7.31.2003

Hail, to the... the WHAT? I... I can't say that.

Ahhh, I'm feeling frisky tonight. July is finally coming to an end, after what seemed like an eternity. In my world, that means it's very nearly football season.

And so it came to pass that it was time to take on the ultimate of all why.i.hate.dc topics: the Washington Redskins.

Many of you may not care about football. You may not have the foggiest idea who Dan Snyder or Steve Spurrier are; more power to you (and honestly, you're probably better off that way).

I, however, love football. I love the excitement and strategy; I love how the battle for field position is something like a metaphor for war. Football is a big part of my life.

But even if you don't like football as much as I do, it's important to familiarize yourself with the Redskins. The reason is that this pro football franchise epitomizes practically everything that's wrong with Washington.

The Redskins are one of the few constants in Washington over the past 70 years. They are the only remaining local pro sports team that was playing here before the '60s; longtime residents might have fond memories of their parents or grandparents taking them to a game. The team is immensely popular among the locals to a ridiculous extreme; the season ticket waiting list is literally decades long. So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that, over the years, Washington has impressed its own image onto the team, and that the team has become sort of a microcosm of the city.

I'm much too intimately familiar with the Redskins, and I have a number of Redskins topics I want to write about in the coming days as the season gears up. But first, let's start with the most obvious thing.

That name's gotta go.

This is the classic hall-of-fame debate in Washington: should the Redskins rename themselves? Is the team name too offensive to be acceptable, or is this a case of politically correct people being overly sensitive? Everybody's familiar with this one; I'm sure you've heard both sides of the argument a thousand times already.

"Change it! You wouldn't call a team the 'Kikes' or 'Slants!' (Also, apples are not like oranges!)"

"Don't change it! Don't pander to the liberal PC types! There's too much tradition behind the name! (Also, I'm a bigoted asshole!)"

Blah. I've heard both these arguments too many times to count. So here, tonight, on why.i.hate.dc, we will settle the matter once and for all.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

THEY'RE CALLED THE REDSKINS.

...

Hmm? Oh, I'm sorry, let me refine my argument.

THEY'RE CALLED THE REDSKINS. I mean, come the fuck ON. That is JUST FUCKING RIDICULOUS.

It should be obvious why that's ridiculous. If it's not, really? Then go away. Hit the close button on your browser right now. There's simply no way, at all, ever, that you can use the term "redskins" without having it be derogatory.

Here's an example. Let's say your friend is a gambler and is trying to drag you up to Foxwoods. He says:

"Hey Carl! Let's go to that Indian casino!"

"All right," you might think, "time to get my blackjack on." Now what if he had said:

"Hey Carl! Let's go to that redskin casino!"

All of a sudden, you're looking at your friend in a different light. Now his question is tinged with racism; he doesn't really trust those redskins who run that casino up thar.

(Wow, I just realized that the one Google result for "redskin casino" turned up a piece of R-rated Star Trek fan fiction. Be scared; be very ascared.)

Anyway, my point is: of course the name should be fucking changed. It should have been changed 20 years ago. Why hasn't it?

Well, money, of course. There's a lot of merchandising and licensing money to be made off the "Redskins" name (although that could change if this judge Does the Right Thing). And if there's one thing that should be evident about Washington, it's that money always trumps the "right thing to do". Always always always. That should be Lesson #1 about living in Washington.

Use your city-issued credit card to buy video games? Check. Take the NRA's lobbying money and foist a gun legalization bill on D.C. without the city's consent? But of course. Use your power as the world's largest environmental nonprofit to give yourself a cheap home loan and drill on sensitive land? In a heartbeat.

Ethics are completely fucking dead in this town. There's millions to be made off the name "Redskins"; therefore, the name stays. Period, end of story, end of debate. Money trumps all. That's... the D.C. way. And I fucking hate it.

Now, having said all this in as profane a matter as possible, you may be asking the question: am I disappointed in myself as a human being that, for the second straight year, I have purchased Redskins season tickets?

Yes. Yes I am.

Reader mail

Ahhh. [Sips lemonade] This is the life.

[Seagulls fly by]

I don't even have to do anything, thanks to Ariana.

[Attendant spritzes James with Evian]

Check it.

