July 24th, 2009
10:33 PM ET

The Henry Louis Gates teaching moment

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/07/21/massachusetts.harvard.professor.arrested/art.gates.demotix.jpg caption="Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct."]
Boyce Watkins
Professor, Syracuse Univeristy

I’d hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are infected with a disease. The disease that has infected you is called racism. The disease is a silent killer, not of our bodies, but of our society. It also deteriorates the brain and makes us delusional, as we sometimes see things that are not really there or refuse to see things that are actually right in front of us. What’s worse is that we know the disease is in the fabric of our institutions, but it is difficult to pinpoint the exact location. This leads to sloppy missteps, embarrassments and damaging accusations.

Henry Louis Gates, the Prominent Harvard University Professor who was arrested this week at his home by Cambridge Police Officer James Crawley, may have been a victim of the disease of racism. Even he has gotten to the point of stating that this story is no longer about race and his buddy, President Obama, has been back-peddling faster than a free safety in the NFL. In the midst of letting go of his allegations of racism against Sgt. Crawley (which I thought was a very good idea) Professor Gates has stated that we should use this situation as a “teaching moment.” It is also my hope that Dr. Gates understands that the first step toward being a good professor is to learn how to be a good student. As a professor myself, I am hopeful that he will allow me to teach the first class.

When I was first exposed to the case of Professor Henry Louis Gates vs. Sgt. James Crawley, I did not see a white officer arresting an innocent Black man. I didn’t know enough at the time to make that assertion. I also didn’t see an enraged Black man being detained by a pure and pristine police officer. Let’s be clear: police departments across America have a long way to go before they have the credibility that they would like to have and they can only blame themselves for this problem. Hundreds of years of falsely incarcerating and murdering Black men doesn’t exactly help your reputation. My father was in law enforcement for 25 years, so I had a chance to see the good, the bad and the dirty when it comes to police work. I learned that cops can be tempted to abuse their power, but that there are many good cops who are attacked by misleading and hurtful allegations.

Crawley and Gates were stuck in the middle of long standing war that was much bigger than the both of them. It is also quite plausible that the war was not bigger than their egos, which led to each side taking to the national airwaves to swear that they were right and the other party “acted stupidly.” After a great deal of back and forth that went as high as the White House, we’ve finally got what our nation needs: two men who realize that we need to resolve this situation by engaging in constructive dialog and moving our nation forward.


Filed under: 360° Radar
July 24th, 2009
10:14 PM ET

The medical marijuana explosion

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Dan Simon
CNN Correspondent

Medical marijuana dispensaries have exploded in California. In Los Angeles, there are more than 600 of them. Incredibly, there are more places to buy pot in LA, than there are McDonalds, 711’s and Starbucks. But that could be just the beginning. There is growing momentum in the state to fully legalize marijuana for people 21 and older. That means marijuana could be sold all throughout the state.

Governor Schwarzenegger says the idea ought to be studied. The idea is gaining strength, in part, because of the state’s disastrous budget. Legalizing pot would also make it taxable. The state tax board estimates that marijuana could bring the state more than a billion dollars a year. This is not just a pie in the sky idea. Oakland is now actually doing it. Voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to begin taxing medical marijuana.

There are really two to make marijuana legal in California: A legislative bill or voter initiative. Both are underway. The initiative probably has a better chance of passing the finish line. According to a California field poll, more than half of Californians—56% favor legalization. Meanwhile, lawmakers right now are reluctant to fully legalize. It’s possible the question could be put directly to voters in next year’s election.

Here’s the rub, however. Pretty much anyone over 18 who wants marijuana in California can get already get it legally. All you need is a note from your doctor. The state is filled with “pot docs,” who write the prescriptions for things less severe than hangnails. So while full legalization would put pot on par with cigarettes and alcohol, no one should pretend that pot already isn’t available to anyone who wants it.

Filed under: 360° Radar
July 24th, 2009
09:55 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 07/24/09

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We have breaking developments once again tonight regarding Michael Jackson. We're tracking his money and so is his family. They've gotten their hands back on a big chunk of his cash that was in the hands of someone else. We'll have the details for you.

Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

And take a look at our live web camera from the 360° studio. Watch the WEBCAM

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
July 24th, 2009
09:42 PM ET

Evening Buzz: The President, the Professor & the Cop

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/24/officer.gates.arrest/art.obama.gates.conference.cnn.jpg caption= "President Obama on Friday explains to reporters the details of a phone conservation with Sgt. James Crowley."]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Pres. Obama did something no one expected today. He popped into the afternoon White House press briefing to say he called the white policeman who arrested black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Mr. Obama admitted his "choice in words over the arrest" helped fuel the debate over race relations in America. He went onto to say "I could have calibrated those words differently."

You may recall on Wednesday night during his prime-time news conference Pres. Obama said Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley "acted studpidly" in the arrest of Prof. Gates.

But today Pres. Obama said he still believes based on what he heard about the arrest there was an "overreaction" in arresting Gates. He also believes the professor overreacted.

He hopes by speaking up he's getting Americans to think more about their actions. "The fact that this has become such a big issue, I think, is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society, whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive, as opposed to negative, understandings about the issue is part of my portfolio," he said.

Pres. Obama's comments came a couple hours after colleagues of Sgt. James Crowley spoke out in support of him.

