Dear Pleasure Seekers:
Now that Norah Jones' second album, Feels Like Home, has been
officially released, I'm ready to review it, and my review is simple. I
like the album because I like things that give me pleasure and make me
happy. That puts me out of step with most of today's critical reviews of
the album, which are negative on the grounds that too many people bought
Jones' first album and that she's too popular, and that if too many
people like something it can't be any good. These reviews remind me of
Blake Gopnik's notoriously uncomprehending review of the delightful J.
Seward Johnson exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery (Washington Post,
September 12, 2003), in which Gopnik was sneeringly disdainful of
Johnson's sculptural renditions of Impressionist paintings because they
were too accessible and gave too much easy pleasure to too many people.
Art can't be for the masses; it has to be for the elite, who like things
that most people can't stand. Art at its best should actively offend its
viewers and listeners; failing that, it should at least be difficult
enough that most of them don't comprehend it.
This is nothing new, of course; it has been the story of Western art
for over a century. Ironically, the rejection of the Impressionist
artists from the official Salon, and the establishment of a competitive
Salon des Refuses, played an important role in creating the story that
true artists are avant-garde, rebels, geniuses misunderstood and
unappreciated by the stupid rabble. But that gets the real story
backwards. It was the art establishment and most of the elite critics
who didn't understand and who blasted the Impressionist painters, and it
was the public that flocked to the Salon des Refuses and appreciated
them. Contemporary "serious" critics take the attitude of
Miles Davis, who would often turn his back on his audiences; to them,
the audience, except for a small group of insiders, is the enemy. This
attitude is what has caused the death of classical music, the serious
illness of jazz, the foolishness of most contemporary art and most art
awards, and the irrelevance of "serious" literature that
disdains story telling, characterization, and plot action.
You can draw your own parallels to DC government; for once, I won't
bore you by doing it myself.
WASA Cover-up: The Fix Is In
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
Last Wednesday, DC resident Charles F. Eason, Jr., the first witness
at Councilmember Carol Schwartz's hearing on lead contamination in the
WASA water, suggested that she should establish an independent task
force to investigate why the DC Water and Sewer Authority failed to
inform DC citizens adequately that tap water in thousands of DC homes
contained dangerous levels of lead. After several citizens testifying at
the hearing echoed Eason's demand, Schwartz promised that she would work
with the mayor to establish of an independent task force, including
representatives of citizen and environmental groups and scientific and
health experts, to investigate. For an account of what Schwartz and the
Mayor's office promised last Wednesday, see David Nakamura's and Vera
Cohn's article in the Post ("DC to Create WASA Task
Force," February 5, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14068-2004Feb4.html).
Today at the mayor's weekly press conference, Mayor Williams and
Councilmember Schwartz announced a task force that breaks all of the
promises that they made last week (see http://www.dcwatch.com/wasa/040210.htm).
There will be a task force, but it will not be independent. It will
consist entirely of government representatives led by WASA employees,
with not a single representative of citizen or environmental groups, and
not a single scientific or health expert. And the task force will not
investigate why WASA failed to inform citizens adequately about lead
contamination -- it has been instructed to ignore that question, and
instead to focus on what WASA should do in the future to alleviate the
contamination. The investigation hasn't even begun, and the fix is
already in and the cover-up has already been completed.
WASA has planned a series of meetings to discuss their planned rate
increases. For places, dates, and times, see http://www.dcwatch.com/calendar.htm.
A Totally Reactive DC Government
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom
Every agency and all in the administration of the DC Government is
totally reactive -- wait until something happens, then recoil in horror
and make a phony plan to fix the mess. The lead in the water is just one
more scandalous event in the current administration's legacy. WASA knew
about this problem a year ago and waited until it became public
knowledge before announcing the problem or taking any real actions to
Just once I'd love to see this government in DC pick a real problem,
just one, and be proactive. Don't wait until another half dozen students
get wiped out in a public school. Don't wait until another 300 plus
people are murdered in the street. Don't wait until 90 percent of the
public school students are below minimal educational standards this next
year. Pick any one of these problems and put together a team of the most
experienced and successful folks who have beaten these problems down.
They will likely all be from outside this area. Then develop a cohesive
plan and schedule to fix that problem. Waiting for the next major
disaster and putting band aids on hemorrhaging wounds won't do it.
