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Obama: Outside the Rhetorical Box

"Here, I'd get shot." It was a throwaway line, off the cuff, and followed by a big smile. President Obama was answering Lynn Sweet's question about the racial implications of Skip Gates getting arrested by Cambridge cops. And he hypothesized what would happen if he tried to break into his house. From a purely technical standpoint, he constructed the framework of a potential joke (overlapping but incompatible frames of reference). Presidents don't even have keys to the White House, presumably. Moreover, the place is armed to the teeth. So Obama did something he doesn't do very often -- he went for the laugh.

Joking is perilous business for any president, because every utterance is scrutinized mercilessly. As a young president who came into office amid accusations that he was too green for the job, Obama has been especially careful to comport himself with dignity (winning huzzahs from the likes of David Brooks). Dignity doesn't easily pair up with jocularity.

A joke that falls flat, or offends some group of Americans, requires a rapid damage-control response from the president's staff (witness the unfortunate joke Obama made about his bowling prowess and the Special Olympics). So the president usually plays it safe.

Even Obama's official portrait -- the one that hangs in embassies around the world -- is so grave and serious as to offer zero hint of a sense of humor. He doesn't smile. He's all business. He looks practically monastic.

Let's all hope that, as time goes on, Obama carves some rhetorical breathing space for himself. That he more often escapes the presidency's rhetorical box.

Sure, he's never going to be Lenny Bruce, nor would we want that. American humor is traditionally impious. It gores sacred cows. That's hard for a president to do. But if he's going to be one of us (and not a machine) he should not be forbidden the use of the wisecrack.

Bill Kristol didn't like it when Obama said the Cambridge cops acted "stupidly." Kristol writes: "But if I were president of the United States [Bill, don't give us nightmares!!], I might pause before casually accusing other Americans of acting stupidly unless I were confident I knew what I was talking about."

Certainly a president has to measure his words carefully, and Obama is particularly good at that particular craft. That's why it was so dramatic -- and refreshing -- when he spoke so bluntly. "Stupidly" is not an adjective you often hear from a president. And thus was particularly effective. Whether it was entirely fair to the Cambridge police is debatable -- Obama admitted that he didn't have all the facts. His summary of what happened wasn't entirely accurate. (And I would have liked for him to have addressed the fact that there are countless people who may be victims of racial profiling who do not have the support network of Professor Gates.)

But the fact that Obama jumped in with both feet on this very sensitive and divisive issue is a sign that he's feeling less cautious when he's at the bully pulpit. Those who are horrified that he took the side of his friend, and bluntly criticized the cops (see the comments appended to the Politico story), are reacting rather hysterically -- if not stupidly.

[Update: Both sides digging in. This ain't over.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 23, 2009; 7:12 AM ET
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Next: Gaming the System (cont.)


I love a president who can state the obvious in a funny way. Good for him!

Posted by: slyness | July 23, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I think stupid was the perfect word. Obama didn't call the Officers racists, or evil, or corrupt. He called the actions stupid, a word that, to me, means poorly thought-out and impulsive. Even the smartest people can be stupid. And given the fall-out from this arrest, I find it hard for anyone to characterize these actions in any other way.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 23, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

It is a rainy morning here, on a whim I thought what the heck I will read Kristol this morning - didn't think much of his post but I was highly amused by some of the comments.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Oh goodness, the perils of humor. A topic that we all know is near and dear to bloggers like Joel.

Jokes, especially dry jokes, rely on an understanding that you don't really mean what you are saying. You do not *literally* mean these things. You are speaking hyperbolically for humorous effect. And you are assuming that your audience will understand this. Of course, sometimes the audience doesn't, or more perniciously, *refuses* to do this.

Which has rightly been called comedy hell.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 23, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Hurrah for Barack's candidness! He lost every law enforement officer vote for re-election in one sentence.

Posted by: g8rrick | July 23, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Yep... Front Page Alert...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 23, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Also, I have to gently disagree about the official portrait. If you look at his mouth you can see a slight asymmetry. One side is slightly elevated, which presents as the suggestion of a smirk - the beginning of a smile. To me this implies just a little bit of ironic self-awareness.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 23, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

And big doings in NJ, apparently..

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 23, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Obama himself acted "stupidly" to comment on this issue.

Firstly, the guy was arrested for disorderly and not for being in his own home. Obama sure didn't find out the facts.

Secondly, just because he is black and is a personal friend of Obama, that doesn't give him the natural right to back him up without knowing the facts.

Thirdly, he has indirectly implied that the entire police forces nationally are racist.

Finally, he should ask himself how is he President today.

Posted by: SkinnyCat | July 23, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that the officers in question don't watch Lehrer News Hour or one of the dozens of programs that feature Mr. Gates as a speaker.

It would be a bit like Chicago police arresting Newt Minow while he was walking in to his home.

Posted by: dprogers64 | July 23, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

When you arrest a 58 year old, grey-bearded man who walks with a cane in his own house, then you acted stupidly.

Posted by: tonyharris | July 23, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

No, his teleprompter is very good at crafting language. Obama without the crutch of a teleprompter is not.

And interestingly, this blog omits if anyone found his "joke" funny. The answer was no.

Posted by: bandmom22 | July 23, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Don't poke the bear.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

There's class to be considered as well as race. If you're working for local government and you arrest a prominent employee of a very large, very wealthy local organization, you've potentially made a serious mistake.

Posted by: anaximander47 | July 23, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

RE: your closing line: "Those who are horrified that he took the side of his friend, and bluntly criticized the cops (see the comments appended to the Politico story), are reacting rather hysterically -- if not stupidly."

You are naive, if not willfully ignorant. He should only extemporize if it's going to result in political gain. Term 1 is not the time to take on this topic. The last moral, honest president we had served for one term. If Obama wishes to repeat that example, let him follow your stupid advice to the letter.

Posted by: Matthew_DC | July 23, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge, I thought we agreed on Northern Quilted TP for the bunker... What's this wrapping-paper-quality stuff??

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 23, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends.

You know I used to tell my African-Americans friends that we had the guise of freedom and not the actual deal. That we were still on the plantation, like the prisoners let out on the yard, but when "lock down" was called, we had to get in our place. I think that mentality also belongs to those on the other side of the isle too, at some point. For me, it's scary when a policeman can come in your home and dragged you out because he thinks you don't live there, even after being shown otherwise. That mentality comes from the "lord of the plantation", and some still have a problem with that. It says that no matter how far up the ladder I(African-Americans) go, to some I will always be what they picture in their mind, and nothing more. Doesn't training include giving the policeman's name and badge number? If you're going to drag me out of my house, shouldn't I know who you are? I mean, where I live, some folks have gone missing or dead in scenarios such as that. In some folks' world, I suspect not. It's enough to know that I'm the law.

Policemen are very important, and are to be valued as much or even more, as other sectors of the public safety, yet we know, being human, we are subject to err, and that includes police too. The problem seems to be that they think they're infallible, especially when it comes to African-Americans, and I think that position belongs to God alone. In other words, the policeman's word, even when wrong, must stand in the light of truth.

I respect the President for taking it on, and the word he used to describe the actions of the police is fit. And it doesn't describe the whole police department. For those that want to use the President's remarks for a bully pit against common sense, I'm sure there are plenty of takers.

Mudge, Slyness, Yoki, Martooni(where are you?), Scotty, and everyone here, have a fantastic day. *waving*

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 23, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodlers!

My two bits on American cops. They are not a friendly bunch. My ex (an Englishwoman)called them frightening.

Late dawn patrol report:Crisp and frosty in Santiago.

Watching the Boodle's six o'clock:

An outstanding article and analysis by Pepe Escobar:

Posted by: Braguine | July 23, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

There's two issues. First of all there is Obama's joke about getting shot if he were to try to break into his house. I thought this was extremely funny. The notion of the President struggling to get back into the White House and then arrested for looking "suspicious" is brilliantly absurd.

The other issue is the characterization of these *actions*, not the officers, as stupid. As I mentioned above I thought this was the perfect word.

But there is a bigger issue. I believe that when asked this question Obama had no choice but to answer it forcefully and truthfully. To have dodged the question, or used weasel words, would have, to my mind, been repugnant.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 23, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Scotty, I specified "Northern Quilted" when I submitted the requistion form, as we agreed. But you know how lousy my handwriting is.

Uh, wait a minute. It doesn't say "Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary" on it does it? Because I think I put in another req form about the same time...

*getting that cold feeling down my spine*

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 23, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

>> the fact that Obama jumped in with both feet on this very sensitive and divisive issue is a sign that he's feeling less cautious when he's at the bully pulpit <<

Less cautious? Obama has shown an amazing ability for the last couple of years to shoot his mouth off about all sorts of things he knows absolutely nothing about. And it's even easier when no one in the Pravda MSM press challenges him on anything, and when there is absolutely no check or balance from Congress or the courts, such that he enjoys the power of an authoritarian thug to do and say whatever he wants with impunity.

Posted by: ooyah32 | July 23, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Obama will no doubt be lambasted by the neocon buffoons who don't get the joke.

Posted by: exPostie | July 23, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't know that Obama was joking about a black man in D.C. being shot by racist, murderous cops.

Posted by: ooyah32 | July 23, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Hey (mostly) to some of you ....

I caught Obama's remarks about Gates last night, and thought they were exactly what needed to be said. As I posted in a kit or two ago, I have always enjoyed Gates' programs and I have high regard for him. There are some posters (here, perhaps (and I fervently hope) just in passing, and on other sites) which completely miss the point and seem to believe that if you even raise your eyebrows to a policeman, they have the right to arrest you -- in your own home! I wonder, then, if they were in the same situation in their *own* home and had evidentiary proof of same, how *they* would like to be arrested *anyway* (!!!) for inviting the police to get the *expletive* out of their house.

There was no burglary, Gates proved without complete doubt that it was his house and that he lived there. It should have been DONE at that point. Period!

My internist happens to be African-American. He told me that when he and his siblings were growing up, their father taught them how not to *get* arrested, but how to *be* arrested, so that they would not lose their lives in the process. He is very successful (and a fabulous doctor) and he told me in an email yesterday that even if he takes a walk in his neighborhood (upscale in VA), he *always* *always* *always* takes ID with him. Because, you know, otherwise, he's not supposed to be where he is.

What the Cambridge police did was indeed STOOPID. And so are the posters who think otherwise without reflecting on how they would like to be treated under the same circumstances.

And, so, on that cheery note, I'm off to make a living.

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I am still relatively uninformed about the Gates matter and unsure what to make of the President's comments and actions on it as well. I'm on vacation, y'know? I am satisfied that without his being sure of all the facts and attempting to use the situation to advance a secret agenda, he is cautious enough to refrain from laying the political groundwork for invading a foreign country. Or Massachusetts.


Posted by: -bc- | July 23, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

If this fine, decent man of color can show such blatant bias in favor of what he may consider "his real people," it suggests that the average person of color may not want equality, but rather revenge against white people and special treatment for themselves.

I seem to faintly hear the tolling of a large ominous bell, and it seems to be getting louder -- signaling the death of any serious attempts at a post-racial society.

How terribly sad for America.

Posted by: YondCassius | July 23, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Hee Hee. Padouk said "pernicious."

Good for your President.

Posted by: Yoki | July 23, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra and ftb have it exactly right. Would any of us think police were justified in arresting us out of our own homes, when we'd shown them we had the right to be there? Would those of us who are not black say that a driver's license should be good ID for the cops for us, but somehow not for a person of color? Remember, a driver's license is accepted throughout the country as proof of identification, and police routinely ask for it (unless you're white). Also remember, Henry Louis Gates is an old man. Dignified. Decently dressed. Not your usual black male burglar profile.

The doctor in ftb's story rang a bell with me. I used to tell not only my clients, but classes of mostly black teenagers, how to behave if they were stopped by cops to (a) avoid arrest because they annoyed an officer or (b) get arrested but not hurt.

What happened to Gates was not normal police procedure, and I'm pretty familiar with habitual police action. This was an abuse of procedure. I'm fairly sure that a lot of law enforcment will recognize it as such and at least privately agree with Obama that these cops acted stupidly.

Good for Obama for (a) joking and (b) speaking bluntly. It is sometimes equally refreshing to hear truth from power.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 23, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Awesome pictures of the impact of the eclipse on the earth. I never thought of it this way, but you can see the huge shadow cast over the affected part of the earth...

Posted by: -TBG- | July 23, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what Bill Kristol is talking about. He is the living example of not thinking before speaking.

