Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bravo Barack Gates' Case Dropped, Debate Over Blame Goes On And Chewing On Cheney

Bravo Barack Gates' Case Dropped, Debate Over Blame Goes On And Chewing On Cheney

Bravo Barack!

July 23 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said police officers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “acted stupidly” in their arrest of Harvard University African American studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. after responding to reports of a burglary at his home.

“The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home,” Obama said at a White House press conference last night when asked his reaction to the matter and what it said about race relations in the U.S.

Obama, 47, began his comments by saying Gates, who he referred to by the nickname Skip, “is a friend, so I may be a little biased here.”

The president said that while “I don’t know all the facts” of the arrest or the role race played in it, the case highlighted “a long history in this country of African- Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”

He added: “That’s just a fact.”

“I am standing here as testimony to the progress that’s been made” on race relations, he said. “And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us.”

BOSTON – The disorderly conduct case against renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. lasted less than a week. The heated public debate over his arrest, and the role race played in it, promises to be much more enduring.

Gates was accused of "tumultuous" behavior toward a white police officer who had responded to Gates' home near Harvard University to investigate a report of a burglary and demanded Gates show him identification. Police say Gates at first refused, and accused the officer of racism.

In a region with a tortured racial history, two overarching arguments have emerged about what happened next. Police supporters charge that Gates — director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research — was responsible for his own arrest by overreacting. Those sympathetic to Gates counter that the white officer should have defused the situation and left the home as soon as he established that Gates was the resident, not a burglar.

The charge was dropped Tuesday, with a statement from the city of Cambridge calling the incident last Thursday "regrettable and unfortunate." Police offered no apology, nor did the officer accept blame.

But there was plenty of blame being spread around by the public, through talk shows, blogs, newspaper online forums and watercooler chats. Even the hosts of a sports radio show in Boston spent much of Wednesday morning faulting Gates.

Thousands of readers posted comments over the past few days on the Web sites of Boston's two major newspapers.

On The Boston Globe site, one reader accused Gates of playing the race card, demanding an apology to the police and the public for his behavior. Another defended him, charging that the incident never would have happened if it were not for his race.

Officers responded to the home Gates rents from Harvard after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks" trying to force open the front door, according to a police report. Gates, who had returned from a trip overseas with a driver, said he had to shove the door open because it was jammed. He was inside, calling the company that manages the property, when police arrived.

Exactly what happened then between Gates and the Cambridge officer, Sgt. James Crowley, is in dispute.

Police say the 58-year-old Gates yelled at the officer, accused him of racial bias and refused to calm down after the officer demanded Gates show him identification to prove he lived in the home. Gates denies that he yelled at the officer, other than to repeatedly ask his name and badge number, and says he readily turned over his driver's license and Harvard ID to prove his residence and identity.

Gates said he was "outraged" by the arrest and has demanded an apology. He said he wants to use the experience to help make a documentary about racial profiling in the United States.

He has repeatedly declined to discuss the arrest with The Associated Press, saying in an e-mail Wednesday: "I am all done on this cycle. I will give you a call." Crowley has not responded to repeated attempts for comment, but he told WCVB-TV off-camera that he would not apologize.

"There are not many certainties in life, but it is for certain that Sgt. Crowley will not be apologizing," Crowley said.

Cambridge police and the police officers' union have declined comment.

Gates' supporters cite Boston's history as a city plagued by racism as an underlying reason why this could still happen to an esteemed scholar, at midday, in his own home.

"That stain on this city — as far as persons of color are concerned — is a real one," television and radio commentator Callie Crossley said. "Now you're talking about the town of Charles Stuart, when black men were stopped indiscriminately."

Stuart caused a citywide manhunt in 1989 when he said a hooded black man shot him and his pregnant wife as they got into their car after a maternity class. Stuart eventually was labeled the killer, but not before a black man arrested on unrelated charges became the prime suspect.

