Well, the cultural identity of the District of Columbia does seem to be a
conundrum. A few months ago, the Washington Post ran a contest to name the signature food
or dish of the city. I don't recall ever seeing a winner. When I wrote the introduction to
the last issue of themail and tried ot think of what the traditional folk
dance of Washington would be, I named the Electric Slide half in jest, but
also because I'm pretty sure that it is the closest we have to a dance that people
identify with the city. Do we actually have a culture, an identity that makes us
I'd welcome any suggestions.
What Does It Mean to Say I'm from DC?
Peter Luger, email@example.com
I was interested in Mark Richard's latest about actually being from
DC. For a few years in the past, I did a fair amount of traveling around the US with
friends from the Detroit suburbs. As we traveled around and met other travelers, the
where are you from conversation would come up. I (and others from DC and the
DC-metropolitan area), would always proudly say I'm from DC. I always thought
that was significant because we would say it even when things were bad here AND people
from Arlington would say it as well. The people from the Detroit area would always say,
I'm from Michigan. There was no pride whatsoever even though some of the
Detroit suburbs are very nice. My friends did not want to associate themselves with
Detroit in any way whatsoever because of its reputation. More often than not, after
saying, I'm from DC, I would get approving commentary about how much they
liked it here when they visited or something like that. Of course, there would often be
comments about politics or Former-and-Futuer-Mayor-for-Life Barry, but that's what we
talked about, so why wouldn't someone else? (I know this doesn't actually answer Mark's
query about a cultural identity of DC, but I thought it was relevant anyway.)
Mark Richards raises an interesting about about the cultural identity
or lack thereof of DC dwellers. After four years here, I couldn't answer the
question; I have gotten no real sense of a cultural identity here. To me, this was one of
the most notable differences between DC and Boston, my former home; Boston is soaked in
its own culture and tradition. From the way people talk to the way they walk and drive and
handle daily exchanges with one another, to the dynamic local politics and the way
neighborhoods are arranged, Boston is a unique place, and it gets in your blood when you
When I moved to Boston I fell in love with it, warts and all, and every
time I returned there from a trip, my spirits would lift when I saw the skyline from the
window of the plane or the car. I became a Bostonian. When I moved to DC, I became a
Bostonian who lives in the District. That doesn't keep me from appreciating all the great
things about living in DC in many ways I prefer it to Boston but I don't
identify with it.
What have other transplants to DC (which, I suspect, is most of us)
Are the DC Police in the Spy Business?
Eddie Becker, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Thursday, November 30, the Washington Post reported on a
series of failed court cases brought by the City of Philadelphia against demonstrations
arrested during the Republican National Convention, this past summer. (Many Summer
Protesters Cleared, by Debbie Goldberg, Page A03, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A4754-2000Nov29.html.)
Not surprisingly, the City of Philadelphia was now vulnerable to civil action for
interfering with the constitutional rights of the demonstrators to protest and there was
little justification for those hundreds of arrests.
Left out of the Washington Post article, but reported in
Philadelphia papers, was the role played by undercover Washington, DC, Intelligence
Detective Angelo Parisi, covertly operating in Philadelphia during the Republican
Convention (see Philadelphia Daily News at http://dc.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=434).
Under what authority do the DC Police operate covertly in other jurisdictions? If the
victims sue, as is likely the case, will the DC Police, and ultimately DC taxpayers, have
How deeply has the Metropolitan Police Department fallen in the spy
business, which seems to have its origins in the International Monetary Fund/World Bank
demonstration last April? And just how real is the threat?
There have been virtually no convictions resulting from the hundreds of
arrests during the IMF/WB demonstrations (see http://dc.indymedia.org/displayplp3?article_id=3652).
Even the demonstrations personally arrested by Chief Charles Ramsey and his Assistant
Terrance Gainer, for "assault on a police officer," were never convicted on any
charge. Instead, there is now mounting evidence that the police systematically distorted
the intentions of the demonstrators in order to justify preemptive raids, mass arrests,
and increased funding requests in the millions. More alarming were Chief Ramsey's
misstatements that characterized the demonstrators as hell bent on physically assaulting
police and employing various types of antipersonnel weapons, from peppers to incendiary
weapons (for photos and narrative details, see http://dc.indymedia.org/displayphp3?article_id=3777).
