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January 13, 2013

Equal Justice Under the Law

Dear Washingtonians:

Since we haven’t addressed the controversy before in themail, let me summarize the facts that everyone has agreed on. On December 23, 2012, David Gregory hosted Meet the Press on NBC. He interviewed Wayne LaPierre, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association. During that interview, he displayed a firearms magazine clip that holds thirty rounds, and promoted a federal law to make the possession of such a magazine illegal. The NRA opposes such a law, and believes that passing it would be useless and futile, as well as an imposition on Second Amendment rights. But Meet the Press was broadcast from Washington, DC, which already has a law that makes it illegal to possess a thirty-round magazine. The law makes no exception for whether the clip is loaded or not or whether the possessor has any intent of using it for an illicit or licit purpose — say, at a shooting range, and it makes no exception for television show hosts. So advocates of Second Amendment rights, as a way of demonstrating what they believed was the absurdity of such a proposed federal law, asked why David Gregory wasn’t being prosecuted for breaking DC’s law. The Metropolitan Police Department investigated, confirmed that NBC had procured the thirty-round magazine for the program, that NBC staffers had checked with the MPD about the legality of having it and had been told that it was definitely illegal, and that David Gregory knew, or should have known, that he was doing something illegal (even though knowledge isn’t a necessary element of the crime). The MPD presented the case to DC Attorney General Irv Nathan, who on January 11 wrote to NBC that he declined to press charges.

Nathan wrote, "Having carefully reviewed all of the facts and circumstances of this matter, as it does in every case involving firearms-related offenses or any other potential violation of DC law within our criminal jurisdiction, OAG has determined to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to decline to bring criminal charges against Mr. Gregory, who has no criminal record, or any other NBC employee based on the events associated with the December 23, 2012, broadcast. OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust. Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States, especially while this subject was foremost in the minds of the public following the previously mentioned events in Connecticut and the President’s speech to the nation about them."

The reporting of this case by Emily Miller of The Washington Times and William A. Jacobson in Legal Insurrection has been particularly good. The editorial comments on Nathan’s decision have not been favorable. Allahpundit, on Hot Air, wrote, "If they chose to prosecute him, it’d be a case study in how silly strict-liability gun laws can be. If they declined, it’d be a case study in how the elite get special treatment. Essentially, the DA had to decide whether he wanted to undermine public faith that his office treats perps equally or undermine public faith in those precious, precious gun laws. Not surprising, really, that he’d protect gun control at the expense of his own integrity. This is Washington, after all, and Gregory’s puppet show was in service to the gun-control agenda. Did you really think they’d lock him up for grilling Wayne LaPierre a bit too theatrically?" Paul Mirengoff at Powerline writes, "The AG has given a complete pass to a party that scoffed at DC law. He has done so quite possibly because he agrees with the scofflaw’s political message, and perhaps under some influence from his personal acquaintance with the scofflaw. That’s life in the big city, if the big city is Washington, DC." Blogger Ann Althouse writes, "Why is the law important? If Gregory clearly violated the law, but there is no interest to be served in prosecuting him, doesn’t that prove that the law is not important? If the precise thing that he did — which is clearly what is defined as a crime — raises no interest in prosecution, how can we be satisfied by letting this one nice famous man go? Rewrite the law so that it only covers the activity that the government believes deserves prosecution, so there is equal justice under the law." In a second blog post, Althouse says, "I’m not saying I want Gregory prosecuted. I only want people to see how unfair it is to have a law that seems ridiculous to enforce against him, when that law is used against others. And Gregory richly deserves to be slapped around on the blogs, because he’s making the argument — that’s why he was waving that thing around — that there ought to be more invasive gun laws. He wants the government to reach more deeply into the ordinary lives of private citizens, and he’s entirely reckless about what these laws would really mean to ordinary people, and it’s a recklessness that thrives in the mind of someone who easily and instinctively believed — correctly! — that the law did not apply to him."

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that David Gregory and Irv Nathan had not been family friends. But imagine that, instead of David Gregory’s having displayed the thirty-round magazine during the interview in order to promote banning it, Wayne LaPierre had brought a high-capacity magazine to the NBC studio in order to demonstrate the foolishness of a law banning it. Does anyone for a moment believe that Irv Nathan would have declined to prosecute LaPierre because of his First Amendment intent of informing the public?

