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February 27, 2008


Dear Blockers:

Jonathan Rees charged, in the last issue of themail, that the DC government was blocking government employees’ access to his web site on government computers. I asked whether anyone could confirm this, and I want to thank the DC employees — whose identities I won’t reveal in order to protect them from likely retribution — who tried it and who indeed got a blocking message, “Access to this web page has been restricted,” that they forwarded to me.

Dorothy and I decided to find out what the government’s justification was for blocking this site. Dorothy called the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), to see whether the government had any Internet usage policies aside from those listed on its web site,,a,1302,q,579925.asp. She was told that OCTO would not accept a verbal question, and that the question had to be submitted in writing. I submitted the question in an E-mail to OCTO’s press office, and received a reply that the question had been given to the office’s general counsel and Freedom of Information officer. Soon afterwards, I received a second reply from the FOIA officer, saying that she was treating the question as a FOIA request and that it would take up to fifteen business days — three weeks — to answer.

Because of several similar incidents recently, Dorothy and I were just sick and tired of the Fenty administration’s policy of abusing the FOIA law to delay and deny the release of information that should be publicly released without any question or delay. So Dorothy called Thorn Pozen, the District’s Ethics and FOIA counselor for the District, to complain strongly. I wrote another E-mail to OCTO’s FOIA officer, asking for her legal justification for requiring a FOIA request to release a policy statement. Without much delay, I got an answer.

The government’s usage policy is fully stated on the web page that I linked to above; there is no further or more detailed elaboration. DC government allows its employees to use their work computers for a moderate amount of personal use, as long as that use doesn’t interfere with either their work duties or the government’s computer network. Employees are restricted from sending E-mail messages or maintaining web sites that violate any federal or local laws, that advertise or promote private business enterprises, or that have religious or political purposes outside the users’ governmental duties. But employees are not forbidden to access web sites that have commercial, religious, or political purposes. They can visit web sites run by stores, churches, political parties, political candidates, or political commentators. The government uses commercial WebSense software to censor the Internet, but the only categories that it blocks, according to OCTO’s general counsel, are two overlapping ones: “adult content” and “sex.”

Rees’ web site is deliberately rude and crude, highly critical of the Fenty administration and of several members of the city council, but it is politically oriented, not sexual, pornographic, or obscene. So what justification does the government have to block it? As an employer, the government would have the right to block its employees’ access to all political web sites if it wished, but its blocking would have to be viewpoint neutral. It can’t allow employees to see Democratic Party political sites, but block Republican ones; it can’t allow sites that it determines support the Fenty administration, but block anti-Fenty ones. One correspondent, who wants to remain anonymous, wrote me that he considers Rees’ web site to be pornographic. I wrote that I would confirm that charge if he could substantiate it, but all he was able to point to was a joking (bad joke, but joking, nevertheless) link to a YouTube video. The still from the video on Rees’ site probably couldn’t be published in The Washington Times, but it would pass the Washington Post’s editorial standards. So there are two follow-up questions that I’ll ask OCTO tomorrow: given the government’s policy as stated on OCTO’s web site and restated by its general counsel, what justification does the DC government have for blocking Rees’ web site; and what other web sites does it block that are predominantly composed of political content rather than “adult” or sexual content?

Gary Imhoff


Would DC United Really Move to Prince Georges County?
Pat Taylor,

Would the DC United soccer team really move to Prince Georges County if the DC government’s subsidy for a new stadium isn’t large enough? Should Mayor Fenty and the District Council be swayed by this threat into spending DC taxpayer monies for the new soccer stadium?

Before deciding, they should ask how easily fans would be able to reach a stadium located in Prince Georges County. Many, many soccer fans come by Metro to the soccer games at RFK Stadium. What percent of the fans who attend DC United’s games would have easy access to a stadium in PG County? How easy would access be by auto to the many weekday evening games for fans coming from the District and Virginia? Living as I do on the east side of the District near the Anacostia River, I am keenly aware that during the long weekday evening rush hours traffic is routinely gridlocked on the Anacostia bridges and the commuter roads into Prince Georges County.

If the difficulties of getting to a soccer stadium located in Prince Georges County will cause attendance to decline, as seems likely, will DC United’s owner really risk a decrease in attendance to get a big public subsidy for his new stadium?


A Brand-New Ballgame
Ed T Barron,edtb1@macdotcom

That’s the title of a fine, illustrated, article about the new National’s ball park in the March issue of Washingtonian Magazine. The opening game is an exhibition on Saturday evening, March 29, with tickets only by invitation to season ticket holders and construction workers. I’ll be there. I’m doing my part with a season ticket. For only five bucks you can get a ticket, sold on the day of the game, with location down the right and left field foul lines. Better views than the outfield seats at RFK.


Rescinding a Bad Decision
Dorothy Brizill,

In the last issue of themail, February 24, I wrote about Dan Seligson, a DC pollworker who wrote a critical article on Electionline Weekly about what happened at his Mt. Pleasant polling site during the February 12 presidential primary. I noted that, following the publication of his article, Seligson was informed by the District’s Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) that he could not serve as a pollworker in future elections. I also noted that, since pollworkers are paid, Seligson would be covered by the District’s whistleblower laws.

Subsequently, sources have reported to me that Seligson has been contacted again by the BOEE, and he has been informed that not only would he be welcome to work again as a pollworker, but that he also has been offered a promotion to the position of a precinct captain.


