Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Atlanta continues to struggle to understandwhat it has done in retrieving the Martin Luther King manuscripts from Sotheby's auction. The terms of the agreement between the King Estate and the city's private lenders are secret, but David Garrow,"Civil Rights Era for Sale," Los Angeles Times, 30 June, points to some obvious problems.
King's admirers once built a building, the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, to house the documents in its archive. They were to be the" cornerstone" in the country's leading archive of the civil rights era. The bulk of the city's King manuscripts continue to be there, in a building that the King Estate has allowed to deteriorate and wants to sell to the National Park Service. Several years ago, the Park Service estimated that it would take $11 million to restore the King Center to acceptable building standards. Meanwhile the roof leaks on the world's largest collection of civil rights movement documents.
When the $32 million loan to purchase the King holograph documents from the King Estate is paid off, they and the 1000 book library retrieved from Sotheby's will be owned by King's alma mater, Morehouse College, and at least temporarily housed in the Atlanta University Center's Robert W. Woodruff Library. There, at least, qualified archivists will manage the collection in a facility that is yet underfunded and understaffed. Still, on the one hand, Morehouse President Walter Massey talks of a future possibility in which the College will erect its own archive to feature King's manuscripts as a showcase of college pride. For 20 years, however, the College has held 40 boxes of Benjamin Mays manuscripts under lock and key, denying access even to its own faculty member, Walter Fluker, who edits the Howard Thurman Papers. Clayborne Carson, editor of The Martin Luther King Papers, Benjamin Mays biographers, Vernon Burton and Randal Jelks, and I have all been denied access to the Mays papers. It doesn't bode well for Morehouse's stewardship of the King documents.
On the other hand, with tourist traffic foremost in mind, Atlanta's Mayor Shirley Franklin and former Mayor Andrew Young talk about building a new $100 million civil rights museum downtown, in which the King documents would be the" cornerstone." Framing and hanging King's manuscript notes on its walls, Sotheby's described them as"works of art." Mayors Franklin and Young apparently drank the auctioneer's kool-aid and dream of their potential for display. Are your dissertation and lecture notes works of art? Can't you just see some poor doctoral candidate schlepping from one museum's"work of art" to another and hurriedly keying notes into her laptop? If, like Evan Roberts and Caleb McDaniel, the hapless doctoral candidate tries to use a digital camera instead of a laptop, I'd guess the Estate-police will seize it, kick her out of the museum, and subsequently indicate a willingness to sell her camera back to her.
Friedman emphasizes trade and diplomacy; exhibits a rather straightforward appreciation of technology as a driving factor in human progress; is, in his most optimistic moments, prone to evoking a global future of unlimited gravy production. Kaplan is more likely to refer to history; regards culture as the decisive force in each society's prospects; and, when imagining the world's future, tend to sound something like Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, only less cheerful.
Friedman sees some grounds for concern over the pace and direction of globalization. At heart, though, he trusts the process. Kaplan trusts nothing but the superiority of the West, and has not been shy about saying that imperialism was a good idea that has only gotten better with time.
If those are our options, we are doomed. Be that as it may, here is my confession: Friedman often irritates me, while Kaplan's weltanschaung calls to mind the phrase"beneath contempt."
Fortunately Tom Bissell does not agree: He considers Kaplan worth all the scorn needed to fuel an analytical essay of several thousand well-turned words. His piece,"Euphorias of Perrier: The Case Against Robert D. Kaplan," appears in the new issue of Virginia Quarterly Review -- a publication rapidly dispelling any fear that the day of the important literary quarterly is over.
"Kaplan's real and growingly evident problem," writes Bissell,"is not his Parkinson's grip on history, or that he is a bonehead or a warmonger, but rather that he is an incompetent thinker and a miserable writer." He calls one of Kaplan's books"a thesaurus of incoherencies."
What is worrying is that Kaplan has his enthusiasts in the corridors of power.
"Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote that war is the extension of politics by other means," says Bissell."Bush and Kaplan, on the other hand, appear to advocate war as cultural politics by other means. This has resulted in a collision of second-rate minds with third-rate policies. While one man attempts to make the world as simple as he is able to comprehend it, the other whispers in his various adjutants’ ears that they are on the side of History itself."
What the Court has done is not so much countermajoritarian as democracy forcing. It has limited the President by forcing him to go back to Congress to ask for more authority than he already has, and if Congress gives it to him, then the Court will not stand in his way. It is possible, of course, that with a Congress controlled by the Republicans, the President might get everything he wants. However this might be quite unpopular given the negative publicity currently swirling around our detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. By forcing the President to ask for authorization, the Court does two things. First, it insists that both branches be on board with what the President wants to do. Second, it requires the President to ask for authority when passions have cooled somewhat, as opposed to right after 9/11, when Congress would likely have given him almost anything (except authorization for his NSA surveillance program, but let's not go there!). Third, by requiring the President to go to Congress for authorization, it gives Congress an opportunity and an excuse for oversight, something which it has heretofore been rather loathe to do on its own motion.
What say our distinguished readers?
Seeing their state reduced to a national “laughing stock,” in the words of prospective Nifong challenger Lewis Cheek, surely must concern North Carolina leaders. Yet to date, political self-interest, if nothing else, has dictated inaction. The accused players are not North Carolina residents; the arts and sciences faculty at their own institution has either remained silent or publicly denounced them; and the Duke administration has, at best, washed its hands of the affair. Powerful political interests within the state, meanwhile, seem to view Nifong as a figure positioned to right past wrongs, even if he has to violate canons of legal ethics to do so.
