7.21.2003

Stupid news roundup, featuring extra botany

These people paid $5 ($8 if arriving late) to sit quietly in a bar and write notes to each other on index cards. This is the kind of story that makes me glad I am no longer dating.

Kevin Simms, a 32-year-old government consultant from Woodbridge, learned during his two-hour quiet stint that simplicity is the key. His typical opening lines were "Hi. My name is Kevin" or "What's your favorite color?"
Far be it from me to make fun of desperate single guys in a public forum, but... "What's your favorite color?" Dude, are you trying to court Big Bird or something? Clearly this guy's not a consultant with the government's Department of Awesome Pick-Up Lines.

Anyway, if a Quiet Party is too much excitement, there's always... standing around and watching this flower bloom. Sadly, the flower did not want to comply.

Brian and Dawn Keneally, from Northern Virginia, brought their two children to the spectacle. "It's a lot bigger than I had thought," said Brian Keneally. "You can see how it's going to become intense," he said. The family lives in Vienna.
Yeah, extreme bloomage, to the MAX! Unless this flower is, like, a Triffid, I seriously question any claims as to its intensity.

God, how I would hate to be their kids. "C'mon, kids! Put down those entertaining video games and come watch a giant flower bloom!" Wait, that kind of thing did happen to me. And I did hate it.

Staying in the plant category, thanks to regular reader Lauren K: check out what this couple in Takoma Park had to go through in an effort to remove one of their trees that was damaging their driveway and making backing out into the street difficult. They hired an aborist, filed tree removal permits, went in front of the five-person Tree Commission, which denied their permit after a 40-minute secret deliberation.

OK... that entire town needs to get laid, ASAP.

But their walk through the wilds of the town's tree ordinance -- one of the most restrictive in the nation -- turned into a journey that took Ken and Betsy from pleased wonderment to sober-minded amazement and, finally, all the way to the Land of Flabbergasted Rage.
Ah yes, I believe I have dual citizenship there.

7.18.2003

Finally, truth in journalism

The Washington Times is running an editorial today entitled "Vive les Anglo-Saxons." I'll bet they're celebrating over on Wasp Lane.

We must keep Arlington boring

Motherfuckers.

Fucking NIMBY motherfuckers.

God, how I hate this fucking city.

So yeah, the Arlington County Board wrote a letter to the Virginia baseball people saying: we just don't want a baseball stadium.

"If there was a general consensus that a Baseball Stadium was desired by Arlington residents, it might be possible to overlook the economic advantages of competing development opportunities," blah blah fucking blah. Instead of a baseball stadium and convention center on the Pentagon City land, they want a convention center plus a "hotel, apartment and retail complex." Oh good, because we don't have fucking any of those right now. Honestly, I can't get enough of this shit:



WHOA!!!! You're right, Arlington County Board, that's WAY better than baseball! Let's see more!



OMG!!!11! That building is CUBE-shaped! HOW do they come up with this shit?????

"I obviously applaud this decision,"said Sarah Summerville, president of No Arlington Stadium. She's also running for a seat on the county board in November. Please join me in voting against her multiple times if possible.

It's not just the county board I'm upset with. The fuckface owners who make all of Major League Baseball's decisions these days acted in their typically monolithic fashion and decided that, hey, we're not going to make a decision on moving the Montreal Expos by the All-Star Game after all. In fact, maybe we'll just have them play in Puerto Rico all next season.

Now, I could probably start a whole new blog with reasons I hate Major League Baseball, but I'm not going to go into details here... people who care about the game already know why the owners suck. What sucks here is that the owners are simply pretending they have leverage; they have no ground to stand on, and are losing money on the Montreal franchise, which they all collectively own. By continually prolonging a decision on where to move the team, they're basically just punishing us for not securing 100 percent of the ballpark funding before being awarded the team. These delay tactics are their way of dicking around with us.

Baseball is using its 81-year-old antitrust exemption to withhold the team. Which brings me to the third entity I'm mad at over baseball: Congress. Congress could end this stupid baseball situation so very easily:

Introduce a bill that would repeal baseball's antitrust exemption, and threaten to pass it unless the team is moved to Washington. I guarantee you the Expos would be here faster than you could say Buck Martinez. Errrr.... Buck Martinez.

Of course, that will never happen; our legislators are too busy using D.C. as a kind of legislative petri dish for their pet projects (c.f. school vouchers, legalizing assault weapons, etc.) to actually pass anything that would make our lives better here.

God, how I hate this fucking city.

7.17.2003

Our nation's capital

Kids in the Benning Terrace housing project have nothing to do during the summer besides stealing cars and joyriding. In a completely unrelated story, budget cuts will force layoffs and the elimination of athletic programs by the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Assocation. Also completely unrelated: the D.C. school board was forced to cancel pay raises for teachers and principals.

Also, D.C. had more new cases of the AIDS per capita than any other big U.S. city. Take that, Baltimore!

Meanwhile: murder, murder and more murder. There was this apparent murder-suicide in Northwest D.C. yesterday, and two other guys were shot in the head several times (one in Northeast, one in Southeast).

Fortunately, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, drawing from his inner-city street smarts, has the answer to solve all this gun violence: repealing the D.C. gun ban, including loosening the definition of "machine gun" to exclude semiautomatic weapons.

Hatch says: "Try to imagine the horror that [a] victim felt when he faced a gun-toting criminal and could not legally reach for a firearm to protect himself." (OK, I will: "Oh darn. This criminal's pointing a gun at my head. Too bad I can't legally carry a firearm, because I would. Then I could reach for it, and this guy would blow my head away. The horror... THE HORROR!!!")

I don't know if any of you saw this in the news, but we had this whole serial sniper deal about a year ago... random people were getting shot, kind of lasted a while, terrorized all of us for a good month or so, pretty much locked down the entire region, blah blah blah. I was eating at a restaurant a few blocks away from the Seven Corners shopping center where Linda Franklin was killed on October 14, and my wife and I had the privilege of spending the rest of the night sitting in our car, nervously waiting to get through a police road block.

You know what I wasn't thinking that night? "I really wish more people could legally own guns." I was thinking: "Let's drive to NRA headquarters and throw rocks at it."

Wow... depressing news today. I'm gonna need a fucking drink at lunchtime, I can tell right now.

7.16.2003

Finally, a personalized Virginia license plate I can live with

AOLH8R

Ooooops

The Washington Times printed a letter to the editor, purportedly an e-mail from a U.S. diplomat, that turned out to be a forgery. Apparently the Times neglected to verify the letter by calling the sender, as newspapers normally do, and ran with it anyway.

Must... resist... obvious Bush joke....

[Times chief Wesley Pruden:] "The standard procedure at The Times is to verify all letters to the editor; this procedure was not followed in this instance. We will find out why, and make changes in procedures as necessary."
Changes in procedures consisting of actually following your current procedures, presumably.

It was not yet clear whether the forger had sent the letter from Mr. Minikes' e-mail account — or from the department's server — or whether the sender disguised another account to look like the diplomat's e-mail. Mr. Boucher said there were "a variety of electronic possibilities" for someone to have "pulled this off."
Yeah, no kidding there are a variety of ways. Any idiot who knows SMTP can telnet to port 25 of an insecure machine and spoof an e-mail address. Of course, people can forge real letters even more easily; that's why you always call the person to verify it's a real letter before publishing it.

With all this talk about failing to check documents that later turned out to be forgeries... I can't resist any longer. Clearly the Times loves Bush so much, they just had to emulate him in absolutely everything. I hear Ari's available to do some damage control.

"We will pursue this investigation with great energy," Mr. Pruden said. "We intend to get to the bottom of this hoax. There is no offense more serious at any newspaper. We will make life as miserable as we can for the jerk who did it."
Awww yeah, revenge of the Times! Sun Moon's gonna be all up in your business, fake-letter-writer!

(Wow, this Pruden guy sounds like a great boss... does he make the reporters write stories about that awful menace Spider-Man?)

Oh man, I know I was kidding about the Bush thing, but after reading this Howard Kurtz blurb, the parallels become even more hilariously dead-on:

The perpetrator may have struck before. Last March, Washington Post columnist Al Kamen got what turned out to be a fake e-mail of complaint from the deputy chief of mission under Minikes. That one wasn't published.
So a couple months ago, the Times received a similar fake letter, but didn't publish it. This time, perhaps a bit overeager to slam the State Department again, they did publish it, and now it's time to pay the price, just like with the yellowcake thing. Now this is just getting eerie.

Anyway, the Times has removed the letter from its website, but I fished it out of the Google cache for posterity. Here it is, the fake letter in its entirety:




The State Department's corrosive culture

I am writing to commend you for Joel Mowbray's insightful recent analysis of many State Department careerists' thinly disguised distaste and disloyalty for the president's foreign policy goals (Op-Ed, July 7, "A tangled web; The State Department's corrosive culture"). In my long experience working as a Republican-appointed executive in various federal government positions of responsibility and honor, it has become almost an unchangeable given that most career bureaucrats are liberal, instinctively supportive of big and intrusive government and that they strongly advocate the Democratic Party's approach to foreign policy; namely process, apology and appeasement.

