Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
D.C.’s Democratic primary results are in. GM answers questions about a recall gone wrong on the Hill. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon tops 1 million. We’ll talk about these and other stories making headlines and capturing your attention.
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. You can start calling now, 800-433-8850, whether you want to comment on the 7 million people who signed up for the Affordable Care Act, whatever happened to Relisha Rudd here in Washington, D.C., the Democratic primary or the primaries that took place here this past Tuesday resulting in a Democratic primary victory for mayoral candidate and the Ward 4 council member Muriel Bowser, the Supreme Court decision issued yesterday striking down limits on federal campaign contributions, 800-433-8850. Email to email@example.com, send us a Tweet @kojoshow.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's Your Turn. With Turmoil in Crimea and Venezuela, elections coming up in Afghanistan as troops depart and live fire exchanged off the coast of North and South Korea, the ongoing civil war in Syria continues apace even if it has slipped further into the A section of the newspaper. The latest grim milestone met today with the UN high commissioner for refugees announcing the number of Syrians who have fled to neighboring Lebanon has reached 1 million, putting an immense strain on a country whose population is under 5 million overall.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIOther reports indicating overall 7 million Syrians have been displaced both within and outside of their home country. And three years after that conflict began there are no apparent signs of resolution on the horizon. What more or what else do you think the international community could or should be doing to bring peace to that country, 800-433-8850? It is Your Turn here.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAfter a turbulence talk and even as some state sides continue to wrestle with serious problems, the Obama Administration met and even exceeded its goal of registering 7 million citizens under the Affordable Care Act. The plans are set to go into effect on May 1 making sure that transition goes smoothly will be the next challenge. Do you think political wrangling over the so-called Obamacare rollout will die down or do you think it will continue?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd just before we get to the phones, yesterday metro police announced that the search for missing eight-year-old Relisha Rudd that has unfolded over 700 acres of wood, ponds and brush is being scaled back, likely to end before the week is out. This after the unexpected discovery of the body of Kahlil Malik Tatum in a shed near the park, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man suspected of wrongdoing in the case and of murdering his wife. Police remind us that even as the search of Kenilworth winds down, they maintain hope and continue to explore any and all of the few leads in this case.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhat do you think about this whole rotten affair? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. It is Your Turn to discuss issues in the news, any of the topics that I may have suggested or anything else on your mind. We will start with Richard in Great Falls, Va. Richard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RICHARDHello, Kojo. How are you? I appreciate this opportunity. My question is actually two of them. The two CEOs who preceded Ms. Barra, Ed Whitacre from AT & T and Southwestern Bell and Dan Akerson from AT &T, MCI and XO. Both were CEOs during the Cobalt affair. Neither of them, to my knowledge, had auto manufacturing experience. Is that a strange phenomenon? And did that -- what as their role in the incident and did that allow the General Motors lead team to take such a tough or such a negligent stand?
NNAMDINow, you raise all very fascinating questions, none of which I can answer. But it seems to me that the CEOs these days do not necessarily need auto manufacturing experience as much as they seem to need marketing experience. But if such a CEO does not in fact have any auto manufacturing experience, you wonder what in fact can slip by them. I don't know if there are any others who will be able to answer that question, but Richard, thank you very much for your call. We move on now...
RICHARDThank you. Bye.
NNAMDI...we move on now to Chris in Washington, D.C. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISHow you doing today, Kojo?
CHRISGood, good. This is Chris Otten, former mayoral candidate for the Statehood Green in '06. I was on your show then.
NNAMDIYou certainly were, Chris.
CHRISThank you for having me and you're obviously quite important to all of the D.C. political scene. I wanted to talk to you, Kojo, about instant runoff voting. We had the lowest turnout in decades for something as important as our mayor. And it shows that one, we had a terrible candidate field, but also two, a direct apathy because of that, right. It's not like, you know, let's say you were voting for Andy Shallal.
CHRISFor all intense and purposes, he wasn't going to win. You know, that was dictated by the Post and the various, you know, rigmarole in terms of media. But, you know, that doesn't make somebody who wants to vote for Andy Shallal run out to the polls and want to vote for him because nobody wants to vote for somebody who may lose. But if we had instant runoff voting where we could rank our candidates from top to bottom, who we want first, who we want second, so that it inspires people to get to the voting polls, it's a creative way to vote. They use it all around the world, including here in the states for similar municipal elections. I just wanted to put that (unintelligible)
NNAMDIWell, explain a bit more clearly how instant runoff voting would work. Not only would we be allowed to select first, second and third preferences, but why would that encourage people more to go to the polls?
