Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker is in studio. And Aisha Braveboy, candidate for Prince George's State's Attorney, joins us.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art and its College of Art + Design cede control to the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. A federal judge strikes down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. U.S. Olympians suffer surprising losses at Russia’s Sochi games. And violence wracks Ukraine’s capital of Kiev as Western leaders threaten sanctions. From the winter Olympics to the winter weather, it’s your turn to set the agenda.
- Kriston Capps Senior Editor, Architect Magazine; contributing writer, Washington City Paper
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. Your Turn means you're the guest on today's show. You can call 800-433-8850 to offer your comments and opinions on anything on your mind, events in the news, recent editions of this show or anything else. You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us a Tweet @kojoshow or simply go to our website kojoshow.org and make your comment there. The number again, 800-433-8850.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe've got a lot to talk about from the slushy Olympics to the winter weather. We've had a historic decision on gay marriage in Virginia and a historic change in direction for the Corcoran Art Gallery. Maybe you'd like to talk about the minimum wage hike or the conflict just over Russia's border in Ukraine. It's been a while since we've made it Your Turn so you can start calling now, 800-433-8850.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut I'd like to start with the surprise announcement late yesterday that the Corcoran College of Art and Design would be absorbed by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. Is this the end, as we knew it, for the cash-strapped gallery or an innovative new direction for art? Joining us to talk about what this means for Washington's oldest private art museum is Kriston Capps, senior editor of Architect Magazine and contributing writer to Washington City Paper. He joins us by phone. Kriston Capps, thank you for joining us.
MR. KRISTON CAPPSThanks. It's great to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIKriston, the announcement yesterday came as a bit of a surprise since the Corcoran previously had been in talks with the University of Maryland on a collaboration. Can you give us a little bit of the back story on how this came about?
CAPPSWell, talking last night with some senior staff and faculty at the Corcoran, I think everyone was really taken by surprise. A lot of them were still working under the understanding that a deal, while moving slowly, was still going through with the University of Maryland.
NNAMDICan you break this down for us? What would happen to the Corcoran building on 17th Street and the art inside under this new arrangement with the split between the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University?
CAPPSSure, Kojo. You know, I'd say first that we don't know a lot of details at this point. Much as we had previous announcements from the Corcoran regarding the arrangement with Maryland or even before that, an arrangement with George Washington and the National Gallery, we get the announcement first and then the details to come later. Under this arrangement, from what we know, George Washington University would assume responsibility over the building and assume the college. And the National Gallery would assume responsibility for the art collection and would program parts of the museum.
NNAMDIMaintaining the (word?) building near the White House was one of the reasons the Corcoran was so financially strapped. Can George Washington afford the place and the renovations that are needed there?
CAPPSWell, it's interesting. One of the things that Steven Knapp had said -- Steven Knapp is the president of George Washington...
NNAMDI...president of GW.
CAPPS...he has said that he's not sure that the building will require $130 million in renovation. That's the figure that we've heard from the Corcoran all along. George Washington University is going to bring in their own building consultants. Don't know who those architects are yet but they're going to look at the building and see if they can get a more realistic appraisal for the renovation costs.
NNAMDIThis is an edition of Your Turn. If you're calling on another issue, stay on the line. Right now we're talking with Kriston Capps, senior editor of Architect Magazine and contributing writer to Washington City Paper about the future of the Corcoran Gallery. You can call also at 800-433-8850 to comment on that partnership with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington. Do you think that's the best way to save the Corcoran, 800-433-8850? Kriston, how big is this deal for the National Gallery in terms of its collections?
CAPPSWell, you know, they're going to have some decisions to make. I think it's a big deal in terms of their programming space. Their east wing, which is where they house their modern and contemporary art, it's closed for the next three years for renovations. Now they had already planned to do some programming at the Corcoran showing modern and contemporary art that would otherwise be shown at the east wing.
CAPPSWhat this means is that they’re going to be showing a lot more contemporary art under the name Corcoran Contemporary National Gallery of Art. This is a good thing for National Gallery. It's also a good thing for the students there all things being equal because these Corcoran students are working alongside contemporary art. And that's going to be different and new.
NNAMDIAs part of the National Gallery, does this mean the Corcoran would now be free to visit?
CAPPSThat's my understanding. That's what they've said so far. I mean, the Corcoran already, you know, has many days during the year, summer Saturdays, things like that, where you can go in for free. But this would provide access. However, it won't provide access to the same Corcoran collection. A lot of those works are going to be removed from the Corcoran. They'll go into the National Gallery collection, they'll go into other museums in the area or they may just disappear from the D.C. area entirely.
NNAMDICorcoran didn't want to split the arts school from the gallery but that also is what seems to be happening under this new deal. Is this a good-news-bad-news situation for students?
CAPPSIt's very difficult to say right now. I think one of the interesting questions is about how they're really dividing the programming up at the building. One thing Steven Knapp has said is that it's going to cost less because George Washington University isn't renovating the building as a museum. But then it's also supposed to be a museum space for the National Gallery. I think we still have a lot of details that we need to know before we can truly say whether it's a good deal. But if George Washington University can keep a competitive tuition for the Corcoran students then this could be a good deal.
NNAMDIWill the name of the Corcoran building remain the same? Will the Corcoran art that goes to the National Gallery lose its affiliation with the Corcoran?
CAPPSFrom what we understand, the museum part is going to be called the Corcoran Contemporary National Gallery of Art. So the museum is no longer the Corcoran. The museum is a National Gallery of Art outpost that honors the memory and legacy of the Corcoran. The Corcoran College of Art and Design, on the other hand, from what we know right now, looks like it's going to retain its identity as a somewhat separate institution from George Washington University.
NNAMDIHave you spoken with staff members at the Corcoran? How do they feel about this?
CAPPSOh, morale is extremely low. Everyone I talk to describes feeling gutted. People said that they were shocked by this news. That, you know, they said they work hard and they felt like they were working hard together toward a solution that would maintain the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Corcoran College of Art and Design. And so this comes as a blow for them, especially since now they're worried about their jobs.
NNAMDIOne can understand that. Kriston Capps, I don't know whether you know much about what goes on in the area of wedding planning but here's an email we got from Francesca. "My fiancé and I have been keeping a close eye on all news related to the Corcoran and the drama surrounding its finances and ownership because a year ago we booked the museum as our wedding venue this coming May. I'm wondering now -- I'm wondering how, if at all, the transfer of ownership will be -- will affect booked events at the museum, be it planned renovations to the interior and or exterior, etcetera. Is there anything else that we should be worried about?" Can you help, Kriston Capps?
CAPPSFirst of all, congratulations on your wedding. That's lovely. You know, the board member -- the boards from all three institutions have to approve the details of this deal by April. I doubt that we're going to see a great number of changes until July. I think your May wedding is going to be beautiful.
NNAMDIThe -- and congratulations to you on your wedding also. Hope it all goes well. You say that the boards have to approve it by April, so that means that from a purely technical legal standpoint this is not a done deal. But in practical terms, is it?
CAPPSI think so. I mean - but I -- you know, I also thought that the University of Maryland and Corcoran deal was a done deal. And, you know, when they initially started speaking with George Washington University and the National Gallery in October, 2012 we thought that was a pretty done deal as well.
NNAMDIWell, we'll have to see what happens. Kriston, thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIKriston Capps is senior editor of Architect Magazine and contributing writer to Washington City Paper. We move on now to that topic and anything else that you would like to discuss on this edition of Your Turn. We take your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Before I forget, because I do, I want to give a shout out to our volunteer or volunteers, Kathleen O'Bryan. She had a birthday this week and she also had wrist surgery yesterday. She slipped and fell on the ice and had wrist surgery but she seems to be recovering well this morning. Kathleen O'Bryan, happy birthday and recover quickly.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Late yesterday Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych said he agreed to a truce with opposition leaders after clashes in Kiev this week. But that short-lived truce seems all but over as fighting flared again in the streets today. Media reports say that anywhere from 20 to 100 people are reported dead and that at least 67 policemen are being held hostage by protestors. What are your thoughts? There was a truce that was announced yesterday, as we mentioned. Didn't seem to last long. 800-433-8850. You can comment on that or anything else on your mind.
NNAMDILet's go to Matt in Silver Spring, Md. Matt, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MATTFirst of all, Kojo, I just wanted to thank you so much and thank you for the program that you do. It really means a lot to those of us who want to know about what's going on in the world.
MATTI think one of the aspects that hasn't been mentioned a lot in this discussion on Ukraine is the Ukrainian Diaspora...
