Thursday, December 30, 2010

The AHA's Shame

[Update, 3 Jan. 2011, 3.32pm: From the comments section, I completely agree with Bill Anderson's observation: "The thing to remember here is that a number of the worst academic offenders in this case have received rewards afterward. Some faculty members have been promoted to deans, others have been given high-profile promotions or have been hired away by 'elite' universities, and Wood now has a prestigious award.

"This is not an accident. This is how the 'elites' at the top of the academic food chain see things. They really wanted these young men to go to prison simply because of who they were, as to a person these faculty members knew there was no rape or assault.

"Why anyone would send their children to sit under people like this, I never will know. I hope I never am guilty as a faculty member of showing such contempt toward my own students."]

I have a piece at Minding the Campus on the latest embarrassment to academia that the lacrosse case has produced--the American Historical Association conferred upon Peter Wood (yes, that Peter Wood) the Eugene Asher Award, given annually to one history teacher for having "inspired" his or her students.

That would be the same Peter Wood who repeatedly, and publicly, maligned students from his classes. I'm not sure why the AHA considered such behavior to be acceptable for an Asher Award winner, though I'm sure DIW readers can offer some informed speculation.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Quote for the Day

Early on, Easley’s attorneys had asked Kenerly for a chance to speak with him before he made any final decision on how to proceed in the case.

Kenerly agreed to make himself available, mainly because he didn’t want to miss something that could be crucial.

“I didn’t want to make a Mike Nifong mistake,” Kenerly says, referring to the former Durham County DA’s handling of the Duke University lacrosse case.

--from a Salisbury Post profile about retiring DA Bill Kenerly's handling of the Mike Easley case

Of all of the disgraced Mike Nifong's ethical misdeeds (lying to the court, withholding exculpatory DNA evidence, making improper public statements, ordering the police to violate their own procedures and instead run a suspects-only lineup), perhaps the most inexplicable was his refusal (on three separate occasions) to meet with defense attorneys who said they possessed evidence of their clients' innocence. It's hard to come up with an innocent explanation for that Nifong maneuver--because, of course, there isn't one.

So it's good to see that, at the very least, Nifong is remembered as an example of grossly unethical conduct for all high-profile prosecutors to avoid.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Durham Way

Final thoughts on the last few weeks:

Given all that we’ve seen of Durham’s attitudes toward criminal justice—reflected best in the nomination and then election of Mike Nifong, followed by the nomination and election of his deputy, Tracey Cline—the verdict in the case should come as little surprise. True, false accuser Crystal Mangum didn’t deny that she had set the fire in her house’s bathroom. And, also true, the jury saw a contemporaneous video of her confessing to setting the fire. But this is the same city in which a near-majority of voters appeared unconvinced by a videotape showing Reade Seligmann someplace else at the time Mike Nifong claimed he committed a horrific crime. In Durham, it seems, normal laws of space and time don’t apply—or at least a lot of the residents wish it could be so, when it would serve their ideological interests.

(1) Even given this environment, I was surprised by the post-trial comments of the Mangum case judge, Abe Jones. After seeing Mangum convicted on a misdemeanor count of child abuse, Jones lifted a previous court order and allowed Mangum to regain custody of her three children. The false accuser, he suggested, was a good mother, and the fire-setting incident was an exception in her treatment of her children.

Whatever investigation North Carolina children’s services conducted of Mangum remains confidential. But considerable documentation—spread across four years—casts considerable doubt about Mangum’s fitness as a mother. The lacrosse case file included contemporaneous documents (such as statements from Mangum and her “drivers”) that detailed a woman who spent late nights on “dates” in hotel rooms and most of the time left her children with her parents and, on one occasion, her “driver.” The AG’s report indicated that Mangum showed up to one 2007 interview behaving erratically and testing positive for (among other drugs) methadone, a drug frequently proscribed for patients with heroin addictions. And in 2010, Mangum’s own attorney admitted that her client set clothes in the bathroom on fire (with her kids down the hall) and then didn’t tell police officers what she had done, even as her kids remained in the house.

While reasonable people can disagree over whether the record outlined above would justify a loss of custody, surely few would suggest that the clothes-burning incident was an exception in Mangum’s parenting skills. But, then again, in North Carolina, judges are elected, and Judge Jones has to face the same electorate that voted into office first Mike Nifong and then Tracey Cline.

(2) It was interesting to see who in Durham rose to Mangum’s defense—or who defended her defenders—and who took a pass on the case. Foremost, of course, in the latter category was the Group of 88. Though each and every member of the Group remains on record as publicly affirming that something “happened” to Mangum the night of the lacrosse party, and though each and every member of the Group remains publicly committed to “turn up the volume no matter what the police say or the court decides,” it appears as if no Group member gave a public statement sympathizing with Mangum or contributed to her legal defense fund. Unlike the lacrosse case, in this matter the Group saw no advantage in exploiting Mangum’s position.

Also quiet was the Durham professional Left. The leadership of the People’s Alliance, the “progressive” PAC whose voters did so much to ensure first Nifong’s and then Cline’s victory, shied away from defending Mangum. Even as they did so, however, the group’s spokesperson, Milo Pyne, announced his continued “sympathy” for Nifong, making Durham perhaps the only city in the country where left-wing activists express sympathy for a figure who committed massive prosecutorial misconduct in trying to send innocent people to jail.

Today’s news suggests that indifference to prosecutorial misconduct extends beyond the Group of 88 and the People’s Alliance, to the very core of Durham’s “minister of justice.” DA Tracey Cline—Nifong’s would-be second chair if the lacrosse case went to trial—has dismissed ADA Mitchell Garrell, after previously cutting his pay. Garrell, it’s worth remembering, had opposed Cline in the four-way 2008 race for the DA’s nomination, when he ran on a campaign calling for the “minister of justice” to behave ethically. According to the N&O, his dismissal occurred after he behaved ethically—he turned over, as he should have, all case-related material to the defense in the case of Derrick Allen. Unfortunately for Garrell, these files included material suggesting that “Minister of Justice” Cline had misled the court.

[In 2008, Cline was nominated courtesy of the “Nifong coalition” (which gave Nifong his victory first in the 2006 primary and then the general election)—Durham’s “progressive” whites, plus most African-Americans.]

(3) Silence from the Group and the PA left defense of Mangum to a motley crew of professional race-baiters—figures like Durham’s most prominent homophobe, Victoria Peterson; ex-school board member Jackie Wagstaff, whose courtroom behavior yielded her a 10-day sentence for contempt; and Steven Matherly, a PA “activist” who told the N&O that he considered his own previous brushes with the law a “badge of honor.”

Matherly repeatedly made the . . . peculiar . . . assertion that the attorney general (the state’s chief law enforcement officer) lacks the power to declare innocent people in his state who are falsely accused. He supplemented this legal “analysis” with a wild claim that those who did Ms. Magnum wrong (including, as he referenced in one post, the behavior of the lacrosse players) created a Durham environment, 2006-2010, that resembled the anti-black South of the 1920s and 1930s, in which lynchings occurred. Those looking to Matherly, however, for the 1920s/1930s Southern equivalents of Mike Nifong (a prosecutor who violated rules to keep alive a criminal claim from an African-American) or the Group of 88 (members of the local Establishment who tied their professional prestige to a criminal claim from an African-American) would still be waiting. I doubt that Matherly will provide any such examples in the future.

Given Matherly’s ignorance of both legal procedure and history, defending him is no easy task. But into the breach stepped Duke professor Robert Zimmerman, a prominent apologist for the Group of 88. Prof. Zimmerman, who in 2007 spent months hinting that he possessed secret evidence that would show the Group of 88’s statement wasn’t about the lacrosse case (ultimately, he produced no such evidence), made a surprise re-appearance in the DIW comment thread. His entertaining submissions featured his usual combination of a (as one commenter noticed) “passive-aggressive” attitude with Amelia Bedelia-style textual analysis.

