Turnover at a major D.C. government department is raising questions about local businesses, political contributions and influence in city politics.
Turmoil continues in Crimea as Russia and Ukraine jockey for control. New revelations about the National Security Agency’s data gathering capabilities fuel the debate over the agency’s “bulk collection” of information abroad. And D.C.’s mayoral primary is fast approaching, but are newer residents paying attention? We consider those issues and the topics foremost on your mind.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Your Turn. It's Your Turn. You can start calling now, 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss recent events in the news, recent editions of this broadcast, anything on your mind.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAbout half an hour ago, military judge Colonel Daniel Daugherty found midshipmen Joshua Tate not guilty of a sexual assault charge after just two days of testimony in his court-martial at the Washington Navy Yard. The assault accusation comes from a fellow midshipmen after a raucous off-campus yoga and toga party in April of 2012, a gathering where revelers drank so much that the alleged victim claims no memory of the assault but had heard from others that she had sex with multiple partners.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAfter initially refusing to cooperate with investigators, she spent hours on the stand in pretrial hearings answering questions about her behavior, her attire, consumption of alcohol. Similar charges from the same accuser against two other Navy football players were dropped during the various pretrial events. The ruling comes a day after an Army general who admitted carrying on a long warzone affair with a junior officer and having improper relationships with two other women was reprimanded and fined $20,000 by a military judge in a court martial in a plea deal.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHow do you think these cases and the broader issue of sex assaults in the service reflect on the U.S. military, 800-433-8850? This week a snowstorm couldn't stop the first day of early voting in the democratic primary that will decide which of eight candidates will move one step closer to becoming D.C.'s next mayor, despite the dramatic storylines like the shadow campaign and the indictment of Jeffrey Thompson.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIA lot of young voters in the district are not clued into what's happening. One of them saying, according to a report in the Washington Post, that the only place he found out about what's going on in D.C. is by listening to the Politics Hour here on Fridays, but that he doesn't really participate actively. How do you feel about the upcoming election more broadly? Are you paying attention to the D.C. Democratic primary in the wake of what all of the revelations and the wake of former Mayor Marion Barry's endorsement of incumbent Vincent Gray in this election or in this April 1 primary?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIGive us a call, 800-433-8850. We have a poll, a poll that was conducted by "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" in Washington City Paper. You'll be hearing more about that poll tomorrow morning on Morning Edition. I'll give you just a clue though. It won't be just about the horse race. It'll tell you more about yourself. But listen out for the results of that poll tomorrow morning on Morning Edition.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYesterday the first in a series of disciplinary hearings aiming to get to the bottom of how it was possible that no one on duty in a fire station came to the aid of 77-year-old Cecil Mills, Jr. when he had a heart attack across the street from a fire station in northeast D.C. earlier this year, despite reported police from -- for help from bystanders. Mills' death prompted a public outcry but the public and reporters were barred from yesterday's hearing which focused on Fire Lieutenant Kellene Davis.
MR. KOJO NNAMDINeither Davis nor the prosecutor made that request to close the hearing. As a result of the closing of that hearing you should know that WAMU 88.5 News has signed on along with several other news divisions, WSATV 9, WRCTV or NBC for WNEW. WJLA, WTOP have signed on to a letter which was sent by an attorney to both Deputy Mayor Paul Quander and Chief Kenneth Ellerbe of the fire department protesting the closing of these hearings, demanding the opening of these hearings and asking for the minutes or transcript from yesterday's hearing to be provided immediately.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThere was no cause given for the closing of the hearing. The public expected these hearings to be open. And so, as I said, we have signed on with several other news media to find out why that took place and to demand that those hearings be open today. This is Your Turn. You can talk about any of those topics or anything else by calling 800-433-8850 or sending email to email@example.com.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIn remarks made at 11:00 am today, President Obama expressed deep concern over the, quoting here, "illegal referendum in Crimea and dangerous risks of escalation" noting that because of Russia's choices the U.S. is moving today to place additional sanctions on senior Russian officials as well as other individuals with resources and influence that provide support to the government and the bank that does the same. Also signing an executive order that would allow for sanctions on key sectors of the Russian economy. And noting further escalation will only further isolate Russia. Acknowledging these sanctions could result in harm to the global economy.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe also called for further support for Ukraine including monetary assistance from the IMF. And while stressing that U.S. Russia diplomacy continues, even if these moves are made but that Ukraine shouldn't have to choose between east and west for its allies. But this is Russia's backyard we're talking about, on the other hand. Most people who live in Crimea are Russian. The overwhelming majority of them voted to join with Russia to become a part of Russia. And, as I said, because this is in Russia's backyard, how would we respond if Russia was agitating say in Mexico, 800-433-8850.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe remember the reaction when the Soviets tried to place missiles in Cuba because that is our backyard. So how do you feel about all of this, 800-433-8850? It is your turn. And we will go to the phones starting with -- I guess we will start with Jim in Washington, D.C. Jim, you're on the air. It's Your Turn.
