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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 may, for now, eat your own fare yourself, but you may not donate it to the homeless, not in Fairfax. No, if you wish to help the needy, you must somehow win access to a commercial-grade kitchen that has been inspected and approved by county bureaucrats. Otherwise, let the poor rot.

"We're dealing with a medically fragile population . . . so they're more susceptible to food-borne illnesses than the general population," Tom Crow, the county Health Department's director of environmental health, told the Post. "We're trying to protect those people."

Yeah, right. As Jim Brigl, chief of Fairfax Area Christian Emergency & Transitional Services, said, "homeless people eat out of dumpsters, and Mom's pot roast has got to be healthier than that." Obviously, the county's bureaucrats have never spent a night out on dumpster patrol with people who cannot afford Safeway and Giant fare. I once spent a week walking with a bunch of homeless guys who showed me how to work the supermarket dumpsters. They knew every store's schedule for tossing day-old baked goods, overexposed deli items, and expired dairy products. We'd wait till the appointed hour and then hit the dumpster; at the better stores, the managers would leave the newest goods carefully placed on top of the garbage heap, knowing that the homeless guys were waiting. At other locations, spiteful managers buried the good stuff, or even sprinkled bleach over the food to prevent the homeless from scavenging.

The Fairfax county health department reminds me of those latter store managers. In both cases, there's pretty talk about caring for the homeless and wanting to help them avoid illness. But in both cases, the actions speak of a level of contempt so deep and automatic that the people involved genuinely can't see how horribly they are behaving.

There used to be something called discretion. But in today's legalistic society, it's increasingly rare to find managers in either the corporate or public sector who understand their moral obligation to enforce rules only when they make sense, only when they do more good than harm. My column today focuses on a real estate developer who wants to do the right thing and so is banning smoking from its apartment complex in Silver Spring. But rather than phasing in the restriction, the building owner has announced that all residents who won't sign a lease addendum promising to prohibit smoking in their own homes will be out on the street--the apartment complex won't renew their leases. A little discretion--let those who've lived there for decades and won't give up smoking stay--would go a long way, but no, the righteous landlord must have it entirely his way.

Yesterday, we learned about Sen-elect Jim Webb's ugly little encounter with the president of the United States. Sure, Webb was elected to oppose Bush's Iraq policy--and vigorously. But that doesn't mean he ought to act like a boor when meeting the nation's highest official. With a little discretion, who knows, the new senator might even develop an actual relationship with a president whose highly sheltered existence could stand exposure to some outside voices. But now, Webb has managed nothing other than putting himself on some enemies' list, written or not.

These are the results of the political, social and economic polarization that we've watched grow in recent years. Settled into our own corners, we become harder in our personalities and more brittle in our thinking. Pretty soon, we're thinking it's a good idea to tell people that they must not cook for the hungry.

Is there a way out? Of course: Defiance. Defy authority. Do the right thing.

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

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The real boor in this situation with Webb is Bush himself.The arrogant, disingenuous jerk with the smirk , after sending Webb's son to Iraq has the audacity to ask "How's your boy?" And in response to Webb' s bristle decides to play word games--"That's not what I asked, how's your boy?"
If he wants to the respect due a President, then he ought to have the sense to act like one. He wasn't being "chummy" and this wasn't some frat boy party. Webb may need to develop a little more tact, but he's not the one to blame for this dust up. At least he didn't ask Bush when the twins were going to be enlisting and stop the world wide party hopping since they don't seem to be working right now.

Posted by: jmsbh | November 30, 2006 1:01 PM

Mark,

Wasn't Webb defying authority? Perhaps in a somewhat confrontational manner, but he wanted to get a point across, and not engage in some hypocritical small talk with the man who is responsible for his son being in Iraq in the first place. I wish that we were in a place in our society where civil discourse was possible, but I am not sure that coming at it unilaterally is going to work. Do all politicians subscribe to the threory that what is said during a campaign does not really count afterwards?