MATT...and those of us who are either born or the children of those who were born in Ukraine and how this is kind of playing out. You know, for many of us we look at this as like, is this going to be the moment that we can return or is this the moment that it's going to return to a Soviet era closed society?
NNAMDIAnd what -- as -- between those two options there's been some discussion of whether or not Russia is likely to intervene in this situation. What do you think?
MATTWell, I would say that the issue with Russia and the issue with Ukraine is less about cultural and language which is a lot of what it's been made out to be and a lot more about looking forward or looking back. In other words, looking back to the comfort of being a part of a larger imperialistic society or looking forward to an open society that is free from corruption and doesn't contain the same amount of, you know -- or that contains more civil liberties and individual freedoms, which is what a western society is. There's a reason why I choose to live here.
NNAMDIBut you know what the other thing that might be confusing to people who are not intimately familiar with the situation is that in a way this is, to some people, comparable to what happens or what is happening in Egypt, that you have a government against which there seems to be a popular uprising. On the other hand, you have a government which seems to have a pretty large following among the people themselves...
NNAMDI...that there is some division here that this is not an overwhelming opposition to the government. And that makes it difficult to figure out how it's going to evolve.
MATTThat's absolutely true. I think that for many Americans looking at the situation, they would look at President Yanukovych as basically being an illegitimate leader. But the fact is that's not really true. Many people in Ukraine and in the Diaspora, especially those who are in Ukraine, really feel that a return to old ways is really the best, that independence hasn't really gone all that great for them so far and that a return to old values, religious, political, economic are what's in store.
MATTAlso they view Russia as a very strong economy and one that could potentially be very supportive of Ukraine. And the west and the European Union as one of extreme uncertainty in which -- go ahead, I'm sorry.
NNAMDINo, Matt. I was going to say thank you very much for your call. You have shed some light on what's a very complicated situation and not as simple as it may seem on the surface.
MATTThank you so much for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIIt's Your Turn and because we haven't had Your Turn for a while, a lot of people are anxious to participate in the conversation and calling. So if you're trying to get through, the number's 800-433-8850. But if you can't, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are on the line, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. We are getting ready to take a short break. You can also shoot us a Tweet @kojoshow or go to our website kojoshow.org and join the conversation there.
NNAMDIYesterday we looked at the over prescription of antibiotics and how that's contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistant superbugs. There were some questions about how to properly dispose of old antibiotics and we heard from several of you on Twitter and elsewhere about how to do that. Listener Bill Walker pointed out that the U.S. Department of Justice's Take-Back Initiative happens this year around the country on April 26. There's also lots of information at the DEA's office of Diversion Control website where you can find information on how to properly dispose of old drugs. You can find that link at kojoshow.org. We're going to take a short break. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's Your Turn where you set the agenda with your phone calls and emails and Tweets. And we thought we would have to prompt you. I'm ready to prompt you with same-sex marriage in Virginia, the Olympics and all of that that's taking place there, all of the other controversies that we find are a part of our world today. But you need no prompting so I'm going directly to the telephones. The number's 800-433-8850. Here is Natalie in Washington, D.C. Natalie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATALIEThanks. I want to talk about what I see as not hearing Andy Shallal's name or seeing him given attention as the others are. I understand that you did have him on. That was in November. We're getting closer to the election. Last week, I think it was the Sunday edition Janetta Bars (sp?) had a full page discussion and all of a sudden way at the bottom, there was Andy Shallal's name for a moment...
NNAMDIFor those people who do not know...
NATALIE...and no pictures.
NNAMDI...for those people who do not know what Natalie is talking about, she's talking about the upcoming Democratic mayoral primary here in the district on April 1. Andy Shallal, the owner of the Busboys and Poets franchise is one of the candidates for mayor. In my view probably the most interesting candidate for mayor because he doesn't have much of a history as an elected official in local politics in Washington, D.C. But that, for some, is also seen as a significant disadvantage in the race. However, Natalie, there was also a major profile done in the Washington City Paper of Andy Shallal. So he has been drawing some attention.
NATALIEWell, I'm glad to hear that and I will look up in the City Paper because here's a gentleman who's been in business here. He's an immigrant. He's from Iraq. He's part of the American Dream and he's got three businesses running and he pays people decent salaries. He gives them an opportunity to have upward mobility and he's been involved in community affairs ever since he came here.