CHRISBecause it eliminates the anybody but. You know what I'm saying? So anybody but Gray, anybody but Bush, it would eliminate that. You don't have to vote for somebody who you don't necessarily agree with because you hate the other person. It allows you to vote for the person -- it allows you to vote your conscience for who you want to win.
CHRISAnd in some cases, you know, maybe people who voted for Muriel to get Gray out or maybe people who were stalwart Gray supporters would've put Andy Shallal second or maybe put him first or second. And he would've bubbled up to the top or certainly it would've reflected better what people are feeling, what people are thinking in terms of the final numbers.
NNAMDIHow do you feel about open primaries? That's what some people believe may be the solution to some of our problems.
CHRISThat's a minor fix. Instant runoff voting is really -- would eliminate the apathy, would get more voters out there, would create a buzz, you'd be creative. I think commissioner -- council member Grosso has put a bill forward in regards to this. And we should all explore it. Just Google instant runoff voting to the great Wiki page. That explains it. And I certainly would love to see that happen in the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIJames (sic) , thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Glen in Washington, D.C. Glen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GLENHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I just had two comments I wanted to share. One is on the sign up for the Affordable Health Care Act. I run a small business so I signed up through the exchanges. But I'm like a number of people who I had insurance before and all I did was really switch for a new plan which is going to cost me about $100 more a month and increase my deductible by $3,000. I'm not saying that to make a political statement. I think it's just true. But a lot of the people signing up would've had insurance before. So before they see how successful that program is, they really do need to look at the other numbers.
GLENBut the other comment I wanted to make was about health care and the mayoral election. I think it's fascinating that David Catania who's been so active in Ward 8 with United Medical Center and some of these other issues over there, has a real shot at attracting voters in an area which is traditionally going to be Democratic. It's African American. You have an African American candidate. And I was looking in the Post this morning. Her overwhelming majority of votes came from Ward 3 so it's a kind of intriguing mix-up of the whole normal racial and other politics. And some of it does have to do with health care.
NNAMDIIt is indeed, it is an intriguing mix up. David Catania used to be the chairman of the committee on health. He is now the chairman of the committee on education. He has spent a lot of time in those wars. The question, of course, is whether or not that will translate into votes from those wards. There are people like you who believe that it will and therefore he will be a formidable opponent for Muriel Bowser in the fall. there are others who believe that the Democrats in this city are so unswervingly loyal that Muriel Bowser is going to trounce David Catania. We'll, I guess, have to see what happens.
GLENOkay. All right. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You too can call us because it is Your Turn. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can also send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a Tweet @kojoshow or you can go to our website kojoshow.org and join the conversation right there. Here is Suma in Washington, D.C. Suma, your turn.
SUMAHi, Kojo. Good afternoon. How are you?
NNAMDII am well.
SUMAAll right. Kojo, I have a restaurant here in D.C. on 7th Street. This guy, Kojo, had a dinner reception in my restaurant on January 24 of this year. He did his job in my restaurant for 5:00 to 9:00. That many (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIYou said he was in the restaurant from 5:00 to 9:00? He reserved the entire restaurant?
SUMAThat's right (unintelligible) dinner.
SUMAThe guys name is -- this guys' name is Antoni (unintelligible) from Nigeria.
NNAMDIHe was getting engaged.
NNAMDIWhy are you outing him at this point?
SUMAOkay. Kojo, we charged this guy's credit card for $1,000. They were in the restaurant from 5:00 to 9:00 and the food, everything $1,000, Kojo.
SUMAOkay. This guy went back around -- he said he was going to bring 45 people to the restaurant. So he then bring 53 people with him. Okay, that's fine. My wife said, okay, let's go ahead and serve them their (unintelligible) Kojo, this guy went back around in about two weeks (unintelligible) to his credit card company that they never showed up for the dinner. We finally get a letter from the credit card company (unintelligible) the credit card company sends us a letter (unintelligible) to send the receipt of his credit card to then to confirm that, yes, he did charge it on his Visa for the dinner.
SUMABut what happened, this man had taken the letter -- the credit card -- from the Bank of -- I mean, the credit card -- the letter of the credit card (unintelligible) because where I am, I'm sure you know, at 1720 (unintelligible) Street Northwest. They had taken the actual (unintelligible) up on the second floor (unintelligible)
NNAMDIThe end of this story, Suma, sounds as if you're going to say you got scammed.
SUMAYes, exactly (unintelligible) Kojo, before we get the letter (unintelligible) how do you know that this guy had protested to the credit card company that they never showed up for dinner. My wife was (unintelligible) in the morning. (unintelligible) his account and they told her that (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIBut you had nothing -- did you have anything in writing from this customer with whom you're doing business? Did you have anything in writing for him that you could present to the credit card company as evidence that this arrangement had been made?
