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Levey Live: Speaking Freely

Friday, July 16, 1999

"Levey Live: Speaking Freely," hosted by Washington Post columnist Bob Levey, appears every Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time. It is a live, open-agenda discussion offering washingtonpost.com users around the world the opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics of their choice with Bob. Be sure to join Bob next Friday for another free for all.

Bob Levey
Bob Levey
Dan Murano/washingtonpost.com

Fearless Bob takes your questions about virtually everything, from sports and politics (there's a difference?) to world events, Metro area traffic and issues raised in Bob's columns.




Fairfax Co, VA: Do you think America is becoming a police state? Today there are police shows that glorify cops and turn citizens into snitches-eg. America's Most Wanted, Cops, Police Wildest Videos, etc.-

Bob Levey: Would you rather glorify criminals, a la "Bonnie and Clyde?" I don't think America is close to becoming a police state. Spend a week in Yugoslavia, and you might get a different perspective on that expression


East Lyme CT: Does Northern Virginia have a chance at getting a major league Baseball team this year?
Has anyone stepped up to lead the effort to get one? I would think that having a team in the Orioles back yard would make for a great rivalry similar to Mets-Yankee's and Dodgers-Angel's.What do you think?

Bob Levey: There's still a lot of bravado emanating from the mouths of several Northern Virginia moneybags people. But it ain't gonna happen until and unless the Orioles ownership waives its territorial rights--and that has very little chance of happening. Why should it? The O's draw about one-third of their fans from the Washington metropolitan area. To allow baseball into Northern Virginia would slice that to a micro-sliver. Suicide is not popular among moneybags people.


Arlington, VA: What's Thai food like?

Bob Levey: Chinese plus


Warrenton, VA: A grammar question for you. The Spy Who Shagged Me has the song "Just the Two of Us" in its soundtrack. In the lyrics "Just the two of us ...you and I" shouldn't that be "you and me"?

Me just wants to know!

Bob Levey: Of course, you're right. Songs have always mangled grammar. At least a few of them do it to force a rhyme (loving/turtle-dovin'). But the example you cite is just plain illiterate


Crystal City, Va.: What would you say to white supremacist Matthew Hale?

Bob Levey: This town ain't big enough for both of us


Manassas, VA: The media and especially the Post seem obsessed with George Duubya's fund raising. Where were they when Clinton-Gore were taking all the illegal campaign funds? Talk about a partisan whitewash!

Bob Levey: Funny, but the Clinton-Gore people complained bitterly that the media in general (and The Post in particular) laid it on far too thick over the Lincoln bedroom. A hint for you to remember: We don't do partisan whitewashes on behalf of either party. We do news.


Arlington, VA: Here's a question that's plagued me for years. Why don't YOU run for an office? You are obviously interested in the welfare of others. You are intelligent and have many great ideas. You also have a great sense of compassion. What's the problem? I'm many people would be more than willing to donate to such a campaign. Just an idea. . .

Bob Levey: I would seriously consider it if the job weren't nine-tenths bureaucracy. I am NOWHERE as an administrator, and that would become a political minus very quickly (cf Barry, Marion). To be public spirited is only some of what a public servant needs. He also needs a thick skin and a fat bankroll. I'm OK on the first, extremely weak on the second. Thanks for the compliment, in any case.


Bob Levey: VERY sorry for the titanic outage of our server. It lasted for nearly an hour--definitely an Olympic and world record. Hope that at least some of you stuck it out, and that others might drift into our chat to check it out.


DC: Where is Vic Sussman and how come he didn't step in and fix the problem? Is he out of the cage in Rosslyn? When will he be back to host this chat?

Bob Levey: Vic is delirious from a severe case of Thai food. He therefore has been strapped to the walls in his tiger cage in Rosslyn, for his own protection. He is not receiving visitors. Despite all this misfortune, he will guest-host for me next Friday, July 23. Send him your hopes and prayers.


DC: Any info. as to the cause of the technological glitches that occur more and more frequently lately?

