Wassup? Approach the bench

The Baltimore Sun

Judges on Maryland's second-highest court, having mastered dense legalese, have been puzzling over the phrase "What's up?"

Specifically, "What's up, Maurice?"

Is it a simple greeting?

Or is it, when uttered by a police officer to someone just busted for drugs, "the functional equivalent of interrogation?"

In this case, the just-arrested Maurice had an incriminating response to the (pick one) greeting/grilling, which he got after another officer walked him up to the door of a suspected stash house.

"I'm not going in that house," he said. "I've never been in that house."

Maurice Prioleau's lawyer argued before the Court of Special Appeals that "What's up, Maurice?" amounted to an interrogation and that he should have been given his Miranda warning first. (In his trial, he got 20 years - 10 without the possibility of parole - for conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine.)

Baltimore City police contended that the words were just a casual greeting not intended to elicit what the court called "a classic 'blurt.'" (Another linguistic curiosity: "blurt" as a noun.)

So the court gave "What's up, Maurice?" some scholarly consideration, just as members of Congress parsed the meaning of "It is what it is," when Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee testified last month.

(McNamee had used the phrase in a taped phone call with his former trainee, confusing some lawmakers, including Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana. "I asked a New Yorker on the floor, and he said that is a not only Mr. McNamee expression, a New York expression, for 'I told the truth,'" Souder said. "Would it be appropriate in the record to have some discussion of that phrase?")

"The phrase 'what's up?' is commonly used as a greeting, especially, as the State points out, among young people," the court wrote. "At least one other jurisdiction has recognized that the phrase is generally understood as a greeting."

In an opinion issued yesterday, the court sided with the cops, concluding that "What's up?" is just a salutation. In other words, it is what it is.

Another chance at second fiddle

NPR's Juan Williams threw out this name yesterday as a possible running mate for John McCain: Michael Steele. "An African-American who could add pizazz to the ticket," is how Williams put it.

I couldn't reach Steele yesterday, but no doubt that four years as Maryland LtGov is great preparation to be VP, since both jobs come with few, if any, duties.

Then again, there is that whole "heartbeat away" thing, and McCain would be the oldest guy ever to assume the presidency. Yikes!

Another mention, and not by friends

Another Maryland name has been tossed about for VP. For Hillary Clinton. And by, it seems, her political foes.

"Cannotrustclinton.com? clintonisbad.com? At least 25 domain names related to Hillary Rodham Clinton have links to the Republican National Committee: the names were either registered by the RNC last year or showed up on servers the committee uses," a New York Times political blog reports. "Half a dozen seemed to guess at Mrs. Clinton's eventual running mate, like clintonomalley.com, referring to Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland."

They could've just knocked

Somebody fired a gun into The Belvedere's revolving door, a custom brass replica that took months and months to make after the 1903 original gave out last year.

The incident two weeks ago tonight - it has taken all that time for police in the town that CitiStat built to confirm getting a 911 call about shots fired at that address - wasn't much by Baltimore crime standards. No one was hurt, the glass was easily replaced, and the rest of the door was undamaged.

But it came just two weeks after the replica finally got installed.

The owner of the Belvedere's Owl Bar and Truffles catering, who had to look as far as Chicago to find a someone to copy the old door, was philosophical about the whole thing.

"That's why we have glass companies," Tom Stuehler said. "And it keeps that money going around."

You put your left foot in ...

They want money out of politics and you on the dance floor.

Progressive Maryland and other groups devoted to publicly funded campaigns are slated to hold a dance and rally tonight at Baltimore's St. John's Church, 2640 St. Paul St. The Hula Monsters, The Swing States Road Show and others will perform at "Dance for Democracy."

The event, open to all ages, is smoke-, alcohol- (and probably trans fat-) free. Doors open at 6 p.m. Light dinner fare will be available for purchase from suitably lefty Red Emma's, Mount Vernon's "worker-owned and collectively managed" bookstore-coffeehouse.

Another draw, for still-not-over-it WYPRsters. One of the presenters will be Marc Steiner.

One fictional figure at a time, please

Talking superheroes and Seuss after this week's primaries, Kweisi Mfume and CNN's Tony Harris couldn't decide if Barack Obama is Superman or Cindy-Loo Who.

Harris: "Hillary Clinton has been trying to figure out a way to attack, to break through this veneer. Look, it is hard to be the Grinch who stole Christmas and says, 'You know, this guy with the great inspirational message, how do I attack him?' I'm wondering if this [ringing phone] ad represents a bit of kryptonite."

Mfume: "I don't think so. And I don't believe that he's Superman. I think he's just like everybody else."

Everybody else who, as Mfume went on to describe Obama, can "withstand everything that has been thrown at him ... whether it's kryptonite or something else."

laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

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