Kojo speaks with "Speak No Evil" novelist and D.C. native Uzodinma Iweala about his second novel and how his local upbringing affects his storytelling.
The D.C. Council opts to keep a so-called ‘yoga tax,’ prompting protests even as taxes in the District were cut overall. A Maryland legislator takes on the District marijuana laws. And a new opinion poll shows Americans disapprove of how President Obama is handling violence in Iraq. Weigh in on those and other headlines during ‘Your Turn.’
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. Whatever's on your mind, this is the time to make that call to discuss it. You're setting the agenda here. You can call 800-433-8850, You can send email to email@example.com , a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website kojoshow.org. It's Your Turn.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJust a few issues that came to our attention today, the Supreme Court issuing two more decisions this morning in closely-watched cases. And the first, it said President Obama should not have made recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 because the Senate was not technically in recess. At the time, the Republican-controlled Senate was holding pro forma sessions every three days with a lone senator gaveling the chamber to order then immediately adjourning it precisely to prevent such appointments. But the court said recess appointment are still okay when the Senate says it is in fact in recess.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIn today's second decision the court struck down a Massachusetts law that allows a 35' buffer zone around abortion clinics. The court says states can pass laws that protect access to clinics but they cannot prevent free speech on public sidewalks. What do you think about today's rulings? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. The ongoing dispute over the name of Washington's professional football team taking a new twist this week when a bipartisan group of Virginia's legislators announced the formation of the Redskin's Pride Caucus.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe group's goal is to give fans and ticketholders a voice in the debate over whether the name is offensive to Native Americans and should be changed. One of the caucus founders, Virginia State Delegate David Ramadan, you may have heard, joined us last hour to talk about the new rule. He said last week's decision by the U.S. Patent Office to end trademark registration of the Redskin's name was the last straw. For him, as a longtime fan of the team, he wants to counteract the calls for a name change. What do you think?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd season ticketholders need a bigger voice. How do you feel about the growing list of media outlets and sport writers who say they won't use the name in coverage? Do you agree with those who oppose the team's name but say the patent office had no business axing the Redskin's trademark protection? It's Your Turn, 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet @kojoshow. We'll start with Linda in Falls Church, Va. Linda, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
LINDAYeah, hi. I was listening to Mr. Ramadan and I didn't call soon enough to ask him the question. So I'm just going to use this opportunity to wonder how our Virginia legislators -- I live in Virginia, I pay my taxes in Virginia -- how they can justify spending time and effort and taxpayer dollars to defend an ethnic slur and they can't find the energy and the time and the heart to provide health care via the Medicare expansion for hundreds of thousands of poor Virginians who lack even basic health care. I think it's a disgrace. It's a waste of my taxpayer dollars and I wish Mr. Ramadan were here to answer that.
NNAMDIWell, I will answer on behalf of Delegate Ramadan. Delegate Ramadan would say you're comparing apples and oranges. The two things are not the same and should not be compared. How would you respond?
LINDAI know that those two things are not the same, but the principle is the same. And what my objection is to why are legislators -- our official state legislators are taking a position and spending time and money to defend the indefensible, in my view, when they can't find the time and the will to do something that they should do that would affect so many taxpaying Virginians and poor Virginians and provide basic health care. So it's very simple. Basic health care and the Redskins are not the same thing but the principle is what should our legislators be doing? How should they be spending their time and what should they be doing on behalf of all Virginians instead of Snyder?
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Linda. I'm sure there are those who will want to respond taking another point of view because it is Your Turn. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Let's go to Adam in Washington. Adam, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
ADAMHi. Hi, Kojo. Well, I have to say there are other legislators in the area...
NNAMDII recognize this voice. This is Adam Eidinger.
ADAMIt is. I think there are some other legislators in the area that are interfering with D.C. laws and have nothing to do for their own districts. but think they have enough energy and time to mess with D.C.'s laws. And I'm talking about the anti...
NNAMDIAdam, allow me to give our listeners a synopsis of what we're talking about here. D.C. voters support a new law set to go into effect next month by a margin of 2 to 1. It would reduce the punishment for possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use to a fine of $25. However, that has not stopped congress from threatening to derail funding for putting the law in place.
NNAMDIThe effort in congress was spearheaded by Representative Andy Harris, Maryland's only Republican in congress, and attached to a multibillion dollar spending bill along with several other writers that would restrict plans put in place by the District related to abortion, related to police activity. It brings up the larger question about the city's right to home rule.
