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October 3, 1996

The Punditacracy

Dear Students:

David Vise of the Washington Post reported today that Newt Gingrich is calling Mayor Barry a "Great Disappointment." I excerpted a large part of the story below, in both an attempt to test the electronic frontier’s copyright provisions and to ask you to analyze the news. Please read. Then we’ll discuss amongst ourselves.

From The Washington Post:

House Speaker Newt Gingrich hailed his "special relationship" with D.C. Mayor Marion Barry last year and said that, together, the unlikely political duo could help revitalize the struggling city. But yesterday, Gingrich revealed how much relations between them have soured as he called the mayor’s leadership "a great disappointment" and accused Barry of siding with "political corruption and hacks over the people and children of this city."

Gingrich (R-Ga.) said that he has not spoken with Barry (D) in months and that he plans to work with others on District reforms. He also blamed the mayor for repeatedly undermining efforts by the D.C. financial control board to move the city out of its fiscal crisis.

"I think he has consistently favored the machine over the people," Gingrich said during a lunch with reporters and editors of The Washington Post. "And by the machine, I include the employees who are self-serving, the unions who are self-serving and the excuses to not change. . . . There is no excuse for political corruption."

Barry said the speaker was in trouble politically and had resorted to an "age-old political trick": deflecting criticism from himself by attacking someone else. The mayor also said that most D.C. residents are "disappointed" in Gingrich for failing to deliver on numerous promises for the city, including generous income tax breaks, tens of millions of dollars for public safety and funding to address the city’s $5 billion pension shortfall.

"Even though the speaker wants to divorce himself from this city, I am not ready to divorce the Republican leadership," Barry said. "Residents and others, like myself, believed that the speaker was sincere in his concern for helping us move this city forward. Unfortunately, it seems that we have all been the victims of political grandstanding. . . . It is sad to think that in his desperation to gain favor with his constituents, he has decided to distance himself from the District and has resorted to unwarranted Barry bashing."

For the full text of the front-page story, see ml/


By virtue of joining this list, many of you undoubtedly believe that you are qualified to become a member of the punditacracy. A TV Talking Head. Even a Mark Plotkin. But are you good enough?

Let’s find out. Tell us in two paragraphs or fewer what this squabble is really about. Make it the equivalent of a sound bite—a mail-byte if you will. Creativity counts. Rhetoric counts. Persuasiveness counts. Excess attention to the truth is penalized.

Pundits, start punditcizing!


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Jeffrey Itell



Allow me to commend Rob for finding out for himself about media induced paranoia, and dispelling the propaganda all on his own. I often ride my bike throughout the entire city of DC. I frequently ride through Anacostia, and have been through every neighborhood, in every Quadrant of this city more times than I can possibly count. Use common sense, behave yourself, and you will most likely have an enjoyable ride.

Where do these "we need hummers, machine guns, and bullet proof vest" people come from anyway? There is crime and poverty in DC, yes - but the overwhelming majority of the murders are committed against people who are already actively involved in criminal activity by those they have had prior conflicts with.

Being shot for innocently passing through would be a fluke. If you are that scared, though - maybe it would be best if you didn’t go at all. I don’t think the residents of these neighborhoods would appreciate your rolling down their street in a bullet proof hummer, staring at them like animals, in a state of agitated paranoia.


DC Home Page URL
Beth Johnson

Hasn’t anyone else jumped on this yet? NOTHING in tonight’s dc.story! As a D.C. "semi-citizen" I feel obligated to give it a shot. How about: (apologies to James MacMurtry)


Ken Nellis

Your 10/1/96 issue of dc.story offered the URL of our city’s official web page, . So I went there to check it out. From that page, if you click on the DC Gov’t link and from there the link to the Executive Branch, you are presented with a page of links to additional pages (The Office of the Mayor, Dept. of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, etc.). I found it amusing that the link to "Directory of Services" was non-functional.



"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country." — Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.

How many people not actively involved in illegal activity are murdered in DC? Let’s keep the whole thing in perspective. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Behave yourself, and your chances of being "murdered" are pretty slim.

I think this is what Barry was getting at, with his poor choice of words.

