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March 21, 2001

Winston Churchill Wrote themail

Dear Churchillian Scholars:

This is a short issue, and it's all my fault, since I asked you to write about the times that Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton helped you with a problem with the DC government. Next time, let's get back to basics and let other people know what's going on in our own neighborhoods.

Lee Perkins,, identified the author of the quotation from “Slattery's People” as Winston Churchill. Sam Smith wrote: “'Democracy is the worst form of government, with the exception of all others.' Winston Churchill.” Rich Mintz,, wrote: “It sounds a lot like the quip universally attributed to Winston Churchill, 'It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.'” Randall Bovbjerg,, quoted it the same as Mintz, although he added, with respect to the exact wording, “There are lots of versions. It's always Sir Winnie.” Bob Summersgill,, wrote: “Winston Churchill said 'Democracy is a very bad form of government. Unfortunately all the others are so much worse.' It was not a Hollywood script writer. Your quote was slightly different. The difference might be due to memory or a Hollywood writer attempting to improve on the original.” Derek Sarley,, wrote: “Generally this quote is attributed to Winston Churchill: 'Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time.'”, who may or may not be our highly regarded Steph “quotations are my middle name” Faul at a different E-mail address, contributed not only a variant of the Churchill quote, but also the following gems: “A monarchy is a merchantman which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock, and go to the bottom; a republic is a raft which will never sink, but then your feet are always in the water.” — Fisher Ames. “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” — H. L. Mencken. “Democracy: The substitution of election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.” — George Bernard Shaw. “The reason there are two senators for each state is so that one can be the designated driver.” — Jay Leno.

In my uninformed opinion, the first version of the Churchill quotation, cited by Sam Smith and others, is the most polished and pithiest, and therefore the least likely to be the original. The last version, cited by Derek Sarley, is a bit wordier and has more context than any of the others, so it strikes me as the most authentic. Does anyone know the exact source so that we can check it out?

Gary Imhoff


The Helpful Delegate
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park,

I will heed Gregory Diaz' admonition to be brief. I called Delegate Norton's office once for help regarding Lovejoy school. The staff person with responsibility for this issue never returned the call. End of story.


Congresswoman Norton and Constituent Services
David S. Reed,

Gary Imhoff referred to “the procedure that [Congresswoman Norton's] office has created to discourage citizen inquiries.” (themail, 18 March 2001) I don't think this is a fair characterization. When I asked Norton's office for help with a Federal agency, I was presented with the procedure Imhoff referred to, a form for me to sign that granted Norton's office the right to disclose my identity and my complaint. I was surprised and a little annoyed, but I don't think the form has evil intent. It implements a principle of the Privacy Act of 1974, that the government should generally not disclose information from its files on individuals, except for the purpose stated when the information was collected. Norton's office is not legally bound by the Privacy Act; it applies only to the Executive Branch. (I haven't researched  whether the House of Representatives has imposed similar requirements on itself.) Moreover, one could argue that disclosing a citizen's complaint to the affected agency is a “routine use” of the complaint under the Privacy Act, and does not need any explicit authorization from the citizen. But I can see the possibility that a citizen might assume Norton's office will take up his issue with an agency without disclosing his identity, and the form Norton's office is using prevents that misunderstanding. Since the form has a very plausible justification, I don't think it is fair to characterize it as an effort to discourage citizen inquiries.


More about Health Care/DC General, and Halfway Houses
Richard Layman, Northeast DC,

Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer had an interesting article about how emergency rooms are becoming the main form of health services to people, primarily because they find it hard to get access to a doctor when they are sick, especially if the illness isn't catastrophic. The article mentioned that hospitals can either try to fight this trend, or go with the flow. It sounds like the hospital mentioned that “goes with the flow” is Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. Perhaps it is a model we can learn from in developing a health care services delivery model for the District. Here is the URL: The article will be online for free probably only until Thursday.

On halfway houses, I was trying to stir debate. And we do need to see data about where the incarcerated live before imprisonment, to get a sense of the justice in siting such facilities. Frankly, I'd rather not have halfway houses in my community, but we do have people from our community released to such facilities and we ought to figure out how to do it right to reduce recidivism. I have talked to some people in the Blair Shelter (because they do car washing to raise money) and they seem to have a well thought out program that has at least three stages (different places/placements) that seems to break the cycle for many. I know a lot of criminals come from out of the area (I live in North Capitol Hill/H Street), but a bunch don't. (Many people in adjoining PSAs say criminals come from my PSA to theirs.)