Corruption or Lies?
Jamie Trewory,

Gary asks about Jonathan Rees’ most recent missive [themail, February 24], “I’d welcome any confirmation or contradiction of this charge. If you are a government employee, can you access Rees’ blog from your government office computer?” What I’d like is confirmation of the preposterous assertion Mr. Rees keeps making that over two hundred thousand people in the Metro region read his blog daily. I stopped by there once, and quickly realized he’s way off the reservation, though I do continue to be annoyed by his blog-traffic-trolling on legitimate DC area blogs and discussion forums from which he has not yet been banned.

But think about that number. Wonkette, one of the most popular DC blogs, only claims an average daily readership of about thirty-five thousand unique visitors. A Google link search of link: reveals zero links to his blog. Wonkette, somehow having only about 20 percent of his daily readers, has 98,000 links. Amazing how he generates that much traffic with not a single off-site link to his site. On Quantcast, Wonkette is ranked 2,833 compared to Mr. Rees’ blog’s ranking of 1,924,860, and Quantcast says Rees’ US reach is less than two thousand, the smallest number they report. Finally, the vast majority of the posts on Mr. Rees’ blog have zero comments. Strange that two hundred thousand people a day would read it, yet for days at a time none of them have any reaction to all the juicy scandals.

Obviously, this is way beyond fiction and into the realm of hysterically absurd. I am sure Mr. Rees will have an explanation for this apparent paradox involving conspiracy at the highest levels of the very operation of the Internet, but for the rest of us, it’s just ridiculous. So if this guy is going to start his postings with a bald-faced lie about the readership of his blog, I see no reason why anyone should even bother wondering if his ravings are true or not. Mr. Rees, simply, has no credibility.


Residents Call for “Taxation Without Representation” on DC Quarter Design
Kevin Kiger,

With the fate of the District of Columbia’s commemorative quarter now in the hands of the US Mint, speculation on its design is running high. After a public comment period, the District government submitted three design narratives yesterday, all containing the phrase “Taxation Without Representation” or “No Taxation Without Representation.”

The US Mint criteria for the Quarters Program requests designs that “promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States” about the history, geography, and diversity of “our national heritage.” “Taxation Without Representation” is a daily fact of life for District residents and accurately reflects the history of our nation’s capital. Since 1801, residents of the capital have called for an end to “Taxation Without Representation.” Centuries later, nearly six hundred thousand Americans living in Washington, DC, pay the second highest per capita federal income taxes in the country but are denied a vote in Congress.

Yet, according to Stephanie Scott, Secretary of the District of Columbia, the US Mint has already expressed its concern about the controversial design ideas proposed. The real controversy is that in the world’s greatest democracy more than half a million citizens are left without congressional representation.



National Building Museum Events, February 28, March 4
Jazmine Zick,

Thursday, February 28, 6:30-8:00 p.m. DC Builds: What Makes Great Streets? Panelists Petronella Muraya, professor of geography, Howard University; Darrel Rippeteau, Rippeteau Architects PC; Emeka C. Moneme, director, District Department of Transportation; and Joe Englert, DC nightclub impresario, discuss the essential components necessary to create vibrant, livable streets in Washington, DC. $12 members; $12 students; $20 public. Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability.

Tuesday, March 4, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Spotlight on Design: Emerging Voices. Presented in partnership with the Architectural League of New York, Emerging Voices turns the spotlight on architecture firms just beginning to achieve prominence in the profession. This program will be held at Howard University. For details please visit Free. Registration required. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Community Town Hall Meeting on the District Budget, March 1
Martina Gillis,

Saturday, March 1, 10:30-12:30 p.m., at Lankford Auditorium, 1200 U Street, NW. District leaders are developing the budget. Come tell them what you need. We have invited DC city leaders to come to the community to hear directly from you about the types of programs that should be available to community members. RSVP for child care or a Spanish interpreter. This event is sponsored by dozens of community organizations. If you would like additional information, contact Martina Gillis Massey, Fair Budget Coalition at 328-5513.


College Admissions Together, March 2
Steven Roy Goodman,

Steven Roy Goodman and Andrea Leiman, authors of College Admissions Together, published by Capital Books, $17.95, will give a book talk at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Avenue, NW, on Sunday, March 2, 1 p.m. Goodman, an educational consultant, and Leiman, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in children and families, combine their expertise to advise parents about what to expect when sending a child to college. Recognizing the impact of the experience on the entire family, the authors discuss how to select the right college and address questions of independence, changes in family power dynamics, peer and social pressure, and moving on. For more information, go to


Historical Society of Washington Events, March 6, 8
Karen L Sallis,

Thursday, March 6, 12:00 p.m. Performance Series: The music of Shirley Horn. Bring a brown bag lunch and meet friends and colleagues at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, to listen to a live musical performance by Yvonne Johnson featuring the music of Washington’s legendary jazz artist, Shirley Horn., subject line: Shirley Horn.

Saturday, March 8, 2:00 p.m. Family Series, Dance and storytelling with Mokihana. Come and experience a bit of Hawaiian culture. Learn a little history, listen to a Hawaiian story, watch traditional hula, and even try some chanting and a few motions yourself., subject line: Mokihana. Both events in the Carnegie Library, 801 K Street, NW, Gallery Place and Mt. Vernon Metro stops. Both events are free and open to the public. Please register as space is limited. or 383-1850.


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