(4) As the nation’s highest-profile false rape accuser faced trial on unrelated charges, two other blows challenged the ultra-feminist claim that women never lie about rape. In New York City, weather reporter Heidi Jones was charged with filing a false claim of rape after she gave police an inconsistency-riddled tale of a mysterious Hispanic man first raping her and threatening her. And in Sweden, even Wendy Murphy (“I never, ever met a false rape claim") expressed doubt about sexual assault charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

(5) Finally, in a classic example of how the academy’s lack of accountability has broader effects, Mangum’s legal proceedings coincided with the nomination of Group of 88’er Cathy Davidson to a position on the NEH’s advisory board. That would be the same Cathy Davidson, it’s worth reiterating, who published a January 2007 op-ed that was either lying or delusional in its description of the March 2006 environment at Duke.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Times Sports Editor Reassigned; Mangum Trial Updates

[Update, Friday, 9.19pm: Mangum's five misdemeanor convictions included child abuse. And yet, reports Emery Delasio of the AP, Mangum "was allowed to regain custody of her children, who have been in the care of a friend since a different judge decided last summer Mangum was violating visitation terms."

[Update, 5.13pm: Race-baiter Jackie Wagstaff was sentenced to 10 days in jail for contempt. The Mangum jury deadlocked, 9-3, on the felony arson charge (the charge for which the jury was shown a video of Mangum describing how she started the fire). A mistrial resulted; a retrial seems highly unlikely. It would be interesting to know the backgrounds of the jurors who found Mangum not guilty.]

[Update, 3.30pm, Friday: Durham resident race-baiter Jackie Wagstaff is facing the possibility of contempt charges for muttering "this is ridiculous" as the judge gave additional instructions to the Mangum jury.]

[Update, 1.25pm, Friday: Via the Milliken twitter feed: the jury is on a lunch break. It has decided on four of the counts, but remains divided, 8-4, on the arson charge, despite having witnessed a video in which Mangum admitted she set clothes on fire in her bathroom.]

The New York Post reports that Tom Jolly, the Times sports editor who oversaw the paper's disgraced early coverage of the lacrosse case--for which he subsequently apologized--has been reassigned. The Times did not name a replacement. Fittingly, the Post lists the paper's mishandling of the lacrosse case as item number one in Jolly's legacy.

And, as I noted below, one of my classes has an exam this afternoon, and so I will be off-line most of the afternoon; Matthew Milliken is back in court covering the Mangum trial, and you can follow his twitter feed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Mangum Trial Continues [with updates]

[Update, Thurs., 11.58am: One of my classes has an exam this afternoon, and so I will be off-line most of the afternoon; Matthew Milliken is back in court, and you can follow his twitter feed.]

[Update, Thurs., 10.17am: The Mangum case has gone to the jury. And here's a remarkable update from the twitter feed of H-S reporter Matthew Milliken, who covered the trial yesterday: "Jackie Wagstaff [a race-baiting former school board member, and outspoken Nifong supporter] overheard during recess: 'They are not understanding the nature of the black household.' Not sure if she's referring to [the racially-mixed] jury." Only in Durham could we get the insinuation that a mother burning clothes in a room near to where her children were sleeping is part of the "nature of the black household."]

[Update, Wed., 9.40am: The N&O reports: "In a videotaped interrogation shown to the jury Tuesday morning, Crystal Mangum confessed to smashing her boyfriend Milton Walker’s windshield with a vacuum cleaner, slashing his tires and setting his clothes on fire because she says he punched her in the face repeatedly." Mangum's attorney tried and failed to get the confession excluded from evidence, on grounds that at the time, the false accuser "was medicated after a spinal tap for headache treatment and hadn’t gotten much sleep the previous two nights."]

The first week of the Crystal Mangum trial (on charges of arson, injury to personal property, contributing to the delinquency of her three children, and resisting arrest) has concluded in Durham. The trial raises one obvious question: namely, what criteria the North Carolina children’s services department possibly could have used to keep Mangum’s three children in the same house with her, given that the record of the lacrosse case proved that she either was a monster, willing to lie and send innocent people to jail for decades, or a person so mentally disturbed that she believed her lies. It’s perfectly clear from the record of the trial that the children were not well-served by remaining in Mangum’s custody.

A few items:

(1) A courtroom observer passes on news that upon her arrest, Mangum (falsely) told officers that she was pregnant. She also, of course, lied to the officers about her identity.

(2) Mangum’s intriguing defense amounts to a version of entrapment: (a) that police officers, having received a desperate 911 call from one of Mangum’s children, should have trusted the assurances of this mentally imbalanced woman that everything was OK, and not entered the premises; and (b) that, having been arrested, Mangum had no obligation to inform police officers that she had set clothes on fire in the bathroom, even as her three children were in a nearby room.

(3) For those desiring a peek inside the pro-Mangum fantasy world, Steve Matherly is attending the trial. In a recent post, the People’s Alliance “activist” has taken a break from defending Mangum, and instead has launched into the character attacks on the lacrosse players that were so common from figures like Cathy Davidson and her Group of 88 comrades. Matherly made the mindboggling claim that the role of the lacrosse players in the lacrosse case is comparable to “the racist riots of the 1920s and 30s.”

Yes, because as any student of U.S. history knows, in the 1920s and 1930s, local prosecutors throughout the South were—like Mike Nifong in the lacrosse case—willing to violate myriad ethical procedures in order to imprison innocent white people, despite baseless charges from a local African-American woman.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Astonishing news from the Duke public relations office: Group of 88 member—and later apologist—Cathy Davidson has been nominated to the 26-member the National Council of Humanities, which advises the NEH. The position requires Senate confirmation; I would hope that at least one senator would ask Davidson about her record in the lacrosse case—both her rush to judgment in spring 2006 and her willful dissembling about her actions in January 2007.

To review Davidson’s record:

On April 6, 2006—based solely on information about the case supplied by the media and rogue prosecutor Mike Nifong—she and 87 colleagues signed the “Group of 88” statement. The guilt-presuming document publicly affirmed that something “happened” to (false) accuser Crystal Mangum.

The signatories also appeared to express indifference to any evidence that might contradict their race/class/gender-dominated vision, announcing that they would be “turning up the volume” regardless of “what the police say or the court decides.”

And, in perhaps the statement’s most stunning passage, Davidson and her colleagues publicly thanked campus protesters for two things: “for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.” At the time of the statement, the two highest-profile campus protests were a March 26, 2006 protest in front of the lacrosse captains’ house at which protesters carried banners proclaiming “CASTRATE” and a March 29, 2006 “Take Back the Night” event at which protesters blanketed the campus with a wanted poster containing the lacrosse players’ photos.

Neither Davidson nor any other Group member ever explained why they thanked the protesters “for not waiting.” Many months later, Davidson and a few other Duke faculty bizarrely claimed that when they thanked protesters “for making yourselves heard” they were referring not to the two highest-profile anti-lacrosse protests but to other anti-lacrosse protests occurring on campus at the time. No contemporaneous evidence exists to sustain this claim.

As the months passed, the sexual assault case to which Davidson and her like-minded colleagues collapsed. And as it did, the Group came under increasing criticism from the media, from Duke alumni, and from some Duke students.

In response, Davidson took to the pages of the Raleigh News & Observer on January 5, 2007, to offer an apologia for the Group’s actions. As she conceded in a mass e-mail, she wrote the column after consulting with an attorney and being informed that she and her colleagues could be vulnerable to a lawsuit from the lacrosse players.

Rather than apologizing for her rush to judgment, Davidson’s essay combined self-pitying passages regarding criticism of her and other Duke faculty from “blog hooligans” with continued character assaults on the “sleazy” lacrosse players and a ringing defense of Crystal Mangum. Davidson chastised those who labeled Mangum a liar (as, by this point, had been clearly established), and instead mused, “Who is that exotic dancer? A single mother who takes off her clothes for hire partly to pay for tuition at a distinguished historically black college. Of course the lacrosse story makes Americans of conscience cringe.”

Perhaps most troubling for the qualifications of her soon-to-be position, however, was Davidson’s description of spring 2006 events on campus. Her January 2007 claims demonstrated a tendency for either outright fabrication or existence in a cocooned world in which no alternative narratives ever penetrated. Neither characteristic would serve the NEH well.