NNAMDII said he was...
NATALIEI think he should be looked at.
NNAMDII said he might be the most interesting candidate. You seem to have gone a step further. You sound like a supporter.
NATALIEI am a supporter, yeah. I've become. He's progressive and I'd love to have him come in. I kind of feel like we would get from him what we got when Mr. Williams was our mayor and Anthony Williams did a wonderful job. And I think this gentleman -- I equate him with the abilities of...
NNAMDIWell, a lot of the other candidates have big award chests, more experience in elections, maybe better known in the public. We'll have to see how that turns out but, Natalie, thank you very much for your call.
NATALIEYou're welcome. Thank...
NNAMDIWe move on now to Linda in Washington, D.C. Our earlier conversation was about the Corcoran. Linda wants to go back there. Linda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LINDAHello, Kojo. I'm glad to hear you speaking again on a subject that is near and dear to my heart and many in your audience, the Corcoran, a local, national and international treasure. I'm deeply concerned that the solution that is being offered will overlook a number of things, and one of which is something that seems never to be fully appreciated, that the institution's history and heritage is here in the District of Columbia. And in its collection reposes the treasures of 200 or more years of local art history.
LINDAI very much hope that the lesser objects that may not be of National Gallery quality will remain in the institution's collection and available in some way to continue to tell this story for future generations, which is, if I'm not confused, would have been Mr. Corcoran's intentions in what he created to encourage the American genius.
LINDAI have two other concerns. One is for an asset that too long has been overlooked in that institution. That is the staff and the faculty of the institution. Those are people who have given for decades service and it just is astounding to me that their needs and response to their dedication is not being fully acknowledged in this agreement. And my third, and I'll make it quick, is the institution has a significant archives that has been in storage. And I pray that those records will not be dispersed, that they will either remain with the collection and go to the National Gallery or to the national archives -- to the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.
LINDABecause in those records resides the record of the history of not just the institution but literally a history of American art and especially the arts in Washington, D.C. for the last two centuries.
NNAMDIIndeed, the Corcoran is and has been a unique institution with both local and national significance. Linda hopes that it continues to be that even though it is making a transition, it would appear, under a completely new kind of model. Linda, thank you very much for your call.
LINDAThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. A federal judge declared on Valentine's Day that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. That decision overturning a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex unions in Virginia and refused to recognize those performed elsewhere. That ruling was the first to overturn one of the state amendments banning same-sex marriage that prevail throughout the South. It follows a rash of court rulings that would force some of the country's most conservative states to accept gay nuptials.
NNAMDIWhat was your reaction to the ruling overturning Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage? It's Your Turn. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. What does this decision say about how Virginia is changing and how the country is changing? Also if you've been watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi, tell us what has been most significant for you? Hockey anyone? 800-433-8850. We go now to Frank in McLean, Va. Frank, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FRANKThanks, Koji (sic). A great show. It's a new bargain for the 1 percent. They no longer have to limit themselves to violence, to jobs, to airplanes. They now can buy an American Embassy and they also can buy a lifetime title. Titles in the United States are hard to come by. But if you have enough money, and you don't even have to use your money because you get to bundle your friend's money for a political campaign, and you are wonderfully rewarded for it.
NNAMDIWell, it's in a way a tradition. It is nothing new, but what Frank is referring to is the fact that it's been in the news lately because several such appointees made gaffes doing hearings about their lack of knowledge about the countries to which they're being appointed as ambassador largely because it would appear they made significant contributions to the Obama campaign. But, as I said Frank, it is a tradition of sorts. And there are those who argue that this administration has made less such appointments than previous administrations. What do you think should be done? These things should be restricted to career Foreign Service officers?
FRANKIt should be restricted to send the very best people in the United States to represent this country. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 sets out very clearly in the law the United States what the requirements are. And the first requirement is experience and understanding of international diplomacy. that's section A1 in the Foreign Service Act for the appointment of ambassadors.
FRANKWhat's happened now is that we have now three classes of ambassadors. The Washington Post last week had a wonderful map showing where they are. You have the Foreign Service career folks who are in the very difficult place where people are shooting at each other or the very sweaty places. You have political appointees who are people of statue, former politicians who have the system -- professors of -- with great expertise in areas.
