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Archive: November 2006

Fairfax to Poor: Let Them Eat Ganache

In Fairfax County, where the average income is among the highest in the land, at more than $94,000, official policy is now to let the hungry and the homeless starve. As the Post's Jackie Salmon reported in a jaw-dropping front page story, county bureaucrats have decided to put their reverence for smallminded regulation ahead of residents' compassion for the neediest among us: It is now verboten to give home-cooked food to the poor. As far as the county is concerned, your ovens are vile, your soup is substandard, your casseroles are crawling with vermin and your brownies are beastly. You...

By Marc Fisher | November 30, 2006; 11:51 AM ET | Comments (48)

The Radio Radical

Any night but Thursday, Bob Fass likes to wait until after twelve o'clock, after his wife, Lynnie, has gone to sleep, and then drive his banged-up old Chrysler from his house, in Staten Island, to Manhattan, where he bombs up and down the avenues, imagining the radio show he might be doing. For nearly five decades, the hours before dawn have been Fass's prime time. He's an all-night radio man, a shy hulking fellow, round-shouldered and fleshy, with a few remaining strands of hair pulled back in a thin ponytail. So begins my piece in this week's New Yorker magazine,...

By Marc Fisher | November 30, 2006; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

DC: America's Fourth Best Sports Town

I had George Michael, the dean of local TV sportscasters, on my Washington Post Radio show this week, and now that he's leaving the anchor desk at Channel 4 in March, I thought he might have some parting thoughts on Washington's place in the sports world. His answer: Washington is the nation's fourth best sports town. Michael, who has been reporting on sports in Washington for more than a quarter of a century, and who earlier in his career was a Top 40 deejay and occasional sportscaster in at least seven cities, ranks sports fans in U.S. cities like this:...

By Marc Fisher | November 29, 2006; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (62)

Rebuilding the Grid: DC's Old Convention Center

For years, the District has been chipping away at the Pierre L'Enfant vision of the capital, closing streets and alleys almost willy-nilly to satisfy one developer or another. Now, with a chance to remold a big chunk of downtown Washington by putting something creative and alluring on the old Convention Center site, the city is finally doing the right thing and reopening some important streets that had been shut down when that huge building went up. Lost amid last week's D.C. Council vote to put aside Mayor Anthony Williams' proposal for a new central library on the old Convention Center...

By Marc Fisher | November 28, 2006; 9:11 AM ET | Comments (6)

Saved: D.C.'s Beatles Connection

Uline Arena, Washington's claim to fame in Beatles history, has been saved from the wrecking ball. By an 8-0 vote last week, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board carved out official protection for the arena, where the Beatles played their first North American concert in 1964, when it was known as the Washington Coliseum. The arena, at 2nd and M streets NE, has a fascinating history, from its initial design to various struggles over its policies on racial segregation, to the recent past, in which developer Doug Jemal, who owns the joint, got the preservation ball rolling by seeking...

By Marc Fisher | November 27, 2006; 7:40 AM ET | Comments (13)

Before the Music Dies

In the new movie "Before the Music Dies," the only representative of the bad guys is an executive from Clear Channel Radio who appears in silhouette, wearing a hood and employing electronic distortion to camouflage his voice. His illicit, dangerous revelation: "The advertising dollar is driving the entire company." Call out the feds, convene a congressional investigation, organize a posse of musicians: The radio and record industries are killing American music because they are fixated on the bottom line. Quoth David Byrne, "Same as it ever was." But wait: This same movie tells us that the Internet and digital technology...

By Marc Fisher | November 26, 2006; 12:43 AM ET | Comments (0)

Colder than Average, With Snow Aplenty

The guys over at capitalweather.com, one of the great volunteer endeavors on the web locally, have issued their winter weather outlook for the Washington area, and they're predicting colder than usual conditions with about 20 inches of total snow. This would be the coldest winter since '03-'04, with several storms dumping six-plus inches on us. To which I say, hooray! The long-range forecasting business has a notoriously low batting average. This is because the whole thing is based on some pretty flimsy science. The idea of forecasting a season ahead is only a couple of steps beyond the old...