JIMA modest proposal, Kojo. I think it would be helpful if you agree that you suggest all the candidates running in the primary for mayor that at least a week before the primary, which doesn't give them much time but I'm sure they have this information handy, that they release a list of all those who have contributed to their campaign so far.
NNAMDITransparency. They are already required to do that by law. It is my understanding that they are required to release all of the donors to their campaign. Indeed one of the reasons there was the alleged shadow campaign in the 2010 election was because that major donor to the Gray campaign, Jeffrey Thompson, did not want it known how much he was contributing to the campaign because he had contracts with the city. And his concern was that if the then incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty found out about it, then it would work to his disadvantage. So that transparency should already be in the law.
NNAMDIBut you would like them to make a special deal, a special occasion, if you will, of revealing every single donor publically themselves personally.
JIMNow. Now, before the primary vote.
NNAMDIYeah, well, I think we should be able to find out all of that. But if there's anyone who knows that there is something that prohibits or prevents them from being able to do that, I don't know.
JIMI don't think it prohibits but I don't think it requires it. And so this would have to be voluntary and that would be an issue on April 1.
NNAMDISo you're saying that they shouldn't simply have to file this with the board of elections. They should have a press conference and release them to the public themselves.
NNAMDIHow would that influence your decision one way or the other?
JIMYou know, that is an issue in the campaign now as to where the money's coming from for the candidates. Some candidates have refused certain types of contributions, others haven't. The question of whether city contractors are still contributing a major amount to these campaigns is certainly relevant to this campaign. And so I think the more light that can be thrown on it immediately, the more informed the voters will be on April 1.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. It is Your Turn. We move on to Tina in Emmetsburg, Md. Tina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TINAKojo, thank you so much. I'm calling because I've spent 30 years watching Russia. I visited Russia. I speak Russian fluently. And I'll be right up front with you. I love a lot of things about the Russian people and it is an amazing country. And I'm telling you, we have got it so wrong on this Crimea situation. It's heartbreaking. And I don't...
NNAMDIIn what way do you think we've gotten it wrong?
TINAOh, from the start. Do you want me to start at the beginning?
TINAI'll start with Yanukovych being tossed out.
TINAYanukovych was corrupt. He deserved to be removed but not that way because he was, at the time, in position as an elected official of that country.
TINAPeople rose up because he was so corrupt and there was frustration, as Mr. Putin -- President Putin sympathized with. So the people rose up and we were encouraging them way beyond what we should've been. Because, you know, when you overthrow a democratic leader, you remove the rights of the citizens of the entire nation, even those who didn't vote for him.
TINAHe was representing all of the people of Ukraine, west and east. What happened was you had a special segment of society taking more of the power without any kind of words coming out of the mouth of those who didn't agree. They'd lost their voice immediately. Death to Yanukovych was being sang out on the streets and John McCain was saying, America's with you. And I think that's very unfair to the American people to have one member of congress go stand on the ground in Ukraine to represent my voice.
TINAThis American is not with anybody who uses guns to remove democratically-elected people. I am with all the people...
NNAMDIAnd how do you think about the vote in Crimea that the U.S. feels it was an illegal vote, that the quote unquote "international community," which usually means the west, feels was an illegal vote?
TINAI think it's absolutely outrageous to call it illegal. You have to go to the premise of a situation. When you -- you could call it illegal if the democratic leader of Ukraine was still in position. When you throw a leader out and you leave over there a segment of the Ukrainian country, which was a part of Russia since Catherine the Great 300 years ago, and was given as a gift for a celebration to another segment of the Soviet Union in 1958 I believe.
NNAMDI'54 I think. I'm not sure.
TINAYeah, it may be '50...
TINAWhen you do that and you -- then the Soviet Union fell apart and you say, well now we're going to keep that Crimea where your Russian ports are, which people thought for 300 years ago, which no one ever expected Ukraine to be separate. And I'll tell you another thing people don't know about Ukraine and Russia.
