A Book a Week
I got an E-mail ad today saying, Whew! What an election! Aren't you ready for a
cruise? Well, yes. Dorothy and I are going to be on the move and having some fun for
the next few weeks, but themail will continue in one form or another. This will be an
experiment, but I'm going to try using a web-based E-mail address and cyber cafes to
continue to send you themail. The schedule may be a little irregular for awhile; everyone
will receive the plain text edition, rather than an HTML edition; I won't be subscribing
or unsubscribing anyone; and I won't be posting issues of themail to the web or otherwise
updating the DCWatch web site. If there's a glitch, and themail doesn't arrive on time,
please forgive me and read a book instead.
But please keep sending your messages. You'll be our only source of news for what's
really going on town, instead of being just our chief source, which is what you are now.
In the last themail, Tom Berry has a question about public high school students being
required to read 30 books a year in order to be promoted. As a DCPS teacher, I replied to
him that at my school there is a yearly requirement of 25 books, and seniors cannot
graduate until they have fulfilled that requirement. This is a local interpretation and
implementation of one of the recommendations of America's Choice, the school
reform program which my school and several others in DC have chosen to follow, in
compliance with former Superintendent Ackerman's reform policies.
Students are asked to document the pages they have read each day, and teachers are
asked to quiz the students, randomly, every day, about their reading material. They may
not change books once they have chosen a book, may not select a book after they have
entered a particular classroom, and in most cases, may not substitute newspapers,
magazines or other reading material for books, unless they are assigned by a teacher.
These and other draconian measures are supposed to make fond readers of our students. From
the response I hear from students, I fear we are creating powerful resistance to reading
in most of the students. Those who are readers to begin with will probably not be
deterred, but for the majority, they feel this is just another obstacle in the race for a
diploma. A number of students have given this as their reason for transferring to other
Educational reform is problematic at best; there has never been agreement on how to
create an educated American. But now that this issue has become so politicized, everyone
has joined the fray, for various and often nefarious reasons. Woe betide the students and
teachers of our public schools. Only when parents become sufficiently outraged that their
kids are being used as guinea pigs for Bill Bennett's or someone else's schemes (often
someone who is pulling in big bucks from the school systems) will the standardized testing
hysteria and its adjuncts be modified, and education perhaps returned to the much-maligned
In response to Tom Berry's complaint about DCPS students having to read 30 books in 9
months, I'd like to point out that that works out to a little less than one book per week.
That doesn't seem to be a particularly onerous burden, especially because the children are
being asked to read things they enjoy, not obscure philosophical texts or statistics. And
most children's books are fairly short. The better one is at a task, the more one enjoys
it. To become skilled in reading and thus enjoy it, one has to practice it often. I would
think that parents who want their children to read would appreciate the school system's
Would you rather have a child glued to the TV or engrossed in a book? I'd say a book a
week would be a minimum requirement.
The MPD should be ashamed of itself. On more than four occasions, officers have refused
refused to provide me with their name or badge numbers. On two of these
occasions, the officers we plainclothes in an unmarked car. When I complained to 911 (as
the officers instructed me to when I expressed doubt they were police) their Lieutenant
showed up at 12:20 am (4 hours after I called) and told me if I continued to interfere
with his officers he would have me arrested.
I wrote to Commander Beach, Councilmember Graham, Chief Ramsey, and Mayor Williams
describing my concerns with undercover jump outs on my street. The officer in
charge of the vice squad in question called me, told me I didn't understand how dangerous
my neighborhood was, and asked why I didn't support the police who were trying to make it
safer. When I complained to him that the officers who had refused to identify themselves
had tried to intimidate me after I wrote my letters (driving the wrong way down the street
slowly, staring at me with their heads out the windows and laughing at me) their boss told
me it was a free country.
MPD isn't going to get an ounce of respect from this citizen until they stop behaving
like power-tripping children. There may well be good people in MPD but there are at
least as many bad cops, violent cops, and cops who lack basic civility, respect, and
professionalism. One last thing. The line that Ramsey and Gainer are separate from this
culture is bull. Their behavior during the IMF/WTO protests was deplorable -- they refused
to make simple gestures of good faith and openness like insisting officers wear badges.
Cops might not like it, but in a free country the Police must be open, transparent, and
These Kinds of Things. . .
Rick Otis, email@example.com
. . . simply happen to all sorts of people. Marc Battle is incorrect in suggesting
police abuse doesn't happen to white people. I've watched it happen. In one case, it was
two black officers and white occupants of a car under circumstances where the car
occupants were doing something perfectly reasonable and not playing a tad fast and lose
with the registration rules. Several of the onlookers to the event and the occupants of
the car openly stated they thought the officers were overacting precisely because of race.
