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August 3, 2005


Dear Profilers:

For the past few weeks, the debate over whether to profile subway riders to determine who may or may not be a terrorist has been a hot topic in the press. Representative arguments can be found in articles by Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal (, Reihan Salam in The American Scene (, David Adenik in Oxblog (, Colbert King ( and Charles Krauthammer ( in The Washington Post, and Paul Sperry ( and Haim Watzman ( in The New York Times.

To simplify the two sides of the argument, those who support profiling say that searching citizens at random is a ridiculous waste of time, effort, and money. They argue that we have a pretty good idea of who would engage in a terrorist attack now, and they are overwhelmingly going to be young Middle Eastern men. It is stupid, they say, to spend most of our effort searching grandmothers of Scandinavian ancestry from Minnesota just so young Middle Eastern men won’t be offended; and it does nothing to make us safer. Those who oppose profiling say that racial profiling is offensive in itself, and that it will alienate young Middle Eastern men to make them automatic suspects. But they also argue that young Middle Eastern men are statistically not much more likely to be terrorists than the general population. And, practically speaking, terrorists will simply change their tactics if young Middle Eastern men are specifically targeted — they will use older men, or women, or Asian men, or people who belong to whatever group is not covered by the suspect profile.

The problem is that both sides of the argument are right. It is the tactic of searching citizens that is itself inherently both ineffective and alienating. Whether or not the government engages in profiling, it will waste its resources and offend citizens. Even those who do not value the liberties of a free society, who would gladly and willingly sacrifice their own and others’ privacy and individual dignity, will eventually find themselves ground down under the burden of being the targets of their own government’s suspicion. Someone who wrote this week, but who did not want his message printed in themail, argued that my preferred anti-terrorism methods — intelligence and investigation — are even more invasive of liberty and privacy than random searches. That misses the distinction. Random searches impinge on citizens when there is no reason at all to suspect them of wrongdoing. Profiling impinges on citizens who are suspected only because of their age and sex, and because of the racial, ethnic, or — if it can be discerned — religious group they belong to. But governmental intelligence and investigation activities are targeted, or at least should be targeted, only against people when there is some real reason to suspect them. That’s the difference that our city government doesn’t understand.

Gary Imhoff


Juan Williams on Thurgood Marshall
Phil Shapiro,

A few years ago, I shot some video at the Takoma Branch Library of civil rights scholar Juan Williams talking about the process of writing his biography of Thurgood Marshall. The talk was spellbinding, and I was grateful that Juan Williams gave me permission to put the video up on the Internet. While I’ve been paying for web hosting for this file for the past few year, yesterday I passed custody of this file to the Internet Archive, a project that offers free, permanent web hosting for videos and other files ( You can now view this video at

It’s interesting to note that while I uploaded the 500 megabyte version of this file, the Internet Archive automatically created the other, smaller-file-sized versions — giving the viewing public more options, depending on their bandwidth. I’m very grateful to Brewster Kahle, the person behind the Internet Archive. You can view a speech he gave at the Library of Congress in December 2004. Where can you find the video of this speech? In the Internet Archive.

How can we use the Internet Archive as a tool for strengthening communities here in our nation’s capital? There are many possibilities. Thanks for giving thought to them. We’ve only just begun to use the Internet in the ways it could be used.


NLC Board Unanimously Endorses DC Voting Rights Bill
Kevin Kiger,

The National League of Cities Board of Directors last week endorsed a bill that would give residents of the District of Columbia voting representation in the House of Representatives. The action came at the NLC Board of Directors annual summer meeting in Washington, DC, in July. The District of Columbia Fairness in Representation Act (H.R. 2043), introduced by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), would temporarily add two voting members to the House — one to represent Washington, DC, and one to represent Utah.

In unanimously endorsing the Davis bill, the Board said it carried out NLC’s long standing policy of supporting the “right of the District of Columbia’s representative to have full voting rights in the US House of Representatives.” The Board’s action came as part of an NLC campaign this year to make city officials and citizens across the country aware that the 570,000 residents of Washington, DC, do not have a voting representative in Congress. In January, the NLC Officers and committee leaders agreed to focus on DC voting rights in Congress during DC Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ term as NLC president. Davis linked Washington, DC, and Utah in his legislation to provide a “vote neutral” option for gaining voting rights for DC residents since the DC seat would most likely be represented by a Democrat and the Utah seat would most likely go to a Republican.

The bill creates a temporary increase in the number of House members from 435 to 437 until the 2010 U.S. Census when Congressional districts would be reapportioned back to 435 according to population. The DC FAIR Act has sixteen cosponsors in the House. A companion bill has not been introduced in the Senate. NLC is urging city officials to work with their Congressional delegations to urge support for the H.R. 2043, including asking their senators to introduce a companion bill and move it to floor action during this session.


