Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Terrifying Implications of the IRS Abuse-DOJ Connection

Posted By Bryan Preston On April 16, 2014 @ 11:37 am In Corruption,Crime,Freedom,media,Politics | 57 Comments

Thank God for Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. His investigation of what turned out to be the IRS abuse scandal may well have saved the Constitution and the nation.

For his fair and impartial investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s abuse of Americans who dissent from President Obama’s agenda, Democrats have called for an investigation of him. George should not be investigated, but perhaps the Democrats who want him investigated — Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) — should be. Their call for an investigation of the investigator might constitute interference with the ongoing investigation of the IRS abuse scandal. That would be obstruction of justice, in what may turn out to be the most widespread and damaging scandal in American history.

The implications of today’s email disclosure are stunning and terrifying.

Lois Lerner intended to use her position atop the IRS’ tax exempt approval office to coordinate the prosecution of political speech. The Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder had at least tentatively bought into that. The Federal Elections Commission was being roped in as well. Lerner’s emails prove that beyond doubt.

Democrats in Congress were involved. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) appears to have led the anti-constitutional attack on free speech in the House. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) led it from the Senate.

Two days before Lerner was forced to publicly disclose the scandal, she was moving forward with an insidious plan to stamp out conservatives and Tea Party activists’ ability to organize and raise money, by working with the IRS commissioner’s office and the Department of Justice. At the same time, there was no plan for any government crackdown on groups who agreed with President Obama. The traffic was entirely one-way. It was nakedly political, and everyone involved knew it. They also had reason to believe that they would succeed, or they would not have engaged in it. DOJ would serve two roles: Prosecute conservatives, and protect the bureaucrats who were pushing those prosecutions.

Was there a full-fledged plan to use the full power of the federal government to take the abuse, delay and invasive questioning of conservatives to a new level after President Obama’s re-election?
Was there a plan to criminalize the mere act of being a conservative activist? Was there a plan to drum up false charges of “lying” on applications in order to put conservatives in jail?

Lois Lerner’s communications with the Justice Department strongly suggest that there was. The disclosure provides strong, compelling evidence that Obama’s re-election had emboldened many, including government bureaucrats like Lois Lerner, to believe that they could move forward unchallenged to criminalize Americans for exercising their constitutional rights.

I also believe that the players in this scam had identified a target to single out, harass, investigate, silence, destroy, and send to prison. Her name is Catherine Engelbrecht.

Lerner’s email on March 27, 2013, suggests that there was an idea moving within the bureaucracy to hit one or just a few Americans, and prosecute and imprison them, to scare others out of political engagement.

“One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff,” Lerner wrote to IRS staff. “So, don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity.”

It was all about conservative 501(c)(4) orgs. Liberal groups were left entirely alone. This was to be a leftwing reign of prosecutorial terror.

Engelbrecht founded True the Vote in 2010 and filed for tax exempt status with the IRS that year. She was subjected to invasive questioning while Lerner’s IRS group held up her investigation. Soon thereafter, several executive branch agencies descended on her, her family and her business. The ATF, OSHA, the FBI all harassed her. OSHA fined her $25,000 for minor violations.

Fast forward to 2012. True the Vote is going strong, despite the IRS holding up its tax exempt application. It is making a difference. States are adopting voter ID and other election integrity improvements. Local groups are organizing to receive True the Vote’s poll training. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and his staff communicate with Lerner at the IRS, in what now appears to be a fishing expedition to find something — anything — to use against Engelbrecht.

Why Engelbrecht? True the Vote is not the largest activist group out there, and it is not partisan. It advocates election integrity legislation and it trains people to help ensure that our elections are fair and free from corruption. As such, it backs measures like voter photo ID. Voter ID is supported by about 70% of the American people. It’s not controversial, despite the left’s efforts to make it so.
Many Democrats including President Obama oppose such measures. Holder’s DOJ has even sued Texas to stop its voter ID law.

Rep. Cummings sought dirt on Engelbrecht and True the Vote not just to discredit it, and thereby halt election integrity legislation. It’s now clear that the next step, after re-election, was to turn activism for election integrity itself into a criminal offense. Not directly, of course. Congress would pass no law banning anyone from advocating for election integrity or voter ID or anything. But destroying Engelbrecht would serve the same end. No one would dare stand up for her if she faced prison. No one would dare step up and organize the next True the Vote election integrity group on the national level.

So let’s look at True the Vote’s “crime,” and how the Democrats intended to punish Engelbrecht and what it all means.

There was a plan by Democrats, in Congress and infested in the government bureaucracy, to use Barack Obama’s second term to destroy freedom of speech and the right to dissent, through prosecution and the fear of prosecution. Lerner’s emails disclosed today prove that. Only Russell George’s unstoppable disclosure forced her to shut it down and issue a modified, limited hangout to control the damage that was about to be done to her, the IRS and possibly the entire Democratic Party and the Obama White House. Lerner pleaded the Fifth Amendment to protect herself, and many others.

The purpose of the plan that Lerner was moving on was to stifle dissent and give Democrats total control of Congress in 2014, giving President Obama full control of all of government for his last two years in office.

Alongside that plan, was a plan to destroy anyone who advocated for election integrity legislation, legislation which gained steam and widespread passage at the state level after the 2010 mid-term elections. What this tells us is that the Democrats, at least some Democrats, fully intended to weaponize government against dissent while it watered down election law and used lawfare via the Justice Department to damage and even remove state-level election law improvements.

Criminalizing conservative activism was about consolidating the Democrats’ 2012 gains and winning back the House in 2014. Destroying voter ID by whatever means Democrats deemed necessary was about 2016. There’s only one reason to make it easier to commit election fraud. You only do that if you intend to commit election fraud.

And after that? Well, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants a law abridging the freedom of the press. And there’s always another tragedy to exploit to attack the Second Amendment.

