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February 18, 1997

Scam de Jour

Dear Neighbors:

Let’s take some unrelated facts and squeeze them together. The Control Board reports that procurement is still out of control in the city. Public servants are still buying goods and services without contracts—which is not only against the law, it’s a stupid way to do business. Maybe that’s why Mayor Barry only gave himself a "Good" when asked about his management abilities on NBC’s "Suck Up to the Politician." Personally, I would have graded him a "Good God Almighty!"

Our second fact comes from the Post, which reports that Eric Holder is on the fast track at Justice—perhaps on his way to replacing Janet Reno Road somewhere down the line.

Now let’s put these facts together. Given the amount of corruption we assume goes on in the District government every day—we pause here for the mantra that most city employees are hard working, capable folks trying to do a good job—why hasn’t Eric Holder’s office been a bit more active on the prosecutorial front? Where are the big cases? Who are the big Kahunas being brought down? Why isn’t the fear of contracts being instilled in government quarters? Why is the Barbara Mourning case taking so long to put together? Previous white Republcian U.S. Attorneys DiGenova and Stephens were suspect, but Holder was supposed to be Nixon in China. Instead, he seems like Rover in clover.

Mark Plotkin is pushing Holder for mayor. I’m not sure how effective he’s been as U.S. Attorney. I ask more in puzzlement than in the interest of starting a backlash against Holder. But I do solicit the views of better informed contrarians.


Movie History Is Made

By the way, remember when I said I thought I saw a copy of Northwest Side Story in the Arnold movie "Eraser?" Well, I’m nearly positive now — I rented it to make sure. It appears approximately 20 minutes into the film. When a reporter answers her phone at home, look at the pile of stuff on her table. The lighting is low and the shot is fleeting but look close and Whoop, there it is! Philip Murphy

Starting the Northwest Side Story may have cost me a fortune, but it’s worth it knowing that in some small way I helped Arnold Schwarzennegger make his millions. Bitter? Me?


Also free! Free movie passes, short movie reviews, and movie discussion. Send an email message to to subscribe.

Jeffrey Itell


Scam Du Jour?
Catherine Rudder American University Park

This week one of our neighbors had their locked sport utility vehicle stolen in front of their house in A.U. Park the evening (around 8:45 p.m.) or two after getting their car back from the repair shop. There was no sign of forced entry (e.g., no broken glass on the ground), and there were no witnesses at a time when pedestrians stroll our street, suggesting that the car was entered quickly and unobtrusively. One hypothesis is that the thief(s) had a key to the car and that they had obtained a copy of the key while the car was in the shop. The police seemed uninterested in this possible lead.

I mentioned this to another friend in Chevy Chase-D.C. who said that one of her neighbors had his car stolen in front of his house under the same circumstances. In particular, the car had just returned from a repair shop. I do not know if the repair shops were the same; they probably weren’t .Has anyone else experienced this problem? Does anyone have suggestions on how to pursue the thieves in absence of police help?


Police Solicitations
Debbie Winsheimer

As a retired DC cop I’m frequently asked about the validity of phone solicitations from people claiming to represent charitable police organizations. Many express concern they will be singled out somehow and punished for not participating. Others give so they can receive something like a sticker for their car, believing this will prevent them from getting tickets. Wrong on both counts.

Cops don’t punish people for not contributing to these phone solicitors, and the stickers placed on cars don’t make one iota of difference when it comes to tickets. This is because almost every one of the police telemarketing schemes is bogus and the slime out there preys on people for just those reasons. Many of you probably read about a fraudulent telephone scheme trying to collect money for the benefit of Brian Gibson’s family. Last year there was a group calling themselves COPPS who were collecting money for something or other. Not only did they want money, they stated they would be at your house to pick it up in 15 minutes. Some of my neighbors are now proudly driving their vehicles with a COPPS bumper sticker on the back. Go figure. If need be, ask them to send you literature on their group. My bet is that they won’t .