Never has this bias been so evident than during my time as President Bush's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in Vienna. From the careerists serving at the assistant secretary level at the State Department (true survivors all in the jungle of political opportunism) down to freshly minted junior officers, I find on a daily basis a discomfort among many of them with implementing the president's desire to lead by principle, and instead, a self-defeating reliance on doing things the same old way, based on the false presumption that everyone's and every state's view has equal value.

At the OSCE, many on my staff consider the principles that drive French or Russian foreign policy mischief to be as legitimate, in a relativistic way, as the tried-and-true American values that drive everything I do and say as ambassador. It is shameful, and if I had the authority and freedom to fire and hire staff based on their loyalty to this administration's democratically elected policy positions rather than based on their tenure as bureaucrats, mine would be a significantly different staff.

It's a slow and incremental struggle in which we are engaged, not only to secure American values throughout the darkest corners of the world, but also, and first, to secure American values in the darkest corners of the State Department. Keep up the good fight and the honest reporting.

STEPHAN M. MINIKES
Ambassador
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Vienna, Austria
[not really]

Murder counter jumped by three since yesterday

"In the hood, summertime is the killing season. It's hot out in this bitch; that's a good enough reason."
-50 Cent, "Heat"

7.15.2003

I long to hear those three simple words: "It's on, BITCH!"

I've always sensed a bit of a rivalry between D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. These are three regions that just tend to dislike each other. D.C. resents Maryland and Virginia commuters for using the District to support their livelihoods without giving anything back; Virginia sees D.C. as a never-ending money pit that doesn't deserve support; Maryland sees Virginia as a bastion of inbreeding. (All correct assertions.)

This tends to cause problems when the three jurisdictions have to work together; for example, during the serial sniper investigation last year there were a number of police forces working on the case who weren't on the same page. And all three governments are responsible for running the Metro system; obviously that's working out real well. NOT.

(Whatever happened to "not"? Hmm, '90s nostalgia is gonna suck, isn't it?)

Generally, the rivarly has seemed friendly, resulting in little more than good-natured ribbing and the occasional interstate golf tournament.

Until today... when it all blew up like a motherfucker. The reason: the commuter tax lawsuit being considered by the District. Strap yourselves in...

"This is a stupid, idiotic plan that should not be adopted in any way," declared Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (R), whose county has about 6,000 daily commuters to the District, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
Ahh, Loudon County, always the calm voice of suburban reason.

"This would become a burden on our residents no matter how you end up looking at it," said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R), a lawyer and one of about 17,000 county residents who commute to the District.
Except in the way that the commuters would be paying the same amount of taxes. Generally, commuter taxes are deducted from residents' home state taxes as a credit. Virginia would need to raise taxes to make up for that lost revenue, but that burden would presumably be spread out among all residents of the Commonwealth, and wouldn't sting any one group too badly.

And now, the really good part:

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) fired back, saying the suburbs are against a commuter tax because they unfairly benefit from the current arrangement. "The only argument [the suburbs] have is: 'We're greedy. We do not want to pay our fair share,' " Evans said.

"I'm appalled at the people in Virginia. They're living up to their reputation of being narrow-minded. When you think of people in Virginia, you think of them as backward, and they confirm it on something like this."
AWWWWWW NO YOU DI'NT!!!!!

I mean, wow. This is the kind of comment that totally makes my day, but totally should never have been spoken by a politician. Don't get me wrong, he's exactly right on all counts: Virginia is indeed made up almost solely of greedy, backward, narrow-minded rich people. That could pretty much be our state motto. But, see, I'm allowed to say that on my foul-mouthed blog; a politician isn't. Granted, Evans is trash-talking a jurisdiction outside his own and probably won't have to face too many repercussions as a result. But when you're trying to get another state to keep from going against your plan to tax them, maybe calling them greedy and backward isn't the best way to go about doing it.

All right, so now it's ALL-OUT TAX WARFARE! Time to bring down... the steel cage!

Montgomery officials said they have no immediate plans to fight a commuter tax in court. But if District leaders "go much further, we could easily be forced to consider a tax on reverse commuters," said County Council President Michael L. Subin (D-At Large). "There are a significant number of people driving from Washington to work in Montgomery County every day."
Oh, man. Is it my birthday or something? No? This is still awesome.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D) said her board has not taken an official stand on the matter recently but has generally opposed the idea of a commuter tax.

"There are a lot of other parts of the region that have people come to our jurisdiction as well," she said. A District lawsuit "could spark a regional war."
Yes, REGIONAL WAR!!!! Can we start now? Where can I get tickets? There can be only one!

One more quote I love:

Hanley took exception to D.C. leaders' characterizations of Fairfax as flush with revenue. "We pay more in taxes [to state coffers in Richmond] than we get back," she said. "We have revenue-stream problems of our own."
See, this is why Northern Virginia opposition to this plan doesn't make much sense. Here's how taxes work in Northern Virginia:

1) The taxes we pay go to Richmond.

2) The money is spent elsewhere in the state.

3) The end.

As far as Richmond is concerned, Virginia's Washington suburbs might as well be in New Hampshire. We're a bunch of spoiled city slickers who will just have to make do with a two-lane I-66, because dag gummit, if Roanoke can get by with two lanes, so can we.

Even though, unlike D.C., we're taxed with representation, the eight-or-so representatives we send to Richmond can't hope to outvote the 83-or-so representatives from the rest of the state, who are too busy passing resolutions condemning the cancellation of Hee-Haw.

My point is, why not have our Virginia commuters give some tax dollars to D.C. instead? At least the money would be staying in the region, as opposed to now, when it basically goes to subsidize Farmer Cletus's fantastic new pig milking machine in Bent Creek.

Anyway, you know I'll be keeping an eye on this story, now that everyone is all up in each other's business. May the hilarity never end.

"These yokels are pure Baltic Avenue."

I feel for Mala, who is struggling, as I am, to find decent affordable housing in Washington. She posts an example of a large one-bedroom condo in Adams Morgan that's listed for $536,900. In most cities that would buy you a few good-sized single-family homes; here, it's good for a stinking one-bedroom condo.

Who the hell can afford to buy these damn things? Well, I guess somebody can; just nobody I know.

I come back to this topic a lot, because it's the thing that frustrates me the most about living in Washington. I would love to own a home; obviously, it's one of those American dreams that everyone aspires to, and it's one of mine as well. This seems like a great time for me to buy a new home. Interest rates are crazy low at the moment. I have a decent job, where I get paid a pretty good amount of money to do not much at all. Hell, I'm earning more than my father; that fucking blows my mind. And this is all at a time when the economy is down and unemployment is high, which would seem to reduce demand for new housing and keep prices low. It would seem to be the perfect environment for me to buy a house or condo.

And yet, I can't even put together enough money for a down payment. It's not just the hot neighborhoods like Adams Morgan that are out of reach; even houses and condos for sale in unexciting Northern Virginia are priced out of my market.

(Seriously, why is it so expensive to live in McLean? The only entertainment I can think of is toilet papering Pat Buchanan's house. And that's only going to be fun once. Probably.)

Plus, the rent on my slum-like two bedroom apartment (whoa, somebody gave it a positive review recently) is $1,035, which is actually cheap for the neighborhood, but still too much for me to be able to save anything. OK, granted, I go on a lot of vacations, but other than that I don't spend a lot of money; I'm not in any debt except for student loans; I'm pretty responsible with what I earn. But after working a steady job for almost two years, I'm still not any closer to owning a home than I was when I started.

So that's what makes me the most bitter. I worked hard through college and graduate school to ensure that I could provide for myself and my wife. And now that I'm finally in the exciting working world full-time, I can't scratch out the kind of living I want. And if I'm having this much trouble, I really feel for the people who are working the shit jobs that don't pay close to what I make; surely their hopes of owning a home here is forever non-existent.

This is also a reason why the "city living, dc style!!" promotion by the District cracks me up. They want to attract yuppies and empty-nesters who are just starting out, and those who would benefit from the District's first-time-homebuyer tax break. I'm a yuppie; I have no kids; and I know I can't afford a decent house in D.C., tax break or no (not that I would live there anyway... I'm too educated about what goes on in the District). I'm seriously thinking of marching down to the city living, dc style expo when it happens and bitching them out for trying to mislead people into thinking they can afford to live there in a safe neighborhood.

(Notice how the website, in its inimitable "selective capitalization" style, claims that "more than 30,000 housing units are either completed, under construction or planned—from affordable to market rate." Yeah, fuck you too, website.)