SUMAWell, usually the credit card company don't ask for a written agreement or anything like that. They will ask for the copy of the receipt of his credit card...
SUMA...to send to them. They don't request agreement or anything like that.
NNAMDIYeah, but it sounds to me as if, if you made an arrangement for him to have an event there and just pay $1,000 for it, you don't have any individual receipts to send to the credit card company.
SUMAYeah, we do have a receipt. Kojo, as I'm talking to you right now, I do have the receipts from the -- from his -- I mean, his credit card receipt $1,000.
NNAMDIYeah, that doesn't work.
SUMAOkay. Well, Kojo, listen to this. I have witnesses, Kojo, from the (word?) people next door, Kojo, that this guy did come and (unintelligible) also a lawyer, he's a lawyer, by the way.
NNAMDIWell, Suma, I do not know the procedures of the credit card companies in cases like this. But unless you're going into a court, I don't think witnesses will survive -- suffice in this situation. . I think you have to have paper. You have to have some kind of receipt indicating that you provided a service for which this individual paid. His credit card receipt will not suffice. That is, in fact, what he is protesting. So it looks as if you may have gotten, indeed, scammed. And it also looks as if this may have been a scam that came with forethought that in fact this was a planned scam.
NNAMDIDon't know what you can do about it at this point, but thank you very much for your call. We're going to have to take a short break. It is Your Turn. If you would like to call on the ongoing disappearance of eight-year-old Relisha Rudd, the General Motors recall, the rollout of or the 7 million people who signed up for Obamacare, the Supreme Court decision on campaign financing or the efforts of the owner of the Washington football team to start a charity, a foundation to aid Native Americans, 800-433-8850 is the number. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Your Turn. Those of you who called 800-433-8850, if that number is busy you can shoot us an email to email@example.com or send us a Tweet @kojoshow. As the international community continues to protest Russia's move into Crimea, the UN has announced it will continue to view Crimea as a part of Ukraine, adding yet another layer to a confounding situation in which Russia is attempting to exert control in the region through UN channels, including the International Maritime Organization and the International Postal Union.
NNAMDISo while some see this as a done deal, there are many complications to work through. What do you make of the UN move? Is it a substantial one or akin, in your view, to red tape? So give us a call, 800-433-8850 or you can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's James in Chevy Chase, Md. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESHi. I did want to address the situation in Ukraine and Crimea, not the latest thing you mentioned. But personal without saying to support Putin or anything else, but the point I wanted to make is that the administration and the west have been totally hypocritical about their indignation about what has happened. First of all, they of course did ignore all the historical ties between Crimea and Russia. But beyond that it's -- nobody has to -- these ideas of calling the referendum illegitimate because they didn't go through a central government.
JAMESWell, Croatia declared its independence and the west couldn't recognize them fast enough. The same thing happened in Kosovo. And then to deny that it's hypocritical, as John Kerry did and the president did, and then they claimed to have worked within the international framework when they decided to invade Iraq. Well, I don't know since when the regime changed and enhanced interrogation techniques were working within the international...
NNAMDIWhat you seem to be suggesting here, James, is that tit for tat is okay. And that if in fact the United States committed an international act, which you feel was in violation of international norms or specific UN regulations, that when Russia does the same thing that it is hypocritical for the U.S. and the so-called international community to object to it. But if in fact tit for tat is okay then what we might be suggesting is that it's really okay for anybody to go into anyplace else and just do what they think is, in their view, the appropriate thing.
JAMESI'm not suggesting that at all.
JAMESI'm suggesting that there -- the self determination which seems to be a recognized principle, some defined it at the particular time. And who hides behind, you know, the rules that they make up as far as what's considered legitimate and what, it's very much of a double standard going on. So, again, it's not a matter of giving (word?) approval for tit for tat or supporting Putin. It's just that to be taking the moral high ground and being indignant about what's occurred there, it -- and the fact that there's no analysis going on about it and we don't hear anything about the historical ties between the regions, we don't hear anything about the context. And one more thing, (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWell, we've been hearing -- depending on what you have been reading or listening to, I've certainly been hearing a great deal about context and a great deal about details. I've been hearing about a great deal of disagreement over what it is. This -- I don't see it as an argument in which only one side is being heard.
JAMESWell, let me make one more point, and I disagree about there being any kind of balance here. But if -- looking at it from Russia's standpoint for just a moment, if we look at the disillusion of the Soviet Union and what is occurred since then, well, the understandings about where NATO -- when they're discussing the reunification of Germany, there was an understanding that NATO would not proceed beyond -- into the east.
