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Archive: February 2007

New Product of the Month: Infrared Trash Cans

This just in: Garbage contains yucky bacteria. And garbage cans--oy, don't even ask. Awash in horrifying disease, to be sure. But help is here: In this world, when each of us strives every day for a nirvana of ultimate safety and security, you can now assure yourself that you need never again touch a garbage can. "No matter how clean your home may be, your garbage can will always be a hotbed for germs and bacteria," says a press release in support of a new product called the Nine Stars Infrared Garbage Can. "Nine Stars' patented infrared sensor detects movement...

By Marc Fisher | February 28, 2007; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Available: Free Money for Renovations. Apply to D.C. Gov't.

Baseball got $600 million. Soccer's getting ready to receive its megamoney in the form of free, prime riverfront property. Football won't be far behind. So what's a poor shlump who actually paid his own way supposed to do? Consider the case of Abe Pollin, who did the right thing. While the billionaires of the other professional sports franchises held up the District and got or are soon to get spanking new stadia courtesy of the District of Columbia, Pollin built the MCI Center with his own money, a whopping $220 million of it. Sure, the District kicked in $70...

By Marc Fisher | February 27, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Your Tax Dollars At Work: Blacking Out Bobby Haircut

When a governor takes office, almost before the new guy has sworn to uphold the state constitution, the signs alongside the Interstate highway are changed: The old governor's name is taken down and the new boss takes on the duties of welcoming travelers to, say, Maryland. Whatever the cost of replacing names on billboards all across the state, the practice is a commonplace and the taxpayer has to eat it. But now Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration has taken this official erasing of the other guy to a new extreme. A volunteer who works at the information desk at...

By Marc Fisher | February 26, 2007; 7:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don't Cross in the Middle in the Middle in the Middle

Today's column on pedestrian deaths starts out with a reference to the wonderful, catchy ditty that the New York City traffic safety folks used in the 1960s to teach kids how to cross the street. Remarkably, while the original film appears to be long gone, the song was reproduced by the rock band They Might Be Giants and the likeness is pretty good. Here are the lyrics and here are a couple of web versions of the song. What's striking about the lasting power of the song is that it not only sits in the brain as a sticky piece...

By Marc Fisher | February 25, 2007; 6:35 AM ET | Comments (0)

Virginia to Commuters: We Laugh In Your General Direction

With much hoopla, the ridiculously stacked conference committee that was supposed to come up with a compromise solution to Virginia's transportation woes has completed its task. Tomorrow, the legislature will vote on a plan that would send some additional money to build roads and support transit, but the plan that a dozen lawmakers--including 10 Republicans, and only two representatives of northern Virginia--approved is stumbling out of the starting gate. And with barely more than 24 hours left in this year's legislative session, it seems hardly likely that there is time or inclination to change this deal to make it...

By Marc Fisher | February 23, 2007; 4:25 PM ET | Comments (7)

The Suite Smell of Spring?

This week's warm-up and the arrival of players in Florida for spring training can only mean one thing: Lower heating bills. Well, ok, one more thing: Baseball's coming back. In our case, this promises to be a season of delayed gratification, of watching construction crews finish up the Nationals' new ballpark and hoping that the Nats' front office manages to find a starting pitcher or five in the year remaining before the new stadium opens up. But as that stadium rises and as the team begins an expensive ad campaign to sell its 66 luxury suites, some other professional...

By Marc Fisher | February 23, 2007; 7:17 AM ET | Comments (4)

Bolstering The Deliveryman's Case in the Prince George's Shooting

The surviving deliveryman in the Prince George's County shooting case involving a top county police and homeland security official has now come forward with a damning account of the incident. With the death of the other Marlo's Furniture deliveryman who was shot by the county's #2 homeland security official, Keith Washington, in the January incident in Accokeek, Robert White can only tell the story as he experienced it. But the two deliverymen were in regular contact with their dispatcher throughout the confrontation with Washington, and a source with direct knowledge of those contacts tells me that White's account of...

By Marc Fisher | February 22, 2007; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (29)

Shovel Your Walk--Or Else (Or Else What?)