Perhaps nothing epitomizes Boston's struggle with race relations better than the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken during the uproar over forced busing of public school students in the 1970s. The photo shows a white man swinging a large pole with an American flag at a black man during a protest against the desegregation plan at City Hall.

Black students and professors at Harvard University have complained for years about racial profiling by Cambridge and campus police. Harvard commissioned an independent committee last year to examine the university's race relations after campus police confronted a young black man who was using tools to remove a bike lock. The man worked at Harvard and owned the bike.

Michele Lamont, a sociology and African-American studies professor at Harvard, said she understood why Gates reacted angrily to the police officer in his home given that larger history of confrontations with police — as well as his own.

"Certainly when someone like Gates finds himself in this situation, he has in mind this baggage," Lamont said. "If you think about the background against which Skip Gates might have read this incident, it was not surprising that he would have been upset."

Crossley said many people criticizing Gates for overreacting or for losing his cool have never been profiled by authorities because of their race. Crossley, who is black, said even routine encounters with police — such as a recent one involving parking — leave her with a heightened sensitivity.

"It's just not understanding sort of the environment and the foundation in which he got to the point of rage," she said. "When something big like this happens, you really are on alert."

Richard Weinblatt, director of the Institute for Public Safety at Central Ohio Technical College, said the police sergeant was responsible for defusing the situation once he realized Gates was the lawful occupant. It is not against the law to yell at police, especially in a home, as long as that behavior does not affect an investigation, he said.

"That is part of being a police officer in a democratic society," Weinblatt said. "The point is that the police sergeant needs to be the bigger person, take the higher road, be more professional."

But Lt. Charles Wilson, the national chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement OfficersInc., said he counsels citizens to avoid giving police any excuse to arrest them, as Cambridge police alleged Gates did when he stepped onto his porch and continued to yell and argue.

"You argue about it later. Your first issue right then and there is to walk away from a battle that you can afford to lose," Wilson said. "A good cop respects your rights when you show them their rights. A bad cop tries to convince you to do something stupid so they can put you in jail."

He added: "They will take advantage of your belligerence, they will take advantage of your anger, they will take advantage of your fears."

Following President Obama's July 23 press conference, Chris Matthews falsely claimed that Obama said the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. "was an example of profiling, basically." Matthews asserted that in making this purported statement, Obama "may have stepped on his own headline tonight."

In fact, Obama did not assert that Gates' arrest was an "example of profiling." Rather, he said of the arrest: "I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that." Obama later added that "what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately" [emphasis added].

Cheney’s Inferno

by Jeff Huber, July 22, 2009

I tend to regard Dick Cheney the way most of us divorced folks probably think of our ex-spouses. The ex-spouses are going to hell and revenge is already ours, so why waste our breath on them? It’s likewise with Cheney. He’s out of power; his next political post will be as Vice-Prince of Darkness; is he worth wasting a thousand-word essay on anymore? Then something happens to remind me that there’s a big difference between Dick Cheney and ex-spouses. Ex-spouses may have been bona fide bums and broom jockeys, but none of them was the first arch villain of the 21st century.

Were any of us actually shocked by the recent revelation that Lord Cheney ordered the CIA to withhold information about a secret program from Congress for eight years? Given the galactic scale of his malevolence in the Office of the Vice President, ordering the CIA to lie to Congress amounts to a parking violation. Even before young Mr. Bush was elected, Cheney was a proponent of extra-constitutional presidential powers. Most of us are familiar with the unprecedented extent to which Bush exceeded his Article II authorities. Even more horrifying, though, is the way Cheney expanded the powers of his office.

The Constitution gives the vice president one power only: Article I states that "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided." Cheney made himself a vice-commander in chief.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Cheney, from a bunker beneath the White House, called his old pal Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Cheney told Rumsfeld that “pursuant to the president’s instructions," he had ordered fighter pilots to shoot down the airliners involved in the attacks. What’s wrong with this scenario is that the vice president is not in the military chain of command. As delineated in the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, command authority passes directly from the president to the secretary of defense to the four-star unified commanders (Central Command, Southern Command, European Command, etc.)