By Marc Fisher | November 24, 2006; 7:57 AM ET | Comments (10)

How Pols Really See Voters: ATMs

I need to draw your attention to two extraordinary pieces of reporting by Post Metro reporters that make it crystal clear just what your elected officials really think of you: You're nothing but a cash machine, dispensing dollars to all comers. This week's remarkable piece by Cheryl Thompson on the way Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and several members of the County Council use their taxpayer-provided credit cards to pay for all manner of personal purchases reveals utterly brazen abuses of the public trust. As Thompson reported, Johnson, who was reelected with hardly a second thought by Prince George's...

By Marc Fisher | November 22, 2006; 7:44 AM ET | Comments (19)

The Vote: A New DC Library?

In the waning days of Anthony Williams' mayoralty, several of his most ambitious projects are hurtling toward one resolution or another. The standoff over how to develop the land surrounding the new baseball stadium appears to have been resolved in favor of expediency, with little regard for how the neighborhood might blossom. The District finally pulled off the land swap that could soon result in another new stadium along the Anacostia River, this one for the DC United soccer team. A rewrite of the city's basic planning document may yet be approved, cementing Williams' vision of a city with a...

By Marc Fisher | November 21, 2006; 7:22 AM ET | Comments (33)

A Visit to D.C. Schools Headquarters

Edward Cowan is a retired New York Times reporter who takes an active role in District affairs. He's also my neighbor. A true reporter never stops reporting, and Ed acts on his concern about the state of the District by heading out to the scene and reporting to his friends. In his latest report, sent to a couple of hundred D.C. voters who are on Ed's email list, he recounts his visit to D.C. schools headquarters, a revealing journey that tells much about what's wrong with the system, but finds a glimmer of hope as well: Retrace with me my...

By Marc Fisher | November 20, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (10)

The 7th Annual Thanksgiving List

Amid the eternal battle over which kind of cranberry sauce, I'd like to thank some of those who've made life in these parts a bit better over the past year: For the first months after MaryAnn Zima's son Johnny suffered cardiac arrest and a subsequent brain injury, friends and neighbors in Hyattsville jumped to help the family cope with the financial, logistical and spiritual strains of life with a quadriplegic teenager. People came by to paint Johnny's bedroom, deliver a wheelchair lift, prepare meals and pay overdue utility bills. But when Zima realized she was out of money and low...

By Marc Fisher | November 19, 2006; 3:53 PM ET | Comments (0)

Adrian Fenty & Brian Lamb, Together for the First Time

If you missed Brian Lamb's "Q&A" program on C-SPAN Sunday, you missed America's most original and innovative interviewer getting inside the head of Washington's new mayor, a man who is not always smooth of tongue but often refreshingly frank and direct in his public utterings. Lamb is the rare political interviewer who understands that the personal and the political ought not be divided. His rapidfire, non-linear style tests his guests, not only in their knowledge of their topic but in their ability to connect their public persona with their background and core beliefs. Lamb got Fenty talking about his parents:...

By Marc Fisher | November 17, 2006; 7:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Visits With The Man With No Face

During my years in Germany for the Post, I met Markus Wolf, the legendary East German spymaster, several times, and no matter how much I'd read about his misdeeds, no matter how many stories emerged about his willingness to toy with people's emotions and foundations to further his political agenda, he still struck me as a guy you'd love to have as your uncle. Intellectually, I knew this was wrong. I knew what he was capable of: For years, he plied his art against the West by choosing emotionally insecure West German women who worked in important government offices and...

By Marc Fisher | November 16, 2006; 8:11 AM ET | Comments (4)

Nats Stadium Follies: The Parking Debacle

Sometimes, when things go bad, no one, and everyone, is at fault. In the long, mindnumbingly stupid saga of the parking garages at the new Nationals baseball stadium, four parties aiming to do the right thing ended up with the wrong decision. Most amazing of all, the bad decision will, in the end, turn out to be the least important piece of a much larger problem. The quick history: When the District of Columbia agreed to build a baseball stadium as the price for winning the franchise now known as the Washington Nationals, the deal required the city to build...