No one should operate under the illusion that racism in Washington and across the country
is a one-way street.
I took my children, ages 3 and 6, with me to my polling place, Slowe Elementary School
in Brookland (precinct 73). As we waited on line one of the volunteers descended upon us,
asked my older son if he wanted to vote, and whisked them both away to the practice voting
booth where she helped the boys cast their ballot. Her intervention allowed to
me to cast my own ballot quickly and efficiently while simultaneously giving my children a
hands-on introduction to the democratic process. I'm sorry I didn't get the volunteer's
name but I want to thank her for making Election Day a positive experience for all three
Jeffrey Itell, Story@intr.net
In the past two days, Al Gore called me, Rick Santorum rang me up, Tom Ridge called on
behalf of Shrub, so did Shrubs brother Jeb, Al Call me Al Gore called
again, Bill Jefferson Clinton checked in to see how I was doing, MTV asked me to
Rock the Vote, and friends of Al called a few times just to reach out and
touch. Custom Mortgage also called; Ralph Nader didn't.
In the Battleground state of Pennsylvania, I am a voter. In D.C., I was
A Poet and Didnt Know It
Bob Summersgill, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark David Richards, in the rather informative article Hallelujah! DC Is
Vindicated on Principle! misidentified a quote from the Star as a poem. He
wrote: The Star (June 17, 1960) ran an article under the headline
'Hallelujah!,' opening with a poem: 'No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a
church door; But 'tis enough; 'twill serve.' This is from Mercutio's death speech in
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1. It is followed, a couple of sentences
later, by the line A plague o' both your houses! which is an appropriate curse
Sinking Deeper into the Constitutional Quicksand
George S. LaRoche, LaRoche@us.net
I agree with Tim Cooper that further amendment of the constitution would enable the
people of the District to do things they cannot now do. Ignoring other considerations,
this would be good. But an Amendment isn't a free ride, and it's not necessarily a step
towards the status the citizens of the District deserve. And Mr. Cooper's survey of
Supreme Court opinions, actually, is another reason to weigh the amendment proposal very
carefully. Mr. Cooper's survey of the cases is accurate, but leaves out the most important
consideration of all. Mr. Cooper correctly paraphrases Palmore to hold that Congress can
pretty much do what it wants so long as it doesn't contravene any provision of the
Constitution, but Mr. Cooper overlooks the necessary consideration: how to deal with
a situation when Congress does contravene a provision of the Constitution?
Darby, to which Mr. Cooper refers, is a case in point. It concerned a discrete claim
that Congress transgressed the Constitution in a certain manner. The question presented
was based on the court's statement in Palmore and it acknowledged every other Supreme
Court case. In short, to rule in favor of Ms. Darby, the courts would not have had to
reverse themselves or alter anything said before. But the courts couldn't bring themselves
to address the question. Palmore itself was also a case in point, in that Mr. Palmore was
pointing out a way in which he thought Congress had contravened the
Constitution, though the courts did grapple with the question presented in his case. In
other words, that phrase Mr. Cooper quotes from Darby is a nullity, but not for legal
reasons. It's a nullity because the courts are unwilling to heed their own statements of
the law as stated in Palmore and elsewhere. Congress's treatment of the District is
unassailable, but not because of existing case law. It is unassailable, as slavery and
legalized segregation were unassailable for so long, because of politics. The courts of
this country have hardly ever been in the forefront of change and have almost never been
receptive to the pleas of the disenfranchised, even when challenges are brought to stop
government from contravening the Constitution. Heartwarming images in popular
culture and politicians' speeches notwithstanding, the weak, the poor, people of color,
women, blue collar labor, and political minorities face a hard vertical climb just to get
into the courts, much less prevail. So an amendment would only be as good as a court's
willingness to enforce it.