Those of you who are thinking of moving here: if you're looking to make an honest living and don't want to live paycheck-to-paycheck, do yourself a favor and don't move to Washington.

You catch more flies with honeys

By popular request: D.C. cops cracked down on prostitution, dressing up 14 of their female officers as hookers and nabbing 69 potential johns over the span of several days. (Umm, why did they stop at that number?... *cough*...)

In a twist that could only happen in D.C... this pissed off local residents.

"I don't understand why they would [crack down] on prostitution when people around here get killed," said Talitha Weaver, 36, who says she also is involved in prostitution.
Way to give your out real name on the record... great idea there.

Though police said female police officers did not encourage the men, other residents also were suspicious.

"It's entrapment to some degree," said Mark Brinkley, 44.
First, It's not all the cops' fault that people keep on killing people. Cops can't be standing around the city waiting to dive in front of bullets for people. While some amount of preventative policework might help lower the murder rate, generally the best they can do is investigate homicides thoroughly, then capture the murderers and make sure they get put away. Of course, they're not doing that well at all, but that's beside the point.

If D.C. residents really want to put an end to murder, they're just going to have to stop shooting each other quite so much. Crazy idea, I know. But so is the idea that removing a few cops from hooker detail would help lower the murder rate. I'm just glad the D.C. police are finally actively doing something to reduce crime, rather than their usual tactic of doing nothing.

Secondly, entrapment? If you walk up to a cop dressed as a hooker and say, "I'll give you $40 for a blowjob," you are an idiot who deserves to be arrested. You have been entrapped into nothing; it's your own stupid fault for being so fucking stupid. Similarly, if you're the mayor of town and you start smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room while FBI cameras are rolling on you, you are an idiot who deserves to be arrested.

And yet, these preventive measures, which might actually have a shot at reducing crime, often get criticized by D.C. residents as being unfair when they do snare criminals. Go figure.

2 1 day(s) since our last murder

Remember those 12-year-old car thieves I mentioned? Yesterday, a couple of them killed a woman while joyriding, then escaped on foot.

Let's keep our crappy capital crappy

The Washington Times weighs in on the proposed commuter tax lawsuit with this staff editorial. Predictably, their opinion is, "Hey, don't tax us!"

The Times doesn't even refute the claim that D.C. needs or deserves the money, which is good, since even the General Accounting Office says that D.C. faces a structural deficit because the cost of providing services exceeds its taxing ability.

Instead, their sole argument seems to be that it's bad to try to overturn any part of the 30-year-old D.C. Self-Government Act. What, is it written on Jesus' burial cloth or something?

Er, I mean... "Rev." Moon's... future burial cloth? Or something? Hm. And then:

Both pieces of legislation propose the same income tax rates for non-D.C. residents: Individuals earning up to $10,000 would pay the District .5 percent of their income taxes; people earning between $10,000 and $40,000 would pay 1 percent; and people earning more than $40,000 would pay 2 percent.

[...]

Still, if the city were permitted to impose a commuter tax, the consequences would be laughable, if not downright frightening: What would D.C. government do with $1.4 billion in additional annual revenue?
Gee, I don't know, since the 2 percent tax propsed by the referenced legislation would only provide $540 million in revenue, according to this article from last week's Post.

Alice M. Rivlin, director of the Brookings Greater Washington Research Program and a former D.C. financial control board chairman, said a recent Brookings study estimated that if nonresident workers were taxed at the city's current graduated rate of up to 9.3 percent, a commuter tax would yield $1.4 billion. But she said a lower rate -- such as the graduated rate of up to 2 percent suggested by council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) -- would be a more reasonable option and would yield about $540 million.
A lesser person might suggest that the Times is borrowing our President's "selective-fact-using" technique. I am that lesser person.

7.14.2003

I don't want to decide

Which is better: an obsolete concert venue, or strip malls and housing developments?

John weighs in.

Bud Selig: please rot in eternal fucking damnation

It's a good thing I caught a couple of baseball games in Chicago last week, since that may be my last chance to see baseball for a while. There seems to be little chance Washington will get a team in 2004. (Times scooping the Post there, which they tend to do now and again on local stories.) Baseball's handling this situation with its usual heavy-handed, monopolistic style.

Meanwhile, a poll shows that 64 percent of my motherfucking nimby neighbors in Arlington are opposed to a new ballpark anyway. It's as if the entire county is opposed to fun. Arlington is the most densely populated county in the nation, and if there was a way to measure it, I'm sure it would also rank first in total boredom per capita. (I'm sorry, but after spending three days in the incredible Wrigleyville, I'm really especially bitter about this right now.)

Plus, the owners of the best potential stadium site in Pentagon City apparently don't feel like selling anyway.

Keep up with the whole mess on this site.

The only thing that's going to save this summer now is the opening of a new Chipotle restaurant in Tysons Corner. Please... hurry up and open, Chipotle.

What a guy

Jerry Stackhouse of the Washington Wizards was arrested after allegedly assaulting a woman. He's also guilty of the worst performance by a starting professional basketball player I have ever seen.

I want names

So by now you've probably heard about the whole Saddam-was-trying-to-get-uranium-from-Niger-oops-no-he-wasn't thing that's caused a bit of trouble for the White House. I was hoping the Times would weigh in on the issue, just for humor's sake, to see how they would defend Bush this time.

First, they ran an editorial denouncing the CIA for misleading Bush, and not placing any blame on Bush. It seems obvious that the White House had been pushing the intelligence community to get the results it wanted anyway, so whatever.

The comedic masterstroke I was looking for came today: "Withheld Iraq report blamed on French."

My goodness. I had to check the URL to make sure I wasn't reading The Onion by mistake. You just know this is going to be fucking hilarious. Originally from the London Daily Telegraph:

The French secret service is believed to have refused to allow Britain's MI6 to give the United States "credible" intelligence showing that Iraq was trying to buy uranium ore from Niger, U.S. intelligence sources said yesterday.
How did we come to this conclusion? Well, MI6 claims to have "different and credible" evidence that Iraq really did try to get uranium from Niger, but that it wasn't allowed to share it with the U.S., because it came from the intelligence service of another country and MI6 didn't have permission to share it.

So, the U.S. sources interviewed for this article, who, mind you, have not seen the intelligence, assume it belongs to the French. After all, Niger is a former French colony, and the French were opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Conclusion: it was the frogs.

That's it. That's the connection. And that's a pretty strong statement, making a roundabout guess to find a way to blame the French for U.S. intelligence woes. Which is why it would be nice if any of the sources in this article had been named. Look at the article; it's all "British officials insisted" and "U.S. intelligence sources believe" and "one official said."

This does us no good at all. In fact, it's this kind of reporting that got us into this mess in the first place.

The number of anonymous sources used by news organizations seems to have jumped tenfold in the past few years or so. This isn't good for journalism, and it's especially not good for the press-reading public, because when the anonymous sources are wrong, we have nobody to hold accountable. In a worst-case scenario, a newspaper that's trying to influence public opinion could cobble together a made-up story out of quotes attributed to "senior administration officials" in order to spin the opinions of its readers. Now, I'm not saying the London Daily Telegraph is the kind of paper that would do this, but while I was browsing there, this message box popped up:



Yeah. You be the judge. (Really, you be the judge. I have no idea what this means. Apparently my battery hen is in bad shape.)

Anyway, the Post is just as guilty as the Times of running anonymous-source stories on important issues. Even in the article that broke the news that the White House was backing off the Niger claim:

"Knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech," a senior Bush administration official said last night in a statement authorized by the White House.
Well, which official? If it's a statement authorized by the White House, why can't the Post even get this person to go on record to read the approved statement?

And again, it's this nonsense that has us in this mess; all during the lead-up to the war, when news stories all over were hyping the Iraqi WMD threat, it was all "a senior administration official said" this and "U.S. intelligence sources say" that. Now, if it turns out that we've needlessly murdered thousands of civilians and sacrificed hundreds of our own troops, we have nobody to hold accountable.

When even the Washington Post lacks the balls to quote sources by name, even on such a straightforward story, you know we're witnessing democracy at its worst.

Murder up!

Ahh, murder counter updated. If you're scoring at home, it went up by 10 in the past 11 days. If not, try flowers.

7.13.2003

Murder up?

I haven't been able to update the murder counter in several days. What happened to the person who updates the Metro P.D.'s crime stats page?

The kid in me thinks maybe this person is on vacation. But the O. Henry lover in me thinks he or she was murdered.

News roundup

Since I've been gone:

The District's program to nurture juvenile delinquents in foster homes and treatment centers is predictably broken.

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission is a worthless money pit, but we knew that.

Auto theft in D.C. reached a six-year high last year.

Tuition at the University of Maryland will jump 21 percent. The kids will have to find some other college with a neighborhood in easy trashing/looting distance.

