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Archive: September 2007

Where Cho Got Help, Trouble Looms

In Seung Hui Cho's short, disturbed life, there was one hopeful chapter. For about four years while he was in middle and high school, the boy who would become the Virginia Tech shooter was in the care of therapists who used art and play to draw him out of his muted world and show him how to cope. Fairfax County's school system sent Cho to the Center for Multicultural Human Services in Falls Church, which, for 25 years, has found ways to connect with mentally ill children of immigrants as well as people who find asylum in the United States...

By Marc Fisher | September 30, 2007; 9:19 AM ET | Comments (5)

The Last Days of AM Radio?

This week's Listener column. The newest radio station in town launched this month with a lineup consisting mainly of shows that have already been soundly rejected by Washington listeners. When 3WT, the talk station replacing Washington Post Radio on 1500 AM and 107.7 FM, announced plans to feature syndicated talk show hosts Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes, the only novelty was the mix of conservative and liberal shows on the same station. All four of those programs have aired on other Washington stations, and all failed to attract an appreciable audience. There aren't many new ideas...

By Marc Fisher | September 29, 2007; 9:06 AM ET | Comments (22)

Jettisoning Virginia's "Jihad Way" Doctor

Was Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine right to decide that Dr. Esam Omeish, Kaine's appointee to the state's immigration commission, had to go? Is what Omeish has said about Israel really so different from what, say, Rep. Jim Moran of Alexandria has said? Shouldn't Kaine's appointments operation have known that Omeish is one of the most active and outspoken members of the state's Muslim community, and shouldn't the governor's staff have warned him that Omeish is given to incendiary speeches, quite a few of which are widely available on the web? And what happened in the hours between when Kaine...

By Marc Fisher | September 28, 2007; 2:58 PM ET | Comments (19)

Nobody's From Here, Right?

Not quite. One of the great myths about Washington is the notion that most people here are just passing through. In fact, many of those who move to Washington from elsewhere end up staying forever, and, in even greater contradiction to the stereotype, the portion of residents who are native to the city is pretty much on par with other major U.S. cities. Today's Random Friday Question--sparked by overhearing a conversation at a Northwest restaurant among four young executives bemoaning the fact that "nobody's from here" and "everybody's home is far away"--sent me into the bowels of the Census,...

By Marc Fisher | September 28, 2007; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (0)

When 'Morally Bankrupt' Means Just Fine

Mayor Martin O'Malley had a principled position on slots. Legalized gambling might work to buck up Maryland's ailing horse industry, but slots, he said in 2005, are "a pretty morally bankrupt way" to fund education. Now, Gov. Martin O'Malley proposes to open slots palaces across the state to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for, um, education. A change of heart? Not really, the governor tells me: "I just don't see how I can ask the legislators to compromise if I'm not willing to do so myself." As mayor of Baltimore, O'Malley had a principled position on gay marriage....

By Marc Fisher | September 27, 2007; 7:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Highpointers: Climbing to D.C.'s Top Spot

Granted, mountaineering may not be the first sport that springs to mind when someone says "District of Columbia," but for highpointers--a great subculture of folks who make it their life's mission to reach the highest points in each state of the union--the District has long been a gap. Mt. McKinley is certainly more challenging, Maryland's Backbone Mountain in Garrett County can pose some access issues, and Virginia's Mt. Rogers features wild ponies, but every state and even the Last Colony has a summit, and Washington's happens to be at Fort Reno in Northwest. Glover Park resident Robert Hyman--who has...

By Marc Fisher | September 26, 2007; 7:53 AM ET | Comments (11)

Fleeting Flavorology: A Mother's Wrath

So your son wins a nationwide contest to be the Nestle company's Flavorologist for a Day,including a free trip to California to visit the top-secret flavor lab where the winner can see the company's ice cream taster in action, and get to sample exotica such as spaghetti-and-meatballs flavored ice cream. Pretty cool, right? That's what happened to Potomac resident Lynn Jordan's son, Max, a little while back. The official statement from Nestle's says that "each winner (and up to three family members) will be invited on an all-expenses paid trip to the Nestlé Ice Cream Factory in Bakersfield, California...

