Quick Roundup 451

Friday, July 24, 2009

All He Needs to Know?

Barack Obama, having just finished not reading the bill that would impose slavery on America's medical profession, has apparently also gotten around to not reading this police report concerning the arrest of a combative Harvard professor that he counts as a friend.

Obama called [Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr.] a friend, and said he doesn't know all the facts of the case. Nonetheless, Obama said, anyone would have been angry if treated the way Gates claims police in Cambridge, Mass., treated him. Gates claims he was arrested in his own home after showing ID to police who responded to a report of a possible burglary.

Police say Gates yelled at the officers and initially refused to show his ID. Gates allegedly yelled "this is what happens to a black man in America" and "you don't know who you’re messing with" before he was arrested, and police said he was uncooperative. ( read the arrest report )

"Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof he was in own home," Obama said during a prime-time news conference that otherwise focused on the health care debate.
Gates was arrested because his belligerent, unreasonable behavior was making it impossible for the police to do its job -- in this case, making sure his house wasn't being burglarized.

If my neighbor saw me and an unknown person attempting to break in to my house, I would hope he would call the police (as Lucia Whalen did), whether that neighbor recognized me or not. And upon their arrival, I would hope that the police would show some interest in who I was (as Officer Crowley did).

I would not immediately insinuate that the officer was bigotted and refuse to identify myself (as Gates did) and then caterwaul so loudly as to make it impossible for the responding officer to communicate by radio (as Gates did). Nor would I reply to a request that I move the conversation outside with a schoolyard taunt about speaking to the officer's mother (as Gates did).

And yet Obama -- the same Obama who regarded America-damning bigot Jeremiah Wright as a spiritual mentor for decades -- calls Gates a "friend" and the Cambridge Police "foolish" for doing their job while admitting that he doesn't know the facts of the case. Spit in our faces, Mr. President, and tell us it's raining.

This contempt for the facts is matched only by the injustice towards Crowley (and sometimes the neighbor) of Obama's adoring fans in the media, among whom is Boston's Adrian Walker, whose column, "Hey, Let's Talk," is a fine example of the kind of "reasoning" behind all the calls for Crowley to apologize:
Do I believe race was part of this? Of course it was.

I don't believe for one second that Alan Dershowitz, in the same situation, would have ended up with a mug shot. First, his neighbor probably wouldn't have called the police, even if she didn't recognize him. Second, Crowley probably would have gone away.

"Skip Gates has spent his entire life talking about race in a way that makes people contemplative and gets them to think about it in a positive way," [He stopped and undid that on July 16. --ed] Leone said. "For him, this is a perfect opportunity to educate people."

Leone believes no one covered themselves in glory here. "Crowley got his back up," Leone said. "He's saying all he did was respond. I think both of them, privately, are saying, 'I could have handled this better.'"

I think Crowley should apologize. But here's what I really wish: I wish Gates and Crowley would sit down and talk to each other, no lawyers, no cameras, maybe a friendly columnist to facilitate.

I wish they could sit across lunch from each other and have an honest, no-posturing conversation about what happened.
Walker contradicts himself in the last two paragraphs above. In the first of these, he is laying the blame on Crowley. In the second, he's treating this as if it is just some big misunderstanding. If Crowley acted unjustly, why does Gates need to fool around talking to him? And if there was a misunderstanding, why must only Crowley apologize? In either case, it is clear that Walker has already absolved Gates of any fault.

Crowley should apologize only if making his arrest was wrong. He refuses to do so and his union has stated that what he did was, in fact, "consistent with his training ... and acceptable legal standards." Gates, on the other hand, is already planning to make a "documentary" about this affair. Please read the arrest report if you wonder about the scare quotes.

Even if, for the sake of argument, Crowley owes an apology, Gates definitely owes one. His conduct was exceptionally rude and completely inappropriate.

Fashion Peeve Trifecta

Yesterday, at a bus stop, I saw some guy walking up in a suit and a ball cap. The widespread fashion of wearing ball caps annoys me anyway, especially when they are worn backwards, but seeing one worn with a suit really makes my teeth curl. How can anyone look more clueless?

Leave it to Fail Blog to show how!

Oh, and while I'm annoying myself with peeves, I'll get tattoos and plumber pants out of my system, too. From the second of these, which I recall from some time ago, I found myself in the "Amen corner" on this comment: "[T]he few women I've seen who looked good in low-rider jeans, would have looked much better in something else."

Houston Chronicle Linkage

And no, I am not interested in online dating ...

... that "Online Dating Annoyances" link above on tattoos I found via the Houston Chronicle, who I am happy to see, also linked here and to Brian Phillips's blog, Live Oaks, yesterday.

And that's kinda nice, since they linked to my post, "Forfeiting the Culture War," on the day after I forfeited my chance to appear in this week's Objectivist Roundup!

