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Archive: April 2009

Small-minded Big-footing In Va. Governor's Race

Virginia's unemployment rate jumped to 7 percent in February, the highest since 1992, but what's the Republican Governors Association doing as they pump $1.2 million into their man Bob McDonnell's campaign for governor? They're busy yukking it up over the sleaziness of Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe, his longtime fundraiser turned Democratic candidate for governor. The Republican governors group's latest tactic is billandterry.org, a Web site that depicts the former president as an Obama-bashing, money- hungry, ethical slime who has come to Virginia to pay back McAuliffe, who is pictured in goofy party glasses and dubbed "Two-Faced Terry." Virginia's average...

By Marc Fisher | April 30, 2009; 9:09 AM ET | Comments (3)

From Fairfax To Richmond, "The Jihad Way?"

Esam Omeish's campaign web site is fairly typical for a candidate for state delegate. The big issues for his Fairfax County district are traffic congestion, growth issues and public education. But Omeish, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the 35th district, covering an area from Vienna west to Monument and Leehigh, is no ordinary candidate. He's a surgeon with a classic immigrant success story, having arrived in this country as a young boy who spoke no English, yet rose up through the Fairfax school system to attend Georgetown University. And Omeish is also a Muslim fundamentalist rabble-rouser...

By Marc Fisher | April 29, 2009; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (34)

Will Nats Make D.C. Divorce Rate Plummet?

The Washington Nationals are in contention to be the worst major league baseball team since the legendary 1962 New York Mets, but does the mere presence of a baseball franchise so powerfully change men's attitudes that it can substantially reduce a metropolitan area's divorce rate? Researchers at University of Denver and Texas A&M have published a study that says cities with Major League Baseball franchises boast divorce rates 28 percent lower than rates in other cities that don't yet have teams. In Denver, for example, the divorce rate fell by 20 percent between 1990--before the Colorado Rockies were created--and...

By Marc Fisher | April 28, 2009; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (5)

Armageddon And A Wedding, Too

Proponents of the District's move to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages in four states that now sanction it were thrilled last week when a planned anti-gay marriage demonstration in front of the D.C. Council's offices didn't come off. But organizers of that rally say that was just a scheduling glitch and the real thing is happening Tuesday at 10 a.m. on Freedom Plaza. The rally, according to lead organizer Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Bowie, "will launch the Armageddon of the marriage battle in this country." Jackson predicts that about 1,000 church members and 100...

By Marc Fisher | April 27, 2009; 8:24 AM ET | Comments (10)

Couple's Nuptials a Hiatus From Life on the Streets

She had heard all the lines, knew all the games. So when Dante White's first words to Nhiahni Chestnut were "I want you to be my wife," his chances did not seem strong. "I said, 'You are really putting it out there,' " Nhiahni recalls. But her retort came with a smile. Something about Dante made his preposterous opening line seem not just plausible, but a downright heart-melter. Such are the mysteries of love: Come Saturday, Dante and Nhiahni will marry. People will journey from every corner of Washington to see them exchange vows -- wealthy Georgetowners and people who...

By Marc Fisher | April 26, 2009; 10:18 AM ET | Comments (3)

Save Bookstores, Or Let The Market Decide?

The closing of Vertigo Books in College Park this weekend has readers talking about whether the merits of locally-owned, independent bookstores create any obligation to do business at shops that may be a bit pricier, but add value to our communities in other ways. Here's a peek at some of the better email traffic since my piece ran earlier this week: My argument that Amazon and other online booksellers have an unfair advantage because they don't charge sales tax--as well as my comment about big chain bookstores being "soulless"--drew some push-back from folks who work at those places and...

By Marc Fisher | April 24, 2009; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (8)

After Mom's Troubling Words, A Maternity Ward Inquisition

Woozy from pain medication after a Caesarean section, swinging from joy over her newborn boy to exhaustion from the strain of delivering him, Karen Piper mentioned to her doctor that she'd been hoping for a girl. She would come to regret those words. There she was at Washington Hospital Center on an early spring afternoon, three days after giving birth. She'd be taking Luke home to the room she had lovingly prepared, to a time she'd dreamed about for years, just the two of them getting to know each other, reveling in the miracle of new life. When nurses finally...

By Marc Fisher | April 23, 2009; 8:36 AM ET | Comments (9)

Today's Recession-Proof Biz: Speed Cameras

In tough times, simple pleasures thrive. This is the era of cheap dates, comfort foods and home entertainment. Maybe you just head out for a drive--but not too fast, because in Maryland, at least, state lawmakers have decided that this is also the time to create a statewide network of speed cams, adding a dose of high-priced reality to your driving experience. It's been less than two weeks since the Maryland legislature approved the use of gotcha speed cams near schools and highway construction zones, the first big expansion of the cameras' use since Montgomery County was allowed to...