By Marc Fisher | September 25, 2007; 7:14 AM ET | Comments (55)

Schools Monday: Eliminating the Excuses

For as long as I can remember, the mantra from the people in charge of the D.C. school system has been that we're really doing quite well--it's just that our schools are filled with kids from dysfunctional homes, kids who come to school with so many problems that it's unreasonable to hold them up to the same expectations and standards we have for suburban children. That rhetoric--that long roster of excuses for failure-- appears to be in its dying days. This change is taking place not only in the District, where the new schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, is changing...

By Marc Fisher | September 24, 2007; 7:44 AM ET | Comments (29)

Goodbye, RFK

Today, the third and last time Phil Hochberg attends a "final game" at RFK Stadium, he won't be working for the home team, as he did when the Senators split town, or wearing a tuxedo, as he did when the Redskins traded up to spiffier digs. This time, when the Washington Nationals play their last game at RFK and the countdown toward inevitable demolition begins, Hochberg will be on hand as a fan to say goodbye to a building that has won little love, seen remarkably few great sports achievements and yet has somehow ginned up the kind of memories...

By Marc Fisher | September 23, 2007; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (74)

Bits: All-Campaign, All The Time; DC Reclaims Sidewalks; Old Pics

Your weekend blogorama grab bag: --- Sure, media is becoming an ever more specialized business, but a radio station devoted entirely to presidential politics, 24 hours a day? Is there anyone anywhere who is quite that obsessed? The folks over at XM Satellite Radio think so, and on Monday, they will launch POTUS Radio, a channel featuring news, chat shows, and unadulterated candidate speeches around the clock. (The name is an acronym for President of the United States.) It's like a massive OD of C-Span's great cinema verite campaign coverage, plus every TV and radio gabfest you can imagine,...

By Marc Fisher | September 21, 2007; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (9)

RFQ: When Does A Noxious Tree Become A Nuisance?

The brave justices of the Virginia Supreme Court have dared to go where few human beings dare: To the dangerous terrain where neighbors quarrel and clash over trees. The court ruled last week that if your neighbor's tree poses a danger to your house, you can force the neighbor to prune or even fell the tree. Forget war overseas and the mushy real estate market here: The real battlefield in many people's lives is the borderlands between your house and the guy next door's. And trees are often the primary flashpoint in those confrontations. So when Virginia's top court...

By Marc Fisher | September 21, 2007; 7:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Mayor Tries to Turn Anger Into Resolve

When Mayor Adrian Fenty arrived to meet the grieving family of DeOnte' Rawlings, the 14-year-old who was shot in the head by an off-duty D.C. policeman Monday night, the slain teen's relatives turned on the mayor with all the rage you would expect from people who have just lost their child. The family shouted and wailed at the mayor in a painful, raw and utterly public venting. Fenty stood there and took it. He waited through the screams and the sobs. He expressed his sorrow and his determination to figure out what happened. And by the end of the...

By Marc Fisher | September 20, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (29)

Pants Update: The Dry Cleaners Shuts Down

Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge whose $67 million lawsuit against his neighborhood dry cleaners turned into a worldwide lesson in how one obsessed person can hijack the American legal system, lost his case in court, but today delivered the crowning blow to the owners of Custom Cleaners: Bowing to the emotional and financial strains of two years of litigation, Soo and Jin Chung today announced the closing of the dry cleaners that may or may not have lost a pair of Pearson's pants that he put in for a $10 alteration in 2005. "They were just tired...

By Marc Fisher | September 19, 2007; 2:20 PM ET | Comments (0)

Redskins: Take All the Pix You Want

Come on back, photographers, the stadium's safe. The Washington Redskins are apologizing to a University of Maryland student who was removed from his seat at this season's home opener, questioned by security officers and had his camera confiscated--all because he was taking photos of the game and his friends. Redskins senior vice president Karl Swanson tells me that the officers who took Reza Farhoodi's camera and the team official who told the fan that "professional" cameras are banned from the House That Jack Built acted in error and that a Skins manager will contact Farhoodi to convey the team's...