These pronouncements by the Chief and others in the police command structure were an
effective tool used to convince some in law enforcement that the intention of the
demonstrators was not to protest the policies of the bank, but rather to cause them, the
police, direct physical harm. The inevitable result was that some police officers used
violence as the first option, attacking demonstrators with batons and pepper spray, as
they were peacefully protesting, causing grave physical harm for some of the
demonstrators. These actions by the DC police and other law enforcement agencies will be
at the heart of a legal suit against them (https://secure2-hosting.net/justiceonline/A16/).
Meanwhile, law enforcement may be sliding down a slippery slope, infiltrating
organizations, tapping phones, and reading E-mail of folks whose activities are
constitutionally protected. Without proper civilian oversight and legal control, the city
of Washington will likely pay dearly.
Polkas, hand dance, or swing dance would be better and more aerobic, but
that is the best idea I have heard in a long time. Unfortunately Freedom Plaza isn't free
since it was turned over to one of those quasi-government corporations. This is not an
official position of my office; I have no idea if my boss dances.
For Zinnia and others looking for a great cup of coffee near 14th and U,
go two blocks south on 14th to Sparky's Expresso Cafe just below S Street (1720 14th).
Opened this past October, Sparky's has already become a neighborhood meeting place. It
offers up coffee, tea, pastries, and a venue for up-and-coming artists to display their
talents. Look for the owner, Jeff Burko, who is doing a marvelous job as a first-time
coffee shop owner. Look for Sparky the dog, too.
[John Whiteside, email@example.com,
also recommends Sparky's, and Sara Cormeny, firstname.lastname@example.org,
adds that Sparky's is very nice and worth the walk down the block. Gary
No Exit from Porter Street or from Ugly Front Yard
Paul Penniman, email@example.com
DPW has decided to close Porter Street westbound between Connecticut
Avenue and Reno Road and detour cars in the following manner: if you are coming up Porter
from the park, you are to go north on Connecticut, make a left at Tilden, then a left at
Reno to get back to Porter. This last left turn is impossible as we speak, and the turn
onto Tilden will be difficult against southbound traffic. My call to DPW on Thursday to
explain this was not returned.
I have a reality check for people who choose to place ugly politically
motivated signs on their front lawns. Your effort automatically takes away from the
neighborhood you are trying to protect, and the message lacks any meaningful information
to be able to adequately sway neutral observers like myself. Considering the environmental
damage you are inflicting, assume your message is counterproductive.
Loss of AGF Direct Gas and Servicing
Rona Mendelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Were any other readers affected by the sudden and surprise cutoff of gas
supplied by AGF Direct Gas and SErvicing through Washington Gas? On November 30, I
received notice from Washington Gas that AGF has decided to withdraw from
participating in the Washington Gas Customer Choice Program. What's happened to AGF?
Did I miss a notice in the Washington Post?
Also, when I contacted the three other service providers mentioned by
Washington Gas, one of them, Pepco Energy Services, offered a seeming good contract that
expired the very day I got the notice about AGF. This seems unfair, as the other services
as not as low priced or require longer contracts. What do themail readers recommend
and what recourse do former AGF users have in their search for a new provider as well as
in their shutout from Pepco Energy Services' contract?
To BHaycock and others interested in education reform: as one of those
making the obscene suggestion that forced reading turns students off, allow me
to agree with you on everything else you said to themail this week. Low expectations is
indeed much of what's wrong with education in DC. However, the current fads, promulgated
by politicians with no reason to know anything about what constitutes an educated
individual, are not about learning either.
The real demonstration of contempt for our public school students is to
suppose that they cannot respond to the same non-Skinnerian methods that we middle class
recipients of a humanistic education benefited from. Forcing youngsters to read a certain
number of pages/books per a certain period operates just like any other form of force.
