Thanks for Reading!

I'm involved in a very exciting group blog about DC which will launch soon. Rest assured, you'll be the first to hear about it. Until then, I'll be suspending posting on this blog.

Restaurant Week Is Here!

Yes friends, Restaurant Week is upon us. This week, organized by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and the D.C. Tourist Bureau, gives area residents the opportunity to dine out at some of DC's most well known restaurants at a fixed cost. For this week, a fixed 3-course lunch at any establishment on the long list of participating restaurants is $20.04, and a 3-course dinner is $30.04. Reservations are suggested, and can be made online, or at the individual restaurant by phone.

> Restaurant Week Website
> Now might be a good time to check out local blog DCFoodies.com

Washington City Museum Struggling

The City Museum of Washington D.C. is facing a problem: nobody's coming. Attendance so far this year is 33,000, far less than the 100,000+ some thought possible. Just steps from the new convention center, the museum isn't lacking in location. Some are faulting conventional displays, or the $5 entrance fee:

"Many visitors said they felt disconnected and confused about the storytelling in the museum."

Camille Riggs Mosley, a consultant and member of the museum's board, says the repositioning should reflect that there are many Washingtons and many experiences to tell: "That is the challenge with everything we try to do. Nothing that is done in Washington serves all people. Washington is political, Washington is black, Washington is wealthy, Washington is emerging Hispanic. There is not only one Washington."
If Washington isn't your idea of fun, there's always the penny museum, about which the AP says: "Squished penny museum elongates fun"

> W. Post: "City Museum on Shaky Ground"
> City Museum of Washington D.C.


Outfoxed Screening

This week's Washington Post Style section "Names & Faces" column features this picture, taken at a special intern screening of Outfoxed at Visions earlier this week. The caption reads: "Capitol Hill interns, Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, left, and director Robert Greenwald watch the anti-Fox News film "Outfoxed" at Visions theater Wednesday." (Photo source)

In a shameless plug, I'd like to point out the third row up contains no interns who work on Capitol Hill, but instead interns at a variety of nonprofits. From the left, the row contains my friends Abby Clark, Libby Benton, Jenny Nathan, and Paul Spurgeon.

The DNC Convention

... Will be covered by just a few bloggers, including media, participants, and a number of others, not to mention an official blog.


Bookstore Faces Eviction

Sisterspace, a bookstore on U Street specializing in books for an by black women and an important neighborhood hub, may be evicted from its building as soon as today. Fortunately, an anonymous invester has offered to provide funds to the struggling bookstore, which has found itself priced out as the U street area has gentrified:

"We really need to spend resources to protect our traditional businesses who are faced with ever-rising rents in red-hot real estate markets," Mr. Graham said. "The city needs a commitment to maintaining commercial diversity as well as residential diversity."
U Street, for example, is going to look like Connecticut Avenue, which is fine for Connecticut Avenue, but "I want U Street to look like U Street," Mr. Graham said. ...
Longtime Washingtonians coming through the store said they think Sisterspace is symbolic of the "what is happening throughout the city," as once-neglected neighborhoods are being redeveloped and property prices are skyrocketing. They worry that black businesses and families are being driven out by gentrification.
"We deserve the right to buy this building and stay on U Street," said Ms. Williams. She stresses that their fight is not about rent but about legal machinations designed to displace Sisterspace.
Gentrification is an emotional as well as economic issue in the District. Indeed, incentives should be enacted that provide assistance to longtime residents and merchants who want to preserve and maintain their homes and their businesses if they so choose.
The bookstore is accepting donations on their website via paypal, and is planning a fundraiser for July 31.
> W. Times: "Help is on the way for beleaguered Sisterspace"

Also, two crabbers have caught an albino crab.


Our Fine City

The rich get richer, and the poor ... A recent study by a group called the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute concluded that the income gap between rich and poor in Washington D.C. was "wider than in any other major U.S. city."

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The income gap between rich and poor in Washington, D.C., is significantly wider than nearly every other large city in the United States, according to a report released on Thursday.

The study from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, a research group focused on issues impacting low- and middle-income people, said economic development in the capital benefited the top fifth of the city's population in the 1990s. It did little for the poor.

The average income of the richest 20 percent of Washington, D.C., households grew by 35.7 percent during the last decade, while the average income of the bottom 20 percent rose 3.3 percent, the report said.

The average income of the city's richest residents was almost 31 times higher, at $186,830, than that of the poorest, at $6,126, according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. ...

A major factor in DC's income gap is the presence of very wealthy people living inside Washington's boundaries, rather than in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia.

In fact, the capital's wealthy rank among the most well-off in any U.S. city. They are richer than their peers in all cities but San Francisco and San Jose, California, the report said. ...
> Reuters: "Wash DC's Rich-Poor Gap One of Widest in US--Study"
> Read the press release from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute

9-11 Highjackers Searched at Dulles

Video released today shows the 9-11 highjackers who took off on aircraft at Dulles Airport were subjected to additional scrutiny by security staff:

"(07.22.04) — Surveillance cameras at Dulles International Airport captured video of four of five September eleventh highjackers undergoing additional security checks before they boarded an ill-fated jetliner.

The video, was released by a law firm representing the families of some of the attacks victims shows some of the Middle Eastern men being checked by a screener holding a metal detector after they set off metal detectors while going through airport security. Another portion of the video shows a a screener hand checking the carry on luggage of another highjacker for traces of explosives before allowing him to board American Airlines Flight 77. The highjacker who is believed to have piloted the plane after it was taken over in flight was not stopped by the screeners.

The airliner slammed into the Pentagon on Nine-Eleven, killing 189 people, including 125 people at Defense Department headquarters." (Fox5)

Kerry Office Evacuated

After a brief scare this evening, it appears a white powder sent to the Kerry campaign HQ was not dangerous.

More Expos Talk

"The players now believe Washington is the favorite, with Northern Virginia looming as a compromise choice if Orioles owner Peter Angelos attempts to block Washington's bid. Either way, the players were told that the union is very confident this is, finally, their last season in Montreal." (From ESPN.com via Wonkette)

Capitol Hill Alley Bottles Analyzed

A letter writer to the Capitol Hill Newspaper Voice of the Hill reports back the brands and types of beverages he discovered in his alley:

" ... Several hours of scouring the alley behind the 1300 block of E Street SE one Saturday afternoon produced a small cache, a possible cross-section, of your typical alley drinker’s beverage(s) of choice. And the winner is: Hennessy Cognac. Nearly three gallons of the stuff. All empty bottles mind you.
Yes folks, non other than Hennessy, which their website describes this way: "But whether it is served in a traditional snifter glass by the fireside, as a long drink, on the rocks or in the most inventive cocktail, Hennessy is always associated with human warmth, refinement and seduction. It is the drink for special occasions."

Our intrepid good neighbor also discovered 9 brands of beer, including Bubba, Schlitz, and Steel Reserve, and also 7 brands of bottled water.

No SmarTrip Cards Until September

And by "shortage," they meant "we're out":

Metro is temporarily suspending sales of SmarTrip cards and permanently suspending late-night two-car trains.

Metro officials said Thursday they only have about 20,000 of the plastic SmarTrip cards left. Although supplies will be trickling in, they have decided to halt sales next Monday, and resume again in September when a stockpile is built up.

Board members criticized managers who didn't foresee the shortage--especially after requiring SmarTrip cards to pay for parking at Metro lots beginning last month. Drivers without a SmarTrip card will have to buy paper farecards for the exact amount of the parking fee. They'll hand them to one of 48 temporary workers Metro is hiring to collect them.

Officials said they didn't expect the big increase in tourism or the overwhelming demand from local residents. The cards are now accepted on most Metrobuses, adding to the demand. ... "
> AP: "Metro Temporarily Halts SmarTrip Card Sales" (WTOP)

Fuck the Vote?

Fed up with the "nonpartisan" corporate sheen of "Rock the Vote"? Then perhaps FTheVote.com is for you - a website that encourages you to "Do it in a swing state" (or "swinger state") with a conservative who will just agree to sign a pledge not to vote for George W. Bush and agree not to vote "in favor of preemptive war, diminishing freedoms at home, a ballooning deficit, environmental degradation, and the bilking of public schools."