I just wanted to take a minute to let you know that I think your weblog is great. I just discovered it the other day (at work...I have very little to do) and my jaw practically dropped since I didn't think anyone else felt the same way my boyfriend and I feel. We moved here almost a year ago from Pittsburgh as young college grads expecting to find it to be a hip, exciting, metropolitan atmosphere. Instead we have found DC to be prohibitively expensive and/or extremely impoverished - no middle ground. Therefore, our only option was to move into the suburbs (Alexandria, namely) where there is little or no excitement and it's still absurdly expensive. I work for the government, which doesn't exactly pay market rate and my boyfriend has still been unable to find squat, so he works temp jobs. DC really bites. I can say that with confidence too, since I was just visiting friends in NYC two weeks ago. Rent may be a bitch there but at least there is some kind of justification for it - and at least there is some sort of a struggling, young middle class (as opposed to the majority of young DC being populated by snotty rich college kids or ultra yuppies).

Anyway - keep up the great work. It makes me laugh and grit my teeth at the same time!

P.S. - here are a couple of my "favorite" VA plates:
1. NGGAPLZ
2. 2MANNISH
3. I GOT DIS
Amen sister girl.

You know, when I started this blog, I basically thought it would just be me bitching to myself in a public forum. And while I've had a couple people say "Hey, I like it here!... but yeah, you're still right", all the reactions I've gotten have been very positive; nobody's risen up to fiercely defend Washington as a good place to live.

Granted, they'd have to send me e-mail, which takes more work than posting a comment or something (and they'd have to figure out how to take the [at] and [dot] out of the link; that's to thwart the spambots). But still, I'm not sensing a whole lot of civic pride going on here, certainly among the blog-reading community.

Anyway, in the spirit of Ariana's e-mail, let's just put this out there right now so that it gets picked up by Google, and anyone thinking of moving here and searching around will hopefully see it:

DO NOT MOVE TO WASHINGTON, D.C. IT REALLY FUCKING BLOWS. MOVING TO WASHINGTON, D.C. IS A BAD IDEA AND SHOULD BE SHUNNED LIKE JENNIFER LOVE-HEWITT'S SINGING CAREER. THANK YOU.

7.30.2003

INS1PID: Personalized Virginia license plates I have hated (part 5 in a series)

It's back! I've got a slew of stupid personalized Virginia license plates backlogged in the old Palm Pilot that I need to flush out. Check out the first four parts here.

These will give you some idea of what it's like to live in Virginia among boring white suburbanites who think that puns are the absolute highest form of humor. They really need to start charging more for these things to discourage the stupider ones.

L8-4-TEA
SOIT GOS (Billy Joel sucks COCK)
SCR PLRS (this was on a SUV, big surprise)
10S NEE1 (yes, that's "tennis anyone"... kill me now)
And, finally on an Audi S4: MY S4

I'm a lyrical gangster; murder up

Murder counter yesterday: 145. Today: 148. But at least the D.C. detectives are finally getting some witnesses, to some truly gruesome murders:

Two officers on "redeployment" -- a program that temporarily takes officers off desk jobs or specialized duties and puts them on street patrols -- saw someone walk up behind a man on a bicycle and shoot him twice in the head, police said.

[...]

Charging documents say that Andre L. Whitney, 33, a maintenance man at the nearby Golden Rule apartment complex, asked Gregory Watkins, 45, to repay $20. When Watkins said he did not have the money, Whitney got a baseball bat and beat him, the documents say.

[...]

[Officers] found Hicks trying to stuff a large duffel bag under an SUV, charging documents said. In the bag was the body of Kimberly Edwards, 20, of the 2400 block of Elvans Road SE.
EWWWW!

You guys rock

The Arlington County board is standing firm on its refusal to consider baseball here. There was a protest rally in favor of baseball in Arlington last night, and I wish I could have been there:

Ballpark fans sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" and unveiled a new mascot, which they dubbed the "NIMBY Chicken," a reference to the popular performer at baseball games and a dig at what they say is the not-in-my-backyard sentiment that they believe the county board gave in to with its stance.
OK, that is hilarious.

7.28.2003

Off-topic but funny

Bob Hope died today at age 100. This great website has a sound recording of the first time he died five years ago (mp3 format, 1.1 MB).

Pigsty: Be careful in D.C., part III

Chuck Ramsey fired two 911 call center employees whose negligence may have contributed to slow response time in a Dupont Circle fire last January that killed a man.

"I feel numb," Anderson said. "I guess I just never believed that they actually had the nerve to do this."
Yeah, losing your job for being indirectly responsible for a man's burning death is just not fair.

In her defense, Ramsey has refused to release the report on the fire public, which apparently casts some doubt on whether this was really a laziness problem or more of an equipment/telephone problem instead. Still, she sounds more upset about losing her job than the death, which is about par for D.C.

