Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palin on SNL

Just in case you have a life and weren't home to see Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, I can report that she didn't do much of anything to rehabilitate her image. In fact, she didn't say or do much of anything period except to yell out the "Live from New York..." tag line.

I thought that SNL might decide to make nice with her, and pull the punches, but the odd thing was that Palin showed up to lend her presence on a show that continued to parody and ridicule her public persona.
The show opened with another devastating mock press conference with Tina Fey, who I thought for a split second was the real Palin. Then during the Weekend Update segment, she had to sit silently while awkwardly pretending to be groovin' during a funny rap skit by Amy Poehler and the cast that satirized her--pretty roughly, I thought. I wonder if she knew what was happening.

Here's the video--oddly on a pro-McCain site. Second segment is here.

Now I guess she'll go back to inciting hatred among Real Americans, who apparently look like this.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Catania Bakery Robbed. Again.

Part of my Saturday routine is to go by the Catania Bakery to get their fantastic fresh croissants and bread. This morning when I arrived, there were police outside and the bakery was closed. The officer outside told me that there had been a robbery. (In Shaw has a post on this as well.)

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time. They were hit a year or so ago, and a family member was assaulted, and there have been previous robberies. The Tramontes have shown amazing toughness and resilience, and I'm sure they'll bounce back, but they shouldn't have to suffer these depredations again and again. My condolences and support to Nicole and her family.

When they reopen, as I'm confident they will, I hope the neighborhood will support them by buying their pastries and bread. They're normally open for retail on Saturday morning and offer coffee for folks who just want to hang out and schmooze. The bakery is at 1404 N. Capitol Street, between O and P.


Friday, October 17, 2008

When Does This Become a Hate Crime?

Seriously, folks, this is the robocall that the Republican National Committee has authorized and is being used in Virginia right now. I don't know if this sort of crap works, but the mere fact that McCain's party and campaign authorizes this kind of vicious lie is outrageous. Didn't you just love McCain's smarmy pitch in the last debate and on Letterman last night that he was really the victim of negative campaigning?

Meanwhile, Palin is referring to the "pro-America" parts of the country (guess which ones they are). So I guess the rest of us are...what...Iranians? Russians? Or, gasp, French? You can get the t-shirt here.

A bit of levity: This video is hilarious.


I just saw this post from which this excerpt is taken:

Over in Indiana, PA and Northern Cambria, PA, volunteers fielded complaints of a massive wave of ugly robocalls both paid for by John McCain's campaign and those paid for by third parties. The third party call was interactive, and purported to be from Barack Obama himself. The call starts out reasonably, and then "Obama" asks what the listener thinks is the most important issue. Whatever the response, "Obama" then launches into a profane and crazed tirade using "n***er" and other shock language.

I guess it's now official: McCain has no honor left.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Azi's Offers Catering

I stopped by Azi's Cafe (1336 9th St at "O") for lunch today, and learned that she is now offering catering for parties, receptions, and other events.

Azi has a new catering menu of choices that include breakfast (@ $12/person), boxed lunches ($13.50-15.00/person), and a variety of her sandwiches along with salad and cookies

If you've tried her sandwiches, pastries, and coffee, you know how good they are, so keep this in mind for any upcoming events. (Election night parties maybe?) Her phone number is 202-232-0001.

And don't forget that Azi's is one of the nicest places around for a quick lunch, coffee break, or just to schmooze with friends. Like many establishments in our neighborhood, I hear that she's been struggling a bit in the current economy, so let's give her some business and keep this real asset to the neighborhood going.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Change We Need--In Shaw

If you live in DC, your presidential vote may not really matter all that much, because we all know who's going to get DC's 3 electoral votes. (BTW, I'm totally in the tank for Obama, in case no one noticed.)

But if you live in Shaw or Penn Quarter, there is one election where your vote can make a huge difference, and that's for ANC commissioner. A couple of my fellow bloggers have already spoken out on this (here and here). In 2006, I never used this blog to express election preferences, but this time around I'm definitely going to add my 2 cents worth as well. (Sorry, this is probably going to be a long post.)

Let's speak plainly: The main--almost the only--issue here is Leroy Thorpe. For those who weren't around before 2006, or who may have forgotten, a brief review:

Thorpe used to run the ANC as his personal fiefdom, using his two puppets, Doris Brooks and Barbara Curtis, to give him a guaranteed majority for whatever he wanted. Long-suffering Alex Padro was the odd man out, silenced and ridiculed by Thorpe--like anyone else who dared disagree or challenge him on anything. The ANC operated as a semi-secret society; agendas weren't distributed in advance, minutes were never published, and God forbid that meetings should be recorded because that would reveal what outrageous travesties of parliamentary procedure they were. Some courageous residents defied the video recording bans, so there's plenty of video evidence out there of how it was.