Meanwhile, in my home commonwealth of Virginia, they're erecting billboards in an attempt to deter statutory rape.

The billboards carry the message "Isn't she a little young?" in large letters, with the words "Sex with a minor. Don't go there," in smaller letters below.

[...]

Rebecca K. Odor, director of sexual violence prevention at the state Department of Health, said focus groups helped shape the message so that it would resonate with men between 18 and 29 years old.

"We want to change the norm so that it's not OK," Miss Odor said. "Right now what we are finding in our focus-group testing is that some guys think it's OK to have sex with younger girls."
Wow. Write your own joke there.

By the way, I hope you all know the first two rules of Camp Fight Club: don't talk about Camp Fight Club. Utterly hilarious.

Choke on this

Metro is slashing jobs and abandoning plans to expand, due to lack of support from the local governments. Just as we're choking on smog and spending multiple hours commuting to work.

Population growth will continue, but Washington's train system doesn't even reach Dulles airport. The way things are looking, it never will.

Why can't I live there?

Wow, I love Chicago. I saw two Cubs games at Wrigley, which is a fantastic experience. I stayed in the neighborhood, which is everything you would want an urban neighborhood to be (cool shops, great atmosphere, friendly people, lots of partying). I saw a hilarious show by Second City, the comedy troupe that's supplied half the casts of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. I ate at an Italian restuarant and a brunch place, both of which served creative, excellent dishes.

The brunch place served fruit "sushi", made from various melons and berries rolled in coconut and made to look like rolled maki.

For Christ's sake. Fruit sushi! That's so awesome! I asked them how they came up with that idea. The waitress laughed, and said, "Drugs, probably."

And now... I'm back in Washington. No baseball. No cool neighborhoods. Completely humorless. And nobody, anywhere, who serves fruit sushi.

But I will escape. Mark my words. One day, I will be free of D.C.

One... day.

7.09.2003

I've clearly earned a vacation

Fuck you, Washington. I'll be enjoying myself here for the next couple days, so you can suck on that. And hold all my calls.

Kill your radio

My new favorite bookmark is DCRTV, a website devoted to printing news and rumors about the radio and television industry around Washington and Baltimore. It's fun to read about feuds and infighting, as well as get a glimpse at how deregulation has helped to homogenize the airwaves and increase industry unemployment.

I'm playing my CD collection in the car a lot more these days, as I'm sure are a lot of other people. However, I did listen to the local sports talk station (WTEM 980-AM) last night from about 6:30 to 6:40. That was all I could take; during that entire time, the hosts discussed whether or not a woman should return the engagement ring after the engagement is broken off. They took calls on the subject for 10 minutes. On a sports talk radio program. I realize it's hard to find sporty things to talk about in July, especially in a city without baseball, but come on. I'd almost rather listen to the incoherent ramblings of the mentally impared John Thompson than that Miss Manners nonsense.

I said almost.

Thanks again, Clear Channel, for bringing me such high quality programming.

No really, you're a great mayor

The D.C. Council did the right thing yesterday by voting to suspend the city's credit card program, which city employees have abused to circumvented limits, charged inappropriate expenses to the cards, and run up interest charges.

But... the mayor's not going to sign the legislation, and since the council just adjourned, it probably won't be enforced for the rest of the fiscal year.

According to the article: "The government likes the credit card program because it has saved the city an estimated $2 million in paperwork for tens of thousands of smaller transactions, officials say." Two million dollars worth of paperwork?! How did they come up with that figure, anyway? And, if the paperwork keeps people from abusing the government's resources, maybe it should be reinstated anyway. It's not saving you $2 million if your employees then cheat you out of $1 million.

"We got the wake-up call, but we don't need the complete annihilation of the program," said Williams's spokesman, Tony Bullock. "These problems are isolated. The case has not been made that there has been widespread abuse."
Riiiiiight. Is anybody in D.C. government held accountable for their actions, ever? Widespread fraud and corruption will continue until someone takes a stand against it.

But hey, the mayor thinks he's "done a great job of bringing a great caliber of people to District government." Replace "people" with "thieves" and I'll agree with you, Tony baby.

Of pinball and parking

I would have to describe my level of anger as "elevated" right now. Enough so that I can't sleep, at least. And the thing I'm mad about won't even seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it's important to me. Basically, the one thing I liked about Washington that was also unique to this area has been ruined.

Exposition: I love pinball. It's just one of those weird, quirky things about me that I'm always laboring to explain to people. I started playing pinball as a kid, when I would spend the summers visiting my father in Montana, and after spending enough hours in the arcade, I figured out you could win free games if you played well enough. The best manufacturer of pinball was the the Williams company, and it hit its peak in the early 1990s, which is also when I really started to get good at the game. Later, in high school, I would go to bars just to drink Cokes and play pinball for hours. In college, I would spend hours on the weekends at an arcade run by a friend, mastering the nuances of Twilight Zone.

In the late '90s, Williams' pinball geniuses unveiled a new form of pinball they short-sightedly called "Pinball 2000." This combined a faux-holographic screen with a smaller version of the traditional pinball cabinet. It was a clever idea, but the games were not as much fun as Williams' traditional games from its heyday. In graduate school, I would still spend a lot of time in the student center after class, burning off stress by winning free games and putting up high scores on the games there. But I knew that pinball's popularity had dropped significantly since 1990, as fewer people were playing and fewer games were being manufactured.

I still wasn't prepared for a magazine article I happened upon in late 1999 that announced the death of Williams' pinball divison. The shuttering of Williams basically signaled the end of pinball; although one manufacturer still exists (Stern), its games are generally substandard in quality and playability. Eventually, the great old Williams games will fall apart or find their way into private collections, never to be played by me again. Already it's nearly impossible to find games in arcades.

Which! Is proof I'm a gigantic geek. But it's also why I was so happy to discover the existence of a pinball league in Washington. Groups of people gather in the two or three arcades that still have multiple machines, and match themselves against each other according to a specific and detailed set of rules. Overall, it's been a good thing; the people are genuinely interested in keeping pinball alive, and many have private pinball collections. I've actually made a couple of friends (finally) at league, and in the past I've looked forward to league nights. It's the one thing I can do here that I enjoy and can't do anywhere else.

So naturally, it all came crashing to a halt tonight. I can't go to the league at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, anymore, ostensibly because I got yet another parking ticket from the NVCC parking enforcement gestapo. I now owe the college $105 (although that's under appeal, and I'm fucking suing those assholes anyway if they turn down the appeal).

But I was angry even before that happened at the insipid shell of a man who runs the league. As you might expect, these pinball leagues attract a more nerdy element, and this greasy fat-ass is no exception. He's the type that takes pride in enforcing every single rule of our pinball league to the fucking letter, as if he were the referee in the fucking Super Bowl.

Last night, before the start of actual league play, I was "pre-playing" games for a future league night when I would not be able to attend. I started my last game at 7:15, and it was going particularly well (which means the game runs longer). I was on my last ball at 7:30 when the aforementioned greasy nerd started complaining that it was time to start the league. He came over and started talking in my ear about how it was time to stop, which is distracting. I asked for some extra time since this was a pre-play that would go down in the books in a couple weeks, but he would hear none of my protests. League must start precisely at 7:30.

Dude. It's a fucking pinball league. The world will continue to spin if we happen to start at 7:33. I don't think the other members are going to be terribly inconvenienced if I finish my really good game. Nobody is being disadvantaged, and I'm not cheating; bitching at me to stop playing just because a qualifying game is running a little long is being over-officious. I said as much, and he did let me finish, but honestly, I've had enough of this type of bullshit pinball rulemongering from him and other people over the past year to last me a lifetime. The people who enforce these rules do it for the self-pleasure of being the enforcer; common sense never enters into their judgment, and it makes life miserable for the rest of us.

For me, over-officiousness ruined pinball league for me tonight, and it also cost me yet another $35 in unnecessary parking fines (no visitor spaces available, and I parked in the middle of at least 300 empty spaces; another example of over-officiousness). I can't go to pinball league anymore because of the threat further parking tickets; the sad part is, I don't mind so much anyway, because the fun of playing pinball and competing against other players has been sucked dry by the league rules gestapo. And I watch and lament as yet another thing I enjoy withers and falls to the ground.

Now the only thing I have to look forward to is football season. Oh, and the opening of a new Chipotle restaurant in Tysons Corner.

Yeah. My future in Washington looks bleak and boring, and I don't know how to change that.

7.08.2003

Burn, baby, burn... District inferno

Ahh, the good people of Washington. Always treating each other with respect and kindness. For example, this summer, many have given the gift of arson... or, failing that, arson... or, if that doesn't work... well, still arson.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of bridges in the District are deficient (i.e. need repairs or don't meet safety standards), according to the Federal Highway Administration. It probably doesn't help when trucks that are too tall to drive through a tunnel respond by... driving through the tunnel anyway, and not stopping despite the fact that debris from the impact injured two people in the car behind them.