Article printed from The PJ Tatler:
URL to article:

The Many Ways in Which The New Book About the Duke Lacrosse Case is Wrong

April 15, 2014
The most striking thing about William D. Cohan's revisionist, guilt-implying new book on the Duke lacrosse rape fraud is what's not in it.
The best-selling, highly successful author's 621-page The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities adds not a single piece of significant new evidence to that which convinced then–North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper and virtually all other serious analysts by mid-2007 that the lacrosse players were innocent of any sexual assault on anyone.
Unless, that is, one sees as new evidence Cohan's own stunningly credulous interviews with three far-from-credible participants in the drama who themselves add no significant new evidence beyond their counterfactual personal opinions.
They are Mike Nifong, the disbarred prosecutor and convicted liar; Crystal Mangum, the mentally unbalanced rape complainant and (now) convicted murderer, who has dramatically changed her story more than a dozen times; and Robert Steel, the former Duke chairman and Goldman Sachs vice chairman, who helped lead the university's notorious rush to judgment against its own lacrosse players.
Cohan is not deterred by the fact that Nifong admitted and Steel said, quite unequivocally, both in April 2007, that the lacrosse players were innocent of committing any crimes during the March 13–14, 2006 spring break party at their captains' house, where Mangum and Kim Roberts were hired to strip. Nifong said on July 26, 2007 that "there is no credible evidence" that any of the three indicted lacrosse players committed any crime involving Mangum. Steel said on April 11, 2007 that Cooper's exoneration of them that day "explicitly and unequivocally establishes [their] innocence." Nifong has since all but retracted his admission and Steel has waffled on his.
Cohan duly but inconspicuously includes these statements in his semi-free-association narrative. At the same time, he implies dozens of times that one or more players sexually assaulted Mangum in a bathroom during the party. In recent interviews, Cohan has made his thesis more explicit: “I am convinced, frankly, that this woman suffered a trauma that night” and that "something did happen in that bathroom,"Cohan told Joe Neff of the Raleigh News & Observer. In an April 8 Bloomberg TVinterview, he ascribed the same view to his three main sources: “Between Nifong, Crystal, and Bob Steel, the consensus seems to be something happened in that bathroom that no one would be proud of.” He said much the same on MSNBC's fawning "Morning Joe" the next day.
Cohan also asserted in a Cosmopolitan interview that Mangum now "describes it as somebody shoving a broomstick up her. All I know is that the police believed her, district attorney Mike Nifong believed her, and the rape nurse Tara Levicy believed her." This seems doubtful, since none of Mangum's many stories in March 2006 and for years thereafter mentioned anything about a broomstick being used to assault her, a scenario also ruled out by the physical evidence.
(Disclosure: I coauthored, with KC Johnson, a 2007 book concluding that all credible evidence points to the conclusion that no Duke lacrosse player ever assaulted or sexually abused Crystal Mangum in any way. I have also become friendly with some of their parents and lawyers. I thus have both a lot of relevant information and an obvious interest in discrediting Cohan's book. I have no complaint about its references to me.)
The rape-by-broomstick and other Cohan innuendos and assertions are not supported—indeed, they are powerfully refuted—by the long-established facts that his own book repeats, not to mention some facts that he studiously leaves out.
This has not prevented an amazing succession of puff-piece reviews in The Wall Street JournalFT Magazine, the Daily NewsSalon, the Economistthe Daily Beast, and The New York Times, whose reviewer (unlike the others cited above) at least knew enough to write that "Cohan hasn’t unearthed new evidence" and that "[t]here is still nothing credible to back up the account of an unreliable witness."
Some of the most sensational supposed revelations in Cohan's "definitive, magisterial account" (as touted in Scribner's press package) were proved false within two days of his April 8 publication date. 
  • In an April 9 email responding to an inquiry from me, Robert Steel contradicted Cohan's claim that Steel thinks "that something happened in that bathroom that no one would be proud of." Steel told me: "I have no view now, nor have ever had a view of what if anything happened in the bathroom. Period." He added that he had never used, or heard, the words used by Cohan.
  • James Coman, the veteran prosecutor who led Attorney General Cooper’s reinvestigation of the case, has denounced as "figments of [Nifong's] imagination" Nifong's assertion that Cooper had "sandbagged" Coman. To the contrary, Coman told reporter Joe Neff that, after an in-depth reexamination of the evidence, he and his colleague Mary Winstead insisted that Cooper declare the players innocent, and Cooper agreed. Cohan appears never to have called Coman or Winstead to check the accuracy of Nifong's self-serving speculation.
  • Phil Seligmann, father of wrongly indicted lacrosse player Reade Seligmann, denounced as "patently false" Cohan's claim that the Seligmanns had never paid Reade's first two lawyers, Buddy Conner and the late Kirk Osborn, for any of their work. "We made hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal payments to Kirk and Buddy," for all the work they did, Seligmann said. He added that Cohan had never contacted him or Reade to check his false report.
  • Cohan's claim that Duke University paid $60 million in 2007 to the three wrongly indicted lacrosse players to settle their threatened lawsuit against the university is flat-out false. The actual figure is widely known to have been one-third as much, as stated in more reliable reports. These reports also give the lie to Cohan's wild, book-promoting claims that the lacrosse case has cost Duke "near $100 million" in settlements and legal and PR fees.
 Sensational smears based on false information aside, the absence of new evidence does not deter Cohan from seeking to spin his own tendentious characterizations of old evidence—often contradicted by other evidence elsewhere in the book—into dark Nifongesque innuendos of sexual assault, or "something."
Along the way, Cohan repeatedly smears the falsely accused “Duke lax bros,” as he mockingly calls them on Twitter. Sometimes he disparages them in his own voice (as in, "the festering wound that was Duke lacrosse"). Sometimes he happily quotes Nifong, left-leaning professors (one of whom calls the players "arrogant, callous, dismissive"), and journalists. Cohan does not cite many specifics other than the lacrosse players' admittedly bad (but not very unusual) record of binge drinking and noisy parties at rented houses in a residential neighborhood near the campus. And sometimes, just for balance, he says nice things, especially about the only team member who gave him an interview.
He deprecates as "perfunctory" the conclusion of a committee chaired by liberal, black law professor James Coleman that the lacrosse players were generally polite, nondisruptive students who had "performed well academically," behaved in an "exemplary" fashion on trips, and been "respectful of people who serve the team," from bus drivers and airline personnel to the groundskeeper.
In a remarkably content-free exercise in character assassination by proxy, Cohan approvingly quotes Nifong’s attacks on all of the former DA's major antagonists—without, it appears, seeking responses from any of them, excepting Roy Cooper, who refused to talk to Cohan. With seeming approval, Cohan quotes Nifong trashing Cooper for "selling [his] soul to the devil" by exonerating the lacrosse players. He quotes Nifong denouncing as "corrupt" Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith. (Smith had sentenced Nifong to a night in jail for lying to him in court.) Corrupt? Nifong explains that he was told by someone who was told by someone that someone else had "overheard" Judge Smith at a wedding saying something that seemed to prejudge the case.