Posted by: gillyrosh | July 23, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I found the article in the Harvard Crimson interesting-

Please notice that Gates' shouting at the cop seems to have begun when he was asked for ID and before he established his identity. Notice also that the sources for this story are two police officers who were present and two friends of Dr. Gates who were not but can be assumed to be repeating his version of events, and Al Sharpton, who can be relied upon to jump into any situation where he can get media attention.

Looking at this from the position of the first officer on the scene- you have a report of two black men forcing entry into a house, you arrive to find a single black man in the building. My first thought would be "Where's the other guy?" So while you're establishing the ID of the first man, you're also alert and perhaps suspicious. Gates claims to be the resident. Ask for ID and find out where the second man is. Now at this point you get mixed signals because the IDs are good but Gates is shouting at you about profiling when you are responding to a call specifically reporting a home invasion by two African American males at this address. How would you respond?

From Gates' POV- you get home after a long long flight, have a hassle getting in the door, you're on the phone trying to get the dang door fixed, and this cop shows up and wants to know who you are and what your business is here. In your own place! Maybe he's resting his hand on his weapon. Maybe he's giving you the hairy eyeball. He's white, he's a cop, and he's starting to do all the things you've always been told that white cops do to black men. Making you prove your right to be in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. Well, not this time. How would you respond?

I think, as usual, that the information we have is not sufficient to form a clear judgement, but I suspect that the parties may very well have behaved as I surmised.

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

The president's comments on the Gates incident were funny and apt. His use of the word stupid was wise. It was less inflammatory than a word like criminal and more pointed than a word like questionable. It's not against the law to complain loudly to a policeman while standing in your own house, so the arrest was stupid. The policemen's response didn't surprise me, because they're typically not erudite enough to watch PBS and thereby recognize Dr. Gates. But I'm curious about Dr. Gates's neighbor. Why didn't she recognize her neighbor? Why would she think a gray-haired old man would be burglarizing a house by trying to force open the front (not the back)door, loudly, in broad daylight?

Posted by: philteacher | July 23, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The type of presidential humor that works best is self-deprecation. It offends no one, and as long as the President does not make light of an executive mistake opn a serious issue, it does not diminish the President either. Whether you liked him or not, it was hard not to appreciate how, when asked if age was an issue in his re-election campaign, Reagan said he would not exploit former VP Walter Mondale's relative youth and inexperience for political purposes.

Posted by: beachhead1 | July 23, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

The cops weren't the only ones acting stupidly. Gates (he sounds like a pompous windbag) is obviously impressed with being a big shot Harvard professor; he was disrespectful to the cops, and they in turn could not resist the urge to humiliate him. I hope some crackheads break into his posh residence next week and ransack the place. What's he going to say about the cops then?

Posted by: joesphoto1 | July 23, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Well, you know those Republicans. They would rather the President of the United States lie through his teeth than have him give his honest opinion about anything.

Posted by: arancia12 | July 23, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

On a lighter note, here's something for Curmudgeon and any other Dallas haters out there (check who's looking over your shoulder, language may not be appropriate)-

The clip itself is from "Die Untergang" with Bruno Ganz, an excellent film about Hitler's last days.

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I wish the president had passed on commenting on Gates. I felt his comments were misguided at best and more importantly took away from his fairly effective pitch for health reform.

Posted by: bob29 | July 23, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Audit Urges Cuts at U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Looking at the picture with the story, I am thinking the first cut should be the grass.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Funny you should mention that, 'Mudge, I was wondering about that silver lettering...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 23, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

kudos to kguy for again coming up with the "magic word" ... Hairy Eyeball ...

Today's prize is a set of worn seatbelts from the Bush 41 golf cart.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

President Obama gave us two teaching moments last night. The first was on health care and what inaction will mean to all of us. The other was on the one topic that needs more discussion than health care, race and how 400 years or more of poor race relations have stifled our greatness.

Yes, we are the greatest country in the world and we have definitely come a long way. However, just think of where we would be if we could seriously discuss race relations presidentially.

Just maybe all this "birther" stuff has helped him realize that he does need to educate the willing on what needs to be said rather than avoided. Great job Mr. President!!!

Posted by: ronhamp | July 23, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

But if they were truly from GB41's cart, wouldn't they be "never worn" seatbelts?

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Kguy, I shouldn't joke about golf carts, since I still "carry a scar" from a golf cart accident....

While caddying for my uncle at Makaha, I managed to make a sudden stop and put my hand on the scoring pencil.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Sigh. Yet another individual scarred for life by golf. When will this madness end.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 23, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Morning all,
One thing I don't hear enough people saying in the Gates case is that it wasn't just a question of "black guy breaking into a house" but it was Gates' LCWB: Living in Cambridge while Black. A great deal of the racial profiling cops engage in is picking on the minority in the neighborhood. The cop was naturally inclined to believe it was not Gates' house because he lives in a very nice, white neighborhood. I bet if Gates were white, the cop might not even ask for ID as soon as it was clear that nobody was robbing the place. Of course this goes the other way, too. White people in poor black neighborhoods get pulled over as suspected drug buyers. I was pulled over in my own neighborhood for ostensibly running a stop sign (I didn't) at night. When one of the cops looked at my license and saw that I lived a block from where I was stopped, he said to his partner, "He lives here," and at that point they said I was only getting a warning and I could go about my business.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I also thought Obama was hilarious. I should note that, were he not President, Obama would never have the problem Skip Gates did in his neighborhood. The Obamas' neighborhood is very diverse and the first people on the scene of many suspected break-ins are not the cops but the NoI security team that patrols the neighborhood.

Finally, the Cambridge cops were stupid. No matter what, once the cop realized who Skip Gates is, he should have realized that this would end badly for him if he didn't get out the situation as quickly and quietly as possible. Even if he was a rabid racist (which I doubt, just a normal cop) he should have known that arresting a black Harvard professor at his own home would make the police force look terrible in the eyes of the community and the nation. If he didn't realize this, he is an idiot.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I thought it was a wry comment, funny and to the point.

Posted by: -dbG- | July 23, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Is it lunchtime yet? *sigh* I'm leaving at 3 to go on vacation, and I'm more than a wee bit clock-watching.

I'm probably gonna leave Scotty in charge while I'm away -- as long as you people don't try to duct-tape the poor guy again. He's just about over his PTSD from last time and I thought putting him in charge again would be like "getting back on the horse." But I don't want to re-open old wounds for him if you guys are just gonna make him suffer again.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 23, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the officer did a stupid thing, arresting a homeowner in his own home for doing nothing but perhaps getting a little mouthy. He may or may not have been overly suspicious given the circumstances, but once ID was established he should have backed off.

He definitely power-tripped to prove to Gates that he was in charge of the situation. It might not even have been racially motivated, but it was stupid to arrest him.

Obama's joke about getting shot at the White House WAS funny--it got a good laugh in the room. What he said about Gates' arrest was true.

It is unfortunate that this was the last question, throwing him off-message a bit. But he was right to address it. Yes, he CAN multi-task.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | July 23, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Just to clarify: Ware St in Cambridge has a mix of housing with one and two family houses as well as five story apartment buildings. It is one block from the Harvard Yard and is a very busy urban side street. It's not a neighborly place where residents know or even recognize each other. It is not particularly upscale, rather it is part of the Harvard Square urban mix. The apartments are filled with graduate students and young faculty members and staff. Harvard owns most or many of the buildings.

And, having grown up in Cambridge, close to Harvard Square, I can tell you that there is quite a Town/Gown attitude there. I suspect that Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley had a bit of that going on as well.

Here's a link to a google earth video of the street.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | July 23, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Like I said before- not enough information. For instance, we do not know what the original 911 caller said to the police. She may have just said, "I just saw two black guys forcing their way into a house." OTOH she may have given full descriptions of both men, in which case Dr. Gates fit one of the descriptions perfectly because it was of him. Don't know, do we?

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

kguy's 10:23 wins my vote too. Because that's exactly the way I see it. Wait - is that the internet phenomenon where I only agree with what I already think? Yes. But so what?

Also thanks for the Atimes article, Brag.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Something else I wonder. Who called 9-1-1? It would have to be one of Gates' neighbors. Why didn't they recognize him? Why would they say it was 2 black men when obviously only one was there?

Maybe someone thought it was a good way to harrass their black neighbor.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | July 23, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Also, I feel duty-bound to report that the Redskins play Balmer and the Patriots play the Iggles three weeks from today. Just 21 days, 7 hours and 43 minutes from now.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 23, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Some of the comments hear are beyond laughable!!!! Oh, we poor ol' white folk. We can dish it out, but we can't take it.

First off, what America needed was a "younger" leader. Most folks realized it. That's part of the reason that Obama got into office. Secondly, our society was in financial stress. Our average worker was losing buying power year after year after year. Thirdly, the poor, despite what our Rand/Atlas Shrugged types say, are bearing the brunt of this crumbling earning power.

Obama ran against war hero/mom/apple pie/swimsuit contestant and won for that reason. I have to give him credit for "going out on a limb." He is going to take some lumps. But, we need change.

I have heard reference to the Voltaire quote "The best is the enemy of the good." Well, several very smart folks are suggesting with all the programs in the Obama initiative, good is OK for now.

I have to say that some of this, at best, veiled racist attitudes are quite funny considering I know how the police treat the poor in the city. I know how it was in Honolulu for a black kid in the 60's and 70's.

The best part about Obama's quip is that some folks are thinking it was a bit funny. Sure, the President shouldn't make a joke. If he does, he should make sure that it passes the white humor test.

It seems like that all we are getting out of the Republican party these days is an agenda of "birther-ism."

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

RD, yes, Golf... now I type with a noticeable limp.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

@mudge: that doesn't count. Besides, I'm not impatient at all. The 'Skins haven't been an inspired team since before I could drive. This doesn't dampen my enthusiasm or support for the team, but there's a significant part of me dreading that nauseated feeling I get so often during football season. Right now, I'm enjoying seeing progress by the Nats young pitchers (two stellar outings in a row!) and a wonderful season by my favorite hitter, Paul Konerko.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

What percentage of cops in a big city have ever been called to a daytime burglary in a well to do neighborhood involving two Black suspects, standing at the front door of the home, wearing backpacks?

When they knocked on the door and the "burglar" opened it, I doubt that their instincts told them that they were dealing with a criminal. From there like the President said it just got stupid.

Posted by: AverageJane | July 23, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I keep saying, that if you think you are in the majority, you all better be able to speak Chinese -- and there are a lot of dialects in that language!

And for all of you who snort about Gates' being a Harvard professor, just remember that George W. Bush (aka "little boy") *got* a Harvard education -- well, at least he was offered it, but he was probably too drunk to take advantage of it properly. I mean, he certainly *took advantage* of it, but to nefarious end.

Still gotta have a sense of humor. Obama certainly has it.

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

One more thing - to Mudgekins - it's *much* more important to count the days to Medicare: IIRC, it's 2 years, one month and 11 days for you, and I *know* it's 2 years, one month and 6 days for me. Not that I'm, you know, counting.


Nice to get that out of my system yet again.

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

@kguy: From what I heard on NPR this morning, we do know what the woman said: two big black guys are forcing their way into a house. I understand that she did specify "big" and that is in no way a fitting description of Skip Gates. My point is that when the cop got there, there was no evidence of a robbery in progress, just an old, short, limping black man. Yet, because Gates is black, the cop was inclined to not believe he was the real homeowner. Were Gates white, I am confident that the cop would have been inclined to believe him. He might have asked for ID as a matter of protocol anyway, but I'm sure he would have been much more polite about it.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

BTW, someone probably nailed my concern: police on a power trip. Post-911, it seemed every police force switched uniforms to a military style. I know of a couple of groups who support moves to ratchet back the garb. These folks should be public servants and helpful. Instead, we sometimes encounter Judge Dredd.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

SCC -- 2 years, one month and 11 and *1* day for you! Geez, I'm so embarrassed ....

*trying to remember where arithmetic books are -- oh yeah, behind the books on advanced calculus and nonlinear algebra and that one on differential equations*

All of which I used to be able to do. Not anymore, chaps!

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

kguy, I have one question if the 911 caller gave a good enough description of Gates, did they include his suitcase? Presumably if his driver was there would there not have been a car as well?

Once having viewed the ID, even if Gates had been upset and somewhat disrespectful the police should have made an attempt to calm the situation - respond that they were responding to a report robbery attempt.