The checks that should restrain renegade district attorneys, obviously, failed to work in this case. Nifong assumed personal control of the investigation almost from the start, eliminating the usual first check: the police developing facts and concluding their investigation before determining that a crime occurred and passing that information on to the district attorney. (In yet another of this story’s many bizarre aspects, blogging from the scene, John in Carolina observed that Durham’s police chief, Steve Chalmers, “hasn’t been seen in public for months, although we’re told he’s following the Duke lacrosse case just as closely as the rest of us.”) The judge who supervised the case thus far, Nifong’s former boss, rejected pleas from the defense for a speedy trial and consigned countless defense motions to a black hole, refusing even to demand that Nifong respond to them. In Durham, judges are elected, and therefore responsible to the same constituency that renominated Nifong. If he’s done nothing else, Nifong has shown how even a weak candidate can win an election in the city.
Governor Mike Easley, meanwhile, has remained silent, and hasn’t been pressed for comment by the local media. It certainly seems worth asking the governor, who previously served as North Carolina’s attorney general, what criteria he used to appoint Nifong to last year’s district attorney vacancy, and whether he’s learned anything from the experience. Nifong, after all, had spent the previous five years in traffic court, hardly the customary home of talented prosecutors. While endowed with seniority, he sported a quite unusual background: he opted for law school only after a sojourn as a social worker; and, upon graduating from UNC Law School, had to volunteer in the Durham district attorney’s office before being hired to a salaried position (not the normal career path for the best legal minds). Perhaps his performance wasn’t so hard to predict after all. If I were Easley, I’d want to avoid comment on the affair as well.
This leaves the state’s attorney general, Democrat Roy Cooper. Like everyone else, it seems, in a decisionmaking position in this matter, Cooper’s political self-interest dictates allowing the case to lurch forward: he wants to be governor of North Carolina, and, in a closely divided state, needs the African-American vote to capture the 2008 Democratic nomination and then win the general election. To date, Cooper’s office has issued a standard reply: “In North Carolina, district attorneys are independent, constitutional officers elected by the people of their district, and not a part of the attorney general's office. In addition, the attorney general's office does not have supervisory authority over district attorneys.”
This statement is accurate—but not quite complete. The attorney general’s office includes one section, the special prosecutions division, which can handle prosecution of local cases. Cooper’s public information officer told me that the office doesn’t keep track of how many cases the special prosecutions division has handled; she gave a similar reply to a News and Observer reporter two years ago. A Lexis/Nexis search indicates that the division has tried at least a few cases since 2000. Moreover, the protocols for the attorney general acting (which aren’t available on-line) seem to have been written with this case in mind. Indeed, under the protocols, there are at least four grounds for the special prosecutions division to handle the case.
1.) Category I, section g: “When under the rules and regulations of the North Carolina State Bar the District Attorney's office should not participate in a particular prosecution.”
Nifong’s inflammatory public statements and his refusal to meet with defense attorneys to consider exculpatory evidence before seeking indictments almost certainly violated two provisions of North Carolina’s Code of Professional Responsibility—which prohibits prosecutors from making extrajudicial statements that will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing public attitudes toward the accused and prevents prosecutors from avoiding “pursuit of evidence merely because he or she believes it will damage the prosecutor’s case or aid the accused.” (The latter decision also violated common sense: I haven’t seen one commentator posit even a plausible explanation of why Nifong would not want to see what evidence the defense possessed, much less support the district attorney’s choice.)
The spirit of this provision also might apply to Nifong’s decision to ignore the Actual Innocence Commission’s guidelines and confine the photo ID session to suspects. Nifong’s actions certainly contradicted Cooper’s promises to North Carolina voters. When asked in 2004 by the News and Observer, “Do you support the efforts of the N.C. Actual Innocence Commission to prevent and correct wrongful convictions?,” Cooper replied enthusiastically: “I'm a member of the commission and have been to every meeting. We’re working hard to make sure that innocent people are not convicted.”
2.) Category I: “Although there is not always an actual conflict of interest in these cases, it is sometimes better from a 'public perception' standpoint to eliminate an appearance of conflict or some suggestion that the matter will not be handled properly. Having a separate prosecutorial agency assume responsibility for these types of cases is in the best interest of the proper administration of justice in assuring the public that the case will be handled properly and in the public's best interest.”
The appearance of a conflict of interest regarding Nifong’s electoral prospects has been well-documented: there seems to be no motive other than political for his decision to seek pre-primary indictments before the second round of DNA testing was in, given that he had earlier affirmed to the court that DNA evidence would identify the guilty parties. (The results of the second round of testing, which ultimately contained no match to the two players Nifong had earlier indicted, were not due until after the primary.)
There’s also a lesser-covered apparent conflict of interest: In the primary campaign, Nifong won the backing of an influential African-American attorney, Mark Simeon, who represents the second dancer, Kim Roberts a/k/a Pittman. Roberts a/k/a Pittman first made news in the case with an email to a New York publicity agent asking for help in how to “spin” affairs to her financial advantage, and Simeon has expressed interest in representing both Roberts a/k/a Pittman and the accuser in a civil suit. Quite beyond the fact that Nifong’s pursuit of criminal charges seems to assist Simeon’s intended civil action, an appearance of a conflict of interest certainly exists: Roberts a/k/a Pittman told a dramatically different version of events, one favorable to Nifong’s preferred tale, shortly after the district attorney secured for her a favorable bond settlement on an unrelated arrest—and Simeon endorsed Nifong’s renomination.
3.) Category I, section (e): “When the District Attorney or a member of his staff will be called as a witness to testify regarding contested facts touching upon the merits of a case.”
An important article by the N&O’s Joseph Neff reveals five public statements by Nifong unsupported by the available documents in the case. Richard Myers, a former federal prosecutor and UNC law professor, told Neff that defense lawyers can call the prosecutor as a witness when the prosecutor’s public statements contradict the facts of the case. To date, no documents have been made public upon which Nifong could have based the statements profiled in Neff’s article; defense attorneys have denied that any such documents exist.
