Well, that’s embarassing: Belarus blasts lack of DC voting rights

Well, Belarus–global beacon of human rights and democratic rule–is out with its much awaited human rights report.

Unexpectedly, the District of Columbia plays a starring role. The report notes that “600 thousand of Washington’s residents are not entitled to elect their representatives to the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

Well, it’s hard to argue with the truth. How long will it be before statehood opponents begin to accuse pro-statehood advocates of colluding with Alexander Lukashenko, Europe’s only remaining dictator?

Well, if there’s a silver lining, it’s that the ridiculousness of those White House online petitions has been exposed, thanks to the efforts America-hating secessionists in Dixie. The report states:

In November, people in seven American federal states collected sufficient numbers of signatures necessary for a secession from the USA. The civil petitions have been posted on a White House website’s special section, where people can leave their submissions or join those posted earlier. To begin dealing with a petition, the White House needs to receive at least 25 thousand signatures in 30 days. Once this requirement is met, an official response will be published on the website.

The Texas’ petition gathered more than 125 thousand signatures. The petition points out that the US economic travails resulted from the Federal Government’s failure to reform fiscal policies. In addition to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee have also collected the required numbers.

So far, the White House has not considered the civilian petitions, which can be regarded as violation of the right to self-determination.

Just to be clear, I’m sure the District of Columbia would be glad take replace any of those states as the 50th star on the flag.

Non-states inch closer to US Capitol’s Statuary Hall Collection

The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are one step closer to being represented in the US Capitol. Voting-rights advocates shouldn’t get their hopes up, however.

The US House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that would allow the non-states to place one statue apiece in the US Capitol as part of the Statuary Hall Collection. According to the 1864 legislation that created the collection, the honor of placing statues in the Hall has is expressly reserved for the states themselves, which, however, are allowed to contribute two statues.

As with virtually all attempts to increase the non-states’ visibility in Congress, the statue issue has not been without controversy. In 2010, with the failed DC Voting Rights Act still a fresh memory, California Representative Dan Lungren (R) opposed District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D) bill that would have placed two DC statues in the Capitol, suggesting the move was an attempt to confer “quasi-state status” on the city. The objection here, of course, was that adding two DC statues to the Statuary Hall collection would have given the city equal billing with the states, and therefore set the city on the path to full House voting rights, anathema to today’s Republican Party.

But Lungren isn’t firmly opposed to admitting statues from DC and the non-states into the collection outright; he only opposes conferring symbolic equality on the non-states by admitting their statues to the Capitol. After all, Lungren did introduce the bill that cleared the House today, noting on a previous occasion that statues are important to his constituents.

The House passed similar legislation to Lungren’s bill nearly two years ago, just before the dissolution of the 111th Congress in December 2010. But the Senate, not unexpectedly, let the matter die by not taking up the bill.

Should President Obama sign the bill into law after Senate passage–still an uncertainty–the non-states could move statues into Hall immediately. As far as I know, DC is the only non-state that has actual statues ready to deploy, and it looks like abolitionist Frederick Douglass would have the honor.

Douglass was chosen in 2006 after the city held a contest to select two historical figures to represent the city. The vote itself wasn’t without controversy, however, as the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities ultimately passed over jazz musician Duke Ellington–runner-up to Douglass in the vote–and instead commissioned a statue of French architect and Revolutionary War veteran Pierre L’Enfant, who in the early 1790’s drafted the initial plans for the design of the District of Columbia (Ellington, however, was later immortalized on the District’s quarter as part of the State Quarter program).

But with only one statue allowed under the legislation passed by the House, Douglass is no doubt the wiser choice. His efforts to end slavery in the United States aside, Douglass actually meets the Statuary Hall requirements that all persons immortalized be former citizens of the localities they represent. I could be wrong, but I don’t think L’Enfant ever actually resided in the District of Columbia–he was kicked off the DC planning project  after only a few months after it began and left what would become the District well before the city was incorporated in 1801. L’Enfant died penniless in 1825 on a farm outside the city in Chilium, Maryland.

If anyone knows what statues Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands would contribute to the collection, please let me know!

Republicans, media flip out over Democrats’ stance on Israeli capital, ignore own capital

Anyone paying even passing attention to the Democratic National Convention this week no doubt heard about the Republican Party losing its collective mind over the Democrats’ failure to mention Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in its party platform. The omission was seen as a departure from the Democrats’ traditional stance, as the party since 1992 had included language recognition of Jerusalem in its platform. Officially, the US government still recognizes Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, where the US Embassy is located.

