It's health plan open enrollment season for many employees, including federal workers.The editors of the Consumer Checkbook's annual Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees join us to discuss what you need to know to make smart choices for 2016.
Wisconsin strikes a blow to voter ID laws, using a provision of the weakened Voting Rights Act to invalidate the Badger State’s law. A botched execution in Oklahoma reignites the debate over capital punishment. And nuclear energy giant Exelon buys energy utility Pepco, sparking hopes of improved service for local residents. It’s ‘your turn’ to weigh in on those and other stories in the news.
- Nicole Austin-Hillery Director, Counsel, D.C. Office, Brennan Center for Justice, New York University
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. From flooding and tornadoes to a scandal in the NBA, it has been a wild week in the news, so we're making it Your Turn to comment on all of this. It means that you are the guest on today's show. So start calling now, 800-433-8850 is the number. You can send email to email@example.com. Send us a Tweet at kojoshow or simply go to our website kojoshow.org and make your comment there.
MR. KOJO NNAMDILater in the hour, we'll be talking about the big news for Pepco customers, the scandal that rocked the NBA and the latest death now for the Middle East peace process. But first, I'd like to turn to stories in Wisconsin and Oklahoma this week that held huge implications for voting rights and, well, human rights.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAgain, you can add your thoughts by calling 800-433-8850 or sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A federal court in Wisconsin this week struck down Wisconsin's voter ID law saying it violates the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. That ruling coming less than a week after the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the ruling that struck down Arkansas' voter ID law which was enacted last year. Thirty-four states currently have laws requiring voters to show some sort of identification at the polls, a requirement that critics say disenfranchises lower-income voters.
MR. KOJO NNAMDISo are we seeing a turning point in the voter ID battle? We'd like to hear from you, 800-433-8850. But first, let me turn to Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law. She heads the Washington, D.C. office. Nicole, thank you for joining me in studio.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou're welcome, Kojo. Thank you for having me.
MS. NICOLE AUSTIN-HILLERYThe Wisconsin federal judge issued a 90-page ruling invalidating Wisconsin's voter ID law basically saying it was a harmful solution in search of an imaginary problem. What was your reaction to the rulings and what do they say about where this issue is headed?
MS. NICOLE AUSTIN-HILLERYMy reaction was like that of many in the voting advocacy community, which is thank you, Your Honor. We were quite happy that finally a federal court judge has put his imprimatur on this issue. And it said what many of our organizations have been saying, which is exactly that. This is a problem in search of a solution.
MS. NICOLE AUSTIN-HILLERYStudies have shown, evidence has shown, and that's what was put forth in court, that voters are tremendously disenfranchised by these laws. They disproportionately impact minorities, students, the elder and the poor. And they are simply barriers to voting. Why do we want to put such barriers in place when we have a democracy, and the goal of our democracy is to expand the franchise rather than decrease it? And this judge said, we don't want to be a part of that. We want to make sure that voters have equal access to the polls.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. It's Your Turn. Where do you come down on the voter ID issue? You can shoot us an email to email@example.com. Nichole, the judge in this case heard from several Wisconsinites who faced voting hurdles because of the state's law. Did those stories make a difference in this particular ruling? And is hard evidence and testimony something that opponents of these laws will need more of moving forward?
AUSTIN-HILLERYWell, it made a huge difference in this case, Kojo. And in the judge's voluminous opinion he said exactly that. Numerous witnesses came before the court and explained the problems they were having obtaining the ID that the state was requiring. And what he also pointed out was that the burden that was on the State of Wisconsin wasn't met. They really did not do much of a good job in terms of putting forth evidence to show exactly why the kind of voter ID that their law required was needed.
AUSTIN-HILLERYIn fact, they didn't -- they put forth de minimis evidence to show that there was any kind of voter fraud at all in Wisconsin. And again, Kojo, remember we're talking about voter ID that would combat voter impersonation, in person, you know, voter fraud. And they weren't able to meet that burden.
NNAMDIProponents of voter ID laws say they're trying to safeguard against voter fraud and even voter impersonation. You said earlier that this is a solution looking for a problem. What do studies tell us about how prevalent those problems of voter fraud are?
AUSTIN-HILLERYKojo, the Brennan Center did a report a few years ago called the Truth About Voter Fraud. And what our studies show, and there have been numerous studies since then, is that there really is very little evidence of voter fraud in this country.
AUSTIN-HILLERYAnd some of the kinds of incidences that do occur at the polls that sometimes proponents of voter ID point to are really issues dealing with administrative problems, or are voters simply not understanding the requirements for what they have to do to cast the vote at their particular polling place, or what they have to do in order to do things like change their name or change their address? There is no recent evidence of an actual voter going to the polls and impersonating another person in order to try to cast a ballot.