JAMESAnd if you look at all the nations that were formerly of the Warsaw Pact, they all were entered -- they all were admitted into NATO, and before they got into the EU. So if you were in Russia's position and you were surrounded by all of these nations, you know, military alliance and the border step getting pushed further and further -- I mean, if the United States saw Ontario and Quebec all of a sudden (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWell, what I was saying, James, is that that is an argument that I have been hearing. I have been reading about it and it is an argument that if one is in Russia's shoes can make sense to some people. But the fact that there was a majority in the UN that felt there was a technical violation that took place here is also a fact of life to be reckoned with.
JAMESWell, what about the vote of the Crimean people that they wanted to be part of Russia (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWell, I've got one for you -- in that regard I've got one for you since you're in Chevy Chase, Md., and I'm assuming that maybe you live in Maryland. If the voters of the District of Columbia were to vote overwhelmingly to become a state, would you approve of it?
NNAMDIThank you very much. It's Your Turn, 800-433-8850. We have these little side discussions here on the broadcast but it is really Your Turn and you are the one who is making your points here. So let us go to Jennifer in Silver Spring, Md. Jennifer, it is now your turn.
JENNIFERHi, Kojo. My question about the Supreme Court, it's time the American people speak. We need to put down on term limits. We need to collect enough ballots to tell these gentlemen that they may be out of tune with society and with everyday living. And the 21st century is here, not the 20th century. We actually need to get them on term limits. I do understand that, you know, everybody believes that they should tenured, but they're too old. These guys are not getting any younger. They're getting older and they're doing some really bizarre stuff.
JENNIFERAs for Crimea (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWell, allow me to interrupt for one second. Would you approve of those term limits being extended to the four Supreme Court justices who voted against taking the limits off of federal campaign expenses?
JENNIFERTo all because you have to really, really beautiful minds, people who can actually interpret the law (unintelligible) older people...
NNAMDIOkay, okay. Got you, got you. I heard you on all -- seconds.
JENNIFERAnd it should go for everyone.
NNAMDISecond, would you impose an age limit on members of the Supreme Court? People beyond a certain age should not be allowed to be on the court at all?
JENNIFERExactly. After 70...
NNAMDIWhat do you think should be the -- what do you think should be the cap on the age for a Supreme Court justice?
JENNIFERSeventy, seventy. If 65 is retirement, maybe 65. But because of the experience that we like to have we'll give them an extra five years. I really don't think those guys need to be there. I'm serious. They're too old. They've been there too long and they're out of touch with the American people. They really are.
NNAMDII'm about to tell you, when you turn to 50 guess who's not getting an AARP card?
NNAMDIYou have just alienated the entire senior population of the United States.
JENNIFEROkay, wait a minute, Kojo. I'm not of the baby boomers. I've already got my AARP and I'm (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIOh well, it's about to be revoked, but go ahead.
JENNIFERWell, I'm definitely (unintelligible) the Supreme Court justices are out of touch. They are.
NNAMDIBecause you feel that putting limits on campaign financing is where the overwhelming majority of Americans want to go.
JENNIFERWell, I feel that these guys don't realize election matters and that big money should not be able to purchase election. You see what's going on in congress right now. These guys act like they don't even know what they're there for. They're there to represent a small group of companies, not people. And they forgot who elected them, people, not companies. If you put all the companies in the United States together, not one of them would be able to elect any of these congressmen. And if these kids don't get it then we the people need to speak.
NNAMDII agree with you wholeheartedly but you have made two suggestions so far. One, that we term limit the Supreme Court justices. Two, apparently that we get rid of all of the people who are currently in congress and have them replaced by people who have no corporate contributions whatsoever.
JENNIFERWell, corporate contributions to where the people actually the majority donor, not corporations. And to be honest with you, the people have issues and they have concerns. Take for instance the health care law. How is it that a bunch of people in congress don't believe that Americans should not stay healthy? Guess what? Diseases are not racists. They don't know if you're black or white. And if one person gets E boli (sic) and they're in the community and you don't know about it and you're their neighbor, you will get it too, I guarantee you. So these guys need to get brains. They obviously do not have one.
NNAMDIJennifer, thank you very much. I suspect that there are people who will call with the specific purpose of opposing your point of view but you have had Your Turn, so thank you very much for calling. It is Your Turn. You too can call, 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. We go now to Rob in Tacoma Park, Md. Rob, your turn.
ROBThank you, Kojo. I am interested in the discussion. I'll just add that I think an 18-year term limit for justices would make sense. But...
NNAMDIWhat's with 18?
ROBThere would be a nice symmetry to it because it'd be every two years you could get a new justice nominated. During a presidential term you typically would get to each president during that term or get a couple justices to a point or nominate. And there'd be, you know, sort of a generation, 18 years of service and then you're done. And then you could have older people but you wouldn't necessarily pick only younger people that they do now so they can service long terms.
