Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Kingdom for A... Laptop?

I know it's hard for most of us under the age of 40, but try to think back to a time before we all had access to the internet. Wait... go even further than that. Go back, in your mind (unless you have a well-equipped Delorean in your garage), to a time before you had constant access to a computer. It took me a minute, but I was able to dredge up memories of junior high and elementary school when we learned using books and flashcards. When we came home from school, we watched TV, read more books, played in mud, and rode our bikes. I guess my point is - we existed as a successful society prior to 1990.

Some would have us forget this. A noble yet poorly conceived project is currently underway to "provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves." Sounds great, right? It's difficult to argue with such a vision, but unfortunately I must. You see, behind this PR minded language is a real goal of providing laptops to children in developing countries who would otherwise have no access to the tools of the modern age - namely word processing and the internet. It makes for a wonderful 60 Minutes story: a well-off technologist devotes his life to providing learning tools to children who still have dirt on the floors of their schoolhouses. Cameras cover every angle as this man, Nicholas Negroponte, sits with a poor child in the dirt school house, starts up a tonka-toy-ish laptop, and voila! Instant improvement in a child's life.

While the tone of this entry may sound sarcastic and accusatory, one cannot fault Mr. Negroponte for having such a dream. It shames most of us for not being able to see beyond our 8-to-5 routine and our triple-shot lattes. I wish that I had half of Mr. Negroponte's vision and drive. Yet while vision and drive married with a good cause is the stuff of Hollywood dreams, practicality and caution are necessary ingredients in the stew of success... or at least a soup low on harm. The overarching problem with the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project is that while laptops and the internet can be amazing tools used to open the eyes of an entire generation to possibility, those eyes and the children attached to them need some very basic things in their lives before they can effectively learn and make lives for themselves. When these children graduate from school, will they have high tech jobs waiting for them in the developing countries in which they live? Can they afford to eat? Will they live to graduate? Malaria, a disease that has been mostly wiped out in the developed world, each year causes disease in approximately 515 million people and kills between one and three million people.

We also must consider the environmental cost associated with such a large transfer of electronic equipment to third world nations with little or no enviromental regulation. The design of the laptops being mass produced for the OLPC program is durable, usable, cute, and will likely outlast most laptops purchased in the US. However, they are bound to be discarded at some point due to obsolescence or breakage. With potentially millions of units being shipped to Africa alone, no mention of proper disposal or recycling is mentioned on the OLPC website. While we have a responsibility to help bring the third world into the first world, we also have a responsibility not to create a massive environmental disaster, considering the fact that discarded computers and screens can be a major source of toxins and carcinogens.

I would urge readers not to hinder the dreams of the OLPC project, but to focus their philanthropic urges toward causes that can help third world societies create the foundation of a stable civilization - health (yes AIDS is still a problem), education (this means teachers and schools), economic investment, and security. I would also urge the OLPC project to develop a reclamation project in parallel with the deployment of these machines. In fact, if OLPC can recycle discarded laptops, they might even be able to make them cheaper.

While the the 60's, 70's, and 80's were weird decades in the US, life was still pretty good here even without laptops.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

As Good As Methadone

After my recent loss of a hard drive to the gremlins in my apartment, I've had to reinstall all of my software. This is a bit of a problem for me because half of what I had was software that I "shared" with friends of mine... meaning they brought their CD over to my computer and installed their programs on my machine. Yes, I know this is immoral and probably illegal (until my lawyers tell me it is, I have no idea), but I have my own issues with paying Microsoft for a piece of software that they engineered us to need. Anyway...

My cheating days are done. My mac is now 100% moral! I have installed no stolen, unlicensed, or communal software and pledge not to from now on. This is less a moral decision than a practical one - stolen software is a pain in the ass to retrieve when you loose your hard drive. Yet, I still refuse to give Microsoft any money for Word, Excel, and the lesser used Powerpoint. What am I to do?