NNAMDII was going to ask you a question about the other side of the argument but I think Raymond in Greenbelt, Md. can provide that for me. Raymond, it's your turn.
RAYMONDHi, Kojo. I just wonder what's the problem with a citizen providing a voter ID at the polls? I mean, people say that that would disenfranchise lower-income people or this or that or the next thing. I don't understand. It's pretty easy to get identification.
NNAMDIA lot of people who live in this area feel that what's the problem? It's pretty easy to get ID. What's the problem?
AUSTIN-HILLERYThe judge said exactly what the problems is, Kojo. The requirements that many of these states have in place, like Wisconsin, was for a particular and specific kind of state-issued ID. And in order to get that ID there were certain parameters that had to be met. And in order to meet those parameters, it made it very difficult for many voters.
AUSTIN-HILLERYVoters had to do things such as show a birth certificate. There are numerous voters in states like Wisconsin that don't have a birth certificate or who, in order to get one, have to go and pay for a copy. If you are a poor person and you have limited resources, spending 20, 30, $40 for a copy of a birth certificate is not going to be at the top of your list.
AUSTIN-HILLERYSo the problem with voter ID is not necessarily that a state is asking for ID. It's the type of ID that states are asking for. We know that we all have something in our wallets or in our homes that say who we are. You might have your bill from Pepco, you might have your Verizon bill, something that says you are Joe Blow. But if the state is saying, no we're not going to take anything that proves who you are. We're only going to accept the type of ID that we are requiring -- and by the way, it's difficult for many poor minorities and students to get that ID -- then that is the inherent problem.
NNAMDIDoes that answer your question, Raymond?
RAYMONDNo. I think that that was a lot of smoke and mirrors because even a poor person...
NNAMDICan afford $20 for an ID?
RAYMONDWell, first of all, it doesn't cost 20 bucks. It doesn't...
AUSTIN-HILLERYI beg to differ, Raymond. It's different in every state, so you really can't say what it costs. Every state has its own requirements and those fees vary from state to state.
RAYMONDIt doesn't cost 20, 30, $40. Another thing is, there are many, many agencies that most poor folk deal with, social services or others that'll offer help and assistance in these regards. There's no reason why a citizen cannot provide a bona fide identification if they are indeed a citizen and a resident of the area. It's just nonsense that...
AUSTIN-HILLERYWell Raymond, in Wisconsin, okay, that judge showed that these residents were not being offered necessarily financial assistance to get these IDs. And even in instances where they were, they still were required to go to certain places to get that ID. And, you know, I don't know what your personal circumstances are, Raymond. You know, I hope that you are in a situation where you can indeed afford to get copies of your driver's license and copies of birth certificates.
AUSTIN-HILLERYBut there were many persons who came before that federal court judge who were able to prove that these were extreme financial barriers for them. And the judge simply said, we should not, in this country, be putting any kind of barriers in place that make it harder for people to exercise their right to vote.
NNAMDIIt's Your Turn. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can weigh in on any issue or a couple of the issues we are discussing right now. I wanted to move on to the botched execution this week of an Oklahoma inmate. It's reignited debate over what's being called a crisis in the country's capital punishment system. That inmate, Clayton Lockett, died of a heart attack but only after a new untested cocktail of drugs apparently caused him to suffer greatly in the last few minutes of his life.
NNAMDIThat macabre story is shining a light on national death penalty systems and being forced to rely on unregulated pharmacies as their traditional suppliers refuse to supply the lethal drugs. So should the uncertainty surrounding executions in the way they're carried out put a halt to capital punishment? I'd like to hear from you, 800-433-8850. What was your reaction to the story in Oklahoma? Was this cruel and unusual punishment?
NNAMDINichole, this story really highlighted the potentially gruesome consequences when states have to turn to unregulated pharmacies to get execution drugs. Why is this happening in states with capital punishment laws?
AUSTIN-HILLERYYou know, Kojo, this was actually an issue even before this botched execution happened. Within the last several months many states have been saying, you know, we are concerned about the particular drugs that are being used for lethal injections. Many of the pharmaceutical companies that have been supplying these drugs for years have said, we are concerned about the products that we are putting forth. And many of those pharmaceutical companies have said, we are going to halt offering these drugs to states until we can do more of an investigation.
AUSTIN-HILLERYSo for a state like Oklahoma, given the doubt that was posed by the pharmaceutical companies, given the fact that this was an untested dosage, that this was an untested combination of drugs, it simply did not make sense for them to administer these drugs and to take this kind of chance. Yes, we understand that in this country we have capital punishment. Wherever you stand on that debate is neither here nor there. But we are not a country that is supposed to engage in barbarism and in the kind of acts that took place in Oklahoma. We are supposed to administer the death penalty under a certain set of standards and parameters. And those simply were not met.
