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March 27, 2002

Most Important Message

Dear Targets:

The E-mail spammers are getting nastier. As I wrote several months ago, I don't mind spam E-mail much. I don't even run a spam filter, because it doesn't take that much effort just to hit the delete button. But lately the titles of spam messages are going far beyond provocative and misleading; they're becoming aggressive and vicious. The “Get Rich Quick” and “Live Nude Girls” titles in the older general of spam just amused me, but “Foreclosure Notice” could have given me a heart attack, if I had a mortgage. “FW: Important” wasn't, and “Urgent and Confidential” was neither. “It's Me Jessica” wasn't from any Jessica I knew, although I appreciated her kind offer to reveal absolutely everything to me. To the company pretending to be a person who asked “Do You Remember Me?,” no, I never knew you. Completely unconvincing was “Your Contest Entry Won, Tom,” since I'm not Tom and never have been. “Invoice #76893” wasn't for anything I bought, “Notice of Issuance” wasn't for anything issued to me, and “Notice of Shipment” wasn't for anything being shipped to me. “Did You Get Your Check?” sounded promising, as did “We Found Your Lost Money,” but both spammers were more interested in getting money from me than in giving money to me. “Re: Your Account” was vaguer, but had nothing to do with any of my accounts anywhere. “Important Security Announcement” was unimportant and didn't increase my security. Completely disconcerting was the series of messages that started with “IRS Notice,” progressed to “IRS Notification,” advanced to “Your IRS Payment,” and finally took a quantum leap to “Your PAST DUE IRS Account,” but luckily none of them was from the IRS.

I suppose the spam E-mail title that was closest to true was “You Could Be in Serious Trouble,” but then again, isn't that's true about all of us?

The government of Nigeria is now finally countering the scam spam E-mails that ask for your help in sneaking money out of the country. It's fighting the scam by, what else, putting up a web site. See the story at,4125,NAV47_STO69562,00.html

Gary Imhoff 


Barry Go Away
Ron Eberhardt, 

Is it just me, or are most sane and reasonable people sick to death of the never-ending saga of Marion Barry? His latest, and I might add very lucky for him, brush with law enforcement while in a compromising situation with drugs once again points to the sad fact that Barry is who he has always been. He is at best a divisive street punk who was given extraordinary opportunity to do good and miserably failed because of his own personal shortcomings of integrity and self-will. And, Marion Barry is at heart a racist whose recent statements about the racial composition of the D. C. Council and the mix of business in this city is nauseating and race baiting. Now he comes once again asking for a job from the people. His words have been divisive, vile and he once again seeks to use the race card to rile people to vote for him. The recent themail contribution that accused the Washington Post of racism for publishing an official police incident report underlines that Barry, as he always has, plays the card to his advantage and to the disadvantage of the city that he professes to love.

Barry, you may recall, is also the guy who frequently reminded us as Mayor that his was service of sacrifice inasmuch as he could make untold monies working in the private sector. Well, I don't know about you, but I don't remember reading of Barry's appointment to multiple boards or heading major corporations or playing Vernon-Jordan-style power brokering. The worst of Barry is that he actually has people believing that he has their best interest at heart. Barry has never had anyone's best interest closer to him then his own — financial and personal. Has not this city's reputation and quality of life not suffered enough under his horrible stewardship? Have we not endured enough worldwide embarrassment because to his conduct and arrogant antics? I strongly suggest that this city and its residents recognize Barry for who he is and keep this divorce final — his separation from public office. I feel sorry for anyone who would hold this ! man up as a role model for young people. His life has been anything but a model and that is entirely his fault. Marion Barry, go away!


Trace Amounts?
Keith Jarrell, 

Does trace amounts of cocaine and marijuana mean that Marion Barry was once again doing illegal substances? I would venture to beg that it does! I thought he was cured. What B**ch set him up this time? I hope this will finally put to bed any possible chance of a rerun this city might ever have for a Marion return to public life.


Sprint PCS Phones Blaring Ads During Meetings
Austin Kelly, 

I was headed into a meeting at work, when suddenly my Sprint PCS phone began blaring an ad for wireless web service. A spectacularly nasty letter to the CEO of Sprint got me the remarkable claim that they would never do such a thing, and perhaps my phone is defective! Normally this wouldn't be a particularly DC issue, but marketing experiments (which I strongly suspect this is, despite the adamant denial) are often limited to one or two geographical areas. So I ask the readers of themail — any of you have “defective” phones that suddenly start spewing ads? Let me know. I'd love to confront Sprint with a geographically concentrated rash of “defects.”


Spending the Money Unwisely
Ed T. Barron, 

The proposal to raise teachers' salaries 19 percent over the next three years is both right and wrong. Raising teachers' salaries is a great idea if the money is used only to increase the starting salaries for new teachers. The District must be more than competitive in attracting good new teachers. The only way to do that is to offer much more than competing school districts in Montgomery County, Arlington, and Fairfax counties, which have much better teaching environments and higher quality students.

Paying the current teachers, who are already high up on the salary scale, more money (a 6 percent raise each year for those in the higher brackets is a lot more dollars than at the low end of the scale) will never make them better teachers. DC schools need much more qualified teachers than we have right now if the quality of instruction is to result in better prepared students. We need to bring in the best teachers who want to teach in the Washington area. If we offer the same amount of starting salaries as the surrounding counties we will continue to get the dregs and not the best. Spend the additional dollars wisely at the front end and raise the starting salary to $40K or more and watch the quality of education get much better in the DC schools.