Their logic? We liberals "look hotter, we dress hotter, our ideas are hotter, and we are infinitely hotter in the sack," and also "deep seated insecurity are common characteristics of almost all conservatives." Elaborate hoax? Publicity stunt? Serious? You decide. In other news, some conservatives are getting a bit worried about all those people seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 ...

For some serious "voter" websites also with liberal politics, check out Indyvoter.com and Punkvoter.com.

Metro To Dulles, and More on the Great SmarTrip Shortage

Too good to be true, right? Well, this time they sound serious:

"This was studied in the '60s. Studied in the '70s. Studied in the '80s," Warner said. "Today officially marks the beginning of rail to Dulles."
Warner said the state is committed to rail to Dulles. Supporters of a proposed Major League Baseball Stadium near Dulles Airport also tout the Metrorail extension in response to concerns that that a ballpark would create a traffic nightmare.
> AP: "Money for Metro Extension to Dulles Gets Approval"

And following up on the story I posted yesterday about the possible shortage of SmarTrip cards, Metro authorities trip over themselves in a lengthy press release offering a number of explanations for their popularity, citing everything from more card vending machines, more buses with SmarTrip readers, to a "a surprising pre-September 11th resurgence of tourists to the region." Do they mean to say a card that makes fiddling with cash to ride public trains or busses and eliminates the need for paper transfers is popular? Shocking.

Liberal Documentaries Everywhere

The Washington Post today has a story discussing a perceived leftward tendency in documentary filmmaking titled "Liberal Documentarians Are the Reel Majority." The story, while containing the usual quotes from Heritage and the guy making the anti-Michael Moore documentary, apparently skips around something I think worth noting: the recent glut of left leaning documentaries in general. The story suggests this here:

In the last year alone, there's been the Oscar-winning "Fog of War," in which former defense secretary Robert McNamara, one of the chief architects of America's military strategy in Vietnam, questions the disproportionate price of war; the Oscar-nominated "The Weather Underground," a sober but ultimately sympathetic look at the '60s radical leftist group; Sundance winner "Super Size Me," the anti-McDonald's film about fast-food eating; and "Fahrenheit 9/11," the first documentary to win the Cannes Film Festival's top prize.
Let's see, off the top of my head and roughly in reverse-chronological order, (most with websites worth visiting):

The Corporation
The Hunting of the President
Control Room
Fahrenheit 9-11
Super Size Me
The Fog of War
The Weather Underground

EDIT: "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election" (2003, but close enough)

Phew. If only every year were like this!

9-11 Commission Report Available for Purchase

Yes folks, we knew you were dying to get your hands on a copy! It will be released at 11:30 a.m. today (7/22) for purchase in person at the US Government Printing office Book Store at 71 North Capitol Street N.W. for $8.50, or order online or by fax or phone and pay another $4.75 for Priority Mail shipping (Total $13.25) According to a blurb on the website of WBAL, a spokesperson told the radio station there are 10,000 copies available for sale.

> WBAL: "9-11 Commission Report Goes on Sale"
> U.S. Government Printing Office 9-11 Report Page
> NYTimes: "9/11 Panel Is Said to Sharply Fault Role of Congress"

Decorated Call Boxes

This Saturday, officials will unveil special decorated call boxes in Mt. Pleasant - the start of a citywide program to "refurbish" abandoned fire and police call boxes through art. The event showcasing nine boxes will feature entertainment and refreshments, and, the organizers promise, an appearance by Council member Jim Graham. Here's the schedule, thanks to the artist's website:
11am: Dedication at Hobart and Mount Pleasant streets, NW
12pm: Walking tours begin at Hobart and Mount Pleasant Streets, NW.
12-6pm: Exhibit and refreshments following the tour, 3163 18th Street, NW

And a description of the project:

More than 35 neighborhood organizations are currently working on 414 call boxes as part of Cultural Tourism DC's Art on Call program. They have formed coalitions with residents, artists, and historians to refurbish their neighborhood's call boxes. Displaying a range of styles, the restored boxes will encourage residents and visitors to explore the city's distinctive neighborhoods and discover their history through art. Communities next in line to complete their Art on Call initiative include Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, and Brookland.

> More information from Cultural Tourism DC

Major RNC March Site Settled

United for Peace and Justice - a group trying to convince the city of New York to allow them to hold a massive rally in Central Park's great lawn - has settled their dispute, accepting a location on the western side of Manhattan suggested by the NYPD:

> AP: "Anti-War Group Agrees to NYC Protest Site"

Local Blog Announces Cross-City Pub Crawl

My friend the Washington Oculus has announced the first annual (my own speculation) "Great 90-30 Pub Crawl". In the spirit of the Oculus, the crawl will feature what I'm confident are a well-selected cross section of District watering holes in neighborhoods including Eastern Market, Glover Park, and Georgetown, utilizing in particular the 90 and 30 bus lines:

"Think of it as part-urban challenge and part-flashmob. Depending on who shows up, we'll walk into a bar, have a drink or two, and then in an instant, leave for the next stop. There are four stops, which means that each place will be enjoyed (or loathed) for approximately an hour. ...

The bars/clubs selected represent a broad range in what D.C. has to offer ... an Irish bar, an up-and-coming music lounge, an Upper Northwest twentysomething yuppie watering hole, and an under-the-Whitehurst Freeway joint where you can get into a fight with Marines on leave from Quantico if you so please. You will need $1.25 for the bus. Maps will be provided at stop No. 1. There are no prizes for finishing the route, just the satisfaction of knowing you've done something probably no sane person has ever completed."


Metro Update

Two things: Those annoying two-car trains could be officially history, and Metro is running short of SmarTrip cards:

WASHINGTON (AP) - SmarTrip cards are selling like hot cakes - and that could be a problem if you're looking to buy one.

With the cards now required to pay for parking at Metro lots, more people than ever are buying them, including tourists, who, in the past, wouldn't have bothered.

All that demand has created a shortage, and Metro expects to run out of SmarTrip cards before its lone supplier delivers more. So for now, the transit agency is stopping online sales of the cards, and ending promotions aimed at people who don't use the garages.

Metro says if they do run out, and you need to get out of the garage, buy a paper farecard for the amount of the parking fee and give it to the lot attendant.

10,000 SmarTrip cards are expected to arrive late this month, with another 62,000 by mid-August.
> WTOP: "Shortage of SmarTrip Cards Could Create Problem for Metro Riders"

The Hill's "Most Beautiful People" ...

... Has already been thoroughly dissected, emailed, and discussed. But that won't stop us from joining in on the fun:

> The Hill: "The 50 Most Beautiful"
> Swamp City: "Matchmaker Extraordinaire edition"
> Wonkette: "The Most Beautiful of All the Ugly People"

Yup, Cyanide Still Does the Trick

" ... Furlough had invited Vassiliev to his home in the afternoon of Jan. 3, 2003. The teenagers had been playing video games and watching a movie in Furlough's basement when he spiked Vassiliev's soft drink and offered it to him, Furlough told detectives. Shortly afterward, Vassiliev began having seizures and was taken to the hospital. He fell into a coma and died five days later. ...

During the trial, they had argued that Furlough's use of the antidepressant Effexor had clouded his thinking and that he was emotionally distraught and close to suicide at the time of the murder.

Kane rejected that request, siding with prosecutors, who said the killing was "calculated and deliberated in a diabolical manner." Prosecutors said that Furlough had planned Vassiliev's murder for months and that he felt slighted by his friend's failure to give him presents on his birthday and Christmas and threatened by Vassiliev's relationship with his girlfriend. ..."
> W. Post: "Md. Teen Gets Life For Poisoning Friend"

Also, young attendees to the Democratic Convention in Boston next week might be interested in ourconvention.com, a "youth guide to the convention." Attendees might also want to check out a handy guide to events posted by Wonkette: "Democratic convention: Where the Party Is" Finally, here's a handy list of people who will be blogging the convention.

> Also, WTOP: "Residents Want Tenleytown Fire Station Open"


Conservative Ketchup War

"Is W Ketchup a conservative or nonpartisan condiment? Are you (Zachary) and all of your investors Republicans? If not, isn't it disingenuous to market to conservatives and imply that you share their views?" inquired Spero.
Conservatives upset that John Kerry's wife is Teresa Heinz Kerry, an heiress to the Heinz company fortune through her first marriage, have started their own ketchup line. The Heinz company quickly pointed out that "Mrs. Heinz Kerry is not involved in the Heinz Company ... All of the Heinz family interest in the Heinz Company accounts for less than 4 percent of our stock." However, conservative condiment entrepreneurs decided any percentage was too much.