NNAMDI800-433-8850, it's Your Turn. What was your reaction to the story in Oklahoma? Did you think this was cruel and unusual punishment? Where else, Nichole, have we seen complications from these new lethal drug combinations?
AUSTIN-HILLERYWell, you know, Kojo, I can't, off the top of my head, recall any state that recently had one of these -- this type of issue because this is such a blatant example of a problem. But I do know that there were some states that were recently talking about the fact that they wanted to resort to things like using firing squads and other forms of execution because they had doubts about lethal injections. So -- and how effective they are.
AUSTIN-HILLERYSo I say that to say that many states, even states that are very conservative and have less of a problem with the death penalty in terms of their electorate, are states that are now saying, we have to question the methodologies that we're using and whether these are actually humane in terms of the way in which we're administering them.
NNAMDIIs this shortfall of lethal injection drugs essentially forcing states to experiment on death row inmates at their time of execution?
AUSTIN-HILLERYWell, I think that's what we saw in Oklahoma because the state admitted, you know, we were using an untested dosage. You know, we were not able to verify, you know, the accuracy of these drugs. We were not able to verify how these drugs would impact the person onto whom they were administered. That is a problem. You know, states have a responsibility to ensure that whatever means of execution they are using that they meet a certain set of standards. And Oklahoma simply did not do that.
NNAMDIHere's James in Wheaton, Md. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESYeah, how you doing, Kojo? My comment about that is I feel that that person got exactly what he deserved. I mean, that young lady (unintelligible) raped and murdered, look what she went through. So why should we have any sympathy because the execution was botched? Who cares?
NNAMDISo, James, you...
JAMESHe put himself in that situation.
NNAMDIWould you approve of beheading people who commit murder?
JAMESWell, no, I don't believe that, either. I'm just saying (unintelligible)
NNAMDIWell, you seem to be suggesting that when somebody commits a heinous crime it shouldn't matter how we, as a society, put that person to death.
JAMESOkay. Well, that's fine, yeah, right, okay, yeah, I agree with that. However, whatever they do, they get what they deserve. That's the way I put it.
AUSTIN-HILLERYWell, here's my other comment to that. We all believe that if an individual in this country commits a crime and they are indeed guilty and they're found guilty, we have a set of laws that have to be adhered to. Many of us do not agree that the death penalty should be one of those options, but in the instance where it is, we, as a society, are not supposed to engage in inhumane treatment even in the administration of the death penalty. So that's one of the problems.
AUSTIN-HILLERYThe other problem is this. You have to remember that there have been many instances in this country where we have been able to show that individuals who shouldn't have been on death row have actually been put on death row. So we have got to question how we administer the death penalty and every ancillary issue related to it, because there could be an occasion where the wrong person is actually strapped to that gurney and we are administering drugs or about to engage in a barbaric form of execution.
AUSTIN-HILLERYSo for us, as a society, to question every aspect of the death penalty is our duty. We, as a society, are not supposed to engage in inhumane treatment. And when you say, you know, to heck with how this person dies, it doesn't matter how we treat them, that is a problem for us as a society and as a government.
NNAMDIOn to Paul in Kensington, Md. Paul, your turn.
PAULHey, thanks for taking my call, Kojo. You have probably the best show on talk radio, if you want to call it that. But anyway, I am absolutely adamantly biased here. I've been a longtime supporter of NCADP. I think that capital punishment is categorically immoral and should be illegal.
PAULAnd, you know, we don't give life. Society gives things like roads and schools and hospitals and employment and things like that. And we have the right -- no matter what the person does, we have the right to take all of that away from the person but we do not have the right, after the fact, expose facto, when the person is no longer immediate threat, we do not have the right to take life away.
PAULI was a great medical officer for the Marine Corps for a couple years and I know what special quarters looks like. And if you put a person in there who committed the most heinous crimes in the world and put them into special quarters and that's just where you're going to live for the next whatever, that's pretty harsh. Yet, as your guest said, you can still bring them out when DNA exonerates them or when there's a false confession revealed or something like that.
PAULAnd it's just -- hopefully by this execution botched job yesterday or night before now, maybe this will be a wakeup call because why are we purportedly a civilized nation, the arbiter of morality and we are still doing this.
NNAMDINichole, where is the nation's mood moving in its attitude about the death penalty? And is this kind of incident likely to influence it?
AUSTIN-HILLERYYou know, I think this kind of incident is very likely to influence it. You know, one of my colleagues at the Brennan Center, Andrew Cohen, who's a fellow there did an article in The Atlantic where he talked about this botched death penalty -- I'm sorry, this botched execution. And one of the things he said was, you know, even for those people who support the death penalty and incidents like this does not do anything to support your cause.