Davidson unconvincingly denied that the Group’s statement—which affirmed that something happened to Mangum and thanked protesters who had labeled the lacrosse players rapists—presumed guilt. She then invented an alternative reality in which the statement provided a needed corrective to a late March 2006 media environment in which black Duke students were being attacked by racist “insults” from fellow Duke students and in which most on campus and in the media were defending the lacrosse players, elevating them “to the status of martyrs, innocent victims of reverse racism.”

Needless to say, no evidence exists for either of these descriptions; at the time, nearly all articles on the case either were neutral (if critical of the lacrosse players’ character) or presumed guilt. And the administration of Duke president Richard Brodhead went out of its way to meet with (some would say appease) black student groups on campus. Racially charged events certainly existed—Group of 88’er Houston Baker’s screed against the white lacrosse players, black Duke students surrounding lacrosse player Bo Carrington on the campus quad demanding that he turn in the rapists—but these were events in which African-Americans, not whites on campus, were in the wrong.

After ringing defenses of herself, her colleagues, and Crystal Mangum, Davidson’s January 2007 essay concluded with milquetoast statements that Nifong might have committed prosecutorial misconduct and that she favored “impartial legal proceedings” for the falsely accused lacrosse players.

A major premise of this blog has been a lament that no accountability appears to exist in the academy, that the Group of 88 members suffered no consequences for their actions. Outside of the academy, I have repeatedly implied, behavior such as we witnessed from the Group of 88 would have consequences. With this nomination, it appears as if I erred in that assumption.


A coda, featuring Cathy Davidson in her own words:

"I am positive I am not the only professor who was and continues to be adamant about the necessity for fair and impartial legal proceedings for David, Collin and Reade."
--N&O, January 2007

"To the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard."
--Group of 88 statement, April 2006

Imagine if Professor Davidson did not believe in "the necessity for fair and impartial legal proceedings for David, Collin and Reade."

The Mangum Trial

The trial of false accuser Crystal Mangum is underway in Duham; the serial fabricator stands charged with arson, injury to personal property, contributing to the delinquency of her three children, and resisting arrest.

A few items: (1) Prosecutors agreed that they wouldn’t bring up Mangum’s myriad lies in the lacrosse case to undermine the credibility of her tales regarding the criminal charges against her.

(2) In the seating of the jury, Mangum’s attorney seemed determined to use preemptive challenges against people tied to Duke, especially Duke students. I can see where Duke students wouldn’t be likely to ignore the evidence to bolster Mangum’s position, but I’m not sure about Duke employees or administrators. Certainly, the false accuser would have been incredibly lucky if one of the Group of 88 had somehow slipped through to the jury.

Reported the N&O, Mangum’s attorney asked the judge “to release the eighth juror interviewed because his family has strong ties to Duke and his wife, a university employee, sat on a committee charged with helping the campus deal with the lacrosse scandal.

The mentioned committee was presumably the Campus Culture Initiative—a body dominated by the Group of 88 and its allies. It would seem that this juror would be ideal for the false accuser.

(3) The pro-Mangum People’s Alliance activist Steve Matherly has a blog that gives the party line on the trial from Durham’s extreme left. Matherly has posts complaining about the prosecutor’s issuing preemptive challenge to jurors who seemed disinclined to value circumstantial evidence. But he spends most of his time playing the race card, offering conspiratorial rants about the media’s “racism” in its reporting on Mangum (this is the same “media” that included the Times and the Herald-Sun, which propped up Mangum’s bogus charges for months after it was clear they were false) and wildly demanding that Mangum’s defense attorney be allowed to question every white juror regarding what they “think[] about black folks.”

Intriguingly, Matherly claims that Mangum still possesses considerable “support” at North Carolina Central—which, if true, would be astonishing.

(4) And, one final point worth reiterating; Matherly is a minor player in the People’s Alliance. But Milo Pyne is a significant actor, co-chairing the PA’s PAC and serving as the group’s spokesperson. This is the man, again, who just announced his “sympathy” for Mike Nifong.

I’d be hard pressed to come up with any other case in which local liberal leaders publicly, and repeatedly, sided with the perpetrator of prosecutorial misconduct. In this respect, the actions of figures such as Matherly and Pyne cast an ugly light on the sincerity of “progressives” in Durham.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sporting Analysis

The lacrosse case featured some . . . unusual . . . sports-related commentary from members of the Group of 88. Karla Holloway produced an essay for Scholar and Feminist Online denouncing the women’s lacrosse team for publicly supporting their falsely accused men’s colleagues. Grant Farred penned a book advancing the preposterous argument that Houston Rockets center Yao Ming constituted “the most profound threat to American empire.”

It turns out that this sort of bizarre perspective on athletics isn’t confined to the Group of 88; like-minded colleagues at other institutions offer similar views. Indeed, the journal Sport in Society is filled with Group of 88-style, race/class/gender analysis of sports-related questions.

Take, for instance, the work of Miami (Ohio) professor Mary McDonald, who describes herself as among the critical sport scholars” who use tools from such fields as women’s studies, ethnic studies, and cultural studies to produce scholarship “concerned with issues of inequality and social justice.” McDonald’s roster of courses includes “Introduction to the History of Activism”; “Critical Perspectives of the Body”; and “Women, Gender Relations & Sport.”

In the August edition of SiS, McDonald (with one of her graduate students) penned an article entitled, “Dressed for success? The NBA's dress code, the workings of whiteness and corporate culture.” The article purports to analyze the 2005 decision by NBA commissioner David Stern to implement a dress-code policy for the league’s players. The move came after a string of bad publicity for the league, most notably an ugly event in Detroit in which former Indiana Pacer Ron Artest went into the stands and brawled with fans.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to determine why the NBA adopted its policy. It needed to appease its largely white fan base. Or, in McDonald’s academic jargon: “the dress code helps position the white-dominated ownership structure and its white fan base as necessary arbitrators of ‘appropriate’ moral behaviour.” And given that most employers have the authority to institute dress codes over their employees, McDonald has to concede that the dress code might fall under the heading of “seemingly trivial practices and policies,” even if, she breathlessly notes, “has its own Wikipedia page.”

McDonald explains that despite focusing on a seemingly banal policy, her essay will explicate the alternate meanings, “the broader pedagogical functions at work through the introduction of this policy, that is—to explore the dominant meanings the initiation of this policy conveys and attempts to teach.” And what do these broader pedagogical functions reveal? “Far from a simple policy that requires a particular style of dress we read the NBA dress code critically, demonstrating its relationship to racialized, classed and gendered meanings and attempts at capital accumulation.” Of course.

McDonald’s essay combines academic jargon with a desire to analyze anything and everything through the prism of race, class, and gender. The dress code, she maintains, shows how “the social construction of race legitimates a system of privileges that accrue to bodies racialized as white . . . This perspective additionally acknowledges whiteness both within and beyond the case of the dress code.” McDonald laments that “the dress code represents an example of the NBA's continuing attempts at surveillance and control of its predominately African-American playing force, in this case by promoting conventional styles of dress and expression at the expense of hip-hop styles”—while also representing “an attempt to normalize white middle-class ideologies to legitimate the accumulation of capital.”

Her article’s goal, McDonald continues (impenetrably), is to provide “alternative interpretations linking an everyday cultural practice such as the dress code to normalizing strategies within contemporary neo-liberal capitalist mandates. Stated differently, in recontextualizing the dress code this paper maps out and makes visible the complex processes which both venerate and demonize the athleticism and entertainment value of black masculine bodies, and simultaneously deny the salience of political, social and economic processes that produce discourses of a commercialized white normativity,” all the while seeking “to promote new understandings in the quest for social justice.”

Alas, McDonald laments, the league’s installation of the dress code “additionally directs attention away from the actions and material advantages of white bodies while further perpetuating: ‘a cycle of stigmatization, assimilation and subordination’.”

In this respect, while “seemingly innocent,” the dress code “actually serves as a mechanism which combines with other forms of white cultural capital to safeguard the political and economic interests of whites and the dominant social class,” and so “the dress code can thus be understood as a type of whitewash” even as the NBA’s “black bodies serve as hot commodities in the global marketplace.”

McDonald repeatedly argues that the dress code wanted to distance the NBA and its players from hip-hop culture. During this period, however, the NBA promoted hip-hop artist Jay-Z, who even owned a small share of New Jersey Nets.