NNAMDISome congressmen siding with the district say the move amounts to colonialism, while those spearheading the efforts, including the aforementioned Representative Harris, voice their concern about the lack of counseling referrals for young offenders. What do you make of this move, 800-433-8850? Adam Eidinger, who is on the phone is spearheading the effort in D.C. for decriminalization of marijuana and ultimate legalization. Adam, now go ahead.
ADAMAll right. First of all, Dr. Harris is really Dr. Jail, okay. That's -- he's saying that jail is safer than marijuana. And I'm saying that marijuana is safer than jail. So he better...
NNAMDIWell, he says that -- he's saying that this law should've included some counseling.
ADAMI know that. It does include counseling and this law has to do with adults, okay. This law is for adults only. It'll be a ticketable offense. Minors will still have to go through counseling. So Congressman Harris is totally incorrect on what this law really does. He was grandstanding. He said it was unpopular. He's right. In his own state, decriminalization is becoming the law of the land.
ADAMAnd for him to reach down from Ocean City down into D.C. and tell us how we should govern ourselves and that we should keep putting 5,000 people behind bars every year for marijuana instead of 1,000, which this law is still going to result in arrests, by the way. We're still going to arrest 1,000 people a year. I mean, this is just so outrageous and I...
NNAMDIWhat do you think is the congressman's motive behind all of this, Adam?
ADAMI think the main motive is to grandstand maybe some horse trading later on down the line. He says that he's opposed to marijuana but he takes money from a tobacco lobby, okay. This guy is in the pocket also of alcohol interests and businesses that sell alcohol. And no one is saying that he is pushing the alcohol on our youth, which we know causes brain damage. I mean, it's so ridiculous the argument he's making. He's simply grandstanding. He's trying to get his name out there.
ADAMAnd you know what we're going do? His name will get out there all right because we're going to send busloads of district residents to his district and we're going to campaign against him. We've already called up his opponent. I mean, he has an election to run this fall. And if he wants to take up this issue on the eastern shore, poll his own constituents. I bet he'd find that 75 percent of them agree, leave D.C. alone. We're not messing with his district. Don't mess with our district.
ADAMIf you're going to mess with D.C. we have no choice. This is outrageous. By the way, we're about to turn in our signatures to put legalization on the ballot. And if this thing passes, if this thing actually becomes law, the Senate doesn't stand up, if Barbara Mikulski can't stop this as the chair of the appropriations committee, then what will happen is we won't even be able to vote this November after we collected 60,000 signatures to put this thing on the ballot.
NNAMDIWell, Adam, I'm glad to see you're not upset about this, but you're...
ADAMWe're outraged. We're totally outraged.
NNAMDIYou're not getting angry. You seem to be working to get even.
ADAMThat's right. And I hope the listeners out there take notes that this is moving beyond just the candidates' marijuana issue. It's moving to basic home rule now. These folks who we don't elect want to interfere with our local laws and we need to stand up together united.
NNAMDIOkay. Adam, thank you very much for your call. You too can express your opinion on this or any other issue on this edition of Your Turn. All you have to do is call 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. Let's move on to another issue with Juanita in Washington, D.C. Juanita, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JUANITAYes, thank you, Kojo. My issue is these, what, 5,000 plus children coming in from Central America.
NNAMDIMore like 50,000.
JUANITAI'm sorry, I meant 50,000. Okay. We can't take care of the kids that are here in D.C. I'm getting donation envelopes in my mailbox four or five times a week to help feed, help this, help that. And the kids. I mean, D.C., look at all these people. We can't even put up our own kids. These kids are coming here with diseases. They haven't been immunized, I'm sure. I don't have anything against the kids. I feel sorry for the kids. But the United States always (unintelligible) everybody else's problems.
NNAMDIBut here's the problem. Juanita, here's the problem. There was an article on the front page of the New York Times today with a photo accompanying it of an eight-year-old boy talking to a police officer who was questioning him. Asked him how he traveled here. Says by himself. The officer gives him a bottle of water. No one else in the group with whom this boy is traveling takes any responsibility for him. How do you send him back home? Where do you send him?
JUANITAI -- I'm...
NNAMDIHe said -- the young boy says that both of his parents are in San Antonio. So the immigration system has a problem. Where do you send this young boy if, as you say, we can't take care of him?
