Various and Sundry, 7/23/09

Stuff on my brain, aside from my peeling scalp:

* I’m traveling again today and will be at the Confluence convention through the weekend, so you know the drill: probably fewer than usual posts the next few days, catch me on Twitter, don’t expect immediate e-mail responses and so on. Things will be back to normal on Monday.

* The current results of yesterday’s poll suggest that only three percent of you are blindly willing to do my bidding, but that 30% might be willing to do my bidding if there’s cake involved. The lesson: Cake is the path to world domination. What’s more, I bet if I promise buttercream frosting I can pick up another three or four percent. I’ll have to do further studies.

* One of the more predictable outcomes of my commenting on Adam Roberts’ Hugo evaluation is that there’s some muttering about how I was lashing out at the man because he called my novel “mediocre,” even as I noted I was not particularly concerned about that (but of course I would say that, wouldn’t I). If people want to believe that, it’s their karma, but as a final point on that I’d remind folks that I’m the guy who did this, which is not something you do when you’re the sort to get overly worked up over bad reviews.

The one other amusing mutter I’ve heard centers on how my noting that needlessly antagonizing one’s potential readers is not necessarily a great idea, and indeed the entry in general, somehow constitutes pandering or “dog whistling” on my part. My thinking on that is that the folks making these mutters probably don’t sell books to make a living, and also that they appear to think readers here are generally easily-placated morons eagerly awaiting head-pats from their maximum leader, i.e., me. This makes me giggle.

* Watched the Obama press conference last night, primarily because it’s nice to once again have a president I can tolerate watching give a press conference. I suspect I’m like a lot of folks in that I buy the argument that something needs to be done about health care here in the US — we’ve been watching our own employer-covered benefits get snipped away over the last few years while the costs to us have been going up — but I’m agnostic on whether what’s winding its way through Congress at the moment is going to be a reasonable solution, or even the right step in the right direction. I mostly came away from the press conference feeling like I had homework to do on the matter, which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s not like I don’t already have enough to do with my time.

Regarding the president’s comment about Henry Louis Gates, Jr. being arrested in his own home, I find his response unobjectionable: Gates was legally in his own place, and even if he were being rude and antagonistic to the police officer in question, which it appears he was, that in itself shouldn’t have gotten him led off in cuffs. Being rude and antagonistic isn’t against the law. Also, my understanding is Gates was charged with “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space,” which makes one wonder when it was one’s private property somehow became a public space. As did the president, I’ll note I wasn’t there, so there’s likely details that I’m missing. But from what I know, yeah, this wasn’t exactly a shining moment for the Cambridge Police Force, and wouldn’t have been even without the national attention.

* It’s been so long since I’ve been sunburned enough to peel that I’m finding it a bit alarming how much skin is sloughing off. This was compounded this morning by wife, as the first thing she said to me this morning, suggesting I should borrow her loofa and really scrub. At this point I’m just hoping that when I show up to Confluence people don’t go “Hey look, it’s Scalz– OH MY GOD HE’S MELTING.” We’ll just have to see. I may wear a hat.

134 thoughts on “Various and Sundry, 7/23/09

  1. The loofa suggestion isn’t a bad idea at all. I mean, yeah, it’s going to sting a little around the sunburn but pain equals beauty!

  2. I heard an audioclip on NPR of Obama’s reaction to Gates’ arrest, and I laughed heartily. Obama is a funny man.

    I agree completely that even if Gates was rude to the cop (and many of us would sympathize with him if he was), the cop should NOT have felt justified in arresting him. The man was in his own home. I don’t care how rude he gets. If he’s not getting violent, you just call him an asshole and then you leave.

    Lastly, I strongly feel that the plan being pushed forward won’t actually really help anything. I’m a supporter of single payer for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that excessive waste in the system won’t directly and monetarily reward executives. I really, really want to go back in time and kick Nixon in the nuts for saddling us with this employer-sponsored mess we have now.

  3. We’ll just say about the head peel that it’s the Zombie Scalzi who showed up and he doesn’t seem to be weathering so well these days.

    But on a plus note, it’ll certainly cut down on the head-licking problem of yesteryears.

  4. You didn’t *say* buttercream.
    Too often, promised cake turns out to be yellow cake with whipped cream frosting and gloppy strawberry jam filling.

    Or even worse, Angel Food.
    Which, in my book, isn’t really cake at all.

    Devil’s Food Cake, Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and Fudge Filling. Now that’s cake. For that, I might do a little bidding. While the cake holds out.

  5. It feels nice to have someone else peel your sunburn in the places you can’t reach or see easily, actually. Sooooo nice, it feels great to get the itchy taut dead skin off!

    If you want me to do your bidding I require pie. With ice cream. Too much buttercream makes my tummy unhappy.

  6. I need to change my response to poll. I checked my other bidding contracts and I had forgotten they all have cake clauses.

    Pays to have a good lawyer when you enter into an agreement to do another’s bidding. Just saying.

  7. I’m sorry. I’m slowly coming to understand that you feel you can call something cake if it’s *not* sitting under buttercream frosting.

    Are you affiliated with our local (Pittsburgh) bakeries? They seem to think they can mix up some sugar and crisco and call it frosting, and it’s an epidemic problem around here. The only place that makes a decent frosting is the grocery store, which is weird.

  8. If you had promised cake from Ele’ Cake Company http://www.elecakeco.com/ there would have been some SERIOUS bidding going on, at least from anybody here in SW Ohio who has ever had the gastronomic pleasure of consuming their beautiful *and* delicious concotions. Their buttercream frosting isn’t to die for – it’s to KILL for.

    Oh John, on the hat front, I think you would look mighty jaunty in a hat, and should consider it to be part of your con-wear. Plus if anybody makes fun of your hat, you do have that awesome knife you can pull out. Not to threaten anybody, just to show you HAVE an awesome knife. :)

  9. In an interview Gates did with theroot.com, he claimed that he came down with a throat infection of some kind while in China, so the idea that he was yelling and screaming at this officer is a medical impossibility.

    *DISCLAIMER – I, like Obama and Scalzi, was not present at the event (maybe the three of us were all at the same party), and theroot.com is a black news website run by Gates. This means that I don’t have all the facts, and that there’s a strong probability of some bias in the afformentioned interview.

    If true, this makes it even sadder on the part of the officer.

    I won’t go into the politics of race, and whether, had Gates been a white man, the police would have been called at all. What I do know is that there was suspicious activity, police were called, and then Gates provided his ID, including his address. Leaving all of the other racial profiling stuff aside, the encounter should have ended at the moment Gates legally identified himself. For various reasons, it didn’t.

  10. Catherine @1: XD

    Scalzi: Now’s the time to rock the derby. Suit and tie, with a walking stick that doubles as a blowgun or something, and you will devastate Confluence with style.

  11. You put buttercream frosting on your head, and now you’re peeling it off? I’m so confused.

    I think police departments ought to issue gun cameras and hat/helmet cameras to all their officers. We’ve got the technology. And it’s not just to keep the cops in line. At a lot of trials there’s a lot of “he said, she said” going on about what happened, and video, from every cop’s perspective, would make a lot of that go away.

    The real world isn’t a CSI episode. A lot of it still comes down to witness testimony. video would fix a lot of that.

  12. If you got the Oddjob hat from Goldfinger, you could use that instead of a swordstick/blowgun, etc.

  13. “Next time, try getting sunburn on your neck. You’ll reduce your double chin when you peel.”

    Or else the neck will gain an unsightly skin condition that will be a magnet for the eyes of others.

    I would suggest high-spf sun screen for the neck.

  14. Well it is official.

    We now know why Scalzi is in Ohio.

    It is no where near the ocean.

    Salt Water makes him melt.

    Boy are you in trouble now.

  15. Could there be ganache? I might follow you to hell for ganache.

    According to the police report, the officer in question (one James Crowley, by name) led Professor Gates out onto the front porch, THEN arrested him for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space.” Officer Crowley says he wanted to go outside because “Gates was yelling very loud and the acoustics of the kitchen and foyer were making it very difficult for me to transmit pertinent information to ECC or other responding units.”

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2009/0723092gates2.html

    A cynical person might suspect Officer Crowley of encouraging Professor Gates to continue his loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space. But I’m sure that there are no cynics here.

  16. @keri I heartily agree with your comments regarding the current health plan. I sincerely wish that more people would take the time to understand the impacts this will have instead of just the “OMG National Healthcare for everyone!!!!1!1″ reactions..

    I’m a little disappointed that there’s been exactly one other comment on the healthcare issue, I’d have guessed Scalzi readers were more interested based on past discussions..

  17. so Cake must be a new sort of Gateway Drug. Once you start using Cake Scalzi takes over and then its ON

  18. A – I’ll do your bidding as long as we have a cooperative doing-the-bidding arrangement and you will do mine after.

    B – I don’t read your blog so I can stalk an author, I read your blog because it amuses me. I’m betting that my awareness is the only one, and everyone else is a reflection of my fragmented nature, so there is nobody here to whom you could pander anyway. Though, if you’re all figments of my imagination, why do I spend so much time browsing for my own thoughts on the internet?

    C – a pirate outfit with a headscarf would cover your head nicely.

    D – Buttercream on your head would be funny, do this OKTHXBYE!

  19. As far as I’m concerned, the infant mortality and lifespan stats for the USA say it all. Our healthcare system is broken, and while everyone else’s certainly have flaws, they’re doing better than we are in the thing that really matters, the health of their populations. Of the 30 OECD countries*, we rank 1 in health care spending, 28 in infant mortality (but hey, we’re ahead of Mexico and Turkey), and 24 in longevity.

    That’s broken. I don’t know what the solution is, but plenty of countries are doing it better than we are.

    * Turkey, Mexico, Poland, USA, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Greece, Luxemburg, Australia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Korea, Czech Republic, UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Iceland, France, Austria, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. [Full report]

  20. Well, at least I know I voted correctly, as the cake in question appears to be a chocolate with chocolate buttercreame frosting. For that I’d do just about anything…

    mmmm…chocolate
    mmmm…donuts
    mmmm…chocolate donuts

    (she sez having just demolished a chocolate creme filled donut from dunkin donuts…)

  21. You’re all shameless heathens. Don’t you know cream cheese frosting is the One Frosting to Rule Them All?

  22. Make that Woody’s buttercream frosting and you might have got me there.

    Of course, considering Woody’s is gone, that might be difficult. (Though I’m told the little bakery built where it used to be is pretty good.)

    Have a safe trip to PA. I’ll see you tomorrow.

  23. That is an excellent mustache you had when you were putting up your one-star reviews.

    As for the cake, mine should be chocolate Devil’s Food with white frosting, please. If you want me to be a proper minion, I mean.

  24. Ganache is the only way to go. I do a four layer chocolate with home made rasberry jam for filling with a thick chocolate ganache frosting.

    My wife served it at last Thanksgiving with home made ice creams. The 8 year old (actually 2 to 11) was very impressed.

    Gates is black, how dare he object to being arrested in his own home for an obvious crime? In NYC being ‘arrested for being black’ does seem to be legal.

  25. “All health care systems are broken;
    But some are more broken than others.”

    It is important to keep this in mind. IME, all forms of socialized medicine are embarrassingly inefficient and corrupt government boondoggles, pretty much like any other part of government supplied infrastructure.

    The current US health care system (which is not a remotely free market, despite the label) performs more poorly than that.

    It is certainly reasonable to argue that health care is vital infrastructure, like roads, or the army, and it is best to run it that way. It is also possible to argue that a free market system would lead to better results – free markets often do.

    However, while the Dems seem to be arguing for socialized medicine, the GOP doesn’t seem to be arguing for the free market – they want the status quo system, and are fearmongering about the flaws in socialized medicine. “Your improved system is not perfect, so we shouldn’t adopt it.”

  26. Ganache is the only way to go. I do a four layer chocolate with home made raspberry jam for filling with a thick chocolate ganache frosting.

    See? That’s why I like ntsc, the guy understands proper cake construction (he also makes some damned fine sausage, you should check out his website). Buttercream is teh evil.

