Justifying ourselves.

In the closed and humid little world of newspapering, the sports desk is commonly called the Toy Department, and yes, they resent it terribly. (My feeling has always been: Walk into any newsroom and follow your eyes to the men dressed like overgrown toddlers. Guess where you’ll be.) However, I never thought it was entirely apt, especially when there’s a features department nearby.

What is it with the New York Times, anyway? They aren’t fit to carry the WashPost’s water in features, and every time they try something like this, they only embarrass themselves:

…As this particular summer finally heats up, even citizens who believe that climate control is a God-given right may be questioning whether (air conditioning) has become a luxury they can no longer afford.

Really? This I have to read. First note the weasel words “may be,” a trend-follower’s best friend, along with “seems” and “appears,” a way to spin a trend out of three anecdotes. Then a nod to the obvious — air conditioning is a relatively recent wrinkle in human endeavor, “the great pyramids of Egypt were built al fresco,” blah blah. Then on to the masochists:

Lisa Finkelstein, a freelance editor, stopped using the semi-functional air-conditioning and heating unit in her rented cottage in Tallahassee, Fla., two years ago, mostly for economic reasons.

(Ha ha. As one who shares Finkelstein’s job title, I’d say “mostly for” is entirely b.s. “Entirely for” is more like it. But it gets better.)

“We spent an entire summer getting to know our kids by sitting outside trying to keep our electricity bill down,” said Ms. Holmes, who estimated that the family saved $2,100 last summer; they are repeating the experience this year. “It was very therapeutic and we got closer. We also got thinner — all of our diets changed because we were eating a lot of grilled food. And by the time fall came around, with the change in the economy, we had learned to live off less. So when everyone started talking about how hard things are, we felt like we had already experienced the worst of the worst. It prepared us for the whole year.”

Weight loss! Win-win. I’m sure the kids will look back on their summers of sweaty Monopoly fondly. But there’s more:

“In our social circle, use of the air-conditioner is extremely limited,” said Martin Focazio, who lives in Upper Black Eddy, Pa., and commutes into Manhattan four days a week to his job as a digital media strategist. “It’s not like we’re health-nut crazies or a bunch of dirty hippies dancing naked around the fire. We’re all white-collar geeks living an exurban lifestyle. We just all share the philosophy of rolling with the seasons if you can.”

“In our social circle” = “smug assholes.”

For the record, I get along without a/c as much as possible, too. After all these years in the Midwest, I’ve come to enjoy our warm months. My indoor-temperature comfort zone tops out at 79-80 degrees, however, at which point I flip the switch and don’t feel bad about it for even a minute. I’ve known a few alt-lifestyles types, who try to overthink every economy, and draw squiggly lines around this one (Zen), excluding that one (drudgery), etc. The same woman who gave up her dishwasher because she likes a few minutes of peace and quiet and manual labor after meals wouldn’t dream of washing her lingerie by hand, and vice versa.

It’s all just how you choose to live, that’s all. Finally, we get to my favorite anecdote:

Kim Gorode said her cat became dehydrated from the heat the first summer she went without air-conditioning in her fourth-floor Brooklyn walk-up apartment.

“I had just moved to New York and had no money, and I thought I could get by with fans,” said Ms. Gorode, a 26-year-old who works in public relations.

But about halfway through the summer, Waldo, her orange tabby cat, began vomiting and passing out.

“The vet put him on medication and gave him a saline IV for rehydrating,” she said. The bill for $400 dwarfed the $100 she wound up paying for an air-conditioner.

When in doubt, do it for the kitties.

When my dog was younger, he’d come in from his walks and find the tile hearth, upon which he’d lay belly-down, terrier-style, with his legs sticking straight out behind him. Dog a/c. Smart dog.

Oy, another long day awaits at the end of it, i.e, a seven-hour shift editing health-care news, starting at 6 p.m. I wouldn’t do it without proper a/c on a bet, but what that means is, it’s time to step away from the keys and rest the ol’ wrists. In the meantime, chew on this:

Jon Carroll examines the Tour de France, finds it confusing. Worth reading for one nice simile: Philadelphia Eagles fans are darned Franciscan monks compared with these people. I’ve often wondered how the riders stand the close quarters, m’self.

Gymward bound.

Posted at 9:59 am in Current events, Popculch |

79 responses to “Justifying ourselves.”

  1. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 10:18 am

    I haven’t used air-conditioning in years, although my immediate reason has been almost entirely economic. I’m also in northern Indiana, so the measure of my sacrifice is not huge.

    It does seem to me, though, that we increasingly condition ourselves for discomfort. The engineering of the human body is amazing, and I don’t think God (nature, if you prefer) designed us to be uncomfortable when the temperature falls below 68 or above 80. I suspect our natural comfort zone is much larger.

    Many years ago I read Rousseau’s Emile, covering his years spent as a nanny. He makes this observation and offers some pretty radical advice. If you turned your infant over to Rousseau’s care, ice baths for the baby were not uncommon.

    At any rate, since that time I’ve pretty much kept the furnace at 62 and the air-conditioning off, with the smug thinking that I am making myself stronger in the process. I am typically the last person in the room to complain about the temperature. I’ve had some shivers and some sweat along the way, but if given the chance to redo the last couple of decades of my life, adjusting the thermostat wouldn’t be on the list.

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  2. alice said on July 23, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Features in the New York Times = How do the wealthy cope?

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  3. coozledad said on July 23, 2009 at 10:36 am

    There’s no one living close enough to us to be bothered by it, so we’re often semi-naked in the yard during the summer. Now if only that stunt-pilot douche would only quit buzzing the house. (You know who you are, jerk. The Ray-Bans, the Bulova wristwatch, thinning grey hair. I’d just like to remind you that trees don’t move. Even when you hit them with a Beechcraft.)