Maybe those socialized in an authoritarian household respond to this type of
education, but the youngsters we teach today are not to be trained like German
Shepherd dogs. Conscientious teachers today are eagerly searching for better ways to
inspire students to reach for what should be theirs, it's what we do in our action
research (that the Education Trust supports) all the time. But the innovations we are
searching for are those that will address today's crop of minds, not those of fifty years
I didn't intend to carry on a dialog here, but it's important to see that
it's a false dichotomy to say that we who decry "drill and kill" and Nazi-style
reading patterns are propounding watered-down education. Let's get over trying to sell our
own products, and join together in discovering better ways to address a real problem.
Changing Situations and DC Statehood
David Sobelsohn, email@example.com
In the most recent issue of themail, Timothy Cooper admits that, compared
with his own proposal for a constitutional amendment, it would be preferable to pass
DC statehood legislation in Congress, but 3it is simply impossible and
unlikely to change for at least a generation. First, I disagree that it will
take 20 years to get a congressional majority supporting statehood. Second, if we can't
get a simple congressional majority to support statehood, we won't get a two-thirds
congressional majority and three quarters of the states to support Mr. Cooper's
constitutional amendment requiring that DC be treated as a state.
Mr. Cooper points out that polls in DC do not support retrocession. But
those polls would change if DC residents agreed that retrocession was the quickest route
to equal representation and self government. In any event, it's not clear that what
District residents think matters much to Congress. But retrocession faces a more
significant obstacle: Congress wouldn't retrocede the District without Maryland's consent.
And there's no real constituency for retrocession in Maryland. Moreover, it's in the self
interest of leaders of both political parties in Maryland to oppose retrocession. As a
result, the shortest, easiest means to self-government and equal representation is
probably statehood. It sure ain't a constitutional amendment.
Finally, Mr. Cooper writes that should the presidency fall to Mr.
Bush, then the DC voting rights movement will plunge into a deep freeze and these
discussions will become highly academic for a time. This is a non sequitur.
Congress admits new states by joint resolution and has sole power to propose
constitutional amendments to the states; the president can veto neither. If the Democrats
retake the House in 2002, new House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers (D-MI) will
hold hearings on DC statehood in the 108th Congress, even while G.W. Bush serves out the
remainder of his four-year term. And even if some legislation is needed for statehood or
retrocession (clearly not for an amendment), having hearings in 2003 and a bill passed by
even one chamber will help in 2005 when we get outta the Bushes for good.
Budget Meeting and Demonstration
Susie Cambria, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ensure the District's budget is fair. The Fair Budget Coalition's next
meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 6, at 9:30 am in the offices of the Washington
Legal Clinic for the Homeless, 1800 Massachusetts Ave. NW, 6th floor. On the agenda are
advocacy initiatives for FY 2002, legislative updates (Interim Disability Assistance and
DC Earned Income Tax Credit), and budget advocacy trainings. All are welcome. For more
information, contact Patty Mullahy Fugere, 872-8958.
Need in the Midst of Plenty Rally. The Human Needs First Campaign is
holding a rally on Tuesday, December 5, at 5:00 p.m. at 441 4th Street, NW (One Judiciary
Square) to tell the Mayor to put human needs first. Come join us. For more information,
contact T.J. Sutcliffe at SOME, 797-0701 x107.
This Week at Grace Episcopal, Georgetown
Bob Andrew, email@example.com
In the Grace regular weekly ethics and spirituality TGIF series, Shoshanna
Tita, a native of Israel and Director of the Tora Life Center, speaks Friday, December 8th
at 12:30 p.m. The Center's purpose is to enlighten, educate and broaden Jewish
understanding and spirituality.
Sunday December 10, at 10:30 a.m., is our traditional Lessons and Carols,
featuring the Grace Episcopal Choir with the St. Luke's Catholic School bell choir plus a
children's pageant. For directions, see http://www.gracedc.org.
CLASSIFIEDS FOR SALE
Wood frame mirror for sale. Mint-condition two-year-old honey maple mirror
approx. 43 X 37 inches by Nichols and Stone of Gardner, MA. Retailed for $400; no
reasonable offer refused. Will deliver in DC!
House for Rent
Patricia Bitondo, PBitondo@aol.com
Unfurnished, Georgetown area. Small, compact two-bedroom house.
State-of-the-art kitchen, fitness room with Jacuzzi, very private garden. $1,800 monthly.
Contact Ron at 337-2843.
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