Posted by: jbt | November 30, 2006 1:10 PM

Mark, the agencies want the money....Instead of baking your $20 turkey, give it to us via taxes or tithings. My decision: donate to groups like Habitat for Humanity, give to the United Way and Red Cross. I understand and support their missions: to help people. The Fairfax decision is a Scrooge-like decision based on a problem that they can't demonstrate. May they find their souffles fallen and their champagne flat.

Posted by: BagEndVA | November 30, 2006 1:41 PM

Marc,

I'm really sorry I missed you chat this afternoon; I wonder how many of your correspondents would have reacted similarly if the situation were instead Newt Gingrich meeting President Clinton shortly after the election of 1994 and Congressman Gingrich acted as boorishly. And, how many of them supported President Clinton's meddling in the Balkans during his administration and putting American troops in harm's way (with not clear rules of engagement nor exit strategy) when no overriding concerns for American interests were involved? I also didn't see the Clinton, Gore, et al., children volunteering to serve as the second Abraham Lincoln Brigade and serve on the front lines in that conflict.

Senator Elect Webb forgets some of the niceties he supposedly learned at Annapolis about respect for the office the President. Not only is he a bore he is also destroying his ability to work with anyone in Washington.

I also wonder how many of your correspondents say they deplore the culture of incivility in Washington.

Like it or not there are many of us who feel that what's going on in Iran is necessary to establishing long term peace in the Mid East.

Is it taking too long? Probably yes. Could it have been managed better? History will tell. People need to go back to their history books and read about Lincoln's search for a general that could defeat Lee. He didn't find Grant until 1864, after three years of 1st and 2nd Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, etc. The Second World War ended only because of the bomb. In the summer of 1945 both my late father and my father-in-law, after a years combat in Europe, were preparing to ship out to the Pacific and the invasion of the home islands of Japan. "The Golden Gate by '48" was the cry. It's only in hindsight that the present war's length becomes an issue. In 1945 they were preparing for another 3 years of way, not whining about getting out or conditional surrender.

I watched the smoke arise from the Pentagon on September 11th; I don't want to watch it again, which is sure to happen if we abandon our goals in the Mid East and withdrawal. The war will come to us and I don't intent to see my daughter in a Burka.

Posted by: 20th St. & Pennsylvania Ave., NW | November 30, 2006 2:17 PM

I'm sorry but I have to disagree with you on the Fairfax food thing. By enforcing food and kitchen standards they are saying that homeless people deserve no less than anyone else. Just because someone is homeless does not mean that they should have to risk eating spoiled or improperly cooked foods in institutional settings.

If someone is dumpster diving then they take the risk upon themselves. If they are eating in a church or community center then they should have the assurance that the food is safe to eat.

If a church or civil organization can not meet these basic food service standards then I think they need to evaluate their commitment and ability to provide this service. Serving up food-borne illness is not a mission activity that I think is admirable, no matter how helpful their intentions. Fairfax County is doing what government is supposed to do, protecting those who can not protect themselves.

Posted by: RoseG | November 30, 2006 2:24 PM

It's a shame so many responders waste our time by jumping on the opportunity to yammer about a side comment--the mention of the Webb-Bush encounter--and ignore (eagerly?) the crux of the story, the effort to discourage people somehow from being homeless in Fairfax County. It's a shame that so many churches get caught up in such a legalistic mess, particularly those of us in Christian churches that follow one who so frequently drew the distinction between the letter and the spirit of the law. I guess we'll be left with the option of individuals carting food one-on-one to other individuals, instead of providing it collectively through charitable organizations. Good luck regulating that.

Posted by: szw | November 30, 2006 2:30 PM

"I watched the smoke arise from the Pentagon on September 11th; I don't want to watch it again, which is sure to happen if we abandon our goals in the Mid East and withdrawal. The war will come to us and I don't intent to see my daughter in a Burka."

1. Iraq didn't attack us on 9/11
2. The war will come to us? How? The Iraqis are going to invade the US? How on earth does our presence in Iraq keep anyone from attacking us here and now? Please explain that one to me.

I remember during the cold war hearing that we had to fight the communists overseas or they would take over the U.S. We lost Vietnam and guess what? It didn't lead to a worldwide take over by the commies.