The first company to offer a politically-themed alternative was W Ketchup, who posit "You don't support democrats. Why should your ketchup?" (The "W" is for George Washington) However, it didn't take long for upstart Bush Country Ketchup to allege the founder of W Ketchup wasn't sufficiently conservative, criticizing W Ketchup Founder Dan Oliver for telling a news organization he wanted the Ketchup to be "Republican but not partisan, having a positive message all Americans can agree on." Apparently, that's enough to suggest there are "Donkeys running in W Ketchup's so-called herd of Elephants." In the midst of all this madness, didn't it occur to anyone a simple generic brand would be just as effective if your goal was to avoid Heinz?

> "First Rounds Fired in Conservative 'Ketchup War'"
> Scripps-Howard: "Bush Supporters Can Squirt W Ketchup on Their Fries Instead of Heinz"

Intern Screening of OutFoxed

The Center for American Progress is sponsoring a free intern screening of the new documentary "OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" tomorrow at Visions Cinema and Bistro at 7 pm. The screening will be proceeded by a talk by David Brock, author of Blinded by the Right and The Republican Noise Machine. Attendees are requested to RSVP online or by phone. The CAR seems to be milking the movie for all its political mileage, as you may remember they released this week a scathing report attacking Rupert Murdoch.

> RSVP Online & More info about the event
> OUTFOXED website

"The Corporation"

Like the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and places, the corporation is today’s dominant institution. But history humbles dominant institutions. All have been crushed, belittled or absorbed into some new order. The corporation is unlikely to be the first to defy history. (From the Film's PR)

The political documentary, The Corporation opened this week at the E Street Cinema, showing today at 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm. Based on a book by Joel Bakan titled "The Corporation : The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power" the film examines the history and status of the modern corporation, hoping to "examine the far-reaching repercussions of the corporation’s increasing preeminence." This from a review posted on DC Indymedia:

"Overall, it is an adequate piece of work which will open some minds and it will provide a decent stepping stone to more histories of human progress, tyranny and activism for those with their mind already opened. Just keep in mind that there is more background information and context not shown relevant to many of the very valid and factual points in this film. Many of the experts presented facts -- real information about the history and behavior of corporations -- and have their own opinions and further evaluation that are presented more comprehensively in their own work, which does not as perfectly interlock as this film might suggest these different opinions and opinion holders do."
Maybe it's just me, but doesn't all of this sound terribly familiar? Perhaps Borders will be bundling the book with "Man in the Grey Flannel Suit," and "Organization Man," and throw in some C. Wright Mills to boot ...

No Water for Dupont

As if lead weren't enough, now they're turning it off completely:
Water Work Will Reduce Pressure in DuPont Circle Area

WASHINGTON - If you live in the DuPont Circle area, you may want to hop into an early shower.

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority plans to shut down a portion of a 20-inch water main along 17th Street as part of a major repair operation.

People living along New Hampshire Avenue between 17th and T Streets, Northwest could be without water or have low water pressure through late Tuesday afternoon.

The work, scheduled to start at 8 a.m., could last nine hours. (WTOP, image NBC4)

Also, religious group is protesting what they call a "deliberate attempt to remove any reference to God" at the new WWII memorial, planning to stage a 10-person protest today.

On the November Election

Well, at least house legislators don't think a delayed election is a good idea:

A congressional resolution by Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, says "the actions of terrorists will never cause the date of any presidential election to be postponed" and "no single individual or agency should be given the authority to postpone the date of a presidential election."

The resolution is supported by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and more than 60 other lawmakers. Ney said he would introduce it on Tuesday.

> WTOP: "House Leaders Want No Election Postponents"


Krugman to Speak Wednesday

NY Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman will read from his book The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century this Wednesday at 1pm in the Mumford room of the Library of Congress' James Madison Building.

> More info from the LOC.
> From the Washingtonian calendar

Monsters in the Suburbs

Some residents of Glyndon County, Maryland are rather nonplussed by an odd looking animal that has chosen to make their neighborhood home. They're calling it a hyote, combining hyena and coyote. I'm sure that would be a lovable combination.

"More than a month after the first sighting, the creature has become a neighborhood regular and showing up often.

Kim Carlsen: "It comes to our house. It's been up in the woods for a while and it comes up through the bottom of our yard and eats our cat food."

Despite the fact it's lurking in these woods and no one knows when or where it will come out, no one here seems afraid of it.

> CH 4: "Mystery Creature Lurks In Central Maryland"

Meanwhile, in Virginia a full-grown black bear was shot after sauntering into a hospital.

"Virginia is for Haters"

In response to the Virginia legislature passing a law last April banning "all contracts" between same-sex couples, some activists have taken issue with the slogan "Virginia is for Lovers" used to attract tourists to Virginia, launching VirginiaIsForHaters.org. The website asks the public to "join forward-thinking Americans across the country in boycotting Virginia companies and their products and services" in order to "prove that when a U.S. state attacks the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian citizens, gays and lesbians know how to fight back. This from a story in the Washington Blade about the boycott:

"Albert Leatherman, a law student at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, said he found otherwise when he e-mailed several owners of bed and breakfasts in colonial Williamsburg to notify them of his decision not to vacation in Virginia. One B&B owner in particular sent a response approving of the boycott, Leatherman said.

“We in Virginia could not be happier if you and all your homosexual militants boycott this wonderful state,” wrote Brad Hirz, the owner of the Liberty Rose Inn in Williamsburg, according to a copy of an e-mail exchange provided by Leatherman.

“You know what that means, there won’t be any of you in this state! What is the downside here? There isn’t! Boycott away,” Hirz said in the exchange. “It will be a wonderful day when a child can grow up in a free country, learn the goodness of this world and never know the existence of such a horrid thing as a homosexual.”

Hirz said he did not recall sending the e-mail, and when a copy of the exchange was shown to him, he declined further comment on the record.

A "Crime Emergency"?

In an effort to curb a recent rash of auto thefts, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey will announce a "crime emergency plan" tomorrow which will mean greater flexibility scheduling officers, and perhaps more undercover operations.

Police commanders said the emergency scheduling policy will allow them to conduct more undercover operations.

City officials said the changes are part of a broader initiative to combat juvenile car theft that Ramsey and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) will announce tonight at a community forum in Northeast Washington.

Last year, as the District battled a flare-up in crime, Ramsey declared a crime emergency and announced changes in scheduling policy that affected the entire force. Today's announcement comes as the city is on track this year to record the fewest homicides in nearly two decades, and crime overall is down about 12 percent.

High-ranking police officials said Ramsey wanted to jump on the auto theft problem before it got out of hand.

"This is a scaled-down version of last year," said a high-ranking police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to preempt the mayor or Ramsey. "We don't want to get to the point where we start to lose momentum. We want to do everything we can to deal with this issue. ...
> W. Post: "Ramsey to Unveil Crime Emergency Plan"

Also, District activists are challenging the validity of signatures submitted supporting the casino plan (which Republican legislators said they would block even if it passed a referendum this fall). Here's what local activists with the organization DC Watch alleged in an email to subscribers:
"Going through the slots petition sheets simply as paper evidence, the fraud is so blatant and transparent that it can be funny. A single circulator claims to have gathered six hundred signatures in one day -- an average of one every minute in a ten-hour day, with no breaks. Anyone who has ever gathered petition signatures smiles at that one; it's better than running the one-minute mile. A circulator credited with a dozen petition sheets signs them in four different handwritings. A circulator is listed at two different addresses on sheets signed on the same day. On dozens of petitions, the original circulators' names and address have simply been crossed out, and different names and address have been substituted."
> See also W. Times: "Casino foes to contest petitions"


Going to the RNC Convention?

Here's a list of protests that have received permits from the NYPD - if you are looking to protest without risking arrest or personal danger, a permitted event put on by a large organization seems like a good bet.

"The Police Department has issued the following permits for protests and demonstrations during the week of the Republican National Convention:

Christian Defense Coalition, Aug. 28, Seventh Avenue across from Madison Square Garden, for a prayer vigil.

