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You Be The Editor

Time for another edition of You Be The Editor, the fast and furious game in which readers choose which of several possible stories your columnist will pursue. Here are three stories that are bubbling up toward the top of the Precarious Pile of Potential Pieces. Vote below to select the one you believe has the most potential to be revealing, meaningful and enticing and I will abide by your choice, get to work on reporting the story, and come back with some sort of result either here on the big blog or in the column as soon as the story pans out.

Pick story A, B, C or D and in your comment below, please explain why you prefer that story:

A. High-ranking military official, miffed that personnel on his base were going about their business rather than honoring the flag each day at Reveille and Retreat, orders even civilian workers to stop their cars, get out and stand at attention at those two moments each day.

B. Suburban man nabbed by detectives when he showed up to meet a "13-year-old girl" he had met online argues that it's misleading and wrong for police to use photos of adult women as come-ons in their sting operations--and some psychologists support the man's view, saying that men caught in such stings had every expectation that they were dealing with an adult who was playing the role of a child and that therefore these are cases of consensual, if unusual, adult relationships and not of child sex abuse.

C. The sad state of the National Mall had actually improved in a small but encouraging way of late, as organic gardeners took over a chunk of the Mall's law and showed that it could be made green once more. But that experiment ended in disaster when some of the large entities that hold events on the Mall destroyed the newly revived turf.

D. Will $4 and $5 gas finally make the return of streetcars in the District and northern Virginia a happening thing?

By Marc Fisher |  July 18, 2008; 8:37 AM ET
Previous: D.C. Tries To Finesse Gun Ruling | Next: Oh Deer, They're On The Horns Of A Dilemma


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I vote for B. The ethos seems to be developing in our wonderful society that it's OK to do anything to catch the pedophiles, even if that involves a considerable amount of deception. Just as we owe it to the children to try to remove actual predators from our midst, we owe it to our children to use aboveboard tactics in doing so. (In addition, we owe it to them to show the better virtue of proportion by not allowing vengeance to cloud our judgment of an appropriate punishment, a statement which I realize is off-topic but that, due to the Supreme Court decision, is on my mind lately.)

Second is A. Seriously, what's going on there?

C and D are less interesting. People come on the Mall and trample the grass? People consider mass transit when driving becomes more expensive? I think these issues are already adequately covered in the Post.

Posted by: Lindemann | July 18, 2008 9:10 AM

Please avoid A. Your past reporting clearly demonstrates your condesending contempt for those whose life style and traditions do not mirror your own. Any story you wrote on this issue would be superficial at best and most likely yet another elitist WaPo essay about those strange social conservative hicks beyond the beltway.

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | July 18, 2008 9:48 AM

A. I feel like I now know all that needs to be written, though I'm sure you could spend a few paragraphs NPRing the heck out of it. "The morning dew still glistened as the sun's first rays peaked above the barracks. General Smith gives the four stars on his shoulder a final polish, catching the edge of his cuff on the second one. "Damn," he whispers, irritated for only a moment, as the sound of the trumpet begins to play.

B. No need to go all Nightline on us, Marc.

C. OMG, you are actually proposing an article on watching grass grow! You are. Really.

D. Trains, can't go wrong with trains.

Posted by: Etch | July 18, 2008 10:07 AM


Posted by: Nancy | July 18, 2008 10:10 AM

I really have no interest in any of the topics mentioned. Can we have another list?

Posted by: lquander | July 18, 2008 10:14 AM

D is important as we need to start laying claim to a new (or old) way of thinking about mobility.

Streetcars, bicycle/pedestrian safety, raising parking tarrifs, and fees for cars are all inter-related.

This is not a suburban versus urban thing, this is the reality of our national state going forward. Urban jurisdictions need to lay the foundation for breaking the cycle of dependence on oil, and it happens one step at a time.

Posted by: All about D | July 18, 2008 10:15 AM

B, for the reasons a previous poster mentioned above. It's starting to seem like entrapment when using adult photos. I think the person has a reasonable defense.

If not B, then A. What a kook. How can this guy make civilians do that?

Posted by: DCMarathoner | July 18, 2008 10:36 AM


As a transplant from NYC, I often bemoan DC's mass transit systems.

Trains don't run 24 hours? Really? No stops in high traffic and popular neighborhoods? Come on now...

I drive when I have to (which is much more often than I'd like), but would much rather have a better and cheaper system for getting around.

As this area's population grows, the environment continues to get whipped like a rented mule and gas prices exceed those of black market organs for transplant, mass transit is becoming the obvious future!

Posted by: RS | July 18, 2008 10:39 AM

By a nose, I vote for D over C because it's a story in which you can propose some forward-thinking policies.

A, B, and C are all more "process" stories that you can let percolate (in the case of A, someone gets the lawyers involved or the military official gets rebuked somehow; B, the case will wind its way through the courts, with said lawyers slowing it down; and C, the grass revitalization will wind up in court, with said lawyers and multiple government agencies (Interior Department/Park Police/Fine Arts Commission/Congress/federal agency abutting said stretch of the Mall, etc.) all battling it out.

