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Archive: April 2008

Just Because You Seek $54 Million Doesn't Mean Your Suit Is Worth A Penny

Raelyn Campbell won well more than her share of attention when she cleverly sued Best Buy for $54 million--shades of the infamous pants suit--in a dispute over a supposedly botched repair job on a laptop. But just because the plaintiff was smart enough to glom onto the enormous worldwide publicity that the District's favorite administrative law judge, Roy Pearson, won in his case last year against his neighborhood dry cleaner does not mean--thank goodness--that her lawsuit was going to be taken seriously by the court. As Carter Wood notes today on his blog for the National Association of Manufacturers,...

By Marc Fisher | April 30, 2008; 5:31 PM ET | Comments (0)

Of Golf Carts And Student Journalists: Kids Win

The Tide, the student newspaper at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, is a very good paper with a dynamic web site and a dedicated crew of student journalists. But its fare usually runs toward articles on the crush of testing, the expense of AP review books, and the complications of the school's block schedule. This latest issue of the paper, however, features a strong, well-reported news story on a series of allegations of ethics violations and all-around dumb moves by the school's principal, Moreno Carrasco. Carrasco, the story reported, is facing criticism for spending $2,300 to buy a...

By Marc Fisher | April 30, 2008; 8:18 AM ET | Comments (1)

Making Hard Lemonade Into A Lemon

I thought the case of the Georgetown couple whose babies were taken from them because one of them suffered a bump on her head made a pretty compelling case for the idea that the nanny state has gone too far in poking its way into parent-child relationships. But now comes a case from Detroit that is even more mind-boggling and scary. A father whose only crime is that he's a professor who spends his time studying classical archaeology rather than immersing himself in American pop culture had his seven-year-old son snatched from him by the government because the kid...

By Marc Fisher | April 29, 2008; 12:02 PM ET | Comments (8)

City Vs. Suburbs: A Gap Where The Sidewalk Ends

At least we agree on parks. We like them, and trees, too. We crave the respite they provide from the strains of everyday life. But that's about all we agree on. Ask residents of the District and each of the Washington suburbs what they love about where they live and the responses are as different, and as similar, as a crowded city sidewalk and a lakeside path teeming with groundhogs, rabbits, geese and ospreys. No matter where folks live, they value gathering places, the public settings that define our larger sense of home. But our ideas about what kind of...

By Marc Fisher | April 29, 2008; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: Two Worlds of Education

In this business, it's easy to conclude that we're two nations, sharply divided in every which way. I hear from hundreds of readers each week, and they tend to represent two very different slices of society--people who are doing well and people who are struggling to get by. Since I write a lot about schools, I tend to hear from parents of school-age kids, and they too cleave into two distinct realities: One in which kids are driven to succeed and parents are intensely competitive on behalf of those children, and the other in which just getting through school...

By Marc Fisher | April 28, 2008; 7:26 AM ET | Comments (32)

Slots Without The Campaign Megabucks?

Put Peter Franchot up against Martin O'Malley in a statewide vote and there can be little doubt that the pesky comptroller from Takoma Park would face a rough time against Maryland's charming governor, even if O'Malley's popularity numbers have drooped to Bush levels. That's why the governor is only too happy to let this fall's showdown over slot machines be portrayed as an epic face-off between the two Democratic rivals. That's also why Franchot -- the highest state official to stand up against slots and someone who would love to be governor someday -- is simultaneously putting himself out there...

By Marc Fisher | April 27, 2008; 8:47 AM ET | Comments (0)

Washington 2025--A History

This week's Washington Post Magazine features my look at what this region might look like in 2025, not so terribly far off, yet every bit as distant as a time when the web, email and cellphones were virtually unknown, the only pro sports team that played in the District was the Redskins, and the news was delivered by Rather, Brokaw and Jennings. The online version of the Washington 2025 piece includes audio clips from the roundtables we conducted with experts in everything from national security to family structure, as well as a slideshow of the artist Peter Bollinger's depictions...