    As to the sunburn, you’re going to a con. Peel, dude, peel. Large sheets of dangling dead skin, pasty white flesh, wattled neck – it’s Zombie Scalzi! And thanks for the link to that old post, I’d forgotten “porn star mustache” Scalzi. I just finished reading Ron Jeremy’s autobiography (a gift from some friends who hang out here) and with that mustache you’d have fit right in.

  27. martinl,
    You say that “all forms of socialized medicine are embarrassingly inefficient and corrupt government boondoggles” when this is patently not the case. Canada for example spends less than half as much in administration costs as the more free market US system. In fact the US spends more on administrative costs than any other developed country. Health care is one of the many things, such as armed forces, roads ect., that are better suited to be run by the government.
    Finally you write that the Democrats want to “socialize” health care! I wish that were the case! Currently Obama is struggling just to get enough support to include a public plan as an option. I wish there were enough democrats who supported a true single payer system, but until that time any talk of the democrats wanting to “socialize” medicine is just uneducated fear mongering.

  28. @45 Mitchell Rowe- Relative amount of overhead isn’t really the problem, though. We already pay the overhead; we’re used to it. The problem is the amount of growth of total healthcare costs, and that’s not being driven by an increase in administrative costs, it’s being driven by an increase in the cost of the healthcare itself.

    Generally, the US population doesn’t seem to be happy with spending healthcare funding efficiently– we expect that if we’re sick or injured that we’ll get everything medically possible done for us. Which, if you’re 25 is probably cheap and effective and leads to many productive life years for you. If you’re 95, though, it’s pretty much pouring money down a hole to treat that third or fourth stroke or heart attack.

  29. Normally I’d go with the cream cheese or buttercream icing, but there’s a place here in Columbus that sells a Strawberry Cake that’s basically a strawberry shortcake in handy layer cake form. Hook me up with that and we’ll talk about Mindless Minionhood.

  30. Don’t be surprised if someone shows up at the Con and gives you a bottle of Head & Shoulders.

    I agree with you that it is so much better listening to President Obama’s news conferences than his predecessor. I’m reassured that an intelligent person is my President.

    I feel we should just go ahead and go to a single payer system, as painful such a transition would be. My employer has us filling out a web-based form so their insurance broker can “shop” our group around for insurance coverage. I have already spent close to 2 hours of my employer’s time to get just a smidgen through a process that requires me to list every doctor, diagnosis, medication, hospitalization (in-patient and out-patient) and medical procedure for the past five years. Not to mention the personal information including my address, phone number AND SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER I’m required to provide. No, I DO NOT trust all the assurances that my information is secure.

    And my cake has to be carrot cake with a THICK covering of cream cheese frosting. I can get chocolate anytime.

  31. It must be cream cheese frosting. Better yet, CHOCOLATE cream cheese frosting. On a chocolate cake. That’s my price.

    I should make sure my husband knows that, now that I think of it.

  32. In exchange for good quality cheesecake (baked with hand made crust) I would gladly be an easily-placated moron eagerly awaiting head-pats from a maximum leader. If you giggled too much you’d have to stick some $100 bills on top of the cheesecake.

  33. Healthcare would be a lovely topic for when you get back and have some brain cells free to consider/discuss. I too would like to see single-payer- I don’t think that the supposed govermnent inefficiencies could cost more than the profit motive, and that way, we could all be covered.

  34. Count me in the ganache camp as well, although I would use whipped ganache for the filling in between layers and unwhipped for the outer glaze. I like your recipe, ntsc, and while I do love raspberry I just like to keep my fruit and chocolate separate and adore them separately.

  35. A. If there really was a report of a break-in at the Gates residence, it was quite reasonable for the policeman to verify that the person in the house belonged there. But I believe it could have been politely and without confrontation. “Sir, we have a report that someone has broken into this house. Can you verify that you live here, please?” Perhaps someone higher up in the police dept structure can explain this concept to Sgt Crowley.

    2. The cake should be a chocolate bundt cake with cream cheese frosting. Then I get a cake and a giant donut at the same time.

  36. @Mitchell Rowe

    I grew up in Canada and have family there, I am familiar with the Canadian system. It is a boondoggle. Perhaps not and epic boondoggle, but a boondoggle nonetheless. It is the nature of large bureaucracies.

    The Canadian system is also considerably more effective and efficient than the US system, as I said in my original post.

    A lot of the argument I’m seeing goes “health care fore everyone is good” rebutted with “horrible true anecdote about socialized medicine.”

    People need to realize the fight isn’t between “good health care” and “evil health care,” it’s between “OK health care for everyone, with screw ups” and “OK health care for some, with screw ups and profiteering.” Idealized health care as we imagine it is not going to happen, because it is made of people.

    To look at it another way, I prefer cops to private security, even though I know cops a prone to all kinds of abuses. Private security is prone to worse abuses.

    I gotta give you the point about the Dems not really being into socialized medicine though. Once again, neither side of American politics presents me with a palatable option.

  37. @55- Martinl- It occurs to me to ask about your analogy– have you ever heard a story of someone abused by a security guard they themselves hired?

  38. “A cynical person might suspect Officer Crowley of encouraging Professor Gates to continue his loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space.”

    According to Gates, he had bronchitis, and wasn’t even capable of yelling. He’d just returned from a long plane trip, recall.

  39. I keep thinking single-payer health care needs an advocate with the following attributes:

    1. Has a fair amount of knowledge about at least one other country’s single-payer system;
    2. Is trusted by Americans on medical issues;
    3. Is well-known, personable, and attractive; and
    4. Might actually induce Americans to turn on C-SPAN to catch his/her testimony.

    It’s pretty obvious: We need Hugh Laurie to testify to Congress about the British NHS. His father was an NHS doctor; he rode along for house calls as a kid. Moreover, he’s played both an NHS doctor and a doctor in the American health care ‘system’. Finally, his former fellow Kal Penn is now a member of the Obama administration and can play go-between. If Mr. Laurie is not available, the Obama administration could perhaps ask Jesse Spencer, Alex Kingston, or any number of celebrities who have played doctors on American television and have lived in single payer countries. (Has George Clooney ever visited the doctor while at his villa at Lake Como?)

  40. The report was of two black men breaking into the home. Upon arrival, the police found a single, middle-aged black man, trying to deal with the stuck door to his house. And they put him in handcuffs and arrested him because he was exasperated with them. Even if he were white, that’s a lovely lawsuit.

    I am willing to accept ntsc’ cake as a substitute. I also think having Hugh Laurie testify on health care is an excellent idea.

  41. I recently read that taking aspirin or ibuprofen every four hours right after getting sunburned can reduce the pain and the peeling. Might be too late to be much use by now, but you might see if it helps any.

  42. re the Gates incident: the cop involved did exactly what I expect any cop to do when someone, even in his own friggin’ home, talks back to him and requests his name and badge number: the cop gets mad , over-reacts and arrests somebody. Why? because he CAN. Simple as that.
    Of course it’s wrong and unfair but it probably happens hundreds of time a day in this country. One sad thing (of many) is that this is apparently a GOOD cop, well liked, who himself teaches classes on racial profiling. Had it been a BAD cop, then Dr. Gates probably would have had an “accident” and ended up in the hospital. I hope the guy does NOT lose his job (my thoughts would be very different had Dr. Gates been injured) but gets perhaps 2-4 weeks of administrative leave without pay. I would likely have said exactly what the President said, had this happened to a friend of mine, though I wouldn’t have said it as well.

  43. Cicada @56

    I’m sure people have been abused by their own security at some point in time, but I bet it’s rare.

    However, in my analogy, I don’t get to choose my private security, my employer does. I don’t think corporate security is my friend. This is part of my “this isn’t actually a free market and no one influential is advocating a move in that direction anyway” problem, mentioned i my original post.

  44. coolstar@62:
    re the Gates incident: the cop involved did exactly what I expect any cop to do when someone, even in his own friggin’ home, talks back to him and requests his name and badge number: the cop gets mad , over-reacts and arrests somebody. Why? because he CAN. Simple as that.

    And I can, quite easily, kill anyone who pisses me off. But I don’t because… that kind of prickish. And while I have enormous respect for cops, if you’re going to fuck out when an elderly academic gets uppity, you really should think about a career change. Seriously. Until then, you can accept the consequences of your actions like every other sentient adult does — or should.

    Meanwhile, if Harvard is anything like the university I attended the place is full of academic whose engorged senses of entitlement are only exceeded by social autism. Don’t know if Gates fits the bill, but the only way of dealing with people like that is plenty of deep breathing.

  45. “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space,” which makes one wonder when it was one’s private property somehow became a public space.
    Sounds like Gates followed the cop outside and continued his rant, hence the arrest occured in a public place. He could have stayed in his house and they probably could not touch him.

  46. LOL- I like that your wife suggested the loofah!! :D What a lady…was it pink? My suggestion is a cream that our whole family uses and loves now that we are trying to eliminate or at least really reduce the amounts of chemical based products we use. It is from Topricin and it’s an all natural pain cream and works great for helping relieve and heal sunburns! Good Luck with that! :)

  47. pastaman- You are correct. Inside, the cop couldn’t touch him.

    Of course, outside he couldn’t either, legally. There were two barriers to this arrest. The first was that Gates was being loud and angry (allegedly and whatnot) in his own home, a private space, with no one watching. Disorderly charges require onlookers. The second barrier, though, was that the level of disorderly behavior needs to be much higher than just yelling that a cop is racist. It has to be likely to incite others to criminality (not a direct quote of the law in his state). And not just random, generic onlookers, the actual onlookers actually present. I do not believe it is plausible that the officer thought that Gates was about to incite an actual riot.

    Going outside just gave a better pretext, because whether the behavior was sufficiently disorderly is ultimately a matter of opinion, while whether there are onlookers or not is a matter of objective fact.

  48. Recently I made a cake that was actually my Black Hole Brownies of Death, frosted with Cointreau/orange zest white chocolate* ganache.

    Just saying.

    ____
    * Yes, I know, but I wanted the orange flavor to come through, and the brownies are, despite the seeming impossibilty of this, quite chocolatey enough.

  49. Craig Ranapia@64

    You should really re-read the rest of my post (or maybe you skipped it the first time?) The President didn’t “fuck out” as you so elegantly put it; he may have gone just SLIGHTLY overboard bc a friend of his was involved. Otherwise, I thought his response (and follow-up today) was quite well measured. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sgt. Crowley actually voted for the Prez (wouldn’t be surprised the other way either). High testosterone may be a requirement for the job as it’s done today, but I have never personally met a cop, male or female, who couldn’t benefit from a series of estrogen treatments.
    Oh, if you WERE a cop, you most likely COULD kill someone and possibly get away with it, just because someone pisses you off. You could certainly beat the crap out of anyone with almost certain impunity, as has been shown over and over again (somewhat less now that so many cameras are available). Nice, that you’re so quick the slur tha people that educate your children, though that particular meme has gotten very old (let me guess, they don’t educate YOUR children).

  50. Coolstar@62:
    You should really re-read the rest of my post (or maybe you skipped it the first time?) The President didn’t “fuck out” as you so elegantly put it;

    I reply:
    While I don’t have our host’s talent for razor-honed snark, perhaps you should take your own advice and not put anything in my mouth until, at least, the third date.

    To aid comprehension, here’s a replay with the relevant part emphasised. Oh, and you might want to count up the references to President Obama: zero, nil, zip and nada.

    “[W]hile I have enormous respect for cops, if you’re going to fuck out when an elderly academic gets uppity, you really should think about a career change.”

    From my reading, Gates may be a jerk-off with an attitude problem but that’s not a criminal offence. And I sure hope that your average police officer — who is going to be thrown into confrontational situations on a routine basis — has a damn sight more self-control than most.

    But to be honest, I don’t think either Gates or the officers involved in the incident come out of this shit-pie looking particularly good. Feel free to disagree, but please don’t make shit up.

  51. Oh, and coolstar also wrote:
    Nice, that you’re so quick the slur tha people that educate your children, though that particular meme has gotten very old (let me guess, they don’t educate YOUR children).

    Actually, coolstar, when I was at university I had roughly zero respect for the professor who came into the library where I was working, and launched into a obscenity-laced and physically intimidating tirade because he’d run up fairly substantal overdue charges. (Apparently, he was the only person on campus library regs didn’t apply to.) Thankfully, he was STUPID enough to do it in front of a senior manager and a union rep who made sure he faced disciplinary action.