How to explain this apparent contradiction in her argument? McDonald notes that “music such as his not only reinforces the racial status quo via essentialistic imagery but additionally helps promote dominant gender ideologies.” In this way, “elements of hip-hop are ideologically aligned with dominant gender relations and images of hypersexuality which are also remade through elite professional sport which continues to promote masculine hegemony.” Indeed, “read from within the context of contemporary capitalist marketing strategies, like those employed by the NBA and promoted in the corporate media, the aesthetic signifiers of hip-hop are increasingly celebrated apart from the very material conditions of inequality that some forms of hip-hop seek to critique.” In other words: hip-hop is an admirable, genuine expression of black culture—except when it’s not.

Even as she admits hip-hop’s sexism and homophobia, however, McDonald can’t quite bring herself to criticize the music. While she concedes that “rap and hip-hop lyrics contain misogynistic and violent overtones,” the real problems are the “censorship campaigns such as those in the 1990s lead by Tipper Gore(!)” (who also ignored the dangers posed by “the US prison-industrial complex”) and other critics who lack a “sophisticated understanding of the corporate and political interests involved in promoting one-dimensional images of street life.” In any event, McDonald muses, “sexism and homophobia . . . are also widely prevalent in almost every other musical form.”

(McDonald regularly employs an “everyone-else-does-it” arguing style. At another point in the essay, she offers the following non-sequitur: she suggests that dress codes as a whole don’t really matter, since “Jeffrey Skillings and Ken Ley regularly wore business suits as they oversaw the corruption promoted by energy corporation Enron, while thousands of Enron employees and shareholders lost thousands of dollars, life savings and pensions upon Enron's collapse.”)

McDonald frames the debate over the dress code—or at least what debate existed—as part “of broader patterns of white racist preoccupation with the allegedly threatening and inferior character of black masculinity, preoccupations that can be traced back to slavery and reconstruction, and which have been frequently used by whites to legitimate the political status quo in relation to black cultural and political inequity.” And the debate goes well beyond the NBA: “the presumption of white superiority continues to fuel and justify racist treatment including the contemporary dismantling of social welfare programs.” As McDonald links the NBA’s policy to programs for society’s neediest, it’s worth remembering that she’s writing about a league in which the average player’s salary is $3.4 million.

The linkage to welfare policy isn’t the only time in which McDonald’s arguments raise questions about whether she exists in an alternate universe. In the late 1970s, the NBA seemed to be on the ropes, in large part because of widespread drug use among the league’s players (a majority of whom were African-American). The NBA’s unsurprising, common-sense response? The league instituted a drug-testing policy, and also launched a marketing campaign portraying the players positively, as embodiments of the American Dream. What should the NBA have done instead, implies McDonald? “[C]onfronting stereotypical notions of blackness promoted to maintain white cultural and political advantages.”

Or take this passage:

The imposition of the dress code can thus be understood as yet the latest attempt at a peculiar form of “diversity management” designed to both manage, but ultimately profit from, stereotypical images of urban black masculinity as immature, uncontrollable, greedy and egotistical Other attempts to control similar connotations include the imposition of a first year player salary cap which limits compensation to rookies and the instigation of an age restriction limiting the league to players aged 19 years or older.

Whatever the merits of the dress-code policy (and, as I noted above, the policy seemed like a no-brainer), any linkage between it and the first-year salary cap or the age-limitation policy seems tenuous at best and non-existent at worst. The first-year salary cap was pretty strictly a financial decision and an issue of older vs. younger players; while the age limit policy was primarily a competition question. Neither policy had much (if anything) to do with the image dilemma that motivated the dress code.

Or take McDonald’s criticism of Commissioner David Stern’s decision to suspend Ron Artest for the season after the Detroit brawl. The commissioner’s response, she contends, “fails to address structural and ideological inequities” between blacks and whites in American society.

After a week in which the NCAA issued the astonishing ruling that a star player’s father demanding bribes to send him to a particular university isn’t grounds for ruling the player ineligible, there’s certainly a need for in-depth, scholarly analysis of sport and society. Alas, the chances of receiving this type of analysis from the contemporary academy are, to put it charitably, remote.

Hat tip: D.B.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Island of Misfit Toys

In what was a horrific midterm election for Democrats, one of the party’s few bright spots came in Nevada, where Senate majority leader Harry Reid won re-election. The result was perhaps the biggest upset of the year: Reid’s favorability ratings were terrible, and Nevada’s economy was worse. Reid won because first, the Republicans nominated an extremist, Sharon Angle; and second, Angle eschewed guidance from national GOP operatives, instead listening to a handful of long-time associates, many of whom had either dubious backgrounds or bizarre beliefs. Knowledgeable Republicans lamented that Angle’s advisors belonged on the “island of misfit toys.”

In today’s N&O, Jesse James Deconto profiles Durham’s own version of the island of misfit toys—those who populate the interlocking committees devoted to defending disgraced rogue prosecutor Mike Nifong and serial false accuser Crystal Mangum.

Most of the committee members are the sort of cranks you’d expect to champion disreputable figures like Mangum and Nifong. Even the Group of 88, after all, has essentially abandoned Mangum, even though each and every member of the Group has never repudiated their guilt-presuming public assertion that something “happened” to Mangum at the lacrosse party.

Deconto tells the story of such activists as Douglas Register, who says he joined the pro-Mangum committee because he, like Mangum, suffers from mental illness. This problem perhaps explains Register’s bizarre analysis of the criminal case against Mangum, which he suggests is a conspiracy to improve the city’s position in the civil case filed by the falsely accused players. (If anything, Mangum’s alleged criminal activity would harm the city’s position, since it would further undermine the credibility of the figure to which the leadership of the Durham Police Department chose to attach their fate.)

And then there’s Durham’s resident race-baiting homophobe, Victoria Peterson, who Deconto observes has repeatedly interrupted the judge in Mangum’s pre-trial hearings. But speaking out of turn is nothing new from Peterson, who was ejected from the Nifong disciplinary hearing and then hijacked a WRAL live shot after her expulsion from the courtroom.

The Nifong and Mangum committees, however, don’t consist solely of cranks. Ideologues also were attracted to the dual causes. Some members, like Myra Kinderknecht, were virtual caricatures. Describing a case in which Mangum’s accuser and the chief prosecutor are black, Kinderknecht hypothesized: “It’s almost like a form of lynching, what’s happened to her. Everything that has happened to her screams white power, black oppression.”

Other committee members, however, represent more mainstream perspectives. Take, for instance, Steven Matherly, a member of the pro-Mangum committee who also belongs to the People’s Alliance, the most left-wing of Durham’s three major political committees.

The Durham political left’s consistent support for Mike Nifong’s crusade—and its turning of a blind eye to the type of police and prosecutorial misconduct left-wing activists usually denounce—is one of the darkest aspects of the entire lacrosse case. The People’s Alliance endorsed Nifong’s 2006 re-election, even though it was clear at that point Nifong had, at the least, charged one innocent person (Reade Seligmann) and violated ethics guidelines regarding pre-trial publicity. In a statement from the time, the Alliance noted, “Our general feeling was that [Nifong] is a person of high integrity and great skill. He’s a tough but fair and honest prosecutor. When you have the State’s power concentrated in one person, you want that person to be thoughtful and sober.” (Thoughtful and sober are two adjectives few objective observers would apply to Mike Nifong.)

Then there was the curious case of city council member Diane Catotti, the PA’s favorite Durham politician. Catotti strongly backed Nifong in 2006, and then did everything in her power first to block and then to undermine an investigation of the Police Department’s handling of the lacrosse case.

And, courtesy of today’s article, now there’s PA spokesman and political action committee co-chair Milo Pyne. Pyne said that he had declined to join either the Mangum or Nifong committees, but added, “I have sympathy for Ms. Mangum and Mr. Nifong.” I e-mailed the People’s Alliance spokesman to ask if he’d care to explain his sympathy for Nifong. As regular DIW readers know, I’m a lifelong Democrat, and I've never considered multi-faceted prosecutorial misconduct compatible with liberal political principles, nor have I ever believed that the perpetrators of such misconduct are deserving of sympathy.

Pyne’s response? “I am not interested in having this discussion with you.”