Every year around this time, neighborhood listservs bristle with reminders, warnings and downright admonitions from folks who are miffed that their neighbors have not shoveled the snow from their sidewalks. It's the law, the shovelers righteously remind the recalcitrant. This is generally followed by a round of grumbling about how the city or the county ought to slap those non-shovelers with a fine or worse. Now, a D.C. public works official has taken it upon himself to check out exactly what the city's obligations and options are in the case of residents who won't remove the snow and ice...

By Marc Fisher | February 21, 2007; 12:51 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Conservative Case for D.C. Voting Rights

Just as D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty cheered voting rights advocates with a new effort to lobby Congress for the right that all other Americans take for granted, and just as congressional Democrats were gearing up to show that they intend to be more aggressive on D.C. voting rights than the Republican leadership had been, along comes the Congressional Research Service with a whole new barrier. The non-partisan Research Service concluded that giving D.C. residents a full, voting seat in the House of Representatives is probably unconstitutional. Suddenly, the air seemed to escape from the voting rights balloon. Now, D.C....

By Marc Fisher | February 21, 2007; 7:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

Virgil Goode on Muslims, Again

Pull out a good old George Washington dollar bill. Are the words "In God We Trust" still there? Whew: Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode's nightmare has not yet come to pass. Yes, the man who brought us that classy warning against a new congressman taking the oath of office by swearing on a Koran is back with the news that radical Muslims "would love to see In God We Trust stricken from our money and replaced with In Muhammad We Trust." Never mind that Muslims share monotheism with Jews and Christians, or that in Islam, Muhammad is a prophet who...

By Marc Fisher | February 20, 2007; 12:09 PM ET | Comments (26)

XM and Sirius: Marrying the Only Available Partner

From the start, this was the merger everyone knew would happen someday. Perhaps it would come about as a result of technical necessity: If XM or Sirius satellite radio lost one or more of their incredibly expensive birds, surely the competing behemoths would go to federal regulators and ask for permission to marry. Or perhaps it would be a matter of economic distress: If Americans' fascination with the new programming and gadgetry of satellite radio went sour, the two big boys would find salvation in becoming one. As it turned out today, it was a mix of forces that...

By Marc Fisher | February 19, 2007; 5:20 PM ET | Comments (0)

Virginia's Spirit of Compromise: No, No NoVa

Meanwhile, in Richmond, the state legislature plays yet another of its annual games of chicken over transportation funding. Weeks and weeks of wrangling amount to this: The House wants to pay for new roads and transit by letting northern Virginians and Hampton Roads residents tax themselves and by taking money that now pays for schools, hospitals and other essential services and redirecting it toward transportation. The Senate, in contrast, wants to keep the general fund for the purposes it already serves while adding some small increases in taxes statewide -- a $150 surcharge on registration fees for new cars,...

By Marc Fisher | February 16, 2007; 8:09 AM ET | Comments (39)

The Not-So-Changed Face of the City

If you let yourself get caught up in the rhetoric of development and change, you might think Washington today would be unrecognizable to a refugee from the 1950s. But a gallery of pictures of the District now on display online demonstrates that large chunks of the cityscape look oddly similar to how they appeared half a century ago, if you can look past the cool mid-century cars. The District transportation department has posted a slew of vintage photographs detailing what some commonly traveled spots around town looked like in the not so terribly distant past. The intersection of Georgia and...

By Marc Fisher | February 15, 2007; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (13)

Ice City: The District's Cool New Tool

Things change, and things stay the same. In the District, where clearing streets of snow and ice has long been an extra special challenge, the city's performance during winter weather events has definitely improved in recent years. But there's still a ways to go, and now the Adrian Fenty administration has developed a cool new tool you can use to check up on the District's progress in making the streets passable. Click here and you'll find an interactive map that shows you in real time which streets have been plowed or salted and which remain untreated. In my travels...

By Marc Fisher | February 14, 2007; 12:16 PM ET | Comments (0)

Top 10 Consumer Scams--You've Won $1 Million!

The Nigerian scam artists and the phony bank phishing scammers need to work harder if they want to improve their rank in the latest scam standings issued by Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell. McDonnell, who is doing the best job I've seen in years of lining up a gubernatorial run from a lesser statewide office, is developing an Eliot Spitzerish knack for media-friendly interpretations of his office's role. Now he's out with his Top 10 list of the scams most frequently reported to state authorities, and the big surprise is that federal grants scams are at the top. I've...