National Capital Medical Center
Eric Rosenthal, Capitol Hill,

Frank Zampatori makes some excellent points concerning the National Capital Medical Center proposed for the eastern edge of Capitol Hill [themail, July 31]. The proposed facility, to be owned and operated by Howard University, would include a Level I trauma center, an emergency room, a 250-bed hospital, outpatient clinics, and offices for Howard medical faculty. While these opinions are my own, I am a doctor in one of the city’s busiest emergency rooms, as well as someone with training and experience in public health. I think the center is a bad idea for three primary reasons:

1) The National Capital Medical Center is not needed. No one has shown that there is a shortage of trauma, emergency or hospital services in DC. Washington has near-universal health insurance coverage, and DC residents already have access to plenty of emergency rooms and hospitals; in fact, we use them at twice the national rate. Where are the Washington citizens in need of hospital beds who can’t get them? There aren’t any.

2) Improving health should be our goal, and the National Capital Medical Center would not improve health. If rates of emergency room visits and hospitalizations lead to good health, Washington would be the healthiest city in the country. Unfortunately, we are last in the nation in most health measures from premature birth to life expectancy. The health problems we have will not be fixed by yet another hospital. Chronic disease is what ails us, conditions that respond well to outpatient prevention. We must focus on what really causes our terrible rates of disease and premature death and then look for solutions to the problems we actually have. If we did, we likely would find that accessible, quality outpatient care could improve health, but the proposed center would not.

3) The National Capital Medical Center will become a financial quagmire and divert funds and attention from programs that could improve health. The city admits it would spend more than $300 million in public funds for startup costs, land, infrastructure, and construction. Howard University would spend another $200 million and own and operate the center. However, there are additional hidden public costs that would cause it to draw even further on city funds. First, the District would incur more than $70 million annually in Medicaid charges for the center, this at a time in which the federal government is proposing to cut its own Medicaid spending. Second, the city’s consultant, Stroudwater Associates, said that the center is unlikely to become financially viable. Who do you think it would turn to for yearly operating subsidies? Finally, Stroudwater Associates said that one of several conditions necessary for the center to achieve financial viability would be for it to limit the amount of medical care it would provide to the uninsured. Probably as a result, the city proposed a hospital aimed at a relatively well-off, well-insured population, not poor or uninsured Washingtonians. Why should so much public money go to a private venture with no guaranteed public purpose, especially when the funds could make a real difference in curing Washington’s ills?

No doubt if it is built, the opening of the National Capital Medical Center will be commemorated with a ceremony full of politicians feeling good about themselves. But they, in fact, would have accomplished very little that would be meaningful. Instead of appearing to do something by building a building, we should really do something by improving health. We ought to start over and find ways to cure the health problems that Washington actually has. Otherwise, ten or twenty years from now, an aging hulk will sit on the banks of the Anacostia River and our rates of disease and premature death will remain just as awful as they are now.


Circulating Petitions
Eli Rosenfield, Cleveland Park, j-eli AT RCN DOT whatever

We could add two provisions to the election law:

1) Petition circulators should not be paid. Make it a felony to give or receive money for circulating election or referendum petitions. (It’s already a crime to pay someone for his vote, isn’t it?) Granted, this greatly increases the complexity and difficulty of citywide campaigns, but that will raise the bar on the skills and talent of the candidates and their managers. On the other hand, it gives an advantage to genuine grassroots campaigns and genuinely popular candidates and issues, while lowering campaign costs (or allowing more funds for actual publicity).

2) Petition circulators must be residents of the District, as evidenced by a) valid DC drivers licenses (or nondrivers ID), and b) valid DC voters registration, with the same address; both of which must be prominently and legibly displayed at all times on the outside of their clothing, like job IDs. This will give the circulator an aura of legitimacy. If a circulator is concurrently licensed or registered elsewhere, this should also be a crime, with 48-hours mandatory incarceration in the DC Jail for each day of duplicate domicile.

[These seem like commonsense ideas, but Supreme Court decisions have made them impossible to implement, at least in exactly the form Mr. Rosenfield suggests. The Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional for states to forbid paying petition circulators, but jurisdictions can still regulate how circulators are paid. DC could make a finding that paying circulators by the number of signatures they gather encourages fraud, and so require that paid circulators receive an hourly or daily wage instead. Circulators of petitions for candidates do have to be registered DC voters, but the Supreme Court has ruled that initiative and referendum petition circulators cannot be required to be registered voters. Currently, initiative and referendum circulators in DC have to be DC residents, but residents of other states are allowed to “assist” in the process. The slots case made it clear that the city council needs to clarify our law to emphasize the primary role and responsibility of the DC resident who signs a petition as its circulator, and to limit the role that nonresident “assistants” can play. — Gary Imhoff]