Cohan also endorses Nifong's attack on the three-person, North Carolina State Bar disciplinary panel that disbarred Nifong after a five-day trial. Nifong calls the panel a "kangaroo court" engaged in what Cohan calls a "sacrificial slaughter." The panel had found Nifong guilty of violating the state's ethical rules by his aggressive media campaign, early in the case, to tar the lacrosse players as racist rapists and "hooligans"; by seeking to hide highly exculpatory DNA evidence from the defense; and by lying to Judge Smith about that evidence. Cohan does not put the slightest dent into the overwhelming evidence supporting the actions of Cooper, Judge Smith, and the state bar panel.1
Cohan devotes dozens of pages to describing Nifong—and quoting his self-descriptions—in mostly glowing, if sometimes unintentionally ironic, terms, as in "Nifong developed a lifelong disdain for bullies."2 Indeed, Cohan's attitude toward Nifong's proven, extreme abuses of prosecutorial power is so astonishingly benign as to almost imply that because poor black kids often don't get fair treatment from the criminal justice system, rich (and not so rich) white kids should not get fair treatment either—no matter how innocent.
Cohan offers a breathtakingly misinformed (to put it charitably) argument dismissing as "a red herring" the charge that Nifong had hidden from defense lawyers exculpatory evidence that the DNA of four unidentified males (not Duke lacrosse players) and sperm from her boyfriend was found in or on Mangum. Why does Cohan deem it a “red herring”? First, he argues that Nifong did not try to hide the four males' DNA. But mainly, he asserts that "it didn't matter" because "Nifong had tried—and won—many rape cases without DNA evidence."
Perhaps he had, either before DNA evidence was available or in cases in which its presence or absence proved little. But DNA was dispositive in the Duke lacrosse case.The absence of lacrosse players' DNA on or in her body or clothing proved the innocence of the three indicted defendants. It's almost inconceivable that they could have brutally raped, sodomized, and ejaculated in Mangum for anything close to 30 minutes, as she originally claimed, without leaving DNA. The evidence of the four unidentified males' DNA was damaging to Mangum’s credibility, showing that she had concealed recent sexual activity from the police, among other points.
Even Cohan admits that if Nifong had released the state's exculpatory analysis of the DNA evidence as soon as he had it either to the public or to defense lawyers (who would have made it public), it "would likely have doomed Nifong's reelection [sic] effort" and been "the end of the case." (This was the appointed DA's first election.)
None of these actions by Nifong prevent Cohan from presenting him as a person of integrity who had made a few forgivable mistakes in his zeal to champion "my victim," Mangum. While straining to make excuses for Nifong, Cohan sneers repeatedly at the players' defense lawyers, whom he calls "masters at manipulating the media" (in theCosmopolitan interview) for their "shock and awe" campaign and "fat retainers."
Manipulating the media? The defense lawyers' media campaign consisted of making public what Cohan never denies was truthful and probative evidence of innocence. And unless I missed something while slogging through this seemingly endless tome, Cohan does not cite a single intentionally false, misleading, or otherwise inappropriate statement that any defense lawyer for a lacrosse player ever made.
Cohan also seems at times to lose track of the flow of events, repeatedly contradicting on one page claims that he makes elsewhere. On page 572, for example, Cohan states that Nifong "never said he agreed with Cooper's finding of innocence." This flatly contradicts what Cohan writes on the preceding page, where he quotes Nifong's above-referenced July 26, 2007 admission that "there is no credible evidence that [the three indicted players] committed any of the crimes for which they were indicted or any other crimes during the party."
Although Cohan seems to try to libel-proof his book by pasting in, with little analysis, dozens of pages of material favorable to the lacrosse players (as well as much more material hostile to them, and much deadly dull filler), there are some telling omissions. Two come in his discussion of sexual assault nurse Tara Levicy, who—alone among the three doctors and five nurses who interviewed or examined Mangum after she reported to Duke University Hospital as a self-styled rape victim—expressed confidence that Mangum was telling the truth and claimed (falsely) that there was physical evidence to back her up. Levicy was not in charge of the physical exam.
Cohan dismisses claims that Levicy was biased in favor of rape complainants as based on nothing more than her time with Planned Parenthood, her enthusiasm for Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, and her strong feminist convictions. But the defense never attacked her for feminist convictions. It suggested that she was incompetent. And when others (including KC Johnson and me) stressed Levicy's apparent bias, the most important evidence we cited was her highly revealing sworn deposition testimony that she had "never" doubted the truthfulness of any rape complainant and her pattern of changing her own analysis repeatedly to fit Nifong's changing theories of the case. Cohan omits both.
A Scribner-Cohan press release also claims falsely that Levicy's "report of what Mangum told her that night [actually, the next morning] is stunning and has never before been revealed." (Cohan said the same on the April 14 Diane Rehm Show, two days after KC Johnson had exposed it as false on his blog.) In fact, Levicy's report was obtained and summarized in detail more than seven years ago by numerous reporters and authors, including KC Johnson and me, and was publicly discounted as unconvincing by Attorney General Cooper's distinguished investigators.
More generally, after endorsing many times Nifong's assertions that the medical evidence supported Mangum's rape claim, Cohan acknowledges that Cooper's investigators had found that "[n]o medical evidence confirmed her stories." They also found that Levicy had "based her opinion that the exam was consistent with [Mangum's story] largely on [her] demeanor and complaints of pain rather than on objective evidence."
How does Cohan manage to fill 621 pages? He stuffs them with long, long, often repetitive quotations from his interviews with Nifong, news articles, op-ed columns (including two of mine), blog posts, and other previously published remarks. He also goes on for dozens and dozens of pages detailing and lamenting the well-known culture of underage binge drinking, overemphasis on athletics, and flaccid academic standards at Duke and other prestigious colleges.
These temperance lectures would be harmless, and even of some value, but for the author's underlying campaign. He is remarkably indulgent, on the whole, of the disgraceful rush to judgment against the Duke lacrosse players by Robert Steel, by Richard Brodhead, the cowardly Duke president, by other top administrators, and by almost 100 Duke professors.
The great mystery here is why a skillful, highly successful author and journalist would stoop so low. Dreams of a movie deal, perhaps? One also wonders why, to take one of many possible examples, Cohan didn't bother to check his facts with James Coman or Mary Winstead—an elementary precaution for any responsible journalist or author—before trumpeting Nifong's false claim that Cooper had "sandbagged" them when he exonerated the lacrosse players. Was the best-selling author of this "definitive, magisterial account"—which I would call deeply dishonest—afraid of letting stubborn facts spoil sensational stories? 
Stuart Taylor, Jr., a Washington writer and Brookings nonresident senior fellow, coauthored with KC Johnson the 2007 book Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case.