C only serves to prove the age-old adage that nothing in Washington can be done unless it involves more than five or six agencies who have power over some small piece of land but don't talk with each other and ultimately make a mess of things (example: the blue tourist wayfinder signs around town, which took nearly 30 years to bring into existence because agencies couldn't get it together).

Posted by: dirrtysw | July 18, 2008 10:44 AM

I am a DOD civilian employee and would love to have General Nutcase try! Bring it bubba. Lets rock and roll. What rank is the general? Oops I am sorry General an under secretary thumps a General.Now please go give your talk to the garden committee hoss. And pack your duffel son you are going to Afghanistan. Your in charge of our new program on IED deterrents. We have an old Renault sedan with a big American flag painted on it that you get to drive around. And sorry you dont get to wear any body armor. Have a great Army day!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2008 10:51 AM

A) because that is the way they did it on miltary bases overseas and I see nothing wrong with that.

B)Because the use of predator stings seems to be increasing and it does seem kind of disingenuous to make the guy think it's an adult.

Posted by: Stick | July 18, 2008 11:12 AM

You decide. That's what you get paid for. Next you'll be asking us to write the story for you.

Hey, I'll let you help me clean out my garage if you give me a buck.

Posted by: Tom Sawyer | July 18, 2008 11:27 AM

I vote B since we can assume that some of the "photos" of adult women will accompany the story.

Posted by: BradleeBen | July 18, 2008 12:00 PM

A-The column would be about respect, common courtesy and thankfulness. All these qualities-and they are quality- are in short supply and non evident in some people. The flag aside-wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone stopped twice a day to give respect-except on K Street.

BTW do they even Pledge Alligence in schools anymore?

Don't make it a "in my day " column-just point out how much easier life was when most people observed civility.

The one about the pervert-it would be easy to say you can now have a gun in DC -solve the problem. Please just run a 2 column picture of him superimposed with "PERVERT". It is true you can't cheat an honest man and you can't make a pervert out of a moral person-just ask any Republican Conservative- the Senator from Idaho, the Representative from Florida or a past Speaker of the House.

The mall will only get fixed if oil is found.

Streetcars-maybe there is a comic force that corrects all wrongs. Streetcars-from California to DC- were killed off starting in the late 20's by General Motors in cahoots with the oil lobby. O.Roy Chalk made a huge amount of money taking up tracks.

Posted by: Bob Kerlin | July 18, 2008 12:06 PM

Paragraph A says everything necessary about the subject - the officer is an idiot.
Paragraph B is very interesting regarding entrapment and should be pursued.
Paragraph C is uninteresting except to gardeners (by the way, you left the "n" off lawn). You did say to act as an editor.
Paragraph C, most people already know riding the bus/train is cheaper than buying gas and driving - what's new about that?

Posted by: CatMcClure | July 18, 2008 12:28 PM

As a newspaper editor/reporter, "A" appeals the most because it's unique and a microcosm of the massive ongoing battle of military vs. privacy. "B" will obviously get the most national readers, as they constantly show a willingness to watch that dreck by Chris Hansen (I feel dirty even writing his name). You lost me on "C" but "D" has potential if the Post has decided it's now a community paper in it's scaled-down mode. Normally I wouldn't consider it, except for the resources you're devoting to that Levy series despite all the cuts.

Posted by: iceman | July 18, 2008 12:32 PM

I vote for D. There's tons of cool history involving streetcars in DC, and it'll be an important subject going forward for everyone in the city (esp. when they finally run a line out to H St. NE and other areas now underserved by transit).

Posted by: Dan Miller | July 18, 2008 12:33 PM

C and/or D

"A" reminds me of my time on the Presidio. Military would run for cover right before Retreat. In a sad way, it was almost funny. Or, in a funny way, it was almost sad. Either way, it was almost as much fun as being an enlisted person walking by the hospital on post. I just had to straighten the fingers on my right hand, and doctors outside the hospital would run for cover rather than have to salute.

Posted by: Fairfax | July 18, 2008 12:38 PM

I vote for D. As a resident of south Arlington who commutes on Columbia Pike every day, I firmly believe that a streetcar running down the middle of that street would be an absolute disaster. How can holding up traffic for all us selfish car drivers be a good thing, especially when there are already buses running on natural gas on the same route? A column that gets into these issues would be helpful.

Posted by: South Side | July 18, 2008 12:46 PM

E(viction). Why the Nats can still get into a stadium they aren't paying a cent to use.

While thousands of DC residents are being kicked out of their homes due to foreclosures and sky-rocketing rent a bunch of millionaire players don't pay a dime and now DC business owners are going to have to cover the cost?

Since you were the Post's biggest advocate of the Nats stadium tell us how this makes sense.

Posted by: Business owners | July 18, 2008 12:54 PM

C - why dump millions of dollars into rehabing the mall when people will only hog it up when they visit. Name the entities and embarrass them into showing more respect when they use the mall for their causes. They should be charged for repairing any damages.