Let's be honest I am sure police officers are yelled at a great deal during their days, I doubt they arrest every individual who disrespects them. I would hope the disorderly charge is limited to those who deserve it - on top of other charges being laid, for causing a public disturbance and not for becoming upset in a situation that would cause many people to become upset frustrated.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

What a great sense of humor.
I'm sure the Secret Service was rolling on the floor laughing at Obama accusing them of being the sort to shoot him if he, a black man, were to try to enter the White House.

Yeah, those Secret Service agents who are willing to give their lives in defense of the president are no doubt delighted to be called racist murderers by their president.

Posted by: ooyah32 | July 23, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* Yes, SW, I know it doesn't count...but it is the only thing I have to hang onto, a thin shred of hope in a world gone mad (read: soccer-crazed). I calculated it was seven weeks to opening day (night), Titans versus Steelers, and that was just too depressing to contemplate, so I grabbed wildly for pre-season, even though I don't much care about pre-season games. Pre-season games are to football what spin-the-bottle is to sex. (OK, let me work on that analogy a bit more. I'll get back to you.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 23, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

The amount and potency of vitriol generated by these few words is astonishing to me. These people sure work themselves up to a froth over the small stuff.

One very interesting but rather long article in VF on the genesis of the credit collapse, the primary cause of this current recession. There may be a couple of villains we can point a finger at.
The piece is by the usually very goob Michael Lewis, Princeton grad of 1982 just like our Joel. Also a grad of the London School of Economics, so he probably knows a thing or two about these financial issues.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 23, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Now everyone knows the cop was wrong, he should of asked for his birth certificate.

Posted by: ORNOT | July 23, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the posters who emphasize the neighbor (Btw, this article is a mismash of Obama's joke and Obama's comment and thus everyone is confused and doens't know who to comment). But the real point is not the cops - cops often act like idiots, especially with black people, have tremendous power issues, and are questionable at best for even taknig that job - but the neighbor who called the cops. That is the most shocking part. They didn't investigate or ask or watch or anything - they just called the cops immediately. Whether he was white or black, it's this pretentious right to report people (ie, playing god) that is the problem. Terrible things could have happened (ie, Gates could have been accideentally shot), just because the neighbor thought he/she had a right to "take matters into their own hands" and call the cops.

Posted by: Urnesto | July 23, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Two years...11 days...

*tears streaming down my cheeks*

And worse, I can't afford to retire until 67. 1,472 days from now.


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 23, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

@mudge: Soccer isn't that bad. Eleven years ago, I'd agree with you, but then I watched the World Cup with an Englishman and he opened my eyes. I haven't turned in my citizenship yet; I'd watch a 'Skins/Caps/Wiz/Nats/Chi-Sox game over a United or Team USA soccer match any day, but I do pay attention and enjoy the occasional match or two. Try going to a game at RFK some time; it's a thrilling experience.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Been to one at RFK many years ago, SW. Hated it. #1 son was a soccer player. I kept asking my wife, where did we go wrong? (Answer: his biological father was a soccer fan.) At least he also played football (middle linebacker). He was the only one of my five kids who didn't play baseball.

Which may or may not be why he is the black sheep of the family. Coincidence? Methinks not.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 23, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

For some reason, I didn't take President Obama's statement about trying to enter the White House speaking about any specific group of people. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I would think that ANYONE trying to break into the White House would be shot!!!! Period.

Now let me know if this is not the case because I truly thought that this part of the statement was non-racial.

Posted by: ronhamp | July 23, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Editors, copy editors and PR type persons might find this VF piece funny.
The pros edited Sarah Palin resignation speech. Hilarious and much lighter reading than the Lewis piece.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 23, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Here's a joke I'm reminded of:

A conservative is a liberal who's been robbed.

A libertarian is a conservative who's been arrested.

There's more truth in that joke than you'd think. How many of you would like to have been Skip Gates that night?

And Skip Gates is relatively famous; he's been doing documentaries on PBS. I think I'd recognize him on sight in real life, no problem.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't doubt that Gates has experienced many instances of racism, and I hope that these are on the decline.

That said, I'm not convinced that the problem here is racism on the part of the police. Rather, I think it's the general attitude of police forces all over the country (and probably the universe) that they are not mere public servants but should be obeyed under any circumstance, despite a long history that shows police operating outside the law, to say nothing of department procedure.

The "disorderly conduct" arrest is the hallmark of any interaction with police where one questions their actions or intentions. I think everyone can agree that the police officer(s) should have felt no threat of violence despite Dr. Gates' loud "protestations." In that event, their first instinct should have been to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, it rarely is.

I've known quite a few middle age white guys who have ultimately gotten cuffed and taken down to the station for ostensibly "disorderly conduct" in situations similar to Dr. Gates'. And in those instances, charges are always eventually dropped just like they were here.

In my mind, the Cambridge/Boston police were clearly guilty of using the same intimidation tactics (which is a pretty serious infraction) that they reach for in virtually every situation with every race. I'm not as convinced that the proximate cause was racism.

But I also know that if I were black, I too would instinctively see it as a cause given how many times it had previously proven to be the case.

Posted by: Awal | July 23, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

@mudge: I see goes deep for you. I won't press the issue, but I'm curious: did he play soccer to the exclusion of baseball, or could he have played both (as I did in my youth), but only chose soccer? If the latter, there's no coincidence.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

SCC: looks like a left out a noun in that last one.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Awal, I actually do agree this behavior isn't isolated to black targets alone.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know what Bill Kristol is talking about. He is the living example of not thinking before speaking."

You can just leave off the "before speaking".

Somebeech ain't got no brain to think with.

Posted by: Tomcat3 | July 23, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

hey all! this is from nelson.

@dmd3 and kguy1 - a few years back, i took care of a friend's dog while she was on vacation. she had a home alarm system, which she had turned off while i stayed. after she had come home and reset the alarm, i stopped by to pick up my phone charger.

off goes the alarm. i sat down and waited for the cops to come. no problem. i had a key, and the dog knew me and was very friendly with me. case closed. the cop and i sat and chatted about the iraq war.

it wasn't even my house. as a non-threatening, white woman, i'm guessing the cop instinctively (he was white too) felt i was telling the truth. he didn't even bother to call the homeowner.

if i had been a black male, i think this may have gone down very differently.

just sharing. my computer is really acting up. it's taken me nearly 15minutes to get this post written. (and yes, it's really the computer and not me!) :-)

don't know if i have the patience to put up with this and post anymore today.

as if i've been active in the boodle recently anyway! i just don't have the time to keep up with it. i do miss it.

Posted by: shellinelson1 | July 23, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm of two minds on this situation, and possibly a good many more than two. In reading about the incident, one thing in particular stuck in my mind, although I am not sure whether it came from Gates' side of the dispute or the police officers': Gates asking "Don't you know who I am?" I do not know what inflection was applied. However, I could easily see how a police officer would interpret that as a challenge to his authority, practically demanding that the officers demonstrate their power while on duty. The only other people that I know of who tried to assert superior status over the police, got to spend the night in jail or in a psychiatric ward, when they otherwise might have been let go. In the cases that come to mind, the person was white. A police officer's main power on the scene, short of actually using his gun, is his authority. If his authority is challenged, I can see how most cops would feel it necessary to exercise it.

The racial profiling issue is particularly troubling, because of the difficulty in distinguishing between racism and realism. Demographics are real. In an area with a population that trends strongly in one racial/ethnic direction (white, black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever), the presence of an out-group member who is unknown to the cop is a signal that Something May Be Going On. If that person is from somewhere else, then he sticks out as a possible victim or a possible perpetrator. Personally, I assume that the perilous character of a police officer's job means that cops see every person as falling into one or both of those categories. Either way, that makes him a catalyst for the kinds of events for which we have police officers. This suggests that the most effective solution to the problem of racial profiling is more community-based policing, so that police officers know who lives in a certain area by actual identity rather than superficial characteristics. That means more police officers, and more expensive police force, which means more taxes. Which means you won't see it, no matter how much sense it might make.

The example I heard on the Diane Rehm Show this morning (tendentiously chosen to put the shoe on the other foot, obviously) was a white guy driving slowly in a majority-black neighborhood at night, suggests a guy who is looking for a drug deal, so the white guy is cast as the potential bad guy. That sounds sorta reasonable, except... (it's a big "except")... this example trades on the assumption that a majority-black neighborhood is a place where drug dealers can be found. Meaning that there's still a big problem based on biased suppositions about what race means.

So, I'm of at least two minds. We expect cops to act with perfect accuracy in reading human relations and social interactions -- "street sense" -- saving us from crime and catching the bad guys who commit them. Yet, we expect them to do so without the wealth of social information that the rest of us use all the time.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 23, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

My vote is fro kguy at 10:23. I'm going with the situation as a comedy of errors.

I'm not a politician and preferred to have not answered a question, that is, this was a local issue, is the president going to comment on every local incident? I blame the asker though, not a good question to ask in my opinion. Fun to watch Obama weight through all the options on answering. First lightening the mood w/ some somewhat risky jokes then, realizing he couldn't entirely blow it off, he got serious.

Obama is a deft speaker. "Stupid" is a good word that doesn't imply racist, or doing anything illegal, (eg, maybe, the cop probably followed protocol to a point of absurdity) but at least on the legal horizon it just leaves it as a bad day at the office for the cop. Maybe they'll have to review their procedures.

I like Obama's sense of humor, Special Olympics etc is funny stuff, but certainly a bit risky for the prez. I guess he pulled it off partly b/c of his relative youth, but he needs to be careful in the future especially in situations where he might be under a little stress.

Profiling? Not in this case. An apparent crime was called and the police responded. Profiling is where they pick you up off of the street on appearances alone w/o any connection to a criminal activity.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | July 23, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Mudge says... "I'm leaving at 3 to go on vacation."

Me, too!

Dr G and I are heading on a mini road trip, through central Pa., up to Buffalo and then across the vast international border, where we're planning a dinner with dmd and dmdfamily.

I'm also visiting with a long-lost and recently found first cousin in Buffalo. We hadn't seen each other in 35 years until a couple of years ago when we passed through that area.

But trip is also about meandering through the countryside together, looking for antique malls (I consider them touchable museums) and great roadfood locations. And lots of silly laughter--we do that when we get in the car together.

We're already planning on wings and pizza in Buffalo... any other suggestions? What's the local delicacy in, say, Jamestown, NY?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 23, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Don't they serve James wings there?

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 23, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I certainly do not expect police officers to be perfect, they have an incredibly difficult job and deserve respect.

That said they are not above the law, or the law. Good judgement,quick thinking are necessities as well as training in deescalating a situation.

Hey Nelson!!! Hope you find the patience to post more often.

Saw this today and was curious at the officers judgement in pulling over an ambulance with sirens blaring. Why not follow to its destination, is there reason to think the ambulance was involved in a crime, do the police not have access to ambulance information or an ability to contact the ambulance? Failure to yeild seems a little strange to pull over an ambulance on a call.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"'Stupidly' is not an adjective you often hear from a president."

That's true. In fact, it's not an adjective you often hear from ANYONE.

In further fact, it's not even an adjective. (It's an adverb.)

Posted by: american_in_canada | July 23, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Anyone want a BLT?

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

If Crowley is a professional he will swallow his pride and apologize. But the fact that he arrested Mr. Gates in the first place brings in to question whether he should even be out on the street.

Posted by: ilion23 | July 23, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

TBG, if you are interested there is a restaurant around the corner from us - best wings I have ever had anywhere - big wings,breaded and gooey - messy to eat but so good. I have issued an email requesting the name of the famous wing restaurant that is in Buffalo.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm repeating myself here, but feel it's needed. I'm always amazed when others assert that African-Americans have no concept of racism. It's almost laughable, albeit for the tears.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 23, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

As one of the resident, semi-lurking Republicans in the Boodle, I'll make a couple of points.

1: There's conflicting information regarding the events at hand. You can't fault Obama for taking his friend's side, but I don't think it would have hurt to postpone commenting, particularly if he actually did address it directly at some point in the near future. Note that, if kguy's interpretation of the events (which seems reasonable, if not necessarily supported by evidence at this point) turns out to be correct, "addressing it" means acknowledging that neither party is blameless.

2: As a white guy, I don't argue with cops. It seems about as effective as arguing with umpires. Best case, they go ahead and do what they were going to do anyway. Worst case, they arrest you/write you another ticket for the busted taillight/toss you out of the game.