The Hazards of Duke

May 1, 2014
The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities
By William D. Cohan
Scribner’s, 653 pages
On August 25, 2006 the New York Times published a nearly 6,000-word, front-page analysis of the evidence in the case against the three lacrosse-playing students at Duke University who were charged with raping a prostitute who had been hired to dance at a party. The article conceded that holes had emerged in the case brought against them by Mike Nifong, the district attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina. But by presenting material in the light most favorable to Nifong’s claims and by excluding or diminishing the significance of key exculpatory evidence, the Times implied that a rape still might have occurred. The article was widely, and correctly, disparaged as the work of reporters whose longstanding acceptance of Nifong’s assumptions had robbed them of objectivity. Those who had read only the Times would have been stunned, several months later, to see the case end with the lacrosse players declared innocent and Nifong disbarred and sent to jail for lying to a judge.
In his new book, The Price of Silence, the Vanity Fair writer William D. Cohan has revived the Times thesis. Relying on a mixture of interviews with Nifong and previously available material, Cohan portrays Nifong as a courageous prosecutor who tackled a difficult case as best he could, even as many of his key advisers let him down at critical junctures. Nifong might have made a few mistakes, in this version of events, but his heart was in the right place. As with the Times in 2006, a superficially neutral tone conceals a fundamentally dishonest thesis—that “something happened” (precisely what occurred the author leaves to readers’ imaginations) to accuser Crystal Mangum.
At its core, the lacrosse case was a story of three Duke students—Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann—accused of a heinous crime that never occurred, and their impressive ability to endure a false arrest and intense, often malicious, public scrutiny. But since Cohan was unable to interview any of the three or their family members, he cannot provide any new insights into their experiences. Instead, relying on the same evidence that a comprehensive investigation from North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper’s office had found worthy of a declaration of innocence, Cohan baselessly implies that one of the falsely accused might have been a criminal after all. For good measure, he launches unsubstantiated character smears against a second of Nifong’s targets.
The case was also a real-world legal thriller, featuring a team of defense attorneys who confronted and ultimately overcame a powerful, corrupt district attorney. But since Cohan, who has spent most of his career writing about the business world, neither interviewed these lawyers nor examined their case files, he can offer nothing new on this front either. Instead, the author gives Nifong a platform to besmirch the character of the lawyers who exposed the lies upon which he built his claims.
The lacrosse case generated the backlash it did because it illustrated the breakdown of institutions that purport to offer a dispassionate commitment to the truth. Professors at an elite university, obsessed with themes of race, class, and gender, abandoned the academy’s traditional fealty to due process to exploit their own students’ distress. Journalists from the New York Times to the local newspaper in Durham seemed to view their central task as propping up Nifong’s case by any means necessary, lest a false accusation contradict their editors’ (and many of their readers’) ideological biases. North Carolina civil-rights activists set aside their longstanding calls for fair treatment of criminal suspects to bolster whatever version of events Mangum happened to be offering.
Cohan isn’t much interested in these aspects of the story, but any book on the lacrosse case must address such matters. The Price of Silence covers them in a slipshod fashion, cutting and pasting lengthy excerpts of remarks from key figures, or summarizing, one after another, items that appeared in various publications (including my own blog on the case). In his acknowledgements, Cohan thanks his research assistant, who presumably did yeoman’s work compiling the many snippets that the book uses. But readers deserve more than mind-numbing, context-free synopses of dozens of articles or columns or blog posts.
Such analysis, however, might have distracted from the book’s emphasis on rehabilitating Nifong’s reputation. Indeed, The Price of Silence makes sense only if readers go along with Cohan in assuming that Nifong, a convicted liar, is an honest man who can guide outsiders through the facts of the case. In this respect, the timing of the book, published on April 8, was particularly unfortunate. On March 20, the Washington Post ran an exposé by Radley Balko suggesting that, in the 1990s, Nifong committed ethical transgressions in the conviction of an innocent man for murder. The Duke case thus appears not to have been the first time that Nifong crossed ethical lines in court. Cohan nonetheless minimizes the overwhelming indications that the whole affair was a hoax and presents Nifong’s musings uncorroborated.
The shortcomings of this approach are most obvious in Cohan’s treatment of the DNA evidence, which played a key role in both Nifong’s disbarment and the students’ exoneration. No DNA from Mangum’s rape kit ever matched the DNA of any of the lacrosse players, while supplementary DNA tests indicated multiple unidentified males. Nifong revealed the former, but turned over a report that concealed the latter finding. During the case itself, no one involved doubted that this evidence was critical. Defense attorneys spent scores of hours decoding the raw DNA data before discovering what Nifong had done. The State Bar and trial judge cited the evidence as a reason for punishing Nifong, who apparently considered hiding these findings so important that he repeatedly lied about them in court. But to Cohan, this DNA evidence “didn’t matter,” and discussion about it constituted a “red herring.”
