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July 14, 1999

Limited Perspectives

Greetings to all freed residents of the Bastille:

We here at themail — well, really I — have very limited perspectives and interests. If it ain't DC, it don't belong here. We can have the start of some very interesting discussions here, on prison rehabilitation and recidivism, on the death penalty, on gun possession and the Second Amendment, and so on, as long as these discussions relate to something that's going on here in town. And the exchange can even stray from its DC anchor, briefly and for one round or so. But it can't keep straying. In this forum, we're more interested in the pothole on K Street than in ultimate truth. The weightiest Constitutional debate will get dropped in favor of a dead tree that needs to be removed by DPW, and the most important social problem takes second place to which restaurant serves the best roast chicken. So don't take it too hard if your thoughtful philosophical contribution doesn't make it into themail, when cell towers in Rock Creek Park are covered exhaustively. By the way, which restaurant does serve the best roast chicken?

Gary Imhoff


Cell Towers
Ralph Blessing,

Congressional disdain for the District has reached a new high (or new low, if you will) with Senator Daschle's amendment to the DC budget that, in effect, would require the installation of cellular towers in Rock Creek Park. That move, combined with the in-your-face comments of the congressional staffer who sits on the National Capital Planning Commission, should serve as a rallying call to anyone — whether pro or con on the towers issue — who cherishes the limited democracy we have in DC. In addition to Gary's suggestion that we switch local phone carriers, I would add that this is the type of issue that calls for civil disobedience. Those of us who oppose the towers should physically block any attempt to ram them down our throats. Not only would such an effort possibly cause Bell Atlantic and Congress to back down, it might also bring our plight to the attention of citizens elsewhere in the country.

As to the issue of the towers themselves, I think Ed Barron was right on target with his July 11 posting. While there may be occasional instances of “dead zone” interference with emergency calls, the overall common good is more likely better served by limiting the number of commuters who traverse the park's winding roads with a phone in one hand. With all due respect to Mr. Davidson, who reported the dead zone delay in calling for an ambulance following his bike crash, public policy decisions of this nature should not be based on isolated cases but rather on the overall public safety implications. Even with the occasional dead zones that we hear so much about, Rock Creek Park, with its easy access by bike or car, is not the same as Yellowstone. One is never more than five minutes (and usually a lot less) to a higher spot where there would interference would not be a problem.

Finally, we do have one other recourse, even if the dictators on the Hill have their way: get our locally elected officials to enact an ordinance barring the use of hand-held phones while driving a vehicle. I've already written to Councilmember Phil Mendelson about this idea, and he promised to investigate it. While I dread the thought of those towers marring the park's landscape, at least there would be poetic justice if phone-addicted commuters risked a ticket for endangering public safety.


Cell Phones
Derek McGinty,

Okay. After reading through all the mail I can see that many people are passionate about the subject of cell phones in Rock Creek Park, but it just seems to me that it doesn't make any sense to have such a large section of town without access to one of the best and must useful technological advances since sliced bread. Since I no longer live in the city, I often defer to those who do, but in this case as a cyclist I spend inordinate amounts of time in Rock Creek, and I drive to work through parts of it almost every day. And while talking on the phone behind the wheel can be dangerous, I gotta think its more dangerous not to be able to call for help in times of trouble.


The Costs of Modern Science
Cathy Vidito,

This is not an argument about how outrageous it was for Sen. Tom Daschle's amendment to pass or how ludicrous it is to put a tower in a national park. But with all due respect to our moderator, Gary Imhoff, the answer doesn't lie in switching services, because Bell Atlantic, like Sprint and all other cell phone services, are putting these eyesores up simply to serve the demand placed by cell phone users. If not Rock Creek Park, then eventually a tower would appear in someone's backyard.