4.) Category IV: “A request for assistance may be granted, if the attorney general personally approves, by reason that the unique circumstances of the case justify participation by this Section to insure proper administration of justice.”
If ever a case had “unique circumstances,” it is this one: in effect, the North Carolina justice system has been placed on trial. There is, moreover, one specific unique aspect of the case: the possibility that the city of Durham might be held legally liable even before the case goes to trial.
Civil liberties lawyer Alex Charns, the attorney for an unindicted lacrosse player, has filed a series of Public Records Act requests from the Durham Police Department relating to production, over the department’s letterhead, of a “crimestoppers” poster. (This document was the genesis for the “wanted” poster that prompted the public “thank you” from the Group of 88 faculty.) Created at the very initial stages of the investigation, the poster stated that “the Duke Lacrosse Team was hosting a party” at which “the victim was sodomized, raped, assaulted and robbed. This horrific crime sent shock waves throughout our community. Durham Police needs your assistance in solving this case.”
Charns, not unreasonably, wondered “what happened to investigating a crime before a blanket accusation of guilt is made. Wasn’t it ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in which the verdict came before the trial, and the accuser acted as judge and jury?” Durham authorities have stonewalled him on producing material related to the decision behind the poster’s wording—which was quietly changed to remove claims of a crime definitely having occurred, though only after posters with the initial language had appeared around the area. It’s not clear how aggressively Charns will pursue his case: the fact that Durham officials haven’t been forthcoming with the documents he’s requested doesn’t speak well for the city’s position.
If all of these reasons exist for Cooper stepping in, why hasn’t he done so? Under the statute creating the special prosecutions division, the local district attorney must request state intervention. So North Carolina has established a system in which an ethically challenged prosecutor like Nifong effectively can police himself.
But there's nothing in the statute that prevents the attorney general from publicly urging Nifong to request state intervention. Or Cooper could be milder, and let it be known that he would approve a request to allow the special prosecutions division to take over the case. To sweeten the pot for the district attorney, Cooper could couple his remarks with a public suggestion that, in the interests of closure, the state bar should not pursue ethics complaints against Nifong once the case leaves Durham’s jurisdiction.
A cottage industry has developed around determining Nifong’s motives. The most recent entry came from Reason’s Jeff Taylor, who judged the district attorney “unhinged from reality.” The other point of view has been offered in a variety of public appearances by Newsweek’s Susannah Meadows, who has suggested that Nifong backed himself into a corner, prevented by his inappropriate initial statements and initial rush to judgment from dropping the case. If Meadows’ analysis is correct, then Nifong might be willing to take an out, even if, as is almost certain to occur, transferring the case to the attorney general’s office would form a preliminary step to dropping the charges. Of course, if Taylor’s speculation is right, then we’re back to relying on an elected judge in Durham ignoring political expediency to uphold the law by suppressing the procedurally tainted photo IDs.
“The system only works,” Reason’s Taylor correctly noted, if a prosecutor “puts the truth ahead of a conviction and works diligently to dig out that truth. In the case of Nifong, he is not even in the ballpark of a conviction and the objective truth of the matter does not seem to enter his calculation.” Nifong's actions corrupted this case almost from the start. The focus now should be to find a way, preferably within established procedures, to restore a sense of integrity to the process. Allowing this case to move forward as it has will only further tarnish North Carolina's national image.
In May, an independent panel argued that BBC coverage of Middle Eastern affairs featured"gaps in coverage, analysis, context and perspective" and failed to"maintain consistently the BBC's own established editorial standards, including on language." The latter included the policy of refusing to use the word"terrorist" to describe perpatrators of attacks deliberately designed to kill civilians.
The BBC's response, according to the Post?
Using the word"terrorist" in the manner defined by the panel, BBC management argued,"would exclude attacks on soldiers" and would make"the very value judgments" the Editorial Guidelines"ask us to avoid."
Fair and balanced, British-style.
A person is brought hither in the dungeon of a ship's hold; thence he is vomited into a dungeon on land, loaded with irons, unfurnished with money, unsupported by friends, three thousand miles from all means of calling upon or confronting evidence, where no one local circumstance that tends to detect perjury can possibly be judged of;—such a person may be executed according to form, but he can never be tried according to justice.
I therefore could never reconcile myself to the bill I send you, which is expressly provided to remove all inconveniences from the establishment of a mode of trial which has ever appeared to me most unjust and most unconstitutional. Far from removing the difficulties which impede the execution of so mischievous a project, I would heap new difficulties upon it, if it were in my power. All the ancient, honest, juridical principles and institutions of England are so many clogs to check and retard the headlong course of violence and oppression. They were invented for this one good purpose, that what was not just should not be convenient. Convinced of this, I would leave things as I found them. The old, cool-headed, general law is as good as any deviation dictated by present heat.
– Edmund Burke, A Letter to John Farr and John Harris, Esqrs., Sheriffs of the City of Bristol, on the Affairs of America, 1777. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip.
None, of course, have removed their signatures from the statement, or expressed any concern about the procedural improprieties associated with how local authorities have treated three of their own institution’s students. The majority of the signatories seem to be following the path of William Chafe, who, after evidence emerged suggesting that at least one of the accused is demonstrably innocent, shifted without explanation. The old context?"Sex and race have always interacted in a vicious chemistry of power, privilege, and control." And"Emmett Till was brutalized and lynched in Mississippi in 1954.” The new? The heyday of Frances Willard.
But a smaller faction seems inclined to follow the lead of Houston Baker, who departed Duke for Vanderbilt with a series of emails suggesting that the lacrosse players are probably guilty of more than one rape. In this morning’s Durham Herald-Sun, Group of 88 member Karla Holloway, a professor English, similarly acts as if the case is just as Mike Nifong described it on or about March 29, when he was deeming the matter a hate crime and demonstrating to a national TV audience exactly how the accuser was choked (while neglecting to mention that it appears as if in all of her many versions of the incident, the accuser didn't mention having been choked).