By Marc Fisher | April 26, 2008; 11:18 AM ET | Comments (1)

Walkingtown DC--How To Learn Your City

If this lovely weather holds up, which the guys over at the Capital Weather Gang say it more or less will, this should be a great weekend for one of my favorite Washington amenities, the jam-packed calendar of walking tours offered twice each year by Walkingtown DC. Launched by the good folks at Cultural Tourism DC, this weekend full of walking tours is a mix of history, geography, music, ethnic studies, biking, discovering new neighborhoods, checking out the real estate, and generally finding new places. I can vouch for several of the tours from past experience: The Capitol Riverfront...

By Marc Fisher | April 25, 2008; 12:07 PM ET | Comments (1)

Mt. Pleasant's Faint Strains Of Music

The news releases claiming victory in the years-long battle over music in Mount Pleasant arrived within a couple of hours of each other. Two bitter opponents in the struggle over whether to ban live music and dancing from the restaurants along the retail strip of Mount Pleasant Street each argued that the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board had sided with them. The Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance (MPNA), the citizens group that initially won the ban on live music in 1997, crowed about how its "voluntary agreements" with local restaurants "remain in effect." Hear Mount Pleasant, a much newer coalition...

By Marc Fisher | April 25, 2008; 8:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

D.C. Schools Folly: Near-Adults In 9th Grade

Wilson High School in the affluent Tenleytown section of Northwest Washington, home to some of the D.C. school system's highest-achieving students, is not accustomed to a stream of fights and arrests. But this year, the school's online bulletin boards are ablaze with accounts of unprovoked assaults, some with video (everybody's a documentary filmmaker these days). Blame for this year's spike in violence has been placed squarely on the arrival of a group of students who nearly everyone agrees should not exist: Ninth-graders who are 16, 17 and even older, students who supposedly came to Wilson from the city's Oak Hill...

By Marc Fisher | April 24, 2008; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

D.C. Taxis--No Zones, No Justice?

Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who decided that he would resolve the District's seven-decade-long battle over taxi fares, thought he could get this done by personal decree--after all, he's a senator, right? Adrian Fenty thought he could do the senator's bidding and change the taxi fare system in a matter of a few months. Hey, what could be easier than carrying out an errand for a United States senator? A mayor can do that, can't he? So here we are, a week from the date when all D.C. taxis were finally supposed to scrap the city's ancient, beloved...

By Marc Fisher | April 23, 2008; 12:18 PM ET | Comments (34)

Caps: Leonsis Rocks D.C. Red

A Game 7 is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sudden death overtime in a Game 7 playoff is tension squared. And when the death happens to your team, and the waves of noise that rocked the Pollin Center for more than three hours finally give way to a grim silence of shuffling feet and muttered regrets, the sorrow is real. Sure, the Caps lost, and sure, the guy who got onto a Red Line train tonight at Dupont Circle took one look at the carful of dour-faced fans and said, "Ugh. I hate to ask." A flurry of shaken heads confirmed...

By Marc Fisher | April 23, 2008; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Glenn Hollis Is Back

Glenn Hollis, the longtime evening voice of the Washington area's lovelorn and love-smitten, is returning to the airwaves after a two-year absence. But while WASH-FM (97.1) is putting Hollis back on its air, this won't be the old "After Hours" show of love songs and dedications. Rather, Hollis, who has spent his radio exile starting up a picture framing shop in Frederick with his wife, Irene, is hosting the station's new Sunday morning jazz brunch show, which airs from 8 a.m. to noon. (And watch the labeling on that show--it's not real jazz, but the "smooth" stuff that vanished...

By Marc Fisher | April 22, 2008; 1:15 PM ET | Comments (3)

Paper or Plastic: The Silence Grows

This won't be yet another attempt to discern which kind of supermarket bag is more likely to send us hurtling toward the end of life on Earth. That analysis has been done ad nauseum, and the bottom line is that both paper and plastic bags require a fair amount of energy to produce and end up sitting in landfills. Nor will this be another plea to ban plastic bags, which the folks over at Fresh Fields (aka Whole Paycheck) are doing, effective today. (Hey, for the prices they charge at Whole Foods, you'd think they'd give you handcrafted artisan...

