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Archive: November 2007

Random Friday Question: Why 'A Christmas Story'?

As a deacon in the Church of Jean Shepherd--the radio storyteller who inspired generations of extraordinary characters to reveal their deepest thoughts over the airwaves--I have always had mixed feelings about the cable cult movie "A Christmas Story." The charming yet wonderfully subversive 1983 movie about nine-year-old Ralphie Parker and his quest for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Air Rifle was just one of Shepherd's countless tales about Flick, Schwartz and the old gang of kids in Hammond, Indiana. "A Christmas Story" threatens to replace "It's A Wonderful Life" as the classic holiday movie that bears endless repeating...

By Marc Fisher | November 30, 2007; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pretend Primary: Generational Politics

As we enter the homestretch in our Washington area Pretend Presidential Primary--be sure to be here two weeks from today, Dec. 13, for the big vote, well ahead of the Iowa or New Hampshire contests--let's look at a topic that's not strictly local, but perhaps has more resonance in Virginia, Maryland and the District than in some other parts of the country. There's been little overt discussion in this campaign of generational politics--of the role the candidates' ages has in their political formation and approach, and in how they would lead the nation. But the rifts and polarization brought...

By Marc Fisher | November 29, 2007; 6:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

The District Shows Some Spine

In the never-ending tug of war between those who welcome change and those who believe that wherever they live became a finished work of civic art on the day they bought their house, this is a very good week for the good guys. The D. C. government has, for once, stood up against a loud minority of residents, this time in the Northwest section of the Palisades, and demolished a decrepit, abandoned Craftsman-style Sears kit house that for too many years had marred the entryway to the neighborhood's premier park. The bulldozing of the Jesse Baltimore House on Sherier...

By Marc Fisher | November 28, 2007; 7:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Listener: Two Stations, Two Sean Taylors

When the Washington Redskins put out statements about the death of Sean Taylor today, Redskins Radio--the team's trio of radio stations dotted around the D.C. area--got the news first. When players spoke about their teammate, Redskins Radio had the inside track. But if you wanted a more complex picture of the Taylor tragedy, if you wanted to hear talk show hosts, journalists and others exploring the racial, cultural and psychological dynamics of the Redskins star's murder, you had to listen to SportsTalk 980, WTEM. In the fast-changing structure of sports media, the Redskins lead the way toward an environment...

By Marc Fisher | November 27, 2007; 2:58 PM ET | Comments (18)

At Long Last, The Peace Talks Annapolis Craves

Frankly, I didn't think President Bush had it in him. After half a century of anguish and division, there is finally hope, thanks to today's peace conference at the Naval Academy, that the seemingly eternal rift could be repaired, and residents of Annapolis and the Maritime Republic of Eastport might once again live in harmony. Obviously, the president wouldn't call diplomats here from around the world just to take another stab at resolving the impossible stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. There had to be a secret explanation for today's meeting. I'm pretty confident it's the Eastport situation. Since...

By Marc Fisher | November 27, 2007; 7:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

Education Monday: Selling Off The Assets

Now Virginia's Supreme Court says Randolph College may not sell off its valuable paintings to try to claw its way out of financial crisis. The struggling private, liberal arts college in Lynchburg--a good example of how most colleges are closer to the fiscal edge than to the unfathomable riches that Ivy League schools hoard--figures it can raise at least $32 million by auctioning off a chunk of its collection of 20th century art. But some alumnae, students and parents are seeking to get the courts to prevent any fire sale of the school's assets. For now, anyway, the court...

By Marc Fisher | November 26, 2007; 7:23 AM ET | Comments (0)

Redemption Roulette: I-Man Back In, Greaseman Still Out

As the news spread about Don Imus's return to big-time radio in New York -- complete with multimillion-dollar contract and prime morning-drive-time slot on one of the most popular stations in the nation -- Doug "Greaseman" Tracht cradled a cocktail and settled onto the Good Ship Grease in Annapolis Harbor, ready for a day on the bay. Star sportscaster Marv Albert came back, even after felony charges of forcible sodomy. Sexually explicit voice mails weren't enough to end Pat O'Brien's career. Howard Stern, of course, rode a steady downpour of fines from the Federal Communications Commission to satellite radio megabucks....