I find WASA's explanations about lead in the water quite
unsatisfactory. Many neighbors have had their water tested and the test
results show an increase in lead from the first to the second draw of
water. Logically, this makes no sense. WASA's explanation is that the
person has a lead service line from the water main to the house. If this
were true, lead levels would be higher on the first draw and once the
house was flushed of standing water, the fresh water coming in from the
water main should be lead-free since there would not have been time for
the lead to leach into the running water. Perhaps a scientist or WASA
spokesperson out there could explain the phenomenon where the city water
is lead-free, but second-draw water has elevated lead levels.
Lead in the Water No Surprise
James Treworgy, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASA's failure to come clean about the results of their recent tests
is reprehensible. I find it unbelievable that they could gloss over such
a major public safety problem. However, at the same time I am surprised
that so many people are shocked to realize that there are high lead
levels in the water coming to their houses. When I moved into my house
eight years ago, the home inspector noted the lead water supply line and
warned me that there would almost certainly be high lead levels because
Nearly every old house in the district probably was built with a lead
water supply line. Likewise, they all probably were painted with lead
paint, and some of them may have asbestos insulation. They may have
radon gas. Your chimney may be crumbling and permit carbon monoxide to
leak into your house. You may have electric wiring that is in poor
condition due to age. There is a long list of potential safety hazards
that you need to check and deal with if you live in and old house. These
are not new issues. Nor is there any shortage of information out there
about dealing with them. If you live in an old house you need to be
familiar with these issues so you can be sure that you and your family
Replacing the water supply lines to every single old house is a
monumentally expensive proposition, and will certainly take a very long
time. Get your water tested. If it's not acceptable, get a filter and
use it. Or just get a filter anyway. It would have been nice if WASA had
been honest about getting this information out, and I am not suggesting
that they shouldn't be held accountable for this failing. But you can't
expect that a big quasi-government agency is going to be able to ensure
that every individual is safe when the water hits the glass. They don't
know what's going on at the last mile in every house — you need to do
As a refugee from the Wilson pool, I would like to know how one
penetrates the bureaucracy and finds out information about hours at the
UDC pool. I have strolled by, only to find no one in charge nor any
posted schedule or phone number. A friend told me to contact a man named
Thunder Lane, but he does not answer nor return my calls.
OAS/IACHR Issues Decision Supporting Equal DC
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, email@example.com
In an unprecedented and bold action, The Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has
ruled that the US government is responsible for violating the rights of
DC citizens under Articles II and XX of the American Declaration of the
Rights and Duties of Man. The New York Times broke the story
about this very serious violation this morning. The US government is in
violation of its obligations because it denies DC citizens the right to
elect voting representatives equal to other American citizens in the
Senate and the House of Representatives. Timothy Cooper and the
Statehood Solidarity Committee filed the case over ten years ago and
held a press conference today at the National Press Club to announce the
decision. Mayor Williams, Councilman Evans, and former Mayor Sharon
Pratt Kelly were among guests at the event.
The Commission, which was under pressure by the US government not to
take a position on this issue, found that the US government could not
articulate any justifiable reasons for the denial of these fundamental
human rights. It reported that the US government was only able to offer
historical reasons for the denial of equal rights and to say the matter
is political and for the US to address. Some months ago, the Commission
asked the US to remedy the situation, but did not suggest a remedy. The
US did not take action, thus the Commission released its findings
publicly. The US will remain in violation of International human rights
standards for a representative democracy until DC has equal
representation in the Senate and the House of Representatives. A vote in
the House of Representatives alone will not remedy the violation. Here
is a link to full report: http://www.cidh.oas.org/annualrep/2003eng/USA.11204.htm.