This is where Google comes in. It turns out they've developed word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software applications online! I've used these a few times with no problems but have yet to make it a standard practice to use them So, I am embarking on a bold new crusade to use only Google Documents to edit personal documents. Professionally I'm required to use MS Office on a daily basis, but I think it's fair to say that doesn't count since I'm able to easily separate my professional and personal information. So, I'll let you know how it goes. Check back for a progress report!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Brand Monogomy

With all the choices we Americans are given in our consumer culture, there’s a certain comfort one takes in bounding ones choices to a particular brand. We revel in the fact that our brand is superior to all others, especially since not everyone seems to be as smart as we are in realizing it. However, recently, I’ve begun to realize that my brand loyalties are based on pretty much nothing.

Growing up as a child of the Midwest, I'd gotten used to driving around in Fords, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs. When I busted out on my own and had to choose my own vehicle, I went with the Honda - a well known reliable brand name. I'd been hurt before. I wanted something that would last me years. The community of Honda owners that I knew swore that I would never own another brand of car again. I was also sold on the “perks” that come with owning a Honda – the amazing reliability, the unparalleled resale value, and of course, the best fuel efficiency a V6 engine could give you. Of course, there was also the fact that a Honda was a status symbol - living in the midwest, owning a Honda put you a cut above the rest. You were stylish and worldy, better than the guy next to you driving the domestic car. The only thing better would have been a Volkswagon, but sadly they didn’t suit someone of my stature in 2000.

In 2004 I began to fall in love with Apple, as any good urbanite would. It began with an iPod purchase, and I then aspired for years to replace my common old PC with a shiny sleek Macintosh. When I'd eventually saved enough pennies (a LOT of pennies), I fulfilled my dream and pruchased that Mac. As everyone said I would be, initially I was mesmeried by it's strange ways. Fading menus and rapid icon motion hypnotized me and I was an instant fan. I also had my urban stats symbol. I would never own a PC again, right?

Like all dreams, these two came to abrupt ends. Right around 100,000 miles, my Honda's transmission and alternator "went out". The transmission was 100% covered (by an extended warranty - this had happened to MANY people), but the alternator was not. Strangely they failed ON THE SAME DAY, but Honda ruled that they were separate problems. Curiously, this is the same issue I had with my POS Pontiac Sunbird in 1996. Where's my increase in status!?

The Mac's hard drive died last week. All those friends that told me I had to get a Mac and that it would last forever are now telling me "that's just the hard drive... it could happen to anyone... it's not the Mac." The PC I have owned for nearly three years has never had a hardware failure. Again... I'm missing the increase in status.

My lesson? "Parts is parts." (That's from some SNL skit I can't remember.) While certain expesnive cars and computers may have more features, in the long run they are all made by people and corporations looking to maximize their bottom line. Defects will happen. Accidents will happen. I don't regret purchasing either the Honda or the Mac. What I regret is thinking that somehow owning these things made me smarter than the rest of society. During my next search for a car or a computer, I'll be sure to expand the search radius a bit.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Marty's Album of The Month, November 2007

What happens when a computer game music composer wants more out of life? happens. I'll always have a love of industrial electronic music, and Lost Alone satisfies that itch. This CD is rich with contemplative lyrics, well-used synthesizer chords, and hypnotic beats. Now I'm just waiting for someone to open a club that will play this...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

American ADD

I've been a ridiculous slacker as of late and have been remiss in my blogging duties. Therefore, I've decided to pledge an entry a day for at least a week! Can I do it? Of course. I'm not promising to be the most original blogger in the sphere, but I do promise that each day a new entry will appear. Today's topic...

Ten Things We Should Care LESS About...

10. Who Killed Natalie Holloway - Seriously, people? A rich white girl from Alabama goes to Aruba for drunken graduation trip, disappears TWO YEARS AGO and we're still talking about it? Sure, the guy they think did it is cute, but how many people die from car accidents in this country each year?
9. The Middle East Peace Process - I think WE need a disengagement policy... from the entire Middle East. An area of the world arguable smaller than Texas is controlling our foreign policy? Why don't we have an African Peace Process? Let's pull out of Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and start making our gas from corn.
8. Canada's Super Currency / Our Wussy Currency - People might start buying our crap again!
7. Anne Coulter
6. Iran - see #9. I'll probably own a beach house in Boca before they get nukes.
5. Going "green" - We all know that when a company goes "green", they're still polluting just as much as they were and probably using as many resources as they were before. They just planted some trees and put up a few commercials telling us to turn out lights off when we leave the house. I'll bet you anything Al Gore uses more electricity and petroleum in a year than I do.
4. Dancing With The Stars - I have nothing to say about this.
3. Cyber Monday - we dignify the fact that people shop online at work with an actual name for the day?
2. Black Friday - either people will buy crap or they won't. It probably has more to do with whether or not they can make their mortgage payments than the %15 off sale at Macys.
1. Hillary Clinton - she's getting PLENTY of attention right now.

