which the African-American faculty at Duke can honestly self-assess its behavior, and provide something other than a "white-wash" (sorry for the reverse pun), I cannot accept that Duke has achieved much in the way of building a strong African-American faculty of which the entire university community can be proud.

Why The Bogus Figge Swim Story's So Important

At 11 AM ET today you can find at The Huffington Post the headline – Jennifer Figge Swims Across Atlantic, First Woman – followed by the AP story we now know was bogus.

But Huff Po has done nothing at the story page to inform readers the AP subsequently issued a correction and ran a second story confirming the first was bogus.

You only learn about the AP’s correction if you scroll down and read through the comments, some of which mention it.

Something else:

It was interesting and fun to scroll through the comments made between Feb. 7 when Huff Po first published the bogus story, and Feb 10 when the AP issued its correction.

Here are two of them. See if one at least doesn’t leave you smiling. I end this post with a few questions.

The first comment:

I have a love of the sea. Even though I am not a sailor. There is something about the wide open expanse, depth, and power of a great body of water that lends itself to metaphor for real life. The Old Man and the Sea is a favorite story. Humans against...or in tune with the elements or conditions that exist, is the story of all of our lives.

Mrs. Figge's accomplishment is awesome to me because it causes me to imagine her experience and thereby I can tap into the spirit of her accomplishment. Can you imagine being out there, amongst the towering waves and the sea creatures as you seek to optimally blend with the environment with an intent of progression towards a destination, a goal, an island of reprieve from the cold waters of existence?

Bravo dear lady, bravo!
And the second comment:
This is shoddy reporting - I read this article on several different news sources and none of them answer the obvious questions, like does the boat continue under power at night while she is sleeping? Or does it try to maintain its position, or does it allow itself to drift with the current?

It looks like someone just did an uninformative news release and it's been picked up, but I wish media sources wouldn’t cover something like this until they get a few answers for their readers.

Otherwise the idea of "swimming across the ocean" is really quite meaningless. I mean, what percentage of the distance was she actually in the water and what percentage riding on a boat? From this article, we have virtually no idea of the answer.
Is there anyone reading here who doesn’t “wish media sources wouldn’t cover something like this until they get a few answers for their readers?”

The Figge “Atlantic Swim” story wasn’t a hard story to get right, was it?

Bloggers in their “pajamas with a laptop” were shredding the Figge story within hours of its publications.

Yet the AP and many major newspapers ran with it and stayed with it for days.

Why does something like that happen?

One of the lessons of the Duke lacrosse case is how poorly news is reported in America.

The Figge “Atlantic Swim” story is another such lesson.

That's its real importance along with the critical question it raises: Why can't reporting by our major news organizations be more reliable?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Did This Commenter Mean To Hurt The N&O?

There’s a comment on the thread of N&O Still Sells Photos of Bogus Swim Story I want to share with you.

I’m not sure whether the Anon commenter really means what’s said or whether the Anon is trying to make the McClatchy Co.’s liberal/leftist Raleigh N&O and its defenders appear very indifferent to the truth and willing to treat N&O readers as dummies.

Read this post, make your decision and let me know what you think.

Anon’s in italics; I’m in plain.

Anon begins - - -

Hellooooo, hellooo? Stupid people? Can you hear me? Good. Now, listen up. I'll type very slowly so you can follow along:

Typing “very slowly” for us “[s]tupid people” here. Well, let's see what comes next.

This story never ran in the paper. It is an Associated Press that was included on the paper's web site. The story was not edited by anyone besides the AP.

By “never ran in the paper” Anon means never ran in the N&O’s print edition.

I never said it did. It ran in the N&O’s online edition,, to which I linked.

Whether in the print or online editions, the N&O claims stories that appear at either or both places as ones it's published.

No one disputes the N&O published an AP story. I identified it as such. That doesn’t relieve the N&O of its responsibility for publishing the story.