By the way I watched the smoke rise from the Pentagon on 9/11 too as my co-workers and I on Bolling worried about our collegues in the Pentagon, but the events of that day have nothing to do with our involvement in Iraq and killing a bunch of Iraqis isn't going to secure the US or prevent another 9/11.

Posted by: melt | November 30, 2006 2:34 PM

By the way, a bit of a criticism of the reporting here: What was the complaint that unleashed all this?

To RoseG: I take it you don't do church pot lucks or picnics. Pity. Personally, I'm insulted that you (and, apparently, the county) think we are morons who pay little or no attention to the quality of the food we prepare, or are uneducated in such matters--in one of the most highly educated counties in the country. A question: How many incidents of food-borne illness have there been in the last, oh, twenty years among Fairfax's homeless?

Posted by: szw | November 30, 2006 2:40 PM

DC United...bumpbump bumpbumpbumpbump

Posted by: dc | November 30, 2006 3:09 PM

Marc, before you rhapsodize about the benefits of bipartisan efforts involving this president, I suggest you investigate Sen. Kennedy's experience with No Child Left Behind.

Posted by: crc | November 30, 2006 3:15 PM

After the close Virginia race I was ready to give Webb the benefit of the doubt. After all, Allen made that idiotic comment (and maybe others) so maybe Virgnia could use a Senator everyone could respect. Whoops! Webb isn't even a Senator and he's already acting like a boob. Is this what we can expect for the next six years?

Oh and the Fairfax food thing? This is what happens when we let the government get too big. Tell me where in Fairfax County (I don't live there) I can find some homeless and I'll drop off a (fully-cooked) hot dish.

Posted by: Allen Voter | November 30, 2006 3:15 PM

Marc,

You called it right on Webb: a boor. Rudeness is not defiance, it's rudeness.

His self-indulgent, immature outburst will cost Virginia as Webb has lost any hope of working with the White House to benefit his constituents for the next two years.

Very few Virginians, even those who voted for him, admire this sort of behavior. He's a one-termer, driving the state back to the Republicans.

Posted by: KK | November 30, 2006 3:19 PM

I would feel more sympathetic to views like that of 20th St. & Pennsylvania Ave., NW if not for the fact that it has been more than FIVE YEARS since 9/11/01 and Osama is still alive. He's a symbol to us and to our adversaries, a symbol of incompetence.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | November 30, 2006 3:22 PM

Not Gingrich '94, but Lieberman pointed out that fellatio in your (taxpayer funded) office from a woman in your employ nearly your daughter's age while ostensibly married might be... iffy.

Like the play, Webb: "They're all my sons."

It's called "speaking truth to power," and it's why Mr. Colbert won't soon be invited back to a Correspondent's Dinner.

Credit Webb for not selling his soul- and selling out his son, et alia- for a snapshot. He put a suit on, showed up, and, unlike Bush (pre-sobriety), managed not to drop the f-bomb on any dining families. Where's the boorishness, exactly?

Posted by: Nude Yammering Emperor | November 30, 2006 3:35 PM

Marc,

When was the last time you responded politely to a bully? Why should Jim Webb have responded politely to Bush's attempt to bully him with a nasty follow-up to a patronizing question? Webb owed no respect to a man who showed him none.

The time for politeness with the Bush administration ran out several years ago, around the time when their justification for the Iraq invasion was exposed as total fabrication.

When was the last time Bush tolerated a reporter saying "That's not what I asked you," as a follow-up to a non-response?

Posted by: Mr. CH4 | November 30, 2006 3:43 PM

The local churches and FACETS are obliged to host the hypothermia shelters because of a failure of government. It is despicable for that same government to attack the efforts of others to make up for its inadequacies.

Common-sense guidelines are more than enough to ensure that a vulnerable group of people is not accidentally poisoned. For example, it would not be safe to bring a half-eaten party tray that was sitting out at the office party for five hours.

Posted by: UU in Vienna | November 30, 2006 3:44 PM

"If a church or civil organization can not meet these basic food service standards then I think they need to evaluate their commitment and ability to provide this service. Serving up food-borne illness is not a mission activity that I think is admirable, no matter how helpful their intentions. Fairfax County is doing what government is supposed to do, protecting those who can not protect themselves."