Oh, and an abandoned newborn infant was found by a worker near a construction site.

All this may have you asking, in the voice of the late Barry White... where's the love? Oh, there's plenty of love to go around, baby. The D.C. police chief got his $25,000 raise, despite his department's severe investigative shortcomings. And, all is forgiven between Chief Moose and the Montgomery County Ethics Commission. Because nothing absolves you of an ethical lapse quite like paying $4,250 to the county that's investigating you.

The nerve of us, holding elected officials accountable

The mayor of D.C. doesn't understand why people are criticizing him.

Dude. Maybe if you could reduce the number of city government scandals from three per week down to just one or two, that would help a little.

Hello, didn't we just have a big credit card scandal that revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars are being improperly spent by city employees?

Yeah. But, according to the mayor, "I think I've done a great job of bringing a great caliber of people to District government."

Notice again how people who say "I'm the best" or "I'm great" really generally aren't. And this isn't the first time the mayor has been full of himself. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Tenlacoius defense

A column in the Post today highlights an apparently failed attempt to combine a new library in the Tenleytown section of D.C. with new shops and apartments. Marc Fisher says:

The suburbs have had it with sprawl. The city wants to lure 100,000 new residents over the next 10 years. Sounds like the start of a beautiful friendship, right?

Ah, but do not underestimate the power of the oddest of cults, urban dwellers who believe that they inhabit some sylvan glade where nothing more shall be built -- ever. Purportedly liberal, these creatures reveal themselves to be fiercely conservative whenever it appears that other human beings might move into their neighborhood.
Exactly. The District's "city living, dc style!" marketing campaign is going to run into some serious difficulties if the current residents kill every proposed housing development that comes down the pike.

The city is not going to even try to come up with a mixed-use plan, because the neighborhood has continually struck down new residential developments. This tactic of "nothing new in my backyard", employed by seemingly every neighborhood in the Washington area, keeps property values prohibitively high for a lot of people (e.g. me).

How can a neighborhood smack in the middle of a city populated with 4.3 million people expect to retain a "suburban" feel? There was a Washington City Paper article this week about the same subject:

In all the battles, there's a common thread: When the city pushes, Tenleytown pushes back. Tenley residents want to live in Dupont Circle—except without the nightlife, the noise, the crowds, the traffic, or the homeless people. But there's more to urban living than professional neighbors, boutique shopping, art-house theaters, Thai food, and a convenient subway stop to shorten the commute. Cities are full of students and poor people. Cities are noisy, messy, and dense. Any quest to perfect the urban experience has just one flaw: The perfect city is not a city.
Maybe they can have their own slogan: "Stepford living, Tenleytown style!" It's captialized normally, because using all lower-case would just be too subversive to their way of life.

[Bruce] Lowrey, for one, spread the word in a letter dated Feb. 24, 2003, addressed to residents of the Tenley Hill condominiums. "The proposed apartment building at the Martens Volvo site across the street from Tenley Hill...will contain 193 [since amended to 191] apartments, a prime housing location for American University students," he warned. "So brace yourselves for the loud, all-night parties, fast cars and garbage."

His coalition's meetings are now held in Tenley Hill's community room; the condo dwellers add a new perspective to the typical anti-development screed. Cheryl Stovall, a Tenley Hill resident, says she has a particularly pressing interest in opposing any development across the street. "It's going to be bad for me," she says. "It's going to block my view."
OK, would somebody kindly tell these people that they live in a fucking city? Dear God... does this happen in any other cities? What if people in Manhattan had said, "Sorry, we're not letting you put any new buildings in! It would add to my commute and block my view!" These people are seriously under the delusion that they're living in a suburb, and that nobody else should be allowed to move in, ever.

Bleh. Disgusting. The next time you're cursing high property values, the shortage of housing, and out-of-control sprawl, throw in a little "fuck you" to all the Tenleytowns of the area who fence themselves in and don't tolerate newcomers.

(See my previous rant about failed "smart" growth and its effects on Washington.)

7.07.2003

Eagle when she DIES

Earl H writes:

About the eagles at the National Zoo, which you likened to the Hazard County Police Department -- Did you notice that the two new eagles were donated to the zoo by, of all places, Dollywood? As always, truth is stranger than fiction...
Wow, he's right. They came from the American Eagle Foundation, sponsored by Dollywood, which is also its headquarters. The eagles "were recently removed from the Foundation's 'Eagle Mountain Sanctuary' aviary at Dollywood where the pair has been on display to the park’s guests for a number of years."

Well, Dolly, I suggest that if you want those eagles to live, you'd better move 'em on home.

Reader mail

One of my readers has some brickbats to throw Metro's way:

James,

On my way to work this morning, I noticed a "NOT IN SERVICE" Metro bus going pretty fast down Maryland Ave in the direction of Bladensburg. (I note the direction because frequent drivers in that area might know it as an area of high-pedestrian traffic--in or out of the crosswalks, in the middle of the road, whatever. Kids, adults, it's one big outdoor festival on that street--and drivers are mere inconveniences...)

I caught up with that bus and clocked it at 50 miles an hour. Now, I believe this street is 35 m.p.h., though it may be forty. Still and all, a BUS doing FIFTY on that street? Several tons of aluminum and steel rocketing down a residential street in rush-hour traffic? Nice.

But that wasn't even the most fun part. When he made a token effort to slow down as he approached a yellow light, I was still going pretty fast. So, I pulled out from behind him, switching to the right-hand lane, and I nearly took out a Metro traffic Nazi's car parked IN THE LANE. Her car was parked next to, as in side-by-side, parallel, to the illegally parked car. The
Nazi ticketing the car was chatting on her cell phone, apparently oblivious to the roughly three hundred yards of empty street behind and in front of the car she was ticketing.

I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but I'm pretty sure the District wants to kill us all.

OK, this is funny

Speaking of "city living, dc style!", everybody's favorite new slogan:

The city registered the www.citylivingdc.com domain to advertise the little expo thing it's doing in October.

But, alas, D.C. was remiss in not securing the domain name that matches the full slogan, www.citylivingdcstyle.com, which has been snapped up by one astute Brad Klie. He has published a less-than-favorable web page there, advising people to consider the prohibitive housing costs, incessant parking and traffic fines, the protestor problem, unfair tax balance, and lack of representation before deciding to move to D.C.

Kudos to you, Mr. Klie. Utterly brilliant.

Did I write this?

A letter to the Post editor from Sunday:

Regarding the story about the District's media campaign to encourage people to move into the city ["Selling a Hipper Image; Marketing Campaign Seeks to Attract Upscale Residents," D.C. Extra, June 19]:

I have lived in the District for more than 10 years, and I am committed to staying. However, for those on the fence, the daily irritation of dealing with the city government's incomprehensible small-mindedness will outweigh any media campaign.

I recently bought a car, and I had to wait awhile to receive my D.C. registration and parking permit. I parked the car in front of my house on a street that is zoned for residential parking and has never had parking problems. I put a note in the window indicating that I was waiting for a parking permit.

One morning my wife saw a parking enforcement officer looking at the car and went out to explain our situation. She was told that we needed to get a temporary parking permit from the police station. After going back in the house for a few minutes to get some milk for our toddler (whom the enforcement officer had seen crying and being fussy), my wife returned to find a $30 parking ticket on the car.

Under these circumstances, what harm would there have been in not ticketing my vehicle? And why didn't the officer tell my wife she would be ticketed if she didn't get the permit right away?

Just another, less-advertised aspect of "city living, dc style!"

STUART WEISER

Washington
Wow. This letter is almost certainly worty of this blog. That sounds almost exactly like me.

Well... add a couple "fuckings," and maybe a "dental dam" for good measure. Then it really would.

District Auto Thieves Downsize

If you park your car in D.C. and come back to find it missing, it might just have been stolen by... a 12-year-old?!

One 12-year-old boy talked about his hobby recently while playing in a puddle, squishing the grass with his feet to make muddy bubbles and giggling with his friends.

"We steal them from anywhere. Wherever we see a good one. We do it with screwdrivers," he said.

[...]

The boy said he and his friends joy ride for fun and because they're bored. "There ain't nothing else to do out here," he said, expanding his lanky arms to encompass the barren strip of street where he and his friends usually parade their stolen cars.
Apparently two out of every three cars stolen in the District are stolen by juveniles, who primarily use them to joyride and drag race. (So far this year the rate of stolen cars in the District stands at about 700 per month.)

Aaaaand, I'm officially living in a Twilight Zone episode. That's a real good thing you did, stealing that car, Anthony. A real good thing.