3: The joke was pretty funny.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Reid says no Health Care vote this summer:

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully there will be no lawsuit and some sort of meeting between the parties teaches them both what's needed. Reading between the lines I'm betting the neighbor who called in didn't take into account the luggage that had to be there (visible?) nor the physical limitations of the man at the door (cane) - she either saw a black man and thought the worse or dithered about who is it, should I ignore it and later discover it was a thief? She called it in.

The police responded and correctly verified who they were dealing with -- we would all like quick response when our homes are involved. Then it goes bad. Either one of the responding officers said something or the Doctor, perhaps exhausted from his trip, frustrated he had to break into his own home and then having to prove he lived there was human and said something. I would like to think that anyone of any color would be treated the same but I'm not sure. Perhaps the officer was having a frustrating day too, they rushed over, it was a false alarm and now they have this guy yelling -- I suspect however whatever was said tilted the scales just enough that the cop felt he had probable cause to make an arrest. I sure wouldn't like to be yelled at for doing my job and would hate to think a chance remark would set off an argument but when you are dealing with the police more often than not no one (on either side) is having a good day and tensions, emotions are high.

Hopefully the police department will respond in a positive way to reinforce their oath to protect and serve ALL their community and the Professor will see the police as the men/women doing an impossible job. Perhaps if both sides cut each other some slack, some grace and forgivness this will be positive.

Posted by: Lemon7221 | July 23, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Hi tomsing... always glad to hear what you have to say. I agree, too, that kguy probably has the scenario correct. But I keep thinking... what if I were being hassled IN MY OWN HOME for breaking into my own home?

I think I would cause a disturbance myself. I, too, am always respectful of law enforcement folks, but I don't know how I'd react in this situation. I think I'd be pretty p*ssed--and it would show.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 23, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

This was the take on Obama's response on Hardball last night. I usually can't stand Chris Matthews, but Gene Robinson and Howard Fineman are discussing this with him, and Chris apparently had the police report.

Nelson! So good to see you - hope you're doing ok.

TBG, I've never been to Jamestown, but I heard about it when I visited Ellicotville with my high school BFF. There are lots of antiques and Amish in NW PA.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Also, in the first story I saw (actually, my wife read it to me), Gates was described as America's preeminent black scholar. I didn't realize there was one, or a need to designate one, particularly without adding the qualification of a particular field (although, reflecting, I suppose they might have meant it similar to "America's preeminent geology scholar").

Also, I'd never heard of the guy. If I had to pick America's preeminent black scholar (using my first impression of the term), I would have gone for something more sciency. Neil deGrasse Tyson, I think.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

@tomsing: I'm a white guy (Jewish, actually, which is not considered white by a significant number of Americans, I can assure you) and I argue with cops when I know they're wrong or they're trying to step on my rights. I would be furious if a cop started acting like a committed a crime for entering my own house, and especially so if I could see it was obvious I was being discriminated against. I've never been arrested, but I have had cops apologize to me, not give me a ticket, and not search my car even though they wanted to. Were I black or Hispanic or Arabian, I'm sure I would have been arrested most of the times I've stood up for myself against cops. I should add, I have a number of friends who are cops and have considered becoming one myself, but rights are rights and if no one stands up to cops trying to dismiss their rights, we'd be no better than the [insert dictatorship here].

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I didn't mean to imply that I am always respectful of law enforcement. I've cursed at a few officers. But not to their face. :-)

And you're right. I don't know how I would react, because I haven't been in the situation. A friend of mine recently sent a link to a news story about a 911 operator who hung up on a girl (repeatedly) for cursing at him. She was calling because her dad was having a seizure, and wound up going down to the station and cursing some more, where she wound up getting arrested. Now, was this bad (dare I say stupid) behavior on the part of the police? Absolutely. But the girl certainly didn't do anything to help the problem at hand, which was getting her father medical attention (he recovered). In this case I'm dispassionate enough to see that, but I'm pretty sure that if I were in the same situation, I'd react the same way.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I wish the Democrats in Congress would grow a spine. I don't know what's wrong with them.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Science Tim, for your comments. My reaction to this would have been much more in favor of Dr. Gates' POV had I not had a friend who became a cop. About 15 years ago a friend and coworker of mine decided to become a police officer in Arlington, Virginia . Jane was the first cop I'd ever known. (As a protester in the 60's my police encounters were generally brief and confrontational.) After she graduated from training and her rookie tour, Jane took me on some ride-alongs. Jane is white, liberal to moderate in her politics, and lesbian. As such she encountered a certain amount of sexism and racism on the job. She also encountered drugs, alcohol, prostitution, theft, drunk driving, etc. etc. etc. And Arlington is a pretty nice middle class suburb of D.C. I can not imagine policing the District or NYC or Chicago. Anyway after about two and a half years on the job, Jane told me she was quitting to go to law school. She did not like what the job was doing to her, the way it was affecting her behavior and attitudes. Being a cop made her suspicious of all or almost all young black men. She said that when she got a call for mugging or burglary or carjacking or gang violence or shots fired, it was always young black men who were the perps. Eventually her experiences began to influence her expectations. The other big thing was an unwillingness to go anywhere or do anything without her weapon. She said she felt anxious without her pistol. These and other similar changes convinced her that police work was turning her into someone she did not want to be. So she quit.

It was primarily my experience with Jane, along with nine years of working in hospitals and morgues and a couple of encounters with the media and three stints on criminal juries, that led me to take the Rashomon view in my 10:23. I just don't think we have been given enough information to start shouting "Racist Pig!" or "Arrogant Harvard Elitist!"

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

SW, I certainly don't mean to imply that you shouldn't stand up for your rights. But to me it seems counterproductive to do so at the "scene of the crime", so to speak. Tensions are high. People (including myself) may be disinclined to act rationally. If you've been successful in an argument with an officer, congratulations, but I don't know that that's often the case for most people.

I'm ethnically half Jewish (the other half), and have never felt discriminated against because of it. My parents were invited to a bbq they later found out was sort of a membership rally for the local Klan. But to me, it was more of an amusing story about how the inviter didn't do their homework. Imagine the scandal!

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

It should be very obvious by now that the Radical in the White House Lies, Deceives and Head Fakes. His Socialized Health nonsense IS about him and his desire to control. He is a Zealot and has an overwhelming need to turn this Country inside out to CONTROL. He has a chip on his shoulder as does his angry bitter wife. There are those in this country that want to be controlled. The inept, needy, naive and insufficient. Most DO NOT, at least for now. Barry is going down with his Nationalization of Health Care and he is soon to become radioactive.

Posted by: FraudObama | July 23, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Also, Henry Louis Gates is pretty famous. He's been on Oprah, on PBS, in Time and Newsweek. I still think the best part of this whole incident is that his lawyer is Charles Ogletree (famous, black, Harvard professor, friend and advisor to Obama).

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I think there is something wrong with your shift key, fraud. You should get that looked into.

Soccer is second only to hockey in the pantheon of great sports.

Posted by: Yoki | July 23, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Seasea, do you mean that the officer should have been expected to recognize Gates because of that? I consider myself fairly well informed, and again, I'd never heard of him. (Maybe because I've never watched Oprah.)

So what effect should his fame have had on the officer, given that it's quite possible that he didn't know who he was either? And even if he did, how should he have weighed that information?

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

He does African-American studies, Tomsing, so maybe they did mean it similarly.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@tomsing: I realize it's not very realistic, but I feel the impetus to remain calm should be on the cop. That's why I can't fault Skip Gates for being upset. There's no law against being angry and irrational at a crime scene, but cops are expected to uphold the law, to calm down heated situations, not escalate them.

I'm actually half, too. My mother was a self-hating Jew and tried to keep us in the dark about our heritage. I didn't start to really feel Jewish until I was discriminated against. You should try it some time ;)

@kguy: being a cop isn't for everyone. I've also been on ride-alongs (and I haven't yet given up on the idea of being a cop myself), only mine were on the South Side of Chicago. In that case, not only were the perps all black, the victims were too. The real common denominator is not race, however, but socioeconomic class. Not all cops I've met turned into racists, but they're all socialists.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

TBG, this was the Wings restaurant I was thinking of, but forgot it is in Niagara Falls, NY. Note they have poutine as well.

Seasea - Ellicottville, is very familiar to me, it was the winter vacation area for many in my area (for the skiing). The area may even have been, in part, developed by real estate people from my city.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

SW, I went out one time in the paddy wagon picking up drunks, junkies, and other assorted folks and hauling them to the lockup. That night alone would have convinced me not to be a cop.

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Tsk! When I said "don't poke the bear" I was talking to Joel as well. Although the storm is not too bad today really.

If this hadn't involved the specter of bigotry, and the issue of police on hair triggers, it might really be funny.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

@Yoki: Typical Canadian. ;)

Actually, aren't you forgetting lacrosse?

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Utterly off-topic, I liked this quote from Elle Macpherson, when asked if she worries about aging:

"Either you age or you die, so I'll take the aging option, please."

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

SW, I don't fault Gates for being upset, inasmuch as it's an understandable reaction. But that doesn't excuse his alleged behavior. I agree that the cop should remain calm, and from both the officer's report and Gates' account (in the earlier linked Crimson article), it seems that the officer did, in fact, remain calm.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Gates is obviously not famous enough. It would never have happened to Denzel Washington. The cop would have asked for his autograph instead.

Posted by: Matthew_DC | July 23, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@kguy: the paddy wagon is good way to see the worst of the worst. I've done that, but I've also been on the beat and been there when guns were drawn. It's frightening, both for the risk to personal safety and the state of one's own society, but like I said, being a cop is not for everyone. Some cops I know regret joining the force, but a few would do it again in a heartbeat. Everyday they're out there making their communities better in tangible ways. If it weren't for my responsibility to the family pocketbook, I would have joined up already, either DC or Chicago. I still may, but not for at least a year or two.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

@tomsing: If Gates wasn't wrong to be furious, then why was he arrested? Because he mouthed off, loudly, in and outside his own house? That's not a crime. The cop could have thought "he's angry and yelling at me for thinking he was a criminal. He's probably feeling discriminated against and is frustrated by it. I better leave." Instead, he though "He's embarrassing me in front of the whole neighborhood. My pride can't stand for that. I'm going to book him for being 'Disorderly'."

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

SW, again, it's a natural reaction for Gates to be upset. That doesn't mean his alleged conduct didn't meet the legal definition of disorderly. Granted, I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not clear on what that definition is. Also granted, the officer has some discretion that can be exercised here. But discretion is, by nature, subjective. That's why it's not written in stone. Absent some larger pattern of behavior from this particular officer, I'd be a little less quick to attribute specific thoughts in this situation.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

jhtlag1 (July 23, 2009 12:50 PM):
Your point about racial profiling as going by appearance only is well taken.
When the police were called because it appeared a brazen break-in was occuring in the neighborhood, the officer would need to ascertain the assertion that this was his home with identification.
What if he had truly been a robber, using the home telephone, and the police took his word for his ID and left?
(That happened down here in rural Texas some years ago, when burglars rifled a complete homestead, using a rented U-Haul truck with a lift, stripping the home almost bare, because the owners were away and the home was some distance from neighbors.
The neighbors presumed the young couple living there were moving.
Actually, they were away for a family visit and returned to find almost nothing left of their possessions.)
On the other hand, Professor Gates, no spring chicken, was undoubtedly fatigued after his long trip, and in no mood to be frustrated by a balky lock on the front door, with no one to help him with the physical effort but his taxi-driver.
To someone new to the neighborhood, knowing the family across the street was away, this working on the front door, going around the back, again coming back to the front and strong-arming the door may have well appeared suspicious.
This incident then deteriorated and has become an embarrassment to all.
And a lesson to the country about presumptions.
Even considering all that, I wish President Obama had said to Lynn Sweet that he was here to concentrate on healthcare and that he would answer that question later.
He could have called her later by telephone and given her a short interview to fully reply to her question.
But this press conference which didn't fully serve its purpose to discuss this thorny complicated issue didn't do the job, so the comments about Professor Gates' experience was just a distraction that further dissipates the poor effectiveness of this addition to the healthcare debate.
Personally, I think he ought to do a press conference on healthcare legislation myths and knock down all these old bromides.
When Obama gets going on a typical political trick, he's good at that.
Bill Kristol and the snarks on Politico need to stuff it.
Talk about presumptions, bias and not knowing whereof you speak ...

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | July 23, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

SW, you're a member of the tribe, too? That makes five and a half of us on the Boodle (counting tomsing as a half).