While Cohan minimizes a prosecutor’s need to be truthful about exculpatory evidence, he mischaracterizes what DNA evidence did exist to advance his “something happened” thesis. At several points, Cohan darkly hints at the unresolved question of whether Dave Evans’s DNA was found on Mangum’s false fingernails. (Trace DNA on one of the fingernails, found in Evans’s trashcan, could not exclude him, or thousands of other males, as a possible match.) Yet this issue—to borrow a phrase—is a red herring, already addressed by North Carolina authorities. No skin or body tissue was attached to the fingernails, and state lab experts noted that if the DNA was, in fact, Evans’s, it “could easily have been transferred to the fingernails from other materials in the trash can.” As the attorney general’s official report concluded, “No DNA evidence confirmed [Mangum’s] stories.”
Joseph Neff, of the Raleigh News & Observer, has already exposed how deceptively Cohan frames the declaration of innocence itself. Relying solely on Nifong’s recollections, which included a wild claim that Attorney General Cooper experienced a “selling your soul to the devil” moment, Cohan implies that Cooper not only made the announcement for political reasons, but also kept his senior prosecutors in the dark. Neff, unlike Cohan, actually spoke to one of Cooper’s senior prosecutors, who dismissed the Nifong and Cohan characterizations as “figments of [Nifong’s] imagination.”
As for the “something happened” thesis: For this Cohan produces no evidence beyond Nifong’s stream of consciousness, the misrepresented DNA results, and the opinion of one Bob Steel, who formerly chaired Duke’s board of trustees. Needless to say, Steel, who lacks any law enforcement experience, has no more basis for his conclusions than does Cohan.
Cohan’s whitewashing the record of a deeply unethical prosecutor and his disturbing willingness to cast doubt on innocent people can, and should, be dismissed. But the author’s actions touch on one of the most interesting questions of the lacrosse case: why so many people (here, Cohan merely joins Duke faculty extremists, various mainstream reporters, and local civil-rights activists) aggressively attached their professional reputations to a charlatan like Nifong.
Unlike most of his colleagues in the pro-Nifong movement, Cohan bases his position less on ideology than on the mercenary needs of a book with severe source limitations. Cohan’s decision to abjure what he terms “somewhat superfluous” endnotes fails to obscure the remarkably small amount of new information that the book uncovers. Virtually the only fresh material comes from the author’s interviews with Nifong, so if Nifong can’t be credited with truthfulness, the book has no value.
The rehabilitation effort sometimes creates the impression that the project’s central goal is allowing Nifong to settle scores with his enemies, real and imagined. At various points, unchallenged by the author, the disgraced former district attorney lashes out not only at the North Carolina attorney general, but also at the judge who handled the final months of the lacrosse case, the attorney who presided over his ethics proceedings before the State Bar, the prosecutor in his contempt trial, his former assistant district attorney, his former chief investigator, his former campaign manager, several of the defense attorneys, and (of course) the lacrosse players.
Cohan’s embrace of one-sidedness extends beyond treating Nifong’s self-serving recollections as credible. He appears not to have interviewed anyone who confronted Nifong in the legal arena—not the defense attorneys, not the senior lawyers who investigated Mangum’s claims for the attorney general’s office, not the special prosecutor who handled Nifong’s contempt trial, and not the State Bar figures involved in the ethics case against Nifong. Nor did Cohan personally cover any of those proceedings. As someone who did, I can say that the book’s portrayal of Nifong’s criminal contempt trial is particularly divorced from reality.
Despite its ominous-sounding subtitle—The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities—the book’s sections on Duke University are perfunctory. Cohan offers milquetoast criticism of the university’s craven president, Richard Brodhead. He appears to sympathize with the race, class, and gender obsession of Duke faculty activists but does little more than present their remarks without skepticism. Cohan’s chief interest seems to be the role of athletics on the Duke campus. He deems prescient the former Duke professor Peter Wood, a strong anti-athletics voice known for condemning the lacrosse players’ character. (Cohan neglects to mention the discrediting of Wood’s claims about team members in a report commissioned by Duke itself.) And he describes as “modest” another professor’s untenable proposal to remove Duke from Division I athletics.
This agenda connects to the lacrosse case only indirectly; Cohan implies that if Duke hadn’t had an elite lacrosse team, many of the lacrosse players would have attended another school, and the party (and associated culture) that triggered the rape accusation never would have occurred. In any event, Cohan presents the critique of athletics so meekly that it’s hard to imagine many readers will be persuaded or even notice. And since Cohan’s own Twitter feed is peppered with fan-oriented remarks about the Duke men’s basketball team, perhaps even he is ambivalent about his message on this issue.
The book does contain one revealing item. As the case progressed, Cohan reports, Nifong gave up “reading the newspapers—except for the New York Times.” Like its protagonist, The Price of Silence will appeal only to those willing to close themselves off to any and all information that contradicts their preconceived views.