[Susan Yancy of the Mayor’s Communication Office informs me that Mayor denies ever making that statement. She promises further information. jeff]


Ralph A. Blessing

After reading Evan Roth’s sinkhole experience, I wonder if perhaps we in Ward 4 should consider drafting Kathy Patterson as our councilmember. For all the rhetoric at election time about constituent services, my own personal experience has been quite the opposite. Case in point: I’ve called Ward 4 Councilmember Jarvis’s office 4-5 times since May requesting action on a missing "No Parking" sign on Alaska Avenue (since it vanished, commuters park right up to the adjoining intersection, making it extremely dangerous for cross traffic to exit). Each time I called, the staff person assured me that they would contact DPW to make sure the matter was taken care of. Of course, each time I called, I had to repeat the entire story—even when speaking to the same staffer as before. And, to date, still no action. Perhaps I could impose upon Ms. Patterson to forward this message to her Ward 4 colleague!


Motorcade Watch
Rick Rosenthal

What a town! I never get sick of ‘em .Seen heading north on Conn Ave around 8:00pm, took a right onto Brandywine. Seen heading south on Conn Ave around 10:00pm. No ambulance. For those of us who have nothing better to do than gossip about our limo-privileged elite, does anybody know what was going on last night?

[How big a motorcade? Did Chelsea attend an evening program at Sidwell Friends? jeff]


American University History
Bob Beisner, Prof. of History, AU.

On the history of American University, call George Arnold, head of the Archive s of the University and currently (with a colleague) writing history of the University. Try 202-885-3255.


Jury Duty
Fred Davidson

Tom Berry’s problem with DC re: jury duty only confirms the capriciousness of the system: I received a summons for Oct. 9, my first jury summons in 5 years. Not that I am complaining...…


District Cable
Karen Lightfoot

A friend of mine had a very similar problem with District Cable. The company has accidently disconnected the cable to his apartment - oops wrong apartment! Of course, it took a week for them to come to discover that they caused the problem and to correct it. In the end, they blamed "mislabeling of the wire" .Hmm, how could that have happened? It goes without saying that my friend had to take off work to wait for them while they corrected the problem, which occurred outside his apartment

I also have had difficulty getting them to install cable. I have been trying to have cable installed for a few months without success. First, I had to wait several weeks for an appointment. Then, when they arrived, I was told I need special permission from my landlord for the cable routing. When I checked with management, they kindly suggested that the installer should have simply looked around the corner to see similar installation procedure. I continue to wait for the next appointment. There has to be a better way!


Car Registration Carl Dahlke

To register your car in DC you must now present proof that you have auto insurance. So I took a copy of my insurance renewal notice to the DMV only to be told that what I needed was a wallet card showing my dates of coverage from my insurance company. The notice of renewal for a six months period isn’t good enough (don’t ask me why). So be aware that the DMV wants you to have that wallet card when you go to register.

Does anybody know what you do for proof of insurance if you mail in your registration renewal?


DC Jewish Community Center

The DC JCC is working on their largest Volunteer project, the 10th Annual Dec. 25th project. Our goal for the Dec 25th project is 1000 volunteers working all around the city and give people a chance to enjoy the holiday. One of the many projects we do is painting non-profits in the city (Schools, Community Centers, Shelter etc.) I am looking for a few places that would be willing to lets us paint on Dec. 25th. The project should be big enough for at least 10 to 15 people. If you know of any organization that could use the help please e-mail, or call me. 202-234-4525.

We are also trying to find prizes for a raffle, anything would do. Can anyone help us out with these items?

Rob Meisnere


National Zoo

8 October 1996 7 p.m. Book signing 8 p.m. Lecture Education Building Auditorium National Zoo

Enter at Connecticut Ave. Park in Lot A Free but please RSVP by e-mailing to


Oxford University’s Dr. Richard Dawkins, known for his insights into evolutionary theory published in a number of best-sellers, which include "The Blind Watchmaker" and "The Selfish Gene," will present a lecture and autograph copies of his new book, "Climbing Mount Improbable."

Copies of "The Blind Watchmaker" and "Climbing Mount Improbable" will be available in the Zoo’s bookstore before the lecture.

Office of Public Affairs, National Zoo Washington, D.C. 20008 (202) 673-4866, FAX (202) 673-4607

Margie Gibson NZPEM053@SIVM.SI.EDU


Home PC Computer Assistance. I’ll help you choose and buy the best model for the lowest price, get your computer up and running, teach you the ins and outs of Windows 95 and applications, show you how to maintain your system, build special applications for you, and get you up and running on the internet. $60/hour. 202.244.4163.

Jeffrey Itell

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