Dear Informed Voters:
Ilya Somin, who blogs on The Volokh Conspiracy (http://www.volokh.com),
has frequently discussed his theory of voters’ “rational ignorance.”
He argues that because the impact of a single vote is rarely decisive,
or even significant, in the outcome of elections; because the issues
involved in elections are complex, and it is not possible for any voter
to be informed and to have expert opinions about all of these issues;
and because it is difficult if not impossible to predict issues that
will arise even in the near future, much less the behavior of any
politician in reaction to these issues, it is rational for voters not to
try to become informed about politics. Therefore, most voters make their
election decisions based on their best impressions of issues and their
best intuitions about candidates, not based on extensive knowledge. For
most voters, Somin argues, this is a rational way to vote.
When I first came to Washington as a graduate student, “rational
ignorance” accurately described my lack of knowledge of and
involvement with the District’s government. I thought of myself as a
responsible voter, however, so I read the endorsements made by the
editorial boards of the Washington Post and the Evening Star,
and I generally voted for whomever they recommended. Over the years, I
learned that I had been ignorant, and that the only people who really
knew DC government issues and affairs were the people who had the
misfortune to deal firsthand with the DC government. Whether they had
fallen into the claws of DCRA or DMV, or had children in DCPS, or were
trying to get a mistaken tax bill straightened out, or were trying to
get their roads plowed or trash picked up regularly, they gained the
experience to judge DC politicians, and they knew what they were talking
about (especially when they were saying, “Kick the bums out”). On
the other hand, most people in the District, to their great good
fortunes, didn’t have to deal directly with the DC government in the
course of a normal year, and they reelected the bums regularly.
The lack of public contact with the city government explains why
Fenty remains so popular with rationally ignorant voters, why Rhee
remains popular with those who know about the public schools only
through cheerleading editorials, and why most people know about the
failures of government departments and agencies only when they explode
into public scandals. It explains the past year, and that, in essence,
is my year-end summary of 2008. Happy New Year.
Still Have a Foot in DC
Star Lawrence, firstname.lastname@example.org
I moved to the Phoenix area thirteen years ago after thirty-five
years in DC. I still miss my “heart home,” as a recent Pew poll on
moving termed the place you “belong.” I read themail with longing
Sometimes one of you will E-mail “the exile” privately. Yes, you
have weird administrators — but so do we! We have a goof ball,
dangerous sheriff who has his minions walk up to brown-skinned people on
the street and make them “prove” they are here legally. There are
hundreds of illegals being held as prisoners in drop houses and he does
nothing about that. We have little suburban fiefdoms with enough money
and little trucks to ticket you if your grass is more than six inches
high. Hand to god — they come to your door with a ruler. The police
seemingly have no height requirements, so we call them the miniatures.
They are pretty officious, to say the least, and have a nice little
cottage industry of arresting people and putting them into an assembly
line to plead guilty and start paying for classes, the probation officer’s
salary, and so on. Not to mention the jail meals.
So, I miss my tiny apartment on Connecticut Avenue. I own a house —
which is now upside down, having dropped in value 50 percent. I miss
renting. When you rent, someone fixes stuff. Here, you match wits with a
crafty local who wants $180 to put some fallen palm bark in your yard
into his truck. So, if someone passes a law without asking you to a
hearing, just remember — you might have to go to that hearing out
here! And then get screwed.
Your Technology Columnist
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
Well, it looks like I’ve become the default technology columnist
here in themail, but I invite others to chime in, too. Here are two new
items that might be of interest.
A practical piece, “An easy way to introduce Inkscape drawing
program to youth and adults,” http://tinyurl.com/7eee96
A think piece, “Should public libraries be welcoming homes for
I received the same BS explanation about special software as Paul
Penniman did (themail, December 25) when a recent mail appeal of mine
was rejected by Adjudication Services. I was ticketed for an “expired
meter” about ten minutes after I had deposited 75 cents for 45 minutes
worth of parking. I returned to the car a few minutes later and spotted
the ticket, even though there were still 22 minutes showing on the
meter. In rejecting my appeal, the Department of Motor Vehicles spouted
out some boilerplate language claiming that I had cited a broken meter
as the cause of my denying the violation; I hadn’t claimed that, but
did allude to the possibility of an overzealous, quota-seeking ticket
writer. (Maybe that was my mistake.) I also suggested that if their “special
software” does all it’s cranked up to do, they should be able to
verify that the meter wasn’t expired when my ticket was written. In
any case, I wrote a follow-up appeal pointing out the fallacy of their
so-called Statement of Fact, but so far haven’t heard back.