Meanwhile, over 20 percent of D.C. current police trainees failed their final exam. (Should you a. shoot first, b. ask questions later, c. hang out all day at the 7-11, or d. all of the above?)

Meanwhile some more, the reward for coming forward in a D.C. homicide investigation increased from $10,000 to $25,000, which the city hopes will convince more people to come forward, thereby helping out the city's miserable 51 percent closure rate on murders.

[Former homicide department commander W. Louis] Hennessy said he applauded yesterday's announcement. "It shows that now the city is beginning to put some value on these lives that, for years and years, nobody cared about," he said.
Riiiight, I'm gonna disagree. X gets the square. Ding.

If money really is the limiting factor in convincing people to come forward to help solve a murder investigation, that's just sad. It's pretty clear that fear of retribution and lack of police protection is the reason detectives get no witnesses... I doubt the extra money will make much difference.

Fuck the beltway

This weekend I was away on one of my patented biweekly summer vacations designed to get me the hell out of Washington. And it was fun; I went to Colorado Springs, which is beautiful country. The incredibly scenic Red Rock Amphitheater was a great place for a rave... errrrr, electronic music festival. (The first person who asks me if Jack Diamond was there gets a glow stick in the eye.)

What are the chances we could get something like that at Wolf Trap? Negative eight percent, you say? Hmmm.

Anyway, the trip was fun, but it didn't start out that way, thanks to our old friend the Washington beltway. For those who are unfamiliar with the beltway, count your fucking blessings right now. Also known as I-495, the beltway is a three-to-five lane highway encircles the Washington area, and is often congested and under construction. You can plan on sitting still for a good long while if you find yourself on the beltway during rush hour.

However, since my flight was leaving from Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 3:50 p.m. Friday, I figured on more of a normal-condition mid-afternoon beltway: a few trouble spots here and there, and maybe even a half an hour of delay due to unforseen accidents or congestion. That's why I left my office near Tysons Corner, which is at about the 10-o'clock position on the highway, at 1:20 p.m. With no traffic, that would put me at the airport parking lot at about 2:20, a good 90 minutes before departure. Even if a half hour delay cropped up on the roads, I would have plenty of time to get a boarding pass and get through security.

Ahh, but there was a fatal flaw in my plan: the beltway was not moving. At all. An accident at about 12:30 has backed traffic up, and the average speed going around the northwest turn of the beltway was about 5 mph. I turned on the radio and learned that the congestion started at the Georgia Avenue exit, at the 12-o'clock position. I need to get to about the 1-o'clock position for the I-95 exit toward the airport, so I figured I'd stick with it and grind my way through the traffic.

Things started to look bad an hour later when I still hadn't reached Georgia Avenue. It had taken me one full hour to travel about 14 miles, which I hadn't counted on at 1:30 on a Friday. Then, mercifully, I passed Georgia Avenue, and the traffic cleared up... only to stop dead again one minute later.

By this point, I was panicking, and needed to bail out to have any chance of catching my flight. I did so at U.S. 29 north, which travels up into Marlyand, hoping to cut over soon to I-95 and gun it toward the airport. At one point, a van nearly changed lanes into me; I laid on the horn, which caused him to swerve back. I gunned it ahead, but had to stop at the next light with the van behind me. The kids in the van laid on their horn for a good 10 seconds, apparently in retaliation. Then, after I cursed them out in the mirror, one of them tried to throw a tennis ball at my car (?), but missed badly to the left (from 5 feet away). The sad thing was, I was so filled with road rage that I probably would have been willing to throw down with them right in the street and get my ass kicked.

When I finally got to the airport at 3:30, sweaty and stressed, I dumped the car in hourly parking and raced to the check-in... but they wouldn't give me a boarding pass because takeoff was less than 30 minutes away (even though I had no luggage to check). I had to pay a $100 fee to change to a later flight. After that, I was in no mood to, for example, spend an hour waiting to get through the security checkpoint for the C Terminal. At which only two out of four metal detectors were open. For 300 people to get through. With little to no air conditioning in a tiny, claustrophobic space. So that's of course what happened.

Anyway, I don't really want to relive being stuck in traffic any more. Suffice to say, I now hate every other person in Washington who owns a car. Sorry y'all. And I really, really hate the ones who were in front of me Friday, for costing me $100. I also hate the airlines for charging up to twice as much to fly out of the more-convenient Reagan National and Dulles airports as the far-away BWI, which is indicative of the "luxury box" mentality that comes with living in Washington. I make a normal salary, and I've been trying not to spend what is sometimes an extra $150-$200 per ticket to fly out of National or Dulles.