NNAMDIOkay, got you. Got you. Okay, proceed.
ROBSo I wanted to talk about the district and I'm a big believer in instant runoff proposal that was mentioned earlier. But we're also having this situation where these early primaries mean two things which, you know, the turnout was so low, historically low. And that's not a surprise when you move the votes so early. That's a common pattern. And...
NNAMDIBut New York only had 23 percent turnout also in their mayoral election. And I'm not sure their primary or their election was that early, was it?
ROBNo, that's true. And we are having this really remarkable decline in turnouts in nonpresidential elections across the country. And, in fact, the very highest turnout of any of the 22 biggest cities in the U.S. over the last few years was only 42 percent in San Francisco of registered voters. And it goes down from there so we are seeing it across the board. But it is a pattern that when you shift things earlier it tends to get worse. And they're actually debating that in New York and it might have the same impact.
ROBBut it means that you end up with these sort of long lame duck periods, people that lose, I mean, obviously there were two incumbents that lost this week and yet they'll serve for another eight or nine months, which is sort of an odd situation. And so the thing that we're interested in in looking at, and it's something we think makes sense for lots of elections, but certainly the district is a good place to start, is to use this primary to winnow the field. But then have the decisive election really be typically in November.
ROBAnd so one, you don't get that long lame duck period and you really make the November election always the one that matters decisively so that it would be like the open primary process that we're seeing in states like California and Washington. But those go all the way down to two, which really then limits November choice. Instead go to four or five and then use instant runoff in November to handle four or five candidates. So then you'd have this mix of choice in November when it really should matter. And you would also have sort of an open contest in April but not have it be as decisive as now.
ROBAnd then really have the values of instant runoff come to play where the winner in November would not only have to be good at getting first choices, but very good at reaching out to second and third choices. And that's something that could be done by statute in the district as well.
NNAMDIWell, Congressman Grosso has introduced three bills having to do with how we conduct elections in the district. And it seems like for what we've been hearing from our callers, one or the other of his bills tends to touch on those issues. Have you looked specifically at his bills?
ROBYes, I think they are good bills. And I would support them as they are. I mean, it obviously would've made a lot of sense to use (unintelligible) in the primary as it took place last week. It's just still not as comprehensive a solution to some other problems that we're seeing as really trying to make the general election matter and, you know, giving voters some real choices along the way.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. One of the Grosso bills is Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2014. Second bit of legislation is the Open Primary Elections Amendment Act of 2014. And another is the Clean Hands Election Reform Amendment Act of 2014 that would require candidates to get certification from the Office of Campaign Finance, that they nor any of their previous campaigns or political committees owe any back taxes before getting on the ballot.
NNAMDIAll of that information compliments of DCist.com. It is however Your Turn where you get to lead this conversation by calling 800-433-8850. On now to Jim in Ft. Washington, Md. Jim, you're on the air. It's your turn.
JIMYeah, thanks for an excellent -- continuing excellent program you've got. The thing about the election, the roles in politics and out of this whole mess that's going on between Russia and Crimea and, you know, that whole part of the world. The Russians -- within 100 years of today's date, the Russians have faced two major invasions over their western border. One was World War I, one was World War II. And the estimates of casualties that they sustained in those two wars is somewhere around 60 million people.
JIMIn World War II with two fronts, we suffered casualties of 600,000, which was too much but it was -- you know, we were fighting for our lives. And...
NNAMDIYou say this to say...
JIMWell, the point of the matter is, the issue isn't really Putin. I mean, they could have somebody named John Doe as the head of that government but the Russian people are still wounded by what happened in World War II and the huge casualties they sustained. If the right wing of our political process could just step back and rather than try and force Obama's hand and recognize that, you know, there are real politic issues that we would act the same way as the Russians are to protect ourselves, it might make life a little easier on this, you know, game that's being played over those countries.
NNAMDIWell, I think you're right. Three are real political issues here. It's one of the reasons why the United Nations exists. It's one of the reasons why there are existing protocols for trying to resolve these kinds of disputes. There are points to be made clearly on both sides of this issue. And you have made a good one. Others, on the other hand -- on the other side, have made good points also. But Jim, thank you very much for joining the conversation. We move on now to Bill in Reston, Va. Bill, it's your turn.
BILLHello, Kojo? Remember me. I talked -- it has been a while since we talked but, you know, you recognize my voice. You used to.
NNAMDIHow could I forget?