JUANITAWell, we -- listen, do we allow our own children to go out and decide where they want to live? You know, we can't let our children go out and say, well, I don't want to live at home anymore. I think I'll go (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDINo, no, let's not be naive. Let's not be naive. Obviously somebody was paid to transport this boy to the United States. Obviously there was some adult someplace in the group that was probably making sure he was fed, etcetera, etcetera. But I'm saying the situation we're faced with right now is that he's here, he says he's alone. If we put him back on a plane there's nobody anyplace waiting to greet him and take him anyplace. What do we do?
JUANITASo in other words, we're just stuck with these 50,000 children that we can't feed, clothe, immunize, send to school. They're going to get loose in this country and we've already had problems. I mean, (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWell, it seems that what they're trying to do is to process them, find some relative who lives here who is willing to take care of them until such time as the process is complete. And according to what both the president and Vice-President Biden have been saying, when that process is complete they're more than likely going to be sent back home.
JUANITAYeah, well, I -- you know, when I heard -- I mean, you know, I've heard it and I know it's a long process and everything. But -- and I don't know why they can't -- well, I ain't going to say I don't know why they can't stop them because you can come under the fence. You can crawl through a hole. You can get over this border. There's no such thing as saying you can't come over these -- I guess the problem -- the truth is, I don't care what you say, we don't have any answer to it. I guess we just have to deal with it and there's nothing we can do because...
NNAMDIIt's a reality that -- I think you're exactly right, it's a reality that we simply have to figure out a way of dealing with. But thank you very much for your call, Juanita. It's Your Turn. You too can join this conversation. If the phone lines are busy at 800-433-8850 you can send 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 there. We move on now to James in Hurlock, Md. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESYes. Good afternoon, Kojo...
JAMES...and thank you for this -- thank you for the opportunity to comment. I live in the 1st district of Maryland unfortunately represented by Andy Harris. And I can tell you the doctor's been a tough pill for us to swallow. I'm very sorry that he's interfering in the affairs of the residents of the District of Columbia. I wish them all the best and...
NNAMDIWell, you're from the same district, James. I think what resident of the District of Columbia would want to know is what inspires such an individual as Andy Harris to look around him at all of the problems he has in his district, all of the problems he has in his county, all of the problems he has in his state, all of the problems we have in this country because after all he's a national legislator and decide, okay here's what I want to do. I want to reverse a law in the District of Columbia.
JAMESWell, all I can say is this area is on the eastern shore. This'll make good press for him. He is a Tea Party wing nut and anything he can do to come out as an ultraconservative will be feathering his nest here on the eastern shore. Because...
NNAMDISo you're saying that in your view he's simply consciously building a political career on the backs of the voters of the District of Columbia?
JAMESI would absolutely make that assertion. I think it's nothing more than publicity. There's plenty of medical evidence to support decriminalization. In fact, the State of Maryland just did it ourselves. So the last time I checked he did live in this state. So, yeah, I don't think it's anything more than a publicity stunt.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. We've got to take a short break, which doesn't mean that you should stop calling. You can still call, 800-433-8850. There are so many other issues in the news this week that you'd want to discuss, we'll remind about a few of them, 800-433-8850. Send email to email@example.com or send us a tweet @kojoshow. It's Your Turn. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. If you are recording the soccer game between Germany and the U.S. in order to watch it later, now would be a good time to turn your radio down because I am reliably informed that Germany is leading the U.S. one to nothing at this point, not that I am paying attention, not that there's a television on in the studio, not that I am even interested in this. It's just that it's Your Turn and I think you ought to know.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's your turn, Sarah in Columbia, Md. You're on the air, Sarah. Go ahead, please.
SARAHHi. They told me to make this brief, so I'll do my best. I just wanted to make the comment that words change meaning overtime. And I haven't heard anyone bring up the fact that if you ask anyone from the current generation -- I have children in their 20s, children in their teens, children in middle school -- any of them and their peers, if you ask them what does the word Redskin means, they will say, it's a football team.
SARAHMy daughter might say, or a potato, because she cooks.
SARAHOkay. If you ask anyone from that generation what's Aunt Jemima, they'll say, that's syrup.
SARAHBut if you ask my father or my grandfather, Aunt Jemima was an old black nanny. And it had a negative connotation before they turned it into a syrup. But over time, the meaning's changed. If you listen to some of the music that the children listen to now, all of these derogatory, foul words that I would've had my mouth washed out with soap a few years ago, are now considered okay because (unintelligible) over time.