    Believe it or not, academic life has its share of nitwits, wankers, bullies and lunatics.

  52. Also, my understanding is Gates was charged with “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space,” which makes one wonder when it was one’s private property somehow became a public space

    The cop asked (IMO taunted) him out onto the street in order to bust him for being a nuisance. Cops think they can bust people who’re rude to them. Plenty of citizens think that a cop busting someone for simple rudeness is a good thing.

  53. Gates and his driver from the airport tried to get his stuck front door open (hence the report of two black thieves by a neighbor.) Gates ended up going around to the back door where he let himself in with his key. The cops arrived and insisted that Gates, while standing in his own home, provide identity to prove that he lived there. Gates refused. The cops insisted he step outside his home and then when he did, arrested him and put him in handcuffs. Apparently, they didn’t bother to check his wallet for the I.D. they wanted after all before dragging him downtown.

    I’m sure that Gates was belligerant, because as an adult black man, he’s probably run up against cops more than once. But he clearly had no weapon, he was in his own home, and the likelihood of his actually being a thief was practically nil. Making an arrest was completely off the wall. If this is indeed procedure, as the arresting officer is claiming, then the procedure definitely needs to be changed. But it doesn’t sound like procedure at all.

  54. Crowley, the cop who arrested Gates, was hand picked by Ronny Watson, a black man and the former cambridge police commissioner, to teach sensitivity training at the police academy to teach cops how to avoid racial profiling. Lawrence Hickman, a black police officer who teaches at the same academy and has worked alongside Crowley for years, is defending Crowley’s character.

    Despite insistence by some that this must be a racially motivated arrest, it looks more and more like it was a clash of egos.

  55. Believe it or not, academic life has its share of nitwits, wankers, bullies and lunatics.

    Sure, but that’s not what you said (nor the other posters who have made the “oo, academics are soooo hawty” argument). You said Harvard is “full” of such academics.

    The cops arrived and insisted that Gates, while standing in his own home, provide identity to prove that he lived there. Gates refused

    This is not correct. According to the police report, Gates *did* supply his ID in the house.

  56. JJS at 54 and Josh at 73:

    I would not attribute malicious motives to the officer asking Gates to step out of the house. The officers were responding to a burglary of an occupied residence. It is standard procedure to ask the occupants to step outside. The type of call indicates the possibility of an intruder. You want whomever you can to step outside. Even if its a lawful resident, the police can safegaurd them and get their information without having to worry about an intruder lurking inside. Gates’ initial refusal to identify himself or to step outside would only heighten the possibility that there was a problem.

    It’s Gates who is the jack!@s from what I understand of the situation. Gates admits that his residence was broken into before (which is why he can’t open his front door). A citizen (Whalen) observes some trying to force the front door and calls the police. The police (Crowley) arrives and, despite the prior burglrary, begins to verbally abuse the responding officer.

    Is there any allegation that the police officer used verbally abusive language? Or is the casitgation of the police based upon asking a lawful resident to step outside and then aresting Gates mid-tirade?

  57. “Gates’ initial refusal to identify himself”

    Gates’ identified himself in the house with, at least, his Harvard ID (the officer’s account) and, at most, his ID and driver’s license (Gates’ account) and then a few minutes later the officer left, saying that if Gates had any more questions, he would be outside. That’s not getting him outside because it might be a hostage situation, that’s pulling him out where he can exhibit “tumultuous” behavior.

  58. Stevem – I would not attribute malicious motives to the officer asking Gates to step out of the house. The officers were responding to a burglary of an occupied residence. It is standard procedure to ask the occupants to step outside.

    No, they were responding to a report of what *looked* like someone breaking in. If it’s procedure to make the person inside come out, even if it’s a false alarm, that’s news to me. Is there a reference you have for that?

    Is there any allegation that the police officer used verbally abusive language? Or is the casitgation of the police based upon asking a lawful resident to step outside and then aresting Gates mid-tirade?

    Actually, yes. Verbal abuse is not something one ought to be arrested for, unless you’re followed or backed into a wall. And there’s no special “yell at a cop” law that singles out people who yell at cops for arrest over people who yell at the general public that I’m aware of.

    A recent article in the NY Times cites State Senator Eric Adams, a retired New York City police captain and co-founder of the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement who says black men were more likely to be locked up for what in police parlance is called getting “lippy.” “The ‘uppity Negro,’ ” he said. “You may not have committed a crime, but you know what? You’ve got a big mouth.”

    Pissing off a cop is not something that should be a crime, and it’s clear the cop was pissed off. He could have shut down the situation by just *leaving*. Instead, because Gates annoyed him, he arrested Gates. Did the cop use abusive language? Not that I can tell. But he continued to talk with Gates, and then asked him to come outside, where he could make the arrest.

    If the cop had simply walked away, Gates wouldn’t have followed him. Gates left the building at the cop’s request. Hell, I’ve worked in a phone bank in the past, and shutting down angry tirades is easy. Just hang up. In person, just walk away.

    Again, pissing off a cop is *not* a crime. The standard for “disorderly conduct” is not “you pissed me off”. It’s very specific, and applied unevenly, especially towards black men.

  59. If Gates did supply I.D., then it’s even more stupid. That the cop was trained in racial sensitivity makes it even more stupid, not less. As a cop trained in handling potentially racial situations, that cop should not have been thinking: I’ll arrest this loud-mouth, middle-aged black man who has identified himself, put him in handcuffs and march him downtown, because surely there will be no repercussions whatsoever. That cop’s job was to defuse the situation, not intensify it, to calm Gates down, not rile him up and slap handcuffs on him, whether Gates was white or black. But because Gates was black, it was the cop’s job to be even more careful and circumspect with the situation. And he had no grounds to make an arrest.

    So if they are saying that this is their best-trained cop to deal with racial situations, they have a very large problem. Because the guy is an incompetent cop. He may be a very nice person, but he’s incompetent.

  60. GL @ 75/76 —

    I think you are missing an important distinction — “racially motivated” behavior vs. “behavior influenced by racial bias.” I don’t think anyone (at least, anyone with much credibility” is accusing Officer Crowley of the former. But I don’t think there is any question that Officer Crowley (like everyone else on the planet) is guilty of the latter.

    It is this distinction that the conservative mind seems not to be able to grasp — perhaps because the notion that there can be “racism” without a “bad guy” is unacceptable to them. In a mindset centered upon “individual responsibility” there is little room for broad social problems brought about by unfortunate circumstance, as opposed to identifiable villains. But the reality is that most of this nation’s racism does not involve a “bad guy.” There is no “culprit.” And the fact that a person does something that is influenced by his or her racial biases, consciously or otherwise, does not make him or her a “racist.” (If that were the case, we would all be racists). But it also does not make the impact of that racial bias any less real, particularly for the ethnic minority or minorities involved.

    It should also be noted that Prof. Gates’ behavior was almost certainly influenced by his preconceived notions of police officers to a significant degree.

    I am in 100% agreement with the President’s observations on this matter — less with the comment that the officer acted “stupidly” (although, frankly, I think that’s a fair statement, though not a very smart statement to make when you are the President of the United States trying to push an ambitious health insurance reform agenda), and more with the subsequent press conference, seen here (you may have to sit through a commercial before Obama’s remarks appear — sorry, but Yahoo! news has to make money somehow):

    http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=3906861&cl=14719601&ch=4226716&src=news

    This incident is a perfect springboard for useful dialogue in the area of race relations in so many ways. The officer involved is no Mark Furman or Stacey Koon…he’s an experienced officer who teaches a class on race relations, and who his fellow officers (including black officers) insist is a stand-up guy. And Prof. Gates isn’t some inner city thug criminal looking for someone else to blame for his socially destructive conduct. And yet, even amongst these two, there is sufficient racial tension that it boiled over into an unnecessary, stupid incident where a black man could legitimately claim he was harassed and abused by an officer, and an officer could legitimately claim that he was verbally abused and treated with a lack of respect for merely trying to do his job and protect the community.

    What that means is there is a real problem here that cannot be addressed by focusing on assigning blame to individual perpetrators. Instead, it’s going to require the law enforcement community to take a hard look at its own biases, and think about how it can do a better job of protecting the taxpayers who fund their operations and reestablishing the credibility it has lost in the black community (as well as the community as a whole). This isn’t going to be accomplished by reflexively defending every action taken by every officer, or valuing loyalty to fellow officers over effective and just policing. Nor will it be accomplished so long as so many law enforcement officers and agencies maintain a dismissive attitude toward citizens who claim that they have been treated unjustly by the police. And it’s going to require similar reflection amongst communities of people who habitually fail to show adequate respect for the men and women who work hard and risk their lives to protect us from criminal activity, rather than focusing on posturing themselves as victims and pointing fingers of blame rather than acknowledging their own responsibility in incidents like these (to the extent such responsibility exists — because sometimes it doesn’t…but almost always, it does).

    I’m not optimistic that these issues are going to go away overnight, but I think that a highly publicized incident like this, particularly involving individuals who come nowhere near fitting the familiar stereotypes of “racist, sadistic cop” and “unruly, disrespectful black man”, can go a long way toward stimulating the kind of dialogue and introspective thought needed to improve the present situation.

  61. Ok I’ve skipped most of these comments because there are so many and I keep seeing the same thing repeated.

    Gates was arrested for following the officer out of his house while continuing to berate him. You can be standing in your own front yard, but if you are visible to other people you are in “public”. Thus the reason Gates was arrested.

    If he had just stayed inside as the cop left it wouldn’t have been a problem.

  62. Gates was arrested “after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on the behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed.”

    Translation, Gates, upset, embarrassed and angered the cop, in front of people on the street who were “surprised and alarmed” because there were a bunch of cops there, not because Gates was being loud, so he arrested him. No wonder the charges were dropped. Again, a basic lack of competence in an emotionally charged but totally non-violent situation with racial implications and very little evidence upon investigation of any crime being committed. So they made one up. It’s abusive, but more than that, it was just plain stupid.

  63. LB@83: “racially motivated” behavior vs. “behavior influenced by racial bias.”

    given he was hand picked by a black police commissioner to teach sensitivity training at the academy, and given a number of his black coworkers have stood alongside Crowley to defend him, it would seem that people who know Crowley personally and would not have a reason to skew the truth to hide Crowley’s bias if he had any, have weighed in sufficiently about Crowley’s character.

    Those who know him, including a number of black officers who’ve worked with him for years, have said Crowley is not a racist in any way.

    You don’t know Crowley, you’ve not worked with him for years, you’ve never interviewed him, you’ve never subjected him to some implicit bias testing. And yet here you are attempting to argue for some subtle distinction of racial bias that allows you to say you know Crowley better than the people who’ve actually worked with him.

    If 100 black police officers, judges, criminal profiler psychologists, all were to weigh in and say he isn’t racially motivated in any way, I have to wonder if you’d still argue for some etheral version of racism that allows you to override the character witnesses who actually know Crowley.

    There’s a “no true scotsman” feeling to this. A bunch of people who know Crowley say he isn’t racist. So those who insist that this must be a racial incident are trying to invent some “true” version of racism that allows them to hold to their belief and demand that Crowley is still some kind of racist.

    And I get that racism does exist in America and that it is a horrible horrible legacy from hundreds of years of slavery in this country. Racism is an evil that should be fought. But when people start seeing things as good versus evil, sometimes their IFF (Identify Friend of Foe) mechanism goes dead and everything looks like a bad guy.

    I find it statistically impossible for every incident that is initially claimed to be racially motivated the moment it hits the news, for 100% of those incidents to remain in the category of racially motivated after all the facts come out.

    Not everyone arrested is found guilty.
    Not everyone accused of racism must be racist.

    In the battle to fight the evil of racism, people seemed to have eliminated the possibility of false positives.

    And instead of simply coming out and saying, “you know what? We were wrong. Crowley doesn’t appear to be a racist.” Instead, people are inventing “true racism” categories by which keep Crowley in the “He must be a racist” category.