Gary Imhoff


Washington Teachers’ Union Calls for Critical Examination of DCPS Cheating Allegations
Nathan A. Saunders,

Cheating is a flagrant disservice to District children, families, and communities. Any teacher, administrator, or school official that is associated with cheating, or encourages a dishonest academic environment, must be held accountable. Furthermore, wrongdoers cause educational dysfunction in schools where good teachers are adversely affected when inflated test scores cannot be further sustained. With a renewed focus of potential cheating in District of Columbia Public Schools, elected officials must no longer teeter around the edges of education reform without exercising their public responsibility to provide proper oversight and protect public school students.

DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie’s insistence on critically examining the methodology, results, and limited scope of the Inspector General’s investigation is commendable and necessary. Additional witnesses, including teachers and administrators, should have the opportunity to participate and even be subpoenaed to provide sworn testimony where appropriate. Other councilmembers must be equally diligent in analyzing troubling components of the city’s education reform agenda.

DCPS teachers have been sacrificed, blamed, and vilified in a city where students who enter the classroom every day are hungry, homeless, and in many instances, educationally neglected in their homes. We must move away from an atmosphere that places a strong emphasis on high-stakes student testing and embrace an educational philosophy based on genuine student learning, discovery and exploration.


DC Parking (Meter) Fun
Gabe Goldberg, gabe at gabegold dot com

I live near Falls Church; I attended meetings in DC last Monday and Tuesday evenings. Four consecutive parking meters I encountered were out of order. Some were coin-jammed, some were blinking various distress messages. Monday (the "night of three dead meters"), not being sure of rules governing dead meters, I moved my car twice seeking a working meter. When the third meter was broken, I parked there. Tuesday, the first meter I encountered was broken, so I parked there. That night, on the way back to my car about 9:00 p.m., I encountered a ticket writer.

I asked her the broken-meter rules. She said it’s okay to park at dead meters, subject to posted time limits. Of course, the enforcement person needs to see the meter’s broken, else ticket is written. And good luck having it dismissed. I understand DC is replacing individual meters with mid-block kiosks — but in the meantime, four consecutive broken meters — though a small sample — sure indicates a severe problem.

A chronic problem has been the baffling complexity of multiple signs combined with multiple on-meter stickers, requiring parsing differing/contradictory clues. Which surely facilitates finding broken rules to ticket. Though that, of course, could never be DC’s intent in crafting Byzantine rules and arcane sign language. But a relatively new problem is meter enforcement until 10:00 p.m. Perhaps DC hasn’t noticed that now it’s dark during enforcement hours. So it’s impossible to read on-meter stickers, and impossible to read meter time display through hazy/scratched plastic lens covers. Even with a flashlight, some meters can’t be read. And does everyone carry a flashlight? Maybe DC should post them at street corners, or create "Flashlight Share" like ZipCar and BikeShare.

So all in all, DC actively discourages evening street parking — which sure makes me think twice about attending evening events in DC. Used to be that many streets were well parked in the evening, with meters only running until 6:30 or 8:00 p.m. With 10:00 p.m. enforcement, many streets are empty. So instead of increasing city parking revenue people are forced to pay garages or simply stay out of DC. Either way, brilliant.


Dear Whistleblowers
Vance Fort,

[Re: Dorothy Brizill, "Conflicts of Interest," themail, January 9] Thank you. I do not know any more than you have written about the issue of the upcoming elections, but I support the principle of public funding of elections. At the same time the public should have a right to decide on what and how many offices it will fund, and the public should have the ability to ensure the process is imbued with integrity. In other words, it should not be left to city councilmembers to decide if they have a conflict of interest with respect to their participation in any way with the upcoming elections. We must stop running Washington, DC, like a banana republic that has the smell of a corrupt officialdom.


Biking and Common Sense
Jim Quinn,

[Re: Gary Imhoff, themail, January 9]: There is no correlation with biking and "less common sense." I am a healthy 69-year-old male who still enjoys biking and skiing. I ski about twenty days a year. I bike over one hundred days a year. I just finished 2012 with 6072 miles for the year. I am on no medication except for vitamins, the daily baby aspirin, and the occasional use of an NSAID. How can I choose an activity that returns such pleasure and good health but not have good common sense? I would say that I have enough common sense to know how to eat, drink, and play safely and healthily.

And furthermore, I have several female bicycling friends who do not think they have less common sense than non-bikers of the male or female persuasion.