NNAMDISo you're saying that the Redskins meaning has changed from a negative to a positive. What would you say to people who say, actually, Sarah, it's just the opposite. Three or four decades ago, it wasn't considered negative an that's why everybody used it and it was okay. But as time has passed, words change connotation and people have become more and more offended by it. And so now it's much more offensive than it was 40 years ago.
SARAHI would say it has only become offensive in the last 12 months when some media personality took it on as their own personal vendetta and made it negative. And this may -- and that was actually when -- the very first time I heard a conversation about it there was someone else saying, but wait a minute, you know, we've got this brand name and that brand name that originally had really negative connotations. Aunt Jemima's the only one I can remember at the time. And now they don't have the negative connotations.
SARAHAnd if you ask anyone in the current younger generation what does Redskin mean, they will say it means a football team. They won't come up with a negative connotation for it. It's only because the media has decided to jump on this and take it by storm. And it started with one personality who decided that they were -- that this was a bad name and then...
NNAMDIWell, what do you say to the fact that the original lawsuit asking the team to change its name was filed more than 40 years ago? Hello.
SARAHI would say, I've never heard of that.
NNAMDIYes. Well, Suzan Harjo, who still lives in the Washington area by the way, is the one who filed that lawsuit. She is a Native American and she filed that lawsuit before it became the movement it is today. But it is okay for people to have differing opinions about this. That's one reason why we have Your Turn. So Sarah, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDINews today that a D.C. summer tradition in which many residents and visitors partake in the summer is cancelled this year. The concert series at Fort Reno in the Tenleytown neighborhood, which has hosted local bands as well known as Fugazi (sp?) and the unknown alike is going dark this year. Organizer Amanda MacKaye reports on the website today that the National Parks Service permitting process stalled this year when the park service demanded that a U.S. Park police officer be hired for each show for the first time in the history of the shows.
NNAMDIMacKaye said that doing so would double the budget, which organizers cannot afford and noted that no concrete reason for the change was provided by the National Park Service. What do you think? Are you a regular Fort Reno attendee? What memories do you have of shows there? It's Your Turn. Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has rejected the idea forming a national unity government in that country to better address the Sunni rebellion there.
NNAMDIThat idea had been popular with international leaders including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. But al-Maliki likened the idea to a coup against the Iraqi constitution. This comes as concerns over the possibility of a vast regional conflict overflowing the borders with Iraq and Syria raises concerns. It raises the question, how do you feel about the U.S. role in Iraq today? Has your opinion changed about U.S. involvement in Iraq over the years? Tell us how, 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIIf you protested involvement initially, do you feel in a way vindicated now or, well, have you changed your mind, 800-433-8850? You can send email to email@example.com or you can go to our website kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. Let's move on now to Patrick in Falls Church, Va. Patrick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATRICKHello, Kojo. I had to call you because my little brother wouldn't leave me alone but it's important. He calls you all the time.
PATRICKHe came here during the Nixon Administration in the early '70s.
PATRICKAnd legally. And my father, who was a college professor at Northern Virginia Community College sponsored him for citizenship. He was given a number in 1990. So he applied in '89 and was accepted in 1989 for alien registration to become a potential United States citizen. Something happened, some war or something and a bunch of people from another country came. And they put him back five years. He wanted to in the U.S. Army. He couldn't go in the army so he's turned to alcohol, this and that because he graduated from high school. He was here since he was six years old. And he's today 49 years old.
PATRICKFinally he wound up living in the streets. He couldn't get a job. He couldn't do anything. Every time he tried to get his status adjusted they tell him wait five years, this, that and another.
PATRICKAnd by the time he found out -- it was like 2009, 2010, he found out he had accumulated a criminal record already from living in the streets and being unable to go in the army and adjust in the society on a positive note because the powers that be kept bringing in scores of asylum priorities from, like for example (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIOkay. I do understand the point you're making. And he's obviously in a very difficult situation. But what do you think that has to do with the 50,000 kids coming across from Central America?
