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Archive: February 2006

Straight-Washing in Murky Dishwater

So now I'm a straight-washer. Who knew? Kevin Naff, managing editor of the Washington Blade, now responds to my post about his editorial on how the Post handles the sexual identity of people we write about. Naff says reporters should make it a standard daily practice to ask sources whether they are gay, just as we might ask someone if they are married or whether they have children. My argument was that a person's family structure or sexual orientation is only germane to a newspaper story if we're writing about family, if we're writing a profile that gets into the...

By Marc Fisher | February 28, 2006; 7:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Virginian Moment: Allen vs. Warner in '08?

Wait! We've got some great elections coming up this year! How about those Maryland races--Gov. Bobby Golfclub vs. Martin O'Malley (or, because we're fair and balanced and all that, Doug Duncan), and over in the Senate race, Michael Steele against Ben Cardin or Kwesi Mfume? And if those aren't spicy enough, how about the slugfest developing for D.C. mayor--a five-way race with no clear favorite? No, some folks insist on focusing on '08, and lo and behold, Virginia's got the juice. Over at one of those learned political sites that specialize in red down arrows and green up arrows--we're talking...

By Marc Fisher | February 27, 2006; 7:35 AM ET | Comments (0)

There's A Train A Comin'--A Tale of Homeland Security

The Sunday column tells the story of Preety Gadhoke, a 32-year-old resident of Anne Arundel County who commutes up to Baltimore every day via the MARC train and took advantage of her morning commute to take some photographs for a class she's in at the Smithsonian. Next thing she knew, she was being detained by the police--she'd been reported by her fellow commuters as a suspicious person. Was it because she was taking snaps of the wrought-iron lampposts at this suburban train platform? Or was it because she's dark skinned and Indian-born and was taking snaps of the wrought-iron lampposts...

By Marc Fisher | February 26, 2006; 9:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

Revenge of Russ Potts: Holding Virginia's Center

The easy column out of Richmond is always the yahoos in the House of Delegates running away with red meat appeals to Virginians who can't get enough of guns and restrictions on immigrants and abortion. The House delivers on these issues every year, and the rest of the state looks on in (mock) horror as the delegates gleefully celebrate their rejection of any doctrine that smacks of liberal tweeness. Then, a few weeks later, everyone climbs back off the ledge as the Senate, the weary adult to the House's perpetual adolescent, stuffs all the wacky stuff the House has done....

By Marc Fisher | February 24, 2006; 12:41 PM ET | Comments (0)

Angelos Marches On

And still he fights on, the cocky, feisty owner of the Baltimore Orioles, determined to undermine the new competition down the road. Again, fans of the Washington Nationals lose out: This season, the Nats, already probably the least televised team in all of professional baseball, will put half as many games on broadcast TV as they did last year. Channels 20 and 5 will carry all of 43 games this year, down from 81 last season. Most of the other games will appear on the phantom cable network controlled by Angelos, MASN, which still has no deal to be carried...

By Marc Fisher | February 24, 2006; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

The New D.C. Hospital and the Need to Need

The beauty of the debate over whether to build a National Capital Medical Center (NCMC) on the site of the old D.C. General hospital is that it is utterly transparent and, as we say around here, raw. Amazingly, there's not even a pretense of calling in those who know how to measure medical need for such a facility. Talk to the docs who monitor Washington's troubled health? Nah. Use the process that's been developed to determine where to put new hospitals nationwide? Don't bother. Now, finally, someone stands up for reason, and of course, this being the District, the only...

By Marc Fisher | February 23, 2006; 1:02 PM ET | Comments (0)

Gee, Officer Krupke, Krup You!

Depravity, like pornography, is what the viewer says it is. Or what the judge and jury say it is. Or, in our world of science and pseudo-science, what a few thousand folks on the Internet say it is. Thanks to an innovative group of psychiatrists and other forensics experts at a New York consulting firm called The Forensic Panel, there will soon be some sort of Depravity Index that gives lawyers and psychiatrists a better sense of what crimes and intentions American lawyers think qualify as depraved. Although apparently any and all are welcome to test their own beliefs about...