By Marc Fisher | September 19, 2007; 11:59 AM ET | Comments (17)

Driving While Trumpeting, Chapter 2

There was, understandably, some skepticism among readers when I wrote recently about driving along a major interstate highway and seeing a guy playing a trumpet while steering. Trumpet Man kept his thighs pressed against the wheel for stability and leaned forward to hold his shiny brass trumpet over the top of the wheel as he played the instrument at a volume high enough for me to hear. Some folks were so doubtful of this account that they challenged my ability to discern that Trumpet Man was driving a beautiful 1965 Bonneville. Well, you'll just have to take my word...

By Marc Fisher | September 19, 2007; 8:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

The D.C. Voting Rights Vote--The District Loses

The roll call on D.C. voting rights in the U.S. Senate just ended--the pro-voting rights side failed to get the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster. The effort to add a member of the House for the District dies by a 57-42 vote, three votes short. Earlier, in a very brief set of pleas for senators to support the measure, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said: "It's time to end the injustice, it's time to end the national embarrassment." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told his colleagues: "There are decent arguments on each side, though I think our side has...

By Marc Fisher | September 18, 2007; 2:53 PM ET | Comments (0)

Maryland's Gay Marriage Ruling: Can You Spell Confused?

In a narrowly reasoned ruling that acknowledges that social change is happening at a faster pace than legal change, the Maryland Court of Appeals today said it will not be the tool by which gay marriage becomes legal in Maryland. That may happen someday, the court said, but it will have to be elected legislators who make that decision--not the courts. For now, said a majority of four justices on the seven-member court, marriage remains a legal arrangement between a man, a woman and the state--a deal made expressly for the purpose of encouraging procreation. But three justices said...

By Marc Fisher | September 18, 2007; 12:47 PM ET | Comments (0)

You Can't Take Pictures Here (Cont'd): Redskins Edition

The Washington Redskins haven't invoked national security to justify their latest efforts to control what fans do at home games--but stand by, that may yet come. Whether it's a developer in downtown Silver Spring or a secretive federal agency operating out of an Arlington office building, it's become all the rage for property owners to confiscate cameras, force innocent passersby to erase photos, and generally ban photography in places that have always been open to all. But while we all know how hard it's become to take a family snapshot in downtown Washington or near any government building, you'd...

By Marc Fisher | September 18, 2007; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Jim Moran's Tiresome Attack/Apology Routine

The endless cycle of Jim Moran's outbursts and apologies long ago became tiresome. Yet the congressman from Alexandria remains popular in his district, reasonably effective in the House, and pretty much unbeatable in his reelection bids. Moran is up to his old tricks once again, railing against the supposedly dominating power of the Jewish lobby in this country, even as he argues that most American Jews basically ignore their own lobby's unparalleled sway. Moran's comments to the radical Jewish magazine Tikkun are as strangely illogical as they are wrongheaded and inflammatory. Read Moran's interview in Tikkun (the interview is...

By Marc Fisher | September 17, 2007; 7:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

HD Radio: 8-Track Tapes Of Our Age, Or The Next Big Thing?

This week's Listener column There is a place where the audience for free, over-the-air radio is growing, not shrinking, where new technology allows listeners to pause and rewind songs as they play or to bookmark their favorite tunes. In that place, millions of listeners have bought newfangled digital radios to tune in to recorded books, a news station aimed at kids, a classic jazz channel, sports events not available on ordinary AM and FM radio, and extended live coverage of concerts and music festivals. Digital radio -- marketed in this country as HD Radio -- has been available in the...

By Marc Fisher | September 16, 2007; 10:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Iraq, MySpace and The Fading of Street Protests

I hope you enjoy today's biased coverage of this weekend's Iraq war demonstrations. ("Come quick, Martha -- the media's finally owning up to their bias!") Anti- or pro-war, journalist, blogger or reader, we can probably agree that news coverage of events such as yesterday's rallies along the Mall routinely reveal a strong media bias toward covering crowds of people doing stuff outdoors, especially on a day featuring crisp air and brilliant sunshine. I say this not to belittle the several thousand people who devoted their Saturday to the constitutionally sacred act of sounding off in their nation's capital. But after...