PATRICKThose kids -- well, that's a touchy subject. And I place that blame squarely on the shoulders of Central American adults that are exploiting that situation. And I feel the United States has been held hostage, like they got a gun, instead of a gun but a little child held to their head (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWell, there are a lot of indications, Patrick, that rumors have been spreading around Central America that if kids arrive here by themselves and they have parents in this country, then that they will ultimately be given visas to stay in this country. The Obama Administration is saying that is incorrect. It is not true. All of the legal experts that we have spoken to have said that is not true. But once that rumor is abroad and there are brokers in those countries who are taking money from people to send children here, but we have a problem right now that we have to deal with.
NNAMDIAnd even though there are people who, like the individual you talk about, have been waiting years and years following the legal process to get to stay in the country legally, the question is, what do we do about these 50,000 kids?
PATRICKWhat do we do about my brother? He's 49 years old now. What do we do about people that came here legally and then people that got here six, seven months ago can get an ID and get a job? My brother's been here since the Nixon Administration and he can't get a job and he can't go to DMV and get an ID because they've changed the paperwork -- the necessary paperwork to get the documents for employment. They accommodate these people who are rushing across the border within the last ten years. And people like him who've been here since the Nixon Administration...
NNAMDIWell, the question...
PATRICK...and he'll be 50 next year, can't get a job, Kojo.
NNAMDII do understand that, Patrick. The question you are raising is whether or not the congress has the ability, the intestinal fortitude to look at this issue and deal with it in a way that gives people like your brother a quicker path to citizenship and in a way that can be as fair as possible to people who have been here for a while without documentation and working and paying taxes. That's the question. You and I may not be able to solve it.
PATRICKHe accumulated a criminal record from living in the streets because of circumstances that he couldn't -- he wanted to go in the army.
NNAMDII hear you, I hear you, but that's not a problem...
PATRICKHe played Little League baseball in the '70s.
NNAMDIThat's not a problem that you and I can solve, but I'm glad you called in. And thank you for doing so because it is Your Turn. We like to hear all voices here. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. We move on now to Ajab or Ajab in Washington, D.C. Ajab, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hello, Ajab, Ajab, are you there? Maybe it's my fault. Let me try -- hello, Ajab, it's your turn. Ajab is no longer on the line with us. In that case, we will move on to Elaine in Lanham, Md. Elaine, it's your turn.
ELAINEI just wanted to comment about the woman who called and said that the term Redskins is not offensive to her younger children. That is immaterial. The term Redskins is offensive to Native Americans. It's not about...
NNAMDIWell, we got an email...
ELAINEI'm sorry, go ahead.
NNAMDIGot an email from Mike in Centerville, Va., Elaine. Mike says, "We have not heard from Native Americans on this point. In daily listening to NPR News I have only heard of one social action group claiming to represent one small tribe. Let's hear the voices of all Native Americans. Let a credible poll request their inputs. If they collectively object, then let that be the story.
NNAMDIAll I hear is a bunch of bandwagon stowaways piling on this issue after over a month of exposure. I don't find any politician's opinion to be credible. They're only making a public stand at this time. Theirs sounds like a cheap flag-waving in an attempt to gain votes or only because it's now a divisive topic. I don't want to hear any more public speeches or debate until we hear from a large majority of Native Americans. Do they object or do they not?" What say you, Elaine?
ELAINEWell, I don't know where he's listening, but if you -- you know, if you have any contact at all -- if he had any contact at all with Native Americans or if he were in the situation where he, you know, had interactions with them, he would know that they do object. They also feel that, you know, they're tired of singing the same song. And, you know, a lot of Native Americans just -- you know, they do not come out publically. They tend to leave that to their spokespeople. And I don't know what their spokespeople are doing.
ELAINEBut, you know, I don't think it's our judgment call -- I don't think it's a judgment call of a non-Native American to determine what is and isn't offensive to a Native American. That's my point.
NNAMDIOkay. Elaine, the patent office said that according to its calculations, if 30 percent of any group object to the name of the group then it should be considered offensive. That also has been called into question. But thank you very much for your call. It is Your Turn on any issue that you would like to discuss, not just the issues you have heard here so far.
NNAMDIWhen the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped 200 girls in April, the world was appalled. Twitter lid up with the hash tag bring back our girls. Since then the group is suspected of kidnapping another 60 people, both women and children. And yesterday a bomb blast at a shopping mall in Nigeria's capital killed 21 people and injured a dozen more. No one has claimed responsibility but suspicion rests on Boko Haram.