DIE like an eagle

Let's flashback to something I wrote last Wednesday:

The National Zoo's gotten ahold of a pair of beautiful bald eagles. Considering the zoo's recent track record -- two red pandas died after ingesting rat poison, and a lion died from complications of anesthesia -- lets just say that if these birds weren't endangered before, they sure are now.
Flash forward to the present!

The National Zoo has lost another animal, this time a bald eagle that was attacked by an unidentified animal last week and died on Independence Day.

The eagle, whose breed is the official symbol of the United States, lived alone in an enclosure near the Bird House and was able to fly, said zoo officials who revealed the death yesterday.
So at least this is not one of the eagles they brought in just two weeks ago, since they can't fly.

But still... how ironic that the National Zoo would allow our national emblem, still classified as a threatened species, to be attacked by some non-zoo animal from outside the Bird House, and have it die on July 4th. And I guess by "ironic" I mean in the Alanis Morissette sense (i.e. it just sucks).

Worst... zoo... ever. I swear, the National Zoo... you would think it would be the best zoo ever, but apparently the only thing it's best at is killing its animals. It's like a comedy of errors over there; it's the Hazard County Police Department of zoos, if you will.

Hatred news roundup

D.C. accidentally/on purpose paid twice to renovate One Judiciary Square; over $1 million has been paid out, and the work is still incomplete.

The District's Sports and Entertainment Commission has been paying a consultant $10,000 a month plus expenses for information and recommendations to promote bringing baseball to Washington. Hiring such consultants is not unusual, but they are usually paid by the ownership group rather than via public funds. So far D.C. has paid him over $200,000.

In a completely unrelated story, D.C. public schools will lay off 422 employees. The school system's first accurate audit in years revealed it had hired 639 more employees than allowed under its budget, which helped to create a $40.4 million deficit. The school system has already cancelled orders of supplies and textbooks, and delayed salary increases.

And, finally, apparently You Haven't Lived Here if You Haven't... visited this scary, giant statue of Teddy Roosevelt. Does the fun ever start?

7.05.2003

What a finale

Here's a post from the Washington Post discussion board in which one person describes his 4th of July experience from a few years ago. It's almost poetic:

L'Enfant Metro Station, just after the last fireworks are over. I remember gasping at the rediculous amount of people being stuffed into that little place, and deciding to walk all the way to the pentagon stop. ha. Walking all theway there, through the ghetto, climbing fences and walking around the pentagon the long way (this was before 9.11, before you would be shot on sight for doing what we did). And the crazy drunk Mexican who followed us there, telling us his sad story about all his children he has to feed, who cut his hands on the top of the Pentagon fence, then got the blood all over my friend's shirt.

But that was still better than fighting through L'Enfant...
I hope your 4th was better than that guy's.

7.04.2003

Idle hands

The unemployment rate in Washington is lower than in the rest of the country. That might be because people are paid to do nothing.

No, I'm not exaggerating. I mean literally nothing. This guy is an NIH scientist, and he's basically had nothing to do for the past several years; the government is paying him $100,000 a year to serve coffee at meetings.

I'm sad to report that my duties are largely the same... although I do get the occasional project thrown my way, it's generally not enough to keep me busy for more than a week or two. And I'm not being paid nearly as much as that guy. I should ask for a raise.

7.03.2003

Have you ever noticed...

...that people who say "I'm one of the best [at whatever]!" really generally aren't?

"I'm a good police chief -- one of the best in the country," says Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey.

It seems to me that a lot of people disagree.

I say: flip a coin and call it in the air. You have a better chance of getting away with murder in D.C. than you do of calling the coin flip correctly. When Ramsey began his term five years ago, the homicide case closure (i.e. solved) rate was 70 percent; during his term it has dropped as low as 43 percent. Good police chiefs don't let that happen.
Mr. Cleland, you are my new hero

Max Cleland is a former Georgia senator. He lost his bid for re-election after his opponent, Saxby Chambliss, ran negative ads placing Cleland alongside pictures Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and attacking him for voting against the Bush's homeland security bill.

It should be pointed out that Cleland supported a similar homeland security bill different from the president's. And that he lost three of his fucking limbs in Vietnam. (And, as my wife pointed out, the fact he lost to a man named "Saxby Chambliss" should tell you everything you need to know about his opponent.)

Now, predictably, he is "angry, bitter, and disgusted with politics," which makes for some great quotes. The level of vitriol he spews in this article about Washington and politics is simply invigorating. I seriously want to take this guy to dinner. If I had some kind of website award to give out, it would go to Cleland. Hell, I should just call it "The Maxie." Here's a sampling of quotes from the article, which you must read.

"I volunteered 35 years ago to go to Vietnam and the guy I was running against got out of going to Vietnam with a trick knee! I was an author of the homeland security bill, for goodness' sake! But I wasn't a rubber stamp for the White House. That right there is the epitome of what's wrong with American politics today!"

[...]

"I voted for [war in Iraq] because I was told by the secretary of defense and by the CIA that there were weapons of mass destruction there," he says. "The president said it, Colin Powell said it, they all said it. And now they can't find them! Our general over there, who has no dog in this fight, he said he sent troops all over the place and they found two trailers and not much of anything else. So we went to war for two trailers?"

[...]

"Now wait a minute," he says. "Let me run this back: We have a war. A bunch of Americans die. After the war, we try to figure out why we were there. There's a commitment of 240,000 ground troops with no exit strategy. You know what that's called? Vietnam! Hey, I've been there, done that, got a few holes in my T-shirt."

[...]

In December, Cleland and Ross went to a Washington restaurant for dinner and left Cleland's 1994 Cadillac -- equipped with controls for a handicapped driver -- with a parking attendant. Confused by the controls, the attendant smashed the car into a truck, three other cars and a telephone pole. The Cadillac was totaled.

[...]

[American University's David Brown:] "He really was down. He'd had everything -- a car, a staff and people who took care of him. Now he didn't even have an office. He told me he was using an office in the basement of his apartment building and he said, 'They're gonna take that away to use for a Super Bowl party.' "
So an apartment building somewhere in Washington kicked out a disabled Vietnam veteran and former senator from his office so they could host a Super Bowl party. Reprehensible.

He announced that he'd provide cookies and coffee for the class, which meets Wednesday afternoons, and recommended frequent snacking.

"Keep your energy up because this is an energy-draining town," he said. "Just being here is draining. Being a target is draining. So keep your energy up."

[...]

"You never know what will happen in Washington," he told the class. "In so many ways, it's combat. Sometimes it's low-level combat, sometimes it's high-level. Sometimes you're the target, sometimes you're targeting somebody else. It's a target-rich environment, as they say in the military."

[...]

Socializing is important, Cleland told them, and he promised the class a social event every week. He appointed Dustin Odham, a Southern Methodist student with a mischievous gleam in his eye, to lead a "recon squad" to find appropriate watering holes.

"You gotta make sure it's safe for the troops," he told Odham, "so you gotta go there first."

[...]

"You'll have rejection. Everybody won't love you. Believe me, I know. It's nothing personal. It's just the way Washington works."

[...]

"I wanted to learn how interest groups influence government," said Jolana Mungengova, a PhD candidate from Boston University.

"Money," Cleland told her. "That's it. It's all about money, and it's out of control."

[...]

"Let me give you a quote from President Kennedy," Cleland told Jones. "He said, 'I'm an idealist with no illusions.' You'll begin to lose your illusions about things, but that doesn't mean you'll lose your ideals. That's part of life, but it doesn't mean you have to lose your ideals."
I am in awe of this man. I've got to take him to dinner. Somebody please get me his e-mail address.

Wow. Great article.

How do I get this guy alone?

To celebrate my wife's birthday, we went to the Heart concert last night at Wolf Trap. (For all the people who work in my office: Heart is a rock band.) We were on the lawn, so naturally it rained the whole time and we got soaked. But it was still a good show, and Ann Wilson can still belt out the high notes.

At one point, Ann and Nancy did a couple unplugged acoustic songs without the drums and electric guitar. Between the two songs, someone with an umbrella was passing on the sidewalk and paused for a moment, blocking the view. This prompted the guy next to us to yell at the top of his lungs:

"Move your fucking umbrella!"

"Down in front!"

"Move your fucking umbrella you dirty whore!"
And, you know, there wasn't a whole lot to see. They weren't even singing right then; they were just sitting on stools talking and holding their guitars. But the fact that a person with an umbrella was blocking the view apparently made her a dirty whore.

So anyway, this went on for about a minute, and I missed all of the sisters' explanation of what the lyrics to "Dog and Butterfly" mean. Which is, of course, something that has been plaguing me for decades.
Somebody should have called "shotgun" just to see how they would react

Funny post by Toby:
Don't sit on a high-risk Metrobus with a fucking survival kit on your lap. If we get bombed, the first thing I'm going to do is punch you in the face and steal your Slim Jims.
My wife has some funny stories about tourists riding Metrorail. One day, a guy obviously from out of town was waving his big wad of cash around, in full view for everyone to see.