BILLAnyway, I've been working on the taxi rate question here in Fairfax for almost six years now. I retired a little over a year ago. I was the president of the Taxi Association. And then the Taxi Association has submitted a proposal to the board of supervisors to raise the taxi fare from $2.10 a mile to $2.50 a mile. And my research, going back to over 50 years, shows that over -- for decades the taxi rate has not kept up with the rate of inflation. In fact, if it had been kept up with the rate of inflation today, people would be paying $3.22 a mile instead of $2.10 a mile.
NNAMDIIs that what you're advocating that they should be paying, Bill?
BILL$2.50. That still doesn't get us, you know, to the rate of inflation but there's no way that they're going to raise it to over $3 immediately. But...
BILL...people riding in taxis in Fairfax are getting a real deal.
NNAMDIAnd what would you think would be a good rate right now? Did you say $2.50?
BILLWell, that's what the association proposed. They may not get that much, but that's what the board of supervisors proposed and there will be a public hearing on this on the 29th of this month before the board of supervisors.
NNAMDIOkay. We'll have to see what happens there, but thank you for saying your piece. Good to hear from you, Bill. Even in the off season, D.C.'s football team is making headlines. Owner Dan Snyder who has flatly refused to change the team's name recently announced that after travelling to 26 tribal reservations across 20 states to "listen and learn firsthand about the views, attitudes and experiences of the tribes," during which he reported meeting many fans of the team, he also announced the creation of "The Original Americans Foundation" to provide aid to Native American communities in need.
NNAMDICritics are calling the foundation a ploy to buy the silence of Native Americans, citing the call for banning the name backed by the National Congress of American Indians, a group of 250 tribes, and some are questioning the fitness of the organization's leader, Gary Edwards, whose prior work on a million-dollar government contract involving Native Americans was cited by an OIG report as having no benefit, which prompts us to ask, what do you think about the use of the name Redskins by news organizations.
NNAMDISome have moved away from it, while others argue it's the name -- we mention that because NPR's ombudsman recently wrote about the use of the name after Weekend Edition host Scott Simon refused to use it on the air. So what do you think about any and all of this in addition to the Redskins acquiring star wide receiver DeSean Jackson over the weekend? Do you think that may be the most important thing of all?
NNAMDI800-433-8850. It's Your Turn. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. This is Your Turn, when you get to set the agenda. Yesterday, General Motors' CEO took to the hill for a second day in a row, answering questions from lawmakers about a botched recall in which it took nearly a decade to fix an ignition problem in 2.6 million cars linked to 13 deaths. In those hearings, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri who heads the Senate commerce subcommittee said GM had a culture of cover-up that allowed an engineer to repeatedly lie under oath about the problem.
NNAMDIAnd just ahead of the hearings, the company announced an additional recall affecting 1.5 million cars worldwide with electronic steering issues. What responsibility do you think companies in general and automakers in particular have to the car buying public? It's your turn. 800-433-8850. But here is Scott in Tacoma Park, Maryland. Scott, your turn.
SCOTTYes. I hoped to actually speak during the program yesterday that Diane Rehm had, but was unable to get through. I was a safety defect engineer with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 12 years, from the early '90s until I retired in 2005. And there were a number of comments or kind of allegations or allusions yesterday about the failings of the office.
SCOTTI would suggest that the people who were talking about this yesterday go and get random copies of, say, 200 of the complaints that allegedly relate to this defect and I will guarantee you not five percent of them will say anything about the ignition switch, five percent will say the engine stalled, my steering failed, my brakes failed, the air bag didn't go off.
SCOTTEverything in the car is related to the ignition switch, but that's not the kind of thing driver's notice or put in their comments to NHTSA's defect office. So this idea of why didn't somebody connect the dots, this is a case of connecting the dots in a shotgun blast.
NNAMDISo you're saying that for the engineers at GM, the difficulty was...
SCOTTNo, no, no. Not GM. I'm talking about NHTSA. The GM people knew a lot more about this. They were aware of the facts -- an issue with the ignition switches. But when it comes to NHTSA...
NNAMDIThe National Transportation Safety...
SCOTT...connecting the dots is that you're not going to get really (word?) comments from your typical car driver. I'll give you an old joke in the auto industry. General Motors is the largest publisher of unread books in the world. People don't know enough about their cars, other than their computer, the most complex thing typical citizens (unintelligible) with in a daily manner is their car and they don't know anything about how it works.
NNAMDIOkay. But if General Motors knew about this, so you're not absolving General Motors of responsibility for this...
SCOTTNo, no. I'm not absolving them at all. All I'm saying is the ability of -- the other thing is, is who writes a letter to a manufacturer? Those letters have to be detailed. When they write what's called an IR, an information request, if the NHTSA doesn't think or know it's the ignition, if the letter doesn't say give us information about failures and warranty for ignition switches, that's not what they're going to get.