By Marc Fisher | April 22, 2009; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (33)

Bustin' Loose, Janitorial Division (Say It Ain't So, Chuck)

It has come to this. In the sensitive system of cultural metrics developed by the legendary Henry Allen, spiritual god of The Washington Post's Style section, there is an exquisite beauty that the greatest artists and entrepreneurs deliver when they "go too far enough"--that is, they stretch the pop culture balloon just enough to give us a burst of meaning, but not so far as to be utterly banal or impossibly opaque. Now, from, of all places, the Atlanta airport, comes this: The city's aviation department, eager to get passengers to clean up after themselves and take advantage of...

By Marc Fisher | April 21, 2009; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (3)

Most Livable City: Bethesda?

Magazine ranking stories are like In/Out lists and movie Top Ten lists -- I know I shouldn't fall for them, but I do. Now here's Forbes magazine, purporting once again to list the most livable cities in the country. I'd have skipped right past this -- really, I would have -- but for this utterly strange factoid: The geniuses at Forbes list as the second most livable city in these United States Bethesda -- yes, our Bethesda. Leaving aside the fact that Bethesda is not a city -- heck, it doesn't even have its own government, let alone lots of...

By Marc Fisher | April 20, 2009; 8:33 AM ET | Comments (69)

Requiem For A Washington Of Song

The conductor, Kurt Masur, had met these hundred voices just a few days before, but though he was frail and shaking in his old age, he bounced up on his toes, gripping the air as if to pull anguish and reverence from the chorus before him. "Mere phantoms, we go our way," the Master Chorale of Washington sang out last weekend, a shimmering collective voice floating above the National Symphony Orchestra. "Mere vapor, our restless pursuits." From the chorister seats in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, these singers -- by day, lobbyists and lawyers, teachers and shop clerks -- poured...

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

Libraries May Survive Internet, But Not Mental Illness

What's the greatest threat to public libraries? People not reading? The allure of the Interwebs? Hypervigilant parents who don't let their kids go to the library on their own? Or is it the persistent presence of unstable, smelly and potentially dangerous mentally ill people who use libraries as day centers? A new survey--but beware: it was commissioned by an interested party--says the disturbing behavior of mentally ill patrons makes others less likely to use public libraries. In the District, libraries director Ginnie Cooper moved earlier this year to set new rules that make it harder for homeless or mentally...

By Marc Fisher | April 17, 2009; 8:55 AM ET | Comments (15)

Hiz Honor Remakes Virginia In Hiz Image

RICHMOND, April 30, 2010 -- Virginia Gov. Michael Bloomberg has imported a New York pace and a billionaire's bravado to his adopted home, completing his first 100 days in office with a trio of startling announcements: The former New York City mayor has ended the unregulated sale of firearms at gun shows, taken over troubled schools in the state's four largest cities and unilaterally ordered construction of a Potomac River toll bridge into the District. The governor will pay for the bridge from his own pocket -- and he'll keep the toll receipts. Bloomberg's surprise blitz through the 2009 governor's...

By Marc Fisher | April 16, 2009; 8:34 AM ET | Comments (3)

The 'Whitey From Virginia' Who Believed In Black Kids

George Kettle died today. To thousands who made their living in the Virginia real estate world, that means the man in the Century 21 sportjacket, the magnate who controlled the realty franchise for the Washington region, has passed on. But in Southeast Washington, Kettle represented something else--a way out, a chance to get what people in the suburbs get--an education, summer vacations, job training, internships, new clothes, all the little things that spell the difference between growing up poor and growing up with the expectation of success. I first met Kettle in 1987, when he stood before an assembly...

By Marc Fisher | April 15, 2009; 2:55 PM ET | Comments (7)

Getting Vertigo Over Lost Bookstores

It's gotten to the point that even newspaper editors -- hopeless nostalgics that they tend to be -- roll their eyes over yet another Death of a Bookstore story. Like tales about dying newspapers, these lovesongs to a fleeting era and a sagging technology can be tiresome, both to younger folks who see the new media as a perfectly reasonable and even exciting replacement for what came before, and to older folks who have had it with the constant reminders that the culture that served them so well is vanishing before their eyes. So when Bridget Warren and Todd Stewart...

By Marc Fisher | April 15, 2009; 8:35 AM ET | Comments (17)

Endless Summer: Inside A Baseball Losing Streak

The only team in baseball that has not yet won a game this season looked exciting, pathetic and hopeless in their home opener yesterday. The Washington Nationals had fans groaning, laughing (at, not with), cheering and jeering, all on a day that was supposed to be about hope and possibility. It was all too reminiscent of another spring, 21 years ago, back when the Baltimore Orioles were what passed for a local team around here. I spent a chunk of that summer traveling with the Orioles to write about their historic losing streak--21 straight miserable games--that started the season,...