Planned Parenthood, Aug. 28, march from Cadman Plaza across Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall Park for a demonstration.

Middle East Peace Coalition, Aug. 28, Union Square, southeast triangle, for a demonstration.

Code Pink Women for Peace, Aug. 29, Riverside Park, Eleanor Roosevelt Corner, for a rally.

Poor People's Economic Human Rights, Aug. 30, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, for a rally.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, Aug. 31, Union Square Park, North Plaza, for demonstration.

People for the American Way, Aug. 31, Central Park Bandshell, for a reading of the U.S. Constitution.

New York Central Labor Council, Sept. 1, Eighth Avenue and West 31st Street, for a rally.

"The Line," Sept. 1, for individuals from a coalition of arts and labor organizations to stand along Broadway from Wall Street to West 31st Street holding mock pink slips.

Activist Ellen Freudenheim, Sept. 1, Union Square Park, South Plaza, for an anti-gun-violence display. (Newsday)


Our Healthy Media

The Center for American Progress (the newly-founded liberal think tank) wants you to know: "Who is Rupert Murdoch?" Their accusations range from "war monger," "neoconservative", "oil imperialist," to "apologist for dictatorships," wrapping it up with a section titled "Shady Wheeler-Dealer". Good heavens!

In other news: after the sale of Riggs bank to PNC, expect the Riggs name to disappear forever.

Profiling as Policy

The FBI interviews of Arabs and Muslims are back, this time again including some in the DC area:

Those being sought for interviews appear to represent a broad spectrum. Attorneys and activists said they had heard from students, high-tech professionals, Muslim leaders and others who had been contacted. Most were immigrants, but at least one African American Muslim and some U.S.-born residents were also included. ....

Some activists said that Muslims and Arabs were nervous about responding to the FBI, in part because thousands of immigrants wound up being deported after being contacted in earlier phases of the government's anti-terrorism campaign. Several people in the Washington area have told FBI officers that they will meet with them only if their attorney is present.

Ghafoor said he was happy to talk to the FBI. But he was concerned that they were going to people's workplaces.

"I said, 'Hey, some people lose their jobs when the FBI shows up at their offices,' " he said. ...

Alamoodi said the questions included whether he knew anyone who had recently returned from Pakistan, anyone who had shown interest in a government building or agency or anyone who had shown extreme hostility toward Americans.

"The questions were just ridiculous," he said. "I said, 'You guys really think you're going to get anywhere with these kind of questions?' "

Alamoodi said he was puzzled about why he was selected for an interview.

"I don't go to the mosque that often," he said, "unless they have free food."
> W. Post: "Interviews Of Muslims To Broaden"

ALSO: George Washington University will be providing Napster subscriptions to its 7,100 on-campus students next year to slow online theft. The effort is largely bankrolled by an anonymous donor.

Local Art and the Media

After putting up "well over 100 shows" in Washington, local blog DC Art News has some observations about the local media:

(i) A Washington, DC review has practically zero effect on gallery sales. ...

(ii) A Washington, DC review has very small effect on increasing traffic to the gallery. ... a mention on the Post's Weekend section in the first page "Our Picks" column drives more traffic (in fact exponentially higher) than any other media mention anywhere. Also of interest, a little mini-review or mention in the Post's freebie newspaper (the Express) will also bring in more people to the gallery than a proper review in the Post! ...

(iii) From a purely professional and artistic perspective, a review in the local press can have a huge impact on an artist's development and career.


Did somebody say oil?

The Center for Public Integrity, an investigative nonprofit founded by former 60 Minutes Producer Charles Lewis, released yesterday a special investigation they're calling "The Politics of Oil". Among the findings of the report are that oil is a big business (shocking!), they give lots of money to politics (gasp!), and Dick Cheney is just a sketchy as we have long suspected (no!). They also write about some 191 trips legislators enjoyed at the expense of the oil industry, which included trips to Hong Kong, London, Vail, NASCAR Races, and something called the "Wildcatter's Ball". Who knew!

Free Movies, Outside

If you like movies shown outside in front of hordes of other people, Washington DC has plenty to offer this summer. I've heard of no less than three separate film festivals, all easily accessible by Metro.

For location, you can't beat the Screen on the Green, the series which takes place on the Nation Mall just west of the Washington Monument. Although that series has already begun, there's plenty of good stuff left:

July 19 - All the President's Men (1976)
July 26 - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
August 2 - Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
August 9 - The Thin Man (1934)
August 16 - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Slightly harder to get to (just a short bus ride from the Vienna Metro station) is the family-oriented Cox Movies Under the Moon, which might interest urbanites young at heart. The organizers gush over their planning:

"... nine evenings of free family fun including dinner from area restaurants & fresh popcorn. The films will be projected using state-of-the-art digital projection on a giant 40-foot by 20-foot screen with a Dolby surround sound system similar to those in movie theaters. The event is free, and proceeds from on-site food sales goes to INOVA Fairfax Hospital for Children and Special Love/Camp Fantastic. Restaurants open at 6:30pm, movie starts at 8:30pm. Free admission and ample Free parking.George Mason University's Robinson Football Field,Fairfax,. 301.816.6953.
Here's the schedule:
July 16 - Spy Kids 3D: Game Over 3D (Free 3-D glasses for first 7,500 attendees) PG-13
July 17 - Seabiscuit PG-13
July 18 - Jurassic Park PG-13
July 19 - Casablanca Unrated
July 20 - MIB PG
July 21 - Wizard of Oz G
July 22 - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King PG-13
July 23 - Ghostbusters PG
July 24 - Spiderman PG-13

And directions:
Take the CUE Bus (any of the routes stop at GMU). The CUE Bus is $.25 with a valid GMU identification card and $.50 per person otherwise. If traveling by car, exit the Vienna Metro on Nutley Avenue South (243). Follow Nutley to Route 29 and turn right. At Route 50 (Arlington Blvd.), turn right. Stay on Route 50 to Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and turn left. Follow Route 123 through the City of Fairfax to University Drive, then turn left. Take your first right at Occoquan RIver Lane. Turn right at the stop sign onto Patriot Circle. At the pond, bear left to stay on Patriot Circle. Take your first left on Mason Pond Drive to the Parking Deck, the last building on your right. An information kiosk is located outside the third level of the deck to help navigate the campus.
Then there's the Comcast Outdoor Film Festival held "just steps" from the Grovsenor-Strathmore Metro Station. The food starts at 6:30, the movies at 8:30 PM. Here's their schedule:

August 15 - South of Music
August 16 - Lord of the Rings
August 17 - E.T.
August 18 - Jurassic Park
August 19 - Willy Wonka
August 20 - Vertigo
August 21 - Spiderman
August 22 - My Big Fat Greek Wedding
August 23 - Titanic
August 24 - Harry Potter II: The Chamber of Secrets

And directions: The Comcast Outdoor Film Festival for NIH Charities is looking forward to its third year on the great lawn between Strathmore Hall and the American Speech Healing-Language Association in North Bethesda, MD. The address is 10701 Rockville Pike, 1/2 mile north of the Beltway (Exit 34) and 1/2 mile south of White Flint.

It is easy to take Metro! The Grovsenor-Strathmore Metro is a few short steps from the event.

A Uniter, Not a Divider

President Bush has declined to speak at the national convention of the NAACP this year, making him the "first president since Warren G. Harding not to meet with the group while in office," according to the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

[The NAACP's Julian] Bond has accused Republicans of "playing the race card in election after election." He said they have "appealed to that dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality," and "preach racial neutrality and they practice racial division." (W. Post)

Meanwhile, Kerry was happy to speak, although eliciting a lukewarm reception:
"... In Philadelphia, despite Kerry's claim, not everyone was feeling the love. "It may make a difference that he is paying us attention now, but sometimes it bugs me to be targeted at such a late date," said Alice Jeffery, a retired middle school teacher from Memphis. Still, she called Kerry the "lesser of two evils."

But Abraham Mencer, 75, a retired Air Force major from Willingboro, N.J., said, "I don't see how you can criticize him when you look at the other choice." That sentiment was echoed by many others there who gave lukewarm approval of Kerry but lambasted Bush for his absence. "Showing up is a big thing for us," said Marsha Aiken, 52, of New York. "He could have just sat back at home, knowing that for us he is the better candidate."
Both Kerry and Bush will speak at the National Urban League Convention in Detroit, schedule to run July 21 through July 25.