By Marc Fisher | April 22, 2008; 8:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: Everybody Loves Report Cards

Ok, they make some kids groan, but somewhere deep inside, many of us crave report cards. How else to explain the penchant adults have for issuing report cards in nearly every aspect of life? Long after we've left school for the last time, we're busy concocting report cards to measure how our employees and managers are doing at work, how our politicians rate, how good local restaurants and shops are at their chosen tasks, and, of course, whether our local schools are up to snuff. Other than schools themselves, nobody churns out more report cards than the vast industry...

By Marc Fisher | April 21, 2008; 7:57 AM ET | Comments (19)

Black And White In Potomac's Play Places

Just as Candy Binson Smith was telling me about life without indoor plumbing or electricity in the 1960s in Scotland, the tiny black neighborhood tucked away along a dead-end street in affluent Potomac, the lights in the gymnasium next to us flickered and died. Eight boys who had been playing hoops on the too-small court under a leaky roof slowly left the pitch-black gym, dropping the basketball and wandering outside to hang out in the street. The gym went dark as if to illustrate exactly what Smith and several other lifelong Scotlandites had been telling me about: the sad neglect...

By Marc Fisher | April 20, 2008; 10:17 AM ET | Comments (16)

Jazz Gets A Boost

The audience is declining, funding is a struggle, and the station's own staffers are at odds over whether to play more music or focus on news and public affairs. So when Bobby Hill set out to create a new schedule for WPFW (89.3 FM), he knew his every move would be scrutinized. But Hill has managed to do the impossible, adding seven programs and 15 new hosts while eliminating only two shows from the listener-supported station's schedule, which premieres this month. The demise of smooth jazz WJZW (105.9 FM), which last month switched to an oldies format in February,...

By Marc Fisher | April 19, 2008; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (9)

Blogger of the Month: Capitol Punishment

In October 2004, when Chris Needham became infatuated with a baseball team that didn't quite exist, there wasn't even a name for the franchise he set out to cover. He resorted to calling them the Ex-Expos. Now, in the fourth season since the Montreal Expos improbably became the Washington Nationals, Needham is something of a veteran himself, outlasting the great majority of the team's original players, its first manager, its first stadium, and now, its first big newspaper beat reporter (The Post's inestimable Barry Svrluga, who will soon make the transition from covering the Nats to writing about the...

By Marc Fisher | April 18, 2008; 7:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Close To The Pope (Generation 2)

John Kane was 19 when he stood with his other siblings behind his sister Margaret and his brother Richard as they stepped forward to hand Pope John Paul II a chalice of wine, a ceremonial gift to the Vicar of Christ, during his 1979 visit to Washington. The pope's words on the Mall that day are seared into Kane's memory: "Such a large, beautiful family." This morning, Elizabeth Kane, John's 15-year-old daughter and one of 27 first cousins in that large, beautiful family, will present Pope Benedict XVI with a gift as he celebrates Mass at Nationals Park. John Kane...

By Marc Fisher | April 17, 2008; 9:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pope On Campus: What's A Catholic College?

When Pope Benedict XVI meets with leaders of 200 Catholic colleges and universities at Catholic University Thursday, his words will settle nothing and start something. Neither critics who believe that too many Catholic colleges have gone too far toward accepting the excesses of American secular society, nor leaders of those colleges, expect the pope to get tough and try to corral the colleges into conforming more strictly to church doctrine. But both hope to find solace in the pope's message. On Raw Fisher Radio this week, Rev. John Langan, the Jesuits' representative at Georgetown University, and Patrick Reilly, president...

By Marc Fisher | April 16, 2008; 7:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Newseum: Titanic to 9/11

The gala grand opening party marking the opening of the Newseum felt all too much like the last dinner on the Titanic, a whale of a bash, with food by Wolfgang Puck, snazzy new exhibits, a striking and welcoming building, and a huge cast of bigs from the news industry--partying like there 'd be no tomorrow. Which there may well not be. The news business, the one celebrated (and questioned) by the Newseum's exhibits, videos, games and other interactive doodads, is on the rocks these days. Layoffs, buyouts, cutbacks, selloffs and, coming soon, closings are the big story in...

