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Archive: September 2006

Rumblings of Change at Rev. Moon's Paper

Reporting on the doings inside the Washington Times, the Unification Church and the myriad other operations controlled by Sun Myung Moon has kept journalists busy for many years, and there's a growing sense of urgency to such stories, as the old man gets on in years and the financial pressures on the vanity publication grow ever more intense. Now comes The Nation with a look at a bubbling battle over who will run the paper in the coming years; the magazine makes the struggle out to be both generational and ideological. Moon's son, Preston, is portrayed as a force bent...

By Marc Fisher | September 29, 2006; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (17)

Bye-bye Frank: The Nats Get Serious

In last night's 14-inning thriller at RFK, a team that in theory is just playing out the few remaining games of the season instead did everything a fan could ask for, battling back again and again in a valiant effort to stop the Phillies from squeezing into the playoffs. The Nationals have been mediocre in drawing fans and darn-near miserable on the field this year, and even amid last night's extra-innings excitement, you could easily see one big reason for the team's overall malaise: The manager is seriously deficient. In the 14th inning, Frank Robinson was reduced to using pitcher...

By Marc Fisher | September 28, 2006; 8:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

George Allen Inspires Comedy, Philosophy Too

UPDATED 12:44 p.m. Wednesday George Allen has finally become a household name--but not exactly how he wanted it to happen. On the late-night comedy shows, Jon Stewart was quick to pick up on the macaca incident. Stephen Colbert couldn't get enough of Allen's cringe-making rally for "ethnic Americans." Slate today offers a George Allen Insult Generator, a sign of how the senator has come to mean little more than "macaca" to many Americans outside of Virginia. And an unknown author has posted a fake campaign ad that makes very dark humor of the accusation (denied by the senator) that the...

By Marc Fisher | September 27, 2006; 8:44 AM ET | Comments (30)

Who Are George Allen's Critics and Where Have They Been?

The crumbling of George Allen's political career is taking place before our eyes and Virginians ought to try to understand why this is happening. This is a classic snowballing political story. Set off by a gaffe (the macaca incident), the story gathered speed because the candidate stumbled and wandered and lurched from explanation to explanation (macaca referred to on e thing, then another, then the senator had never heard the word before), and then another badly-handled situation came along (the Jewish question.) And through it all, reporters have been hearing from readers, Virginians and people who knew the Allen family...

By Marc Fisher | September 26, 2006; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (309)

Why Md. Vote Went Bad: "Earn Extra $$!"

Maryland's primary day election fiasco has been variously blamed on machines that didn't work right, volunteer poll workers who didn't understand how to use those machines, and politicians and state bureaucrats who were too eager to switch to an unproven technology. But here's a new insight into the election day mess: The folks the state used to check on how well the polling machines worked were not computer experts. Heck, they weren't even computer students. Nope, the people hired to rove around Maryland as "field technicians," troubleshooting and reporting any problems so the vote would go smoothly, were temps hired...

By Marc Fisher | September 25, 2006; 7:51 AM ET | Comments (17)

Ballad of the Silenced Country Stations

Here's today's Listener column: On the same night that country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw opened a set of three sold-out shows at Los Angeles's Staples Center, the city's only country-music radio station dropped the format entirely. Keith Urban's "Tonight I Wanna Cry" faded out and the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" launched KZLA's new sound, a mix of R&B and dance hits. With last month's format switch in Los Angeles, the nation's two largest markets now have no country on the radio. New York lost its last country station in 2002, a year after San Francisco...

By Marc Fisher | September 24, 2006; 8:03 PM ET | Comments (5)

Your Gov't At Work: Making It Even Harder to Park

Just when you thought it was becoming necessary to have an advanced degree in urban parking to find a space in downtown Washington, now comes the D.C. government to make it even harder. The District has just published proposed valet parking regulations--a true sign of the gentrifying times, now that valet parking is sweeping across the core of the city--that would strip away an untold but very large number of parking spaces that until now were available to the taxpayers. The regulations would give restaurants, bars and the like the chance to grab curbside parking spaces and claim them entirely...

By Marc Fisher | September 22, 2006; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (19)

Peter Angelos Chastened? Fans Rebel Anyway

It's amazing what nine straight losing seasons and a frightening drop in attendance can do to turn a nasty and arrogant baseball team owner into a guy who now admits that there are baseball fans in Washington and who even says nice things about the owners of the Washington Nationals. Yes, Baltimore's Peter Angelos is sounding awfully conciliatory these days, and here, in an interview with a Baltimore magazine, the owner who famously denied the existence of fans in the Washington area and who viciously saddled the Nationals with the worst TV deal in all of sports is now virtually...