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  4. Connie said on July 23, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Well I love air conditioning. My personal thermostat is broken. Thermostat at 62 in the winter is great, but summer is a different story. At 75 degrees my head starts to sweat, and my hair begins dripping down my back, my make-up down my face.

    Starting Saturday I will be sweating at the cottage, where in at least one past very hot summer there were fan fights.

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  5. ROgirl said on July 23, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Ms. Finkelstein also keeps a loaded gun on hand, just in case.

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  6. Sue said on July 23, 2009 at 11:14 am

    We actually do put in a window unit for the kitties, and before that for our late great malamute mix, Jack. On the few days we turn it on, they really appreciate it. Fourth coldest July on record around here, by the way, so it’s been used twice (in June). I don’t know how Coozledad does it.
    No one messes with my thermostat from September to June.
    Connie, the pictures out of Leland are showing a nice but not very warm summer:
    I do not have a social circle. People in my social circle would laugh at me and pelt me with cheetos if I referred to them as my social circle.

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  7. LAmary said on July 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

    We only have two window units in the bedrooms here and this week is the first time we’ve used them in 2009. Ceiling fans help a lot, and I come from a long line of cheapskates so I hate turning the AC on. This week it’s been near or above 100 every day, so I gave in. The dogs all sleep in the bathroom on the cool tile, the cats under the clawfoot tub.

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  8. nancy said on July 23, 2009 at 11:24 am

    My favorite NYT feature of recent months was one they did last year around Thanksgiving, which boiled down to “It sure is a pain to get the specialized repairmen of expensive appliances to your remote summer house.” I’m like, wha-?

    Maybe they need to learn to like cheaper appliances. Granted, my stove isn’t a convection oven/grill combo, but it’s never broken, either. On/off has its appeal.

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  9. judybusy said on July 23, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I actually enjoyed the article—we could save lots of energy if we tried to live w/o AC. So many people just automatically turn on the A/C without considering the costs.

    Presently, I am in an over-conditioned office, wearing a fleece jacket and contemplating if I should put the fleece blanket on my lap. Irritating to me and an awful waste of energy.

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  10. Colleen said on July 23, 2009 at 11:41 am

    We have central air, but found it wasn’t working so great to cool the upstairs of our vintage house. So we bought a window unit for the bedroom and turned off the CA. Perfect. Nice and cool for sleeping, and just fine with the windows open in the rest of the house.

    I’m one of those with a very small comfort zone. And I like to be in it.

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  11. Jen said on July 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I survived for the first 10 or so years of my life without air conditioning. We didn’t even have window air conditioners – just fans, and grandma’s air conditioned condo the handful of times it got dangerously hot (about 100 degrees). We all survived, and thrived. And it made air conditioned movie theaters feel like heaven.

    Our house now has a couple of window air conditioners, which we use, but sparingly. They have an “energy saver” feature where the fan turns off when it’s not cooling, and that’s what we usually do. We like to keep it on a higher temperature (around 76) and on energy saver when we’re not home so that our kitty stays relatively cool. She enjoys sitting right in front of it.

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  12. Julie Robinson said on July 23, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I’m with Connie as I bless the folks who brought us AC. I do not perspire lightly, I sweat buckets. I’m happy to have it off whenever possible and love the fresh air, and even happier to turn it on when it’s needed.
    Anybody wonder how much energy is burned getting to those un-airconditioned vacation homes? Are they using any watercraft with motors? Are they recycling, composting, growing their vegetables organically? It smacks of self-righteousness.
    Reminds me of a story I read the other day about useless home appliances, naming the iron. The twit who wrote it said why take up space with an iron when you can just take everything to the dry cleaners?

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  13. Scout said on July 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Here’s the perspective from the Inner Hinges of Hades, aka the Desert Southwest:

    Because of the invention of air conditioning, Phoenix grew from a nasty, tiny, miserable outpost to the 5th largest city in the U.S. in less than a century. Living here is only bearable in the summer now that we go from the air conditioned house to the air conditioned car to the air conditioned job, with the process reversed at the end of the day and maybe a dip in the 90 degree pool in the evening.

    That being said, people here tend to dress warmer for work in the summer than the winter because most commercial buildings are kept at the sub-zero range. This year the economy has forced our office to adjust the thermostats up this summer, which, happily, means I no longer have to wear a sweatshirt at work. For several years now, we’ve kept the temp at home set at about 83 when we’re there and 86 while we’re gone. We run the ceiling fans from May to October. Foregoing a/c is not an option here.

    Many theaters, restaurants and stores are still chilling down to the 60’s or 70’s, even though most people complain that they feel like they’re in a meat locker. I imagine it’s just a matter of time before they get the memo that the norm has been redefined.

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  14. John said on July 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    “meat locker”—a indicator of one’s age.

    Not casting stones as I use the phrase regularly.

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  15. nancy said on July 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I, too, hate the over-a/c’d interior, a condition we suffered at our newspaper office in FW. The Neighbors editor kept a wool scarf at her desk, and frequently wound it around her neck for comfort. Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, our competitor successfully lobbied for ceiling fans, it was so hot.

    During the summer of 2004, I interviewed for a job in Houston, another city that would only be possible with a/c. They air-condition the outdoors there. The baseball stadium and many parks have some sort of outdoor a/c at their disposal, which just appalls me. More appalling was the attitude of the locals, who saw this all as enormously clever instead of obnoxiously wasteful. “You’ll change your mind the first year you open Christmas presents in shorts,” they all said. Didn’t get the job. (Didn’t really want to move to Houston anyway.)

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  16. moe99 said on July 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    No a/c in my house in Seattle. We’ve had a hot, dry summer this year, but my secret is lots of trees and shade in the back yard that keeps most of the house cool as well.

