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July 7, 2004

Mom and Doc

Dear Washingtonians:

This is one of those short summer issues of themail, but I’m not going to take advantage of it by writing a long introduction. You may want to take advantage of July and August, however, by sending us something about your neighborhood or your block. Please let the rest of the town know the local news that we haven’t yet heard.

Jeff Norman and Ben Slade, below, write about their encounters with petition circulators who were gathering signatures for the slots casino initiative. A couple dozen other people have already written us about their experiences and what they observed. If you had an experience with or information about circulators who weren’t DC residents or who seriously misrepresented the initiative, please help us challenge the initiative before the Board of Elections and Ethics by sending us the details at If you want to get involved in the campaign against the slots initiative, please E-mail us, also at For the first few days of the petition gathering process, most of the circulators were using the story that the petition was for more money for schools and health care, or that it was for an entertainment complex; many of them denied that it was about gambling or slots at all. By the last few days of the process, many circulators in upper northwest and in Dupont Circle were calling out, “Sign the petition against slots.” Today, the out-of-town companies that ran the petition circulation process for the gambling promoters were busy checking out of their hotels to get out of paying the homeless men and women they had hired as “circulators,” to sign the petitions that had been gathered by their non-DC crews.

Even if gambling is your favorite vice, even if get your greatest enjoyment in life from losing your money, these aren’t the kind of people with whom you want to place a bet. Nelson Algren wrote some very good books and essays, but perhaps his best-remembered quote will always be life advice from A Walk on the Wild Side: “Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never go to bed with a woman whose troubles are greater than your own.” Well, everybody involved in the slots initiative is named Doc. You don’t want to ante up in any game they’re dealing.

Gary Imhoff


Slots Are a No-Brainer
Paul Penniman,

OK, I don’t believe in prohibition of alcohol, drugs, prostitution, tobacco, gambling — fill in your favorite vice here — either. I even won my basketball pool, too! And let’s let the people vote on the slots issue; fine. But promoting a vice that, let’s face it, would spread gambling addiction among those who are vulnerable among us is not my idea of a public good. It should be a no-brainer to vote this baby down if and when it comes to a vote this fall.


Slots Initiative
Jeff Norman,

There was a woman sitting in front of the Safeway at Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street, NW, on July 5, gathering signatures to get the slot machine referendum on the ballot. She was telling people that they should sign the petition so they could vote against slot machines coming into the District. She said that the city council was getting ready to approve slot machines; and the only way that we could stop them was to put this pro-slot machine referendum on the ballot and then vote against it.

It should go without saying that this pitch is grossly misleading. First of all, there is no evidence that any member of the city council supports bringing slot machines to the District; and at least some councilmembers have already declared against it. The people collecting signatures must realize that a substantial number of DC citizens oppose slot machines; and the only way that the collectors can get citizens to sign is by tricking them into thinking that signing the petition will help stop slot machines.

The backers of this ill-advised proposal seem to think that if they can get enough signatures to get it on the ballot by fair means or foul, they can then mount a huge TV advertising campaign to overcome all opposition and win the referendum. Regardless of how you may feel about gambling, this proposal is very unfair to DC in that DC would get only 25 percent of the revenues whereas other cities or states get as much as 60 percent. If this proposal does get on the ballot, we all need to be ready to fight hard to defeat it this fall.


Lottery Petition Scammers
Ben Slade,

I was on the DC subway yesterday when a 20-something kid approached me about signing a petition for a “video entertainment center” downtown. He didn’t have any documentation for the petition, saying he had “run out of copies.” When I asked him for more details, specifically was this a commercial or government thing, and why was a petition necessary, he mentioned that some people were opposed to the entertainment center because there would be a few video gambling machines there. Only then did I realize what was going on, i.e., this kid was getting paid to collect signatures by the commercial gambling interests (see the Washington Post article, “DC Slots Goal Met, Backers Say,” No, I didn’t get his name.

When I voiced my opinion that legalized gambling in the District would essentially be an unfair tax on poor people, he responded that using the same logic, liquor should be banned. Which is actually a good point. Maybe gambling should be allowed only if liquor stores and gambling enterprises are zoned out of poorer neighborhoods?