"What am I doing carrying all this cash?" he asked, waving it around. "I've got to be crazy carrying THIS MUCH CASH into the city!"

I'd almost expect someone to mug him just on principle.

Living in Washington is kind of like living in the parking lot of Disneyland. I mean besides having the obvious qualities of being flat, filled with hot pavement, and completely without personality. You've got all these tourists driving their tour buses in, clogging up your neighborhood on their way to the attractions ("OK, everybody remember we parked in Van Buren"). Then we all get to endure their endless picture taking (even on the Metro!? Why!?), whiny children (this is not a good place to take kids in the summer), and general stupidity and standing in the way.

Joyyyyyyy.

7.02.2003

Defense wants book on sniper case blocked

Chief Moose: the big fat sell-out with the funny name.

Make that former Chief Moose. He resigned from the force in order to profit from his upcoming book, capitalizing on his celebrity status after appearing on TV multiple times during last year's sniper crisis (but failing to actually make any headway on the case).

Now, it looks like the Moose's new book might also jeopardize the murder trial of our favorite terrorist snipers. The book is scheduled to come out two weeks before the trial begins.

Mr. Moose's 336-page book is already on sale on Amazon.com for $16.77, where it is advertised as a "behind the scenes" look at "the most terrifying three weeks of any month in recent history."

"Now, a year after those horrific events, comes a book by the man whose courage, integrity, and tenacious dedication helped to finally crack the case," the ad reads.
URRRRRRRGHHHH. He clearly has no integrity, and the tip-off to the snipers' location when they were finally arrested fell into his big fucking lap. A truck driver called in the license plate of the snipers' car. A truck driver caught the snipers. Snipers who had been stopped earlier by police and released because they were looking for "a white car with white people."

And yet, Moose's fans continue to heap praise on him. Whatev.

Woman Charged With Dragging Dog Behind Car

Investigators say that on Saturday morning, a passer-by on a Great Falls street saw Oh dragging the Jack Russell terrier. The dog's leash, according to the witness, was attached to a car. Witnesses told police the driver stopped the car after about 500 feet, got out, unhooked the dog and left it on the side of the road before driving off.
You bitch.
(cont'd)

Now that $7,500 doesn't look so great, does it? For some of these schools, that wouldn't even cut tuition in half. Although, again, I have no idea how this program would work. These schools could conceivably pick up the tab for costs that go above the voucher money in an effort to promote the program. Oh, wait a minute:

Bush did not use the word "voucher," instead calling the tuition grants "scholarships."
So anyway, vouchers could be a very good thing for poor students, if it means they get a free ride to an expensive private school.

But I think it's bad for kids who get left behind in public schools. The theory is: a voucher system that allows for more school choice fosters more competition and forces the public schools to improve. But that theory seems to be rooted in the idea that a public school system operates like a business. It doesn't; public schools exist solely to educate children, not turn a profit or satisfy shareholders. The motivation in a public school system is supposed to be education, and that's it. The number of kids attending the school isn't supposed to matter in the classroom.

I could see how it might matter to school system administrators, whose jobs would presumably be on the line as more kids are pulled out of public schools. But does anybody think the administrators in the D.C. system will all of a sudden be motivated by competing with private schools for students?

Hello!? These are the same people who are too busy using city credit cards to make personal purchases at Best Buy to educate their students. They'll probably be happy to have fewer kids roaming the halls; it would mean fewer distractions from playing Unreal Tournament.

The D.C. school system is filled with corruption and incompetence from top to bottom; it seems to me the worst place to try to prove that competition will help public schools, simply because nobody seems to care enough to fix it in the first place. I suppose it's possible that pulling students out might finally convince them that the entire bureaucracy is flawed and needs to be reorganized and rethought, but why should it take subsidizing a private/religious school education to do it? Why aren't the people and politicians of D.C. motivated right now to overhaul such an obviously failed system? I just can't conceive that throwing vouchers into the mix and removing students is going to change any of that.

One of the reasons I'm skeptical of this plan is because of my own high school experience. I actually attended an Episcopalian private school from 7th grade through the middle of 9th grade. The tuition was high (I had a need-based scholarship), the campus was beautiful, and the facilities were pristine. And it was absolutely the worst experience of my life. The other students made my life miserable; the teachers ignored my pleas for help; my grades and my self-esteem dropped lower than they had ever been. In the one move of mine I am most proud of (so far this lifetime), I pulled myself out of that school and enrolled in a local public school, which was the college prep magnet in the poor part of town. The building was ancient; the floors hadn't been swept since the 1950s; equipment was often stolen out of the classrooms. But my grades and my outlook improved because I was around other kids who wanted to learn, and I was around teachers who were willing to give me individual attention when I needed it. Private school wasn't the answer for me; I actually went to a public school that got it right (and was ranked in the top three high schools in the country in a recent Newsweek article).

I think our main educational failing is that we spend too much education money on administrators, school boards, standardized tests, research, etc, and not enough on the classroom: teachers' salaries, books, computers, equipment, etc. We keep trying to find more ways to bureacratize and standardize the educational experience, and "prove" that our kids are learning at a certain rate, and in the process we ignore the actual student.

Learning can't be standardized; it's perhaps the most individualistic experience there is. I think teaching must be tailored to individual students as much as possible to be successful. Instead of conducting grand social and economic experiments on our kids (that means you, vouchers), we've got to focus more on the individual students' needs if we want to teach them properly. Let's get our kids to want to learn by paying more attention to their individual needs.

Voucherama

(It's the story BLOGGER DIDN'T WANT YOU TO SEE! Um, now in two bite-sized chunks.)

Wow, big news yesterday: President Bush spoke about school vouchers in the District. That's right: the President acknowledged that D.C. actually exists.

Ha ha, just kidding. Although I think this may be the first time Bush has even thought about D.C. affairs, let alone spoke there. The reason was to stump for private school vouchers, which it looks like the District might be experimenting with at some unspecified point in the future.

Obviously, there's a lot of debate about whether vouchers work, which I'm not going to go into here. You probably already know what the proponents and opponents think. Here's what Bush said:

He said the visit was intended to underscore his administration's commitment to more choices for parents in communities that lack enough good schools. "The District of Columbia needs to improve. Let me just put it bluntly," he said. "There are some great schools in the District, and there are some lousy schools in the District."
Ouch, burned by the prez. He speaks the truth; there's no debating that public schools in D.C. have some serious issues. The question is, are vouchers going to help?

Well, I think they'll definitely help the kids who use them. According to the article, "The plan Bush is now pushing would establish a $75 million national "choice incentive fund" from which $15 million would be used in the District to fund private school vouchers of up to $7,500 per student."

That's a pretty good amount of cash, and at first I thought it would certainly pay for a free ride at most local private schools. To satisfy my own morbid curiosity, I decided to look up what it costs to attend a private school in D.C. The first one I looked up made me groan:

Archbishop Carroll: $6,000 for Catholics, $6,250 for non-Catholics.

Uggghhwwwoooo boy. Does that mean that federal tax dollars could be used to subsidize a $250 "heathen" surcharge on students who happen to not be Catholic? That just opens a big can of worms; opponents already criticize the voucher idea as being a violation of the whole church-and-state-must-be-separate thing; a private Catholic school charging the taxpayers extra for sending "outsiders" there would add flames to that fire.

But still, even with all the fees and book costs and whatnot, $7,500 would cover a year of classes at that school. But it turns out that that's one of the few bargains in D.C. I looked up all the D.C. private schools I could find on the web, and most disclose their tuitions. Note that this is 2002-03 or 2003-04 tuition only, so no activity fees or book costs and the like are included. And these are just D.C. private schools; for all I know, the voucher program would allow kids to attend schools in Virginia in Maryland also.

Archbishop Carroll: $6,000 for Catholics, $6,250 for non-Catholics.

Capitol Heights Day School (K-8): $14,450-$16,750.

Georgetown Visitation Prep (girls): $13,100

Gonzaga: $10,150.

Sidwell Friends (K-12): $19,975-$20,975

Washington International School (K-12): $17,500-$19,670

Georgetown Day School (K-12): $17,425-$20,095

Rock Creek International School (K-8): $16,975

Maret School (K-12): $16,725-$19,850

National Cathedral School (girls 4-12): $20,225

British School of Washington: $13,400-$16,900

St. Patrick's Episcopal Day School: $16,150-$16,950

Parkmont School (6-12): $17,200

St. Anselm's Abbey School (6-12): $14,800-$15,100

National Presbyterian School (K-6): $14,945

Edmund Burke School (6-12): $20,500

Field School (7-12): $18,700 (in 2001-02)

Sheridan School (K-8): $16,555-$18,383

Center City Consortium (K-8): $3,100

Lowell School (K-6): $16,950

Emerson Preparatory School: $8,000

St. Albans (boys): $21,837
Um, wow. I had no idea it cost so much to attend private school in D.C. (Holy fuck. No wonder I can't afford to live here.)