"I've known Sgt. Crowley for 11 years... he's done a marvelous job. And for this to happen to him was wrong. Cambridge police are not stupid," said Steve Killion, Pres. of the Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Assocation.

What do you think of the latest developments in this story? Sound off below.

Tonight, we'll talk to an eyewitness to the arrest. You'll hear from a black police officer who was present when Sgt. Crowley arrested Prof. Gates. Find out if he supports the arrest.

Join us for this and more starting at 10pm eastern. See you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
July 24th, 2009
04:55 PM ET

Beat 360° 7/24/09

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill July 24, 2009. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.


Staff Winner:

Jay Kernis

For the last time, it's Geit-ner, not Geith-ner!

Viewer Winner:

Joseph Murphy, San Francisco, CA

Secretary Timothy Geither just BEFORE he is told that the tax on Medical Marijuana is only going to help the State of California.

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
July 24th, 2009
03:44 PM ET

Obama, race and my arrest

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/24/officer.gates.arrest/art.gates.cnn.jpg caption="Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested after a reported break-in."]

Jeffrey Wright
Special to CNN

President Obama expressed what many Americans feel regarding the recent arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates - that the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police responded "stupidly."

Obama is catching some flak for that, but I applaud him for having had the courage to speak his heart and mind.

I wonder if the president himself has ever experienced the blunt end of racial profiling, or if he personally knows of anyone other than Professor Gates who has. Among African-American males in this country, the small minority is those who have not or do not.

Did some prior experience or knowledge inform his response about the Gates incident? I have no facts to back this up, but, to me, it seemed personal. If it was, I understand.

Keep reading...

July 24th, 2009
02:37 PM ET

Please, Professor Gates!

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/23/officer.gates.arrest/art.gates.cnn.jpg caption="Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested after a reported break-in."]
Sherrilyn A. Ifill
The Root

In an interview with The Root after the ordeal of his arrest in his home in Cambridge, this week Harvard professor (and The Root’s editor-in-chief) Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. announced his intention to make a PBS special about race and the criminal justice system. It would bring welcome attention to an important and still underreported issue.

Although Gates’ experience has been described as racial profiling, the problem of race and the criminal justice system is more complex. It includes police brutality (including the increasing and sometimes deadly use of Tasers), disparate sentencing, poor prison conditions, harsh and often racially disparate sentencing, and a range of barriers to the reintegration of ex-offenders. Any one of these issues would benefit from a thoughtful PBS special, especially one with the scholarly imprimatur of a Gates production

Gates has developed something of a franchise on PBS, particularly his specials on genealogy. In these programs, Gates and his research team have meticulously traced the lineage of famous black people from Oprah to Chris Rock to Quincy Jones. The segments in which Gates shares the fruit of his research with his subjects is always emotionally wrenching. The stories of the slaves, freedmen, teachers and soldiers who struggled and somehow made it through, reduce his rich and famous subjects to moments of speechlessness and often tears. In this sense, we learn about African-American history through the eyes of exceptional and successful African Americans. We share with them a kind of personal journey into their own family history.


July 24th, 2009
01:32 PM ET

Kill the Rhinos!

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David Brooks
The New York Times

Forget the wonkery. Let’s get primeval. Rising health care costs are a stampede of big ugly rhinos. They are trampling your crops, stomping on your children’s play areas and spoiling your hunting grounds.

President Obama wasn’t exaggerating when he said this cost onslaught is unsustainable. The rhinos have been roaming unchecked for a generation. We’ve thrown research projects, legislative and corporate reforms at them, all in an effort to tamp down health care inflation. But the rhinos keep coming. They are ubiquitous, powerful, protean and inexorable.

They feed on fuel sources deep in our system: expensive technological progress, the self-interest of the millions of people who make their living off the system, the public’s desire to get the best care for nothing, the fee-for-service payment system and so on.

The rhinos are closing off your future. As the White House folks say, health care premiums have doubled over the last decade. The government is saddled with $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

So your only question should be: Where do you find a tool or weapon big enough to stop the rhino stampedes? You know the problem is big, and you figure the response had better be gigantic.


July 24th, 2009
01:31 PM ET

Don't worry so much about Iran's nukes

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Joe Klein
TIME Magazine

"We all have been harmed. Today more than ever we need unity," said former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during Friday prayers at Tehran University on July 17. It was a crucial sermon and, in the manner of many things Persian, purposefully and delicately opaque. Some thought Rafsanjani's speech was a direct threat to the Ahmadi-Khamenei regime. He demanded the release of political prisoners, an end to violence against protesters, the restoration of Iran's (intermittently) free press.

Others thought Rafsanjani, speaking with the approval of the Supreme Leader, was trying to build a bridge between the opposition and the regime. For me, it brought back memories of a less opaque Friday-prayers sermon I'd actually seen Rafsanjani deliver in December 2001, in which he spoke of the need for an "Islamic bomb."

The signature foreign policy initiative of Barack Obama's presidential campaign was his desire to begin negotiations with Iran. It was ridiculed by John McCain and by Hillary Clinton, now his Secretary of State. Obama persisted, with reason: it was a good idea. How he proceeds now, after Iran's brutal electoral debacle, could be the most important foreign policy decision of his presidency. As Clinton made clear in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations two days before Rafsanjani spoke, the Obama Administration has not wavered in its desire for talks. And yet, the body language has changed.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Iran • President Barack Obama
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