By Marc Fisher | April 15, 2008; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (14)

Sleeping In: Sanity For High Schoolers

Anyone who has ever been a teenager knows well the horror of early awakenings during those heady years. For years, school administrators have known about research that bolsters the argument of teens who sleep till noon, yet most school systems insist that bus schedules and the convenience of parents and staff make it imperative to cling to school hours created when we were a nation of farmers and factory hands. Now, after many months of rigorous study by a task force of parents, teachers, students and others, the Fairfax County school board is poised today to decide whether to...

By Marc Fisher | April 14, 2008; 7:27 AM ET | Comments (40)

Whose National Harbor Is It Anyway?

"This Place Changes Everything," say promotional materials for the new National Harbor, the $4 billion, 300-acre development along the Potomac River in Prince George's County. It certainly changed things for more than 60 people who attended one of the first conferences at the Gaylord National Resort, the complex's centerpiece hotel. They got royally ill after their stay, the result, county health officials said, of a norovirus. It's also changed things for guests at the 2,000-room hotel who say the place is already well-booked up with a less desirable class of traveler: field mice. Even before its first attractions opened, National...

By Marc Fisher | April 13, 2008; 9:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

Angelos: Go Nats (Sort Of)

Stranger things have happened, but not terribly often: Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos--the man who did everything in his power to stop Major League Baseball from returning to Washington and who now controls Washington Nationals' TV rights almost completely--now says he hopes the D.C. team succeeds. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Angelos, who famously said that "there are no real baseball fans in Washington," now says that while he did fight the revival of the sport in Washington, "it is the nation's capital and the team is there and it ought to be supported, and hopefully both...

By Marc Fisher | April 11, 2008; 8:45 AM ET | Comments (10)

The Folly Of Measuring Character By Race

What would drive one of the nation's most successful and respected school systems to report which racial and ethnic groups demonstrate the soundest moral character and ethical judgment? How did the Fairfax County schools come to put out statistics claiming that black and Hispanic students are less likely than their white and Asian peers to "possess the skills to manage and resolve conflict"? Why will the school board convene today to talk about what one of its members calls a "morality gap" that divides the county's racial and ethnic groups? For decades, schools have been asked to step in where...

By Marc Fisher | April 10, 2008; 8:56 AM ET | Comments (28)

Bolting To New York For One Lousy Buck

I went from the District to Manhattan last week and my trip involved two trains and a bus. Can you rank the three pieces of my journey by how much they cost? --Metro from Northwest D.C. to Metro Center. --Bus from downtown Washington to midtown Manhattan. --Subway from 33rd Street to 57th Street in New York. Answer: The three elements of the trip cost $1.35, $1.50 and $2--in the order I listed the modes of transportation above. I didn't believe it till the bus pulled away from the curb, but I really got a 225-mile trip for $1.50. Consider...

By Marc Fisher | April 9, 2008; 8:39 AM ET | Comments (9)

Nats Park: Better And Worse

Good news and bad from the first weekday rush hour start at Nationals Park: The good news is that the transportation system is working far more smoothly than anyone had anticipated. With a half-full stadium last night (that's a disappointment, of course, and despite the team's statements to the contrary, a potential sign of significant trouble ahead), Metro handled the crowds quickly and efficiently. The new Navy Yard station entrance absorbed the post-game rush far more easily than it had on sold-out Opening Night last week. The streets were flowing with almost stunning ease, both before and after the...

By Marc Fisher | April 8, 2008; 12:42 PM ET | Comments (0)

Richard Florida Responds: Leaving D.C. Was Once-In-Lifetime Chance

Last week, I wrote about Richard Florida's new book, "Who's Your City?" and the decision by the guru of creative urban living to pack his bags and leave Washington for a sweet new gig in Toronto. If Florida truly does admire the District as a place to live and work, why did he leave? And doesn't leaving for a better job somehow cast a shadow on his exhortations to his readers to focus on going where other creative people are when you're picking a place to live? Now, Florida has responded on his own blog, and he says I'm...

