No Panaceas

Friday, July 18, 2003
They really need to keep this guy from talking to the press: Check out Rumsfeld assistant Lawrence Di Rita says about our learning curve in Iraq. (It's from the LA Times via Atrios.)

Still, he and other Pentagon officials said, they are studying the lessons of Iraq closely — to ensure that the next U.S. takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly.

"We're going to get better over time," promised Lawrence Di Rita, a special assistant to Rumsfeld. "We've always thought of post-hostilities as a phase" distinct from combat, he said. "The future of war is that these things are going to be much more of a continuum

"This is the future for the world we're in at the moment," he said. "We'll get better as we do it more often."

I assume he didn't really mean what this sounds like he meant. I assume he really meant something like, "Sometime in the future, hopefully not soon, we'll have another war, and if that conflict leads to a post-war occupation then the lessons we learned in Iraq will prove invaluable."


DC and Gun Control: This is a classic case of why DC should be a state (or part of a state).

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants District residents to be able to own handguns legally, reviving a pitched debate over gun control in a city with some of the toughest restrictions in the nation.

The D.C. Personal Protection Act, introduced Tuesday by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), would repeal the District's ban on handguns, end strict registration requirements for ammunition and other firearms, and lift prohibitions on the possession or carrying of weapons at homes and workplaces. The legislation also would loosen the District's definition of a machine gun, possession of which is subject to additional sanction. The term now includes many semiautomatic weapons.

The issue for me is not whether gun control is a good idea or not. The issue for me is not whether this question is best decided at the federal or state level. The issue for me is that Congress can pass this sort of thing utterly without input from the American citizens who happen to reside in the District of Columbia. They don't get a vote and they don't have elected officials in Congress to leverage their opinions. Policy is imposed on the District by legislators motivated by concerns completely divorced from the District. This gun control measure -- and the education voucher's initiative -- are not about what's going on in the district they are about what's going on with interest-group and electoral politics in places like Utah. It's disgraceful.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Maybe he can also send another hurricane to New Jersey: According to CNN, Pat Robertson is urging his TV audience to pray that God "remove three justices from the Supreme Court so they could be replaced by conservatives." Let's think about what this really means. How do justices get "removed" from the Court? They die. So Mr. Robertson is asking God to kill three Supreme Court justices. Now, if Pat Robertson really has God's "ear" then what he is doing is threatening the life of several justices. Isn't there a law against this? Of course, at his trial Robertson's defense lawyers might want to argue that he was not threatening a justice since he, in fact, enjoys no such position on God's staff of advisors. In other words, he could just admit that he is nothing but a charlatan intent on duping good Christian people out of their money.

UPDATE: Apparently he only wants God to convince the justices to "retire." How very benevolent. Here's a quote from Robertson's website:

One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer, and another has a heart condition. Would it not be possible for God to put it in the minds of these three judges that the time has come to retire? With their retirement and the appointment of conservative judges, a massive change in federal jurisprudence can take place.

DC Taxation and Representation: I have not talked about the issue much here, but I'm a strong believer in DC statehood. Citizens of the District of Columbia have no representation in the U.S. Senate and only token non-voting representation in the U.S. House. Unlike the citizens of other federally controlled territories, such Puerto Rico, DC residents pay federal incomes residents. As the license plates say, it truly is "Taxation without Representation."

Frankly it's hard to find a more clear-cut issue than this one. I don't know of a single principled reason for denying DC statehood or at least full representation in Congress or letting DC become part of Maryland, something Maryland opposes. (And no, the statement "If you don't like the fact that DC isn't a state then move somewhere else," is not an argument of principle, but a false dichotomy.) So why isn't DC a state? For years I think the explanation could be boiled down to simple racism. Despite support from people like President Eisenhower, power over this issue largely resided with the Southern Democrats in Congress, and they did not want a black majority state. Today opposition comes mainly from Republicans, who oppose DC statehood simply because the new state would add two Democrats to the Senate.

I bring this up today because there are some interesting things afoot in the DC statehood movement. First, is the recent proposal by Tom Davis (R-VA) to increase the size of the House to 437 with one of the new representatives going to DC and the other to Republican-dominant Utah. This idea is pragmatic and practical, though it leaves out what is by far the more important issue, the Senate. But if you look at as a start, rather than an end, then I don't see anything wrong with this idea. The second development concerns the DC presidential primary, which despite my earlier doubts is meeting with some success.

Finally, this simmering idea about a commuter tax is heating-up. (Or hotting up, as Phil Liggett would say.) Currently there is a lawsuit against the federal ban on DC imposing a commuter tax. Today's news is that the DC Council is joining the suit. DC has an economic justification for the tax. Hundreds of thousands of commuters pour into DC everyday -- I'm one of them -- and use local services like sewage, roads, and fire and police protection, and really do not pay for them. A commuter tax is hardly unfair and certainly not unheard of. But, it's a wedge issue. Cities -- especially DC since it lacks congressional representation -- needs a regional alliance of its politicians and citizens. A commuter tax proposal splits that alliance. It will assuredly force even DC-friendly politicians, like Tom Davis, to go with his constituents' interests. That is after all what he is elected to do. Plus, as a spokesperson for Davis notes in the article, the congressional ban is almost certainly constitutional. Just because something is unfair doesn't mean it is unconstitutional. So if a lawsuit is frivolous, and it pisses off your allies, why do it?

At any rate, there are lots of websites out there that address DC statehood and related issues. Most useful is a series of articles by Mark David Richards on a wide range of political and legal issues pertaining to DC statehood. His articles are housed atDC Watch . There are also a couple of sites addressing the primary: Let's Free DC is a blog connected to the site DC First.

I have another idea. If DC residents cannot have representation then take away the taxation. Make DC exempt from the income tax. That would transform the political dynamics of the situation since lots of people, maybe even some Republicans, would then want to move to DC.