Then in November 2006, Thorpe lost--very narrowly--to challenger Kevin Chapple for ANC2C02. This would leave the ANC evenly divided between Thorpe's surrogates on one side and Padro and Chapple on the other. Rather than concede gracefully, at the final ANC meeting Thorpe chaired in December, he resigned the chair in favor of Brooks, and then got himself elected as "Parliamentarian" and "executive assistant" to Brooks. This effectively meant that he would continue to run the ANC because Brooks and Curtis never made a move without being told what to do in stage whispers from Thorpe. (Further details here and here.)

So the ANC was split 2-2, but might still have been able to function, except that Brooks (clearly acting on Thorpe's instructions) continued to run the meetings in a spiteful manner, refusing to make even small concessions on minor procedural questions that might have improved the atmosphere. In 2007, she actually canceled meetings to prevent their being videorecorded, but eventually lost that battle. During the current year, there has been a slight atmospheric improvement, but this has not translated into much improved functioning of the ANC. The fact that the meetings are now mostly just sort of boring rather than the grotesque laughingstocks they used to be can be attributed largely to the replacement of Leroy Thorpe by Kevin Chapple.

In my opinion, Kevin has done everything he could possibly do to walk the walk--particularly given the situation he came into. His website, newsletter, and single member district meetings have vastly improved communications with constituents about issues affecting the neighborhood, and he has been open and respectful of other points of view. He emphatically deserves to be re-elected.

I see this choice as a kind of miniature version of the presidential election: Do you want to support a candidate with new ideas who is positive, forward-looking, and inclusive, or one who looks to the past and has been negative, mean-spirited, and divisive. I think that's the choice we have.

But what about the other ANC races? (See district map here.)

Thorpe's cat's paw, Doris Brooks (ANC2C03), has been a fixture on the ANC for decades, but still doesn't know how to run a meeting on her own. She has a strong base of support from her church, but as even Jack Evans has acknowledged--has shown little interest in the other constituents in her single member district (which stretches through Gallery Place and Penn Quarter all the way to the Capitol). The area south of Mass Avenue is full of residents--many of them new--who have never heard of her because she seems not to have heard of them. She is being challenged by Jessica Lanza, who wants to bring representation on the ANC to the forgotten constituents. For more information about her, see her website here. It's time to replace Brooks, so vote for Jessica Lanza.

Theresa Sule is running for the seat held by Barbara Curtis (ANC2C04). Curtis is a nice lady, but she has been non-entity on the ANC except to vote as directed by Leroy Thorpe. Theresa Sule, who is president of the tenants association at 1330 7th Street, has greatly impressed me with her energy, sharp intellect, and no-nonsense approach to issues. She would make a great addition to the ANC, so please vote for her!

Long-time incumbent Alex Padro (ANC2C01) should be re-elected. I don't always agree with him on everything, but he has been a rational voice for progress in Shaw and a tireless activist in promoting much-needed commercial and retail development in the area. He also is probably more knowledgeable than any of the other candidates about zoning and developmental regulation. As much as I like his perennial opponent, Mary Sutherland, on a personal level, I have yet to hear a good reason to support her over Alex, and she has been a Thorpe ally in the past. Sarah Livingston, who publishes her own Seventh Streeter newsletter, has also entered the race, but has declined opportunities to present her ideas for the ANC. Alex deserves another term.

We now have a chance to replace our pathetic dysfunctional ANC with one that could actually do some good for the community. If you wonder what a really functional ANC might look like, you need look no further than our neighbor to the west in the Logan area: ANC2F. Just take a look at their website to get an idea of the extent of their activities. Then look at ours. Oh, that's right--you can't, because we don't have one.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Philly Phans Don't ♥ Palin

Sarah Palin's PR stunt to exploit her status as self-proclaimed Number One Hockey Mom seems to have backfired when fans greeted her with a chorus of boos in Philadelphia at a Flyers-Rangers game. Even dragging along one of her spawn with her to drop the puck didn't protect her.

Philadelphia fans are notorious boors, but this is one instance when I'm grateful.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hit Chick

From the Dana Milbank column in today's WaPo: "Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers," Palin said. "Boooo!" said the crowd. "And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'" she continued. "Boooo!" the crowd repeated.

"Kill him!" proposed one man in the audience.