SCOTTIf they think it's a steering problem 'cause people (unintelligible) the steering, a brake problem, that's part of it. Us putting the dots together is not nearly as easy as most people think it is.
NNAMDII got you. NHTSA, of course, being the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
SCOTTOne other quick comment. In every engineer's performance requirement, all the way up through office directors, even associate administrators, one of their (unintelligible) criteria is and the initial investigations, give 90 days and defect investigations in two years. All the manufacturer has to do is drag their feet saying, oh, well, you wanted this information in 45 days. It's gonna take us between 90 and 120. These (word?) never deny their request for extension.
SCOTTYou make it go long enough and suddenly all this pressure from the management because there is to get the investigation done or close it.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing that information with us, Scott. I don't think most of us everyday drivers know that at all so thank you very much for your call. Onto Sally in Alexandria, Virginia. Sally, it is now your turn.
SALLYThanks, Kojo. I was concerned about Senator Warner's proposal for the government reports illumination act, one of the reports that they considered unnecessary was the Dog and Cat Fur Protection Act, because, according to Senator Warner, there has only been one violation in the past five years. Well, I happen to know that the Humane Society is constantly talking about Dog and Cat Fur.
SALLYSo I looked it up and I looked at the report that was sent in by the border protection that's -- they're the ones who have to oversee it and I found that they had dubbed -- there was one article of cat skin that was seized in 2012. But at the same time, there was a huge investigation in July of 2012 about the sale of dog fur on the internet and the Humane Society went out in an undercover act and they bought stuff, a blanket, a vest, a pair -- in other words...
NNAMDIOkay. But I'm not understanding the relationship between that and the bill proposed by Senate's Jack Warner of Virginia.
SALLYThe bill is a good idea, to reduce unnecessary paperwork, but this Dog and Cat Fur Report is not one of them. Congress is actually -- it's the president and the secretary of the treasurer who are in charge of what they -- what information...
NNAMDIYeah, but I'm not getting how Mark Warner's bill would somehow adversely affect what the Humane Society is able to do.
SALLYWell, what senator's bill -- it was supposed to eliminate a report which is false. There is not just one violation in the past five years. They're ignoring violations (unintelligible)
NNAMDIBut have you informed Senator Warner's office about this?
NNAMDIHave you informed Senator Warner's office about what you say is this error?
SALLYI tried to call them, spoke with a young man who, I think, it may have been his first day at work because...
NNAMDIWell, you might want to be able to document something. Rather than calling, can you either send an email or get someone to send an email?
SALLY(unintelligible) right in front of me. July 18, following a two-year investigation and how they went out, they purchased four items, a blanket, a vest, and it's by Unique Products Enterprises.
NNAMDISally, I'm hearing you, but the Humane Society is also quite an influential organization. One would assume that the Humane Society would've pointed this out to Senator Mark Warner, don't you think?
SALLYYeah, I tried to call them and I left a message with a person by the name of Samantha Miller, who is apparently or supposedly in charge -- haven't heard from her.
NNAMDIWell, in that case, you have done your duty as a citizen in this situation and I can understand why you would want to hear a response from Senator Warner, but you have made it clear that you have done your civic duty, that the Humane Society, one assumes, is doing theirs and hopefully, at some point, you'll get a response from the senator. But thank you very much for your call and making sure that all of our listeners are also aware of this because, as we say all the time, it is Your Turn.
NNAMDIOn now to Khalid in Franconia, Virginia. Khalid, your turn.
KHALIDHi. Thanks, Kojo, for taking my call. I had a totally different issue. It's about immigration.
KHALIDI've been -- I'm originally from Afghanistan and I was studying in the United Kingdom, took my Master and Bachelor -- Master in business administration. I'm sorry. And then, I found out that there are certain members of the opposition of the government looking for execution of those who work with the Americans and studied outside so it was not a -- and they even treated my family that when your some comes back, you have to tell us. Otherwise, we will (unintelligible)
NNAMDISo you didn't -- you chose not to return.
KHALIDI choose not to return. And in 2013, in January, I filed a case of asylum with the immigration office in United States and then since then, I haven't heard back from them. Every time I go there, they say that, well, sometime we have short office staff and they are doing so many excuses. Finally, I got to them and they said that you're in the backlog, which means according to their system that first came, last out.
KHALIDAnd I'm sure there are so many people like me waiting for this long and...
NNAMDII'm sure there are thousands.
KHALID...exactly. And I was wondering what type of system it is and why they are not taking care of people like me who have extra skills and they can bring some momentum to this economy of the United States, are waiting and they're wasting their -- years of their time not -- yeah.