NNAMDIMake it quick, please. We do have to move on.
TINAAll right. Well, Kiev is the root of Russian society. And the Russians in Ukrainian, their roots -- their great grandparents are the same, Kojo. We are way out of line.
NNAMDIThe overwhelming population of Crimea is Russian, but I'd like to hear what others have to say about this or any other issue because it is Your Turn. So we go now to James in Leesburg, Va. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESThanks, Kojo, for taking my call. I am not a resident of D.C. I'm a resident of Leesburg, Va.
JAMESI find it very disturbing that the former mayor of D.C. endorses the current Mayor Gray. And I don't understand why despite the issues that Gray has, you know, accepted the former mayor's endorsement. The former mayor, in my opinion, is a disgrace. Based on what I've heard about him and what people know about him. And Mayor Gray has a point. I mean, he should even you know, step down because based on what the FBI has said about his former campaign, it is insane if the people of D.C. votes for him into power again. Because as an immigrant, you know, some of us came to the U.S. because of the great democracy that we heard about in this country.
JAMESWhen we come here we hear politicians as corrupt as some, you know, African politicians in...
NNAMDIWell James, allow me to interrupt because you said you don't live in D.C. So allow me to ask you a question that some may see as provocative. Do you think -- since you don't live in D.C., are you aware that there is no one who is running for mayor who would have turned down an endorsement for Marion Barry?
NNAMDIThere's no one running for mayor who would have said, no I reject your endorsement. You know why?
JAMESWhy? I don't know. Please tell me.
NNAMDIBecause the general feeling is that if you get an endorsement from Marion Barry, then you win a great deal of votes, both in the ward that he represents and what is known as Ward 7 east of the river -- east of the Anacostia River where the perception is that an overwhelming number of the voters in those two wards, which also happen to be the poorer wards of the city, support Marion Barry. And that's why I don't think anyone would have -- I'm not saying that all of the candidates would have requested his endorsement but none of them would have turned it down.
JAMESWell, that's -- okay, that's a good one, but I think the good people of D.C. should, when voting day comes, should take into consideration the scandal surrounding Mayor Gray and vote him out. I mean, because it's just disgraceful even to vote him back into power based on, you know, the allegations that have been leveled against him. He may likely go to jail. We don't know, but maybe or maybe not. Anyway, thank so much for taking my call.
NNAMDIThank you very much, James. And when you hear our poll that we did with Washington City Paper tomorrow morning on Morning Edition, you'll find out a little bit more about what citizens have been saying about how the whole scandal of the shadow campaign and the allegations made by the U.S. Attorney are affecting their choices in the upcoming election. We're going to take a short break. It's Your Turn.
NNAMDIIf you have called already, stay on the line. We will get to your call. If the lines are busy, shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to express your hypothesis of what happened to Malaysian flight 370 and why and how it disappeared. 800-433-8850 or go to our website kojoshow.org. It's Your Turn. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It is Your Turn. March Madness is upon us with everyone from the president to your cubical mate making their picks as the NCAA basketball tournament gets underway. But the phenomenon has crept way beyond the sport with a flurry of brackets, selecting everything from best beers to best books, best New York City bodega cat and even best public radio show.
NNAMDISo how much is too much? Do you think this particular cultural phenomenon has reached or surpassed its saturation point? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. What's your take? Are you in it to win it or over it? Of course, we're not paying any attention to this at all. Fourteen seconds left to go in the first half between American University and Wisconsin. And American is supposedly down 30 to 22 at this point.
NNAMDIBut, you know, American last made it to the NCAAs in 2009 and they had the American Eagles playing Villanova in Philadelphia, which is home to Villanova. And now they have American playing -- which is ranked number 15 playing number two Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis., which is 78 miles away from that campus. Where is the fairness here anyway? It's Your Turn. Topics that you'd like to discuss. So we have to get back to you on the phones, 800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can send email to email@example.com. You can send us a Tweet @kojoshow. Let's go to Kadana in Washington, D.C. Kadana, you're on the air. It's Your Turn.
KADANAThank you for taking my call, Kojo. I believe about Russia on politics, I think the solution is, Kojo, a universal respect for sovereign territory, direct or indirect because the powers of the day are not only violating territorial sovereignty of a small nation, but they do meet by their satellite or proxy countries too. Thank you very much.