I really like the idea of what they do in Boston, having probation officers touring regularly with police officers, because parole is granted with certain conditions that if broken require reincarceration. Parole officers can deal with this quickly, police officers can't. This type of program is just now starting in the District. Apparently it is already having some success. Some interesting articles online about these issues are accessible through the Manhattan Institute website (note: for the record I am a registered Democrat) which you can get to via


DC Schools
Richard Urban, Washington DC Director, Free Teens,

Marie Collins is right. We have to look a lot deeper to repair what ails DC Public Schools, and in fact, our communities in general. We have a city that has an 80 percent out of wedlock birth rate. Twenty-two percent of high school girls in the District report having been pregnant one or more times Numerous studies, and common sense, tells us that children who grow up without the benefit of the love and attention of both parents, or sometimes even one parent, do not do as well in school, and are prone to many other problems as well. Let's begin discussing more about how to solve this causal problem, and how to promote marriage as an essential institution for the stability of our City.


Response to Question on Philly Resolution
Shaun Snyder,

Kimberly Larson asks who Representative Ray Browne is, the man who urged the Philadelphia City Council to pass a resolution supporting voting rights for DC (or statehood, I can't remember which). U.S. Representative Ray Brown is the US Rep. for the District of Columbia. But don't forget Paul Strauss and Florence Pendelton, the two United States Senators from the District of Columbia. These positions have absolutely nothing to do with the real United States Congress. They are a creation of DC law and are no more a member of Congress than is Rodney Dangerfield. The idea was to create the position of US Rep and Senators for two reasons: to lobby for statehood for DC and to have people ready to serve in case the state of New Columbia came into existence. I believe these positions cause more harm than any good they might do. I can't tell you how many people I've encountered who think we have representation in the Senate with our “shadow” senators, similar to Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House. Eleanor is a Delegate to Congress, an actual member of Congress, albeit without a vote. I think we should abolish these shadow offices. Besides, if we are going to have a shadow Congressional delegation, why not a shadow governor and shadow state legislature?


Wasting Metro’s Money
Paul Michael Brown,

Mr. Diaz recently lamented the demise of brevity here, so I'll be succinct: If you think it's a waste of money to require Metrorail to rename the airport station in honor of Ronald Reagan, you should also oppose spending Metrobus money to engage in license plate sloganeering. Both courses of action are conceptually identical.


Term Limits Act
Judith Turner,

I initially agreed with those who were outraged by the move by the City Council to overturn the 1994 referendum on Term Limits, and even wrote a letter to members of the City Council expressing my opposition. (Perversely, I am not for term limits; I think they are undemocratic. I was just uncomfortable overturning a referendum.)

However, responses to my letter from several City Council members, and a phone call from Linda Cropp, persuaded me that the City Council is right — and brave — to consider the “Consecutive Term Limitation Amendment Act of 2001.” As Chairman Cropp pointed out, the Council would have to be suicidal to consider such a measure if there were not great support for it within the electorate. And indeed, those of us who don't like term limits should have the right to have them reconsidered. An alternative approach, to have another referendum, is far less appropriate. How many referenda should be allowed on a measure? And how many referenda are necessary to express the will of the voters? Two out of three? Three out of five? At least with a Council action, voters have an option: They can vote against the Council members if they disagree with the Council's decision.

My original opposition was based on the idea that a referendum is sacrosanct. But should it be? I mean, can't the voters change their minds? Making a referendum inviolate is like — well — term limits. And I'm against them.



Puppets on the Block
Sue Bell,

In honor of National Library Week, the Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Library present The Kids on the Block. Life-sized puppets with and without disabilities helping us celebrate our differences. A free program for children, ages 5-9. Tuesday, April 3 at 3:30 p.m. At the Tenley-Friendship Library Children's Room, 4450 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, 282-3094. Tenley Metro Stop.


School Spring Auction
Sue Bell,

Support a DCPS elementary school while you score great deals on live theater, restaurants, mountain retreat get-a-ways, athletic events, arts and crafts items, sports memorabilia and much more. Mark your calendars for Saturday March 31, 7 p.m., and join us for the Asian Odyssey to support Ben W. Murch Elementary School. Admission tickets to the auction are $20 at the door and $15 in advance. Beer, wine, soft drinks and hors d'oeuvres included. Held in the lovely and convenient IntelSat atrium (3400 International Drive NW, off Van Ness, between Connecticut and Reno). Auction revenues support academic programs and fund teaching assistants for Murch school. For more information call Amy Schmidt at 686-0659.


Washington’s Best Folk for WoodyStock 2001
Tim Cline,

WoodyStock 2001 will be Sunday, March 25, doors open 7 p.m. (get there early, we expect a full house), at The Metro Café, 1522 14th St., NW, corner of 14th and Church Streets (Between P & Q). Some of DC's best-loved folk performers are getting together to celebrate the life and work of seminal artist and environmentalist Woody Guthrie — and it's all for a good cause. Multi WAMMIE award winner, Rachel Cross will perform and M.C. the evening, benefiting the population environmental organization ZPG. The show, which Rachel describes as the “unprecedented folk event of the season,” will feature live performances by Mary Byrd Brown, Andrew McKnight, Michelle Swan, Steve Key, Mary Sue Twohy, Cletus Kennelly and Garth Ross.