No, SW, #1 never played baseball. He was 11 when I married his mother, and his bio-father had already corrupted him beyond my ability to salvage him. He never played a day of baseball. His older sister, on the other hand, was a dynamite softball player, as were my other two daughters and my younger son. #1 son, #2 daughter and #2 son all had the potential to be all-state athletes. #1's high school football team won the state championship his senior year--but the idiot had quite the team during summer camp because the coach said something he didn't like. #2 daughter was on a team that eventually won the Little League 18-year-olds Softball World Series -- but she quit some years earlier qwhen she got crazy from Borderline Personality Disorder. But she should have been catcher on that team. #2 son could/should have been a star pitcher (tall, wiry/thin, athletic), but got into too much trouble at school and didn't pursue it far enough. Both #2s admit today they could/should have stuck with it and regret they didn't.

Hey, TBG! We'll be coming back from northeastern Penna. next Saturday or Sunday (Aug. 1 or 2)--wouldn't be surprised if we run into ya at some rest stop on the Penna. turnpike or I-95 on Sunday. We'll be the sunburnt ones dripping sand and dragging our butts.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 23, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

OK, so I'm breaking into my own house because I've lost my keys/garage opener doesn't work/(fill in your own reason here) and once I'm in some cops come by and act all huffy and all because they think I'm a middled aged burglar who walks with a cane (I know, I know, contain your gaffaws). So, if I get upset at all this and communicate to the police my dissatisfaction with this state of affairs, I can get arrested for "disorderly conduct."

And this is OK? Please, "Obama Critics," explain this to me.


Posted by: jp1954 | July 23, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you stole my line -- I was going to tell SW that there are several MOTs here (myself included, even tho I observe *none* of the rituals -- nobody's gonna make *me* fast for a whole day!).

You should get Mudge to tell you about his, um, second round of "slice and dice" -- unless you lurked about a year ago and read it here. It was truly funny.

And Yoki -- I'm sooooooooo proud of you for putting hockey first, as it should be, and as the Red Wings should have been (trying to get over the bitterness still).

So, have we got a firm date for the BPH sendoff to SW?

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@tomsing: I agree with you that it's unfair to conclude the officer's thoughts from what evidence is out there. I guess I got a little carried away. One thing that set me off from the start, however, was that the arresting officer was a sergeant, not just a normal beat cop. In my experience, a sergeant should have been able to deal with situation without an arrest.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Obama stepped in it, and you're cheering? Will you be cheering for the rest of the week while his staff spend the day trying to wipe off his shoe?

Posted by: RealityCheckerInEffect | July 23, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Somebody actually registered the handle "FraudObama?"

Wow, that's hate for you.


Posted by: jp1954 | July 23, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

tomsing, no, I didn't mean the cops should have recognized him. I meant that his name is fairly well known, and I was a bit surprised that you had never heard of him. I couldn't have picked him out of a lineup (so to speak) myself. Obviously, Gates didn't react well, but arresting him after they knew he was in his own house was stupid. I'm glad they didn't taser or shoot him. I know a cop too, and I know they have a tough job, but this should not have turned into front page news. And it would not have, if they had not arrested him. Hope all the parties will learn from this. (Calm down!)

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

You're probably right, SW, and if so, it may be another layer to kguy's hypothetical scenario, in which both sides were in the wrong.

Also, if I were inclined to rob a house in Cambridge, the first thing I'd do is get a fake driver's license, fake Harvard ID, and a fake cane. And I'd bring a suitcase to pack everything up in.

If only I would use my genius for good instead of evil...

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

dmd, that story you linked to is out of northeastern Oklahoma. It, too, has some ethnic overtones. A highway patrol officer, running fast with lights and siren, passed a Creek Nation (the Creek Nation is a soveriegn tribal nation headquarted in eastern Oklahoma) ambulance which was also running, not quite so fast, with lights and siren. The cop got a little ways down the road, pulled over, sat for a few seconds, then turned around, chased down the ambulance, and pulled it over. The cop said when he passed the first time the ambulance driver gave him the finger (the driver denied it). When the cop got the driver out of the front, the EMT in charge came out of the back. The cop got mad at the EMT, who had a patient en route to the hospital. The EMT was mad because the cop was delaying the driver - he offered that they'd submit to arrest at the hospital if the cop would just let them get there. The cop wound up fighting and choking the EMT before arresting him there. This was all done in front of the patient's family members, who were following the ambulance. Thus the cop lost it and began fighting in full view of his own dashboard camera, in front of a lot of witnesses, at least one of whom taped it on his cellphone and put it on YouTube. The Highway Patrol investigation concluded this week and the cop was suspended without pay for five days. The EMT has filed a civil suit against the cop.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 23, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I would think the family of the patient might have a suit as well - can't imagine how frustrated they must have been having a loved one rushed to the hospital only to be stopped by police.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, another harsh lesson in the injudicious use of the digital directive and its consequences. Don't folks watch "Easy Rider" anymore?

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I have been reviewing police reports and criminal trials for a long time. I do it for a living. I can tell you that we don't go by what the parties may have been thinking, or even whether their thoughts might have subjectively justified their actions. That is, kguy and others have done a good job of analyzing various possible reasons for the parties' responses in the Gates case, but we wouldn't look at those. We'd look at what testimony or the report show that people did.

In the Gates case,from everything I have read and seen, you have officers responding to a legitimate report. Nobody is outside the house and a person opens the door - an older black man. He says it is his house, and his key didn't work. He provides identification which backs up his claim. He may have to be asked two or three times, but he does provide the information. He is angry and (I'm taking the reports in the worst possible light for Gates, the most favorable light for the police) yells at the officer, perhaps even curses. I am aware of no allegation that the homeowner threw a punch or was otherwise physically combative. He insults the officer by accusing him of being racist. This happens inside the house. The officer arrests the homeowner for disorderly conduct.

Reviewing these facts, I can't see probable cause for arrest. While criminal statutes vary from state to state, yelling at a police officer, not in public, when no other crime is committed, does not usually constitute disorderly conduct. Challenging an officer's authority is not disorderly conduct; neither is insulting the officer, as a general rule. Once identification was produced and it was clear no crime had been committed, the legitimacy for the encounter was over. I would neither recommend the case for prosecution nor be likely to affirm a conviction.

As Southwester said, officers have a responsibility that comes with their position of public trust. That duty, occasionally, is to walk away. Cops are trained to calm situations, and not to escalate them. If I'm very angry (as Gates probably was, as I certainly would be in his position) I may not be able to trust myself not to say something harsh, but I should be able to trust that law enforcement won't make the situation worse.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 23, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

@ftb and mudge: yes I am a MOT and an atheist, though I do like to attend a Seder every few years, just for fun and to practice my Hebrew. I don't think I recall Mudge's story, though I did lurk around the time. I went to a christian boarding school for high school and one year my roommate and I realized we were 40% of the school's Jewish population. I have a couple good stories from that, but I think I'll save 'em for the BPH.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

There is a very simple reason why the burden must always be on the civilian to remain calm in interactions with police officers. The police officer has a gun and body armor and permission to use deadly force if he feels he is being physically threatened, because police officers are professionally expected to insert themselves into these difficult situations on a regular basis. If a civilian kills an on-duty police officer, he will face capital punishment or life in prison. If a police officer kills a civilian while he is on-duty, there is a presumption that he is acting within his assigned role -- it will take serious evidence to convict the cop of wrongdoing (and remember that there were no disinterested parties as witness to the Gates incident). Therefore, a rational person will always do exactly as the police officer tells him and behave respectfully until he is in a better position to exercise his rights if he feels they have been violated. It may be satisfying to shout, but it is even more satisfying to continue breathing.

As I put it with regards to bicycling on the street: I have right of way, but they have momentum. I cannot win that argument.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 23, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

According to the Crimson article, by the officer's account, Gates and the officer "then moved to the front porch, the report said, where Gates continued to shout that the sergeant was racist, catching the attention of roughly seven 'surprised and alarmed' onlookers."

By Ogletree's account, which is presumably from Gates, "When Gates stepped onto the front porch to ask for the police officer's name, the officer said 'thank you for accommodating my earlier request' and placed Gates under arrest, Ogletree said."

So not entirely inside the house, although Ogletree/Gates's account doesn't include any verbal confrontation on Gates's part outside (nor does it include any verbal confrontation on Gates's part inside).

You're correct, the police haven't indicated that there was any physical altercation. But I don't think disorderly conduct requires a physical altercation. (Then again, I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not sure what constitutes disorderly conduct.)

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

This is the part of Obama's press conference that I thought was the strangest - when he called on a reporter, and someone else asked a question. Again, a lesson in miscommunication (but everybody stayed calm!) -

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, try and think about that above scenario WITH a communications handicap.

There's a reason why I'm not calm when I'm pulled over. I may be cooperative as much as possible, but there is no way I'm remaining calm when an armed officer is present, who is already on edge because traffic stops are highly dangerous, and who might take my least movement towards a pen or other means of communication for a weapons grab.

I think this officer should be suspended. If he couldn't handle a simple articulate professor losing his temper, without getting all dirty Harry, he is not going to be able to handle an apparently disobedient deaf person on the street who fails to hear his instructions.

The next time, it could be death, not arrest.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

SW -- ask Mudge to tell you about his slice & dice story.

BTW, your Christian boarding school reminds me of my absolute favorite story about Dorothy Parker. Being an MOT, her step-mother (who was not) sent her to a catholic parochial school, where she was kicked out after a mere few days for likening the immaculate conception to spontaneous combustion. It's difficult to top that, don't you think?

Yeah, I'm from the atheist camp myself, but remember that nobody's going to ask us if we are believers before they try to kill us. . . .alas.

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

A number of people here today have sneeringly described cops as, essentially, power-mad scum who can't bear to have their authority questioned or be embarrassed because it would destroy the cop's tiny little ego.

I am just going to go out on a limb here and suggest that not one of these strongly-opinionated persons is an experienced parent. Parents perennially find themselves committed to some decision that turns out to be unreasonable and are then faced with relinquishing authority or enforcing a regrettable dictate just to be consistent. Or, even more troubling, supporting the other parent's unreasonable dictate in order to avoid succumbing to divide-and-conquer. The only lever parents have to compel kids to do most things is the recognition of authority. Once you lose that, you have to fall back on much less pleasant and much less effective levers, like lengthy verbal persuasion (every single time!), force, punishment, bribery, etc. Untarnished authority is an extremely effective tool, and not one to be abandoned lightly.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 23, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, I consider myself a dedicated parent, I have told my children though that if they can rationally provide arguments in order to sway my position - they may do so. This happens on a case by case basis, the statement but others do it - doesn't work, and I must use common sense when making my decisions.

Hopefully I am teaching my children to learn to stand up for themselves, to make logical arguments and that one does not lose face if you change your mind.

I also strive very hard to make sure I offer very strong apologies when I make a mistake - owning up to not handling a situation well. Making a mistake is one thing, refusing to acknowledge and apologize for the mistake only compounds the original error.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

We'll probably never know if a drivers license was provided first or not. I believe this is mostly what the 'Prez' was querying ... Aren't we all.
..So far, it's a matter of 'he said versus he said'.
Anyone got a spare mirror?

Posted by: deepthroat21 | July 23, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The ability to read a situation's danger is a crucial skill for policemen.

I was watching COPS and saw a cop murdered on a traffic stop, with an analysis of what went wrong, starting with doing the stop without backup, and just the first warning signals of the body language and how dangerous the guy was acting from the get-go.

This is a situation a parent rarely has to contend with; likewise, a cop can easily injure or send an innocent civilian into cardiac arrest by a rough arrest.

Criticizing this cop as perhaps being on a bit on the stupid side, isn't an blanket condemnation of all cops.

Policemen have to do a job that demands a lot of skills in danger assessment and reading other people.

Because police work, is in fact, a position of authority, it does attract a fair share of power-hungry personalities with poor empathy (like almost any other job requiring authority).

Most of these are wedded out long before they even finish police school, but dirty harry syndrome is still common with some rookies.

Discipline and oversight of those police officers for inappropriate use of authority is mandatory, for the sake of all the good cops out there; their lives could be at danger.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

@SciTim: I would never characterize cops as power-mad scum, etc. But there are cops that can be accurately described as such. There are a lot of people like that in the world and inordinate number of them do try to become cops because the authority of the badge appeals to them. I know a few like that personally through my friends who are cops. I know too many good cops to believe that you can't be both apologetic and authoritative.

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

SCC: I would never characterize ALL cops as ...

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

...And so I agree with Southwester.