5A Bus Stop Sign at L’Enfant Plaza
Ann Carper, rochester54 at verizon.net
I work at L’Enfant Plaza and frequently notice people (usually
foreign tourists) waiting for the 5A at the stop David Sobelsohn
mentioned [themail, December 28]. I redirect them to the one on the
other side of 7th Street, but I can tell they are somewhat skeptical
since the sign at the foot of the stairs clearly indicates it’s a
stop. I E-mailed WMATA (via its web site) twice about this about six
months ago, and got no response. At about the same time, I also spoke to
an inspector-type person sitting in a Metro vehicle at the correct stop.
She said that she had reported it. So Metro is well aware of this.
Happy New Year, Everyone
Qawi Robinson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing all the readers and submitters of themail a blessed and
prosperous 2009. In reading December 2008’s editions, I was disturbed
to find that, although freedom of speech has protection, several
submissions went unchallenged. In the spirit of the New Year, I’m not
going to attack anyone personally, but when I read “enacting
government sponsored abortions to reduce crime,” how “DCPS is better
under the Fenty/Rhee regime than before,” and “salary concerns about
prospective Nationals players,” I tend to wonder if there is a dearth
of concerned citizens in DC. Don’t get me wrong, all opinions have a
place, but does anyone really care about the whole city, or does the
sense of community only rise up if our self-serving issues are met? We
are a collection of diverse Wards, communities, and neighborhoods. Yet
when it comes time to talk about things that will empower everyone
across the city, very little is discussed. As Washingtonians, I know we
are better than that. Do we still not realize, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., wrote, that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice
I’m foolish enough to believe that I’m not the only idealist who
lives within the boundaries of Washington, DC. I pray that 2009 is
filled with submissions that will raise the level of consciousness of
the reading public and inspire them to action. As I challenge you,
challenge me to do the same.
[Re: Another Case of Hysterical Preservation, themail, December 28]
As a long time PC user and a former Georgetown resident, I’m positive
that an Apple store would ruin the character of Georgetown.
At least it wouldn’t be another bar or shoe store.
The ANC does it again.
What Would Really Help DC
Philip Fornaci, DC Prisoners’ Legal Services Project, email@example.com
While we all share Colbert King’s (and Gary Imhoff’s) concern
about “the erosion of public safety” in DC, the solutions proposed
by Mr. King (and supported by Mr. Imhoff) will only make matters worse.
Mr. King and Mr. Imhoff may rant and rave all they like, but a new round
of even more harsh “get tough” criminal justice policies targeting
juveniles will not help the people of DC. Rather than more
incarceration, more supervision, and more punishment, youth (and adults)
in DC need real economic opportunities and chances to succeed.
People convicted of felonies in DC, including youth convicted as
adults, are shipped into the federal prison system. (The DC government
plays no role in this system, except to abdicate any responsibility for
their treatment and to maintain ignorance of where they are sent and for
how long.) I won’t detail the atrocities suffered by DC prisoners in
federal institutions here, but suffice to say DC prisoners face
particularly brutal treatment while incarcerated. Upon their release,
and 99 percent will be released, they return to few housing or
employment opportunities, extremely stringent parole supervision by our
federal overlords (such that more than one-third are returned to prison
within a year for violating parole rules, not for committing a crime),
and an often hostile community. It is legal, and in fact encouraged by
the Board of Trade, to discriminate against them in housing, education,
and employment. Producing thousands of unemployed, homeless, and
psychologically damaged citizens is good for DC? This improves public
What would really help DC is a serious effort to reintegrate into our
community people who have paid their debt to society and want to get
their lives back. This overwhelmingly African-American population (more
than 92 percent in the criminal justice system) deserves a chance to
succeed, not ever more punitive public policies. Further, if we want to
improve public safety, we need to do all we can to prevent more
juveniles from ending up in this hideous system, and ending their
productive lives before they even have a chance. This does not mean
ignoring their crimes, but it does mean taking seriously the notions of
rehabilitation and education, and concerning ourselves with the person
who will be returning to our city after serving their time. Mr. King
believes that longer prison terms and more aggressive policing will
reduce crime, an indefensible position that has been disproved
repeatedly over the last twenty years of mass incarceration. Such
policies simply produce more desperation, and more crime.
[I replied to a very similar posting by Mr. Fornaci in the
introduction to themail on February 6, http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/2008/08-02-06.htm.
— Gary Imhoff]
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Film Series, January
George Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Auditorium A-5. Popular Movies. January 6:
This Christmas (PG-13); January 13, The Family that Preys (PG-13);
January 28, J.T. and The Sky is Gray (NR).
