On this anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I simply note the destructive violent power of absolute belief. Certainty is so difficult to maintain that whole religions and political systems have to be created to prop it up. Those systems — theirs, ours — are inherently violent.
I always like these occasional features in the NY Times Sunday Magazine about a mysterious medical diagnosis. This account, though, seemed particularly relevant at a time when the country is debating health care reform. [Spoiler alert] The patient, a sixty-four year old woman who is pretty clearly from the working class, loses her ability to walk because of weakness in her legs: she is suffering from a copper deficiency. It turns out that her dentures don’t fit properly and she has been piling on the denture cream, which contains zinc, which reduces the minute amounts of copper needed by the body. At the end of the piece we are informed that, while she “still cannot afford new dentures,” she has switched the brand of denture adhesive she uses and is going to physical therapy, though the nerve damage might me irreversable. So: an aging woman’s false teeth don’t fit and she can’t afford new ones — no insurance, you know — and as a consequence she unknowingly poisons herself and causes severe nerve damage in her legs. Still, in the end, she’s got the same old ill-fitting dentures. No insurance, you know. And the various mouthpieces of the medical-industrial complex and their political defenders are making up shit about a very modest healt care reform proposal creating “death panels” so as to quietly dispose of grandma on the cheap. One would like to ask them what they propose to do for people like the woman in the Times story, since they have such deep concern for the weak and unprotected.
The underlying narrative motif of this news story about the feud between Keith Olberman and Bill O’Reilly is And they lived happily ever after. And how did that wonderful result occur, children? It occurred because the corporations that own Mr. Olberman and Mr. O’Reilly decided that the feud was bad for business. Like many fairy tales, this one is very dark and should not comfort you, my children.
Later: Glenn Greenwald has the details.
. . . because most of the crackers [more here] who live in Alabama think that government is the problem. This is the end result of radical right-wing-attacks on government and civic life in general, in favor of a kind of he-man individualism. Well, at least most of them are armed so they will be able to settle their own disputes the old fashioned way. So close the jail and the schools and the DMV, bro, and don’t forget the fire department.
That’s the provocative notion of Randy Cohen in the NY Times. I’m not sure whether it would be a good idea politically, but I think Cohen is right to point out that Gates has a legitimate case. My favorite line from the article — the the thing that struck me right from the start of this affair: “There is no law against Contempt of Cop.” Here is the relevant part of Cohen’s† paragraph for context. I think it makes an excellent and important distinction between acting as a private citizen and acting in a professional capacity:
. . . if Gates overreacted, he did so only as an individual, an outburst that might be obnoxious but is not criminal. There is no law against Contempt of Cop. If Crowley overreacted, he erred as a professional, perhaps abusing his office in a manner that is particularly fraught, given the history of African-Americans and the police. Thatís what should be examined in court.
I was also heartened to see that the first few comments following Cohen’s piece — I guess this is what the Times calls a blog with comments — supported Cohen’s thesis and saw the situation for what it was, an abuse of power with an added racial dimension. I’m a white guy, also a professor, and I would have acted much like Professor Gates, though, given my own passions, I probably would have called Officer Crowley a fascist. So I was feeling pretty good about my fellow man until I read the comment from “John,” which avers: “Citizens do not have a constitutionally protected right to mouth off to a policeman and hurl personal insults when the officer is just doing his job.” Yes they fucking do, John! That’s pretty much the whole point of this country if you ask me.
Anyway, there are 257 comments as of this writing and I only read the first ten, then skimmed a few more, so I don’t know if the proportions would hold up. At least some of my fellow citizens realize, though, that, as commenter RGP put it,† “A police officer who enters a private residence without a warrant is a guest of the homeowner, and it is not a crime for the homeowner to order him to leave, even in a manner that is vigorous or rude.” It is amazing, scanning down a few more comments, that so many people do not agree with this very basic and very American sentiment. I mean, isn’t that why all those right-wing Second Amendment fanatics are worried about? Being harassed in their homes by the authorities? Funny that the NRA hasn’t spoken up about Officer Crowley’s behavior. What if Professor Gates had had a weapon? Would he have been entitled to use it to put a stop to Officer Crowley’s obvious trespass? Well, nobody every accused the American right of being consistent.
Returning briefly to the private versus professional distinction Cohen makes in his piece, we could note that Professor Gates should be held to a professional standard on campus and in the classroom and within the scholarly community, just as Officer Crowley should be held to a professional standard while engaged in police work. When either of them are off duty, as it were, they have the rights of private citizens and within the context of American democracy, ought to assert them. That’s just being a good American, doing your job correctly and sticking up for yourself.
Note: Bob Herbert has the numbers — and the right response to those who would tell the wrongly arrested to just chill out, man.
. . . that does not lower costs or achieve fundamental reform. That is the “health care bill” that will emerge from Congress “before the end of the year.” Obama should veto it, but he won’t, since he has already bargained away most of the really progressive ideas he campaigned on in order to achieve the sort of fake consensus that Washington so dearly loves. I’ll be dead and my ashes scattered on the river before the US sees fundamental change in is disastrous health care system.