Friday, July 24, 2009

Rhymes With "Detainee"

Cheney. Would we rescue him from the Hague?

Last week, the Pope fell. Normally he is considered infallible. He broke his wrist in the fall. Vehicles age.

Someone drove the Oscar Mayer weinermobile into an a-frame. Success at last.

Amazon demonstrated vast powers over digital books that readers have purchased for Amazon's Kindle book reading device. When copyright owners decided that Amazon was wrongly selling two of their books, Amazon deleted the purchased books from the world's Kindles and put $10 in each user's Amazon account.

The books? George Orwell's 'Brave New World' and '1984'. Sorry, they never existed.

A Cambridge, Massachusetts police sergeant has arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor and McArthur Foundation Genius Award winner, for sassing him. (Both of them have been invited to the White House for beer and sympathy.)

Called to check out a break-in report, the officer first confirmed that Professor Gates did live in the house, then asked him to step outside, whereupon the officer produced handcuffs, and as the assembled neighbors responded in obviously tumultous dismay, the officer calmed them and arrested Gates for causing tumult. Causing tumult is a requirement for a disorderly conduct arrest.

Gates was held for four hours and released.

Professor Gates is so well-known that a local restauranteur, Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers, named a hamburger for him. The arresting officer was apparently unaware of this. Now he probably is. He may also have learned that his detainee has authored many books - and two PBS specials - on race relations over the years, has received over 50 honorary degrees and was one of Time Magazine's "25 Most Influential People of 1997", as well as having had a hamburger named after him.

The mayor, the governor, even the president all agreed that a mistake was made. Beer at the White House. Cambridge authorities learned of the stupidity of the tumult claim, then realized the case would see daylight. They had no real case, and they withdrew the charges against Professor Gates. Charles Ogletree is now representing him.

This common "Catch and Release" police practice punishes individuals who break laws that aren't real laws. People break rules that could be laws, but aren't, like the unspoken law against asking an officer for identification, which the professor did ask, or the unspoken law against speaking loudly to an officer, of which the professor was accused. (In Massachusetts this is legal!) Contriving a reason for arrest is easy as the sergeant demonstrated by quoting the "tumult" of the crowd as reason. Now, though, he may know better what tumult means. Hokey up a bust and get busted. That's tumult. He may never be released from his mistake.

In one evening, a person can be arrested, punished by hours of detention and then released. Very efficient. Teaches respect. Detained for two or three days, a weekly laborer can lose his job. So little a taste of the whip keeps the underclass respectful and in their place.

"Catch and Release"punishes without any need to go through the courts. It establishes a strata of common law below the courts, below the Constitution. Unspoken rules become enforced law. Even where they contradict established law, as in talking loudly to an officer. It's legal, but it's not allowable.

Beer at the White House. Maybe they could fly in some Professor Skip Gates Burgers. The phone number for take-out at Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers is (617) 354-6559.

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