By Marc Fisher | September 16, 2007; 6:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Arrests at the Capitol

Allison Klein reports: Dozens of protesters were arrested after they climbed over a waist-high metal fence officers had errected at the base of the Capitol. Cheered on by the crowd, more demonstrators were leaping over the fence every few minutes late this afternoon and were being taken into custody....

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 4:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

Hostility on Pennsylvania Avenue

Michelle Boorstein reports: Things got ugly for several blocks along Pennsylvania Ave., where war supporters, held back by metal barricades, wore T-shirts, held signs and screamed things at protesters that frequently were obscene. On the corner of 10th street, two middle-aged men wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with a soldier's photo shouted obscenities at the top of their lungs in the face of a young man wearing full camouflage and a bandana covering all of his face except his eyes. Only a metal barrier separated them, and the young man remained silent amid the screaming, only holding a sign over his...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 4:40 PM ET | Comments (0)

Hundreds at "Die-In" at Capitol

Allison Klein reports from the Capitol: Several hundred protesters are participating in a "die-in" at the Capitol. Iraq veteran Geoff Millard, 26, of Columbia Heights and president of D.C. chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, wore army fatigues and had an American flag against his chest on the ground. "It's time for the peace movement to take the next step past protest and to resistance," he said....

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 4:18 PM ET | Comments (0)

Live from the Mall: Why Huge Crowds Didn't Show Up

Perhaps in anticipation of a lighter than expected turnout, the ANSWER Coalition, the main organizer of the demonstration, issued a treatise early this summer suggesting that the anti-war movement has failed to stimulate a massive outpouring of people because of its own splintered message and tactics. "Although the antiwar sentiment is growing among the general population," the ANSWER document says, "the size and intensity of the demonstrations, protests and acts of resistance does not at all measure up to the vast magnitude of feelings against the Iraq war among the general population. The single biggest reason for this dichotomy...

By Marc Fisher | September 15, 2007; 4:00 PM ET | Comments (72)

My count: 6,850

Marc Fisher reports: Call it a success, call it a failure, call it what you will, today's anti-Iraq war rally, drew a cheerful and pleasant crowd of 6,850. I counted the marchers who joined the rally from its start point at Lafayette Park and passed through the narrowest choke point on the parade route, the corner of 15th street and New York Ave., N.W. Because the crowd had to pass through a line of security bollards, this is the easiest point on any protest route at which to gain an accurate count. The march took 28 minutes to pass this...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 2:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

Speakers at Lafayette Park

Dion Haynes reports from Lafayette Park: Thousands of people of all ages, races and backgrounds continue to cheer as speakers take the stage to protest the war. "I resigned against this war 4 1/2 years ago," said former Col. Ann Wright, who left her post in 2003 to protest the war. "Not one thing has changed...we've got to stop the war. Stop it now." Malik Rahim, founder of Common Ground Collective, a hurricane-relief group in New Orleans, said: "In 1963 on this day, Sept. 15, was the Birmingham bombing. Four little girls in a house of worship were tragically killed....

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 2:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Delayed Action

Marc Fisher reports: At 2 p.m., organizers from the ANSWER coalition entered their second hour of efforts to clear a path for the march to begin along 15th St., NW. "We're waiting for the Iraq war veterans to get to the front of the march," an organizer shouted through a bullhorn. While the crowd waited, drummers kept up a decent dance beat that allowed dozens of protesters to swing and sway diagonally across from the Treasury Department. As a man walked by carrying a sign saying "9-11 Truth Now" a man on the corner asked, "I'm just wondering, what is...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 2:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Young war veterans in Lafayette Park

Michelle Boorstein reports from Lafayette Park: Among the Iraq war veterans in Lafayette Park, was Daniel Black, a 24 year-old from South Orange, N.J., who served in the U.S. Marines for five years, including in Iraq in 2004. Waiting to speak at the podium with another group of young war veterans, Black said he became politically active after more reading led him to believe "the true motives behind this war was imperial ambition and not at all what I signed up for, which was to help protect my country and to express gratitude for being born an American. I felt...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 1:32 PM ET | Comments (0)

Capitol police close area facing First St.