A sergeant should have the experience to have handled this situation without an arrest.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

W_G, I wasn't saying that the civilian is wrong to get angry, I'm saying that the civilian is unwise to get angry. You can be as right as can be, it won't do you a lick of good if you are dead or disabled by the results of your lost temper. Keep your cool and sue later, if your rights really have been stepped on.

It is tempting to demand draconian punishment for a cop who overstepped his role, as seems to have happened with Gates. I suspect that would be another example of unwise action, because it would encourage cops to assume that all their actions will be bureaucratically reviewed. I won't say "9 times out of 10", because I don't know the statistics, but I will say more often than not, we would approve of the performance of police officers, including their ability to exercise discretion in choosing NOT to enforce rules strictly. I don't think we would want to take that away from them.

With respect to one of my recent posts (not the one about parenting) -- unintentionally, it sounds like I am claiming professional authority about law and law enforcement. This is why I preferred when it was easy to change handles -- I would have signed that one as PlainTim, to distance the remarks from my ScienceTim persona in which I essentially claim that I Know More Than You Do (about some things).

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 23, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe that anyone would be surprised at the way the President answered the question. #1-the guy is a friend of his-you are not much of a friend if you don't take your friends side unless you have different info, #2-I can well imagine that words were exchanged by both but most importantly #3-the cop always has the upperhand and should know how to diffuse a situation-that is what we pay them for. I hardly think an elderly man with a cane who is already pissed of at himself for not having his key and has to break in his own home could not be handled professionally--you do not throw grease on the fire. With "authority" comes responsibility--grow up Mr. Policeman.

Posted by: jstewartecu | July 23, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I'm curious what you do in the event of a traffic stop. I had what I assume was a similar situation when the cable of the power window mechanism in my truck had snapped, forcing me to wedge my window open with wooden shims and duct tape. I got pulled over for speeding, and I decided to open the door and sit in the seat with my belt buckled and my hands plainly on the steering wheel. I don't blame the officer for approaching VERY cautiously. When I think back, the smarter thing to do would have been to leave the door closed and open the passenger side window to explain things, because the wood and tape were pretty obvious. But again, we don't always make the right decision in stressful situations.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I think it's unwise for anybody to get offensively angry at others.

I'm just pointing out that a cop has to be ready to read all emotional responses. It doesn't really matter if the guy's not yelling. In fact, that could be much less dangerous.

A guy who's about to shoot or attack a cop, in most cases, is NOT going to bluster beforehand. So what you're talking about is showing respect for authority to keep the cops calm.

I agree with that, but I also disagree that verbal anger alone is a cause of action.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

after carefully reading the police report, I can only conclude that the officer simply didn't like the way Mr Gates was yelling at him, had the guts to ask for his name and badge number so he decided to to arrest Gates to show who is the Boss. Would he have done the same if Gates was white?. probably not.. that's why it's a matter of racism... Furthermore, how do we expect him to tell Gates that his name is Jim Crowley (that may well sound JIM CROW to an already angry old man).

Posted by: djiine | July 23, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

One last thing, before I really must get back to work -- as we have been told several times today, the original tip was that two black men were breaking into the house. The police arrived and found just one man, the owner. It is an assumption on our part that the police believed that Prof. Gates was one of the men who were reported to have been attempting a break-in. Until we know more, it is just as reasonable to analyze the situation as the police attempting to verify whether there might have been two OTHER men who entered the house. In which case, the situation would have devolved into confrontation for reasons having nothing to do with racial profiling or racism.

This is, of course, a data-poor analysis. Until we in the court of public opinion have more real data, however, it is evident that there is a wide range of perfectly plausible scenarios that do not require condemnation of police behavior.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 23, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Has Sen. Chrissy Dodd (D - CT) refinanced his Countrywide loan ?

Posted by: hclark1 | July 23, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I thought his jokes were great! And he's right about Prof. Gates.

And "stupidly" is an adverb (hint, it ends in -ly), it modified the verb "to act."

Aside from everything else that's wrong with journalism today, the "journalists" don't understand English grammar!

Posted by: MikeDayton | July 23, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Tim, there is more about this on the legal side that the police did not take into consideration. I don't believe that this was a clear cut case of a racial incident.

I happened to have talked to some legal types about this about a month ago and was surprised what our rights are as residents especially when it comes to the police.

In many places, if the police go beyond their allowable behavior, our actions as private citizens can be considered warranted.

I guess that is one of those curious things about America.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

My first comment was held, tomsing.

Basically, I turn dead white as a sheet. I pull over, keep my hands visible and do NOT try and get anything until the police officer has walked up and I have indicated I am deaf and I need to communicate by pen and pencil, and wait for the cop to give me the instructions.

However, I remember one night at 3 AM, I was starting my car on a street to go to work. The car was fogged up and I couldn't find the defogger button, just not a very awake moment for me.

I saw lights come up and stop. I rolled my window to wave the light on, because I wasn't pulling out until my windshield was fully defogged.

I didn't register that there were three lights-- two, and a dome light-- until I looked out and saw the police officer get out and use his bullhorn at me.

I was stuck. I couldn't indicate I was deaf because the cop was too far away and I dared not get out of the car or do anything or I'd be shot.

So, I stayed in, defogged, let him get my license plate or whatnot, and then slowly pulled out. Then I saw there were three police cars, one back, two ahead of me. Again, very slow. They let me pass, and I turned the corner. I didn't need my roommate to tell me that I could have been killed had the cops been jumpy and taken my lack of response as a danger signal.

It was good that this was in Woodbridge, not in a heavy urban area.

But that experience-- well, I'm very happy to live in a small town now.

I hate the idea of having a decal to indicate I'm deaf to all passerbys, as I feel that isn't safe for me, but I wouldn't mind license plate code.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

this is why he got arrested, not because he was black and he certainly wasn't dragged out like many of you supposedly intelligent liberals would like to imply happened.

Posted by: shields011 | July 23, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

this is why he got arrested, not because he was black and he certainly wasn't dragged out like many of you supposedly intelligent liberals would like to imply happened.

Posted by: shields011 | July 23, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Shields, if you think that is probable cause for an arrest, I wish you luck in life.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

He's not lying! It's one of those Freudian jokes where you are being comical truthfull and serious at the same time. The sad part is, racism is sooo hard to prove. It's the cops word v. Gates. People who have never been racially profiled will never understand the humiliation and anger you feel when you feel it in your gut that you are being mistreated due to your race. It's almost invisible to those who have never experienced it but it is an elephant in the room to those who have. Sometimes all we can do is laugh. Besides if that cop is a "racial profiling expert" like the newspaper claims, he should have been able identify Mr. Gates's position and mediated the situation to avoid escalation. He didn't, Mr. Gates had some outburst and he was arrested. It sucks but I'm not sure who is wrong or right. I just understand how Mr. Gates was feeling.

Posted by: kinlees | July 23, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Wow, we have a psychic in our midst! One who can tell what others "would like to imply". Can you tell us what the winning Powerball number will be? Investment advice? How about the location of my spare key to the back door?

Posted by: kguy1 | July 23, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Flowerpot, K-guy. And you need to water your begonias, they're getting brown.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Breaking baseball news - perfect game!

Tim, if everyone had acted rationally, none of this would have happened. Easier said than done.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

kinlees says, "People who have never been racially profiled will never understand the humiliation and anger you feel when you feel it in your gut that you are being mistreated due to your race."

That sounds at least vaguely silly to me. I've never been racially profiled, but I've got a pretty good idea about how it feels. And it's absurd to assume that all racially-profiled individuals feel the same way about it. Good authors are experts at helping their readers know how all kinds of experiences feel. Reasonably empathetic people can make some pretty good analogies between various experiences. A decent movie can give you a real clear idea about how not-personally-experienced situations can feel.

I was a short, skinny white boy who was a lot brighter than most of my age-group, and frequently an outsider because of my family's frequent moving about. I don't think than one needs necessarily to have been a short, skinny, bright, frequently-moved white boy to have a pretty good idea of how it felt sometimes.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse


I only posted that to show that Gates acted like an idiot, not the cops.

In my opinion the officers performed their job diligently. Of course, my opinion could be affected by the fact that I grew up in Birmingham, AL and that makes me a racist.

Posted by: shields011 | July 23, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, WiseTim, for your comments. I agree with you and appreciate the biking analogy, being of the biking persuasion.

I think that the speed with with some events occur plays a role in escalation. I also think that a supreme test of our mature humanity and use of reason is to "think" this way in such events:

this is a person, a particular person

I know patterns, and place this person against a pattern

the person is not the pattern

the person might be a case of the pattern

the person may not be part of the patten at all.

For Gates, one pattern question is:
is this racism?

For the officer, one pattern question is:
is this a perp? Is the an decompensating person?

It is human to resort to shorthand pattern checking to make sense of the word IN TIME. It is also human to try to be wise and fair about situations. And, as WiseTim says, despite the right of a situation or even the might of a situation, we should try to seek the path the leads to survival.

I am not trying to justify any parties behavior; I am trying to say that they both behaved in ways we expect people to behave. To be civilized is a challenge for us all; under stress, we must work harder to be civil and measured and fair and in the better angel of our natures.

For Dr. Gates, I am sorry about hurt and fear and outrage about the racism pattern. For the officer, I need more information, but I do know that police officers -- like soldiers -- must act quickly. The risks -- very real -- they face does shape behavior. I would admit here, that I was prevented from serious harm by the quick and reflexive actions of a peace officer circa 1969. I remain amazed at how quickly the events went from neutral to scary to the feeling that the end was near.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 23, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

There's all sorts of profiling.

Thing 1 looks like a stoner. Long hair with a stripe through it (usually not a normal hair color, like purple), mutton chops, and a skinny build with jeans sliding off his butt. That poor boy gets pulled over for nothing pretty regularly, and his car is always searched, and he always gets a road-side sobriety and breathalyzer test. The funny thing is...he thinks his body is a temple not to be corrupted (I, on the other hand, want a better definition for corrupted), and as he's a pacifist, he generally just kicks back until it's over. Even if they do put him in handcuffs while they search. He goes along on his way as if it's just a tiny speedbump in life.

Bro4 has never walked through any kind of security, regardless of who he is with; he *always* gets pulled aside for the good search (he's 6'6).

In my last life, I worked in a predominantly male field. Oftentimes, buttheads would assume I was someone's barbie doll girlfriend (I'm tall and on the thin side)and spill all their secrets/plans, assuming I wasn't smart enough to follow along or interested enough to care.

EVERYONE is judged on how they look, at least at first. Generally, it's because that's all you've got for the first couple of minutes. It's why you spend a little extra time getting dressed for a job interview.

Dr. Gates was judged on how he looks (skin color) and how he behaved (apparently a tad erratic). Personally, if I had been breaking into my own home (or car), I'd be happy that 1/someone bothered to call the cops and 2/that I had some help. I know I'm not upset when someone asks for my driver's license to double-check when I'm charging something. I appreciate someone trying to protect my stuff *the way I would*.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 23, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Now you say it that way, Shields, without the inflammatory political rhetoric, I agree.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps another thing that people might be overlooking is that Gates had just come from the airport from a long overseas flight. From my experience with that, jet lag makes me very, very irritable, and it may just have worked its same magic on Gates, in addition to his not being able to get into his own house.

And, BTW, for all of you who keep on saying that Gates is old, the late 50s (which he is) is NOT old! May he live for at least another 40 years!

*muttering expletives*

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Seasea, I'd modify that just a bit: If *anyone* had acted rationally, none of this would have happened. Easier said than done.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Bob, that is funny.

Now, what if almost every police alert started with "Suspect is a short skinny white kid ..."

What if each member of the police force looked at you with a hairy eyeball?

I finished high school in Montgomery County when the police were making a habit of giving the business to hippies. They stuck the wrong white hippie kid in their trunk and drove around for a bit.

Next thing you know, the police in Montgomery County got flipped. All of a sudden, you had to have a college degree to be a cop. All those Harleys? Gone. Say hello to the Honda 50.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Also, I still wish you luck in life.

People can be very agitated when they're undergoing a hypoglycemic episode, panic attacks, and so forth.

99% of the time I would say I'd never act stupidly in that position. But I can't swear as to the other 1%.

It all depends on whether I really understand what the situation is.