NNAMDIThat's a question I cannot answer.
KHALIDAnd just want to make sure that everybody knows about this.
NNAMDII cannot answer that question, Khalid, but you indicated that the system, in your view, was first in, last out. I am not sure that that is how the system would be characterized by the people who run it. They would say that it is a first in, first out system and that if you happen to be in the back of or in the rear section of the line, it'll take you a long time to get through. One can understand your anxiety, but that anxiety is shared by thousands of people.
NNAMDIAnd it's one of the reasons why we are having this ongoing immigration debate in the country right now over who should be allowed to stay and who should be forced to leave this country. I empathize with your situation, but there's nothing that I can do in this situation to help. But the fact that you're able to express it on the air may render some assistance to you or someone else.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Onto Arrington in Washington D.C. Arrington, your turn.
ARRINGTONHow you doing, Kojo? This is Arrington Dixon. My call is to...
NNAMDISo are congratulations in order? Didn't you make it to be national committeeman in Tuesday's election?
ARRINGTONYeah, with the support of a lot of great voters and I thank them very much for that and...
ARRINGTON...it's -- our entire slate did win and we're very proud of that. And we already started working. My call has to do with the voting. There is some concern about us not having a school board representative in Ward 8 and there will be maybe a vote, a campaign for that early, if not in November, hopefully before. We don't want the vacancy to last too long. And there is consideration of trying voting by mail, which I think should be considered.
ARRINGTONCertainly in our community it would help and I would like to start the dialogue and conversation with this call and with your callers maybe in the future about this being a possible tool. I also want to tell you I think -- I know Mark Plotkin and others said that they were concerned about the vote count. I think that not only should they maybe look at the board, but they need to look at how the council can look -- oversee this because, as you know, I chaired government ops and I did a lot with the election board.
NNAMDIYou chaired government ops. You're also chairman of the entire council.
ARRINGTONYes. And I think that they're not just looking at the board that's there, but look at what the council can do to assist them with some oversight of the issue about counting and how it's working. There may be resources that they haven't been given. There may have been other things that are causing this to happen and it needs to be corrected and I hope it will be very soon.
NNAMDIWell, I hope Kenyan McDuffie is listening because that Ward 5 council member is the one who is chairman of the committee overseeing all of this. He has expressed some outrage. You seem to be offering what could be a fairly constructive approach to this and that is providing the resources that make it more feasible that the board of elections would be able to do this stuff efficiently because people are getting fed up, Arrington.
ARRINGTONThere really is not reason for it not to happen quicker with technology, but again, we don't know, behind the scenes, whether there's been some restrictions on requests or technology that they may need to go forward. And there's a large subsidy in this city. We can use it for many things, but the voting, the proper voting, the proper voting process is fundamental to us and we should make sure it happens and we try to get that corrected.
NNAMDIArrington Dixon, thank you very much for your call. Congratulations, Arrington Dixon in Tuesday's primary was voted national committeeman for the Democratic Party. It is not Your Turn, Matt in Washington D.C. You're on the air.
MATTThank you, Kojo. It's pretty difficult to follow Mr. Dixon, after that, a distinguished gentlemen as himself. But I'd like to comment on the whole controversy around the Redskins name for the football team.
NNAMDIYou've got about a minute.
MATTOkay. I'm a direct descendent of a First Nations people that borders New York up into Canada and I think that the Native American and First Nations history in the Washington area is so rich that I don't think it would really be a problem finding a suitable respectful name for the team that reflects its background as being related to the Native American culture in the area and give respect to First Nations Native American people as well.
NNAMDISo what do you think should be done?
MATTYou know, I'm in full favor of a rename. I think that it could be a rename by maybe a popular decision, but also to reflect the First Nations Native American roots of the team and of the area by maybe seeking a local Algonquin Native American name to...
NNAMDISo you seem to favor having a Native American organization or committee be in charge of the renaming process so that it would be appropriate.
NNAMDII haven't heard that one before, but thank you very much for your call. It is the final call on this addition of Your Turn. Thanks to Matt and everyone else who participated in this conversation. We'll be having another one pretty soon. And those of you who didn't participate, well, thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
In author Jabari Asim's fictionalized St. Louis -- the 'Gateway City' first introduced in his short story collection 'A Taste of Honey' –- characters come to grips with the fallout of the civil rights era in surprising ways. We talk with Asim about the fictional world he created and examine the realities of how we deal with race in America today.
We explore the lessons from cities that have boosted their minimum wage as D.C. activists try to get a minimum wage hike on the ballot next year.
Kojo sits down with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen to talk about her first months on the job, how she's prioritizing public health needs, and how her personal story instructs her vision for health policy and progress in Baltimore.