Sunday, October 11, 2015

“When I finally asked him if maybe these logs had been transcribed from tapes,” said the investigator, “he sort of slumped back in his chair and said, ‘I wish you hadn’t asked me that.’ And then he told us the whole thing.

So Alexander Butterfield has a few boxes of additional material he'd like to share. Twenty boxes, to be precise.

Butterfield, of course, was the Nixon aide who gave an honest answer to the question, "Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?"

Bob Woodward is telling the story in a new book, The Last of the President's Men. But here is a more paranoid version of the Butterfield story, as Hunter Thompson remembered it.

The axis of Nixon’s new and perhaps final strategy began to surface with the first mention of “the tapes,” and it has developed with the inevitability of either desperation or inspired strategy ever since. The key question is whether the “constitutional crisis” Nixon seems determined to bring down on himself by forcing the Tape Issue all the way to the Supreme Court is a crisis that was genuinely forced on him by accident—or whether it is a masterpiece of legal cynicism that bubbled up at some midnight hour many weeks ago from the depths of attorney John Wilson’s legendary legal mind.

The conventional press wisdom—backed up by what would normally be considered “good evidence,” or at least reliable leaks from the Ervin committee—holds that the existence of the presidential tapes & the fact that Nixon has been systematically bugging every conversation he’s ever had with anybody, in any of his offices, ever since he got elected, was a secret that was only unearthed by luck, shrewdness, and high-powered sleuth-work. According to unofficial but consistently reliable sources, Alex Butterfield—current head of the Federal Aviation Administration and former “chief for internal security” at the White House—was privately interviewed “more or less on a hunch” by Ervin committee investigators, and during the course of this interview talked himself into such an untenable position while trying to explain the verbatim-accuracy of some Oval Office logs that he finally caved in and spilled the whole story about Nixon’s taping apparatus.

According to one of the investigators who conducted the private interview—in the ground-floor bowels of the Ervin committee’s “boiler room” in the Old Senate Office Building—Butterfield couldn’t explain why the logs of Nixon’s conversations in his own office were so precise that they included pauses, digressions, half sentences, and even personal speech patterns.

“When I finally asked him if maybe these logs had been transcribed from tapes,” said the investigator, “he sort of slumped back in his chair and said, ‘I wish you hadn’t asked me that.’ And then he told us the whole thing.”

I was sitting in the hearing room about twenty-four hours later when word began buzzing around the press tables, just before lunch, that the next person to face the committee would be an unscheduled “mystery witness”—instead of Nixon’s personal attorney, Herbert Kalmbach, who was officially scheduled to appear when Ervin and his cohorts came back from lunch. I walked across the street to the air-conditioned bar in the Capitol Hill Hotel and heard some of the press people speculating about a man named Alex Butterfield who was going to tell the committee that Nixon had made tape recordings of all the disputed conversations referred to in John Dean’s testimony.

“Well, that should just about wrap it up,” somebody said.

“Bullshit,” said another voice. “He’ll burn those tapes before he gives them to Ervin.”


“Shit, if he thought they’d be any good to him, the committee would have had them a long time ago. [J. Fred] Buzhardt would have turned them over personally to Sam Dash five minutes after Dean finished reading his opening statement.”

The conversation rambled on, punctuated by the arrival of beer and sandwiches. The only other comment that sticks in my head from that lunch break before Butterfield came on was a rumor that the “mystery witness” had been “dug up” by staffers on the Republican side of the Ervin committee. It hardly seemed worth wondering about at the time . . . but that was before either Butterfield or Haldeman had testified about the tapes, and also before Nixon’s carefully considered announcement that he couldn’t release the tapes to anybody—despite subpoenas from both the Ervin committee and the special prosecutor—for fear of undermining the whole foundation of American government.

The president has made it absolutely clear that he has no intention of releasing those tapes—not even to an elite panel of judges who would hear them in strict privacy to determine their relevance—unless the U.S. Supreme Court compels him to do so, with a “definitive order.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

What Can a Union Do for Faculty at Public Research Universities?

MN Academics United and U of M – Twin Cities chapter of the AAUP present:
"What Can a Union Do for Faculty at Public Research Universities?"
Tuesday, October 20 at 6:00 P.M.
West Wing, Campus Club, Coffman Union

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Wanted: males between the ages of 35 and 55. Subjects will undergo a series of pedagogical downloads via direct brain-computer interface

From Tin House Books: "This Friday Julia Elliott will be taking over the Tin House Twitter and answering your questions on all things ROMIE FUTCH using ‪#‎askromie‬"

The U says it will stop testing experimental drugs on involuntarily confined patients. So why won't it apologize to the involuntarily confined patient who was injured?

See the Star Tribune for my op-ed about the shameful way the University of Minnesota has treated Robert Huber.

And for background, watch this May 2014 segment from KMSP (Fox 9) News, and have a look at these letters (here, herehere, and here,)  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Twin Cities ranked third worst metro area in the U.S. for African Americans

From 24/7 Wall Street:

One of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area is home to nearly 3.5 million people. It is also one of the worst cities for black Americans. The disparity between the median household incomes of white and black residents is especially stark. The typical white household earns about $73,700 annually, one of the highest incomes in the country. The typical area black household, meanwhile, earns just under $28,000 annually. Low wages often come with high unemployment rates. While only 3.9% of all Twin City residents are unemployed, one of the lowest figures in the country, the unemployment rate among the city’s black residents is 12.8%.

About 20% of the area’s black residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, roughly in line with the corresponding national rate. Still, more than 35% of the area’s black population lives in poverty, a significantly higher rate than the 27% of black Americans living below the poverty line.

Nominee for FDA director quietly removed his name from journal articles critical of the FDA

First we found out he was a big fan of Duke basketball and wears team colors on game days.  Now, as if that were not enough to disqualify him from an FDA position, we learn that Robert Califf has quietly scrubbed his name from some journal articles critical of the FDA.

From the Boston Globe:

Califf’s nomination was not seen as controversial, but the removal of his name from scientific papers could complicate his hearing before the Senate.

Under guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics, a nonprofit group that is focused on best practices in scholarly publishing, author lists must be accurate and complete to ensure all authors receive the appropriate level of credit and responsibility, said Tara Hoke, a trustee for the organization.

“COPE would express concern about any decision that might impact the integrity of the authorship record,” Hoke said.

And later:

Referring to reports of Califf’s long history of accepting funding from pharmaceutical companies, (Shannon) Brownlee said: “We already know that he thinks financial relationships between places like Duke and the drug industry are OK, so we know that. I think it’s probably a good idea to know what he thinks about this kind of research.”