Ten Things We Should Care MORE about

10. China is going to the moon and wants to "mine it's riches"!
9. The Google phone
8. Our national voting process
7. The national debt - yes... again.
6. Cancer research - less people are dying!
5. The DC Tax Scandal - it's a sad state of affairs when $20 million is lost to fraud and an entire city just says says "Eh".
4. The writer's strike - what the HELL am I going to do without the Daily Show and 30 Rock? If this doesn't affect you now, it will...
3. The Republican presidential primary race - one of these crazies is going to have to go up against Hillary/Obama/Edwards. We should be paying more attention to these guys and shining the light of day on their strange pasts. If we'd only done that in 2000...
2. We can grow stem cells from skin!
1. Bees - remember this summer when the disappearance of bees for just a short period of time was more dire than the disappearance of Natalie Holloway? We were being warned that we were going to have to live without fruit and honey for the rest of our lives! What ever happened to all that?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Get It Done, Already

It's no secret that I'm disappointed in our 110th Congress. So far, they've bungled passage of bills on children's health care, withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and our BUDGET, among other things, while minor issues (non-binding resolutions and the whole Armenia thing) take center stage. Now, I understand that our Executive has the power of veto over bills he finds distasteful, but a Congress that was "swept" into power to challenge a President with a sub-30% approval rating should be able to at least make their case to the American people that they are right and he is wrong. I see Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid behind a lot of podiums, attempting to react to the rhetoric of W, but we have yet to get a veto-proof majority on issues which the country clearly supports. They should be out there on the morning talk shows and the Daily Show explaining the reasons why we all should be in favor of giving these kids a shot at a real future.

The worst example of this is the demise of the DREAM Act. Because I'm lazy, I'll let Wikipedia describe this bill...

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (also called "The DREAM Act") is a bill that has been introduced several times in the United States Congress that would provide a path to American citizenship for immigrant students and those wishing to join the United States military.

To qualify, the immigrant student or soldier would have to meet certain requirements such as:

* Proof of having arrived in the United States at age 15 or younger.
* Proof of residence in the United States for a least five (5) consecutive years since their date of arrival.
* Must be between the ages of 12 and 30 at time of bill enactment.
* Having graduated from an American High School, or obtained a GED.
* "Good moral character," essentially defined as the absence of a significant criminal record (or any drug charges whatsoever).

During the six years of conditional status, the eligible immigrant would be required to either (1) graduate from a two-year community college, (2) complete at least two years towards a 4-year degree, or (3) serve two years in the U.S. military. After the six year period, an immigrant who meets at least one of these three conditions would be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident (green card) status. During their temporary time, immigrants would not be eligible for federal higher education grants such as Pell grants, though they would be able to apply for student loans and work study.

If the immigrant does not meet the educational or military service requirement within the six year time period, her or his temporary residence would be revoked and he or she would be subject to deportation. During the six years, the immigrant must not commit any crimes other than those considered non-drug related misdemeanors, regardless of whether or not they have already been approved for permanent status at the end of their six years. Being convicted of a major crime, or drug-related infraction would automatically remove the six year temporary residence status and he or she would be subject to deportation.

If the immigrant meets all of the conditions at the end of the 6-year conditional period, he or she would be granted a permanent green card with the same rights as a permanent resident alien, including the right to apply for U.S. citizenship

The fact that a small cadre of racist Republicans has managed to mount a campaign to derail this bill is not what sparks my anger. It is sparked by the inability of Senate and House leaders to LEAD against this campaign. A bill that is so obviously good for our country and THE RIGHT THING TO DO has suffered criticism and a filibuster, but the leaders of Congress should be able to rally their troops to push ahead something so fundamentally beneficial to both immigrant children and our national interest. Even a few stand-up Republicans have expressed support for the idea of the DREAM Act, but even with this bi-partisan semi-support, Nancy and Harry just couldn't get the job done.