Young Mr. Bush was alive and conscious throughout that crisis – well, as conscious as he ever was. He had no business passing orders through Cheney, and Cheney had no business ordering anybody to fire on anything. It’s possible that the military commanders he spoke to knew this and didn’t pass the orders along to the pilots in the air. Bush should have gone directly through Rumsfeld who, as it played out, was only informed of Cheney’s illegal orders after the fact.

We know that Cheney cooked the intelligence on Iraq through Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans. Journalist and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi asserts that Cheney was behind the forgery of the Nigergate "Habbush letter" document. Cheney authorized Scooter Libby to leak classified information to discredit Joe Wilson when Wilson refuted the claim that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium from Niger. Cheney also played a key role in revealing Valerie Plame’s undercover role in the CIA. Cheney’s secret White House Information Group, which included Condi Rice, Karl Rove, the nightmarish Mary Matalin, and other right-wing luminaries, sold the war to the American public through false propaganda echoed by access-poisoned journalists like Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller of the New York Times.

Cheney used the Iranian Directorate to cook intelligence on Iran much as the Office of Special Plans manufactured WMD evidence on Iraq. The Iranian Directorate was located in the same office as the OSP and included OSP veterans Abram Shulsky, John Trigilio, Ladan Archin, and Reuel Marc Gerecht.

Cheney authorized illegal torture. He met secretly with big oil executives to formulate an energy policy that favored his pals at Exxon and Shell and the other major energy companies.

Cheney has a reach-around relationship with Israel’s hard-Right Likudniks. Sidney Blumenthal of reported in August 2006 that Cheney and his henchmen were sharing National Security Association intelligence with Israel as part of an attempt to escalate the Iraq war into open hostilities with Iran and Syria. Many are convinced, as am I, that Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon was agreed upon at a meeting between Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu at an American Enterprise Institute conference in Colorado.

Cheney subverted the operations of the entire executive branch by inserting neocon ideologues in key positions. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and Stephen Cambone strangled dissent in the Defense Department. Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley ensured that his boss Condoleezza Rice was nothing more to Bush than a workout partner and an office wife. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton undermined Colin Powell’s efforts at statesmanship. In the second Bush term, when Rice moved to the top State billet, Cheney arranged to have Bolton made U.S. ambassador to the UN, ensuring continuation of the administration’s "make them an offer they can’t accept" diplomacy, of which the Iran policy was a perfect example. Insisting that Iran give up its inherent right – as guaranteed by the UN Nonproliferation Treaty – to develop nuclear energy as a precondition to direct talks ensured that those talks would never take place.

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), speaking of the revelation that Cheney had directed the CIA to withhold information from Congress, said that nobody in America, including Cheney, is "above the law." Where has Leahy been for the last eight years and change? Everybody in the Bush administration except Scooter Libby was above the law.

President Obama has so far been reluctant to investigate the wrongdoing of the Bush administration. That’s a mistake. If we let that administration’s major decision-makers walk, we leave the door open for the next generation of tyrants to give us a repeat performance.

Cheney will spend the next life roasting in a room at the Robert McNamara Suite of the LBJ Hilton in hell, but we need to start rebalancing the scales of justice on this side of eternity.

The NSA Is Still Listening To You

Bush went away, but domestic surveillance overreach didn't. It's now the law, and the ACLU is fighting back

By James Bamford

1 comment:

  1. "President Obama has so far been reluctant to investigate the wrongdoing of the Bush administration. That’s a mistake. If we let that administration’s major decision-makers walk, we leave the door open for the next generation of tyrants to give us a repeat performance."

    As a consequence of the failure of Congress to impeach Cheney and Bush, this administration has embraced the "unitary executive" almost totally. We do not have to wait for the next generation of tyrants -- they are here and embellishing a fascist form of government.



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