Wednesday, January 7, 6:00 p.m. Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood
Library, 945 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. Big Kid Movie Night. For more
information, contact 671-0267.
Thursdays, 10:30 a.m., Woodridge Neighborhood Library, 1801 Hamlin
Street, NE. Preschool Films and Stories. For more information, contact
Thursdays, 4:00 p.m., Woodridge Neighborhood Library, 1801 Hamlin
Street, NE. Afternoon movies for school ages. For more information,
Fridays, January 2, 9, 16, and 23, 3:30 p.m., Watha T. Daniel/Shaw
Neighborhood Library, 945 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. Anime Fridays, ages
12-19. For more information, contact 671-0267.
DC Public Library Events, January 3, 5
George Williams, email@example.com
Saturday, January 3, 10:00 a.m., Palisades Neighborhood Library, 4901
V Street, NW. Palisades Lace Group. For more information, contact
Saturday, January 3, 11:00 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Children’s Room, Room 200. Braille Book
Club for Kids ages 6-12. Discuss Curious George Takes a Train by
Margaret and H.A. Rey.
Saturdays, January 3 and 17, 1:00 p.m., Capitol View Neighborhood
Library, 5001 Central Avenue, SE. Glamour Girls Rule Book/Activity Club,
ages 6 - 12. For more information, contact 645-0755.
Monday, January 5, 12:00 p.m., Washington Highlands Neighborhood
Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. Adult Book Club. For more information,
Monday, January 5, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Auditorium A-5. Reel Geography Film Series:
Geopolitical and Historical Issues on Film.
Mondays and Wednesdays, January 5-28, 6:30 p.m. Capitol View
Neighborhood Library, 5001 Central Avenue, SE. Step Aerobics. For more
information, contact 645-0755.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m., Francis A. Gregory
Neighborhood Library, 3660 Alabama Avenue, SE. Computer Classes for
Seniors. For more information, call 645-4297.
Mondays, 7:00 p.m., West End Neighborhood Library, 1101 24th Street,
NW. Qigong, a form of Chinese medicine using movement, breathing and
meditation techniques. The DC Public Library is not responsible, nor
does it endorse health information given to participants during the
program. For more information, contact 724-8707.
DC Public Library Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Events, January 5-6
George Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, January 5, 10:30 a.m., Washington Highlands Neighborhood
Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. Dr. King Story Time. Enjoy stories,
films, and reading activities about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. Ages 1 – 5. Contact: 645-5881.
Tuesday, January 6, 4:00 p.m., Washington Highlands Neighborhood
Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. Poems of Dr. King’s Footsteps. Read
and write poems on the events of Dr. King’s footsteps. Ages 6-12.
Tuesday, January 6, 6:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, 901 G Street, NW, Great Hall. Dr. King and the Media, with
columnist Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune. Civil Rights
groups today contend that the media has attempted to portray Dr. King as
a conservative and opponent of affirmative action, citing his desire to
have his children judged by “the content of their character” rather
than by the “color of their skin.” Page explores Dr. King’s belief
in affirmative action and whether writers have misinterpreted,
misunderstood, or taken his words out of context. Contact 727-1261.
Tuesday, January 6, 6:00 p.m., Washington Highlands Neighborhood
Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. Black History Movie Night: Hotel
Rwanda. See a true story about Paul Rusesabagina, a five star hotel
manager who uses his wits and persuasion in striving to save more than
1,200 Tutsis and Hutus from being massacred by the Interahamwe militia
during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. Contact: 645-5881
National Building Museum Events, January 6
Jazmine Zick, email@example.com
January 6, 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Join us in the Building Zone for a
reading of Sara Anderson’s Noisy City Day, which follows a day
of activities in a busy city. Readings at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Free, drop-in program, recommended for ages 3 to 5.
January 6, 12:30-1:30 p.m., post-election analysis: What the Outcomes
Mean for Smart Growth. Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth
America, analyzes the election results and the implications for state
and local governments’ ability to implement a more sustainable
approach to growth. Free; registration not required.
January 6, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Sustainable Communities: Green and
Affordable Neighborhoods. Developer Jonathan F.P. Rose discusses his
firm’s Highlands Garden Village — a walkable, transit-oriented
development project located in Denver, Colorado. The project is featured
in the exhibition Green Community, which will be open for viewing prior
to the lecture. $12 Museum; $12 Student; $20 Nonmember. Prepaid
registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. All
events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary
Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.