The sad truth that I have come to realize is that our current Congress is led, as it always is, by men and women more interested in reelection and donor payback than legislating for the national good. I'm loosing faith in our democracy. Can anyone help me to get it back?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My new favorite commercial...

I know it's a cop out post - I'm really AM trying to come up with new topics!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Marty's (really tardy) Album of the Month for September '07

Did you guys know A-Ha still made music? I heard them on Pandora last week and was amazed at how much I liked their 2002 album "Lifelines". You'll barely recognize them... the music is a long way from "Take On Me". I highly recommend the download. However, if you solely use iTunes, you won't be able to find it. Apparently, Apple has decided that this doesn't fall into the "this is what everyone is listening to" category and they decided not to let us have it. Once again I'm forced to turn to rogue Russian mp3 websites.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ding Dong, the Witch is dead... At Least Till June

It's been a LONG and HOT summer. I hate summer, and always have. Labor Day weekend is annually the time when I wake up from my heat and humidity induced hibernation, throw open my windows, and declare to the world that I'm alive again. I engage in an activity I like to call "the purge" in which I gather up all my summer clothes, donate to charity all those tshirts and shorts that I thought made me look fat, and neatly fold the rest into the bottom drawer of my closet storage... not to be heard from again until the next June.

Other purges occur as well. DC is well known for its transience, and without fail every year after summer ends, I loose a good 25% of my friends to better jobs, continuing education, and significant others in far away cities. I'm always sad to see these friends go, but after a few years here in the District, this ritual seems an unavoidable and necessary refreshment of my social sphere. It forces me to expand my relationships with those people I've met over summer and bring them into my sphere. I realize that most of these new people will be "purged" again next year, but after a few years I expect to have a good core of individuals that help define this city as my home town.

So yes, I'm back to blogging. I can't tell you how many times over the summer I began posts only to abandon them halfway through due to lack of drive and creativity. No more! Fall always comes a renewed sense of puropse... or at least station. I plan to take full advantage of this renewal by testing my academic, creative, and social boundaries. Is the world ready? Probably not.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Conspiracy Theory

17th Street here in northwest DC is one of the busiest streets in the city for pedestrians and vehicular traffic alike. Not only is the street known for being the center (albeit a sadly diminishing one) of gay life here in the city, but it’s a bustling business corridor running all the way down to the White House with hundreds, if not thousands, of residents occupying apartments and houses all along the way. Recently there’s been a proposal by some NW residents to turn part of 17th street into a pedestrian only corridor north of Massachusetts Avenue, similar to ones in Boulder and Charlottesville. I guess the thought is that eliminating automobile traffic will lure high-end or “nice” retailers to the area and drive up the prices of real estate above their already inflated levels. (see

I’m not sure exactly who’s proposing this pedestrian corridor idea, but I can tell you it’s probably none of the business owners along the street that depend on auto traffic for a good portion of their sales (they have to come from somewhere). It’s also probably not any of the hundreds of 17th Street residents who purchased property here with parking entrances and exits on 17th St. I’m also pretty sure that people trying to navigate the city’s grid system would be a little frustrated when the run into yet another nonsensical interruption to the lettered east/west streets. So who does that leave? I’m betting we’re dealing with some of the same senior citizens who occupy spots on the local ANC who refuse to allow any further liquor licenses to be sold to new restaurants wanting to come into the area. The Dupont ANC has become an oligarchy of wealthy residents who were lucky enough to get a piece of real estate in the area before it became more expensive than a republican congressman. They also are the only ones who bothered to take the time to get their names on the ballot prior to local elections, so I guess they deserve some credit.

…or it could be some retailer looking for some prime real-estate that might be vacated by business that would have to fold-up if they could no longer get their inventories delivered via 17th St (Safeway, CVS). I heard lots of rumors about Harris Teeter starting up several “grass-roots organizations” to probe DC neighborhoods for new grocery viability.