By Marc Fisher | February 23, 2006; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

It's All About the Grays: Area, Homestead, Vincent

What this polarized world needs now is more grays, and here in the global capital of gray areas (we haven't even settled on the proper spelling of the word grey), we've got a wonderful confluence of grays that will make centrists feel all warm and goozhy inside: Stay with me now as we wrap baseball, the law, D.C. politics and race into one little blog item: As a big old New York newspaper with the initials NYT reported Tuesday, the Washington Nationals, desperately craving a monopoly on all the mishegas in baseball, now stand to lose their name, thanks to...

By Marc Fisher | February 22, 2006; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Old Habits Die Hard: How Jack Abramoff Wields Influence Even Now

When last we left Jack Abramoff, he was using his legal troubles to justify delaying any resolution of the pay dispute with teachers at the Jewish day school Abramoff founded in suburban Maryland. The teachers have sued to get the back salary they never received when Eshkol Academy shut down because Abramoff's foundation cut off its funding as the boss man's scandals blossomed. Now we get a glimpse of how Abramoff is trying to pull strings even as he tumbles toward his day of reckoning. The worldwide search for photographs of Abramoff with his good friend (or slight acquaintance)...

By Marc Fisher | February 21, 2006; 3:46 PM ET | Comments (0)

Curt Gowdy and the TV Sports Revolution

The games got faster and the narration grew more sparse. But it wasn't just the pace of sports that changed when baseball and then other games moved from the fans' imagination (courtesy of radio) to the hyperreality of television. And the man at the pivot of that shift in technology and culture was Curt Gowdy, who died today at 86. I grew up listening to Gowdy--NBC hardly ever showed his face during the game--along with Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola on NBC's Saturday baseball Game of the Week. In the 1960s and 70s, the Game of the Week was the...

By Marc Fisher | February 20, 2006; 5:50 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Blog Gets Action: Cabbies, Get Off the Phone!

Last month right here on the big blog, a lot of you vented about the annoying habit many taxi drivers have of yammering away on the cell phone throughout your ride in their cab. We learned that some cities around the country are trying to force cabbies off their phones, at least while a passenger is in the vehicle. No such effort is underway in the District, but now, thanks to the outcry here on Raw Fisher, the company that dominates the taxi industry in Montgomery County is setting out some new rules for its drivers: "Paying customers want drivers...

By Marc Fisher | February 20, 2006; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (4)

Schaefer: Mayor, Governor, Comptroller, Retiree.

It's time for William Donald Schaefer to go. He's always been fascinating, exciting, frank, gruff, refreshing--a politician you could vote for in the secure knowledge that he would cut through the bull and represent the average Marylander. Even in his 80s, in the relative backwater of the state comptroller's office, Schaefer has managed to make himself important. Governors had to massage his ego and sometimes conform to his passions and mold their proposals to his interests. Anyone who dismissed Schaefer as a washed-up old man risked a public tongue-lashing and, more important, an embarrassing loss on the policy front. But...

By Marc Fisher | February 18, 2006; 6:02 PM ET | Comments (0)

And He'll Throw in the Spin Cycle at No Extra Charge

You knew the D.C. housing crunch was pretty tight. You knew people were shelling out preposterous sums for tiny hovels in awful surroundings. But if you were a blogger with the perfectly devious little mind, you could have some fun with the desperation of those seeking housing. D.C. Bachelor did, offering up his laundry room as housing and the results are hilarious, sad, frightening and well worth a visit. I once lived in a room about that size, complete with a three-flight hike to the bathroom. But it was college and we were supposed to sacrifice ourselves like monks for...

By Marc Fisher | February 17, 2006; 6:21 AM ET | Comments (11)

Somewhere Between Truth Telling and Harassment Sits Wm Donald Schaefer, The Last Brutally Honest Man in Politics

Deep down, lots of folks--well, at least lots of men--admire William Donald Schaefer for his latest antics. Well, for some of them, anyway. Hardly a man alive would deny watching a woman walk away from time to time. Many of us would try to be discreet about it and would refrain from obvious gawking. But virtually all human beings admire the form of a fine-looking person. That said, it's obviously rude, and in this strange world we live in, actionable to be too overt about this natural attraction to the beauty of our fellow members of the species. Admiration is...

By Marc Fisher | February 15, 2006; 10:41 PM ET | Comments (36)

Castle Update

With last night's successful fundraiser for the Heurich House--the fabulous Victorian Brewmaster's Castle on New Hampshire Avenue NW--the friends and neighbors of that Dupont Circle landmark have topped $70,000. That's well short of the $250,000 that the foundation that runs the house owes the bank, but it turns out to be enough to persuade the bankers that this is an important public resource that should be saved from foreclosure and immediate sale. (In the event of a sale, the building would not be torn down, but would almost certainly be taken out of public view and its extraordinarily intact interior...