    When I initiallly heard this story, I thought it was mostly racially motivated and partly an issue of egos clashing. At this point, I have to defer to the many, many black people who’ve worked with Crowley and say he isn’t a racist. My initial assessment was wrong. I now believe the incident was purely a clash of egos. Crowley shouldn’t have arrested Gates, but I’m fairly sure he did it out of Ego, not racism.

  64. GL @ 86 —

    You have done a fantastic job of illustrating my point. Your understanding of what “racism” is suffers from an important flaw — one that continues to drive a divide between conservative thought and minority groups, because they can see, clear as day, that you don’t get it.

    Your notions of “racism” center on singling out individuals and attributing bad faith intent to them. In your mind, for an incident to be attributable to racism, there must be a culprit — a bigot with 19th century attitudes toward black people, who actively and consciously disfavors others based on the color of their skin, and deliberately attempts to undermine black people and/or other minority groups whenever he can. But the vast majority of modern racism is much more complex than this. There are not many traditional “racists” left — and those who do exist are a fringe element regarded by the mainstream as destructive, counterproductive, and mean-spirited people who have little credibility and are not worth addressing in a meaningful way. Traditional “racists” have little power or influence over today’s America. And thank God for that.

    Modern racism is not as easy to identify, because there very rarely is a “bad guy” to blame. This was such a case.

    Sgt. Crowley, by all accounts, is not a “racist.” Or, at least, he is no more a “racist” than the average person. He has racial biases. Similar to the ones you and I have. Similar to the ones black people themselves have. The ones that are unavoidable to anyone who grew up watching the local news and seeing a black man only in connection with the phrase “the suspect.” Ones that are a natural consequence of the human brain’s propensity to make sense of the world by placing things we see into the simplest possible categories, and attributing characteristics to those categories based on inadequate sample sizes. Ones that are learned over the course of a lifetime of experiences with people of other races and cultures who behave in a manner that we don’t understand, and that can often make us feel uncomfortable and nervous. It is our nature to generalize. We can’t help it. Without generalization, the world would be a chaotic, nonsensical place. But when we apply these generalizations to groups of human beings, we run into problems. And when the individual applying such generalizations (as we all do) is a person with authority over others, we run into even bigger problems. THAT is the source of most modern racism. There is no villain in a white hood. It’s a situation. But the consequences are no less real.

    Whether Officer Crowley is a bad person who just likes to harass black people (and there is no evidence this is the case), or whether he is a responsible, professional police officer who also happens to be a white American and, as such, carries with him the racial biases that virtually all white Americans carry (which is obviously the case), either way, the result was that a 58 year old Harvard professor was handcuffed and booked for getting upset with a police officer. (Which, as many have noted above, is not a crime). And there is ample empirical evidence to support the conclusion that none of this would have happened if Gates were white. (By the way, that same empirical evidence suggests that EXACTLY the same thing would have happened if Crowley were black — so how does that sit with the conservatives’ “bad guy” approach to racial issues?).

    What I am hoping more people will come to understand as a result of this issue is that tension between police officers and the black community is not an issue that can be looked at in isolation, on a case-by-case basis. Nor is it an issue that can be addressed by combing police forces for “racists” and eliminating them (although that certainly should be done as well). It is a consequence of general attitudes about blacks amongst police officers, and general attitudes about police officers amongst blacks — both of which originate from a broad social context, and both of which suffer from serious flaws that manifest themselves in unfortunate incidents wherein otherwise good cops wind up losing their tempers and abusing their power, and wherein otherwise peaceful, productive black citizens wind up antagonizing and disrespecting law enforcement officers.

    What does NOT help is dismissing incidents like this as being independent of racism because there are no “racists” involved. What Officer Crowley did is in no way independent of racism. But that does not make him a racist.

  65. Your notions of “racism” center on singling out individuals and attributing bad faith intent to them.

    No. My notion of racism allows for an individual to have explicit bias (individual knows they’re biased and embraces it) as well as implicit bias (subconscious racial bias the person isn’t even aware of).

    I’ve taken a number of online implicit racial bias tests. So far, they’ve reported that I don’t have implicit racial bias.

    I don’t know if Crowley has implicit racial bias in this particular or not. THe thing about implicit bias is it is impossible to measure that way. We could subject Crowley to some psychological tests to see how he does. But baring that, we have to go with what informaiton we have. And what we have is a number of Crowley’s black coworkers and bosses saying he isn’t racist, he isn’t biased.

    Meaning it is possible that this particular incident occurred entirely without any implicit bias on Crowley’s part.

    You utterly refuse to allow for that possibility.

    In your mind, for an incident to be attributable to racism, there must be a culprit

    In my mind, there is a distinction between systemic bias and individual bias.

    You can find systemic bias by looking at police records for who they stopped. If the racial profile of who cops stopped doesn’t match the racial profile of the general population in the area, then one can statistically assert that racial profiling is occuring on a systemic level.

    But the next time a white cop stops a black motorist in that area does not mean it must be driven by individual bias, whether implicit or explicit, on the part of the cop. Asserting that it must be racial bias on the part of the cop is committing a fallacy called dicto simpliciter. Demanding a particular case apply to a general principle.

    Example of dicto simpliciter: Some catholics are anti-abortion. You’re catholic. You must be anti abortion.

    That’s a fallacy because there are some catholics who are prochoice. Just like there are some cops are don’t have racial bias.

    But you seem to be refusing to acknowledge the existence of that category. What you’re saying is the equivalent of saying all catholics are antiabortion, that all cops are biased implicitely or explicitely.

  66. Josh at 81:

    I am unaware of any rule that states that police should aske the occupants to vacate the house when they receive a call. As a lawyer, I have seen it occuring in numerous police reports (mostly in the domestic relations context). When I have questioned police officers, that is the reason they give- get everyone out of the house, the innocent occupants show they can speak without fear of repurcussions and the potential criminals so they can be more conveniently apprehended.

    Also, I have had one police contact at my home. I arrived home early on a whim. My wife and infant daughter were not home. Within 2 minutes of my arrival a police officer arrives and states that he’s responding to a 911 call. He asked me to step outside and show ID, which I did (now being in something of panic). He then told me that the 911 was a babbling infant which was cut off. He asked me if he could look through the house. I, of course, said yes. While he did that I called my wife on my cell. She was at the store, having left 10 minutes prior. Before leaving Mallory was playing with the handset. Being about 10 months, her little hands must have hit the 911 sequence and my wife, suffering from late nights and exhuastion, simply did not notice the phone was connected.

    Unlike Gates, I was grateful the police showed up. With hindsight, I was distressed that it took a little more than 10 minutes to respond, but they eventually did. The only differences between my experiences and Gates is that I am a white professional, not black, dealing with a black police officer, and I was polite, unlike Gates, as I assumed (correctly) that he was there to help. In both instances the help was not necessary, but I’d rather them show up and not be needed, than be needed and not show up.

  67. Thanks for the positive cake comments. It also works well with home made orange marmalade or lime marmalade.

    The whipped ganache as filler does sound interesting.

    I wonder what brand of beer the White House has?

  68. Stevem- So, Gates, being rude in his own home, couldn’t be arrested, and the cops requested that he leave what was established to be his own home for no good reason I could see, and no good reason at least one lawyer confirms is *not* part of any procedure he know after identity has been established, and then arrested him.

    I’m deeply suspicious. But even if there was a reason, de-escalating the situation by just walking away was all the cop needed to do. What I think the cop figured was that he, as a cop, should be respected, and anyone who sufficient aggravated him out to be arrested if possibly, to “teach them a lesson”.

    Personally I think that’s arrogant way beyond Gates, and vastly more dangerous, but there’s a large number of Americans who *want* to see people who annoy them or the police arrested to “teach them a lesson”. I’d speculate that the majority of those people are conservatives.

  69. I’d speculate that the majority of those people are conservatives.

    I’d agree with that. Conservatives tend towards a hierarchy of power worldview. They see the world as cops are on their side and cops have power, so cops are inherently good. Therefore, challenging a cop is inherently bad and needs to be responded to by putting the challenger in their proper place in the hierarchy.

    racism is not required for this.

  70. Josh and Greg and 92 and 93:

    “Conservatives tend towards a hierarchy of power worldview” in what world do you live? I am a conservative. I belong to two local republican groups. We do NOT believe in a “heirarchy of power world view.” What we believe is that government is TOO big, is getting bigger and we need to stop and reverse the process.

    The group which is in favor of expanding the role of government, the “hierarchy of power”, tend to be liberal democrats. I used the qualifier liberal as there are many moderate to conservative democrats who seem to be drawing the line, for which I am thankful.

  71. Stevem:

    No, no.

    Liberals are for expanding the role of government as long as it’s health care.

    Conservatives are for expanding the role of government as long as it’s weapons.

    That’s how you tell them apart.

  72. Stevem- “Conservatives tend towards a hierarchy of power worldview” in what world do you live?

    The one in which “Free Speech Zones”, indefinite detention without trial, the triumph of religion over hard science, paranoid fantasies that the President is a secret Kenyan Muslim, armed border patrol groups, militia movements, and that racist puke, Sheriff Joe Arpaio are all conservative creations. Militant nationalism and use of violence and violent intimidation of antagonist are part of the conservative mainstream.

    I’ll agree that some conservatives offer lip service to smaller government, but (a) that’s only lip service, and (b) that still doesn’t mean you’re still not in favor of a police force that arrests people like Gates just for pissing them off.

  73. John Scalzi at 95:

    I grant that conservatives sacred cow is national defense (i.e. defense spending). The expansion of government by liberal democrats, however, reaches far beyond merely health care.

    Though to be fair, Republicans politicians (i.e. corrupt individuals who claimed to be conservative but weren’t) have also expanded federal power, though not at the rate Obama is contemplating.

    The only government which limits itself is apparently divided government, if the Clinton presidency and the Republican congress during that era is any indication.

    Josh Jasper at 96:

    For every paranoid, idiotic conservative theory (Obama is a Kenyan!) you can come up with a paranoid, idiotic liberal theory (Palin’s daughter being Trig’s mother being a recent insanity).

    As to the triump of religion over hard science, I’ll call with liberals and their yet to be proven via “hard science” on global warming (which used to be global cooling- I wish they’d get the script straight, at least).

    And from what I’ve seen, Obama’s rhetoric distances himself from Bush on presidential power but his actions largely do not (i.e. Gitmo, wiretaps, signing orders, etc., all of which he decried during the election).

  74. stevem: I am a conservative. I belong to two local republican groups. We do NOT believe in a “heirarchy of power world view.”

    Someone will have to check the statistics, but I would guess that the majority of the members at the NRA are conservatives/republicans. gun ownership to the NRA is about (1) fighting crime (power struggle between criminal and law abiding civilan) and (2) overthrowing the government if need be (power struggle between government and individual)

    And as John pointed out, Conservatives generally tend to be huge supporters of the war department. Even the smallest challenge from a third rate threat will see conservatives and republicans pound their chests that the challenge must be put down. Really, what would we have cared if Vietnamese gunboats really did challenge us in teh Gulf of Tonkin? Was that single challenge worth 50,000 dead americans? Again, a hierarchy of power.

    It is the hierarchy of power mentality that demands an “honorable withdrawal” from a war. It reduces the issue to one of two options: withdraw out of weakness or withdraw out of strength. The realities of war are far more complex than that, but a hierarchy of power worldview will only see an action as being high or low on the hiearchy of power scale. Actions are reduced to nothing more than strong or weak.

    The never-ending war in Vietnam was always about trying to find some way to claim “victory” before we withdrew. We had to establish that we were stronger and had defeated the “enemy” before we would pull troops out. That also explains the current 6 years in Iraq and counting. The withdrawal is scheduled for the end of 2010, but the Iraqi prime miinister recently announced that the occupation might go beyond that. All because some people have to have a “powerful victory” before they’ll let the military come home.

    The group which is in favor of expanding the role of government, the “hierarchy of power”, tend to be liberal democrats.

    national health care isn’t about power. Its about taking care of those who can’t afford proper care. Medicade. Medicare. Social Security. Unemployment. All are about taking care of the less fortunate, trying to bring everyone up to a minimum level of existence, trying to bring everyone up to a minimum level of equality.

