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Marc Fisher

Six Quick Reality Checks

By Marc Fisher
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page B01

A six-pack of stories for the price of one. . . .

Exactly what will Gov. Bobby Haircut say is the reason Maryland voters should rehire him next year? He tried but failed to get slots legalized? He pronounced a medical malpractice crisis, rejected the legislature's solution and then dropped the topic? He tried to sell off state lands and when that failed, he announced he's now an environmentalist? Or maybe just that Democrats are bad and out to get him? Ah, there we go. Oh, and this: Those terrible news people tell such lies. That's the ticket. . . .

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When I wrote last week about the plight of the Eastern High School choir, which once offered a sweet song of possibility in a school system that most excels at dampening spirits, I expected the school's loyal alumni to rally around the chorus, and they have. I expected the usual school reformers to point out once more the crying need for attention to the arts in D.C. schools, and to the awful state of Eastern in particular, and they have. I expected the usual silence from the D.C. school system -- and sure enough, not one word.

But I did hear from students at Eastern, and they turn out to be fierce advocates for a school that has suffered through seven principals in seven years. Some didn't like the column because it made a broader public aware of the school's woes. "The reason why we don't have a good choir is because people talk down on us so much instead of lifting us," one student wrote. I wish it were that simple. But the students are right to fight for their school; they desperately need allies. . . .

In the years I spent reporting on the revolutions against communism in four Soviet Bloc countries, not a soul outside of Poland mentioned Pope John Paul II as inspiration for their decision to stand up against their governments. I heard endless expressions of gratitude for Mikhail Gorbachev's moves toward openness and plenty of praise for local ministers and priests who confronted the forces of totalitarianism.

Surely those priests were emboldened by the Polish pope's powerful stance for freedom, but John Paul's personal influence did not seem to filter down to those who made their own courageous decisions to take to the streets. Perhaps inevitably in societies ruled by deeply anti-religious dictatorships, people in East Germany and Czechoslovakia seemed unaware of the pope's positions. Yet they knew all too much about the West's consumer society and personal freedoms. Bitterness about lost opportunities, a basic craving for freedom and cynicism about those in power drove those revolutions far more than faith or power politics. . . .

Look up "gall" in the dictionary and you'll see a photo of D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp appearing on the field at RFK Stadium for Sunday's inaugural exhibition Washington Nationals game against the New York Mets. Cropp, who did more than anyone but Peter Angelos to try to undermine the District's bid for baseball, stood on the field smiling and waving. Luckily, the crowd was on to her act and lustily booed her every step. (The two standing ovations for Mayor Tony Williams were a rarity for him and he was thrilled, which, as he would note of himself, can be hard to discern.) . . .

This is a strong statement, I know, but RFK may have the worst food of any sports facility in the nation. Let's hope they're just working through the leftovers from the last time the Senators played in that ballpark. Maybe the fare will improve once they buy some new dogs. For now, go see the Nats, but bring your own chow. . . .

Peter Angelos may go down in business and baseball history as the only man to sabotage two franchises in the same sport. After gutting the Baltimore Orioles so effectively that attendance was down for six straight seasons until last year's rebound, Angelos has now saddled the Nationals with a TV contract that is really a no-TV contract. Sunday's exhibition game against the Mets was televised in New York, but not in Washington. Yesterday and today, Washington area viewers could see the Orioles on TV, but not the Nats. A new poll by iQ Research, a Washington consultancy, found D.C. area fans are only slightly less likely to go to Orioles games this year, but the single biggest reason cited by those who do plan to cut back on trips to Baltimore was not the arrival of the Nats, but this: "Dissatisfied with Angelos."

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