    We had an attic fan in our house in Defiance, and on hot nights my Dad would open up the drop down to the attic and run the fan. It didn’t work very well. I remember the Andrews had the first air conditioner in their car. It ran air over ice cubes. We thought that was pretty spiffy.

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  17. Rana said on July 23, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    My feeling on AC is that it should kick in just a bit before I start sticking to the furniture. We had one hot week this summer when the central air labored mightily to bring down the temperatures of the house to that level, and it never managed it. Eventually the nights got a bit cooler, we managed to pry open all the old hung windows, and got the fans on. That, and shifting the air to “fan” instead of “cool” brought the house to a nice temperature and it has stayed that way. Given that the house is over a century old, it’s probable that it was designed to be cooled with fans, rather than with vents.

    I’m not a big fan of the freezing AC phenomenon; I hate it when I go into the frozen foods aisle at the grocery and the goose pimples show up. Or when I go to the movies and I start shivering. I’ve worked in offices where there are AC wars between the women going through menopause and it’s been cold enough that I had to wear fingerless gloves in order to type. (And no, I’m not exaggerating. It was that bad.) I’m also not a big fan of the blasting heat approach in winter; I prefer the Oregon approach of tepid insides based on the idea that everyone’s wearing layers over the one giant coat and blast furnace approach of the Midwest.

    So I do appreciate some temperature regulation, but not the excesses.

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  18. LAmary said on July 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I never had air conditioning in my house until I bought the window units. The kids room got one first since older son had asthma when he was younger, and I got one when the huge tree outside my window died and I no longer had shade.
    A lot of my colleagues live in distant suburbs that not only require 100 mile round trip commutes, but require central AC on full blast from about May to November. You can get a lot of square footage and a gated community if you go far from LA, but you spend a fortune on cooling and gas. Those neighborhoods tend to catch fire pretty often and the housecats and smaller dogs are at the mercy of coyotes and mountain lions. Other than that, it’s swell living there.

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  19. Hexdecimal said on July 23, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I second Julie’s blessing to those who created air conditioning. Like Scout, I live in the Phoenix metro area. When the temperature here hit’s post 110 life without A/C (or at least a swamp cooler) is not tolerable; sometimes it’s downright deadly. It makes me wonder how those folks who lived here pre electricity survived. My guess is siestas were the norm.

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  20. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Speaking of staying cool, I was surprised to see Obama lose his last night over the Gates arrest incident. Very out of character for a guy who usually requires a few days of study to work up outrage.

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  21. paddyo' said on July 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    That may have been “losing his cool” by uber-cool BO’s standards, but I think the tone was just fine. What happened in Cambridge was a nice face-slap of a reminder that we are so NOT even close yet to the “post-racial” America that sprang from over-stimulated tongues after the election last November.

    This excellent column by one of Gates’ colleagues nails it:


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  22. Rana said on July 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Hexdecimal, what I can tell you about life in pre-AC Phoenix is that mostly you keep the house dark during the day – drawn shutters, pulled blinds, etc. – and did things like drape bandanas soaked in cold water on your body, or lie on tiles or wet sheets with the fan blowing. Then at night, when the temps dropped, you’d open the windows and doors and cross-ventilate with fans. (I remember that most trips outside were experiences of being blinded and baked before stumbling into the next dark, cool sanctuary.) If you were a little kid, as I was, you also wore either really short shorts or floaty sundresses, and big hats (again with wet bandanas hanging from them). You also drank a lot of iced drinks.

    Unfortunately, this strategy no longer works very well in Phoenix, as houses are built more out of wood than cinder block than they were, as the spread of fountains and blacktop has raised the heat index and humidity, and pollution has created an inversion layer that traps the heat. It’s not really a place for a large urban population, but that’s what it has.

    (These childhood coping skills also translate badly to humid environments, with the exception of closing the blinds and using fans. Put a wet bandana on your head out here, and you just add clamminess to sweatiness.)

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  23. Julie Robinson said on July 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    My sister lived in Guatemala for over a year. How did they cope with Central American heat and humidity? The daily 3-4 hour siesta, and a more relaxed attitude towards productivity.

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  24. coozledad said on July 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Funny, you’d think the Gates arrest would have libertarians up in arms about the shameful violation of Mr. Gates’ Constitutionally guaranteed liberties. Unless freedom’s just another word for being white.

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  25. Hexdecimal said on July 23, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Rana – Thank you for the information on surviving AZ summers. I had to endure Fort Wayne summers – 90 degrees heat and 90 % humidity – and as other from the same area have said we did so with just the occasional fan blowing.

    Here in AZ, I can’t “beat the heat” yet because I still have to work. However, the plan is in 16 years [when I retire] I will have a place up on the rim for the summer and will winter in the valley. I’m not that sure that this plan will result in not using the A/C… but it sure will do wonders for my well being.

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  26. beb said on July 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    When I was a kid my family didn’t have AC. We just kept the house open at night and ran fans, or something. The truth is that for the most part I don’t recall ever being too hot durng the summer. As I grew into and then out of middle age heat suddenly became an issue. Sleepless nights on sweaty bedsheets didn’t make for productive next days. So I’m a big fan of Air Conditioning. But not like my wife who prefers cooling the bedroom down so much that she can sleep wearing blankets.

    In re: Prof. Gates… My daughter had become addicted to cop shows in TruTV. One recent episode was about an annual boat party somewhere out in California or Nevada. The camera followed a deputy sheriff around as he checked up on boaters, arrested drunkers and reminded people of proper boat safety. A lot of the people he approached were cocky bastards sure in their knowledge of their personal rights. The sort of people who rode the trumbels to the gulliotine without ever understanding why they had to die. But also I was struck by how often the deputy would begin a conversation by demanding that the boaters turn off their engine. He never explained why they should do this, but would get increasingly demanding if they didn’t. It seemed as if he was making this demand just to see if the people on the boat would do what he told them unquestioningly, to prove his power over them.