In her letter, Holloway, who is currently chair of the Race Subcommittee of President William Brodhead’s Campus Cultures Initiative, complained about “the athletic spaces of Duke where it has become painfully clear that for some, the rules of the game are different.” Duke, she proclaimed, is a campus beset by the “problematic issues of race, respect, and equity” (it’s worth remembering, as I’ve noted before, that Group of 88 members are talking about a campus where a department chair could jokingly explain away the faculty’s overwhelming ideological imbalance by noting, “If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.”) It might be that the Duke Chronicle was wrong when it chastised the Group of 88 for"listening" to a handful of students while ignoring the"several thousand others of us” undergrads who disagreed that “Duke breeds cultures of hate, racism, sexism and other forms of backward thinking.” But at this stage, the campus newspaper has more credibility on this issue than someone who signed the Group of 88's statement.
Holloway continued on how difficult this entire process has been for her. “Of course you want a chance to make your campus better,” she recently told the Herald-Sun,"but at what cost? When you are serviced to fix the problem and you are also the victim, it’s a double duty.”
Holloway holds an endowed chair in English. Moreover, I’m a bit dubious about how anyone who joined what David Brooks has termed Durham’s “witch hunt” by signing the Group of 88’s statement defines “victim.”
Holloway also informed Herald-Sun readers that “her committee has been working hard all summer, fully informed by many documents, including those from the President's Council on Black Affairs, the Duke University Black Alumni, as well as students, administrators and faculty members.” Yet today, when people e-mailed Holloway to ask about her letter, they received the following reply:
Thank you for your message. However, I will be away from the office and will not be reading email regularly until August. Until that time, the most reliable way to reach me is to post your correspondence . . . If your message is urgent or time sensitive, please contact the English Department Office.
Perhaps Holloway’s subcommittee isn’t working all that hard on campus this summer. (But then again, it doesn’t need to do so, since its conclusions appear to have been laid down by the Group of 88's statement.) Or perhaps Holloway is simultaneously toiling away on campus this summer while she’s out of her office and not answering her email until August—just as one of Nifong’s targets, Reade Seligmann, was simultaneously committing a crime while he was videotaped at an ATM machine a mile away. The last three months have shown that the law operates differently in Durham; perhaps physics does as well.
Update: Ruth Marcus has an opinion piece in today's Washington Post that Prof. Holloway might want to use as a guide of how to approach an issue with an open mind. Marcus says she initially assumed the players were guilty, and makes it clear she still doesn't think much of the team members (this is a recurring issue: the tendency to assume that all players on the team are alike. As Reade Seligmann's recent court filing illustrates, this simply isn't true.)
Anyhow, Marcus goes on to admit that, unlike Prof. Holoway, she was willing to allow the facts to sway her opinion."The paucity of physical evidence; the accuser's prior unsubstantiated rape charge; her changing stories that night; sloppy and unreliable identification procedures -- any of these alone, and certainly all of them together, make it hard to understand why the prosecution is going forward and impossible to imagine that it could win a conviction . . . Reade Seligmann's lawyer has presented evidence that during the post-midnight time frame in which the attack allegedly occurred, Seligmann called his girlfriend six times and another person twice (12:05 to 12:14); was picked up by a cab (12:19); used an ATM (12:24) and returned to his dorm (12:45). The lawyer tried to present this evidence to the prosecutor before the indictment but was rebuffed . . . In contravention of accepted practice, the photographs shown to the accuser included only members of the lacrosse team, no similar-looking 'fillers.'"
"The confluence of Nifong's political interests and the prosecution," Marcus continues,"is itself another reason for discomfort. He brought the first charges just before a primary in which the black vote played a key role." She admits that she, like an increasing number of people, finds the likely course of events"so troubling"--that Nifong"began with a dubious case and stuck with it as it became shakier."
The roll call vote, however, was a fascinating one.
The final tally, 66-34, has been widely reported as falling one vote short. There are a handful of very odd votes: Utah's Robert Bennett, among the Senate's most conservative members, voted no; while retiring Minnesota Democrat Mark Dayton, probably the Senate's most liberal member, voted yes.
But taking a look at the roll call vote suggests that the close defeat might have been more for show than anything else--the opponents appear to have had several no votes in reserve."Yea" votes included Harry Reid, Tim Johnson, Dianne Feinstein, Ken Salazar, Debbie Stabenow, and Robert Menendez. It's hard to believe that any of those six actually support the amendment, in their heart of hearts. But Menendez and Stabenow face potentially difficult election contests in 2006; Reid has come under attack at home for being too liberal since becoming majority leader; and the other three have cultivated images of themselves as moderates.
Meanwhile, three"nay" votes seem likely to help the senator who cast them. In Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee's renomination strategy has been to encourage Dems to vote in the GOP primary--positioning himself as the only Republican moderate to vote against the amendment helps his cause. In Connecticut and Washington, meanwhile, Joe Lieberman and Maria Cantwell have been under fire from left-wingers in their own party, so their"nay" votes were probably wise politically.
The Senate came within one vote of approving another constitutional amendment under very similar circumstances. As Robert Caro reveals in his fine study of LBJ and the Senate, in 1954, Lyndon Johnson carefully stage-managed rejection of the Bricker and George amendments, which would have watered down the treatymaking clause. Democrats who needed to vote for the George amendment (which became the critical vote) for political reasons were allowed to do so, as LBJ had carefully counted votes and knew their votes wouldn't be needed to vote the amendment down. (LBJ had his own political concerns, representing a strong pro-amendment state.) But Johnson's plans almost went awry as the decisive negative vote, West Virginia's Harley Kilgore, was deep asleep in his office (with the"flu," his supporters claimed). Kilgore was roused, brought to the floor in a stupor and voted no.