By Marc Fisher | November 15, 2006; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (24)

HFS Fans: Adult Alternative Returns, Sort Of

Fans of acoustic rock, folk and blues in the Washington area have been bereft of a home on the FM band since the demise of WHFS last year. Now public radio station WAMU, which itself jettisoned bluegrass music to go all news and talk in 2001, is teaming up with an adult alternative station in Towson, Md., to bring the acoustic sound back to the nation's capital. But before anyone starts to cheer for the return of a station that plays a mix that includes Dave Matthews, The Bridge, John Fogerty, Suzanne Vega, Moby, Beck, The Kooks and The...

By Marc Fisher | November 14, 2006; 1:24 PM ET | Comments (11)

Did George Allen Lose His Base Too?

No question George Allen lost the center last week. The arc of his campaign and the exit polls both point to the same reason he's a one-term senator: The polls say 60 percent of independents in Virginia voted for Jim Webb, driven by frustration over the war in Iraq and new questions about Allen's character. But some in Allen's traditional base are now arguing that they too felt abandoned by the senator and stayed home because he strayed from his longstanding appeal to hard conservatives as someone who stressed "Virginia values"--strict positions on social issues and a comfort with symbols...

By Marc Fisher | November 14, 2006; 7:32 AM ET | Comments (28)

The Truth About Commuting & Cars

On Election Day, some voters went to the polls looking for politicians who are ready and willing to change the way we spend, build and think about traffic and congestion. At the federal, state and local levels, frustration over commuting woes drives pols to make promises and voters to seek solutions, but what if we're all asking the wrong questions? A new study on Commuting in America finds that much of what politicians promote as the answers to traffic woes bears little connection to how we really live. For example, despite decades of growing rhetoric about the virtues and value...

By Marc Fisher | November 13, 2006; 8:24 AM ET | Comments (76)

The Silence of Sunday Morning Classics

A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts blasts public radio, saying it fails to fulfill its obligation to provide music that commercial stations won't touch. The NEA says public radio -- once dominated by classical, jazz and other minority forms of music -- is retreating ever further from that mission, choosing to focus on news and talk. National Public Radio pleads guilty to using its new resources to build a stronger news operation, but rejects the NEA's notion that public radio is abandoning its cultural mission. Rather, NPR maintains, it plans to use the Web and other...

By Marc Fisher | November 12, 2006; 9:17 AM ET | Comments (14)

Rove, RoVa, NoVa--Make It Your Mantra!

Karl Rove knew what would happen. He told interviewers that he had special secret polls that told him so. The Republicans would hold on to both houses of Congress. Independents would sit out this election. And, of course, Sen. George Allen would retain his seat, courtesy of good Virginians who understand what Allen has done for them over many years in office. The president's political guru was so certain of all this that he took time out of his busy schedule to enjoy the comedy stylings of the Washington Post's Style section. Rove also spent some time on Election Eve...

By Marc Fisher | November 10, 2006; 9:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

The 10,000th Comment

In the midst of a lively discussion of the five Prince George's black Democrats who endorsed GOP Senate candidate Michael Steele in this fall's campaign, a reader named Jack posted the 10,000th comment in the 10-month history of this here blog. Here's Jack's comment: Marc: All I can say is that Prince George's is damned lucky Mr. Brown, one of their own, is now Lieutenant Governor. Otherwise, after that fiasco of an endorsement of Steele, followed by the incredibly stupid pamphleteering by the Republican Party, no one in Prince George's would be getting his phone calls returned by Martin O'Malley...

By Marc Fisher | November 10, 2006; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

You Be the Pundit Contest Results

The big winner in Raw Fisher's Election Day edition of You Be the Pundit is Laney, who should email me pronto at marcfisher@washpost.com with a name and address so you can receive your prize. Some very good guessing in this contest--several people got four or more of the six questions exactly right. Laney's performance was startlingly good--perfect on every question except #2, where our winner correctly predicted that the Virginia marriage amendment would outscore George Allen's campaign, but overestimated that margin at 12 percent rather than the 7.5 percent in the actual vote. The question that most stumped contestants was...

By Marc Fisher | November 9, 2006; 12:31 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Steele Democrat Looks Back

The ugly, last-ditch efforts by Republicans Bob Ehrlich and Michael Steele to win over black voters in Prince George's County were "over the top," "foolish," "counterproductive," and "an unnecessary attempt to confuse voters," says one of the five prominent black Democrats who switched sides to endorse Steele in the final weeks of the campaign for U.S. Senate. But David Harrington, a Democrat on the Prince George's County Council who broke with his party to endorse Republican Steele in his losing bid for the Senate that Ben Cardin will now assume, says he has no regrets about crossing party lines....