The outcry, amplified by the national media, was so great that the party buckled and at President Obama’s urging amended the platform to include language on Jerusalem. Before this could be done, however, cable news viewers were treated to some delegate drama reminiscent of the days when conventions were less predictable than the heavily scripted affairs they are today.

Meanwhile, the news media made nary a mention of both party’s collective yawn when it came to addressing the antiquated status of their own country’s capital, the District of Columbia. As noted on this blog, the Republicans defeated an attempt by the DC GOP to include language in the party platform advocating home rule and Congressional voting rights for the city, while the Democrats for the third time since 2000 left support for DC statehood out of the platform. DC news outlets covered the issue pretty well, but the national media mostly ignored it.

The obscene amount of attention devoted to this faux controversy must have been disheartening to the DC Democrats, who had descended on Charlotte intent on making the country (and even their own party) care about the District’s plight as a city beholden to the whims of Congress.

DC Mayor Vince Gray, who earlier in the week had to miss speaking at a DC budget autonomy rally due to a police cordon in downtown Charlotte, finally had a chance to speak directly to the country about DC when he cast District’s votes for President Obama during the DNC roll call vote, decrying taxation without representation as he did so. But by the time Gray made his appeal, it was midnight on the east coast, the networks had tuned out, and most people who hadn’t already been watching Honey Boo Boo on TLC earlier in the evening probably were by that time catching it on their DVR’s or had already gone to bed.

The lack of attention given to DC during the conventions is even more surprising given the fact that the issues DC leaders habitually rail against–unfair taxation, unencumbered federal control over local affairs–are issues that have had national resonance ever since the Republicans decided to begin disliking debt and federal spending.

Well, now that the conventions are over, at least the country can rest assured that both major political parties are on the record as supporting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Unfortunately, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem willing to invest half as much effort in ensuring that the capital of their own country is afforded the status it deserves.

Fortunately for them, the rest of the country doesn’t seem to care.

Non-States Roll Call, part II – the Democratic National Convention

In a follow up to our post on how the non-states branded themselves at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week, we take a look at how Democratic delegates from the non-states introduced themselves during the Roll Call vote in Charlotte.

American Samoa: Geography was front and center for Democrats and Republicans from America’s southernmost territory, as Democratic delegates last night echoed their Republican peers by branding themselves as “the only part of the United States south of the equator” In a bit of progressive flair, the American Samoan Democrats pointed out that the territory is “the land of our nation’s cleanest air.”

District of Columbia: DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s impassioned speech harkened back to the nation’s founding in resistance to taxation without representation, and could have been lifted right out of a Republican speechwriter’s notebook. Before casting the District’s votes for President Obama, Mayor Gray asked all Americans to help “bring justice and equality to the District of Columbia.” Gray’s appeal for DC voting rights stood in stark contrast to the DC Republicans’ roll call speech in Tampa. After their suggested amendment to the GOP platform calling for DC voting rights and home rule were roundly rejected by the Republican platform committee, the DC GOP meekly stated they were excited to cast their votes for candidate Mitt Romney.

Guam: Guam voiced support for President Obama’s plans for a military buildup in Guam that is “done right.” The military’s increased presence in Guam is part of the larger US strategy to rebalance military forces to the Asia-Pacific region. After lauding Obama’s support for medicare and working families, the Guam delegation voiced support for Obama’s belief in the territory’s “right to self-determination.”

Northern Mariana Islands: No delegation present, as the territory did not hold a Democratic Party primary or caucus.

Puerto Rico: Unlike the Republican Puerto Rican delegates, the Democrats made no reference to statehood. Instead, the territory’s Democrats gave a shout out to the Supreme Court’s first Latina justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent and is an Obama appointee. The Delegation called Obama a “good amigo” of the people of Puerto Rico.

US Virgin Islands: In front of a nearly-empty convention hall at 12:48 AM Eastern Time, US Virgin Islands Democratic Party Chair Emmett Hansen, on behalf of the “proud Caribbean Americans” of the US Virgin Islands (USVI), called on the country to support the territory’s aspirations to one day cast votes for president in the general election. Currenly, the District of Columbia is the only non-state to have this distinction. Hansen wrapped up his short speech with a bit of a tourist pitch, casting the territory’s 12 votes from “the hills and windmills of St. Croix, the wonderful shopping in St. Thomas, and the beautiful jewel St. John.”