I suspect Harry Reid was playing a role similar to LBJ's yesterday.
1. Figuring out when Gerrymandering violates the constitution remains a mess.
Only racial categories seem strong enough and clear enough to a Court majority to form a basis of challenge. Some of the justices hold open the theoretical possibility for other grounds being used, but the degree of burden that must be shown seems to prohibit that.
2. The door is opened firmly for a state redistricting whenever a legislative majority wants to do so.
The second point I find deeply disquieting. While I don’t think each state will be redistricting every two years, I think it likely that in any given year at least one state will be having such a fight. That’s not going to do much for civility, good government, or anything else that I can see.
However, the problem here is not of the Court’s making. Rigged apportionment –usually favoring the wealthy or at least established interests--was a common feature of state constitutions in the 1780s. This was, after all, one factor leading to Shays’ Rebellion in 1786. With that in mind, one might think that the Constitution would address it, but it didn’t. It left the question of apportionment within each state up to the states just as it left the question of who could vote to the states.
The use of apportionment as a tool of racial discrimination, the 14th Amendment, and the changes in interpretation of that amendment beginning in the 1950s have combined to limit the states’ freedom to fix boundaries as they would. But except in cases involving racial discrimination, the Court majorities have still deferred to the states.
So what has changed? In part it’s technological. The data available for Gerrymandering is far more detailed now. It is simply easier to draw politically advantageous boundaries with Machiavellian glee. Part of it is also in the population. Most people don’t know the boundaries of their districts. That mutes the issue except when it is at its chaotic worse. And part of it is the decline in restraint among active politicians.
The logical solution to me would be a constitutional amendment reshaping the process and making clear that once each decade is enough. Apparently there is a new attempt in California to do that at the state level. I wish them well, and I hope the idea spreads.
Adam Gopnik,"Life of the Party: Benjamin Disraeli and the Politics of Performance," New Yorker, 3 July, on why Disraeli didn't fit Lytton Strachey's Victorian mold. Victoria's Conservative Prime Minister, says Gopnik, was"Milton's Satan set loose in Tennyson's rookery, the energy principle that helps keep the landscape around him from being merely pious."
Carlin Romano,"Get Me Revision! Remembering Richard Hofstadter," CHE, 30 June, reviews David S. Brown, Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography."Think Gordon Wood and (still) Arthur Schlesinger Jr., with Sean Wilentz one middle-aged prince. As Brown puts it of Hofstadter, 'For nearly 30 years ... he wrote the best books for the best publisher, won the best prizes, and taught in the best city, at the best school, at the best time'."
Bob Thompson,"The History Channeler," Washington Post, 26 June, is an excellent sketch of Simon Schama. For him,"in the end, the lessons of history are not the point. The point is the continuous, interconnected drama of human lives" it concludes."The study of history is ‘a resistance against oblivion, against loss,' he says. ‘It tells you about what it was like to be a human being.'"
Jeffrey A. Jenkins,"A Rich History of the ‘People's House'," Chicago Tribune, 25 June, reviews Robert V. Remini, The House: The History of the House of Representatives; and David Garrow,"A Modest Proposal," Los Angeles Times, 25 June, reviews Jeffrey Rosen's The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America.
Chris Bray recommends"A Camp Divided," Wall Street Journal, ca 13 June. The article about conflict in a camp north of Baghdad between a" careerist" American colonel and an American colonel who had"gone native" is subscriber-only, but"Careerism Comes to Camp Taji," Westhawk, 20 June, tells the story.
Finally, Bob Ray Sanders,"Cashing in on Martin Luther King's Legacy," Dallas/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 28 June; and Maria Saporta,"Emory Left Out of Loop in King Deal," AJ-C, 28 June, track the on-going saga of the King Papers. Andy Peters,"Atlanta Keeps King Papers, But Scholars Fret Over Access," Fulton County GA DailyReport.com, 28 June, covers many things, including the King Estate's claim that any historian who intends to quote from a King document"in whole or in part" must have the Estate's permi$$ion. That claim rejects"fair use" altogether. Threatened by Estate attorneys, Taylor Branch ignored them altogether. In Peters article, the editor of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Clay Carson, is quoted as having said:"Anyone who asks for permission to quote Dr. King's words is stupid to ask for permission."
Last Thursday, we visited the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation in northern Wisconsin.
Our museum partner in the grant, Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire, had copies of an industrial survey done there in the early 1920s that the Fellows had studied. While little of these buildings remain, the pictures of the buildings and the sometimes vividly biased brief descriptions of families and occupations that accompanied the photographs provided a cross section in time upon which we could build.
The people at the George W. Brown Historical Museum were remarkably helpful in working out the details of our visit. In particular the director suggested that we get the tribal preservation officer, Kelly Jackson-Golly, to guide us in a tour of the reservation.
A little over halfway through that tour we got to the boarding school.
It closed in 1932, so it’s hardly surprising that there is not much left. A storage building and, in this picture, the boy’s dormitory.
Elders still remember the sounds of crying homesick children through those windows. The kids were homesick because they were rarely locals. Most Lac du Flambeau children were shipped elsewhere. Other Indians heard them cry.
Boarding Schools were not utterly evil. When sympathetic people were in the schools—and that happened on rare occasion—the situation was much less harsh. Some of the skills taught were useful and did help the graduates. The company of many more people of the same age also made for some pleasant memories.
And usually there was enough food.
It was the goal of destroying a culture regardless of the heartbreak and the deceit in the way children often were recruited that make them a devastating part of tribal history. The boarding schools are the nasty flip side of a belief that education can instill virtue: that is the belief that unflinching indoctrination can reshape culture.