By Marc Fisher | September 21, 2006; 7:46 AM ET | Comments (26)

George Allen, Virginia's Down-home Boychik

Who knew? George Allen--defender of Confederate heritage, heir to Ronald Reagan's sunny optimism, the macaca man himself--is, as the rabbis say, tribal. Virginia's junior senator finally got over his huffy response to a questioner at Monday's debate and coughed up the truth: His mother, a French-Tunisian immigrant, is of Jewish roots, though she was raised Christian. As the Jewish newspaper The Forward reported, under traditional Jewish law, the faith is carried through the generations by mothers, and so Allen would be considered Jewish. This may seem far-fetched, but the Forward reports that his Jewish roots are apparently in a Sephardic...

By Marc Fisher | September 20, 2006; 7:04 AM ET | Comments (63)

The Incredible Shrinking School Year

Every time a new study comes out showing just how far behind the rest of the world American schoolchildren lag, we hear a flurry of agitation for various ways to keep kids in school longer--longer days, more days, year-round classes. Nice dreams, but reality is moving quickly and steadily in the opposite direction. Vacations get longer, school ends earlier, and actual instructional days get converted into ever more staff training days, which is one of the biggest rackets going. In the District's public schools this fall, the conversion of nine--count 'em nine--additional days from regular school days into half days...

By Marc Fisher | September 19, 2006; 12:02 PM ET | Comments (17)

Angelos Beats Retreat from Downtown D.C.

Hardly anybody ever beats Peter Angelos. The boss of Baltimore, the Asbestos King, is accustomed to getting his way, whether in politics, sports or the law. Angelos has beaten down Washington baseball fans at nearly every turn in the long battle over bringing the sport back to the nation's capital. Of course, Angelos occasionally fails on his own--look at how he has gutted the once-proud baseball franchise in Baltimore. But now, the very same Washington baseball fans who Angelos famously said do not exist have chased Angelos from town. When the lease expires on the Orioles' store in downtown Washington...

By Marc Fisher | September 19, 2006; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (20)

This Blog Endorsed by Ronald Reagan!

The staff surrounding any president or presidential candidate spends enormous time and effort making sure that almost any American who meets the Chief Executive gets a memento of their encounter. Young George Allen got his souvenir, a photo of himself with Ronald Reagan, when, as a law student at the University of Virginia, Allen was put in charge of Young Virginians for Reagan. That's the senator's tie to the Gipper and decades later, Allen is using it for all he can. Jim Webb served Reagan as his Secretary of the Navy and earlier as assistant secretary of defense. As presidents...

By Marc Fisher | September 18, 2006; 7:02 AM ET | Comments (27)

10 Reasons Why Tony Williams Might Be AU's Next President

Mayor Anthony Williams is a short-timer now and some D.C. residents have started to wonder whether he, as did Sharon Pratt Kelly before him, will forsake Washington and start a new life somewhere else. Despite numerous pledges to buy a house in the District, Williams never did move out of his Watergate-area rental. He seems to spend most of his time gallivanting around the globe. And he's hardly ever seen even at the site of his most historic and controversial achievement, the home games of the Washington Nationals. Will Tony stick around town? And if he does, what will he...

By Marc Fisher | September 15, 2006; 7:43 AM ET | Comments (0)

You Be the Pundit Contest Winner!

We have a winner. Tuesday's primary prediction contest asked you to deploy your political acumen to answer five questions about the outcome of the elections in Maryland and the District, and about 50 of you completed entries. The gimmes turned out to be the defeat of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume winning the majority of the vote in Prince George's County. And most of you predicted the correct order of finish in the D.C. mayoral race. But only one person correctly predicted that every single ward in the District would give a plurality of its votes...

By Marc Fisher | September 14, 2006; 7:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

MoCo Vote Mess: Tales from the Front

Firsthand accounts of Tuesday's voting fiasco in Montgomery County are pouring in, and what's impressive about them is what is so stirring and good about our voting system--its reliance on volunteers who do this because they are truly moved by the majesty of democracy. Obviously, there are poll workers who shouldn't be there, who are ill trained or too far past their prime. But most poll workers are giving up a day on the job or a day of rest so that they can help all of us get our voices heard. Here are a couple of accounts of...

By Marc Fisher | September 13, 2006; 4:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

Loco in MoCo--How to Spoil a Reputation

(The column from today's paper.) This has been building and we didn't see it coming. When Montgomery County -- land of good schools, fancy cars and a lawyer on every block -- suffered through a series of bizarre crimes a few years back, we dismissed them as examples of Loco MoCo, anomalies of life in an affluent enclave. But now we've gone from odd crimes to distressing scandals, and yesterday Montgomery managed to throw into question the very foundation of its reputation as the quintessential smooth-running suburb. Though the District of Columbia apparently pulled off an efficient and non-controversial election,...