NNAMDIAs the violence continues in Nigeria, some observers complained that the initial outpouring of concern has evaporated, dried up. And the international community has moved on. What do you think? Have we moved on? What do you think the U.S. should be doing to help free the kidnapped girls in Nigeria? Why is it hard to sustain concern about terrorism across the globe as time goes by and attacks continue?
NNAMDIDo you have family in Nigeria? What are they saying about everyday life as Boko Haram ramps up its attacks? Give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We go now to Bill in Greenbelt, Md. Bill, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BILLThank you, Kojo, for the opportunity. I'd just like to equate a little bit of my experience as a military advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
BILLPeople do not understand the type of animosity as far as religious and also tribal animosity that they have against to each other. To ask the current president of Iraq, this is my opinion, to have a plural government you have a greater chance to have both Jefferson Davis and Lincoln come together, have a plural government during 1863. It's a no brainer. For our State Department's concern and all other elements concerned, it's not going to happen.
BILLAnd for, I guess, the elements to demand this, they're either unknowledgeable about the current animosity that exists among groups or they accept it -- has accept the content as a nonstarter and have other reasons for stating this. That's not going to happen.
BILLAnd as -- and the situation is you have almost mass civil war and also genocide occurring among groups right now. And what's going to happen, instead of becoming more liberal they're going to become more entrenched in their background ideology and religious policy.
NNAMDISo you're saying that expecting al-Maliki to include Sunnis in his government in some form of coalition is completely unrealistic?
BILLIn my best professional judgment is unrealistic because of the tribal and the religious differences beyond the groups. You can go on YouTube and see where this ISIS group is mass slaughtering Iraqi soldiers, shooting them in the back of the head. And if you think that's going to quell some animosity among the groups, that's not going to happen. . I mean I encourage the listeners to...
NNAMDIOkay. Let's accept, for the time being, that that's going to happen. What do you see as being a likely solution to the ongoing conflict?
BILLI've been -- I've served in some very terrible spots on the planet. I think, in American context, we imagine other people to look at Democracy as a way out, to look at reasonable negotiation and rational negotiation as a way out. But people in that region for the most part, cannot view the world from our context. Unfortunately, I think, for Americans, we have to realize the only way to solve issue is sometimes by force. Now, I'm not saying that force is necessary in all regards. But...
NNAMDIBut, see, I think one of the problems that people have, Bill, is that we resolve the problem by force, but we cannot stick around forever to make sure that the resolution that we have imposed in that country will stick.
BILLWell, I'm not saying that the United States should use force.
BILLIt's their problem and they have to deal with it.
NNAMDIYou're saying let it...
BILLThe United States cannot be the policemen of the planet.
NNAMDILet them fight it out among themselves, is what you're...
BILLSomewhat. We have global geopolitical interests, but we cannot be the policemen of the entire planet. However, for us to think that the people can come to some sort of reasonable deal, dealing with each other as we would deal with each other in our communities in the United States, it's just a non-starter.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. We have some 300 advisers there now. The question of whether or not the U.S. is likely to escalate that involvement, a la Vietnam War, or to limit it to what we already have there is a question that we'll be looking at during the course of the coming weeks and months. But this is Your Turn, not mine. So take advantage of it. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Physically fit protestors were striking warrior pose in bright yellow shirts at the Wilson Building earlier this week. But they left deflated when the council approved the tax on gym memberships and yoga classes within the District of Columbia for the first time.
NNAMDIThat move prompted an outcry from avid exercisers. But, as Council Chairman Phil Mendelson pointed out on a "Politics Hour" edition of the show, it's part of a package that will greatly reduce taxes overall and give business owners the leeway to actually reduce fees as a result. He also noted that he did not expect an adverse effect on participation in these healthy activities.
MR. PHIL MENDELSONPeople talk about how we ought to use the tax code to favor or disfavor different things. At the rate of 5.75 percent, I don't know any tax administrators -- experts in the field -- who say that that affects behavior. When you're talking about something like the tax on cigarettes, which is, if I remember correctly, $2.00 or $2.50 a pack, you can see where we might have some effect on behavior, but not the effect that really that we want. You know we already tax sugary beverages and candy and we don't see a reduction in the consumption of those. At 5.75 percent, we're not going to...
NNAMDIGym owners say that you seem to be under the impression that they people who attend gyms are largely people in the upper levels of the income bracket. But they say a lot of people find it difficult just to meet those fees on a monthly basis. They just feel strongly enough about staying healthy that they do it. But they're not rich people there. Some of them are poor.