Bob Levey: Once upon a time, I could blame the Russians. Now, I blame expectations. We are so spoiled by technology that works most of the time that we go absolutely stark-raving zippy when it doesn't. In times like these, as I pace my office, hoping that the %$#& server will come back up, I think of my grandfather. He never complained when his telephone didn't work, in the 1920s. He was just glad to have one. I'm trying to muster the same spirit about the server (although it's &%$#$ HARD!)


Washington, DC: Why does The Post take so long to notice and report the obvious? The article on fiber companies digging up the streets of DC is a good example. MFS, Metro Fiber Systems, has been installing fiber locally for the last five years—they have their own manhole covers! Did someone have to back a fiber-optic cable reel truck into one of the Graham’s Rolls Royces to get you guys to notice?

BTW, we need more rain.

Bob Levey: I will be honest with you. Sometimes we are ahead of the curve, sometimes we are even with it and sometimes we are way behind it. This is Case Three. I can only guess at what took so long. I have a hunch it's our internal process (it usually is). Probably someone in authority finally figured out what all that digging was all about. Or someone asked. Or both.


Washington, D.C.: As if I don't already know the answer. . .

Regarding yesterday's front page article on the fiber optic cables downtown, and seeing the "wonderful" job of temporary patching done by the phone companies -which we all know won't survive the next snowstorm-: Who will be paying to repave the streets once the temporary patches fail?

Bob Levey: Your tax dollars will have to do it. Of course, the Republicans are so busy trying to cut taxes that there may not BE any tax dollars to do the job. This is what makes me insane about tax-cut-think. Big, unexpected problems come up--more all the time. Do these "professional politicians" think it's more palatable in Peoria to reinstate taxes once you've cut them?. They are committing political wrist-slashing, not for the first time.


Falls Church, VA: Now that Cox is poised to buy the the Fairfax County cable service from Media General, I am wondering if this will bring some badly needed improvements for the county residents. When we moved from Alexandria to Fairfax County, we saw our cable bill jump 50% and the quality of service decline. After three months, we dropped the service. Since then we've watched less TV and, can you believe it, actually read some books, plus saving money. Mind you, I miss the Discovery Channel, but just can't justify spending $40 a month to see about 7 extra hours of TV. If the price is lowered to $25, I might reconsider. In your busy day, do you have any time for cable channels. How is your cable service?

Bob Levey: Books? You admit to reading books? Be careful, my friend. Your neighbors may find out and turn you in!
My cable service is good when it's good, truly rotten whenever a storm knocks a branch where it shouldn't go. Repairs are done well, but slowly. This is in southern Montgomery County.


Alexandria, VA: I read in my "Lawyer's Book of Days" that today in 1790, the District of Columbia was established and was authorized as the first permanent capital of the United States. Happy B'day! Why was it called the "District of Columbia?"
P.S. for the song--couldn't it have been correct grammar if it went as such:
"-Implied 'it is'----j]ust the two of us--you and I"
My favorite mess of grammar is in the Neil Diamond song, "I am I said" where he uses "brung" to rhyme with "sung," etc. It's still a nice song, worth the botching of the language.

Bob Levey: All I can say is, "brung" and "sung" rhyme with "dung." I think that may indicate where I stand on Mr. Diamond's rhyme.
Dunno why D.C. was called the District of Columbia. I do know that George Washington thought of it--as he thought of so much else.


Alligator stew: When do you do your radio segments? Are they a regular feature or sporadic?

Bob Levey: Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 7:51 a.m. on WTOP-AM and FM. I guess that makes them non-sporadic


FFX, VA: Bob,
Congrats on the win in the Washingtonian!!! How does it feel to beat Dave Barry, yet fall 2nd to Tony K?

What were the Umps thinking? MLB is throwing a farewell party!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob Levey: FFX is talking about my recent selection as one of Washington's best columnists, as determined by Washingtonian Magazine. Fourth time I've been selected. Always feels nice, although I have to note that I once made the list of worst columnists. Ya take the bitter with the sweet.
I hold no grudges toward Kornheiser. Just because he makes twice as much money as I do, has an office that's twice as large and works only 15 minutes a week.... hey, that's America, baby.