    Conservatives tend to despise these sorts of social programs because they view them as collaspsing the hierarchy of power. flattening it. I got this far all by my self. Everyone else should get along by themselves too. I made it this far on my own. Why can’t they? No Fair!

    Anyone who says conservatives don’t like “Big Government” is totally missing the reality. Conservatives tend to like government that maintains a hierarchy of power, even expanding government spending and bureaucracy to do so (Department of Homeland Security anyone?). And conservatives tend to dislike government that collapses or flattens the hierarchy and puts different people on equal footing.

    That’s a systemic overview of the differences between conservatives and liberals. That doesnt’ mean that every conservative individual must track exactly to that overview.

    As far as individual interactions, having replayed variations on the incident between Crowley and Gates, and taking into account all teh information we have so far, the explanation that fits best is Crowley’s felt challenged by Gates and decided to put him into check. Crowley took Gates’s “Do you know who I am?” “You don’t know who you’re messing with” and Gates’s attempts to get the police chief on the phone while Crowley was in his house as Gates trying to “trump” Crowley’s authority. For whatever reason, Crowley felt the need to establish that he was higher up on the pecking order, and he arrested Gates.

  75. I want to start a conversation about another important controversy that’s been neglected now for many posts: ganache vs. buttercream.

    GANACHE RULEZ! BUTTERCREAM DROOLZ!

    No flaming, please.

  76. Stevem – the point isn’t the conspiracy theories or Gitmo. The point is that “pissing off a cop” is a crime to conservatives, not liberals. At any point before the arrest, the cop could have just departed the scene. He didn’t even need to get Gates to exit the house. Even if he didn’t draw Gates outside in order to arrest him, he could have just left Gates alone. Instead, because Gates annoyed him, he decided to teach Gates a lesson by arresting him.

    And the support for that sort of arrest is coming from conservatives, not liberals.

    Let’s not frame this as a general “Liberals vs. Conservatives, which is worse overall?” fight, because it’s not. In this specific case, conservatives are expressing the opinion that rudeness towards a cop is grounds for arrest.

  77. hm, don’t know why that last part was all italicized….

    stevem: As to the triump of religion over hard science, I’ll call with liberals and their yet to be proven via “hard science” on global warming (which used to be global cooling- I wish they’d get the script straight, at least).

    conservatives hate global warming because if it is true that fossil fuels are destroyign the planet, then the only response is to stop using fossil fuels. that would make us weak individually (muscle cars that suck gas versus whimpy electric cars that can’t burn rubber) and weak as a nation (all the money that capitalists have made from fossil fuels would be gone.) If global warming is true, a vast chunk of the hierarchy of power would have to be wiped out to save teh planet.

    No hierarchy of power conservative is going to embrace that until the choice between save the planet or stay powerful is an immediate life-and-death situation. So they deny climate change to delay the choice a little longer and keep whatever power they have and to maintain their position in the hierarchy as it is.

    The only people denying climate change are the people who have a hierarchy of power worldview and feel that acknowledging climate change would make them and the country “weak”.

    And from what I’ve seen, Obama’s rhetoric distances himself from Bush on presidential power but his actions largely do not (i.e. Gitmo, wiretaps, signing orders, etc., all of which he decried during the election).

    First of all Obama has always been a center-left politician. Second of all, the fact that the hawks have managed to maintain the country in a state of fear for the last six years means the nation will tend to react to fear with power.

    Americans have become deathly afraid of the prisoners in Gitmo, to the point that they won’t even allow prisoners to be transferred to prisons in america, so we have to find places like Palau to take those chinese prisoners we had been holding in Guantanamo, even though we had known for several years that they were innocent and were in no way connected to terrorists. Americans are deathly afraid of having terrorist suspects on our land even though the federal prisons in America already hold a number of terrorists convicted of terrorist activities years ago. It doesn’t make rational sense. The only explanation is fear.

    The natural reaction to fear is to attempt to assert power over whatever you’re afraid of. Fight or flight. Except “flight” isn’t an option because no one is going to leave their homes or their country, so the only option is power. After 8 years of Bush, Cheney, and the whole white house telling us “Be afraid, be very afraid”, it isn’t surprising that people are still afraid and still resorting to power in response to that fear.

    Hopefully we can move beyond this fear soon and bring some sanity back to the country.

  78. Xopher, but what about fondant? Or cream cheese? Or marzipan? Or even mixed frostings? Why does the cis-frosting world deny the existence of frosting outside of it’s binary worldview?

  79. Josh, I assert only the superiority of ganache over buttercream. Outside of those two, I generally have a “frost and let frost” attitude (inside those two, you’ll probably smother, but what a way to go).

    The major exception is this: I utterly denounce the use of fondant as cake frosting. It is pure sugar, and not very tasty, and has no fat in it at all…and as you know, fat-free frosting is an abomination unto the Gods of Baking (Hestia and Agni, among others).

    All true confectioners agree with me: fondant belongs in candy, not on cake! While it has its uses (for example, it’s the only way I know to make liquid-centered chocolates), cake frosting is not one of them. Renounce your heresy, ye frosters with fondant, or receive your just desserts!*
    ____
    * I will not apologize for this.

  80. We had buttercream frosting on our wedding cake. I still remember it to this day. That was some really good cake.

    I don’t know what ganache is, so I’ll have to go with buttercream for now.

  81. Greg, once you taste ganache, you’ll never think of buttercream again. You’ll laugh at your youthful foolishness.

  82. Xopher@103,

    I was watching one of those home shows about how to waste your money (my opinion) on a really expensive wedding. The couple had this amazing Disney cake covered in fondant. Even the baker admitted that fondant didn’t taste good, and had a backup cake with regular – probably buttercream- frosting for people to eat as opposed to ooh and ah over.

    I admit to being a bi- or possibly an omni-froster. I will happily eat either buttercream, ganache, cream-cheese, but like you, draw the line at fondant.

  83. We just made a beet cake last week. Like a spiced carrot cake, only with beets instead of carrots. It was fantastic.

  84. Pam, yeah, that’s why they do it. Fondant is really easy to shape, and its default color is whiter-than-white.

    See, Josh, now THAT I would frost with sweetened cream cheese icing. Many years ago, my mother used to make tomato-soup cake. She says that once Campbell’s changed the recipe the cake didn’t work any more, though.

    Oh, and Greg: ganache is an emulsion that you make by mixing hot cream with chocolate. It comes out darker than whatever chocolate you started with (white chocolate ganache is dark yellow, it’s really astonishing), and is the only thing I know of that tastes better than plain bittersweet chocolate. ‘Ganache’ actually means “idiot” in French; the story is that some assistant in a restaurant kitchen spilled cream into some chocolate he was melting. The chef called him an idiot—”Ganache!”—and once they discovered that his mistake was delicious, the name stuck.

  85. hm, so would ganache be similar to the filling they put in Lindt chocolate truffles? I love those truffles.

  86. GL @ 89 —

    Thanks for posting the link — it helped me to understand where you are coming from. Your thinking on this issue appears to be a lot more sophisticated than your previous posts suggested. There are still aspects of it with which I don’t agree, but I can tell you are thinking about it on a level that makes my previous comments not particularly relevant to your analysis.

    Two points I would make in light of your more recent post, and your link:

    (1) As to this specific incident — I readily concede that there is some possibility that Crowley’s racial biases played no role in how he handled the Gates situation. But I find that possibility rather remote, for a variety of reasons that I trust you understand. While I am not a “mind reader” I am sufficiently familiar with statistics showing the prevalence of racial bias in law enforcement, and I find it very difficult to believe that such bias had no impact on this particular incident. That isn’t to say that there is no possibility — only to say that such possibility appears remote, based on the available information.

    (2) While I concur that there are some who use “systematic” or “implicit” racism as a rhetorical device to accuse others of racism without sounding too accusatory, I don’t think that pointing this out says anything about whether such forms of racism actually influenced a specific incident, or the validity of “systematic” or “implicit” racism as factors that influence conduct in general. And I further think that your focus on such things tracks back to my original point — that conservative thinkers (as well as many others) have a great deal of difficulty getting beyond a “blame” framework of identifying and explaining the source of problems. For whatever reason, in the minds of many, anything with a negative consequence must necessarily have a wrongful actor. And, in particular, where there is “racism” there must be a “racist.” My point is that, almost invariably, modern “racism” does not involve any “racists.” So when one says “X is the product of racism” it is not a valid or relevant response to say “nobody involved with X is a racist.” Which means, in this context, that whether or not Crowley is a “racist” (and from what I know, I doubt he is in any meaningful sense a “racist”) has little to do with whether or not he acted in a manner influenced by racism.

    Above all, I think this incident serves as a useful catalyst for meaningful discussion about these issues, particularly amongst people who had previously given it little or no thought, and who themselves are subject to (and unaware of) their own racial biases and/or biases against law enforcement officials, which are turned on their head in many respects in this particular instance.

  87. Greg, I haven’t had the Lindt ones specifically, but ‘truffle’* is a word that usually refers to ganache of some kind in a chocolate shell.
    ___
    * The candy version, of course, not the underground fungus. Though I do have a recipe for “Truffle Truffles,” which combine both, I’m not inclined to try it.

  88. Much too late, but then, pandering is a never-ending cycle – ‘My thinking on that is that the folks making these mutters probably don’t sell books to make a living.’ Which is true, but then, authors don’t sell books, publishers do. And in turn, authors sell books to publishers – though this model may be in the process of breaking down, even if its replacement is not yet clear.

    But placing the readers front and center is the sort of stroking that really good marketing always employs. I have been paid to write, but most of what was written was done for my employer, with the readers having no meaning in the process at all. Which should be familiar to anyone who has been paid to write in corporate America – your readers are meaningless, and your text is someone else’s property.

    Which, to a degree, is true for most authors trying to make a living – what a publisher finds unacceptable to publish is extremely unlikely to be published by that publisher, unless the profit is large enough. Which means no check from that publisher for the author, regardless of what the readers think, unless the readers are expected to fork over enough cash to generate that profit for the publisher. Of course, this also works in reverse – a sequel can be expected to have a certain return on investment, meaning that even writing which would not stand up under normal scrutiny is published in the pursuit of a reasonable margin.

    Authors are a cost center for a publisher, while readers are a profit center – but the game centers on profit for a publisher. The reader is only a means to an end, after all – the end sale, that is.

  89. Xopher

    Besides chocolate and cream you can add cognac. I do like butter cream, but it just isn’t the same.

    And the truffles I make, and nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen, are a scoop of ganache, white or dark and possibly flavored, rolled in something. Powdered chocolate or chopped nuts both come to mind.

  90. not_scottbot:

    “Which is true, but then, authors don’t sell books, publishers do.”

    Well, no.

    It’s true we directly sell our books to publishers. But if you don’t think authors then aren’t instrumental in then selling those published books to the public, I’m afraid you don’t really know how publishing works. Because, in fact, not only do I sell a lot of my own work through an online presence and frequent real-world appearances, my publishers factor in my ability to sell my own work when they decide how much of my book to print and distribute.

    Indeed, speaking on a personal level, at this point, my proven ability to self-market directly to readers is a distinct advantage that I have when shopping around book proposals. Other authors with a facility for selling their own work have this same advantage.

    On the more prosaic level, while it’s true that I myself don’t keep a stack of my books at my house to sell to people, I know lots of authors who do physically sell their own works, too, and make a fair share of their income doing so.

    The point being: Why yes, authors sell books, to publishers and to readers. I am personally pretty good at both. It’s one reason I sell as well as I do.

  91. LB: I am sufficiently familiar with statistics showing the prevalence of racial bias in law enforcement, and I find it very difficult to believe that such bias had no impact on this particular incident.

    dicto simpliciter. Say a high percentage of Catholics are anti abortion. YOu cannot take that statistic, and then pick a random Catholic and say he is anti-abortion. You can say that statistically 70% (inventing a number here) of catholics are anti abortion, but that doesn’t mean you can single out Catholic John Doe and say there is a 70% chance that he is anti-abortion and use that to override his personal actions that show he is pro-choice.