Blogger Crime

Popular DC blogger Swamp City was ticketed yesterday under the District's new law requiring drivers use a hands-free device while talking on a cell phone: "I got pulled over at 1A while trying to park my friend's car last night. I was talking on my cellphone. There was NO ONE else on the street and I was going 2 miles an hour while not finding a parking space anywhere. I got a "distracted driver" warning and another one for not wearing my seatbelt. Really, I'm a menace to society."

The Friendly Skies

Inaccurate information from a Southwest Airlines flight coming to Baltimore Washington Airport yesterday meant emergency officials feared they have a large-scale medical emergency on their hands. Although the flight was met by "a half-dozen" ambulances, and was boarded at BWI by emergency professionals wearing HAZMAT containments suits, only one passanger turned out to be sick. It turned out the emergency was caused when one women, who boarded the plane sick, vomited, and people around her experienced what a Southwest spokesman described as "sympathy nausea."

"More than a half-dozen ambulances were sent to the airport, where the plane landed about 10:25 p.m., about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Personnel in containment suits, designed to protect against hazardous environments, were the first to board the plane, authorities said.

Amid the flurry of activity sparked by the first reports from the plane, those who responded included a hazardous materials team, two paramedic units and a medical task force. ...

Of the four who reported symptoms after the Southwest Airlines jetliner from Houston landed, one woman was taken to a hospital, where her condition was described as non-life-threatening. The other three declined hospitalization.

> W. Post: "4 Sickened on Flight From Houston to BWI"

NLRB Ruling Slows Graduate Student Unions

In a major setback for graduate students trying to form unions at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania, the National Labor Relations Board has reversed a 2000 ruling and ruled that graduate students at private universities are students, not workers. Although the decision does not affect public universities, it makes the future of a number of organizing efforts currently underway uncertain.

> AP: "Board Overturns TAs' Union Membership"


Craigslist Fun

Is this what they mean by the term "postfeminism"? From CraigslistDC, a group of "mid-20s professionals" who live in the Dupont Circle area are looking for a "cute cocktail waitress" to serve them beverages during weekly poker games for $20 an hour. They promise "there's nothing sleazy involved here," but "Good dressers, perky attitudes, and killer smiles will have the inside track." Right.

The End of Cheap Crabcakes?

The AP is reporting that nutrient-rich runoff from sewage and fertilizers is causing toxic conditions for fish and crabs in the Chesapeake Bay:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Nutrient-borne pollution is depleting oxygen in Virginia's major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay, making it hard for fish, crabs and oysters to survive, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says.

Jeff Corbin, senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said he fears a repeat of last year's "dead zone," where oxygen-starved water covered 40 percent of the bay, from Baltimore to the mouth of the York River.

"We're on track to having just about as bad a dead zone problem this year," Corbin said. "That we see these conditions so early in the summer and so far up Virginia rivers is truly alarming."

Last week, the foundation found a large "mahogany tide" of brown algae several hundred yards long in the lower James River. Such blooms are known to kill oysters and other shellfish by clogging their gills and producing toxins that kill their young.

Charles Landon, a Gloucester County waterman who crabs in the York River, Ware and Severn rivers, told the Daily Press of Newport News that his catches have been rotten so far this year. "We haven't had this kind of trouble this bad before," he said.
> AP: "Pollution Chokes Off Oxygen in Va. Bay Tributaries"

Free Art Gallery Tour Tonight

DC's Cultural Development Corporation's "3rd 3rsday" program - a free artist-guided tour of art galleries in the 7th street arts district - is tonight at 6:30 pm. The tour departs from the Goethe-Institut (at 812 7th St. NW). The tour also includes a quick trip to Starbuck's, but not for the frappuchinos they've been advertising all around town:

STARBUCKS (800 7th) — Abena Disroe hosts 3rd 3rsday PoetryFest featuring special guest FRENCHIE, who recently appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam. Frenchie, a published poet, will discuss "The Business of Poetry." Catch Hip Hop Poetry Fest poets Wednesday, July 14th, 12:00 midnight on 96.3 WHUR’s SPOKEN WORD at Joe’s Place, the city’s number one poetry program, hosted by Joe Gorham. 3rd 3rsday PoetryFest would like to invite area poets who are interested in performing to call 202.328.3564 or send email to deshopoetry at aol.com.

This stop also sounded interesting:
BEAD MUSEUM (400 7th, Tel. 202.624.4500, www.beadmuseumdc.org) — Join BSGW member and artist Lisa Raye Garlock in making wire sculptures to decorate with materials and beads for a display in our corner window. Participants will be acknowledged, and can pick-up their artwork when the display comes down. Supply charge: $3. On exhibit: Naga Tribal Adornment: Signatures of Status and Self, as well as A Bead Timeline: From Prehistory to the Present, with beads dating from 10,000 BCE to the present.

Postmodern Urban Economic Development

Gothamist reports today that NYC will be graced with large, painted apples as part of that city's "painted objects left around town" program, making that city a decidedly late joiner in the national phenomenon. (Even my hometown of Portland, Maine (pop 62K) had a program of painted lighthouses a year ago)

DC residents will by now be intimately familiar with this type of thing, having already enjoyed 200 elephants and donkeys around town in 2002 as part of the "Party Animals DC" program which simultaneously reinforced DC's reputation as having a rich cultural life outside of politics, and our pluralistic, multi-party democracy. (Perhaps the Green Party just didn't have a cute animal?)

Currently, District residents are experiencing the city's "Pandamania" program, whose website features a gallery of the 150 Pandas distributed around town. Some of my favorites include Panda L'Enfant, Tourist Panda, and, of course, World Wide Panda.

There are of course some weaker ones: a metro-themed bear I spotted near the DC Public Library seemed hastily constructed. A friend of mine told me she enjoyed the food-teamed bears, including Panda Melon, and Chocolate Dipped Strawbeary, but I thought those presented the viewer a disconcerting set of questions, such as: "What do Pandas taste like?" and "How could they make a strawberry into the shape of a Panda, anyway?"

ALSO: The AP reports that Metro is investigating the cause of yesterday's late afternoon ceiling collapse at Farragut North, although they took the opportunity to remind everyone that the "Transit agency needs more than $1 billion to refurbish aging stations, and replace trains and equipment, officials say."


DC Council Approves Financing for Corcoran Addition

The DC Council has approved the $40 M Tax Increment Financing plan to fund the massive new addition to the Corcoran Gallery designed by Frank Gehry. The news means the Corcoran is one step closer to a scheduled 2006 groundbreaking, having raised $106 M for the renovation and expansion. (Nearly one-third was pledged by AOL executives in 2001)

Local blog DC Art News reports the news, quipping "So Washington's first Origami building will soon be a reality. Now let's begin to hear the complaining and bitching begin." Corcoran officials strike a different tone in their press release: "I believe the breathtaking Gehry wing will number among the Corcoran's most glorious achievements and promises to become one of Washington's dramatic visual icons. We will now be able to contribute even more effectively to the vision we all share for our city as one of the world's greatest cultural destinations." Gehry, one of the most famous living architects, is perhaps best known for his 1997 Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

> See Corcoran New Wing Website
> See Corcoran Press Release

The Sky Is Falling ... In the Metro At Least

Perhaps my friend and former transit safety professional the Oculus can help explain this mysterious mishap:

WASHINGTON (AP) - A frightening incident at Metro's Farragut North station this afternoon, where a 20' X 20' chunk of the ceiling came tumbling down.

An Associated Press reporter who happened to be there at the time says the metal just missed several people, but that it does not appear anyone was hurt. She describes it as sounding like an explosion.

This happened between the escalators and the farecard machines at the entrance on the southwest corner of Connecticut Avenue and "L" Street, Northwest. That entrance is now closed.

The other parts of the Red Line station remain open, including two other entrances (NE corner Connecticut Ave. & K St., NE corner Connecticut Ave. & L St.)