Free DC and the “B.A.D. Day” Seven
Karen Szulgit,

Thank you to all who attended our pretrial rally on Tuesday, July 6, outside of DC Superior Court. We had a crowd of at least 51 (die-hard) DC democracy advocates who came out to show their support. Even though the weather was great (hazy, hot, humid, and sunny), our turnout was probably affected by having a rally so early in the morning immediately following a three-day weekend. (Oh, well.) This trial is moving fast! In the “old” days, it used to take two full days to pick a jury, but this time it took us a mere two hours! The government and the defense have already delivered their opening statements. The government’s first witness (Lucas James Hatzis, staff assistant for House Speaker Dennis Hastert [R-IL]) has already testified and been cross-examined by the defense. On Wednesday morning, Anthony Reed (a senior staffer for Hastert) will testify and be cross-examined by the defense. The Court has already ruled that the defense will not be permitted to call US Senator Paul Strauss (D-DC) and Julia Hudson (chief of staff for our nonvoting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton [D-DC]) to testify because neither was present at the time of the mass arrest.

Because the government was aware of a news story they heard on NPR about the trial, they asked the Court to impose a “gag order” on the defendants — shutting down all contact with the media! Believe it, or not, the Court granted this “gag order” for ten minutes. Since the government couldn’t come up with any case law to support a permanent “gag order,” it wasn’t reinstated. Judge Craig Iscoe has already granted the government’s motion in limine to forbid the defendants from even mentioning our “political motivations, political beliefs, and political causes, etc.” in Court. The government and the Court are looking for every little opportunity to shut down the "B.A.D. Day Seven" and their vocal demands for equal democratic rights for residents of the District of Columbia — the last colony. And truth be told, there just aren’t enough people sitting in the audience to send a message to the judge and jury. Must I beg? (Okay, I will.) Let’s pack the courtroom, people! Please can’t you all just take an hour — or fifteen minutes — out of your busy work days and come show some solidarity for your colleagues in the movement that are facing a maximum six months jail sentence and a $100 fine? (Other fines, such as $250 towards the violent crimes unit, can also be imposed by the Court.) But maybe it’s true what “they” say. We, the people of Washington, DC, truly don’t care enough about democracy.


Field of Schemes Cites the No DC Taxes for Baseball Campaign
Ed Delaney,

[From] “Man, a measly 974 days into the Montreal Expos relocation saga, and already some people are getting cranky. After MLB president Bob DuPuy revealed last week that a decision likely won’t be forthcoming after next week’s All-Star Game, as had been previously promised, a spokesperson for DC Mayor Anthony Williams has lashed out at MLB for foot-dragging.

?‘We need Major League Baseball to make a decision,’ said Tony Bullock, Williams’ communications director. ‘We’ve been waiting a while. We’re hopeful, but every time they get ready to make a decision, they push it back. . . . There’s a tremendous demand for downtown property in Washington. These sites just aren’t going to sit here endlessly, waiting for Major League Baseball. . . . They got the message pretty loud and clear from the mayor that we wanted a decision by the All-Star Game.’”

USA Today reported last week that DC and Northern Virginia are the likely finalists, though each locale’s stadium plan faces legislative hurdles. DC-area stadium-tax opponents have begun to organize as well, under the banner of the NO DC Taxes for Baseball! Campaign, which notes: ‘The DC area is the largest metro area without a team and one of the wealthiest in the nation. Major League Baseball should be begging to come here rather than making outrageous demands.’ But where would Bud Selig be without making outrageous demands?”


BitTorrent and Michael Moore
Glenn Melcher,

[Re: Phil Shapiro, themail, July 4:] You, like tens of thousands, have been duped. Perhaps you should do a little more fact checking when posting a story which encourages people to violate the copyright laws. BitTorrent certainly is revolutionary software — but it is simply untrue that Michael Moore approved the use of BitTorrent for distribution of Fahrenheit 9/11. This was a fake story first placed on (“Recognized around the world as the best source for completely fictional news and information”). It is a joke (and I would argue a very bad one). Check out the disclaimer at Also, see the Reuters’ article,, which makes clear that the film file download is illegal and that Moore’s legal counsel is exploring legal action. Erosion of intellectual property rights through the Internet is a very serious problem and neither you nor the readers of the mail should be encouraging such illegal activity.


Hell Hath No Fury
Pat Yates,

In regard to the question about the sex lives of politicians, L.E. Adams concluded by saying: “Let’s not confuse public interest, which is our business, with prurient interest, which is nobody’s dirty business but theirs.”

Ah, but it does become the taxpayer-citizen’s business when the politician uses the influence of his or her office to get a public job for the love interest, as seems to have been in the case in the Brazil incident.


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