    You’re insisting that Crowley is a racist individual because there is a lot of systemic racism in the American police. And you’re ignoring all the individual information about Crowley, his work history, and his coworkers who are defending him, saying that this particular individual is NOT racially biased.

    a “blame” framework of identifying and explaining the source of problems. For whatever reason, in the minds of many, anything with a negative consequence must necessarily have a wrongful actor.

    You say others are having a hard time getting beyond the “blame” game and finding “bad actors”, but you yourself said you “find it very difficult to believe that such bias had no impact on this particular incident”

    Isn’t that blaming Crowley? Isn’t that identifying Crowley as the “bad actor”?

    My point is that, almost invariably, modern “racism” does not involve any “racists.”

    The notions of systemic bias and individual (explicit, implicit) bias come from the field of psychology and their studies about racism.

    The thing is, psychologists don’t use scare quotes around the word “racist” to mean something of the old school form of racism, “whites only” signs, cross burnings, and so on. Neither do I.

    I think trying to hold “racist” to mean only that particular notion is problematic. There is racial bias and it occurs on a spectrum. The spectrum goes from “no bias” to “extremely biased”.

    If you hold that a “racist” is only someone who burns a cross, then you have to jump through a lot of hoops to try and address the people who have minor bias and/or subconscious or implicit bias. It appears that what you’re tryign to do is take the people who aren’t cross burning racists and shifting these individuals over to being part of some kind of “systemic” problem.

    It doesn’t work that way. At least not when looking at racism from the psychological studies.

    Individuals operate on a spectrum. And that spectrum includes extremely racist cross burners, to mildly racist people who’ve adopted some subconscious form of bias, to, yes, people who are in fact NOT racist in any measurable way.

    I think the source of our disagreement comes down to using different lexicons. You say “racist” to mean the extreme cross burner only. I say racist to mean anyone who is racially biased to any degree, severe or minor.

    It’s been mentioned in other discussions about racism that saying “you’re a racist” is much more problematic than saying “that action was racist”. “you are a racist” gets into character attacks. Perhaps you eliminated the subtle forms of racism from your definition of “racist” to avoid blaming the individual for their bias.

    I prefer to allow for a spectrum of different degrees of racism. If somene is perhaps subconsciously racist, I’ll try to use the “that action was racist” versus “you are a racist”. Or maybe I’ll use the word “biased” instead of “racist”. But the individual is still exhibiting racism or bias or whatever you want to call it.

    If you’re shifting the subtle forms of individual racism over to systemic racism (possibly to avoid the “blame game”), then we are at a fundamental disagreement because we’re using the same words (racist) to mean different things.

    I’m not interested in the blame game either, but I do expect individuals to be responsible for their individual actions. And if an individual acts in a subtly biased way, I would expect them to address it on an individual basis. I would not try to shift it over to being part of some systemic, no-one-is-to-blame, sort of issue.

  92. ntsc, there are any number of flavorings you can add! Just if you add a lot of them you should add some butter too, to keep the ganache from separating. I’ve flavored ganache with Cointreau, rum, and various other things that I’ll keep to myself for now.

    And the standard technique, I’m told, is to dip the ganache ball in chocolate first, then roll it in the nuts (or whatever) while that’s wet. This helps the whole thing keep better, which is not an issue if you’re serving them that day. My annoying candy book says that ganache should not be refrigerated, as a) if made correctly it has too little water to spoil quickly and b) refrigeration will make the fat crystallize out, giving it a grainy texture.

  93. Xopher@116,

    Keep better? Candy like this doesn’t last long enough around my house to keep.

    The last ganache I made was to ice a flourless chocolate cake- yum, yum, yum.

  94. People keeping up with Gates news nght be interested to learn that the original 911 call did not mention the race of the people that the caller saw trying to get the stuck door open.

    The dispatcher asked Ms. Whalen whether the two men were black, white or Hispanic. “There were two larger men,” she said. “One looked kind of Hispanic, but I’m not really sure.” As for the second man, she said, “I didn’t see what he looked like at all,” according to the tape.

    Ms. Whalen, who called on her cellphone from in front of the professor’s home, stayed until the police arrived. A report filed by the arresting officer, Sgt. James M. Crowley, said she told him she had seen “what appeared to be two black males with backpacks” on the porch of the home.

    Why did Crowley, an expert on racial profiling, say that the caller had identified the two men as black? Either someone relayed bad information to him, or he made it up.

    We’re getting two different stories from Gates and Crowley, and so far, the one who’s said someting proven to have been false is Crowley.

  95. Whalen didn’t report the race of the two men until the 911 operator asked. This would have been relayed to the police responding, including Crowley. I’m not sure how much time elapsed between when Whalen talked to the operator and Whalen talked to Crowley, but by that time, the 911 operator would have told crowley what the caller (Whalen) reported, including race.

    Also, Crowley might confirm with Whalen when he saw her what the people looked like, including race, and that back and forth would be condensed on the police report to the mere facts, not dialogue.

    police reports aren’t transcripts.

    The only time you can hold the report to be verbatim of what someone said is when the words are in quotation marks.

    This isn’t to say that Crowley’s report is accurate, but you can’t ding him for misquoting Whalen when he is not actually quoting her.

  96. Whalen didn’t report the race of the two men until the 911 operator asked. This would have been relayed to the police responding, including Crowley.

    So how why did Gates say she did? “She went on to tell m that she observed what appeared to be two black males…” is what he said in his police report.

    Whalen said no such thing. She never identified anyone as black. The tapes confirm that. It’s not a matter of interpretation. Either Gates misremembers, he’s lying, or someone (presumably the 911 operator) gave him incorrect information.

  97. Jasper, I’ve been on jury duty a couple of times. One case was several weeks long. Witness testimony is horribly unreliable. If Alice testifies that she saw Bob say soemthing and then hit someone, but she gets the exact words wrong, that doesn’t mean she’s lying, trying to twist the truth, or that she didn’t see everything else she testified about.

    Assuming for a moment that Crowley intentionally lied on his police report, why would he do so? If he intentionally lied, it would be to try and help his position. If Whalen didn’t mention race to Crowley, how would it help Crowley if he rewrote history to say that she did tell him race? I see no benefit to Crowley for intentionally lying. It doesn’t make his actions any more or less justifiable. It’s irrelevant.

    More likely what happened was Crowley took the information that came at him from the 911 operator, the dispatcher, and the fact that Gates was black, and then incorporated that into his police report, using wording that attributed it to Whalen when it may have come from another source.

    His wording on the police report is less than stellar. That doesn’t mean he’s intentionally lying to try to help his case. Sometimes people just get their words mixed up.

    like this:

    So how why did Gates say she did?

    You mean Crowley, not Gates. You also have “how why” when you probably just meant “why”.

    I’m pretty sure that you switched these names purely on accident. I can think of no benefit that you would have recieved for switching these names intentionally. Since there appears to be no motive for intentionally lying, I’ll assume this was an accidental word slip. And since you don’t appear to be trying to lie, I won’t dismiss everything you said as some kind of fake cover story.

    It was just a mixup.

  98. greg – More likely what happened was Crowley took the information that came at him from the 911 operator, the dispatcher, and the fact that Gates was black, and then incorporated that into his police report, using wording that attributed it to Whalen when it may have come from another source.

    That’s my point. If he was mistaken about that, what else is he mistaken about? There’s a totally different narrative we’re getting from Gates about the sequence of events. The only one who’s made a proven mistake (or lied) about the issue is Crowley.

    I’m not dismissing Crowley’s report as a cover story, but it is suspect now, because of his mistake (or lie).

  99. . If he was mistaken about that, what else is he mistaken about?

    That Whalen told him directly or that dispatch told him what Whalen told the 911 operator isn’t something I’d put in the “zoh my god, he screwed up” category. Not even a little bit.

    I certainly would not allow that “mistake” to override the fact that Crowley has been teaching sensitivity training at the police academy for years (hand picked by a black police comissioner) and that a number of Crowley’s black police coworkers have all vouched for his character.

    We may never know exactly who said what to whom and when, but the preponderence of evidence is that Crowley was not racially biased.

    It is grasping beyond the reasonable to take that “mistake” on the police report, and use it to override that preponderance of evidence of years of Crowley’s career as a cop, just to keep alive the notion that he is a “suspect” of being racist.

    Seriously. Not everyone accused of being a racist the moment the story comes out is actually a racist. By all sane accounts, this was not racism. If word came out tomorrow that Crowley had a long list of complaints against him by blacks that he arrested, or some real, objective evidence like that, then, yeah, I’d list him as a suspected racist and ask for more investigation. But that doesn’t exist. We’ve got a cop with a fairly long career that shows he is NOT a racist, and we’ve got people clinging to pedantic interpretations of words on a police report desparately trying to make him a “suspect”.

    There is something about the fight against racism that appears to make some people crazy to the point that they are unable to acknowledge false positives. Crowley was identified as a racist. The overwhelming evidence coming in about Crowley is that he is not racist. And yet there are people who will go to their grave insisting on some sliver of hope that Crowley was a racist rather than simply come out and say “oops, we were wrong.”

    The day this hit the news, I posted that I thought this was probably racism. And I’ll admit that I was wrong.

  100. GL @ 115 —

    I think our disagreement stems from two sources: (1) as you point out, differing definitions of what constitutes a “racist”; and (2) relatedly, your insistence on holding anyone who performs an act influenced in any way by racism “responsible” for a racist act (notwithstanding that you claim not to be interested in the “blame game” this is undoubtedly an end-around to get back into playing that very game).

    Because of these views, you perceive my claim that Crowley’s actions were almost certainly the product of implicit racism as an accusation that Crowley is a racist, and a demand that Crowley take responsibility for his racist act. Not so. In fact, I have said the following:

    Me at 83: “I think you are missing an important distinction — “racially motivated” behavior vs. “behavior influenced by racial bias.” I don’t think anyone (at least, anyone with much credibility” is accusing Officer Crowley of the former.”

    Me at 87: “Sgt. Crowley, by all accounts, is not a “racist.” Or, at least, he is no more a “racist” than the average person. He has racial biases. Similar to the ones you and I have. Similar to the ones black people themselves have…Whether Officer Crowley is a bad person who just likes to harass black people (and there is no evidence this is the case), or whether he is a responsible, professional police officer who also happens to be a white American and, as such, carries with him the racial biases that virtually all white Americans carry (which is obviously the case)…”

    Me at 110: “Which means, in this context, that whether or not Crowley is a “racist” (and from what I know, I doubt he is in any meaningful sense a “racist”) has little to do with whether or not he acted in a manner influenced by racism.”

    What this adds up to is not an accusation that Crowley is a “racist.” It is a recognition that all Americans have racial biases to some degree, and that in certain contexts those racial biases can produce unfortunate consequences. Such contexts frequently arise in the course of police work due to the power structure involved, the history of overtly racist policing, and compelling statistical evidence (as well as anecdotal evidence, particularly amongst minority communities, which the minority communities themselves are likely even more persuaded by than the statistical evidence) that police activity is frequently influenced by racial bias. Because of this dynamic, I believe that law enforcement agencies in general (not just Sgt. Crowley individually) need to develop a heightened sensitivity in the course of potentially racially charged situations.

    Unlike you, I also tend to believe that racial bias is a universal phenomenon in our culture. There may be a spectrum, but there is no zero on that spectrum, and I think it is rather naive to believe otherwise.

    I think this might be what leads to our differing views on what constitutes a “racist” — since I think all Americans harbor some level of racial bias, referring to anyone who harbors such racial bias as a “racist” strips the word of any meaning, since it would then be the case that all people are “racist.” I think “racist” as an accusation implying personal responsibility and blame is more usefully applied to people who are either overtly, explicitly racist and act deliberately upon that racist sentiment, or people whose implicit racism is so egregious that they regularly harm others to a point that being oblivious to your own responsibility for that harm is inexcusable.

    This is also why what I am saying is not “dicto simplicitor.” I am not saying 70% of police officers have racial biases and therefore Crowley does too. I am saying that 100% of police officers have racial biases, and therefore Crowley does too.