By Marc Fisher | November 25, 2007; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (23)

D.C. Gun Ban: Why The Court's Decision Won't Matter

Big story: The U.S. Supreme Court decides to take on the D.C. gun ban, agreeing to rule next spring whether the Constitution protects an individual's right to own a gun. For the first time since 1939, the Supremes will take on a Second Amendment case that promises to settle the long-roiling national debate over just what the Founders meant when they wrote that "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Should be a momentous case, right? "Clearly," said Georgetown...

By Marc Fisher | November 21, 2007; 6:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Boss Shepherd and The Power to Shape D.C.

Alexander "Boss" Shepherd, the man who built Washington into a modern city, was the Mayor BlackBerry of his time, a dynamo who believed in governing through constant action. Shepherd, unlike Adrian Fenty, was the unelected chief of the public works department and later governor of the Territory of Columbia from 1873 to 1874, but even without a direct mandate from Washingtonians, Shepherd acted as if he'd been ordained to reshape the city, no matter the cost. In a stunning, three-year whirlwind of spending and construction, Shepherd presided over the building of 260 miles of streets, 183 miles of sewers,...

By Marc Fisher | November 20, 2007; 7:06 AM ET | Comments (14)

Schools Monday: The Privatization Panacea

(Please join me at 1 p.m. today--Monday--for a special Thanksgiving Week edition of Potomac Confidential. We'll talk about the latest scandals to hit the D.C. government and school system, Maryland's showdown on slots, and what you're thankful for--as well as what you're eating-- this week.) Uh-oh, here we go again. Not even a year into D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's ambitious effort to remake the city's school, it's time once more for a trip into the fantasy land of fixing the schools by handing them over to untested, unimpressive private companies. Rhee is talking about giving 27 of the District's...

By Marc Fisher | November 19, 2007; 7:14 AM ET | Comments (0)

Blogger of the Month: Silver Spring, Singular

For some reason I've never been able to fathom, hardly anyone from beyond the Beltway can process the idea that there is only one spring that gave Silver Spring its name--that, as Karl Ericson says, it's Silver Spring, Singular. For those who have resigned ourselves to a lifetime of correcting folks about the number of springs, Silver Spring, Singular-- November's winner of our Blogger of the Month award--provides an entertaining and informative look into life in a bustling chunk of Montgomery County that has beeen transformed in recent years. Silver Spring is one of the most blogolific locales in...

By Marc Fisher | November 16, 2007; 6:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pretend Primary: Sprawl and Lost Time

For the most part, presidents don't decide when and where to build roads, transit, housing or schools. That's the purview of state and local authorities. But few issues hit home quite as hard as the elements that make up quality of life--the growing strains on time and community caused by suburban sprawl, unaffordable housing, and outdated transportation infrastructure. In Iowa and New Hampshire, there's not much reason for presidential candidates to talk about any of this: In those relatively thinly populated states, people think a 20-minute back-up on the Interstate is bad traffic. The heroic/moronic multi-hour commutes that rip...

By Marc Fisher | November 15, 2007; 6:20 AM ET | Comments (12)

Vanity Tags: More Work for the Word Committee?

The story of the state of Virginia's decision after 11 years to strip Arlington resident David Phillips of his "POOFTER" license plates because they are "socially offensive or disparaging" has inspired readers to note that there are a good many other tags out there on the byways that somehow got past the state's all-powerful Word Committee. A reader in Prince William County saw "SEXYAS" rolling by; this could be an incomplete comparison, or a reference to a particularly notable posterior. "PLESE H8" is the oddly polite request that sits on the bumper of a Mitsubishi that a reader kindly...