    It seems to me that the situation with Prof. Gates had the same dynamics. The officer involved was trying to establish his dominance in the situation irregardless of the man’s right to be in his own house and his right to be unmolested while in his own house.

    Earlier today I read a report on BoingBoing.net about a man in England who was arrested for taking a photograph of a highway bridge being demolished. The police seemed to think a guy had to be a terrorist for having an interest in public works. And things went downhill from there. I guess that’s why the defining characteristic of a Police State is the, er, police.

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  27. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    paddyo and cooz,

    Where did you find instant, irrefutable truth on the details of the Gates incident?

    I’ve read the police report and, if what the cop recorded is true, there would be ample cause for arrest. I don’t know if it’s true or not. Yelling at a cop, in a belligerent manner, after being told to stop, in front of a crowd, will get you arrested most places.

    It does seem the cop is being unhelpful by failing to have a history of bias to support the accuations being made by some. Giving CPR to Reggie Lewis a few years ago was probably juat a ruse to hide his seething racial hatred.

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  28. coozledad said on July 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Ahh sweet freedom. White, white freedom. I gotcher post racial society right here:

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  29. Jen said on July 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    beb, I’m with your wife on using blankets to sleep. My husband gets annoyed because I always want to have a comforter on if at all possible, even in the summer. A lot of times it’s too hot, but I’m always trying to get the bedroom cool enough so I can pile on the blankets. He thinks it’s weird, but I love that comforting feeling of a comforter over me.

    Our office is quite warm and stuffy because we almost never have the AC on. It’s about 78 degrees in here right now. And it’s freezing in the winter – we have to bundle up! Oh well – if the money they save on heating and cooling keeps my paycheck coming, I’m totally cool with it.

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  30. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    And cooz,

    Yes, the ease with which you can be arrested in this country simply for giving a cop an earful does bother the civil libertarian in me. It’s justified (in cop training) as a necessary element of crowd control and crowd safety, but it is open for abuse by cops with egos.

    You will rarely see an arrest made solely for belligerence (disorderly conduct) absent the presence of a crowd, like with a traffic stop. Most good police forces watch for that as a sign of a bad cop.

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  31. Sue said on July 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Several years back we visited my in-laws in Tucson (full of so many senior citizens that a common bumper sticker – at the time, anyway – was ‘Helen Keller is alive and well and driving in Tucson’) and went to a local museum. My kind of museum, the small local museum with lots of info on boring locals but also lots of stuff on What It Was Like Back Then. That’s where I learned the importance in the early days of Arizona of ALWAYS shaking out the laundry when you took it off the line. They didn’t say why, but I assume large biting things were involved. I love those museums and try to find the local one whenever I go somewhere.
    And re Rana’s comments on aggressive cops: not to knock those who Serve and Protect, but I work near and with enough of them to know that a portion of that population is by nature borderline scary-aggressive, enough so that they carry the behavior into their private lives. Probably necessary to an extent in the job, but not when you’re using the same skills on some counter clerk. I’m actually frightened of some of the cops I know. And no, I’m not drawing a comparison on the Gates thing – I’ve deliberately not followed it.

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  32. Dexter said on July 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    the Jon Carroll link:

    Carroll doesn’t exaggerate when he describes the TV scene..Phil Liggett knows cycling like no one else, but he is frequently corrected by Paul Sherwen when he mis-identifies a rider. Yesterday he had the entire chase group wrong, he thought he was describing Chase 1 and instead the few isolated cyclists were simply the lead racers in the peloton. I am not criticizing Liggett, and only because Sherwen can study all the monitors and is not constantly commentating can he jump in with the correct information.
    The two sports that have greatly improved television coverage are cycling and hockey. Thirty years ago a hockey game on espn showed high shots of glaring ice, the skaters were unidentifiable figures, and the puck was invisible. I never watched those games. In 2009 we can see the players’ faces and seeing the puck is easy. HD makes it a great sport to watch.
    We never had coverage of cycling like VS give us . I never really understood slip-streaming techniques and team strategies until Versus began (as OLN) televising the TDF a few years ago. Now, it’s the highlight of my summers, as I am retired and can watch it all morning long. This year’s TDF was not nearly as entertaining as the past few, at least until Tuesday, when it “got good.”
    I was wrong in my assumption that Lance Armstrong was sandbagging and he would dominate today’s time trial. One more mountain to climb and Alerto Contador will be the 2009 TDF winner.

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  33. Mindy said on July 23, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    My husband’s summer allergies make a/c a must. We get along without it as much as possible until it has to be on to ensure his survival. I lived without it entirely until I was in my twenties. Until then, summer nights meant getting eaten alive by mosquitoes that somehow evaded the window screens. Neither of the cars we owned during our five-year stint in Florida was equipped with a/c. Getting around in the summer months was just awful. Now I don’t think twice about blasting the cold air in the car.

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  34. Sue said on July 23, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Maybe this is a topic for another day, but damn. No health care vote before the recess. I hope this isn’t the beginning of the end.

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  35. Old-time Editor said on July 23, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Aw, Nancy. He’d LIE belly down.

    (I can be a real pain.)

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  36. mcegg said on July 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Rana…I have fingerless gloves at my desk as well and wear them mainly in the summertime. I made the mistake of wearing sandals to the movies a month or so ago…the next time I put on my shoes and socks before I grabbed my sweatshirt.

