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Archive: August 2007

2008 Va. Senate Race: Reading the Tea Leaves

With John Warner announcing today that he will leave the U.S. Senate at the end of his current term, the scramble to succeed him now moves from the theoretical to the very real. How to tell which of today's many tributes to the Virginia senator are from candidates who have been breathlessly awaiting this day and can barely contain their glee? The wording of the tributes won't help; I have an email queue full of them and they're all identical: John Warner was "a good friend, a great Virginian, and a true statesman," (Gov. Tim Kaine), a man of...

By Marc Fisher | August 31, 2007; 3:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

RFQ Follow-Up: D.C.'s Slogan Revealed

It's "The American Experience." Who knew? It says nothing and does so in a dull and predictable way. Here's one web listing of the various state tourism slogans--accuracy not guaranteed, as these things change often. David Henderson found that many people guessed as I did--the old "A Capital City," and some thought "Taxation Without Representation" was the new D.C. slogan, which is kind of cheering. But nobody knows the current slogan, which some folks say is better known as the name of a series on public television. Keep those suggested slogans coming--there are some real gems in the comment...

By Marc Fisher | August 31, 2007; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (4)

Random Friday Question: What's D.C.'s Slogan?

No Googling--just your best guess: Do you know Washington's official tourism slogan? Probably you know Virginia's--Virginia Is For Lovers. That may be the best state tourism slogan of all time, and it wormed its way into the pop culture right after the state adopted it in 1969. Luckily, the state is keeping the slogan--which was born at a Richmond ad agency during the days of Woodstock and Erich Segal's "Love Story"--despite a silly recent controversy about whether the symbol that accompanies the slogan somehow mimicked a nasty gang sign. (Maryland's slogan is the clunky and strange "Seize the Day...

By Marc Fisher | August 31, 2007; 7:51 AM ET | Comments (88)

Boys & Girls Clubs: A D.C. Bailout?

When the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington proposed this spring to sell off four clubs in the District, permanently close its historic Capitol Hill branch and most likely do the same in Georgetown, the public outcry was loud and clear: It's fine for the clubs to expand to meet the growing need in the suburbs, residents and parents said, but the organization must keep its commitment to kids in the city. Now, just days after the Boys & Girls Clubs shuttered the Eastern Branch club on Capitol Hill, the organization is deep into negotiations aimed at winning...

By Marc Fisher | August 30, 2007; 7:05 AM ET | Comments (31)

The Seven-Year Think: And You Thought You Were Indecisive

Viola Scott's case against Crestar Bank was a fairly simple claim of discrimination: Scott--a black woman and native-born American who worked as a teller at the old Perpetual Bank (which turned out to be not all that perpetual, becoming part of Crestar back in 1992 and then Sun Trust in 1998)--contended that her boss at the bank, a Haitian-born black woman, treated her poorly, singled her out for criticism and eventually had her fired for providing an apartment complex manager with salary information about another teller who was seeking to rent an apartment. Why am I interested in a...

By Marc Fisher | August 29, 2007; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (15)

Why Washington Post Radio Died

(Jump to bottom for an update on what will replace Washington Post Radio.) From its sudden and fascinating inception to its slow and awkward demise, Washington Post Radio was a work in progress. It never came close to fulfilling its original promise--"NPR on caffeine," in the spicy phrase of the newspaper's radio-TV guru, Tina Gulland--but it was a radio station bubbling with possibilities. Not that many listeners cared to explore those possibilities. The radio station--which will die next month by mutual consent of its clumsily-paired parents, The Washington Post and Bonneville broadcasting--never showed much of a pulse in the...

By Marc Fisher | August 28, 2007; 6:08 AM ET | Comments (106)

City Paper Sale: The Real Story

When the sale of the Washington City Paper was announced last month, it appeared that the former owners, the folks who controlled the Chicago Reader weekly, were simply falling victim to Craigslist and the resulting decline of paid print classified advertising. Add the flurry of new free print papers in the Washington area, and it seemed logical enough that an owner might decide to get out of the print weekly business. But now comes word from the Chicago Reader that there was more going on with this sale than first met the eye. Reader editor Michael Miner reports that...

By Marc Fisher | August 27, 2007; 2:24 PM ET | Comments (7)

Schools Monday: Burning Down the House

Excluding gatherings of employees whose paychecks were signed by the schools superintendent, the last time I heard audiences cheering for the chief of the D.C. school system was, um, never. But as Chancellor Michelle Rhee made her way around town in meetings large and small ahead of today's opening of the school year, she is being greeted with enthusiastic applause and actual yelps of encouragement. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it with me own ears. What are folks cheering about? Rhee has been here for about 15 minutes and obviously hasn't had a chance to...