By Marc Fisher | February 15, 2006; 4:39 PM ET | Comments (5)

Should the Post Invest in Better Gaydar?

Kevin Naff, the managing editor of the Washington Blade, the area's most prominent gay weekly, says in an editorial that this newspaper is too shy about mentioning when people in the news are gay. He focuses his criticism on the Post's coverage of the winner in Metro's recent contest to pick a new voice for announcements on the system's trains. The winner, Randi Miller, the Blade reports, is an out lesbian. You didn't read that in the Post's various stories about the contest and Miller because nobody here asked her about her sexuality. Naff read the Post's story and was...

By Marc Fisher | February 15, 2006; 6:57 AM ET | Comments (57)

Save the Castle--Now!

Five years from now, the castle on New Hampshire Avenue NW, the most fully intact Victorian mansion now open to the public as a museum, could be yet another urban facade job, a run of the mill office building with a quirky bit facing the street. Or the Brewmaster's Castle could be saved, kept open for all to see as a glorious 19th century home smack in the heart of the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Gary Heurich, whose grandfather Christian Heurich built the castle in 1894, led me on a tour of the house the other day--part of a last-ditch campaign...

By Marc Fisher | February 14, 2006; 6:41 AM ET | Comments (16)

Weather Wuss Roundup--We're Still #1!

NEW YORK: A record 26 inches falls Sunday. Today, from the New York City Board of Education site: ALERT: NYC public schools will be open on Monday, February 13th. Buses will run on regular schedules, but delays should be expected. PROVIDENCE, RI--It could have been worse, but the Providence area still managed to set a snowfall record for the day yesterday with 9.4 inches From the Providence schools site: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13: ONE HOUR DELAY All Providence Schools have a one hour delayed school opening today due to the inclement weather. And on and on: Up to a foot in...

By Marc Fisher | February 13, 2006; 2:09 PM ET | Comments (16)

Revenge: So Sweet, So Ugly, So Addictive

Jim Dillard was a Virginia legislator from Fairfax County for 32 years, a bit of a dinosaur of the species once known as the moderate Republican. Smart, personable and flexible, he became something of an anachronism as the Richmond legislature morphed into a polarized battleground of the kind that's all too familiar in American politics. For refusing to conform as his party lurched rightward, Dillard had to be punished. In 2004, Dillard was one of the 17 GOP legislators who broke with the party leadership and voted with Gov. Mark Warner to raise taxes and restore fiscal health to the...

By Marc Fisher | February 13, 2006; 10:12 AM ET | Comments (12)

Snow Day Winners. But the Big Story: The Veep Misfires--Big Time

Winner of the big blog's Snow Day Roulette game: Maggie, who correctly predicted that school throughout Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland would raise the white flag. She also called the two-hour delay in the District correctly, though she, like me, wrongly assumed that Prince George's County would go along with the D.C. schools in that decision. PG instead joins the others in the Big Three (Fairfax and Montgomery) in closing. MoCo appears to have made the first decision to close, though of course many would argue that the system really made that decision in about 1983, at the dawn of...

By Marc Fisher | February 12, 2006; 11:53 PM ET | Comments (28)

Let's Play Snow Day Roulette!

Once again, the snow hysteriamongers out there in MediaLand had their way, and throughout the Washington area, hundreds of Saturday events were cancelled because of...light rain. There's finally a bit of snow on the ground at this writing just after midnight Sunday morning, and it looks like the forecasters will finally be right--there'll be some overnight accumulation. But even at this hour, the predictions are all over the map (though here at Raw HQ, the lights are flickering from the weight of the snow on the powerlines outside the Big Raw Picture Window.) Here's the scoreboard as tallied by the...

By Marc Fisher | February 12, 2006; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (31)

My New Hero: Somebody Finally Says No to Borf

Borf, the despicable snot who decided that only he gets to determine the cityscape for half a million Washingtonians, got a beautiful and powerful tonguelashing from a D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday, and the only bad news is that because the D.C. courts refuse to allow cameras in the courtrooms, you can't fully share in the joy. (If you haven't been following the story, see Libby Copeland's Style piece on Borf after the jump.) But here's what we do have of Judge Lynn Leibovitz's lecture to John Tsombikos, courtesy of Post reporter Henri Cauvin's story: "You profess to despise rich...