About the Author

KC Johnson is a professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He covered the lacrosse case through a blog, Durham-in-Wonderland, and co-authored, with Stuart Taylor Jr., a book on the case. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today's Tune: The Raveonettes - Remember

Easter With Flannery O'Connor

By George Weigel
April 16, 2014
This coming August 3 will mark the golden anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s “Passover,” to adopt the biblical image John Paul II used to describe the Christian journey through death to eternal life. In the fifty years since lupus erythematosus claimed her at age thirty-nine, O’Connor’s literary genius has been widely celebrated. Then, with the 1979 publication of The Habit of Being, her collected letters, another facet of O’Connor’s genius came into focus: Mary Flannery O’Connor was an exceptionally gifted apologist, an explicator of Catholic faith who combined remarkable insight into the mysteries of the Creed with deep and unsentimental piety, unblinking realism about the Church in its human aspect, puckish humor—and a mordant appreciation of the soul-withering acids of modern secularism.
Insofar as I’m aware, there’s never been an effort to initiate a beatification cause for Flannery O’Connor. If such a cause should ever be introduced, The Habit of Being (and the lectures found in the Library of America edition of her collected works) should be the principal documentary evidence for considering her an exemplar of heroic virtue, worthy to be commended to the whole Church.
O’Connor’s sense that ours is an age of nihilism—an age suffering from by a crabbed sourness about the mystery of being itself—makes her an especially apt apologist for today: not least because she also understood the evangelical sterility of the smiley-face, cheap-grace, balloons-and-banners Catholicism that would become rampant shortly after her death. In a 1955 letter to her friend Betty Hester, Flannery O’Connor looked straight into the dark mystery of Good Friday and, in four sentences explained why the late modern world often finds it hard to believe:
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.

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Back story of Yasiel Puig's journey to America should concern Dodgers

Photo: AP

Seemingly from the moment Cuban refugee Yasiel Puig showed up at Dodger Stadium out of nowhere, arriving last June unwilling to discuss his unknown background, the talk behind the batting cages has been rife with unprintable rumors.

There were rumors Puig was smuggled out of Cuba by members of a Mexican drug cartel. There were rumors he still owed the smugglers money, and that his life could be in jeopardy. There was talk about Puig being essentially owned by a Miami businessman with a criminal record who hired those smugglers in exchange for 20% of the ballplayer's future earnings.

Who knew that all those rumors could actually be true? According to a richly researched and chillingly written story by Jesse Katz in the May issue of Los Angeles Magazine, Puig's journey to Los Angeles was even more harrowing than realized, and continues to be more frightening than imagined.

In an account featuring on-the-record interviews and court records, Katz details how, in June of 2012, Puig was smuggled to Mexico by members of the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel, his trip funded by a Miami air-conditioning repairman named Raul Pacheco who was on probation for attempted burglary. The smugglers held Puig in a seedy Mexican hotel for more than two weeks while attempting to extract increased payments from Pacheco. Eventually Puig was taken from the hotel by a gang organized by Pacheco and soon thereafter joined the Dodgers by signing a $42-million contract.

The stunning timeline doesn't even scratch the surface of a compelling tale that recounts Puig's humble childhood in a tiny rural village, how he was dropped from his Cuban league team for disciplinary reasons, reports of his failed defections, and accusations that he turned in potential defectors to the Cuban government while planning his own escape.

The story is recommended reading for anybody searching for a better understanding of the 23-year-old enigma who can be both thrilling and baffling, both on and off the field, the Dodgers' most exciting and aggravating player. Even more, the story is an absolute must-read for Dodgers fans and players, because its edges are filled with a danger that may have not dissipated.

Where there were once rumors, now there are questions:

• The story reports that late in the summer of 2012, the smugglers still wanted their money, and threatened to harm Puig unless he paid. Now that Puig is a multi-millionaire, are the smugglers still involved, and could that involvement one day lead to Dodger Stadium?

• The story notes that in the fall of 2012, one of the smugglers was killed, execution-style, after Puig allegedly complained about the harassment to his former agent, Gilberto Suarez. Could there be revenge involved, and could that one day lead to Dodger Stadium?

• The story details how Pacheco will be given 20% of all of Puig's future earnings in a deal that is not unusual for desperate Cuban players. Does this mean that the rumors of Pacheco's appearances around the Dodgers last year were true? Is this Miami man quietly pulling the strings on Puig's turbulent life?

The Dodgers refused to comment on the Puig issue Monday, and his agent, Adam Katz, did not returns calls. Puig has steadfastly refused to speak publicly about his past, and would not discuss it with Los Angeles Magazine's Katz.

Since security issues are best kept secure, the Dodgers are just probably being responsible in not acknowledging what they are doing to protect Puig and everyone — fans and players included — around him.

But they should clearly be doing something, specifically building on a boost in security that began last season. Shortly after Puig's arrival last summer, the bodyguard quotient around the Dodgers' dugout noticeably increased. This winter, that same security detail could be seen around Puig in public. One can only hope this season the added security remains, both on the field and in the stands, particularly when Puig is standing alone in right field.

Top-level Dodgers officials surely knew much about Puig's journey when they signed him. Although little is known about the backgrounds of many Cuban players, Puig's story is reportedly not that uncommon. His circumstances are more combustible only because he is one of the highest-paid defectors, and more money attracts more trouble.

As for Puig, the story probably won't change many of the two disparate opinions of him. He is painted as both a childlike refugee simply trying to adjust to a new world, and a cold-blooded, self-involved star with little respect for anything that does not make him shine.

The real truth about Yasiel Puig, of course, is probably somewhere in the middle, somewhere deep in a drama that continues to this day, more harrowing than believed, more frightening than imagined.