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  37. Jolene said on July 23, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    In academia and the fringes of it that we see in popular culture (e.g., PBS documentaries), there are few people more famous than Skip Gates. So, he is likely used to being treated with deference, and, of course, the police officer is too, just by virtue of his office. So both of these guys may have short fuses, and Gates, having just returned from a long flight, was likely exhausted and probably irritated by not having been able to get into his house as well. A bad situation all around, but I hold the police to a higher standard. Any police officer should be practiced in de-escalating potentially dangerous situations, and, as has been reported, Gates is in his late 50s, is 5’7″ tall, weighs about 15o pounds, wears glasses, and walks with a cane. It is so improbable that such a person would be a burglar that you have to think the officer could have managed the situation in a different way.

    In my younger (and thinner and cuter) days, I was aware of receiving more courteous treatment in Chicago’s traffic court than the less well-dressed, less well-spoken, and darker-skinned people whose cases were on the docket the same day as mine. Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose wonderful writing I’ve linked to before, has a great piece about whether and when he’d call the police. Do check it out, and follow his links too.

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  38. Danny said on July 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Old-time Editor, the conjugations of the verbs “to lay” and “to lie” are an impenetrable mystery. No lie.

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  39. moe99 said on July 23, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Crowd control???? Crowd control???? The man was in his own home for cripe’s sake. There was no crowd. Talk about sticking with the facts. I’ll take Gates’ over some white cop’s effort to cover his butt after he realized how gigantic his goof was.

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  40. Danny said on July 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Dexter/MichaelG, two twitpics from Armstrong.

    This first one is Johan Bruyneel running in 1979. He looks about 12 years old there.

    This second one is a view of Lake Annecy. Beautiful.

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  41. KLG said on July 23, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Here you go , Mark:

    About Phoenix: AC indeed has been important for the growth of that metropolis but the abuse of the Colorado River watershed along with the resulting devastation of the Colorado River delta was absolutely essential. As the water runs dry I imagine we will see Phoenix return to being “a nasty, tiny, mis­er­able out­post” with just a few people.

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  42. Scout said on July 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    KLG, hopefully I’ll be long gone by the time Phoenix returns to its roots. Right now I’m trapped here by real estate holdings with negative equity and a crippled 401(k). It was not this hot when I first moved here 26 years ago; the proliferation of concrete has made living here in the summer more unpleasant with each passing year.

    Jolene, I just finished reading Coates’ take on the Gates incident too. The more I hear, the more I believe the cop lost his cool because he got sassed. He made a mistake. He should just admit it and quit trying to bolster his case.

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  43. nancy said on July 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    And when it does, no, you can’t have any Michigan water.

    On Gates: Why can’t cops handle a sassing? I know, I know, they have to assert authority, and that can be a complicated thing, but isn’t there any room for judgment? I’m very very very uncomfortable with a cop culture that can’t handle a little perfectly reasonable backtalk. Especially when the backtalker is a five-foot-six-inch man in his 60s. It’s not like he’s a crazed meth head.

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  44. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm


    You should read the pohice report. It references the gathering crowd. More than once. It may be complete fabrication or complete truth. I don’t know and neither do you. It claims the arrest was made outside, after Gates refused to quiet down.


    Thanks for the link. But I’ve read the police report and I don’t gain much from somebody else innacurately rehashing a report of unknown accuracy, particularly when the somebody first declares that “we all know that the arrest is about race and sex” and that he is certain the report is fabricated. I’ll read it more closely once you explain why we all know the incident was about sex.

    Here’s a hard truth. In some neighborhoods, mainly poor and high crime, when a crowd (5 or more) is present, it is dangerous to allow a person to rant and just scream and bitch at a cop. The situation often escalates, and thus becomes more dangerous to the cops and the non-cops.

    We are too politically correct to acknowledge that the danger varies by neighborhood, and that the Grosse Pointers who come out to see what the fuss is may not react to the yelling the same way the inhabitants of the worst housing project might. Cops are taught to treat the situation the same so they DON’T discriminate, even though the dangers are often less or non-existent.

    So the wealthy doctor who wants to impress his well-heeled neighbors by shouting about the cop’s mama is supposed to be as much at risk of arrest as the gang-banger who does the same thing in front of a crowd in the projects.

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  45. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 5:10 pm


    I posted before seeing yours. They should and usually do handle backtalk when others aren’t present. I agree with you about using judgment, but judgment would often dictate the white guy in Cambridge gets to spout off and the black guy in Watts gets cuffed based upon the demographics of the people close at hand. And that would look exactly like the profiling we want to avoid.

    BTW, ABC is reporting the cop is apparently an academy instructor on racial profiling.

    I think Jolene is most likely to have an accurate view of the situation, once the facts emerge. If so, I think our president was a little hasty in his remarks.

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  46. moe99 said on July 23, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    mark, you really do not get it do you? Have you never dealt with police reports that sanitized or exaggerated things to the benefit of the police? As I said, I would take Gates’ recitation of events over that of the police. And the photos I’ve seen show Gates handcuffed on his porch. If I were handcuffed on my porch for no reason, I think I’d be justified in yelling about it too. And I’ve not read that Gates verbally attacked the policeman’s mother.

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  47. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I have no doubt that you will assume any set of facts that will satisfy any pre-existing bias you hold. I hace said twice the things in the report may be completely untrue. I don’t know and neither do you.

    You should read the police report. Then you would at least be able to accurately recite the claims of the person you have chosen to disbelieve, which would give you a handle on that which you have already declared to be lies. Or just keep making things up as you see fit to make whatever point you are trying to make.

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  48. KLG said on July 23, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Scout: I do feel you pain about the real estate debacle and the concrete and you have my sympathies.

