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The B-Word: In a Word, It’s Shabby

People, people--I go away for a few days and what happens? I come back and find another mess. Honestly, can’t I trust you by yourselves?

I’ve had some catching up to do, so let me recap for everyone.

An anonymous letter shows up in some important mailboxes. It says that Rick Caruso, a gajillionaire developer who is also the head of the L.A. Police Commission, was meeting privately with five of the LAPD’s brassiest brass a month ago when he called Rep. Maxine Waters “the bitch Waters.”

Why a noise complaint, an offense that might get someone else a bit of black-and-white back seat therapy--a ride to the station--gets Caruso the undivided attention of a quintet of LAPD aristocracy, I do not know. Actually, I do know. He’s a gajillionaire developer and head of the Police Commission.

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Two council members want the mayor, Jim Hahn, to hand over Caruso’s head on a pike. So does Waters, who mothered Hahn through the election but who has been heard to utter that other dirty word, “recall,” because Hahn shocked the socks off L.A. by showing the guts--or stupidity, your choice--to say he doesn’t want Bernard Parks to be police chief for another five years. Mayor Jimmy--whose father, Saint Kenny, has a star on the Watts Walk of Fame--says no to firing Caruso.

That brings us up to Tuesday, to the dandelion-spangled lawn outside Parker Center, where Danny Bakewell, capo of the Brotherhood Crusade, who can field more picketers on short notice than the Teamsters, just has.

A red school bus empties. Protesters collect their signs and begin marching. This is the second outing for these signs, like “Rick Caruso! Is This How You Refer to Your Wife?” I covet the one that says “Bold, Bodacious, Brilliant, but Not a Bitch,” but an organizer says they need to use them again, which tells me this is not going away soon.

Waters shows up, to cheers. She challenges “little Rickie Caruso.” She’s going into that Police Commission meeting, and “if he can’t own up to it, he’s a coward.”

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The multitude steps through the metal detector and into the hearing room. Caruso won’t be there, the staff announces, and the groan is heard all the way down the hallway from the overflow crowd. The Police Commission’s executive director, Joe Gunn, says this is a special meeting, that the original meeting was canceled. “He’s a liar,” says Waters, from her front-row seat. Gunn says he will excuse the congresswoman, a remark that the crowd misses.

Time out. This is not really about the b-word. This is not even about Waters. She is not a timid and frail creature--she couldn’t be, and be where she is today. She has said that “I don’t have time to be polite.” She has called the first George Bush “a racist.” She said Caruso “plays the game very well.” So does she.

This is about the p-word, power.

Outside Parker Center, Ted Hayes, the iconoclastic homeless activist, is debating S. Deacon Alexander, a local Green Party leader, about whether anyone is free to be a jerk in private. Yes, says Hayes; Caruso was stupid but he has a right to be, and to take the consequences. No, says Alexander; violent language begets violence, wherever it’s used.

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Danny Bakewell takes the lectern. If the b-word keeps getting batted around, “it’s Maxine Waters today, your mother tomorrow.”

Way too late: It occurs to me, as it did the writer Earl Ofari Hutchinson and others, that the b-word, like the n-word, has already been stuck to people’s mothers--and sisters and wives and girlfriends, and profitably so.

In an e-mail commentary, Hutchinson warns that Caruso’s critics “will appear to be hypocrites for screaming loudly about the alleged gender slur of Caruso, but not about the tidal wave of slurs by endless legions of black rappers, filmmakers and writers ... [who] hack up the image of black women in their songs, films and street rap.”

Come to think of it, I didn’t see Bakewell picketing when Barbara Bush coyly insulted then-Rep. Geraldine Ferraro as a “rich--I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich.” Or marching on Capitol Hill after Newt Gingrich’s mom said her son had used the same vulgarity to describe Hillary Clinton. And I don’t recall hearing of his picketing record companies and musicians making millions on rap music about b-this and b-that.

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It’s an ugly word, and the LAPD has enough gender problems--the Christopher Commission reported on female officers being derided by fellow cops--without the head of the Police Commission getting into the act.

We’re a month away from the 10th anniversary of the riots; can’t we all just get a long, long way away from this same old bushwah?

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Patt Morrison’s column appears Mondays and Wednesdays. Her e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com.

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