Let’s Not Confuse "Speaking Out" With "Whining" Larry Seftor

I must admit that am I quite offended by Liz Spurgin when she says that "our collective complaints and dialogue may be cathartic but are not ultimately effective" and when Tom Stabile in the City Paper characterizes this mailing list as the "Moan Zone." I think that there are enormous structural problems in the way D.C. must operate. However, it is just as significant that D.C. residents accept the status quo, or blame someone else.

I was sickened several years ago when I attended a couple of "neighborhood association" meetings. The attendees were primarily elder citizens; apparently everyone else was too busy to attend. Those who spoke seemed to think that our schools and police were doing pretty well. At another meeting I confronted the author of a local newsletter that covered police issues. This woman was simply deaf when I discussed how much more police visibility I had received in Fairfax County for much lower taxes.

We cannot all run for office and take a turn in running the D.C. Government. And as individuals we cannot make up for massive waste in both the police department and the school system by contributing a few old computers. But, we can make a difference by speaking up and demanding more from our "leaders." After all, that is part of what democracy is supposed to be about. (And whether we speak or not, the lobbyists are having their say - in private.)

Make an appointment with your city council person and tell him or her what you think. If one person makes such a visit, they are an aberration. If one hundred people do it, it will make a difference. And of course, write to dc.story.


Valentine’s Day At The Inspection Station For Motor Vehicles
R L Widmann and also

I took my car to be inspected at the Half Street facility on Friday, 14 February. Upon arrival at the booth, I handed my inspection slip to the DMV person. When he handed it back, he also gave me a copy of a paperback book, published by Dover, topic—classic love poems. When I finished the inspection process, I asked that DMV person if the workers at the facility also got this valentine gift and he said that they too had received a copy of the book. It was very nice to see a little joy and pleasure being spread around by a city government agency.


Driver’s License - A Good News Story

Art Chimes

A colleague now working overseas asked me to check into how he could get his DC driver’s license renewed without flying back from Islamabad. Total time on the phone: maybe 10 minutes. I went through the procedure when I lived abroad several years ago: you send back the form, a xerox copy of your expiring license, and a check. They send you a license that is valid but has no photo. I seem to recall it expires 30 days after you return to the District.

Since we get so little happy news of the DC government I thought I would share this. Now, if they would only do something about the expansion joints on the I-66 ramp by the Kennedy Center before my front end gives out.…


What is *wrong* with the Post Magazine?

Steph "You’d think a paper with the Claritas corporation in its back yard could do a demographics story that really sings, but no-oo" Faul

They’ve reached some sort of intellectual nadir with today’s cover story. It’s said that figures don’t lie, but liars figure. I guess fools figure numbers don’t need to make sense. The article’s virtually random selection of statistical factoids fails to make any point or offer any insights into why the area is the way it is. Even the map is grotesquely inaccurate — frighteningly so for the folks in Fredericksburg, whose city has apparently been covered by water.


Report policy shift followed Guam contributions (according to Reuters)
Judson Feder

The Clinton administration shifted its policy toward Guam in late 1996 after Guam politicians and business leaders gave nearly $900,000 to the Democratic Party, the Washington Post said Sunday. The newspaper said a Guam Democratic Party official visited Washington in 1995 with more than $250,000 in contributions. This was followed within six months by $132,000 in contributions for the Clinton/Gore re-election campaign and $510,000 for the Democratic National Committee, making the island the biggest donor of any territory in the U.S.

Besides DC, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, the status of Guam is also a hot topic. Guam’s status has been murky for even longer than the VI, which was acquired in the Wilson administration. Guam is Spanish-American war booty. Like the VI, Guam is an "unincorporated territory", which means it is not slated to become a state, and the US Constitution applies only to the extent that statutes make it apply.