    Mark: I read the police report, too. The good sergeant is obviously in full CYA mode. It’s not going to work this time. And so what if he is an instructor on racial profiling? But there is a larger point here. As police departments have become more and more militarized they have lost sight of their reason for being, which is “to protect and to serve.” Who was Sgt. Crowley serving and protecting when he arrested a resident of his very own house by luring him onto the front porch so he could nab him for “disorderly conduct” in front of the gathering crowd that is required by statute to support the charge?

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  49. Jolene said on July 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    moe, the police report does say that Gates referred to the officer’s mother. After being asked to come outside to talk to the officer, Gates is reported to have said, “I’ll talk to your mama outside,” which isn’t pleasant but still seems like something the officer could have walked away from.

    mark, Gates has described the police report as a work of fiction. Whether he is correct is something none of us can know. Your observation about police officers having to guard against the possibility that a crowd could form and the situation could worsen when they are in high-crime areas may be valid, but it doesn’t apply to this situation. It was broad daylight, he already knew that Gates was unarmed, and Gates is a small, partially disabled, no longer young man.

    Meanwhile, the Cambridge police commissioner just held a press conference in which he said that they are going to stydy this incident to try to understand what the might do better in the future, even though he also said that Officer Crowley handled the situation appropriately. He had no explanation as to why they dropped the charges.

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  50. moe99 said on July 23, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Plus the police report states that a number of police officers had gather outside the Gates house. That in and of itself can cause a crowd to form.

    I’ve read the police report, and I will offer a link to it here so that others may read it themselves without the necessity of searching for it.
    And all I can say mark, is ‘feh.’ It sounds like Gates was unreasonably disturbed in his home by a bull headed police officer, who couldn’t bring the temperature of the situation down. He finally had to show Gates who was boss. And as this conservative black writer at TNR makes it clear, relations with cops are a lightning rod for minorities, whether they are liberal or conservative:

    And, “I’ll talk to your momma outside.” Now That’s some really bad insult there. /sarcasm off.

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  51. beb said on July 23, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Wow, Mark, just … wow.

    The article KLG linked to discusses the fundamentals of “disorderly conduct, citing the actual law. The essential point was that a public audience had to exist. As long as Gates was inside his house, the officer had no case against him because there was no public involvement. So the officer lured Gates on to his porch, where the public did gather and thus the officer had his case. How did he lure Gates outside? by refusing to give him his name and badge number inside the house. Why did the officer refuse to give Gates his name and badge number inside the house? Wasn’t he obligated to do so? Wasn’t he obligated to depart the house as soon as Gates produced his Harvard ID, proving his right to be there?

    Mark, you keep saying that you’ve read the police report, but have you read Gates’ account of events? Why do you think the police officer is any more honest than Gates? Would you be carrying on like this is Gates wasn’t black? You’re sounding like one of those “birthers” who continue to deny that Obama is a citizen after being presented with his birth certificate.

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  52. MichaelG said on July 23, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    The arrest of Gates took place after it was established that he was not a burglar. I get a picture of two hot heads looking for something to light a fuse. Cops should be peacemakers not enforcers of their own dominance The picture includes two people who are accustomed to having others tug their forelocks in their presence. Regardless of whether Gates was a loud mouth ”do you know who I am” jerk or not, it’s the cop’s job to be the peacemaker and defuse things. He was on the payroll, there to do a job. Gates was in his own living room doing nothing untoward except failing to kiss Crowley’s ass. There was nothing going on here that Crowley couldn’t have walked away from. The report indicates that Crowley arrested Gates basically because he didn’t like his attitude. What would have happened if Crowley had walked away? Nothing, starting with the media frenzy which reflects credit on nobody, including Gates and Crowley. They had to cut Gates loose anyway because he wasn’t guilty of anything. Sometimes it’s not unmanly to back down. I think the cop was wrong. “Unprofessional” is a grossly overused term but it seems apt here.

    I live in Sacramento where the average July and Aug daily high is in the mid nineties. Not Phoenix, but not arctic. We had five or six days in a row in triple digits last week. I am not a masochist. I run my A/C. What makes Sacto habitable are the night time temps. Average low in July and Aug is 61 degrees.


    In the Bay Area it was a different story. In all my years in Berkeley and San Francisco, I never lived in a house with A/C.

    Somebody in the article that Nance referenced claimed to have saved $2100 last summer by turning off the A/C. My total gas and electricity cost for May through September, 2008 was $374.14. That’s everything, lights, hot water, cooking, A/C, washer, dryer, etc. I’d sure like to see some back up on that $2100 claim.

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  53. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 7:22 pm


    Where did I say I believe the cop or don’t believe Gates? Here, for the fourth time, I have no way of knowing what actually happened and neither do you. Unlike you, I’m not willing to use my ignorance as an opening to criticize either party.

    Yes, I’ve also read what little I can find of Gates’ statements. I’ve heard his conclusion that the arrest was based on race but I haven’t seen any statement by him of facts from which he draws the conclusion, other than the race of the parties. If there is more, Gates hasn’t shared it or I haven’t found it.

    And when are you and KGL going to explain how we all know this was about race and sex? Or has the basis for the outrage shifted again?

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  54. coozledad said on July 23, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    When the language sounds wrong, it usually is. If you are prone to believe that a historian will use an insult cobbled from 1970’s Black television dialect, fine. You can help the LAPD file reports, or pursue a career in the kind of advocacy journalism practiced by Kit Seelye or Mara Liason. You also might want to consider that you’re ignoring the law of probability because you know in your heart the blackamoor is always, down deep, George Jefferson.
    Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

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  55. moe99 said on July 23, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I’ll be happy to take this opinion by Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on this case even though Boston is in a different Circuit. Kozinski is no bleeding heart liberal either.

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  56. 4dbirds said on July 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    “My total gas and elec­tric­ity cost for May through Sep­tem­ber, 2008 was $374.14.”