FRANKAnd then you have a new class, which are called bundlers. They are individuals which we now have seen exposed through the beauty of YouTube that they do not know -- last week, we saw an ambassador designated to Norway who testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and exposed the fact that he really did not understand that Norway had a monarchy and what kind of government had.
FRANKHe didn't understand who -- what the political parties stood for that ruled the government.
NNAMDIRight. And those are among the gaffes that we pointed out, that when you say we need to choose the very best, you make a distinction between people who are Foreign Service career professionals and people who may have made large contributions by bundling who -- a few of whom would also say, look we may not have had significant Foreign Service experience. But we have studied this a great deal. We're dedicated to our country. We want to represent it. And I've boned up to the best of my ability. What do you say to those people?
FRANKI say no because you do not -- being a diplomat under -- is based on years of experience and years of practice. We have people who are -- the majority of people who are the appropriate best candidates are in the Foreign Service. They have spent 30 years of their lives preparing to become an ambassador through hard work and through good jobs.
NNAMDISo stop this business of giving it to people as a reward for making significant campaign contribution. Thank you very much for your call. We move on to Arnold in Annapolis, Md. Arnold, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ARNOLDThank you for taking my call, Kojo Nnamdi. I remember you from the WHUR days many, many moons ago.
ARNOLDI'm still running.
NNAMDIWe both are, Arnold.
ARNOLDI wanted to talk about the cases that are going on across the country and the cases that we've heard particularly coming out of the State of Florida.
NNAMDIJordan Taylor, Michael Dunn.
ARNOLDYes. And particularly about fairness. This is the basic issue that has not been answered. If the law there, the stand-your-ground law and on top of that if the people who stand for this law, do they believe in equal justice? Because if this law is geared towards dominating and hurting African American kids, then if you say as an American citizen that we believe in equality in this country, and that law is deemed to be unfair and unjust towards a certain society -- a certain part of our society, if you can answer that question of whether the law is fair towards young African American males in particular, then this question could be solved.
ARNOLDBut if you cannot answer that question, then you are standing for the status quo. Young African American lives are not considered as prominent as other lives in this country.
NNAMDIFor those who are unfamiliar with what Arnold is talking about, he is talking about the killing of Jordan Taylor in Florida by Michael Dunn, a man who said he objected to the loud music that the teenager was playing. And ended up killing him and was not convicted of first degree murder. He has been convicted of attempted murder in that situation but it has led to a great deal of anger and disillusionment among a large group of people, it would seem predominately African American, who in the wake of the other incident in Florida feel that these are two incidents in which the stand-your-ground law has been used to target African American youth.
NNAMDIThere are others of course who argue that in the case of this Michael Dunn, the stand-your-ground law was not the basis on which he was convicted. But in the final analysis, two black teenagers who were unarmed are dead. But go ahead, Arnold.
ARNOLDWell, the point of the matter is is that we as citizens of this country, whether you're black, white, Republican or Democrat or in between, we need to make sure if we call ourselves citizens of this country, we need to make sure -- if we're going to stand up for the constitution -- I hear the constitution, the constitution. Well, equality is a part of the constitution. If we're going to stand up for equality in this country, we have to recognize one thing. Sometime the laws in this country can be skewed to be against one part of society.
ARNOLDAnd what I mean by that is that because of what the African American has come through from living in this country, there's some things that are just unequal because of the nature of where we've come from. So I'm asking the Caucasians and everybody else, black, white, everybody to answer that question. If a law is unfair towards you, would you want that law changed so it could be equal for everybody? And if you could answer that question -- yeah.
NNAMDINo, I was about to say, Arnold, thank you very much for your call. In some cases when you're saying this to me you are in a way preaching to the choir. But there are a whole lot of other people who are also hearing you. So thank you very much for your call.
ARNOLDThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIIt's Your Turn. You too can call us at 800-433-8850 on any issue you would like to discuss. We move on now to Joe in Washington, D.C. Joe, it's Your Turn.
JOEKojo, is this me? Can you hear me?
NNAMDIYes, it is you, Joe.
JOEHoly macaronis. Koj, thanks. I just wanted to say that Corcoran project could be done for half the price. I am a licensed construction man in Washington, D.C. And I do not like to -- excuse me, I do not like to spoil the population. I will do it for cheap for Corcoran. Call me, Joe (unintelligible) …
NNAMDIWell, Joe, thank you very much for your call. I think you're a little too late. We got an email from -- a feedback on our website kojoshow.org from Jim who said, "I just listened to your show about new development in the district. Two quick items. Your panelists weren't very sympathetic about D.C. maintaining a certain historic look. Our older buildings make this a unique beautiful city. And the glass monsters popping up take away from that.
