Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Touring D.C.

I did about this same time 20 years ago.

Globe is your guide now:

"Like it or not, tourism is boon for D.C.; Locals complain, but visitors pour billions into area" by Robert McCartney Washington Post  July 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — They crowd downtown sidewalks, and their charter buses block the streets. They pester the locals for directions. Worst of all, they stubbornly refuse to stand in place on the right and walk on the left when using Metro escalators.

The swarms of sunburned, camera-lugging, T-shirt-clad tourists who invade Washington each summer are a favorite target for residents’ grumbling.

‘‘They’re always lost,’’ said escalator technician Randy Holmes, who recently spent days observing the outsiders while he made repairs at the Smithsonian Metro station. ‘‘They get in the way. They don’t pay attention. They add to traffic.’’

Such venting may offer temporary psychic relief, but it will not stop the inflow. The more than 18.3 million domestic visitors to the District of Columbia in 2014 set a record for the fifth straight year. Experts project that the number will continue to grow at least through 2017.

Don't worry; I'll stay out of your stinking city.

But there’s a big payoff for all that annoyance: Last year’s visitors spent nearly $7 billion while they were here.

Washington tourism is expanding partly because the city, believe it or not, is acquiring a reputation as a hip destination. No longer is it a place just for monuments, museums, and other patriotic buildings.

Instead, the revival of many downtown neighborhoods and the emergence of a bicycle-friendly, ‘‘green’’ culture is luring a new kind of tourist, interested in enjoying restaurants, nightlife, sports, and the city’s parks and waterfront.

The city’s image as a vacation spot has enjoyed a tipping point in the past 12 months. In August, Forbes Magazine labeled Washington ‘‘America’s coolest city.’’

It cited Washington’s ‘‘abundant entertainment and recreational options’’ and its young, culturally diverse population.

That thrilled authorities, who welcome tourists and spend nearly $20 million a year trying to draw more.

Tourists are a net plus financially, even after accounting for the extra cost for crowd control at such events as the Fourth of July fireworks, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and the political demonstrations that draw visitors for reasons unique to Washington.

Then stop the damn complaining.

The billions spent annually by visitors support about 75,000 jobs, according to Destination D.C., the city’s tourist agency

All those dollars spent on hotels, restaurants, and souvenirs are one of the strongest props for the local economy.


Looks like a lot has changed.

Where I did not go:

"White House now allows photos, social media during tours" New York Times  July 02, 2015

WASHINGTON — Having arrived at the White House with only a few years of Washington experience, President Obama and Michelle Obama, the first lady, were often frustrated by rules and conventions not even they could break.

But on Wednesday, Michelle Obama posted on her Instagram account a short video in which she tore up one of those rules — the more than 40-year ban on photography during tours of the White House.

“If you’ve been on a White House tour, you may have seen this sign,” Michelle Obama says in the video, holding up a sign that states: “No photos or social media allowed. Your cooperation is appreciated.” “Well, not anymore,” she says, before ripping the sign in two.

Then, in a nod to the casual nature of social media and the convention of funny outtakes that even children’s movies like “Monsters, Inc.” include, the video provides an outtake of Michelle Obama laughing and pretending to rip a sign.

In a news release, the White House said that the ban on video cameras, bulky single-lens reflex cameras, tripods, flash photography, and live-streaming would remain in effect.


Then my camera broke.

Maybe the president can give it justice:

"Obama poised for dozens of commutations; Nonviolent drug offenders target of clemency" by Peter Baker New York Times   July 04, 2015

WASHINGTON — Sometime in the next few weeks, aides expect President Obama to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, he will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century.

The expansive use of his clemency power is part of a broader effort by Obama to correct what he sees as the excesses of the past, when politicians eager to be tough on crime threw away the key even for minor criminals. With many Republicans and Democrats now agreeing that the nation went too far, Obama holds the power to unlock that prison door, especially for young African-American and Hispanic men disproportionately affected.

Translation: the prison-industrial complex is starting to cost too much.

But even as he exercises authority more assertively than any of his modern predecessors, Obama has only begun to tackle the problem he has identified. In the next weeks, the total number of commutations for Obama’s presidency may surpass 80, but more than 30,000 federal inmates have responded to his administration’s call for clemency applications. A cumbersome review process has advanced only a small fraction of them. And just a small fraction of those have reached the president’s desk for a signature.


Overhauling the criminal justice system has become a bipartisan venture.


How odd that the people who should be in jail are the ones overseeing reform of the criminal justice $y$tem.

Like Obama, Republicans running for his job are calling for systemic changes. Lawmakers from both parties are collaborating on legislation. And the US Sentencing Commission has revised guidelines for drug offenders, so far retroactively reducing sentences for more than 9,500 inmates, nearly three-quarters of them black or Hispanic.

The drive to recalibrate the system has brought together groups from across the political spectrum. The Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy organization with close ties to the White House and Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, has teamed up with Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the conservative brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, who finance Republican candidates, to press for reducing prison populations and overhauling sentencing. 

Sounds good, but now that I think about it, I can't think of better reasons to be against it.

“It’s a time when conservatives and liberals and libertarians and lots of different people on the political spectrum” have “come together in order to focus attention on excessive sentences,” said Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel who recommends clemency petitions to Obama.

We do on a lot of things, including the entire corporatist empire project, and yet this is all we get? Drug dealers let out of prison?


The challenge has been finding a way to use Obama’s clemency power in the face of bureaucratic and legal hurdles without making a mistake that would be devastating to the effort’s political viability. The White House has not forgotten the legacy of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who raped a woman while furloughed from prison and became a powerful political symbol that helped doom the presidential candidacy of Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis in 1988.

Strange how Bush's Atwater preyed on racist sentiments to win a campaign and it was no big deal. Just politics. I suppose he wasn't waving a Confederate flag around, so, you know....

But with time running short in Obama’s presidency, the White House has pushed the Justice Department to send more applicants more quickly. Eggleston told the department not to interpret guidelines too narrowly because it is up to the president to decide, according to officials. If it seems like a close case, he told the department to send it over.

He's the "decider!"

Deborah Leff, the department’s pardon attorney, has pressed lawyers representing candidates for clemency to hurry up and send more cases her way. “If there is one message I want you to take away today, it’s this: Sooner is better,” she told lawyers in a video seminar obtained by USA Today....

Modern presidents have been far less likely to commute sentences. Lyndon B. Johnson commuted the sentences of 80 convicted criminals in fiscal 1966, and no president since then has matched that in his entire administration, much less in a single year.

Obama started out much like the others, commuting just one sentence in his first five years in office. But in his first term he signed a law easing sentencing for new inmates by reducing the disparity between crack and powder cocaine, while his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., issued new guidelines to prosecutors to avoid charges requiring excessive prison terms.

He was lynched.

In his second term, Obama embarked on a concerted effort to use clemency and has raised his total commutations to 43, a number he may double in July. The initiative was begun last year by James M. Cole, then the deputy attorney general, who set criteria for who might qualify: generally nonviolent inmates who have served more than 10 years in prison, have behaved well while incarcerated, and would not have received as lengthy a sentence under today’s revised rules.

“It’s a touchy situation,” Cole said in an interview. “You don’t want to just supplant a judge’s determination of sentence.” But after reviewing many clemency petitions, he said, “I’d seen a number of them where the sentences seemed very high for the conduct and it noted that the judge at the time of sentencing thought the sentence was too high.”

Yeah, it could end upon being that way.


Did you see who was first on the list?

Chelsea Manning's denied? 

I might have to commute the posts here for the rest of today. Sorry.

NDU: Any homes or other environs you wish to see?

UPDATE: Obama commutes sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders