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Archive: March 2009

Why It's Legal To Buy Gas & A Soda On I-95 In Md., But Not In Va.

Have you ever noticed that the rest stops along Virginia's Interstate highways include no gas stations, restaurants or other commercial services, while those along I-95 in Maryland have busy mini-malls offering everything from tuna to tune-ups? I'd never given this a moment's thought until this latest hullabaloo over Virginia's plan to trim its budget by closing down many of its highway rest stops, including all six of the stops located in northern Virginia. Now, as truck drivers and other frequent Interstate users rise up in defense of the rest stops, that odd disparity is raising lots of questions: Why...

By Marc Fisher | March 31, 2009; 8:32 AM ET | Comments (8)

Bye Bye Classic Rock (Again)

This time, it's for real. Classic rock will disappear from FM radio in Washington next Monday, to be replaced by a soft pop format designed to win listeners in one of the few places where broadcast radio remains strong--at the office. The new 94.7 Fresh FM will feature music by the likes of Jason Mraz, Third Eye Blind, Leona Lewis, Coldplay, Gwen Stefani and John Mayer--a mix intended to compete with 97.1 WASH-FM's soft rock sound, capturing a somewhat younger audience than that station by excluding what Fresh's promotional materials call "washed-up old slow songs." Two years ago, CBS...

By Marc Fisher | March 30, 2009; 5:24 PM ET | Comments (71)

Binary Man: Wipe Out D.C. Emancipation Day?

Binary Man has come to our planet to settle disputes, solve problems and make life better. Got an issue for him? Post it below or e-mail him. Tough times call for tough action, and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has now proposed to eliminate a public holiday--Emancipation Day. What's that, you say? Well, it's coming right up--April 16--but because the official holiday is just four years old, it still comes as a surprise both to commuters and to city residents, who wake up one fine spring morning each year to learn that the reversible lanes on Connecticut Avenue aren't reversing, and...

By Marc Fisher | March 30, 2009; 8:22 AM ET | Comments (10)

Binary Man: Map Vs. GPS

Binary Man has come to our planet to settle disputes, solve problems and make life better. Got an issue for him? Post it below or e-mail him. Binary Man's day job regularly takes him to new-ish suburban subdivisions that aren't on any map. GPS systems don't recognize the street names and paper maps show nothing but wide open spaces. In those cases, it's the old paper maps that get him closest, but to be fair, that's as much a factor of his having paid attention in second grade during the SRA Map and Globe Skills lessons (Binary Man recalls racing...

By Marc Fisher | March 27, 2009; 8:36 AM ET | Comments (18)

The Ultimate Taxpayer Victory Over D.C.

"Good luck," I told Sean Dougherty. "I'll be thrilled if you win, but you won't." How wrong I was. Among the myriad ways in which you can't beat city hall, having the District of Columbia apologize to you for improperly towing your car -- and then getting them to deliver said car back to your home -- would have to be near the top of the list. But that is precisely what Dougherty has achieved. The 32-year-old Shaw resident could barely believe it himself, but a combination of courteous persistence, strategic escalation, and the power of being right allowed...

By Marc Fisher | March 23, 2009; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (6)

Binary Man: Dessert--Right Or Privilege?

Binary Man has come to our planet to settle disputes, solve problems and make life better. Got an issue for him? Post it below or e-mail him. Nathan Ravnitzky of Silver Spring poses a sweet and essential question to Binary Man. Nathan, who is five, has a longstanding dispute with his father, Michael: Is dessert a right or a privilege? You can guess which positions father and son have taken. First, Binary Man's bias in this matter: Children, by virtue of their status as subordinates to their parents, have rights, but they are very much limited by the responsibilities...

By Marc Fisher | March 20, 2009; 7:09 AM ET | Comments (6)

The Daily Grind Of The Laid-Off (Still Waiting)

Like any workplace, this room has its pecking order, its wise veterans, its newly arrived go-getters. In this room, the work is waiting. An official notice gets posted on the bulletin board, and the newcomers rush over. Before they can even read the posting, an old-timer calls over: "Forget it -- it's not for you." No, it's not. The nine men who had scurried over to see that announcement -- an opening for an emergency planner at the Virginia Department of Health, college degree required -- drift back to their places along the wall. They resume waiting. Only six jobs...