Honduras Compared to North Korea

Yassir Arafat's fellow Nobel Peace Laureate, Costa Rica's Oscar Arias, is unhappy with Honduras for not agreeing to accept the return of mini-Hugo Chavez as its president:
A frustrated Arias said Honduras had turned into the North Korea or Albania of Central America.

[Manuel] Zelaya, exiled in neighboring Nicaragua, has said he will return "by air, land or sea."

But despite increasing international isolation, the interim leaders have maintained that Zelaya will be arrested if he attempts to return to the country.
Well. I guess if a terrorist can win a "peace prize," it follows that a nation following its own constitution would be insulted by a "diplomat."

I support Honduras and like it more every day.

-- CAV


: Corrected URL for a link.


RE said...

Low-rise jeans are the best thing that's happened to girls since the bikini. In case you've forgotten, jeans during the 1980s and early 1990s went up to about four inches above the belly button, and made women look like their body was about 35% abdominal trunk. It wasn't pretty. Now, in the low-rise world, we get to enjoy midriffs all year round. It's even worth the price of occasionally happening to see a woman who ought not to be displaying her particular midriff. :)

As for the ball caps thing, I agree. I wear baseball caps virtually all the time, but in a suit? No way. *Maybe* on my way home from work or something, and only if I don't expect to be seen or interacted with by anyone until I've had a chance to change.

Gus Van Horn said...

Most of these things are matters of taste, and you're entitled to yours regarding plumber pants, at least in a casual context.

I suspect that I grew up before you did, which means that when plumber pants came in, THEY made women look to me like they were "about 35% abdominal trunk" -- by visually breaking up a curve I was used to seeing outlined by the pants.

I'm somewhat used to that now, but still like the earlier look of older jeans better. Better still, almost anything BUT jeans. I just don't like them.

The exception is the baseball cap with the suit. In so far as clothes are a type of nonverbal communication, wearing a ball cap with a suit so clearly violates the convention of the suit and the rationale for wearing one that I see very few contexts where doing that would be acceptable.

z said...

IMO, Crowley acted stupidly. Once he realized the belligerent black man he was dealing with was a Harvard professor, the thought should have entered his mind that he was being baited. IMO, Gates was trying to get himself arrested, or at best, not trying not to be. He was personally acquainted with Obama, he knew he wouldn't lose his job. If Gates had let it go, then it would have been just another anecdote.

As an aside, I am a white man. I became acquainted with a black woman in a small town. If you know small towns, then you understand how everyone knows everyone. When I started dating this woman, we were seen around town, in the grocery store, etc. (I was a young, IMO hansom, white man with a very nice car. She was a small town black woman who had discovered Ayn Rand, and we were very infatuated with each other.) Soon she began being pulled over a lot, and getting tickets. You know, 45 in a 40 on low-traffic roads at 8 am, approaching a 55 mph zone so that when her car came to a stop, her bumper was level with the 55 zone. Nothing explicit, no "nigger" comments. There were other things, besides being stared at by old white people (daily occurrence).

My point is, the real injustices that take place are not that overt and not readily apparent to regular white people. Ironically, this professor's behavior is harmful to public awareness of the issue. It makes it look like black people are trying to imagine a problem where there isn't one. (Kind of like the idea dealt with in the show 24, i.e. we need a terrorist attack to show the need for more anti-terrorism spending.)

Gus Van Horn said...

"IMO, Crowley acted stupidly. Once he realized the belligerent black man he was dealing with was a Harvard professor, the thought should have entered his mind that he was being baited."

Excellent point.

Regarding the intersection of the vestiges of small-town prejudice and bigotry (I distinguish between the two.) and racial profiling, your comments on Gates's "mak[ing] it look like black people are trying to imagine a problem where there isn't one," that is spot-on as well.

Gus Van Horn said...

Forgot something...

I don't think what you pointed out about Crowley was what Obama had in mind when he said Crowley "acted stupidly." Otherwise, he would have condemned Gates and clarified what he meant.

z said...

"I don't think what you pointed out about Crowley was what Obama had in mind when he said Crowley 'acted stupidly.'"

Right. I sort-of hijacked that phrase and used it with a different meaning without clarifying. Thanks.

If I were the officer, I would have written my name and badge number on a notepad (that every officer carries), left it on a table, and if he followed me outside, turned around and pointed my finger at him and said "one more word out of you sir, and I am going to Harvard administration and filing a harassment complaint." I wonder how Gates would have reacted to that.

Gus Van Horn said...

That's a very interesting idea, and it is possibly a way out of a dilemma that dawned on me after I posted our earlier comments: What if Crowley HAD NOT arrested Gates?

I think Gates would have STILL raised a stink, and possibly even taken his NON-arrest as "proof" that Crowley "knew" he hadn't a leg to stand on.