Durham, it seems, remains the only place in the United States where “progressives” see themselves as defenders of prosecutorial misconduct—at least when the victims of that misconduct are white males.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Group Members, Hypocrisy, & Karen Owen

I haven’t commented on the Karen Owen affair because Owen’s affront to basic decency seemed so obvious. (Owen, for those unaware, is the Duke graduate who chronicled, through a PowerPoint replete with photos, her sexual exploits with multiple male Duke student-athletes.) The PowerPoint went viral, and even prompted a Today Show segment, which helpfully used Owen’s actions to recall the lacrosse case—insinuating that a false allegation against Duke male students, inflamed by a rogue district attorney, had relevance to an invasion of privacy by a Duke female student, after voluntary sexual intercourse.

It’s not difficult to imagine how the Duke campus would have responded had the genders of the Owen affair been reversed—i.e., if a male Duke student had publicized, sometimes in mocking terms, his sexual interactions with multiple Duke female student-athletes. Doubtless we would have seen jeremiads against Duke sexism, and perhaps even calls for another Campus Culture Initiative. Yet the Group of 88 and their allies on the faculty were silent as the grave.

Until now. Jezebel reports that three Group mermbers—History professors Jocelyn Olcott, Sally Deutsch, and Peter Sigal—used an official Duke list-serv for to invite History majors to an “informal gathering[]” with them. The topic? “Sex and the Student: Historical Perspectives on Karen Owen’s Sex List.”

Olcott (a gender specialist who once team-taught a course with Wahneema Lubiano) articulated a thesis for the gathering that combined an attempt to rationalize Owen’s decision with academic pablum: “The idea simply is that Karen Owen isn’t a person in a vacuum but rather someone within a particular historical context, subject to all the contingencies and forces of her time and place. My hope is that the setting will give faculty and students alike a chance to think through what some of these contingencies and forces are.”

And what of Olcott’s co-facilitators? Perhaps Deutsch can recall the time, just after Mike Nifong began his pre-primary publicity crusade, in which she deviated from her syllabus—in a class that contained several lacrosse players—to deliver a guilt-presuming analysis about how Southern white men had a pattern of assaulting and disrespecting black women. In language that echoes Olcott’s announcement for the Owen affairs, Deutsch asserted that because her course spent “extensive time on [naturally] race and gender relations,” it was appropriate for her to use class time to contextualize the incident, thereby helping to “explain why people were so upset.”

And perhaps Sigal, whose scholarship combines “poststructuralist gender studies and queer theory influences” with use of philology and postcolonial theory to “understand the texts that I read as literary devices which I decode in order to represent the cultural matrix,” can offer his personal perspective—as seen in the photo below, from his Facebook page—about sexually-themed exhibitionism and the internet.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Duke-AIG Settlement?

Bloomberg reports that Duke and AIG might settle the University's lawsuit against the insurance company--a critical development, since such a settlement would avoid continued discovery, and a hearing at which some of this discovery might become public. I wrote about the lawsuit here.

And, as a reminder, the dynamic duo is on tap for tomorrow night, with Duke resident expert in "works in progress" Wahneema Lubiano chatting with Karla Holloway about . . . of course . . . race.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Dynamic Duo

For those in Durham without anything else to do Thursday, and who are eager for an evening of impenetrable discourse, consider the seminar event below:

Because, if nothing else, Wahneema Lubiano is expert in "works-in-progress."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Business As Usual

Today is "Founder's Day" Convocation at Duke. The featured speaker? Ex-BOT chairman Robert Steel, whose checkered record in leading the institution through the lacrosse case ended in payments to the three falsely accused players and (to date) hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees in staving off additional lawsuits. Steel went on from Duke to lead Wachovia as the bank fell into bankruptcy.

The day also features university recognition for some faculty members--including Group of 88 members Laura Edwards and Margaret Greer. And, not to be outdone, the Group's Mark Anthony ("thugniggaintellectual") Neal, named Mark Anthony Neal, who was given the Robert B. Cox Trinity College Distinguished Teaching Award.

Monday, September 27, 2010


In the latest edition of Days of Precious’ Lives, Crystal Mangum’s estranged ex-boyfriend walked into the DA’s office and claimed that he—not the false accuser—had set clothes on fire the nigh police were summoned to their residence. His excuse for his turnabout? “I wasn't on my medication . . . I acted out on the voices I was hearing.”

Whether the ex-boyfriend was hearing voices earlier this year or is hearing voices now, this was quite an environment into which Mangum inserted her children.

Judge Marcia Morey has received a promotion, to chief district judge of Durham County. The move doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the county’s commitment to justice, since this is the same Judge Morey who testified on Mike Nifong’s behalf in the disgraced ex-prosecutor’s criminal contempt trial. On the stand, Judge Morey offered a novel argument. To quote the N&O:

An unusual moment came before Nifong's testimony, when a judge testified that she expected lawyers to be more honest during trial than during pretrial hearings.

A prosecutor asked the judge, Marcia Morey, whether a lawyer would be following his duty to be candid if he assured a judge that a report was complete when the lawyer knew it to be incomplete.

It depended on whether the case had reached trial, Morey said.

“I do think it makes a difference,” Morey said. “Are you are at a trial stage, are you at a pretrial conference.”

Finally, former U.S. Attorney Anna Mills Wagoner has resigned her post to run for a judgeship. She should be pressed on why she refused to conduct a criminal investigation of Nifong and the DPD; and whether she would pursue a policy of cronyism on the bench.

Hat tips: M.L.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


For those interested: while DIW posts are now rare, as the case lurches forward in the civil system, all of my posts (here, at Minding the Campus, and at Cliopatria) can be accessed through my twitter feed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mangum Bail Revoked

ABC-11 is reporting that authorities have revoked the bail of serial fabricator Crystal Mangum. The false accuser violated the terms of her bail, and therefore will be returning to jail.

Another troublesome figure from the lacrosse case in the news: state NAACP head William Barber, whose organization posted a wildly slanted, factually challenged "memorandum of law" and whose case advisors repudiated a host of traditional NAACP positions in a vain attempt to bolster Mike Nifong's case. Barber received an award from Democratic governor Beverly Perdue, who (remarkably) hailed his efforts to "build coalitions to fight for equality."

Perdue's cowardly act should serve as a reminder of the courage displayed in the case by AG Roy Cooper. It's almost impossible in North Carolina for a Democrat--whether Perdue or Cooper--to win statewide without an overwhelming African-American vote. Yet Cooper--even though the state NAACP and sympathetic "journalists" like Cash Michaels were threatening a political price to be paid b not giving False Accuser Mangum her "day in court"--did the right thing, despite the political risk.

The same can't be said of Perdue.

And, following up on a previous post, I highly recommend this offering from Craig Henry.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brodhead: "Every Allegation Is Not a Truth"

That quote came from today's N&O, regarding allegations of research misconduct against a Duke professor.

Brodhead, of course, was far less clear-cut in defending the due process rights of disfavored students on campus.

The article also noted that Duke has engaged in a round of budget trimming, totaling $100 million from its total operating budget, through elimination of 500 jobs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wendy Murphy's Revival

While I rarely watch cable news, I’m fully aware that—in the era of Glenn Beck—the medium is more “entertainment” than “news.”

Nonetheless, FOX, CNN, and MSNBC all claim to have some “news” in their broadcasts. And so it would seem to me that each network would have minimal standards in a guest—perhaps to the extent that a guest who made repeated and verifiably false statements would not continue to be invited.

That standard, alas, seems to be too high for FOX, at least with regard to the decision to give air time to Wendy Murphy. Yes, that Wendy Murphy. Given that Murphy made error after error after error of fact during her on-air commentary about the lacrosse case, I would have thought that she would have disappeared from TV screens in the case’s aftermath. After all, Murphy is either a serial fabricator or a willful ignorant, and I would think that neither qualification would be much desired by a “news” network.

And yet here was Murphy, spouting her usual, factually-challenged nonsense in an appearance with Radley Balko. Balko, astonished at his first-hand taste of Murphy’s ramblings, did some fact-checking on her recent appearances. The result wasn’t pretty.