By Marc Fisher | March 19, 2009; 9:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Virginia Vs. The Call Of Nature

Virginia may be for lovers, but it's not being terribly friendly to other calls of nature. When travelers along the commonwealth's Interstate highways gotta go, they may soon find shuttered facilities. The reeling economy is forcing some drastic budget cuts, and some genius in the state's transportation department decided a good way to save $12 million would be to shut down 25 rest stops along major roads such as I-95, I-66 and I-81. All six rest stops located in northern Virginia would shut down (so much for the Richmond crowd's supposed new, inclusive attitude toward the state's most populous...

By Marc Fisher | March 18, 2009; 8:29 AM ET | Comments (15)

Fenty Caves To D.C. NIMBYs

From when he was first running for mayor until as recently as last week, any time Adrian Fenty was asked about the empty lot immediately across from the Tenleytown Metro station, his response was more or less the same: "That is a prime site and it needs to be developed to the fullest to take advantage of being on top of a Metro station." The mayor's position was music to the ears of the smart growth crowd, a continuation of former mayor Anthony Williams' vision for the District--using development, especially near transit stations, to build the city's tax base...

By Marc Fisher | March 17, 2009; 8:21 AM ET | Comments (65)

D.C.'s Firestorm Over Beards And Religion

How important is the freedom to express yourself by determining how you look? Is the right to grow a beard, whether as a personal statement or part of a religious belief system, more important than your life or the lives of your co-workers? A panel of federal court judges has grappled with this question in the case of D.C. firefighters who have argued since 2001 that their faith requires them to have facial hair, even if the city's fire department had rules mandating clean-shaven faces. The District's rules were not some archaic regimen for enforcing discipline and presenting a...

By Marc Fisher | March 16, 2009; 8:29 AM ET | Comments (15)

At Civil War's Fort Ward, A Tale Of Two Histories

With its rolling lawns and secluded glens, Fort Ward looks like a lovely place to take a walk. Turns out, it's far more than a park in Alexandria -- it's one history sacrificed to make way for another, a Civil War military installation that has become a contemporary battleground over whose story gets told. Officially, Fort Ward is, as the city of Alexandria puts it, "the best preserved of the system of Union forts and batteries built to protect Washington, D.C., during the American Civil War." That's fascinating enough: a Union fort in Confederate Virginia. But Fort Ward is also...

By Marc Fisher | March 15, 2009; 5:58 PM ET | Comments (0)

Fenty Stands Firm: Dubai Trip No Mistake

Privately, Mayor Adrian Fenty has been telling Jewish supporters that his decision to attend a tennis tournament in Dubai even after the government there barred an Israeli player from competing was, if not a mistake, at least something he'd like to find a way to make amends for. But publicly, the mayor is standing firm, saying he did nothing wrong because even though Dubai denied Shahar Peer a visa, the government there later granted last-minute permission for another Israeli, Andy Ram, to take part in the event. According to two Jewish supporters who told Fenty they were disappointed by...

By Marc Fisher | March 13, 2009; 8:22 AM ET | Comments (5)

D.C.'s Best Chance For A Vote: Give Way On Guns

Give ground on the guns; get the vote. Just a few days ago, history was about to happen. After decades of dithering, Congress was going to give the District a vote in the House. But now it looks like raw politics on the Hill and pigheadedness among D.C. politicians may prevail. One thing should be clear after all these years: In any face-off between Congress and the District, the lords on the Hill win. They control the budget. They sign off on the laws. If they want to send the mayor back to the family shoe store, they could do...

By Marc Fisher | March 12, 2009; 8:49 AM ET | Comments (6)

Binary Man: Kids or Dogs?

Binary Man has come to our planet to settle disputes, solve problems and make life better. Got an issue for him? Post it below or e-mail him. Even as it slashes library hours and debates a long menu of service cuts, the D.C. government proposes to spend $350,000 to build a recreation area--for dogs. The Dog Exercise Area to be constructed next to the McLean Gardens condo complex in Northwest is part of a $1 million program to set up dog parks throughout the city. The McLean Gardens dog facility would take up 10 percent of the space in Newark...