Sometimes I can even understand (gasp!) politicians' disregard of what the public says it wants. On the one hand, people want affordable, reliable cellular phone service. But they don't want to “pay, in this case, in natural surroundings. Folks like me who don't use cell phones and want to preserve the environment have been cut out of the loop because we don't support anything with our dollars, at least in the way cell phone customers support phone companies. The best we can do, I guess, is try to discourage friends and family from buying cell phones in the first place. These phones have many benefits, but does the handful of examples in which a cellular phone made the difference between life or death warrant a gazillion towers on our landscape (not to mention the increasingly incessant yakking in all locales)? Parents have successfully raised children, women have arrived home safely, and important projects have been completed without these gizmos for thousands of years. They are nice to have, but hardly necessary for most people.


The Devil You Know vs. the One You Don't
Ralston Cox,

I am president of my 77 unit condo association in Dupont Circle. Trying to get ahead of the techno-curve — and give residents a choice in terms of cable television and local phone service — I contacted StarPower and asked them for a proposal to initiate service in the building. I gave them a tour of the property and a few units, discussed how we might get the building wired with the least amount of disruption to residents, and worked up alternate proposals for marketing to a non-centralized group (i.e., we don't have a “front desk” in the building). I thought they'd be excited by the prospect of picking up 77 customers at one site and would respond well by having a single point of contact who wants to help — and wants to give District Cablevision some competition! Since I led the efforts to get DC Cable installed in the building 6 years ago and know my building pretty well, I figured I had good experience and could help get things done quickly.

Five months later and guess what? They aren't returning calls or E-Mail messages and they haven't reported back to me with responses to a number of questions. While there certainly are problems with DC Cable, I'm none too impressed with StarPower.


Prison Locations
David Sobelsohn,

Recently readers of themail debated the siting of a new prison in Anacostia. We are now unlikely to have such a prison. This is perhaps a good result for those of us (like me) who question the need for building more prisons. In the course of our discussion, I argued that, if we are to build a new prison, we can help prevent recidivism, and therefore protect society, by building that new prison close to the prisoners' families. Of course, building a prison in Anacostia doesn't guarantee that inmates will come from Anacostia; federal prisoners can come from anywhere in the country. But building a prison far from any metro area does guarantee that family visits will be difficult. Anyone who wants more information on this subject should obtain a copy of the study by Norman Holt and Donald Miller, “Expectations in Inmate-Family Relationships,” conducted for the California Department of Corrections in 1972 (CA DOC Report Number 46, June 1972). The study demonstrates the critical role family visitation plays in increasing the success rate for parole — which in turn protects us all.

Of course you may prefer to make life more miserable for inmates, even if such a policy increases the crime rate. I myself don't care how happy inmates are in prison; I just want them to obey the law when they get out. If keeping prisoners close to home makes them less likely to commit crimes when they get out, I say keep them close to home.


Dead Human Thought
Ms. Dorothy Persiflage;

Ms. Persiflage was amused by Mr. LaRoche's response to her very modest and polite request for the source of certain “compelling evidence” that Mr. LR called upon. To refresh readers of themail, in the 4 July 99 edition/issue Mr. LaRoche's made the following statement: “...and there is compelling evidence that a death penalty may aggravate the problem of societal violence.” Ms. P's quote of that is what is called a fact. One of which she is indeed skeptical. Ms. P, however, who follows such matters, thought this unusual, and quite politely and non-confrontationally stated that she “would be interested in seeing this 'compelling evidence.'” This is also a mere fact and record.

Mr. LR's somewhat hysterical and inaccurate response to this, referring to Ms. P's bloodthirsty (“those who want blood” and “governmentally sanctioned barbecues” — gracious! Ms. P thought that lethal injections were perfectly acceptable, although she never even raised the method of demise of the condemned, but Mr. LR seems to need some excessive color to bolster his illogic; or perhaps the 4th of July barbecue season has gotten the better of him — Ms. P wonders why he didn't use Vlad the Impaler as an analogue? Perhaps Ms. P will call on Vlad at her next seance in the Solarium with the other ladies....) comments as placing the burden on proponents of the death penalty and “state sponsored murder” (a neutral phrase there!).