So what does Murphy’s continued appearances say about the state of cable “news”? I agree with Balko: “Cable news is about lining people up on either side and letting them go at it. There's no room for subtlety. There's certainly no time for fact-checking a guest's claims, even after the segment airs. Murphy is pretty, provocative, and confrontational. She's great TV. That she's inaccurate, slanderous, and hysterical is beside the point . . . At some point you have to wonder, is it even possible to be too shameless for cable news?”

Alex Pareene, of left-leaning Salon, piggy-backed on Balko’s post to (correctly) brand Murphy as Exhibit A of the proposition that “there are, in the mass media, absolutely no consequences for blatant, constant lying.”

Pareene, alas, then fatally undermines his case by comparing Murphy to Peter Beinart and Jeff Goldberg, both of whom supported the war in Iraq, and both of whom (until, in Beinart’s case, recently) have publicly and repeatedly defended Israeli national security policy.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the flaws in this comparison: Murphy repeatedly, shamelessly makes “facts” up to advance her argument. Goldberg, Beinart, and other supporters of the invasion of Iraq made (what I consider) a flawed public policy judgment. But nothing either man has ever written (including Beinart’s recent poorly-argued NYRB essay on Israeli matters) even approaches in journalistic misconduct anything Murphy said about the lacrosse case—or, from Balko’s essay, anything she’s said about sex crimes or immigration policy.

That Pareene considers Murphy’s serial fabrications comparable to the performance of Goldberg or Beinart suggests that he, unlike Balko, doesn’t see just how outrageous Murphy’s behavior has been.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

New N&O Series

One fortuitous aspect of the lacrosse case came in that the N&O--perhaps as much as any newspaper of comparable (or even larger) size--had a record of first-class work on issues of police and prosecutorial misconduct. The paper therefore had context through which to interpret Mike Nifong's unethical behavior.

The paper is continuing its exploration of such issues: here's a preview of the N&O's new series, debuting tomorrow.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Linwood Fights the Law

Linwood Wilson—the man specially hired to the DA’s office by Mike Nifong, and the “investigator” who then allegedly pressured witnesses to confirm to the disgraced ex-DA’s version of events—is in more trouble with the law.

Yesterday, a warrant was served on the man who once boasted that “he owned Durham (and) lawyers and judges would do anything he said.” Wilson’s case, fortunately, has been taken out of the hands of the DPD and the Durham DA’s office, which is now headed by Nifong protégé Tracey Cline. In soliciting the warrant, a Durham County Sheriff’s deputy affirmed, "I believe that it has been demonstrated that Mr. Wilson is unpredictable and may harm others.”

Wilson has been charged with cyberstalking his estranged wife, but documents released pertaining to the warrant suggested that the ex-investigator’s aberrant behavior extended to his wife's boss, who told police that he received a June 29, 2010 letter asking him, “Do you really think a small charge will stop me from getting what I want? You lock yourselves behind locked gates and doors and try to hide yourselves. You forget that while you all may hide you leave other members of your family out in the open.”

(For those following the timeline of the case, that letter was sent after a Durham judge and Wilson crony lowered Wilson’s bail, based on an ex parte phone call from the former Nifong henchman.)

According to WRAL, “Authorities seized a booklet labeled ‘Barbara Wilson portfolio,’ 21 pictures of Barbara Wilson, three cell phones, a shotgun and shotgun shells, laptop desktop computers, a mini-disc player, a .38 Special handgun, rifle rounds, VHS tapes and a digital camera.”

This, again, is the man hired by Durham County’s “minister of justice” to serve as his primary investigator.

In addition to his cyberstalking charges, Wilson is also a defendant in the lacrosse case civil suits, for which he has distinguished himself for his fantastical court filings while serving as his own attorney.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mangum & N. Buchanan

The false accuser Crystal Mangum recently gave an interview with the Tom Joyner Show. Her interviewer, Jacque Reid, wasn’t exactly hard-hitting: Reid never mentioned that AG Cooper had declared the player innocent based on a comprehensive inquiry. Instead, she reported that North Carolina authorities merely “said that they did not have enough evidence” to pursue charges.

In the interview, Mangum maintained her conspiracy theory about her recent domestic violence/arson arrest. She claimed that the “state took it upon itself to come after me” because she had falsely accused people in the past, and that once the Durham Police discovered who she was (Mangum, of course, had initially given to police a false name), they decided to blame the incident on her.

Mangum maintained that she was the “victim” in the incident. Her children, she asserted, had called 911 out of a desire to defend her (that 911 call apparently wasn’t recorded, since the 911 call that actually occurred painted a quite different tale); and that she had “bruises on my face” (which apparently did not appear in any contemporaneous photographs). The false accuser added that she couldn’t understand why anyone would consider her to be prone to violence, since she “didn’t have a prior record.” She’s apparently forgotten her guilty plea to charges stemming from an incident in which she stole a taxicab and then tried to run down a police officer.

The interview’s two most stunning lines, however, came in her discussion of the lacrosse case. First, this textbook example of a false accuser asserted, “I never falsely accused anyone.” Mangum’s approach is, apparently, that her accusations can’t be false as long as she believes them t be true.

Second, in a quite remarkable interpretation of the ethics charges against the disgraced Mike Nifong, Mangum asserted that Nifong lost his law license because defense attorneys said “I was not a credible witness.” Apparently Nifong’s withholding exculpatory evidence, lying to the court, and making unethical inflammatory statements didn’t count.

On another front, news from Durham this morning that Duke decided to tear down the house at 610 N. Buchanan.

This move reverses a 2009 decision by Duke, as reported by the Chronicle:

Executive Vice President Tallman Trask said the University contacted attorneys representing members of the 2005-2006 lacrosse team about tearing down the house to build a new residence as part of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, but the request was denied.

"610 N. Buchanan remains a piece of evidence, and so it can only be removed with the consent of all the parties," Trask said in an interview with The Chronicle in February. "The lawyers all have to agree that they don't need it. I think actually we might ask them again, but their argument was you have to actually stand in that bathroom to understand how preposterous the claims were, and the pictures just don't do it justice."

In an interview with WRAL, rising Duke senior Emily Fausch probably got at the reason why Duke decided to go forward: "It's a reminder of the past that some people don't want to be reminded of.” Indeed, I can see why the Brodhead administration and its allies among the Group of 88 would seek do everything they can not to be reminded of their 2006 behavior.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Wilson & Mangum (Updated)

Two recent developments from the Wonderland that is Durham (updated below):

First, ex-DA’s investigator Linwood Wilson was issued a new fugitive arrest warrant, after the AG’s office assumed control of his stalking obscenity case. Court papers revealed that Wilson allegedly had boasted to his wife that “he owned Durham (and) lawyers and judges would do anything he said.” Little in the case to date had contradicted this claim—Wilson was released on a laughably low $1000 bond.

Wilson’s case also was removed from the purview of his cronies on the Durham bench; Guilford County District Judge Thomas Foster oversaw the hearing on the new warrant, and released Wilson on a $10,000 bond, coupled with restrictions on his movement and an order not to contact his estranged wife or her family.

Wilson’s attorney defended the justice of the original $1000 bond, and denounced prosecutors for requesting a $100,000 bond: “I just think $100,000 is outrageous for a man who has served the citizens of Durham to uphold the law," the counsel huffed.

And who is Wilson’s attorney? None other than former Nifong campaign contributor Fred Battaglia, who also was one of the last Nifong apologists. In January 2007, Battaglia fantastically suggested that Nifong could continue prosecuting the fraudulent sexual assault case—and that the State Bar should have filed ethics charges against the defense attorneys(!) for publicly rebutting Nifong’s myriad inaccurate and inflammatory statements.

Only someone who considered Nifong an ethical attorney could make the bizarre claim that Linwood Wilson—the man immediately fired as soon as Nifong left the DA’s office—“served the citizens of Durham to uphold the law.”

A curious passage, by the way, in the Herald-Sun article on Wilson’s new bond hearing. Reporter John McCann writes, “According to Wilson's wife, her husband's treatment of her worsened in 2007 after he was fired from his job in Nifong's District Attorney's Office. It has been speculated Wilson's removal had to do with his role in the case involving exotic dancer Crystal Mangum's since-discredited accusation of being sexually assaulted in 2006 by members of Duke University's lacrosse team. In particular, that he crossed swords with Nifong by raising doubts about the Mangum's credibility and suggested she take a lie-detector test, a suggestion Nifong disregarded.”