Guam voted in 1987 for Commonwealth status (similar to that enjoined by the other islands in the same archipelago: the northern Mariana Islands). While Commonwealth status would not mean a full, voting representative in Congress (of course, that’s only possible by Constitutional amendment), at least the Guamanians would have negotiated their own status, and secure rights that can’t be swept away unilaterally by old Uncle Sam. Personally, I think the Chamorro people (indigenous people of the Mariana Islands) have the right to this bit of self-determination. If Guam doesn’t get a bit of political respect, one wonders whether, in the long-term, the people there would be interested in establishing closer ties to Japan or China than the U.S.


Sam Smith Free DC News Service

After Guam politicians and business people gave the Democratic National Committee some $900, 000, the Clinton administration came out in favor of giving the territory more autonomy. For reasons that remain unclear, much larger contributions from DC residents have had exactly the opposite effect.


The Mae Flowers
Steph "Would *love* to open a tax-exempt business and sell stock in it" Faul

The big question about Fannie Mae and Sallie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage and Student Loan marketing associations, respectively, for those who have just moved to the U.S. from Tristan da Cunha) is not "why don’t they pay DC taxes," but "Are there any other organizations whose stock is traded on the New York exchange that do not pay taxes" ?The concept that a shareholder corporation, which is therefore obviously profit-driven, can be exempt from any tax strikes me as being *seriously* anticompetitive. If indeed Fannie and Sallie have any competition, which I don’t think they do, and that makes the situation even fishier.

[Fannie Mae has competition from other secondary mortgage companies, including HUD’s Freddie Mac. But Fannie Mae has two government proffered advantages. It can borrow money more cheaply because of the implied full backing of Uncle Sam. And it’s tax exempt locally. Fannie Mae says these advantages allow it to do great things for the country. Capitalist pig that I am, I’m not sure why the government has to be in the secondary mortgage business anymore—except that it provides rich institutions another reason to give at the Starbucks on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Jeff]


Cop Killing
Debbie Weinsheimer

Any form of violence, whether its against the police or the public is appalling but I cannot help but take issue with Ms. Macunek’s statement that the incidents she described are much more alarming and depressing. Hello! When that thin blue line is fatally violated, it is a fearful reminder of just how fragile society’s sense of safety really is. If a uniform cop can be executed while stopped at a traffic light, what chance does the rest of society have?

Ms. Macuncek’s real complaint in her post seems not to be the tragedies of the rapes and murders, but the fact a helicopter woke her up causing a "serious lack of sleep.....for both physical and emotional reasons." Police officers are in a no win situation. Unfortunately for the citizens of DC, crime doesn’t always happen between 9 & 5, M-F. Sometimes people are inconvenienced, like when a major felony occurs in the middle of the night and a copter is needed for its powerful spotlight. Remember, while you’re in a nice warm bed at night, theres a whole contingency of cops out there looking out for you & the rest of the people on the beat. And every time an officer puts on the uniform, he/she is making a statement that they are willing to put their life on the line for you whether you support them or not. When my son was 3 and I was working the midnight shift, he would call out his window as I was leaving," Mommy don’t get killed tonight." No stress there. Cops can’t make citizens change their attitude, but a little show of support once in a while could boost morale.

The next time Ms. Macunek is inconvenienced by the noise of a helicopter or the wail of a siren, she should take a moment to say a little prayer for the victim(s) and be grateful its not her.


Diplomatic "Protocol" or Abuse?
John Shores

Sunday morning I set off for the Mall and the Monuments to pay my respects to our Presidents a day early. As I left the Jefferson Memorial, I noticed a large US-made automobile parked under the "No Stopping - No Standing" sign on the north side of the parking lot (the side next to the Memorial). When I passed the car, I pointed to the sign, hoping to catch the driver’s attention. I could see no special stickers (handicap, diplomat, etc.) on or in the car, so I stopped at the end of the parking lot and took out a pen and scrap of paper to record the license plate number: "Black mini-limousine, MD plate 802-134, 11:40am 16/Feb/97."

Maybe pointing to the sign didn’t get the driver’s attention, but jotting down the license number did! He hopped out, walked over, stated that he was on diplomatic duty for State, and showed me his gold federal badge. I didn’t get the number on the badge, but assume he was from the embassy arm of the Secret Service or from the Federal Protective Service.