Metro is still investigating what caused the collapse." WTOP")

Metro's Blue Line Extension

WMATA announced yesterday that they have "energized" the third rail of the new extension on the blue line. In the press release WMATA notes:

"The 3.1 mile, two-station, $456 million extension of the Blue Line from the current Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station to the Largo Town Center with an intermediate station at Morgan Boulevard is scheduled to open at the end of this year. The extension of the Blue Line will achieve a number of "firsts" in Metrorail history: It is the first segment to be added to the 103-mile adopted regional system, bringing it to a total of 106.1 miles; and it's the first of four segments of the Metrorail system in Prince George's County, MD, to extend beyond the Capital Beltway."

Bush Blues Bash Tomorrow

The Women Against Bush / Running in Heels group is sponsoring a Blues-themed fundraiser at the HR-57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues at 8pm tomorrow. (See the event on upcoming.org). The event has a $5 cover charge, and the organizers are requesting a minimum donation of $25 to the John Kerry for President campaign for a night of dancing "to the tunes of Mr. Charlie Sayles and his "Good Time Blues Band" They also promise a "$100 cash prize to the best BLUES BASH song from the audience."

Tornado Watch in Effect

"National Weather reported the Metropolitan Area, including the District of Columbia is in a Tornado Watch until 7:00 PM. The flash flood watch is still in effect until 8:00 PM; rain is expected between 2 to 8:00 PM. The storm is presently in West Virginia." (Graphic thanks to NBC4)

Speeding Cameras in the District

The Washington Times means to imply automated speeding tickets are a source of revenue? Shocking.

"... The Washington Times reported last month that 2800 block of New York Avenue NE in May was the cameras' most lucrative site. The outbound roadway — a six-lane, divided highway between two service roads — accounted for 10,868 speed-camera citations, more than 17 percent of the tickets
issued that month, according to Metropolitan Police statistics.

At the automated traffic-enforcement program's minimum fine — $30 — the New York Avenue zone generated at least $326,040 in May. ...

However, three of the 10 most-dangerous intersections in the District are not monitored by traffic cameras, The Times reported in May.

The intersections — 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, First Street and New York Avenue NW, and North Capitol Street and New York Avenue NW — had 34 hit-and-run accidents and 40 injury-producing accidents in 2001, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Meanwhile, the District collected more than $2 million in speed-camera citations for the third consecutive month in May, bringing to more than $51 million the total revenue produced by the program since its inception in 2001. ..."

> W. Times: "Bill would limit speed cameras"
> Read more about Automatated Speed Enforcement, see map of "photo radar enforcement zones"

Welcome to the Future

While this is a bit old, it seemed too good to pass up. A company called ScootAround Inc. is offering tours of the monuments on the national mall in "electric convenience vehicles," where they promise "Knowledgeable and entertaining guides will escort you on your leisurely ride, providing historical facts, interesting stories, and little-known anecdotes."

A three-hour tour of the National Mall and Tidal Basin is $75, and tours leave three times a week - Wednesday and Sunday at 10AM and Friday at 7PM. (See the monuments at night!) If anyone has actually seen a flock of scooters buzzing around the mall, post a comment and let us know!

Interested in blogging about the District for a new website? Drop me a line: rob.goodspeed (at) gmail.com.

Minimum Wage Hike, Fireworks Ban Considered

As my colleague at the Oculus has already noted, the D.C. Council is considering two proposals which would increase the minimum wage from $6.15/her to perhaps as high as $7.00/hr, to be voted on "in late September." The Council is also considering banning fireworks:

" ... There were more than 90 legal fireworks stands in the city this year, but Graham and Fenty say illegal sales are often made either at the stands or nearby. Under their bill, permits would still be given to use fireworks, so there's no danger to the show over the National Mall.

Firecrackers and cherry bombs are among the items banned in D.C. Sparklers under 20-inches, torches and cones remain legal.

Fireworks are completely banned in neighboring Montgomery and Prince George's counties, but are allowed in Virginia." (WTOP)

If that weren't enough, 8 members of the D.C. Council have signed a statement strongly opposed to the slots proposal, which they think would "worsen the District's struggles with crime, poverty, and addiction."

JournalCon is Coming!

Mark your calendars: JournalCon is coming to Hotel Helix (The self-styled Logan Circle "pop-art sensation") from August 20-22. Never heard of the conference? Neither have I. Here's the conference's own description:

JournalCon is an incredible — and increasingly infamous — gathering of online journalers, diarists, personal webloggers and other web writers. People from all walks of life who often have nothing in common except for an inexplicable compulsion to splatter the details of their lives across the Internet for all the world to see.

A quick perusal of the 2004 attendees reveals most of the people coming run sites that reminded me of some of the UrbanDictionary.com definitions for "blog":
  • "A website featuring a long series of words too boring to actually read."

  • "A meandering, blatantly uninteresting online diary that gives the author the illusion that people are interested in their stupid, pathetic life."

  • "A website operated by someone who thinks the world actually cares what he ate for breakfast, what his girlfriend said, what bands he listens to, and what he had to do at work.

Well, perhaps those are a little harsh. But the Journalcon people are certainly splattering details. In the meantime, I suppose I'll keep substituting "website" when I mean "blog".


House Member Arrested at Protest

New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel was arrested today at the Sudanese Embassy (located at 2210 Massachusetts Avenue NW) during a protest organized by the Sudan Campaign, a group which has recently stepped up its pressure against the Sudanese government for permitting ongoing genocidal practices towards Black Sudanese and blocking humanitarian aid from reaching refugees evicted from their homes. The Washington Times quietly noted that a "Secret Service policeman then handcuffed and arrested the veteran civil rights activist. An hour and a half -- and a $50 fine -- later, the 64-year-old Rangel was back on Capitol Hill."

> W. Times: "U.S. Congressman arrested at Sudan protest"
> Truthout: "Congressman Charles Rangel Arrested at Sudanese Embassy"

House Republicans and Your Freedom to Read

You might have heard about the failure of an amendment on an appropriations bill in the House which would have tailored the Patriot Act slightly. The proposal would have restricted Federal agents from being able to snoop around the records of public libraries without obtaining a warrant. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can use the super-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's secret court, which issues search warrants using much lower standards of evidence than the regular court system. (The FISA court was created to allow the government to investigate foreign spies operating in the US - not target innocent civilians.)

The measure, introduced by Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders, looked like it was going to pass last week by a vote of 219 to 201 when the normal voting time limit expired. However, the Bush administration had lobbied hard behind the scenes against the amendment, threatening to veto the entire appropriations bill if it passed (It likely would have died in the Senate). However, the Republican leadership held the vote open 23 minutes longer for some intense arm-twisting and convinced 11 Republicans to switch their votes, only closing it when a tie was achieved (which means it failed to pass under House rules):

In the end, Sanders' proposal failed on a tie vote, 210-210. One member, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, voted present, and 14 were absent. Eighteen Republicans ultimately voted for the bill, down from the initial 29, according to the unofficial tally kept during the voting by C-SPAN.

Among the 11 Republicans who switched from yes to no were Reps. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, Tom Davis of Virginia, Jack Kingston of Georgia and Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, according to a list provided by Pelosi's office.

One Democrat, Rep. Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks (Los Angeles County), switched from a "no" to a "yes" vote.

"You win some, and some get stolen," Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, R-Idaho, a sponsor with Sanders of the provision and one of Congress' more conservative members, told the Associated Press. (SFChronicle)

The move infuriated Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi and the ACLU, which both promptly fired off fiery press releases, Pelosi accusing the Republic leadership of "undermining democracy," and the ACLU called the vote "chaotic," accusing them of "violating their own rules." Meanwhile, the American Libraries Association congratulated "Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the 209 other brave members of the House of Representatives who stood by their votes in favor of the Sanders amendment" At least one of the switchers spoke to the media: "Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said he switched his "yes" vote to "no" after being shown Justice Department documents asserting that terrorists have communicated over the Internet via public library computers." (Source) Maybe it's just me, but if the terrorists are in our libraries, I'm sure our country's judiciary would be happy to provide them a s-e-a-r-c-h w-a-r-r-a-n-t.

Food Tetrahedron?

Federal officials are looking to "perk up" the now 12-year-old food guide pyramid. Although over 80% of Americans recognize the pyramid, 66% are overweight, hence the decision by federal authorities to brainstorm a "catchy slogan" and review the overall design of the Food Guide Pyramid program. The USDA will be holding a public meeting on August 19, 2004 at the Jefferson Auditorium, USDASouth Building, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, but those wishing to attend must RSVP by email to respond at cnpp.usda.gov by 5pm August 12.