As to whether the story “was not edited by anyone besides the AP,” do you think our slow-typing Anon meant to say: “not edited by anyone at the N&O?”

I do. And that leads to these questions:

If no one at the N&O at least read what was coming off the AP wire, what does that say about the N&O’s editorial standards?

Does the N&O just pass on and publish at or in its print edition whatever comes off the AP's notoriously unreliable wire?

Anon seems to be saying, “Yes.”

I hope that’s not the case. But people at the N&O tell me it does happen there.

The N&O, like practically every other newspaper, gives readers full access to the AP's world and nation report. It's a reader service, and god forbid the paper should be accused of covering up anything.

Anon doesn’t explain why the N&O is not giving readers “full access” to the correction the AP was forced to issue once the Figge fraud was exposed.

The AP’s correction’s nowhere on the page where the N&O reports the bogus AP story and a sidebar hyping McClatchy copyrighted photos of the bogus “event” along with a “Buy” button that takes readers to The N&O Photo Store where they can order framed photos of Figge and her “event."

Information, as they says, wants to be free. Of course, with free information, you get what you pay for. Had you purchased the print edition of the paper, editors would have scrutinized this story and perhaps caught the AP's imbecility.

Interesting that now Anon is taking shots not at us “stupid people” but at the N&O and the AP.

According to Anon we get “free information” at so we should not expect it to be as reliable as the N&O for which we pay.

Ouch! What a smackdown of

Who would have thought is so cheesy if Anon had not slowly typed things out for us?

But does Anon have it right? Is really less trustworthy than the print N&O?

I find that hard to believe.

Folks, below is the rest Anon’s comment. I may post again on the comment.

In closing, I’ll tell you – no kidding - I’m not sure whether Anon is just sincere, condescending and confused; or whether Anon is really angry at the N&O and/or McClatchy and decided: “I’ll post this comment at JinC and it will get John to expose how shameless and bad the N&O’s been on this story; something John hasn’t really done so far.

I’ve reported; you decide.

Now the last words go to Anon who explains capitalism and then provides some healthy living tips.

The picture is for sale because one can buy any picture on the paper's web site. This is called capitalism. If you wish to purchase and frame a picture of the hoax swimmer to remind yourself daily of the mainstream media's incompetence and perfidy, knock yourself out.

And finally, get out and get some fresh air. The weather is beautiful today. You all need more of a life.

Juan Williams & NPR’s Intolerant Liberals

Alicia Shepard, Ombudsman of the powerful liberal/leftist NPR organization, has just posted a column responding to NPR listeners upset with senior political analyst Juan Williams.

Williams sins? He sometimes says things that are not part of the approved orthodox liberal canon. And he says them on – gasp – the Fox News network,
Here’s some of what Shepard says. I intersperse one comment and offer others below the star line.

According to Shepard - - -

NPR has more than 400 reporters, editors, producers and analysts on its news team, and none is more of a lightning rod than Juan Williams. But it's usually not for anything he says on NPR….

Williams is controversial among NPR listeners because of his long-standing contract with Fox News, which he had before he joined NPR. Currently, he appears on Fox sometimes with Bill O'Reilly and on Sunday morning with Chris Wallace....

Last year, 378 listeners emailed me complaints and frustrations about things Williams said on Fox. The listener themes are similar: Williams "dishonors NPR." He's an "embarrassment to NPR." "NPR should severe their relationship with him."

The latest flap involves Williams' comment on Fox about First Lady Michelle Obama. To date, I've received 56 angry emails. For comparison, this year so far, listeners sent 13 emails about Steve Inskeep, 8 about Mara Liasson and 6 about Cokie Roberts -- other NPR personalities who I often get emails about.

Here's what Williams said on Jan. 26, but the transcript doesn't convey the same impact as the video, posted on YouTube. Williams is explaining that Vice President Joe Biden could be a liability for President Obama. But so could his wife.