But if I want to avoid the fucking beltway and all the human traffic at BWI, I'll have to pony up. Right now I'd rather stick an ice pick through my groin than have to set foot in that steaming turd of an airport again. Fortunately my next two trips are out of National, which I like. (They actually put a Metro station at an airport! What a fucking novel idea!)

In the meantime I can work on my plans to atmoize the beltway, preferably via the use of heavy nuclear weapons.

Be careful in D.C., part II

I'm back. Thanks to my brother for this link. Happy birthday, yo.

The chance of surviving a dire medical emergency in the USA is a matter of geography. If you collapse from cardiac arrest in Seattle, a 911 call likely will bring instant advice and fast-moving firefighters and paramedics.
Collapse in Washington, D.C., and -- as one EMS official suggests -- someone better call a cab for you. Seattle saves 45% of saveable victims...Washington, D.C., has no idea how many [saveable victims] it saves. The city estimates it saves 4% of cardiac arrests, but inconsistent record-keeping makes it impossible for Washington to account accurately for its most saveable victims.
It goes on to say that rivalries and infighting between firefighters and paramedics in Washington cause increased delays, which obviously costs lives. Absolutely terrifying.

7.25.2003

Be careful in D.C.

When you're in D.C., make sure you don't get mugged:

Kid beats elderly man, police let kid go
FOX5 reported that Columbia Heights is up in arms after two teenagers robbed and beat an elderly man at 14th and Harvard, NW, were caught by local security guards, positively ID'd by a witness, taken away by a police car, and then immediately released by the police a block from the scene. The attacker reportedly then returned to the scene of the crime to stare down the security guard who detained him and the woman who had positively ID'd him. The police say they are investigating what happened, but implied to FOX5 that they didn't have the right to arrest the kid.
Also, when you're in D.C., make sure you don't get sick:

A copy of the memo said that each year hospital inspectors typically investigate one to four incidents at each District hospital involving breakdowns in patient care. Greater Southeast had six incidents in 2001 and eight in 2002, the memo said, and it has had eight so far this year. The six deaths inspectors questioned included two involving infants, two that were the result of blood transfusion errors and one involving a man found dead on a gurney in the emergency room July 3 seven hours after arriving there.

i·ro·ny (n.):

Virginia is on its way to becoming the number one importer of out-of-state trash in the country.

Like we're not trashy enough as it is. Zing.

Catching up with the Times

Never let it be said I'm not fair. The Washington Times gets props for scooping the Post on Camp Fight Club, by only about 15 days.

The Times sports section also has a funny story about the Virginia baseball authority telling the Arlington County Board to take its letter and shove it. I wish I could attend the Virginians for Baseball protest rally on Tuesday, but I can't.

And, I was going to make fun of this girls softball league that doesn't keep score, but after reading the story I actually like the idea. Very well-written article.

However, I will reserve the right to make fun of Jen Waters, whose article on beach erosion includes eight straight paragraphs without a quote or attribution. Somebody take away that girl's encyclopedia, because I think she's just copying straight out of it.

Washington's other, crappier newspaper

All right Times, I gave you a week off to recover from running that forged letter. Time to take you to task again, I'm afraid.

This time, for an article headlined "Criticism of Iraq policy seen hurting U.S. troop morale." It apparently took three people to write this jingoistic article, in which several Republicans imply that opposing the Iraq troop effort puts you on Saddam's side. You're not on Saddam's side, ARE YOU?

Well, I guess I am, since I opposed the war in the first place. You can't be anti-war and anti-Saddam at the same time, right? I might as well go spit on Jessica Lynch.

Anyway, the important thing to note about this article, "Criticism of Iraq policy seen hurting U.S. troop morale," is that no troops are actually quoted as saying their morale is low. There is exactly one quote from an actual military person, relayed vicariously through a Republican Congressman:

"He looked me in the eye, with tubes coming out, and he simply said, 'Congressman, the only thing I worry about is that we will pull out early and we will not finish the job and it will mean all of the sacrifices we made over there were for nothing,' " the Indiana Republican recalled.
OK, huh? I don't recall anyone saying, "Don't finish the job in Iraq." It's more like, "There was no reason to rush into invading in the first place." And from the quote, this unnamed Marine doesn't appear to have low morale, or at least no lower than you ordinarily would have if tubes were sticking out of you.