(continued in next post)

Wednesday news roundup

So while I try to figure out what I wrote about vouchers, what other stupid stuff has been happening here? Let's find out.

Prince George's County (Md.) police having even more civil rights issues; they may have told a witness to lie in court.

The number of arson fires in D.C. and PG County is up to 20 as of this morning, including one death.

The National Zoo's gotten ahold of a pair of beautiful bald eagles. Considering the zoo's recent track record -- two red pandas died after ingesting rat poison, and a lion died from complications of anesthesia -- lets just say that if these birds weren't endangered before, they sure are now.

In a story that had local TV news directors salivating, 24 people were stranded on the "Two-Face" roller coaster at Six Flags in Largo. Fortunately for them, Harvey Dent's coin came up "good heads", and they made it down safely.

I can tell this isn't going to be my week

I got another parking ticket from the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, despite the complete lack of visitor parking last night, bringing my two-week total to $70. And, it appears that Blogger has eaten my big long post on school vouchers. I'll try to reconstruct it later.

Pppppfffffhhhhbleh. If I had one of those little "current mood" icons that a lot of blogs have, that's what it would say. Current mood: Pppppfffffhhhhbleh.

7.01.2003

I am so bumming

Oh man... Slate ran an article about the D.C. Metro Blog Map. The guy links to D.C. Blows, which hasn't been updated since March, and doesn't mention me.

That's just going to ruin my whole day. Ugghhh. My motivation is totally sapped now. It's going to be hard to find the hate today.

OK... inner strength, inner strength.

Here's a story about how 20 percent of the 12,000 kids who were registered for D.C. summer school didn't show up. Superintendant Chalmers... er, Vance... was pissed off:

At a news conference at Miner Elementary School in Northeast Washington, Vance urged parents who pre-registered their children to take them to school.

"Please bring your youngsters," he said.

[...]

"No doubt we will have to put some emergency measures into effect and call parents to ask, 'Where is your child?' And people aren't hired to be on the telephone calling parents about where their children are."
I guess that's... um... pretty stupid. Yeah. Stupid D.C. parents.

Ah, fuck, I've got nothing today. I know, I know, it happens to lots of guys. Go read some other blogs that are actually intelligent and don't rely so much on profanity. Come back tomorrow maybe.

6.30.2003

Off-topic comic relief

Part the first, from the New York Times:

Speaking at a public symposium, a member of Parliament, Seiichi Ota, recently made light of reports of gang rapes at a Tokyo university. "Boys who commit group rape are in good shape," Mr. Ota said. "I think they are rather normal. Whoops, I shouldn't have said that."
Part the second. My brother visited recently, and on the flight back home he was wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo of "28 Days Later", the British-made zombie flick that was recently released here. Said logo is stark white text over a stylized black "biohazard" symbol. A stewardess on the flight asked if it was the sequel to that Sandra Bullock movie.

When suburbanites attack

Calvert County's not unusual among Washington suburbs; former rural farmland, with zoning laws more suited for farmland still in place, that has been heavily developed into residential subdivisions over the past few years.

One family that moved there and opened a tree and landscaping nursery came under fire from one of those always level-headed neighborhood groups, which claimed that the permits for the nursery shouldn't have been approved. What has followed are accusations of equipment sabotage and a $2 million defamation lawsuit.

Self-important much, suburbanties? This isn't like someone coming in and trying to tear down Marvin Gaye's old house and replace it with a Wal-Mart. This is a battle to the death over a fucking nursery in the suburbs.

And ONLY BOTH WILL SURVIVE!

Contractors Allegedly Billed D.C. for TVs

You just can't find good help nowadays... that won't rob you blind... if you're not paying attention.

Contractors renovating city office space spent more than $60,000 for eight plasma televisions, only one of which has been accounted for, D.C. Council member Jim Graham revealed yesterday.

[...]

International Builders Inc., which is headed by Fernando "Fred" Villegas, listed in its files eight plasma televisions for $60,000 and Washington Wizards tickets costing $7,310. Graham said he doesn't know who used the Wizards tickets.
Well, this also explains why I can't afford Wizards tickets; I'm not stealing money from the city.

Who's More Rednecky?

Everyone's favorite game.

One of the reasons my wife was happy to leave Atlanta was because of all the surrounding rednecks and their less-than-enlightened social politics. Now that we live in Arlington, Va., I maintain that the surrounding areas here are as bad or worse (not just rural Virginia, but Northern Virginia as well). This Post article helps my position:

That's what Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) says he fears. "The apocalypse for society is contained in this decision," Marshall said.

He called the ruling "cultural suicide" and said the justices involved wear the "black robes of death."


"The most fundamental unit of society is the family -- husband, wife, children -- and when you attempt to parody that and make some new structure or some alternate structure, you cannot contain it; you have to have gay recognition," Marshall said.

Nevertheless, Marshall pledged to fight that outcome by opposing any furthering of gay rights in Virginia.

[...]

The state also is home to such leading national conservatives as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who both condemned Thursday's ruling.

The Republican-controlled state legislature has fought annual efforts by gay groups to gain rights, while making curbs on abortion a legislative priority. Conservative legislators say they are confident that their social proposals are in the mainstream of public opinion in Virginia.

Anti-sodomy laws date to the early 17th century, when Capt. John Smith and the first settlers set foot on the Jamestown peninsula.

[...]

State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) said he would fight any extension of gay rights. He added that "homosexuality is wrong." Cuccinelli said gay rights will be an immediate campaign issue.

All 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the ballot Nov. 4. Cuccinelli predicted that candidates will use the issue to let voters know where their values lie, much as they do with the issue of abortion.

"This will be a strong indicator on a variety of issues for some voters," he said.
But props to Gov. Warner, whose position is that the state shouldn't let such hot-button social issues get in the way of legislative work on schools, taxes, and other non-sexy legislative topics. At least he's got it right.

6.27.2003

Must escape

Two of the three clothes dryers in our apartment complex are broken. Rather than wait in line until midnight to do my laundry, I took my clothes to a laundromat. What fun it was to lug around a hamper full of clothes in 95-degree heat and smog-filled air. And also to sit around in a laundromat for an hour and half watching Spanish-language soap operas. Just an absolute fucking blast.

It sure would be nice to get away from the heat. Maybe hit the beach; Ocean City, Md. is the closest one, and I've never been there. (Partially because crossing the Chesapeake Bay toll bridge on a weekend apparently takes an hour.) Wonder what it's like.



Onnnn second thought... maybe I'll just stay home and spritz myself with water. Uggghhhhh. Summer blows.

6.26.2003

The bow tie must be cutting off circulation to his brain

D.C. has been after representation in Congress for decades. Literally decades, all this time without representation in the Senate and House. It's even on their license plates: "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION." (Way to go, guys. There's a great slogan for the tourism deparment.)

Anyway, Rep. Tom Davis from Virginia (a Republican, no less) is considering a plan to add two new seats to the House; one of them would be an extra seat for Maryland, and it would actually also encompass the District. The other seat would be in Utah, so they would probably be adding one Democrat and one Republican. Sounds like a good compromise, and it would put a representative in the House... that's a huge step towards fixing D.C.'s disenfranchisement. So, naturally, D.C. Mayor Tony Williams said...

No?!

"Should we be taking a step toward -- which I think it could potentially be -- retrosession into Maryland? That's a huge step I'm not willing to get on board with," Williams says.

"I am not ready to get on board being part of Maryland. No offense to Maryland. Love 'em dearly. They've been allies of ours but no."
Whaaaaaah?! It's a representative in Congress! D.C. has been fighting for this for 200 years... and you're going to say no just because it would group you with Maryland? Hello!? That's a good thing!

Of course, I don't think it would a bad idea for D.C. to join Maryland full-time, and get both state money and full representation. Shunning this opportunity seems like a gigantic mistake to me.

This whole situation is so weird... it's like those episodes of The Prisoner where Number 6 tries to escape, and you're all, "Hey, he might do it this time!" He makes his daring escape, and lands in London in the office of his old boss, but just as he's about to spill all the details of why he resigned, Number 6 figures out that he was still in the Village all along, and then Number 2 laughs at him. This is just like that.

On another note related to Democratic politics, Williams, who would be one of D.C.'s super delegates for the presidential election, says he's not ready yet to support the winner of of the first-in-the nation primary. Norton, who is another super delegate, has pledged to support whomever the winner is.

"You may get a candidate where, in the party politics down the road, the District could be marginalized," Williams said.
Wait... what does that mean? He would consider not casting his vote for whomever actually wins the election? He might pick someone the people of D.C. didn't actually vote for? I think that's what he is saying. Does that make any sense at all?

Oy. Not a good day for democracy in the District.