"Michelle Obama, you know, she's got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going," said Williams. "If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine [Ham, a conservative blogger] is suggesting, her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross."

O'Reilly responded: "She's not going to do that."

When I asked Williams about his comments, he initially called it a "faux controversy."

But then he reviewed the tape and realized that "the tone and tenor of my comments may have spurred a strong reaction to what I considered to be pure political analysis of the First Lady's use of her White House pulpit," said Williams via email. "I regret that in the fast-paced, argumentative format my tone and tenor seems to have led people to see me as attacking instead of explaining my informed point of view."

But anyone watching the O'Reilly segment wouldn't know Williams was talking about those two articles. He never mentioned them. Those who wrote me felt Williams was attacking the First Lady.
[Williams didn’t need to reference those two articles. Listeners – liberal, independent or conservative – knew what he was referring to.

Who’s forgotten “a downright mean country” that our First Lady said she’d only become proud of when he husband emerged as a front-runner for his party’s presidential nomination?

Who’s forgotten that for almost 20 years Michelle Obama and her husband attended a church whose pastor delivered anti-white, anti-American sermons; or that they took their children to his church for religious instruction?

None of that may count for much among the “400 reporters, editors, producers and analysts on [NPR’s] news team,” but it counts for a great deal among tens of millions of Americans.

Williams’ commentary was reasonable. If any proof is needed of how easily Ms. Obama can become a more negatively-viewed public figure that proof is provided first, by the great care NPR and other liberal/leftist news organizations took during the campaign to avoid asking Ms. Obama about her statements I’ve just cited or her attendance and support for Rev. Wright and his church; and, second, by MSM almost total silence on them since the election. JinC

"I am concerned about the objectivity Juan Williams brings to his news analysis," wrote Alison Fowler. "He has made statements on Fox News regarding Michelle Obama that appear to paint her as an angry Black Nationalist without any basis in fact. Despite the fact that these statements were not made on NPR, they undermine his credibility as an impartial news analyst on your network." …

There’s a lot more to Shepards’ column. You can read it all here.


My Comments:

Shepard points out Williams is not on NPR as a reporter, but as a commentator. So his job calls for him to give opinions, Alison Fowler's pouting not withstanding. to give opinions

But Shepard wonders why Williams receives so much criticism? And she asks “is it fair?”

She then in the rest of her column offers a tortured set of facts to justify a number of strained rationales for the complaints. Mostly they have to do with Williams speaking, in Shepard’s opinion, more rashly on FOX and that his doing so while ID’ed on Fox as a NPR analyst can reflect poorly on NPR.

I’ve been thinking about Williams, NPR and FOX for a while now.

If I were a teacher grading Williams (I mostly hear him on the 6 PM ET news with the All-Stars and I heard him a lot during coverage of election nights) I'd give him a few “As,” some “Bs,” some “Cs,” (more “Bs” than “Cs”) and a few “Fs.”

Under “Teacher Comments” I’d write:

Over the years, Juan, you seem to have moved from what I viewed as a “rote liberal” position to one leaning more left than right but often surprising us with independent statements that take guts.

I was especially impressed by your willingness during the recent campaign to criticize then Sen. Obama when he played the race card and to call him out for not answering questions on major policy issues. No doubt that upset many NPR listeners.

Your tears election night when Obama was declared President-elect were honest and understandable.

I expect to disagree with you sometimes and I look forward to listening to you.
Folks, getting back to Ombudsman Shepard.

She could’ve saved herself and her readers a lot of time if she’d just said something like:
I don’t get comments critical of Nina Totenberg and Daniel Schorr because they’re reliably liberal. Williams isn’t and there’s a segment of NPR listeners who just can’t stand that.

I promise all our NPR listeners Williams was reliably liberal when we hired him;
then he started changing.

We can’t just fire him now, but if you read my column, you’ll see we’re doing everything we can to move him closer to the door.