I have some real questions about any protocol that would allow an un-marked car to park (or stop, or stand) in a prohibited area. It’s bad enough that we let cars with diplomatic plates violate the law and common sense, but those are marked cars (and we make the argument that we need the same protection for our diplomats overseas). But what’s the justification in an unmarked car? There were plenty of spaces in the parking lot only thirty feet away!

Anyone else tired of the diplomatic abuses in "our fair city" ?Am I overreacting? Is sightseeing now a "protected" diplomatic activity?



Since Jan. 1, many Americans—the self-employed and those in companies with 50 or fewer employees—have had the option of signing up for medical savings accounts, a system in place for a long time in other parts of the world, whereby you may, instead of pouring all your money down the sinkhole of medical insurance or to your favorite HMO or PPO, set aside a large portion into a sort of low-interest checking account, to be drawn on if necessary at a later date. This would be ideal for a healthy self-employed person like myself.

Obviously I sound like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t .My main question is: why are they unavailable to us in D.C., and will they be available soon? The health insurance salesman I spoke to who sells policies to Marylanders and Virginians had no idea. We chalked it up to one of the mysteries of living in the District.

Paul Penniman

[Please copy any responses to me at Jeff]


Tony Williams

Anthony Williams, D.C. Chief Financial Officer, will be the guest speaker at the next meeting of the Forest Hills Citizens Association on Wednesday, Feb. 19th, at 8:00 P.M. at the Capitol Memorial Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 3150 Chesapeake St. NW, near the Forest Hills Playground. Please join us (everyone is welcome!) to learn more about the progress Mr. Williams is making in combatting the District’s financial crisis.

Ann Kessler


Historic Chevy Chase DC

We will be having our annual meeting on Tuesday Evening February 25, 1997 at 7:30 p.m. It will be held at the First Union Bank building 5701 Connecticut Avenue, NW, just south of Chevy Chase Circle. After a brief business meeting there will be a presentation on Bungalow houses and arts & crafts interiors - as they relate to bungalow homes by Paul Duchscherer a San Francisco Interior Designer and author.

After the slide show and presentation, there will be a reception where Politics and Prose will be selling, and Mr Duchscherer will be signing his book " The Bungalow America’s Arts & Crafts Home" .This presentation is free to Historic Chevy Chase DC Members and a nominal $5 donation is requested of non members. William West Hopper President, Historic Chevy Chase D.C., Inc.


Cafe Oy Vey - An evening of coffee, mix, and shticks

Performing artists and audience members are invited to the Dc Jcc on 2/20 for an evening of entertainment and socializing. The starting time is 7:30 p.m. and the cost is $4 members/ $6 non-members.

Linda Krakaur Lady


The Washington Jewish Healing Network is starting three new 6-week spiritual support groups in the next month: March 3: A group for Jewish Men and Women Living with Illness April 2: A group for partners, relatives and friends of Jewish people living with HIV/AIDS Some time in May: A group for health care professionals. Also, a class on Kabbala will be starting on March 3.

Carol Hausman 202-966-7851


For sale

$250.00 - Boca IDE Plus Controller, 610 Seagate IDE (LBA capable) harddrive, manual, all cables, Linux installed and configured for X-windows, 1000s of applications. See drive.html for more details.

T. Hardman


And Baby Makes Three

But not in my ‘94 Mazda Miata. Just moved from California and will have to sell my loaded Miata for something that I can haul my new (in April) baby in. Here are the specs: Black with tan roof. Tan Leather upholstery. CD player, A/C, Power Steering, Power Windows. 5 Speed. Extended Warranty. Excellent condition. 29K miles. $14300/OBD.

Eileen Gwinn 202-965-1184



Buying one shouldn’t be so scary. Setting one up shouldn’t be so scary. Getting on the Internet shouldn’t be so scary.

Jeffrey Itell (He’s not so scary either.) 202.244.4163


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