Allison Klein reports from the Capitol: The Capitol police are now closing down the area in front of the Capitol, the lower west terrace section that faces First St. They said they are putting up metal barriers because during the last big protest in January, protesters spray painted the area. As long as protesters keep their "die-in" on First St., the police will close the street to cars and let them demonstrate. But if anyone trespasses or damages property there will be arrests, police said....

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 1:23 PM ET | Comments (0)

Gunning for a Battle

Marc Fisher reports: At 15th St. and New York Ave. a band of plaid-wearing demonstrators, most of them with bandanas over their faces, held an impromptu meeting to plan their confrontation with D.C. police. "Is it OK with you guys if I go over to the cops and tell them we're going to cross the street?" one demonstrator asked his collegues. Winning their assent, the young man approached a D.C. officer and said, "Are you guys going to slam and beat us if we cross the street?" "Why don't you just cross with the light, then we don't have to...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 1:18 PM ET | Comments (0)

Crowds fill Lafayette Park

Dion Haynes reports from Lafayette Park: And upbeat crowd has filled Lafayette Park. On stage, Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the group Code Pink, was joined by a group of women wearing pink T-shirts and carrying posters saying "SOS. Shame on Senators." "We want to form policy that treats the world as brothers and sisters," she said. "Stop the war, start spreading love, generosity and compassion and we will be much safer at home." She led a chant: "We are women, we are proud, we are sisters, we are loud, we are many, we'll be more, and we'll end this bloody...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 12:57 PM ET | Comments (0)

Saving the Elementary Schools

Marc Fisher reports: James Choate came to Washington last night from Birmingham, Ala., joining five friends on a mission to save the lives of American elementary school children. Choate, who works in an advertising mailhouse back home, flew through scary thunderstorms to attend the Gathering of Eagles, where he and others stood wearing buttons that said "Never Trust Democrats with National Security." Choate said he and his friend felt compelled to come to Washington because most Americans refused to believe that "the terrorists have got people planted all over the country from Al Queda who are preparing to go on...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 12:55 PM ET | Comments (0)

Even Demonstrators Have To Eat

Marc Fisher reports: It's not often that political demonstrations are catered, but Washington is a special place. Located smack between today's dueling demonstrations, the annual Arts on Foot festival is drawing a considerably larger crowd than either of the Iraq war rallies. Demonstrators from both sides of the debate made detours to F street between 7th and 9th streets to feast on cajun chicken firecracker rolls from McCormick & Schmick, roasted beet gateau with Saint Pete's Blue Cheese Fondue and lavendar honey from Butterfield 9, seared scallops with guacamole from Zengo and tuna sashimi from Chef Geoff. Well, scratch the...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 12:46 PM ET | Comments (0)

Protesters at Lafayette Park

Dion Haynes reports from Lafayette Park: Hundreds of protesters walked around with signs that said the country should "Drop Bush, Not Bombs" and declared Bush guilty of war crimes. Ada Dunwody, 49, of Ft. Myers, Fla., carried a poster with photos of mutilated troops and children. Among the photos were a severed limb on the ground and a person whose face had been blown off. "My poster is based on the reality of war. This is what it looks like, people mutilated and damaged. People need to see that," she said....

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 12:18 PM ET | Comments (0)

Gathering of Eagles

Marc Fisher reports: On the mall between the Hirshorn Museum and the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden, several hundred supporters of the Iraq war listened to speeches and song in what they called a Gathering of Eagles. Parent after parent of fallen American soldiers told the stories of their sons' decisions to join the military and their deaths from roadside bombs and insurgents' attacks in Iraq. "You're going to hear a lot of grief, anger and rage over how our media and our elected officials have tried to redirect this war and our thoughts," said Gregg Garvey, whose son was killed...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 11:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Counterdemonstrators at the Mall