By Marc Fisher | March 11, 2009; 8:17 AM ET | Comments (36)

Virginia & Maryland In Top 10 Porn-Rich States

Ask most folks which population is most likely to buy a lot of pornographic material and the near-universal response will be people not like themselves. Just the other day, a religious Christian in Virginia made the case to me that your heavy porn users are your social liberals, seeing as how they think anything goes. From the other side of the red-blue divide, secular types in the District argue that of course it's the conservatives who keep the porn industry going, because their public quest to impose one set of morals on others is driven by their knowledge of...

By Marc Fisher | March 10, 2009; 8:21 AM ET | Comments (26)

Preaching Ethics, D.C. Pol Threatens To Squash Tiny Paper

D.C. Council Member Harry Thomas. (Bill O'Leary/Post) As much as any elected official in Washington, Harry "Tommy" Thomas, the D.C. council member from Ward 5, carries himself like a good old-fashioned machine politician. Son of a council member, Thomas is a cheerful and omnipresent face in Northeast, a ward-heeler who prides himself on bringing home the bacon in the form of park facilities, schools and other city projects. Abigail Padou is the editor and proprietor of Brookland Heartbeat, a bimonthly newsmagazine about the neighborhood near Catholic University. The paper, mailed free to 10,000 registered voters in the area, is a...

By Marc Fisher | March 9, 2009; 8:12 AM ET | Comments (14)

Is D.C. Ready For Prime Time TV?

Washington, until now a surefire setting for a TV flops, is suddenly hot. Through most of TV's history, Washington was a simple idea: It's where the president and Congress did their unseemly business, sometimes heroically, sometimes comically. "Capital Critters," an animated ABC show in the early 1990s, featured mice, rats and cockroaches (of course!) who lived in the walls of the White House, where they engaged in erudite debate on race, politics and morality. (Nobody watched, and the show scurried into oblivion.) In "Hail to the Chief" (1985), Patty Duke played the first female president, averting nuclear war with the...

By Marc Fisher | March 8, 2009; 12:36 PM ET | Comments (3)

Death Penalty Debate Ends Silence Over Family Trauma

T he phone call came in the middle of midterm exams at the University of Illinois. "We need you to come home," Vivian Rice told her son, Craig. "Something's happened to Aunt Millie." Craig Rice got on a plane and never returned to college in Illinois. When he arrived back home, he learned that his mother had walked five houses down from her own place in Silver Spring to see her sister. It was March 3, 1993, and Vivian Rice discovered a ghastly scene: Mildred Horn, 43, a flight attendant for American Airlines, shot dead, shot in the eye. Her...

By Marc Fisher | March 8, 2009; 7:02 AM ET | Comments (3)

It's Time For Double Daylight Saving Time

Tonight, the clock shifts forward. Tomorrow, sunset moves from 6:07 p.m. to 7:08 p.m. But our work here is not done. If we really wanted to fill our lives with joy and save energy and money, if we really wanted to move beyond the fiction of our agrarian conception of time and into the modern world, we'd shift to year-round Daylight Saving Time--or, if we really wanted to embrace reality and maximize life, go to Double DST, a big, two-hour push forward of the clocks that would turn our summers into a marathon of gorgeous, endless evenings. Vote for...

By Marc Fisher | March 7, 2009; 8:28 AM ET | Comments (69)

D.C. Residents: Please Build A Stadium In My Neighborhood

I think we can all agree we are not likely to see that headline in The Washington Post anytime soon, but I put it out here today because, hard as it may be to believe, there was once a time when D.C. neighborhoods begged the pols to put a stadium where they live. Today, you can pretty well bet your house that any location that a sports franchise might select as its future home will react as if it has been chosen as a site for chemical weapons testing. But in the 1920s, citizens associations in places such as...