The moral and, often, the legal presumptions today are that whites are bigots and have ulterior motives. People like Gates know this and try to use it at every opportunity.

I'm not saying that you're necessarily wrong about the arrest (absent a move like the one you describe being tried and working) being a mistake, but my sense is that the deck is stacked against Crowley here.

madmax said...


What is your view of Billy Beck's take on this, namely that this is another example of increasing police predation on innocent citizens. Beck constantly focuses on police brutality. At first I thought it was typical libertarian anti-state drivel but lately I have come to the conclusion that as the welfare-state increases (along with smiley-faced fascism), the police *are* getting more abusive. Beck thinks that Crowley arrested Gates essentially because he didn't like his attitude; ie arbitrarily. To me, Gates is clearly an anti-white racist but it may be the case that Crowley was wrong. I don't know.

Regarding your distinction between small town prejudice and bigotry, that is an interesting distinction that I never thought of. I hope you post more on that subject some day.

The situation that Z describes sounds like it could occur in the 80s but not now. Unless we're talking about pockets of the deep south. I have lived in the North East, the West Coast and south (Florida) and I have not witnessed that type of anti-black racism later than 1995 (in the 80s I witnessed it all the time). Sadly, the majority of prejudice that I see is directed at whites from non-whites (mostly blacks and hispanics). In fact, I am constantly amazed at how open anti-white racism is. At the gym I go to, two middle-class blacks were looking at one of the tv screens showing news coverage of the tea parties and they were openly saying how this was an example of "whitey" trying to destroy a black president. They were saying this loudly and blatantly while being surrounded by white people. I see this type of thing all too frequently. I'm mixed race myself and non-whites often express their anti-white prejudice to me because they think I share it. When I tell them that I think they are being racist and why, I am usually called some version of an Asian Uncle Tom. Depressing.

Gus Van Horn said...


"What is your view of Billy Beck's take on this, namely that this is another example of increasing police predation on innocent citizens."

I haven't read his posts on the subject and probably won't get to them today, but the idea of the police being more overbearing as the welfare state expands makes a great deal of sense to me.

In fact, I think that respect for the law among ordinary citizens will correspondingly shrink, feeding THEIR contempt for law enforcement. We could have a vicious circle on our hands.

My dad was a cop, and yet I feel enormous contempt for law enforcement when pulled over for a traffic violation. In fact, the last time this happened, I was spoken to very rudely. This is anecdotal evidence to be sure, but it had been a while, and this guy was ruder than anyone before.

The situation that Z describes sounds like it could occur in the 80s but not now.

Now that you bring this up, this jibes with my admittedly limited knowledge of rural southern race relations.

FWIW, my mother lives in rural Mississippi in a small town about equally divided between blacks and whites. I know of no racial problems there.

On top of that, both of her neighbors are either openly or obviously gay, and as far as I can tell, THEY take no flak, either. The South may well be much more tolerant now, or her town could be unusual. Until pretty recently, it had a Cajun (read: Roman Catholic) mayor.

When I was in high school in urban Jackson during the mid 1980's, though, the father of a classmate of mine held a racially-mixed party in a white part of town and, for his trouble, had a cross burned in his front yard. I cannot imagine that happening now.

As far as prejudice vs. racism goes, it's simply the distinction between a reliance on racial stereotypes in the absence of any other evidence vs actual racism.

If blacks, for example, in a given area are more heavily-involved in crime than other groups, then could you really blame someone in that area for, say, crossing the street at night to avoid encountering a small group of young, black men that person has never seen? (An analogous situation exists between the sexes: I know that many women do just this when they see men they don't know at night. That's not sexism: That's just being careful.)

Of course not. And that is absolutely NOT the same thing as refusing to change one's opinion of a black person (or a man, or a woman) he/she becomes much better acquainted with.

Regarding anti-white racism, that has been open (but perhaps less common)for quite a long time. I once was on a bus in Dallas in the late 1980s and got to hear a tirade against "white people" worthy of Jeremiah Wright by some middle-aged black guy. (The ridership on that bus was mixed, and nobody else was joining him or taking his bait. It was a monologue that plainly offended everyone who heard it.) As I walked past him on the way out the bus, he looked at me and said, "When I say 'white people,' I mean 'management'"

Without breaking stride, I replied, "That's funny. I thought you were talking about skin color."

I enjoyed how this reduced him to stammering and I hope the other passengers did, too!


madmax said...


Thanks for the reply especially this:

"Without breaking stride, I replied, "That's funny. I thought you were talking about skin color.""

Awesome comment and quick witted and he totally deserved it.

Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome! Obviously, I don't get to tell that one very often!

Anonymous said...

Yo, Gus, you need to fix the link to Dr. Helen's blog about low-rise pants; it has an extra "http//" in the URL.

Gus Van Horn said...

Done. Thanks.