By Marc Fisher | February 14, 2007; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (14)

HysteriaWatch: The Ice Cometh, Sort Of

Here I was, all ready to heap rare praise on the superintendents of schools in Montgomery and Fairfax counties, which went right ahead and opened school today even though there was all sorts of chatter in the news media about a nasty mess coming our way. And in fact, those wise decisions were affirmed by the mild and unimpressive nature of the "storm" that hit this morning, leaving area streets with just a slight dusting of slush. But now a new wave of moderate weather hype is washing over the region, with the dreaded I-word dominating the midday headlines:...

By Marc Fisher | February 13, 2007; 12:42 PM ET | Comments (0)

HysteriaWatch: The Countdown Continues

Snow morphs into ice. The hysteria over this week's storm is diminishing as the forecasted snow totals plummet. But the likelihood of Washington's favorite winter scenario--the lovely wintry mix--is rising, and that brings us an entirely different kind of Snow Hysteria, with intimations of power outages and cars slip-sliding all over the region's roads. HysteriaWatch continues with overall lower ratings today: What Channel 9 yesterday called "The Big One" "now looks like a wintry mess," the station's forecasters write. "We're likely to see a light dusting to a few inches of snow by Tuesday morning before the snow changes...

By Marc Fisher | February 12, 2007; 1:36 PM ET | Comments (50)

Library Darts and Laurels

More than two years ago, the District, in its infinite wisdom, shut down four neighborhood libraries. The libraries had been neglected and looked shabby, but they had books and computers and valuable resources for kids and adults. But the city said they had to go because spanking new branch libraries were all ready to be built for those four communities--Anacostia, Shaw, Benning Road and Tenleytown. Of course, the new libraries were never built. Their designs were never even approved. And the neighborhoods have gone without any libraries. The old buildings sit padlocked or surrounded by chain link fence, monuments...

By Marc Fisher | February 12, 2007; 7:37 AM ET | Comments (29)

HysteriaWatch: Countdown To A Weather Event

The forecasters are prepping for all-nighters, the milk shelves are already wiped clean at my local Safeway, and the kids are talking snow days. Yes, it's time to roll out another edition of SnowHysteriaWatch. Media reports are rated on a 1-10 scale. As always, a 1 rating is what you'd give an academic meteorologist preparing a report for fellow scientists, a 5 is a report that would impel most Washingtonians to rush out for the Holy Trinity of TP, milk and bread, and a 10 is what would get Channel 4's Pat Collins to rush right over to your...

By Marc Fisher | February 11, 2007; 5:33 PM ET | Comments (9)

A Virginia Republican Stands Tall--Against His Party's Infighting

It's hellacious out there on the roads, and Corey Stewart says it's time to take the battle to the powers that be. "This is a political war, and you can't negotiate your way out of it," says Stewart, chairman of Prince William County's board of supervisors. "I'm not holding anything back now: This is us against the rest of the state." While his own Republican Party once again collapses into civil war over how to pay for massive improvements to Northern Virginia's clogged transportation network, and while Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine watches the legislature stew in its own juices, Stewart...

By Marc Fisher | February 11, 2007; 9:24 AM ET | Comments (1)

Va: Cockfighting--Bad; Drunk Driving--Not So Bad

If it's February, it must be time for a journey to the wonderland that is the Virginia legislature, where up is down, guns and kids are a lovely mix, and poking government's paws into the private lives of citizens is bad, except when it's good. Today's exhibit: Drunk driving. In most places, drunk driving is a pretty definitely bad thing. But in Richmond in this legislative session alone, state lawmakers have killed or laughed in the general direction of bills that would have: --increased jail time for repeat drunk drivers --mandated special license plates for repeat drunk drivers --banned...

By Marc Fisher | February 9, 2007; 7:37 AM ET | Comments (58)

America's Favorite Cityscape: DC Is Tops

Oh, the Gateway Arch and the Brooklyn Bridge are pretty cool, and the Empire State Building still stands tallest in the American imagination, but if you're looking for one city to represent the finest in American architecture, Washington remains the place to go, dominating the top ranks in a new listing of the country's best buildings. To celebrate its 150th anniversary, the American Institute of Architects created a ballot listing its members' nominations of their favorite works of architecture in this country. The architects came up with a list of 248 structures, including office buildings, houses, sports facilties, hotels,...