By Marc Fisher | March 6, 2009; 8:41 AM ET | Comments (1)

Sign Wars: Va. Showdown Over Street Clutter

The last time they tangled in court, Robert Lauderdale swore he'd be back soon enough, protecting Arlington from the ugly little advertising signs that Scott Small and others plant along the median strips. For his part, Small promised to catch his tormentor again. "Next time, he'll go to jail," he vowed. That was seven years ago. True to their words, both men have pursued their battle, and true to the path of most such confrontations, this one appears to be everlasting. Small makes his living posting signs that lead potential customers to houses for sale. Lauderdale chose as his...

By Marc Fisher | March 5, 2009; 8:51 AM ET | Comments (3)

The Secret Behind The New 'Screech'

He's gaunt, scrawny, a shadow of his former, semi-cuddly self. If he were on offer at the poultry counter, you'd give him a pass and wonder what had gone wrong down at the Perdue plant. The Washington Nationals have unveiled Screech 2.0, the reworked team mascot, and the result speaks of a certain slimming process that fans weren't expecting so soon after the announcement that the team had acquired its first genuine slugger, Adam Dunn. Somehow, the new mascot looks like an afterthought. Here, the team is saying to future Screeches, put this head on, and oh, yeah, wear...

By Marc Fisher | March 4, 2009; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (13)

Binary Man: Light Vs. Dark In Public Parks

Binary Man has come to our planet to settle disputes, solve problems and make life better. Got an issue for him? Post it below or e-mail him. What kind of battle gets people so riled up that they call their neighbors names, tell a police official to do unspeakable things to himself, and make absurd arguments about the relative flabbiness of rich and poor people? Binary Man has seen all manner of neighborhood disputes, over everything from donut shops to cat odor, but for ratio of emotional investment to smallness of issue, there's little that can beat the imbroglios...

By Marc Fisher | March 3, 2009; 8:08 AM ET | Comments (20)

The Snow-bama Factor: Is D.C. Proving Its Flint?

So far today, the leader of the free world has not yet issued his judgment on how well Washingtonians are handling an event that even Chicagoans would have to agree qualifies as "snow." But President Obama need not say another word about Washington's wussy attitude toward winter weather; the power of his message on a distinctly unsnowy day in January is still with us. Witness this morning's decision by the D.C. public schools to break with every other district in the region and remain open, albeit with a two-hour delay. On neighborhood sled slopes in northwest Washington this morning,...

By Marc Fisher | March 2, 2009; 2:04 PM ET | Comments (62)

Maryland Protects Anonymous Posts On Comment Boards

According to somebody out there in computerland, the Dunkin' Donuts in Centreville, Md., is one of "the most dirty and unsanitary-looking food-service places I have seen." Maybe it's filthy and maybe it's not, but should the owner of the shop have the right to find out who's out there slamming his business on anonymous Internet comment boards? And if the shop is actually clean and lovely, and the disgruntled customer is actually just out to destroy the business and slander its owner, then does it make sense that an anonymous poster such as "Rockyraccoonmd" has more legal protection than...

By Marc Fisher | March 2, 2009; 8:40 AM ET | Comments (3)

The Incredible Shrinking State News Press Corps

Packs of lobbyists fill two rooms outside the House and Senate chambers in Richmond every afternoon, watching the proceedings on big video screens, zapping legislators with e-mails the instant the lobbyists sense that one of their bills might be in trouble. The interest groups that hire lobbyists can rest easy; they've got the legislature covered. Down the hall, the people's representatives have a hangout of their own, the press room. But there, nearly half the desks are empty. Reporters have been called home, reassigned, bought out, laid off. Only one TV station in Virginia still has a reporter at the...

By Marc Fisher | March 1, 2009; 12:25 PM ET | Comments (2)

"Hello Americans!" Paul Harvey...Good Night!

Paul Harvey, the last of the great national radio commentators and the archetype for today's news pundits, died Saturday at 90. Here's my profile of Harvey from a few years back.... (And here's some sound of Harvey from The Post's Post Mortem blog...) Paul Harvey sits directly across the broadcast desk from me as he prepares for his big, 15-minute midday newscast. Even seated, he is erect, almost military in his bearing. He has spread his script before him, each page of yellow copy paper containing a single story, a few lines typed in the early light of a...

By Marc Fisher | March 1, 2009; 12:16 AM ET | Comments (23)

 

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