    As far as the issues with Whalen (the 911 caller) — I think the propensity to blame her has been unfortunate, and has been fueled by misinformation. While I don’t find the “she didn’t mention their race on the phone” issue to be as persuasive as some, my understanding is that Whalen did not even witness the “break-in” herself, but rather was calling 911 based on the concerns of her neighbor, who had relayed the information to Whalen. I admit, my initial reaction was that the initial call was motivated, at least in part, by racial profiling (or a similar concept) — and perhaps it still was, but it wasn’t Whalen’s racial bias at work. In any event, I find it counterproductive to blame a person for calling 911 to report suspicious behavior, regardless of the motivation. We want people to report suspicious behavior. That sort of thing should be encouraged.

    It is also worth noting that Gates himself, in his account of the incident, placed no blame whatsoever on Whalen and was in fact pleased that his neighbors are watching out for suspicious behavior. Gates also noted that while some might question why she would have called the police on an old man walking with a cane, his driver is a larger and more physically imposing man, which may explain why Whalen and others chose to call the police rather than investigating the matter themselves.

    I wouldn’t make anything of Whalen’s attorney’s snarky comment about the “only one who kept her cool” not being a part of Obama’s beer-oriented meeting — the purpose of the “having of a beer” is to unite the people who overreacted. Obama’s gesture in this regard suggests a recognition that the three parties who are getting together did things that are regrettable and should meet face-to-face to make amends. Obama’s omission of Whalen suggests that he failed to consider the possibility that Whalen might be another party who did something she ought to regret…which should not be perceived as a negative thing at all.

  101. LB: I am saying that 100% of police officers have racial biases, and therefore Crowley does too.

    This is not based on any empirical data, or even on any sort of empirical based anything.

    The notion of racism is a bit of a subjective term, like the idea of whether or not someone is “healthy”.

    The thing is, you need to have some objective references or the subjective terminology becomes completely arbitrary and capricious.

    For “healthy”, you might have weight, height, age, blood pressure, and physical statistics like that. If the person passes every known test for “healthy”, then the person is for all intents and purposes “healthy”.

    The concept of racism is completely arbitrary and meaningless if it doesn’t have some objective measures.

    If a person submits to some sort of psychological test and the test finds the person reacts the same to people regardless of race, then they’re not racist in that empirical test. If you look at the career history for a cop and find that his arrest record lines up with the racial profile of the population he is policing, then he passes that particular empirical test.

    WHich means that if someone passes all the empirical tests you can throw at them, then they are not racist.

    what you’re doing is sort of like taking “healthy” and redefining it to be “average”. If the average weight of an american was 300 pounds, then that isn’t “healthy”, it’s average.

    You’ve redefined “racist” to mean “more racist than the average american”, and that’s a pointless, meaningless, and completely useless definition.

    If a person reacts the same to people regardless of race, then they are not racist. If the rest of the entire planet reacts to people differently based on their race, then the rest of the planet are racist individuals.

    Yours is a useless definition because you never have any idea if people are actually racially biased or not, you just know whetehr they are more racist than your average bear. If the average person is as racist as a KKK member, and if no one is more racist than that average, then no one is a “racist”?

    No. What you’re doing is playing a very, very weird definitional game where “racist” is no longer based on individual reaction to people of different skin colors but whether or not the person is more racist than the “average”.

    Ah, Actually, this might explain why you conflate “implicit” racism into “systemic” racism. Implicit racism is an individual act. But you’ve pushed it into the realm of systemic bias. And then you redefined individual racism to mean “greater than the average systemic racism”.

    Racism is very simple to define in individual, objective, empirical terms. A person acts differently to people based on their skin color. If a person acts the same to people regardless of skin color, that individual is not a racist.

    And as for your notion that all americans are racist?

    That’s a result of the fact that you’ve defined “racism” to be relative to the systemic average fo the entire population. Since the population will always have some “average”, then the population will always be centered on that “average”.

    It’s like saying “healthy weight” is defined by the “average weight of the population”. and since the average weight always tracks with the individuals, the individuals are boxed in by the average. Which results in the totally meaningless statement: Half of americans are above the average weight. well, yeah, if the individuals change weight, the average cahnges, so half the people are always above, and half the people are always below.

    You’re defining racism to be some sort of sliding bell curve. And since everyone is always under the curve, everyone is always racist.

    So long as you use this kind of self-referencing defintion of what is racist, we are at an impasse.

  102. since I think all Americans harbor some level of racial bias, referring to anyone who harbors such racial bias as a “racist” strips the word of any meaning

    Yeah, you’ve got a totally self-referential defintion of racism going on. You’ve defined racist to mean “more racist than average”.

    It’s like you have some kind of bell curve of racism but you have no reference to individual racism, so you have no ordinate reference. There is no zero because you measure individual racism relative to the average population’s racism.

    You have to have an objective and empirical method for measuring individual racism. And then you can draw a bell curve.

    You might measure how many black people a cop stops versus how many white people, and compare that to the racial makeup of the local population. If it matches, then you’ve got zero measurable racial bias. If the cop stops a percentage of black poeple far greater than black people are a percentage fo teh local population, then you can do a quick formula to come up with just how racist the cop is. From there you plot individual cops, and only then do you draw teh bell curve.

    Since you’ve define bias to be completely relative to the population, it’s impossible to figure out where you are relative to an individual with zero bias. You don’t know where zero is, you just take a guess at what “average” racism looks like and then you decide wehtehr someone is “more racist” than that average or not.

  103. GL @ 126/127 —

    Wow…you just put an awful lot of words in my mouth. I said absolutely none of that. I hope you had a good time with that stream of consciousness thought experiment, or whatever it is you just did — it certainly didn’t have any meaningful relationship to anything I said.

    I cannot prove that every single American has some form of racial bias. I do, however, have common sense, which dictates that one cannot be raised in a cultural context like ours and come out unscathed. And all the online quizzes and psychological tests in the world are not going to show otherwise. Your presumption that “racism” as a quality is readily quantifiable, and that mechanisms that effectively provide for such quantification, is pretty outlandish.

    If there are Americans who honestly and truly are free from any racial bias, then good for them…but I would like to know what sort of malfunction in their brain causes them not to make sense of the world through categorization, the way that the rest of ours do.

    As far as the term “racist” as a meaningful description applicable to a person is concerned — I suppose subscribe to the Potter Stewart theory. I know it when I see it. I realize that is a tough pill to swallow for a person who wants a scientific, quantifiable rubric to measure everything in life and in culture, but there are some concepts that defy such measurement, and this is one of them.

    For example: regardless of what he says, or how many “black friends” he thinks he has, this guy is a racist.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/30/gates.police.apology/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

    I don’t need to subject him to a test to reach that conclusion. I don’t need to place him on a scale, wrap measuring tape around his head, or quiz him on racial sensitivity concepts. He’s a racist, and he probably should not be a police officer.

    I have not suggested, as you claim, that “racist” means “more racially biased than average.” I believe what I said is this:

    Me @ 125 — “I think “racist” as an accusation implying personal responsibility and blame is more usefully applied to people who are either overtly, explicitly racist and act deliberately upon that racist sentiment, or people whose implicit racism is so egregious that they regularly harm others to a point that being oblivious to your own responsibility for that harm is inexcusable.”

    No mention of “above average.” I think that definition is more aptly characterized as encompassing people whose racial bias (and habitual action based thereon) is either (1) conscious and deliberate; or (2) if not conscious, extreme and socially harmful to an extent that is inexcusable. I find that to be a perfectly workable definition of “racist” — particularly insofar as we have to be prepared to attribute blame, scorn, etc. on people who we call a “racist.” Because, again, I do think Sgt. Crowley’s actions evidenced racial bias, but I would certainly not call him a “racist,” and I don’t think his actions are reprehensible — although he (like Gates) certainly could have handled the situation better than he did, and it was, in part, those biases that led to the mishandling.

  104. LB: I said absolutely none of that.

    You said: “What this adds up to is not an accusation that Crowley is a “racist.” It is a recognition that all Americans have racial biases to some degree”

    That’s linguistic and logical mashed potatoes. It doesn’t mean anything.

    Crowley isn’t a racist. But everyone is racist. And crowley is racist as everyone else. So crowley isn’t a “racist” (with scare quotes) but rather Crowley is “racially biased”, which is somehow magically different than racist.

    I cannot prove that every single American has some form of racial bias. I do, however, have common sense,

    When objective facts and reason contradict a position, one can always fall back to “common sense”, which dictates exactly what the person wants to be true.

    which dictates that one cannot be raised in a cultural context like ours and come out unscathed. And all the online quizzes and psychological tests in the world are not going to show otherwise.

    Psychological tests can show racial bias in an individual that they acquired from the culture in which they were raised. Most racists don’t start off unbiased, then read a book in college, and end up racist. Most racists are raised racist by racist families.

    Your presumption that “racism” as a quality is readily quantifiable, and that mechanisms that effectively provide for such quantification, is pretty outlandish.

    My presumption is that racism can be quantified. I didn’t say it was always easy. Sometimes it is. The use of the phrase “jungle monkey” would be a quantifiable measure of racism. Crowley didn’t use that phrase though. So we have to look at other measures. His arrest record. His training record. His coworkers.

    If there are Americans who honestly and truly are free from any racial bias, then good for them…but I would like to know what sort of malfunction in their brain causes them not to make sense of the world through categorization, the way that the rest of ours do.

    Categorization isn’t hardwired to categorize by race and assign specific meanings. People can change. People do change. If they didn’t, we’d still be hunter gatherers.

    As far as the term “racist” as a meaningful description applicable to a person is concerned — I suppose subscribe to the Potter Stewart theory. I know it when I see it.

    So, an appeal to “common sense” and “I’ll know it when I see it”.

    Sounds to me like the perfect justification to ignore all the empirical and objective evidence that says Crowley is NOT racist, and insist that he is a racist because “you know” and “common sense dictates it”.

    I realize that is a tough pill to swallow for a person who wants a scientific, quantifiable rubric to measure everything in life and in culture, but there are some concepts that defy such measurement, and this is one of them.

    it’d be nice if you didn’t strawman what I said into such ludricrous positions. I don’t demand scientifically quantifiable measures for everything in life and culture. Laughter is perfectly fine without quantification as far as I’m concerned.

    But if you want to talk about whether a cop should be suspended or should be sent to “sensitivity training” or whether such training actually works, then yeah, objective measures help keep things grounded in reality, rather than letting them float around in Humpty Dumpty’s definition of things.

    If you want to turn racism into the new witch hunts, then by all means, continue doing what you’re doing, continue coming up with “I’ll know it when I see it” definitions, keep coming up with “common sense” dictums that allow you to override the complete lack of empirical evidence of witchcraft and get a conviction anyway.

    For example: regardless of what he says, or how many “black friends” he thinks he has, this guy is a racist. I don’t need to subject him to a test to reach that conclusion. I don’t need to place him on a scale, wrap measuring tape around his head, or quiz him on racial sensitivity concepts. He’s a racist, and he probably should not be a police officer.

    yay. We agree on something. “jungle monkey” is a racist term. End of story. No psychological test needed. I know you want to strawman my position into saying that we’ve got to develop psych tests for everything, but that isn’t the case. I am using Psychology’s terms and defintions about racism. They have some interesting tests that helps explore those ideas.

    I find those definitions much more useful than Humpty Dumpty’s definitions. Because once Humpty Dumpty has decided that Crowley is a racist, Humpty Dumpty can be pretty adamant about ignoring every last bit of evidence to the contrary.

    Psychological definitions don’t actually start out saying whether Crowley is racist or not. They start out defining racism and give you some things to look at. Then you use those measures to figure out if Crowley is racist or not.

    If you want to start out with Crowley is Racist, then you have to dismiss the psychological (scientific) approach to looking at racism.

    I have not suggested, as you claim, that “racist” means “more racially biased than average.” I believe what I said is this:

    What you said was this: “What this adds up to is not an accusation that Crowley is a “racist.” It is a recognition that all Americans have racial biases to some degree”

    And as I said this is linguistic and logical mashed potatoes. It means nothing. It means only what you want it to mean. ANd what you want it to mean is that you want to say Crowley is a racist even though all the evidence says otherwise.

    I do think Sgt. Crowley’s actions evidenced racial bias,

    Because you say so? Because a white cop arrested a black man? Why? what action, what physical act did Crowley do that demands you condemn him as racially biased? If you look at all his actions, there is nothing distinguishing to set him off as a racist.