The evening will be recorded and released as a live CD. Admission is a suggested $10 donation. Food will be provided. And it's a cash bar. WoodyStock 2001 is made possible by a grant from the Arkay Foundation.


Clean Up DC Bike Ride
Alexander M. Padro,

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Keep Washington, DC Beautiful, Inc., and the District of Columbia Clean City Coordinator are sponsoring the Second Annual Clean Up DC Bike Ride on Saturday, March 24. Join Mayor Anthony Williams on this 15-mile ride, which begins and ends at Catholic University of America in Northeast (METRO: Red Line Brookland/CUA Station). This free event includes parking, coffee, juice and bagels at registration; mechanical assistance before and throughout the tour; directions and route markings; and rest stops with food and beverages.

The route will take riders past McMillan Reservoir, the National Arboretum, and Ft. Lincoln Park. Several park cleanups will be taking place, and riders will have the option of stopping and participating in the cleanups. (If you plan to help with cleanups, please bring work gloves.) One of the stops will be the kickoff event for the Great American Cleanup: Spring Cleaning in Washington, DC, at Jemal's Gateway, North Capitol Street and P Street, NE, at 9:30 a.m. This two-month long effort will include neighborhood cleanups throughout the city, as part of the national Keep America Beautiful campaign. Other local activities during the next eight weeks will include a public awareness campaign, poster contest, and a roller blade cleanup event.

Registration for the ride will take place from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 24th. Bikers will assemble in front of Hannan Hall (Physics Department, Catholic University of America). Registration is free. All participants will be required to sign a liability waiver. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, or to volunteer to help with the event, contact the Washington Area Bicyclist Association at 628-2500 or or visit



Employment Leads
Melissa Williamson,

Social worker currently employed as a supervisor at Child Welfare agency seeking to change jobs. I have five years experience as a social worker and I hold a master's degree in social work. If have information of an opening please E-mail me at Thanks in advance for your help.



Rachel Hines,

Honda Accord DX, light blue (1994), excellent condition, great engine, great CD/stereo. 93,000 miles, asking $5,500. Call 462-1063 or respond by E-mail.



Adams Morgan Office Space
Alan Heymann,

There's some great commercial space available right here in Adams Morgan. Affinity Lab, on 18th Street right above The Diner, is accepting applications from people in the area who need a little room and a little help to start their businesses. Young entrepreneurs who do media, political, and community work are already in the Lab. The space has furniture, high-speed Internet, phone, conference room, kitchen and even a disco ball built into the price, and services are available to help a business get off the ground.

We're not an incubator! One monthly fee and no equity required. Call 518-6181 or go to for more information.



Iron Fence
John Whiteside, Logan Circle,

My neighbors and I would like to put decorative iron fencing along the front of our properties, and between our front yards. At the moment one house in our row of four has a fence; we'd like to get together and find someone to do the other three. Anyone have a recommendation for someone to do this who's reasonably priced and reliable (we're tired of people not showing up to give us a quote, etc.)?


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
WATCHING OUT FOR NUMERO UNO: Deairich R. (“Dee”) Hunter and LL are laughing over breakfast at Timothy Dean's, that swank new place on K Street in the St. Regis Hotel that is owned by a young African-American of the same name. Head of the DC-Citizens Advocacy Project, Hunter is at times amused, baffled, and downright peeved about the D.C. Council's move to overturn the term-limits law approved by voters in 1994. More than 80,000 citizens voted in favor of the measure to limit all elected officials to two consecutive terms in the same post.
Hunter and his allies are now pondering their next step, should the council persist. He wants to launch a massive voter-education effort, replete with mass mailings and telephone banks. Others want either to recall certain councilmembers or to target them for defeat in 2002.
Not unlike the protesters at D.C. General who are battling to keep their jobs, councilmembers are motivated by a desire to hold on to their $90,000 per year part-time gigs.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
WEDNESDAY: Douglass Institute of Government founder Asa Gordon discusses whether or not African-Americans willingly served the Confederacy during the Civil War, at 7 p.m. at Oxon Hill Library, 6200 Oxon Hill Road, Oxon Hill. Free.
THURSDAY: Michael Jackson, the "Beer Hunter," discusses The Great Beers of the United Kingdom and Ireland, with a sampling of the potables discussed. At 7:30 p.m. at the National Geographic Society's Grosvenor Auditorium, 1600 M St. NW. $30.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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