[Do you know any women who think that men have as much common sense as women do? — Gary Imhoff]


Why This Woman Bikes, and Others May Not
Carole Jacobs,

I am a woman in my sixties who bikes everywhere. If I need to go to parts of the area that may exhaust my physical resources, I arrange my wanderings to take advantage of being allowed to take my bike aboard Metro trains during non-rush hours. Because I do not mind seeming dorky, I have a milk carton on my bike rack, to carry anything that might not fit in my backpack. The best thing about biking is that one never gets stuck in traffic. Gridlock can be ridden around or, everywhere except downtown, escaped from via the sidewalk. The bottom line is that from my Point A on Capitol Hill to most Points B in the city and near-in suburban destinations (e.g., Arlington Cemetery, Alexandria), biking is the fastest means of transit.

I do use a Zipcar in direst extremity, but my threshold of tolerance for being immobilized in a hunk of metal has become so low that my average usage rate has fallen from once a month to a couple times a year. The second best thing about biking is that it is fun, except in the worst heat of summer. The worst thing about biking in streets without bike lanes is the herds of motorists who do not notice anything smaller than an SUV.

My guess is that most people of either gender who do not bike have simply not tried it recently, at least for moderate distances.. The runner-up reason, for woman and some men, would perhaps be fear of arriving at one’s destination less than perfectly coiffed and turned out. There are remedies to this disadvantage; I may walk in a bit mussed, but the process of making myself presentable once I do arrive is pretty quick. By contrast, the only remedy to being stuck in traffic is abandoning one’s vehicle. Perhaps by way of demonstrating that you are not so biased as you like to seem, you could try doing local errands on a bike. You might find that you like it, and you would have the secondary gratification of knowing that you are at least for that trip not contributing to traffic congestion, particulate pollution, and global warming.



Martin Luther King Freedom Walk and Peace Walk, January 19
Ann Loikow,

Because of the inauguration, the District of Columbia’s annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be held on Saturday, January 19, instead of on the official Martin Luther King holiday, Monday, January 21, which is also Inauguration Day. Instead of a parade, there will be a Freedom Walk and a Peace Walk. These events are also officially part of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural activities.

The Martin Luther King Freedom Walk will begin at Landsburgh Park (in the rear of the Police Station, DC Inspection Station, and Fire Station) at M Street and Delaware Avenue, SW, (six blocks in either direction from the Waterfront or Navy Yard Metro stations on the Green line). Walkers will assemble between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. The Walk will depart at 8:45 a.m. and proceed over the pedestrian side of Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, symbolizing Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. It will end at the Black United Fund (2500 Martin Luther King Avenue, SE), near from the Anacostia Metro Station (Green line).

The 6th Annual Martin Luther King Peace Walk will begin outside the Black United Fund with a 9:00 a.m. "End the Violence" program with speakers and chorus and gospel singers. Between 10:00 and 10:15 a.m., after the Freedom Walkers arrive, the Peace Walk will leave the grassy area outside the Black United Fund and proceed up Martin Luther King Avenue, SE, to Shepard Park at Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues, SE.

Beginning at 10:30 a.m., there will be a preliminary program at Shepard Park for those not in the Peace Walk, which will include gospel singers, the African Heritage Drummers, youth presentations, and speakers. The final Shepard Park program will begin at noon with a welcome to the Peace walkers and include speakers on Martin Luther King, Jr., and the example he set in working for freedom, peace, and justice, both nationally and in the District of Columbia. All are invited to participate in either one or both walks as well as the program at Shepard Park. Dress warmly and bring snacks, as no food vendors will be available. For more information, go to


Dr. Mohammad Akhter on the Affordable Care Act, January 22
Ann Renshaw,

The Chair of DC’s Health Benefit Exchange Authority, Dr. Mohammad Akhter, will decode the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act and responsibilities (and accountability) of the city’s Health Benefit Exchange Authority at an Assembly of the DC Federation of Citizens Associations on Tuesday evening, January 22, at 6:45 p.m. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church Hall, 2300 Cathedral Avenue, NW, near the Woodley Park Metro on the Red Line (see below).

The complex (and seemingly incomprehensible) national health care law has already provoked serious discussion and debate on the future of medical care. Dr. Akhter will face business, senior citizen, religious, medical and general administrative questions about the city’s health insurance exchange which is expected to be operational by Oct. 1, 2013, as well as interpreting portions of the massive Affordable Care Act (e.g., income eligibility, incentives, health care cost containment, health insurance plans, penalties and tax implications).

DC residents, businesses, medical/hospital representatives and religious communities are urged to share their questions and concerns about this new medical system which now impacts everyone’s life.


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