NNAMDII recently visited Prague and the Czech Republic and Salzburg, Austria. All new construction has to meet certain design requirements to blend into the older construction and it works just wonderfully. You can recognize new construction but it still has the older flavor. Also, if we're going to reduce the number of parking spaces in the district, we first need to make the mass transit more reliable." I think, Jim, that what Harriet Tregoning and Roger Lewis were trying to say is that new construction, while it should have a flavor of what the culture of the city is, is in the final analysis new construction.
NNAMDIAnd that change does occur -- change in cities, change in countries -- and that change should be reflected in the construction. Because if there is none, what you are saying is that the older days were the better days. And though, as people get older, there is a tendency for that kind of nostalgia to take place -- the older days were always better -- that is not necessarily and objectively the case.
NNAMDISo if there are -- if there is in fact change taking place and they are new developments, then the building in those cities should reflect those developments. And when it comes to the number of parking spaces and making mass transit more reliable, they're saying that they're not simply talking about making mass transit -- and I guess in your case you might be talking about metro -- more reliable. They're offering a wider variety of mass transit, so that in addition to metro, you have buses, you have light rail, you have bicycles, you have car2go, bike share, Zipcars.
NNAMDIAnd so that all contributes, in their view, to reducing the number of parking spaces. But, hey, I'm talking too much. It's your turn. So call (800) 433-8850. Have you been watching the Olympics? An early barrage of media coverage in the run-up to the Sochi Games focused on everything from tweets about toilets and stray dogs to terror threats and Russia's anti-gay laws. But President Vladimir Putin has put a pretty tight bubble around the Olympics, which has sprung some minor leaks in the past few days. What's your thinking? (800) 433-8850. It's your turn. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's your turn, where you set the agenda by calling (800) 433-8850 or by sending email to Kojo@WAMU.org. You can also shoot us a tweet at KojoShow. We move now to Arthur in Alexandria, Va. Arthur, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ARTHURHi, Kojo. Good afternoon. How are you?
NNAMDII'm well. It's your turn, Arthur.
ARTHUROkay. I wanted to comment on the matter regarding political appointees...
ARTHUR...as ambassadors. I held the post of director of recruiting at the State Department for Iraq, specifically. And even though I was centered only on hiring, even ambassadors, going to Iraq, I was also able to see how the political appointees are a very strong failure on the foreign policy of the United States.
ARTHURI wanted to give you one case, which was the U.S. Ambassador -- not the one who is there now, who is the CEO of HBO in Madrid, Spain, but the previous one, who was in Madrid, Spain -- which was Ambassador Solomont, who's basic claim to fame was having donated $1.8 million to the Obama reelection campaign. And his next call to fame was having a degree in nursing. He was -- he still is the owner of almost 80 percent of the senior living assisting homes.
ARTHURNow, while the political appointees that are sent over, comments have been made that their good because they bring something else into the position; on the contrary. Right now, in the European Union, where I have colleagues of mine in Brussels frowned upon every time the White House and the State Department sends over a political appointee who (1.) does not speak the language; (2.) has failed at the Foreign Service Institute to pick up the language and who, at times, thinks that everybody, for example, in Spain, wears a Mexican hat.
ARTHURSo I believe that the foreign policy of the United States has been heavily impacted by this.
NNAMDIWell, we got an email from Beth, in Washington D.C., who says, "Does anyone have any idea about how many buffoons and nitwits were appointed as ambassadors by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush? The answer: entire boatloads full. The only difference is that the conservative media did not report on their screw ups. But the host countries knew all about it, believe me. So this is all par for the course, except for the Fox News and talk-radio obsession with Obama put downs." To which, you say what, Arthur?
ARTHURWell, I have to agree in part with the comment made. Now, during both the President Reagan and, specifically, the president -- the last President Bush, who I worked for as director of recruiting also to Iraq , we have to really see that the ambassadorial candidates there were being sent were not political appointee, but career foreign service officers, as in the case of Chris King (sp?) who used to be the ambassador for...