By Marc Fisher | November 14, 2007; 6:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Slots Hypocrisy: Bring Them On (Just Not Here)

The stench of slots money now so pervades Maryland state government that politicians who are normally highly sensitive to accusations of flip-flops and inconsistencies are just charging ahead, even when their votes make them look foolish. The Maryland Senate approved Gov. Martin O'Malley's slots proposal by a 31-15 vote, with senators from Prince George's County embracing the expansion of state-sponsored gambling by 6-2. Among the county's senators, only Anthony Muse and Paul Pinsky said No to slots. (Montgomery's senators also went for slots by a 6-2 margin.) On the very same day, every single one of those very same...

By Marc Fisher | November 13, 2007; 7:04 AM ET | Comments (13)

A Most Wicked Chess Game: The D.C. Schools

The District of Columbia's public school system is many things--too many things. It is educator, babysitter, social worker, police officer, nurse, meals provider, jobs program, and political plaything. And, for too many people, in too many instances, it is also a criminal enterprise. It is criminal in its neglect of children who too often seem hopelessly out of touch while in the system, yet flourish as soon as they find refuge in another setting. It is criminal in its persistently low expectations of children because they grow up in poverty or have parents who raise them with little regard...

By Marc Fisher | November 12, 2007; 6:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Gender Identity: Who Gets To Use Public Restrooms?

In oh-so-progressive Montgomery County, where it's illegal to smoke or use trans fats in restaurants, there are, you will be relieved to learn, some limits to government's desire to legislate behavior. Just days before a vote on making it legal for certain men to use women's locker rooms and restrooms, the County Council has backed off. Council members will still proceed Tuesday with a move to ban discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment and taxi service. But a provision to let people whose gender identity conflicts with their physical equipment use the public restrooms of their choice was withdrawn...

By Marc Fisher | November 11, 2007; 9:03 AM ET | Comments (21)

The XM-Sirius Merger: One Is Less Than Two

Sometime soon, when federal regulators decide whether to allow a merger of the nation's two satellite radio services, XM and Sirius, the government will have to take a stand: Would combining the two companies unfairly diminish consumer choice or, as the companies argue, turn losing operations into a profitable service with lower prices? But while lawyers at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission fight through a thicket of filings, the questions for listeners are different: Would a single satellite radio company produce more or less interesting and entertaining content? Would the menu of music, news, sports, comedy and...

By Marc Fisher | November 10, 2007; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (28)

RFQ: Are Guys in Bowties Weird? Dull? Republican?

We have the great fortune to live in a time when someone will pay to poll the American people on every single topic ever imagined. Such as this: Whether we've been trained to think so by generations of movies or we're just drawing conclusions from our personal experience, Americans think men who wear bowties are a little strange. Well, you know, Pee Wee Herman, Louis Farrakhan, C. Everett Koop and Tucker Carlson. We think the bow-tied among us are probably older than they look, and they're dull, and brainy. And maybe Republican too. These are some of the results...

By Marc Fisher | November 9, 2007; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (20)

Pretend Primary: Income Inequality

The top one percent of all American earners now rake in fully 21 percent of all U.S. income, according to IRS data--the highest such concentration of wealth in the nation's recorded history. And the bottom half of all earners are taking in just under 13 percent of the nation's income--also a record low. But with the presidential candidates focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire, they don't have a whole lot of opportunity to see or hear how the income gap is making life tougher in a place like the Washington region, where three of the nation's richest counties--Fairfax, Loudoun...

By Marc Fisher | November 8, 2007; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

D.C. Pols Snipe at Nats

The rabble-rousers and cynics who populate the D.C. Council have never quite gotten their minds around the deal they made to bring Major League Baseball back to Washington. Now the city's politicians have gotten themselves in a snit over the fact that the Washington Nationals are staging some promotional events--gasp!--outside the city's boundaries, in the--avert your eyes!--suburbs. The Nats, who struggled last season to attract fans from the Maryland suburbs--the Virginia and D.C. contingents were quite strong in attendance at RFK, thank you--are trying to address that gap in the emerging fan base by holding a FanFest in Bethesda...