By Marc Fisher | April 8, 2008; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (6)

Techies Vs. Roads--Maryland's False Choice

For months, the folks who run computer service businesses in Maryland howled and whined about a new tax the state government decided to levy on their industry. The politicians heard and backed off. Last week, legislators eliminated the tech tax before it had even kicked in. But to fill the resulting gap in the state budget, the lawmakers decided to do two things: Soak the rich and rip off Maryland's transportation kitty. Socking it to the mere 6,000 Marylanders who make north of a million a year is a no-brainer. Those folks can afford vastly more than the extra...

By Marc Fisher | April 7, 2008; 7:51 AM ET | Comments (15)

Howard Hospital After Rosenbaum: Changed Enough?

On the night David Rosenbaum was attacked, taken by ambulance to Howard University Hospital and left on a stretcher in the hallway, the emergency room was "overwhelmed" and understaffed, the nurse in charge of the retired New York Times reporter dismissed him as "just an alcoholic," and the doctor who became alarmed at his condition had trouble getting anyone to help move the patient toward treatment, according to a firsthand account by a Howard physician. A detailed look at how Howard's staff failed to save Rosenbaum on that night in 2006 emerges from a deposition that Dr. Aaisya Ansri-Lawal...

By Marc Fisher | April 6, 2008; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (10)

Microchannels: Client 9 Radio, Radio REM, Etc.

Just as the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal became the ultimate water-cooler conversation topic -- if only for a few days -- Sirius Satellite Radio launched Client 9 Radio, a 24/7 all-Spitzer channel, but just for a few days. And when the new baseball season got underway last week, Sirius's competitor and possible future partner, XM Satellite Radio, offered Play Ball!, a new channel featuring wall-to-wall baseball songs, readings and dramas. Three days after the channel launched, it ceased to exist. Sirius calls its instant, saturation formats "pop-up channels." XM calls them "microchannels." By any name, they are a reflection of...

By Marc Fisher | April 5, 2008; 7:04 AM ET | Comments (4)

Waffle Shop--Building Preserved, Waffles Not (Yet)

The Waffle Shop, the classic 1950s breakfast spot on 10th Street NW across from Ford's Theater, served its last waffles (and its last Chinese lunches) last September, but in the battle over just how historic the eatery really is, the District's historic preservation board has now concluded that both the exterior and interior of the place must be spared from demolition. At the request of a coaltion of D.C. preservation groups, the city review board decided last week to declare the Waffle Shop a landmark. What good does this do now that the restaurant is no more? Well, it...

By Marc Fisher | April 4, 2008; 8:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

Who's Your City? Trick Or Treating And The D.C. Region

Richard Florida, the social demographics guru who taught us that, even in this age of globalization and virtual geography, you are where you live, moved out of the District last year, settling in Toronto. The man who brought us "The Rise of the Creative Class" and other bestselling ruminations on the meaning of our choices about location is back with a book called "Who's Your City?" in which he argues that selecting a city or region inevitably involves deciding who you are and what kind of folks you want to surround yourself with. So why did Florida move from...

By Marc Fisher | April 3, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

From Catholic Schools to Charters: What's Left?

The bottom line is clear, says Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl: The Catholic Church can no longer afford to run a full complement of inner-city parochial schools serving a population that is, by an overwhelming majority, non-Catholic. So, facing a deficit of about $50 million over the next five years, the church is moving to convert at least seven D.C. elementary schools into secular, taxpayer-funded charter schools. "We simply don't have the resources to keep all those schools open," Wuerl said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors the other day. "We have exhausted the resources available to...

By Marc Fisher | April 2, 2008; 8:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

The GOP and Northern Virginia--Still Separate Planets

So the Virginia Republican Party's idea of appealing to northern Virginia voters is to feature Fairfax Sen. Ken Cuccinelli as its candidate for attorney general in 2009, while Virginia Beach's Bob McDonnell heads up the ticket as the gubernatorial nominee and Bill Bolling of suburban Richmond seeks to stay on as lieutenant governor. For a party that is steadily and surely losing votes in the Washington suburbs to spurn the idea of geographic diversity and choose as its sole representative of the region one of the most conservative and polarizing figures in the state's legislature sends a clear and...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2008; 7:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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