By Marc Fisher | February 8, 2007; 7:24 AM ET | Comments (36)

Gold Star License Plates, For A War Invisible No More

This war has been curiously invisible at home, especially to the many millions of Americans who do not have loved ones in the military. A major downside of the volunteer military is that it allows most of us to live without a direct personal connection to those who choose to defend their country. The Bush Administration has done all it can think of to keep the emotional impact of the war a good distance away from the hearts and minds of most voters. Unlike past wars, this time there are no photos permitted of the caskets returning to Dover Air...

By Marc Fisher | February 7, 2007; 7:34 AM ET | Comments (16)

Dangerous Levees, Right Here in River City

Don't say you weren't warned: The Army Corps of Engineers, now blessed with a nation that finally understands what happens when the levees don't hold, has issued a list of 122 levees that are in danger of failing, including five in the District and Prince George's County. That means that the maintenance on levees along the Anacostia River is so bad that the towns of Bladensburg and Hyattsville in Maryland, and Potomac Park, Anacostia Park, Bolling Air Force Base, and the U.S. Naval Air Station in the District could be flooded. (How does that bit of news fit in with...

By Marc Fisher | February 6, 2007; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (9)

Jack Johnson: Friend? Me?

A week ago, Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson was Keith Washington's fraternity brother, an occasional dinner partner, enough of a pal that the county chief found a comfy spot for Washington as the #2 in the Prince George's homeland security office. And police Corporal Washington was a loyal friend and supporter, appearing at Johnson's campaign events, donating to his campaign, going well beyond the signs of friendship that police officers usually display toward politicians. But then Washington shot two Marlo's Furniture delivery men in an altercation at the policeman's home in Accokeek. One of those men has since died;...

By Marc Fisher | February 5, 2007; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (50)

An Officer--And An Ungentle Man

Here's Sunday's column: When two men delivering furniture for a reputable retailer end up getting shot by a customer, something has gone terribly wrong. When the shooter is a police officer and the incident took place in Prince George's County, alarm bells go off -- uh-oh, here we go again, say residents who have lived through all too many cases involving overzealous cops. Then, when the police department leaps to the shooter's defense -- announcing initially, before any investigation, that the unarmed deliverymen would probably be charged with assault -- the groans of exasperation grow louder. And when it turns...

By Marc Fisher | February 4, 2007; 12:31 AM ET | Comments (17)

Bye Bye Classic Rock: DC Radio Goes Green

The dominos keep toppling on Washington radio. The death of classical WGMS last month brought the area George 104, the third FM station in the area playing some form of classic rock (Sunday's Listener column is a closer look at George--for a preview of the column, see the jump of this blog item.) Today, the area's pure classic rocker, 94.7 The Arrow, was killed off to make way for something called 94.7 The Globe, the first station in Washington since WHFS to adopt an alternative rock sound. The new station itself is explicitly making the comparison to the region's once-beloved...

By Marc Fisher | February 2, 2007; 5:41 PM ET | Comments (129)

Last Days of the American Empire, Part 463: The Pet Eternal Trust

A lawyer in Rockville named Mindy Felinton has launched a service that promises to provide for your pet after you meet your Maker. Felinton's practice centers on veterinary malpractice cases, as well as "estate planning that focuses on Pet Trusts." Now she's come up with a portfolio of services designed to give human beings peace of mind about what will happen to their critters once they cash in their own chips. I present to you the complete list that Felinton provides of her Pet Eternal Trust services. This is verbatim from her press release, I swear: Personalized veterinary and specialty...

By Marc Fisher | February 2, 2007; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Explain Me This: When Is Fake Ok?

When are knock-offs good and when are they not only criminal but morally repugnant? Or, put another way, why does Our Government care if a bunch of guys at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW selling fake purses? Generic drugs are not only ok, they're preferred--your insurance company is constantly looking for ways to get you to buy knock-offs of brand-name prescription drugs. And, of course, generics are legal and government-approved. Everybody knows cover bands aren't as good as the real musicians, but they're certainly not illegal. They may be tacky, but sometimes they're beloved (at least...

By Marc Fisher | February 1, 2007; 7:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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