It's not clear that Gates had it explained to him immediately upon showing his ID that they were responding to a call, not just harrassing him out of the blue due to suspicious behavior.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

My mother was recently informed by a neighbor that the neighbor had not called the police when she saw someone breaking into a neighboring home. When asked if she would call the police if she saw someone breaking into my mother's home, she said she would not. This lady also angrily demanded that my mother recompense her for $5 worth of electricity when my Mom asked the man who does yard work for both of them if he could take moment to lop the top off a shrub in my Mom's yard, as long as he had the electric trimmer out already. Now, I would have waited until the man was done and asked him to come over later. I don't think that justifies the lady's rage. We're talking about perhaps a minute of the fellow's time, and I doubt the lady pays $300 per hour for his labor and the electricity combined.

As it happens, my Mom and I are both white (in case you didn't know or guess) and the neighbor is African-American. Racial profiling cuts both ways. One could argue that my Mom is just getting payback for years of white oppression. But how eager do you think my Mom would be to call the police if she observes a break-in at this lady's house?

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 23, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

So, how about knitting and baseball?

Can we talk about other stuff too? Engine torque, rudder stability, semi-precious stones, fencing lingo, fossilmania, which hydrangea blooms are more bosomy, rhubarb tales of the table and of the ball field, and what colors we will use in the redecoration of the club house.....

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 23, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I am now mired in a particularly nasty problem at work leaving me no boodle time, but I had to chime in: My favorite pitcher (and favorite player, period) threw a perfect game! Hooray for Mark Buehrle!

Posted by: Southwester | July 23, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

For CP, my tropical hibiscus had it's first flower today, I think I have a blosom on my moonflower.

Sun is out now after some heay rains early in the day. Hope TBG and Dr. G bring their rain gear.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

CqP, you have the most brilliant idea-- talk about non-kit topics.

How strange it is that we didn't think of that sooner.

I just de-jungled the garden of weeds and the tomatoes look pretty blossomy and fruity right now.

Anybody know much about harvesting broccoli?

This is the first year I've ever had broccoli, so I'm guessing here, but two of my broccoli plants have gone scraggly and flowered already. Can I get new buds to form if I trim them?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

One other point - I also seem to recall from that first story my wife read to me (the one that referred to Gates as America's preeminent black scholar) that Gates said he had never experienced anything like this in the past.

I can't find it now, but I'd like to ask a question. Maybe it would help if we talk about a hypothetical guy, Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is a black man who has lived 59 years in various places in America, and never personally experienced racial profiling. He then goes through a similar experience to Mr. Gates's. Is it reasonable that his first reaction is that racial profiling is alive and well, and happening to him in this case?

I would think no.

Posted by: tomsing | July 23, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

CqP - The last time I went to a Nats game there were a couple of knitters in our section.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Gates sounds like an elitist jerk. You choose to live your life as a paranoid, hate-filled a@@-h@@@, then don't be surprised at how people treat you back. Most folks don't respond well to being verbally assaulted and called a racist for simply doing their jobs.

"The love you take is equal to the love you make."

Posted by: joelwright1 | July 23, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Have a good evening!

Casandra, I agree with your last point.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Love hearing the blossom report. And, I do think that flowers can be very bosomy. Some of the hydrangeas on my block are channeling Shelly Winter, in that magnificent, full-bodied way.

Wilbrod, I think the broccs have bolted and you will not get much however, you are in the northern climes.....ask the Cooperative Extension at Bemidji?

Off to swim in between thunder showers.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | July 23, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. I was wrong about the storm.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm a skinny old white lady. I can tell you that racial profiling exists.Just pay attention. I'm glad I've lived long enough to have a president who knows that profiling goes on every day in this country. I'm glad that he said the police acted stupidly because I have seen police arrest someone for driving while black. Walking while black. Congregating while black...on and on... If I were black and had done nothing wrong then I would probably have an attitude if the police confronted me in my own home assuming that I was a perp.

Posted by: fabricmaven1 | July 23, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I looked it up and I cut off the bolts, the other plant is doing a fine head.

That said, broccoli flowers are kind of pretty, very light yellow, so I stuck some in a vase.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

tomsing, not sure why I'm doing your research, but here is the article in the WaPo where Gates says he's never had this experience before:
"Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has spent much of his life studying the complex history of race and culture in America, but until last week he had never had the experience that has left so many black men questioning the criminal justice system."
He goes on to say that he's going to be doing a documentary on racial profiling and the criminal justice system. Should be interesting.
"He now wants to create a documentary on the criminal justice system, informed by the experience of being arrested not as a famous academic but as an unrecognized black man."

If you Google "Henry Louis Gates pre-eminent" you will find the article where he's referred to as such.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

SCC - should have said "articles", because there are many. Some say "one of the nation's pre-eminent [black or African-American] scholars", some omit the "one of".

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, my experience with broccoli growing is brief but I got the impression that they won't grow heads unless the darkness is around 11 and a half hrs per night or more (meaning mid August and then into the fall depending) so they may still want to bolt until then. And of course as the daylight wanes they will get an even stronger hormonal push to head up.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Jumper. The heads are forming on one, the others bolted-- they were already kind of weedy when I got them, so I've cut the flowers off.

We'll see what they do now.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm a skinny old white lady. I can tell you that racial profiling exists.Just pay attention. I'm glad I've lived long enough to have a president who knows that profiling goes on every day in this country. I'm glad that he said the police acted stupidly because I have seen police arrest someone for driving while black. Walking while black. Congregating while black...on and on... If I were black and had done nothing wrong then I would probably have an attitude if the police confronted me in my own home assuming that I was a perp.

Posted by: fabricmaven1

Thanks lady. The word empathy has its value. Before people run off at the mouth or make long-winded statements, they should just take a minute and put themselves in someone else's shoes!!! The profiling continues. Even if this wasn't one of them, it is an educational moment.

Posted by: ronhamp | July 23, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Interesting discussion.

I should be so glad people can't tell I'm Jewish or Hispanic just by looking at me. I sometimes feel guilty. I am saved from prejudice that others are subjected to because they are clearly different.

I make it a habit of letting people know who I am when I first meet them. It saves me the discomfort of having to disengage from a conversation when something like "Jew me down" comes out of someone's mouth.

Posted by: abeac1 | July 23, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

National media focus on trivial hissy fit by Harvard Professor, while ignoring real hate crimes:

Posted by: atom2 | July 23, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to say in my post that I was agreeing with LiT's 5:10, and that I find it funny that anyone would assume a tall, thin woman is not smart enough for her job. I would say that profiling is all in your favor.

Posted by: abeac1 | July 23, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

There's a man I know (ahem) who treats me like I'm smarter than I am I suspect because he likes tall and thin, and there's another man I know (ahem again) who I also suspect likes tall and thin but treats me like I need directions to use a screwdriver (doing my best Barbie, tilting my head and saying 'you drink 'em, right?'). Extremely frustrating.

Sometimes, we all are misunderstood, mistreated, because of who people *think* we are.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 23, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

I am in the minority with my opinions about broccoli. The accepted dogma asserts high soil temperatures cause broccoli to bolt in summer. I think they are all wrong and only I am right.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, you're so cute.

Posted by: -ftb- | July 23, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

atom2 - I'm not sure I'm ready to trivialize the Cambridge incident as a mere hissy fit, but I'll certainly concede that the two articles you linked describe more serious incidents. Neither article really supports the label of "hate crime", though.

For what it's worth, I'm not a big fan of hate crime laws or labels. I understand that they describe something real & repugnant, but I think it's too hazy to be legally useful. Much "hate speech" is (and, IMHO, should be) constitutionally protected, and most other "hate crimes" are already illegal. I don't see a lot of societal good to be gained by labeling victims of identical crimes differently, depending upon how we parse the particular anti-social mindsets of their victimizers. Having said that, I think a decent case can be made for considering that sort of factor at sentencing.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Mr. President, we have a problem

On this week's 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, President Obama praised the pioneering American astronauts and recalled his own childhood memories in Hawaii of NASA capsules splashing down in the Pacific.

But Houston, we have a problem. The president actually lived in Indonesia in 1969.

Posted by: FraudObama | July 23, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Despite several statements made by the president about his childhood years in Jakarta, Obama's own White House biography begins with his alleged birth in Hawaii Aug. 4, 1961, and makes no mention of Indonesia.

Posted by: FraudObama | July 23, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

FraudObama - Unless I misremember badly, NASA capsules were splashing down in the Pacific in quite a few years other than 1969.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse


maybe if you expended your energy in doing something good rather than hunting for potentially bad (doubtful) stuff, the country would move forward just a little bit.

I know a regular Boodler who should take the same advice...

Posted by: abeac1 | July 23, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Top honor should go to the two academics with superiority complexes AND dark pigmentation and with a victim mentalities for being the PERFECT RACISTS.

What a great nation we are. A racist professor is now being assisted by our covertly racist president to play the race-card. Perfect! Milk the nation’s guilt via a big fat law suit because that was the way they rose to become the “BLACK ELITE” in the first place.

What are the police supposed to do after receiving a report of a suspected break in?

If the suspect behaves like an uncooperative animal, and uses the foul racial language typical for racists then he needs to be arrested. And as to Obama, if he feels so strongly about his African background he should go back to Africa where the rule of law doesn't apply or keep his nose out of the incident rather than fuel the irrational racial phobia that is part of the genetic material of his “brothers” and his “friends”.

Let’s face it; this “racial issue” might be a DNA issue that cannot be resolved through laws or social engineering but needs to be treated much like sickle cell anemia. Obama’s Nationalized Health Care could provide that to those 30 million pigmented American uninsured without having to call it reparation-payments.

Posted by: west129 | July 23, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Awww, abeac, no point in casting your net broadly.

Fraud - Nope, I don't misremember. Even though the Atlantic was generally the preferred target, both Gemini & Apollo programs had Pacific landings before 1969.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

west129 - Well, that's an analysis, fer sure! A rather bleak one, but ya gotta call 'em how you sees 'em.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Loading cold Corona and limes in the bunker fridge.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 23, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Sweet cheeses.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

seasea, ya made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

Good luck, Boodle. Methinks you're gonna need it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 23, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: abeac1 | July 23, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

I have been pleased to date in general with the Obama administration but clearly the description of a police action that is yet to be fully vetted as "stupid" was just plain stupid on the part of the President. In all truth the entire incident seems to be one of two individuals using poor judgement and nothing more.

Due to Obama's remark, however, over-the-top racists both black and white are having a field day. Does anyone even remember that the press conference last night was supposedly about healthcare?

It's absurd to try to defend an obvious mistake on the President's part. Defend your friends after you have the facts and on your own time. If you care about the country Presidents should focus on issues, not personal sentiments.

We live in a world where the sensational statement will always trump the rigorous mental analysis required to make a nation better. Does anyone in the White House understand?

Posted by: TomMiller1 | July 23, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I try, Mudge, I try. Hope you have a great vacation.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

And because we like to source our statements when possible, here's a map of Pacific splashdowns:

I'll leave it to you to look up the dates, but the Mercury missions and Gemini 8 were before he moved to Indonesia in 1967, and at least the last two Apollo missions were after he returned to Hawaii in 1971.

As to the omission of Obama's time in Indonesia in the White House bio, dunno what to tell you. It's pretty common knowledge to anyone who cares about his biography, but you're right. It's not mentioned in the 7-paragraph bio. But since his history up until college is summed up in one two-sentence paragraph, I don't think that bio is intended to be exhaustive.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

TomMiller1 - I was with you until your last statement. Actually, we live in a world in which serious people of principle almost invariably triumph (eventually) over blowhards who live & die by sensationalist statements.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Southwester said-"Not all cops I've met turned into racists, but they're all socialists." Made me snort, as that's been my experience as well. Our Fair County's sheriff, friend of the frostfam since he was a pup of a deputy, has aged into quite the leftist.

Was diligently back boodling then had to dive for the bunker. It was a forward one-and-a-half in the pike position.

TBG, dbG, anyone with more computer chops than I. Is there a firefox add on that allows one to automatically skip over blog comments containing all caps words?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 23, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

frosti, you dreamer! It would be nice, though.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 23, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm just going to head along to the bunker, shut my eyes and think happy thoughts about beautiful sunsets, vegetable gardens, luxurious flowers, knitted garters, and furry puppies.

And maybe read a good book.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm not saying we don't have law enforcement troubles in MN, because we do, but it seems our more difficult perps turn themselves in-

"A Duluth man with a history of burglary to satisfy a self-professed sexual fetish for slashing large rubber exercise balls was arraigned...this morning."

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 23, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Some very interesting comments. I'm so tired. Slyness, the next time I mention working on a church committee, shot me, but don't kill me. I'm ready to resign already, and I've only been to one meeting.
And volunteered for the job. I think they want me gone anyway because I ask too many questions, mostly because I don't know what they're saying.

