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June 25, 2008

Captain Midnight

Dear Secret Squadron:

Since the big news — the release of the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller vs. DC — didn’t happen today, everything that I planned to write tonight is premature. Since the Court will release the decision tomorrow, by Sunday’s issue of themail everything I planned to write will be outdated. Therefore, I spent most of the afternoon doing something more productive. I watched the 1942 serial version of Captain Midnight. Captain Midnight was yet another of the adventurous aviators so popular in pulp fiction in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The character was invented for a radio serial that lasted several years, and was continued in the movie serial, a comic book, and, best of all, in a television series that lasted for only two years but that ran for decades afterward in reruns as “Jet Jackson, Flying Commando.”

Captain Midnight must have been the worst-kept secret identity in all adventure fiction. Everybody, good guys and villains alike, knew he was really Captain Jim Albright, and by the time of the television series Captain Albright and Captain Midnight were openly the same person. The movie serial is filled with airplane crashes, car crashes, people being thrown out of racing cars, and fist fights in which Captain Midnight fights three, four, five, and more gangsters at once. Perhaps the most repeated line, after Midnight is obviously killed in yet another disaster, is “Nobody could have survived that.” And yet he does survive, to fight another day. Yes, here comes another of my strained comparisons: he survives, as our city survives, even when the situation looks like it couldn’t get any worse — and then gets worse.

The most memorable line of the whole serial, however, comes in Chapter 8, when head villain Ivan Shark (and if you think Ivan Shark is a good name, his daughter is named Fury Shark; how great is that) addresses a meeting of all his henchmen, after they have let Captain Midnight slip through their clutches once again: “My only weakness is the helpless fools who serve me.” And isn’t that always the way? It is the cry of the Chancellor, surveying all the teachers and administrators in her domain whom she hasn’t hired herself. It is the despair of the Acting Attorney General, attempting to treat the lawyers in his office with the same highhandedness with which he dispensed of his subordinates at Covington Burling. It is the anguish of the mayor, sitting with clenched jaw through one more televised CityStat conference. How is it possible that their schemes can be foiled, when their plans were so brilliant? The explanation has to be the one Ivan Shark gave: “My only weakness is the helpless fools who serve me.”

Gary Imhoff


OPD Asks Verizon, “Where Is FiOS?”
Phil Harmon,

Today, the DC Office of the People’s Counsel called on the DC Public Service Commission to direct Verizon Washington, DC, to provide sworn testimony on the public record on the status of deployment of FiOS in the District of Columbia. “William Roberts, Verizon DC’s president, promised me personally the Company would expeditiously work to deploy FiOS to DC consumers. Verizon needs to put its money where its mouth is,” said Elizabeth A. Noel, DC People’s Counsel.

“OPC negotiated in good faith with Verizon to develop a settlement agreement on the Company’s Price Cap Plan.” Along with a number of consumer benefits, Verizon agreed to quickly pursue a FiOS cable franchise with the District. “Instead of a plan for DC deployment, consumers are seeing reports of aggressive deployment of FiOS in surrounding jurisdictions. If Mr. Roberts cannot honor his personal commitment to DC consumers, then OPC will be forced to withdraw from the settlement agreement,” stated Ms. Noel. “Indeed, at public hearings held before the DC Council’s Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs on February 7 and 9, 2008, consumers expressed concern and frustration with the unavailability of FiOS. Testimony from the Communications Workers union indicated Verizon is actively cutting staff and moving resources out of the District of Columbia to serve suburban interests. Evidence indicates Verizon has overcome hurdles elsewhere. Verizon is reportedly “boosting the speed of its FiOS . . . Internet service” in cities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington State. Surely, the Nation’s Capital deserves some consideration, not indefinite deferment,” said the People’s Counsel.

“Verizon needs to give up the shell game with DC officials and consumers. If the Commission is not going to require the Company to put its plan for District FiOS deployment on the record, then OPC will no longer be a party to the settlement agreement. Either Verizon bargained in good faith or not,” said Ms. Noël.


Klingle Road Lives On
Patty Hahn,

Thanks much to Taylor Simmons for the note about Klingle Road [themail, June 22]. May it stay open, and those of us who were astonished and dismayed at the DC council’s recent handling of the Klingle Road issue should remind our councilmembers (especially around election time) that we’re mad as hell, etc. For your information, Ms. Cheh was kind enough to attend a small group session last weekend in Cleveland Park, where a number of us sat down with her and told her how unhappy we were with both the vote and the stealthy way it got onto the council agenda. (To be fair, a few from the “keep it closed” faction showed up too.) Results for us pro-roadies were not at all encouraging, but I hope we have long memories as well as energy to keep working on this issue.