Reporter Nelson Hernandez reports from 7th Street at the Mall: Several hundred counterdemonstrators came to the Mall to demand that politicians see the Iraq war through to victory. The Vietnam War loomed large in the speeches given by a series of speakers on a large stage. The speakers said they did not want to abandon the Iraqi people and they wanted U.S. soldiers to be shown respect upon returning home. The counterdemonstrators carried signs that showed their contempt for those protesting the war, such as "The 9th Circle of Hell is Reserved For Traitors." Antiwar protesters who approached the fringes...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 11:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

Live from the Mall: The Long Shadow of Vietnam

As often happens in these demonstrations, the specter of Vietnam hangs over the proceedings, as if all of the social and political change of the past three decades--not to mention the dramatic change in how we communicate--have failed to move the debate beyond the cultural divide that opened up in the 1960s and 70s. All week long, the buildup to the demonstrations was peppered with references to Vietnam, from both sides of the Iraq war debate. In their tactics, their ability to reach the broader public, and their stylistic choices, the organizers of these demonstrations seem always to be...

By Marc Fisher | September 15, 2007; 11:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

Anger, Vegans and Diabetes at the White House Gate

In Lafayette Park, hundreds of anti-war protesters gathered to wait for the day's speeches, the early arriving crowd for a noon rally to be followed by a 1:30 p.m. march on the Capitol. On a glorious Saturday, there was a festival atmosphere, with Marvin Gaye blaring on the loudspeakers, socialist worker party activists sellng books, street guys hawking $15-dollar T-shirts and a fleet of vegans handing out "Why Vegan" pamphlets. At the fence facing the White House, a clot of protestors chatted with a uniformed secret service officer on motorcyle, "I'm just glad people give a [expletive]," the officer told...

By Aruna Jain | September 15, 2007; 10:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Live from the Mall: Dueling Demos

Good morning, all--the weather is supposed to become lovely as the day progresses, so both sides in today's dueling demonstrations for and against the U.S. presence in Iraq have only their organizational skills and the appeal of their messages to blame for whatever size crowd they may draw as the day unfolds. Supported by a crack team of reporters stationed all along the rally and march routes, I'll be updating the scene and the speeches, the confrontations and the passions, throughout the day. Today's anti-war rally and march is, like several staged since before the Bush administration decided to...

By Marc Fisher | September 15, 2007; 8:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Life in Washington: Scene 324--Respect for Elders

Overheard in public. All dialogue guaranteed verbatim. Scene: Elevator in a downtown D.C. office building. A policy seminar has just finished at a think tank. The elevator is full of some leading lights of politics and education, plus three young interns. The news and advertising video screen above the elevator control buttons flashes a report that today is the actor Jack Black's birthday and that he is turning 38. "Look at that," says eager young intern; he's at most 22. "Can you believe Jack Black is turning 38?" Intern #2, a perky young woman replies: "Won't that be really...

By Marc Fisher | September 14, 2007; 12:19 PM ET | Comments (0)

RFQ: Why Do Banks Still Have Branches?

Other than the time the house painter asked me to pay him in a giant load of cash that he could dispense to his workers, I don't think I've used the services of a bank teller in at least 14 years. So when the local listserv filled with angry and exasperated comments about the news that the site of a demolished movie theater would soon be home to yet another bank branch, I joined my neighbors in puzzlement. Today's Random Friday Question: In this era of online bill payment, direct deposit of paychecks and ATMs at every turn, what...

By Marc Fisher | September 14, 2007; 7:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Completing the American Revolution

A dozen reasons why the U.S. Senate should vote to approve voting rights for District residents when the issue comes before them as soon as next week: • It's good politics for Republicans. At a moment when you're stuck with the blame for a war gone bad, this is a chance to claim the moral high ground and do right by half a million disenfranchised Americans. Yes, this gives the other guys a lock on a new House seat, but the beauty of this bill is that it is politically neutral because it also creates an extra, assuredly Republican, seat...

By Marc Fisher | September 13, 2007; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (42)

Can A Garden Cut Crime?

On Capitol Hill, the quickly gentrifying blocks around the Kentucky Courts housing project are home to ever more people who must wrap their minds around the contradictions between $700,000 houses and the screaming sirens that indicate another homicide down the street. As neighborhood activist Jim Myers and others have chronicled, the crew warfare around 14th Street SE has faded only somewhat in the years since well-to-do folks started moving into the area. But efforts to stem the violence have expanded, and now a group of residents has embarked on a project designed to bring the Hill East neighborhood's two...

