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.

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

GOP sidesteps language precondition for Puerto Rico in platform

At the Republican National Convention this week, the GOP will again endorse the right of Puerto Ricans to determine their future within the United States, including as the potential 51st State. The issue is especially relevant this year, because Puerto Ricans in November will have the chance to endorse the statehood option in a territorial referendum.

The Puerto Rico language of the 2012 platform is identical to that included in the previous three platforms, and, ironically, is located just two sections below the plank opposing outright statehood for the District of Columbia. It reads:

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state if they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the US government.

Continue reading

In Tampa, party like it’s 1799

The party of small government gathered in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday to piece together its platform ahead of next weeks’ Republican National Convention. And, with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell presiding, Republican delegates voted to explicitly deny hundreds of thousands of tax paying, DC residents voting rights in the US House of Representatives.

It’s inevitable that in instances like these the question is asked: how does the party that ostensibly supports devolving federal powers to state and local communities routinely oppose extending DC the same rights enjoyed by hundreds of millions of other Americans?

There is more than just fear of more Democratic votes in the US Congress undergirding the GOP’s opposition to DC Statehood. For the movement’s intellectual leaders, who revere the Constitution as sacred text, opposition to DC voting rights has to do with adhering to the Founders’ original intent, formulated in a vastly different society over 220 years ago, and enumerated in the US Constitution. Continue reading

The Northwest Ordinance…in space?

With the GOP Presidential Primaries behind us and the candidates no longer courting votes from the US Territories in their quest for the nomination, the issue of statehood will probably disappear again from the campaign trail for another four years.

That is, unless, Mitt Romney bucks common sense and for some reason selects former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his running mate.

You may remember that Gingrich made headlines when the primaries were in full swing for some remarks he made on statehood. It wasn’t his comments on Puerto Rico that grabbed headlines—that honor went to Rick Santorum who falsely claimed that the territory would have to adopt English (and only English) as its official language for Statehood to be a legal possibility.

Instead, Gingrich made headlines for his grandiose plan to colonize the moon and then admit Earth’s celestial cousin to the Union as the 51st state. Continue reading

American Samoa dragged into the Israel-Palestine debate

An ongoing disagreement between the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto over the legal status of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories has ensnared American Samoa.

The beef started when Goldberg criticized an Israeli government report that classified the West Bank as sovereign Israeli territory, rather than occupied territory. Goldberg argued that if the West Bank is in fact Israeli territory, then Israel should treat people living there–Jewish or Muslim–as Israeli citizens, and extend to them full voting rights.

Taranto took issue with this, demanding that Goldberg be packed off to American Samoa, an American territory where the native population lacks US citizenship and federal voting rights. Continue reading