My Liberty Is Not Yours to Trade
Aaron Lloyd,

Mr. Barron is ready to “screw personal privacy rights” in DC when we are at war [themail, July 31], and it sounds like he is ready to screw them in peacetime, too. (Wait, are we at war? I thought only congress had the power to declare war.) I would respectfully say fortunately it is not up to you to define our civil liberties. The constitution spells those out, and the local police, federal government, and even congress and the president cannot circumvent those legally without a constitutional amendment. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view, it lumps all the people you classify as the “law abiding folks,” “the criminals,” and “the terrorists” into one basket. Why is this so? “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself” (Thomas Paine). And if you think giving all this liberty to people is too dangerous or troublesome for society, I would simply say, “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will deserve neither and lose both” (Thomas Jefferson, derived from Benjamin Franklin). And if you would accuse me of risking lives to save our liberties, I would reply, “A man who has nothing he is willing to die for is not fit to live” (Martin Luther King, Jr.).



Jazz Class for Homeschoolers
Francesca Dixon,

Do you have a middle schooler who is home schooling? I’m putting together a music appreciation course on the history of jazz for my eighth-grader, who is studying alto sax and following the Core Knowledge Sequence. The course will be taught by a local professor and take place during the fall semester in DC. Please contact me for more details.


Purple Heart Day, August 7
Annie McCormick,

The Greater Washington Chapter 353 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA (MOPH) is sponsoring a commemoration of the establishment of the Purple Heart Medal and its predecessor the Badge of Military Merit. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association that maintains the home, tomb, and estate of General and the first President of the United States George Washington is a traditional cosponsor of the event. The Greater Washington Unit 353 of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (LAMOPH) provides organizational and public relations support of the annual commemoration. The commemorative ceremony will take place on Sunday, August 7 at 2:00 p.m. at the Purple Heart Trail memorial, the starting point of the nationwide Purple Heart Trail, in Mount Vernon, VA. The keynote speakers are Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Edward Schnug and PFC (Ret.) Joseph Zimmer.


Free Debate Institute for DC High School Students, August 8-12
Colin B. Touhey, The District of Columbia Urban Debate League,

Readers of themail clearly understand the power and importance of debate. Now is the chance to extend the opportunities of participation in this activity to high school students in DC. The District of Columbia Urban Debate League (DCUDL) is hosting a free one-week debate institute for DC high school students and teachers at the university of the District of Columbia from August 8 through 12. Participants will learn debate skills and strategies from a national faculty and compete in a policy debate on civil rights issues. For more information, contact Colin Touhey,, at 341-5101 or visit


Capitol Hill at the National Building Museum, August 9
Brie Hensold,

Tuesday, August 9, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Capitol Hill is a virtual museum of 19th century American architecture. Thomas B. Grooms, team leader of the Design Excellence Program at the General Services Administration and longtime Capitol Hill resident, will discuss the development of this historic neighborhood and show its many architectural styles. Included will be interiors from some of the more than two dozen houses illustrated in his book, The Majesty of Capitol Hill (Pelican Publishing Company), which he will sign. $10 members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required. Call 272-2448 or register online at At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


DC Public Library Events, August 9
Debra Truhart,

Tuesday, August 9, 12:00 p.m. West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street, NW. West End Film Club. The club will discuss His Excellency by Joseph J. Ellis as its monthly book selection. Public contact: 724-8707.


DC Vote’s Summer Sendoff, August 9
Sarah Pokempner,

College students who are interested in learning how to be advocates for DC voting rights on their campus are cordially invited to attend DC Vote’s Summer Send Off: Taking DC Voting Rights to Your Campus. Whether you will be attending college in DC or around the country, whether you are returning to campus or going to college for your first year, join with like minded students on Tuesday, August 9 at 6 p.m. at Ben’s Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street, NW. You will be given lots of ideas on things that can be done on campus that won’t take a whole lot of time and effort but will make a real difference and will actually be fun! For more information or to RSVP, please contact me.


Images of Life Artist Talk, August 13
Afrika Abney,

Afrika Midnight Asha Abney cordially invite you to attend an artist talk about Images of Life. Images of Life is curated by Alphonso Coles (a visual artist and percussionist) and Prelli Williams (curator for DC Sanctuary Gallery and Performance Space and resident artist). It consists of twenty-four pieces of artwork that include abstract paintings and collages created on canvas and paper. August 13, 5-9 p.m., at Phish Tea Cafe, 1335 H Street, NE (1st floor, Lyme Lounge). For further information about Phish Tea Cafe, go to or call 396-2345. For further information about the artist talk and Images of Life contact Afrika Midnight Asha Abney at 455-3773 or 538-3403, or go to


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