Ms. Persiflage apologizes for the tortured sentence above, but she doesn't have time this evening to repair it. The point, however, is very simple. Mr. LaRoche made the clear statement in this forum, and referred to “compelling evidence that a death penalty may aggravate the problem of societal violence.” Ms. Persiflage simply expressed her skepticism at this, and expressed an interest in this evidence. Mr. LaRoche response was, basically, to say that Ms. P had the burden of proof as to why she wanted to slake her bloodthirsty tastes. Ms. P sees this as a non sequitur. The fact is that the response was absurd. So she will be a bit less modest and polite, but as always, persistent in finding out the truth. You, Mr. LaRoche, made the statement about “compelling evidence.” Please point Ms. Persiflage and other readers to this evidence so we can review it and make a judgment about how compelling it is. Having made the statement about such compelling evidence, you owe us all the source when called on it. Either put up, or shut up. Trying to turn the “burden of proof” is somewhat cowardly, but Ms. P is too gentle to go there, unless further provoked. Again: point us to this “compelling evidence?” Thank you so much.

A tout ta'


Death Penalty! No!
James E. Taylor, Jr.,

The emotional stance for and against the death penalty is driven, in part by perspective. If you are black, like me, your opinion of the death penalty is tempered with questions of how and why are there such a high percentage of blacks and other minorities incarcerated? In recent use of DNA there have been several prisoners released from death row and prison because they were innocent. When the system punishes everyone equally for crimes such as an equal ounce of cocaine in powder form is less a crime than a rock form. Until we start dealing with this reality we shouldn't kill anyone. This legal system need to cast away unfairness in the system. Until then, the Scottsboro case and many other incidences of prejudicial treatment by law enforcement leads me to be against the death penalty. Saving one innocent life justifies my belief that the system is no better than a criminal if both are killers of innocent people. Would the Mayor be willing pull the switch?


Midnight Dumpers
Paul (more annoid than paranoid) Bickart,

Anybody else having problems with midnight dumpers? Twice in recent weeks, the alley behind my house has been blocked by dumped trash. The last time it happened, my neighbor found a shipping label on one of the pieces of junk, and called the person who was the addressee. Turns out he had been approached by two guys with a truck who were knocking on doors and offering to remove trash VERY inexpensively; he said sure. (You really can offer a low price if you just shift the problem a couple of blocks.) Best bet: if you see a strange truck in your alley at night, try to get the license number. I wouldn't mess with these guys; the fines are very high and they clearly are not interested in paying dumping fees, so they might be real trouble if you dealt with them directly.


Unsolicited Faxes in DC
Bill Adler,

Over the past two weeks we have received two unsolicited fax advertisements on our home fax machine. We don't give out that number, and it's not listed either as a fax number or any other number for that matter. Yet, our fax number's been found out: Last week's was from a British company; today's advertisement was from a cellular phone company in Falls Church. Unsolicited fax advertisements are a violation of FCC rules. (Info at .)

I was wondering if anybody else has been getting junk faxes recently? Some states allow people who receive junk faxes to collect $500 in monetary damages from the sender. Does anybody know what the rule is in DC?


The Dope on The Duped
Willie Schatz,

So where are we eight months after Bob Barr, that paragon of moral virtue and family values and alleged civil libertarian, reaffirmed our political prisoner status by preventing the Elections Board from counting the votes for the Marijuana Medical Initiative? We know we won in a landslide. But inquiring minds — and bodies such as mine with multiple sclerosis and other diseases that marijuana mitigates — wanna know if our triumph has been “officially” recognized. Art Spitzer, are you there?


TV Reception
Cynthia Harrison,

I clear up the signal on channel 4 by turning the VCR on while I'm watching the TV. (I think I got this tip originally from someone on this list.) I don't know why it works — something about the VCR's blocking the cable signal into the TV. But it's a cost-free experiment. (Don't turn the TV to channel 3 and watch the VCR — leave the TV on 4.)