I see the wisdom in this pedestrian corridor idea, but I think we should all be honest about our motivations here. The ANC wants a quieter street with fewer honking horns, nicer shops, and fewer gay bars. Unnamed retailers want other retailers to clear out so they can take advantage of a market hungry for groceries and other life necessities. Me? I want to keep my convenient parking spot.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I Miss Howard Dean

Wasn’t the debate between Democratic Presidential candidates sad this week? Six candidates showed up on the South Carolina stage, and not a single interesting idea could be found between them. There was a lot of “concern” about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to allow the Partial-Birth abortion ban to stand, talk of Iraq withdrawal timetables, oh yeah, Obama revealed that he bought some energy saving lightbulbs. Yipee.

Nearly five months after Democrats took back the House and Senate in mid-term elections, the self-appointed leaders of the party are floundering in the pond of support for their ideas. It’s too bad that the country came to appreciate Democratic ideals only a year before a presidential primary – a season in which those ideas will simply be used to destroy opponents instead of moving our country forward. While Pelosi and Reid seem to be doing well in their roles, the Democrats running for president can pretty much be discounted from doing anything constructive over the next year. One could suggest that the debate between candidates itself is constructive and will help to bring issues into the households of average Americans on a regular basis, but only when the debate is remotely interesting…

…like it was four years ago. Remember when Howard Dean, the truth-sayer of the Democratic party, was saying all the things that made sense? I remember attending rallies for this guy nearly four years ago with hundreds of people who’d just come out to hear the guy speak. We knew where he stood on abortion, Iraq, gay marriage, and the environment, but he could bring us those ideas in a way that made you want to listen and help him make those ideas a reality. Sure, Kucinich and Richardson are stand-up guys with genuine ideas, but when was the last time you wanted to hear from either of them? Dean cut through all the rhetoric of Vietnam war experience and parental mill-working, and was one of the first people to publicly say that he wanted our troops out of Iraq… in 2003! That’s what I want in a president – someone who has great ideas that turn out to be the right ideas. I hope we hear a little more from Mr. Dean during this campaign because I think he can help us focus the debate constructively.

Being the big flaming Democrat that I am, I’m very disappointed that I don’t have a favorite among the Prez candidates yet. This is the season in which everything is interesting and we have some say in the direction in which the party moves. I miss the old days when a bunch of anonymous misguided Democratic kids would get their marching orders via and huddle in the basements of bars to discuss campaign strategy. Sure, it was ineffective, but it was genuine and enjoyable. I'm not very fond of any of our candidates at the moment, but until Al Gore jumps back into the game I'll pick Edwards. I can love a man that appreciates a $400 haircut. Quit apologizing, John.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dear CNN,

I didn’t want to do this over the internet, in my blog of all places, but I don’t know how else to talk to you. We don’t seem to see each other much anymore and I can’t even remember the last time we had a civil conversation. I feel like I’ve made an effort here but that you have just left me out in the cold. It’s time to tell you how I feel and maybe it’s better for both of us that the world knows it. It’s taken me a while to work up to courage to say this to you and if I had to do it in person I might not be able to follow through so it’s good that once I hit the “Post” button there’s no taking this back: I’m leaving you.

You and I both know we’ve had problems for some time now. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in denial about it for a long time now. I don’t know when I first started to notice it – maybe it was during the OJ trial or the Elian Gonzales incident – but I know that we started to drift apart sometime in the late 1990’s. Sure, we were still having good times back then, and you treated me better than anyone else ever did. You were always there for me – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever I needed you. I’ll also never forget how generous you were. You gave me Headline News, CNN International, and of course, I’ll never forget the web site. Remember that night you gave me That was an amazing night.

Yet none of those things can make up for the growing distance between us. Somewhere along the line the bad times started to outnumber the good. I started to see pieces on your web site that made no sense to me. When I saw “Dog with amputated leg saves diabetic mom” I thought it was a mistake and that there had to be some other explanation. I guess when you love something you try to not see flaws and make excuses. But then there was the Morning Show. I didn’t even know what to think after that. I know I said some things that I regret, like calling you a network news rip-off and a “Charlie Gibson Lover”, and I apologized for that, but deep down I was telling you the truth. You blamed it on Fox News and the internet and said you’d try harder to change and be a better source of journalism for me, and I believed you.