NNAMDISo what do you think should be happening in Ukraine? You said nobody should be interfering in Ukraine. Do you mean that that applies both to the west and to Russia? But I think we may have lost Kadana. Kadana simply wanted his turn and he has had it. You can have yours too by calling 800-433-8850. Here is Laura in Washington, D.C. Laura, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAURAHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I'm calling about Vice-President Biden who is now in Europe. And he met with Latvian and Lithuanian leaders. And nobody knows, for instance, that in Latvia where there is a large Russian population, the Russians who were born in the country, who spend all their lives I the country, who, you know, speak Latvian and everything, they don't have Latvian citizenship.
LAURAI saw a passport of a Russian person and on the bottom of the passport there was something written in Latvian. And I said, what's that? And she said, noncitizen. So they sent us home...
NNAMDISo it is your opinion that Vice-President Biden would do better paying attention to what is happening where he is in Latvia than to what is going on in Ukraine?
LAURAHe'd have to. Nobody's talking about that. You know, the Latvians -- I don't know about Estonia and Lithuania, but I know for sure that in Latvia the Russians who were born, will and still living in the country, they don't have Latvian citizenship. And this is outrageous.
NNAMDIOkay. Laura, thank you very much for your call. See if other people want to address that issue.
NNAMDIIt's Your Turn, Ralph, in Washington, D.C. You're on the air. Hi, Ralph.
RALPHHi, Kojo. I find it very interesting in our new election, you know, we have a Mayor Gray who his morals are gray and his integrity is in the gray zone. And things are going to be pretty black once we get past this April deadline when they indict him. So, you know, that's what we're looking forward to. I thought we got rid of some of that stuff when we got rid of Barry, but I guess the city has bought this.
NNAMDIWhat makes you so certain that he will be indicted?
RALPHThe guy smells. Come on. You know, all of the stuff that happened with the fundraising and everything else and he's sitting there playing like he didn't know, he's as brown as a crap slinger so he could make (word?) look bad. And that way he wouldn't besmirch his own reputation. Because whoever tosses crap, it gets on both sides.
NNAMDIBut you know what's going to happen...
RALPH...my point of the whole thing is what I'd love to see -- you know, I've gotten involved as my Ward representative -- I've got a campaign saying which is, you know, basically I love mom and apple pie, you know, which basically tells me nothing. What I'd love to see, given the level of corruption in the city -- and I'm familiar with a lot of it -- would be for one of the candidates to say, we're going to give 10 to 20 percent of anything that we find where we have corruption in contracts, corruption in people not showing up for work. Incentivize the thing so that there's not just retribution.
RALPHBut the next time we see somebody stealing $50 million and they get ratted out, the person who rats them out gets $5 million.
RALPHI'd love to see somebody do something about the corruption, either Gray or Bowser. But this mom and apple pie crap, you know, tell me something -- give me something with some teeth.
NNAMDISo you're saying that we should -- you're saying that we should incentivize whistleblowers is what you're saying.
RALPHExactly. They do it in the federal government. And a lot of times these huge fraudulent contracts and things are brought down because of it. There's a lot of people in the city that know things...
NNAMDIWell, there are people...
RALPH...but you look at what happened with Williams, they threatened to kill him.
NNAMDIWell, you know, let me bring up a really controversial thing here. There are people who say, oh, they incentivize it in the federal government? Tell that to Edward Snowden.
RALPHWell, you know, Edward Snowden went against the people who run the country. There's a difference between corruption and somebody spying on you in the CIA and NSA and somebody stealing, you know, $20 million on a contract.
RALPHWe don't have the NSA or the CIA. What we have is we have a huge amount of corruption. We have people who claim they work who never show up for work and have second jobs. I mean, we need some way of eliminating these people, have them look over their shoulder and say, hey, if I get caught with my hand in the till, there's a good chance somebody's going to sink on me.
RALPHThere's always somebody who could us half a million dollars.
NNAMDIRalph, thank you very much for your call. Speaking of the NSA, the Washington Post reporting this week that the NSA has the capability, has a project, a system that is allowing it to monitor all -- all, 100 percent of the phone calls from an unnamed country at this point. The Washington Post apparently knows the name of the country but at the request of the government, at the request of the NSA, is not revealing the name of that country. How do you feel about that, 800-433-8850?
NNAMDIIt's almost been two weeks since Malaysian flight 370 disappeared. And at that time -- in that time one thing has become clear. That the very notion of it being possible for a Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers and crew to vanish without leaving any apparent trace, runs counter to our modern sensibilities in which we've come to believe ours is no longer a global society in which you can go off the grid. After all, if 100 percent of phone calls from an entire country can be monitored, we are, I guess, confounded by this mystery.
