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The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"If the beer summit President Obama is hosting tonight puts to rest the latest national debate over racial profiling, the White House would consider it a success," Mary Mitchell writes this morning. "But the summit would still be a cheap political trick."

I hope the White House is smart enough to know that the summit isn't going to put anything to rest. In fact, it will probably extend the tiresome discussion for another few days - or until the next incident comes along that we can all chew over.

"If Obama were serious about tackling this explosive issue, he would have called a town hall meeting in Cambridge that brought together black members of the community, law enforcement and the media to hash out what went wrong here," Mitchell writes.

I don't know about that, but I do find it interesting that no one seems to be invoking at this particular moment the supposedly brilliant speech on race that Obama gave to get past the Jeremiah Wright imbroglio.

What was it he said again?

I do like the idea of including the media in a town hall meeting, though. They seem woefully ignorant of basic police procedure.

And it's a shame, because African Americans are getting their teeth kicked in by cops every day and no one seems to care as long as they aren't Harvard professors facing the excruciating humiliation of being asked a few questions to ascertain the facts in response to a concerned phone call.

"The Cambridge police were wrong to lure Gates outdoors to arrest him after establishing that Gates was in his home - even if the haughty scholar was hysterical," Don Terry writes today in the Sun-Times.

I'm not sure that sentiment comports with the facts.

Police officers don't like to talk to folks through a door. It could be dangerous. They want to see where your hands are at all times, and have you within reach. That's entirely reasonable.

And showing someone identification doesn't establish anything. If Gates had indeed been a burglar, he might have gotten a driver's license from inside the home - or from the body of the homeowner stuffed in the closet.

Crowley was doing his job - protecting Gates's home.

Cops can be assholes, just like anyone else, but there is a certain way to behave when dealing with them.

For starters, do what they say (as long as it's legal) and show them some respect. You will not always know what kind of case they are pursuing or why they want certain pieces of information. It's not always about you.

Unless you are Christopher Hitchens. It's always about him.

"Last Memorial Day, I was going in a taxi down to Washington, D.C.'s Vietnam Memorial when a police car cut across the traffic and slammed everything to a halt. Opening the window and asking what the problem was and how long it might last, I was screeched at by a stringy-haired, rat-faced blond beast, who acted as if she had been waiting all year for the chance to hurt someone. (She was wearing a uniform that I had helped pay for.)," Hitchens writes in his syndicated column, reprinted today in the Sun-Times.

Imagine yourself as a police officer with reason to cut across traffic and slam everything to a halt being interrupted by Christopher Hitchens from the back of a cab wanting to know what the fuck was taking so long.

Yes, this story is as much about elites as it is about race.

Hitchens, for example, is white.

But he has important places to be.

And he can't imagine the inconvenience - the gall, even - of being questioned in his own home by a police officer responding to a report of a possible break-in.

Because after all, who wouldn't recognize Christopher Hitchens - or Skip Gates?


Kass: "Teachable Moment On Tap At O'Bama's."

Clout Spout
"Two state lawmakers testified Wednesday that the University of Illinois admissions process ought to be insulated from outside influences, including any show of political muscle by elected officials," the Tribune reports.

"Yet state Senators Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora) both defended their own information requests as legitimate constituent service, not an attempt to tamper with the admissions review."

Stealth Health
Snippets from today's AP story about the latest changes to the health care provisions being negotiated by the House:

* " . . . an increase in employer-sponsored insurance . . . "

* " . . . would reduce the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance . . . "

* " . . . Instead of the federal government picking up the full cost of an expansion of Medicaid, states would pick up part of the costs . . . "

* " . . . In his appearances, Obama stressed that any legislation he signs will include numerous consumer protections, including a ban on insurance company denials of coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. A White House fact sheet left room for insurers to continue charging higher premiums based on prior health problems . . . "

Teachable Moment
"When Barack Obama and fellow state lawmakers in Illinois tried to expand healthcare coverage in 2003 with the 'Health Care Justice Act,' they drew fierce opposition from the insurance industry, which saw it as a back-handed attempt to impose a government-run system," the Boston Globe reported during the campaign.

"Over the next 15 months, insurers and their lobbyists found a sympathetic ear in Obama, who amended the bill more to their liking partly because of concerns they raised with him and his aides, according to lobbyists, Senate staff, and Obama's remarks on the Senate floor."

Health Care and Skip Gates Reader
* "No, isn't Obama's fault. But good lord! What strange goal!"

* "In a neighborly gesture, King helps a bogus claim thrive."

* "Wealth and fame are bad for good people at that 'nexus of power'."

* "For us, the incident's first 'teachable moment' concerned Matthews, Page and Dyson."

* "It's not just for white people anymore."

Wal-Mart's Phony Poll
Don't fall for the smiley face.

Cook County Neglects Dead People
Their cemeteries aren't great shakes either.

Worst Stimulus Site Ever
Illinois gets 0 points, ranks last.

Revolt on Goose Island
"It's like they were mocking us."

In part one of our two-part excerpt from Kari Lyderson's book.

Chubby Chaser TV
In What I Watched Last Night.

Purple Rain Revisited
Better than Thriller.

At Ring Lardner's Table
"In truth, the journalism era of Lardner, Grantland Rice, and Damon Runyon was long on storytelling, short on actual probing, and done with a very selective use of facts," Mike Conklin writes.

Ode to a Chicago Pizzeria
How hast thee possibly stayed Zagat rated?


The Beachwood Tip Line: Stay alert.


Posted on July 30, 2009

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike Settled.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Come On, Vic!

BOOKS - Chicago Book Haul: The Dial.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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