By Marc Fisher | November 9, 2006; 7:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

Election Day Shenanigans

With the tired old excuse that everybody does it, the campaigns of Gov. Bob Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele have sullied today's election with tactics that demean the candidates and the voters who support them. The Ehrlich and Steele campaigns today are distributing in black neighborhoods of Prince George's County and Baltimore city flyers that purport to be an "Official Voters Guide," but which actually set out to confuse and mislead voters in the most scurrilous manner. "Steele-Ehrlich Democrats," reads the headline on the cover of the four-page handout. Then, under photos of Democrats Kweisi Mfume, Prince George's...

By Marc Fisher | November 7, 2006; 5:31 PM ET | Comments (0)

You Be the Pundit Election Day Contest

It's contest time, folks, and the subject is today's elections in Virginia, Maryland and the District. Post your predictions and answers to these six questions and the tiebreaker 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. Montgomery County Council member Howard...

By Marc Fisher | November 6, 2006; 6:32 PM ET | Comments (38)

What Not to Say: "I Own This [Town, Turf, Team]"

Ok, so maybe you don't exactly want to look toward these three for advice on proper living, but something weird is going on here, and it's time to draw a simple lesson from America's Worst Youth Sports Commissioner, that nutty blogger who keeps harassing Sen. George Allen, and Saddam Hussein. Here's the lesson: When you get in trouble over something, do not shout out anything about how you own this [team, town, turf.] As chronicled in Tim Dwyer's astonishing tale Saturday of the northern Virginia youth football commissioner who sacked the coaches of his own kid's team because they had...

By Marc Fisher | November 6, 2006; 11:29 AM ET | Comments (0)

Campaign Curiosity: Bomber Jackets

Reader Tammy Piegols wonders: "I saw on the news tonight that Gov. Ehrlich was wearing an Air Force flight jacket. Why? Was he in the Air Force? His bio skips that part. Why would he wear a flight jacket that he didn't earn? Is this some sort of Republican initiation? My husband had to fly tons of hours to earn his leather." No, Bobby Haircut was never in the Air Force, not in the military at all, actually. But he's far from alone among politicians in affecting that look out there on the campaign trail. Pols have a strange fascination...

By Marc Fisher | November 6, 2006; 7:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Snow Hysteria Already?

Shannon Henry grew up in the Maryland suburbs. Washington was her home and her work. She founded TechCapital, a magazine that was one of the first to describe the revolution in business and technology that was altering the face and character of northern Virginia. For years, she was the Post's tech columnist, delivering "The Download" every week. But last year, Shannon, her cardiologist husband and their two children moved from Washington to Denver, mainly to live in a place with more dramatic changes of season and snow. So when Denver got its first snow of the season some days back,...

By Marc Fisher | November 3, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Victory Against VDOT

Sometimes, when I least expect it, the column gets action. The AAA and several activists who advocate for greater safety and better roads in northern Virginia say that my recent column on the mess along Rt. 28 has prompted state officials in Richmond to make some long-sought changes. Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer has ordered the regional office of the state Department of Transportation to drop its plans to shut down the exit from Rt. 28 northbound onto Cedar Green Road. Homer told the department's commissioner to take on the case personally and report back on safe alternatives. VDOT had...

By Marc Fisher | November 2, 2006; 8:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

D.C. Ain't Paris: Welcome to the City of Darkness

I had no idea: Way back in 1977, President Jimmy Carter, in an effort to save on energy bills, ordered the District to cut back so dramatically on street lighting that nearly half of the lamps on many blocks went dark--and were actually removed from the city's sidewalks. Nearly three decades later, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=a.2Ox2YO9OBs&refer=us">many of those lights are still gone, according to a story by Daniel Goldstein of Bloomberg news service. Goldstein's report notes that poor street lighting was considered a factor in the tragic death of retired New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum, and that almost five percent of streets...

By Marc Fisher | November 1, 2006; 7:57 AM ET | Comments (37)

 

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