Here are select quotes from the report: “In entering into this
stage of its analysis, the Commission acknowledges the degree of
deference that must properly be afforded to states in organizing their
political institutions so as to give effect to the right to vote and to
participate in government. The Commission should only interfere in cases
where the State has curtailed the very essence and effectiveness of an
individual’s right to participate in his or her government. After
considering the information on the record, however, the Commission finds
that the restrictions on the Petitioners’ rights under Article XX to
participate in their national legislature have been curtailed in such a
manner as to deprive the Petitioners of the very essence and
effectiveness of that right, without adequate justification being shown
by the State for this curtailment. . . . [T]he Commission must interpret
and apply Articles II and XX in the context of current circumstances and
standards. . . . Significantly, the State’s judicial branch has
specifically concluded that the historical rationale for the District
Clause in the US Constitution would not today require the exclusion of
District residents from the Congressional franchise and has accepted
that denial of the franchise is not necessary for the effective
functioning of the seat of government. . . . The Commission also
considers it significant that according to the information available, no
other federal state in the Western Hemisphere denies the residents of
its federal capital the right to vote for representatives in their
national legislature. . . . Based upon the response of the United
States, the Commission finds that the State has failed to take measures
to comply fully with the Commission’s recommendations. On this basis,
and having considered the State's observations, the Commission has
decided to ratify its conclusions and reiterate its recommendations, as
set forth below. . . . The Commission hereby concludes that the State is
responsible for violations of the Petitioners’ rights under Articles
II and XX of the American Declaration by denying them an effective
opportunity to participate in their federal legislature. . . .
RECOMMENDATION: Provide the Petitioners with an effective remedy, which
includes adopting the legislative or other measures necessary to
guarantee to the Petitioners the effective right to participate,
directly or through freely chosen representatives and in general
conditions of equality, in their national legislature.”
A question about the proposed new District flag: My understanding is
that it will be modified to read “No Taxation Without
Representation,” not “Taxation Without Representation.” Is this
correct? And if so, why? I thought the idea was to put a phrase on the
flag that would catch the eye of tourists and other visitors, who would
be curious and then learn about our unique situation. “Taxation
Without Representation” might do this, but “No Taxation Without
Representation” will just come off like “Don't Tread On Me” or
“Don't Give Up The Ship” or any of a number of Revolution-era
slogans vaguely recalled from history class.
So, why “No Taxation” on the flag?
Ideology and Pragmatism
Edward Cowan, Friendship Heights, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Imhoff's attack on the Mayor's proposal to take control of DC
Public Schools, which would relegate the school board to an advisory
role, represents a triumph of ideology over pragmatism. In this case
Imhoff's fevered belief in grassroots activism (see his comments two
weeks ago on planning) prevails over what I would call a measure of
The DC Public Schools continue to be one of the District's least
functional institutions -- and, given the schools' mission, educating
our children, their deficiencies may be more important than all others.
We have had elected school boards for more than a generation, and now we
have a mixed board — with little good to show for it. Superintendents
with glossy credentials have been hired and dropped, or have bailed out
because the task proved to be so very difficult, given the claims on
them by the school board, the council and the mayor. The District needs
to try something else.
New York City has strengthened the mayor's control over education
there, and there are signs of progress. Attempting something similar in
the District is unlikely to lead to worse performance by DC schools.
Gary Imhoff objects on the ground that elected school board members
would be marginalized. They would be. That's one of the points. The
mayor was elected and he will either retire in three years or submit his
political future to the will of the voters. That's democracy in action.
Rearranging the way DC Public Schools are administered to give the mayor
more power is an idea whose time has come. Strengthening the public
schools is more important than a slavish adherence to an unrealistic
ideology. Democracy will not suffer.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Al Sharpton at UDC, February 12
Joe Libertelli, email@example.com
Candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in
2004, the Reverend Al Sharpton, will speak to members of the University
of the District of Columbia community and members of the public on
Thursday, February 12, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. This address, held in
the "Windows Lounge" on the second floor of Building 38, will
give citizens an opportunity to hear Rev. Sharpton’s views and
question his position on significant issues. He is also expected to
discuss the importance of voter registration.
Rev. Sharpton, who was licensed and ordained a minister at the age of
ten and is the founder and President of the National Action Network, has
been a candidate for the US Senate and the office of Mayor of New York
City. His history of political activism and flamboyant style has kept
Rev. Sharpton in the public eye. Guests are requested to be seated in
the "Windows Lounge" on the second floor of Building 38 on the
University campus promptly at 10:30.
DC Democratic Party Caucuses, February 14
Dorinda White, firstname.lastname@example.org
The first step towards District Delegate selection to the 2004
Democratic Convention is the DC Ward Caucuses. On February 14, 2004,
join your neighbors at the locations below to vote for your Presidential
Candidate. Please note that Ward Caucus locations will be open from
10:00 am - 4:00 pm.