MENDELSONWell, this recommendation came from the Tax Revision Commission. And the Commission looked at whether this would actually affect, adversely affect the business. And they concluded that it would not.
NNAMDID.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, defending the taxes on gyms and yoga activities. Do you think this tax will affect your behavior? If so, how? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. It's Your Turn. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Your Turn. Those of you who have called, 800-433-8850, or who chose to call that number to discuss any issue on your mind, recent editions of this broadcast or events in the news. We'll start with Ajab or Ajab in Washington D.C. who is back. Ajab, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
AJABThank you for taking my call, Kojo.
AJABYeah, I'm with the Taxicab Union.
AJABAnd as you know, we had a protest last evening.
AJABAnd I want to start from the top in telling you, the protest started down in East Potomac Park and some of our colleagues said that they were stopped at East Potomac Park from coming up with the protest. And as you know, that's the one way. The reason the park service stopped them, they said, because you're blocking traffic. And we'd like to know how can we block traffic on a one-way street coming out? And subsequently, the traffic was blocked all over the city. And once the traffic is blocked all over the city, you know, we only have 80 square miles in the whole District of Columbia.
NNAMDISo you were saying -- you were saying that it was not the taxi-drivers' intent to block traffic or to slow it down?
NNAMDIWhat was your intent?
AJABOur intent was to draw attention to the law that's been imposed on us as taxicab drivers, but not imposed on the other entities that pick up our fares on the street and don't pay any insurance, don't have any insurance for their cars, and are not regulated as we are tightly regulated.
NNAMDIBut how did you plan on drawing attention, if not be the very least slowing traffic down?
AJABWell, first of all, we got a permit. We -- our purpose was to drive in one lane...
AJAB...so the whole route.
NNAMDIAnd in your view, that would not have significantly slowed traffic down?
AJABNo. We had a permit. And if the authorities had let us go in one lane, the other drivers wouldn't have had to go all over the city and come from different directions to try to join the procession.
NNAMDISo what do you think happened. Why do you think it ended up being the log-jam that it was and who was responsible for that and why do you think they did it?
AJABAs I just stated, Kojo, the other drivers who know the city very well...
AJAB...in their attempt to join the procession, came from other directions to try and join the procession.
AJABAnd in that sense, the authorities stopped them from coming from different directions. And since downtown area is so slow, that's what caused the log-jam, not the drivers.
NNAMDINow, do you feel, however, that the protest was effective and what do you want to happen with the limo services such as Uber, who you feel are taking away some of your business and your livelihood?
AJABYes, I do feel that the protest was effective, if none other reason than we were precluded from making our protest by the authorities, by the police officers. Understand, we understand that they were doing their job. They had their orders from someone else. As far as the other services, we don't think that they should be -- in fact, we know they shouldn't be operated in the District of Columbia without regulation -- heavy regulation as they regulate us.
NNAMDII think one of the problems you have, Ajab, is that you don't seem to be getting a great deal of support from members of the public. Members of the public seem to want convenience. And if they find that these limo services and the Uber app or any other app they get on their phone is the quickest way that they can get transportation to and from one point or another, then they want to go for it and they don't seem to care much about regulations. How do you win them over?
AJABWe hear that all the time, Kojo.
AJABHow we win them over is to provide service. We're precluded from providing services. For instance, yesterday, not only were there -- were they rerouting the cab drivers, they were stopping some of them and giving them tickets.
AJABBut on the other hand, if we were allowed to charge whatever we want to charge to the drivers, we wouldn't make money. I mean, I'm sorry, to the passengers, we would make money. Those people -- and nothing is said -- they're given free advertising. They're given free access to the media. And we're not. They're charging an enormous amount of money -- three times the amount of money that we are regulated to charge by taxicabs, and having no insurance, having no credentials to work in the city, taking away our revenue. When you go over the bridge into Virginia (unintelligible) .
NNAMDILike I said, the average person trying to get a ride someplace doesn't seem to care much about that. But, Ajab, thank you very much for your call. And obviously the protest yesterday has attracted attention. We will see whether or not that attention results in what the taxicab drivers would like to see. It's Your Turn, Mark, in Washington D.C. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARKYes. Hey, thank you for taking my call.
MARKI wanted to make a comment on the individual who was before the taxicab driver, Ajab. I forget his name, the military guy.