By Marc Fisher | February 10, 2006; 10:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

How Come His Blog Gets Its Own Hat?

If you're really intent on resisting the icy call of the Winter Olympics, if figure skating strikes you as about as much a sport as ballet is, if the only sled you ever want to watch on a screen belonged to Charles Foster Kane, then I've got the blog for you. It's Dan Steinberg's Olympic journal right here on the big website, Tales from Turin. Not that media conglomerates have taken precedence over the actual sporting events at the Games these days, but Steinberg was reduced to writing this about one press event: " I was tempted to take video...

By Marc Fisher | February 10, 2006; 4:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

He's Seen the Future and It's Small, Quirky and Well, Anti-Communitarian

David Panarelli is a graphic designer in Arlington who decided to check out the media future. He switched off his TV, silenced his radio, put aside his magazines and went back to the future, back to the era of one electronic medium--this here Internet. For one month, Panarelli is limiting his media intake to the web. He's chronicling the experiment here and he explains himself here. So far, the results remind me more than anything else of those heady first months after the web went truly world wide, back in the early 90s, when newspapers like the Post ran a...

By Marc Fisher | February 9, 2006; 9:41 AM ET | Comments (0)

Drama City--24 Hours in the D.C. Whirlwind

From the D.C. Council's bizarre reversal early this morning to former mayor Marion Barry's sad appearance in federal court just a few hours later, this has been a day to remember in the District. But in Drama City, that's what we've come to expect. Here's an advance look at tomorrow's column....

By Marc Fisher | February 8, 2006; 4:41 PM ET | Comments (1)

No Joy in Mudville--Ah But Yes, There Is!

Here's your 12:50 am update: The council passes the baseball lease by a 9-4 vote, reversing its own action a few hours earlier. All three of the council members elected on an anti-baseball platform in 2004 voted for the lease. It was a wild night down at the council, and in the end, they approved a deal that is only marginally different from what was approved more than a year ago. More on this tomorrow, but for your amusement, and to give a sense of just how wild the shifts are in D.C. politics, here's the post from earlier this...

By Marc Fisher | February 7, 2006; 8:43 PM ET | Comments (132)

Strange Bedfellows: The New Virginia Politics of Growth

Outside the General Assembly building in Richmond this morning, more than 140 slow growth advocates, mostly from the outer ring of Washington suburbs, gathered to press for more local control over development. Egging them on and pledging support were the governor of Virginia and a collection of legislators who ordinarily do not appear on the same stage. The woman standing next to me in the crowd, a slow-growth activist from Loudoun County, nudged her neighbor as Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) was introduced to the audience: "Is that the same Marshall who does all that anti-abortion stuff?" Oh, yes, came...

By Marc Fisher | February 7, 2006; 11:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

Why Giving $1 Billion to the D.C. Schools for Renovations is Like Lighting a Bonfire of Dollar Bills

Your average D.C. public school is not a place you would voluntarily allow your child to set foot in. The ceilings leak, the gym floors buckle, paint chips off the walls, doors don't close, and on and on. Decades of neglect and a failure to build new buildings or close decrepit old ones have left the city with a royal mess. But giving the school system $1 billion to fix its buildings makes no sense. Three main reasons: 1) New buildings do little or nothing to improve the quality of education; look at the test scores at the few new...

By Marc Fisher | February 7, 2006; 6:42 AM ET | Comments (18)

Virginia Teens: Get Your Tattoos Now! Piercings Too.

So I'm sitting in the Virginia House of Delegates' Committee on Courts and Justice this afternoon and along comes a bill to prohibit tattoo parlors from providing their services to minors. No way, I figure. This is going down, big time. After all, we are in Virginia, and if you can't exercise your right to act like a jerk/express your individuality/cherish your constitutional rights here in the Old Dominion, where on earth can you? Virginia's House yields to no other state legislature in the land in its zealous protection of the rights of its citizens to carry weapons into college...