It doesn't take a genius to read the message here. This has been an undercurrent throughout the campaign--the Obama-is-a-Muslim lie, the emphasis on his middle name, McCain's ominously suggestive refrain of "who's the real Obama?", the not-so-subtle appeal to residual racism especially among working class Democrats. This is the end-game of the Atwater/Rove strategy of appealing to the primitive reptilian brain in the American voter.

But it took Sarah Palin to make the "Obama=terrorist" charge explicit. Look at the syntax in the quote: Who is the antecedent of "he"? Even allowing for Palin's minimal command of English, the ambiguity can't be inadvertent--not that the grammar really matters to the casual listener. This goes way beyond Willie Horton and is utterly despicable.

I hesitate even to articulate this thought, but my greatest fear is not that many voters will fall for the distraction (so far, the polls suggest that they aren't buying it). Rather, I fear that some racist nut job will hear this as coded approval to physically attack Obama, now that he's been officially branded by the Republican candidates as an Enemy of America. McCain and Palin are literally playing with fire here.

If this seems paranoid, just take a look at this photograph taken at a Palin rally. If that doesn't scare you,....

Monday, October 06, 2008

El Loco: La historia verdadera

This Rolling Stone article, "The Make-Believe Maverick", is long, but definitely worth the time to read. It has a lot of detail that I was unaware of and makes it very evident both that McCain's "straight-talking maverick" image is largely a fictional creation worthy of a Hollywood studio and that the erratic behavior he has shown lately is nothing new.

This is important stuff. Please urge everyone you know to read it.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Where are They Keeping El Loco?

Is the presidential race now really between Obama and Palin? Am I wrong, or has McCain just sort of disappeared over the last week? And what happened to all the McCain TV attack ads in the DC market? Have they given up on Virginia like they did on Michigan?

I had a chance this morning to read all the newspapers placed before me (WaPo and NYT--I can name them), and was struck by the amount of chatter about Divine Sarah and the absence of much of anything about El Loco. The past week has shown conclusively that the Consumate Maverick can't exercise leadership over his own party any more than the unspeakable Dubya can. Even with both of their support and truckloads of lard, they still couldn't get even a bare majority of Republicans in the House to support the bailout bill. What does that say?

Meanwhile, Palin is all over the place. The weird inversion is that the McCain campaign has gone over big time for the very thing that they blasted Obama for: i.e., using celebrity to sell their candidate. Never mind that much of the publicity is in the form of well-deserved ridicule. Never mind that what Palin says is a bizarre mixture of lies and buzzword-laden gibberish. (Just read the transcript and see if you can find an actual thought there.) Never mind that she has not yet shown that she knows anything about anything. She gets the eyeballs on TV and that's all that matters at this point. Even supposedly veteran pundits like David Broder are talking about how "Palin did just fine" and terming the VP debate "uplifting". Huh???? Ironically, it seems that nearly everyone except TV satirists has abandoned all critical faculties in favor of an American Idol value system.

Palin acts as if she believes she is indeed running for president--which she may well be. Here she is running for commander-in-chief with a resume that consists basically of a six-year term as mayor of a town the size of La Plata, Maryland and being a rookie governor of a state with the population of Baltimore city (in its now-shrunken state). But more important, even in a format that allowed her to regurgitate prepared spoon-fed gobbets of text, she has been unable to articulate a single policy on anything. (Yeah, we know she just loves Israel.) But, as Paris Hilton would say, she's HOT.

I'm not sure if the American public is really buying it, however. With the polls showing solidifying support for Obama, the El Loco's only option is to go for Big Lies and character assassination. The Palin/McCain campaign has already shown that it has no problem with that, so get ready for things to get really ugly for the next month.

Oh, BTW, the Maverick family wants its name back. See here.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Palin Fading in...Alaska???!!!

Where's the love? We keep hearing that Sarah Palin is the queen of the hop in Alaska, but I'm starting to wonder. Take a look at these terrific blogs on local Alaskan politics: Mudflats and Girl from Homer. Sounds like the Palin rallies in Anchorage, by far the state's largest city, are falling flat and that there's growing resentment at the McCain campaign's meddling in local affairs and trying to stifle the Troopergate investigation.