This seems to me to be almost completely out of touch with the normal life of most Americans. Millions of us enjoy neighborhood picnics, Christmas parties, block parties and other get-togethers. We prepare meals for our friends and families. Millions of us enjoy meals and parties at our churches and synogogues.

We are sharing food with people we care about, and prepare it as carefully as we would food for ourselves - because we are eating it too. Sure - every now and then something goes wrong, and someone gets sick. That happens in restaurants too. But the comment "[s]erving up food-borne illness is not a mission activity that I think is admirable, no matter how helpful their intentions" is either too snarky or too elitist for words.

My wife and I will spend hours preparing food for two different parties during the next two weeks - one for our neighborhood, and one for our church. The food is home cooked - but trust me, exquisite. In both cases, we're feeding people we love - none of whom, however, are in any danger of going hungry. This is normal, and absolutely legal. But if we were to give the same food to someone who really needs it, Fairfax County says it's illegal.

I honestly can't understand the sentiment behind this, unless RoseG thinks this really should be a government responsibility, with the food prepared institutional-style in large, commercial kitchens. (Which is fine, if that's your political philosophy - though it does bring up less-than-fond memories of cafeteria food from my childhood.) But even so - why would you want to prohibit the simple human kindness of someone saying, "here, I made you some (pick one: cookies, cake, sandwiches, pie, chicken . . .)?"

Are we really so afraid of each other that we not only won't accept food from a neighbor's hands, but won't let someone else, who really needs it, have it either?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2006 3:48 PM

Apparently being homeless cancels out all of your food allergies, as well as your right to a meal prepared according to food safety standards. Stop whining and donate cash.

Posted by: Sheesh, people | November 30, 2006 3:50 PM

You had me 100% until you took a swipe at Jim Webb. Excuse me, but the President is the one who was rude to him. The President is the one who, when Sen.-Elect Webb answered his question, said "That's not what I asked you." The President was, I'm sure, aware that Jim Webb is a grown man, and therefore should not be spoken to as if he were a disobedient child. Being the President of the United States of America is no excuse to be snotty. The President owes Sen.-Elect Webb an apology, not the other way around.

Now then, in response to the Fairfax rule, it's plain heathen foolishness.

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | November 30, 2006 3:51 PM

What just saddens me so much is that several years ago to honor a friend who had passed away I had a bread baking party where we made almost 20 loaves of bread in my simple kitchen and then donated them to a shelter. This was truly a gift from the hearts of all of us to honor this woman. What is sad is that today this gift would be rejected because I don't have access to commercial facilities.

Posted by: amw | November 30, 2006 4:05 PM

What's really sad about the way Mr. Webb acted is not that it was rude, but that he intentionally politicized a simple human courtesy.

Courtesy in our simple, everyday interactions is an important social lubricant. It helps us recognize that we all share common needs, and are worthy of respect as fellow humans. It allows us to relate as people - not just ciphers to be counted as allied or opposing forces.

We have a generally acknowledged problem in our current political climate - excess partisanship and a meanspirited approach to one another. This is corroding our political process, and disgusting all but the most extreme partisans on both sides.

It is possible to be firm-minded without being petty; forceful without being mean; effective without being ugly. The human moments - one father asking another about his child, one woman asking another about her husband, one man asking another about his mom - are an important part of this, and lay the foundations for future understanding and compromise.

It would not have weakened Mr. Webb's position at all to have responded with courtesy. In fact, it might have created the opportunity to follow up in a way that would have made is point in much more effective and appealing way (e.g., "of course, my wife and I worry about him every day he's over there").

But as it is, Mr. Webb has turned one of the most basic points of contact - the common love of a father for his family - into another political tool. What's left? If we politicize our common humanity - how do we ever come back together?

Posted by: Older Dad | November 30, 2006 4:10 PM

I am very active in the City of Alexandria with a couple of organizations that provide services to the needy and homeless and I serve on the board of another. Yes, donating cash is very helpful because we can take that and go to the Capital Area Food Bank and buy good, nutritious food for $.09/lb.