New Neighborhood List
Harold Clifton, 

Hello, the new list, northerncorner, serves the neighborhoods of Colonial Village, North Portal Estates, and Rock Creek Gardens. We would appreciate it if you would list us in your links section. The address is

[Susie Cambria,, suggested that it may be time to update the list of DC listservs. The list is available at If you have additions or corrections, please send them in. — Gary Imhoff]


Communication Breakdown
John Whiteside, 

Does anyone have accurate E-mail addresses for City Council members? I tried to send Jack Evans an E-mail using the address on the city web site and got this: “Host not found. The following recipients did not receive this message:”    The domain seems to be nonexistent.

[That's the right domain, but the Council has been having trouble with its phones and web site. Has anyone else had trouble getting through? — Gary Imhoff]


Across the Board Increases Through Sales/Assessment Ratios
Nancy Huvendick, 

I litigated this issue back in the late 1980's; after I filed my brief in the Court of Appeals the District agreed to my position to avoid having to take an adverse decision. I'll have to dig out the brief I filed.


Assessments and Property Values
William Haskett,  

I follow the logic of Dr. Craig's objections (, but believe that there is something more direct that should be said about the whole process. Firstly, it continues the tradition of administrative incompetence that we have all grown accustomed to from past experience: to tie taxation to a notional market value is to tie actual use-values — the fact that we live in a house which keeps the rain off — to the temporary and external opinion that this particular house would bring x-dollars if it were on the market — which, in most instances, it is not. We are then taxed as though we had actually received this market-increment at once, and could use it as an asset. This is only true if, indeed, we move to sell it at once, and if we do then receive that notional market value. The result is to penalize the stayers — those we wish to keep — and to reward the goers, who have only a temporary interest in the utility-value reflected in the existence of the actual house. This in turn reverses the incentive structure that any government ought to be interested in.

But also, with houses, we seem to have gone backward: from an impossible task of assessing each house each year, at 100% of its market value, we shifted to a triennial system which had at least the apparent benefit of one-thirding whatever work is involved . . . and now have gone back to the original impossibility of assessing each property every year. I'd have thought that even that is strange, since you cannot find out what the market value of any house is in the current year in which it is not sold, but must retrospectively be compared to others which did. This is where I'd have supposed that Dr. Craig's objections for Cleveland Park (and any other areas similarly affected) are strongest, since if each house is to be taken on its own, rather than grouped with others of similar type or value, then the task becomes enormous, and probably futile. It simply confirms that I benefit from an increased assessment only if I sell, and am damaged only if I do not sell. The damage, of course, then continues to impose tax burdens on me from that time forward, and never goes back until I sell the house. Understand that my comments are simply those of commonsense in assessing the actual administrative possibilities for an office staff in assessments which, I am told, amounts to 20 or so people. Under whatever system you use, this becomes an enormous burden of work, under the system actually employed it becomes (as Dr. Craig points out) inequitable and unjust.

This is my principal conclusion about District government: that it lacks the fundamental administrative good sense to carry out fairly and properly the political and financial obligations it undertakes for itself -- without, I suspect, always understanding what is involved in those programs and processes. And that is what I think is probably the case here.


Property Assessments
Natalie Hopkins, 

I was offended by Ms. Lois Kirkpatrick's comments on property assessments, but I can forgive her because she has the benefit of the Fairfax County experience. Fairfax County has a reputation for providing fair and accurate assessments. They have a good methodology, excellent software, and fair, competent employees. In DC, appraisers do not inspect properties! They never get off their proverbial duffs and into the streets. I agree with every comment that Dr. Peter Craig made about the process in DC. I appealed the proposed 2002 tax assessment of my residence primarily on the basis of equity and got nowhere. At the first appeal level, the tax assessor kept me waiting for my assigned appeal appointment for 1 hour and 40 minutes with not a single word of apology. In contrast, all the other appraisers were meeting with the appointees filing in and out of the office in as scheduled. I could tell that she was not familiar with my neighborhood and really did not want to make the effort to be so. I didn't ask, but she probably lives in Maryland. When there is a $300,000 assessment discrepancy between my house and its mirror image built next to each other on the same street by the same builder on similar lot sizes in 1900, there is something wrong with the process. I could go on about my experience with BPRAA, but I will stop here. Anyone looking at the DC data would be able to find prominent patterns of inequity and discrimination and I hope someone sues the pants off DC because their process is constitutionally unfair. I contrast this experience with my friend who purchased a house in Arlington. The county appraiser actually called her and discussed his appraisal with her so she was not surprised and also she had the opportunity to discuss any issues with him. I pray for that kind of competency for DC but despair of it ever happening.


Property Tax Appeals
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park, 

Many thanks to everyone who contributed advice and web links to help those of us who wanted to file an appeal of their property assessments. It is unfortunate but hardly surprising that the District government was not at all helpful. The strength of themail is its participants, who are more dedicated to making the District a livable place than its elected officials and civil servants.



Key Strength Trainer 2000 Weight Bench, Bar, Mat and 255 lb Weight Set
Kate Zimmer, 

Great deal for someone who wants to work out at home. Key Strength Trainer 2000 Weight Bench, Bar, Mat and weights. Heavy duty oversized tubing. Sturdy no tip front and rear stabilizer. Scratch and chip resistant electrostatic finish. Comfortable high density foam pads. Weight bar safety hooks and retainer spring clips. Exercises — leg extension/curl, crunch, chest press. $275.00 or best offer.



I Have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Need Help
John P. Clarke, 

I've read books, done therapy, and consulted with many for over sixteen years without any substantial progress. Among other problems, I need to deal with a mental compulsion to break apart words and phrases into symmetrical groups, the continual counting and sorting of everything I see, and the uncontrollable parade of ideas in my head competing for attention. This interferes with concentration, impairs decision-making, and leads to frustration and depression.

I would welcome suggestions, possible solutions, reference materials, referrals, anything you might recommend. Please E-mail me at


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