By Marc Fisher | September 12, 2007; 12:34 PM ET | Comments (9)

Punting Taxis: Ouch, That Hurts

Six times, the D.C. Taxi Commission voted yesterday. Six times, they failed to reach a majority. Six times, they could not agree on whether to keep the District's unique zone fare system, force cabbies to install meters similar to those found in most of the rest of the world, or compromise on a technological innovation that marries the zone and meter systems. The commission, many of whose members were installed by former mayor Anthony Williams expressly to accomplish his desire to kill Washington's venerable zone system, punted the whole issue to Mayor Adrian Fenty, who has until Oct. 17...

By Marc Fisher | September 12, 2007; 6:08 AM ET | Comments (54)

9/11: The Legacy That Could Have Been

During World War II, Americans struggling to cope with the pressures of war and the pain of our boys coming home in boxes found unity as government and private enterprises encouraged common sacrifice. Americans discovered an escape from the pressures of war in the new entertainments of network radio and popular music. And the people of this country found both solace and challenge in an extraordinary explosion of artistic creativity during those years. When Franklin Roosevelt died less than a month before V-E Day, Samuel Barber's wrenching Adagio for Strings captured and reflected the nation's grief and hope. At...

By Marc Fisher | September 11, 2007; 7:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Taxi Wars: Zones & Meters--The Final Battle?

When the D.C. Taxi Commission meets Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., its members will yet again sift through the age-old arguments about zones vs. meters, and, following the command of a meddling U.S. senator from Michigan, vote on whether to scrap a system that has served Washington well for the better part of a century. In no other U.S. city even remotely close to this size is it routinely possible to hail a cab on any downtown street and even in many residential neighborhoods. There's a reason for that: We have many, many more cabs on the streets than...

By Marc Fisher | September 10, 2007; 1:20 PM ET | Comments (24)

Schools Monday: A Twist the Charters Movement Didn't Expect

This isn't the way the charter schools movement was supposed to turn. The idea behind charters, vouchers and the overall effort to provide public school parents with choices has been driven from the start by two different motives, one constructive and one quite insidious. Parents and children stuck in lousy urban public schools ought to have some of the options that are available to Americans who can afford to send their kids to high-quality suburban public schools, parochial or private schools, the theory goes. Competition from good charters will force public systems to improve. That's the part of the...

By Marc Fisher | September 10, 2007; 7:37 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Decline of Horses, The Irrelevance of Slots

No matter that there's hardly anyone around, an afternoon at the racetrack carries an earthy elegance that feels almost timeless. The horse game maintains its dignity even on a day when there are 28 people in the grandstand, and three of them are equipped with oxygen tanks. But let's be real. I love the sounds and sights, the smell and the thrill of horse racing, but the sport is faltering, the business is in a downward spiral and Maryland's rich equestrian tradition is headed for the history books. At Laurel Park on a bright, sunny Friday afternoon, only 60...

By Marc Fisher | September 9, 2007; 8:46 AM ET | Comments (12)

Martinis, TV, Baseball, Jazz--Perfect as a Sonnet?

Today's Random Friday Question comes courtesy of the menu at the new Rock Creek restaurant at Mazza Gallerie in Friendship Heights, where the copywriter touting the eatery's martinis noted that none other than the great and crafty journalist H.L. Mencken dubbed that drink "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet." Which, along with one of those very fine martinis, got me to thinking about what the perfect American inventions really are. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to list your top five perfect American inventions, along with the briefest of rationales for your selections....

By Marc Fisher | September 7, 2007; 7:39 AM ET | Comments (146)

Richard Jewell and the Olympic Bombing's Kensington Connection

The death last week of Richard Jewell, the Georgia man who was incorrectly reported to be the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber, ended an ugly chapter in the annals of reportorial gullibility and reminded us of the risks of jumping to conclusions in this lightening fast world of information overload. But here's a previously untold bit of the Jewell story, as related by longtime reader Jimmy Lawson: Later in 1996, after Jewell had been widely identified as a suspect in the bombing and after many questions had been raised about whether he was the right guy, Lawson writes that he...