However, there is still a perceived fall out from the United Way. People are hesitant to give cash.

I disagree with the decision by Fairfax County. For one thing, many non-profits rely on volunteers to make meals for their clients. It's rather insulting and demeaning and frankly ignorant to assume something made in someone's home is not as healthy or safe as something made in a commercial kitchen.

I think there are more than a few people who helped make this decision who really don't care about the homeless and see this as a way to further regulate and withdraw support from a group already being isolated all under the guise of trying to be more humane.

And frankly, I think it's laughable when federal, state, and local governments take away funds from needy groups and say that it's up to churches and groups like the ones I work with to serve the poor and then make it incredibly difficult for us to do it.

Since I am on the front lines of this day and day out, I am not whining. I'm stating the case for what it is and now what it is not.

Posted by: BlogBunny | November 30, 2006 4:15 PM

"Apparently being homeless cancels out all of your food allergies, as well as your right to a meal prepared according to food safety standards. Stop whining and donate cash."

Sheesh - what's up with this? Is contributing cash the only acceptable way to do good? Are homeless people incapable of asking "does this have peanuts" (or are you suggesting that churchgoers are too dumb to know the answer)? Is all the food you eat prepared in a commercial kitchen?

No one wants to poison the poor - we want to feed them. As it stands, the chili I make for my own son and daughter cannot be given to the homeless.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2006 4:17 PM

melt--Iran the nation state did not attack us--radical Islam attacked us. And if for a moment you don't believe that Iran was allied with radical Islam against the United States and Israel, then you live in a fantasy world equal to the one inhabited by appeasing isolationists of the 1930s. Read the 9/11 Report for the tenacles of it. The concept of the nation state in this battle is obsolete.

Posted by: 20th St. & Pennsylvania Ave., NW | November 30, 2006 4:22 PM

This breaks my heart. Less than two weeks ago, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax -- which also participates in the Hypothermia Project each year -- had a bread communion that was largely made up of homemade breads. Many more loaves were made than could have ever been used, even between two very full services, and what was left afterwards was to go to a local homeless shelter.

It's a shame that all that lovely, gorgeous bread would now go to waste: leavened, unleavened, biscuits, muffins, all different grains and flavors. Would it now have been more acceptable if it was wrapped up in a factory with a grocery chain label slapped on the plastic bag?

Posted by: Kristen | November 30, 2006 4:33 PM

100 years ago signs were hung in business windows saying "Irish need not apply" ... 50 years ago you lived in fear if you were any color but white ... 20 years ago, if you were HIV positive, no one would shake your hand ... but NOW we're more divided than ever? I know you're trying to make a point, but let's not go overboard.

Posted by: Miles | November 30, 2006 5:05 PM

"melt--Iran the nation state did not attack us--radical Islam attacked us. And if for a moment you don't believe that Iran was allied with radical Islam against the United States and Israel, then you live in a fantasy world equal to the one inhabited by appeasing isolationists of the 1930s. Read the 9/11 Report for the tenacles of it. The concept of the nation state in this battle is obsolete."

Well, 20th St. & Pennsylvania Ave., NW, I know the difference between Iran and Iraq. Buy an atlas, buddy.

Posted by: melt | November 30, 2006 5:07 PM

Ganache - Melt heavy cream with semi-sweet or milk chocolate. Makes a great frosting for cakes or sauce for ice cream. Cannot be served to homeless unless prepared in health dept approved industrial kitchen.

Posted by: I like ganache | November 30, 2006 5:22 PM

"... but NOW we're more divided than ever? I know you're trying to make a point, but let's not go overboard."

Politically, it just might be true. Sure - we had deep divisions in the past. But it's been a long time since our politics have been this nasty (though, if you go back to the early 1800's and start talking about Congressmen beating each other up with canes, then you can top today's foolishness - unless you consider consultant attacks worse than a can [which, come to think about it, might not be all that unreasonable]).