NNAMDIThe latest concrete development in which is the Australian spotting some objects that may be debris in the southern Indian Ocean that it has inspired what some say is an overabundance of coverage consisting mostly of speculation. Others say this is giving the people what they want. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post reporting that CNN's ratings have risen 71 percent overall since its wall-to-wall coverage began. What do you make of the coverage of the disappearance?
NNAMDIYou can shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's Your Turn, or go to our website kojoshow.org or send us a Tweet @kojoshow. Because, as we say, it's Your Turn. We now move on to Randal in Washington, D.C. Randal, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RANDALI simply think that the timing of the -- what Mr. Thompson had to say (unintelligible) that was to undermine Gray's reelection as well as to spin, like, this cloud over Gray. And it's sort of like neuter him so he can't be fully functional as a mayor. But I think he's done a good job in spite of that and I'm glad that since he's not our mayor and I don't want another Anthony Williams. I don't want another technocrat and another kind of Tommy kind of acting person.
NNAMDIWell, this is a dilemma. This is a dilemma, Randal, that a lot of people are facing. You saw where one of Mayor Gray's initially staunchest supporters Alice Rivlin said in the Washington Post today -- a few days ago, it's a quandary for her because she feels he's done a good job running the city on the one hand. On the other hand, if he is in fact knowledgeable about the corruption that was going on in his campaign, you know he can run the city but on the other hand he's knowledgeable about corruption. What would you say, Randal?
RANDALWhat I feel about it?
RANDALI think -- maybe I don't know what -- actually the corruption of having the campaign ran away, having a shadow campaign kind of sendoff -- incentive, was that corrupt or was it corrupt that he denied the allegations? I know the money makes it corrupt but everybody -- no one said anything when the council reversed the law passed many years ago which limited the amount that they could receive to $100. Nobody said anything when the council overturns the will of the people, and that was done during a referendum.
RANDALNow when it's the -- you know, when what the people were trying to stop happened, now everyone is aware of it. But the people had spoken and everybody else fell down for not holding the council or to pass for that.
NNAMDIWell, the shadow campaign was illegal. There's no doubt about that at all. The question is whether or not the mayor knew at the time or, well, even subsequently, before it was revealed in the media, that the shadow campaign was illegal. If in fact he did not know about it at all, there are people who say, well, he should've known about it. If he did know about it there are those who say, well if he did know about it that means he's corrupt, he's likely to be indicted and I can't vote for him. Which side would you come down on?
RANDALI'm voting for him regardless because I think he did a good job. I don't -- I'd have to really, you know, what the -- I do have to think about it if he knew about it. But I wanted Fenty out of there so bad I almost don't care how it happened.
RANDALI'm going to be honest with you.
NNAMDI...the former mayor Adrian Fenty is not coming back. Three are people who say...
RANDALNo, no, but they say...
NNAMDI...but there are people who say you have other choices.
RANDALNo. It was ran against -- well, I don't mind Muriel Bowser. She seems like a nice person. I do like Tommy Wells, to be quite honest with you.
RANDALBut he doesn't look like he's catching momentum.
NNAMDIBut for the time being you're sticking with Gray. Thank you very much for your call. We move on to Garpu in Washington, D.C. Garpu, it is your turn.
GARPUThank you, Kojo. Thanks for having me. By the way, (unintelligible)
GARPUMy question is -- I'm going to ask you and I'm going to take the answer off the air. You know, this whole Crimea issue, has there been a poll until where exactly the American people stand as where they want to go before there were all these sanctions. Just a kind of poll telling the people, you know, taking the poll of the people. Is there a poll on that?
NNAMDII have not seen such a poll. My question would be, how engaged are the American people with this issue? I know we are deeply engaged with the disappearance of that flight from Malaysia, but I don't know the extension to which our foreign policy establishment and some members of congress are deeply engaged and involved in this issue. But I do not know to the extent to which it's engaging the attention of the American people.
NNAMDIIt's far away. It's a region of a country that may not be that familiar to people. We are notorious for not having a great deal of interest in foreign affairs generally until we are confronted with the possibility of war. So I do not know the extent to which the American people are engaged. And I haven't seen any polls, although someone else may have. What is your view, Garpu?