By Marc Fisher | September 13, 2006; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

You Be the Pundit: Primary Predictions

It's contest time, folks, and the subject is today's primary elections in Maryland and the District. Post your predictions and answers to these five questions by 6 p.m. Tuesday; the reader whose responses come closest to the actual results wins a lovely little prize from the big blog's Vast Vat of Values. (Please check back here Thursday for the winners' names; winners should email me their addresses to receive their prize.) Here goes: 1. Which, if any, of these incumbents will lose their job in today's vote? (Multiple responses ok.) a. D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson b. Maryland Comptroller William...

By Marc Fisher | September 12, 2006; 6:21 AM ET | Comments (51)

Final Campaign Lessons: On the Street and On the Tube

There was a knock on the door late Sunday afternoon and the 10-year-old in our house looked up from his book: "Oh, no, another candidate," he said. He was right, of course. But put aside his exaggerated exasperation and consider what a privilege it is to have so many candidates dropping by, making their arguments, ready and eager to talk about policy, personal background or whatever the voters have on our minds. In fact, the kids have been thrilled by the shoe leather democracy that has blossomed in the District this season, not only the much-ballyhooed door-to-door campaigns of...

By Marc Fisher | September 11, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

DC Statehood: Death of a Movement?

Anise Jenkins is one of the last of the true believers, the hardcore activists for D.C. statehood who eschew half measures and pine for the only solution to the District's disenfranchisement that would put D.C. residents on a par with all other Americans. Jenkins is appalled--"shocked, disappointed and angered" is how she puts it--that when voters go to the polls next week, they will find that only one of the seven candidates for the symbolic posts of Shadow U.S. Representative and Shadow U.S. Senator even mentions the word "statehood" in his official statement in the D.C. voters guide. "Don't they...

By Marc Fisher | September 8, 2006; 7:52 AM ET | Comments (53)

Like A Bridge Over Tysons Corner: Kaine Lies Down

"When times get rough, and friends just can't be found," Simon and Garfunkel sang, "I will lay me down." Which is exactly what Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine did yesterday, when he gave up the fight for putting Metro's rail line to Dulles Airport under rather than over Tysons Corner. After weeks of making noises in favor of tunneling through Tysons so as to maximize the possibility of turning that symbol of suburban sprawl into a walkable and vibrant urban center, Kaine caved to the very persuasive and powerfully solid wall of Republican opposition and embraced the aboveground solution. Barring some...

By Marc Fisher | September 7, 2006; 7:40 AM ET | Comments (63)

The Real Media Bias: How to Vote the Story

Enormous tracts of woodlands have been felled in this country to make the argument that the press is chronically pinko or hopelessly in the pocket of the corporate powers, or both. Those of us who make our living covering the news can argue that we are way too disorganized to be capable of conspiracy, or that we are nowhere near smart enough to have a well-built ideology of any stripe, and many folks just nod and say, Yeah, but you're biased anyway. Well, if we are, here's where the real media bias lies: Most reporters I've met in 26 years...

By Marc Fisher | September 6, 2006; 7:47 AM ET | Comments (83)

Why Are Utility Poles Made of Wood?

As the kids' endless summer vacation enters its final days (pretty soon, the ever-shrinking school year will be just a few weeks in October, January and May), my offspring were hanging out at home the other day during the rains of Ernesto when suddenly, they heard a loud bang. The sound came from out in front of the house and when they looked out the window, they saw flashes of fire shooting off the electrical wires, live wires flopping down onto the sidewalk, and the utility pole across the street engulfed in flames. This was more live action than anything...

By Marc Fisher | September 5, 2006; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (27)

Penn (Without Teller) Tells All

Today's Listener column in Sunday Arts profiles Penn Jillette, the gonzo magician who has transformed himself into a radio talk show host. Just when the FCC doubles the fines for saying naughty bits on the radio, just when even the accidental blurting of a bad word threatens to bring the wrath of the feds down upon broadcasting companies, Penn Jillette expands his media empire onto the radio. A magician's art is all about timing. After more than three decades of blasting through the conventions of the magic world -- in the stage and TV shows he does with his silent...

By Marc Fisher | September 2, 2006; 10:25 PM ET | Comments (7)

Vote for Me: I'm Endorsed by Kids!

I came home last night to a big stack of mail, almost all of it fliers for candidates in the Sept. 12 primary elections. The verbiage in these ads is not exactly notable: I learned that candidates variously --want "to make our government more responsive," --"helped save taxpayer money," --have "real-world experience," --champion "real change," --have "been a leader," --are "putting families first," --have "a real plan," --"will fight for public safety," --and are "getting results." But we knew all that. What stood out as I pored through the stack of fliers was the number of candidates who thought it...

By Marc Fisher | September 1, 2006; 7:28 AM ET | Comments (11)

 

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