Arlington, VA: Yesterday on my way home from work, travelling north on 395, I encountered an all-too-common situation: a truck carrying gravel-mulch-etc. that's leaving behind bits of its load along the highway. Unfortunately, yesterday it was a cement truck. The back was slowly turning as usual, to prevent the hardening of the cement, but unfortunately is was overfilled, or perhaps the pour spout was angled too far down, but rocks and blobs of cement were slowly but surely escaping out. The cement wasn't an immediate problem, as it just plopped to the ground. The rocks however were a major problem. Cars were swerving to avoid the flying gravel, and crowding the far left and right lanes to try and stay as far from the truck as possible. I also have some new nicks in my windshield thanks to Mr. Cement Truck. Getting the license plate # from behind was impossible, b-c it was too scary to get that close. I couldn't signal the driver b-c he was too high up. I could have taken down the name of the co. written on the side, but I was too anxious just to get far, far away. The driver didn't seem to notice how everyone around him was swerving and avoiding his path. What is a driver to do in this situation?

Bob Levey: Own a cell phone and use it to call the cops. If you don't own one, yes, get the license number. But don't bother to call that 800 number that some trucks carry on their rumps. You'll just get blown off or sweet-talked by some company stooge. I have never heard of anyone getting any satisfaction by calling in to such numbers.


Washington, DC: I didn't get the point of the Style article this week about the woman whose rich restarateur husband died. Is this the most interesting human interest story of the week? If so, it wasn't very.

Bob Levey: I thought it was wonderful--a real inside look at how someone FEELS in Washington, instead of how someone looks/acts/votes/dresses.


Georgia: Maybe it only takes Kornheiser 15 minutes to come up with material that beats your week's worth of columns? Just a thought.

Bob Levey: Get back to work, Tony. And stop with the phony Georgia datelines. Your New York accent is so thick that you'd type JAW-juh.


Arlington: Even though I'm questioning your food tastes after the Thai response, here's my question: Phyllis Richman is a marvelously talented woman and I love her reviews, but for understandable reasons, they are usually of high-end restaurants -although I caught today's article about how to go cheap at an expensive place-. Anyway, I was wondering what recommendations you, as a family man and Post columnist, might have for the "average" guy.

Bob Levey: Sholl's Cafeteria, a wonderful slice of life (and a wonderful slice of apple pie) at 20th and K. A five-course meal for $8. Hard to beat. I also love the India Grill on Rockville Pike--excellent food, attentive service. If it's just me, and money is no object, I do Crisfield's in Silver Spring. The seafood is the absolute best (although the prices have crept to the moon).


Wash, DC: Please sing along: 'ju-ust the 2 of us-we can make it if we try-just the 2 of us-you and...me?' BUZZ...this example also ignores grammar in service of a rhyme.

Bob Levey: Sussman, take it easy. The ambulance is on the way


Arlington, VA: Server outage, yeah right. Just walked up Wilson and all you post.com types were outside smoking cigs. Nice try though.

Bob Levey: Hey, all I know is that I tried to hop into the site for nearly an hour, and it wasn't hoppable.


Washington: As someone from Peoria, I agree with your tax cut stance. I believe that many people think a tax cut sounds good -and it does-, but no one really believes the money will be there to cut taxes, save social security, fix medicare and address the $5 trillion debt. It's all the same pot of money, don't you think?

Bob Levey: Sure it is. But here's a trick we Beltway types have learned long ago. Don't listen to the political bombast whenever the subject is $$$. Listen to the Congressional Budget Office. They are very smart, very wise, very deliberate and very non-partisan. When they say there's money for all those things you mention--and they say it--listen.


Fairfax,VA: Hey Bob,

That "Virginia Real" song is unnecessarily harsh! Sure, VA has it's problems -I'm no fan of Gilmore and his Byzantine politics myself, or that silly contest-, but every state has its problems, and I'm a BIG fan of the beauty and friendliness that I see in my state daily.