All the reports on low morale I've seen have nothing to do with opposition to the war, and everything to do with the fact that the troops will have to stay in Iraq indefinitely, without seeing their families, all while getting killed by guerilla ambushes at a rate of about one per day. And they're pissed at Rumsfeld for jerking them around. (This is by the reporter who was later outed by the White House Press Office as being openly gay and openly Canadian.)

Maybe it's too much to ask to have the smallish Times actually interview troops in Iraq, but then why print this article in the first place? If you can't get any actual quotes from actual troops, then what's the point?

So was this one of those "stories" that was initiated not by public outcry, but by an editor? Not long ago the Times editors took it upon themselves to craft a story out of the shocking scandal that Metro employees get to ride Metro for free. Erik Wemple from the Washington City Paper summed it up nicely (scroll down to see the story):

[Times editors] sent reporter Jon Ward after Metro officials to ask the following question: Why aren't you revoking free fares for the 10,000-plus Metro employees? The paper's jihad against area transit workers led to some odd-sounding copy: "Metro officials have increased fees for parking and riding buses and subways to reduce a $48 million budget deficit, but will not discontinue such perks as free rides for its more than 10,000 employees..." read the June 24 piece.

Traditionally, newspapers write about such perks when they come under attack from public officials. In this case, the lone attacker was the Washington Times. "They brought [the issue] to me," says [Ward 1 Councilmember] Jim Graham, chair of Metro's board of directors. "I wasn't aware of it."
In fact, it wasn't really an issue; nobody else anywhere had a problem with the free rides. The Times even exaggerated the cost of the free rides via some poorly done calculations, estimating in the story that the perk cost Metro up to $18 million a year. The actual cost: $675,000. Wemple:

Ward assumed that all of Metro's employees take the train to and from work and pay the maximum fare. Perhaps those fumes from the New York Avenue overpass are seeping into the Washington Times HQ: Just 41 percent of trips into D.C.'s downtown core on weekday mornings come via Metro. No organization bigger than a vending kiosk has 100 percent subway usage.

A Metro source reports that Washington Times editors ordered up the story on the perk, an account confirmed by Metro Editor Carleton Bryant. "We don't know all the perks that Metro board members and workers receive. This is just one of the ones we were aware of, and so we just asked the question," he says.
Anyway, this strikes me as a similar situation; an editor probably said, "Hey, I'll bet we could find some people to say that U.S. troop morale is hurt by the war opposition," and sent these reporters on a mission to dig up some quotes. The problem is, it's not news, and yet it's played like a news story.

If the editorial board thinks that opposition hurts morale, then they should go ahead and write themselves an editorial. But inventing these news stories out of thin air is simply bad journalism. You're not here to make the news yourselves; you're here to report on it.

Unless it's about that awful public menace, Spider-Man. Then it's OK.

7.24.2003

Stupid news roundup

I don't even know where to start.

I guess I'll go boring first. The D.C. Juvenile Justice Agency chief resigned under pressure following a series of Post articles. Thus, following this common trend: 1) Authority figure fucks up at job. 2) Post writes four-part feature. 3) Fuck-up resigns. 4) Post prints self-congratulatory follow-up article.

Meanwhile, the District is going ahead with its commuter tax lawsuit. If the preliminary goings-on are any indication... should be hilarious.

D.C.'s also appears to be going ahead with vouchers, with Mayor Williams meeting behind closed doors with the Repblican Caucus to request funding. I haven't seen anyone address the fact that $7,500 generally won't get you enrolled in jack squat in D.C.

Why are there so many murders in the District? Apparently, because of PCP. Also known as wack, or angel dust. I disagree; the real problem is that people in Washington just don't seem to care whether other people live or die. Murder witnesses don't come forward; the investigators do a half-assed job (or worse) solving murders anyway; affluent Washington suburbanites would rather see all of the children in Southeast D.C. wallow in severe poverty and shitty schools before giving up a dime to a commuter tax. And, since there's really no way to make people care, the murder problem's not going away.

The corporate culture at McLean-based Freddie Mac apparently encouraged an environment in which it fudged its earnings. The only thing that would surprise me now is if there was a company in McLean/Tysons that didn't fudge its earnings at some point. (Oops, I work at a McLean-based company. Oh well, its probably crooked, too, for all I know.) There doesn't seem to much of a culture of honesty at any company in Washington, so it's kind of fun to see these guys go down in flames on a regular basis.