GARPUWell, for me, I'm not a fan of Putin. And there was a guest there that literally spoke about the whole region. She spoke -- she speaks Russian and she's been there or something like that. But she talk about history and what I wanted to say was that, yes, it is true that the land was given to Ukraine as some gift. But before then, there was history -- what, 20 years ago, when Serbia (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIYou're breaking -- you're breaking up on me, Garpu, and I can't hear you very well. So finish that thought for me, please.
GARPUOkay. Can you hear me now?
NNAMDIYes, I can.
GARPUYeah, I'm saying I'm not a big fan of Putin so what he did he broke international law. But having said that, how far can the west and the U.S. go with all of this sanction without provoking him? And that's my only fear. And I thank you very much...
NNAMDIWhen you say without provoking him, provoking him to do what, do you think?
GARPUWell, if the task, I think (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIOh, oh, you're breaking up again. But Garpu, I will say that what President Obama has indicated is that we intend to continue having a talking relationship with Russia at this point. So I think the president himself realizes that we can only take this as far as sanctions, which is what he and the rest of the west is proposing in this situation. I don't think they want to see it go much farther than that. But thank you very much for your call. We move on to George in Woodlawn, Md. George, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GEORGEYeah, hey, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. You got a lot of subjects today. I'd like to express my views on Ukraine.
NNAMDIPlease go ahead.
GEORGEI'm pretty much an ordinary citizen, but I've vacationed in St. Petersburg, Moscow, (word?) in Russia. And the last couple of years I've had a couple trips to Ukraine. I've got two Russians and a Ukrainian working under my supervision and I'm absolutely very, very fond of the Russian and Ukrainian people. I'm saying that our country has got foreign policy all wrong period.
GEORGEThey laugh at us and they laugh at our president, when he comes along and makes a public statement about upholding the will of the citizens and their vote, and yet he encourages the ouster of Yanukovych and then, more recently, on the annexation of Crimea to Russia because of the vote. 95 percent of the Crimean people favor realigning with Russia and it has nothing to do with Russia being a favored country. It's just a change for them because of all the political and economic corruption that goes on in the country.
GEORGEThe Ukrainian people are fine, fine, upstanding, intelligent, moral people and their leadership is just absolutely draining to them. There is no economy there.
NNAMDIOkay. George, I think that's one of the reasons for the apparent caution that the United States or the President of the United States is taking. We're going to take a short break. It's still "Your Turn." You can still call 800-433-8850. If you're wondering when the Silver Line will be ready for you to climb aboard to Tyson's Corner, well do not hold your breath. Martin Baccaro reports a myriad of problems are plaguing the project as the Metropolitan Airports Authority looks ahead to the day it can hand over control to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
NNAMDIIf you plan to use the Silver Line, tell us what you make of the delays and construction process so far. Shoot us an email to email@example.com or send us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It is "Your Turn" to discuss whatever you want to talk about. The number is 800-433-8850. We got an email from Hunter who said, "Is the NSA really as capable of recording 100 percent of a country's phone calls? I say kudos to the NSA. Good job. And it makes me proud to be an American." On, now, to the telephones. Here is Jared in Washington D.C. Jared, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAREDHey, Kojo, can you hear me?
NNAMDII can hear you, Jared.
JAREDAll right, great. Thanks for taking my call. You had a lot of interesting subjects on today. So I appreciate you taking mine. I was calling -- I think everyone's aware of a lot of issues with D.C. Public Schools. And, unfortunately, there is a school that is a very successful school, it's called School Without Walls. And recently, DCPS has decided that it would be a wise decision to merge School Without Walls with a K through 8th grade school in the same neighborhood, that is a school that is having a difficult time.
JAREDBut they feel as though that it would be a wise move to combine these schools, split up some of the students from School Without Walls. And there's a working group that is -- from School Without Walls, that's been trying desperately to be heard. And apparently DCPS has essentially ignored their efforts. So I just want to raise the awareness that, to take a school that is successful, break it down and try to rebuild another school on the back of School Without Walls just seems like a less than intelligent move to me.
NNAMDIWell, it's not one of the things we talked with Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson the last time she was here. But when you say that there is a group of citizens who are trying to contact or trying to influence this decision that is made but they are not being heard, in these situations there is usually one group of citizens on one side and one group of citizens on the other side. I am not familiar with the situation, but is that the case here?