By Marc Fisher | April 14, 2009; 1:33 PM ET | Comments (0)

Zero Tolerance: Parents Talk Tough, But Are They Really?

We don't really know what we want. That's the conclusion of a social psychologist who decided it was time to test just how committed parents and others are to single-sanction, zero tolerance, tough love punishment regimens of the kind that many schools have adopted in the wake of a popular backlash against drug use by teenagers. Colgate University psychologist Kevin Carlsmith looked at the consistent support for the University of Virginia's legendary honor code--an example, he posits, of a policy that "assigns extreme punishments for minor offenses." Under the code, any case of lying, cheating or stealing leads to...

By Marc Fisher | April 14, 2009; 8:21 AM ET | Comments (17)

Brutalist Church: The City Loses A Round

The years-long battle over whether the District's historic preservation police can force a Christian Science church to keep a ugly, cold, expensive home that it doesn't want took a turn toward the church's side the other day, as a federal judge made clear his sympathy for the church's plight. The Third Church of Christ, Scientist has taken the city to court in an effort to overturn the unanimous ruling by the D.C. Historic Preservation Board landmarking the 1971 concrete bunker that serves as a church on 16th Street NW, just north of the White House. At a hearing last...

By Marc Fisher | April 13, 2009; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (6)

Can D.C. Slip Gay Marriage Past Congress?

The secret memo on same-sex marriage is perhaps the best-protected document in a historically leaky government; it's so secret that even now, five years after then-Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti wrote it, members of the D.C. Council say they've never been allowed to see it. But among those who served under former Mayor Tony Williams, the word has long been that the secret memo dared to reach a legally defensible but politically unacceptable conclusion: that the District should grant recognition to same-sex marriages performed in states that have declared such bonds legal. When the Williams administration shoved the Spagnoletti opinion into...

By Marc Fisher | April 12, 2009; 7:25 PM ET | Comments (2)

Nats '09: Great Crab, New Flags, But Will They Come?

The new Crab Louie sandwiches are genuinely good--not ok for a ballpark, but genuinely high-quality. The big hit among stadium food offerings last year was the half-smokes from Ben's Chili Bowl, so there'll be more of them at Nationals Park this year--a new Ben's outlet on the upper deck, and four additional Ben's carts sprinkled around the stadium. The racing presidents, the ballpark's most successful gimmick, are now works of art--life-sized bobblehead sculptures right at the stadium's main entrance, standing ready for your snapshots. The Washington Nationals--facing the triple whammy of the sophomore slump at a new stadium, a...

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

Nats Town: Empty Lots, With Sprouts Of Hope

There was supposed to be a neighborhood here -- teeming streets, happy people sharing nights of cheer and cheers . . . even, perhaps, an occasional win. Instead, the blocks around Washington's new baseball stadium remain largely empty, an eerie expanse of flattened lots so bereft of activity that they can be used for but one thing -- parking. The promise that the return of baseball brought to this forlorn part of Washington seems distant now. One hundred and fifty-four buildings have been demolished in what used to be the city's industrial zone, a back lot dotted with seedy nightspots...

By Marc Fisher | April 9, 2009; 8:55 AM ET | Comments (4)

Hard Times: The Boys & Girls Clubs' Sell-Off

For nearly two years, the old Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club on Capitol Hill has sat empty, a sad symbol of the decision by the club's parent organization to turn its back on city kids who relied on the clubhouses for recreation and education for nearly a century. Today, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington is announcing the closing of four more of its clubs, including the Hopkins club in Southeast Washington, the Jelleff club in Georgetown--which uniquely draws kids from all over the city, and clubs in Alexandria and Adelphi. The Boys & Girls Clubs,...

By Marc Fisher | April 8, 2009; 5:00 PM ET | Comments (3)

Binary Man: Should Maryland Buy The Preakness?

In the strange space where horse racing, slots, Maryland politics and the state of the economy come together, this question has forced its way into the limelight: Should the state's taxpayers buy the Preakness Stakes, the legendary race first run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore in 1870? Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has spent the better part of his time in office arguing that the state desperately needs the surefire torrent of revenue that would come from legalizing slot machines, is now moving toward a different kind of bailout. This time, it's the horse race that for many...

By Marc Fisher | April 8, 2009; 7:40 AM ET | Comments (4)

Audio Debate: Should University Bar XXX Porn Flick?