WP Reports Marion Barry Is Mayor
Jean Mammen,

Someone recently remarked on having come across a web page that said Marion Barry is Mayor. I found such a page while looking in . I was trying to find the list of dc government web page addresses that the Tuesday July 13 Post said could be found there — said it in its story on a new dc info number. So far I have not found that list of web page url's, but I did find Marion Barry as Mayor on

I am not web savvy enough to know who wrote this page or should maintain it — but I found it through the Post. Maybe the “longterm” in the address refers to Mayor-for-life? Meanwhile, if someone finds what I was looking for — the DC government web URL's — please let me know.


Philip Walker, Jr.
E. James Lieberman,

I thank Gabe Goldberg for the obituary of this fine man. I wondered why he had not returned to survey his good work at 3900 Northampton St. NW. (He did not return a call, so I worried). I met him only a few times, but feel fortunate to have known him and to have a living memorial to him in front of my house. He came to my attention through themail.



Political Bullpen
Bill Rice,

Newspeople and newsmakers will gather on Friday, July 16, after work (6 pm, on) at the Senators Sports Bar in the Holiday Inn directly across from the Capitol Hill Hyatt on New Jersey Avenue, NW, just a few steps from One Judiciary Square. Spread the word — Omer has promised to come.


Come Out and Jam for D.C. Statehood!
George S. LaRoche,

Music from One of D.C.'s Premier Blues and Rock Bands, The Oxymorons, at The Velvet Lounge, 915 U Street, N.W., Sunday, July 18, 8:00 p.m. Cover: just $5 (proceeds to benefit the D.C. Statehood Party). Need more info: contact Kevin M. McCarron at 726-1576 or 561-6068.



Household Goods
Edna Small,

Wooden doll-house, $50.00. Scan rug 55" x78" (red with purple threads), $35.00. Cuisenaire home mathematics kit, $25.00. Bell bike helmet, $10.00. Child's horse-riding helmet, $10.00. Pair wooden shutters, 32" high, $20.00. Pair of crutches, $7.00. Folding AMF gymnastics mat, $40.00. Japanese Nishi dolls, $25.00 each. Framed print, Opus II by Boulanger, $100.00.



Computer Tutor Needed
Pat Hahn,

Looking for someone to tutor a couple of trade association staff members in Microsoft suite products. Association is located in D.C., close to both red and blue lines. Main need at the moment is for help with intermediate/advanced Powerpoint. Please respond to , and provide short bio, a couple of references, and hourly or 1/2 day rate.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
DIVERSITE TRAINING: LL awoke early Saturday morning to a cackle of shouting and shuffling in front of his Logan Circle house. Startled, LL checked his clock — 3:06 a.m. — and jackknifed out of bed. Before he even reached the window, LL knew what to expect. After all, it was closing time at Diversite, a 14th Street NW nightclub that's popular with gangs, who have sprinkled the blood of their nemeses all about the club's environs.
By the time LL slipped on his mesh shorts and Rehoboth flip-flops, the victim of the night's melee was laid out on the corner of 14th and Q Streets, curled up, still.
Should gang violence around Diversite claim another life, Police Chief Charles Ramsey must be held accountable. At his disposal is a law signed in January 1998 by Mayor-for-life Marion S. Barry Jr. allowing the police department to ask the ABC Board to revoke the liquor license of any establishment that fosters violence at its perimeter. The law appeared custom-made for Diversite, as the murders of Helm and Muir occurred within eight months of its enactment. But so far, Ramsey's department has made no such request.
Read the entire Loose Lips column this Friday at

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY: Masters of Art, featuring Tim Pugh, Jack Hornady, and Anne Cooper. Opening reception from 7 p.m. to midnight at LIPA Gallery, 1635 Connecticut Ave. NW, Third Floor. Free.
SATURDAY: Restore-the-Core sponsors “Columbia Heights: Continuity and Change,” a two-hour walking tour of the Northwest community. Meet at 10 a.m. at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park's Northwest Entrance, 16th & Euclid Sts. NW. Free.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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