AUSTIN-HILLERYPeople -- intelligent, thoughtful people I think can all agree that even in a system of laws where we have the administration of the death penalty, that we have to meet a certain set of humane standards. So the fact that we had a state that basically willy-nilly administered the death penalty and had it go so horribly wrong actually I think is going to cause lots of people throughout the country to question the validity of this particular kind of punishment that we are meting out.
NNAMDINicole Austin-Hillery is director and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law. She heads the Washington, D.C. office. Michelle (sic) , thank you so much for joining -- I mean, Nichole, thank you so much for joining us.
AUSTIN-HILLERYThank you, Kojo, for having me. I appreciate it.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, it's still Your Turn. Call us at 800-433-8850. We got an email from Roberta who says, "We need more voter participation not less. Participation in many elections is below 20 percent. Even below 10 percent of registered voters see the recent D.C. primary. It's unconscionable to keep anyone from voting or put a barrier in the way of exercising this crucial right." You may want to comment on that. You may want to comment on the scandal from the L.A. Clippers owner or anything else. It's Your Turn. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Your Turn. Now that the NBA has banned L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments about African Americans, broader questions are being asked about public figures' privacy, personal beliefs. Leading the debate was Dallas Mavericks own Mark Cuban who said that Sterling should not have been forced out of the league for comments he made in the privacy of his home.
NNAMDIQuoting Mark Cuban, "In this country people are allowed to be morons. They're allowed to be stupid. They're allowed to think idiotic thoughts." Cuban adding, "It was scary to ponder the thought of attempting to remove somebody from the NBA because of his personal beliefs." So I'd like to hear your take on this story. Should Donald Sterling be forced to sell his team? Do you think he'll fight back? Give us a call, 800-433-8850, because it is, as we say, Your Turn. You can also send email to email@example.com or send us a Tweet @kojoshow. We move on now to Carol in Washington, D.C. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAROLKojo, thank you so much for taking my call. I'm a longtime listener, first time caller.
CAROLBut I was absolutely moved by this topic. There are two things I wanted to address briefly. First of all, about the botched execution. My question is, why are there experimental drugs? Haven't we already found lethal cocktails that sedates humanely? I mean, is this a question of states saving money? Because the medical profession has found the solution.
NNAMDIWell, I think part of it has to do with pharmaceutical companies not wanting their names associated with the drugs that are being used to administer the death penalty. And so they're having to find other kinds of pharmacies that are willing to do it. And it's opaque. Their names are not revealed. Nobody knows who they are. And it would appear that, at least in part, that's leading to some of the confusion even though -- or some of the problems even though in this case there is an argument being made that it was how this was administered that caused the problem, that apparently a vein wasn't properly located. But I am not sure.
CAROLWell, I thank you for bringing that to light, and I'm glad that it's in the media because that does need to be aired out. I have another comment, which I feel is even more important and addresses a problem that is very, very widespread that addresses poverty and the underprivileged having access to, for example, getting government IDs.
CAROLWhen we say, oh, can't you pay 20 or $30 to pay for a birth certificate or whatever, that's really a small part of being disabled or being poor. You have to have the time to take off from work. You have to pay for the transportation. Many people don't have cars.
NNAMDIIn the Wisconsin case, they found that an overwhelming number, something like 90 percent of the places that were available for government IDs only open between 9:00 and 5:00 on weekdays.
CAROLExactly. And if I’m a working mother and I have taken all the time off from work that I can to take care of my sick child, I have a boss who's just dying to fire me, there are incredible pressures on people to go to public offices, to stand in lines, to wait, not only to pay the money. I'm just saying that the underprivileged when we say, oh well what does it cost them to spend 20 or $30 to obtain a certain service, that's a very myopic view. There is much more that goes to that. You have to be healthy, you have to be mobile, you have to have time and you have to have transportation. It becomes overwhelming when one is very, very poor and very, very limited in terms of time and energy. That's my comments.
NNAMDICarol, thank you very much for your comment. You too can offer your comment by calling 800-433-8850 or by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We move on now to Daniel in Arlington, Va. Daniel, it's your turn.
DANIELHi, Kojo. How are you this afternoon?
DANIELGreat. So you were making the comment about Mark Cuban's defense of Donald -- well, not so much to Donald Sterling, but being an idiot in private and that we're allowed to do that.
DANIELI'd like to point out that forgetting the context of what Donald Sterling said for a second, who he said it to and who recorded him was a girl who is very much his junior. And I don't think it's an unrealistic assumption that she wasn't really there for his, let's say, good looks or charisma. So I kind of feel like if you're going to make a comment with that sort of controversial nature associated with it and you're in a position where someone like Donald Sterling is, you really have to be a little bit better judge of character in terms of who you're going to say something like that to.