    Except, as you said, everyone is racist, so Crowley must be racist.

  105. GL @ 130 —

    You still don’t understand what I’m saying, and I’m getting the impression that you aren’t trying to understand.

    There is a meaningful, non-magical difference between “racist” and “has racial biases” — as I have already explained at length. I don’t need to explain it again. If you want to understand, reread what I already wrote with an eye toward understanding what I am talking about instead of refuting it to save face. If you aren’t interested in understanding, then feel free to continue being deliberately confused.

    One picks up racial biases and tendencies from sources other than one’s upbringing and family. Racial bias is all around you. Every day.

    Here’s a hypothetical I came up with to illustrate the existence and prevelance of racial bias:

    You go to a local gym to play pick-up basketball. You arrive a little late, after people have finished warming up and shooting around. There are ten guys there, and they are getting ready to pick teams. Someone asks for a volunteer to be a “team captain” to choose a team. You volunteer. A few picks go by. You pick a couple of guys you have played with before, who you know are pretty good.

    Now it’s your pick again. You don’t know any of the guys left. You have never seen them play before. Of the guys left, two stand out as probably being physically superior to the rest. They are both about 6′ 3″, look to be of roughly the same build, etc. There is really no discernable difference between the two of them — except one. One of them is black. The other is white.

    You want to make your choice solely on the basis of who will be a better player for your team. Which one gives your team the better chance to win?

    Who do you pick?

    If you say the black guy, congratulations. You made a pretty smart pick. And you made that pick on the basis of racial bias.

    If you say the white guy, you’re an idiot. And possibly a racist, because the only justification for making that pick I can see is that you don’t want to be on a team with a black guy.

    If you say you don’t know, you have no basis for making the pick and you’d just take one arbitrarily, you’re either a liar or an even bigger idiot than the guy who took the white guy. And you are cheating the hypothetical, because you have to pick one, and you have to have a reason.

    I will volunteer that I would pick the black guy — and I think that anyone making a rational decision based upon a genuine desire to get the guy who is likely to be the better player would do the same. Why? Obviously, professional and collegiate basketball are both dominated by black players. And aside from that, it has been my experience in playing pick up basketball at gyms and in playgrounds (and I suspect the experience of anyone who has played pick up basketball with any regularity) ithat black players are better. Not all of them, of course. And the margin isn’t that big. But all other things being equal, when it comes to basketball, the black player will be better than the white player more often than not. Why? I can think of a number of reasons why, both cultural and physical…but all of that is beside the point.

    Now, you might say that having a racial bias toward believing that black people are more likely to excel at certain sports is benign — after all, it’s not a bad thing to be good at sports, and besides, there is ample empirical evidence to support this bias — basketball at the professional and collegiate level is dominated by black athletes, and surely that can’t be a coincidence. And you might say that it isn’t “bias” when it is backed up by such overwhelming evidence. It is pretty much indisputable that black people, as a group, are superior basketball players to white people, as a group…so what’s the problem with recognizing that fact?

    Well, it is bias when you apply it to an individual. Because the truth is, I have no idea whether the black guy in front of me is a better basketball player than the white guy in front of me. I don’t really know. I’m guessing. And in making that guess, I’m applying a race-based generalization. Which means I am applying racial bias. And quite rationally so. I could be wrong…but I’m playing the odds.

    Am I a “racist” for saying I would pick the black guy for my basketball team because he is black? I think not. If that decision makes me a “racist,” then “racist” is a pretty meaningless term. If street kids in Mexico who assume I have money because I am white are “racists,” then who the hell isn’t a racist?

    And while my “basketball” bias might be harmless, it is not too far afield from biases that are not so harmless. Sure, I’m just “playing the odds” — just like older white women are “playing the odds” when they clench their hand bags just a little tighter when they see a young black man walk by. Are they acting based on racial bias? Of course. Are they acting irrationally? Arguably, yes, given the extremely low likelihood that anyone of any race will try to steal their hand bag at that particular moment…but that behavior is not without a reason. The fact is, it is statistically more likely that the young black man walking by will try to mug her than if it were a young white man. There are a number of reasons for that, which I believe to be entirely the consequence of culture and social circumstance — that is to say, to me it is obvious that there is nothing biological or inherent about the higher propensity of black Americans to engage in criminal conduct — but there is also no question that the higher propensity does, indeed, exist. (And you can control it for socioeconomic status or whatever other factor you want — African-Americans are still more prone to criminal conduct).

    When shopkeepers keep an eye on the black guy in aisle 3, is it racial bias? Yes. Is that bias based on the fact that numerous black people have stolen from or tried to steal from that shopkeeper? Probably. But when you apply that generalization (i.e. “black people often try to steal from me”) to an individual (i.e. “I need to supervise this particular black person because he is more likely to steal from me”), you are acting based upon a racial bias that, as applied to that individual, is entirely unfair. That individual may have never stolen anything in his life, and your behavior suggests that you expect him to steal from you because of the color of your skin.

    So — you show me a person who grew up in the United States of America who has never done, said, or thought anything that was influenced in any way by racial bias, and I will show you someone who is confused and probably mentally ill, and who lacks the basic skills that most of us have to make rational decisions based on generalizations derived from life experiences.

    One last point: you have accused me of “strawmanning” your position, and in the same breath said the following:

    “But if you want to talk about whether a cop should be suspended or should be sent to “sensitivity training” or whether such training actually works, then yeah, objective measures help keep things grounded in reality, rather than letting them float around in Humpty Dumpty’s definition of things.

    If you want to turn racism into the new witch hunts, then by all means, continue doing what you’re doing, continue coming up with “I’ll know it when I see it” definitions, keep coming up with “common sense” dictums that allow you to override the complete lack of empirical evidence of witchcraft and get a conviction anyway.”

    …and followed it up with…

    “If you want to start out with Crowley is Racist, then you have to dismiss the psychological (scientific) approach to looking at racism.”

    “ANd what you want it to mean is that you want to say Crowley is a racist even though all the evidence says otherwise.”

    “Except, as you said, everyone is racist, so Crowley must be racist.”

    …you know, a pet peeve of mine is people trying to put words in my mouth and mischaracterizing my statements. You have been doing this non-stop throughout this entire dialogue. I have gone out of my way to make clear that I am not calling Crowley a racist. Nor have I suggested anything along the lines of “witch hunts” or even “sensitivity training” for anyone. If you are going to engage in a meaningful dialogue about this, then you are going to need to (1) stop mischaracterizing what other people say; and (2) at least make an effort to understand what people are saying before you argue with them. Try, for example, reading the entire post before you start trying to dismantle it. I think you might find these discussions to be more productive.

  106. LB, you may try to cry foul that I’ve somehow “mischaracterized” you, but the only “mischaracterization” is that I refuse to allow you to redefine “racist” to be different from “racially biased”. they’re the same thing.

    You’re problem is that you refuse to believe that there is a spectrum of racism in people. So, what you’ve done is redefined “racial bias” to mean the kind of bias you think everyone naturally has and you’ve defined “racist” to mean cross burning KKK members.

    You’re spectrum has two points on it. 1 and 2, but no zero.

    That’s a completely bogus description of racism or racial bias or whatever you want to call it. A racist is someone with racial bias. Someone with racial bias is a racist. And there is a spectrum as to the degree to which people have racial bias and are racists.

    It’s not that I’m mischaracterizing you. It’s that you refuse to give up these artificial definitions that you’ve invented. It’s that you refuse to give up this weird bifurcation of an entire spectrum of bias. It’s that you refuse to acknowledge that you asserted by fiat that there is no “zero” position on the spectrum, that there is no one who is not a racist or racially biased.

    You took an extremely complex and difficult issue and committed the common logical fallacy called bifurcation. And then you have consistently tried to redefine basic terms to enforce this bifurcation, a fallacy called shifting meaning.

    Racism and racial bias are the same thing. And in both cases, they occur somewhere on a spectrum. And there is in fact a zero point.

    That’s how psychologists look at racism and racial bias. That’s how it is empircally studied.

    If you insist on holding to your fallacies of shifting meanings and bifurcations, then you’re holding on to them because they describe your worldview, not because they describe the world.

    I’m talking about the world and racism in it. You’re talking about what you’re seeing through your worldview.

    You have no empirical evidence to show that Crowley is racist. None. And yet you insist that he is racially biased. WHich leads directly to this:

    you show me a person who grew up in the United States of America who has never done, said, or thought anything that was influenced in any way by racial bias,

    All of a sudden you want empirical evidence? You bandy about logical fallicies one after another, you redefine language, you bifurcate, and you start every argumetn with the unproven premise of “all people are racist”, but now you want me to SHOW YOU soemthing?

    How about this? How about you show me a single shred of evidence about Crowley that says he acted in a racially biased manner.

    You”ve got nothing.

    I can show you Crowley’s work record, his arrest record, his coworker testimonies, all of which show that Crowley is NOT racist.

    I show you all this evidence to clear Crowley and you insist he’s racist even though you can’t SHOW ME a single shred of evidence.

    Show me a single thing about Crowley that says he arrested Gates out of racial bias, or you’re rendering judgemetn without a shred of evidence.

    And rendering judgement about an entire swaths of people without any evidence to support, that is something I call a witchhunt. And no, you never said “I am on a witchunt”, but you tell me a better phrase to describe someoen who renders judgement on a group of people without any evidence to support that judgement.

    SHOW ME the specific evidence that renders Crowley a racist or you’re running a witchhunt.

    Dont’ give me your thought experiments about basketball games. SHOW ME the objective actions that Crowley has taken at some poitn in his life that renders him racially biased.

    Don’t give my these unproven premises that all people are racist, or your bifurcations, or your shifting meanings, SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE that proves Crowley was a racist.

    IF you cannot SHOW ME any such evidence, but you insist on rendering the same judgement, it’s a witchhunt.

  107. GL @ 132 —

    Not sure why it took me this long, but I just realized you’re the same guy who dragged me into that ridiculous debate in the “Ethical Puzzler” thread about Obama’s refusal to turn over photos. I knew there was something familiar about your total refusal to engage what I am actually saying, habitual desire to mischaracterize my statements and argue against those mischaracterizations, and incessant demands that I defend a position that I never actually asserted.

    You @ 132 — “SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE that proves Crowley was a racist.”

    Sgt. Crowley is not a racist. Not a racist. He isn’t a racist. I have no evidence that he is a racist. Seems to me like he isn’t a racist. Not a racist. I have a sneaking suspicion that Sgt. Crowley is not, in fact a racist. Boy, I sure think it would be irresponsible and ignorant if someone accused Sgt. Crowley of being a racist, because he is not a racist. Sgt. Crowley is not a racist. HE IS NOT A RACIST.

    There. Have I made myself clear enough for you?

    It seems like this discussion is headed toward a similar end to that one…so I’m just going to go ahead and end it now. I’m not playing your stupid game anymore.

  108. LB@133: There. Have I made myself clear enough for you?

    No.

    LB@128: I do think Sgt. Crowley’s actions evidenced racial bias,

    You cannot say Crowley ACTED in a way to reflect “racial bias”, and at the same time insist that you’re not saying he is a “racist”.

    A racist is a categorization of people who react differently to people based on skin color.

    Whetehr they are conscious of their racism (explicit) or whetehr it is unconscious (implicit) doesn’t change the categorization. Whether they are burning a cross and committing violence (severe) or whether they’re picking people for a basketball game (mild) doesn’t change the categorization. The degree and psycological motivations are simply further qualifications of the category. This is how people like psychologists attempting to study racism in objective and empirical ways have categorized the issue.

    you’re humpty dumpty approach has been to put “racist” in scare quotes and “racial bias” in scare quotes in an attempt to declare that they indicate two different categories. “racist” is magically a category of people who burn crosses. “racial bias” is magically a category of people who commit “mild” acts of racism.

    That’s not how it works. That’s not what the words mean. If you say someone acted in a racial biased way, you’re putting them in teh category of racists.

    And pointing out this humpty dumpty approach of yours isn’t “mischaracterizing” you. It’s pointing out your abuse of language and meanings.

    It seems like this discussion is headed toward a similar end to that one

    Did you redefine basic terms there too?

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