Of course I’ve known about this for years. Heck, I’ve taught it.
And yet, somehow it had never entered my emotions until last Thursday. It did not enter my gut until I looked at the building, heard that the cries of the children were still within living memory, and watched Ms. Jackson-Golly state, with only a light hint of anger, that this building and what it stood for was why she could not speak Anishinaabe. Only at that moment did I truly realize just how deeply these schools slashed through the guts of a people and their ways.
Some of the tribal members would like the building torn down, but the people I was dealing with have convinced them that it should remain and even be restored. If their plans come to fruition—they are still raising money—the old boarding school would be a reminder of that past and a monument to the tribe’s endurance.
Josh Gerstein,"A Rebellion Grows Within the ACLU after ‘Earthquake'," New York Sun, 26 June, outlines the reasons for internal dissension. See also: Gerstein,"For ACLU's Anthony Romero, These Should Be Best of Times," New York Sun, 27 June. Given the issues, if the dissidents don't prevail, I'm tearing up my membership card. A card-carrying Republican member of the ACLU? You're damn straight. You got a problem with that? Thanks to David Garrow for the tip.
Scott Jaschik,"New Home for the King Papers," Inside Higher Ed, 26 June; and Luker,"Access to King's Papers Also Key," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 27 June, report some of the concerns I have about Atlanta's purchase of the Martin Luther King Papers from the King Estate. Kate Taylor,"King's Papers Sold, But Unsettled," New York Sun, 27 June, is richly illuminating. See, especially: who actually will now hold title to the King manuscripts, questions that Morehouse College President Walter Massey will not answer, Sotheby's claim that the King Estate misrepresented what was actually being auctioned, and the fact that massive collections of civil rights era documents remain ill-housed at the King Center, covered with plastic sheeting to shelter them from the leaking roof.
From"the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice" file: 1) senior administrators atthe University of Coloradoannounce plans thatwould lead toWard Churchill's termination; and 2) a federal judge has ordered the federal government to act on Tariq Ramadan's application for a visa.
Finally, if you thought that Chris Pettit's comments on KC Johnson's posts here at Cliopatria are irate rants, you haven't seen irate ranting. I frankly stole this from my virtual son, Chris Richardson, who's been stealing noted things from me and alarming the masses with Outside Reports of Roving Transvestites in the Big Easy who've Seized Control of J. K. Rowling's Brain and the Republican Agenda for America!
George Will,"Gone with the Wind, Indeed," Washington Post, 25 June, notes the 70th anniversary of Margaret Mitchell's novel. Sales records suggest that Gone with the Wind, rather than Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, was the depression era's favorite desperation novel.
Eli Wiesel,"The Killing after the Killing," Washington Post, 25 June, reviews Jan T. Gross, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz. Thanks to Jonathan Dresner for the tips.
Horst Möller,"Trabi, Stasi, Kinderkrippen," Rheinische Merkur, 22 June. The director of Munich's Institut für Zeitgeschichte criticizes the work of German social historians such as Kocka and Jarausch on daily life under the east German communist regime for treating it separately from the instruments of repression and surveillance of the one party state. The dictatorship informed all segments of society, Möller argues. Thanks to Nathanael Robinson for the tip.
Finally, there's not enough for a carnival, just yet, but William J. Turkel does"A Roundup of Digital History Blogs," Digital History Hacks, 21 June. It's also a good moment to recommend Daniel J. Cohen's and Roy Rosenzweig's Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); and Manan Ahmed's"The Polyglot Manifesto," HNN, 22 May.
On that last great Judgment Day
When they drive them all away
There are strange things happening every day.
In 1951, 25,000 paying fans attended her [third] wedding and performance at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC. Sister's aisle led from the dugout to second base. In the mid-1950s, she moved to Europe and her popularity here never fully recovered. Yet, Bob Dylan remembered her:
She was shameless, the singer remembered: purer than pure when her mother was alive, backsliding after that. She came onto the Lord's stage in a mink; she had a way with a guitar few men could touch. She was the black church in the Grand Old Opry--she'd even recorded with Pat Boone's father-in-law, Red Foley, Mr."Old Shep" himself. On the other hand, Red Foley had recorded"Peace in the Valley," hadn't he, the spiritual the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey had written as the Second World War began? The sainted gospel composer, in earlier days known as Georgia Tom, who'd put his name on dirty blues? The singer shook his head; why was he remembering all this? His memory raced ahead of him. For some reason he remembered that"Strange Things Happening" had topped the black charts the same week Hitler killed himself. It was April 30, 1945; the singer was a month short of four, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was thirty."There's something in the gospel blues," she would say years later,"that's so deep the world can't stand it." Now he heard the song as if the war had ended yesterday, as if it were the first time he'd heard it, wherever that had been--off some road he'd never remember anything else about, like waking from a dream you had to get up and live through.
NPR's All Things Considered did a good retrospect,"The Gospel of Sister Rosetta Tharpe," with musical excerpts ("Didn't It Rain,""That's All,""Strange Things Happening Everyday") to which you can listen. There you'll learn that -- it wasn't Oprah in 1986, but -- Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1959 who was the first black woman to host a television show, TV Gospel Time. Nat King Cole bested her by only three years. Biographies of Tharpe include: Gayle Wald, Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (2003); and Jerma A. Jackson, Singing in My Soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age (2004).