Now up over on Raw Fisher Radio: State Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil County) and University of Maryland sophomore John Berger debate the move by state lawmakers to try to stop the school from screening a porn flick. Portions of the movie were shown last night in an event sponsored by student groups after the university scrapped plans to display the film over last weekend. That decision, made after conservative legislators threatened to cut state funding for the public university, has angered many on the College Park campus who accused the administration of mortgaging freedom of speech to satisfy lawmakers...

By Marc Fisher | April 7, 2009; 2:46 PM ET | Comments (1)

UDC: Does D.C. Really Need A 4-Year College?

The University of the District of Columbia's energetic new president, Allen Sessoms, is a breath of fresh air in an institution that has seen little but trouble for way too many years. Sessoms, a physicist by training, wants to take a school that gets little respect--an educator of last resort for kids who manage to graduate from one of the worst public school systems in the country--and turn it into two colleges: A two-year community college for anyone with a high school diploma, and a more rigorous, four-year college with--for the first time in UDC's four decades--real admissions standards....

By Marc Fisher | April 7, 2009; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (30)

Zero Tolerance: Cure Can Be Harsher Than Crime

The stories are as varied and sad as they are plentiful, and they've been pouring into my in-box ever since yesterday's column first popped up on the big web site: Parents spelling out how zero tolerance policies in school systems from Fairfax to southern Maryland and throughout the region exacerbated their child's troubles--or worse. The column about the suicide of Josh Anderson, a junior at South Lakes High School in Reston, on the eve of a Fairfax County schools disciplinary hearing that might have ended with his expulsion from the system has struck quite a nerve, and I want...

By Marc Fisher | April 6, 2009; 9:47 AM ET | Comments (27)

Did Zero Tolerance Rules Push Fairfax Teen To Edge?

Josh Anderson had just finished four homework assignments. He did his laundry. He watched TV with his mother -- "House," which he had Tivo'd for viewing that night. He played with the dogs. Then, at his mom's urging, he went up to bed. It was 12:30, and the next day, March 19, was a big one: Josh was scheduled for a hearing that probably would end with his expulsion from the Fairfax County school system. The Andersons weren't blind to what got Josh into this pickle. He had been caught leaving campus, going to Taco Bell with a friend. When...

By Marc Fisher | April 5, 2009; 8:22 AM ET | Comments (36)

Campus Sex Shows: U.-Md. Panics Where W&M Stood Tall

Bulletin: College kids like sex. Bigger bulletin: College kids like to outrage their elders. Super-bonus bulletin: Some adults know how to deal with this, and some do not. At the University of Maryland yesterday, the school's top brass faced a classic test of their allegiance to the ideals of open inquiry, freedom of speech and academic independence. They flunked big time. When state legislators got wind that the theater at the student union in College Park was selling tickets to a showing of a porn flick titled "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge," conservatives in Annapolis saw a dandy weapon to wield...

By Marc Fisher | April 3, 2009; 7:24 AM ET | Comments (29)

Race, Class And Plastic Grocery Bags

First, a quick detour back to 1987, when D.C. voters made the city the most liberal place in the country to defeat a ballot question that would have imposed a nickel deposit on soda and beer bottles and cans. The drink and bottling industries pumped $2 million into that campaign, flipping what had been 70 percent support for the bottle bill by turning the debate into one about race and class. "You can tell a lot about an issue by who supports it and who opposes it," said the ads from the Clean Capital City Committee, the industry-funded group that...

By Marc Fisher | April 2, 2009; 8:45 AM ET | Comments (7)

D.C. April Fool's Roundup

As I noted earlier today, big serious newspapers don't much go in for April Fool's stories--wouldn't want to undermine our credibility, the editors say. But we're happy to scan the local scene and pass along some of the tomfoolery that's popping up all over the place... Ionarts, the consistently smart local classical music blog, is going out of business as a web publication, folding its digital tent on the day after Post classical music critic Anne Midgette launched her own music blog. Ionarts will live on...as a daily newsprint publication. Bicycles and cars will switch lanes, with two-wheelers taking...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2009; 12:01 PM ET | Comments (1)

Lirpa Sloof Panel Ponders Decline In Serious Behavior

I hope to spend this morning reporting on the latest deliberations of the Senate Select Committee on Lirpa Sloof, which is examining the precarious drop in productivity and serious behavior that tends to occur on this day each year. The panel is looking into the annual spike in antics that the authorities report occurs with the start of the first full month of spring. Washington not being known as a capital of lightness or spoofery, this phenomenon had gone unnoticed on the Hill, but a spate of complaints from around the country has focused the lawmakers' attention on the...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2009; 8:18 AM ET | Comments (2)

 

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