NNAMDIBut the truth of -- the truth of the matter is that this has been happening for several administrations. It is par for the course, is it not?
ARTHURWell, it -- it, unfortunately...
NNAMDIExcept the troubled areas.
ARTHURYeah. Unfortunately, it is par for the course. But, if you look over it at a global perspective...
ARTHUR...all it's doing is impacting our foreign policy. So they see us basically in many countries, as buffoons, because the system of sending over ambassador or promoting somebody to the ambassador range is totally different in all countries besides the United States.
NNAMDIYep. Point well taken. But I do have to move on. Thank you so much for your call, Arthur.
ARTHUROkay. Thank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIWe move to Cory.
ARTHURNice talking to you.
NNAMDINice talking to you. We move to Cory in Washington D.C. Cory, your turn.
CORYHi, Kojo. Long time listener, first time caller.
CORYI'd like to bring it back real quick to the D.C. issue.
CORYI work with -- I work with SolarCity in the D.C. office. We're trying to improve the green energy look of our good city. And right now we're getting a lot of push-back from the historic districts, specifically Cleveland Park. I'm not going to trash any neighborhood in particular, but they are putting up quite a few roadblocks towards our trying to both accommodate new green technology into the communities, while still preserving the historic quality of them.
NNAMDIWell, what you call roadblocks, neighborhood residents may call something else. Do you care to be more specific about what these alleged roadblocks are?
CORYEssentially, we're still kind of wading into the mire of red tape that we're getting from them. But, essentially, certain neighborhoods as opposed to others, not even all of them historic, are saying that limitations not just for site quality of being able to see our solar panels from the roads or whatnot, but potential effects on the neighbors and potential mishaps and powered lights...
NNAMDIWhat would be the reverse potential effects on the neighbors of having solar panels on houses?
CORYEssentially what they're trying to say is that reflective light from the solar panels is going to interfere with their quality of life, without really acknowledging that solar panels absorb more light then they reflect. But I -- that's all I really wanted to say on that.
NNAMDIAnd you think that that's -- that's just a part of people being opposed to change of any kind?
CORYI believe so, yes.
NNAMDIOkay, Cory. Thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you.
CORYThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIMoving on now to Marsea in Washington, D.C. At least it's spelt -- Marsea, is that how your name is pronounced? Oh, wait a minute. I don't have Marsea on the air. How could I be speaking to her. Hi, Marsea.
MARSEAHi, Kojo. You know how to pronounce my name right.
NNAMDIOh, this is Marsea. I know who Marsea this is. Go right ahead.
NNAMDILong time, no hear.
MARSEAWell, yeah. But I've been tempted every day, but today, I had to tell -- I had to add to the Andy Shallal story. I agree that he is -- we're so lucky to have him almost mayor, because of his caring about low-income families. But I want to add to it that what -- how unique is it to have a mayor who's a successful business person and also an artist -- an artist. Isn't that fantastic? And also...
NNAMDIYou should know that -- Marsea, you should -- you should know that Marsea is an artist who's been an activitist artist in this city for several decades. So Marsea, you're rooting...
MARSEAMajor up years our Children's Studio School was your neighbor.
MARSEAAnd we miss our neighborliness, because now, after 36 years -- 37 years, now, we just lost our home and listened to number two point about the Corcoran, I spontaneously am thinking that it would be great to have Studio School's new space in the Corcoran. That's just a thought.
NNAMDIIt is just a thought. But Marsea is obviously supporting Andy Shallal. And why am I not surprised? Marsea, thank you very much for your call. Good to hear from you. You, too, can call us at (800) 433-8850, because after all, it's your turn. (800) 433-8850. Don't lose this opportunity. It's the first time we've done it in a little while. So call now or shoot us an email to Kojo@WAMU.org. Jenny in Silver Spring, it's your turn.
JENNYHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
JENNYI was just actually watching "A Gentlemen's Agreement" the other night. And the message I took from it was very powerful. And all of what is happening with these white men shooting young black men just because they're young black men reminds me that, as an affluent white lawyer, I too have to stand up and say, enough is enough. And that, you know, Apartheid, Jim Crow laws live on in our laws: In the laws that we have about drugs, in the laws that we have about stand your own ground, and in the prejudices we all hold. And I just want...
NNAMDISo you're for repeal of stand-your-ground laws in any state in which they exist?