DANIELI'm not, again, I'm not defending what he said. I thought it was idiotic, but I just feel like he's also completely culpable, considering who he said it to, someone who is (unintelligible)
NNAMDII'll make two observations about that. One of them is when -- we can -- if Mark Cuban says that we can make idiotic statements in private, we can also make idiotic statements in public. We can make foolish statements in private or in public and we won't get into trouble. This was not just an idiotic statement. It was a blatantly racist statement. And to reduce a blatantly racist statement to the level of idiocy is not to understand the history of race relations in the country.
NNAMDIThe second point about it being said in private is that the reason we have bigoted thoughts in private and the reason we say bigoted things in private is because we know that if they were heard in public that we would be forced to be accountable for them, that we might even be ostracized. So when they do get out in public, that's what the consequences are. So when you're saying those things in private, you should always be aware that privacy is no protection. If those statements get out then you're going to be in trouble anyway. And that's what happened here. The statements got out.
DANIELAbsolutely. And -- sorry.
NNAMDIThat fact that he -- I thought about the fact that years ago when the owner of the Cincinnati Reds Marge Schott faced similar penalties, if she had said what she had said to her 30-something-year-old male boyfriend, there would've been a lot more written about how ridiculous that was than there was in this case.
DANIELSure. Again, it's not...
NNAMDI'Cause men get away with a lot of stuff.
DANIELYeah, I completely agree. I think the whole thing is utterly ludicrous. And I'm certainly not saying that he isn't deeply bigoted, but what he said is indefensible. I just think on a certain level, you know, it's amazing the level of impunity people like this feel that they have.
NNAMDIYeah, well, it is what it is, but he's paying a penalty for it at this point. And he might even lose the team. So, Daniel, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIWe move on now to Justin in Silver Spring, Md. Justin, your turn.
JUSTINHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I was actually calling about the botched up execution but I'll stay on topic because I find the Sterling case pretty interesting as well. The main point I want to make about Donald Sterling, it says a lot about the nature of, well, I guess you'd call the ownership's class today in society and their sort of complete protection from all culpability. Sterling -- I don't know if you already brought this up on the show but some years ago he was fined by, you know, the federal government for having discriminatory housing practice. He wouldn't rent to African Americans in buildings he owned.
NNAMDIYeah, he reached a settlement, yes.
JUSTINExactly. Now, he didn't lose his ownership when that happened. And as bad as these comments are, they are just words. And when he actually did -- you know, denying people a place to live, which is something quite serious and illegal, it was swept under the rug. It wasn't this big sort of media circus. And he went on -- you know, he went on his merry way, you know, owning whatever he did.
JUSTINNow when something very salacious comes out that can go on TMZ and it's, you know, a very much younger and attractive girlfriend and everything like that, everyone loses it and we consider taking his ownership away. Which, by the way, I don't think is going to happen because just kind of what I believe about people who are in that owner society, I think will get a slap on the wrist and will go on his way.
NNAMDISure. But you make an excellent point, and that is that what occurred in the case of his settlement for what he was doing with the properties he owned is in a way a lot more substantial. Evidence...
JUSTINIt's (unintelligible) substantial. People wanted to live somewhere and then they couldn't live there because of his racist beliefs. It was just him airing out some racist beliefs that didn't, you know, potentially couldn't have hurt anybody if it wasn't recorded.
NNAMDIAnd you can ask, why was both society and the NBA, why did both turn a blind eye to the earlier events when all of a sudden he says it in a different situation and everybody now pays attention?
NNAMDIYou make very good points, my friend. Justin, thank you very much for your call.
JUSTINThanks for taking my call.
NNAMDIYou too can call, it's Your Turn, 800-433-8850. We move on now to Brian in Herndon, Va. Brian, it's your turn. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRIANHi, Kojo. There was a caller who was asking about the unfortunate circumstance of the prisoner being put to death and why there was experimentation or why there was a different type of drug that was used. And my understanding from reading an article is that this is a direct result of European nations putting sanctions against drug companies so that they cannot supply the cocktail of what was previously used for the lethal injections. And the states and pharmaceutical companies have had to go and find new and experimental ways of doing these things now.
NNAMDIWell, we got an email from Leonardo, Brian, who writes, "Compounding pharmacies are not unregulated pharmacies. There are numerous agencies and many pieces of legislation at the state and federal level which exercise oversight. To say otherwise is untrue and borderline slanderous to that trade. Furthermore, to imply that they, as a homogenous group, were at fault in the Oklahoma botched execution is categorically unfair."