It’s true that—well after the fact—Wilson claimed he had wanted to give Mangum a lie-detector test. But no connection exists between the DA’s office firing Wilson and his having “crossed swords” with Nifong at a point in December 2006. Indeed, all evidence suggests that Wilson was fired because of his pattern of unethical behavior in attempting to prop up Nifong’s fraudulent case.

Wilson wasn’t the only unethical lacrosse case figure now on the other side of the law—he’s joined in this status as a criminal defendant by the false accuser herself, Crystal Mangum.

It would be hard to top the strange circumstances of Wilson’s case—the disgraced investigator getting his bond lowered by placing a phone call to a friend in the Durham judiciary—but Mangum was able to do so.

After a court appearance yesterday by the false accuser, her defense attorney, Clayton Jones, withdrew from the case. Jones said that Mangum had refused to follow his legal advice. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that a competent defense counsel would have allowed Mangum’s bizarre press conference, at which she suggested that Duke and the DPD were now engaged in a conspiracy to prevent her from having a fair trial.

Jones also suggested that Mangum was now taking legal counsel from a handful of pro-Nifong cranks (a group including former Nifong citizens’ committee chair Victoria Peterson) who hold up the disgraced former prosecutor as a paragon of ethics. These are also about the only people (apart, of course, from the Group of 88) who are still on record as saying something “happened” to Mangum.

Perhaps Battaglia can take Mangum’s case as well?

[Update: Jones says he will remain as Mangum's attorney of record, at least through Monday. By phone today, Jones said Mangum has not been following his legal advice. The N&O reports, "He pulled her aside after the hearing Wednesday when he saw her talking with members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong, who say the public defender's office can't adequately represent her because they work for the state, which they say is out to punish her because of the Duke lacrosse case. '[Committee member] Sidney Harr has absolutely no clue what's going on with this case,' Jones said. 'I have told him a number of times to stay away from my office.'"]

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More from Wonderland (Twice Updated)

In what could only be described as a classic case of chutzpah, false accuser Crystal Mangum gave a press conference this morning claiming that the Durham judicial system--the same Durham judicial system that the disgraced Mike Nifong rigged to prop up Mangum's "fantastic lies"--is . . . out to get her.

That's her explanation for her February arrest on a variety of domestic violence charges. It's troubling to see that Mangum continues to live in a fantasy world. Perhaps her next event will be to serve as character witness for the fired, and recently arrested, Linwood Wilson.

To confirm, however, that Durham isn't the only locale where such bizarre behavior occurs, take a look at New York City, which just appointed Bob Steel(!)--whose stints as Duke BOT chairman and as head of Wachovia could charitably be described as failures--to be deputy mayor.

[Three updates: (1) In a statement released to the media, false accuser Mangum affirms that "my past entanglement with Duke reached out to drastically influence the legal problems that I now face." This would be the same "Duke" who had 88 faculty members who publicly declared that something "happened" to the false accuser; or whose president released multiple public statements condemning the character of the group that she falsely accused. Why Duke--heretofore a major Mangum supporter, if for reasons unrelated to the veracity of her tall tales--suddenly has decided to coopt the DPD to go after Mangum remains a mystery.

(2) The spokesperson for the crank committee demanding restoration of Mike Nifong's law license has filed a complaint with the Justice Department, alleging a federal violation of Mangum's civil rights. Mangum and like-minded figures, the complaint alleges, have experienced discrimination because they reject the "widespread, vitriolic propaganda spread by the media against Mike Nifong and the prosecution team in the Duke Lacrosse case."

Perhaps I'm a cynic, but I rather doubt that the DOJ will consider Nifong apologists to constitute a protected class.

(3) The North Carolina AG's office has taken over all matters relating to Linwood Wilson, after one judge (Ron Stephens) delayed a protective order, thus allowing Wilson to keep his guns, and another judge (David LaBarre) mysteriously lowered Wilson's bail, based on incomplete information provided by Wilson in a phone call to the judge.

According to a court document filed by Wilson's estranged wife, the ex-Nifong investigator told her that "he owned Durham [and] lawyers and judges would do anything he said."]

Friday, June 25, 2010

Linwood Wilson Arrested (Updated)

Wilson booking photo

Linwood Wilson--whose penchant for unethical behavior was outdone only by the unethical behavior of his disgraced former boss--has been arrested, on a Delaware warrant related to domestic violence and cyberstalking his estranged wife.

Reports WTVD-11:
Warrants state on June 1, Wilson allegedly sent his wife an instant message that said in part, "'til death do we part remember your wedding vows.. you never know the day or the time."

Warrants also reveal Wilson later mailed two DVD's to his estranged wife depicting her engaged in a sexual act with him. Before that he allegedly e-mailed nude photos of his wife to her sister.

Warrants describe about a dozen more e-mail encounters, even after authorities issued a protective order . . .

Wilson and his wife separated in April after 18 years of marriage. Before that his wife says Wilson intimidated her numerous times and threatened to kill her with a gun.

She says after the Duke Lacrosse case, his behavior, "..changed for the worse."
Remember: this is the man (who had already lost his PI's license) that Mike Nifong specifically brought on board as his DA's investigator. But, as Brad Bannon noted, Wilson once did have a badge.

In yet another Durham-in-Wonderland moment, WRAL reports "Judge David Q. LaBarre changed Wilson’s bond [to $1000] over the telephone after Wilson called him asking for help. LaBarre said Wilson told him he was being arrested on a domestic violence charge but that he didn't know about the other charges when he set a bond that would allow Wilson out of custody."

Here's a clip of the ex-DA's investigator, from happier times.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Duke Celebrates Tyson

Said David Jarmul, associate vice president for news and communications: “Professor Tyson is highly regarded here at Duke for his work as a faculty member."

That's the same Professor Tyson who:

--in his capacity as a teacher, attended a guilt-presuming protest outside the lacrosse captains' house, at about the same time the supposed "victim" was taped pole-dancing at a strip club;

--publicly asserted about Duke students, based solely on evidence supplied by Mike Nifong, “I think the spirit of the lynch mob lived in that house on Buchanan Street, frankly, and I think that we prefer to think of white supremacists as ignorant, pot-bellied, tobacco-chewing sheriffs and Ku Klux Klan members from Mississippi, but here we have the sons of power and privilege, the wealthy and well-educated among us, who are acting out this history.”

--claimed that Duke students not talking to Sgt. Mark Gottlieb outside the presence of their attorneys “may be illegal” and constituted a “terrible moral miscalculation.”

--falsely stated, "The neighbors who have no ax to grind in this, presumably, seem to confirm the charges of the women that there were a lot of racial insults thrown.” [emphasis added]

--ignored any conception of due process by affirming, “I wouldn’t let this team continue to exist until the police get some cooperation from them.”

And then, asked about his inflammatory statements by the Wilmington Star-News after the case to which he had attached his public reputation collapsed, defiantly proclaimed: "I stand by every word of it."

(This is also the same Tim Tyson whose movie project received between $1 million and $5 million in backing from former BOT chairman Robert Steel.)

Said David Jarmul, associate vice president for news and communications: “Professor Tyson is highly regarded here at Duke for his work as a faculty member."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Professional Protesters' Credibility

[Update, 8.46pm: Joining the Rev. Barber in the protest was none other than Duke's resident professional protester, Tim Tyson--the figure who humiliated himself by participating (as a teacher) in a protest outside the lacrosse captains' house as their false accuser, Crystal Mangum, was caught on videotape pole-dancing at a strip club.]

Few public policy initiatives produced such unfortunate, if unintended, consequences as mandatory school busing to achieve racial diversity.

The idea, on its face, seemed reasonable: Brown dealt only with legalized segregation, but in dozens of northeastern, Midwestern, and Border State cities, de facto racial segregation existed. Policies such as “red-lining” (as well as uglier, more overt instances of hostility in cities like Detroit) had prevented black families from obtaining mortgages in selected neighborhoods, creating overwhelmingly-white or overwhelmingly-black neighborhoods. So assigning students to public schools on the basis of their residences resulted in de facto segregated schools.