For instance, the Thirteenth Amendment (outlawing slavery) seems clear as a bell on its
face, but slavery continued as a matter of fact until those flaunting the Amendment were
forced to release their slaves. Then, those who would hold others as slaves turned to the
system called peonage, which lasted until the mid-twentieth century, when the
United States Department of Justice finally had enough courage and political disposition
to try to stamp it out. We still have slavery in this country, of course, but it's hidden
and sporadic. Over a century after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, finally, the
Department of Justice and the courts are sufficiently ready to enforce the Thirteenth
Amendment that those who would now hold slaves must hide the fact in order to avoid
prosecution, conviction, and real punishment. The fact is that no Amendment is
self-executing. The Constitution itself is not self-executing and your rights
are not self-executing. Most people in his country couldn't give a flip about politics
(proof: how many of us voted Tuesday?), but they don't have to worry about their
rights or the Constitution, because they know that somewhere, someone else is
enforcing their rights for them. Their collective asses are covered by the few who give a
flip. One reason I urge the people of the District to hold out for and never cease
pressing for full citizenship under the existing terms of the Constitution (rather than
under a novel amendment or legislation) is that the law construing those existing terms of
the Constitution has already been written and its meaning is fairly clear. You won't have
to go to court over and over and over and over to define the new amendment or the new law,
to protect it, to defend it; and when you do have to go to court, finally, you'll find an
easier road to follow if it's the same road blazed by everyone else in the country.
Ask the Chief
Jim Farley, WTOP Radio, JTFnews@aol.com
DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey takes your calls live for an hour Thursday at 10 am on
WTOP Radio. 1500 AM, 107.7 FM, or listen live on http://www.wtopnews.com.
To call in, 1-877-628-WTOP or 895-5065, but please don't call until 10 am.
America is truly a nation of yakkers! From political punditry to Hollywood gossip to
gut-spilling confessional, we are caught up in (obsessed with!) talking about ourselves
and others! This Friday night, you can see the best yakkers in the country when
Washington Storytellers Theater presents the Washington premiere of The National Yakkers
Theater Ensemble. Critics describe their unique blend of improvisation, stand-up comedy,
personal anecdote, and traditional storytelling as, The Brothers Grimm meet Carl
Jung and Monty Python!
To see the Yakkers and learn about WST, go to http://www.washingtonstorytellers.org.
Whatever you do, don't miss comic monologist Nancy Donoval, veteran of street theater and
the classic stage David Novak, and award-winning playwright and performer Gerald Fierst in
an affordable, fun-filled evening that everyone will be yakking about! Washington, D.C.
Premiere of The National Yakkers Theater Ensemble, Friday, November 10, 8:00 pm, District
of Columbia Jewish Community Center, Goldman Theater, 16th and Q Streets, NW (Dupont
Circle Metro). Tickets $12. Call 301-891-1129.
The Poor Clares, a traditional Irish band, will be performing a Celtic Christmas
Concert on Friday, December 1st at 7 pm. The concert will be at the John Eaton School, at
34th and Lowell Streets, NW, in Washington, DC. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for
children 10 and under. Dirty Linen magazine called The Poor Clares One of America's
best Irish groups. For more information, E-mail email@example.com, call 986-9275, or
CLASSIFIEDS FOR SALE
Friday, November 10th and Saturday, November 11th, 10 am to 4 pm, 3467 24th Street, SE,
near Naylor Road and Southern Avenue. All items must go. Old records, historical books,
household items, furniture.
Can someone please recommend a good, low-cost body shop for my 1990 Acura Integra? The
driver's side door needs to be replaced.
I am looking for a reliable handyman for minor tasks around the house. I've seen
postings recommending such folks in the past but neglected to print them out.
[Two reminders: first, the complete archives of themail can be searched at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/search.htm,
so you can look there for past messages. Second, when you reply directly to a request for
recommendations with information that should be of general interest, please send a copy to
themail, so others can benefit. Gary Imhoff]
Cleaner for Brick Patio
Cynthia Harrison, firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd appreciate recommendations for someone to power wash and seal a brick patio.
CLASSIFIEDS CITY PAPER PREVIEW
Dave Nuttycombe, email@example.com
From washingtoncitypaper.com's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
EX POST FACTO: The biggest loser in this year's local election cycle? That would have to
be the Washington Post, which saw the value of its once-weighty editorial
endorsements reduced to, well, whatever you could get at the local recycling center for
all those campaign posters for the Rev. Robert Childs and Charlene Drew Jarvis.
Note: This is the last LL column written by Washington City Paper contributing
editor Erik Wemple. Starting next week, veteran City Paper contributor Jonetta
Rose Barras will become the new LL.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/lips/lips.html
From washingtoncitypaper.com's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for
THURSDAY-SUNDAY: Brett Butler, 8 and 10:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11,
and 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9 & Sunday, Nov. 12, at the Improv, 1140 Connecticut
Ave. NW. $17-$20.
WEDNESDAY: John Eaton, 8 and 10 p.m., at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $16.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/pix/pix.html
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