By Marc Fisher | August 27, 2007; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (105)

Lessons for the Lerners: What to Steal From Other Ballparks

A big fireworks show after the game. Prominent displays of team history with must-see artifacts of the sort you'd find at the Hall of Fame or the Smithsonian. Local foods, from well-known local eateries. A public address announcer with verve and a sense of fun. Architectural touches that put a big smile on your face. A journey through the Midwest to visit four major league ballparks provides an instant catalogue of the kind of touches, large and small, that the owners of the Washington Nationals should--and probably will--consider as they race toward the finish line on their new ballpark...

By Marc Fisher | August 24, 2007; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (60)

A Warning from Cleveland: Could Baseball Fail D.C.?

The extraordinary frenzy of construction that now surrounds the Washington Nationals ballpark is a tribute to ex-Mayor Tony Williams and all those who believed that bringing baseball back to the District would end up being a smart move for the city, even if taxpayers and fans are fronting $611 million to build the stadium. But there is nothing automatic about expanding the tax base and sparking the economic development that stadium proponents have long touted as the justification for public investment in a ballpark. I saw that firsthand this month on visits to Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinnati, where new...

By Marc Fisher | August 23, 2007; 7:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

AA Renegade Dies--Whither Midtown?

Michael Quinones, leader of the Midtown Group, the network of local Alcoholics Anonymous chapters that appeal to young people and break with AA's traditions in some very disturbing ways, died last week. The Midtown Group, the generic name for a cluster of AA groups that meet in Maryland, the District and Virginia and specialize in helping teenaged and other young alcoholics, has been accused of encouraging young female members to have sex with older men in the group, seeking to sever or at least limit members' ties to family and friends, and encouraging members to stop taking prescribed medications....

By Marc Fisher | August 22, 2007; 7:56 AM ET | Comments (0)

Contested Waters: How Rich and Poor Swim in D.C.

Quick--what's the one part of the District that has no public swimming pool? No, it's not any of the city's impoverished, struggling sections, but rather, the richest part of town, Ward 3 in upper Northwest. The city's wealthiest ward (average income, according to census figures from 2000: $187,709) has been without a swimming hole since a wall collapsed at the pool at Wilson High School in Tenleytown in 2003. Ever since then, a long parade of politicians have promised to rebuild and reopen the pool, with no effect. Yesterday, the peripatetic Mayor Adrian Fenty arrived at Wilson as the...

By Marc Fisher | August 21, 2007; 6:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pants Update: When Shaming Doesn't Work

While I was away--and many thanks to Valerie Strauss for her energetic and entertaining posts while she filled in for me--there were some developments in the Pants Suit that gave us both reason for hope and a reminder of just how petty and small man can be. Even after the trial and the verdict, after the first move to strip Roy Pearson of his position as an administrative law judge, there was something gnawingly unsettling about the pants case--and that was the fact that someone who knows just enough about the law can all too easily torment a total...

By Marc Fisher | August 20, 2007; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (43)

Skeeter Hawkins, Fred Fiske and Empathy on the Radio

This week's Listener column Now it can be told: The backwoods voice of Washington's most popular hillbilly radio show of the 1950s, Skeeter Hawkins, was in fact longtime talk show host Fred Fiske, putting on a Kentucky accent and posing for publicity photos wearing a big cowboy hat. Under his own name, Fiske -- who in September will celebrate 60 years on Washington airwaves and 30 years at public radio station WAMU -- was a disc jockey at WWDC in the '50s, playing the sounds of Perry Como and Frankie Laine. But when the station decided to offer local listeners...

By Marc Fisher | August 18, 2007; 6:50 PM ET | Comments (8)

Sculpting Martin Luther King Jr.

(posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) In 2009, a new memorial is slated to open on the Mall, between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials, dedicated to American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. At this moment, the sculptor who was awarded the commission to design and create a huge statue of King is working on it--iin China. A story this week in The Post by Ariana Eunjung Cha tells the story of Lei Yixin, chosen by the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc., as lead sculptor for the project. Some Americans are unhappy,...

By Valerie Strauss | August 17, 2007; 12:24 PM ET | Comments (29)

Fixing the D.C. Schools?

(posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) Imagine this: You earn a pay increase but somehow, your employer never manages to pay you the extra amount. You complain and are promised the money, but it never seems to come. After six years--yes, six years--your paycheck finally starts to include your increase. Getting the retroactive money is a separate issue, however. Sound preposterous? It happened to one teacher I know in the D.C. school system, and thre are plenty of other teachers who can relate similar experiences. Unless Mayor Adrian Fenty and his new schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, can get these...