Then came 2000 and the election. I came home to find hanging chads all over the place. You didn’t even try to hide it anymore! We fought for hours and decided to take a break from “us” for a few months. I thought that if I tried newspapers and other websites for a while I’d start to remember all those things I loved about you again. It seemed to work, and when we got back together things seemed better for a little while. You were great with September 11th, and I started to see the same CNN I fell in love with all those years ago. Sadly, though, I know now that nothing had changed. As soon you started to say the words “shock and awe”, I knew our problems had returned. Your morning show got worse with commentary and animal fluff pieces. You let Lou Dobbs start ranting about immigration on his show that was supposed to be about money. I knew our relationship was falling apart.

I told myself that as soon as you got through Katrina coverage that I would end things with you. You made it hard – Anderson Cooper helped me mask the pain with his persistent questions and pretty face. It seemed like you were making a real effort to win me back with actual journalism. I was also weak, forgot about our problems, and stayed with you for a few more years because it was just too easy. Then came Anna Nicole Smith. The night she died your eyes lit up like they did the night OJ was in his Bronco. Then you kept saying “baby daddy” over and over again and it seemed like it would never stop. You told me it was just a temporary thing, but in the same breath you reported on the Virginia Tech massacre in a way that made me want to vomit.

As hard as this is, we both know that “we” can’t work. I’ve been with you for twenty years now, and I’m having a hard time remembering why I fell in love with you. That first night we hung out during the invasion of Kuwait seems fresh in my mind but the emotions of the moment are gone now. I find myself longing for those days knowing that we can never get them back. I need some space from you for a while. I changed my browser homepage to MSNBC – I didn’t want to throw that in your face but I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else. I hope you take care of yourself and that someday you can recapture the good days. I’ll never hate you, but I don’t think that I can ever love you again. I hope that someday we can be friends, but that can only happen with time.



Monday, April 09, 2007

Even The Weirdos Realize O'Reilly is Full of Shit

I NEVER thought I would ever utter these words, but tonight I am PROUD of Geraldo Rivera.

Get 'em...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

What's a District to Do?

So now that I've complained about our current situation and and highlighted how inane the arguments against DC voting rights are, it's time to propose a few solutions. In starting off, I'd like to say that I agree with some points from my opposition. First, DC is not a state, nor should it ever be. As vehement as I have been in my assertion that voting rights are inborn for all Americans, statehood is not. As the seat of our Federal government, DC would be an illogical state. Ignoring for a second that a state government would be totally size inappropriate for DC, our Federal government does need an area in which to operate itself effectively without potential state/federal conflicts.

I also don't believe that DC should have the same representation that States have in the US Congress. I may have eluded to such a thing in my previous installments, but Bill Cash makes an excellent point in that DC is inherently represented in the Federal government because it IS the Federal government. The legislators who's vote in Congress we so covet do have to drive through our neighborhoods, drink in our bars, and pass our homeless people every day while they're in town.

Having said all that, we still need representation for all the reasons I cited in my previous posts. We need it not just because we pay the same federal taxes that the rest of the country pays, but because we need a stake in our Federal government and some say in the actions that it takes. Several member of the DC National Guard have lost their lives in Iraq, yet none of those who died or who are actively serving in that quagmire have any representatives in Congress with which to voice their support or opposition to the war. In the next 20 years, when our national realizes the mess we've gotten into with Social Security, our retiring population (albeit much lower than that of Florida) will have no say in how our Congress proposes fixes to the current system. And god forbid we have any say in environmental legislation, drafted up by the rest of the states and imposed here without anyone from DC lending a voice.

We need votes, but how do we get them? The most obvious, and for some reason inflammatory, solution is to draft up and pass a Constitutional amendment granting DC representation in both the House and Senate. Yes, you heard me say it... we want a SENATE seat too. Why not? Why would this be an unthinkable resolution to our problem? Again, as I said before, we do have some inherent representation in the government. Perhaps a single US Senator, instead of the same two that States have, would be appropriate. I do, however, believe we need an appropriate number of House represntatives that reflects the population of our city. Currently we'd probably have to be content with a single House rep., but if our city continues to grow, we may get a whole TWO! Take that, California!