I agree with you that folks shouldn't complain of congestion when they work in D.C. and live in VA. But first hand experience -living in D.C. for 2 years- taught me to FLEE back to my beloved Virginia. I hope I never leave again!

Enjoy your column and these chats. Thanks for listening to my gripe...

Bob Levey: Fairfax is referring to today's Levey column, wherein The Great One turns poet, and roasts the state of Virginia. Where's your sensayuma, as we used to say in the Bronx? If you can't chuckle, where are you?


Arlington: Bob, where were you last Friday? If you had a discussion, I can't access it now...

Bob Levey: I was right here at my desk--and believe it or not, the server was working. Check out the Levey Live archives. Last week's chat should be there. If it isn't, blame Sussman! I do it by the hour


DC: I'm going skydiving this weekend for the first time. What's your thoughts on the safety of this thrill?

Bob Levey: I suppose more people survive it than don't, but I'll leave the experimenting to you, if you don't mind.
Thrill? I have enough trouble when a plane hits an air pocket.


Tysons Corner, VA: Your comments about Brandy Chastain on WTOP were outright sexist and pessimistically mean-spirited.

I'm not a soccer fan and even I know that it is traditional for the player -99% of the time a man- that scores a game winning penalty kick to remove his jersey and run to his teammates. They also slide on the ground after a goal.

Just because Chastain is a woman and she helped design the bra, you make the assumption she did it strictly as an act of endorsement. I have yet to see any hard evidence of that fact. The odds of her knowing ahead of time that she would be the one who scored on a penalty kick after a 0-0 double OT game... common' Bob!!! You're smarter than that!!!

I'm a man -and I found nothing sexual in it- and I say "way to go, Brandy". There is NO reason a woman athlete can not participate in the same traditions of her sport that the men do.

I hope you'll research this tradition, talk to some soccer fans-players, and see you overreacted. I'd be really impressed if you went on the radio and said as much.

Bob Levey: It's not that it was sexual. It was blatantly commercial. The woman is under contract to Nike! She took her big opportunity to shill for the company. Yes, yes, male athletes wear insignia merchandise, too. But this is UNDERWEAR we're talking about. When Jordan hit that big shot to win the NBA title, did he rip off his trunks to show you his Nike jock strap? That's the apt analogy.


Arlington, VA: How come there's not an expressway from my parkingspot at work to my driveway? What elected officials can I contact about this blantantly obvious oversight on the use of my tax dollars?

Bob Levey: Hey, if the Republicans cut taxes, you'll NEVER get that private expressway.


Falls Church, VA: Hi Bob,
3 years ago my wife and I went to the July 4th concert at the Capitol lawn and had a great time. We really appreciated the 100+ port-a-potties the Park Service had on hand. Since then, we've often discussed going to an 8PM Summer concert on the Capitol steps and finally last night we went. Wouldn't you know it, as we exited the South Capitol metro, we were both hit with the need to go. No problem, I thought, the park service will have port-a-potties on hand. Wrong!!! After some frantic searching, we flagged down a police officer who told us that since the Capitol building was closed to the public, we would have to walk to a hotel about 4 blocks away. I am wondering first of all, why there weren't any port-a-potties, or is there a hidden bathroom that only the locals know about. If we ever do this again, we will take the metro to Union Station first, use their facilities, THEN walk over to the Capitol. Do you think it would do any good to complain to the Park Service? (edited for space)

Bob Levey: I sure do. The Park Service has always been the most responsive federal agency hereabouts.


McLean, VA: I'm bringing up a point that has long frustrated me. Why does the local media seem to be so anti-Virginia and pro-Maryland? Don't get me wrong, I'm not oversenstive and I thought your "song" was pretty funny. However, for example, listen to a traffic report. Plenty on 270 on the BW Parkway but very little about 66 or the Toll Road. Local TV news also seems to far favor coverage of suburban Maryland over VA as well. Do you agree this is true or do you think I am being paranoid?