> AP: "Government Considers Replacing Food Guide Pyramid"
> NYTimes: "Food Pyramid Is in for an Overhaul"
> USDA Pyramid Update Page

District Gambling

With the DC Board of Elections examining 50,000 signatures collected to put an initiative on the ballot to allow for the creation of gambling hall on New York Avenue, now seems like a good time to pause and examine who's behind the effort. It turns out it's two "businessmen" from the U.S. Virgin Islands who have been involved in gambling proposals in New York and my home state of Maine, where their proposal was rejected. The two have spread around over $600,000 dollars in the District. Luckily for us, DC isn't actually a democracy, and congressional leaders have told the Post they'd reject the initiative even if it's passed by DC voters.

> W. Times: "Firms spent $617,000 on D.C. slots"
> W. Post: "Lawmakers Say Congress Won't Allow Slots in D.C."


District Gentrification

Although this article from Howard U's student newspaper is a tad old (April 13), it's interesting reading. The added emphasis is mine:

"There has been a gradual change in the dynamics of the residential district of Adams Morgan over the past 5 years. Higher income households are displacing the lower income residents of the Adams Morgan community and changing the culture of the neighborhood. [...]

"The rent has gone sky high and we can't afford it. I feel like they are kicking us out," said Shawna Middleton, an Adams Morgan resident for over 20 years, as she pointed toward a row of newly refurbished homes. [...]

A recent report by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight says that housing prices rose 13.6 percent in the District in 2003, ranking third behind Rhode Island and California for one-year gains. Over a five-year span, housing prices in the District have risen 90 percent, the highest increase in the nation and more than twice the national average.

... There has also been friction between the lower income residents and their new neighbors. Kareem Mohamed, a student at a local community college, feels like his new neighbors give him and his friends a bad time.

"It's like they're always thinking we're trying to rob them or that we all sell drugs. I mean some people do sell drugs around here but most of us don't. They don't get it." Mohamed said.

Above him reads a sign in a window of an old brick house "We are not criminals. We want to live just like you."

This situation is not unique to the Adams Morgan area. U street, an area known as a hot spot for African Americans in it's hey day, is now home to many upwardly mobile, young, professional whites. This has brought a visible level of tension between blacks and whites in the area, particularly in light of the recent string of robberies along the popular street. Coincidentally, for the last week police officers have been stationed along Euclid street performing "random safety belt inspections", subjecting local residents and Howard University students to sporadic car checks as they drive past Meridian Hill dormitory. "

> The Hilltop: "Gentrification in Adams Morgan"

Nothing like a little Tee Ball

Sagging approval ratings? Imperial invasion gone awry? Pollution in the air, water, and soil? Record low voter turnouts? Massive seperation between the rich and poor? Global warming? AIDS? Sounds like it's time for a little Tee Ball to me!

President Bush launched his White House Tee Ball Initiative to promote interest in baseball and a spirit of teamwork and service for America's youth. ... Tee ball develops the primary baseball skills of hitting, running, fielding, and throwing and gives children solid teamwork experience. ... (Whitehouse.gov Tee Ball Fact Sheet)

The Cicadas' Last Laugh

Thought the cicadas were gone for good? Well, almost - first their offspring have to rain from the trees:

... But up in the trees of several mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states, the next generation is just beginning its 17-year life. Within the next few weeks, the billions of eggs that female cicadas deposited in branches will hatch.
Tiny white nymphs no bigger than a sesame seed with beady red eyes will rain down from branches to the ground, burrow into tree roots and start their long development. They won't emerge as adults until 2021. [...]
Most people won't notice the nymphs' dash to safety because they are so small, said Gene Kritsky, a biology professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. But if seen in the right light, they look like small sparkles raining out of trees.

Sparkles? ... sounds pleasant enough ...

> From W. Times: "Hatchlings from bygone 17-year cicadas to rain down"

On the Assault Weapon Ban

You may remember from the media spectacle following the 1999 Columbine High School shooting tragedy Tom Mauser, father of Daniel Mauser, one of the victims of the shooting. Mr. Mauser became an outspoken gun control activist, helping pass a ballot initiative in Colorado that closed the "gun show loophole" since four of the guns used in the Columbine shooting were purchased without background checks at gun shows. The assault weapons ban which was passed in 1994 is set to expire September 13 unless congress acts to renew the legislation.

In response, Tom Mauser has launched something called "Tom's Petition," to collect signatures to support renewing the ban: "Congress must renew this ban or military-style assault weapons will be back on the street and available for sale in our neighborhoods. We cannot let this happen"

Interesting, Bush has said on the record he would support extending the ban, but gun control activists are pessimistic:

WASHINGTON -- As a presidential candidate in 1999, George W. Bush was outraged when a man used an assault weapon to wound three people at a California community center. "It makes no sense for assault weapons to be around our society," Bush said at the time, vowing to uphold a national ban on such weapons, which had been instituted five years earlier.

But now Bush's words are being put to a test in a way that could become a major campaign issue this fall. [...]

"The Bush administration has said one thing and it is doing the exact opposite," said Michael Barnes, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "The president indicated this is something he supports, but he is clearly allowing it to go away. And it is tragic. Lives will be lost."

A White House spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, asked what Bush has done to promote the renewal of the ban, responded that the president's position "has not changed" and that he would sign the legislation if it came to his desk.

> Boston Globe: "Assault weapon issue moves to fore"

Union Protest Wednesday

If you'll be in the area of the 600 block of 14th street around noon Wednesday, you might encounter a few protestors:

The American Federation of Government Employees is sponsoring a protest rally outside the Federal Labor Relations Authority headquarters (607 14th St NW) at noon Wednesday. In the union's announcement, John Gage, president of AFGE, accused the FLRA and the Federal Service Impasses Panel of issuing rulings biased against organized labor. The impasses panel recently ruled against AFGE on 25 of 26 contested issues in a contract dispute at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.(From the W. Post)

Also: memo to self - don't bury an abused indentured servant in the basement, eventually PBS will find him: " The well-preserved remains of a teenager were found in a small grave beneath some rubbish along a basement wall of a Puritan house dating from the 1660s. ... A forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History, Douglas Owsley, says the young man was about 16 and was 5-foot-5. He suffered from tuberculosis and worked so hard that he had herniated discs and other back injuries. An infection in his rotting teeth might have caused his death. He had 19 cavities. ... "

GAO: New Name, Same Acronym

GAO now stands for "Government Accountability Office," instead of accounting. They'll also have a new compensation system, which leaders hope will provide "equal pay for work of equal value over time" but, the Post notes, "also help the GAO control payroll costs in lean budget times." As yes, penny pinching!

" ... The proposal has caused concern for some of the GAO's 3,200 employees, in part because it raises the possibility that some employees, because of job status or where salary lines get drawn, might not receive the standard general pay increase that Congress provides to federal employees each year.

Some employees also have lamented the passing of the GAO's old name, partly because of tradition (the agency was created in 1921) and partly because they view "accountability" as a trendy word in management circles.

But GAO officials said the name change better reflects the agency's activities, which involve strategic issues and not just accounting and auditing of financial books, and predict the name change will help reduce confusion among job applicants and the public. ...

> W. Post: "GAO Gets New Name, Permission to Launch New Compensation System"
> General Accountability Office website


The Future of American Democracy: Reply hazy, try again.

For many people I have spoken to, the most shocking part of Michael Moore's documentary Fareignheit 911 wasn't the part about the connections between the Bushes and Bin Laudens (rich capitalists know eachother - shocking! The well informed know the Bush dynasty goes back to G.W.'s great-grandfather Prescott, who famously openly dealt with the Nazi regime.) Instead, they were surprised by old news: his adroit re-cap of the events of the 2000 election, particularly the massive undemocratic maneuvers perpetrated by the Republican party in Florida. Here it was on display: Bush's campaign manager (Katherine Harris) ordering thousands of African American voters unjustly expunged from the rolls using her power as a public official, and the protestations of Florida members of the house systematically silenced at a joint meeting of congress. More recently, British investigative journalist Greg Palast has reported about how as many of 1.9 million votes in the 2000 election were "spoiled" - 1 million of which were votes by African Americans.