By Marc Fisher | February 6, 2006; 6:02 PM ET | Comments (0)

Bulletin: Finally, Legal Action Against Cigarette Butts

I'm in Richmond watching the Virginia General Assembly at work and this simply can't wait for tomorrow's newspaper: Not five minutes ago, the House of Delegates voted to declare cigarette butts to be litter. The bill adds cigarette butts to the list of items that you may not toss from your vehicle as you motor along the state's roads. Butts now join "companion animals" in the list of items that you ought not dump from your car. While they were at it, the House also tripled the punishment violators face, from a fine of $250 to $750. The bill is...

By Marc Fisher | February 6, 2006; 1:51 PM ET | Comments (11)

Virginia's Political Blogger Pioneers

Here's a piece I've written in the new edition of American Journalism Review looking at the impact that Virginia's political bloggers had on last fall's race for governor. An update: Most of the blogs I wrote about in this article are still active, though several have changed focus, turning from electoral politics to the business of governing the state. Since the bloggers tend not to be in Richmond, their work since the election feels somewhat more distanced than their campaign coverage, which was very much of the moment and in some cases on the scene. And by my reading, the...

By Marc Fisher | February 6, 2006; 7:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Listener: Update

Today's Listener column looks at the disappointment and anger among classical music listeners after Washington's last remaining classical radio station was shunted off its powerful frequency and onto a weak, staticky signal. After the deadline for the piece in today's Arts section, the program director of WGMS, Jim Allison, called to say that the classical station's engineers have found a way to boost the signal to those parts of the Washington area where the music is distorted by static, fading and a signal that pops in and out. Allison said the station must get approval from the FCC to make...

By Marc Fisher | February 5, 2006; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

Reviving the Power of Cartoons

Between the letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff whining about Post cartoonist Tom Toles' commentary on the progress of the war in Iraq and the angry response in parts of the Muslim world to editorial cartoonists' depictions of Muhammad as published in a Danish newspaper, we've suddenly found ourselves in a place where cartoons matter more than they have in far too long. This is excellent news, and it's at least a momentary restorative in a news biz in which all too many companies have been cutting way back on cartoons or eliminating them altogether. Part of the motivation...

By Marc Fisher | February 4, 2006; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Gov. Bobby Haircut Responds to Abramoff Victims

The teachers at the Jewish day school that lobbyist Jack Abramoff founded in Montgomery County are the forgotten victims of the lobbying scandal. When Abramoff's world began to crumble, he pulled the plug on the school, shutting it down a few weeks before the end of classes and stiffing the staff of about a quarter of their annual pay. Those teachers have sued Abramoff, and as I wrote in a column on this a couple of weeks ago, the teachers have now appealed to Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich to consider giving them some of the campaign money that he took...

By Marc Fisher | February 3, 2006; 1:04 PM ET | Comments (0)

The ACLU's Fevered Privacy Nightmare

You call up the pizza place wanting nothing more than a couple of pies to go with your movie rental. You end up with a visit to the Orwellian dystopia in which pizza clerks casually romp through your online medical, criminal, financial and employment records. This is the American Civil Liberties Union's idea of how to get mainstream Americans to see the horrors of technology, the coming nightmare in which our personal information is readily available to just about any business or government agency. And any of us would look at this ad and conclude that it's not a huge...

By Marc Fisher | February 3, 2006; 7:22 AM ET | Comments (67)

I Went on National TV and All Anyone Saw Was My Eyebrows

Not me, but Gov. Tim Kaine. Here you are, the brand new blue governor of a red state, darling of the Democrats, given a lovely littel welcome aboard gift and you get a fresh new haircut and write up a neat little speech, threading that tough line between carping at the leader of the free world and being a toady to the prez, and you pull off your prime time speech and then you wake up the next morning, and what are the bloggers and the pundits yammering about: Your EYEBROWS. You're telling Americans that there has to be a...

By Marc Fisher | February 2, 2006; 7:34 AM ET | Comments (23)

D.C. Inequalities, Or How the Middle Class Got Stuck

If you made $80,000 in the 80s, you probably make more than twice that today. But if you (or someone like you) made $32,000 two decades ago, your pay has probably gone up only to about $42,000. And if you were unfortunate enough to be on the lowest rung of the income ladder back in the 80s, you've probably made zero progress since then, with average incomes in that lowest fifth of families staying put at about $12,000. That's the bottom line in the growing inequalities in the economy both across the U.S. and particularly in the District. A national...

By Marc Fisher | February 1, 2006; 7:14 AM ET | Comments (22)

 

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