By Marc Fisher | November 7, 2007; 8:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

Polls Closing: 5 Key Races To Watch Tonight

That gong you're about to hear closes shop on today's Virginia elections (the Maryland municipal races end at 8.) Now it's all up to the computers. I'll be over in our Live Online room through most of this evening, talking with you about the returns at the top of each hour starting at 8 p.m. until we have all the major results. For now, let's take a quick look at the five key races that will be a powerful guide to what today's elections mean: 1) Virginia Senate District 34 (Fairfax County): Republican incumbent Jeannemarie Devolites Davis is facing...

By Marc Fisher | November 6, 2007; 6:44 PM ET | Comments (2)

"No One Thinks Big of You:" A Little Different Way to Attack Abusive Driving

Does size matter? Certainly many guys worry that it does. Does it matter enough to make aggressive drivers ease off the gas pedal? A government in Australia thinks so. Read on: When Virginia voters go to the polls today, many will use this election as a chance to send a message of dismay about the state's imposition of onerous abuser fees on dangerous drivers. But while Virginia politicians have plainly gotten the message that residents think abuser fees are unfair and too painful, nobody has come up with a good, effective alternative. Well, nobody on this continent: Our Australian...

By Marc Fisher | November 6, 2007; 7:21 AM ET | Comments (28)

Schools Monday: When A Principal Grows Pot

One day you're leading a Just Say No to Drugs campaign at the elementary school where you're the assistant principal, and then you turn around and find yourself arrested and charged with growing and packaging marijuana in a closet in your house. That's the predicament in which Leonard Marsh of Fairfax Station finds himself. Marsh, 50, was nabbed by Fairfax police last week and charged with manufacturing marijuana. His wife, Jinny, 56, was charged with possession. Within hours, his photo vanished from the web site of Cub Run Elementary School, the well-regarded Centreville school where he was the #2...

By Marc Fisher | November 5, 2007; 7:35 AM ET | Comments (39)

The Identity Politics of "Poofter"

For 11 years, over nearly 200,000 miles, with the blessing of the state of Virginia, David Phillips has driven his Tracker with the "POOFTER" license plate, and nobody has complained -- not even when he parked at the British Embassy, where everybody knows "poofter" is British slang for a gay man. "It's always a rolling good laugh for them," says Phillips, who is gay and chose his tags' message because "it's just an amusing word that I self-identify with." The commonwealth of Virginia is not amused. It gave Phillips his vanity plates in error, Carolyn Easley, coordinator of the special...

By Marc Fisher | November 4, 2007; 8:16 AM ET | Comments (12)

Va. Election Follies: The Final Weekend

Four days to go in Virginia and things are getting a little wacky: ---It's not often that a New York City mayor makes an endorsement in a northern Virginia state Senate race, but Michael Bloomberg is endorsing Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis. Huh? Those moderate Republicans have to stick together, right? And of course it doesn't hurt that husband Tom Davis ran the GOP congressional campaign committee for some years, creating alliances around the country. But a New York City mayor traveling to Dulles to make an endorsement in a Fairfax County election that will draw fewer voters than there...

By Marc Fisher | November 2, 2007; 7:37 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pretend Primary: Illegal Immigration

As the countdown continues to our Dec. 13 Pretend Primary, let's take a look at an issue that is among the big talkers in the Washington area, but gets very little attention from some presidential candidates: illegal immigration. If the presidential sweepstakes were ever to reach this part of the country, there's no question that the candidates would have to address the subject, opine on local efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants in places such as Prince William County, and even issue some concrete proposals on what the federal government ought to do about border security, enforcement of...

By Marc Fisher | November 1, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (44)

 

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