In the interim, I would like to have some legislation passed that gives DC at least a vote in the House, until we get our Constitutional amendment up and running. We haven't really made a change to the Reapportionment Act of 1929 since... well... 1929, so I think we're due for a look-sie. Sure, Elenor Holmes Norton would be bat-shit crazy and would propose crazy legislation, but that's what the House is for, right?

So now... your thoughts?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Don't Think We Make Tea in DC...

So you say DC residents shouldn’t have a voice in Congress? You say the principles of a representative democracy upon which our nation was founded don’t apply to the residents of our capital city? Let’s take these arguments one at a time…

Flawed Argument #1: "DC is a special part of the United States. It is not a state for a reason. DC gets special treatment in the form of billions of dollars every year that other municipal regions do not receive. You guys might not get votes in Congress, but you don’t need them. The rest of us states take care of you guys. Just sit back and enjoy the federal dollars."

Sure, we’re special. We have a lot of federal money focused on a very small area, but this area has been set aside specifically for housing our federal government and the related industries. Yet, for most DC residents, the money from the federal government makes little difference in our lives. We still pay outrageous taxes here as residents of the city (higher than most municipal and state income taxes combined), on top of the federal taxes we pay that are equal to those of the rest of the country. I take issue with the suggestion that we are better off than most of our counterparts in American States. While we do receive a lot of federal government funding, so do all of you! Farm subsidies? Transportation subsidies? Energy subsidies? And what about that bridge to nowhere in Alaska? The only difference is… you all get a say in how that happens. The federal dollars spent in the rest of the nation are meant to benefit those in the receiving states, including the amazing amount of “pork” in federal budgets fried up for the states by their congressional representatives. In most cases here in DC, the federal dollars received are meant to maintain and protect the federal government and to benefit the visitors to this city – not it’s residents. The most we can do is send Eleanor Holmes Norton in to complain about the how often our city is abused by the Captiol Police and the Secret Service. I guarantee they have all built up a tolerance to her voice, and without a real vote in the House, her voice is all we have to represent us there.

It's insulting to suggest that because Congressmen and Congresswomen spend a good bulk of their time in our city that we should be happy with that as our representation. These people do not spend time in our "less popular" areas or have to think about the future of the city as they may not even be here in a few years. They are also beholden to their own constituents, so the needs of their home states will always come before the needs of DC in their minds. We need to have voices in Congress that reflect the attitudes, beliefs, and needs of our District. That's what a Republic is all about.

Flawed Argument #2: "DC would never be able to elect a competent set of representitives. They elected Marion Barry, for god's sake!"

I only four words to counter this argument - Tom Delay and Cynthia McKinney.

Flawed Argument #3: "The Constitution doesn't allow DC to have Congressional representation."

Constitutionally, the argument against DC voting rights in Congress is lazy. Specifically, opponents site the up-front language in the Constitution that limits representation with Article 1, Sections 2 and 3 of the US Constitution…
  • “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.”
  • “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State...”

There’s no mention of DC getting a vote, and some would argue that because the concept of a federal District was alive and kicking at the time the document was signed that the wording of these Articles was deliberate. Think about it – a 100 square mile area in which only the Federal government had jurisdiction. There would be no triple-layer bureaucracy that haunts the development of most urban areas. The only problem was – few Federal employees in 1801 wanted to take a horse and buggy from Virginia or Maryland every day to get to work – a commute that plagues us still today. So it was logical to take up residence next to the office. Hence, DC grew as our Federal government grew. We then needed schools, libraries, hospitals, and grocery stores, which all required employees… who all needed to live close to work.

I think the best part about our Constitution is that when we all get together and decide something is wrong, we can change it! OK, so that Prohibition thing didn't really work out too well, but here are a few great examples of how this worked well for us…

  • We got rid of slavery. Yes, slavery WAS in the Constitution… or rather the fact that slaves were worth 3/5 of what a free man was worth.
  • We let women vote. I think it was a good idea.
  • We let states elect Senators instead of letting the state governments pick them.
  • We decided that we needed an income tax. Corn taxes just weren’t cutting it.

The list goes on. My point is – the Constitution is great, but sometimes we have to tweak it. The challenge is working up enough courage to challenge the national inertia - something our wise founders counted on to make sure that amendments really were necessary. Is this a good way to get DC representation in Congress? I'll address that in the third installment.