"20 years ago, if you were HIV positive, no one would shake your hand"

Heck - there are some who might not knowingly shake hands with an avowed conservative Christian.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2006 5:24 PM

"Would it now have been more acceptable if it was wrapped up in a factory with a grocery chain label slapped on the plastic bag?"

In Fairfax - yes.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2006 5:25 PM

I'm going home now. If I pass any homeless people on my way to the metro, I'll be sure not to feed them.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2006 5:29 PM

Well said, melt! Since when is a "war" justified by "tentacles"?! That's what espionage is for, not all-out war.

And on the Webb front, I think he should have smirked right back at our Smirker-In-Chief and asked, "And how are your daughters doing?" Webb is an intense, impatient, but honorable man, and I can sympathize. Any information he would have given would doubtless have gone into some future press conference, where you'd have the President quoted as saying, "Now, I spoke to Jim Webb the other day and he was telling me about his son who's over fighting in Iraq..."

Why contribute to the fake folksy-ness?

Posted by: Maritza | November 30, 2006 5:30 PM

Quit picking on us. We like our homeless and hungry to have that lean, svelte appearance. Eating all that church made meatloaf and mac and cheese was making them too tubby. Remember, "you can never be too thin or too..." oh wait, never mind.

Posted by: Official Representative of Fairfax County Healt Dept | November 30, 2006 5:32 PM

If those in Fairfax County that want to feed the homeless but don't have commercial facilities want to continue to do so - they can still make food and help the homeless in other jurisdictions. One group with which I participate makes food in the county and serves it at CCNV's facility in DC.

Yes, doing this does assist the Fairfax County government's goal of moving the homeless out of the county, albeit in a small way. But because some county authorities have misplaced intentions doesn't mean that those that want to help the homeless have to stop doing so.

Posted by: Keep working | November 30, 2006 5:46 PM

"Why contribute to the fake folksy-ness?"

Because kindness, courtesy and consideration are not just some sort of meaningless statement of personal style - they are necessary tools used to foster understanding and cooperation in a complex society. Sometimes you can win short-term gains by being a jackass, or free-wheeling SOB, but ultimately it tends to catch up with you. And even though a few individuals may manage to get away with it over the long term, their "getting away with it" undermines the broader social understanding and cooperation that the rest of us need to create a humane and livable society.

We're not talking Emily Post here, guys. No one cares which fork Mr. Webb uses for his salad. But if we can't connect with our political opponents on even the most basic level of concern for family, then we're totally messed up. Whatever else you may think, family is more important than whether you are a Democrat or Republican. Our common humanity is more important than whether you are for or against the war in Iraq. If you can't recognize this, then you've lost your perspective.

Posted by: Older Dad | November 30, 2006 5:51 PM

What is next? Not being able to bring home made goodies to work for pot luck lunches? No holiday cookies for the staff? Invite neighbors for dinner - horrors! Must first check to see how many sinks I have and what temp my 'fridge is.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | November 30, 2006 6:06 PM

Let us not forget that some of the people (not sure about the numbers so won't even try to guess)who get sick or die in this country of food-borne illness get it directly from the grocery store. What is the percentage who get sick from home cooked food that isn't tainted?

Posted by: KB Silver Spring (again) | November 30, 2006 6:12 PM

But wasn't the president's comment itself disrespectful? "How's your boy"? It sounds like the sort of thing someone who knew only one thing about Webb - that he had a son in Iraq - might ask. There was no effort to make it sensitive, or polite. This wasn't the simple common courtesy of one parent to another. My brother is younger than Webb's son, but no one has ever asked my father "How's your boy." That's just rude. It's not like the president said "How is your son?" or "Is your son doing alright?" or even "How's your family?" Instead, he asked the question he felt he had to ask, in as boorish a manner as possible. Screw him.

Posted by: Kate | November 30, 2006 7:10 PM

I know it is probably moot, but does anyone have thoughts on the best person to gripe to about this ridiculous Fairfax thing?

I don't live in Fairfax yet, but my fiancee and I were thinking about buying a house there it being halfway between our jobs, and this is exactly the kind of policy that really sticks in my craw. As if I didn't already have enough ethical hurdles to leap over to buy a house in a state with such prehistoric attitudes toward gays...