Twitter: @billplaschke

Why Jesus is God: A Response to Bart Ehrman

By the Very Reverend Robert Barron
April 15, 2014

Bart Ehrman

Well, it’s Easter time, and that means that the mainstream media and publishing houses can be counted upon to issue de-bunking attacks on orthodox Christianity. The best-publicized of these is Bart Ehrman’s latest book How Jesus Became God. Many by now know at least the outlines of Ehrman’s biography: once a devout Bible-believing evangelical Christian, trained at Wheaton College, the alma mater of Billy Graham, he saw the light and became an agnostic scholar and is now on a mission to undermine the fundamental assumptions of Christianity. In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated ad nauseam in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose “resurrection” was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death. Of course Ehrman, like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery. But basically, it’s the same old story. When I was a teenager, I read British Biblical scholar Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot, which lays out the same narrative, and just a few months ago, I read Reza Aslan’s Zealot, which pursues a very similar line, and I’m sure next Christmas or Easter I will read still another iteration of the theory. 

And so, once more into the breach. Ehrman’s major argument for the thesis that Jesus did not consider himself divine is that explicit statements of Jesus’ divine identity can be found only in the later fourth Gospel of John, whereas the three Synoptic Gospels, earlier and thus presumably more historically reliable, do not feature such statements from Jesus himself or the Gospel writers. This is so much nonsense. It is indeed the case that the most direct affirmations of divinity are found in John—“I and the Father are one;” “before Abraham was I am;” “He who sees me sees the Father,” etc. But equally clear statements of divinity are on clear display in the Synoptics, provided we know how to decipher a different semiotic system. 

For example, in Mark’s Gospel, we hear that as the apostolic band is making its way toward Jerusalem with Jesus, “they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid” (Mk. 10:32). Awe and terror are the typical reactions to the presence of Yahweh in the Old Testament. Similarly, when Matthew reports that Jesus, at the beginning of the last week of his earthly life, approached Jerusalem from the east, by way of Bethpage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives, he is implicitly affirming Ezekiel’s prophecy that the glory of the Lord, which had departed from his temple, would return from the east, by way of the Mount of Olives. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the crippled man who had been lowered through the roof of Peter’s house, saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven,” to which the bystanders respond, “Who does this man think he is? Only God can forgive sins.” What is implied there is a Christology as high as anything in John’s Gospel. 

And affirmations of divinity on the lips of Jesus himself positively abound in the Synoptics. When he says, in Matthew’s Gospel, “He who does not love me more than his mother or father is not worthy of me,” he is implying that he himself is the greatest possible good. When in Luke’s Gospel, he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” he is identifying himself with the very Word of God. When he says in Matthew’s Gospel, in reference to himself, “But I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here,” he is affirming unambiguously that he is divine, since for first century Jews, only Yahweh himself would be greater than the Jerusalem Temple. Perhaps most remarkably, when he says, almost as a tossed-off aside at the commencement of the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, but I say…” he is claiming superiority to the Torah, which was the highest possible authority for first century Jews. But the only one superior to the Torah would be the author of the Torah, namely God himself. Obviously examples such as these from the Synoptic authors could be multiplied indefinitely. The point is that the sharp demarcation between the supposedly “high” Christology of John and the “low” Christology of the Synoptics, upon which the Ehrman thesis depends, is simply wrong-headed. 

And now to the “hallucinations.” Most of the skeptical critics of Christianity subscribe to some version of David Hume’s account of the miraculous. Hume said that since no reasonable person could possibly believe in miracles, those who claimed to have experienced a miracle must be unreasonable. They must, then, be delusional or naïve or superstitious. Hume’s logic was circular and unconvincing in the eighteenth century, and it hasn’t improved with age. Yes, if we assume that miracles are impossible, then those who report them are, to some degree, insane, but what if we don’t make things easy for ourselves and assume the very proposition we are trying to prove? What if we keep an open mind and assume that miracles are, though rare, possible? Then we don’t have to presume without argument that those who claim to have experienced them are delusional, and we can look at their reports with unjaundiced eyes. 

What in fact do we find when we turn to the resurrection appearance accounts in the New Testament? We find reports of many different people who experienced Jesus alive after his death and burial: Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, the twelve, “five hundred brothers at once,” and Paul. Does it strike you as reasonable that all of these people, on different occasions, were having hallucinations of the same person? The case of Paul is especially instructive. Ehrman argued that the visions of the risen Jesus were created in the anxious brains of his grief-stricken disciples, eager to commune once more with their dead Master. But Paul wasn’t grieving for Jesus at all; in fact, he was actively persecuting Jesus’ followers. He didn’t crave communion with a dead Master; he was trying to stamp out the memory of someone he took to be a pernicious betrayer of Judaism. And yet, his experience of the risen Jesus was so powerful that it utterly transformed his life, and he went to his death defending the objectivity of it. 

Debunkers of orthodox Christianity have been around for a long time. In some ways, it is testimony to the enduring power of the Christian faith that the nay-sayers feel obliged to repeat their tired arguments over and over. Faithful believers have simply to declare their Christianity with confidence and, patiently but firmly, tell the critics that they’re wrong.