Carson stated in the letter that the prospective Sotheby’s sale should not be a source of concern and would not provide any handicap to the work of the Project, because their staffers had already photocopied and scanned the documents in question. On the one hand, this seems at first glance like an extraordinary admission. Since the Papers Project is interested in publishing and not maintaining the papers, from their point of view all of King’s papers could as well be auctioned off and dispersed. On reflection, though, it seems to me that Carson’s statement underlines two unusual features of the case at hand. One is the fact that the King papers are being turned out at the same time that the original papers themselves remain closed to scholars. Now, it is true that publication projects are not always housed in the same location as the papers themselves. It also is not unheard of for donors to close part or all of an archive, for an indeterminate time. (As I recall, the family of Max Yergan, the Black left-winger-turned-right-winger, has shut off his papers until 2026--50 years after his death). However, it is curious that the King family simultaneously is interested in disseminating King’s writings while guarding the underlying papers. There is no way for outside researchers to look at the documents that have not, or not yet, been published. The other aspect of the case is the extent to which originals have a value once they are scanned. Are historians simply document fetishists, who want to hoard primary sources even once a true facsimile is produced, or are the orignals needed to let outsiders verify independently the accuracy of what is published? Of course, we place a social value on original manuscripts, but is there any reason to pay large sums to purchase and house writings for which digital copies exist? Perhaps the lesson of the King affair is that access is more important than actual possession. Unless there is serious reason, as here there is not, to question the authenticity of a document, or the completeness of the processed material, it seems to me that the creation of online archives with digitized documents eliminates the need to retain manuscripts, if not their sentimental value. Perhaps then the best way to balance the King family’s desire for a financial windfall against the social need to maintain King’s historical legacy intact would have been to negotiate an agreement whereby all the contents of the purchase would be copied, the copies to be preserved and made publicly available, with the originals then to be sold to whatever private buyer desired them.
There will be no public auction of the Martin Luther King Papers by Sotheby's on 30 June. Late yesterday, a coalition of interests in Atlanta confirmed a purchase of the papers for $32,000,000. Mayor Shirley Franklin forged the coalition of contributors and local institutions. Title to the collection will be held by King's alma mater, Morehouse College, and it will remain in the city.
You can access Roy Rosenzweig's important article,"Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past," Journal of American History, June, directly at that link. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.
Foreign Affairs, July/August, features"What to do about Iraq? A Roundtable" with contributions by Larry Diamond, James Dobbins, Chaim Kaufmann, Leslie H. Gelb, and Stephen Biddle. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip.
Finally, Barista's David Tiley has been having a bad time of it and Nathanael Robinson suggests we wish him well."Coming Back Slowly" is an amazing account of it. David sick is a better writer than I am well. And, farewell to Hubert Rudolf Georg Schwyzer, the father of our colleague, Hugo. Cliopatria sends our best wishes to the family.
The government concessions offered in return for insurgent amnesty are actually quite extensive, and I think are a pretty clear indication of how desperate the situation really is. For example:
The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.
It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
OK. Does this not run almost completely contrary to US policy over the past 2 years? Are they not suggesting a reversal of the majority of US policies and tactics in Iraq? Are they not making the distinction between different types of terrorists, a distinction this administraton is absolutist against?
It certainly appears so. Even more poignant is the call for a timeline for withdrawal, from all involved in the negotiations, including Khalilzad, the US Ambassador. On timelines, the document states:
We must agree on a timed schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq, while at the same time building up the Iraqi forces that will guarantee Iraqi security and this must be supported by a United Nations Security Council decision.
This is in marked contrast to the current debate in the US congress, where any discussion of timelines is ridiculed by the right, and by the administration. The disconnect between the US domestic debate, and the negotiations IN IRAQ could not be more poignant. One has to wonder if the former, in an election year, will limit the success of the latter? Will the administration agree to a deal that goes against the bulk of its Iraq policy, makes a deal with elements of an insurgency it has refused to nuance, and sets a firm timeline for complete withdrawal (including the 12 permanent military bases), all of this in an election year? The thing is, they may not have a choice.
With Nifong’s behavior at best explicable by incompetence and more likely by malfeasance, the press has started to look hard at the district attorney’s actions. Yesterday, the Winston-Salem Journal became the first North Carolina newspaper to demand Nifong’s removal, editorializing, “Nothing about Nifong's handling of this case indicates that the people of North Carolina and the defendants will get a fair trial so long as Nifong has anything to do with it. He should step aside, and the attorney general should take over.” On Monday, a smaller Tarheel State paper, the Rocky Mount Herald, commented with concern about how “court records in the case raise some troubling conflicts between affidavits and statements Nifong has made to the press.” A major story in Newsweekconcluded, “Court documents in the case increasingly suggest that . . . the available evidence is so thin or contradictory that it seems fair to ask what Nifong could have been thinking when he confidently told reporters that there was ‘no doubt’ in his mind that the woman had been raped.” An op-ed piece lamenting “serious prosecutorial misjudgment, if not downright misconduct” appeared in the Los Angeles Times, while USA Today expressed skepticism about the prosecution. Even Ruth Sheehan of the Raleigh News and Observer, who in March 27 had penned a column determining team members guilty of rape, now believes that Nifong should be removed. “To think,” she wrote Monday, “that for a brief moment I actually pitied Nifong for the attacks on his handling of the case. What a joke.”
Sheehan cited Nifong for the rash of over-the-top early stories that earned much of the media a spot in Stuart Taylor’s “rogues’ gallery.” “Say all you want about the media's rush to judgment,” she noted, but “when a DA, especially one with Nifong's reputation for being a quiet, behind-the-scenes guy, comes out not only saying that a rape occurred, but that it was a brutal gang rape, in which the woman was strangled and beaten, you had to figure he had incontrovertible evidence. Apparently, he didn't.”