Posted by: SAB | November 30, 2006 7:24 PM

The Fairfax decision makes sense. I've worked with the homeless and have listened to their concerns about unregulated homecooked food. Unfortunately there are just too many dangerous crazy people out there to allow homecooked donations. We wouldn't think twice about banning homecooked gifts to the president or other high-ranking officials, why don't the homeless deserve the same precautions? I think that Marc, as usual, is making a mountain out of a mole hill and sensationalizing the topic to suit his column. Simply donate canned and pre-packaged food to the homeless, or give monetary donations so the organizations can purchase food in a regulated manner.

By the way, I disagree with his comments about Jim Webb as well. I found Webb's refusal to make inane small talk with Bush refreshing. The president should know what many of us think of him and his policies.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 30, 2006 8:15 PM

I agree with CH4:
"The time for politeness with the Bush administration ran out several years ago, around the time when their justification for the Iraq invasion was exposed as total fabrication."

Perhaps around the time our very own vice president told a senator to "f@%#" himself ON THE SENATE FLOOR?

Posted by: princeton | November 30, 2006 9:42 PM

By virtue of where I work, I have a number of acquaintances who are either deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or who have loved ones on active duty in those campaigns. Maybe the president meant well. Maybe he was sincere in his inquiry. But the thing is, you don't just walk up to someone who's son is in the middle of a war and blithely ask, "How's your boy?" That kind of question, that kind of casual, chit-chatty inquiry is fine in some applications. If someone's son is in his first year of college, say. Or, maybe if he's just gotten married.

In this context, it's different because Webb's son's life is at risk. Webb has to go to bed wondering whether he'll get a phone call in the middle of the night. Webb has to get up each day worrying that today might be the day that a pair of Marines show up on his doorstep with somber looks on their faces.

This is why I think Webb's response was just fine. He's under no obligation to make small talk when the topic is his son's life. He gave an answer that maybe the president didn't want to hear, but it was a fair answer. Responding that he wanted his son home, out of a war zone, isn't inappropriate. It's honest.

Posted by: TC | December 1, 2006 8:09 AM

"This wasn't the simple common courtesy of one parent to another. My brother is younger than Webb's son, but no one has ever asked my father "How's your boy." That's just rude. It's not like the president said "How is your son?" or "Is your son doing alright?" or even "How's your family?""

Clearly, you're not Southern. I'm in my late 40's, but people at my Dad's church still ask him "how's your boy?"

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 8:53 AM

"Perhaps around the time our very own vice president told a senator to "f@%#" himself ON THE SENATE FLOOR?"

That was outrageous too. Do you really want to make Cheney the gold standard for acceptable behavior in politics?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 8:56 AM

If there are too many crazy people to allow home cooked meals, maybe we should just ban Halloween altogether. The last major round of bad food came from bagged spinach. The culture of fear is spiraling out of control.

Anyway, enough said. Fairfax has reversed it's ruling.

Posted by: BlogBunny | December 1, 2006 10:52 AM

On the Webb/Bush "chat". I think Webb did the right thing.

Webb has stated his possition on Iraq for years. Bush has stated his possition on Iraq for years.

Webb tried to avoid Bush, Bush chose to confront Webb. Webb let him know were he stood, Bush tried to play the "I am the boss tell me what I want to hear card", this has worked for this administration from day one. Bush in my mind "pushed the issue" with Webb, ie backed Webb into a corner and assumed that Webb would conceed. Webb did not change his tune. I am glade Webb acted the way that he did. Bush needs someone to bring reality into his world.

I hope more politician's both Dem and Rep stand up to Bush.

Posted by: Mike | December 1, 2006 11:38 AM

Whatever happened to phrases like "I respectfully disagree with the gentleman from Texas?"

When it comes to gentlemen, Webb needs to remember what we tried to teach him in kindergarten: "It takes one to know one."

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2006 7:56 AM

You're not going to mention how that policy was reversed after its absurdity was made public?

Posted by: Matt | December 4, 2006 2:27 PM

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