JAREDNo, as a matter of fact, we are not familiar with anyone who thinks that this should go through. Even DCPS, they're argument is faulty. I think they would like to increase the size of School Without Walls, which I guess is an okay concept. But to take something that's already working -- there's got to be a better way than to take and combine with this K through 8 and then utilize the same principal--
NNAMDIWell, no, I think the key is in what you say, there's got to be a better way. It seems to me that unless you can suggest to DC Public Schools what that better way is, you'll be whistling in the wind, my friend.
JAREDWell, I understand that. And as I said, there is this working group that is comprised of both parents from Francis-Stevens and School Without Walls and no one seems to think that this is a viable idea. And they're taking something that's working. It reminds me of Hardy Middle School where there was a great middle school. Again, they tried to share a principal and it really wreaked havoc on Hardy Middle School for the last probably three or four years.
JAREDSo I'm hoping that David Catania and the education committee, Committee on Education is listening and will seriously consider looking into this so we can maintain a school that is a success story in D.C. and not disassemble a school that is a success story.
NNAMDIWhat do you mean you hope they're listening? Of course they're listening. They're always involved. They have to listen.
JAREDYeah. You're right, you're right. Good point. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you have a very good point.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. It is "Your Turn." Here we move on to Andy in Takoma Park, Md. Andy, "Your Turn."
ANDYVery simple, quick question. We've bailed out GM and other places. And I'm wondering why we can't bail out Detroit?
NNAMDIWe, being the federal government?
NNAMDIWell, there is an arrangement, it would seem to me, that Detroit has to have before it gets federal government and that is with the state government in Michigan.
ANDYWell, I don't know. I mean, but is anybody working on trying to do that?
NNAMDIOh, yes. There's been all kinds of things. It seems -- somebody can correct me on this -- but I think the state has to a large extent taken control of the finances of the City of Detroit at this point. But I am not aware of the details. It's not something that we have covered in a little while. But I don't think the federal government would just step in to save a city without the city -- that the state government and the state legislature having some say about that first.
ANDYWell, I don't know. That's a point that never occurred to me. But I don't know what the mechanism is, but what I read about what's happening in Detroit, it's not sounding like things are working there. And that's a major city in this country. And to let it just slide...
NNAMDIAllow me to tell you what the Washington -- let me tell you what the Washington Post reported in February. Detroit officials laid out a plan for exiting the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history that calls for slashing pensions for non-uniformed retirees by nearly one-third and repaying bondholders just one of every $5.00 owed to them by the city.
ANDYThere you go.
NNAMDIThe pensioners did not go for that. The plan would also cut out -- would also cut pensions for police and firefighters...
ANDYYeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
NNAMDI...many of whom were not -- all of that.
ANDYThat's what -- that's what I'm relating.
NNAMDINow that proposed roadmap out of bankruptcy still faces weeks and months of negotiations in federal bankruptcy court.
ANDYWell, but is that reasonable? That wasn't the cost of bailing out General Motors -- that one-fifth of the people in -- had to be let go and blah-blah-blah.
NNAMDIOf course there were a lot of people who were against the federal government bailing out General Motors. The federal government...
ANDYYes, but it got done.
NNAMDI...made the argument that Detroit may be a city, but the federal – but General Motors is national and international and, I suspect they would argue, more important to the economy of the country than the City of Detroit is at this point. And I know be pilloried even for repeating that.
NNAMDIBut thank you so much for your...
ANDYI mean people will argue -- I know people will argue that the world is flat.
NNAMDIWell, you won't get that argument from me, Andy. But thank you very much for your call. This is "Your Turn." We got a tweet from another Andy who says, "Let's talk about David Catania. Does he have a shot against whoever wins the primary that -- the Democratic primary on April 1?" We had David Catania on "The Politics Hour," this past Friday. He certainly does think he has a shot.
NNAMDIAnd according to the numbers that we're looking at, regardless of who wins the Democratic primary on April 1, I would say, yes, David Catania does have a good shot because, as you will hear, when you hear the poll that was conducted by this broadcast and the Washington City Paper tomorrow, that there are a number of people who, if the Democratic primary is won by one candidate or another, may think of switching their vote come the general election. So you can hear the numbers on that tomorrow morning on "Morning Edition," and again on "The Politics Hour" tomorrow afternoon.
NNAMDIBut this is "Your Turn." And I am droning on way too long. So let's go to Ernie in Chevy Chase, Md. Ernie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Chevy Chase, D.C. Ernie is, not Maryland.
ERNIERight. Hi, Kojo. I'm a big fan.
NNAMDIHi, Ernie. Thanks.