While it’s entirely appropriate to focus on Nifong’s misconduct, it’s a little too easy to blame him alone for how the media initially approached this case. At Lead and Gold, Chris Henry pointed out the timidity of USA Today’s editorial given the facts the paper had conceded: “USA Today wanted to appear fair-minded. It is bad form to ‘attack the victim.’ Unfortunately, they could only keep up those appearances by providing a partial, distorted picture of the state of the evidence. Their readers deserve better.” And John in Carolina, a must-read blog for how the media mishandled this case, pointed out that Sheehan’s worst column appeared the day before Nifong’s publicity barrage started; the News and Observer’s first story on the case described the accuser as a “victim” seven times, effectively conceding that a crime occurred; in early April, the paper, without explanation, published the infamous “wanted” poster so celebrated by Duke’s Group of 88; and the N&O public editor admitted that a March 25 interview that painted the accuser in fawning terms and presented a version of events different from at least three and perhaps all four stories she told police “really galvanized community protests and rallies”—an acceptable outcome, since “one role of a newspaper, surely, is to raise public awareness and effect change.” In this case, to borrow David Brooks’ phrase, the role was to help galvanize a witch hunt.
At the very least, however, most in the media have been willing to consider new evidence and abandon their preconceptions. While the News and Observer’s news editor continues to state that she’s “proud” of the paper’s work, one of her reporters, Joseph Neff, has published several recent articles that have broken new ground and, quite properly, have measured Nifong’s statements and actions against known facts in the case.
While the media has proven to be open to new facts, the same can’t be said for Duke—a development that’s starting to attract notice. MSNBC’s Dan Abrams, a Duke alumnus who has read the entire discovery file, commented in today’s Duke Chronicle that while"Initially I was very impressed with [how the administration of President Richard Brodhead] walked a very difficult line,” it’s now clear that “they probably could have done a little more to protect the students—not because they're Duke students—but because the evidence is so weak in this case.” Last week, Randall Drain, an African-American member of the class of 2005 who played lacrosse at Duke, termed himself “revolted” as “administrators and certain faculty members have flagrantly and wrongfully hung members of the Duke men's lacrosse team out to dry.” Drain blasted Brodhead for helping “to create an audience of hypocrites that may now choose to ignore the facts or ‘yeah but’ their way out of their past impudence.” By launching a campus culture initiative that explicitly refused to address “Duke University's abandonment and abuse of the lacrosse team," Brodhead"sent the message that only the lacrosse team need show remorse for their transgressions.”
In a powerful letter in today’s Chronicle, another Duke alumnus, Greg Kidder, described how a “mere accusation set off an unforgivable rush to judgment in which the Duke faculty and administration willingly participated.” Kidder singled out the Group of 88’s statement and some of the more outrageous individual actions by faculty members: “Professor Houston Baker accused the team of hiding behind a ‘silent whiteness.’ Professor Peter Wood took the opportunity to complain about, of all things, attendance in his class. Professor Melissa Malouf suggested the ‘condoms theory’ to counter the exculpatory DNA results”—even though, of course, the accuser has claimed her attackers didn’t use condoms. This reaction, Kidder noted, “would perhaps be forgivable if the University community responded with equal vigor to defend the players after evidence on what did and did not happen was revealed. Yet instead of protests and media quotes, all we hear is silence and equivocation.”
He then asked some hard questions. “Why,” Kidder wondered, “are we in the Duke community leaving the accused players and their families to bear the burden of this injustice alone?” Only one Duke voice has answered Kidder’s plea: Professor of Law James Coleman, who in a just-published Sports Illustratedarticle continued to condemn the myriad procedural improprieties that have married Nifong’s handling of the case. I’ve heard from two reliable sources that Coleman’s opinions are shared by many on the Duke Law faculty—and it’s worth remembering that not one law professor signed the Group of 88’s statement, which deemed of little relevance “what the police say or the court decides.”
While Coleman continues his courageous dissent, silence, or worse, reigns among the nearly 500 members of Duke’s arts and sciences faculty, including the dozens of professors who taught members of the academically distinguished lacrosse team. Kidder wondered, given new evidence indicating that at least one of the accused, Reade Seligmann, is demonstrably innocent; highly suggestive evidence that no rape occurred at all; and “the recent accusations against the district attorney regarding truthfulness, where are the faculty members decrying the injustice that has been done to these students? Do all 88 professors still stand behind their signatures?”
I checked. The Group of 88’s statement remains proudly placed at the very top of the homepage of Duke’s African and African-American Studies program. It still contains no mention of alcohol as part of its condemnation. And not one of the 88 names has been removed.
So it seems that Ruth Sheehan has proven to be more open-minded than the Duke arts and sciences faculty. Kidder noticed: “as a proud Duke alumnus, the cowardice and opportunism of the Duke faculty and administration causes me to shake my head in disgust.”
Update, Friday, 12.51pm: NewsBuster points out that not all members of the media are willing to consider new evidence, citing the disturbing example of Harvey Araton.
And in a truly extraordinary development, even for a case as botched as this one: yesterday, defense attorney Joseph Cheshire gave a press conference stating that the newly turned-over documents contained another version of events from the accuser, this one claiming she was raped by five players, not three; and that there were four dancers at the party, not two. Cheshire was interrupted by Nifong's chief investigator, who informed the press that Cheshire was lying. The investigator, Linwood Wilson, then gave interviews to local and national media members stating, according to a Raleigh TV station,"that he personally read all 1814 pages of discovery documents and has not read that the alleged victim changed her version of the story."
This morning, Cheshire released the police report in which the accuser (as he had stated yesterday) claimed that she was raped by five players. This exchange appears to be part of a pattern profiled by Joseph Neff in one of the articles linked above, of out-and-out lies by Nifong's office.
But Westmoreland seems to be outdone by Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher, who was elected on a promise to" clean up the mess in Frankfort" and promptly pardoned a host of his top aides after they were indicted. Now, Fletcher is making news after his cabinet secretary banned state employees' access to an anti-Fletcher political blog--even though pro-Fletcher blogs weren't blocked. Somehow, I don't think we'll be seeing a second Fletcher term.