Ward 1: Precinct 39, Mt. Pleasant Library, 16th Street & Lamont
Streets, NW. Ward 2: Precinct 15, Foundry Methodist Church, 1500 16th
Street, NW. Ward 3: Precinct 31, St. Columbia's Church, 4201 Albemarle
Street, NW. Ward 4: Precinct 52, St. John's College High School, 2607
Military Road, NW. Ward 5: Precinct 66, Bertie Backus School, South
Dakota Avenue & Hamilton Streets, NE. Ward 6: Precinct 127, St.
Matthew's Lutheran Church, 222 M Street, SW. Ward 7: Precinct 95,
Houston Elementary School, 50th Place and Lee Streets, NE. Ward 8:
Precinct 124, Washington Highland Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW.
DC Public Library Event, February 18
Debra Truhart, email@example.com
African American Tea Ceremony Commemorating Carter G. Woodson,
Wednesday, February 18, 7:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr.
Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Main Lobby. Johnetta Bagby presents
a tea ceremony commemorating the legacy and contributions of Carter
Godwin Woodson the founder of Black History Week that has evolved into
Black History Month. Bagby is the creator of African American Tea
Praises, an African American-themed tea party service, which
incorporates social graces, fun and history for children and adults.
Public contact: 727-1211.
Budget Briefing, February 23
Susie Cambria, firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the outlook for FY 2005? A briefing on the important budget
issues facing the District in FY 2005, Monday, February 23, 1:00-3:00
p.m., 1616 P Street, NW, 7th floor conference room (there is limited
parking on the street and in the parking garage; closest Metro stop is
Dupont Circle). Hear from policy makers and fiscal experts on the issues
that will impact the FY 2005 budget. Panelists: Arte Blitzstein, Budget
Director, Council of the District of Columbia, speaking about what the
Council of the District of Columbia anticipates; Ed Lazere, Executive
Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, presenting an independent,
analytical perspective on the current fiscal conditions; Dallas Allen,
Director of Budget Formulation, Office of Budget and Planning, offering
up-to-date information about the FY 2005 baseline budget; Noel Bravo,
Special Assistant and Senior Advisor on Budget and Finance, Executive
Office of the Mayor, outlining some of the Mayor’s priorities and the
challenges the city expects to face in FY 2005; Julia Friedman, Deputy
CFO, Office of Revenue Analysis, sharing what is known about revenue
projections; and Lori Parker, Interim Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth,
Families, and Elders (invited), laying out human services needs and
demands as well as challenges facing the human services cluster.
RSVP by February 19 to DC Action for Children, email@example.com,
234-9404, 234-9108 fax. This briefing is sponsored by DC Action for
Children, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Fair Budget Coalition, and
Washington Council of Agencies.
CLASSIFIEDS -- HELP WANTED
We're seeking tutors for a home schooled eleven-year-old in the
following disciplines: math, science, Latin, and alto saxophone. Please
reply to the above E-mail.
Audio Cassette Repair Genius
Sid Booth, SidBooth1@aol.com
A valuable but slightly snarled study audio cassette used by an
elderly friend needs a little technical resuscitation. The case housing
has been opened and the tape spliced by one helpful person. Now we need
help to thread the tape through a new case and put the housing back
together. Please contact Ben Rigberg, 966-5939.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
Tickets to The Producers, February 14
Lynne Heneson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Still looking for that perfect Valentine's Day gift? How about two
tickets to The Producers at the newly restored Hippodrome Theater in
Baltimore? I have two extra tickets for Saturday, February 14 at 8 p.m.
in the center orchestra. $400.00 or best offer. Contact email@example.com.
CLASSIFIEDS — FREE
I have a self-cleaning gas stove, in good working condition,
available free of charge to a worthy individual or organization. You
must provide transportation and labor to remove it from my house.
Preference given to local non-profits in the Columbia Heights area. Call
Thomas Carmody, 301-657-2934.
CLASSIFIEDS — WANTED
Anyone out there know anyone who may have just upgraded to a wireless
router and, hence, may have a cable router available to sell cheap or
give away? My new friends (recently moved to Capitol Hill) Danelle, Dave
and their son Yael need one to make their lives run more smoothly. Two
of them are in school and the other has only a part-time job -- so money
is a barrier.
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