Oh well, it's been hot here, and so, so, humid and sticky. Have a good evening, boodle. Sweet dreams all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 23, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Hey dprogers64:

I'm sure you're right -- the cop probably doesn't the Lehrer News Hour. That would put him in the company of approximately 300+ million Americans who DON'T watch it either every night or anything else on PBS.

Posted by: joelwright1 | July 23, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow... Casandra... there is work everywhere and it isn't easy.

FraudObama, if you want to talk to someone from Hawaii who was there when Obama was "NOT" there, contact me. I was there and he was there.

Get over your little charade. Your problem isn't the President. He is pretty conservative for my taste. He just happens to be black.(ish)

Remember, Obama isn't your problem. He is pretty conservative. If you have issues with him, then you have issues with about 30 to 50 percent of the USA electorate. What I am saying is that you are the statistical outlier. You are the weirdo.

Hey, I've been the weirdo way too long, so it is about time that I can pass the title on to you.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 23, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps a few more people saw Gates on Colbert than on PBS

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 23, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, thanks for piquing my interest on the broccoli. I got to reading and the brassicas started looking weird. Then I found this

I was familiar with most of the following but it was worth rereading and following some links too

As yet I can't find anything specific on florigen actions in brassicas but some tangential things seem to indicate I am on the right track. But I'm a real newbie on looking into this stuff deeply. I barely know a rose from a strawberry.

I did find out broccoli should be set out about June 28 and no one sells started plants around here at that time. This is contrary to all local lore yet it works, gave me broc in late August on into the fall.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 23, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, I set out broccoli around June 10, and the broccoli was already leggy.

Late August is getting risky up here; our first frost can sometimes hit in early September-- once that happens, the tomatoes have had it, so we pick and let ripen in paper sacks-- a couple years ago, we had about 100 unripe tomatoes to coax along. Not all made it.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 23, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, frostbitten, I needed that.

I haven't planted broccoli in a long time - never had much success with it. Here it's about time to start the fall crop, I think. It probably can withstand a light frost or 2. I pulled out my snow peas, am seeing if I can save the seeds for next year, although I still have lots of seeds from the packets I got this year. I planted some green beans, cilantro and basil. The tomatoes look good, turning a slightly lighter shade of green. Hope some turn red by October!

Posted by: seasea1 | July 23, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Early June planting for fall broccoli in these parts. I should think you could direct seed in July-August in the Carolinas and still get a harvest. Sigh.

Interesting tidbit on Talk of the Nation today. Two police chiefs talking-didn't catch it all but after acknowledging that police, like all people, have their issues with racism one mentioned that very many officers act like jerks to everyone. Presumably they're working on that.

Wicked thunder storm bearing down on Chez Frostbitten so toodles boodle and sweet dreams.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 23, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

I've always been judged by appearances - the color of my skin, the length of my hair, the clothes I'm wearing (or not), my wallet, my car, my house, my friends, my acquanitneces, where I live, where I grew up, my accent, my word choice, how much I tip,where I went to school, my sentence construction -- I could go on.

Sometimes assumptions people make about me based on these things has been to my benefit, other times, not so much. Been called verbally abused and physically assaulted because of the color of my skin and how I speak and been treated like long-lost family for those same reasons.

I don't know if there really is such a think as Karma or some system of ethical or moral justice and balance in the Universe or not.

But I do try to treat everyone according to the Golden Rule - it's simple and it works for me. I'm not always as successful as I'd like to be, but I'm trying.

For a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I am cognizant that I'm an example for my kids.


Posted by: -bc- | July 24, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

The results of the Men's Bake-Off are in. The Green apron went to one of the kids. The cake I baked came out pretty well, but not in such a way to compel me to bake. We've been quite busy whipping the shop into shape, and I'm used to wielding wrecking bars, the sawsall, circular saw, and have spent the past two days pulling 4/0 conductors between the outdoor meter box and the new main breaker. In this context, baking requires an entirely different set of motor skills that, at the moment, are a far cry from the pulling, lifting, prying, and general thrashing about that have occupied my waking hours of late. Tomorrow I'll pull the branch circuits, and hopefully will be ready to install the wiring devices over the weekend.

Posted by: -jack- | July 24, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Late night cover of Maggie's Farm:

Posted by: -jack- | July 24, 2009 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Ha! pretty good, Jack. How are you doing?

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 24, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. It rained all night and it will keep on raining all weekend if the current forecast is to be believed. *sigh* I wish I could fax some to the drought-affected...

We have our own Birthers. Cute, aren't they?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 24, 2009 6:24 AM | Report abuse

SD, the funny part is this ...8 USC 1401 - Sec. 1401. Nationals and citizens of United States at birth

Posted by: russianthistle | July 24, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all. We had rain last night, too, shriek, most welcomed it was in FFXCO. They got it in DC first, about 2:00 PM, specifically at the North Tower, on Irving St.,. I felt the need to be specific.....

Agree with the boddle re "stupidly" and Obama's right to at least try to crack a joke. Since he's under the microscope for every talkingheadjerk who would rather nitpick than consider healthcare reform and the economy, I hope he continues to show us his jokey side when he sees fit.

Agree with CofP (there's q in there somewhere, that hydranga are bosomy. It is so dry here that my big white and blue blossoms are already turning green, but my pride and joy, the Endless Summer variety is holding it's glittering lavender color and flowers are largest of all.

Hey Casandra, enjoyed your perspective.

Posted by: VintageLady | July 24, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Sweet cheeses...

Defining medicine through legislation. Joy.

Amazing how a simple Dawn Patrol run can aggravate one's back... *SIGH*

Oh, yeah, 'Mudge left some stuff on the shop steward desk --

He opened the bedroom door to find her... No no, wrong pile.

Fourscore and seven... No, that's his "First Draft" pile.

Ah, here 'tis!

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

July 24, 1800: Inventor Robert Fulton launches the world’s first all-metal submarine, Nautilus -- all 21 feet 4 inches of her. His efforts to sell the idea to the United States, England and France fall short; French Admiral de Cres says the invention is only “good for Algerines and (other) pirates.”
1808: R. Jordaki Kuparanto bails out of a burning Montgolfier balloon over Warsaw, becoming the first person to parachute from a damaged aircraft.
1915: The Great Lakes excursion steamer Eastland (Capt. Harry Pedersen), carrying some 2,500 people on a Western Electric Co. picnic, capsizes in the Chicago River, drowning 815.

*wondering-if-the-ice-packs-or-my-back-will-last-the-day Grover pinky waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 24, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

psssst, Scotty, Joy is my favorite perfume.

Heating pads worked better for my back, but anyway, hope you feel better.

Posted by: VintageLady | July 24, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

*making note in the Boodle Birthday Suggestions list* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 24, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning Everyone!

The plants are singing with great happiness because of the recent rainstorm.

I would even suggest they are singing with joy, but you know my position on puns.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 24, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Amelia Earhart

Posted by: russianthistle | July 24, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Morning, friends. You're a sweetheart, BC. And thanks, Vintage Lady.

Wilbrod, just want to touch on your discussion of deafness and the police. You make some very valid points. Sometimes I feel like wearing a sign, but then everyone would know. I wear the hearing-aid that is not hidden, and I'm thinking that should be enough of a sign, but it isn't. It is very dangerous for hearing-impaired people to be out among others, especially where the police are concern because if we don't answer when called, our lives are certainly at risk. I know this, and just so happy that God takes care of me. I try not to worry about the risks, although I know they exist.

This thing with Gates and the police has become two men drawing a line in the sand, with the President in the fray. The media needs something so this is it, I suspect. Everybody needs to step back, take a deep breath, and move on. The policeman needs to stop talking, so does Gates. And the President is the President, and from the news account this morning, wants this to go away. So do I.

I'm feeling a little beat up this morning, so I'm going to try and take it easy today. I've said my prayers, and God is good, there is peace with Him.

Dawn Patrol, and everyone, have wonderful day, and an even better weekend. *waving*
Scotty, you're doing a wonderful job so far, and hope the back feels better. I have the same problem.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 24, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Who's singing? Robert Plant?

Posted by: russianthistle | July 24, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle! Forgot to say last night that I thought Obama's remark was pretty funny-clever and edgy. Not sure which irritates the birthers et al more-but I'm guessing they don't do edgy, and can't do clever.

Off to work, then a week long furlough (voluntary). Too bad I scheduled myself to teach a robotics day camp for another organization during what was my off time next week. Could have made a real summer escape to parts unknown-with good coffee and a happening arts scene.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 24, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

One more actual on-kit thought. (How quaint, I know.)

As I may have said before, I get the increasing feeling that Obama's sense of humor has something of a Pythonesque edge to it. You know, humor like the "Black Knight" that is as much about achieving an absurdly visceral shock as anything else.

Anyway, while people who entered adolescence in the 1970s have no lock on this kind of humor, of course, I do think it came to great fruition during that era. And the President, like most people his age, is not immune from its effects.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 24, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Wow, a whole new type of pun. Trying to work perfume names into casual conversation.

I would spend more time thinking about this, but the boss woman will get angry if I don't get back to work.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 24, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

May I just say it's possible to use an op-ed piece to make valid arguments without allowing the spotlight to linger on someone who's leaving the stage anyway?


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 24, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Well, happy pay raise to all those folks making the minimum wage. We will find out Friday, with the Consumer Confidence figures, if the people are starting to feel a swing in buying trends.

The Dow charged through 9,000. For the most part, earnings reports are showing positive bottom lines. Business managers have trimmed dramatically to produce profitable returns on smaller top line numbers. We knew that was happening.

The question remains ... where is the bottom ... or where was it?

I'm thinking that we will see work week figures start to climb in August.

Hey, who gave Bobby Jindal our really BIG checks?

Posted by: russianthistle | July 24, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Not much time to backboodle and this kit has been depressingly on-topic. I must say that knowing that Yellowstone could blow up at any second was the big selling feature to my son as we walked amongst the rather frightening thermal features.

And all birthers should be treated as trolls by definition. There is a subtle implicit racism in the contentions that Obama is not a 'real' American. Unfortunately, the birthers have latched onto a nutty conspiracy theory that logic and evidence cannot refute.

And every time people start accusing others or racism, I just sing this happy song:

I have spent a lot of time teaching my son how to deal with cops: Slowly, politely, and deferentially. Because they are the ones with the guns and the ability to make your life a living he11 even if you are in the right and the are just being a power-mad authoritarian pig.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 24, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke - I'm all for alternative treatments. There's a massage parlor I've been wanting to try out. Any idea when that'll be covered?

Posted by: bobsewell | July 24, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

yello - That's true only when you deal with the man on his terms. A properly creative anarchist can engineer all sorts of situations where the tables are turned.

Not that I would be willing to give any mischievous young people pointers, or anything like that.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 24, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Today we leave the beach - the weather's been cool and rainy for the past 24 hours.

This has not dampened the pleasure of spending time with my family - I'm OK with quiet hours Scrabble and dominos and not-so-quiet hours shopping (no one bought anything of note) and doing inexpensive boardwalk amusement parks, y'know?

Have a great day, all.


Posted by: -bc- | July 24, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Hey,Jumper, and hey, al. TGIF! Feeling well. Off to spen the day in the attic at the shop and pull wire. Had a close call yesterday with my utility knife. I was cutting the insulation on one of the 4/0 wires in the panel holding the wire with my left hand, cutting kind of toward me with my right, when the blade came off the wire, point first, into my left wrist. It was the ultimate in good fortune that I hadn't changes the blade for a few weeks, so the tip of the blade was rounded over, leaving me with a scratch, rather than a fountain. I was talking to a friend while all of this was going on. I reckon I need to pay more attention to what I'm doing, as familiarity *does* breed contempt.

Posted by: -jack- | July 24, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Hey everybody, catching up after a busy day. I see the police officer has been interviewed. It was such a regrettable incident, from both points of view. I hope each will apologize and move forward.

Cassandra, I hope you feel more rested this morning. My committee's work will be discussed and voted on Sunday, and I'm dreaming about it, it's been that contentious. I praying for the right outcome. I just hope that outcome is the acceptance of the report.

Busy day ahead, you folks behave while I'm gone!

Posted by: slyness | July 24, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

*faxin' jack some shark-proof gloves* :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 24, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

new kit! Thanks for the gloves, Scotty. I never thought of chainmail. Hope your back gets better soon.

Posted by: -jack- | July 24, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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