Media Failure: Gates And Crowley Need To Personally Lead

Yesterday morning I posted (Henry Louis Gates’ Contempt Of Cop) on the legal implications of the Henry Louis Gates arrest thrust into the national consciousness by President Obama with his response to a question at Wednesday night’s prime time healthcare press conference. The discussion here was outstanding, however in the major media forums of print, and especially television news and talk programming, the situation has devolved and cleaved into the all too predictable he said/she said pitting of one side versus the other. Left versus right. White versus black. Conservative versus liberal. Law and order versus criminal. Yadda, yadda yadda.

In short, what passes for media and journalism in this country today has failed the public audience it is supposed to serve. Again. A disappointing, but certainly not shocking result.

None of us, and none of the chattering media, were there at the Crowley-Gates scene, but we never really are for these moments in life and history; we still learn and live vicariously through them. By no means was Gates’ conduct exemplary in the encounter, it simply was not. As far as the encounter itself, he was every bit as responsible for the escalation, and quite arguably more so, as the officer, James Crowley. By the same token, Crowley is the trained professional, who teaches other officers how to handle and diffuse situations exactly like this one, and he did not acquit himself well at all either. But that is as to the facts and interpersonal dynamics; from a legal standpoint, Gates’ conduct was clearly and unquestionably completely legal. Irrespective of his conduct, Gates’ arrest was patently false and illegal; you would think some of the media’s vaunted "experts" might could point that out.

The Crowley-Gates incident, however, provides a great teaching moment from both points of view, because each side made their point with classically poor conduct; we can all learn much from both. It is a perfect, and for once not tragic, vignette from which to discuss lingering and important issues of race in America. We owe both sides of the incident, Mr. Gates and Mr. Crowley, as well as the President and ourselves, the duty to take advantage of the moment and raise the discourse.

The media, and the citizens it serves, need to stop debating the legality of the arrest, because there really is no valid legal dispute there. The arrest itself was illegal. The national conversation should accept that, leave it behind, and move to the ground of what happened in the interpersonal dynamics of the two protagonists, what it meant to each other and what it means to Read more

Henry Louis Gates’ Contempt Of Cop

At last night’s nationally televised press conference, a reporter, Lynn Sweet, asked President Obama a question about the July 16 arrest of famed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. Obama gave a perfectly reasonable answer, at first a little humorous as to what would have happened to him in a similar circumstance, and then indicating that the Cambridge Massachusetts police department "acted stupidly", followed by a serious discussion of the lingering problems in the US of oppressive profiling and treatment by police of Blacks and Hispanics.

Obama’s response, predictably, set the chattering press all a twitter and a tweeting. This brief interlude at the very end of the press conference didn’t get as much afterglow coverage as the healthcare issues that were the reason for the press conference in the first place, but it sure seemed like it came close on cable channels such as CNN and MSNBC.

First off, let me say I agree with Josh Marshall:

But let’s be honest: this is all about a black guy getting on the side of another black guy who got crosswise with the cops. Why would he touch such a powder keg? Like it’s going to ignite at least one more battle in the late lamented Culture War.

That really is it, isn’t it? What set the twits a twittering was the first black President had the audacity to stand up for another black man and call the overzealous and oppressive police response in the case stupid. Well, the police response was stupid.

That said, before I go further, I would like to point out one thing. Barack Obama may have shown himself to be a truth teller and friend to Henry Gates last night, but he may have done Gates a disservice in one regard. The famed "Blue Line" of police in situations like this is a strong factor far greater than most people realize, and Obama’s comment will surely stiffen the police line in Gates’ case. It was a line already forming:

The union representing the police sergeant who arrested a prominent black Harvard professor last week at his home in Cambridge, Mass., said it was standing behind the officer. The union, the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, said in a statement that Sergeant James Crowley was a “highly respected veteran supervisor” who had its “full and unqualified support.” “His actions at the scene of this matter were consistent with his training, with the informed policies and practices of the Read more

Why GM Matters: Inside the Race to Transform an American Icon

[As I indicated yesterday in the post "Why American Industry (And Its Future) Matters", we have the privilege of having author William J. Holstein today at Emptywheel and Firedoglake. Mr. Holstein has a long and rich history as a journalist and author. Most importantly for today, he has plunged into the history and ethos of General Motors and produced an incredible work detailing just how critical General Motors, the American auto industry, and American industry itself is to the United States economy and way of life.