Beginning in the 1960s, civil rights groups obtained from sympathetic federal judges rulings that mandated public school busing to achieve racially balanced public schools. The most notorious of these cases occurred in Boston, where federal judge J. Arthur Garrity took control of the city’s public school system, and racist mobs in South Boston greeted the arrival of black children at South Boston High School.

However well-intention in theory, mandatory busing almost always fell short in practice. In policy terms, they precipitated “white flight,” in which most white families either moved from center cities to suburbs (Detroit is a good example of this pattern) or sent their children to private schools rather than busing them out of their neighborhoods. In political terms, these white families—disproportionately middle-class or lower-middle class Catholic ethnics—became ground zero in the backlash against the Democratic Party, opening up the way for their emergence as “Reagan Democrats.”

Busing, then, mostly left behind smaller, though not much more integrated, public school systems; and harmed the political allies of busing advocates. It’s no surprise that most cities (and courts) have abandoned mandatory “diversity” busing in favor of voluntary programs like magnet schools.

In this respect, the decision of North Carolina’s Wake County to move away from mandatory busing is a bit behind the times. But the school board meeting to implement the policy change met with a protest from four “civil rights” activists—led by none other than the Rev. William Barber. Barber and his cohort used a break in the school board’s session to place themselves in board members’ seats before being arrested. The state NAACP head claimed that Wake County’s actions would wipe away “what it took more than a century ‘of tears, sweat and blood to accomplish.’”

That’s the same Rev. Barber whose conception of “justice” in the lacrosse case consisted of abandoning decades’ worth of his organization’s principles on criminal justice matters and posting on his organization’s website a “memorandum of law” riddled with errors that made the defendants appear to be guilty.

That, after such behavior, any politician would consider Rev. Barber credible is beyond belief.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Davidson Does Grading, Ctd.

At the beginning of the 2009-2010 academic year, I noted the pedagogical . . . innovations . . . of Group of 88 member Cathy Davidson. Suffering from the travails of a tenured Duke professor—“I loved returning to teaching last year after several years in administration . . . except for the grading”—Davidson developed a scheme to collect her paycheck without doing the work normally expected of a college professor. Students in her classes would “pass judgment” on the work of their peers (the system worked “brilliantly,” she humbly noted), and students would “lead” the class discussion as well. The professor’s job, it seems, is limited to making sure no one’s feelings get hurt.

Other than the obvious (laziness), what was the rationale for Davidson’s scheme? A supporter of the effort, NYU professor Lisa Duggan, explained. Duggan had employed the tactic in her “Race, Gender & Sexuality in US History” course, where, she claimed, it benefited “students without previous educational privilege,” since they didn’t have to be “judged in the usual way” (i.e., writing research papers, taking exams) while turning off “entitled students who try to skate by on a good prose style.” Evidently, college professors shouldn’t be encouraging “good prose style.”

In any event, Davidson’s year of hard work has come to a conclusion, and what was the result? Fifteen of the sixteen students in the class received grades of A. What did the 16th student do wrong—challenge the ideological preconceptions of his or her peers, rather than following along with the groupthink atmosphere?

Davidson isn’t troubled by the grade inflation. In a bizarre analogy, she mused, “If I were training a basketball team to win the NCAA [tournament], let’s say, my bar would be winning that championship. It would not be creating a bell curve of my best and worst players.” Quite true. But, presumably, part of that effort would be distinguishing between the best and worst players, so that the coach made sure to play the best players. In Davidson’s Group of 88 world, everyone is equally “excellent,” and we need not worry about troublesome things like whether students have “good prose style” or study hard enough to do well on tests.

The Chronicle interviewed two students in the class; both had positive things to say. (They got an easy A, after all.) But such “instruction” hardly serves the long-term interests of the students—or the financial interests of their parents, who are paying $50,000 or so for a student-run class in which students grade themselves.

Put yourself in the position of a graduate school admissions committee, or a prospective employer, reading a letter of recommendation from Davidson for a student in the course:

I strongly recommend Student X, who received an A grade in my 2009-2010 class, “Your Brain on the Internet.” The course featured students running discussions and grading themselves, because, as I have noted elsewhere, “grading and assessment were late 19th- and early 20th-century conventions designed to be as efficient as the assembly line.” While it’s true that you might be a little reluctant to recognize the performance of someone graded not by their professor, but by college students, in a course run not by the professor, but by college students; and while you might be inclined to dismiss the evaluation standard of a course where 93.75 percent of the students received the best grade,“It is important for someone like me, at a superb school like Duke and with my experience as a traditional academic, to push the boundaries of education so we can develop a much better system. Right now, we’re training students for our past, not for their future.”

Davidson told the Chronicle that “I heard positive comments from lots of people in engineering” about her grading schemes. She didn’t reveal any of these colleagues’ names, presumably to spare them from embarrassment among their peers.

Monday, May 31, 2010

ESPN: "Questions Remain"

[Update, II, 6/1, 6.39pm: For an example of how a publication committed to journalistic integrity might have handled the connection between the lacrosse case and the 2010 championship, take a look at this moving article on the Loftus family from the Syosset Patch. Brothers Dan and Chris were members of the 2006 team; brother Eddie was a member of the Duke championship squad. Their father, Brian, is a retired New York fire captain (not exactly the elitist image upon which lacrosse critics want to focus) who was one of the most courageous voices speaking out against the media crusade against the Duke players in spring 2006.]

[Update, 6/1, 12.01am: ESPN's onslaught against the falsely accused players and their teammates continues. In a column ostensibly hailing the 2010 Duke lacrosse national championship victory, ESPN's Dana O'Neil claims that since 2006, the members of the team found it hard to wear their jerseys, since they "knew" that "the words 'Duke lacrosse' were viewed more as scarlet letters than banners of pride," that "Duke lacrosse equated to scandal and shame." Even though the players were exonerated, "the stigma still existed."

Why? Because, since 2006, "there was, after all, nothing else to associate Duke lacrosse with [emphasis added, sentence-ending preposition in original]."

Original post below.]

Via NewsBusters, an extraordinary item from ESPN anchor Steve Weissman. Introducing highlights to the Duke-Virginia national semifinals (won by Duke), Weissman made the following observation:

“Two of the top lacrosse teams in the country, dealing with two of the worst stories college athletes have faced in recent memory. Just three years ago, the Blue Devils were involved in a devastating scandal in which three players were charged with sexual assault. All three were exonerated, but the questions remain.”

First of all, the obvious error: the Duke so-called “devastating scandal” occurred in 2006, not 2007, as Weissman claimed. And, of course, the strained comparison: in the UVA case, a player on the team has admitted—according to police—repeatedly banging a woman's head against a wall, which left her dead. In the Duke case, people unrelated to the team—the prosecutor, the police, the media, the professoriate—engaged in wrongdoing. Yet Weissman lumps the two episodes together, as “two of the worst stories college athletes have faced in recent memory.”

But by far the most troubling aspect of Weissman’s commentary came in his assertion that “questions remain” about the players’ exoneration. Weissman, it appears, is dissatisfied with the comprehensive inquiry by the North Carolina AG’s office.

So what questions, specifically, does the ESPN reporter have? I e-mailed ESPN’s press office to ask; I received no reply.

Perhaps Weissman was referring to Eric Adelson’s April 11, 2006 ESPN column citing an “anonymous” source who “was present at the hospital on the night of the alleged incident,” and who claimed that Crystal Mangum (this Crystal Mangum, from a photo taken two days later) was “beat up . . . pretty banged up”; that “there were bruises on her face, neck, and arms”; and that there “were injuries to the woman’s pelvic area.”

There are a lot of “questions” that “remain” about that column—chiefly, why ESPN never repudiated it. (I e-mailed Adelson in 2008; he said he stood by the story. I also e-mailed ESPN’s then-ombudsman about the seeming misuse of anonymous sources; she never replied.) As the Attorney General's report made clear, no evidence exists to corroborate the claims of Adelson's single anonymous source—which, as a thread in the old Liestoppers convincingly argued, was probably former Duke Police Officer Sara Falcon.

Is Weissman’s screed now suggesting that the Adelson column represents ESPN’s party line on the lacrosse case?