Gods and Gopniks

By David Bentley Hart
May 2014
Adam Gopnik
Journalism is the art of translating abysmal ignorance into execrable prose. At least, that is its purest and most minimal essence. There are, of course, practitioners of the trade who possess talents of a higher order—the rare ability, say, to produce complex sentences and coherent paragraphs—and they tend to occupy the more elevated caste of “intellectual journalists.” These, however, are rather like “whores with hearts of gold”: more misty figments of tender fantasy than concrete objects of empirical experience. Most journalism of ideas is little more than a form of empty garrulousness, incessant gossip about half-heard rumors and half-formed opinions, an intense specialization in diffuse generalizations. It is something we all do at social gatherings—creating ephemeral connections with strangers by chattering vacuously about things of which we know nothing—miraculously transformed into a vocation.
All right, I suppose that all sounds a little spiteful. I take it back. I am perfectly aware that there are quite a few men and women of considerable gifts laboring in the fields of journalism, and that some figures of genuine literary eminence have risen from the ranks of the profession. My affection for H. L. Mencken verges on the idolatrous. I can think of a half-dozen writers I admire who began (and in some cases ended) their careers writing for the popular press. And, after all, I am not entirely certain how I should classify what I am doing in writing a regular column. Still, it seems fair to me to note that what a journalist does for a living does not, in itself, require him or her to be a scholar, an artist, a philosopher, or even particularly good at sorting through abstract ideas. And, really, it is hard both to meet a regular deadline and also to pause long enough to learn anything new, or waste much time even following one’s own arguments.
Which brings me to Adam Gopnik, and specifically his New Yorker article of February 17, “Bigger Than Phil”—the immediate occasion of all the rude remarks that went coursing through my mind and spilling out onto the page overhead. Ostensibly a survey of recently published books on (vaguely speaking) theism and atheism, it is actually an almost perfect distillation of everything most depressingly vapid about the cogitatively indolent secularism of late modern society. This is no particular reflection on Gopnik’s intelligence—he is bright enough, surely—but only on that atmosphere of complacent ignorance that seems to be the native element of so many of today’s cultured unbelievers. The article is intellectually trivial, but perhaps culturally portentous.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today's Tune: Mumford & Sons - The Cave

The FBI Could Have Stopped the Boston Bombing

Posted By Robert Spencer On April 15, 2014 @ 12:28 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments
To order Robert Spencer’s just-released new book, Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We’re InClick Here.

 Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

With the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon jihad bombings approaching, the New York Times made yet another attempt to exonerate the Obama Administration of responsibility for one of its manifest failures, claiming that an inspector general’s report on the bombings was an “exoneration of the F.B.I.,” as it showed that “the Russian government declined to provide the F.B.I. with information about one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects that would most likely have led to more extensive scrutiny of him at least two years before the attack.” 

See? The bombing was all the fault of that scoundrel Putin. It had nothing to do with the FBI, because of fecklessness and political correctness, failing to act properly on information the Russians gave them.

Full disclosure: I used to give FBI agents and other law enforcement and military personnel training on the teachings of Islam about jihad warfare against and subjugation of non-Muslims, so that they would understand the motives and goals of those who have vowed to destroy the United States as a free society, and be better equipped to counter them. I provided this training free of charge, out of a sense of patriotic duty, and it was well received: I received certificates of appreciation from the United States Central Command and the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group.

But as I explain in detail in my book Arab Winter Comes to America, all that ended on October 19, 2011, when Islamic supremacist advocacy groups, many with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, demanded that FBI counter-terror trainers (including me) and training materials that referred to Islam and jihad in connection with terrorism be discarded, and agents educated by them be retrained. John Brennan, then the U.S. Homeland Security Advisor and now the director of the CIA, readily agreed in a response that was written on White House stationery – thereby emphasizing how seriously the Obama Administration took this demand.

Subsequently, as I detail in the book, politically correct willful ignorance then took hold in our intelligence and law enforcement agencies – to the extent that after the Boston Marathon bombing, then-FBI director Robert Mueller admitted that the bureau had not investigated the Islamic Society of Boston, where the Tsarnaev brothers attended mosque, and had not even visited it except as part of an “outreach” program – despite the fact that it was founded by Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who is currently in prison for financing al Qaeda, and was attended by convicted jihad terrorists such as Tarek Mehanna and Aafia Siddiqui. 

Accordingly, the FBI was harshly criticized for not doing all it could to prevent the Boston bombing, and that criticism was bipartisan, coming not only from Texas Republican Representative Louie Gohmert, but from Massachusetts Democrat Representative William Keating and South Carolina RINO Senator Lindsey Graham. And the inspector general’s new report shows how justified that criticism was. According to the Times, the Russians told the feds that Tamerlan Tsarnaev “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” and that he “had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”

Those “underground groups” could in this context only have been a reference to jihad groups. And so that means that the Russians essentially told the FBI that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a jihadi. Why wasn’t that enough for the FBI to keep him under close surveillance? It has now become clear that Tsarnaev murdered three Jews – his former friends – on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the day that jihad came most bloodily to the United States. The victims’ friendship with Tsarnaev was known to many – why didn’t those murders, even if law enforcement officials couldn’t charge him with them at the time, lead the FBI to think it might be worth watching him?

The Times says that the FBI didn’t pursue watching him and his brother because they hadn’t “found anything substantive that ties them to a terrorist group.” The possibility that they could have pulled off a lone wolf jihad attack apparently didn’t occur to these intel experts. And because of the Obama/Brennan scrubbing of counter-terror training materials of information about Islam and jihad, agents probably had no idea of the deep roots or virulence of Islamic anti-Semitism, so they had no idea of the implications of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s close acquaintance with the 9/11/11 murder victims, despite the fact that the Russians had told them he was a “radical.”

The FBI clearly failed in this case and bears some responsibility for the Boston bombing, but ultimately the responsibility lies with Barack Obama and John Brennan, who made sure that agents would be abysmally ignorant of Islam and jihad when they scrubbed all mention of both from counterterror training — so how could the FBI properly evaluate what the Russians told them?

The FBI’s failure wasn’t the Russians’ fault. It was the fault of the Obama Administration’s politically correct unwillingness to face the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat. Meanwhile, the media stigmatizing of all resistance to jihad terror and Islamic supremacism as “Islamophobia” only abets this willful ignorance, and leaves us all less safe. The one lesson that is clear one year after the Boston Marathon jihad bombing is that, unless there is a massive change of thinking at the highest levels of government and media, there will be many more such bombings.

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