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August 27, 2014


Dear Washingtonians:

Jonetta Rose Barras wrote about Muriel Bowser’s refusal to participate in mayoral debates, “What Muriel Bowser’s Forum Rejection Means for Ward 4,” “Bowser hasn’t rejected any ordinary invitation to a candidates’ forum. She has refused an appeal from some of the folks who helped usher her into politics, from her constituents and one of her neighbors. Who does that? In more than 25 years covering politics in this city, I don’t remember a politician exhibiting such flagrant disregard for constituents. . . . Citizen-organized debates and forums may be perceived as maddening and mundane, but they are critical to a healthy democracy. Bowser’s repeated rejection of invitations to debate thwarts the public discourse and injures the democratic process.”

The part of the story that Jonetta doesn’t mention is the inexplicable cooperation of other members of the press with Bowser’s plan, not only to evade mayoral debates for now, but also to insist that when she does finally agree to debate, all the minor candidates be invited to participate in the forums, not just Catania, Schwartz, and her. Bowser may have won the Democratic party nomination, but that doesn’t give her the right to call all the shots and set all the rules, and expect the press and the public to obey.

Gary Imhoff


More on Second Amendment Rights
Jack McKay,

Gary complains [themail, August 20] that I say “that the rights asserted in the Bill of Rights apply only to the federal government, and not to the states, until and unless the Supreme Court has ruled on any specific portion of the Bill of Rights.” Yes, that is the case. The first ten amendments were offered specifically and solely as limitations on the new form of federal government, to persuade reluctant states to ratify the Constitution. State and local governments could do what they wanted, exempt from those supposed “rights.” Citing Wikipedia: “the Bill initially only applied to the federal government, a restriction affirmed by Barron v. Baltimore (1833).” Gary mentions freedom of speech; that was the first of the “rights” enumerated by the Bill of Rights to be “incorporated,” that is, extended to the states, in 1925, based on the Fourteenth Amendment. Before that date, there was, indeed, no such “right.” (Ten of the original states had no freedom of speech provisions in their state constitutions.)

And this was the case for guns, right up until McDonald v. Chicago, 2010. If one lived in a state with a gun-rights clause in the state constitution, then yes, one had that right. But upon exiting that state and entering a state without such a clause, that “right” would vanish. That’s not much of a “right.” And that’s why McDonald v. Chicago is so important. Only from that date, June 28, 2010, can there be said to be a universal personal “right” in the United States to bear arms.

That Supreme Court decision was hardly unanimous, and the shift of a single vote would have resulted in no such “incorporation” of the Second Amendment. Justice Breyer wrote this, in dissent: “In sum, the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self defense. There has been, and is, no consensus on that the right is, or was, ‘fundamental.” And yes, local governments remain free to impose limits on gun rights, the only requirement being that those restrictions be reasonable. This is not “nullification.” It’s about competing rights: guns, a “right” established only by a very marginal Supreme Court decision just four years ago, versus the right of us, the people, to govern ourselves, a right that has existed at least since 1776.

[Jack accurately reflects the contempt in which DC government officials hold the Bill of Rights, and their attitude that they are above such minor matters as whether citizens of the United States have any of those supposed rights that they are deluded enough to believe they have. That’s why the DC government has appealed Palmer v. DC. I believe that the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is the foundation of American democracy, and that government officials at any level do not have the power to deny Americans the rights that belong to them and not to government officials. Damon Root, in (, writes, “Like it or not, Judge Frederick Scullin’s opinion in Palmer v. DC is a careful piece of work. There’s nothing in it that rises to the level of ‘errors of law.’ The District of Columbia should face legal reality and stop trying to dodge the Second Amendment.”

[This discussion between Jack and me has gone on for three rounds. I’m going to call a pause on it until there’s another development in the case. — Gary Imhoff]


[A correspondent sent the following message, but didn’t want it attributed to him, because he feared that it might be interpreted as meaning that he didn’t care about the plight of young people who can’t find decent jobs, apartments, or partners. I think that it demonstrates exactly the opposite — that he does care more about people in that situation that do the city planners who condemn people to that situation. But I can see how people determined to misinterpret his position could condemn him, so I’ll comply with his desire to keep his message anonymous.]

Regarding the August 20 article in themail, pointing out that developers, with the backing of the city, will build 125 microapartments of 350 sq. ft. each, with no parking, for $2500 per month. Are these really for Hipsters? I doubt anyone with any hipness would live in such a place. You won’t impress a possible partner you might meet in a hip bar, that is for sure. There probably are some young folks who want to minimize their carbon footprint who would live in such a place, but for the most part, I don’t think twenty- or thirty-somethings want to think of themselves as downwardly mobile, if they can help it, and it seems to me that most such people would look at such a micro apartment and run the other way.

Has anyone seen the ad on Metro about the Silver Line, featuring a slightly nerdy looking thirty-something, dressed in slightly mismatching top and bottom, petting a cat in his home? The ad says that now that you have the Silver Line, you can finally get around and meet people. Maybe it is because I am from an older generation, but I thought the guy looked pathetic. No car, can’t get around, only a cat to keep him company. No Silver Line will help him. Isn’t this the demographic you would market a 350-square-foot apartment to?


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