JENNYAnd -- but, more importantly, I'm for looking at young black men and not assuming they're thugs, and not letting off white men who shoot them because they think they're thugs.
NNAMDIWell, you know, there's...
JENNYThe criminal system is already biased against black youth.
NNAMDIWell, you know, there's some discussion about how the word -- the use of the word thug has become an alternative for the "N" word, correct?
JENNYYes. Of course. And it's -- I mean it's abysmal. And the statistics keep getting worse and worse about the number of young African-American men who are incarcerated for minor drug crimes that white -- like, as someone who went to an ivy-league school can attest to, I saw a lot of people do...
NNAMDIJenny, what kind of law do you practice?
JENNYI do human rights law.
NNAMDIOh, okay. Thank you very much for your call, Jenny. We got an email from Banahoo about Ethiopia. Banahoo writes, "Every time you have a segment on any subject regarding Ethiopia, I imagine you in my mind's eye, rolling your eyes with disgust about the comments and questions coming to you from the very vocal antigovernment opposition Disapora here in the Washington area. No matter what the topic is, it's somehow diverted into inarticulate argument about the government. Ethiopia has a large deficit in good governments and a long way to go in becoming a utopian Democratic nation.
NNAMDIBut I am sure your recent trip to the country has somehow given you a more realistic view of the country, and at the same time enlightened you about how those people calling you and telling you the country is doomed are crying wolf. Maybe next time you should tell your callers to stay on the topic at hand. And I will imagine you just shaking your head and smiling." Well, no, I don't roll my eyes a lot. I do understand that the Ethiopian Diaspora in the Washington area consists of a number of very passionate people about politics. They are not necessarily in the majority.
NNAMDIPeople are generally not that passionate about politics, period. But I did discover, when we went to Ethiopia that the situation there is a might more complicated than we might be led to believe from simply listening to the callers here, who invariably take one side or the other. So it helps us that visited to have a more nuanced view of what's taking place in Ethiopia right now. But thank you so much for sharing that with us. Here is Almet in Washington D.C. Almet, it's your turn.
ALMETHi, Kojo. How are you?
ALMETOkay. I drive a cab in D.C. I would like to explain to you about the credit card.
NNAMDIWell, we should mention that tomorrow on the "Politics Hour," we'll be talking about how a certain member of the city council's daughter got into conflict with a D.C. cab driver who would not accept a credit card and who later reported her for not wanting to pay him because she wouldn't pay him in cash, but more about that tomorrow. Tell me what you see as the problem with the credit card readers.
ALMETNo, actually, sometimes it doesn't work. That's number one. Number two, they don't give the money for the drivers. Although the law says they have to give us, within 24 hours, mostly they give us after a week or so. That's number two. Number three, the swiping fee is so high and we can get it somewhere else cheaper. My question is, why don't they do it like Alexandria, Baltimore. What they say is, like, cab drivers have to take credit cards, but they have to take it in from any company or the way they see is cheaper for them.
ALMETBut, in D.C., what they have done is, they have to impose -- or has, that will have buy from certain vendors. And I said...
NNAMDII think what you have seems certainly, on the face of it, to be a legitimate grievance. I think that the problem is that if a cab driver responds to that legitimate grievance by arbitrarily deciding not to accept credit cards, then that cab driver becomes in violation of the law and it leads to the kind of trouble you don't necessarily want.
ALMETOh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. I don't know what happened with the daughter of Mary Cheh. But I'm talking about generally the cab commission is doing this wrong. You know, I just saw your friend, Tom Sherwood. He was trying to make a fool of me.
NNAMDIHe's no friend of mine.
ALMETOh, he's not of friend of mine, but I see here...
NNAMDIHe is our colleague. He is not...
ALMETI just saw him on the cab Sunday. He was trying to make a program for -- of me for tomorrow or tonight. But nobody's taking the -- trying to understand the drivers' side. You see, the commission is making a lot of mistakes. You see, they just started to stamp something -- they charge you $50. The commission is all about to make money.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly, Almet. But this I will guarantee you, that tomorrow, when we discuss this issue on the "Politics Hour," we will hear the cab drivers' side of that argument. And Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. And, yes, he is my colleague and friend, I reluctantly admit. Thank you so much, Almet, for your call. And thanks to all of you who participated in this edition of your turn. We'll do it again soon, I promise. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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