NNAMDIAnd I think Leonardo is right to say that the extent to which we know about what happened cannot lead us to say categorically that that was the cause of it. Because, as I said earlier, there are reports that the -- whoever was administering the injection did not find the individual's veins. So we don't know for sure as yet, but what do you say, Brian?
BRIANWell, I just know from having read one article that I think from the sounds of it there's more complexity about this. I think that on -- wherever one stands on this issue that we all want to find a humane way, if possible, that this is done. It's just tragic that there is this experimentation on -- and it's providing negative -- it's providing a very unfortunate circumstance when -- so...
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Brian. It's Your Turn. We got an email from Rachel in Silver Spring who said, "That caller Raymond who does not believe it's hard to get ID, has no idea. A few years ago I helped an elderly D.C. native get certified copies of his birth certificate and social security card, lost in a fire, in order to get a non-driving ID. Luckily this man did not have to work, was not poor and had a car because it took several days, travel to various government offices in different parts of town, waiting in line, copying fess, document fees, gas and parking fees. Being only semi-employed at the moment, I certainly could not afford the time and cost of going through that rigmarole myself."
NNAMDIAnd we got this email from Sauton (sp?) who said, "Along with the discussion on how voter ID requirements disenfranchise the poor communities, another factor is language. Many poor people cannot read or write English either because of the high rates of illiteracy or because English is not their native language. Before you go there, remember that there is no official language in the U.S. Many naturalized U.S. citizens have the legal right to vote but not the ability because application forms for IDs or birth certificates, as well as the ballot is often only in English."
NNAMDIBut this is Your Turn we're talking about here. And so you can weigh in on any subject that you want to.
NNAMDIThe good old days of complaining about of Pepco seem to be about to come to a close. The Chicago-based nuclear energy company, Exelon, has agree to pay $6.8 billion for Pepco. That deal brings hope to many Pepco customers in this area that new ownership will bring better service and reliability, something that's been lacking and it's large storm-related outages in recent years. Of course, Exelon is the same company that bought BG&E in 2012, and reviews so far have been largely positive. So what do you think this big buy means for Pepco's 2 million customers?
NNAMDIWhat do you think it will mean for your electric bill and the reliability of your electric services? It's 'Your Turn.' Call us, 800-433-8850. Holler back. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's 'Your Turn.' You're the guest on this broadcast. And we ask questions of the guests. So we have several questions for you. Those of you who choose to call, 800-433-8850. Or send email to email@example.com. Where do you come down on the voter ID issue? What was your reaction to the story in Oklahoma? Was that cruel and unusual punishment? Have you been happy with Pepco's service in the past few years? Could a takeover by Exelon improve service? Are team owners like Donald Sterling, public figures, should they be held accountable for what they say?
NNAMDIIt's 'Your Turn.' 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Andrew in Frederick, Md. Andrew, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANDREWHi, there. I just wanted to talk about the voter disenfranchisement. And something I read on the BBC, of all places, was that the United States is no longer a Democracy. It is an Oligarchy, as found by two professors -- one from Princeton University and one from Northwestern University. And I thought that was quite striking because the Voter ID Law seems like something that is being put in place to keep these people disenfranchised, to keep an Oligarchy in place.
NNAMDIThe Oligarchy, I should tell you, was not the word used by the authors of that study. We had one of those authors on the broadcast last week. That was a phrase coined by news media to describe it. But the authors of the study essentially agreed that what we were talking about was a Democracy in which wealthy people now such a disproportionate influence on how laws are passed in the country, that they didn't really argue with people who called it an Oligarchy.
ANDREWYes. And the passage of this Voter ID Law, which is supported by so few, is quite surprising. And only speaks to the evidence these professors have come up with in this study.
NNAMDIIt would appear that way. Andrew, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIIt's 'Your Turn.' We move on to Zack in Rockville, Md. Zack, your turn.
ZACKYeah, hi, Kojo. Thank you so much. I wanted to make a quick point about Donald Sterling. First, you mentioned that Mark Kieven (sp?) who is mentioning free speech and how we get to say what we want. The United States' First Amendment protects the government against bringing charges against people for saying what they want. However, private businesses, corporations, people and the court of public opinion can still do whatever they want with people. So this, you know, this guy said some terrible, terrible things, and there could be no legal repercussions by the government against him.
ZACKHowever, that does not in any way mean that private corporations, like the NBA, can take their own steps to protect themselves, their own private interests and to promote their own values and show the rest of the world what they think is being a good American corporation or citizen.
NNAMDIWell, Zack, I'd like to hear your response to two emails. The first we got from Kade, who said "The First Amendment does not protect us from the consequences of our words. It merely ensures that we will not be silenced by the government unreasonably. The NBA is not a government agency and may choose to respond to discriminatory speech however it likes, within the boundaries of the law." Sounds like something you would agree with, Zack.