Customary Practice
Paul Wilson, dcmcrider at gmail dot com

In the June 22 issue of themail, Mayor Fenty was quoted as saying, “The citizens of the District of Columbia have my commitment that we will review everything we’re doing, compare it to what other big city mayors do and compare with what governors do. And if it is not following what those big city mayors are doing, then we’ll make an adjustment.”

The mayor might want to consider that the District is number 27 on the list of American cities, according to the Census Bureau’s 2005 population estimates, sliding in between Louisville (#26) and Nashville (#28). In 2000, we were #21, between #20 Boston and #22 Nashville. Admittedly, Nashville and Louisville are outliers because they have municipal governments consolidated with their surrounding counties. As far as governors go, I really doubt the governors of Vermont (49th of 51 in population) and Wyoming (51st of 51) jet around the country with a dozen state police officers in tow.

As Gary rightly notes, none of the above really matters anyway, as the mayor is obligated to follow DC statute, not customary practices of his peers in mid-sized cities and the very smallest states.


A Scary Thought
Charles Cureton,

I really feel for the people in Washington, DC, having to live under the conditions described in your articles. I wish I had an answer for the problems in DC, but I don’t. And it appears that nothing short of a revolt will resolve the conditions that currently exist in our nation’s capitol. As much as I hate to say it, integrity, professionalism, honesty, pride, and devotion to duty appear to be nonexistent. The phrase on all police cars “to serve and protect” appears to have meaning only for certain persons in power, which is “to serve and protect themselves.” I wonder why the Department of Justice hasn’t become involved in the actions of these certain individuals and began investigations for abuse of power, violations of rights, malfeasance of office, or other inappropriate/illegal actions. Maybe these same persons are hoping for a spot in the cabinet of Obama (if he is elected president). Now, that is a scary thought!



Forty Years Since the Riots, June 27
Andre M. Johnson,

The Historical Society of Washington, DC, in partnership with WPFW radio and host Askia Muhammad presents the openings of two provocative exhibitions. Riots are the Language of the Unheard and the Art of Frank Smith. These two forty-year retrospective shows look back at the transformative year of 1968. The event will take place Friday, June 27, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, located in the Old Carnegie Library Building at 801 K Street, NW, with a live simulcast broadcast with WPFW radio.

Riot are the Language of the Unheard is a multimedia exhibition consisting of photographs, video footage and artifacts investigating the grievances that led to the riots of 1968, the efforts to address those grievances the riots and their ripple effects. Contributors to the exhibit include the Historical Society of Washington, DC; District of Columbia Archives; The Washington Post; the Exposure Groups; and contributors to The Artist Frank Smith came of age during the height of the Black Arts Movement in the late ’60’s. One of the early members of the AFRICOBRA(African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), Smith sought perfection in creation of a unique African American aesthetic that pays homage to cultural traditions, specifically of rhythm and quilt making, yet transcends artistic styles to create his own. Just like jazz and the transformative 60’s when Smith began his career, he improvises, moves fast and demands freedom — freedom of color, freedom of space. Many of his works are large pieces, assemblages of several works, or alternatively, pieces of one large work and layered with vibrant strokes and fabrics of color.

The exhibits will display rarely seen artifacts, photographs and videos. You will also be able to hear live interviews with city leaders, activist, poets and of course the legendary music of the ’60’s. This event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served. For further information regarding this program and others please, contact the Historical Society of Washington at 383-1828.


National Building Museum Events, July 1
Jazmine Zick,

Tuesday, July 1, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Book of the Month: Digger Man. Readings at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 12:00 p.m. Join us in the Building Zone for a special reading of Digger Man written by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha, which follows the imaginary adventures of a little boy and his yellow digger. Free. Drop-in program, recommended for ages 3 to 5.

Tuesday, July 1, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Building for the 21st Century: Designing Buildings for the Environment and the Community. Dennis Wilde, principal with Gerding Edlen Development, discusses his firm’s innovative method of incorporating both community and environmental considerations into building design: the Livable Place Index. Free. Registration not required. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.


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