Bob Levey: I just don't think you're listening very carefully. Every time I listen to a traffic report, 66 seems to be first up. But in general, I think you're wasting mental energy on this conspiracy theory of yours. Traffic is equally awful everywhere, and we media-niks know it.


balt, md: Hey Bob-
Ever get interviewed by the fbi as somone's reference or as a background check?
I've heard they arn't very through.
How is asking, "is____patriotic" or was she a good roomate going to tell you anything specific.
Its pretty much yes-no answers.

Bob Levey: Yes, I have been, and it was a bit of a boff. They wanted to know about a college pal's eating habits--did he like "exotic foods?" I asked what "exotic" meant. "Chinese" was the answer. I told the agent he'd better lock me up right away because I eat Chinese food about four times a week. And how could I remember 30 years later whether My Guy liked chop suey?


Grammarville, vA: Grammar Q: Let's say your name is "Leveys" and I want to talk about your car.

Is it "Leveys's Chevy" or is it "Leveys' Chevy"?

Bob Levey: The latter. But the far tougher question is how you pluralize a noun that ends in an S. What's the word to describe more than one Mercedes, for example? Some would say Mercedes. Some would say Mercedeses. I'd vote for the latter, but it sure doesn't roll off the tongue, does it?


Light ages: Do you live in the dark ages Bob? It's not uncommon for women athletes to be seen in sports bras. I, for one, think there is nothing wrong with it...the bra covers everything "forbidden" and gives some women more freedom to move and stay heat-free. Volleyball superstar Gabrielle Reece is often seen in her bra and I've never heard a complaint.

Bob Levey: Again, you're missing the point. This has nothing to do with breasts or nipples, covered or uncovered. It has to do with crass commercialism. Chastain chose bucks over the thrill of victory.


New York, NY: The unwelcome appearance of Amtrak's "Acela Countdown" newsletter reminds me that the bozos running Amtrak have yet to listen to your wisdom. What's the next step in the campaign to get rid of the awful name "Acela"?

Bob Levey: New York refers to a pair of columns I did early this year, bemoaning the choice of "Acela" for Amtrak's new high-speed service.
I don't think there's a bloody thing that can be done now. Massive embarrassment in Bob Levey's Washington did nothing. I think the train has left the station (to coin a phrase).


DC: You didn't respond to FFX's ump comment...so whaddya think? Great news or what? Boswell's column nearly had me in tears this morning, I was laughing so hard.

Bob Levey: Bos is one of my favorites, but he ticked me off a little this morning. His column smacked of anti-unionism. What's wrong with a group of people standing up for their economic rights? Sure, umpires are fat, and a bit laughable at times. But don't tell me they can't join forces and try to exert a little muscle.


Arlington, VA: A sports bra isn't just underwear. Many women wear them as tops while exercising - they're made for this purpose. -Not so for jock straps.-

Bob Levey: Fair point, but I suspect this wouldn't be common knowledge to most people, of either sex


Annandale, VA: Why can't Metro use a system like New York City has. One card is good for any one trip anywhere the subway or buses go and there's no time limit. If there are two of you, you use one card twice. If Metro would adopt this kind of payment system, I think many others would use it. European cities have even simpler payment systems. Metro needs to get with the times and get rid of those infernal Add Fare machines. Your thoughts? [edited for space]

Bob Levey: The New York system (or something very like it) is coming soon. One pass will work for subways and buses. I think Metro has learned that simiplicity attracts customers. Witness the rollback of bus transfer fees, and the simplification of the bus zones. Already, the buses seem fuller.


Arlington: I love you to death, Bob...but I have to disagree with you on the Chastain thing...I watched every second of the game...and when she whipped off her shirt I saw no logo, no nothing...was it even on there?? All I saw was a celebrating team. You really think it's blatant commercialism? Looked like pure, jubilant celebration to me!

Bob Levey: The Nike swoosh was there, although it was a little hard to see because the color contrast wasn't that great. It was indeed pure, jubilant celebration--which quickly turned into pure, jubilant commercialism.


last week's chat: http:--discuss.washingtonpost.com-zforum-99-bob0709.htm

Bob Levey: Many thanks


DC: Roberto,
How are you, my friend.
I'm fine, thanks.