ERNIEI wanted to make a couple of points quickly on this situation in Eastern Europe -- actually Ukraine, but the callers have mentioned the Baltic countries also. You know, since the Soviet Union went out of business, the people of these Eastern European countries that were formally dominated involuntarily by Russians and suffered for generations under the Russians, have been very successful at establishing democracies, even if they're extremely messy democracies, like we saw in Ukraine. I mean there's no question that it's been a total mess.
ERNIEBut it's a democracy unlike the dictatorship with the trappings of a democratic election and with free speech or anything else in Russia. And I don't see how anybody could be supporting the totalitarian Putin regime invading another country. Now, as far as the Eastern Europe is concerned, Kojo, your listeners may remember that when the Russians came into these countries, they literally slaughtered millions of people. We're talking about during World War II and after World War II.
ERNIEAnd another -- many hundreds of thousands of these people, such as Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and Ukrainians were (word?) by the Russians to populate Siberia. And so this is the history that these people had. And, yet, we've never heard of any of these countries turning on the Russians. It's a totally fictitious argument that Putin is giving on this subject.
NNAMDIWell, I don't know if you read Pamela Constable's letter in The Washington Post this morning in which she said she was hard-pressed to find anybody in Crimea who did not agree with the notion of becoming a part of Russia again. She did find a few people who were reluctant to speak because opinion was so overwhelmingly against them. And she bemoaned the fact that these people did not seem to remember how they were treated under the Soviet Union. All of that having been said, Ernie, 97 percent of those people voted to reunite with Russia.
NNAMDIAnd the overwhelming majority of people who live there are Russian. So what would you have the United States and others do?
ERNIEWell, Kojo, what I would say is, first of all, Russia is the party to a treaty with Ukraine respecting the integrity of all of Ukraine, not just certain neighborhoods, for the Ukrainians and pieces that the Russians want to pull out. And in exchange for that treaty...
NNAMDIWell, what the Russians are saying -- allow me to interrupt for one second, because we're running out of time. What the Russians are saying is that we -- our government in the United States supported the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Ukraine. Who are we to talk?
ERNIEWell, you know, Kojo, all of Ukraine should have voted, if there was a referendum, not just select areas packed with Russians. The whole country should have had a chance to vote on it, number one. Number two, Ukraine was stocked with nuclear weapons that they gave up to the Russians in exchange for Russia respecting its borders. And that's been violated. And that's one reason why Western Europe is chillingly worried about what Putin's intentions are, if international treaties are repudiated. And, you know, we've got a lot of Russian speakers (unintelligible) so concerned about in Brooklyn today, you know?
ERNIEI mean, let's, you know, he's made Russian supremacy the test of whether he'll invade a country and the test of whether he'll grab land. And this is not expansion or freedom in human rights. There were, you know, I'm not...
NNAMDIDo you make a distinction between Western countries being concerned, Western countries being worried, and Western countries challenging Russia militarily in that part of the world?
ERNIENo, we should not challenge them militarily. But we don't have to support Putin and the plutocrat oligarchs, billionaires by...
NNAMDIWell, I don't think the West is supporting them.
ERNIE...with letting them use our banks and making them all rich, if they're going to go on these land-grab binges.
NNAMDIOkay. So you agree with the sanctions. I do have to move on, because we're running out of time. Thank you so much for your call, Ernie. Here is Jess in Stafford, Va. Jess, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
JESSHi, Kojo. I just had a quick comment about the Malaysian Airlines flight.
JESSAnd the fact that when we mention these big airline disasters, such as the Asiana Flight, Malaysia and when Sully landed the 737 in the Hudson River, there's always this mention about, well, what did the pilots do? But there's no mention of flight attendants. And if we find these passengers in the ocean in life vests or in rafts, well that would be a successful landing of the pilots, but it would also be the actions of the crew that get these people out safely.
NNAMDIWell, if on the one hand we don't talk about the flight attendants and the crew who help, and we focus on the possible role of the pilots in whatever happened to this, should we also focus on the possible role of flight attendants in what may have happened here?
JESSI think we should. I think the flight attendants are a population that gets generally ignored. And they have a great amount of power. They're the ones who communicate between the flight deck and the passengers on the aircraft and keep people calm and really influence the situation.
NNAMDIOkay. Well, I guess that's about all the time we have for speculation on this issue at this point because we have just about run out of time. So thank you so much for your call.
JESSThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd thanks to all of you who participated in this edition of "Your Turn." And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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