By Valerie Strauss | August 14, 2007; 12:25 PM ET | Comments (9)

Speeding in Virginia

(posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) I was driving on Virginia's busiest road yesterday, I-95, trying my best to stay within the speed limit. It wasn't easy. Despite the heavy new fines that can be imposed on a Virginia driver if caught going more than 20 mph above the posted limit, I found myself in the way of many of them who zipped around me to speed. Two honked, even though I was going 55 mph, the (supposedly) maximum speed limit on that stretch of road. My unscientific experiment judged that many speeders were 10 or 15 mph above the...

By Valerie Strauss | August 13, 2007; 12:48 PM ET | Comments (89)

Saving Summer Reading

(posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) Reading during the summer should be sheer joy but it seems like too many schools are bent on killing the pleasure. It's one thing to encourage kids to read over the summer and then distribute a reading list with recommendations. Schools and libraries and non-profit organizations all compile very fine lists. But it's something else to tell them exactly what to read, and then, in some cases, how to read it. That's what schools from elementary to college are doing more and more frequently. The reasons vary. Many educators worry that kids lose...

By Valerie Strauss | August 8, 2007; 12:02 PM ET | Comments (25)

Making A Baseball Statement

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) (Preface: Please stop whining that I am not the incomparable Marc Fisher, or telling me how great he is. I know I'm not, and I know he is. Let's move on.) My husband warned me that the following idea about Barry Bonds and baseball is a non-starter, because in this country people are innocent until proven guilty and besides, the game would get distorted if anybody actually listened to me. My husband is a lawyer and a baseball-lover, so he has to say that. I'm not, and I don't (love baseball), so I...

By Valerie Strauss | August 7, 2007; 2:44 PM ET | Comments (33)

Weather Weary

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) The greater Washington area is supposed to be a region of highly creative people, but come August, the whines are always the same: "It's so hot." "It's sooooo miserable outside." "It's so disgusting that I don't know why I live here." If that is your particular complaint, then I don't know either. It has been some time-- say hundreds of years--that people have noticed it is hot here during the summer. It's not news, though television stations and newspapers cover the heat as if it was. We get tips on staying cool (as...

By Valerie Strauss | August 7, 2007; 12:27 PM ET | Comments (23)

Heeeeere's Valerie

The big blog herewith announces that Post writer Valerie Strauss, no stranger to these electrons, will once again take on substitute Raw duties, starting Monday, presenting her pearls of wisdom and provoking all manner of debate and discussion in these parts. Valerie is an education writer here in the Newsroom of the Future, but she has done it all--working the Foreign Desk, covering everything under the sun here and on the wires, where she served as congressional correspondent, national security editor and in various other capacities. Valerie has been a substitute columnist over in Bob Levey's Washington and she's...

By Marc Fisher | August 3, 2007; 5:00 PM ET | Comments (9)

Random Friday Question: What to Read at the Beach?

If you were going away to the beach this week, which I'm not, you'd want to take along a pile of books, and if you're like me, you'd never be quite certain about which ones to carry along--Do you do the fun, easy thriller, catch up on the bestseller that folks were talking about a few months ago but aren't anymore, or dip into the classics that you don't have the time or attention span to tackle the rest of the year? I usually try to take a bit of each of those categories, but this year, I'm looking...

By Marc Fisher | August 3, 2007; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

First, Pants Man Loses Case. Next, His Job.

By the middle of next week, Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge who sued his neighborhood dry cleaners for $54 million and lost, will receive a letter that starts the process of putting him out of a job. City sources tell me that a marathon meeting of the commission that reviews the performance of administrative law judges (ALJs) ended last night with unanimous agreement to meet again next Monday to revise and finalize the wording of a letter that will state the panel's doubts about granting Pearson the 10-year reappointment that he has been seeking throughout the last...

By Marc Fisher | August 2, 2007; 1:31 PM ET | Comments (182)

Taxi Zones and Phony Doctorates in The City of a Million Mysteries

In this confusing life, resistance to change can mean standing up for what's good and right or clinging to something sketchy just because it's familiar. Today, an example of each: Resisting change is heroic work when it's a fight like the District's decades-long battle against its congressional masters, who yearn to scrap the city's effective zone system of calculating taxi fares. The latest interloper, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, while lamely protesting that "I'm an old home-rule guy," told The Washington Post that the District "can't continue to avoid making a decision." But of course the city has made that decision...

By Marc Fisher | August 2, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (73)

Cool New Stuff: Improv, The Mall, Local Blogorama, Podcast Concert

A grab bag of cool new stuff: --We already knew Washington was perhaps the best city in the country for fans of choral music, with choruses large and small managing to survive even in this era of No Child Left Behind know-nothingness. But Washington's place in the worlds of experimental and contemporary classical music tends to get short shrift. Now comes a new blog to chronicle the experimental music scene here. District of Noise includes audio and video and takes you to some places you may never have known existed. --Remarkably, no one has ever bothered to put together...

By Marc Fisher | August 1, 2007; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (19)

 

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