Meanwhile, paranoid conspiracy theorists have been increasingly shrill about their fears the Bush administration will cancel or postpone the election, or win "election" again, the same way Castro, Saddam, Milosovitz, and other dictators won "elections" by such wide margins. This is America, nothing to worry about, right?

Perhaps. Recently, I've found it somewhat disturbing that the hysteria of the libertarian left seemed to mesh nicely with a variety of establishment intellectuals, who have begun ringing the bell for American democracy in their own way: in highly detailed, cautious University-press tomes. One such book is Harvard University's (!) Theda Skocpol's "Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life," which openly wonders "What will happen to U.S. democracy if participatory groups and social movements wither, while civic involvement becomes one more occupation rather than every citizen's right and duty?" John Hopkins University Professors Matthew A. Crenson and Bengamin Ginsberg are more forthright in their "Downsizing Democracy: How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privitized its Public". Try this choice passage:

Americans do not seem to be in immediate danger of losing the formal rights they won in an earlier political epoch. The vestigial organs of citizenship can survive long after their original purposes have evaporated. The Roman Senate, after all, survived long after the death of the Republic that gave it meaning and even after the collapse of the Western Empire that had given it ritualized recognition. Today, the institutions of popular democracy persist and continue to command the obligatory respect of politicians and officials. But they are being displaced by the institutions of personal democracy, and a critical dimension of citizenship is disappearing.

What does all of this have to do with the news? This week, Newsweek magazine is reporting the Department of Homeland Security is investigating how precisely it can get the authority to postpone (or cancel?) the election this November.
> Reuters: "U.S. Mulling How to Delay Nov Vote in Case of Attack"
> CNN.com: "Officials discuss how to postpone election day"

It seems to me the political science question of our lifetime will increasingly be not simply whether we have a democracy, but how much democracy is left, and how it should properly be measured.

DC Baseball?

The issue of Major League Baseball possibly returning to the district is proving rich grist for the rumor mill, the Washington Post promising that "baseball officials [are] promising to decide where to move the Expos sometime after Tuesday's All-Star Game" implying the two choices are the one in Northern Virginia near Dulles airport, and one of four locations in the District.

"It's inconceivable to me that anybody from Washington, D.C., would schlep all the way out there to go to a ballgame," said Tony Bullock, communications director for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). "It's a hellish commute any time of day, but especially between 4 and 7 o'clock in the afternoon." [...]

William L. Collins III, head of the Dulles investment group, breezily cites his side's advantages. "If you're a business looking to relocate any place in the country, your choice would be Northern Virginia," he said. The shopping, good schools and good jobs "make this the best place to live and raise a family in America," he said.

> Quotes from W Post: "Washington's Major League Divide"
> See the Washington Post Series on DC Baseball
> See also the W. Times: "Angelos remains a hurdle for D.C."

W. Post: Warfighters Wanted!

Looking for a job? The Defense Department is hiring civilians, and you have the added benefit of riding the blue and yellow lines!

" ... Projections indicate that the Defense Department will lose a substantial number of civil service employees in the next five years, when 57 percent of Defense civilians will become eligible for early or regular retirement. ...

Now, because of the global war on terrorism, an increasing number of Defense civil service employees are supporting combat functions. The number will continue to grow because the Pentagon plans to shift more than 20,000 jobs performed by the military to civilian workers in fiscal 2004 and 2005. More military-to-civilian conversions are being planned for coming years to free up military personnel for fighting.

> WPost: "At Pentagon, Civilians In Need of Reinforcement"

The article also includes a new phrase which has been popping up in our new, more militarized culture, "war fighter.": " ... the nearly 700,000 federal employees who support the nation's war fighters." It's only a matter of time before the Washington Post fully adopts the language of the military and publishes "Warfighter". (Used by Bush on April 14)

Something New in the Water

DC officials have given the green light for the chemical orthophosphates to be added to the public drinking water around August 9th in the ongoing effort to control lead which has been discovered exceeding the EPA's legal limit in water in thousands of DC homes. It is hoped the orthophosphates will form a protective coating on existing lead pipes, slowing the leaching of that chemical into the water supply. However, that protective coating might not materialize "possibly until a year or longer." Just super.

" ... Capacasa recommended that District residents with excessive lead levels continue to use water filters and flush their pipes for 10 minutes daily if their homes have lead service lines.

"Local agencies and EPA will notify the public when these measures are no longer needed," he said.

WASA announced this week that General Electric has donated 12,500 water pitchers designed to filter out lead. Those pitchers will be distributed free to residents who have excessive lead in their water. About 30,000 filters, donated by Brita and PUR, already have been distributed, the agency said."

> WPost: "Anti-Lead Additive Program Expanding"
> Information from the DC Water and Sewer Authority


NAACP Chapter Denied at Catholic University

Students at Catholic University petitioning to form a student chapter of the NAACP found their efford denied last June, university officials citing "a desire to consolidate, not multiply, the number of student organizations on campus and because of concerns over the NAACP’s support for abortion rights." After a June 16 meeting between the president of the University and president of the NAACP Kweisi Mfume ended in stalemate, the NAACP has been racheting up the pressure, recently petitioning the pope and holding a protest where some members held signs reading, "Is C-U-A the last plantation?" Audio from that protest is available in MP3 format on the DC Indymedia website.

> NBC4: "Catholic University, NAACP Leaders Meet On Chapter Dispute"
> NAACP PR: "NAACP Calls Catholic University Decision To Block NAACP Student Chapter Arbitrary And Racist"


During a recent sojourn with fellow DC blogger the Washington Oculus last week, the Oculus suggested a nickname for the new New York Avenue - Florida Avenue - Gallaudet U Station now under construction on the Red Line between Union Station and Rhode Island Avenue. The $90 M project shares a similar problem with such stations as the Green Line's "U Street - African-American Civil War Memorial - Cardozo Station": a bloated name thanks to WMATA officials just a little too eager to make everything sound near a Metro station. Luckily for us the Oculus has coined the snappy NewYoFla.

The area just behind the new station is now a huge hole, where construction has begun on the future home to the Headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which the ATF press release promises " ... is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2005. The building will be approximately 422,000 square feet, and has been conceived and designed completely under the new post-Oklahoma City Federal guidelines and standards." And if you're really bored, here's what the GSA had to say holding the ceremonial shovel last spring.

Ah yes, the bucolic Baltimore/DC suburb of Ellicott City. Now known for cross burnings: "A 12-foot cross was scorched in the neatly trimmed suburban lawn of a high-ranking black school official who was implicated and then cleared in a grade-fixing scandal in Howard County. ... " (WPost, see also AP)

Security Thermometers

In a recent post, Gothamist pointed out with surprise that not only did New York City but also the Metropolitan Transit Authority both had terror "alert levels," independent the scale maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. It seems our own George Washington University has long been in the threat-measurement racket, since September 2002 maintaining a system of Four Levels of alert (from IV - "Normal", to I: "Crisis Response") No reason to worry - the "GW Campus Advisory" page advises us they are at a "Normal" level, although they encourage you to call in any suspicious activity. Much fun has been poked at the meaningless fearmonging on behalf of our newly acquired "homeland," but my favorite is perhaps the Dancing Terror Alert Banana.

In addition, the DC Emergency Management Agency has recently launched a service called "AlertDC":

The system, called AlertDC, will allow officials at the D.C. Emergency Management Agency to select a precise geographic area in the city, when necessary, to deliver emergency instructions by calling residential and business telephones in the area. Officials said the system will be modified in the future to allow cellular telephone numbers to be registered, along with most home and business phone lines that are automatically included in the system.

Residents also may enroll online at www.dc.gov to receive emergency instructions via a text-capable device – such as a cell phone, pager or personal digital assistant (PDA) – or via e-mail.

Looks like DC might be the venue for the legal appeals of the Guantanamo detainees:

(San Francisco-AP) -- The District could play a big role in the future of the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The San Francisco-based ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals says the US District Court for the District of Columbia is the appropriate venue for the 595 detainees given that they are overseas and are suing the federal government. The court decision Thursday is the first time an appeals court has determined where the challenges should be lodged.

The detainees won the right to seek their freedom last month after the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's argument that the men could be kept in military custody indefinitely, without charges or trial, because they were picked up overseas on suspicion of terrorism.