As Michael Fitzgerald observed at, "Holstein is using GM as a symbol for whether it makes sense for the U.S. to bother with manufacturing. That might sound odd for a country that for now probably remains the world’s largest manufacturing economy. But Holstein argues that our political and financial leaders don’t get manufacturing, and don’t think it’s important. This is the crux of the Main Street vs. Wall Street debate, and it is shaping up as the core fight of economic policy over the next few years: do we get a justifiable return if we invest in making things, or should we focus on information-driven innovation?"

I think that is right. Since we cannot layout the entire book in the intro here, Bill and I decided to focus on the emerging technology, and specifically battery/electric technology, and the new product lines, that GM is producing. With that said, what follows are prepared remarks in that regard by Bill Holstein. Take a look, and then join us in discussion. I am looking forward to the best and brightest that inhabit our little corner of the world participating in and driving this. Oh, and visit Bill anytime at his blog Also, I heartily recommend purchasing his book, it is a fascinating look into a critical issue of our time, not to mention a great read. – bmaz]

By: William J. Holstein:

It’s time to cut through all the nonsense about General Motors “not making cars that Amrericans want to buy.” The truth is that GM has seized design and performance leadership over its longtime nemesis, Toyota. Toyota’s cars these days resemble appliances, i.e. refrigerators on wheels. They don’t break, but they hardly inspire.

In terms of their physical appearance, GM vehicles have real attitude. The new CTS has a very bold and aggressive front end that designer John Manoogian came up with at the last moment. He and his team decided to take the V-shape that used to stop at the bumpers and let it plunge below the bumpers toward the ground. They also inserted grilles on the right front panels merely for decorative purposes. That nearly drove the engineers crazy because of the challenge of stamping a piece of sheet metal with an odd hole in the middle of it. But they did it. At first, the competition could not believe that GM had figured out how to achieve that.

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T. Boone or not T. Boone



We have had quite the go lately here at the FDL Borg Hive over the automaker bailout and, more specifically, the most pressing of which is GM. For the moment though, I want to touch on a corollary to the future of the American auto industry, and that is the transition to clean and green that needs to occur for long term sustainability of Deetroit wheels.

If we could flip the switch on a perpetual motion device, heck even the Chevy Volt, tomorrow, that would be wonderful. But we cannot. The path back to health and profit prosperity for American auto will be a process that takes time, and it is going to take intermediate steps while the new technology comes on line, gets refined and evolves into maturity.

The guy, for better or worse, that has been out front making noise about the transition from oil to clean and green is none other than the infamous, and legendary, Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens. Transition is the key word regarding the Pickens Plan as it relates to our topic de jour, automobiles. Because the Volt is not scheduled for release until 2010, and even assuming GM and its Volt makes it that far (which is no given), it will take a while for plug in technology to become deeply rooted. And, of course, a massive shift all at once to electric autos would crash our strapped and deteriorating power grid.

Pickens’ main point on internal combustion transition is that natural gas should be a, it not the, transition fuel for cars, and, more significantly, fleet vehicles.

Pickens’ Plan proposes that the natural gas that is currently used to fuel power plants could be used instead as a fuel for thousands of vehicles. Ken Medlock says that the US will continue to use natural gas for electric power generation. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, making it an increasingly popular fuel for power plants. Gas plants also produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

The technology needed for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles such as City buses, fork lifts and passenger cars with CNG drivetrains is available now. Honda sells the Civic GX, with a 170-mile range. In addition, it is possible to convert vehicles to run on CNG in addition to leaving the conventional fuel injection intact, allowing the driver to switch back and forth at will. Kits are available for the do-it-yourselfer. Read more

Allen's Mob and Their Caca

By now, you’ve no doubt read about or seen the video of George Allen drudging up the racism his mother taught him to insult an Indian-American student trailing his campaign for the Webb campaign. Allen is now on his second or third excuse right now, trying to claim he was talking caca all the time.