Bob Levey: Isn't it great to have friends who hold conversations with themselves?
Easy, Vic.
The ambulance is on its way, I promise.


Alexandria, VA: Bob,
Really enjoyed your story about your cross country trip. But I would like to nit-pick about two items.

First - Hazleton,PA is spelled as 'le' not the common 'el', however from what I remember about the pot holes up there, they can shake the letters around in a city's name.

Second - Did I understand that you were eating a corned beef sandwich driving through the Jersey 'burbs? Is this the same Levey who -correctly-points out the problems with eating -or a lot worse- while trying to drive around here? At least we now know you have the same bad habits as some of the rest of us.

Bob Levey: Thanks on the Hazleton correction. As for corned-beef-while-driving, I don't how to say this, but......
YA GOT ME!
GUILTY!
But it was a damned good sandwich


East Coast: Enough with the Acela name! How about what it's going to provide us business travelers in the Northeast. I think I can live with the name if it means getting to New York from Boston 30 minutes faster.

Bob Levey: The whole point about brand names is that they make you want to enjoy the product or service that they're attached to. Can you imagine yourself saying that you "can live with" a Lexus? No, the name was chosen after huge research to quicken your pulse (and loosen your wallet). Acela is a dog--and I'm afraid it may harm ridership on Amtrak, not help it.


Fairfax, VA: Re: Sports Bras.

Uh, I know that a sports bra is OUTERWEAR, and I only run when chased!

I think you missed the mark on this one, Bob.

Bob Levey: Outerwear? Then why was she wearing it UNDER her jersey?


Herndon, VA: Bob,

I know this may sound funny but what is the deal with people around the beltway. I come from the midwest and people are friendly and polite -and hey, even let you merge in a lane when you signal- Is it just the fast-paced world out here or is it the anonimity of living in a large metroploitan area? I've noticed this isn't a bg problem in Midwest cities -well, excluding Chicago, of course-.

Bob Levey: I don't think it's an "East Coast thing," but it's definitely a "stressful thing." We live in an incredibly high-pressure city. What you see on the Beltway is a direct result of that. Imagine an experiment with rats crushed together, and asked to work the equivalent of 60-hour weeks. Then put 'em on a treadmill and see how polite they are to one another.


DC : What do you make of the Eyes Wide Shut hype? I have yet to understand what the real story is about...or why I should go see the film.

Bob Levey: I hope the hype will roll right off your back, as it's rolling off mine. I see one movie a year, and this one ain't going to be it.


Fairfax, Va: Hey Bob,

What's your opinion on Senator Roth's version of a middle class tax cut by increase the annual contributions into a Roth IRA from $2000 to $5000 a year?

Bob Levey: If any middle-class person had an extra $3,000 a year to stow, he wouldn't be middle class. A totally divorced-from-reality idea


Tysons, VA: I have been working in Tysons for 7 years. The service roads are terrible. People speed down this road & don't obey the stop signs. They also turn off of RTE 7 & onto this road at a high rate of speed. Every day there are accidents. Who do I write a letter to? I would like to suggest they install speed bumps & 3 or 4 way stop signs at each service road intersection -at eye level perferably-. If this is too costly then someone could at least trim back the trees that are blocking the exsiting stop signs. Thank you for letting me vent. I really would like to write to someone. Any suggestions?

Bob Levey: The Fairfax County government. Only they gave us Tyson's. Only they can make it habitable (and safe)


Bob Levey: That'll have to do it for today. Very sorry again for the server slowdown. Be sure to join us on Tuesday for "Levey Live." Our guest will be the federal government's top drug warrior, Gen. Barry McCaffrey. Next Friday, "Levey Live: Speaking Freely" returns, from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time. Our scheduled guest host is cyber-czar Vic Sussman. Of course, with him, ya never know.....'



© 1999 The Washington Post Company


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