Posted by: 2 cents worth | July 18, 2008 1:11 PM

I say "B". Something about these "stings" seem wrong to me. Seems like their are more real predators they could be going after.

Posted by: Justin | July 18, 2008 1:14 PM


Many would agree that we have acquiesced too readily to unwise government intrusion on the grounds of "national security," but all anyone has to say is "protecting children" and we lose all perspective.

We went through the same thing a couple of decades ago during the "war on drugs." The government's burden of proof was lowered and sentences were inflated dramatically. The result: jails overcrowded with "dealers" carrying a couple of ounces of product who were convicted on the basis of jailhouse informants. I remember seeing an interview with Orrin Hatch, one of the prime movers, on these laws. He expressed no regret because as he saw it he was "saving kids." Let's not save kids so that they can grow up in a police state.

And BTW - NBC Dateline just had to pay through the nose in a lawsuit from one of its famous sting videos.

Posted by: Paul | July 18, 2008 1:27 PM

I vote for a complete different alternative.

Write about the Better Brookland Development Group who has been meeting regularly At St. Anthony's Church to challenge the DC Office of Planning's small area plan.

Are they NIMBY's? Do they want to stall development? Do they want better development?

At least on our neighborhood website the conversation has gotten heated enough for people to be called "pompous ass**

I'd be curious for a Marc Fischer style investigation and perspective.

Posted by: Brookland resident | July 18, 2008 1:27 PM

Hey Tom Sawyer!

If you followed Marc's discussion yesterday it was filled with complaints about various stories that had appeared the past week of the type, "what monkey's uncle of an editor thought this was a good idea?"

Maybe Marc is trying to be responsive to his readers - not such a bad thing.

Posted by: Payne | July 18, 2008 1:29 PM

One of many long-standing traditions still being observed in today's Army is Retreat. Retreat is a ceremony which honors the U.S. flag when it is lowered in the evening, usually at 5 p.m.

The observance of Retreat requires the rendering of some common courtesies by all personnel, military, civilian employees and civilian guests on post. These courtesies are summarized here:

Military in uniform - Face in the direction of the flag (or direction from which the music emanates if flag is not in view), and stand at attention. After the cannon fires and at the first note of "To the Colors," render hand salute. Hold this position until the last note of music has played.

Civilians and military wearing civilian clothes - Face in the direction of the flag (or direction from which the music emanates if flag is not in view), remove headdress with right hand and stand at attention. After the cannon fires and at the first note of "To the Colors," hold the headdress over the left shoulder with the right hand over the heart. Hold this position until the last note of music has played.

Detailed information can be found in FM 22-5 and AR 600-25.

The general is not exceeding his authority when he enforces military regulations. Post commanders who fail to enforce them are exceeding theirs.

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | July 18, 2008 1:39 PM

Curious about all of them:

On A, I'd like to hear more about the official's reasoning as well as from those "impacted" by the decision. I think this is a story you could tell very well.

On B, I'm unclear....they used the photo of an adult. But they did still play the "hey, I'm 13 and looking for a friend" card, right? I'm assuming that they did. I would also be interested to hear a defense based on "well, she said she was 13 but she looked 27."

On C...slightly interested, but since the Nat'l Mall doesn't care what I think (we used to play football and volleyball on the site of the NA museum), I guess save it for the new Green section.

As for D, I'd be interested to hear about proposed routes, pro/con, etc...but maybe Ms. Sun and Mr. Weiss would be more appropos (nothing personal, Marc).

I'd also suggest a story E: I want to hear more about the MD State Police spying on anti-war activists and such. Mmm....bring back Bobby Haircut!

Posted by: BobT | July 18, 2008 1:49 PM

Alternative: Marc, you need to be following the Possible Panda Pregnancy.

Posted by: Mei | July 18, 2008 1:58 PM

A - Because you'd investigate the story from both (or more) sides, you'd learn something more about military tradition, and you might alter the point of view from which you first approach the story.

Posted by: Rich | July 18, 2008 3:33 PM

I vote for B. A almost won.

If the guy is attracted by the photo of an ADULT woman then I don't think he is a pedophile.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2008 4:14 PM

A A A A! That just freaks me out.

2nd would be the organic grass. Hope springs eternal.

Posted by: Alaistair Adams | July 18, 2008 6:55 PM

I'm going to think out side my box, and suggest a week examining stupidity, starting with A and B. With regard to A, the general sounds like a classic Delta Bravo with a flagpole stuck up his six. And the idea that civilians should stand at attention holding their "headdress" over their left shoulder and hand over their heart... try that and see how ridiculous it looks. Maybe the general should spend more time on matters that truly concern him and his chain of command.

With regard to be, I hope the police asked the fellow to take a seat and offered him a plate of cookies. Do people learn NOTHING from Dateline NBC? If the "girl" said she was 13, it doesn't matter what the picture looked like.

Posted by: thepenismightier | July 19, 2008 5:34 AM

I vote for B. These entrapment schemes have gone too far.

Posted by: AlexandriaVA | July 20, 2008 12:19 PM

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