    Really? Wow. I’m impressed. I’m lucky if that’s my monthly bill. Last July I had a $600.00 electric bill. Yes that’s right and it wasn’t a mistake. I don’t live in a mansion. I live in a moderate house with a crappy 20 year old central air conditioning system with 6 other adults who are always running something, cooking something, showering etc. I stopped being the craggy, bitching old lady who complains about the lights being on or how its perfectly possible to survive with the thermostat set to 76. The only person I was making miserable was myself. Now I just pay up every month and instead of Christmas this year, I’m buying an energy efficient air conditoner.

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  57. Jolene said on July 23, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Check out this story re how the assumptions that cops make about black people can affect black cops. And note that black cops hold these problematic assumptions as well.

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  58. Dexter said on July 23, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    This baseball story crossed over into the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams:
    Mark Buehrle of the White Sox threw only the 18th perfect game in history.
    I wish I could have been there!

    Thanks for the TwitPix, Danny.

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  59. Deborah said on July 23, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    It is just hard for me to believe that anyone who read the police report and what Gates has said about the incident, can possibly think that there is an iota of justification for the policeman to have arrested Gates. It seems so obvious to me, there is no other way to look at it than an act of racism. I reacted in a racist manner once and I’m embarrassed every time I think of it. I was at the local grocery store, there was a young black man behind me in line, he kept staring at me and acting like he was going to approach me, he was wearing one of those knit caps pulled low onto his face. I started to get nervous, there was only one person in front of me and this kid was the only other person in line, it was a small neighborhood corner store and only a young woman was at the check-out. To make a long story short, it turned out to be a former neighbor kid who recognized me as his friend’s mother (my daughter) but I hadn’t seen him for years since he was a little grade schooler. When I asked him how he was doing he told me that he was trying to decide which college to accept Boston University or another school. I was mortified that I thought this outstanding young man was a thug. I don’t think of myself as a racist, but that was absolutely an act of racism on my part.

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  60. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    yes, moe, that’s an interesting case. It has absolutely no application to the facts alleged against Gates, but an interesting case. As I stated in a very early post, the crowd matters and cops don’t get to arrest just because you tell them off, as in a traffic stop.


    If you think references about “your mama” are a throwback to the seventies, you need to volunteer at an urban youth center.

    Speculation that the cop let his ego get the better of him or lured Gates outside is within the realm of reasonable, but hardly a compelled conclusion from what is currently known. And a far cry from the race and (sex?) allegations being thrown around.

    I have no way of knowing what actually happened to Gates, but I do know something about how cops are trained. I represented cops in false arrest and excessive force claims for about 5 years, including several who were guilty as sin and for whom a negotiated settlement was the only conclusion. I took the State Police Academy 12 week course in use of force.

    Here are the “probabilities” the cops were being taught at the time: For 95 out of 100 people that cops encounter during their work- suspects, complainants, witnesses, traffic stops, etc, the only force a cop will need is the uniform. Ninety-five percent become obedient and compliant merely because of the position and the legal authority it represents.

    For three of the remaining five, a verbal command is the only additional force necessary. This is why the vast majority of police contacts, stops, etc result in no claims of citizen misconduct during interactions with the police. It is why tens of thousands of traffic stops occur every day without incident.

    Cops are not taught to walk away from a verbal assault that they cannot control with a verbal command (if that is what occurred here). They are taught the opposite, If they are dealing with one of the two in one hundred they are to heighten their awareness, scrutiny of surroundings, presence of others, safety of location, access to weapons, etc. It signals the first significant step up in what is referred to as a force continuim.

    A verbal assault that will not cease on command is to be treated as a big danger sign. Danger to the cop, other cops, other citizens and the one shouting. Escalation to violence is a statistically much greater probability. In addition to mere anger, fear, mental illness and influence of a substance all have to be considered. Most sizable forces have mental illness intervention teams that are called not infrequently. The sixty year old little man who is behaving inappropriately (if he was) may be suicidal or under the influence of a mix-up in his prescription medications, in which case “protect and serve” does not mean just leave him alone so we can avoid a stupid arrest.

    If these things sound rare, they have to be measured against the rarity of a citizen who won’t stop verbally assaulting an officer when ordered to do so (if that is what happened). Cops don’t turn their back and walk away from the two percent. It’s dangerous. If, as alleged, Gates continued his conduct even after being threatened with arrest, he moved into an even smaller group.

    Yes, if I assume the cop knew who Professor Gates is (and maybe he did) then I would expect him to put the alleged rant in context and find a better way to resolve things. From what I understand of the facts, Crowley could have said “Sir, I’m getting nowhere here with you so I’m going to step away and let you talk with Officer —–“, although that would be a rare thing in my experience. And cops are taught to treat people the same, not to afford more deference to Harvard professors.

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  61. coozledad said on July 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    That’s just it. We’re not talking about an urban youth center. We’re talking about an academic. A historian. the right seems a little desperate to keep that racist bauble dangling and admire the light from it. If you think a professor indulges in this white interpolation of black speech you obviously haven’t been in academia. There’s a self policing that goes on with everyone who doesn’t become a master of late twentieth century high-tea conversation, which is why paleontologists and plastic arts teachers never get to hobnob with the trustees. If you can’t discuss the viscosity of the garlic aoli in hushed tones while studiously avoiding the subject of the provost being caught shagging a freshman, you’ll never get tenure. Gates is in his fifties. This is standard righty wish fulfillment horseshit.
    Look at the fucks who’re peddling it.
    Looks to me like the right’s got them a new plaster saint, like John Birch, or Bill Calley, or Joe the Plumber. Good. They can pay his damn legal bills-he’s stepped into a bucket full of them.