Yes, that goes for you too, AOL. Subscribers are down at the Dulles-based Internet provider, which, as you may recall, brought forth the ruination of the entire fucking Internet for anyone with more than 10 brain cells. AOL is under SEC investigation for... fudging its earnings, what a surprise... and the that seems to bringing down the stock prices for all of AOL-Time Warner. Schaden... fucking... freude. Now sell my Braves back to Ted Turner, AOL, and I might forgive you. (Probably not though.)

My representative in Congress, Jim Moran, introduced a regional transportation bill that will attempt to coordinate transportation decisions among D.C., Virginia and Maryland, which actually sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, I can't get my head around the fact that my Congressman hates Jews.

Oh, and we had a good old-fashioned cross burning in College Park, home of the University of Maryland. Which side of the Mason-Dixon line are y'all on, again?

So... much... hate...

Man, I had a metric ton of stuff I wanted to write about today, but then I had actual, real work fall into my lap at work. (Plus I'm busy creating my brother's birthday care package.) I did want to post one final thing about the big smelly flower, which is inexplicably more popular than Audrey II.

Robin Scheiner of Centreville kept trying to edge closer to the titan arum, letting her nose lead her. She scored the sour smell of success at last.

"Oh, James, James, James! You can smell it," Scheiner said to her 17-year-old son, as she grabbed him by the arm to draw him closer to the bright green base of the huge plant. "Okay, okay," he grimaced. His brother, Josh, 20, stood back and declared his opinion of the odor. "It smells like dead fish. It's terrible."

"Well, hello," his mother reminded him. "That's why we came. It's great! I wanted you to get the whole experience."
That had me cracking up. I feel bad for her kids. (This is also not unlike my childhood, if you replace "smelly giant flower" with "Oregon trail ruts".) Read about more insane(ly boring) flower fanatics here.

7.23.2003

Giant and smelly: Washington's official flower

Here are images of that giant flower over which every boring person within a 100-mile radius has their panties in a bunch. Hundreds of people are gathered to watch it bloom.

Oh, and as an extra added bonus: it apparently stinks to high heaven. Be sure to bring the kids.

I won't miss it

7.22.2003

RAAAAAAATS!

Rats are invading Washington, especially around the Potomac.

But it wasn't until a rat barked at his 4-year-old daughter that Joe Helfer got really concerned.

"[She] said it ruffed at her, like the sound a dog makes," said an anguished Helfer.
That's... incredibly disturbing.

Time to go hairless

Why is it that, nearly two years after moving here, I still haven't found a decent place to get a haircut?

I did have one good stylist who cut my hair regularly for a few months, but she moved to Canada (she was middle Eastern, so I don't blame her) and left me in the proverbial lurch.

Perhaps not coincidentally, she was also the only hairstylist I've had in Washington who spoke decent English. At the risk of sounding xenophobic or even Pat Buchanan-esque, I'm afraid the limiting factor here is the language barrier. The hairstylists in the Virginia suburbs seem to not speak English well at all; and, as I learned yesterday, "cut it down to half-an-inch" is apparently Korean for "make me look like that guy from Eraserhead."

(Hmm, this is certainly not my finest hour.)

Anyway, I'm tempted to just have them shave all my hair off next time, in an attempt to avoid looking like a moron for the next six weeks. It's not like I need a $30 haircut; I just want a decent short one that doesn't make me look stupid. Where can I go?

Not what I was hoping for

Fairfax County officials sadly took the high road yesterday by adopting a resolution opposing the proposed D.C. commuter tax, and calling for an apology from D.C. councildude Jack Evans, who (accurately) called Virginians "narrow-minded" and "backward".

Fairfax County stopped short of calling for a steel cage match with Evans on the National Mall in front of a pay-per-view audience, which is what I wanted.

Prince William County Board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, a lawyer who commutes to the District, has proposed a "Kcaj Snave Day" in honor of Mr. Evans, during which "enthusiastic taxpaying Virginian commuters" could walk backward into the District.
I guarantee you this guy thinks he's reeeeeeeal clever. He's probably one of those people who insists on playing "Scattergories" at parties and then gets wayyyyy too into it. Jackass.

And who are these "enthusiastic taxpaying Virginian commuters?" Are they enthusiastic about the taxpaying, or the commuting? Are they going to stop their SUVs when they get to the foot of the Teddy bridge, get out, and walk backwards into D.C.? (And then, perhaps, get carjacked?)

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.