Maybe it's too much to dream that AK could go blue (except maybe from the cold), but it gives a ray of hope that not everyone is dazzled by the winks and you-betchas.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

With a Wink and a Lie

For a horrible moment there, I thought she was going to breastfeed the baby--you know, to really connect with the Hockey Moms out there and maybe give Joe Sixpack a little peek. Sarah Palin's beauty pageant training really came through last night. The wave, the winning smiles, the cutesy winks, the "gosh-darns" and "by-gollys" and "you betchas", the shout-out to the 3rd grade class or whatever it was, and--most of all--the non-stop fact-free verbiage. She really is made for TV--one of those daytime shows with female hosts whose sole purpose is to fill up time with meaningless chatter that no one will remember 30 minutes later. Kathie Lee, Kelly Ripa, Sarah Palin...the career path is wide open if the politics thing doesn't work out.

Of course, she never bothered to answer any of those pesky questions posed by the irrelevant Gwen Ifill, who apparently was so cowed by the GOP's preemptive attack-the-moderator campaign that she couldn't muster the courage to steer Palin (and, to be fair, a few times Biden as well) back to the subject. So there was nothing to prevent Palin from delivering her memorized setpieces of bumpersticker slogans. Or to shamelessly repeat the GOP attack ad falsehoods designed to convince the heartland that Obama is really a crypto-Muslim terrorist who wants to starve Our Troops In Eye-Rack and tax Struggling Families into poverty. Never mind that Biden refuted the charges, goshdarnit, Sarah came right back to repeat her lies in that adorable squeaky cheerleader voice without batting an eye.

And OMG, enough with the "maverick" thing! One of the problems with mavericks (BTW, I'm from Texas, where the term originated) is that you never know what the hell they're going to do, which is why they make good copy but poor leaders. McCain's erratic behavior lately--apparently trying to re-establish his fading maverick cred--demonstrates this pretty well.

But (to use Palin's mantra) let's get back to energy... I'm still waiting to hear about Palin's vaunted energy expertise. From what I can tell it consists of getting herself elected governor of a state that produces oil that is delivered through a pipeline built decades earlier and which subsidizes the state government through a deal established before she was elected. Remember, folks, Dubya was not only governor of Texas (a bigger oil and gas producer), but he actually had his own oil company (which never made any money), so he had even better claims to being an "expert". You can see how well that's worked out for the country. Most of us here in the Lower 48, as they say, have no notion about what goes on in Alaskan politics, so the tendency is to accept the authorized GOP version, but for an alternative view, just check out these sites here and here.

I was relieved to see that polls among uncommitted voters show most didn't buy Palin's act. Move over, Bonnie Hunt!

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Holding Your Nose

Michael Sendar appeared last night at the CCCA meeting to make his pitch for a zoning variance for his notorious derelict property (see posts below). He claimed that he has wanted to develop the property but was stymied by its R4 zoning status. Interestingly, he did confirm that a couple of years ago he did have an offer to buy from respected residential developer Jim Abdo, but said that Abdo's offer was about $200K below the amount reported (that would probably put the offer above $600K, which would likely have netted Sendar a profit of at least $400K). He admits that he's not interested in developing the property now and just wants to sell it; currently his asking price is about $950K (if I recall correctly).

He asked for input about the idea of having a small food store there which could also sell alcoholic beverages. The reaction of residents present was uniformly negative, noting that there were already plenty of such businesses in the area and that they tended to be magnets for other problems. He claims to be willing, however, to accept a restriction on the zoning variance that would exclude off-premises sale of alcohol.

Here's the issue, as I see it:

Morally, Sendar doesn't have a leg to stand on. He knew the property was R4 when he bought it. He could have sold it at substantial gain to someone willing to develop it as a residential property. He has allowed the property to deteriorate to the point that it is currently uninhabitable. He has gamed the system to avoid paying the vacant property taxes that he probably should have, if the DC government wasn't so shiftless and negligent about enforcing its tax laws.
Still, he will profit if he gets the variance, because that makes the property more valuable to a potential buyer. Sendar isn't the devil, but he has taken advantage of a complaisant and corrupt system, and he has shown no concern whatever for the consequences of his actions or inactions for the neighborhood.

BUT, if he doesn't get the variance and hangs on to the property, it will continue to be a festering drag on the neighborhood, because it's clear nothing will happen there.

So, even though it makes me gag, I think the variance should probably be supported with requisite prohibitions against off-premises alcohol sales.

Sometimes you just have to accept unpalatable choices to get some improvement on a bad situation. That applies to the financial bailout Congress is considering, and I think it applies here as well.

Sendar is supposed to appear at tonight's ANC meeting. I don't know what the other two commissioners think about it, but it seems that Alex Padro and Kevin Chapple have reached the same conclusion to hold their nose and support the variance.

I wouldn't mind seeing Sendar have to squirm a little, though.

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