Allen’s a racist, and we need to use Allen’s antics to make that clear to people.

But I’d like to suggest you go back and watch the video and listen to the crowd. The clip starts with Allen talking about "positive and constructive ideas," how it’s important "that we motivate people for something." He then turns to Sidarth and launches his attack. At first, just one person–it sounds like a woman with a deep voice–cackles at Allen’s attack. As Allen continues, one person–perhaps the cackling woman–starts clapping, egging him on. One woman, and then several people, start yelling and hooting. By the time Allen suggests Webb has never been to this part of the state, many people are hooting. Allen, now playing off the energy of the crowd, looks away from Sidarth with an open mouthed laugh. Allen makes a crack that Webb is with a bunch of Hollywood types, and one man laughs loudly, Ha Haaa.

And then Allen brings them all into the joke. "Welcome. Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

And to that, it sounds like, everyone claps.

The Shrillification of the Moderates

I’m fascinated by the outpouring of moderates’ conversion narratives, from balanced and temperate to, um, shrill. JMM started it:

As Americans I think we need to grapple with what’s happened.  And it goes beyond President Bush.  He did after all win reelection.He marginally expanded his congressional majorities. In the rough andtumble of the political moment, the fight needs to be taken to thepresident and his party. But we also need a more probing considerationof the forces that have made all this possible.

In any case, this is all a way of saying that in this all-or-nothingcrisis the country has been passing through, I think it’s made sense toline up with those who say, No. I guess I’m one of those partisanizedmoderates Kevin Drum has spoken of (not sure that’s precisely thephrase he used.) That leads to a certain loss of nuance sometimes incommentary and a loss in the variegation of our politics generally. Asa writer, often it’s less satisfying.

But I cannot see looking back on all this, the threat the country is under, and saying, I stood aloof. 

How to Lose

About one thing the squalling Neocon Democrats are consistent. They claim that their positions–centrism and hawkishness–are the winning positions. But they ignore that in both recent elections and recent wars, those "winning" policies brought Democrats and the US only failure.

Which is about all you need to know about Marty Peretz’ latest straw man op-ed, beyond the fact that is filled with nasty name-calling. Here is Peretz’ little bit of wisdom:

Buthe does have one issue, and it is Iraq. He grasps little of thecomplexities of his issue, but then this, too, is true of the genus ofthe peace candidate. Peace candidates know only one thing, and that iswhy people vote for them.


NowMr. Lamont’s views are also not camouflaged. They are justsimpleminded. Here, for instance, is his take on what should be doneabout Iran’s nuclear-weapons venture: "We should work diplomaticallyand aggressively to give them reasons why they don’t need to build abomb, to give them incentives. We have to engage in very aggressivediplomacy. I’d like to bring in allies when we can. I’d like to usecarrots as well as sticks to see if we can change the nature of thedebate." Oh, I see. He thinks the problem is that they do notunderstand, and so we should explain things to them, and then they willdo the right thing. It is a fortunate world that Mr. Lamont lives in,but it is not the real one. Anyway, this sort of plying is preciselywhat has been going on for years, and to no good effect. Mr. Lamontcontinues that "Lieberman is the one who keeps talking about keepingthe military option on the table." And what is so plainly wrong withthat? Would Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be more agreeable if he thought that wehad disposed of the military option in favor of more country clubbehavior?

Let’s see. I’m sure Peretz would consider me a "peace" Democrat, even though I’m against stupid wars rather than all wars. But here’s what this "simple-minded" peace Democrat who "grasps little of the complexities" of the issues in the Middle East knew, before the war in Iraq.