MARKHe was talking about how he was in all parts of the world and he got a chance to experience just, like, the mentalities of folks and how the U.S., you know, we've been the world police and so on and so forth. And I would just like to make a comment about, I don't think it's possible for us to go into a country or any region and use force to change situations without changing the mentality of the people. And that's what we're really dealing with. We're dealing with people with a set a views and mentality, that it's like bacteria growing in your fridge or growing anywhere.
MARKLike, the U.S., we have literally come and chopped it off. But what happens is, later on, it just grows right back because the ingredients or the virus or whatever you want to call it that's there, it's still surviving. The root of the issue, which is the mentality of the people and the way these people think. So I think that if we really want to effect change in the region, in the economy -- there are places here in Washington D.C., you know, let's take certain places in the southeast, you have, you know, a bunch of different -- a culture, you know, you're trying to (word?) gang violence, you can arrest all of the...
NNAMDIWell, let me tell you the difference.
NNAMDILet me tell you what I think is the difference between what you call the mentality in southeast and the mentality in another part of the world. We're talking about societies that are thousands of years old.
NNAMDIWe're talking about ethnicities that are thousands of years old. We're talking about grievances in many case that are thousands of years old. When we're talking about southeast Washington, we're talking about a country that's only a few hundred years old. And therefore there are not that depth -- there's not that depth of hostility that has to be resolved.
NNAMDIThe difficulty, it seems to me, in a lot of those countries is that we go in with a fairly superficial understanding of the immediate conflict that is occurring there and tend to think that if that immediate conflict is resolved, then the country or the ethnic groups or the various religious groups will go on to a life of harmony. And it seems that that, to me anyway, that that might be the mistake that we make.
MARKExactly. I agree with that. You pretty much said what I wanted to say, but much better.
NNAMDIMark, thank you very much for your call.
MARKThank you. All right. Bye-bye.
NNAMDIYou, too, can call us. It's Your Turn at 800-433-8850. But you'd better make it quick, we only have a few minutes left. Let's go to Dillon in Frederick, Md. Dillon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DILLONHi, yes. A pleasure to be on the show. I wanted to make a comment about the Boko Haram issue and why I think people are so apathetic about it. I mean, if you look at who are protesters, it's mostly my generation, 22-year-olds, you know, young adults.
NNAMDIWho are protesting where? Here or in Nigeria?
DILLONAnd I feel like people are so inundated by war and just constant conflict that occurs in this modern era, that a couple girls in a foreign country, it seems small to us. And it's sad that it's that way. But it is.
NNAMDIWhen you say it's sad, that what is that way, but it is?
DILLONIt's sad that our generation is completely apathetic to such a plight.
NNAMDIWhy do you think that is?
DILLONBecause we're constantly barraged by negative media and such horrible things happening in the world, you know, war, genocide. And this just seems like another in a long stream of sad things that are so far removed from us.
NNAMDIExcept for this, Dillon. Your generation is the one that's all over social media on a constant basis. Why is your generation not therefore constantly up-to-date and updating one another on these issues?
DILLONI mean, I would say that we are very well informed. And I think that because we're well informed, were apathetic. It's that -- because we're constantly surrounded by these things, it just seems like another drop in the stream.
NNAMDIAre you saying that at the age of 22, you're already experiencing conflict fatigue?
DILLONI guess. I mean, it doesn't seem out of the norm to me. It seems like it's something that happens every day.
NNAMDIAnd, but when things happen every day, if they happen to be bad things, don't you think that those of us who are aware of these things have some kind of responsibility to try to do something about them. You seem to be suggesting, well, once it's not happening to us, it's not our business.
DILLONNo, I'm not saying that we shouldn't help. I'm saying that it's hard for us to care. Because if we care about every little thing, you'll fall apart. And we're so pulled in different directions, you know, where do you put your energies, is my question, when there's so many things that are going wrong?
NNAMDIWell, that is true. We do have to decide exactly where we want to put our energies. But we'll have to see. Because, in particular, the Boko Haram incident is not clearly an isolated incident. This is an ongoing situation. And I think that the more atrocities tend to occur, the more the world's attention and our attention will be paid to that situation. But unfortunately we've just about run out of time. So, Dillon, thank you very much for your call.
DILLONThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd thanks to all of you who participated in this edition of Your Turn. And thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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