Childhood Obesity Epidemic, January 8
Aneesa Din, Aneesa.Din@dc.gov
You are invited to an Evening Policy Forum on The Childhood Obesity
Epidemic and Academic Achievement on Thursday, January 8, 5:30-7:30
p.m., at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives, 1201 17th
Street, NW (Metro: Farragut North (Red Line)). Research indicates that
proper nutrition and increased physical activity lead to higher academic
achievement. Student participation in school breakfast programs, for
example, improves academic, behavioral and emotional functioning and
leads to increased math and reading scores. Unfortunately, a lack of
physical activity and poor eating habits have lead to an obesity
epidemic, and childhood obesity has become one of the most serious
health problems we are facing as a nation. Recent studies have shown
that rates of childhood obesity have increased to three times what they
were almost thirty years ago and that obese children and teenagers are
developing type 2 diabetes in record numbers. While childhood obesity is
a growing problem throughout the country, it is especially problematic
within our local community. According to a 2003-2004 National Survey of
Children’s Health (NSCH), 22.8 percent of 10-17 year-olds in the
District of Columbia are considered obese, the highest rate in the
The District of Columbia has committed collaborative, multi-agency
attention to address and reduce the rates of childhood obesity among our
students and our residents, thereby increasing their chances for
academic and personal success. In February of 2008, Mayor Fenty released
the District’s first ever Child Health Action Plan, which includes an
initiative to reverse the trend in local childhood obesity rates by 2010
by improving the nutritional options available to children and families.
The plan also utilizes new physical education standards to increase the
physical activity of children in schools. Additionally, the OSSE
released a state-level education strategic plan in September of 2008.
The plan contains an objective to improve student health and wellness,
including an objective to reduce the percentage of students classified
as overweight or obese by the year 2011.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education is hosting an
evening discussion to allow practitioners, researchers and stakeholders
to explore strategies for effectively reducing obesity rates in the
District of Columbia. Speakers include Laura Segal, Director, Public
Affairs, Trust for America’s Health; Ginny Ehrlich, Executive
Director, Alliance for a Healthier Generation; Sandra Schlicker,
Director, Nutrition and Wellness Services, Office of the State
Superintendent of Education; and a representative from the District of
Columbia Department of Health. Please RSVP by Wednesday, January 7, to
Aneesa Din at Aneesa.Din@dc.gov
or 727-7207 to reserve your space for this event.
The People’s Inaugural Ball, January 16-18
John Capozzi, firstname.lastname@example.org
DC for Obama and The People’s Inaugural Planning Committee
cordially invite you to participate in the historic celebration of the
inauguration of the forty-fourth President of the United States of
America by sponsoring or hosting The People’s Inaugural: Celebrating
Grassroots. The People’s Inaugural will be a weekend of pre-inaugural
events, January 16 through January 18, celebrating the grassroots
organizers, activists, and volunteers that worked tirelessly to elect
Barack Obama the next President of the United States. All three nights
of celebration will be hosted at the Historical Society of Washington, http://www.historydc.org/special
The People’s Inaugural is presented by a coalition of grassroots
organizations committed to continuing to work to support the Obama-Biden
administration and empowering all Americans to become actively engaged
in their community. Proceeds from this event will go to support the DC
Statehood Fund and participating host organizations. The District of
Columbia Statehood fund is a nonpartisan fund established under DC Code
§ 1-123(g) to support outreach and education about the District of
Columbia’s lack of voting representation in the United States Congress
and limited home rule as a result of the Districts’ non-state status.
For more information about the People’s Inaugural ball, or to buy
tickets, go to http://thepeoplesinaugural.com.
DC Presidential Inaugural Gala, January 19
Hazel Thomas, email@example.com
You are cordially invited to join the District of Columbia
Presidential Gala Committee’s DC Presidential Inaugural Gala in honor
of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United
States. Monday, January 19, 8:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m., at the US Department
of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE.
The event is black tie, and tickets are $244.51 per person. Join us
as we celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Experience
renowned entertainment and talented local artists; visit the small
intimate parties hosted by the communities of Washington, DC; enjoy
jazz, big band, old school, and hip hop; partake from a variety of
dining and beverage stations; receive an official program and listing in
the souvenir booklet at a special rate; collect photos and memorabilia;
and have an unforgettable evening celebrating with family, friends and
community. Tickets must be purchased by January 12. Tickets may be
purchased via the Internet. Please visit http://www.dcpresidentialgala.com
and follow instructions. Purchased tickets will be available for pick up
beginning January 14, 2009.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription
to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the
E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the
E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.