NNAMDIOkay. Here's another email comment. "I'm not making any excuses for the disgusting racist remarks, but has it occurred to anyone that he may have dementia? Granted, he has a long racist record, but some of the other things he said on that tape were just bizarre." To which you say, Zack?
ZACKI would say that a lot of things he said was absolutely bizarre. And I think that looking or fishing for excusing an old man for saying terrible things is irrelevant. If he has dementia, you know, then there's no reason that he should be owning an NBA team anyway. So I feel like that's a moot point.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Zack in Rockville, Md. It's 'Your Turn.' You, too, can call 800-433-8850. Or send email to email@example.com. Here now is Moondancer in Silver Spring, Md. Moondancer, your turn.
MOONDANCERHi, Kojo. Well, this is serious. I think we should at least consider using something on the nature of an overdose of heroin or any other drugs that people die in of -- on their own -- you know, on their own decision. And I know there'd be a lot of social things saying, Oh, but that's an illegal drug. But, it's available.
NNAMDINot going to happen, Moondancer. Simply not going to happen. Wild, crazy suggestion. It's not going to happen. But thank you very much for joining us. You, too, can join us. It's 'Your Turn.' Call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Should the NBA have banned the L.A. Clippers' owner for life? Do you think Pepco should be overseen by a parent company, or taken over by a parent company in Chicago? If you're a Baltimore Gas and Electric customer, did your service and bill improve after Exelon bought BG&E? We're interested in all of these things, about hearing from you.
NNAMDIDo you think Oklahoma should halt its executions for the rest of the year? And have voter ID requirements ever prevented you from voting? Back to the telephones. Here now is Imman in Chantilly, Va. Imman, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IMMANGood afternoon, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
IMMANI just want to let the world know that there's a genocide and massacre going on in Kenya, through Somali persecutors who live in that country, who are mostly defenseless. And I'm waiting, at least, for the world to answer something for them. Because what Kenyans are doing right now is -- when Al Shabaab, so-called Al Shabaab Kenyans do something, they go after the Somalis, grabbing them on the streets, killing their children and women, and no media even covering about this thing. Everybody worry about what's going on in Ukraine. But there's a massacre going on in Kenya.
IMMANAnd no one's saying anything about it. And I'm very sad that I haven't heard anything about CNN or Al Jazeera or anyone covering about this story at all.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, because you just shared it with our listeners. So thank you very much for that. It is 'Your Turn,' William, in Washington D.C. You're on the air, William. Go ahead, please.
WILLIAMGood afternoon, Kojo. How are you?
WILLIAMI'm seeking to comment about the so-called controversy surrounding (word?) Mexican...
NNAMDIWhy do you call it a so-called controversy?
WILLIAMWell, one of the things that I think has not happened, and that is the group that's coming and it's complaining about what Mr. Snyder is doing, is they don't come to the table with clean hands. I say this because, you know, they've yet to own up to the fact that they were deeded slaves by the United States government when there were treaties signed years ago. They own many casinos in this country. They seek not to acknowledge that they have black blood in their families, to include them where they can share the wealth with them.
WILLIAMYou know, until they've come to the table and done these things, I don't think that the name should be changed. Not that I have any problem with the name or for that matter, one way or the other. The point of it is, is that you can't make these kinds of claims when you don't come to the table with clean hands. And I don't think people have looked at the history of how slavery has been dealt with in this country. And even the poor...
NNAMDIWait a minute. You seem to be suggesting that Native Americans have a significant responsibility for slavery in this country?
WILLIAMNot a significant responsibility. But they have a responsibility of their own to the fact that they themselves have been slaved out. They themselves have been slave owners. They themselves have been slave masters.
NNAMDIThere were black people who were slave owners. Do you know that?
WILLIAMThat very might be true, Kojo. But the one thing that I focus on is that you're requesting someone to change a name that I don't think that has that greater -- that great of impact on who you are and what you've accomplished. But the point of it is, is that, when you going to say, I've done what I'm supposed to do and to this day, 5/1/2014, when you in fact have thought -- and in fact of disenfranchising black people but not acknowledging their heritage, simply because you don't have experiences...
NNAMDII have to tell you the truth, William. This is the first time I have ever heard, in my life, Native Americans being blamed for either enslaving or disenfranchising black people. It is generally thought that they were the original occupants of this country, that they had absolutely nothing to do with bringing slaves here or with oppressing slaves. Where are you getting this information?