By Marc Fisher | September 6, 2007; 1:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

Keeping The Next Bridge Collapse Secret

In the name of national security we are willing to jeopardize so much: national unity, national ideals, even, well, national security. Take the case of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, a warning sign to all that a country that built up its road system in the 1950s and 60s is due for a major infrastructure overhaul. The natural immediate reaction after the collapse was for inspectors across the land to take a closer look at their bridges--and for citizens to come in behind those inspectors to check on what's being declared safe and what's being swept under the carpet. But...

By Marc Fisher | September 6, 2007; 7:35 AM ET | Comments (0)

Annals of Zero Tolerance: Eradicating Great Pranks

It takes more than good old guts and wit to pull off a good prank these days. You also have to have the fortitude (or brazen confidence) to ignore the fact that schools, police and other authorities have bought into the zero tolerance game and will nail you to the wall for entertaining yourself and those around you. A viral video that's bopping around the web of late chronicles the clever and delicious move by students at Hilliard Davidson High School in Columbus, Ohio, who managed to get 800 fans of their school's football opponent, Darby High, to hold...

By Marc Fisher | September 5, 2007; 7:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

New Ballpark, New Eats

The Washington Nationals are finished defending the performance of Aramark, the food service giant that has provided mediocre food and desultory service at RFK Stadium since baseball returned to the District. The team announced today that at its new stadium, all food service will be provided by a new concessionaire, Centerplate, a South Carolina company that holds the contracts for six Major League Baseball stadiums and ten National Football League teams. The very good news for Washington fans is that Centerplate is the company behind the excellent selection and service at the San Francisco Giants' newish ballpark, where the...

By Marc Fisher | September 4, 2007; 2:31 PM ET | Comments (0)

Coloring Inside the Thin Blue Line: Police Shootings and Race

In the annals of psychology, there have been countless experiments that bared our essential racism. Show people photos of random human beings of different colors, ask them to complete some task that involves judging others based on those pictures, and our base assumptions about those people come pouring out. But here's an experiment that could easily have followed that pattern--and didn't. University of Chicago psychologists teamed up with a commander from the Denver Police Department who is also an academic at the University of Denver to see how police officers--their trigger fingers at the ready--responded when photos flashed of...

By Marc Fisher | September 4, 2007; 7:35 AM ET | Comments (29)

Bluegrass Goes Out to Digital Pasture

Public radio station WAMU will announce today that it is dropping all of its bluegrass programming, marking the end of an era in Washington radio and perhaps the ripening of a new technology in radio. WAMU, which once broadcast more than 20 hours a week of bluegrass and other acoustic American music, has slowly chipped away at that programming over the years, in favor of adding more National Public Radio news and talk shows. As of Sept. 17, the station will devote all of its on-air time on 88.5 FM to news and talk, but will provide a separate,...

By Marc Fisher | September 2, 2007; 12:19 PM ET | Comments (59)

Va. Tech Shootings: If Common Sense Had Ruled

Okay, I've read the 260 pages filed by the review panel that investigated the Virginia Tech shootings, and I understand that the university should have stepped in to help Seung Hui Cho but didn't, that Cho's parents should have alerted the college to his condition but didn't and that the state mental health system should have acted more decisively but didn't. Here's what I don't get. In the hundreds of interviews the panel conducted, why didn't they ask all those people whose job it is to care for students one question: How would you have handled Cho if you had...

By Marc Fisher | September 1, 2007; 11:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Listener: Musicians Vs. Radio in Big Money Fight

George W. Bush got perhaps his biggest laugh of the summer when he responded to a question from a voter in Nashville seeking the president's thoughts about forcing radio stations to pay royalties to performing artists: "Maybe you've never had a president say this," Bush replied. "I have, like, no earthly idea what you're talking about. I'm totally out of my lane. I like listening to country music, if that helps." That's probably not going to do the trick, but Congress can use all the help it can get as it tries to arbitrate the latest conflict to emerge...

By Marc Fisher | September 1, 2007; 8:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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