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  62. brian stouder said on July 23, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Well, just as every so often there is a total eclipse of the sun, so, too, every so often I find myself in total agreement with coozledad – and this is one of those times.

    Here’s a thought experiment: conjure up an image of a favorite right-wing academic or cultural icon…maybe a Shawn Hannity or William Kristol, or a throwback like Charles Murray or some muckety muck from Hillsdale College or Liberty University.

    Then – assume the exact same scenario that ended with Gates’ arrest played out – and that all we know matches exactly this Gates case.

    I betcha plenty of marks in the crowd would suddenly see a reprehensible example of Big Brother stomping on liberty and unreasonably invading a man’s castle and violating his God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (etc etc)…and at the very least – as an example of police behaving “stupidly”.

    (and anyway – the police sure dropped everything in a hurry, yes? Why would they have done that smart thing, if not to correct a stupid mistake?)

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  63. coozledad said on July 23, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Aioli, dammit. Garlic already.

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  64. KLG said on July 23, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Mark: I never said the Gates thing had anything to do with sex. And if you really believe race has nothing to do with this episode, starting with the initial call to the police, you are one with my Southern (I’m a Georgian) compatriots who maintain that the Civil War was about States’ Rights. Yeah. The rights of states to allow slavery. Anyway, it’s been fun. But let’s not do this again.

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  65. MichaelG said on July 23, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I still think Gates probably behaved like a jerk and I still think it doesn’t matter. What people are saying about cop training is that it is all about dominance and statistics. I don’t see anything about people skills and common sense. Everything is about defeating a threat rather than defusing it. The whole thing about cops is that as an institution, as a group they have become increasingly alienated, insular and defensive. Also scared. They should be part of the community rather than a body elevated above or to the side of the community. Their interests should be the community’s interests rather than their own which may or may not coincide with the community from time to time. Cops should be peoples’ friends, not their adversaries.

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  66. Deborah said on July 23, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Here’s something I never considered, my husband who lived in Cambridge when he was a graduate student at Harvard (before we met) informed me that it is a very small community and that the police should know all the luminaries who live there, as he said just like the police in Chicago know where Michael Jordan and Oprah live. He says Gates would have been a celebrity in that community and they should have known who he was and where he lived.

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  67. moe99 said on July 23, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    mark, I’ve worked for two state attorney general’s offices for almost twenty years now. And what you say about how police are trained, is crap where I live and work, and should be crap everywhere else. In Washington the government is not exempt from private suit. Maybe that is what drives police here to be more polite.

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  68. bryan said on July 23, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Nance —
    Did you ever go into the JG newsroom after they installed the fans? It was like stepping onto the deck of a helicopter transport ship. I was afraid to stand fully erect because I feared I would get beaned by one of those rotating blades.

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  69. Jolene said on July 23, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I don’t think so, Deborah. Gates’s fame does not extend that far into the public domain. He is, as I said above, very famous in certain academic disciplines, and he has a modest degree of fame as a public intellectual, but I wouldn’t expect the police to know where he lived. I lived there, too, and taught at MIT for a couple of years, and I never got the impression that les eminences on the faculty were known to the local constabulary. At most, he might have been expected to know that Harvard owns a lot of property in the area, some of which the university rents to its most famous faculty.

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  70. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    I don’t know why i bother, moe, but try googling “force continuum”. What I posted is pretty standard stuff for law enforcement training, notwithstanding your 20 years, blah, blah, blah. And nothing about use of force training is inconsistent with officers being polite.

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  71. Joe Kobiela said on July 23, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Most police I know have a motto they live by.
    Better to be judged by twelve,
    than carried by six.
    Pilot Joe

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  72. mark said on July 23, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    And moe, it took me another 4 minutes or so to determine that the force continuum is taught by the Washington State Patrol to its officer trainees. Somebody forgot to tell you.

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  73. moe99 said on July 24, 2009 at 12:44 am


    Here is what it says at the top of the force continuum chart as I found it at the Seattle Police Department website:


    There is nothing, not one iota of evidence in the record that Henry Louis Gates was attempting to escape or assault the police officer. Force continuum was not applicable. And unlike you, who likes to cite big sounding things without providing a link to them, here it is:

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  74. Jolene said on July 24, 2009 at 12:58 am

    Based on several years of experience as a police reporter for the The Harvard Crimson, Marc Ambinder gives us a useful description of police-community relations in Cambridge. It’s slightly condescending, but it captures both the character of the town and the tensions between the police and the people.

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  75. Dexter said on July 24, 2009 at 1:05 am

    I live just two states away from New Jersey and I’ve been around a long time, but hell yes, this shocked me too. Rabbi money launderers? Mayors and Assemblymen, OK, I dig it, but RABBIS?


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  76. moe99 said on July 24, 2009 at 9:58 am

    The Florida physician who sent an email photoshopped to make it look like Obama was a witch doctor has apologized. He offered that he once organized a career counseling day for African American boy scouts, so he could not be considered a racist.


    I assume that the good doctor was taking tips from Officer Crowley.

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  77. alex said on July 24, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Bet the good doctor would suck face with Reggie Lewis too if given the opportunity.

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  78. coozledad said on July 24, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I can’t imagine how they think “unhinged black professor” will play with any of the electorate outside the oxy snorters and the biker trash the Republicans have recently taken to shacking up with.
    Of course it’ll give Billo the obligatory authoritarian cultist hard-on, and give Lou Dobbs an opportunity to ease out of his birther froth. But I suspect the new voters from the last cycle will be out in force again in 2010, with even more of the folks that make George Will instinctively reach for his hand sanitizer.

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  79. moe99 said on July 24, 2009 at 11:15 am


    This really belongs in this thread and not today’s but some important things are said here that should be noted.

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