WILLIAMHistory, Kojo. History courses. And the other thing, Kojo, let's be very clear about this. No one's sought to blame them, or say them, because they're not them. They themselves are Native Americans. And supposedly history dictates or had said that they were the first persons to occupy lands in the United States. But there is a moral responsibility to say, I too have owned slaves. I thought it was bad. I too, today, have started to disenfranchise a group of people. And I don't think it's bad because of...
NNAMDII don't know. I mean, we may disagree about whether the team should have that name or not. But I have to say that is the weirdest argument I have ever heard for not changing the name of the Redskins, that Native Americans are somehow to be held responsible for slavery. Well, but thank you very much for your call, William, because it was your turn. And you took advantage of it. We discussed, yesterday, the situation in Ethiopia, where we visited in January, and talked with a couple of bloggers there -- with three bloggers there, two of whom were arrested earlier this week or late last week.
NNAMDIAnd during the course of that discussion, it came up that Secretary of State John Kerry was going to Ethiopia yesterday. And we had a picture -- a photo up on our website of a chance meeting that he had had -- or maybe it wasn't a chance meeting -- with one of the arrested bloggers in Ethiopia. So now we have an update on that story. Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the arrest of the bloggers during a press briefing in Addis Ababa.
NNAMDIToday, he said, quoting here, "I made it clear to Ethiopian officials that they need to create greater opportunities for citizens to be able to engage with their fellow citizens and with their government by opening up more space for civil society. I shared my concerns about a young Ethiopian blogger that I met last year, a Mr. Feleke, who with eight of his peers had been imprisoned. And I firmly believe that the work of journalists, whether it's print journalists or in the Internet or media of other kinds, makes society stronger, makes them more vibrant and ultimately provides greater stability and greater voice to Democracy."
NNAMDIHe said, "It's a testament to the strength of our friendship with Ethiopia that we can discuss difficult issues as we do, even when we disagree on one aspect of them or another." So there is clearly some disagreement there between the United States and Ethiopia. But, hey, it's not John Kerry's turn. It's 'Your Turn.' So allow me to go to Mahwee in Alexandria, Va. Mahwee, you're on the air. It's your turn.
MAHWEEHi, Kojo. I really love your show. I really want to say I've actually been listening since last year. I wasn't really a believer of radio, but I really love your show. It's really great. And I just wanted to comment about, how come the NAACP wasn't -- I guess, why were they going to give him, you know, this...
NNAMDILifetime achievement award?
MAHWEEYeah. And if -- I guess, if he settled on a lawsuit that said he was not providing housing for African Americans and Hispanics and other minorities. How -- what was, I guess, the process of him being nominated for this position?
NNAMDII got to tell you, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP has always been a bit of a mystery to me, because they've always existed somewhere between an assertion of civil rights and assertion of celebrity. And in the case of Donald Sterling, apparently this was either the second or third time he was going to be getting an award from the NAACP. And it was pretty simple. He gave them money. He contributed money to the organization. And unfortunately, when organizations are hard-pressed for money and people who contribute money to them, they get all kinds of honors pressed on them, regardless, it would appear, of their past histories.
NNAMDIAnd apparently there's not a great deal of investigation that goes on into the past history. It's just, this individual has given us some money. Let's see if we can churn up an award for him. This was obviously not one of the shining moments of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP. But, Mahwee, that's my understanding of what happened.
MAHWEEOkay. I see. Well, I guess there needs to be a little bit of a changes to that. I mean people need to be more aware of the kind of, I guess, award that we give out to people. It's not just about money. It's a lot more than that. You know, the NAACP has like a big history. And I don't think it -- that these kind of awards should be seen very lightly like this. But thank you very much. I appreciate it.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We're almost out of time. But Jack in La Plata, Md., you have about 30 seconds, Jack. Your turn. Jack, are you there? Or is that my phone, Jack. Wait a second. Jack, are you there?
JACKYes, I'm here, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou got 30 seconds.
JACKOkay. Well, I'm calling from Maryland. I wanted to talk about the giant sinkhole we had in the city, the overflow of the Laurel Dam.
NNAMDIIn Baltimore, right?
JACKYeah, in Baltimore. It's been an interesting day. I won't take up any more of your time. I'll just say we've had some interesting guests here today.
NNAMDIYeah, but that sinkhole caused a lot of problems in the City of Baltimore. Jack, thank you very much for bringing it up. A lot of officials are going to be answering a lot of questions. And thanks to all of those of you who participated in this edition of 'Your Turn.'
NNAMDI"The Kojo Nnamdi Show," is produced by Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Tayla Burney, Kathy Goldgeier, Elizabeth Weinstein, and Stephanie Stokes. Brendan Sweeney is the managing producer. Our engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. Podcasts of all shows, audio archives and free transcripts are available at our website, kojoshow.org. To share questions or comments with us, send us an email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or send a tweet @kojoshow. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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