Mayor Gray, Norton barred from addressing pro-DC budget autonomy rally

Well, for DC self-government advocates looking to make a splash at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, this week, today’s budget autonomy rally was a wash.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray and US House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton were barred from attending the rally after police shut down a section of downtown Charlotte in response to an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.

From the Washington City Paper:

A massive police shutdown outside the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., meant that Mayor Vince Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton were unable to speak at a pro-D.C. budget autonomy rally today, according to D.C. Vote spokesman James Jones.

Gray and Norton were supposed to be the headlining speakers at today’s rally, which Jones says was held at a designated “free speech zone” near the convention. But those plans went awry after a small army of police responded to a couple dozen Occupy protestors who occupied an intersection nearby.

“It was locked down, totally locked down,” Jones says of the area around where the pro-D.C. rally took place. He says the police presence prevented would-be rallygoers, including the mayor and Norton, from getting to the rally in time. The mayor eventually showed up, Jones says, but apparently not in time to give a speech.

The budget autonomy rally that wasn’t was the second setback of the day for DC rights advocates. The Democratic Party rolled out its 2012 platform on Monday morning, and, as expected, it included no reference to DC statehood.

Mayor Gray will press on with the District’s case the rest of this week, but, if Monday was any indication, he has a tough slog ahead of him in Charlotte.

Unsurprisingly, DC rates low on both parties’ agendas

Barring some unlikely showdown on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, this week, it looks like the Democratic Platform for the third time since 2000 will make no mention of supporting statehood for the District of Columbia.

Instead, Democrats are likely to endorse a blander option short of statehood, similar to the party’s position in 2008, which called for self-government and representation in Congress. Continue reading

Pro-DC statehood billboards spring up in Charlotte, NC

With the Republican National Convention drawing to a close tonight, DC statehood advocates are beginning to focus their attention on next week’s Democratic National Convention.

If statehood proponents were disappointed by the Republican’s outright opposition to DC statehood, they’re not likely to find much solace in the Democratic platform, which it looks like will follow on the precedent set in 2008 and will only call for DC voting rights in the House of Representatives.

Statehood proponents are not giving up the fight, and have bought ad space in Charlotte, NC, where the Democrats will convene next week. Continue reading

Marianas’ Governor Benigno Fitial facing impeachment bid

From Australia Network News:

A minority bloc in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ House of Representatives has filed an impeachment resolution against Governor Benigno Fitial, who is in the United States for the Republican National Convention.

The resolution was filed by Joseph Deleon Guerrero, a former Republican who has left the party and is now an independent.

It accuses the governor of “multiple felonies, multiple acts of public corruption” and of neglecting official duties.

“We have listed 16 articles, five of which are acts of corruption, seven acts of neglect of office or rather neglect of duty and four commissions of felonies,” Representative Guerrero told Radio Australia’sPacific Beat program.

“We believe that through his actions he has breached his oath of office and through his actions there is apparently no regard for the rule of law or transparency,” he said. Continue reading

USVI Senate authorizes constitutional convention to try again

From the Virgin Islands Daily News:

ST. THOMAS – The V.I. Senate voted Tuesday evening to give the Fifth Constitutional Convention one more chance to do the job it was elected to do in 2007.

By an 8-6 margin, the Senate approved a bill proposed and amended by Senate President Ronald Russell to deal with the territory’s lingering lack of a governing document.

The Virgin Islands is one of the last entities under the United States flag that has yet to draft and ratify its own governing document. The territory has had five constitutional conventions – in 1964, 1971, 1977, 1980 and 2007 – that did not produce a successful document.

The Fifth Constitutional Convention passed a controversial draft constitution in 2009.

President Barack Obama, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Congress ultimately sent the draft back to the territory in 2010 with recommendations to remove certain provisions granting native Virgin Islanders special rights based on birth or ancestry.

That never happened. Continue reading

Non-states roll call

Courtesy of Maclean’s, a run-down of how the GOP delegations from the non-states branded themselves during the Roll Call vote for the Republican presidential nominee:

American Samoa: “The only American soil in the southern hemisphere.”

District of Columbia: Apparently the DC delegation didn’t brand themselves at all, only saying that they were “excited” to vote. Perhaps they were still smarting from the RNC’s refusal to adopt their own stance on DC voting rights?

Guam: “America’s tropical paradise.”

Northern Mariana Islands: “We are strong believers in God.”

Puerto Rico: “The 51st state of the union!”

US Virgin Islands: “America’s paradise.”